“I can’t believe you spied on us!”
“I was not spying on you, okay? Damn. Calm down. Hell, both of you need to calm down. Adam was already all up in my face about it—”
“What?” I feel the pieces of this puzzle finally beginning to fit together. “Is that why he was being mean to you at breakfast last week?”
Kenji slows our pace a little. He takes a deep, long breath. “He thought I was, like, taking advantage of the situation.” He says advantage like it’s a strange, dirty word. “He thinks I get invisible just to see you naked or something. Listen—I don’t even know, okay? He was being an idiot about it. I’m just doing my job.”
“But—you’re not, right? You’re not trying to see me naked or anything?”
Kenji snorts, chokes on his laughter. “Listen, Juliette,” he says through another laugh, “I’m not blind, okay? On a purely physical level? Yeah, you’re pretty sexy—and that suit you have to wear all the time doesn’t hurt. But even if you didn’t have that whole ‘I kill you if I touch you’ thing going on, you are definitely not my type. And more importantly, I’m not some perverted asshole,” he says. “I take my job seriously. I get real shit done in this world, and I like to think people respect me for it. But your boy Adam is a little too blinded by his pants to think straight. Maybe you should do something about that.”
I drop my eyes. Say nothing for a moment. Then: “I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that anymore.”
“Ah, shit.” Kenji sighs, like he can’t believe he got stuck listening to problems about my love life. “I just walked right into that, didn’t I?”
“We can go, Kenji. We don’t have to talk about this.”
An irritated breath. “It’s not that I don’t care about what you’re going through,” he says. “It’s not like I want to see you all depressed or whatever. It’s just that this life is messed up enough as it is,” he says. “And I’m sick of you being so caught up in your own little world all the time. You act like this whole thing—everything we do—is a joke. You don’t take any of it seriously—”
“What?” I cut him off. “That’s not true—I do take this seriously—”
“Bullshit.” He laughs a short, sharp, angry laugh. “All you do is sit around and think about your feelings. You’ve got problems. Boo-freaking-hoo,” he says. “Your parents hate you and it’s so hard but you have to wear gloves for the rest of your life because you kill people when you touch them. Who gives a shit?” He’s breathing hard enough for me to hear him. “As far as I can tell, you’ve got food in your mouth and clothes on your back and a place to pee in peace whenever you feel like it. Those aren’t problems. That’s called living like a king. And I’d really appreciate it if you’d grow the hell up and stop walking around like the world crapped on your only roll of toilet paper. Because it’s stupid,” he says, barely reining in his temper. “It’s stupid, and it’s ungrateful. You don’t have a clue what everyone else in the world is going through right now. You don’t have a clue, Juliette. And you don’t seem to give a damn, either.”
I swallow, so hard.
“Now I am trying,” he says, “to give you a chance to fix things. I keep giving you opportunities to do things differently. To see past the sad little girl you used to be—the sad little girl you keep clinging to—and stand up for yourself. Stop crying. Stop sitting in the dark counting out all your individual feelings about how sad and lonely you are. Wake up,” he says. “You’re not the only person in this world who doesn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. You’re not the only one with daddy issues and severely screwed-up DNA. You can be whoever the hell you want to be now. You’re not with your shitty parents anymore. You’re not in that shitty asylum, and you’re no longer stuck being Warner’s shitty little experiment. So make a choice,” he says. “Make a choice and stop wasting everyone’s time. Stop wasting your own time. Okay?”
Shame is pooling in every inch of my body.
Heat has flamed its way up my core, singeing me from the inside out. I’m so horrified, so terrified to hear the truth in his words.
“Let’s go,” he says, but his voice is just a tiny bit gentler. “We have to run.”
And I nod even though he can’t see me.
I nod and nod and nod and I’m so happy no one can see my face right now.
“Stop throwing boxes at me, jackass. That’s my job.” Winston laughs and grabs a package heavily bandaged in cellophane only to chuck it at another guy’s head. The guy standing right next to me.
The other guy grunts as he catches the package, and then grins as he offers Winston an excellent view of his middle finger.
“Keep it classy, Sanchez,” Winston says as he tosses him another package.
Sanchez. His name is Ian Sanchez. I just learned this a few minutes ago when he and I and a few others were grouped together to form an assembly line.
We are currently standing in one of the official storage compounds of The Reestablishment.
Kenji and I managed to catch up to everyone else just in time. We all congregated at the drop-off (which turned out to be little more than a glorified ditch), and then Kenji gave me a sharp look, pointed at me, grinned, and left me with the rest of the group while he and Castle communicated about the next part of our mission.
Which was getting into the storage compound.
The irony, however, is that we traveled aboveground for supplies only to have to go back underground to get them. The storage compounds are, for all intents and purposes, invisible.
They’re underground cellars filled with just about everything imaginable: food, medicine, weapons. All the things needed to survive. Castle explained everything in our orientation this morning. He said that while having supplies buried underground is a clever method of concealment against the civilians, it actually worked out in his favor. Castle said he can sense—and move—objects from a great distance, even if that distance is 25 feet belowground. He said that when he approaches one of the storage facilities he can feel the difference immediately, because he can recognize the energy in each object. This, he explained, is what allows him to move things with his mind: he’s able to touch the inherent energy in everything. Castle and Kenji have managed to track down 5 compounds within 20 miles of Omega Point just by walking around; Castle sensing, Kenji projecting to keep them invisible. They’ve located 5 more within 50 miles.
The storage compounds they access are on a rotation. They never take the same things and never in the same quantity, and they take from as many different facilities as possible. The farther the compound, the more intricate the mission becomes. This particular compound is closest, and therefore the mission is, relatively speaking, the easiest. That explains why I was allowed to come along.
All the legwork has already been done.
Brendan already knows how to confuse the electrical system in order to deactivate all the sensors and security cameras; Kenji acquired the pass code simply by shadowing a soldier who punched in the right numbers. All of this gives us a 30-minute window of time to work as quickly as possible to get everything we need into the drop-off, where we’ll spend most of the day waiting to load our stolen supplies into vehicles that will carry the items away.
The system they use is fascinating.
There are 6 vans altogether, each slightly different in appearance, and all scheduled to arrive at different times. This way there are fewer chances of everyone being caught, and there’s a higher probability that at least 1 of the vans will get back to Omega Point without a problem. Castle outlined what seemed like 100 different contingency plans in case of danger.
I’m the only one here, however, who appears even remotely nervous about what we’re doing. In fact, with the exception of me and 3 others, everyone here has visited this particular compound several times, so they’re walking around like it’s familiar territory. Everyone is careful and efficient, but they feel comfortable enough to laugh and joke around, too. They know exactly what they’re doing. The moment we got inside, they split themselves into 2 groups: 1 team formed the assembly line, and the other collected the things we need.
Others have more important tasks.
Lily has a photographic memory that puts photographs to shame. She walked in before the rest of us and immediately scanned the room, collecting and cataloging every minute detail. She’s the one who will make sure that we leave nothing behind when we exit, and that, aside from the things we take, nothing else is missing or out of place. Brendan is our backup generator. He’s managed to shut off power to the security system while still lighting the dark dimensions of this room. Winston is overseeing our 2 groups, mediating between the givers and the takers, making sure we’re securing the right items and the right quantities. His arms and legs have the elastic ability to stretch at will, which enables him to reach both sides of the room quickly and easily.
Castle is the one who moves our supplies outside. He stands at the very end of the assembly line, in constant radio contact with Kenji. And as long as the area is clear, Castle needs to use only one hand to direct the hundreds of pounds of supplies we’ve hoarded into the drop-off.
Kenji, of course, is standing as lookout.
If it weren’t for Kenji, the rest of this wouldn’t even be possible. He’s our invisible eyes and ears. Without him, we’d have no way of being so secure, so sure that we’ll be safe on such a dangerous mission.
Not for the first time today, I’m beginning to realize why he’s so important.
“Hey, Winston, can you get someone to check if they have any chocolate in here?” Emory—another guy on my assembly team—is smiling at Winston like he’s hoping for good news. But then, Emory is always smiling. I’ve only known him for a few hours, but he’s been smiling since 6:00 a.m., when we all met in the orientation room this morning. He’s super tall, super bulky, and he has a super-huge afro that somehow manages to fall into his eyes a lot. He’s moving boxes down the line like they’re full of cotton.
Winston is shaking his head, trying not to laugh as he passes the question along. “Seriously?” He shoots a look at Emory, nudging his plastic glasses up his nose at the same time. “Of all the things in here, you want chocolate?”
Emory’s smile vanishes. “Shut up, man, you know my mom loves that stuff.”
“You say that every time.”
“That’s because it’s true every time.”
Winston says something to someone about grabbing another box of soap before turning back to Emory. “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen your mom eat a piece of chocolate before.”
Emory tells Winston to do something very inappropriate with his preternaturally flexible limbs, and I glance down at the box Ian has just handed to me, pausing to study the packaging carefully before passing it on.
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