[[AN: Sorry to everyone that this is so late! I'll try to pick up the pace...]]
"Don't worry," Said the familiar voice reassuringly. "It will be alright." I remembered that it was hard not to believe him as I sat on the bike. "You won't fall. You can do it." For a twelve year old boy, my brother was so supportive. I kicked off the ground and started off at a slow pace. He walked beside me with a smile. "You won't fall," he repeated. And I believed him. Even when I was eight years old, I had no sense of balance, so I had delayed taking the training wheels off of my bike. And yet, I felt like as long as my brother was around, I would be alright. And I was. Miraculously, throughout my entire childhood, I had never experienced a skinned knee from falling off of my bike. I've always been clumsy, but I've never been seriously injured. I had never even considered it a possibility, because my brother was around. It had been as if everything bad went away when he was nearby. He was like my guardian, so naturally, I was frightened when he disappeared. I found that I had to learn how to fend for myself. I became defensive, because when my brother was gone, I couldn't trust that the world was safe. Besides, a world that would take my brother away from me would have to be a very cruel world. But everything was alright now; we were together, and I was safe. I was safe, I was safe…
"Get up," Cora's voice said softly, waking me from my dream. My precious memory faded away as I reluctantly opened my eyes to see the ceiling of the dorm room. And suddenly, I remembered, I was not safe. I rolled over and buried my face in my pillow, punching the mattress with frustration. I heard Cora cross the room to sit down next to me. "I heard it. Your dream, I mean," she whispered. I raised my head and looked up at her. "I'm sorry," she said.
"No need to apologize," I grumbled, rubbing my eyes. "What time is it?"
"It's six thirty," She replied. "Come on, get up."
"When's breakfast?" I asked with a yawn as I sat up reluctantly. "What's the rush? Are we gonna be late?"
"Breakfast is at seven," she said. "But we have to hurry and talk while we still can. The cameras are down, and the officials can't come in here to repair them until we leave for breakfast."
"Cameras?" I asked in surprise. "What cameras? You mean in our room?!" Cora nodded in response and stood up on my bed. She walked towards the far wall and pointed up at the small corner where the two walls met the ceiling. Then I saw something that had escaped my notice before: a tiny black spot embedded into the corner. An infinitesimal camera lens, watching the room in secrecy. Cora continued to point to other places in the room, and my eyes widened as I notices each black spot for the first time.
"There's one there… and there… and there, and there…"
"How do you know that they're off?" I asked, watching the cameras warily.
"While the cameras don't really have thoughts that I can hear, I can hear a small buzzing when they're on," she explained. "They've been keeping me awake since the first day. And now… there's peace and quiet. But not for long."
"Okay," I said, still glancing at the hidden cameras. "What did you want to talk about?"
"The plan. How to conduct yourself when the cameras are on. An explanation. Everything." Cora wandered over to the dresser and searched through her possessions as she spoke.
"The 'explanation' part sounds good. Why don't we start there for a change?"
"Alright, well, what do you want to know first?" She asked, throwing some clothes to the side as she began to search through the drawers.
"Everything," I sighed. "I have no idea what's going on."
"Well, I knew that already," Cora muttered. "Let's start with the basics. This school. It's bad news, Shelby. From what I've picked up from the thoughts of the officials, the purpose of this place is to secure anyone who could possibly be a threat to their plans. While I'm not sure yet of what their plans are, I know that it involves using us to their advantage."
"How so?" I murmured, still wondering if I could trust her judgment that the cameras were off.
"Like… weapons," she said, throwing more clothes out of her way. "Devices for 'negotiation'. Anything they can, really." I really didn't know how to respond to that, so I said the only thing that I could think of.
"Anything else you want to tell me?" I asked. She paused and looked back at me.
"It depends. Do you have anything else that you can tell me?" This question caught me by surprise at first, but then I remembered that there was something I had to tell her.
"I've been accused of murder," I stated. Cora didn't seem surprised.
"Tell me something I don't know. I've been hearing it from the officials all day. What the heck did you do? I want details." Instead of horrified, she looked amused.
"What, do you think I actually did it?!" I exclaimed indignantly. "As if I could!"
"Then who did it?" She challenged, leaning forward with a smirk. "As I said, I want details."
"It was… indescribable," I admitted. "Whatever it was. But I think it killed him."
"It?" She repeated, raising an eyebrow. "Where are the details? What is 'it'?"
"As I said," I began impatiently, "I can't describe it. I wouldn't even know where to start." I stood up and wandered towards her, wondering when she would finally find what she'd been looking for.
"Then don't," She said, as if it was obvious. "Don't describe it. Remember it." She tapped the side of her head, reminding me of her abilities. "Of course, pictures will work, too. Just think it, genius." I rolled my eyes at her disrespect, and then closed my eyes in concentration and tried to remember the horrible event. Something shadowy, swift thing descending from above, striking in a flash. The scream. A presence nearby, and then the floor as it hit my face. That was all that I could remember, and I kind of wished that I could forget it. Surprisingly, Cora didn't seem disturbed at all. She just nodded solemnly. "Alright. That's a start."
"Now, what more can you tell me?" I asked, crossing my arms.
"Nothing, really. All I can tell you is that my cell phone is gone." She set about refilling the dresser. "Did you bring one with you?"
"Of course I did," I said, remembering the discussion I'd had with Bill earlier. I'd wanted to use my cell phone, anyway. If I could call home… well, that could solve all of my problems! I could call the police! And I knew exactly where I'd packed my cell phone. It was zipped into a pocket on the outside of my suitcase. I rushed over to my own pile of stuff and pulled the suitcase out. I zipped open the pocket and reached inside…
Empty. I should have guessed.
"What's going on?" I asked frantically, turning to Cora. "Why is my cell phone gone?"
"I said they want to keep us secured," Cora stated. "What good would it be if we could call home? The security at this place is tight. Did you not notice the walls when you came in?"
"What about them?" I asked obliviously, still looking at my suitcase.
"They're twelve feet tall and five feet thick."
"Oh, are they?" I said quietly. "How unfortunate." I sat on the floor as I realized the sad truth: that I may never see the world outside of those walls, ever again.
"Don't think that," Cora snapped, startling me. "We're gonna get out of here, it will just take a little bit more time."
"But I don't see what we could possibly do to get out of here!" I exclaimed, wondering if the people in the nearby rooms could hear me. "Unless you have anything else to say…"
"I don't," Cora snapped stubbornly, "Not yet. But we just have to wait. I'll tell you more when the time is right."
"How can I trust you?!" I shouted. "You keep all this from me, you wander away mysteriously, and you're never there when I really need you! What makes you so sure that I want to help with your stupid little plan, anyway?"
"As if you have much of a choice," She muttered. "On trusting me, I mean. I'm in your head; I don't think you want to get on my bad side. As for the plan, you really don't have to help with it. But trust me; without you, the plan won't work. You do want to get out of here, don't you? Don't you want to see your brother again?"
"My brother is dead," I growled. "It's too late for that."
"Of course. Well, I'm sure you want to see your family and friends again."
"I have no friends."
"With that attitude, I can see why," She said with a smirk. "But I'm sure you don't want to be stuck with us for the rest of your life. I mean the people who actually fit in here. You're far too normal. I'm sure you know what I mean." I tensed, and she laughed. "That's right, I know. But it you really need to keep it to yourself, okay? I won't tell anyone. Understan-" She stopped talking immediately and gave me a blank look.
"What? What's wrong?" I asked. She shook her head fervently.
"Um, it's nothing. We'll talk later, okay?" She made a wide, vague gesture, and pretended to stretch. I followed the path of her arm to see her finger discretely pointing at the corner of the room, where a silent lens was embedded in the drywall. My eyes widened.
"Oh. Okay, then." I shifted from foot to foot awkwardly, not sure what to do. "Well. To class, then. Shall we go to class, Cora?" I said in a strained tone, honestly trying to sound completely nonchalant.
corrected. "We're going to breakfast."
"Um, oh. To breakfast, then." We walked out the door, and I imagined us leaving the camera's view. "I heard that the pancakes are pretty good."
We reached the cafeteria with no problems, and the still somewhat sleepy student body flooded into the room. Cora yawned, but as we got closer to our table, she suddenly stopped walking. Her eyes widened, and she stood on her toes in an attempt to see over the thinning crowd. "Uh oh," she muttered with a grimace. "We've got company." She was right, of course. When we reached the end of the crowd, I saw Kei, Leo and Brienda standing away from the table, staring at it. The only one in their seat was Hugo, and it seemed that he had an unpleasant little guest, who sat delicately on the edge of the table. Her hands clenched into fists when we came into view, and she put on a smile that reminded me of a snake about to strike.
"Cassiopeia." Cora acknowledged bitterly. "How… unexpected. It's like finding a fly in your soup." Her gaze turned to glare at Hugo. "Hugh, tell this fly to go bug someone else." Hugo and Cassie looked at each other silently for a few moments before he nodded solemnly. He stood up as Cassie slid off of the table, pushing past Cora as she stalked back to her own table of minions.
"You will leave her alone," Hugo growled as he took a step forward. "You will all stop this stupid little rebellion and leave her alone."
"Don't tell me you told her!" Cora hissed. "You idiot! Why would you tell the enemy?"
"Have you thought that maybe it's you who ended up on the wrong side? There's no point in trying to escape. There's no reason to. There's nothing to fear here."
"But, I'm sure you've heard-" Cora seemed to rethink what she was saying. She paused and glared up into her brother's eyes, and I assumed that they were mentally debating. Both of them grimaced as they bickered in silence. Eventually, Hugh yelled out in frustration and shoved Cora out of his way as he followed Cassie to her table. Cora clenched her fists and marched over to our table, obviously not willing to talk.
"I'm guessing it didn't go well?" I asked as I sat at the table. As everyone else sat in their seats, Cora lay her head on the table and let out a sigh of defeat. She turned her head to the side to look up at me.
"And so begins our problems," she whispered.