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Chapter 2

Questions

Kaitlin slept fretfully. She dreamed of the blue-eyed boy.

"What is your name?" She asked him, her words bouncing off of unseen walls and corridors. He stared into her, through her, and beyond her.

"Come find me," he said.

Kaitlin awoke to a kink in her neck and cursed. Her dreams over the last two weeks alternated between being chased by mysterious pursuers and waking up disturbed, to following the blue-eyed boy down the twisting hallways of ICER and waking up disturbed. She pushed the dream back into the mental room called Things Not To Think Of and dragged through her morning with all the grace of the undead.

At lunch she found herself plopped down on a flimsy cafeteria chair, the chatter of her friends around her blending in with the background. Open before her was a book on photography. Yet she stared blankly down at the pages, chewing her nails absently. She could swear she had heard the word escapee between her father and the other guard. She had assumed at the time that they had meant a bonobo, but what if it was a human? The way that Pax had responded to her didn't make any sense. And then the boy she had seen struggling in the hallway. . . .was he the escapee? Questions grew in the darkness of her mind, slowly, like a fungus. Questions, like an itch she couldn't scratch. What was behind those metal doors? Why was her father lying to her?

"Since when are you interested in photography?"

Kaitlin was snapped out of her thoughts by the inquisitive face of Mel Velasquez, her best friend since the sixth grade. Mel had brown hair, a cute button nose with stylish glasses perched on top, and an impeccable tawny complexion. She was one of the few kids who hadn't asked Kaitlin about her mom after it happened, which was probably why they had become friends. However the girl had a voracious curiosity concerning almost everything else. It was difficult to have any peace around her.

Kaitlin sighed. "It's for my science project."

"Oh, cool. What are you up to this weekend?"

Kaitlin shrugged. "Not much I suppose. Homework. My internship."

Mel brightened. "How is that going?"

Kaitlin swallowed and didn't look up from her book. "It's fine."

Mel frowned and leaned in, inspecting Kaitlin, and shame prickled the back of her skull. She didn't like keeping things from her friends, but she wasn't quite ready to talk about what she had witnessed at ICER. She wasn't even sure just what she had witnessed.

"Well, would you want to go see a movie with Ash and I—"

Kaitlin snapped her book closed with more emphasis than she meant to. "Sure. Sounds good." She gathered her things from the lunch table with tight-pressed lips. Even Ashlyn, affectionately nicknamed Ash, looked up from a heated discussion about politics with her boyfriend.

"Hey, everything okay?" Mel asked.

"Yeah." Kaitlin zipped up her bag. "See you guys later. We can talk tomorrow about hanging out this weekend."

"Okay," Mel said with concern in her eyes.

Kaitlin turned and walked- straight into Josh Hantes. The contents filling their arms went flying, books and binders and papers scattered on the sticky cafeteria floor.

"Oh! I'm—I'm sorry!" Kaitlin said. They both crouched down, almost bonking foreheads. "I didn't mean—"

"No, it's okay. I wasn't watching where I was going."

Kaitlin gathered her things from the floor and looked, like a caught fox, into the green eyes of Josh Hantes. Josh friggin' Hantes.

He was tall, with wide shoulders, an impish smile, and wavy blonde hair. This close, Kaitlin could see golden flakes in his green irises. He looked handsome in his varsity football jacket. She had never noticed them before.

"Um." She cleared her throat and straightened, tucking a stray lock behind her ear. He smiled sheepishly at her. He always seemed to have intelligent things to say and was nice to everyone in the couple of honors classes Kaitin shared with him.

"Sorry about that," he said to her, as they slowly stood at the same time.

"No worries."

He looked down at her books. "You're studying photography?"

"Uh, yeah."

"That's so cool. I took at photography class at my last school." He smiled at her, and she felt her heart melt a little.

Kaitlin had never spoken to him before—but had imagined it many times. She had harbored a crush on him since freshman year when he had sat in front of her in French. This year they shared AP Bio. A dozen different conversation starters flickered into her mind.

You're in my class, aren't you?

Good job winning your last game.

The possibilities danced in her mind's eye but as the moments ticked by, her staring at him, she went with: "well, see you later." she gave him a tight nod and stalked away, ignoring her friend's shocked faces behind her.

When she slammed her locker shut, Mel was standing right behind it. Kaitlin flinched and almost dropped her books again. "What do you want, Mel?" She asked, inwardly groaning.

"OK. Spill."

Kaitlin scrutinized her for a second. Mel was almost a full four inches shorter, but her personality more than made up for it.

"What?"

"What do you mean, What? Something's obviously up with you!"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"That was a more-than-perfect opportunity to talk to Mr. Hottie, and you walked away!"

Kaitlin looked away. "I'm not interested in boys right now." She met Mel's flat look. "Come on, Mel. I told you. I'm just not interested."

"That's a big fat lie, and you know it, Kate. You're not going to find anyone to take you to prom unless you start speaking up. You have to actually talk to boys if you want them to like you."

Kaitlin sighed and leaned against the lockers. This was not a conversation she wanted to have at the moment. Or ever.

"So, I'm shy. Who cares? Maybe I'm just one of those late bloomers who'll let loose and go crazy in college."

Mel frowned at her. "Okay, well we still have two years until college. What about now? You can't just stick to your studies and let life pass you by. What if you're dead in two years?"

"Well then, I guess it won't matter? How are you hassling me about this, anyways? You've only had one boyfriend, ever."

"There was Niko, too!"

Kaitlin held up a hand. "Okay. I'm sorry. Being felt up behind the bleachers a few times does not count as a relationship."

"Well, at least I put myself out there. It was like winter back there. Seriously, Kate, brrr."

Kaitlin crossed her arms and rolled her eyes in response.

Mel put her finger an inch from her face. "I can tell when something's up with you. I'm your best friend. You can't fool me, you know. I know you too well. For better or for worse."

Kaitlin looked up at the hall clock impatiently. "Can we talk about this later? I only have the lab for a couple hours."

Mel's eyes got puppy-dog big and Kaitlin inwardly groaned. "It's not going to be fun, Mel. I'm just going to be in there running tests," Kaitlin started.

"I don't care! Your science fair projects are always so cool! I want to see it! Pleaassee?"

Kaitlin rolled her eyes. "OK. Come on."