Not every adolescent is accepted by society - especially if you have developed 'wrong'. From the age of eleven, children begin to do things that were thought to have been impossible. How they could read their parents' minds and make things move without touching. Banished to camps in the middle of nowhere, they learn to control their Powers and undergo intense combat training.

Zaida Hunter is the only exception. She has lived at this camp all of her life - she was born with her Power. For years she has seen Mutant teens beaten and executed for going against the rules set by society. But she's willing to do just that.

If it means that she can kill her guardian.


3. Cheating Death

“Hel-lo, earth to Zaida?” Felicity, or ‘Flick’, the blonde socialite Mutant who can see the future, snaps her fingers in front of my face.

            I flinch as if Flick has slapped me. I roll my eyes and look down at my empty bowl that once contained porridge that I had not touched. What? I let the spoon in my hand drop, the metal clanging against the porcelain bowl. Then I notice that Flick is wiping porridge on my jacket sleeve.

            “Hey, stop that!” I yank my arm away.

            I meet Flick's eyes and bite my lip to stifle a laugh. But I just can't help it.

            “Does porridge really thicken your hair?” I ask, channelling all sweetness but then I surrender to laughter.

            Flick pushes her hair over her shoulder and turns her lip up into a snarl. “Control your Power, idiot,” Flick grabs a napkin and begins to wipe porridge off her face and hair, but soon gives up and pulls a face. “Why are we in the hall anyway? Why don't they just deliver some crappy breakfast to our bunks like they usually do?”

“How should I know?” I reply, sounding nonchalant when in reality my heart is beating so fast that I want to throw up. Odd. I never thought that I'd care, not after dreaming about my guardian’s death all of my life. I wanted the murderer dead. And what’s more, I didn't even give a damn if I was executed for it. But now that he is dead... I feel strange.

“Come off it Zaida,” Flick narrows her blue eyes, “we usually eat in the hall for dinner, not breakfast. Why has the Leader of Combat brought everyone here?”

The man who whipped my best friend is dead... so why am I not happy?

“Well?” Flick leans across the table and rests her chin on her fist. “You’re the Leader of Combat’s adopted kid so you must know what’s going on.”

Once again, I look down at my empty breakfast bowl and sigh before pushing it away from me. Unfortunately, I underestimate my Power of speed and push the bowl a little too hard. I watch the bowl tittering on the edge of the table before it crashes into a pool of sharp pieces of ceramic. A few heads from the nearest tables turn towards the crash and stare at me with a mix of curiosity and surprise before turning back to their breakfasts, their ears still pricked for scandalous gossip. I grab a piece of Flick's dry toast and rip it with my teeth.

Flick, completely unaware of what has just happened, carries on with her babble. “Oh really, I may be blonde but I am not dumb; I know that something is on your mind and that something must be the reason why we’re in the hall at this god forbidden hour. So I’ll ask you again: what has happened and why do we have to meet up in the hall for breakfast? And this time I want the truth.”

I lean my left elbow on the table and balance my chin on a fist. I let my eyes drift beyond Flick’s suspicious glare and almost laugh for I would never have thought that a skinny boy with ridiculously thick lenses would be my saviour.

“Howard!” I straighten my back and wave him over.

He blinks twice, his eyes magnified by ten times their original size, before awkwardly shuffling over to the table, his breakfast tray balancing in his hands. When he reaches the table, he stands beside Flick, his eyes darting between Flick and me, me and Flick.


“Come and sit with us, Howard,” I mean to sound welcoming but to Howard I probably sound like yet another tormentor getting their daily hit from abusing the unfortunate.

“Um... ”

Flick smiles not unlike that of a predator luring its weak prey into its lair. She flings her porridge coated blonde hair over her shoulder before patting the chair beside her. As she pouts, Howard’s face burns and his breakfast tray trembles in his hands. Howard glances around the hall before sitting down on the chair beside Flick. He looks down at his plate of dry toast and carton of milk, trying to make himself appear as small as it is humanely possible.


Responding to his name as an obedient dog would, Howard’s head snaps back up. His facial expression displays a range of emotions: confusion, fright and… Curiosity.

            “I need to… I need to talk to you about that thing later,” I say, aware of those sharp ears around me.

Howard blinks and his face is blank. “What?”

“You know what I’m on about.”

Blink. Blink. Blink.

“The Leader Headquarters?”

Blink. “What about it?”

“It… Oh well I bet everyone saw it happening so I might as well say it out loud.”

Blink. Blink. “What are you going on about?”

“Oh don’t act so dumb! You saw it happen; in fact everyone saw it happen: the Leader Headquarters exploded, a bomb was inside.”

What?!” Flick and Howard lean over the table.

“What do you mean by ‘what’?”

“What do you mean by ‘the Leader Headquarters exploded’? What are you going on about?” Flick demands.

At first, I think that Flick is being sarcastic, but I soon dismiss that idea as her face is twisted into such disbelief that I cannot deny or challenge her ignorance.

“Maybe you’re a really, really deep sleeper,” I say to Flick before turning to Howard, “but you must have seen the explosion; you were stood right next to me when we were running away from the Peace Keepers.”

Flick smirks. “You were dreaming, Zaida.”

“No I wasn’t! I’m honestly telling you that the Leader Headquarters exploded.”

“A dream, Zaida. It was all a dream.”

And then it dawns on me. I prop my leg up on the empty chair beside me and roll my combats up my leg, trembling with the excitement of proving that last night was not a dream, could not have possibly been a dream. But there are no strips of t-shirt binding a gunshot wound. Only a few couple of days old bruises and scars.

“But… I don’t understand. I thought that I’d been shot last night. I was shot last night by a Peace Keeper.”

“Like I said before, it was just a dream.”

“But no I – ”

The New Order anthem comes onto the speakers and drowns out the argument. Everyone clambers to their feet, the screeching from the chairs being pulled back against the wooden floor echoes around the vast hall. People begin to whisper whilst some try to discreetly wipe porridge or bread crumbs from around their mouths. This is it. This is when they'll announce his death and the investigation will begin.

Two Peace Keepers pull the grand double door open and then he is there. The Leader of Combat. Without even a scratch on his face.

Mouth agape, eyes wide: I have seen him pull some rather extraordinary stunts in my life, but never has he cheated death. Especially when he was hung over and couldn't possibly have had a clue to what was happening.

I only realise that I'm the only one stood up when Flick grabs my hand, pulling me down to my seat. My eyes do not leave the Leader of Combat. Bewilderment. Shock. Outrage. It all runs through my blood stream, like a drug. My body shakes, as if I have overdosed on emotion.

            “Mutants!” The Leader of Combat takes the microphone off its stand. “I know you’re all wondering why I’ve brought you into the hall and I won’t keep you, I promise.” He walks up and down the raised platform. “I must tell you with much regret that I must leave the camp temporarily and return to the Central.”

            On cue, whispers circulate the hall and the Leader of Combat allows this to last for a few seconds before he carries on speaking. “It is nothing to worry about, I can assure you,” he stops pacing. “It is just a meeting that involves the High Leader and me to discuss some things, although nothing that any of you need to concern yourselves over,” his eyes linger on mine for a few seconds before turning away. “I shall return in two days and I will leave later today. Thank you to you all for listening and I will not keep you from eating your breakfast for a moment longer.”

            The New Order anthem blasts out of the speakers as the Leader of Combat exits the hall. I watch after him until the Peace Keepers slam the doors shut.


“Come on Zaida, you have to tell me!” Flick says for the umpteenth time since the Leader of Combat left the hall and the chatter from young Mutants returned.

“I told you! I. Don’t. Know. Yes, he is my guardian but that doesn’t mean that he is entitled to tell me everything. Actually, if I have to be honest, he doesn’t tell me anything. If he wants to let me know about something, he assembles all of the Mutants at this camp together and tells them all. You can’t count on me for any gossip, I’m afraid.”

           Flick mumbles something under her breath but I really couldn't care less. We are heading towards our first lesson of the day: Sociology. A thought. An idea. A plan. I grab Flick's hand, which instantly stops her seemingly never-ending babble.

           “Zaida, I love you but not in this way.”

           “I need to check something out and you're coming with me.”

           I don't wait for a complaint. I break into a jog and drag Flick along with me. Mutants stare at us as we pass them, but I don't care. They will just think that we are going for a casual warm up jog before lessons begin. Nothing out of the ordinary. I stop when we reach the Leader Headquarters: a strong fortress rigged with the best performing security system. No one can get in, never mind being able to plant a bomb inside. I let go of Flick's hand and let my arms drop to my sides. Confused is an understatement. The Leader Headquarters looks exactly how it did yesterday and the day before that and the day before that.

           I become aware of the heavy breathing next to me. I turn to face Flick, whose face is bright red and her bare arms and hands are covered in scratches and blood. It takes a second longer that it should do for me to realise that perhaps I hadn't been going as slow as I thought I had.

           I bite my lip, eyeing the blood. “Sor - ”

            Flick's pretty features contort into a scowl. “Sorry? You're sorry? What is wrong with you today, Zaida?” Her features smooth out and she shakes her head in disbelief. “Why are you acting so strange?”

           Good question. Why am I acting so strange? It was just a dream. Just a dream. But a very realistic dream at that.

           Flick glances at the Leader Headquarters and then shakes her head at me. “Come on,” she says, tugging at my arm, “we’re going to be late.”

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