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.


2. Marked as a Murderer

My eyes fly open a fraction of a second before the wake-up alarm rings out.

            I lie there for several moments, my entire body paralysed. My eyes unblinking. I am on my back, staring up at the dirty white paint that is peeling off the ceiling.

            The bunk below mine creaks as one of the four girls who share bunk house seven reluctantly pulls herself out of that amorphous place between dreams and reality, responding to the incessant wailing from the speaker on the wall directly above the door. Ignoring the alarm: impossible.

            When my arms feel like they are mine again, I push myself up. I pull the duvet off me, the warmth instantly being leached into the frozen air, before swinging my legs out to the side and compelling myself to stand up. I flinch as the icy tendrils soar up my body when my bare feet touch the metal ladder.

            The alarm stops and the anthem of the New Order rings out whilst the residents of bunk house seven walk towards the wash room in the room adjacent whilst rubbing the crispy sleep from the corner of their eyes and yawning loudly, urging themselves to wake up. I stand on the wooden floorboards and look down. My clothes and skin are caked in dry mud.

            From last night.

            I fall to my knees and pull at my filthy vest top. I try to take deep, cleansing breaths but I have to stop when my head starts to spin.

            I will be fine. I will be fine. I will be fine. I will go for a shower. I will face whichever authority figure is waiting for me. I will be fine.

            I run out of the room and through the door to the wash room, ahead of the parade of zombies. I claim the only shower.

            I don't bother to strip, I just let the warm water soak through my filthy clothes. Dried mud slides off into the drain. I peel my muddy clothes off me and then massage my hair with shampoo. Maybe, if I smell nice and look presentable, then the jury will listen to why I committed the capital offence. I hadn't done it as an act of rebellion against the New Order as the jury would think – my reasons went much deeper than that. I close my eyes and sigh. Being encased by the steam that is thickening by the second, I feel as if I could stay in here forever. But then a thought hits me: I would be a coward if I attempted to avoid the inevitable. With that, I turn off the shower, pull a clean towel around me and march out of the wash room – leaving my clothes in a puddle of muddy water.

            A girl with shoulder-length black, spiky hair that falls into her eyes, obstructs my path. She shoves a clean vest top and a pair of combats at me before walking away. I narrow my eyes, not quite sure what to make of what has just happened. I don't know what the girl is called (and I am pretty sure that no one does) but everyone calls her Spike, possibly because of her trademark hairstyle. Or her cold aura that is teamed with a death stare. Anyway, the point is that I don't owe anything to the strange girl so what is the reason for such an out of character favour?

            I find myself blocking Spike’s way a moment later. Spike raises one thin eyebrow.

            “I just wanted to say thank you for getting me some clothes,” I say.

            Spike shrugs nonchalantly and tries to walk past me but I grab her arm.

“Why did you do it? We have never even spoken before and you helped me out,” I can't help it – my curiosity gets the better of me. As always.

Spike shrugs again and tries to push past me, but I get in her way again. In fact, every time Spike makes a move to the door, I am in her face before she can even start to walk. I am aware that every time I do this, I am making Spike more and more irritable.

Then I hear Spike’s voice. Inside my head.

I’m hungry so if you don’t mind, I want to get some food. We’re in the hall for breakfast, by the way. Don’t ask.

She elbows me as she walks past. I don't move, shock paralysing me. This is the first time that I have ever known her to use her abilities on another Mutant outside of training. At the camp, it is compulsory for Mutants to take part in training activities to practise using their abilities in combat. I have seen Spike use her mind reading to know the moves her opponent was planning on doing before they did it so she could avoid getting hurt and attack them instead. But she has never used her telepathy outside of training.

I slip on my clean uniform and towel-dry my hair before taking a deep breath and exiting bunk house seven, entering the day marked as a murderer.

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