Project G.A.I.A.

When Harley wakes up at the Facility, she only knows two things. 1. She is a Telekinetic. 2. There are people who will kill to get their hands on her power. She has no memory of who she is or how she got there, but remains at the Facility, a safe haven for others like her, to learn how to harness and control her power. But a series of terrifying attacks cause Harley to have flashbacks of a life she doesn't recognize. A life that contradicts everything she believes to be the truth. When Archer, a rebel with whom she shares an inexplicable connection, overhears a mysterious conversation, Harley begins to question the Facility's true purpose. Together, they delve deeper and discover sinister experiments being carried out underground on other superhumans. Suddenly, it's a race to escape before they're no longer in control of their own minds - and time isn't on their side.

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1. The Whitewash

     Copyright © 2014 by Sam Banks

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner without the express written permission of the author.

 

 

     The room burned into stark white existence. I winced when my eyes didn’t adjust quickly enough, shutting themselves against my wishes. My tongue was heavy in my mouth, useless to voice my questions. Where am I? Who am I?

     I opened my eyes a crack, letting in the light piece by piece until I was able to see the room.

A light on the ceiling flickered slightly. It made my eyes hurt, so I looked away, concentrating on the other features in the room. There weren’t many.

     All the fixtures blended in with the room; everything was pristine. White tiles made up the floor and the walls, reflecting the light blindingly. I turned my head to the side; there was a small table beside the bed, a pile of clothes on it and a large mirror on the wall next to it.

     I turned my head to the other side; it was stiff, as if I hadn’t moved it in a while. The dark-haired woman sitting next to my bed calmly observed me. She was dressed in a doctors white coat, and she had a stethoscope around her neck. There was nothing unsettling about her, except that I hadn’t noticed her earlier.

     ‘How are you feeling?’ she asked. Her voice was soft and clear; she had a slight British accent. I didn’t answer her, still examining the room. There was one window, and the door was a sliding panel across the room. I couldn’t see anything outside apart from the sky; white clouds floated across the limited view.   

     The woman put her hand over mine, drawing my concentration back to her.

     ‘How do you feel?’ she repeated.

     ‘Who are you?’ I asked her, rolling my tongue around my mouth.

     ‘I’m your doctor, Harley,’ she said. ‘You can call me Ma’am.’

     I blinked twice, before realizing that ‘Harley’ must have been my name. I mouthed the syllables, testing it out. The name sounded strange, but I guessed that was because I didn’t recognize it as mine yet.

     ‘I’m in hospital?’ That would explain the clinical look of the room, I thought.

     ‘Of a kind. You were in an accident,’ she said.

     ‘Wh – what do you mean? I don’t remember an accident,’ I said, frantically searching through my head – ‘I don’t remember anything.’ I didn’t remember an accident – I didn’t remember a life before that room.

     ‘You have amnesia – that’s why you don’t remember much,’ she explained.

     ‘Amnesia? What happened?’ I asked.

     ‘Before anything else, I need to assess you. I’ll answer your questions in due time. Are you able to stand up?’

     She moved her chair away from the bed, motioning for me to get up. I complied, confused – why wouldn’t the accident be important? I didn’t like that I couldn’t remember anything for certain. Did I have a family? Where were they? If I was in hospital, wouldn’t they have been waiting for me to wake up?

     ‘How long have I been…asleep?’ I asked as the doctor circled me, checking my injuries. I was surprised to find a mottled bruise on the side of my ribs; it didn’t hurt like it should have.

     ‘A while,’ she answered vaguely, examining my head. She ran her fingers over the left side of my head – I hissed, pulling away sharply and whipping my hand up to cover it.

     ‘Does that hurt?’ she asked matter-of-factly, not seeming the least bit startled by my reaction.

     ‘Well, duh!’ I spat, through gritted teeth. I hurried around to the other side of the bed, checking my head in the mirror. The doctor followed just behind me; I ignored her, parting my hair to check my head.

     A jagged scar, about two inches long, sat just above my left ear.

     ‘I’m sorry, but I need to continue examining you, to ensure that your injuries are sufficiently healed.’

     The doctor stepped forward warningly. I sidestepped her, backing up against the wall.

     ‘Why don’t you start by explaining what happened to me? I’m not doing anything until you tell me. Why don’t I remember anything? Where did this scar come from?’ I asked, angrily motioning at my head.

     ‘Harley, please –’

     ‘No!’ A wave of air gushed forward then, slamming the doctor into the mirror, pinning her there.

     ‘Oh my God!’ I backed away, staring in shock at her. What’s happening?

     Just as quickly as it happened, whatever was holding her disappeared, and the woman stepped away from the wall, red in the face.

     ‘What was that?’ I asked, almost paralysed in fear.

     ‘I think that was you,’ she answered, smoothing her clothes down.

     ‘Me? That’s not possible – I didn’t –’

     ‘You’re not in trouble, Harley.’ A glimmer of a smile appeared on her face, unsettling me. ‘Sit down,’ she said, patting the bed beside her.

     I did, my heart racing. Why isn’t she more freaked out? What’s going on here?

     ‘Harley, you possess a particular skill set – one which only 16% of the human race shares,’ she started, watching me carefully. ‘This skill set manifests itself via extraordinary abilities – superhuman powers, if you will. These powers normally dormant, are unlocked in traumatic situations.’

     ‘What are you trying to say?’

     ‘The body triggers the dormant gene, transforming your cells, enabling you to save yourself – for example, one might gain the ability to breathe underwater, saving them from certain death if they were drowning.’

     I gaped at her, speechless.

     ‘You’re telling me I have superpowers?’ I asked, half expecting her to laugh at me and reveal the whole thing as an elaborate hoax.

     The woman regarded me carefully. ‘People with superpowers aren’t just the stuff of movies, Harley. You’ve already proved that to yourself.’ She looked over at the cracked mirror. I think back to the force that pushed Ma’am into it.

     ‘How did I adapt?’ My mouth was dry.

     ‘You were in a fire, and the building collapsed on you,’ she started.

     What power could that have made me develop? I wondered.

     ‘You used telekinesis to protect yourself from the rubble that would otherwise have crushed you.’

     ‘Telekinesis?’ I repeated the one word that stuck in my head.

     ‘Yes, you’re a Telekinetic – rather rare too. You can move objects with your mind,’ she said encouragingly.

     ‘I – uh –’ I was bewildered. How am I supposed to react?

     ‘I understand that this is a lot to take in –’

     ‘Where’s my family?’ I interrupted. Surely my parents must be here.

     Ma’am blinked rapidly, then took a deep breath, steeling herself.

     ‘You’re an orphan. You don’t have any siblings or relatives. That is why you have been brought here, to the Facility.’

     I felt like she had dropped a lead weight on my chest.

     ‘What about a foster family or something?’ There has to be someone who cared about me – but I couldn’t conjure up an image of anyone.

     ‘You didn’t have the best childhood growing up.’ She paused, scrutinizing my expression. The room felt like it was spinning. ‘You spent most of your life in different orphanages.’

     Deep breaths, I told myself. You need to accept what she’s telling you.

     ‘Really, the Facility is the safest place for you – we can keep you safe here.’

     ‘From what?’ I asked sharply.

     ‘Let’s just say there are people out there who would stoop very low to get their hands on your power,’ she told me curtly. ‘The Facility is a safe environment where you can learn to harness your power, surrounded by others just like you. You should not worry about the past, but look to the future.’

     She’s right. And from what she’s said, your past doesn’t sound like something you want to remember, my head told me.

     ‘Now that’s all settled, I have to leave – you’ll be fine to start lessons today,’ Ma’am said, gathering her things.

     ‘Lessons?’ What on earth…

     ‘Yes. I suppose you could like the Facility to a school; you will have lessons in combat and Trainers dedicated to helping you learn how to use and control your power,’ she told me. ‘I’ll send someone to show you around the place, and answer any questions you have. Your uniform is on the table,’ she said, smiling warmly as she left the room, and suddenly, I didn’t feel so scared.

     ‘Thank you,’ I blurted out gratefully.

     I moved to the table, picking up the uniform to distract myself from the million thoughts racing around my mind. I have superpowers. I’m a Telekinetic. I don’t have a family.

     Shaking my head, I pulled off the scratchy gown I was wearing, inspecting my bruises. The big yellow bruise on the side of my ribs stood out on my tanned skin, along with a couple of minor cuts and bruises on my legs.

     Any minute now, I’m going to wake up and this will all be some crazy dream, I think, twisting my long, dark hair out of my face.

     As I pulled on a pair of gray tennis shoes, the door opened, and a tall, tom-boyish girl walked in. Her hair was almost jet black, cropped short, pixie style.

     ‘Hey, I’m Frankie,’ she said, smiling genially at me. ‘Ma’am sent me to show you around.’

     ‘I’m – uh – Harley,’ I said uncertainly, still not used to my own name.

     ‘Don’t worry about the amnesia thing – you’ll forget about it soon enough,’ she said, laughing. ‘Pun intended.’

     ‘How did you know –’

     ‘Oh, none of us remember our past. Apparently, the trauma of developing your power causes amnesia.’

     ‘Sorry, I don’t know the etiquette around here – is it polite to ask you what your power is?’

     ‘Sure,’ Frankie laughs. ‘Besides, there’s no etiquette here – just do what you feel like. I can manipulate electricity; it’s called electrokinesis. I guess you could say I’m quite shocking…’

     I paused. Frankie looked at me, worried that I hadn’t got the joke. I burst out laughing when she hurried to explain it.

     ‘So I’m guessing jokes aren’t your strong suit,’ I teased.

     ‘I think we’re going to get along just fine, Harley. D’you want to take a look around the Facility before breakfast?’

     ‘Sure. How big is this place?’

     ‘Pretty huge. I remember my first day here – I got completely lost and ended up near the pool,’ she laughed, reminiscing.

     ‘You guys have a pool?’ I asked, my eyes widening.

     ‘Yeah. A pool, a gym – well, gyms plural; a cafeteria, and tons of space to practice using your power. There’s pretty much everything you could ask for. Now come on – you’ll want breakfast before lessons start,’ she said excitedly, pulling me to my feet.

     Frankie pulled the door open, and we walked out into the corridor. There were doors lined up on each side, and most of them were open. I peered into one; it was pretty much the same as my room.

     ‘This is where anyone recovering from an injury stays. The infirmary is down there,’ she said, pointing to the door at the far end of the corridor. She turned left and walked through another doorway, leading outside. ‘And this is what the rest of the Facility looks like.’

     Spreading over acres of space were huge white buildings. Most of them were at least two stories high, and some had enormous glass windows in the place of walls. The Facility looked like a mini-city, complete with smaller versions of skyscrapers.

     I could see a room full of people doing martial arts in one building, wrestling one another; one class was even doing gymnastics. I could see a flat area further out, where people were doing all sorts of training, from athletics to archery. I stood openmouthed, amazed at the sheer amount of space there was.

     ‘I had no idea it would look like this; this looks like a set out of a movie!’ I exclaimed, looking at Frankie.

     ‘I was exactly the same when I first got here,’ she said, smiling reminiscently. Her hair glinted in the sunlight, and I could see that it looked more purple than black now. ‘I’ll bet you’re hungry,’ she grinned, looking over at me. My stomach growled on cue.

     ‘Well, I guess I am,’ I said laughing.

     ‘Come on, the cafeteria’s down here,’ Frankie said, laughing as my stomach rumbled again. We headed down to the path, taking the third turning off it, into a building larger than the others.

     We walked through the glass doors, into a huge mess hall. The noise was phenomenal; I never knew people could make so much noise. There were round tables all around the room and to the left hand side of was the lunch line, along with a salad bar.  

     The walls and floors in here were white too; in fact that only colour in the room came from the food. The pristine tables around the room were mostly full. The students sitting around were wearing variations of the grey jumpsuit I wore, and they seemed pretty normal, considering the fact that they all had some sort of power.  

     ‘Do you guys always start the day this early?’

     ‘Every day except Saturday. Here,’ Frankie said, passing me a tray.

     ‘What’s different about Saturdays?’ I asked, moving forward with the line.

     ‘We have ‘unsupervised study’,’ she said, making air quotes around the word. ‘Basically, we get to wake up when we want, and we’re supposed to spend the day studying or practicing. But we all use it as a chance to mess around with our powers, without our Trainers there to keep us in check,’ Frankie grinned.

     ‘What day is it today?’ I asked.

     ‘Wednesday – don’t worry, the week usually goes pretty quickly around here. We’re always doing something to keep busy.’

     We finally got to the front of the line, and Frankie started piling food onto her tray from the buffet-style bar. I stuck with cereal – it seemed unlikely that I wouldn’t like it. It struck me as weird that I would have to learn about myself all over again.

     I grabbed a bottle of water, and followed Frankie to a table where three others were chatting – they didn’t look up as we approached. The girl had dark hair, and was listening to the two boys with a bored look. The boy opposite her was black, with broad shoulders and big arms. But the most shocking person there was the boy sitting next to her; he had green skin. It took me a moment to realize I was staring and I looked down at my tray, ashamed of myself.

     ‘Hey guys!’ Frankie said, sliding onto the bench next to the big guy, motioning for me to sit down next to her.  ‘This is Harley.’

     They all stopped as I put my tray down on table, staring at me. I shifted uncomfortably.

     ‘Um, hi.’ I smiled tentatively. Frankie coughed loudly.

     ‘Guys? I know we haven’t had a new kid in ages, but seriously?’ Just like that, they snapped out of it.

     The girl looked me up and down – and smiled a little haughtily.

     ‘Sorry about that. Frankie’s right, we haven’t had any new kids for months now. I’m Madison.’ I smiled at her, not wanting to make any enemies on my first day, even though this girl definitely had a problem with me already.

     ‘This is Sabre,’ Frankie said, motioning to the green-skinned boy.

     ‘Nice to meet you, Harley,’ he said in a surprisingly quiet voice. I felt even guiltier for prejudging him. I nodded in acknowledgment. He was tall and lean, compared to the other boy, but not skinny; no one around here looked skinny – they were either toned or well-muscled.

     ‘And this chunk of hunk is Rex. He’s the muscle of the group.’ She giggled, nudging the big guy.

     ‘Welcome to the gang!’ he boomed, grinning.

     ‘Thanks.’ I grinned, feeling my nerves disappear.

     ‘Okay, introductions over – I’m starving.’ Frankie grabbed her spoon and dug into her bowl of porridge.

     ‘Me too,’ said Rex, stealing an apple from her tray. Everyone went back to eating.

     I picked up my spoon and started on my cereal. I wolfed down the contents of the bowl, realizing how hungry I actually was.

     ‘So, Harley – what's your power?’ Madison asked conversationally. Frankie choked on her porridge and started coughing loudly. I stopped chewing, looking concernedly at her. Rex slapped her on the back.

     ‘Madison!’ she gasped once she caught her breath.

     ‘What?’ Madison blinked innocently. ‘Might as well get to the point – you’re a Telekinetic, right?’ she turned to me.

     ‘So I’ve been told. Why?’ I asked, looking from her to Frankie.

     ‘There were rumours...we wanted to know if you lived up to the hype,’ she said, taking a bite into her apple.

     ‘What’s so special about being a Telekinetic?’ I asked, still confused.

     ‘Um, is that a trick question?’ When I didn’t respond, she rolled her eyes at me. ‘Duh! You’re the only one. Ever.’ Madison looked at me expectantly. I glanced at Frankie for help, but she was busy staring daggers at Madison.

     ‘Congratulations Mad! Well done for scaring the new girl off in less than five minutes,’ Frankie said under her breath. ‘This must be some kind of record for you, right?’

     ‘Why the big deal?’ I asked; I had no idea what Madison was going on about. Okay I was the only one with telekinesis; I was pretty sure Frankie was the only person who could control electricity.

     ‘While everyone here has their own power, a lot of them are similar. But no one has ever had anything like what you have,’ Sabre explained. Frankie still looked furious with Madison.

     ‘Oh. Okay.’

  ‘Don’t worry about it Harley – it’s not like it’s anything bad. It’s just different,’ Rex said kindly. ‘Yo, Frankie, calm down. Madison didn’t mean anything by it.’

     I finished eating, and swirled the milk around the bowl. There are already rumours about me before I know anyone here? The others had gone back to eating too.

     ‘So, what's first lesson?’ I asked, trying to break the awkward silence that had fallen over the table.

     ‘I think you have Combat Training over in Gym 3,’ Frankie said, not looking up.

     ‘And you’re not with me, are you?’ I asked, reading between her words. She looked at me apologetically.

     ‘No,’ she said. ‘But Archer’s scheduled to have the same lesson as you – he’ll take care of you,’ she added, seeing my anxious face.

     There wasn’t really any reason for me to be nervous, but I was worried about going into a lesson where I didn’t know anyone.

     ‘Archer?’ I looked around the table, wondering how I hadn’t noticed him yet.

     ‘Yeah – he’s probably still sleeping. He’ll be here soon,’ Rex said.

     I looked around as everyone ate; there were tons of people sitting around, just chatting to each other. If I didn’t know that they all had powers, I would have thought they were normal – except maybe Sabre. But even he was normal once you got over the fact that he was green.

     I still hadn’t grasped the idea that I had powers – I hadn’t seen any hint of them. Ma’am had said that telekinesis was basically moving stuff with your mind. I looked thoughtfully at the spoon. How did I do it before? What was I thinking when I attacked Ma’am?

     Oh, right – I was angry. I can’t really get angry with a spoon. Maybe…

     Blocking out the sounds of the cafeteria around me, I focused solely on the spoon. I closed my eyes, visualizing it moving without me touching it, seeing how it would move in my mind’s eye. I opened my eyes and thought with all my might and –

     It didn’t budge.

     I exhaled loudly, leaning back in my chair. Madison and Rex were discussing Combat Training, and Frankie was listening intently to Sabre’s theory about something scientific sounding. According to Madison, there weren’t any other Telekinetics – no one with any experience of telekinesis. Was I even able to use my power consciously? Was it just a fluke? Maybe the Facility had made a mistake.

     I tried again, centering myself. I concentrated on moving the spoon, oblivious to the commotion around me. I gave one final mental push, before opening my eyes and it still hadn’t moved. I sighed in exasperation.

     ‘Um, Harley? What are you doing?’  I looked up to find four pairs of eyes watching me; their expressions varying from polite curiosity to outright what-the-hell-is-the-new-girl-doing looks – from Madison, of course. I blushed furiously; I was pretty sure I looked like a complete idiot, frowning at a spoon.

     ‘Uh…I was trying to use my power,’ I finished lamely, looking down at my hands.

  ‘Oh. That explains the whole…thing you were doing just then.’ Madison’s words punctuated the awkward silence. ‘Whaaat?’ she asked, sarcasm marring her attempt at sincerity. I looked up in time to see Frankie glare at her, before she turned to me.

     ‘Harley, don’t worry about Madison – she doesn’t think before she says stuff. Probably ’cause her brain is filled with fluff,’ she added in an undertone. ‘And anyway, there’s nothing embarrassing about figuring out how to work your power – hell, we’ve all done it!’ She smiled, making me feel a little less mortified.

     ‘Don’t worry if you can’t use your power yet – it’s a lot more complex than you might think,’ Sabre said wisely.

     ‘Thanks guys,’ I said, smiling gratefully, ‘I guess I'm just not used to…all of this yet’.

     ‘Just don’t stress about it and you’ll be fine,’ Frankie said, nudging me. ‘You don’t wanna end up like Mad, do you? You know, the one over there who drove herself mad with stress? She laughed and electricity crackled through her hair. ‘Oh crap.’

     ‘Now who’s stressing?’ Madison sneered as Frankie frantically patted down her staticked hair. I couldn’t help but laugh.

     ‘Hey – I thought you were my friend,’ Frankie pretended to be upset, but she was grinning. Madison starting jeering and Frankie shot a look at her. ‘What? Haven’t you got anything better to do than jeer and laugh?’

     Madison threw a spoon to Frankie. She caught it, checking her reflection.

     ‘Agghh!! My hair is everywhere!’

     Madison made a show of flicking her flawless hair over her shoulder, running her fingers through it. ‘I often wonder what Rex sees in you,’ she said scathingly, making eyes at him.

     ‘That’s it!’ Eyes flickering like lightning, Frankie pointed her hand at Madison. I gasped as a ball of electricity flew from her hand zapped Madison.

     ‘Yikes!’ she screeched. The noise in the cafeteria was so loud that no one heard the commotion at our table. As the light faded, I could see what Frankie had actually done to her – Madison’s hair was sticking up in all directions – and smoking faintly.

     Frankie burst into hysterics, her bad mood gone. The boys looked over then, wondering what all the fuss was about. Rex took one look at Madison and started snickering along with me and Frankie.

     ‘How many times do I have to tell you two to cool it with the arguing?’ Sabre said sternly. ‘Some day, one of you will get hurt and then you’ll wonder ‘Oh, why didn’t we listen to Sabre?’’ But even he was smirking a little. He put a hand on Madison’s shoulder, to stop her from retaliating.

     ‘Well, that’s always a refreshin’ sight – girlfight first thing in the mornin’. It really sets you in a good mood for the rest of the day, don’t ya think?’ someone said, with a Texan accent. I turned around to see the newcomer.

     Wow, I thought. I feel like I should swoon right about now. And I don’t even know what swooning is!

     He was taller than Sabre; 6-foot-something, with tawny hair that fell into his eyes. He was well-built too – the sleeves of his top were rolled up, and I could see the muscles of his arms. At this point, it was reasonable to assume he had a great set of abs under his top too.

     The most noticeable thing about him was his eyes. They were the most stunning, clear, sea-green colour. As soon as I met his gaze, my gut clenched – I felt like I knew him. The connection was so powerful that I had to know him.  

     ‘Yo, Archer! You finally decided to wake up, huh?’ Rex boomed.

     Archer broke eye contact with me and the feeling lessened, but didn’t vanish. I immediately tried to talk sense into myself; there was no way I could know him – everyone here was a stranger to me. Hell, if someone I did know walked up to me, I wouldn’t recognize them!

     It was just a weird coincidence. You’ve been hospitalized after a fire – you’re probably just not thinking straight yet.

     ‘Well, I couldn’t deprive my adorin’ public of myself any longer, could I?’ He grinned cockily.

     ‘Archer, this is Harley – the new girl I told you about,’ Frankie said.

     ‘Howdy,’ he twanged, tipping an imaginary cowboy hat. I smiled back shyly and the grin slid from his face. Now he was the one staring, frowning a little – like he was trying to remember something.

     I looked away, still unable to shake the feeling that I recognized him.

     ‘Remember? I told you she was coming, yesterday?’ Frankie was saying.

     ‘Archer?’ Rex snapped his fingers in front Archer’s face.

     ‘Huh? Sorry, I missed that – what were you sayin’?’ he asked apologetically, focusing his attention on them rather than me.

     ‘I was just reminding you that you’re in Harley’s classes today.’ Frankie rolled her eyes at him. ‘He’s not always this dopey in the mornings – he’ll be fine after he eats breakfast,’ she said to me. ‘Maybe all that sleep isn’t so good for you after all, huh, Archer?’

     ‘Your hair sure looks nice today Frankie – you done somethin’ different with it? Stuck your finger in a socket by any chance?’ he countered, strolling away to the breakfast bar.

     ‘Just remember, I don’t need a socket to zap you,’ she muttered under her breath.

     ‘Okay, not that this isn’t fun and all, but I’ve gotta go see Duke. See you lot later. It was nice to meet you, Harley,’ Madison said disdainfully, making it clear she didn’t think so. She flipped her hair again, picking up her tray as she stalked off.

     ‘God, she’s such a cow,’ Frankie said as soon as Madison was out of earshot.

     ‘Did I just imagine that, or does she not like me very much?’ I asked sarcastically.

     ‘Trust me – it’s better if she doesn’t. That way you don’t have to put up with her crap day and night,’ Frankie said distastefully as Archer came back.

     ‘Mind if I squeeze in next to you Harley?’ Archer asked, bringing his tray over to our side of the table.

     ‘Oh – go ahead,’ I said, sliding my tray further up the table.

  ‘So – Harley? That’s a pretty na – uh, pretty cool name,’ he said, shovelling porridge into his mouth at the same time.

     ‘So’s Archer,’ I said.

     ‘I’m good at archery,’ he said simply.

     ‘He’s being modest,’ Rex told me. ‘Archery is the only thing he’s good at.’ He laughed.

     ‘Yeah, he’s pretty much Champion Archer of the Decade. But we don’t talk about it too often – his head tends to swell up, and he can’t get through doors,’ Frankie joked, laughing too.

     ‘Right, I’ve gotta see Trainer Cross before lessons; I’ve got three hours of practice out in the forest today, and he’s supposed to be pre-assessment assessing me.’ Rex got up, making his way back to the queue to get rid of his tray. ‘See ya,’ he called over his shoulder.

     Archer finished his porridge and his spoon clattered into the bowl. ‘Shall we get goin’? You don’t wanna be late on your first day, do you?’

     He picked up his tray and went over to set it down on the used pile. I looked unsurely at Frankie; I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be around him – he made me feel uncomfortable. She misunderstood my anxious look and squeezed my hand encouragingly.

     ‘I know you’re worried, what with it being your first day and all, but you’re gonna be fine. Everyone here’s really nice – with the exception of Madison, of course.’

     Frankie made her way out of the cafeteria, waving bye to me. I waved back and then she disappeared down one of the paths.

     ‘Hey.’ Archer’s deep voice startled me and I jumped, much to his amusement. ‘Come on, I don’t bite.’

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