I blink heavily, dragging my eyelids open. Darkness. Just darkness. Everywhere I look is a thick, harsh, all-engulfing blackness. Where am I? Who brought me here? How long have I been here, wherever here might be? Not long I guess, cause my stomach still aches a little from purging, earlier. A dark, sticky, treacle-thick fear runs through me, dislodging the ice-crystals that have been forming in my veins.
As my eyes begin to adjust to the light, I am able to take a closer look at my surroundings – there is a heavy, wooden door at the far side of the room – I am not as much of a prisoner as I expected. I wasn't even tied up. Yes, I may be locked in, but my movement around this dark room hasn't been restricted at all.
I swing my legs over the edge of the metal-framed bed that I am lying on, so that I am upright. Although the mattress is thin and a little threadbare, I am not too uncomfortable. The room is draughty and the cold, stone walls provide absolutely no insulation whatsoever. I wrap my arms around myself, hands squeezing my upper arms to try and keep in my body heat.
I wish that I am wearing thicker clothes, but I am in my traditional post-school get-up: a long sleeved blue top with white swallows on it, dark jeans and a pinky-red scarf. People at school and at the carehome used to mock me about my choice of attire, but I find it comfortable. But that isn't even the best bit, the clothes make me look slim, but their not so tight that people can tell that I have been purging. I don't want to be found out, so the right choice of clothes is a useful trick to remember.
My eyes pick something out of the darkness, a table. I walk over to it. There is a chair in front of it. I sit down at the desk and start rifling through the drawers. Is there anything in here that could help me escape. The first drawer is empty, as is the second and the third. My heart sinks. What are the chances of the last drawer having something useful in it? I open it anyway, my heart hammering away in my chest.
At a glance, the drawer appears to be empty, but upon closer inspection I realise that it has a piece of folded up newspaper at the bottom. I have a look at it. 1997. Wow! This newspaper is older than me! I pick it up to have a look at it, hoping there is some kind of message or something on it, perhaps from the last inmate of this room if there was one.
I look the newspaper over three times to make sure that I haven't missed anything. No, my heart sinks as I finally accept that it really is a just a page that's fallen out of a newspaper. Something from all the mystery books that I love to read rings alarm bells in my head. Newspaper. Newspaper. I walk over to the door and try the handle. No, I didn't think that it would open.
I walk back over to the desk and sit down. Wait, what if the key is still in the lock on the other side of the door. Maybe there is a way to get it onto my side of the door. An idea starts to form in my mind. Reaching up to my hair, I pull out a hairpin (you never know when one will come in useful) and put it on top of the newspaper. I have no idea if this will work. I've only ever seen it done on TV and in books.
Kneeling down in front of the enormous door that's blocking my escape, I slide the newspaper under the door, so that it's half in, half out. Then, I insert the hairpin into the lock on the door. I listen out, but I don't here a key falling to the floor. I guess there's no actual guarantee that the key is in the door; I can only hope. Twisting the hairpin in the lock, I hear a gentle thump. Is that what I think it is? I pull out the hairpin and insert it back into my hair. Pinching the corners of the newspaper on my side, I pull towards me.
Luck seems to be on my side: an enormous silver key is on the newspaper! I grab it and shove it into the lock. The key is stiff. I fasten both hands securely around the key and twist…
Alison looks up at me, her scared little eyes growing huge with fear at the idea of tricking Unity – the people who held her for nine years, and are now blackmailing her through her friends – and trying to rescue her friends from their clutches. “Can you take me through the plan again?” she asks me.
I sigh. “The Resistance have supplied us with non-lethal weapons. You are going to take me into Unity, find Summer and Courtney, and get them out of there. That's all you need to do.”
“What about you? Won't we be helping you get out?” she asks me, clearly concerned.
“I'm going to use a stun-gun to get myself out of there,” I say cagily.
“What aren't you telling me?” Ali asks. She's always been good and weaselling information out of me.
“There's a high risk that I'll be caught and captured because I'm going to try and set some Hypes free.” I can't meet her gaze. I don't know how she'll react to being told that she could very well lose her brother just after she's got me back.
“I won't try and stop you, if you promise me that you'll come back.”
“I promise,” I say, trying to sound convincing, but failing miserably.
“It only counts if you mean it.”
“Fine,” I yell. She cowers away from me. “I'm sorry, Ali. I didn't mean to yell. I just want you to know that I don't want to leave you. However, you know what it's like being stuck in there far better than I could ever do, so don't you understand why I have to do this.”
“I understand that you think you're doing it because of a sense of honour, but I know the truth. You're doing this because you couldn't save me, so you feel responsible for everyone else trapped inside Unity.”
“How could you possibly know that? I'm not even sure that I had realised that myself. I'm a strong sensor remember. I can sense your feelings and slight changes in the atmosphere in the room, just as strongly as you can sense heat or cold, anger or sorrow, love or loss.”
As the door swings open, I realise that I have made a huge mistake. There are over thirty people standing outside my door waiting for me. They all look up from their iPads as I walk out. A tall man steps forward, “Miss DeWinter. You have just passed the test. Welcome to Unity.”
I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about, and he can probably tell that from my face.
“I don't need to look at your face,” he interrupts my thoughts. “I'm a Reader just like you. We are the same, you and I. We have the same strengths, the same powers.”
“What about weaknesses?” I ask. “Do we have the same weaknesses?”
“Sort of. We are the same in that we have no weaknesses. No friends, no family, no one that we care about enough to be used against us. Although according to our greatest Observer, that won't last long. She saw you, with someone. Someone you cared a lot about.”
“Who was it? Do I know them already?” I am eager yo know more.
“Not as far as we are aware. Anyway, I don't think that weakness will be able to blossom,” he says cryptically.
“What do you mean? Who was this person?”
“His name is Maximilian Galloway, and he dies, today… ”
Alison leads me through the packed, busy streets of London. I am surprised how well she knows the way, as she says this is her first time outside of Unity in 9 years. “We're getting near. Can you put a mind-block on yourself, so that the other Sensors don't see you coming?”
“I don't know,” I reply. “I don't think so. I thought only Blockers could do that.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that. One of the things that Unity did to make us better agents was that they injected us with Blocker blood so that we couldn't be seen coming.”
“Do you think that you could put a Block on me?” I inquire.
“I'm not sure,” she replies. “We were never taught how to do that.”
“Please try,” I ask. “Without, they will see me coming a mile away.” Alison doesn't reply. Instead, she pulls me into a dark, little side-alley, strewn with rubbish and litter. Why are people so disgusting? Why can't they just count their blessings?
Alison stands very still, focusing hard on what she is trying to do. I think she is trying to block out the noise of the busy street, only metres from where we are standing. So many sounds are a barrage of stampeding wildebeest, rushing to reach my ears first. I am over whelmed with the screech of brakes, honking of horns, and people chattering noisily as they go about their daily business. Everything about this place is so loud, and arrogant, and bossy, when… calm. Just calm.
It's like everything has slowed down. I have slowed down. My mind has slowed down. I am at one with the world around me. Peace. Just peace.
“Is this what it's like being a Blocker?” I ask Alison.
“I wouldn't know. I'm not one. Just a Sensor taught by one of the best Blocker's this world has ever seen.”
“But that's the point, isn't it? None of us every have been seen. Only a tiny portion of people all over the world know the truth. Any anyway, those that do know, don't care, or just swallow the lies that Unity feed them, just because it is easier to deal with than the inconvenient truth.”
The look of fire burning in Alison's eyes makes me pause. I didn't realise how passionate she was about everything. We are already doing everything we can to help Hypes everywhere: we are releasing them from Unity's clutches. Not just because this means a lot to Alison, I will do this. I will fight for this. I will do what is right, because nobody else will. It's time for me to stand up and raise my voice.
“The only way to defeat Unity is if all Hypes stand together, working together, united together. And you know what that means, don't you?”
“A rebellion,” Alison breathes.