It took me a minute to realize what I was looking at. Four different color videos, one in each corner of the screen; four different viewpoints of the camp boundaries. Clancy leaned forward, bracing his hands on either side of his laptop.

He reached across me to get to the wireless black radio sitting on the other side of his desk. He never once took his eyes off the screen.

“Hayes, do you read me?”

There was a moment of silence before Hayes’s gruff, “Yeah, what’s up?” came crackling through the speaker.

“The southeast perimeter alarm was triggered. I’m watching the feed now, but—” I think what he was going to say was, I don’t see anyone or anything, but his next words had me ducking under his arm to take a look at the screen myself. “Yeah, I see a man and a woman. Both in camo—unfriendlies, by the look of it.”

And there they were. They looked well into middle age, but it was hard to be sure. Both were wearing what could only be described as hunting attire, head-to-toe camouflage. Even their faces appeared to have been painted brown.

“Got it. I’ll take care of it.”

“Thanks…get them to back off, will you?” Clancy said carefully, then turned the volume of the radio all the way down.

Southeast perimeter—good, not Liam’s area. I let out a grateful sigh.

My eyes were still on the screen when Clancy shut the laptop lid. “Let’s get back to work. Sorry for the distraction.”

I could feel my surprise betray me. “Don’t you need to go out there?” I asked. “What’s Hayes going to do to them?”

Clancy only waved me off. Again.

“Don’t worry about it, Ruby. Everything is under control.”

One crack might not be enough to bring a fortress’s defenses down, but it was enough to splinter into two cracks, and then three, and then four. After the initial breakthrough, it became a mission of mine to find different ways to slip into Clancy’s mind. I never got to stay for very long before I was unceremoniously tossed out, of course; but every small victory spurred me on to achieve another, and then another. I could catch him when his thoughts were focused on something else, trick him into trying to protect one memory when I was really going after another. It surprised Clancy, but I thought it also, in a secret way, excited him. Enough, at least, to have me start practicing on others.

It was like running downhill in a way; the momentum carried me through all sorts of experiments, big and small. I made a spectacular mess of dinner one night when I pulled each of the six kids working on it aside and planted six very different ideas about what they were supposed to be making for the meal—all at the same time. I had one girl so convinced her name was Theodore that she began to cry whenever anyone told her otherwise. It became so easy, in fact, to convince someone to do what I asked, or suggest that they had done something they really hadn’t, that Clancy told me it was time to move on to trying to do the same without having to touch the unsuspecting test subject first.

I was getting there, slowly, and maybe not entirely surely, but there was something almost delicious about feeling the same powerful swell of abilities that had once terrorized me corked and controlled. Every aspect of them became sharper, easier.

But on the Tuesday that followed, we were interrupted again.

One of the older Yellows, a girl named Kylie, came pounding on Clancy’s door. She didn’t wait to be let in; I actually fell off the bed with the force of her entrance.

“What’s this about you denying our request to leave?” Tangles of dark curls flew around her face. “You let Adam leave, you let Sarah’s group leave, you even let Greg and his guys go, and you and I both know they have the collective brainpower of a fly—”

The floorboard squeaked as I took a step back toward the bed. Clancy had left the curtain open when he went to answer the door, so Kylie had a full view of me. She whirled back toward Clancy, who had put two pacifying hands on her shoulders. “Oh my God! Are you in here fooling around? Did you even look at my proposal? I spent days on that!”

“I read it three times,” Clancy said, motioning me forward with his hand. He looked at her with the same calming smile and patience he had shown me since our lessons began. “But I’m happy to discuss why I had to decline now. Ruby—tomorrow?”

And just like that, I found myself outside in the morning sunshine.

The spring weather was still sporadic—cold and dismal one day, perfectly warm the next. Spending two weeks holed up with Clancy had made keeping up with the season’s bipolar tendencies even harder. I stripped my sweatshirt off and pulled my hair up in a messy bun. My first thought was to check in on Zu, but I didn’t want to interrupt her lessons. I tried to find Chubs in the gardens, but the girl in charge told me—in her bossiest voice—that she hadn’t seen him in a week, and she was going to rat him out to Clancy for the punishment he deserved.

“Punishment?” I repeated, bristling, but she didn’t elaborate.

I found him in the next logical place.

“You know,” I called as I stepped onto the dock, “bread is actually bad for ducks.”

Chubs didn’t so much as look up. I sat down next to him, but it only prompted him to stand up and stalk away, leaving his bag and book behind.

“Hey!” I called. “What’s your problem?”

No response.


He whirled back around. “You want to know what my problem is? Where do I even start? How about that it’s been almost a month, and we’re still here? How about the fact that you and Lee and Suzume are all off making friends and skipping around even though we’re supposed to be working to learn a way to get home?”

“Where is this coming from?” I asked. Maybe he hadn’t fit in as naturally as Liam and Zu had, but I saw him talking to other kids as he worked. He seemed okay—maybe not happy, but, then again, when was he ever? “This place really isn’t that bad—”

“Ruby, it’s horrible!” he burst out. “Horrible! We’re told when to eat, when to sleep, what to wear, and we’re forced to work. How is this any different from camp?”

I sucked in a sharp breath. “You’re the one that wanted to come here! I’m sorry it’s not living up to your high and mighty expectations, but it works for us. If you’d just try, you could be happy here. We’re safe! Why are you in such a hurry to leave?”