Half of the crowd was demanding for Karen to return to the stage, and the other half flooded toward the elevators. Quin and Blair were amongst the latter. Quin knew there was nothing they could do, that sitting around asking for more answers was useless.
Quin followed behind Blair to make sure she didn’t get stampeded by the crowd. Quin saw one or two people fall down, but the crowd didn’t stop for them. The elevators seemed to take forever. Quin and Blair were in the middle of the crowd, waiting. Everyone was pressed up against each other like a pack of sardines. The smell of sweat and body odor assaulted their nostrils. Finally, they made it onto the elevator, which was even more tightly packed than the auditorium. The smell was even more pungent in there as well. They reached their floor and walked briskly to their room.
When they arrived, the door was slightly ajar. A paper was hanging in the center of it. Quin and Blair glanced at each other, too nervous to look at it. Then they read it.
Name Purpose Date Time
Adams, Quincy Plate/Shell Installment 4/9/41 1:00 PM
Derick, Timothy Plate/Shell Installment 4/9/41 1:00 PM
Hart, Jordan Plate/Shell Installment 4/9/41 1:00 PM
Woods, Blair Plate/Shell Installment 4/9/41 1:00 PM
Report to the 4th floor medical wing of the HUE at the scheduled time. Do not be late. Members of each room are scheduled at the same time for surgeries. You are a team. Arrive together, leave together.
“At least we can sleep in and get something to eat,” Blair said with forced optimism, and Quin rolled his eyes. They opened the door. Timothy and Jordan were sitting on the sofa.
The two abruptly stopped talking when they saw Quin and Blair enter. Timothy stood up with a determined look and said, “We need to talk.”
“Likewise,” Quin replied, matching his demeanor. He gestured toward the dining table.
They all approached the table. Quin and Blair went on one side, Timothy and Jordan on the other. Quin and Timothy stared at each other, neither willing to sit first. Jordan and Blair waited a moment, then abruptly sat down opposite each other. Quin and Timothy quickly followed, feeling foolish, and the tension was instantly released.
“Sorry,” Timothy said genuinely. “This is all just a lot, especially with Evan being gone.” He closed his eyes tightly, fighting back tears. After a couple seconds he opened them and continued, “I think he knew something about this place.”
“We know that he did,” Blair said. She looked over at Quin and nodded.
“Hold on.” Quin stood up and disappeared into the bedroom. He returned quickly, holding the crumpled piece of ripped paper. He handed it to Timothy and sat back down.
It took Timothy a few seconds to read it. Jordan looked over his shoulder and read it as well.
“Don’t enter the what?” Timothy asked. He and Jordan looked to Quin for an answer.
“We were hoping you would know something about that. He didn’t say anything to you?” Quin said. “Surely he must have told you something.”
“After seeing what’s going on here, I am starting to piece together why my brother wanted to come here. He was part of a huge engineering firm. Years ago, they started working on a technology similar to what we saw in the simulation room. Then about two years ago, his firm lost their biggest contract to a huge company.” Timothy leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. He dropped his hands down to his lap and continued, “I think that company was PYKSEL. My brother was furious because they had stolen his technology and altered it, and the contracting company chose that company over his.”
“So why would he sign up for a program that was stolen from him?” Blair asked.
“I think it was partially to see if he could find the people that did it and partially to protect me. I mentioned to Evan that Jordan and I were thinking of signing up for the program. We thought it was a fun idea at the time,” Timothy said with dry sarcasm, “but Evan kept telling us not to. He kept saying it was a stupid idea and we were stupid to do it. When I told him to piss off, he changed his attitude. He said he would sign up with us, though now I think he was already signed up. He never said more about it though, and I never thought more of it. When we got our acceptance letter, he told us that he was denied.”
“So you think he lied to you?” Blair asked.
“I think he rejected his acceptance letter.” Timothy leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table as he ran his fingers through his hair. He let out a frustrated laugh and banged the table with clenched fists. “God, I’m an idiot,” he said. Jordan placed her hand on his back to comfort him. “He was trying to replace me. He was trying to save me from going.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out an identification card. The picture looked like Timothy except the name beside it read “Evan Derick”. “He must’ve swapped our IDs the night before, thinking I wouldn’t look closely enough to notice. Lucky for me, I’d always planned to use my passport as my identification. He used my ID to get on the bus. He was hoping that, when they picked Jordan and I up after him, that they would refuse to bring me. He must’ve panicked when he saw me get on. He didn’t want anything to happen to me, and he killed himself so they wouldn’t imprison us when we both got off the bus.”
“Wait,” Quin interrupted. “How did they not notice that ‘you’ were already picked up?”
“Not sure. I guess they just weren’t paying attention. It’s a rookie mistake if you ask me,” Timothy said.
“Well, they clearly knew who he was when you asked about him,” Quin pressed further. “Why didn’t they do anything about it then?”
“I guess they knew who my brother was and who he worked for. I wondered the same thing myself, but so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised that no one’s pressed the issue,” Timothy said. He let out a long sigh and slumped down in his chair.
Something about his answer didn’t satisfy Quin, but he decided to drop the topic before Timothy got defensive. They were on the same team, they should try to act like it. Instead, Quin pointed toward the note lying on the table. “So, you have no idea why he was trying to warn… whoever it is he was trying to warn?”
“If I did, you two would be the first to know. We are a team, after all.” He gave Quin a sunken smile.
“Right,” was all Quin could muster.
Feeling Quin’s frustration, Blair interjected. “Why don’t we talk more tomorrow? It’s late, and we need to make sure we’re ready for this operation. We can talk more over breakfast. 10 o’ clock?”
“Sounds great,” Jordan replied. The two girls genuinely seemed like they were trying to get along and make the best of the situation.
Blair stood up and grabbed Quin’s hand, pulling him to their bedroom. When they closed the door, she looked at Quin and asked, “What’s the matter?”
“I don’t trust him,” he said.
“His story isn’t adding up. It doesn’t make sense. Those people who picked us up wouldn’t have made a mistake like that,” Quin said.
“Maybe he’s just confused. Everything happened so…”
“So you think I’m being paranoid? You’re taking his side?” Quin snapped.
Tears welled up in Blair’s eyes. “No, that’s not…”
“THEN WHAT?” Quin shouted.
“NOTHING!” she shouted back. Now she was angry as well. She took a deep breath and spoke in a stern but calm voice. “All I’m saying is we have all been through a lot and there are a lot of emotions right now. We don’t know who we can trust or who we can’t. I’m not saying we have to trust those two, I’m just saying we shouldn’t be so quick not to because we may depend on them to save our lives.” She walked closer to him. She reached up and cupped his cheeks in her hands. “I’m on your side. But you also have to be on mine. You’re stubborn, Quin, but sometimes you need to listen to a voice of reason.”
Quin reached up and placed his hands on hers, trapping them against his face. “You’re right. I’m sorry for yelling, but I still don’t trust them. I need you to be careful, just in case anything happens to me.”
“I won’t let anything happen to you,” she said. “You don’t always have to be the protector, Quin.”
“I know,” he said in a whisper.
“Good. Now let’s get some sleep.”