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“It was weird for me as well. You’ll get used to it, the smell not so much.” Valen gestures with her head to keep going.

“Where did you get them?”

“The original ones were courtesy of your dad. We’ve been breeding our own the past ten years.”

Shocked, I gasp, “You can breed them?”

“Not us. The animals breed by themselves. You know, they do the deed and out pops the little ones,” she answers with an amused smirk.

I just blink at her.

They procreate on their own? Wow.

Dad always said it’s unsafe for both animals and humans, and that’s why we have to be inseminated at the laboratories to ensure the baby is a healthy specimen. It’s also to make sure the best genes get passed along and there are no genetic deficiencies. After all, the virtuous population has to be pure.

“Come on,” Valen urges me along.

The tunnel slants left, and a third archway opens up to our right. It’s another tunnel, and as I peek into it, I see another door to my left. A blue one. I follow Valen down the tunnel away from it.

“Where does the blue door go?”

“Back out. The corridor holds three bedrooms that belong to Idris, Chance, and Kenzo.” I want to ask more, but then she points to another archway to our right. “The dining hall where we eat.”

We walk past the hall, and I get a glimpse of benches and a kitchen. There are more oval-shaped holes in the ceiling where light spills into the room.

“Bathroom, self-explanatory.”

I turn my attention to the doorway on my left, then ask, “Do the men and women share?”

Valen gives a sharp burst of laughter. “Oh, you’re in for a thing.” She glances down at me with a flash of pity on her face. “I keep forgetting the virtuous live a confined life.” She takes a step closer to me, and patting my shoulder, she continues, “Well, honey, if you want any advice, you better forget everything you’ve been taught real fast, or there are some pretty tough days ahead of you.” Her eyes skim over me again. “The sooner you get used to our way of living, the better for you, but yeah, we share everything. Bathrooms. Bedrooms.” There’s a mischievous glint in her eyes. “Men.”

Nerves make my stomach ache.

There’s one more archway to our left and a big one up ahead. “Sleeping quarters. Again, self-explanatory.” Then she smiles as we stop in front of the big archway. “And this is…” We walk inside, and I see the area opens up into a huge room, “The drill zone.”

“Drill zone?” I squeeze the words out.

That doesn’t sound good.

A long pathway curves down both sides of the room to an open space of concrete below. It then slants back up again, forming what looks like a track around the entire room where a person can run.

“What do you do here?” I’m not sure I want to know.

“We prepare for war.” She turns around and heads out again. I stare at her back, totally flabbergasted. It takes me a moment to recover what senses I have left.

“What war?” I jog to catch up and follow her into the sleeping quarters.

“Against the virtuous. You don’t think we’ll just sit and let them take over the world?”

“What?” I wish someone would give me some real answers.

“What do we have here?” I swing around and stumble backward when I see a man leaning with his shoulder against the archway.

I’d guess him to be in his late twenties, but I’m no expert in guessing someone’s age. His hair is wet, and he’s only wearing jeans and a gray t-shirt, no shoes. His eyes drift over me, making me feel very uncomfortable.

“Jai, she’s a newbie who came in with Chance. Did you leave warm water for the rest of us?”

He walks into the sleeping quarters, and I quickly move out of his way, leaving a clear path for him to Valen.

When he stops mere inches from her, I swallow hard. She smiles up at him, and the way they look at each other tells me I should leave.

“I missed you.”

I turn my head away, looking anywhere but at them. There are ten mats on each side of the wall, inches apart from each other. Each mat has a pillow and blanket.

At least the place is much cleaner than the tracks where the rebels live.

“Where are the others?” Valen’s voice sounds hoarse.

“Kenzo and Wayan are still checking the wall and making sure none of those fuckers break through. Raze and Aldric are in the kitchen. Idris is in the bathroom with Chance and that newbie that keeps popping up.”

Are they referring to Aaron?

I want to go to Chance and tell him how sorry I am about Ethan. I also want to go to the bathroom for other reasons. I glance at Valen and the man, and when he pulls her into his arms, I take the opportunity and slip out of the sleeping quarters.

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