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“The main ward. It’s where most of the population is. The outer wards are just training camps for soldiers. You’ll see the main ward soon. After we complete training season, we always head up there.”

If I survive the training.

“I’m heading back to the kitchen,” Raze says.

I give her another thankful smile, then help myself to a bar of soap, a toothbrush, a comb, and a towel. Not caring that I’ll upset Kenzo after the way he treated me, I take a couple of minutes to shower, then place my clothing and toiletries next to my mat.

Walking to the dining hall, I help myself to four strips of bacon and two slices of toast. Eyeing the eggs, I give them a pass.

Sitting at an empty bench, I place the bacon between the two slices of toast and take a huge bite.

So good.

“Seriously, kid?” Kenzo takes a seat opposite me with Idris.

I stare at my bacon sandwich, not holding back the groan this time. I was really looking forward to eating my breakfast without an audience.

“You have to get those proteins in.” Kenzo teases me. “Where are your eggs?”

I glance at him, and not seeing any trace of the friendly man I met the night before, I square my shoulders, level him with an annoyed look, and take another bite of my sandwich.

After I’ve swallowed, I mutter, “I don’t feel like having eggs today.”

Not after holding the chick.

Turning my attention to Idris, I swallow hard, then ask, “Is there anything specific you’d like me to do around here?”

He’s just another rooftop I have to jump across.

“I’m not into babysitting.” He forks his bacon. “Figure it out yourself.”

Breakfast is hard to sit through, but somehow I manage. I don’t see Chance, though, and I wonder where he is.

Aaron enters the dining hall and doesn’t even bother to look in my direction. He loads a plate with food and picks the bench farthest from us to sit.

I catch Idris glaring at Aaron and realize Idris hasn’t looked at me like that. Yes, he growls a lot at me, but it looks like he wants to kill Aaron.

Maybe things aren’t as bad for me as I thought.

When Idris’ eyes snap to me, and he catches me staring, a flush creeps up my face. I gather the little courage I have and say, “Thank you for letting me stay at your ward.”

He watches me for a couple of unnerving seconds, then mutters, “Don’t make me regret it.”

I won’t. I’m going to do my best to fit in with the deviants and learn their ways, so I can prove to Chance it was worth saving me.

Chapter 19


“Newbie, take this up to the nest.” Aldric shoves a plate stacked with food into my hand.

Frowning, I ask, “The nest?”

“Down the tunnel, turn right, out the blue door,” he says. “You can’t miss it once you’re outside. Oh, the code for all the doors is Idris.”

I’m confused, more than ever, but I take the plate and walk out of the dining hall. When I reach the blue door, I see the keypad has both numbers and letters on them. I punch in Idris’ name, and the door clicks open.

Now I can at least get out whenever I need fresh air.

The tunnel is brightly lit, just like the other one, and there aren’t any archways to my right but three doors. To my left, two archways open into an oval room. The other park Valen mentioned.

It doesn’t look at all like the other one, except for the ceiling with the oval-shaped holes for sunlight. This one has more trees and sand laid out in patterns with smooth rocks. There’s also a water feature in the corner surrounded by a patch of grass.

I almost forget about the food in my hands as I stare at the beautiful space.

The second door opens, and Kenzo steps out into the corridor. “Do you need to take that somewhere?”

“Aldric asked me to take it to the nest?” I’m hoping he’ll show me where it is.

“Yeah, the man can’t stay up there the whole day and not eat.” He walks toward the exit, and I quickly follow him. “Give Chance his food and get your butt back to the drill zone. I’m not done with you yet.” His mouth curves at the sides.

“You’re giving me whiplash. First, you’re friendly, then you’re mean. Why?”

He gives me the same friendly smile from the night before. “It’s a matter of survival while we’re training.”

When I step outside, I shield my eyes with my hand against the bright sunlight. It’s going to take some time to get used to the glare.

“There you go.” Kenzo points to a metal structure. “Give him the food. Don’t keep me waiting.”

I watch Kenzo leave with a smile, feeling better after the conversation.

When I turn back to the structure, I realize I have no idea how to get to the top. I don’t see any stairs I can use.

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