Our escort picked us up from the dining hall, and started the walk back to the recreation room. Nik and I fell to the back of the group and she stood on her very tippy toes to whisper in my ear. I couldn’t help but smile at the height difference between the pair of us.
“Did you notice the fact that we seem to be taking a different route than the one we took on our way here?” I was unsure why she was whispering. I frowned slightly as I realized that she was completely right - this is a different path to the recreation room. I looked around, but all I saw were walls lined with white doors, and many hallways.
“Is there are reason you’re whispering?” I asked, instead of answering her question.
I felt completely transparent as Nik looked at me. She gestured for me to lean down towards her this time, and I obeyed. “I’m not sure whether I should try speaking to our escort, or whether I should send you to speak to him, and try to break away and explore a bit.”
Gabe and Samantha were starting to get suspicious, and I didn’t want them to alert the escort to something about to happen. I nodded at Nik and made my way to the front of the group, but before I could start speaking to the creature, the Voice started speaking.
“I don’t think that’s a very good idea, Danika,” it said. I looked over my shoulder and saw Nik not even twenty feet away from the rest of the group. She stopped in her tracks, and guiltily jogged to catch up.
“Nice going, Nik,” Samantha whispered angrily.
Nik just shrugged her off, “What do you care? It’s not like I hurt any of us by doing that. And now we know that the Voice either can hear anything we say, or that it has surveillance cameras watching our every move.”
“Probably both,” Gabe muttered.
“Have you always been so pessimistic?” I asked him. Gabe just flipped me the bird, and our escort informed us that we had arrived at the recreation room.
“Do you have a name?” Nik asked the creature. “Because if you don’t, I’ll have to make one up for you.” But the creature just stared blankly at her. Fascinating.
Inside, the four chairs were had been rearranged around the wooden trunk, and there were papers and pens sitting on top. After taking a closer look at the papers, I realized that there were personal - some very personal - questions on them. I felt my stomach drop. This is just asking for trouble.
Samantha dropped a page, her face showing exactly how she felt about this assignment. “There is no way I will be telling any of you anything about me,” she sat and crossed her arms.
“They aren’t all invasive questions,” Nik said, her eyes flickering back and forth as she skimmed over the pages. “Gabe, how old were you when you learned how to tie your shoes?”
“Who cares?” Gabe closed his eyes and leaned back in the armchair. “What does that have to do with anything? All I care about is getting out of here.”
“Oh, so you think disobeying them, and refusing to participate in their little games is going to help you do that? You really think they’ll let you go free if you just tell them oh hey, thanks for having me, but I’d really like to go home? Think again, buddy.” Although, I agreed completely with what Nik was saying, there was probably a nicer way of stating it.
I looked down at the paper and saw exactly what Nik first said. It seemed like for every ‘innocent’ question, there was a more personal question thrown in, just to mix it up.
“Seriously, guys, I don’t want to know if you have ever,” Samantha looked down at the paper to get an exact quote, “‘watched pornography with a lover…?’ EW! Ew! Ohmigod.” Samantha covered her eyes, as if that would make it go away.
I could tell Nik wanted to laugh at the comical sight, but she knew doing so would prevent her from getting any information from Samantha anytime in the near future. She sighed, and turned to me. “Do you want to move the chairs to a corner, so we can talk?”
Surprised by her forwardness, I nodded, and we each grabbed a hold of a chair. Dragging them to face each other, we both sunk into the plush chairs.
“You’re idea,” I said, eye closed as if completely exhausted from the effort required to drag the chair five feet. “What’s your question?”
Nik pulled her feet up next to her on the chair, curling them underneath her. “Don’t you want to go home?” She asked.
I opened my eyes to look her over. We were close enough I could count every freckle on her face. How could I explain to her that home wasn’t much better than this place?
She lowered her eyes to the paper, and apologized for asking such a personal question. “I don’t know what I was thinking, it just came out. It isn’t even on the paper…” She trailed off, ducking her head.
I grabbed her hand, and squeezed it gently. “Nik, don’t worry about it. Really. It’s okay.” I tucked her hair behind her ear. “We probably should at least talk about some of the questions, though. Kind of like twenty questions, yeah?”
I glanced over at Gabe and Samantha, and noticed the two of them didn’t look at all like they wanted to talk to each other, let alone answer questions about their personal life before the compound. “Where were you from, before here?” I vaguely heard Nik speaking to me.
“San Deigo, for a while. Phoenix, too. Austin, Denver, and Seattle…” I rattled cities off absentmindedly.
“You really got around, didn’t you?” Nik poked me.
“Heh. Yeah, I suppose I did. Do you have any siblings?” I asked in return.
Nik’s eyes lit up for a split second, “Frankie, my little brother.” She said with a sigh. “He’s two. My baby.”
A picture of Nik’s brother suddenly popped into my head. I could picture him clearly. “He looks just like you,” I leaned towards her, speaking softly. “Brown hair, though.” Where did that come from?
Nik nearly jumped in surprise “How did you-?” She cut herself off when she saw the slight shake of my head, signaling her not to speak. This, this was what the Voice was expecting to happen. It must be.
I briefly considered writing on the paper what was going on, but decided that was too risky. Instead, I whispered. “I saw him. Your brother, in my mind. I don’t know how or why this is happening, but this must be the reason for the test.
“What do we do now?” Nik wondered aloud. I wondered the same thing. I noticed her doing that thing with her mouth, where she sort of half frowns, half pouts. It was kind of cute.
“We could tell the others…” I suggested.
“Or we could tell the Voice,” Nik said with a wicked grin. “Let him know we’re onto him, and that he needs to work a bit harder next time.”
I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. “Are you sure that won’t cause him to do something even worse?”
Nik looked like she hadn’t considered that. “Good point,” she slumped in her chair, defeated. “It may be our best plan, though.”