Chapter no 18

Unravel Me (Shatter Me Book 2)

We look homeless.

Which means we look like civilians.

We’ve moved out of the classroom and into the hallway, and we’re all wearing a similar sort of ensemble, tattered and grayish and frayed. Everyone is adjusting their outfits as we go; Winston slips off his glasses and shoves them into his jacket only to zip up his coat. The collar comes up to his chin and he huddles into it. Lily, one of the other girls among us, wraps a thick scarf around her mouth and pulls the hood of her coat over her head. I see Kenji pull on a pair of gloves and readjust his cargo pants to better hide the gun tucked inside.

Brendan shifts beside me.

He pulls a skullcap out of his pocket and tugs it on over his head, zipping his coat up to his neck. It’s startling the way the blackness of the beanie offsets the blue in his eyes to make them even brighter, sharper than they looked before. He flashes me a smile when he catches me watching. Then he tosses me a pair of old gloves 2 sizes too big before bending down to tighten the laces on his boots.

I take a small breath.

I try to focus all my energy on where I am, on what I’m doing and what I’m about to do. I tell myself not to think of Adam, not to think about what he’s doing or how he’s healing or what he must be feeling right now. I beg myself not to dwell on my last moments with him, the way he touched me, how he held me, his lips and his hands and his breaths coming in too fast—

I fail.

I can’t help but think about how he always tried to protect me, how he nearly lost his life in the process. He was always defending me, always watching out for me, never realizing that it was me, it was always me who was the biggest threat. The most dangerous. He thinks too highly of me, places me on a pedestal I’ve never deserved.

I definitely don’t need protection.

I don’t need anyone to worry for me or wonder about me or risk falling in love with me. I am unstable. I need to be avoided. It’s right that people fear me.

They should.

“Hey.” Kenji stops beside me, grabs my elbow. “You ready?” I nod. Offer him a small smile.

The clothes I’m wearing are borrowed. The card hanging from my neck, hidden under my suit, is brand-new. Today I was given a fake RR card—a Reestablishment Registration card. It’s proof that I work and live on the compounds; proof that I’m registered as a citizen in regulated territory. Every legal citizen has one. I never did, because I was tossed into an asylum; it was never necessary for someone like me. In fact, I’m fairly certain they just expected me to die in there. Identification was not necessary.

But this RR card is special.

Not everyone at Omega Point receives a counterfeit card. Apparently they’re extremely difficult to replicate. They’re thin rectangles made out of a very rare type of titanium, laser-etched with a bar code as well as the owner’s biographical data, and contain a tracking device that monitors the whereabouts of the citizen.

“RR cards track everything,” Castle explained. “They’re necessary for entering and exiting compounds, necessary for entering and exiting a person’s place of work. Citizens are paid in REST dollars—wages based on a complicated algorithm that calculates the difficulty of their profession, as well as the number of hours they spend working, in order to determine how much their efforts are worth. This electronic currency is dispensed in weekly installments and automatically uploaded to a chip built into their RR cards.

REST dollars can then be exchanged at Supply Centers for food and basic necessities. Losing an RR card,” he said, “means losing your livelihood, your earnings, your legal status as a registered citizen.

“If you’re stopped by a soldier and asked for proof of identification,” Castle continued, “you must present your RR card. Failure to present your card,” he said, “will result in . . . very unhappy consequences. Citizens who walk around without their cards are considered a threat to The Reestablishment. They are seen as purposely defying the law, as characters worthy of suspicion. Being uncooperative in any way—even if that means you simply do not want your every movement to be tracked and monitored— makes you seem sympathetic to rebel parties. And that makes you a threat. A threat,” he said, “that The Reestablishment has no qualms about removing.

“Therefore,” he said, taking a deep breath, “you cannot, and you will not, lose your RR card. Our counterfeit cards do not have the tracking device nor the chip necessary for monitoring REST dollars, because we don’t have the need for either. But! That does not mean they are not just as valuable as decoys,” he said. “And while for citizens on regulated territory, RR cards are part of a life sentence, at Omega Point, they are considered a privilege. And

you will treat them as such.” A privilege.

Among the many things I learned in our meeting this morning, I discovered that these cards are only granted to those who go on missions outside of Omega Point. All of the people in that room today were hand-selected as being the best, the strongest, the most trustworthy. Inviting me to be in that room was a bold move on Kenji’s part. I realize now that it was his way of telling me he trusts me. Despite everything, he’s telling me—and everyone else—that I’m welcome here. Which explains why Winston and Brendan felt so comfortable opening up to me. Because they trust the system at Omega Point. And they trust Kenji if he says he trusts me.

So now I am one of them.

And as my first official act as a member? I’m supposed to be a thief.

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