Excerpt: The Breakfast Room

Cassie examined the gray, watery substance that was supposed to be breakfast.

“Take it or leave it,” Eleven said.

She accepted a bowl and waited while Leila got hers. As they sought a quiet table by the window, she thought back to the breakfast Sandra gave her the morning she went to the twins’ loft with Julilla. Dealing with poor rations had been bad before, but knowing that she could be having eggs or a Twinkie was almost unbearable. She stirred the contents of her bowl, debating whether the rumbling of her stomach deserved such an insult. She had just about decided to have a taste when a shadow blocking the window caught her attention.

“This seat taken?” David said, sliding onto the banquette next to Leila without waiting for an answer.

Galahad hesitated, meeting Cassie’s eyes with an uncertain smile.

Cassie scooted over to make room but affected an attitude of indifference.

“Late forage today?” Leila asked.

David shook his head. “There won’t be one. Alex needed the shuttle. Something about this Pharm-Obit conspiracy theory you folks are so excited about.”

“So why didn’t you go with the Thespians like the other time?” Leila swirled the small bit of cereal in her bowl. “The food they’re serving us is crap.”

“I was game.” David waved a hand in Galahad’s direction. “But he says the Thespians are ‘too dramatic’ and he’s ‘not in the mood.’”

Galahad pushed his untouched bowl away. “I’m not up for anyone’s theatrics today. Doesn’t mean you can’t go, though.”

“Nah.” David grinned. “This way I have an excuse to spend the day lying around doing nothing.”

“That doesn’t sound very productive,” Cassie said.

David sat a little straighter. “Does every day have to be productive? You’re as bad as Sir Galahad, here.” He leaned across the table. “Listen, I’m more productive in a single day of risking my ass on the streets than half the brats around here are in a month. We’ve got a whole group of parasites living off the supplies I steal, and what do they ever do for me? Or for anyone else? They spend all day whining about the goddamn Telo and trying to avoid doing chores or even getting so much as a basic education.” He sat back and folded his arms across his chest. “I’ve earned a day of rest.”

“Of course you have,” Galahad said, trying to smooth things over. “We all work hard to contribute.”

“I don’t,” Leila said brightly. “I’m lazy.” She gave David a sidelong glance.

“You weren’t when you were with me last night,” he said.

Before Cassie could steer the conversation from the direction it appeared to be going, Julilla strode up to their table looking grim. “Zach is sick,” she said without preamble. “Looks like Telo.”

The little group exchanged glances. Zach was only seventeen, which was young for a Telo victim, but they had seen it happen before.

“I’ve been asked to take over his duties for the day, but that means someone has to take a package to May. Sid made some kind of generator thing so she can run some of her science equipment.” Julilla met Cassie’s eyes. “I was wondering if you could deliver it for me.”

Before she could answer, Galahad butted in. “No way. It’s too dangerous for a girl out there alone.”

“And if we send a guy, the Pharms will be onto us for sure. We have to send a girl, unless you want to put on a dress and make like you’re in the market for charm bracelets.”

“I’ll go.” Cassie said, ignoring Galahad’s stare. “Where’s the package and when do I need to take it?”

“Sid has it in his storeroom. And the sooner you can leave, the better.”

Cassie made to get up, but Galahad grabbed her arm. “I’ll go with you.”

“We’ll all go,” Leila said. “May has some new designs I’ve been wanting to check out.” She gave David an excited smile. “And maybe we can go to the park after or something. It’ll fun to get away from this place for the day, don’t you think?”

David rolled his eyes in disgust. “You’re crazy if you think I’m spending my day looking at a bunch of girly doo-dads and then hanging out in a park like a pre-Telo tourist. I said it was going to be a day of rest and that’s what it’ll be.”

“Oh, come on. Please?” Leila put her hand on his.

“No. You go and have a good time.” He stood up. “I’m going back to bed since breakfast sucks and lunch will probably be no better. Join me when you get back. I’ll be saving you a spot.”

To everyone’s surprise, David gave her a kiss before walking away.

“Well?” Julilla said. “Is it decided? Because if it is, we’re wasting time.”

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