The door swung open, his fake silhouette framed by the light.
My muscles tensed, but I didn’t press against the wall. I was ready. Yesterday, exactly twenty-four hours ago, I hadn’t been. But today, I knew I was.
The simulation, the same one that came every day, stepped into my cell. His lips parted.
I interrupted before the preprogrammed message could start. “You’re not my father. Leave me alone. I don’t want to hear your lies. I’m not going to help you. No matter what you say. No matter what you promise.”
His mouth hung open. A wrinkle line appeared between his eyebrows. “Vela, it’s me. We have to hurry. They’re close.”
A knot wrapped around my heart, pulling tighter, tighter. A tear slid the down the side of my nose. “No. You’re lying.”
I flinched when he reached to touch me. “Vela, you must listen—”
Then there were other people in my room, too many people. And they dragged him away, touching him, physically touching him, his body solid under their hands.
I realized my mistake too late. I ran forward, but was pushed back. I landed hard, a cry springing from my throat.
The door swung shut.