More than two dozen kids lined a low railing around the gazebo. They were all tied to it by a rope leash that gave them no more than a few feet of movement. Neck to rail, like tethered horses. Each of the kids was weighed down by a concrete block that encased their hands. Their eyes were hollow, their cheeks caved in.Astrid used a word that Sam had never imagined coming from her.“Nice language,” Drake said with a smirk. “And in front of the Pe-tard, too.”A cafeteria tray had been placed in front of each of the prisoners. It must have been a very recent delivery because some were still licking their trays, hunched over, faces down, tongues out, licking like dogs.“It’s the circle of freaks,” Drake said proudly, waving a hand like a showman.In a crusty old wheelbarrow to one side, three kids were using a short-handled shovel to mix cement. It made a heavy sloshing sound. They dumped a shovelful of gravel into the mix and stirred it like lumpy gravy.“Oh, no,” Lana said, backing away, but one of the Coates kids smashed her behind the knee with his baseball bat, and she crumpled.“Gotta do something with unhelpful freaks,” Drake said. “Can’t have you people running around loose.” He must have seen Sam start to react because he stuck his gun against Astrid’s head. “Your call, Sam. You so much as flinch and we’ll get to see what a genius brain really looks like.”“Hey, I got no powers, man,” Quinn said.“This is sick, Drake. Like you’re sick,” Astrid said. “I can’t even reason with you because you’re just too damaged, too hopelessly messed up.”“Shut up.

~ Michael Grant