A latch swung open, the door burst wide, and Akima was back in her room, surrounded by remnants of earth and family once again. The old-fashioned prints in their old-fashioned frames alluded to times and places all but forgotten---that is, six of them did. Th seventh, a photo of her mother, Akima had turned face-down, quite a while ago.

She sat on the edge of her bed, fighting the echoes that swirled in her head like a schoolyard chant.

Don't know when to quit, Akima.

Just another earth kid, Akima.

Trying to be one of the boys, Akima.

A silent rage was building in her. Jonah was truly her friend, but if he couldn't stand up for her, for himself, then forget him. Forget them all. The Drej had taken her home, their ships had taken her family, this colony had taken her independence. No one was about to get her dignity.

Marching over to a drawer, she extracted a long, cool, silver knife, the one she'd stolen from the kitchen the day the closet door had gotten stuck. With the other hand, she gathered the straight black hair from her shoulders.

Can't be one of the boys? Fine, she thought, and she held the blade to the silky black rope. She shut her eyes, and with one swift slice, the bundle came away in her hand.

Looking in the dusty mirror, Akima noticed that the front part had come out a little longer than she'd intended. But instead of retrieving the knife, she rummaged through the contents of another drawer.

Finally. An excuse to use this stuff.

At last, the small, purple bottle came up in her hand, and she wondered briefly what her foster family would say. What Jonah would say.

Until she decided she really didn't care.

From then on, Akima would answer to no one but Akima.