Skandar and Bobby moved closer to the Hatchery door inch by inch. To Skandar’s relief they didn’t speak. He couldn’t believe that the first person he’d had a proper conversation with on the Island already knew he was lying.
Okay, so she thought he was just lying about the fact that he’d come in her helicopter, but it was only a matter of time, wasn’t it? Until she raised the alarm?
Skandar forced himself to take a deep breath, like he did at school when Owen and his friends were being particularly terrible. Who cared if one person knew? Why would she bother herself with him? And maybe she wouldn’t even be able to open the Hatchery door – or maybe he wouldn’t and this would all be for nothing.
Skandar was still too far back to see what was happening outside the Hatchery, but every so often he heard a cheer, which meant someone had opened the door. Whenever there was a long silence, Skandar felt his stomach lurch at the thought of being turned away.
‘Stop stressing,’ Bobby hissed in his ear, when he forgot to step forward. ‘They’re mostly Islanders at the front. They basically all try out, remember? More of them get rejected, because more try
out. Didn’t they teach you anything at your school?’
Skandar didn’t say anything, not wanting to prompt questions about the Hatchery exam he definitely hadn’t taken. As the line moved forward, Mainlanders who’d failed to open the door started being sent back towards the helicopters. Some were crying, some looked angry, and others kept their heads bent in disappointment as they trudged the length of the line.
Skandar tried to make himself look away, focusing instead on the top of the Hatchery. Now he was nearer he could see that there were unicorns with riders on top of the mound. And they had silver masks – just like the riders who’d attacked Agatha!
‘What are they doing up there?’ Skandar blurted. Bobby tutted. ‘You’re not the sharpest lemon in the tree, are you?’
‘That’s not even a saying, and I wasn’t talking to you,’ Skandar snapped. His nerves were getting worse; he could almost count the number of people ahead of him. Would those masked riders
arrest him if they found out he’d never passed the exam? Was that what they were there for?