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Infiltrate retribution, p.7

Infiltrate_Retribution, page 7

 part  #2 of  Exposed Series

 

Infiltrate_Retribution
 


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  sign language. “You need something?”

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  The girl pulled a small notebook

  and pen out of her hoodie pocket. She

  scribbled for a bit, then angled the page

  so I could see what she’d written.

  I’m Emma. I don’t speak. Ever. I’m

  not deaf, so don’t insult me with the loud

  speaking and hand motions. You should

  meet the rest of the girls and stay away from

  those asshats. Trust me, we’re way cooler.

  She gestured to another table where

  a few girls sat, looking at me expectantly.

  I glanced between Emma, the girls and

  Milo and Scott. It was no contest. I followed

  Emma across the room.

  “Typical. Girls rule, boys drool, right,

  Raven?” Milo threw at my back.

  “You called it again, Milo,” I said,

  making Scott snort even as Milo slapped

  him in the back of the head.

  The girls observed me silently as I sat at

  their table. Oh lordy, were they all mute?

  “So…” I said awkwardly. “Don’t

  everyone talk at once.”

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  One of them laughed. “Don’t worry.

  Emma’s the only one who won’t talk

  your ear off. She’s got what they like to

  call selective mutism, but I think she’s

  just super picky about who she lets into

  the inner circle. I respect that, you know

  what I mean?”

  I gave a slow nod.

  “We weren’t going to step in, but

  Emma said no one should spend time

  with Milo and Scott if they don’t have to.

  She’s right. I’m Leena, by the way.”

  “Well, thanks. Raven.” I held out my

  hand. “They seemed cool at first.”

  “Yeah, so does a tornado until you’re

  dead in the wreckage.”

  “All right, everyone,” Dr. Millie said,

  coming into the dining area. “It’s time to

  move out.”

  “Move out?” I mumbled under my

  breath. “Out where?”

  Leena shook her head. “What did you

  think, we were going to sleep here on

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  the floor?” She laughed. “We’re not that

  barbaric.”

  Oh, really? That’s probably not what the

  dead kids would say.

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  SIXTEEN

  “Come on, Raven, it won’t be as bad as all

  that. I promise. You’ve been dosed twice

  already anyway,” Millie explained with

  a patient smile that looked more like a

  smirk. Like she was enjoying my unease.

  Twice? What was she talking about?

  She must have seen the confusion in

  my eyes. “You think we take just anyone on

  our trial? We screen out the weakest links,

  Raven. Remember the water you drank?

  The tongue swabs we took? You have all

  already been given small quantities of Ally

  to check for potential allergic reactions.”

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  Holy hell, that meant I could already

  be experiencing some of the side effects?

  I wasn’t feeling suicidal, but I had been

  seeing things. I flashed back to Ryan’s face,

  gasping for breath, even though he had

  clearly been deader than dead. And the

  walls closing in earlier. My pulse pounded

  out of control. What else wasn’t real?

  “Hold her still.”

  I jerked forward, but not fast enough

  to evade Simon’s grip. He pulled me to his

  chest, his muscular arm braced against

  my throat. The force of his movement had

  us crashing into a wall-mounted medicine

  cabinet. Pill bottles rattled inside.

  “Ugh, these kids are such a pain in

  my ass.” Millie ignored my struggles as I

  clawed at Simon’s chokehold. She calmly

  plucked a key from the many dangling

  from a lanyard around her neck, opened

  the glass door and righted the bottles.

  Nostrils flaring, I desperately dragged

  air into my lungs while keeping my teeth

  clenched tight.

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  His arm compressed my windpipe.

  I needed to breathe. Now.

  My mouth opened and I sucked at the

  air with ragged gulps.

  Millie took full advantage. Shoving two

  blue pills into my mouth, she slammed

  my jaw shut. Simon eased off a bit. I could

  breathe through my nose finally, but

  now the problem wasn’t getting air into

  my lungs—it was keeping the pills from

  slipping down my throat.

  “Take all the time you need,” Millie said,

  keeping steady pressure on my jaw. “You’ll

  have to swallow eventually. The average

  person swallows twice a minute when

  awake, so we’ll just wait you out.”

  I’d never felt such rage. I’d never been

  so powerless.

  My worst nightmare was coming true.

  I’d never wanted to be like them, but I was

  losing the fight. Giving in. Slipping away.

  My last conscious thought—soon I’d

  be a monster too.

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  SEVENTEEN

  I woke up back in my room with zero

  idea how I’d gotten there. I swiped a bit

  of drool off my chin. I must have been

  totally out of it to crash so hard. Could

  have been the drugs, could have been a

  result of the crazed panic I’d felt when the

  drugs started to kick in. That definitely

  hadn’t just been the trial drug. They must

  have dosed me with a tranquilizer.

  I staggered to my feet. The room tilted

  fun-house style as I took the few steps

  to the door. I twisted the doorknob, but

  it didn’t budge. They had locked me in.

  I knew that should tick me off. I should be

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  raging at the world. Hell-bent on revenge.

  Retribution.

  That’s what I did. What I was.

  But my head was a mess. I couldn’t

  think straight. My knees bashed into the

  edge of the bed. Hell, I couldn’t even walk

  in a straight line.

  Everything and everyone around me

  was crooked.

  I didn’t deserve any better. Anything

  honest or good.

  Didn’t deserve Emmett.

  Or the team.

  I would only hurt them in the end.

  The monsters were right. I was just like

  them, and there was only one thing left to

  do. Make it stop.

  Time shifted. I slammed a chair

  against the bedroom window. Why am

  I doing that? Glass exploded across the

  floor. Cool wind sucked my breath away.

  I jumped, but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t

  die. I didn’t break.

  So I ran.

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  The road rose to meet my steps.

  I blinked , and all was still. My body,


  unmoving. Darkness surrounding me.

  I blinked again and I was charging full

  out, arms pumping at my sides, heart

  hammering in my ears. Lungs burning.

  I can feel them. Closer with each

  panicked breath. The monsters were

  back , and I wasn’t sure they had ever left.

  Streetlights flickered. Or is that

  lightning? Or is the moon laughing down at

  me? Leaving me to my fate?

  I squinted into the sharp light,

  shielding my eyes with a trembling hand.

  Horrific faces danced into view. Rotting

  flesh. Blackened teeth that snapped and

  bit out words I didn’t understand.

  I’m not the girl who cries! But still a sob

  clawed up my throat.

  The monsters are many. They’re hungry.

  And they know my name.

  “Ravvennn…”

  “Ravvvveeennn…”

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  No, not again. Never again.

  The sob became a scream that singed

  my lips like it was on fire.

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  EIGHTEEN

  A nauseating scent filled my nostrils,

  and I awoke on a gasp. I tried to plug my

  nose, but my hand struck a mix of canvas

  and rubber. I opened my eyes to see Jace

  waving his shoe around.

  “Are you trying to kill me?” I groaned.

  “Oh, man. That’s disgusting.”

  “I told you my workout Chucks would

  do the trick.” Jace grinned at Jo and Bentley,

  also hovering too close for comfort.

  I struggled to sit up, shoving away the

  hands that dove in to help. “I’m all right,

  already. Back off or face the consequences.

  And by that, I mean you die.”

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  Jo laughed. “Glad to have you kinda

  sorta back to normal. Although…I never

  really understood the expression death

  warmed over until now.” Her eyes narrowed.

  “You don’t look so good, Raven. How do

  you feel?”

  Like I’d barely managed to crawl

  out of my own personal hell. Not that I

  wanted to go into the details. “I’m good.”

  Over Jo’s disbelieving snort, I continued.

  “Or I will be once you guys tell me how

  you found me.” I scowled at Bentley.

  “Did you inject me with a tracker or

  something when I wasn’t looking?”

  Jace dropped his shoe to the floor

  and worked his foot back inside. “Much

  as Bentley would like to take the credit,

  you should know we’d be the last people

  to perform any kind of medical procedure

  on you without your say-so.”

  I swallowed down a rush of guilt. Jace

  was right. Their father had done that and

  more to Bentley for years. It just wasn’t in

  them to be anything like their dad.

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  “It was Jonathan McNair, the kid

  you saved from his health-food-crazy

  stepmother,” Jo said, breaking the very

  loud silence that had settled in the room.

  “He texted Bentley to say he’d found you

  stumbling around the theater district,

  busting up a red-carpet event. Some

  horror-movie premiere with a bunch of

  actors and fans in crazy costumes.”

  “It was a video-game launch, and the

  fans were cosplaying,” Bentley corrected.

  “Riighht,” Jo drawled. “Anyway,

  apparently you were babbling about

  monsters and screaming your lungs out

  until Jonathan and his girlfriend managed

  to corral you away from the crowd. Then

  you passed out. He called Bent, and Bent

  sent Jace and me to get you.”

  “How long was I out?”

  “Not long—an hour, tops.” Jo’s gaze

  was sympathetic. “What happened? Why

  the radio silence? We sent you a billion

  texts, did check-ins at the center off and

  on all day, but there was zero activity.”

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  I shook my head. “That’s because we

  weren’t there. They took our phones,

  drove us to this old Victorian house in

  the old part of town.” My skull pounded.

  “I thought it would be easy to avoid

  getting dosed, but they’d gotten to us

  already.”

  “What? When?” Jace’s jaw clenched.

  I filled them in as much as I could,

  and by the time I was finished, the air

  was charged with frustration and anger.

  “Worst part? I freaked out and bolted.

  There are at least ten other kids still in

  that house. And they’re all slated to get

  another round of meds tomorrow. We

  have to get them out of there before…”

  “We’ll do our best, Raven, you know

  we will,” Jo said. “We just need to pinpoint

  the location. You didn’t recognize any

  landmarks?”

  “The bus windows were blacked out,

  so we couldn’t see a thing. But I figure

  we drove for about half an hour before

  we arrived at the house.” I shot Bentley

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  a look. “And it’s obviously within jogging

  distance of the theater district. Gives us a

  ballpark, right?”

  He smiled. “Sure, but we can do better

  than that. If they didn't confiscate your

  burner at the house, I can trace its exact

  location.”

  I frowned. “So you did have a tracker

  on me.”

  Jo nudged my shoulder. “But not

  through a nasty injection.”

  Bentley tapped on his keyboard. He

  turned the laptop so we could see the

  map on the monitor. He zoomed in on a

  crosshatch of streets. “Got it. The burner is

  on and hasn’t moved for the last six hours.

  It’s there in the house. On Richards Street.”

  “Let’s go get those kids.” I shoved up

  onto my feet. Jo kept me steady.

  “We bust them out and then what?

  Bring possibly tripping kids back here

  until the drug wears off?” Jace asked.

  “Great plan.” I nodded. “Let’s do it.”

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  “No, no, no…forget I said anything.”

  He held up his hands in surrender.

  “I have to agree with Jace,” Bentley

  said. “The best thing would be for them

  to go to the hospital in case there are any

  complications.” His fingers once again

  flew over his keyboard. “I can hack the

  city’s main gas-line regulator system

  and set off a false gas-leak alarm. The

  gas company responds quickly to those,

  along with the fire department.” He

  nodded at his screen. “There should be

  several units at the house in a matter of

  minutes. They’ll have to investigate and

  will need access to the house. That, along

  with the anonymous tip I’m sending to

  the police, shou
ld ensure the kids are

  taken into care safely.”

  I bit my lip. “Bentley, I have to warn

  you. Emmett’s dad told me the police are

  very interested in you and your…let’s call

  it specialized skill set. What if they track

  you because of that tip?”

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  Bentley grinned, looking very much

  like his older brother at that moment.

  “Let them try.” He glanced at Jace. “I may

  not fight in the ring, but I know how to

  dodge and weave better than he can.”

  “I sure hope so.”

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  NINETEEN

  “Remind me again why you thought putting

  me in a monkey suit would be more fun

  than my family barbecue?” Emmett pulled

  awkwardly at his paisley tie.

  I grinned. “You were the one who

  wanted to help the team out in any way

  you could. This is you. Coulding.” He really did look uncomfortable. And nervous.

  It wasn’t every day you got dragged into

  a plot to take down a pharmaceutical

  company worth millions.

  And if this didn’t play out the way we

  expected, the team was staring down the

  barrel of some serious payback.

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  My smile faded. “You know, you don’t

  have to…”

  Emmett touched a finger to my lips.

  “Stop right there. I’m in, Raven.” His gaze

  held mine. “I’m all in.”

  “Enough, please—some things you

  can’t unhear.” A voice blasted through the

  inner-ear comm devices Bentley had set

  us up with earlier.

  “Get bent, Bent,” I hissed, flushing

  and pulling away from Emmett. He didn’t

  let me get far, though, looping my arm

  through his and guiding me into the

  ballroom.

  A snooty attendant stopped us at

  the double-door entrance. “Invitation,

  please.”

  Emmett handed over the gold-

  trimmed card that Jace had rooted through

  his father’s mail to uncover and which Jo

  had altered to include our names.

  “You two are press?” The attendant

  studied the invitation, then gave us the

  once-over.

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  “That’s right,” Emmett said with confi-

  dence. “We’re bloggers for the Health

  and Wellness Network.” He gave a self-

  deprecating smile. “This is the first time

  they’ve sent us to cover an event of this

  size. Let’s hope we don’t screw it up.”

  I elbowed him. “Speak for yourself,

  King of the Typos. Remember the time

  you got that heart surgeon’s name wrong?

  What did you call him? Doctor Death?”

 
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