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Unremarkable anything bu.., p.11

Unremarkable (Anything But Series Book 2), page 11


Unremarkable (Anything But Series Book 2)

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  “I have to. There’s no other choice.”

  “There is and we’ll find it. Trust me. Please. Don’t do it. Don’t give up. We’ll find another way.”

  “If I don’t, he’ll kill them. He said he’d kill my family. And you, and anyone else I care about.” Honor blinked and tears trailed down her cheeks, warm droplets of sorrow. “I have no choice. Nealon—”



  “Call me Isaac! Damn it. It seems so trivial now to stick with the last name regimen. I’m Isaac. You’re Honor. And you’re not doing this. I forbid it.”

  She laughed as their eyes met and held. “You forbid it? I will save others before I save myself. You can’t stop me and you would do the same.”

  He covered his face with his hands. “Okay. Okay.” His hands dropped away, revealing tired eyes. “You’re right. I would do the same. Let’s just—let’s think about this rationally for a moment? Okay? There has to be another way. You have to know, I have to tell you—if you do August’s bidding, then you have the potential to be used as a weapon, a bad weapon, some mindless monster bent on destruction. Is that what you want?”

  Isaac stood, testing the chains for what had to be the tenth time. His eyes scanned the rock walls and ceiling, looking for some aid in escape. It didn’t do any good to tell him it was pointless—she’d already told him and still he refused to accept it.

  “Of course not. I think you better tell me what you know,” she answered slowly.

  He glanced at her. “I think August has somehow messing with your DNA through this virus we all apparently have, with the hopes of turning you into something that isn’t a UDK or a UD, but something, in his mind, that is better. Maybe through your blood, or by giving you UD blood. I’m not exactly sure how he’s doing it. I think he wants you to be something he can control, to use against UDKs and UDs; a machine. You’re probably just one of many. Maybe you’re the first successful one. I don’t know. I just know you’re not only human. You’re something more. You know it too.”

  Honor stared at him, unable to deny his words. She wished she could. She wished the last few years were all part of a really bad, really long dream, and tomorrow maybe, she’d wake up. She’d have her dad, she’d have her normal, somewhat dull life, she’d have her future; not whatever she had been given instead.

  “Such a touching scene. I’m almost remorseful to be the one to break it up. Look at you, Nealon, chatting it up with the recruit you tried so hard to dislike. It just goes to show you shouldn’t fight what’s natural. Right, Honor?”

  August stood on the other side of the bars, hands behind his back as he rocked on his heels. His scent permeated the air with wrongness. “It’s time to say goodbye.”

  Fear icicled down her spine as her eyes flew to Isaac’s. She held his gaze as she told August, “I’ll go with you and I’ll do as you say if you let him leave here in peace and forget he exists.”

  Disappointment darkened the agent’s eyes. “Honor,” he gently chided. “I’m dead either way. You have to know that.”

  She mutely shook her head, tears lodging in her throat. She refused to believe that. The thought of Isaac’s eyes being forever unlit made her want to scream with the injustice of it. It wasn’t going to happen. He would live and she would live and all the bad people, all the Superior Augusts, would be dead, ended, gone.

  “I’m a generous man. I allowed you your time together to say goodbye. See how accommodating I can be, Honor? Agent Nealon is right though. He is not leaving here alive. He can’t. He’s been a loose cannon since you came into the picture. Funny how much you seem to affect those around you. It’s been interesting to watch, but now it’s tiring as well. I’ve bargained your family for your cooperation. That’s the most I’ll permit.”

  “Go,” Isaac told her.

  Honor began to tremble, tears blurring her eyes. She couldn’t leave him. She couldn’t just walk away knowing she was leaving him behind to die. “No.”

  “Get up. And go.” His face was granite, his voice hard. “No crying. I mean it.”

  “Shut up! Just shut up. I’ll cry if I want to cry. You can’t tell me what to do!” she shrieked, scrambling to her feet, the need to listen to him ingrained in her even then. Honor wanted to run to him, to wrap her arms around him and never let him go.

  “Always so contrary,” he said with a pained smile.

  The lock clicked and the metal door swung open, the bands around her wrists unlinking as well. Honor dove for Isaac, squeezing him so hard he grunted, her face burrowed into his chest. His arms slowly rose and he held her close, resting his chin on the crown of her head. Her hands clutched at him, trying to touch every surface of him before she was taken away. Sobs wracked her body and tears dampened his dirty, bloodied shirt. He smelled like earth and rain and Honor pressed her lips to the salty skin of his neck, feeling his pulse race under her lips. She focused on that.

  “Remember what I told you? Always do what you think is right. Don’t forget that.” Isaac pulled away, his sad, strong gaze unwavering on her. “You’ll be okay.”

  “You want to see your mom and sister again, don’t you?”

  Honor looked at August, despising him, wanting him annihilated. She jerked her head in a nod.

  He motioned with his hand. “Then let’s go.”

  Her eyes cried as they caressed the features of the man she’d looked up to the most since she’d lost her father; the man that had given her so much without knowing it. Her chest and throat were tight and dizziness waved over her.

  Isaac stared stoically back, the furrow of his brows the only indication he was not completely in control of his emotions. She briefly touched his neck where his life pulsed so strongly, letting her hand fall away as she turned.

  She was marched past cells, each one containing beings like her, whatever she was—test subjects, UDK rejects, UDKs turned UDs. Some watched her; others didn’t care enough to raise their gaze to her. An alarmingly thin man mumbled to himself, rocking back and forth on the hard ground, his arms wrapped around him.

  A woman laughed, rattling the bars with her hands as she passed. “Dead freak walking,” she screamed in an eerily high-pitched singsong voice, her laughter turning into a cackle.

  Honor shut her out, turned off the reality around her, and stared forward, forcing herself not to think, to feel, to do anything but walk. She was numb, dead. A part of her was back there in that cell with Isaac Nealon; a part of herself she’d never get back.

  There was a door. The end of her was beyond it, and the beginning of her. No. Isaac told her to do what she thought was right. It wasn’t right to leave him, not without fighting for him. She couldn’t abandon him. Her body tensed, readied for what she had to do. Go back. Go back. Go back! Honor slammed her elbows into the agents on either side of her, racing toward the cell Isaac was in.

  Calls broke out around her, the sounds of overlaying voices deafening as they urged her on or simply shouted at the action around them. The female agent tackled her and they fell into a stone wall, Honor’s cheek scraped raw and healing before the pain fully registered. She kicked back with her leg in rapid succession, a moan leaving the woman as she made contact.

  Spinning around, Honor jabbed her fingers into the woman’s throat and watched as she clutched her neck, gasping for air. The man dove for her, drawing his weapon, and she kicked her leg out and up, her foot connecting with his chin. His head snapped back and his body rotated in a half circle as it fell to the ground, limp and unmoving. Barely exerted, she crept toward the cell, putting her finger to her lips for those who watched. Amazingly, they listened, slinking farther into their cells and quieting down.

  “I want you to know something before you die,” August was saying, a gun with a long, sleek barrel pointed at Isaac’s head.

  Honor’s brain shouted a denial at what she was seeing, at what was about to come out of his mouth. It wouldn’t be good, she knew that. And s
he had to somehow get the gun from him before he shot Isaac.

  “Demi was a UDK, like you, until I messed with her DNA. The UD injections were done over the course of years, and evenly spaced out for optimal results. She was drugged during the procedures and had no idea. She thought she was going insane.”

  His lips curved into a grotesque smile as Isaac stiffened. “At first I thought she was satisfactory, but it soon became apparent she was not. She was weak, she didn’t adapt. She had to go and luckily she took care of that herself. You became exactly what I needed you to be in the wake of it. You became hard, a machine. It was a win-win situation. Until Honor Rochester showed up and messed it all up. But she’s better than Demi, better than all of them, and better than you. Sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. I hope you understand.”

  Isaac fought against his restraints, a roar of anguish leaving him. Honor moved for August, surprise moving across his features before determination took its place. The gun never wavered, his eyes watching her as he pulled the trigger. She dove in front of August, but she wasn’t fast enough. She was abnormally fast and still she wasn’t quick enough to stop it. The air cracked and his body jerked before he went to his knees.

  She screamed, rushing for him when the lights went out. She landed halfway on him, a hiss leaving him. Honor tried to protect him—from what exactly, she didn’t know—crouching in front of him, his upper body partially leaning against her back. The scent of blood was thick and she felt its damp warmth seeping into her shirt.

  Bodies moved through the darkness, circling her and Isaac. She saw outlines of forms, but couldn’t make out features. Her eyesight was better than it used to be, but still she didn’t have that good of night vision. August fought across the room, a swarm of beings surrounding him as they tried to take him down.

  “Hang on, Isaac,” she murmured.

  “Try…ing,” he whispered.

  When hands grabbed for her and him, Honor went crazy, fighting anyone that touched them. A curse rang out close to her ear and then something slammed into her temple, dazing her. She was hoisted over a shoulder, sick with dizziness. She heard Isaac groan and renewed her efforts, hitting at any surface of skin she could find. The back of her thigh was painfully pinched and Honor went still. She was jostled as the person holding her ran through the blackness. She didn’t know where Isaac was, if he was okay or not, and it was maddening.

  “Nealon! Isaac! Nealon!” she screamed, scanning the dark for him.

  She didn’t see him. The beings around her dwindled until only a handful remained, none of them the one she sought. Pressure built up inside her, quickening her breaths as she tried to find him. She knew he was gone. The corridor was excruciatingly empty without him, though it still held life. Fear and anger collided and consumed her, tearing her in two and fusing her back together in a pulsating, throbbing mass of vengeance. Honor elbowed her captor in the side of the head, his hold on her slackening. Her movements were calm, precise as she blocked each blow aimed her way and returned ones in fast, smooth jabs and kicks. Silvery eyes and hard features flashed before her, grim resolve etched into his face.

  “Christian?” she whispered.

  “You have to come with me, Honor,” he bit out, lunging for her.

  Her hesitation dissolved and she went on the offensive, shoving him away when he grabbed at her arms. “I don’t think so. Where’s Nealon?”

  “He's safe. Stop fighting me. I’m trying to help you.”

  Arms of steel wrapped around her from behind and she was held against a hard body. Cinnamon pierced her senses and Honor’s body minutely relaxed. She didn’t understand that reaction. Why was she so inclined, always, to trust him when she knew that was the last thing she should do? What was it about him?

  A gun cocked and appeared to the right of her, aimed at Christian. “If you don’t leave now, before the lights are back on, I will shoot you. This is the only warning you’ll get.”

  “I really don’t like you.”

  “The feeling is one hundred percent mutual.”

  “Are you sure you won’t just accidentally shoot Honor again?”

  The body behind her stiffened; heat rolling off it in waves of fury. “I’ll make sure.”

  “Good luck with that.” Christian’s eyes glowed as they latched onto Honor. “Just remember this moment, right now, when you realize what he’s really like. You had your chance. This concern for you? It’s an act. He’s August’s protégé and everything he does, he does for him, for the UDK organization, which, judging from your eyes, you are somehow no longer a part of. The next time we meet, I won’t be so affable.” With that, he melded into the abyss and disappeared.

  “Affable?” Ryder snorted as the lights flickered on, showing the empty cells and two male UDKs. They wore similar expressions of anxiety, their eyes darting around the dank area. “The guy doesn’t know the meaning of the word. What did he mean about your eyes?”

  “Nothing.” Honor whirled around, reaching for his wrist, noting his toned arms through the red shirt he wore. “Come on. We have to go. Before more UDKs show up.”

  He hung back, smiling sadly. “I am a UDK.”

  Her hand fell away; limp, like the rest of her. August came out of the cell; his face scratched as though fingernails had raked down the length of it, placing a hand on Ryder’s shoulder. Already Christian’s words were coming to fruition. Already she was being shown the duplicity that was Ryder.

  Honor looked from the younger UDK to the older, incomprehension marring her brow at the same time enlightenment fissured through her. It wasn’t a good realization. In fact, it hurt, more than she cared to admit. He hadn’t come to rescue her; he’d come to detain her. Every single time, she was wrong about him. When would she learn? Why did she keep thinking maybe he would change?

  Hope—it was a horrible, ravaging emotion. It gave someone something to believe in even when they no longer should and they were destroyed because of it.

  “Good work, son, responding as quickly to the blackout as you did,” August said, his fingers squeezing into Ryder’s shoulder.

  “It’s what I’m trained for,” he murmured, his eyes locked on Honor, a strange intensity burning in the depths of them.

  “Clearly there is a leak in the facility, one we’ll be closing up soon enough. I’d like you to look into it, Ryder.”

  “Of course,” he said in a low voice, no longer watching her.

  “How can you do this? After everything. After…” she whispered, loathing the tremble in her voice.

  August faded away and it was her and Ryder and the betrayal she never quite got used to. After everything he’d said to her, how he’d acted in the tunnels, how could he be doing this? A part of her dimmed as the enormity of what had just passed seeped into her. His murky green eyes flickered, just a second of emotion shining through, and then it was gone, too fast to categorize.

  Honor dropped her head, defeat lowering her shoulders as she waited. She could fight, she could try to get away again, but what was the point? It always came back to where she was now; it was time to accept her fate for what it was.

  The two UDKs gathered on either side of her, gripping her biceps painfully tight. No one spoke, no words necessary. The rescue attempt or kidnapping attempt, however one chose to look at it, had failed for Honor. She would be staying, held to the vow she had made to August. At least Isaac had gotten away. Whether he still lived or not, that was something she would never know. But her mother and sister would—if she could believe August and she so desperately needed to—and that would have to be enough.

  Her head raised, her eyes trained forward. At least she would go with her backbone straight. That couldn’t be taken from her, not even if her soul and every piece that made her what she was, was. Remember me how I am now, she pleaded, to whom she didn’t know, maybe to herself. Remember me before.

  “Are you ready to uphold your part of the deal, Honor?” August said softly, his voice like poison wrapp
ed in silk.

  “Do I have a choice?”

  He laughed a brittle, dead laugh. “No.”

  “Well then, let’s go.”

  She wouldn’t look at him, but she could feel Ryder’s gaze boring into her, trying to delve into her thoughts and figure them out as they went through a door and started up the rough steps.

  The temperature got warmer the farther upward they moved; the walls changed from stone into painted ones of white. Voices and electronic devices thrummed her eardrums, overloading them. It looked like any normal office setting would. Desks, people in suits, telephones—all of it in overabundance and working order. There were even cubicles and the clicking of fingers on keyboards. Scents amplified and Ryder’s cologne and cinnamon scent faded away as the man himself did, striding in the opposite direction to do more corrupt UDK bidding.

  A traitorous feeling of loss settled in her chest. Stop caring. He doesn’t care about you; stop caring about him. Honor had never been able to make sense of her feelings for the young man, not that it mattered. She probably wouldn’t be feeling much of anything soon. Maybe it would be a reprieve. The pull of numbness had its merits.

  You couldn’t hurt if you didn’t feel.

  “What facility is this?”

  Chest puffed with pride, August replied, “This is where it all began—where the virus was unleashed in the early nineteen hundreds. Johnsonville, Illinois.”

  “Accidentally, of course,” she said dryly.

  He paused, a tiny trail of blood weaving its way down his leathery face. “Of course. In you go,” August said, nodding his head toward a sterile-looking room with a metal table. He pulled a handkerchief from his suit pocket and dabbed at the lacerated flesh of his cheek.

  Honor began to shake and cold had nothing to do with it. She glanced at the table and away, flashes of memories her subconscious remembered even if she couldn’t making her uneasy. “Why did you let them rescue me if you were only going to take me back?”

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