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Ordinary anything but se.., p.12

Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1), page 12

 

Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1)
 


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  She stared at him. “How do you do that?”

  “Do what?” he clipped out.

  “Stop caring. Stop thinking of them as humans. Turn off your emotions. How do you do that?”

  “You’ll learn. In time.”

  Honor slapped the file down on the seat between them. “No. I won’t. I won’t ever be like you, Nealon. Not ever. I don’t want to be.” She crossed her arms over her chest and glared out the window.

  The car sped past country homes, farms, cornfields, and rolling hills; all under the blanket of night. Honor trained her eyes on the smoky clouds, wishing they could form a barrier between her and reality.

  He didn’t say anything for a long time, and when Nealon finally did, his voice was low. “I used to be exactly like you. I didn’t understand why they were kept under observation during the turning. I didn’t understand how they could be locked up against their will, watched for the rest of their UD life. I didn’t understand how the agency could view them as less than humans, closer to animals.”

  Honor looked at him, intrigued by his words, by the way he spoke.

  Nealon took a deep breath. “I didn’t understand any of it until I saw what they could do, until I saw with my own eyes the destruction of lives they left behind when something changed with their DNA.” He looked at her. “If Christian didn’t adapt well to the turning, he has to be put down. It’s as simple as that. Before lives are lost.”

  “He’s not like that.”

  “How well do you know him, really?”

  She averted her gaze. Honor didn’t know Christian very well at all. She knew he was quiet, a loner. She knew he liked to write and was good at it. That was about it. Honor looked at her clasped hands. She knew her breath always caught a little when she looked at him. There was something so noble about him, something that couldn’t be faked; it had to be real to be seen. The way he carried himself, the strength in his gaze; Christian was a fighter, like her. He wasn’t one to easily give up. She didn’t want to think of someone like him giving up.

  “Serial killers, rapists, murderers…so many of them can be linked to the UD virus. The video you watched of the UD subject; that pales in comparison to what some of the others have done.”

  “So we’re supposed to find him, lure him in, and kill him?”

  “We know where he is, Rochester. GPS chip.” He tapped behind his left ear. “It may not have to come to his disposal, but we won’t know for sure until we have him locked up again and are able to observe him and run tests.” Nealon met her eyes. “They want you to talk to him, calm him down, get him to come back willingly.”

  “Who are they?”

  His face looked grim in the dark and he didn’t answer.

  The car stopped at the small residential airport outside of Anderson Junction. It was the same airport her father supposedly flew in and out of on a routine basis; it was the one he took off from when his plane crashed.

  Nealon leaned toward her, forcing Honor to look at him. “You can do this. In fact, I’m pretty sure you can do just about anything if you want it bad enough. I have faith in that, in you.”

  “I thought you hated me.”

  “I don’t hate you. That’s not the problem. The problem is I can’t hate you. I don’t have it in me. I look at you and see your bravery and I…I admire you. You’re pretty much fearless. Not many people can say that.”

  “I’m not fearless,” she whispered, warmth flushing her skin at his words. “I’m scared of lots of things.”

  “Yes, but you still do them, don’t you? Being fearless isn’t about being unafraid; it’s about doing things in spite of being afraid. You can do this. I know you can.”

  Honor’s brows lowered as she searched his eyes to see whether he spoke the truth or not. Nealon didn’t flinch from her gaze and he didn’t look away. She exhaled deeply, nodding.

  His faith in her gave her faith in herself. Honor didn’t understand why, or what it was about him, but she trusted him as much as she could anyone. She realized then that he kept the true part of him hidden.

  Another vehicle pulled up as she got out of the car. It was a dark blue SUV. Burns got out of the driver’s side, dressed in a tan suit. He turned to face Honor and smiled, instantly chilling her. Another figure, taller and fitter than Burns, moved around the side of the SUV. Her pulse quickened at the sight of Ryder.

  “Why are they here?” she asked in a low voice. The wind picked up, blowing her hair around her face. Honor pushed it out of her eyes.

  “Protocol. You’ll learn more about that soon enough. Let’s go.” Nealon placed a hand to her back and ushered her toward a small white plane. It didn’t look big enough for the four of them plus a pilot to fit into.

  Her palms were wet and her skin was clammy. Honor felt hot and her teeth chattered. She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t get on that plane. Her feet felt like they weighed one hundred pounds each and every step was hard for her to make. The thought of nothing below her but air was enough to make her stomach flip-flop.

  Burns was already in the plane; Ryder was pulling himself into it when she reached it.

  Nealon looked at her, waiting. He didn’t say anything, but his expression was firm, confident. You can do this, it seemed to say.

  “What’s the hold up, Rochester? Get in. We don’t have all night,” Ryder said, leaning halfway out of the plane to better badger her. “Make your dramatic entrance and let’s go.”

  She couldn’t move. Honor was dizzy and nauseous. She wanted to run and not for any other reason but to get away from the plane. Planes wrecked. People died when that happened.

  “My dad…my dad died in a plane crash,” she whispered. Honor’s whole body was shaking.

  Somehow Nealon still heard her. “I know,” was all he said.

  She looked up with eyes stinging with unshed tears.

  Nealon moved close to her, his warm body shielding her from Ryder’s and Burns’ eyes. He spoke quietly into her ear, “Fear is a very powerful thing, especially when you let it be. You’re stronger than the fear, Honor. Don’t ever forget that.”

  She met his eyes, wondering how he could understand her so well when he barely knew her. Honor remembered his earlier words of being like her. Maybe that was how.

  She swallowed and walked around him, took a steadying breath, and marched toward the plane with her head back. She could do it. He was right: Honor could do anything if she wanted it bad enough.

  “About time. My good looks have been fading away while we’ve been waiting,” Ryder said when she got into the plane.

  “Shut up, Ryder.”

  The Owl Mountain UD facility was three times as large as the one in Wisconsin. The building was on a hill in the country, a white monstrosity with trees surrounding it, as though to hide it from the world. Honor was still shaky from the plane ride, but she’d made it. She was still alive. The thought of having to do it one more time to get back to Wisconsin did not fill her with joy.

  Ryder had berated her the whole time, which had annoyed her, but had also kept her occupied for the duration of the short trip. She didn’t want to feel grateful to him, but she kind of did. Honor had figured out that he and his ulterior motives that forever had her guessing what he was up to were sometimes, amazingly, to help her.

  It was cooler in Michigan than it had been in Wisconsin; the wind was more brisk and powerful. They walked against it, toward the lit up building. Honor shivered, rubbing her hands against her arms.

  They stopped at a glass door and Nealon pressed his index finger against a button. “Cleared,” an automated voice said. The door opened, he walked through, and it slid shut. Nealon turned and watched them through the door.

  “You’re next, Rochester,” Burns said, flicking a cigarette to the ground.

  Honor raised her finger, wondering how a little button could read her DNA to know it was her. With technology, all things were possible. Once inside, the four of them stopped at a desk and were given clearance to procee
d by a red-haired woman.

  They entered a room full of men and women. It smelled like coffee in the room. There were two similarities between all of the agents: a gun at their hip and no expression on their faces.

  This isn’t what I want to become, Honor thought. She glanced at Ryder and saw the excitement on his face. There was the insurmountable difference between them. He wanted this and she did not.

  A tall, fit gray-haired man approached them, shaking Nealon’s and Burns’ hands. The man had on gray slacks, a pale yellow buttoned-down shirt, and smelled like old man and aftershave.

  He nodded at Ryder, and then turned his attention to Honor. “Miss Honor Rochester. I’m Superior August. I’ve been looking forward to our meeting.” His light blue eyes drilled into hers, like he was trying to read her thoughts with a look.

  Honor was instantly uneasy. He was a powerful man; he was also a cruel man. She could tell in the way his upper lip curled a little, in the gleam of his icy eyes.

  “Hello,” she said in a low voice.

  His lips curved in a glimpse of a smile as he turned his attention away from her. Superior August handed a small gun to Ryder. He took it, staring down at the gleaming metal. It was odd how something so tiny could be so lethal.

  “Normally the UDK organization waits until a recruit is done with school and signs on full-time before assigning a firearm. I know your intentions are sound. I know your mother, I knew your father. I know you. Don’t disappoint me, son.”

  Ryder met his eyes, vowing, “I won’t.”

  Honor looked at him, biting her lip to keep from saying all she thought. What was he doing? What was he agreeing to? Did Ryder even know? She feared for him. In that instant, Honor feared for Ryder’s life. He’d just promised it to another being, to an organization that had not completely justified views, something that should never be done.

  As if feeling the heat of her judgment in her eyes, Ryder glanced up and away, showing Honor the back of his head. Ryder had just lost a little of himself, even if he didn’t know it. A part of her grieved for that.

  “I need you to come with me, Ryder. Nealon and Burns, I’ll be speaking with you shortly.” August turned to Honor. “It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

  The man was lying. Honor refused to look away until he did, though her eyes burned with the need to. Again he smiled a smile that wasn’t a smile. It was more of a sneer that was supposed to pass for a smile. Then he was gone and Ryder with him. She could breathe a little easier without his presence near.

  Nealon watched her from where he leaned against a wall. “Whatever happens, Rochester, I want you to promise me something.”

  He pushed away from the wall and stopped beside her, so close she had to crane her neck back to meet his brown eyes.

  “What?”

  He leaned down until he was at eyelevel with her. Nealon stared at her for a long, long time, making her lightheaded. “You do what you think is right. Not what anyone else tells you is right, but what you know is right. Always. Make that your mantra.”

  Honor frowned. What she thought was right wasn’t going to necessarily coincide with what the UDKs thought was right. She told him, with all honesty, “I always do.”

  His lips twitched, almost like he wanted to smile, but wouldn’t allow himself to. “I thought as much.” Nealon moved away to talk to another agent.

  She blew out a noisy breath. She felt weird, disoriented. Not uncommon when she was around Nealon. She looked around the room, noted the electronic gadgets and gismos she had no idea the names of with the blinking red and yellow lights on them. No one looked at her; no one paid any attention to the newbie. She felt invisible, which was just as well. Any attention she usually got was unwanted by her.

  “Take this.”

  She started, not expecting Nealon to return so quickly. Honor looked at the small black rectangular contraption he held in his large hand. “What is it?”

  “Tracking device. See that red blinking light? That’s the UD. You can bring up a map and see what state he’s in, what city he’s in, what street he’s on. There’s also a way to contact Headquarters if there are any problems. You can text too. Clip it to your pants. Don’t…lose it.”

  Honor took it, studying it. There were four buttons on it. She had no clue what they did. “Ryder gets a gun and I get this?”

  “Ryder’s a recruit; you’re still a newbie. Plus he’s committed to the UDK organization.” Nealon paused. “He also gets one of these.”

  “Of course he does,” she muttered.

  “This button contacts Headquarters. The tracking device is connected to three others. You can text a message and any of the other three people with the connected devices will be able to communicate with you. But remember: any message you send goes to all three devices. That’s this button. The red button is if you’re hurt or in danger. Don’t hit it unless that’s true.”

  “Why?”

  “Take my word for it. Superior August is motioning for me.” Nealon looked at her. “I’ll be back soon.”

  “Don’t let him suck your soul out.”

  “He can’t take away what I don’t have,” was his mocking reply.

  Honor frowned, watching him disappear around the doorway. Nealon was wrong. Why was it so important to him that others thought he had no heart?

  They’d split up into fours. She was leading the way, though they weren’t far behind her. It was dark and cold out. Small animals scurried around her, making her cringe. Honor tried not to think about that too much. She crept along between buildings and through alleyways like a criminal.

  Christian was in an alley one street over. Every time she thought of him Honor felt like she was going to throw up. This was wrong; what they were doing was wrong. She thought of the three armed men behind her and the urge to lose her dinner intensified. Why had August given Ryder a gun? What did he intend for him to do with it?

  Honor slowed to a stop. Her breathing was fast, too fast. She put a trembling hand to her perspiring forehead. He was there. Somewhere. She heard a movement behind her, whirled around, and was slammed against a concrete wall. Her breath left her and she struggled to draw air into her lungs.

  “What do you want?” Silver eyes glowed down at her, the hand holding her shirt not releasing it. His body was pressed to hers, making it impossible for her to try to get away.

  “Christian,” she gasped out. “It’s me…Honor.”

  He had no smell. It was an odd time to have the thought, but have it Honor did. His breath, his hair, his skin—it was odorless. He was cooler than her, but not ice cold, not like death. Her father had been like that? She’d never thought about his skin as being cool; he’d just been her dad.

  “I know who you are,” he spat out.

  Honor stared into the shimmery depths of his eyes, seeing lucidity. Her body slumped in relief. “You have to get out of here. They’re hunting you down.”

  “And what are you doing?”

  Guilt erupted inside her and Honor had a hard time answering. “They said I had to talk to you, had to try to make you come willingly.”

  “So why aren’t you?”

  “It’s not right, what they’re doing. It’s not right to any of us. You have to get out of here, before they make you go back.”

  “And if I don’t go back?”

  “They’ll kill you.” She swallowed, her throat thick. “They’re right behind me. You have to get out of here, Christian.”

  He hung his head, his dark hair touching her cheek. It was cold, soft. “Where will I go? They’ll find me no matter what.”

  It was true.

  Honor’s eyes stung and she rapidly blinked them. There was nowhere he could go, nowhere he could hide, that they wouldn’t find him. The GPS chip made sure of that.

  “Cut it out.”

  Christian lifted his head and stared into her eyes. It was unnerving, looking into those strange-colored orbs. “What?”

  “There’s a GPS chip in t
he skin under your left ear. It’s the size of a pencil eraser. Cut it out.”

  He studied her features. “Why should I believe you?” Christian asked slowly.

  “They put it in when you were unconscious. That’s how we could find you.” A male voice alerted her that the others had found them. Honor fought to get free, fought to push at him to get him moving. “They’re coming. Get out of here! Go.”

  “Stay right there,” Ryder said coolly, gun aimed at Christian’s back.

  There was a way to kill them, but Honor didn’t know what it was. Her eyes met Ryder’s. He did. She was sure August had made sure of that. The agents were moving toward them. Burns had another gun trained on them from the left. Nealon approached from the right, gun also raised. She looked at him, remembering his words. She had to do what she thought was right. Always.

  Honor looked at Christian and whispered, “Run.”

  His grip dropped from her and she sagged against the cold structure. A shot rang out and fire immediately blazed from Honor’s side. She looked down; saw the darkening of her shirt in a lopsided circle, and slowly raised her head to meet Ryder’s eyes. They were stricken, full of self-loathing. He’d shot her. Honor couldn’t believe he’d shot her.

  She began to collapse and Nealon was there to catch her. A dull roar in her ears drowned all sound and she was woozy, and so tired. She stared at his face, memorizing the twisted features. She had to remember the look on his face. It was important. His face wasn’t blank for once. It was furious, livid. The thought made Honor smile, but it turned to a grimace immediately. It hurt too much. She just needed to rest for a minute. She closed her eyes and let darkness envelope her.

  It started in the morning, while he was in the shower. Christian began to shiver. He turned the water as hot as it would go and still his teeth chattered. The water sluiced over him, scalding, but still not hot enough. The air around him billowed with steam. He had an article for the school paper to finish today if he wanted it to be in the next issue. There was no way he was getting sick. He refused to. Christian got out of the shower only when the water would no longer stay warm.

  His brother Corbin banged on the door, yelling that he had to go the bathroom. He hurried up and dried off with a towel, his body jerking with the force of the convulsions. The light made his eyes sensitive. At first he thought it was the light bulb wattage, but even the pale yellow walls and brighter yellow accessories of the bathroom hurt his eyes. Christian shook his head, and then wished he hadn’t. It began to throb.

 
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