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Unremarkable anything bu.., p.2

Unremarkable (Anything But Series Book 2), page 2

 

Unremarkable (Anything But Series Book 2)
 


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  She had suspicions and intuitions; all of which were telling her he was one to be extremely wary of. He hinted at his true character; he alluded to acts of immorality, manipulation, and deception without outright confessing anything. All that added up to her fear of what he’d meant by that statement. Test subjects pounded through her head continually, making her more nauseous than she already was.

  What had changed inside her body and why? She didn’t feel any different. Could Superior August be lying? But then why keep her alive? He would have finished her off if he had no purpose for her. She almost wished he had. Almost. Self-preservation was a strange thing and Honor’s was more than adequate.

  Death would not be finding her anytime soon, not if she could stop it.

  Time had no purpose in a room without clocks, in a room she was caged in, locked down in. She had no idea what day it was, what time it was, nothing. The lights never shut off, and Honor drifted in and out of consciousness; unable to keep track of how many minutes were passing from one blackout to the next. It seemed like it had been hours, maybe days, since August’s visit. And why wasn’t she hungry or thirsty? Whose—or what—blood was pumping through her veins?

  Have to get out of here, have to get out of here, have to get out of here thrummed through her head, her heart pounding along to the words. No matter how she pulled, shifted her body, or tugged, the restraints would not budge. All she accomplished was tiring herself out; mentally more than physically.

  Honor froze as a faint clank sounded and then the familiar sound of air colliding with air signaled the opening of the door behind her. She thought of closing her eyes, but couldn’t force a cowardice she didn’t feel. Whoever it was, Honor wanted to meet their eyes when they showed themselves. Her breaths were shallow and short as she waited. The eyes that looked into hers were blue; the face looming above hers determined and familiar. Relief swam through her, turning her body limp.

  A finger rose to his mouth and Honor gave a short nod.

  “Be right back,” he mouthed, ducking out of view.

  She lifted her head, trying to see him as he worked. The bonds on her wrists and legs tugged and were suddenly gone. She moved to sit up, expecting pain in her abdomen and experiencing nothing but a light tugging sensation. Honor looked down at her stomach, beginning to lift the white tee shirt to examine the flesh beneath it. An abrupt head shake stilled her hands. She was grabbed and hoisted down, her legs wobbly from disuse. A thick arm looped under hers as he escorted her toward the door. Honor opened her mouth, and as though able to sense her every thought, he widened his eyes and shook his brown-haired head. She straightened, not needing his support.

  “Follow me,” he whispered.

  With a nod she did—down a cold, blank hallway. It was eerie how silent and empty it was in the facility. Honor’s footsteps faltered as they passed by the room she stayed in during the UDK training. A disturbing sense of homesickness swept over her, causing her to frown. It made sense, she supposed. That was what she had known as her life, as recently as six months ago. It was the last life she remembered, even if it was no longer hers to have.

  What am I? Fugitive trickled through her mind—among other things—but that one was for sure.

  Shouts drew her attention forward and she saw him remove a gun from a hip holster and point it toward a mass of robots—not the literal ones, but the UDK mindless beings that explicitly followed orders, no matter what.

  He glanced over his shoulder at her, gun raised. “Get back!”

  That weapon could be turned on her in a heartbeat. Once she would have worried about that from him, but at the moment she didn’t even think to not trust him. It was him or August. Not much thought was involved in that decision. Honor had no weapon to defend herself with, but as the men swarmed toward them, shouting at them to stop and for him to drop his weapon as they aimed their own pistols at them, she moved without conscious decision, right into their line of fire and in front of her rescuer.

  “What are you doing?” he yelled at her, ineffectively grabbing at her arm to tug her back behind him.

  It was weird—he had to outweigh her by a hundred pounds or more—and she wasn’t moving. That barely registered in her head when the shots rained their way; short pinging bursts that would kill him if one hit him. Oddly enough, she didn't worry about herself getting hit by a bullet or the possibility of her death.

  Been there, done that.

  Honor spun around to face him. “Give me your gun.”

  “What?” His eyes were incredulous, frustration tightening his features.

  “Give it to me. Now.” She could see the indecision in his face. Honor leaned close to his ear, her eyes never leaving his. “You will die if you don’t give me your gun.”

  With a curse word, he held it out.

  She took it, smiling savagely, and grabbed his wrist with her other hand, propelling him forward. A bullet zinged past her ear and she ducked, really hoping he did too. His police officer training should keep him alive, as long as he wasn’t an unlucky kind of guy. Of course, looking at the situation they were in, that might be exactly what he was.

  Blood pumped through her veins, but she was cold, calm, her eyes taking in the scene in a detached way. Honor noted the three guys charging in front, the one toward the back, and the one creeping toward them from the left. She took aim from left to right, hitting and disarming every single one of them. Cries of pain broke out as they fell. She heard him curse again, in shock this time, and another smile formed to her lips.

  “Where—what—how—”

  Sprinting across the vast room that used to hold sermons and such, she shouted over her shoulder, “We don’t have time for meaningful conversations at the moment!”

  “What are you?” he hollered back, face red as he pumped his arms and legs to keep up with her.

  At the sliding door, Honor slapped her hand against the wall and it glided open with a swoosh. So close. They were so close to freedom. Freedom: the word sounded like a lie to her. Would she ever be free again? Had she ever really been? One more room to go through and they would be outside. Eyes scanning the white-walled room with the scuffed floor, she straightened from her ready pose, unease moving down her back. The room was empty. It was almost too easy.

  “Where is everyone?”

  “Do you really want to find out?”

  “No.” She swiped hair from her face. “Let’s go.”

  “Can I have my gun back now?”

  Honor reached out her hand, pausing. “How do I know I can trust you?”

  “I just saved your butt—”

  “No. I saved yours.”

  “I would have been fine,” he grumbled.

  “Is your masculinity chaffing a bit?” She offered the gun and he yanked it from her grip, scowling.

  “Let’s go.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  Out into the bright sun they went, Honor blinking as it hit her sensitive eyes. The lilac scent was overpowering, cloying. Tree limbs bent and twisted as a strong, warm breeze swept by, sending her hair flying around her face in a black mask. She spit hair out of her mouth and followed her rescuer in the direction of a Nissan.

  “You know what I find funny?” she said to his broad back.

  “How can you find anything about this funny?” he muttered as he jogged on the gravel surrounding the church turned UDK facility.

  As he opened the back door, Honor said, “You were the one who put me in this place and you were the one to get me out.” She smirked. “Talley.”

  “Get in,” was his brusque reply.

  She started to when a deep voice, rough enough to cause goose bumps to break out on her flesh, snapped, “Are you done socializing? Because I’d like to get out of here before we’re all killed. For real, this time.” She froze stooped over, her stinging eyes on the floorboards of the car. Her breaths became ragged, painful.

  “That means you, Rochester,” he added when she stayed immobile.

  Head
jerking upward, she tried to see his features, but her vision was too blurry. Talley pushed her none-too-gently into the back of the car, the momentum causing her to sprawl face-down on the backseat. She wasn’t even sitting upright before they were squealing out of the parking lot.

  “I thought you were dead,” she said to the hands clasped tightly together in her lap.

  “Yeah, well, I thought the same about you.”

  She dragged her eyes from her lap and met tormented brown ones in the rearview mirror. The shared look was long—so lengthy Talley cleared his throat uncomfortably. Her gaze traveled down the short brown hair to the shell-shaped ear, and stopped on the square shoulder that was stiff, taut. Even with his face straight ahead, she knew he was tight-lipped, his features blank. That was the way Nealon always was. Why would this day be any different? But the look she’d witnessed in his eyes—that was something new.

  The tunnels were dark, damp with moisture, and cold—not that the cooler temperature bothered him. The smell was another matter entirely. The faint odor of mold that would be barely detectible to a normal person; a fully human person, was heady, rancid, to Christian and all the UDs taking refuge in the underbelly and crevices of the world. But it was something they had to endure, like they had had to tolerate so many other things within the last half of a year.

  Absently fingering the healed skin beneath his left ear where a GPS chip used to reside before he cut it out, Christian strode through the wet muck of the tunnels, his silvery eyes ready-made flashlights. Sounds echoed in the passageways. It was hard to have a private conversation within them and UDs had abnormal hearing anyway. He heard them minutes before he ever reached them.

  “…break out at the Wisconsin facility. He wasn’t sure who they had there, had no idea they were even keeping anyone under lockdown, but it must have been someone important.”

  “Then how did they get out? If they’re so important? They should have been guarded up the rear and then some.”

  “Good question. He said—”

  Christian turned the corner and immediately Jax and Dominic straightened, their conversation halting. Both were tall and lanky, muscles hardened and toned from the virus pumping through their veins. Jax had black hair and darker skin while Dominic was brown-haired and pale. Hygiene and looking good weren’t exactly on the top of the survival list and dirt smudges littered their worn, ripped jeans and thin shirts. They looked like all the other UDs—tough, indifferent, unbreakable—because you couldn’t break what had already been broken. They carried weapons; a knife in one boot, another tethered to a hip, not that they particularly needed them.

  UDs were quicker and stronger than any human and healed astoundingly fast as well. They were like a manmade weapon for the Army, only as far as they knew, the Army hadn’t created them—instead some kind of experiment or virus testing gone haywire at a government lab was the one to thank for that. And now they were hunted, gunned down, locked up, or worse—kept as some kind of pet observed by UDKs for the rest of their sad lives, and all because they had been born.

  There was a bitter blackness that swirled through Christian’s body, a never-ending rage with the capacity to destroy any who chose to try to sabotage him, should he let his thin grasp on it unravel. He wanted to. Some days he wondered what was stopping him. The darkness had a name and the name was revenge.

  He eyed the men. “What? He said what?”

  “Christian. We were just—”

  Interrupting Dominic, Christian said in a too-calm voice, “Just what? Gossiping about stuff in the tunnels where everyone within hearing distance; and that is a wide range, can listen in on the conversation? Not too smart, is it?”

  He closed the distance between them in three long strides, his face inches from Jax’s as he growled, “Do you not remember anything I told you? Or do you just not care?” His eyes flashed to Dominic next. “You should know better.” Christian stepped back. “You both should.”

  “Relax—”

  His fingers bunched around the front of Dominic’s shirt and he slammed him against the rough tunnel wall. “Relax? You’re asking me to relax when every day we breathe is one we have to worry might be our last? When there could be spies among us, even now? Maybe Jax is one. Maybe you are.”

  “Ease up, man, he didn’t mean anything by it.”

  Jax grabbed Christian’s arm and he shook him off, glaring over his shoulder at him. “You have information to impart, it goes to me, no one else, and it certainly isn’t discussed among the tunnels like high school girls.”

  It didn’t matter to Christian that he was only eighteen himself; a high school student as little as six months ago, or that Jax was twenty and Dominic only seventeen. They had to be smart. If they wanted to make it, they had to use their brains. Less than seven months had passed since Christian turned into a freak and that time had torn him apart and built him back into what he now was, what he had to be, and it wasn’t anything to brag about.

  “Just because you put yourself in charge—” Jax began.

  “I didn’t put myself in charge; I am in charge. If you don’t like it, leave. You’re either with me or against me.” Christian’s fingers released the fabric of Dominic’s shirt. “You know the way out of the tunnels. If you go…you forget the way back.”

  He stared into two pairs of reflective gray eyes much like his own, and then he shouldered his way past the young men to get to the open area they considered their makeshift home.

  There were less than twenty of them; so little compared to all Christian had found over the course of the last six months, and they were all young; ranging from sixteen years old to twenty-eight. Older UDs were withdrawn, resigned to their fate. But not this paltry number of UDs—they were young enough to remember what their lives used to be like—young enough to have hope, to want to fight—young enough to be reckless and take back their rights.

  UDs didn’t sweat, didn’t really have any kind of smell to them, which was fortunate, given their close quarters and lack of showers. They sat and stood in groups, most quiet, some making halfhearted attempts at conversation. They didn’t really have a lot to talk about other than the obvious: So when did you turn? When did you cut out the chip? Do you think you’ll die tomorrow? Yeah, not exactly great conversation topics. They couldn’t talk about what they’d wanted to do with their lives pre-turn and they couldn’t talk about what they hoped to do with their lives post-turn. They were stuck at an impasse; unable to move back, impossible to move forward.

  One young woman caught Christian’s eye and stood, making her way over to him. Julianna Valenti was nineteen, tall and slim with shoulder-length chestnut hair and silvery eyes, but then, they all had those. UDs and UDKs were the only ones who could see the glow of them; to anyone else, they were simply gray. Christian hadn’t even known he could see the silver light to them until he’d removed the chip from his neck, which had him wondering what else that tracking device was. They had been camouflaged from one another. UDs passed each other by all the time without even knowing it, but now Christian, and those with him, could detect others like them with a glance.

  Juli, as she’d told him to call her when they’d first made acquaintance, glided gracefully toward him. She was a dancer, or had been, before. She had also been the first to form an alliance with him. Born and raised in Iowa on a farm, now relocated to the underground of Wisconsin, to say she’d been through a culture shock was misleading. They were all adapting to less than desirable circumstances. Supplies were minimal and that was okay—UDs didn’t eat or drink much, so they didn’t need to relieve themselves much either.

  “What did you find out, Christian?”

  He sighed, showing his back to the curious eyes of the mass of UDs. “I couldn’t find any.”

  “You couldn’t find any, or you found some, but they said no?”

  “Same thing.”

  Moving to stand next to him, she said, “No, not the same thing. If there are only eighteen of us, what will we
accomplish? We’ll be killed and all of this will be for nothing. We can’t fight with so few beside us. Most of the UDs—they’re too scared to stand up for themselves. At least we’re here, even if we are also scared.”

  “That’s the difference between you and them; you’re scared, but you’re still here.”

  Her eyes zeroed in on his face. “And you’re not?”

  “Not what?”

  “Scared.”

  “No,” he said shortly. “I’m not.”

  Juli’s fingers trailed down the damp stone of the wall, her eyes following the motion. “You’re not scared because you have nothing to lose. When you have nothing to lose, you make sacrifices others are not willing to make.” She gave him a sidelong glance. “How can you have no one, nothing?”

  He looked down at his black boots. He had a mother, a father, a younger brother and sister, but Christian wouldn’t let himself think of them. It hurt too much. Now and then a memory crept into his subconscious and with it the pain of profound loss, but he was always quick to slam up the mental barrier that separated the life he used to have from the one he now had. They were dead to him, not because he wanted them to be, but because they had to be for him to be able to endure his reality.

  Choosing to ignore her last comment, he said, “We’ll find more UDs willing to stand beside us. I have confidence in that.”

  “I hope so. But what if it doesn’t happen? What if it is just us?”

  “If it comes to that, at least we will have fought.” His eyes slid to her face and away. “We can be proud of that.”

  Juli scoffed. “Pride doesn’t get you far when you’re not breathing. And our families? We’ll be dead to them as well and it will have been for nothing.”

  Tight-lipped, he glared at her. “We are already dead to them. The second we transitioned, the people we used to be died.”

 
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