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Unremarkable anything bu.., p.6

Unremarkable (Anything But Series Book 2), page 6

 

Unremarkable (Anything But Series Book 2)
 


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  “I think the virus is an altered DNA strand they airborne administered all those years ago. I think they’re also injecting higher doses of it into UDs and maybe UDKs. They’re messing with mortality, trying to make it so humans don’t age, so we don’t die. I think our ancestors were the guinea pigs and I think it didn’t work out the way they’d hoped it would. Or maybe they thought only the strong would survive.

  “It kind of worked, I guess. I mean, it slowed the aging process for the UDs, but what did it do for us? Or, I should ask, what does it have the potential to do to us? There are always risks and benefits with everything. The UDs transformation may be a benefit, maybe the UDKs altered perception is a risk, or can be, depending on what else is done to them. Maybe not. This is all speculation. For now.”

  “Honor.” Isaac straightened and turned, gripping the edge of the desk, his head hung.

  “Exactly. I’ve been catching bits and pieces of what’s going on in the facilities, and Nealon, it isn’t good. What August did to her...”

  He spun around, stabbing James with his eyes. “What did they do to her?”

  Sadness pulled his features down and added a shine to his eyes.

  “Tell me now,” he growled.

  “They’re trying to turn her into a UD. They’ve been injecting her, on a continuous basis, with UD blood. They’re trying to turn her into some kind of hybrid, a UDK turned UD.”

  “Why her?”

  He shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe because she was wounded and thought to be dead? She would make an easy test subject. Maybe simply because August doesn’t like her. I don’t know. And I don’t know all the details. That’s all I know, for sure. Whatever else they’ve been doing to her—no idea. And then there are the side effects of being a UD, the possible rage, the urge to kill. I don’t think they counted on that. Or maybe they did, but they thought they could control it. And with Honor…I don’t know what’s going to happen to her.”

  “That’s a lot of I don’t knows.” Isaac looked down, blinking his eyes at the discomfit that news brought him. He met James’s eyes and wished he hadn’t. It was too late—he couldn’t look away now. “So you’re saying, with what they’ve been doing to her, there’s a chance she’ll turn into a monster? A UD bent on bloodlust?”

  James swung his chair around so his back was to Isaac. It was a long moment before he replied. “Yes. It’s more than possible.” He faced him again. “There’s a good chance that will happen to any UD, but with Honor? She already had the virus or whatever it was and now they’ve infected her with the counterpart of UDK blood. Of course, UD and UDK blood is connected—it is blood affected differently by the same disease.

  “Who knows what will happen when all those different DNA strands mix? Especially foreign, untested ones. So, yes, I also think they let her leave. Or August did. I don’t know if anyone else was in on it or even knew about it. They just knew a UD was escaping and they reacted.

  “But August, he knew you’d come, or someone would come, for Honor. I think he was hoping for it, planning on it. I think he knowingly unleashed her on us to see what she’ll do. I think he’s hoping she’ll kill. I think he wants her to. She would make the ultimate killing machine. Maybe that’s what he wanted all along, maybe he plans on making an army of them; an army of bloodthirsty immortals. Sounds like a good time, right?”

  “But if they’re not controllable—”

  “Do you really think he cares? He is so conceited he probably thinks he can control them somehow. He’s probably hoping he can point them in the direction to kill and they’ll mindlessly follow, not caring who they kill as long as they get to kill. That’s bloodlust, Nealon. You just want to kill, over and over, no matter who it is or what they should mean to you. You don’t care anymore. You don’t care about anything but the power of destruction you carry within you. I know. I’ve researched it. And I’ve been wondering…all those UDs that had to be put down due to bloodlust? What if…what if they were UDKs to begin with and reacted badly to the injections?”

  Isaac stared at James.

  Excitement entered his tone as he continued, “What if August has been doing this all along, and before him, other Superiors? Maybe the UDs aren’t really the enemy, maybe it’s us.”

  He ran a trembling hand through his hair, the weight of his words dragging his shoulders down.

  James finished with, “All this is circumstantial. None of it is fact, yet. But I don’t know; it kind of makes sense. Doesn’t it? Nealon?”

  He looked up then, his brows lowered. “Yeah. It kind of does. I have to go.” He turned to leave.

  “Wait!” James hesitated, and then blurted, “There’s something else you should know.”

  Isaac sighed, rubbing his face. “What is it?”

  “UDKs have a GPS chip in their necks too.”

  He froze, his hands slowly lowering.

  He wouldn’t meet his eyes when he said, “There’s one in you. Activated.”

  “Get it out.”

  “I—”

  Crossing the short distance, Isaac shoved his face next to James’s and gritted through clenched teeth, “Get it out. Now.”

  The boy slowly nodded, getting up. He disappeared around a corner, quickly returning with a scalpel, thread, needle, and bottle of vodka. Isaac stared at the dimly lit area of blinking lights, numbness coating him in a layer of acceptance as the boy played surgeon, cutting him open, removing the foreign device, and stitching him back up.

  The sharp, burning pain kept him focused as he tried to sort out the riddle that was their existence and everything involved with it. It made sense, in a twisted way. The chip did so many things he was unaware of. It acted as a mask and also as a revealer. It worked on UDs one way and UDKs another. Honor’s eyes had been silvery when she had had the chip in, but once it was out, her eyes had been normal. So what did the chip do to UDKs if it did that to UDs?

  James finished up, saying, “I’ll let you know as soon as I hear any more. I’ll study the chip some more; see if I can find anything else out about it.”

  “You do that.”

  “Nealon,” James called after him. He paused with his back to him, the pulse in his neck in accordance with the throbbing of his freshly slit skin. “Be careful, okay?”

  “Always,” was his grim reply.

  Waking up underground in what, if the putrid scent was anything to go by, was a pile of watered-down sewage, was cause for great alarm, in Ryder’s estimation. He gingerly touched the back of his throbbing head as he stood, bracing a hand against the smooth cement wall. His hair was matted down and wet. When he looked at his fingers in the dim light, it was to see dark liquid on them. Blood. Someone hit him in the back of the head and tossed him in a tunnel. Why? What purpose would that serve? And where the hell was he?

  Ryder had no answers and no choice but to walk and see where it got him, so with a heaving sigh, that was what he did. His body ached like he’d been beaten all over instead of just his head and it didn’t take long for him to tire. He forced himself to keep moving, always taking the center tunnel when given an option between three, and resting minutely when another step was impossible. He was weak, hungry, and thirsty.

  He’d been walking for what felt like hours when he found her at the end of the tunnel. She was looking around a corner, a handgun held between her hands, intent on watching something on the other side of the tunnel. She stiffened as though sensing his presence. It was dark and still he knew her.

  Ryder would recognize her no matter what. Her petite frame, her midnight hair, those dark blue eyes and pale features—it was Honor. Air escaped him in a ragged breath and his insides twisted. Wonder washed over him, making him dizzy. Was it really her, or was it a cruel trick courtesy of his eyesight?

  “Are you a ghost?” he whispered, his vocal cords failing him as he crept toward her.

  “Get back!” The gun was suddenly aimed at him, Honor’s back against the damp wall of the underground maze. “Wait. Ryder
?” The word was a question, his name on her lips enough to make him shudder. He took another step closer. “Damn it, Ryder! You never listen!”

  She sounded frustrated with him, but not hateful, and even if he had wanted to listen to Honor, he wouldn’t have been able to. His feet pulled him to her like she was a magnetic field and he was unconsciously drawn to her. He couldn’t fight it, couldn’t deny the need to be nearer to her.

  “Did they send you for me? I’m not going back. You’ll have to kill me.”

  He flinched at her words, shaking his head. “You’re not real. You’re dead. You have to be a ghost.”

  Blue eyes full of fire flashed at him. “If I was a ghost, I would haunt you.”

  “You have to be. You are. You do.”

  “I do what?”

  “You haunt me.” Ryder’s eyes stung and he blinked it away, the pressure in his chest tight.

  “I should shoot you.”

  He ripped his shirt over his head, ignoring Honor’s protests, and flung it to the ground, baring himself to her. Widening his stance, he raised his arms out from his sides, his eyes locked with hers. “Do it.” He tapped the place where his heart rapidly beat beneath his flesh. “Right here. One shot. One good shot is all you need.”

  Her hand wavered on the gun. “Why would you want me to shoot you?”

  “Why wouldn’t you want to? I shot you. I could have…I thought…” He swallowed thickly. “I thought I killed you.” I thought you were dead. I wanted to die.

  “Sorry to disappoint you.” The gun lowered.

  He clenched his jaw. “I didn’t want to shoot you. I didn’t even know I did until it was too late.”

  “You’re a terrible liar.”

  “I am not lying,” Ryder enunciated slowly.

  “Whatever. All you’ve done since you moved to Anderson Junction is torment me. You hate me, that’s never been a secret. I almost broke your nose. You said you would get back at me—”

  “I wouldn’t shoot you to get back at you!” His voice, loud and angry, echoed through the tunnels. “And I don’t—” He stared at his tennis shoes. “I don’t hate you. I never hated you.”

  The silence drew out, awkward and tense, until Honor finally spoke. “What are you doing here anyway?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “You don’t know?” She cast him a dubious look.

  “That’s what I said, isn’t it? I don’t know. I was knocked out and woke up down here. I don’t even know where we are. What are you doing down here?”

  “Trying to outrun UDKs. You know, the usual.”

  Ryder blinked. “Why?” And then, suddenly, something clicked in his head. He’d thought Honor was dead. August had told him she was dead. She wasn’t dead. August had lied. His hands fisted. “Where have you been the last six months?”

  She stiffened, her eyes directed away from him, toward the spot she had been looking at when he stumbled upon her. “We have to go. They’re coming.” She looked at him, indecision taking over the determined expression on her face.

  “You don’t trust me,” he concluded.

  “Of course I don’t trust you. You shot me. But I can’t just leave you here. Come on.”

  Even now, after everything, Honor was unable to give up on him. Ryder’s chest tightened. She was moving away, back to the tunnel as she slid down the length of it, toward the way he’d come. He raced after her, stealth not high on his list. Water, and probably sewage, sloshed over his shoes as he hurried. He tried to concentrate on Honor instead of the smells around them.

  Glaring back at him, she hissed, “Don’t be so loud.”

  Her brows were lowered with a scowl on her face. Ryder grabbed the back of her head and pulled her to him against her objections, slamming his lips to hers. They were cool, unflavored, and unresponsive. It didn’t matter. He’d wanted to kiss her since the first time he’d seen her, and now it was like seeing her for the first time all over again; he wasn’t going to let the chance escape him this time. Life was too short, too full of mistakes and pain, to not kiss Honor Rochester. Her lips melded to his a second before her teeth clamped down on his lower lip. A sharp sting and the taste of blood registered in his head.

  They broke away, Ryder fingering his throbbing lip as Honor glowered at him. “Do that again…and I will shoot you.”

  He grinned, an unbelievable lightness to his step as they trudged through the dark, dank, stinky tunnels. They were being chased, they were lost, he didn’t know whether he would be alive or dead in hours to come. But he had just kissed Honor and for one finite moment, she kissed him back. He hadn’t been this happy since…ever.

  “So what happened to you?” He ducked under a low ceiling, blinking as elongated rectangles of light shone down on them from the grate to the outside world above them. They were in a circular opening, doorways to three tunnels surrounding them.

  “Shut up, Ryder.”

  The flecks of sunlight made Honor appear to glow. Dirt smudged her cheek and her dark hair was ratted around her face. Her clothes hung on her, masking her slender frame, but still, she was beautiful.

  “Honor.” She glanced at him, stilling as their eyes met. “I want you to know…I am so glad you’re okay.” Ryder’s voice was rough and his hands clenched at his sides to keep from drawing her into his arms again. She’d fight him; he knew that, maybe even actually shoot him.

  “Why are you acting so weird?”

  “Weird how?”

  “Like you care.”

  “I thought you were dead.”

  “Yeah. You said that. So?”

  “So the fact that you aren’t changes everything.”

  She glanced behind him, and then met his eyes. “Changes everything how?”

  Taking a deep breath, he watched her eyes go to his bare chest, linger there, and move away. “I am not losing you.”

  Her brows knitted. “You never had me. I’m not yours and I never will be.”

  A smile captured his lips and he closed the distance between them. “You are. You just don’t know it yet. Or you won’t accept it. But you are mine. You’ve been mine since the first time I set eyes on you. I just haven’t claimed you yet.”

  “You are unbelievable,” she muttered, rubbing her forehead with her free hand.

  “I’m right.”

  “Arrogant.”

  “Confident.”

  “Delusional.”

  “Honor.” Her wary gaze met his. “I’ve never been so sure of anything before in my life, I’ve never seen with such clarity as I am now. Believe me.”

  Her dark head tilted as she studied him. The heat of her eyes on him was welcome, soothing. “You’re…different.”

  “I changed. I grew up.”

  “Yeah, well, I changed too,” she whispered, striding toward the channel on the right.

  Ryder went after her, the silence of their surroundings making him uneasy and hurrying his step. Honor was close to noiseless, but not that quiet. When he didn’t see her in the passageway before him, he sprinted the rest of the distance, his heart racing. At the mouth of another spherical space, he stumbled to a stop, his chest clenching painfully. She was surrounded by a dozen or so young men and women circling her, eyeing her up, their expressions hostile. His first thought was that they were UDs, only they couldn’t be. Nothing noteworthy stood out about them.

  Honor’s eyes met his, firm resolve in them. That look made him nervous. It said she would do whatever she had to do, whatever she thought was necessary, and screw the repercussions. She was unarmed—Ryder’s eyes briefly closing at the realization.

  He moved for her and two men immediately left the group to flank him, rigid with barely controlled injustice and rage. They had to be UDs if he and Honor were the enemies. Only she’d said UDKs were chasing her. Hadn’t she? And why would they be after her? She was a UDK, just like him.

  “Ryder.”

  The voice was high, faint, but biting. His head swiveled and Ryder took in the petite form
huddled near the back of the cluster. Wrists shackled, Natasha kept her head high. She should have looked ridiculous in her position, but somehow she came off as regal. As far as he could tell, she was unharmed. What were they doing with her and how did they get her? Last he’d known she’d transferred to another facility to continue her UDK career.

  “Is this the one that attacked you?” someone asked.

  The boy Ryder had almost accidentally hit with his car suddenly appeared near the wall beside him, nodding. “That’s him.”

  He stared at him in incredulity. “I didn’t attack you. I was just trying to talk to you and you know it.”

  The boy shrugged almost imperceptibly, slinking away as Ryder snorted in disbelief. Really?

  “What do we do with them?” one of the men beside Ryder wondered.

  A tall, slender young woman with brown hair stepped forward, her gaze divided between Ryder and Honor. “We wait. Christian should be back any minute.”

  Honor inhaled sharply, eyes wide. “Did you say Christian? Christian Turner? He’s alive?”

  “Maybe. What’s it to you?”

  When Honor looked down, her throat moving as she swallowed, looking unbelievably relieved to know Christian Turner was alive; Ryder felt anger furl up in his veins, like spirals of fire ready to lash out. He stiffened and the two men inched closer, ready to battle if need be. His fingers flexed in longing.

  “Are these the ones that were after you, Honor?” Ryder clipped out.

  “No talking.”

  He was roughly poked in the back and he slowly turned his head to meet his bully’s gaze. It was gray. He switched the direction of his eyes and noted every pair of eyes that briefly met his was gray, but not glowing, and not silver-hued. UDs then. Unregistered ones, or something else?

  “How do you know Christian?” the woman demanded, her face inches from Honor’s.

  Honor stared back, not speaking.

  When the girl roughly grabbed her arm, Ryder reacted, his body instantly taut and seething with heat. “Back off!” he shouted and shouldered the woman away.

  She fell back, caught by one of her cohorts, surprise on her features.

 
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