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Ordinary anything but se.., p.8

Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1), page 8


Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1)

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  She kept her eyes on the screen as she asked, “Different how?”

  “They were let out almost immediately after the initial turning. Now we keep them longer for observation to make sure they are mentally sound.”

  “Why are you showing me this?”

  “Keep watching.”

  Honor did. Her eyes were locked on the screen. Most of her didn’t want to look away, but the more sensible part of her did. She knew something bad was going to happen. Why else would Nealon show it to her? It was like watching a horror movie and being unable to turn away even though she knew she’d regret it.

  As she watched, the man tensed, and then slowly stood. Shadows moved beyond the camera. His face twisted into a mask of something ugly, something scary, and he snapped the neck of an approaching woman without hesitation. The motion took less than a second. She was standing, and then she was dead. Her body fell to the ground, limp and unmoving. He looked down at her, his chest heaving, and then shot out of view.

  Honor continued to stare at the fallen woman long after she collapsed, willing her to get back up. She didn’t. Honor felt woozy, lightheaded, and still she couldn’t look away. The image was burned into her eyes, never to be unseen. Did she really just watch a woman get murdered?

  “That was his mother. He killed his younger brother and sister next. They’d come to take him home. He took out three of our people before he was finally put down.”

  Honor closed her eyes. When she opened them, the laptop was closed, pushed away to the edge of the desk.

  “Some don’t adapt. Or if they do, it doesn’t last, for whatever reason. Sometimes the bloodlust happens right away, sometimes years from when they turn. Something doesn’t merge right, something changes as they age. They lose control. Something. We don’t know everything about the UD virus, just enough to keep ahead of the situation.”

  “Bloodlust?” she whispered, her stomach roiling.

  “The urge to kill. That’s the threat the UDs carry. At any given time during their existence, they can snap. Then they must be taken out. That’s why we’re around. Balance. We observe them, and when and if they go bad, we take care of it. That’s the most interesting thing about the UD virus. That it would turn some undead and it would turn others into their sentinels. The universe tends to keep all things balanced, even chaos. That’s why you’re here, Honor. To help keep things balanced.”

  Throat tight, she choked out, “What…what am I?”

  Nealon’s unreadable face turned her way, his brown eyes drilling into hers. “They’re UDs. We’re UDKs. Keepers. You’re a keeper, Honor. Welcome to the club.”

  It was the first time she’d seen any trace of a smile on his lips. It wasn’t a joyful smile and she didn’t like it. In fact, it made her extremely cold on the inside.

  Poked and prodded, examined, and photographed, Honor was glad when the day was finally over. She was now officially registered as a UDK. It was all so weird, unreal, and not how she would have ever pictured spending a Saturday. Her brain was on information overload and it needed a rest. She was exhausted, mind and body.

  So hungry earlier, she’d only been able to pick at her supper in the cafeteria. It had been tasteless. She hadn’t known if it was the food or if it was her. There’d been about twenty other newbies in the place, most of them by themselves, but some together in pairs or threes. Honor hadn’t recognized a single face. She’d almost kind of wanted to see Natasha or Ryder, just to be around someone she knew. That was sad. Even Honor knew that.

  The light in the small room automatically shut off at nine o’clock. Honor knew because Nealon had told her it would. She was so tired and yet sleep eluded her. She stared at the ceiling in the dark, not able to see anything. There was no window to allow the glow of the moon in. It was unsettling, being completely blanketed in night. She was uneasy, imagining someone in the room with her. Honor wouldn’t have been able to see anyone if they were. She squeezed her eyes shut and blocked the fear from her mind. Tomorrow she would get to call her mother. Honor focused on that. Only that didn’t make her feel any better. What would she say to her? She had so many questions. She didn’t know where to begin. She was homesick for her own bed in her own bedroom, for her sister Scarlet.

  She thought of the innocent, childlike room that symbolized all she had lost in a short amount of time. Life wasn’t rainbows and butterflies and pretty things. It was hard and it was cruel and it was ugly. Honor realized that now. Maybe she’d realized it a long time ago and hadn’t been able to accept it. She did now. Her eyes burned with unshed tears and when she blinked they slowly trickled from the corners of her eyes, dampening her cheeks as they slid down the sides of her face.

  Her thoughts went to Christian and she sat up, the urge to go to him overpowering. She wiped her cheeks. He was down there, by himself, probably in the dark, hurting. He had it so much worse than she did. Honor needed to remember that. What if he died? What if he didn’t…adapt? She shivered. She couldn’t bear to think of Christian becoming like the man in the video she’d watched.

  She let her feet slide to the cool ground, not even thinking about what she was doing. Honor slowly walked forward, letting her hands guide her. It was so quiet, so dark. She lightly bumped into the wall, felt around until she found the doorknob. She had every reason to believe the door would be locked, though she supposedly wasn’t to think of herself as a prisoner.

  Surprisingly the doorknob turned in her hand. Honor’s breath left her in a loud whoosh. Trembling with relief and apprehension of what might be outside the door waiting for her, she cracked it open. She looked left and right, saw no one, and quietly left the room, careful not to make a sound as she shut the door.

  Honor tried to get her bearings, but it wasn’t easy to remember which hallway led to where, especially with only dim lighting to help her. Everything looked different, more ominous, in the nighttime. She wondered where all the adults were. Did they go home for the night? She doubted it. The guards were needed all hours of the day.

  How are you going to get to Christian when he’s guarded? Honor hadn’t thought about that.

  Before she decided she was doing something really stupid, she started down the empty corridor. She felt all alone, even though she knew she wasn’t. The newbies were in the rooms around her, all in the same hallway. She might as well have been alone, for all the camaraderie shown her by the other kids. Not that she cared, but it did make her appreciate Anna a little more, and miss her.

  It was cold in the church and the coolness of the floor was seeping into the soles of her feet, chilling her more. She was to the open area where the metal benches were. She stayed near the wall, shifting her eyes in the almost dark. Honor turned right and hesitated by the second doorway that led to the basement. Her pulse raced and her heart was pounding as she moved through the open doorway, a hand to the cold wall as she descended.

  What are you doing? You’re going to be in so much trouble if you get caught. What if they kill you? Torture you? She didn’t let herself believe for one fleeting moment she was anything special to them, or to Nealon. That impassiveness of his showed her how much he didn’t care about others. There wouldn’t even be a second thought given to her if he thought her expendable. Honor’s throat tightened. Still she walked.

  She wondered with all the locked doors why the one area that probably should have the most locks on it did not. Was it arrogance on their part, or something else? Maybe they wanted a chance to kill any UDs who tried to escape. She looked behind her, hearing and seeing nothing. Honor turned her gaze to the middle of the room. Again there was nothing. Her eyes studied the dark corners. Were people there, watching her? Her body trembled and she told herself to ignore it.

  Honor remembered there were ten UDs below, unless the number had grown or lessened since her earlier visit. She thought about the cameras watching her and paused. If they wanted to stop her, they could have at any moment. Unless they were gone, but again, she doubted it. She hadn’t exact
ly been told this part of the building was off limits. She’d just kind of known. Honor could play dumb if she had to. Why weren’t they stopping her? That bothered her more than anything, and at the same time relieved her.

  She approached the window to Christian’s room, although cell was a more appropriate word, even if there were no bars to keep him in. He was still a prisoner. So was Honor. All the UDs and UDKs were—prisoners of fate, prisoners of circumstance. It was darker in there than where she was. There was a soft glow of light in the open area, but not in the rooms. They were pitch black and eerie.

  Something in the room moved.

  Honor frowned and walked closer. “Christian?” she whispered.

  She glanced over her shoulder to see if anyone would approach, caught a flash of silvery eyes from another room, and quickly turned back to Christian’s cell.

  Two glowing orbs of silver were directed at her. Honor started and sucked in a sharp breath. They moved, came closer, and she could make out Christian’s tall form. His white clothes shone in the dark, a line of gray around him and blackness beyond that. She had to tilt her head back to look at his face.

  Honor drank in the sight of him, noting his hard features. There were lines around his mouth that gave a hint of the pain he’d endured. She wondered if he was still in pain.

  “It’s Honor…from school?”

  He didn’t acknowledge her, didn’t show any sign of knowing who she was. His eyes were intense, flashing like strange lightning bolts. She dragged her gaze away, feeling hot and shaky. Her mind went blank. She couldn’t think of a single thing to say to him. Why had she come there? What had Honor thought would happen? She turned back. He hadn’t moved, continuing to stare down at her.

  She frowned and backed away, something inside her dimming. “I just…wanted to make sure you were okay.”

  Why wasn’t he saying anything? Did a person’s personality completely change along with their body? Maybe he simply didn’t like her. But he’d never been impolite to her before, not in school, and not any other time she’d spoken with him. He’d even been to her workplace on occasion with his family for burgers and fries, playing pool when they were done eating. His smile for her was always shy, but there was a smile.

  “Honor,” he rasped out in a voice hoarse and deep.

  She went still, waiting with a thundering heartbeat.

  Christian’s lips turned down. He looked like he was searching for words, same as she had been moments ago. He must be so confused. A shrill noise erupted in the quiet and Honor spun around, wondering where it had come from and what it meant. It was loud, piercing, without end. It sounded like an alarm. Fear had her believing it was because of her being down there.

  Guards came out of the dark, shouted orders at one another. She wasn’t completely surprised to know they’d been in the corners, observing, but Honor had to admit she was a little. She counted four, maybe five. They raced for the stairs, not even glancing her way. She looked toward Christian, but he was gone, faded back into the darkness.

  Honor chewed her lip, torn. The pull was too great and she took off after them, too curious to stay away. This is dumb, Honor. Go back to your room. You don’t want to know. Only she did. Your curiosity is annoying, you know that? Adrenaline pumping the blood through her veins, Honor sprinted up the stairs, the sounds of voices propelling her in the right direction.

  The glare of lights was blinding after the blackness of downstairs and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust. What she saw wasn’t what she’d expected to see, not that she’d really had any idea what would meet her eyes. It was a newbie. That was the first surprise. Honor remembered him from the cafeteria at supper time. He’d been sitting by himself, down the table from her.

  The boy was struggling against two men, trying to shake their hands from him. His hair was blond and he had a baby face, but his eyes were wild, unseeing. “Let me go! Let me go home! I just want to go home!”

  Honor moved closer, past the benches, toward the scene. No one noticed her. She could relate to the boy; she knew how he felt. She’d felt the same. He was younger than her, too young to be going through something like this. He should have been worrying about girls and school and sports, not being a UDK. His life wasn’t his anymore. None of theirs were. They had been taken from them, warped into something abnormal, and they were supposed to accept it, deal with it, and not react. They were supposed to be cold, unfeeling, like the adults.

  They were only kids.

  “You need to calm down,” one of the men told him. “Calm down now.”

  The boy’s efforts doubled. His body twisted and contorted as he fought to be free. “Get off me! I don’t want to be here! I don’t want to be this! Let me go! I want to go home!”

  One of the men standing by removed his gun from the holster at his hip. Honor’s stomach lurched and she was moving before she realized it. What was he doing? Was he going to shoot him? Fear and anger built up inside her, hurrying her steps. The man lifted his hand.

  Honor opened her mouth, arms outstretched. “No!”

  The gun slammed down and the boy went limp when the hilt of the weapon connected with his temple. He wasn’t out completely, but he was dazed, his eyes only partially open. A lump was already forming on his head, red and bulging. The boy would have been on the floor if not for two sets of hands keeping him up. Relief swept through her that the man had only done that and not more, but indignation couldn’t keep her silent, couldn’t make her not react. Honor felt sick witnessing what she had. There had been no reason for the violence. He was just a confused, scared boy.

  She was finally being noticed and heads were turning her way.

  “Leave him alone,” Honor demanded, reaching for the boy. She was barricaded by large male bodies as two men moved in front of her, shielding the boy from her eyes.

  “Go back to your room, Rochester.”

  She stiffened, recognizing that gruff voice. Burns watched her from a few feet beyond the group, toward the exit. He was in a black suit with a gun at his hip. His face was drawn, tired, but still cruel. Burns was not a kind man. He must have gone through the sliding door that led to the first room Honor had ever seen of the church, the one with the scuffed floor. She understood now why the floor was the way it was. All the kids, brought through that door, fighting. She fought down nausea and straightened her spine.

  She moved to the left, but the man in front of her moved with her. She glared at him. He was blank-faced. They all were. They were like clones of one another, no facial expressions at all on their faces. Robots. Honor didn’t care enough to pay attention to their appearances. She only knew she didn’t like them.

  “He’s just a kid,” she said, swallowing around a lump in her throat.

  “Says the kid,” one of the guys murmured and chuckles rang out.

  Honor’s face burned and she clenched her hands into fists at her sides. “Where’s Nealon?”

  Burns’ expression hardened and he strode toward her. Honor wanted to back away, but forced herself to stay put. When less than an inch separated them, he stared down at her, trying to intimidate her. Don’t look away, don’t show weakness, don’t show fear.

  His garlic-cigarette smell hit her and her stomach revolted. “Don’t concern yourself with your buddy Nealon. Right now, I’m in charge. He may have the days here, Rochester, but I have the nights. Remember that.”

  Burns leaned closer and his hot breath hit her. “Now run along back to your room before I decide you need to be taught a lesson in respecting your elders.” He stepped back, an ugly smile on his ugly face. That smile puckered the long scar the length of one side of his face, widened it, making it even more grotesque.

  She wanted to say more, her mouth salivated with the need to say all she was thinking, but Honor knew it wasn’t the time. Not now, not when there was an audience. Burns would get his due, eventually; if not from her, then from someone else. It was only a matter of time before he pissed the wrong person off.

/>   “Everyone, back to your rooms,” he said in a louder voice, turning his back on her.

  Honor frowned, wondering who he was talking to. She turned and saw the cluster of four or five teens huddled near the hallway, watching them. They were quiet, unmoving, their eyes saying all their mouths couldn’t.

  “That means you,” one of the clones told her, nudging her when she didn’t move fast enough.

  She obeyed, marching for the hallway. Nealon had said she was one of them, that they were all the same. They weren’t. Honor was nothing like them. She didn’t want to be. Ever. When you lost compassion for another human being, regardless of how human they were or weren’t, you lost yourself. She would never turn into a clone, a robot. She made a vow to herself, right then, that she would never lose herself.

  The kids parted as she approached. She didn’t want to know what they thought of her, but her eyes had other plans. She took in each of their expressions, confused by what she saw.

  Honor saw respect.

  The common room was a loft above the large room that was once used for worship. Honor liked it up there. It had white walls, red carpet, and comfortable brown furniture. High windows let her know what the weather outside was like. Today it was gray and overcast, but just being able to see it cheered her up immensely.

  There was a refrigerator stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses and meats, sports drinks, and bottles of water. A counter with a sink was beside that. A microwave and coffeemaker was next to it, the cupboard above it containing all the makings for coffee. The scent of it lingered, like it had been made sometime that morning.

  One other person was up there; a girl with short black hair and glasses. She was slightly overweight and appeared to be timid. Other than a fleeting smile at Honor when she’d entered the area, she’d kept her eyes on the book in her hands. She sat on a recliner on the other side of the room. Honor didn’t remember seeing her anywhere in the facility before that moment.

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