Sweat ran coldly down the sides of her face and the middle of her back. Her heart raced, and she swore each step took forever. She looked over to see that Diamond and Lindy were doing the same. Before she could warn them, she witnessed the oncoming nightmare in slow motion. Lindy got stuck in the mud. Her heel sunk low, and when she tried to pull free, she lost her footing. Nadya watched as Lindy held her breath and struggled—and failed—to keep herself upright. Her body fell forward, and Nadya reacted, reaching for the clumsy female. What she should have done was let her fall. She’d already delayed them once.
Lindy wasted no time grabbing hold of Nadya’s outstretched hand. A lot of good that did because now they were both falling.
When had the ground opened up?
Nadya turned her attention to Diamond. “Things look ugly now, but inside the ugly, I promise there is always something beautiful that comes of it. Even if it’s not the beauty you’re looking for.”
“You spouting poetry now, Nadya?”
It was the first time he’d said her name without a terse tone. Her name rolled off his tongue like silk sliding down the curve of a woman’s hip.
“No, it’s truth. Death, life, destruction, and chaos all bleed beauty. You just have to wait for it. Look for it. It happens. We may not like the journey that has been given us, or even the way we go about getting to our destination, but there is something prepossessing in dark places.”
Darkness began to settle fast. She followed closely behind Diamond and Lip as they talked about their next move. Every time Diamond’s hazel eyes fell on her, she felt he was blaming her for the entire ordeal back at the theater. It was Lindy who had alerted the Gearheads to their position and had gotten them attacked. Although, now that Nadya thought about it, maybe they’d known all along and were just waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Her gut told her Lindy was somehow the cause for everything. The way the male Clancy’s eyes had moved to her, seeking clarity meant something. Ragers were organized, their group more alert. She may not remember where she came from or who her real parents were, but she remembered being trained.
“We’re going to stop off at the house, spend the night there. We’ll slip through the back. You can alert the security detail we’ve arrived,” Nadya heard Diamond say to Lip, who wasn’t at all happy they were stopping at the house.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Lip shot back.
“Because too many variables are in play. Nadya may look stupid, but the girl is far from it. Have you seen the way she catalogues everything? Right down to the very last detail. If I didn’t know any better, I would think she was a Bionic or worse, a Splice.”
She wasn’t either of those things. She did check her surroundings. It was the only way she was assured she had all her options covered. If she didn’t, she’d end up dead or far worse. She wasn’t about to let her life end due to a clumsy mishap. Not if she could help it.
“I also have excellent hearing. It’s a trait developed for those of us with really small ears.”
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The first block they passed was teeming with life. People were out, milling about. Setting up items to sell or trade in the section known as the trading corridor. Darkness floated amongst the fog as they quietly made their way down the block. Buildings were overrun with mangled vines. Roots thick and gnarled with age pushed through the concrete, leaving gaping holes big enough to cause serious injury. This was what Nadya was used to. Not the cleanliness of Diamond’s rooms, or the bright shine that accompanied their splendor. A row of rusted vehicles lined the streets. She’d thought they were empty, but as the pre-dawn light tried to break through the blackened clouds, Nadya could see movement within.
“Stay close, and don’t go near the windows,” Lindy warned. Gearheads. She could tell by the way some of the vehicles were outfitted. Some had barbed wire, others huge metal fronts meant to kill.
Nadya spent a lot of time hiding and running inside the city. She remembered there was an old garage a few feet ahead. Wait. Where had that come from? Nadya tried to focus. Tried to grab the memory and hold onto it, but wasn’t surprised at the swiftness with which it left. Her memories were vague and forever elusive.
The farther north you went, the deadlier the streets became. They passed an old church, eerie sounds of worship coming from the inside. Purists. They were radicals who embraced all things Earth related. Even if it were contaminated, they would partake. It was the reason the majority of them were deformed. Purists would drink Dark Water, claiming it was their transformation. Those with weak immune systems would die or succumb to the Rage.
It was Lindy who fucked up their plan of action. She’d said not to go near the windows, yet her choice of footwear destroyed all hopes of making it out of Gearhead Alley unnoticed. Lindy’s three-inch high-heel boots got caught on a vine in front of a rundown theater. The sound of her body slamming into a rusted car as she tried to break her fall echoed through the vacant streets. Whispers started first, low and ominous. The cars began to rock back and forth. The sound coming from the windows rose until every car within the two-block radius rumbled to a collective roar. Thwarted by shoes.