Nameless(Broken City, #1)By: Jessica Sorensen
“Sorry,” Ryder and Blaise mumble.
“She’s weak, and with the burns the lasers put on her … This is bad.” The stranger is so close I can feel the warmth of his breath against my cheeks. “I don’t know, though. It’s like her body is refusing to give up. She’s strong. I just hope it’s not too late and there’s no permanent damage.”
Silence stretches between them. I can hear noises coming at me from every direction: air gusting across my face, the soft puffs of someone breathing, rustles and shifts, and hundreds of other noises pinging at my brain. My senses are on overload, my skin tingles, and my skull feels on the verge of exploding. I inhale sharply, but the oxygen doesn’t relieve the ache building inside me.
“I think she’s having a panic attack,” Blaise mutters. “She’s breathing, but I don’t think she’s getting enough air.”
“You know what? I think you’re right,” the stranger agrees. “We need to get her to calm down.”
“Don’t look at me,” Blaise snaps. “I don’t know how to do that.”
The rage in his tone sends a wave of fear crashing through me. I claw at the surface beneath me, trying to sit up. The ground beneath me feels damp, and soft yet hard. I breathe in deeply, and the earthy scent of dirt touches my nostrils.
Wait? Am I outside?
“You know more about panic attacks than any of us,” Ryder says quietly. “How did you get your sister to calm down?”
“I don’t know. Everyone’s different.” Blaise pauses. “Maybe we should get her in the car. Maybe being outside is too much. Besides, we should probably get going before we’re spotted. Ryder and I made it look like we were still in the channels, but the wardens will figure it out eventually and then come looking for us out here.”
“Yeah, I know,” the stranger agrees. “I wonder how long she’s been in there.”
“I’m guessing a while.” Ryder sounds pained. “Here, I’ll carry her. She was more relaxed with me than Blaise.”
“Do you blame her?” the stranger asks. “Blaise probably scared the hell out of her.”
There’s a thwack, and Ryder lets out what I think is a laugh. I’m not quite sure, because it’s been ages since I’ve heard one.
“Just hang on. We’re going to help you.” Ryder’s breath dusts the top of my head as strong arms slip underneath me.
I gasp. Normally, when someone touches me, it’s unwelcomed and painful. I don’t believe Ryder’s going to hurt me, though. At least, I want to believe he won’t.
“Easy, Allura,” Ryder whispers. “I promised I wouldn’t hurt you, and I meant it.”
“Why did you just call her Allura?” the guy with the unrecognizable voice asks.
“Because that’s her name.” Footsteps crunch against the ground as Ryder starts walking somewhere.
“How the hell do you know that?” Blaise asks. “I thought you said they didn’t have a file on her.”
“They didn’t, but when I asked her what her name is, she said Allura.” Ryder’s muscles flex underneath me.
“She answered you?” Blaise asks incredulously. “She knew her name? Her real name?”
“It seemed like she did,” Ryder replies. “I’m not sure where she got it from. If someone randomly gave it to her or maybe she heard someone else say it.”
“I’m surprised she knows how to talk,” Blaise murmurs. “She looked so confused when you were talking to her in the cell.”
“She wasn’t confused.” Ryder slows to a stop. “She was scared out of her damned mind. She thought we were there to hurt her.”
“Of course she did. You were there, posing as a visitor,” the stranger says. “I get where Blaise is coming from, though. Most Nameless never learn how to talk. Or if they do, the trauma gets to them and they usually forget. Maybe she hasn’t been in the channels for very long. Still, it’s weird. I’ve rescued about ten, and none of them knew how to talk.”
“How many survived out of those?” Ryder asks. “I know the numbers are usually low.”
“One,” the stranger says quietly. “Their survival rate is extremely low, especially if they were born in the cells.”
A hush falls between them. I can hear the rustling of fabric and the creaking of hinges, and then I’m being laid down on the softest, smoothest surface that’s ever touched my skin. I’m terrified, but I don’t dare move. When I hear a loud bang, though, I flip to my side and curl into a ball.
A hand touches my back. “It’s okay,” Ryder says.
My muscles ravel so tightly I swear my limbs are about to snap off.
“She’s breathing better,” Blaise says from my other side. “That’s a good sign, right?”
“She still doesn’t look completely coherent.” Ryder’s fingers sketch patterns on my back. “Her eyes are open, but it’s like she can’t focus.”
My eyes are open? I flutter my eyelashes, trying to decide for myself. It feels like they’re open, so why can’t I see?