Nameless(Broken City, #1)By: Jessica Sorensen
I inch back farther as the door opens wider. I want to stay strong, look them in the eyes, not be a coward, but the fear is too much. I cover my arms over my head, rocking back and forth. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this again.
The humming of the door quiets, and I trap my breath in my chest, picturing the sunlight, the whisper of the wind, the tart taste of strawberries … anything but here.
“She’s supposed to be as good as quercu?” Skepticism floods the visitor’s tone. “She seems … I don’t know … kind of weak.”
My hands curl into fists. I’m only weak because I’m here. There was a time when I wasn’t frail and beaten down. I can feel it inside me, a strength just out of my grasp.
“She’s stronger than she looks,” the warden says with a hint of annoyance.
Someone stomps into my cell, and I dare a peek but then instantly shrink back.
The warden is standing only inches away from me, and the tip of his boot connects with my ribs. “Stop cowering. You have a visitor.”
I wince, my hands balling into fists. If only I were free… If only these cuffs weren’t around me, maybe I could fight back.
He kicks me again when I don’t obey him. “Don’t make me put a shock collar on you.”
I choke, recalling the last time a shock collar was put on me. The heat scalded my skin and nearly melted my insides. Healing took forever and left me drained for way too long.
No. I can’t go through that again.
It takes every ounce of my strength to submit to the warden’s demands and sit up straight. It takes even more inner strength not to look away from him.
He’s wearing a standard uniform: clunky, steel boots; black pants; and a matching shirt with the underground logo on the hem. His hair is the same color as the moonstone walls, and his skin is so pale it’s nearly translucent. His features are human-like, but his liquid silver eyes lack any human emotion.
“He paid for over five hours,” he tells me, pointing at the visitor lingering near the door. “You better make sure he leaves a satisfied, fully recharged customer, especially after that little stunt you pulled the other day. I don’t know why you think you can get past the iron circle, but the more you try, the higher I’ll up the voltage.”
I fight back the urge to spring to my feet and strangle him with my bare hands. I attempted that a few times in the past and quickly learned the wardens are a lot stronger than me.
His lips curl into a grin and he marches back to the door. “The timer starts as soon as the door shuts,” he says to the visitor. “And don’t go easy on her. She can handle anything.”
“I won’t,” he says, his thrilled tone making my stomach knot.
I lower my gaze to the floor as the door clicks shut, expecting him to come at me right away, but several minutes pass in silence.
He must be drawing it out, toying with me.
Finally, after what feels like forever, I hear him walking toward me. I struggle to get air into my lungs, and my body shakes so badly my muscles are locking up. I can’t go through this again. My mind can’t endure pain. Neither can my body.
“Just hang on for a few minutes longer,” he whispers, his voice astonishingly warm. “Then this will all be over.”
I dig my fingernails into my palms until the flesh splits open. Over? It’ll never be over.
He starts humming as he wanders around. I hear metal scratching metal and wonder what he’s doing, but I don’t have the courage to look up.
“Why did they make this cell’s walls out of moonstone?” he murmurs. “Usually, they’re brick or concrete.”
Who is he talking to? Is someone else in here?
Usually, I don’t have multiple visitors at a time, but when I do … I shiver at the thought.
Please don’t let this be happening.
“Did you get it shut down yet?” the guy utters under his breath.
“I’m working on it,” a deeper voice echoes through the cell, sharp and static-charged, as if flowing through a speaker. “Just give me a few seconds.”
“You’re taking too long,” the guy inside my cell says. “If you don’t get it shut down now, we’re not going to have enough time.”
“Don’t fucking tell me things I already know,” the deep voice growls. “I’m working as fast as I can.”
There’s some clicking, static, and then a low buzz radiates through the air. I fight the urge to cover my ears, even though the noise drills against my eardrums. When I hear the door glide open, I begin to tremble.
“All right, it’s done.” The deep voice is louder and clearer, and I realize he’s inside my cell now. “We have about ten minutes before the systems come back up.” He pauses. “Shit, she looks bad.”
“I know,” the other agrees. “I heard the warden mention that she tried to get out of the iron circle. I think they might be punishing her by revoking food and water.”
They both grow silent, except the sound of their heavy breathing. I hate that I can hear them, hate that they’re in my cell. I hate that they’re dragging out whatever they’re going to do to me.