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Authors: Sophie Davis

Created (Talented Saga)

BOOK: Created (Talented Saga)
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Created

 

 

Sophie Davis

 

 

Created

Sophie Davis

Published by Sophie Davis

Copyright © 2013 by Sophie Davis

This
ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.  This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.  If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient.  If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy.  Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.

 

The Talented Saga

 

Talented (Talented Saga # 1)

 

Caged (Talented Saga # 2)

 

Hunted (Talented Saga # 3)

 

Captivated,
A Talented Novella

 

Created (Talented Saga # 4)

 

 

Nightmares Trilogy

 

Pawn (Nightmares Trilogy #1)

 

Sacrifice (Ni
ghtmares Trilogy #2)…Spring 2014

 

 

Blind Barriers Series

 

Blind Barriers (Volume #1
)

 

Courting Chaos (Volume #2)…Winter 2013

 

 

 

For Mary Jane Belle
, the best creation there is.

 

Chapter One

 

My pulse was racing and beads of sweat lined my forehead like a damp bandana, as I climbed aboard a sleek transport hoverplane bearing the Coalition’s insignia. The hot California sun had set over an hour ago, but the summer night air was still thick with heat.

My boots sounded deceptively heavy, thudding against the metal rungs, echoing the pounding in my head. The synthetic suit – strikingly similar to the adapti-suits worn by TOXIC operatives – Ian Crane had given me was identical to the ones his soldiers wore, and marked my new allegiance to the Coalition. The lightweight material clung to my body like a second skin, and while it had temperature-regulating capabilities, my skin still felt clammy underneath.

I tried to tell myself this was just another mission, just like the ones I’d been on while pledging the Hunters. Except that wasn’t true; this mission was personal. I wasn’t going to retrieve information that meant nothing to me. I wasn’t going to quiet a rebellion I naively didn’t understand. I was going to save what was left of my world. TOXIC and Mac had taken so much from me: my parents, my childhood, my health, my blood, and the love of my life. Erik was the only item on that list I had a prayer of reclaiming. And I fully intended on doing so, or die trying.

Long metal benches lined both walls of the hoverplane’s main cabin. Harnesses dangled above each individual seat, ready to secure their passengers into place. Coalition soldiers, many I recognized from the strategy meetings, occupied the benches. Most were male, but several women broke up the rows of testosterone. A female soldier, Janelle Longpre, was wedged between a guy with a shaved head, red face, and one brilliant black eye and a thin boy with caramel skin and a mop of dark curls. Janelle smiled up at me as I passed, her marbled irises twinkling with unabashed anticipation. The guy with the black eye, Jared Holton, scowled his displeasure, screwing his full lips into a snarl.

A tiny bit of the tension stiffening my shoulders eased as I grinned back at Janelle. She was one of the few friendly soldiers. Jared, on the other hand, had made it very clear he was not my biggest fan. That was okay, though, because I wasn’t here to make friends. Besides, he had me to thank for that shiner.

When I’d first arrived at Crane’s cottage – better known as Coalition Headquarters on this side of the border – three days ago, my welcome had been anything but. On the trip there, I’d decided my best chance at survival was to surrender to the first soldier I encountered and cross my fingers he didn’t use me for target practice. Jared had been that soldier. After the butt of his gun had jabbed into my kidney one too many times, I snapped. In hindsight, starting a fight when I was so seriously outnumbered had been poor judgment, particularly because it ended with me eating dirt. Watching Jared wince and tentatively finger his bruised cheekbone made the memory a little more pleasant, though.

My sudden appearance in the woods threw off the normally regimented day-to-day business at the cottage. The offer I made Crane – my inside knowledge of TOXIC in exchange for rescuing Erik – had nearly started a riot. Absolute loyalty to their President was the only reason that Crane’s soldiers hadn’t mutinied when he announced his intention to attack Tramblewood Correctional Facility, the prison where TOXIC Director, Danbury “Mac” McDonough, was holding Erik.

I’d felt the skepticism in our first strategy meeting. Few of the soldiers had understood why Crane was willing to risk so many lives to save just one. Even after he’d explained that, in addition to Erik, we’d be rescuing the soldiers TOXIC had taken hostage during the Coalition’s attack on Rittenhouse Research Facility to save Penny, only a handful thought the pros of the
strike outweighed the cons. It was hearing Penny’s story that had erased their doubts and replaced them with fierce determination. The torture she’d suffered at Mac’s hands, and the reasons behind that torture, were strong motivators.

There was an open seat across from Janelle, Jared, and the curly-haired boy, whose name began with an M – maybe. As much as I liked Janelle, I had no desire to spend the cross-country flight absorbing the spitefulness leaking off of Jared. My nerves were already frayed from the never-ending parade of horrific images of Mac beating Erik unconscious that I saw every time I closed my eyes. Any additional ugly thoughts were likely to sever them completely. So, I continued up the aisle towards an empty space at the end of one row, closest to the cockpit.

A moment later, I regretted my decision when Frederick Kraft squeezed in beside me.

“Not too much longer now,” he said as he lowered the harness over his head.

I ignored his attempt at idle conversation and stared straight ahead.

Frederick had arrived at the cottage a day after I had. To my complete shock, his appearance had been met with warm smiles and claps on the back. He was on a first-name basis with many of the soldiers, as well as Crane.

From the time we’d met in D.C., when Henri – the captain and third member of mine and Erik’s hunting team – first introduced us, I’d liked Frederick. He was kind and gentle and had a way of putting those around him at ease. Over the past two years, I’d come to think of Frederick as more than just Henri’s boyfriend, but as my friend too. Then he’d risked his life to help me and Alex, Donavon’s son, escape from TOXIC. He’d used his position as a conductor on the Underground to get us safely out of the capital and halfway across the country. Realizing that Frederick wasn’t a schoolteacher like he’d told me had stung. The lie was a betrayal of my trust and our friendship. But had that been the extent of his deception, I would’ve gotten over it already. It was the fact that Frederick had known that Crane was as eager to talk to me as I was him, yet never told me, that caused my anger to spike whenever I thought about it. Frederick had even tried to dissuade me from crossing the border and seeking out Crane. He had agreed to take me into Coalition territory, but made it clear he wasn’t thrilled about doing so. His reluctance was part of why, in the end, I’d gone ahead without him. The other part was because I’d been scared for him, worried that traveling with me would paint a target on his back.

My reaction to Frederick’s arrival was not one of my finer moments. Even now, while my anger was still festering, I was slightly ashamed of the way I’d blown up and all but attacked him. If Penny hadn’t been there to calm me down, the situation would’ve escalated out of control. I was furious that Frederick could’ve saved me the trouble of sifting through my own diluted memories to find the cottage, that we could’ve reached Crane days earlier had Frederick just told me the truth, and most of all, that Erik’s suffering had been prolonged because of his failure to do so.

When Frederick tried to explain he’d withheld the location of the cottage because I hadn’t told him why I wanted to see Crane, my temper flared. It had felt like he was blaming me for his omission, like our mutual communication failure had been solely mine.

I’d resolved to put my personal feelings aside for the time being. As a Viewer, Frederick had a vital role in this rescue. His talent was extremely strong, and TOXIC had trained him to use it to track people. Already he’d been viewing Erik at the prison, which
was how we knew for certain that Erik was still alive. Crane’s spies had provided us with holographic blueprints of Tramblewood with Erik’s exact location plainly marked. I’d committed them to memory. Still, this wasn’t my first mission. I’d been on enough of them to know that once we were on the ground and the fighting began, I’d be lucky if I could find my way out of a paper bag, let alone through the maze of identical hallways and staircases. I needed Frederick. More importantly, Erik needed Frederick.

“It’s not too late to change your mind and stay here,” Frederick said softly, mistaking my silence for concern over the rescue mission.

“Not a chance,” I said coolly.

This wasn’t the first time someone had suggested I stay behind. My answer never changed.

Crane and the pilot, a middle-aged woman with a long, blonde braid named Donna, were the last to board. The two of them trooped up the center aisle together, covering last minute details as they went. Crane gave me a tight smile and a small nod on his way to the cockpit.

“Doors closing,” a mechanical voice announced from an unseen speaker overhead.

The whine of metal sliding against metal as the ladder retracted made me cringe. The opening in the underbelly of the hoverplane ceased to exist, and there was a faint thud when the wheels folded up into their compartments.

“Securing safety harnesses,” the same androgynous mechanical voice informed us.

Air whooshed near my ears, followed by dozens of clicks as the buckles engaged. My stomach flip-flopped as the hoverplane shot skyward with gravity-defying speed. Suddenly lightheaded, I closed my eyes to stop the spinning sensation.

“Tal,” Frederick began. His nervous energy made my skin tingle, and I almost felt sorry for him. Not so sorry that I was going to make this second apology any easier.

“I understand why you’re upset,” Frederick continued, pitching his voice low in an attempt at privacy. The gesture was pointless since his words bounced off of the rounded ceiling to find the soldiers’ perked ears.

I made a very un-ladylike grunt of acknowledgement.

“I should’ve told you I worked with Ian. There’s just so much you still don’t know and –”

“Like how you were there the night my parents were murdered?” I hissed.

I opened my eyes, and finally met Frederick’s sorrowful gaze. A little of my anger ebbed away. This was another point of contention between us, the one I should’ve been most upset over. Frederick had been part of the extraction team who, on Mac’s orders, had stormed the hotel room where I was staying with my parents. The lone TOXIC survivor, Frederick had traded his silence for release papers. That was when he’d joined the Underground movement.

Calling the string of safe houses located throughout TOXIC territory the Underground was slightly misleading. Only one station was physically underground: the one in the tunnels beneath Washington, D.C. The rest of the stations were communities. Some were suburban developments with cookie-cutter homes and a façade of normal life. Others were campgrounds where inhabitants lived in tents and fed off the land. All had one agenda: protect and hide those wishing freedom from TOXIC’s rule.

In my peripheral vision, I caught sight of Janelle pretending to have a conversation with the curly-haired boy – Marcel? Her head was turned so that only her profile was visible. With her rich mane twisted into a flawless bun, I was able to see her ear twitch as she eavesdropped on our exchange.

Frederick blew out a long breath. “Ian tell you that?”

“No,” I said, miffed. “I worked it out on my own. Your little bedtime story about going after a child who wasn’t under TOXIC’s jurisdiction had me curious. I did the math and realized that mission would’ve been right around the time my parents were killed.”

Frederick had told me the story when we were at his home at the Underground station in Kentucky – in one of the suburban neighborhoods. Had I not been so preoccupied thinking about how I was going to rescue Erik and keep Alex safe, I would’ve realized then that the child he’d mentioned was me. I wanted to hate him for leaving me, for letting Mac take me, for standing by while his team murdered my mom and dad. But I knew what a difficult position he’d been in. I’d been in that same position when I’d extracted Bethy, a powerful Visionary, from her home in rural Pennsylvania, and again when Mac sent me to collect Alex. The only reason I’d chosen to run with Alex was because his mother, Kandice, had begged me to protect the little boy. I liked to think that I’d have done right in the end regardless, but that might be a lie. My loyalty to Mac and TOXIC was ingrained, and only something so world-altering as meeting Donavon’s son could’ve changed that.

“I’m sorry, Talia,” Frederick said.

“Do we have to do this right now?” I asked, pointedly gesturing with my eyes to the busybodies surrounding us.

“Look,” Frederick lowered his voice even further,” I was young and stupid. The head of my team left me outside to stand guard, and when I heard the gunshots, I panicked and commed McDonough. He arrived before I had a chance to process what had really gone down inside the hotel room. Then, he was carrying you out, and I still didn’t understand. It wasn’t until I went inside the hotel room to clean up the aftermath that I realized how things had played out.” Frederick shuddered involuntarily at the memory.

He wasn’t the only one. My blood ran cold as the sound of the gunshot that had ended my father’s life reverberated inside of my head. Images of my mother slumping to the floor while I watched from between the slats in the closet door came next. Then, as usual, I remembered Mac finding me, ringed by dead soldiers dressed all in black. He’d been so kind that day. I’d really believed him to be a savior. He’d made me feel protected and cared for, and when the time had come, he’d given me the opportunity for vengeance that I’d already begun to crave. Until recently, I had thought Crane would be the one I would stand face-to-face with and say, “Now we’re even,” or something else as equally cheesy, right before I claimed his life. Now, Mac’s was the face I saw when I closed my eyes and dreamed of pulling the proverbial trigger.

“Anyway, I just want you to know how sorry I am, how badly I regret not taking you and running. I messed up. I’m not trying to make excuses, and I don’t expect you to forgive me today. Maybe with time, we’ll move past this. I hope we can, Talia.”

BOOK: Created (Talented Saga)
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