Authors: Dan Krokos
|False Memory |
All Miranda wants is a normal life. She's determined to move past the horrible truth of her origin as a clone so she can enjoy time with her boyfriend, Peter, and the rest of her friends at school. But Miranda quickly learns that there's no such thing as normal-not for a girl who was raised to be a weapon. When one of Miranda's teammates turns rogue, it begins a war that puts the world in jeopardy. Now, Miranda must follow her instincts-not her heart-in order to save everything she's fought so hard to keep. With the image of a terrible future seared in her mind, what will Miranda have to sacrifice to protect the people she loves?
Dan Krokos' sequel to the tour-de-force
is a mind-blowing thriller with high-octane action that will leave readers begging for the final book in this bold and powerful trilogy.
Series: False Memory Title:
Author: Dan Krokos Imprint: Hyperion
In-store date: 8/13/2013 ISBN: 978-1-4231-4985-9 Price: $17.99 US / $18.99 CAN eBook ISBN: 978-1-4231-5460-0 Trim size: 5½ x 8¼
Page count: 336
This is an uncorrected galley proof. It is not a finished book and is not expected to look like one. Errors in spelling, page
length, format, etc., will be corrected when the book is published several months from now. Direct quotes should be checked against the final printed book.
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homas David asks me about my eyes.
Over and over again.
“Are they seriously red? Let me see and I’ll stop
Kristin isn’t my real name. It’s Miranda. Kristin is pretty generic, but that’s the point. And at least I don’t have two first names, like Thomas David, the boy who keeps asking about my eyes.
“They’re not bloodshot,” Thomas says to me. “Gina says the irises are red like a vampire. Hey.” He pokes my arm. His fingernail is a little too long, so it bites into me.
“What?” Thomas leans over his desk so he can see my face better. “Say again?”
If he were a Rose, making him stop wouldn’t be an issue. But Thomas David is not like me; he’s fragile. We can’t sort it out with fists. Not that a normal girl would use fists. I don’t know what a normal girl would do.
“Kristin, if you have red eyes, that’s okay. It’s kind of hot. I love vampires.”
The teacher is rambling about the global economy and how the markets interact. She hasn’t looked back in five minutes. Noah is slumped on the other side of the room, dozing. Doom impends for the entire world, yet economics can bore him into relaxation. Then his face turns toward me a millimeter, and his eyelashes flutter. The boredom is an act; he’s watching us.
“Gina said you’re crazy. She said you hit her. Are you going to hit me? Hey, Kristin.”
Gina Daly first saw my eyes in the girls’ bathroom. She caught me cleaning my contacts. I wear them to cover my red irises, because red eyes freak people out. The colored contacts turn them a muddy brown color no one looks at twice.
Gina didn’t notice them at first. She started with, “How’d you get that scar?” Her nose wrinkled like she smelled something bad. The horizontal slash on my cheek is just a thin white line now, but it’s still obvious. Rumors have already spread about it—that my dad gave it to me as a kid, that I did it to myself, that I let a boy do it. They say I have more scars hidden by my clothing, probably self-inflicted. To me, it’s just a mark on my face that reminds me I don’t belong here. I am not a normal student with normal problems, no matter how badly I want to be.
So when Gina asked about the scar and how I got it, I told her, “A sword,” because it’s true. I kept my eyes down and scrubbed the contact in my palm.
“Whoa, let me see your eyes.” She put her hand on my shoulder and tried to
I’ve killed people and had people try to kill me. So when Gina Daly, just a regular girl with regular problems, moved me against my will, it got to me. She was not dangerous or scary—I know, because I am familiar with those things.
I put my hand on her throat and shoved her away, maybe too hard. She stumbled until her back slammed against the hair dryer.
“What is your
?” she spat.
“You touched me.”
She looked directly into my eyes. My right one was muddy brown, and my left bright red. My eyes are blood-colored because they’re colored with blood. I’ll get to that later.
Her anger melted into disgust. “What is
with your eye?”
I turned back to the mirror, pulled my lower lid down, and popped the lens into place. “Nothing. What’s wrong with your face?”
Gina curled her lip. “Okay, Snake Eyes.”
She clacked out of the bathroom in her heels, and I became Snake Eyes. Snakes don’t even have red eyes. I looked in the mirror at my scar. At my lank auburn hair and the bluish veins around my eyes. I thought about makeup and nail polish and other things girls use. I didn’t know where to start, and a part of me was confused about why I didn’t care to.
My new name spread through school in a day, and people started asking to see my eyes sans contacts. They asked Sequel, my “twin,” what the story was. She was slightly more abrasive with her responses, especially when someone noticed she wore contacts too.
Peter stopped me outside my locker a few days later. He kissed me lightly, took my books, and leaned against the dark green lockers. “We need to talk.”
I shut my locker and spun the dial. “What’s up?” I knew what was up.
“You punched a girl and she told the entire school about your eyes.”
I started walking to economics, wondering again why we were pretending to be real students. “I didn’t punch her. I shoved. And I acknowledge it was a stupid thing to do.”
“It wasn’t stupid. You reacted, that’s all. If you had thought about it first, then it’d be stupid.” He smiled, almost.
I nodded, unsure of what to say.
He grabbed my arm and gently pulled me to a stop. People streamed past us on both sides. A rogue book bag hit me in the kidneys, but I didn’t budge. “It wasn’t your fault,
...Noah and Rhys think we need to move on. People are starting to talk.” His blue eyes dropped to my scar. “With your scar, and now your eyes...”
His eyes went right back to mine, which I was grateful for. “I’m just saying we should think about it. You’re not attached to this place, are you?”
I wasn’t, but I didn’t like the idea that we
to move. This was our grand attempt to put the past behind us. Moving somewhere else wouldn’t fix the problem.
Peter leaned in to kiss my forehead. When he pulled away, he was smiling, which made me smile on reflex. “Just think about it. We can start over a hundred times.”
I wanted to ask him to just make a decision, but in the last few months our roles have become less defined. Peter was always our leader, but without something actively trying to kill us, it’s been hard to tell who’s in charge, if anyone.
“You’re smart,” I said. “And cute.”
“I know. Just think about it,” he said, squeezing my hand. Then he entered the stream of moving bodies and disappeared.
“If you don’t answer me,” Thomas says, “I’m seriously gonna touch your eye.”
Keep it together. Do not react.
I need Noah to do something. If Thomas sees Noah perk up, he’ll stop, because Noah is scary. He can put this dead look on his face that needs no words. The best I can do is glare, which only seems to egg Thomas on. I’d have to make a scene to shut him up, and I already discovered that’s a bad idea. My frustration is manifesting as prickly neck sweat.
I shear the eraser off my pencil and roll it between my fingers.
“Why are you being weird about it?” Thomas David says.
I toss the eraser at Noah. It hits him in the ear. His lip twitches, but the rest of him stays still. Maybe he wants to see if I can handle the situation in a non-violent manner, which I can’t blame him for. If I’d shoved Gina just a little harder, she might’ve ended up in a wheelchair.
“He can’t save you,” Thomas says, after making sure Noah didn’t notice.
I finally look at Thomas’s face. He’s sneering, the way people do when they’re trying hard to show they’re amused or having fun. His lips are like pale worms, glistening with spit.
“Hi,” he says. “Now just move your contact. A quick peek.”
He reaches out like he’s going to touch my eye.
I don’t know if he actually would have; he never gets that far. I reach out too, grab his index finger, and bend the whole thing back a few degrees. I stop before it breaks because I’m in control. It probably still hurts.
For some reason, Thomas David opens his mouth and screams. Everyone jumps in their seats.
“She broke my finger!”
“I did not,” I say calmly.
The teacher turns around and lowers her glasses. On the blackboard behind her it says C
“He tried to touch me,” I say, as if that will explain every- thing. Thomas David is clutching his finger, so nobody can see it’s not really broken.
Noah rolls his eyes at me. Thomas David gets sent to the nurse, and I get sent to the principal.
I sit in a stiff chair until Principal Wilch calls me into his office. He tells me to sit in another stiff chair across from his desk. “What’s the problem?” he says.
I tell him a version of the truth. I say I have a rare corneal
disease that discolors my irises and Thomas David would just not stop making fun of me and he even tried to touch my eye, and I just—I snapped, and I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to grab
“What should I do about this?” Wilch asks. He folds his
hands over his substantial belly and leans back in his chair.
“I can’t have students assaulting each other. Even if Thomas
David is a punk.”
I don’t point out that the finger in question is, in fact,
“Give me a warning?” Get me out of here.
“Will it happen again?”
“Not unless he tries to touch my eye....” His brow furrows.
Wrong answer. “I mean, no. It won’t happen again.” “That’s good. I want you in this office on your off-periods.
We need aides.”
I have a strange feeling I won’t be around to comply. So I
just nod and say thanks and leave his office.
Noah is waiting for me in the hallway. “You’re lucky they
didn’t call the cops,” he says.
I pick at my jeans. “Why? His finger’s fine.”
“What was the guy saying?”
It sounds kind of silly now.
“He wanted to see my eyes. He wouldn’t shut up about it.”
A girl carrying a hall pass walks by and gives me a funny look.
I ignore it.
Noah doesn’t say anything. I can’t tell if he’s not amused
or just pretending to be not amused.
“He was going to touch my eye.”
“Uh-huh. Well, Rhys wants to meet us in the gym.” “Did you tell him what happened?” I think I know what
the meeting will be about, if he did.
“I texted that you were going to the principal’s office.” “Thanks for telling on me.”
“Hey. I told him you didn’t do anything wrong.” We start walking toward the gym. My shoes pinch my
feet, and my jeans and shirt make me feel naked. Give me my
armor any day.
“Just relax,” Noah says. His hand briefly massages the
knots in my neck. Thomas David is probably already tell-
ing everyone what a psycho I am. Noah takes his hand away
before I have to tell him to remove it.
In the gym, Peter and Rhys are playing one-on-one under
the hoop while Sequel stands off to the side, disinterested.
Rhys jumps three feet off the ground and sinks a jump shot
over Peter’s head. Peter gets the rebound and stops dribbling
when he sees us.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, hoping I don’t sound defensive from
“Nothing,” Peter says. “I just thought it was time for a
“We’re leaving,” Rhys says.
Peter sighs. “Thank you, Rhys.”
“But don’t feel bad,” Rhys adds quickly. “If you hadn’t
pushed that girl, one of us would’ve gotten in troubleeventually.” “That probably doesn’t make her feel better,” Sequel says.
We’re biologically identical, but Sequel’s hair is dyed black and
styled in a pixie cut. Changing her hair was one of the first
things she did—we had found her in the lab with shoulderlength auburn hair, exactly like mine.
Noah says, “Look, we knew we’d stick out here. So we
learn from the experience. We don’t make the same mistakes at
the next school.” He’s making eye contact with Sequel while he
says it, even though he’s talking to all of us. It’s cute he thinks
we don’t notice the way they look at each other. Cute in a leadball-in-my-stomach kind of way. I swallow and pretend I don’t
care, mainly because I don’t know
I care. I should be glad
—if Noah and Sequel really do have some kind of romance
going on, then I don’t have to worry about what he thinks of
me and Peter being together.
Rhys holds his hands up and Peter passes the ball. Rhys
sinks another jump shot. “Screw going to another school. I
don’t see the point. We’resmarter thanthese imbeciles. I should
calculus.” The ball rolls back to his feet, and he
picks it up and shoots again, nothing but net. “What good is
school when the creators plan to conquer the world?” He’s got a point. Once we figure out what the creators are
up to—creators, as in the people who cloned themselves to cre-
ate us, and who gave us the ability to create mass panic with
only the power of our minds—we’ll have to stop pretending to
be real people and start trying to save the world. Or something
along those lines.
It started with the question
How do a bunch of kids raised as super
soldiers live normal lives?
The answer is they don’t. But the decision to try came one night after a brutal training session on
the roof of our apartment building. We’d been talking about
it for the last hour. Bruised and achy, we pulled ourselves into
a loose huddle that was almost like a group hug. It was corny,
but we did it every time after training. We just stood like that
as our breathing returned to normal. It reminded us that we
were the only family we had, and that we couldn’t afford to let
things come between us. Not anything. And so far we’d done
a pretty good job of that.
“The creators will show up again,” Peter said. “Count on
it. But until then, we should try to live. Otherwise what are
Rhys smiled. “I could take a dose of real life.”
I was in. I wanted homework, and a locker. I wanted to
try it all. One day we might need social security numbers
and diplomas. After that was the possibility of real jobs, with paychecks and health benefits. I could work in an office, have my own desk with pictures of people I love on it. I could go home to a family and think about what to do for dinner instead
of how to avoid becoming a slave.
What good is school when the creators plan to conquer the world?
Rhys says now.
Peter gets the rebound again and tucks the ball against his
hip. “You have a point,” he says to Rhys. “Noah?” Noah bites his lower lip and looks at each of us in turn.
“I don’t know. Is school really hurting us in the meantime? I
mean until we have to fight again.”
If school makes us softer in the long run, then yes, it’s
hurting us. We should train more. There’s a reason none of us
have been able to relax here. The creators haunt every shadow.
They are every stranger on the street. They’re our unfinished
business. And living each day with eyes in the back of your
head is no life at all.
In unison, our watches begin to beep. Time for our memory
shots. Without speaking, we each pull syringes from our bags.
My thumb pushes the lemonade-colored liquid into my arm
and a fist unclenches in my stomach; for a little while longer,
my memories are safe. I imagine how this looks to someone
else—five kids sticking needles in their arms under a basket-
“Can we just decide tomorrow?” Sequel says, capping her syringe and putting it away. “After homecoming. I already bought my dress. Let’s do normal one more day, okay? Then
we can go to Prague for all I care.”
Rhys tosses the ball up, but it bangs off the front of the
rim. “Fine, we stay another day.” He’s only agreeing because he
already bought nice clothes for the dance. The girls like him,
and he likes that they like him.
“Fine,” Peter says.
I don’t care what we can do, we’re still teenagers. While
I’m not sure sticking around is the best idea, it isn’t selfish to
grasp at a few extra days of normalcy.
Not selfish—just an error.
I had my run-in with Thomas David just a little too late.
Because staying that extra day turns out to be the biggest
mistake we’ve ever made.