Ordinary (Exceptional Book 3) (3 page)

BOOK: Ordinary (Exceptional Book 3)
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CHAPTER FOUR

[ ally ]

 

The road grew bumpy right after Ally's confrontation with Luke, and she had to concentrate hard on her driving before she could get the answers she wanted.

"Do you want me to drive?" Luke asked.

"No!" Ally snapped. "I want you to answer my questions.” The transport jarred as it drove through a pot hole. “In just a minute."

She pulled the transport around a large piece of concrete sitting in the middle of the road. She realized as she passed it that it was a small building off some sort. They were surrounded by trees on either side so she had no idea where it would have come from.

Exceptionals must have put it there.

Or Rogues.

The road straightened back out and Ally loosened her grip on the wheel.

"Talk," Ally said.

Luke leaned back against the window and faced her slightly. She could feel his eyes on her, and she fidgeted uncomfortably under his stare.

"So, this
girlfriend
you speak of," Luke started. "Her name is Rune."

Ally's stomach rolled over and she thought she might throw up. She shouldn't have even asked.

"And she isn't my girlfriend, Ally. I’ve only had one girlfriend." He stared at her pointedly.

Ally scowled at him. "I thought that pretty much ended when you chose to stay in the City."

Luke rubbed his eyes with his hands. He looked younger, more innocent in that moment. His features had softened, and even his violet eyes seemed less bright.

"I never stopped loving you," he responded.

Ally gripped the wheel tightly. "Yet you got an Ordinary pregnant."

"First," Luke said. "I didn't remember you. I had no idea who you were, or that I even
had
a girlfriend”

Ally bit her lip.

"Second, I didn't get her pregnant."

Ally's head snapped to the side. "But... I saw her..."

Luke frowned. "She is pregnant, but that baby isn’t mine. She and I, we never... Pax did it for me."

"Oh," Ally said quietly. "Why Pax?"

"I couldn't do it. At the time I thought I was having moments of weakness, but now I know that somewhere inside of me, my subconscious remembered you. It was saving me from losing any small chance I had to get you back."

Ally let out the breath she had been holding.

"Where is Pax?" Ally asked.

Pax had been the one to help her leave the City after she had run from Luke.

"He's dead," Luke said calmly.

"Whoa," Ally said. "How?"

"I don't want to talk about it." Luke frowned and looked at his lap.

Ally knew there was much more to the story, but she wasn't ready to push it.

"Did you really come here for me?" Ally asked.

"Of course." Luke leaned forward a little. "I heard you talking to Lilla."

With the absence of her Exceptional abilities, Ally had almost forgotten about the fact he could hear through the wall.

"I meant what I told her," Luke said. "I let you walk away from the City without me once, and it’s my biggest regret."

“Bigger than working for Aden?” she asked.

“Ally...”

"Never mind. If you hadn't stayed," Ally added. "All those people would have died."

Luke just nodded. "And I wasn't going to let it happen again. I was going to come after you the night you left with Max and the others, but I had to organize a plan for the City. If I just disappeared it would be chaos. I helped start clean-up efforts and put a program in place for the recovering Rogues. I said that I needed to go on a trip and settle some things with surrounding towns, and left my best Guards in charge."

Ally tried to keep her eyes on the road but her head was tilting toward Luke, her gaze meeting his.

Suddenly the cab of the transport felt very quiet. Ally could barely hear the sound of the engine over the sound of her heart beating in her ears.

Luke leaned closer, his face grower closer to hers until he was inches away. She could feel his warm breath on her cheek. "Ally."

"Luke," she gulped.

Suddenly his head snapped to the right. "ALLY!"

Ally turned her head just in time to see the group of people in the middle of the road. She slammed on the breaks and heard bangs and shouting from behind her. Hopefully the others weren't bouncing against the wall behind her head.

She hit a man standing directly in front of the transport and screamed when she felt the transport bump over his body. The vehicle came to a halt in front of the remaining group; there were six others.

As one, the people in the road turned their eyes to meet hers.

"Rogues," Ally breathed.

Their yellow eyes glowed brightly in the light from the headlights.

One of the Rogues raised its hand and the transport started to tilt to the side.

"Luke!" Ally yelled but when she turned her head, he was gone. The door hung ajar.

The transport continued to tilt, jolting to a stop at a forty-five degree angle. Ally looked out her window and saw the ground. There was more banging coming from the wall behind her, and Ally knew they were trying to get the door open. It was hard to open from the inside, but it could be done.

Luke stepped into the headlights, and Ally watched him at an angle. His one hand was facing the transport, and Ally knew that he was holding it upright. The Rogue who had his hand raised roared at Luke in fury. He dropped his hand and the transport tilted slowly until all four tires were back on the ground.

Luke swept his hand in front of him and the Rogue went soaring through the air, hitting a tree with such force that Ally knew he had to be dead. She undid the belt across her lap and fumbled with the door. She grabbed the gun shoved behind the seats; it was the one they had in the cab. The rest of the guns were in the back, and she could only hope the others would grab them before opening the doors.

She jumped from the cab and aimed her gun at the closest Rogue. She guessed it had once been a woman, with the length of it’s ragged hair and the curve of it’s chest. She pulled the trigger and the dart caught the Rogue in the neck. It growled before crumpling to the ground. Ally prowled to the front of the transport, coming to stand beside Luke.

"Get back to the transport, Ally," he said.

"Let me help, you're going to kill them all," she responded.

"Exactly." He waved his hand and another Rogue flew through the air.

These Rogues weren’t attacking like the ones in the City. They were staring at Luke and Ally with mild curiosity, as if confused by their presence.

Ally knew she had to be quicker than Luke. She raised her gun and aimed again, pulling the trigger quickly. Her dart was right on target with another Rogue when it suddenly stopped in midair and shattered.

"Why did you do that?" she shrieked at Luke.

"I didn't," he growled.

The trees to their left shifted, and in the waning light Ally picked out another group of Rogues.

"These are decoys," Luke yelled out. "Back to the transport!"

Luke thrust his hands out in front of him and knocked over three Rogues at once. The new Rogues were wiser than the first group, and more mature. They had no hair left, and their skin was saggy and green. They also had advanced abilities and knew how to use them. One formed a fireball in his palms and hurled it in Ally's direction. Luke's arm stretched out and he caught it with an invisible hand, sending it back toward the Rogue.

Ally backed toward the transport, thinking should could get on top and get a better angle with the gun. She wasn't sure how much ammunition she had left, and she hoped there were more rounds in the cab of the truck. She flung the driver side door open and climbed over the seat, searching the small space behind the seats for the black cartridges.

Something banged against the wall between her and the back of the transport and she thought she heard her name. She didn't think they could hear her but she yelled anyway. "Stay there! Don't try to come out. It'll be over soon!”

She knew they needed help but the possibility of any of them being injured scared her.

Something grabbed Ally's ankles and she was yanked out of the cab screaming. She managed to hold onto her gun, but left the ammunition behind. The gun had four shots left, at least. She rolled over on the grass and looked around. She hadn't been physically grabbed, but a Rogue stood twenty yards away. He grinned at her with sharp, rotting teeth, and stalked toward her.

She raised her gun but he flicked his hand and the weapon went flying.

Behind her she heard guttural cries and growls as Luke dealt with the other Rogues.

The Rogue didn't stop moving until it was standing over her, it's ugly legs placed on either side of hers. Her voice was caught in her throat as she looked up at it, finding herself unable to scream. She didn't want to distract Luke, and she didn't want to alert Max or her brother to her predicament.

The Rogue cocked it’s head and she was almost positive it was smirking at her. A searing pain shot through her entire body, as though tiny knives were being dragged over every nerve in her body. She couldn't help but scream, and the sound terrified her. She had never felt anything so painful in her life, and the longer it continued the more she was sure she was going to die.

Ally couldn't form a coherent thought.

She was sure she was burning from the inside out.

After what felt like hours, the pain shut off. One second it was there and the next it wasn't, leaving her to wonder why she had been screaming in the first place. Her throat ached, and she reached up to her cheeks, where she found fresh tears.

The Rogue that had been standing over her was crumpled on the ground now, his body parts were at odd angles.

Two hands slid under her arms and she was being lifted.

She turned expecting to find Luke, but it was Max.

"How did you?" she started.

"All four of us put all of our weight into the door. It finally popped open," Max responded.

He was looking her over, his eyes wide with worry.

"Are you okay?" he asked. "The way you were screaming..." His voice caught in his throat.

Ally nodded. "I... I think the pain was in my mind."

What she didn't say is that she thought that if it had continued for much longer, that she might have gone insane. And then it wouldn't have mattered if her physical body was okay.

"Where are the others?"

Max looked toward the transport. "They grabbed guns and ran to help Luke."

Ally looked back at the broken Rogue. "Did you do that?" A sharp pain seared through her throat.

Max shook his head. "Luke did. When we broke free of the transport he was disposing of the Rogue. You were still screaming, even when it died, and he ran to finish off the others while I stayed with you."

Ally just nodded, not sure how to respond.

"We should help." She tried to move forward but her legs failed her. She fell toward the ground but Max caught her.

"Easy," he said. Instead of just supporting her weight, he slipped his arms under her knees and back, lifting her against his chest.

He carried her to the transport, where Stosh, Sabine, and Lilla were just making an appearance.

"We think we got them all," Stosh said quickly, his own eyes giving Ally a once over. "Luke said there could be more. We need to move, now."

Stosh jumped up into the transport and took Ally from Max's arms. He set her on a cot and went back to help Lilla and Sabine into the back. Max stayed on the ground, reaching out when Stosh handed him a bag of guns.

"I'll sit up front with Luke," Max said. He gave Ally one last look before shutting the door behind him.

The engine roared to life and the cot vibrated under Ally's body, reminding her of the pain that had been coursing through her body minutes ago. She hadn't met any Exceptionals with that ability back in the City, and she was sure Aden would have acquired such an interesting ability if he could have. It was scary, to think that some of the Rogues could be so powerful.

Sabine fell to her knees by Ally’s cot. "Oh Ally, when I heard you screaming..."

"Don't," Ally rasped. "Please." She didn't want to hear any more about it.

Lilla appeared with a bottle of water.

"What do you think those Rogues were doing out here?" Lilla asked. "We are far from the City by now."

Stosh leaned against the wall of the transport and slid down to the floor. He brought his knees up and rested his arms on them. "Maybe this Rogue dilemma stretches farther than we originally thought."

"Do you think they are in the Southern City?" Sabine asked.

Stosh shrugged, his gaze distant. "Who knows."

Lilla sat by Ally's feet. "I hope not," she said.

Ally didn't join in on their conversation. She closed her eyes and did her best to block out their words, trying to rest on the hope that the Southern City was intact, and that they would have a welcoming place to stay when they arrived. She owed it to Po, and Kemp, and the others from her settlement. She owed it to Stosh, Sabine, and Max. She had ripped everyone from their homes, and now she felt responsible. If they got south only to find it desolate and abandoned, she wouldn't have anymore answers for them, and she sure wasn't ready to crawl back to Heath with her tail between her legs.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

[ ally ]

 

Ally woke the following morning with an ache behind her eyes. She knew it was morning because the back door of the transport was propped open, and rays of sunshine poked into the space. It took her a few seconds to adjust to sitting straight up, but soon she was lowering herself out of the transport.

This time the transport was parked in a large concrete lot of some sort. The iron skeleton of an old building sat to one side, and there were bent and broken light posts scattered around the space.

She spotted Max, Sabine, and Lilla immediately. They were bending down over a small pile of wood and brush, trying to get a fire going. Ally approached them slowly, standing behind them to watch.

Sabine noticed her first, standing up quickly. "You're awake!"

In the light, Ally noticed a long, thin gash across Sabine's forehead. She hadn't seen it last night.

"It's nothing." Sabine brought her hand to her head. "How are you feeling?"

Max was bent low to the ground now, blowing on a few sparks of fire to get a larger one going.

"Fine," Ally answer. "Like I said to Max, it was all in my head."

Lilla prodded the fire once it looked like it wasn't going to blow out. "Stosh and Luke are out hunting. I guess we passed a large wooded area a mile back, and they thought maybe they could catch some game."

Max stood and brushed his hands on his linen pants. "It seemed best if I stay behind."

Ally regarded him for a moment. She knew Max was alluding to the fact that he and Luke were their best protection. Max didn't have any abilities to aid them in a fight, but he had strength on his side. It was natural that if he was with the group, Luke could be gone, and vice versa.

"How long did we drive last night?" Ally asked.

Max looked around the empty lot. "We went four hours before stopping for a break, which you slept right through. After that, we made it another six."

Ally couldn't help the small smile that played at her lips. "We're making good time, right? I mean, we really could be nearing the southern city by tomorrow."

Max nodded his head, but there was no hope or excitement in his expression. "As long as we don't hit anymore roadblocks."

It was mid-morning before Luke and Stosh returned. They had caught six rabbits and gathered some berries.

Luke approached Ally first. “Are you okay?”

She just nodded and waved him off, already tired of people asking her that.

"This fresh food tastes amazing after all those dried berries and meats," Lilla said between bites of her rabbit leg.

Ally was sure everyone else agreed but they were all too busy devouring their own food to speak up. They ate in near silence, packing away some of the meat and berries for lunch. Luke disappeared into the transport and returned with a map, placing it on a flat piece of ground.

"We passed a sign coming into town," he said. "I think we are about here."

His finger fell over an unreadable town name. Most of the letters had been rubbed off, but Ally could see the a large name written across the area in big letters.

"What does that say?" she asked.

Luke looked over the letters. "A-R-K-A-N-S-A-S."

Sabine tried to sound it out. "Arc-an-sass?"

Luke shrugged. "No idea, but I think these larger names are the states."

"States?" Ally asked.

Max leaned over the map now. "The country used to be divided into states," he said. "Fifty, I think."

"What was the purpose of that?" Stosh said with a wrinkled nose. "Did they each have their own walls?"

"No," Max said. "I think they just had a small amount of separation from the government. Maybe?”

"Government?" Sabine questioned.

Max rolled his eyes. "There isn't enough time in the world to explain all of this."

"Where did you learn it all?" Sabine asked.

"School," Max piped in. "We used the textbooks that were left behind in the schools in Champaign. Of course, they haven't been updated in almost two centuries, but we at least got to learn a little about the old world."

"So what state is Dallas in?" Ally looked back at the map.

"Texas," Luke responded.

"Texas," Ally repeated.

"What state are we from?" Sabine asked.

"Okay, we don't have time for all these questions." Luke rolled up the map. "There's something we need to talk about."

"Like the name of what state we're from," Sabine said.

Ally smothered a laugh.

Luke glared at them both. "I didn’t want to show any of you this until we were away from the City, and Champaign. I showed Max last night, and he agreed that we should all know."

Ally's smile faded. All six of them huddled in a circle beside the fire, watching as Luke pulled a black case from his pocket. It was small, maybe the size of a mini port, and looked solid. Luke released a latch on the side and it popped open, revealing four syringes set into black velvet.

"Is that the vaccine?" Ally asked. It looked just like the injections Kemp had given her, although this liquid was a purple color, rather than the yellow-green liquid that filled the darts.

Luke looked around the circle. "My father was able to replicate the serum that created the Exceptional gene. The same gene the darts in your guns have cured. The same gene that Ally had suppressed all those years."

Ally met Luke's gaze and then her eyes dropped back to the syringes. "So it's the anti-cure," she said with a raised eyebrow.

"I guess you could call it that." He pulled the case closer to his body. "Basically, an injection of this should turn an Ordinary into an Exceptional."

Luke stared at the case proudly, but Ally didn't feel the same. She peered around the circle slowly, and found looks of disinterest on Stosh and Sabine's face. Lilla looked at the syringes longingly, and Max appeared to be caught between disgust and intrigue.

"Why did you bring those?" Stosh asked first.

She would have expected Max to have spurted the question out minutes ago, but he had apparently already seen these.

"I think this could help us," Luke said.

"How?" Ally responded, an angry tilt to her voice.

Luke just looked at Ally, and she realized that she already knew the answer.

"No, no way," she said.

"What?" Sabine asked nervously.

"He wants us to take them," Max said calmly.

"Not all of you," Luke responded. "Just one or two. It could be the advantage we need, especially after last night. It will be easier to battle the Rogues if we come across more, and to take on any other enemies."

"Like who?" Ally asked.

Luke ignored her.

Lilla licked her lips. "I'll take one."

"Lilla!" Ally exclaimed.

"What?" Lilla said quickly. "I've been an Exceptional my whole life Ally. I don't know anything else, not very well at least. I want it back."

"You don't even know what effects this will have. What if it kills you?" Ally gestured wildly with her hands.

"We've tested it..." Luke’s voice trailed off as Ally's fiery gaze met his.

"Let me guess," she said. "On Ordinarys from the ORC?"

His silence told her all she needed to know.

"Unbelievable," Ally snorted.

"You need to be reasonable," Luke told her.

"Reasonable?" she responded with a snort.

"What if he's right?" Max said to her. "What if this will help us?"

Ally felt her mouth pop open as she looked at Max. Of everyone in the circle, she expected him to have the strongest disapproval.

"You don't have to take one," Luke told Ally.

But she could tell that he wanted her to. It would make the most sense, to have she and Lilla take them. They both had been Exceptionals before.

Luke was already pulling an injection from the casing, using one hand to uncap it. Stosh and Sabine both backed away but Lilla stepped up to him willingly. She pulled her sleeve up and thrust her arm toward him. Ally turned away, unable to watch.

Across the concrete lot, more skeletons of buildings sat, their contents long ago emptied out. Before she even thought it through, Ally was running toward the building. As an Exceptional she would have been able to reach it in seconds, but in her slow Ordinary body, it took her longer. She crawled over a mountain of concrete debris and settled onto a large, flat piece on the other side. Now she was at least out of sight. She leaned her head back against the hard, cool stone.

Ally would be lying to herself if she hadn't felt a little curious when Luke told her what was in those injections. Since losing her abilities she had thought more than once how convenient it would be to have them back. She had been strong, and powerful, and that was only just the beginning. She hadn't liked knowing that she could kill so easily with her bare hands, but she was at least able to protect her friends and family. At least, everyone except for her mother.

"Al?" Stosh appeared at the top of the concrete pile, picking his way down to her carefully.

"Have a seat." She patted the slab she was sitting on. "I'm just admiring the lovely view."

From here they looked into the gutted remains of the building. There wasn't much left, just debris and metal forms of shelves and the structure. A steel door lay in the middle of the room.

"What do you think this used to be?" Stosh asked as he took a seat beside her.

"A grocery store, maybe?" she responded. "Or maybe a clothing store. Brooke said that there were buildings full of clothes, shoes, and makeup, and that people shopped through them daily."

"Can't imagine that," Stosh said.

Ally nodded in agreement.

"Luke thinks we should get moving again. He seems nervous out here, in the Wilderness." Stosh picked up a small stone and chucked it into the building. It hit the steel door with a loud clang.

"Did Lilla take the injection?" she asked her brother.

Stosh threw another rock. "Yes, and she passed out right after. Luke loaded her onto a cot in the back of the transport."

"Do you think she'll be okay?"

Stosh shrugged. "I think since she was an Exceptional before, maybe the transition will be better. I don't really know much about that though, you were always the smart one."

Ally laughed. "I think the last few months are a testament to how untrue that is.”

"You really don't see all you've done, do you?" Stosh turned his body toward hers. "Ally, without you we would probably be dead right now. The Rogues would have come and there would have been no help because you wouldn't have discovered the use of the vaccine as a cure. Sure, maybe the Exceptionals would have eventually won the battle, but there would have been more lives lost. The settlements would have been defenseless, and even Champaign could have been attacked."

Ally closed her eyes. "And all for what? The loss of our mother, broken friendships, and a long travel south on a whim...."

"Don't get like that," Stosh said in a deeper voice. "We are coming with you because we trust you. Because we believe in you. Don't lose hope, because then the others will too."

"They have Luke, and Max, too. They both seem to grasp what we are doing better than even me."

"Max is only here because of you," Stosh pointed out.

"That's not true."

Stosh laughed. "I really don't think he would be here if Luke hadn't showed up."

"Well now you aren't making any sense. Is he here for me or Luke?"

Stosh grinned. "He is here for you, and because of Luke. He feels threatened."

Ally paused. "I was leaving no matter what. He may have never seen me again."

“Yeah, but at least he would know that you weren’t with Luke, I guess.”

“Besides,” Ally continued. “I told him that I just want to be friends.”

Stosh raised one, dark eyebrow. "You think he is going to give up that easily?"

Ally groaned and leaned her head against Stosh's shoulder.

"What about you and Luke?" Stosh asked. "What is going on there?"

"I don't know," she responded. "So much has changed."

She didn't mention her talk with Luke last night. She wasn't even sure where it had been headed since they were cut off by the attack from the Rogues.

"We should go," she said suddenly, pushing herself up.

Stosh stalled but finally stood up next to her.

They climbed back up over the concrete hill and into the lot where the transport was parked. Sabine was sprinting toward them, and for a moment Ally's pulse raced. She and Stosh met Sabine and all three of them skidded to a stop.

"Was there another attack?" Ally asked. She looked over Sabine's shoulder and spotted the transport. From here she could see Luke and Max standing a few feet from it, and neither of them were acting alarmed.

"No." Sabine was almost breathless. She leaned on her knees for a second until she could talk again. "It's Max..."

"What about him?" Ally started walking toward the transport, and Stosh and Sabine fell in step behind her.

"He's going to take the serum," Sabine said from Ally's side.

"What!" Ally cried out.

Then she was running, and even though she was Ordinary, she was still moving faster than Stosh and Sabine. She knew at least Stosh could give her a run for her money, but he was holding back. Either for Sabine, or for fear of what would happen when they reached the transport.

Luke and Max were standing close, both leaning to look at something. Ally reached Max and grabbed his arm, spinning him to face her.

"Are you out of your mind?" Ally yelled at him. "You want to take the serum? You don't even know what it could do to you? If it even works, the effects could take months, and by then it might all be for nothing. What would Heath think?"

Max crossed his arms over his chest and smirked at her. "So you do care?”

"Well of course." She slapped his arm. "What is this all about?"

"I don’t know what you’re hinting at," Max responded. “I just want to help.”

Ally looked at Luke, who remained expressionless, and then back at Max.

Stosh came to stand beside her and whispered, "I told you."

"I'm not going to take it just yet," Max said. "I need to think about it."

BOOK: Ordinary (Exceptional Book 3)
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