Unremarkable (Anything But #2)(8)By: Lindy Zart
“Just because you put yourself in charge—” Jax began.
“I didn’t put myself in charge; I am in charge. If you don’t like it, leave. You’re either with me or against me.” Christian’s fingers released the fabric of Dominic’s shirt. “You know the way out of the tunnels. If you go…you forget the way back.”
He stared into two pairs of reflective gray eyes much like his own, and then he shouldered his way past the young men to get to the open area they considered their makeshift home.
There were less than twenty of them; so little compared to all Christian had found over the course of the last six months, and they were all young; ranging from sixteen years old to twenty-eight. Older UDs were withdrawn, resigned to their fate. But not this paltry number of UDs—they were young enough to remember what their lives used to be like—young enough to have hope, to want to fight—young enough to be reckless and take back their rights.
UDs didn’t sweat, didn’t really have any kind of smell to them, which was fortunate, given their close quarters and lack of showers. They sat and stood in groups, most quiet, some making halfhearted attempts at conversation. They didn’t really have a lot to talk about other than the obvious: So when did you turn? When did you cut out the chip? Do you think you’ll die tomorrow? Yeah, not exactly great conversation topics. They couldn’t talk about what they’d wanted to do with their lives pre-turn and they couldn’t talk about what they hoped to do with their lives post-turn. They were stuck at an impasse; unable to move back, impossible to move forward.
One young woman caught Christian’s eye and stood, making her way over to him. Julianna Valenti was nineteen, tall and slim with shoulder-length chestnut hair, and silvery eyes, but then, they all had those. UDs and UDKs were the only ones who could see the glow of them; to anyone else, they were simply gray. Christian hadn’t even known he could see the silver light to them until he’d removed the chip from his neck, which had him wondering what else that tracking device was. They had been camouflaged from one another. UDs passed each other by all the time without even knowing it, but now Christian, and those with him, could detect others like them with a glance.
Juli, as she’d told him to call her when they’d first made acquaintance, glided gracefully toward him. She was a dancer, or had been, before. She had also been the first to form an alliance with him. Born and raised in Iowa on a farm, now relocated to the underground of Wisconsin, to say she’d been through a culture shock was misleading. They were all adapting to less than desirable circumstances. Supplies were minimal and that was okay—UDs didn’t eat or drink much, so they didn’t need to relieve themselves much either.
“What did you find out, Christian?”
He sighed, showing his back to the curious eyes of the mass of UDs. “I couldn’t find any.”
“You couldn’t find any, or you found some, but they said no?”
Moving to stand next to him, Juli said, “No, not the same thing. If there are only eighteen of us, what will we accomplish? We’ll be killed and all of this will be for nothing. We can’t fight with so few beside us. Most of the UDs—they’re too scared to stand up for themselves. At least we’re here, even if we are also scared.”
“That’s the difference between you and them; you’re scared, but you’re still here.”
Her eyes zeroed in on his face. “And you’re not?”
“No,” he said shortly. “I’m not.”
Juli’s fingers trailed down the damp stone of the wall, her eyes following the motion. “You’re not scared because you have nothing to lose. When you have nothing to lose, you make sacrifices others are not willing to make.” She gave him a sidelong glance. “How can you have no one, nothing?”
He looked down at his black boots. He had a mother, a father, a younger brother and sister, but Christian wouldn’t let himself think of them. It hurt too much. Now and then a memory crept into his subconscious and with it the pain of profound loss, but he was always quick to slam up the mental barrier that separated the life he used to have from the one he now had. They were dead to him, not because he wanted them to be, but because they had to be for him to be able to endure his reality.