Origin, Page 2Jennifer L. Armentrout
I was so screwed.
As the situation really sank in, my tenacious grip on keeping it together slipped, and then completely fell away. Stark terror whipped through me, turning into panic, creating an ugly mess of emotions powered by adrenaline. Instinct took over—the kind I hadn’t been born with but had been shaped by what I’d become when Daemon had healed me.
I sprang to my feet. Aching muscles screamed in protest, and my head swam from the sudden movement, but I remained standing. The doctor moved to the side, his face paling as he reached for the wall. The sergeant didn’t so much as blink an eye. He was not afraid of my badassery.
Calling upon the Source should’ve been easy, considering all the violent emotions rolling within me, but there wasn’t a rush—like the kind you get when you’re poised atop a high roller coaster—or even a building of static over my skin.
There was nothing.
Through the fog of horror and panic clouding my thoughts, a bit of reality seeped in, and I remembered I couldn’t use the Source in here.
“Doctor?” said the sergeant.
In need of a weapon, I darted around him, heading for the table with the tiny instruments. I didn’t know what I would do if I managed to get out of this room. The door could’ve been locked. I wasn’t thinking beyond that very second. I just needed to get out of there. Now.
Before I could reach the tray, the doctor slapped his hand against the wall. A horrific, familiar sound of air releasing in a series of small puffs followed. There was no other warning. No smell. No change in the consistency of the air.
But those little dots in the ceiling and walls had released weaponized onyx, and there was no escaping it. Horror drowned me. The breath I took cut off as red-hot pain started at my scalp and coursed down my body. Like I was being doused with gasoline and set ablaze, a fire swept over my skin. My legs gave out, and my knees cracked off the tile floor. The onyx-filled air scratched my throat and scorched my lungs.
I curled into a ball, fingers clawing at the floor as my mouth opened in a silent scream. My body spasmed uncontrollably as the onyx invaded every cell. There was no end. No hope that the fire would be extinguished by Daemon’s quick thinking, and I silently called out his name, over and over again, but there was no answer.
There was and would be nothing but pain.
Thirty-one hours, forty-two minutes, and twenty seconds had passed since the doors had closed, separating Kat from me. Thirty-one hours, forty-two minutes, and ten seconds since I last saw her. For thirty-one hours and forty-one minutes Kat had been in the hands of Daedalus.
Each second, every minute and hour that ticked by had driven me fucking insane.
They had locked me up in a one-room cabin, which was really a cell decked out in everything that would piss off a Luxen, but it hadn’t stopped me. I’d blown that door and the Luxen guarding me into another damn galaxy. Bitter anger surged through me, coating my insides with acid as I picked up speed, flying past the row of cabins, avoiding the cluster of homes, and heading straight for the trees surrounding the Luxen community hidden under the shadows of Seneca Rocks. Not even halfway there, I saw a blur of white streaking straight for me.
They were going to try to stop me? Yeah, not going to happen.
I skidded to a halt, and the light zoomed past and then whirled around. Shaped like a human, it stood directly in front of me, so bright that the Luxen lit up the dark trees behind him.
We are only trying to protect you, Daemon.
Just like Dawson and Matthew had thought knocking me out at Mount Weather and then locking me up would protect me. Oh, I had a nuclear-size bone to pick with those two.
We don’t want to hurt you.
“That’s a shame. ” I cracked my neck. Behind me, several more were gathering. “I have no problem hurting you. ”
The Luxen in front of me extended his arms. It doesn’t have to be this way.
There was no other way. Letting my human form fade was like shedding too-tight clothing. A reddish tint spread over the grass like blood. Let’s get this over with.
None of them hesitated.
Neither did I.
The Luxen shot forward, a blur of brilliant limbs. I dipped under his arms, springing up behind him. Catching his arms, I slammed my foot into his bowed back. No sooner had that Luxen gone down than another took his place.
Launching to the side, I clotheslined the one racing at me and then dipped, narrowly missing a foot with my name on it. I welcomed this—the physicality of fighting. I poured every bit of fury and frustration into each punch and kick, tearing through three more of them.
A pulse of light cut through the shadows, aiming straight for me. Bending down, I slammed a fist into the ground. Soil flew into the sky as a shockwave rippled outward, catching the Luxen and tossing him into the air. I sprang up, grabbing him as intense, bright light blew off me, turning night into day for the briefest moment.
I spun, tossing him like a disk.
He smacked into a tree and hit the ground, but he quickly shot to his feet. Charging forward, white light tinged in blue trailed behind him like a tail on a comet. Lobbing at me what amounted to a nuclear power–strength ball of energy, he let out an inhuman battle roar.
Oh, so he wanted to play that way?
I leaned to the side; the bolt fizzled out as it zoomed past. Pulling on the Source, I reared back, letting the power soar. I slammed my foot down, creating a crater and another ripple, knocking the Luxen off balance. Throwing my arm out, I let the Source go. It flew from my hand like a bullet, hitting him squarely in the chest.
He went down, alive but all kinds of twitchy.
“What do you think you’re doing, Daemon?”
At the sound of Ethan Smith’s level voice, I turned. The Elder, in his human form, stood several yards back among the fallen. My body shook with unspent power. They shouldn’t have tried to stop me. None of you should have tried to stop me.
Ethan clasped his hands in front of him. “You shouldn’t be willing to risk your community for a human girl. ”
There was a good chance I was going to zap him into next week. She is not something I’m ever going to discuss with you.
“We are your kind, Daemon. ” He took a step forward. “You need to stay with us. Going after this human will only—”
I threw my hand out, grabbing by the neck the Luxen who was sneaking up on me. Turning to him, we both slipped into human form. His eyes filled with terror. “For real?” I growled.
“Crap,” he muttered.
Lifting him into the air, I choke-slammed the stupid SOB into the ground. Soil and rock flew into the air as I straightened, returning my gaze to Ethan.
The Elder paled. “You’re fighting your own kind, Daemon. That is unforgiveable. ”
“I’m not asking for your forgiveness. I’m not asking for shit. ”
“You’ll be cast out,” he threatened.
“Guess what?” I backed away, keeping an eye on the Luxen on the ground who had started to stir. “I don’t care. ”
Anger rolled off Ethan, and the calm, almost docile expression vanished. “You think I don’t know what you did to that girl? What your brother did to the other one? Both of you have brought this onto yourselves. This is why we don’t mix with them. Humans bring nothing but trouble. You are going to cause trouble, cause them to look too closely at us. We don’t need that, Daemon. You’re risking a lot for a human. ”
“This is their planet,” I said, surprising myself with that statement, but it was true. Kat had said it before, and I repeated her words. “We are the guests here, buddy. ”
Ethan’s eyes narrowed. “For now. ”
My head cocked to the side at those two words. Didn’t take a genius to figure out that was a warning, but right now, it wasn’t my priority. Kat was. “Don’t follow me. ”
“I mean it, Ethan. If you or anyone else comes after me, I won’t go easy like I just did. ”
The Elder sneered. “Is she truly worth this?”
A cold wind moved down my spine. Without the support of the Luxen community, I’d be on my own, not welcomed in any of their colonies. Word traveled fast; Ethan would make sure of it. But there wasn’t a moment of hesitation.
“Yes,” I said. “She is worth everything. ”
Ethan sucked in a sharp breath. “You’re done here. ”
“So be it. ”
Pivoting, I took off through the trees, racing toward my house. My brain was churning. I didn’t have much of a plan. Nothing concrete, but I knew I was going to need a few things. Money was one of them. A car. Running the whole way to Mount Weather wasn’t an option. Going back to the house was going to be difficult, because I knew Dee and Dawson would be there—and they would try to stop me.
At this point, I’d like to see them try.
But as I crested the rocky hill and picked up speed, what Ethan had said overshadowed my plotting. Both of you have brought this onto yourselves. Had we? The answer was simple and right in my face. Both Dawson and I had put the girls in danger simply by being interested in them. Neither of us had planned on them getting hurt, or that healing them would mutate them into something not quite human or Luxen, but we knew the risks.
I especially knew the risks.
It was why I had pushed Katy away in the beginning, had gone to extremes to keep her away from Dee and me. Partly due to what had happened to Dawson, but also because there were so many risks. And yet I had brought Kat deep into this world. Held her hand and practically escorted her right into it. Look at what that got her.
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
If anyone was to be caught, if things went down badly in Mount Weather, it should’ve been me. Not Kat. Never her.
Cursing under my breath, I hit a patch of ground lit by silvery moonlight seconds before breaking clear of the forest and slowed down without intending to.
My eyes went straight to Kat’s house, and pressure clamped down on my chest.
The house was dark and still, as if it had been the years before she had moved in. No life, an empty, dark shell of a home.
I stopped beside her mother’s car and let out a ragged breath that did nothing to relieve the pressure building in my chest. In the darkness, I knew I wasn’t seen, and if the DOD or Daedalus were watching for me, they could take me in. It would make it easier for me.
If I closed my eyes, I could see Kat coming out the front door, wearing that damn shirt that said My Blog Is Better Than Your Vlog, and those shorts…those legs…
Man, I had been such an ass to her, but she hadn’t backed down from me. Not for one second.
A light flipped on in my house. A second later, the front door opened, and Dawson stood there. The breeze carried his soft curse.
I had to say Dawson looked a thousand times better since I’d last seen him. The dark shadows that had been under his eyes were mostly gone. Some of the weight had returned. Like before the DOD and Daedalus had captured him, it would be nearly impossible to tell us apart with the exception of his longer, shaggier hair. Yeah, he looked like a million bucks. He had Bethany back.
I knew I sounded bitter, but I didn’t care.