Nameless, p.1
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       Nameless, p.1

         Part #1 of Broken City series by Jessica Sorensen
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  (Broken City, #1)

  By Jessica Sorensen


  Jessica Sorensen

  All rights reserved.

  Copyright (c) 2016 by Jessica Sorensen

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

  No part of this book can be reproduced in any form or by electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without the permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer who may quote short excerpts in a review.

  Any trademarks, service marks, product names or names featured are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if we use one of these terms.

  For information:

  Cover Design and Photography by Maidesign:

  Table of Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  About the Author

  Chapter One

  The Cell

  I haven't seen the sunlight in years, so long I'm not sure it ever existed to begin with. Maybe I only dreamt of the sunshine, the blue sky, the leafy trees, and the soft wind against my cheeks. Maybe the girl who laughed and smiled never existed, either. It's hard to tell anymore what's real and what's not, where my life began.

  I shut my eyes and picture a different world. I can almost feel the warmth of the sun, taste the clean air, hear the lull of a river flowing. The place in my mind has to be real. I was there once, outside, far away from the corruptness and the darkness of this cell. I had a mother and father. At least, I think I did. It's so hard to remember sometimes--a lost life, a different world. But there has to be more. I can feel it. I just wish I knew if the other world was better. I wish I could find the hope to believe a better life is out there, waiting for me to find it.

  Opening my eyes, I sit back against the wall and stretch my legs until my toes reach the edge of the iron circle. The small cell I live in consists of dark grey, moonstone walls, a single ceiling light, and a bucket in the corner. The constant dark atmosphere is dreary, and with hardly any ventilation, the muggy air is thick. But my lungs have grown accustomed to the humidity, just like my mind has accepted the consistent quietness. I prefer the silence and loneliness to noise, anyway. Noise usually means someone has paid for my time.

  No one has entered my cell for a few days now, and I'm starting to get hungry and thirsty. I stare at the thick, steel door, longing for food and water, even if it means seeing one of the wardens who own me. I haven't gotten up and walked around for a while. I'm usually allowed out of the circle once a week to stretch my legs. It's been way longer than a week. I think it has, anyway. Keeping track of time is difficult when life always seems to drift slowly.

  Restlessness eats me up the longer I sit. I fiddle with the shirt I've been wearing for months. The stained, coarse fabric feels disgusting against my skin, and the frayed hem barely covers the tops of my legs, making my exposed body always chilled. The magnetic current flowing between my cuffs forces my wrists together and restrains my ankles from moving apart.

  Water drips from the vent and splatters against my forehead as I rest my head back. A few rays of light peek through the vent and spread across my cheeks. I'm unsure where the light is coming from, but I pretend it's the sun sneaking in.

  More hours stream by. Voices float from somewhere, and a small part of me relaxes. Voices are my only tie to reality and help me hang on to the fact that I'm not entirely alone. I'm not certain if that makes me twisted, but it doesn't really matter. Twisted, broken, ruined, veering toward death is who I've become. I don't even remember what I look like; I haven't seen my own reflection since I came here. I imagine my appearance is as distorted as I feel, probably almost inhuman.

  "What about this one?" a warden asks from outside my cell, his voice floating through the small viewing area at the top of the door.

  I sit up, wondering if they've finally come to feed me.

  "How old is she?" someone asks in a low tone.

  A shudder ripples through me. If they're asking those kinds of questions, they're not here to give me food and water. A visitor has bought my time.

  While I'm never certain what I'll be forced to do, none of the tasks are good. Experiments, violence--I've seen and done a lot. There really is no rule when it comes to this life. If a visitor pays the price for a Nameless, they're allowed to do whatever they want during the time they paid for.

  Our time together always ends the same, though. The visitor places their hands against my chest, my body grows hot, and then I black out. I don't know what they do to me or what the visitors are, but like the wardens, I don't think their human, despite their human features.

  There was one time after a torturous session with a visitor, when I managed to stay conscious after they put their hands to my chest. What I saw ... It made me sick to my stomach ... how they momentarily transformed into a shadow with no features, no eyes, nothing.

  Vomit burns in my throat as I think about what could happen if this visitor purchases me.

  "I think she's eighteen," the warden answers. "That's just a guestimate. I'd have to check her records to know for sure. I know she's pricey, but trust me, this one's worth it."

  "Why?" The visitor's voice is deep and male. "What's so special about her?"

  "I'm not sure of the specifics," the warden answers. "But from what I've heard, she's practically like drinking pure quercu."

  "I've never had pure quercu before."

  "It's rare, so most of you haven't. But it's better than just about anything you've ever tasted. You'll feel stronger and the effects last longer."

  "How much did you say she is?" Intrigue laces the visitor's tone.

  I shove down the vomit pushing up my throat. Please don't buy me. Please don't buy me.

  "Five hundred," the warden replies. "Like I said, she's worth the price."

  I hold my breath, waiting for the visitor to respond, silently wishing that he won't want me.

  "All right, I'll do it," he tells the warden, and I feel a part of me wither and die. "But she better be as good as you say."

  "She is," the warden assures him. "Let's go get the transaction done, and then I'll have you fill out the paperwork. Since you're new to our section, it'll take a few days to process your card and identification, so you might want to find some moonstone until then. We have chambers here if you need them."

  "Thanks, but I should be fine," the visitor replies. "A friend of mine has a couple that I'm sure he'll let me use."

  Panic flares within me, potent and scorching. He bought me. He'll be back. I can't do this again.

  Their voices and footsteps fade as they leave. I only have a couple of days before they return. The desire to flee overcomes me, and I crawl forward toward the edge of the iron circle. In the back of my mind, a voice screams that trying to escape is useless. But I can't do it anymore. I can't just sit and wait. It goes against every instinct I possess.

  The second I reach the brim of the circle, the magnetic stream surging between my cuffs catches the iron. My arms are jerked down, and the cuffs link to the circle. The metal digs deep into my flesh, and I whimper, try
ing to slide back. But my legs stretch too far, and the ankle cuffs connect to the iron, too.

  I'm bound on the floor, flat on my stomach, with my arms and legs extended out. My skull pounds as the magnetic current pulsates, spreading from the cuffs to my body. My veins vibrate under my skin, like tiny flakes of iron begging to unite with a magnetic current. I only have a few seconds to get my cuffs unattached from the iron before the sensation overwhelms my nerves and I pass out.

  Using my hips, I attempt to rotate onto my back, but my body is flipped right back over. Gritting my teeth, I use every ounce of strength to stretch out my arms. Inch by inch, I drag myself backward while arching my back. My skin is pulled tight, like seams on a shirt about to split open. But I keep going, knowing I'm running out of time before I pass out. When I wake up, I'll be even weaker, and when the wardens find out, I'll be punished.

  "No, I won't ..." Searing pain tears through my arm, all the way to my fingertips.

  I clamp my jaw down, and a bitter, metallic taste fills my mouth. The magnetic current buzzes electrically through my blood and drowns my thoughts. The sensation is too much. I'm going to lose consciousness.

  No. I won't give in.

  Suddenly, the door of my cell clicks open, and passing out doesn't seem so awful anymore.

  "Trying to escape again, huh?"

  I cringe, recognizing the voice. While most wardens disregard me, one in particular notices me too much. He told me his name's Lex. I don't know if that's his real name or not. I've never heard any other warden go by a name before.

  It's a curse knowing Lex's name, because for some reason, he thinks I owe him. I dread the times he stops by my cell, and it's even worse now that I'm trapped against the iron circle.

  I lift up my head, searching for him, but I can't see anything other than a few inches in front of my face.

  "Little, helpless Nameless," he says as the door clicks shut. "You know, most of you hardly talk, let alone try to escape. You're different, though, aren't you? Number five-two-eight-seven. Just an ordinary number, yet I don't think you are." His footsteps get louder. "I'm not supposed to touch you. You're supposed to be for the visitors." He inhales deeply. "But I want to know what the big deal is."

  I close my eyes and bite down on my lip until I draw blood. "S-stay away f-from me, or I'll t-tell the other wardens."

  He laughs, crouching down beside me. "No, you won't. And even if you did, they wouldn't believe you." He places a cold hand on my back, and every muscle in my body constricts. He stares at me with his liquid silver eyes. The warden's eyes aren't always silver. Sometimes, they look normal when they're calm. Lex isn't calm right now. He's hungry. "No one's ever going to know," he utters under his breath.

  I sink my teeth deeper into my lip as I feel a spark shoot up my back. He slides his hand around me and lines his palm with my chest. I scream out as heat ignites, like fire in my veins, hot wax on my skin, scalding metal inside my brain.

  "They were right about you," Lex says in awe.

  I scream, struggling to hang on to reality, but my eyes roll into the back of my head as darkness overtakes me.

  Chapter Two

  The Unexpected Visitor

  When I open my eyes again, I'm lying on the floor, and my cuffs no longer bound to the iron circle. The ceiling light has burned out. Either that or the wardens turned it off to punish me.

  As time trickles by, I lie perfectly still. The fire I felt when Lex touched me remains a dull ache inside my chest and is worse than when the visitors touch me. I don't know why or what Lex did to me, but I'm worried the pain will never go away.

  Drops of water drip from above and splatter against my head. The darkness seeps into my skin and becomes part of me. I lose track of time and almost forget where I am. The longer I lie there, the more aware I become of the ever growing hunger pains and the dryness in my throat. I'm probably being starved as punishment, but it's been so long since I've eaten. Someone has to come soon, right?

  I'm thirsty. Starving. Weak. Dirt coats my skin and makes me itchy. Exhaustion weighs against my body like a heavy blanket, and all I want to do is go to sleep.

  I've been in a similar situation before, but this might be the longest I've gone without eating or drinking anything. My body is shutting down. If I don't get food or water soon, I'll die. Part of me welcomes the idea, wants this to be over and to escape the visitor I'll soon have. I want to escape Lex, the other wardens, and the pain in my chest. All I have to do is surrender to death, push away the last bit of fight I have in me, and allow myself to die.

  I know other prisoners have given up before. Wardens walk around here, always talking about getting rid of bodies and cleaning up messes. They tell the stories to each other about it, laughing, as if the prisoners are nothing more than broken, plastic dolls. Maybe that's what we are. Maybe that's what I've become--a doll to sell.

  My heavy eyelids shut as I surrender to the fatigue. I need to let go. It's time. No more wardens. No more Lex. No more visitors.

  No more pain.

  I press my cheek to the floor and will myself to let go. But somehow, I continue to breathe, and my heart beats, refusing to let go. A tiny spark inside my heart flickers.

  I need a drink. I need water.


  I fight the desire to open my mouth and let the water from the ceiling drip down my throat. I refuse to cave and be the wardens' doll any longer.

  As I start to feel the will to live slipping away, though, an uncontrollable need bursts through me. I tip my head back, aim my open mouth at the drizzle coming from the ceiling, and guzzle down as much dirty water as I can. It tastes awful, like grime and filth and mold. I gag several times. If I had food in my stomach, I'd probably puke, but I end up dry heaving, which makes my stomach muscles sore.

  Still, the water makes the ache in my throat more bearable, and I continue to drink until I don't feel the need to anymore. Then I settle back on the floor and let my choice sink in. I'm still here, breathing and alive. This isn't over yet.

  I don't know how long I lie on the floor, unmoving, but I sit up when I hear someone approaching my cell. It's the first sign of life I've heard since I passed out. I think of the visitor who's going to pay for my time, and I immediately regret drinking the filthy water. Why am I not strong enough to give up and free myself from this place?

  I lean forward as I hear a voice from the other side of the door. Deep. Male. Is someone finally coming to feed me? No. Wait. Voices. There's more than one of them coming.

  The ceiling light flickers on, and I squint, trying to focus on my surroundings. Part of me hoped I'd be somewhere else, but disappointment washes over me as I see the four moonstone walls of my cell.

  I draw my knees against my chest and scoot away from the door. If there's more than one of them, then they aren't down here to feed me. It's probably the visitor who wanted to buy me. Is that how much time has passed? Only a couple of days? It feels like an eternity.

  "From everything you told me, I'm eager to get a taste of her." A masculine voice drifts from the other side of the door.

  I recognize the voice as the visitor from the other day. His paperwork must have gone through, so for the next few hours, he owns me.

  "From what I've heard about her, I should be good for months," he says. "Maybe even years. I just wish I knew why she was so intoxicating."

  "I wish I knew, but like I said, I don't know the specifics," the warden replies. "And with the systems crashing, I can't look it up. I don't think it really matters. Humans have always been a little different from one another. My guess is she has purer blood."

  "I guess that could be it, but I've never heard of anything like that." The visitor pauses. "Your systems have been crashing?"

  "Yeah. A lot lately. We can't figure out why, but my guess is it might be bugs."

  "That's never good. Have you tried sending an electromagnetic pulse to kill them off?"

  "A couple of times. It doesn't do any good. We might
have to bring in some Chasers to track them down."

  "Things are really getting that bad that you're considering using Chasers," the visitor asks.

  "Yeah, they are," the warden says as my cell door cracks open. "We've had three systems already destroyed over the last week. If we don't get this fixed fast, the camera system is going to crash."

  A shudder rolls through me at the mention of Chasers. They're horrible creatures made of various metals and are drawn to anything that runs on energy, like the magnetic energy in my cuffs. One bite from a Chaser sends a volt of electricity through a person's body. It's happened to me a couple of times and the agonizing pain lasts for days. Technically, Chasers aren't supposed to come into the cells, but a handful of the little bastards always find a way to sneak in. Even the visitor sounds a bit afraid of them.

  I inch back farther as the door opens wider. I want to stay strong, look them in the eyes, not be a coward, but the fear is too much. I cover my arms over my head, rocking back and forth. I can't do this. I can't do this. I can't do this again.

  The humming of the door quiets, and I trap my breath in my chest, picturing the sunlight, the whisper of the wind, the tart taste of strawberries ... anything but here.

  "She's supposed to be as good as quercu?" Skepticism floods the visitor's tone. "She seems ... I don't know ... kind of weak."

  My hands curl into fists. I'm only weak because I'm here. There was a time when I wasn't frail and beaten down. I can feel it inside me, a strength just out of my grasp.

  "She's stronger than she looks," the warden says with a hint of annoyance.

  Someone stomps into my cell, and I dare a peek but then instantly shrink back.

  The warden is standing only inches away from me, and the tip of his boot connects with my ribs. "Stop cowering. You have a visitor."

  I wince, my hands balling into fists. If only I were free... If only these cuffs weren't around me, maybe I could fight back.

  He kicks me again when I don't obey him. "Don't make me put a shock collar on you."

  I choke, recalling the last time a shock collar was put on me. The heat scalded my skin and nearly melted my insides. Healing took forever and left me drained for way too long.

  No. I can't go through that again.

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