Authors: Nicole Sobon
Tags: #new adult, #super humans, #superhero, #powers
Copyright © 2014 Nicole Sobon
First Edition: September 2014
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
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The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademark status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Avenger, Netflix, Deadpool, Pog, and Big Brother.
Cover designed by Christa of Paper & Sage Design
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To my grandparents, Fran & Stan Sobon, for always pushing me to try harder.
Never give fear the power to break you.
he rain beat down upon me as I stood on the edge of the building, peering down over the city below me.
It was your choice that led to this, Arabella, remember that
. My father’s words replayed in my thoughts, a nagging reminder of the mistakes that I’d made.
But that was the funny thing about choices, we never could really be sure of their outcomes until it was already too late. And it was beyond too late.
Gwen was gone, and nothing would change that.
“I thought I would find you up here,” Cole’s voice sounded from behind me as he made his way through the roof entrance.
“What do you want, Cole?” I leapt down off of the edge and turned to face him, forcing myself to rein in my annoyance.
“Your father sent me to check on you.”
“Of course,” I muttered. “Well, I’m fine. You’re more than welcome to leave now.”
“Bullshit,” he said. “I know you better than that, Bell.”
“Can we just drop this, please? I’m not in the mood.”
I lowered myself onto the ground and leaned back against the rough edge of the building, running my fingers through the loose gravel that surrounded me. The only thing that I wanted was to drown out the regret that had dug its way inside of my veins.
I’d fucked up. There was no way around that.
I made the wrong choice, and Gwen had paid the price for it.
“I’m not going to allow you to wallow in misery by yourself, love. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.” He took a seat next to me, careful to maintain some distance between us.
“Do you know what your biggest problem is?” he asked.
“Other than you? No, please enlighten me.”
“Your biggest problem is that you feel as though you need to protect everyone. You’re so eager to go out there and save the world, to hurt yourself in order to ensure the safety of others, and it’s like you forget that you’re still human underneath it all.”
Cole leaned over and gently grabbed a hold of my chin, forcing me to look up at him. “You can’t allow this thing to consume you. It’s not all that you are, Bell. It’s only a part of who you are, you need to remember that.”
“Easier said than done.”
“Do you think that you’re the only one of us to make a mistake that ended up costing them someone they loved? We’ve all screwed up at some point. The only thing you can do is force yourself to keep going, and to remind yourself that mistakes are a part of life.”
our months later...
“This is your idea of mission uniform?” Cole asked, eyeing my burgundy leather ensemble.
I arched a brow at him as I shoved my cell phone inside of my back pant pocket. “What? Do you have a problem with it?”
“Well, last I checked, we were supposed to get in and take care of the mission without drawing any attention to ourselves.”
“And we will,” I assured him. “Just remember to keep your eyes on the target as opposed to on me, and we’ll be fine.”
A smirk tugged at his lips. “Sometimes I feel as though you aim to drive me nuts.”
The sound of heels slapping against the tile floor forced us to look up as Mara entered the room, her clipboard pressed tightly against her chest, almost as though she feared she would lose it if she loosened her grip any.
Mara was a petite older woman with dark skin, gray hair, honey brown eyes and a smile that could lure just about anyone in. She was a sweet lady, assuming you did what she asked of you.
Her top priority had always been her loyalty to my father, which was why, when she entered the room, she made sure to command the attention of every person within the room.
“Arabella, Cole,” she said, placing her clipboard down on the table in front of her. “I presume that you have been informed as to what tonight’s mission entails?” I tried to ignore the stern glance she shot my way as she spoke.
“We’re to retrieve the hard-drive without harming any civilians,” Cole answered. “Same shit, different day.”
“Seriously, why do we need to do this anyway? What kind of information are you trying to protect from getting out there? Shouldn’t we at least know what it is that we’re fighting to protect?”
“You’re fighting to protect your existence,” Mara replied without the slightest bit of emotion. “The information on those drives cannot be made public, for if it did, the world as we know it would cease to exist.”
At that, I rolled my eyes. The problem with working for my father was that he was never entirely up front about anything, and since Mara staked her loyalty with my father, she wasn’t much better than him. Every time we asked why we were being sent on a mission, it was the same song and dance.
“You must secure the hard drive without harming the innocents,” they would tell us. And when we asked why, they’d respond with, “It’s to protect your existence.”
As though that was a real answer.
Sure, I got it. The world couldn’t know what Cole and I were – what we were capable of doing. But what the hell was on those hard drives that concerned us? That was the one thing that I wanted to know and the one thing they would never tell me.
“We are nothing more than the result of an experiment on my father’s behalf,” I said, growing annoyed. “What is it that you’re so afraid of getting out?”
“You know the rules, Arabella. You are not to ask questions; you are simply to complete the mission given to you.”
“Easy to say when you’re not the one risking your life.”
I could feel her eyes on me as I made my way out of the room, but I didn’t bother to turn around. What would have been the point? For me to give her the go ahead to ramble on about the mission statement, and how they had only sought to keep us safe? Yeah, I wasn’t buying that bullshit.
“One of these days, you’re going to cause her to snap, you know.” Cole moved in quietly behind me and threw his arm over my shoulders. “I don’t see why you have to be so hard on her. She’s only doing her job, Bell.”
“And is treating us like property part of that job?”
“Who said anything about us being property?”
I rolled my eyes at that one. That was the main difference between Cole and I. He actually allowed himself to believe my father was trying to do good in the world. He was far too gullible when it came to my father. I wasn’t.
When you spent your entire life inside of a lab, undergoing tests every week to ensure your “powers” weren't waning and that you were still capable of doing your job, you came to realize that you were viewed as nothing more than property; a tool used by those too chickenshit to do their own betting.
After twenty-something years of the same thing? I had grown tired of it.
I’d spent far too long living underneath my father’s thumb, forced to remain in the shadows. All I wanted was to be a part of the world I that I had been told I was only meant to protect – a world that I was never supposed to exist in.
“You’re not thinking of running off again, are you?” Cole asked, forcing me out of my internal rambling.
“After what happened last time? I’m not that stupid,” I responded, which had partially been the truth. Every single time I thought about leaving again, I found myself thinking of Gwen. She had gone after me that night after I insisted she stay at the lab. I should’ve expected that she wouldn’t have listened; after all, she’d always been rather stubborn – even more so than me – but I figured that Cole would be able to keep her from coming after me.
Unfortunately, I had overestimated his ability to oversee my sister.
That night, I knew the chances of the Horde coming after me were great – a subject of my father’s Project X program all alone would be an opportunity they couldn’t afford to pass up – which was why I had demanded Cole keep watch over Gwen.
I adored my sister, though I had never been the greatest at showing it. In my defense, showcasing emotions, admittedly, had never been my strong suit. Which was why I had sought other methods of showcasing that I cared: such as, by doing what I could to ensure Gwen wouldn’t die at the hands of a bunch of psychotic murderers.
Like Cole and I, she had powers, but she was still developing them – still struggling to control them. She was exactly the type of Super that the Horde needed to get their hands on; she was my father’s research personified. Everything they needed was within her blood. The key to creating their own brand of Supers lay within her bloodstream, the very thing we were taught to protect from early on.
Against the Horde, Gwen didn’t stand a chance.
Everyone knew that.
Except for her.
She ran head-first into their trap, completely oblivious to the terrible fate that awaited her. I always believed that Gwen had been too naïve, too innocent for the world we’d lived in. That night I was, unfortunately, proven to be right.
See, while my father and his pet, Mara, liked to believe that their research was succeeding in helping to shape the world, I’d seen beneath the veil. I knew that, trying to cleanse the world of discord and corruption, only led to furthering its demise.
They wanted us to protect the world from those eager to destroy it.
But the fact of the matter was, we were still vulnerable, we were no better than the people we were meant to protect. They allowed themselves to ignore the fact that the very monsters they’d created to save them were nothing more than humans with altered genetics – monsters they had created to defeat their own demons, to protect their horrifying secrets from being revealed.
In them, I had witnessed just how mad desperation could drive someone.
We were disposable. They had plenty of Supers ready to take over for us when we could no longer protect them. They’d placed their hope in not us – but their machines. It was quite ridiculous, honestly.
After all, machines were known to malfunction from time-to-time.
“You enjoy making it difficult for me to read your thoughts, don’t you?” Cole moved in front of me, managing to maintain a perfect pace with me as I made my way down the hall. Not that I expected much less from him. He was my father’s prize, his best result from Project X to date. He was a telepath, and he also had the ability to absorb powers from other supers, and he did everything he could to take full advantage of it.
It became incredibly annoying during combat training, given that he could mirror my every move. I was what my father liked to refer to as a “well trained Super” – although, assassin would’ve done just fine, really. I had been trained to fight, to watch my enemy’s every move, to strike before they had a chance to do so. I’d also been lucky enough to have super strength and speed. Which really helped with the whole assassin thing.
Expect for when it came to Cole.
“Only when I’m sure you’re going to run back to my father,” I managed to muster, trying my best to move around him.