Unchanged (Unremembered Trilogy Series #3)by Jessica Brody
So many secrets are buried within these compound walls.
I used to be one of those secrets.
After returning to the Diotech compound and undergoing an experimental new memory alteration, Seraphina is now a loyal, obedient servant to Dr. Alixter and the powerful company that created her. Happy and in love with Kaelen, another/i>/i>
So many secrets are buried within these compound walls.
I used to be one of those secrets.
After returning to the Diotech compound and undergoing an experimental new memory alteration, Seraphina is now a loyal, obedient servant to Dr. Alixter and the powerful company that created her. Happy and in love with Kaelen, another scientifically-enhanced human designed to be her perfect match, Sera's history with a boy named Zen is just a distant memory from a rebellious past she longs to forget.
But as Sera and Kaelen embark on a nationwide tour to promote Diotech's new product linea collection of controversial genetic modifications available to the publicSera's mind starts to rebel. She can't stop the memories of Zen from creeping back in.
As more secrets are revealed, more enemies are uncovered, and the reality of a Diotech-controlled world grows closer every day, Sera will have to choose where her true loyalties lie, but it's a choice that may cost her everything she's ever loved.
Read an Excerpt
The Unremembered trilogy: Book 3
By Jessica Brody
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2015 Jessica Brody
All rights reserved.
ONE YEAR LATER ..
The air is harsh and blistering, whipping around me as I cross the barren field. There are no buildings to thwart the desert wind, and today it seems angrier than most. I could outrun it. I'm certainly capable. But I keep my current pace.
I'm in no rush to get there.
The compound is almost unrecognizable out here. The landscaped pathways ended a half mile back. The sleek, reflective surfaces of the Aerospace Sector were the last signs of civilization.
Now it's just ..
But I feel reassured knowing the fortifications that mark the boundaries lie beyond the hill to my left.
There used to be a time when the walls of the compound kept me in—when I thought of them as prison walls and tried to escape. Now, it's as though someone has lifted a veil of deception from my eyes and I can finally see the truth.
The walls are there to keep others out.
Those who don't understand me. Those who want to hurt me. Those who are unlike me.
Of course, there are plenty of people on this side of the wall who are unlike me, too, but they can be trusted. Their bodies and minds may not be as strong as mine, but they still think like me. They still serve the Objective.
The dry shrubs crunch beneath my feet as I approach the cottage. The ten-foot wall around the perimeter remains standing but the gate is no longer locked.
I run my fingertips along the warm unyielding surface of the concrete, feeling the rough edges prickle my skin.
He used to climb these walls.
The boy from my memories.
That's how he got to me. How he broke into my world and corrupted my brain with impossible notions. Impossible dreams. Promises of a life outside these barriers.
As if I could ever live anywhere else.
This is where I belong. Where I've always belonged. And now that my memories have been restored and the truth has been revealed to me, my brain is stronger, my goals refortified. I am no longer susceptible to bewitching lies.
I can no longer be swayed.
They fixed me. They introduced me to my true purpose. And I am grateful.
I push open the heavy steel gate of what was once the Restricted Sector and slip inside. The white cottage is smaller than I remember. As though it's physically shrinking day by day, its importance diminishing in my mind. This is the first time I've visited in over a year. The first time I've been able to gather the strength to.
I'm hoping that today it will remind me of where I started. Who I was. How far I've come.
I'm no longer the vulnerable, naïve little girl who had to be locked in a cage for her own protection.
I am strong now. A fully functioning member of the Objective.
Even if he were here, even if he had found his way back, it wouldn't matter. I would be able to resist him now. I will never fall prey to his charms again.
That stupid girl is gone.
I am the better version.
The grass surrounding the cottage is overgrown and burnt to a brown crisp by the desert sun. No one comes here anymore. There is no reason to. The Restricted Sector of the compound was originally built to shield me from the world. But ever since the announcement of the Unveiling three months ago, I no longer have to be shielded.
And the world knows.
Now the sector remains abandoned. All of my training, testing, and recreation takes place in the other sectors.
When I step through the front door of the house, I find the rooms barren. They must have emptied them, redistributing the furniture to other parts of the compound. What few possessions I had were undoubtedly thrown away. Which is for the best. That was the darkest time in my life. I don't want mementos.
I walk from room to room, my legs wobbly and unreliable beneath me. I may collapse at any minute from the sheer heaviness of this place. But I push myself to keep going.
I stand in the middle of what used to be the living room and close my eyes. I can smell the scent of my own betrayal. My weakness is steeped in these walls. It makes me gag, but I force myself to breathe it in, allow it to settle in my lungs. The shame trickles through my body like a cold insect. I hate how ugly it feels inside of me but I don't fight it. I don't push it out. I only draw it in deeper. Letting it saturate me.
This is exactly what I need to make sure I stay strong. Focused. Committed. This is an important time for the Objective. And I won't allow myself to falter again.
Outside, the sun is already setting, the bright gold orb kissing the pink horizon. As I step onto the porch, my gaze is pulled toward a patch of indented grass on the far side of the lawn. I know from accessing the memories of my life before my rehabilitation that there used to be a white marble bench there.
The boy and I used to hide things under it before we escaped. It was our way of communicating with each other without the scientists knowing.
Another method of flagrant rebellion on my part.
A new onslaught of guilt punches me in the chest. I clench my fists and grit my teeth, soaking in the sensation, letting it fuel the fire of determination I keep lit inside me at all times.
The bench is long gone, but something is strangely drawing me to the spot where it once stood. Like a magnetic force field pulling me in, rendering me helpless in its grasp.
Could something still be buried there after all this time?
The thought enters my mind before I can stop it and I feel my feet drag as I approach, my mind and body at war.
A small object in the grass where the bench once stood catches my eye. I walk over and bend down, plucking the small blossom from the ground and holding it up. The white feathery surface sparkles as the vanishing sunlight shines through it.
"Dandelion," I say, accessing the correct name from my mind.
I smile at how easily the word comes to me. The uploads I receive weekly provide me with more data than I'll ever need. Now that I am trustworthy, I have been given full clearance to all the knowledge I desire. My access to data is no longer limited.
I search for more information, quickly discovering that a dandelion is a weed that was eradicated thanks to advances made in Diotech's Agricultural Sector.
But evidently they weren't able to eliminate all of them.
"Weed," I say curiously, rolling the thick, rough stem between my thumb and forefinger.
The memory of the first time I saw one explodes into my mind. I was with him. The boy called Lyzender. The day we met. Right here in this yard.
He told me to wish on it.
He told me a lot of things.
"It's more beautiful than other plants," I remark, clutching the stem.
His eyes find mine. Endless brown eyes. "It most certainly is."
I wrap my palm around the downy white flower and squeeze, crushing the soft fibers against my hand. When I unfurl my fingers, there's nothing but a sickly grayish pulp left.
"I wish I had never fallen," I announce to the empty yard, wiping my hand against my pant leg and dropping the barren stem to the ground. There's a satisfying squish as my shoe lands on top of it. "I wish we had never met."CHAPTER 2
I take the long route back to the Residential Sector, weaving through the glinting Aerospace hangars whose surfaces always distort my reflection in unsettling ways. Turning me into a disfigured monster with one giant eye and no neck.
I'm one of the few people who walk around the compound. Most people prefer to travel by hovercart, due to the heat and distance between sectors, but I actually enjoy walking. The distances don't bother me and my body was designed to withstand severe climates.
I used to like to walk the perimeters, alongside the VersaScreens so I could see the world on the other side. But ever since the announcement of the upcoming Unveiling, the world on the other side is populated with news crews and protesters and people wanting to steal a peek inside our walls.
Even though I know they can't see through—the screens are programmed for one-way visibility—it still frightens me to walk past them. I can feel their energy in the air like buzzing flies around a dead carcass. There's a franticness about their desperation that unnerves me.
Dr. A says that's normal. I'm allowed to be afraid.
"Fear doesn't equate with weakness," he told me. "It equates with obedience. You want to be obedient, don't you?"
I nodded. "I want to serve the Objective."
He smiled. "We all do. And your distrust of strangers will keep you safe."
I know I won't be able to stay hidden behind those walls for much longer, though. The Unveiling is in two days. Then they will see my face. Then they will know me.
And that is the part that frightens me most of all.
I cut across the Agricultural Sector, making a wide arc around the cottonwood tree in the corner. I've never liked that tree. It looks like a pudgy old ogre with too many twisted limbs. And when the sun splinters through the branches at just the right angle, I swear I can hear it screaming. A shadowy, piercing sound that vanishes the second I turn around. Like the ghost of an echo.
The delicious scents of the freshly grown herbs waft from the vents of the hydroponic dome as I walk. Dr. A says one day we won't need to grow food at all. Computers will be able to engineer molecules from raw materials and shape them into anything we want to eat.
"Kind of like we did with you," he likes to say, as though I'm a hot plate of superberry flatcakes, molecularly processed to order.
I like when Dr. A talks about the future. It implies that the Objective will be a success. And really, we're not that far off. Diotech already mastered the engineering of synthetic meat after the government outlawed the breeding of livestock for food seven years ago. I learned about it from one of my uploads on agricultural history.
From here, with my enhanced vision, I can see all the way to the northwest gate, the main entrance of the compound, where the majority of the media crews have gathered. They're all hoping to gain access or corner someone for an interview to put on the Feed. I know they will never be allowed inside. Director Raze's security force is top-notch.
"They'll have to step over my dead body before I let them get near you, princess," he says to me. Always with a wink.
As I exit the Agricultural Sector and near the polished metallic archway of the Medical Sector, I stop when a familiar nagging sensation starts to tickle the pit of my stomach. I turn around, almost expecting to find someone standing behind me, but there's no one there.
Yet the feeling persists.
I spin in a slow circle, letting my flawless eyes zero in on every planted flower, every curved ceiling of every building, each individual blade of grass along the pathway. I can feel my shoulders tighten, my body clench.
What are you looking for? I silently ask myself.
But there is no reply. I can't answer the question.
I can never answer the question.
All I know is that almost every day something compels me to look.
I once asked Dr. A about holes.
He thought I was referring to the holes that the rodents dig in the desert floor outside the compound and offered me an upload about animal habitats, but I shook my head. "No. I mean, holes inside of me."
"There are no holes inside of you, Sera," he replied sharply. "I made you perfect, remember?"
I was frustrated that I couldn't make him understand. "Something is missing," was the only way I could think to explain it.
"Nothing is missing," he snapped, anger unexpectedly flashing in his eyes. "I've given you everything you could ever ask for. Are you ungrateful for all the luxuries you have here?"
I knew instantly that I had said the wrong thing. I often do. "I'm sorry," I offered, desperate to reverse the distress I had caused him. "You're right. Nothing is missing. I am very grateful."
I never asked him about holes again.
I jog down the pathway through the Medical Sector, keeping careful watch on my pace. Dr. A says when I'm walking around the compound, it's important for me to hide my enhancements as much as possible so I don't make anyone else uncomfortable.
On my left is the grand, ornate building that houses the memory labs. It's by far the largest, most well-appointed structure in the sector. If appearances are any indication of funding allocation, memories are definitely high on Dr. A's priority list.
And I know why.
So much goes on within these compound walls that the outside world can never know about. So many secrets are buried inside the sleek surfaces of the labs, you'd need more than just a mini-military to keep them guarded.
I used to be one of those secrets.
Director Raze's team is tasked with preventing breaches. But what happens when those preventative measures fail?
That's when the Memory Coders step in.
As I pass, I peer through the synthoglass walls at the pristine white entry hallway that leads to the labs where Sevan Sidler and his team of Memory Coders work to keep Diotech's secrets safe. The synthetic tile floors are so clean the pillars on either side are reflected in their surface, making the tall posts appear as though they plunge deep into the ground below.
A shiver runs through me and I pick up my pace until I've put a considerable distance between me and the building. It always feels so sinister to me. Thinking of all the memories that enter those doors and never come out. Innumerable bytes of data removed from people's minds and stored in a pod somewhere.
How many dreams were forgotten in that place?
How many kisses stolen? Loves removed?
It's almost as though every time I enter those labs, I can feel the memories clinging to the walls, trying so desperately to stay remembered.
Every once in a while I have to go inside. When Dr. A orders a random memory scan. Other than that, I try to stay clear of it.
I hang a left toward the entrance to the gardens, but before I reach it, I hear the distinct sound of footsteps behind me.
I slow to a stop and turn around, looking for the source, but once again, there is no one there. The path is empty. Most of the scientists are still at work.
"Hello?" I call out.
No one replies.
My first thought is that one of the media crew from outside the gates somehow bypassed Director Raze's security team and is hoping to get a glimpse of me.
But if that were the case, why would they hide from me?
I wait, watching for flickers of movement, but the compound is still.
Feeling uneasy, I spin, focusing on every detail around me. I can hear someone breathing. Maybe fifty feet away. A hundred at most.
I start moving again. This time, I don't limit my pace. I run. As fast as my genetically enhanced legs will go.
But I don't get very far. The second I set foot in the gardens, someone tackles me to the ground.CHAPTER 3
The attacker moves so quickly I barely have time to process what is happening. One minute I'm standing upright and the next I'm lying on my back, a massive body pressing down on me. I grunt at the impact of my head slamming against the ground.
I open my eyes and blink. A face comes into focus. Oval shaped, framed by a fringe of silky dark blond hair that falls across his forehead, veiling his vibrant aquamarine eyes. An impish grin curves his perfect pale pink lips.
"Kaelen," I say, relieved, releasing a nervous giggle.
"Jouw reflexen zijn traag."
Translation: Your reflexes are slow.
So he's switched to Dutch. This morning it was Arabic.
"I wasn't prepared to be attacked in the middle of the garden." I defend myself in the same tongue without missing a beat. Kaelen thinks he can trick me, switching languages throughout the day. He hasn't succeeded once.
"Exactly my point. You should always be prepared."
I groan and plant two hands on his chest, attempting to shove him off me, but he doesn't budge. He's stronger than me. He always has been. He's the second generation ExGen, while I'm the first.
He likes to joke that he's an improved version of me.
I like to joke that he's just a watered-down copy of an original masterpiece.
He smirks at my effort, enjoying watching me struggle. Then he grabs each of my hands in his and pins them down next to my shoulders.
"What are you going to do now?" he goads, keeping with the smooth Dutch.
I puff out a breath, pretending to resign myself, letting my muscles and limbs slacken under him, before launching another escape attempt.
Kaelen only laughs as he continues to restrain me without much effort. "Pitiful."
"You're stronger than I am!" I cry. "There's nothing I can do."
"You can kiss me back."
And then his lips are on mine, stopping the word from ever being completed. His kiss isn't soft or tentative. Kaelen doesn't do soft or tentative. Kaelen does fierce. He does eager. He does commanding. His lips part mine as he releases some of his body weight against me.
He lets go of my wrists and I immediately reach for his hair, loving the way it feels between my fingers. Softer than human hair is supposed to be. I pull him closer to me and he responds instantly by deepening the kiss, reading my body language perfectly, the way only he can do.
The way he's always been able to do.
We are fluent in every spoken language on earth. But it's the silent language between us that we speak best.
That's what happens when you're Print Mates—created from two complementary genetic blueprints. You can almost feel what the other person is going to do before they do it.
Excerpted from Unchanged by Jessica Brody. Copyright © 2015 Jessica Brody. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Jessica Brody is the author of several popular books for teens, including Unforgotten, Unremembered, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, and The Karma Club, as well as two adult novels. She splits her time between California and Colorado.
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Got this book at an author event and the author was really great. The ending of this book was the part I adore the most. The ending is the best.