Seraphina has escaped the compound.
The president of Diotech has fallen gravely ill.
Now, Dr. Alixter rests his last hope on a genetically enhanced soldier.
A boy designed to apprehend her. A boy incapable of failure…
Set in the thrilling sci-fi world of Jessica Brody's Unremembered trilogy, this sinister and suspenseful novella recounts the untold story of what happened on the Diotech compound after the shocking ending of Unremembered. Told from Kaelen's point of view, Unleashed also includes a special sneak peek of Unchanged, the long-awaited conclusion to the series.
About 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.
Jessica Brody knew from a young age that she wanted to be a writer. She started "self-publishing" her own books when she was seven years old, binding the pages together with cardboard, wallpaper samples and electrical tape. Brody graduated from Smith College in 2001 with a double major in Economics and French and a minor in Japanese. She went to work for MGM Studios as a Manager of Acquisitions and Business Development, and then, in 2005, she quit her job to follow her dream of becoming a published author. Brody is the author of two novels for adults--The Fidelity Files and Love Under Cover--and the young adult novels The Karma Club and My Life Undecided. Jessica's books are published in over ten foreign countries including the U.K., France, Germany, Czech Republic, Russia, Brazil, China, Portugal, and Taiwan. She now works full time as a writer and producer, and currently splits her time between Los Angeles and Colorado.
Read an Excerpt
By Jessica Brody
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2015 Jessica Brody
All rights reserved.
I was born in secret. In a time of war. Not a war between nations. Or beliefs. Or territorial claims. It is a war of will. Us versus her. Who is stronger? Who is more clever? Who will win?
The answer is as obvious to me as the air I breathe. It flows through me as easily as the superior blood in my veins. It fuels me like food and fire.
We will win.
She will lose.
She will succumb to us because we are more powerful. We have more tools and weapons and technology at our disposal.
We will win because we have Dr. Alixter.
And she only has the boy. The weak, arrogant, ill-fated boy whose sole weapons are words and empty promises. Whose sole tactic is to run.
But you can only run so far before you're tracked down. You can only hide for so long before you make a mistake and we find you.
That is what I was born to do.
To find her.CHAPTER 2
I hear the crowd of eager spectators above my head as the man-powered lifts raise me up and deliver me into the center of the Colosseum.
My opponent stands on the other side of the arena. He's holding a steel shield in one hand and a dagger in the other. I'm given a choice of weapons: trident, lance, cavalry sword. I choose none.
I'd like this to last more than thirty seconds.
I'm dressed in the traditional garb of a gladiator circa AD 45. Red cloak, gold body armor, and a helmet with tassels that resemble peacock feathers. I take off my body armor and let it clank to the ground by my feet. It will only slow me down.
Plus, I don't plan on getting hit.
The clock ticks down and my legs tremble in anticipation. The horn sounds and my reflexes take over. Before my opponent has a chance to blink, I'm behind him, jabbing an elbow to his skull. He sinks to his knees, his dagger swinging feebly through the air in a last-minute attempt to fight back.
But you can't fight something you can't follow with your eyes. I dodge his feeble blows easily, my movement a mere blur. Once he's down, I deliver the final blow. A heel to his neck. The skin breaks and the blood begins to spread.
I count the seconds as his life wanes.
10, 9, 8, 7 ...
As he gurgles his last dying breath, my surroundings start to change. Confetti and fireworks burst into the sky and the crowd cheers in delight.
In giant red text, a message appears among the clouds:
Time Elapsed: 32 seconds
Well, it lasted longer than thirty seconds.
"Deactivate link," I command my Lenses. They obey and slowly the Roman Colosseum fades, dissolving into the typical whites and blues of the lab that has been my home for the past four months.
This is where I was born. Where I was brought into the world as a fully formed seventeen-year-old man with muscles as solid as stone, bones as strong as tree trunks, and a face designed to elicit awe and envy. Building 1 of the Medical Sector has been my home for the past three months. I sleep here. I train here. I receive my daily uploads here.
The large spherical womb where I gestated still stands on a steel pedestal in the center, like a trophy. It is empty now. The orange amniotic fluid that breathed life into me has been drained and washed away.
My bed is in the corner. It is small with only a thin blanket but I don't need much.
I cannot leave the Medical Sector and roam about the compound. It is too dangerous. The world is not ready to know me yet. Not even the scientists and children of scientists who dwell on the compound are ready to learn what I am.
For now, my objective is not to be known. It is to be unknown. As soon as they locate the girl, I will be sent into the past to apprehend her and bring her back. It will be my first official mission as a Diotech soldier. My entire life—all 121 days of it—has been leading up to that.
When I step out of the simulation chamber, I'm startled by the sound of someone clapping on the other side of the room. I thought I was alone. Normally my enhanced hearing would register anyone entering, but the sound effects of the game must have masked it.
When I turn, I see Dr. Jans Alixter, the man who created me. Who brought me to life. Who coded my DNA to his exact specifications.
The man who made me what I am.
A scientific miracle.
"Thirty-two seconds," he drawls, nodding toward the chamber I just exited. I now realize he was watching the entire simulation on the viewer screens mounted outside. "Impressive."
"I was going easy on my opponent." I'm quick to defend my time. "I could have ended him sooner if I'd selected weapons but I wanted the game to last longer."
He makes a tsk tsk sound with his tongue. "You should never go easy on your enemy. They won't go easy on you."
I double back toward the simulation chamber. "I will go again. I will show you how fast I can be."
"That won't be necessary," Dr. Alixter says, stopping me in my tracks. "I know how fast you can be."
Panic flares in my chest. A deeply unsettling feeling that I've disappointed him. And a fierce desperation to make it right. "I'm sorry, sir. It won't happen again."
Dr. Alixter smiles, easing my anxiety slightly. "Just remember, Kaelen. That was a simulation. A game. It can be switched off or restarted at any time. When we send you out into the real world, there is no room for error. There are no restarts. If you are presented with an opportunity to make the kill, you make it. Hesitation will only lead to unnecessary complications."
I nod. "I understand, sir."
Dr. Alixter begins to say something else, but breaks into a fit of wild, violent coughs. My eyes narrow in concern. I have only received rudimentary uploads in the science of medicine, but I am certain those coughs don't sound innocuous.
"My apologies," Dr. Alixter says after regaining control of his breathing. "It seems this bug of mine insists on lingering."
"Bug?" I repeat inquisitively.
He smiles. "It's slang. It means illness."
"Surely whatever illness you have can be cured right here in the Medical Sector."
"Surely," he echoes, but I detect a hint of insincerity in his eyes. "I will look into it. You should not trouble yourself with my well-being. You should be focusing on your mission. We will find her any day now and you must be ready."
"Of course," I reply quickly. Shame creeps up my cheeks, making them hot. I should not have questioned him. "I hope I did not cause you to doubt my loyalty to the cause."
Dr. Alixter laughs. "Ease your mind, Kaelen. I would never doubt your loyalty."
I nod, relief cooling my face. "Thank you, sir."
"The girl on the other hand ..."
"The girl will be apprehended," I say. "I am confident I can fulfill my duties and return her to you. Just as I have been designed to do."
Dr. Alixter cocks his head, studying me. "Your confidence is admirable. But possibly foolish as well."
I swallow, fearing I have said the wrong thing again. "Foolish?"
"The girl and her"—Dr. Alixter's face twists in repulsion—"accomplice have managed to outsmart us more than once. She is dangerous. She is crafty."
"She won't outsmart me," I assert.
His doubt is disheartening. "Do you not believe I am ready?"
"I didn't say that. I'm just making sure you understand that this won't be an easy mission."
"We have prepared you with uploads and training simulations, but you have never been out there." He points vaguely toward the door of the lab. The door that has marked my perimeter for three months. "Out there is a different place, one that she has grown accustomed to, while you have no experience in it at all."
But his warnings do not sway my resolve. "I will not disappoint you. She is disloyal to our cause and I will—"
"She is defective," Dr. Alixter corrects. "Which is quite different. Her genetic programming is not as perfect as yours. Being that she was the first of your kind, there were flaws in her design. Flaws that we, thankfully, fixed in you. Disloyalty can be corrected, but brokenness—a defect—can be dangerous. You can't predict how a broken person will react. They don't operate logically. They don't rely on reason."
"It was the boy who broke her, wasn't it?" I ask. "He lured her away. He baited her with false promises."
"The girl was already broken," Dr. Alixter says. "It was the boy who discovered her flaws and exploited them."
"I will not fail," I promise. "I will bring her back so that she can be fixed. So that she can serve Diotech just as I do."
"And the boy?" Dr. Alixter asks, raising a single eyebrow.
My pulse quickens. We have never discussed what I am to do about the boy. He has always been omitted from the conversation. Until now.
This is a test. I know it. He is analyzing my reaction, assessing my ability to think for myself within the constraints of my assignment. I have to formulate my answer carefully, as Dr. Alixter will be judging my preparedness based on how I respond.
If I answer wrong, he may deem I'm not yet ready.
But I am. I am ready. I am anxious to fulfill my mission.
I consider everything I've learned in the past 121 days. I recall every upload I've received on the history of Diotech and its future agenda. I weigh every conversation Dr. Alixter and I have had about the girl and her betrayal. And then I answer with clarity and conviction.
"The boy is a threat to us. He must die."
A small, almost imperceptible smile parts his pale lips and I know that I have answered correctly.CHAPTER 3
The girl was created to be perfect.
Superior DNA. Beauty stolen from the digitally enhanced faces on the fashion streams. Abilities that rivaled those typically reserved for the comic book superheroes of the past.
But it didn't take long for her imperfections to surface. Unbeknownst to the scientists who spent years bringing her to life, there was a flaw buried within her genetic code. A defect more powerful than they could ever have imagined.
It made her foolish. It made her disobedient. It made her run.
Like her, I took my first breath inside the walls of this compound, hidden deep in the desert. Like her, I took my first steps on the synthotile floors of a secret laboratory, shielded from the eyes of the world. Like her, I was tested for strength, speed, mental aptitude, and my ability to heal.
I was told from the first day that I was perfect.
That people would be jealous of me.
That I was born to change the world.
Unlike her, I am not broken. The defect they found in her doesn't live in me.
In a way, I followed in her footsteps. But I was never created to be her shadow. I wasn't even created to be her equal. I am superior to her in every way.
I knew from the moment I opened my eyes that I was expected to surpass her. If I was going to be the one to track her down and bring her back, then I had to stand taller, run faster, think quicker.
"You are better than her," Dr. Alixter told me over and over again. "You are better than all of us. That's why you will succeed where we failed."
The day I was born, the Diotech compound rejoiced. Or rather, the handful of people who knew about me rejoiced.
It had been almost one year since she escaped. One year since the boy lured her away from here. They had tried to apprehend her once before. Dr. Alixter and Director Raze sent their best men—their strongest men—into the past to find her, but they returned empty-handed. That was when they realized that they didn't need more men or even stronger men.
They needed me.CHAPTER 4
Dr. Alixter pops the vial into the reservoir of the injector with a definitive snap.
"You understand the risks." His voice doesn't rise at the end of the sentence. It is a statement, not a question. Yet I answer it anyway.
"I understand the risks."
"Gene DZ227 has not yet been fully tested and"—he coughs—"we don't know what the long-term effects are."
I stare at the injector in his hand and the sparkling clear liquid bubbling inside of it. It represents everything I've wanted in my abridged life: Dr. Alixter's trust.
By injecting me, he is declaring that he has complete faith in me. That he truly believes I am not like the girl. I am different. I am loyal.
I will not run.
"My body is strong," I tell him. "It can withstand any side effects."
Dr. Alixter nods to the scientist standing next to him and hands him the injector. The scientist walks silently toward me, an almost dazed expression on his face. He pulls up my sleeve, exposing my left arm.
I've never seen this particular scientist before. He is new. I wonder how much he has been told about me, about the contents of the injector he holds. I wonder if he'll remember any of this tomorrow.
Chances are, he won't.
Memories are slippery on the Diotech compound. They can vanish in the blink of an eye.
Dr. Alixter says it's for the good of the company. The good of our cause as a whole. If Dr. Alixter says it, then it must be true.
The scientist presses the tip of the injector to my vein. I hear the unmistakable whoosh of the compressed air releasing. Then I feel a tiny pinch, and it's over. The vial is empty. The sparkling liquid is now swimming inside me, flowing through my veins, working fast to make me even more powerful than I was before.
I flex my muscles, willing it to spread faster.
I feel a slight humming underneath my skin. Is it the gene? Or my exhilaration at knowing it's in my blood. I am eager to try it out. To close my eyes and will myself to another time and place—just as my uploads have taught me to do. But I am a soldier, not a commander. I follow the orders. I don't give them. I will stay right here until I'm told otherwise.
Dr. Alixter knows best. He always knows best.
"You'll need an upload on how the technology works," Dr. Alixter says.
I frown. Has he forgotten already? It's not like him to forget. "I have received every upload on the subject of transession."
Dr. Alixter gazes into nothingness for a moment, as though he's fallen asleep with his eyes open. Then he blinks and smiles. "Very good. You'll need to practice before you leave. Small jumps. No more than three or four minutes and a few feet. Mark the ground and try to hit that spot every time. Precision is key. Error is unforgivable."
"I don't make mistakes," I remind him.
"Everyone makes mistakes. Even you."
I fall silent, frustration welling up. I want so badly to make him see. To erase his doubts. I am not her. I will not fail him as she did. But I know better than to argue with Dr. Alixter.
"How are his vitals?" he asks the scientist.
The young man in the white coat taps on his DigiSlate, accessing the link to the nanosensors running through my blood—the microscopic robots that are constantly reporting information about my body. "Strong."
"Once you leave this compound," Dr. Alixter says, "your signal will be lost. We won't be able to track you."
I drag my fingertip over the thin black line that runs across the crease of my left wrist. When I emerged from the womb and opened my eyes, it was the first thing I saw. An upload later informed me that it was there as a precaution. In case I turned out to be defective, too.
"I won't run away," I tell Dr. Alixter, almost offended.
He laughs, but it seems to catch in his throat, causing him to gag.
"Can I get you some water?" the scientist asks. "Or a cold repressor?"
He brusquely waves the scientist away. "I'm fine," he snaps. "That will be all. Report to Director Raze."
Scientists don't report to Director Raze. Unless they've seen something they weren't authorized to see.
Tomorrow his memory of this will surely be gone.
"I know you won't run away," Dr. Alixter says once the scientist has left. "What I mean is, we won't be able to help you. You will lose all communication with us. You will be completely on your own."
"I can handle it."
"Yes. But can you handle her?"
"Her?" I echo curiously, thinking that maybe he has forgotten again. "Her genes are inferior."
"Her genes, yes," Dr. Alixter agrees.
"I don't understand."
With some effort, he stands up, wobbling slightly on his feet, and walks around the back of my chair, resting his hands on my shoulders. I continue to face forward, staring at the giant synthoglass womb that brought me into this world.
"There's something you need to know," Dr. Alixter says, his voice suddenly graver than it was a minute ago. "Sera is unlike you and me. She is dangerous. She has been outside these compound walls for a long time and it has changed her. She will say anything she can to turn you against me."
"I would never—"
His nails dig into my flesh. It doesn't hurt but the urgency surprises me. "Listen to me," he growls. "She will tell you things—things that will make you feel conflicted. Things that will make you question what you know to be true. She will use whatever means possible to sway you from your mission. But you must remember, whatever she says is a lie. It's a manipulation. She is broken, and broken people lie."
"Broken people lie," I repeat mindlessly.
"Be careful. You are the most powerful weapon Diotech has now, but she will try to convince you that I am the enemy. She will try to turn you against me." He pauses and his next words are weighted and purposeful. "Because she wants to hurt me."
Instantly, I feel fire ignite in my chest. Red, hot rage burns me from the inside. My fists involuntarily tighten. My teeth gnash together. The sensation confuses me and fuels me at the same time.
"I will not let her hurt you," I vow through my clenched jaw. "I will protect you."
His fingernails loosen from my shoulders and he pats my head affectionately. "Very good."
"When do I leave?"
"As soon as we locate her."
"I can help," I say eagerly. "I'll transesse wherever you want. I'll search everywhere."
"That would be a waste of your skills. The historians are working on it. Tirelessly. She'll show up. She'll make a mistake. And when she does, we'll be ready. You'll be ready." The last word barely makes it out of his mouth. It gets strangled by a wheezing sound that convulses his entire body.
I twist my neck to look at my creator. His face is pale and his eyes are watering. A small droplet of blood drips from his left nostril.
"Sir?" I ask in concern.
He walks uneasily toward the door. As he reaches out to press his fingertip to the panel, I notice his hand trembling. The heavy synthosteel that shields me from the outside world slides open, revealing a hallway I've seen but never entered.
As soon as he's through, the door begins to retract again. I hear the sound of Dr. Alixter retching just before the door seals shut, locking the acidic smell of bile inside the lab.
Excerpted from Unleashed 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.
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