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Three Fates Entwined

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Three Fates Entwined

JAMIE CAMPBELL

Copyright © 2016 Jamie Campbell

Shakespir Edition

Jamie Campbell asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.

 

Section 183(b)(ix) A Maker can choose to make as many clones as they require, unless their cloning process results in a Defective Clone. At that time, all cloning activities must cease. All cloning procedures must be paid for up front. No refunds are given for a Defective Clone.

 

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p<>{color:#000;}. Excerpt from Clone Legislation, 2056 Edition

 

Chapter 1: Wren

 

 

The boy was going to kill me.

“Rocky, come on. I’m hungry but I’m not going to eat that,” I said, with a few giggles that refused to be suppressed. He was holding up a suspect piece of brown goo. It could have been anything from mud to something much, much worse.

Rocky dangled it over his mouth. “I’m sure it tastes better than it looks.”

“I’ll go on a raid, try to get some real food from a house in the Hills.”

“It’s too dangerous.”

Yes, it was. But that had never stopped me before. When there was no food left in the village and the trash cans in the city had been emptied, we had little other choice.

Eating brown goo was not a good option. Still, I’d eaten worst. Every Defective Clone had. But that didn’t mean I would let Rocky poison himself.

I stood, trying to get purchase with my limp foot. I stomped it on the ground a few times, trying to at least get some feeling back in it. I hated my defective foot, but I still needed it in order to walk.

Rocky pushed up to a standing position. “If you’re going to risk being caught, then I’m going with you.”

“No you’re—“

My words remained stuck in my throat as someone shrieked, “Troopers!” Everyone in the Defectives’ village sprung to life as we ran.

Running for me wasn’t an entirely good option. With my gimp foot, I was unlikely to be able to outrun a trooper. They had been trained and were in peak physical shape, I was barely surviving. I needed to hide.

Rocky was by my side as we frantically searched for a hiding place. Unfortunately, the alleyway was our only real option. We dived into the damp and slimy place, the brown goo now forgotten as it fell to the ground.

We squished ourselves against the wall, hoping to be as small and invisible as possible. I could hear Rocky’s sharp breaths as he gasped for air while the pounding of my heartbeats echoed in my head.

The troopers were searching through the village. It was something they did regularly, but lately it had been upgraded to often. Nearly every day they did a walk-through as a minimum.

They were searching for me.

For my organs.

My Maker had called me in to Fulfil My Purpose. I was to lay down my life so she could cut me to pieces and freeze whatever organs she didn’t need at the moment.

I didn’t want her to have any part of me. From the soles of my feet to the tip of my head, I hated her. For creating me, for casting me out when I had a defect, for keeping us hungry, for making sure we suffered, and for ensuring our murder was legal.

My Maker was the most powerful woman in the country.

And I was her exact genetic clone.

When I turned eighteen, she had put the bounty on my head. I was fully grown, ready and prime to be sliced and diced. The searches of the village had been frequent ever since. One of these days I wasn’t going to be able to hide from them.

They would find me eventually.

It was inevitable.

But I would fight like crazy to make sure that moment was as far away from now as possible. Rocky’s good hand lightly brushed mine, reminding me I wasn’t alone. He was a good friend, continually going above and beyond to protect me. We had been cast out of the laboratories at the same time, two Defective Clones that nobody wanted.

One day I was going to get him killed and then I would be begging for the scientists to take me so I didn’t have to live with the guilt and grief any longer.

The pounding of the troopers’ footsteps rung out through the village as they made their way through the shanties. Somewhere in the distance a baby screamed, too young to realize they were risking their lives by not being quiet when the troopers were near.

I sucked in a breath and hoped it was that child’s lucky day and they wouldn’t be taken. Troopers had little patience for Defectives and they always carried guns which they enjoyed using.

The stomping grew louder as they neared the alleyway. I slumped to the ground, hoping it would be my lucky day too. The moment I was caught, the countdown on my life was going to spin downwards very quickly.

Rocky stiffened, his hand now gripping mine. We were going to be caught, I needed to figure out a way to keep him from suffering the same fate as me. His Maker hadn’t called him in yet, he could have at least a few more years of life left.

Boots came into view, the black leather shining in the sunlight. It would only be another few seconds before they saw us. They knew to look in all our hiding places, the troopers were relentless in their searches. I wished we had had more time to run, to find a place that would be safe for a few minutes more.

But there was no time. One glance down the alleyway and they would see us hiding. Our defects – my foot and Rocky’s arm – made our identification as Defective Clones easy. One short look, that was all it would take.

“Over here!” someone yelled.

The boots stopped.

So did my heart.

 

Chapter 2: Wren

 

 

The footsteps started up again, but this time they grew fainter with each one. I let out the breath I was holding and prayed that whoever had saved my life today wasn’t on the troopers’ hit list.

“We need to get out of here,” Rocky whispered. I nodded, standing again and preparing my bad foot for the onslaught of pain it was going to be experiencing in the next few minutes.

“Ready?” I asked. Rocky conjured up a smile, one I hoped I would be seeing for many more days yet. I crept to the edge of the alley and risked a peek around. The path appeared clear.

Rocky tugged on my arm. “I’ll go first.”

They weren’t looking for him, it was the safest thing to do. Still, that didn’t make me any happier about him risking his life. But arguing would only delay the inevitable. “Fine. Be careful.”

Rocky crept out, one limb at a time. I could see the shaking of his hand, reminding me what danger I constantly put him, and other Defectives, in. The troopers wouldn’t come around searching even half as much if I wasn’t there.

The guilt was a heavy burden to bear.

If I could find a way to leave and never come back, I would have done. Unfortunately, no matter how many times Rocky and I stared at the wall surrounding our city, we could never find a foolproof plan to get through it.

“It’s clear, come on,” Rocky urged. He was still whispering so it couldn’t have been too clear.

I followed him out of the alley. Other Defectives were starting to emerge from their own hiding places. It was always the same process we went through after a raid of the village. First we would do a headcount, trying to determine if the troopers took anyone.

So far, it seemed they’d made it out emptyhanded.

Good.

I had enough blood on my hands, I couldn’t handle much more.

Daisy bounded up to me first. “Spider says we should go get some food, he thinks the troopers won’t make their usual monthly drop. Are you in?”

I nodded. “Of course.”

The one act of kindness the troopers showed us was delivering some rotten and moldy food at the end of each month. But it wasn’t for our benefit, it kept us nourished enough to stay alive – so our Makers could use us when they needed our organs.

Spider caught up with us. “Is Rocky coming?”

I cast a glance at my best friend, silently hoping he wouldn’t. But, like always, I didn’t get my wish. “Sure, let’s go.”

Our food expeditions were always carried out in the Hills district. They were the only ones with money in Aria City. We would never take food from anyone else, they didn’t have enough for themselves, let alone us as well.

It was the rich ones that ruled our city and they had the money to ensure it remained that way. President Stone also had a mansion in the Hills, bigger than anyone else in the city. Nobody was allowed more than Stone.

We had to keep to the shadows while making our way through the city. Humans didn’t appreciate seeing us and we were supposed to remain unseen. Wouldn’t want to spoil their day by reminding them of the bottom dwellers.

The Hills district was easy to spot as we walked. Just as if someone had drawn an invisible line around it, everything sparkled with its newness and neatness. The high fences around the properties were always freshly painted, the trees all neatly clipped, and the houses as pretty as pictures.

It was a nightmare.

Reminding us all of our place in Aria.

Defective Clones were the mud caught on their shoes, Valid Clones were their hope for survival. There was no way we could pretend we were otherwise, not with all our obvious defects.

“The house on the corner hasn’t had anyone come home for four days now,” Spider explained as he pointed to a yellow fence at the end of the block. “We should try there first.”

“Where’d the humans go?” Daisy asked, a question we were all wondering.

Spider shrugged. “Don’t know. Maybe Stone killed them.”

We would have laughed if the idea was ridiculous.

With President Stone, nothing was unbelievable.

Rocky and Spider went over the fence first, the sound of their thudding shoes on the other side telling me they made it. We waited for a few minutes for them to double check that the house was empty before they called us over.

Daisy went first, helping me up when she could sit on the top. My gimp foot didn’t make it easy to climb fences but I eventually scrambled enough to get over.

The house was stunning.

Pale yellow rendering covered the brickwork, each and every window polished and perfect. The yard hadn’t been mowed in a little while, making the grass taller than all the others we’d passed. It was unusual to see any unkempt lawns in the Hills.

We found a way inside at the back of the building, a window slightly ajar gave us an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. Spider went in first and signaled for the all clear before we followed.

The house was equally as beautiful on the inside. The walls were painted crisp white, matching the furniture and chandelier. It looked like a house from a storybook.

Daisy whistled her approval. “Nice digs. Why would someone leave all this?”

“Maybe to go somewhere even nicer,” Spider shot back as he rifled through the kitchen drawers.

I wandered into the pantry, amazed to see the shelves laden with food. It would have been enough to feed the village for a month. For humans it was probably only a week’s worth.

I didn’t realize Rocky had followed me in until he spoke. “Can you imagine living here?”

“Honestly, no. I have no idea what I would do with all this space. All the Defectives could live here but only one family does. What do they do with all these rooms?”

“Maybe they have a lot of visitors.”

I slipped a can of carrots into my bag. “Maybe a lot of dinner parties too. What do you think really happened to them?” The wall around the city ensured nobody could leave so it wasn’t like they could have gone on holidays to some exotic location.

“Nobody leaves their home for four days,” Rocky replied. He didn’t need to elaborate. If the homeowners were missing, there was only one place they could be and that was the morgue.

Perhaps they crossed President Stone.

Perhaps they said something they shouldn’t.

Maybe they stood up for the poor.

Anything could have brought about their executions. The only odd thing about it was that they were from the Hills district. They rarely felt Stone’s grip around their necks like the rest of us. It was going to stay a mystery we wouldn’t solve.

“Maybe we should move in here,” Rocky suggested, instantly grabbing all my attention in the palm of his hand. “What? Maybe nobody would notice for a while.”

There were so many things wrong with his idea that I didn’t even know where to begin. “Firstly, Defectives aren’t allowed to own anything and this house would definitely not be something we could have. Secondly, someone will eventually sell this house to another human and they would not want to be sharing it with a bunch of Defs. Thirdly—”

Rocky held up a hand to stop me. “I know it’s impossible. I was just dreaming, that’s all. Can you imagine if this was our house?”

I could.

In vivid color.

I could picture being seated at the large dining table with all our friends around us. Something yummy would be cooking in the oven and I would serve it to everyone. We would laugh and talk and pretend somebody else didn’t own us.

The image was perfect.

But also impossible.

Being human was the thing I wanted most in this world. Being human meant freedom, being safe instead of being hunted. It would mean I could stop running, stop wondering every morning if it was my last day on earth.

It was silly.

Clones were not human.

 

Chapter 3: Reece

 

 

The Defectives’ village was a ramshackle mishmash of small huts the clones had built themselves. Everything was filthy with dried mud and there was a stench to the place that was unique.

They were all hiding from us. Hiding and waiting until we left so they could come out and continue their poor excuse for a life. The mission brief was to find one clone in particular and she wasn’t there.

President Stone’s clone might live to see another day.

Maybe.

Not if my comrades had anything to do with it.

“We should do the city a favor and kill the filthy lot of them,” Trooper Hamilton said, kicking an empty can so it skittered away. “We would be saving us all a whole lot of hassle.”

“There’s talk of that, you know,” Trooper Watson added. “Did you hear that, Thompson?”

All eyes turned to me. I had heard it. The fact everyone wanted to kill hundreds of clones so we didn’t have to hunt or feed them anymore should have been appalling.

They didn’t think so.

“The soon the better, if you ask me,” I said.

The words tasted like sawdust on my tongue. I was lying. The thought of hurting the Defective Clones made me sick to the stomach. We should have been helping them, not dreaming up ideas to murder them.

I was outnumbered in my beliefs.

My beliefs would get me killed one day.

“Let’s get out of here,” Hamilton said, using the tip of his gun to knock bottles of water onto the ground until they bled into the mud. “I don’t want to catch something from this godforsaken place.”

“Your brother would have loved this place,” Watson piped up again, throwing his words at me like they were bullets. “Being the Def-lover he was. Isn’t that right, Thompson?”

I wanted to shoot him. Put a bullet through his head so I didn’t have to listen to him any longer. What happened to my brother was public knowledge in the trooper base but that didn’t mean anyone could talk about him.

“Go to hell,” I muttered. My hands had clenched into fists without me realizing it. One good punch to the jaw would be enough to shut him up permanently.

But it wasn’t time yet.

I still had much more to do.

Acting rashly now would ruin a lot of plans I had already started to implement. For now, I would ignore Watson, knowing he would get what he deserved when the revolution came.

My angry sneer turned into a sly smirk. It wasn’t going to be the troopers that won the war, they were going to be on the losing side. And I was going to be on the winning one.

Triumphant.

It would be a very happy day when Stone and all her supporters got what they deserved.

A happy day indeed.

I was still seething the next day when I was assigned Recruitment duties. Other troopers didn’t mind it so much, they thought it was easy work. I, on the other hand, hated it.

All the troopers of Aria City were taken from the poorest districts. If they didn’t agree to serve their president, they were imprisoned for treason. If they were lucky. Those that bothered the recruiters were sent to their deaths instead.

So while the rich people of Aria continued to rake in the money and live their luxurious lifestyles, those that had no money lost their sons to the army.

I signed up before they recruited me. I had business with the troopers that my brother had left unfinished. I wanted to find out what really happened to him, how he ended up lying dead in the Killing Field without so much as a trial.

Someday, someone was going to find out about all the treasonous things I was up to and I would suffer the same fate as he did. But I wouldn’t let it happen until I got some answers. I needed information and then I would get my vengeance.

Our president didn’t allow us to take trooper transport if the area of our mission was within walking distance. So, as hot as it was, we walked the six blocks to stand directly in the middle of the Sink. It was a district where the rich would never go. According to them, only criminals, the diseased, and the evil dwelled there.

It was the poorest district of Aria and we were about to steal their young men. Not only would their families miss out on the income they could bring in, but they also knew they would probably never see them again.

Troopers were paid a pittance, barely enough to survive on. It was hard, back-breaking work, and it was a commitment for life. Only death released a trooper, and even then, they were buried on the base.

Corporal Breen cranked the alarm until a steady, loud sound rang out from the square. Everyone knew what the alarm meant, nobody else was allowed to sound it other than the troopers. We were calling them to us, forcing them to obey and stand before us.

There were no smiles or enthusiasm. Families clung on to their sons aged sixteen or more, hoping their names weren’t on the roll today. They each prayed for a reprieve, at least until the next recruitment day.

Breen nudged me. “You going to do it, or what? Get moving, Thompson.”

I stepped forward and tapped on my electronic tablet so the names appeared before my eyes. There were thirteen of them today, enough to replace the wounded from last month. To our superiors, they were just names like all the others. We were all there just to fill a space.

“Adam Azare,” I said to the crowd. There was no small talk, we all knew why we were there.

A mother yelped out a cry of anguish as she clung to her son. Adam barely looked twelve, let alone sixteen. He tried to remain stoic, even as his mother wept. Finally, he stepped forward and whispered reassurances to her. She let him go but still reached for him.

Another woman comforted her.

She needed it.

Images of my own mother when she had seen my brother recruited flashed into my mind. She had wept openly just as the woman had. I wished I could apologize to her for everything.

For her son’s life.

For the horrors of living in the Sink.

For the way our president made our lives so much worse.

Adam stepped in front of me. “Reporting for duty, sir.”

“Wait with Breen. We’ve got more to come yet,” I replied, trying hard not to see him as a child. I gestured to Breen so he knew where to stand. Maybe he would remember my kindness one day.

I continued through the list and the scene was played out over and over again until thirteen of the families were openly crying. Nothing I could say to them would make their pain any better.

We walked back to base in a long line.

Child soldiers walking into the unknown.

 

Chapter 4: Wren

 

 

The Defectives’ village was all excited as a new delivery was made. The scientists had dropped off a new Defective Clone. They always came in as newborns. The moment they were created by the scientists, they had a death sentence on their heads.

This little girl’s defect was similar to mine – she had a foot that didn’t want to point forward. The little limb was twisted so the foot was almost back to front.

She was beautiful.

The humans may have seen her as an abomination because of her defect but we cherished every one of the new deliveries. Rocky and I had been left on the same day. Everybody said it was the first time two babies had been left together.

We had been best friends ever since.

Sunny cradled the baby in her arm – she had only one good one. Our unofficial mother would look after her until she could be passed around the village. We would all do our part and ensure she grew up safely.

The Makers relied on us to ensure they made it to adulthood. They couldn’t make any more clones so they needed their Defective in the end. The food we were given only once a month barely sustained us.

We were always hungry.

After we had the naming ceremony to name the baby Blossom, everyone started to go back to their duties. I remained with Sunny, keen to help in any way I could with the new child.

“She doesn’t seem very well,” Sunny commented after a while. She placed her hand on the baby’s forehead and frowned. “She’s burning up with a fever.”

Suggesting she see a doctor was out of the question. No medical professional in Aria would even touch a Defective. People thought we carried diseases, and our deformities were catching. They were all wrong but nobody wanted to test the theory.

“Maybe she’ll be better in the morning,” I said. After all, there was nothing we could do to help her.

Fear of illness was instilled in every Defective.

If the troopers didn’t kill us, then the conditions we lived in might. Nobody in Aria wanted to do anything about it. They were just happy that they didn’t have to see it.

Or deal with it.

Or help us.

They complained when we broke into their houses and stole food but none of them ever refused our organs when they were ill. Nobody ever allowed a clone to live when they were destined to die. They needed us, despite the way we were treated.

Blossom cried all night long. I took it in turns with Sunny to cradle her but she wouldn’t be soothed. The infant was sick and needed medical attention that we couldn’t give her.

“I’m going to take her to a doctor,” I said in the morning.

“You can’t, child. They’ll only turn you away,” Sunny replied.

I took the baby from her tired embrace and settled her on my shoulder. “I’m going to try. Maybe someone will be feeling generous today.”

Sunny nodded sadly. “Be careful.”

“I will be.”

Rocky was still asleep so I set off on my own. There was no point being quiet as I moved along the streets. Everybody could hear Blossom’s cries. They were loud enough to reach the other side of the city.

I made a beeline for the hospital, praying the attention would be on the baby and not me. There had to be dozens of doctors there, surely one of them would feel enough compassion for the sick child to help us.

There were security guards by the entrance but they didn’t pay attention beyond giving me a quick glance. I was trying desperately not to limp as I passed by them.

The emergency department was crowded with people. I weaved my way through, clutching Blossom to my chest and whispering to her that everything would be okay soon. Whatever was wrong with her, the doctor had to heal it.

I made my way to the nurses’ station and stood tall enough so the lady sitting behind the desk could see the baby’s reddened face. “This baby needs to see a doctor.”

She peered over the counter and settled back down again, not fazed. “It is your child?”

“No, it’s not.”

“Are you its guardian?”

That sounded good enough. “Yes, she was entrusted to my care.” I silently prayed she would act faster. The sooner the child’s misery ended, the better.

“I’ll need to see your Citizen Card.” The woman’s fingers were already typing on her computer again. At least she wasn’t paying us too much attention, she couldn’t have recognized my face.

“I don’t have it. I lost it,” I said, crossing my fingers that she would believe my lie.

Instead, she pointed to a sign to the right of her window. It clearly stated, ‘No Citizen Card, No Service’. “You’ll have to leave now, I’m afraid.”

“But she’s just a baby, she needs help. Please, let her see a doctor.”

“My hands are tied, we all have our orders from the president.”

There was nothing more to lose now. “We’re Defective Clones. This poor baby was dropped off in our village and she’s not well. She needs help.”

“And you’re not going to get it here. Now go, or I will call security and have you removed.” She pointed to the door, just to make sure her order was clear.

Everybody stared at us as we left the emergency room. Not even those that pledged to heal the sick would provide care for Blossom. It wasn’t fair.

Nothing was in Aria.

I had no choice except to return to the village and admit my failure. Sunny gave me a small smile. “You did your best, child. That’s all we can ever ask of someone.”

Blossom deserved help. Somewhere in Aria there was a Maker who had ordered her creation. The baby’s death would be on their hands if she didn’t make it through the night. By the heat of her fever, she maybe only had a few hours at most.

I found Rocky in our shack. He gave me a hopeful look as I shook my head sadly. “They wouldn’t see her.”

He sat straight up on the ground. “That’s bull, she’s just a baby. Why does it always seem that humans have no humanity?”

“Because we see the worst of them.” I sat next to him, resting my foot. It had been a long way to the hospital and my defect was smarting.

“Maybe I could take her to the troopers?” Rocky suggested, his face full of optimism for a moment. “They would have to do something with her. They couldn’t just let her die.”

“That might work.”

He hurried to stand. “I’m going to talk to Sunny. Anything is worth a shot, right?”

“Right.”

Rocky hurried away and I hoped his plan worked. We’d run out of options if the troopers were the only ones that might help. They enjoyed torturing and hunting us at every opportunity they received.

Sunny agreed and Rocky took the baby in his one good arm. The other appendage hung limply at his side. We waited together as Rocky disappeared from view.

“It’s a risk he’s taking,” Sunny said over the tips of the crackling fire. “Rocky is a good kid, everyone here is.”

“I just hope they don’t decide to kill them both,” I replied. We both knew it was a possibility. If Rocky’s Maker called him in to Serve His Purpose, the troopers would arrest him and deliver him to the laboratory.

The wait for his return was painful. Every sound I heard made my head snap around to see if it was him. I must have done it a thousand times before it actually was Rocky returning.

He didn’t have Blossom with him.

I stood and held my breath. “Did they take her to get help?”

“They said they would.”

I gave him a hug and whispered in his ear, “You’re so brave, thank you. A million thanks. Tell me everything that happened.”

Sunny joined us so she could hear the story too. “They didn’t want to take her but one of the troopers said they should. He said the baby’s Maker might complain if they didn’t.”

One trooper.

That was all it came down to.

“Let’s go for a walk,” I said, taking Rocky’s hand and leading him from the village. The trip to the troopers’ base weighed him down, even though he should have been happy about Blossom getting some help.

We both needed some time away from the village and all our problems.

Whenever we needed a break, Rocky and I would always go to the wall. We found a spot in the abandoned building that faced the cement barricade and sat down. Two members of the President’s Personal Guard were standing watch at the only gate in and out of the city.

“I would eat unlimited ice cream,” Rocky started our usual game. We always dreamed of what we would do if we ever got out of the city and through the wall. Our ideas got sillier every time we played it.

“I would go to the beach and let the water wash over my legs to heal them,” I said. I’d seen pictures of a beach in a magazine I stole once. The image was burned into my mind, it looked so beautiful there.

“We might get eaten by the monsters.”

“They are supposed to be everywhere. I wonder what they look like?” Everyone knew the story of the monsters that lived beyond the wall. They were said to be more dangerous than President Stone. And that was saying something.

“I bet they’re blue and have tiny arms,” Rocky said as he mimicked a monster with short arms trying to reach for something. I loved the way he goofed around when we most needed it.

“Maybe they’re pink and fat. So fat they can’t run away.”

“And they got that fat from eating humans.”

“Eating rich humans,” I finished. We laughed quietly as all the humor left us. We might have been joking about the monsters that dwelled outside our city but nobody wanted to encounter one. All the books said they would eat us the moment we crossed the wall.

“Troopers!” Rocky whispered as loud as he dared and pointed at the road below. It was a group of four troopers, all holding their guns and ready to shoot anyone they pleased.

“Let’s go.”

Rocky nodded and we moved as quietly as we could. President Stone and all her armies were looking for me, it made me nervous being so close to a group of soldiers.

I never knew which one would be my downfall.

 

Chapter 5: Reece

 

 

The baby wouldn’t stop crying as I held it. Nobody else wanted to touch her so the duty came down to me. I tried rocking her in my arms and whispering soothing reassurances in her ear but nothing would stop her.

I placed my hand on her forehead and it almost burned with her fever. The poor kid. She was created into a world where she was destined to die and her illness was going to take her out earlier than planned.

Knocking on the door of the medic, I hoped he was home and not out in the field. It seemed to take a very long time for him to answer the door. “What do you want?” he said by way of greeting.

“This Defective Clone needs assistance.”

He briefly glanced at her face before returning to mine. “That’s not my problem.”

“You’re a doctor.”

“Not to Defs. Take her away.”

That was never going to happen. “She needs help, she’s sick. Tell me what’s wrong with her so I know how to make her better.”

We had a staring contest for a long time.

I won.

“Give her to me.” The medic sighed and reluctantly took the child from my arms. I wasn’t going to leave her with him without supervision in case he decided to kill her, so I followed him inside to his exam room.

He unwrapped the baby from her dirty blanket and gave her the once over, checking her temperature and other vital signs. The entire time, the baby wailed her misery.

“What’s wrong with her?” I asked, keen to get back to duty before my absence was noted. I had a legitimate reason but I didn’t need any extra attention or association with a Defective Clone. Taking her into our care was enough to raise a few extra eyebrows than I needed.

“She’s got an infection somewhere,” he replied, fiddling with his equipment. “She needs antibiotics.”

“Will that make her better again?”

He shrugged, not the response you wanted to see from a doctor. “It might. She’s not worth the medication, if you ask me.”

“I wasn’t asking you.”

He tried to out-stare me again but he gave up once more. He reluctantly grabbed a bottle of pills from the top shelf. “These need to be crushed up and administered every four hours.”

“Thank you.”

I wrapped up the baby again and took the pills. Her wailing had turned into whimpers and sobs. She was quieter, but that only made me worry about her more.

There was no way I could look after the baby myself and nobody else would help a Defective. The only thing I could do was take her back to the village and hand her over. It wasn’t ideal, but at least she had medication now.

She had a shot.

I slipped out of the barracks and took the subway to the Defectives’ village. I wasn’t exactly sneaking out, but I also wasn’t waving a flag at my superiors either.

I reached the edge of the village and crossed the line, trying to find the woman that normally looked after the new deliveries. She seemed to be the village’s den mother, of sorts.

She was next to a campfire, another small child perched on her lap. She instantly stood up when she saw me. “What do you want?” she asked with both trepidation and distaste.

“I’ve taken your baby to see a doctor,” I started to explain. I went through the antibiotic’s directions and left with no thanks. Nobody in Aria City appreciated the troopers’ presence and Defectives felt even stronger.

I didn’t need thanks anyway.

As long as the baby lived, it would be thanks enough.

I returned to the base and joined my comrades in the mess hall for dinner. Nobody asked me what happened to the child and I didn’t offer any information. I was a trooper, I was supposed to despise everything Defective related.

The baby was still on my mind at breakfast the next morning. I turned up for my mission on time and tried to push the thoughts to the side. I had a job to do and staying under the radar was part of that.

Sergeant Malone briefed us on our mission for the day and we were deployed across town to the Hills district of Aria. We were to guard an information session for Makers. It was put on by the Labs dotted around the city. Officially, they only had one purpose: to make clones.

Unofficially, it was anyone’s guess what they did in the restricted facilities.

Only President Stone knew for sure.

Cloning was her gift to the city once she was elected all those years ago. I wasn’t even born at the time but my parents always said she ruled with an iron fist and did whatever she pleased. She was still the same today.

I was stationed at the podium inside the plush auditorium. It was normally used for fashion parades but today it was for a seminar to discuss the benefits of cloning. The scientists were always protected when outside the labs, they were too valuable to allow someone to hurt.

The scientist taking the talk was tall and had jet-black hair. There wasn’t one wrinkle on his face, which betrayed his fondness for the anti-aging technologies they had perfected in the labs. It was a prime example of their not-so-official duties. They were forgiven when the rich became obsessed with looking young again.

The chairs all filled up as the commencement time approached. They all looked the same – perfect skin with even more perfect clothes. They’d never experienced anything other than the good life in Aria. It made me sick that these people lived so sumptuously when the majority of people in Aria were starving.

And that included the troopers.

We were given just enough food to survive and we were the lucky ones. Many people simply went without, fading away to mere bones and then into dust.

I hated them all.

They were all so eager to hear the scientist talk that they hushed the moment he took to the stage. “Welcome, friends. My name is Dr. Nielson and I am so glad you could make it today.”

A round of applause erupted from the seats. I didn’t realize he had said something worth cheering for. I really didn’t belong in the Hills district. If there had been a choice of missions today, I would definitely have chosen something else.

Dr. Nielson waved his hand to quiet them down again. “Today I am going to tell you about the fantastic opportunity you all have to make a clone. We have a special offer for you and just you – two for the price of one clone. I know that kind of deal sounds crazy, but I want you to be protected if you fall victim to the Disease.”

I wanted to block him out, because I’d heard the speech before at another talk, but I couldn’t. His voice demanded attention and there wasn’t much else to do but listen. This crowd definitely wasn’t the type to lynch the good doctor.

“As we all know, Aria City has been plagued by disease for a very long time. It riddles the body and kills off the organs, one by one, until medical intervention stops it. Unfortunately, for those that don’t have a clone, there is nothing to be done. But, for all the lucky ones that do, we can simply replace your diseased organs with the fresh and healthy ones from your clone.”

All the faces were completely lost in his speech. They were probably ready to sign up right now, he could have saved a few hours and stopped right then.

Unfortunately, he continued on. “You can be back on your feet in no time and your clone will have had the opportunity to Serve Their Purpose. Say it with me now. Serve Their Purpose!”

The crowd were chanting along with him and my stomach was twisting with rage. They made it seem like a euphoric experience for the clones to experience.

It wasn’t.

It was murder.

Every Maker and scientist seemed to lose sight of the fact that the clone had to die in order for them to live. They never made it to old age, they rarely made it past their teen years before their organs were needed by their Makers.

After that, I did switch off. I couldn’t listen to him discussing murder like it was nothing more than a day at the park. The scientists would get dozens of new clients, there would be double the amount of clones, and then there would be murder.

It always ended with murder.

The speech went for two hours and that was more than enough time to accomplish a one hundred percent sign-up rate. We were excused from our duties after the scientist was safely ensconced in his armored vehicle and taken away.

Our mode of transport was far less appealing – even though it was also armored. The troopers’ truck rattled and shook over every bump.

We had to yell to be heard over the rumblings but that didn’t stop anyone from talking. I listened as the conversation swirled around me.

“Maybe I should get a clone of my own,” Watson said.

“Why stop at one? You could get a whole troop of them,” Riles replied.

“I could. Perhaps I should train them all so they can do my work instead of me.”

“You need a few clones to do your work. With the way you’re so slow at doing your drills, they’ll barely get anything done.”

“Clones of yours would end up as Defs. You’d only be able to get one and that would be it.”

“What do you think, Thompson? Do you think I should get some clones?” Watson and the others turned their attention to me. It was dangerous to say the truth so I had to play along.

“And have more of your ugly mug around? I don’t think so,” I said. The others all laughed and the pressure went off me. They continued on with their fantasies about having clones. They were all talk, there was no way a trooper made enough money to have a clone. Only the richest of the rich could afford it.

We soon arrived at our next mission location, the working-class district of the Scrubs. I knew it well, I’d grown up in the neighborhood and lived there until I was called into the President’s Trooper Division.

The Scrubs district was generally well behaved. Everyone was too busy working to put some food in their bellies to get up to mischief. Only those with a true hatred of Stone had any time to commit.

My parents had been the latter.

Our mission was to patrol the streets and keep our eyes and ears open for any sign of trouble. It wasn’t unusual to do these kinds of missions, Stone liked to ensure everyone knew she was watching them.

We drove past my old home to get to the empty block which would serve as our base for the afternoon. It was only a small house, three rooms with a rickety roof attached to the top. My parents always tried hard to turn it into something we could be proud of and I was. I wouldn’t have changed my family for the world.

But Stone had taken all that away.

The house had been sold to someone else now and they were trying to make the most out of it. To anyone else it would have been just another house like all the others. It was only me that felt the pang of grief as we passed it by.

The truck came to a shuddering stop as we pulled up. We filed out and formed our teams of four. Patrols were one of the boring jobs we had to carry out. We were to walk the streets for three hours before we could return back to base.

Anyone who reported a clone-sympathizer was given extra food portions at dinnertime.

People in the streets averted their eyes as soon as they saw us. Nobody wanted to attract the attention of a trooper. We were feared by those living in poverty because it was usually them that were reported for extra food portions. Nobody would miss a few poor peasants, they were nothing.

These people were my kin.

And tonight some of them would die.

 

Chapter 6: Wren

 

 

Only a few newspapers still printed on paper. Someone had thrown this one away. President Stone’s face peered out at me from the front page.

She had just approved the application to build another laboratory in Aria. That would bring the total up to fourteen. Why did they need so many? The city was already plagued with them, one more would crowd the landscape and result in more Defective Clones.

There seemed to be no logic to her madness.

I was created from her, I shared the exact same genes as the president. In theory, I should have been able to put some reason into her plans but I just couldn’t. We may have shared genes but we certainly didn’t share the same mind.

“Hey, what are you doing? Get out of here,” a skinny shopkeeper called out to me. “I don’t want the likes of you standing outside my stall.”

He started approaching as he continued to scream at me. I dropped the newspaper and ran, not wanting anyone to look twice at my famous face.

I sprinted for as long as my gimp foot would let me, which was about three blocks. It was enough to get me out of the shopkeeper’s line of sight so he wouldn’t come after me. His actions were nothing unusual, nobody welcomed Defectives. I just wondered what had given me away.

My stomach growled loudly as my heartrate slowed down again. I needed some food but it wouldn’t help returning to the village. The few pieces we stored in our hut were there for Rocky. I wasn’t going to take his food.

I wandered through the back alleyways until I found some trashcans. The garbage behind restaurants and cafes were always good for something to eat. Whatever I could scrounge from the refuse wouldn’t taste good but it would sustain my body for a few hours more.

Toward the bottom of a can was half a bread roll. It had lipstick marks on it and it was about a week old but I didn’t care. I pulled off small pieces and popped them in my mouth.

The newspaper article had said Stone would be attending a college opening today. The university had burned down about a year ago and they rebuilt it on the same site. Today was its grand reopening, a ceremony fit for a president.

Without thinking much about it, I ended up walking to the college. People spilled out from the grounds, everyone keen to catch a glimpse of our leader. It was easy to see what kind of people attended the college.

There wasn’t a speck of dirt amongst them.

They were all rich.

Nobody in Aria went to college unless they came from the Hills district. Some families from other districts saved for their whole lives to gather the tuition for their children, but they were never accepted. Stone wouldn’t want the masses educated – that was when they were most dangerous.

I hung back underneath a tree and focused my gaze on President Portia Stone. She looked better in her newspaper picture, the living version had sunken cheeks and eyes that never trusted anyone. I wondered if that was my future I was staring at. Was I going to look like that in thirty years?

Probably.

Whatever genes had made Stone so hard would get to me eventually, too. I would twist into that horrible woman and never be myself again. Providing I didn’t Serve My Purpose first, of course.

I would never grow that old.

President Stone would make sure of it.

Her guards and troopers stood at all edges of her podium to make sure nobody got too close to her. She wasn’t being paranoid about security, she really did need to be protected. There were many people in Aria that wanted to kill her.

Defective Clones were at the top of the list.

All of a sudden someone tapped on my shoulder. I spun around quickly, ready to run at any chance I got. But there was nobody there. Another tap on my other shoulder had the same effect.

Then realization hit me. I relaxed and looked back over my shoulder. “I know you’re there, Rocky. Quit playing games with me.”

Rocky stepped into my vision and moved to stand beside me, a goofy grin on his face. “What are you doing here?”

“I could ask the same about you.”

He shrugged, shoving his good hand into his pocket. “I was in the neighborhood and saw you come this way. I thought I would see what was so interesting that you didn’t even notice your best friend as you walked by him.”

“I didn’t see you.” I racked my brain and I couldn’t remember passing him at all. I was getting bad with my observation skills. It would only take one mishap to get myself killed.

“What are you doing here, anyway?”

It was my turn to shrug. “I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about. Then I thought I might enroll in some classes. Do you think I’d make the grade?”

Rocky gently elbowed me in the ribs. “They’d be lucky to have you.”

I let out a sigh underneath my breath. Clones weren’t allowed inside any educational facility. That included all kinds of schools and colleges. So many times I had dreamed of going to classes but it wasn’t possible.

Humans didn’t know how good they had it.

“Stone’s riled up today,” Rocky commented as her speech continued on. “Must have woken up on the right side of her lush bed.”

“I think she just likes the sound of hearing her own voice. Kill me if I ever become her, Rocky. Please?”

“You’ll never be like her.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Rocky’s face split into a grin. “Because I know you, Wren. If she wasn’t trying to kill you so badly, I wouldn’t believe she’s your Maker. There is nothing similar about you two except for your genes. And perhaps the color of your eyes.”

I smiled to myself and decided to believe him for now. I knew they were just sweet words, little lies to make me feel better, but I didn’t care. President Stone was a hard woman and I would do everything I could to make sure I didn’t become her.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said. I’d had more than my fair share of President Stone for one day. There was only so much I could take before I started throwing rocks at her.

I was about up to that stage.

It was better if I left.

The crowd around us suddenly erupted into a loud cheer and round of applause. They then started disbursing, some going into the college and others heading for the city’s subway system. Only the exceedingly wealthy had cars of their own.

We were caught up in the rush of the crowd as they all headed toward elsewhere. Out of the corner of my eye, a man caught my attention. He was standing as still as a sentry in the courtyard, not paying any attention to others as they were forced to step around him.

With his face tilted upwards as if in defiance, he crossed his arms over the front of his chest to form an X. He held it there for a few moments before his arms fell away and he turned to join the masses. The whole thing had happened in the blink of an eye but I had definitely seen it.

What I didn’t know was what it meant, if anything.

He was probably just saluting the college or the president in his own silent way. I hadn’t seen anyone else doing it but that didn’t mean it didn’t happen. I wasn’t going to believe I knew everything that went on.

Far from it.

Nobody told Defectives anything.

We weren’t even supposed to be able to read. Our minds weren’t to be used for our Makers, they meant little more than a vessel that moved around the bag of organs.

We started moving back to the village where we could rest a while before we decided where to spend the night. If there was a particularly strong presence of troopers around the area, I wouldn’t stay there. They were usually looking for me, and that put everyone else in danger.

Whether it was Stone’s public appearance at the college or some other reason, troopers were crawling all over the streets. We had to weave our way down alleyways and through shadows to avoid their attention.

“I heard some of the humans aren’t too happy with President Stone’s actions,” Rocky said unexpectedly.

“I can’t imagine they were the people at the college today,” I replied, remembering how they all looked at her with adoration. If there was an election today, they would have all voted for her.

Not that there were any elections. Stone had come to power thirty years ago and never let anyone else contest her. If anyone tried, she would have them jailed for treason.

Rocky continued, the beats of his words matching his steps. “Not the people today, but there are plenty of others that would fight against Stone if given the chance. There are plenty more poor people than rich.”

“That’s true. But do you really think anyone would be brave enough to fight her? She is so quick to lock people up or sentence them to death.”

“I don’t know. Maybe. Possibly. There’s a lot more that goes on in this city than we know about.”

That was the truth.

But a group ready to take her down?

It was the kind of things dreams were made of.

 

Chapter 7: President Portia Stone

 

 

Today was a breeze. Someone wrote my speech for me so all I had to do was talk and smile before I had the whole crowd eating out of the palm of my hand.

They were all so gullible.

I’d learned a long time ago that I only had to tell the idiots what they wanted to hear and they would love me. They were all little more than brainless drones.

And that’s the way I liked them.

“Where is my vehicle?” I demanded from my guards. They were all standing around, none of them willing to take responsibility for causing me to wait. “Well? Where is it? I don’t have all day, I am very important.”

“It is two seconds away, ma’am. Please accept my humble apology. It will not happen again,” one of the guards said. I didn’t know his name, they all looked the same to me.

“You’d better make sure it doesn’t happen again or I will be forced to show you what happens to guards who don’t do their job.”

He had the decency to look scared, which was exactly what I’d hoped. You didn’t rule a city with compliments and niceties. You ruled with an iron fist or you wouldn’t rule for long. My people were terrified of me.

The armored vehicle pulled up and I climbed in, along with a few of my guards. I hated having them constantly shuffling around me but there wasn’t much I could do about it. Sometimes idiots decided they would like to kill me. I’d rather one of my guards took the bullet instead of me.

I had a perfect record for catching every single person that had said a bad word about me, let alone try to kill me. They all begged for mercy in the gas chamber.

Fools.

I could barely tolerate most of them at times.

People needed to realize I was always going to win and they may as well accept that fact or they would lose their lives. I thought I had made that quite clear over the years but there always seemed to be one with enough arrogance to think they were special.

Nobody in Aria was special.

Except me.

I’d proven that at the college today. There was nothing I couldn’t say to them that would lessen me in their opinion. They took everything I said and felt grateful to have been in my presence.

We arrived back at my mansion and I left the guards at the door. They were finally able to leave me alone now I was in my personal fortress. Nobody could breach my security measures here. Electric fences, guards patrolling the boundary, and a safe room would all ensure my heart continued to beat.

I headed for my office but never got that far. “Excuse me, Madam President, would you have a few moments to speak with me? There is something I would like to show you,” the guard said.

“Is it important?” I asked tersely. I’d worked all day, I didn’t need to get involved in whatever mundane task he was undertaking. If it wasn’t important, I didn’t want to know anything about it.

“I believe it is something you will want to see,” he replied. What they assumed and what was reality, was often quite different. If he was simply wasting my time I would ensure he was properly reprimanded.

Nobody did it twice.

I made sure of it.

“Fine, show me what it is and be quick about it.”

He led me into the main security room where one wall was covered in screens. They all showed different parts of the city, monitoring our people and looking for security threats. I had them working on adding sound to the surveillance so they could also listen for talk that wasn’t permitted.

Nothing happened in Aria without me knowing about it. It wasn’t only a threat that I targeted toward my people, it was true. I had eyes and ears everywhere, all looking for acts of treason that would see the perpetrators killed.

I didn’t believe in empty threats. All my threats were carried through to the end. Nobody ever said President Portia Stone wasn’t true to her word.

He offered me a seat while he spoke and pointed at the screen in the middle of the wall. “This is footage from the college today. As you know, we scanned the crowd for anything that might be suspicious. There were two things we found. This is the first one.”

He zoomed in on a face in the crowd. She was standing at the back under the shade of an Elm tree. My younger face looked back at me. I remembered being eighteen, how the youthful glow would beam from my eager young face.

My clone had none of that glow.

She didn’t take any pride in her appearance. Her hair was unkempt, her cheeks sunken, and she was covered in a layer of dirt. If she hadn’t been born with her defect, she would have been welcome to spend time with me in my mansion.

If not for that bloody defect, I would have been able to create as many clones as I wanted.

She ruined everything for me.

I would have changed the legislation but some of my parliamentary members voted against it. They were all so unruly back then, thinking they had a say in everything that went on in Aria City. It was cute, really.

I’d fixed that.

And nobody had noticed.

“She remained and listened for the whole speech,” the guard continued. “She didn’t seem to do much else. The boy here, he was with her for most of the time. They left together.”

He zoomed in on the pair, the boy just as disgusting as her. I’d given her the genes that could have made her great and instead she was a poor excuse of a clone. Her little friend seemed to be exactly the same.

I would make him pay for helping her. No doubt he was aiding her in evading my guards and troopers. They seemed close on the surveillance footage. He would regret that friendship one day.

One day soon.

When I was that age I was taking control of Aria and commencing my reign. I was working seventeen hours a day to make this city what it is today. I was contributing, building an empire that was never going to fall.

What was my clone doing?

Nothing. It was why she deserved to die. She was a complete waste of space and I resented having to use any resources to keep her alive. I should have stopped the monthly supply of food years ago and rounded them all up. The scientists said sixteen was a good age to take their organs, anything above that was bonus time for them. I would be able to get legislation passed through parliament now to mandate their capture upon maturity.

I would make that my priority.

All Defs would need to watch their back then. On their sixteenth birthday they would get to Serve Their Purpose. The city would save on monthly food deliveries and their Makers would have surety that their organs were being frozen and ready for use.

Win-win all around.

“What else is there? You said there were two things,” I pointed out, having to tell him to do his job. I swear everyone was a sandwich short of a picnic. They were lucky to have me as their leader, I was the only one with a full working brain.

“Uh, yes, there was.” He typed on the keyboard and the image of my useless clone switched to another group of the crowd. It was frozen before he touched the screen to make it play. “This occurred at the end of your speech just as you left the podium.”

One man crossed his arms over his chest.

The biggest idiot of all.

“Find out who he is and have him arrested. I want his death to be a public spectacle,” I ordered. “If he isn’t found by morning, it will be your life I take instead.”

I turned and left the room. I’d seen enough for one day. In just a few minutes, the high I had been riding all day had been vanquished by those blithering idiots.

My clone didn’t deserve to live the eighteen years that she had. For the last two years I had been trying to find her so she could Serve Her Purpose. At the time I hadn’t required her organs, I just wanted them to be frozen so I didn’t have to worry about the girl carrying them around.

She had lived an extra two years.

That was enough.

If I did nothing else, I would make sure she was captured and sent to the labs for freezing. There was no way for her to escape from Aria. Her time was limited and I was going to find her.

Even if it was the last thing I ever did.

 

 

the story continues.

 

 

READ ON FOR THE EXCLUSIVE FIRST ChAPTER OF:

 

 

Two Beating Hearts

 

OUT NOW

 

Chapter 1: Wren

 

 

“Run! Run!”

My eyes snapped open from the fitful sleep I had been in. It took a few moments for the words to sink in and be processed through my sleep-addled brain.

“Run!”

The shrieks repeated as if they were stuck in a loop. Over and over again I was screamed at to run. It was so dark in the cold room that I could barely make out which way was up and which way was down.

“Run!”

I needed to run.

There were no such things as false alarms around here.

Pulling myself to my feet, I felt around in the dark until I could pull open a door. It groaned with my efforts, inching open just far enough so I could see through the slit.

Straight beams from flashlights ran over the warehouse walls, illuminating everything in their wake, even the corners of the large area. They matched the rhythm of the security troopers’ boots.

Thud thud thud.

I wasn’t sure if the beat belonged to them or my own heart.

“Clone! Make yourself known and nobody has to get hurt.” A male voice, yelling louder than all the others.

One of the president’s security troopers.

“I know you’re in here. There is no place to hide.”

He was right, there was no place to hide. I needed to get the hell out of there before they found me. Because they lied, everybody would get hurt with them there. They wouldn’t spare anyone – especially me.

I had to make it out.

Doing a quick sweep of all the shadows in the room, there had to be at least a dozen troopers in sight. Twelve of them against one of me.

I didn’t like those odds.

They were never in my favor.

“Come out come out wherever you are.”

The door creaked no matter how slowly I moved it. But there was no way out of the room besides through that door so it had to be done. I pulled it back until I could squeeze through.

Immediately, I crouched to the ground, telling myself I was invisible the entire way. It was beyond difficult walking like that with my foot. When I walked normally it was little more than a limp. But when I had to be quiet and small it slowed me down and dragged like it was a completely useless appendage.

Which it pretty much was.

I didn’t have too far to creep, if I could make it to the next room over, there was a window. All I needed to do was find it in the darkness and somehow crawl through it.

Then I might have a shot of making it out alive.

Providing the troops didn’t think to cover the outside area too. They probably didn’t think I was intelligent enough to escape, that I would hide until they found me and haul me off to my certain death.

I was much smarter than they gave me credit for.

I’d survived this long. Eighteen years was nothing to be ashamed of. Some might call it miraculous. I certainly did.

“Step out where we can see you and put your hands on your head.”

I froze.

They had found me. Every nerve in my body stood at full attention and waited for the flashlight beam to wash over me. The troopers wouldn’t shoot me when they saw me, they wouldn’t kill me yet, but they weren’t afraid to beat me into submission. Anything that didn’t injure my organs was fair game.

“Get out here!”

The order made me jump but I could not move any muscles to comply with the order. Not when every instinct I owned screamed at me to run.

Footsteps pounded as someone else stepped out of the shadows. “Hands up! Get down on the ground. Now now now!”

It wasn’t me they had spotted. Temporary relief flooded through my veins, quickly followed by guilt over someone else being caught. Their blood was going to be on my hands.

But I couldn’t think of that right now. I had to keep moving or I would be the next one they found. My feet shuffled along as quietly as they could possibly move.

“Clone, where are you? We’re going to find you so you may as well show yourself now.”

Where was the door?

I had spent so many hours studying every inch of the abandoned warehouse I thought I had it memorized. I knew one day my survival would depend on it and now my memory was failing.

One step after the other, that’s all I needed to do. One barely functioning foot after the perfectly good one.

Step step step.

“This is your final warning.”

I ran into something hard. The door. I almost fell to the floor in a puddle of relief.

My hand ventured over the smooth cold steel until I found the knob. Praying it wouldn’t squeak like the last one, I pushed on it. Inch by inch it moved.

I slipped inside.

The moonlight was shining on the window like a beacon of hope. I made a direct line for it, willing myself to go faster. I could almost feel the freedom offered by the outside. It would be a small drop to the ground but then I could run. I could find a new place to hide, somewhere the security troopers would never find me.

“Stop!” The voice was too close.

No no no.

The flashlight caught me in its spotlight, the center focused right on me and only me.

I slowly turned around, my hands up in surrender while I figured out a way to get away from him.

He was tall, at least six foot. He wore the troopers’ uniform like it was made just for him, perfectly sculptured to his body and showing off the hard muscles underneath.

In one hand he held a flashlight, in the other a gun. They were both pointed directly at me with hands so steady they could perform microsurgery.

Any words I might have used to plead for my freedom were caught in my throat. I was too scared to move, pinned in place by the trooper’s green eyes.

He stared at me, our eyes momentarily locking together as everything unspoken passed between us. In about two seconds he would throw me on the ground and secure my hands with cuffs. He would take me back to the rest of his troop and they would parade me to the president’s house like I was a prized cow.

Then I would die.

The entire scene played out in the blink of an eye as I stood there. These were going to be the last moments of my life. I could probably count them down.

Ten.

Nine.

Eight.

He wasn’t even blinking. He stood there, unwavering as he stared at me. Was he waiting for backup? Prolonging my agony? Deciding exactly how to punish me for escaping this long?

Seven.

Six.

Five.

He finally tore his gaze away from my eyes and looked at something behind me. Was someone else hiding in the room and I hadn’t noticed them? Was it another trooper?

Four.

Three.

Two.

He looked behind me again, this time gesturing with his gun. I risked looking around, seeing nothing but the window in the room. Was he hoping for me to run so it would make my capture that much sweeter? So more violence could be justified?

One.

He held up a finger to his lips, shushing me as if I might be able to speak. Or scream. I could do neither as I watched him approach. This was normally when they made a fist and bashed it against my frail body over and over again.

I was planted in place, unable to move. As he drew nearer – so close I could smell the sweat – my heartbeat went off the charts. I mentally prepared myself for the beating, remembering that it would be nothing compared to my death.

I wondered if this guy would be like the last one who had caught me. Would he try to twist my arms around so tightly they wanted to snap off? Or would he prefer a simple throw down so he could kick me repeatedly?

Would he find something even worse to torture me with?

The trooper stepped around me and reached up to open the window. A gust of frigid night air rushed through and swirled around me. My skin prickled with goosebumps.

“You’d better hurry,” he whispered right by my ear. I hadn’t realized he was so close. I jumped from the feel of his breath on my neck.

He strode back to the door, glancing at me once more before looking at the window. Was he telling me to run? Surely I had to be mistaken.

The trooper stepped outside. Just as he closed the door, I heard him say, “She’s not in here, this room’s clear.”

My limbs unfroze.

I scrambled up the wall and through that window faster than I ever thought possible. The drop to the ground wasn’t even felt on my sore body.

I ran and ran and ran.

The whole time, I reminded myself that I wasn’t only what they thought I was. My name was Wren. I was the Defective Clone of the most powerful woman in the country.

I was being hunted.

And I would not let them catch me.

 

OUT NOW

 

 

Two Beating Hearts

 

 

BOOK ONE OF THE DEFECTIVES SERIES

 

Also by the Author:

A Hairy Tail

Cinderella is Evil

The Fairy Tales Retold Series

The Star Kissed Series

All The Pretty Ghosts

Ashes to Ashes

A World Without Angels

Angel’s Uprising

Fashion Fraud

Gifted

Love Songs

The Project Integrate Series

The Fashion Series

Dark Eyes: Cursed

Celestial

Through a Tangled Woods

Trouble

 

About the Author

 

 

 

Jamie Campbell grew up in the New South Wales town of Port Macquarie as the youngest of six children. She now resides on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.

 

Writing since she could hold a pencil, Jamie’s passion for storytelling and wild imagination were often a cause for concern with her school teachers. Now that imagination is used for good instead of mischief.

 

Visit www.jamiecampbell.com.aunow for exclusive website only content.

 

Send Jamie an email at [email protected]

 


Three Fates Entwined

A novella introduction to the Defectives series. Defective Clone Wren must face the consequences of having one of the most recognizable faces in the country. Together with her best friend, they must sneak around Aria in the hopes of protecting one more life. Meanwhile, Trooper Reece Thompson is facing his past when sent to patrol his old neighborhood. Find out exactly what fuels his commitment to the cause. The Defectives Series includes: Three Fates Entwined Two Beating Hearts A Hundred Stolen Breaths One Spark of Hope

  • Author: Jamie Campbell
  • Published: 2016-07-18 03:50:11
  • Words: 12422
Three Fates Entwined Three Fates Entwined