Home > Unchanged (Unremembered #3)

Unchanged (Unremembered #3)
Jessica Brody

BEFORE

The girl didn’t fight. She knew it was pointless. She watched the doctor prepare the needle, drawing up the Cv9 into the reservoir and inserting it directly into her vein.

Of course, there were more modern ways to inject sedatives but he preferred the tactile feel of the needle. The small popping sound it made as it penetrated the skin. The pressure of manually compelling the drug into the bloodstream.

He could trust his own fingers.

He couldn’t say the same for much else.

“Don’t worry,” he told her. “This won’t hurt. And you won’t remember a thing.”

The serum worked fast. The dose was significant. As she drifted to sleep, she held one face in her mind. The face she longed to remember. And also longed to forget.

She would wake up chained. She would wake up changed.

She knew this.

The smile on her lips as her mind slipped into darkness was her last act of rebellion.

The doctor watched her vitals on a monitor. When she was fully under, he sent for the president.

The slender blond man entered the room ten minutes later, limping against a cane. It was a vast improvement over the mechanical chair that carried him only yesterday.

“She’s ready,” the doctor informed him.

The president walked unsteadily around the edge of the hovering metal slab that held the unconscious girl. Without uttering a word, he gazed down upon her. An ignorant bystander might even describe the look in his eyes as adoring, particularly as he reached down to brush a strand of golden-brown hair from her face.

But the longer he watched her, the less innocuous his stare became. Hardening with each passing second. Until icy blue stones glared out from the sockets where his eyes had once been.

She had betrayed him for the last time. He would not make the same mistakes again.

“I have a Memory Coder standing by,” the doctor informed him. “I’ve ordered a full wipe to be initiated on your command.”

“No.” The president’s response was swift and stern.

The doctor was certain he had misunderstood. “No?”

“We’ve tried that before. Countless times. And it always leads us right back here.”

“But surely this time the Coders can—”

The president silenced him with a shaky raise of his hand. “She keeps her memories. All of them. Restore everything we have in the server bunker.”

“Everything?”

“Guilt is a powerful weapon. Her memories will be a constant reminder of her disloyalty. Every time she thinks of him, I want her to feel that betrayal. Tell the Coder we’re going to implement the new procedure.”

The doctor squirmed. “Sir, with all due respect, that procedure hasn’t been fully tested and—”

“That will be all.”

The doctor stood in stunned silence until he finally managed to utter an acknowledgment of the order.

The president returned his gaze to the girl, reaching out to gently stroke her silken cheek. Then, so the doctor couldn’t hear, he bent down and whispered in her ear, “This time you won’t be given the luxury of forgetting.”

PART 1

THE UNKNOWING

1

UPDATED

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 …

Nothingness.

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.

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