Home > Nameless (Broken City #1)(5)

Nameless (Broken City #1)(5)
Author: Jessica Sorensen

“See? Not so bad.” A faint smile touches his lips as he straightens his legs and stands up. “Now we just need to get out of here, and then this’ll all be over.”

The nearness of him terrifies me as his arms wrap underneath me, causing my body to shake uncontrollably. But how carefully he holds me makes it seem okay to stay put, to trust him in a way I’ve never trusted anyone before.

Still, I’m terrified. I concentrate on breathing. Breathing, that’s easy.

Ryder follows Blaise out of the cell, pressing me against him until my cheek rests against his chest.

Air in. Air out. Air in. Air out. Breathe, Allura. Just breathe.

“Wait, I think there was one more cell down here, wasn’t there?” Ryder asks Blaise as we exit the cell.

“We don’t have time for another rescue mission. The orders were to get her out. That’s it. We need to go now.” Blaise sounds agitated. “The systems could turn on at any second, and then this whole place is going to be swarming with wardens.”

My muscles convulse, and I clutch the front of Ryder’s shirt. If the wardens catch them, Blaise and Ryder will probably be tortured and killed. I’ve seen them kill each other over less. And I’ll be left to be punished over and over again.

“It’ll only take a minute to get into the cell. Just run and check,” Ryder pleads. “I won’t be able to live with myself if there’s a possibility we left one behind.”

“Fine,” Blaise grumbles then hurries off somewhere.

While we wait for him to return, Ryder rocks me back and forth, humming under his breath. I find the movement comforting enough that I dare lift my head up to peer around.

I haven’t stepped foot outside of the cells in forever. I forgot what was out here. I used to imagine a better place on the other side of the steel door. It’s not. In fact, it might be worse.

The long hallway is narrow enough that I instantly feel claustrophobic. The walls are made of a darker, smoother stone than moonstone and release a potent stench. The florescent lights are too bright, and the air reeks of rotting death, blood, and filth. The stench is so overwhelming I dry heave.

“Just hang on a few more seconds.” Ryder traces his fingers in a circular pattern across my back.

I peek up at his face. He’s not looking at me but down the hallway. Stubble covers his chin, and strands of his blond hair hang in his eyes. Every once in a while, he tries to blow them out of the way. The way he moves is so human. Most visitors are robotic, rigid, and stiff. Maybe he’s not a visitor.

As if sensing me watching him, his gaze lowers and we lock eyes. His lips part. But before he can say anything, I look away and focus on a faded spot on his grey shirt.

He adjusts me in his arms. “Do you know your name?”

I smash my lips together, unsure how to respond. I was always told I don’t have a name, that I’m a Nameless. But I don’t want to be a Nameless anymore.

It’s been years since I said my name aloud. I’m not even sure where the name in my head came from, or if it’s really my name, but it’s been in my thoughts for as long as I can remember.

“It’s okay,” Ryder says in a gentle tone. “You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to.”

But I want to tell him. Whether it’s really my name or not, I want to have a name, want to know I still exist.

“Allura,” I whisper. “My name is Allura.

“Allura.” A smile graces his lips. “It’s a beautiful name.”

I breathe in the sound, feel the realness of it. Allura. I exist.

“The other cell was empty,” Blaise hollers from up the hallway.

“I wonder if they died.” Ryder curses under his breath. “I’m getting so sick of this shit. There’s too much death in this world.”

“You can have a meltdown when we get back,” Blaise says with urgency. “Right now, we need to get out of here before there’s more deaths.”

“Yeah, I know,” Ryder mumbles. “But one day, I swear to God I’m going to find a way to end this. Wardens may think we’re weak, but they have a weakness, too. Everyone does.” His chest heaves as he blows out a breath then whirls around and strides down the hallway.

“Which way was it? Left or right?” Ryder asks, quickening his stride.

There’s a faint beep, and then Blaise barks, “Left.”

I bounce in Ryder’s arms as he sharply veers left and picks up his pace to a jog. Afraid he’s going to drop me, I grip on more tightly and duck my head against his chest.

“It’s okay. It’s okay,” he keeps saying. “We’re almost there.”

“Now right,” Blaise says. “And then, in just a few steps, we’ll make another left.”

“Goddammit, it’s a maze down here.” Ryder’s boots scuff against the ground as he dodges right then left.

“I think that’s the point,” Blaise shouts over another beep. “It makes it harder for intruders and prisoners to get in or out.” Beep. Beep. Beep. “Fucking sensors are going off like crazy. The cameras haven’t turned on yet, but the systems are close to rebooting.” He jogs up beside Ryder. “Once they come on, they’re going to be able to track us down within minutes.”

“Then we better move faster.” Ryder takes off in a mad sprint. “Get out your gun and be ready.”

Gun? That’s not going to stop a warden.

When I first came to the channels, during one of my few attempted escapes, I tried to hit a warden with a beating stick I stole. When the metal stick connected with the warden’s jaw, the stick snapped in half. The warden laughed at me then beat me until I was bloody and broken.

“Guns … won’t … hurt”—I suck in a huge inhale—“them.”

Ryder offers me a reassuring smile. “We know. But the bullets are made of titanium, and it slows them down.” His smile vanishes as his head snaps up. “Shit, I think I hear them.”

In sync, Ryder and Blaise both rush forward. My fingers clasp Ryder’s shirt as he maneuvers from side to side. Blaise keeps muttering about being lost and that he can smell the “fucking bastard wardens all over everything.” I’m not sure what he means. I’ve never noticed a smell. Maybe I’m used to it.

Ryder tries to reassure me at least ten times that we’ll be fine, but I start to wonder if we will find our way out. The wardens warned me, if I ever tried to escape, death would be waiting for me in the channels.

“Wait a minute … I think I see … Yep, there’s the exit.” Ryder slams to a halt in front of an enormous glass box with thousands of blue rays of light shining inside. “Here, hand me the gun and take her while I get scanned then run through when the doors open. I’ll have to rescan before I can get out.” He leans forward and places me in Blaise’s arms. “God, you can run straight into gunfire, but ask you to hold a girl and you look like you’re about to piss your pants.”

“Shut the hell up,” Blaise snaps, his arms rigid as he tries to support my weight without fully touching me.

I jump at the sound of his booming voice and squirm, ready to scramble out of his arms.

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