Nameless(Broken City, #1)

By: Jessica Sorensen

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.”

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