Unraveled - Gennifer Albin

PROLOGUE

THE SEA IS DARK AND LOVELY AND it calls me to its arms. I can sleep there. But as I stop fighting, the water grows heavy on my chest, pushing me down, paralyzing my arms. My eyes fly open but there is no light. I am nothing. I am the ocean. I am everything.

There is no surface near enough to break through, so I have to learn to breathe underwater. I must be reborn. A dozen glass boxes dangle from my arms, binding me to my past. Inside some, my friends are trapped, crying out for help. In others, those I love reenact mistakes I cannot escape. Fragile reminders of gambles I have lost and games I am still playing hold my arms so I cannot swim.

I can change everything if I let go first. Release Jost and Erik. Trust who Amie has become. Abandon my hatred of Cormac. I must shed the past and emerge in a thick, new skin. To rise above, I strip off the weight that pushes against me and drags me down. I ascend through the water. I say goodbye to them and with each release of the past I float higher and higher, unburdened by the debts and stories that brought me to this point, because I am free.

Autonomous.

Independent.

Dangerous.

Nothing holds me back now. This is why the Guild should fear me. I’ve given everything away. I have nothing more to lose. I can save worlds, and I will.

The Guild may lie in wait for me, but I am ready for them.

ONE

I WAKE TO A DARKNESS THAT ENVELOPS me in comfortable oblivion. My convictions and memories jumble into a snarl of thoughts I can’t quite untangle, so I call for the lights. The bed I’m in is strange and unfamiliar, and I can’t quite sort out where my dreams end and my life begins. Then I remember I’m in Cormac’s quarters on an aeroship bound for Arras.

My hands are in heavy gages, restrictive manacles that prevent me from using my skills. Without access to my hands, I struggle to rise like a bird with broken wings. Through a small round window I watch the crackle of light and energy bursting through the barrier as the aeroship glides smoothly along the Interface, the roughly woven boundary that separates Earth from Arras. Around me is possibility—the luminous pulse of the universe surging through the golden strands. Even though my hands are bound, I feel in control. Being separated from my arguably most powerful weapons reminds me that I have one defense left—one capable of inflicting much more damage: my mind.

Cormac and the Guild have underestimated me. Now as they take me back to the alteration labs and the Coventry looms, I know I have power. I must remember that, especially as I stand alone, torn from my friends, my family, and Erik.

Flexing my fingers against the steel gages that lock them into place, I study these glove-like shackles that are meant to cripple me. The gages look like a series of rings stacked on top of one another and then melded together. They appear simple in construction, but if I press too hard against them a shock of electricity jolts through my skin. On each gage’s cuff a small blue light is illuminated. Taking a deep breath, I raise my hands to my mouth and try to bite down on the latch. The blue light flashes and a stronger bolt knocks the breath from my lungs.

I stop trying to take them off.

They’ve left me in Cormac’s quarters, which are as slick and impersonal as Cormac himself. For a man who oversees a world as opulent as Arras, with its sculpted skyscrapers and cosmetically enhanced population, Cormac’s taste is spartan. In the center of the room wait two ramrod-straight leather chairs with a steel table planted on the slate-tiled floor between them. The bed that I awoke in is perched on a low platform near the window. No artwork graces the walls. A small mirror shows me a girl with strawberry hair sharpening to fiery red, the remains of my cosmetic routine at the Coventry. For the moment, my face is clean, without a trace of cosmetics—pure and pale. But for how long? My eyes reflect the question back at me. They are still the same emerald green as my mother’s.

The door to the corridor slides open and Cormac enters. He’s changed out of the tactical gear he wore during our confrontation on Alcatraz and into his customary black