Enders, p.22Lissa Price
I took a step backward. She smiled and took a step toward me. I hadn’t prepared for this. I had no weapons.
My heart quickened as she raised the letter opener. But instead of attacking me, she brought it down on her other arm and stabbed herself in the forearm. Her scream made my skin crawl.
“Don’t!” she cried. “Don’t hurt me!”
Blood trickled down her arm. She thrust the handle of the weapon in my palm. I dropped it, letting it fall to the carpet.
The door opened. I turned, expecting for a split second to see her guards. But of course it was Dawson, flanked by two marshals.
“She stabbed me.” Beatty held out her wounded arm.
“Get her,” Dawson said to the marshals.
As they approached us, Beatty slipped me a smirk that no one else saw. “Thank goodness my guards called you. She stuck me with that.” She pointed to the letter opener on the floor.
Dawson looked down at the letter opener and shook his head. “No, she didn’t.”
“She did. That girl is dangerous,” Beatty said.
“That’s certainly true,” Dawson said. “But she didn’t touch you.”
“Give it up, Beatty,” I said. “He saw it all through my eyes. Heard it through my ears.”
Beatty’s jaw dropped as she looked from me to Dawson. “He was … in you?” She stood there, in shock, still as stone, like a troll caught in the sunlight.
Dawson nodded to the marshals. One pressed a handkerchief to her wound to stop the bleeding.
“Good job,” Dawson said to me.
“Just holding up my end of the bargain.”
“What bargain?” Beatty asked.
“I’d do what he wanted if he’d let me take you down,” I said to her.
I nodded to the marshals and they cuffed her behind her back.
“No! You can’t do this. I’m the headmaster. I have connections.” Beatty’s face contorted.
“Not anymore,” Dawson said.
As they carted her off, I made sure that the last memory Beatty would have of me was a huge grin on my face.
A week later, I stood outside a secret location in the middle of the desert and stared at a complex of imposing dark gray structures. A large seal with a logo was embedded over the entrance. This was Dawson’s Transposition Research Center.
My father stood beside me, his arm around my shoulder. Michael was several yards away, keeping Tyler amused. Dawson’s sales pitch played through my mind.
“Our enemies plan to take us over from within and without. We have to stop them.”
“You want me to be a spy,” I said.
“It isn’t just for your country. The buyers who escaped will be after you and Tyler for your chips. They’ll want your father for his expertise. Working with me is your family’s best chance at survival.”
I longed for a normal life with my father and brother, but with the chip in my head, I’d come to accept that my future was destined to be different. Brockman was in jail but was not cooperating. If he knew how to remove the chips, he wasn’t talking. I couldn’t live looking over my shoulder, always afraid, as if I were borrowing my own body.
I would be a trainee with the others, but only some of us would pass the tough three-month program and join the team. Many of the Metals I’d known would be here, but there was only one I was looking for.
I hadn’t been in touch with Hyden since the day his father was arrested. He wasn’t answering his phone. I couldn’t imagine him joining, after all Dawson had put us through.
The transport vehicle that had brought us here waited behind us. Other vehicles pulled up and dropped off more Metal recruits.
Michael approached me at the drop-off location once the new prospects started to disembark. Savannah, the black belt with medical skills. Lily, the acrobat. Jeremy, the martial artist. Briona. Lee. Raj. Blake.
We exchanged greetings as they each continued into the Center. We waited as their empty transports drove away.
“Maybe he was here early,” Michael said to me.
“He’s never early,” I said, swallowing hard. “He’s not coming.”
My dad patted my shoulder. “Time to say goodbye, Cal Girl.”
I gave him a long hug. Then Tyler.
“You go make us safe,” Tyler said.
I hugged Tyler tightly. “Be good.”
They climbed back into their transport and were driven away. Tyler waved his hand for as long as I could see him. Then Michael and I turned and walked toward the building. We heard a vehicle in the distance and turned our heads at the same time to see dust kicking up across the desert.
One more transport was coming.
We stopped and watched. I squinted in the sun. I couldn’t see who was inside.
The transport door opened.
It was Hyden.
He got out and walked forward to join us. He looked at me and gave a little smile. I saw in his eyes all the pain and anguish he must have gone through this week, coming to this decision. He looked at the Center.
“Some place,” he said, shading his eyes.
The last time I had pinned all my hopes on a building, it hadn’t turned out the way I’d imagined. Now, looking at the Center, I hoped we could work together, Starters and Enders, Metals and scientists. Eventually the Starters would become Middles and then Enders, and the newer generations wouldn’t have the big hole that we had. Maybe then it won’t matter so much if they’re young or old, rich or poor, or what they looked like on the outside.
I took a deep breath. This day was far different from the day I had stood outside Prime Destinations.
This time, I wasn’t going in alone. I was flanked by two guys who would die for me. And I’d do the same for them.
“Ready?” Michael asked.
“I was born ready,” Hyden said.
I nodded. “Let’s do this.”
I took Michael’s hand, then reached out for Hyden’s. He hesitated a moment, then extended his hand and clasped mine. A slight flash of pain registered in his eyes, but he recovered and reassured me with a slight smile.
Hand in hand, together, we walked forward to face a future where we would shape our own destinies.
Thanks to all the Starters, Middles, and Enders who helped me with Enders.
To Dean Koontz, the master of suspense: it meant the world to a debut author to receive your generous quote in praise of Starters. I will be forever grateful to you.
My wonderful agents, Barbara Poelle and Heather Baror, and my thoughtful editor, Wendy Loggia, thank you all so much for your help and support.
My talented writing group buddies, Derek Rogers and Liam Brian Perry, you guys will be next. My friend Dawn, writers S. L. Card, Suzanne Gates, Lorin Oberweger, and Gina Rosati, thank you all for your brilliant insights.
Kami Garcia, my sincere gratitude for generously giving us your great quote, and for your support.
Michael Messian, you have been a constant champion of this series. My husband, Dennis, thank you for always understanding how important the book was to me and for never once complaining about the missed concerts, films, and dinners.
To everyone else who helped me, from my wonderful publishers around the world to the reviewers, bloggers, booksellers, librarians and schoolteachers, thank you for believing in the series from the start.
And finally, to all the amazing readers across the globe: I’m deeply grateful for your patience and loyalty. You can always reach me at LissaPrice.com.
LISSA PRICE is an award-winning, internationally bestselling author whose debut, Starters, has been published in over thirty countries. She lives with her husband in Southern California. Follow @Lissa_Price on Twitter or visit her online at LissaPrice.com.
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