The forgotten, p.1
The Forgotten, p.1
THE LUX GUARDIANS
For my mum.
Copyright © Saruuh Kelsey 2017
This book has been majorly edited and improved since its initial publishing in 2013. If you have downloaded The Forgotten before May 2017, tweet me (@saruuhkelsey) or email me (email@example.com) and I’ll send you the new second edition!
The right of Saruuh Kelsey to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover photo © istock
Cover and book design by Saruuh Kelsey
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About The Forgotten (The Lux Guardians, book 1)
When Honour breaches the fence around Forgotten London, he becomes #1 on the world leader’s hit list. To save his life, Honour joins an underground rebellion. But Honour is no fighter, and he may have just put himself – and his sister – in even more danger.
In 1878, when Branwell and Bennet’s genius father is murdered and an invention is stolen, the siblings discover his work is linked to the future destruction of the world. But when they’re transported to a derelict place far from home, how will they reclaim the stolen device?
The Forgotten is the first book in the Lux Guardians series, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller with a historical twist. If you like sinister plots, desperate survival stories, and world-changing revolutions, you’ll love this story of family, friendship, and rebellion!
Honour - HON·ur
Horatia - Hoh·RAY·shee·ah
Branwell - BRAN·well
Bennet - BEN·it
Yosiah - Yuh·SIGH·ah
Miya - MEE·ah
Dalmar - DAL·mar
Hele - HEY·le
Olympiae - OL·im·pee·ay
Table of Contents
The Disappearance of The Lux
The Discovery of Origin
The Disappearance of The Lux
01:00. 18.09.2040. Forgotten London, Shepherd’s Bush Zone.
Tonight I’m attempting another escape.
My twin sister, Horatia, sleeps curled around a ratty cushion, her long limbs pulled awkwardly close to her chest. Behind the cushion, held against her heart, is the tiny stuffed bear our father gave us when we were born, before he gave us away.
Her dark hair is pulled into a French plait even in sleep but a mess of hair from her fringe has fallen into her eyes and I brush it back with my fingers, gentle and careful not to wake her. If she woke I know she’d convince me to stay, like she did last night and the night before.
I can’t let her stop me again. The past two attempts I’ve made to breach the border, Horatia has managed to stop me and bring me back to the small terrace house we share with three other families. Not this time, though. I’m careful to make my feet light and soundless as I tiptoe away from the mattress we share and slide my rucksack onto my shoulder. I take a small vial from my pocket and tip its contents over the door’s hinges. Oil—a luxury only the wealthy and people of high status in Underground London Zone can afford. I traded a set of overalls for this small amount of it, but it’s worth the price. I have to find a way through the electric fence that surrounds our town.
Two weeks ago I found a letter that told me to get out of Forgotten London, my home, and to go to the free, diseased lands in the north. And I intend to.
Horatia doesn’t know about the letter because I don’t know how to tell her, but I have to find a way to get her past the border before she questions my actions. At the moment she thinks I’m rebelling against the oppressed state that we live in and the restrictions on our lives. She’s wrong. It’s something more, something bigger. I have to get my family away from Forgotten London before States has a chance to do what they’re planning to.
The door opens silently, thankfully, and closes behind me with a minimal click. I make my way onto the dark streets outside without a sound.
There are patrols on the main streets, but I keep to the back roads and empty alleyways and come across no one. It takes me a full two hours to reach the closest border in Ealing Zone. It will take me two and a quarter hours to get back, since there are twice as many patrols after five a.m. I have forty five minutes to attempt to get through the fence and then begin walking back so I can get home before Horatia wakes up at six a.m. when the factory crates go rattling down the road.
My first problem with getting to the fence is the military guards—Officials, in their black uniforms—that stand every ten metres along the border, but I’ve got past them before. The last time I took advantage of a brawl that broke out in Hounslow, the neighbouring zone—an area that is almost completely made up of bars, pubs, and fight houses—but the zone is quiet tonight. I spend five minutes analysing my surroundings, taking my time down to forty minutes, but I come up with a plan.
Along the border are electric lampposts. The guards stand under them so that they won’t be caught off guard by a drunken civilian or an idiot attempting to escape. About twenty metres in front of me, twenty metres closer to the Officials, is an electric box. I don’t know the proper word for it, but I do know that inside is some kind of machine that keeps the lampposts working. All I need is a few minutes of darkness to hide me so I can see if it’s possible to break through the barrier. That’s all I’m trying to do: see if it’s actually possible.
I would have found out three nights ago if the Officials hadn’t returned to the border quicker than I thought they would. If I hadn’t ran I’d have been caught. Not tonight, though.
I take a deep breath, drop to my knees, and inch out from behind the building I’m hidden by.
The ground is rough and covered in dust and small, jagged rocks that cut my hands and knees as I crawl towards the box, but I ignore the sting and the voice in my head that says I‘ll have to sew the torn hole in my jeans later, and force myself forward.
The Officials don’t notice me. They don’t even blink. Three of them are gathered together in a group, laughing and joking about something I can’t hear.
Their raucous laughter would calm my nerves, would reassure me that they aren’t paying attention to me, that I’m not in any immediate danger, if I were scared. The nervous rush that goes through people when faced with danger; the hair standing on end, sweaty palms, hard breathing, heart pounding, hands shaking kind of fear is something I have never experienced. Not even when one of the machines in the clothing factory I work in veered in the wrong direction and took off the little finger on my right hand. Not even then did I feel scared or even a hint of nervousness. All I remember thinking was that I should use a scrap of fabric to soak up the blood, and that I’d definitely be arrested, or maybe even executed if the nearest Official felt that way out, for using the clothes we manufacture as a bandage.
So when I reach the electric box I don’t feel relieved that I haven’t been seen or caught or shot. I just feel irritated that my jeans are ripped and Horatia will know I’ve been out.
In my backpack I find a laser cutter that my friend Dalmar commandeered from the weapons factory he works in. It cuts easily through the steel lock on the metal box and I’m careful to catch it before it hits the ground. Fear or not, I don’t want to alert the guards to my presence.
There’s a circuit board inside, like one I saw inside Dalmar’s computer one time. It took him almost an hour to explain to me that it was the thing connecting all the components, keeping the computer working. Technology isn’t something I understand, or ever will. I’m still not completely sure what the word component means.
I think about cutting through all of the wires on the board with the laser, but a second thought makes me realise that the Officials would know someone had tampered with it. I can pass off the missing lock as one of the guards forgetting to put it on, but cut wires would be a dead giveaway.
I go for a large wire that splits off into seven smaller wires, plugging into seven holes on the board, and I yank out the bigger end. For three seconds nothing happens, and then the area sinks into complete darkness. I can still see by the moonlight, but the guards are confused and angry if their loud voices are anything to go by. Momentary chaos. I try not to smile.
I don’t waste any more time. I run to the large area of fence that was left unguarded by the three Officials grouping together. There’s a guard fifteen metres to my right, and three twenty metres to my left. If any of them see me, I’ll go for the right. I reckon I can take on one guard and then run back to the coverage of the zone’s buildings before the others catch on. I’ve been in a few bar fights when we were really low on money and I won three of the five fights I fought in. That must mean I’m not bad at using my fists. Definitely not Official standard and probably not enough to knock one out but maybe enough to distract one. I hope I don’t have to find out.
I don’t get close to the fence, since being electrocuted by its powerful current isn’t part of my plan, and that’s when I notice something odd about the low thrumming that always surrounds the metal mesh—it’s gone. I must have turned the fence’s electricity off when I cut the lights. Well that’s good to know. I never managed to get past the electricity before.
I guesstimate I have twenty five minutes until I have to return, and about five minutes max’ before one of the Officials stumbles upon me. I act quickly.
Cutting through the fence with the laser, I’m careful to hide the red glow with my body. Tentatively, I touch the barrier with a finger. I was right. It’s not powered. My hands are shaking now, and a rush of adrenaline shoots through me. I take a deep breath and hesitate. Dangerous, with Officials nearby, but this is a life changing moment and I want to make it last. I run my hand fully across the fence, just making sure, and then slip my body through the split I created with the laser.
For a minute it feels like time has stopped, but I realise that’s just my breathing and then my breath comes out all at once. I roll my sleeve up to get to my watch—an old, rusty thing that I had to trade a lot of stuff for—and move my wrist until a beam of moonlight falls on its face. Twenty minutes until I need to turn around. Enough time to walk a little way into the wilderness of the diseased lands.
I put one heavy, numb-feeling foot in front of the other and walk around an area that a fortnight ago I never dreamed of being in. This is crazy. Horatia won’t believe me when I tell her, but I’m actually here—actually outside. For a while nothing matters and nothing moves. And then I remember that Horatia is going to kill me when I get back and I wince.
In the moonlight I can make out grass, endless grass. In the distance there are buildings. Deserted, definitely, but if my family and I manage to get out the way I just did—unnoticed—then it’s somewhere to hide for the night. I laugh suddenly and accidentally, and clap my hand over my mouth. I turn to see if the Officials heard, but I’m too far away now for them to hear anything.
I grin once reality sinks in, and I stop walking and stare at the open field. The quiet is the first thing I notice. All my life I’ve been surrounded by noise—the groaning of old houses, the churning of machinery, the choreographed thuds of boots on gravel, the rabble of voices—that I’ve never really experienced true silence. Everything hums and thrums, and whirrs and clicks, but here it’s simple, complete silence. I like it. It makes me feel calm, and free.
I feel unrestrained, and weirdly peaceful.
I spend a long time thinking about what to do with this knowledge, but eventually I know there’s only one thing I can do. I want to tell everyone, to gather every single person in Forgotten London and tell them that there is a way outside of the town, that there’s a way to live outside of Officials and rations and forced work placements and fear. But I can’t do that. I would risk everything if I did that. I would risk my family, my sister.
The only thing I can do is make sure I get Horatia out of Forgotten London before it’s too late. I don’t know if it’s possible to live out here, or if we can even survive, but I have to try. We can’t stay in Forgotten London anymore. It’s not safe to stay a minute longer than necessary. I can’t tell her how I know that or why I believe it so much, but she trusts me enough to trust what I believe in. I just hope our surrogate family, the people we live with, will trust me enough too.
Today I’m going to get all of our things together. I’m going to tell my friends goodbye. And then I’m going to tell my family.
I’m going to tell them that it’s possible to get through the fence. That we can start a life outside of the border we’ve always known.
After a while I’ll come back for my friends and I’ll lead them to safety too. I’ll save as many people as I can without being killed. But I won’t risk Horatia. I won’t let her die. And that’s why we’re going tomorrow night.
Tomorrow we’re going to leave everything behind. We’re going to escape Forgotten London.
06:01. 18.09.1878. London.
My father has come into possession of the blueprints of an electric-powered streetlamp and has locked himself in his attic, tinkering with glass and filaments with abandon and no care for trivia things like eating and sleeping more than two hours a night. Inevitably, I have spent the past week with him almost constantly, aiding his investigation and invention as much as I can—which mostly involves offering a pair of hands, since my knowledge lies in biology, not mechanics and invention—and reminding him that mealtimes exist. He’s trying to improve the technology of the lamp, to fuse it with the limitless power cell, named the Lux, that he invented last year. He won’t tell me or even Benny, his darling daughter and my twin sister, what higher use he has in mind for the power; only that it is fundamental to some purpose.
At mid-morning I venture down from the attic and come face-to-face with my furious sister. She’s been waiting for me.
“Can’t you leave the attic for a single day, Branwell?” Her mottled green eyes shine brighter when she’s angry, and her face flushes a dark red. She almost never uses my Sunday name. “That’s all I ask,” she continues. “To spend one whole day with you on our birthday.”
“I’m sorry.” I really am sorry, but father needs me more than Bennet does.
“Well? What excuse is it this time?”
I lower my head. “He’s close to a breakthrough. He needs my assistance.”
“What if I need you?”
I can’t think what Benny would need me for—unless she’s attempting to bond with the horse father bought her for her last birthday again. “You could ask Edward to help with Dolly. I’m sure he won’t mind.”
“This isn’t about the damned horse, Bran!” My head snaps up in shock and I falter when I see tears forming in her eyes. She cries even less than she says my full name. “This is about us. You’re spending less time with me each day. You’re making a point to avoid me in the corridors and at mealtimes. You never read to me anymore. All you ever do is lock yourself in the attic with father.”
“I don’t want your excuses, Bran.” She sounds resigned. My heart gives a painful tug.
“I want to spent time with you. It’s just that father…”
“Yes, he needs you more than I do. You’ve said that a few times already.”
“It’s not that,” I say loudly. I take a steadying breath and lower my voice. “I am helping him finish his work—the work he’s been doing since before we were born, Benny—because I don’t want him to leave it unfinished.”
Her face shifts, something between comprehension and denial. She knows. She’s too smart to not have figured it out.
Her voice quietens. “Why would he leave it unfinished? He’s spent his entire life on it. He would never just leave it.”
I whisper, “He doesn’t have very long left.”
Her voice shoots high. “Left until what?”
“He’s dying.” My voice cracks but I keep going. “And you know it. I know you do—I can see it in your eyes.”
“I…” She shakes her head, eyes misty. “I didn’t know. I suspected he was ill, but not dying. He can’t die. He’s our father.” She scans my face, desperate for agreement. I lower my eyes.
“He’s not immortal.”
“He’s strong. He can fight it. He can—“
“Bennet.” I reach out and draw her to me. She’s shaking, unsurprisingly. “It’s progressed much too far. He did fight it, for a whole year, but now…”
“He can get better.” Her voice is muffled by my shirt. It’s a wonder she hasn’t scolded me for discarding my waistcoat again.
“He might get better. He might make a miraculous recovery.” I swallow the lump in my throat. “But that’s what it would be—miraculous. He’s dying. His body has fought it, but the illness has won. I don’t think there’s anything we can do.”
The Forgotten by Saruuh Kelsey / Fantasy / Actions & Adventure have rating 4.3 out of 5 / Based on17 votes