Exclusive: EVERMARKED - Chapter Four Book One of the EverMarked Series (Coming July 28, 2020)

July 17, 2020

Here is the fourth chapter in the EverMarked series coming out at the end of the month. In this chapter you finally get to meet Jayla and her team...I think you'll like them! Hope you enjoy!

If you haven't read Chapter One, Chapter Two or Chapter Three yet, check them out first.

Chapter 4 – Jayla

 

When the sun sets, we’re all the same—shadows streaking through the night. Some good. Some bad. There was no way to know who was on your side and who the enemy was, and I liked it that way. The thrill of not knowing brought me to life. It set my adrenaline racing and a tingle sweeping over my skin.

         Tonight, however, the shadow sprinting ahead of me was very well known as my enemy. The bullet hole I had given him moments ago was spilling blood along the pavement with little dots for me to follow. The gun I’d used was secure at my hip while I chased after him.

          Azrael, that’s what I’d named my gun. Caspian had laughed at me when I told him the name, but he shut his mouth quickly when I’d said Azrael was the Angel of Death. Azrael always took what was rightfully his.

          My feet splashed against the small puddles of the alleyway. I was careful not to think about what might be in those puddles, but chasing after scum often meant heading into the slums. Not that Cytos had much of that. It was a prosperous city, a metropolis and a beacon to the rest of the world that we were the beginning of the Peace-Making Era…even if it was a lie.

          The Carbon swiftly moving a few yards ahead of me, one hand gripping the bullet wound on his side, was a testament that not everyone had changed. Not everyone was good.

          It was a common misconception that Carbons couldn’t die. Sure, they could live for a long time, nearly immortal with their machine-like bodies, but a well-placed bullet and the knowledge of what was keeping them alive for so long was all we needed to end these rebels. A microchip at the base of their skull was the answer to living forever. A bullet incapacitated them, and a small incision to remove the chip ended their lives.

          I had had to do it more than a few times. As a Watcher, it was my job to protect this city from the enemy they didn’t know still existed. To the outside world, even we didn’t exist. We were a secret organization formed long before the Peace-Making, hidden in the shadows and keeping humanity safe.

It was our job to be the best, and my team and I were. I sensed them nearby. Caspian took to the rooftops; he loved the free-fall of jumping from building to building. Emery, my second in command, was in the alley next to the one I sprinted down. I knew this because at each crossing, I could see her white-blond hair gleam in the moonlight, and the wicked smile she gave me each time we passed one another.

          The Watchers were scattered throughout the city of Cytos, hunting the enemy. The one ahead of me had been on my radar for some time.

          A group of Carbons were still tied to the old ways. They believed they were better than a mere human, better than even the other Carbons who had kept the peace for the past fifteen decades. Not many had found a way to remove the cuffs quelling their abilities, but even without their powers, they were deadly. The cuffs didn’t mute their speed, agility, or training: they were still inhuman, with or without their advanced abilities silenced.

           Our intel had brought us here tonight. Word of a planned attack meant to take down the one thing our city was most known for—our government.

          The Carbons and the humans ruled over Cytos together—two representatives with equal power working together as one. It was the one thing setting us apart from any other city in the world: we had a Carbon sitting in power beside a human. While others tolerated the Carbons, none had one in a position of power.

          The Carbon I chased, Simon, was believed to be the leader of the rebellion, which was why we had to catch him alive. We had to find out what their plan was.

          I picked up my pace, feeling my lungs fill with sharp, cool air. They burned with effort, but I kept going, moving harder. If I slowed down for a second, he could escape.

          We reached the edge of the city, nearing a part of Cytos most avoided, by the DEZ. The Designated Enlightenment Zone was basically a prison. Seeing it in the moonlight sent a chill down my spine.

          The last of the tall buildings came up, and the alleyway would soon break open to the wide streets and water canals with many places this Carbon could escape. This was our last chance.

          My entire team had been trained with the same skills; we’d grown and struggled together, so it was no surprise Caspian knew as well as I did when to strike. A shadow fell from the sky before it landed right in the path of the Carbon, causing him to skid to a stop or hit the large man looming over him. Caspian was lean and quick, and his tall stature and broad shoulders stopped most people in their tracks.

          I was quick to pull out my gun, ready to get answers. Emery stepped out of the shadow from the adjacent alley.

          Cas circled behind the Carbon, one strong arm holding him in place, and Emery took up the other side.

          “Care to explain why you were running?” I tilted my head to the side, letting my long, dark hair fall over the side of my face.

          “You shot me, you crazed bitch!” the Carbon shouted. His hand was soaked in blood. In the moonlight, the silver cuff on his wrist shone bright in contrast to the dark red smeared across it.

Even if the Carbons were more machine than human, they were still built to feel pain. They were created through human hosts, which meant they felt everything as a human would. Though they looked and sounded like us, I knew better.

          “Well, if you hadn’t run, I wouldn’t have had to shoot you.” I shrugged my shoulders. “Listen, Simon—it is Simon, right? We just want to talk, get to know you guys a bit.”

          Simon spat on the ground between us. “I don’t talk to trash like you, especially the Watcher kind.”

          My face dropped, and within a split-second, Simon knew that had been the wrong thing to say.  However, it wasn’t me he should have been worried about.

          Emery wrapped a hand around Simon’s neck in a flash, but she didn’t squeeze. Instead, she took her other hand, brushing away a small strand of hair from Simon’s face. She slid her long, knife-like nails down the side of his face. Little lines of blood dripped before the small wound quickly healed itself and the cut disappeared. The Carbon’s healing abilities were fast, but not fast enough for the gunshot wound still seeping at his side. Simon flinched with each little slice, but he was smart enough to know not to move away from the blond-haired beauty. Her venom-coated grin grew.

          “How about we try that again,” I said, my voice sweet, twisting Azrael smoothly in my hands. The silky black metal of the gun caught in the moonlight, and Simon’s eyes followed it the whole time. Em took a step back, wiping the blood off her nails with the sleeve of Simon’s jacket. “We hear you’re planning an attack. Care to tell us a bit more about that?”

          He flinched to move away, but Cas gripped his arm tighter. “I’m not planning anything. I’m not that high on the food chain. Your people should know that by now.”

          “That’s odd. We’d been told you were the leader of the Carbon Resistance. Do you mean to tell me we have the wrong guy?” I placed a hand on my chest in feigned shock.

          Simon snarled, “You think you know me, know us? You have no idea. The things they will do…You’re better off leaving while you can. Get out of here, out of Cytos, and don’t look back.”

          I quirked an eyebrow, waving my hand as if to say, “and why is that?”

          He rolled his eyes. “You don’t get it—none of you do. This isn’t about us. This isn’t even about you. I’m not the enemy you paint me out to be. You’re all blinded by ambition, too stupid to read between the lines. Everything I do has a purpose, but sometimes it’s not what you think.”

          I narrowed my eyes, stepping closer to him, resting my gun under his chin. “What is your purpose then, Simon?”

          He didn’t respond.

          I pressed the gun harder against the smooth skin under his chin, shoving it up and against his jawbone, aiming for his skull. “If you aren’t the enemy we know you are, then prove me wrong. Give me a reason, and I’ll let you go.”

          Simon’s eyes flashed to Em, still playing with her sharp nails, picking at them like a cat. She glanced up at him under her heavy lashes, and he glanced back to me with a bored sort of expression.

          “You want proof?” Simon asked, and I quirked an eyebrow. “There are things happening in Cytos, beyond even my ambitions. Things I cannot stop, even if I wanted to…”

          Em smirked. “Are we meant to feel sorry for you?”

          “History always has a tendency to repeat itself, no matter who tries to erase the past. It never truly leaves,” Simon mused.

          I tilted my head, watching his cold eyes as they followed my movements. “Isn’t that something you’d prefer to have happen? Isn’t that what all you Carbons are trying to achieve?”

          Simon knew exactly what I was referring to—a history where Carbons nearly wiped out the human population. When they had full control of their powers and used them to kill and destroy and take whatever they wanted. But that wasn’t going to happen. I sure as hell wouldn’t allow it to happen.

          He smiled, amusement dancing in his eyes as he leaned forward as much as he could against the hold Cas had on him. “Perhaps,” he whispered, “but there are a few of us who know the whole story, who lived through it, and remember all of it. There‘s a part of our past even we don’t want to see repeated.” 

          “Then tell me, Simon, why did you run?” I asked.

          Simon shrugged. “Because I saw you following me, and I wanted to see how far you’d go,” he said. “Because tonight, I’m the distraction.”

          A loud explosion echoed through the city, and the blast threw me to the ground. Red flames and black smoke bellowed in the near distance. I could already hear the sirens blaring.

          I was dazed for a moment, my ears ringing, and my vision blurred before I blinked it away.

Struggling to my feet, Emery helped me the rest of the way up, before moving on to help Cas, who bled from his nose. As I glanced all around, I noticed one thing was missing: Simon.

          Cas swore under his breath. “Sorry, Jayla. The blast…I lost hold and he was quick. Shit, I think he broke my nose.”

          “It’s okay,” I sighed, looking back to the city burning in the night.

          Even in the darkness, I could see the growing black smoke. The smell of the fire already reached us, making my eyes water. At least that’s what I told myself it was from.

          “We’d better go.”

          Cas nodded, blinking away the pain, and Em took up the lead.

          How could we have missed this? How could I have missed this? I released a long breath before I began sprinting back towards the middle of the city where the people I was meant to protect had been wounded. As I neared the building no longer standing amongst the other skyscrapers, a crumbled mess of cement and glass and fire, I began to hear the screams.

          They grew louder the closer we moved, like a ringing in my ears I couldn’t shake, and I knew each one would haunt my dreams tonight.

 

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