The Sphinx Project

Not many people can say their entire existence has been one big lab experiment: poked and prodded by scientists, genetically modified to be the best and endure the worst, subjected to daily tests and trials that would kill a normal human. All Michaela wants is her own life, to be able to go to school, flirt with boys, maybe eat ice cream now and then. So when the chance to escape finally comes, Michaela and her sister grab it, taking their friends with them. But they weren’t the only ones to find their way out of those labs. Following close behind are another breed of creature, one that doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong, who exist only to feed their own hunger. The appearance of a strange boy who seems too much like them to be a coincidence makes things even more confusing. But as the world begins to literally fall apart around them, Michaela must accept his help, especially when she could lose the very thing she holds dearest: her sister.


21. Chapter Twenty

Most of the buildings remained standing, despite the fact they looked like they shouldn't be. The bronze statue of the surfer from the pier was securely lodged between a palm tree and a trash can—the two German girls had clung to it like an anchor.


People were everywhere, some picked themselves up, sodden from the ground, some staggered around in an attempt to find family, friends and belongings. Even more lay among the debris, moaning, groaning or simply lying still.


“We have to go!” Someone grabbed my bad arm and swung me around.


A cry escaped from my throat. Pain tore through my bones. I folded forward as vomit forced its way forth.


The adrenaline that kept the agony at bay ebbed into nothing. When my stomach was empty I raised my face to see the man from earlier; I still didn’t know his name.


“Come on, we need to go now!”


“I’m not going anywhere with you!” I stepped back. The movement hurt.


“You don’t have a choice,” he said. “They’ll find you if you stay here!”


“Come on, Kayla.” Mouse’s voice floated over his shoulder.


“No. I don’t trust him.” I glanced back at Kelly and her mother. “He won’t even tell us his name!”


He stared at me for a moment, his eyes steady, before he spoke. “‘Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.’”


I couldn’t tell if it was my injuries, the sound of his voice or the words he spoke that enthralled me, but I found myself gazing at him. I pored over the words, every syllable echoing in my ears.


It was a verse from the Bible. Mom had made me memorize it when I was only four. She’d said that if anyone ever spoke those words to me, I could trust that they were on our side. She’d been raised in a strict Christian family but had left them for the chance to become a mother. She’d still worn her cross under her shirt even though the scientists insisted she offer us no religious teachings.


The approaching sirens and the buzz of the helicopters above kicked me into gear. Mouse came to my aid, wrapping her arms around me. She ushered me toward the parking lot behind the hostel to where we’d parked our car.


“No, no, we can’t go. What about Nicole and Briana?” I panicked. “Where are they? Did the wave get them?”


“They’re meeting us at the car,” the man responded, leaving no doubt that he was in a hurry.


Guilt pushed in on me as we passed all of the people twitching on the ground. I didn’t have enough strength left to fight against Mouse’s firm grip. My legs wobbled as I poured my energy into staying upright. There was no way I could help any of them.


As we passed the hostel, I caught sight of Nicole and Briana climbing from the window of our room, our bags slung over their shoulders.


We waited for them before rounding the corner, only to stop short at the condition of the parking lot. Our car was upside down, wedged between two other vehicles.


“Keep going. We’ll find something else,” the man ordered.


“We can’t,” Nicole protested. “We need our stuff. We can’t leave it here.”


He tried again to insist on leaving, but Nicole overrode him. She and Briana crawled into the car, and retrieved the bags and equipment before we continued on our way. None of the girls appeared any worse for wear, except that their clothes stuck to them, drenched with water.


I struggled, my muscles aching. The bruises and cuts all over my body constantly reminded me of their presence. Red crept across my vision. Raising my good hand to my face, I found a steady flow of blood seeping from a cut in my hairline.


“She needs a hospital,” Nicole urged the man.


“She can’t go to one.” He kept walking. “What do you think they’ll do when she heals overnight?”


We continued for another twenty minutes. The others walked and I kind of stumbled along, half-carried by Mouse and Nicole. None of my limbs would work properly. We received no attention—everyone else was distracted, attending to the injured and the ill. We were moving, therefore in no need of assistance.


“Why did you guys get off so easily?” I muttered, slurring a little.


“Because we looked out for our own skins,” Nicole murmured in reply. She showed no remorse at her admission, concentrating on picking her way between the debris littering the streets.


We came to a shiny blue car and the man unlocked it. Nicole and Mouse climbed into the back. I was laid across their laps before Briana closed the door and settled herself into the passenger seat.


I don’t know how long we drove for, everything kept fading into darkness. They shook me, waking me every couple of minutes. The sadists—they could all hear my heart beat and breathing, so they didn’t need me awake.


After some time (at least six rounds of sleeping and being rudely woken up; I lost count after that), we pulled into a small parking garage on the side of a house. A beep signaled that the electronic door was closing and the room fell into shadow.

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