Memento Mori KoboBy: Lexi Blake
Eighteen months before
He could still hear the screams, the shouts of the men who’d gone down. Still see the blood as it started to flow. His brother…god, he could still see his brother.
He’d been caught, locked away in his cell and unable to join the fight. Not that he wanted to fight. When the first splatter of gunfire had sounded out, his instinct had been to breathe a sigh of relief. He’d known one way or another it was over. Live or die, he wouldn’t be under her thumb any longer.
Someone was finally coming for Mother. Someone was going to save them.
Then his training had taken over and he’d known he had to try or die. Mother didn’t accept failure in her boys. It still made him sick, that trigger in his brain that went against all his instincts and told him to obey.
He didn’t fucking obey.
“Do you know what happened to the man outside your cell?” There was a massive blond man on the other side of the table from him. He was the one who’d led the charge. He was the one who’d directed his men to secure what he’d called the Lost Boys.
The blond guy was right. He was so lost.
“George? Are you talking about him?” What was the man’s name? He struggled with names. Even his own, but then he’d been “born” a fully-grown man, waking up on a hospital bed with no memory of anything before that moment. “He was my brother.”
His brother. He’d been there when George had been “born.” Mother never brought a new recruit on alone. He’d been there when George had opened his eyes, confusion clouding them. He’d been kinder to George than Sasha had been to him.
And he’d watched as George had realized he couldn’t win, as George had done what Mother had taught them to do when they failed.
Clean up your mess. Don’t make me do it for you.
He hated Mother. It was easier and easier to shed the skin she’d forced him into. He was one of the bad boys, one of the boys who didn’t clean up his mess.
“Yes, that man.” The blond dude had been joined by a gorgeous woman with skin the color of velvety night and dark eyes that looked at him with sympathy. Ariel. That was her name and she was some kind of doctor. A shrink, maybe.
How was it that he could remember what a doctor was and that a doctor who studied behavior and the mind was a psychologist, but he couldn’t tell anyone what his name had been before Mother had taken his past away?
“George had been on patrol.” He said the words with a calm he didn’t feel. “He wasn’t in his cell when the incursion happened. His training took over when he realized Mother was gone and that he would be taken.”
Good-bye, Harvey. We have to clean up the mess. Don’t let them take you. I’ll see you soon, brother.
“His training?” The doctor looked at him expectantly.
Now was when his training should take over and he should shut up. They weren’t allowed to talk about this. They were to be polite boys, to do their duty.
Or someone would beat the shit out of them. Out of him. Because he was stubborn and arrogant and joking wasn’t allowed. They were to be serious at all times.
“He killed himself because Mother…the insane lady who kidnapped us and wiped our memories…planted the impulse. Tomas’s brother was coming through the doors at the time. We were all taught to not get caught.”
“His name is Theo,” Blond Dude said.
Yes, Theo. The mission hadn’t been about freeing himself. It had been about saving Theo Taggart. His own rescue had been incidental, but then his life seemed fairly random. After all, who would have guessed he would get selected for experimentation? He would bet it was a fairly uncommon thing to have happen.
“George was what the doctor called one of the good ones. He rarely required correction,” he explained. “Are you going to kill us?”
Us. He and Dante and Sasha and Tucker were the only ones left. George was gone. They’d lost Charles and Albert during the mission to Dallas to retrieve Robert and Theo—a mission that had gone poorly. He still had the scars.
He wasn’t upset at the thought, merely wanted to know if he should prepare himself for execution.
Ariel leaned forward, putting a hand on his. He stared down where she touched him. He couldn’t remember anyone touching him with kindness. Not ever. “No. No one wants to hurt you. Any of you.”
“Well, I might punch that Russian fucker. He’s obnoxious,” Taggart said. Ian Taggart. Yes, that was his name. Theo’s oldest brother.
“Sasha can be an asshole.” He flinched.
Taggart looked at him with serious eyes. “She didn’t like you cussing?”
He sat up straighter. He didn’t have to follow her rules now. The inkling that this was actually a good thing had started in the back of his brain. Theo and Robert were here and they seemed good. Happy even. Maybe they weren’t going to be handed over to people who would toss them in jail for the crimes the doctor had made them commit or vivisect them in order to find her secrets. Maybe the man in front of him meant what he’d said. He’d offered them protection and to help figure out who’d they’d been before.