Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

  “Areas with an increase in negative paranormal activity have certain patterns—electrical storms, severe weather fluctuations, dramatic increases in suicide and violent crime. My job is to find those patterns, which usually involves hacking into the mainframes at hospitals, news stations, and police departments.” He sounded almost apologetic. “It’s not as cool as combat and weapons, but we don’t get to pick our specialties. We inherit them from the Legion member who chooses us.”

  Lukas’ eyes dropped to the ground.

  “Hacking computers sounds pretty cool to me,” I offered.

  “When I was a kid, my dad sparred with me all the time. He even taught me how to take his guns apart and make salt rounds. I thought he wanted me to replace him. But when the time came, he picked Jared.”

  I wondered if that was the source of the tension between Lukas and Jared, a father picking one son over the other. Judging by the strained expression on Lukas’ face, it was at least one reason.

  “Analyzing that kind of information seems complicated. Maybe he knew you were good at it.”

  “You sound like my dad.” He forced a smile. “It’s not all analysis. I destroy my share of vengeance spirits, too.”

  “Not tonight.” A girl’s voice echoed through the room, deep and authoritative. “You need to hit the books and find the Marrow.”

  A tall girl towered over us, arms crossed tightly over her chest.

  “Your wish is my command,” Lukas teased. He stood up and offered me a hand. “Kennedy, this is Alara.”

  She didn’t strike me as particularly friendly, wearing what resembled authentic military-issue cargo pants, a leather tool belt, and a T-shirt that read TAKE NO PRISONERS. But that wasn’t what threw me. The girl was beautiful—with long wavy hair, perfectly smooth caramel-colored skin, and dark almond-shaped eyes. The silver hoop in her eyebrow made her look even more formidable.

  Alara gave me the once-over, evaluating me on criteria I probably didn’t meet. “So you’re the mysterious fifth member?”

  “I’m not—”

  “It was a close call,” Lukas interrupted. “We got there just in time.”

  “That’s what you get for having cats.” Alara frowned at me, an expression her features settled into easily. “Do you know how many cultures have folklore about cats stealing people’s breath?”

  I didn’t.

  “And how often has it actually happened?” Lukas asked offhandedly. The color drained from his face immediately.

  Alara raised her eyebrows. “This month? That would be five.” She ticked off our murdered family members one at a time on her fingers.

  I turned to Lukas. “Why would you have a cat if you knew that was possible?”

  “They can see spirits, which makes them a convenient warning system,” he said. “Up until now, the whole cats-killing-people-in-their-sleep thing was more of an urban legend.”

  “You didn’t have a cat?” I asked Alara.

  Her frown deepened and she touched the silver medal around her neck, bearing yet another symbol I didn’t recognize. “My grandmother was Haitian. She knew better. The cat must’ve climbed through an open window.”

  The more I learned about the invisible world lurking around us, the more I wanted to be oblivious. But it was too late for that. Until I found a way to convince these people, and a demon, that I wasn’t the fifth member of their secret exorcist society, my life was in danger.

  “Wait.” Alara stared at me, eyes wide, as the realization settled over her. “Are you messing with me?”

  Any answer I gave her would be the wrong one.

  “She doesn’t know anything about the Legion,” Lukas said, before I had a chance to respond. “No one ever told her.”

  A shudder ran through her body. “Oh my god.”

  She knew what I was now—what I had been all along.

  A liability.


  The Marrow

  Lukas studied a creased US map spread over the coffee table, while everyone else flipped through a stack of newspapers on the floor. I hadn’t been at the warehouse long, and Alara’s plan to hit the books was already in full force.

  I leaned over the map. “What are you looking for?”

  “See this?” Lukas pointed to the red circles drawn around various cities and towns: Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Salem, West Virginia; Sugarcreek, Ohio; Wilmington, Delaware; Washington, DC. “I tracked paranormal surges over the last month and all these places had serious activity. We were looking for you, but I realized there was a pattern based on the other cities we checked first.”

  It never occurred to me that they had looked anywhere else. “How did you figure out where I lived?”

  “Hacked into local police servers and cross-referenced the cities with surges against death records. I looked for kids about our age that had parents who died the same night as the other members of the Legion. Then we took a road trip.”

  I couldn’t believe they had worked so hard to find me. “What about school?”

  Priest glanced up from the newspaper, headphones covering his ears. “Homeschooled. The public education system in Northern California wasn’t equipped to meet my needs.”

  Jared shrugged. “We didn’t live in the best neighborhood in Philadelphia. No one really cared if you showed up at school. We traveled with our dad a lot, so we weren’t there much anyway.”

  Alara ripped an article out of the newspaper in her lap. “I just bailed. Girls’ school sucks.”

  With her combat boots, eyebrow ring, and chipped silver nail polish, she looked more like art school material. My hand itched at the thought of drawing.

  Lukas traced the perimeter of the circled cities with his finger. “I think the Marrow might be somewhere in here.”

  “What’s the Marrow?”

  “It’s the location of Andras’ power supply in our world. Sort of like his supernatural power plant,” he explained. “Demons gain strength by taking control of human souls—either temporarily while we’re alive, or permanently after we die. The more souls they control, the more powerful they become.”

  Priest jumped in. “But Andras is trapped between his world and ours. He can’t cross over and possess people, or draft them into his ranks when they die. He has to settle for influencing vengeance spirits and using them to cause violence and suffering.”

  “Which creates more vengeance spirits he can control,” Lukas added.

  I imagined hundreds of battered souls like the girl in my bedroom lined up in a row, ready for battle.

  Priest unscrewed the faceplate on a device that resembled an old transistor radio. “The bigger the surges in paranormal activity, the closer we are to the Marrow. At least, that’s what my granddad used to say.”

  He stopped working and stared at his hands. Priest’s grandfather must’ve been the member of the Legion he had replaced. It was easy to forget that I wasn’t the only one who had lost someone.

  Lukas noticed Priest’s reaction and messed up the younger boy’s hair. Priest swatted his arm, the beginning of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

  “If we find the Marrow, we can take out the spirits Andras controls,” Jared said. “And cut off his power supply.”

  “That will get rid of him?” I asked.

  The four of them looked at one another.

  Lukas shook his head. “No. But it will make him a lot weaker. Damage control, remember?”

  I listened as they strategized, trying to make sense of the surges and the red circles. The warehouse was only an hour from my house in Georgetown, but it felt worlds away.

  I needed to talk to someone who wasn’t tracking paranormal activity or searching for a demon’s hideout. “Lukas, can I use your phone again?”

  Alara snapped to attention. “She can’t call anyone.”

  “Don’t worry.” Lukas raised a hand to reassure her. “She just wants to check in with her friend.”

  “Her friend?” Alara gasped. “Are you insan

  “My number’s blocked. I doubt her friend knows how to trace a call.”

  “What if she tells someone where we are?” Alara was talking about me like I wasn’t there.

  “I wouldn’t do that,” I said. “But if I don’t call, she’ll try to find me.”

  Lukas handed me his cell. “It’s fine. Just be careful what you say.”

  I slipped between the sheets suspended from the ceiling and sat down next to the fridge, where Jared had bandaged my hand.

  The phone only rang once before Elle picked up. “Hello?”

  My whole body seemed to relax when I heard her voice. “It’s me.”

  “Where are you? I’m totally freaking out.”

  I didn’t know where to begin. Elle had never doubted me before, but demons were a lot to dump on anyone. “I need to tell you something, and it’s going to sound crazy.”

  “I’m fine with crazy.”

  It was like ripping off a Band-Aid. The only way to do it was fast. “I saw a ghost.”

  “You saw your mom?” She didn’t sound surprised.

  “No—” I hesitated. “It was the ghost of a dead girl. I saw her in the cemetery one night and then again in my room.”

  I waited for her to rattle off a list of the symptoms of depression.

  “Is that why you ran away?”

  This was the hard part. “The ghost killed my mom, and it tried to kill me. I know it sounds completely insane, but it’s true.”

  Please believe me.

  I held my breath, waiting for her to say something.

  “Is that who trashed your house? The ghost?” It was the same matter-of-fact tone Elle used when she grilled me about the latest social scandal at school. She wanted the details, which meant she believed me.

  “You don’t think I’m losing it?”

  She sighed dramatically. “I’ve watched Paranormal Encounters. I’m not a total idiot. So was it the ghost or what?”

  “No, it was… something a little different.”

  “Did you dig up a graveyard?” Her voice rose, and I could practically see her yelling at the phone.

  “I don’t really understand everything, but the guys I’m with do.”

  “Who are these guys?”

  I didn’t plan to start talking salt rounds and secret societies. I was already pushing it. “They track violent spirits and destroy them.”

  “Like Ghostbusters?”

  “More like exorcists.”

  Her bedsprings groaned, the way they did whenever she fell back onto her bed. “Please tell me you aren’t possessed.”

  I almost laughed. “I’m not. But the spirits are dangerous, and I need these guys to help me get rid of them.”

  “How many guys are we talking about?” She perked up.

  “Three, but one of them is only fifteen.” I could see the wheels spinning in her mind. “There’s another girl here, too.”

  “When are you coming back?”

  “I don’t know.” My throat tightened. “But you can’t tell anyone you talked to me. Okay?”

  She didn’t respond.


  “You know I won’t say anything.” She pretended to sound offended.

  Alara peeked through the sheets.

  “Elle, I have to go.”

  “Be careful,” she pleaded.

  “I will.” I hung up and held the phone to my chest, wondering when I would see her again.

  When I came back, the four of them were packing it in for the night. I handed Lukas his phone and straightened the stacks of newspapers. I didn’t want to look completely useless.

  Jared tipped his chin toward a mattress in the corner. “You can take my bed. I like the couch.”

  “No, it’s okay—”

  “I like the couch,” he repeated.

  I was too tired to argue—and too cold. The warehouse was freezing, and I still didn’t have a jacket. I rubbed my hands over my arms.

  Priest noticed and tossed me a hoodie from his shelf. “You’ll need it. This place is a meat locker.”

  As I slid my arms into the sleeves and lay down on the bed, I relaxed for what felt like the first time in days—until I noticed Jared coming back.

  Maybe he changed his mind about letting me have his bed.

  I started to get up when he pointed at the pillows. “Mind if I take one?”

  “Sure—I mean no.”

  He held up his hands, and his T-shirt slid up, exposing a few inches of skin above the waistband of his jeans. My cheeks grew warm and I tossed him the pillow, hoping he wouldn’t notice. He stood there for a moment as if he wanted to say something, before he walked away.

  It was a sharp contrast to the crooked smile Lukas gave me as he flopped down on the mattress across from mine. His fingers flew over the controls of a video game. He noticed me watching him. “It’s Tetris.”

  “He plays it all the time.” Alara walked by and rolled her eyes, twisting her hair into a loose knot.

  Lukas didn’t look up from the screen. “It requires hard-core spatial abilities and pattern recognition.”

  “I’m sure it does,” she said sarcastically.

  Priest laughed and closed his eyes, still wearing his headphones, as Jared stretched out on the couch. It seemed like he was on the opposite side of a boundary no one could cross.

  I wondered what happened to Jared—who hurt him. But his walls were even higher than mine.

  Alara switched off the lights. I listened to the muffled music from Priest’s headphones and the pinging sound of Tetris, wishing I could turn off my thoughts as easily.

  I was lying on a mattress in a warehouse with four people I barely knew—four people who seemed to know more about my life than I did. Was it possible they knew more about my mom, too?

  My eyes burned and I felt the tears building, but I didn’t want to let myself cry. If I started, I might not be able to stop.

  The music and video game sounds finally faded, blanketing the room in silence. I slipped through the sheets and tiptoed to the other side of the warehouse where the gun racks and shelves of ammo were silhouetted in the darkness. Evidence of how unprepared I was for everything happening to me.

  I was safe now, but I couldn’t stay here forever.

  Tears slid down my neck before I realized they were falling.

  I sat on the floor next to Priest’s worktable and buried my face in my knees. I cried quietly, choking back sobs until my throat was raw.

  “Kennedy?” Someone whispered my name.

  I covered my face with my hands.

  “Want to talk about it?” It was Lukas or Jared, but his voice was so quiet I couldn’t tell which one. I shook my head, tears running through the spaces between my fingers.

  He sat down next to me, and I could smell the salt and copper on his skin.

  “I know this is hard. I lost it when my dad died, and I didn’t know how we were gonna do this without him.” He spoke slowly, his voice gentle and soothing. I realized it was Lukas, sharing something painful to make me feel better.

  “I wish I could take it back.” He hesitated. “I mean change things.”

  I took a ragged breath, and he touched my back gently.

  “Hey, will you look at me?”

  I shook my head. I couldn’t stop crying, and I didn’t want him to see me falling apart.

  “I get it,” he whispered, so close I could feel his breath on my neck. “I don’t think I would’ve made it without Luk.”

  I froze.

  Lukas wasn’t the one with his hand on my back.

  It was Jared, the boy who barely spoke, the one who seemed so distant.

  I don’t know how long we stayed that way. Eventually, I ran out of tears, and Jared took my hand and led me through the warehouse. I climbed in his bed, and he retreated to the couch without a word. But I could still smell the salt on his skin.


  Ophthalmic Shift

  When I woke up, Lukas, Jared, an
d Alara were hunched over the map again. After an hour of skimming articles for unusual weather patterns and bizarre accounts of unexplained events, I’d learned a few things about surges and paranormal activity. My mind had also taken hundreds of mental snapshots—from neglected houses and morbid crime scenes to used car ads—all sorted and catalogued automatically.

  On Marrow overload, I offered to be Priest’s assistant for a while. He was determined to design the Big Bad of vengeance spirit–hunting weapons to take down whatever Andras had waiting for them.

  “Hold this.” Priest handed me his blowtorch.

  “I don’t think—”

  “It’s totally safe. Unless you turn it on.”

  Like I knew how to do that?

  “We need some serious firepower.” Priest scanned his journal for old designs he could tweak.

  Alara came in wearing loose cargos and a fitted tank that showed off her muscular arms. She grabbed a box of Pop-Tarts off Priest’s shelf and threw me a perfunctory glance from under her mascaraed lashes before disappearing again.

  “Alara seems nice,” I ventured when she was out of earshot.

  “Ah… are we talking about the same person?”

  I laughed. “What’s her specialty? Aside from intimidation?”

  “Wards. Her grandmother was a voodoo priestess or something. I forget what they’re called. But Alara’s pretty badass.”

  Badass and gorgeous. Great.

  Priest pointed at the journal and headed for the fridge. “Keep looking.”

  Turning the pages carefully, something caught my eye—a tiny symbol hidden in one of the designs. I’d seen it before.

  Priest came back carrying two sodas.

  “What’s this?” I pointed at the sketch.

  He glanced at the page. “Some kind of ocular device.”

  “Why does it have Andras’ seal on it?”

  “What are you talking about?” He leaned over, and I pointed at the symbol. Priest dropped the cans, and soda exploded all over the floor.

  Lukas stuck his head between the sheets. “What are you two doing?”

  Priest gazed at the page, transfixed. “Get everyone in here. Now.”

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