The Burning Shadow (Origin, #2)

Luc frowned. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“You two are a disaster in the making, how can’t you see that?” Eaton looked down at the bottle he held while Luc and I exchanged a long look. Then Eaton laughed. “Well, one of you would see the truth if you’d stop letting yourself be distracted by emotion and the past.”

Well, that could honestly be either of us.

“I think it’s time for you to put down the drink,” Luc suggested.

Eaton lifted his gaze to Luc. “Do you think that this wasn’t planned from the beginning? You’re smarter than that, Luc. You know how the Daedalus operates. They know how you operate.”

Luc clamped his mouth shut.

“What is he talking about?” I demanded.

Eaton didn’t take his gaze off of Luc. “You two were made for each other.”

A fine shiver skated over my skin as I turned back to Luc, recalling that he’d said the same thing to me. We were made for one another.

“You think it wasn’t designed from the moment you left the Daedalus, Luc? That they didn’t know that eventually you would find someone out there that you’d do anything for? You know how they manipulated the Luxen that were close to humans. Look at Daemon and Dawson. The Daedalus damn near engineered their relationships in hopes that they’d mutate a human.”

My brows flew up. “Engineered their relationships?”

“A Daedalus operative was connected to both Bethany and Kat,” Luc explained. “He didn’t put them with Dawson or Daemon, but he was able to report on them and help … aid things along, whether it be the final step of the mutation or turning them over.”

“God,” I whispered.

“And you think the same wasn’t done to you?” Eaton challenged, and Luc’s head whipped toward him. “Did it ever occur to you that they knew about her the minute she ran away from her house and into your waiting arms? That they weren’t tracking both of you, keeping tabs on you? They just got lucky when she got sick.”

Luc’s jaw clenched as he stared at the general, and I felt like I needed to sit down.

“Her cancer was their perfect opportunity. They knew you were trying to get the serums to give to her. LH-11. Prometheus. Each one not healing her, but prepping her for the final serum. Andromeda. They just had to wait until you were desperate enough to take that risk and take her to the Daedalus.”

Luc’s features turned stark, and I had to speak up in his defense. “He didn’t take me to the Daedalus. He took me—”

“To Sylvia Dasher? Child, I know you believed that woman to be your mother, and maybe in some small way, she was, but she was very much a part of the Daedalus up until the moment she de cided she couldn’t do what was required from her,” he said, and if I thought my heart had broken back when Steven had begun to talk, I’d been wrong. It was breaking now. “Those things you said you were able to do? The fighting. The shooting. What you did to those men outside of Atlanta? You were trained by the Daedalus, handed over by Sylvia, and then your memories were wiped.”

I did sit down then, in a worn, squeaky computer chair.

“What do you mean her memories were wiped then, after the training?” Luc demanded. “The serum—”

“Caused a fever, but never took her memories. Sylvia lied to you. She gave you the serum and then you were mutated. Once Sylvia knew you were going to survive the mutation, she handed you over to the Daedalus. You would’ve known exactly who you were until you completed training. Then the Cassio Wave was used to fry your short-and long-term memory bank,” he said, and I knew in that moment if Mom … if that woman hadn’t died, Luc would’ve hunted her down.

And killed her.

I knew it, because it was in the way he turned and stared at me, in the horror creeping into his features as he realized I’d been Nadia when I woke up from the serum and I’d been Nadia when I’d … I’d been trained.

Luc paled, and even though I couldn’t read his mind, I knew that while I couldn’t remember what it was like to be trained within the Daedalus, he did.

“For whatever reason, Sylvia had a change of heart. It was the one thing the Daedalus hadn’t planned for.” Eaton looked between Luc and I. “Love.” He laughed then, shaking his head. “They hadn’t anticipated Sylvia caring for you as a mother would for their child. She may have had a change of heart and tried to get you out, but make no mistake, she knew what was in those serums. She created the Andromeda Serum herself. Worked on the early trials, chronicled all their failures and their successes. The Andromeda Serum wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for her.”

I pressed my hand to the center of my chest, over my heart. I couldn’t speak.

“You weren’t their first success, far from it.” He was back to staring at the bottle. “But you were different. Not just your mutation, but because of him.” He nodded in Luc’s direction without looking up. When he spoke again, his voice was tired—tired and bitter. “You had to know, Luc, that they would find some way to reel you back in.”

“They’ll never reel me back in,” Luc said, his tone as cold as the Arctic. “That I can promise.”

General Eaton looked up then. “You so sure about that?” His gaze flicked to me. “You didn’t recognize him out in those woods, right?”

“No,” I whispered. “I saw him as…”

“You saw him as a threat and a challenge and you needed to dominate. One of the three things you were coded to do.” The corners of his lips turned down. “You were coded to answer to one person only, and that isn’t that boy sitting here.”

“What the hell does that mean?” Luc demanded.

I had a better question. “Are you saying that what happened in the woods could happen again, and I won’t remember him? Again? He won’t be able to reach me?”

Sadness crept into the general’s rheumy eyes. “You were coded to answer only to one person—”

“Stop saying that I was coded!” I shot to my feet, chest rising and falling. “I’m not a damn computer! I’m a person—”

“No, you’re the Burning Shadow and he’s the Darkest Star, and together, you will bring about the brightest night.”

I jerked back.

“What?” Luc said.

Eaton chuckled hoarsely. “Code words. That’s what he used to call both of you.”

“Darkest Star? Burning Shadow? That sounds like a load of crap,” snarled Luc.

“No. It’s not.” I shook my head. “Micah … he called you the Darkest Star. I didn’t think it was a name, but…” I drew in a shallow breath. “Who in the hell is he? And how do you know all of this?”

“I know all of this, because I tried to shut down the Poseidon Project when I became aware of it. I failed.” His knuckles were bleached white from how tightly he was gripping the bottle. “I underestimated him. Won’t do that again.”

“Who?” Luc rose and stepped toward the man, and I thought that he might strangle him if he didn’t answer. “Who is she supposedly coded to? Who is behind this? Tell me so I know who I need to kill.”

“You already did,” Eaton replied. “At least, you thought you did. That’s what you were led to believe.”

A shiver exploded along the nape of my neck and powered down my spine. “No. No way.”

“Dasher,” Eaton said, his arm cocking back with a speed that betrayed his age. The bottle flung across the room, shattering upon impact with the wall. “Jason Dasher.”