The Soulless War Trilogy #3
The Dark Cage
by Dana Gricken
Doctor Zero has been defeated, but there’s just one problem—before his death, he managed to turn Riley Stark soulless with his serum. Protected by the Purity Crystal, she’s now able to feel emotions, but the Sentinels and her family and friends have slowly turned their backs on her.
While Riley tries to prove she’s still the same girl, an old soulless legend called the Cardinal rises. Thought to be a soulless God with the power to control the Quintessence—the land of souls, better known as the afterlife—everyone fears he’s returned to take over the world. As Riley’s former best friend returns, he brings an army with him called the Darkhunters who are intent on killing all the soulless for good. When he discovers Riley’s transformation, he kidnaps her and creates a radioactive bomb that can destroy the soulless.
With friends becoming enemies and an old soulless God waiting in the shadows, Riley will have to fight to save the world and control her new power before she loses it all.
BUY THE BOOK
Everyone was asleep in the Sentinel Headquarters, but I was wide awake.
It had been two weeks since the attack on the bridge and Doctor Zero’s death. We had needed a place to live and operate, and after much deliberation, we had chosen to rebuild the old headquarters. The General and his Sentinels wouldn’t be foolish enough to attack us here, not while they were weak and scattered and we were powerful and united.
We being the Samaritans—that was what we now called ourselves. Using the old Sentinel title didn’t seem right anymore. The Samaritans were an alliance between soulless and soulful—a new hope for both of our futures.
I could only imagine what the General would say if he were here.
Caleb lay next to me in our cot, snoring like everyone else in the barracks. The soulless didn’t need too much sleep to begin with, but after the difficulty of trying to stay alive these past few weeks, everyone needed some extra rest.
Except for me. I felt better than I had in months.
I watched Caleb as he slept peacefully, thinking about everything that had happened this year. We had been through a lot together—separation, attempted murder, life on the run. Yet despite all of it, we had managed to find our way back to each other. I smiled in the darkness, grateful he was still by my side.
The beeping startled me. I lifted my head, reaching for the Animus ring I’d tossed in the nightstand drawer. Dahlia had created it for the Sentinels to detect soulless in the area, but I’d decided I didn’t need it anymore. I had also figured I didn’t need the Purity Crystal, either.
Doctor Zero had injected me with the soulless serum to save me from becoming one of those horrible Red Sentinel creatures the General had created, but weeks had passed since then. It was safe to say I was in the clear.
When I pulled the ring out, trying to stop its irritating noise, it became louder. Dahlia had reprogrammed it to only make noise if a new soulless entered the headquarters so it wouldn’t constantly beep from Caleb and the others. I sighed, pushing the blankets off me. I decided to take it into the bathroom, hoping to flush it down the toilet. I knew the headquarters were safe, so I figured it was just malfunctioning. When I walked into the washroom and shut the door behind me, the beeping intensified.
It didn’t make any sense. There was no one around but me!
A wave of pain washed over me. I leaned on the sink, clutching my chest. It was like an itch I couldn’t scratch, a whisper too low to hear. My body was changing somehow. When I lifted my head and looked into the mirror, that was when I noticed it.
My eyes had turned as black as night. Doctor Zero—my uncle—had successfully made me soulless. I couldn’t believe it.
I felt raw power inside of me with a mix of emotions. It was mostly anger and violence, but most of all, I found myself suddenly unable to care about anyone or anything. The whispers grew louder, and I could finally hear what they were saying. I wanted to kill, destroy, and conquer, mainly because I could, but also because it was my right as a soulless.
This must’ve been the Primal Caleb had told me about, the little voice inside the soulless that compelled them to do terrible things. I was too weak to resist it. I had to obey.
I walked into the armory and retrieved my Deathblade before I tiptoed back into the barracks. Kill, kill, kill, played in my mind, like a record on repeat. If I wanted to conquer this city—and eventually the world—I had to kill Caleb first. He was the strongest one here, and he had the best chance of stopping me.
When I returned to our cot and flung off the blankets, Caleb was gone. I fumbled in the darkness for a minute before I heard footsteps behind me. I spun around, trying to act calm and normal.
“Riley?” Caleb asked, turning on a nearby light. “When you left, I went looking for you. What are you—?”
He stopped midsentence when he saw my eyes. When he looked down and realized I was carrying a Deathblade, he clearly knew what I was doing.
“Riley, put the dagger down,” Caleb said. “I won’t ask you again.”
I felt my face twist into a smile, but it wasn’t my own. Becoming soulless had trapped me in my own body, like a bird in a dark cage. I had become a victim to the evil that had spread through me.
“Why should I?” I asked, stepping closer. He backed away from me, and I saw his Purity Crystal jiggle around his neck. “You can feel this power too, Caleb. Take off the crystal and we can rule this world.”
“You’re forgetting I have felt that power, Riley—and it wasn’t worth it,” he replied, reaching for the dagger. “I can help you. Please, give me your weapon.”
I pretended to hand him the dagger, letting him believe he had won. When he worked up the courage to move closer, I shoved him to the ground and put my foot to his throat. I had him exactly where I wanted him now.
“Pathetic,” I spat. “You’re nothing but a freak, Caleb. Not soulless, but not soulful, either. Did you really think our love would last?”
“I know this isn’t you talking, Riley,” Caleb whispered. “And I’m sorry for this, but it’s the only way to get you back.”
And then I felt the burning pain of his fire engulf me before everything went black.