Read Terror Online

Authors: Francine Pascal

Terror

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Gaia was frozen in her tracks, staring at the shadowy figure stalking slowly towards her. A part of her had already resigned itself to her grim fate. If that was a gun over his head, she might have less than a minute to live.

He was less than ten feet away now. His hands were still raised in a menacing way. Was it a gun? A knife? A Tazser?

Gaia didn't feel like sticking around to find out. That guy was holding something. He was threatening to kill her. And the magic bubble that her fearlessness had always provided was now rendered moot.

Whatever this little confrontation was about, it sure as hell was not worth dying over. Against all her better instincts, Gaia did exactly what she knew she shouldn't. She bolted left and ran for her life.

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Terror

Super Edition #1: Before Gaia

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If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

First Simon Pulse edition March 2004

Copyright © 2004 by Francine Pascal

Cover copyright © 2004 by 17th Street Productions, an Alloy company.

SIMON PULSE
An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
www.SimonandSchuster.com

Produced by 17th Street Productions, an Alloy company 151 West 26th Street New York, NY 10001

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

For information address 17th Street Productions, 151 West 26th Street, New York, NY 10001.

Fearless™ is a trademark of Francine Pascal.

Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Control Number: 2003108408

ISBN: 0-689-86707-7

ISBN-13: 978-0-6898-6707-1

eISBN-13: 978-1-4391-2107-8

To David Bryan

To David Bryan

GAIA

All
my life I've been like that rabbit from the Trix cereal commercials. We both spend our lives searching for one unattainable thing. We yearn and reach for it, only to watch it evaporate before our eyes like steam. All the Trix rabbit wants is a bowl of Trix, but my quest has been a little more complex. All I've ever wanted has been to experience fear.

I spent my first seventeen years plagued by
if
questions. If not for my fearlessness, would I have been so endlessly exploited? If I had been able to feel fear, would I have been better at letting down my emotional iron curtain? If I had been born with fear, would the three primary victims of my life-Heather, Sam, and Mary Moss-have been unharmed?

I thought I'd never know. I could buy a box of Trix whenever I wanted, but I would never know what fear felt like. When Loki injected me with that serum, what
I felt wasn't fear. It was a paranoid-delusional, schizophrenic, turbo-fueled version of something far worse than fear. What I craved was the real thing-to be normal and fearful, like everyone else. To sip from the root beer float that is Jane Normal's life. But I would never know, because my genetic code was tattooed inside me in some tiny, inscrutable font. Even if someone could have figured out what it said, there wouldn't have been a damn thing they could do about it.

Until there was.

Until the Fates led me to the Rodkes, that family in shining armor. Until Dr. Rodke introduced me to Dr. Ulrich, the grand scientific mastermind who invented the most advanced gene sequencer on the planet. Thanks to him, I have done it. I've reached my personal holy grail. Less than two days ago Dr. Ulrich injected me with a sample of my own blood that contained a corrected copy
of my genetic material as well as a carrier virus. The adenovirus acted as a superfast agent of the new DNA, starting a chain reaction of genetic regeneration in my sleeping body. And just like that
—wham—
my most salient trait was sucked right out of me. Soon after the anesthesia wore off, I, Gaia Moore, saw the first evidence of fear when I flinched at a high-pitched giggle.

What's it like for a fearless person to feel fear? It has its moments. There is a rekindled urgency in everything I do. Danger adds excitement. Watching
American Idol
last night, I kept cringing and half covering my eyes. And I kind of dug it. I've also noticed that the fear of losing Jake makes me want to find him and pull him close. That seems vaguely like the desire of a real girl.

So hooray for me, right? Way to go, Gaia…
right?
I've done the impossible, achieved the anti-me that I've always wanted
to be. With the exception of a minor Identity crisis, I should be in heavenly bliss now. I should be all smiles, born again, starting my life over from scratch. I should be Gaia 3.0, the new new me. I
should
be all these things.

But that would be entirely too convenient. And if there's one thing I've learned I can count on, it's inconvenience. Whenever things start to feel the slightest bit happy-go-lucky, I know I should duck for cover. Just as my relationship with Jake has become smooth sailing to an almost puke-worthy degree, just as I've taken this final step to becoming an anonymous every girl, of course something has to go and undermine it all. Just as I'm scooping out spoonfuls from that symbolic bowl of Trix drenched in delicious whole milk, I realize the milk is rancid. Every stroke of luck turns back to tragedy.

The facts are as follows: My fear told me to flee the scene of
an attack last night, and the same attackers I didn't finish off attacked Ed and Kai immediately thereafter. Right now they're lying in St. Vincent's, and I'm…
not.
I'm walking fast through the city, knowing that the new me has failed her first test. Not too sweet. Being stripped of fearlessness is supposed to lower my profile. It's supposed to make me less hunted, to decrease the number of Gaia-related tragedies….

But what if it doesn't? What if it just turns me into a total wuss who can't defend herself? What if I've made the wrong decision?

the paranoia front

Protocol in romance wasn't exactly her strong point— reason number two hundred and fourteen why Gaia's relationships never worked out.

Sitting Ducks

GAIA MOORE WAS TOO BUSY DOING the incognito speed walk to notice the weather. It was one of those gray, vaguely depressing Saturdays that New Yorkers knew all too well. There was the perfect amount of light out to render the Village mosaic of storefronts, fire escapes, and sidewalk human activity in the crispest clarity. But she lurched forward on Hudson Street with such thrust that it strained her hips. Her head bowed like a bull's, she wove between pedestrians. Her eyes remained focused on the glittery, bubble-gum-peppered sidewalk that blurred beneath her feet. This was not the time to get distracted by the usual leather-faced homeless clump of a human or some smiling, lipsticked trannie. This was no time to experiment with fear.
Keep your eyes on the ground,
she told herself. Easy enough, for someone who could find St. Vincent's blindfolded.

As she walked, Gaia tried to conjure up an image of Ed's face. Unfortunately, her vision of him was blurred; it lacked specificity. Was he conscious? Would his eyes be open? And what about Kai? Gaia maneuvered around a slumped-over old woman. Just as she was about to merge back into the right pedestrian lane, she felt a flat thud on her upper left thigh.

“Ow,” Gaia blurted.

She whirled around to check out the culprit. It was a briefcase, attached to the hand of some inconsiderate ass who hadn't bothered to apologize.
Sometimes I hate this place. There are so many people that no one notices you.

Gaia started walking again and was struck by how slowly she was moving.
Am I procrastinating?
As much as she had to see Ed right now, she wasn't exactly looking forward to it. Was she scared? Was this fear—this gut-grinding, tight-gummed feeling of wanting to be somewhere else? Or was it dread? Maybe it was guilt. Guilt over her plan not to tell Ed and Kai that she'd run from the same attackers who'd later butchered them. A vision of Ed's back with the blood-encrusted X that had been slashed into it flashed through Gaia's mind, sending a shiver through her body.

Gaia suddenly stopped in her tracks. There was that feeling, one that Gaia had come to know all too well in her short time on earth. She felt an invisible force behind her, like two laser beams piercing the back of her brain. An unfathomable urge to sprint away rose up in her.
Is someone following me?
Probably not. It was just the fear talking. Every time she'd had a premonition or an eerie sensation in the past twenty-four hours, that had been her first thought.
It's just the fear talking.
It would have been nice to have a bottle of fear-relieving shampoo to rub on her scalp at times
like this. Not to cure her of it entirely, but to alleviate the intensity.

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