Freak of Nature - By Julia Crane

Chapter 1

Kaitlyn turned a corner and caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror. Seventeen years old. Long dark hair, grey eyes. At least her face hadn’t been marred by the accident, or the upgrades since.

The rest of her body had not been so lucky.

Half-human, half-machine. She didn’t quite fit into either world. I’m an abomination, she thought, her shoulders slumping. She tore her eyes away from her reflection in the mirror and continued to trudge down the stark hallway.

The only sound was the squeaking of her sneakers on the tiles. Everything—the walls, the cold tiles underfoot, even the trash cans—was sterile and white. If she never saw a white wall again, it would be too soon. The harsh lighting of the corridor often reminded her of a different bright light, the one that had ended her human life and began this stage of … existence, if it could be called that.

After they brought her back from the brink of death, the IFICS staff told her she should be grateful. But they didn’t know what it was like being prodded and probed, having no future and no past. If only she hadn’t checked the “donate body to science” option on her driver's license, then she wouldn’t have been in this situation. Although, if it weren’t for IFICS—she still didn’t know what the acronym stood for—she would probably be dead. Sometimes, she wondered which was worse.

At least she no longer needed an escort to get to the treatment room. That had been annoying, considering they’d replaced a section of her brain with a computer that learned far faster than any human’s. In the early days while her new body acclimated with the machinery, her weakness made it necessary for her to rely on them for everything. It had humiliated her.

Footsteps echoed in the distance behind her. Her sensors kicked in, analyzing the sound of the steps and the length of the stride. She knew who it was before she heard his voice, and she waited for his familiar greeting.

“Kaitlyn.” Lucas greeted her the same way he did every morning.


If she still had a real heart, it surely would have skipped a beat or two. Lucas was the only thing in her crazy world that made getting out of bed worthwhile. He made her feel when the Professor and his team said it wasn’t possible. At least, she thought it was feelings, and not just electrical charges pulsing through her system. But isn’t that what happens in the human body, anyway? Kaitlyn reminded herself. Human emotions and reactions were nothing more than synapses firing, telling the brain what to do. For Kaitlyn, though, they weren’t as strong anymore—the ghosts of feelings, just beyond her reach. But she knew they were there, and she knew she had them for Lucas—good feelings.

She fell into step beside him in the white corridor without another word. A part of her longed to connect with him, but fear kept her quiet. She had overheard enough to know if it became known that she still had thoughts and feelings of her own, they would quickly be erased. Her only friend, Quess, had confirmed it. She guarded what was left of her mind too much to give it away, even if Lucas did make her body hum.

With a look to her left, Kaitlyn took in his beautiful profile. She could stare at his full sensual lips and strong jawbone for hours. He walked with a relaxed gait, his wrinkled white scrubs swishing in the relative stillness of the hallway. His muscular frame had lifted her off the floor more than once during the early days of the treatments, when she was trying to adjust to her new body. His unruly dark hair curled at the nape of his neck—she noticed he was in need of a haircut. She had an overwhelming, illogical urge to reach out and brush his hair out of his eye.

What would it feel like to have his big, steady hands trail down her body? His lips on her neck? If she no longer felt pain, could she feel pleasure? Her mind was always trying to make sense of the madness that raced through it.

Appalled at the too-human thoughts, Kaitlyn tore her eyes from his face and clasped her hands together in front of her.

Their relationship was clinical: she knew Lucas saw her as only an experiment and nothing more. He would probably be repulsed if he knew the thoughts that ran through her head when he