Though I am no longer posting whole chapters of Prism World, I thought I’d share a little snippet of my most recent writing. (Note: Leif is Mr. Covent. By this point in the story, Lightning addresses him by his first name.)
Chapter 14 excerpt…
I could hear the faint voices of the news reporters coming from the radio in Leif’s room as I darted down the hall. Without so much as blinking, I grabbed the door handle and threw it open.
It was as though everything moved in slow motion, as though no matter how fast I was, I could not move fast enough.
Leif turned as I threw open the door. Apparently he had just come back from showering, for all he wore was a pair of pajama pants as he rubbed a towel against his sopping wet hair. I could see a look of surprise on his face, but neither one of us had time to think about it, for just as I shouted, and just as he turned, a blur of black and ghastly white appeared from behind a sofa nearby. I didn’t even have time to pull the trigger of my pistol before I saw a dagger blade glint in the lamplight, sliding deep into Leif’s back.
No! Not Leif, too!
I pulled the trigger, but the assailant darted out of the way and my bullet struck a vase across the room instead. The Phantom made for the window looking out on the garden, but this time I managed to move fast enough, putting myself between me and him. He skidded to a stop, and for an instant we both froze in shock.
“Blade,” I growled, my eyes narrowing.
He straightened up slightly, one of his daggers still stained red with Leif’s blood.
“It was you?” he questioned. “The one who killed all those men at the prison facility?”
I glared at him.
“I wouldn’t have if the govs had just left my people alone.”
“Master Covent? Was that a gunshot just now?” came Charles’ voice from down the hall.
Before I could blink, Blade darted past me, shoving the window open and darting out into the night. I wanted to go after him, to confront him, but then I turned back to Leif. Was he…?
Quickly I rushed to his side, checking his pulse. He was unconscious, but he was alive. Because he had turned at the sound of my voice, the dagger had missed his heart. I checked to make sure he could breathe, then grabbed the towel he had been using to dry his hair and pressed it to the wound. I didn’t want to move him any more than I had to.
A movement caught the corner of my eye.
“Charles!” I commanded as the man, I had learned that he was called a butler, shuffled into the room. He froze at the scene before him, but I gave him no time to ask questions. “Call a doctor, and tell Amos to come here now.”
Now thoroughly shaken, the butler hurried away. A moment later, Amos appeared with a pistol in hand, followed closely by Patski.
“Was it a Phantom?” Amos asked, kneeling down beside me.
“Where did they go?”
“Out,” I replied, motioning with my head toward the open window. “I didn’t want to leave Leif like this to go after him.”
“How bad is it?”
“He should be alright if we can get him treated in time,” I said. “Here. Hold this, but stay alert. The Phantom’s probably gone by now, but you can’t be too careful.”
Amos nodded, then reached for the towel. A moment later, I darted out the window in search of Blade. For a moment, I paused in the garden, trying to think of where they might have been able to park the car in secret. If Blade was already gone, maybe I could at least find where they had come in.
“Took you long enough,” came a familiar voice from off to the side.
I turned quickly, pistol cocked and ready to fire. Blade stood about five feet away, eyeing me up and down.
“I should have known it was you. The Fates said that man was working with a woman who was a skilled gunman. How did you escape the compound fire?”
“I don’t answer to you,” I snarled. “And if you so much as move, I’ll put a bullet through your skull.”
“No you won’t,” Blade replied. “If you were going to do that, you would have done it by now.”
I swallowed hard. He was right, really. Why did I hesitate? Was it because some part of me still belonged to the govs…to the masters?
“I see your gunhand has been injured,” Blade continued, beginning to circle around toward me. “You’re weaker than you used to be.”
I turned to face him, but he continued to circle closer, ever closer.
“And your words from earlier reveal the truth. You’ve become attached to these people who wish to destroy the peace of our country. You’ve found new masters who make you put them first, breaking you, putting you in danger, putting your very mission in danger.”
“They’re not my masters,” I argued. “They’re my friends.”
Blade came to a stop in front of me, the barrel of my pistol pressed to his chest. Before I could decide what to do, he grabbed me by the wrist, pushing my gun away from himself and pulling me up against him. He grasped my chin in his other hand.
“Friends?” he questioned, looking down into my eyes. “That isn’t a word I know.”
“There are a lot of things you don’t know,” I replied, staring up into his cold, coal black eyes. “Friends protect each other and take care of each other. They give me a reason to live and to fight.”
“What do you mean, they give you a reason?” I could feel Blade’s grasp tighten on my chin. “The masters gave you a reason to live and to fight. They gave you the ability to live and to fight. Do you know how many people you killed the night you attacked the prison? Do you know how many more people will have to die because of your actions?”
“Do you?” I asked.
He paused and looked at me questioningly.
“Do you know how many people you have killed? Can you even count them anymore? Can you count the number of families you have broken? Do you know how many more will die by your hand before this comes to an end? Do you know if it will ever come to an end?”
“Yes, families. The people who share the same blood, the ones who protect you more than a friend would, and certainly more than the masters ever dreamed of protecting you.”
Blade lowered his face toward mine until I could feel his warm breath against my lips.
“We’re not like them. We’re not people. We’re Phantoms. Our sole purpose is to protect the masters. That is why we were created. That is why we will continue to be created.”
He pressed his lips to mine.
In a heartbeat I brought my knee up between his legs and he stumbled backward. So maybe my attachment to the rebels made me weak. Maybe the loss of my gunhand hindered my ability to fight. But what I had learned outside of the Phantom Legion had made me stronger in other ways.
“Have you ever looked at the people you kill?” I questioned, shooting a bullet at Blade.
He only barely managed to dart out of the way.
“They are us,” I continued, shooting again. “We are people, too. Phantom is what the masters call us, but that’s not what we are.”
Blade drew his daggers and rushed at me from the side. I blocked his attack with my gun and he sprang back.
“Maybe I am weaker now than I was when I was in the Phantom Legion,” one of my bullets grazed Blade’s shoulder. “I am weaker because the masters took my gunhand from me, and at any moment they could send a bastard like you to take away what little I have been able to gain.”
For a moment, Jack’s face flashed through my mind. I could feel a great energy welling up inside of me. A surge of power like an electric shock raced through my body and I bounded toward Blade, grabbing him by the front of his shirt and shoving him up against a nearby tree, my gun under his chin. I was angry, and I was indignant. I wasn’t even so angry at Blade as I was angry at the people who controlled him. Angry at the people who had taken Jack away. Angry at the people who had made Amos cry.
“Serve the masters, and they will beat you, maybe even kill you, if ever you dare to fail. If that’s the life you want to live, you’re welcome to it,” I released Blade and stepped back a few paces, my pistol still pointed at his head. “But while you’re so determined to live your life in a tiny, dark room serving people who will throw you away like trash the moment you make a mistake, tell the masters this: ‘You have taken almost everything from me, but know that with each thing you take, I grow a little stronger. I will tear down your little hell hole brick by brick and unless you can kill me, there is nothing you can do to stop me. Take your best shot. I’ll take mine.’”
And with that, I turned and walked away. I should have killed Blade then, but I couldn’t. For all my brave words, I could feel a powerful force inside me, preventing me from taking the shot I so desperately wanted to take. I was afraid. Afraid of what would happen if I killed Blade. The masters’ voices still echoed in my mind, daring me to challenge them. Even though I wasn’t with the Phantom Legion anymore, I had no doubt that the moment I challenged them, they would do everything in their power to make me regret it. I was Lightning, the Phantom…the woman who had dared to leave the Legion behind; but I was also still You, the nameless little girl hiding in the corner, hoping against hope that the masters wouldn’t find me, wouldn’t hurt me, wouldn’t see the tears that I was crying.