As a writer, I think one of the most important things is for you to love what you write. Being in love with a story and being able to laugh and cry along with your characters puts a soul into what would otherwise be nothing more than a collection of words.
With this in mind, I have decided to share with you some of my favorite moments from my previous book, Prism World. (I’ll be doing one about The Four Stars once I finally get it published.) If you have read Prism World before, please feel free to comment with your favorite moments at the end of this post. (Not only do I just enjoy seeing what people like about my work, but knowing what you like and don’t like helps me hone my writing, too.) For those of you who have never read the book before, I hope you enjoy these little snippets. And, if you like what you see, why not try out the whole book, too? ^-^
(P.S.: Sorry for the horrible formatting. For some reason, WordPress keeps undoing my formatting. -.- *sigh*)
- New People (from Chapter 4)Just then the outer door opened and in stepped a woman and little girl.
“Mr. Henry?” the woman inquired, peeking into the room. She paused when she saw me. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“It’s all right, Jenna,” Dr. Kepler responded. “How is your husband doing?”
“Better,” the woman replied. “I came to get more medicine for him.”
“Of course. Give me a moment.”
I watched in silent wonder as Dr. Kepler went to a cabinet and opened it up, pulling out a couple of bottles and all the while conversing with the child clutching her mother’s hand. She was so small. Was she…was she similar to that term Blade had used the night I escaped? New Phantoms. New…people? Were Phantoms people, too?
I sat in silence as I watched the woman head back toward the door, casting one final, questioning glance at me before leaving the building.
“Was that…a new person?” I inquired, staring off in the direction the mother and child had gone.
Dr. Kepler and Mr. Covent exchanged wondering glances.
“The small person,” I added, trying to clarify.
“A new…you mean the child?” the doctor questioned.
“Child?” I had never heard the word before.
“Yes, that was a child. I suppose you could call her a new person.”
“How…do you make new people?”
There was a moment of dead silence. I turned back to the two men as Mr. Covent coughed nervously.
“Ah, well…hum…how should I put this?” Dr. Kepler stuttered. “I tell you what, why don’t you let me get these stitches out, then you can go talk to my wife, okay?”
I frowned. He wasn’t answering my question, and I didn’t understand what the problem was.
“Why can’t you tell me?”
“Well, I really must be on my way,” Mr. Covent said suddenly, heading toward the door. “Thank you for the supplies, doc.”
“Humph, running off are you?” the doctor huffed good-humoredly.
“Hey, that’s your profession, not mine. Good day!”
Mr. Covent tipped his hat and disappeared out the door.
- ABC’s (from Chapter 4)I watched as Dr. Kepler left the room, then picked up the chart with the alphabet on it. It had been harder for the doctor to teach me how to remember all the letters. There were pictures next to each one as an example of how each letter was used, but I knew almost none of the pictures shown.
A…apple. The doctor had to bring an apple from the kitchen before I knew what the chart was talking about.
B…ball. I didn’t know what a ball was, so the doctor had pulled one out of a closet to show me.
C…cat. Strange looking creature. The doctor didn’t seem to have one of these tucked away in a closet somewhere so he had tried to explain it to me. He said they were small, light, quick animals with night vision and a soft fur coat. So…like a rich lady and a Phantom put together? Intriguing.
D…dog. I had seen one of those in the house of one of my targets. It had looked a lot hairier than the one in the picture, though. Similar to a shaggy rug that stood up and moved to another spot on the floor every now and again.
E…egg. Once again a kitchen raid had been necessary to demonstrate what the picture was talking about.
F…frog. Another odd little animal. Similar to a green wart with eyes. I knew what a wart was. It was how I had been instructed to identify a target once.
G…grape. There weren’t any of these in the kitchen, but Dr. Kepler had said they were a type of food that grew on vines. When I had still been confused by the concept, he added an additional example. Gun. I knew what a gun was.
- Meeting the Rebels (from Chapter 7)The room that Dr. Kepler and I stepped into was dimly lit and sparsely furnished. There was an odd variety of chairs circling the room, with men and women in drab attire occupying most of the seats. Immediately I noticed Mr. Covent, who sat at the far end of the room. Alice, too, was there, as were the brothers Jack and Amos. I didn’t recognize any of the other faces. I could feel the atmosphere in the room tense as Dr. Kepler and I came to a stop just inside the door. The only sound to stir the silence was the quiet humming of the single light bulb that hung from the ceiling.
“Everyone,” Mr. Covent said at length, standing to his feet and looking at me, “I would like you to meet Lightning. She is a Phantom.”
Instantly the room exploded in a general hum as the rebels whispered to one another. None looked pleased by this declaration. Mr. Covent said nothing for several moments. He only looked at Dr. Kepler. They exchanged glances, then Mr. Covent cleared his throat. The rebels turned their attention back to him.
“Mr. Covent,” one rebel protested, “what is the meaning of this?”
“Lightning has escaped from the Phantom Legion. She has offered to help us with our mission.”
“Says who?” asked a second rebel.
“And you trust her? For all we know, she could be saying that just to catch us off guard. She could be the death of us all.”
I frowned. Before anyone knew what was happening, I lifted the skirt of the black dress Mary had bought for me and pulled my pistol from its hiding place. No one even noticed until I pulled back the slide and set a bullet in the chamber. Instantly everyone froze, eyeing my pistol. Even Dr. Kepler was surprised. He hadn’t realized that I had created a make-shift holster using scraps from my old Phantom attire, and apparently he hadn’t seen me retrieve my gun from the bedside table before leaving my room, either. Of course, I wasn’t going to tell anyone that I only had two bullets left.
Once everything was quiet, I reset the safety on my pistol and returned it to its holster.
“If I wanted to kill you, I would have already done it,” I said, looking pointedly at the first rebel. “You talk too much.”
“I was the one assigned to kill Mr. Covent. Did you know that?” I continued, slowly walking into the very center of the room.
The rebels glanced around at each other nervously. I paused for a moment, then pulled my crystal prism from the pocket in my dress. I dangled it out in front of me. The light from the light bulb above me glinted off the swaying prism. A flash of rainbow color danced around the floor.
I could see everyone eyeing the prism. They were confused. But not Mr. Covent. His jaw dropped when he saw it.
“You should learn to look at the other sides. You might find something you’ve never seen before,” I said, now looking directly into Mr. Covent’s bright blue eyes. “That’s what he told me. I had never seen daylight before. He could have killed me then. But he didn’t.”
The rebels turned to look at Mr. Covent in wide-eyed wonder. I returned the prism to my pocket, then began to slowly walk in a circle around the room.
“I’ve been blindfolded, beaten, used,” I snarled. “I was only ever taught one thing: kill. Well, I took Mr. Covent’s advice. I looked at another side to this prism,” I paused and looked over at Dr. Kepler. “I found my freedom. For once, someone told me I was human.”
The rebels watched me intently.
“I don’t care if you trust me,” I said, coming to stand next to Dr. Kepler again. “I don’t understand what you’re doing. Right? Wrong? Moral? I don’t understand it. But I do understand one thing,” I pointed a finger and shook it at the room. “You’re fighting the masters,” I pointed my thumb back towards myself. “I want to fight them, too.”
- First Friends (from Chapter 9)I opened my eyes and glanced over at the sound of someone climbing the tree nearby. From my perch on the very pinnacle of the roof top, I could see a dark figure struggling to reach the eaves from an overhanging branch. There was a thump, and a moment later Amos had crawled up to join me.
“You make this look so easy,” he laughed, trying to sit steadily along the same ridge that I sat on.
I didn’t reply. I only stared at him. He was a stark contrast to me. Light hair and light eyes, always smiling and laughing. He was the only one of the rebels who did that. And what was more, he seemed to have taken a liking to me. It was all very strange. I turned my gaze away. We sat there in silence for several moments. I paid him very little attention. I wasn’t even sure why he was up here, but perhaps if I ignored him he’d go away.
“I like the moon,” Amos said at length, staring up at the little silver disk suspended above us. “It’s so calming.”
“What was it like?”
I glanced over at him. He was looking at me curiously.
“What do you mean?” I questioned.
“As a Phantom. I mean, you weren’t always assassinating people, were you? What did you do in your free time?”
I looked up at the moon. Free time? Time didn’t exist for a Phantom. At least, not in the sense that it existed to a regular human.
“Dark,” I replied at length. “Dark rooms…surprise visits to keep me alert…training and missions to keep my skills sharp.”
“You never had any…you know, hobbies or friends or anything?”
I glanced over at him.
“I don’t understand those words.”
Amos looked at me quizzically.
I shot him an annoyed glare. If I said I didn’t then I didn’t. Why ask?
“Well, hobbies are things that you like to do for fun,” the young rebel said, looking thoughtful. If he had even noticed my glare, he had completely ignored it. “For instance, I like painting in my free time.”
“Painting?” I questioned.
“Yeah, you know, creating pictures using paint.”
I thought long and hard. Painting. Creating pictures? Like the pictures in Dr. Kepler’s books?
“I’ll have to show you some time,” Amos continued. “You might even like to try it yourself.”
I raised my eyebrow at him.
“You don’t have any friends, either, do you?”
My eyebrow remained raised.
“Well, I’ll be your friend. What do you say?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I replied, closing my eyes and leaning back against the brick chimney behind me, arms crossed.
“Your friend. You know, someone you can count on. Someone who cares about you and will help you when you’re in trouble.”
I opened my eyes and looked at him again. Was he serious? No such individual existed. At least, not in my opinion.
“Whatever,” I sighed.
Amos grinned broadly. For some odd reason, he seemed satisfied with my response. I just didn’t get it.
“Lightning? Amos? Are you out here?” came Dr. Kepler’s voice.
Immediately I perked up and looked down toward the yard. I could see the doctor silhouetted by the light that fell through the open front door.
Quickly I stood up, hopping into the tree at the edge of the house before sliding down to the ground. Then I glanced back at Amos. He was still balancing on the edge of the roof.
“You just…go on ahead,” he said, looking down nervously. “I’ll be there…eventually.”
- Meeting Patski (from Chapter 13)A fireplace was located to one side of the room, with plush furniture situated around it. A man clad in silk pajama pants, house slippers, and a fancy house robe reclined in one of the armchairs off to the side of the fireplace while voices blared from the speakers of a wooden radio set up on a table nearby.
“The assailants killed or wounded over a dozen guards and caused millions worth in damage,” a static-laden voice was saying. “The council has already issued arrest warrants for any and all known rebels, and a 2 million ilo bounty is being offered for anyone who knows the location of rebel commander Leif Covent. Bounties are also being offered for other confirmed participants in this horrific case of violence: the two brothers Jack and Amos Fagan, and any information as to the identity of the female gunman who aided them. The first of the many funeral services for our fallen soldiers will begin tomorrow at noon…”
The man in silk glanced over at us as the news report continued on with speeches from important members of the government and from the families and friends of the “victims.”
“Well, Leif,” the man said, crushing out the embers of the cigar he was smoking and standing to his feet, “you certainly know how to cause a stir.”
“It could have been worse,” Leif replied stiffly.
“Mm-hmm,” the older man grunted, coming to a stop in front of me. “The unidentified female gunman, I take it?”
None of us said anything. I eyed the man suspiciously. He didn’t look like the honorable sort, and he made Leif uncomfortable. That made me doubly suspicious of him.
“You’ve got the eyes of a killer,” the man said, leaning down and looking straight into my coal-black eyes. “So this is what a Phantom looks like.”
My fingers brushed against the hilt of my revolver.
“There’s no need for that,” the man shrugged, stepping away from me and over to a wooden box that sat on the mantle above the fireplace. He pulled a new cigar from the box and lit it before turning back to us.
“My name is Leonard Patski,” he said, nonchalantly walking back around the furniture toward us. “I’ve heard the rumors. How the young rebel leader, Mr. Covent, has taken in a Phantom and how that said Phantom has been helping him assassinate people in his way. His business partner, for instance.”
“That wasn’t my doing,” Leif argued defensively. “She did that on her own.”
“How is it…” Patski questioned, ignoring Leif. “How is it that you came to have a Phantom under your control? I believe I’ve gained a new respect for you, Leif.”
“She’s not under my control,” the rebel leader frowned. “She’s a comrade.”
“A comrade?” Patski laughed. “Hardly. Since when were Phantoms comrades? Can I honestly call a death-machine like that a comrade? That’s like calling your gun your friend. It’s just a tool. Nothing more.”
I could feel my temper rising. In an instant I had crossed the space between me and Patski. Before he could blink, I yanked the cigar out of his mouth, unfazed by the fact that he was nearly a foot taller than myself.
“You see these hands?” I said, shaking the cigar in his face. “You see these eyes? I have seen what you have never seen. I have done what you could never do. I am a death machine. My first memory is of blood spattering my face and soaking my hands. My first word was ‘kill’. I am a death machine. I was given no other choice. Don’t call me friend. Don’t call me comrade. But I am not a tool. I will not be owned. Not by you, not by the ones who bred me, not by anyone.”
With a flick of my wrist, I threw the cigar into the fireplace several feet away, giving the rich man one more steely glare before turning my back on him.
“You know, that’s hardly the way to get someone to help you,” Patski said, clearing his throat. He was trying to look unfazed, but his eyes told me he was just a little bit shaken.
“That’s what the doctor said,” I replied. “But I wasn’t shaking a cigar in his face.”
- I Love You (from Chapter 19)
A slight laugh escaped Leif’s lips and he fidgeted slightly.
“And here I am…” he said at length, “sitting next to a Phantom. And…what’s more is…”I watched him as he searched for the words he wanted to say. He looked nervous. Why? Was it because he was talking to a Phantom? After everything, did he still not trust me?
“What’s more is…” he continued, “I…well, you mean a lot to me, Lightning, and…”
He looked up at me, his sharp blue eyes searching my coal black ones. I sat stock still, confused, as I felt Leif’s hands lightly touch mine. I watched as he leaned forward. I could feel his warm breath on my lips.
But then, all of a sudden, he wasn’t Leif anymore. He was Blade. All I could see was Blade. All I could feel was Blade. All I could hear was Blade.
In a flash I bounded to my feet and several paces away from the couch. My breath came quick and shuddering. I could feel my body shivering and my eyes were wide.
Wait. Why did I…? What…what was that?
“Lightning, I’m sorry,” Leif said quickly, standing to his feet. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I forgot that you don’t know much about…relationships. You didn’t even know what I was doing, did you?”
“I know,” I said. “It was the same…the same as…”
My voice caught in my throat. I hugged my arms to myself and shivered.
“The same as…?” Leif prodded. There was concern etched across his face.
“Blade,” my voice trembled. I was speaking to Leif, but my mind was trapped in the past…in a dark room…with a Phantom called Blade pinning me down, telling me I couldn’t fight my fate.
“Blade?” Leif questioned, his eyes narrowing. “What did he do to you?”
“Back in Alpha 6,” I replied. I couldn’t bear to look at Leif, for fear of seeing Blade’s face there. “The masters…a…breeding program…they brought Blade to my room and he…he talked about making new Phantoms and…”
I swallowed hard.
“New Phantoms?” Leif’s eyes widened. “New…people. That day in Dr. Kepler’s office, when you asked about making ‘new people’, that’s what you were talking about.”
“And so back at Alpha 6, when we came to your old room and you looked nervous…the bad memories you talked about back then…that’s what you meant?”
Again I nodded.
“Blade. Did he…did he actually…?” Leif paused. He didn’t seem to want to finish his question, but I knew what he was asking. Did Blade succeed?
I shook my head.
“No,” I replied, looking down at my scarred left hand. “That was when I decided to escape. I fought back, and I escaped.”
“Lightning, I’m sorry.”
I looked up quickly as Leif stepped toward me. For a moment, I was afraid he was going to try again. My eyes opened wide, however, when he dropped to one knee in front of me. He bowed his head, one hand braced on the floor, the other on top of his knee. He didn’t even look up at me.
“I am so…so sorry,” he repeated. “I didn’t realize what you had been through. Those actions are signs of love, but that bastard ruined it for you. So I promise, I won’t so much as touch you without your permission. I just…I just want to show you that I…I love you. Please, help me find a way to do that.”
For a moment I stood there, stunned. Then, slowly, I knelt down in front of him. I hesitated, then wrapped my arms around Leif’s shoulders and laid my head on his.
“I’ve never…really understood that word,” I said softly. “But I think…maybe…thanks to you, I’m beginning to.”
- Temporary Residence (from Chapter 21)
Our new residence was even further out in the countryside than the mansion had been, or so it seemed, at least. It was an old house — there was no telling how old — with peeling paint, missing roof shingles, and a sagging floor. The windows were covered in a hazy film that made them nearly impossible to see through, and I wondered if perhaps the whole house frame was leaning just a little bit. It was a small house, too, far smaller than any of the rebel houses that I had seen. There was no washroom; just a small, bug-infested outhouse out back. Lighting was limited to flashlights, lanterns, and candles and there was no running water or electricity to speak of. There wasn’t even a hand-crank telephone. “Primitive” was the word that the rebels used.
As we stepped into the living room, we glanced around at our surroundings. We all seemed to have the same look on our faces. We all seemed to be thinking the same thing.Oh. My. God. Are we really going to be living here?
There were water stains all over the ceiling and what looked like mold in one corner. The wooden planks that made up the house’s flooring were warped, and I had to wonder if we would be no worse off sleeping outside should it decide to rain. And I had thought the slums looked bad. This place made my cell at Alpha 6 look pretty good, I had to admit.
“And you’re certain this place is safe to live in?” Case questioned, patting one wall and watching as it shuddered each time his hand came in contact with it.
“Case! Case!” Alice exclaimed, rushing over and grabbing our driver by the wrist. Then in a softer voice she added, “Don’t do that. You might knock it down.”
“I’ll admit, it’s in a bit worse shape than it was in the picture the original owner showed me,” Patski said.
“That’s probably because the picture was taken 20 years ago,” Leif replied.
“Or 50,” Alice grunted. “Are you sure we can’t afford something at least safer? I can deal with primitive, but I’d rather not have my house do the government’s job for them.”
“I’ll see what else I can find,” Patski sighed, turning to leave. “But there aren’t a lot of places that are out of the way like this one.”
“Wait! Are you going into town by any chance?” Alice said suddenly.
The rich man turned to look at her.
The young woman grabbed me by the wrist and half-dragged me toward the door.
“All right. We’re going with you.”
“Um…your reason being?”
Alice paused in front of him.
“Lightning needs a haircut,” she motioned to the bangs that hung in my eyes and the unruly strands that fell about my shoulders. “She looks like a shaggy pony right now. Also, she needs a new outfit. This one needs to be washed eventually, you know.”
I stiffened slightly.
“It’s all right, Alice,” I protested, trying to pull away. “I still have my assassin’s attire. I don’t need another outfit.”
The decrepit house suddenly didn’t seem so bad.
“Shush,” she interrupted. Her grip was like iron. “You’re going if I have to tie you up and drag you there myself.”
“I’d like to see that,” Patski mused.
Alice gave him a menacing glare.
“Actually, going in to town sounds like a good idea,” Leif said suddenly. “I need to get in contact with some of our people back in Randburg. And anyway, I think I might feel a bit safer in town than out here.”
He looked up at the ceiling uneasily.
I opened my mouth to protest, but before I knew it we were all piled back in the car, crammed together and headed to town. I sat stiffly with my hands in my lap, glaring at Leif out of the corner of my eye. Traitor.
- Happy Birthday (from Chapter 21)
I had just turned to ask Leif a question when the sound of movement caught my ear, and I looked up toward the roof of the nearby building in time to see a blur of black come into view. Alice nearly flew out of her seat and in a moment her gun was in her hand.
“Scythe!”I grabbed Alice by the wrist as my brother landed on the ground a couple feet away, polearm in hand.
“Hold on, Alice!” I exclaimed. “Don’t shoot!”
“Lightning, that’s Scythe!” Alice exclaimed back, struggling against my grip. A look of sheer rage had lit up her eyes. “[Insert spoiler here]! I’ll shoot him if it’s the last thing I do!”
“Shoot him in the foot then,” I replied. “Just don’t kill him. I need him alive.”
I glared at Scythe.
“Honestly, are you incapable of visiting like a normal person?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” the other Phantom shrugged. “I just came to tell you happy birthday, Sister.”
A dead silence fell over the group as we all stared at Scythe. I released Alice’s hand and sat back down in my seat.
“Never mind. Shoot him.”
- Get Out of My Face (from Chapter 22)
For a moment we all fell into silence. I didn’t mind it, really. Even though I had spent a lot of time with the rebels since escaping the Phantom Legion, I was no more fond of noise and small talk now than I had ever been. And so I just stared out the window, out to the sodden gray landscape beyond. No wind stirred the trees in the woods. It was very still and misty outside. The incredible amount of rain we had gotten the night before had caused little river beds to form along the dirt driveway and what seemed to be half of a new lake to appear in front of the sagging porch.
My mind had almost begun to wander when, all of a sudden, a figure clad in black dropped down from the porch roof. In a moment I had bounded back several paces, my revolver drawn and ready to fire.“Lightning, what is it?” Leif asked quickly, standing to his feet.
Already he and Alice had drawn their guns into their hands. Without a word, I opened the front door, the barrel of my gun flying to a stop in front of Scythe’s face.
“Whoa, there,” he laughed, raising his hands in submission. “You sure know how to make a guy feel welcome don’t you, Sister?”
“Where have you been?” I asked coldly, my jet black eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“Investigating things,” he replied.
“And…I found your mother, if that counts for anything.”
My eyes widened, and I lowered my gun.
“Mercy,” my brother replied. “I’ve been tracking down her master for about three weeks now.”
“Her master?” Leif inquired, coming to stand next to me.
“It would appear that the females who can no longer produce offspring are given as pets to higher-ranking masters,” he explained.
“Oh, that’s just disgusting,” Alice said, coming to stand on the opposite side of me. “What kind of people are these?”
“Very corrupt,” I replied with a sigh. “Somehow, I’m not in the least bit surprised.”
“So if they do that to the women, what do they do with the old male Phantoms?” Alice asked.
“That is a good question,” Scythe smiled, leaning toward Alice. “Maybe nothing. We can breed longer.”
Alice quickly brought her gun up to Scythe’s chin.
“Get out of my face, you nasty pervert.”
- Subtlety Strikes Again (from Chapter 23)
We heard the sirens long before we realized what was happening. I watched through the slats as lights flickered in the distance, then glanced back as our truck rattled to a stop in the shadows off to one side of the road. I heard someone hop out of the truck cab and turned as Patski pulled the tailgate down, poking his head inside.
“This doesn’t look good, Leif,” he said. “There are police cars and army trucks all along this road. I think they may be headed for the house.”“You can thank Lightning for that,” Scythe grunted. “She decided she needed to be some sort of hero and walk right through the front door.”
“And now they know we’re here,” Leif sighed. He looked over at me. “Your subtlety strikes again.”
“Or lack thereof,” Alice added.
- Dog Fight (from Chapter 27)
Quietly I glanced out at the horizon again. I could see Sparrow and Falcon’s airplanes nearby. It all seemed so peaceful up here. I liked the freedom that I felt suspended there in the sky. Yes, when this war was over, if I could live to see such a day, I wanted to learn how to fly.
I was just thinking this when a dark speck in the distance caught my eye. I turned to look at it and I could feel adrenaline rising in my veins.“Crane!” I shouted, turning toward the pilot. “There are more airplanes!”
The man turned quickly to look over his shoulder, but as he did so we saw Falcon wave at us and make a motion with one hand.
“Shit!” Crane swore. He motioned back to Falcon.
By this point, Sparrow had also noticed the signs. A moment later I felt our airplane tip to the side and all three machines split off in different directions.
“What are you doing?” I yelled above the roar of the wind and the engine.
“Giving ourselves a wider playing field,” Crane called back. “If those are enemy fighters, this will make it harder for them to take out all three of us.”
I looked back at the dots which had grown progressively bigger since I had first noticed them. I counted. One, two, three…
“How many are there?” the pilot questioned.
“About half a dozen,” I shouted back. “And it looks like they only have one pair of wings.”
“Damn!” Crane exclaimed. “There’s no way those are civilians! Miss, how handy are you with a machine gun?”
“I can hit my target,” I replied.
“Good! Grab that gun in front of you and prepare to fire. We’ll try to lose them first, but modern fighters are faster than these biplanes, so I’m sure we’ll have to make use of the gun eventually.”
Quickly I grabbed the handholds on the machine gun in front of me and peered through the crosshairs. Already I could see the metallic bodies of the enemy fighters glinting in the afternoon sun. All of a sudden, however, a flash of fire exploded from the front of the lead plane.
Tat, tat, tat, tat, tat!
Crane swerved our plane away from the sound, but in an instant the enemy planes were behind us. I grabbed for the trigger of the biplane’s machine gun.
Tat, tat, tat, tat, tat!
The enemy airplanes split off in twos, one set going after Falcon, one going after Sparrow, and the last set continuing to follow us. More flashes of fire lit up the noses of the enemy airplanes. I trained the crosshairs of my own weapon on the fighter closest to us and let out a spray of bullets. The enemy pilots pulled their planes off to either side, then pulled back in to flank us. As the enemy opened fire again, and as I pulled the trigger on my gun, I could feel my world begin to spin as Crane swerved the biplane around into a momentary downward spiral. Then we soared back up again. I felt my head spinning as I tried to focus my gun on my targets. I was built for speed, but this was a kind of speed I had never known.
I pulled back the trigger of the machine gun and opened fire as an enemy fighter swerved up behind us. The front of the plane lit up in a ball of flames and dropped like a rock from the air, twirling as it pelted down toward the earth. I could feel a knot form in my stomach. If we weren’t careful, that would be us next time.
The second enemy fighter swerved up to take its fallen comrade’s place, and I released a spray of bullets in their direction. I could hear the pat, pat, pat of bullets hitting metal as Crane shoved our airplane into a nose dive. But it appeared that the damage I had dealt to the enemy craft was minimal, as they followed after us.
Tat, tat, tat, tat, tat!
Crane spun our airplane in a corkscrew as machine gun bullets pelted by on either side of us. I narrowed my eyes, trying to get a good look at the enemy fighter behind us.
I released a hail of bullets on the enemy and a moment later all that was left of them was a trail of blackened smoke hanging limply in the open air. The sound of gunfire caught my ears above the roaring of the wind.
“Falcon’s still under fire!” Crane shouted. “You up for another round?”
Falcon… That was where Leif was!
“Hell, yes!” I replied.
Our airplane banked, then dipped. We swung up under the enemy fighter’s belly, I focused the machine gun’s crosshairs on the engine, then before the fighter knew what was happening I pulled back the trigger.
Pat, pat, pat, pat, pat!
Crane swung our craft out from under the enemy and we watched as they fell to earth. A moment later Sparrow and Falcon pulled up behind us on either side. All six of us raised our fists high in the air and let out cheers of victory.
“You handle that gun pretty well!” Crane called back to me as we settled on a wind current.
“I’ve had some experience with guns,” I replied, scanning the horizon for any sign of more trouble. But there was none. The horizon was silent.
“Lucky for us,” my pilot responded with a laugh. “I wasn’t sure what would happen when I agreed to bring you three along. I was under the impression that we were transporting commanders, not real fighters.”
“Generally speaking, we’re both,” I responded. “I don’t think we would have lived this long otherwise.”
“Good point,” Crane nodded.
“How long does it take to get to the capital?” I asked, changing the subject.
“A few hours,” the pilot responded. “Provided we don’t meet any other undesirables.”
“Good,” I replied. “Well, I’ll make sure to keep a finger on the trigger just in case.”
- Not If. When. (from Chapter 28)
I glanced briefly at Alice, then trotted after Leif.
“So what did you think of that, Lightning?” he asked as I came up beside him.“Of what?”
“Of the airplane. I mean, aside from getting shot at.”
A grin came to my face.
“It was fun. The fight included.”
Leif laughed slightly.
“Of course you would think that was fun.”
A sigh escaped my lips.
“I would have been happier if no one had died,” I said, sticking my hands in the pockets of my leather jacket. “I’ll admit, I’m getting tired of killing people. But I enjoyed all the dives and whatnot. It was exciting.”
“You’d make a great pilot,” Leif smiled, moving closer to me until our shoulders were touching.
“Do you really think so?” I asked, looking up at him.
A slight laugh escaped my lips.
“I was thinking during the flight that…if I survive this war…I would like to learn how to fly.”
Leif paused as we came to the corner of the hangar. He turned to face me and took me by the hands.
“Not if, Lightning,” he smiled softly. “When. When we win this war…when we survive and come out victorious…when all that happens, I’ll make sure you learn how to fly. When we start using the word ‘if’ then we give ourselves permission to fail. And we can’t let ourselves fail.”
For a moment I stared at him in silence. Then I nodded. When…when we won this war…when we freed our people from the tyranny of the government that now ruled them…when we at last found peace…those were the moments that I had to look forward to. I couldn’t give myself permission to fail.
For several moments Leif and I stood there, staring into each others’ eyes, my hands in his. We didn’t budge until we heard Alice clear her throat.
“Third party. Over here,” she said, raising her hand. “And just a little bit awkward this side of Loversville.”