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Defiance rising, p.11
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       Defiance Rising, p.11

           Amy Miles

  One second my fingers are around the barrel of my gun and the next I’m flat on my back, staring straight into the alien’s glowing laser. The heat radiating from the core drives back the cold night air.

  “How did you do that?” I gasp, clutching my ribs, which are no doubt already forming a bruise from that blow.

  The alien stares down at me. “You ask a lot of questions.”

  I snort as I glare up at him. “At least I’m not the one who’s too chicken to pull the trigger.” He frowns and the gun whirs to life

  Smooth, real smooth, I silently rant as I struggle to rise to my feet. I stare him down, unwilling to blink for fear of giving him another advantage. The gun rises with me, steady in his hand. A strange tingling ripples along my shoulders as I hold my ground, but I ignore it.

  “So what now?” I challenge.

  His uncertainty plays visibly across his face. I take a step forward but freeze as the laser core flares from emerald to scarlet. I raise my hands. Fair enough. I’ve pushed my limits.

  “You’re going to have to kill me, you know,” I say with as much bravery as I can muster. “I refuse to go back.”

  He opens his mouth to speak but jerks his attention to the side as three Squaddies approach at a run. “There she is!”

  Kyan’s lapdog steps back, allowing room for his kinsmen to take over. I glare up at him as the aliens knock me to the ground. “Good work,” one of them calls over his shoulder. My captor nods and steps further back.

  Cold metallic clamps close around my wrists. “No!”

  I strain against the lock until the restraints slice into my flesh. Anger splinters my thoughts as I feel a new thorn branch tattooed around my heart. I welcome the heat this time.

  “What will you do with her?” Kyan’s messenger asks.

  A large burly soldier yanks me to my feet. His dirty hands cup my cheeks, rolling my head side to side to get a good look at me. “She’s heading back to the City. I’m sure we can find something useful to occupy her time until Commander Drakon arrives.”

  My vision snaps back into crystal clarity at his words, and I spit into his face. His leer shifts into a snarl as he raises his hand. I notice three of his teeth are missing before I try to duck. His fist slams into my jaw and my world careens as I whip around and slam into a tree. I scream as he plunges his hands into my hair and slams my face into the tree trunk. Chunks of bark grind against my cheekbone, tearing my skin.

  His fingers snag in my hair, ripping strands from my scalp. I stumble back, expecting to plummet to the ground, but instead land in someone’s arms. I scream and thrash, fighting to be free.

  Flames lick across my shoulders and shoot down my arms. Anger shifts into rage, easing the pain of the raw flesh around my heart. My thoughts darken as I cling to the knowledge that when I get out of this, I will make them pay.

  “Easy.” Kyan’s friend tightens his arms around my stomach, stilling my fight. I try to resist his attempt to pacify me, but the irritation rolling off him silences my reservations as I realize it’s not directed at me.

  “You didn’t have to do that,” he growls up at the vicious alien.

  The man’s chest rises and falls as if he’d run a marathon instead of beating up a defenseless girl. He clenches his fists, popping each knuckle in turn. “Commander Drakon won’t care if she’s a little roughed up, Beus.”

  “Perhaps not, but I do. Stand down.”

  A bushy eyebrow rises as cracked lips peel back to reveal those three missing teeth. “You’ve got no authority over me, dog. Commander Drakon supersedes Kyan.”

  I hold my breath as the other two soldiers close in around us. Their guns are no longer leveled at my chest, but at the alien beside me. I watch as their guns charge, glowing crimson. The cores rotate rapidly, spiraling into a collage of red as they finger their triggers. I glance up at Beus and am surprised to find him staring at me instead of his attackers. “I am sorry,” he whispers.

  Energy erupts from my chest, flooding down the length of my body. It sizzles against my skin, warming every inch of my chilled body. The air crackles with electricity around me. Steam rises in tiny wisps as trails of freezing rain along my neck turn to vapor. From the corner of my vision, I see my hair beginning to lift from my shoulders.

  An invisible force fills me with strength and the pain from my wounds fades as my nerve endings alight. I feel powerful.

  I look up at the sound of three triggers clicking back. My vision illuminates red with the full force of the lasers. “No!”

  The shackles around my wrists snap open as I throw out my hands and knock Beus backward onto the ground. I dive on top of him and bury my head in his neck. Heat scorches the tips of my hair as I shield him with my body. The sound of splintering wood echoes around me and my chest vibrates as a tree behind us slams to the ground.

  I raise my head and stare deep into the face of my enemy. I was wrong about Beus’ eyes. They aren’t just amber, there are flecks of dark chocolate mixed in as well. He stares at me, wide-eyed with shock.

  His chest rises and falls, lifting my weight with ease. I can feel his heart racing against mine and smell the scent of his adrenaline laced sweat.

  He doesn’t speak as he turns his head to the side. I feel the hitch in his breath and turn to follow his gaze. Three bodies lie crumpled among the remains of a large evergreen that fell just to the right of us. Blood seeps from their ears and noses. I can’t tell if they are breathing.

  “What happened?” I gasp, scrambling off him.

  Beus sits up, staring at me with a mixture of fear and awe. “How did you do that?”

  “I have no ide-” I flatten to the ground as a laser fireball screams overhead, setting the trees around us ablaze. Smoke rises into the air as I cup my hands over my mouth.

  “Watch out!” Beus lands on top of me and rolls us behind a tree as a second laser scorches a line straight across the ground we just occupied. “We have to get out of here. It’s not safe for you.”

  I rise, viewing the world in slow motion. I can see the fear on Beus’ face, but I don’t feel it myself. Energy courses through my veins, electrifying my senses. “No.”

  Instead of running further into the woods, I step out from behind the tree and plant my feet. The large bulbous head of a spider drone rotates as a triple barrel cannon locks onto me. It stands nearly fifteen feet high, its eight legs buried deep in the frozen earth. It’s hard to make out the contours of its hull in the dark of night, but there is no mistaking the deadly laser aimed straight at me.

  Logically I know I’m facing down death, but I can’t explain why I’m unafraid. No, I am more than that. I am mysteriously confident.

  The large cannon heats up, swirling with far more ferocity than the guns the Squaddies carry. The laser blows back my hair as I take another step forward, challenging the metal beast.

  “No, don’t!” I ignore Beus’ warning.

  Blinding light spirals down the barrel of the gun and torpedoes toward me. “Stop!” I shout, without flinching.

  Like a bomb detonating, a shockwave bursts from my hands, creating snow tornados as it races out from me. The invisible force barrels through the forest, bowing limbs and uprooting buried tree roots as it goes.

  Heat clusters around me as I hold the laser beam aloft with my mind. A trickle of sweat winds down from my brow, but I show no other signs of effort. Beus steps out from behind the tree, amazement deeply etched into his features. It’s not the red orb hovering over my head that he stares at, but me. “It is true.”

  “What is?”

  He steps closer, reaching out his hand, as if he wants to touch me, but pulls back instead. His lips purse as his gaze flits over my face. “You don’t know who you are, do you?”

  “Does it look like I do?” I grunt, feeling the laser drop an inch. The longer I hold it aloft, the heavier it begins to feel. <
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  “Kyan was right,” Beus mutters to himself. I can feel the weight of his gaze. “Just look at what you’ve done. I’ve never seen anyone with such control.”

  “What the heck is happening to me?” I shift my weight and the laser orb moves with me.

  He drops to his knees. “You’re becoming the Shadow Walker.”

  “You’re telling me I really am one of you?” I dart a glance at him, vowing to launch this laser at him if he doesn’t start giving me some answers.

  “Yes,” he begins to wring his hands. “Your birthright happened sooner than we expected. Kyan needs to speak to you before it’s too late.”

  His eyes widen with fright as he stares up at the awestruck alien leaning over the console in the spider drone. I can see his hands holding some sort of device to his ear as his lips move rapidly.

  It’s only a matter of time until the entire City pours out into these woods. I’ll have every alien on my trail.

  “They can’t be allowed to find you. Not like this. You have to leave.” Beus’ voice trembles.

  I snort. “You think?”

  “No, it’s not just the machines you have to worry about. It’s everyone. You can’t trust any of my kind.”

  “News flash, dude, I don’t trust you.” I turn to face the spider, but keep Beus in the corner of my eye.

  I feel something shift within me, a new presence in my mind that I’ve never felt before. Something dark and sinister slithers slowly through my thoughts. Whispers of revenge, of death, breathe in my ear.

  “What will they do with me when they find me?” I ask.

  “Drakon will unleash you. You will massacre hundreds, thousands of your kind. You have no idea how powerful you are.” Beus pales. “You’re the weapon Drakon has been searching for, the tool to wipe your race off the face of your planet for good.”

  Illyria. I blink as a male voice penetrates my thoughts. Don’t give in to the Shadows. They will destroy you.

  “How do you know my name?” I shout, glaring at Beus. “And why the heck can I hear you in my head?”

  The corners of his lips twitch. “It’s not me.”

  I frown. “What’s going on?”

  He shrugs. “Try talking back.”

  Who are you?

  You already know the answer to that.

  “Kyan,” I hiss aloud.

  Beus’ eyebrows rise. “That’s not possible. His reach isn’t that great.”

  It is because your mind connected to my mind, Illyria. You have summoned me, not the other way around.

  A chill settles over my limbs and I feel the weight of the laser for the first time. An ache begins in my shoulders, pressing down on me.

  I can help you and your friends, Kyan whispers.

  What do my friends have to do with this?


  I don’t want your help. I just want to be left alone, I shout back at him.

  You need me. I have the answers that you seek.

  The chill continues to spread as the flames recede from my arms, slithering back to my shoulders. The pain in my heart increases and I gasp as I feel a new scrolled mark appear over my breastbone.

  Like a short circuit, I can feel the unstableness of my grasp on the laser. The whispers in my mind fade, and along with it my anger.

  What are you doing to me?

  Nothing. This is your own doing. Your power is fueled by your anger, and this empowers the Shadows.

  You’re not making any sense. I grit my teeth, fighting hard to keep the laser aloft.

  You’ve unleashed a power that you cannot comprehend or even begin to control. With a single thought, you can kill everyone around you, but you are still vulnerable.

  What power? I don’t understand. Why can’t anyone just give me a straight answer?

  You will, but you must go…now! Beus will cover your tracks.

  The instant I feel him withdraw from my mind, the ground begins to quake. I glance beyond the drone and see three more breach the hill.

  “Go!” Beus screams. I nod and throw out my hands. The fireball slams into the hull of the spider and explodes in a rain of sparks. The black metal bubbles, dripping to the ground as the laser burrows through to the inner core.

  “Run!” Beus shoves me ahead as he dives behind a tree. I glance back over my shoulder and watch as the spider begins to shudder and jerk, flailing about. The legs on the right side snap off as the alien within drops to the ground and sprints away.

  I shield my eyes as a brilliant white light fills the drone’s control room and then implodes. The blast hits me before I can reach a safe distance. Pain radiates through my back as I slam to the ground. I can taste blood as I rise, wincing at the needles of pain winding up my arms and legs. Small slivers of metal burrow into my flesh, cauterizing the skin around the entry points.

  Beus rises from the smoke, his pale face smudged. Small tendrils of gray rise from his hair. “Just run. I’ll stall them.”

  I turn to retrieve my rifle, but find it trapped beneath a burning tree branch. I consider reaching for it but Beus shoves me away. “Go!”

  I turn and obey, dodging fallen tree limbs. Everywhere I look, flames devour the forest. The crater left by the drone’s explosion has left an imprint that oddly looks like a meteorite strike I saw once in a book.

  Ducking my head, I run flat out, unsure of where to go. All that matters is that I get away.

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