|Artwork by Jeremy Aaron Moore|
Excerpt from Chapter 1:
Sojin lurched forward, hand poised for a grab, and Sway twisted her shoulders to avoid it. Instead, Sojin went in for a smack, landing it solidly against her diaphragm. Ripples of pain shuddered through her ribs as she held in the need to gasp. Gripping Sojin’s antennae-like ears, Sway’s knee careened toward her, but was met with both of her hands.
She pulled on Sway’s lifted thigh, flipping her. In a move of acrobatics even Sway didn’t know she was capable of, she curled her back, released Sojin’s head, and sprung onto her palms, cartwheeling away into a fighter’s stance.
Sojin’s vocal modulator cracked with laughter, “You have been practicing.”
Sway panted, heart thumping wildly from adrenaline. Fluffy clouds parted as the sun reflected off Sojin’s well-oiled humanesque frame, causing Sway to squint. Her shine wasn’t completely worn away, after all.
Eli whispered under his breath, “Get her,” causing Sway to ball her shaking hands into fists, exhaling a long puff of fogged saliva into the morning light. She took another calming breath through her nose and swallowed to wet her hot, dry throat.
With the speed of a dozen humans, Sojin kicked at the dirty pavement. Gravel splashed onto Sway’s face and into her mouth. She dropped into a quick, desperate squat, unable to see. Her forearms met with Sojin’s shin as she kicked towards her side. Blinking away the painful, grainy distraction, Sway stood with an uppercut. Her fist twanged against Sojin’s steely abdomen, the vibration sending needles of agony up her arm.
Before Sway had a chance to recover, Sojin had a deadlock on her wrist, twisting as she sidestepped. Sway’s eyes watered as the sharp throb worked its way from her shoulder to her neck, begging her to relent.
Her mechanical voice was hushed, but held a well of pleasure, “Surrender.”
Sway contemplated, grunting as she struggled against Sojin’s hold. She could pop her shoulder out of socket, kick in Sojin’s knee and back off. Maybe she would have enough time to pop it back in before Sojin would come at her again. Would it be worth it? Sway wouldn’t win in the end, how could she? Then, she would lose weeks of training from injury repair, maybe even miss her chance at Beacon initiation.
Her voice hissed through clenched teeth, “I surrender.”