There are TWO DAYS before Death’s Echo releases! I’m so excited for this story to reach the world! Writing a banshee and putting my own twist on her powers was rather fun 🙂 It’s available for pre-order now on amazon and CHAPTER 1 was on my previous post (So if you haven’t read that turn back now)
Happy Reading, and please comment below, I’d love to hear what you thought XO
He’d been watching for a while, unable to tear his eyes away from her. He couldn’t quite believe she was in the line of criminals and lowlifes. What had she done to wind up tossed in the Complex? She looked too young, too innocent. He’d be surprised if she lasted the first day.
Yet she surprised him. Jaylon had already begun walking towards her when the Meta in front focused his attention on her. He’d faltered when she managed to handle the situation and the Meta had turned around on his own accord, but then the idiot behind her decided to get handsy. She’d already drawn blood by the time Jaylon recovered enough to shout.
Sucking in a breath, Jaylon froze as her face turned toward him. Her eyes shone silver, her teeth bared, sharp and deadly. Her otherworldly face was both beautiful and terrifying.
“Let him go,” Jaylon ordered.
Her eyes narrowed, taking Jaylon in for a second longer before she released the man. The Meta stumbled back, groaning and moaning.
Jaylon didn’t pay him a second look. His attention was solely on the young woman in front of him. Her features softened. Her eyes stopped glowing, turning smoky gray with only the tiniest flecks of silver. Apprehension marred her features as she smiled uneasily, her teeth looking as normal as his.
“Are you just going to stand there?” demanded the Meta, one hand clutching his bleeding throat.
Jaylon focused on the Meta behind her. “You deserved what you got. Keep your hands to yourself next time.” He then asked the woman, “What’s your name?”
“Aqulla, Aqulla Dayshon,” she answered quietly.
She moved so silently, Jaylon had to glance behind himself twice to check she was there. His initial assessment of weakness was a mistake. This woman wasn’t in danger of getting hurt; in fact, he was pretty certain she was more likely to hurt those around her. Yet the look in her eyes held none of the strength he’d first seen. Maybe she wasn’t as strong as she had made out, or maybe this was all just some elaborate disguise meant to fool men like himself. The fact that he couldn’t get a read on her unsettled Jaylon. It was his greatest asset, the one thing he always relied on. A skill that had kept him alive around the Metas.
“Where are you taking me?” Her voice was even, but it seemed forced.
Jaylon turned on his heel and looked her up and down. He wanted to shake her, set free the secrets she held. Aqulla took a step back.
“To the front of the queue,” he finally answered.
“So you don’t cause any more trouble.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “I didn’t exactly cause the trouble.”
“No, something tells me it just follows you around.”
Her eyes brightened ever so slightly, and the smile on her face was crooked and enticing. “You have no idea.”
They stopped just to the side, and he asked her to wait. Aqulla admired the way his muscles shifted beneath his uniform as he walked away. It wasn’t designed to be tightly fitted, but his shoulders filled it out. She was certain beneath the material laid layer upon layer of muscle. Not bad considering he was human—a lesser being—but the female in her could look past that. Besides, there was no harm in looking. What other entertainment was she going to find in the Complex anyway?
Turning around, he headed back to where he’d asked her to wait.
“Go on up. He’ll process you.”
“Just doing my job.”
Aqulla was pretty certain his job wasn’t helping Meta’s like herself jump the queue, but she didn’t plan on complaining. The sun had reached its highest point, its heat an unforgiving bitch. She was pleased to see the back of it. Walking up to the booth, the man blurted out his first question before she had a chance to say hello.
“Can you spell that for me?”
She sighed. “A Q U double L A. D A Y S H O N.”
“Okay, you’re in the Forest Zone, ground floor, apartment number 107. Job, waitress at Uni Café, Zeerah. Do you have any belongings?”
“Do. You. Have. Any. Belongings?” he repeated in a monotone voice.
“Go back to the job. What job? I never signed up for a job.” She shifted uneasily, her skin heating. She couldn’t have a job, and be a waitress of all things. She’d meet all different kinds of people, all different kinds of echoes.
The man sighed dramatically, his eyes rolling. “Everyone is assigned a job. Now do you have any belongings?”
“I need a different job, one where I’ll be alone.”
“No can do. Belongings?”
“Great,” muttered Aqulla. Hi, would you like a side of death with that coffee? So much for hiding for two and a half years. Aqulla lifted up her small bag, “Just this.”
“Did you pack your own bag?”
“At any time have you left your bag unattended or been asked to take something inside?” His monotone voice was back. Aqulla didn’t blame him she was bored of his questions, and she’d only heard them once.
“Are you carrying on your persons or inside your bag any of the following prohibited items?” He tapped a large poster to his right, showing pictures of weapons and other various objects that could be used as such.
“Okay then. This device contains all the information I’ve given you and a map of the Complex. Please take your belongings to the next booth for inspection, and there you’ll be given your chip.”
His mouth thinned as his eyes bored into hers. “Move along.”
Aqulla took the small translucent pad from him, and tapped its surface. A map appeared first. Pressing the small button on the side, the screen went blank and she walked forward.
A Meta manned the next station. She couldn’t quite decide what he was, a shifter of some kind maybe. He watched her as a predator stalked prey, his smile more of a smirk as if he knew some hidden joke. He asked for her wrist and pressed a small device over her skin. His grip tightened, then his smile grew. Aqulla was unable to keep the grimace of pain from her face as the device beeped and a sharp pain burned through her flesh. “The chip?” she asked, unamused.
“Yep. Hover your wrist over the scanners every time you get on transport, and to open your apartment. It is also to be used for purchases. Further details are on your pad. It’s linked to your device.” Her bag was emptied, checked, and repacked. Then she was patted down and asked to walk through a scanner. When no alarms went off, Aqulla was asked to join yet another queue and follow it inside.
She studied the map while she waited, zooming in on each section to bring up a more detailed view. There were four zones: Forest, Aquatic, Desert, and Alpine. Each zone had a commerce center, circular housing dome, and land for recreational use that spanned from housing to Main City, which stood in the center of her new home. It was where her job would be, according to the information she’d been given. Though, she was still contemplating not turning up.
The Complex was run by four power plants, each one standing on the outside of the housing domes, and everything they would need would be grown in the four farm zones. The whole community was set out in a massive circle. Everywhere she looked were curved walls and smooth sloping sides, no sharp corners, or angles.
Finally, Aqulla made it inside. Laughter bubbled up her throat as she was greeted by an immense billboard, its digital screen flashing a welcome message at her. ‘Welcome, pioneers of a united, peaceful, future.’ It was the picture that had caused her to laugh, a vampire and a human stood side by side, so close their bodies pressed together. The human’s arm was draped over the vampire’s shoulder, their smiles as wide as their faces and completely fake. Aqulla wondered how much the Human had been paid to cozy up to a Meta who would have normally consider him lunch.
Continuing on, her feet hurt from all the standing she’d done, and she’d admitted to herself she was immensely grateful to the Intra for helping her skip the queue. She’d have most likely still been waiting to be processed if he hadn’t, or killed someone and been shipped back.
Main City could be seen standing tall and proud in the center of the Complex, made up of skyscrapers, their walls sweeping curves and metallic in color. The rest of it, however, wasn’t as sleek and shiny as the outside. As Aqulla navigated her way around, she met corridor after corridor of matte gray walls. Eventually, the space opened up a little and transportation awaited her. Getting on a zipper—a hover cab fitting up to ten people—with several others heading for the Forest Zone, Aqulla watched out of the window, taking in her new home for the next few years. Thankfully no one around her had killed before, and her ride went by in relative comfort.
Disembarking, Aqulla entered the Forest Zone and proceeded to follow the map to her apartment. Walking around the curved corridors, she counted off the apartment numbers, coming to a stop at number 107. Waving her chipped wrist over the electronic pad on the wall, the door clicked open and she entered.
The apartment was small, with only one door on the left-hand side. Aqulla opened it and looked in on the small bathroom containing a shower over a bath, toilet, and sink. Everything was white, at least making the minuscule space seem as big as possible. Closing the door, Aqulla leaned against it and took in the rest of her space. A screen made up of sheer, stretched material blocked off a small section of the opposite end, the shadow of a bed just visible behind it. And in the rest of the space was a kitchenette, the smallest table she’d ever seen, with just two chairs tucked under it, and a sofa. The sofa was against the wall to the exit and facing an averaged-sized Vidscreen.
Turning on the spot, she exhaled loudly. “Well, it’s a damn sight better than a prison cell.”
Taking a quick look in the kitchen cupboards, she found a small box with Compliments of Uni printed on it, and looked inside to find a few bare essentials. There was a plain white set of four matching plates, bowls, and cups, as well as cutlery. The wardrobe opposite the bed had seven matching uniforms, all in the dull gray identical to the walls. It was ugly as hell, and she was pleased they’d not made her strip from the clothes she’d arrived in. It turned out prison had better dress sense. At least the white T-shirt she wore was shaped and the blueish gray trousers fitted.
It took her all of five minutes to unpack her things: a small framed photo of her and her mother when she was little, and few knickknacks she’d picked up along the way. Then she sat down and turned on the vidscreen. Prison hadn’t had one of these, but still, two minutes later she turned it off and paced. She was bored, antsy, and curious to explore. Deciding it may be best to go out while the Intra were still processing the Complex’s inhabitants and there’d be less people, therefore less echoes to run into, Aqulla opened the door and headed back out into the maze of gray corridors.
As she walked, she thought it would have been nice if Uni at least put up a picture here and there. Even adverts would have broken up the monotonous gray. Tired of walking, she jumped back onto the zipper heading for Main City, scanning her wrist as she was instructed. A few Humans and Metas wandered through the streets exploring too, a few even had their belongings and looked to have come straight from processing to the Main City. Aqulla kept her focus on the buildings and not the people, and when an echo brushed her mind, telling her a killer was nearby, she shut it out as best as she could and moved on quickly.
Most of the buildings were shut, and she guessed that made sense since most of the employees wouldn’t have arrived yet. Thankfully there was a supermarket open, with two staff members inside, they wore similar uniforms to Jaylon, and had the Uni logo stitched on their right sleeve. They had an air about them that made Aqulla think manning a check out wasn’t their usual jobs. They tracked her movements until she was out of view, their expressions disgruntled. It had been months since she’d shopped for food thanks to being in prison, and though she wasn’t a gifted cook, it was something she enjoyed.
Taking a basket, Aqulla browsed the shelves, adding items as she went. She didn’t pay much attention to the cost. She’d been paid 50,000 S-Co for entering the Complex, and she’d receive the same again upon leaving. If she managed to complete her stay successfully of course. It would be a nice lump sum to start afresh when she got out. Aqulla avoided the next row to miss a small human woman, she didn’t particularly look like she’d killed someone but Aqulla knew all too well appearances could be deceiving, and she wasn’t in the mood to find out if she had or not. Best to just avoid people altogether. Yeah, ‘cause that’s gonna be possible for the next few years. Biting her lip, Aqulla once again pondered how she’d cope. Her home had been in a small village. Most of its inhabitants she’d known, so she’d been aware of who to avoid. But the Complex and the rest of the world were uncharted territories. The familiar band across her chest tightened as her grandmother’s voice bounced around her head. “How do you expect to function, Aqulla? Every banshee in this coven brings something to the table, but you, you and your gift that you struggle to control, bring nothing but the promise of trouble.”
Aqulla’s answer had been one of a stubborn teenager, her mouth a sneer, her gaze holding anger. “I’ll show you, Grandmother. You and your freaking coven.”
The next week she’d gone shopping in the city with a few of the coven members her age. And she’d met her downfall on a busy street, leading to her current situation, proving why those of her kind with gifts as strong as hers didn’t normally live to see adulthood. There had been a few attempts on her life in prison and with each one, she’d wondered if her grandmother was somehow behind it. But in the Complex, far away on an isolated planet, her grandmother couldn’t reach her. She had two and a half years to make up for what she’d done and prove she was worthy of living.
As the day went on, her new home filled, and with it noise, both of the mind and ear. A quick wander through the Forest’s commerce center proved Aqulla wouldn’t be stepping foot inside again. There was, however, a table with sketch pads and art supplies on it. Walking over, Aqulla picked up a few things and headed back out only to be stopped.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry, but these aren’t to be taken out.”
“Why?” Aqulla attempted to keep her expression neutral when in fact she felt like snarling. Already the number of people around her was fraying her defenses.
“We don’t want to risk anyone being hurt,” the woman answered with a false smile. “Why don’t you take a seat and use them here.”
“Because it’s too noisy in here,” Aqulla ground out. “What harm can a few paints and pencils do?”
The Human woman looked at her pointedly. Aqulla felt like contradicting what she’d said and stabbing her with said pencil. “Fine, I’ll put them back.” Walking back to the table, Aqulla slapped them down, but before turning, she discreetly slid a pencil up the sleeve of her arm. “Happy?” she asked, overly cheerful.
The woman said nothing and Aqulla walked out, not looking back. Once alone, she slid the pencil from her sleeve and into the bag of shopping she’d bought. The trip back to her apartment seemed to take longer than it had coming out here and when she was safely locked inside, Aqulla dumped her shopping in the cupboards and fridge before promptly falling asleep.