Excerpt of The End Begins: The Nine:
The early morning light of Cass’s fourth day in Jurgin almost blinded her. It was the second day having taken on an overnight shift and the hours were worn on her face. Children with large backpacks passed her, smiling and waving. Some of her other neighbors acknowledged her with a wave, though they seemed to still avoid her despite having blended into their population quite well.
From the street, Cass entered a small diner, very homely and inviting even with a small layer of noticeable dust. Once inside she noticed her other co-workers sat in a booth not far from the front door. She quickly turned away and sat in her own booth. The waitress was quick to come by to take her order. The male co-workers from the other side of the room tried to grab her attention, but she paid little attention and was thankful when her food arrived.
This diner she’d visited since coming to Jurgin specialized in hearty meals of bacon, eggs, and sausage, though she defied the usual for hash browns and eggs. The food was quick to come and she enjoyed the taste and though she only nibbled at the meat, she gorged herself on eggs, potatoes, and toast. Already the feeling crept in that she was losing herself in the local community’s filth at times.
As she tore into a strip of bacon, her glance shifted to the floor, a discarded newspaper sat under her feet. She brought it up to the table when a long article on the side of the newspaper’s face with an image of Skylar and some other Tro-Dey’s greeting the locals of that area the picture was taken, that had a name she had a hard time saying.
Cass scanned the plain-faced type font of the article, which at first caught her off guard to how similar it was to her own. She learned it was an interview given by Skylar, their acting representative, during the Nine’s first visit to Washington. They were interested in expanding their influence to the country in light of the issues the ravaged country had.
The young woman sank in her chair in anguish as one of her co-workers, a six-foot-something rotund man with large, black, and round glasses came and sat at her booth. She didn’t respond to his presence.
“Look, Jass. Let’s face it. No one around here has taken to you too well. I know you’re not from around here and so do most of us. All I’m saying is, you hang with the right people, and things will go easier for you. Just trying to make your life a little easier. I’m sure you can appreciate that, can’t you?”
Dwelling in her personal hell, her vision locked on the paper until the fat man swiped the newspaper from her.
Cass shot up from the table. “My name is Cass! C-A-double-S!” Her diamond blue eyes narrowed at him. “I’ve had enough of your insistent meddling in my affairs. I am not going to,” she searched her mind a second for the right word, “fuck? You? Okay? Get found? Lost? Go away! Leave me be,” she threw down some flamboyant currency on the table and left for the door.
The man, with the paper in hand, stood from the booth. Before she made it to the door, two men, the fat man’s lapdogs from his booth, had the door blocked.
The moment the fat man put a hand on her shoulder, she kicked into the side of his knee. He yelped an octave higher while his mass crashed to the ground with a loud thud. As the young alchemist’s attention returned to the two men at the door, her face connected with the fist of one of the lapdogs. Disoriented, the other shoved her into the diner’s counter.
Steak knife. Dirty but sharp, she thought, but the lap dog’s greedy hands pinned her against the counter with their strength.
The fat man wobbled to his feet with a face red with anger. She felt his next course of action was going to be a violent one.
Cass willed energy into her hands until they were a hint of red, then grabbed the closest man that held an arm and burned them. He released her, cursing while the skin on his forearm blistered instantly.
When the other tried to restrain her, she landed a quick jab that left knuckle marks in their skin, then released the energy housed in her hand and shot a small fireball into his face. The second lackey was down for the count, their skin was red, blistered and cracked.
But the fat man would not be detoured, and lumbered after her. She brushed her hands as they turned blue against her clothes. Energy crackled along the veins of her hands as she drew it from her torso and double-fisted him in the chest.
The sudden impact knocked the glasses off the large man’s face as he stumbled across the room and crashed into a table while he went into cardiac arrest. The other lackey, with forearms burnt, backed away. Cass stood, bleeding with her power, triumphant.