Ronda Rousey vs Holly Holm: May the Best Style Win.

Holly Holm vs Ronda Rousey Pic

If you haven’t heard already, Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey fights Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm on January 2, 2016. This is quite the surprise as everyone thought Miesha Tate would get her third crack at the title; including Miesha. Whatever reasons Dana White had for this match-up, one thing is for sure. This will be a much different fight than Ronda’s shellacking of Beth Correia and her two victories over Miesha. In fact, there will be no comparison.

While Miesha is an improved striker, her background is primarily wrestling and her strength is in her ground game.  During their last match, Miesha held her ground better when they fought standing up, but whenever Miesha tried to wrestle with Ronda the tables turned, and quickly. Ronda turned the tables and took her down. To Miesha’s credit, she managed to escape the arm bar once and has lasted longer than anyone else, but the outcome was still the same.

Miesha fought well, but nobody beats Ronda on the mat.

Ronda’s Judo mastery is unmatched in the UFC, and grabbing her plays right into her hands.   Though Miesha definitely improved her stand-up fighting(demonstrated by her devastating right to Jessica Eye in Chicago), Miesha has not shown herself to be a better striker than Ronda, and nobody in women’s MMA can defeat Ronda on the ground. Miesha had a better shot than most, but her chances of beating Ronda are still slim.

Bethe Correia provided Ronda with an opportunity to showcase her striking. Despite her bravado during their weigh-in, she was essentially Ronda’s punching bag for 34 seconds by standing in one place and engaging in a slug fest; one that the enraged Ronda was all too happy to win.  Ronda showed that she doesn’t need Judo to defeat her opponents. She proved that she can punch too, and that she has knockout power. As a result, she reduced Bethe Correia to nothing more than a talkative sparring partner.

There are beatings, and then there are beat downs. This is a beat down. 

Holly Holm provides a different challenge from both Miesha and Bethe.  As a former bantamweight boxing world champion with a record of 33-2-3, and 9 knockouts, Holly is unlikely to stand still and be anyone’s punching bag.  She moves around the ring, holds a strong stance and anticipates strikes well.  Ronda will not be able to punch in a straight line like she did against Bethe Correia; not if she doesn’t want to catch a counter punch to the jaw   Holly is also effective at managing distance. She can use her kicks and jabs to keep her opponents at bay and she utilizes a lightning fast, well-timed left straight. Though she knows when to turn it up, she is not the stalking, bullying fighter that Ronda is.  Holly is tactical, and while Ronda is compared to Mike Tyson, Holly’s style is more akin to a poor-man’s Muhammad Ali(down to the skipping around the ring in some matches).

Much like Ronda, Iron Mike always pressured his opponents for the quick win and with great results. 

Like Holly, Ali didn’t rush his opponents. He outsmarted them and wore them down. 

No, this is not a literal comparison of Holm with the greatest heavyweight of all time, but the stylistic similarity is there. Ali was mocked for running from his opponents at first, but he became a champion because he employed the same strategy that Holly does now; hitting your opponent while ensuring that you don’t get hit by capitalizing on angles and counter-punching. Holly doesn’t want to trade punches with her opponents, and she doesn’t want a wrestling match.  She wants to feel them out, set them up, and pick them apart until they fall.  If Ronda comes in swinging in a straight line like she did against Bethe Correia, Holly will become a champion too. That strategy is way too easy for an experienced boxer and kickboxer to figure out.

Perfect set up by distracting with the right and swinging in with the left.

Ronda is an improved striker, but she’s no championship boxer. If she expects to beat Holly, she must to take the fight to the ground where she is weakest. She must neutralize those jabs and kicks by closing the distance.  For this fight, she must become the Arm-Collector again and employ her deadly arm bar.  So far there is no evidence Holly can defeat Ronda at grappling. We have yet to see much of a ground game from Holly, but on the mat, Ronda reigns as Queen.

If Cat Zingano taught us anything, it’s that you never rush at Ronda Rousey. She’s too good at submission.

Holly Holm is still new to MMA and the UFC, but she is undefeated because she is the most adept striker in her division.  If she expects to defeat Ronda and take her title, she must stay off the ground.  Slipping and countering Ronda’s punches while using her kicks to maintain distance is the best way for Holly to defend herself. Frustrated fans might call it running, but standing still, brawling, and wrestling is not the only strategy to win a fight, and it is the least likely way to beat Ronda Rousey. If you disagree, re-watch Ronda’s butt-kicking of Bethe Correia and both of her victories against Miesha Tate.  Tactical striking and maintaining pace is the way to go, even if it is easier said than done.  They are Holly Holms’ strengths and her only shot at victory.

Skip to 1:35 for Holly Holm’s striking highlights.

This fight will be determined by style and pace. Whoever controls the pace and keeps it at her distance and style will win. If you’re Ronda Rousey, you want to close the gap, get the fight on the ground, and end it quickly. If you’re Holly Holm, you want to turn it into a marathon and wear down your opponent by capitalizing on her mistakes.  Ronda is the favorite to win, and with good reason. She has dominated her division for her entire UFC career and shows no signs of slowing down. However, as Holly Holm has already said, everyone is beatable. We will see who wins this exciting fight on January 2nd.

Good confidence. Let’s see it in the octagon.

Who do you have winning this fight? Feel to free comment!

Fight well, my friends.

No Apologies,

G. Miller

Nephilim Mini Series Part 3: Politics

Achillapoliticspic

Politics

“Achilla, you look great,” Sam said as Achilla turned around in front of a mirror in her maroon dress and matching heels. “Perfect really.”

“You’re just saying that to get me in a dress,” Achilla replied. “You know I hate wearing this shi-I mean stuff. I’m only doing this because I’m graduating, and even then I’m only doing it because I know you’ll be there.”

“That’s a good enough reason for me,” Sam laughed.  Achilla sucked her teeth as she turned her back to the mirror and checked her rear-end. The dress was long enough, but it felt as tight as saran wrap. Sam told her that it suited her figure without revealing too much. Achilla had no clue what the hell that was supposed to mean, but she didn’t like it. She hated wearing dresses. She liked manicures even less, which was next on their agenda. Still, she suffered through it. Achilla hadn’t seen her family in two years, and most likely wouldn’t see them again. If spending time with her mother meant getting all prissy for a day, then so be it.

“Fine, I’ll take it,” Achilla grumbled as she stomped off to the dressing room down the hall. Sam followed her and they closed the door. As Achilla sat on the bench and yanked off her new shoes, Sam giggled and shook her head. She knew why her mother was laughing. Ever since she moved into their house, Achilla made the simplest feminine tasks difficult, and it was a battle that Sam always lost. This time, she won. A graduation was too important to not dress up, even for Achilla. So she was wearing a dress, getting her nails done, the works, and Sam made sure to be there every step of the way. She said she was helping her, but Achilla felt like it was her chance to finally get what she wanted. Oh well. After all she had done for her, Sam deserved it. Let her gloat.  Achilla shrugged as she stood up and tried to pull her dress over her head until Sam jerked it back down.

“Achilla, you have a zipper!” Sam hissed. “Girl, you are going to rip this thing before we pay for it!”

“Oh,” Achilla laughed as Sam inspected the dress. “Sorry.”

“Well, I’m not surprised,” Sam sighed as she unzipped the back of the dress and helped Achilla out of it. “You’ve always been more of a daddy’s girl, but you know, there is some value in learning how to be a woman.”

“I am a woman,” Achilla snorted as she pointed at her bra. “As you can see, my boobs are bigger than yours.”

“It’s not a competition, honey,” Sam replied, but Achilla wasn’t buying it.  She knew how girls at school looked at her with envy. It usually happened when the boys checked her out.  Everywhere Achilla went, she had admirers, and it wasn’t because of her skills on the basketball court.  She was fine, and it was about damn time she realized it. Why not brag a little?

“Everything is a competition,” Achilla said with a grin. “And I always win.”

“Except at wearing a dress and heels,” Sam snapped with a stomp of her foot. “I haven’t seen you win at that yet.”

Achilla glared at Sam before turning her back and picking up her jeans.  Sam always had a way of proving her wrong that she found irritating. Something about her old school logic always stumped Achilla in ways that college level courses never could. So she decided to take the loss on this one. Today was not the day to argue.

“Whatever,” Achilla muttered as she danced her way into her pants. “Like I said, I’m only doing this for you.”

“And I appreciate that,” Sam said as she patted Achilla’s shoulder. “Let’s hurry. Your father and brother are waiting.”

Achilla could feel every cell in her body breathe easier through her jeans and white cotton t-shirt as she shoved a green and black Boston Celtics fitted cap over her head. Unlike the massive number of Knicks fans in Bridgeport and Stratford, Hartford heads were die-hard Celtics fans. A Celtics fitted was not only easy to find but a wardrobe requirement for those off-campus parties (a.k.a surveillance practice for Agent Jones).  Sam clucked at Achilla as she passed her out of the changing room.

“You and those hats,” said Sam. “If I had my way, you wouldn’t have been allowed to wear them, but your father-”

“Lets me be me?” Achilla quipped. “Stinks doesn’t it?”

“That wasn’t what I meant,” Sam replied. “It’s just that you kids wear things that don’t make any sense. Girls wearing baseball caps. Boys wearing dresses. Just look at Samuel!”

“Samuel’s not wearing a dress, Mom,” Achilla laughed. “It’s a tall tee, and I don’t like them either, but they’re in style.”

Achilla and Sam strolled in the lobby and saw Samuel pacing around in a sky blue tall-tee that stretched down to his thighs, a matching headband, and jeans with white sneakers. Brendan sat in a chair to his left wearing a red polo(one that actually fit) and khaki shorts with boat shoes. They couldn’t dress any more different, but when Achilla waved Samuel down, they both gave her the same frown.  Achilla knew the question that came next.

“Baby, how did you survive?” Brendan asked Sam before kissing and hugging her.

“Dad, I’m not that bad,” Achilla groaned. “Is it really that big of a deal?”

“Listen, it takes a lot of courage to get you in a dress,” Brendan replied. “Fortunately, I married such a brave woman.”

Achilla watched Sam smile and look at her feet.  Every time she saw them together, they had nothing but good things to say about each other, but if complimenting was a competition, Brendan would be the victor.  Sam kissed Brendan on the cheek and held him around the waist as Achilla walked toward Samuel with her hands on her hips. She pulled at his t-shirt and he smacked her hand away.

“Achilla, leave it alone,” Samuel snapped. “I already told you it’s the style.”

“I believe you,” Achilla replied. “But it’s still hilarious. Mom called it a dress.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“I wouldn’t call it that though.”

“You wouldn’t?” Samuel asked. “What would you call it then?”

“A nightie,” Achilla said with a sly grin as she squeezed Samuel’s shoulder. “All you need are some blue grandma slippers and your outfit’s complete.”

“Yeah, real funny,” Samuel sneered.

“All right, kids,” Brendan called as he and Sam walked by hand-in-hand. “Time to grab some food.”

The Johnsons found a restaurant near the Capitol Building, ordered to go, and ate their food in Bushnell Park.  As they sat on their black and white polka-dotted park blanket, Achilla patted her full stomach and took in the sun’s warmth against her skin. Today couldn’t go any better. She finished high school, Agent Jones hadn’t contacted her with any assignments lately, and her family came up to visit. Best of all, they were all intact  just like the CIA promised. Whether she couldn’t, or chose not to, Ailina hadn’t harmed any of them. A smile grew on Achilla’s lips as she looked out into the fresh-cut green grass and the Capitol Building that loomed over the trees. She then craned her neck to look at her father behind her and followed his gaze. He was looking at the building just like her.

“Dad?”

“What’s up?”

“Have you considered working there?” Achilla asked as she pointed at the Capitol Building.

“Not for the time being,” Brendan replied before looking at Sam and then Samuel.

“Oh,” Achilla said as she nodded her head. “I see. Fair enough.”

“Wait, are we the reason?” Samuel asked. “You’re not running because of us?”

“That’s right, son,” Brendan said as he kissed his wife’s hand. “It’s a decision we made after we had you.”

“Why?” Samuel demanded. “You’re already busy, and we do ok.”

“Samuel, you don’t understand,” Sam said with a raised hand. “Your father knows the political environment.  So do I. We decided that if he were to ever run for anything, it would be after you’re all grown up and out of the house.  The damage politics can do to a family…it’s too much.”

“Especially in Bridgeport,” Brendan added. “And that’s the first place I’ll run for anything.”

“You don’t have to run in Bridgeport,” Samuel grumbled. “You could run somewhere else.”

“Bridgeport’s my hometown, son,” Brendan replied. “If I want to make a difference anywhere, it has to be there.”

“I don’t get it,” Samuel said. “I mean, other politicians have kids in high school. I don’t see why you can’t do it too.”

“Samuel,” Sam sighed before waiving her hand. “You know what, you’ll get it when you’re older and-”

“Of course you don’t get it,” Achilla snapped. “All you’re focusing on is the status it would bring; not the fact that our father has other priorities that he values more than a luxurious career; like you, for example.  You want your dad to be the mayor so bad that you keep arguing, even though our parents just gave you a more than legitimate reason for them to wait.”

“Achilla, that’s enough,” Brendan said with a steady tone. “Give him a break. He hasn’t learned yet.”

“Are you even aware of how politics affect us now?” Achilla continued as she turned and stared Samuel down. “Remember Stanley? His connections let him walk away without so much as a fucking charge!”

Brendan and Sam hung their heads. Achilla was sure that they hadn’t told Samuel about that. Samuel flinched at the news and looked away, but Achilla wasn’t done. She couldn’t finish. Not yet.

“Or how about your absentee grandfather, huh?” Achilla continued. “You know, the one who never visits because he can’t be seen hanging around a defense attorney too much? When’s the last time he sent you a birthday card?”

“Achilla!” Sam gasped before turning to Samuel. “I’m sorry, Samuel, she shouldn’t have said-”

“No, let him hear it all,” Achilla said. “Let him hear what makes politics so great, and then let’s see him keep pressuring our father to just jump in there and put his family through more shit!”

“Achilla, stop!” Brendan barked. “You’ve made your point. He didn’t know what he was saying. What more do you want from him?”

Achilla gathered herself long enough to read the expression on Samuel’s face as he looked down at the blanket. His eyes stared at the ground as he gripped the blanket with one hand and wiped his pants with the other. Achilla caught her breath and open her mouth, but nothing else came. Brendan was right. She made her point and perhaps a little too well.  Sam didn’t say so much. She just glared at her as she rubbed Samuel’s shoulders.

“I’m sorry she said that to you,” Sam said to Samuel while staring at Achilla. “Your grandfather loves all of us. He’s just busy, as you know.  Achilla, I believe you have something to say to your brother.”

“I’m sorry,” Achilla said as she choked back her tears. “Sorry I even brought it up.”

“I mean,” Samuel trailed off before speaking again. “I mean, it’s straight. It’s cool.”

“No it’s not,” Achilla replied while standing up. “This is our first time together in years, and I just ruined it with my temper. I’m sorry, everybody.”

“Achilla, where are you going?” Brendan asked as she turned her back and walked deeper into the park.  She walked for a good ten minutes before she let her father catch up with her. She turned her face away from him and crossed her arms, but he stayed by her side as they walked across the grass. Achilla stopped when she realized he wasn’t going away.

“Why do you keep following me?” Achilla growled as a tear rolled down her cheek.

“Because I’m your father,” Brendan replied.

“What kind of reason is that?” Achilla asked while wiping her eyes.

“It’s all the reason I need,” Brendan said before holding Achilla by her arms. “Achilla, what was that about back there? Talk to me.”

“You know as well as I do,” Achilla said before looking around the park and lowering her voice. “You know as well as I do that you have what it takes to be a governor if you wanted, but as long as we stay here it won’t happen.”

“What do you mean?” Brendan asked with a frown. “I didn’t say I’d never run. We’ll just have to wait a little that’s all.”

“It’ll all come out,” Achilla replied, pointing at herself. “I came from somewhere, and it certainly isn’t the Price side of the family.”

“Oh,” Brendan sighed. “Right. Well, Chief Price assured us that he would keep our secret.”

“Yeah, until it benefits him to turn on you,” Achilla snorted. “And what about witnesses? They’ll only remain anonymous until somebody pays them enough to talk.”

“You’ve thought this through,” Brendan said with his arms crossed.

“Of course I have!” Achilla hissed. “Samuel’s not the reason you can’t run and neither is Mom. I’m the reason, and I’m a damn good one. The second I was born, out of wedlock, from a psychopath for a mother, I stifled your career.”

“I don’t think it’s fair to blame yourself, Achilla,” Brendan replied.  “Or to believe that your very existence is somehow holding me hostage. I will consider my political career when both of my kids are grown. That’s it, and I don’t want you to think that you’re anything less than a blessing to us. ”

“Politics isn’t fair,” Achilla said. “Nothing in government is fair as we’ve seen already. You say I’m a blessing now, but wait until your opponent jumps on the fact that I’m Ailina’s kid; that you’re a defense attorney who managed to have a baby with a corrupt cop, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  God forbid they know the full truth about me and her.  It’s political suicide, and it might ruin your legal career to even run.”

“You’ve thought this through a little too well,” Brendan replied. “You sound about as cynical as a seasoned attorney. Where did you learn to think like this?”

“You said yourself that I was a genius,” Achilla replied with a cocked eyebrow. “Why are you surprised?”

“Geniuses only know what they can learn,” Brendan said. “I’ve cross-examined my fair share, Achilla. You’ll have to answer my question better than that.”

“Ok, I’ve learned a lot about government affairs lately,” Achilla snapped. “So what? I’m going to need it.”

“And why is that?” Brendan asked. “Do you plan on running for office too?”

“No, I’m…I’m enlisting in the Marines,” Achilla said as she looked out into the park. “With my capabilities, I’ll most likely end up in the Middle East  pretty soon.  It would behoove me to stay abreast of where our president decides to send our military forces, among other things.”

Brendan inhaled like he had just stubbed his toe before turning his back and crossing his fingers behind his head. Achilla stepped back and lowered her chin like she was expecting a punch.  Brendan spat out a curse word before whirling around and glaring at her.  Achilla raised her chin and stared back. This was the hard part, but she could do it.

“When did you plan on springing this on us, Achilla?” Brendan demanded with his arms wide.

“Today,” Achilla replied.

“You could go anywhere in the country,” Brendan yelled. “Anywhere! Big schools. Small schools. Ivy League! But you want to go to war? What are you thinking?”

“More school is the last thing I need, Dad,” Achilla replied while looking Brendan in the eye. “I like to fight. I fight well. Why not defend my country?”

“If you enlist now you won’t be defending your country,” said Brendan with a curled lip. “You’ll be fetching oil for a private corporation! You’re too smart to not know that!”

“Temporarily perhaps,” Achilla sighed. “But there are real threats to our country, and I want to be the first one there to fight. Besides, we will have a new president eventually, and I get the feeling it’s Obama out of Illinois-”

“So after that speech you just gave your brother, you’re going to throw your life away?” Brendan said with his arms crossed as he shook his head. “Because you like to fight? I don’t believe this!”

“That’s not exactly a fair way of putting it,” Achilla said as she kept her voice level. “The Marines has plenty of career opportunities, and I can always transfer into civilian life, but yes, I want to fight. It’s what I’m best at; might as well bust some heads.”

“I’m taking Sam and Samuel home,” Brendan replied.

“You’re leaving?” Achilla muttered. “Mom and I had a manicure planned-”

“Work that out with your mother later,” Brendan cut her off and turned his back. “Her school year ended. She can find time this week, I’m sure of it.”

“So you’re just going to abandon me?” Achilla asked with a quiver in her voice. “Because you don’t agree with my decision, you’re just walking away? Fine, go. Have fun.”

“I’ll be back for your graduation,” Brendan stated. “I’m angry, but you’re still my daughter.  I never bail on my kids when they need me.”

“Right,” Achilla snorted with a shrug as she looked away. “A man has to keep his obligations, I get it. Not a good look for a man skip out on his daughter’s graduation.”

“Now you listen to me,” Brendan whirled around with blood shot eyes as he marched toward Achilla. “After all we’ve been through for you, after we’ve risked our lives for you, you have no right to doubt how much we love you. You have no fucking right! Do you hear me? No right! Don’t you ever talk to me like that again, Achilla. Who the hell do you think you’re talking to?”

Achilla stared at her feet to avoid his glare. He was right of course. If there was anything about her father that she couldn’t question, it was his love for his kids. Still, Achilla questioned it anyway after he took her in, raised her, and fed her. Brendan breathed so hard his chest pumped up and down before he raised his hands like he was backing down from a fight.

“Like I said, we will be back for your graduation,” Brendan said with a level voice. “But right now, I will leave before I say something I’ll regret later.”

“So you are leaving?” Achilla asked with pleading eyes. “Just like that?”

“Yes, just like that,” Brendan snapped. “Because you know what? Right about now, you sound just like her, and I just can’t…I can’t even look at you right now.”

Just like her. Brendan didn’t often compare Achilla to Ailina. When he did, Achilla’s stomach lurched. She blinked back tears as Brendan stormed off, and she watched his back as he marched across the field back to Sam and Samuel. After frowning at Brendan’s harsh gestures, the Johnsons gathered their things and followed him out of the park. Samuel walked behind his parents with his head low, but he peeked up and looked in Achilla’s direction before waving at her.  Achilla let out a small whimper as she waved back. When they left the park, Achilla wiped her eyes until she heard footsteps behind her.  She didn’t bother turning around to address her audience.

“It’s done,” Achilla said. “I did what you asked. I caused a scene, led him over here, fed him the story. I manipulated my own family just like you wanted.”

“I’m sorry, Achilla,” Agent Jones replied from ten feet away. “They can’t know about your whereabouts anymore. It’s for their benefit as well as yours, and I commend your resolve in -”

“Just shut the fuck up and leave me alone!” Achilla growled. “Now! Before I really get upset! You’ve already taught me my best attack range, and you’re well within it!”

“Got it,” Agent Jones said as Achilla heard him walk away. “I’ll give you all the space you need. We resume your training after graduation.”

Achilla ambled toward a statue to her left and slumped down to her knees. She then covered her face in her hands and coughed as the sobs in her throat forced their way out into the summer afternoon air. This would be the first of many lies she would have to tell her family. She would lie about her whereabouts, her activities, even her sleeping habits. Lying was the skill with which she needed the most practice. As a full-fledged CIA field agent, she would have to use it more than ever with no exceptions.

Not even the people who would never lie to her.

Did you enjoy that? Wait until you read Angel of War on September 12th! In the meantime, the final episode of the Nephilim Mini Series posts next week.

Politic well, my friends.

No Apologies,

G.Miller

Nephilim Mini Series Part 2: Survival

AchillandtheBear

Survival

 

 

Agent Freeman Jones and Agent Kate Hanzo arrived at The Meadows; an arrangement of 17 football fields on the Loomis Chaffee campus in Windsor, Connecticut. Kate parked her black sedan next to Pratt field where they played their football games, and Freeman stared out at the empty field and watched as the remaining early September dragonflies hovered over the fence. Surely, she didn’t bring him out here to watch a football game, and after two hours of waiting, Freeman frowned. Nobody ran this late to a rendezvous unless something was seriously wrong.  The relaxed gaze in Kate’s thin eyes told a different story. No. Freeman was convinced that something was wrong. Wrong just happened to be a part of the plan.

Freeman was many things; an orphan from Los Angeles, a divorced father with a daughter he wasn’t allowed to see, a retired Green Beret, and a current CIA agent. One thing he wasn’t was a fool. So when he received a memo in his inbox telling him that he would be training a sixteen-year-old girl, he assumed it was a typo. Being a veteran agent who had seen everything the average American citizen was not supposed to, he wondered what he could possibly teach a teenager. How to manipulate an innocent bystander into an unwitting informant? How to fight your way through six trained enemy operatives and escape into the desert with only your life and a canteen full of water? What would a high school girl need with any of those skills? What she needed to do was graduate high school, go to college, and then decide if she wanted to become a CIA agent after  a few drunken parties, a few boyfriends, and couple graduations with family and friends. No one would ever think about recruiting a teenager to the CIA, and yet here they were waiting for this kid to show up; a kid who was two hours late. Freeman picked at his black tie and gray button down shirt as he shifted in his seat. Nothing about this situation felt right.

“Wait,” Freeman said. “This girl doesn’t know we’re meeting her today, does she?

“She knows she has to meet us eventually,” Kate replied as she ran her fingers through her jet black hair. Freeman always admired how well she kept herself together; her raven hair, her white and blue striped blouse, her gray slacks with sharp creases, her black nail polished fingernails. Everything matched. Nothing was out of place, at least not until after they went home.  If she wasn’t such an enigma, he would consider a little monogamy, but he knew it wouldn’t work out. Neither of them were good at that.

“So why are we here?” Freeman asked. “Is she on the football team?”

“No, smart ass,” Kate chuckled. “She just sneaks onto the football field at night to work out after soccer practice. You’ll see her. Don’t worry.”

“Workaholic?”

“Yes,” Kate sighed. “But really, high school level conditioning does nothing for her. I think she works out so much so she can feel tired like everyone else. Perhaps it gives her a sense of normalcy.”

That was Kate. Ever the psychologist, she always had a way of getting into your head. When they worked together in the field, Freeman always gathered the information; casing the target’s routine, finding friends and relatives, researching documentation and certifications. Once they had everything they needed, Kate did the talking. She could convince an informant that they were all walking on the moon, and they could only get back to earth if he told her everything he knew. She was that good. Reading people was her specialty. She was also damn near impossible to read, unless you were as close to her as Freeman.  Still, even he had a hard time figuring out her motives.

“There’s another reason we’re here, isn’t there?” Freeman asked. “One you’re not telling me.”

“You could say that,” Kate replied with a nod of her head.

“Would you cut the mystery talk, Kate?” Freeman snapped. “I’m not one of your suckers.”

“She’s coming now,” Kate said with a hushed tone. “Watch!”

It was dark out, and Freeman couldn’t really see anything but an open field, but he searched.  If he blinked, he might have missed the figure strolling across the field. She was clearly female, but nothing about her indicated that she was anything more than a high school athlete who snuck out for a late night run in a baggy t-shirt and long basketball shorts. That all changed when she started jumping the bleachers. Ten bleachers at a time.

“That’s my girl,” Kate whispered. “Look at her go.”

Freeman’s jaw dropped as he watched what appeared to be a teenage girl leaping at least ten feet in the air with each vertical leap before reaching the top. She then leaned into a handstand and walked backwards down the steps. When she reached the bottom, she somersaulted three times before landing on her feet and starting over again. Freeman watched her continue this routine for fifteen minutes. Such an amazing feat was not possible for a normal human. Freeman knew exactly what she was now, and why the CIA rushed to recruit her.

“She’s a nephilim,” Freeman said. “You found another one?”

“She exposed herself,” Kate replied. “She got in a fight with your personal favorite and survived.”

“Ailina‘s not my favorite anything ,” Freeman snorted.

“Well this time we owe her one,” Kate chuckled. “That girl over there is her daughter.”

“And if she’s Ailina’s daughter, how can we expect her loyalty to us?”

“She refuses to claim Ailina as her mother,” Kate replied as they watched Achilla jump the bleachers again. “She loves her father and step-mother dearly and agreed to join us in exchange for their protection.”

“I’ve heard that before, Kate,” Freeman said with a sideways glance. “It didn’t work so well last time-”

“Not when I was in charge, “Kate snapped. “I’ve got it covered. You just make sure she’s ready to aid the government.”

“Fine,” Freeman chuckled. “ But don’t say I didn’t warn you. What am I working with here?”

“Not much work,” Kate said. “She’s a deadly martial artist and can speak five languages fluently.  All she needs is your touch.”

Freeman frowned when he noticed four men crossing the football field. Each of them stood at least six feet tall and wore a black jacket and jeans. They marched toward Achilla as if they knew she would be here; as if someone told them.  It figured. If the CIA was after this kid, why not some unsavory characters?

“Who the hell are they?” Freeman asked as he opened his door. Kate set her hand on his shoulder and shook her head. When he sat back in his seat, Kate patted her hand on his lap. That was generally the most affection she doled out to him. She usually only gave it when she got her way. She smiled and patted his lap again, squeezing his thigh until he shut the door.

“Remember those four idiots who screwed up that mission in Iraq?” Kate asked.

“You mean the guys I suspected were working as double agents?” Freeman replied.

“Yes, them,” Kate said while pointing at the men with her thumb. “Well, your suspicion was correct as usual, but I don’t want the President to know yet, and if the higher-ups find out, they’ll tell him.”

“I don’t blame you,” Freeman chuckled. “But treason is a serious offense. It’s not something you can just sweep under a rug.”

“Agreed,” Kate replied. “It’s one that should be punished by asking them to kidnap Achilla.”

“You’re expecting her to kill them?” Freeman demanded. “She’s  too young for that!”

“No, she won’t do that,” Kate groaned and waved her hand. “She’s still a tad too innocent. We need them alive for questioning anyway.  Achilla will just soften them up a little and make them easier to apprehend.”

“Is she aware of this assignment?” Freeman asked. Kate grinned before turning her head to the field. So that was it. Kate just threw this girl into the lion’s den without so much as a greeting. Freeman crossed his arms and watched the four men stand in front of Achilla. How could Kate be so cold with a kid?

Freeman knew these agents. They were all top spies who could take down ten men each if need be. Very few people in the Hartford office were a match for them. Freeman could have stood up to them in his younger days, but now? Forget it without a firearm and some distance. Did Kate have this much faith in Achilla? If she was a nephilim, then it was possible. Ailina was like a walking biological weapon and her father was even worse. How would Achilla fare?

One of the men lunged at her, and Achilla front-kicked him ten feet back. She then low-kicked one man’s shin, dropping him to the ground, and grabbed the next by his jacket before throwing him into the last man standing. The man she low-kicked screamed when she  stomped through his knee. When the final two agents rose to their feet, Achilla back-kicked one into the bleachers, slipped a punch, and left-hooked the other in the face so hard that his head snapped back and forth three times before he collapsed. In mere seconds, Achilla displayed a combination of Jeet Kune Do, Muy Thai, and Western Boxing. She also took down four of the deadliest men in the country. She then looked in Freeman’s direction with glowing green eyes ;the same eyes as every other nephilim before they killed someone.

“Drive off,” Freeman barked. “Now!”

“Good idea,” Kate replied as she started her car and gunned the engine.

Freeman remembered those eyes. They glowed when he first encountered Ares and escaped with his life and two broken arms. They glowed in the surveillance recordings of Ailina when she killed an agent who got too close or abused one of her men when they stepped too far out of line. Those eyes gave him nightmares. Today, they made Freeman’s palms sweat and his heart beat out of his chest until he calmed down enough to analyze the situation.

“Judging from her hesitation at attacking us,” Freeman said with his arms crossed as they drove away from the field. “She doesn’t have all of her abilities yet. She couldn’t see or hear us well enough to determine if we were friend or foe.  These nephilim must develop in stages like we do. They just have more of them like an extended puberty or something.”

“You’ll meet her in the morning,” Kate said. “I realize that my plan was a little fool hardy. If you approached her back then, she could have injured us both. But you’ve seen what she can do?”

“Yeah,” Freeman replied. “And it’s more than Ailina could at her age. If this girl ends up like Ailina-”

“And that’s exactly why we need her on our side,” Kate said. “She has soccer practice at nine tomorrow morning.”

“Understood,” Freeman stated with a nod of his head. “I’ll be there. Consider her training complete.”

“Good,” Kate sighed before patting Freeman’s lap again. “For now, you’re coming home with me.”

“Really?” Freeman frowned until Kate rubbed his thigh.

“Yeah,” Kate said as she stared out into the road. “She’s a teenage girl, but Achilla’s still a nephilim. Just meeting her is a high risk situation.”

“So?”

“So, I’ll need you tonight,” Kate said with a longing look at the road. “In case anything happens to you. I don’t want any regrets, Freeman.”

“You’ve got it, Kate,” Freeman replied as he intertwined his fingers with hers. “You’ve always got it.”

The next morning, Freeman changed into the clothes she kept for him in one of her drawers and left Kate’s house in South Windsor. There was no kiss goodbye. He just left her sleeping in her bed as usual, taking Achilla Johnson’s file with him. Per the terms of their relationship, they would behave like nothing happened come Monday. The difference this time was that Kate wasn’t sure if there would be a Monday. So they gave each other everything they had last night and parted ways without a word. It wasn’t much of a farewell, but Freeman understood that Kate wasn’t very good at those things. It was best to not make her try.

When Freeman arrived at the Meadows, he approached a soccer field with practice in full swing.  As he searched the field of teenage girls for his new student, he wished Kate was able to pull up close last night so he could get a better look at Achilla’s face. The picture of her on her high school basketball team showed a 5’3”, black girl with green eyes. The girl he saw in the field last night had to be at least 5’7” and with much longer hair. Had he seen other changes, like piercings or scars, this search would be easier. Kate was a brilliant con woman, but a lousy detective. He would remind her to let him gather intel on his own next time.

Freeman breathed in the brisk air that finally reminded him that Fall was coming. Perhaps Achilla was late or staying in after her fight last night. If she was as innocent as Kate said, Achilla was probably traumatized. Freeman decided to stroll to the other side of campus and gather some intel on her class schedule when he felt a tap on his shoulder. When he turned around he saw a girl wearing a black hoodie and black sweatpants with a black and red Chicago bulls fitted cap. She raised her head to expose her green eyes as she stared at him.

There was no doubt in Freeman’s mind that this girl was Ailina’s daughter. They held the same facial structure and those eyes were unmistakable. If lava could turn green, it would match this girl’s pupils. However, everything else about her was different.  Her posture, the way she chewed her gum, it was completely unlike Ailina’s movements.  Achilla shoved one hand in her pocket as she leaned on one leg. That movement alone, so indicative of a teenage girl with at least some semblance of normalcy, proved that the only thing she had in common with Ailina was their nephilim DNA. Kate had no reason to worry. Achilla was no natural killer; at least not yet.

“Looking for me?” Achilla asked before pointing at the field. “I don’t know who told you to stalk  me, again, but that’s the JV squad. Varsity gets up at six.”

“Achilla Johnson?” Freeman asked while hiding his nervousness the way only a seasoned CIA agent could.

“Who wants to know?” Achilla asked with a jut of her chin.

“The CIA,” Freeman said. “I understand that you were expecting us eventually.”

“Yeah, way to pussy foot around about it,” Achilla snapped. “Seriously, if you wanted to figure out my fighting ability you could have put me in the ring with protective gear instead of setting up those poor guys to get hurt.”

“You knew that was a set up?” Freeman asked with a frown.

“Do I look stupid to you?” Achilla snorted. “If you guys knew I went head to head with Ailina, you would’ve used much more severe methods to kidnap me; like a tranquilizer or something. You sent them in knowing I’d whip their asses, and I don’t appreciate it. What if I killed one of them? Are you trying to get me locked up?”

“I doubt a tranquilizer dart would puncture your skin at this age,” Freeman replied. Achilla frowned before stepping to the side. Though she was no killer, she was clearly trained to fight down to the smallest detail. Even with her hands in her pockets, Achilla held a fighter’s stance with her feet shoulder length apart and her lead foot pointed at him, and she stood at an angle that negated Freeman’s dominant hand; which means she had already assessed him and set herself up to dominate the fight.  Whoever taught this girl did a good job. Freeman had a gut feeling that Ailina was her mentor in that regard.

“How would you know that?” Achilla demanded. “Nobody can verify that.”

“You mean except for the doctor who had to perform surgery on you?” Freeman replied. “You’re not the best liar, are you?”

“Maybe I’m not as accustomed to being fake as you are,” Achilla shot back with a slight raise of her chin. “You want to answer my question?”

Her personality was completely different from Ailina’s. Instead of manipulating a way to get her info, she was direct about her intentions. In a street fight, that worked to her advantage. In the arena of espionage, she looked like a drunken fool asking for directions.  They had a lot of work to do, but she was smart enough to catch on. The fact that she knew she was being monitored by trained agents and approached him in a way that ensured her victory in a fight proved her intelligence.  She just needed to learn how to hide it better. As he cleared his throat, Freeman wondered why Ailina hadn’t taught her that part yet. It was certainly one of Ailina’s strengths and a constant thorn in the CIA’s side.

“I know a lot of things about you, Achilla,” Freeman said. “Your mother too. From now on, you’ll work under my tutelage, and I’ll tell you everything I know.”

“Just to be clear, my mother’s name is Samantha Johnson,” Achilla replied. “ Ailina Harris is not my mother. She’s an egg donor. Got it?

“Whatever works for you,” Agent Jones stated with his hands on his hips. “I’m more concerned about your training than your parental preferences.”

“I can respect that,” Achilla nodded. “Let’s get started then. What do I do first?”

“Go do your homework,” Freeman said as he walked past Achilla toward his car. “And wait for my word.”

“You’re leaving me hanging?” Achilla snapped. “Oh, come on, uh, wait, what’s your name?”

It took her this long to get his name.  She paid no heed to the fact that he had way more information on her than she did on him, and it took her this long to ask for his name. Freeman stopped himself from slapping his own forehead. They certainly had plenty of work to do, and judging by her attitude, he would have to be tough to get his point across.  Stubbornness and arrogance were nephilim traits that she inherited in spades.

“Agent Jones to you,” Freeman said as he opened the car door. “That’s all you’ll need to know for now. I’ll contact when you when I’m ready to start your training.”

“Are you serious right now?!” Achilla growled as Freeman stepped into his car. He drove off watching Achilla glare at him in his rearview mirror.  The frustrated step to her walk as she marched back to her dorms said it all. She was still a teenage girl with angst. However, her eyes and the way she handled those CIA agents told another story. She was a nephilim, and she was gifted even for one of them. For the first time, Freeman actually approved of the CIA jumping on her so early. Such a dangerous weapon should only be in the hands of the United States Government.

*

Achilla fumed as she sat on a patch of grass while leaning against an oak tree.  She had just met Agent Jones a week ago and she already disliked him.  Despite the fact that he looked like a thinner version of Philip Banks, he seemed tough enough at first to deserve her respect. Even though he left her standing there when she was ready to start, she understood. He was in charge. So she waited for his word.

When he finally contacted her to start training, Achilla jumped for joy in her dorm. She got up early, met him on time, and peppered him with questions. He answered them all with a yes or no; sometimes a grunt.  He then drove her out to this wooded section of Connecticut that she was completely unfamiliar with. Achilla could hardly contain herself as she asked what she would be learning today. He didn’t answer. He just unloaded a backpack and told her that he had a training exercise for her. He then requested privacy to use the bathroom and stepped behind the other side of the jeep.  When Freeman glared at her, she shrugged.

“I’ve seen it before,” Achilla said. “It doesn’t bother me.”

“You’re too young to see mine,” Agent Jones replied. “So it bothers me. Now turn around.”

“Fine,” Achilla sighed as she turned her back. She jumped when she heard the jeep start up and whirled around to see a cloud of dirt and the jeep heading back down the trail. Achilla growled at herself for falling for such a basic ruse. He left her a backpack and a note challenging her to survive in the woods for a day.  Achilla ripped the note apart and threw the scraps behind her shoulder before crossing her arms over her black t-shirt. She couldn’t wait for him to get back so she could slap him so hard his hair would grow back again.

When her frustration settled, Achilla brainstormed for solutions. She had never gone camping before, and it was the one practical skill Ailina never taught her as a child. The last time she set foot in a forest was during a bad dream; during which she sleepwalked and almost killed her father. She sighed as a blue jay landed in a tree branch just above her head and screeched. This shouldn’t be too hard. Achilla was smarter, faster, and stronger than people who live out here every day, so she had a leg up, right? The blue jay dropped a deuce just to Achilla’s left and flew away. She gritted her teeth and flipped off the bird’s backside. Now she was surviving in these woods no matter what.

Achilla walked and searched through her bag. It contained a can of soup, some packets of dried food, a flashlight, a lighter, and a hunting knife. The knife caught Achilla’s eye, and she pulled it out. She dropped her bag and brandished the knife in a fighting stance before chucking it at a tree twenty feet away.  It whistled through the air and thudded into the bark, leaving only the handle exposed. Achilla strolled towards the knife and yanked it out of the tree trunk before whistling as she admired the craftsmanship; the serrated blade tickled her thumb as she rubbed against it.

“You and I are going to be real good friends,” Achilla said to the knife as she ran her fingers across the blade. “Yep. Best buddies.”

Achilla whirled around when she heard her bag dragging on the ground behind her. What she saw made her jaw drop. A brown bear three times her size was digging through her bag. How did she not notice something that large sneaking up behind her? Achilla sniffed the air and realized why. Though his scent was particularly strong now, this entire wooded area carried it. It must have been his territory, and if what she read about bears was true, this one would have left markings and hair all over the place.

Tears jerked out of Achilla’s eyes when the bear ripped the bag open.  All of her food was going in this thing’s stomach if she didn’t act fast, but what could she do? This wasn’t any random thug trying to rob her. This wasn’t Ailina who, as powerful as she was, Achilla knew well enough to put up a fight. This was a bear, and this was his domain. Still, Achilla had no clue how to hunt and gather food. That bag was her only hope.

Achilla took a step forward and the bear stopped digging and looked at her with black, dead eyes. When she took another step, the bear stood up on all fours and stepped over the bag before letting out a short grunt. Achilla stopped, but the bear maintained his position. It didn’t take an animal expert to figure out that he wasn’t leaving until she did. As she stared at the cans of food under the bear’s massive, brown furred body, the feeling became mutual.

“Look, I need that,” Achilla said as she pointed at the remains of her bag before holding her knife with the blade up. “And I need it now. Just step away and find a river with some fish or something.”

The bear replied with a throaty roar that made Achilla’s knees tremble at first. Soon, her legs steadied and her hands shook in their place. As the bear continued to roar, Achilla clenched her eyes at the thought that after getting tricked into living in the woods, almost getting shitted on by a bird, and then wandering around like one of those dumb chicks in horror movies, now this thing wanted to take her food? She could smell the bear’s bitter breath rushing out of its mouth as it roared with a mocking tone.  It wasn’t just a threat. He was making fun of her, telling her that this was his food now, and there was not a damn thing she could do about it.

“No,” Achilla groaned just loud enough to hear herself over the bear. “NO!”

Achilla charged forward and swung the knife.  The bear swung its paw at the same time and smacked her across the face, sending her flying back and the knife sailing out of her hand. Achilla rolled on the ground before hopping to her feet.  Before she could think of her next move, the bear was on top of her with both paws pinning her to the ground. Achilla grunted as she struggled to keep its arms at bay while it opened its mouth to bite at her face.  Its long, yellow teeth gnashed inches from Achilla’s eyes as she turned her head. She saw a red gash across it’s left eye from the knife, but it did little good.  It was still on top of her trying to bite her head off.  She cried out as her world filled with teeth, drool, and the sour scent of rotting fish, dirt, and berries, but she shook her head as she pushed the bear a little higher.

No. Her life wasn’t ending like this. She had to protect her family. She had to fight Ailina again and win. This bear was nothing compared to her, nothing compared to what Achilla had already been through. This bear was nothing.  Achilla was not dying in these woods like some lost victim. She was not letting this forest conquer her. She was conquering it, starting with this smelly, flea infested monster with performance enhanced morning breath.

“Get,” Achilla grunted before raising her legs and kicking the bear in the gut, “the hell off of me!”

The bear let out a mix between a roar and whimper as it rolled back and slammed into a tree, shaking off a few leaves and acorns that rained on both of their heads. Achilla hopped to her feet and the bear rose onto its hind legs just in time for her charge. This time, she was in no mood for a wrestling match. Achilla ducked the bear’s arms and delivered a right straight to its soft underbelly that pinned the bear against the tree before leaping up and exhaling hard through a side kick to its head. The bear rolled to its side and crashed into a nearby boulder.  Achilla wasted no time flinging herself forward with an elbow to the bear’s right eye and a knee to its chin before darting back and holding a fighting stance. The bear groaned as blood leaked down its muzzle and its tongue rolled out of its mouth. Now one of its eyes was bloody and the other swollen shut. This fight was over.  Achilla huffed and wiped her face. The bear’s claws from its earlier attack left a scratch but no blood.

“Not going to lie, you hit pretty hard,” Achilla said as she walked past the bear while remaining ten feet away. “But not hard enough. If you think you’re scary, I have an egg donor you should meet.”

The bear let out a gurgled growl as Achilla salvaged the last of her belongings. The bag was no good as a backpack, but one strap still worked and she could carry it like a purse. As she slung the bag over her shoulder, Achilla noticed the bear limping toward her, its tongue still hanging out and its eyes inoperable to the point that Achilla wondered how it could see at all. She could kick the bear right now and snap its neck.   She was sure that it would do the same to her if it could. Still she shook her head and pulled out a packet of dried food; chicken flavor. She ripped open the top and tossed it under the bear’s nose.  It stopped and sniffed before licking the powder that leaked out of the bag.

“You’re welcome,” Achilla replied as she turned her back and ran away.  Though she had her food, she lost her knife and had to use her bare hands to survive. After her fight with the bear, Achilla had a feeling she could manage that.  She waited until dusk to gather a few tree branches and rub them together like she watched on television. Forgetting to factor in her abnormal strength, she jumped at how quickly a fire sparked.  Achilla opened her can of soup and constructed a make-shift grill of more tree branches, making sure to set them high above the flames before setting the can on top. It wasn’t much and certainly held the risk of catching fire, but it was all she could do.

Fortunately, it worked. Achilla  waited until her soup boiled before sipping a spoonful.  It tasted like liquified peanuts and brussel sprouts with a hint of sour piss for broth.  Achilla gagged and coughed as she spat it out.  Had she known it would taste so bad, she might have let the bear take the soup and die from food poisoning.  Achilla shook her head. No, this was her food.  She had to suck it up. She curled her lip as she steadied herself for another mouthful.

Achilla finished her soup and set her spoon inside of the can when she heard her next visitor coming. She waited until the footsteps were within range before picking up a stone and turning to launch it. She stopped mid-swing when she saw Agent Jones leaning against a tree.  Achilla dropped the stone as a wave of relief surged through her. The wave crashed as the urge to apply her slap-rogaine remedy made her palm itch as she stalked toward him. Agent Jones raised his hands and stepped forward before reaching into his backpack and pulling out a bottle of water. He tossed the bottle into Achilla’s chest.  The opportunity to drink bottled, civilized water washed away Achilla’s will to fight. She guzzled the water and only stopped to breathe.

“I thought you’d figure it out,” Agent Jones said as he strolled towards the fire. “The same way I did when I was trapped in a forest like this. At least this time your life wasn’t at risk like mine.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Achilla barked. “I just fought a grizzly bear!”

“Black bear is the correct term,” Agent Jones replied. “Sometimes their fur can be brown, and that can be confusing, but what you fought was no grizzly. You’d have a lot more than a scratch on your face if you did.”

“You weren’t  even there!”

“No, but I know you better than you think,” Agent Jones sighed. “You’re strong, and one day, a grizzly bear will be no match for you, but you’re not there yet. If you fought a male grizzly, you would have walked away with worse injuries. Right now, you’re relatively unscathed. It was a black bear.”

“That is completely hypothetical-”

“Fine, a male grizzly weighs around 800 pounds,” Agent Jones snapped. “Did the bear you fought seem that big to you?”

The answer was no. Achilla would have placed the bear she fought at a little over 400, but she didn’t want to give Agent Jones the satisfaction of being right.  She turned her back and crossed her arms.

“I didn’t think so,” Agent Jones said. “And the correct description of my analysis was anecdotal. I’ve dealt with grizzly bears.  I know what they can do, and I know what people like you can do from personal experience and observation.”

People like you. He meant Ailina, and maybe the rest of her family. Achilla wouldn’t be surprised if Ailina made short work of an 800 pound animal. The fact that Achilla struggled with a black bear told her that she still had a long way to go, but how much could she improve? What was her ceiling? Ailina was a terror, but Achilla wanted to overcome her, and the only way to do that was to learn about how people like her can grow stronger. She had a feeling that Agent Jones had the answer.

“Ok, I’ve had enough,” Achilla said as she sat down on a log by the fire. “What am I?”

“Excuse me?” Agent Jones chuckled as he joined her on the log.

“You keep saying you know a lot about me,” Achilla said. “What am I? It may not have been a grizzly, but I doubt anybody else can fight a bear like I just did; nobody normal anyway. What’s the deal?”

“In due time,” Agent Jones replied as he sat next to her. “For now, we finish dinner, and we head home.”

“Why are you keeping this from me?” Achilla asked. “Look, I’ve grown up always thinking I’m a human, and I’ll always be human, but obviously I’m different; so different that people like you look at me like some kind of freak. Why can’t you at least tell me why?”

“Because there’s a story behind it,” Agent Jones replied.

“We have a campfire,” Achilla said as she pointed at the orange flame in front of them. “Now’s as a good a time as any. Enlighten me.”

“You’re not ready,” Agent Jones stated. “The story is a lot to handle, but I will tell it. Later.”

“You can’t bullshit me,” Achilla snorted. “You want to tell it. Someone’s restricting you; someone you have to obey. You’re not really in charge, are you?”

Agent Jones gave Achilla a stare before opening his bag and pulling out a plastic-wrapped bird. It’s feathers were brown and black, and it was just big enough for Agent Jones’ hand. Agent Jones spread the plastic out and pulled knife out of his bag. It was the same knife Achilla had, but somehow he kept his. With all of her strength and intelligence, Achilla felt like a fool in front of this man.

“This is a quail,” Agent Jones said. “Have you seen one in person before?”

Achilla shook her head.

“I’m going to show you how to skin one,” Agent Jones said before giving her a hard look. “Then how to gut it, season it, and cook it. After that, you’re on your own.”

“Is it better than this bummy soup you gave me?” Achilla snapped as she picked up her soup can and chucked it deep into the forest. “I hope you know that was hardly worth the bear fight.”

“You’re welcome,” Agent Jones replied. “And yes. Quail’s as good as chicken; just a little bonier. The eggs too, only they’re smaller.”

Achilla sighed as she stared out into the trees that were now twilight shadows in the distance and listened to the crickets and cicadas serenading the dark blue sky. If Achilla didn’t have her soup, or if Agent Jones didn’t show up with his quail, she would have to hunt in the dark. She refused to apologize to the man who left her stranded, but listening to him wasn’t a bad idea. She picked up a stick and stoked her fire.

“How’d you catch it?” Achilla asked.

“You’re looking at the best knife thrower and trapper in your division,” Agent Jones replied as he stared at the quail. “Next to you, of course.  When I show you how to hunt, you’ll surpass me in a week tops. Though I’d imagine that you might be able to catch one on foot if you had to.”

“This doesn’t feel like regular procedure for the CIA,” Achilla said. “Why are you doing this? Why are you teaching me this stuff?”

“Because you’re not regular procedure,” said Agent Jones. “We need you to know everything there is to know about survival.  There’s no telling what Ailina might throw at us and especially at you.”

“Can I ask what else I’m going to learn?” Achilla asked. “I’d like to know ahead of time from now on.”

“You will learn how to survive on your own in any environment better than agents twice your age,” Agent Jones stated. “You will learn every fighting style you can get your hands on.  You will learn every language you can. But there is one thing you will learn most of all.”

“And that is?” Achilla asked as she stared at the dead quail lying between Agent Jones’ boots before looking up at him.

“You will learn about yourself,” Agent Jones said as he looked Achilla in the eye. “And that we have to do in increments. Think of this as another one of your classes at school, only instead of having homework due on Monday, you’ll report to me when you’ve finished. For example, what about yourself have you learned today?”

“That I can make a fire and cook nasty soup,” Achilla chuckled. “I can also beat up a bear.”

“A black bear,” Agent Jones corrected. “I saw the aftermath of your skirmish. That bad boy weighed around 400 pounds.  That’s half the size of a grizzly and about twice the size of your average marine. Yet you left that bear with two eyes that he’ll never be able to use again and major intestinal damage that prevented it from keeping down the packet you left. If I didn’t have a few friends who work in wildlife conservation, it would’ve died. Not a small feat for a girl who stands 5’7 and weighs 130 pounds.”

“I weigh 125,” Achilla replied.

“Today,” Agent Jones snorted. “But this isn’t your best weight. Ailina stands at 5’11 and weighs 150. Your frame’s a little different. You can probably carry more and perform just well.”

“You didn’t leave me out here to rough it,” Achilla replied. “You knew I’d run into that bear.”

“They’re unusually common in this stretch,” said Agent Jones with a shrug. “They’re also unusually bold.  Unless you know how to avoid them, it’s bound to happen.”

“You were testing my fighting ability,” Achilla replied through gritted teeth. “Again. Those three guys in the football field didn’t cut it?”

“You’re used to fighting men,” Agent Jones said. “I wanted to see how you react to the unexpected, and you didn’t disappoint. Over the next few years, you will do much more. You have no idea of your potential, Achilla. With the proper training, you’ll be unstoppable.”

Achilla’s anger faded to a vibrating heat in the pit of her stomach. What did he mean? What was Achilla capable of, and how did he know so much? With all of her intelligence, this man managed to stay one step ahead of her at every turn.  If she wanted to learn more, she had to comply. Achilla slumped her shoulders and pointed at the dead quail.

“Are you going to show me how to skin this thing or not?” Achilla asked.

“Sure.”

“One question before we start,” Achilla said as she rested her forearms on her knees and laid her head on them. “How’s my family?”

“They’re doing well,” Agent Jones replied as he raised his knife. “Hang with me, and they’ll do even better.”

“Ok,” Achilla breathed with a weak smile as she thought about her parents back home for a split second.  She then focused all of her thoughts on following Agent Jones’ knife movements; where he cut, how deep, and in what order. She watched how he seasoned the bird, pierced it with a stick, and set up a spit over the fire.  When she tasted the quail, it made her mouth water and she wolfed it down, only stopping to drink her water. She then followed Agent Jones and studied his every move as he taught her how to navigate a forest and particularly how to know she was in bear territory by spotting their droppings.  She learned as much as she could from him throughout the night until they arrived at his car on the side of a highway Achilla would have never guessed was there. She soaked in everything he had to say. If hanging with him ensured her family’s survival, then she was willing to go through it; even if it meant fighting a few bears along the way. Whatever Achilla had to go through, they were worth it, but a competitive fire also filled Achilla’s heart as she stepped into Agent Jones’ jeep.

“Mr. Jones?”

“Agent Jones.”

“Agent Jones,” Achilla corrected herself. “I’ll be the best student you’ve ever had, but I have two conditions.”

“All right?”

“First, I want to know that my family is safe,” Achilla said. “I want to know it often.

“I can give you weekly updates,” Agent Jones replied. “Daily, if you’d like.”

“Daily,” Achilla demanded. “My second request might be a little tougher.”

“Well, what is it?”

“Give me a mountain lion next time,” Achilla said with a grin as she stared out into the woods. “The biggest you can find.”

“Achilla,” Agent Jones chuckled. “A mountain lion is no pushover-”

“After that, a grizzly bear,” Achilla said with a clenched fist. “Eight. Hundred. Pounds.  Give me the best you’ve got.”

For the first time, Achilla saw Agent Jones crack a smile as he nodded his head. It looked like it took him a lot of effort to raise the corners of his mouth and even more to put them back down. His smile was nothing like Brendan’s, but something about it made Achilla want to see it again. Now she knew that she would work to earn it every day. Achilla leaned her head back against the seat as she imagined all the things she would learn. The very thought of improving upon her own greatness made her bounce in her seat.

“All right,” Agent Jones said. “Next week, we hit cougar country.”

“Yes!” Achilla replied with a raised fist. “Let’s get it!”

Agent Jones chuckled and shook his head. His laughter reminded Achilla of her father’s, only rougher.  She didn’t know what this man had to live through, but whatever it was, she wanted to live through it too. Achilla was going to be the strongest thing walking the earth. Nothing else mattered but learning how to survive. The next time she met Ailina for their rematch, she would be the victor and Ailina would end up looking like the black bear Achilla left blinded in the woods.  Ailina was going to wish she never screwed with Achilla’s family, and Achilla was going to love every second of it. For now, she would ask Agent Jones questions as they rode home and she would sleep well tonight after finishing her homework for the week. Training began tomorrow, and Achilla wanted no distractions.

 

I hope you enjoyed it. Part 3 comes next week.

Survive well, my friends.

No Apologies,
G. Miller

Nephilim Mini-Series Part 1: Heartless

So until “Angel of War” releases on September 12th, I’ve decided to post a few short stories to whet your appetite. This is the first of four. Enjoy.

AchillavsAilinadream

Heartless

Blades of grass hissed under Achilla’s black sneakers as she walked through a forest filled with oak, birch, and maple trees that filled the air with the scent of fresh sap and rotting leaves.  The sun’s rays leaked through the forest roof like dripping water, and Achilla made sure to look up at the blue sky whenever she stepped into some light.  She wasn’t sure of her location, but these woods felt familiar. Perhaps she was in Northern Connecticut somewhere, or one of the wooded areas in Pennsylvania that she passed on her way to a field trip. At this point, it didn’t make a difference.  Her photographic memory often took a mind of its own in these situations, and she trusted it like a printed map. That memory guided her around every tree and landmark. She stepped over logs and climbed over stones like she had seen them hundreds of times before.  This strange forest full of shade and the occasional pillar of light provided her with all of the clues she needed to follow a path that only her eyes and subconscious mind could see.

Achilla’s legs went on autopilot and broke into a full sprint.  She never ran full speed in public. Even in her basketball games, Achilla only gave a quarter-effort so that she could excel without exposing herself.  Now she was free to move as she pleased, and she cut through the humid air like a guided missile. Instead of climbing rocks, she leapt over them, and she cut around trees quicker than a frightened deer. A grin grew on her face as she scaled a tree trunk and hopped from branch to branch through the forest. She didn’t remember trying this before, but it felt natural to jump onto tree limbs without any fear of breaking one.  Sometimes she leapt from a tree and flew forty feet before landing on a limb that shook under her weight but never broke.

Such freedom made Achilla’s skin tingle, and she smiled as the wind caressed her skin. Her smile disappeared when she reached a clearing and stood on an oak tree limb at its edge. From the edge of that clearing, she scanned the area. There was no sign of anyone, but her pounding heart expected someone to meet her here. Whoever it was, Achilla’s goosebumps told her this would not be a friendly encounter.  Achilla somersaulted and landed in the middle of the clearing where the grass stood up to her knees. Everything in the forest remained unchanged, and the clearing was bright enough to highlight every greenish-tan blade of grass that the summer heat allowed to live this long.

Though it took a moment, Achilla realized that something was off. During her entire time in the forest, she never saw one animal. Even now she listened and heard no birds for miles.  The suburban South End of Stratford was a hotbed of chatter from blue jays, mockingbirds,sparrows, and those annoying green parrots, but this wooded area was dead silent but for the rattling of the trees from the occasional breeze.  Achilla would normally frown at such an observation, but her face remained unchanged. Every cell in her body  expected the forest to be so quiet. She knew that animals only evacuated in the face of a serious threat. Achilla remembered how quiet the birds always were when a storm rolled through, and this felt no different.  She also knew that she was one of the reasons the forest was so empty. Even nature feared her presence.  It also feared whoever agreed to meet her in this clearing.

The air’s scent changed. It was faint, but Achilla’s nose missed nothing. Under the aroma of grass and tree bark, Achilla could smell soap.  It was the kind that stores always labelled as “unscented” despite the fact that Achilla could smell it from a mile away. That soap confirmed what her subconscious mind was hiding from her this entire time. Achilla gritted her teeth as the scent grew stronger until she could see a pair of identical green eyes darting around the trees across the clearing.  Ailina burst out of the trees and landed in the clearing without a sound. Achilla’s body tensed when their eyes met. Her date had arrived.

Just like Achilla, Ailina wore a forest green t-shirt and camouflaged pants with black shin length boots. She had already tied her hair in a ponytail and her green eyes glowed as gray clouds rolled over the clearing. The temperature dropped and the clouds darkened as thunder rumbled and shook the ground. As a steady wind picked up speed, Achilla faced her opponent and clenched her fists.  Now the smell of rain overpowered everything else and small drops tapped her forehead as if to remind her of the purpose for this meeting.

Today was the day. No more waiting in fear. No more staying up late just to make sure her brother was safe or her parents were still sound asleep in their bedroom.  Achilla had to eliminate Ailina here and now to save them, and there was no time like the present.  Achilla couldn’t remember when they decided to meet here, but this spot felt right. Nobody would see them. No one could get in the way. Only one of them would leave alive, and this was the perfect place to hide the loser’s corpse.  Ailina held her hands on her hips without breaking her gaze. Achilla stared back.

“You don’t have to do this, Achilla,” Ailina called out.

“Yes, I do,” Achilla called back. “I can’t allow you near them anymore.”

“We’re supposed to be on the same side,” Ailina replied. “Last chance to do things right. Forget your father and join me.”

“I’ll never join you,” Achilla said with a raised chin. “I came here to kill you. If you want to do things right, you can break your own neck and save me the trouble.”

“Tough talk,” replied Ailina as she cracked her knuckles. “Remember what I told you about talking shit you can’t back up?”

“Oh, I’ll back it up,” Achilla stated. “All of it.”

“Why protect them?” Ailina chuckled. “They’re ants compared to us; insignificant beings who couldn’t possibly amount to anything but the small world they’ve manufactured. You’re superior just like me-”

“No!” Achilla snapped and pointed her finger. “Not like you! I’m nothing like you!”

“Oh, you’re just like me,” Ailina replied with a grin growing on her lips as she crouched and spread her arms. “You’ll realize that soon enough. Prepare yourself.”

Ailina had barely finished her sentence when she charged forward.  Achilla steadied herself in a fighting stance. She knew her opponent well, and it would only take Ailina two seconds to cross the hundred yards of distance. Achilla took that time to replay what she knew.  Ailina was right-handed and preferred to punches over kicks. Still, her kicks were powerful enough to break bones.  She telegraphed none of her attacks and anticipated most counters. Achilla could not afford to waste any energy. Every movement must bring her closer to Ailina’s death.

Just before she reached striking distance, Achilla pulled knife out of the sheath on her hip and threw it at Ailina’s head.  Ailina ducked and rolled to the left, and Achilla exploded from her position to swing at her head. Ailina hopped back just in time for Achilla to punch a hole in the ground. When she turned her back and sprinted into the trees, Achilla pursued until she was deep in the woods again; standing in a pillar of light. She searched the forest as the scent of rain and sap filled her nose.  In here, the forest overpowered Ailina’s scent. She was virtually undetectable now.  Achilla clenched her jaw as she scanned the trees and bushes.  She had already walked into a trap, but it was too late to back out. She would just have to turn the tables.

If she couldn’t see or smell her opponent, Achilla would just have to listen. She closed her eyes  and froze her body as she listened to the rain pitter-pattering against the leaves and forest floor. No other sound came. No steps. No tree limbs. Nothing. Achilla frowned as she listened harder. If Ailina planned on killing her, she had to come to her at some point. Achilla just had to remain calm, steady her breathing and-

Achilla heard a t-shirt ruffle behind her and turned around just in time to see Ailina swinging an overhead right at her temple.  Achilla blocked and ducked down to trip her at the shins. Ailina replied with a short jump and cracked Achilla’s nose with a knee that sent her sliding across the dirt and grass. Achilla leapt to her feet as blood trickled from her nose like a leaking pipe. When she blinked, Ailina was gone again. No sound. No scent. Back to square one.

This was her strategy. Ailina planned on wearing her down by picking her apart blow-by-blow instead of an all-out confrontation. Considering how easily she beat her last time, it was an oddly cautious plan of attack. Still, Achilla had no choice but to sit still and wait for her next move. She held her fighting stance as she waited and listened.

Achilla was ready when she heard Ailina charging from the right side.  She turned and swung a backfist at her temple. Ailina ducked, and Achilla pivoted into a knee that smashed Ailina’s cheekbone before she dropped an elbow into the top of Ailina’s head.  Ailina fell face first into the dirt, and Achilla punched the back of her head into a crater before raising her foot. This was it. One more hit, and she was dead.

Ailina rolled away just in time to avoid her heel, and Achilla stomped the ground, shaking the surrounding trees.  Achilla watched Ailina leap back ten feet as the leaves swayed to the ground. She frowned at her own strength. Perhaps she had underestimated herself, but she never imagined that her raw strength would match Ailina’s.  Now she stood with a bloody nose and Ailina a dent in her cheek; standing as equals. Achilla smirked as she tensed her legs. This time, she would initiate and turn the tables in her favor.

The air whipped tears out of her eyes as Achilla sprinted at top speed towards her opponent. She threw a leading right hand, but Ailina slipped to the right and punched Achilla’s gut before left hooking Achilla’s temple. When she threw a right, Achilla caught her fist and the blow stung her hand before she gripped Ailina’s knuckles. Achilla then  pulled her off-balance and swung her around in a circle overheard before grunting and throwing her across the forest.  Ailina flew thirty feet until she crashed through a tree trunk.  Achilla jumped to the side as the tree fell to the forest floor with a boom that vibrated her feet.

Achilla frowned and looked at her hands. Since when could she do that?  She regained her focus and rushed towards the felled tree only to find Ailina gone again. Achilla searched the forest until the clouds grew so dark that she could barely see her hand in front of her face. As the thunder clapped, the clouds rolled so close to the trees that Achilla thought she could jump and touch them. She had never seen a storm so dark and powerful before. The thunder roared so loud that she thought the ground would crack underneath her boots. With clouds so dark, rain so pungent, and thunder so loud, Achilla was a sitting duck. Her heart raced as she scrambled for ideas but came up with nothing. Her only solace was that Ailina was most likely in the same position as her. They would both stumble in the dark until this storm passed.

She didn’t see Ailina until the lightning flashed, and by then she was on top of her before she could put up her guard.  Stars burst into Achilla’s eyes when she felt a blow to the face that sent her flying back and bouncing off of a rock. She then gasped when she felt another blow to her spine that smacked her forward until her face crashed into a tree trunk.   The stench of sap overpowered the rain as Achilla felt the sticky liquid flow over her head and down her back until she pulled her head out of the tree. By the time she breathed some fresh air, another blow to the gut knocked all of it out of her lungs. As Achilla fell to her knees, one question flew around inside her head.

How was she doing this? It was pitch black out now, minus the flashes of lightning. The wind howled like a wolf pack in mourning. The rain smelled so strong that it practically filled Achilla’s nose before she got a face full of tree bark and sap. Ailina should have been blind. The playing field should have been even, but it clearly wasn’t. What did Achilla miss? She rose to her feet and struggled to catch her breath. As soon as she figured out what Ailina was doing, she was going to pay her back tenfold. Achilla had to protect her family, she refused to lose here; especially like this.

A ripping sensation tore through Achilla’s back and chest, and she screeched. Her insides felt like they were mashed against her armpits by a telephone pole, and Achilla hollered until her throat felt dry. The thunder and wind overpowered her screams as rain poured over her like a lukewarm shower, but she continued to wail as her body burned and her feet left the ground. Despite the burning and throbbing sensation rocking her entire torso, Achilla had the presence of mind to know what just happened.

Ailina had impaled her; and most likely with her bare arm.

Achilla cursed Ailina, knowing that she had won again, but this time she won for keeps. No normal blow felt this bad. This was fatal.  Achilla failed and her family was as good as dead. There was nothing more to say, but Achilla’s mouth moved on its own.  She couldn’t hear her own words until the thunder and wind died down. It was as if the black, rolling clouds had finally decided to give Achilla the silence she wanted just in time to hear her last words. Tears rolled down Achilla’s cheeks as she looked up at the sky.

“What do you want from me?” Achilla sobbed. “Why won’t you just leave me alone?”

“You know exactly what I want,” Ailina snarled from behind. “And now I’ve got it! Look down.”

Achilla stared at the black clouds that turned a hint of green as the wind bent the trees nearly sideways. A gust whistled through the tree branches and sent Achilla’s ponytail flapping around until her hair tie turned loose, and her black hair spread out and waved like a ship’s sail as she opened her mouth and cried out.  Despite the rain’s coolness in comparison, the burning in her chest persisted as the downpour increased to a waterfall. Still, Achilla heard Ailina’s command.

“I said look down, dammit!” Ailina barked over the wind.

She refused to look down. She refused to give her what she wanted. Still, her neck moved on autopilot and bent down, forcing her look at the source of the burning sensation in her chest.  Achilla gasped when a flash of lightning exposed Ailina’s hand protruding out of her chest. Another flash of lightning showed Ailina’s hand holding an object the size of Achilla’s fist.

It was Achilla’s heart. As the clouds lightened up and visibility returned, Achilla could see her heart pumping in Ailina’s hand.  The clouds rolled away and sunlight peeked through the forest cover again as she heard her heart thumping as if it had never left her body. She watched it pulsate as it covered Ailina’s hand with blackish-red blood.  It pumped, and pumped, and pumped as Achilla just stared with wide eyes.

“This is what I want,” Ailina whispered in Achilla’s ear. “And I won’t stop until I have it.”

Achilla cried out when Ailina retracted her arm out of her back, and she fell to the ground as Ailina stepped away. She should’ve been dead, but instead Achilla writhed on the ground from the exploding vibration in her chest. She croaked and coughed and rolled on the forest floor as Ailina’s cackle rang throughout the trees.  Tears jerked from Achilla’s eyes as she wracked her brain for answers. Why wasn’t she dead? How long could she stay alive? Could she stop Ailina within that time? With jelly for legs and a chest that felt like it could collapse at any moment, Achilla doubted that she could succeed, but she had to think of something. She clenched her jaw as she rose to her knees, but her legs would move no further. Achilla coughed again until blood launched from her throat and filled her mouth with the taste of iron.

“Now that I have this, this fight is over,” Ailina said as she held Achilla’s heart in both hands. “But my job is not done yet. There’s still one more thing to do.”

Ailina tossed the heart between her hands as Achilla sobbed and coughed up blood again. She looked up in time to watch Ailina drop the heart into one hand and toss it up and down. She then smacked it between her palms. Blood splattered all over Ailina’s t-shirt like a water balloon as Achilla watched what remained of her heart drip from her fingers to the forest floor. Ailina clapped her hands to discard of excess blood before wiping the rest on her pants.

“Ok,” Ailina said with a grin. “Wait for it…”

Achilla jolted as a shockwave shook her body.  Her legs spasmed. Her arms went numb. Even the tears running down her cheeks dried up. Achilla seized and fell to the forest floor, unable to breathe. This was it. She was dying. Though she couldn’t save them, at least she tried. Achilla only wished she could properly tell them goodbye instead of writhing in the middle of a dark forest. She felt her eyes roll into her head as the seizing and trembling increased, and she could still hear Ailina’s laughter echoing throughout the silent woods.

The seizure stopped. The pain her chest and back was gone. Achilla’s eyes returned to normal as she lay on her side, staring at Ailina’s boots. She felt nothing. No pain. No tears.  Not even anger. She just lay on the ground with a blank expression until she stood up.  As she ran her hand across the hole in her chest, she noticed that it was especially numb. Instead of elation at her recovery, Achilla still felt nothing.

But she sensed everything. Achilla blinked and saw dust particles flying through the air, even in the shade. She could hear birds calling miles into the sky; particularly a red-tailed hawk that flew over the storm. The slightest tremor in the ground was not lost on her, even when leaves landed on the forest floor. Never in her life had she seen the world so clearly, but none of it mattered to her. Her newfound power felt like nothing more than business as usual.

That was until she laid her eyes on Ailina.  Achilla’s muscles tensed tighter than she had ever felt them before and her face turned hot. After their eyes met, Achilla’s hands trembled and her knees buckled. But then all of that stopped.  Achilla’s whole body relaxed as her eyes set on her target and refused to move. The trees, the leaves, the sunlight, all of it faded away as Achilla’s entire being zeroed in on her opponent. All of her senses observed her from the split ends in her ponytail, to her cracked cheek bone, to the way she shifted her weight to one side ever so slightly. Ailina shifted her weight back as if she noticed Achilla was watching her. She then did something that Achilla had never seen her do before.

Ailina smiled. She didn’t grin. She didn’t cackle.  Her green eyes glowed, but it wasn’t the same shark-like intensity from before. They glowed with…glee?

That’s what it was. Ailina was happy. She smiled from ear to ear as she shone with sheer joy. Ailina let out a mixture of a laugh and a sob as she sniffed and smiled some more.  A tear leaked out of her left eye, and she wiped it away just before it reached her smile.

“That’s the look that I’ve been waiting my whole life to see,” Ailina said with a crack in her voice. “You have no idea how long I’ve waited to see that look on your face. I can die happy now.”

Achilla made no reply. She stepped forward as she sized Ailina up, searching for the right moment. All she needed, all she cared about, was finishing her opponent. If an opening didn’t come, she would create one. All she cared about was killing Ailina. She had to kill her. There was nothing else; nothing else but the kill.

“Yes, that’s right,” Ailina said as she spread her bloody hands wide. “Do whatever you want.”

That was the opening. A roar rose in Achilla’s throat before she charged towards her target. She still felt nothing. No pain. No anger. Only the desire to kill drove this charge, and it was sending her straight for Ailina. Ailina closed her eyes and mouthed Achilla’s name as she drew closer.

Ten feet.

She mouthed it again, barely above a whisper.

Five feet.

Ailina hissed her name this time.

Two feet.

Achilla reached for Ailina’s throat with a leading fist that she knew would crush her windpipe and force her to suffer the slow painful death of suffocation, but Achilla wouldn’t wait that long. As soon as she hit her throat with one hand, she would puncture her intestines with the other and pull them out like a fire hose. Disembowelment was the order of the day, and Achilla planned on serving it.

“Achilla!” Ailina snapped when her eyes opened just before Achilla’s hand could punch a hole through her neck, but it was too late. Her fist was almost there. Her victory had almost arrived. Death was coming soon, and only by her suitable hands. Nothing could stop her now. No one could stop her now. Achilla was invicible, and Ailina was in the way. Achilla’s eyes lit up when she felt her fist make the hard impact with Ailina’s neck with a smack. Next up, the intestines.

Achilla stopped when the forest disappeared. Instead, Brendan stood in front of her wearing his black and red Fairfield University t-shirt and matching basketball shorts. He wore the same white du rag that he always wore to bed, but the wide-eyed expression on his face jarred her. So did her fist crammed into the cement wall two inches from his head. Brendan  crouched under her arm  and ducked away from her, and Achilla frowned when she noticed that her hand was stuck. She thought she had a good gauge on her strength, but everything about today surprised her.  She looked around saw no forest, no clouds, no Ailina; just her basement where she trained every night before bed. The floor was cracked and the wall had a few holes in it.  Achilla looked over her left shoulder and noticed that her punching bag was trembling as well. Was she down here the entire time? Just five seconds ago she was inches away from killing Ailina.

“Achilla, what the hell is wrong with you?” Brendan asked as he crossed his arms and glared at her.

“Where am I?” Achilla asked. “Am I…at home?”

“Yes!” Brendan snapped. “You mind explaining why the hell you almost killed me?”

“I…don’t know, Dad,” Achilla said with a grunt as she pulled her hand out of the wall. “Are you hurt?”

“No,” Brendan replied. “Luckily you saved me for last after you destroyed my basement. What came over you?”

“I wish I could answer that,” Achilla said as she looked around the now potholed basement. “What about Mom or Samuel?”

“Asleep,” Brendan sighed as he rose to his feet. “Lord knows how. I could hear you crashing around from the bedroom.”

Achilla crossed her arms as she paced the basement and examined the damage. There were two potholes and four holes in the wall. As she suspected, she was dreaming, and taking her nightmare out on her own home. Achilla sighed when she did the math in her head. She calculated that it cost at least a thousand dollars to fix her mess.

“I apologize,” Achilla said. “I’ve cost you a lot of money.  To answer your question, I had a bad dream. I think I sleep walked down here.”

“All of this from walking?” Brendan demanded. “From a bad dream?”

“Yeah,” Achilla replied. “Pretty much.”

“About what, Achilla?” Brendan asked. “The devil?”

“Ailina,” Achilla muttered. “So I guess that’s close enough. We had a fight to the death. I was about to win before you woke me up. Considering I almost punched your head off, I’m not complaining about that.”

“Well,” Brendan snorted. “I’m glad you won the fight, Achilla. Next time, can you have a bad dream outside?”

“I said I was sorry,” Achilla replied with a downward expression. “I didn’t know what I was doing, ok? What do you want me to say?”

“Achilla, you’re helping me pay for this,” Brendan stated. “You’re helping me fix anything else you broke too Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Achilla groaned as she leaned against the wall on sat on the floor. If they split the costs, that would come up to at least five hundred bucks. Achilla was trying to save up, but obviously that wasn’t going to happen. Why did she always manage to break everything? Achilla covered her face with her shirt when she felt the tears rising, but stopped when her father knelt in front of her.

“Aside from that,” Brendan sighed. “Have you been having a lot of these dreams lately?”

“No,” Achilla replied with a frown as she sniffed. “That was the first time since I moved in.”

“Good,” Brendan replied. “Let’s hope you don’t have any more.”

“So I won’t damage anymore of your property?” Achilla asked with a shaking voice. “I promise I won’t.”

“Damn the property,” Brendan said. “And don’t worry about paying for it. We’ll get started on repairs together. I just want to make sure you’re sleeping all right.”

“I’m ok,” Achilla replied with a weak smile. “Thanks, but I think this was an anomaly.”

“Well, I’ll just have to trust you ,” Brendan yawned. “It’s four a.m. I’m going to bed. Try not to kill me in my sleep, all right? I have work in the morning.”

Achilla  pouted when Brendan walked to the basement steps. There were few things she hated in life than her father’s disapproval of her. It didn’t come often, but when it did, her heart always sank. Achilla let one tear fall when she stood up and held her hands on her hips, staring at the pothole between her feet. She would make this up to him somehow. Earning back her father’s smile just became one of her top priorities.

She sat on the concrete floor and crossed her arms as she mulled over what just happened. Sam always told her that dreams tended to have a special meaning; whether they predicted the future or exposed some deep desire of which you are only subconsciously aware.  Her desire to protect her family was obvious.  So what exactly did this nightmare mean? Did she have some hidden urge to lose her heart via impalement? No, that had to be figurative. It was what happened after she lost her heart that Achilla wanted. Deep down, she wanted to be a cold-blooded killer. She knew that the only way to stop Ailina was to become just like her.

Achilla shook that thought out of her head as she approached her heavy bag and steadied it before assuming a fighting stance. Achilla exhaled as she delivered a side kick; her first of five thousand. Yes, she would fix this basement,  and she would cook her father’s breakfast for good measure, but it was four in the morning.  That meant it was time to train. Achilla planned on fighting Ailina in real life again, and she had to be ready.

Heartless or not, Achilla refused to lose.

I hope you enjoyed it. Part 2 goes up next Saturday.

Never lose your heart, my friends.

G. Miller

Angel of War will release on September 12, 2015!!

AngelofWarFinalCover

Achilla Johnson is now a CIA Agent. After four years of training and busy work, she finally gets her first real assignment. She must spy on Roberto “Blue Eyes” Gabrielli; a corrupt defense attorney with strong ties to New Haven’s political and criminal element. Achilla must infiltrate Blue Eyes’ law firm and gather enough intel to connect him to an international crime syndicate led by the infamous but elusive Xerxes. To make matters more complicated, Ailina Harris reappears after years of hiding and offers a truce. In exchange, Achilla must help find her grandfather Ares for reasons that remain unclear.

Achilla’s mind is pushed to the limit as she investigates Blue Eyes and deciphers Ailina’s motives. She also fights an inner war as her increased strength and new-found abilities come with unanticipated side effects. Achilla’s world grows more dangerous by the day until she is forced to decide what she must become in order to protect her family. Her next step will change everyone’s lives forever.

Achilla wouldn’t have it any other way.

Angel of War is the second novel of the Nephilim Chronicles Series written by G.Miller. It is a story of a woman’s will to protect her family against all odds and by any means necessary.

THE RELEASE DATE IS SET AND THE COVER IS NOW REVEALED!

“Angel of War” will release on September 12, 2015!

However, you can order the e-book right now and get 50% off.

Just enter the promotional code LJ42D!

This offer expires on release day so jump on it now!

Pre-order your copy at Smashwords!

I put my foot into this one guys. Pre-order now. Enjoy it later!

Win the war, my friends.

No Apologies,

G. Miller

Ailina Harris: The embodiment of abuse.

 

As you’ve read in Achilla The Strong(and if you haven’t, click here), Ailina Harris is abusive to everyone around her, but she always manages to walk away without suffering any consequences until Achilla Johnson stands up to her. This clip will give you an idea of why that happens.

 

People responded properly the first time. What happened the second time?

I’ve witnessed men verbally/physically abusing women and even rushed out of my apartment to aid a woman was in danger of abuse. Usually, someone stepped in before I got there (as they should) and offered the woman supportwith a quick response time. As an RA in college and a bouncer in Chicago, I’ve also had to break up couples where the woman was the aggressor. When other people got involved, they said she was “drunk and emotional” or told me and my coworker to “Mind our own business.” I’ve even had women strike me, or threaten to do so, with no provocation. Anyone who saw this happen just laughed. I subsequently swore to never pursue a relationship with those women, or anyone like them, again. Instead, I did the research, learned some of the signs and created Ailina Harris; the epitome of toxicity as a parent and partner. You’ll see more of her destructive behavior in Angel of War. Be warned, it isn’t pretty.  Abuse never is.

 


Seriously?

Abuse is about control, and when someone seeks to control you, they’ll use any means to obtain it. Complete and utter domination is the abuser’s goal and he/she will stop at nothing until you totally subjugate yourself or he/she realizes you’re not worth the hassle and searches for a new victim. That’s not a personality trait that is reserved for one gender, and there are many signs of an abusive personality. Though no one is psychic or flawless at reading people, there is research out there to help you know when to walk away before it’s too late. Ladies and gentlemen, protect yourselves at all times. Nobody deserves this kind of treatment.

Stop the abuse.

No Apologies,

G. Miller