And I’ve been setting up promotional items for the upcoming book blitz that will take place once Distant Horizon is published.
And, of course, I like to provide teasers of the upcoming book. So here’s the second part of Distant Horizon, Chapter Two, for your enjoyment. 🙂
(Section Two and Three)
“Come on, Jenna—this is perfect. You need the points; I get a good name in, and if the commander remembers me when I graduate, he might recommend me to international Special Forces!” With a smooth swipe of his hand, Lance pushed the straggling strands of his brown hair from his eyes and then brushed his shirt free of wrinkles. I took a step back, eyeing him cautiously. Lance stood straighter, more proper than before.
“Well, what do you think?” he asked. “Think I’ll make a good impression?”
“You look… nice,” I said halfheartedly. “I’m sure he’ll consider you.”
Lance beamed. “Awesome!”
“Yeah, awesome,” I mumbled. I shouldered my backpack uneasily as Lance headed for his security class. He could probably get into a regional team and be charged with the wonderful task of protecting gossipy leaders, but regional agents were stationed all over the world. If he got recruited, I might never see him again.
I hunched my shoulders and hurried to calculus. I could almost swear the agents wandering around campus were watching me. Throughout class, when I should have been focusing on logarithms, all I could think about was the agents’ dark visors, their stern postures, and how they were tasked with protecting the Community against all kinds of threats, including theophrenia.
I pictured the agents escorting Galina into the back of the van. What if I never saw her again? What if she couldn’t be cured?
Needless to say, I bombed the calc test.
I returned to my dorm room, dejected, and switched my materials to the Basics of Agronomy and Horticulture. At least this was a class I enjoyed. When I lived at my parents’ house, I spent what free time I had in the backyard or the community garden cultivating herbs and vegetables. Whenever I was worried about how I’d do on my core graduation tests, gardening was the most efficient way for me to relax.
I trailed my fingers through the leaves of the potted spider plant on my desk. If only plants could understand people. Plants wouldn’t tell anyone about not taking the pills, or failing a computer class, or—
The stem of a spiderette wrapped around my finger and wriggled beneath my palm. I yelped and yanked my hand away.
The plant just moved.
Not only that, but spiderette stems were stiff, not malleable like a vine. They shouldn’t be able to wrap around my finger even if plants could move of their own accord.
I stared at the plant, but it seemed the same as before. Just a normal stem in a normal pot.
I swallowed hard. I could not be hallucinating. Not this close to the Health Scan. I grabbed my bag and stuffed the books inside, then rushed out the door. I was stressed and needed lunch; that was all.
Downstairs, the spicy aroma of sloppy joes mingled with the antiseptic stench of cleaning supplies used in the cafeteria. My stomach churned. Bad idea coming to the cafeteria. Really bad idea. I should’ve just taken the pill and been done with it. Maybe I would’ve gotten accustomed to the lack of focus. I could still go back and take the pill. Maybe—
I stopped short at the lunch table.
“You okay?” Lance stabbed his fork into a half-eaten sandwich. “You’re pale. Maybe you should see the nurse.”
“No!” I gripped the loose ends of my backpack tight. Lance gave me a puzzled look. I shut my mouth, then set my backpack in its proper place under the chair. “It’s just… I failed the calc test.”
He cocked his head with a knowing grin. “Sure you did—you won’t have the results until after the Health Scan. You know, you’re starting to sound like Tim.” His smirk turned into an amused smile. “Want me to get you a plate?”
“Go ahead,” I said, and he left me alone at the table. I traced the spot where the stem had wrapped around my finger. My blood pounded in my ears, mingling with the messy roar of the cafeteria. The stress of the upcoming scan was getting to me—bad. Hallucinations were the first sign of theophrenia. If someone had theophrenia, they’d have hallucinations and delusions of grandeur, and eventually, they’d die. But theophrenia was supposed to be a thing of the past. Contained.
“Jenna?” An elbow brushed my shoulder and I jumped. Tim stood beside me, holding a plate of steamed broccoli. “Are you okay?”
Not really, no. But I couldn’t tell him the real reason I was worried. “I bombed the calc test,” I said.
Tim cringed and took his seat. “Ouch.” He stirred his fork through the broccoli, wrinkling his nose and making a face. But I’d never seen him put something back if it was good for him, and he took a bite. “Lance said you can make up yesterday’s points.”
“Maybe, if I get an audience.”
Tim pulled his tablet from his pocket and sat it beside the plate, then flipped through the screens with a swipe of his finger. He showed me a photograph of the commander next to his transport ship. “Do you think he’ll autograph this for me?”
I nodded weakly. I never did understand autographs, though most E-Leadership members were happy to give them. Lady Winters never signed them, though, and when Master Matoska made a rare appearance, he only did so if the signing was on his schedule.
A plate of food slid in front of me. “I got you extra broccoli,” Lance said.
Warmth flooded my chest. Unlike Tim, I actually liked broccoli—and Lance knew me well.
I smiled. “Thanks.”
After lunch, I excused myself early to slip outside. I had a few minutes before the next meeting, plenty of time for a walk to clear my head. The sun stole through the clouds in the courtyard and lent warmth to the chilly afternoon. Students swarmed the flagpole at the center of campus, waving tablets and books in the fresh air.
A tell-tale safari hat rode across the crowd and my breath caught in my throat. Unlike Lady Black, who often used her revealing outfits to stand out from the rest of us, Commander Rick did not flaunt his “attractiveness.” He always went for regal attire—except for that safari hat he always wore—and his word was absolutely, positively good. If he said he would do something, we could bet our efficiency points he’d do it—not that betting was in any way efficient.
I took a step back, my chest tight. I wasn’t ready to ask the commander questions. What if I got the interview, but they had to do the scan first?
I turned to take the long way around campus, but nearly collided with a confident woman as she passed me on the sidewalk. She nimbly stepped aside, then glanced at me, surprised. Wisps of dark hair tickled her face, and her green eyes were complimented by the antique, diamond and brass pendant she wore on her chest, the same kind of pendant members of international E-Leadership wore.
“Lady Black?” I stared at her, dumbfounded. She had to have been cold. Her dress was impractical—it twisted and shimmered in a harsh gust of wind, and her skin was pale where the silky black dress revealed far more of her chest than normal citizens would ever show. She opened her mouth to speak, but I skittered away before any words could be exchanged.
I didn’t check to see if anyone had seen us before I ducked into the closest building. Once inside, I pressed my hands against the stone wall and caught my breath. Too close. What if I’d said something about the pills in a moment of panic? I half expected an agent to come waltzing through the glass doors and ask why I hadn’t reported my earlier hallucination.
I took a deep breath, ignoring the puzzled stares of passing students. Though I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching, no agent came to question me. I waited for my nerves to calm, and then headed back to the dorms for the afternoon meeting.
I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂