Another Excerpt from “Guts and Glory” Book 3!

Emily

I sat in the back.

I always sat in the back.

My little brother stood at the front, next to the teen spokesperson. I was torn between feeling left out (as always) and being happy I wasn’t noticed.

When us teens woke up in Nil, Mom barely noticed me as her kid. Instead, she said everything was okay and that Glory had saved us all. I love my little sister, but my mother is my mother too, not just Trevor and Tabitha’s. And as I sat and watched the meeting between the kids and the teens, I couldn’t push down the feeling that had been growing inside me for days now.

Like I wasn’t quite a Tate.

“We teens know the kids helped take the curse off us, so thanks fer that an’ all, but ya can’t ‘spect us ta follow kids inta battle!”

The teen spokesperson was not much more than a kid herself. Her name was Wendy. Mom’s work again. She’d told us all that we should choose names from Earth, even though none of us were from there. But Mom insisted that Earth names would give us independence, since none of us could remember our Nil names, and At Igh Schoo we were only named after our ranks. I was only a Mindseer for a short time, but the name had stuck more than “Emily” ever did. And my tattoo, like all the teen tats, remained on my face: a blood-red tear down my left cheek. Even then, I felt more like Mindseer than I’d ever felt like Emily Tate.

“I’m willing to work with the teens, but we are in command,” my brother said. His voice was a lot more powerful than I’d ever head it. He’d definitely grown up a little since we came to Nil.

Wendy laughed. “Yer in command ‘a the kids, sure. But the teens ain’t gonna follow ya. Why would we? We’re bigger an’ stronger an smarter than any kid could ever be.”

“Because we saved your sorry butts, that’s why!” Trevor said, leaning in to Wendy and squeezing his fists at his side. “And why are you talking for them anyway? You’re barely older than me!”

Wendy didn’t flinch. “Because, KID, I’m a leader.”

“Some leader!”

The crowd gasped and parted to make room for the new voice – a teen I vaguely remembered seeing somewhere, at a time that seemed long ago. His red hair was super short, shaved almost to his scalp, and as he looked around at the crowd of kids, teens, and zombies, his green eyes flashed in a way that made me shiver. His mouth was a thin, tight line, and he wore all black, with the exception of a red hoodie two sizes too big for his lanky body. Around his neck was a circle of black feathers, and his face was tattooed with a tribal spike down one side – the rare tattoo of a commander.

Then I heard my brother make the weirdest noise I’d ever heard, like a cross between a groan and a scream. I turned to look at him, and his face was so white I was worried he’d faint right then and there.

“F— Fist!” he gasped, his eyes wide. “What… how… where—”

The new teen stopped walking and, to my shock, bowed low at his waist, sweeping his arms back in a grand gesture like some kind of old-fashioned lord.

“Guts the mighty leader ‘a the Dark Crows! I salute ya!”

Trevor closed his mouth and shook his head hard. “H– hello Fist,” he croaked. Then he seemed to notice the crowd again, and cleared his throat. “What— what brings you here?”

Fist smiled, his thin lips rising at the edges just barely enough to notice. “Ta take my rightful place leadin’ the teens, ‘course.”

Guts blinked.

Wendy sucked in a sharp intake of air. “How dare—“

Before she could finish, Fist took two long, gliding steps to the front and shoved her roughly aside. “Move over, soldier,” he snarled at her. “Or didya think rank didn’t mean nothin’ nomore?”

“B— but Fist, you’ve never even wanted to be a teen,” Trevor stammered. “Why would you want to lead them?”

“Easy,” Fist said. His voice changed instantly back to nice when he spoke to my brother. “If a Tate’s in chargea the kids, then a Tate’s gonna be in chargea the teens, too.” He put his arm around a very uncomfortable Trevor and squeezed. “After all, brothers gotta work tagether, right?”

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