Daniel A. Kaine has graced us with an excerpt.
Yeah, yeah, I'm shutting the hell up now and letting his characters speak for themselves.
*shivers in anticipation*
When I awoke, I noticed Ash was up and nowhere to be seen. Only the faint glow of the street lamps illuminated the room. So much for a power nap, I thought. The sound of the door opening and closing caught my attention.
"Look who's finally up," Ash said. I sat up and wiped the gunk from the corners of my eyes. Ash was out of breath and I saw the sweat beading on his forehead. "I went for a jog to clear my head," he said. "You up for a bit of sparring? I need a chance to really vent."
I was a little frustrated too after the day's events, so I nodded and we gathered up our things to head to the gym. There were only a few others using the facilities when we arrived. We secured our items in the locker room, and went out into the open hall. After doing some stretches and a couple of laps around the place, we grabbed some head guards from the storeroom. The sparring started off light, but we quickly got into it. Ash had been kick-boxing since he joined the academy. It had become more of a way to relieve stress than an actual hobby. My interest in the sport only begun after meeting Ash a little over a year ago. Since then, he had taught me everything he knew.
"That all you got?" he taunted me, dodging another blow to the head. I replied with a front kick, catching him off-guard. He let out a gratifying grunt. His feet continued to dance every which way, keeping me on my toes, but he was tiring. I could hear it in his shallow breaths, and see it in his sluggish movements. He was slowing down. I wasn't in much better condition. My heart beat against my rib cage, and sweat poured from my brow and everywhere else imaginable. Every muscle was beginning to ache, begging me to stop, but my first victory was just within reach. A little more and I would finally beat him.
I willed myself to keep going, barely blocking the flurry of punches aimed at my head. I focused on his movements, biding my time as he wore himself down, and waiting for an opening. I blocked a kick to my side, and seeing my chance, lifted my right leg into a front kick. Ash moved back out of reach, as I hoped he would. At the last moment I faked out and moved into a roundhouse kick with my back leg, aiming for his unprotected flank.
For a short while, time slowed almost to a halt. I could see him grinning as he dropped to the floor, his leg sweeping mine out from under me. Then I was falling and time resumed. I landed with a thud on the mats, gasping for breath as the wind was knocked out of me.
"Man, I'm exhausted." Ash was at my side, hunched over, fists resting on his knees as he caught his breath. He ripped the Velcro strap open and threw his head-guard to one side. As I lay there, all I could think of was how close I was to beating him. In the year we had been training together, I had never been as close as I was then. And I blew it. I gritted my teeth in frustration. Next time would be different.
"You ready to hit the showers?" Ash asked. He stood over me, one hand held out.
"Whatever," I grumbled as I reached out and was pulled to my feet.
We made our way back to the locker room, discarding our protective gear into the basket on the way out. I decided not to shower at the gym, instead choosing to head back to the dorms for a real shower. I pulled on my jacket and gathered the rest of my belongings into my gym bag.
"I'm heading back for a long, hot shower," I called out over the noise of the running water.
"Okay, I'll see you back there."
Outside was cold and pitch black, save for the soft glow emanating from the windows of the nearby buildings and an occasional street lamp. The sky was overcast, the moon hid behind a blanket of silver-lined clouds. I walked on autopilot, down the dimly lit short-cut to the dorms, planning the rest of my evening. I would shower, grab something to eat, and then settle down with a book until I felt ready to sleep.
It was as I approached the end of the alleyway that a dark figure ran around the corner into me, dropping the papers he was carrying. He apologised and I mumbled under my breath that he should watch where he was going. Regardless, I bent down to help gather the loose sheets. A quick glance at one of the papers told me they were blood reports, most likely from the research department.
The man was about my size, though better built. He wore a navy jacket, the hood pulled close around his head. Strands of what I could only describe as silver hair spilled out of the hood, falling over his downcast eyes. I handed him the few sheets I had collected and he thanked me, keeping his head down the whole time, as if trying to avoid eye contact. With that he raced off into the night, to complete whatever errand it was he was on. Strange guy, I thought. I shrugged it off and continued on my way.