All Alondra wants is to lay low, survive, and protect her family from the dangers that pervade a world broken by the Demon War. But when she discovers she has the power to manipulate life force, an ability possessed only by demons and the shunned Rebuilders, Alondra must choose between using her power to save her family and using it to save humanity.
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Height: 5' 2"
Hair Color: Brown
Alondra has known nothing but scrap scavenging and trading her whole life. She lives in the safehouse with Dom, her father, and her younger sister, Maylee at the mouth of Skinner's Canyon. Most of her time is spent either spelunking in the abandoned mines that encircle the mountains near her home, working in the greenhouse, traveling to the Harmony colony to trade, or fixing hardware and electronics. She is headstrong and fiercely loyal, sees no use in learning how to read, and will do anything to protect her family safe and help them survive.
Hair Color: Brown
A veteran of the colony turf wars that accompanied the Fallout of the Demon War, Dom trusts no one but his own family. He protects his daughters ferociously and will harm anyone who poses a threat. Dom is a realist, a sharp-shot, and loathes the "demonspawned" Rebuilders for the part they played in the downfall of humanity after the War. He is also a hard-nosed trader and rock-solid in his beliefs, earning him a respected reputation among the hawkers that frequent the Harmony Colony for trade.
The World of
Alondra gripped her nitro shotgun tighter and used her shoulder to readjust her Air Filtration Unit. The microneedles of the nutrition patch on her upper arm itched as she did so, and her eyes raked the iron-streaked canyon walls. “We’re getting attacked today. I can feel it.”
“You’ve said that every week you’ve come on a trading run,” her father said. His voice was tinny through the voice box of his own filtration unit. Bunching the oxen’s reins in one hand, he wiped red dust from the reflective lenses of his goggles with the other.
Alondra shot a dirty look at her father, even though she knew he wouldn’t see it. She settled against the bench’s wooden backboard, finger close to the trigger. Her skin burned from beneath like it was stretched over a bed of coals, a sensation that had built every time they passed through this stretch of Skinner’s Canyon. Today was the strongest she had ever felt it, and her skin felt raw. “I would feel a lot better if we had Invited the help of a couple of Rebuilders.”
Her father’s shoulders tensed. “We don’t need to Summon demons to fend off other demons, Alondra.”
“You don’t ‘Summon’ Rebuilders, Da, you Invite them--”
“Invite? Summon? There’s no difference!”
“They’re better equipped to handle an attack than we are. How much damage do you think a nitro is going to do against a supernatural being, anyway?”
“Enough that I will sleep better knowing there is one less of them roaming in this forsaken wilderness!”
Alondra snapped her mouth shut, cowed. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.
Her father’s shoulders loosened slightly. “No harm done.”
Silence fell between them, and Alondra refocused her eyes on the razor-sharp ridges rising above them.
Soon the terrain changed and the bottom of the crevice widened, transitioning from sand to gravel. The metal-wrapped wagon wheels cracked rock after rock, the sound striking her ears like lightning. Alondra’s eyes probed each crag as they passed beneath it. The shadows seemed to twitch in the half-light of hazy twilight.
Her father stiffened.
The oxen lowed.
Her skin burned.
Pulling the reins, her father halted the wagon, listening.
A small, raspy noise echoed against the stone walls.
Heart pounding, Alondra glanced at him. He nodded.
Alondra pulled a deep breath through her air vents and hopped off, fixing her eye to her nitro’s sight. The metal rims of her goggles scraped against the nitro’s burnished metal. Up ahead, a section of the canyon walls jutted into the trail as it turned, hiding what lay beyond. Overcast light from the clouded sky dimmed; the shadows elongated.
Alondra crept ahead of the oxen. She ran her fingers of one hand across their foreheads above their filtration masks to soothe them. They tossed their heads and huffed, rattling the fastenings of the harness. Her father pulled back on the reins to silence the noise.
Breathing slow to calm her fluttering heartbeat, Alondra moved forward, stepping lightly on the gravel. She pressed her back to the jutting wall, heart thudding against her spine and hands slick against her nitro’s stock. She glanced at her father again. Perched atop the driver’s seat of the wagon, he could have been a statue.
Alondra swallowed and turned her head slightly around the corner to hear. The noise was a little louder around the bend, labored, like shallow breathing, amplified through a respirator.
She blinked and furrowed her brow. It sounded injured.
No more wasting time.
Stepping around the corner, Alondra’s body snapped into position, crosshairs trained at the bloodied head of a prone little girl in a tattered, rust-stained dress.
Alondra dropped her aim cautiously and crept to the girl’s side. Tipping her barrel in the air, she crouched next to her and brushed her blood-clumped blonde hair from her face.
The skin on her forehead was shredded and filled with grit. She was pale like the sightless fish her father once caught in the iron mines by the safehouse, and a heavily soldered, homemade gas mask was skewed over her nose and mouth.
Carefully, Alondra leaned her gun against the wall of the crevice. She reached for the communication link at her belt and sent three pulses of static, and bent over the little girl.
Alondra grasped the tiny girl’s wrist. Her pulse was fluttery and faint. She set the wrist carefully on the ground and looked closer at the girl’s forehead.
Skin shreds curled stiffly from the lacerations, and dozens of small rocks were wedged beneath them. Alondra used her thumb to pull back the girl’s eyelid. The girl’s eyes were a shocking blue, at least what Alondra could see of them. The pupil was dilated so large it nearly swallowed her eye color entirely.
Alondra reached behind her and unclipped her emergency med kit from her belt. Snapping it open, she rifled through it and found an alcohol swab. She looked at the wound again, sitting back on her heels. The injury was old enough that the blood had clotted. She looked at the unopened swab package, back at the wound, then back to the package again.
After a moment, she shoved the unopened swab back into the med kit and gingerly set it aside. She cast a look over her shoulder, staring steadily at the opening she emerged from and then turned back to the wounded girl.
She placed her fingers on the girl’s temple and her thumbs beside the wound, wincing at the snap of crispy blood in the girl’s hair. Alondra closed her eyes, imagining the injury closing and the skin knitting back together. Her skin tingled and she opened her eyes.
Thin trails of white light traced the pattern of Alondra’s veins down her arms and pooled into the tips of her fingers where they met the girl’s head. The wound itself glowed faintly under the influence of the white light. Alondra watched the shredded skin twitch and begin to curl back into place. One by one, tiny gravel bits fell from the wound, and the subdural layers knitted slowly back into place.
After a few moments, Alondra let her hands fall away, feeling drained. She wiped gritty sweat from her forehead and glanced over her shoulder again. Relief filled her, and she turned to peer at the wound.
The wound had healed to minor scratches, surrounded by the white outline of scar tissue. The metallic rattle of the girl’s breathing had evened slightly and a small crease began to form between her brows. Gently, Alondra reached forward and adjusted the straps of the girl’s filtration mask so it sealed tightly around her nose and mouth.
At her touch, the little girl stirred and her eyelids flickered. Alondra’s heart skipped a beat.
“Hey,” whispered Alondra. “Can you hear me?”
“Get away from there!”
Alondra jumped, snatched her gun, and whirled, leveling it at the entrance she emerged from earlier. She let out a gasp of relief as she saw her father rounding the corner. He put his hands in the air at the sight of her nitro, but she dropped her aim, clutching her chest.
“Da, you scared me.”
“I said, get away from there!”
“Get away from what? There’s an injured little girl here--”
“I said get away from that!”
“Why?” demanded Alondra.
“It could be a demon trap. There could be a demon nearby. Leave the girl alone!”
“How could she be a demon trap? Her eyes are blue!”
“It doesn’t matter. You are going to get us killed--”
“No, Da! We have to help her.” Alondra flipped back around and moved to pick the girl up.
“I said no--”
Alondra’s hand made contact with the girl’s shoulder and the girl’s eyes snapped open. Her dilated eyes were wide and searching the empty air. Then, they fixated on a point behind Alondra’s shoulder and grew wider.
The girl began to scream.