nodded, glancing over at his father, sitting next to him in the camouflage
tent.He took a swig of beer, and Brett
averted his eyes.
snapping sound to his left caught Brett’s attention and he looked over to catch
sight of a doe.It sauntered near the edge
of the clearing he and his father were watching.It grazed on some leaves from some brush,
oblivious to the danger it was in.
heart immediately began to thump furiously in his chest.
doe was beautiful, with large black eyes, and muscles that moved just beneath a
coat of velvety brown fur.It was
graceful and lovely.It didn’t seem
right to kill a creature so pure.
don’t think we’re going to catch any deer today, Pa,” Brett said loudly, hoping
to startle the doe away.
with you yammering on like that, we won’t,” his father muttered.“But we came out here to make a man out of you,
and that’s what we’re gonna do, if we have to stay out here all damn week.You hear me, boy?You’re returning home a man, with your first
kill in hand.”
man,” Brett repeated automatically, two worlds at war with one another inside
him.On one hand, he wanted to please
his father.More than anything, he
wanted his acceptance.He wanted to make
him proud, to have his father look at him like he looked at his brother.But on the other hand, there was the
doe.Not just the one doe, but many
other animals he would be forced to snuff out for the sake of pleasing his
father.Yes, they would make use of the
animal.They would eat its meat, maybe
sell its coat.But he would have to kill
it.And he didn’t want to do that.
his father breathed, slapping Brett lightly on the shoulder.“See that there?Didn’t have to wait too long after all.”
swallowed hard as he watched the deer saunter into the meadow.For a moment, the doe looked around warily,
suspiciously, like it knew they were there.
Brett pleaded silently.Go away, and never return.
the doe seemed satisfied that it was in no real danger, and returned to
grazing, head down.
like I showed you now,” his father whispered.“Nice and easy.”
breathed deeply and held the hunting rifle to his eyes.He had the doe in his sights.
a moment, his father sniffed.“What are
you waiting for?We ain’t got all day
here.Shoot it before it gets
spooked.”He grabbed Brett’s arm
roughly.“I didn’t raise no mamma’s
boy.You ain’t no faggot, are you?Shoot that doe down, and do it now.”
sir,” Brett managed.He let out another
deep breath and got the doe in his sights again.His hands shook slightly under his fingers.
it,” his father instructed softly.“Now,
just squeeze the trigger.”
intentionally let his rifle slide just to the left of the doe, and squeezed the
shot went wide, sending up a spray of dirt near the doe’s head and startling
it.In the blink of an eye, the doe had
damn, mother fucker!” Brett’s father raged, jumping to his feet and swatting
his baseball cap against the tent walls.
sorry,” Brett said weakly.
“Sorry?You’re sorry?” Brett’s father grabbed him by
the front of the shirt.“We are going to
sit here until you bag us a deer.You
hear me?Or are you some kind of
sir.No,” Brett cried, struggling weakly
against his father’s iron grip.
father shoved him to the ground in disgust.
time,” his father spat.“Your aim will
be true, or you ain’t no son of mine.”
should have been cold, but she wasn’t.She was disoriented.The snow
layered everything in white.Everywhere
she looked, it was white.She couldn’t
see any paths in the forest anymore.
stopped and looked up, snowflakes falling fast around her.Some landed on her face, but she didn’t mind
as they melted against her warm flesh.Tree branches were covered in snow, and some sagged under the weight
until it was too much and the snow rolled off in clumps, the limbs bouncing
back up again like springs.
was supposed to be looking for something, she knew.If anything went wrong, she was supposed to
look for…a circle?She frowned.She couldn’t remember.Her head was swimmy.She put a small hand to her forehead and
grunted at the pain the touch caused her.She looked down at her hand, slick with crimson.It was thick and dark and dripped from her fingers
into the snow at her feet.She stared at
the red in the snow for a moment, mesmerized, and then turned her attention to
a sound in the distance.A rumble.
her head curiously, Natalia watched twin lights swing over her as they rounded
a curve.The lights stopped and the
rumble grew louder for a moment before it stopped.
had to…find a circle.A ring.A hoop?She couldn’t be discovered.That
would be bad.Or did she want to be
found?Her vision grew hazy for a moment
and angry red and black spots swarmed before her eyes like a swarm of
blinked until the spots faded and her surroundings came into focus again.She stared at a woman in a gray wool coat and
a fuchsia scarf.She was peering down at
Natalia through glasses with a concerned expression on her face.Her glasses…were round.Perfect circles.
sagged with relief, slumping against the woman’s legs.She was so tired.She just wanted to sleep.And now that she’d found the circles, she
are you alright?” the woman asked, holding her up.“You’re bleeding.Are you alone out here?”She looked around, blinking into the
surrounding darkness, before returning her gaze to Natalia.“You’re ice cold.”She pulled off her coat and threw it over
Natalia’s shoulders.“Come along.I’ll see that you find your parents.Come sit in front of the heater.”
followed numbly, wondering what the woman was talking about.She had done what she’d been asked.It was time for her to rest.
"Agent Ross will stop at nothing to track down Krystal and The
Athena Corps.But Ross has been exposed to
the hunters under her command, and Natalia and Brett struggle with what to do
with the information at the same time as they must confront truths about
themselves that have come to light.Meanwhile,
a series of events draws the hunters closer to a confrontation in Japan, where mysterious
experiments could have dire consequences for everyone."