Phantom Assassin

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Chapter 09

After three hours, Trace could move. His wounds closed rather quickly, crusted over with blood. His eyes felt weird in his head, like they weren’t his own.

He sat up on his elbows and sighed when he saw Hailey curled up next to him, sleeping. For a frightening killer, her soft side was pretty unusual.

“Hey,” Trace poked her shoulder gently and she shot straight up, eyes wide.

“You can move now?” She yawned, stretching her arms high over her head. “That’s good. I’ll report to the team they can head back.”

As if Trace didn’t know the team members were waiting, he sat straight and alert.

Hailey pulled her glove off, lifted her hand to her mouth, and spoke out onto her palm. “Members of WP7 can return to Phantom. Trace has completed his Tool Training.”

“Gotcha Hailey. Meet you back at Phantom,” Dereck’s voice echoed from her palm and she pulled her glove back onto her hand.

Trace stared at her like she was a foreign creature. She gave him a sympathetic smile.

“I don’t have two working hands, either. So I had a transmitter built into my prosthetic hand,” Hailey explained, a sad ring in her tone. She sighed and patted her knee, standing up. A smile found its way onto her face, but it seemed sad and deformed. She was forcing herself.

“I’m sorry,” Trace tried, lifting his metal hand from the ground. He shoved the heel into his wrist and a million needles sliced through his skin, making sure he wouldn’t lose it again. He let out a short yelp.

“Yeah, get used to that, Trace,” Hailey chuckled. Then, clearing her throat, she ordered Trace to stand up. He did so obediently, lifting his sword in his real hand. The cool metal sent shivers down his spine, but it gave him a strange sense of power and pride. It felt good.

Hailey lifted her hand to her Modifier and zapped away in less than a second. Trace did so, too.

In the void, he didn’t feel like he was alone. He felt like he had a chance. He felt like he was finally filling a hole in his heart, somehow.

And that caused him to smile.

Dropping into his team’s dorm, he smiled at the members. Shallomar smiled sweetly at him and lifted her left sleeve. In turn, the rest of the members did so as well. Each arm had a scar from where Hailey’s scythe had pierced their skin. And each insignia was different in their own way.

Dereck’s was a design of smokey-looking clouds. Shallomar’s was red butterflies with sharp, crimson-tipped wings. Peter’s was an array of sharks and minnows. Isaac’s was a bunch of dark black and red dragons. Hailey’s was a pack of brown, black, and white wolves running up to her shoulder.

Trace lifted his sleeve and his breath caught in his mouth. The flames were tipped crimson, now. Not plain black, but fiery and sharp.

“Whoa, cool!” Isaac laughed excitedly, reaching out to touch Trace’s arm. His awkward coldness made Trace flinch, but then Trace’s insignia switched back to black, heating him up.

“What-” Trace stopped short of his sentence because the people around him belted out in mocking laughter.

“Your insignia reacts to what your body wants. Depending on the situation, it will react in different ways. You found Isaac’s fingers cold, so your insignia heated you up. Without your insignia, you don’t have a Tool, WP7 vision, or a basic life source,” Dereck explained, touching the curls of smoke going up his arm.

“Your insignia is really cool, Trace,” Isaac admired, still stroking his arm. “You know, they say that certain insignias reflect their host’s actual personality. Which also gives you a hit of who you were before your memories were erased.”

Trace thought about the possibility and then thought it preposterous. A fiery personality? A hot personality? It almost made him laugh.

“Trace, we don’t have a mission today, so you can experiment with your Tool and figure out what special properties it possesses,” Hailey suggested, pulling her sleeve back down. The rest, like lemmings, pulled their sleeves down too.

“I can train with him,” Shallomar volunteered, raising her hand childishly.

Hailey smiled at her and nodded. “Sure, Shallomar. But first, we need to tell Trace about the eyesight.” She turned to Trace. “Activate your scan feature, Trace. We can’t see each other’s faces unless we all activate them. You must’ve shut yours off when you teleported.”

Trace lifted his hand behind his neck and touched the disc softly. The faces of his comrades came into focus, red-eyed and smiling.

“Whoa,” Isaac backed up a few feet and excitement spread across his face. “Your eyes are really weird!”

“Weird?” Trace laughed. He glanced at Hailey and saw her mouth twitch nervously.

“Yeah, they’re not red, like ours,” Isaac said in awe, reaching out as if he was going to touch Trace’s eyes. He reconsidering and coiled back to Shallomar, who steadied his shaking shoulders.

“It’s okay, Isaac. He doesn’t know about his predator partner yet,” Hailey whispered reassuringly, smiling back at the scared boy.

“What?” Trace blinked, confused.

Hailey turned to him and offered a sympathetic smirk. “The guy that took both your hand, and your family from you.”

Trace unconsciously reached down to his robotic hand and brushed his fingertips along the soft metal. He shivered slightly.

“So what does my ‘predator partner’ have to do with my eye color?” Trace asked, leaning on the bunk bed ladder.

Hailey hesitated, glancing at the members of the group, all of their eyes glowing red.

“Sit, Trace,” Hailey ordered him, not looking directly at him.

He obeyed, slightly annoyed.

“There are fifteen squads in Phantom, each with their own Tools, insignias, and predator partners. In Wolf Pack Seven, our insignia is a sleeve-tattoo illusion. Our eyes are red for keen vision and so that we are distinguished as WP7,” she explained, gesturing to her arm and eyes.

“So,” she continued, sighing. “You don’t have red eyes, like my Tool was supposed to deliver. Instead, they’re...”

Trace blinked a few times and furrowed his brow. What exactly was she babbling about?

“Purple,” Hailey sighed again. She lifted her gaze to Trace and stared him directly in the eye, smiling. “It’s not a bad thing, but it means we can’t help you with your predator partner. All of ours are ideally the same, and we don’t have a clue what yours could end up doing.”

“What’s a ‘predator partner’ or whatever?” Trace asked, slightly aggravated.

Hailey laughed. Dereck rested a hand over her shoulder. “Trace, you seriously don’t hear the killer intention trying to free itself from your soul?”

“Killer... intention?”

Suddenly, his heartbeat sped up rapidly. He definitely felt something clawing at his lungs.

“Finally. Took it long enough,” Hailey rested her hand under her chin and pursed her lips.

Trace burst out in sudden laughter, and he wasn’t Trace anymore. His hair switched from dark brown to bleach-white and the bright purple took over the whites of his eyes. His cloak switched from black to silver and red.

“Finally,” the voice that wasn’t his own crept out. It was hoarse, testing his vocal chords. “He couldn’t hold me in forever.”

Trace was trapped under his own skin, not in control of this strange being possessing him.

“What’s your name?” Hailey asked casually, yawning.

“I’m Mylo, Trace’s predatorial partner,” the voice was more fluid now, but it was still rough and threatening.

“Ah, I see. Well we aren’t on a mission at the moment, so we’ll prune Trace for when he needs you for real combat,” Hailey waved away. Her calm demeanor was polar opposite to her actual emotions. Somehow, Trace’s old identity had found a way out… or a hybrid of his old self, at the very least.

Mylo popped his knuckles by simply squeezing his fist.

“Whatever. This lame host body wouldn’t be able to control my spiritual power, anyway,” Mylo rolled his eyes, now plain black irises, and sighed. Then, saluting, he retreated back into the depths of Trace’s soul.

“Hm, it may be a bit difficult to tame a predatorial partner, but not impossible,” Dereck acknowledged, pecking Hailey on the cheek. She smiled at him and then stared at Trace’s immobile body.

“Snap out of it, Trace. You’re back in your own body. No need to panic,” Hailey laughed.

“No need to panic?! What garbage are you spouting?!” Trace spat, shooting up from the chair he was sitting in. “Who the heck was that? My so-called ‘predator partner’ trash?!”

Hailey smiled. “Yes. And I’m sure he would feel very violated if you said that to him.”

“How could I communicate with him, anyway? What if next time he decides to take over my body entirely and never go back?” Trace rambled, scratching his head. His hair was back to its normal color.

“That won’t happen if you’re trained to control him properly,” Isaac butted in. “And when you can assassinate victims quickly and expertly, you can have your predator partner take over your Modifier, where he will filter out orders from Phantom.”

“That was what you meant by ‘getting to know your Modifier’ or whatever?” Trace mumbled. Hailey laughed at his stupidity and stood up.

“Exactly. But don’t think too much about it. It’ll fry your brain,” she giggled, sticking her tongue out childishly. Then she sighed and stared at him. “It’s only after lunch. Why don’t you train with Shallomar? She’s one of our junior members, so I’m sure she’ll be an equal match.”

“Can I eat anything first?” Trace asked, realizing the sudden burst of hunger attacking his stomach.

“No, Trace. Most of the time you won’t be able to eat. On very few occasions, you will make it to breakfast,” Dereck laughed, patting his flat stomach.

Trace gulped back a sigh.

“Hey,” Shallomar appeared in front of him with a smile. “If we don’t hurry, you won’t have enough time to improve on anything.”

Trace nodded hesitantly and then looked at the members, each smiling at him. Shallomar grabbed his arm and pulled him out the door.

“Why don’t we just teleport to wherever you’re going?” Trace asked, confused.

“Because you won’t be able to get there unless you’re going on foot the whole way through,” Shallomar stated simply, dragging Trace across the empty hallway.

She opened a door near the end of the hallway and locked it once they were inside. It was pitch black, and she never flicked the light on. Trace’s heart jumped to his throat.

The blade stopped when it pierced a millimeter into his neck.

“Aw, that’s no fun,” Shallomar pouted, retreating the knife.

Warm, slick blood trickled down Trace’s neck, sending cold streaks through his veins.

“Well, no matter. Come at me with all you’ve got.” Her voice seemed to come from everywhere.

Trace clumsily retrieved the only weapon in reach. His Tool.

If only he knew there was a way he could draw out the power it possessed...

His insignia lit his body up like a fire catching flame.

The sword sparkled purple.

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