MENTOR: Sarah Nicolas
MENTEE: Amanda Klase
CATEGORY/GENRE: YA Weird Western
WORD COUNT: 106,000
Teenage mercenary Cervena vows to give up killing after she triggers a brutal, uncontrollable superpower. When her warlord grandfather schemes to keep her on the battlefield, she flees to the Free West, a bizarre and treacherous land, in search of a cure.
Throwing a fight is easier than winning one. At least that’s what I thought before this match began. Midway into the first round, I’m battered, bruised and beginning to have my doubts.
As the half-point bell clangs, someone screams my name. “Cervena! Come on Champ, move your ass!”
Instead, I shift my weight to give my opponent an opening. Alik Chernikov takes it, landing his trademark right hook into my abdomen. Nothing happens. Until I try to breathe. I can’t. Blood rushes in my ears, throwing me off balance as I gasp for air. Doubling over, I remind myself it’s only my diaphragm spasming. My breath’s not gone. Just misplaced.
Still, I’m vulnerable. Alik should finish this. Instead, he dances away, pumping his fists, and waving at my fans as they heckle him from the stands. When I look at the crowd, a sea of angry faces stares back. Snarls of activity swirl as people pushing for better views break into fistfights.
No one likes to see their champions beaten so soundly. The mercenaries of Clan Gavilán seem to like it less than most. But Alik’s not going to settle for a simple win. He wants to annihilate me.
Not that I blame him.
I raise my fists. He makes a show of slouching down, guard held loose like I’m no more threat than a little kid learning to throw her first jabs. I know he’s just trying to piss me off. Doesn’t mean it’s not working. What kind of moron tries to infuriate an Amp during a fight?