Young officer-in-training Lailani Harris is just trying to survive in a violent world, and survival means following orders… until her conscience will no longer allow it.
After the old government collapsed, the American Republic formed. Prisoners are used as live target practice for trainees such as Lai, and her world is shattered when her cousin ends up at her firing station. Rather than kill her, Lai and her best friend break her cousin out, and all three go on the run as fugitives. Hunted by the government she once served, Lai will learn just how corrupt the country has become. She might have a part to play in changing it, if she can find the courage to grow into the leader she’s meant to be.
“Harris!” the sergeant yelled. “What do you think you are doing?”
Lai looked back to Mel, the only kid still alive on the wall. Mel was breathing heavily, and her forehead was slick with sweat.
Lai forced herself to look her sergeant squarely in the eye and tried to keep her voice from shaking.
“That’s my cousin,” she replied in a weak voice. The other students around her gasped. Jaime stepped up beside her but did nothing more.
“Why didn’t you shoot her?” the sergeant demanded. Lai blinked several times, unsure she had heard correctly.
“She’s my cousin,” Lai said again. She realized she was holding her gun in a death grip and relaxed her fingers.
“That does not mean you are allowed to let this felon live.”
Lai sucked in a sharp breath. She had never heard of this happening before. Even if a family member of a student were on death row, they would never be assigned to that student. No one could be that careless. Perhaps it was because she and Mel were only cousins through marriage and did not share the same last name.
“But—” Lai began, but was quickly cut off by the sergeant.
“I don’t want excuses, Harris. I want that girl dead. You are going to face her and shoot her in the head. That is the exercise.”
“I can’t shoot my own cousin,” Lai cries. Jaime finally spoke up.
“Sergeant, there must have been a mistake. Lai’s cousin shouldn’t have been at her station. She shouldn’t have been assigned to this group at all. She’s in shock. That’s all.”
“I don’t want any excuses from you either, Martinez.”
Jaime took a step back and said nothing more. Lai glanced back to where Mel was still chained to the wall. Her eyes were wild, pleading. She wanted to die about as much as Lai wanted to kill her.
“Harris, I don’t care if she’s your twin sister. If you don’t put a bullet through her head this second, I will put you on kitchen duty for the next year and drop you to a Delta group!”
Lai knew she was serious. Sergeant Washington never put up with anything. Either you did what she instructed or you would find yourself dropped a year in training.
Lai’s hands tightened around her gun again. She turned to face Mel, the girl she had been inseparable from since she moved to the Republic until she had left for training. With shaky hands she lifted her gun and trained it on Mel’s forehead. Mel was crying openly now, and she fought weakly against her bonds. No officer moved to stop her. Lai took a deep breath and allowed herself to think for a short moment.
If she didn’t shoot Mel, someone would. If she didn’t shoot, Mel would die anyway and she would be dropped to a Delta training group for another year of basic training. There was nothing she could do. The logical part of her mind told her to do it. For Mel to be on death row, she had to have done something terrible.
What Oscar had told her floated back to Lai’s mind. That wasn’t necessarily true. She could have stolen a car. She could have hurt someone in a fight. She could have done any number of things that did not call for her life. In that moment, Lai made a decision she knew she could never return from.
In one fluid motion, Lai spun around to face Sergeant Washington and shot the woman in the leg.
About the author: Jordan Gillespie is a young author living in British Columbia, Canada. She is enrolled at the University of Victoria with the hopes of eventually becoming a librarian. She has been writing since she was too young to hold a pencil and had to dictate stories to her mother. When she isn’t writing, Jordan enjoys rock climbing, baking, playing with her pets, spending time with her girlfriend, and losing to her girlfriend’s little brother at Mario Kart. She is a lover of tea, coffee, and any local café where she can buy a good vegan muffin.
Including LGBT characters in her writing is hugely important to her. Young people especially deserve to see themselves represented in a diverse range of genres, and Jordan hopes to add to this body of work with her own writing. She has published three short stories with Harmony Ink Press in their Harmonious Hearts collections, and won the pride month short story contest in June 2019 at the locally owned bookstore Bolen Books. Her favorite genres to read are science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction, and her favorite authors are Ursula K. Le Guin, Madeline Miller, and Neal Shusterman. Accuracy is her first published novel.