EXCERPT: Crimson Mage

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Author: Dorothy Dreyer

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy/Dystopian

Copyright 2018 © Dorothy Dreyer

Chapter One

Mayhara swore that if her ComLinq buzzed one more time, she'd hurl it through her computer monitor. Her fingers danced near the device, itching to grab it if it dared to make another sound. She inhaled deeply, cautioning herself to calm down.

Breathe in for four seconds. Hold for seven. Calmly exhale for eight.

She knew she wouldn't actually chuck the device; not only would she probably lose her job, but it would take forever to set up a new ComLinq, especially since she hadn't backed up her data for at least a month. Plus, it was unlike her to lose her cool like that. No. If Rajev sent her another message, she would simply remove him from her contacts-which she should have done the moment she found out he'd logged into her bank account and transferred a thousand of her merits to his account. She didn't need to see another apology message or another excuse that he'd simply been borrowing the credit. She didn't believe him, and she couldn't trust him. No matter how many times he told her he loved her. Still, though she was quick to change her banking passwords, she hadn't yet blocked him from her Linq.

Breathe in for four seconds. Hold for seven. Calmly exhale for eight.

She was fooling herself if she thought she could actually hold her breath for seven seconds. Instead of the usual four-seven-eight, she opted for her more realistic four-five-six.

Cringing, she ignored the slight burn in her chest, refusing to believe it was heartache. Rajev wasn't worth it. It was probably just the curry she had for lunch. She took a sip of her bottled water and punched in the numbers for the next file she needed to process. She may have been down a thousand merits in her bank account, but she'd be damned if her stupid boyfriend-ex-boyfriend, actually-would cause her to fall behind in her work.

As the names and numbers on her screen began to blur in her vision, Mayhara took another slow, deep breath. She closed her eyes, calling upon the meditation technique she learned when she was training back in the mage academy-the very academy the government all but forced her to forget about. She cringed at the heartbreaking memory of the academy's shutdown, the brutal invasion of the government forces, the outrageous law that announced that mages were now outlawed. The system that stripped her of her identity. The only reason she was sitting at this desk doing government work rather than sitting in a prison camp starving to death was because she had agreed to give up chakra magic and become a pawn on the New Asian Administration's side of the law. And she had only done that to assure the safety of her family.

Her fingers immediately went to the back of her neck, feeling the small scar that was left when the government implanted their blocking device. That's what they called it-a blocking device-but it didn't actually block mage powers at all. Instead, upon detecting mage powers being used, the device sent shockwaves of painful electricity to the implantee's nerve endings, causing enough pain that the mage would cease using their powers.

Cut it out. You've got work to do.

She opened her eyes and shook off the memory. There was nothing she could do about her old life now. She had no choice but to move forward. She had a nice flat in the upper end of New Jaipur-one of the most sought-after places to live after the chaos of the East Asian Unification-she made a generous salary, and her two-year probationary job trial was almost complete, meaning she would soon secure an official position at the Citizen Census Processing Centre. All this at the age of nineteen, not every young woman in New United Asia was this lucky.

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