Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz are excited that their Second Book of Ore novel, Waybound, is now available from Disney-Hyperion! To celebrate, here is an excerpt from the first volume of the trilogy, The Foundry’s Edge. Take a look!
The day was worse than Phoebe had anticipated. Normally, she could endure Miss Castella’s annoying enthusiasm for punctuation, she could even stomach Mr. Pomeroy’s wretched frog-puke breath. But not today. Every class was like being trapped in a sauna. The renovations on the building were causing the air-cooling units to fail, which meant long stretches of sweltering muck interspersed with rare bursts of heavenly breeze.
They wheeled a bunch of brand new Flurrys into every classroom, but even the Foundry’s top-of-the line fans, chrome devices built to resemble spinning snowflakes, did little more than stir the air like a hot, boring soup.
As the end of the day oozed closer, Phoebe shuffled down one of the gleaming remodeled hallways toward Mrs. V ondell’s dreaded history class. She saw a boisterous group of girls and locked her eyes on the ground. Two or more geese were called a gaggle, she knew, but what was the term for two or more shallow, stuck-up, catty know-it-alls? A squall? A shriek?
Yeah, that sounded about right.
She wove through the crowd and snuck past the shriek of snots, hoping to go unnoticed. No such luck.
“Seriously, that can’t be for real.”
“I would just shave my head if I were her.”
“Was it cut by a drunk?”
“More like a blind man.”
This last dig came from Candice, and it stung the worst.
Back when they were kids, Phoebe and Candice had been inseparable. But when Phoebe needed her best friend most of all, Candice had abandoned her as if she thought tragedy was contagious or something.
Phoebe’s breath felt fiery in her nostrils, and her face tingled with humiliation and outrage. She raked a hand through her butchered hair and fussed with its ragged, uneven edge.
She strode into Mrs. Vondell’s classroom and flopped into her chair by the window, more irritated than ever that she had to sit directly behind Candice. As the waddling hippo that was Mrs. Vondell began her history lesson, Phoebe envisioned all the terrible accidents that might befall her ex–best friend.
Perhaps the workers would hit a weak spot in the roof, and the ceiling would collapse on her. Or maybe Candice’s necklace would get caught in the blades of a Flurry. But between the sweaty classroom and Mrs. Vondell’s monotonous voice dripping in her ear like a drug, Phoebe’s mind drifted.
“That’s correct. By 1646, the Alloy War had been going for sixteen years, claiming over thirty million lives,” Mrs. Vondell droned, her multiple chins wagging to and fro. “And on October twelfth of that year, Meridian brought about a cease-fire by introducing . . . the what?”
Nobody raised a hand, but Mrs. Vondell carried on as if she hadn’t noticed the class’s profound disinterest. She turned back to the enameled metal whiteboard, angling her ample rump to the class, and wrote the answer.
“The Ferro-nomic Treaty, which finally permitted international trade of Foundry goods. A free market emerged for the other nations of the world, who lacked our spirit of innovation.”
Phoebe’s eyelids were heavy. She knew Mrs. Vondell expected her students to regurgitate all this stuff word for word on the test, but the day was nearly at an end.
Candice’s muffled snort of laughter snapped Phoebe awake. She stared at the nauseating waves of perfect blond hair that that cascaded down Candice’s back. The girl tittered at some private joke and flung her locks with a showy toss of her head. A handful of her curls spilled across the frame of the open window.
And an immensely satisfying snipe sprang to her mind.
“The global distribution of Albright’s countless advancements in technology, manufacturing, and transportation resulted in major cultural and economic shifts. Greinadoren, Moalao, and the other primitive nations saw substantial improvements to their quality of life. But most importantly, Meridian became the most powerful country in the world. Now, can anyone tell me . . .”
There were only a few minutes left until the bell would free her from Vondell torture. She had to act fast.
Soft as a whisper, Phoebe eased the window sash closed on Candice’s golden hair. She withdrew a paper clip from one of her skirt pockets, wedged it in the window mechanism, and twisted the wire around the knob to jam it. Candice was too engrossed in gossip to notice.
Phoebe wouldn’t be the only one with an uneven haircut.
Satisfied, she prepared to bolt at the sound of the bell and glanced out the window to see if Tennyson had arrived.
Her breath lodged in her throat.
Beyond the workers’ scaffolding and construction tarps wafting in the sea breeze, she saw the stranger in the bowler hat. His tailored black suit hugged his broad barrel chest, and he wore crisp white gloves on large hands. Gleaming steel trim lined his lapels and the soles of his shoes. He stood eerily still, the waxy tint of his skin making him look like a statue that might melt in the sun. His stout, gently curled mustache looked like a joyless smile, which made his appearance all the more disturbing.
Even through his impenetrable black spectacles, she could feel his stare.
The sudden clang of the school bell propelled Phoebe from her seat. She snatched her book bag and was halfway down the hall before she heard Candice squawk behind her. Phoebe imagined Mrs. Vondell being forced to cut the girl loose with a pair of dull scissors.
She slowed as a swarm of students poured out of classrooms and toward the front doors. Normally, she would have escaped Fort Beatrice at full speed to avoid the mob, but seeing the stranger out front made her hesitate. That morning, she had felt certain that he was a bodyguard hired to protect her. Now she was not so sure.
If he was an ally, why did his glare feel so invasive, like he was impaling her with a mere look?
Phoebe flattened up against the lockers to avoid students storming past and considered another route out of the building. She slipped down a stuffy side hall that was shrouded in drop cloths and loud with the screech of power tools. A custodian shuffled out of a classroom hauling a heavy trash bag to the incinerator. The moment his back was to her, she dashed through the door he had left open.
A humid breeze drifted in from an open window that overlooked the athletic fields behind the Academy—away from the waiting stranger. She heard the shouts of kids playing outside and scanned the grounds to make sure no one was watching. Content that the coast was clear, she hopped up on the windowsill, swung her legs over, and dropped into the bushes below.
It was farther than Phoebe anticipated, but the hedge cushioned her fall. The mellow hush of ocean breeze tempered the brutal heat of the afternoon. It was such a relief to escape that stuffy old building.
From the bushes, Phoebe watched her classmates frolic, their lively Trinkas dancing in a colorful stir. Boys from the nearby prep school had gathered as well, pretending to ignore the girls but showing off nonetheless. Six of them were playing a frantic game of Springchuck, bouncing the coconut-sized copper gyroscope. You were supposed to catch the thing, perform some feat of agility, and then hurl it back into the circle of players. The gadget shot out at random, so it was impossible to predict where it would go, which was supposed to be half of the fun.
The older boys raced their Cable Bikes across the lawn toward a nearby hub. At the umbrella-shaped brass booth, they latched their Bikes on to the ascension line and zipped off overhead. The boys chased each other along the crisscrossed Link-Way high above, doing dangerous stunts as they switched their Bikes from wire to wire, to the giggling delight of the girls below.
Phoebe crept through the shrubs and made her way around the side of Fort Beatrice. A long line of Auto-mobiles parked in the driveway came into view, and she could make out Tennyson leaning against the Baronet, his arms folded disapprovingly.
And there was the stranger.
He had positioned himself between the chauffeur and the front doors of the Academy, as dark and unmoving as an inkblot. She considered trying to signal to Tennyson, but it was no use. He would not understand the need for discretion, and there was no way to get his attention without the stranger seeing as well.
The chauffeur mopped his brow and scowled at his watch. She knew exactly what he was thinking. Phoebe had a habit of ditching her driver in order to take the Zip Trolley home.
How long would Tennyson wait before giving up on her?
She couldn’t stick around to find out.
Phoebe broke into a jog and cut across the athletic fields. The wind brushed against her damp skin as she ran, waking her body after the long, dreary day. She made her way to the edge of the grounds and passed under the row of elms that bordered the Academy.
She found herself on a residential street lined by brandnew tin-plated town houses with tall trapezoid windows. The symmetrical buildings were so alike that Phoebe wondered how the residents ever managed to find their way home. She crossed an intersection and headed up a street bustling with fashionable pedestrians. Phoebe dug into her book bag, withdrew her hat, and popped it on, activating its metal feather ornament with a flagrant swish. She was headed to the Zip Trolley stop on Illacci Hill, one of the classier shopping districts in Albright City, so she had to look the part.
The afternoon sun lit up the glass storefronts like a kaleidoscope. The bluster of Auto traffic filled the air, and the glittering gold sidewalks looked like fashion runways. Waves of city folk towered over Phoebe and broke around her like the tide, their shopping bags sizzling with brand-new purchases.
She didn’t like crowds but found it easy to get lost in the shuffle. No one even noticed the scrawny twelve-year-old girl in the ratty skirt.
The window displays drew her eye. A glamorous hat store showed a lively beach scene populated by bronze mannequins in the latest summer fashions. There were sweeping striated sun hats that could retract to the size of a pillbox and adorable silver bathing caps with goggles that popped out when they got wet. At another store, she admired a pair of Scopers, sandals with heels that could extend to make you look taller. Not that Phoebe needed any help in that department.
She wove between the throngs of refined pedestrians and made her way to the gadgetariums farther up the hill. One novelty shop advertised the FroYoYo, a peach-colored yo-yo made of tin that (for some reason unclear to Phoebe) doubled as a frozen yogurt dispenser. The next store sold household luxury items, including Sleeksweeps and the Kinetik Komforts series, scalp and body massagers that resembled gyrating chrome spiders.
A Foundry truck with tank treads covering its back wheels was parked in the street. The cargo bed was segmented with overlapping steel plates, and its gate was open like an invitation.
She approached, dying to know what was inside. Probably the premiere of a brand-new product, something unbelievable that would be—
Phoebe couldn’t believe her eyes. She stared at the reflection in the truck’s polished chrome bumper.
The stranger was behind her.
He was running at top speed, his long strides unwavering as if climbing the hill required no more effort than breathing. There was no longer any question. He was after her.
A shock of adrenaline rippled through her limbs. She ran with no destination, past pedestrians and across streets, heedless of the honking Auto-mobiles. She wanted to look back but didn’t dare.
Halfway up the block she skidded right, and then dashed into the alley between a department store and a hotel. Her footfalls echoed and multiplied in the narrow passage.
Or were those his steps pounding closer and closer?
The skyscrapers rose around her like the bars of a s ilver cage. She burst onto Fourth Street in the center of the Financial District. The shadows were growing long and the buildings shone with the fierce amber glow of sunset. The sidewalks were even more crowded here, and she weaved between the masses, hoping they would conceal her.
The city had lost its comforting hum. Now everything was amplified and aggressive—horns shrieked, jackhammers roared. Phoebe thought she heard her name murmured in snatches of passing conversations, and her heartbeat thundered in her throat.
She shot down an alley and slammed against a wall to catch her breath, her lungs wheezing and straining for air. Her eyes couldn’t focus, she was dripping with sweat, and her legs burned. Feeling light-headed, she peeled off her hat, savoring the chill that swept over her drenched hair.
Phoebe was not at all accustomed to this kind of exertion. Walking was okay—she loved to explore the city. But running? Long ago, she had talked her father into getting a doctor’s note to permanently excuse her from gym, some fabrication about weak knees or something. Ever since then, she had avoided anything that might cause her to break a sweat.
What was she supposed to do now?
The chirp of the Zip Trolley sang out. It was like the call of a long-lost friend. This was her chance. She closed her eyes and tried to visualize where she was in relation to it.
The sound of metal-soled shoes.
Phoebe peeked around the corner.
He was coming.
Her hat slipped from her fingers.
The sunset careening off the Crest of Dawn nearly blinded her when she spilled out of the alley. Disoriented, rushing down a street she didn’t recognize, all she could do was chase the sound of the trolley whistle. She crashed into a vendor selling limeade Fizzies as she bolted onto a narrow walkway between towering black buildings.
Phoebe burst out onto Illacci Hill again, and there it was. The sight of the Zip Trolley with its bulbous facade and round, sparkling windows filled her with elation. It was just starting to roll away. She pumped her legs like a locomotive to catch up. Her heart felt like it was going to explode.
She reached out and snatched the back railing, feeling the deep vibration of the electric engine through her palm. Phoebe hauled herself aboard just in time to see the stranger rushing at her from the opposite side of the street.
Impossible. He had been behind her only moments ago. How could he have gotten over to the other side? It was as if he were everywhere at once.
The stranger jogged for a bit before giving up the chase, his eyes never leaving her. She heaved a rattling sigh of relief as the Zip Trolley whizzed away, her body trembling from exhaustion. No matter how fast he was, there was no way he would be able to catch up on foot.
Yet as the trolley sped over the hill and his black-hole stare vanished from sight, she had a feeling the stranger would not give up so easily.
Excerpted from THE FOUNDRY’S EDGE © Copyright 2014 by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz. Reprinted with permission by the publisher. All rights reserved.
About The Foundry’s Edge (The First Book of Ore):
For Phoebe Plumm, life in affluent Meridian revolves around trading pranks with irksome servant Micah Tanner, and waiting for her world-renowned father, Dr. Jules Plumm, to return home. Chief engineer for The Foundry, a global corporation with an absolute monopoly on metal production and technology, Phoebe’s father is often absent for months at a time. But when a sudden and unexpected reunion leads to father and daughter being abducted, Phoebe and would-be rescuer Micah find themselves stranded in a stunning yet volatile world of living metal-one that has been ruthlessly plundered by The Foundry for centuries and is the secret source of every comfort and innovation the two refugees have ever known.
About Waybound (The Second Book of Ore):
Phoebe Plumm and Micah Tanner are a long way from home and entrenched in a struggle with no end in sight. The Foundry, an all-powerful company that profits off the living metal creatures of Mehk, is unleashing a wave of devastating attacks to crush the rebel army of mehkans known as the Covenant and capture Phoebe and Micah, dead or alive. But the Covenant believes that their ancient god, Makina, has chosen Phoebe for a sacred task: to seek the Occulyth, a mysterious object they hope can turn the tide against the Foundry. With her father gone, Phoebe’s once unshakable determination is broken, and while Micah tries to uphold the vow he made to protect her no matter the cost, their enemies are closing in and time is running out.
About the Authors:
Cam Baity is an Emmy Award winning animator, and his short films have screened around the world, including at Anima Mundi in Brazil and the BBC British Short Film Festival. His credits include major motion pictures like Team America: World Police and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, and popular television shows such as Robot Chicken and Supermansion.
Benny Zelkowicz studied animation at CalArts and made the award winning film, The ErlKing. He directed and starred in the BBC/CBC animated series Lunar Jim, and worked on The LEGO Movie as well as several TV shows including Robot Chicken and Moral Orel.
Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion, I have a copy of The Second Book of Ore: Waybound by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz for one (1) lucky winner!
Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends May 13. I’ll draw a name on May 14, and notify winner via email.
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