Category Archives: Excerpt

FearlessWomen Tour: Book Excerpt: By Fire Above

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About #FearlessWomen:
Women are shining in every genre of speculative fiction, and it is no longer enough to say “Women are here.” Instead, #FearlessWomen everywhere are taking a stand to say “Women will thrive here.”

Highlighting major titles from bestselling authors V.E. Schwab, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jacqueline Carey as well as titles from acclaimed and debut authors such as Mary Robinette Kowal, Tessa Gratton, Sam Hawke, and Robyn Bennis, #FearlessWomen will be a coordinated social media celebration encouraging fans to start a dialogue about women in publishing, their worlds, their voices, and their unique stories.

Tor Books’ handles across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@torbooks) will be using the hashtags #FearlessWomen (and #FearlessFantasy and #FearlessSF) to promote excerpts, exclusive content, quizzes and giveaways beginning in May. There will also be exclusive giveaways at BookCon, San Diego Comic-Con, and New York Comic Con. Follow Tor Books online, join the conversation – and get reading!

By Fire Above Bennis

About BY FIRE ABOVE by Robyn Bennis:
By Fire Above is the rip-roaring new adventure in Robyn Bennis’s Signal Airship military fantasy series that Patricia Briggs hails as “full of sass and terrific characters.”

“All’s fair in love and war,” according to airship captain Josette Dupre, until her hometown of Durum becomes occupied by the enemy and her mother a prisoner of war. Then it becomes, “Nothing’s fair except bombing those Vins to high hell.”

Before she can rescue her town, however, Josette must maneuver her way through the nest of overstuffed vipers that make up Garnia’s military and royal leaders in order to drum up support. The foppish and mostly tolerated Mistral crew member Lord Bernat steps in to advise her, along with his very attractive older brother.

Between noble scheming, under-trained recruits, and supply shortages, Josette and the crew of the Mistral figure out a way to return to Durum—only to discover that when the homefront turns into the frontlines, things are more dangerous than they seem.

About Robyn Bennis:
Robyn Bennis has done research and development involving human gene expression, neural connectomics, cancer diagnostics, rapid flu testing, gene synthesis, genome sequencing, and systems integration.

She wrote most of The Guns Above within sight of Hangar One at Moffett Airfield, which was once the West Coast home to one of America’s largest airships, the USS Macon.
She currently resides in Madison, WI, where she has one cat, two careers, and an apartment full of dreams.

You can find her online at according2robyn.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @According2Robyn.

BY FIRE ABOVE Excerpt –

Roland was still shaking hands with an increasingly flabbergasted Josette, and the look in his eyes told the rest of the story. If only most of her eyebrows hadn’t grown back already, perhaps there might have been a chance he’d be put off by her. In all her life she had surely faced no greater danger than Roland’s interest. The man was boredom brought to life, and that was among the least of his faults.

Roland finally let go of her and offered to carry her baggage and she—the damn fool—accepted. Roland flung the flight bag over his shoulder, assuming the most insidiously casual pose. As they turned to walk off together, Roland flashed a grin at Josette and asked, “I wonder, may I show you the waterfront sometime?”

She was just working up to rejection. Bernat could see it in her face. But then she spotted Bernat emphatically shaking his head, and she grinned. Grinned twice in two seconds, actually, in what might have been a personal best for her: one grin for Bernat and another for Roland.

And no doubt just to spite Bernat, she said to his brother, “I’d like that. When leisure permits.”

FearlessWomen Tour: Book Excerpt: Death Doesn’t Bargain

fearless women banner

About #FearlessWomen:
Women are shining in every genre of speculative fiction, and it is no longer enough to say “Women are here.” Instead, #FearlessWomen everywhere are taking a stand to say “Women will thrive here.”

Highlighting major titles from bestselling authors V.E. Schwab, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jacqueline Carey as well as titles from acclaimed and debut authors such as Mary Robinette Kowal, Tessa Gratton, Sam Hawke, and Robyn Bennis, #FearlessWomen will be a coordinated social media celebration encouraging fans to start a dialogue about women in publishing, their worlds, their voices, and their unique stories.

Tor Books’ handles across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@torbooks) will be using the hashtags #FearlessWomen (and #FearlessFantasy and #FearlessSF) to promote excerpts, exclusive content, quizzes and giveaways beginning in May. There will also be exclusive giveaways at BookCon, San Diego Comic-Con, and New York Comic Con. Follow Tor Books online, join the conversation – and get reading!

Death Doesn't Bargain Kenyon

About DEATH DOESN’T BARGAIN by Sherrilyn Kenyon:

The Deadmen are back…
With DEATH DOESN’T BARGAIN, Kenyon again returns to the pirate ship Sea Witch, where Captain Devyl Bane, and his undead crew have set sail for eternity, searching for forgiveness and salvation. Together, they are humanity’s last hope to restore the gates and return the damned to their hell realms.

Many demons are beginning to break free of their eternal prison and are bent on mankind’s destruction. The worst of the lot is Vine, determined to claim their lives for taking hers. She will see the world burn…and has the perfect lure to destroy them all. One of their own.

Kalder Dupree has never known a day of mercy. Born to the cruelest of mer-races, he sacrificed himself for his crew and is in Vine’s hands. He expects no compassion or rescue.

Yet the young shipmate Cameron Jack is determined to set Kalder free. As a Hellchaser, it’s her calling, and she cannot allow even a not-so-innocent to be tortured for an act of kindness that spared her damnation.

To defeat evil, it sometimes takes an even worse evil, and Cameron is willing to do whatever she must to make this right. If Vine thought she had her hands full before, she hasn’t seen anything nearly as powerful as Cameron’s resolve.

DEATH DOESN’T BARGAIN delivers a sweeping epic saga sure to appeal to the millions of Kenyon’s Dark Hunter fans as well as anyone looking for a page-turning and high-paced adventure. It is a tale of passion and loss, emotions that wound and heal…and ultimate redemption.

About Sherrilyn Kenyon:
Sherrilyn Kenyon is a New York Times bestselling author and is a regular in the #1 spot. This extraordinary author continues to top every genre in which she writes. More than 70 million copies of her books are in print in more than one hundred countries. Her current series include The Dark-Hunters®, The League®, NevermoreTM, Lords of Avalon®, Chronicles of Nick® , and Deadman’s CrossTM. Her Nick ChroniclesTM and Dark-Hunters® are soon to be major media productions.

Visit her online at http://www.sherrilynkenyon.com.

DEATH DOESN’T BARGAIN Excerpt –

Why were they bothering to save a world that seemed hell- bent on remaking itself into the very visage of what they were trying to save it from?

Don’t forget, you’re not fighting for the world right now. . . . True. Right now, she was fighting for the man who’d traded his life for hers. And that one decent, selfless act needed to be repaid in kindness, not treachery.
Kalder deserved to be rescued and not abandoned. She would not do to him what every one else had done.
I will keep me word to you, Kalder. We will find you.

If she had to break hell itself open and battle Lucifer to bring Kalder home, she would.

Book Excerpt and Giveaway: The Brightest Fell

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Excerpt from The Brightest Fell:

one
October 9th, 2013
Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell .—William Shakespeare, Macbeth.

THE FETCH IS ONE of the most feared and least understood figures in Faerie. Their appearance heralds the approach of inescapable death: once the Fetch shows up, there’s nothing that can be done. The mechanism that summons them has never been found, and they’ve always been rare, with only five conclusively identified in the last century. They appear for the supposedly significant—kings and queens, heroes and villains—and they wear the faces of the people they have come to escort into whatever awaits the fae beyond the borders of death. They are temporary, transitory, and terrifying.

My Fetch, who voluntarily goes by “May Daye,” because nothing says “I am a serious and terrible death omen” like having a pun for a name, showed up more than three years ago. She was supposed to foretell my impending doom. Instead, all she managed to foretell was me getting a new roommate. Life can be funny that way.

Continue reading Book Excerpt and Giveaway: The Brightest Fell

Book Excerpt: Bad Girl Gone

Awakening

When I tried to remember exactly how I came to be lying in the cold black room, my mind couldn’t focus.
I could feel myself slowly climbing upward, clawing my way out of the clutches of a nightmare. This was usually a good feeling, because you knew you were just dreaming, and the nightmare was over. Except this time it wasn’t. My hands felt clammy. I gripped the sheets until I knew my knuckles must be white. Help me, I thought. Somebody please help me.

I had no idea where I was, and for a terrifying second I couldn’t even remember who I was. But then I remembered my name. Echo. Echo Stone. My real name is Eileen. When I was a toddler, I waddled around repeating everything my parents said and they called me “Echo,” and it just stuck.

Remembering my name and how I got it kick-started my brain. I knew who I was. I remembered that I was sixteen years old and lived in Kirkland, Washington, with my mom and dad. It was all coming back to me. Mom was a dentist and Dad taught middle school English. Good, I could remember parts of my life. But I was still in a dark, cold room and had no idea how I got there. I held back a scream, my chest tightening. Don’t lose it, Echo, keep it together, I told myself. Calm down, think good thoughts.

I pictured Andy, my boyfriend. Six feet tall, broad shoul- ders, blue eyes, and long golden-brown hair. He loved to feed me cookie bites and called me his rabbit. I called him Wolfie. Sometimes he got the hiccups for no reason at all and usually laughed them away. Thinking of Andy momentarily made me feel warm inside, even though the room was freezing.

Where was I? I was shivering and yet also bathed in sweat, my skin slick with it. I clutched for my trusty Saint Christo- pher necklace. But it wasn’t there. Mom gave it to me to protect me when I traveled. Would it protect me now? I would never have lost it. The chain must have broken. And then I had an ugly thought. What if someone had ripped it from my neck? I shuddered. Where are you, Andy? I need you!

Continue reading Book Excerpt: Bad Girl Gone

Book Excerpt: The Glass Arrow

Excerpt of The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons.

Run.

My breath is sharp as a dagger, stabbing through my throat. It’s all I hear. Whoosh. Whoosh. In and out.

They’re here. The Trackers. They’ve followed Bian from the lowland village where he lives. The fool led them right to us.

The forest I know as well as the lines on my palms is dense and shrouded from the mid-morning light. I keep to the shadows, skirting around the bright open patches where the sunlight streams to the forest floor. My calloused feet fl y over the damp leaves and gray pebbles, keeping me stealthy as a fox.

I run a practiced pattern, just like my ma taught me as a child. A zigzag through the brush and trees. I never run in a line; their horses will catch up too quickly on the straightaway, and they’re not all I have to worry about. I know the Tracker hounds have picked up my scent too, but they’re scroungers, weakened by hunger, and not as nimble as me in these woods. I’m banking on their starving stomachs leading them directly to the bait meat in my hunting snares.

My thoughts jolt to the traps. There are six placed strategically around our camp. I know they’re good because I set them myself, and checked them only this morning.

In my mind I see a Tracker’s heavy black boots clamber over the loose branches, see him fall ten feet down into a muddy hole. Another might trip the spring of the rabbit cage so its razor-sharp teeth bite down through his leather shoe.

Trackers are cunning. But not as cunning as me.

I swing around a stout pine, locking my body in place behind it so that I’m absolutely still. The coarse bark imprints onto the naked skin of my shoulders but I hold my position. That’s when I hear it. The thunder of hoof-beats. A shot pierces the air. Gunfire. Someone yells—a man’s voice, strained, hurting. It’s either one of them or Bian. He’s the only man old enough to make a noise so deep. Tam’s not yet seven, and if he were caught, his cry would be shrill. Childlike.

Tam. I must find Tam and Nina, the twins. They count on me when they’re scared. Though when I conjure them in my mind—Tam’s black hair and button nose, Nina’s ever-watchful eyes—I am the one who’s scared.

I’ve prepared them, I tell myself. I’ve prepared them like my ma prepared me. They know the hiding place—the abandoned wolf’s den in the south woods. An image of it breaks through from my memory: the narrow, shale entrance and damp inner chamber, smelling of mold. The rocky floor lined with the brittle bones of squirrels whose souls have long since passed to Mother Hawk. At first it looks to be a trap in itself, but if you squeeze past the tapering stone walls, the rock gives way to soil, and the twisting roots of an old pine create a ladder to climb upward into sunlit freedom.

Continue reading Book Excerpt: The Glass Arrow

Book Excerpt: Scourge: A Novel of Darkhurst

An Excerpt from Scourge: A Novel of Darkhurst
By Gail Z. Martin
Chapter One

A HEAVY IRON candleholder slammed against the wall, just missing Corran Valmonde’s head.

“Son of a bitch!”

“Try not to make her mad, Corran.”

Rigan Valmonde knelt on the worn floor, drawing a sigil in charcoal, moving as quickly as he dared. Not quickly enough; a piece of firewood spun from the hearth and flew across the room, slamming him in the shoulder hard enough to make him grunt in pain.

“Keep her off me!” he snapped, repairing the smudge in the soot line. Sloppy symbols meant sloppy magic, and that could get someone killed.

“I would if I could see her.” Corran stepped away from the wall, raising his iron sword, putting himself between the fireplace and his brother. His breath misted in the unnaturally cold room and moisture condensed on the wavy glass of the only window.

“Watch where you step.” Rigan worked on the second sigil, widdershins from the soot marking, this one daubed in ochre. “I don’t want to have to do this again.”

A small ceramic bowl careened from the mantle, and, for an instant, Rigan glimpsed a young woman in a blood-soaked dress, one hand clutching her heavily pregnant belly. The other hand slipped right through the bowl, even as the dish hurtled at Rigan’s head. Rigan dove to one side and the bowl smashed against the opposite wall. At the same time, Corran’s sword slashed down through the specter. A howl of rage filled the air as the ghost dissipated.

You have no right to be in my home. The dead woman’s voice echoed in Rigan’s mind.

Get out of my head.

You are a confessor. Hear me!

Not while you’re trying to kill my brother.

“You’d better hurry.” Corran slowly turned, watching for the ghost.

“I can’t rush the ritual.” Rigan tried to shut out the ghost’s voice, focusing on the complex chalk sigil. He reached into a pouch and drew a thin curved line of salt, aconite, and powdered amanita, connecting the first sigil to the second, and the second to the third and fourth, working his way to drawing a complete warded circle.

The ghost materialized without warning on the other side of the line, thrusting a thin arm toward Rigan, her long fingers crabbed into claws, old blood beneath her torn nails. She opened a gash on Rigan’s cheek as he stumbled backward, grabbed a handful of the salt mixture and threw it. The apparition vanished with a wail.

“Corran!” Rigan’s warning came a breath too late as the ghost appeared right behind his brother, and took a swipe with her sharp, filthy nails, clawing Corran’s left shoulder.

He wronged me. He let me die, let my baby die— The voice shrieked in Rigan’s mind.

Continue reading Book Excerpt: Scourge: A Novel of Darkhurst

Hawthorn Moon Guest Post with Gail Z. Martin

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

The Allure of the Outlaw
By Gail Z. Martin

What is it about bad boys, girls who break the rules, and outlaws that hooks us into stories over and over again?

Maybe part of it’s wish fulfillment–a chance to escape the confines of ‘appropriate’ behavior by proxy without fearing the consequences. Perhaps some of it is trying out our rebel wings before we fully commit to burning bridges. Often, it’s just sweet to see the outsider win, the outcast show everyone up, the misfit save the world.

Think about some of the outlaws we love the best: the crew of the Serenity, Captain Jack Harkness, Han Solo, the Winchester Brothers, Butch and Sundance, the Doctor, and even, eventually, the command team of Babylon 5 and many more. They do the right thing, even if it’s in the wrong way, even if their methods don’t fit with what society expects. We wish we had their courage, and sometimes, we do.

In my Chronicles of the Necromancer/Fallen Kings Cycle, we saw a couple of kinds of exiles. Prince Martris (Tris) Drayke became an exile along with his friends when Tris’s half-brother seized the crown and killed the king. Jonmarc Vahanian went on the run after raiders murdered his family and he double-crossed a vyash moru blood mage. Cam and Carina’s father threw them out of their home because of Carina’s magic and the bad luck thought to accompany twins.

The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga finds disgraced lord Blaine McFadden exiled to the Velant prison in the harsh arctic expanse of Edgeland for a murder he doesn’t regret. His circle of close friends–Kestel, Dawe, Piran and Verran–have been sent into exile for their own crimes. When they return to a devastated homeland where even magic no longer works, they find themselves strangers in a hostile land.

Scourge is the first book in my new Darkhurst series for Solaris Books (launching July 15). Undertaker brothers Corran, Rigan and Kell Valmonde become outlaws when they refuse to obey the laws forbidding them from killing the monsters that are murdering friends and neighbors, and that would kill or jail Rigan for his unsanctioned ability with magic. It’s medieval monster hunters in a corrupt and dangerous system. It’s Supernatural meets Game of Thrones.

One of the things I think we like the best about outlaws is that they take risks and defy the powers that be in ways we often wish we could in the real world. They actually tell off the bully, fight against the unfair system, and bring about a rough sort of justice. We cheer for their victories because those wins are so hard to make happen in real life. Watching them win gives us hope, and makes us believe there is a reason to continue resisting.

Sometimes, the heroes we read about inspire us to do the right thing even if society disapproves. Whether it’s standing up for something who is being harassed, voting against laws that unjustly target vulnerable groups, or refusing to go along with an institutionalized injustice, our fictional heroes give us courage to be our better selves. There’s a little bit of outlaw in all of us.

About the Author:
Continue reading Hawthorn Moon Guest Post with Gail Z. Martin

Book Excerpt and Giveaway: Wilders

About Wilders: Coryn Williams has grown up in the megacity of Seacouver, where her every need is provided for—except satisfaction with her life. After her parents’ suicides, her sister Lou fled the city to work on a rewilding crew, restoring lands once driven to the brink of ecological disaster by humans to a more natural state. Finally of age, Coryn leaves the city with her companion robot to look for her sister.

But the outside world is not what she expects—it is rougher and more dangerous, and while some people help her, some resent the city and some covet her most precious resource: her companion robot. As Coryn struggles toward her sister, she uncovers a group of people with a sinister agenda that may endanger Seacouver.

When Coryn does find her sister, Lou has secrets she won’t share. Can Coryn and Lou learn to trust each other in order to discover the truth hidden behind the surface and to save both Seacouver and the rewilded lands?

EXCERPT from Wilders:
Prologue

The city sang a song of humanity. People and their companions sat in rounded robotic cars and talked together as they sped through the city on smart streets. Others rode a nearly infinite variety of wheeled devices on paths that ran by or between roads and through parks. These they variously
pedaled and pushed or simply stood or sat upon. Singles and families alike walked through greenbelts stained orange and red with fall. Many delighted at the controlled chill that pinked their cheeks and the chance to show off their fall wardrobes. Most chose golds and greens and scintillating browns, but others fought the fall with pastel pinks and snowy whites. Some people chatted with other people, while others talked with their companion robots, with their dogs, or with their virtual coaches.
Many people moved less. They dove deep into the wells of themselves, painting and writing and searching for the next great idea, for the key to happiness, for the perfect body, the perfect fashion. Still others traversed the city’s data and pulled out threads of information, suggesting ways to make it even better.
Some walked alone and unhappy. These were left to their own devices as long as they followed the city’s simple rules and did not steal choices from anyone else.
Under the melody of humanity, the heartbeat systems of the city pumped water and waste, created oxygen, and ate extra carbon. The bones and structure started miles away, reporting and then damping extreme weather, controlling wind and rain and gloomy clouds from the snow-streaked
Cascade Mountains to the wild Puget Sound. Automated decision makers in the city filled the air, danced between sensors, and raced through a tangled mesh of fiber optics that infused every street and building.
News packed the city, a glorious cacophony of conversation and facts. The people who owned property or businesses voted on ideas in their neighborhoods, and made change upon change, sometimes to fix problems and sometimes just for fun. This same social experiment filtered through everyone for votes on city leaders and laws.
Greens and blues imbued the city with a natural brightness. Grass lawns covered roofs, some bounded by community orchards of miniature trees no more than five feet tall and festooned with ripening yellow lemons, red apples, and sun-colored apprines. Veins of blue water crisscrossed the city almost like the roads.
A seldom-visible dome of managed air met the ground all around the city; Outside stayed Outside.
People could leave. They could take high-speed sleek hyperloops between cities, which meant never really leaving the protected Inside at all. They could kayak away, walk away, drive away, and even fly away. Even though they could do so, very few people did.
Most who did so never returned.
The very old remembered the times when the barriers between Inside and Outside were naturally permeable, when humans maneuvered cars by themselves, when the great preserves were ripped into being by force as nations everywhere started the great rewilding. But to everyone else, those times were no more than stories, tales of another year, easily dismissed and forgotten.
Those not born to the city had to prove their worth to get in. The tests had become quite difficult to pass as the world inside the cities became more interconnected and quick, more dependent on skills that could only be learned by living them.
Cities held most of the world’s population. Human computing systems, blood and gut bacteria, vitamins and medicines, workouts, and infinite streams of data and entertainment flowed through the city like the milk of a mother’s teat. Objects customized themselves to meet every whim and need of the city’s many inhabitants.
Outside, the great wilding continued like a wrecking ball, encountering resistance from those who had been displaced, stalling in the still-wild weather, or failing, as human and machine alike struggled to comprehend the complexities of biological design and redesign. A dance of chaos and success, of tears and death and rebirth, orchestrated by a combination of NGOs, law enforcement,
scientists, and human workers. Assistance came from robots designed to enforce the rules of wild places, to do the heavy work, the destroying work, and the building work. All of these together culled invasive species and managed native ones, counted bears and cougars and bobcats and coyotes. The loosely federated North American cities funded this effort, in hopes of long-term survival.
As fall prepared to give way to winter, the city appeared to be infinitely stable.

CHAPTER ONE

On the last morning of the easy part of her childhood, fifteen-year old Coryn Williams stood on the top of the Bridge of Stars and watched Puget Sound shiver with winter. From the fenced observation deck, the seawall below looked thin and foreshortened. Whitecaps punctuated the waves, whipped up by a wind Coryn couldn’t detect. She knew what a breeze felt like, but not what wind that could whip creamed froth out of water might feel like. She imagined that it would pull at her skin and blow
her hair around her face and try to force her to move with it.
Paula stood beside her, taller by far, dressed formally in a black uniform with white piping and her sea-blue scarf. She squinted as she took in the view, her smile slight but genuine. Her unblemished skin and perfect features could belong to a model, but instead they showed that she was Coryn’s companion. In spite of her nature, she seemed be genuinely interested in the horizon, the white ferries that plied the choppy water, and the pleasure of standing on top of the highest spot in Seacouver.
Coryn had finished her last assignment of the year this morning and sent it off to be graded. It was good, and better yet it was done. She had written about the great restoration with the help of her older sister, Lou, who had her own rather strong ideas. Coryn had compromised with her on the paper, accepting that the rewilding wasn’t even halfway done but not that progress had stopped and perhaps even fallen backward. Standing here on this bridge, with the vast sound to look out over and, beyond all that water, the white-capped mountains of the peninsula, she was even more sure she had been right: the city would be okay.
The bridge under them had stood since before she was born, the tallest bridge in Seacouver, starting just north of historic Pike Place, curving up and over the city in graceful loops, and landing in West Seattle. Three midspan spiral ramps joined the bridge deck to significant old-Seattle neighborhoods, like ribbons falling onto the city. An artist had designed the Bridge of Stars, a scenic skyway designed for walkers and cyclists and runners.
Lou couldn’t be right. Surely Seacouver would continue forever, or at least for years and years into the future, more years than Coryn would ever see.
Up here, she felt like she could touch the roof of the world. She’d earned this perch; only the fit could get here on their own. Coryn’s thighs still trembled a little from the long climb up on bicycles.
Paula, as always, seemed to understand her unspoken feelings. “You are conflicted. Does it feel good to be finished?”
“Oh, yes!” It did feel good. The paper had been a fight—they’d moved in the middle of it, and all the packing and unpacking, while familiar, took time. Her mother begged her father to move them regularly, as if the next house would be just right.
Coryn had stayed up every night for the last two weeks to finish on time. “I thought it would feel entirely different to be in high school.”
Paula raised an only slightly too-perfect dark eyebrow. “Does it feel different at all?”
“Not really. Now I have two weeks off, and that feels good, but every other year I’ve had two weeks off after finishing up. Maybe they should give us a longer break. After all, high school’s a big deal.”
“Don’t get too full of yourself,” Paula replied. She leaned over the bridge as if contemplating the idea of freedom from gravity. The wind plucked stray strands of dark hair and blew them around while Paula tried in vain to tuck them back into her bun. “Did you know that you always come to
where you can see out of the city when a big thing happens in your life?”
“Do I?”
“You went to the edge of the seawall when you passed elementary school, you rode your bike all the way to the edge and back when Lou went to summer camp in Tacoma, and now you’re way up here, where you can see over and past the entire downtown. Where are you going to go when you finish high school? Space?”
“Silly robot. That would take years of school.” And money they didn’t have. She squinted, wondering if a largish black thing she saw might be a boat. “I’d like to see a whale.”
“They would appear very small from way up here.”
“There was a baby orca born last week. A girl, no less.” Coryn had printed a picture and pasted it on her bathroom wall beside a pic of wild horses running free in eastern Washington, and another one of a twentyfoot-long great white shark off of Guadalupe Island in Baja, California.
“You’re going to be late for your own graduation party.
Coryn didn’t respond. It would drive Paula slightly nuts—it always annoyed her when Coryn refused to do what was expected. But this was her day, not Lou’s. Besides, she wanted to burn the horizon into her memory.
Her mother hated the city, and so Coryn did most of her exploring with Paula. This particular bridge cost credits to access and she couldn’t just come up here any day she wanted. Her mom had given her the money for the trip, bending over her with a sweet smile. “Your first junior-high graduation present,” she’d called it. She had smelled of soap and medicine and unhappiness. But then, Mom always seemed to be unhappy these days. Dad, too. Coryn often felt like she lived in a different world than the one her parents inhabited. What was there to be afraid of, after all? The city
was full of fascinating things, and if she got bored of real life, there were a million virtual worlds. More.
She didn’t really want to go home, not even for a special graduation dinner. Her parents would find some way to ruin the evening.
While Coryn counted ten long, slow breaths, she stared at the joining of sea and sky, at the wind-torn waves, at the far land where Hurricane Ridge had been slammed by its first snowstorm a few days ago. Bits of white still sparkled in the sun, matching the whitecaps, and a pale sky hung
over the entire scene. “I want to watch this forever.”
“We have to go,” Paula insisted. “Your mother will be upset with you.”
Coryn turned to her, a slight spark of anger infusing her voice. “That’s not my fault.”
“Which has nothing to do with anything.”
Coryn stared out over the water, determined to remember the sharp ridges of the Olympic Mountains, the rippling white-caps, and the fascinating, unexpected gardens and pools on top of the biggest buildings. “I can’t wait until I’m eighteen and you can’t tell me what to do any more.”
Paula eyed her with the infinite patience of a companion robot. “Lou will be worried.”
Yes. And Lou would make her party fun. Even though she couldn’t depend on her parents to be in a good mood, she could depend on Lou.
She reluctantly turned away and pulled her AR glasses on. They were required for transportation, even biking. The city saw more clearly through her glasses than she did, always ready to keep her safe. Lines of travel and traffic began to paint themselves in a light wash over the real world, showing the foot and bike traffic on the bridge and, far below, the heavier city traffic. Green for cars, blue for bikes, yellow for peds, red for trains and other mass-transit. She swung her leg over her bike, settled her hands on the grips, and blinked twice to tell the city she was ready to go.
Maybe Lou would be home by now.
She pushed off into an opening in the bike traffic to glide down the long, gentle slope toward the South Seattle streets. The overlays on her vision sparked and changed as she moved, traffic control directing the complex dance of transportation. A blue light blinked to show her Paula had started down as well.
Wheels thrummed and wind pulled her hair back and whipped it against her cheeks. As she neared the bottom, the ramp plunged into the city, housing and stores rising around her as she powered down through skyscrapers.
At the bottom of the bridge she slowed precipitously, barely managing to stay on her bike, cutting it close enough for traffic control to scream in her ear. She frowned, slid right, and almost fell, then headed home at a more dignified pace. Down here in the crowds, the city would notice and record safety risks, and she hated drawing attention.
Fifteen minutes later, she turned onto her family’s current street, Paula right behind her.
Blue and red circles of light stunned her eyes, the primary-school colors of ambulances and police cars. Warnings flashed in her peripheral vision. She squinted and rode forward. The city allowed her through while it detoured others right and left.
As she drew closer to home, a deep dread made her want to stop. She didn’t, but her thighs felt as if she wore stones on her feet instead of neon yellow sports shoes with purple laces.
Cars had chosen to park at odd angles, blocking the street. Men and women and robots in uniforms padded in and out of her house.
Maybe it was just an AR hack.
She ripped the glasses off her face.
Blue and red light washed across her face, forcing her to squint.
Someone spotted her. Lou.
She stood on the sidewalk, shaking, fists balled at her side, her hair wilder than usual, some of it falling over her thin face. Her blue eyes looked bright and wide. Red handprints smeared her shirt.
Coryn’s bike clattered on the street as she raced into her sister’s arms. Lou smelled of blood and fear. She felt like metal in Coryn’s arms, like the unyielding bridge, even though tears ran down her face and fell onto Coryn’s cheeks. Coryn’s breath came fast and she shivered, rooted on the
street, nothing existing in that moment except her sister.
Paula grabbed both of their shoulders and hissed, “Stay here.” She marched straight into the house.
“What happened?” Coryn whispered.
“They . . . they died. Someone killed them, I think. I don’t know. I couldn’t stay. I came into the house and there was blood everywhere and blood on Mom’s face.” Her words stopped as she heaved for breath and clutched Coryn even closer. “Blood on her shirt and everywhere, everywhere,
oh Coryn, it was everywhere. I’ve got it on me.” She pushed Coryn a little away and looked down. “And now you’ve got it on you, on your shirt; we’re stained with it.”
Lou was still seventeen. In a few months she would be an adult. Lou’s head rested on top of Coryn’s and Coryn’s arms circled her lower waist, her fingers running along Lou’s backbone.
Coryn watched the crowd seethe with uniforms and onlookers. When Paula finally came back outside, she wore one of her strict robotic expressions. It was the same one she used when she was furious with Coryn or Lou. “You can’t go in. I’ll take you up on the roof, and we’ll get some food, and we’ll wait together. The police will come find us as soon as they can.”
Coryn didn’t want to see whatever Lou had seen. Lou never came undone like this, never lost it, never cried. As frightened as she was about her parents, seeing Lou cracked into pieces was . . . impossible.
Lou always led. Always. Except now Lou trudged behind Paula with her head down, shoulders drooping, one hand holding Coryn’s loosely.
Paula drove them slowly and inexorably through the gathering crowd and away from the sirens. She took them into the apartment building next door to theirs and up the elevators to the roof. She had them move like they had when the girls were little, all in a line: Lou in front, then Coryn, then Paula watching over them both.
Lou sobbed and sobbed, blowing her nose. Still, she led them carefully through the patio tables. Coryn tripped on a table-leg and Paula caught her halfway down, a graceful arm appearing for Coryn to grasp onto before she landed in a flowerbed. A short bridge joined two rooftops. As they crossed it, Coryn looked down to where the revolving colored lights illuminated the gathering crowds and saw her bicycle on the ground, unlocked and orphaned. She had a sudden urge to turn around and put it away.
A few of their neighbors had come up onto the roof as well, people Coryn recognized but didn’t know well. One couple got up as if planning to speak to them, but Paula blocked them, murmuring soothing words.
The robot directed the girls to a table in the middle of the roof and they sat silently.
A faraway look came over Paula, her eyes fastening on the horizon, or maybe on the thin ribbon of bridge far above them. Coryn knew the look; Paula was getting a lot of information and processing it. She’d notice if her charges left, or any kind of danger approached, but she probably wouldn’t demand anything from Coryn and Lou for a few minutes.
Lou looked even more lost in thought than the robot. A cat worked its way over to the girls, rubbing up against them both and head-butting Lou until Lou dropped her death-grip on Paula’s hand and touched the cat’s cheek. The cat stayed near them for a long time, circling and then stopping for pets and then circling them again. Its wide, golden eyes matched the brown and gold stripes on its tail and forelegs and contrasted with the brown fur that felt like silk under Coryn’s fingers.
“Be careful,” Paula admonished them. “That’s got to be someone’s pet gene mod.”
“Why?” Lou asked.
“It’s too perfect,” Paula said.
“Like you?” Coryn shot back, immediately regretting it.
“Of course.”
She didn’t call for an apology the way she usually did, but Coryn gave her one anyway. “I’m sorry, silly robot.” She had to work hard to get the word through her thick throat.
Paula smiled in approval and watched the girls entertain themselves with the cat until it appeared to get bored and walked off.
Even though she hadn’t known the cat, she felt bereft as it walked away and left them alone. They were lost. Alone. Everything had just changed.
Eventually, two policewomen made their way carefully through the crowded rooftop, one for each girl. The youngest one knelt by Coryn, a beautiful woman with the dark eyes and the old-amber complexion of an East Indian. “Hello,” she said in a honey-soft voice, a sad voice, “I’m Mara.” She knelt down so her eyes were even with Coryn’s. “You know that something happened to your parents?”
“They’re dead,” Coryn saw no reason to pretend she didn’t know. She’d known since she saw the blood on Lou’s shirt.
The policewoman’s eyes softened, and she bent her head and made notes on her slate.
“Why did they die?” Coryn asked.
“Do you mean how?” Mara asked.
She already knew that. Lou had told her they were killed. But they were just normal people, and that shouldn’t have happened. “No. I want to know why.”
Mara shook her lovely head; her thick, dark hair swished back and forth across her navy-blue uniform. She took Coryn’s hands in hers. Her long nails were painted a bright pink, and the little finger and the thumb on her right hand had started chipping.
Everything Coryn could see looked like that, colorful and crisp. The street lights shone unusually bright, with pale haloes around them. The cat stood on the edge of the roof, flicking its long tail back and forth. The beer in a nearby glass glowed yellow-orange.
Her parents were dead.
Mara reached for her, but Coryn turned away. Paula stood right behind her, opening her arms. Coryn leapt up into them. She gave the robot her weight as if she were still a small child, clutching Paula as if her life depended on it. She buried her head in the robot’s soft shoulder and
squeezed her eyes shut.
If only they were back on top of the bridge, with the wind blowing beyond them and the possibility of a whale.

(Published with permission from Prometheus Books 2017)
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