Next week brings the summer solstice, official calendar start to the season. Whether you prefer books by the pool or under the air conditioning, I’m offering a free addition to your summer reading list. Transient Phenomena, the first installment of my Syzygy hexalogy, will be free to download on Amazon Kindle this weekend. Fans of science fiction, YA books, and page-turning adventure stories get a last chance to start the series for free before Part IV, Escape Velocity, releases on June 27. If you were worried about a boring few months, take a summer vacation to the not-so-distant future…
When they crawled back out to the street the sun had disappeared, leaving a violet bruise in the western sky.
“We’ll make the quad before nightfall, right?” Hazel asked. Her cavalier tone sounded strained.
“Not likely,” said Thorn. When he glanced over, Ash could almost hear his twin’s voice in his head: told you so, but saying it now won’t get us out of here alive. “We’ll have to summon the quad and hope there’s a decent landing spot nearby.” He tapped the commcuff on his wrist and swiped to the quad control screen. Frowning, he hit it again.
“What’s wrong?” asked Ash.
“Quad’s not responding. We aren’t that far away; the transponder should be in range.” Thorn tapped out the command again, to no avail.
“Let’s move closer,” Ash suggested.
Dusk crawled into corners and filled them with licking shadows. Quiet in the sweltering day, the city now came alive with ominous animal sounds. The walls of downtown fell away and Ash found himself at the edge of a wide, tenebrous lake.
The commcuff display cast Thorn’s face in a spectral glow. “Used to be a big park. If we go around the perimeter, it’ll be full dark before we reach the quad,” he murmured, watching a map scroll over his wrist. He tapped the remote control again and cursed when it flashed red. “Still no response. Must be a bad circuit somewhere. We’ll have to find a safe place to hole up and activate our rescue beacons.”
“No!” Hazel moaned. “That’s only for emergencies.”
“Getting stranded in the dark is an emergency, weed.”
Hazel looked mortified. “I can’t come back from my first dive in a rescue quad! Besides, the beacons probably won’t even work from here. The Vator’s comm range only goes like two hundred miles inland. That’s another stupid rhyme they make us learn—‘stay in range or you’re in danger’.” She sang the mnemonic in a mocking tone, then snorted. “Like the whole quarking planet isn’t dangerous.”
“Of course it is.” Thorn frowned at Ash. “That’s why we try to manage the risks when we can.”
Ash shrugged off the barb. “Why don’t we just wade across the lake? It doesn’t look deep.” He cranked up the intensity on his headlamp. It cut a blazing swath through jagged tree stumps, trailing moss, and drifting mats of flotsam. Something swam away from the light, leaving an unsettlingly large wake. Ash stared hard at the spot, but the darkness refused to unravel.
My night vision is gone, too? This can’t be happening now. I need my senses, I need my Edge.
“I’d rather splash through a big puddle than wait all night for a rescue that might not come,” said Hazel. “Our filters might not last that long anyway.”
“All right,” said Thorn through his teeth. “Stay close together and watch where you step. If you go under and your filter gets wet….”
All three unclipped their canisters, held them high over their heads, and waded into the gloaming. Their lamps shone a skittering mosaic over the ripples. Water muttered around Ash’s shins, seeping into his boots. Hazel slogged an arm’s length ahead of him, Thorn the same distance behind. Both held their Hummingbirds primed in their free hands. The water crept from Ash’s knees up to his waist. A sinuous object brushed his leg; he glanced down, nervous.
Just some junk under the water. Nothing alive. Keep going.
He looked back up. Hazel was gone. He shouted her name—no response.
“What happened?” Thorn yelled behind him. “Where’d she—.”
Foam exploded into the air. Hazel thrashed in the spray, wrestling a thick shadow. Scales flung back glare from the headlamps. Ash grabbed his knife and dove forward, plunging the blade into the nearest reptilian flesh. Dark liquid spurted over his gloves. Air shuddered as the beam from Thorn’s Hummingbird shot past. The creature spasmed and disappeared into the morass.
…and that’s what happens when you don’t maintain a clean pool. (Or a clean planet.) If the excerpt piqued your interest, continue the adventure with a free ebook of Transient Phenomena!