The McClellands are enjoying a lazy summer vacation at the beach when they are lured from our world into Ixeos, an alternate Earth. Finding themselves lost in a maze of tunnels under Paris and surrounded by strangers, they discover that they have been brought to Ixeos for one purpose: to take the planet back from humanoid aliens who have claimed it. With the aid of the tunnels and a mysterious man named Landon, the teens travel the world seeking the key that will allow them to free Darian, the long-imprisoned rebel leader. But the aliens aren't the only problem on Ixeos -- the McClellands have to deal with brutal gangs, desperate junkies, and a world without power, where all the technology is owned by the aliens, and where most of the population has been killed or enslaved. The worst part? There's no way home.
Author Jennings Wright
Born and raised in Florida, Jennings spent her early years reading anything she could get her hands on, when she wasn't spending time in and on the water. She won a prize in the 6th grade for her science fiction stories.
Jennings attended the University of Tampa, graduating with a B.A. in Political Science, and almost enough credits for B.A.s in both English and History. She attended graduate school at the University of West Florida, studying Psychology. She spent time over the years doing various kinds of business writing, editing, and teaching writing, but mostly having and raising her family, homeschooling her children, owning and running a business with her husband, and starting a non-profit.
Thanks to a crazy idea called NaNoWriMo Jennings got back into creative writing in 2011 and hasn't stopped since. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, also a business owner and writer, and two children, and travels extensively with her family, and her non-profit in Uganda.
“There must be some kind of covering on the pipe,” Clay insisted. “That’s the only thing that makes sense!”
“The pipe is gone, man.
“Maybe there’s some kind of secret door that hides the pipe…” Clay said.
“It’s not hidden; there’s no door! We would have heard it. Heck, we’d have felt it — we were standing right next to the pipe. It’s gone. Which means we’re not in the dune, we’re not on the island… Can’t you tell from the smell? There’s no salt air, no sand. This is damp solid rock, and it smells old and mildewy.” Marty slapped the wall to prove his point.
“He’s right, Clay,” Neahle said softly. “I don’t think this is the island.”
“That’s not possible! Narnia wasn’t real! People in real life don’t end up somewhere else when they crawl through a pipe in the middle of the day!” Clay’s face was red in the torchlight; beads of sweat had popped out on his forehead. The hand holding the torch was shaking.
“I know,” Marty said, laying his hand on his cousin’s forearm. “But I think it’s true anyway.”
* * *
Marty chewed his crusty bread thoughtfully. “They’ve got a pretty amazing set up down here,” he observed. “Fresh food, the air is okay, there’s apparently water for drinking and washing and bathing. Dorms, a library… It’s pretty sweet!”
“Sweet?” Clay asked in amazement. “We’re two hundred feet underground, apparently recruited to fight some kind of alien serial killers, and we can’t get home! How is that sweet?”
Neahle laid a hand on his wrist just above his tattoo. Her thumb rubbed the spot. “We’ll be okay, Clay,” she said quietly. “We just need to get our bearings. You know. Figure out what we’re supposed to do.”
Clay put his hand over hers for a minute, then pulled his arm away. “How do we know that what these people are saying is true? It’s nuts! And this Landon — who’s he supposed to be? How come he can leave here, and we can’t?”
“We’ll find more out tomorrow,” Marty said. “But we were chosen, dude. There’s something we can do here to make a difference in this rebellion thing, and that makes us special. I mean, Landon chose us for a reason, right?”
“Because we were the only ones stupid enough to follow the ducks…” Clay muttered, taking a large swallow of water from his mug.
* * *
Marty slept for four hours and then took his place in front of the computer monitors. As the systems were warming up, he turned to Travis. “Tell me about Simon Lockwell. What’ve you got?”
The young African American man smoothed down his big afro before making a few more clicks, then sat back in his chair. “Head turd. If they weren’t so dangerous, they’d be the most boring creatures in the universe. The Firsts are plodders, man. No imagination.”
“But they developed all this technology,” Marty protested.
“Sure, somewhere along the line, on their home planet. But those dudes who thought up the transport system must be long gone. Or else they stole it from some other planet. Their whole society is structured on… What’s it called? Status quo. The reason they want to set up the breeding facilities and get rid of all the original humans is because we screw up their status quo, you know?”
“No… Like what?”
“Well, like the rebels. Like Darian. Like thinking for ourselves and being creative in fighting them. Look, what they want is to have slaves grow their food, do their chores, that kind of stuff. All they want to do is science. Look at crap under a microscope, look at crap through a telescope, experiment on anything and everything. Or everyone.”
“Experiment?” Marty asked.
“Trust me, dude, you don’t want to know. You know all that stuff you learned about Nazis in school? Well, the Firsts were good little students of all that. Who knows, maybe they were even the teachers. They don’t see humans as any different than lab rats, and they’d love to be able to turn off whatever part of us makes us… well, human. You know, emotions and creativity and all that. They’ll probably figure it out, too, one day.”
“If we don’t stop them,” Marty said, turning to his monitor.
* * *
Abacus laughed. “Trust me, I know how hard it is to see things in your own brother. But he’s smart and I think he’s onto something with this code theory.”
Thinking about it, Neahle nodded. “Yeah, me too. He’s always been good at mysteries and puzzles and things like that. I guess it’s why he likes working on engines. And he… Well, he listens to the stuff inside his head. I don’t know how to describe it exactly. But if Landon sent us here for a particular reason — I mean, other than just helping the cause — it wouldn’t surprise me if it were to solve a puzzle. Marty does it, too, in a different way.” She sighed. “I’m just along for the ride.”
Abacus reached out and patted her hand on the handlebar. “We all have our own part to play, not just as ballast for someone else’s ship. For one thing, your brother trusts you. But I suspect there’s more for you here than that. Just keep doing the thing in front of you and you’ll find it.”
* * *
“Who are you?” Hannah said. When he didn’t answer, she switched to French. “Qui êtes-vous?”
The man groaned again but didn’t say anything coherent. Hannah got up, stepped over him, and went out into the workshop. She dipped a cup into a bucket of water and returned, tossing it on the man’s head as she stepped over him.
“Qui êtes-vous?” she asked again.
The man mumbled something.
“What? Que?” She leaned forward to hear him better.
“It’s me. Rod.” The man lifted his shoulders off the ground, shook his head, and turned to look at her. It was Rod. The traitor.
* * *
A male voice called out, “Whatcho want, mate?”
“To pass,” Riley replied. “That’s all.”
“Oh aye, that’s all. And why should we let you pass, leastwise without a dekko at whatcho got in them bags?”
“We’re minding our business. You mind yours,” Riley said, taking his large flashlight from the drink pouch of his back pack. Abacus did the same.
“This here track be our business.”
Monkey slipped back beside the girls and began to nudge them to right. Clay stayed in front of them, masking their movement in the dark. As the two assailants lunged forward, Riley and Abacus swung their heavy flashlights like clubs. Clay picked up a rock. Monkey took Neahle and Sarah by the hand, swung around away from the fracas, and then swerved back to the tracks, running as fast as they could go for the station.
* * *
“We’re likely to lose some people,” Riley said.
“It would be impossible not to, but everyone is aware of the risks. The more distractions around the globe, the better chance we have to get Darian out and to safety. It’s a chance the rebels are willing to take.” Vasco sat back in his chair.
“Speaking of that,” Clay said. “The outsiders are the only ones who can use the portals. So… What do we do with Darian when we’ve got him?”
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