Do you like space ninjas and ice cream? Here are the first five pages of Neodymium Exodus, the beginning of a world-rich YA scifi series about a freedom fighter and her invisible best friend:
Lem wasn’t a big fan of warnings, but the people who ran her life were, so she gave the meat-market businessman a loud one the moment he made eyes at her little sister.
“She ain’t for sale, Skins,” she said, stirring the dregs of her shake with her straw. She said it for everyone in the ice cream parlor to hear.
The businessman’s green hair puffed in offense; his slit-eyes gleamed as bright as his ruby scales. “Mind yourself, witch,” he sneered.
Witch, huh? Lucky for him he didn’t call her crazy.
A loud slurp silenced the whole parlor as Lem finished off her shake.
Four seconds later Lem had chopped down the businessman like an overgrown holly bush. No one interrupted. No one helped, either. The space-lemur policeman in the corner stared at the phone in his paws, ears perked even as he pretended not to see; the Wonderfrog server behind the counter tapped his bulging fingertips on his skull like desserts really worried him.
Lem tightened her grip on the meat-man’s wrist, spitting through her teeth as she ground his face harder into the plastic table. “Whatever I am, everyone in here knows you’re selling little girls to the greys, and one day I’ll prove it and get Officer Scritch there off his duff for a change.” Her voice dropped to a husky whisper. “But the day you talk to my sister again? Officer Scritch won’t be lookin’ for you. Won’t be a you to find.”
Meat-man grunted. He got it. A’ight. Lem straightened, wiping her brow on the sleeve of her rough brown civvies as she yanked the guy to his feet. He wheezed hard—she popped him a pat on the back. Perv had asthma. “Now get out. Go get your meds.”
Her wristband lit up. Shyte, how’d her captain catch her so fast? “Hey Juju, we gotta get going.”
Her kid sis slid out from the neighboring booth, eyes wide in her mahogany face as she sipped a frothy cream-shake topped with purple lechichi fruit. Her nappy, strangely-blondish hair stuck out like a halo as she trotted head down, mouth shut, and eyes open while Lem guided her, hand on her shoulder, out of the cool shadows of the parlor into the tropical Luna-Guetala sun. Pretty little girl. Good little girl. Exactly what the meat-markets wanted live and the greys wanted dead.
Man, they’d caught her in record time. Literally finished roughing up the perp seconds before the “in-my-office-now.” Lem slowed her swagger to pretend she wasn’t in trouble and threw back her shoulders like she didn’t mind all the freakin’ civilians staring at her like it was a strip-show. I can’t believe I risk my ass to protect you people. They weren’t staring because of the beat-down, though. It wasn’t even the military-issued ‘civilian clothes,’ all looking like she’d raided a tablecloth factory.
Which might be exactly what the supplies officer did.
They stepped out from the blistering street corner on the edge of town into the shade of the jungle just beyond it. “Why’d he call you a witch?” little Juju asked.
“Because I talk to an invisible guy,” Lem said. “You know. Njande.”
The same reason the greys wanted her dead. Lem unchained her sparrow-shaped, camouflaged air-rider from its tree and checked the engine for sabotage, small explosives, tracking devices, blablabla…
Sweet, all clear. She hefted Juju up over the swooped wings onto the long bike-seat and swung herself up behind her.
“I wish we could go north to the city next time,” Juju sighed. “I heard they got pretty birds and glass airships like gems.”
“You know that’s Growen territory. We’d get shot.”
“Still. I still wish.”
“Quit tryin’ to get me in trouble with your wishing.” Lem laughed. She revved up the engine, and—whoosh! Her stomach jumped backwards; Juju squealed. The air-rider zipped off into the woods as Lem grinned, leaning into the wind to speed up.
On second thought, she wasn’t in a hurry to be punished. Slow that sucker down.
Well—what if it wasn’t punishment? What if it was her parents, shot or captured or some shyte like that? Or her little brother—another seizure, from the gas? Gah, she—
Juju’s shouted question rescued her thoughts. “Did you know Dr. Pattie and Lieutenant Seria don’t talk to invisibles?”
“Yeah. Most of our people don’t.”
“But it doesn’t help, you know? I mean, the Growen still try to kill them and stuff.”
“That’s because Dr. Pattie and Lieutenant Seria don’t like to be told what to do.” Lem grinned, taking one hand off the air-rider’s handlebars to tousle that weird yellow hair Juju had. Lem was pretty sure Seria hated her, for invisible and other reasons. They were on the same team, but training together last week? That woman had punishment in her eyes. “Seria thinks I’m crazy.”
“Well I don’t think you’re crazy.” Juju leaned back against Lem’s chest. Lem smiled.
Oh, and she saw her smile returned in the ripples of air around her! Invisible fingertips, Njande’s touch, brushed her cheeks—she sped up, leaned in, hungrily seeking another glimpse of whatever. “Oh man, you…where are you?” she whispered.
She felt his laugh tickling in the wind, and something warm flooded from her spine to her fingertips—something like words, but not quite. Me? It said. I am Now. Where are you?
“I’m here, on the double-planet, in the woods,” she mouthed back. “You know that, right? You mean where in time or something?” She didn’t catch his answer. “Man, I can’t hear you. Hey, what if I could race into your dimension?” she whispered. “Go so fast I just bust open a barrier in space-time…”
I love your thoughts, the something-like-words said. Look! I got you a surprise. Left as you come around this bangla tree!
She hurtled around the trunk and glanced to the side—and leaned way back to slow down hard. “Whoa!” she mouthed, her eyes lighting up as she tapped her sister’s shoulder, pointed left, then let that finger dart to her lips to signal silence.
She’d have missed it if she hadn’t been looking for it. A grove of thin trees rose like a fence between the sisters and a sunlit clearing, and in that clearing grazed an enormous long-necked beast as wide as a small house and long as a fighter-jet. Live butterflies covered every inch of its hide; if you knew what you were looking at, you could squint between the butterflies’ wings and just barely make out green and yellow flowers growing from the creature’s nose to its long tail. It was a reptile, a Behemoth—the tree-trunk-limbed giraffe-like jungle monster, sparkling like living gold with all those dainty wings.
Lem and Juju watched for a few minutes before the thing slunk off into a darker grove. “Wow, I never saw one of those before!” Juju clapped as they started off again.
“They’re shy. Even when I lived out here I only saw one or two. Cool, huh?” To Njande, she mouthed. “Hey, thanks, I wouldn’t have seen that.”
I know! I saw you coming, and checked in the Back Then, and there I set up an air-field that pushed Tomorrow’s storm south, so it broke early and drove the Behemoth up here!
“Wait, you saying you went back in time just to set up a view for me?”
Well, and a sister moment. She’ll remember it for a while.
“No, that’s not the part I’m fuzzy on—it’s the ‘back then’ stuff.”
Don’t worry about Back Then. I am Now, remember? Where are you?
“Now, too, I guess.”
Drink it in.
Lem grinned. Yeah. Yeah, this ‘now,’ racing through the cool green, purple, and red canopy with her sister, no bombs, no screams, not being shot at—this was as good as it got.
Well. Except that her wristband was lighting up again. Dangit, kicking butt was no problem, but just talking to command, and other soldiers, made her so nervous she became straight-up silly. Deep breath. All cool. No smart-aleck comments, no whacky faces, no antics. Time to get the final touches on that well-formulated excuse—maybe she could talk Captain Rana down to just a week scrubbing the slop chute after meals.
If this sounds like something you’d read and buy, be sure to contact your favorite literary agent and let them know! A lot of them hang out on twitter and love to interact with readers. In the meantime, Neodymium Exodus is currently on submission. Its sequel Neodymium Betrayal, will complete revisions end of 2017, followed by books three to five. Self-rescuing princesses, diverse new alien species, the Heisenberg principle, a shape-shifter, a space-lemur, evil bounty hunters, and feels galore!
Subscribe so you don’t miss an update! As a bonus, there’s a free interview with Lem right here.