Like all the Stories of the Restoration, Novices is set in a less-than-perfect future that is nonetheless better than the past its inhabitants remember. The world tore itself apart in fiery social upheaval and chaos, but now the fires of revolution and anarchy have cooled, and rebuilding is well underway.
I think of Novices as a scrapbook of snapshots — a peek into the past of two characters who figure prominently in the plots of my novels Controlled Descent and Flight Plan. It’s two slices of two boys’ lives, set at the time they first leave home and test their beliefs against the worst they think the world can throw at them.
Joe requested that Eddie be sent upstairs on the pretext of a family emergency. It was even true, in a way. While he waited, he inspected the boy’s room. The place was orderly and clean. Rocks and feathers on the desk and frames filled with family pictures were the only personal touches. The austerity wasn’t what Joe had expected, but over a year had passed since he’d last seen Eddie, and children changed.
The young man who arrived at a run two minutes later was another surprise. His hazel eyes were still a little off, his body language still energetic and aggressive, but he was more than twenty centimeters taller than Joe remembered, and thin muscle over longer bones made him look a lot more wolfish than puppy-like now.
“Good God, you’ve grown.” The words got out before Joe could stop them. “Sorry, never mind. That’s not important. We need to talk.”
Eddie kicked the door shut behind himself. His hair was clipped so short his scalp showed through, and beard fuzz shadowed his upper lip. He wore only trainers and sweat-stained shorts, and he held a tee shirt in one clenched fist.
“What happened?” he asked in a high, hoarse voice. “Is it Mom? Bernie? Carl?”
Joe’s hopes withered at the last question. “Damn. I was really hoping you knew something was wrong already—Carl’s gone AWOL, and we need to find him fast.”
The sooner they found Carl, the less time he would have to hurt himself or someone else. That he would hurt someone was a likelihood Joe had to accept. This was far from the first time that an intern had gone over the Institute walls. No matter how thoroughly science came to understand the human brain, the mind wasn’t always predictable. Sometimes all the safety nets failed and a trainee succumbed to psychosis or major depression or paranoid delusion.
And right now, against all calculation, signs pointed to Carl being one of those failures. “Can you tell where he is now?”
Eddie sat on the bed and wrapped his arms around himself, and the guilt in his body language wailed, I didn’t know he was in trouble. Soon he whispered. “South-south-east a ways. Shit, he’s angry.”
“You didn’t know? I thought you always knew where he was.”
That anguished silence dragged on while Eddie rubbed a hand over his head and collected more words. “I don’t always tune in,” he said. “I butted out for the heavy stuff. I missed it. He up and left the campus? Without asking?”
Without me? was the plaintive undertone.
“Yes, he did, and that’s expressly forbidden at this stage of his training. He might not be thinking clearly, either. I was hoping you could help find him.”
There you go. Just the barest taste to whet your reading appetites. Novices releases June 23, 2015 as part of my celebration for my first novel’s first-year-in-print anniversary. It’s available for pre-order now if you’re interested. It’s priced at $2.99, and here’s a link:
|No, no, not this Link. Wrong Link. Up there. Above the picture.