Child of Etherclaw
Publication date: August 2nd 2022
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult
The bonds of family go well beyond blood.
But can those bonds hold when the blood itself carries a devastating secret?
Fenlee’s opal necklace had always radiated a certain warmth since her mother’s death. But now, at sixteen, her world begins to unravel as the stone sparks to life, revealing itself to be an otherworldly artifact of untold power.
Between her mechatronics studies at the academy and scavenging expeditions beneath the sprawling city of New Cascadia, Fenlee and her adopted brother, Elliot, try to decipher the mysteries of her necklace and its link to events in Fenlee’s past.
But they’re not alone in their search.
Strange undercity dwellers offer cryptic warnings, drones track their movements, and deadly corporate agents lurk in the shadows. When tragedy rips Fenlee’s family apart, she must learn to use the artifact’s power to save those who are deeply precious to her. But nothing can prepare her for the dark truths that she will uncover on that journey…
“Lee,” Elliot mumbled. “I’m not who you think I am.”
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The tunnels became drier as they continued on. A5er a few minutes, they arrived at a T intersection with a larger tunnel branching off to the right.
“Which way?” Alex asked. “Any ideas, Fenlee?”
“I might have some ideas,” Casper said so5ly.
“You might,” Alex replied. “And I might, as well, but without navigation support, Fenlee is the resident expert here.”
Fenlee shined the lamp down both passages. “Well, if I were searching for loot, I’d take the le tunnel because it’s smaller and appears to be infrequently used. It’d be less likely to be picked over. But we’re trying to get to the underside of that tower, which is major infrastructure, so I’d be more inclined to take the larger tunnel to the right.” She pointed to some conduit running down the walls. It was so old and filthy it blended in and was easy to miss. “And if you look closely, you’ll notice these pipes also curve to the right from the tunnel we came from.” She shrugged. “I mean, I could be wrong, but it seems like the obvious choice.”
“Makes sense to me,” Alex said.
Everyone headed to the right except Casper. “Yeah, that makes sense and all, but I think we should check out the le for a minute to make sure it’s not like, I dunno, a connecting passage or something?” He turned and walked down the le5 tunnel.
A green-haired blur leapt in front of him.
“Stop!” Nico shouted and threw his lanky arms wide, blocking Casper’s path.
“What is wrong with this kid, Fenlee?” Casper said.
“Nothing’s wrong with him,” Fenlee said. “He’s got great intuition. Maybe ask him what’s up instead of me?”
But they didn’t have to ask—Fenlee and Casper saw it at the same time. Mounted about ten inches above the ground on both sides of the tunnel were two small cubes with tiny holes on the front. They were a dull metal, artificially aged to blend into the walls. In the dark, only the most observant could have spotted them.
“Whoa. Okay. And that would be a laser trip line.” Fenlee winced. “Good catch, Nico. That could’ve been pretty bad.” She closed her eyes. A small warmth in her chest grew as she reached out to the device. It was similar to many optical and proximity modules she’d constructed in the past. And it was active. I wonder if I can gently disable it without throwing the trigger—
Casper broke her concentration. “Yeah, good eye, kid,” he said. “Luckily, we can just step over it.”
“No, wait!” Alex yelled. She tried to grab Casper’s arm, but it was too late. By the time she reached him, he was mid-step across the invisible line.
“What?” Casper pulled out of her grasp. “I’m being careful. This is no big deal!”
“No, Cas, you’re not.” She pointed above his head. “They’re all over the ceiling.”
A series of little cubes formed a line directly above Casper’s head. Alex ripped open a pouch of nutrient drink mix and tossed the contents toward him. The fine powder revealed a latticework of thin red beams. And Casper was standing in the middle of them.
“Well, that was helpful, Cas,” Fenlee said.
Casper was frozen in place, visibly shaking. “Uh, sorry?” So what do we do?” Fenlee threw her hands up. “Well, it’s a good bet SecForce knows we’re here, so why don’t you tell me what we should do?”
Nico pulled on Fenlee’s hand. “Shh!”
Everyone stopped talking. A calm settled over the passageway. At first, there was nothing but silence. Dust motes dri6ed in the stillness of the lamplight as they stood together, listening. They collectively held their breath as a low hum came from the larger tunnel behind them.
“Really!” Casper whispered, his voice shaky and frantic. “What do we really do now? I’m serious!”
The sound of the drone came from the larger tunnel they had intended to take, so that wasn’t an option. The smaller tunnel they were in was clearly set up to detect intruders, and they also had no idea what was down there. The only option that made any sense was to take their chances and go back the way they came.
“We have to be smart about this,” Fenlee said. “I think our best bet is to—” “Run?” Nico asked.
“Run!” Casper and Alex said at once. The two of them took off down the small tunnel. Nico shrugged and followed behind.
Matty Roberts began their career in journalism where they earned an Emmy and had the privilege of working on several other award-winning projects. They hold an MS from Johns Hopkins University and are now an engineer in renewable energy in Denver, Colorado where they live with their wonderful partner, two extraordinary kids, and the best doggie ever.
In addition to writing, engineering, and parenting, Matty is a vegan enby nerd who is in love with this world and will forever be doing all they can to make it a better place. And they may be known to occasionally play in a punk band here or there.
For more information about Matty and their upcoming books, visit http://www.mattyroberts.io.