From the co-author of the New York Times bestselling Illuminae Files comes the first book in a new series that’s part Romeo and Juliet, part Terminator, and all adrenaline.
On an island junkyard beneath a sky that glows with radiation, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap. Seventeen-year-old Eve isn’t looking for trouble–she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she spent months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, she’s on the local gangster’s wanted list, and the only thing keeping her grandpa alive is the money she just lost to the bookies. Worst of all, she’s discovered she can somehow destroy machines with the power of her mind, and a bunch of puritanical fanatics are building a coffin her size because of it. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it. The problem is, Eve has had a worse day–one that lingers in her nightmares and the cybernetic implant where her memories used to be. Her discovery of a handsome android named Ezekiel–called a “Lifelike” because they resemble humans–will bring her world crashing down and make her question whether her entire life is a lie. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic sidekick Cricket in tow, Eve will trek across deserts of glass, battle unkillable bots, and infiltrate towering megacities to save the ones she loves…and learn the truth about the bloody secrets of her past.
EXCERPT: Chapter 1.5
“I’ll give you one chance to walk away,” it said. “All of you.”
“That’s him!” Tye slapped Sir Westinghouse on the back. “The lifelike!”
The Fridge Street chief glanced at the juve, back at Ezekiel. “So you’re the fugazi, eh? Look around you, prettyboy. You got an army against you.”
“I don’t want to hurt you,” Ezekiel said softly.
Westinghouse guffawed. “Who you trying to fool? You forget the Golden Rule? The Three Laws won’t let you hurt us, fug.”
The lifelike blinked at that. Its pistol wavered, and Eve wondered if . . .
“My maker thought the same thing,” Ezekiel said.
And then it moved.
Eve had seen fast before. She’d seen epinephrine-enhanced stimheads playing snatch on street corners in Los Diablos. She’d seen top-tier machina fights beamed from the Megopolis WarDome—the kind that got decided in fractions of a second. She’d seen fast, true cert. But she’d never seen anything move like that lifelike moved then.
The Iron Bishop raised his assault rifle behind the lifelike. And quicker than flies, Ezekiel spun and popped two rounds into the Bishop’s eyes. In almost the same instant, it dropped three of the closest Brotherhood thugs with headshots and finally blew out the back of Sir Westinghouse’s skull, painting Tye’s face a bright and gibbering red.
The air was scarlet mist and thin gray smoke. World moving in slow motion. Peeps shouting, firing at the lifelike as it grabbed a nearby Brotherhood thug to use as a shield. Lead thudded into the Kevlar cassock, muzzles flashing like the strobe light in Eve’s dreams, flickering as the figures danced and fell, the stink of blood uncurling in the air.
Eve covered her ears as the rooftop autoguns fired into the mob. The Spartans opened up with their own ordnance, one spraying a storm of hollow-points at the lifelike, the other unleashing its plasma and melting one of the rooftop sentries into slag. Lemon winced and hunkered lower, fixing Popstick with an accusing glare.
“Who brings a baseball bat to a gunfight?”
Eve peered out the side of the barricade. Eyes fixed on the Spartan, teeth gritted in a snarl. Stretching out her hand once more.
“Come on . . . ,” she pleaded.
“Eve, what are you doing?”
“Why won’t it work?” she spat, furious. “Why can’t I do it again?”
Hails of burning lead raked their cover, pitter-pattering on the steel. Eve heard cries of panic, screams of pain. Lemon peeked out over the barricade, whistling softly.
“Look at him go. . . .”
Eve’s eyes fell on the lifelike, widening in amazement. Ezekiel had scrambled up the back of the closest Spartan and, as if the metal were tinfoil, torn the ammo feed from its autoguns to stop it firing on the house. Wrenching its plasma cannon toward the Spartan beside it, the lifelike melted the cockpit and the pilot inside into puddles. The Brotherhood scattered into cover, Fridge Street laying down the lead on Ezekiel as it twisted and dodged, almost too fast to track.
Noticing the rooftop autoguns were OOC, two of the braver Fridgeboys made a dash for the house. Whether to seek cover or wreak havoc, Eve wasn’t quite sure.
“Finally!” Lemon cried.
Eve’s bestest leapt off the roof with a howl, dropping a Fridgeboy with 500kV crackling through his brainmeats. Kaiser was waiting inside the front door for the other one, and the scavver was soon dashing back to his comrades with his shins torn to ribbons.
Ezekiel dropped from the Spartan’s shoulders, grabbing a Kevlar-clad corpse to shield itself as it weaved through the hail of bullets. Even with only one arm, it carried the body effortlessly, gleaming with what looked a lot like sweat as it rolled into cover behind a stack of tires near the house. A pile of old retreads had been set ablaze by the plasma, thick smoke rolling over the yard and burning the back of Eve’s throat.
She realized Cricket had crawled up onto the roof beside her. The little bot was tugging at her boots and yelling at her to get back inside over the roar of the remaining Spartan’s autogun fire. Lemon was safe with Kaiser below. But Eve was still trying desperately to unleash whatever it was that had dropped that Goliath in the Dome. Eyes narrowed. Temples throbbing. Muscles straining.
Come onnnn. . . .
“Eve, come on!”
She reached deep inside herself. To the place she’d fallen into when that Goliath raised its fist above her head. The moment she’d looked down the barrel pointed at her skull. A moment of perfect fear. Of defiance. Thrashing and kicking against that long goodnight.
This is not the end of me.
This is just one more enemy.
The Spartan jerked back like Eve had punched it. It trembled, as if every servo inside it were firing at once. She grinned as a cascade of sparks burst from the machina’s innards. And spewing smoke, the Spartan stumbled and crashed face-first into the scrap.
“Eve . . . ,” Cricket murmured. “You did it.”
Eve punched the air. “Eat that, you dustneck trash-humper!”
As their last machina fell, the Brotherhood broke. Two of their Spartans were OOC, the Iron Bishop’s machina standing abandoned as the Brothers dragged their fallen leader away. With the death of their own boss and Ezekiel still laying down bullets from its nest of tires, most of the fight had been taken out of Fridge Street, too. They were stepping off quick, scattering into the Valley.
Eve scoped the bloody battleground that had engulfed her front yard. Some of the meanest, toughest beatsticks in Dregs had stepped up with a fistful of capital T and were now scuttling away with their tails between their legs.
Wiping the sweat from her good eye, the girl winked at the little logika beside her.
“Think you can chalk up a win for the good guys, Crick.” She smiled.
And that’s when the first bomb fell from the sky.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jay Kristoff is the #1 international, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE, THE ILLUMINAE FILES and THE LOTUS WAR. He is the winner of five Aurealis Awards, an ABIA, has over half a million books in print and is published in over thirty-five countries, most of which he has never visited. He is as surprised about all of this as you are. He is 6’7 and has approximately 12,000 days to live.
He does not believe in happy endings.
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