For those who follow my work, you know that I’ve planned prequel novellas like this one in the past. For example, I wanted to launch the novella DUTY BOUND before ANGELBOUND, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I released the DUTY BOUND prequel four years after the release of book one, ANGELBOUND.
What can I say? I got busy.
With DIMENSION DRIFT, I’m finally releasing a prequel novella before book one proper (and this prequel launches on April 24, 2018). Go me! Plus, I’m super-excited to share the prequel’s first chapter with you today. This story has kick-ass chicks, hot alien dudes, a lame high school, and a whole new branch of science that I made up because SCIENCE!
I hope you enjoy working the drift with me!
Dimension Drift, The Prequel
Nothing like waking up at the butt-crack of dawn to find your mother standing over your bed holding a thermos, moldy picture frame, and plastic bust of Albert Einstein.
That wakes me up, fast.
This whole thing is a shocker because for the last year, Mom’s been doing nothing but staring out the window, hoping my older sister, Luci, will come home. Such a disaster. Back in 2611, Luci ran off with her high school beau, Josiah, saying they wanted to start a new life somewhere that wasn’t Western New Massachusetts. For the record, I don’t blame my sister for leaving. Mom isn’t exactly the poster girl for stable parenting. And Josiah is a nice enough guy. You know, in the way that vanilla is a nice enough flavor.
That said, Luci only left us a quick note on the kitchen table the day she took off. Since then, my sister hasn’t sent us any word. Mind you, this is the same Luci who couldn’t go six hours without talking to Mom. Now, twelve months go by without so much as a peep? That’s not Luci.
Long story short, Mom and I are both pretty worried.
We just show it in different ways.
Mom holds up the bust of Einstein and stares at me wild-eyed. She doesn’t say anything, but that’s pretty typical. After Luci left, my mother’s routine has been pretty predictable.
Bed to window.
Window to bed.
A little eating.
Not much sleep.
But now, Mom’s out of her chair with a vengeance. Plus, she’s even wearing one of her old lab coats from her researcher days. The frayed insignia of “United Americas” is still visible on her pocket protector. We’re not even supposed to know the name of the United Americas anymore, let alone save themed clothing. My high school teaches us that the only government that’s ever existed are the sickos in power today: the Righteous Command and Ultimate Authority. Mostly, we call them the Authority.
So what’s Mom doing in her old lab coat? Tons of scenarios skitter through my head. Most of them end with Mom getting trucked off to a mediprison. The Authority strives for purity in all things. Any signs of what they call mental weakness, and the Authority declares you an enemy of the state, and you disappear.
At this moment, the words total panic pretty much sum up my life. “What’s wrong, Mom? It’s four a.m.”
Shock prickles across my skin. “Uh…What?”
Those were definitely words. From my Mom. I’d forgotten the sound of her voice—it’s clipped and deep, the tone of someone who gives orders and expects to be followed. The wild look slowly melts from her eyes. Suddenly, it’s like she’s the old Mom again. The one who drilled quantum physics and all flavors of engineering into me and Luci with a ferocity that makes mother tigers look like the wimps of the animal world.
At this point, I consider this entire 4 a.m. visit to be a present, which is perfect considering how today’s my seventeenth birthday. Not that I wouldn’t like a gift box or a “happy birthday,” but there’s no point being greedy. The old Mom being out of her chair and speaking actual words is more than enough.
“I brought you some decorations.” Mom crosses my bedroom, carefully stepping around the piles of notebooks and circuit boards covering the floor. She pauses by one particularly large knot of wires. “What’s all this?”
“You know me. Another project.” Mom taught me and Luci science for a reason: So we’d be able to earn money on our own and stay free from the Authority. We’re proud to be living off the grid in Western Mass.
“Always.” I shift to sit upright in bed. “Why else would I do it?”
“You can get wild ideas sometimes, Meimi. Sometimes I worry that you’ll join some kind of resistance movement.” Her mouth thins to a worried line. “You need to do your work—”
“And keep my head down. I remember, Mom.” Back when Mom was clear-headed, we had this conversation all the time. I skip to the big ending since I know Mom will go there anyway. “The Authority is too powerful. The best anyone can do is hide.”
“Exactly. Let’s get back to brightening this place up.” Mom moves to stand before my rickety dresser. After swiping off all the dust with her forearm, my mother positions the mashed-up bust of Einstein in a spot of honor.
“There, that’s perfect.” Mom pats Einstein’s head and sighs. “This is why we live off the grid, Meimi. So you can actually know who this is.”
“It looks awesome. Thanks.” I think about all the long hours Mom spent keeping us safe and separate from the government. She taught us real science when it would have been easier to give up. After all, she was a single parent with a lot on her plate anyway. My father died right after I was born. “I mean, thanks for everything Mom. You know…”
“I’d do it again I a heartbeat.”
After that, Mom starts positioning the empty picture frame. I take a few precious seconds to rub my eyes and make sure I’m not dreaming. Birthday or not, this seems too good to be true.
Nope, I’m most definitely wide awake.
I check over Mom. Maybe she’s the one who’s sleepwalking. This morning, Mom stands tall and slender with broad, bony shoulders and a thin hooked nose. Her white-blonde hair has the tips dyed fuchsia. Although she’s all things elegant and clever, my mother has never seemed to care about any of that. I glance across my dingy room to check myself in the mirror.
Yes, I’m still the same.
Unlike Mom, I’m more short and curvy with long brown hair and green eyes. When my mother walks into a room, people notice. Eventually, anyone who spends time with her becomes a satellite in her orbit. It was like that with my sister, Luci, too. In a lot of ways, Luci’s a miniature version of my mother: tall and slim, with cropped white-blonde hair and brown eyes. Luci has that sheen of success as well. Everywhere that I was good, Luci was better. She was state math champion. School track star. A bright social butterfly with a crowd of friends, compared to my solo, moth-like existence. She always asked me to tag along everywhere so I wouldn’t be alone.
I miss my Luci so much it hurts.
Mom finishes positioning the empty frame onto my rickety dresser. “There, that’s perfect.”
There’s an obvious question here, which I can’t help but ask. “Why an empty frame, Mom?”
“It’s to remind you that Luci is gone.”
My throat tightens. “Right.” As if I could forget.
Mom pulls a piece of white chalk from the pocket of her lab coat and waves it around. “Let’s work the drift.”
“The drift” is Mom-speak for the dimension drift, the arm of science that specializes in how our reality overlaps with others. Things are connected in ways we sense are there, even if we can’t detect them. It’s like the old saying, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” Our world is linked to and through other dimensions in ways that only drift science can track.
And now Mom wants to work the drift with me. I can’t believe what I’m hearing.
“You want me to help you?” Mom and Luci always worked the drift—meaning they created calculations, designed equipment, and envisioned connecting worlds together in their lab. I wasn’t yet good enough to join them, though. According to Mom, that’s because I’m ambitious and emotional, with a brilliant mind and no stomach for being told what to do.
In other words, I’m a lot like her.
Luci was always the one who did what she was told. Look how that ended up. Luci ran away and I’m still here.
Mom’s brown eyes soften. “I need your help.”
“Let me make sure I get this. You want me in your lab? Only you and Luci go in there.” Of course, I’m the only one outside of Mom and Luci who even knows the lab exists, and for good reason. The Authority executes citizens for science crimes. The government are the only ones allowed advanced stuff, and they keep it under lock and key.
“This morning is an exception. The sun’s corona is extremely active. We’re seeing the greatest magnetic storm in a decade.”
My eyes widen. “You’re planning something special with magnetic fields.”
“Correct.” Mom lifts her chin. “I can use those magnetic fields to get help.”
“Help for what exactly?”
“Finding Luci. A year is too long for no word. Luci never went a day without checking in with me before. It’s as if…” Mom doesn’t finish her thought. Still, we both know what she’s thinking:
It’s as if the Authority took her.
And that’s not far fetched, either. The government makes people disappear all the time.
The elegant lines of Mom’s face tighten with worry. “We need to make sure she’s all right.”
Mom’s words make every nerve ending in my body go on alert, mostly because she’s spot on. For months, I’ve been hunting for any news about my sister. I’ve checked public records, hacked my way into secret archives…I’ve even asked the local crime lord, the Scythe, if he can find anything out. Nothing. And now, Mom might have some way to find out about Luci? My birthday presents keep getting better and better. That said, Mom hasn’t exactly been her sharpest lately. It wouldn’t be good to get my hopes up too early.
“How do you plan to find her?” I ask. “I’ve done everything I can think of.”
“We need better tech than we have in our dimension. We need to open a corridor to another world that’s large enough for a person to walk through. And then we need to call that person here to help us.”
And here’s the moment why Luci gets in the lab and I don’t. Right now, Luci would say, What do you want me to do? Luci might even make Mom a sandwich so she’d have something in her stomach when she started working.
But Luci’s not here. I’m Meimi, and I push back when something doesn’t seem right.
“I have three questions for you about that.”
Mom sighs. “Meimi…”
“One, it’s theoretically possible to open a corridor to another world, but that’s never been done before.”
“Didn’t you hear what I said about the sun’s corona? We can harness power from the resulting magnetic storm. It will be the biggest one in a century, which is why there’s no time to lose. We should go to the lab now.”
“Question number two. Who’s going to help us and why?”
Mom’s nostril’s flare. “A long time ago, some beings from another world asked your father and me for help. They owe us.”
“Let me get this straight.” I raise my pointer finger. “You and Dad were contacted by aliens?” This is huge. While other kids were playing ‘house,’ I was trying to get someone to join me in a game of ‘star explorers meet lizard men from Pluto.’ Luci was the only taker, and then it was on the strict understanding that I’d play a round of Next Generation Barbie Dream Date – The Board Game.
Mom gives me the side eye. “You’ve worked the drift since you were a child, Meimi. No one knows better than you that countless universes exist alongside this one. You can’t be surprised someone reached out to us.”
I side eye her right back. “But it’s one thing to know in theory about beings from other worlds. It’s another to have some of them call your parents. You can’t just drop a bomb like that and not expect me to want details.”
“I am and I do.” Mom’s deep voice takes on that rough edge which means one thing: She’s about ready to head into the lab without me. Family stories about alien encounters will simply have to wait.
“One last question. You’ll call these beings…how?” I ask. “Using a homing beacon or something? How will that work with this corridor you want to build?”
Mom folds her arms over her chest. “We have a language between us. If I toss something with Luci’s DNA on it through the corridor, the right person will now how to respond. Really, Meimi. We don’t have time for this. I think—”
“Stop right there.”
“What?” Mom bites off the word. She’s the only one who gets to say, “Stop right there.”
I hold my arms up, palms forward. Amazing that Mom is awake all of five minutes and we’re already in a power struggle. “You convinced me. I’ll help.” I hop out of bed and start scrounging around for relatively clean clothes.
A small smile rounds Mom’s mouth. “See you in the lab.”
With that, Mom takes off while I uncover a pair of old jeans and a T-shirt under my bed. All the while, my soul feels so light I could cheer.
I’m about to work the drift with Mom. Some small part of me warns that my mother is unstable and getting her anywhere near volatile equipment is too huge a risk, but I overrule that worry.
It’s my birthday, after all. I’m going to enjoy my present.
End of Sample
The DIMENSION DRIFT prequel novella launches April 24th, 2018