Terran, a young genius abandoned to poverty, feels called to something great. He is given that chance when Naomi and Rictor, intergalactic missionaries of the Bound, arrive at his doorstep. They offer a simple choice, to travel the stars with them or stay behind and fend for himself. Terran chooses the stars, believing it is the obvious answer.
When an attempt is made on his life before he leaves the planet, he starts to question his decision.
Naomi, meanwhile, is in contact with the Bound’s enemies, forced to do their bidding while they hold her son captive.
Rictor just wants to keep the ship from falling apart.
As their individual lives begin to unravel, it becomes apparent that all three are tied together, destined to finally put an end to their mutual enemy. Unless the universe collapses first.
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GENRE: Science Fiction ISBN: 978-1-925574-74-6 ASIN: B087D4S5C5 Word Count: 73, 922
Terran glanced toward the sun that was dipping below the horizon, then down at his watch. Barely three o’clock and it was almost dark. Steeling himself against the wind, he crossed the street toward the alley. Without the buildings acting as a buffer, the full force of the chill wind hit him. Terran hunched over, trying to conserve as much heat as possible. Potholes and black ice threatened his unsteady steps, but he trudged on towards his goal.erran stood on the cracked sidewalk and scanned the deserted street. To his left was the Lessers’ territory. The buildings weren’t in the best shape; some were worn, and the original color on the concrete had faded, but they were tall and sturdy. The buildings in the Outskirts territory to his right weren’t so lucky. Made of red brick, they were short and squat, with hundreds of cracks running along their sides. The windows of most of the buildings were broken, allowing him to see the vacant interiors covered in mold. It looks just like home.
Reaching the alleyway, Terran stood tall again and took a better look at what the alley had to offer.
Four dumpsters lined the side of the Lessers’ building, followed by several trash cans and two large plastic bags. On the Outskirt’s side, trash was piled in rotting heaps that stretched the full length of the building. I wonder what smells worse, me or the trash. Not much difference between us anyways. He forced the dark thoughts away. He had a job to do–to find food. Otherwise, his family went hungry again.
He opened the first dumpster. Empty. He flipped up the lid to the second dumpster. Empty. What is going on? Trash isn’t picked up till Tuesdays. He flipped open the next two in quick succession. The third dumpster was empty, but the fourth was about half full. He hopped in without hesitation and began sorting through it.
From somewhere in the building a bell let out three sharp rings. As if on cue, the Tenets rolled through his mind. Sisera creates life and thus creates Man. Sisera sustains life and thus sustains Man. Sisera is Man’s deepest desire. With the Tenets came the familiar memories of life before his family had been thrown to the Outskirts. His days had been filled with dozy evenings in reclining chairs by the fireplace, schoolwork from the Academy, warm food every night. His childhood had been more than happy; it had been perfect. Until his father, and all the money they had saved, disappeared.
Terran planted a hand on the rim of the dumpster and tried to hop out. His foot caught and he tumbled onto the alleyway, landing on his back. He got up quickly from the ground and began kicking the dumpster. When he couldn’t take the pain in his foot anymore, he slammed the lid shut. Reverberations continued to echo through the alleyway as Terran caught his breath. That was probably a bad move.
A rat scurried behind him. Its high pitched squeals just adding to the rage inside of him. He took in a large breath, then exhaled. Remember why you’re here. He closed his eyes, calling to mind his sisters and mother. They all shared the same features, fair skin-like all Siserian women, rich blue eyes, and straight black hair. The only physical difference between them was age. Even with all their similarities, their personalities couldn’t have been more different. After they had been carted to the edge of the city and left to die, Kelly had remained positive. She was the glue that kept him together.
Terran rested his head on the lip of the dumpster, staring at the ground. One of the patches on his right shoe had torn–either from the fall or his tantrum. Anna would have to fix it. He cringed at the thought of asking her. The opposite of Kelly, Anna was sharp and critical. If he brought home some good food, it would lessen the scolding.
Terran moved on to the trash cans, dumping them onto the alleyway. There was plenty of food in them, but even after seven years of looking through garbage, he still had a hard time knowing what was safe to eat. Almost every week or so someone got sick, which made the cramped rooms at the boarding house that much more unbearable.
It was better than sleeping outside though, so Terran kept that complaint to himself. If Linz heard one of them complaining about the lodgings, who knew what she would do. With a snort, he wiped his hands on his jeans and moved on to the trash bags.
He squatted next to the first one and tore it open. The stench forced him to fall backwards and his body fought between trying to cough and choke at the same time. He rolled to his side and threw up on the alleyway. After his body had finished emptying itself, he wiped the tears from his eyes and walked a few steps away from the small puddle of vomit. Every so often Terran would find a bag like the one he had opened–the leftovers of a gang fight or some other victim left in the street.
His frustration returned and he walked over to a small pile of refuse. With a small wind-up, he kicked the trash as hard as he could. Putrid smells threatened to overtake him again as garbage flew in all directions. The rat, caught unawares in the pile, slammed into the wall. It fell to the ground, ran a few feet, and then collapsed. Terran smiled. Not every day we get some meat. Walking over, he stuffed the rat in the hidden inner pocket of his long jacket. No need for everyone to know he had one.
He looked through what remained of the pile the rat had been in. It had to have been eating something good if it had been still long enough to be kicked. After another moment of scavenging he found his prize–a molded loaf of bread. He tore it into pieces and began stuffing his outer pockets, careful not to make them bulge.
“Get out of my alley, you piece of trash.”
Terran turned to see who had shouted just in time to dodge a bottle. It crashed into the wall besides him, peppering him with shards of glass. The young man who had thrown the bottle retreated out of the window on the second floor for a moment before returning with another. Terran turned to run down the alleyway as another bottle crashed by his feet.
“Get a job!” another voice yelled.
A quick glance towards the building showed all the windows leading to the road were open. This was not going to be a good afternoon. He ran to the street as bottles and insults rained down around him.
“Look through your own trash.”
“Get out of our territory!”
“Why don’t you do us a favor and die.”
As he reached the corner of the building, Terran turned to retort to the teens. A bottle crashed into the wall by his head. He felt the shards of glass dig into his skin as it exploded inches from his face. He ducked back around the wall and ran down the street. The kids wouldn’t chase him–they wouldn’t dare go into Outskirts territory; too many gangs. Terran continued running, despite the wind that tried to suck the life out of him. He glanced around him at the run-down buildings, keeping track of the signs painted on their sides. Blood dripped into his eyes and he wiped it away, cringing as the glass shards sank a little deeper into his skin.
The streets were deserted, which coupled with the growing shadows, made it easier for scavengers to get ambushed. Nothing I can do about that now.
Terran rounded another corner and almost hollered in joy. A neutral building stood amongst its neighbors, basking under the dim light of a streetlamp. In a hurry, Terran burst into the building, unsurprised to find it empty. Everyone else is already home. It was the only reason he had been so quick to barge in. A small puddle of water sat in the center of the room. Terran made his way over and gingerly began washing the blood off his face and hands. It took time for him to find all the glass, but eventually he could touch his face without cringing, which was a good sign. Anna could help him get the rest out when he got home.
He walked back to window and scanned the street for any signs of a trap. Neutral buildings were supposed to be safe, but as soon as you stepped out, you were a goner. Grabbing a pane of glass, he examined his face. Cuts peppered his skin, but none looked too deep. There was plenty of blood still on his face, although now it was smeared. On his dark skin it was hard to tell the difference between dirt and dried blood, so he wasn’t too alarmed at the amount he saw. His blues eyes looked almost ethereal amidst all the red. He lifted the shaggy mess of brown hair around his ears, looking for any more cuts or hidden shards of glass, but apparently, his face had taken the bulk of the damage.
Terran jumped as the sound of breaking glass outside the front of the building surprised him. He ran to the back of the building and burst out the door. He had learned the hard way that you don’t investigate, you run. The street was empty and Terran took the advantage to sprint as hard as he could. One of the benefits of constantly running from gangs in the Outskirts and overseers in the Lessers’ territory was that he was good at it. It’s about the only thing I am good at anymore. Astrophysics don’t matter to people without food.
He heard the door to the neutral building slam open behind him as he turned the next street corner. He didn’t have much time to get back to the boarding house, but he would make it. As the streets became more familiar, he ran harder. He took another tight corner and suddenly the street was full of people; men and women headed to their shelters. Finally, he was safe.
He joined a small group of people with their heads down, walking in the general direction of Linz’s boarding house. There were no sounds except for shuffling feet and his pounding heart. He glanced around him at the people he was travelling with, and saw that each one wore the same blank expression. They were victims, defeated by the system. Terran spit on the ground. He would find a way out of this place. He just needed the chance.