GYRE (Book 1 of the Atlas Link Series)
February 1, 2016 – Curiosity Quills Press
When myth and reality collide…
Chelsea didn’t try to teleport. All she wanted was to play the Battle of the Bands show. But after accidentally teleporting onto classified Navy vessel SeaSatellite5, all she’s rocking is the boat. Once it’s sorted out that Chelsea’s not a threat, SeaSat5’s top scientist offers Chelsea a position on the crew as an archaeology intern. Dr. Saint studies people with powers, believing them to be descendants of Atlantean refugees, except Chelsea’s powers are beyond anything on previous record.
While great for everyone else onboard, the miracle of Chelsea is Trevor’s worst nightmare. The same girl who’d given him a brief lifeline to sanity three months ago literally fell from the sky, under a mile of ocean, and onto the very station where he’s employed. Making matters worse, Trevor’s family are Lemurians, Atlantis’s enemy, and Chelsea’s presence is unpredicted—a wrench in an already unstable situation. But Trevor wants no part of his family’s war. The only thing he wants is Chelsea, Atlantean or not.
Days into Chelsea’s sudden appearance, SeaSatellite5 uncovers Atlantean ruins and a massive artifact cache, placing its entire, hundred-man crew in the crosshairs of an ancient war. There are those who want the Atlantean relics inside the ruins destroyed, and only Trevor knows the treasures for what they really are: Link Pieces, tools used by the ancient civilizations for their time-travel war.
With lies and shifting alliances abound, Chelsea and Trevor will have to think fast in order to save the station. If they don’t, the Lemurians will seize the artifacts and Atlantis will be destroyed forever.
*** *** *** ***
The crowd swallowed me whole, and I welcomed the invisibility. I leaned my head against the wall and savored my freedom while I still had it. Hopefully the military wouldn’t find this place. Eighteen-and-up venues were rare in Boston, so that’d narrow it down. Please, luck, don’t fuck me over tonight.
A rock band played through their set list to the tune of hundreds of fans screaming out every lyric. Phoenix and Lobster’s lead singer sported a wicked grin, her hazel eyes lit up from the cheering and applause. Her honey-colored hair bounced as she jumped and strummed her guitar. Despite the music’s violent tone, she moved with a grace I’d never seen before. Her allure cautioned that danger could follow, all while hinting that the plunge was worth the risk.
She enraptured me, but paranoia clawed at my insides. I ripped my eyes from her perfect face and plastered them to the venue’s main entrance. They’re gonna find me for sure.
The door swung open, and my breath hitched. Crap. That quickly?
A herd of teens piled in and I heaved a sigh, dispersing the clawing beast as if it were cigar smoke spiraling into the air. People pushed against me, but I ignored them. They could rub their sweaty, flailing arms all over me, and I wouldn’t care so long as that discomfort meant safety. Anonymity.
I lifted my eyes to the lead singer again. She was already watching me, smiling as she sang. Her eyes bore down on me like no one else existed. It could have been my imagination, but my skin heated like all the stage lights had been swiveled to focus on me. My pulse pounded under her gaze, as if my mind had come alive long enough to cling to her like a lifeboat. Because she noticed me when I tried to stay hidden. Freedom blazed around her like a veritable burning bush, bright as a campfire in the middle of the woods. Wild and fluid and everything I craved. She didn’t need to hide; it was obvious from the set of her jaw, the purpose in her presence. This was a girl who faced things head-on, a girl who had the freedom to do so.
She turned away, breaking our connection, and finished her song without looking back. A weight fell down my throat to my chest.
The rejection hurt, but my own stupidity offended me more. Maybe she’d only checked to make sure I hadn’t passed out drunk like the people at the bar. Slouched against the wall during a rock show, I’d call myself a drunk, too.
The show ended, and the room cleared out. I wandered through a door near the stage that led out back. Darkness swept the alleyway with little reprieve. Clouds puffed out from my mouth with every exhale, spiraling upwards. I shivered into my hoodie. Next time I ran from the military, I’d be sure to wear something heavier. Or pick somewhere warmer to run to.
Shuffling sounds pervaded the alley, followed by the sharp ting of a can getting kicked against a wall.
“Get the fuck away from me!”
“Shut up, bitch!”
My chest tightened as I turned a corner to find two people mid-scuffle. A man shoved a young woman against a brick wall, her head connecting with a thwack. His baggy hoodie obscured everything except his height, a feature that left this girl without a hope of fighting back.
“Hey!” I shouted.
They both spun toward me, and my fists clenched when her face met mine. The lead singer. The girl who had pinned me with an electric stare then glanced away like she hadn’t allowed me a deep glimpse into her being. She swiveled, slammed both open palms against the wall, and kicked outward, sailing the man straight across the alleyway.
All the way across. To the other brick wall fifteen feet away.
What the hell?
Maybe she didn’t need saving after all. I sure as hell couldn’t do better than that.
I sprinted forward, intent on putting myself between them, but the man jumped to his feet. He charged forward a few steps then froze. His head cocked to the side, like a dog investigating an intruding noise.
“Back the hell off!” I shouted at him, my words way off my mark. I’d never been in a fight in my life, never had a reason to jump into one. But something about this girl, how she saw me, sent my feet moving five steps quicker than my head. An ache started in my chest and flowed to my arms and hands. For all the confidence she’d exuded on stage, and despite the strength that allowed her to kick the guy away, she needed help.
The way the streetlight fell from the road, I couldn’t see his face. But an intricate tattoo covered his hand in an endless stream of swirls, a dark-inked infinity contained on his skin. Four tight curls of ink stayed the center of the tattoo, anchoring the lines that floated outwards. The design seized my attention—and my breath. I’d seen it before, hundreds of times. It was the mark my parents made me memorize as a kid. Their company’s logo. The symbol broadcasting my parents’ and this man’s shared belief in a fantasy so ridiculous they’d advertise such conviction on their skin—that time travel was possible, achieved through connections forged in man-made objects.
My chest dropped, so heavy my legs threatened to buckle beneath me. Had he targeted her because I ran, because he needed a way to draw me out? Was it a way to get me to go back and be a good Lemurian spy? Some part of my mind was disgusted that could be true.
But why attack her? Why would Lemurians even come to Boston?
The Fine Art Museum, my brain offered. Artworks, artifacts, everything they’d need to be set up for a while. Every tool they’d need to travel through time for at least a month.
The man didn’t back down. Mom probably sent him after me when Lieutenant Weyland—unaware of my ancestral predicament, along with the whole of the Navy—failed to find me quickly. I barreled forward, tackling the man to the ground. The singer gasped and backed against the wall. It was the only good hit I’d likely get on the guy, and I took it.
We tumbled and rolled. I got in a punch, but I couldn’t avoid one he threw in return. His fist smashed my jaw. Reality swam around me in a stunned sea of confusion. He yanked me up by the collar of my shirt and reeled back. I tore into his grip, trying to make space between my neck and the fabric accosting it. Air. Need air.
The man froze again, cursing under his breath before shoving me against the ground. His footfalls died off as he ran away.
Kill me now. My head pulsed and my jaw ached like it’d been completely unhinged. I ran my fingers across the bone. It didn’t feel broken. Tender and bruising fast, but not broken.
“Shit,” the singer said. “Why the hell did you do that?”
The singer. She was still here, standing over me with a hand on her head and the other wrapped around her waist.
“Trying to help.” I stood, grunting with the effort, and wiped my mouth. My sleeve came away red with blood.
She backed off a step and glared. I jump in to save her, and she’s pissed. Figures.
“That was kind of stupid.” Her eyes softened. “Thank you.”
I shrugged off the thanks. “Are you okay?”
“Just peachy. Perfect day, you?”
The light masked her face, but caught enough to reflect off the tears on her cheeks. “Sure you are. I can tell you were crying. Did he hurt you?”
A stupid question because I watched him pitch her into the wall.
“No,” she said, cradling her head despite her words. Then again, she wasn’t hurt enough to not defend herself. She’d kicked him clear across the alley.
Impossible things, Abby had said, right before—
“You sure you’re okay?” she asked, pointing to my face. “Come inside. I’ll get you ice or a drink or something.”
And god dammit, almost every part of me reached out for that invitation. But something held me back, a nagging in my brain that clawed its way out. It said to run. Now. Away from this Lemurian attack if I ever wanted to get out for good.
I didn’t move. Either toward her or away from the alley.
“You hit your head pretty hard,” I said. “Is there someone you can call?” My eyes wandered to the door we’d both exited from. “Someone from your band?” If I had a phone, I’d call 911 for her.
But she didn’t retreat. So I didn’t either. I wished she’d at least pull her hand away from her head and check for blood. The sound her skull made as it struck the brick echoed in my ears.
She dropped the arm she had wrapped around her chest. The tension in my ribs, squeezing my insides together, released when she relaxed, leaving behind only the pain in my face.
“Thank you for stepping in,” she said.
“Looked like you handled yourself.” I wiped my lip again. Still bleeding.
Her eyes darted past me to where the man collided with the brick. “Yeah. I don’t know about that.”
Her face fell, eyes darkening like there’d been more to the exchange than I’d seen. What’d he do to her before I’d gotten there? I wanted to comfort her, to wrap my arms around her to prove she’d be safe now, but I wasn’t sure she’d let me. She barely let me stand three feet away from her. I shoved my hands into my pockets so I wouldn’t be tempted to reach out.
Silence fell into the space between us. It wasn’t enough to fill the void, and it wasn’t enough to press me to leave. My feet wouldn’t comply even if my mind gave them orders. I wasn’t leaving until I knew she’d be okay, the girl who’d given me a glimpse at what pure freedom looked like.
“Well, thanks anyways…” She trailed off, as if waiting for something more.
I offered all I could think of. “Boncore. I’m Trevor Boncore.”
A smile edged her lips. “Like James Bond or something? I think you’re taking this saving me thing a bit far, don’t you?”
I let a smile crack through the unease threatening to engulf me. I ran from the military to escape my parents’ absurd war with ancient civilizations, not run into a girl with unnatural strength. Maybe the whole incident was a coincidence. Maybe she held a black belt, or the mugger was pathetic. I couldn’t tell anymore. My jaw throbbed in time with the bass leaking through the walls of the venue.
“I didn’t do much,” I admitted. Aside from getting punched in the face. Not exactly the best way to win a girl over.
Her penetrating, wild stare begged to differ. Like she believed without a doubt I’d done it all.
“Still, thank you. I’m Chelsea.” She tucked hair behind her ear. “I… wish we could have met under different circumstances.”
I chuckled, but it wasn’t funny. “Yeah, me too.”
Just about any other circumstance might have been better. On the run from the military, I’d found her being attacked by a Lemurian who’s probably related to me somehow. I didn’t know for sure. But she probably just saw me as a stranger willing to take a beating to save her. Maybe she didn’t remember our exchange during her band’s set at all.
“What’d he want with you?” I asked.
She shrugged and wrapped her arms around herself. Her lip quivered, but she covered it up with a sharp inhale. “Money, probably. He didn’t talk a lot. Then you showed up.” Her eyes wandered to the door. “I should go inside now. Are you sure you don’t want to come?”
“I’m sure.” I didn’t know why Mom had targeted her or how many others were nearby. I had to get out now and never stop running if I wanted to stay free. “Have someone check out your head, Chelsea.” God, just saying her name aloud propelled jolts up my spine.
“I will. Get ice for your face.” She wandered to the door but, instead of opening it, her hand hovered over the handle. Her eyes flitted to mine. “Thank you.”
I turned for the street without looking back and sucked air into my lungs to calm my racing heart. Ice sounded good. My jaw ached for numbness.
I couldn’t stay here, but Boston was the only endgame I’d planned as it’d been a big enough city to get lost in. Maybe New York City would be better. I hadn’t exactly thought this “running away” thing through.
The harsh sound of breaks squealing to a stop froze all thought. A black SUV pulled up on the other side of the road. Dammit. Boston wasn’t a big enough city to get lost in? How’d they even find me? I popped up onto the balls of my feet and shot my gaze up and down the street. I could run, return to the club and race out the front door. Maybe I could even get a few blocks down the street before they figured out where I went.
Two guys emerged from the vehicle, navy blue sweaters standing in for their Navy uniform jumpers. Exhaustion and annoyance marred their faces. I tipped back onto my heels and slouched. Running now was pointless; I couldn’t blame any of the war on them. And making Lieutenant Weyland chase me after I’d disappeared on shore leave hadn’t been fair. I’d made him look bad, and I hadn’t intended to do that. Being my parents’ pawn in a clandestine war between Atlantis and Lemuria had taken its toll, and I hadn’t agreed with them. So I’d run. Simple as that. But you can’t hide from the military when you’re the head of a civilian department in the most classified operation to date.
The soldiers didn’t cross the street. Weyland stood there, arms across his chest, eyebrows raised like a parent scolding their child. I imagined him saying: Get over here and get in the car. Now.
I sighed and followed the unspoken orders as any civilian would: with heavy feet and sagged shoulders. Working for the military had some perks. My problems consisted of things they didn’t know about. Like their station being a subversion for a higher purpose.
Before I climbed into the backseat, something in the alleyway caught my attention. I squinted through dim light and saw her standing there. Chelsea. She hadn’t gone inside.
Red hair flashed below me. Valerie slid out of my way and said, “Nice shiner. She must be special.”
I tore my eyes from Chelsea and climbed into the backseat. “Don’t even.”
Chelsea had turned back. Why hadn’t she gone inside the Franklin?
Valerie looked out her window. “Don’t even what? You’re the one who skipped town.” She tilted her head my way. “Did you really think getting out would be so straightforward? Did you think Weyland wouldn’t come find you before we left dock for good?”
I glanced at Valerie. Did she know about Chelsea’s attacker? Or why my parents had sent him after her? She must. Of course she did. She’d always been the more loyal of us two.
Lieutenant Weyland claimed the driver’s seat and pulled away from the curb. Was Chelsea still watching this? I wanted to look, to glance back into the alley, but I fought the urge. She was just as mysterious as the Lemurian attacker himself. How had that tiny girl sent her attacker flying?
In my life, those impossible things only led to hurt and heartbreak.
I fixed my eyes on the seat in front of me and blocked out the rest of the world.