ETHAN is left with a serious problem after what should have been a routine mission. He’s fractured—a break between mind and body that leaves him at the mercy of his Rifter abilities, which are quickly tearing him apart. He will have to trust the only person who might know how to fix him, a mysterious Rifter named Stewart Stills, who seems to have a special connection with the time stream.
| Prodigal and Riven Flip Book Edition
Though I’ve never been here before, the darkness is familiar, comforting. Above me, the moon reaches its apex, the soft, full glow illuminating the sky so the stars are barely visible. I nestle against the bark of a large pine tree. There’s no snow on the ground yet, but the air is heavy with the promise of a coming storm. The smell is crisp and clean and not at all like home.
Subconsciously, my hand goes to my arm, gently stroking the device wound around my wrist. The Tether is a Tesla invention, something the Hollows aren’t supposed to use. But there was no way was I going to try to get permission for this little trip, so I made an exception. Ember brought a few Tethers with her when she defected from The Institute. I doubt she’ll even be upset when she figures out that I pinched one from Nobel’s lab. He’s working on re-creating them for us, a welcome alternative to the stomach churning Contra we normally use. In the past few weeks, things have changed rapidly in The Hollow Tower, and one of those things is my newfound friendship with Ember—a girl I’d been all too willing to kill just a few short weeks ago.
The enemy of my enemy and all that.
No, this was better. Getting permission would mean going to Gloves for Contra, and he would want to know why I needed it. I’m not ready to face him—or the others—just yet. Not until I’m absolutely sure.
During my last mission, I’d found one of Tesla’s old journals. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, if not for the emblem sketched on the first page, the symbol so like the mark I carried below my naval.
As a rule, Rifters don’t remember our pasts; it’s all part of the process, the washing away of our memories. Lex and Ember are the only ones I know who recovered those lost years, who know who they are and where they come from. For them, it is a mixed blessing. It brought them back together as brother and sister, but also brought back the truth about everything they lost.
I was never curious about my past before that. The Hollow Tower had been my home since I was only a few years old— much younger than most of the others when they were brought in. I always assumed there was something tragic, some dark reason I was taken so young. And unlike Lex, I was perfectly content not remembering.
I creep through the woods to the dirty window of the cabin, stepping carefully in my tall, black leather boots. The slightest noise will alert the paranoid man inside to my presence. Luckily, I have plenty of practice sneaking up on people. Inside, Tesla fiddles with a rat’s nest of antenna wiring that drops through a duct in the roof. Crouching down, I blow on my hands and rub them together. Being at fourteen thousand feet elevation smack in the middle of the Rocky Mountains isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. I have a major headache, my toes are numb, and my nose is running like a leaky faucet. I sniffle hard and my ears pop from the pressure building in my sinuses. It’s going to take a week’s worth of hot showers just to get warm again.
I watch through the glass as Tesla gets frustrated with the wiring, throws a handful of tools against the wall, and begins pacing back and forth, running his hands through his jet-black hair and down his face, yelling at the wad of copper filament on the wood floor. Finally, he slumps into a chair facing a chalkboard on the wall. Pouring himself a drink from a half-empty bottle of amber-colored liquid on the table beside him, he rests the glass against his forehead.
This is one of the few times I’ve been able to catch him alone. For a recluse, he somehow manages to keep a constant orbit of assistants and hangers-on nearby. Tonight, however, he’s working alone, having long since sent the others away in a fit of frustration.
The window has warped with age, forming ripples in the glass. Between that and the frost beginning to form, it’s getting harder to see. Trying to ignore the cold biting at my fingers and the tips of my nose and ears, I lean forward, forcing my eyes to focus through the distortion. This is actually the closest I’ve ever been to him. He sits there, red faced and sweaty, swigging another mouthful of alcohol. His suit coat has a hole in the elbow and half of the collar is folded inside the jacket. His shoes and pants are muddy to the knees. I’ve never seen him so disheveled, or so drunk. I check the date on my Tether. It’s my third trip to get what I need from him. I’ve tried twice before, in other times and other places, only to wind up empty-handed. If I don’t get what I came for tonight, I don’t know when I’ll be able to try again. The others are already growing suspicious of my random disappearances—especially Lex. He’s entirely too tuned into me. It’s hard to keep things from him. Unlike the others, he has an uncanny ability to see through me, and he never hesitates to call me on my crap.
I kind of love that about him.
But as with Gloves and the others, I am stuck keeping secrets from him. Right now, all I have is a pile of questions with no answers. What I found written in the tattered journal pages read like fiction—the insane ramblings of a lunatic scientist. But there was something else too, bits and pieces that when put together…
Sherry D. Ficklin
is a full time writer from Colorado where she lives with her husband, four kids, two dogs, and a fluctuating number of chickens and house guests. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs. She is the author of several YA novels ranging from contemporary romance to science fiction. In her spare time she co-hosts the Pop Lit Divas radio show and is constantly trying to take over the world.
was born in the era of the Star Wars
and the Indiana Jones
sagas. He has been enamored with science fiction and adventure stories ever since. In order to support his hobby of writing he decided to pursue dentistry. He graduated from Nova Southeastern University School of Dental Medicine in 2002. He then completed a four year orthodontic and periodontic residency at the University of Pennsylvania. In June 2006, he opened a private practice, Jolley Smiles, in Grand Junction, Colorado.Snowboarding, mountain biking, road biking, fly fishing, bird hunting, camping, hiking, and backpacking are the things he enjoys doing with his family. He also enjoys lecturing internationally on temporary orthodontic implants. Some of his journal articles have also been published in the Journal of Clinical Orthodontics
. However, his true passion has always been fiction writing.When life gets stressful he escapes to unseen worlds to find relaxation. His career has been the vehicle to let him write without worry. He finds inspiration from most of his adolescent patients. He continues to dream up fun and thrilling books to this day.