y1 is the second novel in the loosely interrelated collection known as 46. Ascending. Each novel tells the tale of an otherwise normal person coming to terms with having unusual abilities. The stories are designed to be read in any order as they overlap in time and build upon each other in all directions.
This page contains a short description of the book y1 followed by three of my favorite excerpts from the first part of the novel. To read more, please purchase y1 at at smashwords.com, at amazon.com, or at Barnes and Noble
Zane swore as a child to protect all the odd people of the world, studying chameleons and muscle groups to teach himself to alter his own appearance. No longer a young boy too smart and too different to fit in, Zane starts his first job at a pharmaceutical company where he uncovers layers of corporate secrets that hide surprisingly vile plans. Once he is sent on a sales trip to the South Pacific, it becomes clear that there are those who would kill to protect the mysteries that the company has worked so hard to keep hidden.
Charged with murder and hunted by an unsavory boot camp manager, he finds himself sailing to remote islands with a shadowy group known as y1. As a young gay man sometimes forced to hide his true nature at home, Zane discovers love with a young man of the Pacific whose past and whose talents are every bit as unusual.
Fantasy, reality and speculative science come together as Zane must find a way to use all of his unique abilities to resist turning from a murder suspect into a murder victim. He still plans to keep his childhood promise, if he can only live long enough to do so.
At the end of February, the television kept talking about a bomb which had gone off in the parking garage of some giant building in New York, killing five people. The man on the TV said the bomb had ended the belief that Americans were safe from attack.
His mom had taken him and Ariel to see Aladdin for a second time at the dollar theater because they had both liked it so much. The movie’s hit song, “A Whole New World,” had just made its way into the number one spot on the charts. Zane sang the title to himself. “A whole new world …” He didn’t sing very well, but Zane had liked the movie. He liked all stories about creatures with special powers, and he thought that the genie was really funny.
Zane was glad that no one else was upstairs with him that day as he sang because after Balthazar gave Zane one of his one-eyed knowing looks, his reptilian skin made its first transition from subtle greens and browns to a spectacular bright orange. Zane grinned. He didn’t know what orange meant with other chameleons, but Zane felt sure that it meant that Balthazar was very happy.
Then Zane took a deep breath. Forcing back his fear, he made himself remember that time last summer. That time he had been so scared. Every so often Zane’s dad made him go outside and play with whoever was around, and he had been playing hide and seek with neighbor boys he didn’t really like because they did more mean things than most. On this day, Zane had taken great pains to conceal himself particularly well because he especially did not like to be “it” with these guys.
As the one boy came close to the bushes in which Zane was so carefully hidden, Zane had noticed his bare foot was still sticking out onto the orange-brown soil. He dare not move it now. So he had thought hard about his foot muscles and did his best to flatten the foot tight against the ground, and to hold it very still. While he did this thing, the skin on his foot had started to burn and itch too. Zane looked at it, alarmed at first, and saw that his foot was blushing. At least, it had turned a shade of red orange brown that mimicked the dirt. And that had been his first inkling that he could do more than make his body’s shape twist and warp a little more than most people could. Zane had watched his orange brown foot in fascination while the neighbor boy ran on by.
Afterwards, Zane worried that he had imagined it. But then every so often after that, Zane’s skin would surprise him, just like his muscles had already sometimes surprised him with what they could do. After awhile, he could feel a color change coming, this kind of burning feeling, and he knew what to expect. So he finally figured that he needed a teacher. A wise teacher. Like Balthazar.
Zane watched the chameleon’s orange skin with fascination.
“Can I learn to do that when I want to, wise one?” he asked.
He tried hard to make the feeling inside that he felt when his skin did this all by itself. He concentrated hard on his arm. At first nothing happened. Then, yes. He felt the feeling. He made the feeling. His skin on his arm went from its normal light tan to a tan orange.
“You and I are going to be great friends,” Zane told the chameleon quietly. “You are going to help teach me ways to fight the bullies in this world. And you are the only one who is going to get to know just how really strange I am.”
Zane could have sworn that Balthazar turned even brighter in delight.
Toby was considering whether he should buy more pineapples. Samoan pineapples were consistently tasty and he loved them, but he didn’t want to buy more than he could eat before they spoiled. He was also concerned he had bought more fish than he could eat, but it was too late to remedy that.
He looked behind him and saw a young man with unusually straight jet-black hair and a Polynesian’s round face that held East Asian eyes. A genetic blend of the Pacific Rim, the young man was wandering along the dock near the back of his boat. He was thin and wiry for a local, and looked harmless as he took off his shirt and shoes as though he were thinking of jumping into the water. Toby glanced away, giving himself one last minute to enjoy the sight of the pretty harbor with the older wooden houses and shops framed by the fast-rising hills and dense trees.
He smiled at Aggie Grey’s famous hotel, where yesterday he had been pleased to enjoy essentially the same hamburger as those that the legendary lady had served to America’s servicemen in World War II. You had to appreciate a tourist place that served such good food and had such a fine story to tell. And you had to appreciate a harbor town that in today’s world had maintained a feeling of existing somewhere between the 1800s and the 1950s.
As he nodded to the stately twin spires of the Roman Catholic Cathedral that had guided him in safely between Apia Harbor’s two reefs at least a dozen times over the last few years, he heard a splash that he assumed had been made by the young man going for his swim. He turned and focused on getting the rest of his gear aboard and heading out.
He was just starting his engine, always preferring to use it to get easily in and out of a harbor, when he noticed three stout Samoan men wearing the traditional wrap around lava-lavas marching out towards his boat as though they had just made a decision.
The oldest of the three waved at him and shouted. “Stop your engines. We need to check your boat for a missing boy. We saw him heading out onto this dock.”
“Oh, sure, I saw him,” Toby yelled back as he waved a hand agreeably, pointing towards a shirt lying on the wooden pier. “He jumped in the water here. A little odd, but no harm done. He didn’t bother me.”
“We’d like to make sure he’s not on your boat,” the Samoan persisted as the three men approached the craft. Toby shrugged. “Look for yourself.”
Toby thought, I wonder what happened to the boy’s shoes?
There wasn’t that much looking to do on his vessel. There was seating for up to six above deck, and a cabin with a head and separate shower, a compact galley area and sleeping arrangements for up to five, depending on what was raised or lowered and how. The men boarded without further courtesy, which irked Toby a little. He was sensitive to people walking into his home. One man methodically began opening each of his storage areas above deck, while another descended below and opened the door to the head to reveal a small toilet seat with no one on it.
“I’ve been right here. I promise you he is not onboard,” Toby added with growing irritation, not so anxious to have this bunch of strangers pawing through all his possessions, legal though they were. “Please gentleman, I would like to be on my way.”
The man who had opened the door to the head ignored him, opening the larger storage areas located below deck, starting with those beneath his sleeping and sitting areas. One was filled with kitchen supplies, another held clothes and toiletries, yet another lifejackets. He shrugged to his cohorts.
“We guess he jumped in the water then. Let us know if you see him. He could be dangerous.”
Toby’s dark brown eyes widened. “What’s he done?”
“We don’t know details. He’s one of the young men being kept at one of those special schools for troubled teens here on the island. We have a few of them. These kids are lavished with good care and opportunities to grow into decent adults, but sometimes they don’t realize what they’ve been given, and they try to escape so that they can return to their old and troubled ways. We help the school by returning the misguided ones. He’s better off at this school, believe me. So if he does turn up, do him a favor and let us know.”
“I will. Thanks for telling me.”
Well that was a new one, Toby thought. Maybe these men had a point. He didn’t even realize that there were schools for, what, misguided youth on Samoa? Go figure.
He had just gotten safely past both reefs and was tacking slightly under a nice slow breeze, heading northwest on a course for Funafuti, when he decided to go below and grab some water. A movement caught his eye. The lid to one of the smaller storage areas tucked around in the back of the cabin was opening slowly. Surely a person could not have fit into that space? Toby felt a surge of fear, and looked around for something that might do as a weapon.
He grabbed a knife as the stowaway tumbled to the floor in a mess of ropes. The small young man in the briefest of underwear rose slowly, shook himself as he stood, then turned around, with apology in his eyes, to face Toby.
“I am so sorry about this. And I am so sorry about no clothes. Please do not hurt me. Please.”
Toby took a deep breath and decided to hear the other side to the story.
It was hard not to like Peter Hulson when one actually talked to him in person. In spite of his age he had a liveliness about him, and his still sharp, bright blue eyes were probing but not unfriendly. He shook Zane’s hand warmly, gestured him onto a soft green velvet-covered settee and offered Zane water or coffee. Zane passed, although he wasn’t sure if it was more rude to accept or to decline. He allowed himself an appreciative peek at the surprisingly unobstructed view of Lake Michigan that the top floor provided.
“I’ll get right to the point, young man,” Peter began, drawing his attention back. “It’s well known that I am always seeking bright new young people here, and that I like to mentor them myself. I get a fair amount of grief from my VPs about it being beneath my pay grade, but the fact is that I want my company to not just exist but to thrive for a very long time. The way I see it, that only happens if I can hand the reins over to not one but at least two more generations of focused, brilliant, committed successors.”
A swirl of sorrow came and went from his face so quickly that Zane thought that he might have imagined it. The older man kept talking.
“I’m finding that these brilliant, committed successors are a bit in short supply. But, you’ve landed on our doorstep with excellent grades from an excellent school—did you know that Penthes sponsors a neuroscience scholarship at your alma mater?—and managed to get yourself in a position reporting directly to my director of sales and marketing. Word is that she thinks that you have excellent potential.”
Zane tried to smile appreciatively.
“Excellent potential.” Peter repeated the words for emphasis. “I don’t think there are two finer words in the English language, young man, than ‘excellent potential.’ So I’d like to personally do what I can to, well, encourage you.”
Zane tried to make the smile even more appreciative because he just didn’t know what to say.
“Would you consider a trip to Fiji to be encouragement?”
Okay, he could answer this one.
“Yes. I think most people would.”
The older man chuckled. “Good, good. Brenda and Gil are in the process of putting together a very important conference for us. I have told them to spare no expense. Raju has assured me that we are near approval for our latest R&D endeavor, a specific cocktail of some of our older drugs, designed in such a way as to particularly target the problems of anger and rebellion sometimes found in older children and younger teenagers. We believe that we could save untold numbers of families huge amounts of grief if instead of hostility and even illegal behavior in this age group we could provide a treatment which would result in more mature and acceptable choices being made by these young people. Mind you, the drugs aren’t new, but the combination and the approach are. And this conference in Fiji is designed to introduce our new product in the most favorable light possible. The success of this conference is important to the future of this company.
“So, I’ve okayed sending Brenda to Fiji late this month to do a recon. In spite of you being new, I want you to go with her. Help her with travel and logistics, but also keep your eyes open and your brain on and to help us to find ways to make this little symposium a huge success. Have ideas for us, Zane. Think for us. Will you do that?”
Of course Zane said yes. He said it sincerely and shook the man’s hand and thanked him. Because Zane wasn’t an idiot.
But on the ride back down on the elevator, Zane kept seeing his fourteen-year-old sister Teddie’s face. She had anger. She had issues. More than he had at that age, for sure. But she also had a huge heart and a creative streak a mile wide and Zane really wondered if both Teddie and the world would be better off if some doctor was totally convinced that she should be medicated.