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There have always been warps—tears between realities—and they’ve always been a threat to humanity. Most people are blind to them. But Hallie’s eyes are opening. Now that she’s going to school at the Protectorate, she’s learning there’s more to life than fun and games.
The truth is, she’s just become part of Earth’s only shield against the monsters of the warps. Before, she didn’t think she was anything special. Now, yanked from her relatively normal life, she realizes that she doesn’t have a choice.
When the emergency alarm sounds, calling everyone in the school to arms, even the young and inexperienced are needed. As one of the warp weavers—capable of closing the warps and stopping the monsters—Hallie must now work to save lives. And she must do it in the most complicated situation she’s ever experienced. Because there are sea serpents in the Thames, and Hallie has to close the doors that are letting them in.
The problem is, they’re underwater, and they’re hungry.
Now everyone is relying on her, and Hallie must find a way to do her job—with a brand new partner—before it’s too late. Because if she fails she’ll die, along with everyone who’s depending on her.
The team next to us glides to the edge of the wharf and drops into the water, the weight of the girls plunging the whole apparatus under.
I flinch in shock, and Ruble pats my hand. The gleaming container pops to the surface as I watch, just metres from our feet, and slides off over the water, leaning forward. Like a Segway—a floating, water-riding Segway made of magic. In it, Louise is wielding the fierce-looking gun she’d been assembling in the van, while her partner crouches in front of her, one hand pressed against the inside of the bubble. A viciously serrated tail punctures the water surface next to them, but they’re already spinning out of the way, as if they’d seen it coming. Louise fires, the sound muffled by distance, and gleaming purple blood flowers on the chalky tail, which splashes back into the water, raising a huge wave that almost capsizes the team.
I realize I’m pressed extremely tightly against Ruble’s back, and that he’s been talking for the past few minutes, and groan under my breath. Can’t you listen to one thing, Hallie, ever?
“Are you ready?” His voice is thrumming with excitement. No, no, I didn’t hear a word you just said, and I have no idea what you need from me or what I’m doing.
Ruble crows again and leans forward, pressing his hand harder against the front of the skimmer, the muscle in his forearm tensing. Suddenly we’re zooming off over the water and I join in, yelling with the sheer joy of the movement. It’s like a rollercoaster—surfing on a rollercoaster.
See, Dad, I knew skateboarding was gonna be useful for something.
I keep myself in balance, shifting my weight automatically, years of practice coming in handy. Underfoot, through the ethereal layer of magic and technology that’s keeping us afloat, I can see Serpents. Two of them—one large, one small—are writhing deep in the water, coming up toward us.
I open my mouth to shout a warning, but Ruble is already spinning us away from the approaching sea demons. Then Paulie’s team swoops in, a huge war bow in the boy’s small hands, fierce glee painting his face with exultation. He hollers something and launches an arrow, which punches through the side of his bubble with no ill effects. The missile sinks deep into a Serpent’s flank in a blossom of cloudy blood, and the monster twists away from me and my companion. Ruble skids us sideways, London riverbank streaming past.
We’re going at a decent clip, halfway out over the river, when my hands start to glow.
I can just make out the huge forms of Sea Serpents undulating in the murky distance. They don’t seem to have noticed us yet but my hands are streaming Warplight, guiding us to the rift that has allowed these beasts entry from their home world, and I don’t know how long we’ll be able to keep our presence a secret.
I want to speak, to fill the oppressive silence the weight of the water has caused, but my mouth is dry and sticky with fear. A condom is drifting next to us, resembling a translucent jellyfish. Gross.
Well, this is certainly an adventure. Join the Protectorate, they said. See the world, they said. Drown at the bottom of the disgusting Thames, they didn’t say. At least needles don’t float. I wonder if mystical healing works on hepatitis.
“There!” Ruble hisses, his dreadlocks brushing my cheek as he turns, spinning the board around with his feet.
It spirals so rapidly I lose my balance, just a bit. My right elbow hits the bubble and … passes straight through, resistance no more than the surface of the water itself. It feels like I’ve submerged it into a cold bath.