History would not remember Ripley Prior.
At the edge of the world, the last stronghold of mankind holds silent vigil, a forgotten sentinel in the shadow of the Transantarctic mountains. It has stood for one hundred twenty-five years, while an increasingly dystopian hierarchy has formed bitter divides among its citizens. The Theran people who came through Antiquity’s Gate are hiding something. The tense relations between the last of Humanity and these mysterious outsiders threaten the fragile bonds that have been holding their community together. When the very rules enacted to safeguard survival bring heartache to the lives of two unlikely friends, it is up to them to find a way to escape from Sanctuary…but their actions may have devastating consequences.
They’d explored eight tunnels—or was it nine? —so far, keeping a meticulous record at Ripley’s insistence on a hand-drawn map. When D6 had been sealed off, the Tube had still needed to run beneath it. So instead of completely barricading D6, it was the side tunnels and shafts that had been blocked. The trouble was, all of the bulkheads were placed where the tunnels emerged from below ground, which meant they had to search each individual tunnel to be cer-tain it was a dead end. In addition to tracks, there were a number of mainte-nance shafts. These were too small to walk through, and Ripley and Felix had crawled for what seemed like ages, climbing ladders and exploring duct-work. The tunnels with tracks were easier, since they could walk, but they proved to be a horrible maze of offshoots, small stations, and turna-bouts. They were both tired and sore, and they had a lot of tunnels left to search. “Maybe we should split up,” Ripley decided.
“Yeah, we can cover more ground that way. We’ll meet back here in—” Felix glanced around, as if expecting to find a clock. “I don’t know. Just meet back here.”
Ripley took a service tunnel to the right, and Felix moved off to the left to follow an unmarked passage up ahead.
Ripley’s knees were practically screaming in protest by the time he crawled back into the main tunnel twenty minutes later. It had led to, unsurprisingly, another dead end. He straightened up, stretching, and heard a familiar, unwel-come voice behind him.
“Well, well, well.” Ripley recognized it instantly, and he closed his eyes. He didn’t have time for this. Not now. “If it isn’t Ripley Prior, De-fender of Peace and Unity.” These last words came out dripping with sar-casm. Ripley turned to face the men behind him.
“More like defender of tyrants and terrorists!” said one of the others. It was clear that this new speaker had been drinking. Tall and hulking, he wasn’t wearing a Security uniform. He stepped toward Ripley, but then stumbled a bit, as if he expected the floor to be a few inches lower than it actually was. He scowled at the ground accusingly, then up at Ripley. “You see a scrawny kid run by here, Elf-lover?”
Ripley shook his head as he sized up the group. There were four of them. Last time, it had been only two. He knew he was in trouble. He might be able to outrun them, if he could take them by surprise. “Listen,” Ripley said, putting his hands up slowly, “I don’t want any trouble. I really need to be on my way.”
“You hear that, boys?” This guy was clearly their leader. He stood tall, the shadow of a beard giving his face a gruff, unkempt appearance. “He needs to be on his way.”
Suddenly, two rough hands grabbed Ripley’s wrists and yanked, twisting them behind his body. He cried out as his attacker wrenched his shoulders, forcing him to his knees. Ripley had been so focused on the group before him that he hadn’t noticed the fifth man in the shadows behind him.
“You’re going to have to excuse us for holding you up, Mr. Prior. You see, we wanted to have a little chat about the other night. Real convenient, running into you here. Nice, private place for a heart-to-heart, wouldn’t you agree?”
One of the other men spoke up. “Uh, Denton, what about—” But Denton raised a hand and his companion fell silent.
“I thought we’d come to…an understanding, you and I. But clearly, you have a short memory.” One of the men pounded his fist into an open palm, grinding it menacingly. Ripley tried hard to think of a witty retort, something that would make him sound a lot less scared than he actually was.
Nothing came to mind.
“You see, we didn’t like the way you butted in on our private conversa-tion. We thought you ought to learn a little bit about self-respect and mind-ing your own business.”
“You were drunk, and you were being very rude to that woman.”
“Nah, that’s where you’re wrong. We were drunk, but we weren’t being rude to no woman. We were telling a Halfsie to go back where she belonged. They’ve got no business in our market.”
“There’re no rules against anyone going to the market—”
“Of course, there ain’t any rules against it! Because the Elves get to make all the rules. They’re the ones that put us here to begin with, and they’ve been telling us to learn our place ever since.”
“Even if that were true, so what? That doesn’t make it right to discrimi-nate.”
“We ain’t discriminating. We hate all Halfsies equally. Humans should never have sunk so low as to make little mongrels with the likes of Elves.” He spat, a look of hatred twisting his already ugly features. “They put us here. First, they invaded our home. Now they treat us like second class citi-zens. And what? We’re expected to worship them for saving us? Nah. It ain’t right. We warned you. We told you no good would come from cavortin’ with the enemy. Then you have the nerve to go parading around with one, the very next day! Right in front of us, after we warned you. Yeah, we saw ya. And we ain’t pleased.”
“Please,” Ripley said quietly. “He’s my best friend. He’d been there hun-dreds of times before. I wasn’t trying to—”
The man’s fist connected with the side of Ripley’s face, knocking the words, and possibly a few teeth, from his open mouth. Ripley had been hit before, but never in the face. His eyes watered and bursts of light clouded his vi-sion. He needed to find a way out of this. The Tube would be here soon, and their presence would be noted, possibly reported. He spoke as calmly as he could. “You have to let me go. Just walk away.”
“You mean like you should have walked away the other night? Nah. We asked you nicely.” The man kicked him in the stomach, hard, and Ripley felt some-thing crack. The air rushed out of his lungs, and he would have fallen if the other man hadn’t still been holding his arms behind him like a vice. “We said, ‘Get outta here. This ain’t none of your concern.’ I remember saying that, didn’t I, Percy?”
The tall one nodded. “I remember, Denton.”
Denton kicked Ripley again, and again. Then he knelt beside him, putting his face close to Ripley’s ear.
“We told you, we don’t want their kind here anymore. We’ve tolerated it too long. Humans need to take back what’s ours, starting with our dis-trict.” Denton growled as Ripley gasped, still struggling for breath. “We’re gonna have to make an example of you. Maybe we’ll take it slow. Make you see why the only thing worse than a Halfsie is the people like you. Who forget what it means to be Human. Who’ve got no sense of justice.” Denton grabbed him by the hair and yanked his head up, glaring into Ripley’s eyes. “Nah. You ain’t going to change your mind. Oh well. One less Halfsie-loving turncoat.”
Ripley had managed to catch his breath now. The pain where he’d been kicked was intense, but he managed a half smile. As his lips curved upward, a min-gled stream of blood and saliva slipped from them and trailed down his chin.
“You think you’re so tough. You’ve got your Human pride. As if you were there, when the Sequencing began. When it left children motherless and wiped out cities and devastated the entire planet.” Denton’s face was so close to his own that the man’s hot breath stung his eyes. “Where were you, when they discovered Antiquity’s Gate? Where were you when the Therans began to come through? Did you try to warn our ancestors? Did you shout ‘Hey, close it up! Send them back! They’re carrying a plague! You’re in danger!’?”
Ripley’s mouth had begun to fill up with blood, and he spat. The metallic taste lingered as he kept speaking, getting more and more angry. “You weren’t there. None of us were. The Halfsies weren’t either. They didn’t hurt you. They weren’t responsible. No one knew that things would end up like this. If they’d known…” His vision was still swimming, but he fought to fo-cus on Denton’s face. “If they’d known, they would have buried the damn thing. Left it beneath the ice forever, with its secrets, and its Elves, and its plagues.”
Denton stood up, brushing dust from his pant leg. “Ah, but they didn’t, did they? Couldn’t leave well enough alone. Just had to know what it was, what it did. And now look at us. Teetering on the brink of extinction. Subject to the rule of the invaders who stole everything from us.”
Ripley’s nod was weak, almost imperceptible. “Well I guess it was more Human-ity’s fault than the Elves, then, wasn’t it?”
Denton’s rage was evident as he balled his fist and pulled it back, getting ready to hit Ripley again. Ripley closed his eyes, waiting for the blow, but it never came. When he opened them again, Denton was just sneering at him.
“I’ve heard enough. Take him up the next maintenance hall and toss him in a garbage chute,” he said. “Maybe his beloved Halfsie friend will come looking for him and fall in, too.”
“Actually,” came a voice from behind Ripley, “Ripley is the one prone to trip-ping. I have excellent balance.” The hands that had been holding Ripley in place loosened and fell away as the man behind him grunted and crumpled to the ground. Denton backed up a bit toward Percy and the rest of his thugs, eyeing Felix warily as he helped Ripley to his feet. Felix continued speaking.
“Funny thing about Halfsies, really. We all tend to be light on our feet, like pureblood Elves. We have great vision, great hearing. But we don’t live nearly as long, which is a con for us, but maybe a pro for you, since you don’t seem terribly fond of Halfsies, do you?” He turned to Ripley, who was unsteady, and helped him to lean against the wall of the tunnel. “You okay, buddy? You’ve looked better.”
Ripley coughed. “I’ll be fine.”
“Oh,” said Felix, still watching Ripley but addressing Denton and his group now. “We’re also super strong, too. Which will make things easier.” He looked at Denton, turning to fix him with a cold gaze. “Because I’m going to kill you all.”
“History would not remember Ripley Prior.” But I will. And I’m betting Felix and Willow will too. And that sets the stage of this SciFi. Very well written and it will hold you to its pages and keep you reading and engaged. The Humans, Elves, and Halfsies (human and elf hybrid) live within the Sanctuary – a city of connected domes that is self-sustaining with strict rations. The different species don’t live in harmony, the Humans and Halfsies are detested by the Elves, who are the controlling body of the Domes. The Humans and Halfsies believe they are the last of their kind, and the Sanctuary is their last hope to survive. But is that really true?
The Sanctuary’s energy comes from the geothermal work stations beneath the domed city, pulling energy up from the Earth’s core. In the center of the domes is Antiquity’s Gate. A transportation gate (think Stargate) that travels to the alternate plane of Thera, the home world of the Elves. But the Elves are planning something, and a small group found out the plans and are out to save the rest of Sanctuary.
What I like about this novel – is all the intricate details and how well it was all thought out. It was engaging with characters you care about and what happens to them. What I didn’t like, there was a lot of characters to keep track of – and it was long. The chapters are for the most part, broken into the subplots with the characters, so at times it would take a few chapters before you heard from some of the characters, so it would interrupt my engagement at times, thinking I would turn the page to find out what was going to happen, and I ran into a detour of the other characters.
Even with my minor grievances, this is a very good SciFi. Even though gates for travel and domed cities after a catastrophic event are not original ideas, the author’s imagination and ingenuity makes it her own, and will leave us SciFi nerds wanting more. Reviewed by Cyrene
4 1/2 Stars