Maia had hoped to escape Aerika’s clutches that day, but those hopes died a violent death the instant the team slinked into the classroom. Aerika stood near the pool with her arms crossed, her eyes fixed on the doorway—she was ready to pounce on her hapless prey the moment they set foot inside. At the forefront of the luckless group was Kusha. He slowed to a halt at the sight of Aerika, and behind him Maia could almost feel his urge to turn around and flee. But Kusha stood his ground and so did his teammates as Aerika strutted up to them, Dill in tow.
“There they are.” She pointed a skeletal finger at the huddled group. Everything felt like a dizzy blur of distant action as Aerika thundered on, “You finally have the time to show up for your training session. You think that arranging all this for your entertainment is easy for us? That you can come and go as you please? That you are here on a pleasure trip? Or maybe you think being the top team in the last round gives you an excuse to be disrespectful?”
Kusha shook his head vehemently. “N-no . . . no we don’t,” he stammered. “We . . . we had to—”
“Keep lying, maybe that’s the only thing you’re good at,” Aerika said coldly. Kusha turned a bright crimson and looked away in haste. “I don’t know how you managed to get top honors in the first phase with such low regard for rules.”
“We’re never ever late for sessions,” Dani chimed in. “Trainer Dill knows we’re always on time. But today, we . . . got waylaid.”
“Waylaid?” Aerika frowned and then broke into a jeering laugh. “You got waylaid? Well, I think a mistake of that proportion deserves some special treatment. What is your opinion, Trainer Dill?”
Dill seemed utterly helpless in front of Aerika’s towering presence. He rubbed his hands together, smiled a little, and mumbled something rather incomprehensible.
“Yes, I think so too.” Aerika turned around and faced the group. “Count this as a first strike against you.”
“What? You can’t do that,” Ren exclaimed.
“I just did, young man. Do you want to try getting another strike?” Aerika was in no mood to be argued with.
As Maia stood quietly with her teammates, her head and spirits drooping, Aerika walked over to the center of the room and addressed the crowd.
“I got distracted by the disappearance of your fellow mates, but I was here for another reason,” Aerika said as everyone stood in hushed silence. “There have been several reports of unusual activity in this city. Strangest things have occurred in the past few days, incidents that are unheard of in the history of Zagran. I will advise you to practice extreme caution while walking about on your own; we do not want any of you getting into trouble. Please do not venture off into unknown areas, stay in groups, and if you notice any suspicious activity, please alert the authorities immediately.”
About The Book
Author: S.G. Basu
Genre: YA Science Fiction / Fantasy
Thirteen year old Maia thinks she has seen it all.
She has survived an assassination attempt, she has been threatened by the chancellor, and she has faced off with saboteurs trying to bring down a nation. She lets nothing get to her anymore-not the ominous nightmares she has been having lately, not the fear of being targeted for another soul extraction, not even the memories of her dead mother’s terrifying communique.
More than ever, Maia wants the Initiative to resume. She longs to visit Zagran-the undersea capital of the Jjord. She wants to ride the underwater transport lines, learn about the Jjordic energy farms and most of all-she wants to goof off with her friends.
But, around the charming city of Zagran, evil is gathering. Maia and her friends do not know it yet, the countdown to their planned extinction has already begun.
S. G. Basu is a telecommunications engineer by profession, but she likes to call herself a dreamer. Imagination, fueled by a voracious appetite for books, has been her steady friend since childhood. She discovered her passion for writing quite by chance and there has been no stopping her since then.
Find out more about the futuristic worlds she creates, the characters that come to life with their emotions and ambitions, successes and failures, joys and heartbreaks, at sgbasu.com.
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