We're pleased to present a new, over 27,000 words long, science fiction novella by bestseller Kevin Hearne.
About the Book:
The only favor the aliens do for Clint Beecham when they abduct him is give him a shirt that says DO NOT EAT on it in their language. He’s told that as a physicist, he is to be reserved, along with five other scientists, for a mysterious purpose.
But fifty thousand other humans on board the interstellar scout ship are scheduled to be butchered and frozen, a food supply for the long journey to the alien homeworld. Clint and the other Reserves can’t stand by and let that happen.
Ayesha is a biologist and Deepali a geologist; Oscar is a meteorologist and Gregory specializes in robotics; Hanh is a researcher in marine biology. Together they’re humanity’s last unlikely hope. Because if they don’t find a way to stop the ravenous aliens from reporting that they’ve found a planet full of delicious creatures to eat, the fifty thousand humans on board will only be the first of billions: the entire earth will become an all-you-can-eat buffet.
From Publishers Weekly:
“Hearne (the Iron Druid Chronicles series) pits a group of scientists against their alien abductors in a riotous quest to save humankind from becoming lunch… Hearne offsets the dire threat to humanity with dark humor and pointed social commentary as cooperation and self-sacrifice win the day. Hearne’s gripping, resonant alien abduction romp is both fun and thought-provoking.”
A Question of Navigation
Day 2: Labor Day, September 5, 2022
They abducted me yesterday and I’m not sure how accurate my timekeeping will be after this. Ship days are going to be different than Earth days—they don’t even use the same units of measurement that we do, much less have a planet that turns on its axis once in the equivalent of twenty-four hours. Plus, time dilation is going to kick in as we approach the speed of light, so I suppose it won’t matter what day of the week I think it is after this. I can worry about the date if I ever get back to Earth.
A list of my more immediate worries includes:
• Probes, and
• Uh, that’s it really. Just probes
I mean Emily promised they wouldn’t eat me, so that pretty much leaves
Especially since I brought up the subject with Emily and she gave me a very telling series of non- answers to my very clear and direct questions.
Me: Are you guys going to probe me?
Emily: Silly! Why would you even ask that?
Me: Alien abductions are practically a whole genre of fiction with us, and in those stories the aliens always conduct exploratory probes on the humans even when they lack a logical reason to do so. There’s a squelching sound and then a lot of screaming and we have nightmares about it. I think it’s safe to say that as a species we have a primal fear of being probed by other sentient life forms. It’s second only, in fact, to being eaten by other life forms, and you already promised you wouldn’t eat me.
Emily: Yes, we’ve decided to keep you alive, and aren’t you happy about that? We got you these nice clothes that say DO NOT EAT all over them in our language.
Me: I’m really happy about that. Seriously, thank you. I even like the clothes. But can you also promise right now not to probe me?
Emily: I don’t even know what probing really is and I’m a little worried that we’re not doing right by you. You said it’s a squelching noise?
Me: Hold on, now. Don’t pretend you don’t know what probing is. I know that you speak my language fluently, so I just want to hear you say you won’t probe me.
Emily: Hmm, you know what, Clint? This sounds really important and I don’t want to mess it up because I missed some nuance here, so let me get back to you on this.
Me: What? Wait, no. Emily, there is nothing nuanced about a probe!
Emily: I’ll circle back later.
They are going to fucking probe me.
I can’t use my phone to take any notes because they took it, and in any case it’s dead and the ship doesn’t have a charger or compatible power sources. But Emily gave me a stack of notebooks they stole from somewhere along with some pens and told me to write whatever I wanted. No expectation of privacy, so, you know. Hi Emily, or whichever of you is reading this. Thanks for not eating me. I really appreciate it.
But I want to write down how I got here before my calendar fills up with probes and my memory goes because they removed it.
Derek and I were enjoying a post-pandemic hike in Rocky Mountain National Park on the Bierstadt trail when we came upon two girls who looked to be under ten years old. They were unaccompanied by adults. There was nobody coming up the trail behind them, and no one behind us.
One of them was a white girl wearing a t-shirt with a pink unicorn on it. She had a matching baseball cap on over a mane of blond hair and a pair of pink jeans. The second girl wasn’t white and she had a black Colorado Rockies baseball cap over her straight dark hair. There was something off about both of them—their eyes were a bit too big.
“Here’s two,” the unicorn girl said, gesturing at us. “Can I have one of them?”
“Maybe,” her companion said, looking at the trail behind us and then quickly glancing back over her shoulder before addressing us. “Hello, misters.”
“Hello,” we replied, and I asked, “Are your parents around?”
The unicorn girl looked at her buddy. “Why is he asking about our parents?”
“I’ve run into this before. We look like children to them and it triggers paternalistic instincts.”
Unicorn girl blinked. “Well, that was a fairly egregious miscalculation.”
“No, it’s actually fortuitous. We don’t register as a threat to them so they’re not even behaving cautiously, much less exhibiting a fight-or-flight response. See? They’re just standing there looking dumb.”
The first girl swung her gaze back to us to verify that statement. “Hmm. You appear to be correct.”
Hearing children talk like that instantly creeped me out and I tugged at Derek’s sleeve to back off, but he either missed the bad vibe or didn’t care and he asked, “Are you lost? Where are you supposed to be?”
“Right here,” unicorn girl said. “It’s time for me to feed. Which one, Emily? Is it possible to determine by sight which would be more delicious?”
“Maintain control and be patient,” Emily said, a tiny scowl of disapproval on her features. But then she turned to us and flashed what was meant to be a charming, reassuring smile, except that it looked like there might have been more than a single row of teeth in her mouth. “Gentlemen. Do either of you possess an advanced degree from a university?”
“We both do,” Derek said. “Are you okay? What happened to your teeth?
Emily ignored his question and asked another.
“What degrees do you possess?”
“English,” Derek said.
Emily’s too-large eyes narrowed and the smile disappeared. “I see. And you, mister?”
“Physics,” I said. Her toothy grin immediately returned.
“Ah! Physics! No doubt you are struggling with embarrassing gaps in your knowledge, but we can work with that.”
She turned to the unicorn girl and waved a hand dismissively at Derek. “You can eat the English major, Janelle.”
“Hey, what?” Derek said.
“Yes! Finally!” Janelle took off her hat and her hair came with it. The whole thing had been a wig, and underneath was
- Kevin Hearne
- 102 pages
- eBook Edition