A Girl From Nowhere (The Firewall Trilogy #1) - James Maxwell


Taimin’s father always said that of all the intelligent races fighting to survive under the two suns, humans were the boldest. Throughout the wasteland, humans hunted, foraged, scavenged, and stole.

Yet Taimin didn’t think that what he was doing was bold. What he wanted was to explore, to seek out adventure far from home. Looking for eggs wasn’t the same as hunting.

He dangled from a rope at the top of the cliff where wyverns nested, but as always the sunburned plain below kept distracting him. He gazed down and imagined himself visiting distant places. Despite the fact he was just a short distance from the homestead, this was as far as his family ever traveled. There were other people out there, so his father said, and he longed to meet them. His aunt warned him there were dangers. Still, he wasn’t afraid.

Taimin’s curiosity grew as his eyes roved over the world. The yellow disc of Dex was rising, which meant that both suns—one close and golden, the other a distant crimson orb—cast their rays on the scorched earth and banished the pale moon. He saw a land under cloudless skies as clear as still water and bounded by hazy red horizons. It was a land filled with fields of cactus, deep ravines, stone formations, and ancient riverbeds. The shades of red were innumerable: ochre and amber, pink and rust. A savage land, a land of contrasts, it appeared completely uninhabitable; yet he knew it contained a bewildering array of life, adapted to the harsh environment, buried within the cracks, nestled wherever water was near.

He searched for movement, or anything to catch his eye, and then his stomach rumbled. At eleven, he was growing fast, and as his brown hair grew thicker, his wiry frame was filling out. He ate as much as his father, Gareth, and his body was reminding him that he was here for food.

“Taimin.” It was his mother’s voice. “Don’t dawdle. Your father can’t hold on forever.”

Taimin felt a flash of guilt as he pictured his father, standing firm while he held the rope that curled around a hermit cactus and stretched down the cliff face. Taimin wasn’t heavy, and his father was strong, but he knew that his father would be anxious. Gareth never stopped talking about the danger they were all in away from the homestead.

He had only been daydreaming for a moment but he forced himself to stop wondering about the mysteries of distant lands and the lives of other people. He rotated his body on the rope and put his back to the view. As he scanned the vertical cliff below the escarpment, he looked for nests; where he saw nests, he might find eggs. Sometimes the wyverns built their nests in caves set into the cliff, other times they found ledges that jutted from the sheer wall.

“Taimin?” the voice of Tess, Taimin’s mother, called again. “Can you see any? Are you all right?”

Looking up, Taimin saw her head pop over the escarpment thirty feet above. The wind blew her dark hair over her face and although Taimin could barely see her eyes, he heard the familiar tone in her voice.

“You’re not daydreaming again, are you? You know what your father says.”

“‘Dreams are for the night,’” Taimin muttered. He called up to his mother as he continued to search the cliff. “I’m fine.” The harness chafed under his arms and the glare of Dex, the near sun, was hot on his back. He spied the entrance to a promising hollow. “I need to go down . . . another ten feet.”

Tess nodded and her face vanished from view. Taimin braced himself in the harness, expecting to feel the familiar yet nerve-wracking sensation of being dropped down the cliff. He was light, but that didn’t mean his father lowered him at a snail’s pace.

Instead, he made a sound of surprise when, rather than drop, he felt himself pulled up. As he drew closer to the summit he again saw his mother’s face. This time when she spoke he didn’t hear concern, he heard fear.

“There’s someone here,” she said in a low voice. “Quickly, climb up.”

Tess’s head disappeared from view and the upward force on the harness ceased. Fortunately, the last part of the ascent was an old rock fall, and by clambering up the boulders, Taimin soon reached the top of the escarpment on his own.

Taimin’s parents stood side by side, shielding their eyes and staring toward the blazing sun Dex; the softer crimson sun was