“In this sequel to The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, Weber takes a darker tone, delving into alien abduction, experimentation on children, the machinations of power-hungry politicians, and black-market corruption . . . This is a well-paced page-turner.” —Kirkus Reviews
Known as a brilliant mind that could hack her world’s darkest secrets, seventeen-year-old Sofi Snow is the most wanted teenager alive. She found her way to the icy, technologically brilliant planet of Delon to find Shilo, the brother everyone but Sofi believes is dead.
But as she and Ambassador Miguel partner to find her brother and warn those on Earth of Delon’s dark designs on humanity, Sofi’s memories threaten to overtake her, distorting everything she holds true. She knows the Delonese once kept her in a dark, deceptive place . . . and destroyed a portion of her life. Now, the more they discover of Sofi’s past, the more Sofi feels herself unraveling—as each new revelation has her questioning the very existence of reality.
In this harrowing sequel to The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, Sofi and Miguel must trust each other and discover the secrets locked inside Sofi’s mind as the line between what’s real and what they imagine begins to slip away . . . threatening to take the human race with it.
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Update: Sofi Heather Snow, age 17
FanFight Gamer, Daughter of Corp 30's CEO
Reclassified Status: Imminent Terrorist Threat #1
Required Action: Alert for immediate worldwide dispersal
THE MOMENT EARTH'S UNITED WORLD COUNCIL OFFICIALLY placed seventeen-year-old Sofi Snow at the top of their Imminent Terrorist Threat list, a siren went off in the circular downtown building, and she became the most wanted teenager alive.
Corp 30's CEO, Inola, stood next to the podium in the center of the room located in the heart of Old America's shiny Manhattan metropolis and eyed the sea of raised hands. All of which had just finished voting her daughter onto that list.
The fact her daughter was currently on another planet — let alone the one that'd mysteriously appeared near Earth in 2031, eleven years ago — didn't matter. Nor that its humanlike society was capable of annihilating humanity in a heartbeat.
If anything, that was the point.
Sofi had found a way up to their icy, technologically brilliant environment from an Earth that was, in many ways, still broken and rebuilding. Meaning she was far more capable than Earth's leaders had accounted for. And the clock was ticking on what she'd do next.
She'd already been there over thirty-six hours.
When the resulting siren went off, ringing through the United World building and making half the council members in the room jump, Inola didn't flinch. Didn't move. Didn't do anything other than observe them all with her cool, calculating gaze. Even as the sound meant that texts were being sent to every tech-head, soldier, and peacekeeper, warning them of Sofi's new status.
A terrorist of the most dangerous sort, the messages would read.
"A brilliant mind that could hack our darkest secrets," the messages would mean.
"The girl who might just start a war with the Delonese," the Council was really saying. "And we need them far more than we need her."
A moment later those raised hands dropped, the three hundred faces suddenly looking Inola's direction — some in humility, others in victory — as the alarm shut off and her own Corp 30 vice president, the perfidious Ms. Gaines, stepped from the podium after demanding the vote.
Inola let a smile flicker around her lips. She swept her gaze over the lot of them before lifting it to the room's single ceiling window through which the shiny ice-planet glittered just beyond the day-lit moon. Sofi, a threat?
They can't even begin to fathom.
Tick, tick, tick, tick ...
SOFI ACCIDENTALLY BIT HER TONGUE AS MIGUEL'S ARM SNAPPED across her chest, pressing her short frame back into the thin shadows of the medical room, three stories beneath the ice-planet's wintry surface. The storm of alien boots and voices surged and frothed, then crashed with clipped heels in a wave down the narrow hall toward the spot where she and the nineteen-year-old ambassador stood. "Have they been located?" "They're not to reach the surface!" "Find them before they engage with the populace!"
Stay still. Stay silent. Sofi's breath stuck to the sides of her lungs, like frost on a window, waiting to crack against her rib cage at the grief keening through her bones. Her stomach threatened to retch all over again.
This alien planet had looked so crisp and peaceful in its orbit beside Earth's moon — like a snowflake glittering against the black backdrop of space. Who would've known the metallic world beneath its crust was so barbaric?
The siren continued blaring.
Sofi thrust her emotions down and slid her hand to Miguel's arm as a robotic voice rose above the rest. "The sensors in the vent-wing just triggered; it might be them! Return Ambassador Alis to Lord Ethos while we apprehend Girl-Sofi."
The instructions were followed by an abrupt silence.
"C'mon, keep going," Miguel murmured. "Search another sector."
An elongated second went by. Then, as if in response to him, the cadence of shuffling boots resumed and the officers stamped away in their matching strides, scraping against Sofi's spine. She wanted to toss a giant bowling ball in their direction, just to watch them all topple like the monstrously efficient pinheads they were. Good gad, they're heinous.
Miguel exhaled beside her and shifted his tall, broad physique to tap his earcom. "Vic, you there?" he whispered to his Artificial Intelligence assistant. "We're going to need a hand."
What? No. Sofi dipped a thick brow up at him with a single shake of her head. They needed a hand, yes, but they needed a search of this room more. "Miguel, we can't. This room — the beds ..." her voice faltered.
His black eyes stared down at her as if to say that was precisely why he was anxious for them to leave. As if he knew too well what this space was doing to her — what it'd already done — and he wasn't about to let the Delonese or this place do it further.
She blinked and glanced away, and waited for his arm to drop before pulling the handscreen from her pocket and focusing on the dim display. His concern triggered that chaos of emotion she was trying to ignore. She cared about others. She didn't need them to care about her. Particularly not him. He'd been despicable eighteen months ago and now — truly decent. She didn't have time to process that paradox. Especially in light of the chilling reality in front of her.
She steadied her shoulders and lifted her attention to the large, lengthy medical space with its rows of shower stalls sectioned off by clear plastic curtains that had once held her and her younger brother, Shilo, strapped like animals on the med equipment.
Experiments, her mind whispered.
Child abductees. Her lungs gulped.
Her throat clamped down over his name as if to protect it from the very air in here.
"Hold on, guys." Vic's voice erupted in their earcoms. "I'm trying to pull up more specs, but the Delonese are tracing me."
Sofi ignored the AI and moved her scrutinizing gaze to the spigots attached to the white walls beneath white halogen lights, each overlooking med beds with straps that spread out eerily, like arms waiting to embrace her and anyone else the Delonese decided on.
How long had those straps been waiting — days? Hours? And how many kids had been trapped on those med beds during the past seven years since she'd been strapped to one as well?
Avoiding the uneasy tilt of Miguel's lavender-haired head, Sofi brushed past him farther into the room while the heat of his gaze followed her. As if he was calculating how to secure her from the trauma of what this place meant about her and everything she knew.
Or rather, the realization that they apparently knew nothing at all. Thirty-six hours spent mingling with the human-looking aliens on the surface of Delon, and her entire world and history had just been shattered by this one underground room.
"Sof?" Miguel's tone was taut.
"It's fine. I'm fine."
He made a sound but didn't argue. He didn't have to. They both knew she wasn't fine — wasn't anywhere close to it. But she couldn't just stand there in her hot mess of newly discovered not-fineness. Do it and get out, Sof.
She gritted her teeth and searched each stall — as if her brain needed proof that she and Shilo weren't still among the ghostly whimpers the place echoed with and that there were answers to all of this. The Delonese had brought and kept her here. According to her memories, they'd destroyed a portion of her life here.
What exactly had they done to her? What other memories was she missing? How much time had she spent inside this planet through the years?
And where were the other kids who'd been taken with her and Shilo back then?
Her chest quaked as her mind drifted toward suggestions — repressed images bubbling to the surface — while her feet carried her to the metal hoverbed she'd once occupied. Then to Shilo's stall — where the sanitized smell and the memory of him, along with the others, were enough to make her gag.
She couldn't recall the rest of their faces, just their screams as a seven-year-gone memory erupted of her brother looking up and meeting her gaze.
"Sofi?" his small five-year-old voice had said. "I want to go home now."
She ground her jaw as the image faded, and glanced back at Miguel, whose expression was an apologetic mix of worry and the need to hurry. He shifted from one foot to the other before tipping his soft gaze toward the door. The siren's whir was growing louder. The boot steps and long, unblinking faces would be returning.
She nodded. Looking around wasn't giving her anything concrete. Just hazy memories. What she needed was better access to the Delonese's data stream.
After a last glimpse, she strode back, reaching Miguel as the alarm abruptly shut off and the wall to the right flickered and hissed.
The room gave a soft zap, and its halogen lights blacked out. Leaving her and Miguel encompassed in pitch dark.
"Sof, we need to get out of here." Miguel's low voice breezed against her hair through the sudden silence. But her mind was already fading backward and a memory was exploding — unwanted, uninhibited — buried so deep she hadn't even known it existed inside her seventeen-year-old soul until too late ...
THEY HAD COME TO EARTH AT DUSK, CRAWLING ACROSS her farm like predators in search of prey.
Sofi had been out securing the barn, as best as a ten-year-old could, to keep up the appearance she and Shilo weren't there alone and that Papa hadn't been dead for twenty-two hours.
Creeping sounds that began this morning among the trees at the edge of the fence were growing louder — people watching, waiting to see if it was true. And to see what they could steal. Because everyone knew kids fetched as high a price as old meds and food seeds these days, especially on the black market. And everyone around those parts knew Corp 30 CEO Inola's kids would pull a good price indeed.
Sofi swallowed and tried not to look at the tree line from between the barn slats. Mama should've known not to leave them — should've had the coroner take them with him. Or more accurately, should've cared enough to come fetch them herself rather than leave them to their fate.
But what was new? The woman sat in her shiny Manhattan office building hundreds of miles away, and even more emotionally distant, as the space between their Old North Carolina farmhouse and the border to the rest of the messed-up world dissolved into nothing.
A rank smell filled Sofi's nose.
She frowned. The scent was different from that of the scavengers or starving neighbors.
Peeking between the barn window shutters, she blinked, then froze as the smell morphed into something unmistakable. It reeked of metal and medicinal labs.
The Delonese were in the yard.
Giant, perfectly fashioned men whom Earth's upper class found intriguingly fetching, dressed in thin gray boots and slick coats, bare of any facial hair or expression, were spread across the field and driveway. And they were coming closer.
She hadn't even heard their craft.
Her lungs rippled. She slipped back, gripping her shaking fist around the hammer she'd been using. Keep going, she said in her head. There's nobody here. Except the determination of their steps said they knew better.
Suddenly, a shadow passed by the shutter, throwing darkness across the slatted evening light. Sofi slid the tiny tool into her boot and scrambled for the farthest corner of the barn.
At least Shilo's in the basement where I told him to stay 'til I finished.
A hand scraped the wall, making her jump.
She curled into a ball — trying to clamber inside her ten-year-old skin — as if she could shrink her bones and muscles and lungs small enough to roll inside herself. Even as fear spiked a blasted signal and caused her asthma to kick in, ill-timed as all get-out. No, not now, she told her lungs. You've got to work for me. She squished herself against the wood siding and fumbled in her pocket for an inhaler.
Her throat tightened. She breathed in slowly. One breath, two breaths, she inhaled an infinity of breaths and focused her attention on a couple of fireflies illuminating the ceiling as fingers scratched at the barn's sturdy door and her breathing became shallow. She could almost imagine their ears listening for movement, matching it to the smell of human flesh. If they could smell at all.
You'd think they'd be dead from their own medicinal odor by now if so.
Tears filled her eyes as Sofi tried to inhale again, while her body strove not to move.
It didn't matter. The moment they broke in, her gasping exploded and gave her away. Her chest imploded as her world shrank into that feeling that there wasn't enough oxygen on Earth to keep her alive.
At least Shilo isn't here. Her eyesight blurred as her lungs caught fire.
C'mon, Sofi, focus.
She couldn't. She was going to pass out. She needed air.
At least Shilo is safe.
And then they were on her, reeking like sterile, huge plastic people that looked half doll and half human in her gasping-for-oxygen state. She shrieked but there was no sound, and then her throat collapsed somewhere between seeing their unblinking faces and having a bag stuffed over her head.
Which was when she heard him.
His tiny voice carried hesitant across the yard. "Sofi?"
No! Oh please no! Shilo, run!
The instantaneous boot shuffling said they were already going for him.
"Leave him alone!" she choked into the bag's cloth. She lashed at them with the violence of one who'd recently known the taste of death. She kicked, wheezed, and mentally swore every curse word she'd been taught never to say, while her chest felt near the point of ignition.
She lunged out in her sightless state, hands trying to break free from the clammy fingers pinning her wrists. Tearing off the bracelet Shilo'd made her as she yanked at what felt like an icy void around her. Sobbing. "Fine, take me, just leave him alone, please."
But her hands and voice moved nothing, and those two fireflies full of light and life and everything warm were the last things in her mind before the tears and suffocation took her out.
AMBASSADOR MIGUEL EDWARDO PEREZ II WAS ABOUT TO BURN this ice planet down.
When the lights in the Delonese room slowly fluttered back on — low and eerie — the first thing he looked for was Sofi's face. The first thing he saw was the crushing horror spread across it, as whatever memory was accosting her coated her skin in sweat. His anger cracked and flared and he muttered to Vic, "On second thought, let's just blow this place to toast."
"Yeah, still trying to reaccess the blasted maps, dude."
He kept his voice low. "Any idea how long that'll take?"
"Probably faster if you'd hold on to your panties and —"
Right. Mantener la calma. He looked back at Sofi and touched her shoulder to stir her. She didn't blink or move. His frown deepened.
"Okay, seven-point-five minutes."
Miguel didn't respond. Just straightened and, keeping his body between Sofi and the door, turned to mentally assess the maze of underground hallways they'd come through to reach this room. Which ones would make the best path out?
The crossway led to the other medical quarters where they'd found the group of young kids an hour ago. All drenched in terror and urine, scared out of their wits, waiting for the Delonese experiments to start. They'd snuck the poor children onto a shuttle for Earth, only to turn around as soon as it'd left and find this room — and the seven-year-old recorded video of Sofi that Vic uncovered, and her memories that went with it.
That vid ... Sofi'd been so young. He winced. Get her out of here, Miguel.
Firming his jaw, he squeezed her shoulder again as boot steps struck metal grates somewhere down the outer hall. "Sof?"
Her face moved toward his voice.
"We're still on Delon in the med room," he said quietly. "I'm just not sure where you are at the moment."
Her pupils flickered. She shifted, and a second later her eyes cleared. She connected her expression with his and nodded, her owl necklace fluttering against her damp neck. "I'm here."
He smoothed his hair to hide his relief. "Good. You alright?"
Another nod. "Just a memory from when Shi and I were taken from the barn." She shifted her pointy chin as if to squelch the ache in her tone, then dropped her eyes to the handscreen she held. "I need to find Shilo."
Excerpted from "Reclaiming Shilo Snow"
Copyright © 2018 Mary Christine Weber.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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