“The Gemini Connection is a story filled with adventure, beautiful deep connections, and fascinating suspense.” –With Love for Book
Planet Tage is dying, and the best hope of saving it is gone.
Seventeen-year-old identical twins Evan and Simon share an extraordinary bond, a trait that’s both useful and invasive. They use their connection in their work at Scientific Innovations. Evan is a Mindbender, someone who enters the minds of scientists to spark ideas, join thoughts, and battle nightmares. Simon is a science prodigy and Tage’s best chance of survival.
Unfortunately, their unusual link often bleeds into their private lives. When Evan discovers his brother is keeping a secret from him, he lashes out and ignores requests to talk, and even pleas for help. By the time Evan tunes back in, he finds their connection severed and Simon missing.
He suffers a terrible case of survivor’s guilt. Moreover, he’s desperate. The fate of the world rests on Simon’s return, and Evan is willing to do anything to get him back—even working with his greatest rival, who also happens to be Simon’s boyfriend.
Evan finds allies among enemies and adversaries among friends. When nothing is as it seems and everything is depending on him, he must explore a dangerous aspect to his twin connection he never knew he had.
If he fails, he'll lose both his brother and his world.
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|Publisher:||Black Rose Writing|
|Edition description:||First Printing ed.|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.57(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
Read an Excerpt
Evan Present Day
Ugly. That was the first word that came to mind. Deadly was next.
The twisted creation was courtesy of a new client, a scientist. The nightmare had been tormenting him for the past couple of weeks.
The monster stood roughly fifteen feet tall, walked on two legs, and stretched two muscled arms in front of it, but its elongated head was a grotesque combination of goat and demon. Treacherous horns protruded from either side of its skull, torso, and upper thighs, making it difficult for anyone to get close to the beast. Not that we especially wanted to, but it was part of a Bender's job requirement to eradicate nightmares. So, we took up battle positions — Syd to its right, me to its left — crouched in anticipation of this formidable creature's attack.
"I'll go high, you go low," I called to Syd. Besides a hideous appearance, the goat thing screeched like a deranged bird, and we strained to hear each other, even with the com units.
"Got it, Evan." She unsheathed a ten-inch dagger from her utility belt, the silver blade glinting in the eerie cast of yellow-green light in this nightmare-scape. Being somewhat vertically-challenged (she hated it when I said short), Syd might not look intimidating, but give the girl a knife and she was absolutely lethal. The creature's leg tendons would be sliced to ribbons in seconds.
Syd dived to the creature's right, spinning and coming up behind it, as she avoided an angry kick to her head. She carved into its left limb, and it let out an ear-piercing shriek.
I withdrew an iron mallet from my own belt and catapulted myself off the wall, soaring over the goat-demon and landing a blow to the left side of its skull. Its head jerked in my direction when I came down on its other side. The sharpened tip of the horn caught the left side of my rib cage, and a warm flow of blood seeped through my shirt. Wouldn't be the first time I'd walked away from a nightmare with a permanent scar.
Syd scrambled around its legs, careful not to be trampled. Her dagger was a silver blur as she slashed the gray-haired appendages, the goat-demon staggering in its efforts to avoid her blade.
The ground was wet — possibly blood. But with dream or nightmare creations, you couldn't be sure. Because this thing's creator was a scientist, they tended to more detail-oriented. Odds leaned in the blood direction.
The light around us took on a red hue. Did the ambient illumination correlate to the creature's anger level? If yellow-green meant annoyed, did red mean take no prisoners?
I sailed through the air again, keeping my distance from the sharp tips of the two horns, and managed a solid strike to the top of its head between them.
It floundered, the screeches growing weaker, and movements sluggish as liquid spilled down the beast's face. As the creature slowed, the surrounding light faded to more of a blush color.
Standing to the side, I kept the mallet raised in case Syd needed help. She'd sliced and diced so much that skin, muscles, and tendons hung in shreds around the creature's legs. It wouldn't last much longer. "Pull back!"
She nodded that she'd heard me, then somersaulted behind the goat-demon to get out of its path. At the same time, it lurched forward and slipped in the liquid gushing from its wounds, tilting precariously backwards. Toward Syd. Its razor-sharp horns on a direct collision course with her body.
There was no way the goat-demon would miss her.
"Eject, Syd! Now, now, now!"
Without question or hesitation, her hand immediately shot to the cuff strapped around her left wrist and pushed a red button, expelling her from the nightmare. The creature landed hard where Syd had been only seconds earlier. I exhaled in relief, but it was short-lived. I still had to deal with one seriously perturbed goat-demon. On my own, with no backup.
The beast struggled to rise, unsteady on what was left of its legs, determined not to be banished so quickly. It seemed to have gained a second wind, and now there was only one target.
I needed to move fast. My hand reached for the dagger strapped to my belt, and I groaned in annoyance at the empty sheath. It must have fallen out when I'd landed.
I'd stressed to trainees that a backup plan may save their life, and they should always keep other options in mind. Especially when finding themselves in situations such as this. Tightening my hand around the iron mallet, I propelled myself into the air once again. The beast had managed to stand, but instead of flying over him, this time I hovered just above his head.
His arms sliced through the air trying to reach me, but I was pretty agile when it came to the flying thing, and managed to roll and twist around his blows. I drew back the mallet and swung with everything I had, connecting with the goat-demon's right horn. It shrieked, but the impact with my mallet had nearly ripped the horn from its head, and I readied myself for another strike. I pummeled it once more, wrenched it off the creature's head, and maneuvered around to the other horn when the goat-demon tried to shish-kabob me.
I increased my speed, flying faster around its head in a random pattern, keeping my movements unpredictable. The com unit crackled in my ear as Charlie, who was still in the lab, checked my status.
"Evan, are you all right? You're bleeding from your upper torso."
No time to talk, if my plan was going to work. An attack wasn't as difficult now, as the monster only had a nonthreatening stump protruding from its head. With the detached horn still clutched in my hand, I faked a turn to the left, rolled to the creature's right side, and stabbed its eye with the finely-honed appendage, shoving it in until it would go no further. Then I dropped to the ground behind it.
Its wails pierced my ears and echoed off the walls, but I never let my guard down. Sometimes nightmares were surprisingly resilient and recovered quickly.
That didn't seem to be the case with goat-demon, as its gray, hairy body crumpled and folded in on itself, becoming smaller and smaller until it gradually disintegrated, extinguished with a final whimper.
Shoving the iron mallet back into my belt, I bent over and rested my hands on my knees, gulping in deep breaths. I felt like collapsing myself, but needed to begin my exit sequence.
God, I loved my job.
* * *
When I came back to my body, a medbot was tending to the wound on my torso. It was a minor injury compared to others I'd received. Some of the more memorable ones were the talon marks on my back from some sort of gargoyle/human blend, a dislocated shoulder after being slammed into a wall by a hulking blob-type of thing, and broken ankle from being stepped on by a giant, one-eyed teddy bear. A couple of stitches on the torso hardly rated a second look.
I tried shoving the persistent medbot away, then ripped the vital sign lead wires off my body. "Where's Syd?" I was relatively sure she'd ejected before the goat-demon touched her, but that didn't stop me from swallowing anxiously. I needed confirmation.
"She's fine," Charlie confirmed, gently pushing my shoulder so I'd lie back in the Bender chair. "No injuries. She's in the download room right now. That must have been a pretty good one."
Giving in and resting my head against the chair, I closed my eyes and let the medbot do its job. "You have no idea."
Syd and I were Mindbenders at Scientific Innovations. With permission from our clients, we entered their minds for various reasons. Sometimes our mission was to locate important memories buried deeply in their subconscious, other times to assist in pulling their swirling thoughts or ideas into a cohesive concept that could help Tage, our dying planet. Occasionally, as was the case with this latest mission, it was to obstruct recurring nightmares that interfered with a client's health or well-being. Continuously disrupted sleep caused increased stress, irritability, lack of focus, and, depending on the client's job, could potentially affect millions of lives.
I rubbed the bandage covering the stitches, annoyed that it caught on the fabric of my shirt. Crossing the stark white hall, I entered the lab where Syd was downloading any residual fear, hers or the client's, left over from this nightmare or any other recent cases. We didn't need to download after every nightmare case, but were strongly encouraged to when the anxiety reached a certain level. Absorbing a client's fear and trauma came with our job, but carrying it around wasn't healthy, and Benders could potentially project that fear onto the client while in his mind. Not a good thing.
Syd had just finished, and the tech was removing the leads from her head. She smiled at me. "Well, that was something I haven't seen before, but what an adrenaline rush, right? Are you hurt?"
"Just a few stitches, nothing major. Ready for debriefing?"
"Sure." She followed me out the door and down the hallway to my office, where the rest of my team, Isaac, Zia, and Amelia, were already gathered around the conference table. As team leader, I doled out assignments at the beginning of every shift, then we debriefed at the end. Sharing data about how we handled situations, techniques we used, and unusual things we encountered, whether about simple cases or level five nightmares, could prevent injuries or save lives later on.
"Evan, do we have anyone lined up to replace Maya?" Zia asked. "That guy filling in from beta team is totally subpar and needs remedial training."
"I'm working on it. Gabriel has a line on a new grad from the Academy."
She grimaced. "Seriously? A new grad will probably be just as useless. Can't we get someone more experienced from another team?"
"Maya was experienced, but that didn't prevent her from being eviscerated," Isaac said.
"That wasn't her fault, and you shouldn't speak ill of the dead." Amelia stared him down. "It could have happened to any of us."
The biggest job hazard of a Bender? If we were killed while in a client's dream or nightmare, our physical body lying in the lab also expired. We'd all had close calls, but last month, our team had suffered the loss of Zia's work partner, Maya. Since we normally worked in pairs, unless the assignment was more complicated and required additional Benders, our group had been off balance and out of sorts while we each grieved in our own ways. Even though Maya wasn't my partner, as team leader, I still blamed myself and took responsibility for her death.
"Not another word, Isaac," I said. "Amelia's right. It could have been any of us in that situation. Zia, Gabriel's chosen all of us individually, and if he sees potential in this new grad, we'd be fortunate to have him or her join our team. Let's get started."
After the meeting came to an end, Isaac, Zia, and Amelia huddled together at the end of the long table, whispering and casting glances in my direction. Zia gave Amelia a light shove toward me, and she approached slowly.
"Evan? Um ... we're all going out for breakfast and wondered if ... um, you'd like to come? Maybe?"
I stared at her silently.
"So ... that's a no?"
"I'm busy." My gaze flicked to Isaac and Zia, who looked relieved at my answer.
Amelia returned to her chair, and the three of them gathered their things, chatting and laughing with each other as they left.
Syd had hung back and waited, leaning against the table with her arms folded over her chest. "She was trying to be nice, you know. And politeness never killed anyone. You forget — I know you actually have a soft gooey center. Too bad it's buried deep down inside all that festering darkness."
"You're going with them?"
"Unless you have a better offer." She raised one eyebrow.
"I don't." Syd was the perfect team partner for me. She didn't take my crap, stood up to me, shot down my ego when it grew too big, was dependable and fierce in battles — and she'd been my best friend for the past ten years, since primary school. We'd met when Max Delacort tried to take her water ration card and I'd stood up for her. Turned out she didn't need my help. She shoved him against a wall, dared him to do it again, then invited me to sit with her at lunch.
She threw up her hands. "Fine. Go home and sit by yourself in that big empty house. I'm going out to socialize, you know, with friends. Which you don't have."
Her lips twitched in a smile. "For now, anyway. See you later."
I watched her walk out the door to meet the rest of the team. Once upon a time I would have joined them, but not anymore. Zia and Isaac would never have invited me if the choice was left to them, and that was fine, because I preferred they keep their distance, but in Amelia's world, everyone should want to be friends, and life was easy and fair.
But I knew better than anyone that life wasn't fair. It was cruel, heartless, and ripped away the things you loved most.
Then it left you alone to deal with it.CHAPTER 2
Evan Present Day
I hadn't been lying to Amelia about being busy, but it wasn't anything I'd discuss with her. It wasn't her business, and was something deeply personal to me.
Chase's tattoo shop had a peculiar smell. Not bad, just a strange type of incense with a spicy/musky sort of blend. The familiar hum of the tattoo needle comforted me, and I rested my head back against the chair, my mind drifting as I began to doze. Because Benders worked primarily at night when people slept, I was tired after coming off a shift, and questioned scheduling this appointment so early in the morning. Maybe that wasn't such a bad thing since, other than the two of us, the shop was empty, and I was able to get some rest while Chase worked on my shoulder.
With so much dark ink on this new design, the pain level would be more intense, but I welcomed it with open arms. Today marked one year that my identical twin brother, Simon, had disappeared, and any discomfort I experienced was minor in comparison to what had happened to him. I deserved to suffer. After all — it was my fault he was gone.
Shuffling steps and the sound of someone dropping heavily onto the nearby chair let me know I had a visitor. "I don't know how you can sleep with a needle continuously stabbing you."
Sydney's comment shattered the tranquility of the moment. Opening my eyes, I rolled my head in her direction. "Breakfast over already?"
She shrugged. "The three of them together just aren't as compelling as a day in the life of Evan Resnik."
I smirked, but didn't believe her explanation for a second.
Her hazel eyes locked with mine. "I know what day it is, and knew you'd be here." I'd been in this same chair six months ago on my and Simon's seventeenth birthday when I'd gotten the first tattoo. Syd had also been here on that day.
I glanced to my left at Chase, who was intently focused on my left upper arm as he worked. Despite my limited ability to explain the kind of design I wanted, he seemed to instinctively understand exactly what I meant. Words and ideas had always come more easily to Simon. He'd disappeared from a locked room, and there had been no requests for ransom, no clues, and no leads ... nothing. The lack of evidence was maddening. The investigators, our parents, and just about everyone assumed he was dead. But no matter what anyone said, I knew with certainty he was still alive, because if my twin brother had died, I would have felt his death as viscerally as if it were my own.
"What's that symbol? It kind of looks like the Roman numeral for two." Syd's curiosity had drawn her from the chair to get a closer look at Chase's work. As she leaned over his back, her long strands of sandy hair spilled over his shoulder, blending with his own shoulder-length dark brown.
"It's the universal symbol for twins," Chase replied, scrutinizing his design on my arm as he retracted the tattoo needle. "The dual vertical lines represent twins, the horizontal lines on the top and bottom indicate balance, and the rectangle formed in the middle signifies a strong foundation."
Syd tilted her head to the side. "Pretty impressive. Isn't that twin thing also your astrological sign? Some coincidence, huh."
"Syd, can you move back a little?" Chase asked.
"You're blocking my light."
"Oh, yeah. Sorry." She stepped back and returned to her chair.
"You good, Evan?" He was still fixated on the design as his gloved hand swiped away dots of blood from my arm.
Â "Then we're finished."
I rose, approached the mirror hanging over Syd's head, and examined the new tattoo. "Excellent as always. Nothing personal, but I hope this is our last visit." Because if I saw Chase for another tattoo, that meant my brother hadn't returned yet. This new twin design joined the white and black yin and yang symbol on my right upper arm. Simon and I were opposites in every way, but always a part of each other.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Gemini Connection"
Copyright © 2018 Teri Polen.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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