As the weakest member of the Extrahuman Union, Jill is overlooked by just about everyone. After all, no one cares about an Extrahuman who possesses every possible superpower, but can barely use any of them. Jill is a nobody, on the run and out of a job, with no home and barely any friends to her name.
To make ends meet, Jill turns back to one of her favorite jobs: stealing. When her latest job goes terribly wrong, Jill is left with a mysterious alien artifact—one that starts whispers to her, unlocks impossible powers, and shows her incredible things.
Now Jill is on a quest for answers that will take her from the high mountains of Valen to the depths of interstellar space; from a bizarre prison planet where old friends and enemies are held captive, to the roots of St. Val’s mysterious letters and decade-spanning plans. The fate of her friends, her world, a vanished alien species, and the entire Confederation will rest on Jill’s shoulders.
Extrahumans is a tale of superpowers and long-forgotten mysteries, and the fourth and final book in the critically acclaimed Extrahuman Union series—available from Book Smugglers Publishing. We’re excited to share the full cover—illustrated by Kirbi Fagan—plus an excerpt below!
South of Arve, Valen
Rader’s voice crackled over the radio in Jill’s ear. “Go!” he said.
Jill tensed and then jumped as hard as she could into the air. Her pitifully small flight powers kicked in as she left the ground, and she floated haphazardly for the third floor window of the CMP post as quickly as she could. She strained hard, losing speed. She wasn’t going to make it—
She pushed as hard as she could against the air and slammed up against the window pane. She winced and held on, hoping they hadn’t heard that below.
“Nice work, idiot,” she muttered to herself. She edged over and pushed experimentally on the window.
It creaked open. Who built windows that opened inward? This was all starting to seem very, very stupid. But she slipped in through the window anyway, heart pounding.
The floor was dark; everyone had gone home. This was a research station, mostly, and it had offices on this floor. There had to be sensors here, she thought. They must be able to see her.
But no one came. No alarms sounded, and there were no boots pounding on the stairs.
It was like breaking into someone’s house. Easy, easy. It was all coming back. She felt her way through the dark offices, trying to remember the layout Rader had shown her.
“Hey,” Rader’s voice crackled through the radio. She jumped. “Nothing down here yet. Keep going. Don’t respond!”
“Okay,” she whispered, and then smacked her forehead. Way to focus, Jill.
She was rusty at this sort of thing, and she felt it with every hesitant, nervous step. She desperately wished she were just about anywhere else, right now. She should have told Rader to fuck off, and let him do his big job without her.
Jill had been at the end of her rope when Rader had called her up out of the blue. She’d known him from way back in the old days, when she’d just started her career in minor burglary. He’d dangled the prospect of a big score in front of her, a daring job that only she could pull off with a big payoff at the end. Her deeply unreliable common sense had picked that moment to wander off, and she’d said yes.
If he’d come to her a few weeks before, she wouldn’t have. But that was before that jackass Old Vazov had figured out she was an extrahuman and fired her from her job at the bar.
The bells had been ringing that day because old Prelate Celeste of West Arve Temple had died, and the followers of the Order of St. Val were in mourning all over the planet. She remembered watching the memorials on the screen in the bar and thinking how little she had liked Celeste.
Worse, the new prelate was someone she knew: Willow Nguyen, the frail, fragile woman who had been at LaNant with the extrahumans and their friends long ago. She’d joined the Order of St. Val after LaNant had been bombed. Apparently, she’d risen high in the ranks.
So Willow was a prelate, and Jill was stuck behind a bar in a nowhere little town. It figured.
But then there had been a commotion outside. She’d sighed, gotten up, and then opened the front door—to find herself face to face with a huge, red, shaggy beast. Its round, glassy eye stared unblinking at her, and it said: ssssSSSHOOOOoooo.
The next thing she knew, she was on top of the roof. She couldn’t remember flying or anything; she only remembered looking down at the red mammoth from above and realizing that everyone could see her. Old Vazov had run out and started cursing at her, and that was the end of everything.
He’d kicked her out of the apartment behind the bar where she lived, and threatened to call the CMP on her. He wouldn’t even let her back in to grab her stuff, leaving her homeless and unemployed just like that.
Worse, she’d lost the little charm Winnie had given her when they were kids. It was all Jill had left of her. But she couldn’t even go back to get it. It was too dangerous. Old Vazov had probably pawned it anyway, along with the rest of her stuff. Bastard.
What had the red mammoth been doing there, anyway? They never came so far south. Apparently, it had just turned around and left the village after scaring Jill, never to be seen again. It was like being hit by lightning.
Jill had eventually decided she was just cursed.
So, by the time Rader had caught up with her, she was homeless, out of money, and reduced to begging for bus fare by the side of the road in some little nameless Valen hamlet. She’d been desperate, and he knew it. Besides, he’d bought her drinks.
Raid a sleepy, understaffed CMP post. Take one thing. Get in, get
out. Easy, right?
Jill rounded a corner, and there was the locked office she was looking for. She slipped the stolen key card out of her pocket and ran it through. For a split second she was sure it hadn’t worked. Alarms would go off, the troops would come, and it would be all over.
The door clicked open. Jill breathed a sigh of relief and padded softly inside.
She’d expected it to be hidden in a drawer, or maybe in a box out of sight somewhere. But no, there it was, right there on the desk, a silver sphere about the size of a baseball. It emitted a ghostly green light.
“Damn,” said Jill out loud.
“What is it?” Rader said in her ear. “Jill! Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah,” she said. “It’s here. Wow.”
Rader had told her that what she was looking for was an artifact that the CMP had dug up somewhere here on Valen. It was supposedly from the Yia, a race of aliens that had died out around the time when humans were first venturing out into space.
And there it sat, a relic of some vanished, alien culture. She moved to the desk and took off her glove. She wanted to feel it beneath her fingers.
Her skin touched the smooth metal—
RECOGNIZED, a little metallic voice said, the light winking out. It spoke, but her ears registered nothing. The sound came from deep inside her mind.
“Crap,” she said.
MATCHED. TRANSMITTING DATA.
Then she was holding the sphere in her hand, and, for reasons she couldn’t explain, pressing it against her skin.
HELLO, said the voice. COME FIND ME, COME FIND ME.
“What? I don’t know—”
Jill gasped as the entire room fell away.
She was floating in space. Something was wrong. She needed to escape, to scatter herself before the end came.
She stretched out in all directions and sent the greatest part of herself to the purple sky world and another piece to the white grass world. The least bit she sent to the red singing world, to be found, to be found—
She felt like she was on fire. She screamed, she was burning up—
Then, as abruptly as it had come, the sensation vanished. Rader was hollering something in her ear.
“—They all just ran in! Jill! Are you there? Jill! Get out of—”
He cut off abruptly. She thought she heard the sound of a scuffle, and then there was a wet thunk and nothing more.
She was in deep shit.
Jill pocketed the now-darkened sphere and sprinted back toward the window. Maybe she could fly up and then down again; maybe she’d be able to evade them that way. People didn’t look up. They never looked up. It was worth a shot.
Bright light blinded her as she rounded the corner, and she knew she was lost as they shouted at her to stop.
Up ahead, someone was gloating. “We knew you’d come,” she was saying. “We intercepted your plans. We found the spy the Blues had placed here.”
The Blues? Brian Gannett’s rebels in the mountains?
Rader hadn’t said anything about them. No wonder this had gone so badly; Brian was useless.
“You thought you’d get away with this?” the voice ahead was saying. “And you, you’re an extrahuman! Oh, yes, we saw you fly up here. We saw you crash, too.” Jill winced. “This is going to mean a promotion for me—and probably a lab for you. Take her!”
Jill blinked, and saw six men in CMP gray advancing on her.
The needle plunged toward her eye as Dr. Rivers watched impassively.
No. No! She wouldn’t be dragged to some lab on Calvasna—she wouldn’t let it happen again. She leaped into the air as furious heat built up inside her.
She splayed her fingers, and a massive wall of flame shot out at them. She didn’t think as she twisted in midair; she just dove towards the window, and freedom.
Jill had flown halfway to the mountains before she realized that she’d never, ever been able to do anything like that before.
Excerpted from Extrahumans © Susan Jane Bigelow, 2016