Two girls on opposite sides of a war discover they’re fighting for a common purpose—and falling for each other—in Zoe Hana Mikuta’s Gearbreakers, publishing June 29th with Feiwel & Friends. Read an excerpt below!
We went past praying to deities and started to build them instead…
The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.
Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.
As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer—as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more…
Above me, the Berserker’s titanium palms split into a garden of a hundred tiny valves.
The air came alive with the hiss of gunfire.
Shit. Hands thrown over my head, bullets tearing the grass beside my flat form. Soil puckering, rupturing, particles flying into my ears and throat. Shit shit shit—
Jenny, my crew captain, wore her trademark expression as she wove between the mecha’s footsteps—a sparkling grin, a fair competitor to the glint of the Berserker’s skin. For only a single moment she hovered by my side, just enough time to yank me to my feet.
“No one in my crew dies on their bellies,” she barked, grip tightening until I gave a convincing nod. “Good, then. You’re coming inside with me.”
A warning shout sounded from one of the crew members, and a blast shrieked across the field as a trench exploded open across the Berserker’s shin.
And then the world was this: my sister, already stuffed to the brim with arrogance, standing with a straight spine, a hellish grin balanced by the cavalier tilt of her chin, and a deity kneeling before her.
My arm sheathed in her iron grip, Jenny sprinted forward.
She released me to launch herself onto the Windup’s foot and spun back to hoist me up the rest of the way.
Her hand swept over my forehead, tugging my new welding goggles into place.
“Now you look like a real Gearbreaker,” Jenny declared.
“I look like a dirt-covered ten-year-old,” I snapped.
“You’re ten already?”
“Oh my Gods, yes, and die.”
“That’s the spirit!” Dark eyes shining, her grin listed upward.
I followed her example, finding that the sun had disappeared, replaced by an ugly chrome head that glared down with crimson eyes.
“That’s right, fucker!” she shouted up. “You’re done for!”
“It heard you, Jen.”
“That was the point,” she stated, and then, as the Berserker reached for us, shoved me into the opening.
Instinct seized me. I snatched a ladder rung, and then I was climbing, a new kind of exhilaration controlling my actions. Below us, two of the mecha’s fingers had followed us into the leg, wriggling, thick as tree trunks.
Jenny sent a wad of spit across its knuckle, dragged the back of her hand across her lips, and nodded at me to keep climbing.
I made it out of the thigh and into the hips, poking my head out the opening. And a guard’s boot slammed into the bridge of my nose.
My grip broke, and then I was free-falling—utterly, unimaginatively devastated by the notion that my corpse would be without a single tattoo to speak of—
Until Jenny’s hand caught my wrist.
Her gaze tore from mine to glare upward at the guard’s rifle, pointed down at us. With one hand on the ladder rung and the other tethering me, she had no way to reach her pistol. But I could. My hand shot up, stealing it from her waistband, landing an even shot to the guard’s collarbone. His finger stumbled against the trigger, and the bullet harmlessly cut the air next to my neck, pinging once off the mecha’s writhing digits and ricocheting out the opening.
The guard teetered above, balanced on the edge for a single second before tipping, plummeting, hands brushing past my hood as he descended.
He cracked against the mecha’s fingers, which twisted, pinching him between them before retracting.
“Your nose is broken,” Jenny informed me once we were out of the leg, black eyes giving only a moment to my condition before wandering above. “But that was a nice shot, kid. I’ll take my gun back now.”
I wordlessly handed back her pistol, afraid that I might start bawling if I opened my mouth, then watched as she scaled one of the iron beams. Her bronze shears appeared in her palm, taking a coil of cords between the blades and handily snipping. The exposed copper shimmered as it dipped.
“Cuts like butter,” Jenny sighed, peering down at me. “See, Eris? No reason to be intimidated by these things.” She gestured around the air. “They are built to be feared, so once you stop fearing them, you’re the one with the upper hand.”
Her face lifted, and she pushed her goggles to her forehead to get a better look. Then her pistol rose, shot screaming through the air, and a guard fell from above, past me and into the leg chute.
Jenny continued her work, the wires sparking and dying around her, until the hum of electricity dulled and the gears decelerated before stopping altogether. Stillness took to the air, but despite that, something was still whirring—I could feel it in my fingertips, its kick in each tooth. My heart had never beat like this before.
I’d never had a heart like this before.
Jenny descended, landing soundlessly as a tabby cat, and nudged me with her shoulder.
“Don’t go all shell-shocked on me now.”
I didn’t know what to say, how to put into simple words how much my nose hurt and how scared shitless I was and how all of it made me feel a little more than human, how I liked the sound of the bad things breaking by my hand and how this was everything—
All I said, in the least warbling tone I could manage, was, “What now?”
Jenny grinned again, looking upward, into the silence. “Now we go for the Pilot.”
Today, this is the story I choose to tell them as they pick at me. My first takedown.
Gritting it out through clenched teeth, between the growls, the escaped sobs, piece by fractured piece, exchanging true names for feared aliases, pain for some bright piece of memory, everything to me but useless to them.
I’m not even paying attention to you anymore, fuckers. I’m not even here.
“Where is the Gearbreaker compound, Frostbringer?” Ice water, today.
Seems even the Bots have a sense of humor.
They pull me back from the metal bucket, arms pinned behind my back. I’m shivering so hard that they rattle along with me, and when I notice this, I get a fantastic, dumb spur of confidence—or maybe just desperation—and kick to my feet.
Throwing my weight to the left, I rip one arm free, and immediately crack my elbow against the guard’s nose. He recoils—and I think, that was a good idea—then surges forward—ah, you know, actually, maybe it wasn’t—
His knee hits me in a bad, soft spot in my gut while the other guard holds me steady.
She lets me drop to all fours when I start heaving. They watch me work my ration of a spoonful of water and gruel from my stomach onto the floor.
Oh my Gods, I think, with a dry, funny kind of thrill, this is definitely where I’m going to die.
“I feel better now,” I say, dragging the back of my hand against my lips to wipe away the bile. “We can keep going.”
Excerpted from Gearbreakers, copyright © 2021 by Zoe Hana Mikuta.