2009 Rainbow List Nominee
On Resource Link's "Best of 2008" List
Sometimes it's harder to kill than pod might think. I crouch in the dark, stare into the manimal's shining eyes. It blinks right at me. It shakes in fear. Its thrumping furred chest quickens my own pulse. The thing wave-sends a sonic roll of pure emo: terror, disbelief, and a wee glimmer of hope...
Rustle is a young scout in a tight-knit female warrior group of five. They're trained to be aggressive, quick thinking, obedient - though for what exact purpose they couldn't quite tell you. But somehow the group is falling apart now. The leader Shona turns out to be a traitor to them. Roku has disappeared. Rustle has failed to show her killing skills in a crucial test of courage, and is feeling quite separate from the others. Loo is a true warrior, ready and able for action of the most extreme kind, though Rustle's private yen for her has not dimmed. Solomon, the healer of the group, is a steady hand, but not even her stability can save them.
So when their StarPod is transported to the Living Lab, they all know that it's time to make a run for it, or else they'll be deplugged - finished, dead. It takes a lot of wit and energy, but eventually they make it to the outside of the great mountain where they've been raised and trained and programmed-and here for the first time they behold the big, big sky of the real world.