Fans of Ender's Game and The Maze Runner will love this smart sci-fi debut and its sequel, Dove Exiled!
Phaet Theta has lived her whole life in a colony on the Moon. She’s barely spoken since her father died in an accident nine years ago. She cultivates the plants in Greenhouse 22, lets her best friend talk for her, and stays off the government’s radar.
Then her mother is arrested.
The only way to save her younger siblings from the degrading Shelter is by enlisting in the Militia, the faceless army that polices the Lunar bases and protects them from attacks by desperate Earth dwellers. Training is brutal, but it’s where Phaet forms an uneasy but meaningful alliance with the preternaturally accomplished Wes, a fellow outsider.
Rank high, save her siblings, free her mom: that’s the plan. Until Phaet’s logically ordered world begins to crumble...
Suspenseful, intelligent, and hauntingly prescient, Dove Arising stands on the shoulders of our greatest tales of the future to tell a story that is all too relevant today.
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Karen Bao is a writer, musician, and aspiring ecologist. She’s three years older than her brother and sixty years younger than her violin. Born in California and raised in New Jersey, she currently studies environmental biology at college in New York City. Karen began writing Dove Arising at the age of seventeen. Visit her at karenbaobooks.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
“Welcome to your third evaluation,” says Yinha from the front of the hovering viewing platform. “I hope you like to race. First team to the finish line gets the most points, with slight variations for individual accomplishments. You’re going fifteen kilometers through mountains, valleys, some lunar lava tubes, before looping back to base. For many of you, this will be your first time outside, so keep in mind everything we’ve studied, all the safety stuff. If you’re not ready for it now, after these weeks of prep, you’re not going to be ready as full recruits. If something happens out there, it’s your fault. Understood? Cool.”
She taps her handscreen, and a crack opens down the middle of the familiar floor of the training dome. The two halves slide apart until we see ten real destroyers lined up on the floor below, glass plates glinting like scales.
As the platform descends, I clutch my hands in fear. We’ll finally see the wild landscape of the Moon, a vista we’ve studied since Primary but never seen firsthand. With the adventure comes probable dust storms, meteorite bombardment, and—worst of all—moonquakes. I’ll also have to deal with my randomly assigned team, which includes my scatterbrained first-evaluation opponent Io Beta, a low-ranking guy named Triton, Jupiter, and Wes. I grumble internally until I recall Jupiter’s penchant for simulation games and Wes’s levelheadedness. If the former doesn’t try to assassinate anyone, we might do well.
We file off the viewing platform and assemble with our teams. Wes opens the hatch of our destroyer, and we climb inside. The pulsing buttons, the hum of the engine, and the numerous clicking monitors almost fool me into thinking this spacecraft is alive.
Jupiter makes himself flight leader, and no one argues. Wes gives me a long look accompanied by a miniature smile, indicating that we shouldn’t listen to the bulk of the orders he’ll give.
Before Jupiter can assign other positions, Wes asks, “Io, would you like to be copilot?”
Io doesn’t respond until I tap her shoulder. Wes repeats his proposal. She nods vigorously—her new job requires the least concentration.
“I want Stripes on pilot,” Jupiter interjects, pointing at me. “She’s better at steering than the rest of you. Triton, get on left wing. Kappa, you’re on right.”
I wouldn’t have allocated jobs any differently. Maybe Jupiter isn’t as stupid as he seems.
Fully realizing that my actions mean life or death to the team, I sit in the familiar cockpit, flex my fingers over the controls, and flip through the operating manual on my handscreen, hoping I remember every line of print.
“Stripes.” Wes’s eyes lock with mine and he inhales, about to speak—but decides against it. Instead, he raises his right hand to his forehead and salutes me with two of his fingers.
“Shut up, you two,” snaps Jupiter.
“They weren’t saying anything,” Triton points out.
“Now you shut up.” Jupiter hunches over the numerous communication devices and screens at the flight leader’s seat, his forehead bulging more than usual. He probably wishes he’d made himself pilot instead.
A massive door opens before us, and all ten ships move into the air lock.
“All trainees prepare for start. Ten seconds,” says Arcturus’s voice from one of the speakers in our ship.
Triton frowns, rolls his eyes, and sticks his tongue out. I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing out loud. Remembering the helmet, I pull it over my head. Everyone except Io follows.
“Io!” Jupiter hollers.
I fasten her helmet over her quivering head.
The buzzer sounds, and the last hatch opens. I crank the engine to full power, holding back the speed lever with one hand, waiting until there’s sufficient power to go. I press a few buttons, reshaping the wings to make the ship as sleek as possible, which includes stowing the wingtip blasters.
On the radar screen, I see the nine other trainee teams. Some have tried to move and failed, so their ships trip and teeter at the gate. I imagine Arcturus sighing as he watches the footage and deducts points from the pilots’ individual scores.
When the power is sufficient, press the speed lever to full throttle and expel the engine exhaust. I follow the instructions, letter by letter. Because we won’t be escaping the Moon’s gravity, “sufficient power” is a fraction of that needed during the sim. Without a hitch, we shoot across the dark gray Oceanus Procellarum.
“Whoo!” Triton’s voice congratulates me through our helmet headsets.
My eyes seek out the path ahead of us, marked by yellow lights on each side.
“Everyone shut up. Stripes, dodge those damn hills.”
“The instructors can hear you, mate,” Wes says through his teeth.
Jupiter shuts up.
According to my radar screen, the track will take us through a row of rugged mountains up ahead—the Montes Carpatus. We can’t fly over them or we’ll lose the path, so I’ll have to steer us through the narrow valleys between. If only Io would help instead of daydreaming.
“Stripes! Move! There’s a damn ship!” hollers Jupiter, jarring my ears.
He’s correct, much as I don’t like to admit it. Team Two is approaching us from behind, and they’re going 150 kilometers per hour—their pilot is willing to risk hitting something for a higher top speed. That something happens to be us.
I fire the starboard-side thruster. We jerk to the left, and Two pulls ahead, leaving us in a cloud of exhaust.
“Damn it, now we’re gonna hit a mountain!”
We’re about to collide with a peak. I clack my jaws together in irritation. Focus. My hand twists the steering rod right, but another precipice bars our way.
Wes clacks at his keypad; an instant later, the wingtip fires some of our more powerful ammunition—not the lasers, but the missiles—straight at the peak.
“What in the . . .” Jupiter trails off as the missiles strike. Clouds of dust rise from the impact; our ship trembles. Debris pings against its exterior. I grip the controls tight, relying on instinct and luck until the windshield clears.
“Whoo, Kappa!” Triton cheers. “You sure we’re allowed to do that?”
“It’s better than breaking our skulls open,” Wes deadpans. “Anyhow—Phaet, good job, but concentrate.”
He’s treating this like another nighttime training session. Feeling some semblance of calm from hearing his voice, I steer us away from the area and back onto the track. Two more ships have passed us, but at least we didn’t crash.
If we had, though? We’d suffer severe burns before dying and languishing in nothingness forever, with no pressure to hold our cells together—like Dad.
The path takes us into the mouth of a cave—a lunar lava tube, formed by hardened lava and traversed by magma, but now open like an empty blood vessel. I fold the wings, hiding our artillery but decreasing our surface area.
Inside the lava tube, it’s dark except for the track markers and the taillights of Team Six’s ship ahead of us. The walls inch closer and closer, until the vein opens into a space taller than five Atriums stacked atop one another. Here, a mammoth bubble in the magma formed and cooled. Team Six and Team One are engaged in combat with a fleet of ugly prism ships.
Jupiter launches into a nuke-oriented series of curses. Everyone but me joins him.
“Team Eight, because you are entering the interior of the shield volcano, we are transmitting an important announcement,” Yinha’s canned voice says. “Battery Bay’s ships have been detected, but the evaluation will progress regardless. Points will be awarded to teams that destroy enemy spacecraft.”
A click and she’s gone.
How could the Batterers possibly get in here? Is this some sick practical joke from the instructors?
A gray block about our size swerves into our headlights before I can unfurl our ship’s wings. While we wait for the artillery to reemerge, I point the ship straight up and perform a corkscrew maneuver, dodging the Batterers’ fire. When the weaponry is ready, Triton incinerates an enemy ship, but the explosion also rocks our own vessel.
Jupiter sees more ships behind the remnants of the first, and grunts in frustration. “The enemy is closing in on left, right, and front! Move the ship forward-right! And do it now!”
That wasn’t my idea. I check the radar. Nothing above us. Wearing my own version of Wes’s dim smile, I tilt the nose of the ship upward and put on an extra spurt of speed that jars everyone’s spines. Batterer fire streaks toward us from below. I jerk the controls again, but a small missile grazes the belly of the ship.
Pinpricks of light sparkle above us, clustered together in a small circle. Stars? Here? We’ve found the vent of the dead volcano. Even if flying through wouldn’t help us get away from the enemy, I’d still do it out of curiosity.
I fire more exhaust, and we speed toward the night sky.
“What are you doing?” hollers Jupiter. “Where’s the damn track?”
“She’ll find it again, don’t you worry,” Wes tells him.
Our ship is once again flying over the lunar surface. Far below, yellow dots line the path back to the distant crater that contains our home.
But there’s something in our way: a gargantuan Batterer ship languishes in the middle of the track. Three destroyers weave around it, all using full firepower. The cruiser is an old model made to house dozens of passengers, dating back to Battery Bay’s diplomatic fiasco.
Triton fires a series of shots. He manages to strike it once, yelling, “Whoo! Got it!”
Though I like Triton, I’m disgusted. He hit a passenger ship, the spaceflight equivalent of attacking a horde of civilians. I retract the wing weapons, to Jupiter’s irritation, and push the speed lever all the way forward. Our ship zooms over the civilian cruiser and finds the track again.
“You piece of grit!” Jupiter’s face is probably swelling like a tomato. “We get more points for blowing up enemy ships!”
“That was a civilian vessel,” Wes sputters, sounding lost.
“Are you sure?” asks Triton. “What if it’s a military ship that just looks like one?”
Io whimpers into her hands.
“Well, we get points for any enemy ship.” Jupiter fumes. “Turn us around!”
I ignore the order, although I’ll lose points for doing so. I’d condone incinerating military ships out of necessity, but never civilian ones. Within the privacy of my helmet, I mourn everyone who might’ve been on board that cruiser. My fingers on the levers urge our destroyer onward. Soon, we overtake Team One.
But as we approach Team Five, a missile zooms toward our ship. I tilt the nose downward just before the missile would hit us head-on; it scrapes us, and we lurch forward as our velocity is abruptly reduced. Glowing metal scraps bounce off the windshield.
“Team Five did that!” Triton shouts. “That’s definitely not allowed!”
“Callisto!” Jupiter’s bellow is hoarse with indignation—somehow, he’s sure that his girlfriend is the one who attacked us. “Extract the wing weapons, damn it!”
I keep the wings folded, preferring to lose points for insubordination rather than friendly fire. Since we’re on a plain, with no mountains to protect us, I brace myself and tap the joystick from left to right, egging our ship on to the finish line. Let them try to hit us now.
“You’re gonna make me barf,” Triton grumbles, his voice oscillating with the shark’s lopsided swimming.
As the green finish line draws ever closer, I push us past 160 kilometers per hour. Soon enough, we’re right behind Team Five, bathing in their exhaust. Every time I try to pass them, the ship swerves to block us. And when we reach the finish line, we’re still behind them.
Jupiter swears violently to show his fury at his girlfriend’s antics. But within a few seconds, his face returns to normal—he looks pleased—and I wonder if they made some intra-couple agreement beforehand.
The last part of the evaluation involves docking the ship. To take us out of full speed, I shut off propulsion and fire the reverse exhaust.
We trail the victors into the Defense training hangar. I release the wheels, used only for takeoff and landing, and we follow them back through the first gate and the air lock.
“Well,” crackles Yinha’s voice. “Nice job, Team Eight. You realize that you win, right?”
Triton’s cheering and Jupiter’s dumb yelling force her to stop talking for a few seconds.
“Team Five was disqualified for friendly fire. Congratulations. You’re guaranteed high scores, even with those nonregulation tricks.”
Wes chuckles. She probably means his stunt with the missiles, and my flight away from the cruiser to protect innocent lives.
“You showed ingenuity in unpredictable situations. Like how you dealt with the unmanned old Batterer ships we stuck in that volcano for you.”
I puff out my cheeks and exhale, slowly releasing the air and the tension. The visor of my helmet clouds. The Batterer ships were fakes: no one got hurt.
“And Stripes, cool piloting. Haven’t seen a trainee do a roll like that for a long t—No! Watch out!”
A great impact from behind throws our ship nose first into the second gate. My seat belt catches me before my head knocks into the controls. I gasp for air, thankful all my bones are intact, and glance backward.
The first gate now sports a massive dent. As it creaks open, the third-place ship hobbles in, left wing hanging onto the belly by a hinge. The polymer exterior around the disconnected limb has melted and then solidified into a lumpy mess.
I gawk at the mangled destroyer, horrified that all the flat training statistics I’ve read have become reality. Who’s in that ship?
“Do not move!” Yinha’s voice booms from the sound systems within both our ship and the hangar. “I repeat—trainees, do not move! Do not enter or leave the air lock! This is an emergency. Instructors, registered Militia, and Medics will get the situation under control.”
Outside the half-open gate, three more ships prepare to land—how will the trainees within them react? Within the next few minutes, all fifty of us will have seen the collision or heard about it. Our superiors may be able to clear away the debris from the crash, but they’ll never contain the echo.
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