Sneak Peek of Galestand: An Outliers Tale
Here is a sneak peek of the next book in the Outliers Tale series, taking on the point of view of Samarah. The date is coming soon, so stay tuned!
Galestand: An Outliers Tale
I felt the cool, moist bark against my hands as I climbed branch upon branch. Each branch becoming more visible the higher up I climbed as oranges, yellows and reds peeked from the sunrise between the uppermost leaves as if leading me to the top.
I reached past the leaves and was welcomed by a cool breeze weaving through my fingers at the top. Grabbing the last branch, I hoisted myself up, settling in the middle of two adjoining branches. I gasped at how the colors from the sunrise danced across the trees, grass, and dirt as far as I could see.
The moment of wonder quickly subsided as Kale Stone caught my attention. My heart pounded against my ribs as my mind raced through the events leading up until now.
“Do you see anything Samarah?” Naydeen shouted from below.
My gaze inched over the tall, white stone walls that towered over the surrounding land. As if an ant before a giant, a mass of our people stood just outside the wall, cast in its shadow. Standing outside the walls was our last attempt to distract Kale Stone from our plan to stop the missiles.
“Everything is going along just as we planned,” I shouted back. “They are in their positions.”
I smiled down at Naydeen only to be met with a frown. The pain I saw in her eyes mirrored the pain and fear I felt in my own heart. Staring at one another, she placed her hands upon her hips as the rest of the world moved around her as if she were a stone in a river.
As the people of Galestand zipped back and forth around Naydeen with armfuls of medical supplies, food, and weapons, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was all for naught. If in the end, the missiles would wipe clean all the work and preparation we had put forward to survive.
I unwillingly tore my gaze from Naydeen’s to my lookout post. I was here to communicate what was happening to our people at Kale Stone.
Tarik flashed into my mind as I watched the scene before me.
My brother, Tarik, wasn’t in that mass of people outside Kale Stone’s massive walls. He was inside the beast itself with Jeremy, the underestimated hero who had come to warn us about the missiles so many months ago. The missiles would launch into the sky, only to fall in a fiery explosion whose flames would consume everything in its path. All foliage, habitation, and the world as we knew it was eaten by Kale Stone’s greed.
No, I had to think positively.
A sudden rumbling, growling noise tore me from my thoughts and drowned out all the sounds around me. Even from this distance the ground and trees shook causing me to wrap my arms around the tree for support.
If the missile was launching, that could only mean that Tarik, Josiah, and Jeremy hadn’t been able to stop them.
Scanning Kale Stone’s walls, I couldn’t make out any shield to protect them from the inevitable destruction this missile was going to give. Looking at my own surroundings I was unable to make out any shield evident around Galestand either.
Josiah, the man who had designed our shield, had spoken in a long, drawn-out explanation as to how the shields moved atoms and molecules to prevent anything from passing through. Now here I was wishing more than anything I had understood what he had been talking about.
Before long, the rumbling ceased followed by a thin black object shooting into the sky, a trail of orange and red flicking and waving in wide, angry spouts.
“The missiles launched! Everyone brace yourselves!” I shouted, unable to tear my gaze from it.
The world seemed to freeze around me as the missile curved downward, flying low over the city of Kale Stone. Just when I thought it would disappear, it collided with the far side of the city walls.
A flash of bright light caused me to momentarily squint before orange, red and black smoke started rolling like an ocean tide over the ground. With Kale Stone engulfed in the rolling smoke and flames, a wave of horror caught my breath just as the smoke rolled up to Galestand.
Grasping the branches with all my strength, I forced myself to suck in a deep breath in preparation for what was to come.
The rolling smoke consumed the lush ferns and banana trees ready to take its next victim when it started rolling upward and over my head, taking away the sun’s warm rays as if a rainstorm were rolling in.
Swirling smoke mixed with red and orange flames above me before disappearing, leaving a thick black ash in its wake.
The ashes slowly slid down the invisible barrier, making their way to the ground. I turned to see this happening at other spots around Galestand’s borders as well. It was as if we were encased inside an invisible bubble. The shield that Josiah had designed. The last barrier for our safety.
“We’re okay!” I shouted through streams of fresh tears. “The shield worked.”
I had not even realized I was crying until now, as I swiped my eyes with the backs of my hands to see everyone below.
Cheers and cries of excitement erupted beneath me.
The people of Galestand were embracing one another in tearful hugs as they rejoiced at having lived to see another day.
Any excitement I had drained instantly at the thought of how many people we had left unprotected outside this barrier at Kale Stone. The people who had been defenseless to the missiles wake outside the walls. The ash and smoke were so dense it was difficult to say how far I could see without standing directly in the smoke.
Climbing back down the cool, moist branches, I stopped on the last platform, a pit growing in my stomach knowing I needed to remind them that this was not over.
Naydeen came over, pulling me into a tight hug. A smile spread across her face wiping away any worry I had come to know all too well the past few weeks.
Looking at all these people in front of me, I tried to think of how Tarik would have handled this.
“We have survived!” I shouted over the noise, causing many to grow quiet. “We couldn’t have done this without working together and putting every ounce of ourselves into these efforts. As happy as I am that we live to see another day, we need to be prepared for what is coming next. The people we had outside of Kale Stone will be coming back soon. There is no telling what injuries we will see or how many loved ones we have lost. Galestand needs to keep going so that anyone lost will have been for a reason.”
The reality of my words was sobering to the joyous emotions everyone had been experiencing just moments before.
As I looked out upon a sea of faces, it was evident that there was a long journey ahead that no one had yet planned for.
Yes, we had survived, but at what cost?
“Samarah is right. Our goal now is to keep preparing, check for damages and ensure we are ready to aid those who need it,” Naydeen said.
Some started nodding, quickly returning to their tasks, while others took more time to come to terms with our new reality.
“Thank you, Naydeen. I wasn’t sure what else to say. What can I say when I have no more answers to their questions than I do my own?”
Lines and creases were etched into Naydeen’s face as she drew her eyebrows together. “All we can do right now is tell them what they need to hear and figure out how to move forward. No one was sure we would survive this. What we need now is to figure out what we have left out there to work with. What did you see from up there?”
“I can’t say what the missiles exact target was, but I can say that Kale Stone wasn’t it. It hit the far wall of Kale Stone. After that, the ash and fire covered my view of everything.”
Her eyes shot up to the sky as she fought to hold back a fresh wave of tears.
“Naydeen, think about this. The good thing is there were more than enough barriers between where the missile hit and our people outside the wall. I’m holding out hope that everything in between helped to lessen the explosion on its path to them.”
Nodding, her gaze still on the sky, I imagined she must be thinking of her husband, Galeb. Galeb had been leading the group that had been posted outside the wall. He would have been the first one to be hit by the blast.
“Take a minute,” I said softly. “I am going to check the borders of the barrier below. I could see a thick lining of ash and dust from up high. It would be in our best interest to move it away so that when the dome runs out of power, we don’t have any contamination to the remaining foliage.”
While I spoke, a single tear trickled down her cheek. She slowly closed her eyes as I turned to walk away.
Galestand was buzzing with movement as every single person performed a task. After maneuvering my way through the many clusters of people, I stood on the lift elevator next to a guard.
“Please take me to ground level.”
He nodded as he started lowering the elevator. His helmet obscured some of his expression, but from what I could see, there was pain.
“Did you have someone in the group outside the wall?” I asked quietly.
“Yes,” he said in a broken voice. He cleared his throat again. “My brother was in that group.”
“I’m so sorry. What’s your name?”
I knew saying sorry wasn’t enough to erase the pain of a lost loved one. After losing both my mother and father, I am sorry was a mere acknowledgment they were gone. It wasn’t a saying that brought anyone peace.
“We will do all we can to recover our people. If you need anything Waco, please find me,” I added.
He nodded, although he avoided eye contact.
As the elevator’s movement gave me a soft jolt, the view of the ash from the ground was almost too much to comprehend.
“There is so much ash,” the guard whispered in amazement.
I swallowed any words of acknowledgment, as I feared my voice would betray me. Down here on the ground, the ash towered over me by twice my height.
There were a few others scattered around the perimeter also inspecting the height of the ash.
Feeling the soft, lush grass brushing against my feet as I walked towards the perimeter, I was reminded of just how important a place Galestand was right now. One of the last remaining green spaces.
“I need as many farmers and guards as you can get. Please send them down here with shovels, buckets, and wheelbarrows,” I instructed Waco.
Stepping closer to the dome, I heard the elevator ascend behind me. So many scenarios, questions, and numbers were racing through my mind.
How long would this dome have power? Where would we put all this ash? How could we keep the foliage from becoming contaminated?
I stuck my hand out to find that the barrier was impenetrable.
The weights of every unknown came crashing down all at once, overwhelming me. I needed Galeb, Tarik, Josiah, and Jeremy here. How could they have left Naydeen and I here as acting leaders when there were so many unknowns to move forward?
Something lightly tapped my shoulder, yanking me from my thoughts.
“I have farmers and guards here. More are on the way,” Waco said breathlessly.
Pulling in a deep, jagged breath, I turned around to face him.
“I have one more task for you,” I said. “I need you to talk to Naydeen and see if anyone else was working with Josiah on the barrier. We need to find a way to get through to move the ash.”
His eyes flashed back and forth between me and the dome as if piecing everything together before turning and sprinting back towards the elevator.
“What would you like us to do?” another guard asked.
“We need to set up a wall around the edge of this barrier. After that, we need cleaning stations. That ash is going to contaminate anything left in here, so we need to make sure we can keep everything as clean as possible,” I instructed.
“What should we use to make the wall?”
Incredibly good question, I thought.
“Whatever we can find without leaving ourselves short on supplies. Have some of the guards go around Galestand to see what we can gather from the people. Doors or old boards, anything we can use to keep the ash out.”
As people scattered, I noticed a farmer standing next to me, looking up at the tall wall of ash.
“How long do you think it will be until we can grow plants out there again?” I asked.
The farmer sighed, leaning his arm on his shovel. “There is a large amount of ash on top of the soil. Think of it this way, when there’s a fire and a structure is burnt to the ground, how long does it take for grass to grow in that area?” he asked.
“But there wasn’t fire here. Just the ash,” I replied.
“It’s the same concept. With this much ash, the soil will be contaminated for some time. There is still more ash to fall which is going to lengthen the process. The plants will die and when there has been enough rain to wash out some of the contaminated things, it will start to grow again,” he explained.
“How long?” I asked.
“Months sometimes years. We can clear the ash and try to help the soil[, but with the wind blowing more around and nowhere to place the ash it would be useless. We just need to wait. Nature has a process,” he said.
I felt my mouth go dry in response.
Without any sustainability options other than Kale Stone or the other cities, if we lost our crops, we would not make it.
“We are going to need a miracle to make this all work,” said the farmer.
My eyes wandered again to the towering wall of black ash, large and ominous.
“Yes, we will,” I whispered.