THE CHANGING HEARTS OF IXDAHAN DAHEREK, by Mark Laporta
When Ixdahan Daherek, the arrogant son of a Snaldrialooran aristocrat was exiled to Earth, he began a journey that took him to the boundaries of the settled universe and the limits of consciousness. Throughout his struggles, Ixdahan’s heart has always relied on Earth girl Lena Gabrilowicz, the only person in eight galaxies who knows what planet he’s on.
Now, in the concluding chapter of Ixdahan’s saga, a shadowy figure warns of a new and terrifying conflict: battle for control of Time itself.
Will Ixdahan stop the erosion of space-time and win Lena’s love? The answer depends on the maniacal schemes of an ancient diet doctor, the amorous yearnings of a vast multiversal mentality … and the quiet empathy of a thoughtful Treolan rebel.
“[A] fabulous read! … This YA sci-fi debut sees a[ teenage] alien criminal exiled to Earth with dire–and hilarious–consequences … An irresistible blend of wonky science and heartfelt storytelling.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Entertaining and fun! Heart of Earth will delight readers of every age.” — Foreword Reviews
“When I finished reading the tenth page of Heart of Earth I knew the novel was going to take me on a sci-fi adventure I would remember and talk about… I highly recommend this novel for anyone who is looking to satisfy their cravings for good sci-fi or just plain good reading.” — Sherrod M. Wall (Author, From Heaven to Earth)
Come to think of it, selling classified intel to Vrukaari warlords was probably a bad idea.
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Lena Gabrilowicz looked out over the ocean at Felicity Bay and breathed deep in the salty air. Though she’d visited the coast every summer for her entire life, the way the water shimmered in the early evening never failed to sooth her soul. She could watch the light flicker for hours, hear the gulls squawk in the distance and listen to the slap of wave against hull until she was fast asleep, collapsed on the deck with no thought of tomorrow.
Not wanting to stress herself, Lena had dropped anchor only 200 yards offshore—just far enough to feel the wide ocean’s pull at her keel. How great it would be to stay out on the water alone forever, with no one to lay a giant guilt trip on her whenever she wanted a little quiet time.
“Go, get out and have fun with the other kids,” Dad kept nagging, “you only get so many weeks of vacation before you have to hit the books again.”
Oh, yeah, “The Books,” one more item on her list of Things I Never Want to Hear Again. But when your dad’s a high school History teacher and your mom…well, Lena didn’t want to think about Mom right now. It would have spoiled the mood. But as the water called out to Lena again, it tugged on the memory of her last summer with Mom four years ago.
“Hey, your dad’s got some beers in the fridge,” yelled Callie Ann from inside the cabin.
So much for solitude. Not that Lena could complain. She was lucky to be out on the water at all. That is, it had seemed like luck at first. Bored out of her mind, she’d asked Dad if she could take the cat boat cruiser out, never expecting him to say yes—and never guessing he’d toss her the marina keys in one fluid motion. Usually, Dad was kind of a klutz, but not tonight. Tonight he had the reflexes of a cheetah.
“Just don’t go out alone,” he’d said, resting his rope-rough hands on her shoulders.
Lena was so thrilled she was half way to Callie Ann’s beach house before it hit her. Dad had a date with that florist, Rhea Silber. He’d invited her over for dinner and everything.
“So, what’s the deal?” called Callie Ann, “should I pop a couple open?”
“Don’t…even…think…about…it!” shouted Lena. She’d get grounded for sure, out here on the bay, where there was nothing to do as it was, and 100 times less to do if you couldn’t even go out of the house.
“Loser,” said Callie Ann, hauling herself out of the cabin.
“Come on,” said Lena, “check out the view. It’ll be sunset soon.”
“Forget it,” said Callie Ann, slipping off her sneakers, “I’m swimming to shore. You can snooze out here all you want.”
Before Lena had a chance to react, she was already getting splashed by Callie Ann’s swan dive into the ocean. Lena ran to the other side of the deck in time to see her best friend swimming rapidly ashore. With anyone else, you might be worried, but Callie Ann Connors had been captain of the state champion swim team for the last two years. The girl had some serious skills in the water and a lust for risk-taking Lena had so far only seen in boys.
Callie Ann pulled herself up onto the beach and waved to Lena. Her clothes drenched, her hair matted with seaweed, Callie Ann still managed to look like a swimsuit model. Good thing she lived just a few yards back from the water’s edge, Lena thought, casting a worried eye along the shore line. God forbid those college boys jogging along the beach saw her, drenched, her T-shirt clinging…
Hold it. What was that?
As Callie Ann ran off home, Lena’s head whipped around seaward, at the explosive crack of what…sounded like…a sonic boom—and that made no sense. Sure, inexperienced pilots got themselves twisted up flying over the ocean once in a while. But none of them, she was pretty sure, were going faster than the speed of sound.
As the sky started to darken for nightfall, the ear-snapping sound of a second sonic boom was preceded by a thin streak of orange light, heading straight into the ocean at a 45-degree angle.
”No way that was an airplane,” Lena said to the sky.
And in the space of that tiny moment of reflection, she realized she had a problem on her hands. With Callie Ann gone, Lena was out on the boat alone. She should turn back but—gross—by now Dad and Rhea were probably making out on the sofa. Even if she hadn’t wanted to spoil it for him, the thought of seeing two middle-aged people wrapped around each other? She’d rather eat sea snails for breakfast.
So what should she do? Considering the ruckus of the sonic boom and the piercing orange light that followed it, Lena was sure the Coast Guard would have been out there by now. But what was she thinking? The World Cup was on. Could be, the Coast Guard was distracted.
Could be, she was grasping at straws.
Lena had known the guys at the Coast Guard Marina for years, ever since Dad decided he’d rather run a tour boat off Felicity Bay every summer than teach summer school back in Skudderton. It was the one thing Mom had never let him do. Anyway, Captain Halpern wouldn’t allow soccer to get in the way of policing the Bay. Even if this was the first year the American team could be taken seriously. But where was he?
Looking out over the water where the plane—if that’s what it was—had gone down, Lena realized something was wrong with her eyesight. No matter how she turned her head, she couldn’t focus on the exact spot on the horizon where she’d seen the orange flame hit the water. The closer she got, the faster her gaze would bounce off toward a different point on the horizon.
“Don’t even think of hiding from me,” she whispered. Summoning every ounce of concentration, she took her head in her hands an pointed it right at the spot in the ocean where…
Thirty minutes later, Lena awoke in the cruiser’s cabin, lying next to the half refrigerator, an empty can of beer held tight in each hand.
Whoa. Not that she’d never had beer before—but never in such a totally uncool way. How would she explain the missing cans to Dad? More important, how could she explain them to herself? Clutching the arm of a small leather love seat, she pulled herself up to her feet.
“Oh my God, I actually drank these,” she whispered. Yet as startled as she was, another surprise waited for her when she crawled back out to the deck. Not only was the Shari Lynn tied up at the marina, but there at her feet was a small, sealed envelope, the kind you got when you were invited to a wedding—or a funeral. Lena’s hands shook as she picked up the pristine ivory-colored envelope and studied the perfectly inscribed letters, “Ms. Lena Gabrilowicz”
OK, what the…jelly fish…was this?
Still shaken by the events of the last few minutes, Lena’s first impulse was to toss the envelope into the ocean. But there was Officer Gründlich walking past on the marina. Lena didn’t have to guess what the officer’s reaction would be to the sight of someone throwing junk into the ocean. The last thing she wanted was to get on Marta’s bad side—especially considering the officer was Dad’s old girlfriend.
Might as well open the mysterious envelope and let whoever was pranking her get it out of his system. Probably Gary Reynolds, come to think of it. Why couldn’t he either ask her out or leave her alone? Yet, taking a second look, she realized the envelope had a totally “un-Gary” quality.
Funny how perfectly dry and fresh it stayed, no matter how long it hung out with Lena in the ocean-drenched air, no matter how roughed up it got by her grubby thumbs…There…What did it say? Wiping away a grain of sand at the corner of her eye, Lena unfolded the beautifully crafted ivory note paper and read a single sentence inscribed in fussy calligraphy:
No one will believe you.
A second later, the note paper and the envelope were just so much ivory-colored dust clinging to Lena’s fleshy fingers. And though she clapped her hands together several times, it stayed put. Looking out across the bay, she found she now had no trouble focusing her eyes on any part of the ocean. “The spot,” whatever it was, was gone. Tears rolled down her cheeks and she staggered a bit as she stalked over to the weather side of the boat for a better look.
Nothing: What kind of scary prank was this?
On the other hand, what kind of local prankster could create an illusion like that? OK, maybe a neighborhood kid could build a humongous kite, set it on fire and let it blow out over the ocean. But why go to the trouble? And that sound: Whether it was an experimental jet or a military bombing raid, Lena was sure nothing that loud ever popped out the end of a firecracker.
Heaving a deep sigh, she tried to steady herself against the railing of the Shari Lynn. But she had no sooner slowed down her breathing than she remembered the open beer cans from the half refrigerator.
Squeezing into the cabin, she was surprised to see the tiny galley swept as clean and neat as the day Dad bought the Shari Lynn four years ago. Come to think of it, Lena wasn’t quite sure she’d ever seen it that clean. Not knowing what to expect, she tiptoed over to the half refrigerator and opened its fake, wood-patterned door. Snug up against the right wall on the top shelf was a full six pack of Rolling Rock, exactly as Dad had left it earlier that afternoon.
“Cool,” said Lena, her face lighting up with an odd combination of mischief and relief that, for a moment, bathed her mind in the sweet glow of normality. But the effect didn’t last. Lena Gabrilowicz, Junior at Skudderton High and fan of everything Louise Nevelson had ever sculpted, knew what she’d seen. And what she’d seen was definitely not just a lame prank.