Coin #2 - Quantum Coin

 

Published 2012 by Pyr
®
, an imprint of Prometheus Books

 

Quantum Coin.
Copyright © 2012 by Eugene Myers. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, digital, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or conveyed via the Internet or a website without prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Cover illustration © Sam Weber
Jacket design by Jacqueline Nasso Cooke

 

Inquiries should be addressed to
Pyr
59 John Glenn Drive
Amherst, New York 14228–2119
VOICE: 716–691–0133
FAX: 716–691–0137
WWW.PYRSF.COM

 

16 15 14 13 12   5 4 3 2 1

 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

 

Myers, E. C. (Eugene C.), 1978–

Quantum coin / by E.C. Myers.

p. cm.

Sequel to: Fair coin.

Summary: Ephraim thought his universe-hopping days were over, but when his girlfriend's twin sister from a parallel universe crashes their senior prom, the three must work together to save the multiverse.

ISBN 978–1–61614–682–5 (hardcover)

ISBN 978–1–61614–683–2 (ebook)

{1. Science fiction.} I. Title.

PZ7.M98253Qu 2012

{Fic}—dc23

2012019305

Printed in the United States of America

 

 

 

The more I learn about publishing, the more I realize that it takes teamwork to bring books to life.

I would like to thank the many friends who sponsored me in the Clarion West Write-a-thon and provided extra motivation to finish that messy first draft. As always, my writing group, Altered Fluid, helped me shape this into the book I wanted it to be. Eddie Schneider, Joshua Bilmes, and Jessie Cammack at JABberwocky frequently go above and beyond the call of duty on my behalf and have probably saved the day in ways I'll never realize.

I have tremendous gratitude and admiration for everyone at Prometheus Books and Pyr, who consistently turn their authors’ words into beautiful books. I would especially like to thank Lou Anders, Jill Maxick, Meghan Quinn, Gabrielle Harbowy, Julia DeGraf, Jackie Nasso Cooke, Liz Scinta, Jennifer Tordy, and Catherine Roberts-Abel; if you knew all they do to produce great fiction and get it in the hands of readers, you would thank them too.

Finally, my sincerest appreciation goes to my fellow Apocalypsies and everyone who read
Fair Coin
, blogged about it, wrote reviews, mentioned it to friends, hosted interviews or readings, or was generally awesome in countless other ways. I hope you feel your valued contributions to my debut novel's successes are fairly rewarded by this sequel.

Ephraim Scott sat at the bar and swirled the ice cubes in his glass. He wondered why he always ended up alone at parties, even when he had a date. This was a big night for him and Jena, but so far she had spent most of their senior prom hanging out with friends.

“Quarter for your thoughts.”

Ephraim jumped at the voice behind him. Grapefruit juice splashed on his hand, and an ice cube clattered on the bar top. He twisted around on the stool and faced the large eye of a camera lens, with Nathan Mackenzie behind it. Its screen cast an eerie glow on his best friend's pale face and reflected off his glasses, obscuring his eyes.

“Nervous?” Nathan asked.

Ephraim put the glass down and wiped his hand dry with a napkin.

“You just surprised me,” Ephraim said.

“That's a great shot for the video,” Nathan said. He perched on an adjacent stool and fiddled with the camera controls. He tilted the screen toward Ephraim.

“Quarter for your thoughts?”
Nathan repeated onscreen. Ephraim watched himself leap a foot off his seat, accompanied by a small geyser of ice and juice. He smiled despite himself. Nathan had the uncanny ability to capture Ephraim at his worst moments.

“Thanks for that,” Ephraim said.

“Wait. Here.” Nathan played the footage back in slow motion, which looked even more comical. “This one's gonna go viral. I can feel it.”

“That's what you said about the last twenty videos.” Ephraim cleared his throat. “What did you mean by that comment, anyway?” he asked.

“Which?” Nathan was panning his camera over the dance floor, getting one of those directorial wide shots he liked so much.

“‘Quarter for your thoughts?’” He swallowed the last of the grapefruit juice and winced at the bitterness. He'd never told Nathan about the strange quarter he'd found last year that had whisked him off to a series of parallel universes each time he'd flipped it. He watched his friend carefully to make sure he was really the Nathan he'd grown up with.

“It's just something people say,” Nathan said. He held the camera at arm's length and tested the limits of the zoom function to get a better shot of Leah Donner's shimmying butt on the dance floor. That footage was more likely to go viral than anything else he'd shot.

“No, they don't. Nobody says that.” Ephraim tugged at his bowtie to loosen it. He sighed when it unraveled completely. It had taken him half an hour to get it right. He'd wanted to wear the clip-on, but his mother insisted that if she was paying for the tuxedo rental, he was at least going to learn to tie the real thing. “People say ‘
penny
for your thoughts.’”

“I adjusted for inflation. You can't get anything for a penny these days. A quarter doesn't buy much either, for that matter. Remember those little juices we'd buy in junior high? My favorite was the blue one. It actually tasted like
blue
, you know?”

“So you didn't mean anything in particular by it?” Ephraim asked.

“What's the big deal, Eph?”

The big deal was that Ephraim had been thinking about a particular quarter a lot lately, and Nathan's choice of words had triggered paranoia that he had never quite rid himself of. The coin he had was now inert, and it was the only one of its kind as far as he knew. But if there were others out there, any of his friends could be replaced at any moment, or he could be swapped into another universe and another life, powerless to do anything about it.

“Nothing. Never mind,” Ephraim said.

“Everything okay?”

“I'm fine.”

“Is everything okay with you and Jena, I mean?” Nathan asked. “The plan's still in effect?”

“Yeah. Of course.” Ephraim gave Nathan a sidelong look. “Why? Have you heard anything?”

“No one tells me anything, dude. But I have five eyes, and I haven't seen you two together much tonight.”

“Five?”

Nathan pointed his camera at Ephraim and grinned.

“Jena went to the bathroom,” Ephraim said. He glanced at the clock above the bar. “Thirteen minutes and forty-five seconds ago. Not that I've been keeping track, because that would be weird.”

“Right,” Nathan said. “Was Shelley with her?”

“Naturally,” Ephraim said. “And Mary. I've barely had five minutes alone with my girlfriend all evening.”

“You and Jena danced that once,” Nathan said.

Ephraim groaned. “Those were the five minutes. Please tell me you didn't get that on video.” He hadn't danced with Jena so much as moved erratically in her vicinity in an approximation of rhythm.

“It's my job to get embarrassing footage of you. I'm building a catalog of your failures, to keep you ever humble. And to blackmail you with them when you become rich and powerful. Besides, I didn't think you were that bad.”

“You
wouldn't. I stepped on her toes. Twice.”

Even after surviving a trip to a dangerous and twisted version of his own universe last summer, dating Jena was still the most amazing thing that had ever happened to him. Part of him had been waiting for their relationship to end, like some marvelous dream. Even Dorothy eventually returned to Kansas.

“Could you put that camera down for just a minute?” Ephraim asked. “I feel like I'm talking to a teenage cyborg in a bad suit,” he said.

“I. Do. Not. Want. To. Miss. Anything,” Nathan said in a robotic monotone. “What's wrong with my suit?”

“Purple hasn't been in since…ever. And I hate to disappoint you, but a giant monster is not going to attack Summerside during prom.”

“But you can't know that for sure.” Nathan reluctantly put the camera down on the bar, pointed toward the mirror behind it. He studied his reflection, smoothed back his gelled blond hair, and adjusted his glasses, then gave Ephraim his full attention. The camera had left a vertical red crease down his cheek that looked like a scar.

“Odds aren't good, in any case. The only things rampaging tonight are teenage hormones,” Ephraim said.

“I already have plenty of footage of that. The MPAA might up the rating on this production to R,” Nathan said. “Anyway, you don't have anything to worry about with Jena. She loved that necklace you gave her, whatever it's supposed to be. I'm sure that if she's in the bathroom, she hasn't dumped you, she's just taking a—”

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