Fourteen year-old Sam Kahu's friends and family are missing after a fire at a mansion on remote Aotea Island. Youth Aid Detective Sue Williams has met teens with traumatic pasts before, but none like Sam. First he tells Sue that her girlfriend is leaving her, then he saves her from suicide proving his claim to be psychic in the process. But he also tells the heart-broken detective that aliens are out to get him.
Changels is like the X-files meets Tintin, with all the intensity, reality, romance, spookiness and fun that implies. Changels Initiation is the first part of a six-part trilogy telling a single story about the origin of the Changels - six psychic teens who teleport around the world to find and safeguard the teens who will be the world's future leaders.
Not so much paranormal as supernormal the story blends genres from mystery, political thriller, romance, minority coming of age and science-fiction to create a cocktail you have never read before. Heavy in places, fun in others it is both grittily realistic and fantastically imaginative at the same time.
“Sam, you aren't in trouble. We just need to ask you some questions about the fire.”
It's two days later: Wednesday, 10.11 a.m. on March 11th, 2009, or so the worn-out clock in interview room four at the central police station says.
Sixty-seven hours ago, Sunday about 3 p.m. the old mansion I was living in, on remote A-o-te-a Island, burned down and the twenty or so people living there vanished. It's been all over the news, here in New Zealand and even around the world. Lots of deaths always make the news.
Some TV channels said it was some kind of weird UFO suicide-murder cult, like one in Switzerland before I was born. They called the leader of our community, Dr Gennady Prosperov, a “billionaire, Russian UFO-nut” who had been investigated in America for crooked financial deals.
Then, thirty-seven hours ago, at 9.04 p.m. on Monday night, I turned up at the local cop's house, the unexpected survivor. Sergeant Gavin Seay, the local cop who never liked us much, zapped me a pizza and made up a bed in an unlocked cell at the station next door. He knew he shouldn't, but he only had a one bedroom house, and there wasn't anywhere else to put me. Just for once I didn't mind him being a jerk. They wouldn't be looking for me there – not yet anyway.
The next day I met the cops running the case and Welfare took me off the island and into emergency foster care. They didn't have anywhere else for newly orphaned teens to go either. Emergency care was Ruth and Dave Moore's home for teens in the eastern suburbs of Auckland, New Zealand's largest city. Ruth ran it like a prison, but I can't blame her – at least they fed and housed me. On the news this morning, while I ate my cornflakes, the cops announced they had found a fourteen-year old survivor, who they wouldn't name until they could contact his surviving family. They said I was helping them with their inquiries.
Yeah, well so far that's just been so much dreaming. Here in cramped, neon-lit interview room four, the silence is dragging.
There’s just two cops. Opposite me a cutie with short hair, blonde tips and a stud in her left ear, wearing a uniform. She's late twenties I'd guess. She introduced herself as Detective Constable Sue Williams. She's from Youth Aid. She's trying to look sweet and big sisterly, but she's just a tad too staunch to be straight.
The other one next to her is in charge. I met him yesterday. He's an old, white guy, about forty, in a cheap gray suit, with an ugly green tie. His name is Detective Sergeant Kevin Cooper. I think he's hoping this mystery will turn into something big that will help him make detective inspector.
Me? I'm Sam Kahu, Maori, and sitting here with my hood up. I'm saying nothing. I'm sweet coz I don't have to tell them anything anyway.
“Sam, they are only trying to help you.”
That's Geraldine Jones next to me. She's my social worker. I only met her about an hour ago. Mid-fifties, small and fat, with gray hair. The caring face of the system. I don't trust her. She suggested I live with my Aunt and that is never going to happen.
“So Sam, where were you when you first realised the house was on fire?” Sue tries.
She's trying to be light but concerned.
The first mystery they want to solve is why I’m here, and the others have vanished. In fact I was in a slum in the Philippines. But if I told them that they'd think I was crazy or just jerking them around, so I say nothing. I can see their eyes flicking around each other, trying to work out how to get this hard, little Maori kid to talk.
And to be honest, I really don't know what to tell them eh? My story is simply too weird to tell.