Eighteen-year-old Ethan Jones lives in Newhome, a town built upon the decaying ruins of post-apocalyptic Melbourne, ruins haunted by the ferocious Skel, a nomadic tribe of degenerate savages.
The Skel are ramping up their attacks on Newhome's foraging teams and infesting Melbourne's ruins in ever greater numbers. Is this part of a larger plan that could spell the town's doom?
Meanwhile, the last thing Ethan expects when he and his companions rescue a two-car convoy from the Skel is a Japanese teenage girl with an outlandish dress-sense, who after they take her back to Newhome, goes to great lengths to ingratiate herself into his life. But is it in gratitude for saving her life or is she seeking something more?
And what a quandry she places him in, for he knows the rules, that no man is permitted to be alone with an unmarried woman. But how can he drive such a gentle soul away when she touchs his heart so deeply, even though she clearly carries the pain of a broken heart.
At the same time, Newhome's police force, the Custodians, are suspicious of Ethan's foraging team's successes and are pulling out the stops to find out which member of his team has the illegal mutant ability that gives them an edge over the other teams. Should these peacekeepers discover Ethan is the mutant they seek, they will haul him away and dissect him like a frog.
The Custodian G-Wagon was the last thing I expected to see when I strolled into the Recycling-Works yard. As usual, I was a couple of minutes late for my shift. My boss, a tall, balding guy whose once-impressive muscles were slowly turning to flab, was talking – more like bowing and scraping – to the Custodian sergeant. Three privates stood beside the G-Wagon with their Austeyr assault-rifles slung over their shoulders. The Custodians wore their usual camo-pattern fatigues, bulletproof vests, and helmets.
Panic surged through me with such intensity that I had to fight the urge to flee. They could be here for one reason and one reason only, and that was me. I must have slipped up somehow. A slip up that allowed them to discover the secret I had gone to such lengths to hide my entire life. Now they would haul me away to the town’s Genetics Laboratory, where the geneticists would cut me apart to study the mutation I carried thanks to nuclear fallout. Whether they would euthanize me before or after they dismembered me I didn’t know, and that’s what worried me. That and the whole dying part.
It occurred to me that I could try to make a run for it, but in a walled-off town canvassed by ceaseless Custodian patrols, where would I go?
I glanced about frantically for my workmates and spotted them slouching beside our battered old truck, their eyes darting about nervously. They were unnerved by the unexpected arrival of the Custodians too. Despite their ignorance, I'm sure a whole host of minor misdeameanours they had committed were flying through their minds as they wondered if they were the reason for the visit.
Custodians, the paramilitary police force tasked with protecting the town from internal and external threats, were hardly the guardians their name implied. In reality, they spent most of their time curtailing the people’s freedoms and enforcing the Chancellor’s strict laws.
Noticing I had arrived, my boss, Trajan Barclay, nodded deferentially to the sergeant and hurried over to me, puffing from the effort. "There you are, Ethan."
"What's going on, Boss?" I asked, unable to stop the quiver in my voice. "Why are they here?"
"Beginning today, they'll be accompanying you on your foraging trips," Trajan explained as he glanced back at them nervously.
"For what reason?" I demanded.
"Due to increased Skel attacks on our foraging parties, Custodian Command has decreed that all foraging teams will be accompanied by Custodian squads from now on."