“No way,” said Gavin, pulling down his goggles to peer through the jungle growth.
“It’s them!” He whooped loudly, hopping up and down. Wendy couldn’t believe she was friends with this 19-year-old boy who was bouncing and giggling like a five-year-old at Christmas.
But she was excited, too. Down the road, surrounded and followed by a crowd of adventurers, were the two great mountains of metal, Tank and Tonk, lumbering down the path, blocking its entire width. Gavin shouted at her as he jogged to catch up to them.
Tank and Tonk hadn’t been seen outside of Ganton in Wendy’s recent memory. The closest they came was the day-ending parade, where they marched with all the others, stopping short of the Coast Way. But here they were, on the way to the Rogue’s Gallery.
Something was amiss, however. The crowd following them was excited but confused. And the two roving animatronics didn’t look right. Wendy couldn’t place it, but something about them was abnormal. It wasn’t till they had caught up that it dawned on her.
“Gavin,” she said, tugging him down so she could speak in his ear. “Look at them.”
“Yeah I’m looking. How could I not?”
“No. Look. Inside.”
Within the arcs of bronzed metal, churning pistons and spinning gears, something was missing.
“Holy crap. No operators,” said Gavin, his excited turning to puzzlement.
Wendy nodded. And what was more, she could see their heartgears, the source of an automan’s energy, buried within their frame, which normally glowed white or blue. Both Tank and Tonk’s heartgears were bright red. That meant one thing for an automan: Torque, the berzerker state that meant bad news for anyone in the way of their mission.
“They’re torquing,” said Gavin, only he wasn’t looking at the gears. He had walked to the side and was looking at their faces, at their glowing red eyes. He shared a look with Wendy, one that she needed no words to understand.
Something was very wrong in the Wonder today.
Above is an excerpt from an early chapter of Absent Hero, the first episode of my series Gone To Wonder. I’m not usually one for excerpts, since a lot of the time they’re rubbish out of context, but I can’t help myself. The first draft of Episode One was finished up just over a week ago – just in time, in fact, for me not to have to pony up on the Steak Bet. And I’m itching to get this thing out into the world.
Gone To Wonder is about a young woman named Wendy Danek. Wendy is a superfan of a revolutionary theme park called Finnegan’s Wonder. It’s a place where augmented reality, vivid video projections and holograms, hundreds of animatronics, and thousands of actors combine to create storyscapes: landscapes where stories come to life around the visitor. But it is more than that, because the visitors themselves become characters, adventurers in a brand new world of steampunk behemoths, pirates who command the wind, a mysterious mystic, woodland warrior poets, sprites, whisps, airplanes, vicious mechanized plants, and more. There are no rides in this park, only experiences that challenge the divide between real and make believe.
But the Wonder is in trouble. Attendance and enthusiasm are waning. Maintenance is lackluster. Whole lands are closed. And worst of all, it’s legendary creator and leader, Clayton Ferris, has been ousted by the majority shareholder, a man named Charles DeWitt. The day after the hammer falls, Wendy and her crew of faithful friends are thrust into the story in ways none of them had known before. Animatronics are coming to life, characters are attacked, and a war against a mysterious new race of automatons is brewing. At the center of it all is Wendy, chosen against her will by someone — or something — to push the story to stranger heights than it has ever gone.
In the coming months we plan to bring you five thrilling episodes of Gone To Wonder. It’s a story that has quickly become my favorite project to date. It combines my love of theme parks and armchair imagineering with a healthy dose of fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction. It blends a near-future setting with an impossible, fantastical world, and comments on the power of story on our lives.
We’ve got a ways to go yet. The first episode is in revision mode now, but keep watch over the next few weeks for news on a release date, as well as where and how you can get a copy. I look forward to bringing this project in front of readers soon. Until then, I’ll be gone to wonder.