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.
Michal, our driver and my best friend, clambered into the truck first, having to duck his head down just to get through the door since he easily topped six-foot-four; and at seventeen I suspected he hadn't even finished growing. I clambered in beside him while Leigh, David and Shorty climbed into the back seat.
Michal looked down at me, clearly displeased about something. "You gotta be more careful, Ethan."
"Me?" I asked, not having the slightest inkling of what he was referring to.
"Yes, Ethan, you," he confirmed as he turned the key in the ignition and pumped the accelerator gently to get the engine started. The truck was pretty old and I doubted it had a single part that hadn't been replaced or refurbished at some stage. "I'd wager my bottom dollar they're here 'cause they want to find out why our team brings in more metals than the others."
Our team was one of many that foraged in the ruins outside for non-corrosive metals, such as gold, platinum, copper, bronze and lead, that had survived the decades since the Apocalypse. We would take them back to the Recycling-Works where they would be sorted, melted down, and handed over to the factories.
"What do you mean?" I replied, feigning ignorance.
"Them other three goons," he whispered as he jerked his head back to indicate our workmates in the back seat, "they ain't too bright. They think you just know the best spots to look, but not me. I've seen you."
That sent icy tendrils of dread creeping back into my gut. "Seen me what?"
"You can drop your act with me, okay?" he said softly as he shifted the truck into gear and drove it out of the Recycling-Works yard and towards the town gates. "I've heard about people like you, and you're secret's safe with me. Just don't keep hitting pay dirt every day from now on, 'cause those Custodians, they're not here to protect us from the Skel like they claim, otherwise they'd have brought a Bushmaster instead of that G-Wagon."
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