Join my mailing list and be the first to get the latest news
Sign up
Join my mailing list and be the first to get the latest news
Sign up


Book 1:

Project Juniper

More Details

Formats: Ebook, paperback
Paperback ASIN: B0CYGXJ57Y
Ebook ASIN: B0CW2RRJ82
ISBN-13: 979-8884416642

About the Book

To be Blessed is the ultimate reward. Or so they’re told.

JUNIPER struggles to survive in the Fray, a neon-lit city trapped in poverty. Her plan is simple: earn enough from her thieving to buy her way out with her only friends, Mino and Ida.

But when Mino is Blessed and taken to the New Realm station, Juniper’s world is thrown into chaos.

She knows better than to trust the shiny advertisements for the New Realm—Mino is in grave danger, and she’ll do anything to rescue him. Fortunately, a stranded pilot appears in the Fray at just the right time.


ASTOR, a privileged but kind young pilot from Lumina City, is exiled to the Fray. With Juniper’s help, he might have a chance—his only chance—of returning to his old life.

Together, they strike a deal. Sneak into Lumina, steal a ship, and fly to the New Realm station.

But Lumina harbors dangerous secrets. Secrets from Juniper’s past that she can’t hide. When distrust spreads, can Juniper and Astor work together to save Mino before time runs out?

Chapter 1—Juniper

A knife whizzes past my face and sticks in the tree behind me. The figure unsheathes another blade from their hip, readying their stance. I’m unarmed, but there’s no time to wrench the knife out of the tree.

Looks like I’ll have to make time.

I ground myself. My opponent swings again, a low sweeping arc aimed at my midsection. I barely dodge.

I swing my leg out for a low kick and reach for the knife lodged behind me when—

“Juni! Hey, Juni!”

I turn to glare at the source of the noise, then suddenly cry out in pain as my opponent’s knife enters the base of my neck. White-hot fire crawls down my spine. I dismiss the holo-fight with a frustrated wave, and the pixels recede into the small square airscreen around my wrist.

I rub the back of my neck, scowling. “Realm’s sake, Mino, don’t interrupt me like that!”

He responds with a sheepish grin and exaggerated shrug, his large brown eyes wide with anticipation. I shake my head in exasperation and crouch down next to him in the clearing. “Ugh, whatever. Let’s get this over with.”

His ability to annoy me is endless, but I shake it off quickly. Staying focused is more important right now. Stealing from Lumina—the walled-off wealthy city east of Astrellune and north of where we live—isn’t exactly a light crime. And getting arrested and sent to Lumina City Penitentiary—and quite possibly put on death row—isn’t on my to-do list.

But to make enough phycoins to get out of the Fray, this is worth it. We won’t get caught. I’ll make enough to buy Mino a neuranet and restore Ida’s memories, and then we’ll all live in the Copenseoul District in Lumina. We’ll be safe there. Happy. Everything will be okay once that happens.

I breathe in the earthy scent left over from the recent downpour. Mist swirls in the bright lights lining each side of the train tracks some distance away. I close my eyes briefly. Those stupid lights always give me headaches, especially when it’s dark.

Mino plucks out blades of wild grass and tosses a large handful around us. I slap his arm lightly. “Stop. You’re getting wet grass in my hair.”

“When's the train coming? I’m fritzing hungry,” Mino grumbles.

“Watch your language,” I scold him. “And the train’s coming soon. Can't you wait a little longer? It's four a.m.,” I reply, trying to shake the blades of grass from the dark mess of curls on my head. “You know, you could’ve just slept in. I would’ve brought you back something, just like before.”

He bristles at my words and flops down on the grass. “Yeah, but I wanna help. I’m not a kid anymore.” He turns towards me, tall grass tickling his sallow cheek. “You said I was ready, and I’ve been doing well…haven’t I?”

I throw him a sideways glance and a small smile. “Yeah, you have.” He’s thirteen now—not nearly old enough—but I know I can’t stop him from following me here. All I can do is protect him. As long as I’m with him, I’ll make sure he’s safe.

I give up on the grass in my hair and fiddle with my airscreen. The Lumina Express is arriving soon.

The train passes through the forest surrounding the Fray every morning to deliver supplies manufactured in Novayr, the city southeast of Lumina. For a city so small compared to the Fray, you wouldn’t think Lumina needed so much stuff. Yet, here we are.

My gaze drops to my airscreen, where a map of the Fray projects into the air before fizzling out. I shake the device, annoyed. It’s decades old, a reject product from Lumina. But it gets the job done—most of the time.

Finally, a blinking blue dot representing the Express appears, moving parallel to our hiding spot. My fingers swipe at the hologram, pushing the map aside and bringing up a terminal screen. After some practice, hacking the automated driver software to unlock the doors was easy. It was even easier to fool the system into sensing someone with a neuranet on the tracks ahead. That way, it slows down just enough for us to hop on.

By the time I switch off my airscreen, the silver train glints in the corner of my vision.

“Go, go, go!” I urge Mino to stand up.

He hands me the backpack and leather satchel, then slings his own little bag around his shoulder. We pull on our gloves before sprinting toward the train. The bite in the air stings my nose and cheeks.

I run faster, my breath coming out in little puffs of air. Wet grass squeaks under my boots. The automated door slides open upon my approach. I latch onto the side, hold out my hand for Mino, and haul him into the compartment. We both collapse onto the metallic floor, breathless and squinting under the stark fluorescent lights.

“Woah,” Mino breathes in wonder, his skinny frame dwarfed by the giant stacks of crates. He’s stolen with me four times now—once a week for four weeks—and the novelty of Luminan supplies clearly hasn’t worn off yet.

I glance down at his grinning face. “Come on. You know what to do. And try to find some blankets and warm clothes. Yours have all got holes.” I pause to inspect the inside of one of the train compartments. “And since it’s almost winter, they should sell pretty well, too.” I pull out a crumpled piece of paper from my pocket. “Yeah, we got some advance orders on those. Winter clothes it is.”

“We can sell them for a high price and make a whole bunch of phycoins! And then we’ll be rich!” Mino throws his arms into the air in elation.

“No, idiot, because no one’s gonna buy ‘em if they’re too expensive. Haven’t we been over this before?”

Mino lets out a long, exaggerated sigh. “Yeah, yeah.” He touches a stack of sealed metal boxes and sighs again. “It’s just that this stuff looks so expensive. It’s too bad.” He squints at one of the labels. “PAC…. bot…PAC bot... per…person…ugh, what’s it say?”

I lean over. “PAC bot personality chips.”


I frown at him. “Have you been skipping your classes? You know I pay for those.”

He shuffles from one foot to the other. “Nope. I go to ‘em all. Perfect attendance.”

“You suck at lying. Do I need to sit in class with you? Make sure you’re actually learning?”

He raises his hands in surrender, looking mortified at the idea. “Realms, no! Please don’t do that. I’ll go, promise.”

I sigh and hand him the list. “Just get to work on these orders. And stay quiet; you’re talking too loud.” I wave Mino away while I power up my airscreen to make sure the train’s system will automatically reset in five minutes and resume its original speed. Which also means we have four and a half minutes to get everything we need and get out of there.

I comb through the compartment quickly, stuffing anything moderately valuable into the bags: tiny cleaning bots, tins of food, bottles of sweet juice, and jars of ground coffee.

Mino opens the door to the next compartment, straining with the effort. He darts inside and picks up various trinkets to add to his collection. He’s rather fond of old holographic picture frames. We have a drawer in our room filled with shiny, onyx-colored cubes.

Mino sticks his head around the door, pointing a skinny finger behind him. “Juni! Juni, look!”

“Shhh! The Enforcers might hear you!” I hiss.

“Nah, they’re too far away.” He gives me a cheeky grin. “Bet I can outrun them.”

I scoff and return the grin. “Oh yeah? Maybe we should see who can outrun them better.”

He giggles as I ruffle his already unkempt hair, strands escaping from his small ponytail—I remind myself to give him a haircut soon—and we enter the next compartment. Then, he blinks a few times at the label on a crate containing several insulated tubs. “P…pan…ca…cakes.” His head whips around to me, eyes sparkling with delight. “Pancakes!” He pops the lid off a tub and lowers his voice when I give him a warning look. “And they have cream!”

We continue eating while scouring the place. The pre-made, warm breakfast gives off an otherworldly scent. I scoop up a dollop of cream with my finger and taste it. Food like this doesn’t exist in the Fray. The cream is sweet, light, and fluffy, the pancakes rich and buttery.

I like to imagine what those rich fritzers in Lumina would say if they received half-eaten pancakes. It’d be a national outcry. Mino did a funny impression of this once. “We demand a full inspection of the Express! Increase security! Oh, those poor, innocent pancakes!”

I direct Mino to search the compartment one more time, and he nods once before moving past the crates. I’m just about to turn around when Mino trips over the crate carrying the pancakes, sending it toppling over with a loud crash.

“Mino!” I whisper-shout, quickly helping him to his feet.

“Sorry,” he cringes and glances around warily. For a moment, we remain still in the silence. Then, the high-pitched whir of metal joints in motion, followed by the soft pattering of deadly footsteps. Fritz. The Enforcers grow closer.

What Readers Are Saying

The Series

Neuracode - Part 1

Book 0.5

Neuracode - Part II

Book 0.6


Book 1


Book 2


Book 3
Copyright © 2024 Kris Ruhler. All Rights Reserved Some affiliate links in use