On the inland side of the fenced-in corridor of Vista Del Mar Boulevard in El Segundo is the edge of a thousand-acre refinery, looking west through the night to the nearby ocean. Beyond the chain-link fence, a bank of shrubs and palms rises to a line of pale green oil-tanks, each a cylinder some fifty metres in diameter. Across the empty road, Amber’s muscular body stands immobile in silhouette, looking away from the refinery across the grand expanse of a concrete field that’s lined, like an industrial orchard, with tall metal forms whose cross-bars and finials are strung with a complex vegetation of wires, coils and insulator cones. To his right and beneath him the great bulk of a power station rises on this strip of land, where yellow-white lights illuminate a jet of steam between giant chimneys, with the edge of the Pacific lapping at the beach just beyond.
Amber glances up and sniffs, catching a scent of something burnt and mineral. Thick electric cables sizzle in the humid air above, slanting down across the road towards him from a pylon on the refinery bank, and splaying out to rest upon two frames built below him on the concrete field to his right and left.
He turns and cuts across the deserted road. He is at the dim midpoint between two widely-spaced street-lamps, and the chain-link fence is not too much higher than head-height; so it’s the work of an agile minute for his athletic limbs to clamber over the refinery’s limits and drop down onto the earth beside the pylon’s base, where he springs back upright before vanishing into the shadowy shrubs.
Among the rocks half-buried at the crest of the bank, his shoe stumbles against the fossil of some small sea creature, now on dry land since the ocean-bed rose long ago: a little ammonite-spiral rock whose blood was once the sea. He looks up and onward—and there just ahead of him is a high steel fence. He stakes out its length, finding the point most shadowed by foliage and most adjacent to branches; and with that giant blond spider’s metal strength of his, he powers himself up between fence and branches, and over the top.
From here on, the refinery is Amber’s. Fizz-lights and gaslights dot the dark shine of a building of black steel, high upon his left. Keeping in the shadows, he stalks along the low-lit aisles in between rows of tanks on metal fields, stepping over rails and under pipes—a sensuous embodiment of Jaymi’s exploration of this brand-new West Side.
The figure of a security guard in the distance stops and stares, down an alleyway of girders. The man calls out, blows a whistle—sets off at a run, coming closer.
Amber ducks from view, jumps up to grab a girder, swings his weight around and upwards, and lands upon a walkway. The man passes underneath, glancing all around, but fails to look above him. Treading softly, Amber runs along this raised level for several hundred metres. He curves up around a chimney base, via a spiral stairway, then curves down again. In the middle distance ahead, he can see the refinery complex’s northern edge. He climbs back down from the walkway down a ladder to the ground and sprints towards that boundary, and through a car-park and a gate to the outside world.
Glancing back up at those metal towers behind him, as he trots across the quiet of El Segundo Boulevard and turns into Arena Street, he hears the air-horns of the refinery’s alarm system strike up with a long blare and then a short one, four times in succession. Each of the five high flare-stacks emits a roaring tongue of flame at the same time, licking and swaying sky-high into the night, before dying back down into a roil of ultramarine heat-haze around a tiny pilot-light: the first flare-stack’s flame is black and blue; the second’s flame is mauve and platinum; the third’s flame is brown and green; the fourth’s flame is apricot and blue; and the fifth’s flame is blackcurrant and black.
Hearing the bleep of an incoming text, he checks his mobile phone. It’s Jaymi, sending the coordinates of the server farm! Amber had almost forgotten why he is really here…
OK then. He’s done with being a sensuous embodiment of his maker’s unfocused explorations around this new West Side landscape. Jaymi’s heart was never quite in this refinery mission despite his best intentions for it, as Amber now perceives. It is time to graduate into being a more bloodlessly precise weapon, thank you. It is time for his real mission.
For more about "The Beasts of Electra Drive" by Rohan Quine, see
For some great reviews of it, see
And to pick it up from whichever retailer you prefer, the retailers’ links for the audiobook format are at
and for the paperback format and the ebook format are at