The Secret Runners of New York is the fifteenth novel written by Matthew Reilly.
The novel is titled The Secret Runners in the United States.
THE COMING END
When Skye Rogers and her twin brother Red move to Manhattan, rumours of a coming global apocalypse are building. But this does not stop the young elite of New York from partying without a care.
CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?
And then suddenly Skye is invited to join an exclusive gang known as the Secret Runners of New York. But this is no ordinary clique - they have access to an underground portal that can transport them into the future.
And what Skye discovers in the future is horrifying.
RUN! AS FAST AS YOU CAN!
As society crumbles, Skye and Red race to figure out how to use their knowledge to survive the impending annihilation, they soon discover that the chaotic end of the world is perfect time for revenge...
In the early hours of the morning, 17 year-old Becky Taylor is running through the devastated streets of New York, pursued by unknown aggressors. As she runs through Central Park, Becky clambers down a well, only to find that the exit she seeks is closed. As she hears a scream resounds from nearby, Becky realises she is going to die, cursing her friends for leaving her and reflecting that only an hour ago she was literally the bell of the ball. Simultaneously, Becky's parents find her phone in her room with an unsent text which suggests that she is planning to kill herself...
It is the start of the new school year at the prestigious Monmouth School, with 16 year-old twins Skye "Blue" Rogers and Alfred "Red" Rogers beginning their junior year after moving to New York from Memphis, Tennessee following their mother Deidre's remarriage. Skye and Red's father, Dwight Rogers, a former Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Tennessee, suffered a nervous breakdown when their vain socialite mother divorced him after he lost his fortune, and is in psychiatric care. Skye, once a popular and outgoing girl, is now a shy and demure young woman after being in a depression which saw her cut one of her wrists before working on rebuilding herself, though she is caustic about entering the high-class society Monmouth is a lead in to.
Ominously, some of Monmouth's female students have disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the last two years; the most recent being of Becky Taylor. At the entry assembly, Headmistress Constance Blackman denounces the end-of-the-world claims that have been circulating the news before inviting Head Boy Beauregard "Bo" Bradford and Head Girl Chastity Collins to speak, the latter of whom includes the announcement that her younger sister Misty will be debuting at not one, but two notable debutante balls, which are the height of high society gatherings.
In recent months, many have been discussing the claims that scientist Dr Harold Finkelstein made regarding a cloud of gamma radiation being set to envelop Earth on March 17th of 2018, and wipe out human life. While other scientists have confirmed the existence of the gamma cloud, none can agree whether or not it presents a serious threat to Earth at this stage; even so, people become more and more aware of the possibility that if the gamma cloud does hit Earth, it will disable the electrical signals in the brain of most living creatures and kill the majority of the population. During his time recovering from his breakdown, Dwight has suggested that Skye and Red consume calcium and phosphorus rich foods and take anti-psychotic medicines to increase their brains' capacity to resist being affected by the cloud as a precaution.
As the first few months of the term progress, Red eases into the popular crowds while Skye does her best to avoid attracting attention. In this time, Skye makes note of several of her fellow students, including Jenny Johnson, whom Skye begins a friendship with due to their similar past troubles with depression and self-harm; Hattie Brewster and Verity Keeley, Misty's friends whom are more verbally cruel than Misty towards students they consider inferior; Dane Summerhays, a vain student who is surprising talented writer; Griffin "Griff" O'Dea, an exuberant boy with reputed substance abuse history; and Oscar "Oz" Collins, Chastity and Misty's younger brother who is a noted oddball, but whom Skye defends on one occasion when he is teased.
At the height of Red's popularity, he joins the lacrosse team and becomes friends with Bo and starts dating Verity. As December approaches, Red is invited to attend the International Debutante Ball, and in the early hours of the morning after the Ball, he approaches Skye to excitedly share an experience he has just had.
Stressing that he is neither drunk or high, Red tells Skye of how Misty, Verity, Bo, Chastity, Hattie, Dane and Griff invited them to join them on a "run", and was led to an ancient portal hidden beneath Central Park which Misty activated with a yellow gem in her necklace. Going through this portal led through to an apparent parallel version of New York where the group encountered a screaming stranger yelling at them from the top of a well above their tunnel before returning through another portal at the other end. The group, calling themselves the Secret Runners of New York, have stressed to Red the secrecy of their runs through this portal, but he is unable to resist telling Skye. Though she is dubious as to what Red is claiming, Skye does confirm the existence of the hidden well near an old Sweedish Cottage in Central Park.
Meanwhile, as the date of the gamma cloud's purported arrival nears, people all over the world are becoming more volatile and acts of violence begin rising. As Deidre begins voicing her concerns to her husband Todd, whispers begin among the wealthy of New York that an emergency shelter on Plum Island called the Plum Island Retreat is being established, with a $17 million buy-in per person for shelter there, and Todd has secured four places at the Retreat for him, Deidre, Skye and Red, as have some other wealthy families.
While Red starts spending most of his time with Monmouth's popular crows, Skye is invited by Jenny to a function at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where her father Ken is unveiling a new art piece by a promising sculptor. One afternoon after lacrosse training, Skye is surprised when Bo stops by her room. Bo is impressed by Skye's ambitions to work hard for what she wants, unlike many of the other girls at Monmouth, and laments that his father wants him to go into politics rather than let his study engineering. Later, Skye sees Bo at the Museum of Art and they begin studying and talking together, during which Bo kisses Skye.
Soon after helping Misty out with a menstrual issue, Skye starts being included in Misty's day-to-day activities, and is soon invited to Verity's 17th birthday party. At the party, Skye has a conversation with Oz, learning that they share a love of Stephen King novels, and notices Bo's discomfort around Misty when she begins flirting with him. As the party begins winding down, Misty suggests that the group go for a run, inviting Skye to join them. Feigning ignorance of what is going to happen, Skye is led to the tunnel entrance, where she examines the carvings which Bo suggest may be Mayan. After swearing Skye to secrecy, Misty opens the portal with her gem.
Despite Red's earlier description, Skye is in complete awe once she passes through the portal, admiring the paintings and skull carvings before discovering that she cannot return the way the group came in. Following the others down the tunnel to a pile of garbage thrown into the tunnel from the well hole above, Skye is shocked when she spies her own stuffed kangaroo toy among the pile. Unnoticed by the others, Skye examines it to find a note inside which reads, "He is waiting for you". Looking at the top of the well, Skye sees a bald man who shouts at them, and so the group runs on to the exit portal.
Welcoming Skye into their ranks, the Secret Runners explain their beliefs that the tunnel is either a doorway to a parallel or future version of New York, but no one has actually gone outside the well to check; Bo has only observed the ruined New York skyline from a brief climb up the well. Misty reveals her gem, shared between her and Chastity and along with a similar one their mother holds, has been passed down her family since the Manhattan Purchase after being obtained from some of the Native Indians. Additionally, the portal only ever works between December and April, and will not allow anyone younger than 15 or older than 18 to pass through. As Misty goes on to explain her family's tradition of passing down the gems, Skye notes her hiding the gem in a hollowed out book.
Later, with a little under a month until March 17, Bo invites Skye to join him on a private run to explore the world on the other side of the portal. Using a rope and a hook to latch the top of the well, Skye and Bo emerge to view the decrepit ruins of New York, with some buildings, such as the San Remo where Skye, Red, the Collins' and Hattie live, being vandalised with comments written in blood about usurping the rich. As they begin to wander the empty city, Bo confirms his suspicion that they are in the future by breaking into an old newsstand to view the last New York Post newspaper, which is dated March 17 2018.
Reading the paper, they learn that the gamma cloud will indeed envelop Earth and kill the majority of all life (the U.S. was set to be hit last just over 12 hours after the first fatalities in Australia and Japan). Further reading suggests that from the little footage that was obtained of the cloud's impact that only 0.5% of people won't die, most of them believed to be the mentally ill. As they start to process this information, Skye and Bo hear shouts from nearby and run back to the tunnel to return home.
Sharing this information with the other Secret Runners, the group is largely horrified, aside from Griff, and decide to go back the next day to explore more during the daytime. As Skye and Red return home, Red comes up with an idea to figure out how far in the future the portal goes to, and burns a mark into a tree in Central Park so that the tree rings will provide the number of years gone by.
Once the Runners pass through the portal and emerge from the well, Red goes to check on the mark he left in the tree, and the number of rings reveals they are roughly 22 years in the future, around 2040. Verity wants to check out her apartment and Griff wants to see the school, so the Runners head out, but first find that the proper entrance into the tunnel has been deliberately covered with a broken taxi. After wandering the deserted streets, they arrive at Verity's apartment at the Carlyle Building, they find it ransacked and a message left for Verity by her parents, which suggests that she went missing and that they were forced to head to the retreat without her. Seeing Verity's difficulty processing this, Skye realises that knowing their future is worse than not knowing.
Heading back to Monmouth, the Runners find the corpse of Ms Blackman in her office, along with a note that reveals that she was one of the few who survived the cloud but chose to commit suicide rather than live in a broken world. Misty and Hattie break into Ms Vandermeer's office to read through some students' confidential files, including Jenny's, learning that her parents are divorcing and of her history of self-harm. Skye is appalled by their callous glee, and suggests that the Runners head back to the tunnel.
As the week goes by, Misty and Hattie needle Jenny with the details of her mothers' affair, and Skye researches the possibility of how the time travel is possible. Skye later shares her theory with Red that time works in a spiral, and that when the portals open they "dip" the next layer of time (the future 22 years on) down on top of the present timeline to enable travel between them, noting the passing of time on each side is about the same. However, the research that Skye has been following to confirm this theory suggests that it is not possible to change the future.
On the night of the East Side Cotillion, while Red is sick at home, Skye finds herself working as a server at the event alongside Jenny. As the night goes on, Jenny notes to Skye the strangeness of the Collins family, as well as that the previous year Chastity lost out to Becky for the Belle of Ball. When Misty appears and mocks Jenny for her history of self-harm, Skye realises Jenny will start thinking she is passing this information on to Misty. Instead, Jenny proclaims that nothing Misty says or does will hurt her before departing. Before Skye can go after her, Misty invites her on a run on their own; despite her misgivings, Skye goes along.
As they head through the portal, Misty boasts of her feelings for Bo and the expectation that they will one day marry, to Skye's dismay, and leads them to the San Remo to see what's in store for their families after the gamma cloud. As they visit Misty's apartment, Skye is given a scare when Griff, Verity and Hattie burst out of Oz's bedroom closet, as part of a prank Misty arranged in advance. Joined by Bo and Chastity, the group heads to Hattie's apartment, where a gruesome scene awaits: the bodies of Hattie's parents and Hattie herself, all murdered viciously. As Skye realises this is the work of the downtrodden house-servants Hattie mistreats, Hattie vomits and laughs manically at the sight of her own corpse.
Misty presses Skye to go to her own apartment, where Skye despairs at the discovery of Deidre and Todd's own bodies, having clearly hung themselves. Reading a note left for her, Skye learns that after sending Red to the Plum Island Retreat, Deidre and Todd became trapped in the San Remo as a result of a siege on the building, and with a few hours until the cloud chose to kill themselves. As she processes this and ponders how she will end up going missing, SKye ventures into her own room where a blood-written message awaits; "I've been waiting a long time for you, Skye!". As they head to the stairwell, Skye and Misty see a man wearing Oz's American-flag goalie mask, who pursues them and the rest of the group with a crossbow back to the tunnel.
When she gets home, Skye tells Red of what is in store for their mother and Todd, and decide to try convince them to stay away on the day the siege starts to try and change their future. After another of Misty's barbs convinces Jenny that Skye is giving her the information, Skye reluctantly joins Misty's clique later, overhearing Misty agreeing to give Griff her gem so that he can wait out the gamma cloud in the future while she is at the Retreat. As social upheavals continue rising around the world, Skye is distraught to learn Jenny has vanished. Called in to a meeting with Ken, Blackman and Vandermeer regarding the disappearance, Ken asks if Skye had betrayed Jenny's confidence as she suspected. Unable to explain the truth, Skye tries to claim it was a misunderstanding.
As she leaves the office, Skye has a realisation that most of the missing girls of Monmouth have a connection to the girls in the Secret Runners, and so when Bo asks her to join him on another private excursion to the future so that he can see what's in store for his family, she decides to take the opportunity to confirm her suspicions. Before leaving, Skye receives a letter from her father, which states that he has been released from care and will be coming to New York on the 14th.
After Bo gives Skye Misty's gem and heads off to his apartment, Skye heads into Monmouth to read the files on Misty and the missing girls. Skye learns that the first girl to go missing, Trina Miller, got into a fight with Misty after asking Bo out, as Misty is noted to be unhealthily obsesses with him. As well as being suspected (but later dismissed) in Trina's disappearance, Oz has also claimed his sister had set him up to be sent to a military camp during a summer break out of pettiness. Reading the file of the second girl, Delores Barnes, reveals that the girl had Down Syndrome and was at Monmouth on a Little Sister program, but on the very first day angered Hattie by accidentally spilling hot chocolate into her handbag. Skye is now certain that the missing girls were brought through the portal by Misty's clique and left to die, and fears the same may have been done to Jenny.
Skye is then confronted by Misty, Chastity, Verity and Hattie, who confirm their acts of vindictiveness, including setting up Becky's phone with a suicide claim, before Misty reveals footage from the tunnel which show Bo kissing Skye during their first private run. As Misty fumes about Skye's apparent betrayal, Skye realises that despite the psychiatric reports, Misty is psychotic. Misty then tasers Skye and ties her to the sculpture Ken promoted at the Museum of Art, where Jenny is also tied up for standing up to Misty. Though she had been content to leave Jenny tied up, Misty decides to lure in the scavengers to finish her and Skye by setting up her phone's music playlist before taking her gem and departing with the other girls.
Fortunately Bo arrives first, drawn in by the music, and releases the girls, but is hit in the chest by a crossbow bolt from behind and falls dead. The man with the American flag goalie mask approaches, demanding to know why Skye didn't come back for him. Though confused, Skye manages to get ahold of Jenny's hidden blade and throw it at America Face, forcing him to drop the crossbow and giving the girls the chance to run. As they rush to get to the portal before the girls can close it, they find Verity caught in a hidden bear trap, but when the other girls see Skye approach the portal Misty closes it, trapping them in the future.
Skye emerges from the well and rejoins Jenny and Verity, but as the latter curses Misty for abandoning her she is shot and killed by America Face, prompting Skye and Jenny to flee. Hoping for a chance to escape, Skye leads Jenny to Misty's apartment in the hopes of finding and using either of the two gems the Collins had. Unable to find them, Skye instead goes to her apartment to search for any clues Red might have left her if he suspected the truth of her disappearance. Indeed, Skye finds a note Red left which confirms he went to the Plum Island Retreat, and decides to to head there.
Before she and Jenny can leave, Skye finds their path blocked by America Face, who reveals himself as Griff. Having been tricked by Misty into believing she had given Skye her gem to pass on to him, Griff blames Skye for leaving him to suffer through the gamma cloud event and its aftermath for 22 years among the survivors, whom he notes were largely insane. Despite trying to explain the situation, Griff won't hear Skye out, intent on killing her. Luckily, Skye and Jenny are able to escape to the the 79th Street Boat Basin and begin making their way to Plum Island along the river.
When they arrive at the Retreat, Skye and Jenny find that the compound has been largely destroyed as a result of people discovering it and killing the people inside. Visiting the quarters reserved for her family, Skye finds Red is not there, but instead spies a secret message which tells Skye he had left to go to their father's favourite beach house near Race Rock Lighthouse. Before moving on, Skye goes to the Collins' quarters to see if either of the gems are there; she finds the bodies of Chastity and her parents, but not Misty, Oz or the gems.
When Skye finds another message instructing her to Newport, Rhode Island, she and Jenny land to find themselves among a group of survivors, including Red, now 40 years old and the community's sheriff. After meeting Red's confused wife and two daughters, Red tells Skye and Jenny that the gamma cloud did indeed wipe out all but 0.5% of the population, and most of the survivors have atypical hypersynaptic brain functions (the unfriendly folk of society) or were lucky enough to be taking anti-anxiety medications or ate the right foods as Dwight had told the twins. After Skye tells him her story, Red explains that the day before the gamma cloud event he left the Retreat before it was attacked, and gives Skye an letter left to her by Oz, who also fled the Retreat with him.
In his letter, Oz reveals that he appreciated Skye's kindness to him and in fact knew of the tunnel portal, having occasionally gone through by using Starley or Misty's gems. Knowing of Misty tricking Griff and deducing the reason for Skye's disappearance, Oz intends to ruin Misty's plans by leaving his mother's gem in a place only Skye would notice so that she could return to the present. From the only conversation they ever had at Verity's party, Skye realises Oz has hidden the gem at her own apartment among her Stephen King novels.
The next day, Red bids Skye and Jenny farewell as they head back to New York, and Skye tells her twin that she is proud of how he has turned out. Sneaking back into New York during a storm, Skye and Jenny are unnoticed by any as they head back to Skye's apartment. Unfortunately, Griff is waiting for them and attacks, but during the attack Skye is able to force the crazed man's head into an arrow stuck in the floor. With that threat dealt with, Skye finds the gem in her hollowed-out copy of Misery, and she and Jenny head to Central Park.
As she scopes out the well for any more traps Griff may have left, Skye finds herself confronted by Misty, armed with a handgun. After having seen Skye at the portal before she closed it, Misty has been coming back to ensure she dies, and has already convinced the past Griff that she has given her gem to Skye, when in fact she has now hidden it in one of the crevices in the tunnel. Though she tries to shoot Skye, Misty is untrained in using a firearm and has not chambered a bullet first, and so after a brief scuffle, Skye forces Misty's head to set off one of the remaining bear traps, which clamps around the girl's neck and kills her.
With that, Skye and Jenny return to the present, finding it is now March 14th and the siege on the San Remo has begun, where Skye knows her mother, Todd and Hattie will meet their ends. The girls split up to find their respective fathers, and after reuniting with her dad, Skye tells him everything and demonstrates the portal for him (since he can't go through, Skye sends him to the other end to watch). Dwight notes the red and green-coloured gems in the tunnel's paintings, thoerising that they might have different effects on the portal than the yellow ones the Secret Runners have been using, but Skye has had enough of time travel for now.
Skye and Dwight meet up with Jenny and Ken, and together they head to Ken's remote cottage to wait out the gamma cloud event. When it hits, Ken dies while the others are lucky enough to survive thanks to their various medications and diets. After a few days, Dwight tells Skye that she and Jenny should use the portal to go back to the future in order to avoid the worst of humanity after the cloud, while he will try to meet up with Red's community in the hopes of seeing her in 22 years. Skye reluctantly agrees, and so after saying goodbye to Dwight she and Jenny activate the portal for the last time and head through.
Once she and Jenny emerge from the well in the future, Skye is gladdened to be met by the older Dwight and Red.
The Secret RunnersEdit
- Skye "Blue" Rogers
- Alfred "Red" Rogers
- Melissa "Misty" Collins
- Beauregard "Bo" Bradford
- Chastity Collins
- Hattie Brewster
- Verity Keeley
- Dane Summerhays
- Griffin "Griff" O'Dea
Other Monmouth StudentsEdit
Parents and Monmouth StaffEdit
- Deidre Allen
- Todd Allen
- Dwight Rogers
- Ken Johnson
- Conrad Collins
- Starley Collins
- Ms Constance Blackman
- Ms Vandermeer
- Mrs Hoynes
- This is the second Matthew Reilly novel to be told in a first-person perspective; the first was The Tournament.
- This is also the third novel to feature a main female protagonist, following Bess in The Tournament and CJ Cameron in The Great Zoo of China.