Back in 2009 I had an idea for a book series I really wish I’d taken more action on. Think “Hunger Games” but in space, with superpowers.
Sounds grandiose, but the concept (even in the particulars) has held up well in my mind over the years, and I know it would work. I recently dug out the only actual in-book writing I did on it, and thought I’d post it here for the kicks and giggles.
I won’t give any more context for now than to say that the couple of chapters (numberless since they’d fall somewhere in act I, but not at the beginning) are written from different viewpoints – a mechanic I took from the “Animorphs” series that had a huge impression on me as a kid.
If you’d like to see it developed more, leave me a comment and let me know!
I can breathe, that’s the first miracle. Of course, I notice this from the ground, where I lay flat on my back – motionless in the dirt. I can taste metal in my mouth – like I’ve been sucking on a battery or something. A side effect of the transportation maybe? I hope so. There’s a humming in my ears too.
I twist my head, the only part of my body that cares to respond at the moment. To my left I see James – good, he’s awake too. Craning my neck to look upwards I can see a foot that must belong to Benji. Danny isn’t visible; must be nearby though.
I can see enough of my surroundings to tell that we’re definitely not anyplace I could ever think of as earth. The sky isn’t blue like earth for one thing. It’s more of a faded orange – hard to describe. There’s a name for the color: burnt ochre, I think. No clouds in this sky, but I can’t help but wonder what color they would be if they were there.
We’re out in the open, that’s the reason I can see the sky, but to my right there’s a grotto of trees about thirty yards out. At least, I’m going to call them trees, I don’t care what you call them (and I promise you won’t be any more right than I am). They stick up like trees, from here it looks as if they have leaves like trees, and they have branches like trees.
Differences? Well, trees on earth don’t rotate on an axis. Whatever these are, they seem to be spinning in a circle, centered by their roots. It’s a slow turn, but turning they are.
“If anyone can move, would you scratch my nose?” James is the first one to speak.
Danny is next, sounding like he’s on the other side of James. “Where are we?”
Dumb question but I’ll answer it. “I dunno, Buck, I left my map back on the spaceship. Didn’t you bring one?”
“Of course not, his fiancé did his packing.” That’s James. “My nose is still itching, by the way.”
I see a hand reach over and scratch his nose. It’s Benji, and he’s not lying down. “You guys need to quit talking and get moving.”
He’s right. We don’t know when we’ll make our first encounter with a rival team. Nothing like a little competition to get you motivated; suddenly I’m off my back and onto my hands and knees. And lookie there: my right index finger has a ring on it, just like the Furbies said. Plain silver band, bright red stone set it; looks like something you’d get in a crackerjack box.
Slowly but surely, I make it to my feet. Likewise the others. That transporter must’ve scrambled our nerves when it sent us here, ‘cause it feels like my body’s a bit awkward when it comes to movement. Kirk and Spock never had this problem; their plucky Scottish crewmate would have been out of a job.
“Anyone else feel like there should be a strobe light on?” says James, no doubt in reference to our jerky motions.
The metallic taste is gone, thank goodness. The humming – no. I’m starting to think it’s not just in my head, because it seems to be permeating the air all around us.
“Anyone else hear humming?” I have to ask. James starts to hum the ‘Star Spangled Banner’. “Not what I meant James.”
A nod from Benji. “I hear it. It’s almost mechanical sounding.”
Now that he mentions it, he’s right. I can’t identify the source, but it’s definitely the kind of sound that would come from a machine. No time to look around, we’ve got to find cover before another team finds us. These guys appointed me leader. I guess I’d better do my job.
I turn to see James pointing in the distance. Following his gaze, I can see two figures moving towards us, about 200 yards out.
“Huh, I wouldn’t have thought the Furbies would put us down that close to another team,” says Benji, one eyebrow higher than the other. “Maybe they’re reds too?”
“We should avoid them for now just in case,” Danny asserts. It’s a good suggestion.
“Come on,” says James, “there’s two of them and four of us. If they’re friendly, we can team up. If not, we take their rings no problem.” The group looks to me to make a call.
“Uh-uh. What if one of them has an invisibility ring? Unlikely maybe, but that would mean there’s three, not two. Besides,” I look down at the red ring on my finger, “we don’t even know what these do yet. It’s no good going in headfirst and unprepared.”
“So we run?” James.
“Like the wind.”
Me in the lead, we make for the grotto of trees, the only cover around. I want to hope they haven’t seen us. Maybe that’s foolish of me, but there’s no way we can face enemies without knowing more about our abilities and theirs. It could well be that they have no more idea what their rings do that our motley group, but that’s not a chance I feel like I can take.
BZZZEWW! KABOOM!! An explosion behind us! I’m thrown forwards, flailing in the air. Absently I remember my martial arts training and curl into a roll to lessen the impact as my body hits the ground. I land what feels like dozens of feet from where I was at the time of the blast, and I can feel my right shoulder come out of its socket.
The adrenaline is really going now. With my good arm I push myself onto my feet and quickly cast around for my friends. I hope no one was hit directly! Danny is next to me, beginning to stand up and shake himself off. Benji is running towards us; looks like he managed to stay on his feet at the time of impact. Where’s James? Suddenly I see him, lying on the ground near the gaping crater left by the explosion. His back is a bloody mess. He’s not moving.
“We can rule out these guys being friendly!” I shout loudly, trying to hear myself above the ringing in my ears. “We have to get James and move fast!” Quickly I direct Danny and Benji to carry James. My right arm refuses to let me be any help, but I can still run along behind. We make it to the trees just as another blast comes ripping through the air.
BZZZEWW! CRACK!! The shot went wide, too far from us to do any harm; it’s hit a tree! I watch as it melts. Not burns, melts. Like it’s made of plastic.
We’ve reached the cover of the melting trees, but James still hasn’t moved. I’ve got no time to fear the worst, because the two nut jobs chasing us have caught up, faster than I would have thought possible. They’re men, early to mid thirties by the look of it. One of them raises his right hand and points his index finger squarely at my chest. I see a red ring.
A flash of light, and then… it’s like an out of body experience. I’m actually watching myself from behind as I light up from the inside, every organ, every bone, every network of veins becoming visible and then…
I’m flying through the air again. Flying to heaven? I feel like I could do this forever! The freedom, unfathomable! The wonder, indescribable! Ooooff! The pain, undeniable!
Okay, I’m not dead. Too bad. It seems I’ve hit a tree. I think I broke something this time. Questions race through my dazed mind. What just happened? Why are reds attacking us, aren’t we supposed to work together? Can I get up? Do I dare?
The smoke from the last explosion is clearing, and through it I can see the two men walking towards me. The others must have escaped, which is good. I hope James will be okay.
The man with the explosive finger points at me again and all I can do is lean against the tree and wait. I believe in miracles, but I don’t think they repeat themselves often. This time it’s curtains folks.
Well, well. It seems there’s some lag time when firing that finger. The jerk’s not finishing me off, just standing there pointing. Movement to the side!
I see Benji jump out from behind a tree and tackle the guy with the dangerous finger! Danny’s right behind, he’s mashed the other man down before he can even think twice. I guess they must’ve put James somewhere safe and come back to save my flying butt.
Benji’s doing pretty well in his struggle with Mr. Wizard, and Danny seems to be holding his own too. No, wait, he’s holding nothing! The guy Danny was grappling with is standing next to Benji; he knocks him in the head!
How did he get out of Danny’s grip? It doesn’t matter now, Benji’s down for the count, unconscious. The Exploding Finger gets up and points at Danny.
“Get down Buck!”
Danny doesn’t need to be told twice, he dives out of the way just as a ball of yellow light screams past.
BZZZEWW! Amazingly it misses every tree in its path and flies off into the distance.
“Danny! There’s a delay on that power! He can’t fire again for a couple of seconds!” It hurts my head to yell, but coaching from the bench is all I can do to help.
Danny gets up and starts to run towards the two men. Now one man. That one disappeared again!
“Buck look out!”
The second man somehow got right in front of Danny and tripped him! He falls to the ground and the man warps – he’s got a teleporting ring! – right on top of him. He’s going for Danny’s ring, and from my vantage point here I think it’s as good as his.
“Get off my friend.”
Did I say that? I was surely thinking something along those lines, but I didn’t open my mouth. James! I see him, standing over the unconscious body of the man with the explosive finger. He’s alive! And I think he’s developed a temper.
The last thing I remember was an explosion right behind me. I don’t know how long I’ve been out, but I do know the last time I had a backache like this I went to a really hot masseuse. I don’t think they have those here, which makes me cranky. This guy at my feet must’ve been the one to cause it, what with that energy ball he shot just now as any proof. And now his buddy will taste my vengeance as well.
“What if I don’t?” is the response from Danny’s opponent.
I lunge at the man, but he simply evaporates, reappearing several yards away. With a roar I change direction and try again to take him down. I close my arms around his middle and we tumble to the ground. Yes! Got him! Hold on; is it weird that I’m happy about having my arms wrapped around a dude? No! He’s gone again! I jump back to my feet.
“Behind you James!” I spin around, following Ed’s directions, right into the man’s fist. Not enough! I give it right back to him, full in the mouth. He doesn’t like that much.
Back and forth, we trade hits like some kind of outdoor, sober, super-powered bar fight. He’s weak; I can see him wearing out. Gone again! Behind! I spin around quicker this time and manage to dodge another punch.
One sock to the jaw and one punch to the gut later he’s nearly done. I’m about to finish him off, but he teleports out of my range. Now he just stands there panting.
Out of the corner of my eye I see Danny running in to join me. ‘Bout time. Benji’s moving too, showing signs of waking up.
“Three to one, pal. Liking your odds?” Maybe it’s wrong to taunt him like that, but I do it anyway.
He looks at his friend, still lying where I dropped him. “He’s not coming to anytime soon,” I promise him. He seems to have reached that conclusion as well, so to prevent him from picking up his buddy and disappearing out of here I walk over and sit on the unconscious freak.
No one speaks. Gosh, I hate tense moments.
“Hey, what’s the difference between you and a puddle of water?”
In the blink of an eye he’s gone. Soundlessly, wordlessly. I look around to find out where he went, but there’s no sign. I guess he’d had enough. And he didn’t even stay to hear the end of my joke.
“Nothing! You both disappear when things get too hot!” I do a little fanfare on my seat’s head. Benji, on his feet now, rolls his eyes. But I can see a smile on his face.