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       The Great Flying Adventure, p.1

           Brian Bakos
 
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The Great Flying Adventure


  THE GREAT FLYING ADVENTURE

  Book 4, Time Before Color TV series

  by Brian Bakos

  Copyright 2013 Brian Bakos

  Cover Art: Othoniel Ortiz

  Other Titles by Brian Bakos

  Table of Contents

  Part One: The Adventure Begins

  Part Two: Whack-O Land

  Part Three: Rescue Attempt

  Part Four: Struggle to Return

  Connect with the Author

  Next Book in the Series

  Part One: The Adventure Begins

  What Happened Before

  Three weeks earlier, the Adventure Bike Club had a shocking encounter at the Tire Giant alongside the new freeway. Members:

  Quentin Mays – leader (sort of)

  Amanda Searles – brains of the outfit

  Tommy Velasco – extra brawn

  Melissa Jordanek – had the fastest bike

  Inside the Tire Giant, which was really a disguised space ship, they discovered four young kidnapped aliens. They also met runaway delinquent Eddie Hawkes.

  They defeated the kidnap plot, and Eddie left with the aliens to find a new life in another universe. The club members lost their bikes but escaped unharmed.

  For the full story see: Adventure Bike Club and the Tire Giant.

  1: Nightmare Alley

  Every night for the last three weeks has been a trip down Nightmare Alley for me. Bathed in the soft glow of my lava lamp, through my dreams, I relive the events of the Tire Giant “adventure.”

  That’s what Quentin calls it. Some adventure!

  I was never so terrified in my life, and the terror just keeps on coming. I can’t get the image of that hideous guard out of my mind. He chases me through each nightmare, his face ghastly pale like a vampire starving for blood – yellow eyes flaming, claw-like hands grabbing for me.

  Then I’m on that frightful bike ride around the space ship’s dynamo. Faster and faster, flipping upside down. Falling ....

  That’s when I finally wake up, my heart pounding and my pajamas all soaked with sweat.

  Thank heaven, the dreams have become less severe over time. I’m hoping that they will soon fade away all together. But I’m afraid of that happening, too – because that would mean everything is ready for a new episode of terror.

  I have a powerful sense that the story isn’t over yet. Somewhere, in the mysterious void between two universes, Act 2 of this drama is waiting to play out. And I’ve got a starring role.

  2: Grim Saturday

  Saturday morning looked very gloomy without a bike. Streets and sidewalks rolled away in all directions, but I was stuck at home. Then Quentin arrived on his striped-down English bike with the handle bars curled under racing style.

  “Hi Amanda,” he said, “hop on.”

  “I don’t know ...” I inspected the mismatched carrier stuck onto the back end. “Where’re we going?”

  “Do you care?” Quentin asked. “It’s not like you can go anyplace by yourself.”

  He had a point. I got on and the adventure began – just like that, on the street in front of my house.

  ***

  The world seemed a lot better when riding through it. Fresh September wind brushed my hair, and the smells of summer still lingered.

  Quentin held out his arms like airplane wings. “Someday I’ll be the youngest pilot to fly across America!”

  “You’d better hold onto those handlebars,” I said, “or you won’t live long enough to be the youngest pilot.”

  My Dad teaches flying at this little airport outside town. Quentin is one of his students. To pay for his lessons, Quentin does our odd jobs – trash, lawns, etc. I doubt if it covers the training expenses, but Dad doesn’t seem to mind.

  “I didn’t expect you until tomorrow, for the trash,” I said.

  “I heard there were garage sales around here,” Quentin said. “I need some stuff.”

  “Okay,” I said.

  At a garage sale down the next block, Quentin bought candles and an old button pin that read:

  SMILE, It Kills Time Between Disasters.

  Usually, I didn’t bother to examine Quentin’s motives, it’s easier that way. But I was getting curious.

  “Why do you want this stuff?” I asked when we got rolling again.

  “It’s for my new club,” Quentin said.

  I stiffened on the bike rack. “And just what kind of club is it this time, Quentin?”

  “I’m not sure yet,” he said. “I’m just following my inspiration.”

  “Here’s an inspiration for you,” I said. “Count me out.”

  Quentin chuckled. “I know you don’t mean that, Amanda.”

  “Oh yeah?”

  I let the subject drop. And Quentin better not pick it up again after all the trouble he got us into with his last club.

  At another garage sale Quentin bought a plastic Viking helmet, complete with horns, and stuck it on his head. I looked around frantically, hoping that none of my friends saw us.

  “Do you have to wear that thing?” I said.

  “It’s too big for the handlebar bag,” Quentin said. “Do you want to wear it?”

  “No! It’s embarrassing enough to be seen with you.”

  Quentin turned back toward my house. Then he stopped suddenly – right by Mrs. Kraft’s place.

  “See that, Amanda?”

  He pointed to a little sign stuck to Mrs. Kraft’s high wooden gate:

  GARAGE SALE TODAY

  (by invitation only)

  “We don’t want to go there,” I said.

  “Why not?”

  “Mrs. Kraft’s ... weird,” I said. “Besides, we’re not invited.”

  “All the better,” Quentin said.

  Before I could stop him, he ran to the gate and knocked. I caught up.

  “Let’s get out of here,” I said.

  “Come on, Amanda, this could be interesting.”

  I gave him my most devastating icy stare. Quentin wilted.

  “Oh, all right,” he said, “let’s go.”

  But then the gate cracked open and Mrs. Kraft’s probing eyeball appeared.

  “Yes?” a reedy voice asked.

  “Uh ... hello,” I said.

  The gate creaked farther open, and Mrs. Kraft’s long nose poked through, followed by her leathery face.

  “Why, it’s Samantha from next door,” she said.

  “T-that’s Amanda,” I said, “and this is my friend, Quentin.”

  I elbowed Quentin, and he took off his Viking helmet.

  “How nice,” Mrs. Kraft said. “Glad to meet you, Winston, come on in.”

  She led the way into the yard. Her tall, willowy form seemed more like a walking sapling than a person.

  “This must mean we’re invited,” Quentin whispered.

  We stepped into the yard, and the big wooden gate clicked shut behind us.

  “I was about to close up,” Mrs. Kraft said over her shoulder. “There haven’t been many people by today.”

  “I can understand that,” Quentin whispered.

  Trellises overhung the driveway. Thick vines wound through the lattice work, hanging down like twisty little claws. A sweet, sickly smell wafted from them.

  “Those things look ready to grab you,” Quentin said.

  The rest of the yard hadn’t been too bad the last time I’d visited, but I’d never been in this spooky area before. I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz creeping through the haunted forest.

  “Are you coming?” Mrs. Kraft called back to us.

  “Let’s get this over with,” I said.

  We made it into the big two car garage.

  Tables along the w
alls held all kinds of tacky stuff – outdated ladies’ hats, filmy bits of cheap jewelry, stacks of yellowing magazines. I opened an old cookbook. Dust billowed out, making me sneeze.

  “Cool!” Quentin said.

  I sneezed again.

  “I’m glad you’re entertained,” I said.

  “No, no,” Quentin said, “look at this, Amanda.”

  I moved out of the dusty air and joined Quentin at another table. He was holding a shiny black ball with the number ‘8’ inside a white spot.

  “What’s that?” I wiped away tears with the back of my hand.

  “A Magic 8 Ball,” Quentin said. “It can tell the future.”

  “Yeah, right.”

  “Ask it a question,” Quentin said.

  “Well, if you insist.” I thought a few seconds. “Tell me, Magic 8 Ball, am I going to live happy ever after?”

  Quentin shook the ball, then turned it over. An answer bobbed up in the ‘spirit window:’

  Don’t Count On It

  Quentin laughed, but I couldn’t see the humor. I turned away and noticed something horrible leering out of a dark corner.

  “Ahhh!”

  “What’s the matter?” Mrs. Kraft drifted over, like she was rolling on silent wheels under her long dress.

  I pointed into the corner where an evil face glowered at me.

  “Oh, that’s just my husband’s old Tiki head,” Mrs. Kraft said.

  She reached a long, bony arm into the corner and pulled out the horrid thing. It was a hollow cylinder – about a foot long with fierce eyes and a gaping mouth. It looked like something off a totem pole.

  “He used this during his, uh, Luau parties.” Mrs. Kraft brushed away some dust. “He’d put a flame inside. Very picturesque.”

  Well, didn’t I feel dumb?

  She gave it to me. It appeared to be carved out of stone, but was actually made of some light, plastic stuff.

  “I can’t live without that,” Quentin said. “How much?”

  “Along with the Magic 8 Ball ... fifty cents,” Mrs. Kraft said.

  Quentin handed over a dollar bill.

  “I’ll be back momentarily with your change,” Mrs. Kraft said.

  She whooshed toward the house, her hands fluttering and her dress billowing as if it was caught by a strong breeze. The air was very still, though.

  In the years since we’d moved into our house, Mrs. Kraft had always been our next-door neighbor, but I really knew nothing about her. Neither did anybody else on the street. Everyone seemed to prefer this arrangement.

  “What are you going to do with all this junk?” I asked.

  “Beats me,” Quentin said, “I’m just following my intuition.”

  “Well, let’s follow our intuition out of here,” I said. “This place gives me the creeps.”

  “Me too,” Quentin glanced over his shoulder. “Is her husband still around?”

  “I’ve never seen him.”

  “Well, if he isn’t dead already, he probably wishes he was,” Quentin said.

  I looked around to make sure nobody else heard, then I put my hands alongside my mouth.

  “What?” Quentin leaned in.

  “I think you’re standing on top of him,” I whispered.

  “Oh!” Quentin jumped back.

  3: Haunted Tracks

  Quarters in hand, we made our way back through the Tarzan jungle and onto the bike. The Magic 8 Ball thunked around in the handlebar bag, while I held onto the Tiki head. And don’t forget the Viking helmet Quentin wore – very glamorous.

  We rode past another garage sale.

  “Aren’t we going to stop?” I said.

  “Naw, I’ve got enough,” Quentin said.

  “Right,” I said, “just in time for trash day, too.”

  I was enjoying myself – even if I had to share my seat with Mr. Luau. I didn’t want the ride to end just yet.

  “Let’s drop this stuff at your house,” I said. “Then maybe you can bring me back home?”

  “Sure, Amanda.”

  We made good time heading toward Quentin’s house. He seemed to be in a hurry to set up things for his new club. I hoped that he didn’t expect me to participate. I’m finished with Quentin’s clubs. You can take that to the bank, as my dad would say.

  The day was beyond gorgeous. Hard to believe that another school year was beginning. The summer had been so eventful with the Adventure Bike Club – not to mention my Grandma and Grandpa Lenin’s amazing visit. Grandpa was pretty sick now, and we were prepared for the worst. But at least they hadn’t been deported back to Russia.

  We came to the railroad track crossing by the high school, and Quentin slammed on the brakes. We stopped between the tracks.

  “Careful!” I said. “Are you trying to throw me off?”

  “Wait here,” Quentin said.

  He had this weird, faraway look in his eyes, like he was listening to some voice that only he could hear. He took off down the tracks on foot.

  “Hey, wait a minute!” I said.

  The bike almost fell over, as it had no kick stand. I struggled to keep it upright while still holding on to Mr. Luau. Finally I got things settled. When I looked up, Quentin was gone among the shrubs and stony slopes of the railroad track wasteland.

  “Come back!” I yelled.

  All I could see were an endless track and the spooky trestles arching over them. Somehow they managed to turn the bright day chilly and dark. Nobody moved along the sidewalk or on the street.

  I felt terribly exposed, as if a train would run me over any second.

  I looked the opposite direction. A few miles up those tracks was the place where the Tire Giant had been. Awful memories flooded in. I felt myself trapped in the darkness, staring along the twisty light beams, pursued by the sharp-faced guard who wanted to throw us out into frozen space –

  Somebody slipped up behind me.

  “Ah!” I practically jumped out of my skin.

  “It’s only me,” Quentin said.

  “Are you trying to get back at me for that crummy joke in Mrs. Kraft’s garage?” I said.

  “No, of course not,” Quentin said, “and it wasn’t such a bad joke either – pretty creative, actually.”

  He held up a rusty old railroad spike.

  “I went to get this,” he said.

  “What on earth for?” I said.

  Quentin shrugged.

  I took the spike. It was identical to the one Eddie Hawkes had carried in the Tire Giant, except the end wasn’t ground into a stabbing point. On the head was a raised capital H.

  4: Ambush

  As we rounded the corner on Quentin’s block, I noticed Calvin Pelosi on the front lawn of his house. He quickly slipped behind a tree.

  What was he up to?

  Then, just as we were passing, BRINGGG! a stone bounced off the spokes of the front wheel. Another stone hit Quentin’s arm.

  “Ow!”

  Quentin lost control of the bike and we fell over. Mr. Luau bounced away as I skidded along the pavement leaving bits of my skin behind.

  Quentin was the first on his feet.

  “Are you okay, Amanda?”

  “Yeah.” I scrambled up. “Over there, it’s Calvin!”

  Calvin started running, but Quentin chased him down and tackled him.

  “That’s it!” I yelled. “Let him have it.”

  Quentin had the upper hand, but then Bill and Jerry Marcovich charged out of their house and jumped into the fight.

  “Hey, three against one. No fair!” I cried.

  Somebody pushed me from behind. “Keep out of it, big mouth!”

  It was Calvin’s sister, Ilona. Next thing I knew, we were battling on the ground. My head banged against the sidewalk, then I managed to reverse things and bang Ilona’s head on the cement. We rolled onto the grass.

  Neither of us could get an advantage, but Quentin was in bad shape. When I glanced over, the three boys had him down and were pounding on him.
Worse yet, Frankie Valentine across the street had come out of his house and was cheering them on. Was he going to attack next?

  Ilona yanked my hair and the world turned red.

  “Ouch!”

  I grabbed a handful of hers and pulled for all I was worth. Then the sound of running feet. Tommy and Melissa!

  Tommy jumped into Quentin’s battle, fists swinging. Soon Calvin, Bill, and Jerry were scattering back to their houses. Across the street, Frankie thought better of things and retreated inside his own house.

  Ilona and me continued struggling on the ground. Melissa came over.

  “Hey!” She nudged Ilona hard with her foot. “Get on your broom and fly, if you know what’s good for you.”

  I let go of Ilona’s hair and she stood up. She advanced on Melissa with murder in her eyes. Melissa stared daggers right back.

  “Okay, make your move, Supergirl,” Melissa said.

  Ilona backed off. She glanced at me with an “I’ll get you later” expression, then she stomped off into her house.

  Melissa gave me a hand up.

  “Am I glad to see you!” I said.

  “Don’t mention it,” Melissa said. “I just happened to be in the neighborhood and wanted some excitement.”

  “Thanks, guys,” Quentin said. “You got here in the nick of time.”

  “How rotten can anybody get?” I said. “They attacked us for no reason.”

  Quentin brushed himself off. “No big deal, really. Just a little disagreement.”

  “Disagreement?” I said. “They tried to kill us!”

  “I think they were a bit upset because they lost the ball game yesterday,” Quentin said.

  “Maybe we shouldn’t have flushed Calvin’s head in the toilet after the game,” Tommy said.

  “Yeah,” Quentin agreed, “that was probably a mistake. Seemed like a good idea at the time, though.”

  “Ohhh.” I felt the bump on the back of my head. “You two jerks!”

  “Come on Amanda,” Melissa said, “you need to get cleaned up. We can have lunch at my house.”

  “Thanks,” I said.

  Quentin picked up his bike. “Give me an hour to get ready, then come on over for the new club meeting,” he said.

  Melissa rolled her eyes. “Another club? Pu-leeze!”

  5: Mystery Mail

  Half an hour later I was in much better condition. I’d washed my scrapes and bruises and combed my hair neatly over the lump on my head.

 
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