Lost Boy, p.1Chanda Hahn
The Neverwood Chronicles Book 2
Copyright © 2017 by Chanda Hahn
Developmental Editor: Carolina Valdez Schneider
Cover Design: Steve Hahn
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
For my lost boy,
Also by Chanda Hahn
About the Author
Hook sniffed the contents of his glass, wrinkling his nose in distaste before pushing the offending drink across his desk. Whiskey wouldn’t help him keep his mind clear. He needed more time. Without Dr. Barrie, the PX-2 trial was a bust.
Years ago, it had seemed like all was lost and Neverland might be shut down for good. The PX-1 trial had been a miserable failure, and though the PX-2 drug had been nearly ready for testing, Dr. Barrie had had a change of heart—he set fire to the lab, destroyed all his research, and stole away with as many of the Neverland children as he could—nearly all of the male subjects.
It had taken a new group of scientists, billions of dollars, and a few unfortunate accidents to complete the new PX-3, which had led to a whole new crop of subjects to test. But like the PX-1, the new drug still only really showed results with teens; what was more, all the new subjects required a constant supply of the PX-3 or they burned out and died.
But there was hope for Hook and the D.U.S.T program. Barrie may have made it off the island with most of his PX-1 subjects—but not all of them. He still had the girls and the younger boys. And those originals, injected with PX-1, showed no adverse side effects to the PX-3.
All he had to do was get the rest of his originals back. He had to find the lost boys.
A knock sounded at his office door, interrupting his sinister planning.
He barked out an order. “Enter.”
A Red Skull soldier slipped inside and stood at attention, stopping a foot from the striped rug that decorated the cement floor. He was in his late forties but could pass for someone much older, with his scarred hands and graying hair. His uniform, the standard black with the red skull and crossbones patch on his shoulder, marked him as one of Hook’s men, mercenaries that were loyal to him—not to Neverland or to anyone else. But they had been with him a long time, and he wanted younger, deadlier, and more powerful soldiers.
“Report,” Hook ordered.
“We released Michael into the neighborhood. The Neverwood boys did as you predicted, they picked him up, but there was an incident.”
“Our sources say that he went off-program.”
“What do you mean?” He assumed the worst. His investors wouldn’t take well to a product that expired before its use-by date. After all, everyone has an expiration date. Those in the D.U.S.T. program just expired a bit faster.
“He’s fighting us,” the soldier continued, “not letting us sync to him or see his memories.”
“Show me,” he demanded. The lieutenant brought over a headpiece covered with wires and sensors, and Hook slipped it onto his head. He flipped it on and brought down a glass screen that dropped over his eye.
Adjusting the dial over his ear, he was able to fast-forward the memories of Michael, one of his youngest Red Skulls. An original.
Only by accident did they discover his power. When he was younger, he had a nightmare so terrifying that he knocked out their security system at Neverland. It was the same night that Dr. Barrie had escaped with the children. With more prodding and testing, they discovered that they boy was a techno kinetic. His mind was a super computer, and with the right equipment, they could download his memories and replay them, upload instructions to him, and use him to control anything with a Wi-Fi signal.
And they had.
The boy’s memories became glitchy, and the screen skipped and fast-forwarded. It looked like Michael had tried to bury his memories deep within his mind. It would take time to hack into those mind vaults, but the boy missed one memory. One wasn’t locked away because he kept revisiting it.
Hook had access to only a few seconds. It was a confrontation on the roof of some building from Michael’s point of view. He was irritated that they weren’t able to access more, but he instantly recognized him—Peter, and a young blonde female.
“Could it be?” he said aloud.
Something about that memory seemed familiar. He paused the playback of Michael’s memories, flipped up the glass screen, and searched his own laptop computer until he found one particular file— Subject 1-04. He compared the photos, she was now seven years older and her face had become thinner, but there was no denying it was the same girl from Neverland. The girl from the rooftop whom Dr. Barrie had defended and swore had no gifts.
He continued reading until he came to her last evaluation by Dr. S. Mee. The good doctor noted that the subject complained of seeing shadows, and Hook wondered if her gift was similar to another of his secret projects. It was worth looking into.
“Interesting,” Hook said aloud. Reading further, he found her familial connection to the young Michael. She was his sister. No wonder the boy was fighting them. He wasn’t going to betray his sister. He wouldn’t give him any more information.
But Hook wanted her. Well, wanted her power.
He spun the computer around and showed the blonde teenage girl’s visage to the soldier. “This one, bring her to me.”
“Also, what’s the status on my virus?”
“It is almost ready to upload, sir. A few more days. A week at the most.”
“Excellent,” he pressed his fingers together in a steeple.
The soldier hesitated. “But, as we mentioned Captain, the boy is fighting us.”
“Then get your best hacker on it. Destroy Michael if you have to, but I want CROCODILE activated soon. Do you hear me?” He slammed his fist on the desk.
“We’re on it.” The soldier said, backing out of the room, the door closing with a soft click.
Hook stared at Peter’s face on the computer with disdain. “I’m coming for you, Peter. You and your boys won’t be able to hide behind your protected walls from me forever. I’m going to huff and puff and . . . let myself right in,” he chuckled evilly.
“You shouldn’t be here,” Peter muttered to himself. Every night you’re here, you’re endangering her more.
He closed his eyes and
He contemplated her open window, the bedroom curtain fluttering in the night breeze. The internal battle between his heart and brain had caused him many restless nights—to the point where he hardly slept anymore. Often, he would find himself in that exact spot, perched on a tree across the street, watching her house.
She was safe—for the time being.
The Red Skulls hadn’t returned or made any attempt on Wendy’s home, but it was only a matter of time. Her gifts were powerful, which encouraged shadows to congregate—which would in turn attract morphlings. And morphlings would inevitably bring the Red Skulls along.
The rustling of a shrub beneath her window set him on high alert, and he reached for the light brace and activated it, creating a faint hum. He floated, hovering twenty feet high in the air, still hidden by the thick tree bough, positioned to strike at a moment’s notice.
A furry animal head with dark tufted ears and beady eyes peeked out of the bush, then quickly disappeared, and Peter relaxed and floated back down to the branch. It was just Fox, one his boys, in his shifted animal form. He had forgotten that it was his turn to watch the house. After Jax’s betrayal, Fox had stepped up, shouldering more of the responsibilities of running Neverwood Academy. Peter trusted him the most to stand guard outside Wendy’s house because of his nocturnal nature.
Then again, if he completely trusted Fox to protect Wendy from the Red Skulls, he would just leave and let Fox do his job. But Peter knew deep down he could do it better.
He slowly knelt back into a crouch and turned his gaze back to Wendy’s open window and frowned. She really shouldn’t sleep with her window open.
He glanced back at the bushes where Fox was probably still hiding, and he decided to intervene. He didn’t care if the other lost boy saw him.
Peter flew to the window and peeked inside. His breath caught in his throat. There she was, strawberry blonde hair splayed on the pillow, giving her the illusion of having a halo of gold. Her head moved, and she began tossing and turning, waving her hand in the air, and then she cried out in her sleep.
“Peter,” Fox called softly from below.
He glanced over his shoulder at Fox, who was back in his human form, furiously shaking his head in warning—he already knew what his fearless leader was going to do. Peter smiled wryly in return. Since when did he take orders from anyone?
Peter was in the process of sliding Wendy’s window shut when he heard her cry out from inside.
“No, I can’t,” she mumbled in her sleep. “I’ll fall.”
It was a punch to the gut. He had heard those words before. Awake she couldn’t remember him, but apparently, her subconscious could recall quite a bit.
He pushed the window open wider, flew into her room, and hovered protectively over her, his feet never finding purchase on the floor.
Beads of sweat glistened across her brow. Peter gently stroked her hair, trying to calm her.
“Shh, don’t worry. I’ll always catch you,” he whispered, placing the gentlest of kisses on her cheek.
Her eyelids fluttered as she roused from her slumber. Peter needed to leave before she awoke to find him—a stranger—in her room. He departed as stealthily as he entered, closing the window with a soft click behind him. The cold air helped clear the tumultuous feelings of guilt that plagued him as he flew into the night.
Wendy was in a spiral—a never-ending deadfall, unable to catch her breath, locked in a silent scream as she plummeted to her death. Seconds before impact, a dark figure swooped in and caught her before she collided with the ground.
With a gasp, she sat up, suddenly awake and alert, her heart beating frantically inside her chest. Blinking the sleep from her eyes, she looked about her darkened room, trying to regain her bearings. This was her room. This was her bed.
She pressed her hand to her chest as she tried to slow her breathing. Her bedroom curtain shifted slightly despite her window being closed. She could have sworn it was open when she fell asleep. Was she becoming forgetful? Had she closed it and just forgotten? Forgotten like the weeks she had gone missing only to reappear in that very bedroom, with no memories? The only thing that was constant was her dreams.
She tried to recall her dream. It was easy because she had the same one almost nightly since her return. She was on a high ledge or roof, and then she was falling to her death. Moments before she hit the ground, someone always saved her, but she could never see who. No matter how hard she tried, the stranger never came into focus. But she always felt safe pressed against his chest, enveloped in his presence.
Brushing her fingers across her cheek, she could almost feel the stranger’s touch, smell his scent. How odd that she would be having fantasies about a dream savior!
Frustrated, Wendy plopped back onto her pillow and glanced at the clock on her nightstand. It was after midnight. She rolled over to face the window and noticed her bedroom curtain was moving slightly. No, she wasn’t losing her mind—someone had closed it. It must have been her mom. A large shadow flew past her window. It’s a bird, Wendy thought, yawning. Her eyes gradually closed in sleep.
“Peter!” Fox called his name again as he flew above the roof. Unlike before, the warning held a threat to it.
Peter spun midair and saw the shadows gathering on the outskirts of Wendy’s yard, more than he had ever seen before. His hands clenched in anger. He knew without looking at his phone that there were enough to create a dead zone. A morphling would be there soon. He needed the shadows gone.
“Can you scatter them?” he called down to Fox.
Fox pulled his specter goggles over his eyes, allowing him to see the shadows that normal eyes couldn’t.
“I’m on it.” Fox grinned, holding his light brace in the air before shifting into his smaller, faster counterpart, and then dashed across the yard. Moments later, flares shot out across the yard, and Peter watched as the shadows scattered, although some hung farther back as if they weren’t quite ready to abandon their target.
A black car with tinted windows drove leisurely up the street. Peter descended onto the backside of the house roof and then leaned over the peak so that he could monitor the car’s progress. There was no reason for the car to be driving that slow unless it was patrolling for something or someone.
He drew out his phone, dialed, and waited for a breathless Fox to answer.
“Don’t call me boss.” Peter frowned. “Do you see that car?”
“The black Escalade . . . yep. Do you want me to double-dog it?” A breathy laugh followed.
“Yeah, and Fox . . . be careful,” Peter warned.
A few seconds later, Fox in his vulpine form limped into the middle of the road, before slowing to a crawl about fifty feet ahead of the car. The Escalade decelerated; Fox, bathed in the looming headlights, stilled.
“C’mon, c’mon,” Peter muttered, hoping to get the driver to reveal himself. A concerned citizen might honk the horn or get out and help, maybe even call animal control.
The Escalade’s engine rumbled as it slowed to a stop. The passenger window lowered with a hum, and a hand holding a gun reached out and took aim.
“Fox!” Peter called out. The gun went off; the bullet ricocheted off the ground, just missing Fox as he darted up from the pavement and scrambled to the side, the sound silenced by the compressor. Only dangerous people–people like Red Skulls—used silencers.
Peter sprung onto the car from above, his foot knocking the gun from the assailant’s hand. There was a scream of surprise from inside, and Peter didn’t hesitate, flinging the car door open. H
“You!” the man grunted before looking down and seeing the car growing smaller as Peter pulled him up into the sky. The Red Skull attempted to swat and swing at Peter, but the higher they flew, the more panicked he became. He looked down and started to scream in terror, latching onto Peter’s wrist over his head to keep from falling.
Another yell rent the air as Fox jumped into the car through the open passenger door, attacking the driver of the Escalade.
The second Red Skull abandoned the vehicle and took off in a run, a chunk of his uniform missing, with Fox hot on his tail.
The man Peter was holding continued to writhe and wiggle, and Peter warned him, “Careful, or I’ll drop you.”
“You’re nothing more than a teenage freak. Wait till we get our hands on you, you piece of scum.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re trying to hurt my feelings,” Peter said mischievously as he flew farther south toward the quarry, leaving the vicinity of Wendy’s house.
“They’re coming for you—and the girl,” the man snarled as he continued to fight Peter’s hold. “Just you wait. They’re getting stronger. Soon, there will be nothing that can stop them. Not even you, fly boy.”
Lost Boy by Chanda Hahn / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes