Storm, p.1D. J. MacHale
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Copyright © 2014 D.J. MacHale
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
For Mark Mitchell. My great friend for six decades.
“I hope you’re reading this, Mark.”
I ’m flying along at 39,000 feet (give or take) on the initial leg of the SYLO tour . . . the first book in The SYLO Chronicles. Touring with a book is one of the great joys of being an author. Okay, that’s not entirely true. The actual traveling part isn’t the greatest. There are seemingly endless flights, too much fast food, and not enough opportunity to do laundry. Very glamorous.
But those are minor inconveniences compared to the payoff. When I’m on tour, I get to meet hundreds of enthusiastic readers. There is truly nothing better for an author than having someone come up to them and say, “I loved your book.” For that, I’ll take off my shoes at airport x-rays and sit cramped in an airline seat for hours with nothing to eat but a tiny bag of peanuts. It’s totally worth it.
Writing for young people holds its own special benefit for I am speaking to an audience that is constantly regenerating. Many readers who are now enjoying Tucker Pierce’s adventure on Pemberwick Island never heard of Bobby Pendragon. On the other hand, I also meet adult readers who grew up with the Travelers. I actually met one young woman who has a “Hobey ho, let’s go” tattoo! I don’t recommend doing that, but I thought it was pretty awesome.
I say this to try to explain how much I love creating stories and sharing them with you. I am so fortunate that my job is to tell tales. On the career caché scale, that probably puts me somewhere below people with “real” jobs and just above clowns. (Then again, for those who have read Pendragon or watched AYAOTD?, you know how I feel about clowns, so maybe that’s an unfair, biased statement. Sorry, clowns.) Thank you so much for reading my books and for allowing me to have a job that I can do in my sweats. I hope I get to meet you in person someday.
Speaking of thanks, in spite of the fact that it’s my name on the book, there are many people who have helped, directly and indirectly, in getting this book to you.
The principle editor of Storm was Laura Arnold. I say “principle” because Laura has moved on to new adventures. Her talent shows in every page of this book, and for that I will always be grateful.
The new SYLO editor is Caroline Donofrio, who has taken up the reins and embraced the story. Though I had to warn her: I am now 4 for 5 with my editors (and their husbands) getting pregnant with their first child. (See the aforementioned “adventure” Laura is now on.) Caroline assures me that I will not be 5 for 6. At least not yet. I’m sure she believes that, but history says otherwise. Just sayin’. Thanks Caroline. Good luck.
I am so very grateful to all my friends at Razorbill for their support of The SYLO Chronicles. Many readers want to know why a book can’t come out as soon as I finish the first draft. Well, it’s not that easy. There’s a process and a very long list of people who have an impact on every book that is published. Dozens of dedicated people work in marketing, sales, editing, design, production, shipping, and many other departments who work their magic to help create the book you now hold. Thanks to you all.
Of course, the booksellers who are avid supporters of reading deserve a very big thanks as well.
I am also very grateful to my personal team of Richard Curtis, Peter Nelson, and Mark Wetzstein.
Finally, my two blondes, Evangeline and Keaton, deserve thanks for being my constant source of support, love, and criticism. All are extremely valuable. Even the criticism. Usually. I love you both. I am very proud to say that my daughter, who wasn’t even born when my first Pendragon book was published, has now read her first “big” book . . . and it was SYLO. Better yet, she loved it. She was also the first kid to read Storm. How cool is that? Next thing you know, she’ll be giving me story notes.
That’s it. Acknowledgments complete. Time to get down to the real business that has brought us back together.
When we left Tucker, Tori, Kent, and Olivia they had just escaped from Pemberwick Island and found that Portland was deserted. A few buildings were missing too. Oh yeah, and they discovered the wreckage of one of the black marauding planes that had been battling the U.S. Navy. On its wing was the logo of the U.S. Air Force. Uh . . . what?
When books end on a cliffhanger, the expectation is for the dilemma to be quickly resolved in the beginning of the next chapter. Or the next book.
Don’t count on that, boys and girls.
We’re just getting started.
There’s a very big storm brewing.
Hobey ho, let’s go.
The sun floated directly above us on a warm, clear, mid-September day. The street was bathed in an intense white light that cast no shadows . . . until the world suddenly went dark. The warm, comforting rays of the sun had been blocked by what appeared to be an unscheduled lunar eclipse.
The music that came from the looming shadow told me otherwise. The dark shape had appeared from over the tops of the brick buildings of the Old Port and hovered above us like a rogue storm cloud preparing to unleash its fury.
“They found us,” Kent said with a gasp.
“Back in the car!” I commanded.
The four of us scrambled to get to the Subaru we had “borrowed” after making our escape from Pemberwick Island.
Tori Sleeper was hurt. She had been shot through the shoulder and needed to lean on Kent Berringer and me in order to keep moving.
Slowing down to help her saved our lives.
The black attack plane fired, sending an invisible pu
“This way!” Olivia Kinsey shouted while running toward a row of low brick buildings.
We had been standing in the center of Commercial Street, which ran past the busy piers of Portland, Maine. The normally busy piers.
We hadn’t seen a single living soul from the moment we hit town. Stranger still, many of the buildings in Portland had vanished. They weren’t destroyed or bombed, they were just . . . gone. We knew this was the result of the attack we had seen several nights before when an enormous fleet of these flying black predators put on a light show over the city. Tori and I had witnessed the attack from her father’s fishing boat as we were making our first attempt to escape from Pemberwick Island. It wasn’t the only horror we saw that night. We also got a close-up view of the lethal power of these planes when three of them fired a laser-like weapon at a fishing boat that was making the escape with us. The light enveloped the defenseless craft. Seconds later it was gone . . .
. . . along with Quinn Carr.
The black planes had killed my best friend.
They had devastated Portland.
Now one of them was coming for us.
The hovering plane fired another shot that tore up the ground behind us as we sprinted for the safety of a building. It was close. I felt a sharp sting across my back as I was hit by a wave of pulverized street.
“The alley!” Kent shouted.
With one arm around Tori’s waist, I changed direction and ran toward a narrow alleyway between the old buildings.
“You okay?” I asked her breathlessly.
She nodded, but I didn’t believe her. Tori had lost a lot of blood. She needed to be lying down in a hospital, not running for her life.
As we ducked into the alley, I glanced up to see if the plane was following. I expected to see it loom into view above the buildings. Searching. Hunting. These beasts could fly with the speed of a jet fighter, hover like a helicopter, and cause unfathomable damage. What seemed impossible was all too real.
Several seconds passed. No plane appeared, nor did the signature musical sound of its engines. Had it given up that easily?
The streets of the Old Port were narrow and paved with rounded stones, giving the area the feel of an old-time fishing town, which is exactly what it used to be. Now it was a tourist destination where the vintage brick buildings held restaurants, bars, and souvenir stores.
Olivia ran for one of the shops. She yanked the door open and held it so I could get Tori inside. Kent followed quickly and slammed the door shut . . . as if a closed door would keep out the boogeyman.
We found ourselves in a store packed with Maine souvenirs. Every last inch of counter and wall space was taken up with displays of model lighthouses, saltwater taffy, kitchen-magnet lobsters, scrimshaw snow globes, and anything else that would remind visitors of their trip to the Pine Tree State.
Kent hurried to the large front window and peered out with caution.
“Why are they after us?” Olivia asked anxiously. “Because we escaped from Pemberwick Island?”
I helped Tori into a chair behind the sales counter. Though she appeared slight, she was a strong girl who had spent most of her life working lobster boats with her father. But at that moment she was as weak as an old lady.
She looked at me with glazed eyes and muttered, “I need some water.”
I searched the shop, hoping they stocked bottled water as well as flip-flops.
“Tucker!” Olivia cried impatiently. “I asked you a question. Why are they after us?”
“How should I know?” I replied, annoyed.
“Because you have all the answers,” Kent commented with his usual dose of sarcasm.
Everyone looked at me, hoping for words of wisdom. I hated being the one who was always expected to come up with solutions.
Moments before being attacked, we had learned a frightening truth while examining the wreck of one of the black planes. The craft looked like a giant stingray, with no aerodynamic capabilities whatsoever. I thought it might have come from an alien world . . . until I saw the logo on its skin.
It was the symbol of the United States Air Force.
That morning the four of us had escaped by speedboat from our home on Pemberwick Island and found ourselves in the middle of a sea-air battle between killer planes from the U.S. Air Force . . . and warships of the United States Navy.
“What can I say?” I answered tentatively. “It looks like the Navy and the Air Force are at war with one another.”
“We were running away from SYLO,” Kent said. “And SYLO is part of the Navy, so that means the Air Force are the good guys.”
“How can the Air Force be good guys?” I shot back. “They just wiped out Portland.”
“Yeah, and SYLO turned Pemberwick into a prison,” he countered. “Oh, and they also killed Tori’s father. Did you forget that?”
I didn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to look at Tori for a reaction.
“Maybe there are no good guys,” Olivia said gravely.
We let that sobering thought hang in the air for a few seconds.
Tori then added in a weak voice, “Or maybe we’re in the middle of the second Civil War. One side’s got the Air Force, the other has the Navy and SYLO.”
None of us commented. The possibility was mind-numbing.
“What are we going to do?” Olivia whined.
“Stick to the plan,” I replied. “First we get to a hospital and patch Tori up. Then we head to Boston and tell the world what’s been happening on Pemberwick Island. After that I don’t know what—”
“Git out!” came a threatening voice from deeper in the store.
We all spun to see an elderly man standing in the doorway leading to the back room. He was a typical Mainer with a plaid flannel shirt and jeans. There was nothing unusual about him . . . except for the shotgun he had leveled at us.
“Whoa, take it easy, gramps,” Kent warned.
“Don’t gramps me,” the old guy snarled. “Git outta my store.”
“We will,” I said, trying to defuse the situation. “But one of those planes was shooting at us and—”
“That’s why I want you out,” he snapped. “I’ve been ducking them things for days. I don’t need you kids bringing ’em down on me.”
“Wait,” I exclaimed. “You’re alive.”
“Keen observation, Rook,” Kent said sarcastically.
“I mean, you survived the attack,” I said to the man, ignoring Kent. “What happened that night?”
“You don’t know?” he asked suspiciously. “Where you from?”
“Pemberwick Island,” I replied. “We saw the—”
“Pemberwick!” the guy exclaimed as if I’d said we just dropped in from Alcatraz. He held the shotgun higher but took a frightened step back and added, “You got the disease!”
“There is no disease,” Tori said weakly. “The quarantine was just an excuse they used to keep us there.”
“Who?” the old guy asked.
“SYLO,” I answered. “You must have seen it on the news. They’re part of the Navy. They took over the island and were gunning down people who tried to escape so the truth wouldn’t get out.”
“Truth about what?” he demanded.
“There was no virus,” Tori said weakly. “We were prisoners.”
“We think they were experimenting on us with this stuff called the Ruby,” Kent added. “It was killing people, so we left. That pretty much sums it up.”
“What about your parents?” the guy said with suspicion.
The answer would only have confused him more. Tori’s father and Kent’s father were dead, and my parents were part of SYLO. How could I explain that to him? I couldn’t even explain it to myself.
“Look,” I said, ducking the question. “Tori’s hurt. Can I give her some water?”
“Over there,” he said, jabbing the shotgun toward another counter.
There was a case of bottled waters on the floor. I grabbed one, cracked it open, and brought it to Tori.
“Thank you,” she said and took a few small sips.
“Now, on your way,” the guy commanded, hardening once again.
“We have to get to Maine Medical,” I said. “If her wound gets infected—”
“Then go!” he barked.
“We’ll never make it on foot. We’re going to need a car or—”
“Look!” Olivia screamed.
The black plane was outside the window, at ground level, moving slowly along the street like a giant black shark searching for its next victim.
The lethal shadow floated by, the sound of its musical engine growing louder as it moved closer, providing eerie accompaniment while searching the streets for us. Was there a pilot? Or was it an unmanned drone being controlled from a command room miles away?
Seconds passed. The music receded. The plane moved on.
“Now go,” the old man said through clenched teeth. “I didn’t live through an attack on my town just to be given away by a couple of fugitives from a leper colony.”
“Put the gun down,” I barked. “We’re not going anywhere.”
The old man wasn’t sure of how to react to my bold order.
“You can’t shoot, or that plane will come right back here,” I said boldly. “And I doubt you’re a killer anyway. What’s your name?”
The man blinked a few times, as if he was having trouble processing what was happening.
“Whittle,” he answered tentatively.
“All right, Mr. Whittle, we’ll be on our way. I promise. But first we need a car.” I looked to Kent and said, “Go get one.”
Kent stiffened. “You go get one!”
“I’m not a good driver. You’ve got a better chance.”
Kent looked around, as if searching for an argument. He was a few years older than me, and I didn’t even have my driver’s license. He knew I was right.
Storm by D. J. MacHale / Young Adult / Science Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes