Authors: Rob May
Published in 2012 by Rob May
Copyright 2012 Rob May
Story by Rob May and Andy Strickland
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Rob May studied English at Lancaster University. He is the illustrator for
Super Maths World
Super Science World
is his debut novel. Visit
for news and bonus content.
Brandon Walker rolled out of bed at half ten on Saturday morning. Wearing his duvet like a cape, he resettled on a beanbag on his bedroom floor in front of his massive TV. He powered up his stereo and his games console, put his music on shuffle, and then started up a game.
It was the middle of a long hot August. Brandon was fourteen, and could think of nothing better to do with his time.
Half an hour later he put down the controller. He had defeated more than twenty other top-ranking players in a series of closely-fought spaceship battles. His thumbs ached; it was time for a rest. Checking the leaderboards, he was slightly annoyed to see that he was still only number two in the world.
Brandon reached for his phone. He had a new message from one of his gamer friends. It read:
watch the skies
Watch the skies?
What was that supposed to mean? Too bad the curtains were still drawn. Brandon shrugged and turned his attention back to the TV. He loaded up a different game and spent the next hour fighting his way methodically through an underground dungeon filled with goblins and giant spiders. At around midday he started to think about breakfast.
He pulled open the curtains and squinted into the sunlight. Then he got dressed, throwing off his duvet and pulling on dark blue jeans and a black v-necked t-shirt. He strapped on a Swatch watch and forced his hands through the tangles in his thick black hair.
Glancing at his reflection in his full-length mirror, Brandon was reminded that his low-key style couldn’t quite tone down the striking gaze of his unusual eyes. They were deep violet, and the light reflected off them in kaleidoscopic patterns.
Apart from that
, he thought,
I’m fairly normal
. He turned off his music halfway through a song and then left the room.
Brandon’s quarters were in the attic extension of the large family home. He checked his phone before he started down the stairs; he had another message from a different friend:
it’s the end of the world as we know it and i feel fine
Something was definitely up, but he had no time for his friends’ riddles. Brandon typed an explicit reply, then pocketed his phone and went downstairs.
He walked into the spacious open-plan kitchen. The news was on the big TV and his father was pacing in front of the wide range oven, anxiously listening to his own phone. ‘Morning, Dad,’ Brandon said. ‘Afternoon, I mean. What’s going on?’
‘I’m trying to get hold of your mother,’ his father replied, looking worried. ‘Have you seen what’s happening?’ He gestured towards the TV. Brandon turned to look and caught the story halfway through:
‘… the largest of which are about five metres in diameter. Now experts
saying that these small asteroids—or meteoroids—are expected to disintegrate when they hit the Earth’s atmosphere, but this does mean that lots of smaller chunks of rock will fall as meteors over London. There is no way of predicting precisely where …’
That kind of explained the odd messages that he had been getting. Brandon turned back to his father. ‘That’s pretty scary, Dad. Even a meteor the size of your head could take out a whole street.’ Brandon read a lot of science books when he wasn’t playing video games.
‘Don’t make me more worried than I already am, Son,’ his father said, turning back to his phone. He jabbed at the screen impatiently. Brandon’s father was an art gallery curator; he had little time for modern technology.
Brandon picked up the TV remote and flicked through the other news channels. He read that ATLAS—the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, a network of space observation stations around the UK—had spotted a cluster of about a hundred irregularly-shaped objects just hours away from Earth.
exactly are they going to hit?’ he wondered aloud. He navigated to the more detailed online reports. Then his phone vibrated in his pocket. It was his mother calling. ‘Hi—’ he began.
‘Brandon! Don’t say anything.’
Brandon just stood there with the phone to his ear.
‘Is your dad there?’ his mother continued.
‘Okay, go to the study where he can’t hear. I need a favour.’
Brandon casually moved back into the hall, then into his mother’s wood-panelled study. He kicked the door shut behind him. ‘He’s trying to reach you, Mum.’
‘I know. I’ll call him in a bit,’ his mother said. ‘I’ve been busy; I’m not at the hospital today.’
‘Okay …’ Brandon left it hanging.
‘I’ll explain later,’ she said. ‘Brandon, I need you to go to the lab and pick something up for me.’ Brandon’s mother was a doctor, a consultant with her own research laboratory at nearby Highgate Hospital. ‘But keep it quiet. You can’t tell anyone; not even your father.’
‘Alright. What am I going to get?’
‘I can’t tell you that either. Just enter the lab by the back door, and when you get inside, check your phone. I’ll mark the exact location for you on your map.’
Brandon smiled. Someone had said a similar thing to him already this morning.
In a video game.
‘Mum, how will I get into the lab? Isn’t it all top secret and high security down there?’
‘I’ve thought of that,’ his mother said. ‘Go to the picture of you and Gem on the wall.’
Brandon went and stood in front of the picture of him and his older sister posing with surfboards in the sea on holiday in Devon. ‘Okay.’
‘There’s a safe behind the picture. The combination is one, nine, nine, one.’ Brandon entered the numbers on the keypad and the small door opened with a soft click. Inside, the safe was empty, except for a small memory card that was protected by a toughened metal jacket.
‘What’s on this?’ he asked.
‘Just some data from the tests we ran on your eyes a few years ago. Send me the files now, and I’ll make sure that security recognises your unique retinal pattern.’ She paused. ‘You need to do it
‘Okay. Have you seen the news?’
‘I’ve seen it. Don’t worry about that; you’ve got time. I’ll talk to you later. Thanks, Brandon!’ Then she hung up.
I should have gotten up earlier to deal with everything that’s going on today
, Brandon thought. He slotted the card into his phone, ran the contents through an encryption program—he had been brought up to be very security-conscious online—and emailed them to his mother.
Why was she keeping his files on a dedicated card, in a safe? That was a bit extreme, even for her. And what was so important that needed collecting from the lab, today of all days? Medical research was a competitive and secretive industry, so Brandon guessed it had something to do with that.
He paused for a moment before leaving the study; it wasn’t often that he came in here. There was a computer on the large oak desk, and two more pictures on the walls: one of his mum and dad eating ice-cream on a sea-side pier when they were young; and another of the whole family posing in front of Stonehenge.
Brandon wasn’t the snooping kind. He left and closed the door behind him.
He went through the utility room on his way to the garage. His sister was in there, having just got back from a run. She was leaning into the wall, with one of her long legs stretched up so that her foot was above her head. Gem Walker was eighteen years old and taller than her brother. She was dressed in technical-looking running gear that was glossy black with lots of hot pink tubing.
‘What are you doing?’ Brandon asked her. ‘Yoga?’
She dropped her leg, and turned to face her brother, regarding him with her usual cool and amused expression. ‘I need to be supple,’ she explained, brushing her long damp black hair out of her eyes, ‘so that I’m ready whenever I might need to kick you in the face.’
Brandon had no response to that. ‘Tell Dad I’ll be back in a bit,’ he said, but Gem had already gone upstairs.
He went into the garage and pulled his Kona mountain bike down from the rack. He strapped on his helmet and then hit a button on his phone to activate the garage door mechanism. He kicked the pedals into position and hopped up onto them, balancing impatiently until the door was high enough to get under and out. But then a looming figure blocked his exit.
It was James—Gem’s boyfriend. He was tall, blonde, solidly built and square-jawed. He wore a blue polo shirt and khaki trousers. An expensive-looking steel diving watch hung around his wrist. ‘Hey Bran,’ he said. ‘Is Gem about?’
‘She’s just got back from a run,’ Brandon told him. ‘She must have just got in the shower.’
‘Oh right. Okay then.’ James went red for some reason. He looked intently at Brandon’s bike. ‘So what’s new on the bike?’