Authors: Anderson Atlas
Copyright 2016 Anderson Atlas
Published by Synesthesia Books
Return to Lan Darr, book 2 in the Heroes of Distant Planet Series, is coming August 1st 2016. Available now for preorder at select retailers. Reserve your copy today!
Go to andersonatlas.com/heroes for links
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 Anderson Atlas and Synesthesia Books
All rights reserved.
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This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Thank you to all that supported me through this novel including my family for putting up with my writing and drawing zeal. Thank you to my critique group members: Pam, Elaine, Kate, Marilyn, and Elise.
I also need to thank my editor whose expertise helped me conquer my blind spots. Thank you Brandi Wigginds for your hard work. I recommend her editing services any day of the week. Contact her at [email protected]
: The true Story
: Of Dreams We Travel
Beep, Beep goes the Machine of Life
Fear of Speaking
Power of French Fries
Tea Party Rumors
The Great Ship in the Sky
The Greatest Wall There Is
Fur and Frowns
Killian Crow Comes
The Inventor and the Lie
The Improbable Quest
Beetles that Became One
Rubic and the Dawn of Night
Time Won’t Last
Poison in the Water
Light in the Dam
The Bait Always Gets Eaten
Waterslide at a Zoo
Heroes of Distant Planets Book 1
By Anderson Atlas
The True Story
Allan Westerfield is a normal thirteen-year-old boy until a series of terrible things send Allan on the greatest adventure any human being has ever been on. He crosses the known galaxy. At first he doesn’t realize he’s gone anywhere because the trip is instantaneous and because the method of travel comes from the least likely thing, a flower.
Across the galaxy is a dangerous place full of unknowns. It is true, that the moment Allan arrives on the planet Lan Darr, he is noticed by dangerous creatures, and pursued.
Allan has never known such a fear. He’s been in such a state of hopelessness that he doesn’t quite realize he is on a grand quest, but he is. He soon realizes how an alien planet, far away from the comforts of home, can make him a hero; a hero, not only for his wounded uncle on Earth, but to an entire population of intelligent beings on Lan Darr.
But I suppose we should start at the beginning of this story, when Allan was at his lowest, his most vulnerable.
Allan sits by the campfire, transfixed by the agitated yellow and red flames. For the moment, he isn’t thinking about his problems, his fears or why his life feels more like a punishment. Allan’s brain surveys the glowing embers and the shapes they make, like a tiny city in the red-hot coals. The rhythmic crackling is crisp and sharp and gives the fire a chorus, an anthem.
Rubic, Allan’s uncle, returns to the fire carrying two mugs of hot chocolate.
‘not thirsty’ Allan types on his iPad. He hasn’t spoken since the car accident.
Rubic huffs. “Since when do you have to be thirsty to drink hot cocoa?” He tries to hand it off to Allan again. “It has little marshmallows.”
Allan takes the mug without looking away from the fire. He feels connected to the flames, to the heat, to the tiny burning city.
At one point in his life he wanted to be an adventurer and discover something no one had ever found, like a new species or a faraway tribe. Now, he’s stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. That means no adventuring for him, no swimming or diving. His dreams and aspirations have vanished, leaving behind only ghosts in his head.
Allan notices Rubic staring at him. The lingering moment stretches out, illuminating the vast emotional distance between them. Finally, Rubic says, “Am I that boring to be around?”
Allan types quickly. ‘no. you adult, me teen. adults might be from earth but teens from alpha centauri.’
Rubic nods. “I see. We might as well be speaking different languages.” Rubic sighs and pats Allan on the shoulder.
‘plus, you’re kind of funny lookin’ Allan types. He smiles, but only half a smile.
‘how bout a scary story?’ Allan suggests.
Rubic’s eyes widen. “Okay, but I gotta warn you. This is a true story.” Rubic sips from his steaming mug and then clears his throat. “Have you ever heard of a shadic?”
Allan shakes his head.
Rubic stares at the glowing, hot fire, turning the cup of cocoa in circles. The wind whistles through the trees and disturbs the fire, as if anticipating the story. “I was camping out here with your dad. This was years ago. We were sitting around the campfire, just like we are now, when an old man came out of the dark. He was as old as a man can get, his hair white as spider’s silk. He wore a cloak that looked as old as time itself. Sewn patchworks of every color kept it together, keeping it from falling off his bony shoulders. He sat on a log near us and didn’t say a word. He had a flower in his hand, a big one, and a sack slung over his shoulder. We didn’t say anything at first, but then I asked him his name. He looked at me and said it didn’t matter because he will be dead soon.”
Allan listens intently, noticing Rubic’s fidgeting.
“Your dad asked the man if he was okay, but he didn’t answer. He told us he had traveled across the galaxy, running for his life from a shadic. Shadics were the most powerful creatures the Galaxy had ever known. They were so strong they could leap a dozen feet in the air. They had razor-sharp beaks like birds, red eyes like the belly of a volcano, and spikes that covered their bodies and dripped a kind of acid. They were intelligent, too, and were collecting scientists and secrets that could give them eternal life and control over worlds.”
Allan gasps ever so quietly.
“The ol’ man said he knew how the shadics could live forever but wouldn’t give the knowledge to the shadic rulers. Instead, the man alerted the Elders of Fifty and fled the planet. The shadics came after him and eventually caught him. The old man lifted up his sleeve and exposed a dizzying amount of scars across his arms. He said his entire body was covered. As tears came to his eyes, he confessed he told the shadics how to produce an immortality spell. One of them took a dagger made of silver steel and attempted to kill the old man so he could not share the secret with anyone else. The old man tricked the shadics and escaped to Earth.”
Rubic finishes the hot cocoa and sets the cup between his feet and then shoves his hands deep into his pockets. “Your dad gave the man something to eat and drink. When the ol’ man was done, he stood, thanked us, and headed into the dark without a flashlight. We noticed he didn’t even have shoes. Your dad and me stared at each other, wondering what we should do.
“A screech tore through the quiet night. The shrill sound vibrated my bones and lit every nerve in my body up. It wasn’t any kind of sound we’d ever heard before and not of this planet, for sure. Then, suddenly, the tallest of the trees exploded. We fell to the ground and covered our heads. Leaves and sticks rained down on us. Your dad jumped up first and pulled his flashlight out of his pocket and ran off toward the man. He said we needed to help him because it was the right thing to do. I followed with my own flashlight.
“Your dad stopped not even two hundred yards away, next to a large tree. I caught up to him, flinging my light everywhere. The tree was covered in blood, a lot of blood. And there was an ‘X’ carved into the side, burned black and smoking. The old man’s travel sack lay at the base of the tree next to that large flower he’d been holding, and that was it.” Rubic looks around, acting overly cautious. The firelight catches only the edges of his facial features and his bushy beard. Shadows deepen the look of his eye sockets and mouth. “The woods were alive with alien sounds. Then we noticed the eyes. There were dozens of glowing eyes around us. They watched with fiery intensity and then moved closer, tightening the trap around us. I panicked. Your father panicked. We ran so hard we didn’t have time to look behind us, but we could hear them after us, crashing through the brush and snapping branches. The truck was close and unlocked, thank God. We leapt into the cab through the driver door and scrambled to get our feet inside. I saw a dozen dark shapes coming fast, but I slammed the door shut. Your dad tossed the keys at me, and I fired up the engine just as one of ‘em landed in the back, bouncing us like it was as heavy as a half-ton boulder. I fired up the engine and hit the gas. The shadic flew off.
“I didn’t stop, just kept going, leavin’ all our gear behind. We called the cops and reported the incident, but no body was ever found. We knew we’d seen a shadic. If we didn’t get to our truck as fast as we did, we’d have been killed too.”
Allan feels a shiver inch up his back and his hair stand on end. The darkness around the campfire just became a little darker. Rubic continues the scary story, “If anyone asks me if I believe in aliens, I say,
Not only do I believe in them, I was only a few feet away when one of them killed an old man. Splattered him across the trunk of a pine tree then marked its kill like it was keeping score. You think that nothin’ scares me, well, Jibbawk does.”
Allan grabs his iPad. ‘not true. I not scared’
The yellow firelight reflects across Rubic’s wide eyes. “Oh, it’s true.”
A creak and a bang break the private bubble around Allan and Rubic. Something comes from the dark toward the campfire, for real! It moves like a cheetah, leaping over a log, getting closer and closer. It’s dark, like a shadow, with two glowing eyes.
Allan’s eyes and mouth open up. He shields his face from whatever is coming for them. If he could speak, he would have screamed. Rubic falls over backwards in his chair and lands hard, screaming loud and long for the both of them.
The attack will come any minute. Allan braces for the sharp teeth and the pain of death. But instead feels a warm, slobbery lick.
Allan opens his eyes, barely able to see due to the thundering beat of his heart. A large dog, furry and brown with a black patch over one eye, sits next to him licking his elbow. Its tail wags, and the firelight reflects across its kind eyes.
Rubic gets to his knees. “Holy Mother of all things. That really had me spooked.” He laughs. “I was so startled. I thought I was going to pop like a balloon.”
A woman approaches from the darkness, her boots treading softly on the pine needles. She wears a green wildlife management uniform that is too tight for her large chest. Allan imagines the buttons flying off and taking out his eye.
“Hello campers,” she says.
Rubic looks shocked and confused. “Hey. Uh, is there a problem?”
“I’m Alice. I’ve got some bad news. This isn’t a sanctioned campsite, and fires are forbidden this time of year.”
“I thought this was a free country. I need to grease your palms, do I?” Rubic stands, folds his arms and narrows his eyes. It is his tough, don’t-mess-with-me face.
The woman’s smile turns down. “Put the fire out. You’ve got ‘til noon tomorrow to leave, unless you want a hefty fine. I’m sorry, but some places are off-limits to civilians.” She whistles and her dog follows her to her truck, which was so far away, it was almost as if she intended to startle them.
“Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. No one has ever kicked me off this mountain.”
Allan types, ‘can try fishing some other time.’
“Yeah, right. You heard me. This is a free country. We’re not going anywhere. It’s our God-given right to go camping anywhere we want.” Rubic grabs a handful of pine needles and sniffs them. “Smells like free pine needles to me.” He chuckles and drops them.
Rubic whistles the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Great. My uncle’s a hipster hick,
How is my father even related to this guy?
“We’ll put out the fire, though. I don’t want to burn the forest down. Then we’ll hit the sack.”
At five o’clock in the morning, Rubic shakes Allan awake. “Hey kid, early bird gets the worm then uses that worm to hook the fish. Get up.”
Allan reaches for his iPad. He types, ‘no. too tired. miss my mom and dad.’
“Damn it, Allan! Look, you’re not the only one that lost someone. I lost my brother. I introduced your parents. I’ve lost my life too. Like I know how to take care of a paraplegic. I can’t even cook eggs.” Rubic’s face is red and hard as petrified wood. Then he looks away. “Would you rather me put you into foster care? Huh? ‘Cause that would make it real easy for me. Then you can mope behind the same four walls for the rest of your life, always thinking about what could’ve been.”
Allan wipes tears away and sniffles. ‘fine,’ he types. ‘bathroom first.’
Rubic sighs. He wonders if this is a good idea. Maybe Allan isn’t ready to be pushed. He sits on his sleeping bag, scratching his beard. “This is a waste of time.”
Allan shakes his head. ‘I’ll fish. show me.’
Rubic doesn’t budge.
“Fine, but you’re going to have to try. Really try.” Rubic helps Allan slide his useless legs into pants, then tugs on socks and shoes. Allan’s face is hard, his frown deep. “It’s okay. I don’t mind helping you get dressed. Not a big deal. We’re family.”
Allan swallows the lump in his throat and grinds his teeth. He’s embarrassed that Rubic sees him in his boxers. Only Allan’s mother could make him feel comfortable in these situations. Rubic hauls Allan by his armpits to a bush behind the tent where Allan pees.
After setting Allan in his wheelchair, Rubic equips himself with fishing gear: a brim hat decorated with a bear pin, fish pins and a pin of a woman in a red swimsuit, and a tan vest with a handful of pockets. He pauses a moment and looks at Allan who is watching him. Rubic unsnaps the pin of the woman in the red swimsuit and pins it on Allan’s shirt. “There. Your dad gave me this one. He knows how much I love old 50’s pin-up girls.”
Allan isn’t sure what to think. He touches the pin. It’s smooth metal with glossy red paint where the swimsuit is. The woman has a slender, busty figure, and her legs are slightly crossed. The bathing suit is a one-piece suit, and she has long, curly blond hair. He’s sure his mother would not approve, but keeps it right where Rubic pinned it knowing that his dad
Rubic forces Allan’s wheelchair over the pine needles and rocks to the river. He spins Allan around and drags the chair into the rocky-bottom river, moving slowly so as not to disturb the fish. The water soaks Allan’s shoes and jeans, but it doesn’t matter. He’s a paraplegic now, so wet shoes mean nothing anymore. If you ask him, he doesn’t belong on a secluded mountain, between tall canyon walls and
a river trying to fish like a normal boy.