Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Braxden Pan - Chapters 5-6

Read Chapter 1&2 Here

Chapter 5 – The True Nature of Girls

Braxden’s breath stopped, and his thoughts vanished. Pressing his body against the tree roots, he prayed for the best. The shorter girl wrapped a tight hand around the small animal’s snout. Angling her head, the taller girl glared at the pirates. The tall girl’s fingers stretched and recoiled across Braxden’s stomach. He thought about moving her hand away, but decided not to. She lengthened her neck further out, pressing deeper into his stomach.

Two pirates appeared. With flickering, semitransparent bodies they stepped into the path. While they appeared like normal soldiers, their clothes were tattered and they actually held laser rifles in their hands. A small metallic orb blinked from inside their chests.

Braxden considered Cindy, the artificial intelligence simulation system on the farm. She could only go about two hundred yards away from her home base. Somehow that orb allowed the pirate holograms a way to explore the world like a normal human would.

“I saw something over this way,” one of the pirates growled.

“We don’t need the boy. We need clues to find the girls. They are the ones he wants,” the other said.

The tall girl’s head twisted around. Noticing her hand, she yanked it toward her chest. Braxden lifted his eyebrows and forced a smile.

“I’m not going back to the Captain without makin’ sure he’s dead.”

“He’ll be dead soon enough. The crops are burned and this moon is not on any system’s charts.”

“I’d rather have his head in a sling or at least an ear, something to show the Cap’n.”

The thought of them cutting off his perfect ears sent shockwaves through Braxden. He gasped. The tall girl rotated her head around toward him and gave him the stink eye.

“What was that?” the first pirate asked.

“I didn’t hear anything.”

“It came from over there by that tree.”

Heart blasting against his chest, he searched the nearby woods for a place he thought they could run. By the time Braxden turned back around, the tall girl had pulled off a tiny piece of bark. She held it at chest level. With a flick of her fingers, she thumped it into the woods. It bounced off a few leaves and settled.

“Over there,” the second pirate said.

The pirates sped off into the woods.

Once they were out of earshot, the tall girl crawled over Braxden. “Nice going, noodle head.” Placing a firm hand against his shoulder, she pushed him into the roots. “C’mon Bria, let’s go.”


“We don’t need boys, especially ones that are idiots.”

“Hey, I’m not an idiot,” Braxden said in the loudest whisper possible. “They were just talking about cutting off my ears. I happen to like my ears.”

“I’d cut one off and give it to the pirates if I thought it’d make them go away.”

Everything inside Braxden stopped, and he placed his hands over his ears. She spun around with a smirk and shook her head.

The short girl and the animal glanced at him as the taller girl led them away. His mind whirled. He didn’t have a home to go back to, and his uncle was dead. He wasn’t even sure he could make it to Ms. Sloan’s before the pirates found him. The tall girl wanted to kill him, but she hadn’t thus far. Sooner or later, however, he might really lose an ear or a bit of his nose or something.

He sighed away the last of his pride. These two girls and their pet were his only hope.

After a long blink, he set off to find the girls.

In less than five minutes, he reached them.

The shorter one looked back and grinned. “Look, your best friend is back.”

The taller one glanced back at him and rolled her eyes. “What do you want, boy? I’m still okay with cutting off your ears, ya know.”

He grabbed his ears again. “Look, maybe we got off on the wrong foot. You stole from my family, and you think I hate you or something. But my Uncle Duncan always said to forgive and forget. So no worries—none at all.”

The tall girl didn’t even look at him. She glanced at the other girl and snickered. “That’s because his farm is on fire.”

Pain burst across his heart, but he forced the pain away. Biting his lip, he squared his shoulders. “Yes, that’s partially true. But I’ve also not made many friends my own age. So this is a great opportunity for me. The whole normal-childhood thing is a big… big concern of adults.”

“And you think we’re normal?” the tall girl asked.

“Hey, you’re all I know, so sure. In this sector of the galaxy, girls walk around the woods with knives and try to kill boys. As far as I know, that is completely normal behavior.”

She shook her head.

“I’m Braxden, by the way. Braxden Pan.”

The tall girl winced. “Pan? What kind of name is that?”

“I dunno. It’s just the name I was given. But you can call me Braxden or Brax.”

“Can I call you Brat?” the tall girl asked.

“No, my name is Brax.”

“Yeesh, touchy.”

The shorter girl slowed her pace and drifted back beside him. “I’m Bria,” she said. “And that’s Sydney. And this is Nova.” She rubbed the head of the four-tailed animal.

“Can I pet her?”

“Sure, I think she’ll be okay now that you aren’t strangling me.”

Warmth spread over Braxden’s neck and shoulders. He dropped his head. “Sorry about that.”

Bria shrugged. “Eh, I’ve had worse.”

“So Nova’s a Yubbi weasel, right?” He reached out with his right hand and gently stroked Nova on the head.

“Yep. I found her on my planet before I joined up with the Wasure.”

He winced as the word entered his brain. “The Wha-sue-ray?”

“It means forgotten.” She leaned in. “‘Cause last I checked, no one is looking for us.”

“Where are your parents?”

“Taken by local raiders on my planet almost three years ago.”

“What about her?” Braxden gestured toward Sydney.

Expression darkening, Bria shook her head.

His gaze fell on Sydney who was about his same height. He had thought he was the only one who was alone, but she was too. With a twist of Sydney’s head, waves of frustration pounded into him from her one white eye. After glaring at Bria for a second, she rolled her eyes and turned away.

Braxden winced but placed his attention on Bria’s friendly face. “Sydney must have lived on one of the new colonies before the space navy. I heard they had it the worst during the Universal War. Entire continents were wiped out. So she’s a refugee, one of the lost children.”

Bria nodded. “Yeah… something like that.”

“By the way what were those space pirate things?”

“You mean the humans? They’re space pirates.”

“No, I mean the bluish ones that look like holograms.”

“Oh, the holobots?”

“Holobots?” His eyebrows rose.

“Yeah, we just call them that because they are really just robots in holographic form. They can still hurt you, though.”

The trees stopped, and the river bubbled across their path. It meandered slowly, sparkling in the midmorning sun, a huge difference from the raging waters by his house. The walls of the canyon stood in the distance with large yellow and red stone sparkling with cracks of glowing ore. Neverworld glowed pale blue in the pale sky. A few clouds drifted over the distant planet, barely visible from Rison.

A cargo ship sat on the far side of the river. It was shaped like a dune bug with two long metal appendages sticking out the front and folded wings on its side. Around the base, four girls carried large black containers from somewhere. With a shake of his head, Braxden realized they’d been stealing from all over Rison.

Stomping right up to the river’s edge, Sydney continued into the water. She waded across without pause or hesitation as though the river was nothing more than blue wind.

“Ugh, how does she do that?” Bria asked no one in particular. “Up you go, Nova.” She lifted the weasel to her shoulders and let it rest its paws on her head while she fumbled across.

Braxden waded in last but stayed close to Bria. As the cool water splashed against his hot skin, he cupped a few handfuls and swallowed the salty liquid down. After a minute or so, Braxden and Bria emerged on the other side, their pants soaked.

Four girls near the ship stopped and stared. As they held their loads, Braxden eyed the dozens of weapons on their waists, backs, and legs. Skin itching under the weight of their gaze, he turned his eyes toward the ground. Every few seconds, he’d glance in their direction, but he kept his gaze on Bria. With the skin along his neck and shoulders prickling, he took deep breaths to stay calm. The pirates were after these girls, and he had no idea why. However, they had to be special if the Maddox pirate said that he was searching for them.

A shadowy figure walked across the top of the ship and stole Braxden’s gaze. The body appeared human, but the Orange Sun glinted off the ship into his eyes. Two objects folded out from the figure’s back. Each stretched into what appeared to be two five-foot-wide wings that had an L shape.

The figure flashed away. Braxden searched the sky, but the figure whizzed around and disappeared. As darkness stretched over his face, something slammed into the ground in front of him. Braxden froze. His stomach knotted as the figure rose to its full height.

Swallowing hard, his spine curled into itself. Sydney had her knives. He wasn’t sure what this person would have.

His gaze found the figure’s eyes in the silhouette of the sun. The figure was not a girl like Sydney, at least not Sydney’s age. This was a woman, at least twenty years old and just tall enough to stand over him. For some reason, his mashed brain told him she was at least ten times that height.

She had long, dark hair that had bright green, glowing stripes in it. It could be from DNA splicing or just some kind of weird effect. Her skin was pale, and he recognized her features from people living in the Asia realm of Earth or at least one of the Japanese-based planets in the Ginga system. Her monolids lifted and two dark, almost black eyes peered at him.

She levitated from her position. As she rose, her green and yellow wings shone. Each metal wing was made of dozens of sharp geometric shapes and fitted into a compartment that jutted out from some kind of jetpack. The jetpack was on the small side with two large jets aiming down and two smaller ones on rotators that pointed to the side. The huge metallic contraption was locked over her butt with five belts, and a distortion wave wiggled around the back of her thighs. Whatever technology she was using to fly wasn’t far from his airboard.

He wasn’t sure where the woman had found the airpack. He had never seen any made quite like it, and it was a bit more advanced that the ones he’d seen before.

The woman neared, but lingered four feet off the ground. Sydney sighed and glanced up at her.

After five seconds of silence, the woman asked, “Who is this?”

Sydney waved a defiant hand. “Mitsuko, this boy followed us.”

Braxden glared at Sydney for a second as he etched the name into his mind—Mit-sue-ko.

Bria shook her head at Sydney and gestured toward him. “His name is Braxden.”

Mitsuko narrowed her eyes. “I don’t remember telling you to bring back any survivors. I just asked you to see how close the pirates were.”

“They’re still by the farm. Two tried to follow us but—” Sydney tucked her lips into her mouth.

“But what, Syd?”

Bria scowled at Sydney. “Braxden saved us.”

Sydney shook her head. “He alerted us that we were being tracked.”

Mitsuko circled Braxden, the mechanics of her airpack shifting and adjusting as she turned. “I thought you didn’t like boys, Syd.”

He craned his head to watch Mitsuko.

“I don’t,” Sydney barked.

“Yet, you bring one back with you. You know they’re like dogs. If you feed one, then they keep coming back.”

“So, can we keep him?” Bria asked with her eyes wide.

Mitsuko descended to the ground. Her wings collapsed into sheets and folded neatly into the airpack. With a glare, she spun around and walked to the ship. “No, he stays here.” She turned toward the other girls. “Wasure, come. It’s time to leave this rotten moon before we rot with it.”

“Hey!” Braxden yelled. “Don’t I get a say?”

Turning around, Mitsuko raised an eyebrow. “Oh? It speaks.”

“Yeah, I can talk. Don’t I get to say something, especially since you guys—er, girls—ladies have been stealing from my farm.”

As her eyes widened, a laugh sprang from Mitsuko’s throat. “I’ll steal from whomever I like. The concept of stealing is that I don’t owe you a favor. Now, if you want to take your supplies back, you’re welcome to try.”

His gaze fell on the four girls bringing other possible stolen items to the ship. Immediately, the girl in the front lowered a container. Reaching behind her, the girl’s hand gripped something. As the sound of metal sliding against metal scratched across his ears, a blade rose above the girl. The weapon was long, at least four feet and about eighteen inches wide. The razor sharp edge glowed in the midday sun. With a grimace, the girl pointed the weapon at him.

Stomach twisting, Braxden put his hands into the air and took a few steps back. “You know, I always liked this moon.”

Cracking a grin, Mitsuko turned away and nodded toward the ship. The razor girl put up her weapon as the other three girls behind her giggled. She picked up her container and continued loading the ship.

Smirking happily, Sydney turned around and followed Mitsuko. He sighed and took a step backward.

After walking over, Bria patted him on the shoulder. “I’m sorry, Braxden. I hope you don’t starve.”

“I’ll try my best.” His best sarcastic grin spread over his lips.

He rubbed Nova across the head and under the chin. The other four girls disappeared up the ship’s loading ramp.

As the engines of the ship roared to life, Braxden stood and watched. His insides burned, but there was nothing to say. There was no way he could fight his way onto a ship with sword fighting super-girls.

After everyone had boarded, Mitsuko grabbed the hydraulic rod to enter the ship. A red laser blast flashed over the grassy area. It whizzed a few inches from his shoulder, the heat leaving a soft burn on his skin. An area near the hydraulic rod exploded. As the boom echoed through the clearing, Mitsuko’s body flew back, hit the loading ramp, and tumbled away from the ship.

Chapter 6 – Witnessing the Impossible

Mitsuko’s body stilled. A wisp of smoke drifted from her shoulder. Bria’s scream echoed down the loading ramp. Without thinking, Braxden dashed to Mitsuko and flipped her over.

Eyes opening, her hand clenched his. She had a large red bruise on her head from some kind of impact.

“You okay?” he asked.

“My shoulder.”

His fingers fumbled with a tear in her shirt. A black spot the side of his fist had been burned into her skin. As knots twisted his stomach, he touched the red outline. Wincing, she cried out.

A dozen more laser blasts came from the trees. Tiny explosions ignited on the ship’s surface and along the grass.

He yanked her body. “C’mon, we need to go.”

She pushed off the ground with her good arm, but her body wouldn’t move. Fingers gripping underneath her arms, he dragged her around to the loading ramp.

Pops sounded as the ship’s jets spun to life. A few moments later, the ship lifted and angled in the air. The loading ramp swung around toward his head. He pressed Mitsuko down and gently lay on top of her, shielding her body. As the ship passed over, the ramp scratched into Braxden’s back. Once the ship cleared, his hand clawed the new wounds along his shoulder blade.

The ship bobbled, but lifted a few feet over them. With a slight whine, the loading ramp closed. About halfway, it stopped, leaving an opening just large enough for someone to fit inside. A second later, the ship lowered in front of Braxden and Mitsuko, shielding them from the laser blasts.

The two metal rods near the ship’s front brightened into a yellow haze. A second later, a disc-shaped mass of energy whizzed over to the tree line. The whole area, at least ten pine trees, burst into flames.

Sydney jumped off the loading ramp which was four feet off the ground. Grimacing, she dashed over.

“Mitsuko! Mitsuko, are you okay?” she screamed.

“We need to get her to the ship,” Braxden said.

“You go. I’ll fight them off.”

He raised an eyebrow and then the other one, causing his forehead to dance. “Me go? What in the world? And what do you think you’re gonna do?”

She was crazy. Thirteen-year-old girls with knives can’t stop space pirates, especially ones with laser rifles. More pirates were probably on their way.

Zipping toward the river, Sydney pulled out the short rod from the back of her belt. With a shake it extended to a five-foot staff. As she ran, she tapped the staff along the ground.

Dust and grass exploded near her feet from laser blasts.

Braxden wrapped Mitsuko’s arm around his shoulder and dragged her toward the loading ramp. Continuous blasts burst along the metal. Pings dotted the side panel and cut through a few wires near the loading ramp. With a glance over his shoulder, he searched for Sydney.

After completing almost a full half circle around the ship and avoiding hundreds of blasts, Sydney sprinted about forty yards in front of the ship and slung a long black needle, almost like a metal chopstick, into the ground. She dashed to her right and four more needles cut into the ground, all about three yards apart.

She leaped into the air. Her hand held the staff as she swung it under her legs and then around her shoulders.

Even though he was steadily moving with Mitsuko, Braxden couldn’t take his eyes away. He had never seen anyone move like that, especially outside of a martial arts movie.

In one swing, she tapped the staff’s edge to all the needles sticking out of the ground. Then she sat down on her right knee with her left leg extended.

Two girls rushed down the ramp. They grabbed Mitsuko’s arms while Braxden lifted her legs. Mitsuko managed to get to her feet and the other girls led her away. Yanking himself onto the loading ramp, Braxden watched Mitsuko disappear inside. After the girls dragged her up a small ladder, Mitsuko hobbled down a tunnel at the top.

Twisting around, Braxden fell on his stomach. The loading ramp was still cracked open. His eyes searched for signs of Sydney, but she still hadn’t moved. She was a sitting duck out in the open.

The pirates noticed too, because the laser blasts stopped. Buzzing, a ringed robot whizzed toward Sydney.

“Look out!” he yelled.

The robot dashed across the sky, lowering down to snatch her. It came within fifty yards, forty yards, thirty, twenty, ten.

Sydney’s back arched, and she opened her eyes. However, instead of seeing one white iris and one green iris, both eyes radiated bright red as though flashlights had been turned on inside her eye sockets. She waved the rod again, tapping each needle once more in the opposite direction.

The surface of the ground rumbled. Braxden turned toward the ship, thinking it was taking off, but it was hovering gently. Gaze falling on the forest, twenty birds took flight. Branches and trunks swayed.

The area around the needles bubbled. Bits of dirt rolled over creating a mound. As a hissing sound cut into his eardrums, dust shot into the air. The ground cracked open and five boulders blasted out. Each shot up at least one story in height. Several were two stories tall.

One of the boulders hit the ring robot and smashed it instantly. It exploded with bits of metal flying into the air.

A small barrier sat before Sydney. Dust rolled off the top of the gigantic rocks, sifting to the ground. Braxden’s mind exploded in slow motion. That was impossible.

The shots from the trees started once more. The red lasers pounded into the new boulder wall, but none could penetrate it.

The glow in Sydney’s eyes faded, and her irises appeared once more. She stood, and with a flick of her wrist, the staff shrunk down to a foot long. After placing it behind her back, she quickened toward the loading ramp.

The bushes across the river wavered. A group of sixteen holobot pirates emerged.

A man darted to the front of the robot pirates. A thick black poncho with light gray etching covered his shoulders and cut at his waist. A decoration of lines and circles marked his right shoulder. The rest of his body was covered in dark heavy clothing. He swept his left arm through the air. For an instant, the sun’s light blinded Braxden, reflecting off a metal hand.

When Braxden’s vision cleared, three holobots had crossed the river and dashed up the bank. Sydney tossed another needle into the ground. Two more boulders rocketed through the grass. A cracking noise cut into the air with a light sizzling sound. He couldn’t see what happened, but only one guard remained.

The final guard leapt and tackled Sydney to the ground. With a twist, her needles tumbled into the grass. Rolling to the side, Braxden dropped from the loading ramp. He dashed over as his breath surged in and out of his mouth.

He didn’t know how she was summoning giant rocks. He didn’t know how she was a ninja at thirteen. He didn’t know why her eyes glowed like flashlights. He didn’t know how any of this was humanly possible, but—unlike the ninja girls—he couldn’t, wouldn’t leave her to die.

The holobot grabbed her wrists and pressed them down. With a large fist, he punched her in the side.

She wailed as Braxden rolled forward. With quick fingers, he scooped up one of the needles off the ground. Within a second, he stood over Sydney and her attacker.

“Stop!” Braxden yelled.

A bluish haze of a face glared up at him, and a smirk rested on the holobot’s lips. “What’re you going to do, boy?”

Braxden hesitated. His heart failed him, and the needle vibrated in his hands.

“Don’t have the heart to kill, I see,” the holobot spat.

“Do it. Pop him!” Sydney yelled.

Braxden stared at her. Pop? What in the world does that mean?

His gaze fell to the needle.

“Do it!” she yelled.

The holobot raised another high fist. Before the holobot could slam it down into Sydney, Braxden dashed over the last few feet. As hard as he could, he rammed the needle into the holobot’s forehead. The holobot’s face spun toward Braxden and twisted into fury. Stepping back, Braxden fell into the grass. The needle stayed lodged in the holobot’s head, but no blood oozed from his wound.

The holobot’s arms rose, and Sydney slid out from under it. She grabbed Braxden’s shoulders, but he couldn’t move. His mind locked in a trace, watching the holobot shake and scream in agony. The holobot’s entire body burned blue, not the normal haze that the holograms usually have over them, but a bright blue like he was a star.

A lightning bolt shot outward from the inside. It was like electricity rolled around underneath the holobot’s skin. It crackled as it slid from his arms to his legs to his face.

The holobot locked eyes with Braxden. “I’ll get you, you little—”

The holobot’s face dissolved, along with the rest of him. A sizzling filled the air. Where the holobot was a moment ago lay a tiny ball about the size of Braxden’s fist. Little electric arcs burst from the ball’s sides.

Sydney crawled over and stomped on the ball, flattening it into a pile of metal and glass.

“Let’s go,” she said.

She grabbed his arm and yanked him toward the ship.

Braxden stared at the other side of the river. The man with the metallic arm stood like a statue. Even though Braxden couldn’t see his eyes, the man’s stare bored holes into his skin—Captain Maddox, the pirate who had killed his uncle. Fury and fear fought in his mind.

Two more blasts came from the ship’s forward guns as Braxden and Sydney hopped on the loading ramp. Once they were inside, the loading ramp ascended to the belly of the ship and locked.

Darkness covered the walls, supplies, and passengers. Angry eyes watched Braxden, almost glowing in the faint red light.

The ship banked, and a ton of weight slammed him into the floor. He glanced at Sydney.  Grimacing, she pressed her hands against the carpeted rungs of the cargo ramp.

Ten seconds later, the feeling subsided. He stumbled to his feet and glanced around the room. Two of the girls he’d seen with the stolen supplies were strapped into seats. Bria was next to them. Nova was in a small kennel on the other side of Bria.

The girls he didn’t know widened their eyes and darkened their expressions. Their gazes slid from Braxden to Sydney and back to him again. One of them shook her head in disgust.

He sucked his lips into his mouth. He was alive, and he’d deal with their boy-issues later.

His gaze fixed on the window right above Nova’s kennel. Like a zombie, he stood and made his way over to the window. Placing both hands on the glass, he stared into the blackness of space. Rison grew into a tiny white and green dot.

At that moment, a new existence dawned on him. He didn’t have a family. The farm he’d lived on for six months was lost. He was in space with at least seven girls who hated boys. These particular girls had some kind of superhero, ninja powers. And for all he knew were enemies of the most notorious space pirates that he had heard of which meant Maddox would come for them sooner or later.

That was not how Braxden thought the day would go.

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Friday, December 13, 2019

Braxden Pan - Chapters 3-4

Braxden Pan Continues...

Chapter 3 – Running for His Life

Snatching Braxden’s shoulder, Cindy forced him through the metal door. As darkness surrounded him, a wet, musky odor of moss and dirt circled his nose. His knees scraped the roots that had grown into the dug-out tunnel. After a deep breath, he crawled forward.

He worked his way forward as the pounding near the doors roared into thunderous booms. Furniture clacked against the walls and floor, growing faint as he went deeper into the tunnel.

Small LED lights flickered every few feet until he saw the brighter light of the Blue Star. Scrambling to his feet, he glanced around. The house was at least a hundred yards away. The three storage barns stood between Braxden, Cindy, and the space pirates.

Four of the pirates marched outside the house. From his new vantage point, Braxden saw them clearly. They were taller and thicker than regular men with bodies that glowed blue. He recognized that they couldn’t be real men, but some kind of weird holographic human.

Uncle Duncan struggled as the holographic pirates yanked him toward the ship. The one-armed man, the only human among them, yanked a pistol away from his belt and aimed it at Uncle Duncan’s midsection.

“Run, Braxden!” echoed over the farm before two white explosions exited the pistol’s end.

The one-armed man put the pistol back in his waist and Uncle Duncan’s body collapsed onto the ground.

Braxden yelled, but Cindy covered his mouth with her hand.

“Quiet,” she said.

Hateful cries bubbled through his chest. Uncle Duncan rolled on the ground before he stopped moving. Two guards stepped over Uncle Duncan’s lifeless body while a third grabbed his arms and drug his body back toward the house.

Cindy took a second glance. Her expression darkened as she turned toward Braxden. Her body flickered like an old computer monitor. “I’m nearing my range,” she said. “I won’t be with you for much longer.”

She grabbed Braxden’s wrist, and they dashed toward the forest. As the world blurred, he fumbled over his legs. He wanted to stop, to cry, or to yell, but he couldn’t. Nothing would matter. Nothing would help. Uncle Duncan was dead.

“You have to keep going, Braxden. Don’t think about turning around to fight. You need to live. One day you can fight back, but only if you live.” Cindy said the words over and over as they ran.

Her body flickered again, and Braxden’s wrist slid through her hand. “What’s happening?” he asked.

“I’m attached to the farm. I can’t go too far outside the perimeter. My computer systems are back with Duncan.”

“But Cindy…”

“Don’t worry about me. I’m not a real person. Thousands of Cindy computer systems exist in the galaxy. I’ll live longer than any human. C’mon, this way,” Cindy whispered.

They dashed through the rows on the far side of the farm. The windmills spun, and tiny blinking lights guided them. As the forest sprung up in front of him, his heart battered his chest into pulp.

A distant whistling sound entered the air. Braxden stopped. His head swiveled to look behind him.

In the darkness Cindy’s eyes tightened. “Go!”

He took off running again, his hands wiping away the burning tears. After slamming into a tree near the forest’s edge, his arms wrapped around the rough bark. A fearful giggle tickled his throat. He had made it.

“Cindy, I made it. Cindy, I—”

Silence blanketed the world. His breath and heartbeat rang in his ears. He spun around toward the farm. A robot made from three circles spun around Cindy’s waist. It analyzed her with a red laser before her hologram burst into a million glowing particles.

“No,” he gasped.

He couldn’t breathe. He could barely think. Knees wobbling, his hands tightened over his stomach. Both Cindy and Uncle Duncan were gone, just like his parents. He had no one.

Two more whistling sounds pinged the air and joined the first. Three circles the size of hula hoops rolled toward him. A small light blinked on the side of each one.

As soon as they noticed him, they sped up. Bits of grass and dirt clouded the air behind them.

His body shook. “Live, find help, live…”

He dashed into the trees. Long grasses and thorns tore at his ankles slowing him down. The darkness thickened because the Blue Star, the only light in the night sky, was blocked by drifting clouds. Tripping over an exposed root, he slammed into the ground. He fumbled up only to trip three more times.

He couldn’t see. His flashlight would only draw the ring robots’ attention.

The light splash of water tickled his eardrums—the river. Uncle Duncan had made an aqueduct from this river to power the house. Centering his mind, he mapped out where he was.

If he could make it over the river, maybe the robots wouldn’t be able to follow. If nothing else, maybe they’d get swept away.

Changing directions, the sound of the river grew into a thick noise like heavy wind. He emerged from the trees and saw the fast-moving river sparkling underneath the Blue Star. He gazed into the sky. A wad of saliva thickened in his mouth as he watched Neverworld’s silhouetted planetary body slide across the sky. Every three days, the planet eclipsed the Blue Star. The world around him was about to go black and cold for thirty minutes. He had to get rid of these robots.

His gaze searched the bank. A few yards down was Uncle Duncan’s fish trap. With a rope stretched across the river, his uncle had set two nets on both sides to catch red salmon. The area was shallow. He could make it.

Braxden zipped along the muddy bank, his boots sticking in the gooey mud. After grabbing the end of the rope, he took a deep breath and jumped into the cold water.

The icy temperature shocked his legs and back. Splashes attacked his face and arms as he waded out into the river while his feet shuffled on slippery algae. With a tug on the rope, he managed to pull his head and torso above the water. His mouth opened. Water sputtered from his throat, and his lungs collapsed trying to force the excess liquid out.

Braxden waded forward. Every so often he checked Neverworld’s position in the sky. It wouldn’t be long before he was completely blind.

A whirring sound spun his head around. The three ring robots rolled around on the riverbank. They wasted no time. The first jumped into the water and was swept away immediately. The panels on the other two blinked wildly.

Before he reached the center, the other two fell flat on the ground and spun. A second later they were airborne. Hovering low over the stream, they flew a few feet from his head.

Trying to keep his feet underneath him, he struggled along the rope. His heart hammered inside his chest.

The robots descended trying to surround his head. He plummeted into the icy water. Using the rope, he tugged along. Lungs tearing inside his chest, he surfaced. The rings dropped, attacking his head like vultures while his free hand fought them off. After taking a deep breath, he ducked back under the water.

One of the robots dived into the stream. Its metal body looped around Braxden’s head and neck. A moment later, its spinning increased. It lifted out of the water, trying to rip Braxden out with it. His fingers pulled tight on the rope, but little by little, he lost his grip. His hand released, and he fumbled over inside the heavy current with the robot around his head and his left shoulder.

Fighting to get free, tiny tentacles shot into his skin stabilizing him. It was like a hundred agonizing bee stings. As the river’s current tossed them to and fro, he tore at the surface of the water and sucked in the largest breath he could to keep from drowning.

The thunderous roar of the waterfall tapped his eardrums. He splashed around toward the noise. His eyes stared at the water’s end and the sprinkling mist.

He waved his arms and kicked his feet as the current twirled around him. He pulled on the robot’s edge, and the water underneath him disappeared. Weightlessness overtook his body before a scream ripped through his throat.


The robot’s tentacles tore away as Braxden and the robot separated.

He slammed into the pool at the waterfall’s base. Lungs collapsing, his breath bubbled out. Rolling through the chilly darkness, he surfaced on his back with his face toward the sky. The last twinkles of the Blue Star lingered in his gaze.

The robot exploded. A bright orange flash widened over the river. It extended for a few seconds and flared before shrinking as a thick boom echoed through the water.

As waves of heat slammed into his face and chest, Braxden dived. A few seconds later, Braxden resurfaced and turned toward the waterfall to see bits of the robot burned in a heap on a boulder. A few metal parts drifted on the current, along with a few oil fires.

The twinkling stars rolled and faded, and the sky disappeared into blackness. The last of the Blue Star’s light faded behind Neverworld’s shadow. As he spun around, diminishing waves of light flickered over the shore line, illuminated only by the robot’s fire.

His tired bones creaked out of the water. Every part of him was sore. Fifty white strings hung from his face, neck, and shoulders where the robot had tried to capture him. As he ripped them off, stings tore at his skin.

He trudged up the bank, wavered and collapsed.

But it wasn’t over.

The last robot’s whistling sound slammed into Braxden. Whipping to his feet, he gazed at the waterfall. The last robot appeared over the top and floated down toward the fire.

“Aww, man…”

As he dashed into the trees, he stretched forward, but his energy was gone. His legs stiffened as invisible pudding gummed around his ankles.

Light from the fire vanished behind the trees, and complete darkness enveloped him.

With nervousness creeping into his veins, Braxden smacked into something hard and tall. Grasping at the sharp edge of a rock wall, he twisted into the darkness. As the whistling strengthened, a glowing ring descended from the sky. The nearby trees and grasses brightened into a pale blue with a flash of pink.

His heart pounded rough and heavy in his chest.

As he grabbed a branch off the ground, the ring robot descended. Breaking away the offshoots, he made a long switch. With a whirring, the robot whizzed down. Braxden swatted it back, but it zigzagged through the air, darting at him.

A bright light radiated from the robot, so bright he could barely see. Closing his eyes, he listened for the constant low whir. When the robot swooped down, he swung the branch with all his might and connected. A crack echoed over the water, and Braxden opened his eyes. After spiraling through the air, the robot crashed into the rock wall. Yellow flames burst from the metal interior.

As the last of his energy left him, the switch fell from his hands. His lungs wheezed. With a wobble, he pulled himself up right.

Before he caught his breath, a dark figure emerged from the shadows. Without a sound, it dashed through the small clearing. It moved like nothing Braxden had ever seen: fast, agile, and small. It took all of his strength just to focus on it.

In the flickering yellow, Braxden noticed one sharp green eye and another angry white eye. With a twirl, the figure kicked him across his temple. He fell backward and glanced into a girl’s face. She stood over him as the firelight brightened for a moment before the last of the flames went out, and his mind faded into darkness.

Chapter 4 – His Worst Fear

A long, slimy tongue rolled across Braxden’s cheek. The shock cracked his eyes open.

As the Orange Sun shone bright overhead, heat pressed into his skin. He focused on an oblong face with two dark eyes and lots of tiny sharp teeth. Spirals of black laced the sides of the white face, neck, and torso. The animal cocked its head to the side and licked him again across the mouth.

“Hey!” Braxden spit into the air, trying to remove an gross taste of fresh tomato and rotted meat.

“Nova, come here,” a happy, almost chuckling, voice said.

The animal drew back onto four tails that were long like a cat’s but furrier like a fox’s. Curling four tiny paws into its stomach, the animal turned toward the voice.

Braxden glanced over, too.

In the shadows of a tree, two girls that looked around his age stared at him. The tallest one had long, brown hair with red streaks throughout. Most of her hair was loose around her head but braided at the shoulder. Fury blasted through him when Braxden noticed her eyes. One iris was green, but the other was almost completely white.

“You!” he screamed at her. “Why did you kick me?”

He struggled to stand, but his arms were tied behind his back and attached to a tree.

The tall girl walked into the light. With a round, tanned face, her green eye sparkled in the sun over a thin nose and small lips. A red shirt with beige shorts and black tights covered her body while gray suede boots lay loose on her feet. His gaze locked onto the two holsters at her waist, complete with knives, and a small looped pouch on her back with some kind of metal stick protruding from it.

She stomped within three feet of his face. “Why did you lead the pirates to us?”

“What? What are you talking about?”

The tall girl yanked the knife out of a sheath on her calf. The blade flashed as the knife neared his throat. “You wanted revenge on us, didn’t you? Admit it.”

“Revenge for what?” he asked.

As she examined him, her eyes tightened. His shoulders weakened as the tip of the blade slid gently across his throat. He gulped and stretched his head back.

“Um, I don’t think he knows,” the other girl said.

Braxden’s gaze landed on the other girl as she strolled out with her arms behind her back. She was dressed similarly to the tall girl, except with lots of orange and peach, several buttons and pins, and only one knife. Her hair was a tangle of dark brown curls. A knitted hat covered the top of her head with two cat-like ears sewn into the pattern while her plump cheeks were covered in stickers. Her skin was a light brown, but it wasn’t tanned. He quickly surmised that she was Latina or from one of the planets in the Puerto Rican sector of space.

“Know what? You guys aren’t making any sense,” Braxden said. “I’m trying to get away from some evil space pirate. I don’t care about some stupid revenge.”

“Told you he didn’t know,” the shorter girl said. “Now what do we do?”

The tall girl sheathed her knife, stood, and shrugged. “I guess we leave him.”

He yanked on the restraints. “Leave me?”

“Do we have to?” the short one asked.

“We don’t have any place for him. And… he’s a boy.” The tall one sneered.

“A boy? What’s that supposed to mean?” Braxden asked.

“C’mon, let’s get back to the others,” the tall one said.

They took a few steps back, and the small one twisted around. He widened his expression, trying to look as innocent and helpless as possible. Maybe the small one might help him. After placing a half-hearted grin on her face, the small one shrugged. “Let’s go, Nova.”

Angling around, the animal released a whine, but uncurled itself and followed them.

“Hey!” Braxden screamed. “At least untie me.”

They disappeared behind the thick foliage, and their footsteps grew faint in the distance. Fury rocked his bones. As he wiggled against the rope, it sliced into his wrists. After kicking the ground, he murmured to himself, “Girls…”


Braxden sat for at least twenty minutes, staring into the distance. His stomach chewed on emptiness, squeezing and tugging on air. Meanwhile his heart burned and his mind raced. What had happened to Cindy? Was Uncle Duncan really dead? They were all the family he had.

A scraping caught his attention. Twisting uncomfortably, he leaned his head out as far as he could, hoping that he could pick up a few sounds. The girls might have come back to free him. That’s what nice people did. Why would they just leave him out here?

“Capture Drone is destroyed,” a deep voice said. “Last transmission indicated the boy was in the area.”

Crap-o-la. The pirates.

Scrambling backward, Braxden searched for a place to hide. His arms pulled on the constraints, trying to break free, but the more he tugged the tighter the knots became. As the pirates neared, he wiggled back and forth. His mind buzzed to know the type of knot looped around his wrists. Pushing his back as close to the tree as possible, his fingertips slid over the rope’s edges.

The more he studied the knot, the more he recognized there was nothing fancy about the way the rope was tied. It had to be a basic slip knot. He had been tied with the same method someone would use to catch a rabbit. How could he be so stupid? No wonder the tall girl wasn’t worried about freeing him.

After stretching his wrists apart with a slight wiggle, the rope loosened. Soon, he was able to get one hand out. Twisting around, he yanked the other one from the rope.

Boots crunched the forest grass. With his breath locked in his chest, he tracked backward. As quietly as possible, he snuck through the brush away from the pirates. He lowered his head and worked his way away from the stream, up the ridge, and back toward the house. Maybe this was what Cindy wanted. If the pirates separated, there might be a chance he could get help.

Before he reached the edge of the farm, dark smoke covered the sky. His nose itched and his lungs ached. The sooty remnant of ash lingered on his tongue.

Leaping on a tree trunk, he pulled himself up. Right outside his house the spaceship sat on the once grassy plain. At least a dozen glowing holographic pirates walked around with tools examining the area. At the edge of the farm, two pirates with blowtorches set fire to the crops and windmills. Near the front, a burning body lay at the edge of the house near the small bridge.

Tears welled in his eyes. The last of his family was engulfed in flames. He hadn’t known Uncle Duncan that long, but his uncle had been nice to him. Braxden’s gaze fell to the place where his room had been. All of his stuff, pictures of his parents, his GameMouse, everything was gone. And without the equipment in the house, he couldn’t contact any help. Even Ms. Sloan lived over two hundred miles away.

He had failed.

He bit into his lip and stared at the endless dark smoke engulfing the moon of Rison. He didn’t know what to do. He had no one.

His stomach squeezed. He needed food. The girls had to have food. They had to be the ones that stole their supplies. That must be what the taller girl thought he wanted revenge for. Cindy would scold him for feeling sorry for himself. She wanted him to live. He had to keep going.

Sliding down the tree, Braxden backtracked to the edge of the ridge. From there, he searched for a sign. After fifteen minutes, he found a set of tight claw marks about five feet high on one of the maple trees. The pirates might not notice it, but he knew the plants and animals of Rison like the back of his hand. He was a plant and soil scientist’s—uh, farmer’s—nephew, after all.

As the Orange Sun beat down on him, he dashed through the woods. Near the canyon, two pirates crept through the trees. They had found the same trail—crap.

He cut across the path and sped through the thicker trees to the south. He needed to catch up to the girls and warn them about the pirates. Luckily, he was well rested. Unluckily, he was still hungry. With every step his stomach screamed inside his torso.

His feet slammed into the thick grass. Drifting about seventy-five yards out, he changed course to run parallel to the pirates. He didn’t know how far the girls had traveled, but the memory of the crop circles flashed to his mind. They had to be heading back toward whatever made them.

As he dodged trees and jumped over rocks, he understood how the girls had done it. They must have entered the moon’s atmosphere on the far side. Once they were a few miles away, they probably dipped into the canyon and used it to travel unseen. After anyone on the farm headed to sleep or away, the girls would zoom in, grab as much stuff as they could, and blast off. But something happened, something went wrong. The pirates must have found them. The two girls must be scouts, sent to see if anyone was following or on the trail of the thieves.

Braxden dashed up a little hill and found a clearing. After lifting his binoculars to his eyes, his gaze slid over the plains. In a few seconds, he spotted the two girls and the four-tailed animal. They were still about a mile away from what appeared to be a small cargo ship. The two pirates walked about one hundred and fifty yards behind the girls.

Braxden didn’t waste time, and dashed down the hill. He only wished he had taken his airboard last night. If he had, he’d be there in a heartbeat. It was still at the house, probably burning into dust.

It took him a little over a minute to close the distance. He thought about calling out, but the pirates might hear and the tall girl would probably slice him in two with that knife before he got the chance to explain.

Forcing a wad of saliva down his throat, his eyes closed for a second. He needed a plan to get the tall girl to listen without being sliced into confetti.

Thirty yards away, the tall girl noticed him. She yanked her knife from its sheath. After the knife twirled around in the air, she grabbed the tip of the blade. Before he could think or speak or scream, she flung the knife. A flash of light announced just enough of its presence before a wave of pain blasted up his left arm. Warm blood oozed down his skin as the knife thudded into a tree.

Continuing forward, he ducked his head. With quick movements, his arms wrapped around the smaller girl. With a yank, he pulled the smaller girl backward and almost slid into the ground. The tall girl stood five yards away while the four-tailed animal held its ground on a tree trunk. White and black fur spiking, it hissed.

“Let her go!” the tall girl said, her face darkening.

“Wait, listen,” Braxden said.

“No, you listen.” She pulled out another knife, this one from behind her back. “I don’t miss often. You don’t want to take chances with me.”

He studied her face and her sharp eyes. She wasn’t playing. The trickle of blood running down his arm was a great—no, awesome—warning.

“There are pirates,” Braxden said.

“Whatever. You’re lying.”

“There are. I’m trying to warn you.”

The short girl bit into his hand. He yanked it away from her mouth and waved it to calm the sting. He had never met girls so violent before.

“Maybe we should listen to him,” the short girl said.

“Why? He’s probably lying.” The taller one’s face twisted into a scowl.

“We don’t want to lead pirates back to the camp. Wasn’t that the whole point of our adventure? Can’t we just take five minutes to see?”

He reached around his back and held up his binoculars. “Here, use these.”

The tall girl marched over and snatched them out of his hand. “Where?” she asked.

Braxden pointed behind him.

She put the binoculars to her eyes and made a few quick adjustments with her fingers.

Deep breaths echoed in his ears and hot air shot from his nostrils. His arm and hand sent pulses of pain into his confused brain. Without thinking, he rewrapped his arms around the other girl in a soft hug.

“Uh, you can let me go now,” the shorter one said.

“Oh, yeah.” His cheeks heated, and he released her from his grip.

She wiggled free and stood up straight. After dusting herself off, she gave him a grin and followed it with a head shake. The four-tailed animal jumped onto her shoulder and tightened itself around her upper body. After she petted it, she tapped the taller girl on the shoulder.

“So?” the short girl asked.

“Two of them,” the tall girl said before letting the binoculars fall to her side. “And they have at least one of those ring robot things.”

“See, aren’t you glad we listened? Boys aren’t so bad. He’s a good one.”

The tall one eyed him. Something in her stare sent shivers into Braxden’s chest. “The only good boys are dead boys.”

He fumbled backward. His arms rose slightly. “Hey, I take offense to that.”

The short girl laughed, but the tall girl rolled her eyes.

“Take all the offense you want,” the tall one said. She ran over to the tree and retrieved her knife. Braxden tore off a piece of his shirt and wrapped his arm. Afterward, he covered the blood stained ground with leaves.

“Over here,” the short one whispered. Braxden and the tall girl dashed over the roots of a large tree. The far side was just enough room for all three of them to fit and not be seen.

Less than two seconds after they were settled, the pirate footsteps vibrated the ground beneath them.

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Braxden Pan - Chapters 1-2

I'm putting some chapters of Braxden Pan my first Middle Grade/Light Novel (Ranobe) book online to see what people think about it. So if you happen to come upon this blog, please comment and let me know how you are enjoying the story. My style is a hybrid of both Middle Grade and Ranobe books, so this is a great chance for me to understand how the market will accept it. So far my beta readers and editors have been extremely supportive. Hopefully this will find more people who can give me some feedback.

Thanks and I hope you enjoy.

Braxden Pan and the Lost Girls - Journey to Neverworld

Chapter 1 – Mystery of Crop Circles

Laughter tickled Braxden’s eardrums as he stared at the rolling fields of corn. He glanced around him, searching for the source of the sound. He wasn’t laughing and neither was his uncle, yet whispers of giggles played in his ears.

“You find anything, Brax?” a deep voice asked.

Rising, he glanced at a thin man who was silhouetted by the setting sun. Red and orange radiated from behind the man, forcing Braxden’s eyes into slits. Searching the gigantic crop circle he stood in, Braxden bent down and ran his fingers over one of the green corn stalks near the root. The surface was smooth, not cracked or splintered. A few distant happy sounds spun his head toward the distance where something with wings like a dragonfly flitted away.

Unease twisted his stomach into knots. “Just another set of circles, Uncle Duncan. Same pattern as last time: one big one surrounded by four on the front end and two on the back end.”

The crop circle was larger than the tractor on the far side of the farm. Curiosity filling his mind with questions, he stepped to the crop circle’s edge. A few wisps of smoke drifted upward. Kneeling, his hand ran over the area and warmth pooled into his palm.

Uncle Duncan wiped his forehead with his hat. “Sure wish whatever it was would stop landing in this field. I’ve had to replant twice so far.”

“Any luck with the cameras this time?”

“Same as last time. They’re fried. Every last one.”

“Maybe it’s time to pack up and head back to Paleo Prime.” Standing, Braxden gave the old man a sly grin and circled his arms in a little dance. He hated Rison, and the fact that the dead planet Neverworld darkened the sky every few days. He preferred to be back on Earth, but he had been on Rison for the last six months, since his parents had died.

After cracking a smile, Uncle Duncan placed a heavy hand on Braxden’s head. With a quick twist of his uncle’s wrist, Braxden’s dark hair angled over his head like a porcupine.

“Sorry you have to be way out here, Brax. I don’t think I’d want to spend my middle school years on some deserted moon, but I’m an agricultural scientist.”

Braxden lifted an eyebrow.

Uncle Duncan rephrased his words. “Farmer. Anyway, I can’t head back to normal life across the galaxy. Rison is my home and yours for now. Sure wish we had more family somewhere in the cosmos, but my momma only had two kids. ‘Sides, with the Universal War ending and all the planets and systems in a tumble, it might be years before all that’s sorted out.”

With a chuckle, he punched Braxden lightly in the arm. “When your dad and me were your age, we spent most of our summer days playing basketball and searching for tadpoles in the creek. One thing I’ll give Rison, and even intergalactic space travel, there’s lots of cool stuff that I would have never dreamed of back on Earth. You’ll find something to keep you busy.”

“It would be easier if there was someone to talk to. I’m condemned to live on an empty moon at the edge of the universe.” Braxden lifted his hands in protest.

His uncle’s face tightened. “Condemned? It’s 3259. Braxden, very few people live on Earth anymore. And Rison’s not empty. We’ve got good ol’ Ms. Sloan living just a few hundred miles south.”

Braxden’s shoulders slumped. “Ms. Sloan is ancient. Every time I see her, I swear she looks like she wants to knit me a sweater or something.”

“You’ll be old too someday. You won’t be thirteen forever.” Uncle Duncan rolled his eyes. “At least, let’s hope not.” He took a few steps toward the house. “I’ll call Hudson over after dinner and have him take a look.”

Twisting, Braxden put his hands on his hips. “The fairies are just mocking us.”

Uncle Duncan’s face darkened for a moment before his eyebrows lifted. “Fairies again. Really Brax? There are no fairies, not on this moon or on any other known planet. Get your mind out of your fantasy books and into reality.”

“It’s not fantasy books, maybe RPG games.” Waving his arms around, Braxden raised his eyebrows. “I’ve seen them. I’ve seen the fairies.”

“Maybe it’s some new species of animal or bird. They have glowing birds on Kensington: red, blue, you name it.”

“They are not birds. They move like people, and I’ve heard giggles. Girly giggles.”

Uncle Duncan raised an eyebrow. “I thought you had forgotten what a girl sounds like.”

“It’s only been six months since Earth.” Braxden narrowed his eyes. “Besides, I’ve seen them from my window. The fairies have large silvery wings and only come out at night.”

“Braxden, for the millionth time, there are no fairies. Fairies are not flying in and leveling my newly planted cornfield. Not to mention stealing half the stuff on the farm.”

“That’s what they do. They are bad and playful and stuff.”

Placing two fingers to his temple, his uncle walked off. “I’m calling Hudson. I doubt he believes in fairies.”

A few crickets chirped in the growing silence.

Braxden spun, staring at the distant trees and mountains. “I’m telling you. It’s fairies.”

After Uncle Duncan was fifteen yards away, Braxden shrugged and yanked his airboard out of the dirt. He had wanted a hoverboard, but the magnetic fields in the planetary system made it difficult to use hoverboard tech. The airboard was a good alternative. They worked pretty much the same, except airboards used concentrated air to fly.

Hopping on, he thumbed the controller in his palm. A familiar low hum radiated beneath the airboard as circular lights blinked on.

An airy giggle tapped his eardrums, and the weight of several stares gnawed against his neck. Pausing, his head whipped around. As his back tightened, he glanced into the surrounding field. Two glowing sets of eyes stared at him. After he took a step forward, a light breeze lifted some dust and sent it across his gaze. He blinked the dust away. When his vision cleared, the sound and the eyes were gone.

“I know you’re out there!” he yelled. “Whatever you are.”

After shaking his shoulders, he let the weirdness slide down his arms. Gaze locking onto the small hills below the mountains, the Orange Sun disappeared behind the high peaks as the Blue Star rose for night. He’d prefer to have Earth’s huge moon for a nightly light, but the Blue Star’s light was growing on him. It twinkled brightly like a huge firefly.

Purple coloring spread across the night sky as two white comets zoomed in front of a massive dusty galaxy. The nearest planet, Terra9, also called Neverworld, glowed a pale blue and covered half the stars. Living on a distant world so far from Earth was cool and scary at the same time. However, most days, his heart ached for Earth.

“C’mon, Brax! Cindy’s got food ready,” Uncle Duncan yelled from thirty yards down the path.

Braxden’s head craned toward his uncle before turning back toward the field. After a few seconds, he shook the airboard controller around his palm before angling his hand forward. As the airboard’s downward jets spun, he zoomed into the farm’s maze of corn, tomato, cucumber, and bean stalks.

A giggle drifted lightly on the breeze followed by a faint “Shhhhhhh.”

In the distance, tall fanlike windmills rotated with the breeze but were barely visible with the darkening sky. Braxden zipped around a few corners, spinning right and then sliding left. He leapt over the top of the two rocks near the center of the farm. A few seconds later, he ducked under a spiny cluster of vines.

Braxden slowed as Uncle Duncan’s house came into view. It was an old looking house with concrete block on one side and wooden planks lining the other. A waterwheel rotated slowly on the concrete side while a constant, rhythmic splash echoed into the night.

Hopping off the board, Braxden hooked it under his arm. The wood of the twelve-foot-long bridge squeaked as he stomped to the front door. With a tight mouth, he hit the door with his left hip. The door popped and then creaked open. A blue hologram of a woman raised an eyebrow. Thin glasses sat on her pointed nose while her hair flowed down her back. As her long legs stepped toward Braxden, he twirled in a little dance. “Cindy, I’m hooooome.”

“Braxden, be careful. There is something called a knob,” she said plainly. After crossing her arms, she glared at him. “Did you and Duncan find the cause of the crop circles?”

“Nope, not really. I personally think I know, but Uncle Duncan doesn’t believe me.”

Sniffing the air, the rich scent of sautéed tomatoes and ground beef filled Braxden’s nostrils. He glanced at the holographic housekeeper. At times she could be a bit of a pain, but she was a great cook. At least Uncle Duncan had someone to talk to. Being alone on this moon was enough to drive anyone crazy.

Cindy’s head tilted. “I would like to know your conclusion. What is causing the crop circles?”

A knotted rope hung down from a hole in the ceiling. Braxden grabbed the rope which led to the loft that doubled as his room. After a wide stretch, he glanced back at her. His torso hung over the floor with only his toes barely touching the hardwood. “Fairies.”

Her forehead tightened. “Fairies?”

“Yep, girls with wings that make the grass grow and the mountains rise. Some can even talk to animals or change the weather.”

“You’re speaking illogically. Fairies are figments of fiction. They don’t exist in real life.”

“I’m telling you, it’s fairies. Besides, why can’t there be fairies in the universe? I heard about horses with wings on one planet. So why not fairies?”

Her eyes turned toward the distance. “I will research these fairies. Perhaps you have some logic to your theory. I’m curious as to what have you been reading that leads you to that conclusion?”

“Reading?” He reached in his pocket and pulled out his GameMouse video game system. Unfolding the sides, he held it out with his right hand while his left hand continued to hold the rope.

“Fairies vs Mechs!” He grinned as the game music started.

Glancing over, she cocked her head to the side. “A game is not a good basis for a scientific theory. I will speak to Duncan.”

“Speak to me?” Uncle Duncan said, entering the room.

She turned toward him. “Fairies? Your nephew has theorized fairies in the field.”

Uncle Duncan sighed and ran a hand over his black hair. “Brax, we just talked about this.”

“Yeah, and I told you there are fairies stealing our stuff.” Braxden grabbed the rope and tugged upward into his room. Once there, he put the video game down and grabbed his binoculars.

As he busied himself searching for fairies outside in the darkness, Cindy and Uncle Duncan continued their conversation.

“I think he knows there aren’t any fairies,” Uncle Duncan said.

“Does he? I’m not sure. His tone seems to indicate a bit of sarcasm, but I’m not programmed to fully understand adolescent children. As of now, I would declare him a lunatic.”

“Cindy, he’s not a lunatic.”

“He’s thirteen years old and believes in fairies. In all of the known universe there has never been any scientific proof that they exist.”

“He probably just sees something and doesn’t know what he’s seeing.”

“His testimonies are too specific. Giggles, silvery wings, the fact that they are always girls?”

“Maybe he’s lonely. There are no children his age around here.”

“Perhaps you’re right. Maybe it’s loneliness.” Cindy paused. “Maybe it was wrong to have brought him so far from Earth.”

Uncle Duncan sighed. “He’ll be okay. He’s a smart boy, crazy smart. I’m sure he’ll be fine. Just give him some time.”

Silence passed through the house as Braxden turned his ear toward the open floor in his loft. Drops of sadness crept into his heart. He missed Earth and his parents, but it was his fault he was here on Rison. Deep within him, he knew it was. So there was no time for complaining or worrying. He had to be strong and learn to adapt.

“If he does require a mental health professional, I’m not sure if we are equipped on Rison,” Cindy said. “You may need to consider sending him back to Earth.”

“There’s nobody out there. I’m all he has.”

“Maybe you’re not enough.”

Rolling toward his window, Braxden stared into the night before locking eyes with his reflection. As his fingertips tapped on the glass, a wave of emptiness filled his chest.

“I’ll go talk to him,” Uncle Duncan said.

The rope squeaked as Uncle Duncan pulled on it. Braxden glanced at the rope for a second and then glanced back out the window toward Neverworld glowing in the night sky.

“Brax, I’m—”

An alarm sounded. Twisting around, Braxden stuck his head through the hole of his loft. Uncle Duncan was nowhere to be seen, but an eerie red light blinked in the kitchen.

Chapter 2 – Invading Pirates

Braxden slid down the rope and hung a few feet off the ground. Hunching, Uncle Duncan stared at one of the old computers at the far edge of the living room. The monitor was old and greenish, but the pixels on the screen formed some kind of V-shaped spaceship. A red light strobed over Uncle Duncan’s face and warped Cindy’s hologram.

She stepped toward him. “What is it?”

“Don’t know,” Uncle Duncan said flatly.

Cindy shuffled back and forth, her arms angling around. “Why would someone be out here? This is a research moon. I can’t calculate any legal scenarios.”

Uncle Duncan pushed away from the computer. Scraping against the ground, his chair slid backward before he rose to his feet. “True. Beyond a few spots, there’s not much out here for anybody to get rich or even care about.”

Cindy’s gaze locked onto Braxden’s. “Should we—”

Uncle Duncan spun in a circle. “I’ll send a message down to Hudson. Our old bucket can’t outrun any real starship if it comes to that. Maybe they’re friendly and just want directions.”

“I’ll prepare the escape route just in case.”

After a nod, Uncle Duncan locked eyes with Braxden. Silence enveloped both of them, before a smile curled on Uncle Duncan’s lips. “C’mon, Brax, let’s eat.”


Sitting at the dinner table, Braxden swirled thin noodles around his fork before pressing them into the thick red sauce that sat on top. After getting just the right amount of sauce, mushrooms, and cheese, he pulled the spaghetti into his mouth and chomped.

His GameMouse beeped. One of his Mechs was stuck in a swamp. After a fairy appeared from under the Mech, she whizzed off toward an enchanted castle near the far end of the screen.

Uncle Duncan narrowed his eyes and leaned over to see the screen. “What’s that all about, Brax?”

Braxden spun the screen around. “Oh um, the fairies are really clever. If you aren’t paying attention, they will trick you and destroy your Mech before you can get it to the war.”

“It’s not one of those shoot-everything-that-moves games?”

A laugh rolled over Braxden’s tongue. “Nah, this is a strategy game.”

Face tightening, Uncle Duncan drew back. “Strategy? When I played video games it was all about blowing stuff up or putting a ball through some kind of net or hoop or something.”

Cindy’s hologram flickered. “It seems Braxden is a thinker, not a fighter. Is it not true that he skipped two whole grades and still performed better than many of the other students before he left Earth?”

Uncle Duncan’s expression loosened. He eyed Braxden for a moment before smirking. “Well…” The word dragged from his lips. “I don’t want him to think he’s too smart. But I guess it can’t be helped. His father was an astrophysicist. I’m the only dummy around here.”

“Not according to the SpaceNet. You and your brother were considered geniuses in your respective fields,” Cindy said. “Not everyone can understand plant and soil science.”

“Farming,” Uncle Duncan corrected. “Tell anybody anything else, and they’ll stare at you like you’ve lost your mind.” He narrowed his eyes at Cindy. “When the next computer guy comes through this part of the galaxy, I’ll make sure he tunes your logical algorithm a bit. You’re making me a bit self-conscious.”

“Oh? I’m sorry. I only wanted to point out your good qualities.”

An intense light cut through the windows and expanded over the room. The front door and windows rattled. Outside, a huge spaceship descended from the sky. Its massive wings folded back over the hull while massive blue jets burned the grass field in front of the house.

Braxden leapt from his seat and ran around the table. Standing, Uncle Duncan grabbed Braxden’s arm and yanked. “Stay back, Brax.”

“Who is it?” Braxden asked.

Uncle Duncan’s eyes locked onto Cindy’s. The light glowed around the edges of his head, silhouetting his face. A moment passed before Cindy reached out, grabbed Braxden’s arm, and slowly pulled Braxden toward her. Electric pulses radiated over Braxden’s skin. Holographic beings used electric and magnetic forces to move things in real space. As he stared at Cindy, his skin tingled. With a deep computerized breath, she wrapped her arms around Braxden’s body.

Uncle Duncan watched them for what seemed like an eternity. The time in the room slowed, and the air stiffened. He nodded, smiled, and turned toward the door.

“I’ll go see what our new neighbors want,” he said.

Itchy centipede legs climbed up Braxden’s spine. He shook his head and took a step forward, but Cindy increased her grip.

“No, Braxden,” she whispered.

Opening the door, his uncle disappeared into the light. As the door shut, a light click tapped against Braxden’s eardrums. The lock on the door spun and extended. Staring at the lock, confusion and worry prickled Braxden’s skin.

Uncle Duncan’s shadow spread over the walls as he moved toward the spaceship. Cindy released Braxden, and they crept toward the living room window. The light drew them forward like moths to a bright, burning flame.

Braxden’s eyes squinted and searched the intense brightness. Tiny red lights flickered near the wings while a string of blue lights illuminated in repeated succession.

“Who are they? And what do you think they want?” Braxden asked, his fingers tightening over the window seal.

“They have a cloaking device on board. I’m also picking up faint radio scramblers. From that and the look of their ship, I’d wager they are defectors from the war. In this part of the galaxy, we’d consider them pirates.”

Braxden’s eyes searched the side of the ship where a symbol of a half-skull and half-moon shone brightly in the darkness. A chill rattled down his spine.

 “What do they want with Uncle Duncan?”

Cindy’s eyes rotated toward Braxden’s. Thin lines wrinkled the skin at the edges of her computerized face. “Probably the supplies.”

“But we’ll starve. The fairies already took everything.”

“I think it’d be wise to not concern yourself with the fairies.” She shook his arm. “Braxden, real danger is before us.”

She turned back toward the window. With a tug, he pulled away.

“What are you—?” she started.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going outside. I’m going to my room.”

He ran to his rope and grabbed the knots. With quick hands, he yanked his body into his room and grabbed his binoculars.

The intense light poured into the binocular lenses, making it impossible to see. He bit his lip and searched his mind for an answer. A second later, his fingers fiddled with a few controls. The view switched from standard to heat signature.

With the gigantic engines tossing around waves of heat, the view was muddled. However, near the front of the ship, three men stood. Two faced away, but one turned toward the ship—Uncle Duncan.

Uncle Duncan’s figure glowed with bright reds and greens. The other two men barely registered with faint blues. The only way to focus on them was a warping circle of yellow heat near what should have been their hearts.

A steam blast poured from around the loading ramp. A man descended. Unlike the other two, his body registered like Uncle Duncan. The only difference was that his heat signature didn’t extend beyond his left elbow.

Lowering the binoculars, Braxden cracked his window. His head turned slightly to give his ears a better chance of hearing. After a few seconds, he faintly registered a few words.

“Why have you come here?” Uncle Duncan asked. “We are just farmers. We don’t have anything.”

The one-armed man looked toward the sky before turning his attention back to Uncle Duncan. “I don’t give a ‘verse about your tiny farm…” The man’s voice was deep, and his words rolled like acid. “I’ve come for something… a bit out of the ordinary.”

“Out of the ordinary?”

“Yes. I think you may have found what I’ve been searching the whole galaxy for.”

“I’m… I’m not sure what you are talking about?”

The one-armed man lifted a small thin box. He tapped something on the side, and Uncle Duncan’s voice radiated out. “Hudson, can you come down after dinner?… Yeah, crop circles again. Don’t know why.… I know… It’s weird. Braxden swears he heard giggles.… Yes, girl giggles. He says that there are fairies in the field. … Do you believe that? Fairies?”

The one-armed man clicked his finger again, and the sound stopped.

Uncle Duncan leaned back. “I’m sorry. It’s my nephew. He has these weird ideas. But what can you do? He’s barely a teenager.”

The one-armed man edged forward. “Oh, I believe your… nephew? I’ve traveled over half the galaxy and I do believe in fairies. I do. I do.”

The man turned to another guy behind him and gestured with his head. The second man dashed forward and grabbed Uncle Duncan.

Cindy’s voice cut through Braxden’s mind and echoed around the house. “Braxden! Get down here. Get down here, now!” The rope to Braxden’s loft snapped tight.

Dread tightened around Braxden’s chest. The second man punched Uncle Duncan in the stomach before cracking a rifle butt over the back of Uncle Duncan’s head.

Braxden’s insides twisted into uncomfortable knots.

“Braxden Pan, get down here, now!” Cindy screamed.

Locking his binoculars on his hip, Braxden dashed to the rope. He slid down to find her eyes wide with shock.

“Cindy, what’s happening?” he asked.

Her hands slid over his face and through his hair. “I’m getting you out of here.”

“What are you talking about?”

A tight grip wrapped around his left hand. With his feet fumbling, Cindy yanked him deeper into the house. They dashed through the kitchen and into the walk-in cupboard. After shutting the door, she slammed a metal bar across it.

Her face was tight, eyes zigzagging.

Confused, Braxden’s pulse throbbed in his neck. He glanced back toward the door as though he could see his uncle’s crumpled body. “What are you doing? We can’t leave Uncle Duncan.”

“Braxden, all of my programming is based on saving you. That is what must happen now.” She whipped her head around, and her eyes locked onto his. “Duncan will join you if he can make it. I have to try to get you to the forest and stay out of his way.”

Braxden grabbed the metal bar at the door. “But—”

His body spun around outside his control. Cindy’s eyes widened. “This is not a game, Braxden. I believe that is Captain Maddox’s ship.”

Braxden’s throat dried at the mention of that name. Cindy and Uncle Duncan had explained about a ruthless pirate named Maddox. He was supposed to be unstoppable. The space navy had done everything to try and stop him over the last seven years.

Several years ago, a military squad of five found a way onto his ship. He lost an arm. Four of the squad members lost their lives. Only one survived to tell the tale.

Cindy shook his shoulders. “Braxden, we have to go.”

Thunderous booms echoed throughout the house. Braxden and Cindy stared at each other and then toward the pantry’s closed door. The pirates were coming into the house.

Releasing Braxden, she yanked a few crates of food out of the way. On the other side was a small metal door. She placed her hand into the door and a laser rolled over the frame. Less than a second later, the door popped open.

“Get in!” she yelled.

Full Book Available on Amazon.com

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

2020 Is On The Way

Hello anyone/and everyone,

Well, it looks like I haven't updated this blog in 5 years. And I have a good reason for that, in fact lots of good reasons:

Messengers Books 1 & 2, Live Action Short Film
Braxden Pan and the Lost Girls Books 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5

Not to mention a few series that I started and never made it past Chapter 1.

Anyhoo, the Young Adult Series didn't pan out as well as I liked. I'm hoping to do better with Braxden Pan which will come out in 2020.

I plan on putting a few chapters up here for people to read. Maybe, I can get some feedback before I publish this time. So I'll do some research tomorrow and hopefully put up Chapters 1 & 2.

So we'll see how this new era of book writing goes.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Big Sur Writers Conference Review (Andrea Brown Literary Agency)


After the Tennessee Writer’s Workshop, I was eager to go to the Big Sur Writers Conference. I wasn’t excited about the long trip to California though. The ladies at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (ABLA) recently announced they were branching out with a new conference in Denver. So it’s a little closer, but I hope one day they may make it to the East Coast. The reason why I care is because the conference was great. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Big Sur is located about 150 miles below San Francisco. When the paperwork told me it would take 3 and a half hours to get there, it was 100% accurate. While California’s highway/Interstate system is no reflection on the conference, California could use a bit of improvement to speed things along. In Georgia, 150 miles means 2 hours.

Because of available flights, I arrived at the conference exactly one hour late. I missed much of the introductions. However, Magnus Toren noticed me walk in and immediately caught me up on what I needed to do and where I needed to go. Within ten minutes, I was ready.

Immediately after the introductions, we are all sent to our first group meeting. Big Sur schedules two groups of four to five authors that you will meet with two times over the course of the conference.

Fr Ex: You will be assigned to a Group A and a Group B. (There will likely be Groups A-M) Group A may have 4 authors and Group B may have 5. You’ll meet with Group A for 2 hours after the introductions but before dinner. For me that was Friday at 3:30PM til 5:30PM. After dinner, you’ll return to your room to perform rewrites or just enjoy yourself in whatever you like. (There is no TV, WiFi, or Cell Phone Signal, so bring a book. ;-) ) The next morning you have breakfast, meet with Group B, have lunch, improve your work, meet with Group A again, then Dinner and more writing. On the final day, you meet with group B in the morning, have lunch, then depart. Twice there were other one hour programs where you could ask the editors who were a part of the conference questions and/or ask about query letters.

Each of the groups will have one professional person in them: an agent, author, or editor. I had one author and one agent. In the sessions, you’ll read from your work approx. 3 to 7 pages because of time. Then for 15 to 20 minutes the group and the professional will discuss the work. For me this was extremely helpful. While I’m a part of a writer’s group and I’ve had my work read by over 20 people, I had never had a professional give me feedback. There is a huge difference in vision. While a beta reader/group reader has insight (generally into the story), they are also patient. I’ve learned that an average beta will give me over 10 chapters to get into the story (my chapters are small for MG). But an agent makes up their mind in 3-5 pages most of the time. So I needed to know what I was doing wrong and how to fix it.

Unfortunately, your group members may not be writing in the same age group. This is where the largest problem for me personally came where one PB writer just couldn’t get into my story and had major problems with it while the other MG and YA writers had no problems at all. For the same PB writer, I had little to no words of help because I don’t write nor read PB. So we clashed slightly, but not in a way in which either one of us was rude, just that we didn’t have much helpful advice. (The groups encourage everyone to comment about everyone else’s work. So we both felt compelled to say something.)

I personally took every opportunity to improve my manuscript. So after each session I spent at least 90 minutes updating my first 3-10 pages. You don’t have to do this. Many writers did no updates at all and just reread their unchanged work in their Group B to make sure that Group B had similar opinions to Group A. Remember, you’re getting the opinions of both fellow authors and professionals. So depending on how much weight you give one of your fellow authors vs the professionals will determine how you may want to precede. You can also bring multiple projects which some people did.  In that way you can read one project to your Group A and another to your Group B.


All of the meals were prepared in a restaurant which is a part of the Big Sur Campgrounds. The food was good. The food was prepared buffet style and care was taken to make sure there were Gluten Free options. Most of the professionals were friendly, but I’ll admit it was like being nine years old again and trying to find a place to sit on the bus. At the first meal, the guy authors crowed one side of the room while the women were on the other side. (Very preteen of us) By the time we made it to breakfast, friends were starting to develop, and I could tell groups of people had come to the conference together. The professionals don’t come up to you and make sure that you are okay. They look for places to sit like everyone else and if there is a vacant spot they sit with you. Sometimes they sit with their friends, but not always. (There did seem to be two “agency tables” though. Back to middle grade. LOL) I sat with three authors at one meal, and two agents at two other meals. Everyone was super nice. So there weren’t any issues, just a few awkward moments that can’t be helped.


The accommodations consists of cabins, either one room or two rooms. Some authors chose to save money by signing up to share a two room cabin. If you do decide to share, the cabins are huge and the rooms are more than large enough. I decided to pay extra for my own cabin because for one I was coming from the East Coast which means my morning would be different than an another author who may be coming from the West Coast. Also I’m a light sleeper and I didn’t want to have someone making coffee, stomping around, and typing in the morning or late at night when I would be sleeping.

Each cabin feels like a tiny townhouse complete with a kitchen, pots, and dishes (cups, silverware, plates). I barely used the kitchen except to make Breakfast Tea to wake me up. (I don’t drink coffee)  If you are going to drink Coffee/Tea grab sugar/creamer/tea bags at the meals at the restaurant because the kitchen only has a few items and mine had no real sugar but sweet-n-low and Splenda. I was lucky I had some sugar in my bag from the trip up. Also bring a few snacks to have in the room. You won’t have time to go shopping, so if you get the nibbles you’ll need something to tide you over. And for me, I was waking up 3 hours before everyone because my brain was on Eastern Standard Time.

The cabins had one central heating source which seemed to be gas. If you turned it on, a small furnace like thing would ignite and heat the area around it. It heats up slowly. If you want to have a warm cabin turn this on before dinner. If you like it cold then adjust it accordingly. There was no air conditioning that I could find, but there was a fan in my room. Many of the Group meetings are also done in the cabins and for cooling the Group professionals just opened the doors and windows. For the time of year, it was comfortable. At night it was cool, so I found myself doing my writing three feet from the furnace.

My cabin also had a great sky light. When I lay in the bed I could see the stars – beautiful.

As I said earlier, there is no WiFi or Cellphone signal. In some areas around the campsite, I was able to get one bar out of five. This caused many people to be distressed as family members may have not known that you have made it safely, especially if like me, you’re coming from far away. I encourage you before you get to highway 1 to stop somewhere and make a phone call to let your family know you are safe.  The lack of cell signal helps you focus on your writing which is not a bad thing. You’re not going to get random calls in the middle of the night or check email. I did find that in times when few people were up (mornings) I could send texts easily as long as they were short. My phone also received most of the reply texts around that time, even if they were a day old.


The conference is geared more toward those with complete projects or near complete. I was able to get a lot of great feedback because my project is technically finished. Many budding authors had portions of a manuscript some as small as ten pages in total. Several had a rough draft but hadn’t sent it to Alpha or Beta Readers yet. This was a costly mistake for them since the conference is not cheap and while the professionals were helpful, it would be impossible for them to fix all the problems with such a young manuscript within the timeframe.

The only conference improvement would be to extend the time from 48 hours (Friday midday to Sunday midday) to 72 hours. I don’t think a weeklong conference is needed especially for authors who are following most of the “undefined” rules of writing. But having an agent’s listening ear is not an easy thing to come by. And while many retreats do give you this option, the size of ABLA gives you more opportunity to have an agent or a professional that works closely with these agents. I’ve read about a few retreats were agents show up only for half a day or less  which is much different than having an agent read the work, allow the chance for revision, and have them read it again with comment. For me, that alone was worth the price.

All in all I loved the conference. I would encourage everyone I know to go without hesitation. The only thing I’d warn anyone about is just making sure that you are ready. But if you are solidly on Draft 2 of your PB/MG/YA book then the ladies and friends of ABLA are a great gem among the conferences and writer’s retreats.