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
“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.
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 PiratesBraxden 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.
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