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Pawns: The Brat Prince

By William Bates All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Scifi

Blurb

Thirteen-year-old Tom Knight, the only child of two loving parents, is dealing with typical teenage challenges such as a bully who lives across the street and balancing video game time with school time when his parents suddenly vanish from his home. Following instructions left by a shape shifting blob of Jell-O on the kitchen counter, Tom enters a nondescript doorway on the side of an antique store that miraculously transports him 26.2 light years away to the planet Chosroes. There a petulant and bored Prince holds Tom’s parents captive in a large cage, the eventual victims of an extremely slow moving, but carnivorous maggoricus—picture an elephant sized slug with big teeth—that shares the cage with them. The Prince explains to Tom that it will take a week for the beast to reach his parents and in that time, Tom must steal a vital piece of equipment, a hypertime stone, from the Prince’s enemies on the neighboring planet of Chatrang. Feeling overwhelmed, ill-equipped and terrified, Tom enlists the help of his two best friends, his math teacher and even the bully across the street to help him on his quest to steal the hypertime stone and save his parents.

Prologue

In a small room in a far corner of an extremely large castle on a planet 26.2 light years from Earth, a girl with extraordinarily large eyes listened to a radio broadcast. She had never heard of the show’s famous host, but she knew the boy being interviewed, and she smiled as he tried to explain the unexplainable.

“We are back with Tom Knight, the thirteen-year-old boy who vanished along with his family and friends for seven days. His story is incredible. Some might say too incredible to be believed. What do you say to those people, Tom?”

“Well, um, I guess I could see how someone might not understand how--”

“I mean, really,” the host interrupted, “traveling light years in less than a week. Seems a little unlikely in that it violates the laws of physics and things like that, don’t you think, Tommy?”

“It’s Tom, and I don’t know how it worked exactly, but--”

“Fine, fine, we’ll save the science-y mumbo jumbo for after the break. Let’s talk about your parents. Do they abandon you often?”

“No, not often. Wait, no, never! They would never do that!” Tom said. “Look, you don’t understand. My parents are the best. They would do anything for me. Sure, they can be annoying, but whose parents aren’t at least a little annoying?”

“I don’t know about that,” the host sputtered. “My children have nothing but respect for me.” Millions of teenage listeners on Earth and at least one on a faraway planet rolled their eyes in disbelief.

Tom basically ignored the host’s claim. “Whatever. But I know my parents would do anything for me, so when they were in trouble, I had to try and help.”

“They’d do anything for you?” asked the skeptical host. “The same parents who just up and vanished one afternoon without leaving so much as a note? They care, do they?”

“Yes,” said Tom.

“Really?”

“Really.”

“How do you know?”

Without hesitating, Tom answered, “Because my mother almost died saving me once, and my father quit his job to spend a month taking care of her, and me, until she got better.”

“Well, that sounds like an exciting story,” said the host.

“There was nothing exciting about it. It was awful.”

“Even better. I’m sure our audience would love to hear it. Any aliens in it?”

“No.”

“Ah well. Let’s hear it anyway.”

Tom took a deep breath and said, “When I started first grade, I was really excited to walk to school by myself. The elementary school was only four blocks from my house, so even though we lived in the city, it wasn’t that big a deal for a kid to walk a few blocks alone. At least, that’s what I thought.”

“Sounds incredibly irresponsible,” sniffed the host. The girl with the large eyes considered sending him a package of spoiled shroomcaps since they can be particularly nasty and vengeful, but knew she wouldn’t. Still, the thought of the host being chased around his house by ill-mannered cookies did make her feel better.

Tom continued with his story, as if the host hadn’t even spoken. “For the first week, I walked to school without any problems. I even got lost, well sort of lost, when a friend took me on a shortcut that wasn’t, but I always found my way home. My mom says I have a great sense of direction. Anyway, the next Monday morning, well, there was a problem.”

Before the host could interrupt again, Tom went on. “I was crossing the street when my lunch box fell out of my backpack. I guess I forgot to zip it up all the way or something. Anyway, I reached down to pick it up. What happened next is still a blur. I heard my mother screaming my name and someone shoved me so hard I went flying across the street and landed hard on the sidewalk. A car screeched and I heard a horrible, sickening thud. When I looked toward the street, I saw my mother lying on her back in the middle of the road. It was the most frightening few seconds of my life. I thought she was dead, until I saw her turn her head and smile at me.”

“She followed you, huh?” asked the host, proud to have figured it out.

“Yeah. Turned out she’d been following me every day to make sure I looked both ways before crossing the street and stuff like that. She saw me drop my lunch and the car coming. She sacrificed herself to save me. She was in the hospital for two weeks. My dad stopped working and stayed home to take care of us. He took me to school every day, went to the hospital, then picked me up afterward,” Tom said.

The host cleared his throat loudly and said, “Well, that’s quite a story--believable, in fact. I’m not sure it explains aliens and space travel, though.”

“You didn’t ask me to explain all that. You asked about my parents and how I knew they would always be there for me. I know it because they were there for me, even though I almost got my mother killed over a stupid lunchbox!”

Even without seeing his face, the young girl closeted in her castle bedroom was sure Tom must look like a bomb ready to explode.

“Let me ask you a question,” said Tom, no longer hiding his frustration with the host.

“Sure, fire away,” said the host amused.

“Have you ever heard your mother scream in terror? That’s how I knew it was real. That’s when I knew it wasn’t a dream and that no one was going to appear suddenly and make it all okay. I was scared, alone, and yes, I was 26.2 light years away from Earth!” Tom said, his voice rising with every word. “But I would no more abandon them than they would abandon me.”

There was silence for a few moments as the host tried to collect his thoughts and get back on script. Finally, he said, “Maybe you should tell me a little more about why your mother was screaming."

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