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Sample Chapter, Ship Finder YA Edition

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From: The Ship Finder: Young Adult Edition, by John G. Bluck

Where to buy The Ship Finder: Young Adult Edition.

Chapter 1 Encounter in the Park

(April 3, 2061 10 a.m., Northern California) Distant blue flashes grabbed his attention. He slowed his pace. Curious, he ran faster, easily propelling his 195-pound, six-foot, two-inch body in the direction of the flashes. He drew in a deep breath, and the clean smell of spring air filled his lungs.

Thirty-five-year-old Dr. William Wilson, renowned physician and DNA scientist, jogged another hundred yards along the park path. Then he saw an unshaven man lying on the dirt beside the trail. As Wilson came closer, he at first figured the man was a drunk.

But then Wilson noticed that one of the man's arms was bent at an odd angle under his torso. Wilson stopped. The man's long, gray hair was uncombed. His face was scratched, his lips bled, and his clothes were ripped.

Wilson wondered, Is he unconscious? As a rule, Wilson reacted to medical emergencies calmly, but something about this situation made him uneasy. When he knelt on the gravel beside the rumpled man, stones bit into Wilson's knees.

The man fought to lift his eyelids, and severe pain showed on his face as he looked directly into Wilson's brown eyes. "I've been shot," he said in a foreign accent.

"I'm a doctor. Where are you hit?"

"In the chest . . . ray wound."

Had he said, "Ray wound?" A small burn hole went through his shirt. Wilson detected a fruity odor and the smell of smoke lingering in the air. He had never seen nor heard of a ray wound.

He cut the man's shirt open with a penknife. Blue-green fluid seeped from what looked like a large burn around a charred hole just under his rib cage.

Wilson thought, The blue-green fluid could be caused by a drug resistant bacterium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, that's highly contagious. It can form on burns and has a fruity smell. These germs came to the Bay Area from Eastern Europe, carried by people with compromised immune systems, like drug addicts. This guy's accent sounded Russian.

Wilson unzipped his medical fanny pack, pulled on a pair of latex gloves, and took a big bandage and a roll of white tape from his pack.

As he ripped a piece of tape off the roll, he considered, Maybe this man is delirious and confused. The burn could actually be several days old, and maybe the bullet cut open an infection on the burn.

Wilson taped a dressing over the ugly hole and damaged skin around it but left the bottom of the bandage loose. If the hole was a gunshot wound, the loose bandage would prevent the increase of air pressure within the man's chest cavity. High internal pressure could squeeze his heart, and cause it to fail.

Wilson snatched his stethoscope and listened to the man's chest. Air flow in his right lung was weak. Even so, the man might have just a minor lung collapse, if he was lucky. His heart beat was twice as fast as it should have been.

The lung isn't so bad, but I don't know what other internal injuries there could be. I need to get him to the hospital quickly, but not necessarily at breakneck speed, Wilson concluded.

"It hurts," the man strained to say. "Inner One, guide me," he mumbled, delirious. His accent did sound Russian.

"I need to roll you over," Wilson said. "I must see if the shot went through."

"Drag me into the bushes. Hurry," the man said. "My enemy is near."

Wilson paused, and scratched his brown hair. The man shook, and a fruity smoke smell still lingered. Wilson glanced around. He saw no one, but to calm the man, Wilson hauled him a few feet into the bushes on the path's edge.

"Did you get burned on your chest a few days ago?" Wilson asked.

"I told you I was just hit," he said, more alert now.

"But are you sure you weren't burned a few days ago?" Wilson repeated. "I saw blue-green liquid come from your wound, which could indicate an infection."

"The fluid is normal. It helps to seal the wound."

"I'm going to roll you over," Wilson reminded the man. Why would he say the fluid would close his injury? Wilson rolled him over. "Good news. No exit wound."

"Reach into my right pocket," the man said. Wilson saw that the man's other pocket was ripped, but his right pocket was still intact. "Take my weapon. You'll need it. It will answer your questions." An odd, crooked smile formed on his pale face.

Wilson found a strange, dark green pistol and a white plastic page in the man's pocket. There was a diagram on the sheet, and Wilson put the page in his hip pocket.

The heavy, plastic weapon amazed him. It had a six-inch barrel, but no borehole. Instead, a copper-like screen covered the barrel tip where bullets would have exited a normal firearm. The sight was a small, flip-up gadget with a sturdy inch-square, TV-like screen. It had a crosshair cut into its white, plastic face. Maybe this weapon was just a fancy plaything, but it weighed more than a normal toy and looked well-made.

"What's this?" Wilson asked.

"A ray gun. Turn it on. The enemy will soon be here to finish me to blow me into a million bits. They'll kill you, too, if you don't stop them."

"How's it work?"

"Push the yellow button under the barrel."

Wilson pressed the button, and a sharp, color picture popped onto the gun's small sightscreen. He saw a close up view of where he pointed the pistol.

"Try it. Aim at that rock," the man said as he nodded at a boulder.

Wilson trained the weapon at the big hunk of granite thirty feet away, and he squeezed the trigger. A silent, blue line struck the rock forming a small round hole, which sizzled. A breeze blew smoke and the acrid scent of burned rock towards the men. The weapon was soundless. Wilson was impressed. He had fired a real ray gun, a weapon that he thought only existed in science fiction.

"Who are the people who are after you?" Wilson asked.

"They're a human-robot mix, and they carry ray rifles."

Wilson instantly concluded that the man was high on drugs or insane. Yet his wound and the ray pistol were real. And as odd as his gun was, it sighted and fired like any other pistol. Wilson slipped the weapon into his sweat shirt pocket.

"Where are you from?" Wilson asked.

"You won't believe me," the man cautioned. He looked into Wilson's eyes. "I'm from Sunev. It's a planet in another dimension."

"Oh," Wilson said, nodding. The man might have had an amazing pistol, but he still could be a crazed addict. Maybe he's the victim of a bad drug deal.

"I'm an explorer, and I represent my world," he said. "My name is Richard Raven."

He doesn't look crazy, but insanity isn't always obvious.

"I'm Bill Wilson. Why are you being hunted?" Maybe Raven is a paranoid schizophrenic or a drug addict who thinks enemies are after him.

"My world is at war with an enemy planet. Most of their soldiers are cyborgs," Raven said.

Wilson had a hunch there was more to Richard Raven's story. "Why didn't the cyborg kill you?" Wilson asked.

"I fired back hurt him. He fled to his vehicle."

"Are more on the way?" Wilson asked. Maybe a drug pusher will be back with his pals to do in Richard Raven.

"The cyborgs can self-heal. If he returned to his ship, more will soon come." Raven paled as the seconds ticked away.

"We need to go to the hospital," Wilson said. "My vehicle's a hundred yards away." Raven passed out as Wilson spoke.

Even if the man was crazy, somebody had shot him. That person, or persons, could be near. Wilson sprinted to his electric all-terrain vehicle, climbed in, turned the power key, and eased the ATV over small rocks that blocked the parking lot from the path. In less than a minute, he stopped near Raven who was still out cold.

Wilson opened the vehicle's back door and walked to where Raven lay. Wilson took a capsule of smelling salts from his fanny pack, broke the lozenge, and held it under Raven's nose until he awoke. Now, Wilson could move him into the ATV with less effort.

"Let's go on three," Wilson said.

"Okay. Be quick. The enemy is near," Raven said, his nostrils flaring. "My alarm!" A red light flashed on his wristwatch.

Wilson dragged Raven towards the ATV and began to sweat. The wounded man's legs wobbled as he gritted his teeth and struggled to walk. Wilson wrestled him into the vehicle's back seat, and Raven's head flopped to his chest as he again fainted.

There was a pop, and bits of glass sprinkled over Wilson's clothes. A death ray had shattered the front passenger window. He froze when he spotted a huge cyborg charging. The brute looked like a giant blond linebacker from the Oakland Raiders. His arm muscles formed knots, and his eyes were too close together.

Wilson's heart pounded, and his mouth was dry. He dove to the ground, thrashed about, and tugged to pull the ray pistol from his sweatshirt pocket. Fumbling to find the weapon's power button, he felt panic but finally pressed it. The soft purr of the gun calmed him. The cyborg was the only foe in sight, but he moved fast, charging like a big cat closing in for the kill, scattering bits of dirt and vegetation behind him.

Wilson was prone on the ground, clutching the ray gun. The feel of the pistol in his hand gave him confidence.

The silent blue line of the cyborg's next ray shot lingered for a moment in the air like a lightning strike in the night sky. Wilson felt warmth on his left temple and smelled burned hair that had been singed near his ear. The ray had just missed hitting him straight in the face.

He aimed his weapon at the cyborg, following him as he charged. Wilson took a normal breath, exhaled some air, relaxed, and squeezed the trigger. A blue ray raced at the fast moving cyborg. The shot hit him in the left leg, and he stumbled, spraying wild shots as he crashed to the ground. Multiple beam tracks, straight lines like tracer bullets, flew around Wilson.

Two shots hit the electric vehicle's roof, burning neat, round holes into it. Wilson kept low and dragged himself into the driver's seat. He floored the accelerator pedal, and the ATV jerked forward, flinging gravel and dirt to its rear. Wilson guided the rugged car east as it sped along the pathway away from nearby Interstate 680, deeper into Sunol Regional Wilderness Park.

He was out of his enemy's sight, so he hit the brakes, and the vehicle skidded to an abrupt stop. Wilson steered left off the gravel path to go north. After a few hundred yards he swung west into an area of scrubby bushes, driving two or three miles an hour to avoid making loud noises.

The Interstate was west of him as he approached the highway through the park's rough country. Wilson was not sure how far ahead the paved road was, but he knew he had gone the right way. He planned to ease onto the roadway, push the ATV as fast as it could go, and head north to the hospital.

As he crossed the uneven ground, he was careful not to steer into a hole, or flip the electric car over on the steep hills. With his eyes alert for any sign of his enemy, he picked his route with care. He stayed in tree shadows and behind bushes. If more cyborgs were to come, Wilson did not want them to see the ATV.

After a half mile Wilson saw Highway 680 ahead, up a small rise. Black mega storm clouds boiled in the far western sky, and minute bolts of lightning flashed in the distant darkness. Mega storms, a result of global warming, were nothing to ignore, even if they were slow to move.

He guided his vehicle between wild bushes and light green sapling trees up the rise and onto the road. Then he jammed the accelerator pedal to the floor, and wind whipped through the broken passenger-side window. The rush of fresh air made him more alert as the ATV barreled forward at eighty miles an hour. Wilson didn't care if the police saw him speed. He could use their help.

He now believed the man's story. When Raven gasped for air, Wilson glanced back at him.

"At first the cyborg didn't know you had the pistol," Raven fought to say. "That saved us. My Inner One foretold it."

Wilson reckoned it would take three to five minutes to get to Metro General Hospital, which was in San Ramon, a quarter-mile east of the freeway. He grabbed his mobile phone from the front seat to call the police.

"Wait! Don't call the cops," Raven screeched. "I can't have you tell them that I'm not from Earth."

I need to call the police, Wilson thought. He punched in 91, but like an agile cat, Raven reached over Wilson's seatback and slapped the phone from his hand. The device fell and banged onto the vehicle's floor. Raven, suffering pain because of his lunge, collapsed.

"Hey!" Wilson yelled. He had to control the ATV as it sped, and he could not reach the phone. No matter. He intended to call the police after he reached Metro General. 

(End of sample chapter)

Where to buy The Ship Finder: Young Adult Edition.



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