When the panels on the transender pod slammed shut trapping us inside, I froze, digesting Callan’s last words.
C’raydonians were hunted as a rabid race.
All my people were dead.
And Callan would turn eighteen soon.
It was Gabby who shook me loose from my stalled state when she asked Tony, “What now?”
“Don’t know. This was all I found out.”
A low hum started again, picking up volume until the sound screeched.
Gabby dug her fingers into my arm and yelled at Tony, “Grab Rayen’s other arm.”
“Why?” Tony acted appalled that she thought he should cling to a girl.
“Don’t go back to being a jerk just when you’ve shown signs of evolving into an intelligent life form,” Gabby shot at him, raising her voice over the increasing whine. “You’re the one who wanted to do this. You’re the one who said it took all three of us, so either grab her arm or say goodbye.”
I didn’t know whether Gabby was right or not, but just as my body felt pulled in multiple directions and everything began to blur, Tony’s hand latched onto my other arm.
I clenched from head to toe against the sensation of being warped while suspended in a spinning free fall. My body turned into a human bungee cord, stretched thin and sucked forward.
With my hands slapped against my body, I shot through a rotating tunnel of blurry muted colors...toward a flat surface.
The equipment room floor.
Tucking at the last minute before I hit, I slammed the concrete floor and rolled.
Gabby slapped down next. “Ouch.”
I pushed her out of the way just before...
“Ah, man, that sucks.” Laid out flat on the floor, Tony dropped his arms and groaned.
Gabby muttered, “Are we really back?”
Forcing myself to sit up, I gripped my dizzy head. “Think so.”
“Think I’m gonna be sick,” Tony grumbled.
“Do it and you clean up.” Gabby pushed herself up, holding her head, too.
A ding sounded three times out in the hallway.
Doors opened, voices filled the silence and the sound of hundreds of footsteps slapped through the halls.
Tony shot upright, fingers clutching his forehead. “What time is it?”
We all turned to the black-and-white school clock hanging on the wall.
“5:00!” I shoved to my feet. “I’m late for a meeting in Maxwell’s office.”
Tony struggled to his feet and offered a hand to Gabby, giving her a tug up. “Don’t panic. Maxwell knows it takes five minutes to get from most classes to his office. I hope Suarez didn’t send anyone here to check on us. We were supposed to report in to him by now.”
Would my fingerprints reveal anything?
Was I really a C’raydonian? That would be putting a lot of trust in an eleven-year-old boy living in a strange Sphere. I had to know what they found out in this world from my prints. As bad as I wanted to tear out of here and go see Maxwell, I also needed to keep Mr. Suarez happy for any chance of staying in this school.
Leaving would mean losing my one shot at getting back to Callan. Every minute of waiting to return was already driving me crazy. “What’re we going to do about the computer?”
Tony and Gabby both looked over where three circles spiraled on the computer screen I’d touched earlier.
Gabby spoke first, echoing my thoughts. “We can’t lose it.”
“No,” Tony agreed, picking up the laptop and folding the case shut like a book then shoving it under his arm and wrapping up the power cord. “No one’s touchin’ this but us.” Then he turned to me with a cocky grin. “You go see Maxwell. I’ll explain to Suarez that we got so involved working on this that we lost track of time.”
I hesitated, not ready to leave these two with so many questions still raging in my mind about what had happened in the Sphere.
Gabby brushed the wrecked mass of ponytails back from her face. “I was dodging the front office when I came here to hide. Better swing by and see if I’m in any deeper hot water than what I usually trudge through.” She smiled up at me then Tony. “Can’t be any worse than facing croggles, huh?”
Tony snorted. “Guess not, sweet cakes.”
I even smiled, but the mention of croggles brought another beast to mind.
I held up my hand to stop both of them from leaving the room. It was time to come clean. “I need to tell you this, even though you’ve probably gotten pieces of it in the last few hours. I came to in the desert this morning with some big hairy beast chasing me that morphed into a more streamlined shape when I climbed into the rocks. I saw it again, outside this room, right before we got sucked into the computer. This time it was a black bird.”
“Like a crow? Or a vulture?” Gabby asked.
“Maybe a raven, but who knows with my memory holes. All I know is that it was here for me, and I’m concerned about who else it’d hurt trying to get to me.”
Gabby and Tony shot quick glances at each other then back at me.
Maybe I should’ve kept that to myself since V’ru’s information had confirmed my first suspicion that the beast was after me. But I didn’t want to hide this from them after all they’d been through.
Gabby spoke first. “Do you think it’ll attack just anyone here?”
“I don’t know. The minute I was around other people, it stopped chasing me. And, I’ll explain later, but V’ru said they were created to track people like me...C’raydonians.”
“When’d he tell you that?”
“V’ru spoke to Callan in his mind and he told me as we were running for the pod.”
Tony chuckled. “Didn’t look like no talkin’ goin’ on to me during that lip lock.” He shrugged, and added, “Don’t give me that look, Xena. I’m not insulting him.” He scratched his head. “Morphing animal-to-bird things, huh? Just try not to burn down the school if you have to kill the thing.”
For lack of a better description when I’d first entered the Sphere and spoke to the MystiKs, I had called these two friends.
Now, I found that word lacking when I considered the value I placed on both of them. But I couldn’t waste another minute. “Where can we meet up again?”
“If you’re going to Maxwell’s, we can wait for you in the hall outside the front office,” Gabby suggested.
“Good by me,” Tony agreed.
Sticking my head into the hallway first, I sniffed for the stench of the predator and smelled a faint residue. But nothing strong enough to indicate the thing was nearby. At least, for now, I wouldn’t be as concerned over this beast.
Could I draw on my power to destroy it if the thing attacked me? If I could even use the power outside the Sphere?
I could only imagine how a display of power like that would go over in this world or with the Browns. That’d probably get me in worse trouble than kicked out.
I had to stay here, no matter what.
Signaling to Gabby and Tony that all was clear, I took off for Maxwell’s office, rushing through clumps of students gathered around lockers. When I reached the office, I looked down at my clothes that were torn and dirty. And my shirt was half as long as it had been this morning.
I ran nervous hands over my hair, pushing it back from my face, which I hoped was not filthy.
After a knock on the wood door, I was called inside where I found Dr. Maxwell sitting at his desk. Mr. Brown stood off to one side again and Mrs. Brown was perched on one of the two chairs facing the desk.
“You’re late,” Mr. Brown announced. “What happened to your clothes? Did you try to leave the Institute?”
“Uh, no.” I looked down again as if I’d forgotten the shape I was in and the instrument attached to my leg. Guess one of my questions had been answered. Traveling to the Sphere hadn’t activated it. I actually smiled as I answered, “Mr. Suarez assigned me to work with another student on the Top Ten Project together. We had to dig through a bunch of old, dusty computers and stuff. Some of them snagged on my clothes.”
“Something snagged and ripped off the bottom half of your T-shirt?”
“I should have been paying better attention. I will from now on.” In other words, I wanted to stay. “Sorry. We got...sucked in so deep with the computers we lost track of time.”
Mrs. Brown brightened. “Getting involved in a project and working as a team is encouraging.”
Dr. Maxwell pointed at the empty chair. "Have a seat, Rayen."
Sitting down, I took in Mr. Brown who stood with feet shoulder-width apart and arms crossed, creasing his crisp gray suit at the elbows. Questions hovered in the man’s intense eyes, shadowed beneath his furrowed brow, but he seemed in no hurry to ask them. Had Nick told him about my head injury?
If he had, they would be shipping me off already, right?
Lifting a paper, Dr. Maxwell said, “We have the report from running your fingerprints. You don’t show up in any criminal databases.”
Leaning forward, hands gripping the arms of my chair, I asked, “What does that mean? I don’t...exist?”
As that question fell from my lips, I realized I’d been hoping that V’ru had been wrong. That I did belong in this time frame. That I did have people. . .family looking for me.
Dr. Maxwell answered, “Oh, yes, everyone exists, even if they are only a cog in a wheel. But without knowing where you came from or who your family is, we can’t generate documentation, which means we’ll have to hand you over to social services. We can’t take the liability of keeping you here.”
My mouth went dry. I couldn’t get separated from Tony and Gabby. Or that computer. I needed to get back to help Callan. “Social Services? Are they here in the school?”
“No, their office is downtown, about thirty miles away.”
Thirty miles might as well be another world away. I was emphatic when I told Dr. Maxwell, “No. I want to stay.”
“You don’t have a choice.” Dr. Maxwell leaned back, looking extremely content with this news. Maybe even pleased.
Sweat formed on my palms. I couldn’t go somewhere else where no one knew me, and somewhere far away from the computer Tony carried with him. I turned to Mrs. Brown who had championed me earlier and seemed no happier than me about this. “I really want to stay.”
She asked, “Have you remembered anything about your home, Rayen?”
“I know the Sandia Mountains. That’s my home.” The words were out of my mouth before I realized the truth behind them. Those mountains did feel like home.
But at what point in time?
“Really?” Her face lit up. She turned to Mr. Brown. “I’ve got an idea. Rayen might not be in law enforcement data files for fingerprints, but she’s clearly Native American at least on one side of her family. She might be in the BIA records.”
I asked, “What’s BIA?”
“Bureau of Indian Affairs.” Mrs. Brown’s enthusiasm picked up momentum. “She could be listed in local tribal records. If so, Takoda would be able to tell us.”
Who was Takoda? And could he really help?
I watched the interplay between the Browns, pinning my hope on Mrs. Brown. The husband and wife exchanged some silent looks until Mr. Brown’s face shifted from rock hard determination to something less resistant.
That gave me hope that Nick hadn’t said anything. Yet. I asked Mrs. Brown, “Does that mean I can stay?”
The uncertainty of this moment sent terror through me, which seemed ridiculous after facing deadly creatures and carnivorous plants in a strange Sphere.
But I had nothing if I got kicked out of this Institute. I’d lose the only friends I had plus any chance of returning to the Sphere–and Callan.
Mr. Brown unfolded his arms and shoved his hands in his pockets. “You can stay while Takoda researches the Tribal Records–”
What had Tony said today? Halle-freakin-lujah!
“–but it’s a long shot so don’t hold your breath.”
I had been holding my breath and let it out now that I had a reprieve, even if only a temporary one. “When will you have this information?”
Mrs. Brown said, "Probably within a day or so."
Not much of a reprieve.
Dr. Maxwell had been scribbling notes the whole time and stopped writing. His jaw rigid, he forced his flattened lips to lift with a polite smile that failed to hide his lack of support for this plan. “You can sleep in dorm eight. Mrs. Brown provided a duffle of clothes and personal items for you on the chance that you could stay.” He sent a scathing look up and down me. “Try to do a better job taking care of those items than the ones you’re currently wearing.”
“I will.” I stood, turning to add, “Thank you, Mrs. Brown.” I gave a nod to Mr. Brown who made no move to acknowledge it.
Outside the administrative offices, I searched until I found Tony, who was reading a paper posted on a glass window to the offices.
“Where’s Gabby?” I asked, walking up to him.
“Down the hall.” Tony pointed to his right without taking his eyes off the paper. He mumbled, “She had to go somewhere.”
I searched the hall. There went Gabby, the prancing rainbow with bouncing ponytails, alongside Hannah who had guided me through the building this morning. Had it only been hours since I woke up in the desert?
I gave another look down the hall, concerned about Gabby leaving us. Hannah had no reason to harm Gabby. Right? But after having fought our way through one battle after another today, I had the urge to grab Tony and follow her to make sure she was safe.
“Oh, man!” Tony slapped the wall beside the window. “I can’t believe he’s doin’ that to me.”
“Suarez said he posted a roster for the Top Ten Project and that he made a few adjustments.” Tony wheeled around, snapping his knuckles. “He’s teamed me up with Nicholas Brown.”
Had Suarez also put me with someone else or assumed I was leaving? I searched the list and found my name matched up with Hannah. Annoying, but not so bad.
But Tony still stomped around.
I didn’t understand the problem. “I thought you wanted someone good at computers.” Lowering my voice, I said, “Maybe someone who can work on them...and not inside one.”
“Very funny, Xena,” Tony said, not smiling. “You don’t understand. There can only be one Top Ten winner sent to MIT, the second member of the team can have another school, but both can’t go to MIT.”
“And that means what?”
“Nicholas is no slack, but he knows I’m better with computers, which is why he probably pulled rank and got himself teamed up with me. We have to choose a team leader. There’s no way Nicholas will agree to me runnin’ our project, which means when we win that he’ll get first choice and walk away with MIT a year early. I’m so screwed.”
I had yet to figure out what this MIT thing was, but clearly Tony wanted it badly. “Is this another one of those bus situations?”
“This is a fleet of buses.”
“Can we fix it?”
Tony’s voice bottomed out. “I don’t know.”
I spoke even softer, glancing over my shoulder to make sure no one else was near before saying, “We traveled through a computer to another world, fought giant monsters and attack flowers then found our way back. Nicholas can’t be as difficult to deal with.”
Not as difficult as me trying to figure out how to stay after tomorrow if this Takoda person didn’t supply documentation that couldn’t possibly exist if I was C’raydonian...and from the future. But Tony didn’t need any more bad news at the moment.
“I suppose,” Tony grumbled. “Let’s get something to eat. I’m starved.”
“What about Gabby? Where’d she go anyhow?”
Tony waved that off with his hand. “Hannah said Gabby had been scheduled for testing at the Bio-Genetic Research Center at the hospital.”
A frisson of worry fingered across my neck at the word hospital. Nicholas had warned me about staying away from there, but then he’d been toying with me earlier. Still the worry remained. “Will Gabby be safe?”
“Of course. It’s a women’s center for cryin’ out loud. What could happen to her there?”
I looked down the hallway as students streamed past us and scratched my head. “I don’t know. What could happen to three students in a school equipment room...with a computer?”
My eyes tracked over to a boy who seemed familiar from the back. I would have dismissed it if not for catching a glimpse of a snake image on his neck.
Had that been a cobra tattoo? Like the one on the TecKnati scout, Phen?
The boy disappeared into the sea of students.
I shook my head at my runaway imagination and followed Tony. No way could Phen be here.
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The Red Moon Trilogy
In print, ebook and coming soon in audio
USA Today bestseller Micah Caida is the melding of two voices, two personalities and two minds, which often turns up the strangest ideas. Micah enjoys exploring how different characters react and deal with similar situations. Life is often filled with the unexpected – both good and bad. While creating the Red Moon series, Micah hit upon a very unusual “what if” that exploded into an epic story filled with teenagers who face impossible odds, but are the only ones who can save the world from itself. For more, visit www.MicahCaida.com
What “readers” are saying about Red Moon Trilogy:
"Time Trap is amazingly original and unexpected...I loved every second of reading it!" ~~ Alexandra Fedor, 15, who has read The Book Thief, The Hunger Games, and Anna Karenina.
"Time Trap is a deliciously entrapping read you won't want to put down and leaves you thirsting for more when you finish." ~~Angela Catucci, young adult
“I really liked Time Trap and loved how Micah Caida created an entire world in the first pages. I liked reading from the different characters and hearing from each of them. I would definitely read more books of this series and really want to know what happens next. I've already recommended it to a friend.” ~~Duncan Calem, 14, Georgetown, TX who rea “I loved reading this second book, Time Return. Everything developed fluidly from Time Trap, and the characters were true to themselves, and yet bold. There was tons of action in the Sphere and outside of the Sphere, and watching the characters face so much that pushed them all to the physical and emotional limit was a great ride. Time Returncertainly delivered what I was looking for-action, intrigue, and a lot of fun. Thank you Micah Caida for another book that I will be rereading a lot!” Emily Gifford, 17, has also readDivergent, The Codex of Alera, and The Lost World
"What an incredible serial escalation! All in all it's a masterful piece of work." Angela Catucci, college student
“Time Return will grip you and keep you reading until the very end. The action is undoubtedly exciting, as well as the suspense. You won't want to put it down!” Brooke McClure, teen
"Time Return is even better with the first one! The story heroes, Rayen, Tony, and Gabby, keep their promises and return to the future. But chaotic challenges ahead will test their loyalty and strength in the second book to the Red Moon trilogy. Absolute must read!" Alexandra Fedor, 17, has also read the Divergent trilogy, The Sea of Tranquility, andThus Spoke Zarathustra
"If I had found books like this when I was a teen, I would have started reading much earlier, instead of waiting until my mid twenties!" Kay Barnes, adultds the Inheritance Series, Dark Life and Percy Jackson
"Time Trap will be a delight to every reader! All the ingredients you would hope to expect: a strong-willed heroine, a dangerously sexy man, an intriguing setting, and lots of unexpected turns make Time Trap a real page turner." ~~ Lynn Fedor, adult/mom and has read The Hangman's Daughter, The Curse: The Belador Series, and The BAD Agency Series
“I thought Time Trap's unique world was very fresh and very interesting. The history behind the characters gave them good depth and they all had nicely different personalities. Cool characters, cool plot, cool conflict. Nicely paced too, I was never bored.” ~~Emily Gifford, 16, Newark NY read the Inheritance Cycle, Harry Potter, Green Rider series
"Reading this book is like riding on a roller coaster, getting to the top and not knowing when the next drop is." ~~ Alex Bernier, 12 years old and has also read all of Rick Riordan’s books, the Hunger Games, the Chronicles of Nick, and the Rangers Apprentice series.
“Wonderfully written futuristic time travel story that keeps you begging for more. A combo of Lord of the Flies meets Neverland on steroids. I've never read anything like it. Excellent!” ~~Adam, age 28
"Creative and exciting, Time Trap was entertaining to the end! I couldn't wait to see what happened on the next page, and it’s a book I would totally recommend to my friends." ~~ Emily Skeel, age 14, also read The Hunger Games trilogy, Maze Runner and Delirium.
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