New Middle Grade Story (Hexagon 1NE Chapter 2)

Plot: Flying hover cycles. Fiery mecha bots. BFs. After earth ends and re-population begins, two cKlone tweens get trapped outside of their safety pod hexagon by a fertility doctor who is out to snatch their souls.

Photo Credit Source: Bettye-Winters

CHAPTER 02––PROOF

“Proof?” Arik took a breath and held it. He checked his heart rate on his sleek wristband. The beat lowered as he inhaled. “That’s all we need, right? … Proof that the destination’s empty?”

“What are you so nervy about?” Flash fancied all assignments. Not every kid showed of gifted promise. Many were called to tend the farm fields. Some were called to service the androids that ran the machines. Others were lucky to be tested at all. But the worst thing that could happen to anyone in Hexagon––being banished.

“C’mon, we pass this … then we can practically pick our future. Trainees no more. A botanist. A techie. A surveyor. Or maybe even a cushion job … for you. Ha-ha. Just remember, whatever happens …” Flash pointed to a red arrow on his recycled cyber shirt and mouthed the printed words: “I’m B +.’”

Being an only cKlone child, Flash was left on his own often to abide by the rules.

Or NOT. 

Flash circled Arik on his hoverboard, stalking him.

“Me, nervous?” Arik checked his heart meter again. “No … I’m not nervous … not at all … nope.” Arik inhaled deep.

Now Flash Nelson, his hair was no longer than a #1 setting on a pair of dog clippers. He trimmed it himself, even though his two moms were happy to oblige. His moms spent their days working on a farm. One was a researcher, the other a techie. Repairing androids was preferred work. And the kid bowl cut was also the preferred mom specialty at home. So naturally, Flash took matters into his own six-fingered hands.

“Proof? Got it.” Flash jumped in the air––a complete back flip––and landed square on his board. Perfect. “A deal’s a deal-yo.”

Throughout their sector of Hexagon 1NE, Flash also had a reputation for his inquisitive, daring nature. One drab moonlit night, he leaped off his roof attempting to fly. Thankfully, it was only a single-storied home. And because it wasn’t a waste disposal night, the collapsible cans were directly under the porch to cushion his fall.
Lucky was right.

In the end, Flash claimed to officials that he was only sleep walking––some called it “sleep flying”––but wearing a superhero shirt and a red cape, too?

C’mon.

A blinding advertisement flashed on the side of a curvy building:

Hexagon 1NE … the pod to survive the dust-over.

The ad message rotated:

Hexagon 1NE … your pod to survive the next.

A few androids scaled the outside of skytowers. Horizontally and vertically. They worked to keep them shiny. Some were half bodied androids with tractor wheels. Others were full android robots with two legs.

The difference between an android and people? The hair. Androids weren’t designed to grow any, not even eyebrows. Most were bald. While others like household androids, their heads and faces were painted to resemble real hair and make them look friendlier. Some even wore press-on wigs.

All androids were programmed to smile.

All androids were programmed to serve.

Flash powered his hoverboard forward.

Roads were perfectly paved and curbs were cobble stoned and leveled according to the latest regulations for the disabled. One could charge a hover cycle at the drive-thru window of a five-star restaurant. Even crosswalks were equipped with artificial intelligence to aid the impaired. Sensors could scan a walker’s vital signs and adjust crossing times for the pokey.

Or in Arik’s case, the nervous, increased-heart-racing kind.

As they approached the intersection, a streetlight flashed a red hand. A voice-activated computer spoke, “YOU MAY CROSS SAFELY IN TWENTY SECONDS.” It counted backwards, “19 … 18 …”

Flash pulled something out of his front pocket, which unfolded on touch. He placed a clear, thin mask over his eyes.

“Wait, you’re gonna VR now?”

“Sure, why not,” Flash replied. “Virtual Reality is more real. Real skies. Real outdoors. How cool it must’ve been … I’m riding an old western horse right now. I’m in the wild.” He stroked his hands in the air as if petting something.

“Shhh, that’s crazy talk.”

A service android at a nearby retail kiosk stocked shelves. Its upper body resembled a human cKlone, but down below, it zipped about like a toy crane on wheels.

“The real outdoors … that’ll be me someday. Not stuck here in a bubble.” Flash dipped his VR mask.

Two adults walked past them, their faces glued to holo-devices. A pop-up cushion automatically re-directed one of the adults before crashing into the kiosk.

“See, Arik.” Flash made his point. “We’re all becoming walking machines. Don’t you ever wonder about it?”

“Outdoor fairytales? … That’s kid stuff. ” Arik thought the idea was ridiculous. Inside of Hexagon 1NE it was safe. Safe from dust-overs. Safe from the blinding sun. It was all they’ve ever known.

“5 … 4 … 3 …” the streetlight voice finished counting down and flashed green. “Beep! You may safely cross.”

Flash folded his VR mask and shoved it in a zip pocket. As he powered his hoverboard into the cross walk, an alarming tone sounded.

“STOP! Violation ALERT!” The voice spoke firmly, “Please dismount your device and proceed safely to your destination. Smile for the camera. Thank you.”

KER-SNAP!

A flashing light flickered from above. A camera snapped a violation picture of Flash using the board in a crosswalk zone.

“Ugggg,” Flash moaned. This wasn’t the first time he had violated traffic procedures. “Bum, that’ll cost a sugar serving or two, all right.”

Sugar. The body needs it to survive. During digestion, all food carbohydrates break down into simple sugars to form energy. But after decades of dependency on artificial fructose, the body’s metabolism had shut down. Natural sugar––much like natural anything––became harder to farm, harder to grow after the world’s dust-over.

And humans (yes, even the genetically engineered cKlone kind) need natural sugar to survive.

It’s what the NOW coveted.

Arik and Flash’s first real assignment––an intel exercise for sugar. In other words, they were spying. And being discreet was everything.

Flash stepped off his board and summoned it to his hands. It responded in a SNAP. He pressed a button and the hoverboard folded itself several times until it fit in the palm of his hand. Then, he shoved it into the same zip pocket.

Arik smirked at Flash’s cool gadgets.

“Even with us going out on watches, we’re the ones being watched,” Flash moaned. “Let’s go. We’re on camera. Say CHEESE.” He adjusted his pants, properly, and tucked in his cyber shirt. “Good thing them cameras can’t hear us either.”

The streetlights turned green, perfectly in sync. Their greenness faded into a haze of gray down the skyscraper avenue. A hallmark of similarity.

The only oddity in Hexagon 1NE was a stone house at the tip-top sector of the metro. It stood out amongst glassy towers and cylindrical buildings like a frozen snowdroid in the desert. The house––built of flint and cobble and slate––was the most crooked of houses. In some places, the roof slanted a perfect 90°, or for you non-mathematical people, that’s perpendicular to the ground.

No one ever dared journey to the northern point of the Hexagon 1NE.

No one wanted to know what lurked behind the dense, black ivy and wrought iron gates that surrounded the non-symmetrical house.

No one, that was, except for Arik and Flash.

>>Stay Tuned for the next chapter 03

New Middle Grade story (HEXAGON 1NE) … to pass this ‘stay home’ time

As we all continue to do our part during this pandemic to ‘stay home,’ here’s some recent Middle Grade chapters I’m working on to help pass the time. I’ll post as they come to me.

Title: HEXAGON 1NE

Plot: Flying hover cycles. Fiery mecha bots. BFs. After earth ends and re-population begins, two cKlone tweens get trapped outside of their safety pod hexagon by a fertility doctor who is out to snatch their souls.

Photo Credit Source: Bettye-Winters

CHAPTER 01––OPEN

Hexagon 1NE. After Earth ends and re-population begins … the pods that survive become known as Hexagons.

“C’mon!” Arik checked the time on his comm wristband, waiting at a quiet intersection.

The simulated sun reflected through curvy, glass towers. Despite many digital signs and flashing retail “OPEN” signs, the streets were crowd thin.

Arik’s worries were interrupted by an approaching noise.

“Gotcha!” Flash Nelson, a younger cKlone by a few minutes, snuck up from behind on a levitating hoverboard. His ocean brown eyes were wide. “Did you bring the stuff, brother?”

“Dude, where you been?” Arik nudged his glasses, irritated. He pushed dark hair out of his face. “I gotta give the sisters their sugar pills by six. You know that … brother.”

Friendly banter was the norm. But the boys Arik and Flash were not related at all. True, these cKlones shared the same creation date. They lived on the same street. And they even shared the same nursery in the same medical facility.

However, they were simply neighbors (like right next-door neighbors) and pals for the last twelve years. That’s what made them an ideal match for the Neighborly Orderly Watch (the NOW). 

“It’s our final exam.” Arik noticed his heart rate was increasing rapidly. He tightened his grip on his shouldered tote pack. Loose items rattled. “This is the real deal, not training anymore. The Ready Assessment Trials tests our mental aptitude versus physical aptitude.”

Flash stared blank. “Is that English?”

“They assess our thinking.”

Flash shrugged it off, not worried at all.

Arik stood much shorter than Flash. In fact, for cKlones, they looked nothing alike. Long-haired Arik, buzzed hair Flash. Light skin Arik, not so light skin Flash. And although his CGP (Child Growth Percentile) was less than average, Arik’s unrivalled grades in math and science led him to believe that smarts could always beat brawn in any contest––except for maybe arm wrestling or spitting.

“Relax. But seriously … check this out.” Flash spit straight toward the simulated sky while balancing himself on his hoverboard. With his eyes closed he waited for it. At the last second, he juked his board aside so the loogie missed. “Tah-dah! I don’t even have E-S-P either.”

“Impressive, Flash.” Arik squinted, checking his wristband. “It’s time.”

“You see, it’s all in how you pucker your lips. That’s the secret.” Flash shot a big toothy grin. Instead of the usual way a smile glides upward, his teeth appeared all at once––in a nano-second, blink and you’d miss it––POW! That’s why everyone called him Flash.

            “Repeat after me …” Flash motioned with his six-fingered hand, a flaw in his cKlone design. He continued in a soothing voice, “This … won’t … take … long. We get in. Take a few pictures. We get out. Easy as peasy. You got everything?”

            Arik nodded correct. As he tinkered with his tote pack, magnetically connected to a strap on his back.

He pulled out his list to review:

Chapter 01––OPEN

Hexagon 1NE. In the sometime future, after Earth ends and re-population begins … the pods that survive become known as Hexagons.

“C’mon,” said Arik to himself, the older cKlone boy by a few minutes. He checked the time on his wristband while waiting at an empty street corner.

The simulated sun reflected light through curvy, glass towers. Despite many digital signs and flashing retail “OPEN” signs, the streets were crowd thin.

Arik’s worries were interrupted by an approaching noise.

“Gotcha!” Flash Nelson, another cKlone, snuck up from behind on a levitating hoverboard. His ocean brown eyes were wide. “Did you bring the stuff, brother?”

“Dude, where you been?” Arik nudged his glasses, irritated. “I gotta give the sisters their sugar pills by five. You know that … brother.”

Friendly banter was the norm. But the boys Arik and Flash were not related at all. True, these cKlones shared the same creation date. They lived on the same street. And they even shared the same nursery in the same medical facility.

However, they were simply neighbors (like right next-door neighbors) and pals for the last twelve years. That’s what made them an ideal match for the Neighborly Orderly Watch (the NOW).

“It’s our final exam.” Arik noticed his heart rate was increasing. He tightened his grip on his shouldered tote pack. Loose items clanked inside.

“The Ready Assessment Trials tests our mental aptitude versus physical aptitude.”

Flash stared blank. “In English?”

“They assess our thinking.”

Flash shrugged it off, not worried at all.

Arik stood much shorter than Flash. In fact, for cKlones, they looked nothing alike. Longed haired Arik, buzzed hair Flash. Light skin Arik, not so light skin Flash. And although his CGP (Child Growth Percentile) was less than average, Arik’s unrivalled grades in math and science led him to believe that smarts could always beat brawn in any contest––except for maybe arm wrestling or spitting.

“Relax. This won’t take long. But really, check this out.” Flash spit straight toward the simulated sky while balancing himself on his hoverboard. With his eyes closed he waited for it. At the last second, he juked his board aside so the loogie missed. “Tah-dah! I don’t even have E-S-P either.”

“Impressive, Flash.” Arik adjusted the cap on his dark wavy hair. He squinted, checking his wristband. “It’s time.”

“You see, it’s all in how you pucker your lips. That’s the secret.” Flash shot a big toothy grin. Instead of the usual way a smile glides upward, his teeth appeared all at once … POW! That’s why everyone called him Flash.

“Repeat after me …” Flash motioned with his six-fingered hand, a flaw in his cKlone design. He continued in a soothing voice, “This … won’t … take … long. Okay? So relax your breath, will ya’? You got everything?”

Arik nodded correct. As he tinkered with his pack, things clinked inside.
He reviewed his list:

✔ 2 masks
✔ 2 pair of gloves
✔ 1 rope
✔ 1 duct tape
✔ 1 smart-pod
✔ 2 stainless steel canisters
✔ 1 multi-use lubricant
✔ 1 utility knife
✔ A mega-sized bag of chips

 “Really?” Flash raised a curious eyebrow. “The Ready Assessment Trials, and you brought chips?”

“What …” Arik crunched the bag in his pack. “I eat when I’m nervous.”

Arik thought about their previous Neighborly Orderly Watch training exercise. That one turned out to be a mad dash sprint from two bloodhounds. But this wasn’t training any more. Only Arik’s sisters’ health situation mattered. They needed sugar. And big brother Arik was to provide for his siblings. That was his role while his mother worked double at the farm.

“Hey …” Flash turned, a serious glare to Arik. “We can do this.”

The twins’ health meters were all that mattered.

Sugar was what Arik’s sisters needed.

Sugar, that’s why the NOW sent Arik and Flash on a watch.

———————————————————————————–

>>Stay Tuned for the next chapter 02

I’m going to a parade in Washington, D.C. … the Parade of States.

The National Book Festival “2019 PARADE OF STATES” list is out … and look who’s headed to Washington D.C. this Labor Day. Well, there’s plenty of New York Times bestsellers, a Newberry Honor Award winner, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Rick Riordan presents and well … ME.

Source: The Library of Congress National Book Festival Blog >

The Parade of the States at the Library of Congress National Book Festival is not a parade like the Thanksgiving Day Parade or your local St. Patrick’s Day Parade or even the parades held during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

But it is a parade, nonetheless.

Read More >

The National Book Festival is on Saturday, Aug. 31, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Visit loc.gov/bookfest for full details.

Here’s this year’s 2019 Great Reads About Great Places:

  • Alabama • Ernestine’s Milky Way by Kerry Madden-Lunsford
  • Alaska • Fighter in Velvet Gloves: Alaska Civil Rights Hero Elizabeth Peratrovich by Annie Boochever; in collaboration with Roy Peratrovich Jr.
  • Arizona • The Night Flower: The Blooming of the Saguaro Cactus by Lara Hawthorne
  • Arkansas • Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon by Carla Killough McClafferty
  • California • The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
  • Colorado • Mela and the Elephant by Dow Phumiruk
  • Connecticut • Whale Quest: Working Together to Save Endangered Species by Karen Romano Young
  • Delaware • Lost Soul, Be at Peace by Maggie Thrash
  • District of Columbia • A Place to Land by Barry Wittenstein
  • Florida • Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
  • Georgia • Going Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons
  • Hawaii • Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
  • Idaho • Beauty and the Beak by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp
  • Illinois • Otis and Will Discover the Deep by Barb Rosenstock
  • Indiana • ATTUCKS!: Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team that Awakened a City by Phillip Hoose
  • Iowa • Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus
  • Kansas • No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas by Tonya Bolden
  • Kentucky • Rock and Roll Woods by Sherry Howard
  • Louisiana • The Craziest Fishing Tale on the Bayou by Gary Alipio (THAT’S ME : )
  • Maine • Little Bird’s Flock by The Telling Room’s Publishing Workshop
  • Maryland • Riverbound by Melinda Beatty
  • Massachusetts • Windows by Julia Denos
  • Michigan • Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story by Lindsey McDivitt
  • Minnesota • The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
  • Mississippi • The Rambling by Jimmy Cajoleas
  • Missouri • What Is Given From the Heart by Patricia McKissack
  • Montana • Montana for Kids by Allen Morris Jones
  • Nebraska • Simpson’s Sheep Just Want to Sleep! by Bruce Arant
  • Nevada • The Deceivers by Kristen Simmons
  • New Hampshire • The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth
  • New Jersey • I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy
  • New Mexico • The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes
  • New York • Harriett the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  • North Carolina • Grenade by Alan Gratz
  • North Dakota • The Legend of Greg: An Epic Series of Failures by Chris Rylander
  • Ohio • Miss Mary Reporting by Sue Macy
  • Oklahoma • Friends Stick Together by Hannah E. Harrison
  • Oregon • Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
  • Pennsylvania • A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
  • Puerto Rico • Mi isla bella, mi isla hermosa by Isset M. Pastrana-Andino
  • Rhode Island • Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora
  • South Carolina • How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons
  • South Dakota • Muskrat and Skunk / Sinkpe na Maka: A Lakota Drum Story
  • by Donald F. Montileaux (Lakota translation by Agnes Gay)
  • Tennessee • This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce
  • Texas • What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton
  • U.S. Territories • I Am the Virgin Islands by Tiphanie Yanique
  • Utah • Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
  • Vermont • Bob by Tracey Campbell Pearson
  • Virginia • Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
  • Washington • All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
  • West Virginia • The Princess and the Pickup Truck by Bil Lepp
  • Wisconsin • The Rhino in Right Field by Stacy DeKeyser
  • Wyoming • Rusty and the River: A Rusty the Ranch Horse Tale by Mary Fichtner