Time-Return-CoverThe Second Red Moon Novel

Chapter 1

 

Help me! Rayen! Get me out of here before –

Gabby’s screaming voice woke me fast, like getting hit in the face with ice water. I sat up in bed, panting and clutching the sheets. My heart was trying to beat a hole in my chest.

Just a nightmare. But it felt real. Sounded terrifying.

I looked around the dark room as my eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light offered by the first hint of dawn. It peeked through the horizontal window coverings.

Blinds. Someone had called the coverings blinds. A strange term that didn’t ping any memory.

Surely I’d had some type of window shield in my life.

I thought on it, willing to take any memory of my past that my mind would offer, no matter how insignificant. Nope. Still stuck with a big gaping void when it came to anything about me, my family or what place I called home before yesterday when I’d awakened in the desert. This isolated school in a place called Albuquerque was home, for now.

Sparse furnishings took shape around my room. A wall lamp hung over a small table next to my narrow bed. Across the room, a spotless wooden desk had a stiff chair and matching lamp. Two metal doors the color of an early morning fog.

I closed my eyes, thinking of what stood on the other side of those doors. One opened to a bathroom with shelves and drawers for clothes. All my storage space was empty. I had no clothes or personal things of my own, only what had been given to me yesterday.

The second door led to a hallway with other rooms. More female students sleeping in this area. Boys had their own section. Did any of the others feel as confused and alone as I did?

I rubbed the heels of my hands over my eyes, blinking them open. My scrambled thoughts began to separate and focus with details of what I did know. I was still at the Byzantine Institute of Excellence, a school full of teens. I still didn’t know who I was beyond the name Rayen–which was suspect since I’d gotten that information from a ghost–and that I was seventeen, another nugget from my grumpy specter.

Basically, I still had no memory beyond when I woke up in the desert yesterday with a sentient beast chasing me.

Help me. Pleeaase, help me.

I jerked as Gabby’s frantic voice swept through my mind again, but it had been a far away sound this time. Her words repeated softly like a lost echo in a deep canyon.

Was I only remembering the nightmare?

Where was Gabby?

The women’s center in the school clinic.

She was supposed to be doing something basic. Tests of some kind. I hadn’t been sent there yet so I had no idea what could be going on. My other friend, Tony, had told me not to worry, but Tony didn’t have the ability to hear voices in his head.

Not that I had that gift. Gabby was the one who could hear thoughts, but I’d heard hers when I touched her. In fact, the only times I’d heard her in my mind had been accidental.

Not like this, where we weren’t even in the same room.

Gabby had avoided contact with anyone, and wouldn’t admit she could hear thoughts when we first met yesterday, but all of that changed in the matter of a few hours.

A lot of things changed in that one day.

The idea of her being threatened bothered me.

Gabby and Tony were my only friends in this place.

I’d known them for just a short time, but we now shared a secret. We depended on each other. I didn’t want to lose either one.

They were also the only two people who knew the truth about me, at least what little I’d discovered since waking up with no memory. Maybe my nightmare about Gabby was nothing more than a reaction to the bizarre time travel we’d experienced yesterday.

Somebody, help me.

That voice sounded real.

I couldn’t rest any longer, not until I knew she was safe.

Climbing out of bed, I hissed at the cold floor beneath my feet. I’d slept in a short-sleeved shirt and underwear. My pants–jeans–were here somewhere. Turning on the lamp seemed like a good idea until the light blinded me. Covering my eyes, I made my way to the bathroom and flipped on another light.

The reflection in the mirror taunted me.

I didn’t know that girl with the long, dark brown hair mussed from sleeping, or eyes a light blue-green color I’d seen on no others yesterday. While we were eating dinner in the school cafeteria last night, Tony had asked me if I wore aqua contacts.

He’d had to explain what a contact was.

A thin eye covering that corrected vision, but some people wore them to change their eye color. That was odd.

When he realized I wasn’t wearing contacts, he shook his head and said, “Tell anyone who asks that you’re wearing contacts or they’re gonna know you’re not from this world. I’ve never seen natural eyes that color.”

The mirror promised that these were my aqua eyes, my narrow nose and my mouth, but still, I didn’t know that girl.

How could someone forget her own face?

Maybe my brain would yield its secrets today. I finished up in the bathroom and found my jeans. I was becoming familiar with the odd terms for things like clothes. Good thing I was a quick study since everything from speech to paper books to the location of this school had tested me yesterday. At least now I knew why my surroundings felt both familiar and strange. I wasn’t from this time.

I didn’t belong to anyone in this world. I’d learned yesterday that I hadn’t been born yet.

And the world I was born into had eventually been destroyed.

That meant any family I might have were gone. I didn’t even know who they were to mourn them.

A wave of sadness pushed me off center. I missed … something, but I couldn’t say what.

I’d found out yesterday that my people were C’raydonians, and they’d existed over a hundred years into the future. None from this era. The head of this Byzantine Institute thought I was a Native American, whatever that was. If I focused too hard on what little I had learned about myself yesterday, it would cripple me.

I had to just let it go for now and stick with living in the moment.

First thing, I needed to find Gabby. Make sure she’s safe, then track down Tony. Once the three of us were together again, we could travel through the computer to the Sphere. The computer was a time portal to an artificial planet in the future that we’d discovered yesterday. The children stuck on the planet just called it the Sphere.

Activating the portal required all three of us and I wanted to go back.

No, I had to go back. I’d made a commitment to Callan.

Callan’s strong face formed in my mind’s eye and the pressure on my chest lifted. I smiled and a new feeling circled through me. One filled with warmth. In spite of all the worries crowding in to beat me down, being with Callan had the ability to lift my spirits. He was a healing light that I desperately wanted to see again.

I touched my lips and replayed his kiss for the hundredth time. I didn’t even know if that was my first kiss, but it felt like what should be a first time. There’s no way I’d have forgotten experiencing something that spectacular.

Rayen! They want to … STR … V.

I jumped at the ragged cry in my head. Chill bumps pebbled across my skin at the way Gabby’s voice shook with fear. I tried to reach out to her. Gabby?

Nothing.

I put on the jeans, then shoved my feet into socks, sliding the metal ankle cuff over the sock to keep it from chafing my skin. The security device gave me a vicious electric shock if I tried to get past the front gates of this school, but it hadn’t functioned in the Sphere. I shook my head and finished tying the strings on my sneakers, then eased from the room.

No alarm went off.

Two young girls stood talking at the end of the hall. Taking a deep breath, I headed out, moving as quickly as I could without running.

Once out of the sleeping areas, I navigated a series of halls and reached the office for the women’s center of the clinic. I tapped on a small window.

A short woman twice my age dressed in loose blue pants and a matching shirt sat at a desk with a computer in front of her.

She slid the window open. “Can I help you?”

“I’d like to talk to Gabby Lin for a moment.”

The woman typed on her keyboard, read something, then her face turned sharp and serious before she wiped that look away and smiled at me. “I’m sorry, but Miss Lin is indisposed right now and isn’t scheduled to be released until tomorrow. Come back then.”

My skin tingled with worry.

She was hiding something. I had nothing to base that on, but I knew. Just a feeling. With no argument to offer the woman that wouldn’t sound as if I were making trouble, I murmured, “Thank you,” and backed away.

Why can’t you hear me, Rayen? Gabby pleaded in my mind.

I do hear you, Gabby. I listened for her. She didn’t respond, which meant she couldn’t hear me. I had powers, but clearly not the ability for communicating mind-to-mind. Gabby had that exceptional gift and was learning how to use it. Unfortunately, telepathy wouldn’t help her escape her situation alone.

I knew who could find out what was going on with Gabby.

Turning to leave, I caught sight of a familiar shape moving through a cluster of students. A boy who reminded me of someone I’d encountered yesterday in the Sphere, but everyone there was from 166 years in the future.

That boy couldn’t be Phen, could he?

I also caught a whiff of a nasty smell. It belonged to the deadly, sentient beast that had chased me in the desert yesterday.

Bad sign.

Worming my way through groups of students starting to congregate in the halls, I kept the boy in view. If that was Phen, we had to find out what he was doing here, and it could only mean trouble since Phen was a TecKnati scout, the enemy.

The boy I followed looked to be an older teen, which fit, because Phen was probably close to twenty. He managed to stay several steps ahead of me, then disappeared around a corner.

I rushed forward and stopped when I saw him thirty feet away, paused next to a door that led outside. I looked around to see if anyone was close to me.

Not this early. Most students were heading to the cafeteria.

When I looked back at the boy, he pulled a small creature out of his pocket. A rat that jumped from his hand and changed shape in mid-fall on its way to the floor. The animal was now a tall black dog with a thick, muscular build and wide jaws. Its coat was black marked with brown highlights.

And it stank like the sentient beast.

My heart skipped a beat as I realized what I saw was the beast that had hunted me yesterday. The boy had control of it. He looked over his shoulder, meeting my gaze and smiling in recognition.

It was Phen. Had the TecKnati leader from the future sent him here? Into this time? From what Callan had told me, the TecKnatis had developed time travel to the past.

I started forward, but Phen and the creature ran out the door. They’d disappeared by the time I reached it and looked outside.

I’d deal with Phen as soon as Gabby was safe.

Working my way back through the halls, there were few students meandering around. School didn’t officially start for another hour. When I reached the double door entrance to the boys’ sleeping area, I paused at the “No Female Students Allowed Past This Point” sign.

What would be the penalty for getting caught in the wrong place?

Would my ankle cuff set off an alarm or try to electrocute me if I entered this area?

“Who you looking for?” a squeaky male voice asked.

I turned to look down at a boy who was two or three years younger than me. He had freckles, bright red hair and a crooked front tooth.

I smiled at him, hoping he didn’t report me. “Tony.”

“What’s his last name?”

“I don’t know.”

“What’s he look like?”

I searched for the right words to describe Tony so I didn’t sound strange. “He’s my height, kind of strong looking and has short black hair.”

The boy thought on that and asked, “Is he a senior?”

“Senior what?”

He gave me a look that questioned my intelligence. Great. What did senior mean at this school? Something dawned on me that might be helpful. I remembered Tony telling a teacher that his name started with an S. “Tony’s last name is S something.”

“Like Smith or Stevens?”

How would I know? I lifted my shoulders. “All I know is he’s from a place called Jersey.” One more thing hit me. “He’s in some Top Ten contest.”

He snapped his fingers. “That’s gotta be Tony Scolerio. He’s sick on computers.”

I searched my mind for the word “sick” and recalled Gabby explaining that it meant good. “Yes! That’s him.” I let out a gust of relief. “Do you know where he is?”

He gave me a head nod for that. I asked, “Where? I need to get to him right away.”

His red eyebrows lifted high and his eyes rounded in horror. “If you get caught in our dorm, you’ll get suspended. Maybe worse.”

Suspended? Did that mean I’d end up hung in the air? I didn’t have time to figure out a new term. “Tony and I have a friend who is, uh, not doing well. It’s very important. If I get in trouble, then I do.”

“Really?” He stared at me, his surprise telling me he didn’t believe me. “We’re all competing here. No one sticks his neck out for someone else. Why take that risk?”

“My friends are worth any risk.”

“You’re not like the other girls here,” he mumbled with a touch of awe I didn’t understand.

I tried to decide if that was good or bad, but this was taking too long so I ignored it and pressed on. “Please tell me if you know where Tony’s room is. I’m in a hurry.”

He looked around then back at me and whispered, “It’ll be faster if I show you, but if you get caught anywhere in the boys’ dorm, I don’t know anything about it. Got it?”

I swallowed my excitement. “Got it. I promise not to tell anyone you helped me.”

Pulling one of the doors open, he led the way down a beige hall that mimicked the one in the girls’ dorm. I held my breath as I followed, hoping my ankle cuff didn’t set off any alarms. When everything remained silent, I let out that breath and hurried to keep up with my guide. He turned a corner at the end of the hall. I was right behind him and barely missed getting hit by a door that opened as we scooted past.

After another two turns, he stopped at the first door on his right and pointed. “That’s Tony’s room. Don’t get caught.”

“Thank you.”

He’d already backed away and took off, disappearing around the corner.

I knocked on the door and heard, “What?”

“It’s me, Rayen.” I kept my voice low.

I heard grumbling noises then he called out, “Come in.”

Turning the knob, I pushed the door open and closed it just as quickly behind me.

Tony’s room was just like mine except his bed was neat where I’d left mine in an unmade pile. He sat at his small desk, tapping quickly on a computer that was much newer looking than the one we had used to time travel.

No one from this time would believe us if we told them about yesterday, but the portal to the other world really had been through the monitor of an abused computer that folded up. A laptop.

Tony flicked a look my way just long enough to scowl at me and kept typing as he asked, “What the ‘ell you doin’ over in the boys’ dorm? Want to get thrown outta this place?”

“Gabby’s in trouble.”

Tony’s fingers flew over the keys, tapping rapidly. His eyes never moved from the screen. “What kinda trouble?”

“In the clinic.”

“Be specific.”

The snarly, impatient Tony was back. The one I first met yesterday, before our little trip had taken the edge off his attitude. Traveling to another time with deadly flowering vines and unusual-looking kids trying to kill us would do that I guess. The children stuck in that place—the Sphere—were called MystiKs and I was anxious to see their leader Callan again.

Tony was showing no signs of budging.

He’d proven he could be compassionate and loyal when things got tough, but this was the other side of him–belligerent, hardheaded and sarcastic–none of which I was in the mood for with Gabby in danger and Phen running around the school.

Tony’s foul mood would be nothing compared to mine if he didn’t start paying attention so we could get moving. I tried for easy by sticking with the most important issue at this moment, which was getting him to realize Gabby was in trouble.

“I woke up with Gabby screaming for help in my mind.”

“Oh, man, are you kidding me?” He leaned forward, paused then tapped keys harder. “I don’t have time for your woo-woo stuff right now, Xena. You had a nightmare. That’s all.”

There were times he called me that weird Xena name when it sounded friendly.

This wasn’t one of them.

I walked toward his desk where I watched little animated caricatures on his monitor attack each other. Buildings were blowing up. He was grinding my patience to a fine dust that would evaporate any minute.

What was so special about pretend fighting? “I thought it was a nightmare, too, Tony, but not any more. I’m telling you I hear her in my head and she’s scared of something.” When he continued to ignore me, I gave up on patience. “What are you doing?”

“I’m just about to win a game against the champion–”

“A game? Gabby’s in trouble and you’re ignoring me for a game?”

He muttered, “Not just any game.”

Rayen! Please help me! Gabby shouted in my mind.

My heart raced at her terror. “Listen to me, Tony.”

“Not. Now.” He was hunched over the computer, intent on that ridiculous game.

Gabby’s voice shouted, Raayeeen!

Energy swam through me in a rush and heated my hands. I slapped a hand down on top of Tony’s fingers. His keyboard glowed red. White light burst from the monitor then it blanked out.

Tony swung around, his face wearing shock for a second then he shoved up out of his chair, yelling, “Do you realize what you just did? I’m gonna kill you!”

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