The Plot Squad
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by Robert Ferrier
Category: Science Fiction
Description: Brandy Bolt and three other writers must use fictional characters to rescue Brandy's daughter. One of Brandy's creations has abducted Mikka Bolt, 10, into Dreamscape, a parallel world populated by every fictional character created since the dawn of time. The Plot Squad--teenagers Kodi Coats, Becca Gee, Savannah Vaughn and Wade Heskett--risk death to save Mikka. Writing mentor Owen Diggs, a mover between worlds, offers guidance and seeks personal vengeance. In the tradition of The Wizard of Oz and The Lord of the Rings, Kodi and the Squad encounter trolls, a genius in virtual reality, a Mexican god posing as a movie director, mythological heroes and a legendary serpent before confronting Brandy's alter ego in a mountain fortress in Dreamscape.
eBook Publisher: SynergEbooks, 2004 SynergEbooks
eBookwise Release Date: October 2004
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [384 KB]
Reading time: 244-342 min.
Brandy Bolt's world changed after rattlesnakes rained on Rusk, Oklahoma.
The trouble started when she left the Daily Democrat newspaper office and heard a thump. A snake bounced off the cab of Billy Dodd's pickup and fell between two dogs in the back.
Behind her, a woman screamed. Brandy turned to see another snake slithering near a baby stroller. Caton Nemecek panicked and overturned the stroller, dumping her 3-month-old daughter on the sidewalk.
"Don't move, Caton!" Brandy yelled. As a 31-year-old mother, she felt the woman's fear. This could have been her daughter, Mikka, in harm's way. She stayed calm, as Mikka would have done, and inched around the snake. She picked up the crying baby and handed her to Caton. Then Brandy guided the frightened mother toward the entrance to Ace Hardware. "Stay inside until the police get here."
She heard screeching tires and a crash. She turned to see steam gushing from Andy Meltzer's Suburban, mashed into the rear of a Kia. A rattler rolled off the Suburban's windshield and wedged over the crushed radiator. Brandy smelled meat cooking as the snake writhed in the steam.
She heard more screams, car doors opening, the wail of a siren. She looked up and saw a single-engine Cessna, white against the blue sky. As the plane banked to the north, she saw a door flapping open. She watched thin shapes bleeding from the plane.
Oh my God! Ethan Stone! she thought.
She felt fear as realization struck home. The soccer field! Mikka!
Brandy rushed into the street and dodged a police cruiser as it screeched to a stop. One image flashed through her mind: her 10-year-old daughter at Saturday soccer practice.
Brandy ran along Park Street. The June sun bore down and sweat salted her lips. She raced past store windows, her reflection surreal: a Black woman, former sprinter at Cal Poly, racing to save her daughter. As Brandy sped past County Drug and crossed Elm Street, she heard more sirens downtown. Cars sped by, the driver's faces showing shock.
This couldn't be happening! she thought. She had left her job as a reporter in Compton, California, so Mikka could grow up safely in a No Starbucks town of 6,000 in eastern Oklahoma. Now this!
Of all times to be on foot, she thought. Brandy's car was in for repair. Her grandmother, Grace Freeman, had loaned her pickup to a neighbor visiting a Hospice patient. Brandy's best friend, Amy Fong, had driven Mikka to practice while Brandy walked downtown to finish writing an article at the paper.
She thought of Mikka, terrified as snakes fell from the sky. The image spurred her to run faster.
As she sprinted across Maple Street, an SUV honked and swerved to miss her. She turned east and ran uphill on Cruce. Only a half-mile more, she thought. The sound of the plane faded away, like a prehistoric bird gliding into the distance. Only one pilot in this town owned snakes, she thought?Ethan Stone, the postmaster! Baptist elder and 32nd degree Mason.
She heard a car horn, and Amy's red Honda stopped beside her. "Get in!"
Brandy opened the passenger door and jumped into the car.
"I heard on the radio," Amy said, her almond eyes magnified by thin-rimmed glasses. "I'll have us at the park in two minutes."
The Honda shot forward, tires squealing. Brandy said a prayer of thanks for her best friend and fellow Plot Squad member.
"I called your grandmother on the cell," Amy said as she sped past two kids on bicycles. "She freaked out. Didn't have her pickup. I headed this way 'cause I figured I'd see you."
"I'm glad you did!" Brandy willed Amy to drive faster, although she was already over the limit. Amy gripped the wheel, her glossy black hair in disarray, her face showing the same concentration as when she attacked an opponent in Taekwando.
"I called the Rodeo Queen," Amy said, her brown eyes focused on the street. "Jeff told her Ethan Stone must have put his cages of snakes in that plane and took off before anyone could stop him. The police are waiting for him at the airport." Amy shook her head. "Why would Ethan do something like that?"
"Who knows! Please hurry!"
Amy slowed for a stop sign, and then gunned the Honda. As the scene flashed by, Brandy's mind swirled with images from the past. South L.A. streets: you learned to run, or you died. Yet not everyone survived. Her husband, Luther, had tried to speed away from a botched robbery at a 7-11 store. Brandy's mother, Nell, worked there, and Luther knew when she counted the cash. On that night a year ago, an accomplice had shot her dead. Luther died during the police chase. Only Luther would rob his own mother-in-law, she thought. Brandy had lost her mother and her husband in a span of five minutes.
Now her fear for Mikka hardened within. She remembered nursing her only child, that special time of bonding. Brandy's life with Mikka had been too short, she thought. If she lost Mikka--after the deaths of Luther and Nell--Brandy knew she would die inside. Then she thought of someone who might help. "Maybe Trent heard the plane and ran down from the college to the soccer field," Brandy said. Trent Leeds. She longed for the comforting arms of the tall Brit she had been dating for the last six months. Somehow, he made everything right.
As a police cruiser drove away, Amy screeched into the parking lot at Rusk Soccer Field. Brandy saw parents hugging their children near the sidelines. As she hurried from the car and rushed toward the field, Brandy smelled the familiar fresh-mowed Bermuda grass and heard birds chirping--familiar comforts in a world gone strange.
She glanced around the field. No Mikka.
"There's Trent!" Amy said. "Maybe he's seen her."
She felt a stab of hope as her lover broke away from a circle of people and ran toward her. At six-feet-one, he moved with an easy grace, honed by years on rugby fields. The wind blew locks of his disheveled brown hair across his forehead. His blue eyes, beneath long lashes, showed a twinkle of humor that was out of place now. With every step, his muscles rippled beneath faded blue jeans, which clashed with an untucked green Oxford T-shirt and red Nikes. Brandy had always wondered how he fit in with the English literature faculty at Rusk Community College, three blocks north on Academy Hill. His face was replete with dimples and laugh lines.
Why was he smiling? she wondered.
As he approached, Brandy cried out, "Have you seen Mikka?"
"Your grandmother just drove off with her," he answered. "Grace's friend returned the pickup."
Brandy collapsed into Trent's arms and sobbed in relief. When she felt strong enough, she stepped back and looked across the field. Through the crowd of onlookers she saw a man chopping with a hoe at something in the grass. Then the crowd dispersed to reveal a rattlesnake. Another reptile lay dead nearby.
"I'd just left my class when I heard the sirens," Trent said. "I ran down here because you'd said Mikka was practicing today." Sweat moistened his cheeks, and he looked worried, even though Mikka had not been hurt. "She demanded that we try to save the snake, but it was too late. Then Grace arrived and took her home."
"Lucky no one got hurt," Amy said. "It's wild downtown."
Brandy shivered as the reality of her daughter's close call sank in. Trent held her again.
Amy looked at Brandy. "I'll wait in the car and take you home when you're ready." Then she turned and walked toward the parking lot.
"Did you hear it was Ethan Stone in that plane?" Brandy said.
"Yes." Trent looked as if he wanted to say more.
"What could have freaked him?"
He didn't answer at first. "Are you still taking Mikka to the bluegrass performance tonight?"
"Yes, if the police get things cleared up. Music will get her mind off all this," she said, sweeping her arm toward the field. She looked up at him. "I'm glad you're meeting us. You should get to know the Plot Squad."
Trent kept his arms around her waist, as if he didn't want to let her go. Something was on his mind. Brandy could feel the tension in his body.
"What?" she said.
"Keep an eye on Mikka."
"You just said she's fine. She's probably in the back yard playing under the elm."
"Just watch her. It's started."
The heat bore down on them, and Brandy heard the buzzing whir of cicadas in the trees surrounding the field.
Out in the parking lot, Amy honked.
"Owen Diggs will call a meeting soon," Trent said.
"How can you know? You're not even in the Plot Squad yet."
The horn sounded twice this time.
"We'll talk," Trent said. He released her and started walking back toward Academy Hill.
"Talk about what?"
He kept walking, ignoring her.
Muttering under her breath, she turned and ran back toward the Honda, where Amy was honking again. Brandy knew that today in this town, something had gone irrevocably wrong.