Read Out of This World Online

Authors: Douglas E. Richards

Tags: #Adventure, #Juvenile, #Science Fiction

Out of This World

This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Douglas E. Richards

eBook Published by Paragon Press, 2012

[email protected]

E-mail the author at [email protected], Friend him on Facebook at Douglas E. Richards Author, or visit his website at www.douglaserichards.com

 

ISBN:
978-0-9853503-3-8
 

 

All rights reserved. With the exception of excerpts for review purposes, no part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system.

 

First Edition

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Douglas E. Richards is the
New York Times
and
USA Today
bestselling author of the adult science fiction thriller
WIRED
, and its sequel,
AMPED
. He has also written five middle grade/young adult novels widely acclaimed for their appeal to boys, girls, and adults alike. In 2010, in recognition of his work, he was selected to be a "special guest" at San Diego Comic-Con International, along with such icons as Stan Lee, Ray Bradbury, and Rick Riordan. Richards has written numerous feature articles for the award-winning magazine,
National Geographic KIDS—
some having appeared in a dozen languages in as many as sixteen countries

as well as for American Fencing Magazine. He currently lives in San Diego, California with his wife, his two children, Ryan and Regan (for whom the main characters in his PROMETHEUS PROJECT series are named), and his dogs Dash and Myla.

 

ALSO BY DOUGLAS E RICHARDS

 

Adult

WIRED (sci-fi/technothriller)

AMPED
(the WIRED sequel)

 

Middle Grade/YA
 

The Prometheus Project: Trapped
(Book 1) 

The Prometheus Project: Captured
(Book 2) 

The Prometheus Project: Stranded
(Book 3) 

The Devil’s Sword

Ethan Pritcher, Body Switcher

 

 

 

 

 

Out of This World

 

Douglas E. Richards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

                                                                                                                      

The Amazing Zacharini

 

Zachary Lane carefully scooped up the deck of cards in front of him on his bedroom floor and held them against his forehead. He shut his eyes and squinted in pretend concentration. “And now,” he whispered mystically, “the
Amazing
Zacharini
will use the power of his colossal mind to find the card you picked. Using brainwaves alone.”

He opened his eyes and stared intently into the hazel eyes of his sister, Jenna, two years younger, seated on the tan carpet across from him. Her face had a smattering of light freckles and she had shoulder length, brownish-blonde hair.

Jenna was unimpressed. She produced an exaggerated, pretend yawn. “Can you wake me up when this is over, Amazing Zucchini?”


Zacharini
” he shot back, annoyed. “You know, like Houdini.”

Jenna rolled her eyes. “So you're gonna figure out which card I picked by brainwaves alone, huh?” she said skeptically.

“That's right.”

“Don’t you have to have a
brain
to do that, Zucchini?” she said with a smirk, trying to get under his skin. Not that she had much chance of succeeding. No one was as sure of himself as Zachary. Her brother thought there was nothing that he couldn't do. And what annoyed Jenna the most was that he was probably
right
. Her parents were both scientists with minds sharp as razors, but she was pretty sure that her brother Zachary was even sharper.

“Really, Jen? That’s the best you’ve got?” he said, shaking his head in pity. “Ten minutes from now, after I’ve pulled off something truly amazing,” he added, raising his eyebrows, “I want you to remember that you said
I
was the one without the brain.”

“You’re not as amazing as you think you are, Zucchini,” said Jenna. “You know what magic trick I’d really like to see?” she added.

“Let me guess,” said Zachary without hesitation. “You’d like to see me disappear.”

Jenna winced before she could catch herself. She hadn’t really wanted him to give her an answer—especially the
right
answer. “No. That wasn’t what I was going to say at all,” she lied, but she was sure she had said it so pathetically that her brother wouldn’t be fooled for a second. Still, there was no turning back now. “You couldn’t be more . . .um . . . wrong. You’d better check those magic brainwaves of yours.”

Zachary shook his head. “If you’d let me get on with the trick,” he said impatiently, “we could all find out just how magic my brainwaves turn out to be.”

Jenna frowned. As usual, her attempts at insulting him hadn’t worked at all, and may have even backfired. She nodded. “Okay, Zucchini, show me your dumb trick.”

Zachary removed the deck of cards from his forehead and held them about a foot off the ground, so all of the cards were facing down. His blue eyes sparkled with amusement as he flipped over the top card and dropped it face-up on the carpet between them. It was the Five of Diamonds.

He ran a hand through his short, light-brown hair and massaged his own head for a moment as if trying to stimulate his brain. “No,” he said finally, shaking his head. “That's not your card.”

He flipped over the next card from the top of the deck, revealing its identity, and placed it beside the Five. It was the Ace of Spades. He studied it carefully. “No,” he said once again.

Jenna tried to act bored but was fascinated despite herself. She watched her brother lay six more cards, face up, beside the first two, each time shaking his head and repeating the word, “No”.

And then the moment of truth arrived. Zachary turned over the King of Clubs.
The King of Clubs.
This was the card she had chosen and then returned to the deck. This was the card whose identity she had written down on a piece of paper, now shoved in her pocket, so there could be no cheating. Jenna was careful not to change her expression in any way.

Zachary stared into the King's face intently. He squinted. His forehead creased with concentration. “No,” he said finally, shaking his head. He placed the King face-up on the floor with the rest of the cards, and immediately shifted his gaze back to the top of the deck still in his hand.

No?
Jenna fought to suppress a smile, but the corners of her mouth turned up slightly even so.
He had said no.
Hah
. He didn't know the King was her card, which meant he had botched the trick. He wasn't infallible after all. She fought to hide her excitement. She could hardly wait for the Amazing Zucchini to guess the wrong card so she could rub it in.

Zachary continued turning over cards from the top of the deck, one by one, and staring intently at each. Five more times he said “no” before adding each card to the ever-growing number spread out on the carpet.

He went to flip yet another card, but when he touched the top of the deck his hand jerked back explosively, as if he had received an electric jolt. “Ah-ha,” he announced triumphantly. “This was the sign I've been waiting for.”

He returned his hand to the deck and lifted the top card in preparation to flip it over and reveal its identity. He stared intently at his sister. “I'll bet you a dollar that the next card I flip over is your card.”

Jenna's breath caught in her throat. She had no idea what card he now held in his hand, but she knew one thing for sure: it was
not
the King of Clubs.
She had him
.

Or did she?

She paused in thought. She had bet with Zachary two other times within the last year. Both times he offered her ridiculous bets he couldn’t possibly win. Not in a million years. She had been absolutely certain about this: right up until the time that he did, in fact, win. Both bets.

She had better be careful.

Her mind drifted back to a cold, dark night seven months earlier. He had called her into his bedroom and put his hand on the light-switch that controlled his only light. “I’ll bet you five dollars that I’m fast enough to turn off this switch and make it to the stairs before my room gets dark.”

“What? You’re out of your mind.”

“Nope. Just superhumanly fast. You know, to go along with all of my other superhuman qualities.”

Jenna glanced at the stairs, which were a good fifteen feet away. Saying nothing, she moved her hand to where his had been and flicked the light-switch down. She and her brother were instantly plunged into total darkness.

“Impossible,” she said simply.

“Then make the bet,” he challenged.

“It’s
impossible
, Zack. You’d have to use some kind of trick.” She tilted her head in thought. “What did you do, rig a remote control to turn off the lights? So you can do it while you’re
already
standing on the stairs?”


Jen
,” he said, pretending to be offended. “That would be
cheating
. I would
never
do that. I’ll stand right where you are and flip the switch with my own hand. Really.”

Jenna tested the light switch a few more times and then shrugged. “Okay,” she said at last. “You’re on. Five dollars.” She stepped aside. “Go ahead, Zack. Flip the switch and make it to the stairs before it gets dark. I can’t
wait
to see this.”

Zachary grinned. “Funny that you say that, Jen. Because I’m afraid you’re going to have to.”

“Have to what?”

“Have to wait. You didn’t think I was going to do this right now, did you?”

Jenna’s eyebrows came together in confusion.

“I never said I was going to do it
now
. That was never part of the bet. I’ll let you know when I’m ready.”

The next morning, Zachary was ready. He opened his window shade and his room was immediately flooded with sunlight. He then calmly switched off the room light, which in broad daylight did not, of course, cause the room to get dark, and walked slowly, deliberately, from the light-switch to the stairs. This
impossible
bet had turned out surprisingly easy for him to win.

Four months later he removed three enormous glasses from the cupboard and filled them to the brim with water. He bet her he could finish drinking all three giant glasses before she could finish drinking a tiny paper cup full of water. There was only one catch: she had to let him finish his first glass and begin to drink his second before she could start.

Jenna remembered the light-switch bet and vowed not to be fooled again. It only took a few seconds for her to figure out his plan. He would knock over her cup while he was getting his head start and claim victory when she wasn’t able to drink all of the spilled water.
Not this time
, she thought to herself. This time she’d make sure his plan backfired.

“Okay,” she said as innocently as she could. “You have a bet.”

“Great,” said Zachary, reaching for his first glass.

Jenna blocked his hand. “Wait just a second,” she said, smiling slyly. “I have a condition. We can’t touch each other’s glasses. Whoever does loses instantly.”

Zachary looked horrified. “What?”

“You heard me. What’s the matter, Zack? You weren’t planning to spill my cup were you? You weren’t planning to cheat?”

Her brother gulped. “No. Of course not.”

“Then you shouldn’t have any problem with this.”

Zachary grimaced, and Jenna could tell he was frantically searching to find a way to escape her trap. But there was no way out.
He
was the one who had proposed the bet, and he couldn’t possibly argue that her condition was unreasonable.

“Well?” pressed Jenna.

Her brother considered for a moment longer and then nodded miserably.

“That’s more like it,” she said happily. She waved her hand toward his large glasses of water and grinned. “Let’s get started.”

Zachary reached for his first glass and slowly began drinking. And he didn’t look happy. Jenna readied herself to snatch her tiny cup and drain it the moment her brother began to drink from his next glass, as they had agreed.

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