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GET READY Your summer adventure starts HERE!
GET READY
Your summer
adventure starts
HERE!
GET READY Your summer adventure starts HERE! DISCOVER a library full of ideas EMBARK on a
GET READY Your summer adventure starts HERE! DISCOVER a library full of ideas EMBARK on a
GET READY Your summer adventure starts HERE! DISCOVER a library full of ideas EMBARK on a
DISCOVER a library full of ideas
DISCOVER
a library full
of ideas
adventure starts HERE! DISCOVER a library full of ideas EMBARK on a quest to triumph over
adventure starts HERE! DISCOVER a library full of ideas EMBARK on a quest to triumph over
adventure starts HERE! DISCOVER a library full of ideas EMBARK on a quest to triumph over
EMBARK on a quest to triumph over ancient evil
EMBARK on a
quest to triumph
over ancient evil
of ideas EMBARK on a quest to triumph over ancient evil BLAST OFF on a mission
of ideas EMBARK on a quest to triumph over ancient evil BLAST OFF on a mission
of ideas EMBARK on a quest to triumph over ancient evil BLAST OFF on a mission
BLAST OFF on a mission to save the world
BLAST OFF
on a mission to
save the world
over ancient evil BLAST OFF on a mission to save the world ESCAPE to uncharted territory
over ancient evil BLAST OFF on a mission to save the world ESCAPE to uncharted territory
over ancient evil BLAST OFF on a mission to save the world ESCAPE to uncharted territory
over ancient evil BLAST OFF on a mission to save the world ESCAPE to uncharted territory

ESCAPE

to uncharted

territory

mission to save the world ESCAPE to uncharted territory NAVIGATE a dangerous destiny DECODE a mysterious
NAVIGATE a dangerous destiny
NAVIGATE
a dangerous
destiny
to save the world ESCAPE to uncharted territory NAVIGATE a dangerous destiny DECODE a mysterious cyber-puzzle
to save the world ESCAPE to uncharted territory NAVIGATE a dangerous destiny DECODE a mysterious cyber-puzzle
to save the world ESCAPE to uncharted territory NAVIGATE a dangerous destiny DECODE a mysterious cyber-puzzle
DECODE a mysterious cyber-puzzle
DECODE
a mysterious
cyber-puzzle
to save the world ESCAPE to uncharted territory NAVIGATE a dangerous destiny DECODE a mysterious cyber-puzzle
to save the world ESCAPE to uncharted territory NAVIGATE a dangerous destiny DECODE a mysterious cyber-puzzle

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WHERE WILL YOUR SUMMER ADVENTURE TAKE YOU?

Whether you’re ready to blast off on an intergalactic expedition or start exploring the world on a quest for sacred relics, or you’re more comfortable decoding secrets on the Internet, let these summer reads inspire your next adventure.

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Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls

Voyagers: Project Alpha

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Knights of the Borrowed Dark

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Click Here to Start

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The City of Ember

 
48 95
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Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Your adventures await

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START READING NOW!

RAYMOND ARROYO CROWN BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS NEW YORK Hang on to your pith helmets!

RAYMOND ARROYO

RAYMOND ARROYO CROWN BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS NEW YORK Hang on to your pith helmets! Hang

CROWN BOOKS

FOR YOUNG READERS NEW YORK

RAYMOND ARROYO CROWN BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS NEW YORK Hang on to your pith helmets! Hang

Hang on to your pith helmets!

Hang on to your pith helmets!

Hang on to your pith helmets!

Keep reading for a sneak

Keep reading for a sneak

Keep reading for a sneak

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2016 by Raymond Arroyo Jacket art copyright © 2016 by Jeff Nentrup Illustrations copyright © 2016 by Antonio Javier Caparo

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

Crown and the colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

Visit us on the Web! randomhousekids.com

Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at RHTeachersLibrarians.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Arroyo, Raymond. The relic of Perilous Falls / Raymond Arroyo. — First edition. pages cm. — (Will Wilder ; [1]) Summary: “A thrill-seeking twelve-year-old boy with a mysterious family heritage who discovers ancient objects of rare power—and must protect them from the terrifying demons who will do anything to possess them” —Provided by publisher. ISBN 978-0-553-53959-2 (trade) — ISBN 978-0-553-53960-8 (lib. bdg.) — ISBN 978-0-553-53961-5 (ebook) [1. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction. 2. Relics—Fiction. 3. Supernatural—Fiction. 4. Families—Fiction. 5. Prophecies—Fiction.] I. Title. PZ7.A74352Re 2016 [Fic]—dc23 2015006124

Printed in the United States of America

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First Edition

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Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

ATTENTION, READER: THIS IS AN UNCORRECTED ADVANCE EXCERPT.

CHAPTER 1 A Ride in the Yard A ll Will Wilder meant to do was
CHAPTER 1
CHAPTER 1

A Ride in the Yard

A ll Will Wilder meant to do was ride the donkey at his eight-year-old brother’s backyard birthday party He

didn’t mean to hurt anyone, he didn’t mean to unlock his destiny, and he certainly didn’t mean to see the shadows. But that is exactly what happened Life often came at Will while he was focused on something else Since Will was twelve and nearly five feet tall, his par- ents thought he had outgrown riding the donkey they had rented for his brother Leo’s birthday “Aren’t you a little old for a donkey ride, Will? It’s for the kids C’mon,” Deborah Wilder said, playfully mussing his spiky black hair in their sweltering backyard She had a thin face like Will’s, full lips, and blue-purple eyes that even the hardest of hearts could not resist for long It was no wonder her TV show, Supernatural Secrets, had so many

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Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls

fans. “You’re getting so big, the donkey could ride you! Why don’t you and your friends go finish that catapult thing you’ve been working on?” She gave him a quick one-armed hug and made her way back toward the party guests. “Mom, please, just one time around the yard—or maybe down the block,” Will begged. “No, you’ll kill it, you big ox!” she said over her shoulder with a smirk. Deborah swept back her straight brown hair and bent down to fix Will’s six-year-old sister Marin’s pink dress. “So now donkey rides have age restrictions?” Will yelled after her. “I didn’t know that, Mom! Is there a height limit too?” But Deborah Wilder paid him no attention. She had already mingled back into the crush of family, children, and neighbors in the fun part of the yard. Marin stuck her tiny pink tongue out at Will, both hands on her hips. “Follow the rules, mithter. Follow the rules,” she scolded with a lisp before cartwheeling away. Sulking in defeat, Will shuffled back toward his three friends, two boys and a girl, who were watching closely from the fence at the rear of the yard. Since when am I too big? Will believed he had at least another year, maybe two, before he would officially outgrow amusements like donkey rides. He knew he had to let them go eventually. But not now— especially when money and prestige were on the line. “Strike one, Will-man,” Andrew Stout, a massive kid with blazing red hair, and one of Will’s closest friends, bellowed. “Where’s my five dollars?” “I’m not finished yet,” Will said.

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A Ride in the Yard

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“Oh, no You’re finished I said you couldn’t get on the donkey, and you ain’t on the donkey So pay up If you want to try again, it’ll be double or nothing ” “Can we check the law on this?” interrupted a rail-thin boy with eyes that looked like black BBs behind his rectan- gular glasses Simon Blabbingdale lightly poked Andrew’s side with one of the thick paperbacks he always seemed to be carrying “Is it legal for Sheriff Stout’s adolescent son to bet on ponies at a birthday party?” Simon unleashed a se- ries of high-pitched snorts, which he considered laughter Nobody joined him Simon and Will had been friends since the first grade When no one in the cafeteria would sit next to the scrawny, curly-haired kid with glasses, Will did “Can it, Simon ” Andrew flicked the paperback from his ribs and focused on Will “We made a deal, Will-man, so pay up I need the money for our trip ” The big kid extended his open palm The Wilders had invited Andrew and Simon to join them in Florida at the National Pee-Wee Karate Championships Leo, an accomplished brown belt, was to compete at the tournament in two weeks’ time Will and his friends would tag along for moral support and hit a few amusement parks between matches “What if I told you that I just came up with a new way to get on the donkey?” Will mysteriously threw out, his hands clasped behind his back “Let’s see it Double or nothing,” Andrew said Camilla Meriwether, a girl with wide green eyes, a long

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Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls

chestnut-colored ponytail, and braces, rapped her knuckles on the fence behind her “Guys Can we please try to act a little more mature? I mean, it’s embarrassing If Will’s par- ents don’t want him riding the donkey, why can’t we just have some cake and enjoy the party?” Andrew and Will eyeballed each other, then in unison turned to Cami “Uh, no ” Cami was the only girl Will spoke to in his entire class She was kind, sort of cute, and always spoke her mind— even if he rarely listened to her “Okay, well, while you little guys play your cowboy games, I’m going to get some punch ” She marched over to one of the refreshment tables When Cami was out of earshot, Andrew spoke up “All right, get onto the donkey’s back, I’ll give you ten bucks If you don’t, you have to pay up Deal?” Will furrowed his brow and got in Andrew’s face “Deal ” They shook on it and Will started to leave, but a swift tap on the arm from Simon stopped him “I was thinking, as long as everybody’s making wagers,” Simon said, looking over the top of his glasses, “I’ll buy you the first souvenir of our trip—no more than five dollars—if you race the donkey around the yard You can’t just ride it I’m talking a full gallop If there’s no gallop, you pick up the souvenir ” Will considered the offer for barely a second “I’m going to be ten dollars richer and score a free souvenir You’re on too ” He shot the boys a crooked smile, then ran off to ap- peal the donkey ban to the authority of last resort

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A Ride in the Yard

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Dan Wilder, Will’s father, with his tortoiseshell glasses and blue apron, stood at the barbecue pit on the deck me- thodically tending his perfectly spaced burgers He laid them out like houses on a map at one of his city planning meetings Dan Wilder was an architect, a city councilman, and a planner for the town of Perilous Falls He had a re- fined sense of order even when it came to grilling—patties were restricted to the lower grill, veggies on the top As dads went, Dan was a handsome one He had a strong, square jaw, and aside from three slight scars on the left side of his face, Dan could have been on the cover of any grocery checkout aisle magazine A dad of few words, he usually kept to himself, attentively watching while others chat- tered on Indeed, he had overheard Will’s donkey pleas all day by the time the boy made his approach “Dad, I was wondering ” Without looking up from the smoldering patty at the end of his spatula, Mr Wilder announced, “The answer son is no ” Then, brightening, he added, “Do you want a burger?” “Unless it can ride me around the yard, no thanks ” Will stalked away in a huff to plot his next move He climbed onto a picnic table close to his house and studied the landscape like a general planning an invasion How to get on that donkey? On the opposite side of his yard stood the squinty-eyed, mustached Heinrich Crinshaw The Wilders’ bow-tied next-door neighbor was chairman of the Perilous Falls City

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Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls

Council and a constant if disagreeable presence at fam- ily events On the surface Mr Crinshaw seemed a refined gentleman, even warm Until he opened his mouth In a flat drone, he advised the neighborhood kids to stay on the Wilders’ side of the fence, worried that they might leap into his garden and ruin the rare flowers and herbs he spent thousands of dollars maintaining “There’s nothing over there for you,” he croaked to the kids when their parents were out of earshot Then, bending down to their level, with a smile he added, “Though my dog, Suzy, might like to see you all She so enjoys children She ate two last year—bones and all ” Mr Crinshaw turned away as a couple of the little girls immediately burst into tears Will spied Aunt Freda, Deborah Wilder’s blond rela- tive, who had made herself snack guardian Looking like an albino elephant caught in a kelly-green bedsheet, Freda jealously protected the table from approaching guests, gob- bling cheese squares and chips as she made her way toward the cake at the other end of the table Across from Aunt Freda, near the drink station, Mayor Ava Lynch held a circle of parents spellbound Her red suit and helmet of hard black hair seemed out of place at a back- yard summer party With the help of some sort of greasy youth cream, her skeletal face was quite animated that day “No, no this city has got to move beyond the shackles of its history or we will never grow,” she brayed, as if giving a

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A Ride in the Yard

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campaign speech At nearly seventy years old, the mayor’s booming voice could still fill a yard, even reaching Will “That’s why I decided to cancel this year’s Jacob Wilder Day celebrations The world is changing, and it is high time Per- ilous Falls evolves with it We can’t pretend we’re in the era of Jacob Wilder anymore,” she said, chuckling Will saw his great-aunt Lucille Wilder’s face flush with color at the mention of Jacob Wilder Fireworks were com- ing The compact woman with strawberry-blond hair spun on her heels to face the mayor “Who are you to cancel a forty-five-year tradition?” Aunt Lucille asked in a sharp voice, her curls trembling as if to emphasize the point “My father gave his life for this town, and I’ll be stewed if you are going to stamp out his mem- ory Find another punching bag for your campaign, Ava— preferably someone living You should all remember, there would be no Perilous Falls were it not for my father, Jacob Wilder ” Those watching the little woman with fire in her arresting blue eyes fell silent “Oh, Lucille You have to admit that your father’s super- stitious tales were wearing thin even when we were chil- dren All that devil stuff ” Mayor Lynch laughed, trying to win over the crowd “I know that your father founded the town—and it is wonderful that you run his little museum, bless your heart—but those antique trinkets and all your daddy’s stories won’t make a safe and prosperous future for Perilous Falls We’re in the twenty-first century now, honey People no longer believe the things our parents did

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Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls

And we just don’t have the resources to celebrate old fables, or even the one who created them ” The red hue of Aunt Lucille’s face clashed with the powder-blue silk pantsuit she wore Like loose pajamas, the material swallowed up Lucille’s trim frame—but not her hands, which had balled into fists “Your eyes see nothing, Ava, dear. They never did My father was a visionary who had courage and virtues you’ve never possessed If you don’t agree with his beliefs, or his warnings, say so But don’t disparage a man you never knew Without my family, you might still be seating cus- tomers at Belle’s Lounge ” Lucille stared holes into the mayor “My grandfather Abe opened his first iron ore mine here when it was nothing but wilderness My father tamed that wilderness with a purpose He established schools and churches, and the city hall that you profane He always said Perilous Falls was to be the last stronghold against the dark madness of the world Our faith and our traditions are what sustain this town, Ms. Mayor. It is who we are It is who we will always be That is the legacy of Jacob Wilder, and I will celebrate him with or without mayoral approval Now, if you’ll excuse me ” Aunt Lucille turned a withering glance on the mayor and bolted toward the house

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Order your copy of

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By RAYMOND ARROYO

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1

PROJECT ALPHA

D. J. MacHale

#VoyagersHQ

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1 PROJECT ALPHA D. J. MacHale #VoyagersHQ VoyagersHQ.com Random House New York KEEP READING FOR A

New York

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To all the loyal members of The Little Click Club

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2015 by PC Studios Inc. Full-color interior art, puzzles, and codes copyright © Animal Repair Shop Voyagers digital and gaming experience by Animal Repair Shop

Voyagers digital and gaming experience by Animal Repair Shop All rights reserved. Published in the United

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

Random House and the colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data MacHale, D. J. Project Alpha / D.J. MacHale.—First edition. pages cm.—(Voyagers ; book 1) Summary: Eight boys and girls compete for a spot on the space voyage that will search for a source to solve Earth’s energy crisis. ISBN 978-0-385-38658-6 (trade)—ISBN 978-0-385-38660-9 (lib. bdg.) ISBN 978-0-385-38659-3 (ebook) [1. Interplanetary voyages—Fiction. 2. Competition (Psychology)—Fiction. 3. Power resources—Fiction. 4. Science fiction.] I. Title. PZ7.M177535Pr 2015 [Fic]—dc23 2014031772

Printed in the United States of America

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Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

ATTENTION, READER: THIS IS AN UNCORRECTED ADVANCE EXCERPT.

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1
1
1 ark. Pitch-dark. The kind where you can’t tell if you’re next to a thousand other

ark.

Pitch-dark. The kind where you can’t tell if you’re next to a thousand other people, standing totally alone or about to step off a cliff. “We should stay close,” Dash Conroy said, his voice echo- ing in the vast empty space. “I’m fine on my own,” Anna Turner replied curtly. Anna wasn’t about to show weakness or fear, especially not in front of Dash. There was too much at stake. This was a competition she was determined to win. “We can help each other,” Dash argued. “At least until we figure out what the real challenge is.” Their assignment was clear: retrieve the golden flag. Who- ever got it first would be the winner. Simple, except navigating their way through the darkness wasn’t their only task. Some- thing else would be waiting for them. An obstacle. A puzzle. A test. Danger was out there. They both knew it. They just couldn’t see it.

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“I’m gonna shuffle ahead slowly,” Dash said. “If I hit some- thing, I’ll let you know.” “If you hit something, I’ll hear it,” Anna shot back. Walking into the unknown had Dash’s stomach in a knot. There was no way to know if there was a hundred yards of nothing between him and the golden flag or if he was inches away from something sharp waiting to skewer him. “Are you behind me?” Dash asked, trying not to let his voice crack with tension. “Why? You nervous?” Anna asked coyly. “Maybe you should sit this one out.” “No, I’m okay— Ow!” Dash pulled his hands back quickly. “What is it?” Anna asked anxiously. “I hit something.” He tentatively put his hands out to dis-

cover a smooth, flat surface. “It feels like a tall desk. There’s a

flat top and

“What?” Anna asked. “I think it’s a control panel,” Dash said with growing excite- ment. “This could be how to turn the lights on.” “No!” Anna screamed in Dash’s ear, making him jump with surprise. “Whoa! Why not?” “What if it’s a trap? Those switches could electrify the floor. Or open up a canyon we can’t jump over. Or—” “Or it could turn on the lights,” Dash said calmly. “If some- thing’s out there, we have to see it.” Dash put one finger on each of the switches and flipped them.

uh-oh.”

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Instantly, powerful overhead lights kicked on, illuminat- ing the giant space to reveal they were inside a massive, eight- story-high white tent. Dash was right. Turning on the lights allowed them to see what was out there. It was a fifty-foot-tall dinosaur with a long snout filled with multiple rows of teeth. Sharp teeth. The two stood looking up at the beast in wide-eyed, stunned amazement. “Oh, that’s not good,” Anna said, dumbfounded. The monster reared back and let out a chilling bellow that shook the overhead lighting grid. “Move!” Dash yelled, and pushed her behind a pile of wooden crates next to the control panel. “I told you not to flip those switches,” Anna said in a strained whisper. “Seriously?” Dash whispered back. “You’d rather we just walked into that thing?” “It’s a dinosaur! Why is there a dinosaur?” Dash peered around the edge of the crates to see the behemoth clawing at the floor with its huge, birdlike feet, scraping the surface with lethal talons. It stood in the center of the giant tent, thirty yards away, twisting its head one way and then the other like a curious dog that just heard a strange sound. “What’s it doing?” Anna whispered. “It seems bothered,” Dash replied. Dash raised his hand. Strapped to his wrist was a wide, flexible band that held a small, flat computer monitor. His fin- gers moved quickly over the soft touch pad that covered most

band that held a small, flat computer monitor. His fin- gers moved quickly over the soft

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of his forearm until an image appeared on the small screen. It was an exact drawing of the creature. “That’s it!” Anna said, staring at the image over Dash’s shoulder. “It’s a Raptogon,” Dash said, reading the info. “It eats meat.” “Of course it does.” “It’s got a superior sense of smell and can run up to thirty miles an hour,” Dash read. “But it has poor peripheral vision and is ultra sensitive to bright light.” The Raptogon let out another bellow. Dash stole a quick peek to see that the animal was bobbing its head and chuffing angrily. “What’s happening?” Anna asked. “I think the lights are bothering it.” “Perfect,” Anna said sarcastically. “An angry carnivorous monster.” Dash scanned the rest of the vast space, calculating their next move. There were random stacks of wooden crates scat- tered throughout the tent, which could be used to hide behind, but running from one to the next would leave them exposed to the predator. On the far side of the huge tent, nearly a hundred yards away, was a raised platform with the golden flag hanging from a pole. That was the target. Whichever of them got to it first would win the challenge. “There’s a locker,” Dash said, pointing. Anna looked to see a coffin-sized container lying flat, twenty yards to their right. “They must have put something in there to help us,” Dash said. “Like a weapon.”

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“Man, that thing’s big,” Anna said, staring at the fidgety creature. They both sat back behind the crates. “We can’t outrun it,” Dash said. “But maybe it can be dis- tracted. Let’s work together.” “No,” Anna said sharply. “This is a contest.” “It’s about getting that flag,” Dash shot back. “I don’t think either of us can do that alone.” Anna stared straight into Dash’s eyes, calculating her next move. “All right,” she said flatly. “But I don’t take orders from anybody.”

“I won’t give you any. I just want to get the flag and not get

eaten in the—”

A dark shadow slipped over them, blocking out the light.

They both slowly looked up to see the head of the Raptogon looming above them. Dash instantly scrambled backward, knocking over the crates that had been their screen. The wooden boxes tumbled like dice at the feet of the dinosaur, forcing the beast to dance out of the way. Anna was already up and running for the locker. Dash scrambled to his feet and was right after her. Anna got there first, threw it open, and peered inside. “Nothing!” she exclaimed. “No weapons.” Dash arrived and looked inside. “No, this is good!” he ex- claimed. Inside were two high-powered flashlights with six-inch lenses. “It’s sensitive to light,” he added, breathless. He grabbed

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both and handed one to Anna. “We’ll hit its eyes from both sides. Whichever way it turns, it’ll be blinded and we can work our way to the flag.” Anna looked back to the Raptogon. It had regained its bal- ance and was scanning for them. “You sure about this?” she said, showing a rare hint of un- certainty. “Yes,” Dash replied calmly. “It has bad lateral movement, so keep moving to the side.” The Raptogon zeroed in on the two, shrieked, and charged. Its massive claws pounded the floor as it stormed toward its prey. Dash quickly pressed the button on his flashlight and a powerful beam of white light shot out. “I’ll go left; you go right,” Dash said, and darted away. The Raptogon bared its teeth. Somebody was about to get chewed. Dash hit it in the face with the light beam. The monster immediately stopped and let out a hideous screech that made the hair on Dash’s neck stand up. “Hit it!” Dash screamed to Anna. Anna turned on her flashlight and aimed it at the Rap- togon’s face. The massive creature snapped its head from side to side as if trying to shake off the painful light. “It’s working!” Dash exclaimed. “Keep moving to the side.” Dash moved laterally, doing his best to keep the light fo- cused on the Raptogon’s sensitive eyes. The beast pounded at the ground in pain and anger, and charged for Dash.

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“Stay on it!” Dash commanded. Dash had to run for his life. The Raptogon was fighting through the pain to get to its tormentor. It shrieked. It snarled. It shook its head in anguish, but it kept coming. “Help!” Dash screamed. “Anna! Keep the light on it!” The beast would not be denied. Dash tried desperately to move out of the charging monster’s path, but he was running out of room. The dinosaur had him cornered. Dash banged into a stack of crates, knocking them down and then trip- ping over the tumbling boxes. He couldn’t keep the flashlight steady, and the monster knew it. Again it bared its teeth, sens- ing the kill. Dash fell flat on his back. He kicked at the boxes, hoping they might slow the beast down. They didn’t. He was trapped. “Anna!” Dash yelled in desperation. The monster screamed, opened its mouth, lunged at Dash

and vanished. Dash was left cowering in the corner with his arms over his head for protection.

A harsh horn sounded, signaling the end of the competi-

tion. The Raptogon was a hologram. It may have seemed authen-

tic, but there was never any real danger.

A cheer went up, followed by applause.

Dash slowly lowered his arms to see a group of kids observ- ing the competition from a catwalk high above the floor. Several of them cheered and clapped. Others watched silently. Standing

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with them was an adult man who was surveying the scene with his hands on his hips. “We have a winner!” he announced, his amplified words booming through the cavernous space. Dash wasn’t sure what he meant. How could there have been a winner? They had failed miserably and were nearly eaten. That’s when the truth hit him. He looked to the platform on the far side of the tent to see Anna standing on top, waving the golden flag in triumph. It was a harsh lesson. He had to be careful about who to trust. It was a mistake he vowed not to make again. That is, as long as he wasn’t knocked out of the competition for having lost the golden flag. Not all of them could win the ultimate prize. The odds had been against Dash from the beginning, but that didn’t stop him from giving it a shot. Project Alpha meant too much. To him. To his family. And to the future of the entire world.

23

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Dave Rudden Random House New York Determine your destiny. Keep reading for a sneak 25

Dave Rudden

Random House

Dave Rudden Random House New York Determine your destiny. Keep reading for a sneak 25

New York

Determine your destiny. Keep reading for a sneak

25

To Eilish, because I promised

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2016 by Dave Rudden Jacket logo copyright © 2016 by Jason Cook Jacket art copyright © 2016 by Kerem Beyit

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Originally published in hardcover by Penguin Books Ltd., a division of Penguin Random House LLC, London, in 2016.

Random House and the colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

Visit us on the Web! randomhousekids.com

Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at RHTeachersLibrarians.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Rudden, Dave, author. Title: Knights of the Borrowed Dark / Dave Rudden. Description: First American edition. | New York : Random House, [2016] | Summary: A young orphan learns that monsters can grow out of the shadows in our world, and there is an ancient order of knights who keep them at bay. Identifiers: LCCN 2015031377 | ISBN 978-0-553-52297-6 (hardback) | ISBN 978-0-553-52298-3 (hardcover library binding) | ISBN 978-0-553-52299-0 (ebook) Subjects: | CYAC: Orphans—Fiction. | Monsters—Fiction. | Knights and knighthood—Fiction. | BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION / Fantasy & Magic. | JUVENILE FICTION / Action & Adventure / General. | JUVENILE FICTION / Family / General (see also headings under Social Issues). Classification: LCC PZ7.1.R828 Kn 2016 | DDC [Fic]—dc23 LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2015031377

Printed in the United States of America

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First American Edition

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1

Absentee Aunts

Four months later—October 2

“i dont Have an aunt.” Denizen Hardwick stared down skeptically at the note in his hand. That was the way he looked at most things, and he had a face built for it—thin cheeks, a long nose, eyes the color and sharpness of a nail. The note, left on his bed in Dormitory E that morn- ing, was the object of a special amount of skepticism, so much so that he was surprised it hadn’t started to char at the edges.

Your aunt has been in contact. She is taking you away for a few days. You will be collected at 6 p.m. Pack a bag.

Director Ackerby

27

“I don’t have an aunt,” Denizen said again. It didn’t sound any less stupid the second time round. “Well, that’s not exactly true,” said his best friend, Simon Hayes, also staring at the note. “You just don’t have any aunts you’re aware of.” Dormitory E was a long room with a high ceiling built for spiderwebs. Massive windows invited the weak October sunlight in to die, their frames rattling occasionally with the wind. There were twelve beds, and at this particular lunchtime ten of them were empty. Most of Cross- caper’s orphans were outside because sunlight in October was a rare gift and they hadn’t been given a mysterious note to stare at. Denizen ran a hand through his shaggy red hair. He was small for his age, and barring a late growth spurt, he would be small for every other age as well. The freckles that swarmed his cheeks and nose in summer had now

faded in winter to lost and lonely things, all but the one on his lip. He hadn’t been aware you could have a freckle on your lip. Maybe Denizen was the only person a lip freckle had ever happened to. Maybe it was a mark

of destiny, singling him out for great things

but

he doubted it. Denizen Hardwick wasn’t the kind of person to believe in special circumstances—in

28

distinguishing freckles or meaningful birthmarks or fortuitous aunts. Denizen Hardwick was a skeptic. “I don’t have a— Look, if I do have an aunt, where has she been for the last eleven years?” “Can you get any clues from the paper?” Simon asked. The new library had a collection of detective novels, and Simon was very interested in what one could learn from the smallest details. Gamely, Denizen inspected the note. Unfortu- nately, all he could see was that it was on yellow paper, which meant it had come straight from the director’s desk and was therefore not to be argued with, in the same way you didn’t argue with gravity. Apart from that, it was inconsiderately devoid of clues. “No,” he said. “Sorry.” Simon’s and Denizen’s beds were beside each other and had been since they were both three years old in Dormitory A downstairs. That had started their friendship. Furtive book trades at night, an inquisitive nature in common, and a shared dislike of sports had continued it. There were a lot of things Denizen liked about Simon, but first and foremost was how he radiated calm the way the sun radiated heat. It was impos- sible to be annoyed at Simon. It was impossible to be

29

annoyed around Simon. A conversation with Simon had the soothing effect of the cool side of the pillow. Through either blind luck or best-friend osmo- sis, Simon had snagged all the height Denizen lacked. His giant winter coat did little to bulk out his slender frame, and splayed as he was across his bed, he looked like a crow in a scarf. “But why now?” Denizen said. “Why is she getting in contact now?” “Maybe it took her ages to find you,” Simon said. “Or she was waiting for you to be older?” He thought for a moment. “Maybe she travels a lot and you have to be old enough to travel with her. Or to be left on your own in her giant house.” “Giant house?” “You never know.” “I doubt she has a giant house.” “It’s not impossible. She could be a super-rich spy. It would explain where she’s been all this time. Or maybe she’s a chocolatier.” Denizen rolled his eyes. “A spy-chocolatier,” Simon insisted, grinning. “Solv- ing international crises through the subtle application of nougat.” Part of Denizen knew that he should probably be more excited. A relative appearing out of nowhere to

30

take him away? Most of the other children and teen- agers in Crosscaper had spent their entire lives dream- ing of something like this. That was what worried Denizen. Dreams were tricky things. He’d only ever really had the one, at least until the past couple of months. Since the summer, his sleep had been haunted by Crosscaper’s dark corridors, a figure in white drifting down them like a moth made of glass. In the dream, the figure had lingered, its milk-skinned hands caressing the door of each dormitory in turn before finding his and slipping He shook his head. Definitely not a dream he wanted spilling over into real life. Maybe Simon was right. Maybe his aunt was a chocolate-spy. Maybe Denizen’s life was about to change. Less skepticism. More weaponized hazelnut creams. His bed creaked as he sat down heavily on it. Like everything in Crosscaper, it was falling apart. The orphans relied on castoffs and donations, and since neither Simon nor Denizen fell into the realm of average height, they had the worst of it—more hold- me-togethers than hand-me-downs, skewered with a fortune of safety pins so that when the boys moved, they clicked like ants.

31

The creaking of his bed didn’t worry Denizen— there were too many books underneath it to let him fall. One of Simon’s fictional detectives had commented that you could tell a lot about a person from the con- tents of his bookshelf, but an inspection of Denizen’s collection would simply tell you he loved words. Love on the High Seas sat next to The Politics of Renaissance Italy. (Crosscaper’s books were all donations, and it had bothered Denizen for years wondering who donated books on ancient politics to an orphanage.) And while some volumes were more well-thumbed than others, each one had been read until the covers frayed. My aunt might have books, Denizen thought, and immediately quashed the idea before it had a chance to grow. He was not going to a new family. He was not going to a new life. He was being brought out so a stranger could have a look at him. If afterward this mysterious aunt decided she wanted to meet him again, fine, but he was not getting his hopes up just to be disappointed. And the first thing she was going to do was answer his questions. Simon hadn’t brought it up. He hadn’t needed to— he knew Denizen too well. Denizen was one of only a few children in Crosscaper who didn’t know anything about their parents. Oh, he knew their last name. He

32

Well, he knew he was in an

orphanage for a reason, but he had no idea what that reason was. Simon did. His parents had been killed in a car crash. Mr. Colford, their English teacher, drove Simon

to their grave on the anniversary of their deaths every year. Michael Flannigan, two beds down from Simon on the left, had lost his parents in a fire. Samantha

Hastings’s mum had died of

and the unspoken rule of Crosscaper was that if you didn’t want to share, nobody had a right to pry. But Denizen simply didn’t know. It was the only other dream he’d ever had. A woman—small like him, though it was hard to tell because he was looking up at her. Her arms were around him. She smelled of strawberries. Her song something about the dark Denizen didn’t remember his father at all. Simon flashed him a faint, sympathetic smile. He knew exactly where Denizen’s thoughts were. “Listen,” he said as the bell announced the end of lunch, “I should get down to class. I’ll tell Ms. Hynes you can’t make it because you have to pack.” “That’ll take like ten minutes. I don’t need to—” “You’re right,” Simon said. “I’ll tell her you’ll be along shortly. Maybe you could ask for some extra home- work to take with you.”

Well, she wouldn’t say,

knew that they were

33

“Ah,” Denizen said, grinning. “Cool.” They stared at each other awkwardly. “It’s just a day or two,” Denizen said. “I’ll probably be home tomorrow.” “Sure,” Simon said. “Yeah. Look. Enjoy yourself, all right? Have a chat with her. Try not to overthink things. Let her spoil you if she feels guilty about not being around. See what you can find—yeah? Best of luck.” Denizen loved words, but that didn’t mean he could always find the ones he needed. Instead, he wrapped his arms round Simon in a tight, quick hug. And then he was alone, note crumpled in his hand. Outside, the courtyard quieted. Denizen sighed. As nice as it was to take a few hours off class—he wouldn’t have been able to concentrate anyway, the words absentee aunt bouncing round his skull like a bee in a jar—he wouldn’t have minded some company. Now he was alone with his thoughts, and he couldn’t help turn- ing them over and over in his head. Denizen Hardwick had an aunt. So where had she been all this time? Maybe she hadn’t known he existed. Families fell out all the time—that had been the main theme in both Love on the High Seas and The Politics of Renaissance Italy—so maybe she was only tracking him down now.

34

Was she his mother’s sister or his father’s? What had

happened that had made them lose touch? His stomach knotted. There was so much he wanted to ask her. Would she cry? He wasn’t going to cry—that would be terrible. But she might. Were there going to be hugs? Would that be weird? Denizen tried to imagine what it would be like. The

small, he supposed, maybe with

his eyes and hair. His imagination had very little to

go on. A hazy image formed in his mind of a chubby woman with red hair, her features a strange mix of his and those of Crosscaper’s cook, Mrs. Mollins—the most auntish woman he knew. In his imagination, the hybrid Mollins-aunt fell to her knees and started sobbing when she saw him. Denizen squirmed. That image just made him uncom- fortable. Then again, if awkward aunt-hugging led to answers about his past As far as Denizen was concerned, six p.m. couldn’t come quick enough.

woman would be

35

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a novel DENIS MARKELL DELACORTE PRESS Turn the page and keep reading for a sneak
a novel DENIS MARKELL DELACORTE PRESS Turn the page and keep reading for a sneak
a novel DENIS MARKELL DELACORTE PRESS Turn the page and keep reading for a sneak
a novel DENIS MARKELL DELACORTE PRESS Turn the page and keep reading for a sneak

a novel

DENIS MARKELL

DELACORTE PRESS

Turn the page and keep reading for a sneak

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2016 by Denis Markell Jacket art and interior illustrations copyright © 2016 by Octavi Navarro

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Markell, Denis. Click here to start (a novel) / Denis Markell. —First edition. pages cm Summary: When Ted inherits his uncle’s apartment “and all the treasure within,” he realizes the apartment is set up like a real-life video game and must solve the puzzles with his friends to discover the treasure. ISBN 978-1-101-93187-5 (hardcover) — ISBN 978-1-101-93189-9 (glb) — ISBN 978-1-101-93188-2 (ebook) [1. Buried treasure—Fiction. 2. Video games—Fiction. 3. Friendship—Fiction.] I. Title. PZ7.M339453Cl 2016

[Fic]—dc23

2015011782

The text of this book is set in 11-point Amasis MT. Book design by Stephanie Moss

Printed in the United States of America

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First Edition

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Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

ATTENTION, READER: THIS IS AN UNCORRECTED ADVANCE EXCERPT.

38

CHAPTER 1
CHAPTER 1

WHO WHO KNEW KNEW A A MAN MAN WITH WITH TUBES TUBES

IN IN HIS HIS NOSE NOSE COULD COULD BE BE FUNNY? FUNNY?

It looks like something from a science-fiction movie, with so many machines and tubes going into and out of bags hung on poles. For a moment, it doesn’t register that all those tubes and hoses are connected to a person. I have no memory of what he looked like when I was little, and the only photo of Great-Uncle Ted in our house is from ages and ages ago. It shows a burly man with a crew cut, sit- ting in a living room in the 1960s. He’s got a cigarette in one hand and a lighter in the other. I wonder if he hadn’t smoked so many cigarettes maybe he wouldn’t be here now. He’s looking at the camera with a confident grin that says this is not a man to mess with. The only other place I’ve ever seen Asian men with kick-butt expressions like that is in samurai or martial- arts movies.

39

Not that I watch them all that much.

I mean, it’s bad enough other people make assumptions

about us Asian kids. No need for me to help out. But I gotta say, that photo can’t be further from the old man lying in this bed. The grossest thing is the tube going right up into his nose. It looks horrible, and is attached to a machine that does who knows what.

I go and stand awkwardly by the window, unsure of what to

do. I wish Mom had come in with me, but she said Great-Uncle Ted wants to see me alone. Dying man’s last wish and all, I

guess. I clear my throat and sort of whisper, “Um, hi?” “Arwhk.”

The two veiny sacs of his eyelids slowly open, and when he sees me, he gestures, beckoning me over with one hand.

I gingerly approach the chair next to his bed, careful not

to disturb any of the wires and tubes snaking around him. It’s

hard—I have visions of knocking into some hose or other just as I’m supposed to be having a nice visit.

.” Great-Uncle Ted catches my eye and reaches

out.

Without thinking, I flinch. I have a flashback to a movie I saw where a guy laid out like this had a monster burst out of his chest and jump on someone’s face. I’m not saying I expect that to happen here, but hey, it does go through my mind. Great-Uncle Ted’s eyes change. He points impatiently to something on the table.

“Gghhh

A pad and paper. There is spidery writing on it.

“You want me to

Now there’s a flash of fire in Great-Uncle Ted’s eyes. I know

give you the pad?” I ask.

40

when someone’s ticked off. The message is clearly Yes, you idiot. Give me the pad.

I hand the pad to my great-uncle, who winces in pain as

he presses a button on the side of his bed that raises him to a seated position.

Slowly, he writes something and then hands me the pad.

Hurts too much to talk. You Amanda’s boy, Ted?

I start to write an answer on the pad.

The next thing I know, Great-Uncle Ted yanks the pad out of my hands. The old dude is surprisingly strong! BEEP BEEP BEEP Great. Now the heart-rate machine is going a lot faster. That can’t be good. He scribbles something and hands the pad back to me.

I’m not deaf, you little dope. Talk to me.

I laugh in spite of myself. Of course. Duh.

I’m Ted.” I feel a little weird introducing

myself, since he knows who I am, but since I don’t remember him, it feels like the right thing to do. And I’m pretty sure he seems like a “sir.”

The old man writes some more. He’s writing with more en- ergy now.

“Yes, uh, sir

You got big. Do you still like playing games?

“What games do you mean, sir?” I ask.

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Kissing games.

What th—? “Uh, no, sir,” I begin. “I don’t enjoy kissing games. That is, I’ve never played them. Maybe I would enjoy them if I did. I mean, you never know about something until you try it, right?” I’m babbling now. Trying to look casual, I lean against some- thing, then realize it’s a pole holding some fluid going into my great-uncle (or maybe coming out of him—hard to tell). Gross. I attempt to cross my legs, but I dare anyone to try to do it while wearing these ICU snot-green-colored clown pants they made me wear over my jeans to come in here. It’s not so sim- ple. So my leg sort of hovers half hoisted. Meanwhile, Great-Uncle Ted is scribbling away.

I know you like computer games, you little twerp. I just wanted to see your face.

I laugh, and I see a hint of a smile under all the machinery.

You like the ones where you shoot people?

“I’m not allowed to play those,” I say, which is the truth.

I didn’t ask if you were allowed to. I asked if you liked them.

yeah, I

play them sometimes.” Great-Uncle Ted looks at me with an expression I can’t make out.

I smile and nod. This guy is pretty sharp. “Um

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A lot of fun, huh?

“I guess.” I shrug.

I hope that’s the only way you ever have to shoot and kill a man. The other way is a lot less fun.

“You’ve killed a man?” I try to ask casually, but it kind of comes out in a squeak. Not my most macho moment, but give me a break, I wasn’t ready for this.

Quite a few, yes.

What did Uncle Ted do before he retired? I wonder what sort of professions call for killing men. Or more precisely, “quite a few” men. Was he a soldier? A hit man?

Let’s talk about something else. Why do you like these games so much?

I’m happy to move on. “I don’t think the shooting games are all that—and that’s the truth. It’s more something to do with my friends when we hang out. What I really like is what are called escape-the-room games.”

Tell me about them.

Sure, why not? “They’re kind of puzzles, where you’re stuck in a room and have to figure a way out.” Great-Uncle Ted’s eyes survey the space around him.

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There’s only one way to escape this room.

“Well, I don’t agree,” I say eagerly, standing up to look around. “There are all sorts of exits, if you look carefully. Not just the door. There’s that window. You could tie your sheets together and climb down there, or maybe there’s an air- conditioning duct—” TAP TAP TAP. My brilliant analysis is interrupted by the sound of my great- uncle’s pencil tapping loudly on the pad to get my attention.

I was actually referring to dying, Ted. Try to keep up.

I sit down, deflated. “I guess I didn’t think of that,” I say honestly, “because you seem so alive.” Great-Uncle Ted does his best to roll his eyes.

Don’t bother sucking up to a dying man, Ted. You any good at these room games?

“Never seen a game I couldn’t solve or beat. I’m always the top scorer—that means I’ve solved them quicker than anyone else. I guess that makes me the best,” I say, before realizing how obnoxious it sounds. “That sounds like bragging. Sorry.”

You ever heard of Dizzy Dean?

Okay, that’s a little random. But old people do that some- times. The name does sound kind of familiar, but I can’t place it. I shake my head.

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One of the best pitchers in the history of baseball. When you go home, look up what he said about bragging.

Great-Uncle Ted settles back onto his pillow. He’s clearly tired.

I stare out the window, watching the headlights of the traf-

fic below making patterns on the ceiling. “Yeah. That’s about the one thing I am good at,” I say softly, almost to myself. I hear scratching, and he’s up and writing more.

Don’t ever sell yourself short, Ted. Your mother says you’re very smart.

I nod my head and laugh. “Yeah, I know, I just don’t ‘apply

myself.’ She’s always saying that. Lila’s the smart one.” Lila is my big sister, the bane of my existence. Lila the straight-A student, Lila the president of the student body. Lila,

who got the highest Board scores in La Purisma High’s history. Lila, who gave the most beautifully written senior address at her graduation, currently crushing it in her freshman year at Harvard. I mean, seriously. Why even try to compete with that?

Your mother told me you’re smarter than your sister. You just don’t know it.

Oh, snap! I hope there’s a burn unit at Harvard, because Lila just got smoked. Big-time! I’m starting to like Great-Uncle Ted. But I feel bad. We’ve been talking about me the whole time I’ve been here. Well,

45

except for the part about him killing a lot of people. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to hear more about that. “So I guess you knew my mom when she was a little kid,” I begin. “What was she like?”

Amanda was a pain in the a

He stops and his eye drifts up to my face and back down to his pad.

Amanda was a pain in the a behind, if you’ll excuse my French.

I can’t believe I thought this was going to be boring. This

is great! “Seriously? How so?” It takes all the self-control I can muster to get this out without cracking up.

He writes for a long time, then hands the pad to me.

When she was nine, she had this thing where no matter what you would ask her she’d say, “That’s for me to know and you to find out.” Like you’d ask her, “What flavor ice cream do you want?” “That’s for me to know and you to find out.” “What movie do you want to see?” “That’s for me to know and you to find out!” “Do I have lung cancer?” “That’s for me to know and you to find out!”

I choke at that last one.

Great-Uncle Ted waves his hand wearily.

46

I made that last one up. But she did say it all the time. She thought it was cute. It stopped being cute after the first day. Then it was annoying as heck.

Great-Uncle Ted pauses.

But she was always smart. And I’m very proud of her.

Great-Uncle Ted was the one who paid for Mom to come to California from Hawaii and go to nursing school. She’s been working here at La Purisma General Hospital for as long as I can remember. Great-Uncle Ted looks up from the paper, and his wise, half- lidded eyes meet mine. He scrawls on the page and holds up the pad.

Please tell me about the games you play. How you solve these puzzles.

Wait. Is a real, live adult person actually asking me details about the games I play? This is unheard of. So I go on and on, explaining how the games work, how at first nothing seems to make sense. But then, as I put my mind to it, a little click goes off in my head and the pieces begin to fit. It’s an awesome feeling when it all comes together and you get it right. Great-Uncle Ted seems genuinely interested, especially when I tell him about a particularly tricky puzzle, where if you look carefully at what appears to be a bunch of random drink- ing glasses on a tray, you realize they actually resemble the

47

hands of a clock set to a particular time. Which is one of the main clues to solving that game. “You know, maybe if they let me, I can come back tomor- row with my laptop and show you some,” I’m saying, when I see that his head has fallen back onto the bed and his eyes are closed. “Great-Uncle Ted! Are you all right?” I gasp. “Should I get Mom?” He wearily reaches for the pad and writes carefully.

I’m just tired. But I’m happy to see you again, Ted.

“I—I’m so glad I could talk to you too, sir,” I say, feeling my breathing slow down again.

I feel so much better about everything now. You are ready.

Huh? What does that mean? “That’s good, sir.” The old man looks up at me. The energy is clearly draining out of him.

You must promise me one thing.

“I know, sir. I promise I’ll work harder in school, and I’ll never tell Mom you thought she was a pain in the behind—” I think he’ll laugh at this, but instead, he gathers his strength and writes furiously across the pad.

No! Listen to me! You must promise me

He’s writing slower now, forcing the words out of the pen.

48

“Yes, sir?” Great-Uncle Ted falls back and throws the pad at me.

THE BOX IS ONLY THE BEGINNING. KEEP LOOKING FOR THE ANSWERS. ALWAYS GO FOR BROKE! PROMISE ME!

With great effort, he tugs on my sleeve. I lean toward him. He pulls me down until my ear is close to his face. I can just make out the word he is saying. “Promise!” the old man croaks. He releases my sleeve. He looks peaceful now, like a weight has been lifted off his shoul- ders. As my great-uncle falls asleep, I hear my own voice, sound- ing far away, whispering, “I promise.”

49

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Book 1

The

CITY

of

EMBER

Jeanne DuPrau

Book 1 The CITY of EMBER Jeanne DuPrau A YEARLING BOOK Keep reading for a sneak

A YEARLING BOOK

Keep reading for a sneak

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Sale of this book without a front cover may be unauthorized. If the book is coverless, it may have been reported to the publisher as “unsold or destroyed” and neither the author nor the publisher may have received payment for it.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2003 by Jeanne DuPrau Cover art copyright © 2016 by Paul Sullivan Logo art copyright © 2016 by Jacey Map by Chris Riely

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, New York, in 2003.

Yearling and the jumping horse design are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

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The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition of this work as follows:

DuPrau, Jeanne. The city of Ember / by Jeanne DuPrau. p. cm. Summary: In the year 241, twelve-year-old Lina trades jobs on Assignment Day to be a messenger, to run to new places in her beloved but decaying city, perhaps even to glimpse Unknown Regions. ISBN 978-0-375-82273-5 (trade) — ISBN 978-0-375-92274-9 (lib. bdg.) — ISBN 978-0-375-89080-2 (ebook) [1. Fantasy.] I. Title. PZ7.D927 Ci 2003 [Fic]—dc21 2002010239

ISBN 978-0-375-82274-2 (pbk.)

Printed in the United States of America 72 71 70 69 68 67 66 65 64 63 62 61 60 59 58

2016 Yearling Edition

Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

ATTENTION, READER: THIS IS AN UNCORRECTED ADVANCE EXCERPT.

The Instructions

When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future. “They must not leave the city for at least two hun- dred years,” said the chief builder. “Or perhaps two hundred and twenty.” “Is that long enough?” asked his assistant. “It should be. We can’t know for sure.” “And when the time comes,” said the assistant, “how will they know what to do?” “We’ll provide them with instructions, of course,” the chief builder replied. “But who will keep the instructions? Who can we trust to keep them safe and secret all that time?” “The mayor of the city will keep the instructions,” said the chief builder. “We’ll put them in a box with a timed lock, set to open on the proper date.”

53

“And will we tell the mayor what’s in the box?” the assistant asked. “No, just that it’s information they won’t need and must not see until the box opens of its own accord.” “So the first mayor will pass the box to the next mayor, and that one to the next, and so on down through the years, all of them keeping it secret, all that time?” “What else can we do?” asked the chief builder. “Nothing about this endeavor is certain. There may be no one left in the city by then or no safe place for them to come back to.” So the first mayor of Ember was given the box, told to guard it carefully, and solemnly sworn to secrecy. When she grew old, and her time as mayor was up, she explained about the box to her successor, who also kept the secret carefully, as did the next mayor. Things went as planned for many years. But the sev- enth mayor of Ember was less honorable than the ones who’d come before him, and more desperate. He was ill—he had the coughing sickness that was common in the city then—and he thought the box might hold a secret that would save his life. He took it from its hid- ing place in the basement of the Gathering Hall and brought it home with him, where he attacked it with a hammer. But his strength was failing by then. All he man- aged to do was dent the lid a little. And before he could

54

return the box to its official hiding place or tell his suc- cessor about it, he died. The box ended up at the back of a closet, shoved behind some old bags and bundles. There it sat, unnoticed, year after year, until its time arrived, and the lock quietly clicked open.

55

CHAPTER 1

Assignment Day

In the city of Ember, the sky was always dark. The only light came from great flood lamps mounted on the buildings and at the tops of poles in the middle of the larger squares. When the lights were on, they cast a yel- lowish glow over the streets; people walking by threw long shadows that shortened and then stretched out again. When the lights were off, as they were between nine at night and six in the morning, the city was so dark that people might as well have been wearing blindfolds. Sometimes darkness fell in the middle of the day. The city of Ember was old, and everything in it, including the power lines, was in need of repair. So now and then the lights would flicker and go out. These were terrible moments for the people of Ember. As they came to a halt in the middle of the street or stood stock-still in their houses, afraid to move in the

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utter blackness, they were reminded of something they preferred not to think about: that someday the lights of the city might go out and never come back on. But most of the time life proceeded as it always had. Grown people did their work, and younger peo- ple, until they reached the age of twelve, went to school. On the last day of their final year, which was called Assignment Day, they were given jobs to do. The graduating students occupied Room 8 of the Ember School. On Assignment Day of the year 241, this classroom, usually noisy first thing in the morning, was completely silent. All twenty-four students sat upright and still at the desks they had grown too big for. They were waiting. The desks were arranged in four rows of six, one behind the other. In the last row sat a slender girl named Lina Mayfleet. She was winding a strand of her long, dark hair around her finger, winding and unwinding it again and again. Sometimes she plucked at a thread on her ragged cape or bent over to pull on her socks, which were loose and tended to slide down around her ankles. One of her feet tapped the floor softly. In the second row was a boy named Doon Harrow. He sat with his shoulders hunched, his eyes squeezed shut in concentration, and his hands clasped tightly together. His hair looked rumpled, as if he hadn’t combed it for a while. He had dark, thick

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eyebrows, which made him look serious at the best of times and, when he was anxious or angry, came together to form a straight line across his forehead. His brown corduroy jacket was so old that its ridges had flattened out. Both the girl and the boy were making urgent wishes. Doon’s wish was very specific. He repeated it over and over again, his lips moving slightly, as if he could make it come true by saying it a thousand times. Lina was making her wish in pictures rather than in words. In her mind’s eye, she saw herself running through the streets of the city in a red jacket. She made this picture as bright and real as she could. Lina looked up and gazed around the schoolroom. She said a silent goodbye to everything that had been familiar for so long. Goodbye to the map of the city of Ember in its scarred wooden frame and the cabinet whose shelves held The Book of Numbers, The Book of Letters, and The Book of the City of Ember. Goodbye to the cabinet drawers labeled “New Paper” and “Old Paper.” Goodbye to the three electric lights in the ceiling that seemed always, no matter where you sat, to cast the shadow of your head over the page you were writing on. And goodbye to their teacher, Miss Thorn, who had finished her Last Day of School speech, wishing them luck in the lives they were about to begin. Now, having run out of things to say, she was standing at her desk with her frayed shawl

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clasped around her shoulders. And still the mayor, the guest of honor, had not arrived. Someone’s foot scraped back and forth on the floor. Miss Thorn sighed. Then the door rattled open, and the mayor walked in. He looked annoyed, as though they were the ones who were late. “Welcome, Mayor Cole,” said Miss Thorn. She held out her hand to him. The mayor made his mouth into a smile. “Miss Thorn,” he said, enfolding her hand. “Greetings. Another year.” The mayor was a vast, heavy man, so big in the middle that his arms looked small and dangling. In one hand he held a little cloth bag. He lumbered to the front of the room and faced the students. His gray, drooping face appeared to be made of something stiffer than ordinary skin; it rarely moved except for making the smile that was on it now. “Young people of the Highest Class,” the mayor began. He stopped and scanned the room for several moments; his eyes seemed to look out from far back inside his head. He nodded slowly. “Assignment Day now, isn’t it? Yes. First we get our education. Then we serve our city.” Again his eyes moved back and forth along the rows of students, and again he nodded, as if someone had confirmed what he’d said. He put the little bag on Miss Thorn’s desk and rested his hand on it. “What will that service be, eh? Perhaps you’re wondering.” He did his smile

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again, and his heavy cheeks folded like drapes. Lina’s hands were cold. She wrapped her cape around her and pressed her hands between her knees.

Please hurry, Mr. Mayor, she said silently. Please just let us choose and get it over with. Doon, in his mind, was saying the same thing, only he didn’t say please. “Something to remember,” the mayor said, hold- ing up one finger. “Job you draw today is for three years. Then, Evaluation. Are you good at your job? Fine. You may keep it. Are you unsatisfactory? Is there a greater need elsewhere? You will be re-assigned. It is extremely important,” he said, jabbing his finger at the

class, “for all

be properly done.” He picked up the bag and pulled open the draw- string. “So. Let us begin. Simple procedure. Come up one at a time. Reach into this bag. Take one slip of paper. Read it out loud.” He smiled and nodded. The flesh under his chin bulged in and out. “Who cares to be first?” No one moved. Lina stared down at the top of her desk. There was a long silence. Then Lizzie Bisco, one of Lina’s best friends, sprang to her feet. “I would like to be first,” she said in her breathless high voice. “Good. Walk forward.” Lizzie went to stand before the mayor. Because of her orange hair, she looked like a bright spark next to him.

work

of Ember

to be done. To

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“Now choose.” The mayor held out the bag with one hand and put the other behind his back, as if to show he would not interfere. Lizzie reached into the bag and withdrew a tightly folded square of paper. She unfolded it carefully. Lina couldn’t see the look on Lizzie’s face, but she could hear the disappointment in her voice as she read out loud: “Supply Depot clerk.” “Very good,” said the mayor. “A vital job.” Lizzie trudged back to her desk. Lina smiled at her, but Lizzie made a sour face. Supply Depot clerk wasn’t a bad job, but it was a dull one. The Supply Depot clerks sat behind a long counter, took orders from the storekeepers of Ember, and sent the carriers down to bring up what was wanted from the vast network of storerooms beneath Ember’s streets. The storerooms held supplies of every kind—canned food, clothes, furniture, blankets, light bulbs, medicine, pots and pans, reams of paper, soap, more light bulbs—every- thing the people of Ember could possibly need. The clerks sat at their ledger books all day, recording the orders that came in and the goods that went out. Lizzie didn’t like to sit still; she would have been better suit- ed to something else, Lina thought—messenger, maybe, the job Lina wanted for herself. Messengers ran through the city all day, going everywhere, seeing everything. “Next,” said the mayor.

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This time two people stood up at once, Orly Gordon and Chet Noam. Orly quickly sat down again, and Chet approached the mayor. “Choose, young man,” the mayor said. Chet chose. He unfolded his scrap of paper. “Electrician’s helper,” he read, and his wide face broke into a smile. Lina heard someone take a quick breath. She looked over to see Doon pressing a hand against his mouth. You never knew, each year, exactly which jobs would be offered. Some years there were several good jobs, like greenhouse helper, timekeeper’s assistant, or messenger, and no bad jobs at all. Other years, jobs like Pipeworks laborer, trash sifter, and mold scraper were mixed in. But there would always be at least one or two jobs for electrician’s helper. Fixing the electricity was the most important job in Ember, and more people worked at it than at anything else. Orly Gordon was next. She got the job of building repair assistant, which was a good job for Orly. She was a strong girl and liked hard work. Vindie Chance was made a greenhouse helper. She gave Lina a big grin as she went back to her seat. She’ll get to work with Clary, Lina thought. Lucky. So far no one had picked a really bad job. Perhaps this time there would be no bad jobs at all. The idea gave her courage. Besides, she had reached the point where the suspense was giving her a

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stomach ache. So as Vindie sat down—even before the mayor could say “Next”—she stood up and stepped forward. The little bag was made of faded green material, gathered at the top with a black string. Lina hesitated a moment, then put her hand inside and fingered the bits of paper. Feeling as if she were stepping off a high building, she picked one. She unfolded it. The words were written in black ink, in small careful printing. PIPEWORKS LABORER, they said. She stared at them. “Out loud, please,” the mayor said. “Pipeworks laborer,” Lina said in a choked whisper. “Louder,” said the mayor. “Pipeworks laborer,” Lina said again, her voice loud and cracked. There was a sigh of sympathy from the class. Keeping her eyes on the floor, Lina went back to her desk and sat down. Pipeworks laborers worked below the storerooms in the deep labyrinth of tunnels that contained Ember’s water and sewer pipes. They spent their days stopping up leaks and replacing pipe joints. It was wet, cold work; it could even be dangerous. A swift under- ground river ran through the Pipeworks, and every now and then someone fell into it and was lost. People were lost occasionally in the tunnels, too, if they strayed too far.

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Lina stared miserably down at a letter B someone had scratched into her desktop long ago. Almost any- thing would have been better than Pipeworks laborer. Greenhouse helper had been her second choice. She imagined with longing the warm air and earthy smell of the greenhouse, where she could have worked with Clary, the greenhouse manager, someone she’d known all her life. She would have been content as a doctor’s assistant, too, binding up cuts and bones. Even street-sweeper or cart-puller would have been better. At least then she could have stayed above ground, with space and people around her. She thought going down into the Pipeworks must be like being buried alive. One by one, the other students chose their jobs. None of them got such a wretched job as hers. Finally the last person rose from his chair and walked forward. It was Doon. His dark eyebrows were drawn together in a frown of concentration. His hands, Lina saw, were clenched into fists at his sides. Doon reached into the bag and took out the last scrap of paper. He paused a minute, pressing it tightly in his hand. “Go on,” said the mayor. “Read.” Unfolding the paper, Doon read: “Messenger.” He scowled, crumpled the paper, and dashed it to the floor.

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Lina gasped; the whole class rustled in sur- prise. Why would anyone be angry to get the job of messenger? “Bad behavior!” cried the mayor. His eyes bulged and his face darkened. “Go to your seat immediately.” Doon kicked the crumpled paper into a corner. Then he stalked back to his desk and flung himself down. The mayor took a short breath and blinked furi-

ously. “Disgraceful,” he said, glaring at Doon. “A child- ish display of temper! Students should be glad to work for their city. Ember will prosper if all

best.” He held up a stern

finger as he said this and moved his eyes slowly from one face to the next. Suddenly Doon spoke up. “But Ember is not pros- pering!” he cried. “Everything is getting worse and worse!” “Silence!” cried the mayor. “The blackouts!” cried Doon. He jumped from his seat. “The lights go out all the time now! And the shortages, there’s shortages of everything! If no one does anything about it, something terrible is going to happen!” Lina listened with a pounding heart. What was wrong with Doon? Why was he so upset? He was taking things too seriously, as he always did.

citizens

do

their

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Miss Thorn strode to Doon and put a hand on his shoulder. “Sit down now,” she said quietly. But Doon remained standing. The mayor glared. For a few moments he said nothing. Then he smiled, showing a neat row of gray teeth. “Miss Thorn,” he said. “Who might this young man be?” “I am Doon Harrow,” said Doon. “I will remember you,” said the mayor. He gave Doon a long look, then turned to the class and smiled his smile again. “Congratulations to all,” he said. “Welcome to Ember’s work force. Miss Thorn. Class. Thank you.” The mayor shook hands with Miss Thorn and departed. The students gathered their coats and caps and filed out of the classroom. Lina walked down the Wide Hallway with Lizzie, who said, “Poor you! I thought I picked a bad one, but you got the worst. I feel lucky compared to you.” Once they were out the door, Lizzie said goodbye and scurried away, as if Lina’s bad luck were a disease she might catch. Lina stood on the steps for a moment and gazed across Harken Square, where people walked briskly, bundled up cozily in their coats and scarves, or talked to one another in the pools of light beneath the great streetlamps. A boy in a red messenger’s jacket ran toward the Gathering Hall. On Otterwill Street, a man pulled a cart filled with sacks of potatoes. And in the

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buildings all around the square, rows of lighted win- dows shone bright yellow and deep gold. Lina sighed. This was where she wanted to be, up here where everything happened, not down under- ground. Someone tapped her on the shoulder. Startled, she turned and saw Doon behind her. His thin face looked pale. “Will you trade with me?” he asked. “Trade?” “Trade jobs. I don’t want to waste my time being a messenger. I want to help save the city, not run around carrying gossip.” Lina gaped at him. “You’d rather be in the Pipeworks ?” “Electrician’s helper is what I wanted,” Doon said. “But Chet won’t trade, of course. Pipeworks is second best.” “But why?” “Because the generator is in the Pipeworks,” said Doon.

Lina knew about the generator, of course. In some mysterious way, it turned the running of the river into power for the city. You could feel its deep rumble when you stood in Plummer Square. “I need to see the generator,” Doon said. “I

I have ideas about it.” He thrust his hands into

have

his pockets. “So,” he said, “will you trade?” “Yes!” cried Lina. “Messenger is the job I want

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most!” And not a useless job at all, in her opinion. People couldn’t be expected to trudge halfway across the city every time they wanted to communicate with someone. Messengers connected everyone to everyone else. Anyway, whether it was important or not, the job of messenger just happened to be perfect for Lina. She loved to run. She could run forever. And she loved exploring every nook and cranny of the city, which was what a messenger got to do. “All right then,” said Doon. He handed her his crumpled piece of paper, which he must have retrieved from the floor. Lina reached into her pocket, pulled out her slip of paper, and handed it to him. “Thank you,” he said. “You’re welcome,” said Lina. Happiness sprang up in her, and happiness always made her want to run. She took the steps three at a time and sped down Broad Street toward home.

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CHAPTER 2

A Message to the Mayor

Lina often took different routes between school and home. Sometimes, just for variety, she’d go all the way around Sparkswallow Square, or way up by the shoe repair shops on Liverie Street. But today she took the shortest route because she was eager to get home and tell her news. She ran fast and easily through the streets of Ember. Every corner, every alley, every building was familiar to her. She always knew where she was, though most streets looked more or less the same. All of them were lined with old two-story stone buildings, the wood of their window frames and doors long unpainted. On the street level were shops; above the shops were the apartments where people lived. Every building, at the place where the wall met the roof, was equipped with a row of floodlights—big cone-shaped lamps that cast a strong yellow glare.

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Stone walls, lighted windows, lumpy, muffled shapes of people—Lina flew by them. Her slender legs felt immensely strong, like the wood of a bow that flexes and springs. She darted around obstacles—broken furniture left for the trash heaps or for scavengers, stoves and refrigerators that were past repair, peddlers sitting on the pavement with their wares spread out around them. She leapt over cracks and potholes. When she came to Hafter Street, she slowed a little. This street was deep in shadow. Four of its streetlamps were out and had not been fixed. For a second, Lina thought of the rumor she’d heard about light bulbs: that some kinds were completely gone. She was used to shortages of things—everyone was— but not of light bulbs! If the bulbs for the streetlamps ran out, the only lights would be inside the buildings. What would happen then? How could people find their way through the streets in the dark? Somewhere inside her, a black worm of dread stirred. She thought about Doon’s outburst in class. Could things really be as bad as he said? She didn’t want to believe it. She pushed the thought away. As she turned onto Budloe Street, she sped up again. She passed a line of customers waiting to get into the vegetable market, their shopping bags draped over their arms. At the corner of Oliver Street, she dodged a group of washers trudging along with bags of laundry, and some movers carrying away a broken

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table. She passed a street-sweeper shoving dust around with his broom. I am so lucky, she thought, to have the job I want. And because of Doon Harrow, of all people. When they were younger, Lina and Doon had been friends. Together they had explored the back alleys and dimly lit edges of the city. But in their fourth year of school, they had begun to grow apart. It started one day during the hour of free time, when the children in their class were playing on the front steps of the school. “I can go down three steps at a time,” someone would boast. “I can hop down on one foot!” someone else would say. The others would chime in.“I can do a hand- stand against the pillar!” “I can leapfrog over the trash can!” As soon as one child did something, all the rest would do it, too, to prove they could. Lina could do it all, even when the dares got wilder. She yelled out the wildest one of all: “I can climb the light pole!” For a second everyone just stared at her. But Lina dashed across the street, took off her shoes and socks, and wrapped herself around the cold metal of the pole. Pushing with her bare feet, she inched upward. She didn’t get very far before she lost her grip and fell back down. The children laughed, and so did she. “I didn’t say I’d climb to the top,” she explained. “I just said I’d climb it.” The others swarmed forward to try. Lizzie wouldn’t take off her socks—her feet were too cold,

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she said—so she kept sliding back. Fordy Penn wasn’t strong enough to get more than a foot off the ground. Next came Doon. He took his shoes and socks off and

placed them neatly at the foot of the pole. Then he announced, in his serious way, “I’m going to the top.” He clasped the pole and started upward, pushing with his feet, his knees sticking out to the sides. He pulled himself upward, pushed again—he was higher now than Lina had been—but suddenly his hands slid and he came plummeting down. He landed on his bottom with his legs poking up in the air. Lina laughed. She shouldn’t have; he might have been hurt. But he looked so funny that she couldn’t help it. He wasn’t hurt. He could have jumped up, grinned, and walked away. But Doon didn’t take things lightly. When he heard Lina and the others laughing, his face darkened. His temper rose in him like hot water. “Don’t you dare laugh at me,” he said to Lina. “I did better than you did! That was a stupid idea anyway,

a stupid, stupid idea to climb that

.” And as he

was shouting, red in the face, their teacher, Mrs. Polster, came out onto the steps and saw him. She took him by the shirt collar to the school director’s office, where he got a scolding he didn’t think he deserved. After that day, Lina and Doon barely looked at each other when they passed in the hallway. At first it was because they were fuming about what had hap-

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pened. Doon didn’t like being laughed at; Lina didn’t like being shouted at. After a while the memory of the light-pole incident faded, but by then they had got out of the habit of friendship. By the time they were twelve, they knew each other only as classmates. Lina was friends with Vindie Chance, Orly Gordon, and most of all, red-haired Lizzie Bisco, who could run almost as fast as Lina and could talk three times faster.

Now, as Lina sped toward home, she felt immensely grateful to Doon and hoped he’d come to no harm in the Pipeworks. Maybe they’d be friends again. She’d like to ask him about the Pipeworks. She was curious about it. When she got to Greystone Street, she passed Clary Laine, who was probably on her way to the greenhouses. Clary waved to her and called out, “What job?” and Lina called back, “Messenger!” and ran on. Lina lived in Quillium Square, over the yarn shop run by her grandmother. When she got to the shop, she burst in the door and cried, “Granny! I’m a messenger!” Granny’s shop had once been a tidy place, where each ball of yarn and spool of thread had its spot in the cubbyholes that lined the walls. All the yarn and thread came from old clothes that had gotten too shabby to be worn. Granny unraveled sweaters and picked apart

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dresses and jackets and pants; she wound the yarn into balls and the thread onto spools, and people bought them to use in making new clothes. These days, the shop was a mess. Long loops and strands of yarn dangled out of the cubbyholes, and the browns and grays and purples were mixed in with the ochres and olive greens and dark blues. Granny’s cus- tomers often had to spend half an hour unsnarling the rust-red yarn from the mud-brown, or trying to fish out the end of a thread from a tangled wad. Granny wasn’t much help. Most days she just dozed behind the counter in her rocking chair. That’s where she was when Lina burst in with her news. Lina saw that Granny had forgotten to knot up her hair that morning—it was standing out from her head in a wild white frizz. Granny stood up, looking puzzled. “You aren’t a messenger, dear, you’re a schoolgirl,” she said. “But Granny, today was Assignment Day. I got my job. And I’m a messenger!” Granny’s eyes lit up, and she slapped her hand down on the counter. “I remember!” she cried. “Mes- senger, that’s a grand job! You’ll be good at it.” Lina’s little sister toddled out from behind the counter on unsteady legs. She had a round face and round brown eyes. At the top of her head was a sprig of brown hair tied up with a scrap of red yarn. She grabbed on to Lina’s knees. “Wy-na, Wy-na!” she said.

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Lina bent over and took the child’s hands. “Poppy! Your big sister got a good job! Are you happy, Poppy? Are you proud of me?” Poppy said something that sounded like, “Hoppyhoppyhoppy!” Lina laughed, hoisted her up, and danced with her around the shop. Lina loved her little sister so much that it was like an ache under her ribs. The baby and Granny were all the family she had now. Two years ago, when the coughing sickness was raging through the city again, her father had died. Some months later, her mother, giving birth to Poppy, had died, too. Lina missed her parents with an ache that was as strong as what she felt for Poppy, only it was a hollow feeling instead of a full one.

“When do you start?” asked Granny. “Tomorrow,” said Lina. “I report to the messen- gers’ station at eight o’clock.” “You’ll be a famous messenger,” said Granny. “Fast and famous.” Taking Poppy with her, Lina went out of the shop and climbed the stairs to their apartment. It was a small apartment, only four rooms, but there was enough stuff in it to fill twenty. There were things that had belonged to Lina’s parents, her grandparents, and even their grandparents—old, broken, cracked, threadbare things that had been patched and repaired dozens or hundreds of times. People in Ember rarely

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threw anything away. They made the best possible use of what they had. In Lina’s apartment, layers of worn rugs and car- pets covered the floor, making it soft but uneven underfoot. Against one wall squatted a sagging couch with round wooden balls for legs, and on the couch were blankets and pillows, so many that you had to toss some on the floor before you could sit down. Against the opposite wall stood two wobbly tables that held a clutter of plates and bottles, cups and bowls, unmatching forks and spoons, little piles of scrap paper, bits of string wound up in untidy wads, and a few stubby pencils. There were four lamps, two tall ones that stood on the floor and two short ones that stood on tables. And in uneven lines up near the ceil- ing were hooks that held coats and shawls and night- gowns and sweaters, shelves that held pots and pans, jars with unreadable labels, and boxes of buttons and pins and tacks. Where there were no shelves, the walls had been decorated with things of beauty—a label from a can of peaches, a few dried yellow squash flowers, a strip of faded but still pretty purple cloth. There were draw- ings, too. Lina had done the drawings out of her imag- ination. They showed a city that looked somewhat like Ember, except that its buildings were lighter and taller and had more windows. One of the drawings had fallen to the floor. Lina

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retrieved it and pinned it back up. She stood for a minute and looked at the pictures. Over and over, she’d drawn the same city. Sometimes she drew it as seen from afar, sometimes she chose one of its buildings and drew it in detail. She put in stairways and street- lamps and carts. Sometimes she tried to draw the peo- ple who lived in the city, though she wasn’t good at drawing people—their heads always came out too small, and their hands looked like spiders. One picture showed a scene in which the people of the city greeted her when she arrived—the first person they had ever seen to come from elsewhere. They argued with each other about who should be the first to invite her home. Lina could see this city so clearly in her mind she almost believed it was real. She knew it couldn’t be, though. The Book of the City of Ember, which all chil- dren studied in school, taught otherwise. “The city of Ember was made for us long ago by the Builders,” the book said. “It is the only light in the dark world. Beyond Ember, the darkness goes on forever in all directions.” Lina had been to the outer border of Ember. She had stood at the edge of the trash heaps and gazed into the darkness beyond the city—the Unknown Regions. No one had ever gone far into the Unknown Regions—or at least no one had gone far and returned. And no one had ever arrived in Ember from the Unknown Regions, either. As far as anyone knew, the

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darkness did go on forever. Still, Lina wanted the other city to exist. In her imagination, it was so beautiful, and it seemed so real. Sometimes she longed to go there and take everyone in Ember with her. But she wasn’t thinking about the other city now. Today she was happy to be right where she was. She set Poppy on the couch. “Wait there,” she said. She went into the kitchen, where there was an electric stove and a refrigerator that no longer worked and was used to store glasses and dishes so Poppy couldn’t get at them. Above the refrigerator were shelves holding more pots and jars, more spoons and knives, a wind-up clock that Granny always forgot to wind, and a long row of cans. Lina tried to keep the cans in alphabetical order so she could find what she wanted quickly, but Granny always messed them up. Now, she saw, there were beans at the end of the row and tomatoes at the beginning. She picked out a can labeled Baby Drink and a jar of boiled carrots, opened them, poured the liquid into a cup and the carrots into a little dish, and took these back to the baby on the couch. Poppy dribbled Baby Drink down her chin. She ate some of her carrots and poked others between the couch cushions. For the moment, Lina felt almost per- fectly happy. There was no need to think about the fate of the city right now. Tomorrow, she’d be a messenger! She wiped the orange goop off Poppy’s chin. “Don’t worry,” she said. “Everything will be all right.”

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* * * The messengers’ headquarters was on Cloving Street, not far from the back of the Gathering Hall. When Lina arrived the next morning, she was greeted by Messenger Captain Allis Fleery, a bony woman with pale eyes and hair the color of dust. “Our new girl,”

said Captain Fleery to the other messengers, a cluster

of nine people who smiled and nodded at Lina. “I have

your jacket right here,” said the captain. She handed Lina a red jacket like the one all messengers wore. It was only a little too large. From the clock tower of the Gathering Hall came

a deep reverberating bong. “Eight o’clock!” cried

Captain Fleery. She waved a long arm. “Take your sta- tions!” As the clock sounded seven more times, the messengers scattered in all directions. The captain turned to Lina. “Your station,” she said, “is Garn Square.” Lina nodded and started off, but the captain caught her by the collar. “I haven’t told you the rules,” she said. She held up a knobby finger. “One: When a customer gives you a message, repeat it back to make sure you have it right. Two: Always wear your red jacket so people can identify you. Three: Go as fast as possible. Your customers pay twenty cents for every message, no matter how far you have to take it.” Lina nodded. “I always go fast,” she said. “Four,” the captain went on. “Deliver a message

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only to the person it’s meant for, no one else.” Lina nodded again. She bounced a little on her toes, eager to get going. Captain Fleery smiled. “Go,” she said, and Lina was off. She felt strong and speedy and surefooted. She glanced at her reflection as she ran past the window of a furniture repair shop. She liked the look of her long dark hair flying out behind her, her long legs in their black socks, and her flapping red jacket. Her face, which had never seemed especially remarkable, looked almost beautiful, because she looked so happy. As soon as she came into Garn Square, a voice cried, “Messenger!” Her first customer! It was old Natty Prine, calling to her from the bench where he always sat. “This goes to Ravenet Parsons, 18 Selverton Square,” he said. “Bend down.” She bent down so that her ear was close to his whiskery mouth. The old man said in a slow, hoarse voice, “My stove is broke, don’t come for dinner. Repeat.” Lina repeated the message. “Good,” said Natty Prine. He gave Lina twenty cents, and she ran across the city to Selverton Square. There she found Ravenet Parsons also sitting on a bench. She recited the message to him. “Old turniphead,” he growled. “Lazy old fleaface. He just doesn’t feel like cooking. No reply.”

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Lina ran back to Garn Square, passing a group of Believers on the way. They were standing in a circle, holding hands, singing one of their cheerful songs. It seemed to Lina there were more Believers than ever these days. What they believed in she didn’t know, but it must make them happy—they were always smiling. Her next customer turned out to be Mrs. Polster, the teacher of the fourth-year class. In Mrs. Polster’s class, they memorized passages from The Book of the City of Ember every week. Mrs. Polster had charts on the walls for everything, with everyone’s name listed. If you did something right, she made a green dot by your name. If you did something wrong, she made a red dot. “What you need to learn, children,” she always said, in her resonant, precise voice, “is the difference between right and wrong in every area of life. And once you learn the difference—” Here she would stop and point to the class, and the class would finish the sentence: “You must always choose the right.” In every situation, Mrs. Polster knew what the right choice was. Now here was Mrs. Polster again, looming over Lina and pronouncing her message. “To Annisette Lafrond, 39 Humm Street, as follows,” she said. “My confidence in you has been seriously diminished since I heard about the disreputable activities in which you engaged on Thursday last. Please repeat.” It took Lina three tries to get this right. “Uh-oh, a

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red dot for me,” she said. Mrs. Polster did not seem to find this amusing. Lina had nineteen customers that first morning. Some of them had ordinary messages: “I can’t come on Tuesday.” “Buy a pound of potatoes on your way home.” “Please come and fix my front door.” Others had messages that made no sense to her at all, like Mrs. Polster’s. But it didn’t matter. The wonderful part about being a messenger was not the messages but the places she got to go. She could go into the houses of people she didn’t know and hidden alleyways and little rooms in the backs of stores. In just a few hours, she discovered all kinds of strange and interesting things. For instance: Mrs. Sample, the mender, had to sleep on her couch because her entire bedroom, almost up to the ceiling, was crammed with clothes to be mended. Dr. Felinia Tower had the skeleton of a person hanging against her living room wall, its bones all held in place with black strings. “I study it,” she said when she saw Lina staring. “I have to know how people are put together.” At a house on Calloo Street, Lina delivered a message to a worried-looking man whose living room was completely dark. “I’m sav- ing on light bulbs,” the man said. And when Lina took a message to the Can Café, she learned that on certain days the back room was used as a meeting place for people who liked to converse about Great Subjects. “Do you think an Invisible Being is watching over us

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all the time?” she heard someone ask. “Perhaps,” answered someone else. There was a long silence. “And then again, perhaps not.” All of it was interesting. She loved finding things out, and she loved running. And even by the end of the day, she wasn’t tired. Running made her feel strong and big-hearted, it made her love the places she ran through and the people whose messages she delivered. She wished she could bring all of them the good news they so desperately wanted to hear. Late in the afternoon, a young man came up to her, walking with a sort of sideways lurch. He was an odd-looking person—he had a very long neck with a bump in the middle and teeth so big they looked as if they were trying to escape from his mouth. His black, bushy hair stuck out from his head in untidy tufts. “I have a message for the mayor, at the Gathering Hall,” he said. He paused to let the importance of this be understood. “The mayor,” he said. “Did you get that?” “I got it,” said Lina. “All right. Listen carefully. Tell him: Delivery at eight. From Looper. Repeat it back.” “Delivery at eight. From Looper,” Lina repeated. It was an easy message. “All right. No answer required.” He handed her twenty cents, and she sprinted away. The Gathering Hall occupied one entire side of Harken Square, which was the city’s central plaza. The

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square was paved with stone. It had a few benches bolted to the ground here and there, as well as a couple of kiosks for notices. Wide steps led up to the Gathering Hall, and fat columns framed its big door. The mayor’s office was in the Gathering Hall. So were the offices of the clerks who kept track of which build- ings had broken windows, what streetlamps needed repair, and the number of people in the city. There was the office of the timekeeper, who was in charge of the town clock. And there were offices for the guards who enforced the laws of Ember, now and then putting pickpockets or people who got in fights into the Prison Room, a small one-story structure with a sloping roof that jutted out from one side of the building. Lina ran up the steps and through the door into a broad hallway. On the left was a desk, and at the desk sat a guard: “Barton Snode, Assistant Guard,” said a badge on his chest. He was a big man, with wide shoul- ders, brawny arms, and a thick neck. But his head looked as if it didn’t belong to his body—it was small and round and topped with a fuzz of extremely short hair. His lower jaw jutted out and moved a little from side to side, as if he were chewing on something. When he saw Lina, his jaw stopped moving for a moment and his lips curled upward in a very small smile. “Good day,” he said. “What business brings you here today?” “I have a message for the mayor.”

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“Very good, very good.” Barton Snode heaved himself to his feet. “Step this way.” He led Lina down the corridor and opened a door marked “Reception Room.” “Wait here, please,” he said. “The mayor is in his basement office on private business, but he will be up shortly.” Lina went inside. “I’ll notify the mayor,” said Barton Snode. “Please have a seat. The mayor will be right with you. Or pretty soon.” He left, closing the door behind him. A second later, the door opened again, and the guard’s small fuzzy head re-appeared. “What is the message?” he asked. “I have to give it to the mayor in person,” said Lina. “Of course, of course,” said the guard. The door closed again. He doesn’t seem very sure about things, Lina thought. Maybe he’s new at his job. The Reception Room was shabby, but Lina could tell that it had once been impressive. The walls were dark red, with brownish patches where the paint was peeling away. In the right-hand wall was a closed door. An ugly brown carpet lay on the floor, and on it stood a large armchair covered in itchy-looking red material, and several smaller chairs. A small table held a teapot and some cups, and a larger table in the middle of the room displayed a copy of The Book of the City of

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Ember, lying open as if someone were going to read from it. Portraits of all the mayors of the city since the beginning of time hung on the walls, staring solemnly from behind pieces of old window glass. Lina sat in the big armchair and waited. No one came. She got up and wandered around the room. She bent over The Book of the City of Ember and read a few sentences: “The citizens of Ember may not have luxuries, but the foresight of the Builders, who filled the storerooms at the beginning of time, has ensured that they will always have enough, and enough is all that a person of wisdom needs.” She flipped a few pages. “The Gathering Hall clock,” she read, “measures the hours of night and day. It must never be allowed to run down. Without it, how would we know when to go to work and when to go to school? How would the light director know when to turn the lights on and when to turn them off again? It is the job of the timekeeper to wind the clock every week and to place the date sign in Harken Square every day. The timekeeper must perform these duties faithfully.” Lina knew that not all timekeepers were as faithful as they should be. She’d heard of one, some years ago, who often forgot to change the date sign, so that it might say, “Wednesday, Week 38, Year 227” for several days in a row. There had even been timekeepers who forgot to wind the clock, so that it might stand at noon

86

or at midnight for hours at a time, causing a very long day or a very long night. The result was that no one really knew anymore exactly what day of the week it was, or exactly how many years it had been since the building of the city—they called this the year 241, but it might have been 245 or 239 or 250. As long as the clock’s deep boom rang out every hour, and the lights went on and off more or less regularly, it didn’t seem to matter. Lina left the book and examined the pictures of the mayors. The seventh mayor, Podd Morethwart, was her great-great—she didn’t know how many greats— grandfather. He looked quite dreary, Lina thought. His cheeks were long and hollow, his mouth turned down at the corners, and there was a lost look in his eyes. The picture she liked best was of the fourth mayor, Jane Larket, who had a serene smile and fuzzy black hair. Still no one came. She heard no sounds from the hallway. Maybe they’d forgotten her. Lina went over to the closed door in the right- hand wall. She pulled it open and saw stairs going up. Maybe, while she waited, she’d just see where they went. She started upward. At the top of the first flight was a closed door. Carefully, she opened it. She saw another hallway and more closed doors. She shut the door and kept going. Her footsteps sounded loud on the wood, and she was afraid someone would hear her and come and scold her. No doubt she was not

87

supposed to be here. But no one came, and she climbed on, passing another closed door. The Gathering Hall was the only building in Ember with three stories. She had always wanted to stand on its roof and look out at the city. Maybe from there it would be possible to see beyond the city, into the Unknown Regions. If the bright city of her draw- ings really did exist, it would be out there somewhere. At the top of the stairs, she came to a door marked “Roof,” and she pushed it open. Chilly air brushed against her skin. She was outside. Ahead of her was a flat gravel surface, and about ten paces away she could see the high wall of the clock tower. She went to the edge of the roof. From there she could see the whole of Ember. Directly below was Harken Square, where people were moving this way and that, all of them appearing, from this top-down view, more round than tall. Beyond Harken Square, the lighted windows of the buildings made checkered lines, yellow and black, row after row, in all directions. She tried to see farther, across the Unknown Regions, but she couldn’t. At the edges of the city, the lights were so far away that they made a kind of haze. She could see nothing beyond them but blackness. She heard a shout from the square below. “Look!” came a small but piercing voice. “Someone on the roof!” She saw a few people stop and look up. “Who is it? What’s she doing up there?” someone cried. More

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people gathered, until a crowd was standing on the steps of the Gathering Hall. They see me! Lina thought, and it made her laugh. She waved at the crowd and did a few steps from the Bugfoot Scurry Dance, which she’d learned on Cloving Square Dance Day, and they laughed and shouted some more. Then the door behind her burst open, and a huge guard with a bushy black beard was suddenly running toward her. “Halt!” he shouted, though she wasn’t going anywhere. He grabbed her by the arm. “What are you doing here?” “I was just curious,” said Lina, in her most inno- cent voice. “I wanted to see the city from the roof.” She read the guard’s name badge. It said, “Redge Stabmark, Chief Guard.” “Curiosity leads to trouble,” said Redge Stabmark. He peered down at the crowd. “You have caused a commotion.” He pulled her toward the door and hustled her down all three flights of stairs. When they came out into the waiting room, Barton Snode was standing there looking flustered, his jaw twitching from side to side. Next to him was the mayor. “A child causing trouble, Mayor Cole,” said the chief guard. The mayor glared at her. “I recall your face. From Assignment Day. Shame! Disgracing yourself in your new job.” “I didn’t mean to cause trouble,” said Lina. “I was

89

looking for you so I could deliver a message.” “Shall we put her in the Prison Room for a day or two?” asked the chief guard. The mayor frowned. He pondered a moment. “What is the message?” he said. He bent down so that Lina could speak into his ear. She noticed that he smelled a little like overcooked turnips. “Delivery at eight,” Lina whispered. “From Looper.”

The mayor smiled a tight little smile. He turned to the guard. “Just a child’s antics,” he said. “We will let it go this time. From now on,” he said to Lina, “behave yourself.” “Yes, Mr. Mayor,” said Lina. “And you,” said the mayor, turning to the assistant guard and shaking a thick finger at him, “watch

visitors much

Barton Snode blinked and nodded. Lina ran for the door. Outside, the small crowd was still standing by the steps. A few of them cheered as Lina came out. Others frowned at her and muttered words like “mischief” and “silliness” and “show-off.” Lina felt embarrassed suddenly. She hadn’t meant to show off. She hurried past, out into Otterwill Street, and started to run. She didn’t see Doon, who was among those watch- ing her. He had been on his way home from his first day in the Pipeworks when he’d come across the

more

carefully.”

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cluster of people gazing up at the roof of the Gather- ing Hall and laughing. He was tired and chilly. The bottoms of his pants legs were wet, and mud clung to his shoes and smeared his hands. When he raised his eyes and saw the small figure next to the clock tower, he realized right away that it was Lina. He saw her raise her arm and wave and hop about, and for a second he wondered what it would be like to be up there, looking out over the whole city, laughing and waving. When Lina came down, he wanted to speak to her. But he knew he was filthy-looking and that she would ask him questions he didn’t want to answer. So he turned away. Walking fast, he headed for home.

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Order your copy of

THE CITY OF EMBER

By JEANNE DUPRAU

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PRAISE FOR

PRAISE FOR “A satisfying mystery , a breathtaking escape over rooftops in darkness, a harrowing journey

“A satisfying mystery,

a

breathtaking escape over rooftops

in

darkness, a harrowing journey into

the unknown, and cryptic messages for

readers to decipher.”

unknown , and cryptic messages for readers to decipher.” —Kirkus Reviews , starred “DuPrau’s book leaves

—Kirkus Reviews, starred

“DuPrau’s book leaves Doon and Lina on the verge of the undiscovered country and readers wanting more.”

—USA Today

“An electric debut.”

—Publishers Weekly, starred

“Readers will be eagerly deciphering.”

—The Horn Book Magazine

—Publishers Weekly , starred “Readers will be eagerly deciphering.” —The Horn Book Magazine JeanneDuprau.com 93

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—Publishers Weekly , starred “Readers will be eagerly deciphering.” —The Horn Book Magazine JeanneDuprau.com 93

DISCOVER THE LIGHT IN A WORLD OF DARKNESS.

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CHRIS GRABENSTEIN A YEARLING BOOK Keep reading for a sneak peek 95

CHRIS GRABENSTEIN

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A YEARLING BOOK

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Sale of this book without a front cover may be unauthorized. If the book is coverless, it may have been reported to the publisher as “unsold or destroyed” and neither the author nor the publisher may have received payment for it.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2013 by Chris Grabenstein Cover art copyright © 2013 by Gilbert Ford

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, New York, in 2013.

Yearling and the jumping horse design are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY OLYMPICS by Chris Grabenstein. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

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The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition of this work as follows:

Grabenstein, Chris. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s library / Chris Grabenstein. — 1st ed. pages cm. Summary: “Twelve-year-old Kyle gets to stay overnight in the new town library, designed by his hero (the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello), with other students but finds that come morning he must work with friends to solve puzzles in order to escape.” —Provided by publisher. ISBN 978-0-375-87089-7 (trade) — ISBN 978-0-375-97089-4 (lib. bdg.) — ISBN 978-0-307-97496-9 (ebook) [1. Libraries—Fiction. 2. Books and reading—Fiction. 3. Games—Fiction.] I. Title. II. Title: Escape from Mister Lemoncello’s library. PZ7.G7487Es 2013 [Fic]—dc23 2012048122

ISBN 978-0-307-93147-4 (pbk.)

Printed in the United States of America

10 9

First Yearling Edition 2014

Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

ATTENTION, READER: THIS IS AN UNCORRECTED EXCERPT.

1
1

This is how Kyle Keeley got grounded for a week. First he took a shortcut through his mother’s favorite rosebush. Yes, the thorns hurt, but having crashed through the brambles and trampled a few petunias, he had a five- second jump on his oldest brother, Mike. Both Kyle and his big brother knew exactly where to find what they needed to win the game: inside the house! Kyle had already found the pinecone to complete his “outdoors” round. And he was pretty sure Mike had snagged his “yellow flower.” Hey, it was June. Dandelions were everywhere. “Give it up, Kyle!” shouted Mike as the brothers dashed up the driveway. “You don’t stand a chance.” Mike zoomed past Kyle and headed for the front door, wiping out Kyle’s temporary lead.

97

Of course he did. Seventeen-year-old Mike Keeley was a total jock, a high school superstar. Football, basketball, baseball. If it had a ball, Mike Keeley was good at it. Kyle, who was twelve, wasn’t the star of anything. Kyle’s other brother, Curtis, who was fifteen, was still trapped over in the neighbor’s yard, dealing with their dog. Curtis was the smartest Keeley. But for his “outdoors” round, he had pulled the always unfortunate Your Neigh- bor’s Dog’s Toy card. Any “dog” card was basically the same as a Lose a Turn. As for why the three Keeley brothers were running around their neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon like crazed lunatics, grabbing all sorts of wacky stuff, well, it was their mother’s fault. She was the one who had suggested, “If you boys are bored, play a board game!” So Kyle had gone down into the basement and dug up one of his all-time favorites: Mr. Lemoncello’s Indoor- Outdoor Scavenger Hunt. It had been a huge hit for Mr. Lemoncello, the master game maker. Kyle and his broth- ers had played it so much when they were younger, Mrs. Keeley wrote to Mr. Lemoncello’s company for a refresher pack of clue cards. The new cards listed all sorts of dif- ferent bizarro stuff you needed to find, like “an adult’s droopy underpants,” “one dirty dish,” and “a rotten banana peel.”

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(At the end of the game, the losers had to put every- thing back exactly where the items had been found. It was an official rule, printed inside the top of the box, and made winning the game that much more important!) While Curtis was stranded next door, trying to talk the neighbor’s Doberman, Twinky, out of his favorite tug toy, Kyle and Mike were both searching for the same two items, because for the final round, all the players were given the same Riddle Card. That day’s riddle, even though it was a card Kyle had never seen before, had been extra easy. find two coins from 1982 that add up to thirty cents and one of them cannot be a nickel. Duh. The answer was a quarter and a nickel because the riddle said only one of them couldn’t be a nickel. So to win, Kyle had to find a 1982 quarter and a 1982 nickel. Also easy. Their dad kept an apple cider jug filled with loose change down in his basement workshop. That’s why Kyle and Mike were racing to get there first. Mike bolted through the front door. Kyle grinned. He loved playing games against his big brothers. As the youngest, it was just about the only chance he ever got to beat them fair and square. Board games leveled the playing field. You needed a good roll of the dice, a lucky draw of

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the cards, and some smarts, but if things went your way and you gave it your all, anyone could win. Especially today, since Mike had blown his lead by choosing the standard route down to the basement. He’d go through the front door, tear to the back of the house, bound down the steps, and then run to their dad’s work- shop. Kyle, on the other hand, would take a shortcut. He hopped over a couple of boxy shrubs and kicked open the low-to-the-ground casement window. He heard something crackle when his tennis shoe hit the window- pane, but he couldn’t worry about it. He had to beat his big brother. He crawled through the narrow opening, dropped to the floor, and scrabbled over to the workbench, where he found the jug, dumped out the coins, and started sifting through the sea of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. Score!

Kyle quickly uncovered a 1982 nickel. He tucked it into his shirt pocket and sent pennies, nickels, and dimes skid- ding across the floor as he concentrated on quarters. 2010. 2003. 1986. “Come on, come on,” he muttered. The workshop door swung open.

?” Mike was surprised to see that Kyle

had beaten him to the coin jar. Mike fell to his knees and started searching for his own

“What the

100

coins just as Kyle shouted, “Got it!” and plucked a 1982 quarter out of the pile. “What about the nickel?” demanded Mike. Kyle pulled it out of his shirt pocket. “You went through the window?” said a voice from outside.

It was Curtis. Kneeling in the flower beds.

“Yeah,” said Kyle.

“I was going to do that. The shortest distance between

two points is a straight line.” “I can’t believe you won!” moaned Mike, who wasn’t used to losing anything. “Well,” said Kyle, standing up and strutting a little, “believe it, brother. Because now you two losers have to put all the junk back.”

“I am not taking this back to Twinky!” said Curtis. He

held up a very slimy, knotted rope. “Oh, yes you are,” said Kyle. “Because you lost. Oh

sure, you thought about using the

“Um, Kyle?” mumbled Curtis. “You might want to .”

shut

“What? C’mon, Curtis. Don’t be such a sore loser. Just because I was the one who took the shortcut and kicked open the window and—” “You did this, Kyle?”

.”

A new face appeared in the window.

Their dad’s.

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“Heh, heh, heh,” chuckled Mike behind Kyle. “You broke the glass?” Their father sounded ticked off. “Well, guess who’s going to pay to have this window replaced.” That’s why Kyle Keeley had fifty cents deducted from his allowance for the rest of the year. And got grounded for a week.

102

2
2

Halfway across town, Dr. Yanina Zinchenko, the world- famous librarian, was walking briskly through the cavern- ous building that was only days away from its gala grand opening. Alexandriaville’s new public library had been under construction for five years. All work had been done with the utmost secrecy under the tightest possible security. One crew did the exterior renovations on what had once been the small Ohio city’s most magnificent building, the Gold Leaf Bank. Other crews—carpenters, masons, electricians, and plumbers—worked on the interior. No single construction crew stayed on the job longer than six weeks. No crew knew what any of the other crews had done (or would be doing). And when all those crews were finished, several

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super-secret covert crews (highly paid workers who would deny ever having been near the library, Alexandriaville, or the state of Ohio) stealthily applied the final touches. Dr. Zinchenko had supervised the construction project for her employer—a very eccentric (some would say loony) billionaire. Only she knew all the marvels and wonders the incredible new library would hold (and hide) within its walls. Dr. Zinchenko was a tall woman with blazing-red hair. She wore an expensive, custom-tailored business suit, jazzy high-heeled shoes, a Bluetooth earpiece, and glasses with thick red frames. Heels clicking on the marble floor, fingers tapping on the glass of her very advanced tablet computer, Dr. Zinchenko strode past the control center’s red door, under an arch, and into the breathtakingly large circular reading room beneath the library’s three-story-tall rotunda. The bank building, which provided the shell for the new library, had been built in 1931. With towering Corin- thian columns, an arched entryway, lots of fancy trim, and a mammoth shimmering gold dome, the building looked like it belonged next door to the triumphant memorials in Washington, D.C.—not on this small Ohio town’s quaint streets. Dr. Zinchenko paused to stare up at the library’s most stunning visual effect: the Wonder Dome. Ten wedge- shaped, high-definition video screens—as brilliant as those in Times Square—lined the underbelly of the dome like

104

so many orange slices. Each screen could operate indepen- dently or as part of a spectacular whole. The Wonder Dome could become the constellations of the night sky; a flight through the clouds that made viewers below sense that the whole building had somehow lifted off the ground; or, in Dewey decimal mode, ten sections depicting vibrant and constantly changing images associated with each category in the library cataloging system. “I have the final numbers for the fourth sector of the Wonder Dome in Dewey mode,” Dr. Zinchenko said into her Bluetooth earpiece. “364 point 1092.” She carefully over-enunciated each word to make certain the video art- ist knew what specific numbers should occasionally drift across the fourth wedge amid the swirling social-sciences montage featuring a floating judge’s gavel, a tumbling teacher’s apple, and a gentle snowfall of holiday icons. “The numbers, however, should not appear until eleven a.m. Sunday. Is that clear?” “Yes, Dr. Zinchenko,” replied the tinny voice in her ear. Next Dr. Zinchenko studied the holographic statues projected into black crepe-lined recesses cut into the mas- sive stone piers that supported the arched windows from which the Wonder Dome rose. “Why are Shakespeare and Dickens still here? They’re not on the list for opening night.” “Sorry,” replied the library’s director of holographic imagery, who was also on the conference call. “I’ll fix it.”

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“Thank you.” Exiting the rotunda, the librarian entered the Chil- dren’s Room. It was dim, with only a few work lights glowing, but Dr. Zinchenko had memorized the layout of the minia- ture tables and was able to march, without bumping her shins, to the Story Corner for a final check on her recently installed geese. The flock of six audio-animatronic goslings—fluffy robots with ping-pongish eyeballs (created for the new library by imagineers who used to work at Disney World)— stood perched atop an angled bookcase in the corner. Mother Goose, in her bonnet and granny glasses, was frozen in the center. “This is librarian One,” said Dr. Zinchenko, loud enough for the microphones hidden in the ceiling to pick up her voice. “Initiate story-time sequence.” The geese sprang to mechanical life. “Nursery rhyme.” The geese honked out “Baa-Baa Black Sheep” in six- part harmony. “Treasure Island?” The birds yo-ho-ho’ed their way through “Fifteen Men on a Dead Man’s Chest.” Dr. Zinchenko clapped her hands. The rollicking geese stopped singing and swaying. “One more,” she said. Squinting, she saw a book sit- ting on a nearby table. “Walter the Farting Dog.”

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The six geese spun around and farted, their tail feath- ers flipping up in sync with the noisy blasts. “Excellent. End story time.” The geese slumped back into their sleep mode. Dr. Zinchenko made one more tick on her computer tablet.

Her final punch list was growing shorter and shorter, which was a very good thing. The library’s grand opening was set for Friday night. Dr. Z and her army of associates had only a few days left to smooth out any kinks in the library’s complex operating system. Suddenly, Dr. Zinchenko heard a low, rumbling growl. Turning around, she was eyeball to icy-blue eyeball with a very rare white tiger. Dr. Zinchenko sighed and touched her Bluetooth ear- piece. “Ms. G? This is Dr. Z. What is our white Bengal tiger

doing in the children’s department?

there was a slight misunderstanding. We do not want him

permanently positioned near The Jungle Book. Check the

Right. He should be in

call number. 599 point

I see. Apparently,

Yes, please. Right away. Thank you, Ms. G.” And like a vanishing mirage, the tiger disappeared.

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3
3

Of course, even though he was grounded, Kyle Keeley still had to go to school. “Mike, Curtis, Kyle, time to wake up!” his mother called from down in the kitchen. Kyle plopped his feet on the floor, rubbed his eyes, and sleepily looked around his room. The computer handed down from his brother Curtis was sitting on the desk that used to belong to his other brother, Mike. The rug on the floor, with its Cincinnati Reds logo, had also been Mike’s when he was twelve years old. The books lined up in his bookcase had been lined up on Mike’s and Curtis’s shelves, except for the ones Kyle got each year for Christmas from his grandmother. He still hadn’t read last year’s addition. Kyle wasn’t big on books.

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Unless they were the instruction manual or hint guide to a video game. He had a Sony PlayStation set up in the family room. It wasn’t the high-def, Blu-ray PS3. It was the one Santa had brought Mike maybe four years earlier. (Mike kept the brand-new Blu-ray model locked up in his bedroom.) But still, clunker that it was, the four-year-old gaming console in the family room worked. Except this week. Well, it worked, but Kyle’s dad had taken away his TV and computer privileges, so unless he just wanted to hear the hard drive hum, there was really no point in firing up the PlayStation until the next Sunday, when his sentence ended. “When you’re grounded in this house,” his father had said, “you’re grounded.” If Kyle needed a computer for homework during this last week of school, he could use his mom’s, the one in the kitchen. His mom had no games on her computer. Okay, she had Diner Dash, but that didn’t really count. Being grounded in the Keeley household meant you couldn’t do anything except, as his dad put it, “think about what you did that caused you to be grounded.” Kyle knew what he had done: He’d broken a window. But hey—I also beat my big brothers!

*

*

*

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“Good morning, Kyle,” his mom said when he hit the kitchen. She was sitting at her computer desk, sipping cof- fee and tapping keys. “Grab a Toaster Tart for breakfast.” Curtis and Mike were already in the kitchen, chowing down on the last of the good Toaster Tarts—the frosted cupcake swirls. They’d left Kyle the unfrosted brown sugar cinnamon. The ones that tasted like the box they came in. “New library opens Friday, just in time for summer vacation,” Kyle’s mom mumbled, reading her computer screen. “Been twelve years since they tore down the old one. Listen to this, boys: Dr. Yanina Zinchenko, the new public library’s head librarian, promises that ‘patrons will be surprised’ by what they find inside.” “Really?” said Kyle, who always liked a good surprise. “I wonder what they’ll have in there.” “Um, books maybe?” said Mike. “It’s a library, Kyle.” “Still,” said Curtis, “I can’t wait to get my new library card!” “Because you’re a nerd,” said Mike. “I prefer the term ‘geek,’ ” said Curtis. “Well, I gotta go,” said Kyle, grabbing his backpack. “Don’t want to miss the bus.” He hurried out the door. What Kyle really didn’t want to miss were his friends. A lot of them had Sony PSPs and Nintendo 3DSs. Loaded with lots and lots of games!

*

*

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*

Kyle fist-bumped and knuckle-knocked his way up the bus aisle to his usual seat. Almost everybody wanted to say “Hey” to him, except, of course, Sierra Russell. Like always, Sierra, who was also a seventh grader, was sitting in the back of the bus, her nose buried in a book—

probably one of those about girls who lived in tiny homes on the prairie or something. Ever since her parents divorced and her dad moved out of town, Sierra Russell had been incredibly quiet and spent all her free time reading. “Nice shirt,” said Akimi Hughes as Kyle slid into the seat beside her. “Thanks. It used to be Mike’s.” “Doesn’t matter. It’s still cool.” Akimi’s mother was Asian, her dad Irish. She had very long jet-black hair, extremely blue eyes, and a ton of freckles. “What’re you playing?” Kyle asked, because Akimi was frantically working the controls on her PSP 3000. “Squirrel Squad,” said Akimi. “One of Mr. Lemoncello’s best,” said Kyle, who had the same game on his PlayStation. The one he couldn’t play with for a week. “You need a hand?” “Nah.”

“Watch out for the

“I know about the beehives, Kyle.”

“I’m just saying

.”

.”

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“Yes!” “What?” “I cleared level six! Finally.” “Awesome.” Kyle did not mention that he was up to level twenty-seven. Akimi was his best friend. Friends don’t gloat to friends. “When I shot the squirrels at the falcons,” said Akimi, “the pilots parachuted. If a squirrel bit the pilot in the butt, I got a fifty-point bonus.” Yes, in Mr. Lemoncello’s catapulting critters game, there were all sorts of wacky jokes. The falcons weren’t birds; they were F-16 Falcon Fighter Jets. And the squir- rels? They were nuts. Totally bonkers. With swirly whirl- pool eyes. They flew through the air jabbering gibberish. They bit butts. This was one of the main reasons why Kyle thought everything that came out of Mr. Lemoncello’s Imagination Factory—board games, puzzles, video games—was amaz- ingly awesome. For Mr. Lemoncello, a game just wasn’t a game if it wasn’t a little goofy around the edges. “So, did you pick up the bonus code?” asked Kyle. “Huh?” “In the freeze-frame there.” Akimi studied the screen. “Turn it over.” Akimi did. “See that number tucked into the corner? Type that in the next time the home screen asks you for your password.”

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“Why? What happens?” “You’ll see.” Akimi slugged him in the arm. “What?” “Well, don’t be surprised if you start flinging flaming squirrels on level seven.” “Get. Out!” “Try it. You’ll see.” “I will. This afternoon. So, did you write your extra- credit essay?” “Huh? What essay?” “Um, the one that’s due today. About the new public library?” “Refresh my memory.” Akimi sighed. “Because the old library was torn down twelve years ago, the twelve twelve-year-olds who write the best essays on ‘Why I’m Excited About the New Public Library’ will get to go to the library lock-in this Friday night.” “Huh?” “The winners will spend the night in the new library before anybody else even gets to see the place!” “Is this like that movie Night at the Museum? Will the books come alive and chase people around and junk?” “No. But there will probably be free movies, and food, and prizes, and games.” All of a sudden, Kyle was interested.

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ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY

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ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY By CHRIS GRABENSTEIN f rom one of the below retailers: For

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ADVENTURES ABOUND

with #1 New York Times bestselling author

CHRIS GRABENSTEIN

#1 New York Times bestselling author CHRIS GRABENSTEIN “Discover the coolest library in the world.” —
#1 New York Times bestselling author CHRIS GRABENSTEIN “Discover the coolest library in the world.” —

“Discover the coolest library in the world.”

James

Patterson,

#1 New York Times bestselling author

— James Patterson, #1 New York Times bestselling author Visit the island where stories COME TO
— James Patterson, #1 New York Times bestselling author Visit the island where stories COME TO

Visit the island where stories

COME TO LIFE

author Visit the island where stories COME TO LIFE and the world’s WACKIEST MOTEL! On Sale

and the world’s

WACKIEST

MOTEL!

On Sale 10.4.16 Art copyright © 2015 by Gilbert Ford
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