About The Book
“Some Math Club nerds have got a real live alien! They’re hiding it in a basement rec room!”
High School junior Mark Bamford doesn’t believe the silly rumor. For one thing, here in the town of Twenty-Nine Palms? California homes don’t have basements! Besides….
A stranded alien? Seriously? Can we say c-l-i-c-h-é? Movie rip-off? Can’t the math geeks think up a better hoax?
But then… Why are black vans from the super-secret Cirrocco Corp cruising all over town, searching for something?
Mark and his pal Alexandra decide to do some investigating of their own. Only, where can they turn for help? The skateboarding “X” crowd? The varsity climbing team? It’s not like their social circle is an elite spy force!
Perhaps though… with home grown ingenuity… a little sleight of hand—okay, call it double-dealing, whatever….
The truth isn’t just ‘out there.’ It may be right next door.
Now available in full length for the first time – winner of the Hal Clement Award for YA fiction – comes the first book in a series about young humans confronting an age-old theme—that of strangers from beyond—giving it new shape, guided by the deft hand of one of science fiction’s modern masters.
Rumors can take on a life of their own. Sometimes, they spread like a virus.
The latest bit of hearsay?
Some of the Math Club geeks have got their hands on a real live alien!
They’re keeping it hidden in a basement rec room, no less.
Mark had listened to some wild tales while growing up, wherever Dad happened to be stationed at the time. Just as soon as he could pick up some local dialect, Mark would foray to the nearest village or town and tap the gossip mill, fascinated by the bottomless human appetite for preposterous lies. From conspiracy theories murmured in a Lebanese bazaar to scandals about local pop stars, circulating through Manila alleys — the things people believed!
Still, it wasn’t till Dad got transferred back to Southern California that Mark realized — there’s no place better to breed wild stories than an American high school.
Especially Twenty-Nine Palms High, where the football team mascot, Spookie, wore a huge trench-coat, a floppy hat and big black eye-mask. Beyond all the nasty stories that kids typically spread about each other, and hearsay concerning the dating habits of certain teachers, there were always colorful rumors about what went on at the nearby airbase. Or within the top-secret, opaque walls of Cirocco Labs.
But this one — about the Math Club guys having an extraterrestrial of their very own?
Well – it beat all.
Not that Mark believed a word of it.
California homes don’t have basements, for one thing.
Besides. A captive alien?
Such a cliché. A stupid movie rip-off. Couldn’t the nerds come up with a better hoax? Crap, some of their parents worked at Cirocco. What good are brains if you can’t be original?
When some of his classmates said they were going over to see for themselves, after school, Mark begged off. He had other things in mind. Especially an hour later, staring down at the varsity soccer team —
— girls varsity, in blue shorts and yellow tops. They charged across the athletic field in formations as intricate as Dad’s squadron during inspection week … but a whole lot more alluring. The star forward, her tawny legs pumping, somehow made sweat and cutthroat ferocity seem, well —
“Bam?” A voice called to him from above. “Bamford, what are you doing?”
The words made him twitch, almost losing his precarious perch upon a stub of concrete, jutting from the wall. Mark dug in with three fingertips of his left hand while probing desperately for a ledge to set his right foot. His heartbeat jolted and spots danced before his eyes like flashing balls.
“Are you all right? Bam?”
“Ye — yeah,” he grunted, short of breath.
“Well stop staring at Helene Shockley and focus!”
“Not … staring …” he grunted, both irritated and embarrassed. “Slack … Gimme a lot.”
Some tension left the rope, easing pressure from the climbing harness on his thighs and groin, freeing him to lean and traverse, seeking a higher footing. This part of the wall was tricky, designed for competitions in a brand-new league. He would have to master it in order to make the team.
“More slack!” The rope still wasn’t loose enough for this reach.
“Come on, Alex … I’m fighting the clock here. Slack!”
There was time to make up — precious seconds stupidly wasted during that blank stare at the soccer players. Damn hormones.
“Well, fine.” She sounded dubious. “But concentrate!”
The rope loosened still more. He bore down, focusing on the task at hand.
Relax, you’re in a California desert suburb. No lives are at stake … this time.
Unlike that cliff in Morocco, when his father had to stay with a critically injured aid worker, sending Mark cross-country for help. One steep shortcut shaved an hour off the round trip … and Dad later blistered his ears over taking the risk.
The lip of Mark’s left shoe found a crevice. Hardly more than a ripple in the wall. He tested it …
“That one’s iffy,” commented the voice overhead.
Be quiet. But he didn’t have breath to say it. Shifting his weight to the narrow ledge and feeling a sudden burn in his calf, he launched himself upward, reaching ambitiously past a safe hand-hold, grabbing at the last one before the top. For an instant he glimpsed Alex, scowling with concern, her cropped brown hair framed by blue desert sky.
This’ll show her I know what I’m —
His hand brushed the knob — the same instant that his shoe slipped. Mark clutched frantically, two fingers bearing all his weight as both legs dangled, desperately seeking a purchase, anything at all. Specks of rough concrete crumbled under the pressure. Pain lanced down his wrist and arm.
He saw Alex try to reach for him, and suddenly remembered. I asked for slack. I hope not too much —
The knob seemed to tear away with deliberate malice — and the ground swung up. Mark glimpsed shouting figures below, scattering out of the way.
Almost too late, the autotensioner kicked in, yanking the safety line hard enough to empty his lungs, stopping his plummet just short of impact. Splayed with arms and legs flung apart, facing the sky like a crushed flower. Like road kill.
For some unmeasurable time he hung there, tasting acid, blinking away pain-dazzles and struggling to catch his breath till Alex popped the release, easing him down the rest of the way.
Those scattered figures returned, crowding around as Mark’s vision cleared — youths who were bigger, stronger and sweatier than most. Well, everyone agreed that the Climbing Wall stood too close to the Free Weights area.
The tallest body-builder leaned over, expressing false concern. “You okay there, Bamford? Want a pillow?”
Jeez. All I need right now is Scott Tepper, Mark thought.
And yet — there was no choice but to clasp the blond senior’s offered hand. Better to stand quickly, ignore the pain and try not to groan, even if that meant swaying for several heartbeats.
“You’re lucky Coach wasn’t here,” Scott continued, still looking down at Mark from half a head taller. “He’s already ticked off that they put this stupid climbing wall here.”
“Yeah,” growled Colin Gornet, nearly as towering as Scott but much heavier, pushing close and poking with a finger. But that wasn’t what made Mark recoil. The big lineman packed aroma.
“You could’ve killed somebody, Bamford! When Coach finds out, your ‘ascent team’ will be history.”
Brushing Gornet’s jabbing finger aside, Mark glanced at the nearest weight station. It lay at least three meters from the base of the wall. Plenty of room! He was about to argue the point when Scott Tepper raised a palm.
“No need for Coach to find out.” He interposed, keeping Colin’s persistent arm from poking again. A good thing, since Mark had had enough.
“But Scott, next time this moron falls …”
“There won’t be a next time. Will there, Bamford?”
Mark couldn’t think of anything to say. Though fuming inside, he knew it was a losing proposition to argue, or compete in any way with Scott Tepper, whose charm seemed to rise out of some infallible instinct. Coupled with good looks and serene confidence, it let Scott manipulate any teacher, win any school office, smooth-talk any girl.
So much confidence that he could offer generosity — at a price. You owe me, Bamford, said the look in Scott’s eyes.
Others were joining the crowd of onlookers, including members of the girls soccer team. Helene Shockley, tawny and gorgeous, slid up next to Tepper with a questioning smile.
Mark shook his head, eager to get out of there. “No, Scott. It won’t happen again.
Our digital ebook editions are available to download in multiple file formats in order to guarantee the widest possible compatibility with e-readers and mobile devices.
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WHAT IS COLONY HIGH?
Like any American high school, Colony High is populated with cliques – jocks, nerds, stoners, loners, geeks… But over time, these students transform: some into productive and reliable colonists, while others succumb to insanity or savagery. And a few grow…strange.
In addition to the teens, a variety of adults have been transported along with the school. Teachers, military personnel, small business owners, and surrounding neighbors all add to the complexity of this colony. With teens outnumbering adults by a significant margin, battles for control over the school ensue, even while the colonists struggle for water, food and survival.
The aliens who kidnapped and transported the school mysteriously disappear into the shadows, leaving the colonists to their own devices. Over the course of the series, however, we discover they have been observing the colonists – judging them. But for what purpose?
Luckily, Twentynine Palms High School is a state-of-the-art learning facility, equipped with small solar panels, a garden and science labs. The communications department has its own radio tower and broadcast booth. The engineering department has tools and tech to build drones and security devices. The colonists have the tools at their disposal to make a go of it, if they’re resourceful.
The planet is a vast foreign ecosystem, with a vibrant purple sky that illuminates a dense jungle with poisonous plants and carnivorous wildlife. Beyond the jungle lie rocky peaks and barren flatlands that play host to other colonies: circular communities, much like their own. Most are ghost towns: a chilling reminder of the odds against survival. Obviously these alien kidnappers have done it before! So what will the young humans do, if this planet has current owners who don’t appreciate new arrivals?
Back on earth, humanity has no reason to believe that the students and faculty of Twentynine Palms High School survived the blast that left a giant crater where the school once stood. A terrified Earth launches a global space defense effort to protect against future attacks, unaware this might be a trap.
Initially, the colonists’ goal is simply to survive: find food and water, protect themselves from dangers both known and unknown, and secure their community. Once their basic needs are met, their focus shifts to exploring the planet in an attempt to better understand why they were transported there – and that they aren’t alone. Eventually, the colonists discover technology that provides them hope to find their way home…and maybe become key to saving their homeworld.
As the colonists adapt to their new environment, they challenge the values and beliefs from their former life: what will they continue to hold dear and what they are relieved to be free from? With the comforts and simplicity of childhood stripped away, each colonist confronts these issues differently in the face of extreme danger.
Over time, the community dwindles and splinters: some colonists band together, believing there is strength in numbers and embrace their individual contributions to society, while others simply can’t handle their new reality and perish. Competition over limited resources threatens to make foes of former friends, test loyalties, and pit students against adults.
This new planet is fraught with peril: carnivorous wildlife and poisonous plants lurk in the dense and dark jungle that surrounds the colony. Efforts to find potable water and edible food result in loss of life. But the alternatives – dehydration and starvation – constantly force them to embark on dangerous expeditions. The colonists must learn to adapt to survive – in ways they never could have imagined.
At one level, the series caters to the universal teen fantasy of liberation from parental and social control. Many kids fantasize they’d be leaders in a less constrained world. But above all, most teens have one deep, secret desire: to be taken seriously. To find out if they have what it takes.
About the author
David Brin is best-known for shining light — plausibly and entertainingly — on technology, society, and countless challenges confronting our rambunctious civilization. His best-selling novels include The Postman (filmed in 1997) plus explorations of our near-future in Earth and Existence. Other novels are translated into 25+ languages. His short stories explore vividly speculative ideas.
Brin’s nonfiction book The Transparent Society won the American Library Association’s Freedom of Speech Award for exploring 21st Century concerns about security, secrecy, accountability and privacy.
As a scientist, tech-consultant and world-known author, he speaks, advises, and writes widely on topics from national defense and homeland security to astronomy and space exploration, SETI and nanotechnology, future/prediction, creativity, and philanthropy. Urban Developer Magazine named him one of four World’s Best Futurists, and he was appraised as “#1 influencer” in Onalytica’s Top 100 report of Artificial Intelligence influencers, brands