Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Publisher: Short on Time Books
Date of Publication: August 20, 2014
Number of pages: 202 pages
Word Count: 52,000
Cover Artist: Tony Bryson
In an alien galaxy, two dangerous criminals are sentenced to a remote prison planet known for its savage brutality and low life expectancy. The planet is Earth. Many years later, a mysterious substitute math teacher arrives at a suburban Southern California high school. A wave of inexplicable vandalism begins. High school senior, Tory, and her bullied brother, Jason, find themselves caught up in the conflict as the entire population of the school, student and staff alike, are affected by random acts of maliciousness. Although she hates him at first, Tory becomes increasingly drawn to her very handsome, but oddly vindictive math teacher who seems to be connected to what is going on.
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Inside the vermilion-hued walls of Court Number VXV on the gas giant planet of Kratora in the Core of the Gateway Galaxy, the verdict of a trial was about to be handed down. The court floated in the midst of giant banks of roiling clouds, its thick, crimson cellophane-like sides gleaming dimly with the constant flashes of lightning discharging all around it. Within, the silence hanging over the chamber belied the fury of the atmosphere raging outside. The interior of the court was vast and empty, with the exception of a large dais set in the center of the dark, gleaming floor. The far wall facing it consisted of a huge screen displaying the image of a sparkling whirlpool galaxy, its spiral arms streaked with swaths of deep pink, red and silvery blue, rotating slowly in deep space. At its heart pulsed a brilliant, blinding eye of light, hypnotic and irresistible. Two figures stood on the dais, sealed inside individual energy fields that hugged them like second skins. The fields held them completely immobile, unable to even turn their heads to look at one another. Powerless, helpless and frozen in their soundless environment, they waited for judgment.
A voice suddenly broke the stillness, bodiless and ethereal. It filled the empty space in an omniscient manner, seeming to issue forth from the walls, ceiling and floor, enveloping the two captives.
“Subject B-25841. Subject N-79306. Direct your attention to the victim of your crimes.”
Mute and paralyzed, they gazed forward at the galaxy on the screen, their eyes held open wide by the invisible force surrounding them. “Is this not an example of the perfection of the Universe? Have our paltry thousands of years of knowledge yet to explain even a fraction of how such a miraculous creation operates and exists?”
On the left side of the dais, a tremor passed through Subject B-25841. The energy field around him shimmered in response.
The voice continued. “The work you have both done is renowned throughout the Gateway. Your discoveries have been remarkable and beneficial indeed. However, your arrogance has kept pace with your advances.”
The image of the galaxy in front of the prisoners began to fade away until the screen was totally black. Gradually another image took form, almost impossible to see at first, as the center of it contained an utterly blank void, gaping and huge. Dots and circles of light appeared at the edges of the space, revealing a massive black hole. Perfectly round, streams of light orbited around it, outlining a sharply defined border. Beyond it, stars near and far shimmered like crystals strewn across a black velvet cloth, providing a milky background for the ominous emptiness. “Your meddlesome and dangerous experimentation has put the entire Gateway at untold risk. A phenomena that has existed at the heart of the Core for millions of years in benign balance with the matter around it has suddenly grown exponentially in size and strength. The solar systems in closest proximity to it are now in immediate need of evacuation. In addition, we have not yet determined what the extent of this evolving disaster will be, or what measures will need to be taken to resolve it.”
The voice ceased, leaving the chamber bathed in tense, expectant silence. The bound prisoners scarcely seemed to breathe, waiting. Up on the screen, the black hole faded from view. As the quiet stretched to a nearly unbearable point, a final picture formed above. It was a planet, glittering in the reflected rays of its home star. Streaks of filmy white cloud cover drifted across the surface, and far below great expanses of blue water shone, broken by large masses of land at various intervals. The disembodied voice resumed to deliver final sentence.
“There is no doubt the Universe will correct the imbalance you have wrought. However, the cost to life in this galaxy is yet to be calculated. It is for that as yet unknown tragedy that you are sentenced to exile at the farthest edge of the Gateway Galaxy for the rest of your natural life cycle. The planet before you is your destination. It is a Level 8 Containment World in the Vector 285-346 Quadrant of the North Hyper-Extension. The indigenous life forms there call it Earth. Your sentence will commence immediately.”
Above the dais, the glossy red cellophane material of the ceiling began to shift into a colorless opaque color. With much pained effort, Subject N-79306 forced his gaze upward to stare at it, his eyes dilated with fear. The energy fields around the condemned pair sparked and rippled, tightening even further around their hosts. Subject N struggled against the constriction, working his mouth desperately to speak. A whisper pushed through his lips, hoarse and low.
“You…” he croaked. Subject B-25841 shook slightly, indicating that he had heard his companion. “I’m going to kill you,” he hissed. The ceiling became fully transparent, revealing the violent electrical storm that never ceased beyond the courtroom.
High above the structure, a funnel-shaped space emerged, pushing the billowing clouds of gas aside and blocking the jagged spears of lightning. The funnel descended until it reached into the chamber itself, hovering over the heads of the captives. Subject B-25841 closed his eyes with resignation as the fields around them levitated into the blackness and disappeared.
About the Author:
A.C. Thompson lives in Southern California with her husband, a pooka in the form of a white bunny rabbit, and two feline overlords. When she isn’t writing, she subtitles and captions movies and TV shows, putting her degree in English literature to some use.
The Underminers is her first novel.