The Archer chronicles
Lost Boy
CHAPTER
1
Somewhere in a galaxy, at the edge of what we know...
Archibald McTavish the 4th was supposed to be studying constellations when his father’s ship took to the stars. Should have been, being the key phrase, because he wasn’t studying constellations or anything else that his tutor had left for him. In fact, he was nowhere near the starship.
At the exact moment a pirate brigadier fired on The Reamus, Archer (as he liked to be called) was several leagues below the surface of ‘Planet #8’, worming his way down a narrow passage that led to…
Well, he didn’t exactly know where it led to but he was pretty sure that wherever he ended up would be a lot more interesting than staring at a bunch of constellations or listening to his tutor, Martin, snore.
And Martin would be snoring for a long time.
Archer had snuck aboard the scientific shuttle bound for on-planet about twenty minutes after he’d slipped two sleeping pills into Martin’s first coffee of the morning. He’d felt bad about that part—he really did—but not bad enough to keep him on The Reamus. Nope. He’d heard his father and he knew they’d be leaving within a few days.
He only had this one chance.
He’d taken his personal robot, Dash, a bag of gear that he’d stuffed full with a flashlight, a hammer and a pick-axe, two containers for specimens, a couple of his favorite snack bars—the ones with the chocolate nuts—some gum, a full bottle of jupe-juice and one of his father’s old electron weapons. It didn’t always fire but it was big and dangerous looking, and sometimes that’s all that mattered.
Archer had been dying to get onto the planet ever since they’d found it a week earlier…but he was still grounded because of what had happened at their last stop. Which as far as he was concerned, wasn’t fair—it wasn’t his fault that he’d touched that thing that he wasn’t supposed to touch. Not really— his hand had slipped. Besides, no one had gotten hurt so he didn’t see what the big deal was.
Archer McTavish was well prepared with his bag of tools and dangerous looking weapon. If things worked out like he planned, he had hours to explore. Or so he thought…
“Almost there, Dash.”
Archer pushed, pulled, pushed some more, and with one final heave slid out of the tunnel into the cave. He fell end over end like a tumbleweed, whacked his head on something hard and for a moment saw nothing but flecks of white dancing in front of his eyes. His lumen headgear went flying, shooting a beam of light across the ceiling and he rolled over and gasped, gingerly rubbing his scalp.
He’d never seen anything like it.
Long, pointy cylinder shaped things hung down over his head and from what he could tell they weren’t attached to anything. They were just floating like bubbles in the air.
Interesting.
The cylinders were clear, as if made of ice, or liquid or glass or…
He grinned and shoved a chunk of hair out of his eyes. They could be made of something entirely new. An alien substance that no one had ever seen before. And he knew that it would totally be worth the trouble he was going to be in when he finally made it back to the shuttle.
If he got caught that is.
Archer was ten and a half, and had been sneaking off shuttles and ships since he’d joined his father on The Reamus four years earlier. At first he’d been caught—a lot—but it didn’t take him long to figure out a few things like schedules and stuff.
Besides, he was a kid and most of the time the adults onboard the ship didn’t pay attention to him. Not really. They were always busy with ‘important things’ and couldn’t be bothered with him even if he was the Captain’s son.
The second-in-charge, Mr. Hale, hated it when Archer wandered below deck. He would shake his head and frown. Tug on his long sandy beard and talk to Archer as if Archer was an idiot. He’d go on about restricted areas and mumble about kids being in the way. But just like most every adult onboard The Reamus, he forgot about Archer as soon as he was out of sight.
Archer became invisible. Quick as a cat and silent as a mouse. And like a super hero he harnessed the ability to disappear. To be quiet and fit into the smallest hiding places possible.
It’s the only thing he lived for. Exploring.
Archer rubbed dust from his eyes and glanced around. Most of the cave was in darkness but it felt massive and he thought that maybe it was the biggest cave he’d ever explored.
“Dash!” He jumped to his feet excitedly. “Run a diagnostic. I want to know what those spiky things are.”
The small robot, no bigger than Cook McDaniel’s cat, emitted a series of chirps followed by a whirling sound. Dash was a top of the line, Agency made, personal Bot. A birthday gift from his father the year before, Archer never went anywhere without him. He’d programmed Dash’s voice to sound like the Butler from the old earth movies he liked to watch with his father. The superhero ones with the Batman.
“Right away, Archer.” The robot floated up into the air, propelled by lumen energy and a double pack of batteries.
Archer set his bag onto the ground, which, from what he could tell looked like plain, old dirt. The kind found on any number of planets including his own, Earth. Impatiently, he stuck his headlight on once more and pushed long, brown curls off his forehead. With a grimace he thought that he should have let Cook McDaniel cut them off when he’d threatened to a week ago. Archer would have too. If Cook hadn’t of called him a little girl.
He turned slowly, eyes widening at the sheer size of the cave. It was huge. So huge he bet the Reamus could fit inside or maybe even two Reamuses.
“Just wait ‘til Father sees this.” His voice echoed crazily, bouncing along the walls and jumping back at him, until he grinned and got to work. He grabbed his specimen container, his pick-axe and set off. He’d found the old tools rummaging through an office back at the science center on earth and preferred using them to some of the fancier things his father used. It was just more fun to dig in the dirt with your hands than use a lumen powered tool.
Dash’s electrons hummed several feet above Archer, but other than that there was no noise. There was nothing but silence and maybe the feeling that this place hadn’t been seen by anybody before.
For any other kid it might be a little scary, but Archer had explored places a lot scarier than this. Just last month he and his father had searched a dark, forbidding planet two solar systems away. It was filled with ruined cities that had at one time been large, sprawling metropolises. They were old cities—Father thought perhaps hundreds upon hundreds of centuries old—with gaping holes that looked like creepy, sad eyes. There was no life, but there were lots of undead. They wandered at night, howling and screeching, flimsy echoes of life-forms that could never rest.
He wasn’t exactly sure what had happened to the ancient civilization—his father had called it a ghost planet, and they’d not stayed long. There was no reason really, the ‘darn pirates’ as his father called them, had already been and scavenged for whatever they could use to trade or sell.
Archer shivered a bit at the memory and squared his shoulders. The initial scans of planet number 8 showed no intelligent life, and besides, Archer could handle a ghost or two.
“Archer, these long, tubular forms are made up of some type of liquid with a temperature of 20 degrees Fahrenheit, though the inner core is solid.”
Dash whirled and beeped as he floated around several of them, his small body moving with ease.
Archer walked toward the center of the cave and angled his head for a better look. “Hmmm. If it’s that cold you’d think it would be frozen solid. Can you tell what the center is made of?”
Dash’s head glowed red. “Negative.”
“Okay, check out the walls of the cave. I’m going to see what’s over there.” He pointed to a group of boulders near the tunnel he’d fallen through.
He took two steps forward and then paused, sniffing the air. “Dash, while you’re at it, take readings for water.”
“Will do.”
Archer studied the group of rocks and as he got closer, he realized they didn’t look so random after all. They seemed to be placed in a squiggly line, kind of like the letter ‘S’. He bit his lip, tugged at the one long piece of hair that wouldn’t stay put and rested his hands on his hips.
“That’s odd,” he murmured.
He walked around them and a tingle of excitement shot through his body. They definitely made a shape. He glanced along the wall to his right and spied another group of rocks and when he ran over to them, he pumped his fist in the air. Definitely a shape. “Dash, what does this look like from up there?”
He glanced up as the robot drifted overtop of him and waited. The lumen that fell from Dash’s head glowed brightly and the little robot clicked and whirled as he moved to a spot in between the two groupings.
“Archer, the first looks like the letter S though I would point out that it’s highly unlikely it represent an alphabetic letter. The other looks like a—“
A massive rumbling echoed into the tunnel and the ground shook, cutting out whatever it was Dash was saying. Archer whirled around, chest pounding and eyes wide as he tried to keep his balance.
Silver streaks flashed above him and the walls seemed to expand and then shrink back. But that would be impossible…
Wouldn’t it?
The rumbling continued, so loud in his ears that he covered them, squeezing his eyes shut. He wasn’t sure how much time passed but the noise eventually fell away and the earth beneath his feet stopped shaking.
Archer took a breath and slowly opened his eyes.
He scrubbed his face. He swallowed another great gulping gust of air.
He pushed back his hair and blinked.
And for one crazy moment, he thought that maybe there was a pair of eyes staring back at him from the darkness.

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Chapter 2

And then there were pirates...

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