Entry Nickname: Planet Panic
Word Count: 45K
Genre: Middle Grade Science Fiction
At 12.9 years old, number-obsessed Kade Walker has never heard of death. Literally. But neither has anyone else he knows. Kade is one of hundreds of kids "living" across the solar system through robotic avatars while their real bodies sleep in pods on Earth. Nothing can hurt him this way; the adults all said so. They just never said how to survive middle school with only 1.0 friends.
Kade's friend Princess Tamika would rather plot their next prank than expand their social circle. Lucky for her, his newest scheme covers both their goals. They're taking a diplomatic joyride across the solar system using an old teleportation machine that he's reconstructed. Tamika will thank him later. He's 63.1 percent sure of it. Unfortunately, the machine's not rigged for current use, so when Kade fires it up, he unwittingly kills a major security wall and releases an infamous hacker. Panic rating: ten times infinity.
First the hacker shuts down all communications with the adults. Then she devastates the security walls protecting Tamika and the other royal avatars. If Kade doesn't want to see his best friend used as a puppet, he needs to stop the hacker fast--even if that means waking up on Earth to fight with a body he never realized could be hurt.
MY BEST FRIEND RUNS VENUS (45,000 words) is an MG science fiction novel combining the virtual setting of READY PLAYER ONE with the adventurous planet-hopping of JACOB WONDERBAR.
It wasn't the first time Kade had hacked the Venusian maintenance system, but it was one of the best. If he had to put a number on it--and there was very little he didn't put a number on--he'd give it a 9.7. He checked the cable leading from his tablet to the blocky computer box embedded in the burnt orange mountainside. Connection: serviceable.
Tamika leaned over to inspect his work. "Hey," she said. "What do you think our real bodies look like?"
Kade tightened his grip on the cable, causing a nearby rock to flicker. The dust around it swirled to match. "I... imagine you look the same, and I look like a person instead of a gargoyle," he said. "But, hey, no complaints. I hear Mercury's princess designed her social companion to be a purple unicorn."
Tamika blushed, and Kade's gaze dropped to his tablet. He flicked his right wing, bringing an overlay of glowing text into view. Ninety-eight more seconds for the code to run. Current time: 17:03:34. He'd checked the time twenty-three seconds ago, but whenever he wasn't reading data, he felt lost. The overseeing adults called it unhealthy. Healthy people could watch a sunset without calculating its luminosity every thirty seconds.
Healthy people sounded boring.
"Kade," Tamika whispered. "Something's coming."
Kade froze and scanned the area. His sensors detected a deep clunk-clunk echoing across Venus's stone-hard surface. Low volume, maybe twenty to thirty decibels. His first thought was that it was a patrol robot, but it was coming too fast.
Entry Nickname: #HackTheVoid
Word Count: 99K
Genre: YA Science Fiction - #OwnVoices Latinx
In 3023, millions of minds have been unknowingly trapped in a virtual reality world known as the Void. As these individuals can’t be disconnected without dying, their bodies have been placed in cryosleep by the U.S. Government. Only a few hackers can enter the Void and come back. Fewer are savvy enough to make a profit by doing odd-jobs inside for those interested in exploiting the virtual past.
18-year-old Suzanna Jimenéz, the fierce and loyal leader of the most notorious hacker crew—the Ghosts of the Void—is one of these. She lost the last of her family when her sister was kidnapped. After years of searching, Suzanna is convinced her sister’s dead, and escapes the real world by spending most of her life inside the virtual one.
Then Suzanna receives evidence her sister’s alive from a government official and her teenage bodyguard, Akari Nakamura. All they want in return for the information on her whereabouts is for Suzanna to accomplish the impossible: find the creator of the Void in order to finally shut it down. A man who has successfully evaded the government for centuries.
Now, Suzanna must decide if finding her sister is worth risking the lives of her crew; if she is really willing to kidnap the daughter of the Void’s creator to get the job done; and if her crew is good enough to hack it through the virtual world before getting wiped out by its security system.
GHOSTS OF THE VOID has multiple (mostly #OwnVoices Latinx) points of view. And will appeal to readers of Want, Warcross, and Otherworld.
Akari Nakamura stared at the blinking backup lights above the cafeteria exit, signaling a Code Black. Someone cut the electricity, killing the security system inside of California’s State Capitol building. She threw her granola bar aside and dashed out the door, then followed the winding corridors to the office of Representative Edna Rodgers. Once in, she pushed the heavy door into the wall until it closed, and darted next to her boss, who’d remained seated calmly at her desk, waiting for Akari with her customary stoic face.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got you,” Akari said. She took hold of the state-of-the-art Cobra stunner on her utility belt, her slender fingers finding their usual place of comfort. The familiar coolness of the steel in her hand instantly cleared her thoughts.
Stay focused, Akari, focus, she told herself, then let out a slow exhale and fixated on the closed door, its useless electric lock.
The back-up lights cast the carpet, ceiling, furniture, and their faces in an eerie red glow. As if blood coated the room. Was it a sign of what was to come? Akari was determined to make sure it wouldn’t be her own blood spilled today. Or the representative’s.
The door banged into the wall as someone forced it open, letting in the shrill noise of the alarms blaring through the hallways of the building.
A young man strolled in. Akari’s breath caught in her throat.