With the recent release of my second book, Bobby Ether and the Temple of Eternity, I wanted to offer up an idea of what the sequel has in store for readers. Following is the first chapter, which can also be found on the book’s homepage, here. Note—this chapter contains spoilers for anyone who hasn’t finished book one. Fair warning!
Bobby Ether sat at the white laminate table in his family’s kitchen and looked across at his parents. It had been nearly three months since the fourteen-year-old from Bayside, California, returned from the Academy. Everything seemed different somehow, from the worn linoleum with its faded sunflowers to the Formica counter top with its chipped corners. Even the carefully cultivated herb garden outside the window wasn’t quite as he remembered.
Worry lines showed on his father’s ruggedly handsome face as Nathaniel Ether put on his suit and tie, preparing to head off to work. Bobby’s mother, Grace, wore a matching expression of angst, obscuring her otherwise rosy countenance.
Bobby frowned and kicked the leg of the table with the tip of his black-and-white checkered Vans. “But it’s not fair,” he said. “It’s only for a few hours.” He leaned back, running a hand through pale blond hair the color of hay bales in the bright sun, grown out since his buzz-cut days at the Academy.
“We’ve been over this before,” said his mother. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go anywhere right now.”
Indeed they had been over the topic before—many, many times. Following Bobby’s return, his rescuers—Chief, Grandpa, and Cassandra—all sat down with Bobby’s parents and told them the truth about the secret monastery in Tibet where Bobby had been taken. They explained how the headmistress had turned out to be Grandpa’s long lost daughter, and Bobby’s aunt. Chief had also told Bobby’s parents what he could about the Core—the secret organization dedicated to advancing metahuman abilities as the next stage in human evolution—and how the Core had tested the Academy’s students in order to find worthy candidates for their perverse experiments. Only a series of clues left by his clairvoyant grandfather had allowed Bobby and his younger cousin, Jinx, to foil the headmistress’s plot and escape.
Despite having known about Grandpa’s special talents for years, it was clearly still hard for Bobby’s parents to believe that their son had been at a secret monastery on the other side of the world. Even now, after nearly three months, they still tended to act like he had simply been away at summer camp. It had proven to be both a blessing and a curse.
At first, just seeing his parents alive and recovered from the car accident staged by the headmistress was enough to make him giddy. Lately, however, Bobby had begun to feel confined, almost as if the space around him had shrunk while he was away.
His mother sat across the table, her mousy, shoulder-length hair pulled up in a bun to reveal the delicate features of her slender face. Even from behind her librarian-style reading glasses, Bobby could see the concern etched in her dark green eyes.
“What is it, Bobby?” she asked softly. “Whatever it is, we want to help.”
Bobby tugged at the seam of his loose-fitting jeans. The last time he’d seen his best friends was on sublevel five of the Academy’s archives. He’d promised to help Trevor, Lily, and Jacob, but since escaping through the Spine of the World and discovering the truth about Cassandra and Chief, he’d been unable to keep that promise. By the time he and all of his companions had made it back up to the remains of the ancient monastery, there was no trace of his friends. In fact, there hadn’t been signs of anyone, living or dead. Now, after almost an entire summer spent reunited with his family, he felt as guilty for the time gone by as he did about his own happiness at being home.
Bobby frowned, knowing he couldn’t verbalize an answer that would satisfy his parents. Just then, the doorbell rang. His father gave Bobby a look that let him know the conversation was not over and stood up. Tall and handsome, Nathan Ether moved with the grace of a natural athlete except for the slight limp in his right leg where three metal rods had been inserted to repair his shattered femur as a result of the accident.
He was back a moment later with visitors. “Jinx!” said Bobby, jumping out of his chair to greet his cousin. “You’re back. What did you think?”
Theodore “Jinx” Grayson had also let his hair grow out since leaving the Academy. The bird’s nest of russet curls perched atop a cherubic face with rosy cheeks currently pushed up in a huge smile. “It was almost impossible to believe at first,” said Jinx with a glance over his shoulder at Chief, who had driven him here and whose compound, the Eagle’s Nest, he was referring to. “The entire place is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The old Native American gave him a broad grin to indicate that Jinx was not the first to verbalize such an opinion.
“I’m learning so much,” said Jinx. He dropped his eyes to the floor. “I just wish the others were around to see it.”
“Speaking of the others,” said Bobby, “where are Grandpa and Cassandra?” Following the downfall of the Academy, Grandpa had made a habit of coming by the house regularly to visit Bobby, giving the two of them time to catch up and help Bobby readjust. Seeing Cassandra was still uncomfortable. She had been on his side all along, but it was still tough not to think of her as the enemy.
“Your grandfather and Cassandra have gone searching for your grandmother,” said Chief.
Bobby frowned. For over thirty years, the power of their love had kept Jeremiah and Melody apart with its unique energy that acted like a tracking beacon for the Academy. Following the abduction of their infant daughter at the hands of Simpkins and Hayward, Jeremiah and Melody were never willing to risk being together again.
Now that the Academy lay in ruins, it appeared that fate was conspiring once again to keep the two lovers apart.
“Apparently Melody moved almost a year ago and didn’t leave word for Jeremiah in their usual place—something he swears she’s never done before,” said Chief. “He and Cassandra have been searching for weeks, trying to figure out where she went. Last night the two of them finally got a lead pointing to South America. They took a flight and said they’ll be in contact when they know more.”
The room fell silent as everyone contemplated this news. Bobby missed his grandfather already. The old man’s wry wit and eternal optimism had been critical in helping Bobby deal with the depression that set in whenever he thought about the unknown fate of Lily, Trevor, Jacob, and the rest of the people at the Academy.
Chief broke the silence with a delicate cough. “Have you given any more thought to my offer?” he asked Bobby’s parents. Storm clouds brewed on Nathan Ether’s face over another worn-out topic. Chief wanted Bobby to come to the Eagle’s Nest to study and continue the training he’d started at the Academy. His parents, however, were far from enthusiastic about the idea of parting with their son again.
“I don’t see why it’s so important,” said his mother. “You yourself said that there’s no danger now that the Academy is destroyed.”
“I said there was no immediate danger,” said Chief, “but someone cleaned out that monastery, taking all the people along with the records from the headmistress’s secret lab. It’s safe to assume it was the Core, and if that’s the case, then it’s only a matter of time before they start going through those records. Once they do that, you can bet they’ll be interested in locating your son.”
“What is it you propose?” asked Bobby’s father.
“Your son needs to finish his training. He needs to learn to protect and defend himself. He can do that under my guidance at the Eagle’s Nest. He and Jinx can study and work together. At the very least we can train him to control his abilities. If he wants to study further and become part of the team—”
“Absolutely not,” said Grace Ether. “Now that I know what Jeremiah and Melody went through, I am not going to allow my son to grow up to be some kind of mutant. He’s going to stay right here where we can keep an eye on him.”
Nathan placed a hand on top of hers and squeezed gently. “Sweetie, I know how you feel, and I feel the same way. But maybe it’s time we asked Bobby what he wants. After all, it’s his life.”
With those words, Bobby suddenly understood what it was that felt different since he’d returned home. He dropped his eyes to the floor, unable to meet his parents’ gaze. “I don’t belong here,” he said finally. “This is still my home, and I love you both, but I’ve changed. I’m not the same naïve boy who only went to school, played basketball, and hung out with my friends. There are things that I’ve learned since then, things that I know exist but haven’t had time to fully comprehend. I think I need to go with Chief and learn what he has to teach me.”
Grace Ether put her arms around her husband, wiped a tear from her eye, and gave Bobby a weak smile. And just like that, the decision was made.