For Sample Sunday, I figured I would post a sample of the 2nd novel in my Elysian Chronicles series, Out of the Shadows. This chapter takes place at the United States Naval Academy where one of my main characters, Tommy O’Connor, attends college. If you aren’t familiar with Naval Academy culture, during Army/Navy week, plebes (USNA freshmen) prank upperclassmen. No, I didn’t come up with this prank myself. I did a few interviews with Naval Academy graduates.
Bear in mind that this book takes place ten years in the future when the world is on the brink of World War III. Red V-Day doesn’t actually exist in real life, and the two teams still play against each other in a neutral stadium.
(NOTE: This is not the complete chapter, mainly because I didn’t want to give away what the message in the window actually was…)
Chapter Twenty-Five: The Message in the Window
The Army/Navy football game, held during the first week in December, showcased one of the most intense and historic college football rivalries in United States history. Before Red V-Day, the Military Institute at West Point and the Naval Academy played against each other at a bigger, neutral stadium—usually the home of either the Washington Redskins or the Philadelphia Eagles. As terrorist attacks increased after Red V-Day, however, the military decided that herding the future officers of both the Army and Navy, as well as many current officers, into one stadium was militarily impractical, so they reverted to holding the games at the schools’ stadiums.
The week before the Army/Navy game included intense “spirit-building” brigade activities, including making plebes drink a Beat Army—a semi-liquid concoction made with anything the upperclassmen could find in King Hall (mustard and ketchup being two of the least offensive ingredients). That Tuesday, Tom and Marco waited for Jake, who had returned to the Academy, to finish his chemistry class.
Marco glanced ahead, where Van walked toward them. “O’Tool alert,” he whispered. “Look lively, laddy.”
Van eyed the two of them. “Straighten your gig-line, O’Connor.”
“Yes, sir,” said Tom. He rearranged his shirt, making the buttons line up with the end of his belt and the overlap of his fly. “Like the world’s going to blow up if my gig-line’s out of whack,” he muttered once Van left.
“Wow,” said Marco. “You’re testy.”
“And your gig line is more crooked than mine,” snapped Tom.
Jake finally emerged from his class, and Marco said, “You took forever.”
“I had to talk to the professor,” said Jake. “You know, get all my homework and make sure I understand what’s going on. What’s up?”
“I know you’ve got a lot of homework, but Batelli and I need you to meet us in our room tonight,” said Tom. He winked and walked away before Jake could ask any questions.
That night, the upperclassmen, including Van and Collins, left for town liberty. Tom, Marco, and Jake convened in Tom’s room. Jake kept lookout while Tom climbed on his bunk bed and removed one of the ceiling tiles. Inside, he had hidden five plastic soda bottles in the rafters. He handed the bottles, one at a time, to Marco.
“Don’t open them until I tell you to,” Tom warned.
“What’s in them?” asked Marco.
“Some of the extra crab juice and meat from October,” said Tom.
Jake inspected the contents of one of the bottles. “There’s, like, stuff growing in here.”
Tom grinned. “Yep.” He pulled out two rakes and handed them to Marco. He replaced the ceiling tiles and hopped to the floor. “Batelli and I did a little bit of Yard maintenance while you were out sick, Smithy. Let’s go.”
The three of them walked to Lejeune Hall where Tom’s sensei, understanding the nuances of Army/Navy week, had allowed him to store fifteen bags of leaves. They took the leaves and soda bottles to Van and Collins’s room. Marco opened Van’s closet and took the cap off one of the bottles. He gagged and almost dropped it. “That’s foul!” he whispered, then set the bottle on the closet floor and shut the door.
Tom took a deep breath before he opened a bottle, deposited it on the floor of Collins’s closet, shut the door, and exhaled. “Ugh. I can still smell it.”
Jake leaned the two rakes against the back wall. To one, he taped a piece of white paper that said Plebes 1, Tools 0. To the other, he taped one that said BEAT ARMY, SIR!
Meanwhile, Tom and Marco hid the remaining soda bottles in the bathroom tub and behind both computer monitors. They emptied the bags of leaves and filled the room knee deep.
“One more bag,” said Tom. “I’ve got it. You two get going!” He opened the final bag of leaves and emptied it when suddenly his skin prickled. He dropped the half-empty bag in panic and looked around.
Something was in the room with him.
On Collins’s desk, a notebook flew open on its own, and a pencil levitated in the air and scrawled on the notebook paper, WATCHING, WATCHING, WATCHING. WE’RE WATCHING YOU LIT—
Tom waded through the leaves, yanked the pencil away from whatever held it, tore off the piece of paper, and slammed the notebook shut.
Leaves flew up in the air, swirling around him in a whirlwind.
…to be continued in Out of the Shadows.
Fantasy novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. Weston speaks to children, teens, and adults about writing and the process of getting published. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. Find out more about The Elysian Chronicles at www.elysianchronicles.com.