Burpstronauts (Monster Juice Series #4)

Burpstronauts (Monster Juice Series #4)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780448462295
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 08/14/2014
Series: Monster Juice Series , #4
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

M. D. Payne (haunted-house-of-payne.tumblr.com) lives in New York City with his wife and baby girl, and hopes to add a hairy, four-legged monster to his family soon.

Read an Excerpt

The pale, gaunt man could no longer stand. A guard held him up by his armpits. The front of the pale man’s suit was splattered with blood. A hooded figure, shrouded in darkness, leaned in close to the man.

“Where. ISSSSS. IT?!” The hooded figure’s voice boomed. “I will not ask again.”

The pale man’s words came out as a mumble. “It’s somewhere safe.” His teeth were stained with blood. “I can assure you of that.”

“Safe? Soon nowhere will be safe,” the hooded figure hissed. Black spittle shot out from the hood. “It’s just a matter of time. Still, I would rather not wait.” He leaned in closer. “Tell me where it is . . . and it would be best if you answered my question this time. You should be very afraid indeed if you force me to ask again.”

“Show me your face,” said the man calmly. “Then perhaps I shall answer your question.”

The hooded figure pulled away and clutched his hood closer around his head.

“Who I am is of no consequence to you,” he said, his voice growing loud with anger.

“It seems I’m not the only one suffering from fear,” said the man. He laughed through his pain, showering blood deep into the hood of the figure.

“THE PENDANT!” yelled the hooded figure, his voice echoing around the massive throne room. “It shall be mine—no matter how hard you protest. I shall find a way into that feeble mind of yours and extract the answer. Where is the real pendant?”

The hooded figure held up a pendant, waving it in front of the pale, gaunt man’s face. “How dare you try to trick me with thisfraud!”

He then crushed the bloodstone like a corn puff from a sugary breakfast cereal. It turned to powder with a CRUNCH.

“How dare I?!” asked the man, still laughing. “I would have been insane to hold on to the power once I realized you sought it. Oh no, I put it somewhere you would never, EVER think to look, you insane, broken creature. How dare you? What are you of all people going to do with all eight pendants? You haven’t the strength in you, Cord—”

The hooded figure cut off the pale, gaunt man with a gloved fist to his stomach.

“OOOOOOF!”

The man fell to the floor in pain, too out of breath to scream. The guard leaned down to pick him up, but the hooded figure waved him away.

“Never speak that name here,” hissed the hooded figure.

When the man got his strength back, he stared into the terrible red eyes of the hooded figure, spat a wad of blood on the floor, and laughed so hard that dust began to fall from the ceiling of the throne room.

“So it is you!” said the man. “Ha-ha-ha!”

“ENOUGH! Another kiss from my latest creation will dry up your laughter and loosen your tongue,” said the hooded figure. “Oh yes, it shall break your spirit . . .”

He clapped his hands together. The guards at the door backed away slightly as a small man in a white laboratory coat pushed a large tank into the room. Dark water sloshed around, spilling out of the tank.

The man calmly watched as the tank approached.

The hooded figure pulled a slimy black serpent out of the tank and slowly brought it toward the mouth of the man. The serpent crackled slightly with a pulse of electricity as it came closer.

“Not quite yet, my sweet zapeel,” the hooded figure cooed. “Be patient.”

Two guards moved to the man, one on either side. One lifted him up, and the other grabbed his mouth, forcing it open.

“Argggglllll,” gurgled the pale man, more blood oozing down his chin. He was trying desperately to pull his tongue deeper into his mouth.

The mouth of the serpent opened to reveal sharklike rows of teeth.

The hooded figure leaned in and latched the disgusting creature onto the pale man’s tongue.

“AAAAABLLLLLRRRRSHHHH,” the pale man screamed.

The hooded figure let go of the zapeel and backed away. A jolt of electricity zapped through the writhing black creature into the pale man’s mouth.

The door to the throne room flew in with a BOOM, startling the slimy black serpent, which fell to the floor with a FLAP.

“Master,” said another guard as he rushed in. “We’ve heard reports—”

“HOW DARE YOU INTERRUPT ME?” yelled the hooded figure. “I have almost broken him!”

“I’m so sorry, Master,” the guard said, bowing, his voice shaking with fear. “Once I tell you the news, I’m sure you’ll understand.”

“Well, speak, you idiot, speak!” the hooded figure said. He picked up the zapeel and held it over the tank. It angrily flopped into the water with a SPLASH.

“Don’t worry, my pretty,” said the hooded figure, leaning in and tapping the glass lovingly. “You can feast on this fool if his story is not worthy of this interruption.”

“A ship has crash-landed a mile from here, in the Gorgon Rift,” the guard finally spit out.

“Has it now . . . ,” said the hooded figure, turning to the man. “Looks like this new development has spared your pitiful life . . . for now.” He moved his fiery glare back to the guard. “And you will live to disappoint me another day. Send the Andromedans to greet our newest guests.”

The guard ran out as quickly as he could.

“Meanwhile,” the hooded figure said, motioning to another guard, “the Director here is doing a better job of holding his tongue than I thought. He’s going to need a few more sessions with the splurtsar and its delicious truth serum. Fetch Murray.”

“Murray?” asked the guard, confused.

“The mummy! Now, be quick!”

As the guard ran out, he said, “Murray’s just not a mummy’s name . . .”

The pale, gaunt man snickered.

The huge iron ship lurched—Frederick, the old green patchwork monster, was straining as he used the electricity that gave him life to power the engines. Slowly the ship lifted toward the hole in the ceiling of the massive cave.

The giant wooden steering wheel spun out of control, knocking me back. It looked like something you’d see on an old pirate ship.

“Come on, guys, help me steer,” I yelled as I scrambled back to my feet. “If we can’t get above ground, we’re totally toast!”

Grigore the vampire and Gordon ran over, and we grabbed the wheel as hard as we could together.

“To. The. Right,” I said through gritted teeth.

Grigore and Gordon grunted along with me as we slowly turned the wheel to the right. It shook so hard in our hands that my body was vibrating.

“My teeth hurt,” yelled Gordon, his bulging muscles straining the sleeves of his Rio Vista Middle School Athletics T-shirt. “It’s like I ate too much sugar on a freezing cold day.”

CHATTER CHATTER CHATTER!

Shane and Roy, the Bigfoot, ran over to help us.

“We’re not gonna make it,” wheezed Ben, staring bug-eyed out the cracked window. He took a giant hit off his asthma inhaler. “The ship’s gaining speed, and we’re about to hit the ceiling.”

The other monsters huddled together for safety, grabbing on to anything that looked like it wouldn’t fall off the ancient rocket ship.

I pressed all my weight against the wheel. “As hard as you can, guys,” I yelled. “PUUUUUUUUSHHHHH!”

The zombies stared blankly as we struggled with the wheel.

SCRAAAAAAPE!

The nose of the rocket dragged along the craggy, rocky ceiling, making even more cracks in the window.

Everything vibrated and shook. It seemed unlikely that the rusty old rocket would hold together much longer. Then suddenly, the shaking stopped and the ship lunged forward, knocking us all to the floor. We were out of the cave!

Once we lifted above the earth, the sounds of the engine quieted to a level just below mind-numbing. Then we started to accelerate.

“Aw yeah!” yelled Shane. “We did it.”

There were cheers throughout the bridge.

He lifted his hand off the wheel to give me a high five.

“Um, not a good time,” I said.

“Oh right, we should probably keep our hands on the wheel,” said Shane.

The ship really picked up speed when we hit the clouds. It felt like we were being pulled into the floor of the bridge, then—

BOOM!

—we hit turbulence and bounced off the wheel, sliding in all different directions.

“We’ve got to keep the rocket going straight,” I yelled. “Otherwise, we’re never going to make it.”

I struggled to my feet for a moment, but was forced down onto all fours by the insane g-forces. I crawled over to the wheel on my belly. Roy struggled to stop himself, but the hairy monster couldn’t keep from sliding farther away.

“My fur!” he yelled. “Too slippery!”

I had to roll to the side to make sure the Bigfoot didn’t crash into me as he slid across the floor.

“The ship’s at the wrong angle! I think we’re heading back down,” I yelled as I tried to grab ahold of Roy. There was no way we could keep the ship on the right course without the burly Bigfoot to help us steer. Even Grigore wasn’t that strong.

“I can’t . . . ,” the Bigfoot gasped again, his teeth rattling just like ours, “. . . get a grip.”

The ship began to descend back to earth, and Roy slid even farther from the wheel.

“Oh man,” moaned a green-looking Ben. “I’m going to hurl.”

“We need to help Roy get up here!” I yelled, struggling along with a group of monsters to hang on to the wheel. “I can’t believe we rushed onto the ship without the Nurses! We could really use their muscle.”

“Wait,” yelled Nabila, who was pressed flat against one of the rusty metal walls of the bridge. “I’ve got an idea!”

“What is it?” I asked. “Hurry!”

“Grigore!” Nabila yelled as we picked up speed, plummeting toward the earth. “Call the other vampires from the cargo hold with your mind. Bring them to us. Bring them to us as bats.”

Grigore began to concentrate, his eyes wandering away in a daze. But his strength at the wheel held.

Soon, three vampire bats awkwardly flapped into the room, their confused squeaks saying, Wait, why are we here?

“Nibble all the fur off Roy!” said Nabila.

“WHAT?!” yelled Roy. “No way!”

The bats squeaked in confusion, flapping hard to avoid the flying glass as different meters and gauges exploded.

“Just do it!” I yelled to the vampire bats.

“Nooooooo!” yelled Roy.

But the vampire bats swarmed Roy and did as I commanded.

BZZZZRRRRRPPPPP!

Their little fangs worked fast, as fast as the fastest electric razor. In a flash of fur, a very pink and very naked Roy appeared.

“Get over here! We need your monster strength,” I yelled, and an embarrassed Roy crawled up the floor and grabbed the wheel.

“Arrrrrggghhhhhh,” we grunted hard as we turned the wheel, and we could feel the ship rise into the air once again.

Once Roy had helped push the wheel down, he gave me an angry glare.

“You could have just had them take the fur off my paws, you know,” he said.

“It wasn’t my idea,” I retorted. “Nabila?”

We looked over to the spot on the wall of the bridge where she had been pressed, but she was gone. Looking down, we saw a pile of tangled brown hair, a fanny pack, and glasses.

“Better safe than sorry,” she mumbled.

The ship blasted even faster into space, higher and higher, until . . .

“Why is it so quiet?”asked Ben, turning even greener. “My stomach feels like we’re still climbing. Ugh.”

“Look!” said Nabila, pointing out the window.

“We’re in space!” I yelled. “We made it! The autopilot should take us from here—the crazy inventor said in his message that the rocket was already set on a course to the moon. The mooooooooooon!”

I relaxed my grip. Shane and the monsters shared worried looks as they all slowly let go of the wheel.

The ship kept moving along its trajectory.

There was a great cheer on the bridge.

“Chris, look!” Nabila said, pointing at my feet. “You’re floating!”

“You too!” said Gordon, pointing at Nabila.

I pushed my feet down onto the floor, and shot up toward the ceiling. “Weeeee’re innnnnn spaaaaaaaaaaace! Wahoo!”

“Aw, man, this is AWESOME!” I yelled, corkscrewing through the air. “I can’t believe it! We’re going to the moon! THE MOON!”

Landing with an OOOF on one of the control panels, I looked up at all the doodads and whirligigs.

“I feel like I’m in a dream,” I said.

“It looks more like a nightmare, with all of Gallow Manor’s monsters on board,” said Nabila. She’d spent the previous twenty minutes attempting to clean up the shattered bits of the ship and chewed-up Bigfoot fur that floated around the bridge.

Shane high-fived a passing zombie.

The zombie cartwheeled backward off the bridge.

“Stop messing around,” said Nabila. “We’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do when we get to the moon. We don’t even know where Murrayhotep is taking Director Z. ‘To him,’ Murrayhotep kept saying.”

“I know,” I said. “And it freaks me out to think of who—or what—we’re going to find on the moon. But we should have enough time before we get there to figure it all out—how to get Z and the pendant back. I know we should be worried, and I am, but this is by far the greatest moment of my life. So just give me a few minutes to take it all in.”

Shane pushed off a wall, grabbed Nabila, and twirled her around in the middle of the room.

“Okay, fine!” she said, giggling. “But then let’s get serious.”

Ben’s face was smashed against a glass porthole. He stared out at the blue planet that was slowly receding behind us.

“Wow,” said Ben as the ship rocketed deeper into space. “Earth is so small.”

“Dude, you realize you’re upside down, right?” asked Gordon.

“Right-side up, upside down, it’s all the same,” Ben said.

“If we don’t remember which way is which, I think something bad will happen,” said Gordon, who had strapped himself into a chair next to a burned-out panel. “I hope we didn’t need any of these controls.”

Behind me, I heard Pietro and Howie, two of the old werewolves, discussing how fun it was to transform in zero-g.

“This is great,” said Howie with a crooked grin. “It’s so much easier. Fast. Like . . . POOF! But how do you transform into a wolf without crashing against a wall?”

“Push yourself away from a wall just before you start to transform,” replied Pietro. “Watch . . .”

Pietro kicked off the bridge of the spaceship with a “YEAHHHHOOOOOOWWWWWL” as he transformed.

“Wait for MEEEEEEHHHHOOOOOOWWWWL,” Howie said, transforming with ease as he followed.

“Watch it, furballs!” someone screamed.

“Get out of your chair, Gordon,” Nabila said, pushing off Gordon’s face to fly toward me. “You’re missing out.”

“Whatever, Crazy Hair,” Gordon said, pointing at Nabila’s head, which, thanks to the zero-g, was a huge, floating, jet-black mess.

“Sorry,” she said, “I didn’t have a chance to pack a hat while we were rushing dozens of monsters onto this Victorian-era spacecraft.”

“This is unbelievable,” gasped Shane, who had joined Ben at the porthole.

“How far have we traveled?” asked Nabila.

“I really wish that I could make sense of these controls,” I replied. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen on Star Wars or Star Trek.”

“Star Blech is more like it,” said Gordon.

“Boy, zero-g makes you really cranky,” said Shane.

“I just don’t trust anywhere I can’t play football,” Gordon said.

“Just wait until we get to the moon,” I said. “Even I’ll be able to throw a fifty-yard pass there—just one-sixth the gravity of Earth! Oh man, it’s going to be great!”

“Once we rescue Director Z from some form of evil that waits to crush us,” said Ben. “Then you can have your football game.”

A few of the old witches walked onto the bridge, dodging everyone and everything floating past them. “Everyone’s safe down in the cargo hold,” said Katherine, the oldest of them. “One of the zombies fell to pieces with all the shaking, but we took care of her before all the parts could float away.”

“How are you walking!?!” asked Shane.

The three gray old ladies cackled, and Griselda walked in holding up a jar of gooey . . . something.

“What is that?” I asked. “I bet there’s some essence of spiderweb and eye of newt in there . . .”

Gordon practically leaped out of his chair in excitement, but grabbed it quickly again to keep from floating away. “Hey, Griselda, bring some of that newt juice over here.”

“Oh, it’s not anything but marmalade,” said Griselda.

“Why do you always think the marmalade is something gross?” Shane asked me.

I had no answer.

Griselda slathered a generous amount of marmalade onto Gordon’s shoes, and he was able to stand on the floor once again.

“Anyone else?” asked Griselda.

“No, we’re having too much fun,” replied Nabila, who was spinning like a top while looking out the big window at all the stars.

“Suit yourself,” said Gordon. “But you’ll be sorry. Griselda, are my muscles less likely to shrink now that I’m walking? Chris, how long until we reach the moon and some gravity?”

I turned to one of the many gauges that slowly, creakily turned on the massive control panel, when I was struck in the face with a squeaking furry object.

“Aw, get off!” I yelled.

The bat bounced off my face, scratching me slightly with its rough wings, and corkscrewed wildly into . . .

“My hair!” Nabila screamed. “Ahhhhhh! Get out! Get out!”

She reached up to try to untangle the bat, but it just squeaked louder and got even more tangled.

“Judging by the squeaks, I think that’s Grigore,” said Ben as he kicked off Shane’s rump to float over to Nabila.

“I don’t care who it is!” she screeched. “Just get him out of my hair.”

By the time Ben reached Nabila, Grigore’s mad flapping was dragging her through the air in the opposite direction.

“Wait!” said Ben. “Stop flapping, Grigore!”

“I think he’s panicking because he doesn’t know how to fly in zero-g,” said Shane. “But Ben will be able to untangle him as soon as he stops flapping and Nabila calms down.”

“See,” said Gordon. “This is why I’m sticking to the floor. Literally.”

A helmet from one of the space suits floated past Gordon, and he snatched it up.

“Extra protection,” Gordon said. “So how long is this going to take, Chris?”

“Hmmm,” I said, trying to ignore Nabila’s screams as Grigore dragged her off the bridge. “I’m not sure . . .”

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