Time-traveling gamer, Max, embarks on a harrowing journey through the Wild West of 1881! After a huge fight with his parents, Max tries to return to his love and his best friend, Bero, in medieval Germany. Instead he lands in 1881 New Mexico. Struggling to get his bearings and coming to terms with Dr. Stuler’s evil computer game misleading him, he runs into Billy the Kid. To his amazement Billy isn’t at all the ruthless killer history made him out to be. Trouble brews when a dying Warm Springs Apache gives Max a huge gold nugget to help his sister, Ela, escape from Fort Sumner. Shopping for supplies Max attracts the attention of ruthless bandits. Before Max can ask the Kid’s help, he and Ela are forced to embark on a journey to find his imaginary goldmine. This is book 2 in the Escape from the Past trilogy.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Annette Oppenlander writes historical fiction for young adults. When she isn’t in front of her computer, she loves indulging her mutt, Mocha, and traveling around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories.
Read an Excerpt
Escape from the Past: The Kid (Book 2)
By Annette Oppenlander
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2015 Annette Oppenlander
All rights reserved.
"I thought you wanted the new Xbox for your birthday." My father's eyebrows knitted into a frown. "You've been talking about nothing else all year."
We sat in the pizza parlor in Heiligenstadt, Italian music playing in the background. We met every two weeks as outlined in the divorce decree and, as usual, my father sounded irritated.
"I thought you'd be glad I didn't want more gaming stuff." I stared at the man who had the same blue-green eyes. At one point he'd had the same dark brown hair. Now, he was mostly gray with a bald spot on top.
"But horseback riding? You've never wanted to be near anything larger than a dog. What's this new interest? Or will you change your mind next week?"
I shook my head and threw the tired crust of the last pizza slice back on the plate. "I already tried it out a few times. I can ride my bike there and if I help with the stalls, they charge only half."
"All right," my father said. "I'll cover the first four months. After that we'll see if you're still interested."
"Great. Thanks, Dad."
"So what else are you not telling me?"
"What do you mean?"
"Your mother called. She's really concerned."
"Because I want to spend time with her?" And not you.
"No, only your general behavior, studying history like a maniac. The books in your room about the Middle Ages, the new interest in herbs and natural medicine. Your visits to the Hanstein ruins, the sword practice in the yard. Isn't that a bit excessive?"
I shrugged. "It's interesting to learn about this stuff. I never realized it until now."
But it was obvious that he didn't see. He kept staring at me, several times opening his mouth as if to comment, then clamping tight. The silence between us grew.
"I'm meeting Jimmy at the movies," I said.
"Of course." My father waved at the waiter. He seemed relieved to put an end to our visit. "There is one more thing."
He hesitated and cleared his throat, which should've clued me in right there. As a captain in the U.S. Army he's used to calling the shots. "I'm getting married again."
"What?" My stomach knotted angrily around the half-digested pizza. "You mean that chick who looks like a college student and giggles like a halfwit."
"She isn't a college student and she's certainly no halfwit," my father snapped. "She's doing her residency at the hospital." He bit his lip, obviously unsure how to continue.
"You can't be serious." Scenes from long ago flashed by. My parents holding hands, the three of us on a beach in Cancun. Truth is, I always expected they'd get back together. Now my dream had popped like an overinflated soap bubble, leaving a bad taste in my mouth.
"Maybe one day you'll understand —"
Swallowing a nasty comment, I abruptly straightened and hurried outside. If my father did call after me I didn't hear it.
A perfect summer sun mocked me as I stormed up and down the shopping street. I still had an hour before meeting Jimmy, but I'd rather hang out by myself than spend one more minute with a guy who was robbing the cradle. It was so gross, it was nauseating.
I'd considered telling him about the game. How I'd been transported to the year 1471, chased by lords and spent weeks with Knight Werner at Castle Hanstein. I'd almost died in a dungeon and fallen for a girl. Impossible. My father would have me committed before he believed one word.
Yet, I couldn't help thinking about it all the time.
Every day since I'd returned I thought about the mess I'd left behind and that I wanted to go back and straighten things out. Talk to Juliana, dive into her brown eyes again, stick my nose into her hair. Kiss her ...
I sighed again. I wanted to explain to her how I was from a different time and that you didn't get married as a teenager. That I was finishing high school and planned to go to college.
And there was Bero. My friend. He was a squire now and probably practicing sword fighting with Enders right this minute. He'd be jumping around in that squirrel-like way, shouting with glee when he got the best of Enders.
And Knight Werner? You didn't cross a mighty lord and just disappear after he'd offered to make you his squire. Werner was probably mad and would kick me from the castle if I showed my face again.
A rattled breath escaped me. It was best to move on. I was comfortable at home and school. I had a few friends, even if they weren't super cool. I felt reasonably happy. My parents were another story, but soon I'd move out on my own. So why couldn't I just forget the darn game and enjoy the stuff I'd been doing before? Like playing normal computer games, like hanging out with Jimmy and watching the girls from my class at the movies and the ice-cream parlor afterwards. Hanging out at parties, hoping for a piece of warm skin next to me.
School was a drag, but it wasn't that bad. Especially when compared to the lousy lives Juliana and Bero led before they moved to the castle. At least they were safe now. Until the next battle when Bero would be forced to help protect Werner's right hand, Konrad. Maybe Bero was dead already.
Of course, he was dead. Almost six hundred years had passed. The game was messing with my head.
I spun around. Jimmy was standing in front of me.
"You were a million miles away," Jimmy said with a grin. "Got here early, drove the GTI." When I didn't answer, he said, "Something wrong? You aren't still thinking of playing the game again?"
I shrugged. "Haven't decided."
"Didn't you hear what my father said? What if you don't return at all or they cut off your arm or leg in a battle? Or you get the Plague or something ..."
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Let's watch the movie," I said, eager to change the subject. Jimmy was right, of course. There were thousands of unknowns and even if I studied for ten years, I'd not be prepared for the dangers lurking in fifteenth century Bornhagen.
The voice in my mind continued to whisper. I'd carry a few things in my pockets. I knew more about treating illnesses with plants. Luanda, the healer could help, too. I'd prepare my clothes, wear different shoes. I knew the place.
My chances had to be way better, even if I didn't know the missions. Maybe I had to brew some more herbs, meet new people.
I wondered if anyone else had ever played the game. Jimmy's father had said some things that sounded suspicious. That it was dangerous and they couldn't control the parameters of the game. How would he have known that unless someone else had played? But it was useless to ask him again. Jimmy's father wasn't talking.
"Are you going to get the new Xbox?" Jimmy said as the lights dimmed and we settled into our seats. "We could do a tournament at my house. Stay up all night, eat junk food."
Of course, Jimmy already had the new Xbox. Just like he had the newest iPhone and Mac.
"I don't think I'll get one," I said. I wasn't really in the mood to explain why I wanted to ride horses instead. Let Jimmy think that my father was too cheap.
The theatre went dark.
"What do you mean, we aren't going," I yelled panting with anger.
My mother leaned against the stove, holding a ladle in midair. "I'm sorry, Max. The promotion is finally happening and my new boss — he ... we're attending a seminar in Munich all week." Her hand sank and the spoon fell into the soup. "Maybe we can get away during fall break."
"You mean that creep, Parker, don't you? He's been drooling over you for over a year. I've seen him!" My voice was reaching new heights. I coughed to clear my throat.
"Herr Parker is a good manager. And I'm quite old enough to take care of myself." My mother straightened, though she only reached to my collarbone.
I saw how he ogled you at the Christmas party. The man's eyeballs were practically glued to my mother's cleavage. Disgusting.
"Can't you tell him you have plans?" I said aloud. "We booked months ago."
"It doesn't work that way," my mother said. "We'll be able to afford more trips in the future. And we'll start saving for a car for you."
"Yeah, right." I ran down the hall and threw shut the door to my room. I fell on the bed, ignoring the pressure in my throat. It was stupid to cry, a girl thing. Angrily I swiped an arm across my face.
This had to be the lousiest weekend ever. First my father, now my mother. I'd been so happy about going to Crete. Two weeks of swimming and hanging out at the beach, riding scooters across the island and looking at old stuff.
I shook my head as if the movement could make the memory of my joyful anticipation vanish. Jimmy was going away for the entire summer break. First to some place in southern France, then to an adventure camp. And I would be stuck in Bornhagen for six weeks with the highlight being the public pool in Heiligenstadt.
If I thought about it, Jimmy was a jerk the way he kept rubbing his wealth in my face. He knew perfectly well, my mom and I were struggling. And he of all people still had both his parents. A perfect little family.
Truth was I was completely alone. Nobody cared what I did, not even my so-called best friend.
I wiped away a tear and sat up.
I'd had it.
There was only one way I'd get my mind off things. I'd been undecided for months, but it was obvious nobody cared about me anyway. If I returned, I'd rest through the summer. If not, well ... I'd see about that.
I listened for movement from the kitchen. My mother would leave me alone to cool off. Now was as good a time as ever.
Digging into my closet I pulled out several items. The window stood open, curtains billowing in the breeze. With a sigh I changed and slumped in front of the computer. The air smelled of mowed grass and my mother's yellow tea roses. Of promised vacations and broken dreams.
I inserted the disk and grabbed the half-empty can of Coke. There wouldn't be any Coke where I was going.
The can hovered in midair. I had to be insane. Hadn't I almost died last time? But the memory of my stupid parents returned and I drank quickly, my gulps loud in the stillness of the early evening. To heck with them. I needed to forget.
I took mental inventory of my outfit, the items I'd prepped and stuck into my pants pocket.
On the monitor the globe appeared and began to spin. I slid backwards until my spine rested firmly against the chair. This time I'd pay attention to the way it felt when my room dissolved. Maybe it wouldn't happen at all. Maybe I'd just play a game and remain in stupid Bornhagen.
I aimed the mouse, trying to remember what had happened last time. The globe was supposed to stop and show an entrance door. I waited, but the earth kept rotating.
The start button flashed, "Enter now."
I sighed with relief and clicked.
The screen turned dark, almost black. I leaned closer.
Had the monitor quit? But then the faint outlines of something bulky materialized in the distance, the sky above peppered with a million stars. I grinned. The skies in the Middle Ages were breathtaking. No pollution, no artificial lights.
The screen kept zooming through the darkness. A second shadow of something tall appeared ahead. I remembered the thick forests, oak trees soaring a hundred and fifty feet. Somebody whistled or was it the wind whispering. The screen kept moving slowly, yet remained dark. It was definitely nighttime.
The ancient parchment unrolled from the bottom, its corners torn and burned as if it had escaped fire: the menu.
Continue Level Two
"Upgrade to expert now" blinked below.
My mouse finger trembled, in fact my entire arm shook. I was about to enter the most dangerous place I'd ever known. Why couldn't I just put up with my life even if it sucked?
You are going to do this.
I was prepared. I knew what to expect, had even gotten clothes that looked more medieval, a long-sleeved shirt with wide arms, leftover from Carnival, a hooded oversized sweater that would have to double as a coat.
I'm doing it. Now.
My chest began to throb without warning, then tighten. Had it been this painful last time? Ten months had passed since I'd last played. I smiled despite the pain. I couldn't wait to sneak up on Bero. Hug Juliana. The pressure on my body increased. She'd be mad, of course, but then she'd kiss me. Maybe we could sneak into the barn tonight.
The weight on my lungs grew. Breathing stopped. My vision filled with the red haze of oxygen deprivation. I tried to gulp, but my ribs were glued to my sides. I was stuck ... and terrified. The fog turned gray ... then black. Like last time, I managed to stand, but my legs and feet stood rooted like the giant oaks in Hanstein's forest.
My heart pounded in my neck, the only sign I was still alive. The fog deepened. Why was this taking so long? Still the pressure held as if I'd been thrown under a boulder. I was dying.
I'd made a huge mistake.
It's easy to forget fear. Stuff happens and you get distracted. After a while all you remember are the good things. Now that I was unable to move, unable to do anything, I remembered the way I'd felt the first time I landed in the game. I'd felt terror.
And terror was back now in full force, squeezing my middle and poking at my heart. As the pressure lifted and the fog cleared, the sense of impending doom gripped me with such force that I fell forward.
I'd made a horrible mistake.
Stumbling, I stubbed my toes and suppressing a shout. In the near darkness, a rock or cliff rose wide as a house and three stories high. I only saw its outline, a black edge against the starry sky above.
The whistling I'd heard earlier definitely came from between the giant rocks. The air was filled with the scent of grasses, grit and something like sage. Had I returned in the summer?
Behind me the area appeared more open. Maybe I was down near the river and Luanda's house. Should I move in the dark or wait? I'd get lost, wandering off in the wrong direction.
A cold wind dug under my shirt and nipped at my skin. I tugged my sweater closer around me when I saw something glowing on the ground like a huge red eye.
"Not a move, Boy," the voice hissed. "Or I'll blow a hole through your gut."CHAPTER 2
The voice was deep and cold as the wind. Something hard and unyielding dug into my back. Maybe it was one of Werner's men or had I run into Schwarzburg's guards? But something felt wrong, something I couldn't put my finger on.
Before I knew what to do, the ground shifted as several shadows rose around me.
"Wade, what is it?"
"Found us an intruder," Wade said. "Showed up like a stray coyote." For emphasis he shoved at my ribs. I suppressed a yelp as the pain spread to my stomach.
"You sleeping, Wade? Let someone walk in here like that." This voice was scratchy as a cheese grater with an Irish-sounding twang.
A sudden light stung my eyes. One of the shadows had lit a match not five inches from my nose.
"Look at that. What is that?" the man with the Irish voice said. "It's a kid."
I caught a glimpse of a reddish beard, a grimy bandana on the neck below and a leather vest. Definitely not Duke Schwarzburg or Werner.
Wait a minute.
I gulped as new panic sucked away my air and turned my stomach. Though they spoke a weird dialect, these men spoke English. I understood them clearly.
I was nowhere near Hanstein.
I shook my head. It had to be the game. I'd been able to communicate with Bero and Juliana even though they spoke some kind of medieval German. What if they were speaking some other language entirely and it was all an illusion? What had Jimmy's father done?
"Damn, Wade, can't you shoot 'em?" a voice drifted up from the ground.
"Kill 'em and let us sleep," someone else grumbled.
I trembled as I realized that the poking thing in my kidney was a gun. Any second now the guy could pull the trigger. And unlike last time when I'd gone to medieval Germany, this time I knew with certainty that I'd really die, that these were the stakes of the game.
I felt my knees wobble as I tried to think of a way out. But running was suicide. These guys would shoot me in the back.
"Let him talk," the short Irish man said. "Almost time to leave anyway." The horizon was growing the faintest bit gray. "You got a name, boy? Speak."
Wade shoved at my back. Sharp pain in my back made me gasp and I crumpled to the ground, inches from the fire pit. "Open your pie hole or we're going to put you out of your misery. You're costing us sleep."
"Max who? You got a name. What're you hiding?" the Irish said.
I hesitated. Was I still Max Nerds? It had been fitting at Hanstein.
"I'll split you in half," Wade said, shoving his rifle into my side once more. I winced as pain shot up my spine.
"Damn, Wade, he's a kid. Let him talk." Another guy, his head resting on a saddle, had spoken. Even in the morning gloom I knew his nose was broken and bent sideways.
"Max Nerds," I gasped as I struggled to kneel without falling into the coals. My back was on fire from the vicious blow and I wondered if I'd cracked a rib. "Dude, I got lost out here."
Excerpted from Escape from the Past: The Kid (Book 2) by Annette Oppenlander. Copyright © 2015 Annette Oppenlander. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
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