Who likes aliens?
Why? Because Text LOVES aliens! And so does Darrell Pitt!
His action-packed new space adventure, The Boy from Earth, is out this month and it’s full of aliens and spaceships and aliens and space academies and aliens and baddies and aliens and it’s also packed with FUN!
We asked Darrell Pitt to tell us a little bit about his new book. Then keep reading for a sneak peek of the book. THEN get out ALL your textas and keep reading to find out how to win one of three copies of this fantastic new book!
A Letter to My Earth Readers
Wouldn’t it be exciting to meet an alien?
Can you IMAGINE what that would be like?
They probably come in ALL different shapes and sizes. Tall. Short. Big heads. Small heads. No heads. Three arms. Four arms. Eight arms. Tentacles. Claws. Blue. Orange. Green. Oh, and some probably have those funny-looking slimy things that snails slide around on.
Meeting an alien would be REALLY weird – but also kind of exciting.
One day we’ll probably make contact with aliens from other worlds. They might send us a message, or maybe they’ll come here to meet us in person. They could come here in a spaceship and land in someone’s backyard. Maybe even YOUR backyard. Can you imagine what that would be like? Can you imagine telling your mum that an alien was coming for dinner?
Or that it wanted to EAT her for DINNER?
It makes you wonder what they look like, what they would talk about, and what they would think of us.
It’s these kinds of questions that inspired me to write The Boy from Earth. I wanted to see what it would be like for a regular kid to meet aliens. Would the kid be afraid? Terrified? Or excited?
And what would the aliens think of us? Would they be impressed by us? Or would they think we were like ants and should be stepped on?
In The Boy from Earth, Bobby Baxter is asked to become the first Earthling to go to the Galactic Space Academy. It’s a kind of space school. Bobby doesn’t want to go. In fact he’s TERRIFIED! He doesn’t even like walking out of the door of his own home, let alone travelling to another planet! But he has to go. Everyone on Earth is relying on him.
At the school he DOES meet lots of aliens – and much to his amazement, most of them are all right. He even becomes friends with some of them.
First, there’s Talia, who has rubbery purple skin, yellow hair, and tentacles instead of arms and legs. Then there’s a kid named Zim and Zam Zoom, who has two heads and one body. YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT. TWO HEADS AND ONE BODY! Next is Gooba, who looks like a giant blue gorilla.
Finally, there’s Targ, who is not really a friend, and not really an enemy. He’s sort of…
Well, you’ll see.
Then there are the teachers. If you thought the kids sounded WEIRD, wait till you see what the teachers are like. One of them looks so FIERCE that he’s like your worst nightmare, but TEN TIMES worse.
How does Bobby Baxter survive? Will he come out of this adventure alive? Or will he get eaten by something with three heads, a hundred teeth and REALLY bad breath?
Read the book and find out!
Bobby Baxter fell out of bed as the front door of his tiny apartment was smashed in. The overhead light flickered on, revealing men dressed from head to toe in black. They waved laser rifles around menacingly.
‘Bobby Baxter?’ the nearest snapped. He wore a name badge on his uniform: Robinson. ‘Are you Bobby Baxter?’
Bobby had been dreaming that he’d been asked to become the new lead singer of his favourite band, the Snot Danglers. The audience had been going wild, and he’d never felt prouder of himself.
Now the dream had given way to fear.
Fear was an emotion he knew very well. He kept a mental list of everything that scared him. It was up to 689 things so far, and included lightning, crowds, spiders, alien abductions, crocodiles, falling from tall heights, falling from short heights, and eggs.
‘What’s going on?’
The person who spoke in the quivering, high-pitched tone wasn’t Bobby but his father, who had been asleep in the other bed. Rex Baxter looked like an older version of twelve-year-old Bobby: brown hair, brown eyes and small.
More men pushed into the apartment. The room Bobby shared with his dad was barely two metres across, with beds that folded into the wall when not in use, a dining table that also slotted into the wall, and a small cupboard. Next to the cupboard hung a bell-shaped cage where their pet snail, Roger, slept. Roger had cost a great deal of money, and he was a beloved family member, despite being very quiet. Now he was waving his antennae about in confusion.
‘Your name?’ Robinson demanded, turning to Rex.
‘Rex Baxter! Why are you—’
Robinson referred to his datapad. ‘Employed as a grade two nuts and bolts inspector at Acme Universal Steel Company?’ he said.
Robinson turned to Bobby. ‘And you’re Bobby Baxter?’ he asked.
Bobby had to think for a moment to remember his own name. ‘Y-yes,’ he stammered.
‘And this is Unit 774549, Level 227, Block 9089, Tower 877, Blandville?’ Robinson said, referring again to the datapad. ‘Good. You’re both coming with us.’
Bobby and his father were dragged from their flat into the hallway outside, where their neighbours were peering through half-closed doors at the commotion.
‘Ring the police!’ Rex Baxter yelled. ‘Someone—’
Doors slammed shut.
‘We are the police,’ Robinson told Rex, flashing a badge. ‘Planetary Security.’
‘What’s going on?’ Rex asked. ‘Why are you doing this?’
‘No idea. I’m just taking you in.’
Bobby and his father were handcuffed and led down the long, long corridor between their apartment and the lifts.
‘I have rights!’ Rex Baxter cried shrilly. ‘I’m not just a number!’
‘I know that, 774549.’
‘That’s my apartment number! Not my name!’
‘This doesn’t make any sense!’
‘If I had a dollar every time someone’s said that to me I’d have…’ Robinson did some quick calculations. ‘Sixteen dollars.’
The armed men pushed Bobby and his father into the waiting lift. Bobby’s stomach lurched as they rocketed towards the roof.
‘Wh-where are we going?’ he asked.
‘Planetary Security Headquarters,’ Robinson said. ‘In Neoville.’
‘Neoville? But that’s on the other side of the planet!’
Bobby felt faint. He hadn’t left the building for years. He’d hardly even left their floor. Everything he needed was right here, in the building. He did his schoolwork online, there were shops a few doors down, and at the far end of the floor was a nice park filled with plastic trees.
One of the guards gave Bobby a shove to keep him on his feet.
Why is this happening?
Then the doors opened and the guard shoved Bobby again, out onto the roof and into the cold night air.
Above him stretched the endless sky.
It was huge! How could anyone survive out here? He was about to make a very unheroic gurgling sound when he and his father were bundled into a waiting van. Guards crammed in next to them, and the van took to the sky.
Soon they were at the edge of space. Here the van joined a line of other flying cars. Bobby looked down – and wished he hadn’t. In that brief glimpse, he had seen islands, continents and oceans. It was horrible!
‘Are you okay?’ his father asked.
Bobby couldn’t answer – he’d forgotten how to speak.
‘Everything will be fine,’ Rex said. ‘This must be some kind of mistake.’
Some kind of mistake…That’s it! Bobby thought. A mistake! A computer error! Someone had upended their can of UP-UP cola on their computer, and Bobby and his father’s names had been plucked out by accident. When they arrived at Planetary Security headquarters, someone would realise that it had all been a big mistake, and then he and his father would be whisked off home again.
Rex shrank back as Robinson leaned close.
‘We never make mistakes,’ Robinson said. ‘Never.’
‘Never?’ Bobby said.
‘Well, almost never,’ Robinson said. ‘But we certainly haven’t made a mistake this time.’
The armoured van angled downwards.
‘I want answers!’ Rex Baxter said, making one last effort to assert himself. ‘Who are we being taken to see?’
‘The minister for planetary security? What doeshe want with us?’
‘You’ll have to ask him that.’
The van went into a steep dive, and they plummeted towards the ground below at an alarming rate. Bobby shut his eyes tightly and kept them closed until the sound of the engines changed. When he opened them again, the van was weaving at high speed through a canyon of tall skyscrapers.
Thousands of flying cars zoomed between the buildings. Spaceships were lifting off from rooftops every few seconds to head into orbit.
Every available wall was covered in flashing billboards.
STAR WARS – THE FORCE AWAKENS YET AGAIN!
MOVE TO THE MOON!
PUT A BOUNCE IN YOUR STEP!
KEEP COOL – HOLIDAY ON PLUTO!
Bobby’s stomach lurched again as the van dived down towards a vast hexagonal building. A huge neon sign hung over the entrance: Planetary Security.
‘It’ll all be okay,’ Rex promised Bobby. ‘We’ll be back home before we know it.’
Robinson snorted. ‘You think?’ he said.
Handcuffed people were being led through a main entrance, but the prison van didn’t stop there. Instead, it flew around the side, where Robinson and the guards hustled Bobby and his father down a dimly lit corridor. The walk seemed to take forever. They reached the end and a door slid open.
The room beyond lay in shadows, the only light coming from a single old-fashioned bulb that hung over a desk. There were two seats on one side of the desk and one on the other. The room had no windows.
As Bobby’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, a figure emerged from the gloom and sat down behind the desk. He was stocky and completely bald – he didn’t even have eyebrows.
Bobby recognised him from television: Raymond Miller.
Robinson cleared his throat. ‘Sir,’ he said. ‘This is the boy you wanted to speak to.’
He wanted to see ME? Bobby thought.
‘Good,’ the big man grunted. ‘We won’t need the cuffs.’
The agent removed the handcuffs and gave Miller a curt nod. As the door slid shut behind him, Bobby and Rex Baxter gratefully rubbed their wrists.
‘How was your trip?’ Miller asked.
How was our trip? Bobby thought. It was great! I was in the middle of a fantastic dream when the door was smashed open and I was dragged out of bed and shot into space like a test monkey!
But Bobby didn’t say any of this. He didn’t say anything at all. Fortunately, his father was still able to speak.
‘Forget the small talk!’ Rex said, awkwardly planting his hands on his hips to try to make himself look more powerful. ‘I insist…no, I demand…no, I refuse to cooperate until—’
Miller ignored him. ‘Take a seat,’ he said.
‘I’m Raymond Miller,’ the man said. ‘But you probably already know that. Thank you for coming at such short notice.’
‘We didn’t have a choice!’ Rex snapped. ‘We were arrested…treated like common criminals!’
‘I’m sorry about that. Sometimes our people get overly excited.’
‘What’s this all about?’ Rex said.
‘I like that – a man who gets to the point.’ Miller thrummed his fingers on the desk. ‘Everything we say in this room is to remain top secret,’ he said. ‘Is that clear?’
Bobby and his father exchanged glances. They nodded.
Miller appeared satisfied. ‘We understand that Bobby has received some exciting news,’ he said.
Bobby frowned. ‘News?’ he said. The only exciting news he’d received this week was that he’d received a credit on a biology exam. ‘What news?’
Miller frowned. ‘You haven’t seen the message?’ he asked. ‘It arrived more than a week ago.’
‘I don’t know what you mean.’
Miller reached into the desk and pulled out a keyboard. He stabbed at a few keys, and Bobby watched in horror as his personal emails appeared on the opposite wall. Most were about his schoolwork, while the rest were all hints and tips on how to play computer games.
Bobby blushed. ‘Those are my emails!’ he said.
‘You can’t do that!’ Rex said. ‘Those are Bobby’s private emails!’
‘Nothing is private to Planetary Security,’ Miller said, as he clicked on a folder marked SPAM. ‘Here it is.’ He pointed at an email with the subject line Galactic Space Academy.
When Miller opened the email, the area beside the desk shimmered. A three-dimensional holographic image of an alien appeared. Bobby stared at it in shock. The alien was tall and stooped, with a head like a praying mantis. It had six arms and two legs. Dressed in a white uniform with decorations on both shoulders, it looked quite official.
‘Ah,’ the hologram said. ‘I see I have an audience.’ Its eyes shifted from Raymond Miller to Rex Baxter, and finally to Bobby. ‘You are Bobby Baxter,’ it said.
‘No,’ Bobby said. ‘I mean, yes…I’m…yes.’
‘I am a fully interactive hologram of Principal Ethan Raklar of the Galactic Space Academy,’ the ghostly figure said, ‘and I am here to deliver a message on his behalf.’
‘Ah…’ Bobby said. ‘What’s the…um, message?’
‘The Galactic Space Academy is located on the planet Andarma. For five hundred years, students have attended the academy’s twelve-week training program to prepare them for entry into the Space League.’
Bobby had heard of the Space League. It was a kind of galactic police force made up of alien races from every planet in the Confederation.
‘Every three months, KATBOS invites children from all over the galaxy to join the academy.’
‘Cat boss?’ Bobby said.
It sounded like a bossy cat.
‘K-A-T-B-O-S. It’s the academy’s computer. Millions of children’s names are entered into KATBOS’s system. KATBOS decides who among them will make a good candidate and who will not. No child from Earth has ever been chosen.’ The hologram’s eyes narrowed on Bobby. ‘Until now.’
‘Chosen,’ Bobby said, bewildered. ‘Chosen for what?’
‘To attend the Galactic Space Academy.’
‘You – Bobby Baxter – are being invited to join the GSA,’ the hologram said. ‘You are the first child from Earth ever to be asked.’
Bobby was astonished. ‘Why me?’ he said, his voice going up a notch.
‘It’s a mystery to me,’ the hologram assured him. ‘KATBOS usually picks so wisely.’
‘I can’t…’ Bobby’s voice trailed away. ‘I mean…why?’
‘It’s an honour,’ Raklar added sternly.
To Bobby this was like saying that getting punched in the face was an honour.
‘You’ll be assigned to a starship after completing the training course,’ Raklar said. ‘One day you might even command your own vessel.’
‘Er…uh…’ Bobby could barely command his own voice, let alone consider the possibility of commanding a spaceship. ‘A starship?’
‘This is all very sudden,’ Rex said, in what was probably the understatement of the year. ‘What if Bobby doesn’t want to go?’
‘You may reject our offer,’ Raklar said to Bobby. ‘But it would reflect badly on Earth. Not that people are thinking Earth is backward and primitive,’ he quickly added. ‘But if they were thinking it…well…they’d be thinking it even more. If you know what I mean.’
‘Well, hmm,’ Bobby said, which he hoped would be interpreted as No, thank you very much, but I’d rather not.
‘We don’t want to rush you,’ the hologram said, ‘but we will need your answer within twenty-four hours.’
‘You’ve already had a week to make up your mind. Term commences soon and you must—’
‘I haven’t had a week!’ Bobby protested. ‘I’ve only just—’
Miller snapped off the computer, and the hologram disappeared. ‘The email was sitting in your spam folder,’ he said. ‘I know what that’s like. An email from my cousin Penny went into my spam folder, and I missed an invitation to her birthday party. Very disappointing.’ He rubbed his face. ‘So, how do you feel about all that?’
‘How do I feel!’ Bobby’s voice was so high it could have shattered glass. ‘I’m not going!’
‘I’m sorry to hear you say that,’ Miller said. ‘Because you must go.’
‘Must?’ Rex asked. ‘Why?’
‘The Confederation is made up of 2210 worlds, but Earth isn’t one of them. If we had a student at the GSA, we’d almost certainly be asked to join.’
‘Why is joining the Confederation so important?’ Rex asked.
‘It would give us access to new technologies, and allow us to trade with other worlds. But most importantly, it would give us protection. Planets within the Confederation stand together as one. If Earth were attacked, other worlds would come to our defence.’ His eyes narrowed. ‘Of course, you know of the Skarians.’
Neither Bobby nor his father said anything. They knew the Skarians only too well.
‘We know little about the school or its training program,’ Miller said. ‘Students who join the academy sign a secrecy agreement.’ He paused. ‘But this is the biggest mystery: why was Bobby chosen?’
‘I don’t know,’ Rex said. ‘And I don’t care. I’m not sending my son to some alien school in a distant part of the galaxy.’ He turned to Bobby. ‘You’re happy where you are, aren’t you?’
Bobby nodded. He had a roof over his head, and his father and Roger for company. What more could he ask for?
‘I’m happy,’ he assured Miller. ‘Very happy.’
‘I understand your reluctance,’ Miller said, ‘but the future of the entire human race is at stake here.’
‘That makes no difference,’ Rex said.
‘It would be…unfortunate if you refused.’
‘Are you threatening us?’ Rex said, trying to look assertive, but instead looking like a bug cowering under a giant shoe.
‘I’m afraid I am,’ Miller said. ‘I don’t like threatening people, but I’m very good at it. You know your nice little home? Gone. Your job? Finished. Your pet snail? Crushed.’ Miller paused. ‘I really don’t like crushing snails. They make such squishy, crunchy sounds when you step on them.’
Rex paled. ‘You can’t…you…’
‘We can and we will.’
Bobby studied his father’s face. He had never thought of his father as a brave man, but now he saw him getting ready to say something that they both might regret. He gripped Rex’s arm.
‘We’ll think about it,’ Bobby said, ‘but we need some time.’
Miller sighed. ‘You heard the hologram. You’ve got twenty-four hours.’
Want to know what happens next? Well, Text is giving away THREE copies of The Boy From Earth! Send us your best alien drawing and you could win one!
You can email a picture of your drawing to us or send it in the post, along with your name, age, an email address and mailing address:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (subject header: We love ALIENS!)
Level 10, 22 William Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
We want to see aliens! Tiny microscopic aliens, huge scary aliens with a hundred blue teeth, polite green aliens who wear fancy shoes, smelly, mean aliens who don’t wear ANY clothes! All of them!
Send them to us by Monday 20 April (we will accept mail postmarked 20 April) and we’ll announce the winners on Friday 27 April. Competition open to ages 13 and under and only to residents of ANZ.
The Boy from Earth is available now in all good bookshops, on the Text website (free postage) and as an ebook.