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Authors: Kimberly P. Chase

Tags: #New Adult, #Sci-Fi & Fantasy

The Apollo Academy

BOOK: The Apollo Academy
9.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Kimberly P. Chase

Copyright © 2013 Kimberly P. Chase

All ri
hts reserved.


This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.


References to the Naval Aviator hymn courtesy of the United States Navy.


Cover Art copyright © 2013 by Cliff Nielsen

“The Apollo Academy A logo” designed 2013 by Brian T. Chase


ISBN-13: 97




here was only one place Aurora Titon ever felt free and in control—the cockpit. It didn’t matter what she flew or what the destination was, only how her wings sliced through the air. And tonight was no different. The whir of instruments soothed Aurora’s soul as she navigated through the sky. Not wanting to see the skyscraper-littered ground, she tilted the nose of the aircraft up to the jeweled sky above.

What would it be like to leave this dying planet for the world beyond? When her life was filled with purpose—with flying? The Academy’s initiation tomorrow morning would change everything for her. No more pretending to be someone she wasn’t. No more cameras. No more hiding.

Just one last test and Aurora would finally have the life she wanted. Training to become an astronaut pilot wasn’t the typical eighteen-year-old’s dream, but no one would ever say she was normal.

A flashing green light drew her attention. Aurora glanced down at her techiwatch and the incoming call request.

“Accept call—” Before Aurora could say anything else, her aircraft stalled and pitched into a frightening dive. She’d been too lost in her thoughts to watch her airspeed.

Her stomach flew into her throat. Aurora jerked back on the joystick with sweaty hands, but the airplane continued to streak down from earth’s upper atmosphere, making her feel like a falling meteor. Red lights covered her instrument panel, warning cautions pierced her ears, and the ground rushed toward her.

A high-pitched whine reverberated through the cockpit as Aurora’s left wing spar cracked, causing the aircraft to spin. The stomach-turning flips disoriented her, but she focused on the instruments.

While Aurora tried to regain control, the plane slowly pulled apart until all that remained was a falling fuselage without wings. She released her grip on the unresponsive joystick. There was nothing left to do.

She was going to crash. She should’ve been peeing her pants, except she was too pissed at her inability to recover.

The red ejection lever loomed beside her, but Aurora pressed the switch on her headpiece instead. The screen zoomed out. A thick black trail marked the airplane’s dive toward the ground, until only a giant ball of flame and a deep crevice were left.

The screen on her holographic display went black, and Aurora’s simulated flight from hell was over.

“Aurora? Are you there?” Kaylana’s concerned voice pulled her back to reality and the fact that she wasn’t in a real airplane but standing in line outside of a sketchy dance club.

Aurora lifted her right wrist and spoke into her thick white techiwatch. “Yeah, I’m here. Where are you? I’ve been waiting.”

“I’ve been looking for you everywhere. I was beginning to think you stood me up.”

Aurora glanced around. Over the music vibrating out of Beat, she heard Kaylana’s voice not only coming from her watch, but from somewhere nearby. Aurora disconnected the call and yelled to the tall blonde standing a few feet in front of her.

The freedom she’d felt in flight was already disappearing.

Kaylana’s head whipped around and her brown eyes scrunched in disbelief. “Aurora?”

“Yeah.” Aurora laughed, pleased with her disguise. When she had looked in the mirror before sneaking out, Aurora had barely recognized herself. Her eyes were concealed behind dark wraparound glasses, and gold glitter highlighted her cheeks, hiding her face that was usually left natural. The only thing that could give her identity away was her bright red hair.

“Nova. I didn’t even recognize you. Are those real alternate-reality glasses?”

“Nope, not that kind of tech candy. It’s just my flight simulation.” Aurora pointed to the thin simulation headband in her hair.

“Oh, right.” Kaylana nodded. “They look just like them. So then what were you doing?”

“Just waiting.” Aurora shrugged, trying to hide the smile on her face.

“I don’t believe you.” Kaylana pointed a finger at her and proceeded to speak at supernova speed. “You were so practicing. I knew you’d be freaking out about the initiation test tomorrow. For the hundredth time, Aurora Titon, you have nothing to worry about.”

Aurora winced at her full name. “Shhh.” She glanced around, but no one seemed to be paying attention.

“This is exactly why you needed to get out tonight.” Kaylana grabbed Aurora’s shoulders. “We’ll both get in because we earned it. We just have to pass whatever crazy initiation test they come up with this year. I just wish we knew what the initiation would be, you know?” Kaylana leaned forward, not giving Aurora the chance to respond. “I heard that last year the Academy made the candidate cadets swim with sharks.”

Aurora rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I heard that one too. What’s that have to do with becoming an astronaut anyway?”

Kaylana mockingly quoted the Academy slogan. “We need those who would explore the stars above. Those with courage, strength, and determination.” Kaylana shrugged. “Maybe the shark rumors are just to scare people.”

“You think that would work? People would probably think it was just a simulation.”

Kaylana’s face paled. “Wait, you think they’d really make us swim with sharks?”

Aurora swallowed. “I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.” She would swim with sharks if she had to.

“Are you sure you don’t want to just ask your dad?” Kaylana trailed off at Aurora’s vehement headshake. “Yeah, yeah, that wouldn’t be fair and all.” She waved her hand in the air. “Should I pack my AI styler?” Kaylana asked, apparently moving on to what she deemed more important.

“Yeah, the Academy just said not to bring any mind-altering tech.” Aurora glanced away from Kaylana’s knowing eyes, toying with the holographic glasses covering hers. Why she felt awkward mentioning the addictive products her father invented made no sense, though she certainly didn’t feel that way about the AI styler. It placed flawless makeup in seconds.

When Aurora turned her attention back to Kaylana, she fought the urge to fidget. Kaylana slowly checked Aurora out from head to toe.“ You’re looking sexy tonight.” Kaylana pointed to Aurora’s black over-the-knee boots. “Love the shoes.”

Aurora tugged her short skirt down. “Thanks. You’re not so bad yourself.” Kaylana wore a leather jumpsuit with a plunging neckline that perfectly fit her tall lean frame. She could have been a model with her height and super thin body.

Kaylana arched an eyebrow. “Babe, no one will be paying the least bit of attention to me while you’re around.”

Aurora’s eyes widened. “Why, has someone already noticed I’m here? I thought I managed to get out without any reporters following.” Aurora felt like her heart was going to fly right out of her chest. “I even took an unmarked hovercar. I was totally stealth!”

“No, silly. I wasn’t saying that because of who you are. For being so smart, you really are dumb sometimes.” Kaylana pointed to the people standing around them. “Besides, everyone here looks like they’re in an alternate reality. And you fit right in.”

Aurora nodded as she took in the eye pieces covering everyone’s eyes. She knew they would see everything she saw, but a cleaner, nicer version. The eye pieces also allowed a constant connection to the Grid. Talk about instant social networking. She would never understand the need to color this world with a different one, but she was blessed more than most.

“Are you ready for a night of fun?” Kaylana asked, already dancing to the beat of the music.

“Uh, I guess so?” Aurora said, slowly crawling forward in line.

Kaylana playfully pushed her shoulder. “You should be! We’ll be locked up in the Academy for the next few months. One night out is exactly what we need.”

“I’m here, aren’t I?” Aurora smiled.

“Yeah, I’m still kind of shocked about that.”

“Well, no one can say you aren’t persuasive.” Thank the stars Kaylana didn’t use her pleading, sad eyes often on something this crazy. Sneaking out of Titon Technologies without getting caught had been a miracle. And the sad part was she hadn’t been worried about her workaholic father but the reporters parked outside of her home.

“Hey, my points were perfectly valid. What else would keep your mind off tomorrow? Or tire us out so we can actually sleep tonight?” Kaylana smiled, arching a single eyebrow. “If I hadn’t rescued you, you would’ve spent the whole night reading or in a flight sim.”

Aurora didn’t even bother to reply. When Kaylana had called earlier, she had already consumed two energy-infused drinks and had been well on her way to setting a world record for most hours logged in a flight simulation.

“We deserve this. Most kids aren’t pledging their lives to a space organization in the morning.”

Kaylana was right. Joining the Academy was what she wanted, but it wouldn’t hurt to have one night of fun before she committed her life away.

As the line moved forward, the front door of Beat finally came into view. A security guard was giving everyone a retinal scan. It was a good way for the club to ensure payment of services and keep out unknowns, but it would also give away her identity. Aurora bit her lip, telling herself that only the guard would see the results.

She focused on Kaylana, who tapped her three-inch platform heels to the beat of the music. The line must have been moving quicker than she realized because it only seemed like a few minutes had passed when a short, well-built guy wearing a flashing neon-green security T-shirt motioned Kaylana forward. With an efficiency that only came from years of experience, he scanned Kaylana’s eyes and said she was free to enter the building.

Mr. Security motioned Aurora forward, and before she changed her mind, she lowered her glasses. He swiped a long white cylindrical device over her eye. As soon as he finished, she pushed the glasses back up her nose.

The wand beeped, and the guard’s brusque expression changed to one of disbelief. His brow puckered, and Aurora hoped he wouldn’t say anything.

“You know you could’ve just come to the front of the line. I better not hear anything about you having a long wait later.” He waved her toward the door, before adding, “You’re cleared for all the VIP areas. And please try not to cause trouble.”

Of course, Aurora could’ve bypassed the line entirely, but that would have defeated the whole purpose of going incognito. Ignoring the guard, Aurora pulled the heavy door open, hoping to lose herself in the dark. She was instantly assaulted by blaring music and dim lighting. The club was so loud that it felt like music battered her body, making it impossible to think.

Aurora bumped into Kaylana at the top of the stairs.

“Hold on.” Kaylana grabbed Aurora’s arms as they carefully made their way down the dark stairway to the dance floor level. Aurora could almost taste the salt and sweat that permeated the air. Music vibrated up her legs.

Unlike the main entrance, the dance level was huge, with laser beams pulsing to the beat of music. Every time the lights flashed, a mass of writhing bodies came into view. On the far side of the dance floor, lighted rotating advertisements marked the bar area. An ad for Beat’s drink of the night caught her attention. A Neptune-blue concoction materialized in a martini glass, while a swirling nitrogen cloud floated around it.

The club was packed with teenagers, reminding Aurora that most eighteen-year-olds did this sort of thing every night.

Kaylana pulled Aurora out onto the dance floor. And for a few moments, she just stood there completely immobile, as people moved around her.

“Aurora, just dance. No one’s watching,” Kaylana said with a wink. She grabbed Aurora’s hand, twirling her around.

“Okay.” Aurora gave Kaylana her best no-nonsense look. “But only a few songs. And I think I’m going to need one of those!” Aurora pointed to the drink ad over the bar.

Kaylana enthusiastically nodded. “Yeah, okay. You got it.” She disappeared through the crowd, leaving Aurora alone. She had to give herself a little pep talk, but Aurora eventually began to sway with the beat of the music.

Surprisingly, the music and bodies sweating and grinding in utter abandonment beside her was intoxicating. Pretty soon Aurora was dancing as if her life depended on it.

Beads of sweat dripped down her back.

She could be a normal teenager tonight, even if she kept bumping into people. Her glasses made it impossible to see anything in the dark room, so Aurora tilted her head back and closed her eyes. She danced, not caring in the slightest that she wasn’t the greatest dancer or that she probably looked ridiculous dancing with a huge grin on her face.

Tonight she’d be just like everyone else—part of the crowd—unknown.

Even when the swarming heat of bodies parted around her, she kept her eyes closed, lost in the music.

Aurora shuffled backward, moving her hips. Her teeth knocked together when she accidentally bumped into someone.

The glasses fell from her face.

Aurora whirled around, stumbling into someone. She mumbled an apology; too busy trying to find her only disguise to really care about apologizing.

Aurora knelt down to the floor, but all she could see were moving feet. “Shit! Where are my glasses?”

A guy knelt down beside her. He placed a calloused finger under her chin, forcing Aurora to meet his eyes. “You don’t need those,” he yelled beside her ear.

BOOK: The Apollo Academy
9.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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