David Brin’s Out of Time Series: Yanked
What qualities do these kids from the past have that the kids from the future are lacking? Get a sneak peak in this second snippet.
Jason Ramsay strolled out the front door of Benjamin Franklin High like he owned the place. Well, why not? He did! He’d made the reverse dunk that had won the game, that and the sweet three-point play where Wayne fed him the ball. Him and Wayne and Clayton and Tyrone, they worked together great. His buds.
On the sidewalk in front of Franklin, dozens of kids waited for buses. Others walked toward subways. Everybody said this was a bad section of New York, but Jason thought it was all right. You just had to be careful. Don’t get tangled with gangs. Keep your nose clean and your grades high enough to play. Watch yourself and this place wasn’t bad at all.
All the hotties waved or smiled at him. Tomorrow night he had a date with Mary Ann Jamison, who not only had a bod to make you faint but was a nice girl too, sweet and fun.
“Hey, Jason, wait,” called Coach Patterson, striding down the sidewalk. Jason grinned.
“Hey, Coach. How you doin’?”
“Got a minute, son?”
“Sure.” He waved at Brandy Nielsen, who was stepping into her bus. She was almost as hot as Mary Ann. Brandy waved back and blushed.
“I think we have a problem, Jason.”
Problem? “Yeah? What’s that?”
“You were slacking off out there today.”
Slacking off? He’d won the game! Didn’t Coach notice? All Jason said aloud was, “We did all right.”
“Yes, we did. Because your teammates made you look good when you were coasting, and then you got lucky on that final throw. You weren’t giving it your all on that court. I know it, and you know it.”
Jason said nothing.
“You want to go pro eventually, don’t you? NBA?”
“You got it,” Jason said. He was going to go pro. He was going to be great.
The coach sighed. “You know how many kids have that dream, Jason? Thousands. Maybe millions. Now, I’m not saying you aren’t talented. You are, and you have something else a lot of hopefuls don’t. You can pull together a group of kids so they work as a team. You’re a natural leader. But for the NBA, that isn’t enough.”
Jason didn’t like this conversation. Another bus pulled away, and he waved at Lateesha Stevens. Another hot babe.
“Jason,” Coach said patiently, “hear me.”
“No, you’re not. You’re listening, but you’re not hearing. You need to focus on what you’re doing, work harder, stop coasting along on your talent. How many practices you miss this month?”
“Well, you know, a good bud had a birthday, and then my brother, Brian, he…”
“No good, Jason. If you’re going to do basketball, you got to do it. If you’re serious.”
“I know, Coach. You’re right. A hundred percent.”
The coach sighed again. Jason wished he’d stop doing that. “That’s why it’s so hard to get through to you, Ramsay. You listen and smile and agree and get everybody on your side, but you don’t hear.”
“I hear you, Coach.” Another bus pulled up, the crosstown bus from across the park. Jason watched the babes get off. Maybe Brian would get off, too. He sometimes took this bus home from work.
“I give up,” Coach Patterson said. “You need something to shock you into focus, but I don’t know what it would take for you to really start caring about something. Meanwhile, just don’t miss any more practices!”
“Absolutely not,” Jason said. “I’ll be at every one!” Coach strode away, shaking his head. He got so worked up about everything, Jason thought. Coach was a great guy, but he didn’t understand about getting along, getting over, enjoying what flowed by.
Brian wasn’t on the bus after all. Well, he’d see his brother at home. Whistling, Jason started north along Amsterdam Avenue.
At 96th Street, he suddenly got thirsty. He turned into a Korean grocer for a Coke. After he paid for it, he lingered by the magazine rack at the back of the store, leafing through the new issue of Sports Illustrated.
Something weird was going down by the magazine rack.
An electric blue light seemed to be growing up out of the floor. Jason stared. The light got bigger and bigger and seemed to be spinning. And it hummed, a low sound that Jason felt―rather than heard―in his bones.
Jason looked around. Nobody else saw; the owner was stacking cans of soup on a shelf, and there were no other customers in the store.
The spinning light moved an inch to the right.
“Hey,” Jason said―and the light answered him.
“Jason Ramsay,” it said. Jason was so surprised he didn’t even jump. His mouth fell open, and he was standing there staring at the eerie blue light when it spun itself into a deep tunnel and sped across the floor under his feet. Jason made a wild grab for the magazine rack, which he caught hard enough to pull it over on himself. A sharp metal edge struck his forehead. Everything went dark, and the spinning tunnel sucked him in.
* * *
The cheerleaders were back.
Sharon Myers shrank into her chair in the far back corner of the Spencerville Public Library. She didn’t want them to see her. Not that they would talk to her; people hardly ever talked to Sharon, and she was used to that. But two of the girls, Lindsey and Sue, would give Sharon those mean little smiles that meant What a dork. Sitting alone in the library every afternoon, reading and reading because nobody likes her.
Usually Sharon had this part of the library to herself. She liked sitting in the big, deep chair in the corner, losing herself in a good book. Certainly it was better than going home. Anything was better than going home.
Today she was researching her project for tech class. The six junior varsity cheerleaders were probably here for the same reason. They weren’t in Sharon’s class, but all ninth graders had to take Technology & Communication.
She found out she was right when a boy wandered in—Sam Cassidy from the junior varsity football team.
“Hey, Sam,” Lindsey said. She tossed her long blonde hair.
“Hey, yourself,” Sam said. “You doing King Kong’s homework?” Mr. Konger was the tech teacher.
“Yes,” Sue said. She fluffed her short green and white cheerleader skirt. “We’re doing a group grope.”
All of them laughed. Sharon didn’t think it was funny, but she wondered what the cheerleaders were doing. The project was to research and demonstrate some form of communication that computers had made obsolete, or at least less important. What could six people demonstrate together?
“So, what’s this group grope look like?” Sam said.
“We’ll show you!” Nicole said.
The girls all giggled and protested. “Here?” “Come on, Nicole!” “The librarian will kill us!” But then they started pushing chairs out of the way to clear the floor. Each girl picked up a “flag” made from cutting and pasting together pieces of colored paper. The girls lined up in a row and started waving their flags, one after another, holding the papers.
“So, what’s that?” Sam said, leaning against a bookcase, smiling lazily at them.
“Semaphore!” Sue shouted. “The way ships used to signal to each other! The papers are signal flags!”
“Yeah?” Sam said. “And what are your flags signaling?”
The girls looked at each other and collapsed into laughter, falling on each other’s necks and looking sideways at Sam. The message must be something sexy, Sharon thought. Sam just went on smiling as if he knew what the message was, which Sharon doubted. The librarian, Mrs. Staines, came rushing over.
“Girls! Girls! You can’t practice cheers in here! Either use the library for its proper purpose or go outside!”
“Okay, okay,” Nicole muttered. When the librarian left, she smirked. “What an old bat. Only likes dorks like Miss Brown Nose Rose-of-Sharon.”
So they had seen her. Sharon looked down at her book. For the next half-hour, she didn’t move, trying to become invisible. The cheerleaders whispered and giggled, passing reference books back and forth.
When they finally left, Sharon went over to their table. They’d left their books open at the pictures of semaphoring. Sharon worked out the six flag positions they’d shown Sam with the pieces of colored paper. The first two flags, taken together, were a message, and the other four flags spelled out a word. The whole semaphore said, “You should pull as close to me as possible, H-U-N-K.”
For a minute, loneliness pierced her. She wished she were the kind of girl who could make jokes with a boy, who had friends, who had the right clothes to wear and the right haircut.
Enough of that. She had things to do. God, it was five-thirty already.
Sharon grabbed her books and hurried out of the library. As she passed the front desk, Mrs. Staines called pleasantly, “Good night, Rose-of-Sharon.”
Sharon nodded back. She’d never had the nerve to tell Mrs. Staines she didn’t like her full name.
Outside it was cold. Sharon pulled her coat tighter around her. It was old and thin, a hand-me-down her older sister Johnna had left behind when she moved out. The air felt like snow, which was reasonable for November, and the street lights were already on in the winter dark.
How beautiful Spencerville was in the early evening! The way those lacy black tree branches looked against the sky…it could take your breath away. It reminded Sharon of that poem they had read in English class about a Grecian vase: Beauty is truth, truth beauty…Keats. Sharon had liked that poem. Most of the kids didn’t care about things like poetry or trees against the sky. They hated Spencerville, they said, and they couldn’t wait until they were old enough to get out of school and out of town.
Sharon was different, and she knew it. It made her feel lonely. Not just the differences about liking poetry, but the differences in her home that everybody knew about because that’s the way small towns were. Everybody knew Sharon’s father had left town with a woman who worked in the Grain & Feed. Everybody knew Sharon’s mother spent every night getting drunk at the Lamplighter. Everybody knew Sharon’s sister Johnna had dropped out of high school to have a baby and didn’t marry her boyfriend, who dumped her, and now Johnna was living with a man everybody said was old enough to be her father.
Well, things would be different for Sharon. She was going to finish school and go to college. Get a better life than her mother’s or Johnna’s. Somehow.
Oh, God. Almost six, and she hadn’t started dinner yet. Her mother would be furious.
But when Sharon burst through the door of the ramshackle little house on Sycamore Street, nobody even mentioned dinner. There was far worse trouble than a missed meal.
I love when they just jump right into the good stuff in a book. Set us up and dive right in! I’m already starting to guess what these seemingly opposite kids will be bringing to the table. Pr-order David Brin’s Out of Time Series: Yanked now on Amazon. Then November 27th you and I both will learn who else is going to be on this dream team.