Sneak Peak at “Time Crunch” (Part III)

This is an excerpt from my latest young adult thriller, Time Crunch. (Be sure to check out Parts I and II if you haven’t read them yet!) 

Chapter One: The Jet

Mr. Scherrer–the eighth-grade math teacher–grinned smugly.

“Okay, here’s a good one . . . Steve is going to paint the city’s cylindrical water tank. If the tank is ten feet tall with a radius of fifteen feet–and if one gallon of paint covers ten square feet–how many gallons of paint does Steve need to buy?”

Time Crunch Ebook CoverKids around the room instantly bent over their desks, punching at calculators and scribbling on scraps of paper. Near the back of the room, Chase McCord scrunched his nose. He’d seen a peculiar gleam in his teacher’s eyes and knew the problem couldn’t be as straightforward as it seemed.

Trick question, he thought. But what . . .

He quickly sketched a cylinder to represent the water tank.

Looking for the surface area, he thought, visualizing the formula.

He frowned.

But there has to be more to it than that.

Several students had already finished their calculations and were waving their hands, hoping to be called. Students able to solve the teacher’s notorious challenges were excused from the day’s assignment, which would be at least an hour’s work at home.

Surface area, Chase thought again. Not of a cylinder … but of a water tank!

He grinned, knowing he’d nailed it. Surface area described the “skin” of the cylinder. But a water tank would be sitting on the ground … so you wouldn’t have to paint the bottom!

He began punching his calculator, figuring the surface area without the bottom of the tank. He then figured out the amount of paint he’d need, coming up with 164.85 gallons.

He began to raise his hand, but quickly stopped himself.

Point 85 gallons?

Really?

No one was going to buy .85 gallons of paint.

He quickly rounded the number up and raised his hand.

“Max,” the teacher finally said to a boy in the front row. “You had your hand up first. What’ve you got?”

“He needs 235.5 gallons.”

Mr. Scherrer sucked in his breath and scrunched his nose. “Oooh! So close!”

Max’s face fell, and half the hands in the room dropped as students with the same answer checked their notes, wondering where they’d gone wrong.

The teacher took another few answers—none of them right—then turned to Chase.

“Mr. McCord, you’re smiling at me. Like to tell your classmates where they slipped up?”

Chase felt a rumble of appreciation for his teacher. Mr. Scherrer hadn’t asked for Chase’s answer: guessing he’d figured out the trick, he was asking for Chase to explain it.

“Good one, Mr. S.,” Chase said. “It’s a double trick question. The first thing is that since the tank’s sitting on the ground, you don’t have to paint the bottom”—

There were moans from students who’d fallen for the trap, and Max actually slapped himself on the forehead.

—“and when you calculate the amount of paint you get a decimal, so you have to round up to the nearest gallon.”

There were more groans as frustrated students realized they’d been fooled again (and most of them now realizing—like Chase—the question had been way too easy).

“Well done—”

The teacher stopped as a sullen-looking man strode into the room.

“Excuse me for interrupting,” the principal said. The man looked around the room, spotted Chase, and crooked his finger. “Mr. McCord, would you come with me, please? Bring your backpack.”

Surprised and a little worried (being pulled out of class by the principal was rarely a good thing), Chase stuffed his books and papers into his pack, then followed the gloomy man from the room.

“What’s going on?”

“You’re not in trouble,” the principal said. “But your father’s called and excused you for the rest of the day. Someone’s coming to pick you up.”

“Really? Why?”

“Don’t really know,” the principal said, though his voice suggested he didn’t approve, whatever the reason.

The man turned down a hallway … and not the one leading to the office.

“Where are we going?”

The principal used the same brooding voice. “Apparently, you’re not being picked up by car.”

Huh?

Chase didn’t know how to process that, but heard a rumble like approaching thunder before he could respond. The noise increased, becoming so loud it began shaking the building. The principal opened a door leading outside, motioning for Chase to lead the way.

The thunderous noise was coming from the sky, and Chase looked up to see a jet aircraft approaching the school football field. Rather than streaking through the sky, the strange plane was actually slowing as it dropped toward the grass. Chase saw the engines rotate, pointing down to allow the craft to land vertically.

Ah, he thought. One of Mr. Wolff’s new toys.

Mr. Wolff—the father of Chase’s best friend Zach—was CEO of a company that built exotic airplanes. Mr. Wolff often took Zach on business trips, and Zach—in turn—sometimes invited Chase along.

“Gotta have someone to hang out with,” Zach once explained. “You know, when dad’s in meetings.”

As a result, Chase had often flown on the company’s unique airplanes, though never on one able to take off and land vertically.

Haven’t even seen one of those!

The jet kicked up wind like a hurricane—dust and leaves and frenzied bits of paper whirling across the field—then settled softly to the grass. The whine of the engines subsided as a startled gym class gawked from behind a fence.

“Zach came to get me?” Chase asked, raising his voice to be heard over the engines.

“Don’t really know,” the principal said in the same glum voice.

After a moment a clamshell door opened behind the flight deck, dropping a set of steps to the grass. Chase expected to see Zach come bounding out of the plane, but instead a tall, thin man in a white shirt appeared. The man looked around, spotted Chase, and began waving.

Chase looked up at the principal—

“Sorry ’bout this!”

—then sprinted across the grass toward the jet.

The man in the door was the pilot, a man Chase met during an adventure a few months earlier. Chase raced across the field and up the steps.

“Captain King! Hi!”

“Hello, Chase,” the pilot said, shaking Chase’s hand. “It’s good to see you again.”

“You, too.” Chase glanced past the pilot into the flight deck: the copilot—a man Chase didn’t know—was adjusting knobs and flicking switches. A skinny birdlike man sat just behind him, pecking away on a laptop. “Where’s Captain Carter?”

“On another assignment today—”

Chase had already turned away, looking back into the cabin. Eight tough-looking men in jungle-camouflage fatigues were sorting through some kind of supplies. But—

“Where’s Zach?”

“Zach’s not here,” one of the men called. He was a gruff-sounding man with a face that could have been made from an old football. He gestured to Captain King, who gave Chase a clap on the shoulder before closing the door and returning to the flight deck.

The brusque man dropped into a seat and motioned for Chase to join him.

“What’s going on?” Chase asked as the engines began spooling up.

“We’re not actually joining Zach and his father, as you probably thought,” the man said in a voice like broken gravel.

“Then where are we going?”

The man nodded toward the other men before turning back to Chase.

“This,” he said, “is a rescue mission.”

I hope you’re liking this! I’m already working on the third book to the series, and I hope you’ll take a look at Time Snap and Time Crunch!

 

Sneak Peak at the Sequel to “Time Snap!” (Part I)

Wow! I’ve just finished the sequel to “Time Snap!” It’s called “Time Crunch.” It’ll be available by the end of May, and I’m super excited about it! Here’s an excerpt from the prologue:

 

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FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD Zach Wolff stopped on the trail and looked back over his shoulder. Sweat ran down his face as he chuffed for breath.

Man, he thought, wiping a sleeve across his forehead. It’s like I can’t breathe here.

He sucked in a deep, lung-filling breath, but the air made his head swim: it clearly had more oxygen than he was used to breathing.

He buried his face in his shoulder—trying to mop off the sweat—then looked quickly all around. The forest was too thick to see much, the trees too tall to permit much sunlight. The shrieks, cackles, and cries of birds and small forest animals filled the warm air like a chorus of anxious monkeys. And there was a … scent … in the air that reminded Zach of a warm, humid greenhouse.

Filled with must, and mold, and decay

Zach closed his eyes—

There was a sudden snap from the trees, and Zach felt his stomach drop as he looked back over his shoulder.

Crap! It’s still coming!

He turned and began running again. The trail was narrow, and the roots and limbs of tangled ferns and shrubs tugged at his legs. He wasn’t running as hard as he could—

Can’t afford to get tired!

—but just fast enough to keep his lead.

The trail abruptly spilled from the forest onto a wide swath that cut through the forest like a meandering road. Rotting stumps and logs lay everywhere, and Zach knew instantly what he’d found.

Dinosaur highway, he thought. Made by animals big enough to knock down fifty-foot trees.

He looked up and down the “road,” trying to decide which way to go. It didn’t really matter, but—

Another crunch came from the trees, and Zach turned right, jogging down the side of the crumbly swath. The ground had been pulped and pounded, chopped up, chewed up, and crushed again and again by the feet of enormous animals.

Makes sense, he thought. An apatosaur could smash its way through the middle of the forest. But why bother when there’s a perfectly good trail to follow

 

IN ADDITION to the rotting stumps and logs were enormous piles of excrement—dinosaur dung—some as tall as he was. Many of the moldering piles were old, black, and crumbling. But others were still fresh: green and fragrant and buzzing with flies. Zach ignored them, hoping the ripe smell would mask his scent. But rank as the putrefying dung was, Zach knew it might not be enough.

Tyrannosaurs have good noses, he thought. The part of their brain that regulated the ability to smell was larger than those of other predators. Zach knew, of course, that just because tyrannosaurs could track prey like hounds after squirrels didn’t mean all big carnivores could.

But it didn’t mean they couldn’t, either.

 

HE JOGGED ANOTHER fifty yards, cast a quick glance over his shoulder—

Good! Nothing there yet!

—then darted off the swath and back into the forest.

The trees were the strangest he’d ever seen. There were pine trees, of course, fifty or sixty feet high with trunks five feet across. And there were gnarled, moss- and vine-covered trees that filled the sky with their branches. Shafts of sunlight filtered down through the leaves and fronds like bright spiderwebs, illuminating a million different shades of green.

Zach ran for another minute, then slowed to climb over a fallen log. He stepped behind one of the thick, gnarled trees, looked back into the forest, then leaned back against the mossy trunk.

Man, can’t run much farther, he thought. He took a deep breath of the warm, fragrant air and felt another rush of dizziness. His sides were beginning to ache, and he knew he couldn’t go on much longer.

He closed his eyes for a moment, giving his heart a chance to relax a little. He only  needed to rest for a minute—just long enough to catch his breath—before he began running again. He stifled a cough, then looked up into the treetops.

Something

The forest was suddenly quiet. The birds, the bugs, and the small forest animals had become silent. The stillness was eerie, and Zach felt the hair on the back of his neck rise as if charged by an electric current. He glanced around the tree—

Still nothing there.

—then looked ahead.

Time to go

He took another breath, then pushed himself away from the tree and froze.

Something moved in the forest ahead.

Zach caught his breath, then slowly bent his knees, lowering himself to the ground. He kept perfectly still, his eyes locked on the dense foliage. Several seconds passed. Then several more. Zach could feel his heart pounding, his lungs burning as he held his breath.

Everything was still, and quiet.

Zach watched carefully. He was just beginning to think it had been his imagination—or maybe a frond swaying in a breath of unfelt breeze—when the leaves rustled. He pressed himself back against the trunk of the tree, scrunching down as far as he could.

And then he saw it.

The dinosaur emerged slowly from the trees, its head down and its eyes peering straight ahead.

It looks like a tyrannosaur, Zach thought, though he knew it wasn’t. Tyrannosaurs were Cretaceous animals and wouldn’t exist for another sixty million years.

But it’s not an allosaur, either. It’s too big. It’s got a longer snout and it’s … stockier … than an allosaur.

He shrank back into the ferns, watching. Allosaurs were supposed to be among the fiercest predators of the Mid Mesozoic. But this was more than forty-feet long, sixteen-feet high at the ribs: bigger than any allosaur, larger even than T-rex. It was covered with pebbled, mottled-grey skin that blended with the foliage, ugly jagged scars running across its jaw and shoulder.

Zach racked his brain, thinking of every picture he’d ever seen—every description he’d ever read—trying to decide what the thing was.

Could be a siats, he thought, pronouncing the name “see-atch” in his mind. Siats was a recently discovered predator thought to be bigger and more terrifying than T-rex. Or maybe it’s a lythronax … the “King of Gore.”

Zach shuddered, not excited about either possibility. A dinosaur more ferocious than T-rex?

A dinosaur known as the King of Gore?

Running into either one would be bad news.

But it might be something new, he thought. Something undiscovered … something no one’s ever seen!

He knew paleontologists had only identified a fraction of the dinosaurs that once ruled the world. And there were literally thousands—millions—of species yet to be discovered.

So if it is something new, I could name it, he thought. Call it … Zachiosaurus.

The enormous dinosaur stood with its massive head and tail stretched parallel to the ground. After a moment it turned, looking in Zach’s direction. Zach’s blood froze as he stared back, praying the thing hadn’t spotted him. His stomach churned in fear.

They might not name it after me because I discovered it, but because I was the first person to be eaten by one . . .

 

I hope you’re as excited as I am! I’ll post Part II of the “sneak peak” in a couple of day!