Space Hostages is coming soon! Really soon, in fact.
Space Hostages is the sequel to Mars Evacuees. Alice, Josephine, Carl and Noel are heading back to space — far beyond Mars, to encounter creatures no one’s ever heard of before. This time it’s supposed to be a nice, exciting holiday — a reward for their bravery in Mars Evacuees. But as you may guess from the title, things go very, wrong when they encounter the Krakkiluks, warriors of the Grand Expanse, who are very sparkly, very much in love with each other and very, very dangerous.
The lovely Book Smugglers will be revealing the beautiful cover very soon. Here’s a little glimpse of the title and tagline in the meantime — and a snippet from Chapter 1.
(Be aware — you can read Space Hostages without having read Mars Evacuees but obviously implicit spoilers for the first book lie ahead. There’s )
I ran downstairs into the living room, where Dad and Gran were watching the snooker, and said, ‘We’re going back to space!’
‘What?’ said Dad and Gran at the same time. Mum was off on a mission so it was just the three of us.
‘The Morrors want us to go to Aushalawa-Moraa,’ I explained. ‘Carl and Noel and Josephine and me, and Thsaaa, because we helped stop the war.’
‘Ausha . . . wa?’ Dad seems to have trouble hearing the difference between a lot of Morror words.
‘I thought that was what they’re calling Antarctica now,’ said Gran, with an edge of a grumble in her voice.
‘No,’ said Dad, understanding in his face now. ‘You know. Morrorworld.’
‘Alice! The Morrors want to take you to their planet?’ said Gran, horrified.
And fair enough. A year ago, when we were enemies, that would have been a really scary sentence. But things change.
‘They want us there for this ceremony, to sort of declare the planet open.’ I wondered if you could cut a ribbon on a whole world. ‘And we’ve got peace with them now. They’re nice.’
‘Alice,’ Dad said, looking a bit gaunt, ‘I’m glad the war’s over. But it’s a stretch to say they’re nice.’
I got slightly upset. ‘I thought you liked Thsaaa.’
‘Thsaaa’s a kid – it’s one thing for you to be friends with a Morror kid . . .’
‘And what about Thsaaa’s parents? They were nice to you. They gave you baked fal-thra in Switzerland.’
‘I’m not saying they’re all bad people, Alice.’
Gran grunted. ‘They gave a good imitation of it for fifteen years.’
‘Gran!’ I said.
‘Of course, you can’t remember the world the way it was before.’
‘I have to live in the world the way it is now,’ I said. ‘And it has Morrors in it. That’s partly why I wrote that stupid thing. How’re we ever going to have proper peace if we don’t get to know each other?’
‘Your book is not stupid,’ said Dad, with automatic loyalty. He shifted to make an inviting space on the couch that somehow I couldn’t help but flop into. He put his arm round my shoulders.
‘Alice, I know you care about humans and Morrors getting along,’ he said softly. ‘And I know you want to see your friends. But I nearly lost you on Mars, and I didn’t even know how close it had been until it was all over. And Mars is, what, fifty million miles away? How far is the Morrors’ planet?’
‘I think it’s about . . . forty trillion miles,’ I admitted. ‘But this is different. We’re not in a war. And you and Mum could come. There’s no danger out there except the Vshomu and we’re good at dealing with them now. Dr Muldoon’s been helping the Morrors with the terraforming – she’s been flying flying out there and back for months and she’s perfectly fine.’
‘You can’t say that the Vshomu are the only danger in space,’ said Dad. ‘We don’t know what’s out there. It’s not so long ago we didn’t know there were Morrors.’
It seems like a terribly long time ago to me, being before I was born, but I didn’t say so.
‘Well, no,’ I admitted, ‘we don’t know everything,but that’s why it’s exciting.’
Dad’s jaw tightened. ‘I can’t stop you doing things you find exciting forever, but until you’re eighteen . . .’
‘Eighteen!’ I said, horrified. I realised that, even without this trip, I’d somehow been expecting to be back in space before long. I couldn’t stand the thought of it being five years. ‘But Carl and Noel are going.’
‘If Carl and Noel jumped off a cliff, would you?’ asked Gran.
‘Weeeell,’ I said, ‘there was this time, when Carl did jump off a cliff-like thing, to get across a crevasse. Although, Josephine went first, and it was the only way across, so . . .’
Dad put his face into his hands.
‘My point is, I would jump off a cliff only if I could see it was the most sensible course of action in the circumstances!’ I said. ‘And, Dad, you knew about that – it was in the book.’
‘Yes,’ said Dad. ‘Thanks for reminding me of that, and it wasn’t even the worst bit. Alice, after everything you went through, I can’t understand why you would want to go back.’
I didn’t give up. For days I tried various tactics, such as, ‘Can I go to space if I clean the kitchen every day?’ and, ‘Can I go to space if I get an A in Geography?’ But there was nothing good enough that I could do. I had to tell the others that it looked as if it they’d be going without me.
‘But you have to come,’ raged Carl on ChatPort. Carl is Filipino-Australian, with a voice almost loud enough to travel all the way from Sydney without technological help. He’d begun to get lanky over the last year, and he’d let his black hair grow out of the stubble it had been on Mars. ‘Mum and Dad are letting me and Noel go, and Noel’s nine. Can’t you, like, get some of the way by yourself? It’s not that far from England to Switzerland – Thsaaa could bring you the rest of the way.’
In cosmic terms it is no distance to Switzerland at all. If I’d had a Flying Fox or a Flarehawk, I could have flown there in twenty minutes. I’d been trained to fly spaceships, after all. But you can’t do that kind of thing on Earth.
Josephine sent me a strange little email: ‘My dad said yes at once. I hope you’ll be there.’
Nothing budged Dad an inch. I knew it was because he loved me, but I couldn’t help getting furious about it. It was not long ago that I’d had to make decisions like, shall I a) walk off alone with a single tank of oxygen across the Martian wilderness or b) stay with the wreck of the spaceship and wait to die? And, how can we persuade these aliens to stop attacking humanity? It is not fair to put someone in a situation like that and then stick them in a little house on a little island on a little planet, and tell them they have to stay where it’s safe, because they’re only a child.
And then Mum came home and said, ‘But of course she wants to go to space.’