Genre: Young Adult Science Fantasy
Title: Keeper's Source
Nick Ramos knew what he saw, and he knew his sister wasn’t dead. She was lost, not gone. Even though everyone around him has accepted she was never coming home, Nick vowed to find her.
Reality broke apart the day he turned fourteen; a meteor shower dropped creatures that tracked his sister and knew their names. With a roar of wind and golden sparks, Chloe disappeared. She flung open a portal to another world, taking their attackers with her. Her last command to him: Hide.
Four years later, Chloe's hunters have returned and they're now hunting him.
Thrust into a reality hidden to him by his parents, Nick uncovers his sister had thwarted the plans of a celestial deity called a Keeper. Forced to flee with others like his family, Nick traverses through portals and travels across space itself to new worlds where similar refugees hide in fear.
Nick unravels the trail his sister has left behind while bringing him close to the very Keeper who hunts his own sister.
Nick must choose how far he will go to find Chloe and where he stands after years of being lied to by his family.
“Chloe! Slow down!”
Nick couldn’t contain his laughter as his body pushed back into his seat. The growl of the engine and the wind through the cabin drowned his voice out as his sister floored it. She fixated on the road ahead, but Nick saw a smirk creep onto her face in response. Chloe’s long black hair tossed wildly in the draft, but she paid it no mind. Her dark eyes were locked on the road and she gripped the wheel with one hand, the other on the shifter.
“Hang on!” Chloe shouted.
He didn’t have time to react before the force pushed him back further into the seat. Cars and trucks blurred past them at dizzying speeds, Chloe weaving in and out of the lanes with narrow precision. He couldn’t control himself, letting out another peal of laughter as he held onto the door’s handle for dear life.
Nick didn’t care, he got what he wanted. He was fourteen today, and his sister made it home safely from her last active tour. He begged Chloe to let him drive her car when she got back; the car she restored with him.
“When is it my turn?” He shouted, wincing as they passed a truck a little too close.
“On the way back. I’m going to turn you loose on back roads; less likely to get caught. But first...”
Chloe turned sharp and pulled off at an exit and turned onto a winding mountain pass. Nick watched as the city below faded away into a haze of gold-yellow lights and a tint of blue hue as twilight settled upon the valley. Chloe carefully guided the car from pavement to gravel, and then finally dirt. The car slowed to a crawl up the mountain as the path narrowed. One wrong move and they would tumble over the steep edge.
Reaching the top of the mountain, Chloe pulled into a deserted observation park. Brother and sister climbed out of the car, their laughter and slamming of doors interrupted the shrill chorus of cicadas. Nick hauled himself onto the hood as Chloe leaned against the bumper.
“We’ll head back in a little bit,” Chloe said as she looked up to heavens. “Want ya to see something and give you your last gift.”
“So you did actually get me something?” Nick laughed.
Chloe let out a snort of disbelief, shaking her head. She turned and tossed her keys to him.
Nick bolted upright, fumbling to catch them. He looked them over but realized there were only two: a small round one and a larger key with a star emblem.
Nick grinned, "Letting me drive isn't really a gift, Chlo."
“Shut up, Nicky. When you turn sixteen, the car is yours,” Chloe said, a wide smile growing across her face. “I asked Pappa, and he was cool with it.”
Her car? She had spent the last summer with him fixing it up, modifying it, making it hers.
“Are you for real? It’s mine?” He paused, giving his sister a doubtful stare, “Why?”
Chloe laughed at his untrusting gaze, nodding, “Yep, all yours. I may have a longer mission coming up, and well, I want you to have it. Better someone uses it than it sitting in a garage. After all, you know more--” Chloe stopped, the smile on her face quickly fading as she focused on something behind him. Nick tried to turn and look, distracted for only a moment as he tried to see what caught her attention.
“What are you looking--”
Chloe lashed out an arm and wrapped it around his neck. Pulling him towards her, she attacked the top of his head with her knuckles; rubbing them roughly against his scalp and thoroughly making a mess of his dark hair. He struggled, swinging at her before ducking out of her grasp.
“Not fair using your training on a kid! What did Ma say!” Nick glared.
She grinned in return, “You’re getting to big to be called kid. You could learn a thing or two if you let me teach you.”
His frown remained. She used her training to knock him off guard at times. Even if she was twentyfour, she reverted around him. More his friend than an elder sister, though their roughhousing got them both in trouble from time to time. At the same time, a knot grew in his stomach, wondering how many times she had to use her training from the army for where ever they sent her on their secret missions.
Chloe laughed and finished her thought: “I was fourteen when this screamin’ little brat came into my life. Really ruined my gig as an only kid.”
Huffing under his breath as he tried to straighten his hair, Nick looked towards his sister and stuck his tongue out her. “Bull! You’re one to call me a brat, Cee-Cee.”
Chloe scrunched her nose at the nickname, but she reached out and gently ruffled his hair one more time.
Nick laughed, pulling his head away from her hand. His cheeks hurt from how wide of a smile he wore all day, but he didn’t care. A glint of silver caught his eye and he looked past his sister’s hand.
“Look!” He gasped, pointing towards the horizon.
The Sun had sunk into the ocean in the west, just beyond the twinkling lights of Los Angeles at their feet. The glow of the city obscured the stars, but silver streaks raced across the sky - from the sea to the mountains at their back. Chloe turned, watching as more streaks appeared, growing bigger as they cut the skies.
“We got here just in time,” she muttered, leaning back against the car, staring up. A grin crossed her face as the heavenly show began.
Soon, the entire sky was awash with shooting stars, glittering against the black depths of space. They stood in silence, watching, but Nick noticed that they were becoming darker, nearly invisible if not for the flicker of silver that followed them.
Chloe’s swearing caught his attention. She snagged the keys out of his hands.
“We’ve got to go.”
“What? Why? This is so cool!” Nick protested, looking up at the sky again.
“Nick, we need to go! NOW!”
There was an urgency in her voice that he didn’t recognize. Chloe grabbed him by the arm, pulling him off the hood and back around the car. Nick kept looking from her to the skies, not understanding why the meteor shower had suddenly spooked his sister.
Then he saw it. One of the streaks started as a tiny blur then grew exponentially before--
“Chloe!” He screamed, his voice cracking an octave higher. A meteor descended on them, illuminating the mountainside. Nick didn’t hear his sister as she pushed him to the ground, covering him with herself.
The sound deafened Nick. His ears rang as the meteor flew over them, crashing trees and cracking stone as it collided into the mountainside above. The ground shook and Nick clutched onto his sister’s arms, curling up under her. Stones and debris pelted them, the smell of smoke and hot metal burned his nostrils.
“You ok?” Chloe’s voice broke through the ringing. He looked up to see she was kneeling above him, alert, and looking off into the distance behind the car.
“W-what was that? Was that a meteo--” Nick tried to sit up, but Chloe’s hand pushed him down back into the gravel.
“Ramos!” A voice boomed around them; grating, deep and crackled like static over a radio. “Come out, traitor!”