“Compelling reading for the tween male gamer demographic…about a young boy who finds adventure, courage and teamwork away from the computer screen.” — Breitbart Reviews
The entire gaming community is in awe of fourteen-year-old Reggie who can take just minutes to destroy the bloodthirsty monster, ECHO-6, in the bestselling video game, ECHO’S Revenge. Reggie can’t wait to test himself against the game’s new and improved monster.
But there’s a glitch in the new release. The manufacturer releases a live version of the monster into the real world and now a 35-foot tall extreme predator clad in impenetrable armor with the power to shape-shift and turn invisible is hunting down every elite gamer who ever defeated it in previous versions. One by one, elite ECHO gamers are disappearing. And now, ECHO-7 is after him.
Reggie fears that the monster will also go after his younger brother Jeremy who’s been steadily racking up plenty of monster-kill points himself. Determined to keep him safe, Reggie hatches a plot to destroy the monster and save fellow gamers. But can he figure out how to make his gaming instincts work in the real world?
Echo’s Revenge delivers non-stop, adrenaline-pumping action with a hero who is learning that it takes action to bridge the gap between fantasy and the real world—and that family loyalty is sometimes the trickiest game of all.
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
MIDNIGHT AT THE OASIS
“Hey. What’s this?” asked Jeremy as he felt a large metal object.
Reggie shined his flashlight on it—it read “Oasis Company.” It was an abandoned water fountain. Together they tried to move it out of the way, but it was so heavy they couldn’t even budge it.
There were a couple of old mattresses on the floor of the storm drain. They sat down on one and listened to the light murmurs of distant traffic and the occasional loud rumbling of the subway. Otherwise, it was surprisingly quiet. Reggie turned off the flashlight, immersing them in complete blackness.
“Hey, whadja do that for?” said Jeremy.
“If they see any light down here they’ll know someone’s here, besides, we have three hours to go and we gotta save our batteries.”
As their eyes adjusted to the light they could make out the pipes leading under the street from the chamber. There were two tunnels leading in different directions and they both seemed clear. Everything was cast out of concrete, except the heavy steel cover that topped the storm drain, the impervious thousand-pound roof of their concrete bunker.
After a light meal of Slim Jims, sandwiches, and sodas, they lay back and rested. It had been a long day and they were filthy and exhausted. Since they had discovered the San Francisco kidnapping so late, they hadn’t been able to eat a real meal or get a bath anywhere. They both felt as grimy as the drain.
After about 25 minutes, they hardly heard anything passing by on the street anymore. The regular blasting sound of the subway trains traveling beneath them had become a predictable rhythm and made them sleepy.
They dozed off for a moment.
Reggie woke up and panicked.
“Wake up, wake up! We can’t sleep right now!”
Jeremy woke up, dazed.
“Come on,” said Reggie, “we have to stay awake. We have to listen for Luca’s call and watch for the kidnapper. Let’s keep an eye on the street and count cars or something, come on!”
Reggie pulled Jeremy up and Jeremy followed him back up the ladder. Their faces were now at street level, hidden in the shadow of the storm drain cover.
“What does a kidnapper look like?” said Jeremy.
“I have no idea,” said Reggie, “let’s just watch out for anyone unusual snooping around until we do the call. You’ll have to spot me from here when I call. I don’t want to get picked off at the phone, so just yell if anyone comes after me so I can get back. Our retreat plan is we go through the pipe and cross the street underground, if we have to.”
What little color there was outside had been leached away by darkness, so everything appeared in shades of black and gray. The street lights dumped pools of light up and down the street, but Reggie and Jeremy could hardly see anything because there was so much fog. The mist kept rolling in, sometimes thick, sometimes thin, but continually creeping down the street in cloud banks.
There was almost no traffic now and no one on the street, but after a few minutes, a pair of headlights crept into view a few blocks away. A lone bakery truck traveled toward them on the other side of the street, cruising slowly past the 7-Eleven. A car sped by, swerving to avoid the truck.
Reggie and Jeremy continued scanning the street, yawning occasionally and talking to each other to stay awake. It was getting colder, so Jeremy went back down for his chemical pocket warmers, the ones he had run back for right when they were leaving home. He gave one to Reggie.
“Thanks,” said Reggie, “you were right about bringing these.”
“Who would’a guessed we’d be living down here in a hole?”
“Anyone who knew us—it’s the story of our lives.”
They watched the road again. The same bakery truck came back down the street from the other direction and passed right by their faces. It was surprisingly silent out there as the truck vanished back into the fog.
“I’m gonna rest my arms,” said Reggie. “I’ll be back in a minute.” He went down the ladder to stretch. After a few minutes he asked Jeremy, “See anything?”
“You can take a break in a minute and I’ll watch, if you want.”
Reggie turned his flashlight on for a second and pulled out his notebook, which he put on top of his pack. He climbed back up and they both resumed watching.
The truck passed by again, silently.
“That truck was here before, right?” asked Reggie.
“The boxy one?”
“Yeah,” said Jeremy, “It’s been going back and forth, up and down the street.”
“It’s just lost, it’s so foggy,” said Jeremy.
“Or the driver’s drunk.”
“Yeah. Stupid juice.”
The truck materialized out of the fog again and glided to a stop across the street next to the 7-Eleven. More fog rolled in, hiding the truck, and it became even colder. When the fog passed and it was clear again, the truck was gone, but Reggie and Jeremy noticed a comic book store where the truck had been, covered with the same grime as the rest of the buildings on the street.
“Hey, I didn’t notice that comic book store before,” said Jeremy.
“Maybe we can check it out in the morning.”
“No way,” said Reggie. “We need to be ready to bolt tonight, right after we talk to Luca, as soon as we know where the next kidnapping is going to be.”
“If he calls.”
Reggie didn’t say anything.
“I’m gonna take a break,” said Jeremy, and he went down to rest his arms.
For the next two hours the two relieved each other while they waited patiently for the conversation with Luca. They were eager for a new, clear, safe direction south. The “Answer.”
“I wish he’d just call so we could go,” said Jeremy.By 11:15p.m., they were exhausted. Reggie was sitting at the bottom of the storm drain. He got up to climb the ladder and knocked his notebook computer over, banging it into the floor.
“Rats!” said Reggie.
“No, not real rats. I think I just busted my notebook!”
“Oh man! Is it okay? That means no email.”
Reggie shook the notebook to see if there was anything rattling, then he turned on the machine to see if it still worked.
“I don’t know, I don’t know. Hold on…”
The screen came to life, flickered, flickered again, and went dark.
And then it came back on again.
“Excellent! Lemme see if everything works.”
Reggie tried several of the programs. His journal came up. Jeremy turned back to watching the street now that he was confident the computer was okay, but there was nothing new out there. It was really boring.
“Checking the GPS,” said Reggie, and he activated his mapping system.
“Yes! We are blessed!”
As Reggie said this, Jeremy watched an eerie event play out across the street. It was as if his imagination was playing a strange trick on him, or maybe he was so exhausted he was losing his mind. The comic book store started moving and flickering, shifting, splintering into shards of color, and then changing shape, morphing like a kinetic cubist sculpture into something else. And there were weird clicking sounds, a million little crackling insect-like clicks, like a swarm of locusts.
“Uhhh…” moaned Jeremy, “I must’ve eaten something funny or something.” He rubbed his eyes, “I’m hallucinating. Were those Slim Jims stale?”
“Just a minute.” Reggie was relieved the notebook was working, so he climbed up quickly to check on his brother.
“What do you mean?”
“Something weird is happening to the comic book store,” whispered Jeremy, “or maybe something’s wrong with me…”
As the fog passed by, Reggie watched as the comic book store continued to transform. The window morphed into giant, mechanical triangular-shaped feet.
“Hey…the shape of those feet look like the footprint shapes at the beach…” said Reggie.
Then the entire storefront lifted off the ground, traveling up, up, up as it transformed into a giant assortment of demon parts and chunks of armor. The head emerged—a hideous, cruel-looking version of ECHO’s head—a terrifying, alien ECHO, which had changed dramatically from the ECHO of ECHO-6. It had changed itself into something much more grotesque.
There it stood, 35 feet tall, reborn.
“Um, I don’t think it was the Buzz Cuts playing a trick on us at the beach,” said Jeremy, his voice trembling. “It’s obviously some kind of ECHO, except REAL!”
Reggie quietly snapped his notebook shut as they watched in awe. But, at the almost silent snap of the notebook, the creature suddenly locked it’s cold, green, glowering eyes on Reggie and Jeremy and they froze, terrified that it might have spotted them. It seemed to be contemplating the boys and their surroundings. Calculating.
They did not move or even breathe, even though they knew that they were completely hidden in the shadow; but just as quickly as the mech found them, it rotated its ugly massive head and looked down the street as if it were distracted. Then it suddenly took off, instantly disappearing in the fog.
“What…was…that?” whispered Jeremy.
“It did look like a giant, uglier version of ECHO,” whispered Reggie, “but it can’t be, it’s only a video game! Maybe those Slim Jims WERE bad and we’re both hallucinating or something. Are you okay?”
“Let’s…get…out…of…here!” whispered Jeremy as he started down the ladder.
But just then the phone suddenly started ringing. It was a sad, quiet, lonely ringing sound.
Reggie checked his watch. It was a few minutes before midnight. It had to be Luca. Ananswer! He thought.
“Wait,” whispered Reggie. “Hold on.”
The phone kept ringing. Reggie began to feel the dreaded cloak of depression he had experienced so many times before. Was he getting depressed simply because he was under so much pressure? Or because he was exhausted? Or worried that Luca wouldn’t help them?
Jeremy thought that Reggie was out of his mind and didn’t want any part of the phone call. He looked at Reggie like anyone would be crazy to go out there!
“No way. Are you insane? That thing’s probably KILLING gamers! It’s a trap! Call him back later, during the day! He’s probably working with that thing, trying to kill us!”
Reggie thought a moment. He was relieved to hear what Jeremy had just said. He really didn’t want to answer the phone, given the circumstances, but he was worried that he might never get through to Luca again.
“Don’t even think about it!” demanded Jeremy.
“Okay, okay. Maybe you’re right,” surrendered Reggie. “Let’s get down in the pipe and hide. I don’t wanna worry about that thing coming back and finding us. We’ll stay put and try him again in the morning.”
Just as Reggie said “morning,” a giant, glowering, bright green alien eye appeared out of nowhere, inches from their faces, scrutinizing them as if it had lost something and had finally found it. Tiny servo motors rapidly pushed and pulled the lenses of the “eye” back and forth like it was recording everything as quickly as possible about the boys and the storm drain.
Scheming…at high speed, faster than any human could imagine.
Then, before Reggie knew what was happening, it shot a dim beam into Reggie’s right eye and scanned his retina. Reggie’s gloomy exhaustion exploded into pure fear. Reggie and Jeremy were so terrified that their bodies shuddered as if they had been hit by a stun grenade and then went limp with shock. They fell from the top of the ladder to the concrete floor, landing flat on their backs on the old mattresses.
The instant they hit bottom, two huge steel claws clamped under the steel roof above them and ripped it open. In two seconds flat the roof was completely twisted off and tossed into the street like a piece of styrofoam. ECHO’s right arm extended down like a telescope, grabbed the Oasis water fountain with its steel claws, and hurled it skyward, all in one smooth, instantaneous motion. The Oasis disappeared up into the black sky above them.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” both boys screamed as they froze, terrified, backs on the pit floor.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” mimicked the angry beast with precisely the same length and pitch that they had yelled, but much louder as it mashed its face down as far as it could into their faces. Its grizzly teeth snapped and rotated furiously as acrid hydraulic mist erupted from its cavernous mouth, filling the pit with suffocating fumes.
ECHO had perfectly executed S.A.T., a tactic of deception, to ‘Shock And Terrorize’ its victims. S.A.T. was its First Objective, which it had been programmed to do once it located each ECHO gamer in the video games. As it reared its head back to strike, Reggie and Jeremy grabbed their packs and sprang into one of the tunnels, but the creature’s claws followed them just as quickly, cutting Jeremy’s ankle and pulling off his left shoe.
Scrambling down the tunnel as fast as they could, they banged their heads, hands, and knees into the hard, cold concrete walls. ECHO’s shrill, violent screams pulsed down the pipe in pressure bursts, banging their ears over and over. Even when another train roared underneath them, they could still hear ECHO’s harsh, shrill, alien shrieks.
“I TOLD YOU WE WERE GOING TO BE CAUGHT!” screamed Jeremy, who was now in full-blown panic mode. “I WANNA GO HOME!”
“FINE WITH ME!” screamed Reggie.
Reggie desperately tried to remember the code word the guy had given him to stop ECHO, but he couldn’t. He was too scared to think, and he had never written it down.
As soon as they were safely under the street, they paused to catch their breath for a second before moving on.
“This thing didn’t kidnap anyone,” gasped Jeremy. “It ate them! That game guy’s sending it out to eat gamers! Why’s he doing this? Did he crack or something? Did you guys make him mad or something? What did you do to deserve this!?”
“I don’t know!” said Reggie, thinking about the focus group. He was bewildered and wondering if Luca was angry at him for something, if that was why Luca hadn’t emailed back or called him. It seemed like Luca had purposely called back at the exact the moment ECHO was going to attack. Was the call a decoy? It had to be! The timing was too perfect. Bait for the trap.
What a sucker I’ve been! thought Reggie, feeling totally played.
But ECHO was already in the pit, telescoping its arms in and out as it clawed its way down the drain pipe, ripping concrete out of the tunnel as fast as it could. It was in a violent rampage now, in a frenzied automatic digging program like a pit bull digging feverishly after a mole in soft earth, except it was a machine, so it could dig forever and ever without stopping—a gigantic backhoe digger grinding up the tunnel and the street behind them as fast as they could crawl. The noise was deafening, like standing next to a loud, grinding mine digger, but ECHO didn’t seem like a machine—it was acting like a living creature from Hell.
They leapt forward again.
“DON’T STOP!!!” screamed Jeremy.
They gained some distance but didn’t stop moving. They never got far enough ahead to feel safe, so they kept scrambling as fast as they could in an automatic human response, the one known as flight. But they were painfully tired, and their hands were bruised from all the pounding on the concrete.
As their exhaustion overtook them, Reggie suddenly noticed that the sound of ECHO’s digging had unexpectedly stopped. Jeremy was ten feet behind, and had collapsed from exhaustion, freaked out and sobbing quietly like the little kid he really was. Reggie crawled back and pulled him along behind him as fast as he could.
“How could this thing have found us?” cried Jeremy, “Even if Luca sent it, it couldn’t have known where we were hiding!”
“I don’t know, but we can’t stop!” gasped Reggie as they crawled forward. He realized something, then feverishly looked through his pack.
“Maybe my computer activated something.”
“THE GPS!” Jeremy suddenly realized.
Reggie immediately cut the power to his computer. The instant he did, the deafening digging exploded into motion again and ECHO leapt forward, gaining ground. The noise of the digging and clawing and scratching and crushing of concrete was overpowering. The huge, crazy digger was so close it was about to rip them out of the ground. Jeremy rushed forward into Reggie, and Reggie pushed ahead.
Then Reggie found another turn in the pipe. It went down, into black darkness.
“CLOSET WALK!!!” yelled Reggie, as the sound of another train screamed by underneath them.
Jeremy followed him down the hole, but they couldn’t get a good grip on the walls so they slid down the grimy shaft and burst through the ceiling of a subway station. They crash-landed in a heap on a loading platform next to a track.
Another train loudly blasted into the station only a few inches from them and squealed to a stop. A door burst open and rang, ding-dang. Reggie and Jeremy half-crawled and half-rolled into the empty, brightly lit car. The door slammed shut and the train accelerated to full speed.
As they flew through the tunnel, they knew that they had escaped as there was no way that ECHO could fit inside the tunnel, much less inside the car they were in. They were soon traveling under the San Francisco Bay, but they didn’t catch their breaths until the train emerged on the other side of the bay in Oakland. Even then, their hearts hadn’t stopped pounding, so they nervously held their chests to prevent them from exploding.
“That’s it! I’m done. I never wanted to come here in the first place!” said Jeremy.
“What do mean? You insisted on coming!”
“You got me into this! I’m going home. Now!”
“We can’t go back now. It’ll find us for sure. Plus Asa will kill us!”
“Asa or that thing? Let’s see…I’ll take Asa any day. It’s gonna SAC us and eat us, and we don’t even know why, but it will get us. No way can we fight that thing. Asa’s a vacation in Hawaii compared to that thing!”
“It’s not gonna get us or eat us,” said Reggie. “We already outsmarted it and we didn’t even know it was stalking us! All we knew was that gamers were getting kidnapped. We made a mistake going to San Francisco but we escaped! Trust me, now that we know what’s after us, we can get to Dad’s. I know we can do it!”
“You’re nuts! Even if we do make it, it’ll eat Dad and we’ll be the dessert – the two cherries on top! This all started when you forged Asa’s signature on the letter that got you into all this.”
“Jeremy, knock it off!” said Reggie. “I tried to keep you from coming, remember? You’re the one who insisted on coming. We can’t lose sight of our objective.”
“You’re gonna get us eaten!”
“Has anything happened to any gamers’ families?” Reggie argued. “No. It’s only going after Master Gamers, so don’t bail on Operation Thunderbolt now. You’re just tired…and yeah, this is beyond weird, but we left so we wouldn’t get pounded by Asa anymore. Remember? I had no idea this would happen. If I did, I sure as heck wouldn’t be out here, would I? Trust me. We will find out what’s going on. I want to kill that Luca guy now, too. As soon as we’re off this train I’m calling him again. I’ll track him down personally if I have to, but Asa started all this, not Luca.”
Jeremy didn’t say anything. He was thinking. He reevaluated everything that led up to their decision to run away. He was starting to second-guess everything that Reggie had told him, starting to doubt everything except the main reason why they left. That was the one thing he knew with certainty—that Reggie feared Asa as much as he did, and even hated him a lot more.
“Okay,” surrendered Jeremy. “For the moment. I’m too tired to think any more.”
“I’m fried, too,” said Reggie.
“Hey. I thought you said someone gave you a password to stop ECHO.”
Reggie tried to remember the code word but couldn’t.
“Yeah, but I was so scared when ECHO chased us that I couldn’t even remember it.”
“Well, it’s not chasing us now. What’s the word?”
“I can’t remember! It’s like it got scared out of me or something.”
“Great. You better remember it—for when we run into ECHO again!”
“I’ll remember it. I’m just too tired right now. I think it was a baseball team’s name, or something. Peace?”
They sat quietly for a minute as the rhythmic clacking of the train going down the tracks rocked them gently back and forth.
“Hey,” said Reggie tiredly, “you made a great call on the storm drain. If we hadn’t been in there, it would have nailed us for sure, brother.”
Jeremy shrugged his shoulders, still angry, but he knew what Reggie said was true, and the compliment felt good. He had made a great call. That was a fact. Maybe everything else Reggie had said was really true, too. And maybe when he said “brother,” Reggie meant that Jeremy wasn’t just “little brother” anymore either, but was now, finally, equal.
As the train turned into Oakland, the rhythmic clacking became hypnotic. Now they were traveling above the streets. Reggie read the different rail line names on the train system map on the wall and imagined their track line in the map graphically, like in a video game—their train traveling and ECHO’s trajectory following them on the streets below. If they fell through any glitch, they’d drop to a lower level and possibly intersect with ECHO’s trajectory line. On the other hand, the ECHO trajectory could possibly cross under the track in several places and ECHO could easily climb up and stop the train.