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Authors: Keith Mansfield

Star Blaze

BOOK: Star Blaze
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New York • London

© 2009 by Keith Mansfield

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by reviewers, who may quote brief passages in a review. Scanning, uploading, and electronic distribution of this book or the facilitation of the same without the permission of the publisher is prohibited.

Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.

Any member of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use or anthology should send inquiries to Permissions c/o Quercus Publishing Inc., 31 West 57
Street, 6
Floor, New York, NY 10019, or to
[email protected]

ISBN 978-1-62365-254-8

Distributed in the United States and Canada by Random House Publisher Services
c/o Random House, 1745 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, institutions, places, and events are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons—living or dead—events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


1 Supernova

2 A Derby Detour

3 The Absent Emperor

4 The Bunker

5 Sailing Ships

6 In the Belly of the Star Killer

7 The Starry Ceiling

8 Self-Destruct

9 Free Fall

10 Titan's Secret

11 End of Term

12 The Christmas Surprise

13 Fight or Flight

14 Trial and Retribution

15 Into the Fire

16 The Twin Paradox

17 Star Blaze

Keith Mansfield always wanted to be an astronaut. Rejected by the European Space Agency and ineligible for NASA, he instead publishes mathematics books for Oxford University Press. He has scripted light entertainment shows for ITV and also contributed to The Science of Spying exhibition at London's Science Museum.

His first book,
Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London
, was published in 2008. The Johnny Mackintosh stories are based on childhood daydreams of being captured by aliens and escaping to see the wonders of the Galaxy. In reality, Keith lives in Spitalfields in the East End of London. Every window of his home looks out onto Norman Foster's beautiful Gherkin, the inspiration for the
Spirit of London
, Johnny's spaceship.

Praise for
Johnny Macintosh and the Spirit of London

“The story is great … the characterisation in this book is fantastic and Mansfield paints some exceptionally believable, lovable and fun characters. The writing is engaging and accomplished. It's reminiscent of Rowling, yet still maintains an individual style.”

“This book offers excitement all the way as Johnny, stuck in a children's home while his mum's on a life support machine, finds out he has a sister and ends up hurtling through time and space.”
Daily Express




Available now at

For Rowan, Josh, Isaac and Joe, who are all made of starstuff—born at the heart of a Star Blaze


It was the autumn half-term holidays. Johnny Mackintosh sat in his chair gazing out of the window for any sign of his friend who was, by now, several hours late. He glanced again at the device on his wrist, checking the time. If he didn't leave soon he might miss the meeting at Halader House, the children's home where he lived. His headmistress had demanded it—the school was becoming tired of his unexplained absences.

“Still no sign?” The voice came from Clara who had just entered the room behind him. She walked over and stood beside Johnny's chair. Unmistakably they were brother and sister, with their matching white-blond hair and pale skin. Golden chains hung around each of their necks, supporting ornate lockets inlaid with crystals. Their clothes nearly matched too. Both wore white tops over their jeans, but while Johnny's was emblazoned with five gold stars in the shape of a wonky “W,” Clara's had seven lilac stars in the form of the constellation the Plough.

Johnny shook his head grimly, rose from the chair, stepped over a sleeping gray and white Old English sheepdog and walked across to the window—the scene outside had remained nearly the same for the last five hours. That didn't make it any less extraordinary, but Johnny Mackintosh was hardly an ordinary boy. In fact, you could say he was as unordinary as it was possible to get. Through his dark green eyes (speckled with silver flecks) he was staring at the huge planet Saturn, which completely
dominated the view. The majestic rings cast a dark shadow over the gas giant's flattened globe, obscuring many of the storms that raged in its upper atmosphere. For Johnny was not standing in any room on Earth. He was on the bridge of his very own spaceship, the
Spirit of London
. The ship had been given to him six months before by no less a person than His Majesty Bram Khari, Emperor of the Galaxy, and from the outside was a carbon copy of his favorite building, the London Gherkin.

“There!” said Clara, pointing to a tiny white dot that, if it hadn't winked into existence a moment before, might have been just another star.

“I am being hailed,” said a friendly, assured female voice. As she spoke, lights flickered in time to the words on a screen near to where Johnny was standing—it was the spaceship herself speaking.

“Put it through, Sol,” said Johnny to the ship's mind.

The viewscreen cut to the insides of a smoking, battered spaceship, with alien bodies scattered across its deck and one impaled on a great spike in a chair at the center.

“This is Imperial Frigate
to Terran vessel
Spirit of London
. Require urgent assistance. Over.” While Sol had been speaking English, the familiar gruff, female voice from the other ship spoke Universal, the standard language for interspecies communication across the Milky Way. It was only six months ago that Johnny and Clara had left Earth for the very first time. Abducted by the evil, alien Krun and being taken who knew where,
was the spaceship that had rescued them.

—this is Johnny. We're coming.”

“This is Imperial Frigate
to Terran vessel
Spirit of London
. Require urgent assistance. Over.”

“Sol—let's get over there as fast as we can,” Johnny said. “Can we fold?”

“Negative, Johnny. The space between myself and
distorted well beyond safe limits. Computing … at maximum speed we shall rendezvous in 10 minutes, 54.716 28 seconds.”

“This is Imperial Frigate
to Terran vessel
Spirit of London
. Require urgent assistance. Over.”

“And turn that off,” said Johnny. The figure pinned to the chair on the other bridge was his friend, Captain Valdour, and the sight of his body filled Johnny with dread. Worse still,
must be a couple of light minutes away so the image in the viewscreen couldn't show what was happening now—it had already taken place. He hoped they weren't too late.

Outside, the orange, cloud-covered moon Titan was passing beneath them, bigger than the planet Mercury, and recently visited by the Huygens space probe. Johnny had wanted to land there after his rendezvous with Valdour. The Emperor of the Galaxy himself had once told him there was something special on Titan, but now that was the last thing on Johnny's mind. He raised his arm to his mouth and spoke into the wrist-based communicator, or wristcom, he was wearing. “Alf, we need you on the bridge.”

“On my way, Master Johnny.” A few seconds later, a figure in a pinstriped suit wearing a bowler hat stepped out of the antigrav lifts and walked across to Johnny. Alf's face had a slight metallic sheen because he was an artificial life form. When on Earth, Johnny's ship took the place of the real Gherkin and stood at the heart of London's financial district—the android, trying very hard to fit in with his surroundings, might just about have passed for an eccentric banker. “Are we on the move? I thought we were already at the designated coordinates,” he said.

“Something's gone wrong,” Johnny replied, biting his lips as he worried about exactly what.

Sol was displaying the other spaceship on the viewscreen. Normally dazzling white, parts of
's hull looked blackened and bruised.

As the ten minutes passed and they drew closer, more of the damage became visible, the huge rips in the ship's sides ever more apparent. She didn't look spaceworthy.

“Sol, prepare a shuttle,” said Johnny.

“No,” said Clara. “There might not be time. Space has started to settle—I'll fold us across.”

When Clara looked as determined as she did now, Johnny knew not to argue. As he watched, an archway appeared out of nothing in the middle of the bridge. It was about three times his height and curved so it widened higher up and, incredibly, it led directly from the
Spirit of London
onto the stricken ship. Johnny never stopped marveling at his sister's ability to take hold of a piece of the fabric of space itself in one location and fold it up against another piece elsewhere. In some higher, fourth dimension, the distance between them shrank to zero making it possible to go from your starting point to your destination in a single step.

With the opening established, the calm of their surroundings was shattered by the din from hundreds of competing alarm systems, and Johnny almost choked on the combined smells of electrical fires and something worse he didn't recognize, all coming from the other ship. It took a moment to realize it was burned skin and hair. Bentley, the Old English sheepdog, was now wide awake and barking. Quickly, Johnny tied the dog's lead around a cylindrical tank at the center of the
Spirit of London
's bridge, took one last gulp of fresh air and jumped through. Alf followed a little tentatively, and immediately fell to the ground with a loud metallic thud. Clara came last. As she set foot on
's bridge the archway behind her, together with the sound of Bentley's barking, disappeared.

BOOK: Star Blaze
9.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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