Peter approached the podium where DJ Wreckage (real name Stephanie Powalski—sophomore, 3.8 GPA, president of Atherton High’s internationally renowned chess club) was spinning beats. He flashed a trio of hundreds in front of her face.
“ ’Sup Steph. Can I buy me some mic time?”
She gave the money in his hand a dubious look. “Holly paid me four grand for this.”
He clicked his phone on, activating its display. “Not a problem. I’ll pay you eight.”
She shook her head. “Not interested.”
He tapped the screen, opening a banking app. “How much, then?”
“Peter, when I say ‘not interested,’ I mean not interested.”
He arched an eyebrow. “We all have a price.”
She adjusted a knob on her digital mixer. “Stop bugging me.”
He considered threatening her, but decided against it. Steph was a helluva DJ. She wasn’t malicious; she was doing her job.
“So what’s it gonna take?”
“Not money—I can tell you that much.”
Fuck. Peter ground his teeth. Nearly everyone here was tripping balls—this was an awesome chance to stoke their defiance. He couldn’t just let it slip through his fingers.
“Wait.” He scanned her setup, looking for a cup. “You drink any punch?”
She didn’t look up. “Nope. Why?”
He cleared his throat. “Um, no reason. Hey, I think I have something you might want to—”
“I’m working, Peter. We’ll talk later.”
“Check it out.” He held up a baggie filled with smiley-faced tablets. “Enlightenment in a pill.”
She flipped her head, clearing a purple lock away from her lashes. “You know I work in top tier nightclubs, right? I’ve had custom-made molly that’s—” Her mouth dropped open. “Is that double O negative?”
“Bet your ass, doll. A single hit of this and—”
Her eyes narrowed. “Don’t call me ‘doll,’ fucker. You’re the only one here who likes old-timey detective speak.”
“It’ll catch on someday,” he muttered. “I swear it.” He shook his head, bringing his attention back to the present. “So? What do you say?”
She gave him a suspicious once-over. “Fine. But don’t be slinging any basic-ass rhymes.”
He dropped the baggie into her upturned hand. “Sheeeit Wreckage. You ain’t never heard my freestyle?”
“If by ‘freestyle’ you mean ranting into a megaphone like a meth’d up street preacher, then yes. If you mean rap, then no. And do me a favor: stop talking like a sleazy college bro. Faux-urban makes me nauseous.”
“You’re no fun,” he grumbled. “Gimme the mic.”
She flipped it toward him. He snatched it from the air. “All yours,” she said.
“Danke.” Peter took a moment to assess the gym. The double O negative had taken effect; dozens of students were gaping at the walls.
He tapped the mic. Bom bom bom. “Excuse me!” Bom bom bom. “Hey, if you could all just—”
Some kids laughed. Others reached for imaginary objects.
“EY!” he yelled. “EY YO—LISTEN THE FUCK UP!”
Hundreds of eyes converged on the podium.
He nodded briskly. “Cool. I just wanted to say that everyone here is tied to ANOS—we all suffer from their heinous bullshit. Those evil fucks are wasting billions of dollars, cutting apart freaky-ass lifeforms so they can…what? Invent new ways to microwave protestors? Yo that ain’t us. We’re supposed to be—”
Peter pointed the mic at the guy who’d just spoken: Jesus Rodriguez, three-time award-winner of the annual robotics competition, as well as seventh period’s marijuana kingpin. “That’s right—Jesus knows. Yo we need to course-correct, because lemme tell you: the way our parents did it? The way their parents did it? It may have worked before, but the world’s accelerating—old school shit ain’t gonna cut it. We need to be light speed ninjas without turning into evil-ass overlords.”
A chorus of “Fuck yeah!”s, along with “ANOS can eat my anus!” and “Holy shit I’m merging with all that is and all that was!” erupted from the high-as-balls partygoers.
Peter shot a finger at DJ Wreckage. She pressed a hand to her headphones and cued up the beat. Peter chopped the air with his non-mic hand, stealing the show from Kanye or Taylor or whoever the fuck’s hologram was being projected on the dance floor.
“Open your mind
Fuck space and time
Blitz of woke light be spillin’ from my rhymes
Fuck the Machine trynna shit on us teens
We breach the side door like a black-ops Falkor
Casting magic spells, rolling 9 D 12s
Blastin’ through ANOS like Mandingo through an anus.”
Rousing cheers filled the gym. Peter turned the mic outward and screamed, “FUCK THE MACHINE!”
“FUCK THE MACHINE!” the students roared.
He flipped the mic back around. “FUCK ANOS!”
“Sly moves delicate
Light speed syndicates
Troll academic mendicants
With non-dual predicate
Blessed antibodies, forming into letters
Spellin’ out the future of you/we/I better”
His lids drooped. Gorgeous invective tumbled from his lips:
Thunderous approval echoed throughout the gym. Fists and phone-screens punched skyward, filling Peter with hope and elation.
Fuck Holly, fuck ANOS, fuck Blake…right here, right now, everything was perfect.
When magic lightning struck Kor’Thank, a corresponding blast crossed the interdimensional bleed and electrified Atherton, shorting out the power grid for thirty-three seconds. That was more than enough time for Fido the chimp (Fido to the students, Reptar to Peter) to step out from his alloyed enclosure. The curious simian had wandered the halls, breaking into a vending machine and eating seven bags of Lays.
A piercing scream split the air: “HOLY SHIT! FIDO’S LOOSE!”
Peter stopped rapping and looked wildly around. Reptar was wearing a sparkly party hat, scampering across a set of half-folded bleachers.
“Oh shit!” Peter breathed. He hopped off the stage and sprinted toward his buddy.
ANOS was gonna deploy their remote-operated drones. If they got to Reptar, they’d open his head with a goddamn bullet. An agitated chimp at a high school dance?
They’d put him down the first chance they got.
Reptar streaked past Blake, who was deep in the throes of double O negative. The jock pointed at the chimp with a shaking finger. “YOU’RE NOT ME! YOU’RE NOT ME!”
Reptar paid him no mind; he jumped off the bleachers and kick-pushed a wall, transitioning into a sideways somersault. He landed near a table, snatched up a tray of buttercream sheet-cake, and maowed it down in a hungry snap.
Peter surged across the floor. “Reptar! Don’t drink the—”
Too late. The chimp dunked his head in the glittery punch bowl, downing thirty hits of acid in less than a second. Peter skidded to a stop, certain his buddy was gonna flip the fuck out.
Reptar’s dripping face emerged from the bowl. “Ook,” he muttered. He pointed at the dance-light flora as it jumped and twirled across the walls. “Ook ook. Ook awk.”
He grinned at Peter and Peter grinned back—this was manageable. The teen ran forward, intent on embracing his hairy friend, but he was stopped short by an angry shout.
“MONSTER!” Blake spat, pointing at the chimp.
Dozens of jocks sidled up beside him, heeding the call from their neander-fuck leader. A second ago, they had all been tripping on double O negative, but for some reason, the sight of Reptar had snapped them out of it.
The chimp sank into a hunched crouch, eyes narrowed as if to say Bring it on, fuckers.
Blake, oblivious to the fact that Reptar possessed tear-your-nuts-off strength, cackled with glee. “Fido thinks he can beat our asses. Time to put him in his goddamn place.” He looked over his shoulder at his jock minions, prompting the herd for confirmation. They exchanged fist-bumps, nods, and a few murmurs of tha’s wha’s up.
Before Peter could protest, they rushed his friend. Reptar had ignited deep savagery in their meathead minds; the prospect of The Other had turned them from cocky kids into a primal throng. They tried to swamp him, but the chimp reared up and flung his arms out, sending handfuls of jocks reeling across the floor.
Peter screamed, “Reptar don’t—they’ll KILL YOU!” If a kid got hurt, ANOS would execute him; no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
The chimp heeded Peter’s warning. He turtled up, grunting and squirming as Blake and his goons resumed their assault.
Chad Renfro stepped in front of Peter and shoved him in the chest. Peter banged into another jock, clinched up, then three more piled atop him. As his captors pinned him and stretched him out, he craned his head up, watching helplessly as they beat his friend.
The chimp peeked through his fingers, shaking and yelping with each strike. What Peter saw broke his heart; Reptar’s face was sad and knowing. It’s okay, his eyes said. This is the only way.
“No,” Peter sobbed. “NO!”
The jocks hoisted Reptar by his armpits. His head drooped forward, and a dazed moan issued from his lips.
“Ooooook….ook ook awk…”
“Let go of him!” Peter howled. “You ANIMALS!”
Blake doubled at the waist, braying with laughter. “We’re the animals! Maybe you haven’t noticed, but we’re holding onto a fucking chimp.” He shook his head in seeming befuddlement. “Your perception is seriously off.” He reached out and ruffled Reptar’s hair. “This? This is an animal.” He pointed at his chest. “Us? We’re humans.”
“Please,” Peter whispered. “Just—”
Blake chuckled. “You don’t get it, do you, Petey? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised—it took a goddamn nuke to teach your slanty-eyed ancestors.” He nodded at Cole Johnson. “Get me a knife.”
Cole ran to the refreshment table and grabbed a single-edged cake knife. He jogged back over and handed it off.
“Thanks bruh.” Blake ran the blade across his pants, wiping it clean of buttercream frosting. Then he held it up at eye level, turning it slowly and studying its edge. “Imma do you a favor.” He met Peter’s gaze. “From now on, you can hang with us. That way, you’ll have real friends—human friends.” A wicked grin. “But there’s a big-ass catch.” He leveled the knife at Reptar’s face. “Chimp’s gotta go.”
“NO!” Peter strained against his captors, but they held him fast.
“Yep,” Blake affirmed. “Fido’s done-skies.” He palmed the chimp’s brow and pulled his head back, resting the blade against his throat. “Check it out: you lose your only friend, but you gain some new ones. It’s all good; you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few—”
“That’s not his only friend.”
Everyone turned toward the sound of the voice. A five foot three, female silhouette stood tall in the entrance, backlit by the hallway’s halogen lighting. Both fists were clenched by her sides.
“Let the monkey go,” Eun Yin rasped.
Here’s the link to the book on Amazon: Kor’Thank: Barbarian Valley Girl