My biggest problem is beginning with a hook but without destroying the explanation of book one without it all becoming boring.
‘I don’t care what you say but this time he’s gone too far. I’m so gonna’ to kill my brother.’
Sad-case’s newly blackened eye glared defiantly at them. Just the left one this time, David noted with interest. His previous bruises had almost recovered, now just a faint purple malevolence to remind them of recent encounter with fists even bigger and faster than his own. ‘It’s not even this I mind so much.’ he growled, savagely thrusting a grimy finger upwards to emphasise the point and almost poking his wounded eyeball out just to finish the job.
‘The ratbag tore my hoodie. Look!’ He gazed sorrowfully down to the scene of said heinous crime. Neither David nor Derrick could see what he was talking about. His hoodie was made of Yak skin or something equally exotic and looked, as usual, as if it had been through a nuclear explosion or dipped into a bucket of sick. Whilst down the front several unidentifiable stains had coalesced into one great puky blob that looked distinctly toxic.
While all agreeing that there could be no more suitable a candidate for gratuitously painful slaughter there was also an appreciable element of danger in the concept. And probably quite a lot of trouble from the police if he pulled it off. His mum and dad might not be overly impressed either.
‘He’ll kill you first.’ Derrick said patiently, carefully smoothing his own burger-stained hoodie in a feigned gesture of sympathy. They’d seen enough violence and destruction recently. Sad was a real pillock at times. But a big pillock and he’d learned the hard way that it was always wise to keep his opinions to himself unless David was around.
‘I don’t care.’ Sad-case ruined his, fortunately, mental observations of his friend. ‘If he kills me then I’ll really get him back the, the...’ Having already used up his quite impressive stock of swear words on the subject of his brother, El Slobbo, he was being forced to invent a few more.
David, as always the voice of reason amid the group’s sometimes suicidal plans, attempted to sway him from certain annihilation while carefully admiring the new Top-Gun type badge he’d sown onto his obligatory hoodie the night before. That made about twenty now and had to be a world record. However there were more important things to consider. Sad-case’s brother was a towering monster that in reality might not even really be human and the memory of his accuracy in the ghoolie department had stayed with them all indelibly. ‘Don’t you think, that actually killing him’s a bit drastic. Couldn’t you just kick him in the nerds?’
‘Snot-brain.’ Sad-case smiled triumphantly, dredging up a previously unused term of endearment for his brother. ‘I mean, I’m not actually going to kill him. Although I bet I’d get a medal. No, I’m just going to scare the slime-gob to death.’ He leaned against the clammy side of the old water pipe they’d claimed as their new headquarters in the scrap yard since the necessary disappearance of their old. The thought of getting one over on El Slobbo was something to savour.
‘It’ll end in tears.’ Derrick promised, carefully eyeing the front of his own hoodie and its attendant stains that often made it difficult to remember what colour it had once been.
David went back to his magazine, squinting under the meagre glow from the lantern Sad-case had “borrowed” from the Boy Scout hut at the school. This seemed impossible even for a modern weapon. They must have done something to it with a computer. He turned it upside down to see if a change of perspective would make the picture seem more likely. He’d only had it a couple of days but on hearing of its existence half the sixth formers had already offered to tear out his lungs if he didn’t hand it over to them; just as he had most of their predecessors.
‘I mean, how does one jet blow up a bridge, an air raid bunker thirty feet underground, an ammo dump, and half a dozen tanks with the same rocket?’ Even for an F22 Raptor, the task seemed a little tricky. "Blood and guts – A man’s life." joined the small pile that had been spared the lust of the older lads. After what they’d seen and done in the last few weeks, nothing matched the awesomeness of the real thing – especially as the real thing had turned out to be a whole lot more scary than a touched up photograph. Besides, there was Sad’s imminent demise to consider.
Even considering their astonishing frightening adventure of just six weeks before which had entailed, chronologically, being abducted to an alien planet peopled by dwarf grown ups. Chased by and bombarded with mutated lizoids. Escaping from said planet to an even more diseased and creature-ridden world occupied by yet more strange and ghastly creatures with but one purpose for living; which was: their deaths and the invasion of Earth. That they’d actually managed to escape from that hell had been miraculous enough without returning to the comparative safety of the first planet only to be confronted by the inevitable conclusion of their previous actions which had become a final, terrifying encounter within the pyrotechnic splendour of a space wormhole. The memories would take an awful long to go away – if ever.
Yet even after all that: heroism on a scale of such extreme vastness that would forever be recorded in history books across the galaxy, where Sad-case’s brother was concerned, extreme care was an absolute must. He could teach any alien army a thing or two about destruction.
It wasn’t even as if they could actually tell anyone of what they’d seen and done and bask in hero-dom for a few years. Going on talk shows and getting medals from the president of every country in the world; being fawned on by adoring females till they were sick of it. They had discussed, and just as quickly realised that they could tell no one about what had happened to them. It wasn’t as if they could just turn up at school and say: “Hey, guess what we just did all last week? And by the way, we also came back the actual night before we left.”
Regaling all and sundry with the juicy details about saving two worlds from destruction probably might not garner the respect it really deserved amid all the scornful laughter even if one of those worlds just happened to be the Earth. And informing Old Droopy-face Smith, their new science teacher that there was actually an inhabited planetary system within their own which the combined efforts of NASA and the European space thingy had not been able to locate would probably earn them all a decade’s detention just for sheer gobbiness. If not a visit from the men with the straight jackets and padded accommodation.
So they had decided with great reluctance that they would keep it all to themselves, relishing the memory and being just that bit smug. But even that had already earned Derrick a slap from a fifth year boy and a scornful laugh from a web chat room that dealt with conspiracies. After pretend moon landings and there being a face on Mars, David’s polite and anonymous email had met with universal hysterical laughter – albeit of the electronic kind. And a dead leg from Sad-case since they’d already agreed to keep their collective yap shut.
‘So what are you going to do, then?’ Derrick asked, rubbing at a wet patch on his bum. This pipe was narrow and uncomfortable. It was hardly tall enough to stand up in and smelled of cat wee. It’s one plus point, it being impossible to see from the outside seemed, in retrospect, hardly worth the bother of being cold wet and cramped when they might just as easily be sitting in Sad’s garage where nobody ever went, anyway.
Sad-case grinned. It was his best evil gleam of pure nastiness. It had an “I’ve-got-it-all-planned” look. He shuffled about more for a few annoying seconds to push home the malignant point. In fact he continued to wallow in self-satisfied smugness until David bounced a half-empty cola can off his dome.
‘Tell us.’ he commanded as the remains of the mouldy liquid trickled satisfyingly down Sad-case’s face. Ever since he’d started doing Kung Fu, over and above the dirty stuff his unfortunately dead father had taught him, the only one he could now slap about was Derrick. Even that was being pretty nasty and after he had been so good at navigating them through the wormhole and effectively saving their lives, and that of the entire planet. Since then he’d been harder than ever to bully and now he was being forced to forage for his victims elsewhere.
It wasn’t even the same with the other kids at school. In fact, he knew deep down (not that he was going to let on) that his heart really wasn’t in being a full time tormenter of the weak, especially to kids who couldn’t give him a decent slap back. The fact that they didn’t have any ray guns like their most recent enemies just made the whole thing just a bit boring.
‘Ratbag.’ He wiped his now sticky hands on his jeans, reluctantly erasing the glittering memory of how it used to be. ‘When my dad finally turned his brain on,’ he grinned at the memory, ‘and left for good a few weeks ago, I found a box in the garage. My dad nicked most of the stuff that was any good. But he forgot this one in the corner under the old carpet, and it’s really cool. It’s got all this stuff what belonged to his dad, and his. And somewhere in there, ‘cos I saw it for a second before El Slobbo came in and whacked me, is a gun.’
‘The Luger?’ Derrick asked hopefully, referring the ancient pistol Sad-case had found a few weeks before, forgetting that it had belonged to his brother, who had reminded him with the two black eyes that had only just faded. Sad-case shook his head sorrowfully
A gun? Of all the things none of them wanted to see again, a gun was probably top of the list. All except for Sad-case it seemed. David swallowed quickly, remembering what he’d done with the laser pistol, and how he’d nearly trashed a spaceship. And how Derrick had almost electrocuted them by firing at those electricity pylons. And again at Sad, who’d nearly been flattened after killing that prehistoric monster while the plonker had actually been standing under it on that planet none of them wanted to think about ever again.
‘A gun? Are you a nutter?’ Derrick thrust away the nightmarish visions which matched David’s with uncanny similarity. Alright, he still felt pretty good about the way he’d sent those other ships crashing off into space. And what about the time he’d actually saved everyone’s lives? But as the others had said that he couldn’t talk about it to anyone else and as the other two knew all about it anyway, the novelty was wearing a bit thin.
‘He’ll...’ the thoughts of what Sad-case’s brother would do to him were just too horrible to imagine. After all, even if Sad did shoot him it would only annoy him. I mean, it wouldn’t actually do him any harm or anything. The slob was a big as a bulldozer; a bulldozer that drank about twenty five pints of Guinness every night, and someone whom even the local police treated with extreme caution.
‘It’s not a real gun.’ Sad-case finally relented, seeing the horror in their faces, and understanding, if only silently. In truth he was still having luridly vivid nightmares about their too-recent adventure on - but he didn’t want to think about it. It bothered him almost every night so there was no way he was going to waste daylight dwelling on it.
‘It’s a kind of starting pistol or something. You know when him and his mates go into that old concrete shelter by the football ground for a bit of lip-locking with those girls? Where even if you cough in your rompers it echoes for days?’ The others nodded, knowing the place well and wishing they had some of the aforementioned girls to do the same thing with. ‘Well I’m gonna wait until they’re really into it then I’m going to shoot it in the air and frighten them to death. And...and,’ he struggled to overcome hysterical laughter, ‘he’ll probably cack himself and his mates’ll see it and know just what a wimpoid he really is. And the best part is he’ll never even know it’s us.’
‘What’s this, us?’ Derrick rammed his finger up in a gesture that would definitely not have impressed his mum. But despite the potentially catastrophic consequences of his plan, the others could see the logic, and if not the logic, then just the pure nastiness of it.
Lost for words, they let it all sink in. Admittedly, seeing, or just knowing that his brother would be made to look like a complete nancy in front of his friends would go a long way to alleviating the utter loathing they felt for him. It was just that, David told himself, if he ever found out who did it, he’d put Sad’s delicate bits in a vice. Him and every friend he’d ever had.
Even so, it might just be worth it.
‘When are you going to do it?’ David hated himself for asking. He didn’t want anything to do with this, but knew that he would, regardless.
‘We get a half-day tomorrow, right? The teachers are having a meeting about how to make our lessons even more boring than usual. Come home with me then. My mum’ll be at that soft college class she’s doing for growing carpets or knitting her own asparagus or something. We’ll go into the garage then and have a look for it - the gun.’ he reminded them.
Derrick peered through the gloom at David for confirmation. His nod was enough. After all, they had fought alien lizoids on another planet; spent the whole day hiding after they had come back, which was in reality the day before they had left, so as to prevent an anti-matter explosion that might have trashed the entire universe if they had run into themselves, so to speak. So what could be easier than scaring El Slobbo to death?