Enjoy this free preview of Chapter 1 of The Complete Destruction of the Rainy River Bees
Samantha Clayburn tucked loose strands of reddish-brown hair back behind her right ear. She tweaked the brim of her black hat, making sure the Rainy River Bees logo was front and center. She smoothed out her sleek, black team jacket, checking to make sure her baby sister hadn’t spit up on it. Then she played peek-a-boo with her in the car seat.
Sam’s mother called back from the drivers’ seat. “It’s nice of your friend Dom and his family to host a birthday party.”
“It’s a team tradition.” Sam beamed with pride. “Each of the Bees get a pizza party at Dom’s family deli. And this one’s not just for me. Derek also has a birthday this week.”
“Which one is he again?”
Sam gave her Mom a I-can’t-believe-you-still-can’t-remember-my-teammates look in the rear-view mirror. “The tall defenseman? The one with his face all over the Honey Hazard Cola cans?”
“Oh, that’s right,” Sam’s mother lied. “Anyway, it’s nice of them to host it.”
The car pulled up to the curb in front of the deli. The sun was high in the sky, warming the air as spring was turning into summer. Sam kissed her sister and leapt out of the car, excited to hang out with her friends. Her teammates. She loved how awesome her life was now.
Sometimes she wished for a time machine. She’d travel back and visit Year-Ago-Sam. She’d tell that sullen, lonely girl how great her life would become once she became Future-Sam. Retell all the stores to come: Helping to save Earth; Playing left wing for the famous Rainy River Bees (Who would all become awesome friends); Become famous for defeating the Bythrin, bringing some much-needed money and opportunity into the family.
On top of all of that, her baby sister would be sleeping through the night and Mom’s jerk of a boyfriend Tony would be gone for good.
“Have fun!” Sam’s mom called through the window before driving off.
The bells above the deli’s door jingled as she walked in. The deli was warm in both temperature and spirit. It smelt of fresh-baked semolina rolls, cured meats, homemade cookies, fresh mozzarella, pizza cooking in a coal-fired oven, and a simmering pot of their so-secret-they’d-have-to-kill-you pizza sauce.
“Buon compleanno Samantha!” Dom’s father said from behind the deli counter, his smile and Italian accent as silky as a café americano.
Dom’s mother popped up from behind the cookie counter and gave Sam an excited smile. “Happy birthday dear! Dominick’s back in the party room setting up.”
“Thank you!” Sam said, weaving her way around giant displays of food cube gift tins. After the Bees’ first adventure, before she got involved with the Bees, Dom was given exclusive importing rights on food cubes from the newly formed Intergalactic Trading League. People all around the Earth were constantly buying them off the internet every day. But Sam knew to be cautious: Every tin held a dozen palm-sized, randomly mixed cubes. Each one was a mystery, and she knew they made sure at least one in every tin was super-gross.
“Okay, where’s the pizza?” Sam asked as she entered the double doors of the party room.
“What’s up Sam?” Dom unfolded a chair and set it along the empty row of folding tables. “You’re early, but you can just hang out if you want.”
“Dude, you’re always early,” Derek said to Sam from the other corner of the room. He was tall, lanky, and a playmaking, offensive defenseman. The mop of curly hair on his head bobbed as he laughed. He laughed a lot, especially while crushing opposing forwards into the boards. Thanks to his mean streak, he laughed often during games.
Derek got up off a chair and set it up beside the long folding table. He shot Sam a smirk. “So nice of Dom to let us help setup for our own birthday party, right?”
Sam chuckled as she picked up two more chairs from the stack of chairs leaning against the wall. “Lucky indeed.”
“Mayyyybe,” Dom said. “It will put some muscles on those skinny bones of yours before high school.”
“She doesn’t need muscles if nobody can catch her on the ice,” said Danny as he entered the room. “Happy Birthday Sam! You too D!”
Danny found a nearby chair and plopped down into it. He watched Derek move another chair completely across the room. Derek looked over. “Want to help?”
“Nah,” Danny said with a big grin. He tapped the “A” sewn on the upper left shoulder of his team jacket. It meant he was one of the Bees’ three assistant captains. Danny was a skilled, play-making winger who could turn so quick it would leave opposing defenders tripping over their own feet. “You three got this under control.”
“Weren’t you supposed to bring someone?” Dom asked.
“Yeah, the twins,” Danny replied. “Picked them up on the way over. They’re outside, arguing over something in their new game.”
Soon after, their two teammates walked in side-by-side. “I’m telling you Wes; Players should be able to take any wormhole they want. Let them explore the universe any way they want.” It was James talking, his twin brother Wes giving the idea some consideration. After the Bees’ first adventure, they used the money they made from sponsorships and appearance fees to start a small video game company. Their first mobile game, IHC: Intergalactic Hockey Championships quickly became a hot seller and was still ranked one of the top selling mobile sports games of all time. After defeating the Bythrin a second time, they quickly began development of a new adventure game based on their travels across the universe.
“No bro,” Wes said, shaking his head. “We’ve got to focus on the story. The players should be led from planet to planet in the same order we visited.”
“You guys doing another phone game?” Danny asked.
“Sort of,” James said. “But this one’s designed for console’s too!” He spread his arms out wide. “Wait ‘til you see the concept art: It’s going to look siiiiiiiick on hi-res TVs.”
“All of us going to be in the game, right?” Sam asked.
“Oh, for sure!” Wes said. “We may even get everyone to come in for some motion capture!”
“You better boost my stats from where you set them in the last game!” Derek yelled, pointing a finger at the twins.
“Yeah, yeah.” James waved him off. “Don’t worry, we’ll give you a cheat code.”
Dom huffed. “One of us ought to write a tell-all book about our adventures. I bet we’d make millions off it.”
“Hah!” Wes said. “Who reads books anymore?”
“Not me,” Danny said. “But I bet Chris would write it. He’s the book nerd.”
James laughed. “For real guys, this game is going to be in-sane. We’re putting in all of our alien friends, spaceship battles, hockey, and a killer soundtrack!”
“Wait until you see General Xeyzo,” Wes snickered. “We’re making him look like a total tool!”
“Speaking of Xeyzo, you guys hear the news?” Jared asked as he entered. He was another of the assistant captains, by virtue of being the friendliest, most outgoing Bee. After their first adventure, he and Danny opened The Hockey Hive (recently voted the Universe’s Greatest Hockey Store in the latest issue of Intergalactic Hockey Magazine). Jared held up the morning newspaper with the lazy Photoshop of Xeyzo behind cartoon jail bars, with the headline: XEYZO IS DONE-ZO.
“My Dad says they’re going to do surgery soon to remove the Power Orb shards from his neck,” Danny said.
“Seriously?” Dom said. “I thought they did that already. You think maybe they’ll let me yank them out? Man, I’d love another chance to bring the pain!” He mocked a leaping elbow drop onto the table, just like the one he landed on Xeyzo’s gut during their first adventure.
“I hope they force him to stay in prison here on Earth,” Derek said.
“A prison in the middle of the Sahara Desert,” Wes said, knowing the Bythrin preferred cold weather places, like their ice-covered home planet of Bythramax.
“Vicious,” Derek said with a smirk. “I love it!”
“Come on Dom,” Jared pleaded while rubbing his stomach. “I’m hungry. Where’s the food?”
Dom threw his arms over his head and grumbled in unintelligible Italian, faking annoyance like he’d seen his father do thousands of times. “No patience on this team! Niente!”
Colin had walked in. “I love it when Dom gets all worked up.” The Bees’ sometimes-forward, sometimes-defenseman wore his trademark smirk. Although he was only a sophomore, his combination of fame and good looks made him, without any doubt, the most popular kid in Rainy River High.
Following Colin into the party room was Tim, captain of the Rainy River Bees. He towered over Colin, still the tallest and strongest of all the Bees. His confidence was still sky high after leading the Bees through their latest adventure. “Hey Jared, I see you’ve got the news article. You show the guys the photos on page two?”
“Are we in the paper again?” Derek asked, trying to pull it out of Jared’s hand.
“They’ve got some sweet shots from our victory out on Arlington Cove,” Tim explained.
“Whatever,” Wes said. “We’ve seen those pics hundreds of times?”
“He’s right,” James added. “It’s the same photos in every article about the attack.”
Colin breathed on his fingernails and buffed them on his hockey jacket. “I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t mind everyone being reminded about how famous we should be. We did save the universe and all.”
“Twice,” Jake reminded him as he pushed through the Bees clogging the doorway. “And I agree with Colin: Being famous is pretty awesome.”
“Says the guy getting scouted by Canadian junior teams,” Tim noted, the jealousy dripping from his voice. He was happy for one of his closest friends. Jake had a legit shot of making the pros, but Tim still wished scouts would chat with him after games. Jake had some of the silkiest hands in youth hockey, often able to play keep-away for minutes at a time.
Tim’s comment made Jake grin. Jake pointed to the empty table. “Where’s the pizza?”
“Good question,” Jared grumbled.
“Anyone else glad all the court stuff is over with?” asked Sam.
“Totally!” Colin said. “It felt like those agents asked the same questions over and over and over.”
“They grilled me for an entire day!” Tim added.
Andy, the team comedian, leaned against the doorway to the party room. “You sure that’s not because you’ve taken too many hits to the head?”
“Andy, my dude!” Said James. “That Twiddleviddle this morning? Hilarious bro!”
Andy pulled off his hat, revealing a head of poorly dyed blue hair sticking out haphazardly in a dozen directions. “Thanks, but it’s going to take a few dozen showers to get all this crud out of my hair.”
“I missed it,” Danny said. “What’d Derek do?”
“It was strange. He just sat in a chair, pretending to act all serious during a recording of the judge reading yesterday’s verdict,” James said.
“That’s it?” Danny asked.
Andy gave a thumbs up. “Way to sell it James.”
“I know, sorry,” Jared said. “Listen, you just gotta see it. But anyway, Andy just sits there, holding this bizarre look the whole time, staring into the camera like he’s hypnotized. It’s so weird it’s funny, you know what I mean?”
“All right gang, let’s start this party!” Goose shouted as he entered the room. He walked with a slight limp in his left leg. “Wait, where’s the music?”
Derek started counting off with his fingers. “No pizza. No music. No video games. Heck of a party, ain’t it?”
“Why are you limping Goose?” Tim asked.
“He’ll be fine,” Jake said. “Just some goofing off playing roller this morning.”
“Goofing off?!” Goose snapped, rolling up his warm-up pants to show off his bruise. “That’s what you call this? Dude says he wants to do some light shooting drills on the outdoor rink. So, I say yes and then he goes and absolutely drills me in the leg with a full-power slap shot!”
“You know goalies are supposed to wear pads, right?” Andy said with maximum sarcasm.
“Ha, ha, iceberg-head. I guess part of the blame goes to those new slim-fit goalie pants the Theemim sent me. They’re definitely missing some padding when I make a kick-save.”
“I told you I was sorry Goose,” Jake pleaded. “I really didn’t mean to rip it that hard.”
“Like you can help it Jake,” Wes said. “I’m actually starting to worry your shot’s going to be harder than mine next season.”
“Hey guys, sorry I’m late!” Chris said. The arrival of the team’s third assistant captain meant all the Bees were there. The defenseman slapped his best friend Goose on the back as he entered. “What’s up buddy?”
Goose turned the purple-and-black, oval-shaped welt around towards Chris. “Wish you could have been there this morning. Could’ve used one of your patented shot blocks.”
Chris grimaced. “Ouch.”
Jared poked his head through the door into the kitchen and yelled. “Dom! Pizza! Now!”
Soon after, Dom’s mother burst through the swinging doors. “Here you go kids. This ought to last you a few seconds.”
The Bees parted like window curtains as she carried in two gigantic pizzas. Their cheese-flecked crusts spilled over the edges of the pie stands. Dom’s father followed right behind with two more pies, with toppings piled like mountains.
The Bees pounced, tearing away gooey slices like a wake of vultures around an abandoned carcass. Tim spoke through a mouthful of pepperoni and peppers. “Domh yur pah-entsh mahke da besht pishza on the pwanet.”
Dom’s father beamed with pride. “Mangia boys, mangia! Plenty more where that came from!”
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