Finn and the Subatomic Slip-and-Slide
Finn and the Subatomic Slip-and-Slide is a part of the The Finniverse series collection.
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Sisters Grimm and NERDS comes the third and final book in the time-jumping, universe-skipping, action-packed middle grade series with equal parts humor and heart!
After his adventures through time, Finn returns home to a world he doesn’t recognize. Changing the past has created an all-new present, one in which he and his friends never vanquished the Plague. Now the giant bugs rule Earth from their spaceship! What’s an intergalactic traveler to do? The answer is obvious. Finn, Lincoln and Julep must defeat the Plague. Again.
But how? Julep and Lincoln don’t remember Finn or their friendships. In fact, they’ve changed just as much as the world itself has, and they want nothing to do with his dangerous plan to save humankind. Finn’s plan? Find his father, Asher Foley, who is trapped on a microscopic world known as the Subatomic. Using a space-age slip-and-slide, Finn and his confused former-friends shrink themselves to enter this strange new world where nothing is as it seems, hoping to find his father, the one man who can put history, and the present, back together.
It won’t be easy. The Subatomic is ruled by an evil menace with an army of hulking robots under his command. Even worse, Finn’s bitterest enemy, the Plague soldier Sin Kraven, is in pursuit. Can Finn find his father, save his friendships, and return to Earth in time to stop the Plague?
"Rousingly raucous."--Kirkus Reviews
An Excerpt fromFinn and the Subatomic Slip-and-Slide
“Are you trying to get yourself killed, Julep?” Truman complained through her earpiece.
“You are very grouchy tonight,” she teased. Her brother was the worrier, always scolding her to work faster, demanding she be more alert, get the job done, and go. She was the risk aker who enjoyed the missions and didn’t hide it. She knew it drove him crazy.
“I’m grouchy because you don’t take this seriously,” he said.
“I take it very seriously,” she replied as she slinked through the shadows beneath the Plague watchtower. It was two stories tall, with a searchlight that scanned the neighborhood for human activity. She was careful not to step into the light and set off alarms. “Have you forgotten I have four successful sabotage missions under my belt this week? I’m causing a heap of headaches for the bugs. By the way, you’re supposed to use my code name.”
“Fine, Mongoose! You have been successful, but you’ve nearly gotten caught all four times,” he cried. “It’s almost shift change. Fresh guards are--”
“--alert guards. Yeah, yeah. And how many times do I have to tell you? It’s the Mongoose!”
“Whatever. Just hurry.”
“You can see I’m going as fast as I can.” She glanced at the tree line and waved to the red lights hidden in the branches. It was her brother’s drone, following close behind like it did on every mission.
She laughed and went back to work. Tonight on the Mongoose’s troublemaking list was a hoverbike depot located a block from her old elementary school. Once it was a Little League baseball diamond, and home to both the Cold Spring Junior Yankees and the Hudson Valley Little Pirates. Parents cheered from the stands while Mr. Consuela sold Italian ices from his cart. Now the kids, the cart, and the parents were gone and the field was a parking lot for alien motorcycles. There were twelve bikes parked there that night, and thanks to Julep, ten of them were already toast. She scampered toward number eleven.
The hoverbikes boggled her mind. Though she’d watched them whip down her road for the last six months, she still didn’t know how they worked, but she had discovered their major design flaw--the engines were easy to sabotage. If you poured a cup of sugar into the fuel tank, the motor exploded. She slipped off her backpack, reached inside, and snatched the bag of sugar she’d brought from home; then, with nimble fingers, she unscrewed the bike’s fuel cap, only to face a belly-emptying stink that invaded her nose and traveled all the way to her lungs. Whatever the alien bugs used as fuel was foul. It smelled like a dirty diaper forgotten at a hot campground.
Tilting the bag, she emptied the remaining sugar into the tank and watched the chemical reaction. The fuel fizzed and popped and threatened to spill out onto the ground. Quickly, she twisted the cap back on and tossed the empty sack onto the ground. She wasn’t normally a litterbug, but she wanted the invaders to know what had happened to their machines. More importantly, she wanted the town to know. Folks were afraid to fight back against the occupation. Her neighbors thought they needed laser cannons or a thermo blaster to fight the Plague, but all the destructive stuff they could ever hope for was in their own kitchen cabinets.
“All right, the Mongoose. You’ve done enough. It’s time to go,” Truman said.
“Almost, big brother,” Julep said.
She dashed across the field to the last of the hoverbikes. She had purposely left this one alone. She had plans for it. Settling onto its seat, she clenched the handles and eyed the control panel between her legs. It was a big, bulky vehicle, designed for a much larger bug body, but she was sure she could drive it. She scanned the controls for the power button and pressed it, and the bike came to life with a low hum. The entire machine rose a couple of feet off the ground. The engine’s vibrations ran through her entire body. Such power!
“Don’t even think about it,” her brother snapped. “You can’t steal a hoverbike.”
“But I can, big brother. In fact, I’m already doing it.” Julep studied the field for bug soldiers, and seeing it was clear, she gave the handlebars a twist and blasted forward, cutting through the tall outfield grass. The surge was more than she expected. She nearly slid off the back of the bike.
“What is wrong with your brain?” her brother cried.
“Nothing! I’m perfectly sane. Stealing a hoverbike will grow the rebellion!” she shouted over the wind.
“What rebellion? It’s just us!”
“Exactly. We need to do something daring if we’re going to inspire new recruits.”
“There’s a fence!” Truman cried just as the front end of the bike slammed through the high chain-link fence encircling the field, leaving a ragged opening behind it. “Subtle.”
“Relax. I totally got away with it,” she told him, just as a video screen on the control panel came to life. In the center was a green dot, which she assumed was her. Behind the dot were eleven more dots, and they were chasing her. “Uh-oh.”
“Uh-oh? What’s uh-oh?” Truman asked.
“It’s nothing,” she said just as a blast of blue energy flew past her and exploded in the road. Gravel and pebbles showered down on her head. “Just a few bugs chasing me.”
“You said the sugar would wreck their engines!”
“It will. It just takes a little while, I guess,” she muttered.
“How much longer?” he asked.
Probably longer than she had. She searched the bike’s controls for something that might keep her from ending up a stain on the road. There were so many buttons, all of them glowing and demanding her attention, and all of them in the strange Plague language she couldn’t read. “Shields . . . Shields . . . Where are the shields? Maybe this one?”
She pressed the button and watched a faint white light encase the bike and herself.
“Look at that! First try!” she cheered, just as another energy blast crashed nearby. Luckily, the shields absorbed most of the impact, but she still had to wrestle with the bike to keep it under control.
One of the bugs pulled alongside her on the left, another on the right. They screeched and hissed at her while waving their sonic blasters.
“Pull over or be destroyed!” one of them shrieked.
Julep twisted the accelerator even more and barreled ahead in a shocking burst of speed. The bugs vanished behind her in a cloud of dust. There was no way she was pulling over. She couldn’t get caught. The bugs would figure out who she was and arrest everyone she loved. They’d drag them to the mother ship. A kid from school had been taken there six months ago, and he hadn’t come back.
“This is your last warning, human!” a bug said as it matched her speed. “Stop the bike and surrender or you will be--”
Suddenly, the bug’s hoverbike exploded. The driver was thrown off, and he tumbled down the rocky cliff bordering the road. A moment later, she heard another bike behind her crash. One by one, all the bikes were engulfed in flames in her rearview mirrors.
“Never underestimate the destructive nature of sugar!” she cried.
“Yes, you get a gold star for today,” Truman said. “Now ditch the bike and come home.”
He was barely finished with his sentence when something huge and black fell from the sky.
“Fudge!” she gasped.
“It’s a Dragonfly! Get out of there!” Truman cried.
Dragonflies were compact attack ships about the size of a minivan, designed to destroy tanks and fighter jets. Through the red sheen of its cockpit glass, Julep saw the Plague pilot staring back at her. She was pretty sure bugs couldn’t smile, but this one seemed pleased, especially when two panels on the front slid aside, revealing a dozen plasma cannons. There was no way her hoverbike’s shields were strong enough to take a direct hit, let alone twelve of them. Retreat was her only option, so with a twist of the accelerator, Julep sped away, just missing a cannon blast that ripped apart the ground.
“Don’t say it. I know you want to say it.”
“Don’t say what?” her brother asked. “You mean don’t say that I told you not to steal the bike?”
The Dragonfly fired again. The blast missed her, but the shock wave nearly knocked her off the bike.
“All right, big brother. Get me out of here,” she said
“Head toward Breakneck Ridge on 9D. It’s your only chance.”
Route 9D was the highway out of town, a curvy and narrow two-lane road that burrowed through the side of a mountain. Her brother didn’t have to explain his plan. It was brilliant, if she could make it there alive. She pushed the bike to its top speed and accelerated into the turns in hopes of putting some space between herself and the ship. It didn’t help. The Dragonfly was fast and agile. It was practically glued to her.
“Make a left at Stone Avenue!”
She slid across the intersection, sideswiped a parked car, and then righted herself. Without the shields she would have totaled the bike and probably broken a leg.
“They’re firing!” her brother warned.
An explosion lifted her into the air. She lost control and steered into someone’s yard, hopping over a kiddie pool and crashing through a wooden fence. It was chaos. In the days before the Plague’s invasion, these yards would have been full of people enjoying the night air. But now those same people were huddled in their homes, too terrified to break the Plague’s curfew.
“It’s coming around the other side. They’re trying to cut you off,” her brother warned. “Head east!”
At the end of the street, Julep leaned into another turn and pointed the bike toward the fir-covered hills and Route 9D. Bear Mountain was to her right and the Hudson River flowed alongside her to the left. The roar of the Dragonfly’s engines hung overhead. The craft flew through power lines, snapping them in two and sending the broken ends to the road below. They twisted on the asphalt like angry rattlesnakes.
“They’re trying to crush you,” Truman warned.
He was right. The Dragonfly’s belly was only a few feet above her now. How ironic, she thought. I’m about to get squished by a bug.
Another twist of the accelerator and she zipped ahead before the ship could smash her, but she wasn’t out of danger yet. Explosions rocked the ground, pulverizing pavement and sending gravel and dust everywhere. A blast hit so close she lost control and the hoverbike tipped. She skidded along the concrete, tumbling and rolling out of control.
“Get up, Julep! You have to get up!” Truman cried.
She scampered to her feet and struggled to get the huge bike upright, but it was too heavy. She couldn’t lift it.
“Leave it!” her brother shouted in her ear.
She had no choice. Still shaken from the fall, she tried to run, but her legs and brain weren’t on speaking terms. Her ears were ringing. Her head was pounding. The best she could do was hobble forward, unsure of her direction in the dust and debris.
“It’s right there,” her brother promised. “Just keep going. I don’t think they see it.”
“I don’t see it, either!” she said to him.
And then the air cleared, and the road became a tunnel. Once inside, Julep turned just in time to watch the Dragonfly crash into the mountain’s rocky face. A sonic boom sent her flailing onto her back. Fire rose three stories, and thick black smoke swallowed everything. Dazed, she got to her knees and watched the broken ship crash to the ground in pieces, right on top of her hoverbike.
“Julep? Julep! Are you okay?” her brother cried. “Talk to me! Tell me you’re all right!”
She pulled off her mask, freeing her long black hair, then pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and frowned.
“I’m fine,” she replied. “But I’m gonna need a ride home.”
Home. Finn could barely believe he was back. Having spent what felt like weeks bouncing through time, running from bounty hunters, Time Rangers, and a monster bent on destroying reality itself, he had wondered if he would ever see it again. He stood back and did his best to absorb it all--the cool breeze, the smell of the trees, the lightning bugs burning trails through the air. Not long ago he had detested everything about this house, the town, and everyone in it. Now he couldn’t be any happier to find himself in the backyard.
“Be kind to yourself, kid, and when you see your dad, tell him ol’ Zeke says hello,” the strange, time-traveling cowboy said to him. Zeke had arrived as an enemy and was leaving as a friend, having given Finn the final clue to finding his long-lost father, Asher Foley. Finn wished Zeke would come along to help bring him home, but the alien had his copper-colored hand on his time-traveling lasso. He was eager to go.
“I will,” Finn promised.
“Oh, and, son, be careful,” Zeke said. He twirled the rope and it burned hot with flames until finally slicing a hole in space. “This world ain’t the one you left.”
“What do you mean?” Finn asked, but Zeke didn’t answer. He waved and stepped through the portal, leaving a ring of smoke in his place.
“How did you escape?”
Finn turned to find his mom and his little sister, Kate, charging across the lawn. They were both in a panic.
“Get inside!” Mom cried, and together they dragged him into the house. When the door was locked, they went from room to room, flipping off lights, shutting windows, and drawing the curtains. Soon the trio was standing in the dark. Before Finn could ask what was happening, Kate hurried over to the front window and peered out at the street.
“There’s twenty of them out there, but I don’t think they saw him,” she said.
“Twenty who?” Finn asked. Kate was always a little weird, but Mom was acting super strange, too. When they didn’t answer, he walked over to look for himself. Mom yanked him back before he got a chance.
“Are you crazy? They’ll come in here and take you away again. Oh, Finn, we’ve missed you so much. Did they hurt you?”
“Mom, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, squirming out of her grip. He pulled the drapes aside to see what was causing them so much anxiety. What was outside made him wish he hadn’t. Dozens of heavily armed, man-sized locusts were marching down his street.
“The bugs are back? When did that happen?” The shock knocked the wind out of him. He bent over, feeling like everything was spinning. It wasn’t possible. He thought he’d sent them so far away they’d never find Earth again.