A Sentinel Novel
It’s hard being the new girl at school. Not only has Hailey Schick managed to piss off the popular kids, but Trevor, the boy she sort of likes, is a total social pariah. To top it off, nothing is what it seems at the University School.
Eternally young sentinels from the parallel universe of Halcyon have infiltrated the school. The Halcyonians have found a “cure” for aging and can travel between dimensions. The rulers of Halcyon, are sending out sentinels to scout potential planets where their people could settle.
Hailey and Trevor have a hard enough time dealing with high school drama, and now they’re supposed to save Earth.
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Her heart pounding, Hailey stared blankly at the note in her hand and then at her phone screen. A note wasn’t going to cut it. How do you explain an alien plot to take over the Earth in a few lines of text? Still, she had to try. If she didn’t make it back, she had to leave some kind of message. She couldn’t imagine anything worse than her parents spending the rest of their lives looking for her. Trevor’s dad, too. Think. There’s no time. I have to get back to Halcyon, to Trevor. The guards will probably kill him if they realize I’m gone.
Hailey took a deep breath. Slowly, she began to dictate into her phone:
“Kate, by the time you get this, I may be dead or gone 4EAE. IDK. Trevor and I are in a parallel universe, which is ruled by this psycho group called the Juventus. They look like teenagers, but really, they’re old and evil, and they want to take over Earth. They plan to take everything over by controlling us, the teens, first. They plan to get rid of all the old people and the young kids, too. I know this sounds crazy, but you’ve got to believe me.
It may sound cool, teenagers ruling the world and everything, but these aren’t real teenagers, they just look like us. They’re old and cruel inside. I hope you get this. JIC I don’t come back, you’ll have to tell my parents something. RL. BFN.”
Hailey studied the message. Then, closing her eyes, she hit Send. It’s done. Time to get back to Halcyon. She stuffed her phone into her pocket, pulled the ITD out of her pocket, and began to manipulate it. Almost immediately, she felt the now familiar pins-and-needles sensation begin to travel from the device in her hand up to her arm. The study she was standing in began to dissolve around her into black and white static. Then, it was gone and so was she.
The teacher’s voice droned on:
“Nobody knows this little Rose—
It might a pilgrim be
Did I not take it from the ways
And lift it up to thee.
Only a Bee will miss it—
Only a Butterfly,
Hastening from far journey—
On its breast to lie—
Only a Breeze will sigh—
Ah Little Rose—how easy
For such as thee to die!”
Mr. Babcock, the geeky young English teacher with tortoiseshell glasses and rather ill-fitting tweed jacket, exhaled in satisfaction and adjusted the glasses on the bridge of his nose. “Now that you’ve all had a chance to reflect on this poem by Emily Dickinson, would anyone like to comment on what you think it’s saying?”
Predictably, no one raised his or her hand. Why would they? It was two thirty in the afternoon, that is, during the last class of the day, on the very first day of school. The tenth grade English classroom was uncomfortably warm due to the windows down one side that radiated the late summer sunshine. Hailey Schick’s eyelids were drooping irresistibly, and her head was beginning to bob.
Suddenly and astonishingly, a hand tapped on the front of her desk. Hailey jumped, dropping her paper and pen, eliciting titters of amusement from the other students.
“What are your thoughts on this poem, Miss…?” Mr. Babcock fixed his watery eyes on her as she bent to pick up her things. “Miss?” he prodded.
“Um…Hailey. Hailey Schick.”
“The poem, Miss Schick?” he prompted with his bushy eyebrows raised in a way he probably considered encouraging, but which made him resemble a very skinny owl eying a tasty mouse.
Hailey glanced down at the paper. She recognized the poem. She’d always liked Emily Dickenson. However, it was the first day for her at a new school and she was very conscious of the eyes of the class on her. Don’t come across as a total nerd. She could fix things with the teacher later by turning in some decent writing, but she definitely didn’t want to be labeled a nerd. That would be the total kiss of death. “It’s about a…a flower.”
“Yes, quite a prescient observation,” Babcock remarked. “We’ve already progressed beyond the obvious, though you appeared comatose during that part of the discussion, Miss Schick.” Predictably, the class laughed again, and Babcock preened at his own witticism. “Henceforth, I will expect greater engagement from you and from the rest of you who may prefer to daydream or text message during class. Mr. Hamon and Miss Wilton, this is not the time or place for whatever it is you are doing. There is be no touching during English class.”
As one, the entire class, Hailey included, turned to stare at the two offenders. Ryan Hamon was a tall, muscular guy with a buzz cut and sleepy-looking eyes which would have been attractive if not for their possessor’s rather dull expression. He was clearly an athlete, and he had his sleeve rolled up on his rather impressive bicep so that the girl beside him could have better access to it with her pen. Hailey hadn’t seen the girl before, and now she noted that though she had a plain face, she possessed an undeniably impressive bust. Her white button-down was undone so low that Hailey was sure the girl was breaking a school rule, and her size D boobs were practically falling out of a lacy camisole. Trying too hard. The girl was giggling and the muscle-head was leering, and Hailey was grateful that they’d distracted Babcock from her.
“Come on, Mr. B. Ash is just giving me a tat,” Ryan explained.
Hailey resisted the urge to groan aloud. Why did every school have to have the stereotypical dumb jock and an equally brainless bimbette?
“Mr. Hamon, Ms. Wilton, that sort of behavior is completely not acceptable. There will no drawing of anything on anyone else’s body parts in this classroom. Let me make myself clear.” Babcock droned on and Hailey tuned him out. He wouldn’t call on her again during the period.
She stared at the clock willing the hand to move. Just five more minutes until freedom! All in all, the day had gone relatively well. Hailey was one step closer to being accepted on the social A-list at her new school. The academic part of school had always come easily for her, but she’d learned not to make that fact well known to the other students. There was no way she wanted to stand out as a super-brain. That was a surefire way to commit total social suicide. That was one thing you learned after changing schools a number of times. This was move number four for Hailey, and she intended to have things go as smoothly as possible. She was going to have cool friends and fit in before the week was out. After all, she would stay at University School for three whole years. Her parents had promised her there would be no more work-related moves during that time.
“Is anyone else willing to take the plunge into the world of literature by offering some thoughts on this poem? Yes, Mr. Field.”
“The rose is a metaphor for the poet. She’s speaking to God and reflecting on her own insignificance,” said the guy with a pleasantly baritone voice. The speaker was sitting a couple of rows in front of Hailey and off to one side. Clear sign of geekiness. Coolness Rule Number One: Never sit in the front of the classroom. She stared at the back of his head. Nearly buzzed hair. Broad shoulders. Hailey could see that he had a good profile, chiseled. Unfortunately, he was also a braniac, which also meant he was probably a social reject. Too bad, he was pretty yummy.
“So, we do have a scholar in the room. I applaud your insight, Mr. Field.” Predictably, Babcock applauded. “I hope the rest of you paid some attention to Mr. Field’s comments, because your assignment for tonight is to write.” The class erupted into a chorus of groans and mutterings. “I’m not finished yet,” Babcock’s voice rose precipitously, “and the bell has not yet rung. Therefore, please desist from fiddling with your pencils and writing utensils. I would like a paragraph from each of you with your thoughts on this poem. Do not think to share work. This is an individual assignment.”
As Babcock continued to describe the assignment, Hailey tuned out and glanced at the boy who’d just spoken. Suddenly, he turned and looked straight back at her. Coolness Rule Number Two: If you get caught staring at a cute boy, don’t be totally obvious about it and look away. The best way of handling such a situation was to flirt, but not in an obvious way. Hailey responded with her trademark friendly but not-too-warm smile. It was uncomfortably warm in the early September, barely air-conditioned classroom, so she flicked her damp hair up from her neck before glancing down at the paper in front of her. The key was to seem totally disinterested.
This boy didn’t seem to get the rules, or he chose to ignore them. Hailey was uncomfortably aware that he was still looking at her, staring at her in fact. She met his glance with another vague smile. Then, clearly dismissing her, the boy returned his attention to Babcock. Jerk. Hailey was not used to being dismissed or ignored. The guy was obviously a total loser, so he probably didn’t matter, but it still bugged her. Thankfully, the bell rang. Immediately, the volume in the room and in the hallway surged.
Hailey made her way out of the room and was relieved when she saw her friend Kate heading through the crowd of students milling about. Hailey smiled and waved, and Kate waved eagerly back. Kate was of medium height, a little plump, with a generous, true smile. Her cheeks were rosy from the heat and her tastefully highlighted brunette hair was limp. Kate and Hailey had been inseparable since they’d met at the pool back in June.
“Hi,” Hailey said and smiled sunnily.
“How did it go?” Kate asked.
“Not bad,” Hailey reassured her. “I’ve been the new kid at school so many times now, so it’s really not a big deal. Everyone was pretty decent. It was far better than the first day at my last school in South Florida.”
“It must be so hard changing schools so often,” Kate observed.
“It’s part of being an army brat. That’s just how things roll.”
Kate nodded. She glanced earnestly at Hailey. “You know, sometimes I think maybe it might be okay to go somewhere else, with new people—a fresh start.”
“I thought you liked University School,” Hailey said.
“Well, the teachers are fine,” Kate hedged. “It’s just that some of the people…”
“Ladies,” Chelsea Collins, the red-haired queen bee of tenth grade interrupted them. She had appeared amidst the throngs of students passing through the hall. Tagging along behind her were the two girls Kate referred to as Chelsea’s “minions,” Amy, who was Asian, model tall and willowy, and Madison, a too-thin girl whose platinum-colored hair didn’t go with her rather sallow complexion. Chelsea stopped expectantly in front of Hailey and Kate, forcing the crowd to ebb around them.
“Thank God today’s over,” Kate groaned, quickly changing gears. “I thought I was going to die in Spanish. It was like a hundred degrees in that room, and Senora Perez Medina just kept going on and on in Spanish. No one had a clue what she was saying.”
“Can you believe that woman? She has an entire wall covered with pictures of Enrique Iglesias. She’s so old, but she has a total crush on Enrique. It’s just gross,” Madison sneered. “Old people shouldn’t have crushes. It’s wrong. It means they think about sex, and the idea of old people and sex makes me want to throw up in my mouth.”
“Medina’s such a freak,” Chelsea agreed. “Old people are so gross.” She shivered in revulsion. “They should all go away and die.” She glanced around expectantly at the other girls, as if verifying their agreement with her statement. Madison murmured in agreement. Amy nodded an affirmation. “Nasty,” she muttered.
“Now, we have to get going onto some really important stuff,” Chelsea continued. “Homecoming. I’ll expect you all in an hour at my house for the first meeting of the tenth grade homecoming committee. I signed all of us up,” she cheerfully announced in her high-pitched voice.
“For real? This afternoon?” Hailey asked with some dismay. “I mean, isn’t it a little early to start working on the homecoming dance? It’s in October sometime and today is the first day of school.”
Chelsea arched a well-shaped eyebrow. “Planning ahead is smart, but it’s also important to get things in place for the school year.”
“Can’t we talk about it at lunch or something?” Hailey questioned.
“We’re not just meeting to talk about homecoming,” Amy commented.
“Yeah,” Madison agreed. “We talk about how things work here, about people who could be potential problems, and we make plans to deal with them.”
“Maddy…” Chelsea glanced around them, as if assessing if anyone had registered Madison’s comment. “Hailey will have to come to one of our meetings to get the inside scoop. Hailey, things run smoothly at University School because we plan ahead and manage things, so that we can be ready for anything.”
“Ready for what?” Hailey shook her head, confused.
“For whatever happens,” Madison replied, earning a tight smile from Chelsea.
“Kate, I thought you explained things to Hailey about how things work here,” Chelsea admonished the other girl.
“I did,” Kate protested. “We discussed this at the club, Hailey. Remember?”
Hailey glanced quizzically at the other girls. “I guess. I am totally onboard with anything you all decide, but I do have volleyball tryouts today.”
“Hailey’s really good,” Kate broke in, aware of the escalating tension. “It is only the first day of school. We have plenty of time.”
“Well,” Chelsea nibbled her lip. “I suppose we could meet tomorrow instead.”
“Tomorrow would be good,” Kate agreed eagerly.
“No, tomorrow’s no good for me either. Tryouts go all week.” Hailey was acutely aware that this wasn’t going well.
“You have practice like every day?” Chelsea was exasperated. She placed her hand on her hip and glared at Hailey.
“Things will quiet down next week. Volleyball is a big deal for me, but I’m totally about helping you guys,” Hailey offered, not wanting the discussion to go south. “This is a really big week for me,” she repeated.
“Fine,” Chelsea said. She examined her manicure, clearly dismissing Hailey. “Do what you have to do.” She waved her hand at the other girls. “I thought it would be fun to hang out. If it doesn’t work for you,”—she eyed Hailey assessingly—“I, for one, totally understand. Right, girls?”
Amy and Madison nodded and smiled, but Hailey could see the silent messages pinballing between the other girls. Hailey knew that as soon as she walked away she was sure to be the topic of conversation.
“Well, thanks for the invitation. Some other time.”
Chelsea smiled back at her, but the smile on her face didn’t quite reach her eyes. She, Madison, and Amy joined the eager and noisy horde of students passing through the hall toward the doors that led out to the parking lot.
Kate and Hailey fell into stride beside each other.
“Well, that didn’t go well,” Hailey observed.
“Chelsea may be crazy, but you have to get along with her if you want to fit in here. Chelsea likes to get together and plot. She’s always really worried about the social order, but as long as you’re on her good side, you’re fine.”
“I’m not on her good side now. Hopefully, she’ll get over it.”
Kate looked over anxiously. “It’s because of Preston and Chelsea that I sometimes think that going to another school would be easier, but that will never happen. My parents would never let me switch. This school is too connected. At least you’re here now,” she said gripping Hailey’s arm.
“Has Chelsea always been so bossy?”
“As long as I’ve known her, which is since eighth grade,” Kate replied.
“I’m not too sure about Chelsea. I mean, I thought she was all right when I met her before, but here she really thinks she’s something.”
“At the club she’s decent because she thinks everyone there is worth her time, but it’s different here. I told you, she and Preston Maan—he’s a junior—totally run the place.”
Hailey nodded, suppressing the sinking of her stomach. I had so wanted to end up at a school I really liked.
Kate led the way to the parking lot behind the brick school buildings. Suddenly, she froze and grabbed Hailey’s arm.
“There’s Preston,” Kate whispered very sotto voce.
Hailey glanced in the direction Kate had indicated and saw two boys weaving through the cars in the parking lot toward them. Preston Maan was blond and leanly attractive. He was a sharp if understated dresser. He moved well and was elegant. They’d met briefly earlier that summer. The other boy was new to Hailey. He had a California tan and shaggy-haired, blond surfer looks. Both boys saw the girls and headed toward them
“Hello Kate. Hailey.” Preston gave her the once-over, up her legs, over her upper body, and only then settled on her face.
Couldn’t you at least try to be a little subtle? Hailey thought. Still she politely replied. “What’s up?”
The anguished roar of an old and overused engine drowned out his response. They all turned to stare as a super long Oldsmobile sedan with rust spots consuming its silver paint pulled up a few spaces away from Kate’s car. The car’s windows were down, and Hailey thought she heard Bob Dylan’s raspy voice before the radio shut off. A kid with crew-cut brown hair unfolded his long frame from behind the wheel of the ancient car. He tossed a battered army surplus backpack over his shoulder before turning to face the school. This new kid was seriously cute with broad shoulders and an athlete’s body. He also looked vaguely familiar. The nerdy guy from English class. He’s hot. Hailey smiled at the newcomer and he paused, as if surprised, and smiled in return.
“Nice ride, Trev,” Preston jeered. “Daddy couldn’t afford a new car? Janitors can’t buy new cars, can they? Ladies, this is Trevor Green. His dad is the janitor here. Trevor is aspiring to follow in his dad’s footsteps, right Trevy?”
The new guy didn’t respond. His jaw flexed, but he merely turned away and began to walk toward the school entrance.
“Trevy spent the summer cleaning toilets with his old man,” Preston continued. “That’s quality time, isn’t it? Did Daddy teach you any special techniques for your future vocation?”
Trevor ignored Preston and continued walking, but Hailey thought that his shoulders and his neck stiffened.
“Come on, Pres,” Preston’s companion broke in. “Let him go, man. It’s so not worth it.”
“Shut up, Ted.” Preston still hadn’t taken his eyes off of Trevor. “You can’t let things go like that. I’ve already explained it to you.”
Rolling his eyes and shrugging, Ted turned his attention to Hailey and Kate. “Hi ladies. Kate, I don’t think I’ve met your new friend.”
“Teddy, this is Hailey Schick. Hailey, Theodore Roosevelt Quinn.”
“Teddy,” the boy corrected. “Everyone calls me Teddy.”
Hailey reciprocated Teddy’s easy smile. The guy was clearly a charmer.
“You guys have a lot in common. Hailey’s a total jock,” Kate proffered, digging her elbow into Hailey’s side.
Hailey suppressed a grunt. “I play volleyball.” The boy was cute but with a vulnerability to his features. He was built but had a weak chin, and he kept glancing nervously at Preston.
“She’s awesome.” Kate batted her eyelashes at Teddy.
“Who’s that?” Hailey asked, meeting Teddy’s glance and nodding in Trevor’s direction.
The other boy looked like he was about to respond, but Preston cut him off. “Trevor’s a loser,” he stated flatly.
“What?” Hailey asked, confused.
“Some people won’t accept that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. That there is an order. Trevor doesn’t get it.”
“Rebels interfere with the natural order,” Ted chanted flatly, as if repeating something memorized by rote. He raised an eyebrow skeptically. “At least, that’s what Preston says.”
What is the problem with that? Hailey wanted to ask.But during her years at so many different schools, she’d learned it was often better to step back and learn more about a person or a situation before she engaged.
Preston recovered himself and smiled deliberately, transforming his features. “It was nice to meet you, Hailey. See you around. Come on, Ted, let’s go find Mike.”
“I saw him in the courtyard with some of the freshman girls.”
“That figures. See you two later.”
Hailey nodded and Kate smiled as the two guys headed off.
Once they were out of earshot, Kate caught Hailey’s look. “See what I mean?”
“You mean about how cliquey this school is? Yeah, I see that. What’s with Trevor? I thought he was kind of cute.”
“Hailey, you can’t be serious. I mean, I may not like how things go here sometimes, but there’s no use fighting it. Trevor is totally off limits.”