At 14.2 years old, Kade Walker has never heard of death. Literally. But neither has anyone else he knows. Kade is one of hundreds of teens living across the solar system through the use of robotic avatars while their real bodies sleep in pods on Earth. Nothing can hurt him this way; the adults all said so. They just never said how to survive high school when only one person on the planet will talk to him.
Kade will admit, his obsession with numbers might deter 35.7% of people from hanging out with him. But the bigger issue is his best friend -- Princess Tamika of Venus. So her mom almost let a crazed hacker take over everyone's bodies twelve years ago. The queen is locked away, and Tamika herself is really nice. Kade needs to give her reputation a serious reboot. He starts off simple: an interstellar tour using an old teleportation machine that he's reconstructed. But the machine's not rigged for current use, so when Kade fires it up, he unwittingly kills a major security wall and unleashes the same hacker from twelve years ago. Panic rating: ten times infinity. The hacker shuts off all communications with the adults and begins to take control of the royal avatars. If Kade doesn't want to see his best friend used as a puppet, he needs to stop the hacker fast -- even if that means waking up on Earth to fight with a body he never realized could be hurt.
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It wasn't the first time Kade had hacked the Venusian maintenance system, but it was one of the best. If he had to put a number on it (and there was little he didn't put a number on), he'd give it a 9.7. The 9.8 and 9.9 scores were reserved for something epic he hadn't thought of yet, and 10.0 was for the day he would finally reprogram how his robotic body looked. Still, assuming he didn't get caught, his skills today would land him on a totally different planet. Maybe that deserved the 9.8 slot after all. If Tamika would hurry and get here, he could ask for her opinion.
Kade straightened against a metal door embedded in a burnt orange mountainside and flicked his left wing. A line of glowing text scrolled across his view: 5:03:34pm. He'd checked the time fifty-three seconds ago, but whenever he wasn't reading data, he felt lost. The adults called it unhealthy. Healthy people could watch a sunset without calculating its luminosity every thirty seconds, but healthy people sounded boring. Besides, the numbers comforted him. Nobody got weirded out by seeing their own hands all the time, did they? His numbers were just that -- an extra set of hands. Or wings. Or whatever.
Kade froze. His sensors detected a deep clunking sound that echoed across Venus's stone-hard surface. Low volume, maybe twenty to thirty decibels. His first thought was that it was a patrol robot, but it was coming too fast, and its steps were too out of rhythm for an AI-controlled machine.
It can't be an adult, can it? They're already off Venus for the night. Kade tensed and scanned the rocky pillars around him. A patrol bot would merely escort him home, no questions asked. But an adult would demand to know why he was hiding in the middle of nowhere.