Cal's father is a drunk. Letty's rich parents fight all the time. Tony lived on the streets with his mother until she died. Opi's stepmother wants her huge inheritance. Sasha's foster family is abusive.
Kidnapped by aliens, they must train as the crew of a galactic fighter to combat an enemy that threatens the entire Milky Way.
They hate each other, but if they don't train well, they will still be sent into battle to die!
"In Shadow Warriors, Nathan B. Dodge weds wonder and adventure to give us a heartfelt thrill ride. Highly Recommended!"– David Farland, New York Times bestselling author
Not even 8:00 pm and Dad already drunk. The stench of stale beer and stomach acid assaulted Cal's nose as he sat at his desk, even from the den four doors down the hall.
As if the smell weren't nauseating enough, the sounds echoing down the hall compounded Cal's misery. He could hear Dad mumbling loudly to himself and occasionally singing off-key—an ancient song from long before Mom and Dad were even married by some guy named Michael Bolton. Dad's wheezy, vodka-tainted voice whined the words: "When a ma-an loves a woman," then faded to a boozy mutter, lost in the background noise from the small TV set by Cal's bed.
Cal knew why Dad remembered the words. His mother's favorite, Dad had said. He had sung it to her the day he proposed. At her funeral barely two years ago, Cal had heard Dad humming it, tears streaming down his face, as the minister muttered what he no doubt considered words of consolation, but to Cal's ears sounded like so much static.
They still lived in the house on Radler Street in a quiet neighborhood where Cal attended the quaint, brick high school within walking distance of home. They'd be moving soon; Dad had already lost his job and the car. Moving out of the house in which he had grown up seemed too cruel to contemplate, but Cal knew that Dad hadn't made a house payment in nearly a year, and the notice tacked on the front door listed their house for foreclosure next month.
Alcohol had drowned Dad's job performance and cost them their only means of support months ago. He had sold much of the furniture in the house to buy food and liquor, as he tried, and failed, to cope with Mom's loss. Only Cal's angry protests had turned his father away from Cal's TV as he sought to convert any available possession into cash.
Like Dad's job performance, Cal's grades had gradually deteriorated. Between Dad's drinking and the looming foreclosure, school had somehow seemed to lose its importance.
The off-key singing went up an octave and sputtered into a call for his son. "Cal. Cal! I'm hungry. Can you cook us something?"
Cook something? Maybe a piece of shoe leather or a boiled pair of ancient jeans. His father was out of luck. Cal had eaten the last breakfast cereal, dry, before his father awakened from last night's bender.
Cal knelt beside his bed, reached far into the dusty hollow beneath his box spring and retrieved an old shoe box, the top taped at the rear to the body of the box to make a hinge. Lifting the top, he scanned the small pile of bills. Dad didn't know about his stash, or he would have pilfered it long since. Though mainly money received in birthday and Christmas presents over several years, Cal had added some of his earnings garnered from a year's servitude at the nearby burger joint before things had gone from bad to worse. Now, the money slowly slipped away as he used it to buy food whenever Dad ran completely out of funds. Which he usually did.
Carefully, Cal selected a ten. Enough for a couple of large burgers and maybe fries, plus one Coke. His father liked Coke. Maybe if he brought a large one back with fries and the burger, Dad would lay off the bottle for the rest of the evening.
"Hungry," the whiny voice continued, heavy with self-pity.
In a way, Cal ached for his father. In another way, he resented the self-centeredness that slowly sapped his father's life. That other part wanted to shout back, full of fury, "Just go ahead and die! What use are you to anyone, lying on the couch and drinking us into bankruptcy? Leave me alone!"
Ashamed, he stuffed the box back into a dark, far corner under his bed, well out of sight. Out of Dad's reach or knowledge. He stood, resigned, determined to try to distract his father, maybe help him for one night to forget the beckoning lure of drunken forgetfulness.
Out the west window, a sliver of new moon perched just above the rooftops across the street. He swiveled to take in the pictures by the window, the bookcase stuffed with paperbacks, the trophy for his digital clock science project, a photo of himself dressed in his uniform for the third dan black belt test in Taekwondo. By tradition, he could not progress to the fourth dan for three years, and by that time he would be out of school and probably living with his Aunt Fredene who had offered to take him in last week.
His pivot finally took him to his desk, just left of the window. His history text, open and ignored, lay illuminated by the yellow glow of the desk light. Angrily, he slapped the book closed. All that he had loved spread around him, and all of it about to be lost. He swallowed hard and turned to the bedroom door, determined to buy the burgers and try to sober Dad up for at least one night.
As he turned, he saw a flicker of movement in his right eye, as though a shadow had moved across the window.
And as he turned toward the motion, the Watcher took him.