Orion and the Starborn
Twelve-year-old Orion Kim is a hidden boy who knows nothing of his birth. He also thinks he’s human. Some believe him to be dangerous—destined to bring down an empire in the stars. So when an assassin attacks him on his sleepy Atlanta street, Orion has to flee across the galaxy to find out who he is and the meaning behind the new powers coursing through his veins. As he learns more about his powers and their connection to the star-like marks on his chest, Orion attracts curious attention from a watchful protector, the enigmatic royal family of his new home planet, and a host of shadowy, undead creatures. What Orion wants most of all is to find his father and mother, who he’s never known. But finding his parents could lead to the death of worlds.
Author: K. B. Hoyle
Genre: Fantasy, Space Adventure, Portal Science Fantasy
Themes: Friendship, Found Family, Coming of Age
Suggested Reading Level: 8-15
What's in this Book? Magic, Adventure, Family Loss
Purchase Orion and the Starborn on Amazon
ISBN (paperback): 978-1-957362-05-2
ISBN (hardcover): 978-1-957362-06-9
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Read the First Chapter of Orion and the Starborn
Orion Kim was certain he was about to die.
It was five after five and the late afternoon sun was bleeding light as it only does at the end of a drought summer in Georgia. The heat baked through the roof of the decades-old SUV where Orion sat clutching the flaking edge of his seat and listening to his best friend Micah mutter imprecations against Jerome, the driver and most certainly the ferryman of death. Jerome texted with one hand and jerked the wheel with the other to merge into Atlanta’s afternoon traffic—careening onto the highway amidst a cacophony of automobile horns. Orion closed his eyes and groped into his pocket for his inhaler.
This was it; age twelve, end of life. Goodbye, world.
Beside him, Micah groaned and clutched his backpack to his stomach like a life vest as the vehicle almost fishtailed.
“Any of you pukes wanna tell me why I’m the one who has to chauffeur you around this year?” Jerome said.
“Because you just got your license, genius, and Mom says you have to.” That was Ambrose, riding in the front seat next to Jerome. She slammed her elbow into Jerome’s thigh, and he yelped and swerved hard, dropping his phone to the floorboard.
“I’m going to tell Mom you were texting and driving again.”
“You do that—she texts and drives all the time!”
In the back seat next to Orion, Micah whimpered and buried his forehead into his backpack. “If we could just, like, get home in one piece, that would be great,” he said, voice muffled.
“Yeah, you hear that? In one piece.” Ambrose shouted the words into Jerome’s ear. He grabbed her thick red hair and smothered her face in it.
Orion’s glasses were slipping down his nose, but he didn’t know what was making him sweat more—the heat of the day in the air condition-less car, or his nerves. He fumbled again for his inhaler and pulled it out as his heart raced and his chest grew tight—devoid of useful air.
He took a couple puffs and then tucked the inhaler away as Jerome turned off the highway onto a street lined with red brick, hundred-year-old houses and reaching oaks that were at least as old.
“Oh no. No no,” Micah said under his breath as Jerome barely avoided hitting a parked car before lurching to a stop in front of a two story, red brick Colonial. “Okay. Okay, we made it.”
Micah wrestled his door open and tumbled to the pavement like he was exiting a sinking ship.
Orion got out slower, double-checking the back seat to make sure he hadn’t left anything. When he turned to say goodbye to Ambrose, Jerome scowled at him so fiercely, he swallowed back his words and closed the door.
The car sped off, tires squealing, Ambrose waving from her open window.
They’d made it alive. He rubbed his aching chest.
“Well. This year should be fun.” Micah sniffed and shuffled his feet up the front walk. “You comin’ or going straight home? My mom said you could stay for dinner. Chicken and waffles tonight!”
“I’m staying. Gran’s not expecting me back ‘til after dark.” Orion shrugged his bag higher and followed Micah, tripping over the raised lip in the uneven pavement on the sidewalk. He always tripped there—every time.
“Maybe I can get my mom to pick us up on club days,” Micah said, climbing the stairs to the front door. “If I can convince her our lives are in danger…”
Orion wiped the sweat from his forehead as Micah dug through his bag for his keys. “I seriously doubt she’ll want to drag all four of your brothers out in your van just to pick you up from band and me up from chess club. And then there’s still Ambrose.”
“As far as I’m concerned, Ambrose can ride alone with her psycho brother.”
The door opened, spilling cold air conditioning onto them and revealing the slim silhouette of Micah’s mom. “I thought I heard y’all. What on earth are you doing lollygagging in this heat? Hello, Orion, dear.” She smiled at him. She always reserved a special smile for him. “Well get your butts in here before they melt.”
They traipsed inside, and Orion sighed in the cool entryway.
“How was the first day of extra-curriculars?” Mrs. Granville asked.
“All right,” Micah said.
“Did you ask Mr. Fine about a practice instrument you can keep at home? You can’t be hauling a tuba back and forth every day you have band practice.”
Mrs. Granville took a deep breath, her thin chest expanding and her shoulders rising as she raised a finger. “Herman Micah Granville III, do not make me remind you again tomorrow. Do you want to earn a scholarship, or don’t you?”
“I do.” Micah barely moved his lips.
“What was that?”
“I said, I do. Yes Ma’am.”
“Then you’d best get your act together and take this seriously. I expect you to ask Mr. Fine about a practice instrument. Tomorrow. Or I will get on the phone with him myself. Don’t make me do that.” She turned for the kitchen, then stopped. “Orion, dear, lemonade or sweet tea?”
“Lemonade would be great. Thank you, Mrs. Granville.”
“Dinner in fifteen, boys. Go and get cleaned up.”
As soon as his mom was out of hearing, Micah dropped all his things to the floor with a roll of his shoulders and said, “Ugh.”
“I’ll help you remember tomorrow. If I can.”
“Sure. Whatever. You’re so lucky your gran doesn’t care about your grades, or whether you get a scholarship to college. Who even thinks about this stuff in middle school? My mom, apparently.” He gave his bag a bitter kick. Micah’s face went through several contortions, and then he sighed and picked up his things. With trudging steps, he led Orion upstairs to wash for dinner.
Dinner was a loud affair at the Granville household, despite Mrs. Granville’s attempts to keep everyone under control. Micah was the oldest of five boys, each of them two years apart. Orion didn’t mind, though—in fact, he loved the noise and the energy, although he would never admit that to Micah, who always seemed pained by it. Having lived his entire life with only his grandma for company in their small garden cottage, Orion often longed for a sibling, any sibling, to break up the silence.
But there was no chance of that. His parents were dead, he supposed. No one really knew what happened to them—not even Gran, who had adopted him when he was a toddler. She wouldn’t tell him why, at age seventy, she had up and taken in a little boy after a lifetime of solitude. Whenever he asked, she gave him bizarre explanations—said things like, he was “a gift to her from above.” She’d even installed a skylight in his room for his ninth birthday, telling him that if he studied the stars, he might find his place amongst them. Whatever that meant. It was like she thought it would make him feel special, or something, to be talked to like that.
But it didn’t make him feel special; it just made him feel lost.
“How’s the chicken, Orion? I know you want more.”
“What?” Orion looked up, shoving his slipping glasses back to the bridge of his nose. “Oh, no, ma’am. Thank you. I’m stuffed.”
Mrs. Granville clicked her tongue and pulled a disbelieving face.
“Really. I’m fine.”
“I’d like seconds,” Micah said.
Mrs. Granville thumped him on the head. “Guests first.”
“I couldn’t eat another bite.” Orion tried to put conviction into his tone.
“But you’re so skinny! Have another waffle at least.” She dropped one on his plate.
“Mom.” Micah lolled back his head. “Dad, can’t you tell her Orion doesn’t need any more food?”
“Hmmm?” Mr. Granville looked up from his phone.
“It’s fine, really! I’m good.” Orion felt the blood creeping into his face. He coughed and cut into the waffle. “Thanks for dinner, Mrs. Granville. I really appreciate it.”
She smiled and watched him take every bite.
“I think she should just adopt you and make it official,” Micah said, grumbling to Orion after dinner. They stretched out on the floor of the multipurpose room, eyes glued to the TV, hands sticky with sweat on their Xbox controllers. The multipurpose room was over the garage and so warmed by the midday sun that it retained the heat even after the sun had long ago descended below the trees and rooftops of their street. “You’re like, the sad little orphan white boy my mom always wanted. She already has five sons—what’s one more?”
Micah stuck his tongue between his teeth as he navigated his Master Chief around their mission on the screen. “Okay, dude, this is it. You go left and cover me. Dude, I said go left--left. Left on the screen, not—they’re coming! Cover me—no, cover me. Not shoot at m--argh.”
Orion tried, he really did. But he just wasn’t that good at Halo. And Micah’s words about him being an orphan rattled around in his brain…
Micah dropped his controller with a huff. “And we’re both dead.” He looked side-eyed at Orion, who grimaced and gave his best friend a sheepish glance.
“You are so bad. It’s painful. Honestly. I don’t even understand it.” Micah sat up and took a swig off his water bottle. “Okay, so—your grandma is pretty old, right? Maybe my mom is actually considering adopting you when your grandma dies. You don’t have any other family, do you?”
Orion stilled and let his controller sink to the floor.
“Oh man. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No. That wasn’t cool. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Orion fumbled up onto his knees. “It’s late. I should really get going.”
“Sure, yeah. As long you’re not leaving ‘cause you’re mad. You’re not mad, are you?”
“I’m not mad,” Orion said. He shook his head to clear the rushing in his ears.
Micah bit his bottom lip, his round face open and anxious. Then he smacked himself on the forehead. “Oh, wait. We were going to go over our plans for the robotics convention.”
“It’s not until the end of the year.” Orion looked at the clock. His grandma usually didn’t worry about him being out late as long as she knew where he was, but he didn’t want to push it. “I sketched out my idea for our bot, but it’s on my desk. I’ll bring it to school tomorrow and we can go over it, yeah?”
“Okay.” Micah gave his head a bemused shake and got to his feet. “I don’t understand how you’re so good at, like, planning and building tech and stuff, but I swear you’d break your neck actually using half of it.”
“Gran says it’s in my blood,” Orion said in a quiet voice.
“Huh?” Micah raised an eyebrow.
Micah jostled him on their way down the stairs, taking them two at a time while Orion focused on going slowly and holding the railing. At the bottom, Orion grabbed his backpack. “Hey, speaking of building stuff, did you still need me to fix your bike?”
“Oh, yeah! It’s in the garage. You can take it home with you if you want. My dad won’t look at it. Says he’s too busy.”
Orion pulled both straps of his bag over his shoulders and followed Micah, waving at Mr. and Mrs. Granville as they made their way through the house to the garage.
“You be careful getting home, sweetie. Do you need Herman to walk you?” Mrs. Granville nudged her husband, who dozed on the couch beside her.
“Oh, no, ma’am. I’m taking Micah’s bike.”
“Very well. Tell your grandma I’ll bring her some biscuits for our tea this weekend.”
Orion stepped into the open garage, its pale light spilling into the fallen night and the close, sticky air that was tight with the sound of buzzing cicadas.
“Here.” Micah shoved his bike at Orion. “I can’t get the chain to stay on for anything, but I know you can work your magic.”
Orion bent over and squinted at the dangling chain, his glasses slipping down his sweat-slicked nose. “Uh… yeah. Let me just”—he jiggled the chain into place as a temporary fix—“do that. And then I’ll take it home and work on it.” He straightened and shoved his glasses back into place.
Orion wheeled the bike out and then turned back to wave as the garage door groaned, shutting him out in the dark. He took the handlebars and guided the bike down the driveway to the sidewalk. He didn’t dare try to ride it—he was far too clumsy and uncoordinated for that.
He wondered if that was a trait he got from his parents.
From Micah’s driveway, he could see the lantern blazing in the front yard of Gran’s cottage. He put one foot in front of the other, heading toward the light of home, and tilted his face skyward as he walked. The stars were already out—bright and shining. It was the sort of night that made the heavens look like a silent symphony, each star a note of music. He slowed to a stop to appreciate them. On the sleepy suburban street, nobody would bother him.
In the center of the sky burned his namesake, the stars that seemed to follow him—hanging over his shoulder like watch lights on clear nights. He even had a birthmark in the pattern of Orion on his chest, kind of over his heart. Gran said the constellation was bright the night he came to her, and that’s why she named him after it.
She always said it like that: The night he came to her.
Orion shook his head and started walking again, scuffing his feet and turning Micah’s handlebars back and forth, back and forth, meandering his way home. A warm breeze teased his face, cooling his sweat and carrying the scent of his neighbor’s knockout roses, a reminder that he’d forgotten to water the front bushes, like Gran had asked.
At that moment a shadow dropped to the earth, slamming to the sidewalk with a clang—as of a metal pole striking the pavement—and a resonance rippled through Orion. The shadow became a figure that straightened into a man.
Orion shouted and tripped over backwards, Micah’s bike landing on top of him. His glasses went flying, and the figure before him—the figure that had landed?—blurred into watercolor relief against the nearest streetlight.
“Who… what?” Orion kicked out from under the bike and scrambled for his glasses, scraping his backpack along the ground. His asthma flared, and he gasped and clutched his chest.
The man loomed over him. Through his swimming vision, Orion saw pale skin, dark clothes, and a flash of reddish hair.
“Are you Orion?” the man asked. His voice, like his form, out-of-focus in Orion’s ears, coming to him like music through water.
“Am I—?” Orion found his glasses at last. He jammed them onto his face, and the man sharpened. Tall, powerful build. Fair skin and hair like Orion’s, but long and bound into a ponytail. Eyes like pale fire. He wore swaths of blue and black fabric wrapped around him like monk’s garb, and over it all a gleaming exoskeleton of bronze, with a long bronze staff to match.
“Yes. That’s me. I’m Orion.”
The staff in the man’s hand crackled with what had to be electrical energy, and all the hair on Orion’s arms stood up. A current of electricity awakened under his skin—awakened and hummed, his veins singing. Orion gaped at his hands, and as his focus shifted, a spark leapt to his fingertip. He yelped.
“It is you,” the man said, his voice coming into focus on the final word. “At last.”
“I-I… What do you want with me?” Orion jerked his eyes back up, trying to understand what was happening. Trying to sound braver than he felt, but his voice was weak from lack of air.
“I want you to die.” The pale man raised his bronze staff, and Orion cringed and threw his arms up in a feeble defense.
Another shadow fell to earth. Another soft boom rippled through him. A second man—a man in a dark cloak and cowl—threw himself forward and took the blow of the pale man’s staff, catching it on his own bronze staff with a clash loud enough to rouse any curious neighbors. Orion rolled out from under the fight, quaking.
The two men fought furiously, a flurry of robes and strange sparks and bronze. The exoskeleton his attacker wore didn’t seem to slow him down, and every time the cowled figure struck him, sparks shattered the dark like sparklers on the Fourth of July. Orion clutched his chest, trying to breathe as he watched them.
The pale man took two quick, shuffling steps toward Orion, and then stumbled over Micah’s bike as the cloaked man leapt clear over his head in a fluid aerial flip, landing at Orion’s feet, blocking the pale man’s way. For a moment, he stood seething like a reaper, and then the first man twisted a dial on the exoskeleton in the center of his chest and disappeared back into the sky.
The cicadas took up their hum again, replacing the void of silence after the fight, and Mrs. Alexander across the street turned on her porch light.
Orion took a gasping breath. “Wha—”
The man in the dark cloak turned to Orion and raised a gloved hand. From the depths of his cowl, his eyes glimmered with a strange light. “Go home. Now.”
Orion grabbed for Micah’s bike, and then he turned and tried to run, but the chain had come off again and tangled up in the gears. He pitched forward onto the pavement as the bike refused to move, knees and elbows barking on the cement.
There came a whisper of movement, and when Orion looked over his shoulder, the second man also had gone and Mrs. Alexander was hurrying toward him in slippered feet, her bathrobe wrapped tight around her.
“Orion Kim, are you alright?”
“I…” Inhaler. He needed his inhaler. He dug for it, the cool, metal casing a familiar comfort.
“What was that racket?”
“I don’t…” He took several bracing breaths on his inhaler and peered at the stars. Had they come from up there?
Go home. Now.
The dark sky pressed down on him as his lungs cleared, the stars like watching eyes. Orion shoved the inhaler into his pocket and scrambled to his feet. “I have to go,” he said. “Gran will be worried.”
“She shouldn’t let you walk outside alone at night any—”
“Goodnight, Mrs. Alexander.” He picked up Micah’s bike and braced it against his shoulder. With careful steps so he wouldn’t trip again, he hurried to his house at the end of the street.
Setting the bike outside the door, he fumbled for his key, looking over his shoulder several times. Mrs. Alexander stood in her driveway examining the street as though looking for clues. The sky still seemed heavier than usual.
Inside, he slammed the door, locking it with shaking fingers, and then leaned against it and closed his eyes.
“Orion?” Gran came down the hall. “Why are you slamming doors at this hour?”
“I…” Orion dropped his backpack and it busted open, the books scattering across the wood parquet floor. The zipper must have snagged and broken while he’d been scrambling across the sidewalk.
Gran stood in her nightgown before him, displeased creases wrinkling her forehead. But they smoothed away as she looked him up and down. “Oh. I see. The day has come, as I always expected. As I feared it would.”
“You… you feared it would?”
Gran turned on the hall light. “Why don’t you come to the living room and tell me what happened. I’ll make you some tea.”
“Tea,” Orion said.
“Tea. To calm your nerves.”
“My nerves,” Orion said weakly. “Halmoni, you won’t believe what just—”
“Oh, I think I will.” She lifted her chin. “Your hands are sparking.”