On The Run Book One:
Chasing the Falconers
Chasing the Falconers is the first exciting book in Gordon's largest project, yet. On the Run is a massive 6 book adventure series about a brother and sister who are on the run from the law, trying to clear their parents who have been framed as spies. All six books are now available in stores.
Gordon had this to say: "The idea to feature kids who are wanted by the FBI was a real change in my adventure writing. In my trilogies, the danger came from the setting -- an island, a mountain, shark-infested waters. But when you're a fugitive, the entire world becomes dangerous for you. In a way, it's scarier than an eighteen-foot shark, because you can't get away from it. No matter where you go, your face is still in the newspapers and on TV. That's something you can never escape."
We've received several comments from readers on our discussion forum that indicate this may well be Gordon's best series ever, and we highly recommend giving it a try. "That's how I see it ... you got a problem with that?"
From the book:
It wasn't a prison.
Not technically, anyway.
No bars, cells, electrified fencing, guard towers, or razor wire.
People who drove by probably never noticed the logo of the Department of Juvenile Corrections on the mailbox that stood at the end of the long lane leading to County Road 413. To them, this sprawling property was just another farm – one of thousands of dusty puzzle pieces that covered this part of Nebraska.
Farm. Aiden Falconer winced. He hated that word. Sunnydale Farm, they called it – a name so deliberately cheerful it turned his stomach.
His eyes took in the empty, far-flung acreage. This broad flat land wasn't meant for crops. It was a barrier. Anybody trying to escape would have to cross that pool-table-flat boundary in full view of the supervisors, for too many miles and too many minutes. It was as effective as a moat full of alligators.
Welcome to Alcatraz Junior .
True, there were a few farmy things. A modest cornfield, and a few acres of soybeans. Busy work for the “residents.”
Inmates, Aiden thought bitterly.
Life at Sunnydale Farm was based on one simple principle: that the residents could not be allowed so much as a second of free time. For these juvenile offenders, time meant trouble.
So there was school. Seven hours, broken only by a twenty-minute Gulp ‘n Gag lunch. The rest of each day, from five a.m. wakeup until lights-out at nine, the eighteen boys and twelve girls worked the “farm” – tilling, planting, fertilizing, pruning, and picking. They tended the chickens and fought with the geese.
And they milked the cows.
Aiden hated milking duty almost as much as he hated Sunnydale itself, and his reason for being there. Okay, animals weren't clean freaks, but that barn stank to high heaven, and was hot as a sauna. To enter it was to stop breathing until the chore was done, and you could stagger out, blue in the face and gasping for air.
Milking was an art that he seemed incapable of mastering. Some of the residents could plunk themselves down on the stool, reach under the cow, and you'd hear squirt, squirt, squirt . Aiden would plaster his face against the flank of the beast, his hands working like pistons. The squirt, squirt, squirt never came.
The frustration was maddening. He was a Falconer, from a family long on brains! His parents were both Ph.D.'s! Respected scientists!
At least they used to be …
He blinked back the tears. No. Don't go there.
It happened just the way it always did. First the twitching. The cow was losing patience with his incompetence. In a few seconds, it would turn its massive head and moo at him. Next, the shuffling and stamping. And then the kick. He would go one way, the stool would go the other, and the pail would be upended, spilling what few drops he had managed to squeeze out into the straw of the stall.
His escape came a split second before the cow went into total revolt. Aiden jumped up and fled the barn, white-faced and breathless, his tan jumpsuit drenched with sweat.
“What a wuss.” Miguel Reyes walked toward the hen house, carrying a sack of chicken feed. “Nobody's scared of cows. Dumbest animals on the planet – next to you .”
As he passed by, he made sure to whack Aiden on the side of the head with the heavy bag.
“Are you okay?” Meg Falconer peered anxiously around the corner of the barn.
He could never quite get used to the sight of his eleven-year-old sister in this terrible place. At fifteen, Aiden was as old as most of the juvenile offenders banished to this prison camp. But Meg was just a kid, ripped out of sixth grade.
“Beat it!” he hissed at her. Boys and girls were supposed to stay separated except during classes and Gulp ‘n Gag.
Meg had never been big on following rules. She usually got by on a sweet smile and wide-eyed innocence – all fake.
“Are you going to let him get away with that?” she demanded.
Aiden stared at her. “This isn't some self-esteem game about standing up to bullies. That guy was in Juvie before this. For manslaughter!”
“But where does it stop?” she demanded. “Mom and Dad – framed! The two of us, stuck away in the back of beyond! We don't even know who we are anymore!”
“If I pick a fight with Miguel,” Aiden warned, “I'll know exactly who I am. I'll be the dead guy in the morgue!”
“Hey!” came an angry shout.
The supervisor who stormed over was named Ray. The residents called him Rage because he was always in one. In Aiden's opinion, that nickname could have gone to any of the other jailers at Sunnydale. There was a kind of permanent anger to the people who worked there – probably from dealing with scum like Miguel day in and day out. The “supes” got sassed so often that they lived in a constant state of being bent out of shape about something.
Ray was scowling as usual. “Well, what do you know – Eagleson and Eagleson. A regular family reunion.”
Eagleson – that was their name at Sunnydale. Falcon, eagle – like this was some kind of April Fools prank. The court had ordered the change. After the media circus of their parents' trial, Falconer might as well have been Dracula. The judge said he didn't want the children suffering for their parents' crimes.
If this isn't suffering, then what is? Aiden wailed inwardly. We're banished to this Old-McDonald-Had-A-Jail, mingling with dangerous offenders! While Mom and Dad rot in prison for something they didn't even do –
He took a breath. The Falconer kids were at Sunnydale because none of their relatives would take them in. Who could blame the aunts and uncles for wanting to shield their own families from the scandal? A day didn't go by without Mom and Dad decried as traitors in every newspaper in the country.
Aiden and Meg had committed no crime. They were here because there was no other place for them.
“Sorry, Ray. It won't happen again –”
His sister cut him off. “That's funny, Ray. You're observant enough to catch us talking. But someone using a sack of feed as a deadly weapon – you missed that, didn't you?”
The supervisor's scowl deepened. “You little snot, how'd you like to lose your telephone privileges for a month?”
That shut Meg up. Those weekly phone calls were the only contact the Falconer kids had with their parents in prison in Florida.
All the contact we'll ever have …
Luckily, Meg had the brains not to fight with a supe. She retreated to her work in the soybean fields, and Aiden steeled himself for round two with the cows.
But later, as he was busing his tray after Gulp ‘n Gag, Meg stepped out in front of him, her eyes like lasers. She grabbed both his wrists with such intensity that it took all his strength to keep the dishes and cutlery from sliding to the floor.
“We have to get out of here,” she murmured urgently.
“Get a grip,” he whispered back. “There's no way out of this place.”
“We have to!” she insisted. “We're Mom and Dad's only chance.”
For a second, he thought he might start bawling right there in the mess. Wouldn't that show Miguel and the others how tough he was. “The appeal –”
She shook her head fervently. “The government will never let them go. The case is closed. We're the only ones who can prove our parents are innocent!”
Classic Meg. She didn't live in the real world. Escape was impossible. But even if they could get away, then what? How would two kids come up with evidence that would clear the Falconers after so many top lawyers had failed?
And then there was the question he dreaded most of all. The unthinkable thought, the one he dared not ever speak aloud, even to his own sister.
What if he and Meg set out to exonerate their parents, only to discover that the Doctors Falconer had been guilty all along?
Copyright © 2005 Gordon Korman, used by permission