They must have been walking for a good two hours. The lights of the town are far behind them. The houses disappeared long ago. Now they are walking through the forest and night is falling. Tom is ... [+]
The Sky Riders
Sami was awoken by the buzzing of his third alarm. Was it 8.30 already? He would be late for school! He swung down from his hammock and into his wheelchair. Its shock absorbers cushioned the impact, and the engine buzzed as it turned on.
Sami loved his wheelchair – it had a powerful motor and chunky tires that could drive on almost anything. It was also light enough to lift with one hand!
Sami grabbed his school bag and was rolling outside when he heard his nan call out, "Have a good day at school, babi!" She was still curled up in her hammock.
Outside the door, he could see all of Novagaia Island spread out below him. His living-pod was on top of the highest hill.
Novagaia Island had been settled by people who wanted to build an eco-friendly community.
Most of it was covered by a lush jungle full of plants that had been brought from all over the world. Several endangered animal species also lived there!
All power for the island was generated by an offshore wind farm. Sami could see the graceful blades of the wind turbines spinning in the distance. Nobody burned fossil fuels!
Everything the Novagaians used was recycled – and they were proud that their society was 100% plastic-free! The cosy eco-pods they lived in were made of salvaged materials.
Insulation kept them warm all year round, and they used almost no energy! Some pods were on the rocky island itself – but most were in the floating village just off the coast.
Sami's school was in the village – and he had a really fun way to get there!
He raised the pulley-hook on his wheelchair and clamped it onto the thick metal cable that ran all the way down to the village. With a little shove, his wheelchair went sliding down the cable at an amazing speed! He loved the feel of the clean air on his face...
In only a few heartbeats, he was at the village. At the very last moment, he slammed on the brakes and his ride down the cable slowed. As he came to a stop, he saw his friend Ulanta grinning up at him.
"Here, let me help you down!"
When Sami unhooked the pulley, she lowered him to the ground near the school pod.
"I don't know how you can do that!" said Ulanta, shaking her head.
Sami knew that his friend was scared of heights. He didn't mind, though – as far as he was concerned, she was the coolest girl in school, and the cleverest, too! She loved collecting old things that had washed up on the beach and recycling them into something new. Ulanta made bracelets and rings out of the things she found – and even wove them into her hair!
"Can you come to our place for dinner tonight, Sami?" she asked him. "My dad will be back from the Wind Farm, and he'll be making his special curry!"
Sami couldn't agree fast enough. Mr Akelo's curry was famous!
"You are so lucky to have your father here. I haven't heard from my mum for ages..." Sami said sadly.
Ulanta gave him a little hug. Sami's mum worked on a submarine that was exploring the ruins of old cities that were now far beneath the ocean. She studied how humans had lived before the Big Collapse and the floods that followed.
They heard a splash and a chattering sound. A pointy pink head with shiny black eyes surfaced in the water next to the school pod.
Sami recognised Opo right away – the dolphin lived in the lagoon!
Ulanta bent down and made some squeaking sounds.
She had been taking dolphin-language classes at school and loved to show off!
Opo let out some squeaks and squeals, and Ulanta went pale.
"He says a big storm is going to hit the Wind Farm!"
She pulled out her patched-up mobile phone and quickly sent a text. Sami stared out to sea. There were heavy black storm clouds gathering there – and flashes of lightning were hitting the wind turbines!
Ulanta turned to Sami, and her voice trembled. "I got a text from Dad. He's still out there, trying to fix a problem with the control system!"
Sami felt a chill go down his spine.
"Can he use the cable car to get back to the island?"
Ulanta shook her head. "No. The cable car has already left with all the other workers! There's no way he can get back home now!"
Sami made a quick decision. He knew there was a way to help his friend's father – but it was risky
"I think I know how to get to him!" he told her. "Let's go save your dad."
Ulanta nodded and followed Sami as he wheeled his way towards the village's cable car station.
When they got to the station, no services were running. Sami looked at the steel cable that ran out to the Wind Farm and then at Ulanta.
"I know you're scared of heights, but..." He put up the pulley-hook on his wheelchair and clamped it onto the cable above him.
He then latched a safety line to the cable. "Trust me, we can do this."
Her face pale, Ulanta hooked herself onto the wheelchair and climbed on the back. Sami turned on the motor, and before long they were whirring along the cable. Ahead, they could see the Wind Farm against the dark clouds. Stormy gusts began to buffet them, and Ulanta closed her eyes tightly.
After a long and terrifying ride, they finally touched down at the Wind Farm control centre. Sami quickly spotted Mr Akelo – he was trying to fix one of the computer systems. He was shocked to see them!
"What are you kids doing here?" he said loudly, doing his best to be heard above the sound of the wind. Sami and Ulanta saw that the blades of the wind turbines had not folded up. They looked as if they were about to snap in the gale!"
We've come to get you! What's wrong with the control system?" Ulanta shouted in reply."
A lightning strike damaged the motherboard! We need a new capacitor to fix it, but I don't have one!"
Ulanta grinned. "I have just the thing!"
Reaching into her hair, she untangled a tiny electronic part she had found, and carefully plugged it into the system's motherboard. Sami and her dad watched in amazement as the red lights on the control system all turned green.
"You did it!"
Mr Akelo typed some commands into the system. The blades of the wind turbines began to fold up safely.
"Now what do we do?" he said. "We don't have a cable car!"
His daughter smiled at him. "Sami has a really fun way to get back – you'll love it!"
At the cable car platform, Sami hooked his wheelchair onto the cable and revved up its electric motor.
"Ready?" he yelled above the sound of the storm that roared around them. Ulanta and Mr Akelo strapped themselves onto the wheelchair and held on tight.
With a yell, they kicked off and went speeding along the wire. Far below, they could see the churning sea – and in front of them was Novagaia Island and safety!
Mr Akelo let out a whoop of excitement. "This is amazing, kids! You are real sky riders! Now, who wants curry when we get home?"
Illustrations by Michel Verdu