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Read "Moons Away from Mars," a Novel Excerpt Contest Runner-Up!

In February, we challenged you to submit a 400-word excerpt from your NaNoWriMo novels. From over 600 fantastic entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and four Runners-Up. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did! (For more excerpts, check out this forum thread.)

"Moons Away from Mars" by Lena M. N.

They are so close to landing, so close to success, that every tiny beep or flash of light on the dashboard sets Ariel’s heart racing. Each time, she leans forward, pressing her hands against the smooth metal and checks to make sure it’s not an alarm. It never is. The dashboard fills up the room, a base of pale grey metal, with small buttons and screens and various lights set into the metal in neat clusters and rows. When she first saw it, it almost made Ariel back out of the mission.

There are two seats, side by side, and Ariel is glad that Henry, with his broad shoulders and kind presence, has come to fill the chair to her right. He carefully checks each light as it flashes, reads incoming data from small screens, and generally keeps the ship running.

Ariel leans back in her chair. The conversation she overheard between the two scientists back on Mars is playing on repeat in her head, like an orbiting moon, turning around and around. She clenches her fists and presses them to her forehead, as if she could manually stop herself from thinking about it. She pushes her chair around to face Henry. “What do you think about this mission?”

“What?” Henry blinks at her, running a hand through his dark, curly hair. Something about his smile, as tired and strained as it is, makes him look like he’s still a teenager.

“I mean, the new speed technology. Are we just a test drive? Or do they actually want to investigate life on Europa?”

Henry titles his head and studies her. Turning back to the dashboard, he touches the small cluster of buttons that activate the speed technology in question. “I think… I think they do want to know about life on Europa. Of course they do. But, yes. In some ways, this journey is a longer, higher stakes test drive.”

Ariel nods, not at all feeling better.

“But don’t think about it like that.” He chuckles, smiling at her.

Ariel starts to shoot him a grateful smile in return when something catches her eye just outside.

Europa is Jupiter’s second moon, a barren sheet of ice, untouched by humans. This is the first ever mission to touch down on it, and they haven’t even fully landed yet...

So then why is there a clearly manmade building on the ice below?

author photo

Lena M. N. is a sixth grader who loves writing and reading. She has been writing stories for as long as she can remember, but most of them are permanently stuck at the stage of a half-finished google document. She loves reading plot twists, but has yet to write one. When Lena is not writing or reading (which is a very rare event), she likes to work her way through math problems and play with her dog.

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