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Stephen Kennedy

photo of Steve reading his story©2012


Ch. 1: Escape
Boots faintly tapping on the textured metal deck plating, three teenagers, two boys and a girl, make their way through the winding passages of the alien spacecraft which has been their home since their abduction from Earth. The restlessness in their eyes and tenseness in their shoulders show they should not be in this part of the ship.

Samantha, fourteen, is nearly seven feet tall, with long, graceful limbs and torso. Her brown hair is tied in a ponytail. The older boy, Tyler, is dark-haired, five feet tall, stocky and heavily muscled; he is thirteen. The other, Jerry, is blonde. He is ten years old, small and slight—the size of a first-semester fifth-grader.

The trio approaches a Menyu’m Tubsab sentry guarding a landing bay, energy rifle on his shoulder, who moves to intercept them.

Tyler steps in front of the guard, making brief eye contact as his fist lances out into the guard’s torso. As the soldier doubles over, Tyler steps behind him and begins to choke him until he collapses.

Jerry, the blond boy, is hacking the door controls. The indicator panel glows green as the guard’s body falls to the floor. The girl, Samantha, passes the soldier’s rifle to Tyler and the three pass through the doorway into a landing bay the size of a soccer field.  

Once in the bay, Jerry finds the control desk and begins typing. The steadiness of his hands hides the fear chewing his stomach.

“Jerry, are the codes working?” asks Samantha.

“Yeah. I’m just worried that we won’t have enough time. Na’aib said we’d only have twenty minutes before the security systems will come back online. If we’re still here when that happens, we’re toast.”

She puts a hand on his shoulder. “You can do this. I know you can.”

He looks up to her, smiling faintly, “Thanks, Sam.”

She nods. “I’m going to hook up the charging cable,” she says, and steps away from him, toward the nearest shuttle. “Tyler?”

“What?” replies Tyler, who has been scanning up and down the corridor for more soldiers.

“You getting the supplies loaded?”

“Oh! Right.” Tyler moves to a storage area and lifts two foot-locker-sized crates from the shelves. His hand is sweaty and one of the cases falls to the floor, breaking open. Silver containers spin and clatter across the floor.

“Slow down, Tyler. We don’t need anyone hearing us,” says Samantha.

Tyler nods, a slight flush coming to his cheeks. He rubs his palms on his pants legs before pulling another crate from the shelves and carrying the two sealed boxes to the ship.

“How much longer, Jerry?” calls Samantha, connecting a thick cable to a port on the underside of the shuttle. “We only have about eighteen more minutes.”

*          *          *          *          *

The shuttle’s hatch seals itself with a hiss as Jerry makes his way to the command seats at the front of the shuttle. A slight shudder ripples through the entire ship. “That’s it—just like Na’aib said, they’ve diverted most of the ship’s energy into slowing us down so we can enter orbit. We only have about ten minutes to launch before the security routines go back into effect.”

Jerry slides into the pilot’s couch, pulling a flat, diamond-shaped pendant from around his neck. His seat, which is upholstered in a shiny plastic-like fabric with a gooey gel center, instantly forms a custom-fit cushion around his body when he inserts his pendant key into a slot in the chair’s armrest.

“Did we get a big enough charge?” asks Samantha.

Jerry taps the screen, reads some data, then replies, “I think so. We’re at just over 90%. That should be enough to keep us going for…” he consults the screen again, “three months—maybe longer if we get lucky.”

Ch. 2: Response
An attention tone sounds in the captain’s cabin of the military spacecraft 103.79-Delta, which is preparing to enter orbit around the planet GIL 19. “Captain, we have detected an unauthorized shuttle launch; it’s 500,000 kilometers away from us, heading back toward the wormhole we just exited. At its current velocity, it will reach the wormhole’s event horizon in…” there is a brief pause as the crewmember entered the calculations, “…seven minutes. What are your orders?”

Muttering a curse as he puts down his workpad, the captain activates the heads-up hologram projector in his cabin and studies the image of a small, boxlike ship vectoring away from the enormous left flank of the 79-Delta, the blue-green-yellow swirl of GIL 19’s atmosphere filling the right-hand side of the projection.

Seven minutes, he thinks, probably not enough time to catch the craft. He rubs his fingertips across the pebbly, grey skin of his forehead. Most likely an idiotic, homesick conscript trying to jump ship. Hardly worth the energy to destroy the craft. Regardless, standard Menyu’m Tubsab procedures for unauthorized flights were clear.

“Tactical, come to bear with phase cannons, full power, auto-burst. Also, deploy two pursuit fighters. Maybe they can catch up with the shuttle at the other end of the wormhole and disable it before it enters another. Standard orders: capture the shuttle if possible and bring it back, otherwise destroy it. Pilots’ discretion. Hold future comm.; I’ll be on the bridge directly.”

On the bridge, the tactical officer watches the computer animate the bright green salvos: five triple-shot groups of particle energy arcing across a million kilometers of space toward a blinking orange dot—the stolen shuttle—on his screen. Just before they reach the dot, it disappears, swallowed up by the intergalactic shortcut known as wormhole. Two blue dots break away from the 79-Delta, vectoring for the same spot in space.

As he steps onto the bridge, the captain barks out, “Report?”

“Sir. The particle cannon missed; the shuttle reached the event horizon; the two fighters are in pursuit at .98 c. If the shuttle pilot hesitates for more than,” he consults his display screen, “five minutes at the other end of the wormhole, the fighters will intercept it.”

“Very good. Details on the ship?”

“Standard intra-system shuttle. Light-speed capable. Three Workers aboard. No cargo, lifesupport systems fully charged. No armament.”

Short-distance shuttle, no cargo, no weapons, three Workers. He thinks. The fighters might catch it, maybe not. In the mean time, he had a ship to insert into orbit, and supplies to begin offloading onto the planet.
“Navigation, begin final calculations for orbit insertion….”

Ch. 3: Homecoming
Two months later…
At the far edges of the solar system, the stolen Menyu’m Tubsab shuttle exits a wormhole and seemingly blinks into existence near the dwarf-planet Pluto.

The ship’s utilitarian appearance gives no hint about the extraordinary journey the three people on board have taken. Made of a flat-grey metal, lacking any obvious markings, even missing the graceful lines of movie spaceships, this craft shows the matter-of-fact spirit of its creators, an alien race concerned with efficiency, not artistry.

Ten-year-old Jerry, sitting at the navigational panel, breathes out as he double-checks the display screen. We’re home. He looks over to Samantha to share the news, but sees her twitching through a dream and decides to wait. If he could he read her dreams, though, maybe he would have awakened her.

Samantha’s dreams are grotesque mashups of her life before the Menyu’m Tubsab and after they abducted her. She does not speak of the dreams to Jerry and Tyler, though she sometimes records them in the recording pendant the Menyu’m Tubsab issued her. Today her dream has taken her to freshman year…

…it is the first day of high school, and a jammed locker has made Samantha late to first-period English I, with Mr. Stapleton—notorious for assigning detention for the smallest infractions.  She opens the classroom door slowly, hoping to slide into a desk unnoticed. Mr. Stapleton is facing the whiteboard, but turns to look at her as she is closing the door. Instead of Mr. Stapleton’s pale, jowly face and thin brown hair, the creature which turns of face her has the flat black eyes, and pebbly grey skin of a Menyu’m Tubsab. He smiles coldly, the whiteboard marker in his hand now a syringe, “We’ve been waiting for you Ms. Taylor…”

Samantha jerks herself awake, her face in the uncomprehending look of a child roused from a deep sleep.

Jerry sees that Samantha is awake and blurts, “We’re almost home, Sam!”

“Where are we?” she asks.

“Near Pluto, like the Menyu’m charts showed. Maybe five hours until we get to Earth.”

“Five hours,” she echoes. Is it possible? Two months of jumping from wormhole to wormhole, and now just five hours until she would be home. Home. A flutter in her stomach as she thinks about sharing what has happened to her.

“Yeah…well, I still have to figure out how long it’ll take us to actually land. But we’re almost home, Sam! I mean, I wasn’t sure I could…that we would…you know, it was….”

Realizing what he’s trying to say, she reaches her long arm across the gap between their command chairs, “I knew you could do it, Jer. Give me five….”

Their palms meet and Jerry continues, “I’m kind of nervous, you know, about going home. I mean, we’re not the same, and what if people…what if my parents…if they…”

“What if they push us away because of what we have become?” Samantha says, saving Jerry from having to voice his fears. “I don’t know, Jer. I want to think it won’t matter what the Menyu’m did to us. But I don’t know.” She is quiet a moment, thinking of her family, and her life before that night in the Santa Cruz mountains when the Menyu’m had altered the course of her life. Changing the topic, she asks, “When should I start bringing Tyler out of stasis?”

“I don’t know,” Jerry replies, tapping on the panel, “I couldn’t find anything in the computer saying how long it takes to come out.”

“Then I better go ahead and start waking him up now. It’s feels weird, you know, him being in stasis for so long. I mean, I feel kind of guilty—like we’ve been talking about him behind his back or something,” Samantha says, releasing herself from the gel cushion and drifting toward the stasis beds in the rear of the shuttle.

“Yeah, me, too,” says Jerry. “It’ll be nice to have him awake again.”

*          *          *          *          *

“I brought you something to eat,” says Samantha, floating up to Jerry’s chair. “All we have left are the brown ones,” she says, handing him a clear tube of food filled with something that looks like peanut butter.

“Thanks,” says Jerry, opening the bottle. “You know, when we get home, the first thing I want to eat is a big bag of chocolate-chip cookies and a gallon of milk,” he says, squeezing some of the paste into his mouth.
“How much longer?” Sam asks.

“Maybe an hour. I ran the calculations in the computer while you were back with Tyler. We have plenty of fuel for reentry, so there’s no problem there. When we get closer I can scan to see if there are any storms or stuff to watch out for,” says Jerry.

“Tyler came out of the stasis about a half-hour ago. He says he feels all right, but it’s taking him a while to get up to normal. If you don’t need any help, I’m going to go back and sit with him.”

“I’m good. I used the computer to do the calculations and figure out a couple different flight plans, so we should be okay.”

*          *          *          *          *

Alarms sound as the shuttle bucks and jerks. The ship is under attack by an Menyu’m ship that had been laying in wait for the stolen shuttle. The Menyu’m Tubsab are a patient and logical race. Once they had determined who had stolen the shuttle, there was little doubt where they would try to head. Hiding on the dark side of the moon, the three-man ship drifted along waiting and watching for its prey.

The attack was brutal and fast. The Menyu’m had maneuvered into position on a course that brought them in behind the shuttle, giving them a perfect shot at the propulsion systems. Three bursts from the particle cannon had disabled the shuttle and sent it tumbling into Earth’s atmosphere.

*          *          *          *          *

FBI agent Mitchell Sivertson’s cellphone chirps from his dresser. He half-stumbles across his bedroom and takes the phone out into the hallway, closing the bedroom door behind him, before flipping the phone open and answering.


“Mitch? Carl Feiner. Sorry for the wake up, but I have something I think you’re going to want to see.”

Mitch takes a moment before responding, “Feiner? Where are you?”

“I’m about 50-60 miles northwest of Flagstaff.”

“Arizona? What’s so special about the desert that you gotta ruin my night?” Sivertson says, moving down the hall, away from the bedroom where his wife is still sleeping.

“Some backcountry campers called in a plane crash on their cells. The report went through channels, and next thing I know, I’m in a helicopter flying to the middle of nowhere with a couple Border Patrol agents and a squad of Air Force Special Ops guys. You know, a standard Operation Noble Eagle response to any air-based threat.”

“Operation Noble what?” asks Sivertson, running a hand through his hair.

“Eagle. Noble Eagle. It’s the name Homeland Security gave the mission of protecting US airspace post-9/11. Anyway, I don’t want to get into it too much over the phone. But this is no plane crash.”

“Okay, it’s not a plane crash, but you think I need to see it. That’s not a lot to go on, here, Carl,” says Sivertson, entering his home office and sitting behind his desk.

“I know. Look, there was a crash, and we found three survivors. Three teenagers, two males and a female. The males were unconscious—we airlifted them to a local hospital. But the other one, the girl, she’s…again, over the phone I don’t want to…look, she’s not…not a normal kid, you know? She was conscious when we got here, and she said her name is Samantha Taylor, from San Francisco.”

Sivertson sits up at the name. “I swear to God, Carl, if you’re kidding around here….”

“No joke, buddy. She says she’s Samantha Taylor, 14 years old, from San Francisco.”

Sivertson looks at the bulletin board above his desk where he has pinned several missing child posters. In the corner is Samantha Taylor’s poster. The picture shows a happy brunette girl with green eyes and a wide smile. Was it possible? Could the girl Carl Feiner found in the desert could be the same girl Mitch Sivertson has been searching for? “Carl, I’m on my way. I need you to hold on to her—don’t let anyone get to her before I can get there, you got it? I have to pack a few things, but I should be there in about 8 hours.”

“I’ll do what I can…hold on a minute, Mitch…look, one of the Border Patrol agents just found what looks like a second wreck site about a half mile away. I have to go check it out. I’ll do what I can to keep the girl locked down. Get here as soon as you can.”