Thursday, June 16, 2011


The challenge this time was to create a sci-fi tale using the following words: Plutonium, galaxy, robot, photon and lasers. It didn’t end there though. The subject, if you will, was supposed to be Teenagers in Space (i.e., ages 13-19). It could be straight sci-fi, a coming of age tale, or a romantic piece. Explore what young people in this age group would do if they got stuck out in space, encountered aliens, etc. How would they handle it? What if they got into trouble? So many possibilities. I decided I would have my group of young people sign up for what I remember from my school days as an occurrence that was always a guaranteed good time: a field trip. Although, this one’s quite a bit different from ones I recall where we stared at Egyptian mummies and ate hot dogs in the park…


“What are you doing, Einstein? Playing Star Wars again?” I couldn’t believe Big B brought a toy with him.

“I’ve told you not to call me that, Brain Boy. It’s Big B.” I knew he didn‘t get it, which is why I enjoyed it so much. “I’m not playing. It’s a robot I builded myself from scratch and it walks and everything. I don’t want these alien guys to think I’m some dummy.”

Now, what would ever give them that impression?

My name is Daniel Young, and I’m 14 years old. I’m a high school senior, and I already have several college scholarships pending. I have an IQ triple that of my companions collectively, and I was one of five selected for this trip. Anyone at our school could apply to NASA for a seat on this craft destined for some sister world outside our galaxy. I understand my being selected, but the others?

Brian, 17, wannabe gangster, who insists we never let the compartment go completely dark. Make of that what you will. CC, 16 and a jock-ess, who has colleges interested in her athletic abilities. Nothing else there of any interest. Really. Sarah, 17, and a ‘Little Susie Homemaker’. She speaks exclusively of recipes and household hints. Bored yet? And lastly, my favorite member of our little posse, Christina. Dressed all in black with hair, lipstick and nail color to match. A Goth and then some. Prophetess of doom. The only one with her finger on the pulse of the real world. Why the five us? Of no consequence. This trip will be the basis for my Master’s Thesis. The others? Well, they can start a scrapbook.

“Since we‘re not needed to drive this thing, I’m going to leave you and Robot-Man to your own devices. I’m going to the mainframe and see what I can hack into. Maybe get some intel on our destination. I’ll let you know if I find anything interesting.”

Like any of them would know ‘interesting’ if it bit them on the backside.

It was hard, even for me, but I managed to access some documents. I couldn’t believe what I found. I tried to convince myself that they had been placed there as a feeble attempt at a joke at my expense, but I knew differently. These were genuine. I printed the one I knew even they would be able to understand.

“I don’t want you to panic, because this might not literally mean what it implies.”

“Look, Brain Boy,” In spite of the fact that my own future was also in jeopardy, I could hardly wait for the schoolyard bully to piss his pants. “Just read it. Let us in on your big dark secret.”

“Fine. Like I said before, this is scheduled to be released to the media two days from now. It reads: ‘The government of the United States is saddened to report that the craft, the US Bridgewater has been lost, along with all its passengers, students Daniel Young, 14; Brian Hardaway, 17; CC Craft, 16; Sarah Simms, 17; and Christina Chase, 15. All systems show the transport had malfunctioned and exploded prior to reaching its destination, the planet known as XLD468-01. There were no survivors. We are asking for a moment of silence around the world to honor these brave young people.’”

“Hey, that’s all of us.” The Big B never disappoints.

“Right, Einstein. Do you understand the implications of what I’ve just read or do I need to explain it--slowly.”

“I’ve told you not to call me that. I told you, it‘s ‘Big B’. Anyway, I get it. This ship blew up and we’re all… What the fuck?”

I knew I could count on Goth girl to revel in our seemingly impending demise.

“Don’t you get it? They’re going to push a button and wipe us out. Simple as that.” Christina sat down with the resolve of an inmate getting comfortable in Old Sparky.

“I don’t think it’s quite as cut and dry as that,” I offered. “There were other documents in that same file that mentioned plutonium, photons, lasers, and other related technology. The way they read, it’s as if they’re requests for that technology. There were also numerous memos that had been removed which I could recover, had I the time. But it would appear the most pressing information we need to obtain right now is what has actually been planned for us, and more importantly, why. Don’t you all agree?”

Sarah was sitting quietly with small tears running down her cheeks. I noticed that CC, as usual, had absolutely no expression whatsoever on her face. I believed Big B, our female Grim Reaper, and myself would have to figure this all out. I was planning to suggest that we try to determine the purpose of the requests I had discovered when the craft abruptly turned and began heading toward our original destination.

“What now?” That jolt seems to shake CC out of her trance, while Sarah continued to silently cry.

“It appears that we are being guided in for a landing,” I ventured a guess. We weren’t moving at a speed which seemed dangerous and all the instruments seemed to be functioning properly, although I had never been allowed to investigate them prior to launch. ‘No need’, I had been told. The computers will take care of you all the way there and back. At this point, I was having serious doubts about that ‘and back’ thing though. We strapped ourselves in and waited. Not a whole lot else we could do.

Sarah was the first to smell the gas. I was surprised I hadn’t noticed it. After we were all secure, it began to fill the compartment, first clouding our vision, then our thought process. As I felt myself slipping away, I began to pray to a God I’d never felt the need to acknowledge before. Funny how that happens…

“Wake up, children. You are all safe and right where you are supposed to be. Nothing to worry about. Wake up, now. It is almost time.”

The voice was deep and strong and I believe the speaker’s goal was to reassure, but I felt a chill just the same. I struggled to open my eyes and found myself inside what appeared to be a cell, complete with bars on all four sides. I had been lying on a cot attached to one wall, and in the other corner, there was a commode with a sink next to it. The door, complete with chains and a padlock, was at the back. I was trying to figure out what chemicals I had inhaled that would generate such a delusion when I looked to my left and right and saw Brian and Christina, respectively, inside duplicate enclosures. I could see CC and Sarah further down the line inside their own cages.

“What is all this,” I asked The Voice. “Where are we?”

“You’re on XLD468-01,” it answered. “Transfer complete. You humans are all alike with your ‘need to know’ nonsense. The deal’s been made, but if you must know, I’ll explain. We trade technological advances for exhibits capable of being bred. Our people do so enjoy observing other life forms in their natural habitat, and we market the offspring as pets. The last batch, well, while they were most amusing, didn’t breed well, which is why this time, we requested a younger group. Like yourselves.

Now, tidy up and get ready, because this facility is getting ready to open for the day. Your noon meal will be forthcoming, although our guests may from time to time, toss you a treat. Hurry because the curtains at the front of your cages will be opening in just a few minutes. And remember, smile…”


  1. Great story! It had an "Outer Limits" feel complete with that ah crap moment when things go bad for the characters.

  2. A fate worse than than death? except for the breeding bit :-) great work - I enjoyed that

  3. Whoa! I did not see that coming! What a deliciously disturbing ending to this tale. Of course you know I will want to check in with the field trip group in another five years to see how they are faring...

  4. OMG!!! I just had the same thought as Beach... this "Outer Limits" vibe...

    "I began to pray to a God I’d never felt the need to acknowledge before." I got a shiver...

    Smashing read!! I love how you build the suspense... lead us down one path... and then... the twist... the "turn" in to the darkness! Traded as pet breeding stock for technology!! OMG!! Certainly did not see that coming!

    As I read more and more... I had a thought that maybe the trip would turn out to be some sort of psychological test for the young students.. but, you did say you like "dark"... :)

    Excellent story... as always! You make my Fridays something to really look forward to, Joyce!

  5. Joyce, your story was gripping. I did not expect the ending, it was perfect. I might be starting flash fiction friday, and was just reading some of the stories. I loved this.

  6. ", do-de-do-do...."
    A real 'Twilight Zone'-moment here, Joyce!

    Lovely twist at the end - I thought Daniel was going to wake up in his bed in a mental hospital and put it down to psychotic drugs....

    Well, done - another very fine offering :-)

  7. Great stuff again Joyce and the cast of characters was absolutely marvelous. Loved the ending too and can't wait to see what you put up for this week!

  8. Kurt Vonnegut had a title that would have been perfect for this one, Joyce. It was: "Welcome To The Monkey House." Nicely told tale with a great twist.