Elle sat at the controls of her spaceship, the C-130 Adventurer. Her hands rested on the steering wheel which was made of two, rounded silver handles that were not connected to one another. Between the handles, there was a black, rectangular control panel with a colorful display of buttons. She sat in a silver chair that was lined with black cushions. Her body didn’t rest against the back of the chair, but she sat with a perfect, graceful posture. To her right, there was an empty co-pilot chair that had a half-empty bottle of Orange Fizzy juice in its cup holder. She reached over and grabbed the cool, plastic bottle by its white cap and took a few sips. It was cold, sweet and tangy. She burped before putting the bottle back in its place.
Outside the large, spherical window that was open in front of her, they were speeding through a sea of darkness, stars and orange, purple and blue nebulas. Occasionally they passed a cluster of planets with moons and tiny suns, but for the most part, hours would pass without any other planet being in site. She steered with care, keeping her focus toward the distance so that she was prepared to avoid any asteroids that were in the way. A large one appeared a small distance away, so she turned the steering wheel bit by bit, careful to make the transition smooth.
When the asteroid was behind the ship, she straightened the steering wheel out and her body relaxed. She press a large, red button on the control panel that read “Auto Pilot,” stretched out her arms, and yawned. She checked the gray Energy Band that she wore around her wrist, helping to remind her when she needed to eat again. The blue meter showed that her sugar level was at sixty percent, which meant she should probably have a snack soon. She stretched her fingers, watching the way her copper rings glistened against her purple skin. She tucked her blue, wavy hair behind her ears and smoothed out her black vest. Her gold aviator pin was fastened to her collar, and she felt the smooth, cool metal with her fingers while she got lost in her thoughts.
“Feeling nostalgic?” a voice asked. Elle turned to see Novi, her friend and, for the purposes of this trip, her co-pilot. Novi had light brown skin and big, honey-colored eyes. Her ears were big and pointed, like an elf’s, and her light brown hair was put into a bunch of little braids, tied at the ends with pink bows. She wore a floral pink and blue dress with dark brown, laced-up boots. White polish colored her short nails and she smiled a lazy smile. She wiped the sleep from her eyes, smoothed the wrinkles from her dress, and Elle’s blue eyes met hers. “You used to be a fighter pilot for Pugfort. That must have been so exciting. You got to be so brave and strong. I imagine that this, in comparison, is pretty boring for you.”
Memories flooded into Elle’s mind from the days she spent fighting in the Intergalactic Airforce for her and Novi’s home planet. She remembered training in dirt fields and running for miles with her large bag strapped onto her back. The first time she learned to fly a ship, she felt the engine roar to life and she never felt more thrilled. She learned to fire laser guns and trained to rescue captives from enemy ships. There were times when her life was in danger, and for the first time in her life, she had to be a leader and was responsible for a team. People looked up to her and somehow, she started to believe that, in some way, she was important.
All of that ended when she took a shot from a ray gun to save a cadet’s life. She had to get a surgery, and she recovered well, but her health was never quite the same afterward. She had to eat frequently, throughout the day to make sure she kept her energy up, which was a bummer, because she hardly ever felt like eating. What she liked was staying busy and working with her hands. As she looked back on this time in her life, she felt a pang of nostalgia. Still, she smiled because if she could go back in time, she knew she wouldn’t change anything. She would save that cadet’s life again in a heartbeat. She saw the most terrible things when she was still on the force, but she also saw the most amazing things she’d ever seen in her life.
She turned her attention back to Novi and shook her head. “I do miss my old job and I miss my team. But no, this isn’t boring. Geocaching was a great idea. It’s a wonderful way to spend our time off,” she said.
“I’m glad to hear that. Are we getting close?” Elle picked up the gray tracker that rested on a white stool beside her chair. The diagram on the screen showed their position as a blinking red dot that moved bit by bit toward the planet they were trying to reach. The planet was called Decorum, and it was represented on the screen by a blue dot that was larger than the red one.
“Actually, we’re getting close.” They looked out the window as they passed through the stars and in the distance, there was a green, gray and white planet that was orbited by two small moons. As they flew closer, the planet got a little bigger and its colors became rich and more defined.
“It’s beautiful,” Novi breathed. “Hey, did you drink my Orange Fizzy?” she asked, her voiced laced with fake annoyance. She narrowed her eyes (which never really got the desired effect because her eyes were so big), and Elle gave her a sheepish glance.
“Uh, of course not. Why would you say that?”
Novi crossed her arms and giggled. “Because your hair has orange highlights. I noticed it when I walked in, but I only just realized it’s because you drank my Fizzy drink.”
“Sorry, I didn’t think you’d mind.” She felt herself blushing which, thankfully, wouldn’t really be seen because her skin was so dark. Her hair did this thing where it changed color and she had absolutely no control over it. Sometimes it would be because she put a flower in her hair, other times it would because of her mood, and other times it was because of something she ate or drank, like Orange Fizzy. It was one reason why she didn’t always enjoy snack time.
Novi giggled again. “Don’t be silly. I don’t mind sharing with you.” She smoothed out her braids and adjusted her hair ribbons.
A red light on the pilot and co-pilot control panels began to flash. A loud beeping noise began to sound and a light on the ceiling between both seats began to flash as well. Novi covered her ears and Elle furrowed her brow, confused. The alarm meant something must be wrong with the ship, but what? She scanned the control panel until she realized that the fuel tank was almost on “Empty.”
This was bad. She had extra fuel, but she wouldn’t be able to fill the tank until they landed. Decorum was still a bit of a distance away, and if they didn’t land in time, they could be stranded and floating aimlessly until someone came to get them. And who knew how long that would take? She slammed her fist against her dashboard in frustration, trying to come up with the best plan. She could go into hyper speed to make them land more quickly, but it would be a risk. If there were any asteroids in their path, they wouldn’t be able to avoid hitting them. It would be likely that, when they did reach the planet, they would have to do a crash landing. They only had a few minutes until they were out of fuel, which meant she had to decide sooner rather than later.
She furrowed her brows and glared at Novi who was still busy covering her ears. She waved a hand at her to get her attention and Novi lowered one of her hands. “You were supposed to be in charge of the fuel tank. You insisted on being co-pilot and then you decided to go off and take a nap instead of doing your job. It’s your fault that we’re in this mess!” she said. She didn’t realize the sting of her words until she had finished saying them. For a moment, she forgot about the danger they were in and was overcome with the fear that her friend would never speak to her again.
Novi’s lips quivered as if she were about to cry. Then, her expression became calm and her eyes were full of understanding. The ship began to shake and the alarm seemed to become louder. Novi reached out and touched Elle’s arm with a gentle hand. She turned her hand over and looked at her Energy Band which was now down to forty percent. Her energy dropped more quickly due to all of this added stress. Novi shouted over the sound of the alarm.
“You really need to eat something,” she said. Elle nodded, but she couldn’t worry about that now.
“Hey, hey, hey. What’s going on in here?” a voice asked, barely audible over the obnoxious beeping sounds. It was Sabik, a short little guy with orange and yellow striped skin, ears that were bigger than Novi’s and brown eyes. He always wore a sturdy, brown jacket and aviator glasses. He’d insisted on coming along on this trip because he wanted to do something fun. He was probably regretting this decision right about now.
“We’re running out of fuel,” Novi said.
“Running out of fuel, how can we be running out of fuel? There’s tons of extra fuel on this ship. We could have taken a rest stop hours ago. How could you—“
“Less talking. Just listen to me. I’ve got this under control,” Elle said. She met Novi’s eyes and her stomach did a little flip when she realized she looked scared. She turned her attention to the control panel and focused. Outside, they had a clear shot toward the planet. Any asteroids along their path were small and wouldn’t cause any real damage if they hit them. She flipped a few switches, activating the emergency landing gear. She undid the latch and removed the clear, plastic cover that protected the controls that would allow the ship to go as fast as it could possibly go. Gripping the controls in her hand, she hesitated for a moment and turned to face her friends.
“Brace yourselves. Make sure you’re strapped in and holding onto something,” she said. They all put on their seatbelts and Sabik clung to his armrest, cowering. Novi took a breath and nodded once to Elle, who got a tighter grip on the controls. She clicked them forward and the ship zoomed toward Decorum. They felt themselves being pushed into the backs of their seats and all of outer space became a blur.
It took a few moments before Elle realized they had stopped falling. Her arms were tense and shaking and her hands were gripped around the controls that turned on the emergency landing gear. Her eyes were squeezed shut and she took a few calming breaths before she dared to open them. Outside the window, it was so bright that she had to blink several times before her eyes adjusted. They had landed in a field of tall, green grass. There were a handful of trees with luscious, green leaves that were accompanied by large, yellow fruits. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, and small insects with colorful wings were floating around the field.
Somehow, she was able to turn on the emergency landing gear in time, so their crash landing didn’t involve much crashing. By the feel of things, the ship probably didn’t suffer much damage. She looked over at Novi, who was covering her eyes with her hands, and at Sabik, who had his eyes squeezed shut and was still clinging to his armrest. Neither of them seemed to have any injuries. No cuts, no bruises. They were all okay.
“We’re okay now. We’ve landed. You can open your eyes,” she said. Novi lowered her hands with caution. She raised a hand over her eyes again to block the brightness that shone through the window. She blinked several times and attempted to squint, trying to take in their surroundings. When her eyes had focused, she gasped. Leaning forward, she looked out the window and a smile spread across her lips.
Sabik lowered his hands and tried to take a few calming breathes, but it took a moment for him to stop sounding like he was hyperventilating. Elle told him again that he was completely safe, so he relaxed his shoulders and opened his eyes as well. Thanks to his tinted aviator glasses, it didn’t take long for his eyes to adjust to the view outside. He looked out the window and his jaw dropped. He unbuckled his seatbelt, hopped out of his chair and looked out the window as if their frightful experience only moments ago had never happened.
“This place is a lot nicer than my home planet,” he said. He had a medium-length, bushy tail and as he took in the view, it waved back and forth like a feather blowing in the wind. Outside, there were mountains in the distance. This was one of the most mountainous planets in existence. The fact that they landed in this beautiful field instead of crashing on top of a snowy peak was nothing short of dumb luck.
“I’m going to get the extra fuel and fill the tank. After that, we can do what we came here to do,” Elle said. She grabbed a large container of fuel from a compartment on the ship and hauled in outside into the warm sunlight. There was a cool, gentle breeze. The grass went up to her knees and she had to hoist herself onto the side of the white, metallic ship to get a good angle on the door to the fuel tank. She filled the tank just over half-way, which would at least be enough to get them out of here and to the next rest stop. After she was done, she put the container back in its place and she and her friends went out to explore this foreign world.
There were orange and purple birds flitting around the trees and singing the most beautiful tunes. The field was sprinkled with red and yellow flowers that swayed in the breeze. The air was fresh and smelled like flowers, rich soil, and dewy grass.
“We have fields like this on my planet, except most of them are covered in dirt,” Sabik said. He scratched behind his ears and adjusted his glasses. When an insect with colorful, shimmering wings flew by, he jumped up and tried to catch it in his hands, but it slipped through his fingers and flew toward the sky, beyond his reach.
Novi flipped her hair. “We’re not here to catch flyers, Sabik. We’re here to find that cache,” she said. She turned her attention to Elle. “What are our coordinates?”
Elle pulled the tracker from her pocket and checked the coordinates. The red dot that represented their location was now directly over the larger blue dot. She showed the screen to her friends. “Fifty-two degrees North and seventy-eight degrees West. The cache should be located right here in this field.”
Novi placed a hand over her eyes to block the sun and scanned the field. “We’re going to want to watch out for booby traps. Oh! I think I found one,” she said. She parted a section of the tall grass and peered in the ground.
“What? What is it?” Sabik asked. He was standing in a patch of dirt because he was so short that the grass went up to his neck.
“It’s a little red ball with silver spikes. As long as we don’t touch any of them, we should be okay. It’s a level two cache, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.”
“Why are there booby traps, anyway?”
“Intergalactic pirates. They hide all of these amazing treasures, but they like to make it more of a challenge to get to them. Minors aren’t supposed to go looking for them, at least on our planet, but no one really enforces that rule. I’ve been doing it for ages. Anyway, I think we’re ready.”
“Great. Let’s go,” Elle said. She started leading the way through the field. Sabik rung his hands as he took a tentative step forward.
“Here, hop on my back,” Novi said. He sighed with relief and grabbed her arm, climbing up until he was sitting on top of her shoulders, holding onto her ears for support. Novi hiked through the grass and followed Elle until they stood before a large tree. A burrow had been carved into the tree, suggesting that a bird had nested in there. In the dark burrow, something gleamed in the sunlight. A little, silver box rested in the small space.
Elle reached in and grabbed the box with a gentle hand. An image of a pirate’s space ship had been carved into the metal. A golden key had been taped to the side of the box. She removed it and held it out to Novi. “Do you want to do the honors?”
Novi took the key from Elle, whose purple skin looked lighter and glistened in the sunlight. She put the key into the lock and opened the box, which was filled with a variety of trinkets that other people had traded and left behind. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a gold coin to add to the box, and then took out one of the items. It was a smooth, transparent stone that had an orange and purple stone in the center.
“What is it?” Sabik asked.
“Memory stone,” Elle finished. “It lets you revisit a moment from your past, letting you watch yourself the way you might watch yourself in a dream. People use it to, t—“
“To gain wisdom, especially when their trying to make a decision about something in the present moment,” Novi offered. “Something about revisiting the past helps people to know what they need for the future. It gives them perspective.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a little brown sack to store it in. “We’d each get one use. What do you say? Do you both want to keep it?”
“I do. I mean, er, if you guys want to,” Sabik said.
“Yeah, let’s keep it. Maybe we’ll learn something,” Elle said. Novi placed the stone into the sack and tucked it away in her pocket. She placed the silver box back in its place and smoothed out her dress.
“Okay,” she said, “looks like we’re good to go. And I promise I’ll be a better co-pilot, okay Elle?” she asked. She looked over her shoulder, but didn’t see her friend. “Elle?” she called. She looked down and realized that her friend had fainted, her blue hair fanned out over the green grass.
“Ohmyheavens, Elle!” She knelt down and tapped her friend’s face with gentle fingers. Her pulse was slowed but she was still breathing. She checked her Energy Band and realized that it had dropped to two percent. “Crap, crap, crap, I forgot that you needed food.”
“What happens if it goes to zero?” Sabik asked. Novi shook her head and scrunched her brows. She was breathing faster and her hands were shaking.
“I, I don’t know. I think she could go into a c-coma. Oh crap, what do we do? All the food on the ship has to be cooked and we don’t have time for that.”
Sabik looked up and saw the yellow fruits on the trees. “Up there. If you hoist me up, I can reach a few of those.”
“Good idea.” She hoisted him up and he grabbed a few of the round fruits. Novi took one and bit the skin off so she could squeeze some of the juice into Elle’s mouth. “Come on, come on,” she said. As she squeezed more juice from the fruit, yellow streaks began to appear in Elle’s hair. Novi checked the Energy Band and saw that it has risen to fifteen percent. “Great. It’s working.” When the energy band had reached twenty percent, Elle coughed and her eyes opened. “Elle, ohmyheavens, are you okay? Can you hear me?”
She blinked a few times and looked at Novi, her vision coming into focus. “Wha, what happened?”
“STARS ABOVE YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO EAT SOMETHING!!” Novi said. She reached down and hugged her while Sabik still clung to her shoulders.
“Do you have enough energy to get back to the ship? We can make you a proper meal. I can even make you a blue melon tart, which won’t change the color of your hair because it’s, you know, already blue.” He said. Elle nodded and her smile was weak. Novi began to help her up when Sabik cleared his throat and spoke again. “Um, Novi…” He point toward the grass. A single lock of Elle’s hair had touched one of the booby traps. This ball with silver spikes was now glowing red.
Novi looked around. “That’s weird. Nothing’s happening. Maybe the trap is fake.” The ground began to shake and the sound of grinding stones could be heard across the field. A boulder that had rested beneath one of the trees shook until it was animated and came to life. It stood with arms, legs, a face and dark eyes that looked directly at them.
“I-is it dangerous?” Sabik asked.
Novi shook her head. “It only wants to take back the treasure.”
“A-are we going to give it to him?”
“No way, we earned it fair and square.”
The stone monster let out a terrible roar and lifted his arms in the air. He took slow steps toward them, each step making the ground shake.
“Run,” Elle said. Novi helped Elle stand to her feet and they began to run toward the ship with the monster following behind. “Can we fight him off?”
“He’s magical, he can only be fought off with magic,” Novi said.
“Got any potions?”
“Only one, and it would have to be a direct hit on his weakest point.”
“Easy, there’s a nick on his shoulder on the right side. Not his right, your right. I’ll bring Sabik back to the ship, you use the potion. Got it?” Elle asked.
“Got it.” She lifted Sabik off of her shoulders and handed him to Elle, who, in spite of not having that much energy, ran Sabik back to the ship at full speed. A moment later, she returned, just in time to see Novi just a few feet from the monster. She was holding the potion over her head with shaky hands, trying to get a good aim on the monster’s weakest point. The monster raised its large hand tried to smash it down over Novi, but she dodged in time to let his fist smash into the ground. He raised his hand up again and she covered her eyes while holding up the potion, barely gripping it in her shaky fingers. As the monster was about to smash his fist down again, Elle grabbed the potion from Novi’s hand and knocked her out of the way.
The monster fist crashed down to the ground again. Elle climbed onto his hand just before he lifted it back up, and before he could shake her off, she lunged onto his shoulder and broke the potion bottle right over the spot where his shoulder was chipped. The monster roared again and crumbled until he fell apart into a pile of regular, inanimate rocks. She had fallen into the grass near the pile and Novi came running over to her.
“Elle, Elle are you okay?” she asked. She took her friend’s hand and checked her Energy Band. In spite of all the energy she used, it was at eighteen percent. Elle coughed and looked up at her with a smile. “That was reckless and stupid. Why would you risk using your energy up like that for me?”
She coughed again and gave her hand a squeeze. “You think I could live with myself if I didn’t? Come on. Let’s get back to the ship.” Novi helped her up and the two of them walked through the grass toward the ship. “So, that’s what booby traps are like?” she asked, her armed draped around Novi’s shoulders as they walked.
“Yup. Fun aren’t they?”
“I would do that again. But next time, we’re bringing more potions.”
“You’re not mad at me for keeping the stone?”
“No way. Like you said, we earned it,” Elle said. They made their way to the door of the ship and took one last look at the beautiful field. “It’s been fun.”
“We shall see you again, Decorum.” They went inside the ship and were greeted by the smell of food. Sabik was in the small kitchen area and had prepared a pot of stew.
“I made us some supper. We can’t have our pilot passing out on us,” he said. They each ate a cup of stew and Novi made Elle wait until her Energy Band was at seventy percent before she let her return to the pilot seat. After they had all eaten stew and drank juice and had sweet bread, they sat in their seats and prepared for takeoff. “Where are we going?”
Elle put her keys in the ignition and felt the engine roar to life. “I don’t know. Someplace nice, with a beautiful ocean. I think we all deserve to relax.”
“The planet Tellsomna is a beautiful place. It has a lot of peaceful locations, and it’s on the way home,” Novi said.
Elle nodded. “Tellsomna it is. Are you ready, co-pilot?”
“And are you ready, Sabik?”
“I’m ready,” he said. Elle gave Novi’s hand a squeeze and prepared the ship for takeoff. They hovered into the air, flew higher into the sky and beyond the clouds, until they were flying through the stars and the nebulas once again.
#Fiction, short stories