Over the course of the next few days I got a crash course in spaceship flying from George himself. I was excited about it for about one hour. Then, when George started teaching me evasive battle maneuvers, I got a little scared. Especially since the weapons of the Kelps could penetrate the glass of the spaceship—or so he said. Their lasers could kill me without damaging the ship. I now understood how Hugh had possibly died.
The spaceship I practiced in was more beat up than Hugh’s—may he rest in peace—but it had a simpler control panel. The chicken scratches were still the only language available in text form, so George helped me memorize button shapes and colors. The pink button closed the doors. The yellow button fired the thrusters. The tornado button—I’d used before—was for establishing a set gravity in the ship after arriving in outer space. The green button that looked like a ray gun really was a ray gun. But George told me I’d never be quick enough to use it.
“It takes a skill that can only be learned over a lifetime. Hugh was particularly good at it—a genius among us—but clearly, even he struggled to stay alive.”
I didn’t agree with George. I was sure I could use the ray gun. “Don’t you guys have video games?” I asked.
“XnBOX and PlayTimeStation, why?” George said.
“Oh.” I couldn’t believe they had XBOX and PlayStation—or something like them. My factual defense for being able to learn to use the ray gun went out the window. “Never mind.”
As for Daisy; during all my flight training she became best friends with Hugh’s sisters. In fact, she blended in so well with the alter-earthlings, I almost forgot she was from our Earth. Hugh’s mom, Betty, also adored Daze and treated her like a daughter. Made me sick. How could anyone adore Daisy? I certainly didn’t. Me, on the other hand, everyone treated like a criminal with one chance to clear his good name. It made me so angry that Daze didn’t even care I was assigned to go home to Earth, at the peril of my life, to get some green, slimy suit. She didn’t care about me at all—it was apparent.
I managed to track Daisy down after my last training lesson. I told her I was about to leave and that I was worried.
“Serves you right for bringing us here.” Daze said.
“What? Me? You’re the one who hit the buttons. Are you nutso?” I said.
Daze smiled. “It was your idea to bury Hugh and explore the spaceship instead of getting help. If you had listened to me and we’d gone to Ginger, none of this would have ever happened. It’s all on you buddy.”
I opened my mouth wide, but could think of no argument. Being speechless made me angry. “Well, you know what…I’m going to go home and never come back. Who cares about the crazy Glugenal suit and some crazy Kelps? Once I leave, you’re never going to see me again!”
Daisy stared at me and stuck out her tongue. She didn’t believe me or else she wasn’t sorry to be left behind. I got madder. I stepped toward her and shoved her back. “With me as an only child Mom will never have to worry about fighting ever again. We’ll be happy without you. I mean it Daze. I’m never coming back for you—never.”
As soon as I said the words, I was sorry, but I wasn’t going to take them back. Daisy deserved it. She had ignored me since falling into Betty’s hands when we’d first arrived on this alter-Earth. We’d never have come at all, we never would have fought or gotten in trouble or sent outside to play if she hadn’t sat in my spot in front of the TV. Everything that had happened up till now was her fault. Then, by hitting all those buttons without thinking she’d ruined my life. Now the fate of two worlds was in my hands and all she could do was stick her tongue out at me… Maybe I really wouldn’t come back.
Daisy deflated at my words. She sucked her tongue back in and knitted her brows. A deep frown enveloped her face. Yep, you guessed it; one lone tear trickled down from her right eye. My heart ached the moment it did. She said nothing. She took a step away from me, turned around, and ran away.
“That’s right, go!” I said. I was crying now, but it didn’t matter. Daze couldn’t see.
A few hours later—by my watch which was still working on Central Standard Time—George tucked me into a brand-new spaceship. It was identical to the one I’d trained in, but this one was high-tech and smelled new.
“Return to your Earth, Kyle. Retrieve the Glugenal suit. Watch for the Kelps. They will have tracked Hugh and the suit by now. They might even be orbiting your Earth. But, remember what you have learned. I’ve taught you all the right evasive maneuvers. We must have the suit.”
“Excuse me George, but can I ask…what is so great about this suit?”
George arched a brow. His orange eyes penetrated mine. He grumbled a few words in Japanese. “Well, Kyle. The Glugenal suit is more than a space suit. It is…alive. Our planet was given the suit as a gift from the Glugens.”
“Who are the Glugens?” I asked.
“The Glugens are a very powerful and advanced society. We accidentally flew into their space quadrant a hundred years ago or so. But they are so much beyond us that at first, they didn’t really even notice us. We flew through a lot, but we were able to learn so little. Finally, ten years ago we sent a few explorers to their world to learn about them. They quickly took notice of us. They treat us like children really. That’s what we are to them. However, when they learned that the Kelps were our enemies, they agreed to give us Glugenal suits.”
“But I still don’t know what the suit does.” I said.
George shrugged. “Neither do we. But, having a suit in our possession will enable us to study it and learn what it could do for us. The Glugens promised the suits would help. However, we can’t have more until we learn to use this first one. The Glugens were very clear about that.”
“How did the Kelps know to follow Hugh? How did they know he was going for the suit?”
“Though Kelp military power is nothing to the Glugens, they are still an annoyance to their advanced society. Somehow, a Kelp spy found out about the Glugens giving us this suit. We have been trying to retrieve it for several years… Hugh was the first attempt in a while.”
“So, the Kelps know what it does, then?” I said. “But why kill Hugh? Couldn’t they simply steal the suit from you? If it was me, and the Glugenal suit was that cool, I would steal it, not ruin the only one I had access to.”
George looked at me funny. “I suppose. I had never thought of that. I don’t know why the Kelps haven’t stolen it. Perhaps they do know…”
I shook my head. George’s whole story was very random and confusing. It wasn’t worth trying to figure out. “I’ll get the suit and bring it back. I want to see what all the fuss is about.”
Daisy wasn’t there when I took off. She wasn’t there to wave or say good-bye even though I might have gone to my death. But, without her distracting me, I navigated the spaceship perfectly.
I left the alter-Earth’s atmosphere and jetted into space. I hit the tornado button before zero gravity took over. This allowed me to maintain my seat and a proper trajectory for the ship. Then I hit the red fire button—a sort of warp drive. On course and in a new ship, the blast was smooth. Soon the stars were blipping by.
After less than five minutes, I studied the notes George gave me. Based on a study of a star map he’d had, we’d determined where we thought the real planet Earth was. I hit the plain square buttons in the proper sequence: green, brown, orange, orange, yellow, green, brown, blue. Mid-warp the spaceship adjusted direction. I leaned back in my space chair and sighed. It wasn’t nearly as fun to fly alone.
In less than ten minutes my spaceship dropped out of warp. I hit the blue cloud button—both the takeoff and the impulse power setting—and soon found myself in orbit around a planet. Only there was a problem. The planet was not my Earth. This planet was purple and red. For some reason, it also felt extremely large. I almost couldn’t see the whole thing.
Where was I?
Before I even had time to worry, a large ship came at me from behind the planet’s horizon. It was a big, box-like hunk of metal with green-fire thrusters. Something deep down inside told me my luck had run out.
A button blinked on my panel. It looked like an ear. It beeped and then said in alter-Earth English, “We are being hailed by the Kelps. Press the green square button to receive the message.”
Hand trembling, I reached out and hit the green square button.
“Greetings Earthling. I am Zhoran of the Kelp planet of Kelpsin. Prepare to surrender.”
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