October 2019 Storytime Blog Hop

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Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

My story below, Loney Lucy, recently won a contest and was selected to be included in the special Halloween edition of the podcast, Alone in a Room with Invisible People.
To listen to that episode, follow the link above.




Lonely Lucy

Lucy jumped as thunder shook the window of the fifteenth floor apartment. She hated storms, but she hated the deathly feel of her apartment even more. So she sat in her rocker next to the window and endured the storm that had stolen the usual midday sun; the sun that she considered her best friend.

Her roommates were nice enough, but Zoe worked a lot. Bailey, or Nurse Bailey as Zoe called her since Lucy had broken her leg, was not as helpful as Zoe thought she was. Neither of them understood Lucy’s fear.

For each hour Lucy stared out the window—begging the sunshine to reappear—the sky drew darker. The gusting wind slapped rain against the window, startling Lucy from her thoughts.

Lightning flashed and the apartment went dark, along with every light within view of the apartment window. Bailey left the room to sleep, apparently taking comfort from the dark apartment and droning rain.

The lightning frightened Lucy.

When it ceased she was horrified. Without lightning to illuminate the sky and the apartment, Lucy was unnerved, petrified.

The storm raged on. Each moment in complete darkness was utter torture. She wanted to leap out the window. She wanted her life over. But she couldn’t move.

“Boo!”

Lucy sprang from her seat and tumbled to the floor. She propped herself up, unable to stand with the broken leg. Her eyes darted in a desperate attempt to spot the culprit. Suddenly from behind her it came again.

“Boo!”

She rolled over and took a swipe, even though she knew it was useless. The ghost just floated in the air and laughed as Lucy’s swing went right through.

Lucy stared at her unwelcome third roommate, waiting for its next attack. 

Bailey must have heard the commotion. She came running into the room. Lucy desperately wanted Bailey’s presence to bring her comfort. She wanted Bailey to understand her fear; to see the phantom that haunted her this time each year.

Lucy listened to the ghost laugh hysterically as Bailey carefully scanned the room. She looked at Lucy and shook her head as she walked away. Bailey couldn’t see or hear the things Lucy could.

Lucy crawled under a blanket on the floor and endured the haunting sounds. The ghost tormented her all afternoon, just as it had done every other Halloween.

Finally Lucy heard a noise at the front door; Zoe, returning home from work! Without the sunshine to keep the ghost at bay, desperation overtook hopelessness and Lucy determined to explain everything to Zoe—make her understand this time.

She hobbled to the living room. The door opened and Zoe appeared. Water dripped off her as she set down the umbrella. She closed the door and bent down, beaming at the sight of Bailey and Zoe. Before Bailey could lick Zoe’s face, Lucy screamed, “Meow!”

Please check out these other stories by some of my author friends.

  1. The Traveler by Barbara Lund
  2. Evening by Karen Lynn
  3. Man Of Your Dreams by Gina Fabio
  4. The Undertaker’s Daughter by J. Q. Rose
  5. The Road by Elizabeth McCleary
  6. Storytime Blog Hop by C. T. Bridges
  7. Storytime Blog Hop by Warp World Books
  8. Family Time by Bonnie Burns
  9. The Exception by Vanessa Wells
  10. Number 99 by Juneta Key
  11. Edda’s Second Chance by Katharina Gerlach
  12. Very Thin Line by Rebecca Anne Dillon
  13. Henry Moves House by Nic Steven
  14. For The Ghost The Bell Tolls by James Husum
  15. Never Alone by Melanie Drake
  16. The Neighbor by Meghan Collins
  17. Storytime Blog Hop by Raven O’Fiernan

Posted in Blog Hop, Stories | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

Overcomer

My preference is to wait until a movie has been out for a few weeks before going to see it in the theater. I’d rather not fight a crowd or risk getting stuck with a front row seat. Actually, I would stand in the back or to the side before I’d sit in the front row. Sitting that close to a big screen makes me nauseous.

That being said, I do find myself at movies on opening weekend in two instances—when my kids want to see something opening weekend or when I have friends that want to go opening weekend and it’s a movie I want to support. I do understand the importance of early box office sales to the longevity and success of a movie.

That’s how I found myself at a sold out 7:10 showing of Overcomer at the Chisholm Trail 8 in Newton last Friday night.

I met my friend and local DJ, Rockin’ Ron Corino at the theater at 6:30. He had already purchased my ticket, so a shout out to an awesome guy!

He had arranged with the manager to have a drawing before the movie. Ron handed out tickets in the lobby and then in the theater, then about ten minutes before the movie started he drew numbers and gave away a couple of CDs, four DVDs, and two gift cards for the winner to give to someone to come see Overcomer. I got to be his runner and deliver the prizes to people in their seats.

Since becoming an author I’ve been studying the art of storytelling. I can’t watching a movie or show or read a book without noticing elements of how the story was put together. That being said, I’ll provide brief thoughts on the movie from two perspectives—the inspirational and the structural. And I promise, no spoilers.

From a spiritual/inspiration/motivational perspective, Overcomer was a home run. That shouldn’t come as a surprise as it was written and produced by the Kendrick Brothers, the same pair that made Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and War Room.

Take plenty of Kleenex. It’s an awesome, emotional ride with strong themes of restored relationships, forgiveness, and of course, overcoming significant obstacles.

From a storytelling perspective, I had a couple of disappointments. One is typical—there were some small elements that were a bit far-fetched. Now, I tend to not hold that against a movie unless they’re glaringly obvious because all movies have moments they ask you to suspend reality and accept their truth.

In this case I’m sure it was done to keep the length of the movie reasonable, which is probably also the reason for my second complaint. I expected cross country to be more of a central part of the movie. Yes, the sophomore girl running cross country was central to the theme of the story, but they skipped much of her progression during the middle section of the movie. I needed to see more of the development of that particular plot.

That being said, the last 20-30 minutes of the movie was so well done and powerful that it made up for any shortcuts it took to get there. There were two brilliant twists I did not see coming that had me lying awake in bed that night thinking about them.

So go see Overcomer. Who couldn’t use a little inspiration in today’s world?

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July 2019 Storytime Blog Hop

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Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

Something about Mary

“My name is G.R.”

The beautiful young woman ignored my introduction and continued down the empty sidewalk.

“Mary, I said my name is G.R.”

She quickened her pace but I had no trouble keeping up.

Twenty-two, physically fit, wavy dark hair, and in the middle of a master’s program in biological research. And stubborn.

“Mary Samantha Yoder.”

She spun, zapped me with a taser, and ran. The pretty ones always run.

I followed at a distance and remained out of her sight. She was obviously going home and it would be easier to wait until she quit running.

She effortlessly darted up the three flights of stairs to her apartment and slammed the door.

I followed.

I stood alone in her living room for only a moment before Mary sprinted into the room, screamed, and swung an aluminum bat that connected with my side.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that.”

The veins distended in her neck; her forehead, arms, and legs dripped with sweat.

She swung again and I caught the bat with my hand. Mary gaped, let go of the bat, and ran to her bedroom.

Enough with the door slamming.

“Please hurry! He’s in my room now!” she screamed into her phone when I entered her room.

“Hello? Hello?”

She threw her phone over the bed and it crashed against the wall where my head had been when she let it go.

She shook her head and backed up to the wall. “Please! Don’t!”

They always assume I’m the bad guy. It hurt.

“If you calm down I can explain my presence.”

I hated the look of fear that washed over Mary’s flawless face. The last thing I wanted was to cause her anguish. I simply wanted to know her before…while there was still time.

I shouldn’t have exposed myself to her, but I couldn’t help myself. I loved her.

“What are you doing here?” she finally managed.

“I wanted to approach you weeks ago, but I’m not allowed to interfere,” I explained.

“How do you know me? Have we met?”

“No, we haven’t met, but I’ve been watching you for weeks.”

“What?” she slunk to the floor, shaking.

“It isn’t what you think. Watching people is part of my job.”

Well, that didn’t help.

She sobbed, and when I tried to console her she pulled away.

The doorbell rang, followed by loud pounding. Mary tried to scream but instead coughed and clutched her chest.

“They can’t help you,” I said, but moved to her side where she had a direct path to the door.

She didn’t move, I’m sure from a lack of strength. She only had a few minutes left.

“What, what do you want with me?” she managed between breaths.

“I’m just doing my job.”

“You’re here to kill me?”

“No, I’m not allowed to interfere.”

“What do you mean?”

“G.R. stands for Grim Reaper.”

She gasped.

“Actually I’m grim reaper in training. You’re about to experience a pulmonary embolism.”

“A blood clot in my lungs?”

“Any minute now,” I said grimly.

“You did this to me?”

“No. My job isn’t to cause death; just to collect your soul.”

Her red eyes dropped another tear. “You mean…”

“I’m afraid so.”

“Shouldn’t you be happy?”

Sirens roared outside as the doorbell beeped again.

“I’m not very good at my job.”

She stood but fell against the window sill for balance. “What does that mean?”

“You better lie down.”

She nodded and I helped her to the bed.

She lay, staring at me. She was a curious individual and I’m sure trying to decide whether to believe me.

“I like people. I get attached. I didn’t need to follow you before—today, but I read your bio and I had to know you. I love you.”

The incessant doorbell began, followed by pounding.

She stared at me for the longest time. I didn’t know how to read her quietness but it made me uncomfortable.

“If you love me, can’t you stop it?”

“Like I said, I’m not allowed to interfere.”

She violently coughed again and blood splattered from her mouth. I grabbed two towels from her bathroom—one to clean up blood and the other to wipe the sweat from her face.

She glowed like an angel. That’s where…that’s who…I couldn’t bare the thought. I wanted to reach inside and remove the clot and save her; or squeeze her heart to stop the suffering. But I wasn’t allowed to interfere.

Why her?

Finally, a crash, shouting, and footsteps.

Mary’s eyes shot wide for a brief moment before they shut and she went limp.

The door burst open and two police officers stormed in. One began CPR while the second radioed for an ambulance.

***

I looked down on Mary, lying in white. After all she had been through she looked content, peaceful, beautiful.

Her surgeon scribbled in her chart when the two police officers, in plain clothing, tapped on the open door and entered.

They introduced themselves and asked about Mary.

“That was a close one, but she should pull through.” The surgeon shook his head. “A few moments later…you two saved her life.”

Hours later in the dark hospital room Mary opened her eyes and looked up at me. She coughed and winced.

“Are you here for me?”

“Yes.”

Her face fell.

“I-I mean no,” I quickly stuttered. “I’m just visiting.”

I smiled.

She reached out so I took her hand.

“I’m not dead?”

“The doctor said you would be fine.”

“But…”

She closed her eyes and I thought she had faded back to sleep. When I stood she squeezed my hand. “You saved my life. If you hadn’t chased me I wouldn’t have called the police and no one would have been there when I…”

I shrugged.

“I thought you aren’t allowed to interfere?”

“I may have arrived a little too early,” I admitted. “But like I said, I’m not very good at my job.”

Please check out these other stories by some of my author friends.

  1. Grumpy Old Harpies, by Juneta Key
  2. The Goddess of Wine, by Vanessa Wells
  3. A Melody in A Grotto, by S S Prince
  4. Say Hello to Chris Bridges, Supporting Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop
  5. Tears and Toil, by Barbara Lund
  6. Coming Soon:, by Karen Lynn
  7. Home Repairs, by Jason Gallagher
  8. The Robot Accomplice, by Janna Willard
  9. I – The Magician, by Raven O’Fiernan
  10. Evening Update, by Elizabeth McCleary
  11. Allies, by Eli Winfield
  12. The Salem Witch Trials and What We Can Learn From Them by Amaliz Tenner, Class 4c, by Katharina Gerlach
  13. The Fairest, by Nic Steven

Posted in Blog Hop, Stories | Tagged , , , | 26 Comments

The Drive to Roswell

My first post will be a relatively short one because, well, all I did was drive. I drove 596 miles in less than 9 1/2 hours. I forgot to look at what time I arrived exactly. I stopped four times, not more than five minutes each.

The big highlight of the trip was when my car turned over 200,000 miles in the panhandle of Texas. My last Camry went for 315,000 before conking out, so I hope to have a lot of years left in my 2004 model.

I had to work for a couple of hours this morning, then pack before I left.

When I arrived in Roswell I stopped at my sister’s house and visited with her and her family. She gave me a tour of their house (they moved in last December), and I brought my Dad and stepmom’s dog to their house.

They are in Lubbock because my stepmom had a stint put in her heart. Nothing serious, and they should be back tomorrow afternoon. So for tonight I am house sitting and dog sitting, but mostly I will be sleeping.

Good night.

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UFO Festival 2019

In two days I’ll be attending the 72nd annual UFO Festival on July 5-7.

This is a great event with a lot of, well, um, unique individuals.
Now before you laugh, consider that in 2018 the event drew in over 20,000 visitors from 43 states and 7 different countries. And I was the only author selling books.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my work, I have a science fiction book series where the main character is kidnapped by an alien in Roswell. In the books I also explain the truth behind the controversial 1947 crash just outside of Roswell.

Yes, I write fiction, but my theory is as plausible as any out there. Check out Vetrix and Earth, the first two books of the series, and see what you think.

As you can imagine, my best sales event ever was last year’s UFO Festival. This year I have a third book in the series published—Zentron—and new book covers for all three books. I hope for a profitable trip.
And I have a legitimate chance to break even or make a profit. The only two expenses I’ll have are the vendor fee and gas because I have family in Roswell.

My sister and brother and their families live in Roswell, but I’ll stay with my dad and stepmom. Last year my stepmom (one of the best cooks on the planet) packed meals so I didn’t have to eat out at the festival. I also packed meals for the drives to save time and money. I can make the drive in less than nine hours.

I will try to take many pictures and write a blog each day about my experience. You can follow them on my Facebook page—Bill Bush Author—and on my website at billbushauthor.com. I have a twitter account and will try to update it, but I’m not very faithful to it.

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April, 2019 Storytime Blog Hop

Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

I fudged a little this time around. The following in an excerpt from the first chapter of Vetrix, the first book of my middle grade science fiction series. Sorry 🙂 I promise a complete flash fiction story next time around.

Many of you are familiar with Flipper and Allison and Josh from reading some of their flash fiction stories. Well, this is how

it all started…

Flipper was a normal twelve-year-old kid, or so he thought. Little did he know that a war several million light years away between the Gudes and the Snaders was about to change his destiny. Then again, the Gudes and Snaders didn’t realize Flipper was about to change theirs either.

***

Allison’s dreams that night were intense, and she didn’t feel like she was dreaming. She felt like she had gone back in time — was reliving the previous day — but there was something quite different about this repeated experience, like a long déjà vu.

She was back in Social Studies class and Josh was giving his presentation on the Roswell Incident. Everything looked the same as it had that morning, but this time she was overwhelmed by the same strange sensation she had felt when walking home. She felt like she was in the presence of someone important; kind of like when she met the mayor at a dinner she went to with her parents. Except this felt like she was in the presence of someone much more important than a mayor.

Allison turned and looked behind her. In what had been an empty seat in the back row that morning sat someone she had never seen before. He was older than the students and had a slightly amused expression. His hair was rumpled and his skin was… She blinked, hoping her eyes would clear. His skin was… Allison gaped at him until he noticed her stare and looked her way. She jerked her head back to Josh, droning on about the Roswell Incident.

She felt the presence ease, so she looked back. The man was gone, but she couldn’t get his image out of her mind.

His skin had been purple. Brightly, unapologetically purple.

Instantly, she was with Flipper and Josh, walking home from school. She froze sensing the same overwhelming presence as earlier. But this time, when she looked across the street at the lot, she saw the purple man from the classroom standing, watching them.

This time, she locked eyes with him for several moments. The purple man tilted his head, looking at her, puzzled. The look of confusion on his face mirrored what Allison felt. She looked at Flipper and saw her hand clamped on his arm. She looked back across the street but the man was gone.

Allison tossed and turned as her dream intensified.

She began having flashbacks to their evening of trick-or-treating. Everywhere they went, the purple man was there, watching, following. The sense of his presence intensified with each sighting. Finally, she couldn’t take it any longer and started running towards him. She didn’t know who he was or what he wanted, but she couldn’t stand the feeling any longer. She was scared and angry. She screamed, “Just leave me alone!”

Allison startled awake and sat straight up, sweating, breathing heavily. She was awake, but the intense presence she had felt in her dream was still with her. In fact, it was even stronger. She jumped to her feet and turned around. The purple man was standing in the room with them, holding Flipper in his arms. Flipper was still asleep.

“What are you doing?” Allison demanded.

“We are trying to protect you. Blake… Flipper… has been chosen to save us all.”

And with those words the man and Flipper vanished.

***

Thank you for reading! Now on to the next story…

Zombies by Barbara Lund
Before The Dreams by Katharina Gerlach
To Wake A God by Juneta Key
The Sprite In The Well by Angela Wooldridge
Something Different by Karen Lynn
0 – The Fool by Raven O’Fiernan
Big Enough by Elizabeth McCleary
Grumpy Old Demeter by Vanessa Wells
Say Please By J. Q. Rose
Provoking the Muse by Moira K. Brennan

Posted in Blog Hop, Flipper | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

Mourning A Loss

It’s been a tough week.

On March 19 my uncle Jack passed away. He was 71.

Jack and my Aunt Rhonda had been married a long time, but I didn’t really know him until my kids and I stayed with them during our vacation in Colorado Springs in 2015.
They had invited us to visit for years, but my mom had planned to take me and my kids to Colorado the summer she passed away. It took me six years to confront the pain of going to that beautiful state without her.

They were wonderful hosts. I parked my car in their garage when we arrived and I don’t think I took it out again until we left. They slept on the living room floor and gave Sydney, Blake, and I the three bedrooms.

Rhonda took most of the week off so she and Jack could spend it with us. Even when she had to go into work, Jack drove the kids and me around.

During our visit he was hospitable, selfless, attentive, and treated us like he had known us his whole life. I believe I gained an uncle and a friend that week.

Jack and Rhonda helped me heal from six years of pain. Since that first trip I’ve been to Colorado Springs several times and I’ll never go to Colorado without thinking about Mom and Jack and Rhonda.

I hope Jack tells Mom about our trips to Colorado. I think she would enjoy hearing about them.

I felt a connection to Jack that I have rarely experienced. I admired him. I enjoyed him. I liked getting to know him and I loved having discussions because he was ruled by reason. Jack was a deep thinker and I valued his opinions (even when I disagreed) because he had carefully thought them through.

He received a PhD in Sociology from the University of Missouri in 1994. He had many published writings and had asked me to read his current book project before he submitted it. I felt both honored and intimidated at the invitation.

We had running in common, though he completed and succeeded at a much higher level than I ever will. He attended Fort Hays State University and won a national championship in cross country in the 1950s.

I was numb all week until I spent most of my Sunday writing my memories of him for his funeral. That forced me to face reality, accept my grief, and begin the mourning process.

I’m hurting. I struggle to focus, to write, to care, to feel. I’ll always miss him, but like the others in my life that have preceded him in death, the pain will ease and the hurt will heal.

At first I thought I would make it to the funeral. Then it turned out that I couldn’t. I’ll be at his house in May, and I hope I can get the closure then that I missed from not attending his funeral.

I realize that few reading this knew my Uncle Jack. But we all understand the pain of losing loved family members.

Thank you for allowing me to process. I don’t think I could have written about anything else this week. This is the only place my emotional energy will go.

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Zentron – Chapter 1

One day a long, long time ago, a species fought for survival. Not long before that day their survival had been assumed to be infinite—they were the strongest and cleverest, had superior technology, and controlled the universal traffic and economy.

The chilling space-bullies were a physically unique and intimidating species. The average adult stood over twelve-foot tall, used all eight of their legs to walk, and any of the eight could double as an arm. Their solid, smooth, and scaly upper bodies culminated with the head of a snake—sharp, pointed teeth on bottom, four fangs on top, a small slit for a nostril, and bulging, beady eyes with no eyelids. They were hypnotizing in every sense of the word.

But just as seasons change, so did their place in the hierarchy of races. Their overbearing methods developed many enemies who rose up to overthrow their high-handed oppression. 

Because of this revolution, the towering creatures with eight legs that ruled the universe are now no more than monsters that fill our horror stories and haunt our dreams. But before their overthrow, they had one last mission, designed and fulfilled with the purpose of providing an opportunity for a future return to dominance.

***

“Are you sure we can trust him?” Zryolk’s fourteen-foot ten-inch frame was incongruent with the doubt in his voice. “If he doesn’t come through for us we won’t survive the day, let alone complete our mission.”

Captain Criswal didn’t respond. Instead, the captain’s mind seemed to be as far away as his gaze at the monstrous planet that lay in front of them. Zentron was the largest planet among the known universes, although very few were even aware of its existence. The inhabitants of Zentron had gone to great lengths to keep their existence unknown.

Zryolk was about to repeat his question when the captain said, “If he doesn’t, our last act as a species will be to obliterate their planet.”

The opportunity to destroy another species sounded exhilarating; doing so at the expense of his own race didn’t.

“Captain?”

Pharghtang’s previously unnoticed presence and squeaky voice seemed to bring the captain’s focus back into the flight deck of his spaceship.

“Yes, Minion?” The captain used the term degradingly, but Pharghtang always took being called the captain’s minion as a source of pride. Zryolk assumed Pharghtang and his dumb, scrawny, nine-and-a-half-foot-tall body was so desperate for a connection with others that he created one in his own mind by accepting the putdown as a sort of pet name. 

It explained why Pharghtang seemed to enjoy being picked on by the soldiers. Pharghtang wasn’t a soldier, but a gopher—primarily for the captain, but in practicality for anyone who felt like abusing him at any given moment.

As the primary pilot for Captain Criswal, Zryolk had plenty of opportunity to be around the minion. At first Zryolk had tried to get to know Pharghtang, to understand why he thrived on the negative attention. He had had to abandon his attempt when Pharghtang was completely uncomfortable with the positive attention and of being treated with respect. Although it didn’t satisfy his inner curiosity about Pharghtang, Zryolk was happy to treat him as an underling.

Pharghtang cleared his throat, which made his voice a little less shrill, but it definitely still classified as squeaky. “The troops are ready and on standby.”

“You are dismissed.”

Pharghtang bowed to the captain as if he were king, then scampered from the room.

The captain paced the flight deck. Zryolk focused on flying the spaceship.

“We’ll be in position in less than five minutes!” Talistian, Zryolk’s co-pilot, spoke to the captain, but said it loud enough for everyone on the flight deck to hear.

“Very well. Everyone be prepared.” The captain sat down in his elevated chair, located in the center of the flight deck. “Charks?”

“Yes, Captain?” the quiet and unassuming lady in the back corner replied.

“Get in contact with General Merkes immediately and give him a status update. If one little thing goes wrong with this plan, we will let him know and we’ll destroy this planet to the point there will be no evidence it ever existed.”

“Yes, Captain.” Charks began talking into her transmitter.

Zryolk knew Captain Criswal wasn’t excited about their plan, and had made his disagreements known. He also knew the captain would fulfill his orders, as much as he disagreed with them. For better or for worse, this was now their best option to ensure a resurgence to power one day. 

Talistian spoke again. “Captain—Xandor, our contact from Zentron, is available.”

“Put him up on the big screen,” the captain ordered.

Immediately two large green faces appeared on the front window of the flight deck. 

“Greetings, and welcome to Zentron,” said the man with a large nose and wrinkled skin.

“Dispense with the insincere formalities,” the captain bellowed. “We know you don’t want us here anymore than we want to be here.”

“We have been able to keep our existence hidden from all other species for thousands of years. Of course we don’t want you or anyone else here.” The woman’s tone of voice was as fiery as her long red hair. Set against her green skin, her hair was stunning. In fact, Zryolk thought she was about the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. “You threatened our family and our existence as a species,” the woman continued. “What are we supposed to do?”

“Exactly as we require,” said the captain slowly. His eyes locked for several tense moments with hers.

The man squirmed in his seat and cleared his throat. “I am Xandor, and this is my daughter, Limon. I apologize for her directness, but your presence puts our family in a dangerous position. If any of our people find out we are helping you, well, they won’t be understanding.”

Captain Criswal seemed to lack sympathy for their precarious position. “My assistant will keep General Merkes updated on our progress. If at any time this mission goes bad, he will order an assault on your planet. All our troops throughout the universe will be contacted with your location and given instructions to abandon their current battles, locate your planet and destroy it beyond recognition.

Limon scowled. “You can’t afford to abandon your battles. You’re on the verge of defeat as it is.”

Zryolk gasped in shock at her irreverent boldness.

Captain Criswal roared. “Understand, greenie! If you betray us, our last act as a species will be to eliminate yours.”

An awkward silence followed, and Zryolk could swear that Limon’s face now matched the color of her hair.

Captain Criswal broke the silence. “Now, do you have the facility prepared so we can hide our merchandise?”

“Everything is as you requested,” Xandor said diplomatically.

Neither Xandor nor Limon wanted to help the Snaders secure the means by which they could regain dominance in the future, but the man didn’t show his discontent.

Zryolk would have felt the same way were they in opposite places. The Snaders were used to—in fact, preferred—that others didn’t like them or want to cooperate with them. They prided themselves on instilling fear in order to get what they wanted. 

“Good.” The captain stood and began to pace as he spoke. “We’ll be landing in a few minutes. We need to transport our package into the secure area as quickly as possible to ensure not being detected.”

“Understood,” Xandor said before the screen went blank.

***

Half an hour later Captain Criswal and Zryolk stood outside the spaceship on Zentron. Charks was with them maintaining contact with General Merkes on the radio. They wore special bodysuits that covered every inch of their skin to protect them from the cold. Although the bodysuits were thin, they were impenetrable by the cold.

Captain Criswal didn’t understand how, but even with his face covered by the bodysuit he could see through it clearly and could breathe without restriction.

Pharghtang, distinguishable only by his small size, drove a large ten-wheeled vehicle out of the spaceship and stopped just short of where the captain and Zryolk stood. The red, rectangular vehicle required two engines to haul the trailer and the weight of the load it carried.

The trailer was thirty feet long and twelve feet wide. With the weight of the cargo, it traveled less than a foot off the ground.

Captain Criswal shuddered as his gaze froze on the trailer’s freight, a box thirty feet long, seven feet wide, and five feet high. It was made of a special metal that was two feet thick on all sides. The rectangular metal box had several slits on each side, with red and white smoke constantly flowing out.

Twenty troops marched behind the trailer, each wearing identical black bodysuits as the captain. They split formation—half going on each side of the trailer—and lifted the heavy coffin-shaped box. Pharghtang carefully pulled the vehicle forward so the trailer cleared the box, then made a U-turn back toward the spaceship.

Pharghtang drove the vehicle back into the spaceship, then returned to join the others.

Although it was night, three bright moons—two half and one full—lit the sky. The land was flat, the ground frozen, and they could see for miles. There wasn’t anything in sight.

Where were their hosts?

“Are you sure we have the correct spot?”

Zryolk double-checked his hand-held computer. “This is the exact spot Xandor instructed us to meet them.”

“Well, where is that no-good s—”

“Captain!” Pharghtang pointed. “They just came out of nowhere!”

Criswal didn’t hear what Pharghtang said because he had seen exactly what Pharghtang and the rest of the crew saw—Xandor and Limon appearing out of nowhere.

“One second there was nothing, and the next those two greenies were walking toward us,” Pharghtang explained to the troops holding the front of the box.

Xandor and Limon approached the group walking on two legs and casually swinging two arms. The captain had always thought it strange that other races could balance so well with only two legs. He couldn’t imagine functioning without eight interchangeable appendages.

With their green bodysuits on, at first the captain couldn’t tell Xandor and Limon apart. As they neared, he saw how Limon’s hair puffed up her bodysuit on top, where Xandor’s bodysuit fit snuggly over his bald head.

Captain Criswal stepped forward. “I am Captain Criswal. I thought your people didn’t have the ability to teleport.”

Xandor nodded his head. “That is correct; we are not able to teleport.”

Zryolk stepped up beside Criswal. “But the two of you appeared out of nowhere!”

“We are using the same technology to hide the building behind us that we use to hide our solar system,” Xandor explained. “The building is there, but a bubble shield causes anything looking at it to see the landscape in its natural surroundings.”

“Why bother hiding the building?” Zryolk asked. “Our radar indicated there isn’t anything living near here.”

“Yes, the size and rotation of our planet makes living conditions on much of the planet impossible,” Limon said. “Our home is one the other side of Zentron. By way of land, it is over three hundred thousand miles away.”

“Even so,” Xandor continued, “we can’t risk this facility being discovered. Otherwise our, uh, arrangement would quickly be compromised.”

“Shall we proceed inside?” Limon offered.

“Just so we are clear,” Captain Criswal said as he nodded to his left, “Lieutenant Charks here is responsible for keeping General Merkes periodically updated. If at any time our plan is compromised, he will immediately issue a command for all our troops to attack and destroy your planet.”

Limon glared, but to her credit held her tongue. She turned and walked with Xandor behind her. General Criswal motioned for his men to follow.

When Xandor and Limon reached the spot where they had appeared, they disappeared. Everyone in the visiting party stopped.

Captain Criswal sensed the reluctance they all had about passing the point of disappearance. He swallowed hard and took the last three steps quickly, before he could consider what other options he might have. As soon as he crossed into the invisible bubble he saw Xandor and Limon, thirty feet ahead, waiting in front of the building that had been invisible to them a few seconds before.

The building looked like a domed roof. Xandor pressed a code into a number pad on the side of the building and the whole front wall (at least from their angle) began to lower. Once everyone was inside, Xandor shut the wall.

Captain Criswal, Zryolk, Charks, and Pharghtang stood at the far end in the center of the room with Xandor and Limon. The peak in the room allowed them to stand up straight. The box took up the remaining length of the room. The accompanying entourage on either side holding the box had to bend over because of the sloped ceiling. The troops set the box down on the ledge that ran down the center of the long room.

Once the door had shut, a steady hum began and the floor slowly descended. After several minutes they came to a sudden and jerky stop. A few seconds of quiet, and the humming noise began again. A ceiling crossed above, gradually entrapping them in a boxed room.

“Captain Criswal, this next part could be rather disturbing, as—”

“Yes, Xandor, we all know exactly what to expect.”

Xandor grunted, and Captain Criswal smiled at his frustration. He was tired of Xandor’s proud touting of his innovation. He just cared that Xandor did what the Snaders required. How he did it didn’t concern the captain.

He gave the captain a nod, which the captain hoped meant that he understood the time pressure they were under, and began typing in a code to the transmitter he carried with him.

Air began to blow into the room from all directions. The pressure of the air pushed on all sides of his body. It was unpleasant, but expected.

In spite of their preparedness, several of his troops complained. Their panic was short-lived, because within seconds they couldn’t move a muscle. The extreme air pressure was necessary to keep everything and everyone from being tossed around during descent, and to keep them from imploding from the force of the drop. Nothing would be able to move.

Even though he didn’t have eyelids, the captain wasn’t able to see much. His gaze was frozen on the box. As the air continued to thicken, visibility decreased. There was virtually no peripheral vision, and seeing straight ahead was quickly becoming impossible as well.

When his vision reached the point he couldn’t clearly make out anything through the thick air the captain heard a loud roar, sounding not unlike his spaceship when it roared to life. The roar meant they were already moving toward the core of Zentron, quickly picking up speed. In less than a minute the rumble reached its peak and they were moving at top speed. They would cover the ninety thousand miles in about twenty minutes.

The captain had done the math when they’d first learned about the mission. They were traveling at forty-five hundred miles a minute, or two-hundred and seventy thousand miles an hour. That was not fast for an interstellar spaceship, but completely unheard of for planetary travel. He remained frozen and could not tell at all that they were moving. The thick air secured them during the journey, protected them from being hurt at the extraordinary fast take-off and speedy travel.

The one question the captain never got a satisfactory answer to was what they would do if there was a problem during their travel to the core of Zentron. The answer given him, which he didn’t like, was that there was nothing they could do. They had been assured, however, that Xandor and Limon had done everything possible to ensure there would not be any issues. Being frozen by the thick air prevented them from reacting to anything that might go wrong. In reality, there wasn’t anything that could be done at these speeds, and he didn’t want to trouble his mind over a very unlikely event. But now that he had twenty minutes of nothing but his own mind, that’s all he could think about. Well, that and peanuts. He hadn’t had any peanuts since they left on their journey nearly a year ago.

Fortunately, they arrived safely.

At the end of the journey the roar slowly faded until it went silent altogether. The air immediately began decompressing and within a minute everyone had full control of their bodies again.

The wall nearest the captain lowered. Xandor and Limon led them into a room that was about the size of the captain’s flight deck. The room was completely empty, except for a long slab of stone in the center. The captain knew from his training that the core of Zentron was twenty times the temperature of the hottest sun of his home planet. Without the invisible protective barrier—he couldn’t fathom how it kept such heat safely and securely out—they would have disintegrated early into their journey downward.

The heat would not bother the casket. It was frozen with a special chemical that would protect it in any conditions, even the most extreme heat and cold.

Captain Criswal was impressed with the arrangements. He would never admit that to Xandor.

The troops walked their cargo to the center of the room and set it carefully onto the foot-high slab, built to be the perfect size to hold the box, then stepped back and a curved tube rotated from below, encasing the box on the table within glass. The tube melded, and within seconds was seamless. Although a few slits allowed smoke to roll out, there was no visible means of opening the glass tube.

Xandor told them all to stand back. A glass case lowered from the ceiling and encased the tube. The glass was three feet thick on all sides, including the top.

It would take a pure-blooded Snader to open the glass cage and release the box and its contents.

Limon stepped directly in front of the captain. “It’s done.” 

She handed him a square box half the size of Captain Criswal’s humongous hands. “We call this The Key because it is the only way to open the glass case around your casket.”

“How does it work?” Captain Criswal asked.

“In order to activate The Key it needs to be in contact with the glass case.” She pointed out the faint outline where the box was to be placed. “One of the sides of The Key will open. A Snader must insert a finger…”

“Or toe or tongue,” Xandor quickly added.

“Yes. Then The Key will poke the finger, or toe or tongue, and test the blood. If the blood is pure Snader blood, then the transfusion can begin.”

“What happens if the person isn’t a pureblood?” Zryolk asked.

“They don’t get their finger back,” Xandor said.

Some of the men cringed, but Captain Criswal smiled and nodded his understanding. He admired the box with a reverent awe. This had been a surreal assignment and now that they were near the end, he was overwhelmed with the magnitude of what he held.

“You understand the procedure for releasing your item?”

The captain thought she meant it as a statement, but it came out as a question.

“Yes, of course.” He looked up at Limon, then over to Xandor. “And you understand the consequences if we return and are not able to access this box.”

The captain meant it as a question, but it came out more as a threat.

“Of course.” Limon didn’t try to hide her disdain of the threat. “What’s in the casket that is so valuable?”

“Only the most valuable item in the universe,” the captain shot back. “And it isn’t a casket.” He positioned himself in front of Xandor and Limon and stared them down. “Just to make sure we have been clear, you are responsible for keeping our cargo safe and secure. No matter how long it takes us to return for it—the days or years that pass—you are to be prepared for our arrival to reclaim our package at any time. And if you are not, or if something has happened to our possession, we will destroy every living thing on this planet.”

“We were promised that if you ever returned for your package and it helped you return to power, that your people would allow us to live in obscurity.” When Xandor spoke it was with a lot of doubt.

“Of course,” the captain said without conviction.

Charks informed General Merkes that the merchandise had been secured, and they were about to return to the spaceship.

Within thirty minutes they were on the ship making preparations for take-off. Another ten minutes and they were leaving Zentron. Charks gave General Merkes the all clear.  

The captain sat in his chair on the flight deck, satisfied that their successful effort on Zentron would provide them with the opportunity to someday once again conquer and rule the universe.

With the considerable distance they needed to travel and the necessity to avoid the warring areas, it would be months before they would return to their home planet. Most likely by then the war would be over and they would be facing a mandatory exile.

They had only been en route a couple of hours when the alarm on the spaceship started blaring. The captain had returned to his bunk to update the ship’s log, and was deep in thought when the alarm went off.

Before he could call down to the flight deck, he heard Zryolk’s voice speak to him over the intercom. “Captain, we have company, and they’re closing in quick.”

“Notify everyone to prepare in case of an attack. Contact the spaceship and let them know we’re friendly; we don’t want any trouble. I’ll be right there.”

The captain rushed to the flight deck.

“Captain on deck!” Pharghtang shouted.

Captain Criswal was quickly updated on their unexpected guest that was nearing.

“It’s like they came out of nowhere,” Zryolk explained. “One minute the radar was clear, the next we had a spaceship coming at us from the side only a few minutes away. I can’t explain it.”

The captain took his seat and pulled the overhead monitor down to eye level. “They aren’t the ones that appeared out of nowhere, we were.”

“What are you talking about?” Zryolk asked.

“We don’t have time for that right now,” the captain said. “Have you contacted them? Do we know their intentions?”

Zryolk looked at Charks, who shook her head. “We’ve been sending out messages, telling them we don’t want any trouble, but they aren’t responding. We don’t know what they intend.”

“Let’s continue straight, but steer gradually away from them.”

Charks continued her attempts at reaching the spaceship, with no response.

They veered away from the other spaceship and thought their message had gotten through as the other spaceship seemed to back off. But after a few minutes it started to quickly close the gap between them.

As the ship neared they could read the words on the side.

Freedom  —  Peace — Justice

It was one of the council’s spaceships.

The captain had a feeling he knew their intentions. He stood. “Zryolk, I have to step away for a moment. You are in control.”

He quickly left the flight deck and returned a few minutes later with the council’s spaceship almost upon them.

Pharghtang yelled, “Captain on deck!”

The captain resumed his seat. “Full throttle!”

“Sir, we can’t outrun them,” Zryolk said. “It’s a council-sanctioned ship.”

The captain looked up at the big-screen monitor on the front window and saw the council’s emblem on the front of the ship. He knew Zryolk was correct.

It was at that moment the other spaceship opened fire.

“Full throttle!” The captain shouted again, this time with extreme urgency.

Immediately Zryolk took their spaceship to maximum speed. They quickly created some space between them and the council’s spaceship, but it wouldn’t take them long to catch back up.

“Charks, tell the troops in back to open fire.”

“Yes sir!” Charks abandoned trying to contact the council’s spaceship to call the battle room in the back of the spaceship.

“Zryolk, I need to speak to you outside.”

Talistian took over the piloting duties as the captain led Zryolk through the door to the hallway outside of the flight deck.

“Zryolk, I need you to prepare the escape pod for me.”

“But captain…” Zryolk looked astonished.

The captain had expected as much, but didn’t have time to explain. “I need you to trust me. The fate of our race depends on what happens in the next few minutes.”

“Okay, sir.” Zryolk nodded his head.

“Call me on the secure phone when you reach the pod.” The captain referred to the phones that he, Zryolk, Talistian, and the General carried that were dedicated solely to communicating with each other, in case of emergencies similar to what they were undergoing.

“Yes, sir!” Zryolk said, then disappeared down the hallway.

The captain returned to the flight deck just in time to see the council’s spaceship open fire again. He hurried to his seat and buckled in.

He gave the orders to retaliate, and the battle was in full force. They were sustaining a lot more damage than they were delivering.

The captain felt his phone vibrate, indicating that Zryolk was in the escape pod. He pulled down the monitor suspended above him and connected his phone. A soundproof glass tube surrounded him, giving him privacy so no one could hear what he was about to say. 

“Zryolk, are you in the pod?”

“Yes, but there’s a problem. The door has shut and locked. I can’t get it to budge.”

“I know. Listen to me carefully…”

“You know?” Zryolk’s voice was filled with bewilderment.

The captain continued. “I left The Key in the escape pod for you. I need you to take it and keep it secure. That Key is the only way we can retrieve what we just hid in the core of Zentron. Without it we will never be able to return to power. In fact, without it we likely will not exist as a race in the distant future.”

“Captain, you can’t give up on this battle.”

“The fate of this battle will be determined in the next few minutes and we both know that our chances are slim, at best. We cannot take the chance of losing control of that key—or worse, having it destroyed. It has to remain in our people’s hands. In a few minutes you will be alone, carrying with you the secret of what we did today along with The Key. Keep it. Pass it down to your children. Entrust it only to those worthy of protecting and one day rescuing and unleashing our secret weapon. One day we will escape from the oncoming exile and begin again at overthrowing the corrupted forces of the universe. It’s now your responsibility to have in place the method and the person capable of the sacrifice it will take to provide the leadership we will need. I am not understating it when I say the future of our race now lies in your hands.”

“Captain, I-I-I don’t know what to say…” Zryolk’s voice cracked from emotion.

“There isn’t anything to say.” The captain took a deep breath. “This is a time of action, and now you know what is required of you. I can’t think of anyone I trust more for this task. It’s not a small burden, but it’s now yours to carry alone. For that I am sorry.”

“Sir, for you, for our people, and for our Lord, I will dedicate my life and my descendants’ lives to protecting The Key.”

“I knew you would,” the captain said. “Are you secured?” 

“Yes, sir.”

The captain programmed a code on the screen floating in front of him. The escape pod disengaged from the spaceship and started hurtling away, quickly putting distance between it and the spaceships.

But the captain didn’t have time to watch. He had to act quickly before the council’s spaceship could send their own posse after Zryolk. 

He removed the tube from around his head and began barking out orders.

“Talistian, transfer the controls of the ship to me.”

“Yes, sir!”

Immediately on the monitor in front of him flashed a message that the co-pilot was transferring all the ship’s controls to him. The captain accepted and began to steadily and quickly slow the ship’s speed. The council’s spaceship behind them also slowed down to avoid a collision.

The fighting remained intense and the slower speed was causing them to take more damage. The captain wasn’t worried about the extra damage. He knew they weren’t getting out of this alive. His focus was on preventing the council from sending anyone after Zryolk, which he knew they were in the process of doing.

When the captain had slowed down as much as he thought he could risk, he sped the ship up to full power. He knew his crew would wonder what he was doing, but he didn’t have time to explain, and in a couple of minutes it wouldn’t matter anyway.

He increased his spaceship to full speed, and as he expected the council’s ship sped and began making up the ground.

“Charks, connect our intercom to the council’s spaceship.”

“But captain, they have yet to respond,” she replied.

“It doesn’t matter,” the captain said. “I know they can hear us.”

In no time Charks told the captain, “Okay, sir. We are connected.”

When the council’s spaceship had closed the gap, and before they could slow to a trailing speed equal to his own spaceship, the captain slammed all of the engines into reverse. This caused an immediate and dramatic decrease in speed—one which the council’s spaceship had no chance of duplicating.

The captain screamed into the intercom so the last thing everyone on both spaceships heard was, “For the Snader Lord!”

The council’s spaceship plowed into the captain’s spaceship and both exploded, destroying all involved.

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Zentron

Earth may have been saved, but the Snaders have a backup plan, a secret weapon stashed away against the day of reckoning.

Who can stop the rise of the deadliest threat the universe has seen?

With Earth secure and Flipper and his family safely holed away in the mountains, it seems that the worst of the Snader-Gude war is over. Allison still needs to be rescued, of course, but the Gudes will handle that on their own. There seems to be nothing more for Flipper to do, even if Josh is frustrated at having to do nothing.

But when Flipper and Josh are kidnapped by aliens—again!—and taken to the mysterious planet Zentron, Flipper finds that the universe needs him once again to foil the ultimate Snader plot to activate their secret weapon.

Aided by the ever-faithful Josh and Anna, Allison’s dog, Flipper will have to do everything in his power to help the hapless Nerds repel the coming Snader incursion and prevent the Snaders from retrieving their most prized asset and gaining the power to turn the tide of the war.

Purchase Zentron

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Earth – Chapter 1

“They’re a lot like us except they’re purple and have webbed feet and live on a planet called Vetrix. Well, most do. A few are secretly here on Earth. They help protect us from evil alien species like the…Hello? Hello?”

Flipper stared at his dead cell phone in disbelief. Had the Snaders sabotaged it? Surely not! He had only been home from Vetrix for a day. How could they have followed him to Earth already?

When he realized the truth it horrified him even more than the thought of attacking Snaders.

His mom marched into his room with her I’ve-made-a-decision-and-don’t-even-question-it eyes. He knew better than to say anything.

“I deactivated your phone. Who were you talking to?”

Flipper hung his head. He wasn’t doing anything wrong; only telling the truth. It wasn’t his fault his parents didn’t believe him.

“CNN.”

The next words caught in his mom’s mouth and it took her a moment to get them out. “You talked to the national media?”

“They called me.”

“I don’t care if the President of the United States calls. You are not to tell him you were with aliens.”

She was serious.

He wanted to protest, but he had used every argument with his parents yesterday. They were furious with him because they didn’t believe his story about helping the Gudes save their planet Vetrix.

“How many reporters have you spoken to?”

“A couple.”

It was vague, but Flipper honestly had no idea how many he had spoken to, which was sure to make his mom’s head explode. Thankfully, she didn’t press him further.

“Your father called Principal Collins at his home. He agreed to instruct the teachers not to mention or allow the students to mention aliens in their classes tomorrow. The quicker we can get this all behind us the better. Do you understand?”

Flipper gulped, fighting back a wave of tears and anger. He managed a nod.

His mom left the room; left Flipper alone, frustrated, and confused.

****

The students of Roswell Middle School stared as Flipper walked by, quietly whispered when he passed, and surely laughed out loud once he was out of sight.

Three days removed from saving the planet Vetrix and he was the laughing stock of Roswell. If this was how his friends were treating him, he couldn’t imagine how the rest of the world was making fun of him.

Well, yes he could.

His parents banned Flipper from watching television, but late last night, well after he was supposed to be asleep, he snuck to his parent’s bedroom door and listened as the news reporter from CNN made fun of the boy from Roswell who disappeared for a week and claimed to visit another planet. He also listened to his mom weep and his dad try to console her.

Flipper wanted the story to go away for his parent’s sake. He hated seeing them upset. But General Jaxxen had said the Snaders might try to attack Earth. Shouldn’t he try to warn everyone? Maybe if he could find just one person to believe him.

“There were over two hundred spaceships in the underground colony.”

“Wow!”

Flipper recognized Baxter’s booming voice before he saw him. Baxter was the first sixth grader to go through puberty.

Josh, his back to Flipper, was telling his tale to Baxter, who’s eyes were intensely focused in on Josh. Maybe someone believed!

A crowd quickly gathered as Josh told his story and Baxter hung on every word. Hope sprang alive in Flipper. Maybe the whole crowd believed. They looked like they did. Maybe they could recruit a group of middle schoolers to spread the word of the coming aliens. Or even better, they could come up with a plan to stop the Snaders.

“Then the spaceship chasing us exploded!”

The bell rang.

“I thought he didn’t believe in aliens,” Flipper heard one girl say.

“It should be a movie,” another commented.

“Did you wear your alien costume down there?” a third shouted at Josh.

As the students dispersed to their classes Baxter placed his hand on Josh’s shoulder. “That was a great story! You should be a comedian.”

Baxter noticed Flipper and their eyes met. Baxter pointed his direction. “There’s your partner with more alien comedy material.”

“Quit mocking him!” Flipper had never been confrontational, but after facing Snaders, run-of-the-mill bullies didn’t intimidate him.

“Yeah, leave him alone!” Allison stepped to the other side of Josh.

Baxter waved his arm like he was swatting at a fly. “It’s not fun once he realizes what I’m doing.”

Josh breathed through clenched teeth as Baxter disappeared into a classroom. “I thought he believed me. The whole time I thought he believed me.”

Flipper patted him on the back. “I know, I did too. Let’s get to class.”

Flipper took his seat beside Allison and behind Josh. Mrs. Smith quieted the class and Flipper dreaded her reaction. What happens when she looks at me? Will she say anything? Surely not. Will she laugh? Will her eyes linger? If they do, what will everyone else think?

He knew he should pay more attention to Mrs. Smith’s voice as she reviewed the material the class covered last Friday, but he was fixated on her eyes. Minute after minute passed and they didn’t once land on him. He glanced at the ticking clock on the wall and rushed his eyes back to Mrs. Smith. Twenty minutes into her lecture and she hadn’t once looked at Flipper. In fact, he was almost certain she hadn’t looked at Allison or Josh either.

It was game on now. He unabashedly stared at his teacher, willing her to return the gaze. He knew if she looked at him he would instantly look away. He still didn’t want her to look at him, but he also double-dog dared her to with his eyes.

Just before the bell rang she wrapped up her lecture. “Now, if you will take out your homework from the weekend I will come around and pick it up.”

She started down the far aisle. With her back to him, Flipper gave up and pronounced himself victor, though it was a shallow victory because he would have declared himself victor whether she looked at him or not.

Allison’s eyes were wide with panic. She mouthed to Flipper and Josh. “What are we going to do?”

Flipper shrugged. They didn’t know about the homework because they weren’t here. Surely Mrs. Smith will give them a couple of days to catch up. What was the big deal?

As Mrs. Smith collected each assignment she praised the student. “Well done! Thank you, Baxter. Nice organization, Tessa.”

It was sickening and over the top. She had never been this nice in her entire life — Flipper was sure of it!

“Allison, do you have your homework.”

Flipper wanted to shout. Mrs. Smith knew Allison didn’t have the assignment done. She hadn’t even known about it until now.

Mrs. Smith waited, her foot tapping, as Allison tried to hold it together. Finally, she managed, “No, Ma’am.”

“You realize this is worth ten percent of your semester grade.”

It wasn’t a question and Mrs. Smith was no longer looking at Allison but at Flipper.

“I expect you to have it turned in by the end of the day, no exceptions.”

Flipper wanted to look away but was too afraid.

“But it’s unfair,” Josh protested.

Whew! Mrs. Smith took her eyes off of him!

“It is not unfair. You have unexcused absences for a solid week.”

The bell rang but no one made a move to leave. Flipper wanted to run but his legs wouldn’t move.

“But we were looking for Flipper,” Josh continued.

“I’ll hear none of it.” Mrs. Smith spun on her heels.

Mrs. Smith had just chastised Allison and Josh both. Flipper had to say something; he needed to take the blame.

“It’s my fault. Allison and Josh were just looking for me. If I wouldn’t have left with the alien then they wouldn’t have missed school. Punish me, not them.”

The class roared. He knew as the words left his mouth they didn’t sound quite right. Something had happened between his brain and his mouth that scrambled what he meant to say.

“You are not to speak of aliens in my classroom. Is that clear?”

By now the next class began arriving. Still the students from his class remained and the classroom was nearly full. Flipper blushed at the thought of everyone watching him.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Good.” Mrs. Smith seemed oblivious to the crowd. “Was there any part of your last statement that wasn’t true?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Why don’t you be completely honest then? Tell us the truth.”

Flipper bit his tongue. He couldn’t make her happy without lying and he couldn’t lie and betray Allison and Josh and Jake and Alya and Chezlor and Fox and Nicole and General Jaxxen and Dr. Needles and Brianna.

“Go on.”

Mrs. Smith crossed her arms. “Well…?”

“I didn’t exactly go with an alien,” he mumbled.

“I’m sorry.” Mrs. Smith looked around and motioned to the other students. “We didn’t hear you.”

Other classes had apparently gotten word of the exchange and were scrunching in to get a view of the confrontation. All remained silent, staring at Flipper and awaiting his confession.

“I said I didn’t go with an alien.” His voice was clear and he made sure those in the hall that couldn’t see him heard what he had to say. “I was asleep and the alien took me. Kidnapped me. I woke up on a planet called Vetrix and helped them fight off the Snaders. I had to — it was my only way back home.” It was the truth and if they didn’t like it, so be it.

****

Flipper peered nervously across the desk. “Can I stand?”

“If you like.”

Associate Pastor Owen Rodgers had a kind smile and relaxed demeanor. Flipper liked Pastor Rodgers, but he had never been alone with him.

He paced slowly as he moved his thumb and middle finger back and forth causing Owen’s name plate to flip up and down in his hands. He recounted the recent events, including being kidnapped twice, saving Vetrix from the Snader attack, and the pressure he felt because no one believed his story. Of course, Owen didn’t believe Flipper either, but he smiled, was non-judgmental, and didn’t interrupt except to ask clarifying questions.

In fact, when Flipper had finished, Owen didn’t chastise him for lying, or laugh at him, or excommunicate him, or anything like that.

“You know, Flipper, rejection is a normal part of life. Do you know the story of Moses? The burning bush, the ten commandments, the parting of the Red Sea?”

“Sure.” Flipper knew these lessons well from Sunday School, but he wasn’t sure what they had to do with aliens.

“When Moses first tried to lead his people, the Israelites, out of slavery in Egypt they didn’t want to go. After some time, the Israelites agreed to leave, but Pharaoh refused to let them go. Moses was rejected by two nations of people.”

Flipper saw the connection. Just like Moses was rejected by his country, Israel, Flipper was being rejected by the United States, his country. “So you believe me about the aliens?”

Pastor Rodgers chuckled. “No. But I believe that you believe it.”

Flipper stared at Owen with a scrunched forehead. “Huh?”

Owen leaned back and put his hands behind his head. “Let me put it this way. Why did your dad bring you to visit with me?”

“Dad says that if you’re in trouble the best person to talk to is the pastor.”

Boy, was Flipper in trouble! The national news and radio talk shows were making fun of the trio of kids from Roswell, New Mexico, who pulled a hoax, disappeared for a week, then claimed it was all because of aliens. To his parents chagrin, Flipper continued to insist his story was true, as did Allison and Josh. Their parents were furious, but also concerned, because they didn’t know where the kids had been all week. Finally, Flipper had argued with a teacher about the aliens and now had detention through his third year of college.

“I’m guessing your parents have lectured you over and over about telling the truth?”

Boy had they!

“I don’t think you need another lecture on being honest.”

Flipper agreed.

“As I listened to you tell your story the emotion I picked up on the strongest related to your feelings of rejection. It has to be a terrible burden to have so many people not believe you, make fun of you, condemn you, reject you. You must feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

Wow, he nailed it! Flipper felt like Pastor Rodgers had reached his finger inside his body and scraped a raw sore and caused it to start bleeding again. The pain was unbearable and he had to sit.

“I want you to know that you’re not alone. Most of the prophets in the Old Testament were made fun of by friends and family. Many lived lonely lives. Even God’s own son, Jesus, was rejected. His disciples abandoned him when He needed them the most. Rejection is a natural part of life and it’s important to be able to handle it.”

The pastor had hit on something deep and painful. Flipper was a hero on Vetrix. On Earth, he was a joke.

“It’s important to know that God is always with us. He was with the prophets in their loneliness. God comforted Jesus when he cried in the garden moments before he was arrested and crucified. And God is with you now.”

Jesus cried too? He wished Jesus had two good friends like Allison and Josh. He knew what Jesus did to prove He was right; He came back from the dead. Flipper needed a different idea. How did Moses and the prophets convince others?

“Flipper, do you mind if I pray for you?”

This gave him an idea. “Yeah. Pray that the whole world will learn the truth that aliens exist.”

Pastor Rodgers smiled. “Okay, Flipper. Okay.”

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