Some Guy Saves the Universe
By Annika H.
To be truthful I am scared. I am about to meet with the head of interuniversal relations to discuss my upcoming mission.
“Mr. Collins to see you now,” the administrative assistant informs me. I get up from chair and walk slowly down the hall, trying to calm my nerves. I wipe my sweaty palms on the front of my black dress pants as I step through the door.
“Good morning Matthew, please come in,” says Mr. Collins. I walk in and sit in the chair in front of his desk hoping not to sound as nervous as I feel.
“Good morning Mr. Collins,” I reply in my best professional voice.
“You’re leaving on your mission tomorrow. You must be very proud since it is your first one,” Mr. Collins continued. “Well, there isn’t much to discuss in this meeting. You already know all the necessary information. I wanted to give you the official sendoff letter and wish you good luck personally.”
“Thank you very much. I will do my best to complete this mission.”
“I’m sure you will, Matthew. Best of luck on your mission.”
“Thank you, Mr. Collins,” I say as I get up and walk out the door. Relief washes over me like a thousand waves on a single pebble as I take a deep breath. “Boy, am I glad that’s over,” I think to myself.
As I come out the front door of the building, I see my dad waiting for me. “So, how did it go?,” he asks.
“Good. He seemed pretty pleased with me.”
“That’s my boy.” From the moment he said that I felt so proud, like everything was going to be absolutely fantastic.
The next morning on the launch pad. “All systems go! Prepare for departure!” hollered the technician in the control room. I stood inside a clear plastic capsule on a yellow rubber launchpad. I was wearing a silver full-body suit similar to a NASA space suit with integrated life support systems. An unnerving feeling filled my senses as I was shot upward through a tube into the portal at five times the speed of light. It was like being shredded by pins and needles while relaxing in the sun and eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
A few minutes later I arrived on Earth. As the capsule opened, I noticed something amazing. Everything was just so . . . so . . . so complicated. Their streets and cities were so crowded . . . so many tall buildings. It was astonishing yet claustrophobic. How did this multitude of people find their way around all the tall buildings and complicated streets? It was like maze with no end or beginning.
Early the next morning before my first day at a new school. BEEP! BEEP! My alarm went off. I rubbed my eyes and hit the off button. Darned Earth alarm clocks! Why do they have to be so loud? Reaching for my clothes I glanced at the time: 6:08 AM. I never had woken up while it was still dark out. I pulled myself out of bed and staggered towards the bathroom, still groggy.
As I stepped on to school campus, my mind wandered from one idea to another as I sat on the school bus but finally settled on one thought - the day ahead me. I had to deal with a new school, a new schedule, and new people. I was anxious and could feel the sweat running down my back. It was chilling at first, the way they looked at me, analyzing my every move like I was a lab rat in an experiment. Just because I was new made me different than them, only more different than they would ever imagine. Why did the teachers keep asking me to talk about myself in every class? I mean aside for the obvious that my name is Matthew and I am a boy who moved here from Kansas (it was Kansas, right?), what else can I say? People here on Earth seem to be very judgemental. Everyone keeps staring at me and I have to keep a low profile if I am to complete my mission.
My classes on the first day had started and ended. Everything was uneventful. Lunch was the most awkward part of the day. I walked around eating and trying not to attract too much attention. Each minute felt like an entire hour; it was as if time had stopped.
Thoughts raced through my head like bees in a beehive as I walked out of school at the end of the day. Had I done everything right? Was I supposed to talk to more people or go somewhere during lunch? Well, hopefully I had. I noticed the only seat was one with a big strip of duct tape on it as I boarded the school bus and looked around. I sat down hoping not to get stuck to the seat and the bus rolled off.
As I walked into the house I noticed something different. I was the only one home since my parents were not there. They were at “work” - whatever that meant. All I knew was they were gone all day and then got paid for it. I closed the door behind me. Bam! I spun around but it was just the the door closing. I walked into the kitchen, grabbed some chips, sat down at the table, and slowly put one chip in my mouth. Biting down, the salty taste erupted in my mouth. I began planning how to complete my mission.
Number 1: Find out who Charles is.
Number 2: Get to know him better.
Number 3: Explain to him that I am from an alternate universe.
Number 4: Tell him what I needed him to do.
Number 5: Succeed and go home.
It was a fairly solid plan but it had one flaw: discovering who Charles was. It was a big school and I barely knew anyone. More importantly, I did not feel comfortable asking anyone to find out.
As I lay in bed that night contemplating the stars outside my window, I laid wondering what the next day would bring. Sleep would not come due to my anxiety and nervousness about the coming day. I glanced at my clock and sighed. It was 11:27 PM and I really needed to sleep.
The next morning, after I ate breakfast and got ready for school my dad showed me how to access my school’s directory. I used a “computer” which resembled a very primitive version of my 4-D fully immersive software computer or FISC for short; the “computer” was pretty easy to use. Soon I was on the school directory and was searching for Charles. Once I found him and all his information I realized that he was in my science class. We also had to do a group science project soon. So if he worked with me on that project I would have a reason to talk to him and convince him to help me. Feeling pleased with my new plan I logged out of the computer and went to school.
As I sat in science class, one thought kept tormenting me. All I had to do was approach Charles and ask him to work with me. I kept telling myself it was so simple. Yet I could not muster the courage to do so.
“Just do it,” I told myself. “It is part of your mission.” My legs started to move towards Charles even though my brain was screaming not to. Before I knew it I was standing in front of him.
“You’re Matthew, right?” Charles asked.
“Yes and I wanted to ask you something,” I replied.
“Sure. What is it?”
“Will you work with me on our project for chemistry class?” I ask, prepared for his refusal.
“Why not? No one else has asked me,” he responded. It was a relief to finally check that off my list.
The next couple of days were all identical until one Thursday afternoon. Ding! The bell rang signaling the end of the school day. My classmates began gathering their stuff, shoving papers and notebooks into binders, and sticking pencils in their cases and pockets in such a hurry as if there were a ten-million-dollar prize for the first one out the door. I moved at a moderate pace to avoid the traffic jam at the door. I walked to my locker and grabbed my stuff. I headed in the opposite direction from my normal bus stop because today I had to go to Charles’s house to work on our chemistry project.
I had resolved to tell him I was from another universe. It would be very awkward even if he did not think I was crazy. The big risk was that he might quit working with me, which would result in the failure of my mission. I stood at his front door gathering the courage to ring his doorbell. I pressed the doorbell button and waited tensely for a moment for the door to open. I desperately tried to phrase how I would bring up the subject, but nothing came to mind.
“Hello, you must be Matthew,” Charles’s mom greeted me. “Charles said you were coming. He’s not home yet.”
“Should I come back later?” I asked.
“No, no. Come in. He’ll be here shortly.” I followed her through the house to the living room. It was fairly spacious with an open kitchen and dining room. The living room was on one side with a staircase and bathroom on the other. I sat down in the sofa and looked around. Everything was so neat without much clutter.
Charles walked in a few moments later. “Matthew, you’re already here. Well I guess we should go to my room and get started.” I followed him up the stairs and down a hallway to his room. As I entered I noticed how different it was from the rest of the house. There were several posters for Earth-based rock bands along with other random pictures covering his walls. His dresser was a jumble of video game cartridges, maps, books, papers and other junk mixed in different stacks and piles. He had bunk beds with red and blue bedspreads. His desk had a laptop and an Ipod on top of his binder. His room had the most furniture of any room in the house.
“I guess we should get started,” Charles told me.
“Sure,” I said.
“What’s our topic?” Charles wanted to know.
“The periodic table of elements.” We had decided the topic together this morning. How could he not remember? Not a good start if he was going to help save the world.
I reached into my backpack and pulled out my notebook. He looked at me and then did the same. For about 15 minutes we both looked up facts online and took notes. Eventually, Charles looked up and yawned. At that moment I decided I would just tell him to prevent creating any permanent record. So I decided to ask him.
“Charles, have you ever considered that other universes exist? And there are planets with human-like life on them more advanced than Earth’s society?” I asked, preparing for his answer.
“No, I haven't. What do mean by that?” was his perplexed reply.
“Consider that perhaps other people from an alternate universe have come into contact with your society without anyone realizing.”
“That can’t be. I mean, wouldn’t we know by now?”
“Not necessarily. You see, I am from an alternate universe roughly 200 years more advanced than yours. We have all the technology anyone on Earth could possibly need. Which is probably why we can travel into your universe, but more on that later. Our universe and yours are on a collision course and if that does not change, my universe will be destroyed. I am here to help you avoid that catastrophe.”
“Wait, you’re telling me you’re from an alternate universe with technology that’s more advanced.”
“Yes, and you’re the one that’s going to help save us by building a machine,” I added.
“What kind of machine and when is the deadline?”
“The machine will slightly alter the course of human events in order to prevent the collision.” I explained.
“ You still haven’t told me the deadline.” he replied.
“We have two weeks,” I said.
“Well, okay, I guess. I mean what do I have to lose?” he replied.
“Yes!!!” my mind screamed. “Things are looking up.”
For the next week and a half we worked on the machine and our science project simultaneously. Our science project got a good grade and we thought we could finish the machine in time. Until one afternoon my trans-universal radio started to get transmissions from my world. It was a revised deadline. Charles was already over at my house working on the machine. We raced to try and finish it but it proved to be difficult. As the amount of time decreased we ran into some problems.
“The blue wire is too thick it won’t fit into the opening!” Charles urgently told me.
“Well do something about it,” I shot back.
“Matthew, we need it in 2 minutes and 25 seconds.” The radio transmission from my world had given us little time to finish.
“C’mon Charles we need to do this.”
“I’m trying, wait a minute.”
“Two minutes left,” the radio blared. We frantically tried to hook the cables into the correct places. “One minute and 30 seconds left. You need to finish this to avoid a collision course.”
“Matthew, the yellow and green wires both need a power connection but we only have one connection left. What should I do?” Charles asked. I could hear the panic in his voice.
“Thirty seconds remaining,” the radio said.
“We are almost done,” I tried to reassure them. There was no response. “Are you there? Hello?” All I could hear was an explosion followed by complete and utter silence. Then it dawned on me they were gone. My world was gone! I was the one who had failed and yet I was alive not them. Not the rest of my world. The innocent ones. I had lost all I had ever known, my home, and my friends. A piece of me died that day with my world.
Steps into Outer Space
By Owen L.
Erich Löwe woke up to the sound of his alarm. He rolled over in bed and hit it with his fist. He walked into his kitchen and turned on the TV. “The Pan-Eastern Treaty Pact continues to violate treaties by entering German aerospace, there is talk in the military of intervention should such events continue.” Erich took little notice to the news, PAC relations had been at a low for almost two years and with the conflicts on Mars it made sense that the PAC were being aggressive and rash. And with that he made himself breakfast, ate, put his dishes in the sink and went to get dressed.
Erich then grabbed his bag and made his way out the door to the subway. Although Erich lived more than fifty miles from his office in downtown Berlin, with the ACCR powered trains, he could make the trip in fifteen minutes. While he was walking the several blocks from his flat to the station he looked at his vibrant neighborhood. With the train system there were very few cars on the road meaning that the neighborhood was much quieter. Store lights gleamed in the early morning light, they were open twenty-four seven and were serviced by armies of small robots. There also were no powerlines, as the ACCRs could synthesize anti-matter out of air and as a result removed the need for an electrical grid. There was also a large Syrian community; over one hundred years before Erich’s time there was a great civil war in Syria and million of Syrians left their homeland for Europe. now with the war over and the country healed, its people inhabited every corner of the globe. There was also a large population of American refugees. Like Syria, their government collapsed in a brutal civil war. Many fled the country leading to what many call the Second Refugee Crisis. Finally Erich reached the station. Just then a jet flying at supersonic speeds cut across the sky, and Erich stopped and stared at it. They all had seen something like this one before, but this one was flying much faster and lower this time in the direction of Berlin. The jet disappeared as soon as it had come and people went back to their daily lives. Then there came a bright, bright flash; those who saw it were blinded, but Erich was descending the steps and did not see it directly. He then rushed down the steps and ran as far into the station as he could. realizing that Berlin had been bombed. As he continued to run, the pressure wave hit him, and he violently fell down the rest of the steps, hitting his head and blacking out.
He shuddered and awoke. Erich lay in darkness facedown on the station floor, burned. Erich rushed down the stairs and tried to escape the eventual pressure wave, but it still hit him and he was suddenly whisked off his feet and thrown head first into a wall before collapsing unconscious onto the ground. When he woke up Erich found himself in total darkness. As he began to get up he felt a sharp throbbing pain in his chest; although he did not know it at the time, he had broken six ribs. He then looked around, and saw some light coming from up the stairs. Mustering all of his strength, he began to climb them. However, the pain overcame him and he collapsed on his stomach crying out as his ribcage sent out another agonizing wave of pain. “Help!” he screamed, but nobody came. He lay there, still, in agony with every breath, bleeding and lying with six fractured ribs. In the direction of the subway lay a pile of rubble. Clearly all of the tunnels had collapsed. Therefore Erich had no choice but to return to street level. Erich cried out as a searing pain surged through his body while he pulled himself up onto his feet. He then heaved and winced as he climbed the steps, and when he finally reached the top he gasped in horror at what he saw.
For a start, the sky was black Erich thought it was night and he had been out for over ten hours, but in reality it was noon. The only light came from the fires, copious, copious fires burning all that lay in sight, letting out a ferocious roar. Erich lost it. He looked at what was once his home. burned, and he fell to his knees and sobbed, heaving up enormous tears that ran down his cheeks. All that he had come to know and love, gone. He also had family and friends, gone too; vaporized in a huge cataclysm of fire and light. He lay there for twenty minutes alone, grieving, and then he began to contemplate what came next. He had a vague idea, not of where to go, but where not to go. An orangey glow arose in the distance. “That must be Berlin,” he thought. “Better not go there.” The one thing that made him question this was the thought of an advancing army. Whoever attacked probably were going to send ground forces to finish the job. Assuming they followed the Geneva conventions, he would be given medical help as well as food and water. If they did not, he could find himself tortured, abused, or even dead. There was also the question of finding other survivors, if there were any. Those in the station had been buried alive, and those above ground had burned to death or been hit with the pressure wave. He did not recall seeing other people in the stairwell, so that could mean he was the only person for miles. With that in mind, he decided to take the risk of capture and move to the edge of Berlin. There, he might find crucial supplies and maybe even a working car to escape in. “I have a long walk ahead, and I must use every ounce of strength I have,” he thought. “Or this wasteland will kill me.” And with that, he took one last look at the station and began the long trek. The first few hours were somewhat okay, just boring and repetitive. Occasionally he would look to find the glow off in the distance, to make sure he was going the right way. As he got farther from the station there were less fires and ash; by hour four there was none of that at all. Because of the giant smoke cloud around the city, there was still darkness, but the cloud thinned the further he got. But by the time he hit hour five he started to feel the first signs of fatigue. His mouth grew dry and he began to feel an incredible thirst; he also began to wheeze and had difficulty breathing because of the fumes in the air. After six hours of walking, he saw the sun break through the clouds of smoke and thought he was finally safe. When he reached a small orchard, the thirst was making it hard for him to focus, and he had to rest after walking for almost eight hours, so he hopped the fence and tried to see if there was any food or water. When he found a tree filled with ripe oranges he picked plenty and ate all of it, letting the juice run down his face. After eating more oranges, he lay down in the green grass and went to sleep. When he woke, he heard the loud noise of armored vehicles and planes, and saw the blinding lights of trucks full of soldiers moving through the streets. Just then he turned and saw a gun pointed at his head. “Polozhit' ruki v vozdukhe, vy nemetskaya nakip!” the soldier said.
Erich, who did not speak Russian, simply put his hands in the air and let the soldier handcuff him, and then march him at gunpoint to a dropship. Inside he was locked in a large holding cell with five other people inside. Then a screen began to play a video, but this time it was in English. Erich was not a fluent English speaker but he could get the gist of what was being said. The video explained that Berlin, Washington and Brussels had been bombed, and that troops had crossed the border into Belarus and Ukraine, as well as crossing the Bering Strait to Alaska. The video then explained that all civilians would be hauled to prison camps on the Moon. There they would be checked to determine if they were hostile to the Pan-Asian Coalition, or the PAC. If they were, then they would be used for forced labor and would be subject to horrible conditions; if not, they would get to decide what branch of the PAC armed services they wanted to serve under. By the time the video was over the dropship had reached orbit and docked with a transport ship. Erich was pushed into the crowded hold of the ship and then sat there, waiting for arrival on the Moon. Then, after about two hours the guns of the transport fired and the prisoners could hear the sounds of fighting. After what seemed like hours, some vehicle docked with the transport and the sounds of footsteps grew closer. Clearly, these were not PAC troops as the guards on board the transport began to shoot. This went on for quite some time before the gunfire stopped and a voice came on the intercom system. “The is Brigadier James Taylor of the New Zealand Special Air Service, D squadron. This vessel is hereby under the jurisdiction of the WMA and under article twenty-five of the WMA charter we are required to retreat to the stronghold on Mercury and wait for further orders there.” All of the prisoners cheered in joy; they were safe and would be so for a while. Erich, while happy was still worried. The PAC had shown that by breaking all of the rules and being ruthless they could bring the Western Military Alliance, or the WMA, to its knees. With his homeland in ruins and violence erupting everywhere he wondered if the WMA would win the war. The dreadnoughts on Mercury were okay, but without the giant web of supply lines across the solar system the WMA stood divided and broken. Erich probably would be safe if the WMA could recover. “My country and its people have survived great war and oppression, if they can use that same resilient trait we will survive this.”