The bright yellow and black school buses hovered behind one another waiting at the Matzo Koen Regional Spaceport. The buses, loaded with students from various high schools, stood by for clearance to unload them for the annual senior class field trip. One by one the doors to the buses opened and, as if overloaded, the students piled out onto the departure ramp. The bus from West Central High School arrived last. The students from this bus gathered on the ramp, all taking with a tone of excitement.
Karsen, one of the students from WCHS, stood quietly among the other students. Some students talked to him, and he would politely answer, however he did not initiate any conversation. This is typical for him. Karsen is a rather typical 17 year old senior. He wore his light brown hair at collar length, his bangs low, just above his eyebrows so that his hazel eyes didn’t miss anything. Soft spoken and always polite, some thought him to be odd; mostly because he was so quiet. Others, who called themselves his friends, didn’t mind his ways. Yet, his quietness would bring about ridicule and harassing jokes by the more brazen members of the class.
Karsen’s attention focused on Larisa, who was also waiting with them. It was easy to see why Karsen noticed her. Larisa is well liked by most students as she is very outgoing. It was rare to see her by herself. Her long black hair fell softly off her shoulders. Her strikingly blue eyes contrasted with her hair.
Karsen saw Larisa for the first time in the seventh grade and he decided he liked her from that moment. However, Karsen has a problem; when it comes to girls he is quite shy. Over the years she has been in several classes with him, and he does talk with her in class. He even had her as a lab partner last year. Yet, he has never told her how he feels about her.
The teachers escorted the students into an auditorium where group departures receive their briefings. There, Mr. Milton, the Assistant Principle, spoke to the students.
“Alright everyone, settle down please.” The voices of 175 students became quiet. “I would like to start by thanking the Space Education Board for their hosting this year’s senior science field trip. In an hour from now, we will board our shuttle for the trip to the moon. I know you’re all excited and anxious to get onboard, however, we must first go over the rules.”
Moans of discomfort at the mention of the word rules could be heard. Mr. Milton overlooked these sounds of pain and continued to talk for another ten minutes on the dos and don’ts of this trip. As he did, some students watched the ground crew members loading luggage onto a conveyer.
Karsen was standing by the window as Jon joined him. Jon was probably the best friend Karsen had. Jon was also 17 and nearly a head shorter than Karsen. He had a scar all the way across his chest from open heart surgery. It is quiet noticeable when he was playing shirts and skins football. He once told Karsen that he had the surgery at six years old. He said that when they performed the operation he asked for a mirror so he could watch.
“Do you think they’ll pull yours?” Jon asked Karsen. His question concerned the fact that Karsen had brought a collapsible compound bow and arrows in his luggage.
“I doubt it; I have the proper documents. They are in a packing slip attached to the outside of the bag.”
“How are you going to use it for your lunar science project?”
“The arrows have telemetry recorders. Since there is no air on the moon to create resistance, and the gravity is only one-sixth that of earth, I am going to evaluate the flight of the arrows in the lunar environment.”
“Sounds awesome” replied Jon. He enjoyed aerospace studies, although astronomy was his forte, so Karsen’s experiment sounded interesting to him.
“What’s your project?” asked Karsen.
“Since our lunar base is in the largest crater on any space body in the solar system, I am going to use lasers to determine the exact trajectory of the object that created it. ” replied Jon.
“I thought that was done back in the early 2000’s.”
“Yes, however based on an assumption that the objects trajectory did not alter, then my finding should correlate with newer astronomical charts. And, I will be using lasers, which are more precise.”
“I see” said Karsen
Mr. Miller concluded his speech, and turned the stage over to Astronaut Jordan Moore, the pilot for this trip.
“Everyone has a packet of information,’ Astronaut Moore began, “which I expect you will familiarize yourselves with while we are in space. The trip from takeoff to touchdown will take four hours and seventeen minutes. We will be landing at Galileo Lunar Base on the far side of the moon. It is the largest lunar base in the Aitken basin.”
Astronaut Moore continued on with her briefing which held the student’s attention far better than Mr. Milton’s speech.
“Remember, there will be nine shuttles leaving today. Each shuttle will be taking students from the nine district schools to their individual lunar bases. Don’t get lost”
The students were then taken to the locker rooms where they were provided with their uniforms for the trip. From there, they were escorted to the shuttle ramp in order to board their shuttle.
“Got your boarding card?” asked Jon. Karsen held his up between two fingers indicating he did. As each student stepped into the shuttle, they handed their boarding card to the flight attendant who scanned the card to give the student a seat assignment. Karsen looked ahead at Larisa, who just had her card scanned. He hoped that she would be sitting next to him. When he reached the doorway the flight attendant scanned his card. The computer showed 23A.
“Window seat – nice!” said Jon. The computer scanned Jon’s card; 23C. Karsen smiled. There was still a chance. Larisa might be in 23B.
The passenger cabin looked very much like a normal atmospheric commercial jet. The seats were 3-2-3 in each row, with no first class section. These seats were a bit wider. As they walked down the aisle, Karsen looked for her. It was depressing to see Larisa in row 18, five rows ahead of him. As he walked past her, his eyes watched her as she readied her seat. She turned and caught his eyes looking at her. She smiled and gave him a little wave.
“See, she likes you. I don’t know why you don’t just talk to her about how you feel” said Jon. He and many others in the class knew Karsen liked Larisa. They all wondered why he didn’t tell her.
“It’s just not the time for it. It’s got to be the right time.”
“The right time?” exclaimed Jon. “If you’re not careful, the right time will slip right past you. You know she’s not the kind to approach you. You have to do it.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know” Karsen’s voice was heavy with frustration.
The students all settled in and put away their personal items. They could hear the engines starting. Karsen looked out the window. There were storm clouds in the distance and a light rain covered the glass. Just then there was a voice.
“Karsen! Hey, am I lucky or what. I have seat 23B, right next to you and Jon.” It was Brandi. As she shouted out in excitement, several of the students looked at Karsen; including Larisa.
Brandi is a member of the science class this semester, and she is Karsen’s lab partner. She also tended to make Karsen feel uneasy. She is very bubbly and talks a lot. She has wavy brown hair and chestnut eyes. She often wears clothes that seemed slightly too small, and her uniform exhibited this habit. She also has a tendency of constantly touching his arm or shoulder as she talked. This also makes Karsen very uncomfortable.
Brandi took her seat between Karsen and Jon, bending over to put her things away. As she did, Karsen and Jon gave each other a look as if to say oh well.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” said Astronaut Moore over the shuttle inner ship communication system, “we are about to take off. Please remain seated until we reach zero gravity. At any time the seatbelt sign is turned off, you may leave your seat, however for the comfort and the safety of the other passengers, please use the artificial gravity shoes provided.”
The flight attendants came down the aisles, checking everyone’s seatbelt. After they passed by, the engines began a loud whine, and there was an excited tension inside the passenger cabin. The shuttle status sign indicating STANDBY suddenly switched to TAKEOFF. It was a bit slow at first, however, speed built rapidly.
“Here we go!” exclaimed Brandi as she grabbed Karsen’s hand tightly.
The shuttle reached maximum ground speed, and then nosed straight up. After twenty minutes of hard acceleration, the sky started to become dark and stars appeared.
Karsen looked out his window. Brandi looked as well, leaning forward in front of him. She had her hand on his arm, and her wavy hair tickled his nose.
“Oh, check it out” she said, “I’ve never seen Venus so clear; have you? You know it’s the only planet named after a girl.” Jon rolled his eyes and opened his computer, putting on his earphones.
Brandi was a talker and continued to talk. She was also very animate, using her hands to describe what she was saying and then resting them on Karsen’s arm. It was a friendlier touch rather than a romantic one, however it still bothered him. Yet Karsen was too polite to say anything, so he listened, hoping that Larisa didn’t look back at them.
Several hours passed and everyone was reading or watching a movie. Even Brandi found a book to read. Looking out his window, Karsen noticed the moon coming into view. The shuttle seemed to be turning.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the pilot said, “we have started our turn to the far side of the moon. Shortly we will lose direct contact with earth and you will lose your internet connection. We will then begin our decent and we should be on the surface in 35 minutes. I would…” the pilots voice broke off and at the same time the shuttle shook violently.
Looking out his window Karsen could see a small fighter style spacecraft traveling along side of them. Looking over to the other side of the cabin the student’s reaction told him there was another one on that side. He could also see the moon which was changing position, indicating they were once again turning. As he watched out the window, the inner ship communication came on. This time the pilot’s voice was more subdued and serious.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, you may be aware of our current situation. The spacecraft you can see out your windows are pirate vessels. They have indicated that we need to follow them…”the pilot stopped talking momentarily. .”…which I believe would be in our best interest. Please remain calm.”
Brandi began talking rapidly; firing off questions no one could really answer. Karsen placed his right hand on her arm and the index finger of his left hand against his lips. She stopped talking mid-sentence, looking at him.
“It’s too early to know what they want, or what we can do. Right now, watching and listening is our best tactical advantage” he said. “Everyone here will see something different. Later we will find the value of what we know and put it to good use.” Karsen had been looking at Brandi, but the students around him were all looking at him, including Larisa.
The shuttle descended into the Leibnitz Mountains and set down on a landing platform. As the engines shut down the platform lowered into a sub-lunar structure. It came to a stop, and the shuttle door opened. Three figures stepped on board; two robots and a human in a space suit and helmet. The two robots the students recognized as they were very similar to those on earth. The head and appendages attached to a main body by three inch flexible piping giving them an appearance of floating as they moved. Their eyes, apparently cameras, scanned the group. They looked over the passengers, and then the human removed his helmet, allowing the students to see him. He appeared to be middle age with a ruddy complexion and a scare down one side of his face. He looked back at one of the robots and without an exchange of words, the robots turned and headed forward to the flight deck.
“My name is Captain Zaebos.” His words sent chills. His voice was rough and deep. As he spoke, missing and crooked green teeth were visible, and saliva drooling off his mouth. “You will do as I say without question. Everyone will stand and exit this shuttle. Once outside you will receive further instructions.”
“Hey, where are we anyway?” came a voice from somewhere in the group.
“You are on the moon” Captain Zaebos answered, a sinister looking smile forming on his face.
“So what’s going…” the student’s question was interrupted.
“No more questions! You will stand and exit!” His words were harsh and biting.
The two robots returned with the flight crew. The pilot bore bruising to her face.
“Looks like the pilot gave them some trouble” whispered Jon.
“Yeah, you’ve got to give her credit to go up against two robots” said Karsen.
“Quiet!” ordered Zaebos, “You are to remain silent.”
The students exited the shuttle and gathered in a large cargo bay. Karsen attempted to keep an eye on Larisa; however he lost her in the crowd students.
“The Bots will direct you” said Zaebos. “There will be three lines. You will be classified by type of cargo and then loaded into the appropriate transport. Get into whichever line they tell you. ”
These Bots, as he referred to them, resembled those that boarded the ship. Also, each held a type of laser rifle. Standing in the middle of the lines stood a larger red and black robot, watching the process. Its main body bore the insignia H8. Karsen watched as the students were divided into several different lines.
“Do you have any idea what they are doing?” asked Brandi in a hushed voice.
“Not yet. I’ve been watching; trying to figure out how they are deciding which lines to put us in.”
Brandi had been unusually quiet since the landing. Karsen and Jon had chalked it up to her being frightened. Possibly now she had overcome her fears.
As they got closer to the bots, Karsen noticed certain students being removed from the group before entering a line. It seemed that the students removed were disabled in some way. They removed only a handful of students compared to the entire group but one had a cast, while another used a wheelchair. Karsen had an idea and started to walk with a pronounced limp.
“Are you okay?” asked Brandi.
“Play along,” said Karsen quietly, with his head down, “I’m going to try something.”
As they reached the bots, one turned its head toward Karsen and his eyes changed color.
“I see nothing wrong with this one” the bot said, apparently using some type of sensor or x-ray system to determine the physical problem. Jon now understood Karsen’s plan.
“It muscular; he doesn’t have full use of his leg” said Jon. There was a hesitation by the bot.
“Yes,” Brandi said suddenly, “and his eyes, uh, he can’t see either, uh, not very well.”
Don’t ad lib too much, Brandi, thought Karsen. The bot pause another few seconds. Karsen noticed that the front panel on this bot flashed, while the others did not. He then noticed the panel on the robot marked as H8 also flashed. When the panel on H8 stopped flashing, so did the panel on the bot addressing them.
“Remove him to the evaluation room” said the Bot
Another Bot approached and commanded Karsen to follow. The bot stopped Jon and directed him into a line.
Karsen considered that the flashing represented communication. Maybe the bots cannot make all the decisions independently.
“Uh, he needs me to help guide him” said Brandi.
As she took him by the arm, Karsen thought what are you doing? They headed down a hallway off the cargo bay. Karsen moved slowly, limping. Once they were out of sight of the other bots, Karsen suddenly stiffened as if in severe pain, then bent forward at the waist, pulling away from Brandi.
“What is wrong with him” the Bot asked.
Karsen suddenly spun around, his hand slicing through the neck of the bot and severing its head.
“Nothing now” Karsen answered.
Brandi stood in awe of what she had just seen. Karsen picked up the rifle.
“What, uh, how…?” she stammered.
“I’ll explain later. Right now we have to get back to the shuttle without being seen.” Karsen removed the energy pack from the rifle. “Grab the other two packs on its belt” he said glancing at the bot on the floor. Brandi bent down, and with a wrinkled nose and squinting eyes, she used two fingers to pluck the energy packs from the Bot. Karsen saw Brandi’s reaction.
“What…?” said Karsen. “It’s not a person; it’s a robot.”
“Yeah, but it’s leaking something yucky.”
“It’s hydraulic fluid. Hand me those energy packs.” Brandi handed him the packs which he put in his pockets. He then pushed a pin on the rifle and the trigger assembly dropped into his hand. He looked around and spotted a trash chute, dumping the trigger assembly into it.
“Come on” he said.
As they briskly made their way back down the hallway, Brandi was confused about several things.
“I don’t understand,” she said, “don’t we need the rifle?”
“Not unless we want to hurt someone.”
“We don’t?” questioned Brandi.
“No, we don’t. I believe that violence is only a last resort. It is to be used only when I or others face harm.”
“But when the other kids are mean to you?”
“Then it’s an opportunity to grow stronger, to rely on yourself, not on my feelings.”
Soon, they reached the cargo bay. Standing against the wall, so as not to be seen, Karsen looked around for a way to reach the shuttle. It seemed impossible. Then, a disturbance broke out on the other side of the cargo bay. There was yelling and everyone’s attention was facing away from the shuttle. Karsen saw their opportunity.
“Let’s go” said Karsen. The two ran across the cargo bay to the shuttle with prayers that they would not be seen. As they reached the shuttle, two laser rifle shots were heard. Brandi gasped and looked, however Karsen pulled her to a concealed place behind the landing gear. It was not known who the shots were intended for, but no one was looking in their direction.
“Wait here” he said. He moved quietly to the side of the shuttle away from the others. He needed to get access to the luggage area and was wondering exactly how to do that. However, when he reached that side of the shuttle, he found the luggage door open. Upon looking inside it was clear someone had been in the compartment, however only one suitcase was opened and clothing was strewn about the compartment. He was puzzled. He thought that if a pirate bot entered the luggage area a lot of suitcases should have been searched.
He quickly found his luggage. Fortunately he had placed a bright lime green tape around the luggage. He opened the case retrieving a long box with a sling, and then he returned to Brandi. She was still watching the others.
“Any change?” he asked her.
“No, I can’t see who they shot at or what caused the shooting, although they seem very interested in that end of the bay.”
“We need to find their ships” he said looking around for a way out of the cargo bay. “They spoke of transports. It looks like the only exits are the hallway we came from and the one the others are being taken through, but we need to find these transports”
“Yeah, but how do we,” Karsen held up his hand and Brandi stopped talking. He spotted a floor grating nearby that appeared loose.
“Come on,” he said, “We can use those crates as cover.”
The moved carefully to the grating and quietly slid it open. It appeared to be about a 10 foot drop.
“You go first, and I’ll lower you down” he told her.
Once in, they looked around. There was low level lighting allowing them to see. This level appeared to be a maintenance tunnel. Karsen got his bearings and they made their way along the tunnel. Brandi was doing well, which impressed Karsen. All the time they were together in class, he had been annoyed by her bubbly personality; however she seemed to have a level head about her. Thinking back, he realized that she had come to some rather intelligent conclusions in the lab; he just hadn’t really paid attention. He was always concerned about what Larisa would think if she saw the two of them together. He had even laughed at her jokes.
“What are we doing anyway?” asked Brandi.
“We need to disable their ability to leave this base” he replied.
“How do WE plan to do that?”
Karsen stopped at a junction to get his bearings again, and then pointed in the direction they needed to go.
“I haven’t figured that part out yet.” Karsen said. Brandi hesitated with a wide eye look.
They reached a dead end. There was a metal ladder leading back up and some instruments on a panel. The labeling was not in any recognizable language. Karsen looked back the way they came.
“You didn’t see any passage we missed, did you?” he asked
“No, only the junction we passed.”
“No time to go back that way. I expected to see the fueling interface. I guess we will have to climb up and see if we’re in the right place.”
As they faced back towards the junction, they heard a metallic sound of an object that impacted the floor directly behind them. The sound came so suddenly it caused Brandi to jump. It was a bot holding what appeared to be a cattle prod and standing very closely to Brandi. Karsen stepped between the bot and Brandi.
“You are not allowed in this area” said the bot, triggering the prod and causing heavy current to flow between the ends. “Come with me or you will have to be controlled.”
The bot moved the prod towards them. Karsen prepared to take on this bot when a shiny metal shaft quickly pierced the upper torso of the robot from behind. Sparks emitted from the bot. The end of the shaft had three barbs which also emitted a blue arc of electricity. As the bot fell, Larisa was standing behind it.
“Where did you come from?” Karsen asked.
“Oh, no thank you for saving your lives; just a where did you come from” she said with a smile.
Karsen and Brandi just stood for a moment.
“You’re the one that opened the shuttle luggage compartment” said Karsen, nodding in a knowing fashion.
“Oh, and you’re the one that opened the grating to this tunnel” said Brandi.
“Yep: I had to get my baton.” She held out the twilling baton, only it was longer with the ends extended and a pistol grip and trigger was protruding from the bottom. As they watched she popped open the top and dropped in another spear.
“Too awesome” Karsen exclaimed.
“The baton was to be for my experiment, but it seemed I needed it sooner.”
“I guess we’ve been right behind you all the way.”
“It would appear so.”
“But where were you?” asked Brandi.
“You didn’t look down, did you?” They both looked down at the floor to see a hatchway.
“So, what’s the plan” asked Larisa.
“We need to disable their ability to depart” replied Karsen.
“Well, there are three space transports directly above us.”
“Let’s take a look” said Karsen.
Larisa led the way up the ladder. The exit onto the bay was very well concealed by large shipping crates with covers over them, so all three came up concealed by the crates, and peered around at the ships. They were able to see the three transports, which were being fueled. Each transport was being guarded by a bot. The fueling process did not involve liquid propellant. Rather it was a radioactive compound. None the less it was equally explosive. At the opposite end of the bay were the students waiting to board. They ducked back into protective cover.
“Alright,” said Karsen, “I’ll take out the three transports; Larisa, you will handle the bots.”
“Sounds good” said Larisa.
“What about me?” asked Brandi.
“You will be the distraction,” answered Karsen. “You will come up to the bots from behind. When they see you they will order you to join the others. The bots seem to give you a chance to comply. Once you have their attention, I’ll take out the first transport and Larisa will start taking out the bots. As soon as we do you start getting the students to run back towards our shuttle.”
“What about the bots at the shuttle?”
“Everyone running towards them should hold them there. Once we are finished here, Larisa and I will use the maintenance tunnel to come up behind them and take them out.”
“What about the flight crew?” asked Brandi.
“I’m afraid there is no flight crew” said Larisa. “I overheard the transport pilots above talking. They have already been released onto the surface of the moon without space suits; part of Zaebos plan to fake a crash of the shuttle.”
The group was silent.
“Alright,” said Karsen, “we go with the plan as is.”
Everyone agreed it was a good plan. Karsen opened up the box he had been carrying, and removed the collapsible bow and arrows. Taking out the energy packs, he attached one to each of three arrows. He set the arrows telemetry for a force on impact detonation. He was working, when suddenly Karsen stopped.
“Did you hear that?” he asked. The others now listened.
“Yes,” said Larisa, “it’s coming from the cargo crate.”
Karsen lifted the cover. All were horrified at what they saw. In the cargo crate were some of the students floating in some sort of liquid. Their eyes were wide and moving; however the liquid seemed to be very thick as their movements were slow and laborious. They each were wearing some sort of mask over their nose and mouth. As they looked at the eyes looking back at them, Karsen saw a familiar pair; it was Jon, his friend.
“Karsen, we can’t leave them” said Brandi.
“Yeah, I know.”
“What are we going to do now?” she asked.
“I don’t know. It sure puts a snag in the plans.” Karsen looked at Larisa. He thought for a moment and then something occurred to him.
“When I went to get my bow from the luggage compartment of the shuttle, the door was already open.” He said. Larisa gave him a knowing smile. “I would assume you had to beat the door locking system.” Larisa lifted her arm to show him a dark wrist band.
“It’s a wireless decoder. I can decode nearly anything” she said. Karsen looked over his shoulder at the control panel on the cargo crate. Larisa’s smile widened as she recognized what Karsen was thinking.
“Okay, change in plans. Larisa, I need you to free the students in the crate. Can your decoder handle an unknown language?”
“The symbols may be unknown, however the functions are math based and therefore universal; open and closed, on or off, it’s like zeros and ones.”
“Good! Brandi, you’re going to take out the ships.”
Brandi swallowed, giving a look of determination. She had some experience from the archery class at school, and she wanted to help.
“What do you want me to do?” she asked.
He didn’t have time to give her much information. He demonstrated the technique of how to load an arrow, pull the string back and aim.
“Just let the bow do the work for you” he said, handing her the bow and the three arrows. Karsen turned back to Larisa who was already working on decoding the crate.
“How long do you think it’s going to take?” he asked.
“It’s hard to say. I will need to evacuate the fluid and I have no idea how long that takes. I anticipate five minutes, but that’s a real swag.”
Karsen looked back at the transports. He could tell by the actions of the ground crew they were almost done.
“Concentrate on getting the students freed, no matter what you hear” he said to Larisa. The then turned to Brandi.
“Take the bow, and climb up the ladder to the catwalk. That will put you close enough to the ships. I will handle the bots. When you get in position, do not wait; just shoot; the same as Larisa, no matter what you see or hear. After we have our tasks done we will all use the access tunnel and meet at the other end.”
Brandi climbed the ladder, watching the bots to make sure she was not detected. Karsen made his way around to an area near the ships.
As Brandi crawled out onto the gangway, Karsen made his move. He quickly reached the bot nearest him, and with a swift slice, took the head off the first bot. The middle bot raised his laser rifle; however Karsen closed the distance and severed the arm holding the rifle. The bot reacted, slamming Karsen with his other arm, taking him to the ground.
As he fell, he looked up at Brandi, who was now kneeling with the bow loaded. She drew back the string, placing it against her cheek, and took aim. She held her breath and released!
“Ow” she said, feeling the burn from the string striking her arm as she released. The arrow hit the floor and slid under a transport. It struck a skid on the side landing gear of a transport and exploded! The transport slowly fell to one side, striking another transport next to it. Sparks flew from the refueling cables at the nose of the transport from being stretched.
Karsen used a sweeping motion with his leg, dropping the second bot to the floor. As the bot started to get up, he severed the head. The third bot fired the laser rifle nearly hitting Karsen, who then leaped and rolled. The bot fired again, missing Karsen however more narrowly than the first shot.
Brandi had reloaded, with the second arrow, and took aim. She hesitated. Karsen saw her hesitation.
“Shoot!” he hollered. The bot changed its attention to Brandi raising the rifle towards her. Karsen saw he was too far away to reach it.
“Shoot!” he repeated, urgency in his voice.
“You’re too close” she hollered back. She was fearful he would be caught in the explosion.
“Shoot!” his voice was determined sounding. She released the arrow! Its course was true and it struck the refueling cabled, exploding on contact.
The explosion detonated the entire ship as Karsen leaped away from the blast. The second ship then exploded, engulfing the bot. Finally the third ship also exploded.
The students that had been waiting were already charging back how the corridor, fearful of the effects produced by Brandi’s arrows.
Brandi climbed down the ladder and Karsen was there waiting for her. They embraced out of happiness for the success of the fight. Brandi buried her head into Karsen’s shoulder, a contented smiled on her face. Karsen too had the same smile. Then he saw Larisa with Jon standing next to her.
They all joined in a group hug.
“You really gave me a scare” said Karsen to Jon
“You were scared? It looked to be the end for me,” replied Jon, “all because I shoved that Captain Zaebos character.”
“Well, I think we should delay this family reunion” said Karsen. “The students should be reaching the cargo bay by now.” They all agreed and made their way to the maintenance tunnel.
At the cargo bay the students were flooding in, however Captain Zaebos and H8 were heading down the corridor. They were responding due to the explosions they heard, and lost contact with the bots guarding the ships. The students were making it difficult for them to proceed so he ordered the bots to fire into the crowd. The bots fired their laser rifles and several students fell.
“Stop!” he commanded in a bellowing voice. The students skidded to a stop.
“Stay here and do not let them go any farther,” Zaebos told the bots. “H8, follow me!” The two of them continued down the corridor towards the ships. The corridor was now filling with smoke.
The bot’s attention was on the students, so they failed to notice anything behind them. A bot suddenly dropped to the floor, its head rolling to the side. Instantly a second bot fell with a spear penetrating its body.
The third bot hit Larisa, knocking her to the ground. Before it could do anything else, however, Karsen’s hand sliced through the arm at the shoulder, causing the bot to drop its rifle. The bot simply stood, staring at Karsen for a moment, Karsen looked back, and with one swift motion sliced the bot’s head off.
The bots eliminated, they started the students back to the shuttle.
“We’ll get them on board, and then what?” ask Larisa. “The crew has been terminated. Who will fly it out of here?”
“That’s where I can help” said Jon. “I have a pilot’s license.”
“Yeah, but that’s a recreational spacecraft license” said Karsen. “This is a bit bigger.”
“And a lot more automatic; they have most of the functions programmed into the shuttle computers. I can handle it.”
Karsen realized they really didn’t have any other option. Besides, he could see Jon’s confidence in his eyes. Jon and Karsen went back to the shuttle to make sure everyone gets on board.
“Larisa, can you keep them moving to the shuttle?” She nodded. And Brandi, I need you to check on the ones hurt and get some of the students to help them get then on board.”
Everything went smoothly, and soon nearly everyone was boarded. Jon was at the controls and had powered up the systems. Karsen made sure all were seated and belted in. Larisa stepped into the cabin.
Larisa, is Brandi with you?” Karsen asked. Suddenly Larisa stepped forward, followed by Captain Zaebos and H8.
“Nice try kid,” said Zaebos, “but not this time. I have to give you credit; you and your friends did well, but it ends here and now. You really made a mess of my cargo bay. I have cancelled the replacement transports as your shuttle is now listed as overdue. We will just have to take this ship. H8, take the controls.”
Jon had been listening to what was going on. Thinking fast, he activated the right side stabilizer jets. This caused the right side of the shuttle to lift suddenly, throwing Zaebos and H8 off balance and out the cabin door; unfortunately Karsen as well. The three stood and faced each other. Karsen took a defensive martial arts position.
“You are no match for me” said H8. “I was given special construction, so your titanium hands cannot penetrate me.”
“You will forgive me if I try anyway” said Karsen. The robot’s left arm which contained the four gun appendage started to take aim. Suddenly a spear pierced the robots left arm at the shoulder. Sparks and electrical current flowed and then the arm froze. Larisa stood at the shuttle door, however, that was her last spear.
“That will not stop me. I still have another arm with which to crush you.”
As the last word trailed off, the robot exploded. Karsen looked wide eyed. Larisa saw what Karsen couldn’t because H8 blocked his view. Brandi was standing with the bow. She had used the last arrow to take out H8. Captain Zaebos was gone. The explosion was not the cause of his disappearance; he simply fled.
“Does someone want to give me a hand?” Brandi asked. At her feet was a badly hurt student from the bot laser rifle. Karsen ran and helped her get him on board.
Everyone was on the shuttle. Larisa moved to the flight deck and took the copilots seat. She used the shuttle computers to raise the platform and open the space hatch. Karsen and Brandi took the seats behind them. Brandi cleaned a cut Karsen sustained in the fall.
“Titanium hands?” she asked as she bandaged his head. “And where did you learn all that martial arts stuff?”
“Well the martial art is from the Yeshua-do school. I have been attending it in the summers for eight years now. As far as the hands, it is actually one hand. Dr. Browning built my first one and I receive upgrades every year.”
“I don’t think anyone knows about it.” Brandi caressed his hand as she looked at it, and then looked up at him.
“It’s not something you talk about.”
“How did you, uh, well, you know.”
“I’ll tell you, but you can’t ask any other questions about it, okay?”
“Yeah, uh, sure” she replied.
“It was bitten off.” The two sat in silence. Brandi’s expression changed to anticipation. She wanted to know, but had agreed not to ask. Then a smile formed on Karsen’s face and she realized he was kidding. She slapped him on the shoulder. Then they both laughed, and sat down in the seats behind Jon and Larisa.
Jon and Larisa lifted off. Larisa looked over at Jon and smiled.
“We make a pretty good at that” she said. We should have a name. You know like the fabulous four or something.”
“Well, that’s kind of old” said Karsen. We’ll have time for that later.
Larisa looked back at Jon again, still smiling.
‘”Yeah, we need to give it some time.” Jon smiled back.
“Captain to First Officer,” Jon said to Larisa, “clear us for departure to Galileo Lunar Base.”
“First Officer to Captain, you are a go for departure” Larisa replied with a smile. “We do make a good team.”
Karsen sat behind them. He held Brandi’s hand. It seemed that his interest had changed. At least someone helped him to change it.