Bronwyn Dix · Claire Garretson · Maia Gaskovski · Megan Good · Emma Grob · Hannah Houser · Ethan Jo · Joie Koo · Christine Lyford Dianna Pledger · Andrew Sayuk · Abby Snyder · Mari Stanton
“Mechanic 42 to electrical please, Mechanic 42 to electrical,” a robotic voice crackled over the spaceship’s sound system. Grumbling, Mechanic 42 (or Michael, as his friends on Earth once knew him) sat up, hitting his head on the frame of his sleeping pod with a dull thud before sliding unhappily to the floor. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he shuffled slowly through the smooth, rounded spaceship corridors that were dimly illuminated by the flickering blue light which signaled a mandatory rest period for all the Mars-bound passengers.
Arriving outside electrical, Michael mechanically punched in his passenger ID number, after which he received a small, metal toolkit through an automated messenger chute. Tools in hand, he made his way through the rows of generators and neatly organized wiring towards a blinking red light that signaled the problem in need of repair. As he neared the light, he heard a sharp crackle, feeling himself plunged into inky darkness. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Michael muttered. “Probably just a blown fuse, of course it had to happen on my shift,” he continued resentfully. Fumbling in his toolkit until he located a small flashlight, he hurriedly switched it on, before stumbling backwards in shock. In the dim glow of the flashlight, he saw…(ASHER)
…a cat, or at least what he thought was a cat, lying contentedly on top of one of the warm generator frames, presumably absorbing the warmth from within.
Quickly, Michael checked his logs. No cats had been reported as passengers or cargo. That’s suspicious. He thought. I should probably report that to mission control. He fished around in his toolkit for his communicator. At that moment, the cat (JO) leapt from the generator, hissing loudly and clawing at his back. He uttered a small cry of pain and surprise, yet the cat refused to get off his back until suddenly (HOUSER) a black and white cow came trundling down the darkened passageway, charging towards Michael and the cat while uttering a piercing “moooo.” With a screech, the cat leapt off of Michael, seeming to defy gravity as it clung to the ceiling. Michael found himself facing down the disgruntled cow (GROB). He threw himself out of the way just in time to avoid the charging bovine and plastered himself against the wall. What in the world? he thought to himself, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and grumbling incoherently about his lack of sleep (GOOD). Keeping one eye trained on the crazed cow, Michael carefully edged his way toward the blown fuse. As he neared the area, the now upside-down cat gave him the evil eye and hissed menacingly (KOO). “I do not get paid enough for this,” he muttered under his breath, deftly mending the blown fuse and turning away (SAYUK).
Suddenly, the “cat” turned and snarled at him in such a way that could only mean “How dare you interrupt my rest, young man, and shouldn’t you know that this is my unassigned assigned space for sleeping and for otherwise minding my own business, but of course you wouldn’t, you space-invading widdly-witted biped mammal–oh, and don’t bother checking any lists or logs to find me as one of the passengers or cargo; I shouldn’t be telling this to a mere human such as yourself, but rest assured that I do indeed belong here, as does this bumbling cow, and that I have full permission from higher authorities than yourself to exist in this space, and don’t you dare mention this incident or my presence to any of the other passengers on board this primitive piece of flying metal, or you’ll regret it for the rest of your days” (STANTON).
Completely befuddled, Michael stared up at the furious creature and tried his best to wrap his mind around what just happened to him. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of light footsteps entering the room (PLEDGER). “Michael?” came the shrill voice of a four-year-old girl. “Michael, leave my pets alone!” she said, stomping her foot and shuffling determinedly towards her older sibling with a blanket in one hand and a pouty scowl on her dimpled cheeks (DIX). Claire-Anne. Ever since she was born, on the 17th of April at 1:00 AM on a Thursday morning, his life had become a whirlwind of her mostly grammatically-inaccurate phrases, finger paint, and four legged-beasts that roamed about in her vicinity at will (GASKOVSKI). As Michael turned to face her, strange beeping sounds echoed from collars around the cat and cow’s necks, which flashed blue and then bright red. The cat hissed and sprang forward, slashing through a cluster of wires by Michael’s feet. At the same moment, the entire ship shuddered with the force of an enormous collision. Alarms blared shrilly (SNYDER).
Unfortunately, the cat-mangled wires transferred power to the oxygen generator that supplied every sleeping pod with life until the unconscious passengers reached their destination. In horror, Michael clutched the ends of the crucial cables, trying in vain to repair the damage. Looking up at the maintenance room monitor, he scanned the screen until he found the row labeled “Oxygen Reserve.” It read “3:24” – exactly how much time he had before every pod’s oxygen supply would be permanently sapped (SAYUK). In a moment of desperation, he pulled out every mechanic’s best friend: duct tape. Thanks to the near-magical properties of this trusty tool, he managed to patch over the torn wire and sighed with relief upon seeing the generator resumed operation (LYFORD).
In the midst of the confusion, a tinfoil sound broke out over the silence: from the tiny bug-eyed loudspeaker came the resounding notes of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero, and an automated voice peaceably announced “To all residents of the TSS Anglesey II, you have arrived at your destination: Mars.” Michael gasped, duct tape clenched in fist: the ship was not due to arrive until February the 22nd. He needed to ensure that each pod encased passenger still slept in their mandatory hibernation until the conscious crew could make sure nothing had gone further awry (GASKOVSKI). He dashed down a hallway to the right closely followed by his strong-willed sister, the dairy cow, and destructive cat and pushed open a door entitled, “sleeping corridors” (KOO). Quickly scanning the many sleeping pods to check if all was well, he felt his face go white as his eyes caught a pod whose hatch lay open (PLEDGER).
He knew that if a passenger woke from their sleep and actually left the pod it could only mean one of two things: they were planning on hijacking the ship or had drunk way too much coffee before leaving (LYFORD). He hoped it was the former – dealing with hijackers had become highly commonplace and infinitely more manageable than trying to control an unsuspecting passenger who had accidentally found some of the spiked coffee instead of downing the morning La Croix lattes (GARRETSON). He instantly jumped into his usual course of action for such situations (eating a handful of gummy bears, brandishing a freshly-sharpened pencil sword, tossing an onion or two into his bag for good measure, and blaring his favorite ancient GP6 hype song) before sprinting off in the direction of the open pod (STANTON). In his mad dash, he had completely forgotten his little sister and her strange pets. Behind him, the three of them exchanged looks and the cow quietly kicked a large crate of double shot espressos under a tarp (LYFORD).
Reaching the pod, Michael skidded to a stop and quickly scanned a screen on its side, which showed the occupant’s age, picture, and name (KOO).
ANNALEE LAEL RHEEDRAW
SKILLS: photography, deception
This wasn’t just any passenger. The escapee was Michael’s good friend and partner-in-crime (STANTON). But how? he exclaimed mentally, a thought bubble forming above his head. Then he recalled their final conversation before she had entered her sleep pod (GASKOVSKI).
Narrowing his eyes, he strode through the sleeping corridors to the kitchen entrance.With a sweep of his arms he threw open the doors, meeting a frustrating though expected sight: Annalee, crouched over a storage bin, filling her already bulging pockets with handfuls of rainbow-hued gummy bears. At the sight of him she leapt up, sheepishly attempting to hide her thievery and giving an apologetic grin. “You can’t imagine how hungry I was! You try taking a year-long nap, see how you feel! Besides, I wouldn’t have woken up if not for that awful alarm, which was probably your fault, or maybe your sister’s. By the way, did you know she smuggled a cat and a cow onto the ship before we left earth? You should probably check on that before they break something important, I would if I were you. And another thing -“
“ENOUGH!” shouted Micheal, his patience hanging on by a single, frayed thread. Taking his friend by both shoulders, he pushed her out of the kitchen and back to her pod. “I need you to keep your nose OUT of trouble until the crew handles whatever happened in the past horrible hour. And that means sleep. And no. More. Gummy. Bears. You can explain that thievery later.” Fishing a hibernation pill out of his tool kit, he threw it at her before striding away.
“Are you sure that you’re not just dreaming?” Annalee called after him persuasively.
For a brief moment, Micheal paused. Then, almost hopefully, he pinched himself as hard as he could. Wincing, he glared back at her, his dashed hopes clearly more painful than his momentary physical discomfort. “Trust me,” he deadpanned, “it’s my shift. Of course, it had to be real.”
Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/science-fiction-ufo-cover-1924249/