“Are you ready?” The children
nodded as the teacher, Miss MacGregor, demonstrated the use of the spacesuit
by placing the helmet over her head. “Put it on like this and once it’s
secure, it will click into place.”
A girl sitting along the back
wall raised her hand.
“What if it’s not on right?”
“Your head will explode, so
let’s be sure you have it on nice and tight.” Miss MacGregor slid into the
vacant seat next to Marianne and tugged on the helmet to make sure it was
secure. “It looks good.” Once the task was complete, Miss MacGregor sat in
her chair and buckled the safety belt. She eyed it with a critical eye
before calling out to the class. “Is everyone settled in?”
The children all nodded.
A few minutes later, a voice
came over the intercom. “Boys and girls, we will be taking off shortly for
the outer rim of the Orion Constellation. Please have all tray tables in
their upright position and no kicking the seat in front of you.”
The engines of the space ship
roared to life. Black smoke and flames poured over the launch pad, blurring
the edge of the landscape.
Angus stared out of the
window, holding his breath. This was his first field trip with his school in
Edinburgh. A knot of anticipation formed in his stomach. He crossed his
fingers as the space ship lifted off the ground, shooting into space. Cold
blackness engulfed the metallic vessel. Stars twinkled in the distance,
beckoning Angus to visit.
“Wonder if there are any
aliens out there?” He mumbled the words, fogging the window with his breath.
Angus wiped away the moisture with the glove of his spacesuit.
Miss MacGregor waived her
arms, trying to get the attention of the children. “All right everyone, who
can tell me how cold it is outside?”
Marianne raised her hand and
squirmed in the seat.
The teacher pointed at her.
“It is several hundred
degrees below zero.”
“And how cold is that?”
Marianne paused for a second.
“You’ll freeze to death in a matter of seconds?”
“Very good Marianne,” said
She beamed from the praise.
“Who can tell me when the
planet Roland was discovered on the Orion Constellation and who was it named
after?” She looked around for a raised hand and saw Marianne’s, but Miss
MacGregor skipped the little girl, looking for someone else to answer the
question. Her gaze fell upon Angus and she pointed at him. “Can you tell me
the answer to my question?”
He looked away, avoiding eye
contact and twiddling his thumbs.
“Well, I see none of you have
done your homework.” She turned to look for another student.
Marianne raised her hand a
second time and calling out, “Pick me. I know the answer.”
Miss MacGregor nodded toward
Marianne. “Go ahead.”
“It was discovered by the
ship Atlantis Explorer in 2103 and it was named after the president at the
time, Roland King.”
“Very good. Now I will give a
little history lesson on how we stumbled across this obscure planet.” Miss
MacGregor cleared her throat and continued. “The ship had encountered a
meteor storm and needed to make repairs before continuing on the journey.
The Captain scanned the surface of the planet and found it to be compatible
with earth’s atmosphere, but so much smaller. That’s why we missed finding
it before now. We are the first civilians to be allowed to explore the
planet now that the scientists have catalogued most of the plant life.” She
glared at her students. “Don’t do anything to ruin it.”
Angus looked away and stared
out of the portal window. Comets and planets whizzed past. He cupped his
hands and peered into the inky depths, blocking out the interior light that
glared off the window. Angus glanced at Marianne who sat smugly in her
chair, gloating over the answers she gave to the teacher. The Captain’s
voice called out over the intercom, breaking into his thoughts.
“I need everyone to sit up
straight and be very still for the next five minutes. We will be
transferring into hyper-drive and if you make any sudden movements, the
particle matter of your body could break apart into a million tiny pieces
and float about the ship. We would then have to scoop you up and put you in
the DNA Strand Re-assembler. It’s painful and takes a long time to put you
back together. Besides, we wouldn’t want you missing your field trip now,
Angus sat still, his gaze
wide and afraid. He clenched the armrest of his seat, his knuckles turning
white from the strain. Pressure squeezed his chest like a stack of books
weighing him down. Glancing at his arms, he saw them stretch out before him
like a rubber band. Marcus sat next to him and kept punching Sara in the
arm. Angus wanted to yell out a warning, but the Captain’s dire threat rang
through his head. Turning into a tiny million little pieces held no appeal.
Sure enough, as the ship shot into hyper-drive, a little popping sound drew
Angus’s attention. Marcus burst into a million pieces and floated throughout
the ship. Angus slowly tilted his head to the left, avoiding a particle that
was about to land on his helmet. Five minutes later the ship came to a
sudden stop and the children jerked forward in their seats.
Artificial gravity kicked in,
but the pieces of Marcus were weightless and continued floating about the
Miss MacGregor leapt out of
her seat and ran to the cockpit, pounding on the cabin door with her fist.
“We have a problem, Captain.” The door opened up and she pushed her way
inside. The voices of Miss MacGregor and the Captain mumbled over the
Angus craned his neck to
better listen to the conversation as tiny drops of Marcus continued to swirl
around the room. He tried to dodge the wayward particles.
“One of the students blew
apart into tiny pieces. What do we do now?” He heard Miss MacGregor’s
irritation while she complained to the Captain.
The Captain turned to the
co-pilot and grumbled. “There’s one on every trip.” A few seconds later,
shuffling and banging came from the cockpit. Angus leaned to the side of his
seat, watching the chaotic scrambling.
The Captain said to Miss
MacGregor, “Here, use this to suck up all the pieces, and then put him in
the DNA Strand Re-assembler. You can’t miss it. It looks just like a trash
can. Be sure the lid is sealed tight.”
Miss MacGregor arched her
brow. “What exactly does the DNA Strand Re-assembler do?”
The Captain answered, keeping
his impatience at bay. “It rebuilds…the DNA…strands.”
“So, you don’t know what it
does either, do you?” She snickered at the Captain as she returned to the
seating area and turning on what looked like a hand-held vacuum cleaner.
Miss MacGregor waved it back and forth in the air, sucking up the larger
pieces of Marcus. Turning around the room, she found the DNA Strand
Re-assembler, popped open the lid and dumped Marcus inside. Miss MacGregor
pressed a red button, jumping back at the sound of the grinding noise.
“That is why you need to pay
attention.” Speaking to the students, Miss MacGregor pointed at the
container, and said, “Now he will miss the field trip.”
Turning his head away, Angus
heard the worry in Miss MacGregor’s voice as she muttered her complaints
about Marcus and buckled herself into the seat.
“How do I end up leading
these field trips? I’m having a long talk with the principal when I return.”
With one final huff, she leaned back in her seat and crossed her arms over
her chest. “This will be the last one.”
Angus glanced at Marianne.
She sat in the seat, thumbing through the pages of her schoolbook. The
engine thrusters came on and the whole ship vibrated. Angus prayed that the
ship would hold together.
The Captain called out over
the intercom. “Boys and girls, we will be touching down on the planet’s
surface in just a few minutes. I need you to stay seated. We do not want
another incident like the last one.”
Angus tugged on his belt and
gripped the seat of the chair, clenching his eyes shut. The process of
landing was not nearly as fun as he imagined. Marianne chuckled at his fear.
He glared at her.
The ship’s thrusters pointed
toward the terra firma, descending at a rapid pace. A few minutes later, the
ship came to an abrupt stop. Miss MacGregor unbuckled her seatbelt, checked
on the DNA Strand Re-assembler and saw that Marcus was not finished being
put back together yet. She shrugged and turned back to the children in the
class, accidentally bumping the machine with her hip.
She pressed the intercom
button and said to the Captain. “Is air pumping into the cabin yet?”
“Yup. You should be safe.”
Miss MacGregor rolled her
eyes. “I need everyone to take off their helmets and place them in their
seat. When the Captain opens the door, we will walk down the stairs and stop
at the edge of the ship.” She pointed her finger at a friend of Marcus’s.
“That means no wandering off, Thomas.” He looked away.
Angus did as he was told and
stood in the aisle, waiting for the others. At that moment, the lid to the
DNA Strand Re-assembler popped open and pieces of Marcus blew out of the top
and scattered about the ship. Miss MacGregor shrieked, yelling at the
Captain not to open the ship’s door.
He did not hear her cry.
She stumbled around the
cabin, searching for the vacuum cleaner and waved it in the air. “Quick
everyone, grab the pieces.”
The students lurched like
drunken sailors, grasping for the particles and shoving them back into the
DNA Strand Re-assembler.
Thomas sat on the lid, trying
to keep what was left of Marcus in the machine.
Angus ran after a handful of
pieces and bumped into Marianne, knocking her down.
“Look what you made me do.
Now we’ll never find all of him.” Marianne watched the pieces of Marcus fly
through the spaceship door.
“Yes we will!” Angus yanked
Marianne to her feet, dragging her through the door. He pointed at several
pieces floating across the field. Angus took a deep breath. The air smelled
sweet, like candy. “This way. Come with me.” Keeping a wary eye on the lush
plant life that surrounded them; he shoved his way through trees covered
with purple and orange leaves.
Marianne ran behind him and
lunged to the side. “Here’s a piece.” She cradled the particle in her hand
before handing it to Angus to put it his back pocket.
They jogged past bushes the
color of yellow lemons, hanging over a golden pond filled with white frogs
and blue fish. Angus stepped on a rock and held out his hand, rescuing a
piece of Marcus from a blue fish that jumped from the water to eat it. “Oh
no you don’t,” he said.
“The colors are so bright
here.” Marianne paused and stared at the landscape. “It looks like a rainbow
threw up everywhere.”
Angus yanked her hand. “Come
on. We don’t have time for sightseeing. I think I just saw a couple of
pieces fly down that way.” He shoved aside a leaf covered with blue bumps.
The leaf flew back and smacked Marianne in the face.
“Ouch!” She scratched at the
blue film covering her cheek.
“There’s another piece of
Marcus.” Angus bumped into a tree covered with orange spikes on the trunk
and leaves as fat and round as coconuts. He stood under the tree and pried
loose the piece caught on one of the spikes. “I thought it would be sharp.
It’s not.” His finger rotated the pointed end.
Marianne kept looking back
over her shoulder. “Okay, you’ve found that piece, now let’s get the rest of
Angus snipped out. “Just a
minute. I want to be sure I have every bit.” He grabbed a twig lying on the
ground and poked at a leaf. Liquid poured out and splashed him on his head.
He grimaced and stepped back.
Marianne narrowed her gaze,
leaning in to say, “Now can we go?”
Wiping off the drops of
moisture dripping into his eyes, he turned to grumble at Marianne. “All
right. Let’s go.” He looked at her face and cringed.
“What?” She rubbed her cheek
and felt the bumps on the side. “Oh no. What are these?”
He poked at a bump. “It looks
like blue warts.”
Marianne glared at him. “This
is all your fault. If you hadn’t dragged me off the ship and through this
jungle, I wouldn’t look like this.” She stopped her tirade and stared at his
hair. “You’re not going to believe this, but your hair is turning purple.”
He groaned. “I think this is
the last piece of Marcus. Let’s get back to the ship and get off this
stinking planet. I’m starting to think this field trip wasn’t such a great
She rubbed her face. “Me
Angus turned on his heel and
dodged to the left. “I think we came from that direction.” He shoved the
pieces of Marcus that he had pried from the tree, into his pocket. They
walked through the jungle for ten minutes, but nothing looked familiar.
“I know that path is here
somewhere.” Angus scratched his head, looking to the left and then to the
right for any signs to guide his way.
“We’re lost.” Marianne shoved
his back. “I can’t believe you got us lost and now we’re going to die.”
Angus rubbed at the painful
stinging on his arm. “You worry too much. We’ll find the ship.” He stared at
the flattened pink grass. “This is starting to look familiar.”
“Are you sure? We were
running through the jungle to find Marcus. I didn’t get a good look at the
place. Did you?”
He shook his head.
Half an hour later, Marianne
started whining. “I’m so tired and hot. You can’t find the ship, can you.”
She plodded along behind him.
Angus stopped and covered her
mouth with his hand. “Shush. I think I hear something.”
Marianne paused. Her eyes
grew round and she pulled his hand away. “Do you think it’s our class?”
“I hear growling and I don’t
think Miss MacGregor growls. Do you?”
“Well that depen—"
Angus cut off her reply by
grabbing her hand and dragging Marianne toward the sound.
They burst through the jungle
and into a small clearing. A furry creature no bigger than the palm of
Angus’s hand, sat on a small rock, chewing on a flower. Angus stopped and
eyed the creature.
“Oh, how cute!” Marianne
clapped her hands together and rushed forward. “Do you think I can pet him?”
Angus shrugged. “It looks harmless to me.”
With both hands, she scooped
up the creature and cuddled the fluffy beast.
Angus stroked the creature’s
head and a growl erupted from deep within its throat. He backed away from
Marianne. “I think you should put him down and back away slowly.”
She continued to nuzzle the
creature. “What are you talking about? He’s cute and furry. I think we
should keep him.”
“He’s not cute and furry
Marianne pulled the creature
away from her face and looked into angry red eyes. The fur changed into
spikes and the cute smile was now several rows of razor sharp teeth rotating
in a circle. She shrieked and dropped the beast on the ground, backing away
slowly. “You’re right. It’s not cute anymore.”
The creature came toward
them, growing in size with each step. It gnashed its teeth back and forth.
Marianne’s scream pierced the air.
“Don’t just stand there,
run!” Angus shoved her forward and they crashed through the jungle, the
creature hot on their heels.
“Don’t eat us…don’t eat
us…don’t eat us!” Marianne chanted the plea when they jumped over the stream
and ran toward a clearing through the trees.
Angus looked over his
shoulder and saw the row of teeth snap at Marianne’s head. “I don’t think
it’s listening to you.” He pushed her to the left and dodged out of the way.
Running in a half circle he met up with her. Angus pointed at the end of the
clearing. “There’s the ship.”
“Oh, thank goodness!”
They dashed across the field
and a tiny piece of Marcus flew out from Angus’s back pocket. The creature
made one last jump and opened its mouth wide, the piece of Marcus flying
inside its mouth. The creature stopped, and started chewing on the tiny
morsel, purring at the delectable taste.
Marianne and Angus screamed
as they ran up the stairs, and shouted at Miss MacGregor. “Close the door.”
The door shut behind them and
Angus sighed, leaning against the cold metal. Relief washed over him.
Miss MacGregor glared at
Angus and Marianne, watching them shuffle down the aisle toward their seats.
Her words stopped them in their tracks. “It’s about time the two of you
showed up. We’ve been waiting here for almost thirty minutes. I hope you
didn’t get into any trouble while we were busy collecting all the pieces of
Marianne took one step away
from Angus and pointed. “He made me do it.”
“Gee, thanks.” He nudged her
in the ribs. “Here, we found some more of Marcus.”
“Put him in there.” Miss
MacGregor pointed to the DNA Strand Re-assembler. “Thomas, get off the lid
for a second.” She drew up, her attention caught by the sight of the two
wayward students. “What on earth happened to you? Marianne, why do you have
blue warts on your check and Angus, why do you have purple hair?”
“We ran into some trouble
outside.” Angus rubbed at the liquid stuck in the strands.
The teacher shook her head.
“How do I always end up with the problem class?” She yelled out to the
Captain. “We have another problem.”
He called out over the
intercom. “What is it this time?”
“One of my students has blue
warts on her cheek and the other has purple hair.”
The Captain stomped out of
the cockpit, carrying a metallic cloth. He handed the cloth to Miss
MacGregor. “Here, use this to clean up the mess.”
She eyed it with skepticism.
“What does this do?”
He turned on his heels and
headed back to the cockpit, calling out over his shoulder. “It cleans…the
Mumbling under her breath
about the incompetence of the Captain, she handed the cloth to Marianne.
“Here, see if this will remove the blue warts and get rid of the purple
hair. I will have enough to explain to the principal about Marcus without
adding you two to my list of mistakes.”
Turning to the rest of the
class, she said, “Because of the incident with the DNA Strand Re-assembler,
we will no longer be able to tour the planet. We used all of our time
finding Marcus. I want everyone to sit down and buckle up. We leave very
shortly.” She gathered the children together and shuffled them toward their
Angus plopped down and
Marianne did the same.
“Miss MacGregor?” Angus
raised his hand to get the teacher’s attention.
“Yes?” She buckled herself in
and looked up.
Angus glanced out the window
and saw the creature stand to its full height, eyeballing Angus through the
window. The creature was almost three stories high and opened its mouth
while running toward the ship. Angus could swear he saw it lick its lip.
“Can we leave now?”
Miss MacGregor called out.
“Captain, you can take off at any time. We’re ready to leave.”
A message boomed out over the
intercom, from the Captain. “Boys and girls, buckle your seat belts. We are
preparing for take off.”
The children settled in their
seats as the ship’s engines roared to life. Angus leaned back and caught
sight of the creature chasing after the ship, its razor teeth flashing in
the sunlight. He glanced at Marianne, who sat with her fingers crossed
hoping that the creature would not catch them. It was a close call. The ship
shot into space and then into hyper-drive. Once earth came into view, the
ship returned to normal speed. The beeping on the DNA Strand Re-assembler
notified Miss MacGregor that Marcus was reassembled.
She unbuckled her seatbelt
and walked toward the machine, popping open the lid. Marcus stood. He rubbed
his eyes and stared at everyone on the ship. Miss MacGregor pointed to his
vacant seat. “Sit down. We’re almost home.”
Marcus sat down, looking
confused. “Did I miss anything?” He held out his hand and noticed that one
of the fingertips was missing. Raising his other hand, he called out to the
teacher. “Miss MacGregor, where’s my fingertip?”
She strapped herself in and
said, “You ignored the Captain’s warning and blew up into a million tiny
pieces. We were bound to miss a piece or two. Next time you’ll listen, won’t
He nodded and leaned back in
the seat, staring at his hand.
Angus coughed, trying to
cover his guilt.
Marianne leaned over and
whispered. “What’s wrong?”
“I think that was the piece
the alien ate right before we ran onto the ship.”
“Serves him right for almost
getting us eaten alive. He’s lucky it wasn’t something worse, like at eye or
A few minutes later, the ship
touched down on the landing pad. Angus was never so grateful in his life for
his home planet. As he headed back to the Aero-pad check-in station, Angus
glanced over his shoulder one last time at the ship that almost changed his
life. He was certain about one thing; this was the last field trip he would