Hey there explorers! Elissa here today. I thought you might enjoy reading a bonus scene that I wrote to introduce you to some of my characters. My contribution to the Galactic Exploration Collection is a story about a bunch of kids who try out for an interplanetary Olympics called the Galactic Games. In this scene you'll meet Franco and Ebba as they have a little mishap during a training exercise. Enjoy!
“Why am I not surprised you’re in here,” said a voice from the doorway.
Franco Carito looked up from his most recent creation. A combination bread toaster and egg slicer. He called it the mega-awesome-sandwich machine. It was a working title. It looked rough, even he could admit that. Wires stuck out like deranged porcupine quills, and the casing pieces were a variety of different colors since he’d swiped them from other projects.
Franco’s friend and occasional training partner, Ebba Zadan, poked the pile of discarded wires that littered his insta-desk, a portable floating surface that he could move around his workshop as saw fit.
“You promised you’d be at the practice arena after lunch. You totally forgot. Didn’t you?” Ebba asked.
Franco grimaced and checked his watch. He hadn’t forgotten to meet her. He’d been so focused on perfecting his sandwich maker before lunch that he’d forgotten to eat. It was now after two o’clock. Definitely too late for lunch.
“Sorry. Really. I just need to finish connecting these wires. Then I can make the best sandwich the world has ever seen.” He glanced up at her. He could tell she wasn’t interested in waiting. With a sigh, he dropped his multi-tool and followed Ebba out of his workshop.
“Our training schedule says we’re supposed to practice flying today. Do you want to use the aerogliders or something bigger like the sky canoes?” Ebba asked.
Franco made a face. He and Ebba planned to try out for the Galactic Games, an interplanetary sporting event held every year on Galenka, the game planet. During tryouts, Coach Cabe Tolliver would have them complete a series of dangerous tasks. He and Ebba needed to prepare for anything.
“Sky canoes? Do you really think Coach Tolliver will use those? They’re horribly slow.”
“Right,” Ebba said. “But they require teamwork.”
Franco’s mind immediately went to the canoe’s propulsion system. Could he rewire the electro-paddles to make them faster?
Fortunately, when they arrived at the training field, the two sky canoes were both taken by other athletes. He and Ebba selected the only thing available, the wind walkers. These electronic boots allowed him to walk on air currents above the trees.
“These are so lame,” Ebba complained as she programmed the boots. “You owe me big time.”
Franco ducked, embarrassed. “You can have my first mega-awesome egg sandwich.”
Ebba wrinkled her nose, “I’ll pass. Thanks anyway.” She stood up and gave her boots an experimental bounce. They propelled her six feet in the air. She ducked to avoid hitting her head on the roof of the equipment shed.
When Franco was ready, they set out on the sky course. Thirty feet above the tree line was a field of floating boulders that had been arranged for the athletes to train on.
“This can’t be that hard,” Ebba said as they bounded onto the course. “They’re just rocks.”
“That’s what scares me,” Franco said, pulling out his light-ray gun.
A whispering whoosh passed through the sky course. A barrage of grape sized stones pounded across Franco’s shoulders, knocking him forward.
Caught off balance, Franco stumbled forward. He caught himself on a pear shaped boulder. White hot pain seared through his protective iron-skin glove. He yelped and righted himself quickly, nearly stumbling into a second boulder in the process. “Hot. Very hot. Don’t touch the boulders.”
“Are you okay?” Ebba asked.
Franco wiggled his fingers inside the iron-skin. “Maybe a blister. I’ll survive.”
They bounded through the course, careful to avoid touching the blistering boulders. As they went, Franco made a mental map of their surroundings, trying to calculate the fastest way out.
“Franco, look out!” Ebba screamed, bringing his attention back to the task. He lurched forward as something solid thudded into the back of his helmet. A black nebula swirled across his vision as he tried not to pass out.
The next thing he knew, he was spiraling downward. Tree branches flapped in his face. Thick, gray muddy confusion clouded his mind. He was falling. His wind walkers weren’t working. If he didn’t do something quickly, he was going to slam into the ground. A fall like that could kill him.
He kicked his feet to activate the walkers. His left boot vibrated weakly, slowing his descent a degree. But not enough. They were going to scrape him off the ground and turn him into a mashed Franco sandwich if he didn’t do something. He frantically pressed every button on his right boot, trying to restore power. In a panic, he stomped and kicked and flailed both feet.
His left boot pulsed with energy in response to his flailing. It spun him sideways trying to keep up with his commands. Sideways was better than headfirst, Franco realized as the ground rushed ever closer.
His arms flailed, trying to grasp the branches that sped past. But everything he managed to grab broke off in his hands. He was running out of time. He closed his eyes and accepted his fate. Maybe turning into a Franco pancake wouldn’t be so bad. Ebba could have a fried egg and Franco pancake sandwich for dinner.
As the ground rushed up at him, the yellow green grass turned milky white as fog rushed to fill the space between him and the ground. Franco’s visibility decreased as he entered the fog. His stomach lurched as his descent slowed too quickly. Finally, he came to a gentle stop on the forest floor.
Franco sat up and shook his head. “What just happened? Why am I not dead?” He stood up to try to see over the fog.
A girl on a sky skimmer a few years older than Franco skirted between the trees, headed towards him. “Are you okay?” she asked. “You set off the warning system that released anti-fatality fog.”
“Is that what this white stuff is?” Franco asked waving his arms through it. The anti-fatality fog billowed around his face making it hard to see.
“All of our courses have some sort of safety net. Coach Tolliver doesn’t want any dead athletes on his training courses.”
“Praise God for that,” Franco said as she sped off towards the equipment shed. With one working wind walker, Franco pogo-hopped his way across the forest floor, happy to be alive.