Grab your flight helmets and dancing shoes, because it’s time once again for…
In our last installment, we discovered the shocking and not-at-all-obvious fact that Sergeant Steve Phelps, hero of the Galactic Military and Jen’s new make-out buddy, is in actuality a spy for the evil Sffon Collective. Gasp! T.J. and Rendar were en route to the planet Maridia, but were waylaid when a slow-moving fighter (eventually) damaged their lightspeed engine.
And a good thing it did, for Maridia was suddenly overrun by the Sffon, meaning death for all GaMi officers on the planet. And so now, because no one has considered sending a quick radio call or futury text message to T.J. and Rendar (“R U DEAD? Y/N”), the folks back at GaMi headquarters are certain that our two heroic commanders were killed during the invasion.
Will T.J. and Rendar get back to Earth in time to reveal that Steve is the spy? Will Jess and Jen cry buckets and buckets of tears over the loss of their beloved friend, who is so great and awesome and special and wonderful? Will everything go to hell while our heroes go dancing for some reason?
READ ON AND FIND OUT.
For Chapters 1-4, check the Fighting For the Galaxy main page here.
Fighting For the Galaxy
by (13-year-old) T.J. Baer
In which T.J. and Rendar prolong everyone’s grief in order to crash their own funeral; our heroes are so involved in dancing, eating, and tongue gymnastics that they fail to notice the earth being invaded by murderous aliens; and Jessica makes a rather egregious boo-boo.
Rendar and T.J. sat in the cockpit, just preparing to come out of lightspeed.
“Here we are at Maridia,” Rendar said as he pulled the lever to yank them out of lightspeed.
Both froze as they saw the planet.
“Oh, my God,” Rendar said.
It was, quite obviously, a Sffon invasion. There were hundreds of Sffonian ships hovering over the plant, shooting at fleeing ships.
“Rendar,” T.J. said quickly as one of the ships noticed them and turned its lasers in their direction, “get us out of here now!”
He nodded and spun Pacific around so it was facing the direction that they had come from. “Definitely a good idea,” he said. He typed in the coordinates of Earth into the computer.
The ship was beginning to fire on them. “Hurry, Rendar!” T.J. exclaimed.
The Sffon hit them twice before they managed to get out of there. Right before the lightspeed engine engaged, Pacific shuddered violently but finally did go into lightspeed.
“That was close,” Rendar remarked.
“Pretty convenient timing for the Sffon to decide to overrun Maridia,” T.J. said.
“What, you think we were set up?”
“I’m almost sure of it,” she said. “We would’ve been on planet if that fighter hadn’t screwed up our lightspeed engine. Steve Phelps knew what we were trying to discover on this mission. He could’ve easily gotten the Sffon to attack Maridia. I mean, he, Captain Abrigio, and General Minhuk are the only people who knew about the mission. Think about it.”
“You’re probably right. But what do we tell everyone when we get back? Chances are, everyone thinks we’re dead.”
“And if we come back and reveal what we know about Steve, we’ll most likely end up dead by the end of the week,” she said grimly.
He sighed and sank back in his chair. “What are we gonna do, pretend we know nothing?”
“I guess so,” she said. “I mean, no one but you and me knows Steve Phelps is the spy, and since our lightspeed engine broke down, we wouldn’t have been on Maridia in time to get the name of the spy from Hitta anyway.”
“Do you think we should radio in?” Rendar wondered.
“Wait until we’re farther away from Maridia. If they can track ships through lightspeed, then any transmissions from our ship would lead them right to us.”
“Okay. I’m gonna push the lightspeed engines up to ninety-five percent so it won’t take us so long to get back to Earth.”
T.J. nodded. “How long will it take, exactly?”
“Maybe a day and a half. A day if we really push it.”
“Let’s push it,” she said.
* * *
“What?!” Jessica exclaimed when Abrigio told her.
“I know this is hard to accept, but Commander—er, T.J.—was killed on Maridia. She and Teetan were both on the planet, and there’s no way they could’ve escaped. I’m sorry.”
Mark sat beside Jessica on the couch, a look of concern and sadness on his face. Rendar and T.J. had both been his friends. And now they were gone…
“No,” Jessica sobbed. “No.”
She cried on Mark’s shoulder.
“I’ll leave you two alone for now,” Abrigio said. “The funeral service will be tomorrow at noon in the Main Hall.”
“Wait,” Mark said. Abrigio paused. “What exactly were they doing on Maridia, anyway?”
Abrigio sighed. He considered not telling the young man but couldn’t find any reason not to.
“They were trying to get information out of a man named Hitta Kalantz. He knew, through his own sources, who the Sffon traitor was in GaMi headquarters. There’s been a huge information leak for a few years now, and we needed to find out who it was. Now I don’t know if we ever will. Hitta was killed along with Baer and Teetan.”
* * *
The next day, everyone in the base was in the huge Main Hall for the funeral services. Pacific landed a few moments after the funeral began. T.J. and Rendar walked out of the hangar and noticed that there was no one anywhere nearby.
“That’s weird,” T.J. said.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “I wonder where everybody is.”
Then they heard the echoing voice of General Minhuk coming from the Main Hall. They opened the huge doors and peered in.
“All officers lost on Maridia will be sorely missed around the base,” Minhuk was saying. “All were loved and cared for deeply by many people.”
Let’s pause to consider recent events:
- The majority of the GaMi fleet (and the planet Saturn) is completely destroyed: No funeral. Party at Jen’s place!
- The Philadelphia spaceport, hospital, and various apartment houses are destroyed, resulting in nearly 600 grisly deaths: No funeral. Party in the Main Hall, woo!
- A handful of officers on a distant planet are killed when the Sffon take over: BIG FUNERAL, SO MUCH SADNESS, OH THE HUMANITY, SUCH A TRAGEDY
“Oh, my God, it’s our funeral!” T.J. whispered to Rendar.
“You think we should tell them that we’re not dead?”
She shook her head. “No, I want to hear what they say about us.”
She tiptoed into the room and sat down in the unoccupied back row. Rendar followed.
Friends of some of the lost officers came up and said a few words about those who had been killed, and then Jessica and Mark walked solemnly up the long aisle.
“Commanders T.J. Baer and Rendar Teetan were two very great people,” Jessica began. “I’ve known T.J. since we were in first grade. We grew up together, joined GaMi together, and she’s always given me great advice. Even though we fought sometimes, she was truly the best person I’ve ever known, and I will miss her greatly.”
“And Rendar was my friend,” Mark said. “He was always a strong leader and a good friend. He saved my life once, actually, a few years back.”
“You saved his life; I didn’t know that,” T.J. whispered to Rendar.
“Come on,” Rendar said, “we’ve got to stop this.”
She nodded. They stood up and walked down the incredibly long aisle. Mark stopped dead in the middle of his sentence as he noticed the two lone figures approaching the stage. Abrigio stood up and gaped, and there was a general gasp from the audience.
Jess and Mark recovered from their shock and ran down to each give a hug to the two. Jen was not far behind, hugging T.J. very tightly.
“Uh, Jen, a little hard!” T.J. exclaimed.
Jen released her quickly. “Oh, sorry. I’m just so happy that you’re alive! What happened, anyway? How’d you escape the Sffon on Maridia?”
Before either of them could answer, Abrigio walked up to the microphone on the stage. “Attention. Apparently, Commanders Rendar Teetan and T.J. Baer are both alive, though I don’t know how. I expect a detailed report of what happened, Commanders!”
* * *
Later on, Rendar, Mark, Jen, Jess, T.J., and Steve sat on the two couches in T.J.’s apartment as the two commanders attempted to explain what had happened. T.J. and Rendar sat next to each other, closer than normal.
“See, we were supposed to pretend to be married to fool the local residents on Maridia and find out who the spy was,” T.J. began. “That’s what Captain Abrigio told us to do, anyway.”
“But we never made it to Maridia,” Rendar said.
“You never even got to the planet?” Jessica asked.
“Well, we got to the space above the planet,” T.J. explained, “but the Sffon were already there, so we just turned around and left.”
Steve frowned. “But you were scheduled to be on Maridia at that time.”
“I know,” Rendar and T.J. said simultaneously. They glanced at each other, and Rendar continued.
“We ran into a Sffon fighter en route to Maridia and he damaged our lightspeed engine, so we were delayed a day and a half because of it.”
Steve twiddled his thumbs and looked at the floor. “So, you didn’t find out who the spy is?”
“No,” T.J. said, seeing Steve’s odd behavior. “I told you, we never got on planet, so we didn’t get to question Hitta Kalantz.”
Jessica smiled. “So, you guys like each other now, right?”
Rendar and T.J. looked at one another, both noticing that they were holding hands.
“Yeah,” Rendar answered. They smiled at each other.
Jen grinned big. “Aww,” she said. “You guys make such a cute couple.”
Mark nudged Jess. “I told you this would happen, Jessie,” he said.
“I know,” she said as she gave him an affectionate kiss on the cheek. “You’re always right, Mark.”
T.J. looked at them. “Excuse me? You knew this would happen?”
Mark laughed. “I knew you guys would get together. I just knew it.”
T.J. rolled her eyes. “Jess, doesn’t it get annoying sometimes to be dating the man who knows everything?”
“Very annoying,” she said.
“It’s early yet,” Steve said. “Why don’t we all leave the base and go get a bite to eat?”
“Okay,” Jess and Mark said at the same time.
“Good idea, Steve,” Jen said as she got up.
“T.J., Rendar, you guys coming?” Mark asked.
They exchanged glances.
“All right,” Rendar said as T.J. nodded in approval.
They ate at a cozy little restaurant near GaMi headquarters, a nice place run by Yyughn. Yyughn were short creatures; most only grew to be about 4’11”, though some were a little taller or shorter. Their skin was rosy pink, and they were completely void of hair. However, Yyughn all had genius level intelligence, since they used more of their brains than most humans did.
Which is why they’re running a tiny restaurant on Earth instead of solving the great mysteries of the universe or devising weapons to use in that whole battle-for-the-galaxy-that-the-evil-Sffon-are-winning thing.
Good call, guys.
The GaMi officers typed in their selections and waited for the food synthesizer to make their orders. They ate and talked for almost an hour. One unusual thing about the restaurant was that there was an actual band playing off to one side. Most places simply had a stereo system to play music.
“Jess,” Mark said. “Would you care to dance?”
She smiled and stood up. “I would love to,” she said.
She nodded and followed Steve over to the wooden dance floor where three couples were already dancing.
Rendar would’ve asked T.J., but he hated dancing.
“I hate dancing,” T.J. said, right after he thought that.
“Really?” he said in wonder. “Me, too.”
“So, what do we do now?” she asked.
What should have happened here:
“So, what do we do now?” she asked.
“We need to decide what to do about Steve,” he said. “He’s one twirly mustache away from being the most obvious bad guy ever, and we need to tell someone about it ASAP. Or, you know, at least tell Jen to keep her tongue out of his evilly evil mouth.”
“Great idea, Rendar, let’s get on that right away!”
What actually happened here:
“So, what do we do now?” she asked.
He grinned mischievously and turned to face her. “I think I have a pretty good idea.”
She smiled and leaned in to kiss him.
Jessica and Mark, dancing the closest to the table, noticed the fireworks going on between their two closest friends.
“Whoa, I didn’t think they’d hit it off that well,” Mark said.
“Apparently they did,” Jess said, also mildly surprised. “I—”
T.J. and Rendar were still quite busy when the Yyughn dashed out of the other room and started screaming at the top of his lungs.
“They’re here!” he shouted. “We must get out!”
Rendar and T.J. broke apart quickly. “What the hell?” Rendar said.
“Who?” Jen asked the Yyughn.
“SFFON!” he shrieked. “They’re in my restaurant! In the other room!”
T.J. and Rendar turned to face each other, both thinking the same horrible thought.
“You don’t think the Sffon are trying to overrun Earth, do you?” Rendar asked.
“Yes, I do,” T.J. said, and got up. “Come on, let’s get back to GaMi and get outta here.”
“Outta here? As in off Earth?”
She almost dragged him out the door. “If necessary,” she said.
Jen, Steve, Jess, Mark, and the Yyughn all dashed out the door a few seconds after T.J. and Rendar did. The sight that met their eyes was horrifying.
“Uh-oh,” Jen said as they all stared up at the sky.
Appropriate Responses 101:
“I’ve spilled my cereal on the carpet.”
Appropriate response: “Uh-oh.”
“My ex-boyfriend is about to talk to my new boyfriend and will almost certainly bring up something awkward and embarrassing like that time I asked him to wear a blond wig and let me call him ‘Stephanie.’”
Appropriate response: “Uh-oh.”
“The Earth is being overrun by murderous aliens who are going to kill us all.”
There were ten huge Sffonian ships hovering in the almost night sky, red lasers lancing out to strike some unseen target down the road from them. The seven of them sped back towards GaMi headquarters only to find it completely destroyed.
“Um, we’re kinda in deep trouble,” Rendar pointed out as they stared at the rubble. “We need a ship, and we need one quick!”
“Too late for that, Rendar!” T.J. said in alarm. “Look!”
A group of twenty or more Sffon, all armed and ready to shoot anything that so much as breathed wrong, stood behind them.
“You!” one shouted. “Humans! Come with us or be shot!”
At this point, Jessica panicked. She looked at the Sffon, looked at Mark, and then ran in the other direction.
She didn’t make it ten steps before the Sffon gunned her down. T.J. watched in horror as she fell to the ground. Mark ran over and knelt beside her.
“Jess, no,” he sobbed as he held her hand and helped her to sit up. She had been shot five different times and was clearly dying.
“Mark,” Jessica whispered. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, Jess,” he told her.
She smiled briefly and then fell limp in his arms.
Mark cried for the loss of his love, but soon the Sffon lifted him up from her body and dragged him over to their ship. The others were already there.
“Stop,” Steve told one of the Sffon. “I am Steven Phelps, 42355A3.”
The Sffon who had been gripping his arm abruptly released him. “I’m dreadfully sorry, sir,” he said. “Follow me and you may ride up in the cockpit with us.”
Jen stared at him. “Steve!” she shrieked. “You’re the spy!”
He shrugged. “It’s a living.”
The Sffon shoved them into a cell on the ship and locked the door.
“You were right about Phelps,” Rendar said to T.J.
Jen stared at her. “You knew about him and you didn’t tell me?”
“I had no proof. Only a dream,” T.J. answered. She walked over to where Mark sat on the floor staring off into space.
“Mark?” she asked, putting her hand on his shoulder.
He looked up at her, tears still pouring from his eyes. “She’s gone, T.J.,” he choked. “My Jessie’s gone.”
She sat down beside him and tried to comfort him. “She was my friend, Mark, and I’m gonna miss her, too. But right now we have a lot to worry about. They’re taking us to Sffonia to be mind-probed. When they find out we don’t want to join the Sffon Collective, they’ll kill us.”
“Good,” he said. “I don’t want to live anymore without Jess.”
“You know you don’t mean that. You’ll get along without her, even though it’ll be hard. Remember, we’ll all be here to help you through it.”
“No,” he sobbed. “I want to die. If I had a gun, I’d shoot myself right now.”
“You know Jess would’ve wanted you to keep on living. You have to keep her memory alive! We all have to,” T.J. said.
He seemed to think about that for a minute, then lay down on the floor. “I’m so tired,” he said. “I’m gonna sleep and hope this is all a nightmare.”
Mark fell asleep instantly. T.J. stood up and walked over to sit beside Rendar.
“I hate seeing Mark like this,” Rendar said. “I’m beginning to wish that this was all a dream, too.” He glanced around the cell. “Does it look familiar?”
T.J. looked around. “No. This isn’t it.”
Jen gazed at them. “What do you mean? Did I miss something?”
Rendar shrugged. “Probably.”
“I had a nightmare while we were going to Maridia,” T.J. explained. “I found out Steve was the spy and also saw me and Rendar in a cell. This wasn’t it.”
“Well, where were me and Mark?” Jen asked her.
“I don’t know,” she said. “But I wouldn’t put much faith in most of my dream, since some of it couldn’t possibly happen.”
Rendar turned to look at her. “I heard it, and all of it sounds possible.”
She shook her head. “You only heard half of it. I interrupted you, remember?”
“Oh, yeah. So, what’d I miss?”
T.J. sighed. “Somewhere in there, I saw Jessica.”
TO BE CONTINUED…!
Click here for Chapter 6.