Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2019 finalist, Gabbie Long! Gabby finished 5th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “Astronaut Friends”
In a galaxy far from Earth, there is a family that lives on an alien planet. The girl’s name is Brooklyn. Brooklyn and her siblings go to school and learn how to be astronauts.
The first day of school, my mom busted into my room and said, “Wake up honey, it’s time for school.”
“I’m up,” I said slowly slipping out of the covers. I ate breakfast and was out the door like a jackrabbit.
When I got to school, everyone on the playground rushed over to me. A thousand voices bombarded me, “How you doing today? How was your summer?”
Rebecca, who’s been my friend like forever, said, “I can’t believe you’re so popular.”
“I can’t either,” I said not understanding why it was true.
On the second day of school, there was a new kid and just like that, my popularity was gone. I’m not sure why everyone liked him, maybe it was the way he looked. Oddly, it kind of bothered me. My mom picked me up from school and said, “How was your day?”
I replied, “It was a bad day because there’s a new kid and he’s more popular than I am and for some strange reason, I’m jealous.”
“I see,” she paused, “sweetie, you don’t always need to be popular.”
“I know,” I sighed sinking into the seat.
We drove the rest of the way home; the car was as silent as the night.
“We’re home,” mom said as we pulled up the driveway. I went to see what dad was doing.
The next day, I accidentally slept in and made everyone late for school. I also forgot to eat breakfast and went to school so hungry, my stomach growled all morning. There he was, everyone was sitting by him in class, but I had my best friend Rebecca. My mom said to ignore him instead of making a big deal of it, so I did. I worked with Rebecca all morning.
On the playground, at recess, I talked to him. I found out his name was Jordan and he was the most popular person at his old school too.
As the bell rang, Rebecca ran over to me looking as if she’d won a million dollars, “I can’t wait for school to be out! Can I still come over tonight?”
I looked at her with a blank face. Suddenly it hit me, “It’s Friday already?
“What do you mean? Remember, it’s our play date tonight.” Her million-dollar smile was gone. She was walking backwards and talking to me as we approached the building.
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that.” I said slapping my forehead.
“What do you want to do tonight?” she said with a little pep back in her voice.
“My dad fixed the ship and wants to go to some new place on the moon,” I said opening the door to go back to class.
“Sounds like fun,” she said, turning around, and grabbing my arm as we walked down the hallway. “Remember, I’ll be there at 4:30 tonight!”
“Thank you for reminding me. I’ve been a bit spacy today.”
“See you after school!” We entered the classroom and the afternoon began.
Soon school was over, and mom picked us up. The ride home was quiet.
We pulled into the driveway and mom put the car in park. The others jumped out and she turned and looked at me. “You don’t seem convincing to me, was it really better than yesterday?” she said with concern in her voice.
I turned, pulled open the car door handle, paused, “I miss being the center of attention.” I pushed the door open and went into the house.
I put my bag down next to the door and went into the kitchen. I grabbed a fruit that looked like a banana back on Earth. I opened it up and headed toward the back door. I opened the door and walked out onto the deck. That’s when I saw it, the ship was back. I dropped my fruit and ran out to the pad where the ship lands. I went around to the other side of the ship and saw him working. “What’s wrong daddy?” I asked when I saw him staring intently at the ship.
“Well Brooklyn, the ship won’t move.”
“What do you mean? It was working earlier this week.” I said moving closer to him. He put his arm around me.
“I’m afraid there will be no trip to the moon tonight,” he said throwing a wrench back into the toolbox. “Brooklyn, can you get your mother, please?”
“Sure, daddy” I said with disappointment in my voice, I went back into the house.
“Mom, dad needs you,” I said when I walked inside. Mom was in the kitchen. She set down the plates and headed outside, with her hand on the doorknob, she turned around.
“You need to go clean your room before Rebecca gets here,” she opened the door and was gone. I can’t argue with her, it was a disaster up there.
I came downstairs and mom was cleaning the downstairs area. I headed outside when mom stopped me and asked, “Are you done with your room?”
I turned around, “Yes. Does dad know wants wrong?”
“Don’t bother him right now. He’s working on the spaceship.”
“What time is it?” I say as I headed outside.
“It’s 3:45. Rebecca will be here in forty-five minutes.
“Ok,” I shut the door and headed outside. I walked to the spaceship and found dad inside the ship, fixing the driver unit. “Do you know what the problem is yet?”
“No, I don’t, but I know it has to do with the steering,” he said as he stood up like a statue and put the tools in his toolbox. He grabbed another tool and went back under the console. He removed a panel by unscrewing four tiny screws. “Aha!” he yelled as he stood back up with a tiny piece in his hand.
“What’s that?” I asked taking it from his hand.
“That, my dear is a blown fuse. Why didn’t I check this first? Sometimes I can be so absent minded.”
“So, it’s an easy fix? Rebecca will be here. I told her we were going to the moon tonight.” I said worried I was going to let her down. I already forgot about her coming over tonight, I don’t want to be a terrible friend and let her down again.
Dad smiled at me and said, “Don’t worry, we’re headed to the moon tonight. I have an extra in the garage. I’ll go get it and install it and it’ll be ready for tonight’s trip.” He patted me on the head. “Now, go in and get ready. We’ll leave when she gets here.”
“Thanks Dad,” I said as I reached up and kissed his cheek. “You’re my hero!” I jumped out of the ship and ran to the house.
The front door bell rang.
“Mom can you get that?” I called down from my room. I went to change. It tends to be cold in space.
“Okay, I’m going,” she opened the door, “Come on in, Brooklyn will be down in a sec.” She turned and yelled up the stairs, “Rebecca’s here.”
“I am coming,” I said as I finished putting my sweatshirt on and ran down the stairs.
Rebecca stepped inside and went to the kitchen to grab a pear-like fruit.
“Hi Rebecca,” I said as I joined her for an apple, the only fruit from earth. “My dad said we’ll leave when you get here, let’s go see if he’s ready.” We took our fruit and went out the backdoor. He was ready to go. “Rebecca is here, so we can leave now.”
In no time, everyone was there and ready to go. Mom and dad were in the front flying; while Rebecca, my siblings, and I were sitting in the back. “Let’s do this!” I said.
“The engines roared like a lion. We started off and everything was going great. Rebecca had never gone into space. As we lifted off, I turned to look at her, she was grinning from ear to ear.
Once we left the planet’s gravitational pull, Dad sent a course for the moon. Dad said, “You guys can unbuckle now. We should be there in about an hour.”
Everything was fine, but when we were almost there, the ship started to malfunction. It began to shake and rumble. “Buckle up! Dad yelled with urgency in his voice. “I’ve lost control of the ship,” he turned to Mom and said, “Can you drive for me while I fix the ship.”
Dad got up and Mom took his place, she was in such a rush, she forgot to buckle-up. He crawled underneath the control panel and began to open the panel. “Dang it, I forgot my tools!”
The ship continued to shake, rattle, and clang. Dad was up looking around for a screwdriver. “Do you need help,” I said with concern. I looked over at Rebecca, she looked nervous.
“No,” dad said, “stay buckled and keep Rebecca calm.” I reached over and took Rebecca’s hand. She turned and looked over at me with a concerned face. I smiled, hoping to make her feel better.
The next 15 minutes were kind of a blur, there was a lot of shanking, warning alarms, and dad frantically running around the ship. I don’t remember a lot of what happened, I was focused on Rebecca and keeping her content. I do remember looking out the front windows and seeing the moon coming straight toward us, very quickly. Just before we hit, Mom was able to get control of the ship enough to land it without damaging it; however, because mom and dad weren’t wearing their seatbelt, they were hurt.
After the ship stopped moving, the kids unbuckled and ran to the front of the ship to see how their parents were. Mom flew forward and was lying on the control panels. I ran over to her. She had a giant bump on her forehead like a golf ball. She was unconscious.
“Dad,” I yelled, “Mom is out cold.” I looked around to find Dad. I saw him lying on the floor, towards the back of the ship. I ran over to him. “Dad!” I yelled, “Are you okay?” He turned over. He was holding his right arm. I bent down over him as he opened his eyes.
“Yah, I think so, but my arm really hurts,” he groaned. “How is your mother?”
“She wasn’t buckled, so she flew forward and hit her head. She has a melon on her forehead and is out cold.” I helped Dad to his feet, and we went over to help Mom. Rebecca was still sitting in her seat. She was in shock. I gave her a reassuring smile and went to help mom. Because Dad’s arm was hurt, I had to lift Mom up with the help of my brother and put her in a seat. Dad assessed the cabin, and everything looked good. He and I got out and looked at the ship. There didn’t seem to be much structural damage.
“It looks like we’ll be able to make it home, it only has superficial damage. We just need to find out what went wrong. Your Mom did a good job of bringing it in safely,” Dad said as we walked around the ship. “Too bad she wasn’t buckled!”
When we got back in the ship, Rebecca was out of her seat and looked better. She was over by Mom, helping her. Mom came to but was very groggy. “What happened?” she asked.
“You saved us, but you weren’t wearing your seatbelt,” Dad explained. “You ended up hitting the control panel and bumping your head.”
“Will we be able to make it home?” she asked trying to get up.
Rebecca gently guided her back into her seat, “You’re not ready to get up,” she told my Mom.
“We can make it as long as I can figure out what happened,” Dad said looking around. “I’m going to go out and see if I can find a place on the moon to buy some tools. I wish I would have kept mine onboard. Brooklyn, will you come with me, I’ll need an extra hand.”
I nodded. We headed toward the door. I turned around, “Rebecca, can you watch my mom. Make sure she doesn’t go to sleep or try to get up.”
“Sure thing,” she replied.
What seemed to be hours later, we returned with a package. Dad opened it up and took out his new tools. “Fortunately, your mother landed near a place that had the right tools.”
After an hour of searching, pulling boards of circuits apart, and analyzing the ship’s computer, dad finally found the problem. “Looks like some wiring came loose,” he said closing a control panel, “We should be set to go. Brooklyn, it looks like you’re driving home.”
Dad and my brother cleaned up the mess and Rebecca and I got my Mom buckled into her seat. Soon after, we were ready to leave. I was at the controls and Rebecca was my copilot.
“Ready?” I asked everyone as Rebecca turned on the engines. They roared to life again, and this time, everything sounded good. There were no alarms and the computer said the systems were all a go.
“Ready!” everyone responded. The ship took off and we were headed home.
After a while, my Dad said, “How’s the ship?” He had taken his coat off and made a sling for himself. He thought it was broken.
“I’m good,” I said. I’m glad I paid attention in school when we were learning how to fly. So far it’s a breeze, but the asteroids to my left are getting a bit too close for comfort. “Rebecca, you’re the person that watches for asteroids, they’re too close for comfort.”
“Yes captain,” she responded being funny.
As I was working on setting a course for reentry to the planet, Rebecca grabbed my arm. I turned to see that she was pointing out the window at an asteroid.
“I see it,” I said. I switched on manual drive and began steering the ship myself. The asteroid continued to get closer. “Can you check the computer and see if we’re in its path?” I said to Rebecca, both she and I were the top pilots in our class.
“Give me a sec,” she said as she was punching keys on the computer. She looked up from her screen with a worried face. “It looks like it’s going to hit us if we continue on this course.”
I looked at the navigation screen. If we veer any further, we wouldn’t make the landing window. We would be toast in reentry. Not wanting to be dramatic to make the already nerve wrecking situation worse, I simply responded, “No.”
Dad said, “Try to out run it. We should have enough fuel to burn if we limit how much you increase the speed.”
I moved the throttle back just a tiny bit, but it was too late, the asteroid was here, so I decided to chance it and move the throttle back more, the ship jerked ahead, but it wasn’t enough, the asteroid hit the spaceship like a bomb!
An alarm sounded! The entire ship shook so hard, I was afraid the rivets were all loose and the ship was going to fall apart. “Is everyone all right?” dad asked. With a chorus of yeses, everyone seemed to check-out.
“That didn’t help my head-ache,” my mom said, “but I’ll be fine.”
“Check the computer for the status of the ship,” dad said.
“Already on it.” Rebecca replied. “It says we’ve lost engine number two.”
“Dad, can this thing make it on just one main engine?” I asked struggling to regain control of the ship. The impact made me lose control of the ship. Looking out the window, I saw we were spinning. The asteroid must have hit just the tail end of the ship, forcing us into a spin. Remembering some basic maneuver from school, I was able to reverse the spin to slowly bring the ship back to the correct direction of home.
“It should,” he said with hesitation in his voice.
“Best news I’ve heard all day!” I said with a grin on my face.
“How is that good news? Your dad didn’t seem very sure about that. Are you sure about that?” Rebecca turned to look at my dad.
“I’ve never done it before,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t know.”
Rebecca looked at me, “I hope you have a plan,” she said with an ounce of hope in her voice.
“I do, check the computer for our current location, then set a new course for home.” She typed away on the keyboard. After a bit, “Crap!” she said turning and looking over at me. “According to the computer, we don’t have enough fuel to make it home. We’d run out in re-entry and cook!”
“No, we won’t,” I said, “Switch on the fuel bypass to engine two, and direct it to engine one.”
“You’re a genius,” Rebecca said, “How did I forget that? Turning on the bypass.”
Rebecca typed away on the keyboard. “Wahoo, that gives us just enough to get through reentry and landing. We’ll have to shut down all engines after reentry to reserve the fuel and at the very last minute, turn it back on to land. Can you handle gliding this thing to your house once we re-enter?
“I think we can handle that.” I turned and put my hand up. She reached over and hit me up top for a high-five. Then she turned back to her keyboard and set the new course and I let go of the controls.
We had about thirty minutes to relax before reentry. I got up from the controls and found my bag. I pulled out my earbuds and quietly listened to music. I put on my focus music. It wasn’t really music, more background noise I listen to when I’m trying to focus. Rebecca found a book, her focus, and read in a corner near the back of the ship. Dad was trying to keep mom awake. They were talking about possibly scrapping this thing and never leaving the planet again. My siblings were either sleeping or playing games. Our peace was suddenly disrupted by a violent shake and the sound of an alarm.
Rebecca and I sped to our seats, buckled in, and took a deep breath. She turned to me, “You ready to do this?”
“We’re ready!” I said, smiling at my best friend.
“Let’s do it then,” she said. She turned to her keyboard, her fingers danced across the panel, and the alarm went off. We set it to alert us when we were about to make reentry. I took the controls. “Alright,” I said to her, “fire up main engine one.” Rebecca’s fingers were back at work.
“Main engine one up and running,” she replied.
I put my hand on the throttle and slowly pulled it backward, “Here we go,” I said. My body tensed, and the ship lurched forward. “I’ll let you know when to shut it down again.”
Not wanting her eyes to leave the screen, she nodded.
“Oh, and let me know if our heatshield gets too hot,” I said as I was keeping the nose of the ship up. Again, the nod.
Moments passed, everyone was holding their breath it seemed. Rebecca interrupted the silence. “Brooklyn, ease up on the nose, we’re getting a bit too hot.” I pushed the control stick forward slightly. There can be major problems if the stick moves too far forward, the ship would somersault into the atmosphere, and we would burn up. If I pull back too far, same thing, just in the opposite direction. “Steady, steady. We’re almost there.”
“I’m going to ease back on the throttle, this thing is getting too hard to hold back, she’s wanting to pull forward,” I said, struggling to maintain control. The ship was rattling like a baby toy. I wasn’t sure how much more she could take.
“Cut the throttle!” Rebecca shouted. I pushed it forward. Rebecca turned off the engine, and the ship stopped shaking and was suddenly in a free fall. I must have had a look of panic on my face, because Rebecca leaned over and said, “I know you can do this. Just like at school!”
“Easy for her to say, she wasn’t trying to control a bazillion ton brick into her backyard,” I thought. I had to control the ship and not let it fall too fast, I had to glide it in, otherwise we would use up all the fuel just trying to slow down and position ourselves for landing. The further we fell, the more sweat rolled down my face. I was a wreck, controlling this thing was darn near impossible because it took all my strength to keep the nose up so the ship would glide. All it wanted to do was fall nose first. I was finally relieved when
Rebecca said, “Ok, turning on the engines, prepare to position ourselves for landing.”
“Finally,” I said, trying to keep control, “fire away.” As the forward engines came to life, I had help holding the nose up. We slowed down almost to a stop as we approached our backyard, what a fabulous sight to see! “Turning controls over to you,” I said looking over at Rebecca who was just as sweaty. Using the autopilot, we came gently into the backyard.
When everyone was off the ship, Dad turned to Rebecca and me, “Thanks girls, without you, we would’ve been stranded. Great job flying up there!”
“No problem,” we both said. The family had gone into the house to take care of mom and dad. Rebecca turned to me, “Thanks for believing in me up there. I know I panicked.”
“I don’t blame you! If that were my first trip into space, I probably would have been freaking out even more!” we both laughed. “You know,” I said, “I don’t need everyone at school to like me, when I have a great friend like you!”
Rebecca gave me a hug.
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