UNEDITED

The Mavericks Together for the First Time

Keltie Sheffield waited in the airlock as the escape pod cleared the outer doors and the inner airlock doors opened. The escape pod was a circular ball of metal that looked painfully uncomfortable to travel in.

She wrinkled up her nose.

It smelled like space, too. Like burnt rubber and popcorn.

“Smells pretty bad, huh?” she asked.

Silence.

She turned around. Eddie Puente was at a control panel, entering some commands. He ignored her.

She scoffed.

Ever since they had been left alone, he didn’t acknowledge her. He seemed nice enough to start, and they even chatted for an hour. But it must have been something she said, because he stopped talking to her. Like a switch got flipped and she couldn’t figure out why.

He avoided eye contact and acted as if the pod hadn’t even entered the airlock.

The pod touched down on the ground with a clang.

Grayson piloted, and seeing him, she laughed. He was so tall his head was almost touching the ceiling. He was laughing, too.

Devika was frowning. But then again, Keltie had never seen her smile so that was nothing new.

There was someone else with them in the pod, but she couldn’t see who it was.

The pod doors opened, letting out a large whoosh of air.

And then Keltie heard it.

A crazed, revving-like sound.

Weeeeerr!

Keltie ducked as a small black cloud darted over her head. A red eye glinted in the center of the cloud. Seeing it, her heart jumped, sweat beaded on her forehead, and she balled her fist.

“No,” she whispered. And then she yelled, “No!”

A Planet Eater. The alien race that started all of this, the race that killed her best friend before her eyes!

She ripped a crowbar off the wall and banged it as hard as she could.

The alien winced.

“Go away!” she shouted. “Go away!”

She banged the crowbar harder and the Planet Eater flew away, sputtering as if the sound were hurting it.

“Eddie, open the airlock!” she shouted.

Eddie watched with his mouth wide open.

“Eddie!” Keltie said.

CLANG! CLANG!

The alien sputtered again.

“I’ll do it myself,” Keltie grumbled, running for the airlock controls. “You killed Claire. You’ll pay, I swear to God—”

She heard gunshots in her mind.

Then she was back on Kepler.

In her spacesuit.

People were screaming.

Her best friend, Claire, was running next to her.

Bullets were flying everywhere. Planet Eaters covered the sky like ink.

A hand on her shoulder pulled her from the flashback.

She kept swinging the crowbar, denting the pod.

“Keltie,” someone said.

“Somebody help!”

“Keltie,” the voice said.

The alien retreated to the corner of the airlock, and it shrunk to half of its size.

Someone grabbed her crowbar.

She tightened her grip. But soon the crowbar was gone and it clanged against the floor.

Grayson had grabbed her.

“Keltie, it’s all right,” he said.

“What do you mean it’s all right?” she yelled. “Do you remember what they—”

“He’s not gonna hurt you,” Grayson said.

“He’s telling the truth,” Devika said. “It seems to be docile.”

Keltie shook her head at the alien. She pushed herself away from Grayson.

A petite Asian woman stood behind Devika. The encounter had scared her.

“Hi,” the woman said. “I’m Michiko. And that’s Clark.”

Clark swirled in the corner of the ceiling and hovered under a skylight, almost disappearing in the blackness of space outside.

Keltie backed out of the room. Took one last look at Grayson, Eddie, Devika and Michiko.

She thought she knew these people.

Now they were harboring evil aliens!

It was too much to take. She ran out of the room.

***

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