Life in the Stars

Life in the Stars

Chase L., Student Writer

The radio crackled.

“It’s Commander Hamilo, and we have a problem up here, in sector 15.”

“What is it, Commander?” Ford Powers quickly asked Hamilo. Being a very new intern at NASA’s secret department D13, he wasn’t very experienced with the high-tech radio system. However, given no one else was in the room, he had to take the call himself.

“Hello? We have a large problem here. We need immediate attention,” Commander Hamilo repeated.

“Commander, it’s Powers, I read you loud and clear.”

“Is anyone present? Hello? I repeat we need immediate attention.”

“Commander Hamilo, this is Ford Powers, intern for Commander Pillace. I read you loud and clear.” 

“If anyone can hear me right now, give Commander Jarmason this message ASAP.”

Powers waited. Hamilo didn’t finish his sentence. At least it wasn’t audible. Then a split second later, the answer came.

“I repeat. We have found evidence of aliens.”

And after that, no one saw Commander Hamilo or his crew for a very, very long time.


“And congratulations to this year’s International Teens’ Astronomy Award! Ford Powers!”

There was a slight pause before the applause grew rapidly as the famous and beloved NASA co-leader, Warwick Barnett gestured for me to slightly bow so he could put the heavy gold chain and medal around my neck.

I picked my head up to see thousands of parents and their children awarding me with a standing ovation. 

They knew they knew, and so did Barnett. We all knew that they weren’t clapping for me, the hard-working middle schooler who’d just won one of the finest juvenile awards available. No. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that they were clapping for Barnett. He barely ever made it this far up north. Even though it wasn’t that far.

The trip from the NASA base in Miami to this dump here in Nashville was ‘far’ for an ungrateful jerk like him.

Smiling towards the crowd, he waved. His smile was like pyrite. A rotten piece of fool’s gold. He knew it, too. He treasured it, prized it, and got all the donations and contributions for it. That’s the only reason NASA kept him. It would be a total bust without a man with such magnetism.

Now, sick and tired of the noisy clapping and shouts of gratitude and love, Warwick Barnett lifted his hand, just enough to move to his countless followers to stop wasting time flattering him.

I had watched plenty of movies and been to plenty of speeches and concerts, yet never have I seen a crowd stop their cheering so abruptly.

“Son, why don’t you smile a bit,” Barnett leaned down just enough to whisper in my ear.

I grumbled and picked my head up straighter and stood up taller. And lastly, I gave the audience my slight, hinted smile.

“Yes, yes, thank you.” Barnett continued. “This boy has proven that he is capable of the extraordinary.”

More slight applause.

“And NASA and I have therefore given him the ITAA,” Barnett finished by flashing his ear-to-ear grin.

The applause now took off once more.

Barnett waited for it to die out before finishing his speech. “Now, remember. Everyone can do anything.”

Now the crowd went wild. With screaming and hollers, the air was full of excitement. It was like a bomb dropped on the park. The people of Warwick Barnett started hopping up and down like a school of bunnies on a sugar rush.

Amidst the cheering, Warwick finished on a high and strong note. “Stay strong, my friends!!”

Standing just feet from the NASA co-leader, I was completely ignored the whole time. And I like it that way, I thought, smiling on the inside. I had briskly dropped the fake guise that Barnett had asked for me to affix to my face.

A touch from a cold hand startled me.

I doubt the party of Barnettians realized when Warwick tapped me on the shoulder, waking me from my dream state, and waved his hand over his shoulder, beckoning me to follow him off the makeshift stage in the Nashville Public Square Park.

As we headed toward the matte white limousine that the crowd and I had watched him arrive in, he glared at the doorman who was surprisingly waiting to open the door for Warwick patiently. He stuck his finger toward the door and scowled, getting the unsuspecting doorman to rush to his aid

Next, as his tall figure slinked into the short limousine, he sat up straight and gave the chauffeur a look of menace. He then scowled again, but this time, he whipped his head toward me. The irascible man clenched his jaw and sternly pointed at the seat next to him.

I just stared at him, not knowing what to do.

Barnett cleared his throat.

To get in or not to get in.

“Get in the damn car, son!” Warwick now yelled, throwing his hands up in the air.

Now I jumped in the car as quickly as possible, not wanting to get scowled at, growled at, or anything else like that again.

Warwick clicked his tongue and sighed. “Powers, son. You’ve just won the ITAA, I expect you to know when it’s polite or not to get in a car when one asks you. And I’m a NASA co-leader, asking you to get in a car. Is it polite to mind your own time outside when I have an important job back in Miami?”

Yes, a very important job. Get pictures taken of you, put up ads, kick up your feet on the couch and watch some television.  Most definitely a very important job. “No, sir,” I reluctantly replied.

“Good,” Barnett grumbled.

The rest of the ride was quite uneventful. I stared out the window, occasionally peering at the buff, dark-skinned, bodyguard of Barnett’s. He would occasionally just flip his long, dark, mop of hair just enough so he could glance out the rearview mirror to check on Warwick.

Slowly but surely, I fell asleep. My dreams led me to faraway lands, where I hadn’t had to live by the expectations of hundreds. At school, at sports. I was always the smartest, most creative. Although I wasn’t amazing at the various sports the world threw at me, I did make the hockey, A team, as well as the football A team.

I had many friends. All over. Pen pals to write to. 

Then my parents died from a house fire.

I was at my friend’s house, playing video games and throwing the football, shooting hoops. I always had the best of times with Alem.

Then the police came. They told me the bad news.

And I was soon forever buried in my dark rain clouds of thoughts to ponder over, again and again. What I would have done with them . . . what I would have asked them . . . what I would have done with them . . .

The health care center in Nashville assigned me to a foster home. Only then was I wishing that both my parents weren’t only children. And that I still had living grandparents. After the change, I had more people to know. But it didn’t add to the ones I already had.

I had lost them when I moved.

I was ten at the time. After growing two years, I began to be able to segregate myself from the rest of the 19 foster children and work on the projects that would lead me to my glory as a middle school astronomy prodigy.

I then dreamt that I was led into some pure white void. I continued to move until I stopped. Black lines appeared and suddenly they all vanished, leaving a light tan color that trapped me in its vastness.

Then my dream started to shake, then boom, then the sound of slamming doors were presently audible.

I felt my body crumble.

I grew scared.

Finally, to save me of my misery, two cold hands reached to clasp me just under my armpits. The tickle awoke me, just what I needed, and I inched upward to find a man looking down at me.

Warwick Barnett stood there, with shadows under his eyes. All I could see was him for he stood right over me. The rest was blackness.

The moon had taken over.

“Come on, Ford. We’re spending the night in another dump of a hotel,” He sighed heavier than I had ever seen him sigh.

I tiredly wobbled out of the parked limousine. I could now see the guard who was positioned beside the hood of the car. The driver must have already set up a room for himself.

As I made out the features of the hotel, my eyes grew wide. They most likely glowed but Barnett was looking the other way, starting at the fanciest hotel I had ever seen with a look of disgust. He didn’t have the chance to embarrass me this time.

“Ford Powers, couldn’t you agree that both of us deserve a much finer hotel than this?” He waved his arms at the ‘atrocious’ sight like a child who didn’t get enough presents on Christmas.

I felt my lips curl up slightly. It was the first time that Warwick Barnett, the NASA co-leader, and one of the wealthiest men in the States, talked about himself and me, together, as equals, positively. My smile suddenly grew, and all I could whisper was, “Yes, Barnett, yes.”