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We are Skyples; people who were born and live in the Stratosphere following a NASA experiment to see if humans could live long-term in orbit. The original Skyples were born in our city from NASA
scientists and other human volunteers. Skyples live in the Skyple Mothership, Skyopolis, which orbits the Earth. We live on something that humans would describe as a strange UFO. Our unique
orbiting city is powered by access to the red sprites and blue jets that occur in the Stratosphere. This is the place it all started. We made friends, trusted our enemies, and ruined everything! Or
so we thought. Little did we know that our world was about to change, but for the better… or for the worse?

Submitted: May 06, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 06, 2018




We are Skyples; people who were born and live in the Stratosphere following a NASA experiment to see if humans could live long-term in orbit. The original Skyples were born in our city from NASA scientists and other human volunteers. Skyples live in the Skyple Mothership, Skyopolis, which orbits the Earth. We live on something that humans would describe as a strange UFO. Our unique orbiting city is powered by access to the red sprites and blue jets that occur in the Stratosphere. This is the place it all started. We made friends, trusted our enemies, and ruined everything! Or so we thought. Little did we know that our world was about to change, but for the better… or for the worse?


Chapter 1: The Newspaper

October 21, 3000

Attention: We are all moving to Mars!

By Regan Jones

“Earth is getting old. We need to address this or we will perish. If we try with our little tools to build a structure strong enough to protect us from the Sun, that could take hundreds of years. We barely have ten! We need to move to Mars because it is the most similar to our beloved Earth! Scientist Juno Jorge has been in a years long dispute with the City Council about the future of our ship in Earth’s stratosphere. Jorge believes now is the time to make the move to Mars.

Q: Dr. Jorge, what else do you predict about our future?

A: No comment.

To be continued...



Eris, my older sister, but just by five years, was playing with me in our apartment on Skyopolis. We were playing dress up, and Eris’s blonde, straight hair was curled. She was wearing a tiara, and her captivating gray eyes were embellished with turquoise cattail eyeliner and mascara. Her teal, floor length dress with her favorite auburn belt was perfectly form-fitting because of how tall she was. “Oh my gosh! You look so pretty!” I marveled at her.

Suddenly, I heard the muffled sound of our skyphone. Ding - da - ding! Ding ding ding! Ding - da - ding! Ding ding ding!

 “I wonder who that is?” I asked.

“Only one way to find out!” Eris exclaimed. We rushed over to the kitchen doorway; able to hear perfectly, but just out of sight.

“Daphne! Moving to Mars?! What? Do you really think this is the best course of act-” Mom paused, apparently talking to Penny’s mom, the mayor. Penny is Eris’ friend, so she comes over often. “Yes. I understand. But what about our power supply? And everyone loves it here in the sky! We’ll have no clouds, less sunlight, no air, how-” She waited again, longer this time. “Oh. I see. No. We’ll be just fine. Thank you.” She sounded defeated.

“Ha! Trickster Mom! She must know we’re listening!”

“Cloudene, shh! We’re definitely going to get caught with your shouting!” Eris hissed.

“Girls!” Mom called. “Come here, please.”

“Uh oh!” We were caught.

“Ugh! Cloudene!” I was done for, with both Eris and Mom mad at me!

“GIRLS!” Mom yelled.

“Yes, Mom?” We said, and came into view.

“We have an important decision to make as a family. The City Council has decided that, under the circumstances of our disappearing power supply, it would be best to move to Mars.”

“WHAT?!” We both shouted. This was a prank! It had to be!

“Yes. Mrs. Roberts has kindly offered a move back down to Earth. What do you say? Are you up for a new family adventure?”

“Oh! Wait - What? Moving to Mars! What? Why?” Eris asked, incredulous.

“Well, it’s sort of hard to explain. I don’t even understand fully. But we don’t have to go. It’s a family decision. The Council has voted, and based on all that we’ve done for the community, we were one of the selected choice to go back to Earth. Because of the limited power supply, our ship can only afford to send two families down. So, what do you guys think?” Our ship relies on red sprites and blue jets for power, which are like little balls of electricity and energy that orbit around the Earth.

“I need more information. I’m calling Penny.” Eris decided.

“I want everything to stay the same! I don’t want to move anywhere! Land or Mars!” I hated the idea of this type of change! Either way, we’d lose… Home.


Chapter 2: The Meeting


I was going to DM Eris, my best friend for as long as I can remember, on Instagram. I quickly typed in her username.

“Penny!” Eris typed as she realized I was on. My light teal eyes flashed angrily, slightly filtered through my square framed glasses, and I twirled my strawberry blonde curly hair around my finger anxiously.

“Eris!” I texted her back. “How are you?”

“Awful! Have you heard the news?” Eris replied. Eris knew me well, as she seemed to sense that I was being stubborn and impulsive right now, and wouldn’t budge from my idea.

“I have an idea!” I said. “We’re going to pay a visit to Regan Jones, himself! Meet me by the fountain at 11.” Regan Jones might give us more information, as he wrote the newspaper that got everyone all worked up in the first place.

After lunch, Eris and I went to the newspaper headquarters. We got in easily, due to my mother being the mayor of Skyopolis. We marched into Regan Jones’ office.

“After this move to Mars, let’s have a Monarchy! I am so tired of this system, and I want to be King!” He bellowed into the skyphone. “Oh, hi, lesser people. I didn’t realize you were here. Ace, where are you? There are kids here!”

“In a minute, Uncle Rob!” called a voice.

“No, NOW, Ace! I'm busy and I can't have nasty little kids running around, crowding my space!” shouted Mr. Jones.

“Umm… Excuse me? I'm not-” I started. I am not a nasty little kid!

“Leave it.” Eris told me, not wanting to make our situation worse.

“Coming.” The resigned voice snarled back. A boy about our age walked in. Although he was taller than me, he hunched defeatedly, his hazel eyes defeated under his straight, blonde hair. I had seen him before. He's always seemed to stare at Eris! When he saw her, his mouth opened wide and curled at the ends. Eris looked very satisfied with herself.

“So, you must know that I’m a very busy man, what do you want?” Regan Jones asked us.

“How rude!” Penny told him, and was about to leave the building. I grabbed her arm just in time.

“We’re terribly sorry to bother you sir, but we just wanted to know whose idea it was to move to Mars,” I apologized.

“Oh, well it was my idea, of course! Who else?” Regan Jones replied. “It’s so ingenious, isn’t it!?”

so full of yourself, aren’t you?” I yelled. “Does my mother know about this plan of yours?” If my mom, the mayor, knew about this, he would surely be stopped. I grabbed Eris’ arm and stormed off, not waiting for a reply.

Ace caught up to us as we drained our energy. “Hey, wait up!” He called. “So, sorry about my uncle. Moving to Mars is a good plan but-”

“GOOD PLAN?!” I cut him off. How could he say that? “IT’S AN AWFUL PLAN!!!”

“How is it awful?” Ace asked. He has to be stupid!

“Haven’t you heard of red sprites and blue jets?!” Penny replied. “Those don’t exist in Mars’ atmosphere.”

“Of course I have,” Ace responded.

“Does your uncle have a plan to get our ship to Mars and to power it?” I stood defiantly with her hands on her hips. I was letting him have it.

“Look, I agree with you, but I have to support my uncle,” Ace leaned in and whispered, looking around nervously.

“Why?” I said, a little too loudly.

I quieted down as I noticed people turning to stare at us, including a girl named Reneé that I had been having a weird feeling for in the pit of my stomach. I'd classified it as a crush. Ew! A crush! I'd never had feelings for guys or… anyone. Because of this, I had always thought of myself as… different, and always acted boy crazy to fit in.  

“Sorry…” I said much more quietly. This was embarrassing. How important could this be?

“Well…” Ace started. “Promise not to tell anyone?”

“Cross my heart.” Eris stated.

“My uncle hates Skyopolis. He has always been jealous of my parents, who went down to Earth to conduct research and he was denied travel down to Earth by the City Council. Because of this, he’s really pushing this plan to move to Mars to upset the Skyopolis City Council. He doesn’t know that I figured this out, and I could get in big trouble if I was caught plotting against him.” Ace’s brow was furrowed; he was mad that his uncle was going to be the cause of our destruction.

“Look. I know he's your uncle, and I don't want to offend you or anything, but how do we stop him?” I asked.

“He won't stop until he can get back to Earth. He detests it here! It’s like, when you have to do a bunch of chores while everyone else has a party. That's what this place is like to my uncle.” Ace explained.

“So, we just convince my mom to let your uncle off.” It seemed pretty straightforward and easy to me. When it comes to my mom, I always get my way, as long as it's reasonable.

“Sure, but you’re forgetting: that’s probably easier said than done. You have to remember that the council has denied my uncle access to Earth for years now.”

“But if we give my mom our reason why, she'll have have a much harder time arguing with us.” I rebutted.

“Well, it wouldn't hurt to try.” Eris concluded. So we went.

Ace looked a little nervous, so I tried to comfort him. “It'll be okay. I don't have any doubt about that.”

“Yeah. Penny's right! Don't worry.” Eris grabbed Ace’s hand and squeezed. He smiled at her. Gross! I was beginning to feel like a third wheel. I didn't like the feeling.

“Hey, so are we getting lunch, or something?” I broke in. I pushed my way in between them and grabbed both of their hands. Eris gave me an annoyed look. “I'm starving!” It was true, I could eat, but that wasn't my top priority or why I'd asked. This way, if I hurried, I could grab a seat in between them.

But I had no such luck. We went to a Mexican restaurant called El Bruto Comida. The food wasn't great, but it was something. The worst part was that, as soon as I sat down in between Ace and Eris, Eris moved next to Ace.

“I’m going to go to the bathroom.” Ace said as soon as we sat down. He quickly left.

Excuse me?” Eris dragged out the words.

“What?” I acted innocent.

“Do you have a problem with Ace and I?”

“No?” I was unsure how to answer.

“If Ace is that annoying, or you like him, I won’t choose him over our friendship. You know that, right? Our friendship means more to me than some boy.” She assured me.

don’t like Ace.” I told her.

“Cool, cool. But who do you like, then? Do I know him?” Eris was coming dangerously close to me having to tell her the truth. But, she is my best friend. I wondered if I should I tell her my secret. What if she calls me a freak and isn’t my friend anymore?

‘Well, then she’s no friend of mine!’ I told myself. Okay. I’ll tell her. I haven’t really got anything to lose.

“Isn’t a he.” I explained.


“I said…” I paused to take a breath. Okay. I’m really doing this. “My crush is not a he.” I drew out the words.

“Oh. Wow. Okay. Well, I'm your best friend, and I'll support you no matter what! What’s her name?” Wow! She reacted well! It felt good to finally tell someone.

“Promise not to tell anyone?”


I leaned in. I was going to have a little fun with this, now that I knew she'd accept me for who I was. “Her name is Eris.” Just as I'd expected, she gasped.

“M-Me?!” She was clearly shocked.

“Sure.” I said, matter-of-factly. “Her name is Eris, she's a Skyple, and she's totally not real!” I took one look at Eris’ shocked face and couldn't help myself. I bursted out laughing.

“Jeez! Your face! You were seriously worried for a second there, eh?”

“Ugh! Not funny, Penny! Who is it?” Eris tried to look annoyed, but she couldn't hide a hint of a smile.


“Oh. That makes sense. You guys are good together!” She approved. “But I am wondering one thing. If you don’t like Ace, why are you trying to split us up?”

“I kind of feel like a third wheel- like Ace is taking away from our friendship.” I explained.

“Really? I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to make you feel like that.” She apologized.

“It’s okay. Where is Ace?” Even girls didn’t usually take this long. I was starting to think he was trying to give us time to make up.

“Hey, Penny?”


“Can I… set you up? With Reneé?” Uh oh. But, why not? It couldn't hurt anything but my ego.

“Hey guys! I got our food!” Ace popped up.

“Umm… Sure!” I told her as we started to eat.

“Ugh! My food is not good. How's yours?” Ace asked.

“Meh. I've definitely had better. But it's alright!” I was in a cheery mood. After all, my best friend responded in the best way to me being lesbian. It also felt so good to be out of the closet. I almost felt… jittery!

“You seem to be in a better mood! What gives?” Ace wondered.

“Oh, I just learned how great of a friend Eris is.” I said, not wanting to give him too much info.

“Yeah. She really is quite fantastic, isn’t she?” Ace gushed.

“Aww! Thanks, you guys!” Eris blushed.


Chapter 3: The Speech


As we walked down to Penny's home, I found myself deep in thought. Does Eris know how I feel about her? She seems to. Either that, or she's quite flirty! I laughed out loud.

“What's so funny?” Eris asked me.

“Nothing.” I told her quickly. That was close! Penny shot me a death stare. Why doesn't Penny like me? Eris and her seem super close! Would it bother her if she dates someone her best friend doesn't approve of so much that it couldn't work out? I wonder if she poisoned my food when I wasn't looking?

“Ace? Can I talk to you? Privately?” Penny asked in an icy voice. Before I could say anything, Eris pulled Penny roughly to the side.

All I could make out was: Eris asking, “What?”

Penny responding with: “Scare” and “Best friend!” In a protective voice.

And Eris ending with: “Mean,” in a kind, but warning voice that didn't match her words.

Then Penny nodded and walked confidently over to me and tugged my arm. She lead me out of earshot from Eris. “So. Ace. For whatever reason, Eris really likes you. But-”

“Really?” I was delighted!

said there is a but.” She said, irritated at my enthusiasm. “As her BFF, it's my job to make sure you're the right fit for her. And, if you break her heart, you're gettin’ it!”

I smiled. “Penny. That’s so sweet of you to look out for your friend, but, I assure you, if we break up, I will try to have it be mutual. I- I really like Eris, and I want things to work out. I don’t think you need to worry about us. Now, can we please be friends? I’m kind of tired of getting your death stares.” Penny blushed, and, this time, it was her turn to smile.

“Sorry. I was just worried about Eris. Of course I want to be friends!”

Eris came in from around the corner, and we walked, hand in hand, to Penny’s mom.

“Mom?” Penny asked, making her eyes big to remind Mrs. Roberts of a little girl.

“Yes, Sweetie?” Mrs. Roberts was wary, although I don’t think she was expecting what we were about to request.

“Would you please mind letting Mr. Jones off of our ship pretty please?” She asked.

“I’m sorry, Honey, but I can’t do that.”

“But, Mom, if you don’t, he’s going to be doing whatever he can to move us to Mars!”

“I know, sweetie. We are using part of his plan.”

“WHAT?!” We all yelled.

“We actually are moving to Mars?!” Penny practically shouted.

“Yes.” Mrs. Roberts said, oddly calm. “Kids, I appreciate you stopping by, but I have a lot of work to do, so would you mind going over to Eris’ house?”

“Sure, Mom.” Penny sighed. We each went separate ways, to our homes.


Chapter 4: The Reasons


The next day…

I still can’t believe all that’s happened over the course of two days! We might have to move to Mars, my best friend is gay, and I may have found my future first boyfriend! “Hey, guys?” I had an idea. “What if we go to Dr. Jorge? He is an amazing scientist, and he might have some interesting opinions about the move.”

“Okay, sure!” Ace replied.

From Penny’s place to Dr. Jorge’s living quarters, it was just a short five minute walk. When we got there, the sweet smell of cinnamon raisin cookies wafted throughout the air. When we walked to the front door a stout, kind woman opened it with a fresh batch of cinnamon raisin cookies and welcomed us in. “Come on in! Would you like some cookies? I just baked them.” Her voice was soft and sweet, and she had smile wrinkles.

“Thank you, Mrs. Jorge! That would be wonderful!” I replied.

“I had a feeling that someone would be coming here, I just didn’t expect it to be kids,” Mrs. Jorge told us.

“Let me take you to Dr. Jorge.” She walked us down a narrow hallway, into a beautiful library with golden walls, filled with more books than I had ever seen!

“Ah, Eris, Ace, Penny, welcome. I was wondering how long it would take for you kids to come pay me a visit. Penny, how is your lovely mother? And Eris, does your sister still have that old spark? Ace, how are your parents enjoying Earth?” Dr. Jorge welcomed us into his giant dome library. It was magnificent! It had a ceiling that was half glass, half marble, so you could have shade and warmth at the same time. It also used less energy for lights. The floor was a beautiful type of dark wood. This was the place for me! “I have some business to attend to. Penny, come with me? This frail old man needs some help.”

“Oh, of course!” She responded quickly. He took her by the hand and whisked her into the other room. He looked surprisingly fast and strong, for a ‘frail old man.’ Right when he was leaving the room, he winked at Ace. It seemed as if an hour had passed, us just standing there, awkwardly.

Finally, Ace said, “So, should we maybe help clean up these books?” I looked down.

I wondered how I’d missed the mess of books along the shelves of the library. “Yeah!” Books were scattered everywhere! We cleaned and cleaned until they returned. When they did, we went to the center of the library and admired our work. All of the books were back in their correct spots. “Great job!” I exclaimed to Ace. We high-fived.

“You too!” He approved.

“Wow! You two did a lot for this library! Thank you!” Dr. Jorge gawked.

We had wasted enough time doing library chores; and now we didn’t have time for pleasantries. This was serious. “Dr. Jorge! Have you heard the news? Apparently, the Earth is dying and we all have to move to Mars!”

“Well, I have been telling the Council for years that red sprites and blue jets have been decreasing in frequency. That should have been the first clue that we need to consider another plan.”

“WHAT?!?!” All three of us shouted together. I hadn’t even thought about the red sprites and blue jets going extinct.

“Why hadn’t the Council shared this with us? Do they not trust you?” I exclaimed.

“Kids, you know that the Council doesn’t take me seriously even though I have data showing this is true. They think I’m just one of those crazy old goons trying to cause havoc. On top of that, I like my pencil and paper data collection methods as opposed to those stupid devices that the council seems to think are something you can’t go without.”

mother won’t listen to you!?” Penny asked, clearly shocked.

“She’s the one who said that I would be arrested if I kept coming to the closed Council meetings.” Dr. Jorge explained.

“Well, we have to go now, thank you for your time,” Penny said suddenly and we abruptly left.

“Where are we going, Penny? To see your mom?” I asked, almost running to keep up with Penny’s fast pace.

“No. We are going to see Ace’s uncle.”


Chapter 5: The Problem


I was outraged! How could my mother have this information and not share it or act on it! Also, how could she threaten to put Dr. Jorge in jail? The people of Skyopolis gave their lives for this science project. They deserve to know!

I called my mom and said, “I can’t believe what you and the Council have been hiding from us! I’m going to let everyone know what you were too proud to admit!” I hung up, without waiting for a response, just as we arrived at Regan Jones’s office.

We barged in. He looked surprised, and a little annoyed, to see us. “What is it this time, you meddling kids?”

“We have an interesting news story for you, Mr. Jones.” I proceeded to share the whole story.

“Ah, I see. Now those closed City Council meetings all make sense. Let me put this out on the Skywire.” With a single click, all of the information that Mr. Jones had received was transmitted to every single Skyple on board. “Well, thank you for telling me this.” Mr. Jones showed us out.

“I hope we did the right thing.” Ace regretfully commented. “My parents are still on Earth.”

“I guess we’ll see what my mom has to say about this. She just paged me.” I told them as I received the notification on my skyphone. We marched to my mother’s office and knocked loudly on her door.

“Come in.” Mrs. Regan said sadly. We went into her grand office. “Penelope, Aceton, Erista, do you realize what you’ve done? We had finally been able to verify Dr. Jorge’s alarming observations that our ship is slowly losing its power source. We didn’t want to panic our people as we were redying our ship to make the great journey to Mars. We are finishing our adjustments to the engine to use carbon dioxide instead of using red sprites and blue jets for our power. People are already starting to protest, and increasing their energy usage. We now have to use a lot of the ship’s current power just to get to Mars, and because of you, we have to go to Mars tomorrow. I was trying to wait a little longer to get the maximum energy amounts from the red sprites and blue jets possible. Young man,” she bent down in front of Ace and clasped his hands, “I’m so sorry. We don’t have enough power to pick up your parents.”

“Will I ever see them again?” Ace asked in barely a whisper. Eris patted him on the back.

“Son, we’ll do everything we can to try to bring them on board after we reach Mars, but for now, I don’t know.”

Eris leaned in for a hug. “I’m sorry! I- I-”

“It’s okay.” Ace broke in.


Chapter 6: The Advancement


I wouldn’t get to see my parents in a very long time, probably ever! Oh, sure, we could video chat from time to time, but it wouldn’t be the same. For one, they wouldn’t be able to be there all the time. And also, it wouldn’t be the same as them being right there.

As I wallowed in self pity, I missed the announcement over the intercom, and the corresponding cheers. “Attention all Skyples: Due to technical difficulties and majority voting, we are moving to Mars tomorrow. No one shall go in or out of Skyopolis until further notice. As we venture into space, the City Council asks you to decrease your energy usage, as doing so may allow our ship to move faster than ever. Enjoy your trip and thank you for taking part in a huge science advancement!”

 Eris pulled away and looked at me. “Ace!” She said, seeming… hopeful? “I have an idea! What if we create a charity and petition for your parents to come to Mars? We could call it: ‘The Adler Project!’”

“Huh?” I was confused.

“You know, so that scientists like your parents, Mr. and Mrs. Adler, who have family on Mars, can eventually come and live here.”

“Eris, that’s amazing!” I kissed her on the cheek.

“Oh!” She exclaimed, surprised. “Yeah! I guess it is.”

Penny came over, and squealed with delight. “Aww! You guys are, like, so cute! So, what’s up?”

“Eris came up with a fantastic idea to make a charity so that scientists with family on Mars can eventually come and live there!” I explained.

“Yeah! We’re calling it: ‘The Adler Project! Do you like it?”

“I think it’s a great idea! We can set up three tables at each end of the ship! Can I help?” Penny pleaded.

“Of course!” Eris enthused. “We need all the help we can get!”

“Awesome!” Penny replied.

“Let’s go to my place! I have a lot of art supplies!” Eris directed.

Once we were at Eris’ house, a little girl ran up to me. “Oh! Ace, this is Cloudene, my sister.” Eris explained.

“Hi!” I greeted Cloudene.

“Hi Ace! I’ve heard a lot about you!” Cloudene told me.

“Cloudene!” Eris scolded.

“Really?” I asked, amused.

“Sorry…” She said, obviously embarrassed by Eris’ scolding.

“It’s quite alright.” I told her. She started to walk away. “Cloudene?” I called.

“Yes?” She turned back.

“Do you like art?” I asked.

“Ace, wha-” Eris started.

“Yes! I love art!” Cloudene informed me enthusiastically.

“Great! Can you help us with a project? The more the merrier!”

And so it was decided that I would get four tables from the Skyopolis Mess Hall, Cloudene would make posters and signs, Penny would make flyers, and Eris would get started on the money bins and the buttons that we would hand out for each person who donated. Everything looked great! We each would run a table at the separate ends of the ship. At the end of two weeks of fourteen hours, we had collected about $5,000 and 25,000 signatures. We had plenty of signatures, just not enough money. Because of science advancements, traveling to Mars cost less money than it used to, but we still needed about five times that amount for even just seven scientists to make the journey! It was time to up our game.


Chapter 7: The Parents


Penny and I planned to spend the weekend at my place, and I invited Reneé too. I took this opportunity to plan and activate my setup for Penny. I decided on a simple, yet effective, trick. I would get close to Reneé, find out if she’s eligible, insert the idea of Penny in her mind, then give each girl a note to meet in the mall at the same time! I’m so excited!

Reneé decided to come! When she arrived, we decided to play Truth or Dare. “Truth or Dare… Penny!” Reneé went first.

I nodded to Penny and mouthed “Truth!” This could help with my plan.

“Hmm… Truth!”

“Do you have a crush?” Penny sent me a pleading look.

“I’m uncomfortable answering that.” Penny responded. Good answer!

“Why?” Reneé followed up.

I answered for her. “Well, she’s a friend of Dorothy.” I’d read that that means you’re gay.

“Oh.” A look of understanding and… guilt? Crossed Reneé’s face. “Umm… I think- I think I am, too.” She looked uncomfortable. I think she knew what that meant. “But you can trust me. I won’t jud-” She cut herself off. “Oh. Oh God!” She looked sad, then she grinned. That girl has crazy mood swings! “Let’s say our crushes on three. All of us.”

“O-ok.” Penny was reluctant, but a new look of hope was on her face.

“One- two… THREE! Penny.”


“Ace.” Ha! Did I just hear what I think I heard? Looks like we wouldn’t need my plan!

“Really? Are you just messing with me?” Reneé and Penny said in sync. They both laughed. This was one happy day! With the tension away, the rest of the weekend passed by quickly.

By Monday, my plan worked! Reneé and Penny were dating! But now it was time to get to work for our cause. With a new member on the team, Reneé, the Council would be more likely to accept our request. You see, in order to get our money, we took our case up to the Council themselves. Our request was a simple one, but it was crucial! We asked if they could send a picture of us with the Adler Project down to Earth, to collect money there. Their response was a reluctant yes, and they acted all mean (Mrs. Roberts was the only one smiling!), but beneath their tough facade, they looked awfully impressed! We high fived each other and left.

Because of our request, within a month, we had raised $50,000! This was twice as much as we allowed ourselves to hope for, even though we did send the Adler Project to America, England, Australia, and Canada! We could now send fifteen scientists whose family was on Mars! The scientists would be here within a year!

The Adler Project was all over the news, and everyone on the ship was talking about “the four kids who knew they could make a difference!” We were celebrities! It was great! But being popular around the world didn't last long. Regan Jones was portrayed as the villain, and he was planning his revenge.

Two weeks after The Adler Project went worldwide, Regan Jones sent out a news report on the SkyWire. “Good morning, Skyopolis!” He sang. “We all know and love the four kids who are bringing scientists to Mars, but did you know they're a fraud?! That's right! My nephew, Aceton, is with that group, and he's recently purchased a full feast, an expensive leather jacket, and an Earth - bound drone! How did he have the money to do that? Well, he didn’t! That’s right, Aceton Adler is a criminal! He stole from me! And Penelope Roberts and Erista Alaska are his accomplices! We must put them in jail at once!”

“No!” Ace yelled.

“He can’t do that!” Penny added.

“He can.” I announced sadly. “He is your current guardian, Ace. He could legally take all of our donation money. It would be lying, but it would be legal. He could legally call us criminals on his news program. As your guardian, he has a lot of rites that he wouldn’t have otherwise.”

“Really?” Ace pleaded. “There isn’t anything we can do about it? I mean, I didn't buy any of that! In fact, he did!”

“There’s not much. When you turn fourteen, you get a choice in who your guardian is, though.” I knew all about legal systems when it comes to minors. I’m studying to be a child custody attorney.

“Well, I turn fourteen in two weeks. But that would be too far away, wouldn't it?” Ace seemed to think it was hopeless. If we could convince Mrs. Roberts to show Mr. Jones the money files, it might work. But I thought that Mr. Jones already knew we were innocent. He just wanted to be portrayed as the good guy again.

“We could get in jail if we're not careful. What should we do?”

I gasped. “I just thought of something!” I exclaimed. “He can't do anything to you unless you have a fair and public trial, right?”

“Right… And?” Ace asked, clearly not following me.

So he can't put you in jail if we can prove that you're innocent! And he can't even ground you if you run away!” Penny concluded. “You could go to the Jorges’ house! They would surely welcome you!”

“That’s a great idea!” Ace finally got it! “Can we go to the Jorges’ now?”

“Sure!” So we went.


Chapter 8: The Scandal


As we walked to the Jorges’, we contemplated our futures. If we weren’t able to prove my innocence, would I be a fugitive? Hiding from authorities for the rest of my life? Would my parents hate me? Would I go to jail? Would everyone hate me? Or worse- would everyone lie for me?

And if we did win the case, who would take care of me? I wouldn’t want to live with the Jorges forever, and Uncle Regan wouldn’t take me back. Before I could think too much into it, we arrived.

Mrs. Jorge opened the door. “Hi! Come on in!” She was so welcoming!

“Thank you!” We all said.

“I just finished baking some gingerbread. Merry almost Christmas!”

We had gotten so into our work for the scientists and the scandal that we didn’t even realize that, as Mrs. Jorge’s countdown read, it was twelve days until Christmas!

“Hey, Mrs. Jorge?” I asked.

“Yes, Honey?”
“So, have you seen the news?” I made my voice soft.

Mrs. Jorge’s face was suddenly red with anger and she scowled. “Oh, you mean with that jerk, Regan Jones?!” She ranted. “Yes, I’ve seen it. That’s so ludicrous! Accusing his own nephew of theft from a donation to meet his parents again! How bogus!”

“Yes, well, he wants to put me in jail.”
“His own NEPHEW!” She repeated.

“Umm, so, I want a fair trial.” I told her.

“You bet your bottom dollar you do!”

“But I can’t get one if he grounds me.” I explained. “So… I’m not going home. I was wondering if you would mind if-”

“You could stay here for a while?” She finished my sentence. Her face softened, and she hugged me. “Of course you can! We’d love to have you!”

“Oh, thank you so much Mrs. Jorge!” I couldn’t believe it! The Jorges are amazing!

Three days later, none of which I spent at my uncle’s house, during his meeting with the Council to discuss my future, Eris, Penny, and I snuck into the house which was no longer mine and vigorously packed all of my essentials and prized possessions. “Is this important?” They’d occasionally ask me.

My old room was almost bare and my suitcases full when the front door banged open. “Uh - oh!” Penny whispered.

We were trapped! Worse- we were going to be caught by the man who was looking for any reason to imprison us! We were silent and as frozen as we could be while looking for a way out. I was ducking under a table, Eris was by my bookshelf, and Penny was holding my suitcase, standing by the door. Suddenly, I moved my head more than I should have, and I banged it on the table!

“Who’s there?!” Mr. Jones was threatening. “I’m armed! Come out and show yourself and you won’t get hurt!”

“He’s bluffing.” I warned them quietly. We heard footsteps coming up the stairs.

“Crab cakes!” Penny muttered under my breath.

“Huh?” Ace asked.

“She doesn’t swear.” I explained.

“Oh.” Ace understood. “Oh! Hide!”

“Whoever’s up there, I will find you!” Mr. Jones hollered.

“What do we do?” I was really scared. This was like something right out of a thriller film!

“I don’t know! All I can think to do is hide, and better than we are right now.” Suddenly, Penny bumped against the wall. Part of the wall shook, but the other part made no noise at all.

“Huh?” Penny pushed on the hidden door again. It opened, and revealed a winding staircase about the height of my knee. She swung inside. “Wow! Come here!” We grabbed my suitcase and scooted inside, shutting the door behind us.

Right when the secret door was silently closed, Mr. Jones barged in. “Okay! I’m coming in!”

Ace hid a gasp with his palm. Only once you were inside could you see how massive the secret room was. It was obviously not used in at least a few years; everything was covered in dust. It was decorated with many bookshelves, a wooden desk, a metal chair, and an old Mac computer. It had wooden floors and ceilings, and a chandelier that was spreading a soft glow over everything. It was beautiful! This was like my heaven!

“Huh? Where are you, thieves? No matter, I shall find you.”

Five minutes later, after countless statements of: “I know you're in here!” And: “You're going to jail,” my uncle had finally given up his search.

“Phew!” Penny sighed.

“Let's go.” We grabbed the suitcases and headed out through the back door.

“That was close!” I rushed to catch up to Eris and Penny, as they were feet in front of me.

“Yeah! Let's go!”

Chapter 9: The Trial


One week later… “Order! Order in the court!” The judge called over the chaos. The judge wore a traditional black gown, and was young; maybe in her twenties. Her brunette hair was pulled into a braided crown, and her eyes had lilac eyeshadow. “Now then.” She started. “We have been called here today to witness the case of Aceton Jones and accomplices, who have been accused of fraud. Call your first witness to the stand.”

Ace's lawyer stood up. “Juno Jorge, please come to the stand.” Mr. Jorge walked over.

“I have helped these kids with their charity, and through this, have gotten to know them better. They are honest. And, Ace. Ace wants nothing more than to see his parents again. These kids have done nothing wrong.” Mr. Jorge sat down in his seat.

“These kids have spent $50,000 from a supposed charity on personal needs and wants. They are as much criminals as Cruella De Vil!” Mr. Jones' lawyer testified.

“Excuse me-” Ace’s lawyer caught a flaw in the argument. “Leading the witness.”

“Sustained.” The judge smiled at us. I think she was rooting for us. “Call your next witness to the stand.”

“Elizabeth Black. Please come to the stand.” This was my idea.

“I can prove that Ace, Eris, and Penny are innocent. They, in fact, have been framed!” Everyone in the audience gasped. “I have the receipts of all of Regan Jones' recent purchases with...” Elizabeth paused for a dramatic effect. “His signatures! It was in fact Regan Rude who purchased these items. Not Ace, Eris, or Penny!” Elizabeth gave the receipts to the judge.

“Ace, Eris, and Penny are innocent and free to go! Regan Jones, however, will face a separate fine for malicious prosecution.” The judge seemed satisfied with this statement, and she smiled down at us.

A few months later, Ace, Eris, Reneé, and I sat down at a fancy restaurant after our communities’ version of prom. The prom was themed ‘Space Adventure,’ because of our charity and move. Ace’s parents would arrive in af few weeks! Reneé and I were crowned Prom Queen and Queen, thanks to Ace and Eris, who encouraged everyone to vote for us! Ace and Eris just went as friends, but I could tell that the both of them wanted their relationship to be more. Ace wore a classic black and white suit with a white rose corsage. Eris wore a beautiful floor-length white gown with off-shoulder straps and a mermaid cut skirt. She sported the same corsage as Ace. Reneé was wearing a gorgeous light pink dress that was knee-length. It had a beaded bodice and a flowy skirt. She wore a pink rose corsage. I was wearing a strapless teal dress that was knee length and form fitting. Ace slowly stood up and looked around nervously.

“Eris-” He began. “Will you-” He paused for a breath. “Will you go out with me?”

“Oh! Wow! I don't know what to say.”

“Say yes!” Reneé and I whispered at the same time.

“Um. Yes! I- I would love to!”

“YES!” Ace did a celebratory fist bump. Reneé looked over at me, grinning, and I winked. I knew that our relationship was meant to last. We were happily in love, and I couldn’t ask for a better girlfriend! With my friends and my love, I felt like I could get through anything!

“Life is not measured by how many breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” -Maya Angelou

© Copyright 2019 Echo Abbot. All rights reserved.

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