Featured Review on this writing by HOUDINI

Number Four of the "Bobby" stories. tried a new genre and went with Science Fiction this time. Let me know if you like it.

The Ravine



“HER NAME IS RIO AND SHE DANCES ON THE SAND,” the clashmodic melody of “Duran Duran” blasted its way out of the alarm clock radio that Bobby had gotten for his tenth birthday with all the comforting tones of a chandelier hitting the ground. “JUST LIKE THAT RIVER RUNNING THROUGH A DUSTY LAND.”

“Saturday!” he said as he sat up in bed and slapped at the elusive black button on the top of the clock, “Its Saturday!”

He tried to fling the coverings from him and bound gracefully from his bed but ended up getting into a fight to the death with the blanket monster from the planet “Indacloset.” After leaving the beast bruised, and battered, and cowering in a pile at the foot of his bed, he stepped heroically out of the bed, and stood confidently, hands on his hips, head held high, scanning the imaginary horizon intently for the next fiend brave, or stupid enough to incite his wrath.

“Change your underwear, Bobby, and make sure you have socks on.” Said his mother from the hallway. Here he was, saving humanity from the alien menace, but it would all be for nothing, in her eyes, if he had a yellow stain on the front of his Fruit-of-the-Looms.

“Ok, Mom.” He said dejectedly, hanging his head and slumping his shoulders as if defeated. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

He went to his dresser and rummaged through his underwear drawer. The blue ones made him stronger, the green ones made him invisible. Not the white ones, those were only for vacations, photo-ops, and visiting gramma. The yellow ones? No, they made him girly…. but they did hide the yellow stain. Being an intergalactic hero started with choosing the proper attire.

Upon choosing the proper under-armor, (the red ones, made him braver, and provided temperature control), he donned his jeans and T-shirt (the Hulk…. SMASH!) and headed for the door.

“Socks!” came his mother’s voice from somewhere in the house. Who needs security cameras when moms are equipped with hyper-vigilant senses? He scanned the room and spotted his socks from yesterday. He had walked through the rain on the way from the school bus to his house so they were still damp, but that means they were washed, so they must be clean.

He swung open his door and walked briskly down the hall, launched himself expertly off the top step of the stairway and surfed his way down the steps, making sure to make contact with each step where the carpet was the thinnest. He landed somewhat noiselessly at the bottom and bounded the three steps needed to enter the kitchen.He opened the refrigerator door and looked inside.

“There’s scrambled eggs and sausages for you on the table.” Said his mother as she passed by the kitchen door on her way to the laundry door from the bathroom with an arm load of towels.

“Ok, mom.” He said as he grabbed a burrito shell from a bag on the top shelf of the refrigerator.

He walked to the joining breakfast dining room to the table and the small plate of eggs and sausages, and glass of milk. He placed the burrito shell on the table and scooped some of the eggs onto it with the fork that was next to the plate. He then placed the sausages on top of the eggs, folded the shell at either end of the eggs, then rolled one of the open ends toward the other making a small burrito. He sat down, ate half of the burrito, drank half of the milk and was in the process of choking down the other half when his mother stopped to take a sip of her tepid coffee.

“Slow down, Jabba, you will get more out of it if you chew it.” She sat down in the chair next to his and placed her cup on the table next to her. “where are you going today?”

“New planet. Just found orbiting the third star in Orion’s belt. Never been explored before.” Bobby tried to bring out all the half-learned information from the astronomy section of his school science class in between bites of burrito and gulps of milk.

“Ah, Planet X.” said his mother knowingly.

“It has a name, Mom,” Said Bobby, rolling his eyes at her ignorance, “it’s called Ambrosia.”

“Oh, food of the gods.” She said, as if the subject came up in daily conversations and she was the local authority.

Bobby stared and blinked at her twice, “Ok,” then turned his attention back to his burrito and milk.

“Well, don’t kill too many aliens,” said his mother as she got up from her chair and picked up his plate and empty glass, “ask if they are friendly before you shoot them, you never know when you’ll need a friendly alien.”

Bobby walked outside and stood in the door of the garage scanning the contents. His gaze settled on the crutch that his mother had used last summer when she sprained her ankle. He picked up the crutch and saw that the adjustable end was missing, but that was alright because line of holes along one side just made it look more space age like.



Captain Robert Cosmo V123 attached the stabilizer of the Neural Incinerator to the forearm of his bio suit and swung it around in a horizontal arc to test the maneuverability. He stood outside the Explorer Module and looked for something living to test the tracker on. He saw something that resembled a six-legged Raccoon and locked his eyes on it. He then swung the Incinerator toward the creature until the white aiming dot on his retinal implant glowed yellow. With a twitch of his finger a white glowing dart of light shot from the end of the weapon and flew to the creature with incredible speed. At least the weapon’s interface was synced with his cranial implant.

The Creature twitched, stiffened, and a spider’s web of burn trails formed on the creature’s fur as every nerve in its body spontaneously combusted, culminating with flame shooting from its ears, nose and mouth as its brain burst into flame.

“I’ll have to fine tune the sights later,” said Cosmo to himself, “took twenty milliseconds from trigger to brain melt. Should only take ten on a critter that size.”

A voice crackled over his transceiver, “Did you remember socks?”

“Roger M.O.M.,” said Cosmo, “everything is level ten.”

The Multi-Observant Manager system, (M.O.M. for short) was a maintenance system that some in Galactic Command thought was too intrusive and micro-managing, but it had proven itself very affective on more than one mission. Very rarely did it intrude on actual exploration.

Cosmo looked at the multi-sensor on his wrist and saw that the air was breathable, the temperature was seventy-eight degrees Fahrenheit, the wind was from the Earth based West at ten kilometers per hour, and it was nine thirty a.m. Greenwich mean time back on earth. He felt confident enough to raise the visor on his helmet and felt the warm, humid air waft across his face. It was Oxygen rich, but not to the point that it would cause any adverse effects on his activities. He lifted the incinerator and carried it at the ready and walked perpendicular to the path of the rising sun. He knew the air would get much warmer as the day progressed and was thankful that his suit was climate and temperature controlled.

He had gone about two kilometers and began feeling like he was being watched. He sat on a rock as if he were resting and casually lowered the half visor on his helmet that contained the heads-up display. He accessed the motion detector, no movement detected. He switched to infra-red, no heat signatures detected. He heard something move ahead and to the right. A blue colored bush with fluorescent orange flowers shook for a moment. Another six-legged Racoon ambled aimlessly from the underbrush. Cosmo thought that it was looking for the mate that he had flash fried earlier.

Cosmo paused a moment and rethought his situation. He didn’t want this mission to end up like the one that explored Targus Nine. Of the thirty Galactic Commandos that voyaged to explore that world, only five were left alive to leave in a badly damaged ship. It was found drifting in space with only one commando left alive, he had reverted to cannibalism and had been working on the last of his comrades when he was found. He had been so traumatized by his ordeal that he was placed on permanent disability and sent to a garden colony in the Urals.

Cosmo thought that if he could isolate a member of one of the more intelligent species on the planet it would first; give his ships translator program an opportunity to isolate the core of one of the languages on this planet and give him a means of communication. Second, he would, if he used the right approach, convey the idea that he wasn’t a danger, or an enemy.

To do this he would have to present himself in his least aggressive, and most (for lack of a better word) human form. He had to make them see that he was not an aggressor, but that he had faults and vulnerabilities. He ventured back to the explorer module and, once inside, devested himself of his armor and weaponry, and opted for the work uniform of the Galactic Command, a long-sleeved, micro-carbon jacket with an expandable neckline and detachable sleeves. The fabric was light and airy, so was comfortable to work in but the micro-carbon fiber added a durability factor and provided adequate protection against all but the largest bladed weapons. The trousers were of the same material, and the legs were detachable for warmer temperatures.

Around his waist he wore a belt which had a holster for a canister gun which fired a canister about an inch and a half in diameter and four inches long and along the belt were loops for canisters. Most of these canisters were filled with a sedative gas, but he had a few explosive canisters for emergencies. On his left side he carried a laser knife. Adequately equipped, he started out.

Cosmo paralleled the route he had taken earlier hoping he might catch his observers unaware. About a kilometer past where he had turned back, the land dropped steeply into a ravine. He surveyed the ravine from above as far as he could see in either direction. Seeing no movement after twenty minutes, he ventured to lower himself over the rim of the ravine. Finding a niche where nothing could approach him without his knowing, he decided to do some aerial reconnaissance. From a pouch inside his jacket, he produced a small, golf ball sized drone that was synced with his cerebral interface so he could control the drone and see on his retinal implants what the drone was flying over. He let the little spy fly from his hand and venture down the ravine. The drone had a signal limit of no more than two kilometers, but that was still two kilometers farther than he currently was, and a lot less work.

Once the signal was established between the pocket drone and his cerebral interface, Cosmo formed an estimation of how dense the foliage was, at least in the immediate area. The images he was receiving reminded him of the images he had seen of the jungle wars that took place on earth two or three centuries earlier, he also remembered transmissions that had been sent from Sigma Seven and Equatana when he was still a cadet. The foliage in those places had been so thick, it had been said, that it was hard to see a friend standing two feet away, let alone an enemy at a distance.

Through the drone’s conveyance, Cosmo saw that the vegetation grew to create at least three levels. The bottom level consisted of brush and small saplings to a height of about three to three and a half meters. Above that was a space that held an obstacle course of tree trunks and the odd branch here and there. The trunks ranged from two feet in diameter to a massive three or four meters in diameter. This maze extended up to about ten meters to the tops of the smaller trees. There was another mass of foliage and interwoven branches which required some deft flying skills to penetrate. After a couple of attempts and fails, the drone managed to clear this layer of vegetation.

Above this barrier Cosmo observed another maze like open space. The massive trunks that he had seen below had split four, five, and sometimes six and seven times to form massive branches which themselves split into more branches forming what seemed like a tapestry of branches, the smallest of which was no less than two feet in diameter. As the drone worked its way through the tangle of branches and panned itself across and down, Cosmo saw what appeared to be worn and smoothed surfaces in the bark. From the image Cosmo was receiving he thought they resembled paths, or trails, like someone would find winding through a forest.

Suddenly the image jumped as if the drone had bumped against something. This drone had no microphone, so he had on sound to take cues from. He tried to regain control and managed to make it hover for a second before the image went out of control again. In that second he caught a glimpse of something moving incredibly fast along one of the branches, then the drone was out of control again. This time he realized that the drone had not hit something but had been hit by something.

He saw from the image that the drone was headed toward a large tree trunk with deep vertical crevasses in the bark, the tree came closer and closer, then the image turned dark, and all visible motion stopped. Cosmo waited a moment for any sign of movement. He could see toward the top of the image a thin line of light and the bark of the tree that told him that the drone was extremely close to the tree. He realized that tit was lodged in one of the crevasses and tried to dislodge it.

Suddenly the image in his mind was flooded with light, Cosmo thought that his actions to dislodge the drone had been successful but was instantly disabused of that notion when the image became dominated by the upper right quarter of a dark green, human like face and a large, light blue eye. The eyebrow and other hair that was visible was as black as obsidian and the color of the skin changed to a light green in a band that encompassed the eye. There were thick, black eyelashes that framed, and accentuated the almond shaped eye and gave it a slight lift at the outside corner. Around the colored iris was a bright, almost luminous color of white with no sign of veins that Cosmos could see, that surrounded the iris which was a pale shade of blue that resembled the color of ice. If not for the light reflecting off the surface of the eye, Cosmo would have thought that the pupil in the center was a black pit that had no end.

The eye in the image looked intently into the camera on the drone, but then its attention was diverted to something beyond the drone. The eye flitted from looking at the drone and then to what was beyond. The image began jumping around as if the creature was struggling with something for possession of the drone. After a few moments of back-and-forth jostling, the image settled down.

The next thing Cosmo knew, the image in his mind was that of another green, severely angular face, the other face had been angular also, but had softer angles, more like curves. The other differences between the two faces were more obvious. Seeing this face from farther away, he could see that the band of color was across both eyes, but whereas the other’s band was light green, this one was red. The eyes on this were also different, this one had dark veins going through the white part making it seem, at least from a distance, gray. The irises on this face were a blood red surrounding the same bottomless pupil. The face suddenly parted thin lips to reveal what appeared to be jagged, pointed teeth in a menacing grimace.

The drone was suddenly airborne again, though not under its own power, but launched with considerable force. Cosmo tried to regain control, but this just caused the drone to careen even more out of control. He watched as it seemed to bounce against several branches, then towards a large tree trunk, then the images stopped, and his display revealed that there was no longer a signal.

Cosmo tried to decipher the information that he had gathered. This was an encounter with intelligent life, though part of it was menacing, it was intelligence. He thought about the markings on their faces; were they rank? Were they self-imposed, like a tattoo? They looked natural; did they denote sex? Did they change with their moods? Were they camouflage? Cosmo had noticed that this was a planet of contrasts, flashes of red orange and yellow among the somber shades of blue and green. A strip of red could be used to mask someone’s presence.

In the distance, Cosmo heard what could only be a horn blast, almost like a trumpet. This told him that they had designed a method of calling themselves to action to confront a danger or a threat, and a system of signals for this purpose. This was another sign of higher intelligence as it showed that they have a sense of community. He could only assume that they had means also of designing weapons, but whether they were a match for his own, he could not say, but had a feeling that he was about to find out.

Cosmo now had a decision to make; Should he stay where he was and meet them face to face on ground that he could facilitate an advantage? Advance and seek them out in their area of security, which could also be interpreted as a threatening gesture? Or return to the explorer module and wait for them to come to him in his area of security and greater advantage.  Each alternative had its own advantages and disadvantages. Cosmo was never accused of being patient, so retreat and wait was delegated as a last resort. The inhabitants of this planet were already somewhat aware of his presence, so he doubted that he would make it to their area of strength. This left staying where he was. He felt confident in his choice of location, and what he could do to fortify it. He began to prepare. He did not want barricades to hold them out but did not want them to walk in with impunity either. He was just under the rim of the ravine and did not want them to be above him and behind him without his knowing, so he placed motion detectors in an arc using his position as a focal point. On avenues of approach to his front, he wove branches in the underbrush which would impede their access to him and channel them to a location of his choosing.

From one of his pockets, he produced a small earpiece and placed it securely in his ear. This was a translator that was linked to the computer on the explorer through ultra-low frequency radio waves and had a transmission range of ten kilometers.it would transmit what was said in an alien language and transmit the translated message back to Cosmo. All he needed to do was to get them to converse with him or amongst themselves so the computer could analyze sequences and frequencies of different sounds and words that were used. The computer also received signals from Cosmo’s cerebral implant to pick up visual cues as they spoke. It would take a few minutes for the computer to collect enough information to begin translating.

He heard them before he saw them. Since he had been on this planet, he had heard many varied sounds that he assumed were lower intelligence creatures and they grew more numerous and wider in variety the deeper he ventured into the forest. Since the blast of the horn there had been an increase in these sounds, and perhaps a few more.

The canopy above him soon became active with shapes flitting behind the veil of leaves. Cosmo tried to gather an idea of how many assailants he was preparing to meet, but their constant movement and swiftness with which they moved made this very difficult, if not impossible.

Cosmo stood with the canister gun in his hand, in front of a large boulder that he could get behind if the situation went sideways. He watched the maneuvering that was taking place in the canopy when the sensors above and behind him alerted him to at least ten figures moving in behind him. Suddenly the distance between himself and his adversary evaporated when, from some point above him, a shape dropped and landed in front of him.

The shape landed in a crouch no more than a meter ahead of him, and from there extended slowly until it reached its full height of at least two and a half meters. Its body was thin and wiry but had a musculature that Cosmo could tell was very strong and tightly corded, as one would expect from a life of physically demanding, but highly mobile, activity. The creature’s limbs were long and muscular, but not overly so for its height, but its hands and feet, Cosmo noticed, were very large and very powerful, as if they were used the most intently of all the parts of its body.

Its entire body was green except for the red stripe that extended from one side of its head, across its eyes, to the other side of its head. Cosmo realized that this was the same being that he had seen earlier in the drone images. As Cosmo observed the creature, five more dropped from the canopy as three more emerged from the forest behind them. These were all crouched in a ready position with one arm cocked back as if ready to throw something, indeed, what Cosmo saw in their hands seemed oddly familiar. The item was a long shaft of what Cosmo assumed was the equivalent to wood on this planet. At one end it had a hook that could be fitted into the end of another shaft that laid parallel to the first and couched by two of their fingers as they held the first. The end of this second shaft was either sharpened to a point or was fitted with bladed head as with an arrow.

Cosmo remembered seeing similar objects a long time before on Earth. Before his life in Galactic Command, before the Academy, back when he was just a boy, he had gone to a museum while visiting relatives. He had gone to see an exhibit on prehistory and there had been men depicted in animal skins and posed in various positions showing the various stages of movement needed to throw a dart from a device that greatly resembled the device that he was encountering at that moment. In the exhibit, the device was referred to as an Atlatl, and except for a few minor differences, these creatures were using the same technology despite being separated from Earth by the vastness of space.

“Nassach Sachnu!” the creature in front of Cosmo growled. The guttural sound in each of the words reminded Cosmo of the German and Arabic languages of Earth, but the vehemence with which the words were uttered made him think that they did not mean “Hello,” or “Greetings.” The way they were said made Cosmo feel like their meaning was closer to “Prepare to die.” Until the translator had enough data to start deciphering the language, Cosmo would have to rely on body language and basic sign language.

The red eyed creature watched Cosmo warily and kept his atlatl at the ready. Cosmo decided to try to defuse the tension by holding up his canister gun and, making sure that the nervous assailant had an unobstructed view, placed the gun in its holster.

“Shakur!” said the red eyed giant as he drew his arm back in preparation to let fly with the business component of the atlatl.

“Makiss, Nagat!” A higher pitched, but no less authoritarian voice shrilled from amongst the warriors before him. The red eyed menace turned his head quickly in the direction of the new voice.

“Papat Nari?” was the reply. Cosmo judged, from inflections of the voice that this was a question like “What,” or “Why?”

Another member of the group, not as tall as the red eyed one, but still well over two meters tall, with softer features and, to Cosmo’s thinking, a more feminine body shape, made its way to the antagonist and positioned itself between her fellow tribesman and Cosmo with her back to the latter. Placing a hand on the other tribe member’s chest, she spoke in a tone that only her fellow could hear.

At that moment, there were two distinct popping sounds above and behind Cosmo. Someone had triggered a couple of the stun gas grenades that Cosmo had planted in the foliage. A white puff of smoke wafted in the air and two of the attackers appeared on the lip of the ravine, and toppled over, unconscious.

The red eyed one and the feminine one directed their attention back to Cosmo and then to the slumped bodies of their comrades behind him. No amount of coercion would quell the rage that, assuming his friends were dead, raged inside of the red eyed giant.

“Shakur Nichlan!” Red Eyes said, raising his atlatl again.

“Nagat!” the feminine one yelled, but to no avail. Red Eyes let fly with his dart, but because the feminine one was in front of him, he missed his mark and the dart embedded itself into the bank of the ravine.

Cosmo took the opportunity that the confusion afforded him and, with a running start, ran towards the rim, jumped, and grabbed a small tree on top of the rim. Swinging his feet to the left he managed to place one boot on the higher ground and levered his body to the top. He looked back to see two more darts embed themselves where his legs had been.

Rolling over and scrambling to his feet, Cosmo reached down and filled his hand with his canister gun. Looking up he saw three aggressors in front of him. Raising the gun, he took quick aim at the middle one and watched as a puff of smoke erupted from his chest and he fell to the ground. Soon followed by one, and then the other of his comrades. Cosmo reached for another canister this time for an explosive one and began running as fast as he could back to the explorer.

He held his breath as he passed through the remnants of the gas from his first shot and opened the gun to take out the spent canister and insert a new one. He looked to his left and saw at least five assailants running after him. He shot towards the ground in front of them but didn’t wait to see the results. He heard the muffled “thump” of the explosive and screams from at least two sources. He reached to his belt and extracted two more canisters and kept running.

When he had reloaded, he noticed movement in the canopy above him. He lifted his gun and shot above and ahead of himself and saw an explosion but kept running. As he ran through the debris that fell from the canopy he saw at least one body fall through the hole created by the explosion. As he ran he saw several darts sail past him, some missing by mere inches, some burying themselves into trees and into the ground. He even felt the vibrations of at least two that fell immediately behind him.

Cosmo had never been known for his speed in running, but he surmised that there was a lot to be said for the incentive that is provided by the threat of immanent death at the hands of an angry, alien mob. To his elation, Cosmo was able to run the entire three kilometers in less than ten minutes. His heart felt like it was about to burst, and his lungs felt like they were on fire. As he approached the explorer he shouted at the top of his voice, “PREPARE FOR TAKE OFF!”

“Yes, Sir, Captain,” said M.O.M., “are you ready for lunch?”



Bobby’s mother stood in the kitchen as Bobby hid behind the front door looking outside excitedly and pushed it shut. He then ran towards the window and scanned the scene outside.

“I’m guessing that first contact didn’t go so well.” Said his mother, “do you want ham or roast beef on your sandwich?”

“Ham,” said Bobby as he watched his mother and sat down at the table, “Mom, do you know any other languages?”

Submitted: May 21, 2021

© Copyright 2023 J.D. Anderson. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:




Mon, July 18th, 2022 9:29pm


As I read thru these 'bobby stories' I cannot help picturing the Calvin and Hobbes' series from the comics page. Well done! Secondarily his defensive preparations certainly were written by someone well versed in setting up a defensive perimeter. And considering your socks to be clean because you traipsed thru a puddle denotes a Marine pure and simple! Good Story.

Mon, July 18th, 2022 9:34pm


Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed them. The ideas for those stories come from my childhood on 25 acres of woodland in Northern Minnesota. A lot of good memories.

Mon, July 18th, 2022 3:54pm

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