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Interstellar Exchange Program
I jammed the key into the ignition and turned it, starting the car. The steering wheel burned slightly from sitting in the hot sun for six grueling hours, but I didn’t care. I sped out of the school parking lot like a bat out of hell. Good riddance. Well, at least until August. My Junior year of high school was over and done with, and nothing would be coming between me and my summer vacation. More specifically, my game time.
My mind wandered into the digital world. All of my current favorite games flashed before my mind’s eye in a blur. Nothing could break me from this trance…
Well, almost nothing.
I was immediately thrown back into reality when I heard my last name come from the radio. “Lancaster Manor” is what he had said. What? What happened? What did I miss? I reached for the volume knob and turned it.
“We have yet to receive official word of what the object was,” The announcer continued, “though it has been speculated to be some sort of space debris.”
Did something… crash? Into my house?! My mind was racing. This couldn’t have actually been happening, could it? It couldn’t be, I had to have misheard him.
“No word yet from the Lancaster family, though news reporters are expected to arrive on the scene shortly.”
I need to get home. Now.
At that moment, a loud static noise emitted from my speakers.
“No, wait! Come back!” I shouted toward the inanimate device nestled neatly in the middle of my car’s dashboard, as if that would actually make the broadcast come back. “No, no, no, no, no…! Dammit! What the hell is going on?!”
Panic began to set in, but I realized I was nearly halfway home. The adrenalin pumping through my veins made sure that being calm was not an option. Every so often I would search radio stations for news of the event, but to no avail. The radio station I had heard the news from was still playing static. I briefly contemplated looking up the local news on my phone, but decided against it.
I’m a good driver, but I’m not about to risk my life. I thought to myself. No one seems to know exactly what’s going on, anyway. I’ll find out soon enough.
Just moments before turning into the road that let to my house, a news van pulled out right behind me.
Brilliant. Just what we need at a time like this. I mentally growled.
I saw the turnoff. I was nearly home. And that damn van was still following me. I looked in the rear view mirror and noticed the news van was slowing down considerably. As I turned onto my street, it pulled over to the side of the road. Probably going to do some filming or something. I’ll need to tell James about that.
I slowly came towards the gate. James, our gate operator, looked just as panicked as I felt. His facial expression changed from panic to shock when he saw my car approaching. I stopped and rolled down the window.
“Um, hi, James…” I said weakly. He just blinked at me, with an uncomfortable expression on his face. He let out a small “Um,” before turning to face the house.
He picked up his walkie-talkie from the control table and brought it up to his mouth. “Um, Mister Lancaster, sir…”
There was a brief pause before an annoyed and frustrated voice emitted from the speaker. “This had better be important! Do you have any idea what we are dealing with right now?” I could hear sounds of people yelling and walking around frantically in the background.
“It’s… It’s your daughter, Riley, sir. She’s home from school,” James replied.
Another pause, this time much longer. Suddenly, the sound of a fist hitting a table came from the device. “Dammit! This is not how this was supposed to go!” My father sounded furious. Finally, he sighed. “Well, she was going to find out anyway. Alright. I’ll send someone up to get her.”
James put away the walkie-talkie and pressed the button to open the gate. My mind was reeling. Just what the hell is going on here?
“You’d better get going,” James said. “Who knows, they may even need your help.” The way he hung on the word they suddenly made me feel… odd.
I let off the break and started driving toward the house. From what I could see, nothing looked any different. The huge, three story mansion looked perfectly normal. That only made me worry more. I parked in my normal spot and headed toward the front door. To my surprise, it opened immediately, leaving my out-stretched hand hanging awkwardly in mid-air.
The man standing on the other side of the door towered above me. His shoulders were so broad that I doubted he could even fit through the front door. The large figure wore a black suit and tie, accompanied by an earpiece and dark, sleek sunglasses that I could see myself reflected in. Okay, this is getting really weird now.
“So, you’re, uh… you’re the guy that’s, um, taking me to my parents?” I asked weakly. The man nodded and opened the door further to allow me inside. A chill went up my spine as I passed this titan of a man. Something about his eerie silence set me on edge.
I followed him through the house toward the elevator. I had never understood why a three story house needed an elevator, anyway. Well, until now, that is. He pulled some sort of ID card out from a pocket on the inside of his suit and slid it through a card reader, which I had always assumed had been there for maintenance purposes. A small “beep” came from the reader and a green light began flashing. I heard a slight whirring noise as a metal panel under the reader opened to reveal a number pad.
The broad-shouldered man shifted slightly to block my view as, I assume, he entered in some sort of passcode. Whatever he entered in must have worked, as the elevator doors opened with that all-too-familiar “ding!” He was the first to step inside, and I briefly wondered whether the both of us would even fit. I shuffled inside, careful not to make contact with the man. He just stood there with his hands clasped in front of him and facing the elevator entrance. The doors began to close, and my heart started beating faster as I began to realize the full gravity of the situation. Confusion. Fear. So many emotions were swirling around in my brain, seemingly coming to a fever pitch as I felt the elevator begin to make its decent. I had never really liked elevators in the first place, so that definitely wasn’t helping with my current anxiety.
“So, I’m assuming this isn’t all because my dad’s an inventor…” I tried to joke, trying desperately to calm down, but my shaking voice gave away my nervousness. As I suspected, no reply. “So, what, are my parents working for the government or something?” I tried again. Still nothing. “Uh… secret agents?” Nada. I sighed and crossed my arms. Back to the awkward, suffocating silence. I looked around the small metal container currently holding me captive. How far down are we? Just how secure does this… wherever we’re going… need to be?
Just as I was beginning to think we were descending into Hell itself, the elevator began to slow down. I glanced at the man, who was still standing in the exact same position as he had when this descent began. As the elevator came to a stop, another panel opened up, this time revealing a sleek, black pad. The man placed his hand on it, and a line of blue light moved across the pad from left to right. The scan of his hand was, apparently, accepted, as the elevator doors opened.
I looked out of the elevator into a long, metallic, brightly lit hallway. The man stepped out of the elevator, and I followed him down the uninviting room. The only sounds were the buzzing of the lights overhead and our own footsteps. I looked around at the walls as I walked and saw multiple security cameras, each one tracking our every move. When we reached the end of the hallway, the man took off his sunglasses and placed them in the inside pocket of his suit. He turned toward me and spoke.
“When this door opens, go directly toward the room on your left. Your parents are waiting for you.” Hearing him speak caught me off guard a bit. He talks! It’s a miracle!
He leaned his head down toward what looked like another scanner. A strong blue light came from the device and covered his entire face, taking in every tiny detail. The light went out and he took a step backward, placing his hands behind his back and standing up straight. There was a loud hissing noise as the metal doors began to slide open.
As I stood there, looking through the now opened doors into the massive room before me, everything became immediately clear to me as my eyes focused on the large, smoking object at the far end of the room.