About the Author




Chapter 1

The Beginning of (Future)History


2096 could’ve been a very ordinary year on Earth


Over 50,000 people — a pretty average number — reported seeing a bird in the sky, even though all birds had been extinct for many years.


The Grand Council raised some taxes and lowered others, thus ensuring people stayed as confused as ever.


 The President of Earth, Guttly Randolph, remained popular in the polls despite the tabloids claiming (incorrectly) that he was having a romance with Helena Jadely, a fellow Councillor.


 And Earth’s Deputy President, Elsorr Maudlin, killed a traffic-warden while showing off his sword-skills, but escaped punishment because it was ‘an accident’.


Yes, 2096 could’ve been quite unremarkable had a certain round object not fallen through Earth’s atmosphere, shot down a chimney, and landed in the centre of The Grand Council Hall.

    Guttly Randolph, Elsorr Maudlin, Helena Jadely and the other Councillors looked on in amazement as the small sphere broke open and the invitation below was revealed…   




Chapter 2

The Wilchester Academy for Younger Adults


Tommy Storm hated two things about himself when he was a kid.


The first was his stutter — which would go into overdrive whenever he became angry or upset.


The second was possibly worse…


Towards the end of the 21st century, spiky hair was in fashion for boys. In fashion, meant that of the 3.5 billion boys on Earth aged 6–16, approximately 3,499,999,999 had spiky hair. But no matter what Tommy tried — gel, melted marshmallows, super-glue — his efforts always ended in failure.

     You see, much to his disgust, Tommy Storm was the only boy on Earth whose hair wouldn’t spike.


Two days after the Inter-Stellar Invitation landed in The Grand Council Hall, Tommy found himself in an infuriating situation.


Felkor Stagwitch wasn’t the tallest boy in the class, but he was definitely the strongest. In fact, he was possibly the strongest boy in all of The Wilchester Academy for Younger Adults. He could run faster than anyone, he had a punch that could knock out a mule and he had a laugh that set itself apart from everybody else’s. It sounded like a dog being kicked. Repeatedly. Felkor was laughing now as he watched the red computer-pad float higher and higher towards the ceiling of the blue-marbled classroom. He pointed his sabre-beam a little to the left and the computer-pad dodged to the left.


‘G-g-g-g-g-give it b-b-back,’ cried Tommy, but this only made Felkor laugh even harder. ‘All my w-w-w-w-work is on it.’


Again the peal of laughter like a dog being kicked and the computer-pad soared higher — towards the floating spotlights high above the classroom. Just then, someone shouted something about Tommy’s hair, making all the other kids laugh hard.


‘P-p-p-p-please Felkor,’ Tommy pleaded, the top of his head only just reaching the maddening boy’s shoulder.


Felkor aimed his tractor-beam sabre yet higher. ‘G-g-g-g-give me b-b-back my computer-p-p-p-pad,’ he mimicked. Then he laughed his piercing laugh. ‘Darky’s gonna cry now, innit?’


Felkor often called Tommy Darky. Indeed, Felkor could’ve called a snowman Darky since his skin was so white that he sometimes looked almost light blue (not that he’d ever seen a snowman in real life). He had blonde hair (spiky of course) and very, very light blue eyes. The other detail to remember about Felkor was that he would fart whenever he got scared or nervous — although few of his classmates knew this because he always managed to blame someone else for the smell of rotten Brussels-sprouts.


Felkor wasn’t the only classmate who called Tommy names. The freckly kids called him Dusky, the kids of Oriental origin claimed he was Latino, the Latinos said his eyes were half-Oriental, and some of the very dark kids called him Pasty. One kid had laughed at him one day and called him a mongrel. If Tommy could’ve asked his parents it might’ve helped, but he knew nothing about them. Not even that their names were Lola and Errol.

At this moment, however, his parents were the last thing on his mind. He’d just spent two hours, under test conditions, writing an essay on The Great Climate Enhancement into his precious computer-pad (also known as a CP). Miss Gideon would be returning to class any moment and would want to see everyone’s work. Famed for her high-pitched scream, and three-time winner of the World’s-Strictest-Teacher® award, she wasn’t someone you wanted to cross.

Felkor’s laugh and grating words pierced through all Tommy’s thoughts. ‘Darky’s gonna cry.’


Tommy pointed his sabre-beam at his CP, but Felkor had a Royce Turbo Tractor Beam VVS sabre (VVS standing for Very Very Strong) — Tommy had a Mega Minor NVS model (you can make your own guess what NVS stands for).


Realising he had no chance against Felkor’s sabre and hearing the laughter of other classmates, Tommy aimed his sabre at the platinum-plated duster on the teacher’s desk. It was at this moment that Miss Gideon stepped into the room and witnessed an act of ‘pure evil’. Her prized duster — the one she’d been presented with upon winning her record-breaking, third World’s-Strictest-Teacher® title — yes, that very duster flashed through the air, hit Felkor’s belly (sending him into a heap on the floor) and bounced onto a corner of marble, sustaining a long ugly scratch. Felkor dropped his sabre-beam, releasing Tommy’s CP from its grip.


And so it was, that a high-pitched scream rang out across the class — heard by everyone in the school — as a red CP obeyed the law of gravity and smashed into little pieces across Miss Gideon’s desk.

‘The Sun Won’t Come Out Tomorrow!’

(7-times voted Earth’s most annoying song)

In 2096, it was 34°C throughout planet Earth at all times. The sky was never visible through the permanent layer of clouds, it drizzled constantly and there was no wind. (Unsurprisingly, weather forecasters found it difficult to make a living.)


Chapter 3

The Choosing


Let me take you back briefly to the day that the Inter-Stellar Invitation splattered onto Earth…

Once the twelve members of Earth’s Grand Council had read and digested its meaning, Guttly pleaded with the Council to accept the invitation. He was supported in the debate by Helena Jadely.

‘This is an opportunity for us to extend the hand of friendship to other people in the Milky Way,’ she said.

‘But how can we send five children to some unknown place?’ said a Councillor. ‘It could be very dangerous.’

‘The MilkyFed could destroy Earth at any time,’ said another.

     ‘Exactly,’ replied Helena. ‘So why don’t we send a Grand Council member with the children? Then, if things get too dangerous, the Councillor could withdraw the children from the training school and bring them back to Earth.’

‘Milky Feddy Star  Ate  My Hamster’

(headline from The Cloud — a newspaper hostile to the MilkyFed)

The MilkyFed consisted of 4 solar systems in the Milky Way that had sustained intelligent life for millions of years. In 2082, the MilkyFed sent a video message to Earth, introducing itself. Subsequently, Earth received invitations to join the MilkyFed — but always refused. 

    The strongest opponent of the invitation was the Deputy President, Elsorr Maudlin, who had an intense dislike of ‘space-people’, preferring to refer to them as ‘alien monsters.’ (He almost always voted against Guttly’s recommendations — some said this was due to the fact that Guttly had beaten him in the Presidential election years earlier.)

Eventually, despite Elsorr’s protests, The Grand Council voted to accept the invitation by a majority of eleven to one. Five children would be chosen to represent Earth on the MilkyFed space-station and a Grand Council member would accompany them. Guttly would choose one of the children and The Grand Council would choose the other four.


Two weeks later, Guttly Randolph was standing on a platform before The Grand Council members.


He was bald as an eagle (a bald-headed one, that is), although wild silver hair bushed over both ears and spilled into a thick, finger’s-length beard. Despite the widespread availability of anti-baldness pills, he stubbornly refused to alter his appearance — which surely cost him the chance of appearing in many soft-drinks commercials as previous Presidents had done. Like all the Councillors, the old man wore a white cloak, draped around his body like a gown.


Guttly twirled a large ruby ring on his right index finger then raised his arms to hush the dignitaries seated around the Majestic Table. ‘So now our job is to choose the five children who will represent our planet within the Milky Way and beyond.’


The Councillors had been briefed for days by a team of 1,999 researchers who’d made continuous presentations, promoting various children from around the world.


There was the kid who was double-jointed all over. Double-jointed elbows, double-jointed knees and even a double-jointed chin. Or the girl who could speak three different words at once. When you listened, it sounded like she was speaking gobble-dee-gook, but if you recorded her speech and separated it into three, she was having three very intelligent conversations at once. This could be very useful on an intergalactic space-station, some believed.


Helena Jadely especially remembered the boy who only ate things that began with the letter B. This would’ve been quite restrictive, except that he could eat anything beginning with the letter B. Bread and barbed-wire sandwiches were one thing (OK, so they were two things), but bottoms, buildings and battleships were quite another. This eating skill could be quite useful, some contended, if the boy were sent far into space where normal food rations ran quite low. Maybe he could feed on a black-hole if he got particularly hungry. (It should be stressed that he only ate things that began with the letter B in the English language, as English was almost the only language spoken on Earth at this time. This little fellow’s digestive system could’ve benefited greatly if he spoke Gaelic or even Hungarian — there being many additional things beginning with the letter B in these languages.)


Guttly Randolph stood back and let the appointed Councillors come to the platform one at a time. Within fifteen minutes, three children had been decided upon. They were:


1.     Egbert “Sugar Floyd” Fitchly (age 11½) — a boy who talked very, very fast and could convey more information in a minute than most people can in an hour.

2.    ZsaZsa Vavannus (age 11¾) — supposedly, the best girl in the world at art-o-pathy (I’ll explain later).

3.    Anjeleek! Jalfrezi (age 11) — a girl who could scream louder than anyone on the planet (it was thought she could be useful in emergencies).


It was at this point that Elsorr Maudlin raised his objections to the whole project. He stood up, pulled his sword from its hilt and stabbed it loudly into the Majestic Table...



To find out more of the story,

 listen to recorded excerpts 2-5 on the sample Recording page

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(c) 2009  A.J. Healy