Science Fiction Adventure Funny

"Let the record show that this is a colossally bad idea."

"Thank you, Chester, for your input."

"Seriously. If this was one of those cheesy horror movies from the before-before times you watch, this would be the part where everybody would yell, 'Don't go there!'"


"Don't go there, Lakeland!"

"Got it, thanks."

"It's strange. I always knew you were an odd specimen but I never pegged you as someone with zero survival instinct."

That's my space pet Chester, a cat, a catnip-addict, and a major pain in the ass. Just to spite him, I push the pedal to the medal and steady my hands on the wheel to keep Nostalgia – Granddad's old spaceship – on course.

"Don't you have a ball of yarn to play with or something?" I tell Chester, who feigns shock.

"What's with you and these cat stereotypes?" he says. "Yes, I'm a cat but you know very well that I abhor balls of yarn."

"Okay, Chester."

"Honestly, Lakeland! What if I called you an idiot just because you're a human?"

I let out a deep sigh and, like so many times before, ask myself how on Multiverse I got stuck with this particular chatty-catty. I know how, of course. At the age of 12, like so many other kids, I got to choose my very own space animal sidekick. A dog seemed so 2178 and reptiles and rodents gave me the heebie-jeebies so I decided to go for the only logical choice – a space cat.

"What? You want a cat?" the girl on the other side of the desk said half-surprised, half-amused. She had a high ponytail, freckles and one dimple, and I was smitten right away.

"Yeah," I replied shyly.

"What are you, a grandma?" she said with a laugh.

This could have been my out, but because she was cute and I tried not to look like a nervous little boy, I stuck my heels in.

"I love cats," I said. In my defense, my comebacks have gotten better over time.

The girl shrugged, amused. "Suit yourself."

And that's how Chester became my space pet. I was only later told I could have chosen an exotic animal, like a space tiger or an alligator. Obviously I would have gone for a tiger if I'd known! But I didn't and now I'm stuck with a wisecracking know-it-all with a strange fascination with boxes, who spits out hairballs all over Granddad's ship and sleeps on top of my keyboard when I'm trying to do my homework, just to be a dick. Making fun of my species is just the tip of the solar flare.

"Did you know that in the before-before times, humans were considered the most intelligent lifeform?" I ask Chester.

He laughs. "Humans? More intelligent than cats? Well, that's rich."

"Also," I continue, "the universal translator was invented only hundreds of years later, so humans and other species were unable to understand each other. Imagine a world where all pets are more or less mute!" I smile and look up through the glass at the starry sky. "Man, that must have been nice!"

Chester stares at me with contempt. "Are you saying that animals should be seen but not heard?"

I lift my palms up. "From your lips to God's ears!"

He tuts. "You know, I thought I might actually miss you after this suicide mission of yours, but now all I want to say is 'Rest in pieces, buddy!'"

I chuckle, despite myself, because that was kind of clever. The suicide mission he's referring to is our trip to the infamous Fgretlneinounbeinx market – "alien market" for short. The market sells anything you can imagine in the Multiverse, from laser swords to teleporters, but the reason it's not awfully popular among humans is because of the rummagers, an alien species famous for capturing humans, harvesting their vital organs and using their dead bodies as backpacks (hence Chester's "Rest in pieces" comment.)

So, why would I voluntarily want to turn myself into a backpack? Well, I don't. And I've grown pretty fond of my vital organs, too, but if I ever want to fulfill my life-long dream of becoming one of the so-called Watchdogs of the Multiverse – the coolest job in existence – I have no choice. The alien market is the only place where you can get the golden ticket to the prestigious Watchdog Academy. The reason the tickets are held at the alien market is probably to dissuade humans from participating. Why? Because historically, humans make terrible Watchdogs. Not only do we have no special skills or superpowers, we're also inconsistent and self-serving liars and cheaters. I would be offended by this description if it wasn't kind of true, and you best believe the androids have statistics, algorithms and historical records to prove that.

So, if you're a human trying to become a Watchdog, your only chance is to win the so-called Watchdog Lottery between the ages of twelve and sixteen. This year, after four years of trying, I finally won. I'm turning seventeen in two days, which means that this is my last chance to become a trainee, and there's no way I'm going to miss it even if it means putting myself in danger. To protect myself against the organ-harvesting rummagers, I intend to use a "disguiser," a device that gives me a randomly chosen "alien suit." It works about 50 percent of the time, but hey, I'm a glass-is-half-full kind of a guy.

I hold onto the wheel as Nostalgia lands on the surface of Catharsia, the home of the market. She rumbles, shakes and coughs on the ground before finally coming to a full stop. I lift my head up and, with shaky hands, lean towards the foggy window and rub it with my shirt sleeve. And there it is. The market in all its colors, booths, strange gadgets, and a sea of different species from all over the Multiverse laid out in front of my eyes with all their glory.

"My future awaits," I say – to myself, but nothing gets past Chester. "Indeed," he says. "Your bright future as a human backpack. Happy dying!" He walks to the far end of the cockpit where my mattress is, lets out a yawn, and curls up in a little ball on my messy sheets. I unbuckle myself from my seat, stride to the bed, lean over, and snatch him up in my arms.

"Hey!" Chester yelps indignantly and tries to claw his way out of my grip.

"Sorry, buddy," I say. "But if I'm gonna die, I'm taking you with me."

"What?" he cries. "Why on Multiverse would you do such a horrible thing?"

The disguiser is lying negligently on the floor like an abandoned piece of clothing. I reach down with my free hand and grab it. "Because apparently," I answer his question, "petting a cat lowers your blood pressure and releases a relaxation hormone. If I'm gonna die, at least I'll die relaxed."

Chester stares wide-eyed at the approaching doorway as my space boots clickety-click toward it. "No, Lakeland, you can't do this to me! I'm an indoor cat."


"So? Indoor cats are naturally agoraphobic. You cannot take an agoraphobe outside, everybody knows that!"

I shrug. "Well, better snap out of it, then."

He chuckles maniacally. "Snap out of it? Oh, yeah, great advice, Lakeland! Yeah, I'll just snap out of my inherent life-long phobia, just like that. Hey, do me a favor and scratch psychologist off your list of potential career paths, will ya?"

"Will do," I say with a smile, point the disguiser at myself, push the "on" button, and watch my hands turn green as Chester's claws sink deeper into my skin. I look at my reflection in the window. Wow. You know that movie about space travel from the before-before times we all laugh at because it's so unrealistic? Yeah. I look like a damn Yoda!

I step outside, the low-hanging sun burning down on my back. I take a moment to listen to the hubbub of the busy market before stepping onto the uneven surface of the planet. I realize pretty soon that that nonsense about petting a cat lowering your blood pressure is a load of crap. I don't know if you've ever tried to drag an indoor cat outside but all your energy goes into a) holding onto the wriggling beast and b) not losing an eye. After a while, though, Chester slips from his fight-mode into his paralyzed-by-fear mode, and carrying him gets ever so much easier.

The good news is that nobody seems to suspect that I'm a human. If there're rummagers here, I don't see them. Just a sea of androids, presters – tall amoeba-like creatures – Martians, Uranians, Jupies – a species from Jupiter – chippos – other Yoda-lookalikes – and dozens of other species that I don't recognize, all with their space pets. I hold my breath, willing the disguiser not to fail me, until I see a sight that makes my heart sing.

About eighty feet ahead looms a sign that says "Watchdog Tickets." I'm so relieved I could cry. There seems to be no line, so I fasten my pace and a moment later stop under the sign where a tall alien stands with a clipboard. He is a green biped, but his non-scaly skin tells me that he's an android. I greet him but he just nods towards my right hand. "Code," he barks and I bare my wrist. He scans it, then looks up at me. "You're a human."

"Yes, sir."

He stares at me. "A representative of the weakest, dumbest, and the most talentless of species wants to be a Watchdog?"

"No, please, tell me what you really think."

He takes out a golden envelope with my name on it and slams it on the table like it was yesterday's news. I stare at the sparkling mythical creature, and reach for it with my Chester-free hand. The android grabs my wrist and clears his throat. "That would be 200,000 space coins, then."

I look up at him. "What?"

He lets out a sigh. "I said..."

"Yes, I heard what you said," I interrupt him. "But I'm confused. I wasn't supposed to have to pay anything. I won the lottery and all I was instructed to do was to come to the market, show my code, and the ticket would be mine."

The android deadpans at me. "Yes, but you have to pay the human tax."

"The what?"

"The human tax," he repeats. "It's a special tax only humans pay."

"Only humans?" I scoff. "That's discrimination!"

"Obviously," the android says matter-of-factly. "Nobody wants humans to have their backs for obvious reasons. That's just how the space cookie crumbles."

I have no money and I'm starting to feel panic set in. "But I've been wanting to be a Watchdog ever since I can remember and this year is my last chance!"

The android blanks at me. "I can see you're trying to appeal to my emotions. Don't. I'm a machine. I don't do emotions."

"But...There must be something we can do?"

"Hm, no, don't think so."

"Come on, can't we do a trade of some sort?"

The android is quiet for a while, then slowly turns his head towards Chester, who's sitting still in his near-catatonic state. "Okay, fine. I want your space cat."

"What?" I say.

"What?" says Chester, who's suddenly snapped out of the spell, almost as if he'd forgotten about his agoraphobia altogether.

"Your space cat," the android repeats. "I want it."

There's a short silence.

"But... why?" I say at last with a chuckle. Chester turns to look at me. "Excuse me, why wouldn't he? I'm adorable."

"That's right," the android says. "Adorable."

Chester glances at the android, shudders with disgust, and then gives me that "please do something" look.

"No, listen," I address the android. "You don't want a space cat. I mean, what are you, a grandma?"

"I'm a machine. I can't be a grand-anything."

I don't know how to answer that so I don't. "Yeah, well, you get my point," I say instead. "Listen, personally, if I could go back in time, I would go for a space tiger. I kick myself every day for not getting a tiger!"

"He does," Chester says with a nod.

"So, go for the tiger, man!" I pronounce grandiosely. "Do it for all the young kids out there who got cheated out of cool space pets!"

Just for a second it looks like I've managed to convince him, but then the android shakes his head. "No cat, no ticket."


"No cat, no ticket!" he repeats sternly.

I look from the android to Chester and then let out a sigh. "Give us a second?" I say. The android nods, and I turn my back to him.

"Well, Chester," I say with a low voice so that the robot can't hear us, "we tried."

Chester glances at me incredulously. "Huh? What exactly are you saying?"

I shrug. "That we had a good run."

He stares at me for a moment, then gasps. "You are not seriously considering gifting me to Captain Boring Pants over there, are you?"

I shrug. "Well, it's not an ideal situation, but you heard the man. 'No cat, no ticket,'" I say. "And I'm sure that as my faithful companion you just want what's best for me."

"The hell with that!" Chester spits.

"Lower your voice!"

"I certainly will not! I can't believe that you would so lightly get rid of me, man's best friend?"

"A dog is a man's best friend," I retort. "You are... well, I don't know what you are."

"I'm someone who purrs!"

"And you would have to do a whole lot of purring for me to give this up," I say. "This is my dream, Chester, for seventeen years I've talked about nothing but this."

"Are you saying that you were already talking in your mother's womb?"

I stick the finger of my free hand an inch from his face. "Really bad timing to be a smart-ass right now! Also, mentioning my mother's womb is not getting you any extra points!”

"Fine, I'm sorry."

I look down and sigh. "No, I'm sorry. Chester, I'm out of options. There's nothing else there for me, but the Watchdogs. Please tell me you understand that."

He stares at me for a long time. "I can't take you seriously when you look like a freaking Yoda."

I smile sadly and pet him. "I swear, Chester, if I had a choice..."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever."

A line is starting to form behind us. I glance over my shoulder and see the android staring at me inquiringly.

"Shall we?" I ask Chester.

"You mean, shall we go back to Captain Boring Pants so he can make me his house slave? Sure, why not?"

I don't know what to say to that, so I say nothing. I turn back to the android and just stand there for a moment, my head down.

"So?" the android says. "Do we have a deal? A cat for a ticket?"

I open my mouth and then close it again. I'm quiet for a while. What would Granddad do?

"Well?" the android says, growing impatient.

"No," I manage at last, my voice thinner than paper.

"What's that?"

I clear my throat. "I said 'No deal.'"

"Are you sure?"

I nod.

The android shrugs. "Suit yourself. Next client!"

And with that, my life-long dream is shattered. The Multiverse stops and I'm walking through the crowds like in slow motion. Where are those damn organ-harvesting rummagers when you need them? I wouldn't mind being turned into a backpack right now.

My dream is no longer. Which means I'm left with no purpose in this life.

Chester's purring in my arms. At least one of us is happy. "Hey, cheer up, will ya?" he tells me.

I pet him between the ears. "Chester, I almost gave you away. Aren't you mad?"

He shrugs. "Nah. You were never going to give me away."

"How do you know?"

"Because I know you."

"Apparently you know me better than I know myself."

"Apparently so."

We walk back to Nostalgia. The door opens with a familiar whoosh, and I feel the warmth of the ship wrap me like a blanket. Chester jumps out of my lap and rushes to the far end of the ship. "I have something for you," he calls. "Consider it an early birthday present."

He comes back with something in his teeth and I squint to see better. It's something golden and sparkly. It's... it's...

"It's the ticket!" I shout, dumbfounded. "Chester, how did you..?"

He gestures for me to open the envelope and I do. The message is short but sweet. Oh, so sweet.

Dear Candidate CDMX77886655123-LL,

You've successfully completed your first challenge – the test of


Welcome to Watchdog Academy!

I tighten my grip on the e-letter. "The test of loyalty?" I echo.

I glance at Chester who's giving me what was known in the before-before times as the Cheshire cat smile.

"Good thing you didn't give me away, huh?" he says. "Happy early birthday, kid!"

"Wow, that's..." I'm just about to start celebrating when the letter beeps and the message changes:

Please remember that only the top 5 trainees will

become cadets.

Your current placement: 5344/5345.

Great. Can't anything ever be easy? I think.

But then I shrug. Whatever. Bring it. I'll show them what a human kid forty-two parsecs from home can do.

November 14, 2020 04:56

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Hope Reynolds
06:17 Dec 03, 2020

Oh my goodness this is so good!! So well done. I think it depends on one's personal imagination to make the most of things, but for me it is so vivid. Really great. You kept my attention. And creative idea with the yoda suit and smart comeback about being a grandma, lol. So good.


Katariina Ruuska
01:20 Dec 04, 2020

Aaww, thank you so much, Hope :)! That means a lot!


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