The annual election left me hiding in my mother's basement for 48 hours. Not that I was very social, to begin with, but out of fear of being the one chosen, I didn't dare go above ground. The government elected one person, age 12 to 50, to travel to the moon and join the colony. There was limited contact with the human colony on the moon already, all I knew was that it was "safe" and "comfortable living". But then again, it was the government's word.
I could already tell something was off this year. It was my sixteenth birthday, making me eligible for the election, and the vibes starting to feel ominous. I couldn't watch the news without feeling bile rise to the top of my throat, just the idea of being the one chosen to be forced out of my home and thrown into space. So when my mother walked down the stairs and I heard two sets of footsteps behind her, my heart dropped to my stomach. I knew something was wrong. My mind began racing with an escape plan, but two men in business suits with stale eyes stared at me greedily as my mom opened her arms in pity. I sat on the floor, back to the wall, speechless and motionless in horror. It couldn't be me. Out of everyone in the entire country, billions of people, some teenage boy in an apartment with average grades got chosen?
"Jason Torres, you have been elected as the brave candidate to explore the moon. We will supervise your dwelling until you have packed for the venture."
I panicked. I stared at both the men, then my mom, then the stairs they came from. Then ran. I felt hands grab me from behind. I fell down the stairs and blacked out.
Opening my eyes, I realized I never got to say goodbye to my mother or friends. Nothing but the stars surrounded me as I ascended through space, headed straight for the moon. My hands were tied together behind my back, binding me to the control chair I sat in. Panels of buttons and switches and levers that I didn't understand were in front of me, slashing bright colors and beeping sounds. But the most unnerving was two wide screens next to the windows, showing footage of me and what I assumed was my trajectory, showing my voyage off to the moon. Without my consent, obviously. I stared at my face in the camera, so scared and confused. Inside, I felt like a rabid animal that was restrained, frothing at the mouth, and ready to pounce. But on that camera, I looked like a sixteen-year-old small-town boy, terrified and being held captive. The wild look in my eyes encaptured my feelings perfectly, like a caged animal ready to die. For all I knew, I might have been.
My mother was probably watching me, with all the news outlets covering the live video of me struggling against my restraints in the rocket chair. I was most likely a hometown hero, the young martyr that sacrificed himself, so lucky to be chosen to live a lavish life on the moon. Deep inside, I knew there was no luxury waiting for me. The unknown scared me most of all. Was I to be a capitalist slave, forced to work day and night on the moon? Would it be a cold wasteland with a few outlaws who ate canned food and talked in hushed voices with wild eyes like mine? Or would I land and no one was there, just me and the rocks of space? I couldn't bear to imagine any of the outcomes. I had to get out of these restraints and do something, anything.
There were a fire extinguisher and the little hammer that broke the glass nearby. If I could just reach the hammer out of the box, I could try to pry the ropes off of me. That took a lot of wiggling, maneuvering, and eventually falling sideways on my seat until I finally felt the little hammer in my tied up hands, clutching it with the tips of my fingers. If I dropped this, it was all over... Very carefully, I started to use the back of the hammer to rip off the rope until my hands were free. My arms weren't, but now I could use the hammer to start to unravel them. Time seemed to slow. Agonizing minutes or hours (I couldn't tell anymore) went by as I patiently sawed at the rope with the sharp back of the hammer. After painstakingly slow sawing, I eventually peeled one layer of rope off, and the rest came off easily. Now that I was free, I could do something about this. I could be the first to change this awful legacy so many of my people were forced to endure. The government's authoritarian control had no weight up in space and I was here to make sure of it.
Staring at the buttons, pressing some and testing them out, eventually, I found one that said "camera". It couldn't be that easy... could it? When I pressed it, it only changed the camera angle, showing the back of my head as I looked over the panel board. No doubt, everyone back home was freaking out at my rebellious outbreak, but they weren't here in space with me. If I could figure out a way to break through before I reached the human colony on the moon, I would be free. Now there had to be a way to turn off the camera... I stared at myself behind my head, turned, and facing it with curiosity and anger. Until I saw a blinking red light at the top. It was recording me from the monitor.
With a smash from the fire extinguisher, the screen turned to an error screen and grainy noise took over. I smirked devilishly at it with a victorious feeling. Now, to change the trajectory. With all the blinking and beeping buttons and levers, I felt completely lost. Some buttons caused gasses to leak in the main capsule, some made a loud beeping throughout the rocket, others moved monitors, and my console seat. One opened a cabinet filled with powdered food. With a thought for the future, I snatched up as much as possible and shut the cabinet. Then, I finally realized, there was a pre-planned path the rocket was taking. I couldn't control the rocket, make it go left or right, or up or down. But I could cancel the system and... crash land? Hope I lived?
Living in whatever government facilitated human simulation that was waiting for me on the moon was worse than dying in a rocket crash I decided, took the ax from the fire extinguisher emergency box, and slammed it down on the panel board. Everything went into chaos. Gasses blew from every hole in the rocket, alarms beeping loudly and red flashing everywhere. The monitors turned to white noise and a loud voice blasted "Emergency, evacuate immediately". Shaking with fear and exhilaration, I scanned anywhere for an emergency door. I was wearing a protective astronaut suit, I only needed the helmet, which was hiding in one of the cabinets that were opening and closing out of control due to the broken control board. There was one escape door so far away. I watched through the window the moon crept closer and closer, the gray rock seemingly catapulting towards me and not the other way around. I would never reach the emergency door in time. I hurled myself across the floor and shut my eyes, curling up in a fetal position and hoping I didn't wake up dead.
I couldn't tell if I woke up dead or alive. All I could smell was fire and gasoline. Every time I breathed it felt like fire straight to my lungs like my bones were breaking every time I moved slightly. My entire body ached, probably completely broken. My helmet was off but I could breathe okay in the space air, surprisingly. Above me were the stars and planets, so close and so real in the space sky. In my peripheral vision, my ship lay in shambles, flaming scraps spread around the gray rock of the moon. Weirdly, a torn down building lay around me, like the ship had crashed straight into it. Screams were muffled in the distance, shouting and shocked voices. The oddest part of waking up in a daze was a little girl with slate gray skin and a massive curly-haired bun and huge forehead looking me up and down curiously like I was her new plaything. Above her, an older girl with a kaleidoscope of colors for skin, white blended with browns, reds, and blues, glared at me like I was a ticking time bomb ready to explode on her day. After seeing two weirdos like those and the smell of oil, rocks, and flames, I fell back into a restless sleep.
When I opened my eyes again, I was in a plush pit, covered in pillows and soft fabric. The stars and planets were in focus in the sky above me. In my peripheral vision, I saw silver columns and long satin curtains covering floor to ceiling windows, with a large round window ceiling. It looked like a planetarium in Outerspace. Maybe it was. I was too disoriented to tell.
"Are humans supposed to drool this much?"Asked a small voice, sounding like it belonged to a little girl.
"Not so many questions, Ceres, "Chided an older voice, sounding like an older, annoyed teenage girl. I sat my head up and there were the two strange alien girls from when I crash-landed the ship. They were freakishly tall, even the young girl had to be 5'6 and looking like a nine-year-old. The teenage girl, probably 6'1 and looking sixteen.
"Where am I?" I croaked, trying to sit up but everything still hurt. It was better than when I first crashed when my ribs seemed to crack every time I breathed, but I didn't feel much better. My clothes were singed, my hair was burnt, my entire body ached and my head was spinning like crazy.
"Can we keep him, Pluto, please?"The little one begged.
"What have I said about humans?"The older one chastised her without taking her eyes off of me, "We can't trust any of them." I picked my head up to see the two girls standing over me with looks of curiosity and weariness.
"But he destroyed the human's oil mine!"The older one placed her hand over the young one's mouth and moved her behind her back. I felt my heart drop to my stomach. I couldn't believe what she was saying.
"What?" I asked breathily, the wind leaving my lungs. The tall girl moved closer to me, so she stood over me and looked me right in the eyes. Her black eyes stared daggers into me.
"Why are you here, human boy?"
Her skin was a canvas of colors, with whites, browns, vibrant red and brilliant blue all mixed together in splatters. Her dark black eyes were angry and scared. She had a huge forehead though, making her head shape even longer and narrower. In the center of her forehead was a brightly glowing emblem of the sun, searing white like it was burned on. Glowing white stars were splattered around her cheeks like freckles. Her hair was bright white, smooth, and straight in a freakishly high ponytail that had to add at least five inches to her height.
"Well, first of all, my name is Jason. So you don't have to call me 'human boy' anymore," I struggled to sit up straight.
"I'm Ceres!" The little girl shouted excitedly. Her curly brown hair sat on top of her head in a massive bun, almost the size of a planet itself. Her skin was slate gray and rocky with bright green eyes, almost glowing green. Her large forehead had a crescent moon carved in it, glowing bright white and the same star freckles spotted her cheeks. She pointed up at her sister with a grin, "And this is my sister, Pluto."
Pluto looked at me wearily, almost uncertain of what to do next. Begrudgingly, she offered her cool hand. I stared at it for a moment, covered in star and constellation tattoos and bright colors, then accepted it with my shaking sweaty hand. She hauled me off the plush pit. It was difficult enough to stand in the pillowy floor, but with weak knees and an achy body, I could barely stand. I leaned against Pluto for support as to not fall over, leaving an uncomfortable moment of uncertainty and awkwardness. She glared at me angrily as I smiled sheepishly, too weak to stand on my own. She rolled her eyes and shifted me against her shoulder for support, so we weren't so close but I could stand, and walked me over to a plush pod chair. It looked like a full sphere with a quarter carved out, but it was very comfortable, like a rigid beanbag.
"So, Jason," She arched an eyebrow as she and her sister sat across from me, "Did you intend to suicide bomb the human colony and mine?"
She rolled her eyes and turned to Ceres, "This is why we do not communicate with humans. They are not intelligent life forms."
"Hey, wait!" I said defensively, "I just survived my rocket crash landing on the moon, give me a break."
"So you crash-landed by accident?" She suggested.
"No!" I answered, "Well, kind of. I mean, I didn't mean to crash land but I didn't want to fly to the moon. I was hoping to get out of this whole mess."
Her eyes dimmed with disappointment, "What do you mean 'mess'?"
I felt too confused and lightheaded to explain, "Well, my government forces someone to fly to the moon every year. And they picked me this year, against my will, cause like, I didn't want to go do whatever they wanted me to do on the moon."
"So you crashed it?"
I frowned, "In hindsight, maybe it wasn't the smartest option. But I had no choice. I was about to go against my will if I didn't do something right there."
"He did what none of our sisters could do, Pluto!"Ceres exclaimed, "He took down the human mine!"
"No way..."I exhaled, feeling everything spiral behind my eyes, "Those people... are they okay? I didn't kill them, did I?"
Pluto's expression darkened bitterly, "No, Jason, you didn't kill any of your kind. Only their mine that stole our natural oil and minerals. Our moon was losing power and energy quickly. You've set them back and kept us safe for a long time."
I relaxed slightly, "I had no idea they were doing that, honest. That's why they've been shipping us off every year. To work like slaves in their mines."
"Yes," Pluto looked up at the ceiling and the stars, "Like slaves... We must thank you for your service, Jason, whether your intentions were pure or not."
"Yeah, thanks!"Ceres beamed, "None of our other sisters could destroy that mine like you did."
"Gee, thanks..."I mumbled, "You said you have other sisters?"
Pluto grimaced, "We are the daughters of the sun and the moon, embodiments of all planets and celestial bodies in the Milky Way. Unfortunately, the humans have taken our youngest, Eris."
Ceres' face shriveled up with melancholy and she hugged her sister tightly.
"Wait," I started to think, "The human colony kidnapped your youngest sister? Why would they do that?"
"I should ask you!" Pluto snapped, holding her sister tight.
"Woah," I held my hands up in defense, "I didn't take her. How can I help get her back?"
Pluto raised an eyebrow, "You wish to help rescue her?"
"Uhm," I watched Ceres' face light up with hope, "Sure, I guess."
"Thank you, Jason!"She beamed and tackled me in a hug. I groaned in pain. Everything was still sore, but watching Pluto's expression change to hopeful curiosity and Ceres' excitement made it worth it.
"So if I help you get your sister back," I offered, "Will you help me get back home?"
Ceres and Pluto exchanged weary looks.
"Only the power of all of our sisters combined could take you back home. And they're... all across the galaxy."
I felt like a balloon that had been deflated.
"I'm sorry, Jason," Pluto said with sympathy, "But we need you to help find Eris if you even have a chance of leaving."
I knew there was a long journey ahead of me with these two, and a newfound determination washed over me.
"I'll help you save Eris," I assured them, "And then I think we should have a family reunion."
Pluto glared at me wearily, ready to decline, but Ceres was beaming.
"Yes!" She shouted, "I can finally meet all of my sisters!"