The forgotten ornament s.., p.1
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       The Forgotten Ornament Strikes Back, p.1
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           Leslie Lee
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The Forgotten Ornament Strikes Back
The Forgotten Ornament Strikes Back

  Leslie R. Lee

 

  Copyright 2014 Leslie R. Lee

  Chapter 1

  “Okay, dad,” she muttered to herself. “If you’re writing this, then now’s a good time for and they all lived happily ever after.”

  “Commander Steffy,” her intercom crackled. “Please repeat. We didn’t quite catch that.”

  She hated being called Steffy. But ever since that late night talk show host had found out what her dad called her, she would forever be Commander Steffy or Astronaut Steffy or Ambassador Steffy. But now wasn’t the time to fly off the handle about it. And bantering with talk show hosts felt like fifty-five lifetimes ago. She hated being the poster child for the mission. But her mother had also lead the design team for this ship. And who didn’t love a good mother, daughter, bunch of aliens story? The media sure ran with it.

  “We are on track, Control,” she reported. “Space walk is proceeding as planned.”

  Except no one had planned this space walk. Not for this mission. To dive deep into the star of an alien world… They had names, the aliens. The Jyrn had come to Earth bearing gifts. And needing a favor. A big one. They’d pay with tech that would be a quantum leap, skip, and a jump for Earth. But the President of the United States had simply said, we will do your favor because it is the right thing to do, we need no payment. Listening to the howls that greeted that, you would have thought he’d asked everyone to chop off a hand.

  The Jyrn though had thanked that President and other world leaders those many years ago and given the gifts anyway. The Humans would need them to perform the Favor as Earth had named the mission.

  So here she was, along with an elite crew, to do something that everyone had been told would be a walk in the park. People who understood though knew it was more like sprinting a marathon through a nightmare. Despite their superior technology, their superior intellect, their superior just about everything, the Jyrn could not man this mission. They’d all die. They had tried. The memorial to those heroes orbited their planet not far from their sun, the star that had turned from friend to enemy too soon and too quickly. Steffy’s first visit to the Jyrn home world answered the question why they couldn’t just evacuate their planet. Destruction of Jyrnia meant extinction. They were still trying. But time had run out. The Favor and the Humans’ ability to withstand the strange radiation emanating from the anomaly was their only possibility for survival.

  Three Earth ships manned with the best and the brightest comprised the mission. The most courageous. The most intelligent. The greatest Earth had to offer. Star Fleet, as everyone called Unified Earth Space Command except for the people working for Unified Earth Space Command, had held a competition to name the three ships. Steffy had personally liked Enterprise, Millennium Falcon, and Serenity. Earth had disagreed, though the final names helped ease the disappointment over what she thought was a slam dunk.

  The anomaly in the alien sun had damaged the lead ship, forcing her to turn back. Then the second, the backup, was lost. Steffy hoped that ship had managed to escape from the sun’s corona. Now her ship, her mother’s ship, the backup to the backup, was all that remained. Everyone loved those two other ships. But for some reason that really irked Steffy, people chose to ignore or even denigrate her ship. Now though…

  She liked to think that people needed Hope. And people had Faith. But Charity was action.

  The UESC Charity was the final chance. This space walk was the final chance. She was the final chance. And what she carried in her suit was the very last chance.

  She worked on the baseball sized panel on the side of their ship that was never supposed to be opened in space, let alone in the middle of a star. Their ship drifted, broken, close to their target. With the ship almost dead, they might as well have been orbiting Earth.

  “The Jyrn have suggested that we abandon this and try to get out,” Control said. He was calm and collected, and only a few meters away from her inside the ship. The tension oozed in his soft Canadian accent like thick maple syrup. “They said all the cold beer we want.”

  “Nuts,” she smiled.

  The cobbled together suit was heating up faster than expected. The shields extending around the ship kept most of the heat and radiation off of her. It managed the gravity so that she didn’t get crushed into nothing more than a smear. That protection had begun to fade. The heat inside of the suit made her swear she’d never ever drop a live lobster into a pot of boiling water.

  The panel slipped away.

  “Ok, Control,” she gasped out trying to get the sweat out of her eyes. “Panel’s loose. In retrieval mode.”

  “Good luck, Commander Steffy.” The voice allowed a little relief to creep in. “And to your little helper.”

  She made a small kissy noise with her lips and her helper scrambled up into her helmet.

  “Little Miss Mouse,” she said to the way too tiny creature who looked quite bedraggled. “You know what to do. The green one. Get it, please. Go.”

  Did Little Miss Mouse wink at her and give a thumbs up? No. She was just a mouse. But a celebrity mouse. Again the talk shows went wild when they found out she was taking a mouse on the mission. Not as an experiment. Just as a mascot. A “mousecot” some had called Little Miss Mouse. Steffy had become an expert at laughing every time someone told her that. The mouse descended from the many mice Steffy had grown up with in her house those many light years away. So very smart were her mice. And Little Miss Mouse was the smartest of them all. She was the favorite of the children back home as she showed off all her tricks on the social media sites and schools. Now their final chance rested on how well Little Miss Mouse had learned a new trick.

  But first, she had to get the mouse into the panel to retrieve the green one. They had practiced as many times as they could before commencing the space walk. Just one more tiny little mouse sized mission. One the mouse had done right half the time. Steffy hoped this was not being shown back home.

  “Control, instigate bubble on my mark. Three, two, one, mark.”

  She jerked off her glove and slammed her hand into the opening then wrapped the cuff to seal the gaps. Air still streamed away. Heat blasted in. The bubble now surrounding her was smaller and better than the shields encompassing the ship. The protection still wasn’t good enough.

  A part of her stepped out, looked her right in the eye, and said, “You have just stuck your hand into a furnace.”

  “Roger that,” she said to that part as she stifled the scream struggling to erupt out of her. She had no idea if Little Miss Mouse was still in her suit, inside the panel doing her job, or… No need to dwell on that. They’d coated the mouse’s fur with heat resistant material. It was all they could do for her.

  Steffy glanced at the air lock door. The one that kept trying to override the overrides of the safety protocols and close. The bar holding it open had started to bend. The bubble surrounding her had allowed more heat to leak through the shields. And the bar was melting. The door was happy to find out that it could finally fulfill what it was designed to do. Close. I’m a good door, it said, I keep the bad, no good, awful stuff outside. Now, she was part of that bad stuff unfortunately. She needed something to wedge it open. As long as it didn’t close all the way, it would not lock. She had nothing though. The door was closing and Little Miss Mouse had not returned. She couldn’t use her tools, she needed them. Something. Anything.

  Then remembered.

  She reached into her pocket which held the photo of her dad and her mom and little sister which the heat had turned to ash and grabbed the blue Christmas ornament. So small and shiny. Her good luck charm. She held the round ornament i
n the opening as the door ejected the bar out into space. The metal slammed on the blue bauble.

  The door should have crushed it. Smashed it. Turned it into smithereens.

  But the ornament was not any ornament. Not magical or particularly special. Just a little fragile blue orb. Something so delicate could not have survived the trip most thought. And again, when the world found out she was going to leave her good luck charm behind, they begged her to take it with her. So here it was. Encased in diamond glass that was almost imperceptible and almost indestructible. The ornament kept the door from locking her out. She turned back to look at her arm with all the wrappings around it. Did Little Miss Mouse still live? Had she succeeded? Her forehead hit the front of her faceplate. Perspiration sizzled. The suit pumped oxygen through the sleeve cooling
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