Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Word Count: 71,000
Arrival on planet CR-3 was supposed to mean a new beginning, but for seventeen-year-old Hope every day is a new test, a new torture, a new fear. At any moment the Locals can call for Hope and nine other teenagers to go into the Stacks for testing. Some days she’s drowning in the middle of the ocean. Some days they keep them locked up without food. Once, they sent her in naked. Are the tall blue creatures watching the tests, their unchanging black eyes seeing, judging, deciding?
When a new home was found in a distant galaxy, what scientists hadn’t discovered or counted on were the natives. Upon landing the humans are met with the Dome, a force field keeping them trapped at their landing site. Contact with the CR-3ans has resulted in only one thing. The Stacks. A mountain of metal cylinders encasing a series of holographic testing rooms. Ten representatives of each age group of the human race have been chosen: children, teens, adults, and the elderly. And these specimens are the ones undergoing the strange testing, Hope and the ex-boyfriend she still feels fiercely attached to among them.
The Stacks can hurt. Maybe they can kill. But their purpose remains unknown and unrest is threatening to divide the humans. Some say the Local CR-3ans are hostile, and they want to prepare for a fight. Hope thinks the Stacks are a way of deciding whether or not to let the humans out of their captivity. As many start to turn to weapons and violence as an answer, Hope becomes a voice for a peace. It is Hope who establishes the first communication with a Local. As their intentions become clear, so does the fact that Hope is the last chance for the human race.
I knew the other Specs ahead of me and behind me were all feeling the same thing, it was a communal cold sweat. The walk down the shiny white tunnel that led to our Stack for the day felt like a slow march toward inevitable doom. What would today bring? Another tornado hurtling at us at full speed? Or a herd of large, hairy, hump backed beasts that would charge the ten of us any minute?
It could be something simple. Dress us up in funny costumes and play music. They’d done that once. Just to see what we would do. Maybe that’s what that was… unless we were supposed to do something and we didn’t. Every time, we tried to maintain a team spirit. That was important above all else. Not only because a lot of the Specs thought what I did, that the sessions were a test of some kind. But also because we had to be a team because if it was a bad day in the Stacks, working together was the only way to survive.
Someone nudged me from behind and I turned to see Weeks grinning at me from ear to ear. Weeks got his name from parents who’d given in to the doomsday thinking back on Earth, near the end. Some of the kids had names like his now. Days, Weeks, Hours. They’d named their kid after the amount of time they thought they had left. Instead of turning out gloomy and depressed the way his parents must have been, Weeks chose to be an incontrovertible optimist.