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.
When a replacement home was found in a distant galaxy, what scientists hadn’t discovered or counted on were the natives. 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. A symbol that appeared in the middle of the night on the foreheads of the chosen specimens designates who must go. Ten children, ten teens, ten adults, ten of the elderly. Hope and her ex-boyfriend, the guy who still has a grip on her heart, are among them.
The Stacks can hurt. Maybe they can kill. Some days Hope’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? Hope can’t shake the idea that there’s a purpose. That the Locals are trying to decide whether or not to let the humans out of their captivity. She becomes a voice for peace amidst a growing rebellion. But when Hope is the one who establishes the first communication with a Local, she finds out it may already be too late.
I knew the other Specs ahead of me and behind me were all feeling the same thing, it was a communal cold sweat.
Weeks sidled up next to me, his bulky arm brushing against mine. Weeks got his name from parents who’d given in to the doomsday thinking 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 ridiculously, incontrovertibly optimistic.
“You know what I’d really like right now?” Weeks asked me with a lazy drawl.
Not to be headed into a session there’s no escape from, where your worst nightmares come to life? “No, what?” I asked.
“A little tap on my tight buttocks for luck?” He swallowed his lips trying to keep a straight face.
I sighed. Then I swatted him on his ass as hard as I could.
He hollered and jumped up and down with glee. “Oh baby, that was just what I needed!”
I let him walk ahead of me to prevent him from returning the favor and kept my head down as he let out exaggerated moans of gratification.
His stupid jokes helped the mood of the group sometimes, but I didn’t want to encourage him any further. No sense in utterly denying what we were all walking in to. You could only pretend so much.