“Will you tell us a story?” Constance said snuggling close next to Aunt Abby.
Aunt Abby wrapped her arms around the little girl with long hair and stared into Grammie and Grandpa’s fireplace. Outside the wind gusted and the rain poured down on the dry Texas earth. In the background, Aunt Liz’s Christmas music warmed the room.
“I think this is perfect story weather.” Aunt Abby said. “But we need some supplies first.”
“Like what?” asked Joshua squeezing his well-loved puppy, Cicero.
“Like . . .pillows, blankets, teddy bears, and maybe some hot chocolate.”
“And everyone else?” Constance said.
With a flurry of activity, comfy blankets were piled on pillows in front of the fire. Water was heated in the kettle until nine perfect cups of hot chocolate with marshmallows were settled in little hands. Jules, Ellie, Bruce, Jude, Rook, and Imogene were gathered and herded onto the pillows by Constance and Joshua.
“Ready?” Aunt Abby said.
“Ready!” the eight cousins chanted. “Ready. Ready. Ready.”
“Stop that chanting!” yelled Grandpa from his office.
The cousins giggled and settled in adjusting bears, bunnies, puppies, dollies, and blankets.
“Once upon a time . . .”
Once upon a time, eight cousins flew through the heavens on a starship, Sparrow Class, named Texas.
“A starship?” whispered Elle.
“Yes, a starship,” Aunt Abby said.
“What’s a starship?” Jude said.
“It is a ship that sails in the sky up among the stars instead of on the ocean.”
“You can’t sail around the stars,” Jules said. “There’s no air. Daddy says your blood will boil.”
“You blood will boil?” gasped Bruce and Joshua at the same time, fascinated.
“Not here,” Aunt Abby said. “This is a fantasy story. It’s make-believe.”
“Ohhhh,” Jules said.
Once upon a time (Aunt Abby started over) eight cousins flew through the heavens on a starship. Being from Texas, seeing as their Sparrow Class Starship was named Texas, they were of course Space Cowboys. They had many wild and crazy adventures avoiding pirates, saving damsels in distress, herding space cattle, and defeating the evil King of Tyranny who tried to make everyone equally poor and always dressed exactly the same.
“He sounds evil,” said Constance.
“He was,” said Aunt Abby.
On one of their adventures, Joshua called everyone to the front of the ship.
“Look what I found,” he pointed off the front bow.
Another ship sat, unmoving, off to the side. None of its lights gleamed in the cold chill of space. None of its thrusters burned hot and golden. It sat in the empty vacuum, alone.
“It looks empty,” said Jules, “and sad.”
“We should take a look,” said Bruce.
They all agreed.
Joshua brought the good ship Texas to a full stop, while Bruce, Constance, and Jude geared up. Jules helped them get all their gear on while Ellie got all her medical supplies out in case they found anyone who was hurt. Rook and Imogene cleared out the storage bay so they had room for anything worth salvaging from the dead ship.
In a few minutes, Bruce, Constance, and Jude were hopping out of the Texas and floating across space to the other ship. Everyone waited, hushed and nervous to see what they would find.
Bruce, Constance, and Jude opened the outer hall doors and stepped into the ship. Constance readied her Umbrella Cannon while Jude drew one of his Lego guns and aimed it down the empty hall. Bruce led the way watching for traps. The dead spaceship was empty. They searched it high and low, up and down. There was not a person to be seen. No parents. No Mommies. No Daddies. No brothers and sisters.
“No cousins?” Imogene said, worried.
“Not even any cousins.”
Bruce radioed the ship.
“Did you check the escape pods?” Joshua asked.
“Yes,” Constance said. “They’re gone.”
“Maybe that means they all escaped?” Jules said hopefully.
“Maybe,” Bruce said, “but we better make sure. Joshua? You getting any signals from nearby planets?”
Joshua pushed a red dragon with gold wings off his consul and searched the heavens for any signal, no matter how weak, indicating that the people had made it off. While he did that, Jules, Rook, Ellie, and Imogene joined Bruce, Constance, and Jude on the empty ship. Constance put her Umbrella Canon away and Jude slipped his Lego gun back in his holster.
“Alright,” Bruce said “While Joshua searches for the crew of this boat, let’s get everything of value off it. If we find them they might need their stuff.”
“Or if we don’t, we could sell it,” Jude said.
Everyone glared at him. “Well, we could.”
“Look,” Imogene said skipping down a hallway, “someone left their dolly.” She scooped up the blonde-haired doll from the floor and gave it a hug in case it was scared. “Don’t worry dolly, we’ll see you home safe and sound.”
“You notice something funny?” Constance said following after the skipping Imogene.
“Besides the fact that Jude brought three Lego guns to an empty ship?” Ellie said giving him a wink.
“Hey now,” Jude said. “It pays to be prepared.”
“Like the fact that there’s still food on the table in the dining room?” Rook said.
“Yeah like that,” said Constance. She fingered her Umbrella Cannon.
“Who leaves food just sitting around?” Imogene said in a sing-song voice.
“They don’t,” Bruce said tugging at his brown coat.
“Guys,” Joshua’s worried voice came over the radio. “I got a signal . . . but I also got Flies on the radar.”
“Flies!” Imogene squealed grabbing Ellie’s arm.
Rook herded Imogene, Ellie, and Jules back towards their own ship.
“Grab what you can of value and move, cousins,” Bruce shouted.
“Might I suggest hurrying?” Joshua said over the radio.
“Doing exactly that,” Constance quipped back as she grabbed a crate labeled ‘freeze-dried food’ and hustled after Rook.
Bruce was the last off the dead ship making sure everyone was safely back on Texas.
He hurried up to the bridge with Constance and Jude. Joshua, surrounded by dragons, gave them a worried smile.
“Where are they?” Bruce said.
Joshua pointed at the consul. Small blinking dots showed a group of people surrounded by buzzing green dots.
“What do we do?” Jules said coming up the ladder with Imogene, Ellie, and Rook.
“We go help them,” Bruce said.
“Dun, dun dun,” Aunt Abby said dramatically.
“What does that mean?” Jules said.
“It means ‘oh no! What’s going to happen’?”
“Are you stopping there?” Constance said.
“You can’t!” Imogene said. “We have to save those people from the nasty Flies.”
“Well, you’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
“No, that’s not fun,” said Ellie.
“Please!” begged Jude and Rook.
“Nope,” Aunt Abby crossed her arms. “You will just have to wait.”
…to be continued…