TO EARTH AND BACK
co-written by Laura

Prologue

The Navigator Log, Entry 673-Earth year 1999

Translated: "It has been days, but only minutes in space, since my ship has lost its directional skills. A magnetic force field near one of the planets has disrupted my compass, so now I don't know where the heck I am. My estimations would be around 200,000 light years from home because I really haven't traveled that far. I was on a mission to seek out new life and new civilizations-to boldly go where no Andromican has gone before. Wow, that sounded cool, better copy that. Anyway, so I'm lost and I don't have much in the view screen except a bunch of stars. I miss my mom's star crumble cookies...drat, now I'm hungry. I guess I'll be signing off then. I'll keep any readers posted on this and try to repair my ship. Wish me luck. Over and out."

KAWHUMP! Andromicus sat forward and hit his head on the view screen, finally coming face to face with his incredibly abrupt destination. He had landed on a terrain of odd green stuff next to a very large structure. Cautiously, he crawled out, only to be faced with hulking figures surrounding his ship. They had shiny, hard heads and big jaws. Their shoulders were about thirty times bigger than their feet. For a moment, Andromicus was met with twenty-two pairs of eyes. Then everything happened at once. They jumped him and wrestled with his football-shaped head for a full five minutes, until a high-pitched sound came from far away and caused the weird figures to leave him.
Dazed, Andromicus turned to his slightly battered escape pod, picked it up, and heaved it over the fence. Quickly he left the field, not wishing to be jumped again. He walked a little ways until he came to a strange gray stretch of land. Across it were various structures, not quite as big as the one he had landed by. Carefully, he started to walk on the gray stretch. Without warning, a loud sound blared and suddenly Andromicus was airborne. WHAM! Before he had time to collect himself, he was swept off the window and back onto the street. More and more noise was coming at him from all directions. He scrambled to his feet and hauled butt to the other side, where he clutched a street sign for dear life, panting.
When he had finally got his breath back, he wandered along the structures trying to figure out what exactly he would do. The people around here weren't very friendly. What were they thinking, trying to pull my head off? He was still lost in his thoughts when he walked right into another street sign. BAM! All right, he decided, that's it. I'm just going to sit here until someone finds me.
In a few minutes, Andromicus's luck changed. Two Earthlings were walking in his direction, arguing about something. They looked a lot friendlier than the large fellows, and less noisy than the fast ones on the gray stretch. They were the same height, but one had dark hair and eyes, and the other had blond hair and blue eyes. As they got closer, Andromicus could hear their conversation.
"I think the first Alien movie was the scariest, because the other two were just corny."
"Well, Alien Resurrection was a trip, definitely."
"I haven't seen that one yet. Hey, what about Independence Day?"
"Eww, I couldn't even look at the aliens the first time I saw it. It was funny though, not real scary."
By this time, they were almost past Andromicus, and he felt the need to speak up. "I liked E.T. myself."
The two girls gasped and stared at him. Andromicus cringed, afraid they might jump him. He put his small paws over his face.
"Look at that, Kalli, you scared him."
"No you scared him, Jackie."
"He's kinda cute. Hey, little guy, we won't hurt you."
Andromicus peeked over the top of his paws. "You won't?"
"You're funny-looking, but that's not a good enough reason."
The blond girl punched her friend in the arm. "Don't tell him that, Jackie. You might get blasted or something."
He stepped forward. "As you can see, I am unarmed. I will not harm you. I am merely looking for a place to stay until I can contact a rescue team."
The girl called Jackie looked at him strangely. "Really? Where you from?"
"Well..."
Kalli took his paw. "Can we get you something to eat first?"
Andromicus brightened. "Do you have star crumble cookies?"
"No..." Kalli said, "but we do have other things."
They led him up the street and into one of the small structures. Kalli talked while she searched the kitchen.
"We have to go baby-sit later, but I guess you can hide there. Hey, how about an apple?" She selected a red delicious, twisted off the stem and handed it to the alien. He opened his mouth and popped the entire thing in. Kalli and Jackie recoiled.
"You're not supposed to eat it like that!"
"Here." Jackie opened the cookie jar. "Just give him things that don't require much effort to eat. Try this. It's no star crumble cookie, but you'll like it."
Gratefully, Andromicus devoured the cookie. "Ifff gud," he murmured with his mouth full.
"Rule number one: Swallow before talking," Jackie said.
He swallowed hard. "I said, it's good." Then, smacking his lips, "But now I am needing liquid refreshment."
Kalli was on it. She poured a glass of milk and handed it over. "Don't eat the cup."
Andromicus took a cautious sip, then quickly downed the rest. "Ahhhh, very refreshing. What else is there?"
"Lots of stuff," Kalli answered. "But you eat so fast, we probably shouldn't give you much more. How about you tell us what you're doing here?"
"Gladly." The alien hoisted his small body into a chair and began. "I come from the planet Trandromica in the Zeyrot Four Galaxy. Quite a nice place, actually, about two hundred thousand light years from here. Maybe more, I lost track. But as I was saying, Trandromica is where I come from, also my family. Everyone has the same name with slight variations, and we speak a different language. It's just like yours, only the first two letters are removed. I suppose that's how I learned English so quickly. I also speak languages native to fifteen other planets in Zeyrot Four and Caria Ten. It's a requirement." He paused for breath.
"Sounds like fun," Jackie commented. "Can you teach us?"
"Of course, if you so desire." Andromicus cleared his throat and continued. "Yes, so one day I was fixing my ship, and I took it for a test run. It started out fine and I was just cruising the galaxy. Well, I don't really know what happened that got me so far off course, but the next thing I knew, my compass was out of whack and I was entering an entirely different galaxy. I couldn't figure out where I was until I realized you two spoke English."
"So you knew about Earth before you got lost?"
The alien nodded. "I didn't ever think I would get there because I thought it was so far away. I apparently was mistaken."
"What else do you speak?" Kalli wanted to know.
"Many things. Breayan, Koureliian, Mavenese, Littoree, a little Yudrow-enough to communicate anyway. Among others, but those are the ones I use the most."
"Sorry I asked."
"So what about those alien movies? How much of that is accurate?" Jackie inquired.
"Ah, science fiction productions. A controversial subject. Yes, many of them are accurate. I have in fact, had the pleasure of meeting the race that inspired the movie E.T."
"Really? What are they like?"
"They are very friendly, and enjoy collecting plant specimens. One of their greenhouses has exactly two million, six hundred eighty-five thousand different kinds of plants. Only three are from Earth. The movie Men In Black is also very accurate, especially with locations and the types of aliens. Arquillians, Orkans, Sinaleans..."
"Bugs?"
"We don't call them Bugs, but there are a few, yes."
"Wow, very impressive," Jackie said. "Hey, Kalli, look what time it is."
She did. "Oh, we have to go baby-sit now. Want to come? I'm sure the kids will get a kick out of you."
"Okay." The three headed out the door and up the street.

Kalli and Jackie stood in front of Andromicus while their client talked to them.
"The girls are upstairs, but they haven't had dinner yet. I ordered a couple pizzas, which should be here any minute. They can have a snack before bed. Nine o'clock, no later. Have fun!"
Clinging to Kalli's leg, Andromicus was swished around as the girls stepped aside and let her out the door. When it shut behind her, the little alien loosened his grip. Kalli sighed gratefully.
"I've probably got imprints in my leg now, thanks."
Andromicus looked guilty. "I apologize. I thought for sure she might see me."
Jackie bellowed up the stairs. "Amanda! Brienne!"
There was a rumble as their charges ran down to greet them. Small arms were thrown around both of the girls. Kalli made the announcement.
"We brought a friend with us today." Andromicus timidly stepped forward.
"Greetings, I am Andromicus."
The little girls gaped at the newcomer. "Is it real?" Brienne asked.
"Of course," Jackie said. "And it's a he."
Amanda shook the alien's paw. "Hi, I'm Amanda. Do you like pizza?"
He looked interested. "Pizza? Is that a type of food?"
Raising an eyebrow, Amanda glanced at Kalli. "Not very smart, is he?"
"He's smart," Jackie assured her. "He's just never been to Earth before."
"So what will we do today?" Andromicus wanted to know.
"Me and Brienne were playing on the computer, but I want to see him do tricks." Amanda grinned, and moved back as though expecting a laser show.
Kalli huffed. "He's not a dog, Amanda. We did learn that he speaks different languages...hey, teach them Trandromican." She turned to the alien and motioned towards the younger girls.
"Certainly." They went into the living room and gathered on the couches, Kalli and Jackie watching the other two and Andromicus. He began by saying, "Trandromican is what we speak where I come from. It is similar to English, but the first two letters of every word are removed."
Brienne interrupted. "What about words like `to' and `at'?"
Andromicus cleared his throat, trying to sound like a professor. "Ah, that is simple. There is a certain sound you make for those words. The only way to tell the words apart is how they are used in conversation."
"What about `a' and `I'?"
"We omit them. We don't say those words, because everyone knows everything and everyone else."
Amanda decided to give it a try. "So if I wanted to say, `The ball is green,' I say, `E ll..."
Coaching her, Andromicus made a clicking noise. Amanda tried to copy, but was unsuccessful.
"If you can't make it the way I do, just say `ch.' Try again."
"E ll ch een." She smiled proudly. "That sounds funny. You actually know what everyone is saying?"
"Naturally, as I am native to the planet. Hearing you say it, it does sound odd, but it's only because you're not used to it. Do another sentence."
"Our names would be...Lli, Ckie, Anda, and Ienne. And yours would be..."
"Andromicus," he answered. "Because at home I am Brandromicus."
"Oh, weird."
Brienne wanted to try a longer sentence, so she retrieved a book. "`Wherever you go, there you are.' Ummm...Erever u ch, ere u e. Wow, that is funny-sounding."
Just then, the doorbell rang. Jackie jumped up. "That'll be the pizza."
Amanda laughed. "You mean `zza'."
"Right." She grabbed the money off the counter and went for the door. Returning quickly, she put them down where the money used to be. Then she shook her hands in the air. "Hot. Just the way it should be." Everyone crowded in the kitchen and attacked a large sausage and pepperoni, and a large three cheese. They sat around the table and munched, except for Andromicus.
"What's the matter?" Brienne asked.
"It's hot," Andromicus complained.
"It's supposed to be. Pick it up and bite it."
He did exactly what she said, taking it in both paws and shoving it into his face. The end hung down, so he ended up with cheese everywhere. Kalli and Jackie couldn't help but giggle. Kalli reached over and showed him how to hold the slice so the end could go into his mouth. After a few minutes, Andromicus had devoured three and a half slices. "Very tasty."
"A classic among young Earth people," Jackie remarked.

Later, they were back home, trying to decide where Andromicus could sleep without being detected. He volunteered to go under the bed "with the dust bunnies." Kalli and Jackie tried to explain that there was no such thing, but Andromicus wanted to see for himself.
It was quite dark in the house when Andromicus suddenly woke up. He was uncomfortable because under the bed didn't have enough room for him to move around. Crawling out into the open, he decided to explore. Carefully, he climbed the railing of the stairs and slid down the banister, gripping tight and feet flailing below him. He hit the end post and went flying (he had certainly taken a beating since he had landed on Earth), and he would have gone further had it not been for the far wall across from the stairs. WHAM! THUD! and he was back on the floor. Rubbing his head with a paw, he gazed up at the white metal wall in front of him. He stood up and looked it over, noticing the square door. It appeared to be some kind of time portal, so Andromicus gladly opened the door and hopped inside. He curled up and went to sleep, dreaming of home.
Morning found Andromicus woken up from footsteps and lots of noise in the white wall beside him. Minutes later, the door was opened, and Andromicus was smothered in fabric. It was unpleasantly damp, and he was just about to shove his way to the door when it slammed shut. Then he heard something-as though coordinates were being set. He thought he was going home! All of a sudden, he was thrown against the wall and tumbled around like coffee beans in a roaster. The wet clothes smacked him over and over, and soon he found he couldn't figure out which way was up. This torture went on for about an hour, Andromicus getting warmer every second. Finally, the spinning stopped, and he realized with distaste that his entire coat had a lot more volume then before. He looked like a very large dust bunny.
"Kalli, fold the clothes! I have to get to work!"
Andromicus was emptied out into a basket with all the fabric and bumped violently around as he was carried up the stairs. One by one, the fabrics left him-except one. This one he clung to as though he was a magnet. He and the garment were lifted out, and then he was facing Kalli. He waved.
"Hello."
Kalli yelped and jumped backward, dropping the garment. Then she recognized him. "Oh, it's you. How did you get in there?"
"I found a time portal in the downstairs area, and thought I could go home."
"Time portal...? Oh, the dryer. Boy, that must have been fun."
"Not really," Andromicus said, smoothing his fur. "It gave me a rather large headache. And an ache everywhere else."
She laughed, then thought of something. "How exactly do you plan to get home?"
"I don't know, but I'm sure I'll come up with a way. Are there any more time portals around?"
"Well, yeah, but they won't get you anywhere. And it's called a dryer."
"I may have to recover my escape pod and make some alterations to the controls. Then I'm going to need a launching device, and lots of thrust power, fuel, another compass..."
"Okay, wait a sec," Kalli interrupted. "I just had another idea. When you said launching, I remembered that Jackie's dad works for NASA, and they're planning to send out a space probe. We could sneak you in there and put you in the probe. It might take a while, but it'll bring you home."
Andromicus looked indignant. "Human technology is so slow. I bet you haven't even come up with light speed travel yet, have you?"
"Got a better plan, oh Exalted One?"
"Show me what the probe looks like. I may be able to reprogram it to travel at light speed and bring me home."
"You sure?"
"Pretty sure. I mean, sometimes I fell asleep in Control Training class, but I think I can handle it."
"Well, I think they're sending it up tomorrow morning, so I'm going to tell Jackie what we're doing. She can ask her dad how it works and then give you the play-by-play. Then we're gonna have to figure a way inside." Kalli was getting excited.

"Okay, I'll check it out. See you tomorrow." Jackie hung up the phone. "Hey, Dad?"
"Whatcha need, hon?"
"You know that probe you guys are sending up tomorrow? Could I maybe go along and watch? Kalli too?"
"Sure you can, Jackie. Let me tell you about it."
Jackie smiled. Her dad was always eager to tell her how things worked, so of course it was easy to get him talking. She stored away the information in her head, and waited for tomorrow.

In the morning, Kalli and Jackie (with Andromicus in a backpack) headed to the station to watch the probe. Since Jackie was a worker's kid, they were able to get past any security. They had exactly an hour before the probe would be launched. Jackie copied her information for Andromicus, and he climbed inside to begin work.
After a long time, a worker called them. "Hey girls, you need to get away from there. We'll need that stuff in a few minutes."
"You gonna be all right?" Kalli whispered.
"I'll manage," he assured her. "Goodbye, my friends. Or as they say in Trandromican, `Odbye.'"
The girls said goodbye, and went to find Jackie's dad.
"Oh, there you are. Look, they're setting up."
Kalli and Jackie watched out the window as the launch site was prepared. They stood with their arms around each other, praying Andromicus would make it home. The countdown began.
"...5...4...3...2...1...Blast off!"
The probe shot out of the launch site and into space. A few minutes later, the announcement came. "Space Probe Astro Seven has cleared the atmosphere and is orbiting Earth."
The girls cheered with everyone else, and then headed for home.

The next day, someone knocked on Kalli's door and delivered a telegram. It simply said, "Hi, Kalli. I made it home. Your friend, Andromicus." She called Jackie immediately and found out Jackie had gotten one too. They would never forget their friend in outer space.

"And that's how I spent my summer vacation," Andromicus finished proudly. His classmates applauded, and he returned to his seat.
End.