1. RESCUE ON XAVU 6*

Why hasn’t Simon returned from a simple trip to Xavu 6?
Tony and Bea go to find out.

Tony is doing homework in the lounge of his granny’s house while his parents are at an emergency family meeting.  He spots a mysterious stranger using his granny’s lift.  Helped by his cousin, Bea, he looks for the stranger.
They accidentally find the secret Earth base of the Galactic Federation. The stranger tells them the reason for their parents’ meeting: Simon, their uncle has failed to return from a simple trip to the planet Xavu 6.  A rescue team has to leave immediately, and include someone who would recognise Simon.  Tony (eagerly) and Bea (nervously) agree to go.

Length : 60 000 words.

1

“GRANNY DOESN’T HAVE A CELLAR.”

I sighed, and wrote the title,  “Jet Powers, Space Explorer,”  at the top of the page.  Now what?  Where could Jet Powers explore?  If he….  I looked up, and forgot Jet Powers.

Mum and Dad had come to Granny Harrison’s for an emergency family meeting, although they hadn’t told me what it was about. They were at their meeting in the dining room, while my sister and cousins were upstairs, and I was at a table in Granny’s lounge, doing my English homework.

Until I looked up.  The door was open a crack – wide enough to let me see a guy, standing outside the lift in the hall, glancing around, as if he was checking that nobody was watching him.  He didn’t seem to see me before the lift door opened, and he went in.

What was he doing, in Granny’s house?  I left Jet Powers, went to the lift, and pressed the button.  After a few seconds, the door slid open.  The lift was small, big enough for two or three.  I went in, and pressed button 2. The lift went up silently, and the door opened at the second floor.

Roy, my three-year-old cousin, was crawling around the floor of the landing, surrounded by model cars, while loud American voices came through the half-open door of the nursery; the girls must be watching a film.

“Hi, Roy,”  I said.  “Did anybody come out of the lift here just now?”

He steered a car round my toes.  “No.”

“Are you sure?  A guy got in the lift….  Oh, hi, Bean.”  My eleven-year-old cousin came out of the nursery.  Her dad calls her Beatrice, and she calls herself Bea, but I’ve always called her the Bean.

She asked,  “Finished your homework already, Tony?”

“No.  A guy got in the lift.  I wondered where he’d gone.”

“Who was he?”

“I haven’t a clue.  Never seen him before.”

“Where did he come from?”

“I don’t know.  When I saw him, he was standing at the lift door. I would’ve heard him if he’d come in the front door, but Granny didn’t mention anybody else in the house.”

She frowned.  “He certainly didn’t come up here.  Why would he go up to the attics?”

“I’ll go up, and find out.”  I pressed button 3 in the lift.

The door shut, the lift went up, and the door opened, to the small square landing outside the attics.  I was nervous, wondering what I would say to the guy, but he wasn’t in sight. The three attic doors were slightly open, and I couldn’t hear anybody in any of the rooms.

The Bean came up the stairs.  “Where is he?”

I shrugged.

She stuck her head round two of the doors, then went in the third room.  I heard the scraping of something moving across the gritty floor before she came out again.  “There’s no one here.  Are you sure you saw someone going into the lift?”  Her dad says I have less sense than a two-year-old.  I think she agrees with him, but she’s too polite to say so.

“Course I’m sure,”  I said.  “I saw him.  A small guy.  Not much taller than me.  He looked about thirty, but he was starting to go bald.  Wearing a grey tracksuit with purple bands round the chest and cuffs.  He was limping.  Had a crutch in his left hand.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t a magic wand?”

“Don’t be cheeky, Bean.”

“Tony.”  She came into the lift, and pointed.  “Three buttons.  1.  2.  3. You saw him at 1.  I’m sure he didn’t come out at 2.  We’ve just checked – he didn’t come out at 3.  So where did he go? Granny doesn’t have a cellar.”

“I’m telling you, Bean.  The guy got into this lift.”

“He can’t have.”  Maybe she realised that would annoy me, because she quickly went on,  “I’m sorry.  He didn’t go to floor 2 or floor 3.  So which floor did he go to?”

“Maybe it was floor 13.”  In my annoyance, I hit button 1, then button 3.

The Bean had time to say,  “Tony!”  before the lift door shut, and we felt ourselves going down.  I’d hit button 1 first, so I thought we would go down to the ground floor.  I just had time to think we’d taken longer than usual to go down, when the door opened. Not into the hall, but into the side of a wide passage.

We went out, mouths open.  The lift was at the back of a shallow bay – the end one of three along one side of the passage.  The other side had matching bays with seats across the back.  The walls and floor were grey, and the ceiling was glowing.

I whispered,  “You were wrong, Bean.  Granny does have a cellar.”

She asked, in a snippy voice,  “Tony, did you know about this?”

“No!  I just pressed the two buttons.  I swear!”

She smiled.  “Then we’ve found out where your stranger went. Perhaps we should go up again.”

“I fancy a look around first.”

“But… this must be a secret place.”

“Well, we know about it now.  You go up if you want.  Now I’m here, I’m going to have a look around.”

“Tony, you shouldn’t….”  She dived towards the lift door – too late to stop it shutting.  She turned to me.

“There’s no button to open it.”

“Then we’ll have to find somebody to ask.”

Pretending I was more confident than I felt, I crept along the passage.  The floor felt springy under my trainers.  A metal plate above the door of our lift had,  “Edinburgh,”  at the top. That figured, in a weird kind of way. Granny lives in Edinburgh.

The plate over the next door said,  “London,”   and the third one had,  “Ipiat 3.”  The Bean stood outside the Edinburgh lift, watching me.

The other end of the passage went into a big square room with seats round the walls, and an open door in the middle of the other side.  Like the passage, it had grey walls and a glowing ceiling.

For a while, I stood in the end of the passage.  Part of me wanted to go back to the lift, and up to Granny’s house, before anybody caught me down here.  But part of me wanted to see what was through that door.  This might be my only chance.  I took a deep breath, and started across the room before I could change my mind.

The Bean stood in the end of the passage, looking worried. “Tony!”

I said,  “I’m going to have a look in there.”

“Tony, I’m not sure if that’s a good idea.”.

I’d nearly reached the door when somebody came through it. The guy I’d seen in Granny’s hall.  The tracksuit was the same. The crutch was the same.  There was one difference.  Now, his right hand held a gun.  Pointing at me.