Episode 14: A Reflection of the Stars

gregwebb44Space Train

The cadets follow the ships from Mudro to a hidden mirror planet that reflects the stars around it. There they meet copies of themselves as they try to figure out who was stealing soil from the Mudro people. (Duration: 28:41). Theme music by Kevin Macleod – Incompetech.com. Want to listen offline? Click the download icon on the player above to download this episode to your device.

Episode 14: Reflection of the Stars

Previously on Space Train: Doug and the Cadets stopped by the planet Mudro and discovered a people who’d never had real food. So Dallas came up with a plan to teach the Mudro people how to farm. And with a little help from Doug’s Norb-enhanced building powers, a huge tractor was constructed and a sizeable piece of Mudro’s rich soil was cultivated. The crops grew instantly and the cadets, Dallas in particular, were celebrated. But shortly into that celebration, Lydia had a vision of ships swooping in and stealing Mudro’s special soil. Quickly, they jumped into the Space Train, caught up to the ships, and planted a tracking device on one of them. And now for Episode 14: Reflection of the Stars.

“Ugh, why couldn’t I just have black hair,” Lydia whispered, looking at her reflection in the bathroom. She’d been thinking about it a lot lately, her hair and how red it was. It was like a big flashing sign above her head, screaming ‘look at me!’ She wished it was any other color. Blue even.

And those freckles. Her dad had always told her how cute they were and how much he loved them. He’d count them and tell her how they were like clusters of stars in a beautiful night sky. She believed him. But now she wasn’t so sure about them. To her they were looking more like a distraction or some kind of connect-the-dot puzzle gone wrong.

Lydia didn’t like feeling this way about herself. She normally didn’t. There was just something about being on a train with a bunch of boys or maybe it was the fact that she was one of the few representatives of Earth to these planets. She took that responsibility seriously. Hopefully it’ll pass, she thought, tying her hair back into a ponytail and leaving the bathroom.

Outside, the other cadets were playing a round of glow-in-the-dark mini golf in one of the train recreation cars. Everything from their clubs to the golf balls glowed under the black lights. Elaborate obstacles blocked the way to the holes, like a rocket ship that blasted off with real fire over hole #5 before lowering back down on top of it. Hole #7 had a bunch of rubber green aliens that shouted ‘Ouch!’ every time your ball bounced off them.

Doug tapped his ball with his club at Hole #10. The glowing yellow ball cruised down the path, ricocheted off a couple walls, rolled up a ramp and dropped into a swirling black hole vortex. After a couple seconds, the vortex went THPTPTP! And spat out his ball, flattened like a pancake.

Dallas and Blobby thought it was hilarious, Blobby mimicking the flattened ball with his jelly form.

“What the heck?!” Doug cried. “There’s no way it’s supposed to do that!”

Leo couldn’t help but laugh too, his blonde curly hair bouncing with his silent chuckles.

As Lydia walked up to join them, Goro’s voice sounded through the intercom:

“All cadets to the cockpit! No time to waste!”

The cadets quickly put away their clubs and ran up to the cockpit. They found Goro staring out the window as if something was charging right for them. But there wasn’t anything there. All Doug could see were stars.

“Gor man, did you just call us up here to show us space dust again?” Dallas asked.

“No, no,” Goro said. “Look out there. What do you see?”

Doug and Leo looked at each other. Was Goro’s brain crystal thing out of place? “We see…stars Goro,” Doug answered.

“Ah, but look closely. See that slight warping around that group of stars there?”

Lydia focused a little harder and saw it, a slight beveling effect in the shape of a circle. “I see it,” she said. “But what does it mean?”

Goro typed into the computer and the window zoomed into a bright spot with dusty spiral arms shooting out of it like a spinning top. “This is the Andromeda Galaxy. It’s an enormous collection of gas, dust, and billions of stars with their own solar systems.”

Dallas shrugged. “So?”

“Soooo,” Goro continued, “That spiral galaxy is easy to recognize and it is located behind us, not in front of us. What you’re looking at here is a reflection.”

“Like a mirror?” Lydia asked, thinking of it only because she’d just been looking into one.

“Exactly,” Goro said. “It appears to be some sort of giant spherical mirror floating out in space. A mirror ball, reflecting the stars, galaxies, and nebulae behind us. It’s functioning like a camouflage. I only noticed it because the ships we were following disappeared into it and our tracking device has stopped transmitting ever since.”

“Well, let’s check it out,” Doug suggested.

Goro looked over the group. “All in favor say, aye.”

“Aye!”

Goro steered the Space Train into the mirror ball. It was enormous, roughly the size of a small planet. As they passed into it, the reflection layer of stars rippled and wobbled out their cockpit window. Stars and galaxies stretched out in front of them and then broke apart, giving way to brilliant sunshine. The cadets covered their eyes from the light, until the initial glow faded and their eyes adjusted. What now filled the window made Lydia and Doug’s jaws drop.

“Is that our school!?” Lydia said in disbelief, practically shoving Goro out of the way for a better look.

“There’s no way,” Doug mumbled.

“It is!” Lydia pointed to a patch of grass down below. “Doug, that’s the kickball field where you play at recess!”

Doug slowly looked at her and raised an eyebrow. She’d noticed him at recess?!

Blushing, Lydia realized how that sounded and quickly tried to play it off. “I mean, that’s where the girls creamed you guys in kickball.”

“Not how I remember it.” Doug smiled to himself. “Let’s land in the field over there,” he told Goro.

“Aye, captain,” Goro replied. He brought the Space Train to a low hover just over the field. “No suitboxes needed this time around. The air looks perfectly fine.”

And it was. Or at least it seemed perfectly fine when they stepped out and took a deep breath. They walked down the ramp and out onto the field, taking a look around. Yep, it was definitely Doug and Lydia’s school. Doug saw the kickball field where he’d struck out a couple million times. Hopefully none of which Lydia witnessed. And there was the basketball court with no nets. Why they couldn’t just put a new one up was a beyond him. Ah, there was the hill where Lydia and her friends usually hung out.

Everything was just as it should be. Except for the sky. Instead of being blue and full of poofy clouds, it was dark purple, with meteors constantly streaking across. It was pretty amazing, like a constant meteor shower you could watch during the day time. It was the only dead giveaway that they were on an alien planet.

A bell rang out and seconds later, kids came running out of the doors onto the fields and playground. Some were heading right for them.

“Uuuh, should we hide or something?” Dallas asked, glancing around for a bush or a thick tree.

“Hold on a sec,” Doug said. He took a few steps towards the school and squinted. “Noooo waaaay. It can’t be. Mr……”

“…Erickson!” Lydia finished, seeing their teacher come into view. There was no mistaking him. His serious bushy eyebrows and furry mustache could be seen from a mile away.

“Dudes, you’re freaking me out,” Dallas said, backing away from the group of kids running up to play soccer. “Should we hide or talk to them? They’re gonna ask who we are…” Blobby hid in one of Dallas’ pockets.

“Okay,” Lydia said. “Josh, Erika, you guys are on my team. Go camp out in front of the goal. You’re on defense. Heather, you’ll be a striker with me. You get that side of the field. I’ll stay over here. Doug…Doug! Pay attention! You’re gonna be goalie. Okay?”

There was a moment of silence as the cadets stared in a stupor at Lydia, because it wasn’t the real Lydia they were looking at. The real Lydia was gawking at the other Lydia just as shocked. And the Doug she was bossing around was not the real Doug!

“Ummm, are you sure?” said Fake Doug. “I don’t think you want me to be goalie. I’m not any good at blocking shots.”

“Too bad,” Fake Lydia told him. “Get over there and just hold your hands out like this.”

Fake Doug mirrored her stance, holding out his arms like he was going for a hug and then held the position as he ran back to the goal looking like a doofus.

“You guys gonna play or what?” Fake Lydia asked the cadets.

“She’s scaring me,” Real Doug whispered to Real Lydia.

“Me too,” whispered Real Lydia. “I think we’ll just watch,” she said to the other Lydia.

“Suit yourselves,” Fake Lydia replied. She stared at them for a long second. “Well, are you guys gonna move or watch the game from the middle of the field?!”

“Sorry,” the cadets answered, quickly jogging out of the way.

Once everyone was in their precise position, Fake Lydia went to make the first kick. But when her foot connected with the ball, it deflated around her foot with a hissing PSSSFLOP!

The cadets heard a loud belly laugh coming from a nearby bench. They turned and saw Fake Dallas laughing at Lydia from the sidelines, showing his buddies the pen he’d used to jab a hole into the soccer ball.

“Bro, that is messed up,” said Real Dallas, not impressed with his other self. He looked at Real Lydia. “For the record, I would NEVER do that.”

“I’d hope not,” Lydia said. She glanced around. “That’s odd. You don’t go to our school. But if me, you, and Doug are all here, then that must mean Leo’s here somewhere too.”

“Great,” Dallas muttered. “Now I’ve got to watch my back for two of them.” Lydia and Doug didn’t hear him say that, but Leo did. Leo scowled back at him.

The four of them scanned over the playground. Based on what he’d already seen, Leo wasn’t sure he wanted to see the other version of himself. He didn’t like these cadet copies.

“There he is!” Doug shouted, pointing to the tall oak tree by the back fence. Sitting under it, alone, was a skinny, curly-haired boy,  Leo. He quietly played with a handheld device.

“Let’s go talk to him,” Lydia suggested.

Real Leo shook his head and waved his hands in front of him.

“You sure?” Lydia asked him. “Okay. I’m not sure I want to talk to the other me either. What’s wrong with us? I mean, them?”

The group shrugged.

“Hey, you!” Real Lydia called to Fake Dallas, who was still laughing about his lame soccer ball prank.

“What?” Fake Dallas shouted back to her.

“It’s Dallas, right?”

“Duh.” He looked at his buddies. “It’s Dallas, right?” he mimicked in an insulting tone.

“That’s it,” said Real Dallas. “I’m gonna go beat myself up.”

“Hold on,” Lydia stopped him. “Watch. Hey Dallas!”

“What!”

“What’s your favorite food?”

Fake Dallas looked at her, weirded out. “Psh, lasagna. Any more stupid questions?”

Real Dallas looked confused. “My favorite food isn’t lasagna. It’s BBQ. I’m insulted by this imposter. Lasagna doesn’t even compare…”

“Don’t you get it,” Real Lydia said. “These things aren’t us. They’re just pretending to be us.”

“Like a reflection,” Doug realized.

“Exactly,” Lydia said. She looked out at her other self playing soccer. Fake Lydia was bossing everyone around and taking the game way too seriously, enforcing the rules to the extreme. She could tell everyone else on the field was miserable because of it. Especially Fake Doug, who clung to the goal post every time the ball was kicked anywhere near him.

Lydia didn’t like what she was seeing. It was like looking into a mirror and seeing the worst version of herself. Kind of like how she felt earlier on the train, but much worse. Was she really that bossy? She wondered. She knew she liked being in charge, but, she wasn’t ever that intense, was she? “Let’s check out the school and figure out what’s going on,” she said, trying distract herself.

The cadets left their weird copies and headed into the school. As they stepped inside, they immediately recognized the grand hallway. It was familiar. Not because it was their school’s hallway, but because it belong to…

“The Academy of Wanderers?” Dallas said, seeing the signature stone columns criss-crossing like X’s down the hall. Above them, giant purple crystals dangled from the high ceilings.

“Wait a sec, didn’t we just walk into our school?” Doug asked Lydia.

“Yeah,” Lydia replied, getting more confused by the second.

Leo clapped and pointed down the hall.

Everyone looked and saw a plump teacher disappearing around the corner.

“Was that?” Doug looked at the others.

They ran down the great hall and caught up to the man.

“Goro?” Lydia asked. She and the others came to a stop right next to the gentleman.

Fake Goro turned and looked at them with surprise. “It’s Doctor Figoro Finnigan to you,” he said sternly.

It was strange seeing Goro literally in the flesh. He was an actual person, without the gears and metal and distorted voice. If it weren’t for his token mustache and plump shape, they probably wouldn’t have recognized him.

“But you’re not the real Doctor Finnigan,” Lydia replied.

“Excuse me?” Fake Goro said, scowling down at her. “I am a very, very busy man, little lady, and I don’t have time for your pranks.”

“It’s not a prank,” Lydia told him. “You’re just a copy of the real Goro. Who are you really?”

Fake Goro looked over the group with contempt. “Who am I?” He repeated with a scoff. “I refuse to sit here and let delusional students waste my time when I have much more important things to attend to. Now, if you’d caught me on a different day I might have given you detention for such an intrusion. But lucky for you I got my morning walk in. So, goodbye.” And with that he marched down the hall, shaking his head.

“That was weird,” Dallas said. Blobby poked his jelly head out of his pocket and clicked in agreement.

“What do you guys think we should do?” Doug asked. “We could try looking for those ships we tracked here? We probably shouldn’t ask for any teacher’s help or we’ll end up in detention. And if it’s anything like it is back home, then Mrs. Slogmeed is in charge of it and it’s insanely boring. I mean, that’s what I’ve heard…” Doug  looked surreptitiously from side to side.

Lydia remembered the Norb bracelet she had in her pocket. Goro had given it to her before they’d left and told her it was her turn to carry it. She’d been hesitant to get anywhere near it since the first time she’d put it on. That first vision she’d had was overwhelming. Not in a good way. But maybe the Norb would help give them a clue to what should or would happen next? To the surprise of the other cadets, she pulled it out and put it on. Almost immediately the Norb began to glow green.

Lydia’s eyes rolled back as her mind cleared and new thoughts, foreign thoughts, came to her. Some were the same as before. She saw Diva laughing maniacally, then a group sitting around a table, scheming, then flashes of suffering people, a black sphere exploding, then mountains crumbling. Like before, she saw the Space Train crashing horrifically.

The visual commotion made her jump. The scene faded and new images poured in: Flashes of a beautiful woman with dark red hair. She was sweet and smart. Lydia saw her dropping her kids off at school and then returning home where it looked like she was running some sort of company from a really cool glass office building in a backyard. She saw her with her family and her…husband? He was handsome and vaguely familiar looking.

Another flash and that same woman, now older, was giving a speech in front of a cheering crowd with a flag in the background. Lydia saw her helping people, being a leader and making a change for good in the world.

Tears filled Lydia’s eyes and her throat tightened as she finally recognized the woman. It was her in the future. All those feelings of self doubt from before were swept away. She really was special. This is who she would become, hopefully. That other reflection of herself, that mean bossy girl, was just an exaggeration of her weaknesses, as were the reflections of the others. That wasn’t who they were. That definitely wasn’t who she was. This was her. This is who she wanted to be. She decided then and there that she would do everything she could to become that amazing person.

Suddenly the thoughts changed and she saw the hall where they stood. The floor cracked and broke off into pieces, revealing a beautiful silver material underneath. Then the image turned and flew down the stairs into the basement and into a dark menacing hallway. Her mind flashed and her eyes opened.

“Lydia! Are you okay!?” Doug called to her.

Leo waved a hand in front of her face.

Lydia’s eyes focused. As soon as she was back, she marched past the others and grabbed a purple crystal sticking out of the wall. Without saying a word, she heaved it into the air and brought it crashing down onto the marble tile. CRACK!

“Lydia, what are you doing?!” Doug asked, taking a step back.

CRACK! Lydia slammed the crystal down again. “I’m showing this planet what it really is!” She said, bashing the crystal into the ground one last time. CRACK!

“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!” Yelled Fake Goro, marching back down the hall towards them.

Lydia peeled the broken marble tile away to reveal a beautiful shiny silver layer underneath.

“GET AWAY FROM THAT…!” Fake Goro froze when he saw the silver surface under the tile. For a moment, the silver shimmer mesmerized him. The cadets watched his brows twitch as he studied it.

“This isn’t real,” Lydia told him, pointing to the Academy hall. She gestured to the silver layer. “That is what your world looks like.”

Fake Goro’s expression softened as a look of realization crossed his face.

Lydia peeled back another marble tile, revealing more silver ground. “Why would you want to be something you’re not, when you’re this beautiful?”

Fake Goro looked at himself and then smiled. He raised his arm and flexed his hand. As he did, his skin cracked, then broke apart and fell to the floor like pieces of thin candy shell. What was left was a silver humanoid form, shiny, broad-shouldered, and beautiful. Its face was barely distinguishable in the metal-like surface.

It looked around at the hall. The crystals and stone columns of the Academy flaked away, revealing a magnificent silver room with shining domed ceilings. Once the last of the facade had fallen away, the being looked back at the cadets.

“Thank you,” it said.

“You’re welcome,” Lydia replied with a half smile. She looked around. “Now that we can be real with each other, we were wondering if you’ve seen flat ships land on your planet?”

The silver man hesitated. “I…” He looked around nervously. “I…shouldn’t speak of it…”

“Please,” Lydia pleaded. “We need to know where those ships came from. They may belong to someone who could hurt a lot of people.”

The silver man was noticeably uncomfortable. “I can’t…He could be watching…listening…We’re not allowed to…”

“Don’t say anything then,” Lydia told him. “Just show us where to go.”

The silver man thought for a moment and then pointed to a shiny metallic staircase heading down to a lower level. Lydia and the cadets thanked the man and followed the stairs down and down and down, until they stopped in a dark, menacing hallway. Lydia recognized it from her vision.

The shadowy passageway led them into a tunnel-shaped room. Test tubes and beakers filled a shelf next to a model of a strange alien creature. Lines upons lines of code cascaded down wide screens on the walls above them. There was a potter’s wheel connected to machines and raised garden beds full of Mudros’ rich soil. Alien plants, some of them alive with sharp teeth, grew out of them. Towards the back, shelves full of colorful leather-bound books arched unnaturally over a brick and marble fireplace like a reading rainbow.

There was a fire in the fireplace, fresh, warm, and crackling. Someone was here.

They noticed a tall wingback chair facing the fire, hovering a few inches off the ground. Doug could see feet hanging off of it through the warm haze keeping the chair afloat.

Someone is here.

“It’s rude to enter one’s house without knocking,” came a calm, sly, sinister voice.

“Those were your ships on Mudro, weren’t they?” Doug said, trying to act brave in front of Lydia. He swallowed and then more nervously asked, “Do you belong to the Exiles?”

Slowly, the hovering chair turned to face them. The cadets stiffened as the man came into view.

“No,” he said. “They belong to me.”  

Rocket Review: Galaxies – A galaxy is a huge group of stars with their solar systems, combined with gas, dust, and dark matter, that’s all held together by gravity. Galaxies are enormous. They hold TRILLIONS of stars! Scientist believe that there are over 100 billion galaxies out there in space. Think of that, billions of galaxies each holding TRILLIONS of stars, stars that have their own planets orbiting them. It’s pretty hard to wrap your head around how immense space is.

We live in a galaxy known as the Milky Way. There are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone. And there are different types of galaxies.

There are Spiral Galaxies which have long arms spiraling out from the center. The center usually consists of the oldest stars while the newer stars make up the arms. The Andromeda Galaxy that was mentioned in this episode is a Spiral Galaxy.

Next we have Barred Spiral Galaxies, which are very similar to Spiral Galaxies, except that they have a long bar in the middle that the spiral arms shoot off of. Our galaxy, the one earth is in, is a Barred Spiral Galaxy

Then there are Elliptical Galaxies. Elliptical Galaxies are huge masses of stars bunched together into the shape of an elliptical disc.

And lastly we have Irregular Galaxies. These are basically just galaxies with no particular shape.