Sixth Grade Research Project

Copyright Mark R Morris Jr 2016
All rights reserved

“Yeah, but you’ve never been a new kid. It’s different,” Jordan said, pulling a strand of hair to her mouth and clamping her lips on in. She was video chatting with her cousin about her family’s move to a new town. It wasn’t exactly news, they pulled up stakes and found a new place to park the family RV about once every six months. This would be her fourth new school this term and she was nervous.
“Seems like you’d be a pro by by now,” her cousin said, reassuringly. How different can it be? The kids are pretty much the same everywhere you go. You stay on the good side of the popular kids, because they will make your life miserable, stay away from the bullies and find someone that likes the same things you like.”
It was nice having an older cousin, that was mostly through with school. The two girls had decided to take their grandmother’s advice a long time ago, when their age difference had caused an argument, “Trust, me, one day, when you have daughters of your own, the difference in your ages won’t mean anything, so, why let it mean so much now?” and it had been settled. They’d been best friends ever since.
It was great for Jordan, with her dad needing to move around so much for his work. He was a research scientist, and his current project had taken them to some pretty exotic places, collecting the samples required.
“So, what’s it like there, anyway?”
Jordan sat up and scrolled over her screen, opening a folder of images. She clicked on a few and sent them to her cousin.
“Pictures? Cool! Wow, that’s small. What’s that place where you’re parked?” her cousin asked. “Is it for people who travel like your family?”
“Some of them, it’s a trailer park. We’ve stayed in a few. Most of the people here are older. No kids, so, I’ve been inside watching my videos. Besides, it’s been wet outside. But, tomorrow’s my first day. Help me pick an outfit?” Jordan said.
She adjusted her monitor to focus the camera near her closet and held up her first choice, “What do you think?”
“Well, it’s a little bright? Is that how they dress there?” her cousin asked.
Jordan laughed, “I don’t know, but dad says this school should be pretty diverse. Or, this one?” she said, holding up a second choice.
Her cousin squinted and smiled, “That’s better. So, what will you study at your new school?”
Jordan rolled her eyes, “Nothing new. You know my dad. He always teaches me everything before we get there. Sometimes I hate being the smartest kid in the class.”
“So, don’t,” her cousin suggested, just pretend you don’t know, “hey, gotta go eat. Catch you later cuz.”
The monitor went dark. Jordan looked at her reflection in the mirror on her closet door. Her cousin was right, this was the right choice, “Mom, I picked my outfit! Can you help me get ready?”
The next morning, Jordan was ready. Her lunch was packed neatly and the bus would be stopping right at the end of the road into the trailer park. The rain was still coming down heavily as she sat eating her breakfast.
“Hi honey,” her dad opened the door to the RV and slid a large specimen case into the room. It came to a stop, then bounced, rocking side to side slightly, “Aw come on!” he shouted back over his shoulder. “I told you, fully sedated! This one’s going to bruise itself and now I’ll have to open it, and tranq the damn thing myself, because neither of you two can handle it.”
The target of his yelling arrived, Jordan’s two brothers. Both had graduated from school and were now part of the family business. “It was fully immobilized before we put it in the case. Don’t worry, it’s strapped in and all the cushions are in place. It will be fine once we get the gas to it.” This was Branch, her oldest brother. He was nearly a head taller than their father. Stead came through the door, dragging a much smaller case behind him. The three worked the big case past the table and through a door leading to their cargo bay at the rear of the RV.
Jordan’s mother came from the kitchen with a towel and mopped the water the three had dragged across the floor with a smile, “Ready for school, sweety? The bus will be here in any minute. Wear the boots and raincoat your father brought for you.”
As Jordan stood, ensconced in rubber, from head to toe, she wondered what the new school was like. Her last school had been great. She’d met another girl who was a researcher like her dad. They still talked over video chat. Jordan had begged to stay longer, but her friend’s family had moved on and her father’s job wouldn’t allow them to stay.
A car rolled past and Jordan pulled her hood a bit lower, to shield her from the spray. Finally, she heard the low rumble of the bus and the large yellow beast slid to stop at the end of the drive as promised. The driver didn’t even look up as he opened the door and Jordan stepped on. The bus was mostly empty, which suited her just fine, she sat by herself.
As the bus rolled through town, Jordan got a better look. They’d come into town by a different route, in the dark, so this was her first real look around. It was much like the others. There was a shop that sold local food, and two or three that prepared it to eat right there, which Jordan found funny. They called them restaurants.
There was a white building with a tall tower at the front, with a religious symbol she didn’t fully understand at its peak. It had a lettered sign out front that read, ‘Hipster Jesus Loved you Before You Were Cool.’ She wondered what that meant and made a mental note to ask her father.
They pulled into the drop off area at the school and students filed off one by one, most wearing a similar, rubber raincoat to the one Jordan wore. So far she seemed to be fitting in just fine. She walked into building, and found room 12. The sign on the door read, Ms. White, this was to be her class. The students were in grade 6, she hoped her father had gotten the correct information. She’d ended up in classes with near infants more than once.
As Jordan entered the room, she noticed that she was not the tallest student, or the shortest. The mix of boys to girls was about even, and not everyone looked the same. It was going to be okay. She moved to the center of the room, chose a desk and sat down. In two minutes, there would be an alarm bell, her father had warned, she was ready.
The bell sounded and an energetic woman with nearly white hair entered the room. “Okay, let’s get started. Welcome back from your spring break, we have a new pupil with us today. Jordan, would you like to introduce yourself?”
Jordan laughed, she spoke perfect English, thanks to her dad’s training regimen, but certain words just made her laugh, like pupil and pupal, and a wave of secret irony swept over her. She couldn’t explain herself, not without revealing too much. She had to be a normal student here. Her part in the family business would come later.
Everyone was staring, she stopped laughing, it seemed to disturb people. In her last school, she’d been told it sounded like she was screaming. She stood up, “I’m sorry, I just find the word ‘pupil’ amusing. My name is Jordan and I would love to eat many of you, um, I mean, meet any of you that would like to meet me.” She smiled.
The class looked horrified. Mrs. White had a stunned look on her face, “Uh…Would you care to hang up your rain, uh, coat?” she said, vaguely waving to a row of hooks along one wall.
Jordan was hesitant, she moved over to the hooks,  but hesitated to take off the coat. Finally, she dropped the hood and hung the coat on a peg. She could feel shoulder length hair brushing her neck, so far, so good. She returned to her seat.
With the exception of one misunderstanding of the words acts, and axe, in English class, she’d managed not to scare anyone. Better than her first day at her last school, which ended with the room being evacuated while she was held for questioning as a terrorist. They’d had to leave without her father collecting any specimens.
After school, Jordan decided to walk home. It was less than a half mile and she wanted a better look at the town. She stopped in the food market and managed to find one thing that didn’t turn her stomach, so she bought some. She took a detour through a park and followed a jogging trail between the trees. A few small creatures came out to greet her, so she shared her food with them.
“Why are you feeding the squirrels mothballs? Those are poison.” The voice belonged to a blonde boy Jordan had seen in one of her classes.
“They’re delicious,” She said, shaking a handful into her hand and popping them one at a time into her mouth. They dissolved quickly with a taste like battery acid that made her shiver with delight.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” the boy asked, then pointed to the cover of a Trapper Keeper he was carrying that was covered with a picture of a huge starfield, with multiple swirling galaxies.
Jordan laughed, which made the boy wince, “What makes you think that. We’re just from out of town, that’s all.”
“Look, I think it’s cool. But, I saw your wig slip earlier and you have scales on neck, where the mask doesn’t cover. So, do you want to tell me, or do you want to tell him?” the boy pointed across the park to where a uniformed policeman was walking along a path.
Jordan studied the officer. She could take him, but then they’d be found out again and it would be all her fault, again. Better to deal with this young one, she decided, “Come to my house and I’ll show you everything,” She told the boy.
The boy looked from Jordan to the officer and paused to think, “Okay, but I’m texting my mom, right now so she will know where I am. What’s your address?”
The boy’s name, it turned out was Ross and he was a huge science fiction fan. He continually guessed as to Jordan’s real identity all the way to the house, “I was guessing reptilian of some sort, but I didn’t see a tail. You have a pretty good disguise, I doubt if anyone else notices the vertical lids over your pupils, and your dental appliance is great. I’m guessing your real teeth must be pointy.”
Jordan had to admit, he was pretty observant. Too bad, they probably would be friends, but it would be a very long time until she saw him again. As they approached her RV, Ross whistled.
“Whoa, pretty close, it almost looks like an actual Airstream. But, the thrusters are still pretty obvious, even with the skirting underneath. I’m guessing the skylight up top is actually the cockpit, and I see where the stabilizer rocket fold out of the sides, the wheels are just for show?” he said, walking around the trailer.
“No, we can tow it if we want. You want to come inside? I’m allowed to show people if they’re…” she paused, she wasn’t ready for this to be over and soon as she told him, there would be running and screaming and she really didn’t like the idea of  spitting tranq darts in daylight, right here in the park. They’d end up tranquing adults they really couldn’t take and her father’s boss frowned on that. It wasn’t good for business.
“They’re what? Getting collected as specimens? I hope that’s what you meant. I’d be perfect,” he said, hopping into the trailer as she opened the door.
Three hours later, when her parents came home, Jordan and Ross were laughing, eating popcorn, which he’d had in his bag, and watching collection videos of specimens being collected. Jordanica Thron had removed the wig, and the makeup and untapped her tail from inside her right leg. She’d even taken off the hands, to reveal her two talloned claws and with every revelation, instead of the screams she was used to from these things, Ross had just said, “cool” and asked if he could take a picture with his phone.
It felt really good to be accepted for what she was, instead of having to hide it. Ross, it turned out, was an orphan and he was ready to go. She’d explained that his species was actually just a pupal form of her own, and that humans were harvested for specific characteristics, between the ages of 9 and 14 to be transported back to the home world, where they’d be genetically ‘activated’ curtailing their human development, and revealing their true nature as developing Reptornians.
“I’m telling you, I’m perfect. I doubt my foster family would even know I’m gone and once they do, they’ll just assume I’ve run away again. Please, can you take me?” He asked.
Jordan’s father was less than enthused that she had revealed herself to the human boy, “Jordanica, come here,” he took her into another room, while her mother watched the boy, “You know this will cost him his life. We can’t take him unless he passes the exams and we can’t leave him here to share what he knows.”
“But dad, if we just told the humans the truth, that we planted them here eons ago and that their evolutions depends on us selecting them, they might all be like him,” she said.
“No, they won’t. We’ve tried. It’s cost some of our best research teams their lives,” her father said kindly, “It would be wonderful if we could have human friends, but it just doesn’t work that way.”
There was a knock at the door and Jordan’s father ushered her into the other room, while he went to answer it, his human disguise still intact, “Hello, can I help you?” she heard him say, then there was a lough hiss, a rush of air and a cloud of white foam enveloped her father, he fell back and was nearly motionless. A large man dressed black came quickly through the door. Jordan’s mother moved to stop him and received the same treatment, from a large, silver fire canister.
“Stop!” Jordan cried, her tail lashing and the frills on the sides of her neck standing out. “What are you doing?” She turned on Ross, he had a smaller version of the canister in his hand, pointed at her.
“Jordan, it won’t hurt you. It’s just nitrogen. Your species is cold blooded and this slows down your system and brings about a kind of short term hibernation. We’re not going to kill you. This is my father. He’s a researcher for NASA and we have others like you. We’re studying you, I promise, you’ll be safe and well cared for,” he said, then a cloud of white foam hit her in the chest as her breathing slowed and she slowly collapsed to the floor.
“It’s a good thing you sent those photos, son. It allowed me to adjust the formula on this. Yours is off a bit, probably won’t hold her long. The rest of the team is outside. Let’s get these specimens into the van with the other two. We caught her brothers outside the high school.”
Ross carefully secured Jordan’s clawed hands to her sides with a  Velcro strap then stood by as the three Reptornians were loaded into cases and wheeled out the door. He hoped she wouldn’t hate him. It might be his only chance at a real friend, since the classified base where they were kept were his only real home. The rest of his time was spent in operations like this, moving from town to town, school to school. Jordan wasn’t his first, just the first who had let him get this close. Ironic, he thought, looking down into the inground hold of the faux airstream where a neat row of specimen cases awaited transport.

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