A mission for Dad

by Glory Sanchez


Riley sat on her porch as she wiped the sweat from her face. Ricky the runty chick sat next to her. He was Riley's small pet, whom she cared lovingly for. It had been a long, hard day on her family's chicken farm. Summer vacation from school had just started, but that didn't mean Riley would get to play all day. Like the rest of her family, she had to keep working so their chicken farm could stay in business.

The sun was just starting to set. Riley leaned back on into the porch swing and thought. She cradled Ricky in her lap. She thought about the summer ahead, and how at the end of it all they would go on their annual trip to the mountains. And then it crossed her mind-the crazy dream.

It had been a really crazy dream. Even crazier than the time she had dreamed about meeting Willie Nelson. Little did she know that, unlike the Willie Nelson saga, it meant something.

Suddenly two old people on motorcycles drove up. A man and a woman, both with blazing neon-colored hair. They were around 55 years old. "I guess this is the place, Judy," said the man. He pointed to Riley. "That must be one of Anthony's offspring."

Riley's heart nearly skipped a beat. It was all coming to her. Neon hair. Old people. Motorcycles. Her father's name was Anthony.

"What's your name, honey?" said the old woman. Riley couldn't take her eyes off her bright pink hair.

"Riley", she said nervously. "Who are you?"

"We're your father's parents," Grandma Judy and Grandpa Joshua."

Riley was trying to think of something to say when her mother came outside. "Anthony is dead." she said with sadness in her voice. "And I didn't know you existed. He's dead."

"No," said Grandpa Joshua.

"No," said Grandma Judy.

"Yes," said Riley's mother. "He was murdered last year." She wiped a tear from her eye.

"He couldn't have possibly been," said Grandpa Joshua. "Did he ever tell you what he is?"

"He worked the farm," said Riley's mother.

"But he is much more than a farmer," said Grandma Judy. "He is a great phycist/spy/actor. I am suprised he never told you. Right before he left us, he discovered the secret of time travel and that there is life in space. He was a brilliant stage actor too. Such a shame he is dead. But I know he isn't. If he is dead, that would be a shame. But he's not. He was a spy, keeping peace all over the world. I think that is where he is. Not dead, somewhere trying to keep the peace."

Riley was shocked. To her, her father had always been just a chicken farmer. But now, his parents were telling her and her mother that he was a spy? and phycist? and a ACTOR? Wow, she thought. Why didn't he tell us?"

"My son was always the odd one out," said Grandpa Joshua. "But is the weird people who accomplish things in this world. Now, I think might know where he is. You'll all have to come with me on a journey-I will have The Amazing RV delivered here."

Riley was astonished. Just then, he realized that her siblings Kyle and Bethany, along with her best friend and next-door neighbor Jordan were hiding behind the porch, listening and watching. Bethany, an aspiring actress, was wearing a skimpy dress and a feather boa. Jordan was holding his harmless pet snake, Mark.

"Yes, yes, I will have The Amazing RV delivered right away!" exclaimed Grandpa Joshua. He peeked behind the porch. "Why, you have two more children!" he exclaimed. "An aspiring actress, I see. You do have something in common with your father," he said to Bethany. "And you must be the oldest!" He looked at Kyle. "You are a strong resemblense to Anthony! We must go find him!" Grandpa Joshua pulled out his iPhone and punched in a number. "The Amazing RV. Yes, I need it. Araya, TX. In three days? Good! I believe we can wait that long!"

It was bedtime for Riley, and she was amazed at how so many things can change in a day. Her "grandparents" had gone to a hotel for the night. Some person was going to be bringing "The Amazing RV" over in three days. Her father was alive. This was truly a lot for Riley to absorb. She, her siblings and her mother had talked about it, after Grandma Judy and Grandpa Joshua left for the hotel.

Riley: How did they find us?

Mom: I don't know. Are they even who they claim to be?

Riley: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.

Mom: They seem kind of weird. Did you see their hair? Dad never told me about them. Was he hiding something? And why would he hide it?

Kyle: I know, why would he hide it? They are pretty freaking awesome for old people.

Bethany: Kyle, it's more respectful to say "elderly".

Kyle: Whatever.

Riley: I think they are nice, and cool. Just because people ride Harleys and have neon hair doesn't mean they are bad. And if dad is still alive, I, for one, want to find him. And I have a feeling The Amazing RV is something truly amazing.

Bethany: I bet it's like a tour bus. (sigh)

Mom: Well, just be cautious. I'm not sure we can trust them.

Three days later. . .

It was a sunshiny morning and Riley and Jordan were doing some morning chores together. Grandma Judy and Grandpa Joshua sat on the front porch of the farm house, "smoking" bubble pipes, and chatting about whether or not Aeropostale T-shirts were made in China. Suddenly, something massive and beautiful entered the driveway.

It was bright and beautiful, with rainbows down the sides, lots of windows, and license plate that read "fun2Bfun". Riley instantly knew what it was.

Suddenly Bethany ran out of the house, wearing another skimpy prom dress and a yellow feather boa. "It DOES look like a tour bus," she shrieked enthusiastically. Jordan and Riley stopped scrubbing the hen house and rushed over to the RV. "Well, here it is," said Grandpa Joshua. "And what do you know, we can begin our journey."

Then, someone got out of the RV. "Here it is," the person said.

He was a man, wearing all black, even though the east Texas weather was hot and unpleasant. He wore a sort of black fedora, and large, thick-looking, expensive-looking, black sunglasses.

"Why, thank you, Bobby boy," said Grandma Judy. "This is Bob, our-friend."

"I'll just go rent one of them cabins on the lake and stay there until you finish your journey," said Bob. In her mind, Riley was starting to call him "the mysterious man."

"Okie-dokie, Bob." said Grandpa Joshua.

"That there RV is stocked with food and supplies. Just have your relatives pack themselves a suitcase. I'm outta here."

"Alright, Bob," replied Grandma Judy. "Riley, stop your scrubbing. We are going to set out on an adventure! Pack your bags everyone! Let's go go go! We might be gone the whole summer."

"The whole summer," shrieked Jordan. "Riley, you can't be gone the summer! What will I do?"

"Well, you can just come to," Grandpa Joshua said shortly. Jordan eagerly ran to his house and begged his parents, who consented a little reluctantly. Everyone packed their bags, and soon enough, they were off. Little did they realize, they were being followed.

Grandpa Joshua was driving, Grandma Judy was the copilot, and everyone else sat in the back.

"This is boring," said Kyle. "Too bad I forgot my DS."

"Dude, you forget your DS?" said Jordan. "That should have been the first thing you packed-I have a feeling this is going to be a long trip."

"I prefer the word 'journey'," said Bethany. Despite the circumstances, her outfit was snazzy. For a ten-year old, she was an expert dresser.

Riley looked out the window. She also had a feeling that this was going to be a long-and maybe even dangerous- trip.She was holding Ricky the runty chick on her lap. She and Jordan had insisted that he come along. The scenery rolled by and soon they were in the Panhandle Plains of Texas.

Grandpa Joshua pulled over at a rest stop. "I have something I need to show you," he said. "I think it might help us find your father."

Everyone gathered around a table at the rest stop. Grandpa Joshua checked to make sure no one was around. Riley wasn't sure why.

"This box was found under his bed recently when we were doing our first spring cleaning in a long time," said Grandpa Joshua. It was nothing suspicious looking, just the a converse shoe box. On it was written "Summer 1987".

"That was the summer we let him spend at Grand Teton National Park with some friends," said Grandma Judy. "He was sixteen."

"Did he ever show you this?" said Grandma Judy, pulling a slightly faded snapshot out of the box. First she showed them the back of the picture. In green sharpie was written, "UFO sighting-Jenny Lake."

"No way," said Kyle, who had his iPod headphones on and was not really paying attention.

"Yes way!" replied Grandma Judy, showing them the other side of the photo, which really looked like an UFO.

Mom looked puzzled. "Hey, I don't remember that!" she said. "That's crazy! It can't be real!"

Grandma Judy studied the photo, then handed it to Riley, who examined it closely, then passed it to Jordan. It did look real, to Riley. At least realer than any other 'fake' UFO picture she had seen before.

"This was in the box, too," Grandma Judy said. She was a yellow notebook. "I think it's his journal or something."

The journal read:

7/24/87

Saw UFO today. Didn't think it was a trick. It looked real. Real real. It looked like it was being driven. I think it was being driven. By what? Maybe an alien. I don't know. I will have to see if I see it again. Maybe there is life in space. Or maybe this is all a big expensive joke. But I don't know.

7/25/87

Krissie and I went for a hike together. Some guy said he was looking for actors/actresses for an upcoming movie. What he was doing out camping in the wilderness, I don't know. Maybe he figured a campground would be the spot for finding fit, young, tanned people, I don't know. He asked me if I had any kind of background in acting. I told him I was in a play in 7th grade. I had the part of a "sophisticated nerd" . He asked me if I wanted to audition. Krissie said it was a good idea, so I said yes. How would it hurt? Turns out, he thought I was great. He asked me if I would like to star in a movie. I said yes. The movie was a high school drama. I asked him if I could use a stage name. He said yes. I would wear thick glasses, anyway. My stage name was "Roger Rubian". Filming wouldn't begin for a while. I immediately called mom and dad and told them. They seemed excited, but a little nervous.

"I guess Krissie was his girlfriend," said Mom. "And his real name was Anthony." As if we don't know that, thought Riley, who was trying to soak all this in.

7/27/87

Saw the UFO again! Got a picture! Excited! I'm not sure if I will tell anyone yet. Not even Krissie.

"So we are going to all the place he stopped along the way," announced Grandpa Joshua. "This journal is a valuable guide. He wrote a lot in it. I think we will find out where he is going."

"What was the movie he was in called?" asked Bethany, who was always eager to learn about anything involving acting or singing.

" 'It could happen' was the name of the movie," said Grandma Judy. "I enjoyed it, but it didn't win any awards. Anthony's co-star was a beautiful, talented young actress,-Alicia Taylor-but she didn't seem very smart."

"Why didn't he tell me?" sighed Mom. "This doesn't seem right. It doesn't seem like him."

"I think he did it to protect you. I don't know why you would need protecting. But that's what it seems like," said Grandpa Joshua. "I have a feeling there are some things this box just can't tell us. We should get on the road."

As everyone was back into the RV, Riley noticed an extremely beautiful woman. She was blonde and reminded Riley of a brand new Barbie doll. She looked a little suspicious, Riley thought, wondering who she was. For an instant Riley thought the woman was looking at her.

"Riley, get in," screamed Bethany from the RV. "Next stop, Colorado!"

Thinking about what was going to happen next, Riley got into The Amazing RV, picked up Ricky and sat down next to Jordan. She was almost sure the blonde woman was watching them. She whispered to Jordan, "Do you think that lady is watching us?"

Jordan peeked at the lady. "No, why would she be?"

"I don't know. Oh well. And does Grandpa Joshua really think that we can get to Colorado by tonight?"

"I don't know. But it won't hurt to try. I've always wanted to go to Colorado."

"Yeah."

They didn't make it to Colorado. They stopped in the Panhandle of Oklahoma. It was dark and everyone was tired. They found a nice RV campground and settled in. After grilled cheese sandwiches, they made s'mores. Then Riley and Bethany went to the campground bathhouse. Bethany washed her long blonde hair in the sink and combed it while Riley waited outside for her. Bethany had begged to use the sink in the RV, but Grandpa Joshua didn't want the RV tanks to be too hard to drain. They had a long way to go.

Riley stared up at the sky. A million shining stars stared back at her. They were beautiful and almost took Riley's breath away. She never would get tired of looking at stars. Then she something that did take her breath away.

He looked familiar, like she had seen him before, but not a lot of times. For a minute she didn't know who he was. Then she remembered. He was Grandma and Grandpa's friend, Bob. The mysterious man. At least that was who Riley thought he looked like.What was he doing here? Then she saw the beautiful blonde woman from the rest stop. This was truly strange. Was it only a coincidence? She had thought he was renting a cabin on the lake. Then again, it might not even be him. It was dark and kind of hard to see. But she was pretty darn sure that that was the same blonde woman.

Bethany had finished combing her hair, so they headed back to the RV. It was late, and although she had done almost nothing besides sit in a car all day, Riley was tired. Tomorrow they would be on the road again.

The next morning, Riley woke up and raced to the bathhouse. The blonde woman and the mysterious man had left from their campsite. She wondered where they could be. She briefly wondered if they could be following them. But then she remembered they were leaving soon and forgot about these thoughts. Entirely. They were still in her head, but they had been pushed to the back of it. She sat in RV, next to Jordan, Rick on her lap.

"Do you think Ricky will get carsick?" asked Jordan.

"Hmmm," Riley thought for a minute. "He hasn't gotten carsick yet. I don't think he will. Oh well."

They were on the road again. They stopped at a resturant in southeast Colorado for lunch. Riley's thoughts returned to the Mysterious Couple. She didn't see them anywhere here. She wondered if they were following them. She decided back in the RV she would tell Jordan about it. If he wanted to listen that was.

"Jordan," Riley asked carefully, after they were in the RV again. "Do you remember the blonde woman at the first rest stop?"

"Yeah, the one who looked like Barbie. I remember."

"Did you see her at the campground last night?"

"Why? No."

"Because I saw her last night when I took Bethany to the bathroom. Do you think she could be following us?"

"Why would she? Blondes don't have brains."

"I'm blonde."

"Oh yeah. I forgot. Sorry."

Riley sighed. "That's okay. But I have a feeling she might be."

"And I have a feeling Ricky here needs a little fresh air. " Jordan opened the window, and took Ricky from Riley. "Too bad I forget my DS."

"We could watch a movie," suggested Bethany. "I vote for Hannah Montana."

Kyle groaned. "We've watched that at least five hundred times," he said. "How about we watch . . ."

"Hannah Montana it is," announced Bethany. She loaded it into the DVD slot of the enourmous flat screen TV. Kyle groaned again, but he watched it anyway.

That evening Grandma Judy decided there wasn't quite enough room in the RV for everyone to sleep as they had been a little tight last night. So they pulled into a hotel for the night.

It was a nice hotel, but it had a strange feeling in it, like a haunted essence. Like something strange had happened in this particular hotel a long time ago, but the spirit of all lingered within the walls.

Even Kyle, the ignorant teenager, noticed. As the walked into the lobby to sign in, the first thing he said was "This place is giving me the creeps. Can we stay somewhere else?"

"No," said Grandpa Joshua. "We must stay here. " He souned a little firmer than usual. Riley glanced around the lobby. A large aquarium filled with exotic fish, lava lamps, posters of celebrities from Marilyn Monroe to Justin Bieber. It did seem a little strange. Jordan studied a poster of the Jonas Brothers. "I have never seen that poster in a hotel lobby before," he said. "This place is weird."

"Could we please have suite 66?" asked Grandpa Joshua.

"Yes you may," was the reply.

As it turned out, the suite was large-three bedrooms-and just as weird as the lobby.

"I don't know if I'll be able to sleep with that poster of Taylor Swift staring down at me," complained Kyle, who would be sharing a room with Jordan. "But I'll try."

"Hey, at least it's not Hannah Montana," said Riley. who was perched on a sofa holding Ricky on her lap.

Grandpa Joshua seemed looking for something. He searched around the suite, as if there might be a secret cabinet.

"What are you looking for,Grandpa?" asked Bethany. "I love this hotel. Everything's so glamourous." She waltzed over to a poster of Antonio Banderes and touched it gently."Shrek. Spy kids. Evita." she whispered to herself.

"Whatever," said Kyle. "Like I said, this place gives me the creeps."

"Well, Bethany," said Grandpa. "It just so happens that when Anthony-your father-was twenty, we stayed at this hotel as a family. It was a little while before he left for Texas for college. He went to UT, you know. It was after he graduated that we stopped hearing from him.

"It was then that he married me," said Mom. "We were both twenty-seven. A year later, Kyle was born. Then Riley two years later. Then Bethany. A year ago, he disappeared."

"Well," said Grandma Judy. "We think there may be something at this hotel, in this suite, that might help us find you father. I think I'll go in the room you're sleeping in, Kyle, and take a look around."

"Watch out for the Johnny Cash poster. That thing is evil," warned Kyle.

Grandma Judy laughed. "Oh, I will." she said.

"This place is so amazing," sighed Bethany."It's like a haunted mansion in a movie. She sighed. "I won't mind at all about the Nick Jonas poster in my room."

"Of course you wouldn't," mumbled Riley, who was sharing the second bedroom with Bethany and Mom.

Meanwhile, Grandma Judy wasn't having much luck. She searched under the beds, in the dresser drawers, looking for a secret cabinet or something that would contain the clue. Which she wasn't exactly sure would be.

She finally stopped, tired and ready for sleep. They could look again in the morning. She looked at the Johnny Cash poster that Kyle had warned her about. It was a little scary. She touched it.

And it moved.

It was a door, a secret cabinet. It opened. Inside was another yellow notebook, an very old bag of jelly belly jelly beans, and a metal pencil case. This must be the clue, thought Grandma Judy. She grabbed all the contents of the cabinet and rushed into the next room.

"These must be the clues," Grandma Judy said with excitement.

Bethany rushed over. "What is in the case?" she asked.

Grandpa Joshua opened the case. Inside was a pair of black sunglasses, a screwdriver, a postcard, written on, and three yellow #2 pencils. The postcard read:

Dear Anthony,

I think the UFO was real. I really do. And I think you have really discovered the secret to time travel. The plan for the time machine was extremely interesting and I think it might really work. It requires some expensive materials though, and I don't know if we will be able to do it. But we will surely try. Also I think I might need to send you on a mission to M. I think we are being watched. If we are to keep peace with M, everything will be fine.

K.I.T,

Dr. Kathleen McCallum

"What's 'M' " asked Jordan.

"Idiot," Bethany said scornfully. "M is Mars."

She does have brains, thought Riley.

"Hmmm," thought Grandpa Joshua. "They must have put M to be secret. I think that Bethany may be right. Anthony was always involved in top secret projects. I think that when he saw the UFO, he thought that there was life up in space. He did some research and proved his theory. Later he went on a trip to Mars as a spy. As it turns out, the Martians may be turning against us."

"Wow," said Jordan. "Your dad is awesome, Riley. Not only was he an actor, but he was a spy and a scientist too."

"But Mars is thousands of miles away," said Kyle.

"Your father discovered some sort of new-fangled way to get there. Kind of like Time Travel.You get there right away."

"Is that really possible," said Jordan.

Grandma Judy took the postcard from Grandpa Joshua. "I think the next place to go is the Rocky Mountains," she said, showing them all the back of the postcard. A picture of huge gorgeous mountains dazzled the postcard.

"Alright!" said Jordan. I've always wanted to go skiing."

"No time for fun," said Grandpa Joshua in his strict voice. "Maybe someday. For now, we must stick with our mission."

"Okay," said Bethany. "If dad is alive, I want to find him. He could give me some acting tips."

"It's bedtime now," said Riley's mom. "We should go to bed. We have a long day tomorrow."

"Everyday is a long day when you're on the road with Hannah Montana," sighed Kyle as he got up from the sofa.

Meanwhile, in the hotel lobby, Barbie and the Mysterious man were signing in for the night."

"Could we have suite 66?" asked Barbie, whose real name was Alicia Taylor.

"Sorry,it's taken," I apologize for the inconvenience."

"Rats. I just know who's in there." huffed Alicia. "We'll have just have your next best suite-and make sure there aren't any posters of Miley Cyrus in there."

"Alright."

Once they were on the road again, it got Riley to wondering. Was there really life out on Mars? What did it look like? They were turning against earth? Her father had gone to Mars to keep the peace? This was a lot to absorb. To her, her father had always seemed like just a chicken farmer. But he had a shocking past.

The day rolled by. Bethany watched movie after movie on the big TV in the big RV. She took notes on the character's costumes and personalities.

"I hate the way Carmen wears her hair," sniffed Bethany as they watched "Spy Kids". Riley preferred to look out the window. They could watch movies anytime, but when would they ever get a chance to see all this beauty of Colorado.

"Nick is the cutest Jonas brother," said Bethany as they watched "Camp Rock."

"I DON"T CARE," said Kyle, who missed skateboarding with his friends and was annoyed by all Bethany's movie choices and comments.

"I do," said Bethany."

It was dark, and it was almost nine. "We are here," said Grandpa Joshua.

They pulled up at a large metal building. They didn't know all their questions were about to be answered, even ones they never had asked.

Grandpa Joshua parked the RV, and everyone got out.

"This place is spooky," said Bethany, who was shivering in her thin sun dress, and also looked very tired.

"What, you think this place is spooky, but you didn't think the hotel was spooky?" Kyle retorted in a annoyed tone.

"Let's go inside," said Grandma Judy. "Don't be scared." But you could tell she was a little scared too.

They all entered the vast metal domed building, which, in the darkness, did look quite spooky. However, in side, it was anything but.

Inside, it was bright and colorful and almost fake looking. Everything had a kind of shine to it, and everything was a little weird, too, like a bright purple couch, and a poster of the Mona Lisa, but it was in neon colors. A man wearing black jeans, a black leather jacket, and black sneakers. He also had a black fedora and black sunglasses. It was

"Bob!" exclaimed Grandpa Joshua. "What are you doing here? I thought you were back in Araya at the lake in one of those rental cabins."

"No," Bob smiled sneakily. "I'm not, I am here. And in case you were wondering, I was never your friend either."

"What?" said Grandma Judy. "You helped us paint our RV. You drove the RV to Araya. You were always ready to help us with whatever we needed - and didn't need! And now you deny ever being our friend?"

"Yes," answered Bob. He turned to Riley. "I have your father held hostage at Grand Teton National Park."

"Why?" shrieked Riley in an overly irritated tone.

"Well, actually, I don't know for sure," said Bob. "But it has to do with that UFO he saw the summer of 1987. I think it has made its landing. Apparently, the aliens are trying to take over the world, starting with Grand Teton National Park, a place they think is quite exotic compared with their normal alien landscapes. Your father is being held hostage by them."

For once Kyle took out his iPod headphones. "That makes no sense. Why would they hold Dad hostage? He can't give them the world. The world is everyone's."

Riley was pleased that her older brother had a brain and had finally taken out his iPod headphones, but was scared. Her father held hostage by aliens! Too much to bear! They had come all this way.

"What will we do?" shrieked Bethany.

"What can you do?" sighed Bob sarcastically. "The aliens are extremely powerful. I am going to join their forces, and as soon as they take over the world, I will be a king among men." Bob took out his cell phone. "One new text," he said. It read:

from: evil alien guy AKA Herbert

u r going 2 bcome a king if we can get this jerk 2 do what we want . come & c us at the park now. get a plane ticket or something.

"The jerk is your father," said Bob smugly. "Remember when he went on that spy mission to Mars? These aliens are from Mars. They are not the same ones your father spied on however. There are two main alien clans on Mars. The ones taking over the world are the Aric clan. They are tough and fierce, strong and clever. The ones your father spied on were the Bree clan. They are quiet, and peaceful, I guess. They are still on Mars, for all I know. So anyway, the Aric clan wants to make sure the Bree clan won't take earth from them. They are trying to get your father to let them in on the secrets of the Bree clan."

"That is so weird," said Kyle. "You made all that up, right. . .?" His voice trailed off.

"No, I didn't," said Bob, cackling evilly, or trying to. "It's all true. And, we are going to Grand Teton National Park right now. I have the plane tickets-I was expecting you. And no, Riley, your father is not alright."

That answer was all she needed. Riley felt a sudden burst of strength. She realized that when you loved someone, you could get a sudden burst of strength like that. Love strength. She was ready to go.

Jordan, on the other hand, looked extremely freaked out. So did Bethany.

Riley took Bethany's hand, something she hadn't done since they were little. "It will be okay, I think," she said, realizing her voice was heavy with fear.

"I'm hoping it's all a big joke," Jordan said, his voice trembly.

Soon they were on the airplane. Bethany, who knows how, fell asleep, but the danger and suspense kept everyone else wide awake. Soon they reached the park.

"Here we are," snickered Bob.

Riley prepared herself for creepy aliens. She closed her eyes, trying to remember what they looked like from science fiction books and movies.

They were riding in a little jeep, Bob driving and everyone squished in the back. Why are we riding with him? Riley wondered. Her brain answered her back: Because he's taking us to your father and there is still hope.

They came to a place where bob said they had to get out and walk. No one was prepared for walking, however, and they didn't have hiking boots. Soon they came to a place where the mountains met the flat land, and there were the aliens, along with Alicia Taylor AKA Barbie. And Riley's father.

The aliens looked nothing like Riley expected them too. They looked very similar to humans, except they were pale, pale white with very bright neon hair and two extra arms. They had huge,chilling blue-gray eyes. One alien looked extremely evil. He had a messy head of scorching red hair. It could only be Herbert, AKA evil alien guy.

"Here I am, Herbert, and here they are," Bob announced.

Riley, Bethany, and the rest of the group shivered in shock at the sight of the alien group. About twenty fierce looking aliens stood in a circle around- Riley's father.

"Dad," whispered Riley in a shocked whisper.

"Riley. Kyle. Bethany, what are you doing here?" Dad said. Then he saw Grandma Judy and Grandpa Joshua. "Mom, Dad, what. . ."

"I am Herbert, the evil Alien guy," Herbert the evil alien guy said. "We will not let Anthony go unless he tells us everything about the Bree clan of aliens. The earth is ours. We want the Bree clan away from it."

"The earth doesn't belong to anybody," screamed Bethany. Riley was suprised at her boldness. "And why would you want it anyway? You have your own planet."

Herbert sighed a frustrated sigh. "Small earthling, you see, earth is much more beautiful than Mars. There is something here that we a have a very small amount of on Mars-water. You have oceans and lakes and ponds and rivers, while only have an ice cap. These Martians I have with me are only the beginning. The rest of clan will soon arrive, as soon as we move you earthlings to Mars."

"But we can't survive on Mars," gasped Jordan. "There's not the right air for us to breathe there."

"Sorry, sorry, sorry," sneered Herbert.

"Dad," said Riley. "If you want to Herbert to let you go, you will have to tell him the secrets of the Bree clan. Please Dad, do it for me. You spied on them, you should know."

Dad sighed. "I can't, Riley. The Bree clan doesn't deserve that. They are just nice peaceful aliens, who love each other. As far as I know, they are our friends, not our enemies. I don't think I can stop Herbert and his troops from taking over earth."

"But if you don't, many innocent earthlings will die, Anthony," said Grandma Judy. "And if they survive, who knows what will happen to them."

"Listen, Anthony," said Herbert in a fierce voice. "Once I take over the world, I'll spare you and your family. You can be my slaves and teach me about earth and stuff. That might work out pretty well, actually."

"The nice thing about Herbert," sighed Dad. "Is that he prefers to talk things out than use physical violence. Still, if I don't talk things out with him, he'll probably kill me."

"He will kill you," Alicia Taylor finally spoke. "When we did that movie together-'It could happen'-he got all the credit. And for what? Acting like freaky science geek that he was. And still is!"

"He can't kill you," said Mom in a scared voice full of anxiety. "Anthony, I love you. We finally found you, and I couldn't let you die now."

"I'm finally going to get what I deserve," Alicia continued. "Bob and I will get to be a queen and a King when Herbert takes over the world."

"Why do you want to know about the Bree clan anyway?" shouted Bethany. "It's not your concern."

Herbert ran his fat fingers through his horribly messy hair. "I think I'll give the family some time to talk this over. Come on, beloved evil friends." He and his Martian troops left.

"Dad," sobbed Kyle. "I missed you so much. We found you and I don't want to let you die."

"I don't want to die either," said Dad. "I'm so glad you found me. I think we will have to figure out a way to save Earth from the evil Martians. Oops, sorry, I shouldn't call them evil. I think everyone has something good about them."

Riley was suprised at Kyle, who was never one for being emotional.

"I don't even believe in Martians, Anthony," said Mom. "This all seems so fake and wrong."

"Well, it's real alright," sighed Dad. "I wish it wasn't. The world is in trouble, and we have to do something. Wait, I have an idea!"

An hour later, Herbert was back. But this time his awful Martian troops were not with him. Bob and Alicia were with him, and, for some unknown reason, Bob was pulling a red wagon.

"We have returned, pathetic earthlings," announced Herbert in a rude, pushy voice. "Have you made up your mind, yet, Anthony?"

"Well, see, I was thinking, Herbert, that you might not like it here on earth as much as you think. See, you think the water is great and all, but well, you see, sometimes water falls from the sky.It's called rain. And sometimes, there's these big storms on the ocean called hurricanes. They come onto the land and mess everything up."

"Are you lying to me?" inquired Herbert angrily.

"Oh, no Herbert, we wouldn't do that. You're are friend," said Bethany, who was holding Grandpa Joshua's iPad. "Look, here's a picture." She held up the iPad, showing him an extra violent hurricane.

"And you may think that the air is great over here, but in some places on earth, it's really polluted," added Jordan.

Herbert looked confused. "Polluted?"

Riley nodded."Yeah, that means it's dangerous to breathe."

"Then how come you earthlings survive?" asked Herbert.

"Well, we are used to it. You and your alien buddies might not be. That's why we thought you might want to go back to Mars. Plus, there's only twenty aliens in your alien army. There's millions of 'us earthlings." answered Kyle smoothly. "And it might be hard for you to adapt to this world-you've lived on Mars all your life-why change now? You could come on vacations here."

"We don't want to start a war, Herbert," said Grandpa Joshua. "We could be friends, you know."

Herbert looked extremely confused. "Friends. Vacation. Hurricane. . ." he stuttered. "I think I'll go back to Mars. I like the small population there."

So all the aliens got into their UFO and went back to Mars.

Alicia and Bob weren't very happy about that. "What?" shrieked Alicia. "You mean I won't get to be a ruler of the world?"

"I guess not," said Bob.

Riley hugged her father. "I can't believe that worked," she said. Tears of joy streamed down her face. "Will we go back to Araya now?"

"As soon as we have ourselves a nice family vacation at the park. I think we will rent a cabin and spend some time together, as a family."

"That will be amazing," sighed Bethany. "Dad, can you give me some acting tips?"

Dad laughed. "When you act, you have to pretend to be another person. Do everything in your power to become that person in your imagination. You have to make yourself like that person, think like that person."

"Wow, thanks," said Bethany.

"Dad, I can't believe you were a spy. On Mars. That is so cool. Too bad I can't tell my friends about all this. I wouldn't want to wreck your identity," said Kyle.

"Well, I probably won't be doing anymore science projects or spy missions or acting anymore. And that's fine with me. I guess I'll go back to being an egg farmer at our farm. You kids will be able to have more free time now that I'm back."

"I'm so glad you are okay," said Mom. "I was so terrified. It was all so supernatural, like a science fiction story."

"Sometimes my life seemed like a science fiction story," said Dad. "Those aliens were weird, weren't they?"

"Yes," said Riley immediately.

"I thought they were beautiful." Bethany commented.

"Really," asked Jordan. "I thought they were scary!"

"Well, scary but beautiful," replied Bethany. "If you know what I mean."

"Um, I don't know if I know what you mean. Maybe I do."

"So let's go and have fun," said Dad. "Jordan, you can come too."

After they were settled in a beautiful 4 bedroom cabin, everyone was relaxed. Kyle finally put his iPod away, and they all sat outside, roasting marshmallows in the outdoor fireplace, except for Kyle, who liked his marshmallows raw.

"So what is the first thing you'll do when we get back to Araya?" asked Riley.

"Oh, paint the hen house. I always hated that nasty green color," replied Dad.

"What color will you paint it?" asked Jordan.

"How about sky blue with fluffy white clouds? We could use a sponge to make the clouds."

"Oh yes, that is a good idea." said Mom. "I think we could all pitch in and do just that."

"And I think I'm going to give up my spy, scientist, and actor jobs. I'll go back to being an egg farmer. I have had enough."

"I'll follow in your footsteps, Dad," said Bethany. "I am going to be an actress."

"Being a spy would be cool," commented Kyle. "But it would be difficult."

"And dangerous," added Jordan.

"I don't think I want to be a scientist, but I'll see." said Riley. "It would be. . ."

"Hard," said her father. "There is quite a bit of studying to do. But it is worth it if you truly want to do it."

"Well, I don't know.," said Jordan. "Maybe I'll be the scientist."

There's a lot of decisions to make in life, thought Riley. Is it really our decisions that make us who we are? Or is it who we are inside? Maybe it's not about what you can do, it's about who you are.

The next morning, Riley woke up really late. It was about 11 AM. At first she thought everyone had gone somewhere without her. Then she found her mother soaking in the hot tub on the back porch. "Where is everyone?" she asked.

"Oh, they went for a hike," Mom replied. "They'll be back around 1 o' clock. Isn't this the life?" She waved her arm out towards the massive mountains. "Dad said we might buy this cabin and stay here forever. He found a job working for the park."

"But what about the sky blue chicken coop with the clouds made with a sponge," Riley said in shock. "And your job at the library."

"Oh, I can get a job at the park gift shop," Mom answered. "And we can sell the farm for a good price. Someone will be happy to buy it. It's a nice place."

"And what about Jordan?" Riley asked. "And Kyle's and Bethany's friends?"

"Oh, we'll buy Jordan a plane ticket and send him back to Araya."

"Is all that really a possibility?"

"Yes. Dad loves it here."

"Hey, where's Ricky the Runty chick?" Riley suddenly asked. "And Grandma and Grandpa."

"They had to go back to California. Some meeting or mission of some sort. They left Ricky in the living room."

Riley was sad that she didn't get to say goodbye to her Grandparents. She found Ricky curled up inside a little basket stuffed with tiny purple pillows. He looked very cozy, so Riley left him him in the basket.

"I would hate to leave Araya, Ricky," she said. "We might never get to Jordan or our other friends again. I can't imagine living anywhere but the farm."

Riley sat on the front porch with Ricky on her lap, taking in the beautiful scenery. "Hi, Riley," said Jordan.

"Oh. Hey."

"I heard you might move here. Sweet."

"It would be different. I don't want to move."

"I could come and visit you."

"I still don't want to move. Why would Dad want to anyway?"

"Probably he likes it here."

"I like it here, but I don't want to move here."

"Yeah, I know. But look on the bright side. If you move here, you won't have to clean the chicken coop anymore. Or feed the chickens. Or take care of runty chicks."

"I think I would miss doing all of those things," Riley sighed.

"Did you hear, Riley?" asked Bethany, stepping onto the porch, looking quite sweaty after the long hike. "We might move here!"

"Would you want to move here?" inquired Jordan of Bethany.

"NO!" announced Bethany. "Where would I get cool clothes here?"

"I'm sure we could find some in town," said Kyle, who was sitting in a cushioned rocking chair. "But I don't think I want to move here either."

"Yeah, I would miss you guys too much," said Jordan.

"Mom likes it here. I think she is tired of working at the library," commented Riley. "And Dad. . .well, I'm not sure he wants to go back to being a chicken farmer."

"Hey, let's go swimming in the lake," said Bethany." and stop worrying about all this. It will be okay, I think."

With little enthusiasm, everyone headed for the lake-beach. What would have been fun was overshadowed by a threat of being stuck in this place forever.

That night everyone went to bed early. Somehow the room Riley and Bethany slept in seemed haunted. It had fluffy pink canopy beds, a TV, thin gauzy curtains and windows with views. It was nicer than their room at home, but it didn't feel right. Riley tossed, turned, and dreamed.

In her dream, she was back in the same forest that she had met Grandma and Grandpa in in her previous dream. This time, she was alone, and it was dark and cold. She wore a thin dress and had wilting flowers in her hair. A gust of wind blew papers at her. She looked at the papers, and realized they were posters from the creepy hotel, only now they were tattered and faded. In her dream, Riley shouted up at the sky "WHY?"

Then it all went black, and Riley woke up. "That was a really weird dream," she said to herself. "And it isn't the first time." She saw that it was still dark outside, and she saw that is was 3 am. She put on one of Bethany's sweaters and went downstairs.

It was a pleasant, sneaky feeling being downstairs while everyone else slept. Riley stuffed her feet into flip-flops and went out on the porch and stared at the stars. The stars will always be where they are until they die, and that's in billions of years. They must have such secure lives, thought Riley. But isn't being secure boring in a way?

"What are you doing up, Riley?" The door opened and Riley was no longer alone on the porch. Jordan was there too, now.

"I had a really weird dream." Riley described her dream to Jordan. "Then I woke up."

"That is kind of weird. I had a weird dream too. I was at your house and you weren't there. Their was someone else there. They had painted the house in crazy colors and were burning down the chicken coop. It was really weird. I was screaming at them to stop burning it down, but they didn't even notice me."

"That is weird."

They sat on the porch together, not saying anything. "Let's go back to bed," said Riley. And they did.

The next day, they took a walk and went boating, but their hearts weren't in it.

"I think we will be stuck here after all," sobbed Bethany as they sat in the rowboat together drinking lemonade. "This has been the most emotional summer of my life."

"Me too," agreed Kyle, rowing the boat a little to the right. Kyle was good at rowing boats and so were Jordan and Riley.

"I think if my dad was in your dad's position, this would have pretty emotional for me, too," said Jordan.

"Still, we should trust that everything will be okay, I think," said Riley.

"Yeah," said Jordan.

The sun beat down and they soon went ashore. Once back at the house, they watched a movie and tried to enjoy it.

"Kids, good news," Mom announced, coming into the room. "We aren't moving."

"We aren't?" everyone said at once, even Jordan.

"We are going home to Araya in a week. Dad said he would miss being a chicken farmer and he missed it on his mission."

"Oh, good!" everyone sighed.

"But what made you change your mind," asked Riley.

Mom smiled. "Dad said he would miss the chickens and Araya. And I would miss working in the library. You know I love books.But we will come back here every summer. Maybe Jordan's family or Grandma and Grandpa could come with us sometime."

"Oh no!" said Jordan. "Lara would ruin everything." Lara was Jordan's moody teenage sister, age 15.

"I think she would enjoy it here, Jordan. It's kind of like a spa place," Mom said.

"Yeah, I guess."

Riley laughed. Everything is okay, I think, she thought.

Epilogue

Grandma Judy and Grandpa Joshua continued going around helping people find their missing family members. They helped oh so many people before they retired.

Alicia Taylor and Bob were very disappointed that they would not be ruling the world. They got married and bought a tiny apartment, where they lived a quiet life, and got jobs at the Mall. Alicia worked at Claire's boutique as an ear piercer, and Bob worked at the pizza place in the food court. Then one day, (it was Bob's birthday) they realized they were quite happy together. They went out the the gas station and did something they had always wanted to do-buy a lottery ticket. They won, and bought an old mansion, fixed it up, and made it into a home for orphans. People volunteered to work there, and soon it was a big, happy home.

Riley successfully made her way through school, attended the senior prom wearing a beautiful blue dress. and then married Jordan. They had three daughters, triplets, named Reagan Ann, Mary Beth, and Andrea Rose, who they called Andie for short. Riley had a very successful talk show, and made millions. They lived in a mansion in Texas.

Bethany become a very successful singer/actress with many fans. After she released her debut single, "Reaching for Forever" at age 15, she became huge. She released her first album on her 16th birthday, "Forever Myself". She acted many parts as well. Bethany was known for her lavender streaked blonde hair and leather bracelets.

After finishing school, Kyle worked at the Apple company store for six months. He met a girl there, Raye, who loved food and cooking. Kyle fell in love with her, and turned a very junky shack into a beautiful resturant. They married, and Raye cooked really beautiful food, pasta, pizza, colorful salads, and the best bread in town. Kyle served as the DJ for the resturant, and alos helped out in the kitchen occasionally. They had one child, a boy named Andre.

Riley's parents worked their chicken farm until they couldn't work it anymore. Then they bought a house in town and lived there, their children and grandchildren visiting often.

They all had their own mountains to climb, and battles to fight. They never forget that summer with the aliens and wondered about them every now and then.

The aliens also wondered about the humans they had met, how things were on earth, and what would have happened if they would have stayed on earth, but they figured that it was all meant to be.