Warpt Factor, installment one

Or “I copied this from MS Word so here’s hoping the formatting doesn’t go all ass-over-elbows on me.”

After a bit of adjusting here and there, I present the first installment in what I hope to be an ongoing humorous sci-fi series “Warpt Factor”. My goal is to post one to two updates a week, depending on how much time I can manage towards writing and editing it, as well as how well-received it ends up. Without further delay, I present installment one of Warpt Factor.

Izzy Warpt sat on her bed, eyes fixed on the projected image of Jett Sketter, one of the most renowned starship captains ever trained at Spiral Reach Academy. Izzy’s high school diploma hung lazily on the wall behind Jett, only recently framed despite her receiving it well over a month prior.

“When I was young, my parents always told me to reach for the stars,” said the hologram of Jett. He pointed upwards dramatically for effect before continuing. “After years of training under the watchful eyes of Spiral Reach Academy, I soared higher than I ever imagined possible. And you know what? You, too, can follow your dreams of soaring about the cosmos in the name of discovery. Apply to Spiral Reach today!” Jett’s teeth sparkled, despite the blue-only colors the old hologram projector displayed in, and he offered an encouraging wink before he disappeared. Izzy reached for the control module to play the video again, but was interrupted by a knock on the door.

“Princess Isabelle,” Izzy’s mother said through the door. “I think when your father suggested you do anything you’d like for your birthday, he didn’t have this in mind.” The door slid aside and Izzy’s mother stepped into the room. Her cybernetic eyes glowed in the dimly-lit room.

“That’s Captain Izzy, mom,” Izzy said, trying her best to look serious. “I’m far too mature now to pretend I’m a princess.” Izzy’s mother nodded, fighting back a smile.

“Of course,” Izzy’s mother said. “Eighteen is no age for a future Captain at the Spiral Reach Academy to be thinking about princesses and castles. Especially no knights or dragons. I’ll just go ahead and return your big surprise gift and cake so you can focus on mature things. Like taxes, maybe, or important business meetings.” Izzy gasped, leaping from her bed.

“You’re rotten, mom!” Izzy said, laughing. She huffed, her hands on her hips. “Guests here yet?”

“More or less. Uncle Richard’s car got impounded because his neighbor was using it as a drug mule, and Aunt Victoria took her family on a cruise past Rigel, so they’re not joining us,” Izzy’s mother said. She nodded to the door. “Besides that, the most important guest is hiding in her room, being a hermit.” Izzy plopped back down on her bed, smiling. Eighteen, she thought. It was the first year she could apply for entry to Spiral Reach, or at least it would have been if she had saved a little more money up. Izzy had worked tirelessly, performing whatever odd jobs around her father’s shipyard she could, but she was still several thousand credits shy of the impressive academy’s even more impressive tuition fees.

“Give me a minute and I’ll be down, okay?” Izzy said, glancing up at her mother. She started weaving her long, violet hair into the best Saturnian-style braid she could manage.

“Okie dokie, kiddo,” Izzy’s mother left the room, the door swishing shut behind her. Izzy listened as her mother walked down the hallway, and when the footsteps were far enough away she leapt to a standing position on her bed.

“To chart the uncharted,” Izzy said, jumping on her bed. “To see the unseen! To soar amongst the stars!” The old bed creaked in protest with each leap, finally surrendering as Izzy completed the Spiral Reach Academy mission statement. Its four legs buckled, and Izzy and her bed both were both very suddenly a little lower to the floor.

“You’re not trying to dig a secret passage into the wall again up there?” Izzy’s father said loudly. Izzy chuckled, rubbing her lower back as she surveyed the damage. She hopped off of her bed and dashed out of her room, down the hall, and down the stairs. Her father smiled, his hover-chair situated right at the bottom of the stairs. He’d been given the option to get cybernetic implants, but insisted it cheapened his sacrifices for the Peaceful Pioneering Terraforming Projects. Izzy slid to a stop at the bottom step and threw her arms around her father.

“Happy birthday, you little terror,” Izzy’s father said, chuckling. “You’re the only kid I know who’d be late to her own birthday party.”

“Not every kid is a future Spiral Reach Captain!” Izzy said. She pointed toward the ceiling dramatically, her smile thwarting her attempts at looking serious. “What do you think, Gammy Margaret?” Gammy Margaret sat up in the recliner, jostled from her light nap, and blinked several times.

“What? Oh, goodness, my little Isabelle, all grown up,” Gammy Margaret said. She smiled, revealing she’d forgotten to put in her dentures before her visit. She narrowed her pale green eyes at Izzy. “You still haven’t made me a great-grandmother yet, right?”

“Good lord, mom,” Izzy’s mother said. “Save your usual battery of inappropriate questions for the usual times, like funerals. Or when we take you to dinner.”

“Watch your tone, Amelia,” Gammy Margaret said. “If I remember right, you surprised us more than we did you on your eighteenth birthday.”

“Anyway!” Izzy’s mother said, interrupting Gammy Margaret. “Did you invite your friends, Isabelle?” Izzy shrugged lazily.

“I may have mentioned it to one or two people at school,” Izzy said. “They all had better things to do or something. Saves me the trouble of getting over those connections when I soar off for my journey among the stars.” Izzy’s parents exchanged concerned glances behind her back.

“Whatever makes you happy,” Izzy’s father said. He sighed quietly. “How about we dig into that cake?” Izzy shook her head.

“Cake before presents, dad?” Izzy said, putting on the most exaggerated sad face she could manage. “It’s like you don’t even know me. Are you really even my father?”

“Since the day you crawled up out of the sink,” Izzy’s father said. Izzy’s mother slapped the back of her father’s head.

“What do you want to open first?” Izzy’s mother said, smiling. “How about Gammy Margaret’s gift?” Izzy stared at her mother, wide-eyed.

“What? And put off whatever awesome gift you probably got me that I’ve been waiting for forever?” Izzy said. A hint of a frown appeared, if only for a split-second, on her mother’s face. Izzy’s father cleared his throat.

“Your mother and I love you very much, and we’re so proud of you,” he said, handing Izzy her gift. “Just remember that.” Pink wrapping paper with hints of gold concealed the squareish object Izzy’s father handed to her. She cocked her head, her eyes locked on the gift as she tried to stare holes through the paper.

“Stop guessing and open it,” Izzy’s mother said, looming behind Isabelle. Izzy slid a finger into where the wrapping paper was held together by tape and carefully moved it along until the wrapping paper pulled away from the gift. Jett Sketter’s flawless, angular face stared up at her from the book’s cover. The words “Spiral Reach Academy Presents…The Official Cadet Learning Guide” moved slowly around Jett’s picture-perfect face, blinking occasionally. Izzy opened the book’s cover, revealing a small cloth patch with her name stitched into it.

“I know you really wanted to get into the Academy this year,” Izzy’s father said. “Your mother and I are truly sorry. The landlord really killed us with the new lease, and work’s dried up since that new repair shop opened up closer to Moon Station Alpha.” Izzy’s mother placed a hand on Izzy’s shoulder and sighed.

“So long as you’re happy,” Izzy’s mother said. “And by next year, once enrollment opens again, we’ll be able to help you out as much as we can. Promise.” Izzy stared at the book, and the customized Spiral Reach Academy Captain’s patch inside, and tears began to well up in her eyes.

“You guys,” Izzy said, smiling. “Acting like this isn’t the best gift in the whole universe, even though it totally is. Thanks, mom. Thanks, dad.” There was a loud, official-sounding knock at the door, and Gammy Margaret leapt from the tattered recliner, her cane firmly in her grasp.

“Oh, good,” Gammy said, shuffling towards the door. “Started to think those morons went to the wrong address. You wouldn’t believe the number of people I had to holochat with to make sure they got the directions right. In my day, it was just Earth. None of this crossing asteroid belts or making a pit-stop at Mars to refuel. Nonsense.” Izzy looked to her mother and father for answers as to what Gammy was up to, but they only offered puzzled expressions in response. Another loud knock on the door, and Gammy shook her cane in the air as she continued to shuffle.

“I’m on my way, damn it,” Gammy said. “You kids and your rocket-scooters and your impatience. So help me, if you knock on that door again I’ll leave you needing a cane. Uppity little snot.”

“Mom, what are you doing?” Izzy’s mother said, her head cocked to the side. Gammy Margaret glanced over her shoulder, flashing Izzy a mischievous smile.

“She’s a woman now, so I had to get her something extra-special,” Gammy Margaret said. She opened the front door, and two men in matching black suits stood side-by-side on the front porch. They each stepped into the house, and to the sides of the door, making way for a short, but strikingly handsome, young man.

“Please, for the sake of my nerves, tell me you didn’t get my daughter a stripper for her birthday,” Izzy’s mother said, her arms crossed.

“Nope. Saving that for her twenty-first,” Gammy Margaret said. “Unless her bachelorette party ends up happening first, which could be the case if she takes after you.”

“Mom, what the hell?” Izzy’s mother said. Izzy missed the bulk of the conversation, however, after the door had opened. She stared at the short man, half-aware of the hint of drool that sneaked past her lip.

“I’m told there is a birthday being celebrated here tonight, and I just had to Jett on by and celebrate a little, too,” Jett Sketter said. Izzy stifled a gasp when Jett smiled, and his teeth actually twinkled like stars.

“You bought me Jett Sketter?” Izzy said.

“It’s a bit concerning that’s the first place your mind went, child,” Gammy Margaret said, shaking her head. Jett approached Izzy, and smoothly took one of her hands in his and kissed the back of it. It wasn’t quite how Izzy had envisioned things going down, with the scenario usually playing out with her breaking into Jett’s house, followed by a hasty, yet romantic, kidnapping, and the possibility of being chased by the local authorities. All the same, she felt herself becoming a touch star-struck.

“Sir, we’ve got five minutes,” said one of the men in black suits. The other placed his fingers against a large, conspicuous earpiece, and shook his head.

“Four minutes and twenty-seven seconds,” said the other man in black. Jett Sketter waved his hand in the air.

“Don’t rush me, boys. My best work only happens when I’m not under pressure,” Jett said. He smiled, and his teeth twinkled yet again. “Miss Isabelle, er, Wart? Warp?” He reached into his blazer pocket and produced a small, crinkled piece of paper. He unfolded it carefully and stared at it for a moment.

“Oh, sorry,” Jett said. “Miss Isabelle Warpt,” Jett said. Izzy shrugged.

“He’d have probably gotten there eventually,” Izzy said.

“I’m here, by way of a generous donation of your grandmother, to congratulate you,” Jett said, smiling his magnificent, toothy grin. “Congratulations on being accepted into your first year of Cadet-hood at Spiral Reach Academy.”

“Yes, you can buy me a nice dinner and take me for a trip past the sun on your space-yacht,” Izzy said. She blinked a few times as what Jett said processed, and her jaw dropped. “What? Holy crap, that’s the best birthday gift ever!” Izzy lunged at Jett, who was still standing right in front of her, prepared to give the mightiest tackle-hug she could muster. Her foot caught an odd wrinkle in the rug, and she punched Jett right between his eyes.

“To travel the beyond,” Jett said, swaying side to side, “and the stars.” He fell over with a grunt, and remained still. Izzy looked down at her unconscious hero and winced.

“This is so awkward,” Izzy said. “In my defense, I always thought he’d be a lot taller. Oh well. Spiral Reach Academy, here comes the best future captain you’ve ever had!”

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