• The wind whipped at my coat, blowing the lacey nightdress I wore up to my thighs. All around me was red soil and rocks. Only red soil and rocks. While the sun beat down from its perch in the pink sky, I trudged for what seemed like miles, yet the scenery never changed. I had woken up in this alien desert, but I knew what my mission was.
    Eventually, I got so tired, I collapsed. After sitting down and analyzing my situation and the unchanged landscape, I threw my hands in the air.
    “Okay,” I yelled, “I give up. I can’t find any trace of civilization.”
    The desert melted away, leaving a familiar gray tiled room in its place. Laughter came from behind the two-way mirror mounted on one of the walls.
    “Let me out, Blaine.”
    A door swung open, giving me a way to freedom. As soon as I stepped out, the sweet smell of metal and Carpet Fresh hit me. I’d been living on the starship Constellation for nearly a month.
    “Tsk, tsk. Lena’s not going to be pleased with your progress, Adalia.”
    I turned toward the voice. My closest friend in the world, Blaine, was walking towards me, his ebony hair falling into his icy blue eyes. When we were little, people always thought we were siblings because he has the same color hair as I do, but my eyes are like molten gold. He stops right in front of me, smiling.
    “If you keep this up, you’ll never move on with your training,” he said.
    “You’re one to talk. It took you three hours to complete your simulation,” I respond.
    “Don’t back talk your superior. Besides, at least I never gave up.”
    I keep quiet for argument’s sake. Blaine is a Senior Cadet, one rank above me in Cruisers, the special organization that’s almost like an outer space military. Currently, our ship contains five of us: James, our captain, Elliot, his deputy, Lena, our adult supervisor, Blaine, and myself, a group of teenagers and their babysitter. We must stay up here on the ship for one year to test our ability to live and work together, because this is our permanent team.
    Blaine and I carry on our random conversation until footsteps interrupt us.
    “What are you two doing?” Lena asks. Her voice sends us into ‘look busy’ mode. Even though Lena’s only four years my senior at twenty-one , her low cut red hair with a matching pair of glaring eyes and angry frown makes her look like my grandmother.
    “Um, I was just helping Adalia finish her last simulation for the month,” Blaine says.
    “Oh,” she turns to look at me, “And how were her results?”
    “Perfect. She’s had perfect results since she started,” he lies smoothly.
    “Well, I’ll go check the mainframe right now to double check.” She goes into the simulation control room, where all the records of my epic failures are kept. As soon as she’s out of earshot, I punch Blaine on the shoulder.
    “What did you lie for? Now I’ll have latrine duty for all of next month.”
    “Don’t worry, I’ve got this under control.”
    Every muscle in my body tenses as Lena steps back into the hallway.
    “Well, Junior Cadet Adalia, your results were…. well they were simply outstanding! Senior Cadet Blaine was right when he said you had a perfect record! I’ve been greatly mistaken about you. I’ll be expecting a lot from you, from now on. In fact, why don’t you come with me to the main deck now and plot our next destination? I won’t take no for an answer.” In a flash, Lena’s dragging me along by my arm. Blaine rushes after us, struggling to keep up with her long-legged stride. We exchange confused and despairing glances.
    It takes ten minutes to return to the main deck, where the captain controls the starship. James is sitting in his chair centered in the room, flipping his silver hair absentmindedly. Elliot is on a lowered platform to his left, his hazy gray eyes scanning a book. Lena leads me to another lowered platform in front of James’ chair to a giant electronic map. The starship was on it, cruising along at a steady pace. I could see a few planets and stars nearby, but other than that, everything was black. I looked out of the room, which was all windows mostly, staring into the dark abyss that was space. I didn’t notice Elliot standing next to me, blond hair almost in my face. Neither had I noticed James’ ruddy orange eyes fixed on me from his perch. Everyone was watching, waiting for me to do something. I laughed weakly out of nervousness.
    “So, are you going to send us somewhere or not?” James had an unusually demanding edge to his voice.
    “Uh, yeah, I guess. Where do you guys want to go?”
    “It’s your task. We shouldn’t interfere,” Elliot says tonelessly.
    “Okay, then. Since I have no requests, I’ll pick.” I stare at the map, unsure of what to do. I tap the area of black furthest away from me. A huge white question mark pops up, going straight to the ceiling.
    “That means the area’s uncharted. We don’t quite know what’s there.” Blaine’s voice sounds nearly hollow.
    The phrase ‘Lock in coordinates?’ appears, with the words ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ below it.
    “Well,” I say, reaching forward, “I’ve always been curious about the unknown.” I tap ‘Yes’.
    “Everyone, sit down and buckle up,” James says. We all comply.
    “Switching from idle to hyper-drive. All units fully functional.” Elliot repeats the words he was taught to say every time he flipped on the engines. The ship lurches forward.
    Minutes later, a few buzzers go off and red lights flash.
    “Something’s wrong,” Lena utters stupidly.
    “Yeah, because the light and noises weren’t very clear.” James flips a few switches and pulls a few levers, but it’s to no avail. Lena’s still in shock from his rude remark. She looks better that way, I think.
    “Guys, I think you should look up.” We all follow Blaine’s request. In front of the ship is a dark mass, sucking up everything in sight.
    “Great job, Adalia. You’ve led us straight into a black hole.” James’ sarcasm doesn’t move me. I touch everywhere on the map, but the only thing that pops up is ‘Error’. Metal creaks and groans. We’re too close to the black hole to do anything. All our seatbelts fail simultaneously, and I fall to the floor. Blaine picks me up, but the two of us trip. Even though we’re staring possible death in the face, he’s still smiling.
    “If it’s anyone I want to die with, it would be my best friend,” I say, mimicking his smile.
    “I couldn’t agree more,” he replies, giving me one last hug before everything goes black.
    “Adalia! Adalia, wake up! We’re still alive!”
    I roll over and open my eyes. I am actually alive. Wow. Getting to my feet, I notice everyone else is still alive, too. Blaine’s standing next to me, still grinning. Through the glass, I can see a beautiful blue and green planet, with swirls of white.
    “Earth,” I say, but Blaine shakes his head.
    “Nope. The map says we’re millions of light years away, in another galaxy.”
    I give a small gasp.
    “Yep, you discovered a new planet, Adalia. My best friend’s going to be famous. I guess my little white lie paid off.”
    “Yeah, Blaine,” I pronounce every word clearly, “It really did.”