The Fence [Alien Kids, #1]

“Bored? What do you mean you’re bored?”

Francisco Ramirez’s mom, Martina, looked at him like he was crazy. “How can you be bored? You get to live on a recently discovered planet, one never before explored by humanity!”

“Yeah, but I never get to do any exploring!”

“We take you on field trips once a week.”

Francisco slumped further into the soft couch in the middle of the living room. He stared at his silver boots.

“Field trips? That’s not exploring!” he complained. “That’s for little kids.”

His mom stood in the doorway that led to the small kitchen.

“But Frankie, you are a kid. You’re just eleven.”

“Pete goes exploring on his own. Outside the fence. And don’t call me Frankie.”

His mom sighed, then walked over. She reached down and ran her hand over Francisco’s thick, black hair.

“Okay, Francisco,” she said. “But Pete is sixteen. And it’s dangerous outside the fence. There’s a lot we still don’t know about the alien life on this planet. And then there are the needle dogs.”

Francisco jerked his head away, then stood up. He’d been growing fast, but he still was a few inches shorter than his mom.

“First of all,” he argued. “We’re the alien life on this planet. And second, I’m not scared of needle dogs.”

“Well, you should be,” his mom replied. “They’re getting more aggressive every day. A team was attacked just last week, and we had to tranquilize three of them. Luckily, no one got bitten.”

“I never even wanted to come to this stupid planet!” Francisco shouted and stormed out of the room. “What was wrong with Earth?”

“Earth was having all kinds of disastrous climate problems, and this project was one way to respond,” his mother replied. “For us, it was a chance to help humanity—and make history!” she added, raising her voice as

Francisco stomped further down the hall.

“Yeah, well, nobody asked me!” he shouted back.

“You were only four!”


Francisco grabbed his shiny, all-weather suit from the hook in the hallway. The front door opened by itself, and he walked out. With his puffy suit on, he looked less like an 11-year-old kid, even though that’s what he was.

The sun was very bright, so he knew he had to put his sunglasses on. He kicked the orange dirt with the toe of his boot.

“Stupid planet!” Francisco grumbled. “Why couldn’t we have a normal star that wouldn’t burn your eyes out?”

Francisco walked across the large town square. All around were the low, shiny buildings of the colony. Just like his mom had said, they were the first human beings to live on this planet, which scientists had named Neokosmos.

“Neokosmos,” Francisco said, out loud. “What a stupid name! It just means new world. Couldn’t they think of anything more original?”

He turned right and strolled past the large greenhouse where the colony grew its food. Luckily, most plants that grew on Earth could grow in the Neokosmos atmosphere, with some careful monitoring.

A door opened and a tall man leaned out. His brown coverall was streaked with orange dirt.

“Hey, Frankie!” the man called out.

“Hey, Abdul,” Francisco answered, but he didn’t stop walking.

“You want to come in?” Abdul asked. “We’re grafting some trees. I can show you how.”

“No thanks. I… I got stuff to do.”

Francisco walked on, turned a corner, and headed straight to the fence. He didn’t care what his mom or dad said. The older kids snuck out all the time and nothing happened to them. They were always bragging about it. Well, he could do the same. He’d just go out for a few minutes and…

A large, colorful pair of wings fluttered right in his face, brushing his cheeks. He stopped and tried to gently move them away.

“Okay, Spot,” Francisco laughed, as the wings kept beating. “I get it. I get it.”

The wings belonged to Francisco’s arteta, a creature that looked like a cross between a bird and a butterfly. Its two wings were about ten inches across, and were covered with a bright pattern of red, orange, and purple spots. The artetas had started showing up a few years earlier, when the colony was only two years old. They were harmless and friendly and liked to follow people around, especially when the people fed them.

Francisco called this one Spot. “Since I can’t have a dog,” he had said to his parents. Now he reached into his pocket and took out a small, sweet cake. He put the cake on his palm and held his hand out. Spot landed on his fingertips with its six legs. Then it stuck out its long, tube-like tongue. The cake began to disappear.

“Good Spot,” Francisco said. He began walking again, with the arteta perched on his hand.

The colony wasn’t very big, and he soon arrived at the fence. It was about twelve feet tall and made of steel posts driven into the ground two feet apart. A steel net was fixed to the posts. It would have been easy to climb except there was an electric current running through it. There was a large sign on it.

“Danger! Needle Dogs Active.“

Next to the words was a photo of a needle dog. It looked dangerous. It had six legs and each foot had curved, sharp claws. Its long, narrow jaws were filled with hundreds of needle-sharp teeth. You couldn’t tell from the picture, but Francisco knew the needle dogs were big, a lot bigger than he was.

He turned left and after about 100 feet there was the hole where the big kids snuck out. The hole was narrow and the dirt under it had been worn away. He got down on his hands and began to crawl forward. You just had to be extra careful not to touch any metal so you wouldn’t get a shock.

Then he was through, on the other side. It had been easy. Spot, of course, just flew right over and landed on his shoulder. In front of them was a hillside, covered with trees and bushes. Francisco barely remembered Earth, but he knew these plants were different. For one thing, their leaves were purple and blue. The branches grew into each other, almost like they were forming another fence.

“Okay,” he breathed. “Let’s go explore.”

He’d barely taken a step when the bushes right in front of him began to shake. Then a loud growling noise came from behind a tree. Is that what needle dogs sounded like? Francisco didn’t know. But he knew they were big and fast. He looked back at the small hole under the fence. Could he get back in time? Would the needle dog be able to squeeze through after him?

The growling grew louder. Francisco stood frozen to the spot. Should he run? Was it too late? Was he already done for?

Ed. : The tale continues in Part 2, “Two Aliens.”