Space Cows is a story I wrote a year or so ago for a writing course I was taking through the Institute of Children’s Literature. It was for the Beyond The Basics Course I took. The second course I took through the institute.
I went through the story and edited it again, and now I’m posting it here for your enjoyment.
I feel this story seems a bit rushed, like I rushed the story out the door to my instructor after procrastinating on writing it. The character Waret seems a bit forced to me. I should have added some character flaws. He seems almost to perfect, like the goody two shoes who every one loves. Always doing the right thing. He needs some flaws. I should have given him a bad temper or something. Or maybe made him so he didn’t get along with people that well or something.
Anyways, regardless, I hope you enjoy the story,
Waret’s seventeen-year-old brown-haired head hit the kick guard railing as a pulsing, ear-cracking, buzz echoed through the milking parlor. “Ah, crap, they never said anything about a drill,” rubbing his aching skull, he exclaimed.
A stern voice crackled over the intercom, drowning out the panicked bellowing of nearly one hundred black and white Holsteins. “This is no drill. I repeat, this is no drill! Prepare for possible unit separation or space station destruction.”
“What the-” Waret wrapped his arms around the kick guard railing, holding himself, space station shaking, rumbling, moaning, and creaking. Cows stumbled, but held their balance. Tripping up three grated stairs out the milking pit to a steel sliding door gave him a good bruise on his leg. Entering his password on a rubber pad, while supporting his weight on one leg, and hissing through his teeth in pain, proved a great bother to Waret. Especially when his password didn’t work the first time. “Arrggg, I told those lazy techs to fix the bloody door.” Waret fell to the floor, the station on the rocks again. Reaching up, he typed his password again. Finally the door slid open with a loud hiss, and he crawled inside, then stood up.
Inside lights blinked, a wall alarm light went round and round, flashing red off the metallic walls of the control room. Waret smashed his fist down on a big red button, only used in emergencies. The milking line doors opened and the cows, in fright, quickly exited, dropping their milking claws, some getting smashed, hoses ripped off, and the pulsators began making weird rhythm after the space station took another hit, sending Waret staggering forward to hold his balance against a breaker box.
Waret had to get the animals into their stalls. The barn techs installed a food line right through the middle, between stalls facing each other. Waret guided the food bag from the control room with a joystick. “There we go.” Waret shook a little, nervous, hoping he would finish in time. He wouldn’t abandon the cows to die helplessly. The food bag lined up nicely with the extra food alley. He had never used this one before. He opened the bag with a black button, and moist silage began pouring rapidly out the bottom of the bag. The bag slowly moved down the barn to the back, filling the food alley full. The cows, so nervous however, didn’t notice.
Waret ran out of the control room, through the milking pit, to the back of the barn, “Come on you beef bags, eat the food unless you want to die.” He began guiding a cow towards her stall. The animal saw her food and went the rest of the way. He did the same with others. They began seeing the food as well. The station shook more violently then ever, sending animals flying, falling. Waret felt his feet lift off the ground and he flew upwards to his left towards the head gate system and the regular route of the food line. He thought he would hit it, but he continued flying upwards. Seeing the cows flying as well, “Ah, not this!” he exclaimed disgustedly. Referring to there being no gravity.
I could use this to my advantage, Waret thought. He bumped into the ceiling and quickly padded his way with his hands, pulling himself towards the wall. He then padded with his hands down the wall, head down, his feet floating behind him. He continued by grabbing onto things, and pulling his way to the front of the barn. He went through a door to the right of the control room and found a white suite with jet propulsion. He wrestled into it while floating in zero gravity. “Okay, lets see how well this thing works.”
Waret used the joystick control sticking out past him on his right, connecting with the jet pack. Pushing forward on it, he moved forward. He controlled himself past the milking equipment to the back of the barn, and found a cow. Zero gravity means they way nothing, so he grabbed the animals and pulled them, or pushed them. He continued grabbing animals and putting them in their stalls. Some floated out, and Waret put them back in. Most stayed in however.
“In you go girls, come on, hurry up, he slapped one last cow on the rump,” laughing a little, knowing they could not go any faster then he pushed them. Once they all floated nervously in their stalls, he zoomed to the wall, leaving a little trail of smoke behind the blue jet fire, and broke some glass, then pressing another red button- this one never used in the drills. Large metal plates pushed down by hydraulic rams slid from the sealing of the barn.
Waret saw the space station rumble again, though he never felt it, suspended in the air. All the plates connected with latches in the cows stalls, creating large boxes around the animals. Then more plates lowered perpendicular to the floor from the ceiling, the tops of the plates held large oxygen tanks and heating systems. These created the tops of the box. The bottoms would come out of the stall floor. “Good, all locked and ready.”
Waret jetted to the front of the barn, and exited the barn via another sliding door, entering a hallway full of floating people, padding along the walls, or a few in jet suits, some black meaning they held the position of guard.
Waret wiped some crap onto his suit legs and opened a small cubby with a computer inside.
“Activate automatic unit separation,” he said nervously, “ that’s what I do next.” Waret breathed heavily, his mind flew at one twenty, his fingers moving faster over the keyboard. Nervous eyes scanned the computer monitor as a loading bar steadily moved across it. “Yes, all good. All good.”
The loading bar reached the edge of the screen. “Activation successful,” a computer toned voice said.
Waret shut the cubby and jetted down the flashing red hallway, passing the people padding along the wall to the pod garage. Waret entered the large space station garage bay. His pod lay near the end, yet how could he find it now? The pods floated in the air and his could be anywhere.
Waret slowly floated through the mess, dodging pods, left and right, and other people, looking for their pods. His old junker of a machine couldn’t have floated to far away, he hoped. He reached his registered parking space, to find his machine not there, of course. He looked around, and saw his machine floating near the ceiling, bumping the top every
once in a while. Waret jetted to the top, and grabbed the blue, rusted pod by the door, and dragged it to the ground.
“Now I need to get out of this suite.” Waret unzipped the suite and struggled out. He forgot to switch it off, just as he had a leg out, the jet activated, sending him flying across the garage. Freeing his leg up, he looked ahead, and saw a beam getting closer. Waret smacked into it with his abdomen. He felt the air knock out of him. He breathed hard, finally getting in air. He had to get across the garage somehow now, without the suit. He pushed against the beam, and started floating across the garage again. He pushed off another pod, sending it crashing into another. “Dang, hope whoever owns that doesn’t get mad.” After pod jumping, he reached his pod place again, and realized his pod had floated to the ceiling again, bumping against a support beam.
The ship had stopped rumbling a while back, now that he began thinking about it. Thinking about it, it had not taken a large rattling hit in a long time… “Ah crap.” Waret realized what this could mean from his courses in ship fighting tactics during high school. His adrenaline started pumping.
Waret pushed up and floated to his pod. He opened the door, and slid in. He fastened his seat belt and ignited the pod. He took control of the machine and guided it through the mess to the pod launch tubes. He landed it in the launch tube and slammed, once again, another red button. The pod lurched forward as thrusters ignited, then jolted forward again at tremendous speed, sending Waret’s head smashing against his headrest.
The pod fired towards the space station’s dock on the moon. Waret watched through his side cameras, other pods heading to the same place. His rear view camera showed the space station, and hundreds of little ships zooming around it. Small rockets launched from some of them, at the space station, or at each other. Rockets launched from the space station, destroying some of the little ships.
A large ship sat outside the space station. The ship that had delivered the more powerful blows Waret had felt inside the space station. I sure hope those cows’ll be fine. They weren’t his, but sometimes he felt like they were. He had been working in that barn for five years now since he was twelve. He knew how everything worked, how every cow behaved.
His pod had autopilot on, so Waret continued to watch the space station. The large ship began rattling. Waret’s worst assumption had been correct. Only one thing could be happening- the ship was building it’s fire power. A powerful enough shot to take out the space station in one hit. The space bandits had really upgraded their weaponry. With every loss to the bandits, they became stronger. Suddenly hundreds of more ships poured out of the space station. They began fleeing towards the moon as well.
Waret nervously watched the space station separate into individual units. The large separate unit’s thrusters ignited, throwing them towards the moons space dock. I sure hope my barn makes it. One unit took a hit, breaking into separate pieces, sending a field of barley floating in pieces through space. Small bandit gathering ships gathered the barley, taking it back to the big ship.
“Requesting docking permission,” the pods computer announced. A brief moment later: “Docking accepted, prepare to land.”
Autopilot was shut off, and Waret took control. He found his registered space and landed the ship in the moons docking bay. He could feel the gravity boosters pulling on him. The pod opened up and Waret climbed out. He ran to the public viewing monitor and watched the chaos in space. The separate units floated helplessly in space as bandits began gathering them up, bringing the units back to their own ship. He ran out off the docking station and into the streets of New Beginnings- earths first off-planet city.
He ran past the cars and trucks, past the tall skyscrapers, and found a smaller building tucked into a small community, across from a coffee shop. The other farm technicians were there too. Waret’s boss- Fail Intak- stood on the front steps of his office building.
“ I know the space station has separated. You will all be given jobs on other agricultural stations until we rebuild this one.”
“What about the animals?” Waret spoke up, “ We can’t just leave them. We all know those space pirates don’t have the facilities to take care of the animals properly.”
“I know, it’s hard, but they have them. Our own guards couldn’t fight them off. The space bandits have grown to strong.”
Waret couldn’t take this. “If we continue to let them beat us, they will just get stronger and stronger, we have to fight back.”
Fail looked at Waret and frowned. Though Waret could tell it wasn’t an angry frown. More of a self determined do-what-you-gotta- type of frown. “Your right Waret. Who here is sick of these space bandits?”
All the farm technicians raised their hands. “Then lets take these bandits out and get our animals back, and save what crops we can. I’ll see if the army will help. I know they are few and usually don’t leave the moons perimeters, but maybe you guys going will inspire them to do their jobs the way we- the tax payers- want them to. Take the cargo ships and gather up the animals at least. I’ll tell the guards to give you backup until we have the animals to safety.
Waret and the others ran back to the space dock. Waret saw the guards all sitting around talking about their fighting when they entered the space dock. The farm boys ran over to the guards. “Why aren’t you guys getting ready?” Waret asked.
“You boys’ll be shot dead before you even reach a stalk of wheat.” A big burly guard spit on the floor.
“Well it’s more then your doing. Thats our life up there, and we aren’t letting the bandits take it. Come with us, or you can stay here you chicken livers,” Waret said furiously. He and the other farm techs walked past the guards towards cargo ships, massive things beside the large, but comparably smaller fighter ships.
Just as Waret took a step onto the first step of the ladder to the cargo ships cockpit, one of the guards pulled him off by the scruff of his shirt. “Hey kid, we are no sissy chickens. We’ll fight your fight.”
“It’s not just my fight.”
The guard thought for a sec. Then he nodded his head. “We’ll cover you farm boys. No bandit in a tin can is going to stop us.”
“Great!” Waret exclaimed.
The guard nodded then headed to a ship. Waret scrambled up the ladder, the other farmers behind him. Once at the top he asked. “So who’s driving the thing?” All the farmers looked at each other.
“This aint no tractor,” a red-haired youth said.
“ I can drive it,” a man built like an oak, and a gruff voice, said.
“Good, all the rest, lets get in the cargo bay and suit up.”
Waret lead the other farmers into the cargo bay. A large metal storage compartment. “Empty at the moment,” Waret said, “it’ll be a barn soon. Put these suites on. We need a man to operate the crane.”
“I’ll do it,” the red haired youth said.
“Okay, everyone has their jobs then. The rest off us will hook the cables to the crates.” Everyone gripped onto something as the cargo ship roughly took off out of the space dock.
Waret grabbed a white suite and slipped into it. The others did the same.
Moments later, “Okay boys, we’re entering the danger zone. I’ll pull up along the crates that the guards free up, and you guys can pull them in,” the pilot buzzed over the intercom.
Waret watched the battle outside through a viewing monitor on the upper deck. The guards were barely holding in. Most had close calls every couple seconds, barely scraping out of them, or taking minor hits, but they freed up a crate.
“A crates free,” the intercom crackled, bring her in boys.
Waret raced down the steps onto the cargo bay floor. The wall to his left slowly slid open, big enough to let six fighters fly through in loose formation. He grabbed a cable, previously laid out, and so did the other farmers. They pulled it to the edge of the ship, and looked out into open space. He took a big breath of the air inside his oxygen mask, then jumped into space towards the crate. A bandit ship flew overhead, a guard right behind it, firing wildly.
Waret attached the cables to the hooks on the crates corners, and jumped back to the cargo bay floor. The virtual gravity slowly pulled him to the floor. The other farmers did the same. The crane slowly pulled the crate in, and landed it on the floor.
“ One down, ninety six to go.”
Waret counted down every cow they brought. He could see the other cargo ships gathering animals, horses, beef cows, chickens. They left the wheat to float around. It wasn’t as important as the animals.
“Last cow,” Waret said, staring at the last crate. He jumped into space with his cable. As he was connecting the cable, a round of bullets flew at the container, bouncing off, but hitting some of the farmers. Blood floated past Waret. He noticed some of it coming from his leg. Pain shot through him. Some of the other farmers were wounded worse. Waret fought the pain and grabbed a man with a chest wound.
He pointed him to the cargo bay and pushed him. The man floated towards it. He found a man with a shoulder shot, and did the same thing. He hooked the last cables of the men he pushed, and pushed off the crate with his good leg towards the cargo bay. Some of the other farmers with similar wounds as Waret were doing the same. He landed on his legs in the cargo bay, and he yelled in pain. Some men dragged him to the side as the crate floated in. The cargo bay door shut just as a hail of bullets bounced off the outside.
“We all ready to go, cause I sure am?” the pilot asked nervously.
“Yes, get us out of here, we have badly wounded men,” an old farmer said.
The cargo ship hurried to the moon’s dock. Waret drank some pain killer and felt the paint subside drastically with the modern medicine. A cloth was wrapped around him, and Waret was able to sit on the stairs.
The cargo ship came to a rough stop in the dock, sending men falling and grappling for something to hold onto. Medics rushed into the ship and grabbed Waret and the other wounded men.
Later, Waret left the hospital, gladly, and went to the storage barn to find the cows all safe, and chewing cud- if a bit nervously.
“Good job Waret,” Fail said behind him.
“Thanks. I’m just glad to get the animals to safety.”
“Well, that type of dedication earned you and all the other farmers a raise to sixty electrocoins an hour.”
“Thanks.” Waret shook Fails hand then turned and rested against the fence, staring at the cows, and tenderly rubbed the bandage on his leg.