2021 Christmas Story – The Space Beyond

The 2021 Christmas story admittedly has little to do with Christmas. I will also admit that some of the ideas were inspired by the Marvel Universe and the Agents of Shield television show in particular. If I were to continue the storyline for profit (I make nothing from this page) I would have to be very careful about copyrights.


The Space Beyond – Christmas 2021

Chapter 1 –

“I’ll stop putting up Christmas lights once you can see them from outer space.” Dad took the umpteenth box of lights from my arms.

            “You know they make satellites that can read your license plate, right?” I was getting tired of hauling all those boxes from the basement.

            “I know! We have to make the lights so bright that they’ll be blinded when they try to see in our house.” He actually winked at me.

            I rolled my eyes. “Because we must keep our identities secret.”

            “You know it kiddo. You never know who’s out there gunning for us.”

            “Can I go now?”

            Dad looked at the piles of boxes around him. “I still need the box with the silver label on it. It’s got my timers.”

            “I didn’t see it.”

            “Bottom shelf of the green rack. It mighta gotten shoved to the back.”

            “Ok.” I headed down to the basement, again.

            The box was right where he said it would be. Annoying right?

            I pulled on the big plastic bin. It wouldn’t budge. I sat on the ground and pulled with both hands.


            There was a loud metallic sound when the bin came loose.

            “That’s weird.” I slid the bin out and looked at the back of the shelf. The bin had stuck on some sort of metal latch. It had sprung out and allowed a little gap to open on the corner of a metal plate on the wall.

            Great. I broke something. I thought. Can’t let dad see. I slid the now empty shelves out from the wall so I could see what I did.

            “Ashley, you bringing that box?” Dad’s voice echoed from upstairs.

            “Just a sec.” I thought for a moment about sliding the shelf back. Too much noise.

            I grabbed the box and headed up the stairs.

            “You can just set it on the table.” Dad was getting a drink from the fridge. “I’ll let you go back to your games or whatever if you really don’t want to help.”

            It was a book, but I didn’t say anything. I grabbed my Kindle from the counter and jumped onto the family room sofa.

            I couldn’t read a thing while that shelf unit was pulled out. But I couldn’t go back downstairs with Dad right by the basement door in the kitchen.

Chapter 2 –

After a couple of minutes, dad went back outside. Mom’s attention was locked on some game on her phone, so I set the Kindle down and headed to the kitchen.

            The basement door seemed to squeak louder than normal. Each of the steps screamed with creaks announcing my presence. The solid concrete at the bottom let my heart settle as I walked silently to the shelf unit. 

            As quietly as I could, I lifted the end of the shelves and slid it to the wall. As I set it back down, my shoulder brushed against a calendar that had been there since 2010, the year I was born!

          The calendar fluttered to the ground in a cloud of dust.

I went to put it back when I noticed something odd about the wall. There was a crack. Not a squiggly normal looking crack but one perfectly straight and square, like a piece of the concrete wall had been perfectly cut out and replaced. I stuck a fingernail in the crack and…

“Hey Jonesy. Where you at?” Perfect timing as usual.

Everyone has to have that one friend who shows up at just the wrong time and won’t shut up. For me, that’s Carl.

I ran up the stairs in stealth mode. Carl was right there, grabbing a Dr. Pepper from the fridge. I almost hit him with the door.

“What the?”

I didn’t let him finish. I just grabbed his arm and pulled him down the stairs.

“Take a look at this.” I used my best covert operative voice.

When I pointed to the crack, he pulled out his multi-tool. You know. The kind that has pliers and screwdriver and a knife blade. He flipped the blade out and pried at the crack. He soon had a small square block of concrete in his hand.

He had to get on his tip toes to look in. He hasn’t had his growth spurt yet so I’m taller than him (barely) even though we’re the same age. “Nothing there.”

He set the block on a shelf and produced a tiny flashlight from the same pocket as the multi-tool. “Doesn’t even go through.” He probed it with his fingers and found nothing.

“Oh well.” I grabbed the block to put it back. “What the?” One side of the block pushed in.

The sound of a small metal object hitting the floor echoed through the room.

            I picked up a small key from the floor by my feet.

            “Is there a locked door down here?” Carl looked around.

            “It’s not a door key. It’s round like it’s for a safe or a lock box.” Then an idea hit me. “Help me with this.”

            We lifted the empty green shelf unit and set it down about a foot from the wall.  The latch I had popped open earlier was at the bottom right corner of a metal plate shaped like a door. There was another latch at the top of the right side. In the middle was a recessed handle with a keyhole.

            “You don’t think?” Carl grabbed the key from my hand and slid it into the lock. “It won’t turn.

            “Wait.” I released the upper latch. “Try it now.”

            It turned. The metal plate swung out from the wall.

            “Is it a safe?”

            “The door’s thick like a safe but I can’t see in yet. We gotta move the shelves more.”

            We did and the door swung open on its own. As it did, a light within flickered on.

            “Whoa!” Carl slid through the opening. “You’re not gonna believe this.”

Chapter 3 –

            I slipped through the door next to Carl. “Whoa!” A concrete hallway stretched into the hillside behind our house.

            “That’s what I said. Were your parents like, criminals before you were born?” Carl cautiously advanced.

            “Of course not, dofus!” I walked beside him.

            The hallway was wide enough for three to walk side by side. The walls looked modern and clean. No water stains or mold. Not even much dust.

            It went straight back into the hillside for a hundred feet or so before making a sharp right turn. The angles were perfectly square and sharp.

            “You could cut something with this corner.” Carl touched the edge.

            “Like your finger?”

            “Maybe not that sharp, but not far off.”

            I walked 20 feet to a left corner. “This next one’s a little different. Like there’s a door or something tucked in here.”

            In a pocket a couple of inches from the corner was what appeared to be a door that would slide out. It had a zig-zag edge.

            “That edge would fit right in here.” Carl pointed at indentions in the opposite wall. “Must be some kind of blast door.”

            “What for,” I wondered aloud.

            “Maybe your ‘rents are aliens, and their spaceship is back here.”

            “Very funny.” I gave him the look I reserve for when he says stupid things. I use it often.

            “You think we should go on?” He was oblivious to the look. “If that door closes, we’ll be trapped.”

            I walked forward. “Don’t be a wuss!”

            The next corner looked identical to the last. Sharp left turn. Same door in the same place.

            “See, this is the first blast door, and this directs the blast away from the second door.” Carl pointed to vent slits in the right-hand wall.

            I was intrigued but not ready to give in to his ridiculous ideas. “Or maybe it’s just an air-conditioning duct.”

            “Just sayin’.”

            I looked down the next hallway. “It’s a dead end.”

            Carl walked up to the blank concrete wall at the end of another 20-foot hall. “I don’t know. See if you can find any buttons or something.” He ran his hand along the end wall

            “Ash, you’re gonna wanna see this.” He pointed to the left wall about four feet from the floor. The shape of a hand glowed blue. He put his hand over the shape. “Maybe this opens…”

            I covered my ears to try to block out the loud screeching noise. The hand glowed red. The door slammed behind us.

            The screeching noise continued and the vents in the wall opened to form what looked like knives.

            “You try it!” Carl yelled over the loud noises.

Chapter 4  –

            I placed my hand on the red shape. It turned blue. The screeching stopped but a loud beeping took its place.

            “You have 2 minutes to enter code,” read blue letters that appeared on the wall below the hand.

            “What code? Where?” Panic threatened me.

            “What code would your parents use?” He pointed to a keyboard that had lit up under the message.

            “Do you think it would give us more than one try?”

            “Unless you know the right password, you better hope so!”

            “I know the password she uses for our Netflix.” I entered “Birdie01o”

            “Incorrect password.” The screen displayed. The timer went under 1 minute.

            “Do they have any nicknames for you, especially old ones from when you were a little kid?”

            I tried a couple of terms of endearment Mom used to use for me. Still incorrect.

            “Maybe.” Time counted down from 15 seconds while I typed feverishly. “Mom always used to call me her Phoenix since I rose from the ashes of their lives. I think ‘Ashley’ came from that.”

            The moment I hit the “x” the screen read, “Confirm bio-print.”

            I slapped my hand on the wall as the timer reached “0:00”.

            The beeping stopped.

            The display turned off.

            The end wall slid open.

Chapter 5 –

Peter Jones was on the roof putting the finishing touches on a pattern of lights. There was a large white “L” with a red circle of lights around it and slashing from the top of one side to the bottom of the other.

            He adjusted a small red box at the bottom of the circle. The red circle started flashing. Not a steady on/off pattern but a random series of flashes that seemed to repeat itself every minute or so.

            “Hon, have you seen Ash?” his wife Diane called from below.

            “Haven’t seen her since before I climbed up here. Did you check the tree house?”


            “Hey, I remember seeing that kid from down the street come by. Maybe she’s at his house.”

            “They never go to Carl’s. You know that.”

            “All I know is she brought the last couple of boxes of lights up from the basement to me while I was sorting them out in the driveway. Oh yeah, I was in the kitchen when she brought the timers up. I thought she went to the living room with you.”

            “Okay.” Diane started to go inside. Stopping short of the door, she asked, “Were those on the green shelves?”

            “Yeah.” He stilled. “You don’t think?”

            As quickly as possible, he climbed down the ladder. Diane was already inside.

Chapter 6 –

            “Come on!” I grabbed Carl’s wrist and pulled him through.

            “Are you sure about this? I think I hear your mom calling.” Carl put up a slight resistance.

            “I’ve got a feeling about this.” I spotted a blue hand on the wall past the door we just went through and slapped my hand on it.

            “So do I and it’s not good.” He just cleared the door when it slid shut.

            The room we entered lit up. It was concrete on three sides. The fourth, in front of us, was glass.

            Our reflections stared back at us, two 6th grade kids nearly the same height. Me with my red braids dangling in front of me and a look of awe in my face. Carl, with his shaggy brown hair and a look of fear.

            I pulled him forward to the glass. A blinking light at the left edge of the glass drew my attention. A touch brought a hissing sound followed by a distant hum.

            “This is awesome!” The words slipped from my lips as the room beyond slowly lit up.

            “It’s big.” Carl sure knows how to understate things.

            The window looked out over a huge room. Like a whole football field huge. And as high as it was wide. It was empty.

            We were probably 20 feet above the concrete floor. The walls were stone with steel beams every few feet. Except the end wall. It was like a giant garage door.

            “That’s weird.” I found myself studying every corner to see if there was something else.

            “There’s a light flashing.” Carl pointed to edge of the glass. Under the previous light, a symbol flashed between green and blue.

            I touched it.

            “Aaaaaah” We both screamed as the room flooded with a thick moist vapor.

Chapter 7 –

            The mist blinded us. It stung our eyes. A panicked breath brought searing pain to my throat.

            I couldn’t see Carl, but it was clear where he was.

“Make it stop!” The scream was right in my ear. He was grabbing my arm like his life depended on it. Maybe it did.      

            A sound like one of those super-fast hand dryers in public restrooms filled the room. Within about ten seconds, the air was clear again. More than clear. Crisp. Even a little minty.

            “You breath smells good.”

            I was about to correct him when I realized my throat didn’t sting any more. “Huh” was all I got out.

            At that moment a click sounded at the door in the left wall.

            I pulled the handle. “Let’s go.” I dragged him through the now open doorway.

            A long flight of steps led down to the floor.

            I could see now there were hoses that ran from under the room we just came from out to the middle of the room. They didn’t look like they hooked to anything. Just stopped in the middle. On the wall directly under the room was what looked like a computer screen.

            “I’m gonna check out that computer.” I started toward the screen.

            Carl wandered toward the middle of the room.

            I reached out to touch the screen. It came to life. As it did, I heard a noise from the center of the room. When I looked, Carl was laying on the ground.

Chapter 8 –

Peter and Diane hesitated at the entrance of the tunnel.

“Ashley!” Diane called out.

There was no reply.

“You think they made it to the hangar?”

Peter stepped forward. “One way to find out.” At that moment, his watch buzzed.

Chapter 9 –

“Carl!” I ran toward him.

“Stop! There’s something here!” He raised his palm and scooted toward me.

“You okay?”

“I’m fine. Just ran into something I couldn’t see.”

“Invisibility isn’t a real thing.”

“Don’t be so sure.” He motioned to where he fell. “And it’s not totally invisible anyway. Look carefully that way and move your head.”

I tried it. “What?” I stared at the space and moved my head again. “It’s like the air is distorted there.”

“I noticed that as I fell. There’s something there. It’s just…”


“That would be the sci-fi word for it.”

“But ‘fi’ stands for fiction.” I moved my head around some more. There was definitely something there.

“Check the computer. Maybe there’s some control for it.”


We both moved to the wall.

He touched the screen. It flashed red with the words “UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS” blazing across it. “You try it.”

I did. Blue words asked for a password. A keyboard appeared below the words. “Think it’s the same as before?”

“One way to find out.”

I typed “P-h-o-e-n-i-x” and hit enter. “So far so good.” A blue hand appeared on the wall next to the screen. I placed my hand on it.

“Good evening, Miss Jones. How may I help you?” It was a male voice with an Indian accent.


Carl whacked my arm. “Tell it to de-cloak that thing.”


“Did you mean ‘reveal’.” The tone was so very polite.

“Yes, reveal.”

“What would you like to reveal?”

“Tell it to reveal all!” Carl’s whisper was a little too urgent.

“Reveal all.”

“I detect a visitor. Protocol requires me to clear all visitors. Please have visitor stand in front of display.”

Carl complied.

“Welcome Carl Mason. You are not cleared to be here. Miss Jones, do you wish to override protocol?”


“Okay.” The computer paused for a pregnant second. “I’m sorry, you are not authorized to override protocol. Would you like me to contact your supervisor?”

“No!” I didn’t want whoever was in charge rushing us out. “Um, computer, um do you have a name?”

“My AI interface is named Raj.”

“Raj, who is my supervisor?”

“You have two supervisors listed, Diane Jones and Peter Jones.”

“How do you contact them?” I knew that Dad would be less likely to panic, especially if Mom couldn’t overhear.

“They are set up to receive notifications through via smart watch and phone.”

“Ask Peter Jones for clearance.”

“Roger that. One moment.”

“You really think your dad will approve?”

“Permission granted.”

“Raj, Reveal all.”

Chapter 10 –

“They made it to the hangar.” Peter tapped his watch.

Diane sighed. “I guess it’s a good thing you set up the intruder alert.”

“That doesn’t work for authorized entry.”

“What? You set her up for authorized entry?”

“You know we were gonna have to tell her soon.”

“Yeah but. Wait, did you say ‘they’?”

“Carl is with her. She just asked for protocol override for him.”

“We’ll, at least you can have Raj kick them out.”

“Actually…” Peter seemed to shrink a little. “I approved the request.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“You want them running into things?” he defended.

“I want them out of there!”

“Look. I don’t want Ashley to have to keep our secret from her best friend.”

“Did you think about Carl? He can’t tell anyone.”

“He can talk about it with Ashley. If he doesn’t think he can keep it in, we can wipe him.”

Diane glared at him for a second. Then took off down the hall. “Let’s go do damage control.”

Chapter 11 –

            The light in the hangar shifted as a deep vibration rolled through the room. The shapes of crates and equipment showered into view like washing chalk off a driveway. Before them, the largest object, a grey and black aircraft unlike any they had seen before appeared.

            Steps leading into the aircraft hung below it near the front. The craft filled almost half the space. It was almost all wing in the shape of a V. Six cylinders that I took for jet engines pointed downward, four along the front of the wing and one on each side of the short tail.

            Carl strode right for the steps. “Come on!”

            I thought for a second that we should wait for my dad. I was sure he’d be coming. Instead, I ran ahead of him and put my hand on the entry hatch lock.

            It opened to darkness that slowly turned to grey as I walked up the steps.

It was a hallway with a glowing ceiling, light grey walls and a metal floor. The wall looked plastic and had no doors. The only markings were blue hand prints at irregular intervals.

Carl rushed ahead of me. “Maybe your parents are aliens.”

A short walk revealed that it was a loop that went around the center of the craft.

I put my hand on the blue handprint closest to the front of the craft on the inside wall. A doorway opened to a set of stairs. I climbed.

When I reached the top, I couldn’t help it. “This is cool!”

It was a large oval room, maybe 12 by 20 feet. At the center was a low oval table surrounded by plush, colorful sofas. The whole room was a burst of color in stark contrast to the hall below. Green walls, dark brown cabinets in the kitchenette at one end, bright green carpets, and patterns of flowers and birds on the sofas.

In the center of the table stood a small Christmas tree. In front of the tree sat a framed letter. It read:

December 23, 2009

Peter and Diane Jones,

Your request for retirement from SEDA is denied. Instead, you are granted reserve status for a period of twelve years or until your youngest child is old enough to understand your line of work. Arrangements have been made for your housing and employment during that time.

You will be expected to maintain the Eagle 5 and auxiliary equipment during that time and stand ready in time of global emergency.

We at SEDA understand the importance of family and will endeavor to allow you as normal of family life as possible. We also recognize the importance of global security and reserve the necessary right to hold you to your commitment when you signed on.

 May you have a Blessed and Merry Christmas!

Jason R. Jonas

Director, Strategic Enigma Defense Agency

“So now you know.” Dad’s voice startled me.

Chapter 12 –

I was speechless. Part of me wanted to lash out and hit Mom and Dad. Part of me wanted to hug them. “When were you going to tell me?”

“Next month, after you turn twelve.” Dad sat next to me.

“And you decided it was okay to lie to me for twelve years?”

Mom sat on the table in front of me. “When did we lie to you?”

“You made me think we had a normal life.”

Dad chimed in, “And what have I always told you about ‘normal’?”

Uggh! Dad used this phrase all the time and now he wanted me to repeat it. “Normal is just a city in Illinois.” I rolled my eyes.

“Girl!” I hated it when Carl called me that. “What are you complaining about? Your life just got way more interesting. I’m jealous!”

“Maybe you don’t need to be jealous.” Mom said.

“Huh.” Carl looked confused. “Wait, do I get to be a secret agent? Or…” the look turned to fear. “Are you going to get rid of me. You know, make it look like an accident.”

“There’s an idea.” Dad said.

I wasn’t sure he was kidding until Mom spoke.

“The Agency doesn’t work that way. But we do need to figure out what to do with you.”

“Please take me with you!” He folded his hands in front of him and leaned toward Mom. “Please, please, please, please.”

“The normal…” Dad glanced my way. “Um, usual way to take care of this is to simply erase your memories of today. Despite what you may have seen in movies, that’s not an exact science and I don’t like the idea.”

“Do we have to move soon?” I hated the idea, but I saw a possible way out.

“‘Fraid so.”

“Is there a school where we’re going? ‘Cause, we could tell his parents that he has a scholarship at an exclusive boarding school.”

“We can’t lie to his parents and take him.” Dad explained. “That would be the same as kidnapping.”

“Couldn’t we tell them the truth and then zap their memories after they give permission?”

Mom looked Carl in the eye. “Do you love your parents?”

Chapter 13 –

Carl was silent for a moment.

           Mom and Dad looked at each other.

          Mom answered for him. “Carl is a foster child. His parents abandoned him six years ago and haven’t been heard from since. He’s been with the Jackson’s since then but…”

          Carl finished for her. “They’re only in it for the money. They don’t care about what happens to me. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t abuse us or nothing. But they don’t really care what I do as long as I look good for social services on inspection day and don’t cause trouble.”

I looked at Mom. “How’d you know all that?”

“It’s part of my job to know everything about our neighbors. There’s enough surprises in the world without being blindsided by those around you.”

“Why don’t you two check out the cockpit.” Dad waved toward the stairs. “Down the stairs, turn left and it’s the first door on the right.”

“Cool, next star pilot comin’ up.” Carl practically leapt toward the stairs.

“Don’t touch anything.” Mom said. “Besides, the Eagle 5 can’t go higher than 60,000 feet.”

Chapter 14 –

Carl was already waiting by the cockpit door by the time I got down the stairs.

“You’re not worried that they wanted to get us out of there.” I asked him.

“Let them have their pow-wow. Now open the door.”

I slapped my hand on the sensor and the door immediately opened. Inside was an array of screens, switches, dials and gauges. I had no clue what anything did. There were six seats in three rows of two. I sat in the front right seat and grabbed the yoke. The screens and dials lit up.

The ultra-polite voice of Raj came over the speakers. “Sorry Miss Jones, you are not authorized to operate this vessel.”

“Raj, did you used to fly with my parents?”

“Why, yes Miss Jones.”

“Where did you go with them?”

“All over the world.”

“What kind of missions did you go with them on.”

“Sorry Miss Jones, that information is classified.”

“Let me try,” Carl said. “Raj, what is the purpose of SEDA?”

“To protect the global community from enigmas or unexplained phenomenon.”

“And how does it achieve those goals.”

“By any available means so long as those means do not harm any part of the global community.”

“And what are those means?”

“Don’t answer that, Raj.” Dad walked into the cockpit.

“Good evening Mr. Jones. I was about to inform Mr. Mason that I was not authorized to answer his question.”

Mom walked around Dad and leaned over the front seats. “Carl, what would you feel about being adopted?”


So that is how Carl, and I became trainees for the Strategic Enigma Defense Agency. With the help of SEDA, Carl will officially become my brother next week.

It’s been a month since we found out about Mom and Dad’s real career. I’m getting things set up in my new quarters on the Eagle 5. Tomorrow’s Christmas Day. Dad promised to take us for a ride as a Christmas present.

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t still a little freaked out about it all. My life is totally changed.  

We officially leave on January 1st. Another SEDA family will be using the house soon.

Carl and I will be attending SEDA’s remote middle school by computer in a couple of weeks. We’ll be living in the Eagle 5 at SEDA’s secret headquarters when we’re not on assignment.

When something comes up, we could go anywhere in the world. Maybe I’ll tell you about my adventures. But you gotta keep it secret.

Copyright 2021 – Richard D Solano, all rights reserved.