Mrs. Thorpe’s 5th Grade – 5th Hour

71 Keys


“He made it for me to match the others,” he said in his best attempt at a granny voice, but I knew the old woman in front of me was lying. “It was my 71st birthday gift—such a lovely bracelet. He left it for me on a park bench wrapped in a white box with a big pink bow. Will you help me find the others?”

A park bench, really? Could this shape-shifting prince not come up with anything better? He looked at me like I was a child . . . probably because in the eyes of most, I was a child. But my age didn’t matter; it was the intense levels of training I had undergone that mattered. I was trained to do my job, and I had done it well, or the intergalactic nuisance wouldn’t have been in custody.

“Enough!” I shouted. “We found number seventy-one, and it will only be a matter of hours before we locate the other seventy. Just tell me where they are and this game of yours will be over! People’s lives are at stake!”

The jester of a prince, taking on the appearance of Cleopatra, crossed his arms, leaned back in the chair and stared at me through painted eyes. “That wouldn’t be much fun, now would it?”

“I’ve had enough of you and your tricks. No more stories of castles in the clouds and Siberian princes. Your little game with our planet has come to an end. Tell me where to find them!” I demanded.

“Haven’t I given you enough clues? You found one, you can find the others. It would be no fun if I let you win.”

“Let me tell you what will be no fun,” I said slamming my hands down on the table in front of him. “A life sentence in a bi-dimensional prison will not be fun!”

“I’m going either way . . . you know it and I know it. Let me enjoy it while you last,” the prince laughed taking on his masculine form.

“Sir . . .” the voice of my assistant interrupted.

“What is it Sara?” She was a good assistant, detailed in note taking and research. We had been in the same fifth grade class at the academy until I tested into the Intergalactic Agency for External Affairs training program. This was my school now.

She looked over at the prince and then back at me. “We have some news.”

I grinned at the prince. “Excuse me.” I shut the door behind me, and then looked back through the glass window to see if he had made any movement. “Look at him! A cave man! Really? This guy is the worst! He plants 71 bombs on our planet as a game. Everything is a joke to him!

“He is a Triberian, sir.”

“Are they all shape shifters?”

“Just the boys, sir. Our research has discovered that after fulfilling their rite of passage during their fourteenth year, it will stop.” She pushed her glasses up on her nose and continued. “We have tested the metal on the device. At this point we are able to precisely date it to the 7th century, most specifically the first month.”

“Seventh century . . . first month. Our young prince has a thing for the numbers seven and one. Get our team on it. Find out everything about our prince that connects him to the numbers seven and one.”

“Right away, sir,” she said with a grin.

“Oh, and Sara . . . “

“Yes, sir?”

“You don’t have to call me ‘sir’. We’re the same age. I don’t think thirteen year olds can be called sir.”

“Right . . . Wes.” I watched her walk away. It was sometimes hard to believe what had become of our young lives. One day we were listening to our teachers, the next we were serving the galaxy. I guess that’s just the way of the 71st century, I had thought. Then, it hit me. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t made the connection. Sara’s recent information had given me an idea.

I flung open the door to see the prince looking like baboon. “It’s the 71st century. I know about the seven and the one!” I informed him confidently. He instantly shifted back into himself. He glared at me, angrily. “It’s a code, a key! A key to unlocking something . . . something that you want, but can’t get to own your own. You need us to do it for you, because you don’t know when you will shift!” The prince was now shifting faster than I could talk. At one point I thought I saw a mirror image of myself.

I slammed my hands down on the metal table once again. He snapped into his princely form, out of breath, eyes weary, and skin dripping in sweat. He glared up at me from his seat. “Hoorah,” he said clapping his clammy hands together. “The little agent has found a clue.” I hated it when people called me little . . . I wasn’t little . . . maybe kind of short for my age, but not little. “Here’s another clue for you. You have seventy one hours to find the next bracelet, or every hour on the hour, one of them will self destruct.” This was bad.

The first key had been located in an apartment building. Apparently a man had bought it for his wife. When she put it on she saw an alien invasion and heard voices in her head telling her that she was the only one who could stop them. That’s when she called us. Our team swept in and confiscated the bracelet. When questioned about its origin, the man had said a street vendor had sold it to him. We ran his description through our database of all born citizens, and seeing as how there was no one in the system that met the description of a dread-locked pirate, we knew right away that we were dealing with a shape shifter.

“You will kill innocent people!”

“You will find the other keys!”

Those six words frightened me. “Wait a minute! You need us to find them, because you don’t know where they are, do you? You planted the first one! This was all a set up!”

The prince smiled. “You find them, let me do with them what I need to, then, I will give you the code to shut them down. Do we have a deal?

A deal? Our policy was to not make deals with terrorists, and this was definitely an act of terrorism. I had to think, stall for time.

“What do they open? A portal? A door?” I asked, as calmly as I could. He shifted. I was on to something.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It does if we’re going to make a deal.” I had gotten a C at academy in negotiation tactics. It was my least favorite subject. He shifted into the pirate that had gotten him caught.

He lowered his head. “Alright. They are a key. When combined they open a door to my home planet, a way back home. Without them, I’m stranded. I only need to find seven.”

“Hold on . . . this isn’t about us, it’s about you! You’re a Triberian. This is you’re test! If you don’t pass the test, you don’t age. If you don’t age, you are stuck shifting! I can’t believe this! You are using us to solve your problem! There’s no game, no bombs . . .” The prince had been using us all along—that cheater.

“Well, actually . . .” the Triberian prince interrupted.

“Sir . . .I mean Wes,” Sara whispered poking her head in. “We kind of have a situation.”

“Whatever it is, it can’t be that bad. I’ve got this all figured out,” I said confidently.

“There was a blast in sector seven. No deaths, but several injured.”

I whipped my head around and faced the now green, pointy eared prince. “Looks like you need to find those keys,” he said.


(To be continued by the imagination of Mrs. Thorpe’s 5th grade class.)





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