Chapter 1  The Next Year

    Once again, our class from the Dogwood Galaxy is ready for another crazy field trip, because while it has only been two or three months for AB and his crew, Cat Rug’s neck of the woods has moved forward a full year, thanks to time and space. As we jet to the day of our next adventure, we see Cat and her hubby Doug exchanging their mushy goodbyes, with their eager twins looking for their fellow classmates.

    “Well,” says Entoni Franklin, the boy we all know as Elf, “do you see anyone yet?”

    His sister Grace Grace slightly shakes her head and gives a quick, “Nuh-uh.”

    This scouting soon pays off, however, as teacher Jocelyn Meyers and her lot arrive.  As Jo checks with Cat about the final preparations, “Uncle Owan” and Kammy finish sharing a pack of chocolate spikes.  Mind you, that is the candy name.  They’re not actual spikes.

    “What’s up?” asks Gigi.

    Kammy throws a witty smile at Owan and says, “Someone’s actually being a responsible young man for once.  I’m so impressed today, I don’t mind actually claiming him as an uncle.”

    Owan waves this off.  “Yeah, just wait an hour; that’s a short-term sentiment for sure.”

    With a raised eyebrow, Elf asks Owan, “What did you do that actually impressed Kammy?”

    Shrugging, he replies, “Who knows?  She’s a girl.  They’re as random as rain.”

    Kammy gives a big thumbs up and cheerfully declares, “After being ready on time for once, cleaning that knocked-over trash bin and offering to buy me something, that’s a big step for you.  Also, you were totally right!  I just lost my motivation for calling you ‘Uncle Owan.’”

    The Rug Twins laugh as Owan realizes his joke about girls just lost points on Kammy’s scale.  The group continues goofing off until another student arrives, this time bringing to everyone’s attention just what a year has done for everyone.  Gigi’s bumbling buddy Paul shows up, soon followed by his mother Mercy.  As the kids talk about the trip that will start later today, Mercy makes her way to Cat and Jo.

    “My goodness,” says Mercy, “watching these kids over this past school year still isn’t enough to get me used to how tall they are compared to last year.  I’m so jealous of my own son’s height, ha ha!”

    Duplica giggles.  “This has been quite an interesting year, seeing Gigi and Faye mature, and Owan doing much better in class.  I hope that all translates into a smooth field trip.  Then again, last year went wonderfully as well, so there’s nothing to worry about.  And don’t forget who’s coming with us!”

    “That’s right!” gasps Jocelyn, “The Asteroid Siblings are taking the entire trip with us!  This is going to be so amazing!  The only thing that could make it better is if their teacher Fiona came along, but that is a lot of people on one route.  But still, Astro Bomber, Cici Majors and THE Keb are escorting us across the storyboard of Lyger and Acer…Storyboard XL.”

    Mercy scratches her nose, beginning to ask Jo about this destination, but decides to hide her forgetfulness by turning it into a class pop quiz.  “Hey guys, who can tell me about Storyboard XL?”

    Taking turns, Gigi and Kammy show off their knowledge.  Speaking first, Grace blurts out, “That’s a storyboard from the past, before everything was smashed into one big fictional universe.  Let’s not forget that we are all Partially Autonomous Cerebral Programs in the mind of the author, known as the System Director who has made this into his System.”

    Kammy continues, “Storyboard XL is home to eras such as ‘The Starter Key’ and ‘The Grave Debate.’  While Rue Patterson and her sisters did live there, poor Rue met a much darker fate than that of her Storyboard VII counterpart most people are familiar with.”

    Gigi resumes her side of the chat.  “Acer and Buddy, Mysteries Day and Night, the Four Corners!  Man, if Grandpa AB and the others weren’t coming on this trip, I’d almost say you couldn’t ask for anything better!  I mean, Storyboard XII was cool, and I’d love to visit XI in AB’s younger days, but everyone knows that XL was one of the most epic storyboards out there.”

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