By John Martin
Read by Nate Begle
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Kelvin is the new kid at Sci-Fi Junior High — a floating space station filled with alien kids form across the universe. And he arrived just in time for the annual school dance: The Galactic Get Down!
Kelvin is desperate to take luminous Luna (her species literally glows), but now that his secret about not being a Mega Supergenius is out, Kelvin doesn’t have a shot. He has to think of a way to become super cool so everyone forgets he lied about his average intelligence . . . cue mad scientist Erik Failenheimer’s escape from his asteroid prison, an army of Pinions (any similarities to the MinionsTM is purely coincidental), and a battle to save Sci-Fi Junior High from imminent doom. Let’s dance!
“Saving the universe has never been so much fun!” — Gordon Korman, #1 New York Times bestselling author of 39 Clues and Masterminds on Sci-Fi Junior High.
“All right, everybody. Gather round. Remember yesterday, when I told you we’d be climbing something tomorrow? Something no one has ever been able to make it to the top of in all the years I’ve been teaching gym classes? Well, today is tomorrow, and what we’ll be climbing is this rope right here.”
Yeah, Coach Ed, I remember yesterday, all right. And so does my buddy Rand-El.
That’s when he came up with the idea to make this my one big thing, the thing I’ll always be remembered for. Kelvin Klosmo—the guy who made it to the top.
“And I hope you all took my advice and did a few extra push-ups before you went to bed last night, because you’re going to need every bit of strength you can muster to get up this baby. It’s wobbly, it’s slippery, and it’s over thirty feet high.”
You see, we figure that if I become known for something really cool, everybody will forget about how I tried to fake being superbrilliant when I first got to this new school at the far end of the galaxy. And then maybe they’ll quit calling me Genius. You know, the sarcastic kind. Like when you call a short kid Paul Bunyan. Or a shy kid Mr. Personality. At least, that’s the theory. The teasing is getting pretty unbearable.
“Now let me give you a few pointers. I don’t mean to brag, but I was the Delpneer District pole climbing champion back in eighty-seven. So I know what I’m talking about.”
I asked Rand-El, if no one else ever made it to the top, why did he think I could? I’m no athlete. I mean, if my backpack’s full, I have trouble climbing into the shuttle bus in the morning.
He told me not to sweat it, that he had it all taken care of.
“Yeah, are we allowed to keep our arms attached to our bodies?”
“Sure… if you want to do it the easy way. Now, who’s going to go first?”
Danny Diptera. He’s known for his sticky fingers. And I don’t mean I-got-some-jelly-on-my-hands sticky. I’m talking I-dumped-a-gallon-of-glue-on-myself-and-then-fell-into-a-vat-of-tar sticky. I tried playing catch with him once. He was great at catching, but he couldn’t throw the ball back. And no matter how many times he says, “Lay it on me, dude,” you do not want to high-five Danny Diptera. Trust me on that one. He should be able to scramble up that rope, no problem. No matter how slippery it is.
Danny makes it to the seven-foot mark and slides back down. It takes ten minutes to unstick him from the cushions.
Zot volunteers to go next. She’s the best athlete I’ve ever seen. If anybody can do this, she can. Come to think of it, maybe I should have just asked her to wear a Kelvin mask for her climb to the top.
Zot makes it to the ten-foot mark and that’s it. What’s this rope made out of, anyway? Vaseline?
I nudge Rand-El. “Great idea you’ve got here. I’ll be lucky to get my feet off the ground.”
Rand-El hands me something.
“What are these?”
“Antigravity disks. My mom uses them to rearrange the furniture in our LIV space. Stick them in your boots. When it’s your turn on the rope, just kick your feet together and they’ll turn on. You’ll practically fly to the top of that rope!”
You know what? Rand-El might actually have something here. I shove the disks into my boots and volunteer to go next. After spitting into my hands and rubbing them together for effect, I grab on to the rope and kick my feet together. And suddenly I feel weightless. I start to climb.
Dang! This might actually work!
Now that’s more like it! Good-bye Genius. Hello Climbing Kelv.
Ugh. The Drifting Doofus? Are you kidding me?
“Thanks a lot, Rand-El.”
“Hey, it’s better than Genius.”
“ Really, Rand-El? Is it? That’s like saying a stubbed big toe is better than two stubbed big toes. It might be a little bit better, but it still hurts. A lot.”
“Hey, look, everybody! It’s the Drifting Doofus Genius!”
And that hurts like five stubbed big toes.
Yikes! I must have been daydreaming again. Nowadays that’s the only time I answer anything right.
“ Who is you, Mr. Klosmo. What is telling the class how many there are. And when is right this instant!”
How many what there are? Man, I hate galactic geography. Looks like it’s guess time again. Should I go high or low this time? Low, I think.
“ Three? Am I to understand, Mr. Klosmo, that you believe there are only three planets in the entire Milky Way galaxy? Your own solar system has eight all by itself. Nine if you count Pluto. Would you like to take another stab at it?”
Of course I wouldn’t. Problem is, when Professor Plutz asks a question like that, it sounds like you have a choice, but you really don’t. At least I know what the question is now, even if I don’t have a clue about the answer. Who knows… maybe I’ll get lucky. Let’s see—I know the space station has families from over two hundred different planets living aboard it, so there must be at least that many. Add in a few more here and there and I should at least be pretty close.
“Actually, Mr. Klosmo, there are over one hundred billion planets in our galaxy.”
That’s Dorn. I have no idea why he hates me so much, but at least he hasn’t stuffed me into my helmet lately. Not since Grimnee wadded him up in that ball of desks a couple months ago. Grimnee hates bullies.
And there’s that word again. “Genius.” And like I said, they aren’t using it the way they did when I first got here, when everybody thought I really was one. And why wouldn’t they? My parents are the top two scientists on the entire planet Earth. It only makes sense that their son would bump that up a notch and be even smarter, right? It’s only natural to assume that he would be what I like to call a Mighty Mega Supergenius. And I sure wasn’t going to be the one to let on any differently, especially since it made me a pretty big deal around school. I mean, people expected it.
But a guy can only pretend to be smart for so long, and now the cat’s out of the bag and my reputation’s taken a real nosedive. I mean, talk about your crash landing. Everybody knows I’m pretty average and, after that last answer, maybe not even that. That’s why I’m getting the other “genius” treatment. I’m not giving up hope, though. I’m sure my brainpower is going to kick in at some point. Well… pretty sure. Actually, I guess desperate wishing is more where I am at this point.
For now, though, maybe I can still save face.…
“Uh, I actually thought you meant inhabited planets, Professor.”
“If I had meant inhabited planets, Mr. Klosmo, I would have let you know as much by including the term ‘inhabited’ in the question.”
“Well, then I’d like to change my answer to one hundred billion.”
“And I’d like to retire to the silicon beaches of Shnurlor, Mr. Klosmo. But that isn’t going to happen, either. I suggest you spend less time daydreaming and more time studying if you wish to pass this class. It’s not like you’re a genius, you know.”
Well, that was fun. Nothing like a morning of embarrassing yourself in front of a couple classes to get the old digestive juices flowing. And it looks like I’m going to need every drop to process today’s lunch “special.”
You know, maybe I’m being too hard on myself. At least with Plutz’s class. Since it’s the last one before lunch, a lot of the kids were probably zoning out there at the end like they usually do. There’s a good chance nobody but Dorn was even paying attention to what was going on.
“How would you know, Zot? You’re not even in the class. And neither are you, Rand-El.”
“I heard about it from Gil.”
“I heard about it from Zot.”
“And I heard about it from the lunch ladies.”
“The lunch ladies? Wait. Spotch, you’re actually in the class.”
“I know, but I was zoning out there at the end like I usually do. It is the last class before lunch.”
So, now even the lunch ladies know about my intellectual failures. And they aren’t shy about passing it on. I guess when you’re famous for being a genius, you’re just as famous for being the guy who’s not. At least there’s less pressure now. It takes a lot of effort to fake being a genius. Not being one is pretty easy. A little too easy in my case.
“You know, guys, it’s really getting old being the nongenius genius.”
“Well, Kelvin, we all said your secret was safe with us. You’re the one who decided to tell the entire school about it. People don’t like to feel duped.”
“I know. But I couldn’t keep faking it forever. The pressure was driving me nuts. And I swear I started losing some hair. But I can’t spend the rest of my time here being the moron genius, either.”
“That’s why you need to do that one big thing, like we talked about the other day. Something amazing that you’ll be remembered for forever.”
“Yeah. Like when Rand-El accidentally fell down that garbage chute.”
“Hey, Gil! I was tripped! Besides, there’s no way anybody remembers that!”
“Speaking of that one big thing, how did it go in Coach Ed’s class? Rand-El said he had a foolproof plan.”
“Turns out no plan involving Rand-El is ever foolproof.”
“Isn’t that the truth. Everybody say hello to the Drifting Doofus.”
“Drifting Doofus. Funny!”
“ Vvvvvvt. Beeeeep.”
Today was a disaster, no doubt. But I really do think the guys are onto something. I just need to become famous for doing one superamazing, totally awesome thing! Something nobody’s ever seen or done before. Just hopefully not odor related, like Rand-El. All that “genius” junk would be a thing of the past. Well, at least until the real thing actually kicks in. Which it will. Someday. Right?
Finally! School never seems to fly by, but on days where you humiliate yourself it can last forever. I can’t wait to get back home and play with Lightyear for a while. But first Dad wants me to meet him down in his laboratory to help him carry some boxes back to our LIV space, so I head for the elevator.
He hasn’t allowed me back into the lab since that whole disaster with the robot. Which is totally unfair. Sure, we almost died from the cold, lack of oxygen, and giant robot hand lasers. But we also saved the whole, entire universe! Which would be really impressive… if anybody actually believed we did it.
I reach the elevator and push the down button. It’s always crowded in this part of the space station, so sometimes you have to wait for three or four full cars to pass you by before getting on. I sure hope that’s not the case this time. You know that whole chilling-out-with-Lightyear thing I mentioned? Forget it—suddenly that “special” I had for lunch has me thinking more about the bathroom right now. The elevator stops and the doors open. Turns out there’s good news and bad news. The good news is there’s only one person riding it. The bad news is…
I can think of fifty thousand things I’d rather do than get on that elevator. But that “special” in my gut makes the decision for me. “Uh… yeah,” I say, quickly stepping over a couple tentacles and into a sort-of-dry spot in the back corner.
“Where to?” my copassenger asks.
“Level L three,” I answer.
“L three? That’s where all the laboratories are. Are you sure you’re supposed to be down there?”
“My dad is head of the robotics department. I’m meeting him after school.” Just push the button, already, will ya? What’s the deal with this guy?
“Robotics?” he says. “I knew you looked familiar. You’re Professor Klosmo’s son, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” I tell him. “I’m Kelvin.” My stomach is starting to make some very alarming sounds. PUSH THE BUTTON!
“Ah, yes. Kelvin Klosmo—boy genius. Or should I say former boy genius?”
Oh, c’mon! Even this guy knows? I’m about to jump back off the elevator when a dripping tentacle reaches over to the control panel and presses L3. No sooner do the doors close than…
Holy egg rot, that had to be my worst one ever! This is so embarrassing. And I’m still stuck in here for six more levels. Hey, wait a minute! What if this ends up being the one big thing that makes me famous—the thing that everybody remembers forever? The Flatulent Fool. The Gassy Goof. No, no, no, no, no! This would be Rand-El times a thousand! I’ve got to nip this in the bud. I know—I could tell him I’m sick, which is sort of true anyway, and beg him not to tell anybody. Yeah, that might work. No grown-up would make fun of a sick kid, would they? I’m just about to apologize when…
The doors slide open and I claw my way out into the sweet, lifesaving recycled air of the corridor. I really dodged a bullet there, but only for a minute if I don’t find a bathroom. Fast.
Well, it’s about time I freed myself from that absurd asteroid! Two months stuck playing tea party with that gargantuan goofball was sixty days too long. Fortunately, I was able to escape by using parts from my disabled giant robot to create this magnificent handship, which I shall call my… um…
- Praise for Sci-Fi Junior High: Crash Landing:
- "Corny jokes, wacky high jinks, a supervillain bunny, and engaging illustrations keep the pages turning.... Wacky out-of-this-world fun."—Kirkus Reviews
- "Black and white illustrations...give Martin and Seegert's work the accessibility of a beginner's graphic novel and provide an extra punch to the fart jokes and wordplay this story thrives on. ... Overall, this is a funny take on middle school that strikes a chord closer to home than its intergalactic setting."—Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
- "More riotous high jinks on the high frontier."—Booklist
- Praise for Sci-Fi Junior High:
—Jake Marcionette, New York Times bestselling author of the Just Jake series
- On Sale
- Feb 20, 2018
- Hachette Audio