Tom Cantrell



The fourth wall barely exists as Vance Meteor and the crew of Juniper face threatening threats in this metafictional sci-fi parady extravaganza.

Captain Meteor, First Officer Flash Photon and Science Officer Dieter Quark journey into deep space all while arguing with the author about the plot, word choices, story conventions and page time. Aware they are characters in a novel, the characters are nonetheless determined to save the Earth, the entire galaxy from something like super bad.

As members of the Union of Galactic Harmony (UGH), the trio is on a space exploration mission to ‘where no one has gone previously.’ A freak mishap leaves them stranded on a giant space rock (or is it an asteroid?) There, in the course saving themselves, the uncover the answer to a mystery from UGH's past, and, an insidious threat from the past involving an enemy long thought vanquished and toaster robots. They also figure out whether it's a space rock or an asteroid. Spoiler alert: check the title.

This novel covers all the sci-fi stuff you'd expect. Space battles, robots, time travel, aliens, space ships, a cave, bleester dust. No wait, that's only in the deleted scenes so it's totally not cannon. Anyway, it's all here and more which is TOTALLY redundant.

Vance Meteor and the Giant Space Rock takes the model established by Douglas Adams, blends in the self-awareness of Deadpool and follows the sensibilities of Looney Tunes.

 Vance Meteor and the Giant Space Rock

Chapter 1

In the deepest reaches of space, on the undiscovered planet Nekanan, something irrelevant to this story was about to happen.

In a gentle glade, gigantic giraffe-like creatures foraged through the untamed wilderness. The beasts had no name as there was no intelligent life on Nekanan, but the majestic creatures had flourished for centuries on the abundant fruits and vegetables that sprang forth from the planet’s fertile soil. How an undiscovered planet with no intelligent inhabitants came to be named Nekanan is anyone’s guess.

There wasn’t a sound but, as a collective, the herd’s attention was drawn to the skies as Nekanan’s orange sun shone brighter than normal. The star’s rays turned to almost pure white before fading to red and then winking out. The giraffe-like creatures stared out into the approaching darkness and then died when their sun exploded.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the galaxy, nowhere even close to the exploding star, the good ship Juniper cruised through space.

What else would it be doing?

From his command chair on the bridge, Captain Vance Meteor of the Union of Galactic Harmony (UGH) rubbed his chin, spun his chair around and faced his crew.

Dieter Quark, of average height, short dark hair and thin build, worked at his science officer station. Every now and then Dieter pushed a series of buttons and scrunched up his face at the results. Flash Photon, muscular of build, thick blond hair and big chin, sat at the first officer station. He just sat there, staring out at the expanse of space.

Because it seemed appropriate, Vance assumed a captain’s tone “Crew, we will soon pass the borderline between explored and unexplored space.”

The good ship Juniper’s science officer promptly began pushing buttons on his wrist computer. “You are correct, Captain. In 27.5 seconds, we will cross over to where no one has ever gone previously. It will now be sooner than 27.5 seconds as time continues to pass.”

Vance nodded and rotated his chair back towards the main viewscreen. He adjusted a few dials on his control console and watched the stars rush by the speeding ship. Dieter looked up from his science station. “Captain? What do you think we will find out there?”

“Who knows?” Vance adjusted a few more dials. “But anything has to be better than our last assignment. I don’t think I could have taken one more day of studying gas bubbles on Resitrevda.”

A soft warning siren sounded on the bridge. Vance sat up just a little bit straighter. “Crew, that siren means we are mere seconds away from leaving explored space.” He was noticeably absent of breath.

Dieter checked his wrist computer. “Four seconds. Now three.”

Flash, Dieter and Vance all fell silent. The warning siren trailed off and even the blips and cleaks of the Juniper’s computer seemed to become less audible as the ship crossed into unexplored space. Several seconds of silence were broken as Flash quivered a bit in his chair and let out a gleeful sound. “Oh, I’m all tingly.”

Vance and Dieter both stared at Flash who continued to gaze out the viewscreen. Vance made a mental note to determine if “cleaks” was actually a word.

“Wow,” Flash continued. “I never knew it would be quite like this.”

Although he was rolling his eyes at Flash’s comment, Vance also felt a bit tingly about going where no one had gone previously.

“I can’t believe we are ‘where no one has gone previously,’” Flash’s voice dropped on the last six words in programmed mimicry of the UGH slogan. “It’s like where we were before, yet different.”

After examining the controls, Vance turned towards his science officer. “Science Officer Quark. Have we located any objects we should investigate?”

Dieter adjusted a dial or two. Maybe three. It’s hard to tell. “Scanning.”

Then, with a fitzing noise, the scanner went blank.

Vance looked at Dieter. “Did I just hear a fitzing noise?”

Frantically, Dieter adjusted the scanner controls.

“What did you do?” Vance wanted answers which is why he asked the question.

Dieter looked up. He had broken into a sweat. “I don’t know. I sent out a long-range scan and it went on the fritz.”

Flash cocked his head. “Wait, did you say ‘fritz’ or ‘fitz’?”

Dieter did a mental rewind on his previous statement, then fast forwarded back to the present moment because he went back too far. “The ship went fitz, but I said fritz.”

“OK. That makes sense. Because I remember Fritz.”

Fritz was Flash’s cat when he was a kid. This information is not important.

With a much louder fitzing noise, the Juniper’s main viewscreen went blank. Vance turned back toward the front of the ship and, with a series of fitzing noises, the remaining screens blinked out. Vance flipped open the panel on his command chair and punched the reset button. Nothing happened. He punched it again with the same result.

“Try pressing it,” Flash said.

Gently, Vance pressed the button and it still produced no discernable results.

Dieter wiped the sweat from his brow. “The whole ship is on the fritz. It’s giving me fits.”

Vance rubbed his chin and, falling back on his UGH space captain training, mentally went through an Action Option Checklist (AOC). He could:

·       Keep pushing the button

·       Ignore the problem and hope it goes away

·       Find some stopgap solution and then fix the problem

He punched the button one more time. “First Officer Photon, we are flying blind, please switch to the proximity view screens. Science Officer Quark, determine what is causing the system failure.”

Vance pressed the button one more time. Although the proximity screens weren’t nearly as powerful as the long-range sensors, at least he’d be able to see. Something thumped the ship.

“What was that?” Vance asked rhetorically. “Flash, I need those proximity viewscreens.”

Another something thumped the ship. Vance grabbed the control stick and tried to keep the ship on course although for all he knew he was flying into a star. Multiple objects, smaller than the previous ones but still worth noting, thumped the ship.



The front viewscreen flickered on. Even with just the proximity view it wasn’t difficult to see the problem. They were surrounded by rocks.

“Firgap,” Vance swore. The Juniper shuddered as a rock impacted against the craft with a resounding thump. “We are in a debris field.” Vance maneuvered the Juniper through the maze of spinning rocks. He took a turn and a barrage of rocks, both large and larger, slammed into the Juniper. Upon impact, the ship was flung from its trajectory causing the craft to careen and tumble through space.

“Condition red! Stabilizing.” Vance pushed, pulled and turned the control stick attempting to get command of the errant craft. Dieter tried to turn the computer off and back on again but it didn’t work. Flash stared out the proximity viewscreen which displayed a flickering swirl of space rocks and stars. Vance continued trying to regain control of the craft but this time he impelled, yanked and twisted the control stick. “Seal off damaged compartments, stabilize environment, compensate for loss of equilibrium, assess damage.” Vance wished there were some other word besides space rocks to describe space rocks. ‘Space stones’ sounds weird.

Dieter followed the commands. “There are just too many of them, captain.”

Vance gritted his teeth, swerving to avoid several large chunks of space rock. “Increase boosters, power to damaged area shields, batten down the hatches.”

Dieter began following the additional orders, paused, and with a confused look on his face, looked at his captain. “Button down the hatches?”

“No, batten,” Vance grunted. The Juniper just missed an explosive encounter with a space rock.

“Baton? Baton down the hatches?”

“Batten,” Vance yelled over the thumping of rocks against the ship. “Batten, batten, batten. B-A-T-T-E-N down the hatches.”

“Batten,” Flash murmured.

Dieter scratched his head. “Batten down the hatches?” Warning lights flashed as a small space rock bounced off the bow.


Flash continued staring out the viewscreen.

“But how?” Dieter shook his head. “What does it mean?”

“Figure- it- out-.” Vance barely avoided being sandwiched between two pancake shaped space rocks. Dieter began furiously pushing the buttons on his wrist computer. Flash grew hungry.

The results flashed on Dieter’s wrist computer. The results locked his face in uncertainty. “But captain. It means a piece of wood used for flooring. How can I do that with the hatches?”

“Not the noun form,” Vance screamed back. “The verb. The verb.”

Dieter again pushed the buttons on his wrist computer. His face, once locked in uncertainty, unlocked into an expression of relaxed understanding and knowledge. “I understand. You want me to fasten or secure the hatches.”

Flash stared out the viewscreen which is precisely what he’d been doing almost the entire time. A space rock knocked off the unsecured rear antenna. Vance pulled hard on the control stick. “Yes, that’s what I meant. Secure the hatches and the antennas.” Sweat dripped off his brow and left stains on his uniform which he had recently purchased from Space-Mart, $12.95.

Dieter did a mental inventory. “We do not have hatches though, except on the airlock, the loading bay and the escape hatch. They are sealed too, did it myself.”

Vance didn’t answer. He had just noticed the lack of an aft view due to the loss of the rear antenna. “Crew, we have a problem. I can’t tell what’s aft.”

“Oh, I know what aft means.” Dieter pushed a few buttons on his wrist computer. “It means the back or re-” His sentence stopped abruptly by the heart-stopping thump of a small jagged piece of space rock lodging into the stern of the ship. A brief surge caused Flash to blink and the ship’s computer went dark as the good ship Juniper lost power.