Tommy Tomorrow Earns His Junior Planeteers Robot Rebellion Merit Badge
by Tim Allen
Lesser Heroes: Original stories inspired by appalling tales from the Silver Age of Comics
Tommy Tomorrow was not happy. All year long, Tommy and the other members of his pack expected to attend the 57th Annual Junior Planeteers Jamboree and triumphantly accept numerous merit badges for being the best cadets in the whole wide Sol solar system. And so today, 13 year-old Tommy and the rest of Bear pack 1641 from Armstrong City, Luna, were indeed proudly marching around the parade grounds of Hawking colony. But in spite of that, Tommy Tomorrow was not happy. And it was all because of the big, bad, Wolf.
Hawking colony was a topsy-turvy world. People who grow up on a big planet, like Earth or Mars or Babylon Eridani, expect to live on the surface of their world. But Hawking colony was established by a consortium of hardscrabble prospectors who bought a slowly rotating, stone-and-metal asteroid provisionally named 2220 HK, and then struck it rich mining precious metals from the world they co-owned.
For years, the miners hollowed out the asteroid the way you’d core an apple, leaving behind a 200 kilometer wide cylindrical cavern rotating parallel to the asteroid’s axis. With the cavern spinning like the barrel of the Rotor ride at an amusement park, the colonists built a booming mining town, called “Hawking”, that sprawled across the inside wall of the cylinder, enjoyed one gee of artificial gravity, and was safe from cosmic radiation and collisions with other asteroids. That’s why Hawking colony was topsy-turvy. Its people lived inside their world, not on its surface.
However, the rough-and-tumble reputation of mining colonies was bad for business. So in a brilliant public relations move, Hawking colony offered to host the 57th Annual Junior Planeteers Jamboree. Which is how hundreds of bright-eyed cadets from all over the Sol solar system, including Tommy and Bear pack 1641, came to be marching in tight formation around the Hawking colony parade ground for the opening ceremony.
Each pack of Jr. Planeteers marched in ramrod-straight ranks, one after the other, in strict order according to their merit badge standing for the year. Tommy held his fair-haired head high, swung his bent arms like pendulums, and pounded his boots to the centuries-old rhythm of John Philip Sousa’s “Washington Post March,” while the holographic image of a windblown Planeteers flag rippled above the parade grounds. High overhead, a flight of Senior Planeteers wearing jet-packs and smudge pots drew complex patterns in the sky.
Tommy’s heart swelled with pride. He and the rest of his pack had worked hard for this moment. They had tried to be brave, resourceful, and honorable; the way every cadet should be. But more than that, they had tried to be the best Jr. Planeteers in the entire solar system. And yet, Tommy Tomorrow was not happy because his pack, Bear pack, was marching in the second rank behind the smug, haughty, and deceitful first-ranked Wolf pack.
It wasn’t petty jealousy that made Tommy’s hands ball up in fists of rage, or twist his mouth to one side in a pinched scowl, or knit his cornflower eyebrows into an amber slash above his shadowed eyes. It was his sense of fairness. Tommy Tomorrow was certain in his heart of hearts, despite having no way to prove his suspicions, that the big, bad, Wolf pack was a bunch of dirty, rotten, cheaters.
“Hut! Hut! One, two, three, four! Hut!” cried Pack Master George Dimbleby as he marched ahead of his Bear pack and set cadence along with the heroic marching music filling the air. Try as hard as he might to look stern, George’s long, narrow face couldn’t conceal how goodhearted and amiable he was. It was expensive to send kids so far to a Jamboree, and Luna didn’t have many kids to send anyway. But his cadets had worked extra hard all year long to fundraise for this trip. And now four of them were here with over 400 other Jr. Planeteers of various ages at the best goldarn Jamboree ever.
“Eyes right!” commanded George Dimbleby, then he and the rest of Bear pack sharply turned their heads in unison and snapped a crisp salute at the hologram of a huge red-and-gold Planeteers flag fluttering in a simulated breeze. Snare drums rattled, piccolos tweeted, and trumpets blared. George Dimbleby beamed.
With his head turned, Tommy could check that his pack—Joey Today, Becky Yesterday, and Milo Forever—was marching in perfect unison and keeping their rank as straight as a laser beam. Although his pack was the smallest in number to attend the Jamboree, they had worked the hardest—or so they believed—to earn their place at this year’s event. Tommy Cameron was the pack’s “Tomorrow”; that is, their leader and strategist who worried about the future. Joey Pascal was the pack’s “Today”; that is, their engineer who could practically build a starship out of a ball of twine, a battery, and a handful of paper clips; and who worried about the practical issues of the here and now. Becky Nyong’o was the pack’s “Yesterday”; that is, their historian, computer whiz, and information specialist, who wrangled with data from the past and present. And trusty Milo Hemsworth, who had been born in Earth’s gravity and was big and strong for his age, was the pack’s “Forever”; that is, their security chief, tactician, and “muscle” who could always be relied on in a pinch.
As the Bear pack marched, Joey Today whispered loud enough for his row to hear, but too softly for their pack master to make out over the marching music, “Look at them up there! The Wolf pack doesn’t deserve to be leading the procession.” Becky Yesterday rasped, “And even if we can’t prove what they did to us, I bet they did the same thing to Orca pack and Robin pack.” Orca pack was several rows back, even though they had been on track to win in half the time the same merit badges that Bear pack had earned last year. And Robin pack was nowhere to be seen in the dust cloud kicked up by hundreds of marching feet. “Why don’t we just pound ‘em?” Milo Forever asked matter-of-factly.
“Belay that kind of talk!” hissed Tommy, because that’s what the leader of a Jr. Planeteers pack should say. But he felt exactly the same way they did, which was why Tommy Tomorrow was not happy. He was his team’s “Tomorrow”, and was trying to be the best leader he could be: a peaceful one. And yet, would a good leader ignore an injustice?
Tommy made a decision. “All right, I’ll think about it,” he muttered in a low growl. “In the meantime, stand down.”
Pack Master George Dimbleby, seemingly oblivious to the shenanigans hatching behind him, commanded, “Eyes front!” Then he and his pack of very clever Jr. Planeteers, who were really not to be trifled with, silently marched past the rippling holographic flag and followed in the Wolf pack’s dusty wake.