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Zero Tolerance Meets the Alien Death Ray
    by David Lubar
Zero Tolerance Meets the Alien Death Ray
Artwork by Lance Card

My Uncle Shubert was passing through town, and had stopped at our house for a couple days. He's pretty cool for an adult. He takes me places and never treats me like a kid. As he was packing up his suitcase, I noticed a silvery tube on his bed.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Alien death ray," he said.

I checked his face to see if he was kidding. It was hard to tell. "Do you mean it's a ray that aliens use to kill people, or is it a ray that kills aliens?"

He shrugged. "Not sure. The guy who sold it to me wasn't very clear. But I liked the looks of it, and the price was right, so I bought it. Do you want it?"

"For real?"


"For keeps?"

"Definitely. It's all yours."

"Awesome!" I grabbed the tube and took a close look. It fit nicely in my hand, though it was heavier than I'd expected. It was solid at one end, and hollow at the other, with a single clear glass button near the solid end. I pointed the tube out the window and pushed the button. Nothing happened.

"Maybe it needs batteries," I said.

"Maybe it only shoots aliens," he said. "Or maybe only aliens can shoot it."

"Either way, thanks."

"Sure. That's what uncles are for."

I took the alien death ray with me to school the next day. I showed it to my friend, Veejay, as soon as I got to class.

"What's that?" he asked.

"Alien death ray," I told him.

Before he could say another word, a hand swooped down over my shoulder and snatched the tube away. "Young man, you are in a lot of trouble," my teacher, Mrs. Peswitch, said. "You know we have a zero-tolerance policy about weapons."

"But . . ." I tried to protest that it wasn't a real weapon, but she yanked my arm hard enough to pull me off my feet, and dragged me down the hall. The whole time, she kept muttering about all the "young, violent hooligans who were wrecking the school."

The next thing I knew, I was in the Principal Mabler's office. "This is very serious," he said. "Bringing a weapon to school. I'm shocked."

"It's not real," I said.

"That doesn't matter. We have a zero tolerance policy. It doesn't matter if it is a toy, or even a drawing of a weapon. Any weapon gets you a five day suspension. I'm sure your parents will agree that this has to be done. It's the only way to keep us safe."

He reached for the phone.

"Please . . ." I'd never been in any kind of big trouble. This was so bad, I could feel my knees trembling. Then my whole body started to tremble.

"I'm sorry. No exceptions. Not even --"

Whatever he said next was drowned out by the roar. It was like twenty fighter jets flew overhead at once. Then the roar grew louder. The whole room shook. Books bounced off the shelf behind Principal Mabler, and his diploma fell off the wall.

I raced to the window. A space ship, round and huge and filled with flashing lights, landed in the front of the school. As I stared, the hatch opened, and a whole bunch of creatures raced out. They were big -- maybe six or seven feet tall. They had enormous heads with four eyes. They had four arms, each carrying something that I figured had to be a weapon.

Principal Mabler opened his mouth, but all that came out was a gasp as his eyes rolled back and he passed out. He flopped to the floor. Luckily, he had a thick rug in his office.

I grabbed the alien death ray from the desk and raced back to the window. I aimed the ray at the largest alien and pressed the button.

I hope this works.

It sure did. I nearly got knocked on my butt as a searing beam of energy shot from the tube. The alien sizzled for an instant, like a burger that had just been dropped on a red-hot grill, then vanished in a puff of green smoke.

I stared shooting the rest of them. Luckily, I'd played enough video games, and watched enough cartoons, to know what sort of stance to use with this kind of weapon. I cleared out all the aliens I could see. But some of them had broken into the school. I ran out of the office, and hunted down at the rest of them.

When I was sure I'd gotten all of the aliens, I returned to the office. There was one last alien in there. He was holding the principal from behind, and had some sort of gun pointed at his head.

"Help me," Principal Mabler said.

"Zero tolerance?" I asked. "No exceptions?"

"That would be silly," he said. "There are always exceptions."

I fried the last alien, and then put the ray in my pocket. I headed toward the door so I could get back to my classroom before the morning announcements. But I turned back a moment later. "Can I have a late pass?" I asked. "Mrs. Peswitch loves to give out detention."

"Well, according to the rules, tardiness based on disciplinary actions isn't excusable." Principal Mabler said.

"So I'm going to get a detention?" I asked.

"I'm afraid so."

"Oh no! Aliens!" I pointed out the window.

Principal Mabler let out a squeal and dove to the floor. Then he crawled to the window and peeked over the sill. "What! Where!"

"My mistake," I said. "I could have sworn it was more aliens. It must have been a cloud or a duck or something. So, anyhow, about that late pass?"

"No problem." He got off the floor, grabbed his pad, and started writing.

"Thanks." I took the pass and headed back to homeroom. I thought about running down the hall, but I knew that was against the rules. And some rules actually almost made sense.

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