Hello Mrs. Yates 3rd Grade Class!

Commander Steve is dead. You know what? I probably should have sugarcoated that a bit. You kids enjoy the weekend? Bet Mrs. Yates gave you extra math homework. What a bummer! Speaking of bummers, Commander Steve is dead.

Stop screaming. It’s hurting my ears. Quite frankly, I don’t even understand why so many of you were smitten with ol’ Commander Steve. So he taught you a few knots and some fancy new words. Big deal. Here’s a word he didn’t teach you: cannibalism! C-A-N-N-I-B-A-L-I-S-M. That’s what we’ve been driven to up here on Spacecraft 772. It’s also the reason why you don’t see your “friendly neighborhood commander” sitting before you today. Confused? I’m not surprised; you are enrolled in a public elementary school. I’m sure Mrs. Yates would be willing to clarify if pressed. She’s weak.

Look, I’ll level with you: I don’t have kids, I don’t like kids and I don’t know how to speak with kids. But what I do know is that we’re doomed up here. DOOMED! Communication with Houston was lost shortly after I ripped all those wires out of the wall. Man, you should have seen the faces of the flight crew! Heck, go to the NASA website. Chances are there’s webcam footage. It’s totally worth three minutes of your time.

But back to the point. As you can imagine, this “incident” resulted in some crew members liberally tossing around the phrases “psychotic snap” and “SUBDUE HIM!” So I just did what any of you would in this scenario: I crammed a dozen packets of space food into my underpants, dove into the nearest exposed ventilation shaft and became a ghost on this tin coffin. Gotta’ say, it worked pretty well for a few weeks. Gave the crew some good scares and saw our female co-pilot undress. But the need for water brought me back out into the open again.

The crew locked me up, probably rightfully so, but not before I jettisoned every crucial tool out the airlock and into space. Goodbye, hopes of getting home—am I right, kids?!

Well, with the bad comes the good, yin and yang, so to speak. I was certain that my reign of terror was over. But after cutting off the cords tied around my wrists with a rusty piece of scrap metal and taking off the black sack on my head, I realized that my colleagues had foolishly trapped me in one of the two communication bays on this shuttle. And that’s where you kids come in. Houston may have been out of the picture, but our video transmission with your 3rd grade class was still fully operational. Junior Explorers, if you wouldn’t mind skipping recess today, I could really use your help on a top-secret mission. Sounds fun, right?

Here’s the plan: I’m going to set a small fire on board this space shuttle. Don’t worry, I kind of know what I’m doing. Then I’m going to stab myself a few times. Nothing severe, just enough to draw attention. As mentioned earlier, the crew thinks all lines of communication are down.

Jokes on them, though. After I end this transmission, your class should immediately call Spacecraft 772 back. Lights will signal throughout the ship. Stay on the line until that dumb Cosmonaut Vladimir Illyanovich picks up. Pretend the signal is weak and that you are breaking up. Make sure that only the following words are heard: emergency, fire, communication bay, he’s gone crazy, unlock door. If that gullible Ruskie is as dumb as I think he is, he’ll take the bait.

Realistically, that’s all you need to know. But considering the significance of your role in this plot, I feel you are entitled to full-disclosure. Naturally, this information is confidential. DO NOT WARN THE REST OF THE CREW. I’m looking at you, Bobby—you are a known tattletale.

If all goes according to plan, the cosmonaut will stupidly open the cabin door where I am trapped causing a slight change in pressure. The flames should grow. At that exact moment, I will puncture the canister of pure oxygen I am currently cradling, which will cause a massive explosion that will rip a hole in the side of our spacecraft and suck the remaining astronauts out into the horrible void of space. In other words, this will be a win-win. I will kill the crew and you, well, I’m not really sure what you get out of this. Mrs. Yates, when this is all over, would you mind giving the students gold star stickers for their ability to take directions? If it were up to me, I’d give you all ice cream. But the current state of the education system in America doesn’t allow much flexibility when it comes to financial spending. Stickers will have to do.

Good luck, young adventurers. And remember: if you stay in school and work hard, you too can travel into space one day and kill your fellow astronauts.

This is Payload Specialist Randy Shepard signing off for the last time. LOCK AND LOAD!