Louie slammed his paw on the button
with four dots.
The panel lit up, the video panel showed the lab
outside, and Louie
could feel the energy from some unknown engine vibrate up through the
floor. Then he hit the button with the bird icon and with a
were off. The amazed face of the two humans briefly zipped by
screen and then there was nothing but a wall in front of them.
Louie scanned the control panel and saw a button that looked like a turtle--a little circle with a shell over it. "Shields!" cried Louie as he smacked that control. There was a brief hum and not a moment too soon. With a thunderous crash they collided with the wall... and went right through it. On the display a few chunks of debris fell free and the starry sky stretched out in front of them.
"How'd you do that?" asked Newport as he picked himself off the floor.
"I jus' figgered that this is space pod #4, so the four dots meant 'main power.' The little bird button told the machine to find hummers," explained Louie. "I guess we're a-goin’ huntin’."
The space pod zipped to and fro over the landscape, like a hound hunting for a scent. For what seemed like hours they flitted about, although after a bit Newport realized they were moving in a regular search grid.
Then, just when the adrenaline from their escape was wearing off, a familiar neighborhood came into view on the display screen.
"Guess all the hummingbirds are safe in the East Mountains except for Lightfeather." commented Newport. "Good thinking, Louie. Hunting the only hummer in town was a great way to get home."
Despite their speed, the space pod carefully maneuvered into the yard, slid under the Wisteria, and landed on the porch a few inches from Lightfeather, who was perched in her torpor on Big Schlepp's paw. Newport pulled on the red lever by the ramp and the space pod opened its door to the Home Front Brigade.
"Whew!" exclaimed Louie, "Am I ever glad that's over."
Behind Big Schlepp and the rest of the patrol leaders, the first light of dawn was breaking over the mountains.
As Newport and Louie descended the space pod's ramp to the cheers of the Brigade, they saw Roberta, Maddie and Jenny flanking the alien. It didn't look nearly so scary by the soft light of dawn.
"Space Rangers, reporting for duty, Sir!" snapped Newport as he drew up to attention with a crisp salute. Louie tried to emulate him, but his lack of innate lion nature left his stance a little lackluster.
"Welcome back, you two," said Big Schlepp. "I was about to report you AWOL," he said, almost with a chuckle. "We'd better call back the search parties. Zeb, hop to it and catch up with Big Brown Bear's patrol. They won't have caught a 12th Street bus yet, it’s too early."
The zebra cantered off towards the hole under the fence by the big yellow yarrow. Luck for him he was a small stuffed zebra, so he could climb right under the fence. The soft clip-clop of his padded hooves quickly disappeared as Zebulon Zebra headed across the front lawn and up the street.
"Where have you two been, joy-riding around in that thing?" asked Travel Schlepp.
"Back tuh CENT. We left 'em a new window, " replied Louie in his New Orleans drawl. "An’ then we’s a-went huntin' hummin' birds " he added with a wink.
Louie and Newport then gave their report followed by a briefing by Maddie, Jenny and Roberta. At the conclusion of all their adventures, Herr Professor Bear observed, “Das is clar—der Humans sind mit klienen Vogeln, small birds ge-interested. Und dieser Kerl sagt nichts, this fellow says nothing but ‘Nice.’ Ich glaube, I believe der alien knows more than it is telling us und das ist der Schlüssel, the key.”
Maddie added, “Slimefoot there seems obsessed with ‘nice.’ I don’t think it understands the word… maybe not even the concept.”
The alien nodded its three tentacled eyes in some weird sort of agreement.
“Herr Professor Bear,” began Big Schlepp, “you are our foreign language expert, and Roberta speaks Chinese. I want you two to work with the alien. Try to find some common ground. Learn what it’s doing and why it’s helping those humans. Find out why it keeps saying ‘nice’.”
He continued, “Let’s stand down from action stations. Call in your patrols. I want an around the clock guard on Lightfeather. Keep our visitor under guard inside and tie down that space pod. No one else is going for a ride today!”