Thunk, draaaag… Thunk, draaaag...
- Robby observed as the boy folded up his rope. The boy in question had been practicing his knots and lashings, because after all, he was a Boy Scout.
Robby had watched the entire routine with a scowl. He knew all of the knots and lashings by heart; indeed, he knew all about rope, and don't try to tell him that he couldn't and didn't because he was a tree, because he did,
and he was.
Robby was a young maple tree that lived in one of the many communities all over the world that he and his kin called home:
Robby lived in the front half of this particular yard. The other plants that lived in his yard were Uncle Elm, Mother Maple, Papa Pine, Susie Flower, the four Bush sisters, a garden-full of garden-ish plants, Old Ragged, Clyde, and Johnny Elm.
Johnny Elm was Robby's best friend, as well as his cousin (by tree standards, of course). Johnny had first place as the oddball of the neighborhood. "Why is this?" you ask? Johnny lived up in the gutter on the garage. After a short time of knowing him, Robby figured that all that gutter-goop must be getting to him. To get from Robby to Johnny you had to start at the front door, walk down the path leading to the left (from Robby's point of view), turn right, and look up. Robby lived in a pot, right outside the front door. No, he had not been planted there; Mother Maple lived right across the driveway, so Robby had a clear shot for the spot. Johnny's situation was stranger because Uncle Elm lived on the opposite side of Old Ragged (that's straight out from the door and to the left). So in order for Johnny to have gotten there, he would have had to either clear the house, or navigate around it.
I know this chapter is confusing so far, but trust me; it'll get better when I finish introducing everyone and everything to you.
<Thunk, draaaag. Thunk, draaaag.>
Robby looked up. Johnny was swaying a little and parroting the sound of the rope. He was quite good at it, too.
<What's he going on about?> Mother Maple asked, she was always slightly annoyed at Johnny and his parroting.
<Rope.> Robby replied.
<Why?> Mother Maple asked.
<No reason.> Said Johnny.
<Then why do it?>
<Why not do it?> Johnny jeered. He was enjoying himself.
<Because she's bigger than you are, little Johnny.> Uncle Elm said.
<...> Johnny thought about it, He said.
Everyone in the yard had to laugh at that.
Just then two people rushed out of the house and into the big blue truck on the other side of the street.
There was a short silence until Papa Pine said,
<Must be Wednesday.>
Johnny burst out laughing again.
Whatever it was that was funny or why, you can bet that it was as unfathomable as the unfathomable mind of Johnny Elm.
That night the meeting ran a little late. When they actually did get home it was about 8:30 instead of the usual 8:00.
That said, the crickets certainly didn't mind. The undaunted little fellows went on singing their little tune.
Creeeeeeeee cree cree cree cree creeeeeeeee cree cree cree cree whizizizizizizizzz whizizizizizizizzz creeeeeeeee cree cree cree cree...
And who was Johnny to miss such an opportunity? He was cree-ing and whizzing right alongside them. You would think Mother Maple wouldn't like such a thing one bit. However, Johnny was a rather talented singer, and he had soon lulled the yard to sleep.
Before he drifted off, Robby noticed a streak of light flash across the sky,
A shooting star! He thought tiredly, Make a wish... With that, he nodded woozily off into Groggyland, where he was met with dreams of crickets and stars...
The next day there was murmur going around. From what Robby could gather, (which was more than what others could, since he could see the TV through the storm door) the leaders of the humans had issued a lookout, telling their subjects to "report anything strange" and "be cautious". Overall there seemed to be an air of uncertainty.
Of course, this was coming from the secretive leaders of the humans, and, more specifically, those who lead the United States of America.
The plants, however, felt not the humans' uncertainty. They had a much more efficient and all revealing messaging system, known as GAGCMS (Grass And Ground Cover Messaging System). The way this worked was via a verbal shockwave. Say a dangerous fungus was introduced in Alaska. The Grass/ Ground Cover/ Seedlings/ Coconuts/ Any other mobile seed or spore (yes, non-poisonous/ non-hazardous fungi are part of the community) would call <DANGER! FUNGUS ATTACK! FUNGUS ATTACK!!!!> And all the other messengers would pass it on until everybody in every possible place knew of the danger.
Today, the message that was delivered was a little bit more startling.
<DEVASTATION! DOOM IS COMING! RAIDERS FROM THE SKY!!!!>
Robby relayed his connection to the shooting star,
<West!> He called. <West!> Referring to the direction it had been going. He was tempted to think that he'd definitely seen blinking lights on it, come to think of it, but he shoved it away. No, he hadn't. He was disgusted at himself for considering such a thought. It was from those thoughts that rumors are sprung. Simply imagining them is one thing, sharing it is another.
He could already hear his info reverberating away. He was proud of himself for actually listening to one of Old Ragged's Anecdotes (which he was pretty sure were made up anyway).
The boy came out among the commotion (his name was Andy, by the way). He rushed away down the road, a familiar rumble growling away in the distance.
rrr rrr rrrrrrRRRRRRRRRRRR
<Think he's gonna make it?> Robby asked. Johnny and Robby had been playing this game for two years now. Each day, they would place bets on whether or not Andy would make it to the bus in time. Robby had the convenience of being able to see the action. Johnny couldn't due to the tree across the street. Still, Johnny's hearing put him on par with Robby.
<I don't think he's going to make it. He'll have to make to the next stop in time.>
Robby laughed, <I win.>
<What do you mean 'I win'? You can't possibly have won!>
<He made it on the bus before the next stop.>
Johnny listened, the sound of the door closing confirming Robby's report. <Alright, fine. You win.>
That afternoon, Andy came home with a slow, heavy stride.
<He's limping...> Robby observed.
Johnny came back from his little world which apparently had something to do with swaying and whistling, the latter of which trees formerly weren't able to do.
<Is he? How odd...>
<What could have happened to him?> Susie asked.
<The usual.> Robby answered, startled at her sudden concern in their affairs.
<How is 'the usual' odd?>
<That's not what's odd.> Johnny said between whistles, he seemed to be rebelling against the laws of nature by getting quite good at whistling without a mouth ("Pffft, this is coming from an author who has trees that talk without mouths!" yeah, yeah, I have an explanation for that. <Notice how they talk like this?> The plants communicate using a weak form of telepathy that is perceived as very faint for us, usually "inaudible" (for lack of a better word). Why? Think about it like this: if you lived in a world were everybody whispered all the time. You would get so used to the quiet that it would seem the standard for loud. When you came back it would sound very loud because you were so used to the quiet. Our minds have evolved to communicate on the verbal level, one of the loudest forms. We have become so used to it that our quiet receptors are barely active anymore. Your reminder: "He seemed to be rebelling against the laws of nature by getting quite good at whistling without a mouth.").
<Then... What... Is?> Said Susie. She seemed to be straining to understand him.
"Well, the usual involves getting "booked" once or twice, called names, pushed, shoved, or occasionally beaten up." Robby reported. Andy had almost reached the house by now.
<Whenever that last one comes in, he usually isn't just limping.> Johnny continued.
<It's usually a lot worse.> Robby picked up.
<Broken arm, broken leg, sprained ankle.> Johnny rattled.
<Either the big guys are letting up or-> Robby began.
<The big guys have been out bigged.> Johnny finished.
Andy hopped up the stoop and limped inside. After a longer time than usual, he reemerged with the rope. It was just after 7:00 by then, and the crickets were just as noisy as before. He slowly, carefully, sat down. He took the rope, and tied a timber hitch around the post next to him, opposite of the one opposite of Robby. He went around the back of the post, looped it around itself six times, and pulled it through.
Robby nodded in consent. This was correct. This was normal. Something wasn't. Something was off. He was missing a piece to the puzzle. He stared at the empty hole in his mental jigsaw. It was a mess of crickets, Andy's humming, Johnny's whistling, and a squirrel's chattering. He looked around. He looked around again. He turned a circle. He looked up, then down, and then he thought, Maybe the answer is not something that can be seen...
So he listened instead. He listened again. He listened in a circle. He listened up, then down, and then he thought, All I hear is the crickets, Johnny's whistling, a squirrel and Andy's... His thought trailed off. He checked. He double checked. He checked in a circle. He checked up, then down, and then he thought, They're all the same song!
He was right. Andy, the crickets, the squirrel, they were all following the same tune as Johnny's whistling.
Robby searched for a solution. Coincidence? No. Not likely. Crickets usually don't break tune. Could they possibly be connected? Very possibly, yes. But how?
He decided to test his theory. He tried to communicate with Andy the way he would to Johnny. Soon he realized it wasn't working. Then he remembered that humans spoke using words, not thoughts as the trees did. He set about devising a way to make a word. The answer that came to him turned out to be very simple: Think the word. How was this different from what happened naturally? The trees' telepathy is easier to relate to the Chinese language. Instead of saying "Hi" they plug in a thought symbol of "Hi". The thought symbols are basically a mess of ideas that represent a sentence or a word. What Robby needed to do, was present the idea of the word itself rather than the idea of what it represents.
First, he needed a word to think. He chose "Hello", which he had seen the humans use as a greeting.
"Hello." He thought awkwardly.
Andy looked down from his rope. "Since when can you talk?"
Johnny stopped whistling in surprise. <Since when can you talk?>
<Since now.> Robby replied. And then a little unsteadily, "Since... Now."
The Pied Piper of the Midwest
Chatter chatter chatter chatter!
<Chatter chatter chatter chatter!> Johnny replied. Johnny was accompanied in his gutter by the same Squirrel from the day before. Lacking the mental capacity to communicate with humans, instead he had taken up communicating with animals. It was simple. Animals responded just fine to the influence of Johnny's thoughts. The catch was learning to simplify for them. Johnny was perfectly happy doing so, and was delighted at the new friends he had made. His squirrel friend was named Ronald. He was very intelligent for a squirrel and ran errands for Johnny sometimes. In fact, it was very much a mutual symbiosis.
Johnny's other friends were the crickets. He liked to whistle along with them, even though it's usually them whistling along with him. He even knew of a badger that lived across the street that nobody had ever new existed before.
That day, Andy came home with another boy from school. His name was Jeremy. Jeremy was lean, and had a long nose, where Andy wasn't particularly fat or thin, but had glasses upon his slightly round-ish nose.
As they approached the house, neither of them looked very happy. As they passed Robby, Andy said hello. Robby had become rather good at English. He spoke the loudest whisper he felt comfortable with.
"Talking tree!" Jeremy exclaimed matter-of-factly.
"Oh that's just... Um..."
"Robby." Robby offered.
They sat down next to Robby. Andy relayed what they had learned at school.
"The government sent out an emergency notice telling everyone to watch they're back and expect to be attacked."
"Take a shot of this, and give some to your parents. You'll need it if you want to survive the attack."
Andy went in for his rope and the shot. When he returned he sat down and began to tie a square knot.
"You still haven't told me who-"
A large, circular shadow loomed all around them. Everyone slowly looked up. There was a big loomy circle dominating the bright blue sky. Four beings appeared on the curb of Andy's lawn. Each of them was tall and had leaf blower looking things on their backs. They had green hair. In fact, it almost looked like grass there on their heads.
Jeremy sprang up and went to confront them. Andy followed after, carrying his rope.
While one would expect more formal speech in this kind of situation, Jeremy simply said, "Go away!"
The aliens responded by aiming their leaf blowers at him. One of them laughed and blew his blower at the curb. Immediately the curb began to be eaten away by some unseen force.
Jeremy stood firm, Andy wavered slightly.
Jeremy laughed back. "You think you can defeat us with such puny technology?" He concluded his statement by pointing a finger gun at them. The aliens didn't look very sure of themselves, but lowered their leaf blowers anyway.
Robby took advantage of the distraction to think of something.
<Johnny! Help them!>
<Already on it.>
Robby felt helpless. There was nothing he could do to help. He couldn't even move to stand with them. Then a thought struck him. He looked it over. He looked it over again. Then he agreed.
<Maybe the reason that trees can't move... Is because no tree... Has ever tried.>
He closed his eyes and took a soul stirring breath. He summoned up every bit of will power he could find within himself. Movement? But, that would mean we wouldn't be here anymore! We have to be here! We can't! We won't! We couldn't possibly...
There it was. The slightest twitch. A pause. There it was again. Again. And again. Then his eyes flew open and he stopped creeping forward. He backed off from the edge.
<Papa! Papa, look at me! Papa, you need to move!>
<What do you mean move?>
<I mean move!>
Meanwhile, Jeremy's plan was failing.
"Why don't you show us just how powerful you're weapon really is?" One of the aliens said cautiously.
Andy glanced surreptitiously at Jeremy. Surprisingly, Jeremy's look hadn't changed.
"BLAM!" He shouted.
The aliens flew into a frenzy; each of them made an attempt to dodge whatever it was that was being fired at them. In a flash, Jeremy hurled a rock at the back of one that had hit the dirt, knocking him out. The aliens opened their eyes and, seeing their "dead" comrade, backed off. All but one, that is. He laughed at the trick and said.
"Very wise, small one. Unfortunately, I am not as easy to fool as the fools I choose to work with." He readied his blower, but never got a chance to fire. Johnny let out an angry growl, and the alien's attention was veered away for a crucial second. Then one of them cried out in pain.
"It's got my leg! Get it off! Get it off!"
One of the aliens turned to see the badger snarling and trying to bite off the other's leg. He aimed his blower but again, he never got a chance to fire. Johnny's growl faded into a chatter.
The chatter was echoed from within Papa's pines. Out of the pointy shroud flew Ronald, right onto the alien's face.
"Arg! It's on my face! Get it off! Get it off!"
The first alien was unsure of what to do. He was looking back and forth from his allies to Jeremy in a frenzied confusion. At last he decided to try and fire again.
Andy whirled a make-shift lasso onto the nozzle of the blower, and tugged it away. Jeremy wound up for a swing, causing the alien to raise his arms in front of his face, and kicked him. The alien fell to the ground.
The second alien succeeded in knocking the badger loose and had nearly dislodged Ronald, but he only succeeded in transferring the courageous squirrel to his own face.
"Yow!" he cried.
The first alien sprang up, slipping the rope off his blower as he did so. With a tremendous whoosh he discharged a powerful blast of devouring force at Jeremy. Jeremy stood, unaffected by the onslaught.
"Eh?" The alien said. "Well if that won't work, than this certainly will!" He drew out an overly decorated gun with flashing lights.
If I'm going to move it's going to have to be now. Papa thought,If Robby can do it, than so can I... He delved deep into his being, mustering every piece of will he had. Slowly and steadily shaking off the ancient stiffness that his people had shared for centuries.
There was an audible groan as roots that had never seen the light of day forced their way up through the ground; the earth shuddered and split in their path. Then, with a mighty roar, they broke free, entwining the aliens in their grasp.
Slowly, all around them, every tree and bush and flower began to shudder and shake. The human race now had another ally, and quite a powerful one at that, to fight alongside them in the defense of the earth.
The aliens disappeared, presumably to their ship, which flew away, without another word of argument, to whence it came.
Jeremy turned to Andy. "Coming?"
"Gather your things, then. We should leave soon."
Andy hurried back into the house, setting his rope down on the stoop. When he came back out he had a small green plastic pot. He knelt down next to Robby and said, "I figured you might want to come with." and transplanted him. Robby was glad it had a hole in the bottom; that was the only thing that had allowed him to move.Andy picked up Robby and his rope, and hurried back over to Jeremy. Johnny chattered and Ronald hopped down onto Jeremy's shoulder.
"Let's go." Jeremy said, and off they went, dashing in the direction the Aliens' ship had gone.
<Have fun...> Johnny called after them ominously.
We're Off to Save the World
Jeremy and Andy were on the first true flying saucer chase, and all the while they were smiling their heads off. Jeremy could only keep up with Andy because Andy had to not drop Robby. Robby was smiling too. He had never traveled this fast before- he found it exhilarating. Ronald chattered at everything green in sight- he felt it was his job. Until they had cleared the neighborhood he had been leaping from tree to tree alongside them.
Their destination was the local airport. In a few minutes they arrived only to find out that all the planes were grounded.
"Now what?" Andy asked.
"What of it?" Jeremy said.
"I believe the planes being grounded works better." Robby said.
"If the planes are grounded wouldn't it be breaking the law to-?"
"Well, yes, but we're saving the world. We have clearance to do whatever we need to do in order to carry out our mission. Especially since we're not enforcers."
"Where did you hear that?"
"Are you telling me you've never seen a super hero show?"
"That's just a show."
"How do you know? Maybe there really is a law like that." Robby put in.
"Then why have I never heard of it?"
"Because nobody's ever needed to save the world before."
Jeremy hurried up to the staff at the metal detector. Andy hesitantly followed after.
"Hi, we're students from South Middle School. We're working on a project about airplanes, and we were wondering if you had any planes with guns." Jeremy said without any hesitation at all. It was like he'd been born to save the world and had thought up a plan for every possible scenario.
The staff looked at each other and shrugged. "I think so." One of them said.
"May we come and see it? We're researching how plane guns work."
"Uh, yes I believe that's ok." Jeremy and Andy went through, squirrel and maple tree and all, to the specified plane, and climbed aboard.
Jeremy hopped to the cockpit. He rummaged around until he found an instruction booklet. He read how to work the plane and the guns. Then he came back and knelt down next to Ronald.
"Ok, your job is to go up to that big switch we saw and open the doors. Understand?"
Ronald gave an exaggerated nod.
"Good, now go, boy!"
Ronald leaped out of the hatch and dashed across the hangar towards the switch. It wasn't long before one of the guards said:
"Hey, what's that squirrel doing here? Somebody catch it and take it outside!"
All of the guards mobilized to capture the intruder. On the other side of the low wall separating the hangar from the airport, one of the boys had spotted Ronald. This started up a big ruckus among the other children in the crowd, who all gathered at the wall to watch.
"Hey, look at that squirrel!"
"Aw, he's so cute!"
"Look how fast he's running!"
"The guards are trying to catch him!"
"He's headed for the switch!"
"Go, squirrel, go!"
This caught on and soon all of the kids were chanting; "Go squirrel go! Go squirrel go!"
One of the guards dove at Ronald. He leapt up in the air, bouncing on the guard's head and continuing towards his goal. Ronald had the determination of an athlete going for the Olympic gold.
"Go squirrel go! Go squirrel go!"
Another guard got in Ronald's path, swooping his hand down to pick him up. Ronald bit the hand, causing it to fling him up into the air.
"Go squirrel go! Go squirrel go!"
He landed on one of the planes' wings and bounded across the metallic surface, producing a tatter tatter tatter sound.
"Go squirrel go! Go squirrel go!"
He leapt from plane to plane, the guards scrambling for ways to reach him.
"Go squirrel go! Go squirrel go!"
He flew through the air, catching on the switch and bringing it down. A rock thrown by a guard connected with the switch, causing it to snap off.
"Go squirrel go! Go squirrel go!"
He recovered quickly from his surprise and sprang up and away just in time to dodge a guard lunging at him.
"Go squirrel go! Go squirrel go!"
He saw the plane his partners were in slowly moving forward. He sprang onto the wheel of a plane, scurried up, and bounded back to where he came from.
"Go squirrel go! Go squirrel go!"
He leapt to the ground and dashed back towards the plane, right through a guard's legs.
Andy, who had been watching from the door the entire time, readied his rope and tried to think of what to do with it. First, he tied a timber hitch (used for tying up horses) to the leg of a seat next to him. Second, he strung the rope like a belt through his belt loops and fastened it with a bowline knot (used to tie your harness onto your rope in rock climbing). Third, he cast the remainder of the rope out the door, stretching a good 20 feet or so. Ronald clutched the rope tightly as Andy pulled him in.
"Go squirrel go! Go squirrel go!"
The plane began to pick up speed. Soon it took off, accompanied by the kids' wild cheers.
Andy fell out of the plane, surprised by the sudden weight change. Luckily he was a scout, and scouts are prepared. To tell the truth, this was exactly what he had expected. So, as he dangled out of the door like a rock climber preparing to repel down a cliff, he was entirely prepared to keep looking up, despite the fact that his shoelace was untied.
He reeled Ronald in. Once the squirrel made contact with his arm it flared to life again and scurried up into the plane.
Andy took a deep breath. This was going to be tough. He gently released the rope, slowly and carefully. Then he caught the other end and made a loop. He tossed it into the plane, aiming for the handle to the other door. He felt it catch and tugged himself in, grabbing the handle and sliding the door shut as he did so.
He let out his breath, and set about untying himself.
"Now everyone's an action hero except me." Robby said. He'd been having so many new experiences today. While it was fun, he wished that the next one would wait for him to get over the last one.
Gordon the Saint Bernard
Johnny and Jeffrey (the badger) were fairing well against the aliens' attacks. Maybe it was the stray dog they had befriended. His name was Gordon, and he was a Saint Bernard, and a larger than average one at that. While he was a little intimidating, he was very friendly and assessed the situation accurately and acted promptly.
Jeffrey and Gordon were both injected with one of Jeremy's shots. While Andy's dad wasn't exactly sure how it worked, it did. He also discovered that his house was somehow immune to the blowers. The reason for this can be explained in six words: Johnny is older than he looks. When he completed his germination stage, his resources were limited. To make up for his low quantity of nutrients, Johnny gave growth priority to his roots instead of his stem. It took him five years to grow tall enough before the trees were allowed to socialize with him (trees have a rule where they can only socialize with trees that are tall enough to be considered permanent). By this time, Johnny had literally become one with the house. His roots extended from his stem to the foundation of the house, and mighty roots they were. In f act, the house could probably be bombed and take very little damage. All due to Johnny's reinforcement.
Johnny's oneness with the house was the main reason for its immunity. The aliens' blowers worked like flame-throwers, except instead of flame they blew nanobots. The nanobots were programmed to overlook anything containing chlorophyll. The aliens, too, were unaffected because of their "hair", which was actually a symbiotic grass that lived on their heads.
<Roof!> Johnny called. He couldn't believe that dogs were the only type of animal that barked like that. In his opinion, every animal should get the opportunity to do so.
"Roof!" Gordon responded as he scoured the road, waiting to see if any alien was careless enough to come too close.
"Rrrrark!" Jeffrey slowly came prowling down the road, and underneath the pile of sticks Andy's dad had constructed for him specifically for that purpose. He had just returned from a leg biting frenzy and was in the mood to hide under something.
Of course, Johnny, Jeffrey, and Gordon weren't the only fighters in this war. Every tree on the continents of North and South America had awakened. There was no place you could go that you couldn't hear the sound of tree roots tugging, pulling, and heaving the plants wherever the desired to go.
Out of Place
"Did you hit'em?" Jeremy called from the cockpit.
"No, but I don't think I missed either." Andy replied from the left turret.
"By that philosophy, you never truly miss anyway." Jeremy said.
Andy fired off another stream of shots while at the same time, Jeremy did a barrel roll.
"You need to work on your aim." He added.
"They aren't shooting back at us you know! Stop it with the barrel rolling and maybe our aim will improve!" Robby shot back from the right turret.
"Squirrel, how many firearms do we have?" Said Jeremy, ignoring the remark.
"His name is Ronald."
"Ok, Ronald, how many firearms do we have?"
Ronald scurried about the vessel. No speck was left unturned. Finally he emerged from the small compartment in the back of the plane. He was tugging a strap alongside him. On the other end of the strap was an old machine gun.
"Any more?" Jeremy asked, trying to find a moment to look back at Ronald.
Ronald gave one of his exaggerated head shakes, and went rummaging for some ammo.
"They're landing, I think." Andy said.
"Uh-oh. Quick, shoot a hole through their hull! I have a plan that won't work if there isn't one."
"Then why say his name?"
"Because it sounds important."
“Blam! Bang!! Splutter splutter! Put put put put! Kapwing! Zammo!” sang Andy's turret as he negotiated a hole into the hull.
"Good, now we've got a better chance of actually winning."
"Are you saying that we aren't going to win?" Asked Robby. There was a twinge of worry in his voice, but most of it was sarcasm.
"No, I'm saying that we're better off than we were."
"That sounds good."
"Flight attendants prepare for landing." The
FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS
sign flickered to life.
Andy wrapped his arms around the nearest wall-mounted pole labeled:
Robby did the same (except with roots), while Ronald curled up in a ball in a corner.
Andy closed his eyes. The plane's noise made his stomach churn.
Whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssstlllllllllle... rattle rattle rattle rattle Creeeeeeeek... Groan... Rattle Rattle Rattle Rattle... ROOOOOOOAAAAAAAAARRRR!!!
Andy struggled to open his eyes again. About the time of the "CRASH!" his innards went "Slosh!” He had no idea if everything was in the right place anymore. At first he was worried he might have internal bleeding, but he wasn't in any pain at all. He just felt a little... Disorganized.
Then he remembered Ronald's safety procedure.
He sprang up and found Robby almost exactly as he'd been before the crash.
"Are you OK?" He said.
"I really don't think so, but I'll live." Andy responded. "Where's Ronald?"
"I'm not sure." Said Robby. "He slid past me, though."
Andy walked over to the entrance of the cockpit. All the walls inside the plane were raised slightly off the ground, like a bathroom stall. He crouched down to peer into the darkness underneath the co-pilot's seat, seen under the wall. Sitting there were two dilated eyes. Andy reached under the seat and pulled Ronald out, gently stroking him until he settled down.
"That's a nice view of the ground, don't you think?" Jeremy said, stepping through the door, the reason for his delayed appearance was not apparent.
"Definitely. What happened?"
"The landing gear snapped."
"Ah. You're not hurt are you?"
"Absolutely not, how 'bout you?"
"Can you keep going?"
"Alright then." Jeremy said, picking up the gun, "Let's go."
The Art of Being Super
"What are we guarding the ship from anyway?"
"Well, yes but, what kind of danger?"
"You don't even know, do you?"
The two aliens were standing guard on the open ramp of the saucer.
"So, what exactly do we do when some danger tries to get in?"
"We protect it to death."
"Oh... How do we do that, exactly?"
"Do you know anything?"
"I know how to make you stop breathing."
Suddenly the ramp lifted up off the ground.
"Holy whike! I didn't know you could do that!" said the first.
"Neither did I." said the second.
The words had barely left his mouth when the ramp fwooshed to the ground with a tremendous clang.
Up upon the ramp leapt Andy, and to each he delivered a solid blow to the face. The already dazed aliens lay stunned on the ground.
"And you thought it was more complicated." Said Jeremy, walking out from under the ramp. Robby was scurrying along behind him.
"It's not like I'd had any firsthand experience in the matter."
"You do now." Robby pointed out.
"Indeed I do." Replied Andy, "Is Ronald in?"
"Yep." Answered Jeremy. "Are you two ready to run?"
"I know I am." Andy said.
"I'm not sure if you could call it 'running', but yes." Robby said.
Jeremy took off down the metallic hall that provided access into deeper areas of the ship. Andy and Robby trailed him a substantial distance until a bulkhead dared to bar their path.
"What do we do now?"' Robby asked.
"Wait until Ronald deactivates the ship?" Andy suggested.
"No, that wouldn't release the bulkhead, it would only lock it." Jeremy said, "Stand back."
Andy and Robby leapt away as Jeremy opened fire on the bulkhead. The bullets bounced harmlessly off of it, leaving hardly visible dents in its surface.
"It's not working." He said after a few endless moments. He sat down, lifting the burden of the gun from his shoulder so that he could think.
Andy stared at the wall. He stared for a long, long time. At least, it felt like a long time. He figured that if he just kept staring that something would happen.
Eventually, something did happen, but not in the way that he had expected. The bulkhead shuddered under his gaze; it seemed as if it wanted to run in terror.
Jeremy looked up, as if sensing what was going on. He added his own gaze to Andy's. The bulkhead was shaking by now. Rather violently at that. Cracks began to appear in its surface, growing larger by the second. Pieces began to fall off, and then it shattered.
Jeremy hopped to his feet. "You're the first person besides me who's ever figured that out by himself. I had to teach everybody else."
"'Staring isn't polite.' Eh?" Andy said hollowly.
They trotted down the same metallic corridor until they heard heavy footsteps resonating through the ground.
Tromp tromp tromp tromp tromp tromp-
"Who goes there?!"
"Yeah, who goes there?"
Four guards had appeared from around the corner, blowers at the ready.
"Don't know, but I go here." Jeremy replied.
"Drop your weapons! We have you out numbered!"
"First all, we only have one official weapon. Second, we have you outgunned."
"Our weapons are better than yours!"
In a pathetic display of rage the four aliens unleashed wave after wave of gas. Then, when they realized that they were having no effect at all, they stopped and appeared to be blushing.
"My turn." Jeremy said. He peppered a formerly alive alien with firepower.
Without a word, the remaining three aliens whipped out their green and yellow pistols. This would have been more intimidating if they didn't look so much like water pistols.
"Oh. Well, then. If you're going to be that way..."
They were Stingray Ray Guns, although must people knew them as StingRay Guns. These pistols and their kin, the MantaRay Rifles, Orca Laser Cannons, and TurtleShell Laser Shields, were all state-of-the-art laser weapons, all of which were produced by Cephalopod Industries.
The lights faded until they were only very dim.
Rumble rumble rumble... Crash!
Sparks flew and a shadowy ball of fur hurtled across the hall, rolled, picked up the dropped gun of the dead alien, and came up aiming at the other three.
"Now we have you surrounded." Andy said.
"That isn't a good thing to say in this situation, especially against those guns." Jeremy whispered, making certain the aliens weren't going to attack. He overlooked, however, that Andy's hands were, quite vigorously, handling the rope.
Andy was suddenly holding a pistol, and one of the aliens was clutching his formerly occupied hand in pain.
"How did you manage that?" Robby asked.
"Slip knot." Andy shrugged.
Another formerly alive alien fell to the ground.
Andy's eyebrows raised in surprise. "They might as well be water guns."
The two remaining aliens were now standing back to back.
"Whatever you do, don't bug the demon with the StingRay until I take care of these three." One of them whispered.
"I say we rotate." The other whispered back.
"Ok. One, two, three, rotate!"
The two each shot over each other's shoulders. Jeremy easily avoided the attack, and Ronald shot first. Another formerly alive alien crumpled to the floor. Jeremy could see the last was trembling.
"You're running out of sunlight, aren't you?"
The alien gave a shaky nod.
"Then I have one word for you:" Jeremy leaned in close, "Run."
The alien took off at a run towards the entrance of the ship.
Andy knelt down and took the pistol from Ronald. He then handed it to Robby. Ronald didn't need a weapon, considering his reputation among the aliens.
"Do we keep going?" He asked.
"As opposed to what?" Robby replied.
Andy shrugged. "Not."
The four of them set off down the corridor once more, this time at a cautious walk. According to Jeremy, all the aliens would be on edge from lack of sunlight.
But you never know.
EEL:I, the Extremely Efficient Laborer: Indestructable version
"Take these crates to Storage Area 3, robot."
The robot in question consisted of a long rod about six inches in diameter. The rod stood upright on a pair of caterpillar treads, about six inches high. Situated just above the treads was a fork lift. The treads were capable of shifting apart to allow the forklift to touch the ground. A foot above the forklift was a rectangular box one foot wide, six inches high, and six inches long. On each end was an arm that extended in a 90° angle towards the front and ended in two large, three fingered hands that functioned more like crab claws. Another six inches up were two 6x6x6 boxes. Together they resembled a pair of binoculars, and appropriately functioned as his eyes. Overall he was three feet high and two and a half feet wide.
"Yes, sir. Right away, sir." The robot rolled over on its treads and used its large, three fingered hands to lift the crates onto his built in forklift.
His name was EEL:I. EEL:I was short for Efficient Elevation Laborer: Indestructible version, but everybody he knew insisted on calling him "robot".
As he wheeled himself down the corridor he silently wished for escape. He hated the way his masters took his kindness for granted; he'd not got a single thank you since he was assigned. And on top of that, Storage Area 3 was downright dull, as storage areas of its kind go.
As if on cue, the intruder sirens went off, sending the ship into lockdown. Emergency bulkhead's slammed down on either side of the hall. EEL:I laughed to himself and relieved himself of his payload. He whirred over to the panel that sat astride the bulkhead. He laughed all the merrier when he remembered the access code with ease.
Beep beep beep! Whoosh...
EEL:I took off down the hallway, headed toward the intruder's signal. As he sped past the entrance to Storage Area 3, he turned, and waved a silent good-bye. He was getting out of here.
Jeremy and Andy stood with their backs to the wall. A bulkhead had slammed shut behind them and their crew and now they were at a loss of what to do.
Jeremy peeked out into the large circular chamber ahead of them. It was filled with aliens soldiers standing juxtaposed in their ranks, their commanders marching to and fro, briefing them on whatever raid they were about to go on.
"They haven't left yet..." He said.
"Darn. I was really hoping they'd have left sometime in the last five minutes." Andy replied sarcastically.
"Well you never know which five minutes they'll leave during."
"He has a point."
"They'll see you if you keep peeking out like that."
"Who goes there?!"
"Gee thanks, Andy."
"Come out with your hands up!"
Andy didn't dare move. He didn't make a sound. Outside of their alcove he could hear sinister mumbling. He wondered if that was good or bad. Suddenly a head popped into the opening and pointed a StingRay right at Jeremy's head. Before a thought crossed Andy's mind he felt his fist connect with the alien's face. The alien redirected his aim, startled.
"No!" Jeremy re-redirected the alien's aim just before he fired. Jeremy collapsed to the ground, obviously wounded.
In a rage, Andy pointed his own gun at the alien's stomach, and fired. The alien flew into the air and landed flat on his back. Andy knelt down, just barely refraining from crawling over to Jeremy's side.
"Just... Ow... just give me time... Ow..." Jeremy croaked from the ground.
Outside, the alien general snorted. "Say goodbye, earthlings."
Andy could hear heavy footsteps slowly marching towards they're hiding place.
"So long, Gen'ral. I personally wish you a wonderful day."
Seconds later there were the sounds of a fierce fire-fight ringing in Andy's ears.
Andy took the opportunity to see if Jeremy was still alive or not. When he turned and looked, however, Jeremy was changing before his eyes. His already long nose stretched into a trunk about three and a half feet long. His ears grew to twice their size. He became more muscular and his legs elongated and rearranged themselves. They were now in place so that one was in front of the other, in a linear fashion, and his lower body became slightly more like a horse's to accommodate them. His feet were no longer feet, but hooves instead. In some unexplainable manner, Jeremy rose to his hooves, raised his trunk, and trumpeted his fury.
Jeremy, Andy, Robby, Ronald, and EEL:I stood over the formerly alive legion of aliens. After a few moments Jeremy said something that came out muffled by his trunk. He raised it so it was clear of his mouth and repeated:
"Since when does your model have lasers like that?"
EEL:I swiveled around to face him. "Since they had me drilling for copper on Europa."
"There's copper on Europa?" Said Jeremy, raising an eyebrow.
"No." EEL:I said matter-of-factly, trundling towards them.
"You wouldn't happen to know how to disable the ship and everything in it, would you?" Andy put in. "Aside from blowing it up, that is." He added.
"If by 'everything' you meant 'everyone as well, then we're already 50% of the way towards completing the job; they are lying at your feet. As for 'everything..." EEL:I swiveled about and trekked across the room. Once there he pried a panel off the wall with his large hands and peered into the compartment, activating his eye-lights. "Mmmmmm... That one."
The other four looked at each other in confusion, and made their way over to see what he was talking about.
"This one." EEL:I repeated. He was holding a mauve wire in between his large fingers. His eyes began to glow brightly and a small, concentrated beam emerged. "Stand back..." he droned, but before anyone could react…
The small electrical discharge from the wire sent EEL:I flying backwards. He landed on his head Bong! And then, via a sort of summersault, landed right side up.
"Wahoo!" He cried out, his head spinning wildly. It clanged to a stop. "I love doing that!"
The ship suddenly dimmed to pitch dark and absolute silence, save the light from EEL:I's eyes and the hum of his treads.
"How did you know which wire it was?" Jeremy asked.
EEL:I came as close to a shrug as possible. "'It's always the mauve wire.'" He quoted.
"No way!" Jeremy cried. "How in the world did you get a hold of one of those?"
"Storage Area 3, Master Jeremiah."
"You already know what I'm gonna say next."
"Very well then, Master Jeremy."
"So, if I'm right, you fished one of those comic books out of the garbage and-"
"Storage." EEL:I corrected.
"-memorized the entire thing?" Jeremy finished.
"Yes, as well as all the others."
"Then, by goose, am I glad you're on our side."
"I am pleasantly thankful to be able to say the same thing."
"There are comic books about you?" Andy and Robby said at almost the exact same time.
"Is that unusual in some way?"
"I don't know. It just seems odd that there are books about anybody who exists or existed and isn't dead."
"He has a point." Andy added.
"Maybe he has reached a level of fame that nobody you have previously known and meets the specified requirements has." EEL:I theorized.
"You're really good at using the Secret Power." Jeremy said to EEL:I.
"Which one was that?" Andy asked.
"'If you want to sound smart and/or kill a conversation for any number of reasons, say something undeniably smart sounding- preferably with a complicated sentence structure- that nobody can really understand and therefore can't argue with. This will give you a few moments of silence to change the subject.'" EEL:I quoted.
"What do we do next?" Robby asked.
Jeremy thought about it for a fleeting moment. Then he smiled a sly smile, "EEL:I, our ship is broken and unfit for space travel. Do you think you could help us-?"
"Yes. In fact, I know I could. What do you have in mind?"
"It's a very old airplane. I think we might be able to combine this craft with ours to make our aircraft into spacecraft."
EEL:I evaluated the best possible course of action. "It would work better with a submarine. An airplane won't be able to maintain a life support bubble on its own. You will have to rely solely on Force Field Technology to keep you alive."
"I have an idea to compensate for that. Let's go outside so you can have a look."
"What are we going to do about this bulkhead?" Andy asked.
"Allow me." Said EEL:I, whirring over to the control panel.
Beep beep beep! Fwoosh!
The barrier dispatched, the group of heroes made their daring (it was dark), dangerous (There were walls to avoid running into), and dashing (at least they were walking through a space ship) escape from the formerly flying (now sitting) saucer that held them prisoner (if rather unsuccessfully).
Let's Talk Tech
"Is this your craft?" EEL:I inquired. They were standing just outside the shadow of the Hero.
"That would be him." Jeremy replied.
"Him?" EEL:I responded casually.
"Does it look like a girl to you?"
"No." The android replied flatly, almost absent mindedly. Fortunately for him, Jeremy knew an otherwise occupied processor when he saw one. He and Andy patiently waited for EEL:I to return from his trance.
A few moments later his eyes brightened and he looked around with dazed alertness. "Where have Robby and Ronald gone?"
"Back on the ship," Andy replied, "I think they're homesick." He added.
A moment of awkward silence followed, until EEL:I broke it. "What is your plan, Master Jeremy?"
"How many force field generators could we fit onboard the ship?" Jeremy replied, assuming his technical attitude (consisting of, mainly, a frown).
EEL:I directed his gaze at the Hero, taking measurements. "Mmmmmm... Eighteen." He reported.
"Wow." Jeremy said in surprise, "We only need two."
EEL:I stared off into space for a few seconds, then turned and said: "Explain."
"Theoretically, that is."
The bewildered android suddenly grasped the concept that Jeremy was using in his plan. "Six will do nicely," He stated, and then added slyly, "Have you been spying on Cephalopod Industries?"
"No, not at all." Jeremy laughed, "More likely they've been spying on me."
EEL:I attempted to laugh, which he did with far more success than any other android who has ever tried. He recorded Jeremy's laugh, edited it to his liking, and playing it back. Of course, this took no time at all.
"Did you just-?" Jeremy began.
"Yes, I believe I did." EEL:I replied, "Does it work?"
"It looks sort of odd. Usually people smile when they laugh, but you can't smile (EEL:I had no mouth), so you just look like, well, unauthentic."
"I do have these lousy emoticons." EEL:I offered, his eyes flipping through all different shapes and patterns.
"This one?" EEL:I said, doubling back to a rainbow shape.
"Yes, that one."
"Well, I guess I can check laughing off my to-do list."
"And common expressions."
"Can we move on?" Andy put in.
"Yes, please." EEL:I agreed, switching back to his usual circle icons.
"Alright, EEL:I, go get us six force field generators."
"I could have the entire ship ready for you in an hour or two."
"I wasn't the only android on the saucer." EEL:I replied slyly.
"I was kindof making it up as I went..."
"All the same." EEL:I responded. "Shall I get to work?"
"Go right ahead."
"Yes, sir. Right away, sir." EEL:I crowed, pivoting around to re-enter the dark maw of the ship.
Jeremy and Andy were sitting somewhere in the vicinity of the former resting place of the Hero. The saucer had taken it into its hull and was now hovering a short distance above their heads.
"So, what exactly are you? A Time Lord or something?" Jeremy had been helping Andy with his confusion.
"Time Lord? Nah. I'm a Centauren."
"But you weren't before?"
"It's a camouflage device. It allows me to change my genes to match the native population."
"Oh..." Andy said, "We can't do that here. Where are you from?"
"Third planet from Alpha Centauri."
"So you're from around here?" Andy asked with a smile. Alpha Centauri was the closest star to Sol (Sol is the politically correct name for the sun).
Jeremy laughed so hard he accidentally trumpeted. "Well, that sounds about right, doesn't it? That's how it would be, if the rest of this system wasn't teaming with life."
"Really? You mean there are Martians and everything?"
"In order from the sun (which is the term for the local star): Mercurians, Venusians, Earthlings, Lunars, Martians, The Zeen, Plutonians, Chirings, and Nirgonions."
"The Zeen are immigrants- almost nomadic. They inhabit nearly all asteroid-belt-like environments in the galaxy, maybe even Andromeda as well." Jeremy turned to look at Andy, "This of course includes the Solar Belt (politically correct term for the Asteroid Belt), the rings of Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, the Kuiper Belt, and the Oort Cloud."
"And the Nirgonions?" Andy asked, eager to learn.
"The Nirgonions are a secluded race who lives on the planet of Nirgon in the Oort Cloud."
"Mind you, neither of them is classified as humanoid."
"Isn't anything that looks vaguely like a human humanoid?"
"I think that's how it used to be, but then they felt the need to make it more complicated."
"Ah." Andy nodded in agreement.
"The Zeen are classified as reptilian. The Nirgonions are classified as wraiths."
"They look a lot like Nazgul."
Andy opened his mouth to say something but then stopped. "Do you hear trumpets?"
Jeremy lifted his trunk to speak but was cut short by the sudden appearance of EEL:I in their midst.
The startled android's tires whirred wildly in his futile attempts to right itself. "Help?"
Jeremy and Andy leapt to their feet and helped him up. EEL:I lifted his eyes to the sky and lurched a few feet forward, insisting the other two follow. They did so without argument, for out of the open hull of the saucer descended the Hero, fanfare and all.
Hummmmmmmmmmmm...... crunch, hissssss... Kachunk.
Andy and Jeremy stood, just short of gaping, staring at the now majestic ship that previously was a rattley old plane. The Hero's propellers were gone, replaced by two massive turbo-engines. Two gleaming red laser turrets were mounted on each wing, one each side of the engine native to the wing in question. On the top and bottom of the hull was a larger torpedo turret, equally red and gleaming. On either side of each one were two more laser turrets. The tail fins had been repositioned so that they stood upright near the rear, looking like twin dorsal fins. A new coat of fresh, green paint had been applied to the entirety of the ship, save the nose and belly of the ship and the undersides of the wings, which were a dark shade of grey. The ship stood on three tri-pod legs that unfolded from the underside of the ship and operated like the legs of a bird. In place of the original sliding doors were new doors that unfolded from the side of the ship.
Hiss... hummmmmm... fwoosh!
The door unfolded and a ramp extended from the door to the ground.
Jeremy roused from his trance. "Wow."
Andy jumped, startled at the sudden dialog. "Wow indeed."
"Come, there is someone I would like you to meet." Said EEL:I, trundling towards the ramp.
Jeremy and Andy obediently followed EEL:I up the ramp (which was a substantial distance) and through the door into the Hero. Once inside, EEL:I pressed a button on the wall.
Hummmmmm... Kachunk. Hummm... Hiss...
The ramp retracted and the door swung shut. Jeremy looked around and realized something fairly useful to realize: they were in an airlock.
An orange light lit up above the other door, which Jeremy recognized as the original sliding door to the ship. Andy walked over and, having discovered that in the rest of the universe orange was green's equivalent meaning-wise, slid the door open.
The room before them was almost exactly as they remembered it, but the walls were lined with maintenance terminals. At each of them labored a happy but solemn worker robot, each of whom turned to welcome them by lining up like you would at a parade to watch the procession go by. There was wild cheering (once they figured out that the situation required it) and clapping.
EEL:I brightened up and motioned for somebody to open the next door. Andy obliged.
EEL:I proudly whizzed deep into the gaping hull of the Hero while Jeremy and Andy could only stand there gaping once again awestruck.
"This is... This is amazing!" Jeremy crowed, gazing at his magnificent surroundings.
"Quite astounding." Andy said, equally awed by the sheer aura of importance and knowledge the room possessed.
"Astounding indeed." Said Robby, who had been following behind with Ronald. The two had been so quiet that Jeremy and Andy had not noticed them following.
The entire hull was filled with the shield generators, the life support console, the communications array, the defense mainframe, and hundreds of computer hubs juxtaposed in neat rows up and down the cavernous room. Littering the floor were thousands of large black cords with varying diameters. Each of these cords could eventually be traced back to easily the most awe-inspiring highlight of the room.
It was a computer. No- not just a computer- a supercomputer. The console itself was 4 feet high and 6 feet wide, but the panel that housed the buttons and such was slanted, providing easy access. The screen was almost as big as the console (but much flatter) and was hinged to the wall to allow up and down movement. All along the bottom were small lights of every color imaginable. Dangling from the screen were three colored cords- red white and yellow- that joined it to the console, which was even more eye-catching than the screen was. On the left region of the panel was an array of 36 colored buttons; one for each letter of the alphabet, four specialized keys, and the bottom row consisted of the numbers 1-6. The center region was dominated by a scanner not unlike those found embedded in check-out counters, but obviously more sophisticated. At the bottom (closest to the user) were three compartments whose contents were unknown and were hidden by panels that flipped up from the console. In the right region of the panel was a 6 by 2 button array in the top right corner, all of them command keys. They were accompanied farther down by an enter key and set of arrow keys. Next to the arrow keys was a panel with some kind of half sphere sticking out of the center of it; this functioned as the mouse. The binary behemoth's color scheme was identical to that of the Hero.
"Master Jeremy, would you like to do the honors?"
Jeremy looked about at the others, noting that the crowd of androids was still silently observing the proceedings, and that there was a power cable misplaced from its outlet. Smiling, he stooped and plugged replaced the cord. The computer blasted to life and color.
da dada Da! Da Dada DA! DA DADA 'DA! 'Da dada dum.
"Hello, Master Jeremy."
A New Beginning
"You're sure you want to go home?" Jeremy pressed Robby. He and Andy were sitting in the cockpit readying for take off.
"Yes. There is no place for me up there, out in space. I belong here, on Earth, in my yard with my family and friends."
"Hard to argue with that speech." Andy said- even though there was no need. Ronald and Robby had both been getting a little gloomy lately.
"Agreed." Jeremy turned to the controls in assent. He addressed the supercomputer in the hull, which was also acting as the mainframe and shipboard computer. "Area 3, engage take off sequence."
"Yes, Master Jeremy. Do you wish for manual or automated flight control?" Area 3 had a much more gentle and natural sounding voice than one would expect from a computer.
"Done. Flight sequence; engaged."
"Engage take off procedure."
The Hero hopped off the ground using its massive legs, which immediately folded under the ship. Moments later, the engines engaged.
Moments later they were landing near Andy's house. Robby and Ronald departed from the flight for good, while Andy left to check on his dad.
Jeremy smiled triumphantly to himself and put up his hooves up on the co-pilot's seat. That day had gone exceptionally well, but he knew quite certainly that this was only the beginning. Oh yes, he chuckled, only the beginning...