And So, Kangaroo Loudly Proclaimed, ``I Can’t Send Hare In Search Of Anything!’’
| It was T minus seven days and counting. Crys and Al had just finished hooking up the weapons system, and Crys was calibrating them by simulation. They didn’t dare fire them for real to calibrate them. The Men in Black Hats had gotten wind of something going on, and helicopters had been doing flybys for the last two days and nights. The ship was nearly ready, but Harry insisted on triple redundancy, or as Lazarus Long liked to say, “Tell me three times” on all vital systems. They had backups for the backups on the IDD, the air renewal system and computer system, as well as having a cargo hold full of spare parts, extra air and water, and anything else that all three of them could think of. There were also manual controls for just about everything mechanical. There was even a library with every book printed in the English language and many in other languages as well on disk and also available on E-readers. There were even many hard copies, or as Crys liked to call them, “analogs.”
Harry was outside the ship under the tent admiring it. Spared no expense! But what were they leaving out? Could they finish before the MIBH came on in to look for real? They had even taken to sleeping in the ship in shifts so they wouldn’t be taken by surprise. This precaution turned out to be a good thing.
Woof was with Harry, as he usually was these days. It had become Woof’s mission in life to teach Harry proper cat protocol and manners. He sat not far from Harry in one of the only pools of morning sunshine that had found its way into the tent. “Rraalph,” he said.
“Are you out of dry food again? I swear. You eat more than any two cats I’ve known.” That wasn’t really saying anything because Harry had never known any cats before Woof. He walked up the ramp into the Klatuu and called, “Well! You coming or what?”
Woof pretended that he hadn’t heard and began licking his face via his paw. Harry came back to the doorway and shook the cat food box. Woof had no control over that kind of call. He jumped up, stuck his tail straight up in the air and trotted into the ship with just enough slowness to maintain face. “Rra-ow, rra-ow,” he said as his hunger got the better of him and he broke into a full trot toward the bowl that Harry was setting down. He stuck his face in the bowl and purred loudly. Crys came around the corner just then, machine grease on her face and arms, and wiping her hands with a towel.
“Piglet,” she remarked to Woof as she passed. Woof stuck his tail in the air again at the sound of her voice but didn’t turn away from the kitty crunchies. “Hey Harry. Just the man I wanted to see.” She was smiling as she spoke.
“Hi, Crysco. What’s up?”
“I had a bitch of a time with the chain gun tracking system, but I finally got it. The 30mm auto cannon was a real sweetie pie though. I’m running a dual loader with PGU-13/B High Explosive Incendiary and PGU-14/B Armor Piercing Incendiary.”
“Sounds deadly. So what about the Sidewinders?”
“We have a full compliment of the heat-seeking, short-range, air-to-air missiles, Sir!” She saluted smartly.
“Byte me,” Harry retorted.
Crys shook her head. For someone so hip, Harry could be really square. “I’m going to grab a shower.”
“When you’re finished, I’d like to have you and Al meet me in the galley. We need to finalize our plans. And I have some other things I’d like to discuss.”
“No prob, Hairy One.” Crys smiled at him and turned back the way she had come.
Harry bent down and scritched in between Woof’s shoulders. “Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, Mama,” he quoted. Woof purred louder than ever but never even hesitated in his munching endeavors.
Harry and Crys were already deep in conversation when Al walked in. “Sorry I’m late, Guys. I was checking the perimeter.”
“S’okay, Junior. Better late …” Harry said. “Have a seat.”
Al took the remaining chair at the round dinner table. Crys was wearing blue jeans, comfortable running shoes, and a loose black t-shirt. Harry was wearing the same except that his shirt was blue. Al’s was green. “We almost look like the Bobbsy Triplets.” He remarked. They all chuckled and loosened the atmosphere. Woof had taken his customary seat in Harry’s lap.
“Well, you both know that the Feds have been sniffing around, and it’s only a matter of time before they make a forced entry. I’m considering moving the ship tomorrow. I’m giving up Hill House to the Feds. I doubt that there will be much left when they get through with it. I’ve already moved all of my personal treasures elsewhere, so I won’t be losing much but the house and the art. I hope that they don’t slash the paintings. I just want to be sure that we’re ready enough to fly the Klatuu six days early.”
Crys put her elbows on the table and put her chin in her hands. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re space worthy now. We’re just running tests. Most of the bugs have been worked out of everything. How’s the IDD, Al?”
“It’s ready,” Al said. “All three of them.” He stretched his arms and rubbed is eyes.
“When is the last time you slept, Junior?” Harry asked.
“That’s what I thought. From now on, nobody goes more than eighteen hours without at least five hours of sleep. We can’t be tired and making mistakes if anything unexpected happens. I know that you’ve been helping Crys with the tests and running your own calibrations and simulations on the IDD, but you have to be fit if we’re going to have a chance. You know the workings of it better than any of us.”
“Yeah, fit to be tied,” he muttered.
Crys chuckled, and Harry turned red. "I know you think that I’m being anal,” he stole a quick glance at Crys, "but I don’t want to get to the outskirts of town and have a blowout, if you follow what I’m saying.”
“Yeah, say around Pluto.” This from Crys.
“Ok then. You two get some sleep, I’ll stand watch, and tomorrow we move to Charlie’s farm. Hopefully the Feds haven’t found that place yet, but we have to be ready for that, too. If we have to, we’ll finish up out in the middle of the desert.”
“So is that everything? Al asked. “I’m hungry.”
“That’s all I have,” Harry said.
“I’ll play mama and fix a regular meal if you’re hungry too, Harry,” Crys offered.
“Sounds good to me,” Harry said, “what’re you gonna fix?”
“Rr-ow?” Woof inquired, too.
Al salivated. “Need any help?” Any way I can speed it up, is what he meant.
“No, you boys just go and wash up. Leave everything to Mama.”
Around six that evening, Harry was kicking back in the control room watching The Monolith Monsters on TV. They had just figured out that salt water would stop the crystals from growing, when the perimeter alarms went off. Harry flipped the screen to the video surveillance and there they were. Damn! They pulled out all the stops. They had the FBI, ATF, SWAT and those were National Guard if he wasn’t mistaken. He reached over and slapped the big red button marked, “Internal Alarm.” The klaxon sounded, and he got out of the seat and took the one behind it. He strapped himself in only because he couldn’t get used to the idea of the inertia drive’s smooth operation and complete lack of jerking around. He also still wasn’t too sure of its imperviousness to blasts from cannon and the like.
Al and Crys came at a run. Al, still rubbing his eyes and hair all askew, took the control seat with Crys in the seat next to him. “What do we have, Harry?” Al asked
“Feds are crawling all over the place. They’ll be here in about thirty seconds.”
Al and Crys were rushing through pre-flight checks and flipping switches and pressing buttons. Crys glanced up at the monitors. Three more screens had come to life in addition to the one Harry had been watching. They heard a faraway pinging sound, and Harry said, “Small arms fire ricocheting off the hull. They’re not taking any prisoners.”
Al gripped the control stick and said, “Ready for lift off in three … two … one …”
To the Federal agents, it looked like the tent just disappeared. To the trio plus one, the only visuals they had were the feeds from the surveillance system. They, too, saw the tent disappear, but they knew right where it was – still covering the Klatuu. They had several destinations preprogrammed into the computer that they had named Jeeves. Al had opted for fifty thousand feet straight up. Then he dropped right out from under the tent as there were no outside protuberances that could entangle the lines. It was a flying saucer with smooth, genuine UFO lines straight out of the tabloids. They set course for the farm and were there in less than a second. Harry and Al had taken Crys for a ride in Eleanor, so she sort of knew what to expect. Actually, none of them really knew what was going to happen when Al twisted the stick. But it was smoother than any of them believed possible. If they didn’t know any better, they could very well have been sitting in Harry’s living room playing a video game.
“Damn that’s slick, Al,” Harry beamed. Then he was all business as he spun his seat around to get at the long range scanning equipment.
Meanwhile Al checked gauges and dials -- he and Harry had insisted on gauges and dials in lieu of digital readouts because of their love of the old sci fi flicks (Crys had shrugged disapprovingly and said “Whatever”) -- to see how all of the systems were doing. “All systems nominal,” Al said.
Crys said, “Nothing on the video.”
“We have multiple vehicles approaching from the North and the West,” Harry reported. “Must be Uncle Sugar.”
Al said, “Ok, we’re outta here.” Another twist of the stick and a slight push, and they were a hundred miles from civilization in any direction. Al set it down, flipped off the system controls and breathed out noisily. "Well, that was a rush."
“I’m thoroughly impressed,” Harry said. He was shaking a bit and a little bead of sweat trickled down the side of his face.
“Oh, come on, Hairy One. Admit it. You loved it.” Crys had spun around in her chair to face him. “You loved the whole gnarly assed thrill of it. I know I did! It made me feel,” she hesitated and looked at them both, “ahem, feminine.”
Al wanted to ask about the condition of Harry’s pants, but a promise was a promise. Instead, he centered on Crys. “Feminine, huh? Does that mean you peed your pants?” He automatically ducked back from the feigned roundhouse.
Harry cleared his throat. “Well, kids. After our performance and that of our esteemed saucer, I think we can probably be ready in two days tops. And that includes a trip to Saturn and back. I’d like to see those volcanoes on Io and the lakes of liquid methane on Titan. It might give us some insights on what we can expect to find … out there.”
“Agreed,” Al and Crys both piped.
The trips to Io and Titan were spectacular. To know that they had gone that far in a matter of seconds and were right there! Their craft resting on Io. They all crowded in to the observation room. It really was only supposed to hold one person at a time. The portal was small because they didn’t want to expose a large area to possible punctures when the IDD was off. But they squeezed in and gaped at the ice volcanoes and at the huge planet, Saturn, rising over the horizon. They were awe struck at how normal the slow ethane waves running to the shores of the slush capped lakes of methane looked on Titan. If not for the reddish brown haze everywhere, they could have been in Alaska or Greenland. But they weren’t! They were on Titan. They collected specimens from both moons to keep as souvenirs.
They spent the night on the dark side of the moon so they could all sleep without worrying about Men in Black Hats banging on the door or trying to blow them up. They were truly orphans in the sky.
Harry walked into the galley for breakfast. Crys and Al were already there scarfing down omelets, sausage, toast and hash browns that Al had made. “There’s more for you on the stove. I figured we’d have eggs and sausage in honor of the meal that nourished us when we started on this trip,” Al told him. He grinned around bites of toast and hash browns. “Besides, we need to eat the perishables first anyway. There ain’t no Wal-Marts where we’re going.”
“Thanks! I could eat a pig. So I think I will.” Woof followed Harry in, laid down in front of his food dish, plopped his face into the bowl, and began munching. He purred loudly enough for them to hear him at the table. “Mmm mmm. Nothing like Kitty Crunchies first thing in the morning,” Harry said as he went to the stove and helped himself.
“Today’s the day” Al said.
Crys said, “Ok, Tiger. As long as you think we’ll find him, we’re behind you. You know, we haven’t really talked about what we’re going to do after we find him. If we really are fugitives from Earth, how can we go home? I know how deep they can look if we try to hide.”
“We’ll think of something. Even if it’s wrong, like my Daddy used to say.” Al said.
“If worse comes to worse, we’ll post complete plans to build the IDD on the net and send a hard copy and prototype to every university in the country. Then they won’t have any reason to hunt us or want to kill us,” Harry said.
“Yeah,” replied Crys, “but they’d still kill us just for spite. I know them and you don’t.”
“We’ll cross that moat when we come to it.”
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