This is the story of the greatest leak of classified space secrets that the world has ever seen. Now the truth can be told about the threat from the cat people and alien birds. The revelations are all down to the courage of one Parrot. Some people call him a hero. Others say he is a bird-brained megalomaniac. What do you think? Professor Astropup carefully considers one of the most important questions of our times – do we need to know THE TRUTH?
And you might like to see Astropup Imitating Richard on BBC TV
Story by Bertie, with a nod to the Fifth Estate.
Read by Richard.
Proofread by Jana Elizabeth.
Professor Astropup –
All this time that I have been recounting my adventures in space, I have signed myself off by my nom de guerre, Astropup. ‘RRRRUF…’ I sense my audience is surprised. Perhaps you aren’t used to me turning out a fancy French phrase like nom de guerre. I use it here to soften you up for what may come as a far greater shock. I do not think that many of my far flung listeners across the cosmos will have guessed that I am in fact, A Professor.
Yes, it’s true. According to my visiting card, I am Professor Astropup of the Kennel of Canine Studies at the University of Space Exploration.
You might well guess that this title of mine supremely irks my old friend and comrade, the Parrot. As is well known, he is a brainy and brilliant bird, who has often thought to himself that he more than deserves a high up perch in an ivory tower of some ancient university. In fact, he has applied for a university professorship many times, and on each occasion he has been turned down.
“It’s academic prejudice against feather brains,” he sometimes squarks as he pecks at the curt letter of rejection.
“Nonsense,” I grunt. “You can’t be a professor because you’re too intelligent.”
“What do you mean I’m too intelligent?”
“Well if you go passing on your brilliant thoughts to young and impressionable minds, what might the world come to? We’ll have space students disobeying orders and shooting off AWOL all over the Universe.”
“Dear dumb Professor dog, for once you’re right!” he screeches, almost in pain. The secret service has a file on me marked “seditious.” They’re scared stiff that I will preach freedom, independence and other ‘dangerous delusions’ to the students.”
At this point, I must give you a quick recap of events. You may recall that the Parrot and I spent some time away from Earth on the far-away Planet of the Pirates. It took us several weeks to journey home, but that was relatively fast. The word ‘relatively’, by the way, is one that the Parrot uses often. It is painful for my brain, but he says it’s important. We travelled quickly, relative to the speed of light, he says. It’s something to do with a scientific theory that one of his clever friends came up with.
We touched down relatively perfectly in a giant sandpit called the desert. Usually, when we come back from a space mission, they send out a hero’s welcome – one time, at night, they lit up the sky with dancing fireflies. On another occasion, they had a soprano skylark sing for us. And of course all the top vets and scientific boffins are on hand to check us up thoroughly.
This time though, we were met by a very different greeting party. As we came out of our landing pod, we found ourselves looking down the barrels of machine guns mounted on the backs of jeeps.
Aw AW AWWW.. “We must have parked our pod on the wrong planet,” I yelped.
“No, they are human alright,” said the Parrot. “Just look, they seem to be scared of us.”
It was puzzling. The humans shoot us up into space, forget all about us, and then look surprised when we come back.
We were driven across to the space base as prisoners. Only after about 48 hours did they start to treat us with a little more respect. Somebody found the file on our mission in the archives. They figured out what had happened.
It was like this, see. We had been away for ten whole Earth years. To us it had been a couple of months, but due to the whole relativity thing, time had passed more quickly on Earth.
For a while we were regarded as mini-celebrities. The newspapers wrote us up, and the Parrot went on TV and squawked away on a chat show. He spoke English and several other languages quite fluently, but with a strong avian accent. I don’t think most TV viewers could understand at lot of what he was saying, but that didn’t stop him pontificating.
It was around this time, when I was in the public eye, so to speak, that the University of Space Exploration wrote to me with the offer of a post. I was invited to teach a course called A Canine History of Space Travel to a class of young pups who were all cadets in the Space Force. In fact, the stories which I am telling you now, all began as lectures for my university students. My course was very popular. Those adolescent dogs all listened with alert ears. I found that I rather enjoyed having an audience.
Now the great majority of the students at the university were human beings. We animals had our own college. But quite often some curious humans would wander in to look around. One day, as I was crossing the quad to the Senior Kennel, my nose began to twitch, my ears pricked up and my tail could not help but wag. I was not yet fully aware of why I was experiencing sensations of happiness, love, and gravy. All I could see were two students, walking towards me. It was only when they were quite close that it came to me fully:
“Woof, Woof, Woof!”
Yes, my darling Jenny, whom I knew as a little girl, had grown up into a beautiful young woman. She still, of course, had the same wonderful scent – the smell of my owner.
“That’s funny,” she said to her friend,”I used to have a dog just like that friendly looking animal.”
She knelt down to pat me.
“Don’t you know him?” said the other. “He’s a Professor. They say he’s been on space missions.”
Before she could say anything else, I leapt into Jenny’s arms and licked her face.
From then on, I used to see Jenny regularly, and we would go for walks along the riverside. Like all friendships with humans, it was a little lopsided. I could understand her speech, but she could only guess at my body-language for what I was thinking or feeling. Normally this does not matter. All an average dog has to do is to beg or bark or wag – but I had a whole galaxy of tales I wanted to tell her. You can understand me now because of advances in technology, but in those days of Woof Boxes, into which you can bark into one side and human speech comes out the other, were in their infancy.
But I could understand her speech perfectly. And one day she explained that a group of her student friends would like to invite the Parrot to come and speak to them at a private lecture.
The Parrot was only too flattered and delighted at the invitation. He gave a lecture entitled:
“The Human Conspiracy of Silence.” I tried to warn him. Those of us in the Space Force have to remember that there is such a thing as the Official Space Secrecy Act, a law that prevents us from saying too much. In those days, most of our adventures were classified as Top Secret. But a small thing like the law never stopped the Parrot. He told them all about the spaceship powered by Bird Brains, the crew of humans that abandoned their ship and set up as pirates, and of course about the full extent of the threat from the cat people, something which the Earth Government really did not want the humans to know about – for to know, is to panic. The motto of my school of canine thought is:
“Pax per ignorantiam.”
Which is Latin for:
“Peace through ignorance.”
When the Parrot had finished his dangerous talk, the students asked questions. Jenny was the first. She said: “Why don’t you make your stories more widely known?” He replied:
“Because the world is not ready yet for the truth. When the ordinary human in the street is prepared to believe the word of a parrot, I will be the first to squark out.”
“But what if you had proof?” asked another.
“Unfortunately, my only collaborator is a dumb dog,” he replied. I am glad to say that Jenny frowned.
In a way, I was glad for the Parrot that he had his evening when a group of humans, albeit young and foolish students, took him at his word. I had no inkling of the humungous hullaballoo that would follow.
About two weeks later, a website based on the moon started to publish a long list of extraordinary revelations. The leaks were co-ordinated, so that they appeared in newspapers and on TV stations in both Britain and America at the same time. Day after day there were the most way-out and scary headlines such as:
“US President in Secret Talks with Alien Birds.”
“Feline Hit Squad at Large in New York City.”
“How to tell if your pet cat is a secret agent from another planet.”
The top brass humans were in a state of panic. The Secretary of State was on television saying: “These leaks must stop. They are endangering lives. The criminal who stole these secrets belongs in jail.”
But for many, the leaker, whoever that might be, was a hero. Protestors marched in capital cities across the world demanding that Governments give them the whole truth. In animal and bird circles though, the revelations were not at all popular. Humans were treating us all with suspicion. Fur or feathers were now seen as a sign of alien sympathies.
Love him or hate him, the whole world wanted to know who the leaker was. Then one day, he appeared before the telly-watcher’s gaze in an exclusive interview with the News at Ten.
He was saying:
“Two humans and a secret – that’s all it takes to start a conspiracy. But if we could find one bird, one whistle-blower, would he come forward with the truth, that could change the course of history? This is the information the world needs to know. That is why those who hold the greatest power are afraid, very afraid.”
You have no doubt deduced that The Whistle-blower was my friend and comrade on many a space venture, The Parrot. He told me he had gone to visit with his cousin in Peru.
When I saw him give that interview on TV, I was beside myself. What if the humans thought I had helped him with the leaking? Who could I turn to for advice and comfort? There was only one person in the whole world I could trust.
I bounded over to her college and woofed outside her room. Jenny opened the door, but not fully. I pushed my nose through the crack and saw, perched on the end of her bed, the Parrot.
“You!” I woofed. “What are you doing here? Don’t you realize that you are risking Jenny’s future? What would happen if the police found out she was hiding the world’s most wanted Parrot?”
“Dear simple dog,” said he, “you don’t think I am working alone do you? Courage is contagious. It was Jenny’s friend who stole the memory stick with all the secret files on it. He picked it up off the table of the university’s Principal. Jenny handed it to me. We are doing this important work together. This is the greatest leak of classified space information in history. Now the whole world knows the truth about the cat people. Aren’t you pleased?”
“Don’t you know, innocent pets are being chased out of their homes because the humans are now frightened of every harmless little kitty-cat?”
“You know as well as I do that there’s no such thing as an innocent cat,” said the Parrot.
“It won’t be long before they turn on birds,” I warned.
“Tell that to the turkeys,” replied the Parrot. “They did that long ago.”
“The truth is too dangerous for all and sundry to know about,” I barked. “There’s no telling what people might do when they know the truth.”
“Too true,” said the Parrot, “They might actually do something sensible for once.”
“Like what?” I asked, dumbfound.
“Like elect a parrot as their leader.”
I might be a dumb dog, but was beginning to understand the full extent of this megalomanic Parrot’s lunacy.
“You don’t mean…” I panted.
“Yes I do mean…. to be the first Parrot to be elected President of the World! CAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!”