Have you ever seen a parrot in a panic? In this Astropup adventure, the Parrot Major is flapping and fluttering when he learns that a team of ninja cat commandos are plotting to kill him. He suspects the whole world is out to get him. He is not even sure if he can trust his friend, Astropup.
This is Richard, and I’m here with our latest yarn from our dog who travels in space. But before I hand you over to the capable paws of Astropup, I’d just like to clarify a bit of linguistic difficulty. Some of you have been asking us what a “mog” is. You may not be able to find that word in the dictionary, but it is in fact, a “cat.” So I hope that helps. Now, let’s hear from Astropup.
I have always been loyal to the humans, even though they have more than a few strange habits, not least, keeping cats. It beats me why they spend their money feeding those treacherous mogs with foul smelling fishy chunks. They even let those evil balls of fatuous fluff sit on their laps, and they try not to wince when pussy-kins digs her claws into their thighs.
The scientists who worked at the Space Centre were more than normally intelligent humans, and yet they too kept cats. Yes, there were shameless mogs who prowled around the corridors of Space Central looking like they owned the place.
But stroking earthly catlings is one thing, and dealing with extra-terrestrial felines is a fiendishly different kettle of fishy chunks. I know that the humans have huge dishes on the tops of hills, like giant electronic ears, that pick up the constant meowing of the cat people in outer space. Some especially clever boffins had cracked the cat people’s codes. They understood the meaning of every meow. And one of the messages that the humans picked up held some particularly terrifying news – for my friend, the Parrot.
It happened when I was on shore leave. I was living at home in blissful comfort with my owner, Jenny. I did not lack for biscuits, blankets or cuddles. One morning, I was chewing on my favourite rubber bone, when I heard a tap-tapping at the French doors. With a woof and a wag I trotted over to see if it was a friend or foe. I saw a flustered pale green bird whom I did not recognize right away. I should mention that my friend the Parrot had an uncanny ability to change colour. I don’t mean that he went from deep blue to bright orange, but he certainly had several shades of green. Today he was so pale that he was almost yellow. I barked to him that the kitchen window was open and, after a little confusion, he fluttered in. His little eyes darted from side to side.
“They’re out to get me,” he rasped.
“No need to flap,” I said, trying to sound soothing. “Find a perch, settle down, peck a peanut, and explain exactly who is out to get you.”
“The cats,” he said looking wilder than ever. “The humans. Perhaps… even you.”
“Oh come now,” I woofed, “Why would I want to harm you?”
“It’s a conspiracy!” he squawked. “You’re man’s best friend. You’re all in it together. I know!”
“Well if you don’t trust me,” I said, “then, I can’t help you.”
“Hmm,” said the Parrot, and at last he began to explain. He had a friend, a budgerigar, who worked in the Intelligence Corps. This smart little fellow was a code cracker who specialized in cat meows. His work was Top Secret, and he had risked his job by telling the Parrot Major about a short meow message that he had decoded. It read:
“Stupid humans don’t suspect a thing.”
The point was, the message came from somewhere inside the Space Centre. The cat people had a secret agent working among the humans. It got worse. The answer came back from outer space:
“Bravo. Top target is pesky parrot.”
The budgie told his boss about this threat to the life of our friend. And the boss told the important people at the Space Centre that they must clear out all the cats immediately – and the top people answered that there was nothing that could be done without more proof. They couldn’t have one species throwing out another, just because some bird brain overheard a meow.
“So you see,” said the Parrot Major. “The humans don’t mind if an alien cat sinks his claws into me. They’ve never cared for a smart bird. My brilliant brain makes them feel less clever. In fact, they want me dead. They might even be working with the cats for all I know.”
It was clear that all the Parrot could do was to panic. That left it up to me to think on my four feet and come up with a clever plan. Being smart is not part of my job description, but when needs must…
“So,” I said, “we have a traitor inside the Space Centre. We know that he or she is one of the cats. That narrows the suspects down to about a 100 or so fiendish moggies. All we have to do is find out which one is the betrayer.”
My feathered friend stopped flapping and put his head on one side: “Well dear dog,” he said, “that’s elementary then.” Since I did not know what ‘elementary’ meant, I did not reply, but I did notice that he was settling down into a brighter shade of green. His plumage was all in a mess. He reminded me of someone or something. I knew it was important, but I could not quite catch that thought. Like most of my best ideas, it escaped me – like a squirrel up a tree.
And so I consulted the one creature whom I knew would always give me good advice. My mum. She lived with Jenny’s aunty in a far away country called England, but we sometimes woofed to each other over Skype. As luck would have it, Jenny’s mum was talking to her sister that evening. I jumped on her lap, and woofed at the computer screen. I could see my mum sitting on the bed behind Aunty Catherine.
“Hey Mum,” I woofed, “how do you set a trap for a cat?”
“With another cat, of course,” woofed back my mum. “Cats call to each other in spring.”
“Yes, of course,” I thought to myself. The cats’ chorus. Cats make that awful caterwauling and think it is music. It drives everyone else insane, but it’s what brings cats together in the tender season. “Now, how could we find a cat we could trust to put out the call sign?” That was a question I put to the Parrot.
“A trustworthy cat!” he scoffed. “You’d be more likely to find a ballet-dancing rhinoceros.”
And so I went back to being stumped, which is my normal state. I was still stumped the next morning, when I followed Jenny into the toy room, hoping that she would take me for a walk. I watched her tidy up her cupboard, and low and behold, there was the thought that had escaped me. It was a big fluffy glove puppet in the shape of a parrot. He had messy plumage and beady eyes. In the dark, he could pass as our own Parrot.
The next day I set out on the trail of the traitor. I began by speaking to the code-cracking budgie. We met outside the Space Centre in the middle of the park where nobody could overhear us.
“I want to set up a cat trap,” I told him. “And I need your help.
“It’s normally cats who catch budgies,” peeped the little bird,” I knew from his sly smile that I could rely on him.
That night, he fluttered into the radio room and broadcast a message in cat-speak. It was the most appalling din, like chalk on a blackboard, or the sound of a cat’s chorus. In translation, this is what it said: “Catch Parrot alone. Car park, south east corner. 7.30, Wednesday night.”
He perched up all night and waited for a reply from the cat people’s space command ship. It duly came at 6 in the morning.
“Confirm rendezvous. Two ninja cat commandos, car park, south east corner. 7.30 Wednesday night.”
The cat trap was set. On Wednesday evening, our friend the Parrot was due to give a talk in the operations room on the subject of “The threat posed by alien birds.” He was considered an expert on the subject, following our trip to the Ship of Birds which you might have heard about in a previous episode. There were flyers posted up on all the noticeboards advertising his talk. In the tea room, I saw a trio of cats studying one of the flyers particularly closely. There was a grey cat with a black patch over his eye, a dirty white feline who looked a bit like an overgrown rat, and a common tabby. I wondered if one of them could be the traitor. Or perhaps even, all three?
Whoever the traitor was, he wasn’t much good at time keeping. The orange sun was setting over the car park, when two ninja cat commandos climbed over the wall. I could see them from where I was hidden between two parked cars. They carried guns and backpacks. They were sure scary enough to make a bull dog shudder. But there was no cat there to meet and greet them in the car park. They hopped around nervously, clearly wondering if their plan had hit a snag. Then I saw a slinky, pointed eared figured jump up onto the bonnet of a car. Instantly the ninja cats trained their guns on the new arrival.
“Don’t shoot!” meowed the figure. I could see him clearly now. He was the dirty white rat-cat – the Traitor! “This way,” he hissed. “The Parrot’s giving a talk in the ops room. I’ll show you the way up onto the roof, and you can drop down onto the window sill and get a clear shot at him. And the scoundrels bounded off, sneaking between the cars, and heading for the side of the Space Centre where some builder’s scaffolding gave them an easy way up onto the roof.
Fortunately, I was not the only one who was witness to this act of treachery. A border collie from the security service had been watching it all too, from a truck. The cat traitor had given himself away.
We both ran as fast as we could to the entrance of the Space Centre, and toward the lifts. As you probably know, there is never a free elevator when you are in a hurry, and so we had to take the stairs. We both barked as we ran down the corridor to the ops room, and people and animals had to scramble out of our way.
“Hey you dogs, look where you are going,” shouted a scientist type as I ran through his legs. I could hear the Parrot’s voice now:
“Birds rank among the most intelligent life forms in the Universe. They have the capacity to out-think humans by a factor of five to one…”
As we came through the door I could see a cat commando crouching at the window sill.
“Get down everybody!” I barked … but most of those present were humans and could not understand me. Just then a laser shot through the window and knocked the Parrot off his perch. He lay on the ground, a heap of singed feathers, smoke coming out of his head. One of the humans grabbed a fire extinguisher from the wall and covered him in foam. The cat assassin sprang out of sight. Perhaps I was the only one who had spotted him.
But of course the burnt bird was not our friend. He was only Jenny’s glove puppet. The real Parrot Major was perched in the projector room, giving his lecture through a microphone. The cats had missed their target. By now alarms and sirens were going off, and security guards were running willy-nilly all over the place. The fire brigade was on its way. But all the chaos and confusion only gave cover to the ninja cat commandos. They slipped away to their spaceship, no doubt convinced that they had taken out their target. It was a pity they had got away – but it was more important that we had the evidence we needed to convict the traitor.
Well thank you Astropup for another action-packed episode. And by the way, we have original illustrations by Nick Hayes for this story, so do drop by at Storynory.com and see them. Also, Bertie’s asked me to mention that we have three Katie stories bundled up on Kindle – the ebook’s called Katie the Witch Who Lost Her Spells, and you can buy it from Amazon.