Revenge, they say, is a dish best eaten cold. The Parrot Major in the Space Force has been biding his time, waiting for his moment to hit back at the cat people. His opportunity comes when an extraordinary volcano erupts on the dark side of the moon. Legions of mice gather from all corners of the Universe. The scene is set for revenge. Astropup, that old space dog, recounts the story.
Story by Bertie.
Read by Richard Scott.
Proofread by Jana Elizabeth.
If I’ve learned one thing on my space travels, it’s that the Universe is the strangest of places.
You have no doubt heard the old story that the moon is made out of cheese. A silly sort of tale to tell the puppies, or so you thought. But it often turns out that there is more than a juicy morsel of truth in those old legends. Let me explain.
As anyone who has been there will tell you, the moon is an exceptionally quiet place. But the listening posts at our Space Centre were picking up a sort of cosmic squeaking. That was how it started. Next there were deep rumbles – it was as if the silver lady of the skies had a bad case of tummy rot.
They were looking for volunteers to go and investigate. Of course no human being was silly enough to step forth. When there’s a dangerous mission to be had, the human way is to send a couple of dumb animals. Yours truly and the Parrot were picked for the job.
Missions to the moon are called Lunar Assignments. “Lunatic more like,” squawked the Parrot as we took up positions in the spaceship. “Cosmic squeaking, my claw. Some human scientist forgot to oil his telescope.”
“Well,” I said, “what about the rumbles?”
“I’ve never heard anything so daft,” was all he replied.
I was not so sure. Where there was a rumble, I sensed, there was bound to be danger – some sort of large beast, or machine or… or bomb.
We could hear the squeaking before we even got there. The Parrot, who did not like to be proved wrong, said: “Well of course I was only joking.”
Then there was such a rumble that our whole ship shuddered and I howled: “AWH! AWH! AWWWWWW!” Even the Parrot turned a pale shade of yellow.
There was no stopping our ship. The onboard computers brought us down to land on the trembling surface of the moon. I pressed my nose against the portal – that’s technical speak for window – and peered out. I saw a most incredible sight. The whole surface of the moon was alive with MICE. Yes, the little fellows were running and squeaking for all they were worth.
“GRRREAT SKIES!” I exclaimed to the Parrot. “Come and look at this!” It was then that I noticed that the Parrot Major was gone. I sniffed around the cabin and found him hiding inside his seed box. “You can come out,” I growled, “they are only mice.”
“Mice,” he said thoughtfully, and then: “Only mice, you say.”
“Yes, little squeaky fellows.”
“Hmm,” said the Parrot. “Let’s go out and take a closer look.”
We put on our space helmets, and slid down the chute onto the moon. The little rodents were running over my feet, not that I’m ticklish, but it wasn’t nice. We made our way as best we could over the surface. We were in a little valley and we had to climb out, which wasn’t so hard, due to the fact that bouncing on the moon comes easily. I leapt from boulder to boulder, until we had a clearer view. What we saw at the top of the ridge was an even more amazing site. In the distance was a range of mountains. One of them was literally blowing its top.
“It’s one of them volcanos,” I said – feeling rather pleased with myself. Yes, the Parrot might be the brains on the team, but I had picked up a bit of knowledge in my lessons at the Space Centre. “And that stuff coming out is what’s called Lava,” I said with pride.
“More like snot you mean,” squawked back the Parrot. It was unusual for my friend to be so vulgar, but I had to admit, the stuff coming out of the mountain was a luminous yellow colour. There were rivers of it flowing down its sides. The mice were streaming towards them.
“Let’s take a closer look,” said the Parrot… and we bounded on over the moon until we came nearer to one of the streams.
“That explains the mice,” said the Parrot as we peered over the side: “It’s a giant fondue.”
“Fondue? I’m afraid we haven’t studied fondues yet in our geography class,” I admitted.
“Don’t be daft,” said the Parrot. “A fondue is a dish. It’s melted cheese. No wonder the mice are going crazy. Here try some.” He picked up a rock covered in yellow goo. I sniffed it and gave it a lick. Not my favourite snack, but it was cheese alright. It was erupting from the centre of the moon, and spewing out of the volcano.
“You know what this means,” said the Parrot.
“It means,” I said, “that the moon really is made of cheese after all.”
“Correct,” said the Parrot, “but normally you would not know it. The cheese is at the centre of the moon’s core. These mice don’t normally come here. They’ve arrived from another planet especially for the cheese.”
“How?” I gasped.
“See those,” said the Parrot pointing a wing at some fluffy ball like objects. “Those are their spaceships. Rodents are smart, and not to be underestimated…and what else do you think this means…?”
I looked around for clues. The volcano, the rivers of melted cheese, the mice, the fluffy spaceships… the dark skies and the light of the stars.
“I give up,” I admitted. “What is the meaning of all this?”
“Cats,” said the Parrot.
“GRRRRRR!” I said, and then: “What do you mean cats? Don’t use that word lightly around me. It’s the filthiest word in the Universe.”
“You can go on,” said the Parrot. “It was me they tried to kill, remember?…”
Perhaps you heard my last story – the Day of the Cat – in which a team of cat commandos tried to take out my super intelligent bird-friend. He’d never got over that, and had been a broody little fellow ever since.
“But where there are mice,” he went on, “there are bound to be cats, sooner or later, unless you believe that we were the only ones to pick up their squeaks? I don’t think so. It won’t be long before the cat people are here, if they aren’t already. This volcanic eruption of molten cheese is a feast for the mice, but the mice will be a feast for the cats.”
“Urrggh! We better warn them!”
“They know the risks…. ” said the Parrot quietly, almost to himself. I could see that his brilliant little brain was turning something over.
“What’s on your mind?” I asked.
“Revenge,” said the Parrot quietly. And then, much, much louder: “REVENGE!!!!!!!!”
My feathery friend looked as mad as I have ever seen him. His beady eyes were almost popping out of the glass bulb of his space helmet. He was hopping from one foot to the other, but because of the low gravity of the moon his hops were exaggerated, so that he looked like a jerky puppet on a string.
“Steady on, steady on,” I said. “Our mission is almost done. Let’s scoop up some of this extraordinary lunar cheese and take it back to Earth for the human scientists to examine – or snack on. If we can persuade a mouse or two to come back with us, even better.”
“Not yet,” said the Parrot, “we’re going to wait for the cat people to get here. And then, we are going to ambush them.”
I thought this was the worst idea I had heard yet, but since the crazed Parrot was my commanding officer, there wasn’t much I could do about it. We went back to our ship, and I for one slept. The Parrot sat on his perch, peering through one of the portals. Some hours later I heard a rasping squark in my sleep: “They’re here!!!!!”
I jumped up on to my four feet and shook myself, ready for action. The Parrot said, in a hushed rasp: “Go to the cargo and find a box marked with a skull and crossbones. Bring it to me – but whatever you do, don’t go opening it. There aren’t any bones in there you know.”
I did as I was told and found the box. It had a handle that I could pick up in my mouth. I wondered what could be inside. It wasn’t heavy. When I placed it at the foot of the Parrot’s perch he hopped down onto it with a happy glint in his eyes.
“Seeds?” I asked.
“No, something much better,” he replied. “Fleas.”
“FLEAS!” Now I thought he had gone completely insane. After cats, fleas are the most loathsome creatures in the Universe. The humans believe that God made snakes to punish them. But we dogs know that fleas are the bane of all decent creatures.
“I brought them along just in case,” said the Parrot. “And this is just in case.”
A few minutes later, we were back on the moon. I took the box, and another object from the hold – a sort of contraption on wheels. The Parrot harnessed it to me, and I pulled it along the valley. We walked – or rather moon hopped – for some half an hour until the Parrot looked up at the stars and said: “This will be about the place.” We began to climb. It wasn’t so easy this time, as I was pulling that wheelie thing, and had the box of fleas in my mouth. It did not feel like there were cats nearby, because normally I would have smelt their stench, but it is different when you have a space helmet on. I cautiously peered over the top of the ridge. There they were. About a dozen ninja cat commandos, armed with laser guns.
“They are the advance team,” said the Parrot. “Let’s wait for the mother ship.”
So we waited. I can tell you that waiting is the worst part of any mission. You wait and you wait, and you don’t feel in control of your destiny. I just wanted to dart over the top of that ridge, barking at the top of my voice, and charging at the cats – but that, of course, would have been suicide. It was an hour before we felt the ground tremble. This time it was no volcanic eruption, but a huge spaceship was landing. Its doors opened, and out streamed an army of cat people. There are not so many strays on the streets of Rome!
“Fabulous!” said the Parrot. He really had gone crazy, but orders are orders, and I did as he told me. I slowly advanced over the top pulling the machine behind me. The Parrot picked up the box in his beak and placed it onto the machine. He told me to stop, and he undid my harness. A cat lookout had spotted us. The air was filled with the most dreadful caterwaul. A squad of five or so ninja commandos came running towards us:
“Steady, steady….now!” called the Parrot. His little head darted forward and pecked a red button on the machine. It flung the box into the air until it was up above the army of cats where it detonated with a terrific bang. A cloud of fleas filled the air and gently floated down to the surface. Almost immediately the cats meowed pitifully. The cat commandos stopped in their tracks and started to scratch quite maniacally. It was a wonder to behold, but I did not want to hang around to catch one of those fleas. I turned and ran back down the valley and bounded for the spaceship. The Parrot fluttered after me. When we had the door of our craft safely sealed shut, we were both in stitches of laughter.
“I’ve never seen such a beautiful sight in my life!” I said almost in tears of joy. “But those were no ordinary fleas, were they?”
“No,” said the Parrot, “They are a top secret weapon – Cosmic Fleas! Especially attracted to cats, and there is no flea-powder to combat them. That cat army will hardly be welcomed back home. They will be stuck in their spaceship, itching away, until their scientists can come up with a cure or a bath – and you know how much cats hate water!”
“That’s wonderful,” I said in awe.
“It’s revenge!” said the Parrot, “REVENGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!”