Standby for action and adventure, in this first episode of an Astropup mini-series. Our space travelling hero is sent with his comrade, the Parrot, to investigate a wrecked spaceship. Unfortunately, ferocious space sharks are in the area. What a time for poor Astropup to go space-walkies.
Story by Bertie.
Read by Richard.
Proofread by Jana Elizabeth.
Hello, this is Richard, and I am here with another Astropup Story. Actually, it’s the first in a little mini-saga featuring our friend the space travelling dog. Don’t be surprised if it ends on a bit of a cliff hanger. Anyway, as usual, Astropup is here to tell us the story in his own words.
Space, it’s a big place. It takes an age to get from one part of it to the next. How did I pass the time on our voyages across the empty unknown? Perhaps you dear listener would have read a book, or listened to a story, or played ‘I spy with my little eye’ – something beginning with ‘S’ – yes, that’s it – Space! And more space. And yet more space. There’s enough of it to drive a dumb dog insane. As for me, I preferred to sleep, and, perchance, to dream. To dream of, mmmm, GRAVY…. WUFF oh, happy Wuff. I was in the midst of one long, smellorific dream when, BANG! A great jolt awoke me. In a trice, I was on all four paws, teeth clenched, gums snarling, GRRRRRRRRRR! And BOOM! Another knock sent me tumbling through the cabin, flapping my legs like a helpless baby bird fallen from its nest. It’s hard to get used to weightlessness.
My friend and commanding officer, the Parrot Major, rasped: “You can growl if you like, they aren’t scared.”
“Who?” I woofed.
“Them!” He pointed a wing. I pressed my nose against the porthole and found myself peering into a cavern of pearly white teeth. It pulled back and I saw that its body was blue and it had fins and a tail like a fish. But mostly it had a giant mouth.
“What are they?” I gasped.
“Space sharks,” replied the Parrot.
“Will they eat us?”
“If you feel like going for a space walkie, you can find out.”
I had never felt less like going space walkies than just then.
“Can they bite our ship?” I asked.
“They already have,” said he. “One of them nipped off the radio mast for breakfast.”
The radio went CRRRRRRRRRRRRR…
I admit that I am not the brightest pup in the kennel, but even I understood that no radio mast meant no chit-chat with the humans back on Earth. We were cut off. Perhaps we were lost in space. “AW AW AWWWWWWWWWWW!”
CRACK! A giant tail whacked the nose off our ship. It went hurtling through space, and three sharks chased it like ducks after a piece of stale bun, I’m glad to say that they didn’t bother coming back for more spare parts. Phew. That was a relief. I stretched my front legs, yawned, and asked my usual question:
“Are we there yet?”
Sometimes the Parrot would answer: “Where’s there?” or “Fancy that, we are still here.” But this time he said: “Almost. Another half hour.”
Half an hour! That was nothing – a mere jiffy. A quick dream about a squirrel and we would be there.
In this particular case, “there” was a plot in the middle of nowhere. It was a pin on a space chart. The last known location of a spacecraft called HMS Hesperus. It had carried 250 humans back in the days when they still flew their own missions. It disappeared without trace. Its sister ship, HMS Vesperus did the same. Both of them had been on voyages to contact alien life forms. After they and their crews vanished, the humans decided to call off manned space missions to distant corners of the Universe. They hit upon the idea of sending us animals and birds instead.
The Parrot woke me for lunch, which I wolfed down in a trice. While I was still licking my bowl, he said:
“There she is!” I looked up and saw it through the porthole. The wreck of the Hesperus was many times the size of our puny little ship. It was like a giant can of dog food, with one end ripped open by some cosmic tin opener. I woofed with satisfaction. This was the object of our mission. Then the Parrot, as was his way, put the dampener on my delight. He said:
“Walkies! Get your space suit on!” Oh yes, this was my part of the mission. It was my job to go out and explore. I was to enter the space wreck and find two things. One was a black box that had recorded every moment of the doomed mission. The other was something precious to the humans. It was the largest and most perfect diamond ever found. It made the crown jewels look like a princess dress up kit. This crystal was the source of all the spacecraft’s power. How it worked, I don’t know. You’d better ask the Parrot about all that astrophysics stuff. His job was to think. Mine was to do.
“But what if there are space sharks?” I asked. Nobody had mentioned them back on Earth.
“Then you, dear dog,” said the Parrot, “will be shark snack. But that’s a risk I’m prepared to take. We haven’t come all this way for nothing.”
Oh well, every dog must do his duty.
“Wuff Sir” I said, and I scrambled through the tunnel that contained my spacesuit. It zipped me in automatically. The Parrot pecked a button and “Woosh” I was ejected out into space like the garbage. I shot towards the Hesperus, and entered through the opening.
In all my space travels, that wreck was the eeriest place I had ever been. The 250 people were gone. Perhaps they had been food for the sharks. But there were reminders of them everywhere. A toothbrush floated by my nose. A stellar powered iPhone was playing Angry Space-Birds with itself. A cheese sandwich still looked rather tasty. I cruised through the living quarters and passed into the engine room. I knew the way. Back on Earth, my trainer had taken me through the full sized mock-up a hundred times. I found the black box in its place under the chief navigator’s station. A sensor in my collar peeped like a crazy bird in the mating season, and the box floated up and homed in on it. They fastened together like they were supposed to do. Next I had to find the diamond. It was embedded in the captain’s control panel. I had to tap in a code with my nose. In rehearsals I had practised it over and over again. 9421 Bingo! The diamond shot out like a rabbit and I caught it in my mouth. It was certainly the biggest stone I had ever clenched between my teeth. If it had been a bone it would have been a whopper, but this was all rock.
A few moments after I had grasped it, there was a WHIRRRR all over the ship, a bit of a shudder, and the lights went out. I was expecting this. The power was gone. The emergency lighting, which was much dimmer, took over.
Now all I had to do was to get back to our ship. I gave myself a good shove with my hind legs against the captain’s computer, and flew towards the exit. But oh now, as I was halfway across the living quarters, I saw a silhouette in the opening. I knew it right away. It was a beastly space shark, and I was heading straight for its mouth. Frantically I stuck out a paw and got hold of a handle on the roof. This was enough to slow down my course to doom, and I managed to change direction and dive under a bed that was fastened to the floor. There was just enough space for me to get under it. But oh, would the shark munch his way through the furniture? Could he see me? Could he smell my doggy odour? Cautiously, I peered out, and saw him sail past the bed. He seemed to know where he was going. He headed straight for a door that was marked with a black skull and crossbones. Even I knew what that meant. It was death by the electric dragon. The cupboard contained a colourful spaghetti of electric cables. Back on Earth, only the dimmest of dogs would chew those. Those stringy things are as deadly as snakes. The shark took a mouthful. But there was no flash or bang. The power was off. I held its source in my mouth. He seemed almost disappointed as he sulked back out of the shipwreck. I would have waited a long while under the bed, to make certain that he was as good as gone, but I was running low on Oxygen. I had to make it back to our craft. Cautiously I crept out from under the bed and made my way. When I was safely home, it was a relief to spit the diamond out of my mouth. The rock floated past the Parrot. He followed it with his greedy eye.
“It’s BEAUTIFUL!” he cried. You’ve done a wonderful job to get back with this one.”
I yelped with delight. Praise from the Parrot was rare indeed.
“Do you think they will give me a medal for this?” I asked.
He looked at me quizzically.
“A biscuit more like,” he said. “The humans are an ungrateful lot. Dear dog, I thought you were a gonner when I saw that shark go in there. How did you get out?”
I explained about the shark’s strange attraction to the electric fuse box.
“Oh I understand,” said the Parrot. “He came by when he saw the lights go out. The space sharks have been feeding off the electricity from the ship. Afterwards, I saw them shoot off in the direction of an electric space storm. Electricity is like their oxygen.”
“Well it’s good to see the last of that lot,” I said. “Mission completed. Let’s head back home.”
“Home?” said he, like I had said something strange. “Why should we go there? Our radio blacked out at the same place they lost contact with the Hesperus. The humans have written us off. Meanwhile, we have the most expensive diamond in the Universe. We’re Rich!”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said. “The humans are our masters. We can’t double-cross them.”
“Can’t double-cross them? They’d gladly triple-cross us. If they wanted that diamond so much, why didn’t they fetch it themselves? Because they’re scardy cats, that’s why. They sent us instead, because they don’t care what happens to us dumb creatures.”
“Oh,” I said, “I hadn’t thought of that before.”
“That’s because thoughts rarely trouble your head,” said he. “If they did, you’d be more seditious like me.”
“What does seditious mean?” I asked.
“It means, it means, oh never mind, it means that you think about things… ”
“Think,” I said. “My mother always told me that thoughts are for fools. A happy animal has a full stomach and an empty head. The road to trouble is paved with thoughts.”
“Well trouble here we come!” cried the Parrot. And he pressed a button on his control panel, and off we sped.
Wow! Thank you Astropup. Astropup promised us a cliffhanger, and that really was one. I can’t wait to find out what happens next in this mini Astropup saga. The next instalment is called the Planet of the Pirates, and Astropup promises that he will be here very soon to tell it to us.