Quite a while ago, we heard from a dog called Astropup who told us about his adventures in space with a clever Parrot and a treasonous cat. The years have gone by, and Astropup has been continuing to have adventures. Now he returns to recount some of them.
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Story by Bertie. Duration 16.38.
Read by Richard.
Proofread by Jana Elizabeth.
My name’s Astropup, which fitted me quite well way back when I was a young scalawag, but these days I’m more of an old space dog. If you’ve got a good memory, you might recall my first yarn on Storynory.com quite a while ago. That was when I travelled with a brainy Parrot and a treasonous cat to a distant planet where cat people were the top dogs, so to speak. I’ve zoomed around the galaxy quite a bit since then, been there, done that, and thought you might like to hear about some of my adventures. Well here goes.
After I got back from the abysmal Planet of the Cats, the people at the Space Centre hung a medal from my collar. For a short happy while, I returned to Jenny, the little girl who cares for me, but it wasn’t long before my other master – duty – was calling me again. As I had so successfully completed one mission, the humans wanted me for the next one. Better the dog you know, so to speak. They had picked up a signal from outer space. The voice sounded like a bark, and the scientists took it as evidence of an intelligent canine species from another world – one perhaps even smarter than sheep dogs.
Once again my travelling companion was the Parrot, who was a Major in the Space Force. His real name is a top secret, and although I do in fact know it, I can’t tell it to you. In any case, I always called him The Major. The Major wasn’t very talkative, or even very squarkative, for a Parrot, but when he did speak, he always made good sense, like the time when he told me:
“Cats aren’t clever, you know, they’re cunning, and there’s a big difference.”
I won’t tell you all about lift off, and what a scary horrid feeling it is when you leave this world. I described all that terrible clattering and juddering in my first story. It was more bearable this time because we knew what to expect, and because we didn’t have to endure that cowardly cat screeching “We’re all going to die” every five seconds.
I’m sure that if our spacecraft had been made for humans, there would have been every convenience, like sofas to lie on, carpets to chew on, and gourmet meals out of the freezer. But we animals and birds are second class citizens, even when we are saving the world. You’ve seen the boot of an estate car. Well that’s what our living quarters were like. You couldn’t even open the window. The Parrot had a perch. I had a rubber bone. That was our lot for luxuries.
The Major is a brainy bird, and he understood a lot more scientific stuff than I ever will. He said the humans had found a way to bend space, so that we hurtled along at four times the speed of light without actually going forward in time. Look, if you don’t understand that last sentence, neither do I, so don’t let it bother you. All you have to know is that this form of travel was too new, too untried, and too dicey for humans.
Once we had said goodbye to Earth, it was basically just us and the Universe. I can’t tell you how quiet it is out there. And of course there’s no gravity to drag you down. As for that floating around business, it was alright for the bird, he was used to it, but us dogs prefer to keep our paws on the ground. If I wanted to sleep, which was most of the time, I had a kennel, and the walls and roof stopped me drifting off too far.
The Parrot had brought along plenty to keep his clever feather brain occupied. He spent his time learning German, to add to his other languages, and solving cryptic crosswords on his computer.
After we had been bending space for about four weeks, we finally picked up a signal. I could clearly hear it through the speakers. It was three long woofs, followed by three short ones: Like this:
'Woof woof woof'
'Wuf wuf wuf'
Intelligent life! This is what we had come all this way to find. We had been trained in the procedure. The Major started to peck on some buttons on the wall. Our course locked onto the signal and we headed straight for its source. In the meantime, I returned some friendly barks into the microphone, but the Major said that we would get there before the sound of my barks – figure that one out if you can.
Before too long, we sighted the distressed spacecraft through the big window. You could see it was in a bad way, because panels were missing off the roof, and bits and pieces of debris were trailing behind it.
“Best be careful,” said the Major. “We don’t know if these aliens have friendly intentions.”
I couldn’t agree enough, but our orders were to make contact and, if possible, to bring any evidence of their life back to Earth. I gruffed into the microphone:
“Hello canine friends. We come in peace. Would you like a tow to anywhere in the Universe?” But they just repeated the woofing exactly as before. It was just like a blooming recording.
“They don’t seem all that smart to me,” I said. The Major looked like he was about to say something clever, but he didn’t have a chance because seconds later there was a loud crash and we were both juddered and thrown all over the place. Fortunately the walls of our quarters were padded with cushions, or one of us might have broken a paw or a wing.
When we had recovered our senses, we saw that the idiots in the other craft had crashed into us. I mean, you’d think with all infinity to drive through, they could have found their own space. But at least our window was now next to there’s. We could see in – and just as I had suspected – their ship was crewed by three fellow pooches.
I can’t tell you what this moment meant to me. You travel millions of miles, you meet beings from another world, and it turns out that they are dogs who are smart enough to build and fly their own spacecraft, all be it badly.
While pride for my species was swelling in my heart, the Major squawked:
“You stay here. I’m going out for a space walk.”
His space suit was suspended from the ceiling. It was a clever design with a self fastening zip. He was dressed in about a minute, and not much later he was waving a wing at me from the other side of the window. I was glad it was him out there, not me. Fortunately he didn’t find much more damage to our ship than a couple of dents. He hooked up a towing rope to the other ship, and popped back inside via the air lock.
We were almost set to go. I said into the microphone: “Right, where to boys?” and they beamed over a map. The Parrot spent some time studying our own star charts, and comparing theirs to ours. At last he squawked “Got it!" and pecked some coordinates into our ship’s computer. The star map on the ceiling of our quarters lit up, and “Zoom” we were on our way.
As we went, I tried to speak to the dogs in the other ship, but their woofs made little or no sense to me, and I gave up trying to communicate. They seemed to prefer snoozing to talking, and I thought to myself, “Well we will see soon enough what the planet of the dogs is like.”
And sure enough, after only a couple of days we were already in orbit around their world. As I looked down into the swirling seas and sprawling land masses, it all seemed strangely familiar. It was as if I had seen it all before in a dream. I started to think big thoughts, like perhaps the spirits of dogs come from this world when we are born, and return here when we die. Perhaps somewhere else there is a Planet of the Parrots, and perhaps each and every species has its own home in one corner of the Universe, where they are lords and masters and all is perfect for them, just like the humans rule our Earth.
The dogs in the other ship sent over another map with instructions about where to land. If anything, entering a world is worse than leaving it. The ship grows horribly hot with friction against the atmosphere, and you are going so fast you can’t help wondering if you’re going to crash and that will be it, but when the parachute opens and you are drifting down through a clear sky, all is bliss. I wondered what our welcoming party would be like. No doubt they would be as amazed to meet dogs from another planet as we were. My only worry was that they might think me stupid, because it seemed to me that their canine civilisation was as advanced as the humans’ on our own planet.
We landed, as you generally do, with a bone shuddering thud, and after weeks of weightlessness, I had trouble standing up. It’s like learning to walk all over again. The Parrot was flying before I was walking. He was fluttering at the window.
“Core!!" he said, which was his own Parrot language and I didn’t understand it. Then he switched into English, which is what Jenny spoke and which I understand perfectly.
“You’re not going to like this,” he said. I staggered over to the window and pressed my nose against it. A cart was coming towards us along a track through the field. It was pulled by a set of four dogs in harnesses. Seated above in the vehicle were two hideous creatures. It wasn’t the first time we had seen such abominations. They were cat people!
It breaks my heart to recount what happened next. The ship that we had towed was lying on its side. I wondered if the poor dogs had suffered broken bones in the landing, but they were unhurt. The hatch flew open, and they climbed out, and jumped down onto the ground. They ran across the field, their tales wagging, towards the cart. They were glad to be home – back to where dogs were slaves – back to the Planet of the Cats!
“I’ve seen enough,” I said. “Let’s get out of here,” and the Parrot started to apply his beak to the computer. A few pecks fired the rockets and we were lifting off. I hope that our exhaust singed some cat whiskers down below, and if it burnt some dog fur, so be it: they were cowards and traitors to their own kind.
For a long while I was silent. I could not take it in. Eventually, when we were well on our way, I said to the Major:
“Why? Why did they want to go back? They were free dogs. We could have taken them back to Earth where they could hold their tails high? Ours might not be the planet of the dogs, but at least, the humans treat us, well, humanely, and not like slaves.”
“Why?” said the Parrot. “Some creatures find freedom frightening.”
And I thought to myself, that however much I loved Jenny and my family life, I also loved the freedom of space travel. Yes it was a scary business, but when you are out there in the Universe, nobody can tell you what to do. I made a promise to myself that I would never be afraid of freedom, and one day I would find the corner of the Universe which dogs can call their own home.