Diligent as a hungry
squirrel looking for buried nuts in the winter, Monty dug into a large box
of old spare pieces of plumbing equipment. "Hey, Alec, look here,"
he whispered. "Here’s that old pump you pulled out of the Lily Pad
replaced it a couple of months ago, faulty impeller I think it was."
that puppy was conking out fast," Alec confirmed.
about if you need to install this spare pump because of a big
leak in the base of the fountain?"
plan, Monty," Alec enthused. "And the bird feeder is
only a few feet away. Sure, we can start on the fountain pump.
Then, after they become accustomed to us being there…"
move over to the bird feeder, set up the ladder, and you climb
up with the bag of seed while I block the view as much as
boffo," Alec whispered loudly.
couple of minutes, toting ladder, tools, a pump, and a bag of
bird seed, Alec and Monty were waiting for the guard at the base
of the patio stairs to let them through.
up the stairs," the MP said gruffly after receiving a 'clear' command over his headset.
buster," Monty said up close as he passed the robot-like
guard, "I’ve run this humble establishment for more years
than you have tucked under your little belt. You think I don’t
know the way to my own patio? Use some sense and decency young
man!" Monty started climbing but then turned around and
called back to the guard. "And mind your manners with me or
I’ll have you tossed out by Big Mike."
At the top
of the stairs, in the entryway to the patio, another MP blocked
the door. After a short delay, they were again cleared to pass—right into the waiting
arms of two MPs who announced that they would
accompany Monty and Alec while they were doing their patio work.
Alec looked at each other in a brief glance of apprehension
about this unexpected wrinkle in their plan.
long as you don’t get in the way," Monty snapped with
authority. "I run this place, you see? I’m letting you
guys work here as long as you are courteous guests. And mannered
guests never interfere or obstruct. So, gentlemen, accompany us
if you must. But, of course, you will not get in our way."
Gomez, who had been talking with Dr. Crink and some of Crink’s
staff, overheard the end of Monty’s forceful directions to the
MPs. The general stepped over before Monty and Alec could move
on. "Well….uhummmm…well, Mr. Sturm and Alec my
boy," The general said as she clapped Alec lightly on the
shoulder. "Now my boys have their instructions. So, I know
you will cooperate—just finish your work quickly, and then you
must leave. That’s the deal. OK?"
Alec stared impassively at the general’s glittering smile and
said nothing. Waiting for their response, the Cheshire cat’s
smile began to slowly fade—threatening to turn into an
unpleasantness. "Sure, sure, sure," Monty finally
mumbled to his ladder as he and Alec picked up their tools and
headed to the Lily Pad fountain.
eyes were fixed on the alien being that was now almost dancing
on top of its shimmering blue pedestal of light. The wondrous
being turned its attention obviously on him and suddenly burst
into a high-speed stream of repeating color patterns. As Alec
passed close, he felt as if the creature were trying to speak
just to him. He marveled at the swirling rivulets of color that
ran around the monkey’s face. Reluctantly, he turned away from
the lively creature and followed Monty to the fountain.
and Alec began work on the pump in the fountain’s base, they
could overhear the commotion around Dr. Crink and the people
working around him. All sporting outlandish headsets that made
them look like Nordic warriors in a bad opera, they huddled and
shuttled around a clutch of mobile, camouflaged computer hutches
with strange sensor arrays mounted on their sides. Dr. Crink was
standing by one of the computer terminals gesturing quickly to
get that EM channel back up," the anemic Dr. Crink ordered
with a bony finger impatiently poking a blinking light on a
display screen. "And give me a signal overlay for the feed
from the 90s," he barked as he turned to a computer
operator hurriedly typing at a nearby terminal.
still getting exponential gain over previous color cycle
times," a worker at another terminal called out excitedly.
we’re seeing the same thing over here," another voice
cried out from a terminal located around the other side of the
small wire fence that encircled the lively creature.
me high-res and all channels up on the 90s," an agitated
Dr. Crink yelled to no one in particular.
they had hoped, their work on the fountain pump quickly bored
their two MP escorts. Both were now standing relaxed and
apparently chewing some fat as they watched the increasing
activity and excitement around the alien apparition. Seeing that
they had let their guard down, Monty harrumphed and declared
that Alec had done a good job and would the guards like to take
a look at the newly installed pump?
One of the
MPs leaned over and looked inside the pump housing. Then, in a
greasy hand that hovered over the MPs shiny boots, Alec held up
the dripping pump for the guard’s approval.
good. Let’s go," the guard said as he stepped back from
the imminent damage to his buffed, black leather.
other thing we need to do is refill the feeder for my Aviaritus
Voxum, Monty said matter-of-factly. "That’s their
Latin name you know…my little Yellow-Breasted Zuni finches.
Very expensive…need special food you know," Monty mumbled
like a daft old man as he collected his gear and headed for the
but let’s move it," the MP said. He nudged his
distracted comrade to follow along to the feeder only a few feet
caught a fast glimpse of the creature as he climbed up to the
feeder suspended under the high eaves that ran along one side of the
spacious patio. "He’s looking at me again…I think he’s
trying to say something to me," Alec whispered in Monty’s
ear, gesturing toward the distant creature as he began to climb
stood at the base of the ladder, ostensibly holding it steady as
Alec climbed with the bag of seed. Alec fumbled and pretended
hesitation as he climbed. The MPs quickly lost interest in his
retarded progress and turned their attention again on the
activities around the dancing creature.
to pour the seed into the feeder as he reached up and
lifted the lid on top of the enclosure. His fingers searched
blindly in the recesses for the small switch that would turn on the
up there kid, what’s taking so long," one of the guards
said looking up at the seed slowly dribbling into the feeder. Acting
startled, Alec’s arm made a spastic jerk and seed spilled on
look what you’ve done," Monty yelled offended as he sank
to his knees and started scooping the loose seed into his hand.
"Just look at this mess. Do you know how much this Aviaritus
Voxum mix costs? I told you to pour slowly Alec. Damn it.
Just do what you’re told," Monty rambled in a parental
Monty said in a quiet aside to the one guard still watching.
They exchanged nods of mutual agreement and the guard again turned his
attention to the frenzied activity around the alien being.
frantic, Alec continued feeling for the switch in the dark
enclosure. Just as he spied General Gomez heading in their
direction, his little finger found the switch. He flipped it
just as he let more seed spill. Everyone except Monty looked
down to watch the thousands of colorful seeds bounce and roll
and flow across the smooth patio stones.
I think that’s enough for now, Alec. We got our big jobs
done," Monty announced in a voice intended also for the
approaching general’s ears.
expect this is the end of your…ummm…important jobs on the
patio," the general said with a sarcastic accent on ‘important.’
now, General Gomez, yes," Monty said firmly with a side
grin to Alec.
walked briskly over to confer with the general as Alec and Monty
gathered their tools in haste. They headed toward the exit, the
MPs in their wake. Around them there was a chorus of techno
babble and humming machines. Above the din, Alec distinctly
heard the urgent voice of the general behind him: "ASAP Crink. I want to see all
of it…ummm ASAP."