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Chapter the First -- Section 6

Room after room, Schlepp, Louie and Terrance wandered down gloomy hallways, past darkened offices.  The tiny click-click of turtle claws on linoleum were the only sound.  They jumped at every stray noise, worried that the security man would find them.  But when he got in from his tour of the outside, he just went back to his desk, his dinner, and the TV monitors watching the parking lot.

Over and over again Terrance braced himself, Schlepp balanced atop his ornate shell, and Louie poised on the bear's broad shoulders, reaching towards the doorknob above.  Sometimes it took two or three jumps before he caught the shiny lever.  Then it was just a matter of getting some leverage and pulling until the door clicked open.  Schlepp and Terrance would muscle the door open from below.

“Lightfeather?  Are you here?” Schlepp would call out.  Over and over again silence was the only answer.

It was almost dawn when the weary trio opened the door to a laboratory that had a light on inside.

Schlepp was just about to call out when he saw the people in the white lab coats.  They were working at a lab bench, concentrating on something mechanical that lay scattered about in many pieces.  A nearby flask held phosphorescent green goo that looked all too familiar to Louie.

“Hurry up and hand me the fragilisticizer,” said a woman.  

The man at her right offered her a strange elongated tool of shiny metal.  She snatched the tool out of his hand without so much as a nod of thanks.

Schlepp and Louie were so busy watching the people that they were startled when Terrance, still wedged in the doorway, whispered excitedly, “Look over there!”

Following Terrance's gaze, Schlepp saw a large cage up on a counter partially covered with a sheet.  But behind the sheeting he could just make out dozens and dozens of jewel-like hummingbirds sleeping on its many perches.

“How'r we gonna get all of 'em outside, Schlepp?” asked Louie.

“We can't just take Lightfeather and leave the rest,” echoed Terrance, “They're doing live-animal research.”

“That's going to be tricky--all those birds are in a torpor.  That's how hummingbirds survive the night when they can't feed on nectar.  We've got to warm them up so they can fly.  Here's what we'll have to do....”