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Chapter the Second -- Section 4

Jennie clung tenaciously to the alien.  It hung on to Maddy's parasol.   Maddy hung on, too.

When all the shouting was over, Maddy was flopped over the branch, held on by a knee wrapped around a convenient petiole.  She resolutely clutched her parasol handle with both hands.  Below her the alien swung on the other end of the umbrella by its pseudopod.  And at the bottom of this improbable chain of characters was Jennie, firmly holding on to what passed for the alien's ankle with one hand and brandishing her hat pin with the other.  Her maroon velvet hat drifted down, down, down and landed next to Terrance.

“Oh, my!” thought the turtle.

“Oh, my!” exclaimed Schlepp.

“Oh, my!” cried Louie.  “Quick, give me a boost!” 

Terrance braced himself.  Schlepp jumped on top of his shell and made a stirrup of his paws.  Louie took one step and a jump into Schlepp’s hands.  Schlepp gave an “oomph” and flung Louie upward. 

Louie leapt up the tree trunk higher than he’d ever done before and began climbing faster than he’d ever done before.  He flew up the tree like he’d seen Grandpa do, hand over hand, hardly touching the trunk with his feet.  Grandpa was the biggest and oldest Silver Leaf monkey north of Port Klang and his grandson did him proud.  Within moments Louie was on the branch running out towards Lightfeather’s nest. 

Though it only took seconds for Louie to reach the action, already events had moved right along. Roberta... I mean the Beautiful Roberta... had hopped out to Maddie and grabbed her legs. Roberta had then pulled Maddie until she was safe on the branch and Newport was able to pounce on the alien while the Louie reached down to grasp Jennie’s paw.

Soon everyone was safe on the branch, although the alien probably wished it wasn’t.  Down below Big Brown Bear’s squadron had arrived with a cushion from one of the patio chairs, but it looked like it wouldn't be needed.

"Let’s see what we have here," said Newport as he got up off the alien.

Its three eyes swiveled nervously, searching each animal's face.  A small harmless looking pseudopod extended and pointed at Lightfeather, who had slept through it all.

"Now don't you get any ideas about our little friend, young man... uh... alien... uh... creature," said Maddie.  "You're not taking her back to some prison where you can do live-animal research on hummingbirds.  That's not nice."

"Not... nice?" intoned the alien in an awkward, alien accent. 

"Don't you know about 'nice'?" asked Jennie, brandishing her hat pin it's general direction.

"Nice?" the creature asked again.

"It doesn't know about being nice," observed Newport.

"That not possible.  Everyone know what 'nice' is," said Roberta.

"Nice," said the alien.

Louie chimed in, "Y'all must know what nice means--Southern hospitality, don't be evil--that kinda nice."

"Nice?" the creature repeated.

"Maddy, Jennie, Roberta, you guys figure out what's going on here," said Newport.  "Louie and I are going to check out the space pod."

"Nice, nice."

"I think we have some teaching to do, gang," said Maddie.

Meanwhile, Louie and Newport cautiously ventured up the ramp into the space pod.  It was surprisingly large inside.  In fact, it looked larger inside than its outside could possibly contain. 

"Hmmm," thought Louie, "this doesn't look right."

They carefully approached what looked like a command console and as they neared, the machines leaped to activity.  Well, at least a bunch of lights came on.  But behind them with a high pitched whir the door quickly closed. 

"Autopilot engaged and activated," entoned a mechanical voice.

The space pod suddenly jolted.  Newport and Louie quickly caught their balance, but they could feel the trembling of machinery and the vibrations of movement. 

"What's going on?" thought Newport as he ran to the doorway only to find it latched firmly.  The sound of rushing wind outside suggested that forcing the ramp open might not be a good idea. 

Louie was hastily inspecting the control panels, looking for any kind of button or lever that might be a STOP switch.  Only alien symbols and incomprehensible dials met his gaze.