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The Asha Chronicles Part 15
Birds In Space
Houston, I Think We Have A Problem
By Julie Stilwell and Timothy Graham
The Feathered Friends had been very busy lately helping out their fellow birds as well as their human friends and they felt the need for a vacation. The four had gathered at the home of Asha, a blue-font Amazon, in Byron Georgia. They were sitting out on her screen porch, sun bathing and trying to decide where to go to take some well-deserved time off. As usual, they were having a hard time reaching an agreement.
Asa, a cinnamon pearl split to pied cockatiel, had expressed an interest in doing some mountain climbing. The orange-winged Amazon BabyGirl thought that idea was silly since it involved way too much work. She was more interested in taking a sea cruise. The sky blue budgie Cecil (who had more attitude and personality than his little body could contain) thought that a trip to Europe would be fun. As usual, Asha saw that she, as the most forceful personality of the group, would have to make the final decision.
“Look, I have a good friend named Angel who lives in Florida,” she began. “Why don’t we go down there and take some time on the beach and if we feel like taking off for somewhere else, we can.” Asha, the voice of reason, ended.
That idea met everybirdie’s approval and the Four took flight and headed south for a relatively short trip to the Atlantic coast of Florida where Angel, an African Grey, welcomed the four and put on a nice spread of veggies, fruits, and juice. Angel’s house was near the beach and for couple of days the five spent most of their time lying in the sand and flying out over the surf.
On day three of their Florida vacation Asa suggested that they take a tour of the area. They took to the air and began to slowly fly south to see the sights. After about an hour they spotted a strange sight in the distance.
“What is that thing?” asked BabyGirl. “It looks like a big candle.”
“Well, we’ll never figure it out this far away,” said Cecil. “Let’s get closer.”
The five birds flew closer to the object and noticed that there were a large number of humans gathered around it. They seemed to be working on the object for some unknown reason.
“It sure is tall,” said Angel. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Let’s fly up to the top of it and maybe we can figure it out,” suggested BabyGirl and the rest readily agreed.
Soon they were perched on top of the tall object. From their perch they could see for miles all around. Several humans were working around the only doorway into the object. They soon finished what they were doing and walked away down a walkway to a tall structure that was attached to the object.
“Look, they left that door open,” said Asa. “I bet we could get inside.”
“Do you think that is a good idea?” asked Cecil. “What if those humans come back?”
“Quit being such a worry birdie,” said Asha. “Let’s take a look.”
With curiosity having a death grip upon them, the five flew into the object and found a cramped room filled with computers and chairs. Suddenly they heard a sound outside and noticed that several humans in strange clothing were headed towards the door.
“Quick, find somewhere to hide!” said BabyGirl and they scurried towards a small door that led to what appeared to be a closet. They crammed themselves into the closet and shut the door just as the humans began entering the small cramped room.
“I guess we better just wait here until they decide to leave,” said Angel logically. “They might get mad if they see we have sneaked into whatever this thing is.”
The five settled down and played some word games until they got sleepy. Heads under wings and sitting shoulder to shoulder they settled down and took a nap. They were suddenly jolted awake by the sound of a large explosion and a sudden weight descending upon their feathered chests.
“Darn!” said Asha. “It feels like a human has sat on me! What on Earth is going on?”
None of the others were able to answer as they were too busy trying to breathe. But as suddenly as the invisible weight appeared it went away.
“That feels better.” said Asa. “But what is this?” she shouted as she suddenly began floating towards the top of the closet. “I can fly without flapping my wings! It feels like I have no weight whatsoever!”
The five birds were very confused as they tried to orient themselves.
“I don’t think I like this at all,” said Cecil nervously. “First we weigh too much and now we weigh nothing at all. What the heck have we gotten into here?”
“We better try to find those humans and ask them what is going on,” said Asha, once again being the voice of reason.
The five had a hard time getting the door open while weightless but they finally got it open enough for Cecil to slip through. He scouted out the immediate surroundings and reported back to the rest of his flock still secluded in the closet.
“Three of the humans in those strange outfits are sitting in chairs just in front of us,” he said. “Does anyone want to go and talk to them?”
“I’ll go,” Asa volunteered. She slipped out of the closet and tried waddling to the front of the room. It was difficult to walk under the weightless conditions, but she finally figured out how to move forward without flying off towards the ceiling. She eventually got to the front of the room and began using her beak to pull herself up the leg of the human sitting in the front chair.
“Yes Houston, Shuttle Atlantis is a go for final orbital insertion,” the human said. “What was that last question you asked?”
A voice came from out of the air. “Shuttle Atlantis our instruments show that you are about two pounds overweight. Did one of you bring something on board that was not approved?”
“Negative Houston,” the man in the strange uniform said as Asa finally reached the arm of his chair.
“Excuse me sir, could I please ask you a question?” Asa said in her most polite and lady like tone of voice.
“What the heck was that?” the human asked. “Who said that? You all know better than chattering on the radio while we’re doing an orbital insertion!”
“Sorry to disturb you, but I do have an important question,” Asa said as she tried to get the human’s attention by biting on his arm. The material of his clothing was very tough and she was unable to get a good grip on it.
The human finally saw the strange creature on his chair and shouted “What kind of games are you idiots playing! What is this thing? Some kind of new robot?”
“I assure you I am no robot,” Asa said indignantly. “I am a cockatiel and I want to know where I am and how do I get back to Angel’s house. I am quite hungry and am tired of this lack of weight.”
The human was sputtering and stuttering but seemed unable to make a coherent sound. The two other humans sitting nearby were staring at the small brown bird and seemed equally unable to say anything intelligent. The voice named Houston kept asking what was happening but nobody seemed to be paying it any attention. Meanwhile the other birds had decided to leave the closet and join Asa. Asha tried to fly up to where Asa stood but, due to the lack of gravity, overshot her target and landed on a large group of instruments in front of the human. She latched onto a toggle switch and looked back at the room.
“Who is in charge here? We would like to go back to Angel’s house. Can you help us?” Asha asked, also utilizing her best and most lady like manners and tone of voice.
The human in the front chair had finally regained some semblance of composure and asked in a voice full of shock and disbelief, “Are you birds?”
“That would appear to be obvious,” said Asa. “And I suppose you are humans?”
The human ignored Asa’s attempt at sarcasm, “How in heaven’s name did you get here?”
“Well, why don’t you tell us just what ‘here’ is,” said Asha.
“Commander,” broke in one of the other humans. “Are those birds really talking or is this some kind of trick. Is NASA giving us some kooky test or something?”
“I have no idea Simmons,” said the commander. “Look you bird, or whatever you are. This is the Shuttle Atlantis and we are currently 180 miles above the surface of the Earth. We are in the middle of changing our orbit so that we can do repairs on the Hubble Space Telescope. Now, would you kindly tell us what you are doing here?”
“Well, we were on vacation,” said Asa simply. “We saw this big thing and decided to check it out and then all heck broke loose. What is an orbit?”
“Forget that Asa,” said BabyGirl. “Take a look out that window. I don’t think we are in Florida anymore.”
The five birds turned their heads towards a large window in the front of the room and saw the round globe of the planet Earth off in the distance and floating in a sea of blackness.
“Oh Yeah!” said Asha. “This is way cool! I’ve seen this before. Dad watches this stuff all the time!” She turned towards the commander. “You must be Captain Kirk!”
“Captain Kirk?!” the commander shouted. “I’m not Captain Kirk. I’m Commander Smithson.”
“No, really,” said Asha. “This has to be the Enterprise. I’ve seen it on television all the time. Dad’s crazy about this show. Where’s Spock? I like Spock.”
“Simmons, will you please gather these varmits and stow them away somewhere so I can complete our orbital insertion,” the commander said. “I have no idea how I will explain this to Houston.”
The birds went back to their closet without too much trouble after Simmons promised to bring them so food soon. When he left Cecil asked Asha “What is this Captain Kirk stuff? Do you know this guy?”
“Sure,” said Asha. “Like I said Dad watches this stuff all the time. He’s what they call a Treker. You remember those two firemen back in California? This is all a television show about space ships and Klingons and Vulcans.”
“You mean we really aren’t up in a space ship circling the planet?” asked BabyGirl.
“Heck no,” said Asha positively. “How the heck would five birds get on board a spaceship. Those things are huge. They would never allow us to sneak on board one of those things. They’re just filming a television show and we happened to get caught up in it. No problem. I think we ought to go look around. It might be fun.”
“But what about us being weightless,” said Asa. “How do they do that?”
“They can do anything on television,” said Asha with a grin.
“But that guy told us to stay here,” said Cecil. “He is supposed to bring us some food. I’m hungry.”
“Well, maybe we can find it sooner,” said Asha as she headed for the door. “Let’s go!”
The five turned away from the front of the ship and found a stairway leading down. They hung onto the rail and pulled themselves down the stairs. To the right they saw a room with four more humans sitting in chairs. They went in the other direction and found a small room containing a cage with a small monkey in it.
“Hey, it’s a monkey,” said Asa. “I wonder if he can talk?” The five birds tried to get the monkey to talk but he couldn’t say anything. Eventually they were able to get him to understand hand gestures and discovered that he had been loaded on board just before the ship had taken off and he had no idea why he was there or what was going on. He did make it clear that his name was Astro and that he would like to be let out of his cage and Asa took care of that without too much trouble.
“Any idea if where the food is?” Cecil asked astro. The monkey gestured to follow him and he quickly led them to another small room containing boxes of tubes. He took one of the tubes and removed the cap. He squeezed some paste on his hand and licked it with a big smile on his face. He handed the tube to Cecil who squeezed a small amount on one of his talons and took a bite.
“Yuck!” Cecil said with a grimace. “This is awful! Aren’t there any veggies around here?” The birds tried all of the different varieties of the tubes and found none of them worth eating although Astro was having the time of his life squeezing food all over the floor.
“Hey, do you think we’re on television now?” asked BabyGirl as she made an effort to primp her feathers.
“Don’t worry deary, Ben will not be disappointed,” said Asha.
“Well, I just want to look good,” said BabyGirl with a bit of a pout. “We can’t all be Divas and look good all the time!”
“Look, I don’t like being a complainer but I am really hungry,” said Cecil as his tummy rumbled softly. “Do you think there is any way we can get some good food around here?”
“Well, I’m up for a bit of exploring if you guys are. I’ve never been on a television set before.” said Angel as she headed toward a closed door at the far end of the galley.
The five waddle-glided across the floor to the new and mysterious door, upon reaching it, they discovered it was, of course, locked. With a quick jiggle and tug, the Convicts Chick easily unlocked it. Inside stood fresh veggies of all sorts in large glass containers with funny rubber gloves sticking out into the room.
“Why didn’t they just bring us here in the first place?” asked Cecil in an exasperated tone.
“Maybe humans think tubes of goo are better than fresh veggies?” comment Angel.
“Um, there is something funny about those veggies, Cecil.” the voice of reason, Asha, chimed in.
“I don’t see anything wrong with them?” said Cecil with a beak full of rubber glove.
“Um, hate to agree with Asha here, since my tummy is pretty empty, too, but I think she’s right. There’s something not quite right about those veggies.” said Asa, also chiming in as the voice of reason.
But, it was too late. As soon as the air hit the broccoli sample in the case it exploded into a neon green powder. At the exact same moment, out of apparently nowhere, two very large, very black bunny rabbits hopped into the center of the case as the green dust settled, snow-globe style, around them.
“AHHHHHHH!” shouted Cecil as he jumped back hard and fast enough to bump into the wall on the far side of the lab room.
Just then, sensing the possibility of freedom, the bunnies, who were now more green than black, forced their oversized bodies through the opening Cecil had chewed into the rubber glove. It was then that the real chaos began. Bunny One, who like Bunny Two, was completely covered in broccoli dust, hit the floor, left a large green splat, and bounced nearly 6 feet in the air due to the lack of gravity and almost hit Angel in the process. Bunny Two left an equally impressive green splat on the pristine white floor, but only managed a bounce of 4 feet, nicking the tip of Cecils blue tail and leaving a small green smudge.
“Ewwwwwww!!” grimaced Cecil as he shook the green broccoli dust off his tail feathers.
“We’ve got to catch those Bunnies before Captain Kirk finds out!” shouted Asha a bit louder than necessary.
At that moment Astro entered the little lab room and began dancing and playing with the bunnies. It was a mid air ballet that would have made Borishnikov, Abbot and Costello very proud. As Asha swooped this way with the large beaker, Asa swooped that way with an equally as large beaker. Missing Bunny One and Bunny Two, they bumped into one another, sending each other into mid air gravityless loop-dee-loops. Cecil dove like an Eagle after a morsel of fresh fish, hoping to herd Bunny One into the cabinet Angel had just pulled open. Astro, seeing something shiny inside the cabinet, entered it.
“GOT HIM!!!” shouted Angel as she slammed the cabinet door. Asa, lock master extraordinaire, locked the cabinet tight with Astro safely and very securely ensconced inside.
The ballet continued. Asha crashed into BabyGirl, who then was sent floating helplessly backward and then sideways into Asa, who then bumped into Bunny Two, sending it into the glass medicine style cabinet she’d just picked the lock on as Angel held the door open.
“GOT ANOTHER ONE!!!!” shouted Angel as she slammed the glass door closed and Asa locked the still green broccoli powder coated bunny securely inside.
“One more to go!” said Asha obviously as the five feathered friends all dove simultaneously for Bunny One. Seeing it was out numbered, Bunny One ducked into a bread box style experiment station.
“GOT HIM!!!” shouted Cecil as he, Asa, Asha, BabyGirl and Angel all slammed their nearly weightless bodies into the lid at the same time in order to close Bunny One securely into the box. Asa, for the third time in 6 minutes, securely locked another lock.
“Now what?” said Angel, slightly breathlessly.
“We clean up.” said Asa as she began to upright the few containers they’d tipped over.
“It sure would have helped if we knew where on this ship Scotty was! We sure could have used that teleporter of his to get rid of those bunnies!” said Asha as she found a towel and mopped up a bit of spilt water.
With the room looking as it had when they entered, Cecil asked once again to no bird in particular, “You know, I’m still hungry. As a matter of fact, I’m doubly hungry now!”
“You should have just eaten a tube while you had the chance.” said Asa as she found another towel and tried to mop up some of the mess left behind by Astro.
Asha and BabyGirl sat on the back of a chair while Asa, Cecil and Angel finished cleaning up Astros mess as best as they could.
“So, do you really think Scotty is here somewhere with that teleporter machine?” asked Angel.
“He has to be. He works for Captain Kirk and the Federation.” said Asha.
“Well, let’s go ask the Captain where on this ship he is and maybe Scotty can beam us back to Angels house.” said Asa as the five climbed up the stairs and made their way back to the command deck. There they found an obviously angry Commander Smithson talking to an equally angry human on a television screen.
“You are trying to tell me that five birds have somehow stowed away on a space shuttle?” the face on the screen said with sarcasm dripping from his voice.
“That is exactly what I am saying sir,” said the commander. “What should I do about this?”
Ignoring the commander’s question the human on the screen continued his rant “And not only are they birds they are talking birds who think you are Captain Kirk from Star Trek?”
“That is true, sir,” Smithson said in a quiet voice. “Again, what should I do about this?”
“I would suggest you quit smoking whatever it is you have been smoking and call me back when you sober up,” shouted the human in the screen. “Either that or declare yourself unfit for service and put Simmons on!”
“Simmons, will you please tell the General about the birds,” Smithson said with a sigh as he turned his face from the General on the screen to the astronaut on his right.
“No need to go to the trouble” Asha said as she glided to the front of the cabin. “Hey General, what is the title of this episode and where the heck is Scotty? Maybe he can just beam us back to Angels house with the teleporter. If it’s not too much trouble.” Asha added quickly.
The human in the viewscreen looked at Asha as if she were a snake that had just jumped out of his breakfast cereal. He tried to speak a couple of times but was unable to. He looked offscreen and said “Will the rest of you take a look at this and please tell me I am crazy and the shuttle is not infested with talking birds?”
“What is the big deal?” asked Cecil. “You all act like you’ve never heard of talking parrots before. Where are all the cameras? We want to look good for the close-ups.”
“How in heaven’s name did you all get on my shuttle?” the general shouted.
“We walked in the door,” said Angel. “It wasn’t that hard. Were we not supposed to do that? We’re sorry if we’ve caused a problem.”
“Well, I’m going to cause a problem if I don’t get something good to eat and soon!” said Cecil who could contain himself no longer.
“Commander, would you please remove those creatures from the command deck while I go and talk to the President,” the General said. “And while you are at it, why don’t you find your guests something to eat?”
Commander Smithson herded the birds back down to the galley where they found the cases of empty food tubes exactly where the five had left them and still empty. The Commander made it clear that all the food they had was in those tubes. He made the birds promise not to leave the room until he returned and went back up the ladder to face the wrath of the General.
“This is awful,” said Cecil. “I want to go back to Angel’s where we can get some good food.”
“I agree,” said Angel. “Where is that door we came in through?”
The birds climbed back up the ladder and found the entry door but discovered it was securely locked.
“Well, Convicts Chick, do your magic,” said Cecil with a gentlemanly bow.
Despite her best efforts, Asa was unable to get the door to open. “It looks like we are stuck here,” she finally said slightly breathless. “I guess we’ve got to wait until they finish filming this episode before we can go home.”
“What a vacation!” said Cecil sarcastically as he tossed his head back and flapped his wings ever so slightly.
The five decided to wander onto the command deck yet again and see what was happening with the show. They saw that Commander Smithson was again in a discussion with the General.
“The President has agreed that it would be best for us to keep this bird incident as quiet as possible,” said the General. “Lock those creatures somewhere that they won’t cause any trouble and get on with the mission. That telescope has to be repaired or NASA will be in for a public relations disaster that will probably affect our funding. Do I make myself quite clear?”
“Quite,” the Commander said. “Quite. OK, Simmons you have shown yourself totally unable to control those birds why don’t you give it a try Sanchez. Pack them into a storage chute and lock it tight. I don’t want to see or hear anything from them until we are back at Kennedy.”
The third human on the control deck stood up and made his way towards the birds.
“Do we fight or do we give in?” asked Angel.
“Let’s go along with them for now,” said Asha. “If we have to, Asa can get us out.”
The five birds meekly went along with Sanchez who placed them back into the storage chute they had endured during liftoff. They settled in for a long wait and spent the time playing games and napping. Angel got to know the other birds better and they came to enjoy the company of the Grey. After what seemed like an eternity, Asha suggested that Asa give the door lock a try. It didn’t take the well-named Convicts Chick very long to open the door. The five quietly exited and headed for the command deck to see what was going on. Once again, they found the Commander in a discussion with the General.
“We’ve taken four space walks General and it all comes down to one fact,” the Commander began. “The tool that we needed to fix the telescope was broken by accident. It is required for the very exacting work we have to do to make the repairs and without it we cannot do the job. Nothing else is small enough to get into the guts of the telescope. I’m sorry, but we can’t do a thing.”
“Don’t give up so easily Captain,” said Asha as she rushed to the front of the room. “We can’t let those dirty Klingons win that easily! I’ve got just what you need to do the job.”
“What the heck is that crazy bird talking about?” roared the General.
“I thought I told you to lock them away!’ roared the Commander to Sanchez.
“And I thought you were a hero Captain!” roared Asha three octaves higher than any of the three humans. “I guess I was wrong. Maybe Picard was the better Captain!”
“Wait a second!” shouted Sanchez. “I won’t sit here and let you say Picard was a better Captain than Kirk. That bald idiot was nothing more than a glorified diplomat.”
“Sanchez, have you lost your mind?” shouted the General.
“Wait a second,” said the Commander. “What did you mean when you said you have what we need to do the job?”
“Finally,” said Asha with a deep sigh and pity that humans had a tendency to be so slow at getting the point of things. “My friend Asa here is an expert at manipulating things in close quarters. All you have to do is fix her up a cockatiel-sized space suit, tell her what you need done and she’ll do the job.”
“You aren’t planning on listening to that idiot are you Commander?” asked the General.
“Right now, I’d listen to anybody,” said the Commander. “Sanchez, see about fitting this bird into a space suit and let’s get out there and finish this job.”
After some quick costume work and some instructions from the other astronauts, Asa went on the first-ever parrot space walk. The other birds watched on the monitor screen as she slipped into the innards of the telescope and easily made the necessary repairs.
“You know these new Hi-Def sets make it look almost real,” Asha said with amazement.
“You know what,” said BabyGirl. “I’m beginning to think it is real.”
“Are you trying to tell me you believe that we are really hundreds of miles above the Earth’s surface in a space craft while Asa is walking around in outer space repairing a million dollar telescope?”
“I guess you’re right,” said BabyGirl. “I just hope they tell us when this episode will air on tv.”
“Yeah, I want Mom to make a copy of it,” said Cecil, with a hint of pride in his voice.
The remainder of the mission went pretty smoothly after Asa completed the repairs. The shuttle returned to Earth uneventfully, stopping at the far end of the runway so the birds could be released away from the prying eyes of the press.
“I want to thank you for all you did for NASA and your country,” the President told the five birds after the landing. “I would appreciate it if you kept this entire incident a secret. But if you ever need anything, you can call on us.”
The five slipped out the door and flew back to Angel’s house where they dove into a huge meal of fresh vegetables and fruit. When they were finally finished they gathered in a nearby tree to discuss the previous few days.
“You know, they almost had me believing the whole thing was real,” said Asha. “But I knew it was television when I saw the guy they called the president. I swear he was the guy who played ‘Q’ in the Next Generation.”
“Well, real or not, it was fun!” said Asa.
Yeah, you got to keep that little space suit,” pouted Cecil. “You get all the good toys.”