He quickly hit the seat belt release and began to float up out of his chair. For and instant, he panicked, as he twisted around to get his feet back under him. He must have looked funny, as he writhed around in the air as he heard someone giggling near him. Turning his head, he saw Lorena and another dog floating closer to him. “Don’t fight it,” she said calmly, “you will only wear yourself out. Slowly move in the direction you want and let the inertia of your movement carry you.” She helped talk him into some small aerobatic movements, until he got the hang of it.
“Thanks,” Abernathy said, “I think I am getting the hang of this.”
“Good,” she replied, “This is my husband, Rego,” she nodded toward the big Husky floating next to her. Abernathy became friends with Lorena and her husband over the next few days of the journey to Manu as they shared meals and stories of the planets they had visited with him.
During the flight Abernathy became one of the best cargo protection crewmen on the mission and was promoted cargo protection crewman first class by the end of the voyage.
On the fifth day, just as his shift was about midway through, a yellow light flashed several times and a horn was heard throughout the ship. Over the intercom came the voice of Pete, the Senior Master Chief of the ship, “ATTENTION! ATTENTION! ATTENTION! MAKE READY FOR LANDING ON MANU!”
Within minutes, the calmness of Cargo Hold #7 became a beehive of activity as the booming voice of Miss “D” shouted out orders to all the members of cargo 7 to fasten down everything. He was busy up to the last minute, helping everyone to make ready for touch down. Finally, Miss “D” told everyone to buckle up and they all reported to the ready room to find their seats and strap in for landing.
Abernathy clicked the seat belt and a few minutes later, he felt the engines blasting out a few bursts to stead the ship and guide it to the landing pad.
The landing was gentle and perfectly executed. Everyone clicked their buckles and began the process of preparing to unload the ship. Abernathy listened closely to the directions of Miss “D” and Jack, as he moved quickly to help unfasten the cargo for delivery.
The cargo movement system was fairly simple. After being hoisted down from the lofty heights of the massive cargo area by the overhead cranes, the parcels were placed on an anti-gravitational belt that shuttled them to the exits where they were deposited on the land side anti-gravitational belts which loaded them smoothly onto trucks, which took the precious cargo to the nearby cargo docks, to be distributed later that day.
After the unloading was completed and the cargo was cleaned and prepared for reloading, Miss “D” declared that everyone was entitled to a day of shore leave. Abernathy quickly followed some of his friends outside the ship to explore this new world.
The cargo was just finishing its loading on the trucks, when Abernathy heard a loud squawking and looked over to see a huge red rooster barking orders to the loading crew. He was looking at the ship’s crew exiting the spacecraft and nodded in their direction, “Morning ladies and gentlemen, names Glen. We should have this all sorted out in a cock-a-doddle minute and be out of your way.” He turned his head and yelled at the closest bird, a big blue looking creature with powerful legs, “Paul, Get that load strapped down tightly to the truck. We can’t afford to lose any of this cargo.”
He looked back toward Abernathy and his friends and said, “Those Kangakeets are great workers and they know what they are doing. I am proud to have such an efficient crew.” He strutted off yelling at another bunch of feathered creatures near the dock.
They stood there looking at the rooster as he strutted and squawked his way over to the dock when a bus pulled up, driven by a bright peacock, who called himself Thompson. He got out and was followed by a crew of ship maintenance birds, carrying their equipment strapped to their backs in little plastic cases. They were strange looking birds with green and blue florescent feathers, and each of them had four arms that reached and handled the tools for completing their maintenance tasks.
“Those are Columbo-Texicans,” remarked Thompson. “They are from the southern regions and they are known as the best maintenance birds on Manu. They’ll have you ship shape in no time.”
The last off the bus was a short yellow bird with long trailing feathers, “Step it up now! Somebody get that ship’s logbook. Let me get a look at what needs fixing.” One of her spindly legs was surrounded by an evil looking contraption and everyone looked at it.
“That is Brodie, the crew boss.” Thompson said, “The Raygelos that normally runs the crew was called away to set up a remote site in the north. She has just had an operation, but doesn’t let that stop her. She is one tough bird.”
Abernathy was about to make a comment, when a small hummingbird flittered around the buss and chirped in a small voice, “Well, come on now. Let’s get a move on, or you’ll spend the whole day here at the port and you won’t get a chance to see our lovely planet. My name is King,” she introduced herself. She was mostly green, with red marking running through her feathers and her wings were a blur of motion.
Darting back and forth from the crew, toward town and back, they began to follow as she flew from flower to flower on the side of the road gradually moving toward the first of the buildings that made up the port city of “Mitcham,” that was written on the sign post.
Looking around, Abernathy could see other members of the ship following behind. He saw the Captain walking with Pete and others of the bridge crew. They were all guided by hummingbirds that floated across the road, leading their guests toward town.
Eventually, they reached the corner and turning down the main street, they saw a blur of activity as it looked like market day. Colorful stalls were set up and birds of every type lined the streets. They had to wait as a troupe of dancers hopped and tumbled and strutted toward the center of the square.
King fluttered to the front of the small group and announced that this was the world famous “Tracettes,” led by the two tall beautiful leggy birds, Chloe and Kelsey, which were Mitchimites. Their long plumes swayed, sparkling in the morning sunlight as they twirled in smooth movements, their feathers floating in endless beautiful arrangements.
Eventually, everyone from the “Princess Millie’” was assembled near a bandstand in the town square. They marveled at the dancers and were enthralled by the musical accompaniment of the band of birds at the sideline. King danced merrily to one and back to the group and announced, “this one is a trumpeter bird”, then another, “this is a kettledrummer,” till she had named every one.
The music and dancing reached a crescendo and then died suddenly, heralded by the loud trumpeters screech, then silence. A great black bird stood at a podium announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen of the “Princess Millie,” it is my pleasure to announce the great mayor of Mitcham.”
“That is Mr. ‘H’, ” King said quickly to her group.
A Robin settled on the podium and everyone became silent, “Ladies and gentlemen of the great ship, “Princess Millie,” I wish to thank you from all the inhabitants of Manu for your kindness in bringing the desperately needed supplies that will tide us over till new harvest comes in. We appreciate it and welcome you to Manu. Please enjoy your stay here and the festivities that have set up for you.” Without further ado, he simply flew off to a nearby building.
The music began anew and the dancing resumed. The birds of Manu brought food for their guests and provided them with a day of fun and merriment that lasted well into the night.
Early the next day, the crew returned to the ship and began the duties of lading it with products from Manu. After everything was safely stowed in the cargo holds of the ship and made safe for the next leg of their journey, the captain announced the good ship and crew were headed to the Dragon planet of “Komodo”
To be continued next week…