Death On Ice
As time passed, Nuzzle Muzzle's condition deteriorated rapidly. Her weakened system was over run by infection and she died three days after we had found her. We were all devastated.
The Doc had tried everything, but we simply had gotten to her too late. Of us humans, she was the most shaken. The stress of over 50 hours of little or no sleep had taken its toll on her as it did on us all.
After she died, the surviving Capthraw just went into a sort of catatonic trance, laying down on the floor prone-chicken style. They stayed this way for several hours before "returning." FB seemed unaffected, but Scrawny was plainly a different guy. More open and talkative than his former self. Both space lizards threw themselves into the problems at hand.
First on the list was technical recruitment into our growing space lizard underground, or the SLU as it was now "officially" called.
The Doc had a friend who happened to work in the Radiology Department at the University Medical Center. The Doc visited her Thursday morning, and showed her a picture of the deceased space lizard. She told her nothing more, but invited her down to Llama Land on Sunday for dinner and a more thorough briefing. The Doc stressed the confidential nature of our project, and she agreed.
We didn't mention the two living space lizards, car and intelligent nature of the critters, so she of course had no idea of the true depth of the SLU, only that we had "found" the body of a bird-like creature with teeth and arms.
The Radiologist knew a guy that was the proverbial computer whiz-kid, and asked if he might be included. We did need a computer expert, so she told her to bring him along.
Up to this point, each new member of the SLU has recognized the importance of the situation, and concurred with our over all opinion that we should form an underground research team. And since a number of us had been former '60s "radicals," this idea had a certain appeal to it.
At Scrawny's insistence and Bob's direction, we had packed Nuzzle Muzzle's body in Ice. Scrawny was determined to assist us in learning more about their race. FB explained that normal Capthraw deaths were followed by cremation, a way he explained for one's atoms to return to the stars and one's soul to find a new home. We gathered from this comment that this was indeed a personal sacrifice on Scrawny's part.
After some fifty bags of ice, we decided pool our meager resources and invested in a small commercial refrigeration unit. It was discretely placed in a dark corner of one of the Llama Barns, under bails of hay. We interned Nuzzle Muzzle there until we could arrange for a thorough examination.
This pointed out another obvious problem that the SLU faced: Finances. We needed to rapidly raise great sums of cash. Deke's boss was due back at Llama Land in two weeks, and we didn't know how a U.S.N. retired sort of guy would feel about hiding the Capthraw from the Feds. We needed a permanent base of operations.
This brought my friend Lenny into the group. Well versed in business management as well as skipping through bureaucratic jungles, Lenny was the man to make the SLU solvent. And he loved a challenge.
Lenny looked more like Mafia hit-man than a financial whiz. His muscular frame spoke loudly of a fanatical devotion to physical fitness in general and iron pumping in particular. His face was like rough hewn stone, and for those who did not know his true jovial nature, would suspect it belonged to some cold blooded gangster.
A new sense of urgency had descended upon all our lives. It was as if we were all assigned a sacred task. We had all fallen in love with the Space Lizards, and wanted very much to help them get back to the rest of their race. At the same time, we were bound and determined to learn as much about them as possible. The SLU was becoming increasingly like a classic scientific investigation, with more than a bit of that deeper spiritual fervor that in the past led to the formation of cults and religions.
Lenny picked up on the "cultish" aura surrounding the operation, and mentioned the Bhagwan. What better way to raise large amounts of cash than with a quasi-religious organization? The Rajneehees had built one town and bought another all with donations from the faithful.
With the multitude of new age and fundamentalist sects springing up all the time, who would notice another bunch of crazies asking for bucks? All that we needed was a message that we could lay on all those other potential crazies to convince them send us their donations, while we went about trying to learn more about these guys and help them find their folks. After all, it is a very good cause.
The ethical questions were raised at once, but after some discussion it was decided that this was much different than raising four million so Oral Roberts wouldn't die. These guys were lining their pockets, while we hoped to finance a covert scientific research operation.
After some discussion, a channeled discourse approach ala Ramtha, with our own Bhagwan as the channel. All we needed was a message and a Guru.
Another problem had also appeared. The initial fireball of the incoming Capthraw Car had sent teams of hastily formed meteorite hunters into the hills in search of the supposed space rock, and the five grand reward Abiqua State was offering. An Abiqua High science teacher had taken up the cause by interviewing as many witnesses as he could find, and vowed to spend his weekends in the cascade foothills until he found it.
The Air Force, who had initially said they had tracked it on radar, now claimed that they have radar evidence that it burned up completely, and that no trace would ever be found. We knew that they must know more than the average bear.
Unfortunately for us, the Science Teacher and his crew didn't buy the "official" story either. Too many witnesses described a fireball large enough to make a big dent in the ground.
FB's discovery that the Earth and Thrawn were the same proved to be amazingly true. After viewing numerous books on ancient Earth life, he and Scrawny both identified a number of late Cretaceous creatures as being familiar; many of them dinosaurs. Although FB pointed out several that had become extinct as a direct consequence of the growing Capthraw civilization.
The Capthraw it seemed were intellegent off-shoots of the Birds, that had evolved hands instead of wings. FB explained that on his Grandparent's world, as well as on the colony ship, the warm-blooded, feathered creatures dominated. This included the Dinosaurs, which he explained, were his "distant cousins." So these guys were in fact dinosaurs themselves, not lizards at all except in appearance.
Their Home colony ship apparently had left the Thrawn system before the mysterious event that wiped out the dinosaurs, and must have been traveling through space very close to the speed of light. Those millions of elapsed years were only several hundred to occupants of the colony ship. None of us were intimately familiar with the theory of relativity to nail down any exact time line.
How this ship could get up to those speeds, the Capthraw kids had no idea. We decided that we had to get back to the Car. With the use of the on-board computer, Scrawny assured us that we could answer a great many questions, perhaps even the location of their Home.
From their schooling in Capthraw history they both related that the Capthraw civilization was tens of thousands of years old, and had spread throughout the Solar System. But that was 67 Million Years ago! This posed another question: How could an event that wiped out 70% of life on Earth effect an established space faring culture off planet? Maybe it didn't.
Greg earlier in the week came up with an easy way to record Human/Capthraw conversations. Two small electret microphones; one placed in the unused ear set modified for human use. The other mic is placed near the mouthpiece of the same unit.
Each mic is recorded separately onto the two tracks of portable stereo cassette recorder. This way we have been able to make a through audio record of the bizarre story these two guys told us.
Those of us with 8 to 5 jobs had to make some decisions. I went back to work on Thursday and asked if I could take another week of vacation.
I had close to two weeks accumulated on the books, and there was not much going on so my supervisor approved it, in spite of the last minute nature of the request. I told him that there had been a death in the family, and that I had to travel out of state for the funeral.
Mike had a harder time getting away from the cable company he worked for, but since he had close to a month accumulated, the company relented in spite of the heavy workload so he put in for two weeks. Greg and Deke were both self employed farmers with certain duties that had to be done, but timing was flexible.
The Doc's class schedule was more rigid, but not totally so. Bob on the other hand was tied to McMinnville by both an 8 to 5 as well as his EMT duties. So he was the least available.
Lenny's shrewd financial investments years ago had guaranteed that he had a steady income from his real estate holdings. He simply was able to live off the monthly rent income after mortgage payments.
By Friday, we were ready for our first trip back to the car. We would return to the site more like commandos than hikers. At this point we couldn't afford to let any mysterious unmarked choppers or High School teachers cross our paths.
At any rate, we had picked Sunday to hold our first SLU organizational meeting, after we got back from checking out the car. Hopefully we would know a bit more about the situation by then.
We had decided against the Doc's recommendation not to take the guys with us back to the ship. She had rightly pointed out that we should not take any unnecessary risks. We agreed, but we needed them to access the car's controls and computer.
And we had to have both of them, since FB knew little about the computer and Scrawny's knowledge of the car's system was lacking. Unfortunately, it seemed that FB was far from being an expert himself, but he did know the basics, (at least, he had managed to land the thing!)
Besides the two Capthraw, the return team consisted of myself, Mike, Lenny and Greg. Bob had an EMT training session scheduled for Saturday. Deke stayed at Llama Land to print more pictures from the film I had shot at our first visit to the site, as well as several rolls he himself had taken of the dudes.
We had a planning session that night, went over some hastily made enlargements from my first roll of film and then took off a little past midnight. We didn't like the idea of taking Mike's Toyota, since the chopper-guys now had the license number, so we opted for the Doc's land rover. Only instead of leaving it parked, we decided to have her drop us off, and return to pick us up Saturday at noon.
The Doc wanted Capthraw food samples so that she could run nutritional, trace element and toxicity tests. Even though they did seem to accept human food, she wanted to see what their systems were use to.
As their food ran out, they began to eat our stuff; mainly fruits, vegetables and some canned tuna. The Doc kept a running record in her laptop PC of everything they ate in case any allergies popped up later. And she had from our initial meeting insisted on collecting stool and urine samples as well. A little bit of everything that came out was labeled and filed away in the fridge for future analysis. As one could imagine, this Space Lizard Shit collection soon grew huge.
At a little past 1 AM Friday morning, the SLU Car Recovery Feasibility Team left Llama Land in route to the Cascade Foothills. Our goals were to see if the car was flyable. If not, was the computer detachable, and whatever else we could salvage. Of course, if it was flyable, we needed a place to fly it to, which at the moment we didn't have. We decided to cross that bridge when we came to it.
© 1996 by R. D. Frederick
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