“Let’s Do it!”
Starbird started by thanking the children for all their help, going on to explain how he had to put them into a trance to enable him to harness the energy of their human mind power to the dwindling power source in the spacecraft. He explained how little power there was left for him to use and, despite the help the children had given him, he was now sure that he had very little time left before the energy he required to survive and for the spacecraft to function ran out.
Archie asked, “What would happen then?”
Starbird told them that in human terms and understanding he would die, and the spacecraft would become useless.
Then Sally asked him, “Is there anything that we can do to save you, as well as your spacecraft?”
Starbird replied sadly that he did not think that anything could be done.
Archie jumped to his feet saying, “In England there is a saying; while there is life there is hope.”
Jack agreed “That’s right! Just tell us what we need to do to save you.”
The three children then argued amongst themselves what they could do, but it was Sally who became the leader of them all, shouting for everyone to be quiet, while she and Starbird would try and find a plan of action.
Sally asked Starbird, “What is required for you to be able to return to join the main space fleet?”
He explained that the probe needed to return to base, so that it could recharge the energy source enabling the return to the mother ship in the space fleet.
The Explorer unit had a base that was about two miles out to sea on an outcrop of rock that the locals in Devon called Smugglers Rock.
Archie said at once, “Gosh, I know exactly where that is. The place is haunted and nobody goes there, although dad and I have fished near there several times.”
However, it was Jack who suddenly came up with the first major problem.
“Don’t worry about getting to Smuggler’s Rocks. First we have to think about how we get the probe out of the cave.”
Although they had managed to get the spacecraft across the cave, even in its disguise as the smooth stone, it was far too big to get back through the entrance tunnel to the rocks outside.
Starbird explained that normally he was able to shrink the size of the craft down to almost any size, in fact often had to when he was moving about on his many scouting missions. However now he did not have enough energy left in his power source to do this and then fly back to Smugglers Rock.
Sally asked with a very worried look on her face, “If you reduced the probe down small enough to get through the tunnel, will there be enough power for you to survive, if we can get the probe out to the Explorer base?”
Starbird replied he was not sure how long he could last, but he should be able to get back inside the probe and try as quickly as possible, as it was his only slim chance of survival.
All the children agreed that if they could get the probe outside the cave, they would try their hardest to get it back to Smugglers Rock.
Starbird said that he was sure he could get the stone small enough with him safely inside. However, there would not be enough power for him to communicate with them or help. It would be up to the children to get him and his craft back to the Explorer base before the power gave out and he would die.
Sally replied, “We will try to do it in time. Just how long will we have to do every thing that is required to return you and the spacecraft to Smugglers Rock?”
Starbird said there would only be enough energy for him to survive for about eight hours in earthly time.
Archie said, “Let’s do it!”
Sally cried and said, “I will miss you Starbird.”
Once again he thanked them all quickly, before he disappeared in a plume of smoke back into the probe.
The children watched as the probe began throbbing and the green light dimmed leaving the cave in darkness except for the daylight filtering through the tunnel.
Archie crawled forward and found that the smooth stone had shrunk down to about four times the size of a football. It was heavy but he was able to roll it towards the entrance tunnel.
Sally scrambled back through the tunnel out into the daylight, followed by Jack who tried to stand up too early, banging his head on the roof of the rocky tunnel They watched as the smooth round stone emerged, as Archie finally pushed it clear of the tunnel entrance, and both Sally and Jack quickly helped to move it safely onto the rocks which were bathed in late afternoon sunshine.
Archie scrambled out of the cave to join his friends and they all breathed deeply enjoying the salty sea air after the musty smells of the cave.
Leaving the round stone probe safely sitting in a dip in the rocks, the children clambered over to the base of the cliff where they could see Jane’s worried face peering down at them.
They waved up to her, shouting that they were safe, and then they stood in a huddle to discuss what to do next. They had already found that they could just manage to lift the probe but, as it was round, it was very difficult to handle, as, because of its weight, it needed all three of them to carry it. It would have been a hard enough job to move it very far on a flat surface, so over the rocks would prove very difficult, in fact almost impossible Sally thought.
Jack asked Archie, “As we have to eventually get it to Smugglers Rocks, is it possible for you to sail a boat around to pick it up from here?”
Archie shook his head as he explained, “No it would be very difficult, even for my dad. There are too many rocks just under the water at this part of the coastline. It makes any boat trip extremely dangerous, if not impossible.”
Sally pointed out something else. “Even if the boat could get close, it would be several feet below them even at high tide.”
Archie agreed and added, “We can’t throw the probe down into a boat, while trying to balance on the edge of wet slippery rocks.”
Jack said, “Even if we did, I bet the darn thing would smash straight through the bottom of the boat.”
It was decided the only option was to somehow get the probe back up the cliff. After a long discussion and many ideas that were not possible to operate, it was Jack who came up with their best option.
He said, “I am sure I could manage to climb up the rope. Look it is still dangling down the cliff face. Once I am at the top, Jane and I can try to get help.”
They all agreed they would need some help to solve the problem facing them in getting the probe up the cliff.
Jack shouted up to Jane, “I am coming back up the rope. Make sure the end is still firmly tied to take my weight.”
Jane disappeared from their view, but quickly reappeared shouting that every thing was tied safely so Jack could start his climb.
Sally told Jack to be careful and she and Archie stood and watched as Jack began to climb the rope.
He climbed easily until he was about half way up and he began to feel very tired. Jack managed to swing himself inwards towards the cliff face, managing to plant his feet firmly on a jutting rock that was solid enough to take his weight.
Jack had not told Sally and Archie how weak and tired he felt after he had come out of the trance they had been in while propelling the spacecraft across the cave. Now his tiredness was becoming dangerous.
Starbird had used their energy and mind power to leave them all feeling drained. Now hanging on to the rope and feeling more and more tired, Jack realised he was in real trouble.
He shouted out in panic, “It’s no good. I can’t make it to the top.”
He was becoming more and more afraid he would slip from the rope and fall down onto the rocks below.
Jane screamed at him to hold on a tight as he could and she would pull him up.
Jack closed his eyes fearing the worst, knowing that Jane would not be strong enough to pull up his weight.
After a short time there was a shout from Jane, but Jack could not hear what she was saying. He was getting ready to shout up and ask her what she had said when there was a jerk on the rope and Jack found himself being pulled upwards. The suddenness of the upward movement almost made Jack let go of the rope, but he managed to hang on tightly. Although he was moving upwards Jack was unable to control what was happening to him, and he swung dangerously with his legs kicking wildly.
He was swinging out in space, then banging into the cliff face and he could feel cuts and grazes to his knees as he hit against rock and gravel.
Jack heard Sally screaming in terror as he bounced against a large rock and almost lost his grip on the rope. Looking up he could see the edge of the cliff just above his head.
Suddenly it was over. He was dragged over the edge onto the grass and was being pulled along the ground on his tummy until he let go of the rope, then laid shaking on the ground with the warm sun on his back.
Jack had never felt such a feeling of relief before. As he scrambled onto his knees he was aware that Jane was not in sight, but the rope was still being pulled through the hedge.
In panic Jack shouted for her to stop pulling, ran to the hole in the hedge and looked through to see Jane still walking away from him leading Sunbeam and the milk float with the rope tied firmly to it.
Jane stopped Sunbeam and ran back to meet Jack. They flung their arms around each other in a big hug, laughing and almost crying at the same time now that Jack was safe and sound.
Together they both ran back to the cliff edge calling down to Sally and Archie that Jack was safe.
Sally and Archie almost danced with joy that their friend was safe, and then they both sat down feeling exhausted, it was almost as if they had made the climb themselves.
Jack explained as quickly as he could what had happened in the cave. Jane listened in silence, but the look on her face became more and more amazed as she listened to Jack’s story.
The two older children then discussed what to do next.
Jane said, “We will have to go get help from the village.”
Jack replied, “Just think about it. Nobody will believe us, it would only waste time.”
They both knew that time was the biggest problem they faced if Starbird was to be saved. They had to get the probe out to Smugglers Rocks before Starbird died as his last reserves of energy ran out.
Jane asked about getting a boat up to the rocks below and getting Sally and Archie together with the probe on to it.
Jack explained what Archie had said about the dangerous rock just below the surface of the waves.
Jane said, “Well the only thing we can do is use Sunbeam to pull the probe and the other two up to the top of the cliff.”
Jack agreed and shouted down to his friends below what they would try and do to rescue them and Starbird.
Jane had already run back through the hedge and was leading Sunbeam and the float back to the hole in the hedge.
When Jack joined her she started to unload all the items that were stored in the large storage shelf under the milk float. One was the large canvas blanket that she used to provide a warm coat for Sunbeam in the winter. It was strong and had straps attached to fit around Sunbeam.
They laid it out on the grass and Jane asked how large and heavy the probe in its new shape was.
Jack said it would fit in the blanket without any trouble and he stood on the canvas pulling the straps as hard as he could. He told Jane he was sure the straps would hold the weight when they used it as a sling to hold the round probe. They carried the blanket back to the cliff edge and shouted down to Sally and Archie exactly what the plan was to lift the probe.
Jane and Jack took one end each of the blanket after they had folded it and swung it backwards and forwards before, on the count of three, throwing it as far out from the cliff face as they could.
The blanket fell down towards Sally and Archie but crashed onto a jutting out rock above them. Archie tried to clamber up to get the blanket but could not reach it. However he helped Sally up over the rocks until they were just below where the blanket was stuck. He then put his hands together and got Sally to put her foot into the cup his clasped hands made, then he lifted her up until she was standing on his shoulders.
They wobbled about, almost falling over, but Sally was just able to grab an end of the blanket and pulled as hard as she could. For a moment she did not think it would come away from the rocky ledge it had landed on, but suddenly it became free and fell down to the bottom of the cliff.
It was with great relief to every one when Sally and Archie safely clambered back down and smoothed out the tangled blanket.
Now they had a plan to move Starbird up the cliff Sally began to hope that they would be in time to save the life of the strange space traveller.