Saving Starbird

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Chapter 13

Sunbeam to the Rescue

Archie dragged Sunbeam’s blanket over the uneven rocks back to the gully where they had left the space probe. Sally followed him but was beginning to worry just how they would be able to move the probe back to the bottom of the cliff. The gully in which the probe stood was wider than the ball and was several feet long. Another thing that the children discussed was that although the gully was not very smooth; however it did run slightly down hill towards the cliff.

Quickly Archie explained Sally, “We won’t be able to lift the probe, but we probably can move it down the gully slope by pushing hard it to make it roll.”

Sally was very worried. “We might damage it by rolling it. Don’t forget Starbird is inside the spacecraft. How will he cope with the ball rolling?”

Archie pointed out to her, “Don’t be daft. If it could survive in space I am sure it can manage the bit of bumping and banging needed to get it safely up to the top of the cliff.”

He went on to say, “It must be very strong. It is designed to make long space flights, even if now it looked like one of the big balls on the top of the brick pillars at the entrance to the drive of the manor house.”

Sally and Archie unfolded the blanket and laid it over the gully in the rock, tucking the end under the probe.

Archie told Sally, “If we can rock it backwards and forwards it should start to move. Once it is rocking, we push as hard as we can. With luck the probe will finish up in the centre of the blanket.”

Sally was far from sure that it would work but got ready to push as hard as she could against the smooth surface of the large ball.

Archie called out, “Ready, steady, go.” They both began to push one on each side, as hard as they could. For a start nothing happened but very slowly but surely the ball did begin to rock slightly backwards and forwards.

When it was as far backwards as the rocking allowed, Archie rushed around the ball to join Sally, shouting,” We have got to push even harder. Come on, push Sally push!”

With them both now facing down the gully slope and pushing as hard as they could, the ball began to roll slowly along until it was in the centre of the blanket. Both Sally and Archie collapsed down onto the rock completely out of breath.

When Sally got her breath back she said sarcastically, “Well that’s wonderful! We have managed to move the probe a couple of feet into the centre of the blanket. Now how on earth do you expect the two of us to get it over all these rocks to the bottom of the cliff?”

He told her, “Just sit and get your breath back and I will show you what we are going to do next.”

Archie scrambled back to the bottom of the cliff and shouted up to Jack and Jane explaining exactly what they had done.

Jack called down to Archie, “Hang on a moment. We have got several things we will throw down to you.”

While Archie and Sally had been struggling with the blanket, Jane had been very busy as well. She had unloaded several item of Sunbeams space harness that was kept in the storage shelf of the milk float. There were girth straps and other leather belts, all with either ties or strong brass buckles.

Jack now threw all these down to Archie, shouting, “You should be able to construct a sling using the straps and blanket that will be strong enough to lift the probe across the rocks, then up the cliff.”

Archie gathered up the bits of harness and took them back to Sally. After several attempts the two of them managed to fix the top of the blanket over the probe, creating a large parcel that was firmly tied and buckled at the top. They also managed to form a loop of leather strap at the top, to which they could attach the rope that would be required to pull the probe up to the top of the cliff.

Archie stood with a foot on the side of the probe and pulled the loop as hard as he could to make sure the blanket was fixed securely. It held firm. He then hung on to the loop while he put both feet on the ball, leaning back until his full weight was held by the harness and the loop.

He jumped down and shouted out loudly “It works, it works!”

Sally seemed rather less joyful, “Great! Now all we have to do is somehow manoeuvre the probe to the bottom of the cliff over a mass of rocks. We can’t even lift the probe up on our own.”

Archie said, “It will be fine. We will fix the rope that goes up the cliff to the loop. Then when we are ready we will all pull together.”

Meanwhile Jack had pulled the rope through the hedge while Jane backed the milk float back until it touched the hedge to enable them to use the full length of the rope.

Archie had scrambled back to the bottom of the cliff, grabbed the end of the rope, before pulling it behind him as he returned to Sally.

Sally almost burst into tears when they found that the rope was just too short to enable them to tie it to the probe. However Archie told her not to worry as he sorted out the remaining harness straps that Jack had thrown down to them. By joining together three straps using the strong brass buckles then tying the end of these to the rope, they discovered that it reached the leather loop they had created at the top of the probe. After fixing the strap to the loop, Archie pulled as hard as he could to make sure it was still secure.

He then told Sally, “Right, now help me pull to see if the probe will move.”

It slowly rolled over but did not start to drag across the rock. Again Archie told Sally not to worry and he shouted up to Jack to start pulling on the rope. As soon as Jack started to pull the rope it lifted up from the rocks until it had no snags in it, and went in a straight line all the way from the top of the probe up to the cliff top.

Jane came back through the hedge to join Jack and together they began to pull hard on the rope. Slowly but surely the round bundle containing the probe started to move across the rocks. It took them over half an hour for the four children to manoeuvre the probe across the rocky surface, with Sally and Archie pushing and pulling around the different jutting rocks, until it finally reached the bottom of the cliff.

All four sat down to get their breath back before Jack got up and called down to Sally and Archie, “OK now its time to see if it works. Let’s haul the wretched thing up the cliff.”

He explained that Jane was going to lead Sunbeam with the milk float on which the rope was still attached away from the hedge thus pulling the probe up in the same way he had been pulled up earlier.

The plan worked wonderfully without any problems, and in less than a minute Jack steered it up over the cliff edge onto the safety of the grass.

They used the same plan the pull first Sally, then Archie safely back up the cliff until they all stood together around the probe that now rested on the grass at the cliff edge. It did not take them long to push and pull the probe back through the hedge. Although it was very heavy, the four lifting together managed to get it up onto the milk float where they tied it down to make it safe for the journey to the village.

Everyone stood together in the late afternoon sunlight feeling very proud of what they had managed so far.

Now they had to plan how they were going to be able to finish the job by getting Starbird out to Smugglers rock before it was too late, and importantly before his fading power finally gave out and he died. If that dreadful thing happened, all their efforts so far would have been in vain.

As Sally said, “Not only would I be upset that if, after all our adventures we fail, I would also feel we have lost a very good friend.”

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