What Do We Do Now?
They sailed on in the moonlight in silence. The only noise apart from the throbbing engine was the slapping of the waves as the Lifeboat cut easily through the oncoming waves.
After about another fifteen minuets the coxswain said, “We are approaching Smuggler’s Rocks. They should be about three hundred yards off the starboard side.”
Sally quickly went through the little saying in her mind, port, left, red. She moved over to where the green lamp shone brightly and stared across the dark water. For a start she could not see anything other than the tops of the waves near to the side of the Lifeboat. Then, almost like magic, the small cloud that had been covering the moon passed by and moonlight flooded the scene.
Now Sally could make out specks of white in the waves. This was where the rocks that were just breaking the surface met the waves that in turn threw up spray that the moonbeams lit.
Then she made out the main shape of Smugglers Rocks.
The cliffs of solid rock rose up over forty feet in the night air with the moonlight showing the highlights with deep black shadows between.
Then Archie’s dad switched on the powerful searchlight and aimed its dazzling beam towards the rocks. Suddenly the scene became dramatically lit and Sally could see just how dangerous it would be for any ship sailing too close to the main rock cliff face.
Without getting any closer to the main rocks, Mr Tampling slowly steered the Lifeboat all the way around the entire rocky island.
The main rock formation was about one hundred yards across and it formed almost a perfect circle. When they had completed the circle the coxswain slowed the engine down until they were virtually stopped in the same position, but still safely outside of the ring of partly submerged rock that surrounded the main outcrop like a bracelet.
It was then that Archie’s dad asked the question that they all had been thinking about since they had first left harbour.
“Well, what do we do now?”
Sally said, “Don’t worry. Providing Starbird is still alive he will be able to give us the answer.”
“Let’s find out,” said Archie as he started to tug at the ropes holding the cargo net calling on the others to help.
His dad quickly joined him, while the coxswain remained at the wheel and engine controls to maintain the Lifeboats position, without drifting towards the rocks that were very close to the side of the boat.
With Sally helping, and lit by the deck lamps that Mr Tampling had switched on, they removed the net and the covering.
The spacecraft sat firmly on the deck but it had lost its shiny surface and now had a very drab and dull appearance. When Sally looked closely she noticed that the strange marking had almost disappeared. She became very frightened, sensing that Starbird’s powers had faded away. She was sure that they were too late and that he was dead.
She dropped to her knees and putting her arm around the ball as far as she could reach, gently putting her ear to the cold surface. She closed her eyes and concentrated as hard as she could to listen for any sound, how ever faint.
Nothing! Not a sound and the surface against her cheek was icy cold.
Starbird was dead and all their efforts were in vain.
Sally began to sob uncontrollably with her tears splashing down onto the cold dead ball. Archie knelt down beside her, putting his arm around her to comfort his friend. Then he gently told her, “We did our best Sally, and you did more than all of us to save him. It’s not your fault.”
“We did try Starbird,” she sobbed. “We did, we did.”
They stayed together for several minuets while Archie’s dad and Mr Tampling watched in silence. Mr Smith gently helped them up and they both clung to him as the Lifeboat rocked in the steady swell coursed by the dark waves.
“It was all in vain,” sobbed Sally.
Archie’s dad, “Look both of you. There is nothing to feel bad about as you have done your best. That goes for Jack and Jane as well. I am very proud of you all for trying.”
He went on to say, “One thing I have found hard to grasp was how did you managed to move the heavy spacecraft in the cave on your own.”
Sally told him, “No that’s not right Mr Smith, we were not completely on our own. Don’t forget Starbird was able to help, despite the loss of most of his normal powers.”
Archie said, “That’s right dad. Starbird was able to harness our combined brainpower to build up his own energy. When we had finished we were very, very tired. It was like a tap had been turned on that drained out all our energy.”
Sally suddenly cried, “That’s it. That’s it. Well done Archie! That’s exactly what we should try and do now.” Sally jumped around clapping her hands. The others all looked on in amazement.
She continued, “We should all hold hands and touch the surface of the ball just as we did in the cave. Our combined energy may be just what Starbird needs”
Archie said excitedly, “Let’s do it! It is worth a try.”
He pulled his dad down close to the space probe. Sally grabbed his other hand as they formed a circle around the ball.
She told them, “Kneel down and place your hands onto the surface of the spacecraft, close your eyes and think only of saving Starbird.”
Mr Smith was a bit self-conscious, but did what he was told and when Sally said starting thinking only about helping Starbird, he closed his eyes and tried to concentrate just as hard as the two children kneeling beside him on the cold deck of the boat.
While still keeping the boat at a safe distance from the rocks, the coxswain also kept an eye on the kneeling group for several minutes. However none of them moved, nor was there any sound, except for the noises of the sea as the waves slapped against the side of the Lifeboat.
Sally gently whispered continually to Starbird pleading with him to give her some sign that he was still alive.
Once again Sally could feel her tears building up, and then they finally began to splash down on the cold surface of the probe.
She could never remember being so sad and upset in her whole life. She told herself it was not fair as they had all tried so very hard to help the strange person from another planet that had come from his home far away in space to watch over the people in England.
Suddenly, Sally thought she heard a faint throbbing noise coming from the spacecraft.
She strained her ears but could now hear nothing but the noise of the sea and the engine of the Lifeboat. She sadly told herself that she must have imagined it.
Suddenly she noticed that the surface of the ball against her cheek felt slightly warmer.
Then, there it was again. It was a very faint throbbing noise coming from deep within the probe.
This time she was certain. There was some life after all.
Sally opened her eyes. Both Archie and his dad were still kneeling with their hands on the probe with their eyes tightly shut.
She asked very quietly, “Did either of you hear anything?”
However Sally got no response. They both stayed completely still; in fact they looked as if they were fast asleep with their normally sun tanned faces looking deathly white in the moonlight.
Sally closed her own eyes and she felt the feeling of great contentment creep over her. It was exactly the same feeling she remembered from the cave when she had first seen and heard Starbird.
Then she heard Starbird’s voice in her head. It told her to tell Archie to go over and take the wheel of the boat, while getting Mr Tampling to take Archie’s place kneeling down with his hands on the ball.
Sally got to her feet and crossed to the coxswain, asking him, “Will you please help us steady the probe, as it had moved slightly on the deck.” She continued quickly, “Perhaps Archie could keep the boat in position for the short time it will take to give the ball a push.”
Mr Tampling agreed, so Sally quickly crossed over to Archie and told him what to do. Archie slowly got up and walked in a trance like state to take over the wheel.
The coxswain asked, “Is Archie all right? He looks strange.”
She told him, “He is probably rather stiff from kneeling, as well as being upset about Starbird.”
Mr Tampling knelt down and put his hands on the spacecraft ready to push.
As soon as his hands touched the surface his eyes closed tight and he became totally still. It was almost as if he had been suddenly frozen stiff. He too was now in a deep trance.
Sally hurried back to the probe and knelt down once more. When she looked at the surface of the ball she could see the strange markings beginning to reappear.
She placed her own hands back on the probe, closed her eyes and asked Starbird if he was all right.
Once again she could hear his voice faintly in her head. He explained that he needed to use the energy from Mr Tampling’s mind as he provided a fresh supply of power.
For several minutes Sally heard nothing more, except the throbbing and warmth increased.
Sally opened her eyes again and saw that the markings were almost back to their original colour and intensity.
It was then that she knew for certain that Starbird was still alive!