Chapter 2 –The Cage
The Narflbots continued their bringings out for the rest of the day. Then there was much scurrying around. They were constructing something horrible. They looked over their shoulders, worriedly.
Pata-Pikki could see that they didn’t like this place. He found himself being happy about that.
Both Pata-Pikki and Hoopy were curious to know what was being built and what the purpose of it was. The Hatch flew back and forth between their window and the meadow and told them, as best she could what she saw, which was very little that was understandable. The flashing and the beepings, that were coming from the machine that was being constructed, were worrisome and unfamiliar to her. She was concerned about her coming nest building in the spring. The Strange Contraptor was placed next to her nesting tree.
“What will become of my fledglings! They will grow up not knowing how to sing. They will only utter scratchy beeps!” She chirped, hitting low notes that showed her concern.
“Patience, dear Hatch,” Pata-Pikki woofed, trying to console her.
“We’ll show them whose forest they have trespassed!” Hoopy growled. “Wait a bit, and this will all change Hatch. You needn’t worry over your fledglings!’ He snarled by way of consolation and scruffed the floor violently. Pata-Pikki looked on with concern for the Hatch’s sadness and for the scratch marks on his floor.
As the last light of the sun began to leave the meadow, suddenly the Strange Contraptor sprang into life. All the Narflbots, seeming eager to get inside, went in single file into its mouth and the door banged shut with a loud slam. Its legs straightened and the whirligig at the top of it began to spin. Then Strange Contraptor flew straight up into the sky. Pata-Pikki and Hoopy threw caution to the wind and ran out of Pata-Pikki’s front door to see what was happening. They saw the Strange Contraptor move extremely high and rapidly into the sky and then zing, it shot off in a straight line toward the North.
“They are gone for now.” Pata-Pikki squeaked in relief.
“Let’s investigate!” barked Hoopy as he ran straight away across the meadow in the direction of the machine. Pata-Pikki trailed behind him, looking to the left and right. He was not sure they should rush up on it.
“Hoopy, stop!” Pata-Pikki barked.
Hoopy slowed down, and gradually came to a stop. “What’s the matter? he growled.
“They most likely have a guard machine, of some kind,” Pata-Pikki responded quickly with a low howl.
“Of course!” he snarled. “Why didn’t I think of that?
Pata-Pikki sat down in the meadow. The tall dry grasses swayed but beyond that he thought he saw motion on the floor of the machine. “Quiet,” he whined.
Hoopy fell to the grass. Pata-Pikki did the same. It was almost dark. He looked up at the top of the machine. He thought he saw motion there as well. As he studied the borders of the upper rim of the machine then he saw Rover eyes which seemed to be watching the perimeter. They weren’t looking as far out into the field as the two Scruffers, who lay motionless. They were looking down from time to time on something that lay at the bottom. In Pata-Pikki’s experience rovers could see but could go nowhere. Somehow the Narflbots that monitored them responded to some quiet warning that they made. There must be something on the floor of the machine that they were guarding. He crawled up next to Hoopy. “Rovers!” he whined in a soft voice and knowing from experience, this was a cage.
He felt compassion for the creature that lay on the floor inside, wrapped in something blue. “A creature is inside who needs help.”
A soft breeze ruffled the puffs at the bottom of his ears. That time he heard it. “The forest,” whispered the wind in a soft brushy noise.
Pata-Pikki motioned to Hoopy to follow him as he crawled into the forest. They dodged trees and jumped bushes, climbing over rocks and around forest growth, making their way around the trees, so they were under Hatch’s tree. Now the Rovers couldn’t see them, and they could see what lay at the bottom of the machine.