"Later that day, we discussed Joey's idea for building a 'dry dock.' The only trouble was, we didn't know what those slabs were made of. If they were granite or basalt, they would support the ship. If that was limestone, or worse yet, sandstone, we had nothing. I wanted to go to the clearing before nightfall and chip off a sample. On one paw, Abby didn't like us going there when it was getting dark, on the other, Joey argued that even though the bipeds were gone, they might come back soon. So if we hurried up, we could be back in no time. Out of nowhere, Pancake showed up and handed me a hammer and a chisel, 'Here, suit up and go, you won't go anywhere after sunset.' Molly groaned, 'If we land there and incinerate everything, spectroscopy will tell us what kind of stones we got. But you have to burn it good and slow!' Molly drew out her words ominously. Finally, Abby had enough, 'Oh, will you snap out of it already? Get a grip, or we are all done for, got it? Can you maybe try to figure out where we are or run another check on sat nav signal? Can you do that?' We all looked at Molly troubled. I hoped she would come out of that sooner rather than later. We would need all the help we could get.
Joey and I hopped on that rusty old scooter and off we went. Abby mounted a couple of extra cameras on its frame so she and Pancake could keep extra eyes on our surroundings. Bun only knows what else lives in those surrounding woods. There could be wolves, foxes, badgers perhaps and we had to assume they wouldn't be too friendly. That's when it hit me that we probably wouldn't be going into the forest to sample any wild greens or berries. Good Bun, now we were the fresh morsels! I barely got up on the scooter."
I paused the story and turned to Zoomer. "You know, it's hard to do anything when your legs turn into rubber." Zoomer didn't say anything; her nose just kept twitching nervously, and she was still with me, so I carried on.
"I strapped in behind Joey and got a death grip on his suit. Joey turned his head back and gave me a confounded look. I snapped, 'You wanted to fly so fly!' 'Rog!' mumbled Joey and accelerated out of the loading bay toward the biped compound. I brought up the map display on my visor. Since we had landed, our ship started to construct a map of the surrounding area, so at least we had that much going for us. We knew the distance and headed to the clearing.
'You're looking good; all clear between you and the target,' said Pancake. In my helmet, she sounded as cool and collected as if she were working another simulator exercise. 'Two minutes to the stones,' added Abby. This time we flew just above the treetops. Tall firs blurred under us. The sky to the west was turning milky dark blue, and the bottoms of the trees were starting to disappear in the ground fog.
Suddenly, the trees were behind us, and we were over the clearing. Joey made a quick circle over the area; it looked abandoned. We landed on the nearest slab, and before Joey settled down on it, I was out of my seat, hammer and chisel in paw. 'Hurry up now!' I heard Abby again. The surface of the slab looked clean. I ran my paw against it and felt the rough stone, recently broken off from the strata of its mother. 'Looks like basalt!' I said putting down a patch of adhesive plaster on the surface. I put the edge of the chisel against it and struck it's handle with the hammer as hard as I could. I peeled off the plaster and folded it and hid it in my suit's pocket. I was back on the scooter and said 'Let's check out a few more.'
I thought they looked like the same material, but when I scraped the surface of one of the rocks, a chill ran down my spine, 'This is sandstone!' 'Copy that, check another one,' came back Pancake. I wobbled over to the scooter and awkwardly climbed in, "Let's go to that one ...," I tapped Joey on his shoulder and pointed to the next slab. We got lucky there; it was basalt. The one after that gave me stomach cramps again: more sandstone. I stayed calm and collected, stated my findings and went through the dance of communicating back and forth. We recited this funeral playbill and pretended it's not ours.
'How are we looking?' I asked. 'Still clear,' came back Pancake. I had to pause for a moment and opened my visor. The cold, damp air washed over my mouf. It smelled great! The aroma of fresh fir was intoxicating. That's what fresh air is supposed to smell like! I kept still and over the quiet hum of the scooter I could hear an owl in the distance. Something howled, then silence took over again. Some birds started an argument before bedtime. It was getting dark.
Suddenly, I felt, or sensed, some paws landing on the stone slab! My mind really must have wondered off because the next thing remembered was somebun staring right at me! A tall, brown and rich orange hare sat at attention a couple of hops in front of me. He was tall and lean and had long, pointy ears as I have never seen before. Not a stitch draped his body. His piercing eyes locked with mine. After a moment, he leaned forward, twitched his nose and tried to get a better smell of me. I remained frozen in place. 'Oh, my! Toes ...' I heard Joey whisper as he must have realized what happened. The hare rose up on his hind legs and leaned forward some more. I heard some murmurs coming from the flight deck; they had to be in as much of a shock as I was. The visitor continued to sniff, and I did not dare to move! He then relaxed and sat back, blinking a couple of times, probably satisfied that I posed no danger to him. He then turned around, hopped off the slab, and disappeared somewhere in the swelling ground fog. I moved to the edge of the slab, trying to see where he went, but I only saw a faint trace of a wave in the fog and lost track of him.
"Major, what are you doing?" queried Joey. "We have to go!" Abby snapped me out of my stupor for good. "I see some torches. Five o'clock and moving toward you, about a mile away!" I was behind Joey in a blink as he gave it all he got. I almost flew out of my seat.