It was a peaceful, bright day on the planet of Etimreticus. The distant white sun was shining and the pure light gently illuminated a little green meadow. In the middle of this meadow was a small tree that resembled a miniature palm, except with clusters of red berries instead of coconuts.
And by this tree was a young parrot - a typical representative of the meter-high intelligent bird-like creatures dominating the planet. Except that this one was special. He didn't know it at the time, but he was to become one of the most famous parrots in history. He started to eat a berry.
The parrot stood perplexed, then he recognized the familiar voice.
"Rocky, come here!"
In the distance, he could see his friend motioning him to come with a large, colorful wing. Rocky flew over to meet him.
His given name was Rokeeta, but he was called "Rocky" for short. Rocky's friend Clyde was motioning him to look through a cluster of small shrubs. His eyes slowly made out a clear, bubbling stream.
"So," Rocky said, wondering what Clyde was up to now.
"So look again," Clyde whispered.
Rocky looked again, and then he just made out a shape in the water. It was another parrot bathing in the stream.
"It's Pauline," Clyde said. "Isn't she a sweet thing? It's about time you found yourself a girlfriend."
"But I'm not looking for anyone," Rocky said.
"C'mon, Rock, you're 17 years old. You need a mate. Just look at how beautiful she is. She's going to dry off her wings now; why don't you go and talk to her?"
"Clyde, I know how you feel, but I just don't want a girlfriend yet. I'm getting ready to apply for the Parakeety School, and I need to study, and a girlfriend will just get in the way."
"Oh, come now Rocky, school isn't all that important! Besides, you need someone in your life to get your mind off schoolwork once in a while."
"I just don't know. I'll think about it. Maybe you can talk to Pauline."
Rocky raised his wings, and quietly flew away.
[2: 26.11.89 ?]
The Parakeety School was the most prestigious place of learning in the entire kingdom, 100 times more prestigious than even Harvard or Yale on Earth. Only 500 parrots were admitted into the school each year, and it was considered a great honor to be accepted. After graduation three years later, the graduates were already guaranteed high-paying jobs in whatever field they chose.
Rocky stared at the 15-page application form on his desk. He already had ideas in mind for most of the ten essay questions, but one of them was really mind-boggling.
"Why do you want to be accepted into the Parakeety School?"
The question crashed through his mind.
"Why not?" he said out loud, and walked out of his room. His father looked up at him.
"Well, have you written down answers to the essay questions yet? The deadline is soon, and you have to give Mom time to type up everything."
"I'm still thinking about it," Rocky said, and he went downstairs.
Rocky lived in a large treehouse high up in a bushy tree at the edge of a forest. There were two levels, including bedrooms and a living room upstairs, and a kitchen and utility and other rooms downstairs. Rocky entered the kitchen.
Opening the cupboard, he found a large bowl of juicy red berries. He started nibbling on a few when Clyde flew in.
"Hey Rocky, come quick! Pauline is missing!"
In a few minutes, they were both back at the meadow.
"Look there, Rock," Clyde said.
"Pauline's not there," said Rocky, confused.
"No kidding! She's missing!"
"Missing? How can she be? You've been here the whole time, right?"
"Yes, but when you flew off a while ago, I looked back and she wasn't there."
"Well, she flew away then."
"No sir, Rock! Think! She was bathing! She couldn't have flown away with her wings wet."
"Then she must've walked away."
"Not THAT fast. I'd have seen her. C'mon, I'll show you."
They flew up, and in a few moments were next to the stream where Pauline had been.
"See, there's no footprints anywhere," Clyde said. "She disappeared off the face of the planet!"
"Oh, she'll turn up sooner or later. Besides, I've got things I have to work on. I'll see you tomorrow."
Rocky had already flown away.
Rocky didn't think much of it then, but when Pauline didn't show up the next day, the whole community was getting worried. There was no sign of Pauline anywhere. The last parrots to have seen her were Clyde and Rocky.
Clyde went to Pauline's father and promised to help in any way to get Pauline back. Extensive searches were organized all week. Meanwhile, Rocky was supposedly busy with his studies at home, and he couldn't find time to help with the search. He was behind in his Advanced Parrot Math IV course at school, and he still had not written anything down for any of the essay questions on his Parakeety school application.
By the weekend, the situation was tense. Pauline had been missing for five days, and it was starting to become a national concern. Large groups of parrot volunteers were sweeping the entire area where Pauline had disappeared.
The situation was tense for Rocky, too. The Parakeety School deadline was Monday, and he finally started writing the essays. As soon as he had finished an essay, his anxious mother swiped it away to type on the application form.
"Be sure you do a good job writing these essays," she would say. "We're really hoping that you will be accepted."
By Sunday night he had finally finished all of the essays except for the hardest one.
"Why do you want to be accepted into the Parakeety School?"
"Aw, heck," Rocky mumbled, and he went to bed.
Lucky for him, there was no regular school that Monday because of a teacher's holiday (which actually was cancelled anyway because of the search for Pauline). Rocky slept in well, and got out of bed at what we would call 10:30 a.m.
"Rocky, you're finally up!" his father announced. "Come, have some breakfast - we have lots of fresh berries."
Rocky wondered over and grabbed a few. He was trying to think of an answer for the last essay.
"Oh, by the way," said his father suddenly, "Mom got up early this morning and flew to the mail office to send your application. It should be there this afternoon."
"But... I never finished the last essay question!"
His parents were shocked. Before they could react, Rocky sneaked gloomily away and flew to some remote location.
"What am I going to do?" Rocky said out loud.
Gurgle, gurgle went the stream next to him, as if trying to reply.
Suddenly, he was surprised to find himself in the exact location were Pauline had disappeared, now a week ago. Rocky wanted to find out what really had happened. He decided he needed a bath anyway, and he walked into the stream.
There was a small waterfall behind him, flowing over what seemed to be a very smooth stone. He went up to it and realized that it was actually was a black space - the mouth of a little cave that was right underneath the stream. Carefully, he slipped inside, and fell to a hard, wet, rocky floor.
He found himself in a large, dark chamber, with a waterfall flowing down about three meters from the cave opening high above him, and a stream at the lowest point in the floor flowing out of the room in an underwater tunnel.
He realized that the environment was wet and that he would need his wings to dry out before he could fly back up to get out. But he wouldn't dry out here! He was trapped.
Then, on one part of the cold floor, he found a single feather belonging to Pauline.
Where had she gone to? Looking around, he found no other exits to the chamber. There were only the cave's opening two meters above him and the water-filled drainage tunnel below.
He realized there was only one thing to do. Rocky held his breath and dived into the stream.
He woke up to find himself soaking wet next to a stream in a thick forest. The underground tube must have eventually flowed back into the stream again, he figured. All he could see were trees and foliage, all around him. Except... he could just make out a log cabin through the trees.
Log cabins were rare, since most parrots lived in tree houses. Curious, he walked over to investigate. After finally arriving, he looked in a side window and discovered Pauline. Her beautiful wings were flattened out against the dirty cabin wall and stuck on with duct tape, leaving her powerless to move.
"Rocky!" she exclaimed.
Rocky crept up to the door and opened it.
"These evil crows found and captured me," she said as Rocky came over to remove her from the wall. "Thank goodness you've found me!"
A "crow" is a nickname given to a very cruel and evil parrot. Fortunately, they were few and far between, but Pauline had managed to be found by two of them who were living deep in the forest. She had fallen into the cave and also realized there was but one way out, and when she emerged form the stream the crows caught her.
"Rocky!" Pauline exclaimed again after having been released. She threw her wings around Rocky. "Come, let us fly away quick before the crows return!"
"You go on ahead," Rocky said. "I cannot join you."
Pauline stopped and thought for a moment, gave Rocky another hug, and
flew off. Poor Rocky could not join her, for his wings were still very wet.
In the distance he heard two other parrots coming. He knew that they were
As one can imagine, Rocky's parents felt pretty bad when they realized they had sent in Rocky's application with one essay question left unanswered. After a while they had gone to look for Rocky, but he wasn't around. When Rocky didn't return home by the late afternoon, they were even more worried.
"He must be feeling pretty bad to be gone so long," his mother said. "He's going to miss supper if he doesn't return soon."
"He'll come back," his father said assuredly. "He's just disappointed, that's all. I'll see if I can find some way to send in that last essay question."
"Has he even started it?" his mother asked. "I'll go look in his room for it so I can type it up."
She left the room. His father sat down to read the 'Daily Parrot' newspaper, when Pauline's father flew in quite abruptly. Rocky's father jumped from his seat.
"Hey Jasper, what's up?" he inquired.
"Great news - we found Pauline!" Jasper replied. "Rocky rescued her. She was captured by some old crows, but Rocky found their hideout and set her free. It was amazing! You see, she was bathing, and she had..."
"Well, where's my son now?" Rocky's father interrupted.
"Well, you see, that's the problem. Rocky set her free, but his wings were all wet. So Pauline flew off and quick came to tell us. Think of it - Rocky's a hero!"
"But that must mean he's still there - with those dangerous crows!"
"I'm afraid you're right. But we've sent some parrots down there to try and find him and capture those crows."
"Well, I'm going out to look for him right now. He could be in danger!"
Rocky's mother came out from Rocky's room.
"Is everything all right?" she asked.
Jasper and Rocky's father just sighed.
There was no time for Rocky to even hide anywhere, for the crows were coming in too quickly. One of them had seen Pauline making her escape, and they instantly came to investigate. They landed a few meters in front of Rocky, ready to leap forward and attack the one who had released their prize.
But suddenly the larger of the two stood still, looked straight ahead at Rocky and said, "Steven? Is that you? It's me, Michael... remember me?"
Rocky, taking advantage of the situation, replied "Yeah, and boy has it been a long time."
"Almost seven solar years. I hardly recognize you. Do you remember me, your old pal Michael?"
"You always preferred Mike," Rocky said riskily, hoping to feign authenticity.
"You scoundrel, you know I hate that name," Michael said. "So it really is you. Come in there, there's something else I want to talk with you about."
He opened the door of the cabin, and Rocky entered, followed by Michael's companion, remaining silent and almost ignored.
"Oh, this is Jeff, by the way," Michael said as he shut the door. "He lives with me now. Now, tell me this. What the hay did you do to our prize?"
Rocky thought quickly. "She was looking rather uncomfortable."
"I don't buy that. You always were devious, and I know you're up to something. And why are you so wet?"
"Um, I stumbled in a cave."
"Oh yeah, we just created that a few weeks ago. Pretty clever, eh, diverting a stream into a cave?"
"Well, I'll help you dry off then. Hey, why don't we camp out tonight? It'll be just like old times."
"Sure, why not?"
Michael and Jeff quickly packed up some camping gear, and the three of them walked out into the thick forest.
Pauline was pacing back and forth in her bedroom in her treehouse when Jasper flew in.
"Daddy, has Rocky come back yet?" she asked, solemnly.
"I'm afraid not, honey," he replied. "There are about 20 parrots out looking for him, and his father is now out there too."
Pauline looked up. "I want to help find him. I should never have left him like that."
"Now you're not going anywhere. You've been missing for a week, and we've finally got you back. Besides, you're not really in good condition and you need a rest."
Her father left the room. Pauline stared blankly out of her open window.
"Where are you, Rocky," she said, looking at the clouds.
By now it was getting dark, and the search was called off for the night. Rocky's father flew into his treehouse, exhausted, and dismally plopped into a cushioned chair.
Where are you Rocky, he thought to himself. How did he find Pauline? Why was he all wet? Did the crows capture him? The questions whirled through his head.
At least Pauline was back safe. But now someone else was lost - his very own son. Would he ever be found? He kept thinking.
His wife entered the room.
"Go to bed, dear," she said softly. "We'll find him in the morning."
But he couldn't sleep, and he realized this was going to be one long, long night.
Meanwhile, Michael, Rocky and Jeff were toasting marshmallows around a campfire, somewhere deep in the forest. The warm, radiating heat had now thoroughly dried off Rocky's wings, and he felt much better, but he dared not make his escape now because it was getting too dark to see and he reckoned that Michael would certainly catch up with him. Besides, Michael still believed that he was Steven, and for the moment he felt reasonably safe with him, almost having fun.
"So," said Michael, grabbing a marshmallow, "you haven't told me what happened at Yonfandell. I heard you had a little squall with Jerry."
Michael had already discussed a lot about his life at the cabin, and now it was Rocky's turn to tell his story. But he didn't know anything about Steven, so he had to make up something clever. He made it sound as ornate as possible, in order to drive off any thoughts of suspicion and keep him in amazement. Jeff, who hadn't said much since they first met Rocky, listened only subconsciously and concentrated on his stick from which he was trying to toast two marshmallows simultaneously.
"It got to the point," Rocky was saying, "that I had to retaliate. I rigged up a water-trap on his treehouse."
"And did he fall for it?" asked Michael, immensely interested in the story.
"Yep. He darn near fell of the tree. He was so upset that he burned down my treehouse that night."
"He torched your treehouse?!"
"Darn right," Rocky replied. He was surprised at how well his story was working. "The flames went so high that I was afraid the sky patrol was coming with the floodlights to investigate. I went south in the dark until morning, and then rebuilt my home in a completely new area. I've been there for the last year-and-a-half."
By now Jeff had stuffed himself with enough marshmallows, and he was getting into his sleeping bag. It suddenly got very quiet, and soon Rocky and Michael also retired, leaving the fire to quietly die down. Rocky looked up at the stars, wondering what was happening back home and what he was going to do to get away in the morning.
"Wake up, dear!"
Rocky's father rolled over. He had finally managed to fall asleep, but he had only been doing so for a few hours when he heard his wife's voice.
"Wake up, someone's here to see you."
He slowly dragged himself up and opened his eyes to find his good friend Barney perched next to him.
"Good news," he said. "They've found the crows' hideout."
A short while later Rocky's father got up, ate a quick breakfast and flew over to Barney's tree house, which was serving as a temporary headquarters for the recent search efforts. There was a large group of parrots in the parlor, awaiting the latest news. Rocky's father joined the group and anxiously listened in.
"...well, we found their cabin hideout, but it was completely empty," Barney was saying. "But now we're combing the whole area around it. I need five more volunteers to help out."
Rocky's father raised his right wing almost automatically.
Rocky woke up to the smell of toast and berry jam. Michael had gotten up first and made breakfast for the three of them.
"So Stephen, how long are you staying?" he asked.
"Actually, I really need to get going," Rocky said.
"Aw, come on, stay with us for a while. Help us find another Pauline."
"You're forgetting that I only stumbled my way here by accident."
"Uh, yeah. Oh, but we had such a good time. You will come back and visit us again, will you not?"
"Indeed I will," Rocky said confidently. He was glad to get away, yet at the same time he had felt pity for them and did not rule out the possibility of meeting them again by his own choice. They had, he thought, only captured Pauline as a joke, and in their naivety they did not know how much of an effect such an action would cause on her family and community. In any case, he waved goodbye, and flew away towards home where everyone was looking for him.
"Fine chap," Michael said to Jeff. "A bit of a scoundrel, but a fine chap."
Jeff managed only a half-smile.
Pauline was still in her bedroom that morning, thinking more about her week-long ordeal and about Rocky than breakfast. She still regretted leaving Rocky, and when she opened her window for fresh air, she contemplated going against her father's orders and setting out on her own to search for Rocky. But then she thought it was better to obey her father, and she sat down at her desk to begin to get caught up with the schoolwork she missed the previous week.
Just then, a parrot flew right through her window and landed behind her. She spun around, and, hardly believing her own eyes, shouted out, "Rocky!" In hearing this, her mother opened the door, and before her eyes was Rocky, the one who had rescued Pauline.
"Oh, Rocky, we were so worried about you," she said. "Thank-you very much for rescuing my daughter."
"Don't mention it," Rocky said casually.
She gave Rocky a hug, and then immediately went off to fly to Barney's house to tell everyone that Rocky had been found. Within minutes, there were at least a dozen other people packed into Pauline's bedroom, including Jasper, Clyde and Rocky's parents.
"So," asked Jasper, "how did you manage to get away? You had nothing to defend yourself with."
"That's where you're wrong," replied Rocky. "I still had my wits. One of the crows apparently mistook me for someone he knew. I went along with it until this morning when I could safely get away."
"You're a very brave parrot," Rocky's father said. "Come here and let's work together on that last essay -- I think I know someone in the Parakeety School who we can talk with about turning it in."
"I love you, Father," Rocky said, embracing him.
Everyone in the room smiled, and they were all thankful for such a happy
ending. But for Rocky, it was only the beginning.
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