Honestly, cranes with hooks are so last season. Windmills are even worse. Everyone remembers their windmill years. Now, are you a ladies' man at all, Mr. Proteor? You are? I thought so. You want the ladies to notice you? Sure you do. Well, here's a tip….
Another rock. I try again. My hands close on a heavy piece of metal. It's rusted, but unmistakable. A sword hilt. I pull it towards me. The sword rings on the stones. Iwonder how it got here. Some knight or warrior must have climbed to the top of the Sudden Mountains and fallen in battle to a proteor, leaving his weapon behind for me.
Whoever he was, he was awfully big for a jupiterling. My hand fits the hilt perfectly. The sword feels nicely balanced in my grasp.
A friendly weapon. I don't know how else to put it. My right hand tingles. It's like the sword is saying,
Hi, there. I've been waiting for you!
I've never held a real sword before, let alone a used one. Good thing it isn't complicated, like a computer or a car. The manual for our computer is 400 pages long. The typical sword manual would be a lot shorter:
(1) Swing hard.
(2) Cut enemy in half.
(3) Repeat. Battle cry optional.
You'd get the whole thing on one page, even if you put the instructions in twenty languages.
Of course, if you make a mistake with a computer, you can just press the undo key. There's no undo key on a sword. If you miss your stroke and, say, cut off your own leg – well, that's permanent. Get used to hopping.
I'm afraid of cutting my leg off. I sit up straight, and lift the sword over my head. Gosh, it's heavy. I close my eyes, and let it fall.
What a noise it makes! Like a blacksmith's hammer striking the anvil. I open my eyes. The trap is in two wriggling pieces on the ground. The rock is chipped.
“Hey!” I cry aloud. The sword flashes excitement into me. This is a seriously powerful weapon. I mean, I wasn't even trying, and I cut right into the mountain.
I lift the sword, and strike again, and again. Take that, you stupid trap! The pieces split into more pieces. Two more chips appear in the rock. The sword itself is undamaged. It may be my fancy, but it seems lighter, as if it's happy to be used again, after all these years of lying on the mountainside rusting.
The pieces on the ground look like bugs. Nasty wriggling things. I slash at them in a frenzy, chopping them intosmaller and smaller pieces. The air fills with a hissing sound, like ice cubes popping.
, cries Norbert, from over my shoulder.
Stop playing with Excalibur. You can't kill a proteor by chop ping it up; you can only make more of them. We've got a minute while the big guy's transforming. Let's get going!
I take a step back. I can feel the sweat running down my body, under my space suit and bathrobe. The little things are wriggling in the snow. I kick at them in disgust.
Norbert's right. It's time to go. The crane is now a heap of wriggling bricks. They're turning into something, though. Something rectangular, with a handle on the short side. I don't want to wait and find out what it is.
I loop the belt of my bathrobe around the sword, and tie it on. I'm bringing it with me. Finally, I have a weapon. A good one, too.
Barnaby looks up at me with his big round eyes. He hasn't moved more than arm's length from me since I pulled him out of the cage. I'd feel so bad if I left him on the mountain with the proteor. And I feel bad enough about him already. “Come here, boy,” I say, kneeling down. He trots over. I pick him up and leap into the air. My slippers do the rest.
Norbert darts a quick interested look at the rocking horse under my arm, but doesn't say anything. He's watching the heap of bricks with a smile on his face and his antennae perked forward eagerly.
Hey, the big guy is following my fashion advice
, he says.
“What'd you tell him he should turn into?”
He coughs. –
I peer down. He's right. It's a giant two-slice toaster. Each slice of bread