In which Alexander meets Penguin, and the Penguin meets Alexander.
Down in the Baja California peninsula in Mexico in the city of Tijuana lies a small Hotel that draws in a bunch of American tourists with a lot of American cash. Many people come because they canÃ¢â¬â¢t afford a stay in California. Others because they were tired of American sights and needed somewhere else to go. No matter what your reason, however, it was just a nice seaside place to go.
Alexander Tulliver, a rough and lean sort, had a Harvard degree, which is probably necessary to deal with the travel agents and such like the one he is in the process of "talking" to.
"Okay, for the THIRD time, listen carefully. I --- need --- a --- ticket --- out --- of --- here," he enunciated carefully and slowly.
"Mr. Tulliver, as we said, your trip includes round-trip airfare, however, with the current local problems prices have sky-rocketed and the ticket is thus null and void. Understand?" replied the Travel Agent for Cross & Cross Travel.
Alexander glanced at his watch, groaned, and shouted, "Understand. Understand! How can you be so blind, I need to be back in New York by 5:30 PM tomorrow, before jumping a flight to London, or else my career is destroyed, and youÃ¢â¬â¢re asking me to understand!"
Before harshness ignites, an average sized penguin comes up to this same Travel Agent, "Umm. Sir, Do I have to register Space Ship liftoffs with a Travel Agency or do I go directly to the Government?"
The Travel Agent after glancing at a sheet of paper on his desk, sighs, and directs the penguin to a door just down the hall with a sign expressing "Unknown Complaint Dept./Space Shuttle Dept."
The Travel Agent turns back to Alexander and clears his throat, "Mr. Tulliver, I am deeply saddened by your loss, but I cannot help, or improve upon it."
Alexander chuckles, "You lying sack of dog meat, I bet you read that off of your Ã¢â¬ËCHEAT SHEETÃ¢â¬â¢ on your desk. I bet itÃ¢â¬â¢s a normal response. Good day Mr. Travel Agent."
Alexander walks out to the beach area, and if there happened to be any doors in his way, he probably would have slammed them. His anger dropped a bit, and on his way to his hotel room he chanced upon the same penguin, who happened to be busying himself with a device that rested on his shoulders like a backpack, which made Alexander wonder how he didnÃ¢â¬â¢t notice it in the Travel Agency.
Alexander smiled at the busy penguin and stole himself into his room. He looked at the clock on his wall--- 7:30. He pulled out his cell-phone and dialed his office in New York. Being 10:30 there, there was no one there, so he left a message there on his bossÃ¢â¬â¢s voice mail, "Laid over in Baja California, canÃ¢â¬â¢t get flight out." There wasnÃ¢â¬â¢t much to say.
He picked this morningÃ¢â¬â¢s newspaper disk, and looked through the headlines.
PENGUIN POPULATION DECLINING ---
NASA Scientists blamed for leasing Space Shuttle technology to the your average John Q. Penguin
Alexander chuckled at that one, and was about to read the article when the doorbell chimed.
A short, stocky deliveryman glanced at Alexander, "Alexander Tulliver?"
"Uh Ã¢â¬Â¦ Package for you. Marked Fragile. Sign here. ThatÃ¢â¬â¢s great. Well, good day, sir. Off I go."
The deliveryman left as quickly as he arrived, but Alexander didnÃ¢â¬â¢t notice because he was examining the package which had been thrust into his hands. He looked over it trying to find some markings as to what it was, and only found a letter in Penguin Script.
Dēr Mst'r T'l'vr;
I m s'rry t c'nt'ct u ths wā, b't it is imp'r'tiv t g't n tuch wth u. I n'tisd th't u wer hav'n pr'blms. I w'shto off'r ma s'rvices t u, f'r th use f y'ors.
Alexander was not the best Penguin Script reader he knew, yet, he quickly got the gist of the message. Alexander didnÃ¢â¬â¢t know any Penguin named Rojer; however, he once knew a Fred Penguin as an old College buddy and was wondering if the two were related. Yeah, he thought, thatÃ¢â¬â¢s it, itÃ¢â¬â¢s one of FredÃ¢â¬â¢s kin I bet.
Alexander opened the protective wrapping and discovered a small key, an ignition key from the looks of it, and another note, this time fully written out.
This key controls the space ship's aft motors, plus co-pilot controls. I would like you to be my co-pilot, and am sorry for such short notice; it seems that my original co-pilot is stuck at the border for some strange reason. I have been watching you for the past few hours and feel that it shouldnÃ¢â¬â¢t be a problem for you to leave this planet, after what that Travel Agent did to you. Meet me at Pier 13 tomorrow morning.
Alexander was now sure that it was not one of FredÃ¢â¬â¢s kin and realized that his name had been on the poster outside, because of his lecture tonight. TONIGHT! My gosh, Alexander suddenly realized how late he was. Alexander practically flew out the door and down the stairs to the small conference room. Inside people were busy complaining, and his entrance didnÃ¢â¬â¢t help.
"Where is the McMishtosh software? We have waited Three Quarters because of so-called Ã¢â¬ËdelaysÃ¢â¬â¢!" shouted one angry man.
Alexander stepped up to the podium and addressed all of the room, "People, please, quiet down. I am not going to answer your questions," the audience grew louder, "because I ask those questions too!" the audience was silent, "My bosses have given only a form letter or three as response. Now, I bet you are all wondering about how I can talk about my company this way. Well, because that stupid company is now behind me. As of tomorrow, I will most likely be fired, and I donÃ¢â¬â¢t care. Something else has come up, something that just feels more exciting, and I plan on grabbing this opportunity as hard as I can!" Alexander left quickly and flew back up the stairs and into his hotel room.
Alexander picked up his dropped newspaper disk and began reading. Time passed. Alexander fell asleep, and after a short restless nap, woke up again.
Alexander felt that he couldnÃ¢â¬â¢t get dressed fast enough. He threw together a suitcase and headed for the Pier. On his way he bumped into The Travel Agent. The Travel Agent glared, and said quickly with what little breath he had left, "That penguinÃ¢â¬â¢s delirious," speaking to no one but himself.
The Travel Agent flipped through some notes on a yellow Legal pad. Scribbled some more illegible notes and walked away, no, jogged away screaming gibberish.
The sun, basked in purplish colors as it rose above the horizon, reflected the space ship parts as Alexander came closer. Rojer was moping about silently. The atmosphere could be cut with a knife, if someone had a knife, which is illegal under federal law.
A jet whizzed by, and Alexander walked up to Rojer.
"WhatÃ¢â¬â¢s the matter?" asked Alexander of the distraught penguin.
The penguin glared at Alexander as if willing to strike at some unknown prey, "Everything."
Quickly the penguin pushed Alexander in a nearby eatery and began explaining, "I woke up paranoid, Mr. Tulliver. When I reached the Pier the space shuttle was in shambles, and I was furious. Hastily, I found a phone and dialed the Police. Mr. Travel Agent arrived, and in more words said that PENGUINS were under SPECULATION and that all "incidents" involving them MUST be notified for some government or another."
Alexander stopped him, "Which government, Ã¢â¬Ëcause if its US, they canÃ¢â¬â¢t touch you here."
"Its US, all right, but it seems that the US has got everyone here spooked."
"Yikes," cried Alexander staring at the penguin. The penguin, after receiving his plate of broiled fish, begins crunching thoughtfully on his food.
After swallowing (he always remembered his motherÃ¢â¬â¢s urging to never talk with your mouth full, even if you are a Penguin!), Rojer said pointedly, "All we need is a good flight control chip, which is all that truly burnt out. You go find one, and IÃ¢â¬â¢ll go start reassembling the shuttle."
"Hey, I havenÃ¢â¬â¢t agreed, yet," cried Alexander, "I still have a few questions. For instance, why are you leaving?"
Rojer pulls out a small holo projector and displays a globe. "Us penguins have only two small areas for us to live in comfortably. Plus, for years we never even knew about the Arctic Circle. Many of us have been trying to find a planet that is 80% or more ice, and it seems that the famous Penguin Scientist, Eureka has stumbled upon Parisia, a good-sized planet a few light years away. I plan on setting up a stake, and my brother, the one stuck at the border, wanted to share it." The holo projector began to show a small solar system rotating slowly.
Alexander blinks, before asking, "ThatÃ¢â¬â¢s great, but what is there for me? IÃ¢â¬â¢ll be a human among penguins."
After Rojer spent time punching a few buttons, and then punching the holo projector, it displays a slowly rotating planet, covered in snow and clouds, and in a small strip near the equator mild greens. "Actually, Eureka happened to be a member of a thirteen member crew, mostly human. Humans, do have a small population in the works at the equator, with some interspersing into the snowier areas."
Alexander chuckles, "Okay, IÃ¢â¬â¢ll co-pilot with you."
Rojer smiles and waltzes out with a whistle in his step.
"DoesnÃ¢â¬â¢t look like heÃ¢â¬â¢s bothered by this set-back. Oh well."