11

Chapter Six: A New Home

When Flooney and Brooney awoke, the battered ship was floating peacefully in space. Flooney quickly put the navigational instrument back on-line, but it was no longer working.

"Oh, blast!" exclaimed Flooney, "What are we going to do? We know how to use the instruments, but we don't know the first thing about fixing this stuff when it breaks!"

"You're sure you never took an engineering course in school, Floon?" asked Brooney hopefully.

"I'm afraid not, Broon," she told him, "You sure you can't fix it? After all, you did fix that old toaster when it went on the fritz."

"I can try, but I'll probably mess it up even worse," Brooney replied dolefully, "This is a little more complicated than a toaster."

Brooney looked at the instrument and flicked a few switches half-heartedly. He soon gave up in confusion. Bonnek brayed at them until Flooney finally let him out of his temporary "space stall". He trotted over and nosed a button.

"That won't help, Bonnek," Brooney said, pressing the button that Bonnek had nosed.

There was a whirring sound, and the computer came back on-line.

"Emergency back-up drive going into operation," it droned in a matter-of-a-fact manner.

"Wow!" exclaimed Brooney, "Bonnek knew something that we didn't!"

"I imagine Bonnek knows a lot of things that we don't," Flooney replied, "Can the computer get the ship moving again, Bonnek?"

Bonnek brayed hopefully. After a half an hour had passed, a familiar hum started up. The ship was working again under the emergency back-up system! Flooney remembered that Commander Kreskin had told them about that during their training session, but they had both forgotten.

"Thank you, Bonnek!" Flooney told the burro appreciatively, "You must have been listening to Kreskin's lecture better than we were."

"But can we get the navigational equipment back?" asked Brooney.

"I think the computer has the co-ordinates for Orange-Bucket planet," Flooney answered, "and it should be able to get us there—although it may take some time. The ship is only traveling at half the speed that it was before. Computer, set a course for Orange-Bucket Planet!"

"Course set," replied the computer dutifully, "Estimated Time of Arrival at Orange-Bucket Planet: five weeks."

"Five weeks!" Brooney exclaimed, "Isn't there some way to move it along faster than that?"

"If we do," Flooney told him, "We'll fry the engines. We're just going to have to be patient."

The trio traveled in the half-broken spaceship, Choonette, for weeks on end. The voyage became very tedious indeed, especially since neither Flooney nor Brooney had any control over where Choonette was going. The computer had taken over control completely. The two Lunies played cards and sang songs to pass the time. Brooney told a few stale jokes, but Flooney and Bonnek had heard them all before. Brooney wanted to make them laugh, but he wasn't having much luck; and so, he pulled a white tooth out of his shirt pocket and attached a gold chain to it. Then he bowed and presented it to Flooney.

"This is a luck charm for you, sister," Brooney said to Flooney, "It keeps purple tigers away."

"Thank you, Brooney," Flooney answered, touched by Brooney's gift, "But I've never seen any purple tigers in all of our travels."

"You see," Brooney replied knowingly, "It works, doesn't it?"

Flooney groaned at Brooney's joke, but she still put the gold chain and white tooth around her ball-like body. Bonnek brayed his laughter, giving cheer to his two Lunie companions.

It took many weeks, but finally, they saw a big orange ball of a planet on their viewscreen.

"Destination: Orange-Bucket Planet," the computer told them, "preparing to go into orbit."

Flooney, Brooney, and Bonnek watched the screen nervously. They were almost dancing in anticipation. The Choonette approached the planet and went neatly into orbit.

"But how do we land this infernal thing?" Brooney wanted to know.

"Let's order the computer to do it," Flooney replied, "Computer, can you land this ship on the planet?"

"Unable to comply," responded the computer, "Co-ordinates for landing are needed as input."

"I don't know any co-ordinates," Flooney retorted, "We've never been here before!"

The computer remained silent. Flooney and Brooney took out one of the maps of Orange-Bucket planet that Tikra had given them. They finally came up with a destination and its co-ordinates, based on the map.

"Computer, we want to go to Crater Canyon," Flooney said, punching in a group of numbers which instructed the computer on where to guide the ship.

"Negative," the computer told them, "There is no landing facility on Crater Canyon."

"Oh, this is just great," Brooney grumbled, "We have to find a place that's got a landing facility. What if this planet doesn't have any landing facilities?"

"Computer, override landing facility instruction," Flooney ordered it.

"Negative," the computer responded in an exasperatingly calm manner, "Crater Canyon is a dangerous landing area. This computer recommends landing in the Tugley Plains."

"All right," Flooney agreed, "The Tugley Plains it is."

After much whirring and stalling, the computer finally began landing procedures. The ship began to circle downwards. Flooney, Brooney, and Bonnek looked excitedly out the window at the approaching plain, which was very green with tinges of blue. Bonnek could barely contain himself he was so delighted. Tugley Plain became closer and closer until finally it was clearly visible. It was made up of grasses and bushes, and interspersed with clumps of trees now and again. This would certainly be a good place to land.

"Coming in for a landing," advised the computer, "Fasten your seatbelts, please."

Flooney strapped Bonnek in before she and Brooney hastily put on their own seatbelts. The good ship Choonette made a loud whirr-hum sound as it slowed its approach before smoothly depositing itself on the ground of Orange-Bucket Planet. It then proceeded to power down.

Inside the Choonette, Flooney, Brooney, and Bonnek were cheering madly. After a while, they pressed a button to open the doors. As they did so, a ramp slid out and down to the ground for them to exit. Before they left the ship to explore, Flooney had one last question for the computer.

"Computer," she asked, "Do we have enough power to return to Astrolunadia?"

"Negative," came the response, "Ship cannot re-launch into space. A complete overhaul and maintenance routine is required."

"I see," Flooney replied sadly, "Power off, computer."

The computer shut down itself and the ship, and the humming noise that they had become so accustomed to grew silent. Flooney sighed and followed Brooney and Bonnek down the ramp.

"Well," Flooney stated, "It looks as though we can't go back; we may be here for the rest of our lives, if we can't find a spaceship mechanic."

Bonnek brayed happily, nosing them. He was obviously delighted with the idea of Flooney and Brooney staying with him. They explored around the area cautiously. Bonnek seemed to be telling them not to worry.

"Look!" cried Brooney excitedly, "It's a herd of deer!"

Flooney looked in the direction of Brooney's pointing finger and saw a herd of majestic blue animals with antlers on their heads. Flooney and Brooney had seen deer before in the Zoo of Astrolunadia. Lunie scientists had obviously gone around the galaxy capturing animals and had brought them back to the Zoo.

"Y'know, Broon," Flooney said to her brother, "We may be here on Orange-Bucket for a reason. Maybe we need to send word to Astrolunadia that the capturing of animals from this planet needs to stop. We have no right to keep them as pets or put them in a zoo."

"I agree with you, sister," Brooney replied, "But we can't send word to Astrolunadia now that our spaceship is not working."

"But we can be here to meet any Lunies who come here with the idea of taking animals back to Astrolunadia...or Choon Moon, or Dune Moon, or any of the others. The Moon people need to understand that Bonnek and his friends are intelligent people just like us, and they deserve their freedom."

"Okay..." Brooney agreed, "But right now, we have to figure out how we're going to live. I mean, I guess we can use Choonette as a house, but we're running mighty low on supplies. We need to figure out how to find food here!"

Bonnek brayed, and ran around to the various thickets and woods pointing out fruits and berries that could be eaten. Flooney and Brooney collected as many as they needed to make a meal, and they filled containers of water from a nearby stream. Bonnek grazed on the grasses, and together they built a life for themselves, using Choonette as a house. They learned a great deal about the many different species of animals here, and each species they met left them alone. None of them wanted to harm Flooney and Brooney, but they did not want to be captured either.

"Well, I guess it serves us right that they don't want to be our friends," Flooney noted sadly, "after all, we did keep Bonnek as a pet for many years. We never even thought of bringing him back home."

"Yeah," Brooney agreed, "We're so sorry, Bonnek."

Bonnek brayed at them, nosing them gently. He was showing them that he did not blame them, and was happy that they had taken him home when they did learn about his home-world. Flooney and Brooney were nonetheless ashamed of themselves for not having taken him home sooner.

One day, Bonnek left the two Lunies and went on a journey of his own. Flooney and Brooney were heart-broken, but they did not blame him.

"I guess we're on our own, now, Brooney," Flooney told her brother in a dejected tone.

The planet was beautiful, and they were able to survive easily on the fruits and nuts that they found in the woods. They also had some seeds and planting material left over from the ship's greenhouse, which they planted in the ground in order to grow some vegetables. As the months passed, they found their life on Orange-Bucket planet to be a peaceful one; and they even began to form friendships with some of the smaller animals, who came to them in order to taste some of the vegetables from their garden.

Flooney was out in the garden pulling weeds when suddenly she heard a familiar bray. She jumped up in the air in surprise. Brooney came bouncing out of Choonette.

Bonnek galloped towards them, and Flooney and Brooney bounced right into him as he halted in front of them. They embraced him, crying Lunie-tears of joy.

"Bonnek!" Flooney cried, "Have you come back to visit us?"

Bonnek brayed, and a herd of little burros came running out of the woods to stand beside him. They all began to bray and to nose Flooney and Brooney. They ran around happily, playing tag with Bonnek's family. There was another being present who was watching them. Flooney and Brooney stopped suddenly when they realized that he was there. It looked like an ape-being of some kind. He had orange fur and was dressed in a red tunic.

"Oh," Flooney said, "I'm sorry. I'm Flooney, and this is Brooney. We're from Astrolunadia, and we came here to bring Bonnek back to his world. We didn't realize that he was from Orange-Bucket, and that he wanted to go home."

"Yes, I know," the ape said to them, surprising them with his ability to speak their language, "Bonnek told me. My name is Binnoar, and I am a Simian. I have explored all the moons and have learned the lunar languages. I kept my presence a secret, of course, because I did not want to scare you Lunies. We all know how terrified you are of beings from planets."

"Oh," Flooney stammered, thinking about what Tikra had said about it being illegal to take beings from their homes, "Well...I hope we haven't offended the beings of Orange-Bucket planet. I mean...we didn't realize when we adopted Bonnek that he was from somewhere, and had a family. We thought we were rescuing him from the Lunie Flight Pilot who rescued him from a Star Pirate. We didn't mean to break any laws! Are we going to be put in jail, Binnoar?"

Binnoar chortled in a good-natured fashion.

"No, Flooney," Binnoar replied, "The beings on Orange-Bucket planet don't believe in prisons. Everyone is free here, and there is an expectation that we all treat each other kindly. As long as you are being kind to Bonnek and the others, you can stay here as long as you wish."

"Why, thank you, Binnoar!" cried Brooney, "But...what if we want to go back to Astrolunadia, just to check up on a few things? How can we do that now that our spaceship is broken? Do you know how to fix broken spaceships?"

"No," replied Binnoar, "But I know another Simian who can help. He is an engineer, and he can bring in some spare parts from our former world, Silver-Bucket Planet."

"Wow!" exclaimed Brooney, "That would be great, Binnoar!"

Flooney and Brooney were so overjoyed that they danced around in a circle with Bonnek and the other burros. They could stay here as long as they wished, but they could also have someone fix their spaceship so that they could travel back to their own moon when they were ready.

"What do you say we spend at least a year here, Brooney?" Flooney asked, "We can have Binnoar's friend fix the ship, and when we're ready to go, Choonette will be ready to go as well."

"Yip-yippeee!" cheered Brooney, "Sounds like a plan!"

And so, the two Lunies stayed on at Orange-Bucket planet, learning the language of Bonnek and his family. They even managed to learn a few more of the local languages as well. Binnoar and his friend helped them to build a cottage to stay in, and they helped to carve furniture for it.

The twin Lunies ended up staying much longer than they had anticipated. They were there for about five years before a Lunie "rescue ship" touched down on Orange-Bucket planet to see if there were any trace of Flooney and Brooney. When they discovered them, the two Lunies told them about the law which had been broken: animals from Orange-Bucket planet were not to be taken away from their home unless they specifically agreed to go.

"We'll tell the Captain," the team of Lunie explorers told them. They touched a button on their belts, and the ramp of the space-ship slid out and down. A light-blue Lunie walked down it.

"It's Jax!" Brooney called, "Hey, Jax!"

When Captain Jax saw that it was really his friends, he went running down the rest of the ramp and sprang into their arms. Bonnek came over to nose and nuzzle him.

"Well I'll be...you're a space Captain, now, Jax?" Flooney asked, "I thought you got terrible space-sickness!"

"I take pills to help me with it," explained Jax, "When you two failed to return, I began to miss you. I took training from Commander Kreskin and did well enough to be granted my own ship and crew to come and look for you guys."

"Well...now that you're here, Jax," Brooney said excitedly, "You'll have to stay for at least a year to explore this world. You and your crew are welcome here, as long as you respect the freedom of all the beings here."

Jax and his crew agreed to these terms, and Jax sent a message back to the home-moon advising them that it was illegal to take animals from any planet without their permission. As it turned out, the other Moon-people had explained this law to the Lunies, and many other laws as well. They were having a "Conference of the Moons", in fact, to discuss those laws.

Flooney and Brooney could have gone to the conference, but they decided to stay and learn more about the laws of Orange-Bucket Planet from the beings who lived there. Jax stayed for a year before he and his crew had to leave. They came back as often as they could to visit.

After about ten years had passed, Flooney and Brooney were honored by the Blue Deer, the Simians, the pygmyburros and others as full residents of Orange-Bucket. Flooney and Brooney beamed with pride as they threw a great big party for the Orange-Bucketans. They cooked up Spaltchek, Moon-Veggies, and Berry Pie for their guests—and burnt none of it.

"I think we've found a new home, Flooney," Brooney said.

"I think you're right, Brooney!" Flooney replied happily.

And so, all the beings danced together, well into the starlit night.