Read New Adventures of the Mad Scientists' Club Online

Authors: Bertrand R. Brinley,Charles Geer

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Science Clubs, #Action & Adventure

New Adventures of the Mad Scientists' Club (16 page)

       
"The same old stuff," Henry shrugged.

        The
Colonel fished in his pocket for a cigarette. "What do you think of all
the excitement in town?" he asked.

       
"What excitement?" said Freddy Muldoon.

        The
Colonel chuckled again and lit his cigarette. "I mean all this business
about flying saucers," he explained.

       
"Oh, that! Some people are real kooks!" said Freddy.

       
"What do you think, Henry?"

        "I
think it's very amusing," said Henry, rubbing his nose.

       
"Yes, I suppose it is amusing," the Colonel agreed, "but I
haven't been able to get any sleep for three nights in a row now."

       
"That's too bad," said Henry, clasping his hands over one knee.

        The
conversation lapsed and the Colonel stared at the ceiling for a while. Then he
shifted uneasily in his seat and started to twirl his hat between his knees.
Finally, he cleared his throat and said, "I was thinking you boys might be
able to help me out."

       
"We're not much good on insomnia," said Henry.

       
"Why don't you go see a doctor?" suggested Freddy.

        The
Colonel laughed again, a little bitterly. "I don't think I need a
doctor," he said. "But if we could cut this investigation short, I
might be able to get some sleep."

        There
was another silence. In the middle of it Mrs. Mulligan came bustling in with a
cup of tea for Colonel March and a plate of cucumber sandwiches. "Won't you
have a cup of tea, Colonel March? It will do you good," she said.
"You must be a very busy man just now. My, isn't this flying saucer
business a caution, though. Excuse me, I must get my wash out on the
line." And she disappeared into the kitchen again.

        The
Colonel smiled his appreciation, but looked askance at the sandwiches.
"Cucumber sandwiches?" he said uncertainly.

       
"Yes! They're very good," said Henry.

       
"Have one," said Freddy, taking a handful. "They make you
burp."

        "I
might try just one," said the Colonel. "I haven't had time for any
lunch today." He took one sandwich and munched it speculatively. Then he
fastened his light blue eyes directly on me.

        "To
get back to what we were discussing," he said, "have any of you boys
seen any flying saucers around here?"

        I looked
at Freddy, and Freddy looked at Henry, and Henry uncrossed his legs and clasped
his hands around the other knee. "What do you mean by a flying saucer,
Colonel?" he asked.

        "Well,
let's just say any strange object in the sky that you can't explain."

       
"No!" said Henry. I breathed a little easier and Freddy reached for
another handful of sandwiches.

        The
Colonel popped the rest of his sandwich into his mouth and chewed it
thoughtfully. "That's too bad!" he said. "I just hoped you boys
might have some valuable information for me."

        Freddy
gurgled something unintelligible through a mouthful of sliced cucumber.

       
"Yes, I certainly agree!" said the Colonel. "You were right,
Henry. Those sandwiches are awfully good. I think I'll just have another."
But his hand stopped in mid-air as he saw that the plate was already empty.

       
"You have to move fast when you're at the same table with Freddy,"
said Henry. "Let me get you another from the kitchen."

       
"Oh, no! Thank you," said the Colonel. "I think I'd better be
getting on now, anyway." And he picked up his hat and strode to the door.

       
"Whew!" I whistled when the Colonel had gone. "Maybe we'd better
lay low for a while."

       
"You told a lie!" said Freddy Muldoon, pointing a stubby finger at
Henry.

       
"No, I didn't," Henry protested. "He asked me if I had seen
anything in the sky that I couldn't explain, and I said 'No,' and that's the
truth."

        Freddy
thought this over for a while. "Boy, you ought to be a politician when you
grow up!" he said, finally. "If you ever run for President, remind me
to vote for somebody else."

        "I
still think we ought to lay low for a while," I repeated.

        "I
don't know about that," Henry said. "That's just what they'd expect
us to do. If Colonel March really suspects us, and I think he does, then we'd
be tipping our hand by knocking off operations. He'd figure he had the problem
solved, and that he guessed right. If we really want to obfuscate everybody,
the thing we should do is launch The Flying Sorcerer as soon as we can --
tonight. Nobody would think we'd have the nerve to do that right after Colonel
March came to see us."

       
"Hey! You just used a forty-eight-cent word," said Freddy. "How
do we
obscufate
everybody?"

       
"That's
obfuscate
!" said Henry. "Let's just say it means
we keep 'em guessing."

        Since
Harmon Muldoon had led the Project Blue Book investigators to our operations
center at the old zinc mine, we decided we had to become more mobile. What we
needed was a big truck to mount all our equipment in, so we could move around
from place to place. Zeke Boniface, who runs the most interesting junkyard in town,
had just the truck we needed, so we took him into our confidence.

        Zeke's
truck, Richard the Deep Breather, is an ancient rig, but he always manages to
keep it running. Not that anyone else could. There is a mysterious relationship
between Zeke and the truck that is hard to explain. You know how some
mechanical things will only respond to the tinkering of one person? That's how
it is with Richard the Deep Breather. If it weren't for Zeke, the old truck
would be part of the huge pile of rusting junk in his yard, instead of the
living, deep-breathing monster it is. True mechanical genius is a rare gift,
and Zeke has it. He believes in doing things with as little human effort as
possible. His junkyard is so full of labor-saving contraptions that he can run
the whole operation without ever getting off the broken-down couch in his
office if he wants to. It's a fact that Zeke has enough brains to be a
millionaire, except that he'd rather fish.

        We
mounted all our radio gear in the truck and Zeke picked up the Sorcerer after
we had hauled it from its hiding place in the cove to the Lake Road, and grove
it to the zinc mine well before dusk with Henry, Mortimer, and Jeff on board.
Homer and I stayed behind to monitor the flight of the Sorcerer from the loft
over the Snodgrass Hardware Store.

        Dinky
and Freddy had a special assignment. Henry figured it might be the last flight
for The Flying Sorcerer, and he wanted Dinky and Freddy to "obfuscate
everybody real good," as Freddy put it. The radio news that afternoon had
carried an announcement by Colonel March. He said his own investigation had
disclosed no evidence of unidentified flying objects in the area, that the
sightings which had been reported had a plausible explanation, and that he was
sending the Project Blue Book investigators home. In answer to questions, he
would only say that he had "solved the mystery" to his own
satisfaction, and that he was reasonably certain there would be no more UFO
reports coming from the Mammoth Falls area.

        Henry
had gone into one of his blue funks when he heard the broadcast, and nobody
could communicate with him for about fifteen minutes. When he came out of it,
he pulled Freddy and Dinky off to one side and gave them some rapid-fire
instructions. They scooted out of the clubhouse, where we had been planning the
night's operations, and we didn't see them again until evening.

        From
where we sat in the loft over the hardware store, Homer and I could just barely
see the high ridge of the hills beyond Strawberry Lake silhouetted against the
fading light of the sunset. In the Town Square, three stories beneath us, there
were the usual late evening strollers and gossips swapping exaggerated accounts
of the day's events, and rumors of imagined events. The Fire Department crew
had set their hoses out to dry in front of the station during the afternoon,
and they were now busily engaged in folding them back into the racks on the
trucks. A four-piece Salvation Army band was playing hymns rather loudly, and a
little off key, in front of Garmisch's Sausage Shop. Nobody was paying any
attention to them, except two dogs that always hang around in front of the
sausage shop for some reason. They were sitting on the curb, howling every time
the cornet player blew a high note.

        Suddenly
Homer pinched my arm and pointed toward the far shore of the lake. There were
two tiny, bright objects bobbing on the horizon just above the ridge of the
hills. Soon, a third one appeared; then another, and another. One of them
suddenly zoomed upward, far above the others, and continued soaring in an
ever-widening circle, sketching a spiral in the half-darkened sky. More of the
objects began to appear now, over the same section of the ridge, as though they
had flown in from the west. Some of the objects looked like glowing, white
lights. Others had a bluish tinge to them.

        This was
our signal that the night's operation had begun. With Zeke's help, Henry,
Mortimer, and Jeff were launching a barrage of "ghost lights," as
Henry called them. These were plastic bags with the open end taped to a piece
of wire mesh, or a large can lid with holes punched in it. We'd put a can of
canned heat or a large candle inside the bag, cemented to the can lid. The
result is the same thing as a hot air balloon, and they'll do crazier things
than a kite when the air currents catch them. They'll zoom way up in the air,
and then drop down just as suddenly. They'll hover, almost motionless in one
spot for awhile, then scoot off sideways for a couple of miles. To people on
the ground they look like something that can't happen.

        By now
there were about two dozen of the ghost lights swirling in crazy patterns over
Strawberry Lake -- enough to make the most sober citizen swear the town was being
invaded by hundreds of flying saucers. And every minute the prevailing wind
from the west was blowing them closer to Mammoth Falls. Close on their heels
came the familiar flashing green light of The Flying Sorcerer. In another
minute the evening strollers in the Town Square would be able to see them.
Homer and I held our breath. Sitting side by side at the loft window, we could
feel each other's nerves twitching.

        As we
watched The Flying Sorcerer draw nearer to town, I switched on the radio to establish
contact with Henry. Our plan was that Homer and I would take over control of
the Sorcerer once it appeared over town, because we had a rather delicate
maneuver in mind. We could get a stronger signal up to the Sorcerer's receiver
from the antenna we had mounted on the roof over the loft, and we could
exercise better control than we could by relaying instructions to Henry.

        The
Sorcerer was coming in low -- just a few hundred feet above ground -- because
it had been weighted down with lead sash weights to keep it well below its
normal one-thousand foot altitude. Consequently, it caught everyone by surprise
as it loomed over the roof of the fire station, and hovered there while
everybody in the Town Square was busy watching the antics of the ghost lights.
But they noticed it when a loud hissing sound drew their attention. Homer was
letting enough helium escape from the Sorcerer to bring it down on the flat,
gravelled roof of the fire station. When the crowd saw it, it was losing
altitude rapidly; and it hit the roof of the fire station with an audible
thunk
,
disappearing from the view of those in the square.

        The
crowd, in a near panic, surged to the other side of the Town Square; some to
try and get a better view, others just trying to get out of the way in case
anything happened. Two venturesome young men were trying desperately to shinny
up a telephone pole in the hopes of being able to see over the parapet of the
fire station roof. The Salvation Army band had stopped playing, and its members
were gazing in open-mouthed astonishment at the firemen pouring out of the
stationhouse. The two dogs in front of Garinisch's Sausage Shop were howling
like coyotes, with their noses thrust up in the air.

        What the
onlookers couldn't see were the green-costumed figures of Dinky and Freddy, who
had been hiding on the roof for two hours, and who had now scrambled over to
The Flying Sorcerer to unlash the lead sash weights dangling from the rim of
its framework. When they had the last one cut loose, they waved frantically in
our direction, and Homer looked at me with a dumb, blank look on his face.

       
"That's the signal," I whispered hoarsely. And when he didn't
respond, I poked him a good one in the ribs. "Cut in the jets! Cut in the
jets!" I hollered in his ear. Finally Homer came alive as he saw the
Sorcerer slowly rising from the roof after being relieved of its added weight.
The transmitter buzzed as he sent the signal for all four of the jet nozzles to
open up. The Flying Sorcerer zoomed upward with a loud swoosh, bringing a
startled shout from the spectators in the square.

        The fire
station crew had rolled the big hook-and-ladder rig out front, and were
starting to raise a ladder to the roof when they heard the noise. Everybody
looked up at once to see two green heads with horns, peering back at them over
the parapet of the roof. As the crowd gasped, tiny lights on the ends of the
horns blinked on and off. Then something approaching pandemonium broke loose as
the two green figures clambered onto the top of the parapet and ran back and
forth as though they were looking for a way to jump down to the street. One was
quite skinny, and the other was quite fat; but both were small.

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