These Penguins Have the Right Stuf

Part 2

or

3-2-1 Holiday Savings!


Illustration 2


Blue was absorbed with the nav computer.

"Lucky, could you read me those coordinates again?"

No response.

"Lieutenant Lucky?"

At the continued silence she glanced up. The room was empty - wait, no, not quite empty. Bubbles had just floated in.

"Lt. Lucky went to help out Blaze in the engine room. What's up, Blue?"

Her eyes returned to the computer. "Could you read me those coordinates on the table? Lucky wrote them down on a piece of paper somewhere." She gestured vaguely towards the middle of the room. This close to Earth, Blue was taking no chances of the Steelbeak going off course, and had hovered over their jury-rigged navigation system since the bright blue sphere had gotten close enough for the penguins to see land masses and clouds. Her long-since forgotten lunch, a bag of Europan krill, was tucked un-opened next to her desk.

They were aiming for Antarctica, obviously enough. Lucky and Blue had agreed that the South Pole was their simplest, best option. The nav system was sketchy, to say the least, and they wanted to avoid a water landing (the penguins would probably survive, but they doubted the Steelbeak would). After Europa, it would even feel warm.

"Found ‘em! Uh... zero point zero-zero-zero- do you need all the zeroes? yeah? zero. And ninety point zerozerozerozero. Do you need the S and W, too? There's an S and a W."

"Thanks."

He floated closer to Blue and the computer. "That's all it takes to make sure we get home? Two numbers?"

"All it takes. Shouldn't you be strapping in somewhere? Te- Cmdr. Tess says we'll be entering the atmosphere as soon as she's done making sure everyone's accounted for and inside the ship." Blue stopped looking at the system long enough to throw a pointed look Bubbles' way.

"I was just trying to find a window seat. Why didn't we build this thing with window seats?"

"We, Ensign?" The reply came not from Blue but from behind him.

"Oh, uh... hi Commander." Bubbles attempted an almost-passable salute. "I did help test the suits."

"Yes, I recall. I also recall what happened after you helped test the suits."

"Blaze said it was better to spot the problem with the oxygen tanks sooner rather than later, and that the fire could have been a lot-"

"Go strap in, Ensign Bubbles."

"-worse and... Yes, ma'am." Another rough salute, and Bubbles floated back the way he came.

"Well, Lieutenant Commander, are we ready to land this hunk of junk?"

"Yes, ma'am!"

"Good. Start pointing our beak towards home on my count. Might as well make a show of it."

Tess hit the button for the ship's intercomm. "Alright everyone, we've got about 300 kilometers between us and some fish that tastes like real fish! I want everyone strapped to something that doesn't move, and I want everyone to stay like that for the next hour. Landing manuevers begin in three..."

Lucky had found a seat where, now that he'd moved some storage lockers, he could at least see out a tiny corner of the deck window and succeeded in buckling himself in just as Tess started the count.

"Two...

Blaze and Lucky were firmly strapped in near - but not too near - the engine room, in case any heroics were needed during landing. Lucky hoped there wouldn't be. Blaze hoped there would.

"One..."

There were a lot of clouds today, and Blue couldn't see if it was land or ocean beneath them. But Lucky's calculations had gotten them this far, and of all planets, the nav system should be able to handle Earth. One more hour. One more hour.

"Blue, take us home!"