Taterskin & The Eco Defenders: Book 2, Chapter 24
Book 2 ("Tell It to Future Generations"), Chapter 24 of 56
Things didn’t turn out exactly as we had envisioned them, though, for two reasons:
The first reason for this was that Ooga wasn’t able to brute force the door open by twisting and pulling the handle. The problem wasn’t that he lacked the strength to do it, but that he was too strong. The doorknob came off in his hands due to his crushing it (which happened because he was naturally brawny and because he was that fired up about what was on the day’s agenda).
So, we improvised. Although most of the animals had stayed at the carriage house so as not to call attention to themselves before we were ready to make our presence known (or so we had thought), Yukyuk had come along with us — after we had disguised her as a Horse. There were plenty of Horses around, so she blended right in. We put a straw hat on her head, a bridle over her face, the bit in her mouth and, of course, a saddle on her back. The other conspicuous member of our group who we knew was going down with us at dawn was Ooga. We dressed him up as a human; Albert had him wear a tuxedo which, to my way of thinking, made him look like a giant, hairy Penguin.
We were able to fool the few humans who were out that early with these disguises, as it was still fairly dark, and most of the people were sleepy and preoccupied with their own affairs. It was a different matter altogether with the Animals in the neighborhood, though. We didn’t fool them for an instant. Ooga was the recipient of many guffaws, and Yukyuk was relentlessly teased because of her odd shape and spotted hide. Some of the other Horses that we passed along the route even called her “Slopey” or “Slopes” due to her front legs being taller than her back ones. Taking special note of Yukyuk’s spots, one wag of a pony even referred to her as a “hunchback Appaloosa.”
Yukyuk at first chuckled at this chaffing, but it soon became wearisome to her, and then downright irritating. She had already built up a smoldering hot temper by the time we arrived at the torture chamber.
I said that we improvised after the doorknob came off in Ooga’s hands. This is where our exasperated Hyena came in: Without missing a beat, Yukyuk told the tuxedo-wearing Gorilla to stand aside, and battered down the door with her front legs, releasing some of her pent-up irritation.
The Squirrels, Raccoons, Chipmunks, Opossums, Moles, Voles, Gophers, Badgers, Weasels — our entire entourage — went streaming in. They told the captive animals what was up, namely that they were about to be rescued by the Eco Defenders. The inmates had never heard of us before this, but the word they fixated on was ‘rescue,’ and a great barking and miaowing and chirping ensued. The captive animals had faith in us, I guess, or maybe the mere hope of being rescued was reason enough for their joyful outburst.
Soon the mad scientists arrived on the scene (that is to say, the doctors who experimented on the animals). Without our being aware of it, in the dead of night the rest of the Eco Defenders had made their way down to the torture chamber, and were stationed behind it, just in case we needed their help (which we thought was unlikely, as the myriads upon myriads of small Animals would probably drive the mad scientists up the wall without any need to call in the “big guns”). The “bigs” did come in handy soon enough, though.
When the three whitecoats saw the lab had been broken into (literally), with the door torn off its hinges and the lights inside being turned on and off, on and off, strobe light fashion (Ooga was having fun toggling the switch), they hesitantly approached the entrance and peeked inside.
“Holey Moley! Where did” —
“Those aren’t only Moles,” one of his partners in torture said, “They’re” —
“I didn’t say they were all Moles, you nitwit!” the first replied. “Who let all these rodents in?”
Albert (with Alexis on his shoulder), Ravelle, Chapawee, and I calmly approached behind them. “They let themselves in,” Albert coolly informed them.
That was, not shockingly, met with disbelief and then a demand for an explanation. Much to the mad scientists’ surgrin (a mixture of surprise and chagrin), they were informed by Alexis that a Gorilla had tried to open the door by main force, but the doorknob had come off in his hand, and for that reason a Hyena had felt it imperative that she knock down the door with her forelegs.
“You taught him to say all that?” one of the doctors asked Albert, amazement apparent in his tone of voice and shocked facial expression.
“No, she was simply answering your question, on the fly as it were — no pun intended, especially since she wasn’t flying at the time.”
Being of the opinion that animals were merely “dumb beasts,” the doctors were dubious in the extreme about this. Alexis then said, “I can prove it to you — ask me a question, and then determine whether the answer I give shows evidence of my having been prepared, drilled, coached, or instructed.”
The doctors consulted together, whispering, and finally nodding their heads. The one who had shown such amazement over Alexis’ former statement asked her:
“What type of Bird are you?”
“That’s easy — an African Grey Parrot.”
“Where is your kind from?”
“Where do you think? Africa! Where else would an African Grey Parrot be from?”
The doctors looked puzzled, perplexed, and disconcerted to boot.
“Where did the Wright brothers prove they could fly?”
“Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.”
Alexis was getting bored, so turned the tables on the white-jacketed men: “I have a question for you: What was it that Mark Twain said about vivisection and vivisectionists?”
“He used to live here in Hartford,” the loquacious member of the band of torturers offered.
“Everybody knows that,” Alexis said, shaking her feathers and blinking. “That’s not what I asked. I repeat: What was it that Mark Twain said about vivisection and vivisectionists?”
After another consultation, accompanied by much animated gesturing, the three men finally turned back to Alexis and admitted they didn’t know.
“Then pay attention,” she said. “This is what he had to say about the likes of you and your chosen profession of ill repute:
I believe I am not interested to know whether Vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t. To know that the results are profitable to the race would not remove my hostility to it. The pains which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity towards it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further. It is so distinctly a matter of feeling with me, and is so strong and so deeply-rooted in my make and constitution, that I am sure I could not even see a vivisector vivisected with anything more than a sort of qualified satisfaction. I do not say I should not go and look on; I only mean that I should almost surely fail to get out of it the degree of contentment which it ought, of course, to be expected to furnish.”
Albert then said, “We subscribe to Twain’s view on these matters, and ask you now to cease and desist with your tor ... with your experimentation on animals.”
“We will not,” the three said, in a modified type of unison. What I mean is, they said the same thing, but a little out of time with each other, in a sort of staggered repetition. That is to say, the second one said “We” when the first one was saying “will” and the third said “We” when the second one was saying “will” and the first one was saying “not,” so that their voices, when combined, sounded like: “We wewill wewillnot willnot not,” in a reverberized effect, as if from an echo chamber.
“In fact,” the apparent leader of the Animal torturers asserted, “We want that Bird! Give us that Bird! How much will you take for it?” and he pointed at Alexis.
Albert saw by the vivisector’s name tag that he was speaking with a Simon Magus.
“Simon, you cannot have Alexis, unless she gave herself to you. She is a free soul with free will.”
“What are you talking about? She’s your Bird! She’s sitting on your shoulder!”
“Isaac Newton stood on the shoulders of giants. Did he belong to those giants?” Alexis asked.
The doctors were dumbfounded, in both senses of the word: They were speechless and they were found to be dumb — as in mentally dense. The first dumbfoundedness was only momentary, though. They appealed again to Albert, more excited than ever about the hopes of experimenting on Alexis and eventually dissecting her brain. They still didn’t believe that Albert couldn’t (and wouldn’t) sell her.
“Name your price. Anything within reason for the Bird,” Simon pleaded.
“She’s not for sale at any price.”
“Every Bird has its price. I mean, every man has his price.”
“Not this one,” Albert said, pointing at Alexis. “Or this one,” he added, indicating himself with his thumb.
I thought it was time for somebody else to get a word in, so I barked out, “Let our people go! We will pay you nothing, but we will allow you to leave with your bodies in decent shape and working order if you quit the premises post-haste.”
All the mad scientists heard, though, was fervent barking, and they understood none of it. Albert let one of them borrow his Doolittle, and had me repeat what I had said. Now the doctors wanted to purchase me, too. And a Doolittle.
“None of these animals are for sale,” Albert said. “And even if they were, I would not sell them to you of all people. Nor will I sell you a Doolittle,” he added, snatching back the device. “As Taterskin said, let these animals go. If you don’t, we will force you to.”
In actuality, Ooga had already freed most of the captives inside the laboratory. He had broken open cages, while the rodents had chewed through miles of cable, disabling the equipment the evil doctors used.
The mad scientists did not know this yet, though, and continued to refuse to budge on their adamant refusal to stop the experiments. In fact, they even went so far as to begin thinking up new experiments using Alexis and myself as subjects. And who knows who else — or what other evil designs — they might have had in mind.
All of a sudden we heard a happy yapping and barking. I looked over to see a squirming puppy and its mother ecstatically greeting each other. Ooga had broken open the puppy’s cage and brought the young dog out to its waiting mother. Aileen Mavourneen had been reunited with her puppy, Robin! That sight alone was enough to make all our efforts worthwhile.
The scientists, though, on noting what had happened, groaned, sighed, and finally shrugged. They viewed the rescue of Robin as a lost opportunity. They had wanted to see what would happen if they snipped the puppy’s optic nerves, an invasive, painful, and irreversible surgery that they had planned to perform that very day.
With their impeccable timing — after the doctors had once again steadfastly, resolutely, and stubbornly refused to quit their evil ways — Stripes, Rory, and Jubatus approached within two feet of them, one on each side and one behind, and let out bone-chilling, nerve-wracking, beaker-rattling roars (and, in the case of Jubatus, high-pitched squeaks). The doctors were now themselves the subjects of an experiment, to wit: How do vivisectionists look when the tables are turned on them and they are scared out of their wits and almost literally out of their skins?
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