Well, we've landed and we're all anxious to find out where. Even Rover, our navigator, who can be blasé about location, seemed interested. Our ace pilot Brak said it might be forest, or perhaps prairie or it could be desert. But he was pretty sure it wasn't water. He said it all happened so quick who could tell anything?
“I couldn't,” Rover said.
“Nothing on the radio except the usual noisy chatter,” Jant, our communications specialist, reported. “Radar says we're somewhere, though.”
“Well, that's encouraging,” I said, heading for the door. “Shall we look outside?”
The heroes Brak and Jant were on it, “Yes, ma'am,” they both snapped, wearing wide smiles. They really love adventure.
Rover held back, peering over their shoulders. “Let's do this,” he said.
I gave him a quick look which he didn't return then I opened the door and was presented a beautiful sunny day, with large copses of trees spaced about in a half desert half prairie setting.
“Looks to be forest in a prairie desert,” I said, smiling at the pleasant scene. “Good job Brak.” But Brak and Jant were already doing a perimeter run, becoming aware of everything in every direction, like heroes do, while Rover peered silently from inside the Rivitir. The air was dry with a hint of pine and sagebrush.
“All clear Captain,” Brak reported when they returned.
“Thanks, Brak,” I said Looking back at Rover I asked, “You coming?”
He was in the doorway holding a map, first looking at it, then at the hills in the distance. “Hmmm, wazzat?” he sputtered.
“Huh? Oh, I uh, well, I think maybe I'll take a look at these maps some more, maybe figure out where we're at.” Something was on his mind.
“Okay,” I answered. “It'd be good to know. Meanwhile we're going to take a look around.”
He looked up abruptly, then with wide eyes said, “Don't go far.”
“What's up Rover?” I asked, turning back to face him.
“Nothing. Really, nothing, it's just that . . .”
“Just that what?” I urged sternly.
“Well, does this look like that?” He handed me a map with a small picture in the corner of hills, like the hills we could see. I looked at the picture, then back at the hills, then back at the picture.
“Hmmm, there is a resemblance, let's see, hmmm, yes, there.” I pointed at the hills. “See that peak that sort of looks like an open beak pointing upward?” He nodded. “Well, there it is in the picture. Same peak. Gotta be.” I looked at the bottom of the map at the legend. It said, Home range of the Giant Hickory Horned Devils. “Huh? What's this?” I asked.
“What's what?” Rover replied quickly, peering at our surroundings from inside.
“What's this about the home range of the Giant Hickory Horned Devil?”
“Oh, I didn't notice. Does it say that? Thing is, I'm not sure we're there, I mean if that peak . . .”
“Uh-huh,” I interrupted, “that peak over there that's in the picture? Is that the peak you mean?”
“Yeah, uh, well, if that peak is the same, well then, if it is that is, well, this could, uh, well it likely could be the home of the Giant Hickory Horned Devils. If that is the peak.”
I looked again at the picture. It was the peak. “So what're these Giant Hickory Horned Devils?” I asked. Now I was looking around. Where did Brak and Jant go? I felt a stab of worry.
“I dunno,” Rover said.
I began screaming, “Brak! Jant!” but there was no reply.
“But they sure don't sound good,” Rover finished with a worried look.
“Huh? Brak and Jant don't sound good?” I asked. “What do you mean?”
“No, the Giant Hickory Horned Devils. They don't sound good.”
They didn't sound good and I was silent. I looked again at the peak, then the picture, then the legend. No, this didn't sound good. I stepped closer to the open door. Then I noticed Brak and Jant approaching in the distance. They were walking with some curious creatures, big as donkeys but shaped like worms. They easily kept apace of Brak and Jant and seemed to be having a lively conversation.
“Here they come,” I said.
Rover, who couldn't see the approaching figures, shrieked. I watched with fascination as they got near. The creatures were large caterpillars with horns! And they were talking with Brak and Jant, apparently joking as Brak and Jant were both laughing.
“Hey Captain,” Brak called as they arrived. “Look who we met.” He gestured at three big caterpillars, all with horns who seemed to be smiling at me. “That's Henry and Florence,” he pointed to the end two.
“Just call us Hank and Flo,” Henry said.
“And that's Edmonk,” pointing to the third.
“Nice to meet you,” I said smiling, “I'm Captain Rosy of the AV Rivitir.” I pointed at the Rivitir. I looked around for Rover who stuck his head out and shrieked again.
“And that's Rover,” I said.
“Curious bark,” Flo commented.
“Curious dog,” I agreed.
Rover stepped cautiously out, watching the caterpillars closely. “Uh, hello,” he said quietly. “You guys live here?”
“Yes, this is our home,” Edmonk replied, smiling proudly. It was very beautiful country and the day was pleasant.
Rover looked around with wide eyes. “You aren't afraid of the devils?” he asked.
“Devils?” Brak questioned.
“Oh, I know,” Edmonk laughed. “It's what they call us, because of our horns I think.”
“You're the devils?” Rover asked with a stunned expression.
“That's right,” Edmonk grinned, “we're the Giant Hickory Horned Devils!”
“Wow!” Jant said.
“I told you they were cool,” Brak murmured behind her. Rover could only stare.
“Gosh, that's an awesome name,” I said, admiring their horns. “Sounds a little dangerous though, sort of scary, eh Rover?”
“Huh?” Rover huffed. “I uh, well yeah, now you mention it there is a certain ominous sound to the name.”
“We took the name years ago,” Flo told us, “to keep tourists away. It worked fine at first, and for a quite a long while really, but then we began to feel lonely.”
“We're gladda see anyone nowadays,” Hank observed.
Rover nodded, “Your name didn't bother me,” he said proudly. Then after a pointed silence, he added, “well, okay maybe a little but I am a professional navigator, you know, and well trained in cartography. I'm certainly used to ominous names, means nothing, most the time just a name.” He looked around. “Right?”
“Yes, of course Rover,” I answered with a smile.
We spent a marvelous couple of days visiting the Devils. They told us they were transitional people, to become something much greater than their current beautifully horned and spiked caterpillar selves. They will become moths!
“We will fly!” Flo told us enthusiastically. She was eager to teach us the ways of the Devils. “We will soar across the skies like eagles,” she crowed, “our formations will be tight, our dexterity unbelievable, we will fly like nothing before!”
It was an exciting future, that's for sure. The Giant Hickory Horned Devils were a pleasant people with a brilliant future. We had an enjoyable stay seeing all the caterpillar hangouts and trying the exotic caterpillar food. Caterpillar music is not what you'd expect and when they dance? Each caterpillar dances like a separate conga line.
Hank, Flo and Edmonk saw us off after our fun-filled stay. What great caterpillars! After promising to stop in if we're ever this way again, Rover gave Brak some numbers, coordinates probably, and we took off, excited and curious as to where we might end up next. It's great to be moving again, I thought, sitting proudly in my Captain's chair, totally in charge.