Day 29 – 1727 words and a total of 51 038 words! Still got one more day left, but I’ve done it!

After a hurried lunch, the five packed supplies—mostly water, considering where they were going, but a little food and some other things too—and set off down the tunnel towards the rocket site.

The trip stretched on for several hours, and at least once someone asked to go back, but Stikky was determined to get there.

Eventually, hot, dry, and tired, they emerged out of the tunnel into the dusty building above them, and out onto the rocket site.

“Well, we’re here,” Stikky said thankfully, taking a drink of water from his canteen. “Now where’s the laser cannon?”

Leddy shrugged, then looked at Steik, who was making some calculations on a notepad.

“Well, from what I’ve worked out here…” he began, then looked up at Stikky. “It could be anywhere.”

“Or… you could just look over there,” Stif interrupted, causing them to turn.

Twenty or so metres away from the edge of the landing site lay the laser cannon, looking perfectly unharmed except for a few dents.

They hurried over to it, trying not to run, but they were in such a hurry it was hard not to.

“Well…” Stikky decided thoughtfully, walking slowly around the rocket in a slow circle, staring as hard as he could at it. “There’s some dents, and the actual ‘cannon’ part of it is ruined—we made sure of that when we knocked it out of the sky—but apart from that, it looks completely fine!”

Leddy scratched his head, puzzled. “That doesn’t really make sense, does it?” he asked. “From what we saw, it dropped like a stone! How could it be fine?”

Steik pointed to a tangled mess of string and cloth attached to the back of the cannon. “Well, this would explain it,” he decided, going down on one knee to examine it more closely.

“A parachute…” breathed the twins in unison, as if it were something unheard of.

“Well, at least we know how that happened,” Stikky remarked, taking another drink. “Let’s go and figure out how to turn this into a rocket that’ll get us to space!”

 

Over the next week, that exact thing happened.

They began by removing the useless cannon part of the rocket. Stikky had wanted to get rid of it immediately, but Leddy had cautioned him to keep it—just in case.

Next they stood it upright on the three fins attached to its base. This manoeuvre was slightly difficult, but was eventually achieved by tying ropes all the way around its tip, putting three stickmen on each rope, and gradually easing it up.

They had left the ropes attached to the top, and tied their other ends to hooks conveniently positioned in the ground—just in case some storm or strong wind were to come along and knock it over. One of them actually did snap, but thankfully the rocket didn’t fall.

After quickly realising they needed strong ropes, but being not quite sure where to find them, Leddy had come up with the idea of winding three ropes around each other, making one big rope. It cost them a lot of it, but it was worth it knowing that the rocket was now less likely to fall over.

Next, they had discovered that there was still a large amount of fuel inside the rocket, easily enough to get them into space. The reason there had been so much to start with, Stikky reasoned, was that the fuel hadn’t just been to power the rocket, but to power the cannon when it fired.

They quickly calculated how much fuel they would need to get out of earth’s orbit, then removed all they didn’t need, then added a little extra back at Leddy’s suggestion.

Following that, they converted the empty space inside the rocket into a large, air-tight set of rooms that would later be filled with beds and cupboards for supplies.

The front of the rocket, where the cannon part of the rocket had once been, they had made the control room, which housed the controls for the engines, air-control, and everything else.

The 15th was quickly approaching as they rocket entered into its final stages, mostly to do with testing and adding comfort. Then the first signs of trouble began.

After finishing work for the day, the stickmen had traveled wearily back down the tunnel to the have a good night’s rest. They came back in the morning after a hearty breakfast, talking cheerfully to each other about what needed doing that day.

As they emerged out onto the landing site, everyone in the group looked up expectantly, but at first they could not see the rocket. Then they gasped.

The rocket lay on its side, covered in sand. Its sides were dented, and the few smears of paint left on it had been scratched away.

Stikky stared at it in shock. How had it happened?

Running over, he examined the dents; they weren’t too bad, but a couple of the plates would have to be hammered out flat again. One of the windows had come out of its place, but thankfully it hadn’t cracked.

Leddy rested a hand on his shoulder. “Did a rope snap?” he asked quietly.

“What else could it have been?” Stikky replied, then turned to the group of stickmen behind him. “Come on guys,” he ordered. “Let’s get this thing standing back up. Steik, will these four ropes be enough?”

Steik was standing a little way away from the group, staring off into the distance. He didn’t respond to Stikky’s question, and only turned when Leddy repeated it to him.

“Steik, will this be enough rope?” he asked, touching him on the shoulder. Steik turned, and Leddy stepped back, startled to see the flash of anger in his eyes. It was only there for a split second, then he seemed to return to his normal self.

“Sorry, what?” he asked, rubbing the sweat off his glasses. But Leddy didn’t respond, he just stood there, dumbstruck.

Steik walked past him and spoke with Stikky. “Yes, I think these four will be fine, providing you have enough stickmen on each. Uh… what are you looking at, Leddy?”

This last question was directed towards him, but Leddy couldn’t bring himself to answer. He just shook his head and went to join the line of stickmen grabbing the three ropes.

Watching as the stickmen holding the back rope pulled—the two either side holding it steady as the rocket began to lift upright—Stikky darted forward and lifted the fourth rope, which had been squashed underneath the massive bulk.

He looked at it for a moment, puzzled, then held it out for the twins to look at. “This hasn’t just snapped!” he exclaimed, showing it to them. “It’s been cut!”

“Sabotage…” the twins breathed in awe, staring at the rope as if it were alive.

“Destick?” someone asked.

“Who else?” Stikky replied bitterly, then shook himself. “Do we have any spare rope?” he continued, turning to look up as the rocket stood upright once more.

“We made a heap of spare yesterday,” someone replied. “It should be somewhere around…”

The rope was quickly fetched, and after removing the cut cord, they firmly tied the new one in place.

“There!” Stikky muttered when they had finished, looking up to see that they had wasted almost an entire day. “Now let’s hope this was a one time thing!”

But, they were soon to find it was only the beginning.

The next day they made their way along the tunnel faster than usual, as if afraid something worse might have happened to the rocket.

When they emerged out into the tunnel, everything was fine. They set to work as usual, and had forgotten all about the trouble of yesterday until about midday.

After removing two of the iron plates from the side of the rocket that were severely dented from the day before, they had hammered the imperfections out of them, then stopped to have lunch.

Fitting his canteen back into his pack, Stikky looked around as Stif and Stib lifted one of the metal sheets and carried it over to towards the rocket.

“Leddy?” he called, turning. “Where’d you put those bolts? The one’s we took off when we unplated those dented sheets?”

Leddy finished the remnants of his lunch and shrugged. “I put them over in that box beside you—right next to the container of screws.”

Stikky lifted the lid of the box and peered into it. “Where?” he called a moment later, his voice muffled by the crate.

Leddy rolled his eyes, then hurried over to him, slipping his water flask into his pack as he did so. “It’s right-” he began, then stopped as he saw the empty box. “There…”

Stikky stood up, letting the lid fall in annoyance. “Well, I suppose someone else has gotten them already,” he huffed, turning around. “Alright,” he called. “Who’s gone and taken those bolts? Stif, Stib? Anyone?”

Everyone they asked shook their heads, each pointing to someone else who they thought might have taken them.

“Steik?” Stikky asked in a worried voice when he found him. “Have you seen those bolts we took off the rocket? We can’t find them anywhere!”

Steik turned as Stikky touched him on the back, giving him such a glare that he stepped back in shock.

“Why should I know where it is?” he snapped angrily. “Am I always to blame?”

Not waiting for a response, he turned and hurried off towards the rocket, leaving Stikky to stare after him in bewilderment.

He felt a hand resting on his shoulder, and turned to see Leddy standing beside him.

“What’s up with Steik?” he asked, puzzled. “I’ve never seen him angry before. At least, not without good reason!”

Leddy shrugged. “Something bad must have happened to him. No, don’t ask me; I’ve got no idea what it is, but I noticed something was up with him the other day. It’s not good to ask him about it yet, but I’ll try and do it sometime.”

Stikky stared after the retreating figure, then shrugged. “But what about those bolts?” he asked, turning to Leddy. “We can’t reattach those panels without them!”

Leddy turned and studied the rocket, where Stif and Stib were busy screwing one of the iron plates back into place. “Well, it looks like the twins have found some more!” he exclaimed, grinning.