Dad's Chair: The Adventure Begins


Chapter One
It was a cool and sunny spring day in the small town of Jackson.  Squirrels scampered about and insects buzzed overhead as if testing the air for the signs of summer.  The final class bell chimed at Jackson Elementary School and backpacked children rushed out the double front doors and made their way to their parent’s cars, school buses or bicycles.  A small group of children gathered around a bicycle rack, chattering and gesturing.
A boy and a girl, waved their goodbyes, unchained their bikes, put on their helmets, seated themselves and began to pedal toward their home a few blocks away.
Paul Howell, age ten, and his younger sister Lyn, seven, leisurely rode their bikes down the quiet residential streets and breathed in the fresh spring air scented with the newness of life.  Plants and grass were starting to show the first signs of green.  Dogs and cats perked their ears and excitedly played and neighbors, dressed in light sweaters and jackets, stood in their yards or walked down sidewalks taking in the new life blossoming all about them.
“School will be out soon!” exclaimed Paul.
“Only one more week and then Spring Break!” squealed Lyn.
Like all brothers and sisters they didn’t always agree on everything and sometimes they argued, but they still loved each other and always stood up for one another.  Paul was tall for his age and thin with thick blond hair that refused to stay combed.  His intense blue eyes reflected his sharp wit and quick mind.  Lyn was small with brown hair and eyes and had a smattering of freckles across her nose.   She was just as bright as her brother.  While her brother tended to be more impulsive, Lyn liked to think before she acted. 
As the children approached their modest two-story home they saw their father’s car in the driveway.  Since it was only 3:30, it was unusual for their father to be home.  Their dad owned his own small advertising agency and on most evenings he would arrive home, just as the family was sitting down for supper-sometimes later.
“Dad’s home!  Race you there!” yelled Lyn.  She pushed down hard on her bike’s pedals and darted ahead of her brother.
“Hey!  No fair!” kidded Paul.  He knew that he could outrace his younger sister but he decided to let her win.
The children raced up to their house, pulled into the driveway past their father’s car and parked their bikes alongside their mother’s mini-van. As they entered their home they took off their helmets and backpacks and headed toward their father’s studio where they knew he would be.
Passing through the kitchen the children said, “Hi Mom!”  Mrs. Howell was seated at the kitchen table looking through a stack of papers for the closing on a house she had sold earlier that day.  She worked part-time as a real estate agent.
“Hi kids.  Go say hi to your Dad and then get started on your homework.”
“Aw!  Do we have to do our homework right away?” both kids complained.
“Oh alright, after you see your Dad, you can play for about an hour and then you need to do your homework, eat supper, take your baths and get ready for bed .”
“Do I have to wash my hair?” asked Lyn.
“Yes, young lady.  Paul, don’t forget to wash behind your ears.”
“Yes Mam,” answered Paul.

Chapter Two
The children headed toward their father’s studio on the second floor.  As they approached his room they could hear him talking on the phone to someone.  Peeping past the open door the children saw Mr. Howell seated behind his desk, looking at his computer while talking on the phone.  Paul and Lyn liked his studio.  It had a large desk, a big swivel chair and bookshelves crammed with all sorts of interesting books and ”things”.
Mr. Howell collected everything.  Scattered about, sitting on shelves, tables and on the floor were old toys, 
trading cards, movies, CDs, odd drawing instruments and other bric-a-brac.  Old posters and prints were all over the walls.  Their mom called their dad’s studio “organized chaos”.  Neither child knew what that meant, but they were sure it described his room perfectly.
“Yes, I’ll have the layouts for your brochure later this week Mr. Travis.  Once you give me the go ahead I can get it to the printer and have it by next week,” Mr. Howell was saying on the telephone.  “I’ll call you when I’m ready to come over.  Yes, you have a nice day too.  Goodbye Mr. Travis.”  After their father hung up the phone, Paul and Lyn entered the room.
“Hi Dad!” said Paul.
“Why are you home so early?” said Lyn.
“Hey kids!”  I finished up early with an appointment and I’d thought I’d come home to surprise you and your Mom.  You guys up for a game of catch after you change out of your school clothes?” asked Mr. Howell.  He gave both children a hug.
“Sure!” both kids said.  
“We can only play for about an hour.  Mom says we need to work on our homework before supper,” said Paul.
“Your Mom’s right.  Hurry and change your clothes and let’s go play catch.”
As the children rushed off to play, Mr. Howell looked around his room and picked up a small object of wire and metal.  “I need to finish this project this week.  Time travel never was my expertise.  Maybe my wife can figure it out.”  He set the object down and headed downstairs to meet the kids in the back yard. 
After the children played with their dad, they both went to their rooms and finished their homework.  Paul asked his mom for some help with his math and Lyn worked on her science project:  a display of all the planets in the solar system.  They then went downstairs to have supper, after washing their hands.  When they got to the dining room their mother was placing food on the table and Mr. Howell had just finished pouring drinks for everyone.  Everyone sat down and Mr. Howell asked the blessing.  Supper was one of the kid’s favorites-hot dogs and macaroni and cheese.  Mrs. Howell also made some green beans and insisted the children eat some.
“How’s that new account going?” asked Mrs. Howell to Mr. Howell.
“Great!  Mr. Travis is pleased with my work and I told him that I would have his brochure printed by next week.  How has your day been Sue?” he asked..
“The usual.  After getting the kids ready for school and sending them off I showed off a couple of houses to a new couple that just moved into town.  They’re buying the old Sumner place,” she replied.
“That place is haunted!” said Lyn.
“It is not!” said Paul.  It’s just old.  I bet it will look nice once it’s painted and has some repairs done.”
“I’m sure it will,” said Dad.  “Anyone for dessert?  Mom’s made some apple pie.”
“I want a big slice!” exclaimed Lyn
For the rest of the meal the Howells chatted as they ate and when they finished everyone brought their dishes to the kitchen.  Mom cleaned up, Paul washed the dishes, Lyn dried them and Dad put them away.  Mr. and Mrs. Howell retired to the living room and the kids headed upstairs to take their baths and get ready for bed.  With scrubbed faces, washed hair and brushed teeth the children came down to the living room dressed in their pajamas. 

Chapter Three
Each evening the children liked to sit in their Dad’s lap in his big overstuffed chair and talk about different things.  They felt warm and safe in Dad’s chair.  Often one or both of them would fall asleep in their father’s lap.  Mr. Howell would gently pick them up, making sure not to wake them; he would then take them to their beds, tuck them in and turn off the lights.  
It was a time for the family to gather together to enjoy each other’s company.  Mr. Howell would sit in his chair with the kids.  Mrs. Howell would rock in her rocker, reading a book or joining in the conversation.  Sometimes they would watch a movie on TV.  During this evening both children talked about their schoolwork.  Paul mentioned his substitute math teacher and Lyn talked about her science project.
“I’m making a model of all of the planets in our solar system.  Earth even has a little moon next to it.  I wonder what it’s like on the Moon?” said Lyn.
“Would you like to go there?” asked Mr. Howell.
“Sure someday.  Maybe I’ll be an astronaut and travel there in a space shuttle.”
“I’m not talking about when you get older.  I’m talking about going right now,” said Mr. Howell, in a serious voice.
“Quit kidding Dad,” said Paul.  “How are you going to get there?  Do you have a spaceship parked in the garage?”
“Something like that,” said Mr. Howell. 
Mrs. Howell spoke, “Al, do you think it’s wise to be telling the children our secret?”
“They’re old enough.  We both know they’re smart enough.  Besides, they have to find out sometime, it might has well be now,” said Mr. Howell.
“What secret Daddy?” Asked Lyn.
“Yeah, why all the mystery?  It’s not like we could really go to the Moon or anything,” said Paul.
Mr. Howell leaned back in his chair, scratched his head and looked at Mrs. Howell and then at each child.  “There’s something I’d like to show you, but first you have to promise me that you can keep it a secret.  No telling your friends, no matter how much you want to.  Do you understand?”
“Understand what Dad?” asked Paul.  He was starting to get really curious and couldn’t imagine something so important that he would have to promise not to tell.
“What are we supposed to keep secret?” asked Lyn.
“Promise you can keep a secret first and I’ll show you,” said Mr. Howell.
“It’s important children.  No one must know.  Promise?” asked Mrs. Howell.
“OK Mom and Dad,” agreed both children.  “We promise. What’s the big secret?”
Mr. Howell leaned forward in his chair and said, “Chair, voice identification verification.  Al Howell, code-name Big Daddy.  Proceed with unlocking sequence.”
“Voice print confirmed.  All security lock downs have been deactivated.  Hello, Big Daddy,” said a voice coming from somewhere inside Mr. Howell’s chair.
Both children suddenly sat very still, their mouths open with puzzled looks on their faces.  Mr. Howell looked at Paul and said, “Paul, reach under your arm of the chair.  Do you feel a small button?”
Not quite believing what he had just heard Paul cautiously ran his hand under the arm of the chair and discovered a small button.  “Found it,” he said.
“Push it,” instructed Mr. Howell.
Paul pushed the button.  Nothing happened at first.  Then, ever so slowly, the chair began to vibrate.  There was a “whirr” then a “click” and finally a, “buzz!”  The chair began to widen.  Soon there was enough space on either side of their father for the children to sit comfortably.  Seat belts popped out on each side.  The chair continued to make strange noises and from the right arm of the chair a “click” sounded.  The arm popped open to reveal a control panel with bright flashing lights and rows of.  The footrest of the chair tilted slightly and from underneath the chair a flat panel slid out, with pedals.  The panel continued to unfold and extended a control board with lights, switches and dials, in front of Mr. Howell.  
Two control sticks, with handgrips and assorted buttons, pop-up from arm panels on each side of the chair.
 “Lyn, on your side of the chair you’ll feel a small switch under the arm.  Flip it,” instructed Mr. Howell.  Lyn looked about, her eyes wide in amazement.  She reached under the chair’s left arm and flipped the switch.
The chair rose off the floor.  “What’s happening!” exclaimed Paul.
“Nothing to worry about, it’s just the propulsion unit.  It’s activated in hover mode,” said Mr. Howell.
“Propulsion unit!” exclaimed Lyn.  “Dad, what is going on?  Why is your chair changing?  How long has it been able to do that?” asked Lyn.
Mr. Howell looked at Mrs. Howell and she nodded her head.  “Tell them,” said Mrs. Howell.
“Yes, tell us!” exclaimed Paul.
Mr. Howell began, “Believe it or not it all started with a cup holder.”
“A cup holder!  What’s has a cup holder have to do with what’s happened to your chair?” asked Paul.
Taking a deep breath Mr. Howell began, “Before you children were born your mother and I used to like to tinker with things.  It was a fun way to spend time together and to come up with inventions that would be useful around the house.  One day we decided that it would be clever if we could make a cup holder for my old chair.  It worked.  We began inventing other things, such as a remote control built into the chair for the TV  and Blu-ray player.  All I can say is we got carried away and before you know we came up with a chair that can do almost anything and go almost anywhere.  We’re always adding to it.”  

Chapter Four
“Go anywhere?  You mean your chair can actually go to the Moon?” asked Lyn.
“There and much further.  In can travel in space, underwater, underground, other dimensions and we’re working on time travel,” said Mr. Howell.    
“Wait a minute,” interrupted Paul.  “How come neither Lyn or I never noticed the buttons and other things on your chair?”
“The reason you never found them is because of the security system I have built into the chair.  It’s voice activated so no one can accidentally activate the chair’s devices.”
“That’s why you talked to the chair and it talked back!” exclaimed Lyn.
“That’s right.  Your mother can also activate the chair and once you learn how to operate it I’ll instruct the chair to accept your voiceprints.  Now, back to my original question, would you like to go to the Moon?”
“You bet!” said Lyn.
“Absolutely!” said Paul.
“OK, it’s settled then.  We need to pack a few things while your mother fixes us some food and drinks to take with us.  We might be gone for a day but since it’s Friday you won’t have to get ready for school tomorrow.”  Pointing to the hall closet Mr. Howell said, “There are two large boxes in the closet.  Bring them to me and we can begin to pack up the chair.” 
The children went to the closet and brought the boxes to their father.  Mr. Howell opened each box and sorted through the items.  Most of the items were camping equipment such as flashlights, a first aid kit and so forth.  Three items caught the children’s attention.  They were silver suits with helmets, breathing tanks, utility belts and carrying pouches.   Just as he finished sorting the items Mrs. Howell entered the room carrying an insulated bag full of food and drinks.  Pointing to the suits he said, “Those are spacesuits, we’ll need those where we’re going.”
Lyn and Paul looked at the pile of stuff and then at each other with puzzled looks on their faces.  Lyn said, “Dad there is no way we can carry all those supplies with us.  There’s barely enough room for us to sit in your chair.  Where are we supposed to put all of this stuff?”
“Trust me, we have plenty of room.  A few years ago your Mom came up with a clever idea for storing things.  Before either of you were born we used to live in a much smaller house.  Closet space was a big problem.  Your Mom figured out how to make extra storage space with a dimensional storage facilitator.  She discovered how to open a small opening into another dimension where there’s plenty of space.  No matter where we go we can store and retrieve objects through the pouches on either side of the chair.”  
“You mean those little pouches can hold all of this stuff?” asked Paul pointing to the chair.
“They sure can.  Just watch.”
Mr. Howell began picking up the various items and one after one he placed them in the pouches until they were all gone.
“Wow!” said Lyn.  “I could use those in my room!”
“OK kids get into your seats and buckle up.” Mr. Howell looked at Mrs. Howell and said, “With any luck we should be back later this evening. Susan, if it looks like we might take longer I’ll contact you over the radio.”  Mr. Howell leaned over and kissed Mrs. Howell.
“Be careful!” said Mrs. Howell.  “Children listen to what your father says.  I know this is very exciting, but outer space can be a dangerous place.  I’ll turn on the tracking system.  If you get in any trouble, call me.  I’ll see you when you get back.  Have fun.”  Looking at Lyn she said,” Bring me back a Moon rock.”
“I sure will!”
Mrs. Howell looked at Paul,” Look after your sister.”
“OK Mom,” said Paul looking at his sister and rolling his eyes. “Hear that squirt?  You better behave.”
“Only if you do,” said Lyn smiling at her brother.

Mr. Howell climbed into his seat and said, “Here goes!”
“Wait a minute Dad, there’s no air in space, shouldn’t we put on our spacesuits?” said Paul.
“No need.  Watch this.”  Mr. Howell pressed a red button on a control stick.  From the top of the chair a steel rod, with a round plastic tip, emerged until it was about two feet above the chair.  As the children watched the plastic tip split in half and enlarged into two large hollow circular sections, like the two sides of an oyster.  The two halves came together, completely enclosing the passengers.  They heard a hiss as the chair bubble sealed and air was pumped in.  The bubble sealed the entire chair, except for the back and underside, leaving the propulsion units exposed.
Mr. Howell pressed a blue button.   The chair rose higher off the floor.  Mrs. Howell waved at the children as the chair swung in the direction of the living room wall facing the back yard.  With the flip of a green switch the living room wall slide open and rested itself on the roof. The chair exited.
Looking back the children waved at their mother as the chair drifted upward.  She waved back and threw a quick kiss.  Mr. Howell flipped the green switch and the living room wall slid back into place.

Chapter Five
It was dark outside and the stars and Moon shone brightly in the clear Spring air.  A tall wooden fence surrounded the Howell’s back yard blocking the view of what was happening.  “I’m going to increase the chair’s propulsion.  We’ll have to pick up a lot of speed to leave Earth’s gravity.  You’re going to feel like someone is pushing on you because of the increased gravity.  Just breath easily.  It will be over once we leave the Earth’s gravitational pull.
“Will it hurt?” asked Lyn with concern in her voice.
“It will feel like your brother is sitting on you.  Don’t worry, you’ll be fine,” said Mr. Howell.   
Lights shone from inside the chair, illuminating the control panels and small lights blinked from underneath.  Mr. Howell pushed on a foot pedal and the chair began to pick up speed.  Soon the chair was hovering above the trees.  
No one noticed that their neighbor, Mr. Murphy, was watching from his second story bedroom window. He had seen everything, from the time the Howell’s wall opened, and he had recorded everything on his cellphone.  As the Howell’s disappeared from sight, Mr. Murphy picked up his phone and called someone.  
By now the children could see the entire town of Jackson spread out below them.  The town was lit by store and streetlights and an occasional car or truck.  The chair was pushed through the clouds and entering into the clear air above.  The children noticed that they felt heavier.
I’ve turned on the chair’s stealth device so we won’t be picked up by radar.”  With the flip of a switch the interior of the bubble became lit.
Mr. Howell looked at Paul and Lyn who were silently taking in all that was happening around them.  Here and there a light in the bubble blinked on and off and strange sounds came from nooks and crannies as the chair sped into the upper atmosphere.
“Are you guys alright?” asked Mr. Howell.
“Uh, yeah, I guess so,” said Paul.  I mean it’s not everyday that you discover your Mom and Dad have invented a chair that can fly and that you’re on your way to the Moon.  I wish I could tell my friends, but they wouldn’t believe me even if I did.”
“It’s freaky!” said Lyn.  “But neat!    How long before we get there?”
“It shouldn’t take more than two hours if we keep accelerating at our current speed.  Once we’re free of the atmosphere it will be clear sailing,” said Mr. Howell.
No one noticed a small bright light approaching from space.  As they traveled to the edge of space the light grew brighter and larger.  A meteor was entering the Earth’s atmosphere and was burning up from the air friction.  It was heading directly toward them. Noticing that the light in the bubble had suddenly grown brighter Lyn looked up just in time to see the meteor coming toward them.
“Dad!  Look out!” Lyn screamed.  She pointed toward the glowing meteor.
Looking up Mr. Howell spotted the meteor and reacting quickly.  He maneuvered the chair out of the way.  The meteor passed by the chair with just a few feet to spare. Paul thought he could feel the heat from the meteor even though he knew that was impossible.  As they watched the meteor disintegrated from the air friction. 
“That was a little too close for comfort,” said Mr. Howell as he looked at the children.  Everyone was sweating.  No one spoke.  
Finally, Paul said, “That almost became the shortest trip to outer space in history.  I feel like I was at a marshmallow roast and we were the marshmallows.”
“ I need to pay closer attention to what I’m doing.  You kids kept a watch in case any other unwanted visitors are headed our way.  I need to install an early warning system”
“You got it Dad!” said Lyn.
“Definitely,” said Paul wiping sweat from his forehead.

Chapter Six
The chair and its passengers left the Earth’s atmosphere.  Although most of the Earth facing them was in shadow the edges shone in deep blues and greens as the light from the sun on the far side created a bright halo of light.  Below them the children could see the lights from cities twinkling on the different continents.  Wisps of clouds criss-crossed over the surface occasionally lit from below by flashes of lightning from storms.
Once the chair had picked up enough speed Mr. Howell turned off the propulsion unit to conserve energy.  They coasted to the Moon.  With no air to slow it down the chair kept its same speed.
As Mr. Howell, Paul and Lyn watched, the Earth surface became less distinct as they traveled further into space.  “We’ll be landing on the Moon soon.  Paul, I want you to get the space suits out of the pouches.  If you need any help let me know.  Once we’ve suited up, I’ll set us down,” said Mr. Howell.  
Paul pulled out the suits from the storage pouch on his side of the chair.    The floor panel of the chair allowed everyone to stand slightly stooped over to put their suits on.  First Lyn, then Paul and finally Mr. Howell.  They were careful not to bump their heads on the bubble. They checked their air supplies, carrying pouches and utility belts. 
A gentle nudge at their backs told the children that the chair’s propulsion units had been activated by their father.  The chair descended to the Moon.  Within a few feet of the surface dust was kicked up by the chair’s propulsion units and with a “thump” the chair touched down and sunk slightly into the dingy gray surface.  

Chapter Seven
As the dust settled, Mr. Howell pushed a button and the chair rose off the surface as wheels clicked into place under it.  “Let’s go exploring,” he said.  The chair lurched forward, climbed a small incline and began to move across a large open plain pockmarked by meteor craters.  Dust kicked up as the chair made its way across the plain toward a mountain range on the horizon.
“Where are we going?” asked Paul.
“I thought we’d check out those hills just up ahead.  We’ll stop there, get out and look around,” said Mr. Howell.
“Ou-outside?” said Lyn.  “Are you sure it’s safe?”
“Perfectly, we’re safe in our spacesuits.  Relax, isn’t this what you wanted?  To visit the moon?”
“You’re right.  Let’s do it!” exclaimed Lyn trying to act brave.
Mr. Howell eased the chair close to the first hill.  As he did so Paul noticed something on the ground.  “Stop for a minute Dad.  Look there.  Those look like footprints and what’s that stuff lying around?”
“You’re right, that “stuff” is bits and pieces of metal.
 “Maybe some astronauts landed here and it’s their stuff," said Lyn.
“No, I don’t think so.  I’ve never heard of anyone landing in this area.  Let’s get out and investigate.  Has everyone checked their suit?”  The children nodded their heads.  “OK, I’m retracting the bubble.”  Mr. Howell pressed the red button and the bubble split in the middle, shrank and reformed itself into the small clear ball at the end of the rod, which then slide into the back of the chair.
“This is spooky.  Are you sure we’ll be all right in our suits?” asked Lyn.
“There’s nothing to worry about.  The suits are sealed and will keep you comfortable.  Just breath normally and watch where you step,” said Mr. Howell.  Be careful.  The gravity of the Moon is much less than on Earth and if you’re not careful you could hurt yourself.  Walk slowly.  Any sudden moves and you could find yourself shooting up into the sky and landing hard.  Push too much and may find yourself floating in space.”
Cautiously the Howells walked around the hill following the footprints.  Mr. Howell had to pull the children back to the ground a couple of times when they got too anxious and sped up.  Lyn was surprised at how high she and Paul could jump.  The travelers walked around a small hill.  They noticed that there were more pieces of metal, wire and insulation lying on the ground.  They found a large piece of metal, about the size of a dinner plate that had symbols on its surface.  Just as Mr. Howell was stooping to pick up the piece he heard Lyn say,” Dad, you need to see this.”
Mr. Howell stood up and turned in the direction Lyn was pointing. Half buried in the side of the hill was a spaceship.  Saucer shape in appearance, the spaceship was damaged.  The surface was cracked and split with pieces missing as if they had been broken off.  The tail section of the ship looked less damaged.  On top of the saucer was a bulge that had three windows wrapped around it.  Just below the bulge was an opening.
“It looks really old.  Look at the dust that’s on its surface.  The footprints look old too.  I wonder where it’s from?” said Paul.
“Not from Earth, that’s for sure,” said Mr. Howell.  Everyone get out your flashlights, we’re going inside to investigate.”
“Inside!” exclaimed Lyn.  “We can’t go in there!  There could be icky, slimy, brain-eating monsters inside.  They’ll want to take over our minds and make us slaves or kill us and stuff!”  She backed up, ready to head back to the chair.
“I’m afraid,” said Paul.  “Lyn may be right.  It could be dangerous and we didn’t bring anything to defend ourselves.  I don’t think our camping knives would be much good against ray guns or alien monsters.” 
“I don’t think there’s any danger.  This crash looks pretty old and if there was someone here they’re either long gone or dead.  Nothing could survive in that spaceship with the door open.  If it looks unsafe we’ll leave.  Come on, let’s explore-I want to take some pictures.”  Mr. Howell took out a camera from his carrying pouch and walked toward the opening.  “Watch where you step.  There’s a lot of trash lying about,” said Mr. Howell.  They turned on their flashlights and stepped into the ship.

Chapter Eight
It was dimly lit inside the ship.  A dull yellow glow came from panels in the rounded ceiling and small lights blinked on strange curved instrument panels.  The ship was divided into three levels: the level they were exploring, an upper deck, indicated by a small set of steps going up and a hatch in to the floor where a ladder went down to another level.  
“Incredible!  The ship’s power source is still partially active.”  Looking at the children, Mr. Howell continued, “ Don’t touch anything.  We don’t know what might happen.”
As the Howells walked around they disturbed the dust that blanketed everything.  Mr. Howell stopped here and there and took pictures as they walked toward the steps.  Carefully they climbed the steps and entered a small room was the cockpit of the spaceship.  A few feet away were two chairs.  Mr. Howell reached over and turned one chair around.  Both children shivered.  Mr. Howell stepped back.  
Seated in the chair was what was left of an alien.  Its skin was dried and shriveled and it looked very old as if it had been dead a very long time.  The alien looked similar to a human except for its large head and eyes and long, six finger hands.  Another dead alien was seated in the second chair.  In its half-opened hand it held a metal rod about one foot in length with bands of colored crystal wrapped around its upper half.  The multi-colored rings on the rod matched a similar set of rings on the control panel in front of the dead alien.  Paul carefully reached over and took the rod, careful not to touch the dead alien.  It’s dry shriveled fingers crumbled as Paul pulled the rod away.
“They must have died while there was still atmosphere in the saucer.  If they had died in the airless space they would have not decayed,” said Mr. Howell.  
“What is it?” said Paul holding the rod in front of him.  
“Take it with us,” said Mr. Howell.  “We’ll look at it when we get back home, along with the photos.”  They turned to leave.  Paul placed the rod in his suit’s pouch. The yellow ring on the rod lit up along with the yellow ring on the control panel. The further he moved away from the panel the rings blinked faster.   The Howells returned to the lower level.  The rings were now blinking orange.  No one noticed.
“I wonder what’s down there?” asked Lyn, pointing to the open hatch and ladder.
“There’s only one way to find out,” said Mr. Howell.  “Let’s look.”

Walking over to the hatch Mr. Howell shone his flashlight down the dark opening, grasped the ladder and climbed down.  Lyn and Paul followed.  Once they were down, dim lights activated in the ceiling and the Howells found themselves in another plain room, with only a few control panels and two large rounded bulges in the room’s center.
“Those must be the engines.  Look around; notice all of the different panels on the walls?  I bet those are storage lockers.  Let’s see if we can open any,” said Mr. Howell. The Howells tried opening each panel.  None would budge.  “They must be activated by some button or switch.  I don’t think it would be wise to try any, we don’t know what they might do.  Let’s pick up a few pieces of the metal we saw scattered about outside and I’ll take a few more pictures.  Once we get home we can look over everything and come back later to explore some more if we want.”
The Howells climbed up the ladder into the upper room. The rod in Paul’s pouch and the control panel in front of the dead alien both blinked red.  A red light blinked on one of the wall panels in the now dark lower room.   The panel popped open revealing a large figure draped in shadow.  The figure moved out of the enclosure, turned its massive head and headed toward the ladder.  A red light, like on the rod and control panel, blinked on its chest.  Two  red, glowing eyes shown from its head.

Chapter Nine
Outside the ship, the Howell’s picked up a few pieces of the ship’s wreckage, posed for pictures and made their way back to the chair.  Lyn was sure to get some Moon rocks for her mother.  None of them saw the figure exit the spaceship and hide itself behind a large boulder not far from their chair.  Climbing aboard the chair, the Howell’s seated themselves.  Mr. Howell pressed the red button and the chair sealed itself in its plastic bubble.  The Howell’s removed their spacesuits, emptied their packs and stored everything into the chair’s pouches, including the rainbow rod.
“Everyone strapped in?” asked Mr. Howell looking at both children.  Satisfied they were secure in their seats he said,  “Good, lets explore a little more and then we can head home.  I’m curious to see if we find other spaceships.”
Mr. Howell pressed the chair’s accelerator and it began moving forward.  Mr. Howell steered the chair between the small hills careful not to run over any wreckage or rocks.  The figure followed them, keeping to the shadows of the hills, rocks and craters.  After a few minutes Mr. Howell stopped the chair.  “We’ve explored enough, we need to head back.”  Looking around, Mr. Howell said, “This looks like a good spot to launch.  Make sure everything is secure and we’ll leave.”  He did not notice the figure as it hid itself behind a large boulder.  The figure threw a small object at the chair.  Attached to the object was a thin line of rope.  The object struck the chair with a  “thump” and fastened itself to the under carriage.  No one paid attention to the noise, thinking it was just another sound from the chair. 
Mr. Howell gave the chair more power and with a burst of speed it launched from the surface of the Moon.  Outside, the stranger’s line grew taunt as it trailed after the chair, pulling the stranger with it.
“That’s odd, the chair is acting a little sluggish,” said Mr. Howell.
“Maybe it’s the extra weight of the stuff we collected around the crash sight,” said Lyn.
“You’re probably right.  I’ll give it a little more power to compensate.  But, I still want to check the chair when we get home.  It’s never been to the Moon before,” said Mr. Howell.

Chapter Ten
As the Howells headed home the figure traveled with them a few hundred feet distance at the end of the line.  In the blackness of space the Howells could not see the figure.  If they had looked hard enough they might have seen the red light blinking from the visitor’s eye and chest.
The trip back to Earth went quickly.  The children stared around them at the vastness of space.  There were millions of stars twinkling in the blackness.  The occasional comet streaked across the heavens.  The Earth grew larger as they approached.
“That’s odd,” said Mr. Howell, “They chair is still acting up.  I thought it was the extra weight from the items we picked up on the Moon but it seems to be more than that. ”  He looked at the weight indicator on the chair’s control panel.  “I’m having trouble stabilizing the chair.  The something has thrown off our reentry.”
“Are we going to crash?” asked Paul.  He nervously fidgeted in his seat.
“No, but it has changed our entry path slightly.  We’ll be landing in the ocean.”  
“The ocean!  We’ll drown!” squealed Lyn.  “I can’t swim!”
Calming the children Mr. Howell said, “We’ll be alright, the bubble is airtight and watertight.  The ride will be a little bumpy and we’ll make a big splash but we’ll be fine.”
The chair began to enter the Earth’s atmosphere.  The friction from the atmosphere created heat, causing the front of the bubble to glow a dull red.
“We’re going to burn up!” exclaimed Lyn.
“No, we’ll be fine, the bubble won’t melt.  We are wobbling though.  I’ll straighten us out and head for the ocean. Hold on,” said Mr. Howell.  Although Mr. Howell sounded calm he was still concerned.  He didn’t want to worry the children.  What they were doing was dangerous.

Chapter Eleven
The chair continued to fall through the atmosphere at an increasing speed, gradually slowing down as Mr. Howell applied more power to the propulsion unit.  Trailing behind on its attached line the figure was being buffeted by the wind.  Its skin glowed bright red to a dull pink as the speed decreased.  Just as the chair hit the surface of the water, the figure released the line and plunged into the water.  Both the chair and the hitchhiker sank beneath the waves and into the depths.
As the chair sank, Mr. Howell activated the chair’s lights.  A large school of sharks swam by the chair and deciding it couldn’t be eaten swam away.  The chair and stranger continued to sink.  The bottom came into view and the chair and stranger bumped the bottom and sank several inches in to the sandy surface.
“How far down are we?” asked Paul.  “Is it safe?  The chair won’t leak will it?”
“We’ve sunk a few hundred feet,” answered Mr. Howell.  “Look up, you can still see light from the surface.”  Both children tilted their heads and looked through the gloom upward and were delighted to see glimmering light on the water’s surface above.  
As the Howells inspected their surroundings the stranger straightened itself and ponderously navigated to a nearby coral outcropping and hid itself from view where it continued to spy on the Howells. 
Mr. Howell said, “I need to get out to inspect the chair to make sure there was no damage.  Get on your suits.”
“How can we open the bubble without getting the interior of the chair wet?” asked Paul.
Without answering Mr. Howell pressed a button on the control panel in front of him.  Immediately a section of the bubble on Paul’s side shimmered and rippled.  “Watch this.”  Now in his suit Mr. Howell stepped through the shimmering door, emerging on the outside of the bubble.  No water leaked in.  Over his suit’s radio Mr. Howell said, “It’s a force field that’s just big enough for us to enter and exit.”      
The children suited up and joined their father on the outside.  As soon as they exited Mr. Howell pressed a button on his belt and the force field disappeared leaving the bubble as it had been before.

Chapter Twelve
What they saw was astonishing.  The chair had landed in a sandy clearing.  Around them was a large forest of sea kelp that extended upward several hundred feet.  A coral outcropping extended out over part of the clearing and fish swam in and out of the shadows revealing themselves in the chair’ lights.  In the distance a shimmering shape was approaching. It came into view to reveal a large school of iridescent jellyfish that lit up the entire area with their eerie greenish yellow light.
“It’s beautiful!” said Lyn.  “I never realized how much life is in the ocean.
“There certainly is,” said Paul.  “While Dad’s busy, lets look around.  Stay close, there may be more sharks around.”  He tugged on his sister’s hand and they began to walk.   “Dad, we’re going to explore.”
“Don’t wander away.  Stay in sight,” said Mr. Howell.
“We will,” said Lyn. 
Paul and Lyn followed a sandy path past the large coral formation.  The iridescent jellyfish, made it easy for the children to see where they were walking.  They watched large schools of silver fish swim about as barracuda mingled amongst them feeding.  Here and there a crab or lobster would poke its head out from its hiding place and then skitter across the bottom to hide in a new cubbyhole.   Moray eels hid themselves in the deep crevasses and octopus made their way across the bottom looking for food.   
Careful not to walk out of sight of their Dad, the children followed the path as it slopped upward.  At the crest of a sandy hill both children stopped and looked over a deep valley cut into the ocean’s floor.  The entire valley was lit by schools of jellyfish and other aquatic life, none of which Lyn or Paul recognized.  It was a breath-taking sight as giant sea creatures swam in the open area.  Everywhere there were whales, large squid and other creatures that looked more serpent than fish.  Paul though he saw a sea creature like the one he had seen in a book about dinosaurs. 
All about shipwrecks of every size and type were lying on the ocean floor.  Ancient sailing and modern ships were everywhere.  Some lay on their sides while others were jumbled and broken on rocks.  Rotted wooden hulls from ancient sailing ships lay beside steel from modern ships and everywhere there were bits and pieces of cargo and other items scattered on the bottom from the ships.  
Much of the cargo was treasure.  Shimmering bands of light from above played across the treasure, making the precious metal and gems twinkle and sparkle.
Behind the shipwrecks stood the walls of crumbling buildings ravaged by the sea’s salt and currents.  Huge pillars of stone jutted up from the sand.  Some were broken, while others were complete, standing at angles or laying full-length on the ocean floor.  The ancient city stretched to the underwater horizon.  The buildings were teaming with fish that swam in and out of the open doors, windows and caved in roofs.  Barnacles and sea plants grew in among the columns and over crumbling steps and walkways.  Lyn and Paul turned and rushed back to their father as fast as the current and sandy bottom allowed them.  Hidden, the stranger watched. 
Approaching his father Paul said, “Dad, you’ve got to see this!”
“As soon as I finish checking the propulsion unit, “Mr. Howell said.
“Dad, it’s important!  You have to come now!” exclaimed Lyn.  She grabbed him by his hand and pulled him toward their discovery.  
“Hold on, what’s so important that it can’t wait for me to check out the chair?”  Just as the words left his mouth they reached the top of the underwater hill and looked down.  “Wow!” was all he could say.
“Is that important enough to stop what you were doing?” kidded Paul.
“Uh, uh, yeah, it sure is,” said Mr. Howell.  “It’s fantastic!”  “Hurry, let’s get back to the chair.  We’ve got to explore,” said Mr. Howell.  “Oh, I almost forgot, I promised your Mom we’d keep in touch.”  They walked back to the chair.  They got back inside.  Mr. Howell fidgeted with a few dials and switches.  “It’s no good, we’re too deep under water. The radio can’t get through.  I’ll have to call your Mom once we get to dry land.” 
“Let’s go exploring!” said Mr. Howell.  Taking both steering controls in hand Mr. Howell pushed down on a pedal and the chair lurched forward to the top of the small hill and began the trip to the ships and city below.  Keeping at a safe distance behind them, the stranger propelled itself through the water.  Air bubbles rose behind it.
The chair traveled between the ships.  As they drove among the ships and ruins the Howells were amazed at the variety of ships and the size of the sunken city.  As they came closer to a large building, with dozens of steps in front, they noticed the ground was littered with gold and silver coins, jewels and other precious items.  Here and there huge rotting wooden chests stood open with jewels, coins and beautifully crafted jewelry spilling onto the ground.  We don’t need these,” said Mr. Howell.  He switched off the chair’s exterior lights.
“We’re rich!” said Lyn
“Let’s start gathering some of the treasure,” said Paul.
“Not so fast,” said Mr. Howell.  “We’re not going to load all of this treasure.  We can take a few of the items back with us.  We can come back and get more of it after we’ve filed salvage rights.  That way no one else can come in and claim the treasure.  Until then we need to keep this location secret.  I doubt anyone else knows of this place, wherever “this” place is,” said Mr. Howell, “It should be safe, at least for the time being.”

Chapter Thirteen
The Howells got out of the chair and began to walk among the wrecks and old buildings.  They filled their pouches with coins and jewels and other objects they found interesting.  They were careful to stay close together.  There were sharks swimming in and out of the buildings and ships, chasing small fish to eat.   The hidden underwater valley was lit by schools of iridescent jellyfish and plants so the Howells could see where to step.  
Pointing toward the largest building in a nearby cluster Mr. Howell said, “Let’s head that way.  That building looks to be important.  See the writing on the columns and front?  Maybe we’ll find some clues as to what this place is and who built it.”
The Howells walked toward the building.  The scattered treasure seemed more concentrated as they got closer to the steps leading up to the huge, crumbling building.  About a dozen feet from the first step, Lyn tripped on an object in the sand and silt and fell forward onto her knees.  Just as she was starting to stand up the ground under her gave way and she fell through a large rectangular opening.
“Ah!” cried Lyn. “Help me!”  She disappeared into the darkness.
“Lyn!” yelled Mr. Howell.  “Lyn, can you hear me?  Are you alright?”  Silence.
“We’ve got to get down there!” exclaimed Mr. Howell.  She could be hurt or worse.  Frantically Mr. Howell and Paul looked around for a way down into the hole.  As father and son looked for a way to rescue Lyn they heard a voice over their headphones, 
“Dad, Paul?  Can you hear me?  I’m all right, but it's scary.  I’m turning on my flashlight.  Can you see it?”
“I see it!” yelled Paul pointing.
“Stay where you are, we’ll get a rope from the chair and pull you up,” said Mr. Howell.
“How far down is she?” asked Paul looking at his father.
“From the look of her light I’d say 35 or 40 feet.  We should be able to pull her up easily.  I’ll go get the rope.  You stay here and make sure she stays out of trouble,” said Mr. Howell.  
As Mr. Howell went back to the chair for the rope Paul peered down into the inky blackness and could see the bright beam from Lyn’s flashlight moving around shining on different sections of walls, ceiling and floor.  “Be careful Lyn, there’s no telling what might be down there,” said Paul.
Looking up at her brother peering over the edge of the opening Lyn replied, “It’s a large room.  There isn’t much here except bare walls and a few pieces of jewelry that fell down with me.  Wait a minute. I do see something.”  Lyn bent down and saw two half buried objects in the sand and silt.  She picked up one, a crystal sphere, and then the other, a large ornately decorated gold key.  As she did so the objects gave off a glow of their own, temporarily lighting the area around her.
“What was that!” exclaimed Paul.
“Nothing, just two objects I found.  They lit up when a pulled them out of the sand,” said Lyn.  “I’m putting them in my pouch.  Is Dad back with the rope yet?”
Just then Mr. Howell walked up and said, “I’m here Lyn.  I have the rope.  I’ve knotted it on the end so you can hold onto it.  I’m lowering it.  When you get it, hold onto the knots and we’ll raise you up.  He lowered the rope  that was weighted at the end, unaware that the stranger, who stood just a few feet away behind the corner of the building, was watching him.
Lowering the rope Mr. Howell and Paul held on tight as Lyn grabbed her end and said, “ Pull me up.”  Up she went kicking her legs as she went and soon she was standing behind her father and brother.  “That was scary.  I’m sticking with you guys.  I couldn't swim out because my suit was weighing me down”
Mr. Howell hugged his daughter.  “Thank God you’re alright.  I don’t know what I would do if something happened to you or Paul.  I love you both.”  Straightening himself, he tried to wipe away the tears but couldn’t because of his protective helmet.  Mr. Howell said, “Let’s head back to the chair.”  
“We need to get to dry ground soon so I can call you mother.”  Pointing he said,” Look, up ahead, the sea bottom is starting to slant upward.  If we follow it we should come up on dry land.”  He began to walk back toward the chair.  The children followed.
“Why don’t we just float to the surface and head to land?” asked Paul.
“We could, but we might as well look around some more as we’re traveling.  We won’t get out but we can at least get see how big this city is,” said Mr. Howell.
The Howells got back into the chair, took their seats, buckled their seatbelts and continued through the city on the sandy path.    Behind them, using the ships and buildings as cover, the stranger followed, careful to keep to the shadows, the red light on its chest keeping time with the light emanating from the rod in Paul’s pouch. 

Chapter Fourteen
The explorers followed the upward path through the city. They were amazed at the size of the buildings.  Everywhere huge columns held up massive roofs and long flights of stairs could be seen going up to some buildings.  Crumbled walls and fallen columns were mixed with undersea vegetation.  The city was very old.  Fish, crabs and other sea life were everywhere.  The Howell’s traveled slowly, being careful at every turn.   Sometimes a sunken ship could be seen within the city, lying against a crumbling wall or across a collapsed roof.   Rust and rock mixed with the seaweed and coral. 
As the water grew shallower the buildings thinned out.  After a while the buildings disappeared and the ground was clear except for the occasional piece of stone or sea plant.  The seafloor began to flatten out and plants soon choked out the path the Howells had been following.  Unable to drive along the bottom any longer Mr. Howell activated the chair’s propulsion unit, retracted the wheels and steered the chair forward through the water a few feet from the bottom.  No longer within the valley’s natural light the water around the chair had become dark.  Mr. Howell switched on the chair’s exterior lights.  The figure followed them, its red eyes glowing and red chest light blinking, always careful to stay hidden, never letting the Howells out its sight.
“I want to go home,” said Lyn.  It’s scary down here and it’s getting late.  I’m hungry, I’m tired and I want my Mom!”
“Me too Dad.  When will we get back?” asked Paul.
 “I’m not sure.  The reentry and jolt we took knocked the chair’s navigation system off line and I’ve not been able to get it to work.  Once we get to land I’ll be able to contact your mother and find out where we are.  I see some underwater cliffs up ahead.  I’m betting those extend up above the water.”
Mr. Howell guided the chair toward the cliffs.  When the Howells arrived at the cliffs that they saw a cave.  Moving closer they noticed strange symbols around the edges of the cave opening.  “I wonder what those are?” said Paul.
“It looks like some kind of writing.  In fact it looks like the writing we saw on some of the buildings in the sunken city,” said Mr. Howell.
“You’re right,” said Lyn.  There was the same kind of writing on the walls of the room I fell into.  I wondered what happened to the people?”
“I don’t know but once we get back I’ll need to look at the photos I took.  You’re mother can help.  She’s great at figuring out things like this,” said Mr. Howell.  “Let’s go inside and see where it leads.  We’ll explore for a few minutes and if it looks like it’s leading nowhere we’ll turn around and come back out.  What do you say?  Are you up for just a few more minutes of exploring?”

Chapter Fifteen  
Mr. Howell guided the chair around some rubble that had collected at the entrance of the cave.  A portion of the cave had crumbled and fallen to into a heap of rock and coral, blocking a section of the cave entrance.  As Mr. Howell steered the chair around the pile, the stranger arrived at the entrance to the cave and stopped.  
Large curving walls reached up at least 50 feet to join the ceiling.  Small, stubby sea plants and barnacles covered the walls and ceiling.  Small fish swam here and there.
“There doesn’t seem to be much here,” said Mr. Howell.  “We’ll travel along a little further and if nothing turns up we’ll leave.”  No one noticed whiffs of dirt and silt falling from the ceiling.  The Howell traveled further into the cave.
“What’s that?” said Lyn as she pointed to the side of the tunnel.
“There are holes in the wall, on both sides.  They go all the way up to the ceiling.  I wonder what they’re for?” said Paul.
As the travelers came closer they discovered the reason for the holes.  Human bones could be seen in each hole.  Bits of jewelry and cloth clung to some of the skeletons.   Most were covered by silt and dirt.
“It must be a burial chamber of some sort,” said Mr. Howell.  These must be the people who built the city.”  “Let’s look around some more.  We may find some clues as to who they were and what happened.”  A huge pile of rock, bone and dead sea life blocked the way.  Suddenly the cave began to shake and a part of the ceiling collapsed directly in front of the Howells.
“We’ve got to get out of here!” yelled Mr. Howell.  “We’ll be buried if we don’t leave!”  Mr. Howell turned the chair around to head out. They could see the faint outline of the entrance.  Another tremor shook the cave and a portion of the ceiling fell, blocking any chance of escape.
“We’re trapped!” cried Lyn.  “We’ll never get out!”
“Dad, I’m scared, I don’t want to die down here,” said Paul.
“Calm down children.  There has to be a way out.  Now would be a good time to pray,” said Mr. Howell.  He hugged them.
The stranger was still outside the entrance to the cave.  As soon as the walls collapsed it began picking up the fallen rocks and throwing them to the side.  After a few minutes the cave opening was cleared.  From inside the tunnel the Howells could not see the stranger but they did see the dim light from the outside show in through the cave opening.
“The rocks must have fallen to the sides from another tremor,” said Mr. Howell.
“Wouldn’t we have felt the tremor even in here?” asked Paul.  “Maybe God heard our prayers and set us free.”
“Whatever the reason, the entrance is open and we need to get out of here before the tunnel collapses again. Maybe this time on top of us!” exclaimed Mr. Howell.
“Hurry, Daddy!  Get us out of here,” said Lyn.
As quickly as possible Mr. Howell steered the chair clear of the cave mouth.  Another tremor hit and the cave tunnel collapsed, sealing forever what was inside.  From the shadows the figure watched, eyes glowing, chest pulsating with red light.

Chapter Sixteen
“Enough exploring, we need to get home,” said Mr. Howell.  Once he maneuvered the chair a good distance from the collapsed cave Mr. Howell threw a couple switches and the chair began to rise to the surface.  The chair rose until it finally broke the surface.  The sea was calm.  Looking about, the Howells spotted land.
“Let’s head that way,” Mr. Howell pointed.  The chair pushed forward.  The water lapped against the front of the bubble leaving a wake behind it.  Both children were tired and began to nod off.  Lyn fell asleep and leaned against her father’s shoulder.  Paul followed soon after and leaned his head against his father’s other shoulder.  
 Mr. Howell looked at both of his children and said, “They’ve had quite a day and I can’t blame them for being exhausted.  First the discovery of the chair, barely missing a meteor, then a trip to the moon, finding the alien spaceship, plunging into the ocean, discovering the lost city and shipwrecks and then almost getting buried in an underwater cave.  It’s enough to make anyone fall asleep.  In fact, I’m pretty tired myself.”
Mr. Howell noticed that the shore wasn’t far off.  What he didn’t notice was the stranger had also surfaced and was following in the chair’s wake.  As Mr. Howell activated the wheels he brought the chair up onto the shore to the tree line.  The figure emerged further down the beach and using the tree line as cover hid itself and observed the Howells.  Both children slept peacefully.  Mr. Howell reached over and pushed a button to activate the flight propulsion unit.  Nothing happened.  He tried again.  Still nothing.
“Oh great!” exclaimed Mr. Howell.  His sudden outburst woke both of the children who sat up and looked at their father through sleepy eyes.
“Huh?  Something wrong Dad?” asked Paul.  He brushed the sleep from his eyes.
“Are we home yet?” asked Lyn.  “I’m hungry.”
“No we’re not home.  We’re stuck on a beach someplace.  I can’t get the propulsion unit to work.  It must have been damaged from the tunnel cave-in.  A rock must have knocked something loose.”
“Are we stuck here?” asked Lyn.
“Temporarily at least.  I’ll need to look at the unit. I have the spare parts to fix it.  While I’m at it, Paul, you and Lyn need to get something to eat.  Break out the food and drinks your mom fixed.  I’ll look at the propulsion unit and join you once I figure out what’s wrong.”
Mr. Howell deactivated the bubble and it folded back into its storage ball atop the rod and the rod slid back into the chair.  Lyn got out to stretch.  Mr. Howell went to check the propulsion unit and Paul began unloading the food and drink.  
The Howells were grateful for the warmth of the sun’s rays on their skin.  Looking around they noticed that there were tropical plants and palm trees.  Paul spread out a tablecloth on the ground and placed the food and drinks on it.  A moment later Lyn and her father sat down with Paul and they began to eat. None of them realized how hungry they were until they started eating.  In a short time only crumbs and empty drink containers were left.  From the shadows, the figure watched as Paul pulled the ringed rod out of his pouch and began turning it over in his hands.  
“I wonder what this thing is?  That’s funny, the red ring is blinking,” said Paul.
“Maybe it’s a bomb!” exclaimed Lyn.
“No, I don’t think so,” said Mr. Howell.  “Anyone who could build something as sophisticated as that spaceship wouldn’t go around blowing things up.  The way it’s blinking is almost like it’s sending out a signal.  Notice how the blinks aren’t at the same speed and space.  It’s like a form of code.  
The only problem is if it is sending out a signal, who is it sending it to?  It could be a distress signal.”  Looking at Paul, Mr. Howell asked, “Was it blinking when you found it?”
“I was carrying it in my pouch so it could have started blinking without me seeing it,” said Paul.
“Keep an eye on it, if it starts doing anything unusual let me know.”  Mr. Howell got up and walked toward the chair.  “I’m gong to try to contact your mother and get a fix where we are.  She’s been tracking us on our trip and can let us know how far we are from home.  I think we’re in Florida by the looks of the plants and trees, but I can’t be sure.”  Mr. Howell reached over and pushed a small button and turned a dial, then spoke.  “This is Big Daddy calling Big Mama.  Do you copy?”  Even though the children knew they were in a serious situation they both couldn’t help giggling at the code names their father and mother used.  
“What’s so funny?” asked Mr. Howell.  He continued, “Big Mama, do you copy?  I repeat, Big Daddy to Big Mama, do you copy?”
After a few moments the radio crackled and they heard, “This is Big Mama.  Are you all right?  I’ve been trying to reach you but I’ve picked up nothing but static.  I thought something terrible had happened.”
“Everyone is OK but the chair is a little banged up.  The propulsion unit is out along with navigation.  Are you tracking us?  Where are we?” asked Mr. Howell.
“Thank God you’re alright.  According to my screen you’ve come ashore on the eastern side of Florida.  You’re about mid-state. Do I need to come and get you?” asked Mrs. Howell.
“No, I think I can get us airworthy by this evening.  We should be home after dark.  The kids want to say hi.”
“Hi Mom.  What a trip we’ve had!  It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever experienced!” exclaimed Paul.
“Yes, especially the sunken city!” exclaimed Lyn.  “And the crashed spaceship of course.”
 “Oh my!  I see we’ll have a lot to talk about once you get home.  Put your Father back on.  Al, are you there?”
“Yes dear.  I’ll call you if it looks like we’ll be any later or if we encounter any more problems.  Don’t worry; we’ll be home soon.  I love you”
“And I love you and the kids.  I’ll have some food ready.  See you soon.”
“Bye Mom,” said both of the children.
“Mr. Howell looked at Paul and Lyn. “You guys clean up while I tinker with the chair.  With any luck we’ll be on our way soon.”
True to his word Mr. Howell was able to patch up the chair for flight.  Once he and the children packed up the supplies, they all climbed in to the chair and got ready to take off.  After a couple of system checks Mr. Howell activated the bubble, turned on the propulsion unit and the chair took off straight up and leveled off at a few hundred feet.  With the cloaking device working they were invisible to radar but visible to the naked eye.  Since it was dark they would not be spotted if they were careful.
The stranger once more attached its line and caught a ride with the Howells.  Within the hour the Howells were over their hometown of Jackson.  Following the streetlights below Mr. Howell soon spotted their home and he slowed the chair down.  
Pushing the green button, the side of their house slid upward and Mr. Howell guided the chair into the living room.  Their hitchhiker detached the line before the wall closed and pulled it toward him.
From next door their neighbor, Mr. Murphy, watched and took pictures.  He picked up the phone and made a call.
As the chair settled into its spot in the living room Mr. Howell deactivated the bubble and the chair bumped in to place.   He said, “Chair, this is Big Daddy, activate security lockdown.”
“Complying,” said the chair and immediately all of the controls folded back into the chair along with the buttons and knobs- except for the storage pouches. Mr. Howell and the children were delighted to see Mrs. Howell come in from the kitchen with a tray of food and drinks.  Mr. Howell and the children gave her a big hug and kiss and sat down to eat.  Later they unpacked the supplies, artifacts and objects they had gathered on their trip including the rod, globe and key.  As soon as the pouches were empty they sealed themselves shut.
Later that evening, after the children had taken their baths and everyone gathered in the living room they all told Mrs. Howell about their trip to the Moon, the spaceship, the sunken city and the cave; leaving out no details.  By that time it was after midnight and both the children and Mr. and Mrs. Howell were tired and ready for bed.  Mr. and Mrs. Howell walked up the stairs to their bedroom with Lyn right behind them.  Paul stayed downstairs for a moment to go to the kitchen to get a class of water.  In his right hand he carried the blinking rod.  After finishing his glass of water he looked at the rod.  The red light was blinking faster.  Soon all of the rings began to flash.  Before he could call out to his Mother and Father the doorbell rang.  Cautiously he went to the door, Paul carried the rod with him.  It continued to pulse faster.  When he opened the door he saw a huge figure silhouetted in the doorway.  Paul stepped back in surprise.
Twin red eyes glowed from its head..  On its chest rainbow colored lights pulsated in the same sequence as the rod in Paul’s hand.  Paul was dumbfounded and discovered he could not talk.  
The figure moved forward slightly, still in the shadows.  From somewhere inside its massive body a voice could be heard, “I must speak to Mr. Howell.”  It reached out and took the rod from Paul’s, cradling it in its own giant hand.  
Finally Paul’s voice returned and he said, “Dad, it’s for you.”
But that’s another story.