The family and Bokumb raced past the outskirts of the village to the cable car entrance as the winds steadily gained strength. More than once did a violent gust pick up large debris and hurl it in their path, much like a child would toss a small rock in a muddy creek. Panic was spreading throughout the villagers as they desperately chased after valuable possessions and searched for loved ones.
Along their journey, they were stopped by Frawesa, Bokumb’s brother, who desperately asked Nevin and Clara for guidance. “What should we do?” he shouted, out of breath. “We have never faced weather like this before!”
He certainly had a point, thought Nevin. These villagers were used to warm sunshine and mild breezes up in the tree tops. The worst weather they needed to prepare for were the seasonal rains, and even those were pleasant. No doubt, the typical Havpoi home was a product of their environment, making the most of natural light and ventilation. While their homes could certainly withstand the force of the wind, they provided no protection to their inhabitants against the merciless assault of debris in a gale.
Nevin realized he too had to yell above the din of the panicked crowd and wind. “Try getting everyone to a water cache! See if they can sit the storm out for a while under the canopy! It may be dangerous, but it’s better than being on top.”
It would not be easy convincing the villagers to climb down one of the massive superstructures that held the vine canopy in place. However, it was one of the few natural breaks in the ribbon-vine floor where most of their drinking water were collected.
Bokumb sensed the anxiety in Frawesa’s face as he realized how difficult executing this plan would be. “Now is the time for leaders, brother!” she said firmly. “You were elected to be an Elder for a reason. You may be the youngest, but they will listen to you.” Frawesa stiffened, nodded quickly and ran off, shouting instructions to all that were within the sound of his voice.
The group eventually reached the cable car. After clearing away large leaves and trash away from motors they all filed in, and Nevin activated the switch to begin their descent. Their trip down was surprisingly tranquil, except for car swaying back and forth like a pendulum. The wind was most likely putting considerable strain on the enormous vine superstructures to which the cable car mechanism was attached to make it sway like that. Nevin thought he was going to get sick. Clara had much more tolerance for motion than her husband, and fortunately, her genes were the ones passed down to their children. Layne and Liam appeared to have no fear. Bokumb, who was born and raised in the tree-tops, had no issues either.
The car touched the ground and Nevin pressed a few buttons on his wrist Communicator, and waited patiently. He looked at Clara with fear in his eyes. Clara took his hand, grasped it tightly and whispered in his ear, “I know what you’re thinking. We’ll fix this. Havpoi is not inherently unstable. It’s a solid World we built!”
“I know, I know…and if it is stable, what caused that?” Nevin stuck a finger in the air, pointing at the vortex and the chaos up top.
“Look, the Nexus to the Laboratory is opening now. We just need to get some readings. Nevin, what is Rolo doing?”
As the Nexus stabilized, Rolo sprang from his hiding spot behind the blank Scrolls and jumped on top of Nevin, toppling him down.
“Rolo! That’s a bad dog!” Nevin yelled as he got up. “Why did you do that?” The dog whined, pulling his tail between its legs, but then immediately grabbed onto the sleeve of Layne’s coat and started pulling her away from the Nexus. Layne started shrieking. Liam, thinking it was a game of tug-of-war, started pulling on the dog’s collar in the opposite direction.
“Rolo, Liam, stop!” Layne yelled. “Bad boys! Bokumb, please help me!” Bokumb stayed back with the children to break up the fray.
Clara tugged Nevin’s arm as she ran to the Nexus. “We don’t have time for this, Rolo, we need to get to the Console.” And as the two crossed the Nexus, a crack of thunder rang out from one side of the Laboratory, followed by the sound of rope slicing through the air. Before they knew it, Nevin and Clara were engulfed in a mesh net made of pearly white filaments. The ends of the net quickly tightened, sealing any escape and knocking their feet from under as they fell to the ground. Slightly disoriented, Clara’s eyes followed the netting as it connected to a thick rope slowly being wound up into the arm of a hulking RunErrand.
Clara yelled. “Nevin! What’s that doing here?”
Nevin turned around and noticed that the RunErrand’s other hand contained another red colored net blaster, similar to what was used on him and his wife. His head turned towards the Nexus when he heard Bokumb and the children running to their rescue. Oh no, Nevin thought. The other net blaster is for them. “Stop!” he yelled. “Stop where you are! Do not come any further. It’s a trap!” But they weren’t listening to him and continued running. “Rolo! Here boy! I need a distraction!”
The gray weimaraner, beckoning his master’s call, sprinted past Bokumb and the children and hurled himself through the Nexus. Another crack of thunder rang through the air as the RunErrand launched the second net blaster at the dog. But in mid air, at just the right time, Rolo curled his legs into his body as the net flew past his tail. He quickly outstretched his legs to lessen the impact as he landed with a thud on the hard Laboratory floor.
Instead of capturing Nevin’s children, the RunErrand in fact captured a well-worn divan covered in dog fur. Realizing its failed attempt, the robot severed the net attached to the divan while drawing in the line attached to its main prize, Nevin and Clara. With its mission partially accomplished, the RunErrand folded its legs into its torso and shut itself off.
Rolo slowly got up and realized his back left paw was hurt. He limped over to his masters and licked their faces and thought, I’m so sorry. I tried to warn you.
Clara reached a finger through one of the holes in the net to pet the dog’s snout. “Good boy, Rolo! You saved them! And you were trying to warn us. I’m sorry we didn’t listen to you.”
“We’re not out of this yet, Clara.” Nevin turned his head towards the Nexus. “Bokumb, kids! We don’t have much time. Get in here!”
They hurried into Laboratory and the Nexus closed behind them. At the sight of her mother and father in a net, Layne started crying and ran to them. “Mommy, Daddy! What happened? What is that big machine?”
Nevin looked at the Console and then to Bokumb. “It looks like this RunErrand was tampering with the Console while we were in Havpoi. It may explain the vortex we saw and the winds. If you go over to the Console, I can show you what to do.”
“But Nevin, couldn’t I just cut you out of this-”
“No. It’s made of an impossibly strong material. The only thing that can cut this is…is. Damn! I can’t even remember. We haven’t used RunErrands in over 15 years, Clara! Where did this thing come from?” It was all becoming too much for Nevin and he started shaking.
Clara grasped his face firmly with both hands. “Nevin! You can’t lose it now. Focus! We can’t get out of this net, so you need to tell Bokumb what to do. The Havpoi are counting on us.”
“Ok, ok. Bokumb? Bokumb! Stop staring at the RunErrand – it’s asleep now. It’s not a very intelligent machine. It shuts down once it has finished its task until it receives more instructions. Now pay attention. Go over to the Console and tell me what position the third lever from the bottom is set to. No, not that lever. The one on the right. No! The other right. Bokumb!”
“I’m sorry Nevin, I don’t think I can do this!” Bokumb started to cry.
Clara was used to her pupil’s frustrations. “Nevin, please don’t yell at her. She hasn’t been here in years. This is all too much for everyone.” Turning Bokumb, “It’s ok, Bokumb. We’ll start over. Can you put your finger on what you think is the right lever? Ok, now one more over. See? You were close! What does it say?”
Sniffing, Bokumb whimpered, “It’s set to a triangle, or is it called ‘delta’?”
“Great job! It is called ‘delta’. Can you move it to the symbol that looks like a house with a wavy top?”
Bokumb turned the lever as instructed. “OK, I turned it to ‘pi’,” she smiled.
“Excellent – that should start reducing the upper atmosphere pressure a little. Next, we’ll need you to…Oh, now what?”
The Nexus machinery sprang back to life and Bokumb bolted from the Console. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to do that!” she cried.
“No, you didn’t do anything.” Nevin said, studying the Console again. “It’s an incoming Nexus. Looks like the RunErrand is going to get some new instructions. Or we’re getting more guests.”
Clara grabbed Nevin’s arm. “The RunErrand! It’s turning back on. Bokumb, we need you to take the kids somewhere safe.”
“But where, Clara? Your home isn’t that big and there aren’t many spaces to hide! Where should I take them?”
“Mommy!” an urgent voice came from the other side of the Laboratory. “Rolo needs to go potty, Mommy.” Liam was holding the dog’s collar in one hand and the front of his pants in another. “And I need to go too!” The dog then pushed the bright stone to engage the smaller Nexus to the Meadow World.
Clara and Nevin looked at each other and almost at once said, “Bokumb, in there!”
Bokumb immediately understood. “Layne, hurry!” And the three got on their hands and knees and entered Rolo’s beloved sanctuary just as the RunErrand rose to its feet.
Nevin yelled over the noise of the moving RunErrand. “We’ll see each other soon, I promise! Rolo! Make sure you clean behind your ears! We love you!”
And with that strange final request, the small Nexus vanished, leaving the dog, two children, and an overwhelmed Havpoi bride-to-be in a strange world of eternal Spring.