Chapter 14

Bea picked herself up from the sidewalk, and brushed the snow off her jeans.

“So guys, what do you think? I’m going in through the roof,” she said, motioning toward Bob, who was neatly folding his wings into a more settled posture.

“It does appear to be anatomically feasible,” said Nola. “He reminds me a bit of a fruit bat.”

“I’d say,” added Michael-Dan, holding up his hands like a T-square and eyeing the pony from the front, then the side, “that he’s got roughly the dimensions of a Wright glider. It could work.”

“No kidding!” said Odin. “He’s almost a classic ornithopter.”

“What he hasn’t had,” cautioned Nola, “is any practice.”

Bea looked straight into Bob’s eyes, as if to convince him of her plan.

“We don’t have time to practice,” she said. “And the mice figured it out fast enough. I think it must be one of those natural animal things, like swimming. Besides, who knows what craziness is going on in that building as we speak? I’m going.”

She felt her way through the furls of feathers on Bob’s back, and pulled herself aboard behind his wings. Then she patted his rump behind her.

“Odin, there’s room,” Bea said. “You come too. Bring your phone. You never know when you might need technology.”

“For communicating with the outside world, for example,” said Michael-Dan, holding up his own phone.

“Beatrix,” said Odin, trying hard to sound reasonable, and not panicked. “The implications of two passengers on a novice flyer…”

“Odin!” Bea insisted. “Come!”

Odin hastily stuffed his phone in his pocket, and scrambled astride Bob, behind Bea.

“Better hang on,” she said.

Then Bea said “yah!” and gave Bob a gentle kick. His first response was to turn his head and eye her peripherally, to see if she really meant it. He was a cart pony after all, not a racehorse.

But after another encouraging prod, he took off down the street at a trot.

“Up! Up! Up!” shouted Bea, nudging Bob to go faster.

They were two blocks south of Bean-Tek headquarters when Bob finally unfurled his wings, and Bea and Odin felt the full force of the power of wind. The thrust of air against Bob’s wings lofted them into a gliding canter with Bob’s hooves rarely clopping against the pavement.

“Aerodynamically speaking,” said Odin hesitantly, “he’ll need to increase velocity to initiate lift-off.”

“He can beat his wings Odin!” said Bea, drawing back on Bob’s reins until he slowed to a walk. “He’s not an airplane!”

“You tell him that,” said Odin. “I don’t speak horse.”

Bea eased Bob into a u-turn and urged him to trot, then canter.

“Flap Bob!” encouraged Bea. “Flap!” She waved her own arms up and down for a second, then re-gripped his mane for safety as Bob reached a full gallop, raised his wings straight up in the air, and gave them a mighty flap.

Bea felt a moment of weightlessness, as if she were in an elevator coming to a stop. Bob had soared up, eased down, then flapped again, gaining even more height.

“Bea…” began Odin. “Bea! That’s the second floor…of a building! That’s…the third floor! Nola and Michael-Dan are…down there!”

On the ground by the wagon Nola and Michael-Dan were shielding their eyes and gazing up, from two blocks north and five stories below.

“No kidding!” said Bea. “Keep hanging on!”

By now Bob seemed to have discovered the joy of flight, and Bea had forgotten that she was supposed to be in charge and telling him what to do. They were soaring in swooping arcs down Glummer Place, five or six stories in the air. Bea, whose stomach was doing a flip-flop, had completely lost her orientation to where they’d started. And it didn’t help that snow was still blowing lightly into their faces.

“Odin,” she said, “I don’t know where we are at all. I’ve totally lost Nola and Michael-Dan.”

“It is…a bit of…a disorienting…perspective,” he replied choppily. “Maybe we’d best land…there.”

“Where?” demanded Bea.

“There!” replied Odin. “That building there, with…the helicopter landing pattern on the roof…the one that says ‘Bean-Tek!’”

Bea tried to pull herself together as well as anyone could while on a flying pony six stories above ground. She couldn’t afford to lose focus now, no matter what her stomach thought.

“Good plan,” she said. Still, convincing a flying horse to land wasn’t something she’d ever exactly thought through. Just plain whoa seemed like a bad idea when you were six stories up.

“Okay Bob,” she said calmly, leaning into the pony’s mane as much as she dared shift. “There…go there!”

Bea pointed toward the Bean-Tek roof, hoping Bob would see her gesture and catch on. Instead, he beat his wings with more force and began to soar higher, in a great corkscrew that swiftly carried them at least another two stories above the highest rooftop.

Odin gripped Bea harder. “Say…something…else!”

“Bob!” said Bea firmly. “Land Bob, land!”

“THEY HAVE KOO-BARS THERE!” shouted Odin frantically.

Suddenly Bob stopped mid-corkscrew, high above the Bean-Tek helicopter pad. Bea felt sudden weightlessness, as the g-force of the corkscrew vanished.

“Weeee’re…going…doooown…” said Odin.

Bob lifted his wings, then stretched them outward. Like two parachutes unfurling, the muscular wings lifted pony and riders upwards another five feet. Then, slowly, they drifted downward, toward the precise center of the landing pad target.

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