Chapter 17

“I guess,” said Gordy, “one little shot is a small price to pay for a lifetime supply of Koo-Bars.”

“No!” Bea interjected, as quietly as she could to avoid attracting attention. “No shots! It’s Ugh! It’s ‘UN growth hormone!’”

“You talk to him Kitty,” suggested Odin. “After all, this is chemistry…or, I guess, biochemistry. That shot will…”

“…stunt our growth,” finished Kitty. “You’re telling me they want to reverse the weird effects by stunting our growth?”

“Not just your growth,” said Bea. “Everybody’s growth. They’re going to start putting Ugh right in the Koo-Bar recipe so it won’t give anyone else horns, or wings…”

“…or red hair?” said Gordy. “But I don’t care about my hair! Koo-Bars are good!”

“It’s too late to talk any sense into him,” observed Bea. “We’ll just have to use this ‘line-up and march’ thing as our chance to break loose.”

“When?” asked Odin.

“When we get to the fifth floor,” decided Bea.

Two humorless-looking members of the Bean-Tek Security Team had entered the room, and were gazing critically at Bea and her whispering circle.

“Sssh…” said Odin. “Doctor Ugh’s goons are getting suspicious.”

“Okay,” said Bea. “Let’s keep it down. And don’t worry. I’ll tell you when.”

Odin didn’t have time to ask ‘when what?’ The children had begun to file out of the room, one at a time, with a member of Security at the front and rear.

Odin snapped into robot-mode, and Bea hoped her spots hadn’t smudged as they fell in line behind Kitty and Gordy.

To keep the group together, Dr. Ugh summoned all three elevators at once, and crammed a third of the group into each of the tubular structures.

“Hang tight,” advised Bea, as their module zoomed with dizzying efficiency to the fifth floor.

As the doors opened, Bea strained to make sure all fifty-some kids were present and accounted for. If Dr. Ugh began to pull them out of the group one at a time, it would completely derail her ‘create a panic and scramble’ strategy.

“Alright everyone!” said the lady scientist whom Bea had heard speaking earlier in Dr. Ugh’s office. The scientist waved a shiny syringe above her head. “Let’s make a new line and we’ll have you out of here in a jiffy!”

“Should we just not line up?” whispered Kitty.

“Civil disobedience,” whispered Bea. “What we’ll do is NOT comply, just like that koohoo up there, totally not where it’s supposed to be.”

She pointed up at an air conditioning grate in the ceiling where koohoo, most likely from the greenhouse just above, was poking exploratory tendrils into the fifth floor hallway.

But then her attention was jerked back to eye-level, as Hiram Scalmo’s voice rang from the direction of the bean statue down the hall.

“What are you waiting for!” Scalmo bellowed. “Let’s get this procedure started!”

Every pair of Bean-Tek kids’ eyes stared at Scalmo, but it was Bea’s eyes that caught the gaze of Dierdre Fidelius who suddenly whipped around the corner near Scalmo and focused, like a laser-beam, on Bea.

“Guards!” said Dierdre, with a snap of her fingers. “We have an intruder! Dotty down there is NOT one of our Bean-Tek kids!”

The security guys turned, and began to close in on Bea.

“Um…Dotty?” said Odin. “What should we do?”

The guards each took hold of one of Bea’s arms.

“Young lady,” said one, “It seems to be time to evict you!”

“William Tell!” shouted Bea. “Odin! Play William Tell and play it loud!”

Odin looked momentarily dazed, then his face lit up. Completely abandoning his robot routine, he pulled the phone out of his shirt pocket and hit a few buttons. The galloping Lone Ranger theme song charged from his phone speaker.

“What in the world?” demanded Dierdre. “Young man, turn that off!”

Only what she said sounded more like “turn that aw-oof” as she tripped backwards over a sweeping rope of koohoo which had descended from the ceiling grate, and was beginning to encircle Hiram Scalmo.

“Hey!” shouted Scalmo. “Forget the kid! Cut me out of this stuff!”

The guards dropped Bea and scurried over to Scalmo who by now was in the middle of what looked a twirling spool of leafy koohoo vine.

“The Reel Odin!” said Bea. “Play the Beatrix Flannery Reel!”

Odin punched a few more keys, switching the music to the jaunty stepdance. The koohoo paused in its spinning, as if stopping to listen, then began to dance merrily around the mob of humans by the elevators, pushing and jostling as it kept time with the music, like oscillating waves on a graph.

“Bean-Tek kids!” shouted Bea. “Come with us!”

Bea began leading the way toward the stairwell door at the end of the corridor, when she noticed that several kids were struggling to make their way through the numerous dancing vines, which had joined the original one from the ceiling grate.

The guards, meanwhile, in attempting to free Hiram Scalmo from his bindings, had become hopelessly entangled in the same cluster of vines and leaves which had entwined Dierdre when she hit the floor.

Bea hurried back toward the koohoo noticing, as she pulled a kid from here, a kid from there, that the same vines which were enthusiastically ensnaring everyone else gave way and let her pass as needed.

Tugging the last little boy around a koohoo barrier, she returned to Odin, Kitty, Gordy and the Bean-Tek kids.

“Could we just use the elevators?” wondered Odin. They glanced toward the modules, whose doors had been pried open by dancing koohoo vines and were now blasting the loud alarm that happens when you press the wrong red button.

“I don’t think this is the time,” said Bea. “Onto the roof. We can ride Bob down, two at a time.”

“Bob?” said Kitty.

“Bob,” confirmed Odin.

Fifty-two children piled into the stairwell, and thundered up two flights to the roof. Bea paused briefly to peek through the doorway into the greenhouse level, only to confirm what she’d suspected: Koohoo had completely taken over the sixth floor. There was koohoo feeding itself, koohoo mixing more plant food, and even koohoo operating the coffee machine.

The Bean-Tek kids were cheering, jumping up and down, and making snowballs as Bea emerged onto the roof. Above their heads a police helicopter was hovering slowly toward the landing pad.

“Way to go Hort!” yelled Bea, above the propeller din. She and the rest of the kids backed away from the landing pad as the helicopter connected with the roof. “She and Miles must’ve finally convinced the cops!”

A police lady jumped out of the helicopter’s cockpit, followed by several members of a machete-wielding SWAT team.

“Okay kids,” said the police lady. “We’ll be exiting the building by means of the stairs. We’ve gotten several distress calls from within the building…and we’re prepared to chop our way through if need be!” She gave the air a few token whacks, as if to prove her determination.

“Kitty,” said Bea. “Grab Gordy and go with everybody else. Odin and I have to bring Bob down the old-fashioned way.”

“Flying a horse is old-fashioned?” said Kitty.

“And be careful,” warned Bea. “That koohoo is totally out of control. Hard to say how it’ll take to bushwhacking.”

“In fact,” added Odin as he and Bea ducked carefully away from the cluster of Bean-Tek kids and headed toward where Bob was tethered near the corner of the greenhouse, “it seems to be a little hard to say how koohoo will feel about anything at all, doesn’t it? Including Beatrix Flannery.”

“It got out of my way,” agreed Bea. “More than anyone else. Not like I scared it or anything, but like…”

“…but like it was just behaving better when you came near,” said Odin. “Why would it?”

Bob nickered a welcoming greeting as Bea and Odin approached. A vine of koohoo had wormed its way through an impossibly small crack between the greenhouse glass and the concrete roof, and Bob chomped off a large mouthful.

“Taking your koohoo straight these days Bob?” said Odin, giving the pony a pat on his feathery back.

The October sun was getting low, and a chilly breeze caught a dusting of snow that remained in Bob’s mane and spritzed it at Bea. At the same time, the breeze wafted a familiar scent to Bea’s nose. The nutty, toasty aroma of the pelinga bark from which the octopus amulet, hanging around her neck, was carved.

Once again the words of Mola Peggi replayed themselves in Bea’s memory. We know Koohoo, here on the Waddo Islands…as it grows in the shade of Pelinga trees, and to the trills of Waddo songbirds.

In the shade of Pelinga trees, repeated Bea to herself. “Odin,” she said. “I think we’re making hasty assumptions again.”

“You mean like hastily assuming ponies can fly?” suggested Odin.

“No,” replied Bea. “Like NOT noticing that it may be exactly the other things you’d find in the koohoo’s regular habitat that keep it from turning into the plant that ate the world.”

“Like what?” asked Odin.

“Like pelinga bark,” said Bea. She twirled her carved octopus pendant near the vine pushing through the greenhouse roof. The vine slowed its pushing, and retreated a bit.

Bob whinnied a protest. He’d had his eye on that vine and was ready for another bite.

“Bob,” said Bea. “Bill made us promise to get you home in time for dinner, and that is not your dinner.”

At the mention of dinner, Bob made one more quick grab at the leaves of the koohoo plant, but then perked up his ears and began to step in place.

“Shall we?” said Bea. She patted Bob on the back then climbed astride. Odin awkwardly climbed aboard behind her.

“Down boy,” said Odin nervously.

“Right,” said Bea. “So…tally-ho Bob! Let’s go!”

She jiggled his reins and gave him a quick prod with her foot. Bob trotted away from the railing, then unfurled his wings with unmistakable delight.

Bea wondered exactly how Bob would deal with rooftop lift-off. To Odin’s shock and dismay, he did not deal with it at all. Instead, he galloped to the edge while Bea and Odin clung for their lives, and jumped.

At first they dropped, with heart-stopping swiftness. Then, Bob’s wings spread and caught the breeze like a kite. First, they soared straight up, then Bob turned and began to descend in an enormous corkscrew toward Nola and Michael-Dan who were waving from the pony cart on the street below.

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