Splanter Brunchaw lives on Planet Neuretro, which is near the centre of a binary star system in the Triangulo galaxy. Life is good there. There is plenty of food, and it is always peaceful. There is only one small problem with Planet Neuretro.
Just like everyone else on the planet Splanter is immortal, and just like everyone else he doesn’t do much. Which is the problem -with all of eternity to do something there is never any rush to do anything. The inhabitants of the planet had long ago built robots to do everything for them. In fact, they mostly just sat around all day.
Rose, Jim, and their dog Patches live on Planet Earth, which is near the centre of a star system in the Milky Way galaxy. Life can be hectic on the planet. It’s inhabitants are always up to something. Which was the case for Rose and Jim. The something they were up to was teasing their dog Patches.
With a small knitted mouse on the end of a length of string.
It was dark, and the mouse was dangling out the back window of their house. Rose and Jim were giggling as Patches gazed up at the mouse flying over his head. He had been doing what he did best …which was spinning sound in circles and barking furiously. All of a sudden he was quiet.
‘Aw Rose’, said Jim, ‘you’ve ruined it’.
Patches had lost interest in the cloth mouse and was sniffing at the back gate.
‘Sssh’, said Rose, ‘look over at the gate, there’s a badger up on the wall’.
‘WATCH out Patches’, roared Jim, as his dog clumsily waddled over to the Badger. At exactly the same time the Badger rose up and snarled, its set of sharp teeth glistening in the moonlight.
Patches howled in fright.
‘Get back to bed’ shouted a voice from below.
Rose climbed back under her blankets, while Jim took out a screwdriver and started fiddling with a remote control.
Far away on Planet Neuretro, Splanter Brunchaw was also fiddling with a remote control. He pressed the button that switched on his favourite robot Bip, who had neatly folded himself into a box in the corner of Splanter’s living room. Bip’s giant metal frame unfolded itself, and in an instance he was standing next to Splanter.
‘How can I help?’, Bip asked.
‘I’m bored’, said Splanter, ‘tell me what there is to do?’
‘Certainly, it would be my pleasure’, replied Bip.
‘You could watch the daily nangleball rematch between team A and team B’
‘Boring’, said Splanter -the players had been replaced with robots as both teams decided it would be just easier to let machines do the work, and the robots always played out a perfectly matched draw.
‘You could go to the zoo’, suggested Bip.
‘Boring’, said Splanter again. The animals on Neuretro had long since been replaced with furry clockwork machines, which were a lot easier to clean up after, but a lot less fun to watch.
‘You could go and watch the Neuretro 1 rocket on its launch pad’
‘Boring’, said Splanter -the rocket had been sitting there for 8,000 years as nobody could muster the enthusiasm to fly it anywhere.
It was at that moment that Splanter did something that nobody on Neuretro had done for centuries.He had an idea.
His idea was to take the rocket for a spin. And he did. Sort of.
He figured it would be just as handy if he got Bip to carry him to the rocket; and do all the boring stuff like testing it, launching it, and piloting it.
Far away on planet Earth Jim had woken his sister up to show her a ball of circuit boards, batteries and wires. He was very excited about his invention, but Rose wasn’t so keen.
‘Aw Jim, it’s the middle of the night’.
‘But Rose, check it out -it’s a super powered radio’, he insisted.
‘Jim, that’s just a mess’ said Rose, her eyes half open, ‘go to sleep’
The ball of electronics suddenly crackled ‘what’s just a mess?’, said a strange voice.
‘Hello, hello’, said Jim, ‘who are you?’
‘I’m Splanter Brunchaw’, came the reply, ‘but you can call me Splanter, who are you?’
‘Don’t answer him’, said Rose, ‘he sounds weird’.
‘It’s okay’, came the voice again, ‘my robot has located your position -I’ll see you shortly’.
And with that Rose and Jim heard a whoosh above the house.
‘Is that your robot?’, crackled Jim’s homemade radio again, they could hear barking in the background.
‘That sounds like Patches’, said Rose, ‘the man must be out the back’.
Rose and Jim crept to the window and peered out. A giant rocket was parked next to the gate. A man dressed in a red uniform with the word ‘Neuretro’ written on his chest was standing beside a giant silver robot with the words ‘Bip, happy to help’ written on its chest. They were both staring down at Patches. Who was spinning round in circles and barking furiously.
‘That’s so cool’, said the man, ‘it’s not even clockwork …I want it’.
‘Bip’, he ordered the robot, ‘bring it home for me’.
A net suddenly shot out from the robot’s chest and Patches was instantly bundled up and taken back to the rocket.
‘NO’, shouted Rose and Jim from the window, ‘bring him back’.
‘Get back to bed’ came a grown up voice from downstairs as the rocket whooshed away.
Jim started calling again over his radio ‘…come in rocket man, do you read me, bring back our dog’.
‘Stop messing and go to sleep’, came a voice from the top of the stairs.
‘But a spaceman and a robot have stolen Patches’, pleaded Rose and jim.
‘I’m sick of this late night messing’, was the reply, ‘give me that electronic whadyamacall it, you can have it back tomorrow’.
‘But Patches really is gone’.
‘We’ll all be gone daft if ye don’t get to sleep, you can talk about it in the morning.’
The next day on Earth included a long search for a pet dog called Patches, who was not to be found. Rose and Jim were no longer sure if they had actually seen a rocket, or if they had just imagined it.
They both decided to have another go on Jim’s radio that night.
Just to be sure.
The next day on Neuretro involved a man called Splanter, and a robot called Bip, showing off a dog to the whole world. Everyone was amazed. As all the animals on Neuretro were clockwork; a walking barking, growling ball of fur caused a very huge stirr.
Night fell again.
Rose and Jim tried calling the alien, but there was no reply. Jim kept tuning his radio, but the only signal he could get was playing pop music. They were just about to give up when it suddenly crackled into life all by itself.
‘Hello, hello’, came the voice, ‘I need your help’
It was Splanter, and he sounded worried.
‘Give us back our dog’, the kids immediately shouted back.
‘I can’t’ said Splanter, ‘it’s broken’
‘What d’ya mean it’s broken?’, asked Rose
‘It is just sitting about and doing nothing’ came the reply.
Jim laughed, ‘it’s not broken, it’s just lonely’, he said ‘you need to care for an animal’
‘But I did’, said Splanter, ‘I got my robot to give it food and clean up it’s mess’
Jim laughed again, ‘no, you don’t understand ..care means petting it and showing it you love it’
He thought for a minute.
‘I’ve an idea’, he said, ‘why don’t you fly back here with Patches and I’ll show you how to care for a dog’.
‘Jim’, whispered Rose, ‘are you crazy?’
‘Trust me’, said Jim ‘I have a plan’
Before Rose could argue they heard a whoosh over the house, and before Rose could stop him Jim had climbed out the window into the garden.
‘JIM, come back!’, shouted Rose.
‘Get back to bed’ came a voice from below. Rose ran down to explain what was happening, but was told to go to sleep. There then followed a long grown up explanation about how too much TV was causing her imagination to go wild, and that if she didn’t get back to sleep the television set would be gone for good.
Rose finally gave up and went back upstairs.
To her surprise Jim was back in the room, quietly fiddling with a remote control.
‘Told ya I had a plan’, he winked.
‘But you shouldn’t have helped the alien’ she said, ‘he stole Patches’.
‘I helped him alright’ said Jim, ‘I stroked Patches and let him lick my face, and told the spaceman that it was all part of caring for a dog’.
‘I then told the alien that the type of caring a dog needs was a very difficult skill to have, and he would need to practice stroking an easier animal before trying Patches’
‘I said there was a Badger down by the river, which is exactly the type of animal every human practices cuddling with before getting a dog’.
Just then they heard an excited adult voice from downstairs.
‘Guess what’, someone shouted, ‘Patches came back. And all on his own. Such a clever dog’.
Jim turned a screw on the circuit board. There was some crackling from its speaker, and a faint voice saying something that sounded like ‘Oww, that was so sore -Bip, never take me back to that planet again’.
Rose and Jim laughed.
And Patches barked.
‘Get back to bed’, came a voice from downstairs, ‘time for sleep’.