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Astropup and his friend the Parrot have a huge diamond which they found in the Wreck of the Hesperus. Instead of returning it to Space Central on Earth, they are heading for the Planet of the Pirates where they intend to sell it and make their fortunes.

Astropup and the Planet of the Pirates -

When I left you at the end of the last episode, the Parrot Major had just squawked some words that were less than reassuring. His exact words were:

"Trouble here we come!!!!!!" And he had pressed a button on his dashboard that sent our spaceship hurtling towards a destination unknown to me. When he had calmed down, I ventured: "May I ask to what kind of trouble we are heading?"

"To the Planet of the Pirates," said the Parrot, "where they will pay a pretty price for our diamond. We can buy our own moon, and build a palace on it. We can fill the garden with trees, heck, we can have 1000 lamp posts if you want... We can invite all sorts of pretty birds and scruffy lady dogs. We'll live like space celebrities."

"Oh," I said, "that kind of trouble."

I did the only thing I could, under the circumstances. I went to sleep.

The Parrot told me later, that he took us across the Universe via a short-cut. He called it a worm hole in the curvature of the time space continuum. Don't ask this dumb dog what that means. All I know, is that we were down that worm hole for about a month before we popped out the other end. The planet was in full view. It was a deep blue sphere, not unlike our own dear Earth.

"This beautiful planet is nearly all ocean," said the Parrot, "but there's one island on it that is a perfect paradise. It has trees, fresh water, flowers, butterflies, colourful birds and sandy beaches. Twenty years ago, the Earth Spaceship HMS Vesperus landed there. The crew liked it so much that they decided to disappear. They destroyed their radio, and their blip popped on the screens of Space Central back on Earth. About the same time, their sister ship, HMS Hesperus became a space wreck on the other side of the Cosmos. They, as we now think, were eaten by space sharks. But the crew of HMS Vesperus went on a permanent holiday. They used the diamond, the power source of their ship to found a bank. Thieves and scoundrels from all over the Universe came to the market on the island to buy and sell their ill-gotten gains."

"How do you know all that?" I asked.

"A little dicky bird told me," he replied cryptically. I knew that he had picked up all sorts of secrets while we were on the Ship of Birds - an adventure I have told you about before.

We passed through the atmosphere of the planet. That's always the worst part of space travel. Our tin ship gets all hot and shakes about. Once you are cruising through into the cloud, however, it's rather pleasant. Our craft sprouted wings and we glided in to land. The Parrot touched us down on a perfect runway in the middle of the island. A little buggy driven by two monkeys trundled over the tarmac to meet us. We slid down the shoot onto the ground. My four feet wobbled after all that time cooped up in the craft, but it was lovely to breath fresh air. It smelt of coconuts.

"How long are you staying?" asked the first monkey from beneath his peaked cap.

"About a week. I mean, an Earth Week," answered the Parrot.

"And how are you paying?"


"For the parking.."

"Oh," said the Parrot, "we've got bird seed or dog biscuits."

"Either will do."

"Well in that case, we'll use dog biscuits," said the Parrot.

It was an expensive planet. Just the taxi ride into town cost us a packet of biscuits. As for the parking, that was astronomical. The Parrot didn't care. He said we were rich now and I had better get used to the life of a pampered pooch. I could chew on mink-lined slippers if I wanted.

As we rode along in the open-topped car, I let my tongue hang out and felt the breeze in my fur. The air was warm and fragrant. For the first time in months, I felt like a dog again. Now we could see the sparkling ocean.

"Are there any sharks in the sea?" I asked.

"No," said the taxi-driver, who was another monkey. "Nobody is allowed to bite anyone else on the island. There's a pirate's truce."

"You mean I can't chase cats?"

"Unfortunately," said the monkey, "it's against the law."

Apart from that, it seemed like Pirate Island was a perfect paradise. We soon learned there was a proviso. It was perfect if you were rich.

We checked into a luxury kennel where the prices were moon high. We sat on the verandah, and the waiter brought the most expensive bowl of water I've ever drunk in my life.

"Relax," said the Parrot. "At the end of the week we'll be too rich to care."

The guests were a mixed bunch. There were cat people stretched out on sun-beds. GRRR! EEE-Yuk! But I stayed calm, swallowed my yaps, and resisted the urge to chase. There was a nice looking family of poodles, but they didn't understand my woof. Then there were creatures I had never seen before;  like a giraffe with two legs, and a scary kangaroo with a head full of teeth like a crocodile. When the waiter told the kanga-croc there was no meat on the menu, he got cross and threatened to eat him. A bird flew off to get help. That was when we saw our first human. A big burly fellow with a red face. If he had been a dog, he would have been a doberman pincher. A laser gun was strapped to his waist. The scary kangaroo calmed down and ordered a bowl of grass.

The sun set over the ocean, and we had a good rest in our room. In the early hours of the morning, I crept out of my basket, went out into the hotel garden, and buried our diamond under a palm tree. Nobody would think of looking for it there.

In the morning, we visited the market. This was a huge area in the middle of a park. Pirate creatures from all over the Universe sat under shady umbrellas and awnings. Everything under the galaxy was on sale. Let me just give you a taste: there were spare parts for spaceships, seeds that could wash your mind of memories, marble bird baths, silk dog pyjamas, cashmere udder covers, spy cameras, dinosaur bones, inter-planetary phone cards, pocket super computers, and most of all, a vast variety of scary weapons.

The Parrots eyes were all agog. But none of these dodgy goods appealed to me. Perhaps I'm a dim dog, but all I want is my master's love. I don't have a taste for luxury. I'm happy lapping tap water from a plastic bowl.

"When I'm rich, I'll buy a yacht," declared the Parrot.

"What would you do at sea?" I asked.

"We parrots like sailing," he replied.

Our business was in the precious-gem quarter. Here most of the dealers were hideous cat people. The rocks they had on show looked much like the ones I used to dig up in Jenny's garden and bring to her as presents. Some dogs were buying them. The Parrot said they had more money than sense.

One cat person seemed to have shinier stones than the others. My fur prickled as we approached him. The Parrot looked him in his green eyes and said:

"We have a very special stone."

"Let me see it," said the feline fiend.

"All in good time," said the Parrot. "This stone is too precious to carry around the market. It powered HMS Hesperus. It's the most valuable diamond in the Universe."

"A fool's legend," hissed the cat. "It's probably worthless."

We could hardly have expected better from a cat person. A few stalls along we found a grey haired monkey. We both knew we would be much happier dealing with him.

"It's too big a deal for me," he said, after we told him about it. "Only the humans have the cash for a stone like that."

"How do we talk to the humans?"

"You need to go to the big house on the hill. I can make the introduction. My cut is two per cent. Deal?"

The Parrot looked doubtful.

"Or if you prefer you can take your chances with the cat people... " mused the monkey.

"All right," said the Parrot. "Deal."

As the grey monkey called up the humans on his phone, I began to feel excited about our fortune for the first time. He said:

"Hey Joe, I've got a couple of space tramps sitting here with me. They say they've got the main diamond from HMS Hesperus. Would you like to see them?"

"Only if they bring it with them," said Joe over the phone.

"Can we trust the humans?" asked the Parrot, when the call was ended.

"They drive a hard bargain," replied the monkey. "But everyone deals with the Bank of Pirates, because they don't cheat. That's more than you can say about the other scallywags on this planet."

"Yeah, I know, cats, pwa," I said.

We went back to the hotel where I dug up the diamond. The waiter tried to stop me, but I said I had buried an important bone there. The taxi then drove us and the monkey up to the house on the hill. From the outside, it looked like a fortress, with turrets, and cameras, and lazer cannons.

The guards on the gate knew the grey-haired monkey and let us pass. Once inside, we saw crowds of humans sunning themselves by pools, sung to by birds, and waited on by monkeys.

"That's the crew of the Vesperus," said the Parrot. "People on Earth honour them as lost heroes, and here they are, stretched out in paradise on the other side of the Cosmos."

Inside a marble office, we met Joe Jasper, the chief trader in precious gems at the Bank of Pirates. Joe wore bermuda shorts, a colourful shirt, and had long grey hair done up in a pony tale. He examined the diamond through an eye-glass, and then put it under a scanner for the computer to take a look. "How did you come across this?" he asked.

"Salvage," said the Parrot. "We were sent by Space Central."

"Not very loyal are you?."

"Look who's talking," replied the Parrot.

"Well it's always good to meet a fellow pirate," said Joe. "I had an old school friend on the Hesperus. What happened to the crew?"

"Eaten by space sharks," said the Parrot.

"Not likely," said Joe. "Space sharks are metal-arians. They feed off metal and electricity. They don't go in for meat."

Then he looked at his computer screen. "Well well," he said. "A positive identification. This is indeed the diamond from the Hesperus. You're telling the truth about that at any rate."

"What's it worth?" asked the Parrot.

"As a rough, ball-park figure.. five million tons of birdseed."

"Oh come on Joe, a cat's already offered us ten million," lied the Parrot.

"Mmm. I need to talk to my partners about a deal of this size. But let me give you this advice for free. You would be mugs to trust the cat people. The only straight dealers on this planet are the Bank of Pirates. Leave the diamond with me. I'll give you a receipt for it."

The Parrot's little eyes looked alarmed for a moment. "Is it safe here?" he asked . The monkey nodded. "The only safe place on the island," he said. "And a lot safer than in a hole in the hotel garden." And so we left the diamond with Joe.

That evening, the Parrot was in a flutter of excitement. "Dear Dog," he said. "With five million tons of birdseed each we can buy anything we want."

"Oh good-oh," said I yawning and ready to curl up in my bed.

But he was hopping from side to side on his perch.

"Let's go clubbing!" he exclaimed.

There would be no peace with the Parrot in this mood. Half an hour later, we were sitting in the Kennel Club with a glass of peanuts and a bottle of water. The club was a remarkable watering hole, crammed with animals who would normally  have each other on the menu. Instead they had veggie snacks flavoured like meat. Everything was expensive. I ordered a packet of squirrel flavoured crisps, just to see if they tasted real.

Birds were dancing on stage, and a slinky cat climbed up a pole. The Parrot tried to chat up a colourful budgerigar. She couldn't understand him. No doubt that was in his favour.

We left at dawn. I was dog tired. He was still squawking happily. "We're rich, We're Rich, we're RIIIIIICH!!!"

We turned down the drive towards the hotel, where there was a terrifying scream. A cat person dropped down in front of us. He was pointing a lazer gun at my chest. A voice behind us hissed:

"Don't move a claw!"

We were surrounded.

"Hey you cats," I said, "there's a truce on this island."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," said the one who was pointing his gun at me. "But we're pirates, see, so we don't obey the law. If you want to see your friend alive again, bring the diamond to this tree at midnight tomorrow. Otherwise, there's a price on his head, and we'll trade his feathery carcass in to the authorities on the Planet of the Cats."

"Don't give them the diamond," squawked the Parrot, as they bundled him onto a motor bike. Before I had time to reply, they had sped off into the darkness.

Well thank you Astroup. I can see that left you in a bit of a quandary. I’m really eager to find out what happens next. Don’t forget, Bertie is inviting you back to very soon.

For now, from me, Richard. Goodbye.

.Blue Planet

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