“I’m not really sure what happened. I thought it was kinda weird when my dad offered to go with me to the state competition, since this was the first time I was going to compete in Extemporaneous Speaking. See, in Extemporaneous Speaking, you –”
“Gee, this is just fascinating. Can you hold on for a second while I stick a fork in my eye, in the hopes that the pain will keep me awake for the rest of your explanation?”
“What, we can’t show the new guy the same love and affection that we do you?”
Lyle swallowed another bite of waffle while avoiding eye contact with the little red robot. “So anyway. I figured something was up with my dad, so I asked if I could bring my bike along. You know, riding it for exercise to clear my head in the evenings. And sure enough, when I woke up in the middle of the night, he wasn’t in the hotel room any more. But I’d stuck a tracking device in the glove box when he was out getting gas on the trip there, so I knew just where he was. So I hopped on my bike –”
“Wait a minute. Where does a kid like you get the money for surveillance equipment like that?”
“I, um... I kinda borrowed it. From a store.”
“Well. That’s nice. Joel, lock up the silverware.”
“Quiet, Crow. Let him finish his story or else we’ll have another little discussion about how my Incredible Hulk action figure ended up in the back of your storage locker.”
“I told you! It must have stuck to the bottom of my shoe! Or something.”
Lyle took a deep breath and said, “Well, it took me half an hour to get to Dad’s car, and he was nowhere in sight. But I could see some lights shining off to the left, so I hid my bike in some bushes and walked in that direction. On the other side of the hill, there was this weird group of buildings. I still didn’t see my dad, but there was a guy in a green smock pacing back and forth under the parking lot lights, so I snuck as far down the hill as I could. He was muttering to himself about how the data just wasn’t coming in fast enough, and he needed some way of speeding up the process. Then some sort of bag went over my head, and next thing I knew, I was in some kind of space-pod headed up here.”
Joel nodded. “They must have decided they needed another test subject.”
“Test subject? Test subject? What, you mean, like lab rats? They’re gonna stick electrodes under our skin or spray hairspray in our eyes?”
“No. But that would be a nice change of pace.”
Lyle decided he really didn’t want to know what was going to happen next. He concentrated on gulping down his waffle as Crow whistled tunelessly. Finally, to break the silence, he said, “What’s with these red jumpsuits?”
“They’re standard issue. I think Frank got a deal on them from some kind of surplus store.”
"Don't worry, the flea dip will take care of that."
"Tom, I thought I told you to stop joking around with the poor kid."
"Who says I'm joking?"
Joel sighed. "Well, if you're all done eating, usually Dr. Forrester doesn't call until later in the morning. To kill the time till then, I could show you my latest project."
"Cool. What it is?"
"I'm breeding homing greyhounds."
"They're really useful. Suppose you need to get a message to someone really fast, but your cell phone battery is dead, and you just used up your last homing pigeon. In a case like that, a homing greyhound could save the day! It can move almost as fast as a pigeon, with the added benefit of being able to carry nearly 18 times the weight! And because the homing greyhound can run off of ordinary household table scraps, it's far more efficient than FedEx for delivering important papers, what with all its gas price surcharges and wasteful overhead!"
"That's...nice. But where did you get the greyhounds?"
"Are you kidding? We're on a spaceship. This place is crawling with greyhounds."
"Um...okay. So where are you keeping them?"
"Right over there. Just past that big box marked 'Hamdingers'."
"Hey, you've never even opened that box!"
"Well, of course not. Nobody likes hamdingers."