You almost got this last week, as Minion has been so distracted that she did not realize part 3 had never gotten posted back when she first got sick. Two weeks in a row may be coincidence. Let us see if we can get three and make it a trend.

“I really do think that everything should work out this time, and not just because I think I have worked out all the bugs. Have you noticed how many of our friends have gotten themselves involved in this test flight? Moozie, with the way he watches the interconnections between places, events, people, things, and even ideas, often knows quite a bit about the future, and he has come out to act as one of our spotters. Helena is here with a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and an expectant grin. I heard that Boom, Myra, and Aurora all intend to be on hand as well. Those are just the people who will be here at the ranch for the take off.”

The wolf did not have anything to say in response, so he just nodded. For anyone else, the gesture might have come across as a nervous one but the wolf was always a laconic individual. He could have been nervous, or excited, or merely have nothing he felt needed saying. He could even have felt some combination of two, or even all three, and few would ever be able to tell.

Marmaduke did not expect an answer and finished up his work on his new invention. The adjustments had to be triple checked. Clever pooves insured that the rotor bearings were greased, and the drive belt was taut.

With surprising ease, Marmaduke picked up the whole assembly and transferred it to the llama drawn cart waiting just outside the workshop, strapping it down, carefully to keep it from shifting around or falling off. Marmaduke touched the llama lightly on the back, right flank, setting it moving.

As Marmaduke, the wolf, and the llama (who Marmaduke called Devon, even though the llama had yet to answer to it) made their way from the workshop, they gathered a small tail of followers. Myra and Aurora joined them from the bench outside the house, walking side by side. Myra carried a small, open sack of popcorn, while Aurora brought dried apples slices, and they both munched neatly from either sack as they walked. Helena trailed behind with her first aid kit in one arm and the fire extinguisher in the other, though she looked at the two snackers reaching for tidbits in the other’s sack and quietly crunching in a way that said she wished she had brought a snack of her own, even if that would mean she had to hop along on one leg to have a third poof free to carry everything.

Boom dovetailed into place at the end of the procession, coming up from the river bridge with his rolling, sailor’s stride in a maneuver so well timed that it looked practiced, but probably came from a slight tug on the strings of connection under Moozie’s clever old pooves, instead.

That strange, old one perched in place at the testing site already, his hollow end stretched around the top of a fence post, like a hand puppet left out for display.

In the day to day routine of the ranch, the ‘test site’ they aimed for served as one of the practice rings for the wide variety of riding and draft animals that Marmaduke raised and trained in between experiments. The walls rose higher and stood sturdier than most, but an auroch, elephant, or triceratops takes a bit more containing than a horse or llama might.

The llama trotted through the gate and into the middle of the ring with no guidance from anyone. Devon knew quite well what the cart meant when it came from that workshop. If Marmaduke had been working on something more explosive, he would have used the underground bunker on the other side of the ranch, instead of the workshop near the house. Still, once the mechanism sat on the ground in the ring’s center, Devon set off out the gate again without prompting. Marmaduke’s inventions often made too much noise to be wholly comfortable, and could be very unpredictable in their movements.

The antlered contingent of the column, however, followed the cart into the ring and stood around talking quietly among themselves while Marmaduke plunged once again into the heart of the motor with a wrench, and the wolf stood a little off to one side absently digging in the dirt with one paw, until he noticed the nervous gesture and made himself stop.

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