The Valleys – Valley Air Landing Lake – Hot Creek River
The pilot pushed the throttle all the way forwards and the float plane surged down the lake, sending up a curtain of white spray either side of the windows. Imperceptibly the plane left the glassy smooth surface of the lake and began to gain height, the high ridges of the valley slowly lowering as the plane continued to climb. The plane banked slowly left and then right as it followed the course of the Hot Creek River down the valley.
Jaak and Tag were on their way to spend the summer holidays with their friend Dieter in Aoraki. There are really only two seasons on Cyanos – winter and summer, or more of a winter-lite without snow. While it was now technically spring, the last of the winter snow still clung on, waiting till the very last moment when summer would finally manage to break its icy grip.
This was Tag’s first ever plane flight and he was a mixture of excitement, nerves and wonder as the plane continued to follow the river valley. He was keeping up a constant chatter.
Tag: Look at those trees down there! Everything looks so tiny! I can see everything!
Jaak: Yup – It sure does. It’s a whole different world up here.
Tag: I still can’t believe that Ounce and Chewie, let us have the back seat on the bus on the last day of term – that was amazing! My stone didn’t even do anything weird!
Jaak: Nope. Mine neither. And at lunch time Ounce let me cut in front of him and Chewie in the canteen line. He was a bit dorky about it, but he kinda mumbled something about saying thanks for us helping rescue their Dads.
The plane continued to thrum its way down the valley and soon as it started to climb again, the pilot poured on a bit more throttle as the plane started on a left turn, passing over the last of the pines as they reached the snowline of the Cobalt Mountain Range. This long range of mountains separated the valleys from the lower hills and plains that eventually led down to Aoraki at sea level. But first the range had to be crossed and this was usually one of the more exciting parts of the trip depending on how one viewed such things.
The plane then started a number of corkscrew type turns, all the time gaining in height so it would be able to make it through the Cobalt Pass.
The pilot thumbed the intercom that was connected to the passenger headsets.
Pilot: OK folks, we’re now gathering enough height so we can clear the Cobalt Pass. Please ensure that your seatbelts are firmly fastened, as we may experience some bumps as we traverse our way through the pass.
The Cobalt Pass was well known for its unpredictable downdrafts and turbulence as the wind forced its way through the gap in the mountains.
If it was possible for a furry nekohuman to turn green then Tag made a pretty good attempt at it. He suddenly stopped chattering about how small everything looked on the ground, just as the tallest mountain peaks loomed large, towering up on either side of the plane as it rocked, lurched and ‘bumped’ its way through the pass.
Jaak motioned to Tag.
Jaak: The barf bags are in the seat pocket in front of you.
Once clear of Cobalt Pass, the flight smoothed out and the boys where once again able to take in the scenery as it slipped past the windows. The plane slowly descended, as it approached Aoraki. Out the window Jaak spotted the shuttle launch pad at the Cyanos Space Agency, and daydreamed about what it would be like to blast off into orbit around the planet, and visit one of the Tets.
Soon the city proper came into view and the pilot made a gentle circuit of the harbour, preparing to land.
The plane landed neatly in the centre of the red and green harbour channel markers and then taxied its way over to the Aoraki Valley Air terminal. The pilot cut the engine just as the plane drifted its way over to the pontoons where it was secured by the shore crew.
Aoraki – Valley Air Terminal
The boys peered out of the plane window straining to see if they could catch a glimpse of Dieter. They disembarked the plane onto the pontoon and made their way into the terminal. Soon a familiar mop of orange hair came hurtling towards them barking madly, its tail wagging nineteen to the dozen. Before long both Jaak and Tag were being covered in prodigious amounts of slobbery licks as Dieter’s tongue gave them both a warm, wet welcome.
Dieter: Jaak, Jaak, Jaak, Tag, Jaak, Tag, Tag – Arwoof, arwoof, arwoof!
Dieter couldn’t decide who he wanted to say hello to first and it was causing a slight internal conflict.
OMG, OMG, OMG… I’m so glad you’re here! Didya barf over the Cobalt? Didya, didya, didya?
Tag: Yup. I lost my cookies good.
Dieter: Chocolate and vanilla Oreo? I thought I could detect a trace when I said hello!
Tag: Yup. They’re the ones.
Jaak: Hey Dieter! Always the booger-brain… …and for the umpteenth time, get your nose outta my butt!
Dieter was completely unabashed, but did eventually stop his interrogative sniffing.
Dieter: Well let’s get going then, my Dad is waiting outside. He is going to drop us off home before he has to go to another meeting or something important like that.
Jaak and Tag grabbed their bags and the trio headed out to meet Dieter’s Dad.
Jaak was used to seeing the much more diverse population that made up Aoraki, including a sizeable community of Hundes. For Tag however, he had spent all his life growing up in the valleys, surrounded predominantly by snow leopards. Having now only just arrived in the city for the first time, he was about to experience quite a culture shock. Dieter was the only Hunde that Tag had ever met and he was very nervous about meeting his Dad.
Dieter’s Dad was the Hundeerde Ambassador and he made for a commanding figure in his immaculate blue suit and tie complete with pocket square.
While much more reserved and proper than Dieter, he greeted them with a booming deep bark and a slow wave of his tail, much like a flag fluttering gently in the wind.
Ambassador Schönheit: Arwoof!
Hello boys! Welcome to Aoraki.
By this time Tag was fast losing what ever composure he thought he might still have and he sidled very close into Jaak, trying his best to hide behind him peeping around him with two trembly ears.
Jaak: Good afternoon Ambassador Schönheit. Thank you so much for coming to meet us. This is my friend Tag – he’s a bit shy, Dieter is the only Hunde he has ever met.
The Ambassador then sat back down onto his haunches, his tail still tapping out a slow but welcoming tattoo.
Ambassador Schönheit: Aww, Jaak – you know you can call me Schön! Hello there Tag – I’m very pleased to meet you. Any friend of Dieter’s is very welcome.
Schön then stretched out his paw to Tag. Then just like he had when Tag first met Dieter, Jaak gently steered Tag around in front of him to meet Schön. Once Tag was close enough, Schön then very gently tapped Tag on the shoulder with his paw and nosed Tag under his chin. He then pulled back and opened his mouth just a little to let his long pink steamy tongue, gently spill out in a panting smile. Tag then pulled himself together with all the bravery he could muster, and very quickly gave Schön two light pats on his chest.
Tag: H…hullo… Schön sir.
Schön: Well, I think that is enough to be getting on with for now. Let’s go to the car and get you boys home.
Jaak had been friends with Dieter and his family for a long time and he knew that they were a well off family and practically loaded. But now it was Jaak’s turn to be surprised. Schön had come to meet them in his embassy’s limousine, complete with Jarvis, the family’s driver and butler. The long black limousine’s engine was gently humming as Jarvis held the door open for them. Schön disappeared into the limo first leaving Jaak and Tag outside wondering what they should do with their bags.
Jarvis: Good afternoon Masters – I am Jarvis at your service!
Jarvis then took the boys bags and stowed them in the trunk. The boys then started climbing into the limo, Dieter bringing up the rear.
Dieter: Jarvis, did you get the sodas and snacks I asked for?
Jarvis: Certainly, Master D. I trust you will find everything to your satisfaction.
Dieter: Thanks Jarvis! You’re the best!
Jarvis: No sir – You are the best Master D!
Dieter: No, you are…
Dieter climbed in and the door closed smoothly behind them with a light thunk.