“How much is this spaceship?” Arnold asked the man behind the counter.
“Doesn’t it have a price tag?” The man asked.
“If it has, I can’t find it,” Arnold said.
“Let me take a look at it.”
The man behind the counter took the toy from the boy and examined it closely. He didn’t remember ever seeing the object in the toy store, nor in any catalog from which he ordered his merchandise.
He pretended checking his computer, and then lied: “Ah, now I see! It’s an item from our old stock. We don’t sell those anymore. You can have it for the bargain price of twenty dollar.”
Arnold put a twenty-dollar bill on the counter and the man put it in his pocket.
“What’s happening?” Captain Ant asked when he entered the bridge. “I was just having lunch when everything started to shake.”
“A boy discovered our hiding place on the top shelf of the toy store,” his first officer answered. “He just bought us for twenty dollars.”
“Does he know he has bought a real spaceship?”
“I don’t think so,” the helmsman answered. “He thinks we’re a toy. He doesn’t know there’s a crew inside.”
“Give us a visual,” the captain Ant commanded.
The blank wall on the bridge changed into a screen on which the images captured by different cameras were projected.
“Enlarge camera five,” captain Ant said. “I believe we’re on a bicycle. The kid is probably driving us to his home.”
Captain Ant was right. The boy stopped at his house, took the spaceship under his arm, and brought it to his room.
“He’s putting us on his bed, Captain,” the helmsman said. “We’ll have a soft landing.”
“Unfortunately, we don’t know what he’s going to do next,” Captain Ant said. “We have to avoid that he does further damage to our ship. Can we project a message on the ceiling of his room?”
“I’m on it,” the first officer responded.
Arnold couldn’t wait to tell his best friend about the cool new toy he had just bought. He left the spaceship on his bed and ran outside to fetch Jimmy who lived next door.
“What does it do?” Jimmy asked. “Does it have lights? Can it make noises?”
“I don’t know,” Arnold answered. “It didn’t come in a box; there wasn’t any manual.”
“Wow,” said Jimmy when he entered Arnold’s room. “It can project words on the ceiling!”
“Tee meetee mee teetee,” Arnold read out loud.
“What does that mean?” Jimmy asked. He clearly didn’t understand ant language. He took the spaceship from the bed and shook it heavily.
“Don’t do that!” Arnold warned him. “You might break it.”
“We have to make him stop doing that,” Captain Ant yelled. He barely managed to keep from falling off his chair. “Weapons officer, do we have a torpedo ready?”
“We have four torpedoes ready to fire, Captain,” the weapons officer answered.
“Let’s fire one, but make sure you don’t hit any of the kids,” Captain Ant ordered.
“Understood Captain, I’ll try not to hurt anyone.”
The weapons officer pushed a button. He didn’t aim for the ant farm in Arnold’s room, but it was a direct hit nonetheless. The glass shattered, dirt and ants covered Arnold’s desk.
“Look what you’ve done,” Arnold yelled. “You must have pushed a button to shoot a bullet. Now all my ants are escaping.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Jimmy defended himself. “The spaceship did it all by itself.”
“Put it down,” Arnold said. “Let’s clean this mess up first.”
“That’s no fun,” Jimmy whined. “I came here to play, not to work.”
He put the spaceship back on the bed and looked at the damage the torpedo had done.
“All your ants are escaping,” he said.
“I know,” Arnold complained. “We need something to put them in.”
“They’ve left the room, Captain,” the first officer reported. “But the torpedo had an unexpected result. It freed an army of ants from a glass farm.”
“Can we communicate with them?” the Captain asked.
“Yes, we’ve kept on projecting messages,” the communication officer answered, “and unlike those kids, they seem to understand what we say. They are marching towards us as we speak.”
“Open the hatch, we have to let them in before the boys are back!”
“What a mess!” Arnold’s mother said. “I’ll clean it up for you, on condition that you both get out of the way.”
“But where are the ants?” Jimmy asked. “They’re all gone!”
“Mom, can I stay at Jimmy’s house tonight?”
Arnold didn’t want to sleep in a room with a farm full of ants on the loose.
“If it’s OK with Mrs. Campbell, it’s OK for me,” Arnold’s mom answered.
“Come on, Jimmy, let’s go to your place!”
“OK, we can play with your spaceship at my house!”
“We’re on the move again, Captain,” said the helmsman.
“You don’t need to tell us, helmsman, we can all feel it,” the Captain answered. “I hope the newcomers don’t mind being shaken around. What’s the status on them?”
“The leader of the group informed us that every ant from the farm is on board, Captain,” the first officer reported. “He’s very grateful to you. He wants to meet you to thank you personally.”
“I want to meet him too,” the Captain smiled, “and ask him and his team for help.”
Arnold and Jimmy played with the spaceship all afternoon. They were disappointed that it no longer showed any special effects, but that didn’t spoil the fun. They had no idea the vessel had an actual crew, nor that this crew was praying for the boys to stop jolting them around. Mr. Campbell came to the rescue not a moment too soon when he called the boys to the table: “Dinner time!”
After having washed their hands, Arnold and Jimmy joined the rest of the family Campbell for dinner. They left the spaceship in the kitchen.
“It looks like all the humans are gone, Captain,” the first officer said.
“Thank heavens for that!” the Captain answered.
He had gone over the plan with the leader of the ant farm several times. The group of workers that were liberated from the farm had been divided into different units. One unit went to the kitchen to collect sugar crystals, the fuel of the spacecraft; another unit searched for tools and spare parts in the garage; a third unit was tasked to fix the damaged ship. Each unit executed its task with military discipline.
“The ship is almost repaired,” the leader of the ant farm told the Captain early in the morning. He was very proud of what his workers had achieved. “It’s almost time to say goodbye.”
“My offer still stands,” the Captain said. “We can take you with us on our voyage.”
“That won’t be necessary, Captain,” the leader said. “We’re not of the traveling kind.”
“I understand,” the Captain answered. “I thank you for everything you’ve done for us, yet there is one more thing I’d like to ask you.”
The next morning, Jimmy and Arnold couldn’t find the spaceship anywhere.
“It can’t have flown away on its own,” Mrs. Campbell said. She couldn’t have been more wrong.
When Arnold returned to his room. He found a twenty-dollar bill on his cushion.
“Let’s go to the toy store and buy something else to play with,” he told Jimmy.
“Mission accomplished,” the leader of the ant farm said, as he watched the boys leave the house to spend the money his elite team had recuperated from the man in the toy store. He looked at the sky and wondered which adventure his friends from space would experience next.