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It was a beautiful day. The sun shone down on Athropolis and everything seemed to sparkle with the most brilliant white shine that anyone had ever seen. Even the Throps had to shade their eyes from the dazzling light as the sunbeams bounced off the snow and danced from the ice with the sparkle of a million diamonds all glittering at once. The Squallhoots however, hid deep in their caverns today, dreading any event that might force them out into this violent sunstorm.
The sun was melting all
made of precious ice.

But even though it was such a beautiful day, it could not be forgotten that the sun would also melt Athropolis and all that was made of precious ice. Nobody sat around to enjoy the weather or bask in the sunshine when there was such important work to be done. Everyone, right down to the smallest Throplet, had a job to do.

From up on the ridge, the children watched as the entire community of Throps bustled about down below.

Jason spoke softly to himself. "We've made a great discovery and we're helping to save Athropolis, too! Wow! Wait until people hear about this! This will make me famous for sure!"

In the distance, the children could see Ludi and Crystal climbing the ridge. Ludi carried his tablets of ice, ready to check any shape or measurement against his plans and drawings.

Jason called to them. "Ludi! The shaft and the treadmill are almost finished. Is everybody ready?"

"We'll be ready," replied Ludi. "When the propeller is connected to the treadmill, we will take turns marching."

"The Throps will march all day..." Crystal added.

"And the Squallhoots will march all night!" Sara completed the sentence - she had just returned from the caverns, and the Squallhoots would be ready, too.

"It's gonna be Throp and Squallhoot powered!" Kevin shouted happily. "I'll help too!"

"We can't let the propeller stop!" Jason said what Ludi already knew. "If it does, the current will carry us right back to where we started."

"See! It was MY thinking hat, and MY propeller that gave everybody the idea for the BIG propeller!" Kevin said proudly. "I'll bet you don't think it's a silly hat now!" He could hear the comfortable whirring sound as the propeller spun atop his head in the morning wind.

Ludi knew that it was very fortunate that this didn't happen during the long summer of the never-setting sun - the Squallhoots couldn't have helped them then. He had calculated that there would be just enough time - even though the Squallhoots would be marching less time each night. "You were right, Jason," he said. "We DO need to work together."

"Look! Who's that - WHAT'S that - coming up the hill?" asked Crystal, shading her eyes from the sun.

"It's Drizzle -
in his new suit!"

"It's Drizzle - in his new suit!" Sara was very excited. "We made it with things from the lifeboat. It will protect him from the sun!"

A muffled sound was heard from inside the awkward looking shape as it waddled closer. "Hello, everyone! Hello, Propellerhead!"

"Hi, Fuzzy Face," Kevin answered.

"LOOK!" Drizzle turned and pointed down below. It was hard to see his eyes behind the sunglasses, but they must have been as big as saucers. "It's not spooky and scary in the sunlight after all! Now I can see how the Throps really live - for the very first time!" He would have much to tell when he returned to the caverns. "Squallhoots have never been in the bright light before. I'm the first one - the first one ever!"

"And the first one to wear clothes," Kevin chuckled. "But you're not getting my hat!" He pulled his hat down tightly over his head - Drizzle was already wearing his sunglasses.

Ludi smiled happily. "We're almost ready to go back home - to the land of the colored sky! We couldn't do it without the Squallhoots - it's so good that they finally trust us!"

"Isn't this exciting?" Sara said. "Our plan is going to work!"

"Yes!" said Crystal. "The General will HAVE to give your radio beacon back now!"

Suddenly, the smile on Jason's face changed to a look of horror. "LOOK!" he cried out.

Down below, black smoke billowed up from near an entrance to the Squallhoots' caverns.

"Wh - wh - wh - WHAT'S THAT?" stammered Ludi.

"It's a FIRE!" Jason shouted. "C'MON!"

The fire roared furiously! Black smoke billowed into the sky!

The old wood and canvas, just delivered from the storage caverns, was tinder dry. A flare, shot at its centre, had been all that was necessary to turn it into a raging inferno.

Fourth Leader shouted hysterically. "They're - nothing but - prisoners! They're invaders! Spies! That's all they are - and they're telling US to work with the Squallhoots! But nobody listens to ME! NOW THEY'LL LISTEN!"

The flare gun was still smoking in his hand. He fumbled with it madly. The spent flare cartridge fell to the ice as he clumsily tried to load another flare into the barrel of the gun.

A crowd was gathering as Ludi, Crystal and the children skidded to a halt in front of the fire. The General and Toot were already there - horrified by what they saw.

Toot knew what this could mean. Just when the Squallhoots had finally begun to trust them, THIS had to happen! "Oh, what will the Squallhoots think of us now? This is the end! We're SUNK! Nothing can save us NOW!"

"SOUND THE ALARM!" Ludi shouted.

"Water! Bring water!"

Kevin yelled as loud as he could. "MELTDOWN!"

"Are you CRAZY? Have you gone MAD?" the General bellowed at Fourth Leader.

"I'm a scout leader!" Fourth Leader babbled. "But you only listen to my prisoners! THERE! There they are!" He pointed the flare gun accusingly at the children.

"STOP that! Stop that right NOW!" The General tried to grab the gun from Fourth Leader's hand, but he was turned back by the licking flames.

Fourth Leader ignored everyone as he tried to shoot another flare. "They're MY prisoners! I captured..." His words were suddenly cut short as the fire flicked out and his clothing burst into flames. "YEEIIII! YEOWWW!"

The water being thrown on the fire suddenly had a new target. KER-SPLASH! The freezing cold water blasted across the flaming clothing - putting out the fire almost instantly. Fourth Leader froze - standing perfectly still and completely silent.
What has
he DONE?!

Then the sobbing began. "I - I - I - I've always been a good Throp!" The sobs turned into a wail. "I've always been a - a - a good leader! I do all the bad jobs! Look - my little blue ears are all frostbitten! But nobody listens to me!"

Ludi carefully put an arm around Fourth Leader's shoulder and led him away from the smoke and flames. Fourth Leader still sobbed. "If the prisoners are helping to save Athropolis... then I'M helping to save Athropolis. I found them! Don't you see? I brought them here, but I - I - I'm - still - a - Fourth - Leader!"

Ludi gave him a comforting pat on the shoulder. "Yes, yes," he said. "We're ALL helping to save Athropolis - but we can only do it if we all work together. We can do it all together - if we try."

Drizzle and Kevin watched as Fourth Leader was gently led away. Drizzle looked at Kevin, and even through the sunglasses, Kevin could see his puzzled and questioning look. Kevin shrugged his shoulders, and with a knowing attitude beyond his years, had only one word to say. "Stress."

The fire raged on, but the water, being furiously thrown and splashed on it from the puddles, had at last stopped it from spreading. It would not be long before it was put out altogether - already it seemed to be mostly smoke and ashes.

"I saw everything - all because of my new suit! If I hadn't been here, we would have thought you were..." Drizzle's muffled voice halted for a moment, "trying to burn us out of our caverns. And that could have meant..."

Drizzle and Kevin suddenly looked horrified! They knew very well what it could have meant - it could have meant another WAR!

Drizzle was already running down the hill. "I - I - I'd better get back to the caverns and tell Snort what happened - before he hears rumors in the passageways!"

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Iceberg - the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots. Copyright 1994-2002 Athropolis Productions Limited.