Benjamin Beaver walked with his new friends down into his bustling village. Walking was certainly just fine with Bear. Along the way Bear over and over voiced his worry about the force field. Beaver tried to calm Bear by assuring that the beaver guilds had been actively working on the problem.
As they entered the village there was great activity indeed. Teams of hundreds of beavers were hard at work constructing a huge log contraption.
Leah, not all that impressed with the project, decided to run off and play with a gang of younger beavers.
At the work site Bear goggled at and wondered about the purpose of the immense device. On a plank base a towering log arm was nearly completed. The arm was attached to a platform base with a gigantic steel spring, undoubtedly forged by Dwarves. Although Bear was famously slow at realizations, it dawned on him what the device might be. He wasn't sure that he was too comfortable with this realization.
"This isn't what I think it is," groaned Bear.
"We are very proud of it," declared Beaver, sweeping his paw at the device. "It will break all records and go down in the Book of Life. It is the greatest achievement in all history of beaver engineering. The inhabitants of all the territories have never seen, nor ever will again, such a magnificent catapult."
Bear gulped. "And just who will this. . . er. . . Well, who will be catapulted?"
"Why, yourself and the girl of course."
Bear was afraid Benjamin Beaver was going to say that. A sickening sound troubled his mind--the sound of a loud "SPLAT!"
Impatient with the whole thing Leah couldn't understand why the mission waited for the construction of some silly machine. Fetching Fern's shadow should be easy. Why didn't somebody just march over that stupid mountain and tell Shadow to come back home? Why? Because Fern and everybody else is sad. Also she thought, the little shadow must be homesick by now anyway. That's it she decided; Fern's shadow just wanted to sneak away for a little while and ended-up getting lost. After all everyone sneaks once in a while. Leah frowned. Why do you have to get lost when all you wanted to do in the first place is just sneak?
Leah sat discussing things with herself on the bank of a bubbly brook. She also nibbled on a honeygrain cake given to her by Beaver's wife, Beatrice. Over by a log dam squatted a bunch of little boy and girl beavers lunching on a plate of tender, green willow sticks, their main diet. Leah had tasted one of the sticks but didn't care for them. They tasted too much like plain old sticks. So she ate the cakes instead.
Later ol' Bear sat in the main construction site work lodge reluctantly discussing launch plans with Benjamin Beaver and his chief engineers.
A thin bespectacled beaver with a goatee on his chin drew arithmetic on the blackboard. His voice sounded a bit uppity.
"By my most. . . educated calculations. . . considering the planetary drift, the average wind velocity, strength of the force field and the duration of our traditional evening tea break, the launch should be made tonight at precisely midnight." The professor turned to inquire, "have the mainsprings for the catapult arrived yet?"
A bald and rather pudgy sweaty beaver replied, "we have received this here teleegraph from them Dwarves about thet factory uv their's. They say thar's been some cotton-pickin' deelay. Seems like one uv them-thar billows at th' main forge up'n busted on 'em, but. . ."
"Er. . . excuse me," Bear interrupted, eyes brightening, "did you just say there's been a delay? Frankly I think a delay would be 'A-OK'. After all Leah and I have been selected as your astronauts. Isn't it true that us astronauts have to go through a few days or months of pre-flight training? Speaking for myself, well, I don't feel all that fit. So I think a delay would be real jim-dandy."
Benjamin Beaver sat alongside nervous Bear. Placing palm on Bear's shoulder Beaver arose. "As a field director of this project, I think it necessary to gather all facts." He questioned Professor Beaver, "how certain are you of your calculations? Did you say that the shot must be made at midnight tonight?"
"I'm certain," declared the professor. "The force field will be at its weakest. It is the only opening."
Benjamin turned to question the pudgy beaver, "and what about the delay? When do you think the mainsprings will arrive?"
"Well dang it," snapped the beaver, "I didn't even git ter finish what I was er-sayin' beings I was butted in on." He gave Bear a dark sideways glare. "Y'see thars really no danged problem, becuz them mainsprings is already here. In plain fact they is mounted in place. Thet thar caterpult be a-ready fer test firin'!"
"What!" Gasped Bear almost falling of his chair. "I thought you said there was a delay?"
The pudgy beaver simmered. "Sheesh! If y'all had let me finish, Mister Bear! I'd a tol' yer thet thar were a shorty circuit in them Dwarve's teleeegraph system--somethin' 'bout a beaver havin' a sprained tail." The frustrated beaver sighed. "By th' time we got thar danged message, why them mainsprings had already arrived."
Bear's usual state of confusion advanced to total panic.
The thin faced professor beaver ignored the would-be astronaut's extreme emotions. "Allow me to introduce a few more educated facts, to be exact, three."
Speechless, Bear stiffened like a stick.
"As you know," the high-minded beaver continued, "we have never in history fired a catapult as mighty as this. With our most perfect statistics, we have determined such factors as the force of the thrust, the terrific strain on the timbers and the number of warts on the typical hornytoad; thus, we have arrived at a statistic of fifty percent."
Bear rediscovered his voice. "Fifty percent? Fifty percent of what?"
The professor cleared his throat. "It is possible that when the catapult is fired, well, it might just explode. We place this possibility at fifty percent."
"Which brings us," the professor declared, "to the first fact: there cannot be, there must not be, a preliminary test firing, because we figure that a second test firing with the extra bulk of the astronauts on board would raise the possibility of explosion to one hundred percent. This makes the risk unacceptable.
Bear, not feeling well at all, suddenly wanted to rush outside for fresh air and the press of solid ground under his feet.
The professor however was not quite finished. "Also this one hundred percent statistic applies to project, 'Warm Coat', which I understand is near completion. It is my unfortunate duty to report that we might as well cancel the project. This is the second fact."
Commotion stirred in the hut. Fortunately Bear suffered a state of mind far beyond simple commotion.
The professor raised his paw. "Please, let me explain. You see, the temperature inside the force field has plummeted since our first calculations. The cold is so intense up there that even with our best fashioned warm coats, the chance of freezing is one hundred percent. So you can see that the coats would be one hundred percent worthless, and if something is that worthless, it should most certainly be scrapped."
So far the statistics had not in any way eased Bear's panicky state of mind, but truthfully only two out of three facts had been expressed, so soon there might be a factor of hope.
The professor revealed, "it is now time to release our most top-top, secret-secret information." He reached inside a special iron strongbox and retrieved an envelope marked: "Top-top, secret-secret." Unlocking the latch, he removed a thick ream of papers. The papers were covered with millions of statistics. With pride he handed the report to Benjamin Beaver. "Mr. Chairman, this report states the 'Final Ultimate Fact'."
The beavers circled around Benjamin puzzling at the swarm of statistics. Bear darted a hesitant glance too.
Benjamin Beaver declared, "in all due respect, well, for such a final ultimate fact, well, it doesn't seem all that crystal clear. Could you explain it in a nutshell?"
The professor commenced his final, final explanation, "that is because the Final Ultimate Fact has three parts to it."
Bear exploded. "How can the final ultimate fact have three parts to it?" This was all driving him totally crazy.
With a wry expression the professor strolled back to the blackboard. He calmly lettered: "one, two, three," and wrote all the parts plainly and slowly:
1. The astronauts cannot enter the force field to work their way up the mountain. THEY WOULD FREEZE.
At last Bear had finally begun to agree, at least to this part.
The professor's face oozed with intelligence. He gestured to the board.
2. Therefore, the catapult should be aimed directly at the CRACK itself.
"Wait a doggoned minute," boomed Bear, "you are aiming us right at the crack that no one has ever seen before? What chance do we have of hitting it?"
Smugly the professor pointed to part number, "three," already written on the blackboard:
3. One percent.
Bear leapt right off the ground. He bellowed, "one percent! You mean we only have one chance in ten of hitting the crack?"
"No," replied the professor, "you have misread the statistic. In truth, you only have one chance in a hundred."
Bear's mouth fell open. "But that is DANGEROUS!"
"Very good, Mr. Bear. You have just stated the Final Ultimate Fact."