Category Archives: The Tin Can Society

Follow the adventures of the Tin Can Society, six young friends who live in the small town of Stratton, Connecticut and dream of traveling around the world — and beyond. Along the way, twins Dominic and Debbie, Throttle the engineer and Ham the scrounger, Phillip the Builder, and Rodney the charmer face perils and pitfalls — some of which are truly out-of-this-world.

TCS Part 7: Showdown in Stonegood Park

Pedaling as fast as their tired legs could propel them, the four members of the Tin Can Society whose mission it was to get to Stonegood Park — Dominic, Throttle, Ham, and Rodney — raced against time through the quiet streets of Stratton. Arriving at the park, they dropped their bikes at the edge of the trees and ran toward the location of their secret stash. In the rush, they had abandoned all of their usual careful safety measures designed to protect the location from prying eyes — such was the urgency of the danger they faced.

A few minutes later, breathless, they arrived at the spot. The giant trees loomed sentinel-like over the cave, as always. Aside from the tweeting of birds and the sound of their own footsteps on the forest floor, there were no other sounds. They had arrived in time.

“We made it,” Ham said breathlessly.

“It sure looks that way,” said Dominic. “Let’s get the film.” He began to move cautiously toward the hidden cave formed by the exposed tree roots.

Suddenly a crashing, snapping sound came from their left. They turned to look as dappled sunlight glimmered on a shiny metal surface. A moment later, a frighteningly familiar squat shape emerged from behind a log.

“It’s one of Reichelmann’s robots!” said Throttle, pointing.

Before anyone else had time to react, the four boys heard similar noises from their right . . . and then behind them . . . and in front of them too. They turned to face each new sound, discovering in mounting fright that four robots were now trundling through the forest undergrowth toward them, their cold black claws extended in their direction.

Instinctively, the four boys stepped backwards until they were all back-to-back, surrounded with no escape.

Between two of the robots, a figure appeared from behind the shadow of a tree, then stepped forward. It was Reichelmann, holding some kind of remote control box with two antennas poking through the top.

“Tell me where the film is, or I will order the robots to pry the information from you!” he shouted.

Each of the boys thought the exact same thing: Never! But each of them was too terrified of the robots closing in on them to utter a sound.

“Tell me now!” Reichelmann shouted more urgently. The robots marched stiffly toward them until they were less than ten feet away from the huddled boys. Their claws opened and closed with menacing metallic snaps. The boys squeezed their eyes shut, preparing for the worst.

Then, suddenly, just when it seemed like the next snap of a claw would take off their noses, the robots stopped. After several moments of unexpected silence, Dominic and then the others dared peek with one eye, then the other. The robots had indeed frozen completely still. At first, they feared it was simply a trick by Reichelmann, to build suspense or to get them off their guard. But one glance at the traitorous scientist showed that he was as baffled as they were. He frantically twisted knobs and flicked switches on his remote control box, shaking it in growing frustration.

“Freeze! Police! Don’t move!” came a shout from Reichelmann’s right. Dominic and the other boys turned to the sound and smiled as Chief Wilson, his police revolver drawn and pointed at Reichelmann, led four other officers through the trees. They spread out as they cautiously advanced on the lone scientist, all of them keeping their firearms leveled at him. “Hands up! Slowly!” Reichelmann, the sadistic sneer wiped from his face by the surprise, complied meekly.

With the other officers covering him, Chief Wilson got close enough to Reichelmann to snatch the control box from his upraised hand. “I’ll take that, you traitor. Come on, move.” He shoved Reichelmann toward the other officers, who handcuffed him and pushed him by the shoulder in the direction they had come. He said nothing — no final threat, no warnings of revenge.

“You kids alright?” Chief Wilson said, holstering his pistol.

Dominic, Throttle, Ham, and Rodney ran from between the robots toward Chief Wilson, laughing and cheering. They crowded around him, all asking questions at once. Chief Wilson laughed and patted them on the head. “One at a time, boys! One at a time.”

A moment later, Debbie emerged from the woods in a run. “Here’s the heroine of the day,” Chief Wilson said as Debbie ran to her twin brother and hugged him. “She charged into the precinct and wouldn’t stop until she got to talk to me. Your sister is a very determined young lady,” he said. “You should be proud of her.”

“I am,” said Dominic, giving her another hug. “We all are! She’s a member of the Tin Can Society, after all.” Dominic tousled his sister’s hair as Debbie beamed.

Throttle lifted the visor of his oversize space helmet. “But how did you stop the robots?”

“That was me, I’m afraid,” came a familiar voice from their left.

“Mister Finchley!” the boys shouted in unison as Finchley, smiling, approached through the woods. As he reached the throng of excited kids, Chief Wilson handed him Reichelmann’s control box.

“I used this,” Mr. Finchley said, holding up a device that looked like a pistol with a bowl-shapted dish antenna on the end of it. “It’s a portable radio jamming device. It interfered with the signals from this control box,” he said, holding up Reichelmann’s box in his other hand. “Now we can take these robots back to NASA to figure out how they work. Ironically, Reichelmann’s work on robotics is years ahead of ours. Why, these robots might end up going to the moon for us someday.”

“That’s about far enough for me,” said Ham, giving an involuntary shudder as he looked back at the squat bulk of one of the paralyzed robots. “Those things give me the creeps.”

Dominic snapped his fingers. “The satellite film canister,” he said, turning toward the secret lair.

But then all of a sudden, a sound like a swarm of large, angry bees filled the air. Everyone looked around in puzzlement, unable to pinpoint the sound as it grew louder. Then Debbie looked up and pointed into the air. “Look!” she shouted.

Six radio-controlled planes swooped out of the sky and dove between the trees, arcing over everyone’s heads by only a few inches. Everyone ducked. Chief Wilson automatically drew his pistol.

The planes turned around, nimbly dodging the trees as they swooped lower. Everyone — the Tin Can Society, Mr. Finchley, and Chief Wilson — took cover behind trees and fallen logs as the planes released their loads and firecracker bombs exploded around them.

“It’s the Radio Boys!” Dominic shouted over the din. “They found our hideout!” He ducked again as a new group of planes zoomed inches over his head.

And then, undaunted by the attack, Phillip bounded through the trees toward them, waving a backpack.

“Phillip, get down!” Dominic shouted. “We’re under attack!”

Phillip kept running and leaped over the log behind which Dominic and the others were huddled. “Sorry I’m late!” he said breathlessly. “I ran by the house to get these just in case,” he pointed to his bag. “Looks like it was a good idea!”

He opened the bag and Dominic peered inside. After a moment, he laughed. “Brilliant, Phillip!” He shook Phillip by the shoulder and pulled out of the bag a homemade tin can rocket. The others gathered around as Dominic continued to pull out more rockets and handed them to the eager members of the Society.

“Prepare to counterattack!” Dominic ordered. “Phillip, you and Ham take that tree over there,” he pointed. The boys nodded and ran. “Throttle, over there.” Throttle nodded so vigorously his helmet visor fell down, then as soon as the planes disappeared for a moment he grabbed his handful of rockets and a lighter and scrambled over the log. “Debbie and Rodney, you defend the hiding spot.” They saluted and crawled on their knees and elbows to their right. Waiting until the latest pass of dropped their bombs, Dominic leaped over the log and, between exploding firecrackers, sprinted to another tree to set up his first rocket volley.

The rockets were made from tin can bodies, with short stubby fins and a long wooden dowel which Dominic shoved in the ground, leaning the rocket in the direction of the oncoming planes. He looked around to ensure that the others had prepared their volleys too.

Dominic waited for the planes to circle around for another pass. As they dove, he yelled, “Fire!” He touched his lighter to the short fuse at the base of the rocket and quickly stepped back. With a loud hiss, his rocket leaped off the ground, its trail of blue smoke pointing directly at an incoming airplane.

A moment later, a series of hisses marked the launch of the rest of the volley. Dominic’s rocket clipped the wing off one plane, while another rocket hit a plane square on, snapping the engine off. Both planes careened wildly into the ground. The Tin Can Society cheered with one roaring voice.

“Prepare your next volleys!” Dominic shouted, shoving another rocket’s pole into the ground as if staking a flag onto a conquered hill. More planes passed overhead, coming faster and lower this time in hopes of dodging the rockets. “Adjust your traverse!” Dominic shouted, tilting his rocket lower as the planes buzzed just inches above the ground.

“Fire!” Again, four rockets hissed away, leaving trails of acrid blue smoke. One passed harmlessly overhead — no time to adjust the angle of fire — but two hit a single plane, disintegrating it. The fourth nicked the rudder of another plane, sending it up into the trees.

“A hit!” Throttle shouted, jumping up from his hiding spot, waving his hands in the air. The plane that had lost control stalled and fell right on Throttle, bouncing off his helmet as Throttle plopped to the ground, dazed. “Ouch!” He quickly scrambled back behind the tree.

“Prepare your third volley!” Dominic shouted. They were down to their last rockets. This would be their final stand.

There was a moment of silence. Apparently, the Radio Boys were regrouping and rearming. Tensely, the Tin Can Society planted their next round of rockets and waited, straining to hear anything.

Mr. Finchley ran to the tree next to Dominic. “Here,” he said. “Try this!” He tossed his radio jamming gun toward Dominic, who caught it just as the sound of the next wave of planes began to waft through the air.

“Thanks!” Dominic said, then pointed behind Mr. Finchley. “There they are!” Dominic shouted. The Radio Boys were slowly advancing through the forest in a line, holding up their radio controls like shields. They wanted to see their planes in action, the better to control them against the unexpected rocket barrage — and also to beat up the Tin Can Society once their last rockets were expended, and steal their treasury.

“Volley at the ready!” said Dominic bravely. The planes swooped down like dive bombers, and automatically the boys swiveled their rockets up to point at them. “Fire!”

But this time the planes were too fast and all four missed, roaring harmlessly past the diving planes as they released their bombs directly over the Tin Can Society’s hiding places. Firecrackers boomed all around them and they dodged rocks and twigs thrown up by the attack.

“They’re coming around again!” said Phillip. Indeed, a second wave of planes was already speeding low and fast toward them as the previous wave sped off.

“They’re close enough,” said Mr. Finchley to Dominic. “They should be within range.”

Dominic nodded, swallowed hard, then jumped out from behind his tree pointing the radio jammer at the advancing line of Radio Boys. He pulled the trigger.

To everyones relief, the attacking planes kept on going right over their heads, not releasing their bombs. They kept flying straight, as if paralyzed, until one by one they hit trees and broke up. The Tin Can Society, facing inevitable defeat only moments earlier, stood and cheered lustily as the Radio Boys shook their control boxes futilely.

“That’ll teach you to come after the Tin Can Society!” shouted Rodney. The rest of the group shouted in agreement.

Amid the Radio Boys, confusion reigned until Eddie, their leader, regained his composure. “Drop your boxes, boys!” he commanded, and they did. “Charge!” The gang took off at a run, shouting and whooping war cries. Now it would be an all-out fist fight — and the Tin Can Society was outnumbered two to one!

And then, as they leaped over a fallen tree, they found themselves face to face with a line of four robots marching toward them, their claws outstretched!

The charge turned instantly into a rout as the suddenly-terrified Radio Boys clambered back over the fallen tree and ran screaming from the woods, abandoning their gear. Eddie tried vainly to order his men to hold the line, but the sight of four menacing metal monsters was too much. Clearly the Tin Can Society possessed secret weapons of awesome power — not just rockets, but radio jammers and even killer robots — and the Radio Boys were no match for them.

At least, not this time . . .

As the last of the Radio Boys disappeared out of the woods, the members of the Tin Can Society came out from their hiding places, wiping the dirt from their clothes and faces. They shook hands with Mr. Finchley and Chief Wilson.

“Thanks, Mister Finchley,” said Dominic. “Activating the robots was a great idea.”

“Looked like you could use the help,” Mr. Finchley said, patting Dominic on the shoulder. “The Army will be along to take the robots.”

“Aw. Couldn’t we keep one?” asked Debbie.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Mr. Finchley responded with a chuckle. “You kids certainly earned it, didn’t you?” They cheered in agreement.

Phillip ran up to them carrying the film canister, which he handed over to Dominic.

“Now, finally, here is the film,” said Dominic as he handed the canister over to Mr. Finchley with appropriate ceremony.

“Thank you,” said Mr. Finchley, receiving it with appropriate solemnity. “NASA thanks you, and your country thanks you. You have all done a great service today. Congratulations to the Tin Can Society.”

Beaming with pride, Dominic, Debbie, Throttle, Ham, Phillip, and Rodney all shook hands with Mr. Finchley, then turned to face each other.

“The Tin Can Society forever!”

# # #

Be sure to stay tuned to Channel 37 for the continuing adventures of the Tin Can Society, coming soon! In the meantime, be sure not to miss our many other great stories appearing every Tuesday!

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TCS Part 6: A Race Against Time

With concentration furrowing his brow, Throttle rummaged around his olive-drab knapsack. A moment later, his expression changed to a triumphant smile as he pulled out a small contraption. It was an oblong metal box about the size of a shoebox, with a knob and a speaker hole on one end. As the rest of the Tin Can Society gathered round to look, Throttle removed the lid and showed everyone the riot of wires, capacitors, resistors, and tubes inside.

“What is it?” Phillip asked.

“It’s a sound-effects generator,” Throttle responded with pride. “I made it myself from a kit. It can make a whole bunch of sounds using this dial here.” He pointed to the far end of the warehouse in which they were hiding. “I’ll sneak out the back and around the corner, and turn this on to make it sound like someone is coming. That will make the robots come to investigate. And when they’re out of sight, you can run out to the warehouse where they’re holding Mister Finchley and free him.”

“Perfect,” said Dominic. “Just don’t get caught.”

Throttle nodded so vigorously that his helmet’s visor fell down. “Once I turn on the machine, I’ll run back around and meet you in there,” he said, his voice muffled by the plastic helmet.

“I’ve got picks and cutters in case that door is locked,” piped up Ham, the Society’s resident scrounger.

“Good thinking,” said Dominic, patting Ham on the shoulder. “Then we’ve got everything we need. Ready?”

The six members of the Tin Can Society looked at each other, eagerness shining in their eyes. “The Tin Can Society forever!” they whispered in unison.

Throttle picked up his bag and took off through the darkened maze of the warehouse as the others raised their heads just enough to peek through the dirty window overlooking the guarded entrance to the adjacent warehouse. The two squat, metal robot guards were still there, unmoving yet ominous.

A few moments later, sounds could be heard from around the other side of the warehouse where the Society was hiding. At first the sounds were barely audible, but gradually they got louder: the crump crump crump of heavy boots accompanied by random clanks and thumps, like people bumping into the pipes and barrels scattered haphazardly throughout the empty rail yard.

The robots suddenly came alive, their opaque domes turning toward the sound and their claws twisting into a menacing position. As the sounds got louder, fooling the robots into thinking that an army was about to march around the corner any second, they wobbled as their stiff legs began to move. Together, the two robots waddled slowly toward the sound to confront the “invaders.”

Seeing this through the window, Dominic and the others turned to each other and smiled in victory. The plan was working! They watched as the twin robots disappeared out of sight around the corner.

“Now!” Dominic whispered, and the five of them sprang up and ran out the door through which they had come and ran right around to where the robots had been standing. Ham was already pulling out his pocket kit of lock picks. As the others kept a nervous watch over their shoulders, he made short work of the lock. As quickly as they could without making much noise, they opened the warehouse door.

“Rodney, you keep an eye out for the robots.” Rodney nodded. Once the others ran into the warehouse, Rodney stood behind the partially closed door and peeked his head around to keep watch.

“Mister Finchley?” Dominic called out quietly.

“Over here,” a voice echoed through the dark, musty hall. “Who is that?”

“It’s the Tin Can Society,” Dominic replied as they ran toward the sound of Mr. Finchley’s voice. “We’re here to rescue you.”

They found Mr. Finchley in the middle of the room, tied to a metal chair. Ham immediately knelt down and started to work on the ropes holding Mr. Finchley’s hands behind the back of the chair.

“How did you find me, kids?” asked Mr. Finchley.

“We found the clue you left in your hotel room,” said Dominic.

“Good work,” replied Mr. Finchley as Ham finished cutting through the ropes holding his arms. Mr. Finchley rubbed his wrists. “Thanks, Ham.”

“You’re welcome, sir.” Mr. Finchley stood and shook his hand.

“Listen, you have to move fast. Reichelmann — that’s the name of the guy who kidnapped me — knows that you took the film. He figured out that you must have a hideout in the park and he’s on his way to get it with one of his robots. He only has three of them.”

“We just sent two of them on a wild-goose chase,” Dominic said. “But it won’t be long before they figure out that it was a distraction and come back here.” The four Society members and Mr. Finchley headed quickly back to the warehouse entrance. “So who is this Reichelmann fellow?” Dominic asked.

“He’s a German rocket scientist who came here after the war,” said Mr. Finchley. “He worked on the Halo reconnaissance satellite project. But then he got recruited by the other side to steal secrets. If he can get that film to them, they’ll be able to learn everything about the cameras we use.”

Suddenly, they saw Rodney and Throttle running toward them. “The robots are coming back!” said Rodney, pointing over his shoulder. “Come on, let’s go!” Everyone sprinted toward the door and out as the robots rounded the far corner of the adjacent warehouse. They were too slow to catch the escaping group, so instead they fired a volley of rockets toward them. The rockets hissed smoke trails as they peppered the wall behind the fleeing kids and Mr. Finchley. They rounded the corner safely and kept running out of the rail yard to their bikes.

“You kids get to the park and grab the film. One of you should go to the police station and tell them what’s going on. I’ll get to a pay phone and send the Army detachment to the park so they can capture Reichelmann.”

“I’ll volunteer to go to the police station,” said Debbie. “I’m the fastest.”

“My house is on the way to Stonegood Park,” said Phillip. “I’ll swing by there to pick up my gear. We might need it.”

“Good thinking, everyone,” said Dominic. “Let’s go!” As The Tin Can Society mounted their bikes, they felt like a squad of cavalrymen saddling up to ride shoulder-to-shoulder into battle — which, in a sense, was just what they were doing.

* * *

At that moment, in peaceful Stratton, another group of kids was also riding their bikes, but unlike the Tin Can Society these kids rode quietly, steadily, with expressions of grim determination on their faces. It was the Radio Boys, heading to Stonegood Park to carry out their plans to raid the Society’s secret stash. Their bikes’ front baskets and rear racks were loaded with bags and boxes — all the instruments of war needed for their aerial invasion. But unknown to them, they weren’t the only ones heading to the park . . .

* * *

What battle looms for the various forces converging on Stonegood Park? Will the Tin Can Society be able to keep the satellite film out of the clutches of the evil traitor Reichelmann and also protect their treasury from the invading Radio Boys? Will the Army and the police get there in time to capture Reichelmann and his powerful robot? All these questions will be answered next time, in the thrilling conclusion to The Tin Can Society!

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TCS Part 5: Interlude — The Radio Boys Make a Plan

Meanwhile, as Dominic and the Tin Can Society prepared to rescue Mr. Finchley from the clutches of the guardian robots, their sworn enemies — the Radio Boys — met to plot their revenge for having been thwarted in their plan to raid the Society’s secret lair deep in Stonegood Park . . .

Eddie pounded his fist on the desk in his bedroom. “This emergency meeting of the Radio Boys is now in session. The agenda is: how to attack the Tin Can Society’s fort in the park and steal their treasury of tin cans. I’m opening the floor to discussion.”

The seven boys sitting on the floor muttered quietly among themselves for a few moments before one of them raised a hand. Eddie pointed to him. “Louie, you may speak.”

Louie stood up awkwardly. “What we want to know is, where did they get the robots? I mean, how do you robots?” Everyone else nodded and mumbled in agreement. Clearly, the surprise encounter in the park with the two lumbering robots had dispirited the normally quite exuberant Radio Boys, and now they were experiencing something they had never felt before: fear.

Eddie pounded his fist on the table to quiet the room before their fear led to a mutiny. “All right! So they managed to build a couple of stinking robots. You know what that means. They’ve escalated the rivalry. And by the rules of clubs, that means we have to escalate right back.”

“But how?” asked one of the kids. “We can’t make a bigger robot. We don’t know how to do that, and we’ll never be able to learn in time.”

“We could steal one,” another kid said, but several of the others sitting next to him pushed his shoulder and slapped his head.

“Where we gonna get a robot in Stratton?” they all asked in unison, laughing the suggestion away.

After that, everyone started talking to each other as various ideas were tossed around. After holding counsel with his two top lieutenants, Eddie tried to gavel the meeting back to order with his fist. After several rounds of pounding, he was able to quiet the room.

“Look, if we want to do something we have to do it fast,” he began. “That means we’ll have to use the weapons we have right now. Our airplanes.” He pointed to the walls of his room against which several model planes leaned, their taut fabric wings gleaming under coats of bright paint.

Everyone looked at each other in surprise. The Radio Boys built and flew radio-controlled model airplanes for fun — to dogfight with each other, to buzz unsuspecting neighbor kids, and to chase startled pigeons. But to use them in a fight?

“We’ll arm them. Fred here can use his chemistry set to make some bombs, which we can mount on the wings and drop using the remote controls. We’ve tried it before, remember?”

Several of the kids nodded.

“Okay, here’s what we do. We’ll set up an assembly line to make the bombs. Smokers, flashers, and bangers. Then we modify our planes with racks to carry them and wire them to the remote controls to drop them. We’ll have a whole squadron of bombers.”

Everyone was leaning forward now, hanging on Eddie’s every word. “Then, we spy on the Tin Can Society. When we know they’re not in the park, we launch a surprise attack on their hideout with the airplanes. We buzz the robots and drop the bombs to confuse them. They’ll stumble around and try to chase after the planes, so we’ll keep circling the planes over them but gradually move them away, so that the robots will follow them trying to reach them. When the robots are out of the way, we run in and steal the cans!”

The Radio Boys cheered in unison at Eddie’s plan, surging to their feet and gathering around Eddie to slap him and each other on the back.

It was a fiendishly clever plan, and one that The Tin Can Society would never suspect. But of course, what the Radio Boys didn’t know was that the robots didn’t belong to the Society — and so the escalation was something for which the Society was completely unprepared!

* * *

Now, suddenly, The Tin Can Society faced two threats — not just the mysterious scientist and his robots, but also an aerial assault by their rival club! Will they be able to rescue the NASA engineer being held captive by the mysterious scientist and also protect their tin can treasury? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of The Tin Can Society!

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TCS Part 4: The Search for Mr. Finchley

The Tin Can Society faced a big challenge in trying to find the missing NASA rocket engineer, Mr. Finchley. All they had to go on was that Dominic had spoken to him on the phone the previous day, and that he hadn’t shown up to the scheduled meeting to pick up the satellite film canister. But they didn’t know where Mr. Finchley was calling from, which meant that they didn’t know where to begin looking for him. Huddled together in a secret meeting Dominic’s and Debbie’s living room, they discussed their options.

The situation was so serious that they weren’t even watching the news update on the TV behind them, showing pictures from the Gemini mission currently in orbit. Something more important to the Tin Can Society than a space mission? Only a couple of days ago they would have scoffed at the notion. But not since embarking on this adventure.

Finally, they agreed that their only option was to go to Police Chief Wilson at the precinct station on Main Street and explain the situation. They hopped on their bikes and rode the few blocks to the station, and the rest waited in the marble-floored lobby while Dominic went up to meet the Chief. Fortunately, Chief Wilson was a friend of the family and a regular donor of cans to the Society, so when he heard that Dominic wanted to see him he was more than happy to meet.

“Thank you for seeing me, Chief Wilson,” Dominic said as he sat down in the chair in front of the Chief’s desk.

“Happy to, Dominic,” Chief Wilson said as he closed the door to his office and sat down behind his enormous, paperwork-covered desk. “What can I do for you?”

“We have a mystery. We were supposed to meet a man from NASA this morning, but someone else showed up instead. This other fellow seemed shifty and I didn’t trust him, so we didn’t give him what he wanted but he doesn’t know that yet. We want to find the NASA man before the other guy comes back.”

Chief Wilson, who had been sipping coffee while Dominic told his story, put the cup down. “We received a call from NASA a few days ago that they were going to conduct a search in the area with the Army. They said they were looking for pieces of a satellite. They contacted all the local officials to ask for cooperation. I spoke with a Robert . . . what was it?” He scratched his chin. “Finchley. Robert Finchley.”

Dominic nodded. “Mr. Finchley asked us to help find a particular piece of the satellite. We found it and we were going to turn it over to him but then he didn’t show up to the meeting.”

Chief Wilson opened a desk drawer and rummaged around inside. “Finchley gave me the name and number of the hotel he was staying at in case I needed to get in touch with him. Here it is.” He pulled out a business card and read the back of it. “The Cortland Hotel on Fourth. Room 340.”

Dominic stood. “Thank you, Chief Wilson. We’ll go see if he’s there.”

“Now be careful, Dominic. Don’t do anything dangerous. If you see anything that looks illegal, call me and stay away. Okay?”

“Absolutely, sir. Thank you.” Chief Wilson stood, and they shook hands before Dominic eagerly headed out the door and back to the lobby to share the news.

* * *

The six members of the Tin Can Society left their bikes on the grass front lawn of the Cortland Hotel, a white concrete building that had been finished only a couple of years ago and was one of the fanciest modern hotels in this part of Connecticut. As they walked into the vast, airy lobby, Dominic whispered, “You wait here. I’ll go ask.”

Rodney put his hand on Dominic’s shoulder. “I’ve got this one, chief. That’s Mrs. Turnbull behind the counter. Her daughter Agnes is in my class.”

Dominic smiled. “It’s all yours, charmer.”

Rodney pulled a comb out of the pocket of his shorts and slicked back his hair, and sauntered over to the counter. “Hello, Mrs. Turnbull. My name is Roderick Swenson. I’m in your daughter’s class. Is the lovely Agnes here, by any chance?”

Rodney, using his “stage name” as he called it, chatted amiably with Mrs. Turnbull for several minutes before returning. “Well, that went very well. Mrs. Turnbull is a very charming lady, just like her daughter. It seems that Mr. Finchley has checked out rather suddenly. But she was more than happy to let me look for the electric razor that my Uncle Bobby had forgotten while he was staying here.” Rodney held up a key. “Room 304, I believe.”

Throttle whipped up the visor on his wobbly space helmet. “How did you do that?”

“I mentioned how much I was hoping to help Agnes with her math homework next week,” Rodney said. “I would say everyone’s a winner on this deal.”

* * *

The Tin Can Society disembarked from the elevator on the third floor and Dominic cautiously unlocked the door to Room 304. They waited for a few moments to hear any sounds, but all was silent. They crept inside.

The room was empty, just a clean hotel room. Everything was folded and stored neatly; there were no signs of a struggle or forced entry or someone leaving in a hurry. They opened every closet and cabinet door, but there was nothing. No suitcase, no suits hanging in the closet. It was as if Mr. Finchley had never been there.

They were just about to leave when Ham sat down in the deeply padded lounge chair by the bed. “I give up,” he said. He looked down at the chair and saw the corner of a piece of paper sticking up between the cushion and the padded armrest. “Hey, what’s this?” He pulled out the paper and unfolded it. Written hastily with a ballpoint pen:

WH on Syc -- Trks

“Look at this!” Everyone gathered around the chair to read the note in Ham’s hand.

“What does that mean?” “Is it a secret code?” “Maybe Mister Finchley left it for someone to find!”

Phillip took the note from Ham and studied it very closely. The Tin Can Society’s resident mathematician, Phillip was excellent with codes and had even devised the Society’s cipher for secret messages.

Phillip studied the note for several seconds before looking up and declaring, “The warehouse on Sycamore.”

“Which one? There’s a whole bunch down there.”

“The one with the train tracks, of course.” He tapped the sheet of paper. “Mister Finchley must have overheard the people who were kidnapping him talking, and when they weren’t looking he made this quick note and stuffed it in the chair.”

“Come on,” Dominic said. “Let’s go!” Ham bounded out of the chair to catch up with the rest of the Tin Can Society as they ran out of the hotel room.

* * *

Sycamore Street runs for two miles out of Stratton, and it dead-ends at an old abandoned rail yard that still had several large brick warehouses left standing. It was one of the places where the teenagers went at night to party, but otherwise no one went there and the place had become overgrown with weeds and piles of abandoned car parts and furniture.

The Tin Can Society rode as quickly as they could to the spot, and at the fence at the edge of the property they dismounted their bikes and pushed past the crooked gate into the compound. They proceeded carefully past the empty, hulking warehouses. Phillip pointed to the last warehouse, which still had a stretch of rail line running alongside it. Silently, they made their way closer. Suddenly, Dominic — who was in the lead — stopped and then quickly pushed everyone back around the corner of the warehouse next to their objective.

“What is it?” Debbie whispered. “What’s wrong?”

Dominic backtracked around to the front of the warehouse, then motioned everyone to go inside through the barn-door like opening, which was fortunately ajar. Once inside the spookily dark and cool warehouse, Dominic ran over to the row of dirty and broken windows that faced the warehouse by the tracks. They crouched below one of the windows.

“Look, but be careful,” Dominic whispered. Slowly, he raised his head until his eyes were above the windowsill. A moment later, five other pairs of eyes followed suit.

The side entrance to the warehouse with the tracks was clearly a brand-new door; unlike the other warehouse doors, it was freshly painted and not dented. The door was also clearly secured with a shiny silver padlock and a hefty chain. But that wasn’t all.

On either side of the door stood two creatures. As tall as a grownup, they had cylindrical barrel chests that resembled giant canister vacuums. The cylinders were topped with semi-transparent semicircular domes where their heads should have been — one them had a red dome, the other one’s dome was blue. From the middle of their chests stuck out two stubby arms with claws on the ends, and they were perched on short, stubby legs with no visible knee joints and with large rectangular feet.

“Robots!” Debbie whispered.

The two mechanical men were clearly standing guard on the entrance to the warehouse, inside of which, presumably, Mr. Finchley was being held.

The six pairs of eyes descended slowly beneath the window sill. The six members of the Tin Can Society looked at each other solemnly as they crouched beneath the window.

“What do we do now?” Ham finally whispered.

Dominic took a deep breath. “We have to find a way to get in there and free Mister Finchley.”

“But how?”

Throttle raised the visor on his helmet. “I think I have an idea,” he whispered, hastily removing the Army bag that he habitually wore over his shoulder. “You’ll love this.”

* * *

What does Throttle have up his sleeve? Will Dominic and the gang be able to rescue the NASA engineer from the clutches of the robots? And will they discover the secret of the mysterious scientist in time to protect the secret film canister? Find out more in the next exciting episode of The Tin Can Society!

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TCS Part 3: The Mysterious Scientist

When the Tin Can Society reached Stonegood Park, they put their pre-arranged security plan into effect. Rodney and Throttle took up guard positions at the edge of the forest, with their walkie-talkies at the ready. The rest of the team proceeded into the forest, the thickening tree canopy gradually darkening the sky, until they reached two gigantic, ancient elm trees. The twin tree trunks were tilted toward each other, and at a point about 10 feet in the air they twisted around each other like a thick braid. On the ground between the two trunks, several thick roots rose from the earth, creating a sheltered cave of sorts. This distinctive spot — known only to the Tin Can Society — is where they stored their treasury of cans. It was also where they had decided to store the film canister until they could call Mr. Finchley from NASA to come over and get it.

Once the canister had been placed in the vault, Dominic instructed Ham and Phillip to take the first watch, standing by the lair for three hours until they were relieved by two others. By then it would be bedtime, and they’d have to call off the watch until the morning. Everyone shook hands to congratulate themselves again on their successful mission, and then Dominic and Debbie left to collect Rodney and Throttle and head to Dominic’s house to call Mister Finchley.

Unbeknownst to the Tin Can Society, however, the entire proceedings had been carefully watched by two kids with binoculars.

Eddie, the boss of the Radio Boys, and one of his henchmen had sneaked past the Tin Can Society’s picket at the edge of the forest and intercepted the group at the twin elm trees. Fascinated, they had watched from a safe distance — too far to hear anything — as the Tin Can Society deposited what they had called a big haul of cans.

Eddie smiled, then lowered his binoculars. “Now that we know where their stash is, we can come back and take it.”

“But they left two guards,” the other fellow whispered.

Eddie smacked the back of the other fellow’s head. “We come back super-early in the morning before they get out of bed, dumbbell. Everybody shows up with duffel bags, and then we’ll clean the place out. Come on,” Eddie gestured, and the two boys slithered away unseen.

* * *

When Dominic and Debbie arrived back at home, Dominic immediately picked up the telephone and dialed the number that Mr. Finchley had given him.

“Good afternoon, this is Robert Finchley,” the voice on the other end said.

“Hi, Mister Finchley. It’s Dominic Belanger.”

“Hi, Dominic. How are you?”

“Fine, sir.”

“Did you find the item?”

“Yes, sir, we did.” Dominic was surprised to hear a strange clicking sound on the line, like a loud ticking clock. He almost mentioned it, but he decided that it was probably just static.

“Excellent. Good work, son. We’ll meet you at the park tomorrow morning at 8. How does that sound?”

“Very good, sir. We’ll be there. Goodbye.”


Dominic was surprised that he didn’t feel more excited. There was something about that clicking sound on the telephone line that worried him.

* * *

Shortly after sunrise the next morning, a team of Eddie’s most trusted lieutenants met at his house carrying duffel bags and Army surplus backpacks — everything they would need to cart away the Tin Can Society’s entire treasury from under their noses. Quietly, they mounted their bikes and rode toward the park, dismounting at the edge of the forest and proceeding carefully lest the Tin Can Society had already sent a team of early-morning sentries or laid any booby-traps for them.

The morning sun had yet to reach this deep into the forest, which was still cool and foggy. As the Radio Boys neared the spot, they could see the distinctive twisted trunks of the twin elms piercing through the fog. “That’s the spot,” Eddie said, pointing. “Come on!”

“Wait!” one of the other boys said, tugging on Eddie’s arm to get down. “Someone’s coming!” The team crouched behind some bushes. Eddie raised his binoculars, trying to see through the haze. Sure enough, the dark gray silhouettes of two boys could be seen walking through the fog toward the twin elms.

“Guards,” Eddie whispered. “I see two of them. But . . . ” Eddie studied the two shadows through his binoculars as they approached. They walked stiffly and jerkily, rocking side to side with each step as if they had no knees. As they lurched closer, Eddie could see that their arms stuck out stiffly at an odd angle, and that their heads were oddly large — as if they were wearing half-domed helmets that connected directly to their shoulders. Eddie knew then that he wasn’t looking at members of the Tin Can Society.

“Robots!” he said, nearly dropping his binoculars.

At the sound of Eddie’s astonished voice, the two robots stopped walking, their torsos turning smoothly to face the source of the voice. One of them raised a stubby, unjointed arm in their direction. In its claw was a devide that looked like a ray gun.

“He’s got a gun!” one of the astonished kids shouted, and in unison the Radio Boys jumped up in a panic and fled the scene, many of them tossing their bags away in their haste and screaming all the way out of the forest.

* * *

Two hours later, once the summer sun had a chance to burn off the fog and begin warming up the day, the six members of the Tin Can Society convened at the baseball diamond in Stonegood Park to await the arrival of Mr. Finchley from NASA. At precisely 8 o’clock, a black sedan drove Chestnut Street and stopped. The back door opened and a man stepped out — but it wasn’t Mr. Finchley. Tall and thin, balding and wearing round black-framed spectacles, the man had on a black trenchcoat over a dark suit.

“Which one of you is Dominic Belanger?” he said as he approached.

After a moment’s hesitation, Dominic stepped forward and raised his hand. “I am. Where’s Mister Finchley?”

“Don’t worry. I work with Finchley. He can’t make it and asked me to pick up the film canister. Do you have it?”

Dominic hesitated again. Like the phone call yesterday, his instincts — which were always reliable in such matters — told him that there was something wrong. “Who are you?”

“I’m a scientist. I work for NASA. Where is the film canister?”

Dominic thought fast. “It’s in a safe place. But we’ll have to go get it. You have to wait here.” The man was about to protest, but Dominic added, “That was Mister Finchley’s plan.”

The man nodded. “Very well. You go get it, I’ll wait here.”

“Rodney, Throttle, come with me,” Dominic said. “Throttle, grab your tools.” The three of them disappeared into the woods.

Several minutes later, the three of them returned carrying the singed metal canister. The scientist’s eyes sparkled at the sight of it.

“Here it is,” Dominic said, handing it over.

“Very good,” said the scientist. “Your country thanks you for your service.” He immediately turned and started heading back to his car.

“Be sure to say hi to Mister Finchley for us,” Dominic called after him.

“Sure, I’ll do that,” the scientist said as he got into the car, which immediately sped away.

“That was strange,” said Phillip as they watched the car crest Chestnut Street and disappear over the hill. Everyone nodded. With their biggest and most important mission now completed, the Tin Can Society should have felt excited and happy; instead they were glum and nervous. Finally, Debbie spoke.

“Dominic, I’m not sure you should have given him the film canister.”

Dominic, to her surprise, smiled. He looked at Throttle and Rodney, who were also smiling.

Throttle lifted the visor on his giant helmet. “You’re right,” he said, pointing with the screwdriver he was still holding in his right hand to his toolbag. Rodney bent down and reached into the bag. He pulled out a reel of film.

“We gave him the canister just like he asked for,” said Dominic. Everyone descended upon Dominic at once, slapping his back and hugging his shoulders, cheering at their leader’s brilliance.

Dominic quieted them down. “I had a feeling something was wrong when I called Mister Finchley yesterday. I think the call was bugged, which is how that scientist guy knew we were here. Somehow, he was able to prevent Mister Finchley from getting here, which probably means there’s more than one person involved.” The members of the Tin Can Society looked at each other nervously. “That means now we have to find Mister Finchley before that scientist fellow discovers that the film is missing and he comes looking for us,” he said. “We don’t have much time.”

* * *

Will the Tin Can Society be able to find Mister Finchley before the film falls into the hands of the mysterious scientist? What is the source of the strange robots that the Radio Boys saw in the woods? The mysteries continue in the next exciting episode of The Tin Can Society!

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TCS Part 2: The Eye in the Sky

Dominic led the Tin Can Society deeper into the woods in the direction indicated by the gruff Army sergeant and the men from NASA. As they crested a hill, they saw ahead of them a small knot of soldiers standing in a circle around what looked like a flattened oil drum.

As they got closer, the two black-suited NASA men jogged on ahead to get a better look at the object; the soldiers standing around it parted as they approached. The NASA men knelt next to the object to examine it more closely.

“Yep, that’s from the Halo, alright.”

“Fuel tank.”

“Is it safe?” called the sergeant who was escorting the Tin Can Society. “Should I keep the kids back?”

“No, it’s safe,” the lead NASA man said, waving them on. “Come over here and take a look.” The six children sprinted over to see. “That came straight from outer space,” said the taller of the two men as he stood. “It’s the fuel tank from a satellite.” They could see that not only was the object dented from its hard landing, but that it was also charred and blackened by the heat of reentry through the atmosphere.

“Wow!” “Cool!” “Neat-o!”

Throttle lifted the visor on his oversize space helmet and looked at the fellow from NASA. “Are you an astronaut?”

The man chuckled. “No, son. My friend and I here just build rockets.”

“Cool! Can you help us build our rocket?”

“Maybe you’d like to come help us build ours instead,” the man said, patting Throttle on the shoulder and causing his helmet’s visor to fall.

“Yes sir!” came Throttle’s muffled reply as he saluted smartly.

The man chuckled again and turned to Dominic, who, as the oldest and tallest member of the Tin Can Society, looked like the natural leader of the group. The man stuck out his hand. “The name’s Robert Finchley. I’m from NASA’s Office of Satellite Systems.”

Dominic shook Finchley’s hand. “I’m Dominic Belanger. And this is the Tin Can Society.” Dominic introduced each member in turn, and Finchley shook each of their hands. “It’s a pleasure to meet you all. We could really use your help. Come over here.” They stepped away from the fuel tank as the soldiers prepared to pick it up and carry it to one of the trucks out on Chestnut Street.

The six members of the Tin Can Society gathered eagerly around Finchley. “What I’m about to tell you is top secret. You have to swear that you won’t tell anyone. Okay?” Each one of them crossed their hearts.

“The Tin Can Society can keep a secret,” said Dominic solemnly.

“Good. The satellite was called Halo. It’s a very secret kind of satellite that’s designed to take high-resolution photographs of the Earth from space.”

“Like an eye in the sky!” Ham piped up before the others shushed him.

“Exactly. And when the satellite is done taking pictures, it ejects the film canister which then reenters the atmosphere and opens a parachute. A special airplane snags the canister’s parachute cables and hauls it on board. But in this case, the Halo suffered a malfunction after it was finished taking pictures of … well, let’s just say another country. Instead of the film canister separating like it was supposed to, the entire satellite reentered and broke up. Our best estimates indicate that most of the debris — probably including the film canister — came down in the vicinity of Stratton. We need to find that canister before anyone else does. I don’t have enough people to comb the area, and since you kids know the area better than we do…”

“You can count on us,” Dominic said, pushing out his chest with pride. “We have a lot of practice searching for missing rockets. Ours go missing all the time.” He nudged Phillip playfully in the ribs. “We have walkie-talkies and bikes.”

“Great!” said Finchley. “Sergeant?” Finchley gestured the sergeant over, who handed Finchley a map. Finchley knelt down and spread the map on the ground. The Tin Can Society sat down around the map, studying it carefully along with the NASA engineer, who took a pen out of his blazer pocket and pointed to the map with it. “Okay, here’s where I want you to start looking,” he said.

* * *

The next morning, carrying their trusty Radio Hut “Space Cadet” walkie-talkies and hand-drawn maps based on Finchley’s instructions, the six members of the Tin Can Society mounted their bikes and sallied forth to search their assigned areas. The morning was pleasant and sunny, a typical summer day in central Connecticut, and perfect for a scouting mission of such importance.

They rode around the neighborhood peering over walls and into yards. They waved to their neighbors and asked them if they had seen any mysterious metal boxes suddenly appear (none had). Ham risked getting caught by Gruffley the groundskeeper in order to search the schoolyard, but found nothing. Dominic made his way slowly down the steep hill on Gloster Street, but fortunately his bike’s new brakes were up to the task. Behind the Post Office, Throttle spotted something that he thought might be the missing satellite film canister, but it turned out to be an empty paint can. One by one they reported their progress via walkie-talkie, and with a pencil Dominic marked each spot off his master map. As the number of X’s began to grow, Dominic found himself beginning to doubt that the missing canister had landed in the town after all.

Debbie was having the worst luck of all. Halfway through her rounds, her front tire sprang a slow leak. She rode the bike for as long as she could, but when the tire finally went completely flat she had to dismount and walk it. She was more than halfway through her assigned territory, though, so she figured that she wouldn’t be done too much later than everyone else.

The next territory on her list was the empty lot behind the service station on the corner of West Maple Street. As she turned down the street, she saw Mister Hradecky, the owner, working on a car in the service bay. They waved to each other, and Mister Hradecky stopped working to come outside, wiping his hands on a rag. “Good morning, Miss Belanger,” he said in his thick accent, which people always imagined what a noble European king or ambassador would sound like. “What brings you out this way?”

“I’m on a secret mission for the Tin Can Society,” she said. “But my tire’s flat.” She pointed to the bike.

“O-ho, no problem, young lady. I can fix that up for you right now, if you have a few minutes.”

“Really? Thanks so much, Mister Hradecky!” She wheeled the bike into the shop, and Mister Hradecky took over in his usual efficient manner. He whistled a tune while he worked, which meant that he was completely absorbed in his task, so Debbie wandered outside and began looking around the lot. After all, while she was here she might as well continue searching.

Nothing was amiss until she peered behind the abandoned parts car at the far corner of the lot. Its hood was up, which blocked her view behind it, but when she went around the car she saw a strange metallic shape. At first she thought it might be a piece of the engine or transmission from the car (Mister Hradecky always kept two or three old cars around to raid for parts), but as she turned it over she saw the same kind of scorch marks that she had seen on the fuel tank in the park.

Excitedly, she slipped her walkie-talkie out of her purse and extended the antenna to its full length. She turned on the walkie-talkie and pressed the red “talk” button, trying to keep her excitement from causing her to forget the strict radio secrecy protocols that they had developed.

“Unit Four to Unit One,” she said, her voice quivering. “Come in, Unit One.”

A few moments later, Dominic’s voice crackled through the tiny round speaker. “Unit One here. Go ahead, Unit Four.”

“I have found a big hoard of cans. Repeat, I have found a big hoard of cans. Behind Mister Hradecky’s service station.”

Debbie listened to the shushing static for what felt like forever. “Roger, Unit One,” Dominic replied. “Status?”

“The cans look like they are in good shape, but there are too many of them for me to carry.”

“Affirmative, Unit Four. This is Unit One to all units,” Dominic said. “Proceed to location to assist Unit Four. Immediately.”

“Roger Wilco,” each of the other Tin Can Society members called in turn. They obeyed their radio protocols, resisting the urge to cheer in delight and ask her all kinds of questions. Debbie could detect the excitement in each one of their voices. Soon, they would all be able to see the film canister from outer space for themselves. Thanks to Debbie, the Tin Can Society’s latest mission was a complete success!

* * *

Or so it seemed to the stalwart Tin Can Society. For unknown to them, another group of youths had been eavesdropping on their communications, monitoring their progress across town with the help of a walkie-talkie base station located on a desk in the bedroom of their leader. Plastic airplanes dangled on strings from the bedroom ceiling, and several large fabric-covered radio-controlled airplanes leaned against the walls.

The orange-haired boy sitting at the desk operating the controls turned and faced the seven other boys sitting on the bed or standing around the desk. “So that’s what this is all about,” he said. “The Tin Can Society is on a mission to collect more cans for their little rocket project.” He uttered those last words with a sneer, wrinkling his freckled nose in contempt.

“Let’s go get ’em, Eddie!” one of the boys said excitedly. “It’s time we showed those punks that the Radio Boys are he best club. Radio controlled airplanes are way better than rockets.” Several other boys cheered lustily in affirmation of the sentiment.

Eddie, the leader, raised his hands to quiet them down. “Wait, I have a better idea. If we follow them back from Hradecky’s place, they’ll lead us right to their stash. Then we’ll finally know where they store their can collection. We can come back later and steal the whole thing. Then no more rockets, and no more Tin Can Society!” Everyone cheered.

“Gentlemen, to your bikes!” The Radio Boys — the sworn enemies of the Tin Can Society — surged out of Eddie’s bedroom and onto the front lawn where their bikes were lined up.

* * *

Back at Mister Hradecky’s service station, the Tin Can Society had congregated to view the amazing object. By then, Mister Hradecky had finished repairing Debbie’s bike and wheeled it out to her when he saw the group gathered around the back corner of his lot.

“Holy smokes,” he said, wiping his hands. “What do you suppose that is, eh?”

“It’s a secret,” said Dominic. “We are on a mission to find it. NASA sent us.”

“Well, whatever it is, it’s not from one of my cars.” He waved his rag at it. “You kids are welcome to it if you want it. Just be careful not to cut yourselves!”

“How are we going to get it back?” asked Phillip. “It’s too big to carry on a bike.”

“You can borrow one of my hand trucks,” said Mister Hradecky. “Just be sure to bring it back before I close today, okay?”

“Promise!” said Dominic. Mister Hradecky turned to retrieve the hand truck from the service station when Dominic spoke again. “And do you think you might be able to spare a blanket or a tarp too? To, um, protect it from the weather.” As if in rebuke, at that precise moment several chirping birds flew by. But Dominic and the rest of the Tin Can Society were wearing their most convincing expressions of innocence.

“Sure,” Mister Hradecky said after a moment, then headed back to the building, shaking his head in confusion.

* * *

The Tin Can Society made quite a sight walking across Stratton, dismounted from their bikes and walking alongside a dolly carrying a large object under a oil-stained blue tarp. But unknown to them, their solemn procession was shadowed the whole way by the Radio Boys, who managed to keep out of sight always one or two blocks behind.

“Where do you suppose they’re going?”

“To their treasure trove, of course,” said Eddie. “Then all we’ll have to do is wait.”

Stealthily, the Radio Boys advanced to the next alleyway, never losing sight of their quarry.

* * *

Will the Radio Boys’ plan succeed? Will their raid on the Tin Can Society’s secret treasury net them the ultimate prize — the secret satellite’s film reel — before it can be safely returned to NASA? Find out in the next exciting installment of The Tin Can Society!

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TCS Part 1: Meet the Tin Can Society

Typically on late summer afternoons, Wilson Street in Stratton, Connecticut is quiet and still. It’s lined on both sides by solid two-story homes fronted by plain but well-tended lawns; since it doesn’t run to Main or Center Streets, the only car traffic is local. Most of the men are on the day shift at Queensbury Precision Machine and Tool, and the housewives have finished their shopping and are back home preparing dinner and watching their soap operas.

This afternoon, however, hours of relative silence were suddenly broken by the barking of a dog from someone’s backyard. The sound grew louder and sharper as the source of the noise, a big Golden Retriever, bounded eagerly over a side fence and ran up the sidewalk. The dog ran in the direction of two boys who were walking down the sidewalk toward him. One of the boys bent down and spread his arms wide in welcome. The dog let out a yelp of joy and picked up speed.

The boy reached down and picked up a stick, then whistled. As the dog approached, he stopped in front of the boys, eagerly waving his tail. The boy waved the stick in time with the dog’s tail. “Go get it, Rex!” The boy threw the stick and the dog took off across the street, making a bounding leap over a hedge.

“He never brings it back,” the boy confided to his taller companion with a shrug, and they continued walking.

The taller boy reached into the cavernous Army knapsack he had been carrying over one shoulder. “I found six cans this morning,” he said, pulling out a choice sample of an empty tin can. “And they all had lids too.”

The shorter boy whistled again, this time low and appreciatively. “Way better than me. I lost my best source. Mrs. Gabinsky stopped eating beans because her doctor said they were bad for her. So now I need to find another treasure trove.”

“That’s too bad,” the boy with the knapsack said. “Say, what time is it?”

The shorter boy made a show of pulling out a silver pocket watch from the front pocket of his shorts and opening the lid. The other boy rolled his eyes. “You carry a pocket watch even when you’re not dressed up?”

“Naturally,” he said disdainfully as he snapped the lid shut and slid it back into his pocket. “It’s quarter to three. We have plenty of time before the launch. But why are we watching it at Dominic and Debbie’s? We usually go to Throttle’s. His TV set is bigger.”

“Dominic and Debbie’s parents got a color TV last week.” The eyes of the boy with the pocket watch grew wide, and he whistled again. “They’re the first ones on the block. Maybe even the first in Stratton.”

“That’s a much better way to watch a Gemini launch,” he said. Both boys nodded.

* * *

The two boys crossed the yard of a red-and-white house at the end of the block. The screen door was unlocked, and they walked inside. “We’re here!”

“Hi, Ham. Hi, Rod. We’re in the living room.”

The two boys ambled inside, past the polished wooden bannister and into the carpeted living room. Three boys and a girl were already inside, seated on the floor in an arc in front of the TV. One of the boys wore a space helmet that was several sizes too large, with the visor pulled down over the front. The screen showed a live shot of a Gemini rocket as it stood poised on its launch pad. A news announcer could be heard in the background intoning facts and figures about the upcoming flight.

The oldest boy stood up. “Right. Now that you guys are here, we can have a quick meeting.” He reached down to the TV set to turn the volume down, and then he rapped his knuckles on top of the set. “I hereby call this abbreviated meeting of the Tin Can Society to order. Dominic Belanger, president, presiding. All members are in attendance. The members will take turns reporting on their recent collections. Our new secretary, Debbie Belanger, will record the numbers.”

On the couch, the girl — Dominic’s twin sister — picked up a battered school notebook and a pencil, ready to write down their reports.

Ham, the tall boy with the knapsack, raised his bag. “I have six here, and another ten at home.”

Rod, the boy with the pocket watch, shook his head. “Only three this week.”

“Throttle, how about you?”

The boy wearing the wobbly space helmet flipped his visor up. “Five cans,” he said, his voice muffled by the cavernous helmet. Then he quickly snapped the visor back down.

“Phillip? How did the Tin Can Society’s chief engineer do this week?”

“Five cans,” Philip responded. “And guess what? Two of them were coffee cans. Perfect combustion chambers for our Mark Two design. We just need one more.”

“I found some old spark plugs that we can use for fuel igniters,” added Throttle.

“Great,” said Dominic. “And how about you, Rod?”

Rod cleared his throat dramatically. “I’m pleased to report that I have become, shall we say, friends with Elise Grimwald on West Street. As you know, the Grimwalds own the grocery store over on Third. I’ve explained our need for tin cans to build rockets for exploring space, and Elise has promised that she’ll talk to her father about letting us take their canned foods when they expire, rather than throwing them out.”

Everyone cheered and clapped. Rod stood up and bowed with a fourish.

“Congratulations, Rod,” Dominic said, turning to his sister on the couch. “Debbie, as the newest full member of the Tin Can Society, you’re not expected to have collected any cans yet, but if you have anything to report . . .”

Debbie held up her left hand, fingers splayed. “Five cans.”

Rod whistled, and everyone clapped again. “Congratulations, Debbie. That’s a full month’s quota at your very first meeting! You’re the first member of the Tin Can Society to accomplish that feat.” Debbie beamed.

“Right,” Dominic continued. “You know the rules. Give your cans to Throttle, and give your lids to Debbie. And make sure you write your names on the lids so we can keep track of everybody’s counts. And remember: the lids are our treasury. We must guard them with our lives and our sacred honor.” Dominic crossed his heart with great solemnity, and everyone else followed suit.

“The Tin Can Society forever!” they shouted in unison.

Suddenly, Debbie pointed to the TV excitedly. “I think something’s happening!”

“I hereby adjourn this meeting of the Tin Can Society!” said Dominic as he sat down in front of the TV to watch. The final countdown was just beginning, and at zero a cloud of white smoke emerged from the base of the silver pencil-like rocket. As the Gemini spacecraft took off, it climbed a trail of flame as the Tin Can Society cheered its progress.

As the rocket climbed higher and quickly shrank to a dot arcing out over the Atlantic, Throttle leaned over to Rod and said with conviction, “Pretty soon that’s going to be us, you know.” Rod nodded with excitement, his eyes glued to the TV screen.

* * *

After the Gemini launch, the members of the Tin Can Society clambered down the back porch steps of the Belanger house and trooped across their neighbors’ backyards to Stonegood Park, where they would work off their excitement pretending the swings were space capsules and the slides were splashdowns. Stonegood Park’s baseball diamond is also where they launched their ever-bigger model rockets. They called these outings their training sessions, because they were part of the Tin Can Society’s grand plans to eventually build a full-scale rocket that would carry them into orbit just like the astronauts.

They had just organized an expedition to explore the thicket of trees at the park’s far end (to learn survival techniques should they ever be stranded on a hostile alien world) when they heard the sound of heavy trucks driving down Chestnut Street alongside the park. Then they heard squealing brakes and men shouting. They stopped their mission to see if they could spot anything through the trees.

“Fan out! Cover the park! Second squad, secure the trees!”

“They’re after us!” said Ham. “I didn’t steal those fuel pumps! I swear! They were just lying there.”

“Come on!” said Dominic. The six members of the TIn Can Society ran to a crop of boulders and crouched behind them together. Throttle snapped his helmet’s visor down and squeezed his eyes shut.

Through the trees, Phillip could see one of the trucks. In front of the truck, though, was a long black sedan with a familiar bright blue circular logo on the door. A red “V” slashed through the circle, with four blocky letters in white: “NASA.”

Phillip pointed. “They’re from NASA! What’s NASA doing here?” he whispered.

Suddenly, they saw several men in green Army uniforms and carrying sinister black rifles trudging through the woods in their general direction. They were followed by two men in business suits, who seemed unfazed by the hubbub.

“Over here!” a voice from deeper in the trees called. “We found it!”

“Don’t touch it!” one of the men in suits called back. “It could be radioactive!”

The members of the Tin Can Society looked at one another in surprise and puzzlement.

“Freeze!” shouted a voice behind them, and the six scared kids turned at once to look. A young soldier had his rifle trained on them. The soldier was as pale as they were, and looked just as scared. “Sarge! Over here! Kids!”

A burly soldier with rolled-up sleeves came over to see, then took his helmet off and scratched his buzz-cut gray hair. “Kids, huh? I don’t suppose you saw anything unusual here, did you?”

“No, sir,” Dominic was finally able to squeak out. “Nothing. We’re just playing.”

“Well, you’d better come with us. You could be in danger here.” He looked at the soldier standing behind the knot of kids. “Smith!” he barked. “Put your rifle away.”

The members of the Tin Can Society warily stood up. “What’s happening?” Dominic asked the sergeant.

“It seems that your park has just had a visit from outer space,” the sergeant said, replacing his helmet. “Come on, maybe you can help.”

The six friends looked at each other in surprise, excitement suddenly replacing their fear. Outer space?

Together, the Tin Can Society scrambled to follow the sergeant into the woods.

* * *

What will the Tin Can Society find deep in the woods of Stonegood Park? Find out when their first adventure continues!

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