Planet of Tranquility

 

 

 

Chapter Two:

A Glimpse of Wonder

 

 

The rebreather felt almost weightless against his shoulders.  John pulled the strap of the device to fit snugly and then looked out toward the waves.  We will be back soon, Silverado,’ he told the flutter-dragons.   In amusement, he watched his grandson, Mark, try to catch each wave as it flowed across the sand.  Being too small for a scuba-like apparatus, the baby was placed into a bubble of sorts that would be tethered to either Don or Judy.   

We have to stay?’ came the silver sheened lizard’s plaintive thought.  

We are going underwater,’ John pointed out the obvious.  

We can go underwater,’ his companion answered, causing John to turn to the zanling in surprise.   

“You can?” the professor asked, continually amazed at the abilities of their friends.  The lizard squeaked an amused confirmation.  John heard Maureen’s mental laughter.  Apparently Silverado had been sharing his end of the telepathic conversation with the others.  By all means, come on, then.’  The flutter-dragons squeaked and flew intricate patterns in the warm air currents above their heads. Then the little creatures dove toward the waves, making tiny splashes as they entered the water.

Penny slipped her rebreather on with the ease of one who had gone through the procedure before.  Remembering her experience on board the ssHreana ship with the ssReelen, she was eager to experience the ssHreana homeplaces.  Holding her fins in her hand, she waited impatiently for the rest of her family to prepare themselves for their excursion underwater.

Penny, we greet you,’ a whispery, flowing voice said in her mind.  

Wees?’ Penny asked.  Is that you?’ 

‘Yes, come and experience the beginnings of our world,’ Wees invited her.

Laughing, Penny replied.  I am waiting for my family.  But I wish they would hurry.  I cannot wait to see the things you showed me before.’  Looking over her shoulder, she saw that Will, Judy and Don were almost ready, the latter working to secure the aqua bubble for Mark.  The baby just laughed at the shimmering light that refracted through the membranous surface of the bubble. 

Her parents were still near the Jupiter II working with their underwater equipment or talking, she wasn’t sure which.  For some reason, Dad had been somewhat less than enthusiastic since Weros had talked to them about going underwater.  She felt absolutely no telepathic clues.  Dad,’ she finally called.  Wees is just offshore and wants me to come in and swim with her until the rest of you are ready.  May I?’  

After a slight hesitation that to her seemed interminable, he answered, ‘Yes, Penny.  Just stay close.’  With a smile of satisfaction, she waded into the water, her fins still in her hand, and then dove into the slightly breaking swells.  Although she could still feel the tug of the waves, she was out far enough to be able to slip the fins on.  Turning slowly, she saw Wees and several of the ssReelen’s companions nearby, their tube-like bodies floating languidly below the tops of the waves, the current moving the lacy appendages in graceful movements like an underwater ballet.   

One of the ssReelen approached and then began floating through Penny’s flowing hair, delicately avoiding getting tangled in the strands.  She slowly reached her hands up and let the companions drift around them, their beaklike mouths softly nibbling her fingertips.  This was the same greeting procedure that she had followed in the ssHreana ship back on Karturm, and she waited patiently for the sea creatures to finish ‘tasting’ her.  At the same time, Penny was feeling their thoughts drift like delicate lace throughout her consciousness.  Muted colors and delicate sounds floated and swirled in and out of her thoughts.   

Turning at a leisurely pace, Penny slowly stroked the water with her fins and traveled a few more yards away from the shore.  Dolphin-like creatures flowed into her view and she almost gasped in surprise.  They were amazingly like the porpoises of Earth, only their skin color was more of an aqua gray than pure gray and they had elongated front flippers, longer by half than the flippers of their Earth cousins.   

‘Welcome, Penny,’ a low whispery voice sounded in her mind.  It was joined by others; the whole group creating a chorus of clicks and whistles.  Penny stopped, entranced.   

Hello,’ she answered.  Turning to view the entire group, she saw Judy, Don and Mark entering the water.  She hadn’t realized that she was that far from the shore.  The water’s fine, Judy.  Don.’   Judy casually waved at her as they swam away from the shore.  The baby bounced and kicked inside his bubble, but the device held steady, bobbing along on its tether.  Will followed closely behind.   

Ah, welcome to our world,’ a melodic voice said.   

Murreena!’ Penny thought joyfully.  She heard similar exclamations from other members of her family. 

We await only the arrival of your parents and then we can swim to the reception center,’ Murreena told her. 

We are coming, Murreena.’  Penny heard her father’s mental communication before she saw him enter the water. 

We worried about you when your arrival was delayed, John,’ Murreena said.

Murreena was looking intently at her dad and she sensed that there was a quick recapping of past events flowing telepathically between the two.  The flutter dragons floated along with the ssReelen and the dolphin-like creatures, (which she realized were the Shamiril), forming an underwater kaleidoscope of colors.  It amazed Penny how adaptable the little creatures were. 

Can stay underwater a long time.  Then go to the surface to breath,’ came Lucy’s bright thought. 

With everyone in the water, the entire group slowly swam toward the Upper Reaches.  As they passed the coral habitats, Penny was astonished at the myriad of plant and animal species displayed below her.  Lacy, frond-like corals reached up with transparent fingers for their microscopic dinner, with red and yellow fishes floating between them.  As they swam deeper she saw some corals with bases as large as tree trunks, and branches that looked like tree limbs.  Penny fully expected to see squirrel-like creatures dashing along the underwater limbs and almost laughed out loud when she saw what appeared to be purplish-brown slugs instead.  These slugs were not slow, however.  They were jetting along, stopping here and there very much like the squirrels on Earth would.  At the end of each ‘limb’ leaf-like protrusions completed the illusion of trees.   

Amused, mirthful laughter floated in her mind.  Your Earth trees seem to be a very apt comparison.  Please, let us see more comparisons during your visit, Penny Robinson.’ 

Penny looked toward one of the Shamiril.  Was that you?’ she asked.  

‘Yes, I am known as Klik.’  More laughter.  Actually, I am known as Kliktlikmrenthlendrkril, but visitors prefer the more simplified name.’  

‘Mmm.  So do I.  I don’t think I could remember your whole name, especially if I meet many of your people,’ she admitted, laughing along with the female Shamiril.  Suddenly Penny realized she had never learned the name of this planet.  The only appellation that her family had given it was ssHreana, but she now understood that the name only referred to Murreena’s people.  Homeplace was the only other term she had heard since they landed.

‘Like your Earth, we have used the term Homeplace as the name for our planet.  Earth does refer to the land on which you reside on your home planet, does it not?’ Klik asked.

‘Yes, it does.  Earth is a sort of generic term, although in fiction, another name that has been used is Terra.  But Terra really means the same thing, just in another language,’ Penny explained. 

ssMrillorrin is the best way to say the name of our planet.  That is the term used on most star charts.’

‘It is a very pretty name,’ Penny commented and continued looking around her in wonder.  Penny knew that if they stayed any length of time on this planet she would have to come back and explore this underwater forest at some length.  Remotely, she was intrigued with the offer of the devices that would allow them to stay underwater with more freedom.  At this point, she felt that she could explore for months and not see everything. 

Be back,’ Lucy and the other zanlings chimed.  They zipped toward the surface.  More air next time.’

The group swam slowly downward, passing tall kelp-like growths of bright greens and yellows.  The upper tips tickled her legs and Penny paused to watch the exotic fauna swimming, hunting, hiding amongst the fronds.   A creature that looked like feathers pasted on a stick slowly floated beneath her.  Several more followed behind.  A sudden tickling sensation caused her to jerk her head down where she saw tiny crustaceans nibbling at her legs.   

Penny, you’re getting left behind,’ Dad said. 

I don’t mind, Daddy,’ Penny said distractedly.  She heard a current of amusement float through her mind. 

I know the feeling, princess, but the others are quite a ways ahead.  We will stay long enough for you to explore,’ he told her.  Sighing, she reluctantly followed.  

The group continued swimming until they reached a dome-like structure, encrusted with corals, crustaceans and waving plant life.  Murreena led the way through an airlock and into a habitat the size of a small banquet room.  As each member of the family removed their rebreathers, they looked in wonder at the dome above.  The flutter-dragons burst through the airlock and shaking themselves, flew in spiral patterns around the ceiling of the structure.  The muted sunlight filtered through the spherical dome, blending with the interior lighting, creating a soothing kaleidoscope of color.  Murreena pointed to chairs scattered around the room.  They appeared to be sponge-like and Penny didn’t doubt that they were facsimiles of real aquatic life.  

“I assume that we don’t have to worry about getting the furniture wet?” John asked wryly.   

Of course, not, John,’ Murreena answered.  This is what you would term a welcoming center.  The main habitat is reachable with the rebreathers, but is a great deal further along the shelf.  This reellim will serve the purpose as a place to rest and a place for you to acclimatize to our environment.’  

“What about the Mirin grotto, Murreena?” Penny asked eagerly. 

That is not accessible by the rebreathers.  It has, until recently, only been available to those undersea dweller who are capable of handling the four hundred foot depths,’ Murreena explained. 

Until recently?’ Penny queried.

‘I believe that Weros mentioned a bio-adaptation device that would enable you to fully explore our world.  It is a recent development but has been found to be extremely safe, allowing land dwellers to ‘breath’ underwater, gathering oxygen without the need of a rebreather.  It also allows for almost instantaneous equalization of pressures from depth to depth.  This device will allow you, my friends, to fully enjoy my world,’ Murreena explained.  Her joy was palpable and all felt it. 
 
John was shrugging off the rebreather, listening to Murreena, when a vision of sharp pain seemed to explode in his brain.   He saw vivid cracklings of lightning, felt electrical energy coursing through his mind and body, and he jerked up in surprise.  It quickly passed and he was relieved that no one else had felt it, giving credence to his quick assessment that it must be only in his mind.  Confused, John listened once again to Murreena talking about the bio-adaptive device and found that he had no desire to hear it.   Pulling the rebreather back across his shoulders, he slipped out the airlock, unseen and unfelt by even the flutter-dragons.
 
“You are sure that this is absolutely safe?” Maureen asked.  She had felt the same question in Judy’s mind. 
 
Absolutely.  In fact, the baby could be fitted with one of the bio-adapters and you would only need a tether to keep him from wandering.  There would be no problem with the bubble dragging or bumping or having to be formed or dismantled each time you went through an air lock.  It is also temporary and can be easily removed once you are ready to leave.’ Murreena proceeded to explain the technology in greater detail.  Everyone was listening in rapt attention.  ‘The idea for the apparatus actually came from Krimlon and is a peaceful application of the hideous mechanisms that the Krilick peoples had devised against the telepathic peoples. Out of great misery has come a wonderful technological innovation.’ 
 
Excited about this technology that would open the ocean world to her and the family, Maureen opened her thoughts to her husband and suddenly realized that he was gone.   “Where is John?”  Then she realized that she had not felt her his thoughts since shortly after they had arrived.   Feeling Murreena’s sudden distress, Maureen felt her own quick burst of anxiety.  As she quested telepathically for John, she tried to understand what might be going on.   When Maureen felt she had, a deep horror settled into her mind.
 
‘I believe that we need to talk to your husband as soon as he has had a bit of time to himself,’ the ssHreana woman said privately. 
 
“Murreena, I think I need to talk to him now,” she said, quickly replacing the rebreather.   As the family gazed at her in confusion, Maureen exited the dome.