Planet of Wishes
Chapter Ten Ė
A short while later, Don approached Maureen as she was checking her little garden. "Iíve been told that you have the teleportation cube."
"Yes, I do. Willís little trip frightened me enough that I didnít want the kids to be tempted to use it again."
Don nodded. "I agree, Will shouldnít have tried such a stunt alone, but Judy and I want to have a honeymoon, and we know pretty much where we want to go."
Although apprehensive about the prospect of worrying about someone else, Maureen couldnít say no to her son-in-law and oldest daughter, when her two younger children had already used the device. But there was one thing that puzzled her. "How do you know the cube will take both of you?"
"Penny seemed to feel that it would teleport two as long as both are touching the device," Don explained, hoping all the while that Penny was right.
"You two certainly have the right to a proper honeymoon," she said with a thin smile, looking over Donís shoulder.
"We will be perfectly safe, scoutís honor," Don chuckled, trying to reassure his mother-in-law. He saw the signs of maternal worry forming in the tight set of Maureenís mouth.
"Where did you kids have in mind to go? Niagra Falls or Yosemite?" John asked, having approached from behind. The little silver flutter-dragon was perched on his shoulder, squeaking happily.
"Umm. Just some place rustic. We thought we would take a sleeping bag, tent; you know, the things we need to be on our own for a few days. Enough to keep warm and fed but not too much to carry around.
"Sounds primitive. Have fun kids. Weíll hold down the fort for you," John said with a smile.
Later that evening, Don sat near the edge of the clearing watching the evening sky darken. Judy had gone to bed early in anticipation of their trip the next morning, but he was restless and wide awake. His amber colored lizard sat on his shoulder, chirping soothingly. Judyís amethyst colored one sat on his knee, looking at him curiously.
"Not that I suppose its any real business of mine, but just where do you two plan on going in the morning, Don?" John sat down on the log next to him. All three lizards rose into the deepening sky, spiraling and swirling around each other.
"Now, John, if the truth be told, it is your business, since you are the commander of this little expedition. But I didnít want to make Maureen even more anxious then she already has been in the recent past," Don explained.
John looked at him curiously. "Nowhere on Earth, I suppose?" At that moment, one of the Jupiter IIís landing lights came on, bathing the entire area in a soft white glow. The lizards squeaked testily and flew into the forest.
Don chuckled. "We do know each other well, donít we? Judy and I are going to Gamma and checking it out while we enjoy a bit of solitude. We wouldnít be able to have that on Earth."
Peering into the forest, John was silent for a few minutes. To Don it seemed as though his friend was seeing something far off. "Don, does your flutter-dragon sometimes show you what itís seeing when it flies off somewhere?" John asked him.
Don did a double take. That was definitely not what he figured John to have on his mind. "Occasionally I see flashes of scenes; Judy has mentioned that she does, too. Is that what youíre talking about?"
"More than that. Like Iím seeing out of his eyes for a few minutes at a time. Sometimes itís very engrossing. Other times itís annoying, especially if Iím trying to get something done," John sighed and looked curiously at the younger man. "I can only imagine how Penny keeps up with her four."
"Iím impressed, John," Don said and then slid into silence since he couldnít think of anything else to say. Finally he asked, "Why did you call yours Silverado? I donít think anyone else has named theirs."
"One of my favorite movies when I was younger was an old western called El Dorado. My dad and I used to watch it together occasionally. The lizard has some of the personality of the character that John Wayne played. Cocky, arrogant, and a bit of a bully, but also concerned with my welfare. Just seemed a natural name," John explained.
"And I think Penny has named a couple of hers, if not all of them." Another slight pause.
"I agree that solitude would be hard to achieve on Earth. Just be careful on Gamma. I know the probe found it to be the ideal planet for colonization, but there could be dangers that a probe wouldnít find," John said, suddenly going back to the original topic of conversation.
"I will, John. And we will have the cube. If there is more than we can handle, weíll come back," Don assured him. "You know that I would do anything to protect Judy."
"I know that."
Hand in hand, Judy and Don stood on the ridge of a high bluff overlooking a forest of unsurpassing beauty. Towering conifers swayed gently in the breeze that wafted across the heights and into the valley below them. But these pines had needles that were more golden than green, and cones that were tightly closed until the wind knocked them to the ground where they burst open, spreading tiny seeds in all directions.
"Oh, Don, this is absolutely breathtaking," Judy sighed. She leaned her head on his arm. The walk up to the top of the ridge had been strenuous, and she was a bit out of breath. The newlyweds had awakened from the teleportation in a tight embrace, at the base of a willow-like tree with bright scarlet leaves. The motes of sunlight that peeked through the hanging limbs danced and flitted across their faces. The pale golden sun was warm, and for now their parkas were tied on the back of their packs.
Judy bent down and examined the mossy growth on a boulder. It acted like a lichen and felt like it in a way, but grew longer than moss, and at the end of each blade or sprig was a tiny flowerlike burst of brilliant emerald green.
"Judy, letís go down over there," Don said, pointing at the sloping end of the ridge. An old rockslide had formed a natural path, and the pair negotiated it with comparative ease. Vines with golden-green leaves afforded handholds where the route was steep and rough, and about halfway down, when they stopped to rest, Don found broken limbs from which he made crude alpenstocks. This made the descent easier and quicker, and by mid-afternoon the newlyweds had reached the meadow they had spotted from the ridge.
A small stream flowed from the hill that had just been descended, and they decided to camp near it for the night. Don gathered dead limbs for a fire and soon had the little tent set up. A nearby log served as a bench. When the small camp had been prepared and she had the package of stew reconstituted and heating in a small pot, Judy sat down on the log and watched the sun approach the top of a distant ridge.
"You werenít lying when you said you wanted to be rustic," Judy quipped and then laughed. "You realize that youíre talking to the queen of comfort, donít you?" She leaned over and kissed him tenderly. "You also realize that I donít plan on making this a habit, do you?" She kissed him on the cheek. "And please be aware that I donít like snakes..." She kissed him on his ear, "spiders..." on his neck, "or bugs."
Before she could think of anyplace else to kiss him, Don grabbed her in a fierce embrace. "Ma cheri, I am a spider; see how my arms envelope you in my grasp." Judy squealed in delight, and both fell off the back of the log when his fingers tickled her, causing her to squirm. Laughing, they lay on the spongy grass and looked up at the amber sky of sunset, where golden clouds floated in cottony puffs.
As the sun set, the amber deepened to a dark reddish orange. Still Don and Judy lay watching the sky. "Look, Don, the first star. Do you think it could be the Sun?"
"Could be," he said simply. He felt Judy shiver slightly. "I would guess by this time that dinner is ready." He got up and then pulling Judy upright as well, went over to the now bubbling pot of stew. Pouring it into two mugs and handing her one, he said brightly, "Dinner is served, Madame." They sat holding the steaming mugs close to their faces. The temperature had dropped rapidly with the setting of the sun.
Judy handed her cup to Don and went over to the little tent where her parka lay. Slipping it on, she handed the other one to her husband. Gratefully, he pulled his on as well. Then they sipped their dinner in silence, savoring each warm swallow.
"You know, this is just like the trips to the Appalachians that I used to make back home," Don mused. "I had forgotten just how much the temperature can drop." They sat close, watching the flames of the fire that was no longer blazing, but was nevertheless throwing out a great deal of heat. "We are going to have to turn in a minute to warm our backsides," he chuckled.
"Just move closer," Judy said. Don happily acquiesced.
"Sing me a song, dear heart. You have such a lovely voice," Don said. Soon Judyís high alto floated across the meadow and then Don joined in. While Don was no Pavarotti, Judy enjoyed his baritone and felt that it blended nicely with her voice. She enjoyed playing the recorder she had brought as well. After a short while, a screeching yowl caused her to drop her instrument and gasp in surprise. Don jumped up and grabbing the flashlight from his backpack, shone it in the direction of the noise.
In a tree was a bushy-tailed monkey-like creature with inquisitive black eyes and incredibly large tufted ears. It yowled in surprise when it was caught in the glare of the light before scampering down the trunk of the tree and disappearing into the grassy meadow.
Shivering violently, Judy urged Don to come back to the log. Before doing so, he threw another limb onto the fire. Then he put his arm around Judy and held her close. Their breath swirled into the shadows and disappeared. "I can see my breath," she said incredulously. "It must be forty degrees! Move closer, Don."
Don did so, embracing her tightly. "Closer, please. Iím so cold that everything is shivering," Judy moaned. Don slid a fraction of an inch closer. He knew for sure that a dollar bill wouldnít slide between them right now. The school dance memory caused him to smile, having had the principal try to pass more dollar bills between him and his dates at high school dances then he cared to remember.
"Oh, Don, canít you move a little closer?" she wheedled. Don chuckled and got up.
"My dear, there is only one way we can get closer." Don crawled into the tent, and unzipped the sleeping bag.
"Don, you left me sitting here freezing! What do you mean, only one way to get closer?"
"Mrs. West, how long have we been married?" Don asked, laughing softly from within the tent.
"About a month," she stated tersely. Then she clamped her mouth shut, because her teeth were chattering.
"Judy, Judy, Judy," Don said in his best imitation of Cary Grant, which wasnít very good. She laughed in spite of her irritation at the cold. He backed out of the tent.
"My darling, you have been married to me for a whole month and you donít know the answer to that?"
"My brain is frozen," Judy quipped.
Don made an elaborate bow, sweeping his hand toward the tent. "The bridal suite awaits, my dear. The covers have been turned back and the lights extinguished." Don took her hand and led her to the tent. She crawled in and he followed, closing the tent flap behind him.
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