Planet of Wishes
Chapter Three - K’rthk’rnkl
A few days later, Penny Robinson stared through the observation window of the spacecraft at the lush landscape before her. Her emotions kept banging together in her mind, some happy and some fearful, and she wished she knew why. Ever since the Jupiter II had entered this solar system, she has been dealing with feelings of anxiety, mixed with feelings of absolute and unexplainable joy. And the scene before her was exactly the same one that Penny had seen in her dreams every night since they had entered this solar system.
The last time she had seen dream/visions like this was when her dad had been presumed dead, and for many nights up until the day he had returned, she had seen him in her mind. Dad’s Ugorrim friend had attributed the visions to a sort of heightened para-normal ability. The term both frightened and exhilarated her, and she shivered slightly in anticipation at what might lay in store for her on this new planet.
"Penny Robinson, do I need to adjust the temperature control on the control deck, or are you feeling ill?" the Robinson’s robot intoned.
"No, thank you, Robot," she told him, still staring out the window. "I’m fine. Just a little anxious at arriving on another unknown planet."
"My sensors detect no intelligent lifeforms in a ten kilometer radius. Nor are there any life forms of any size nearby, either."
"Yes, I know, Don told me," she answered, finally turning away from the greenery, (or rather blue-greenery) and looking around at the familiar surroundings of the space ship that had been home for most of the past three years. Her mouth twitched in distaste. She couldn’t fault the craft that had protected them all this time, but she could certainly feel heartily sick of it. Turning back to the lushness that beckoned outside, her feelings of anxiety melted away in anticipation of fresh air and sunshine and wide-open spaces.
"Tell Mom and Dad I am going exploring near the ship," Penny told the Robot.
"Explore while we gather what we need to replenish the replicator," the girl’s mother told her amiably. "It would be much better to do the things that are necessary and then take some time for pleasure."
That was another thing that had bothered her lately; there was no privacy on a ship the size of the Jupiter II. "But, Mom, we always take off right after we do what needs to be done, or else something dangerous forces us to leave," Penny grumbled. "Just for a little while? Please, Mom?" She felt there was a great need to be away from the ship and in the forest, exploring.
"Penny," her mother told her gently, "Let’s compromise. We’ll take a few hours to do what has to be done, and then you can have the afternoon to yourself."
Although that wasn’t exactly what Penny wanted, she realized that her mom was being very generous, and she knew, with a twinge of guilt, that while she was off looking around, the rest would most likely continue working. "Thanks, Mom," she said, giving her mother a hug. "I’ll start now."
After finding out from the robot the best plant materials to harvest, she gathered until mid-afternoon when she saw her parents taking a rest break. "I won’t go far. And I’ll be back by dark," Penny called out as she started down a faint trail leading away from the ship. Her parents’ call to be careful floated after her as the forest swallowed her up.
Penny felt a great release of tension and a build up of happiness. Eyes shining, she examined flowers, trees, and bushes. Delicate, gossamer winged animals flew languidly by, and her bright eyes followed the movement of the creatures as they bobbed up and down on the faint currents of air. Their bodies resembled tiny lizards, the scales iridescent and bright in the afternoon sunshine that filtered through the leaves of the trees.
With a slight thrill, Penny realized that these tiny creatures slightly resembled dragons of Earth tales. The tiny golden eyes gleamed, and one by one, the little animals gathered around her as though curious about this huge creature that had invaded their domain. Soon Penny felt as though she had a sparkling cloud floating around her head, and she laughed softly. Holding out her hands and standing very still, she waited to see what the tiny dragonettes would do. After hovering around her for several more minutes, two of the creatures finally drew closer to her outstretched fingers. A sea green one delicately lit on her finger and then settled in the palm of her hand. The second one, a golden yellow one, landed on her other hand.
Their tiny legs tickled, and it was all Penny could do to keep from giggling. Another one landed on her thumb, and two more vied for a spot on the fingers of her right hand. Their presence was soothing, and she found all of the tensions of weeks of travel in an enclosed space ship draining away. Without thinking, she began humming a bright tune she had learned some years earlier. Simultaneously, a dozen tiny heads turned and two dozen shiny eyes looked into hers. Then, to her surprise, the creatures started rocking in time to the humming. Taking a chance, Penny began singing softly. With squeaks of pleasure, her new friends flew up into the air, circling and then landing on her hands, shoulders and head.
Now she did giggle and slowly started down the path she was traveling when she had come across the little flutter-dragons. Most of them hung on tighter and though squeaking at the change of venue, nevertheless stayed with her. Penny walked a bit faster, feeling a need to do so. Six of the diminutive animals clung tightly to her as she continued on the course that almost seemed predetermined. Most of the rest flew along beside, above, or behind her.
Watching his daughter’s receding back, John continued to stare in bemusement at the incredible sight he had just witnessed. One of the tiny flying lizard creatures was hovering just one foot in front of his face, and he stood statue still as Penny had done. He, too, held his hand out, waiting to see what would happen. Fluttering around him, the silvery animal circled his head twice and lightly touched down on one finger. Almost immediately it wheeled back up into the air, squeaked sharply and flew in the direction that Penny had taken.
John noticed that while the closest Earth resemblance was that of a lizard with wings, the small animal had no mouth, such as most vertebrates had. Instead it seemed to have an appendage most suitable for extracting nectar from the various flowers he had seen growing profusely in the area. Relieved, John realized that at least Penny wouldn’t be bitten by the tiny creatures, although laughing inwardly, he felt that they wouldn’t bite her anyway. The squeaking, he figured, must have come from the movement of its legs or respiratory organs.
Shrugging, John decided to continue following a bit, just to make sure that Penny would be safe. Although all of the surveys had designated this to be a relatively flora free planet, and nothing had shown up that even remotely resembled anything dangerous, John was not unmindful of the readings that had been taken on the last planet they had visited. The Ugorrim planet was anything but uninhabited and had been much more dangerous than any of the planetary surveys had indicated.
While wanting his daughter to have fun and feel freedom from the confines of the Jupiter II, John certainly wasn’t going to assume from the statistics that there were no dangers out here. On Earth, if he had followed his teen-age daughter around, he would have been accused of being paranoid, but here in unknown corners of the galaxy, he had learned the hard way, that this kind of paranoia was more on the order of prudence.
Using the skills he had been taught by the Rylorr, John silently slipped down the faintly marked trail that Penny had taken. What puzzled him the most, was that his daughter didn’t seem to be aimlessly wandering and exploring, but seemed to be walking with a purpose. And John remembered the little bits and pieces of unusual behavior that she had exhibited since they had found this solar system several days ago, wondering if it was another manifestation of the para-normal abilities that Rrangruk had hinted at.
Penny continued down the path until it came to a hillside, almost steep enough to be considered a mountain. Looking up, she decided that climbing was something she was unwilling to do at the moment. But somewhere amongst these rocks was what had been ‘calling’ to her. A couple of the flutter-dragons extricated themselves from her hair and wandered around the base of the hill. Small bushes and stunted trees dotted the hillside; their roots entrenched tightly between the boulders. All of the flutter-dragons congregated near one particularly large boulder, squeaking furiously at her.
Going to investigate, Penny found a small cavity behind the boulder and squeezed herself into it to find out what had so agitated her tiny friends. The cavity opened up into a small cave, and Penny hesitated for a few minutes. It was extremely dark, but a slight glow ahead of her indicated a light source beyond. The flutter-dragons’ squeaking echoed in the cave, and the animals hovered at the end of the narrow cavern. Although the surveys had indicated no sentient life forms in the area, Penny couldn’t shake the idea that the flutter-dragons were trying to lead her somewhere.
Taking a deep breath, she followed the glowing-eyed creatures into the cavern, and feeling the walls for added security, she slowly shuffled along until she went through another narrowed area into a large cave. Penny’s eyes widened in amazement at the sight before her. Obviously created by sentient creatures, this cave was an Aladdin-like wonder filled with artifacts that were both beautiful to the eye and delightful to the hand. Walking around in awe at the overwhelming splendor, the girl wondered what purpose there was to keeping all of these marvels hidden in a cave.
Stooping down, Penny fingered a beautiful cup of what appeared to be fine crystal with delicate etchings on the side. Several bracelets caught her eye, but she didn’t touch those, although the thought occurred to her that Judy might like one. Beyond the dishes and jewelry, there were artifacts that she could not begin to imagine the purpose of. Things that looked like balls with decorations on them, knife handles without the blades, cubes of various sizes, disks of swirling colors. A small cube of slightly fluorescent bluish-green caught her eye, probably because it was much plainer than the rest.
This she did pick up and examined it from all sides. For some reason, this plainer artifact almost seemed to beckon to her, and she continued to hold it while looking around the rest of the cavern. It seemed to amplify the warmth of her body and return it to her, adding to the comfort she had felt when the flutter-dragons had walked across her hands.
‘You are very astute, Penny Robinson,’ a voice came into her head. ‘This is, perhaps the best gift you could pick.’
The voice, if it had been vocal, would have probably been very soft and whispery, Penny thought. Almost as if it was very tired or weak. The girl looked around and finally saw, near the far end of the cave, in a dimly lit area, a small creature only slightly resembling the flying creatures that still hovered around her.
As she approached him, (somehow she knew the alien was male), she saw that a very light reddish-gold downy fur covered his entire body. A silky, bluish cloth was lightly draped over one shoulder and down his torso, almost toga-like. Where a mouth would have been on a human, there was an appendage that looked much like a short straw. Obviously, this creature fed on nectar or some similar fluid. Long, thin, delicate fingers lay quietly across his gaunt chest. Small, upswept, pointed ears gave the alien an almost pixie-like appearance.
The eyes, though, were the feature that most resembled the flutter-dragons: golden, glowing and kindly. An ancient sadness seemed to reside in those eyes along with those things which could be joyful. The alien’s eyes reminded her so much of her Grandpa Robinson’s eyes on the eve of their launch. He had appeared so proud of the accomplishments of his youngest son, but his eyes had held the deep sadness of loss that Penny now realized was more than just saying good-bye to a child. It was the sadness of the death of someone close. And with a jolt, she wondered how Grandpa had felt when the Jupiter II had been reported lost and out of control.
Penny stood still, waiting for the little alien to do or say something, and then realized that he had addressed her by her name. "How did you know my name, sir?" she asked, almost in a whisper.
‘I have felt your presence for several days, Penny. You and several others, but you most of all. You have the gift of sight, even though it is weak and untrained,’ he paused and closed his glowing eyes for a moment.
"Are you all right?" Penny asked, stepping a few paces closer until she was right in front of him. As he opened his eyes again, he beckoned her to sit down.
‘I am old, very old, Penny; as old as you are young.’ A fluttering, almost like a chuckle, came into her mind along with the whispery thought-words. ‘I am called K’rthk’rnkl, or was when there were those left to call me.’ Penny felt a hint of sadness with that thought, and knew that he was the only one of his kind in this area.
‘I am the last,’ came the simple thought, emotionless. ‘But it is so good to be able to communicate with someone before I go to the beyond.’
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