Planet of Wishes




Chapter Five - Telepathy  

Dr. Smith also screamed and dropped the weapon.  "Oh, dear.  Oh, dear," he moaned, wringing his hands.  

Penny ran to her dad and felt for a pulse.  To her relief, it was still strong and steady.  The weapon had not left a mark on him.  "Dad!" she cried, shaking him.  Looking up at Dr. Smith, tears brimming but unshed, she ordered, "Go get Mom and Don!"  The doctor continued moaning and wringing his hands.  "Go now.  Hurry!" she screamed.  That seemed to snap Dr. Smith out of his own misery, and he murmured 'oh, dear' one more time and then ran up the path to the Jupiter II.

Several of the flutter-dragons had flapped down and were perched on the ground next to her dad.  "I wish there was something that you could do to help," she told them softly.  The little animals gave small squeaks that seemed almost like sounds of understanding, and Penny remembered what Dad had said about sentience.  She wondered if there might possibly be something they could do in this situation.  

One lizard that had the sheen of iridescent silver made a kind of floating hop and landed on her dad's shoulder, squeaking softly and turning its head to one side.  If the situation hadn't been so serious, Penny would have found the little creature's antics amusing.  As it was, it just seemed to underscore the presence of some sort of intelligent thought.

Clearing her mind as best as she could despite the stress she was feeling, Penny tried to make the clearest picture she could of the little flutter-dragons and then of her father, trying to get across her need.  The silver one turned its head and looked at her before walking down from her dad's shoulder to his chest.  The tiny lizards swooped and danced in the air above their heads; then several more of them landed on her dad.  Stretching out their necks, they squeaked imperiously.

Penny wasn't totally sure what the result of this little exercise would be, but even she was surprised when Dad slowly stirred, yawned and blinked sleepily at the little creatures that were staring at him with their golden eyes.  "All right, already, I'm awake," he mumbled.  Struggling to a sitting position, he looked at Penny with a bemused expression.  The lizards rose into the air, calling to each other triumphantly.  "I believe they're gloating, the little brats.  Wish they'd left me alone.  Feel so tired."

"I asked them to help wake you up, Dad," Penny told him.  "I was worried about you."  

"Smith had some sort of weapon.  And he set it off."  He looked up sharply at her.  "What did he do with it?" he asked.  She pointed to the beautifully colored ball resting innocently on the ground near them.

Don ran out of the forest toward them and arrived out of breath.  "John, are you all right?" Nodding, John stiffly got to his feet.  He felt lethargic and slightly disoriented, as though he had been up too many nights.  Don held on to his arm to steady him.

Maureen ran up to him, clearly relieved to find him conscious and apparently all right despite his ordeal.  "John, are you hurt?"

"No," he said,  "In fact, I feel no aches or pains at all.  I just feel as though I have been deprived of about four nights of sleep."  Staring at the ball near his feet, he tried to reason out what had happened as best as he could, considering the sluggish state of his thinking processes.  "The perfect defensive weapon.  It only disables attackers by stripping them of their energy.  And there appear to be no firing studs; it must work on the thoughts of the one attacked."

Don carefully picked it up and handed it to John, who examined it and just as carefully handed it back. John had felt nothing but the smooth surface, no place where any kind of beam could have come from it. Leaning on the pilot, he sighed.  "Let's get back to the Jupiter II; I certainly feel like I need a nap."  Looking up at the flutter-dragons spiraling their dance in the sky, he laughed softly.  "And thank you," he said to them.  

Then he looked back at his youngest daughter.  "You said you asked them to help you?" he queried; suddenly remembering what Penny had said when he had awakened.  

 She nodded with a smile.  "You said something about sentience, and I wondered if maybe they might be able to do something to help.  So I asked them."  John just shook his head in wonder.

"Maybe they can make Smith disappear," Don quipped as they slowly made their way back up the trail.  "By the way, where did that useless piece of baggage get to?  He was right behind us when we left the Jupiter II."

"Probably hiding," John said with a short laugh.  "I suppose he figured that if I wasn't in any condition to wring his neck, then you would be."

"Or I would be," Maureen said evenly.  John stared at her in amazement.  She had been the one member of the crew who had had the most patience with their stowaway/saboteur over the past few years, but it was apparent in the face of the danger to her husband, that even her great patience was being stretched thin.

As soon as they reached the space ship, John headed for his and Maureen's cabin and within minutes was asleep.  Maureen pulled out a hand-held diagnostic and checked him over while he slept.  By all indications, it was just as John had said, a simple case of exhaustion.  She sat down next to him, and marveling at the alien technology that had incapacitated him in this non-violent way, gently touched his cheek.  

Maureen was tired, too.  But her weariness was due more to the emotional toll that the journey had taken on her lately.  She had mourned for John for almost a month not too long ago, thinking him dead, and when Dr. Smith had come into camp screaming that John had been hurt, the cold fingers of abject fear had clutched at her heart once more.

Sighing in gratitude, Maureen was filled with happiness that her husband had been spared again, but wondered how many more of these dangerous situations she could handle.  Leaning over, she kissed him tenderly.  John murmured something and smiled in his sleep.  She, too, smiled and then quietly slipped out of their cabin to get some more things done before having to start the evening meal.   

Dr. Smith didn't show up for dinner, which caused Maureen very little concern.  Afterwards, she took a plate into the cabin for John, not having had the heart to wake him for dinner.  "How long have I been asleep?" he asked, awakening at her entrance.

"Twenty years, my dear," Maureen said, grinning.  "You are Rip Van Robinson. Actually you slept about seven hours."

John laughed.  "Feel like twenty years would be perfect." Dinner was attacked with great enthusiasm and finished in short order.  "What did Don do with the ball?"  Maureen pointed to the locked cabinet recessed into one wall of their cabin.  "Good, I don't like the idea of that thing lying around for Smith to get hold of again.  In fact, Don and I need to go and seal that cave off before our resident opportunist gets the courage to go back in.  The next time we may not be so lucky.  The idiot may blow us into kingdom come," he said grimly.

A short time later, he and Don broke out two laser rifles from the arms locker and armed with flashlights, started down the ramp of the Jupiter II. The beam of Don's flashlight caught Dr. Smith squarely in the eyes as the older man was stealthily making his way into the ship.  Seeing the flash of light playing on the stocks of the rifles, he screamed and throwing up his arms, pivoted and ran back into the forest.  "Don't shoot me.  I didn't mean to do it.  I swear, I didn't mean it," he screamed.  

The two men looked at one another and then started laughing. Quickly regaining control, Don glared at the darkness where Smith had disappeared, "Serves the jerk right.  If I hadn't been so startled myself, I think I would have shot him."

That comment started John laughing again.  "As much as I enjoyed this, we need to get that cave sealed off, Don," he said, still chuckling at the memory of the look on Smith's face.

They started down the path to the cave.  Their powerful flashlights caught several nocturnal creatures rustling along the forest floor.  Most were small and very quickly disappeared when the unexpected light hit their eyes. Sounds of various life forms chirped, whistled and squeaked in the darkness.

Soon the men had reached the cave, and checking to make sure that Smith hadn't taken refuge inside, they aimed their rifles at various boulders, causing the lighter elements to fuse together into a tight bond with the surrounding rocks and boulders.   "Rest in peace, K'rthk'rnkl," John murmured when they had both determined that the cave entrance was sealed. "Hopefully those who find the cave next will have the self control and wisdom to handle what's inside."

The next several days passed in idyllic bliss.  The flutter-dragons were constantly in attendance around the space ship although none could be coaxed inside.  Whenever he was outside, John usually found the silver one close by and began to wonder what kind of bonds these little lizards formed. Penny had at least a half dozen that attended to her, and various others seemed to be attaching themselves to other members of the family.

Laughing to himself, John remembered the previous evening when he had found the newlyweds sitting under a tree just before the reddish-gold sun set majestically behind the trees.  Above their heads were two flutter-dragons, tiny tails twined, softly squeaking to one another.   

There had been a hint of annoyance at the lizards' presence initially.  It was a bit disconcerting to be working on the chariot or some other piece of equipment and look up to see a pair of golden eyes boring right into your own, but as the crew had become accustomed to their presence, John welcomed them.  It was like his mother's cat, Frodo.  A few moments in a rocking chair stroking that animal, and one's cares seemed to vanish.

"What's on your mind, dear, that is so pleasant?" Maureen asked, slipping up behind him.

"Just thinking of the therapeutic value these little flutter-dragons have had on us since we've been here.  They seem to have adopted us," he said with a smile.

"Yes, I agree, the little blue one follows me everywhere but into the ship."   She put her arm around John's waist.  Looking up, she saw the objects of their conversation dancing in tight loops around one another, chirping happily.   

"John, have you thought about the fact that this seems to be the ideal planet?"  Maureen asked quietly.  

"Are you suggesting that we stay here and stop trying to find our way back to Earth?"

 "Yes, I suppose I am.  This is the most beautiful planet we have landed on yet.  And it is, by the alien's own admission, uninhabited by intelligent life forms.  All of my surveys indicate that the weather changes only moderately, and the soil is rich," Maureen explained.

John pondered a few minutes before answering.  "We have only been here a few days, Maureen, so I can't help but feel somewhat hesitant.  Call it paranoia if you will.  But I do want to remain here for a long enough time to make sure the Jupiter II is space worthy and also to make sure we are space worthy as well," he said softly and then paused.  "And if, after that time, we both feel strongly about staying, then maybe this is our 'Alpha Centauri.' "

Maureen nodded.  She pretty much had expected an answer like that from John and felt that he had been more than fair, considering all of the unexpected dangers they had faced on planets that had checked out as safe.  "Sounds like a fair compromise."  She looked back up and saw the two lizards perched on the chariot, squeaking and nuzzling each other.

"At the very least, Maureen, I have the star charts, and we can retrace our journey if we choose to," John told her, leaning over and giving her a kiss.

"And you're right, it is a beautiful and idyllic planet."

"By the way, I heard about that lovely pond about a quarter of a kilometer north of here, with a little waterfall and large rocks to sun on. Let's go swimming.  We haven't done that since we left Earth," she said with a mischievous smile.

Grinning, John said, "How about later, Don and Judy are down there now."

"We can join them, John.  It will be fun; something different for a change," Maureen coaxed.

"The newlyweds are trying out something my granddaddy and his buddies used to do at the local pond," John quipped with a broad smile.

Maureen pondered his statement a moment, and then she blushed slightly. "They aren't!"  

"Oh, but they are," John answered and began laughing.  Maureen quickly joined him.  The flutter-dragons danced merrily in the sky above the Jupiter II.



Chapter Six
Chapter One
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