Planet of Wishes
Chapter Five -
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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.
|Lost in Space Fiction Pages|