Planet of Freedom
Chapter Two - More Life on an Idyllic Planet
Will found a new path and, curious, decided to follow it for a short distance. As he explored, he noticed the landscape changing, becoming more rocky and rugged. He remembered Pennyís experience, and watched the path at his feet very carefully. Soon he heard a sound that indicated a river or large stream and coming around a rocky outcropping, saw the river, shallow enough to walk across if necessary, but deep enough to accommodate water life.
Reaching into his pocket for his communicator, Will was dismayed to find that he had forgotten it back in his cabin. "Nuts," he said to himself, knowing that his folks would worry that he was gone so long. Nova, his green flutter-dragon sat on a limb above him, preening. Looking up, he wondered if he would be able to send the little lizard home with a message. "Nova," he called softly. The lizard floated down to him and sat on his hand, turning his head inquiringly.
Trying to put everything out of his mind, he thought a message to Nova. ĎGo home. Tell Dad Iím here by the river. Iíll be home soon.í The flutter-dragon squeaked a confirmation, and Will saw a quick flash of his father in his mindís eye. At least Nova understood part of the message; hopefully he would understand the rest.
Don and John were using plans pulled from the computer and parts of old equipment to make a small storage shed in the clearing near the Jupiter II. As neither were construction workers, this was a new experience, and at times a frustrating one. They had spent most of the morning and afternoon building the frame, only now getting one side up.
"I sincerely hope that the Jupiter II holds up for a long time, John, because it may take that long for us to figure out how to build a house," Don said tersely, gritting his teeth as he held the side panel against the frame for John to bolt on. "Hurry up, will you, this thingís heavy."
"Keep it steady against the frame, and maybe I can hurry," John retorted, sweat trickling in his eyes. Grabbing a towel, he took care of that problem and then tightened the bolt that would hold the panel until more could be installed. Sighing, Don eased back from the structure and grinned at their handiwork. Then he grabbed another ratchet and screwed in more bolts.
"One down and three more to go. Think weíre going to get another panel up before dark?" the pilot asked.
"If it kills us, Don," John answered with a thin smile. "I amazes me that we can fly all over the galaxy, outsmart aliens, learn other languages, rebuild the Robot, so on and so forth and we canít build a four by eight outbuilding." Then he began laughing. Don looked at him curiously. "Silverado just flashed a mental vision of the two of us, and itís not a pretty picture. Two rocket jockeys all dirty and sweaty putting a big jigsaw puzzle together."
Don laughed with him. Nova, Willís lizard, flew in and landed on Johnís right shoulder, squeaking happily. Silverado flew down from a nearby tree and joined him, the two forming a chorus.
"Will isnít in trouble, is he?" Don asked, in concern.
"No, I donít think so." He held the little lizard in his hand and stared into his golden eyes, trying to figure what he was attempting to tell him. Silverado squeaked, and John had a clear picture of Will sitting on a riverbank. "It appears that Will has found a river not too far away. But heís safe. I suppose thatís what he sent Nova back to tell me. He must have left his communicator here." John focused on a little message of his own and sent both lizards out to the river.
As the two men worked together putting up another wall of the shed, Don couldnít help but be amazed at Johnís ability to understand the lizardís communication. Jimmy was lucky to pass along a stray emotion or visual picture every once in a while.
Several weeks later, Penny was walking aimlessly through the woods on now familiar paths. During the morning, she had worked with her mother on computer programs for long range scans. They had been able to push the distance of the scans another two kilometers on the planetís surface. Mom had assured her that the distance in space would be much greater owing to the lack of atmospheric interference.
While realizing the importance of this training, Penny just wasnít able to push herself to excel today. Finally Mom had called a halt to the Ďlessoní and sent her out to get some sun. The meteorological report called for another round of spring rains, which Penny was told would give them ample opportunity to work together the next day. Grimacing at the thought, Penny called her lizards to her.
Sitting on a rock, the girl focused all of her thoughts on her four lizards. She gave instructions to each one to perform complicated aerial maneuvers. They did that for a while, executing her directions flawlessly. Then they squeaked their displeasure and began a dance in the air above that would have made a ballet dancer jealous.
Penny loved to watch them perform their maneuvers in the sky. Watching them, she was awed at the amount of communication that passed between them since her accident the previous month. Occasionally she felt rudimentary thoughts, more than just pictures and emotions. She knew that her dad had formed a tight bond with his lizard, but she didnít think it was to the extent that she and her foursome had. Pondering, Penny wondered why some members of the family had developed this talent more than others.
But as close as she was to her friends and as thrilled as she was with her new-found talent, there was still a small amount of dissatisfaction that she had been feeling lately. It was a kind of restlessness that Penny couldnít figure out a cure for. Her parents acted as though they would be happy to remain here forever, but she wasnít sure she wanted to stay here. It was as though she was missing something.
And yet, the girl almost felt panic when she thought of leaving her foursome behind. Squeaking, the quartet almost immediately dove from the sky and landed on her shoulders. They hung on to her long hair with their tiny hands and sent thoughts of separation fears into her mind. "No, my darlings, I would never leave you," she told them. "I would figure out a way to take you with me if we ever left."
The flutter-dragons settled down until all she heard was a small mental crooning. Lucy informed her that Mom had finished dinner and was calling everyone in. Smiling at the satisfied look in her friendsí eyes, she began running down the path, laughing as her lizards were bounced off. Thus began a race that always ended with the flutter-dragons as victors.
John Robinson opened one eye and lethargically considered the bobbing motion of the fishing pole propped at his feet. Even after eight months on this planet, he kept wondering what was wrong with this picture. This was the longest they had stayed anywhere since the ill-fated beginning of their voyage, except for Priplanus, but that planet wasnít nearly as pleasant or safe as this one.
And yet despite, or maybe because of, the relative safety of this idyllic planet, John found himself feeling restless, without purpose. Paradise was not all it was cracked up to be. A brief vision of a freckle-faced, red-haired thirteen-year-old boy hiding in the tree limbs above him appeared in his mindís eye.
John closed his eyes and focused on the scene, wondering what Will was up to this time. His youngest child crept out on the limb right above him, slowly and carefully, making almost no discernible noise. In his hand Will held a small seedpod, which he aimed at his head. It was a bit disconcerting seeing himself through anotherís eyes, but he was beginning to get used to it. John reached his hand out just as his son let the Ďmissileí go, catching it deftly before the pod reached its destination.
"Dad, thatís no fair," Will protested good-naturedly. "Silveradoís always tattling to you."
Laughing, John tossed the pod into the bushes and looked up at his mischievous child. "First of all, Will, I sent Silverado back to the Jupiter II several hours ago with strict instructions not to come back. So it must have been Nova this time."
Will slid down the trunk as John checked the fishing pole. The bait was gone and the hook was empty. Nova flew around the boyís head in tight circles while Will berated the tiny creature. When Will reached the ground, the flutter-dragon settled on his arm and squeaked softly, his golden eyes glowing brightly. Will laughed when Nova cocked his head to one side. John laughed with him. It was utterly impossible to be angry at the flutter-dragons because they were such charming creatures and had never shown the slightest propensity for guile or hostility.
Spreading out his gossamer wings, Nova launched himself into the slight breezes, flew above the treetops and disappeared toward the spacecraft that the humans called home.
"Sent him home, too, I gather?" John asked his son. He rebaited the hook and cast the line back in.
"Yes, sir. Probably for the same reason you sent Silverado home," Will answered with a smile.
"Surely youíre not saying that our little friends are pests, are you?" he teased his son, as he slowly began reeling the line back in.
"Of course not, Dad, but sometimes I feel Nova is right in my head, feeling everything I feel and hearing everything I think. Itís just a bit...uh, uncomfortable sometimes. You know what I mean?"
"Yes, Will, I know exactly what you mean." What John didnít tell Will was that sometimes it wasnít just Silverado whose personality rustled around in his head but the passage of thoughts from the others through their lizards. Disconcerting was the term he would use, because he figured it worked the other way, too.
"And sometimes I feel otherís thoughts, too. Not often, but sometimes. Kind of.... disconcerting," Will said hesitantly, as though trying out a new word for the first time.
John glanced at his son and was shocked to realize that Will had Ďheardí at least a little of what he was thinking. Thoughts were almost never passed directly between the various humans although he had been able to pick up Pennyís thoughts when her emotions were strong. But that usually only happened when one of the flutter-dragons was around to amplify or conduct a message. John wondered if the planet itself was having some effect on his family. Except for Penny, no one had shown the slightest propensity towards telepathy or any other para-normal talent before they had reached this planet.
A splashing in the river and a jerking at his line interrupted any further speculation. John began concentrating on landing the fish, which promised to be a big one. About the time that he reeled his in close enough to the bank to scoop it up in the net, Will had a strike on his line, one which threatened to pull the boy in. Father and son spent the next five minutes wrestling with the biggest fish that either one of them had ever seen, here or on Earth.
Before they set out for home, John and Will dressed the half dozen fish they had caught. "I believe if we start out now, weíll make it back in time for your mother to cook these tonight," he declared. Slinging the basket of fish over his shoulder, he waited for Will to gather up the rest of the equipment before they starting down the now well-established path toward the Jupiter II.
"We really did good today, didnít we?" Will asked. It wasnít two minutes before Nova and Silverado were fluttering around their heads. "I donít think they went back to the Jupiter II, Dad. They must have been waiting in the woods."
John looked askance at his friend and chuckled. "You are an unconscionable little creature," he informed the flutter-dragon in a good-natured tone. Silverado just squeaked softly, landed on his shoulder, and curled his tail around Johnís neck.
As they walked into the clearing around the space ship, John noticed in amusement that Maureen had the pans ready for fish dinner. "We have delivered, oh, mistress of culinary delights. Feast your eyes on the monster that Will pulled out of the river."
He put the basket of fish on the table and gave his wife a kiss and hug. "Where is everybody?" he asked, noting the deserted appearance of the area.
"Judy was a bit tired after helping me in the garden this morning, so Don took her to the small pool nearby. I think she was feeling a bit depressed over the loss of her figure, too," Maureen informed him.
"I seem to remember someone else having the same problem," John chuckled.
"True, but you never took me to a secluded pond to make me feel better," Maureen answered.
"Touchť, my love. But we didnít have the pastoral life style that we have right now, either. I seem to remember two young people working desperately to finish their degrees." John shook the seasonings that Maureen had previously prepared on the fish and tossed them into the now hot pans. The aroma soon permeated the air and made his mouth water. He loved pan-fried fish.
"Silverado," he said, looking into his lizardís golden eyes and concentrating. "Go let Judy and Don know that dinner is ready." The flutter-dragon squeaked. ĎDinner,í he mentally told the lizard, ĎGo tell them now.í Silverado took off into the darkening sky.
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