Chapter 55:

Campout 2

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

“That’s not right!” Fiona yelled over Gwyn’s shoulder as he spun a stick back and forth over the logs. It was pressed between his flat palms, and his bad hand prevented him from holding the stick securely enough to do anything productive.

“This works, I’m telling you!” Gwyn shouted back as he vigorously tried to get a fire to start.

“The principle may be right, but I think the way you go about it… is wrong….” Harlan calmly and quietly interjected.

Gwyn only sped up his stick spinning, but nothing seemed to change on the log.

The group had tried to brainstorm ways to start the flame, and after several failed attempts, Gwyn gave his best shot.

“Odell, can’t we just hook some loose wires to the wood and use the Ali?” Fiona asked.

Odell, who had continued working on patching their transport the whole time, took a moment to look out to the group.

“This is a delicate piece of machinery, not a lighter!” he shot back.

“Is that a no or a maybe?” Fiona asked.

“It’s a no, but I almost have this!” Gwyn responded.

Hal let out a heavy sigh, stood up from where he sat, and walked to the logs. He pushed a surprised Gwyn to the side with a simple motion and knelt in front of the logs. He grabbed in the air, and two small tools appeared as he pulled his hands out of the void.

A small flame suddenly burst to life on the assorted logs Rheba and Fiona had collected. Hal moved back from the growing blaze with a smug look on his face and tools in his hand. Little did he know that the act would solidify his expertise in starting fires. They silently agreed they would have him handle any future campfires without exchanging any words.

Hal didn’t say another word and walked away from the blaze. The tools disappeared in his hands as he sat down in front of the new fire.

“Well, I guess that did it!” Rheba happily said as she took a seat near the fire. She hunched down low so that her whole tall body could feel closer to the warmth. The others joined around the fire as well, save for Odell, who pinched one of his sixth fingers in the Ali and was shouting a series of expletives only natives to the planet would recognize.

The second sun of Resh was beginning to set, and the sky was dyed crimson. Everyone looked awkwardly at each other as no one knew what to say next.

“Should we get the tents?” Rheba finally asked after Odell had finished shouting. The sun was continuing to set.

“We have tents?” Gwyn asked.

“Yes, it was on the list of supplies,” Rheba explained as she pulled out the tablet that was handed to her by their escorts in Quenth, “it says there is a supply area in the floor where they put some of the things we need. The rations are there as well. Didn’t you wonder where the food was located?”

Rheba’s question was only answered with the sound of a stomach growling.

Hal quietly looked away from the group while placing his hand over his stomach. He was the hungriest of the group but didn’t want to say anything as it may have appeared weak.

“I will obtain sustenance,” he grumbled as he stood up. The darkness of the setting sun helped hide the slight red on his face as he walked to the Ali.

“Should I grab the tents?” Rheba yelled to Odell, who had the top half of his body inside the engine.

“Yeah, this is worse than I thought; I’ll have to finish at first light!” Odell yelled back with his voice muffled by the spot. Rheba pushed herself off the ground and walked over to Ali as well.

Hal moved aside with several rations in his arms to allow Rheba to reach in and grab the folded-up tents.

Fiona groaned.

“Is there an issue?” Gwyn asked.

“I’m not too excited to sleep in a tent,” the Aqueenian princess replied.

Harlan silently and shyly nodded in agreement as Hal and Rheba walked over.

“In Benlou, we sleep outside all the time,” Rheba remarked as she set the tents on the ground, “you should appreciate a communion with nature more often.”

“Those of us with countries in a more civilized era prefer sleeping indoors,” Harlan said too quietly for anyone but Rheba to hear. The Bentulousian warrior glared at the Zenotote scientist but settled to take a deep breath rather than start a fight.

“You don’t want to sleep outside either, right, Gwyn?” Fiona tried to plea.

“I don’t mind… unless there are monsters that attack people in the dark,” Gwyn began to frantically look around at the shadows that grew from the setting sun as he recalled many of the movies he had seen in the past.

“Why would there be monsters? Your world must have been a terrifying place,” Rheba wondered as she began to fiddle with the tent.

“Well, there was a giant beast in the arena!” Gwyn shouted.

Most unkillables live deep in the mountains. You won’t see any just roaming around here. Mem chimed within Gwyn’s head.

Harlan slid close to Gwyn.

“It’s unlikely any animals would come too close to an area that tends to be populated, much less any dangerous ones,” she quietly said to him while gesturing to the fields.

Hal silently began eating one of the Aqueenian provided rations. His pale face became distorted by the first bite, but he was hungry enough to choke it down.

He threw the remaining rations to the group so they could eat as well. Fiona was the only one who was not bothered by the flavor.

“It’s done!” Rheba said as she stood back from the first assembled tent. She picked up one of the rations from the ground and began to eat it while looking at her work. After a moment of examining the newly-built tent, Rheba slumped down in a manner that made her massive stature seem ever so lower. “There’s no way for me to fit in that,” she lamented.

Once they had finished eating, Gwyn and Fiona assisted Rheba in putting the rest of the tents together. As they completed their work, the second sun finished setting.

Odell finally walked away from Ali. He brushed off his hands and shook his head with a frown.

“That Ali sure needed some work,” Odell said with a sigh as he settled by the campfire and opened a ration.

“That bad, huh?” Gwyn asked while Odell struggled to choke down his meal.

“Aqueenians have a particular sense of taste. It gets horrible in rations,” Odell managed to say between his difficult bites.

“Odell, he was asking about the Ali,” Fiona interjected, “You were, right? she added to Gwyn.

“Yes…” Gwyn answered. He had meant the Ali, but he wasn’t about to disagree with Odell’s assessment of the ration. He decided to let it go and leaned back. A moon was beginning to rise, and stars lit up the sky, though something seemed off. “Where are the rest of the stars?” Gwyn asked as he pointed in shock to the sky.

The others looked up, but they had no concern nor worried, as Gwyn did. It was a typical sight to see in an open sky for the time of the year.

Roughly half of the sky was lit up with stars, while the other half was an empty black. The divide was not a straight line or in any manner of uniformity. The stars were dotted as randomly as they might be ordinarily, but it appeared as if some invisible boundary prevented them from going further across the sky.

“There are no stars past Resh’s suns,” Odell explained as he managed to swallow the last bite of his ration. He took a drink of water and relaxed his posture. “

“So, you see this all the time?” Gwyn asked.

“Of course not; the stars move with the seasons. Soon we will have a full sky,” Odell said. He yawned. “I am tired; I think I’ll turn in for the night.”

Fiona answered with a yawn and a nod.

The group seemed to agree that they should go to sleep, and all split up to go into individual tents. All, save for Gwyn, who was still sitting at the fire looking at the odd sky.

“Does that mean you have a time of the year where the sky is dark?” he asked Mem while roughly tapping on the Needaimus. Mem slid off Gwyn’s arm and settled next to the fire as well. It shook itself off before replying.

“Careful there, I’m delicate, you know.”

“Mem,” Gwyn replied while gesturing to the sky.

“I don’t see your interest, but yes. We have a time in the year where the moons are the only light. Now, you should get some sleep as well!”

Gwyn sighed but didn’t protest. He stood up and walked over to the last open tent. Everyone else had settled inside their tents, except for Rheba who’s legs were hanging out of the tent’s opening.

The ground was uncomfortable for him, but eventually, Gwyn drifted off into sleep.