Violet was fascinated by the jungles of the small uncharted planet they were surveying. Despite visiting many exotic planets she had never explored a true jungle. Now, they stood at the verge. The blue-green trees of the jungle towered overhead and the dark twisty paths beckoned to her, hinting at the promise of the moist green depths of the shadowy interior.
She looked up at Taranis and asked hesitantly, “Can we travel through the trees? It looks wonderful with the shadowy tracks weaving beneath the tall trees and the tangle of bright flowering vines.”
His face indicated amusement at her enthusiasm, and he checked the screen on the detector strapped over his shoulder. “The signal for the artefact comes from the interior of your jungle. So, our choice is either fly over the jungle or walk through it.”
She loved flying with him, but the enticing paths would reveal the living denizens of the planet. “Please, Taranis, I’d prefer to walk.”
He gestured for her to precede him along the track visible through the vines.
She smiled in delight and stepped forward, sparing a glance at the colorful flowers. . Bunches of bananas hung from the narrow-leaved vines. No, they were not the familiar fruit of Earth, but an oval banana-colored fruit ripening in the orange sun.
She halted just before entering the shade of the trees as a shrill cry echoed from deep within the jungle. She placed her fingers on the cold handle of the laser at her belt.
“Don’t worry, Violet! We are alert and armed.”
She nodded and strode under the drooping canopy of vines bearing bright clusters of pink and yellow flowers. The light dimmed as they marched further down the track and raindrops showered from the tree tops. Violet shivered in the gathering gloom, although her insulated suit was waterproof and kept her body at a comfortable temperature.
They continued walking through the steady drizzle. The track threaded between the wide boles of gigantic trees, their tops hidden from view. Tiny winged animals flitted across their path like pale moths with two triangular wings joined at a hairy sphere. The flowering vines gave way to other plants. Clumps of blue blades sprung from the soil and fans of white clung to purple tree trunks.
Violet looked from one side to the other as she walked, intrigued by each novelty. She relished the damp earthy scents released by the rain, and the sigh of winds gusting high above the trail. Taranis strode silently at her heels, intent upon reaching their target, the ruins from the ancient civilization.
Grey and purple mosses festooned the tree trunks as they moved further into the dank interior. A faint chittering sound became audible, and Violet looked uncertainly at her companion. He merely shrugged. They walked on, alert for any sign of danger.
The rain stopped and they saw light ahead. Shafts of sunlight struck through the upper canopy of leaves, half blinding their dark adapted vision. The trees thinned and the trail led into a brightly lit clearing. Violet circled in wide-eyed wonder, gazing at the profusion of flowers that bloomed on low shrubs around the edges of the open space. A movement caught her eye. She saw an animal hanging from a tree.
The small grey animal clung to the branch with its six legs and a long swishing tail. It had three golden eyes on a round head and its body was covered in tiny scales. Violet stretched her hand toward the animal, as she sensed its strong curiosity and mild hunger. It cocked its small head and stared at her, radiating good will.
She swung back and asked Taranis, “Please, can you fetch some bananas to feed it.”
He lifted one of his dark eyebrows in a typical mocking gesture, “Bananas from Earth? How much power do you wish me to expend on feeding monkeys?”
“No, of course not!” she said, wondering if he could really teleport fruit from a distant planet. “I meant the banana-like fruits growing at the edge of the jungle. Did you notice the yellow fruits?”
A bunch of the oval fruit appeared in his hand. He bowed theatrically and offered the bananas to her.
She grinned, “Thanks!” and stretched her arm holding out one of the alien bananas to the scaled six-legged monkey. It jumped to her feet, accepted the fruit from her hand, and leaped back to the safety of the branch. She heard it chitter, calling its friends to the feast. Five other monkeys scampered into the clearing, waving their tails high in the air. She tossed fruit to them.
Taranis watched her with a smile twitching on his lips.
The alien monkeys finished devouring the fruits and five of them scuttled into concealment of the blue-leaved trees. The remaining animal stared at the humans, blinked all three eyelids and trotted through the open space. It paused at the edge of the clearing and looked back.
“It wants us to follow,” Violet whispered.
“Are you sure?” he asked in disbelief.
“Come on!” she said and strode off in the direction of the lone monkey. It led them further, past moss-coated tree trunks and into another open space. In the middle of the area, they saw the grey stone walls of a ruin draped with vines hanging from the tall trees.
“We have found the remains of the oldest civilization in the galaxy,” Taranis breathed in awe.
“The monkey, as you aptly called it, led us here,” Violet reminded him. She had never told him of her ability to sense minds, although he might have guessed her secret. It seemed a small talent, unlike the awesome power he could command.
He swung to face her, “Violet, you are a remarkable woman! I should trust your instincts.”
She blushed at the unexpected warmth of his compliment.
He flicked his fingers and revealed a purple flower in his hand, which he offered to Violet. She accepted his gift and gazed at the five petals like a giant violet with a green center matching her eyes.
“Will you pin it in my hair?” she asked, handing him a hairpin. He turned it around as if he had never seen one. She indicated where she wanted the flower, and he clipped the violet to her dark locks.
She looked up, smiling her thanks, and reddened at his expression. He bent toward her and she slipped her arm around his neck. His kiss was the best gift of all.