Brian W. Antoine
February 25, 1993
"Eeeeeeeeeeck! What happened to your hair, another spell detonate in your face?"
I'd just stepped into the lab and hadn't even had a chance to unload the stuff I was carrying. "Very funny. I wanted it this way and if you think it looks different now, wait a few months until it gets longer."
"Well, if you wanted to look different you sure succeeded," and Penny began to softly laugh to herself.
About this time Smaug flew out of his niche to greet me, which meant that he wanted to perch on my shoulder. He seemed to consider this his right and made sure to voice his displeasure if I didn't let him. This time he paused before landing to give me a real odd look and then settled on my shoulder where he could see what I unloading on the bench. The food I was unloading wasn't near as interesting as my hair though because after a few seconds he sat back and began playing with my hair with his front claws.
"Oh shit, not you too!" I turned my head to face him and almost dislodged him. "Look you, no back talk or it's stale crackers for dinner, understand." He just cheeped softly and sat there staring at me as I went back to unloading his dinner. When it was ready, I set it in his niche and grabbing one of my photo albums and a sandwich for myself, then sat down to enjoy my dinner.
"What you looking at?"
"Just some photos from my last vacation. Jim wants to try printing some of the slides we took and I wanted to refresh my memory before picking the ones I want to try printing." It had been a great vacation as long as you ignored the evenings. It had been beautiful during the day and it had rained every night. Since we had opted for tents, we got a little wet, but had still enjoyed ourselves. Banff had taken us from clear and dry at the entrance, to the first snowfall of the year in the middle of the park.
While I was paging through the album, Smaug finished his dinner and flew over to land on the back of the couch I was sitting on so he could look over my shoulder at the pictures. As I turned the pages he would listen to me explain about each picture and make little noises for each one. He seemed to express the most interest in the pictures that showed the glaciers or the snowfall that had dusted the landscape on our way out of the park. This gave me an idea and since I had nothing else planned for the evening, I decided to go for it. Setting the album down on the table I grabbed my jacket and signaled to Smaug to hop on my shoulder.
I'm not sure where it came from, but a nasty idea came to me the moment I heard Penny's question. "Maybe ..." I walked back the table and examined one of the pictures. It showed the landscape from one of the viewpoints along the highway that ran through the center of the park. Muttering quietly to myself, I put my idea into action.
"Lets see. They probably don't plow the viewpoints so I'll have to allow for the snow." Using the picture, I imagined what the landscape would look like if I was looking down on the viewpoint from above. "The trees will be below me, but the valley and mountains will hardly move. Yeah, that should about do it." I had the image in my mind that I needed. Getting ready, I walked over to the rack where Penny's remote sensors were stacked. In one smooth motion I reached out and slapped one, activated my flight field and using the image I'd built up I teleported.
"Tag, your it!"
I reappeared about 30 feet above the snow and immediately began to look for cover. It wouldn't take Penny long to figure out where I'd gone and the remote would be hot on my trail as soon as she could get it out of the lab. The moon was almost non-existent, so I was going to have trouble seeing the remote. Penny on the other hand was going to have little trouble spotting us unless I started doing something and fast. I figured I had maybe ten minutes before she could get the remote into the area.
Smaug had caught on to what was happening almost as I had jumped. The two of them had made a game of chasing one another and trying to outwit each other. It was time for us to split up and make the game a little more fun. With half an eye towards the south, I floated down to the snow and dropped the flight field so he could take off. As soon as the field dropped, he launched himself from my shoulder and headed for the trees. In seconds I lost sight of him, though I could still track him. More importantly though, it was time for me to hide as well and I had a good idea of how to do it.
With my flight field back up, I floated back into the night sky and began searching the ground for a large snow bank. When I spotted a good candidate, I reshaped the flight field and plunged myself into the bank leaving just enough of an opening so I could hear and see what was happening. I wasn't a moment to soon either. A few seconds after I was set, a low rumble echoed through the valley. Penny must have pushed the remote trans-sonic and I was hearing the shock wave. She could not have known my exact location from the picture so the first pass would be a quick scan to map the area. Once she matched the map against the picture I'd left exposed, the game would get more interesting.
I could still sense Smaug hiding in the trees a few hundred yards away as I altered my shield to hide my IR signature. No sense giving Penny two easy targets, let her nail Smaug first. Sure enough in less then a minute I picked up the return signature of the power source in the remote. This time it was making a slow search starting from the area of the viewpoint I'd used as a jump reference. My shield must have covered me because a few minutes later I could hear Smaug's shriek as Penny found him. The remote took off with an angry dragon hot on its trail and I started laughing as I nestled further down into the hole I'd created. This turned out to be a big mistake because Smaug picked up the emotional signature and changed direction to head straight for me. It was to late to even try to hide at that point so I waited until he landed at the entrance to the tunnel and listened to him chatter at me as he informed me that I was now it.
"Ok, you found me." As he sensed my acknowledgment, he vanished and it was my turn to search. By the rules of the game I could not just trace his teleport, so I was going to have to do this the hard way. With a burst of energy I shot straight up from the snow tunnel and began my search.
For the next hour the three of us matched our wits against one another. No one was safe and no one could hide for long. Once, Smaug had tried hiding in some dense brush. Penny had found him and tagged him by making a high speed flyby through the trees above him and burying him in snow. Another time Penny had buried the remote in some snow and I had tagged her by freezing the snow around the remote into a sphere. She had been quite vocal about her displeasure after she had melted her way out.
When we finally ended the game the three of us returned to the viewpoint where we had started. Smaug and I just sat with our backs to the snow bank and looked out over the valley. Between the light from the stars twinkling above us and the Milkyway as it splashed across the heavens, the valley and the mountains beyond were lit almost as brightly as if the moon had been shining above us. Off in the distance a train whistle blew into the night air and I gave silent thanks that places like this still existed and that I had the friends and ability to visit and enjoy them.