Authors: Gilbert L. Morris
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To Leah Workmanâ
a sweet girl indeed!
3. Old Friends
4. Jungle Trek
w! Will you get your big foot off me, Josh!”
Sarah Collingwood jerked her foot out from under the heavy weight that had descended on it, and shoved Josh Adams away. “Don't stand so close, will you!”
Josh Adams blinked into the murky darkness. “Well, I couldn't help it,” he said. “Besides, why are you standing so close to
“Why, she's got a crush on you, Josh. Didn't you know that?”
The voice came from somewhere across the darkened room, and the Southern twang identified it as belonging to Bob Lee Jackson, better known to his friends as Reb. He chuckled. “I don't know why we have to go to all this trouble for old Dave. Just for a little old thing like a birthday.”
birthday, that's why!”
That voice came from another far corner. Jake Garfield started to add something else but then said, “Quiet! I think I hear him coming.”
Josh heard footsteps approaching the door, and he held his breath until it opened. For a moment there was silence.
Then, when the young man who had come inside turned on the light, all of them shouted at the top of their lungs, “Happy birthday! Happy birthday, Dave!”
“Hey, what's goingâ” Dave Cooper could not say more, for suddenly he was surrounded by the six other
teenagers, who lunged from their positions, beat him on the back, and shook his hand.
Sarah ruffled his hair so that it fell down into his eyes.
“Hey, cut it out, will you? You want to kill a fella?”
“You only have one seventeenth birthday,” Josh said, giving him a hard clip on the shoulder with his fist. “You better make the best of it.” Then he said, “All right, you guys, step back and give him a little air. After all, he's a senior citizen now, you know. We have to be careful of our elders. Old Dave is getting along in years.”
The subject looked anything but elderly. Dave was exactly six feet tall and well-built. He had yellow hair and blue eyes, and his tan gave him an outdoors look. He grinned at Josh. “That's right! Have a little respect for us old folks.”
Abbey Roberts said, “Back in Oldworld we used to spank people on their birthday. One lick for every year old they were.”
“Yeah, you go ahead, Abbey.” The speaker was a small black boy whose full name was Gregory Randolph Washington Jones. This would have been tiresome to say, so he was known simply as Wash. He had large eyes, and his teeth shown brightly against the blackness of his skin. He nudged Abbey with an elbow. “Go on. You start.”
Abbey, at fifteen, had blonde hair and blue eyes and a perfectly shaped mouth. Now she pouted rather prettily. “He's too big. I'll let you guys take care of that, but I will wish him happy birthday like
She pulled Dave's head down and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Then she said, “Now you, Sarah.”
Sarah Collingwood was sixteen. She was small, graceful, and had brown eyes and black hair. Quickly she slipped over and kissed Dave's other cheek. “And
now, you guys can give him that spanking anytime you want to.”
“We'll take care of that later,” Reb said. “Let's give him his presents before we get on with that little ceremony.”
Reb was lanky and muscular at six feet one. He had light blue eyes and sun-bleached hair. He was known to give a Rebel yell when he got excited, and now his eyes shown with fun as he said, “Birthday gift!” and shoved a package at Dave.
Self-consciously Dave took the present, muttering, “You guys shouldn't have done this.”
“Yeah, you don't deserve it,” Reb said. “We all agreed on that. Now, go on and open your presents.”
Dave opened the bulky package, and when the paper was ripped away, he looked up and grinned. “Hey, Reb! These are the eelskin boots that I wanted so much. I don't know how you paid for these!” He rubbed their shiny surface. “But thanks. Just what I wanted.”
“Well, here you are,” Josh said, thrusting a small package at him. This proved to be a razor-edged knife with a bone handle and a black leather sheath that mounted on the belt. “Be careful you don't cut yourself on itâ” Josh grinned “âand don't let Jake borrow it. You know how he dulls a knife.”
Jake Garfield was much shorter than Reb or Josh or Dave. He had a head of flaming red hair, his brown eyes were sharp, and he had a mind that worked constantly. He ignored Josh's remark and handed Dave a plain brown-paper parcel. “Didn't have time for fancy wrapping paper,” he mumbled.
Everyone watched as Dave unwrapped the gift, for Jake was the most innovative of the Seven Sleepers. He loved to invent things, and he watched carefully as Dave took off the paper.
“Well, I sure appreciate it,” Dave said, puzzlement in his blue eyes, “but what is it?”
“Just push that little button on the side and you'll see.”
Cautiously Dave turned over the small black object. It was less than an inch thick, about two inches wide, and three or four inches long. Its smooth case was broken only by one small button. “It won't blow up, will it?” he asked.
“Just push the button,” Jake repeated.
Dave held the box at arm's lengthâhe was aware that some of Jake's inventions were rather scaryâand pressed the button.
Instantly a high-pitched howl nearly deafened them all.
Dave threw the box across the room and covered his ears. The rest of the Sleepers did the same, and it was Jake who scrambled across the floor and shut off the noise by pushing the button again. He turned his bright eyes on Dave and nodded. “Well, how'd you like that?”
“Wonderful!” Dave exclaimed, removing his hands from his ears. “Maybe I'll be able to hear again in a week or two. What's it for?”
“Why, if somebody jumps out and starts to mug you, you just push the button. It'll scare the waddle out of them.”
“It'll sure deafen them,” Josh said ruefully. He shook his head and grinned at Jake, for it was just the sort of thing that Jake would do.
Sarah presented her gift, a shirt that she had made herself out of some very soft blue material. “If it's too big, I can take it up,” she said anxiously.
Dave held up the shirt, admired it, and smiled at her. “It looks great, Sarah. Thanks a lot.”
Then Wash stepped up. “Here. Try this on for size.” His gift proved to be a beautifully constructed snake-skin belt, which Dave liked exceedingly and said so.
Abbey's gift was even larger than Reb's, and her eyes glinted as she gave it to Dave and watched him open it.
It was a fawn-colored suede hatâmuch like the kind Australians wore back in Oldworld. It had one side pinned up, and he put it on at once. “Just a fit,” he said. He looked around for a mirror and saw none. “How do I look?”
“You look like Crocodile Dundee,” Josh said cheerfully. “Now, let's have the cake. That's all the presents you get.”
Abbey and Sarah had made a huge chocolate cakeâDave's favoriteâand he blew out the seventeen candles that they'd set afire.
“You always were windy, Dave,” Reb said, as the smoke curled upward. “Now, let's get at that cake.”
Abbey served huge slices on plates, and they all sat around eating and talking cheerfully.
As Josh sat down next to Sarah, he looked around and thought,
It doesn't seem like two years since we got blasted out of everything we knew and came to Nuworld.
As he looked at his six friends, memories flashed through Josh's mind, and he was soon lost in thought.
The seven of them had been placed in sleep capsules just before a nuclear bomb devastated the earth. Through the miracle of Dave's father's science, they had slept for many, many years. When they awakened, they discovered themselves on a strange planet. The nuclear war had changed the shape of continents and oceans. Mutations had arisen, so that strange and exotic life forms now roamed the earth.
And they soon learned that there was a war going on, involving a strange figure called GoÃ©l, who appeared and disappeared with startling speed. GoÃ©l stood for the old values that they had learned to treasure, but he was opposed by sinister forces led by one called the Dark Lord. All of Nuworld was now a battleground, and the Sleepers had thrown themselves into GoÃ©l's service without reservation.
Now Sarah leaned over and asked, “What do you think this assembly is about, Josh?” She spoke of a calling together of the leaders of the House of GoÃ©l. They had come from strange and distant places all over Nu-world, and all of them were wondering what was to come.
Josh, who was the leader of the Sleepers, stretched out his six-foot frame in his chair. He had grown up very fast and was still a little embarrassed by his tall, gangly shape. He had not filled out yet like Dave and still had not lost some of his adolescent countenance. He had auburn hair, blue eyes, and had always been a shy boy, unsure of himself. He wondered often why GoÃ©l had chosen him to be the leader when there were others smarter and stronger. He had learned to cope with this, however, and covered his insecurities with a good imitation of confidence.
“I think it must be something pretty big,” he told Sarah. “GoÃ©l has never done this before. He's always come to us individually.” He scratched his cheek thoughtfully, then took another huge bite of chocolate cake.
The Sleepers had been hundreds of miles away when the summons from GoÃ©l came, and they had rushed as fast as they could to the general meeting place.
“It must be trouble,” Jake said.
“Why does it have to be trouble?” Abbey asked. “Maybe it's good news.”
“You never saw a mob rushing across town to do a good deed,” Jake stated flatly. “Anytime we get a call like this, you can bet there's got to be a problem.”
“Well, we'll find out in the morning,” Dave said. He looked fondly around at his friends. “After all the troubles and hard times we've been through, I guess we ought to be used to difficult things.”
Dave looked more like an adult than anyone else in the room, although he was only one year older than some of the others. But as it is with some young men, the year between sixteen and seventeen had brought a maturity that did not come to all. He was broad-shouldered, and his body had filled out with sleek muscles so that he looked like an Olympic swimmer.
“I guess,” Dave said, as he put down his empty plate, “whatever GoÃ©l says, we'll do it. Sometimes I think we're losing, thoughâthat the Dark Lord is gaining ground so fast that we'll never make it.”
“You can't think like that, Dave. None of us can!” Sarah exclaimed. Of all the Sleepers, she, perhaps, had more faith in victory than any of the others, and now she said cheerfully, “Let's get to bed. We might get sent off on a mission to the ice cap tomorrow. Who knows?”
For once the young people had been housed together. The boys had been assigned two rooms, and Abbey and Sarah had a room to themselves. The bathroom was down at the end of the hall, however, and they had to take turns.
While they were waiting, Dave drifted over to Abbey. “I sure like this hat.” He put it on again and turned for her inspection. “It looks good, doesn't it?”
“Why don't you let somebody else brag on you, Dave? You're getting downright conceited.”
There was such sharpness in Abbey's voice that Dave was surprised. He looked at her and answered in kind. “You're a fine one to be talking!” he snapped. “You spend half your time primping.”
“I'm just trying to look nice. I don't see anything wrong with that.”
“I don't either. That's why I'm trying on my new hat!” Actually, Dave was still pleased with his birthday party. He changed his tone. “It was awful nice of you and the rest of the gang to do this for me, Abbey,” he said. He studied her for a moment, thinking how pretty she was. “You know,” he said, “when you grow up, you're going to be some foxy lady.”
“When I grow up! I
“Fifteen is not grown up.”
“I'm almost sixteen. Besides, girls are more mature than boys. Didn't you know that?”
“I don't know who invented that rumor. I never noticed girls being that much smarter.”
Abbey, for some reason, was out of sorts. Perhaps she was nervous about the mission. It had taken a terrible experience in the Underworld for her to learn that her beauty was not something to be trusted. She had learned that lesson the hard wayâand not completely, perhaps. And if one of the Sleepers could be said to be fearful, she was the one. The others had to constantly keep her cheered up. Now she was upset with Dave.
girls are more mature than boys, and they could run the world better too.”
“You're just bossy,” Dave said. He settled the hat on his head and tried it at a new angle. “I wish I had a mirror,” he muttered, “so I could see what I look like.”
He glanced at her. “Women would make a mess of the world if they ran it.”
An argument broke out at once, and the two picked at each other until they were really angry.
Sarah came into the room, stopped dead still, and stared at them. “Are you two arguing
What's it about this time?”
Dave reached out and patted Abbey on the headâ something he knew always infuriated her. “This child thinks she's grown up. Try to straighten her out, will you, Sarah? And tell her that men are made to take care of women. You know how it isâwomen are weaker. They need to be cared for.”
Furiously, Abbey slapped Dave's hand away. “Get out of hereâ¦youâ¦you immature
Dave laughed at her and, turning, left the room.
“Why don't you two stop picking at each other?” Sarah asked in exasperation. “It looks like you'd get tired of fighting all the time.”
“He thinks he's so smartâand so grown up!”
pretty smart,” Sarah said calmly, “and he's very grown up. He's big as a man, and he's changed a lot over the past two years. Try to get along with him, won't you, Abbey?” She sighed. “I don't think we can stand you two fussing much more.”