They heard a short electrical buzz inside the machine and saw movement through the light. A hand grasped the edge of the doorway inches from where Millie had first touched it moments ago. They all backed up a step and were ready to flee for their lives on a moment’s notice, when a lovely woman of middle age appeared in the doorway. She had dark red hair that reached her shoulders and a long flowing gown of multi-colored material that shimmered in the blue light. She looked like someone’s mother, and her smile was radiant. She looked normal, except for a slight shimmer around her body that seemed to make her aura sparkle with a slight golden light. Her smile showed bright even teeth and her deep sea green eyes bore into their hearts. They knew instantly that there was nothing to fear from this woman.
She looked from one to another of the group and smiled so brightly that everyone relaxed as they waited for her to speak. She made sure that she looked at everyone in the group and smiled a wonderful calming smile, peering into the eyes of each individual before she spoke, “Well,” she glanced at the sky and then back at those gathered before her, “Good morning. Sorry, I had to check this place out, as each world is different. Let me see now.” She quickly made a look like Honey did when she had to sort through information in her mind. She stuck her tongue out a little on one side of her mouth and put a finger to the side of her face and rubbed her eyebrow as she squinted for just a fraction of a moment.
“Ah yes,” she said, looking around, “This is Earth. It is morning, and we have here ~hmmm~ one teenaged human female and one canine female, uh three-ish?” Honey nodded mechanically, not taking her eyes off the woman. ”Uh, Yes,” she continued, “and four puppies. Hmmm? Let me guess, there are two males and two females. Is that correct?”
“I’m a male.” Salazar stated proudly as he stood up and raised his head, taking a step closer, as he looked at the woman, “This is my brother, Burt,” Burt nodded shyly, “and these are my sisters Blinky and Jasmine.” He nodded to each respectively. Jasmine curtsied, as best a puppy can and she smiled brightly. Blinky bound forward and nearly plowed into the woman as she leapt up on her hind legs and held out a paw, “Yep, I’m Blinky. Pleased to meet you. I was afraid for a moment that this was some sort of trick. But”
“That will be enough my dear, “Honey broke in as she stood up and stepped forward, between Blinky and the stranger. “The young lady here is Millie, I am Honey, and these are my puppies. And, you would be…?” She gave the stranger a questioning look as she cocked her head to one side and looked up into the woman’s eyes.
“Oh Me?” The woman looked flustered, “I - I am quite sorry,” she stammered as she pointed at the sign. “I am Rose. Or rather, I am a construct created by the computer of this machine. It would be impossible for the “real” me to be in every machine that is traveling around the universe, and have the knowledge of all the planets languages and customs. Therefore, I work with the travelers and interface with the computer to make sure that each experience is one that delights, amazes and astounds each vacationer. It is my responsibility to ensure that each individual or group is treated in the highest standards of Instant Vacations, LTD.”
Millie stepped forward, “I read your sign and we had a question as to what “Exactly” it meant?”
Rose smiled a huge toothy smile and said, “It means “Exactly” what it says. You enter the machine, sit down, insert one penny and select a destination. The door will close and the machine will instantly transport you to your desired location.”
“Well, it seems sort of cheap, at a penny.” Millie questioned, “How do you make a profit at such a small charge for your services?”
“Rose smiled again and explained, “Well, it is very simple really. It costs virtually nothing to operate this machine. I am a product of this technology, so I am absolutely free of charge. The means of transportation for this machine costs a few pennies a year to operate. At one penny per trip, times millions of trips a day, the company really makes quite a handsome profit. Because we are so inexpensive, we enjoy many repeat customers and gain a lot of new travelers through word of mouth. Another reason is that we are constantly opening new markets. This is our first visit to this planet as we hope to open a new market in this solar system.”
Honey’s ears perked up and she asked, “How do you know what planets would be compatible and enjoyable to each species?”
“That is a very intelligent question Honey!” Rose answered, “Most travelers just enjoy the vacation afforded them for their penny and don’t ask any questions. Actually, there is a logarithm in the programming that takes into account the type of travelers and the destination selection and only allows the traveler to pick from locations that are adequate for their species. In your case, the programming of the machine has all ready picked which planets are a perfect match for humans and canines and will only display these locations for your available options.”
“Can we go?” Burt asked. The rest of the puppies chimed in, “Oh Yes! Please! Please! Please!”
Laughing at the puppies, Millie looked at Honey, “What do you think? Personally, I would enjoy the lake, but the chance to spend a day on another “Amusement Park” planet is quite intriguing. Besides, the lake will always be there tomorrow.”
Honey smiled as she looked at her children’s faces and the pleading looks from each, “I guess it couldn’t hurt. And as they have trillions of ringing endorsements from previous customers, I guess we can’t go wrong. Let’s go!”
Rose backed away from the stairs and lifted one arm toward the machine, nodded her head and repeated the original operating system endorsement,
“Welcome! Please come in and have a seat. Pay your penny and enjoy your interplanetary adventure. All services are rendered instantaneously and are satisfaction guaranteed. We have had over one trillion satisfied customers, throughout this galaxy, and not one complaint of a bad experience. So please enter, have a seat, pay your penny, and pick your choice of destinations.”