John, Will and Hmrin trotted along at a
fast pace, avoiding the more widely traveled corridors.
At times, it appeared to John that they were backtracking, but he
trusted Will's friend and didn't question his choice of routes.
After what seemed an interminable time running through the
passageways, Hmrin announced that they were approaching the center of
the city. He stopped near
the junction of several large corridors.
Taking advantage of the short halt, John
pulled off his parka. It
had served its purpose and he saw no reason to continue wearing it, as
it was hot and bulky. "Are
we near my family's living quarters, Hmrin?"
"Yes, Commander Robinson.
And that will make it even more dangerous.
From here on, the passageways will be wider and more well
"Hmrin, if you must use a title to
address me, please just call me Professor Robinson.
Commander sounds so military, and no offense, but I am heartily
sick of the military. I am
a scientist and teacher thrown in an unusual situation," John
corrected the Grringol youth as gently as he could.
"I understand, Professor.
But may I ask what you are going to do when you find your family?
How were you planning on getting out?"
Hmrin looked intently at his friend's father and saw an immediate
change in his demeanor.
John stared at the ground a moment, before
answering. He really hadn’t given clear thought to that problem.
He was so eager to just find his family that anything beyond that
was tenuously thought out at best.
"I was given so little information that I really could make
no concrete plans. I
assumed that my family would be well cared for, as I felt the Grringol
would be as considerate of them as most of the Rylorr were of me,"
he said with a sigh. "I
suppose I was hoping that they might be allowed to have free access to
all corridors and be able to walk to a rendezvous point and then leave
the same way I came in. It
all comes back to the fact that Brrengrifferr thought I would be
vaporized along with your city, and therefore detailed information
wasn't necessary. I
wouldn't need it."
"I guess what I really expected was a
cessation of hostility so we could all peacefully leave." John sighed again and shook his head. "Naive aren't I? I
don't suppose there are any other secret exits that my family and I
"Not that I am aware of, but then I am
young and am not privy to such information.
My father would know, but I doubt if he would be willing to give
that information out." Knowing
the state of the rest of the Robinson family's feelings the past thirty
revolutions, he was sympathetic to John Robinson's dilemma.
"Professor Robinson, you must not fault yourself.
Your wish to reunite with your family must have been
all-consuming, even to partially agreeing to Commander Brrengrifferr's
John gave Hmrin a hard stare.
"Are you a psychology student?
If not, you should be." Then he laughed softly.
"You're correct, Hmrin, I didn't look at the total picture.
All right, you're the expert here, what is your suggestion?
I'm sure I didn't endear myself to the local bureaucrats with my
little stunt back there."
"As a matter of fact, psychology is my
field of study in school. Thank
you. And I am sure that you
did make some enemies among the Grringol, and I fear for your safety. But I would say that your best recourse would be to
surrender. My father is one
of the 'local bureaucrats' as you put it, and I could get him to
intercede in yours and your family's behalf."
Hmrin smiled pleasantly. "Your
family, along with Major West and Dr. Smith have been staying in our
dwelling, and except for Dr. Smith, all have made a great impression on
John pondered for a few minutes.
Then he looked back at Hmrin. "You're right, Hmrin.
But my surrender will be contingent on the safety of my family
and crew. If you think that there will be any fallout against my family
due to my espionage, then I will let you inform them of my whereabouts
and we will take our chances going back out through the generating plant
Professor Robinson's vehemence left no
doubt in Hmrin's mind that the human meant every word he had just said.
"I don't think that anyone would want to harm your family,
but I will go and find Father now, just in case.
You wait here. Don't go anywhere until I get back."
"Take Will, I don't want any
connection made between him and me+ until you find out what your
father's disposition is, Hmrin."
"No, Dad, I am not leaving you!"
Will declared fervently. "Not
again. Please, Dad."
"Will..." John looked into Will's
eyes and sighed. It
bothered him that his boy was being forced to grow up so fast.
"I don't like it, but I won't argue with you this
time." Hmrin nodded,
and turning on his heel, trotted off to find his father.
Will looked out into the quiet cavern.
"It's too early for many people to be out, Dad.
It should be okay until Hmrin gets back with Mmringorr.
Mmringorr is a bit serious, but he’s all right."
"I seem to remember hearing the same
thing said about me," John said with a chuckle.
Will came back and sat down beside his dad.
"What was it like, being regenerated?"
It still almost seemed like a dream and he fully expected to wake
up and find himself alone again.
"Can't say that I remember much of the
actual procedure, son, but I do know how wonderful it felt to be back in
one piece. To be able to
walk again, to feel my feet, to breathe without pain....” A sudden
noise down the corridor brought the pair to their feet in alarm.
A female Grringol was staring at them with wide-eyed fear, then
with a startled cry, she jumped back into her dwelling.
"We've been busted, Dad.
I think maybe we had better leave," Will said.
"No, son, it doesn't matter who I give
myself up to, I will not leave. This is where Hmrin said to wait.
But, I really am uncomfortable with the idea of you being here
with me right now, though," John said with a frown.
"I captured you, remember, Dad?
That could make a good excuse, if I need one."
John smiled, rubbing the small lump on the
side of his head. "I
Several Grringol in special harness came
rushing around the corner, with weapons drawn.
John stood up slowly and raised his hands to show submission.
Then he motioned Will to step back. There
was a vengeful glitter in the eyes of several of the guardsmen and it
worried him. What happened
next, even John had trouble following.
He pushed Will out of the way just as the lead guardsman pointed
what appeared to be a stun gun at the elder Robinson.
John shifted quickly to his left foot,
pivoted and kicked the weapon out of the Grringol's hand.
The pistol skittered across the stone surface. Quickly, the three officials pulled staves out of their
harnesses and charged John simultaneously. With a cry, Will threw himself at one of them.
Alarmed, John grabbed for Will, but missed.
Although Will meant well, he was no match for the burly Grringol
he had attacked, and was thrown across the corridor and against the far
wall. With a cry of anguish
and anger, John launched an offensive of his own. He jerked a staff from the hands of the nearest Grringol and
used it to knock him off his feet.
He rushed at the other ursoids, using the staff aggressively
until he had cleared a path through them.
He rushed over to Will's side and saw with
relief that the boy was only dazed.
Looking up and over John’s shoulder, Will cried out in horror. "Dad, look out!"
A staff caught John under his right arm in a hard blow that
brought a sharp cry of pain from him.
Swinging around, John brought his own weapon against the side of
his opponent's head, causing the Grringol to slump down, unconscious.
Several more Grringol had joined the fray,
forming a loose circle around the beleaguered human.
John jumped in and out, advancing when he saw an opening and
retreating when pressed. “I
am only here to get my family,” he panted.
The stabbing pain in his side grew worse, telling him that he had
re-injured his ribs.
“You are an agent of Brrengrifferr and
you came to destroy us,” one of the ursoids growled.
John couldn’t answer, his breathing felt
harsh in his own ears and he sincerely hoped that Hmrin would get back
soon with his father. The
Grringol were now in a position of greatest advantage.
There was no maneuver that he could make that wouldn't result in
greater hurt to him, so he stayed in a half crouched defensive position. There was no advantage to continuing the fight and if he
continued Will stood a great chance of being injured. Holding the staff out, John began, “I wish to
Suddenly, one of the guardsmen slumped to
the ground, unconscious. Puzzled,
John nevertheless concentrated on the Grringol in front of him, still
holding out the staff, hoping that the ursoid would believe him and
accept his surrender. Out
of the corner of his eye, he saw Will pointing a stun pistol at one of
the Grringol and he understood what was going on.
“Will, no!” he cried out, trying to diffuse a potentially
volatile situation. The
Grringol seeing that John was distracted, made a quick thrust and
clipped him against the side of the head with his staff, before slumping
to the ground unconscious.
John stumbled to his knees, his head
reeling, the world spinning in a nauseating frenzy.
After a moment, the feeling began to dissipate and he looked up
wearily. To his dismay, he
saw another group of Grringol appear around the corner, and he used his
staff and the wall behind him to slowly get to his feet.
The newcomers halted for a moment, assessing the situation and
John used that time to catch his breath.
Will was nearby, still holding several Grringol at bay with the
stun gun. His gaze darted
from them to him and showed confusion and uncertainty.
Somehow John felt that this little scenario wasn't exactly what
anybody had in mind for a surrender.
The Grringol leader had his weapon ready
and pointed at him, but before he could say anything, a guardsman took
his long staff and shoved John against the wall of the corridor, the end
catching John directly against his cracked ribs.
Grunting in pain, John dropped his own weapon, and looked at
Will. "No, son, drop
the gun. It won't do you
any good now," he said, softly.
This time Will did as he was told and the gun clattered on the
ground, where another guardsman immediately scooped it up.
His captor jabbed the end of the staff against his side again,
causing John to slide back down to his knees.
A sudden commotion caused the professor to
look up, and he was surprised to see Maureen and a female Grringol run
into the entrance of the passageway, followed closely by Hmrin.
The sight of his wife caused a chill of pleasure that superseded
his discomfort. She had
never looked so wonderful. She
was more beautiful than an angel and more desirable than he could dream. Smiling slightly, he was not the least bit surprised at the
first words out of her mouth. "You
get your hands off my life-mate, or you'll have to deal with me!"
she said vehemently. And
John knew that she meant it. With
her fists on her hips and her eyes flashing, she stood resolutely in
front of the Grringol guardsman, who although towering above her, still
looked down at her in awe.
He was astonished, though, to hear the
Grringol woman make her own threat.
"Mmringorr, I am one hundred percent behind Maureen
Robinson. If you cause any
further hurt to come to this human, you will find yourself sleeping in
your mother's cave tonight!"
John saw the determination on the faces of
the two women and the cowed expressions of the very large, burly male
Grringol soldiers, and suddenly the irony of the situation hit him.
In the silence that followed the women's announcements, he began
to laugh, holding his side to ease the pain.
Suddenly, Maureen was kneeling in front of
him taking him in an embrace that spoke volumes of the toll the enforced
separation had taken on her. John
reciprocated, his arms enveloping her in a warm blanket of longing and
love. Ignored and remote
was the pain in his side and the ache in his head.
For the past month, Maureen had never
thought that she would ever hold John in her arms again.
She had rehearsed in her mind what she would say if she had been
able to talk to him again and tell him more of what was in her heart.
Now that his body was pressed close to hers, and they were
together again, she could think of nothing to say.
"Oh, John, I love you," she finally murmured and then
burst into tears.
John caressed her cheek, his fingers gently
wiping away her tears. "Maureen,
I missed you so much." They
held onto each other for several minutes, oblivious to their silent
audience. Maureen continued
to weep softly against his chest, while John rocked her gently as he
would a child. He reveled
in her proximity, the feel of her lips on his.
When he had been lying on the ledge, his body broken and dying,
he had only wanted to do this, hold his wife one more time, feeling the
warmth of her body, the light fragrant scent of her perfume, the steady
rhythm of her heartbeat, letting his fingers run through her hair.
Paradise could be no more than this, he thought, content.
End Part Eleven
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