Divided Planet

 

 

 

Part Three- Ursa Major

 

 

Maureen stood listening to the silent remote, half-frozen tears clinging to her cheeks.  To her surprise, it was Dr. Smith who came to escort her back to the chariot.  She had no idea how long she had stood there; she didn’t feel cold, only empty.  She had once told John how very empty the depths of space seemed.  Space was cluttered compared to the emptiness of her heart.   How could she live without him, she wondered. 

"Come Mrs. Robinson, we must leave and get the children to safety.  That is what Prof. Robinson would want."  She peered askance at him, looking for the guile that usually played across his face, but for a change, didn't see any.  She thought remotely, that maybe the man had a bit of compassion in him after all.

 The children said nothing, but Maureen knew the girls had been crying.  Penny fell into her arms, her sobs silent.  Will appeared numb, not saying anything, but remorse plain to see on his face.  Don expertly guided the Chariot in the increasing winds and as they drove away from the site, a tiny beacon blinked its signal.  Not having told anyone, the major was determined that when this was over he would be back, to give John the burial he deserved.

That night the group found the caves their survey had indicated.  With very little conversation, Maureen led her children in setting up a temporary camp, deep within the cavern, allowing Don to rest his aching shoulders after wrestling the Chariot most of the afternoon through the capricious and ever increasing winds.  Later, after a barely touched dinner around the glow of a camp light, she took the children aside and told them what John had asked her to convey to them beyond that which he had been able to tell them himself.  Judy blushed, but smiled, she had talked to her Dad often about her feelings for Don West.  Will was silent, Penny sat quietly a minute, before looking up with the resolve that she had been told she had.  “We’ll make it, Mom.”

 

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"Don," Maureen asked, almost one week later.  "I can't remember John saying, but how long is this expected to last.  Did he or the Robot tell you?"  

"Yes, the worst, I believe should have been four, maybe five days ago.  If the conditions improve at the same rate that they deteriorated, then we should be able to go back to the ship in another day or so."  

"I'm not sure that I want to go back right away, even though I know we should," Maureen admitted. During the days she had been busy enough to keep her mind occupied, but during the nights she was not, and that was when she missed John the most.  She could list all of the little reasons, but most of all she missed his proximity, his gentle hands as they caressed her, his soft voice when he spoke to her in the privacy of their cabin, his strength and determination.  The Jupiter II would be so full of ghosts and memories.

Don looked at her and nodded.  He knew what she meant, but there was no help for it.  Right now he was worried about Will.  The boy had been morose and moody ever since the accident, and Don knew that he was blaming himself for his father's death.  It was a natural thing, but Don was unable to figure out what to do about it, except wait.  Right now Will was unwilling to listen to anybody, including his mother.  

A short scream brought Don to his feet in an instant and he ran in the direction of the sound, his laser gun at ready.  "Judy!" he called, having recognized the voice, even in the echoing cavern.  Maureen was right behind him.  

"In here, Don," she shouted, and he ran into one of the rooms they had been using for the past week, and skidded to a stop in front of the shaggiest, bulkiest alien life form he had ever seen.  It greatly resembled a grizzly bear, with a bigger head, larger eyes and distinct fingers on its hands.  The ursoid creature seemed to stand more comfortably on its hind legs then its Earth counterparts did.   

The alien had a belt around its massive waist, which appeared to be full of instruments and devices, but at the moment it only held its hands up in a manner of peace.  There was an amulet of some kind around its neck, writing inscribed on its lustrous white surface.  Apparently the bear creature was aware of what Don was holding and respected it.  The speech was guttural, punctuated by growling, but there seemed to be patterns in the sounds it was making.  It appeared to Don to be male, but if someone had asked him to state why, he wouldn't have been able to explain.  

Quickly reaching down to his belt with a speed that Don wouldn't have figured such a ponderous looking alien to possess, he pushed on a small device and then raised his hand back up.  "Keep the hands up, whoever you are," Don warned the creature, irritated at his own laxity.

"I was only activating my translator, Don.  That is your name, is it not?" he asked.   Don was flabbergasted and he could only nod.

"And you must be the human called Maureen." The bright green eyes seemed to hold a bit of sorrow in them as he looked intently at her. 

Don finally found his voice.  "How did you know our names?" he demanded, glaring suspiciously at the bear creature.  

"I am called Mmringorr.  I am a district leader of this territory and we monitored your communications six revolutions ago.  That is how we were able to program our translators to communicate with you," he explained to them.    

"Why did you contact us now?"  Maureen asked, curiosity overcoming her fear.  

"Our people's time of separation is usually six revolutions...days.  Not knowing what patterns of separation you observe, we only watched and did not interfere.  Now however, we felt we needed to make contact, since our indicators detected a beginning of offense."  

"What do you mean 'a beginning of offense,' and what in the world is 'the period of separation?' "  Don asked, not quite trusting the ursoid creature.

"Our enemies, the Rylorr, periodically take offensive action against us and this entrance to our city has been discovered.  Therefore they are taking the opportunity for an attack," Mmringorr explained patiently, as to a child.

"A war," Judy said, bluntly.  "And I take it the period of separation is a period of mourning.  I can't help but feel resentment that my father's last conversation was monitored by strangers."  

"That is understandable, Judy, and we are sorry, but I must insist that you accompany me.  The offensive is beginning soon and we must seal this entrance before our city is breached," Mmringorr said, anxiety in his voice.

"Why don't you just let us go back to our ship?"  Don asked, irritated that his first act of command was to be taken prisoner by a bear.  

"You seem hostile.  I understand that, too," Mmringorr said placatingly.  "The route back to your spaceship is across the lands of our enemies and the possibility of being attacked or hurt is great.  Please come, we Grringol will be able to protect you and your vehicle, and when all the fighting is over you can leave by a different entrance."

"Apparently, we don't have a great deal of choice in the matter, Don," Maureen said with a sigh, pointing to the shadows where several more of the Grringol were standing.  Maureen gathered Will and Penny and after loading their belongings into the Chariot, the group traveled to a huge chamber with a door that would have accommodated an SST.  Driving through it, and escorted front and back by smaller vehicles, the expedition was led to Mmringorr's city.  An ominous booming behind them heralded the closing of the huge doors behind them.  To Don, it seemed like the shutting of a coffin lid.

   

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Rrangruk looked in great frustration at the blinking lights and growling indicators that were beginning to sound alarms.  When he had been informed, two revolutions ago, of the arrival of the injured humanoid, he had taken one look at the creature and thought that his first dealings with a human would be during an autopsy.  The alien had apparently fallen from a great height, landing with force enough to break not only his legs and spine, severing his spinal cord, but to seriously damage several vital organs as well.  Through his meticulous care and a bit of good luck, Rrangruk had kept the human alive long enough for the diagnostics to work out the creature's physiology.  He had been able to administer compatible pain relievers to ease the human's suffering.  The natural defense mechanisms of the alien's own body kept him comatose, at least until now.

Rrangruk was intensely curious about alien life forms and was familiar with humanoid creatures, but had never had the opportunity to study one such as this before.  His anxiety to get the alien into regeneration spurred him to spend almost the entirety of the past two revolutions in this wing of the hospital, working on calibrating the regeneration machine to the human's physiology.  His assistants were being worked almost as hard as he had pushed himself, and they cringed when they heard his growling requests for updates.

But it appeared that the human's lungs were deteriorating beyond the damage that had been caused in his fall.   He watched the indicators for a moment, seeing that the shunt was unable to clear fluids from the human’s lungs faster than they were filling up.  The physician had been keeping the alien on a limited life support, but saw that he might have to put him on total care.  Shaking his head and cursing softly, Rrangruk realized that even total care would not prolong the inevitable.  The regeneration device had to be ready, not just soon, but now!   Opening his eyes, the human started gasping, choking and trying to call out, apparently in the throes of a panic attack.  

From very infrequent contacts with alien races in the past, Rrangruk was aware of the belief that many humanoids were xenophobic.  He didn't want to make this one more agitated then he appeared to be already.  Switching on the translator, he spoke placatingly, softly into the communicator.  "Please, you must calm down so that your breathing will be easier.  I am coming to assist you."   The alien must have been listening as he almost immediately seemed to fall into a more relaxed breathing pattern, taking his hand away from his throat and making some kind of signal.  Rrangruk clipped the translator to his instrument belt and shambled into the injured man's room.

 

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He felt enclosed, entombed in the stellar darkness that surrounded him, floating out of control, helpless.  Gasping, John tried to draw air into his oxygen-starved lungs, but nothing happened.  There was no air.   Keying his communicator, John tried to call out to the Alpha Control trainer.  Where am I? he thought when he didn't see the training vessel anywhere around him.  This was supposed to be a totally uneventful training session!    For some reason the tank that had said full when he had put it on an hour ago was now empty.   He clawed at the regulator clamped to his shoulder and what he saw confirmed the burning sensation that he felt in his lungs as he attempted to draw in air.   He tried to call out as his body floated ever farther away into the emptiness.   He fumbled with the controls of the jet pack, but something seemed to be wrong with it.  Clamoring noises in the background agitated him even more.  Someone was there but they weren’t trying to help him.  Where is the rest of the Alpha Control training crew?   

Then a guttural, but soothing voice came over an intercom asking him to calm down, and offering assistance.   John blinked and saw the lights and white walls that told him he was in a hospital of some kind.  That brought him back to the present and he tried to relax, using the methods he had learned in preparation for the cryogenics chamber.   It was difficult to concentrate, he felt as though there was no room in his chest for any air.  That part of his dream was totally real.  Slowly, he breathed in and then looked around at his surroundings.  It was apparent that aliens had rescued him, but where did they come from?   How did they find him?   Raising his left hand, he gave the sign for okay, not knowing if his benefactor would understand him or not.

Continuing his attempts at relaxation, he watched a large, white shaggy alien shamble into the room.  The closest analogy that he could make was that of a polar bear, with prehensile fingers, large golden brown eyes, slightly smaller snout, and a larger head.  The alien placed a breathing mask over his face and John reveled in the air that was being forced into his damaged lungs.  "I am Rrangruk, your physician.  I am working as quickly as I can to calibrate our machinery for your physiology."  He smiled. "I am determined to help you as we do our own who suffer from falls such as yours.  I am only sorry it is taking so long.  I hope you are not in any pain."  

Help me? John thought dourly.  He was in a reclining type of bed and he looked down at the sheet covering the lower part of his torso.  Shuddering, John remembered what he had seen after his fall.  He wondered what it was that made this alien physician so optimistic about his recovery, and he wondered why they would go to so much trouble to heal him, an alien.  He pushed the mask out of the way.  “Why?”  

“Why what?” the alien asked, confused.   He returned the mask, allowing John to gather in more air. 

Taking the mask from Rrangruk’s hand, John replied, his voice barely above a whisper, “I would be…” --more air—“ a liability to my family.”  It was so hard to breathe, to speak, but he felt he had to.  “They need… someone healthy… not someone like this.” John used his left hand to indicate his broken legs; legs that he could not feel. 

Rrangruk looked puzzled for a moment.  Then a horror stricken look came over his face and he asked, “Don’t your people have regeneration technology?”

John thought furiously with a brain, which for the most part, seemed to have turned to mush.   “Regeneration?”

Yes, as soon as the machinery is ready, we will begin the regeneration process that will heal you.  Your injuries are extensive, therefore it will take several sessions, but you will eventually be healthy and whole.   You will be a liability to no one.”  Rrangruk checked the human over with his hand held diagnostic, corroborating the conclusions that the larger machine in the other room had come to.   Sighing, the doctor put the diagnostic tool back on the belt that hung around his waist.  

John had watched Rrangruk in silence during his examination, pondering the incredible information that he had just heard.  “You picked… a pretty poor… guinea pig… to work on.”  

Rrangruk's translator had a bit of a problem with the phrase.  "Was that human humor?" he asked, not believing that the man would be joking about his condition.  John nodded, and Rrangruk made a whuffing sound that, accompanied by a toothy smile, gave the injured man the idea of laughter.   

“Why are you doing… this for me… doctor?”  

“Because it is my job to heal when I can, because I am curious about other species, because you are in need.”   

"Thank you, Rrangruk," John said softly, trying to express his gratitude in just a few words.

"You are entirely welcome, John," the ursoid answered.  When he said 'John' it almost had a French pronunciation to his ears.  

Looking sharply at Rrangruk, he felt his pulse quicken and his chest tighten again.  Closing his eyes, he concentrated on relaxing, wondering how the alien knew his name, unless the rest of the group was here, too.  "How did you know my name?" he finally opened his eyes and asked.  

"Our monitors picked up your communication.  That was also how you were found.  Fortunately, when you lost consciousness, your communication device was left on and our searchers got to you quickly," Rrangruk explained.  

"My family?" John whispered hopefully.

"They had already left.  My people, the Rylorr, got to your location from below you, not from the surface.   I am sorry, John." 

Another bear-like creature entered the room and handed a clipboard to Rrangruk.   "Yes, very good, Gorun.  Get everything ready immediately."  The alien doctor turned to John with another toothy smile.  "You will soon be feeling much better, John.  The regeneration machine is ready for you."

 

end chapter three

 

Chapter Four
Chapter One
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