Part Four- Seeing is not Necessarily
Mmringorr peered curiously at the human
standing resolutely before him. “Why
would you want to go out into possible danger?”
“Look, you told me yourself that the last
offensive seemed to be over. There
had been no incursions for the past two days.
We have been here for two weeks.
We need to get back to our ship and get it ready for launch. It is time for us to leave.
We aren’t a part of your war, Mmringorr,” Don said, his
frustration barely held in check.
“ ‘Seemed’ to be over, Major West,
seemed to be. Sometimes the
Rylorr wait several revolutions, regrouping, coming up with new
strategy, waiting to see what we will do.
It is not safe out there.”
“When will it be safe out there?” Don
“Perhaps a quarter of a sun
Don did some quick figuring.
“Three months? You’ve got to be kidding!
We have to stay here for three months?”
“Maybe a bit less, Major. We are only trying to keep you safe. You need to think of the rest of your group.
There are the children.”
Sighing, Don was thinking, and could
only hope that Mmringorr was telling him the truth.
There had been no indication in the past two weeks to show malice
or any ulterior motives. But
he was also thinking of John, and he was thinking of his need to give
his friend the proper burial he deserved.
“Yes, I see your point and I appreciate your concern, Mmringorr.”
The pilot was still thinking when the sleep
cycle came. He had watched
the preparatory maneuvers of the Grringol soldiers and knew where they
came and went in their sorties against the Rylorr.
Quietly he slipped on his clothes and grabbed his parka and
gloves. In the quiet of the
‘night’ he slipped down the narrow passageways and pressed himself
to the walls of the larger thoroughfares.
Occasionally he hid in shadows while home guard watchmen passed
Finally, Don reached the training and
equipment cavern that he knew opened to the outside.
Quickly, he padded to the Chariot and pulled out the beacon
indicator that he had left under his seat.
Turning it on, he saw with satisfaction that the signal was still
strong. He pulled out
a long length of heavy-duty rope, a pick, a flashlight and a small
hand-held portable winch. All
of these items were stuffed into a backpack, which he slipped over his
shoulders. As he tightened the straps, he walked toward a group of
smallish machines; somewhat resembling the four wheeled all terrain
vehicles he had driven occasionally back on Earth when he was a boy. Disengaging what he presumed to be the Ugorrim equivalent of
a clutch, Don pushed one of the vehicles through a doorway that opened
into a natural cavern.
He heard the murmuring of Grringol soldiers
ahead of him and wondered how he was going to get past them. Slowly Don pushed the ATV up the slope closer to the entrance
of the cave, keeping his eyes and ears focused on the guards.
He pulled back into a shadow when they turned and walked toward
him. The vehicle was
too large to hide and Don could only pray that they didn’t take it
“Only one cup, Gregrrin, then I must go
back on duty.” Don
saw one of the soldiers look at the vehicle, pause, and then shrug and
walk after his companion. With
a sigh, the pilot waited until the two Grringol soldiers walked into the
hanger and then he quickly pushed the vehicle into the night.
Don continued pushing until he felt he was far enough from the
entrance of the cave to not be heard.
He pulled out the tiny flashlight and shined it on the vehicle
briefly, finding the starter switch.
Quickly he pushed the switch and grinned when the engine engaged
with a soft growl. Replacing
the flashlight, he pulled out the beacon and turned it on again.
The direction finder pointed unerringly toward the rising moon.
Satisfied, Don mounted the machine and slowly set off across the
plain, watching in the dim light for hazards that might end his
clandestine journey before he reached his destination.
For several hours, Don carefully negotiated
holes, rocks and tiny creeks, but he knew that he was still traveling
faster than they had during the awful day after John’s fall into the
crevasse. There was almost
no wind and the air held the promise of a decently temperate day.
Finally, as the moon began to touch the horizon behind his back,
he began seeing the other beacon flashing its location. Soon Don was at the site of their encampment and as he peered
over the edge of the precipice, he saw only a little more damage than
what had occurred when they left. Finding
two rocks to block the wheels, the pilot pulled out the winch, rope and
flashlight. Tying the rope
to the main axle of the machine, he ran it through the winch mechanism
and then tied the other end around his waist.
Slowly he eased himself down over the edge,
slowly paying out the rope, checking and rechecking his footing.
At first the going was easy.
The incline was sloping near the top, but then it soon steepened
until it was almost vertical. As Don slowly let himself down, he kept an eye on the
depth indicator strapped to his wrist.
Finally at fifty meters, he stopped and rested on a ledge.
Above him the clouds were showing the beginnings of day.
He would have to hurry, as the Grringol would surely have missed
him by now. John had
said that he fell about seventy meters.
If he was in the right spot, there should be a ledge or the
bottom just below him. Don lay on his stomach and leaned over the dark abyss.
Turning on the flashlight, he let its small but powerful beam
take in the rock walls below him. Surprisingly the bottom of the slope was only another thirty
meters below. John had
fallen almost the entire distance of this crevasse.
He shined his light on a large ledge just
below him and to his left. There
seemed to be stains that were unnatural.
Blood! He had found
the spot, but where was John’s body?
Quickly, he eased himself down to the ledge and examined the
ground. There was no doubt;
even the recent snows couldn’t hide the discolorations.
He shined the light around the bottom of the slope, assuming that
John somehow must have fallen over the edge and to the bottom.
But there was nothing, no stains, and no body.
He looked back up at the sky that continued to lighten and
pondered the possibilities. Don
could come to only one conclusion… there were animals on this planet
big enough to carry away a body.
Not quite satisfied, Don lowered himself to
the bottom of the crevasse and walked each way.
There was no further indication that John had been here, but the
evidence was still unmistakable on the ledge above him.
“John, I’m sorry,” he murmured, bitterly disappointed that
even in this he could not do anything.
Climbing back up to the bloodstained ledge,
Don reached inside his parka and pulled out a small image.
It was a picture with a flower stuck in the corner, a picture of
a small kitten, lovingly drawn with bright crayons.
The flower had once been a vibrant little rose bud, but had long
since dried. It was
from Judy, to whom he had passed along his desires to return to this
place. She had drawn
it when she was five, during her kindergarten year.
For some reason she had always kept it with her, even during this
time when they had only planned on being gone from the Jupiter II for a
short time. She had said
that for several years her parents had proudly kept it on the side of
Don sat on a boulder for a short time,
contemplating, wishing he could turn back time. If he had only awakened earlier, heard Will and Smith leave
the tent, been quicker than John. If
only…. An eddying of wind
caused a mournful moaning that matched his mood.
He finally stood up, and grasping the line, pushed the button
that remotely engaged the winch, and climbed the slope.
At the top, he wound the rope back up, disengaged the useless
winch and placed them all into the pack once more.
Turning the vehicle around, Don began the journey back to the
Grringol city. Owing to the
daylight conditions, he was able to make fast time and within only a few
hours saw a small group of Grringol approaching him from the caverns.
He stopped and waited. Mmringorr was in the lead and pulled up close to his vehicle.
“Why did you disregard my desires?” the Grringol asked.
His voice was harsher than usual, almost a growl and it was easy
to tell that he was angry.
“You said at one time that you were not
sure of our customs of ‘separation.’
One of the customs that we have is to properly lay our dead to
rest. We weren’t able to
do that, Mmringorr. I
wanted my friend and commander to have the honor of a decent
internment,” Don explained.
The Grringol’s features softened.
“Oh. I am sorry,
my friend. I didn’t know.
It was dangerous for you to go into Rylorr territory, but I
understand why you did it. Is
the separation complete now?” Mmringorr asked.
“As complete as it can ever be.”
Don didn’t tell feel it was necessary to tell the ursoid that
there was no body. At
least he had been able to pay his proper respects.
Silently the small group returned to the caverns.
When Judy’s eyes questioned him at the lunch table, he just
As she had each night for the past several
weeks, Penny had thought about her dad, scenes from the past the last
things that she saw before sleep overtook her.
This time she reminisced about a day when they had gone to the
beach while they were still in California.
She remembered that they took a picnic basket and ate sandwiches
as they waited for the tide to roll in.
Will stayed close to Mom since he was only three at the time, but
she and Judy and Dad had gone out when the waves began creeping toward
“Watch for the bubbles,” he said.
“Why, Daddy?” she asked. “What’s making the bubbles?”
“Those are the crabs hiding under the
sand. If you are quick
enough, you might be able to catch one,” he told her.
She and Judy watched and waited, and when
they saw the tiny bubbles popping through the waves, they took their
sticks and dug furiously. Once
she had seen a claw disappear as she dug, but that had been as close as
she had come to catching one. Daddy
had had better luck, though, and carefully opening his hand had shown
her the tiny creature. It
was lying on its back, its claws waving ineffectually in the air, the
tiny bubbles still gathering on its stomach, eventually hiding it from
“Daddy, I can’t see it anymore!” she
“That’s the general idea,
sweetheart,” he said. “It’s
trying to hide from us.”
She remembered watching, fascinated.
Later they found long, ropey lengths of kelp and popped the
round, ball-like growths on it. Sometimes
the seawater squirted her in the face, which made her laugh.
Judy and Dad each took an end and turned it for her to jump rope,
but she fell more times than she succeeded in jumping. She remembered that on the Jupiter she still had a
shell she had found that day. Daddy
had said it was hard to find shells that pretty on the beach anymore. It was pearly pink on the inside, had delicate white
projections on the outside and was only as long as her little finger.
As she began to drift off to sleep, Penny wished she had it with
Then she saw a room that looked something
like the rooms in the Grringol city, cave-like with rounded ceilings and
stone floors. The view
seemed to drift toward her, gently allowing her to see what was going
on. Soft lights shone from the ceiling. Various racks of weapons lined the walls.
There were several mats on the floor.
She saw a man and a white Grringol fighting.
The man had his back to her, but she could tell he was tall, even
though the Grringol was a little taller.
No, it wasn’t a Grringol; it was a Rylorr!
The Rylorr were white, the enemies of the Grringol.
As it moved, the resemblance to a polar bear was uncanny, just as
the Grringol reminded her of grizzly bears.
She watched fascinated as the bear-like
humanoid alternately lunged forward and jumped out of the man’s way.
Both were holding long staves, much like the one Will liked to
practice with in Hmrin’s private little gymnasium.
The man’s movements were familiar, as though she had seen
someone like him before. He
was half turned toward her and she could see that he was bearded and
mustached, although it wasn’t a long or completely full beard.
His hair was dark and wavy and his eyes were a familiar shade of
green-brown. They were like
her eyes… they were her dad’s eyes.
She jerked awake, bolting upright, and
looked around the dimly lit room. She
was alone, but the images that she saw in the ‘dream’ were so real,
so vividly clear. They were
much clearer than she had ever seen in a dream before.
She lay back down, willing her mind to bring that vision back to
her. Mom had told her
that Daddy had suffered terrible injuries, and she had heard it in his
voice as he talked to him just before he had died, but in her dream, he
looked so healthy and alive.
Confused, she wondered if maybe it was
something that had happened before and she was just remembering.
No, that was a Rylorr he was sparring with.
He was in the Rylorr city. But
why was she seeing this? Were
the present and her desires so close that she was dreaming about
something that she wished could happen?
Tears pushed past her closed eyelids and streaked down her
cheeks, staining her pillow. Penny
heard Judy’s soft footfalls as her older sister entered the room and
quietly lay down on the bed near her, but she chose not to say anything.
Finally she fell asleep, but there were no
end part four
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