Planet of Dragons
Friends in Low Places
John woke up feeling a cold stone floor beneath his
back and an intense throbbing in his head.
Reaching up, he touched the headband and felt the pulsing
bio-electric shock as the device's defensive mechanisms kicked in. Immediately, he pulled his hand away. Looking up, the professor saw a dour-faced guard watching
him, the control box hanging from his waist.
Seeing that he was awake, the Krimlon said something to him, but
John was unable to understand what he said and could only pick up
fleeting emotions from the man's thoughts.
Stiff, John started getting up but stopped when he
saw his guard reach for the control box.
Vaguely, painfully, he remembered bouts of surging electrical
pain, so he quickly slid back down and sat with his back to the wall,
watching his captor. In
relief, he saw the man take his hand away from the device. How long
have I been here? John thought dourly.
He rubbed the thick stubble on his chin and realized that he had
spent at least a night and part of another day as a prisoner of Prince
Mizel. He was
abominably thirsty, and signed his need to the guard.
Laughing, the man said something and his tenuous thoughts
indicated that John had missed his chance for the day.
Shrugging, he decided to follow the advice of an old
college professor and analyze the situation.
Apparently Mizel was terrified of him, but was more afraid of him
dying than being alive to escape and cause trouble.
This caused him to believe that the sentiments of Garroween and
his family were not isolated.
Mizel was afraid of insurrection and wanted to break the symbol
of his opposition, namely the Guardian, him.
Sighing, John realized that once again he was in the middle of a
political quagmire, and just as before, he was being used as a pawn.
Unconsciously, he again brought his hand to his head
trying to adjust the uncomfortable thing.
The quick jolt seemed slightly weaker, or else he was adjusting
to the discomfort. Nevertheless,
he jerked his hand away. He
heard the guard laughing and glared at him for a moment.
The headband, John realized, was a totally different situation.
He couldn't escape, even if there was no guard, because all
anyone had to do was turn one of those dials or push a button, and he
would be on the floor, convulsed with currents of electrical energy.
Of course, he might be able to get the box away from
the guard, and then he could destroy it.
Then, even though the headband would still be in place, he would
be free to escape and seek help in getting the heinous thing off.
With this thought, he realized that he would have to bide his
time. And even though
captivity chafed terribly, he would have to be patient.
The squeaking of the door brought him out of his reverie, and he
watched a tall guard come in his cell, take the box from the other guard
and sit down casually. After
a few words, the first guard left, and John and the tall guard looked at
each other for a while. He
realized that this was the same guard who had been instrumental in his
capture. Finally, John
sighed, licked his dry lips and slumped back against the wall, trying to
A tapping on his shoulder brought him out of his
half-sleep. The Krimlon had
left the device on his chair and was kneeling in front of him, a water
container in his hand. John
was puzzled and pointing to the container, tapped his chest, wondering
if the guard was offering it to him or merely trying to taunt him.
The guard held it toward him, and no further urging was
necessary. As the cool
liquid slid down his throat, John felt refreshed, but he couldn't help
but wonder what this man's motives were.
When he finished, John handed the container back to
the soldier, who then offered him some food.
It looked very much like a sandwich and not realizing until then
how hungry he was, he took it. As
he ate, he noticed a slight smile on the guard's face. John nodded his thanks and the guard pointed to
himself, saying the word "Arandar."
"Arandar?" John repeated, pointing to the
Krimlon. The guard nodded.
The professor pointed to himself, "John Robinson."
Arandar pointed his finger at him and said a word
that John recognized as 'guardian.'
Shaking his head, he repeated his name.
Arandar again called him Guardian.
The professor scowled and the guard laughed. And suddenly John realized that he had a friend among the
enemy. What few emotions he
could pick up, plus the man's actions pointed inexorably in that
Smiling, John used signs to tell Arandar that he
wanted to learn his language. The
guard nodded in understanding and immediately began teaching him.
It was a great help that some of Arandar's thoughts came into his
head, especially when he was trying to teach him something abstract that
couldn't easily be signed or pointed to.
By the time Arandar's shift was almost ended, John could make
some basic things understood.
Using gestures, John attempted to express his
gratitude to the guard for helping him.
Arandar looked blankly at him and then said, "Guardian, I do not understand." He also shook his
head to emphasize what he was saying.
Forgetting himself, John began to send a mental image
that would illustrate what he was trying to say.
A sharp jolt from the headband brought instant remembrance.
It was quickly over, but John mentally kicked himself for his
lapse, even as the pain was subsiding.
"Guardian, are you . . . hurt?"
Dar asked him.
"No, I am . . . not hurt," he said
my name is John, not Guardian.” John
was tired of having others' high expectations pushed on him. That was the main reason that he was in this predicament, and
it irritated him. He sighed
and calmed down, realizing that it wasn't Arandar's fault.
Dar smiled. He
didn't know why he didn't give the Guardian his friend's name from the
outset. Holding his hands
up, he held them apart, "Arandar."
Bringing them together, "Dar."
John pointed to the guard. Dar
nodded vigorously. The
professor made the same gesture, hands wide apart.
"John Robinson." Bringing
them together, "John." He
smiled broadly, and added with great emphasis,
Dar laughed softly.
It was near the end of his shift and the beginning of morning.
It wouldn't do to have his new friendship reported to his
illustrious brother-in-law. "Guardian,"
he said simply.
John rolled his eyes and sighed lustily.
Understanding that this was a dangerous time of the day for both
of them, he tried to make himself as comfortable as he could against the
wall. Then he thought of
something. Looking around,
but seeing nothing to help him, John undid his belt and slid it off.
Using the buckle, he scratched a mark on the wall.
Calmly he replaced it and lay down on his side, trying to get as
comfortable as he could with the abominable headband.
Maureen was gratified to see Brashiin and Oanir
looking refreshed and healthy in their ship's habitat, but she didn't
stay to watch them frolic with their companions.
"Penny, I'm going back to the ship. There are some things that I need to do before I return to
"Is there anything I can do?
Let me go with you and help you find Dad."
"No, sweetheart, although I appreciate the
offer. You can help
Brashiin and Oanir with the ssReelen.
Hopefully, Will and the robot will be able to finish making the
changes soon and the rest of you can go through the gate in the Jupiter
"Guardian's beloved, we, too, wish to help you
in your quest. What would
you like us to do?" Garroween
asked. They had been
quietly watching everything around them in rapt interest.
"Well, for the moment, information will be the
most helpful. Then I'll be
able to make more viable plans," she told them.
"Now you get to see what our spaceship looks like."
Maureen walked up the ramp where Judy was working on
the flight control systems. "Oh,
Mom," Judy cried softly. "I
wish there was something we could do right now."
"I wish there was, too, but I think that
patience and planning is the key right now." She introduced her oldest to the Krimlon.
Mreelon's eyes shifted to the playpen where Mark was
making soft sounds and happily watching his shimmering green
flutter-dragon walking along the edge.
"Oh, Guardian's daughter, is this your child?"
Judy nodded. "He
is beautiful." Judy
beamed with pride.
Maureen had a sudden insight.
Turning to her Krimlon guests, she asked,
"Are you familiar with robots?"
They shook their heads.
"Well, you are about to meet one, so don't be too surprised.
Let's go below." When
they reached the cargo bay, she called out for the martial arts robot.
"I am here, Mrs. Robinson.
I am very glad to see that you have returned safely.
But where is Professor Robinson?" he asked.
Maureen explained the past day's event quickly and
then introduced Garroween and his family to the robot.
Max politely bowed and expressed his regret at the professor's
plight. Maggie flew from
the arboretum and squeaked sadly at Silverado, who was perched on
Maureen's shoulder in an attitude of total dejection. The silver lizard
flew over to Max and clutched onto his shoulder. 'We'll
find him, Silverado,' Maureen assured him.
"Max, do you think that I could learn to use the
long-staff? John once said
that it was the perfect all-purpose weapon and could be easily mastered
by a person of any size," Maureen asked.
"I have been trained in some defensive martial arts, but
haven't practiced in some time."
"I suspect that you are going to go back to the
other planet as soon as possible, but I can help you develop some basic
skills before you go," Max told her.
"That isn't all. I want you to accompany me.
You have a natural walk, and if you are covered with clothing,
you should be able to fool anyone at a distance.
And I think you would be a great asset in my quest to find
John," she explained.
"I would be able to protect you as well, Mrs.
Robinson," he added.
"Guardian's beloved, you already look somewhat
like us, and the metal man could wear the shroud of an Outer Circle
pilgrim," Mreelon suggested as she craned her neck, trying to see
everything in the cargo bay. Maureen
noticed that Bralin and Garroween's eyes were as big as saucers at the
sights surrounding them.
"Would you help me do that?"
Maureen asked. "Darkening my skin would be the easy part.
My daughter studied theater before we left Earth and could
probably help with the ears and my eye color."
"If you could do that, then it would be very
difficult to tell that you were not one of us.
You are only slighter taller than the norm, and that deviation
would not be noticed as much," Bralin commented.
"When would you like to begin your lessons, Mrs.
Robinson?" Max asked, during a pause in the conversation.
"A little later, Max."
"I will be ready, ma'am."
"Maureen, I can take a laser rifle and go back
now," Don said as he joined them in the cargo bay.
"Will told me what happened."
"No, Don, you're needed here to pilot the ship
when it's ready to go through the gate.
Max and I are going back as soon as we can," she said with a
finality that harbored no argument.
"I don't like it, Maureen," Don protested.
"I don't like it either, Don, but there is no
other solution at this point. I
do know that John will be fairly safe for now, and I think that rushing
into this would be disastrous," Maureen explained.
"How are the modifications going?
Will was a bit distracted; I felt as though I was interrupting
his train of thought."
"Will has been working on this ever since he
intercepted Maggie with John's message.
The only problem that we may have is parts, but he and the robot
should be able to get some from the ssHreana ship," Don reported.
"They mentioned something interesting, though, and that was
the possibility of doing the same thing with the other ship and taking
it through as well."
"Yes, two ships would definitely be much better.
And the ssHreana wouldn't be water-deprived during the trip back
here," she mused.
"Excuse me, Guardian's beloved, but there is
something of which you need to be aware," Bralin interjected.
Maureen apologized to the Krimlon and introduced them
to Don. "What am I
forgetting?" she asked.
"The Prince's men are now aware of the fact that
we went through the gate. I
suspect that Prince Mizel will be very frightened of an invasion.
With motorized vehicles or tilons it will probably take two to
three days for the soldiers to get to the palace with their report and
return to dismantle the gate on our planet's side.
I may be wrong, but that would make this end of the gate useless,
would it not?" Bralin asked.
"Oh, good Lord, yes, and John would be stranded forever.
Don, Max and I must return and somehow stop the dismantling of