Planet of Dragons

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen-

Kowtowing

 

Five soldiers rode into the clearing, looking hot, tired and dusty.  Seeing no gate, where they had supposed there should be one, they stopped and stared around them, perplexed.  One walked over to the spot where the poles had been pulled out and stared at the holes.  Maureen and Bralin were gathering sticks and branches and breaking them up.  Max and the lizards had stayed hidden in the brush. 

"What happened to the gate that was here?" the leader demanded of them. 

"Oh, Guardsman," Bralin said in a whiny, nasal kind of voice.  "Soldiers came earlier in the day and pulled the shiny posts out and took them away.   Didn't you see them, sirs?"

The soldiers looked at each other in consternation.  They had specifically been sent to destroy the gate and not to return to the palace until they had done so.  Now there was no gate to destroy. 

 "Oh, it is too bad that you were sent out here in this heat," Bralin added.  "And I suppose that the others are sitting back in the capital drinking in a cool tavern."

Several of the men grumbled and cursed.  "You're sure they were soldiers?" the leader asked.

"Oh, yes, they were, sirs," Bralin said promptly.  "Uniforms just like yours."

"Well, I suppose it doesn't matter as long as someone did it," the leader said.  "Come on, men, there's an empty house on the way back, we'll stay there for the night and report to the prince tomorrow."   They turned and rode their mounts back the way they came, without another word to the pair working in the clearing. 

When the palace soldiers were well out of earshot, Max came out of hiding and joined the other conspirators.  "Max, you will need to be back here by 2300 on the third day from today to replace the posts. It won't matter where we are or what has happened, you will need to do that," Maureen said emphatically.

"From the information that Bralin has given me, I will have the opportunity to accompany you into the provincial capital to help you look for Professor Robinson for a short time.  I will make sure that I give myself sufficient time to return precisely on schedule," Max assured her.  

"By the way, Bralin.  Thank you.  That was wonderful.  With my meager knowledge of your language, I wouldn't have been able to pull that off," she said.  And the three set out on the road leading to the capital while there was still light to travel. 

 

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As distasteful as Litha's suggestion was to John, he soon turned it into a game, with the human seeing how far he could go without the prince or his cronies catching on to his ploy.  When Dar's replacement came in early the next morning, he had curled himself up in the corner.  As the guard entered, he cried out, in a mixture of English and Krimlon,  "No more pain!  Please, no more...."  He wanted his captors to understand him, but didn't want them to suspect that he had been taught the language. 

 "He like this all night?" the morning guard asked. 

"Yes, just about drove me crazy with that abominable language of his," Dar answered.  "I wasn't sure what happened yesterday, but he certainly didn't give me any trouble last night.  Enjoy your shift, friend." 

Pouring out the abomination's ration of water, the guard kept staring at the alien, wondering at the device that would so devastate a being.  "Got your water," he said evenly.  The prisoner just stared at the controlling device clipped to his belt.  The deviant's eyes had a wild look in them; frightened.  These abominations were contemptible and deserved exile from Krimlon, but the guard wasn't a cruel man and knew that this was the only time of the day that a water ration was allocated.  Unclipping the device and laying it on the chair, he took a step toward the abomination and held out the cup.

John reached out and grabbed it, careful not to spill anything, while still giving the pretense of abject fear.  Keeping his eyes focused steadily on his guard, he gulped the water down, and then took the oatmeal-like substance that seemed to be standard fare for prisoners here.  Instead of disdainfully contemplating it as he usually did, John went ahead and ate it quickly, almost gagging at the taste.  If it hadn't been for the supplementary meals that Dar brought from his home, he knew that he would be starving.  This was not enough to sustain a Krimlon, much less a six foot three inch human.  As it was, the stuff lay heavy in his stomach.  Something else to remember Mizel by when he finally escaped from this foul snake's den.

Then he sat quietly, staring at the guard, with the empty utensils in his hands.  His captor beckoned for the items, and John slowly reached out with a trembling hand and gave them to him.  Quickly he scrambled back to the wall as the Krimlon guard put the items away and clipped the device back on.  Figuring that this was as good a time as any to sleep, he curled up with his face to the wall and tried to get some rest.  He did notice that the headband seemed to be losing power.  There was no more than a slight shock that quickly dissipated as his head rested on the stone floor, and he was grateful for whatever respite he could achieve.

Again, sleep was interrupted by a toe in his back.  John rolled over and in his half sleep almost forgot the role he was playing.  Quickly recovering, he yelped in consternation and scuttled to a far corner.  Mizel laughed and John felt a flaring of irritation at the prince's pleasure, but he continued the charade.  "No, no more . . . no more," he said softly, letting fear color his voice. 

"Well, Purifier, this is very good.  If he continues like this, perhaps a little fresh air would be in order tomorrow," Mizel commented, laughing evilly.  John wondered what he could be referring to, but knew it wouldn't be anything pleasant. Walking over to his guard, Mizel took the controlling device in his hand and then turned and approached him.  Widening his eyes as though horrified, John held his hands up in front of his face and cried out for the prince to stop.  The hooded man just stood near the door, silently watching.

Mizel pressed the button.  The shock flared briefly and caused John to cry out, but it didn't seem to be as intense as the day before.  In keeping with the part he was playing, though, the professor fell to the floor as though unconscious. 

"He does seem weakened.  The device renders him helpless very quickly now," the Purifier said evenly.  "Perhaps he will be ready for his excursion tomorrow, your Highness."

Mizel laughed as John lay on the floor, seething. He sincerely hoped that Dar was right.  Soon the pair left and he fell asleep once more, having nothing better to do and sick of groveling for the moment.  As he dozed off, his thoughts returned to the Jupiter II and Maureen, and he wished at this moment that he could teleport across space and be out of this nightmarish place.

 

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"Robot, try it again!" Will demanded.  

A humming began under the navigational console and then a loud pop, followed by the acrid scent of burned wiring.  "Will Robinson, there is something wrong in our computations or in the materials we are using.  I suspect the latter.  We need a crystal to build the conductor.  The items that we are using are not strong enough to withstand the electrical current that we have to use to link with the gate." 

"Link with the gate...  We're missing something, Robot.  I think Dad was missing something, too.  Wait a minute!   Instead of linking with the gate, why don't we figure out the components of the gate and incorporate them into the computer banks of the Jupiter II.  We would become a gate."   Will looked up at the Robot exultantly. 

"Let me think on that line of reasoning, Will Robinson.  Give me two point nine minutes."  The Robot raised his plexi-glass bubble top and Will could hear his inner circuits and mechanisms whirring.  Soon his top slid down.  "My computations tell me that the probability of success of your theory would be greater than fifty percent.  Let us go to the gate and investigate.  Then I can compute more accurately."

"And as far as crystals, Dad found a bunch of gemstones before we left last time.  Surely there would be some suitable to use as a focus for the energy transfer," Will said brightly. 

"Again you are correct, Will Robinson."

"How's it going, Will?" Judy asked as she came up in the elevator.  "And is there anything I can do to help?"

"Yes, there is.  Do you remember the place where Dad found all those gems that everyone liked so much?"

"Yes, I do," Judy answered. 

"I think we're going to need some.  If you could get samples of the different types, that would save Robot and me some time.  I can't believe that we have only a day and a half before Max is supposed to replace the gate," the boy fumed. 

"You're doing fine, Will.  And I know that you two will figure this out," Judy assured him.  "I'll go out and look right now.  Mark is down for his nap."

"The Robot and I are going to the gate.  We're trying to see if we can figure out the mechanism of the gate itself."

After several hours of examination and reexamination the Robot declared, "Will Robinson, your theory is usable and I have the equations and configurations that will give the Jupiter II the capability of using the other gate as a focus and jumping to Krimlon without the necessity of using this gate."

Will almost shouted for joy.  "All right, Robot!  We'd better get started.  First let's talk to Brashiin and see how he and Oanir are doing."

When they arrived at the ssHreana ship, Will was surprised to find that Penny was in the tank with the ssReelen.  She had only removed her shoes, but wearing her regular clothes didn't seem to impede her actions. A breathing mask allowed her to remain in the tank with her friends for an extended time, and Will saw that she was as graceful in water as she was in zero-G space.  Some of the ssReelen seemed to enjoy swimming through the strands of her loose hair.  What was most impressive was the intriguing melodies and pictures that flowed through his mind.  They were combinations of pictures of Earth and, what he presumed to be ssHreana.  It was really beautiful.  Whales frolicked in the corners of his mind along with ssReelen and creatures that he couldn't recognize.  Music of the oceans whispered soothingly. 

Penny saw him and waved. Her hair floated around her head forming a dark halo.  'Oh, Will, this is so incredible.'

'Yes, I can tell.  I envy you.  Where are Brashiin and Oanir?' he asked.

'We are here, Will Robinson.  We are progressing on the changes to our ship, but we need the help of your robot to help us load the equations and computations that will make this kind of a jump possible,' Brashiin told him.  Will saw the ssHreana working on a console further down the corridor.

"Robot, Brashiin needs your help with putting in the data for the gate jump," Will informed the robot. 

"I will be happy to help the ssHreana download the data, but one of you will have to stay to communicate with them."  

'I will, I need to get out soon anyway, before I end up looking like a California Raisin.'  Penny's floating whisper of laughter nudged his mind. 

 

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After two days of walking on the dry and dusty road, the trio arrived at the outskirts of the regional capital.  Bralin walked up to a woman carrying a basket of wash and offered to help her.  As they accompanied the old woman, the young Krimlon engaged her in conversation.  "What is all the commotion, gentle lady?"

"Prince Mizel has sent out a decree throughout this region to gather tomorrow at noon in the plaza.  It is rumored that the Guardian will be there," she informed them. 

Maureen's heart almost made a leap right up her chest.  'John,' she thought, great hope flaring.  They reached the woman's house and returned her laundry to her. 

"Many thanks," the woman said.   They nodded and took their leave. 

"I'm worried about tomorrow," Bralin said.  "I wonder what the prince is up to?"

"I don't know, but at least I'll get to see John," Maureen said.   "At least I know that he's alive."

   

 

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter One
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