Planet of Dragons

 

 

 

 

Chapter Fifteen-

Escape At Last

 

John jerked straight up. “Mo!” he cried.  Looking around wildly, he saw the guard staring curiously at him.  Jumping to his feet, he started examining the walls and mumbling to himself, but his mind kept trying to remember what he knew he heard as his light sleep left him.  I am here and I love you,’   He was not imagining it, but at the same time it was inconceivable that Maureen could be here.  Laying his head against the cold stone, he realized that when he saw Silverado, he had lightly felt the touch of another presence.  That presence had to have been Maureen.  She was at the ‘exhibition’ and saw him. 

Smiling bitterly, he wondered what she thought of his performance.  But she had to have seen through it; she sent him a message.  Or perhaps she sent the message because of it.  Confused, John slid back down to the floor.  She was here; she had come back before the destruction of the gate.  How was he going to find her?  It was imperative that he escape tonight.  He had to. Calm down, professor.  Practice what you preach.  Practice what you were taught.... Analyze.

It seemed obvious that the power of the headband was either weakening, or there was a flaw in the device due to age or bad design.  So when he did escape, Mizel should have less ability to incapacitate him.  A logical assumption, which he sincerely hoped was correct. His mind kept going back to the stable and the animals being housed there.  If he could use one, that would get him further away from the city and from Mizel’s control.  Tonight he would be free of this hole; tonight he would find Maureen.  

Sweat rolled down his face.  It seemed even hotter than usual, and the humidity had risen along with the temperature.  Closing his eyes, John tried to wrest some coolness from the stones.  A distant rumbling heralded the possibility of a storm, and he welcomed it.  A click of the latch alerted him to a visitor, but he kept his eyes closed, not wanting to deal with the prince right now. 

“Asleep?” the visitor said.  It sounded like the bodyguard. 

“Never know with this Abomination.  He was awake a short time ago,” the regular guard said. 

“Well....”  A short painful electrical shock caused him to jerk forward, but he played his role and slumped face down to the floor.  “The prince might think that this animal doesn’t know our language very well, but I think he does, and so does the Purifier.  I needed to give you some information and didn’t want this freak hearing me.  Listen carefully, these instructions come from his Highness, so be sure to follow them explicitly.”

“I will, sir,” came the response.

“The Purifier has gathered a great deal of information which points to the traitorous activities of Guardsman Arandar.  When the Guardsman comes in tonight to relieve you, you are to relieve him of his life.  As soon as that is done, do the same with the Abomination and then report to me.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir, it will be done.” 

John heard the door click shut once more.  Lying there quietly, he wondered what he or Dar had done to make them suspicious.  Mentally shrugging, he realized that escape was going to come sooner than either of them had expected.  After a reasonable time, John went through the motions of waking up.  The Krimlon was in the chair watching him in amusement.  Looking at the device in the guard’s hands, he cried out and jumped to his feet, sliding along the wall until he was in the far corner. 

The guard laughed.  “Sit down, Abomination.  I’m not going to hurt you.  At least not yet,” he added sadistically.  When the guard looked down at the device clipped to his belt, John acted, crossing the distance to his captor in three strides.  His elbow caught the man under his chin and propelled him backwards, tipping his chair to the floor.  As he fell, the guard reached for the device, but his hand never made it; his head hit the floor just a second after the back of the chair did and he went limp.

Reaching inside the unconscious man’s uniform, John pulled out a knife, which he transferred to his own belt.  Then he unhooked the controlling device and bashed it against the wall.  After several blows, the pieces began raining to the floor, and the professor smiled in deep satisfaction, thinking that this had to be the last one.   Taking off the Krimlon’s shirt, John ripped it up in strips, tying several together until he had usable lengths.  Then he listened at the door, and hearing no sounds, smashed the chair against the wall.  Taking a smaller length, he stuck it between the guard’s teeth, tying it securely with a length of cloth.  Then he secured the unconscious man’s feet together and lastly bound his hands. A longer piece of chair served as an extra weapon.

Standing back, John was pleased with his handiwork.  Pulling out the guard’s basket from the corner, he looked inside and saw some fried meat that closely resembled chicken.  The distant rumbling seemed to be getting closer.  All the better, he thought. A storm will make escape easier, hiding any noise that Dar and I make.   As he was finishing the last of the guard’s dinner, the Krimlon woke up and stared at him.  There was fear in his eyes, but still he kicked and moaned, trying to get someone’s attention. 

Pulling out the knife, John held it under the struggling guard’s chin.  “I am generally a peaceful man, but my patience is non-existent right now.  If you want to live, I would suggest that you sit very quietly,” John told his prisoner in a cold voice.

After what seemed an abominably long time, John heard footsteps approaching the cell door.  He held the knife ready as a key rattled in the door and with a slight squeak, the door opened.  Quickly, John grabbed the surprised Dar and jerked him in the room.   “I would suggest that you keep quiet as well,” John hissed, holding the knife to Dar’s throat.  His back was to the trussed up guard, and he smiled slightly to reassure his friend.  “Shall we go?  You will be my hostage,” he added.  Dar slowly turned and walked out of the cell.  John pulled the door shut behind him.   Motioning to his friend, he headed in the same direction he had taken during his ill-fated escape attempt two days before. 

Just outside the door, John stuck the knife back into his belt and turned to Dar.  “Maybe that little scene in there will serve to confuse the prince.  But my friend, you must go and get your beloved immediately.   The prince ordered your execution.  I don’t know how they figured out that you were helping me, but I do know that you both need to find a safe place to hide.  Maureen is somewhere nearby, and I have to try to find her.  Good luck, Dar.  Now go.” 

Dar needed no extra incentive; he turned to leave. “Guardian, the direction that most go who are in trouble is toward the east, toward the Greel Mountains.”  John nodded and Dar was gone. 

Running into the stable, John saw in the half-light, stalls; in which stood reptilian-like creatures that looked vaguely like the flutter-dragons, only much larger and more powerful.  The golden eyes were the most similar features, and he wondered if the two species were related.  Walking calmly over to the largest, a bluish-gray animal, he talked soothingly to it while he pulled its bridle from a peg near the stall.  It was a hackamore type bridle, having no bit, and it slid easily onto the creature’s head.  Locating a saddle, John continued talking softly to the animal, while he placed it on his mount’s back and buckled the straps.  He marveled at the creature’s patience and seeming good will as he led it out of the stable. 

Near the door, John saw a coil of rope.  Grabbing it, he threw it over his shoulder and then mounted the obliging beast.  There was the off chance that he had underestimated Mizel and the availability of more controlling devices, so he wanted some measure of assurance that if he was incapacitated, he would remain on his ‘horse’ and not be recaptured by the prince.  Wrapping one end of it around his waist, he leaned down and reached under the creature’s somewhat sinuous neck, drawing it up with his left hand and tying that end around his waist as well.  Enough slack was left for him to wrap it around each wrist at least once.  John sincerely hoped that it was enough as he certainly didn’t want to fall off and be dragged to death. 

Pulling up the slack of the rope with one hand, he gathered the reins in the other and lightly touched his heels to the animal’s side.  The gait was similar to a horse’s, but there was a more sliding, slithery feel to the creature’s  actions and since the front legs were a bit smaller and less powerful, there was a loping action as well.  But it was not unpleasant. 

John didn’t push the animal, letting it keep to its fast loping trot.  Clouds had covered the moon and there was no way of knowing whether he was heading east or not, but he figured that the important thing right now was to get as much distance between himself and Mizel as he could during the night.  As soon as he got well out of the city, he would find someone to give him directions.  It was very dark and if he stayed in the shadows, his alien-ness wouldn’t be obvious.  He only wished he could communicate with Maureen.  Reaching up, John felt the defensive mechanisms of the headband reacting, but he still tried to pull it off.  After several minutes all he had for his efforts were a dull headache and a deep frustration.

Rumbling thunder seemed to echo his pensive mood, and John began seeing flashes of lightning in the distance.  The air was heavy with the smell of distant wetness.  It felt as though this storm was going to be a strong one, but he kept riding towards it, the creature seemingly unaffected by the occasional lightning flashes and approaching thunder. 

It was then that he felt the first jolts of the bio-electric shocks.  They were only slightly more powerful than he had felt recently, and John just gritted his teeth and continued, but he took the precaution of leaning forward and wrapping both arms with the rope.  It wasn’t terribly comfortable on the back, but he had put up with worse lately.  Obviously, there was another controller.  After a while, he relaxed as there were no new shocks and he sat up a bit to get the stiffness out of his back. 

As the storm approached close enough to whip the treetops with its wind and rattle the eardrums with the crash of thunder, a series of powerful shocks surged through his brain and down his body.  The rope was the only thing that kept him from falling off his mount as his muscles spasmed.  His fists closed around the rope and the reins and the confused animal stopped in the middle of the road, disconcerted by the alternating signals that he was getting from his rider.  John's screams of pain were drowned out by the roaring thunder.

He realized two things almost simultaneously as the waves of energy beat inexorably at him.  He had grossly misanalyzed the situation; Mizel was trying kill him with the controlling device since he couldn’t execute him in his cell, and apparently the device still had the power to do just that.  His agony was brief though, as he suddenly felt a sensation like an explosion in his brain, and he slumped onto the creature’s neck as he dropped into blessed oblivion.  

With a great crash of thunder, the rain began, falling in a sudden torrent that instantly soaked everything.  The animal sat quietly for a moment, but realizing that his rider wasn’t moving, he looked in the direction the storm had come from and understanding the last wishes of his rider, started trotting toward the distant mountains.  He was a military mount, trained for many situations and the disability of his rider was one of them, so he adjusted his gait accordingly.  As the night and the storm progressed, the creature continued his easy trot, never stopping, heading unwaveringly toward the east. 

 

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Max was able to make good time and was more than halfway back to the gate as the storm approached.  Getting wet meant nothing to him as his parts were protected, but the lightning could be another problem altogether.  He continued at his fast mile- eating run, ignoring the thunder that grew ever louder in volume behind him.  His directive was to reinstall the gate, and he would ignore the relatively remote danger that threatened behind him. 

What the robot didn’t count on, however, was the threat of Krimlon soldiers.  Even his highly tuned auditory sensors didn’t detect the mounted men until they were almost upon him.  “You, pilgrim, have you seen an abomination mounted on a tilon pass by here?” one of the soldiers asked, somewhat deferentially. 

“No, sir, I have not,” Max said, keeping the shroud low over his face. 

“What is wrong with your voice, pilgrim?”

“It is like this all the time, sir,” Max answered.  Then a sudden gust of wind pulled the shroud away from his head and a flash of lightning reflected off of his gleaming metallic face. The soldiers cried out in shock.  “An abomination!   A deviation!”

“A robot,” Max intoned dryly.  The leader charged him, but the robot was ready and using the skills programmed into him, soon had the soldier on the ground, writhing in pain. Two others came at him, but one came off his mount on the end of a staff and the other was jerked from his saddle as he thundered by.  The other soldiers saw the ease with which the robot fought, and they pulled up their tilons, undecided on their next course of action.  Max decided for them, propelling himself through the air in a prodigious leap and knocking yet another Krimlon from his saddle.  The others turned their animals and headed back for the city. 

A tilon looked nonchalantly at him, and the robot pondered the wisdom of riding an alien animal.  He decided that his weight would not be too great a burden for the animal, and it would enable him to get to the gate even sooner than his running gait would.  Gathering the creature’s reins, Max carefully mounted, sitting quietly in the saddle to let the beast get used to him.  When the animal just stood placidly, Max applied a little pressure with his heels and urged him in the direction of the gate. By now the wind was whipping the tree limbs furiously, and the lightning was bright enough to force his optical sensors to adjust.  The thunder roared and boomed around him. 

Max was making good time to the site when lightning struck a tree six meters ahead of him, causing it to explode with a great crack.  His mount leaped sideways and then bucked in fright and pain.  Suddenly it collapsed and before the robot could extricate himself from the stirrups and leap off to safety, the animal had pinned him underneath it. 

Doing a self-diagnostic, Max realized that his right foot was damaged and he was caught in an awkward position where he was only able to use the strength of his arms to move the dead animal. After several tries, he realized that his attempts were futile.  The robot pondered his situation as the rain began to fall in curtains around him.  Sitting up as far as he could, he reached his metallic fingers near the body of the animal and began scraping the now wet dirt from under the dead tilon.  He knew that his efforts would be slow and tedious, but eventually he figured he would have a space big enough to slip out from under the animal.  Then he would worry about the damaged foot.

 

 

Chapter Sixteen
Chapter One
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