Planet of Dragons

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two-

Compulsion

 

"Some kind of tornado?"  John asked. 

"I really can't say," Maureen replied.  "But it looks complete.  If it was a storm, then it must have been a meteorological anomaly occurring only in the summer months, because there was never any evidence of this type of weather when we were here before."

John felt a rising alarm at the implications of what he was seeing, but he was nevertheless still eager to land.  It was strange feeling both emotions at the same time.

"Well, whatever it was, it's gone now.  Let's go ahead and land," Penny announced in the silence that followed her mother's words.

Looking at his youngest daughter and then back at the screen, John pondered the situation.  Finally the silence grew so long that Don looked up at him and said,  "You're not seriously thinking of landing there, are you, John?"

It disturbed him that the thought did fleetingly occur to him.  Mentally berating himself, John turned to Maureen.  "What does it look like a hundred kilometers to the south of our old position?"

"Looks fine," she said after a short pause to check her scans.

"Excellent.  Locate a suitable clearing and give Don the coordinates.  Then we'll land and set up camp."  Silverado almost pranced on his shoulder and John could feel excitement in the flutter-dragon's mind.  Perhaps that was where the confusing feelings were coming from, he thought as he watched Don skillfully pilot the spacecraft to a safe landing.

 

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John stood looking out at the thick pre-dawn darkness in confusion.  The day before had been particularly strenuous, but their camp was set up and the family could relax and take some time to celebrate their own Thanksgiving even if it was going to be a couple of days late.  Now he tried to remember waking up and dressing, without success.   Suddenly he had been awake and standing in front of the observation window, seemingly ready for a walk outside. 

"Professor Robinson, I detect that you are distracted.  Is there a problem that I may be able to help you with?" the Robot asked, rolling toward him.

"No, unless you can tell me why at almost forty-five, I have suddenly developed the propensity for sleep-walking."

The robot raised and then lowered his clear dome, made a metallic 'throat-clearing' sound and pondered for a minute.  "That would explain why you did not answer me when I addressed you a few minutes ago."

"And that might explain why I suddenly woke up," John murmured, his brow furrowed in concern. 

"That is similar to what happened to Penny the night after we landed.  She had apparently been sleep-walking as well and only woke up when I warned her against going outside at two o'clock in the morning," the Robot explained.  "Perhaps there is a correlation, Professor."

Looking at the automaton in surprise, John tried to figure out what that connection might be.  He rubbed his eyes; he was much too tired to think at the moment.  "Has this happened to anyone else?"

"Not that I am aware of, Professor, but I did overhear Mrs. Robinson saying that she had inexplicably awakened one night and then had heard Penny leaving her cabin."

"Keep working on the problem, Robot.  The only time anyone in the family has done something like this before has been when external forces have influenced that member," John told him, remembering the time when he had been possessed by Cantos, the centuries old demonic spirit.  He was disturbed that such might be the case here.

"Affirmative. I will begin immediately," he intoned.  "Perhaps it would be best if you went back to bed."

"I think I will.  Let me know if you figure out anything," John replied, stifling a yawn.

 

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As Maureen prepared the table for the family's Thanksgiving dinner, Maggie continuously flew through the clearing, squeaking and chirping imploringly.  At times the little blue lizard would skim over the treetops near the north end of the clearing and then come back, land on Maureen's shoulder and tug on her hair. 

'Go find another lizard and fly in the woods. Just let me work!' Maureen finally thought in exasperation.  Maggie chirped indignantly and then zipped off, dodging trees and bushes.

The flutter-dragons had been almost annoying since they had landed.  Maureen could only attribute it to a desire to go back to the forest where they were living when the ship had first landed on Karturm.  Shaking her head, she got back to dinner.  Judy came out of the ship with Mark and the portable playpen. 

"Let me take him while you set that up, dear," Maureen said, reaching out for her grandson.  Mark made a sweeping grab at her hair, and she laughed even though he succeeded and jerked hard enough to make her gasp.   "Such strength, my darling, just like your grandpa," she murmured.  Pulling his fist loose, she walked back over to Judy and handed him back.  "I need to go check the dinner and your father.  He's kept to himself all day working on something." 

"I'll finish out here, Mom," Judy said.

 

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Professor Robinson, I have computed all of the recent occurrences and have come to the most logical conclusion," the Robot intoned. 

John was checking out the condition of one of the laser rifles, making adjustments where needed, and making sure the charge on the power core was adequate.  Looking up, he said, "Well, what did you figure out?"

"There is some kind of compulsory force at work near our old landing site.  Its power seems to work on those who have telepathic abilities.  You and Penny have the greatest abilities in that area and therefore are the most strongly affected.  I have noticed that the flutter-dragons are also affected.  I compute that this force will continue to exert its influence indefinitely, as long as the source of its power lasts."

"Nice thought," John growled as he made the last adjustment on the rifle and got up, slinging the weapon over his shoulder. The idea that some external force was affecting his behavior was more than disturbing; it agitated him greatly, and he considered its threat to be serious enough to warrant quick action. 

Going down to the cargo bay, he immediately pulled out the only fully operational jet pack, checking its power settings and adjusting the delicate gyroscopic apparatus.  

"Sir, are you planning an excursion?"  Max asked from behind him.  John started, not having heard the martial arts robot approach. 

"Max, you are without a doubt the quietest robot I have ever been around," John said testily.  "And you'd better start giving me warning when you approach."

"Yes, sir.  But that is simply the way I was constructed, sir."  The robot stood waiting patiently.

"Yes, I am, Max.  I have to find out what's going on at our old camp."

"Going alone against the unknown is not very wise, Professor," Max pointed out. 

Still aggravated at the Robot's findings, John had a retort ready, but was unable to give it because of his wife's approach.

"Going alone where?"  Maureen asked.

"To the old site."

"Alone?"  Her eyes widened as she pondered the implications of what he said.   "Oh, John, you can't do that."  Suddenly she felt a great dread course through her.

"Maureen, this is something that has to be done.  And it can't wait.  Tomorrow I plan on taking the jet pack and checking out the old landing site.  I can do it in less than two days. "

She took a deep breath, trying to come up with a plausible argument that would convince him to wait.  "John, you know that even though I might not always be happy with all of your decisions, I usually acquiesce.  But this time I can't just sit back and let you do something that I feel is wrong."  He started to say something, but she held her hand up to stop him.  A spark of anger flashed in his eyes, but he nodded for her to continue.  "Some of my reasons may seem frivolous, but together they give me great cause to worry.  

"First, we have only been here a few days.  I think you're rushing this," she said.

"Maureen, I have reasons for needing to do this now."

"Granted, but you are planning on going alone.  That's foolish.  At least take Don. You don't have any idea what's out there," Maureen said in exasperation.

"All I need to know right now is that there's something affecting our family and I want to find out what it is and if possible, neutralize it," he retorted.  "I am going tomorrow.  And I won't ask Don to go with me.  He has a baby."

"John Robinson, you spent the time that was needed to plan strategy against the Graxod, and that's the main reason that you succeeded in stopping them.  It's foolish to go compulsively traipsing off somewhere with no forethought and....."  She stopped, realizing what part of his reasoning must be.  "It is a compulsion, isn't it?  Something is affecting you, just as it is Penny and the lizards.  It's clouding your judgment.  Don't you see, John? Whatever this is, it's making you irrational and impulsive."  Maureen felt almost as though she was babbling, but she couldn't help it.  The feeling that John was going into a situation of extreme danger was overwhelming.  "You're wrong to go alone.  Don't ask how I know, I just do.  Don't go until someone can go with you." 

"Maureen, I have no intention of changing my plans, nor do I intend to belabor the point either," he snapped.  She saw a harshness in his features that he seldom exhibited, especially to her.  The flutter-dragons that had been in the cargo bay retreated to the arboretum, squeaking pensively.  "Be quiet," he shouted.  They were immediately silent.

"John, there's also that alien ship to consider.  The one that I saw come in, but didn't answer us when we tried to communicate with it."  To her irritation, he just shrugged.

"Stop it, Maureen.  I'm going out there to take care of whatever is affecting us, and I'm going alone," his voice rose as his anger increased.  "And don't question my judgment.  I know what I'm doing."

Desperately, Maureen reached out and putting her hand on his arm, tried to draw him toward her.  His muscles were tight and conveyed the anger, which she could also feel in his now less guarded thoughts.  He drew away, and began walking toward their living quarters. 

"John, don't do this. I've almost lost you several times.  Don't shut me out on this," she cried.  "John, please, listen to me.

He turned back to her, an angry glint in his eye. "I have listened enough, and have heard nothing but emotional nonsense.  Just drop it."

It was her turn for anger to kindle.  "John, how dare you dismiss my concerns as though they were the morning trash.  How dare you imply that you are the only one who is capable of making an intelligent decision!"   Tears of anger and hurt began to fill her eyes.  She blinked hard to keep them from overflowing.  This was not the time or the place for that.  "I am not being foolish and my concerns are real, but you are too stubborn and pig-headed to listen to me.  I just pray that my fears are wrong.  That my dread of this decision you're making is foolishness, but I know it's not."

Before he had a chance to say or do anything, Maureen stormed past him into the galley.  John watched her go, his entire body tense with pent up anger and guilt. What bothered him the most was the fact that her arguments had a great deal of validity.  Finally, he vented his rage by slapping his palm against the bulkhead before he, too, stalked out.

 

 

 

Chapter Three
Chapter One
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