Planet of Dragons

 

 

Chapter Twenty-

The Stage is Set

 

 

‘Guardian, I must tell you what happened to the zanlings from K’rtr’m when this gate that you came through was set up,’ Krishn’r told John and Maureen right after they finished breakfast. John had showered and shaved, and with the hearty breakfast, was feeling almost back to normal by the time they had been summoned to see Krishn’r.  Based on Penny’s description, this being was of the same species as her friend, K’rthk’rinkl. The creature was very small, not more than a meter tall, with mouth-parts and eyes very similar to the flutter-dragons.  The alien had light reddish-gold downy fur.

“Yes, I know that except for one zanling, all seemed to have disappeared.  I was wondering what had happened to them.  There were quite a few when we left the planet four months ago,” John said.  He watched the long, delicate fingers of the diminutive alien.  They seemed to echo the little creature’s agitation, moving and gesturing as he spoke telepathically. 

After the gate was set up, the Office of Purity kept watch to see what came through.  When the first zanlings came through, they were ecstatic, realizing that they had finally found the Planet of Exile.  The Purifier shut down the gate temporarily until King Reezel and his son, Mizel arrived, and then they hooked the gate back up,’ Krishn’r paused and John felt great sadness in the alien’s thoughts. 

When the zanlings began coming through again, the Purifier’s men started shooting them from the sky.  We don’t think many escaped because only a few made it here,’ Krishn’r paused. ‘I know that you have been treated horribly at the hands of Prince Mizel, but more and more  people are coming into the open, demanding an end to the bigotry and fear.  You have been the catalyst, the fulfilling of prophecy, but the soldiers of the prince are taking measures to put down open dissension.  Guardian, your presence would break the hold the Office of Purity has had over this planet for hundreds of years.’

Without a word, John got up and paced back and forth in the little room.  Krishn’r was silent and Maureen watched her husband, realizing the strain under which this request was putting him.

“Yes, I’ll go back.  I’ll do what I can to put down this repression, this reign of hatred.  But you can never understand how very difficult this journey back into my nightmare is going to be,” John stated softly.

‘Thank you, Guardian John Robinson,’ Krishn’r told him. 

John stared at him.  That was the first time he had been referred to by his given name since he got to this planet.  He felt little tendrils of laughter in the alien’s thoughts. “How soon?”

Immediately. As soon as you can, Guardian,’ the leader stated.  John just nodded.

 

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“How long do you think it will take to put Max together again, Robot?” Will asked placing a tool in the pincer hand of the automaton.

“At the rate we are going, I project it will take another day, Will Robinson.  I will at least be able to restore his positronic function and then Max will be able to help in his own reconstruction.  I do not believe that there was any permanent loss from his memory banks,” the Robot explained. 

“Good.  Do you need my help right now?”

“No, Will Robinson.  Not at the present time,” the Robot said as he made another adjustment on his damaged counterpart. 

“Then I think I’ll practice some of the ‘chi chi nah’ that Max taught me,” Will told him.

“Very well,” the Robot answered as he leaned over to make more adjustments on Max’s body.

When he completed his exercises, Will looked at the cargo bay access hatch with renewed determination.  Hearing footsteps, he turned and saw Don approaching.

“Will, tonight we’re going to lift off and find a more secluded place to land this ship.  If we do that, I’ll be able to sneak back into the city and find your dad,” he explained.  “We can’t just sit here being gawked at or attacked by the Krimlon.  I only hope that we’re given the opportunity to take down the force field.  I would hate to leave it behind.”  Will just nodded.   “By the way, you’re getting quite good at that acrobatic stuff,” Don added. 

“ ‘Chi chi nah,’ ” he corrected.  “And thanks.”

After Don left, Will returned to the work area where the Robot was working on Max.  “Robot, if I had a plan to find Dad, would you help me without saying anything to Don?”

“That depends on whether your plan entails much danger, Will Robinson.  I am programmed to keep you from harm.”

“You’re also programmed to protect my dad, too,’ the boy said tersely.  “And all we’ve done today is sit in the ship and watch people protesting or trying to attack us.  Dad could be sitting in a jail cell being tortured.  I have to find out what’s going on.”

“If this civilization had not deteriorated to the pre-industrial level that it has, I could monitor communication systems,” the Robot mused. “What is your plan, Will Robinson?”

“If you can help me tonight when there is nobody out there, I can sneak into the king’s residence and find out where dad is,” Will said vaguely.

“My computations tell me that what you are proposing is not a plan.  It is nothing more than the human phrase, ‘a shot in the dark,’ and as such is doomed to failure.”

“Robot, I know that it’s not planned out step by step, but there are several things that are in my favor.  First of all, I resemble the general populace.  I am almost the right height for a young adult, with the same hair color and close to the same eye color.  I can wear a headband to cover the tops of my ears and I don’t think that my short hair will be that noticeable.  Besides, it will be several hours before dawn, who’s going to be hanging around to notice me?”

“That remains to be seen, but I think that your plan is too dangerous.”

“I think that sitting around doing nothing but sending out a message is too dangerous for Dad and Mom, too,” Will snapped.

“That assessment is also correct, Will Robinson, but I do not want to see you in danger,” the Robot said in a somewhat sad tone of voice.

“If you can help me get out of the ship safely without being seen, then I think that getting to the palace will be fairly simple,” Will said, his voice hard with determination.

“Let me think on this.  If I do not come up with a better solution, I will help you even though I do not like the idea."

“Thanks, Robot,” Will said with a sigh of relief.  They worked together on Max until Nova announced dinner. 

 

                              =============================

 

“My father,” Mizel said, bowing before King Reezel.  The prince noticed that his father looked tired and even had the appearance of having aged somewhat since they had been together at the gate some twenty-five cycles before.   He wondered remotely if he had some kind of ailment and couldn’t help the thrill that momentarily raced through his chest when he thought of his ascension to the throne.  Squelching it as unseemly, Mizel looked at his father steadily while waiting for him to explain the reasons for his summons to the national capital.

“It has come to my ears that you captured an abomination that many believe is the Guardian of past legend.  Is this true?” the old man asked.

“An alien and his beloved came through the same gate that the zanlings did, and we captured him.  His resemblance to the details of that old story were uncanny, but I took measures to neutralize his effectiveness to stir up the rabble,” Mizel explained, hoping that his father’s information was incomplete. 

“Funny thing, my son.  It seems that the protests have intensified, and the ‘rabble’ as you call them, have complained that you have tortured the Guardian or killed him.  This rabble has only increased since the reports came in from the provincial capital,” Reezel said, a hard look in his eyes belying the softness of his words.

“As far as I know, the Guardian is still alive.  He escaped and might be hiding out in the Greel mountains or in the home of a sympathizer.  My men have not found him.”  

“With a restraining device attached?  Maybe this alien really is the Guardian, if he can escape under those circumstances,” the king said sarcastically.

“He had help, Father,” Mizel growled.  “Your illustrious son-in-law, Arandar, helped him.  He and my dear sister are abomination sympathizers, they both helped the freak.”

“Litha?  Impossible,” Reezel said, a catch in his throat betraying his emotions.  “What proof?”

“She sent food for the Abomination to eat.   When the prisoner escaped, Arandar and Moorelitha disappeared, presumably to the Greel mountains with the so-called Guardian,” the prince said tersely.   

“If the alien and any of his people are captured, they are to be treated humanely and brought before me for questioning.  Do you understand?  You should have informed me right away when this Abomination was caught,” Reezel said coldly.  “I am not happy with the way you handled this affair, my son.  Send the Purifier to me.  He seems to be your constant companion these days, he should be close by.”

“Father, you sound as though you really believe this . . . this animal is the Guardian,” Mizel commented.

“I know you believe he is the Guardian, or you wouldn’t have done what you did,” Reezel retorted. 

Mizel ignored the comment.  “You also sound sympathetic.”

King Reezel paced the room and then walked to his balcony overlooking the nicely manicured palace grounds. At present he couldn’t see the grounds; it was ebony dark beyond the aperture.  “Perhaps we have been wrong all these centuries,” he murmured softly.

“What, Father?” Mizel asked, incredulous at what he thought he heard his father say.

“Nothing, son, just the babbling of a tired old man,” the king said as he turned back to Mizel.  “But understand this; you will take no punitive actions against your sister.  If she is found, she will be brought before me.  Do you understand me?”

Mizel inclined his head.  “Yes, Father.”

“Now leave and send me the Purifier.”  Mizel turned on his heel and started to leave.  A guard rushed in, breathless.

“Your highness, pardon my intrusion.  A huge craft is sitting in the Plaza of the Ancestors.  No one knows how it got there; it was just discovered by a watchman.  It fills up most of the plaza. The owners of the craft talked about wanting their leader back.  They said he was the Guardian.  They were deviants; one very tall and .... your highness, when we tried to fire at them, our bullets just bounced off an invisible wall.”

Reezel turned back and looked out of the balcony again.  The dawn was just making itself manifest.  He surmised that it was a flying craft, such as the Ancestors once had, such as he had heard existed on other worlds, and it had landed during the past few hours.  Sighing, he turned back to the soldier.  “Send a contingent of troops to the plaza and keep watch.  I will come and look at it myself later.  Report any developments.”

 

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John looked over at Maureen in concern.  She had been dozing in the saddle and he was worried that she would fall off.  Their pace had been grueling, and although he expressed his wishes that she remain in the safety of the Greel mountains, Maureen had been adamant that she not be separated from him again.   Dar was leading the group and Litha rode behind them.  John felt Dar’s displeasure at his own beloved’s presence on this trip as well.  “Dar, when are we going to take a break?  Even the tilons have to rest sometime.”

“In a few turns, Guardian, when the sun is at its hottest.  Then we will find a shady area and eat and rest for a turn.  The kreeling, Krishn’r indicated a great need for haste, and the news was already old when he received it.” 

Their meal was eaten quickly and the remainder of the time spent resting.  When it was time to leave, Maureen rested against John’s chest as they rode the biggest tilon.  Its loping gait soon sent his wife into a deep sleep and later, as the sun began to set, the small group continued ever onward toward the capital city where the unrest was reported to be the greatest.  Grateful for the different destination, John realized he had no desire to confront Prince Mizel again at this time.  As the night deepened, and still they continued onward with only short breaks, he began to feel some of the lethargy that his wife had been feeling.

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-one
Chapter One
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