Planet of Dragons

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-three:

Final Confrontations

 

 

The first guard was surprised at the speed with which the Guardian initiated his attack and was soon lying on the ground nursing a sore head.  The second pulled out a sword-like knife and attacked, but John just danced back and, making a quick parry with the steel post, pushed the guard’s arm down.  Then a left cross dropped the man to the ground, where he lay groaning. 

With a cry of rage, the Purifier pulled a long saber out from under his shroud and advanced quickly on John.  “The people will see the end of the Guardian now,” he roared.  With his hands on each end of the pole, John met the arcing swing of the Purifier’s saber before it reached his head.  With his foot, John shoved the man back into the small crowd that had formed around them. 

Hearing Silverado’s warning, John pivoted and saw Mizel rushing toward him, a garishly decorated sword in his hand.  The speed of the prince’s attack caught John slightly off-guard, and the steel pole went skittering out of his hand and far out of reach.  Several lightning thrusts and swings left the professor on the defensive.  The knife he had confiscated from the soldier was scant aide against the long sword that the prince wielded, but his longer reach helped balance the odds slightly, and he avoided the prince’s advances.   

“Professor Robinson!  Catch,” the tinny voice of Max called out.  Glancing up quickly, John saw the battered robot limping toward him, a plantiod-crinth in one hand, ready to throw it.  

John rolled out of the reach of the advancing Purifier as well as Prince Mizel.  As he stood up, he saw the deadly Graxod sword arcing through the air toward him.  Snatching it before it hit the ground, John jerked the saber out of its sheath and turned toward his attackers.

Quickly advancing, John engaged the prince, his strokes sure and precise.  He looked for the Purifier while he was fighting Mizel, but was unable to see him.  He would have to rely on Silverado and Max for warning from that direction.   The prince’s moves began to be choppy and erratic, as though the man rarely practiced.  A few more advances and the ornate sword was snatched from Mizel’s grip by the point of the plantiod-crinth and sent sliding along the stones of the plaza.  With a yelp, Mizel followed it, and John turned his attention to the Purifier. 

JOHN!!!’ he heard Maureen scream in his mind.  Pivoting, he saw the Purifier’s arm around his wife’s neck and a device similar to his headband against the base of her skull.  The terror-stricken look in her eyes was quickly extinguished, and she slumped to the ground. 

“See what your interference has done, Guardian.  Your beloved has taken the device that was meant for you.  She will die and you will die soon after,” the hooded man gloated.

“Maureen....MAUREEN!!!!”  John cried in rage and despair.  He felt the quick shutting off of her telepathic cries as though a door had been slammed. 

John heard Litha cry out in fear and suddenly Dar rushed past him, his long knife in his hand.  He ignored the threat of Mizel, realizing that Dar was engaging the prince.  John advanced on the Purifier with the fury of a berserker, the plantiod-crinth finding the hooded man’s blade in blow after blow, never letting up.  Jumping out of the way, the Krimlon made an advance of his own, and the two blades met with a crash, sliding down to the hilts. 

“What did you do to her?” John hissed. 

“A blocking device, Abomination,” the Purifier laughed, shoving John away from him. 

Remotely, John was amazed at the strength in the Purifier’s arms and realized that this man did practice.  Another advance brought the two fighters close to each other again, and the Krimlon laughed a gloating, triumphant laugh.  “It slowly blocks off areas of the victim’s brain, ending with the part that controls all involuntary functions.  Your beloved’s heart and lungs will stop and she will die.  And there is nothing you can do about it.”

Cold rage sat like a stone in his heart, and then it exploded throughout his body.  With a roar, he advanced on the Purifier and beat him back step by step.  Fear replaced gloating in the Krimlon’s eyes, and the strokes of the blade became weaker and less sure as John’s relentless attack continued.   Suddenly John parried an erratic thrust and forced the Purifier back up against the king’s transport, the point of his blade against the man’s chest.  “Tell me how to neutralize it if you want to live,” he hissed. 

“You are the Guardian.  You find out, Freak.  But I will never surrender to you,” the Purifier answered and surged toward John allowing the plantiod-crinth to enter his body.   The Krimlon slumped forward in death, and horrified, John let go of the blade, letting the body drop to the ground. Quickly, he swung around and saw Mizel dead on the ground, Dar’s knife protruding from his chest.  Litha was holding Maureen in her lap, tears flowing down her cheeks. 

John raced over to Maureen and reached for the device to pull it off.  No, John!  Will kill Maureen,’ he heard Silverado and Maggie tell him. 

“She will die regardless,” he said softly, now cradling Maureen’s still form in his arms.  Vaguely he heard the shouts of his children, but he ignored them, instead trying to reach his wife telepathically. 

John felt hot tears of futility, despair and fear flow down his cheeks, something that had not happened since he was a child in the tough neighborhood of his youth.  “Maureen,” he whispered, holding her tight and feeling the soft beating of her heart slowly ebbing away.  He had promised to cherish and protect her, and he was helpless, unable to keep her alive, unable to save her. 

John had always assumed that she would be there.  Be there for him, for the children. Even when the danger was greatest, she was there; his pillar, his strength.  Reassuring him, loving him, supporting him. Now that pillar was being pulled from under his foundation.  His heart felt as though it was being ripped out of his chest, and he didn’t know what he would do without her.  Even lost in space, he had her.  Now...

Kissing her, he whispered in her ear, “I love you, Mo.”  He felt the hideous device with his fingers.  “Don’t take her from me, please God, don’t,” he murmured fervently. 

Weapon to destroy a weapon,’ was the thought in the mind of the Purifier, when John had asked how to neutralize the device.  It was as though it were something the Krimlon had read without truly understanding what it meant.  Weapon to destroy a weapon.... John thought, realizing this had significance.  Weapon..... Yes!  Another weapon, he thought suddenly.  Gently laying his wife down, he dug in her pockets until he found what he was looking for.  The small ball with which Smith had accidentally struck him down over a year ago.  Maureen had mentioned it during their short sojourn in the Greel Mountains.

Turning Maureen over and then concentrating on the small device in his hand, he focused on sending a neutralizing beam of energy to the band at the base of her skull.  Concentrate, concentrate, focus.....  A bright beam of light shot from the ball in his hand and struck the hellish band.  It felt warm in his fingers as he continued to draw on its power.  Finally, John heard a small pop and the blocking device fell from her neck, with only a minimal amount of bleeding. 

Taking Maureen back into his arms, he felt her pulse and was horrified to realize that her heart was still weakening, her breath almost non-existent.   Maureen, come back to me.  We need you.  Come back.’  A throbbing pain forced its way into the forefront of his consciousness, but he pushed it away.  Suddenly he felt the presence of all of the flutter-dragons, lending strength, building his confidence. Then he felt the touch of his children, especially Penny, also lending strength.  He used this increased power to reach down into the innermost parts of Maureen’s brain, to induce her body to function once more. 

Sweat mixed with tears and still he concentrated, delving telepathically, trying to get a response.  Finally, Maureen gave a slight sigh and the unsteady rhythm of her breathing changed to the quiet ebb and flow of normal lung function.  John felt her heartbeat strengthening, and he looked up to see his family staring at them, Judy and Penny crying softly.  Then the flutter-dragons’ happy warbling told everyone what he didn’t have the voice to say at the moment.

Beckoning to Judy, he said in a husky voice, “Take care of your mother until I come back.  There’s something I have do.”  She gave him a questioning look, but John ignored it, only picking up the small round weapon, putting it in his pocket and standing up slowly, unsteadily.  Dar grabbed his arm to help him and Silverado landed on his shoulder, curling his tail around his neck.

“Guardian, I will come with you,” Dar announced. 

Shaking his head, John simply said, “No, just me.... Alone.”  Looking deep into his friend’s eyes, he saw understanding.  “Does someone have a tilon I can borrow?”   A mount was brought to him, and he reached for the reins.  He felt so tired, but he also felt the overpowering compulsion to finish what he knew he had to do.   He could not rest until everything was taken care of.

When he had pulled himself into the saddle, he felt a hand on his knee and looking down, saw Will gazing up at him.  They said nothing to each other for a moment.  John looked over to the Jupiter II and then back at Will.  “Thank you, Will, for following through.  I’m proud of you.  You did a man’s job.  I’m proud of all of you, and I love you all,” he said to the rest of his family.  Looking at the king, cradling his dead son in his lap, he added, “I am truly sorry, your Highness.” 

The king looked up, the anguish palpable on his countenance.  “We were so unwilling to bend, to be tolerant.  I reaped the consequences of what I sowed.”

No, your highness.’ John said telepathically. ‘Your son could have figured out the same things that you did.  He made his choices, but I am very sorry for your loss.”   Reezel just nodded, unable to say anything else.  Litha stood near her father. 

Will watched his father ride toward a side street on the opposite side of the plaza, thinking vaguely that it was the same street that he had taken earlier in the morning.  His dad had given no telepathic clues, but he felt that it was something dangerous and he was worried.  The same street that I took..... The palace; he’s going to the palace.  Dad picked up the little weapon before mounting.  He’s going to destroy the cache of lost weapons!’  And suddenly Will understood the danger of what his dad was going to do.    “Don, Dad’s going to destroy the cache of weapons!”

“What?  What do you mean?”  Don asked from Judy’s side. 

“The cache of lost weapons and scientific equipment that was found in caves here on Krimlon is stored near the palace.  Dad is going to use that weapon Dr. Smith found to destroy them!”  Will said anxiously. 

“Will, I have to get your mother to the Jupiter II, and then we’ll go after him.  You see if you can get a couple more tilons and meet me at the ramp,” he said, picking up Maureen and carrying her unconscious form into the ship.  By the time he came back out, Will was mounted on one tilon and holding the reins of the other one for Don.

 

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John rode into the narrow plaza fronting the palace grounds and immediately recognized the building being used for storing the scientific discoveries.  It was separated from the main building by a long, narrow walkway and had a minimum of windows.  It appeared to have been built with security in mind.   Riding through the crowds made sparse by the spectacle in the Plaza of the Ancestors, he approached the palace gate.  “Tell everyone in the palace to move as far away from the security building as they can.  And tell them to do it quickly.  I will only wait a few minutes.”

“Who are you to give us orders, Abomination?” one of the guards asked tersely.  Silverado lifted his head up from John’s shoulder and squeaked indignantly.  The man blanched.  “The Guardian,” he breathed.  “So it’s true.”

“So it would seem, soldier,” John answered vaguely.  “Now do as I have commanded,” he added in a more authoritarian voice.  The men scrambled into the palace.  “Silverado, do you detect the presence of anybody in the weapons building?” 

No, John,’ Silverado told him.  It was as he thought.  Riding back through the crowds, he warned them away as well.   Dismounting, John sent the tilon back down the street from which he had come.  Taking several deep breaths, he tried to empty his mind of all extraneous thoughts, his worry for Maureen, his fear, his exhaustion and to focus only on his determination to destroy these instruments of death and degradation.  He felt Silverado’s force merging with his own and he concentrated on the weapon in his hands, holding it up toward the building. 

Concentrate.....concentrate.’  Silverado’s powerful thoughts blended with his own.  The ball in his hands began to grow warm, then hot and finally searing, but John put that from his mind as well.  “Focus,” he murmured to himself.  Let everything else go. 

Destroy destruction,’ he heard from the zanling, and John concentrated on that thought.  Destroy destruction.’ Suddenly a fiercely bright light shot from the weapon in his hand and blew a hole in the side of the two-story building.  Several pops and creaking noises came from the interior of the structure, and John wondered if he had done anything more than minor damage.  Just as he was ready to try again, he heard an ominous rumbling and saw a small amount of smoke rising through the hole his weapon had made.

Dropping the now blackened weapon at his feet, John turned and ran, snatching the flutter-dragon from his shoulder and cradling him in his arms.  Behind him, the rumbling increased and a roaring sound preceded the explosion that shattered windows in the nearby houses and caused a shower of glass to fall on the pair.  At almost the same time the concussion of the blast hit and slammed them to the ground.  With a slight groan, John lapsed into unconsciousness.   Soon the palace grounds and the plaza in front of it were still, with only the sound of falling plaster and glass encroaching on the silence. 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-four
Chapter One
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