Planet of Dragons

 

 

 

Chapter Five-

The Gate

 

Arandar stretched and rolled over, smiling as he watched his beloved's sleeping form.  This was his day off, and he fully intended on making the best of it, even if all he did was stay in the house and enjoy Mooreelitha's company.  With the new questing gate and the frightening possibility of an influx of more otherworldly abominations, he had been on duty for almost a full cycle without any days off. 

Of course, he thought wryly, If his highness had not felt the need to put up the gate in the first place, then there would be no possibility of abominations arriving on our world.  We could deal with finding the ones already here.  Arandar squelched the thought as unseemly, but it kept popping up in his head.  He never could understand, from his boyhood on, why there was such a relentless urge to seek out and destroy the zanlings and their allies.  Sighing, he brought his mind back to his sleeping wife.  She stirred and turned over, her blue-violet eyes opening and staring into his.  A bright smile lit her face.

"Oh, 'Dar, you'll never believe the incredible dream that I just had," she said.  "It was both fascinating and frightening.  And it was so vivid."

"Well, what was it about, my love?  Me?" he said with a laugh as he drew her close and enveloped her in his powerful arms.  At slightly more than two krilicks of height, he was considered almost abnormally tall and his limbs were proportioned to match.  It was very easy to embrace Mooreelitha, and he never lost an opportunity to do so. 

Giggling in response, she murmured in his ear.  "No, not this time, beloved.  I saw the Guardian." 

Dar drew back in surprise.  "What did you say, 'Litha?" 

"I'm pretty sure that was what I saw in my dream.  It was a male from another world.  He was very tall, three krilicks, if it is possible to believe that.  And while in form and features he was similar to us, there were differences."  She proceeded to give a description.  "And then there was the zanling.  It was silver."

"Are you sure about what you saw?  It was a dream you know." He was suddenly fearful.  This talk of seeing things in a dream smacked awfully close to that which was considered abominable, and if this was noised about, then even Litha's relationship to the ruling house would not help her.  "Litha, don't breathe a word of this to anybody.  Do you understand?  In fact, sometimes I think the walls are listening.  Just keep it to yourself."

Her eyes showed fright at the implication of what he was saying, and she nodded.  "After all this time, though, to have this person come to our world.  What do you think will happen, Dar?  Do you think the abominations-in-hiding will rise up and destroy us?"

"I think that your royal brother will do everything in his power to destroy the zanlings that come through and this guardian as well.  You know what happened to the other zanlings that flew through the gate.  Some escaped but many were shot from the air as they came through, and the fish-like creatures that followed...."   He shook his head. "This has gone beyond self-preservation of our race," he whispered in her ear.  "It is hatred, phobia." 

Dar slid out from under the coverlet and stretched his muscles.  "Enough of this depressing talk.  It's my day off.  Let's spend it near the beach," he declared.  Rubbing his hand through his unruly long red hair, he looked at Litha and laughed with pleasure at the prospects of a peaceful day.  She had reached for her brush and was working the knots and snarls out of her even longer red hair. 

Climbing back on the bed, he took the brush from her hand and brushed the long tresses until they shone.  He admired the smoothness of her skin and he took a moment to brush away her hair and kiss her neck.  "So beautiful, my dear," he murmured as he also kissed the pointed tips of her up-swept ears.  "I pity the other-worlders that have round or no ears.  Yours are so beautiful."  He kissed the other ear for good measure.  She laughed and drew him close for a long kiss. 

"Well, we had better hurry and get out of here before my dear brother decides that you are indispensable again," she commented wryly. 

But just as she was packing a basket with various finger foods, a call came over the summons line.  As the wife of an imperial guard and also as an imperial relative, she understood the need for such things, but she heartily wished at times that these devices, like the similar ones that earlier generations had owned, would break down and be discarded.  Sighing, Litha called her beloved. 

He came in, his hair only tied back loosely with a leather thong.  "By the Maker, can I not have one day?" he asked in exasperation.

"Guardsman Arandar speaking," he said formally into the microphone. 

"Guardsman, you are to report to quadrant 224.5 immediately.  There is a report of more zanlings and alien abominations.   They are, at present, unaware of our scrutiny, so you are to proceed to station 69 and receive further orders.  Under no circumstances are you to report to the vicinity of the gate.  Acknowledge."

"Imperial Voice, this is my only day of leave in the whole cycle.  Is it not possible for my second in command to report in my stead?"  Dar knew that he was taking a great risk, but he was tired and wanted this day with his beloved.

The Voice responded coldly.  "You have been summoned by the Prince himself.  This is not open to argument.  Report, Guardsman."

"Acknowledged, your Eminence.  I should be able to get there within two turns."  He clicked off the line.  No, he thought sourly, One doesn't argue with Prince Mizel, even if that one is married to his older sister.

Turning to Litha, he shrugged his shoulders.   "I am sorry, my dear.  I wish we had left sooner, but I guess they would have tracked us down even at the beach.  It must be important."

Litha kept her thoughts to herself, but she suspected that her dream and this important summons were linked.  The Voice did say that zanlings had appeared and she suspected that one of them was silver in color.

 

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Will fixed a container with food and other necessities and tied it to the back of his jet pack, which he had brought to his tiny cabin.  Despite what his parents said, he felt that he needed to follow them, help them.  Next he set his alarm for a half hour before dawn and then crawled into bed.  His green lizard, Nova, squeaked soothingly and curled up by his head, and soon both were sound asleep.

As Will drifted off to sleep, he was unaware of the slight sound coming from the cabin next door.  Stealthily, Penny opened her door and peered into the common area.  The lights were dim and the only noises she heard were those of several sleepers.  She had waited until she heard no more sounds from her brother's cabin before venturing out.

Now with almost absolute quiet settling over the Jupiter II, she stealthily slipped into the galley and pulled some leftover foods from the refrigerator.  It seemed woefully empty and she wondered remotely, who had come in for a midnight snack.  Perhaps that was what Will was doing.  Her four flutter-dragons, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy peered at her from on top of the unit.  Peter rustled his wings and craned his neck to glance in the fridge with her. 

'Don't make a sound!' she admonished them.  Peter's head snapped up and the thought that came into her mind was astonishingly like that of a rebuke, as though she were questioning their intelligence.  It was amazing to her how much more communicative they had become since bonding with them a year ago.

Next, she slipped into the cargo bay and pulled a small laser pistol from the arms cabinet, along with a holster.  Then, with the lizards floating around her head, she exited through the cargo bay access door and disappeared into the night.  When she had gone far enough from the Jupiter II to not be seen, she switched on the flashlight and proceeded on a natural path that led toward their old landing site.  The lizards alternately flew ahead of her and behind her, making sure that all was well.   

By dawn, Penny reckoned that she was more than halfway to their old site. 

 

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Just before dawn, Will was awakened by Don's shouting.  Glancing at his chronometer, he noticed with chagrin that he should have set it for a half an hour earlier.  Then he realized what Don was saying.   Shutting the alarm off, he opened his door and looked directly into the worried countenance of the pilot.  "Did you say that Penny's gone?" he asked.

"Yes, and her lizards, too," he exclaimed. 

"Bet she headed for our old site," Will surmised. 

"Even I can figure that out," Don commented dryly.  "I can't believe this.  Your mom and dad entrusted you two in my care, and the first night, Penny takes off.  And they have the jet packs!"  He sighed lustily and stared at Penny's open cabin door.  "I'm sorry for snapping at you, Will.  I need to get dressed and take off after her, but I'm afraid that she's had too much of a head start on me."

"I have the jet pack that I built, Don, but I don't know if it's big enough for you to use."

Don looked at him with hope.  "Let me see it." 

Sheepishly, Will went into his room and pulled it out.  Don looked at him meaningfully, but didn't say anything for a moment.  Jimmy and Nova chirped peevishly at each other. 

"You're right, I don't think it'll take me for more than short hops."  He rubbed his chin thoughtfully.  "Will, I know what's in your devious mind, but you have to listen and do exactly as I say."  The boy nodded.  "I want you to take the jet pack and travel to our old landing site, looking for Penny on the way.  Then I want you to keep her there until I can catch up in the chariot.  I don't care what kind of compulsion you may feel or how much Penny might argue with you, I want you to do that for me."

"Okay, Don."  Within a half hour Will was flying northward.  Within an hour, Don had the chariot out of the cargo bay and was ready to follow.  The Robot was secure in the back of the all-terrain vehicle, and all that remained were the farewells.

"I'm sorry to be leaving you like this, Judy, but this is the only way I know to get them both back," he said. 

"Don, I have Max here to protect us.  Don't worry, you just concentrate on getting Penny and Will back home," Judy told him and then gave him a farewell kiss.  "And you come home safe as well," she added. 

"Take good care of my wife, Max," Don told the robot. 

"That is also my function, Major West.  To protect, and I will most assuredly do that," Max replied.  They watched the chariot head northward, making the natural path a little wider.

 

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Entranced by the effect of the gate, Maureen finally murmured, "That is powerful."

Silverado squeaked an inquiry.  "Yes, maybe that would be wise," John said.  Maureen looked at him questioningly.

Explaining quickly to his wife, he then looked hard at the silver lizard and gave a command, 'All right, go through, reconnoiter, but don't stay too long.'

Even as he spoke, the flutter-dragon zipped between the pillars and winked out of sight.  The minutes stretched out long and then longer, and finally John sighed and sat down on a boulder.  Maureen joined him, taking his hand.  "I'm sure he'll be back soon.  It takes more than just a few minutes to check out a new place," she reassured him.  John just nodded.

After what seemed an eternity, but was in reality only half an hour, Silverado returned, winking in as abruptly as he had left.  Chirping, he conveyed what he had found.  His main impressions were of heat and dryness, but there were forests and waterways, so in the lizard's mind it was acceptable.  John laughed at that assessment and encouraged Silverado to continue.  The first humanoids he had encountered seemed friendly, showing a little surprise at his presence, but no animosity. 

"Well, we can leave the flight suits behind, I'm afraid we'd roast in them," John commented.  "But other than that, we might as well go.  When we have reached our destination, we can send Maggie back to let Don and the others know that we're safe."

Within a few minutes, John and Maureen were ready, and hand in hand, they walked between the upright posts and out of the reality of Karturm.  

 

 

 

Chapter Six
Chapter One
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