Seventeen - The Womgrantiod
Don lowered the ramp and John exited,
standing near the Jupiter II in his silver flight suit,
plantiod-crinth resting gently on his hip and Silverado on his
shoulder. Lord Commander Kalingdor approached with a
contingent of his subordinates. John was satisfied to note
that they were about the same height, which meant that the
Graxod commander was of medium height for his race.
"Well, at least I am wasting my
time on a capable looking human," Kalingdor sneered. John
noticed a small translator at his waist that was similar to
the one on his own. "Although the pet is unwise to stay
with you at this time." Silverado chirped indignantly.
"Lord Commander, it is
gratifying to see that I am dueling with a Graxod of
prodigious height," John laughed shortly. "Now, in
Earth vernacular, letís cut the bull and get to the
womgrantiod," he added coldly. John was pleased to note
that the translator had to pause a few times before
interpreting his second statement somewhat correctly.
Kalingdorís breath hissed like a
steam kettle. "Your people will come out of your ship;
all of them. I will not have someone left behind to
treacherously kill me with hidden weapons."
Apparently, Maureen heard the
Graxodís statement. She started down the ramp before John
could make a reply. The others followed. The professor saw
that his wife was trying valiantly to stare down the alien
commander, but he knew that her exterior was hiding a deep
fear. A fear for his safety and for the others, including the
"Our sensors indicate three more
humans. They must come out now," Kalingdor commanded.
"They are only young ones and
pose no threat," John said, dismayed at the childrenís
Another Graxod walked over to Esther
and placed what looked to be a knife against her throat.
"Call them out, Commander."
Reluctantly, John did so. "Lord
Commander, this just adds to the reasons for my defeating you
in the combat," he said ominously.
Kalingdor walked away from John to
examine the group, when all were assembled. "This appears
to be a family unit. Do humans always take the family unit
into combat zones?"
"Some do," John answered
"Then your family will get to
witness the demise of its patriarch." Walking over to
Judy, he felt a lock of her long blonde hair. She pulled back
from him, a look of revulsion on her face. John admonished Don
to control himself with a glance and a mental command.
He could only hope that his hot-headed friend could
keep a reign on his actions as well as his emotions.
"Well, it would seem that this one will be a
suitable host for a Braxir offspring when the vermin is
excised from her," he said with a hissing laugh.
Before John could say or do anything,
Don launched himself at the Graxod. "Iíll kill you for
that, you......" A Graxod guard jumped between them, and
suddenly Don stepped back, staring down at the spreading red
stain on the front of his flight suit. The guard held a bloody
dirk in his hand, which he slid back into its hidden sheath.
Scott rushed up to Don, who was
leaning against his wife, the blood seeping between his
fingers. Judy was also trying to stop the flow of blood. Scott
jerked off his shirt and used it on the wound, at the same
time easing the wounded pilot to the deck. Looking up at
Kalingdor, he said, "I have to get him on board where I
have medical supplies."
"Not until the end of the
combat, and then it wonít matter anyway," Kalingdor
said, laughing at his own joke.
John watched Scott work on Don. The
little knot of despair threatened to enlarge and fill his
chest. Angry with himself, he felt that he could have
prevented it, done something. Don raised his head and looked
into Johnís eyes. "John, focus. Just do it. I know you
can," he said quietly. John slid the plantiod-crinth out
of its sheath and used it to salute Don and the rest of the
group. Silverado and the other flutter-dragons clustered on
the edge of the landing ramp squeaking a chorus of
Doing a military about-face, John
continued to hold the sword in front of him and simply said,
Kalingdor burst into action, pulling
his sword from its sheath and swinging it in a horizontal arc
that ended on Johnís still vertical blade. The professor had
simply stepped back slightly, so that his opponentís sword
clanged against his, without touching him. Johnís
plantiod-crinth didnít waver, and several of the Graxod
gasped sibilantly at the ability of the human to withstand the
Then while Kalingdor was still
stunned by his opponentís strength, John went into a spin
that brought the sword against the Graxodís, the momentum
ending as the blades slid together all the way down to the
hilt. John raised his right foot and brought it down hard on
the commanderís instep, or what served as one. Kalingdor
howled with pain and backed off several steps. John didnít
give him any respite. He followed the alien, applying
one-handed blows that kept Kalingdor on the defensive for
John employed fencing moves, leading
with his right leg and shouting as he advanced, which further
disconcerted his opponent. Kalingdor reversed his lead,
shifting the blade to his left hand and swinging low. Throwing
himself to the side and somersaulting in a move that brought
him to his feet immediately, John spun around to find the
Graxod almost directly in front of him. Kalingdor then lunged
in a way that would have certainly placed the blade between
his ribs had John not danced lightly out of the way.
With a loud shout, John parried the
Graxodís move and reached in and made a cut below
Kalingdorís collarbone. Hissing in rage, the alien lunged
again and again, becoming more and more enraged as John
continually parried his blows. Finding his stride, the
professor began smiling as he kept withstanding Kalingdorís
blows. This further infuriated the commander.
Mindful of Donís condition and his
need for medical care, John pressed his advantage. The Graxod
was inexorably forced to retreat backward, and John reached
under his opponentís blade and scored another cut, taking
the braid off of his military uniform in the same move.
In a series of lightning fast moves,
both parties advanced and retreated, neither combatant giving
more than a meter. The sweat began to roll down his face, and
John shook his head to clear his eyes. Kalingdor took
advantage of the moment and advanced on him in an overhand
swing that brought his blade down on the professorís with a
crash that rattled his teeth. John realized that he wouldnít
be able to keep this up forever. He thrust the alienís blade
aside with his sword and again changed his balance to his left
leg. He immediately drew his right leg back and hit the
commander in the chest with his heel.
A loud whooshing of breath told John
that he had scored well, and he followed up with an advance
that gave Kalingdor no time to recover. Finally, John reached
in with the tip of the plantiod-crinth and ripped the
Graxodís blade out from his grasp. The professor advanced on
the commander, placing his sword tip at the base of the
commanderís throat. "Declare the tiodzin, Kalingdor,"
John said hoarsely. He prodded the sharp tip just enough to
draw a few beads of the dark red blood on the Graxodís neck.
The commanderís next move was
anticipated only a split second in advance by Penny, who
screamed in his mind. At the same time, Kalingdor held up a
device in his left hand and a bright, searing flash of light
hit John in the face.
The shock of the device lasted only a
moment, but John realized that it had been enough to knock him
to the deck. A burning sensation ripped from his eyes
into his brain and then stopped, leaving only a slight
throbbing of pain and a dry, sandy feeling under his
eyelids. And darkness. Absolute, total darkness.
John felt the cold metal plates beneath him, and he also
realized that the sword was no longer in his hand. Kalingdor
was laughing his hissing, sibilant laugh, but what he heard
over everything was Maureenís voice, crying and calling his
ĎItís all right, Mo,í he
thought desperately, trying to soothe her. 'Itís only
temporary.' Slowly getting to his knees, he tried to rub
the sandy feeling out of his eyes, but knew that he wouldnít
be able to succeed. He knew from Pennyís insight and the
gloating, triumphant thoughts of the Graxod that no amount of
rubbing would help. The deep, velvet blackness closed around
him, and the little knot of despair that he had kept under
tight rein was threatening to engulf him. He had gambled and
lost; he had failed his family. His weakness had doomed the
human race to miserable slavery.
Then a coldness settled into his mind
and encapsulated the despair. He might have lost, but never
would he give up. ĎPenny, where is the sword?í he
queried telepathically, hoping she was focused on him.
ĎRight in front of you, Daddy,í
she returned. ĎAbout two feet.í
As he reached for the sword, he heard
Kalingdorís sibilant voice rise in triumph. "You lost,
human. Declare the tiodzin, human vermin, declare it and I
will make your end painless." Putting his hand out at
what he thought was two feet, John was gratified to feel the
hilt. Then as he was slowly standing up, he saw flashes of
scenes around the shuttle bay.
Revelation hit him like a meteor and
with it hope. ĎSilverado!!í he shouted mentally.
Almost immediately, he felt the slight weight that indicated
the flutter-dragon on his shoulder. ĎShow me Kalingdor,í
he ordered. Concentrating on seeing what the lizard was
seeing, John soon was able to orient himself again.
Standing in front of a very surprised
Kalingdor, he drew himself up to his full height and addressed
not only the commander, but all of the Graxod. "Be aware
that you are not dealing with a race that will give up as you
have experienced in the past. You are dealing with humans;
Homo Sapiens. We have the will and drive not only to make you
regret trying to enslave us, but also to defeat you. I will
never declare the tiodzin. You will have to kill me, Kalingdor,
and then you will have to do the same thing over and over
again when you get to Earth. This invasion will be your
Without giving the Graxod time to
wonder at the humanís seeming recovery, John cried out and
advanced on the commander, swinging the sword in a scathing
arc that would have taken the alienís head off, had he not
moved back. As it was a slight line of dark red blood welled
up from the cut on Kalingdorís neck.
Feeling the flutter-dragon slip and
clutch at his suit, John admonished Silverado to hang on at
all costs as he advanced again, slashing and thrusting at the
shocked commander. Kalingdor finally decided that his opponent
had not been greatly affected by his weapon and started
offensive movements of his own. By now, fatigue had set in,
and coupled with the shock of the commanderís disruptor,
John felt his strength begin to wane. He was fighting
two-handed and he knew there was less strength in his blows.
Silverado hung on tightly, his golden
eyes never wavering from the Graxod commander. Grateful for
his friendís loyalty, John focused on finding an advantage
and using it to end this fight before total exhaustion set in.
The clarity of the flutter-dragonís vision was astonishing,
at least at close range, and John saw things in his mind that
he never noticed with his own eyes. He saw the almost
imperceptible limp that Kalingdor was affecting as he advanced
and retreated, and he saw that the commanderís lips had
tightened and paled.
The limp was in the left leg.
Feinting an advance, John again shifted his weight. This time
the alien anticipated his move and lunged. Simply pivoting on
his right heel and grabbing the alienís sword arm with his
left hand, the professor brought the hilt of his
plantiod-crinth down solidly on the Graxodís left kneecap.
With a scream, Kalingdor dropped to the deck. Again John
brought the sword point to the commanderís neck.
"Declare the tiodzin," John said for all to hear.
"Admit defeat, Kalingdor," he shouted, pressing the
sword closer. Silveradoís sharp eyes detected movement in
the alienís right hand. Swinging the sword aside in a
lightning swift move, John made a slashing wound across the
Graxodís wrist. The alien cried out again and held his wrist
close to his body.
"Tiodzin, say it, Kalingdor! Say
it and live," John repeated. And then in a move that John
didnít think the commander had in him, the alien grabbed his
sword and swung it trying to slash his legs. Jumping sideways,
John brought the sword down in a swift arc and Kalingdorís
head rolled away from his body. The Graxodís lifeblood
flowed on the metal decking.
"The Womgrantiod is ended,
Graxod warriors. I have won. Is there any Graxod who wishes to
dispute my claim as your new Lord Commander?" He turned
slowly; getting a picture of each Graxod in attendance, and
saw only shocked stares.
One of the sub-commanders finally
came forward and bowed. "You have surely earned the right
to be Lord Commander, my Lord."
"What is your name?" John
asked him, his breathing slowly returning to normal.
"Mdorin cl Graxod, my Lord. I am
in charge of communications, if that is your desire," the
Graxod said. The others in the room bowed their heads
slightly. "What is your first command, my Lord?"
Turning to Scott, he said, "Take
Major West to the Jupiter II and if you canít do anything
else, put him in a cryogenics tube." Don was unconscious,
but still alive, much to Johnís relief. The womgrantiod had
seemed an eternity, and he felt the beginnings of adrenalin
John turned back to the Graxod
sub-commanders and pondered briefly.
The one called Mdorin seemed to have no other thoughts
in his mind than to serve his commander, himself.
There were no thoughts of challenge, only curiosity,
some anger and a bit of fear of the future.
John felt the stirrings of distaste in the minds of the
others, a Ďwait and seeí attitude in most.
That this would be a difficult command, John had no
doubt. That most
of these men would fall on him at the slightest sign of
weakness, was apparent.
Addressing the subcommander, he said,
"Mdorin, itís not my desire for you to be in charge of
communications, but to be my second-in-command." Mdorin
looked at him in shock, and then he bowed. Next John ordered,
"Have several men take the body of the former commander
to the control room. I wish to speak to the other shipsí
commanders, but I donít want them contacted until I get
there. Commander Mdorin, remain here for a moment and then
accompany me to my command post."
It was then that he realized the
sword was still in his hand, Kalingdorís dark red blood
drying on the blade. Without cleaning it, John simply slid it
back in its sheath and turned to Maureen.