Planet of Freedom




Chapter 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 children.

"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 discovery.

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 evenly.

"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 encouragement.

Doing a military about-face, John continued to hold the sword in front of him and simply said, "Grandzin."

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 commanderís blow.

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 several minutes.

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 name.

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 Vietnam."

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 letdown.

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.



Chapter Eighteen
Chapter One
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