Planet of Freedom
Chapter Eighteen - Taking Command
"Mo," he said simply. The tears were coursing down her cheeks as she threw herself in his arms. "I told you I would be fine," he said soothingly. Penny and Will joined her. He held his wife and children in a fierce hug for a few minutes savoring their proximity, grateful to God for allowing it to happen.
"Oh, John, I was so scared," she said, her head resting against his chest. He kept his thoughts to himself, not wanting to spoil her joy.
"I have a feeling that being a Lord Commander isnít all itís cracked up to be. Iíll probably be very busy for awhile, but Iíll be back down as soon and as often as I can," he said softly, holding his wife tight to his chest. "Right now, Judy needs you. Go to her." Turning to Mdorin, he motioned for his subordinate to lead him to the control room. Silverado sat on his shoulder, squeaking loudly in triumph.
When they arrived, John walked around the control room studying the various stations intently, as well as the minds of the Graxod who worked them. Massaging his temples with his fingertips, he found it increasingly hard to concentrate on the image that Silverado was showing him. He felt as though his brain was overloading.
Sitting down in the Lord Commanderís chair, he began giving orders. "Contact the commander of the ĎHarbinger of Death.í" The communications officer glanced around at him in awe. "Just do it." The Graxod did it.
John greeted the surprised commander of the other craft. "Commander Lingron, I presume?"
"Yes, and can I assume that you defeated Lord Commander Kalingdor?" Lingron asked, his voice betraying none of the emotion that he was obviously feeling.
"Yes, I did. Do you have any dispute with my newly acquired rank?" John asked him pointedly. "If you do, please examine the state of your former Lord Commander." John pointed in the direction of Kalingdorís body. "Mdorin, bring me the device that he tried to use on me."
Holding his hand out as though impatient, he waited for Mdorin to put the tiny weapon in his hand. John felt its coldness with a hint of revulsion, thinking of the obscenity of something so little being able to cause so much damage. Showing it to Lingron, he said, "Commander, this is the trick that Kalingdor tried to use on me. He made the mistake of underestimating his opponent," John said and then leaned toward the communication screen. "He made the mistake of underestimating humans. Do you accept my position as Lord Commander of the flagship ĎConquestí? Or do you wish to test my blade as Commander Kalingdor did?" The professor sincerely hoped the Graxod commander bought his bluff because he wasnít sure that he could fight another womgrantiod anytime soon.
Lingron bowed slightly at the waist. "I accept your position, Lord Commander..." The alien stopped in confusion.
"I am John Robinson."
"Yes, Lord Commander John Robinson, I accept your new rank. What orders do you have for me?"
"Simply hold your position and stand by for further orders," John told him. He signaled for termination of that transmission.
"Call the Jupiter II and have someone bring me up some coffee and lunch," he ordered the communications officer. "Also ask them to send up Dr. Barlow as soon as he is available. When you have done that, contact the ĎDisruptorí for me."
Soon John was gazing at a very dour looking Graxod. "Commander Praxon, I presume?"
"A human on the control deck? Travesty! Abomination!" Praxon ranted. His cartilaginous nose flaps blew in and out in his agitation.
"Mdorin, show him the commanderís body." The sub-commander did so, but Praxon didnít even blink.
"Kalingdor was a fool to fight vermin. You smash vermin under your heel. I will not talk to an alien who dares to presume to command one of our glorious vessels," Praxon stormed and then abruptly closed the communication.
Massaging his temples again, John was pondering his options with the bellicose Graxod, when sudden insight made him gasp. "Mdorin, does the ĎDisruptorí have the capability to destroy this ship?"
"Yes, Lord Commander."
"Praxon is powering up his weapons! Helmsman, check out his readings now!" John rushed over to the weaponry controls and using what he had seen in the mind of the gunnery officer, armed the aft torpedoes. The gunnery officer finished the task of loading the coordinates. "I will not order you to fire on your own people." And John punched the button that simultaneously fired four torpedoes. "Quick, warn the ĎHarbinger of Death,í and prepare for debris!"
The communications officer had just passed along the warning when the aft view screen showed a great blossoming of sparkling white light that lit the control room. John groaned softly and held his head. He had fleetingly felt the death throes of two hundred beings and could only be thankful for its briefness.
"Lord Commander, are you all right?" Mdorin asked.
John nodded, quickly gaining control. "Needless death, Mdorin, totally needless."
The helmsman turned to him. "My Lord, the sensors did indeed show the imminent firing of several laser cannons."
John simply nodded. "I want communications opened with Earth," was his next command. After turning off his translator and entering secret defense codes, John was soon rewarded by a visual of Ben Mitchell. "So they busted you and made you man the communication center, huh?" he asked his friend with a smile.
"John, youíre a sight for sore eyes. When I heard what was going on, I booted Maxwell out. You canít imagine the tension here. Iím so thankful that you and your family are all right," he said fervently and then peered closely at the video screen. "Whoís your little friend?"
"Meet Silverado, my secret weapon. The Graxod commander was sneaky and devious, but the flutter-dragon pulled my fat out of the fire," John said. Again he was finding it hard to concentrate and Benís face wavered in his mindís eye.
"Ben, let me give you a report. Iím so tired that Iím about to fall asleep sitting here," he said wearily. Ben nodded. "I fought a battle for ascendancy, and I am now Lord Commander of the Graxod flagship as well as one of the other ships in the fleet. The third one didnít accept my new rank, and I had to destroy the ship before it destroyed us. Major Don West was mortally wounded and is in cryogenics until we can get him proper medical attention. If any military personnel wish to come aboard either ship, I must clear their entry and they cannot interfere with the normal operations of these ships. I believe that my responsibility now includes over five hundred Graxod, some of whom may not be terribly happy with their new Lord Commander. As soon as possible, I am taking whatís left of the Graxod fleet and returning these men to their home. Then I will return to Earth and make a full and detailed report."
"Wow, youíre taking a mighty big risk, John. The military heads of twenty countries as well as Alpha Control are going to have fits when they hear about your plan to take the invaders back to their planet, but Iíll pass that message along. Enjoy your nap, you look like you deserve it," Ben said. "Iíll tell your folks that youíre all right as well."
"Ben, I donít care if there are thirty court martial boards waiting to convene on me when I get back. The one thing Iíve learned while we were lost out in the galaxy for four years is that no matter what shape or size aliens are, theyíre still people, and there is no way that Iím going to turn five hundred men over to our military and scientific community. Iím going to take these men back to their families and then decide what to do next," John said tersely.
"Hey, no argument from me, John," Ben told him meaningfully. "And the media had shots of that little fireworks display in the asteroid belt, plus there were leaks of a confrontation between you and the Graxod leaders. It was pretty nerve-wracking on Earth for several hours. People here have a vague idea of what you have done, and there is no military leader stupid enough to even suggest sending you up for a court martial. In fact, I was only waiting to hear from you before handing out a press release."
"Thanks for running interference for me, Ben. Iím going to be too busy here to worry about anything going on back there," John said gratefully and signaled for the transmission to be terminated.
Turning his translator back on, he said, "Mdorin, if there is no taboo against it, Iím going to lean back and rest a bit." Silverado curled up on his shoulder and was soon asleep. But sleep wouldnít come to him. It was bad enough that he, a man who detested military protocol, was now the supreme commander of over five hundred military men. Compounded with that was the fact that he was trying to maintain a charade of visual awareness to everyone including his own wife. He hoped the trip to Graxod was a short one. Deceiving Maureen bothered him the most.
"Mdorin?" he asked, listening carefully for the subordinateís footsteps.
"Yes, my Lord."
"Please inform me of points of protocol that I need to know in order to keep civility on these ships until I can return these men to Graxod." Listening carefully, John was grateful that he didnít have to also concentrate on holding a telepathic link with the lizard. He relaxed as his second in command related important points of decorum to him.
"Mother, when will we be taking the Jupiter II to Urgorrim?" Judy asked, lightly touching the cryogenics chamber that held her husband in stasis.
"As soon as this is resolved, dear." Maureen pulled her distraught daughter to her and held her close. "Trust your father. You know that as soon as he can, weíll go directly to see Rrangruk."
"I do trust Dad, but I just want Don well again and with me. Iím already so lonely," she said, tears forming again in her eyes. Judy felt that she had used up all of her tears, but she was wrong. Aurora sat on her shoulder and crooned. Jimmy launched himself from the top of the cryogenics chamber and flew over to Scott, who had been working the communications station.
"Maureen, I just got a call from John. He was asking for some coffee and something to snack on, so everything must be going all right up there," he assured her with a smile. "I can take it up, but Iím not real familiar with your galley. Think Penny could help me out?"
"Yes, she can. And please, Scott, give John my love when you go up there," she said, still comforting her daughter. "Tell him that Don is safely in cryogenics." A slight tremor shook the ship briefly. "What was that?
"I donít know, but Iíll ask him."
In the galley, the doctor fixed a large mug of coffee while Penny pulled out something from the replicator that she knew her dad would like to snack on. As she programmed the machine, tears began to form, threatening to spill down her cheeks. She swiped one arm across her face.
"Penny, whatís upsetting you?" Scott asked.
"I felt the death of a great many people just now. Thatís one reason that Iím upset. The other reason is that I think Dad was hurt worse than he lets on," she said bluntly.
"Maybe thatís why he asked me to come up and see him," Scott told her. "But whatever thoughts you have on the matter, you might want to keep them to yourself until I come back."
"I will, Scott, and thanks. Tell Dad that I love him and Iím proud of what he did for us," she said with a slight smile. Right now, besides worrying about her father, the other thought in her head was why in the world had she thought that she had feelings for the doctor? Josh had been so sweet with her during this whole invasion mess. Turning back to the replicator, Penny started to prepare the evening meal, assuming that her mother would be with Judy for a while longer. Fixing dinner also gave her a chance to sort out her confused feelings.
Scott took the desired items, and with a Graxod to guide him, soon found the control room. Not surprisingly, he found John resting in the command chair. Don Westís flutter-dragon had accompanied him, but as soon as he reached his destination, the little lizard launched himself into the air and landed on Johnís shoulder. He squeaked at Silverado and Johnís lizard flew out of the control room. The doctor was a bit astonished at the switch the creatures had made.
"Lord Commander, one of your human companions has brought what you ordered," his guide saluted John and then left the bridge. Turning to him, the new Lord Commander blinked sleepily and smiled.
"Iíll take the drink first and then the food," he said as he held out his hand and took the proffered mug of coffee. "Mdorin, is there a conference room nearby?"
"Yes, my Lord," the Graxod told him, pointing to a room adjacent to the control room. "It also contains a reclining chair which is used by the Lord Commander during lulls in action."
As John slid out of the chair, he realized just how much the womgrantiod had taken out of him. Although unscathed by Kalingdorís sword, the exertion and falls to the decking made his muscles ache. He walked stiffly to the side room, motioning for Scott to follow. Jimmy provided every bit as detailed visuals of his surrounding as did Silverado, and he was grateful for the cooperative efforts of the lizards.
Scott pushed a button, which closed the door and then he turned to John, who had found the chair Mdorin had told him of.
"Scott, I believe that Iím going to need something to help me stay awake. Itís going to take approximately five days to get back to the Graxod system. Iím not sure how much power I have over these Graxod, but I donít think that sleeping most of the way to their planet is going to be a good idea."
"Maybe you can delegate authority, John," Scott suggested.
"Wonderful idea, if I knew that the entire crew of both ships was loyal to their human Lord Commander. I can count on one hand the number of Graxod I can trust right now." John sighed and sipped from the mug.