Planet of Freedom
Chapter Nineteen - Journey to a Dangerous Planet
John relaxed in the chair, giving Jimmy a silent command to relax as well. The velvet darkness settled over him, and his headache subsided slightly.
"Well, first things first. Let me check you over. Penny seems to think that you were hurt worse than you let on," Scott said. "And your family sends their love. Theyíre very proud of what you did."
"Thanks, but thereís no need to check me over, Scott. Pennyís right, but itís a charade that must be maintained. I have a sneaking hunch that if the Graxod sub-commanders knew that their Lord Commander was blind, they would all be clamoring for womgrantiods."
Scott sighed. "Then that little device did do permanent damage? What was it?"
"Some form of a disruptor. A very selective one, it would seem." John could hear Scott using his diagnostic and then cursing softly.
"Yeah, it certainly was selective; destroyed the optic nerve and nothing else. But how....?" Then the doctorís quick intake of breath declared his understanding, "The lizards! Theyíre telepathic."
"Yes, and they are gracious enough to take turns helping me." John paused and then began to chuckle.
"Care to let me in on your joke?" Scott asked, puzzled.
"Sure. I was just thinking that most people have seeing eye dogs, I have seeing eye lizards," John explained with a smile, then he sobered. "But I need something for a headache as well as something to keep me awake. Concentrating on holding a telepathic link seems to have brought one on." Looking toward Scott, John asked, "How is Don?"
"Heís safely in a cryogenic chamber, John. I just donít know how Iím going to save him when heís brought back."
"When all of this is over, Iím going back to Urgorrim. They have the technology for regeneration."
"Regeneration?" Scott whistled at the thought. "Incredible, John. And you should be able to benefit from that as well."
"I didnít really think about it, but I suppose so."
"By the way, John, what was the tremor we felt? Did something blow up?" Scott asked.
John paused so long that Scott wondered if he had dozed off. Finally, "The tremor you felt was the third Graxod ship exploding. I had to destroy it when the commander found out a human was in command and tried to blow us up," John murmured, and the doctor heard the pain in his voice. "Scott, donít tell Maureen what youíve found out about my condition. I just donít feel that now is the time to throw this at her."
"Sure, John, I understand. And I must say, that youíre hiding it rather well."
A chime interrupted the two men.
"Lord Commander, there is a call from Earth. A group of humans wishes to come aboard. We are awaiting your orders," Mdorin informed him over the intercom.
"Time to get back to work," John said dourly, drinking the last of the coffee and heading back into the control room. The corned beef sandwich lay untouched on the conference room table.
Six hours later, John met the party of humans from Earth in the shuttle bay. They were members of the space corps, headed by a very disgruntled Colonel Jim Patterson. A small group of scientists and diplomats was with them. Mdorin stood at Johnís side.
"Colonel Robinson, I donít understand all this. It looks very much like business as usual. Shouldnít these people be under guard? And shouldnít you be preparing to turn them over to the armed forces of Alpha Control?"
"It isnít business as usual, Colonel. They have a human as their Lord Commander. But because I have earned the right to be their commander, they will follow my orders to a certain point. If everyone acts with dignity and decorum, there will be no problems. And I am not turning them over to Alpha Control, I am taking these men to their homes, at which time I will make a decision regarding these ships."
Patterson gaped at him in abject surprise. "Take them back? Youíre not serious?"
"I am very serious." John unsheathed his plantiod-crinth. Kalingdorís blood had dried on the blade and left a dark red, almost black stain. "Right now this has determined my right to lead on this ship. We are not on Earth and at this moment the rules are a bit different. If you do not wish to follow my orders, Colonel, then you can take your shuttle and return to Earth. That goes for any other human in this company as well."
"Very well, Commander Robinson," the colonel said after a slight pause.
John turned to the two dozen humans assembled in the shuttle bay. "Gentlemen, I am Lord Commander Robinson. I have earned the right to be the fleet commander of these two ships. Therefore, you will follow my instructions and we should be able to make our journey to Graxod in safety." He paused before continuing. "Any fraternization with the Graxod will be done civilly and without incident. I have been told that there are quarters and a mess hall, which can be utilized by the human members of the crew. If any members of this shipís complement fight or incite an incident with other members, human or Graxod, they will be put in the brig for the duration of the trip. There will be no exceptions." He started to turn away.
"John," a familiar voice called out to him from the scientific contingent.
John frowned in concentration and then smiled as he recognized Jerry Crenshaw peering around a burly Marine sergeant. "Jerry," he said happily. "Are you here to figure out this ship in the five days itís going to take to jump to Graxod?" Striding over to the physicist, he gave him a hearty bear hug, happy to see at least one familiar face in the crowd.
"As a matter of fact, yes. Professional curiosity. Perhaps I can get a tour of the bridge sometime. That is, if it isnít taboo," he asked, peering intently at the golden lizard on Johnís shoulder.
Quickly explaining where the creature came from, he assured the scientist of a tour of the entire ship. "I need to go and see my family, Jerry."
The scientist nodded and John went into the homey refuge of the Jupiter II where he greeted his family, took a quick shower and changed into another flight suit. Although less comfortable than his regular outfits, it definitely looked more impressive, and that seemed to be important to the Graxod. Stopping on the observation deck, John looked at Don in frosty repose in the cryogenics chamber and then turned to the robot. "What are the readings, Robot?"
"The cryogenics are working perfectly, Professor Robinson," the Robot intoned. Somehow, John felt a bit of comfort being called professor again. Maureen joined him and he grabbed her in a fierce hug, followed by a fervent kiss.
"Umm, John. If thatís the reward for being a Lord Commanderís wife, you can be one forever," she murmured.
"Oh, no, I am transferring out of this . . . um, outfit as soon as I can. And you ainít seen nothiní yet, woman of mine. Just wait until this is all over," he laughed. "But right now I have to get back to the control room and ready the ships for the hyper-jump to Graxod. I hate to do this to you, but you will have to stay on board the Jupiter II. Thereís some kind of taboo against women on Graxod battle ships."
Will found boredom setting in. Judy was moody, Mom was trying to help Judy feel better, Josh was enamored with Penny, Penny was confused, and Joshís mom was irritated by her forced stay on the Jupiter II. Scott spent most of his time with Dad, or at the communications console, so on the second day after Dadís defeat of Kalingdor, he decided to explore the ĎConquestí with the Robot. Nova had disappeared, presumably into the arboretum, although Will didnít remember the flutter-dragon staying away quite so long before.
"Will, you be careful. I donít trust some of these soldiers, human and Graxod," his mother admonished.
"Iím taking the Robot, Mom," he said. "Iíll be careful."
Will was astonished at the size and complexity of the vessel. "Robot, make sure you can get us back to the Jupiter II."
"Affirmative, Will Robinson. My memory banks will easily hold that information."
As they came around a corner, the pair almost ran into a contingent of Graxod warriors. The two parties stared at one another. "What are you doing in this part of the ship, human?" one of the aliens asked disdainfully.
"I was just exploring, sir. Am I in a place that I shouldnít be?" Will asked.
"Yes," the Graxod said sibilantly. "You are on a Graxod ship. And just because we have human filth for a lord commander does not mean that we like it."
Will stared coldly into the eyes of the speaker. "Donít talk about my dad that way. He beat your commander fair and square, even though your leader cheated."
The speaker and his friends looked at one another in consternation. "You are the Lord Commanderís son?"
"Yes, I am," Will answered, pride evident in his voice.
"Bringol, let us go, before this gets to the Lord Commander," another said.
"No," Bringol said, pulling a long thin knife from a sheath under his arm.
"You will not harm the boy," the Robot said evenly.
Several of the Graxod continued to advance on Will, who retreated a step in fear. Another Graxod reached for the intercom and called the control room.
"Warning! I order you to stop, or I will have to use force," the Robot exclaimed. The warning was ignored. A Graxod in the back of the crowd grabbed one of the attackers and slammed him into the bulkhead, rendering him unconscious.
As two Graxod rushed Will, the Robot thrust his pincer hands out, and bright bursts of electrical energy flowed from them to the attackers. With a scream, the aliens slumped unconscious to the deck. Several of the undecided Graxod backed up and stared at the Robot in astonishment. Then his dad rushed down from another corridor and surveyed the situation. The conscious Graxod backed up out of deference.
"Will, are you all right?" he asked, grasping his son by the shoulders, and checking him over.
"Sure, Dad. The Robot and some of your warriors protected me," Will said.
"I thank you all," his dad said fervently. He pointed to the unconscious Graxod, "Take these men and put them in the brig." The remaining Graxod bowed and quickly complied.
"Will, feelings are still raw. I donít want you wandering these corridors, unless you have a Graxod I can trust to accompany you," he said. "Do you understand?"
"Yes, Dad." Will looked up and was astonished to see Nova sitting on Dadís shoulder. The flutter-dragon squeaked brightly, but remained where he was. "So thatís where Novaís been. Do you want me to take him back to the Jupiter II with me?"
"No, Will, heíll come back when heís ready. Why donít I accompany you back to the ship, so I can say hi to everyone. I need to shower and change anyway." The visit was all too brief. Will noticed that when his dad left their space ship, he had Pennyís lizard Edmund on his shoulder. Musing, he also noticed that his father had an unfocused, distant look in his eyes, but he attributed that to the strain he was under.
The confrontation between Will and the Graxod crewmen was not an isolated incident. For three days, the Lord Commander had been kept busy with many such incidents, among humans as well as Graxod. The brig was utilized, which served to deter all but the most hotheaded crewman.
And for three days, John managed to get by with short naps and a great deal of coffee in the commanderís room, but by the beginning of the fourth day, a deep exhaustion began to steal over him. Scott finally acquiesced and gave him something to hold off sleep for a while longer.
"The tricky time is coming up in a day and a half," John told him. "Thatís when we make our entrance into the Graxod system. Iíve been told thereís a training facility on the outermost planet in the system. Weíre going to send these men there before we return home."
"John, I donít think youíll last that long," Scott fussed. "You need to have a decent meal and a very long sleep." Johnís answering laugh lacked any humor.
A sub-commander called him over the intercom. "Sir, Commander Lingron is on the communications link. He says that several crewman tried to set an explosive to destroy his and our ships."
"A long nap, huh, Scott? It will happen when we get there. Itís a wonder there hasnít been mass insurrection, which goes to tell you the training these men have received." John stiffly made his way to the control room to confront the commander of the sister ship.
Scottís prediction turned out to be correct. When the transition to normal space was made, John was barely able to focus on what the lizards were showing him. He knew the flutter-dragons were tired as well, which made it doubly hard. His head pounded and thoughts swam in and out like fish in a reef. But they had made it to the Graxod system and for that he was grateful. Soon he would be able to rest, really rest.
A warning klaxon sounded in the control room, causing him to start. "Mdorin, what in the world is that?" he asked, wondering if one of the communications officers had figured out a way to get word to Graxod. A Graxod fleet waiting for them would be disastrous.