Nightmare Journey

 

 

 

 

Chapter Ten-

Bondlings’ Return

 

 

John sat up and looked over his shoulder.  The gate on this side was still intact, although some debris from the explosion was scattered nearby.   A warm breeze blew in his face and made gentle sighing noises in the trees that stood all around him. 

You do have a propensity for getting wet, don’t you?’ Talon’s thoughts intruded into his enjoyment of the warmth.  Looking down at his shirt and pants, he noticed that, indeed, they were wet.  In fact the ground had the spongy feel of a place that received much rain throughout the year. 

Looking at the large bird with a slight smile, he said, “I have no intention of letting that little comment get to me; I’m enjoying the warmth too much.  At least getting wet here doesn’t automatically mean that pneumonia will set in.”

The raptor blinked and shook his head, ruffling the bluish-gray feathers.  A tendril of laughter whispered in his mind and John turned to his children.  “Well, it’s warm, but this is not exactly civilization.  Let’s hope that a bit of exploration will scare up some intelligent life,” he bantered, mainly to allay their fears.  “But first we need to dismantle the gate.  The last time I thought I had stopped our bloodhounds, they had a device that allowed them to come through with only one portal operating.”

Within a short period of time the control box was unhooked from the conduit pillars and hidden at a safe distance.  The rest of the gate soon followed.   “Those pillars are heavy,” John declared, wiping his forehead on his sleeve.  “Lucy, Talon, can you detect any sign of intelligence in the vicinity?”

No, John Robinson, but I do know that this is a world inhabited by humanoids.  Humanoids used to come into my world often from this gate,’ Talon responded.  In fact, if what I remember is correct, this world does have a spaceport, but I don’t know how near that would be.’

“Thanks, Talon.  That is a relief, since I was not happy about the prospect of a permanent separation,” John replied.   He looked around, trying to determine the best route.  “I’m not very familiar with swamps, but it would seem that if we follow the flow of water, it should take us to a delta or river system and traditionally settlements lie along rivers.”  When no one disagreed with him, he started out on what appeared to be a semi-dry path.

Semi-dry was the best they could do during the afternoon as they slogged through the swamp.   Not too long after their arrival through the gate, clouds rolled in and a little of the abundant rainfall doused the group of travelers.  With the return of the sun came a mugginess that seemed to sap all energy from them.  Only Lucy and Talon appeared to be unaffected as they rode the thermals above the human’s heads.  Shortly before dark the group found a semi-dry hillock where they could spread out and rest for the night. 

The dampness precluded lighting a fire, but for the first time in several days, they had plenty to eat.  Talon had gathered local fruits and other edibles and as soon as Lucy declared them fit for human consumption, the group dug in, eating to their hearts content.  Talon flew further into the swamp to find the fish that he craved.  As the sun set, the insects that had pestered them during the day disappeared.   Bat-like creatures,’ Lucy announced.  They are eating the insects.’   The group fell into an exhausted sleep.  Talon and Lucy took turns keeping watch, as they realized that their human companions were much too tired to assist in that duty.   

Shortly before dawn, John woke up with Will’s elbow digging into his ribs.  Concern increased when his son began moaning and thrashing.  A quick check also revealed a high temperature.  Talon, are you nearby?’ he called out mentally.

‘Yes, John Robinson.  What is wrong with Will?’ 

‘He’s sick.  I don’t know if it’s a virus or bacteria, but he has a high fever.   Are you able to find some more of that fruit that has lots of juice?  I know it’s dark.....’

‘I will go and get some,’ Talon said.  John heard the sound of his wings overhead and then there was only the rustling and singing of local nocturnal creatures. 

As Will’s restlessness became more pronounced, John pulled him into his lap and held him, feeling helpless that he could not do more for his son.   When Talon returned, John broke open the fruit and squeezed a small amount of the liquid into Will’s mouth.  He swallowed a little before falling into a deeper sleep.  

The next morning the fever seemed a little higher, and with the higher fever came bouts of delirium.  Penny stared at her brother with fear in her eyes.  “Penny, I need something that can hold water.  Something that I can use to cool him off.”  She nodded and folded the last of the bindings from her arm into a usable square, dipping it into a nearby pool and bringing it to him.  Throughout the day, he alternated sponging his son off with giving him fruit juices.  During the night, rains came again and John despaired at his inability to protect his children from the elements.  But the rain served the purpose of cooling Will down; the fever seemed to decrease slightly. 

The next day, Will’s fever broke and he woke up, asking for something to eat before dropping back off to sleep.  Thanking God for his child’s impending return to health, John didn’t notice the lack of energy that Penny had shown that morning.  Lucy crawled up on his leg and squeaked testily.  Jerking his head around and looking into his daughter’s feverish eyes, he groaned, realizing that Penny must have caught Will’s sickness.  Without saying anything, Talon flew off for more fruit. 

 

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Judy alternated her time between the Jupiter II and Valanna.  Most of the time Litha joined her and they worried together about their husbands.   One day Judy caught herself looking at a calendar.  In one week it would be Dad’s birthday, she noted, and she wished that she was doing something as mundane as planning a family birthday party.   Sighing, she once more prepared to go to Valanna to see if there was any news.  When she reached the gate, Litha was waiting for her.

Mark laughed and bounced in the baby pack on her back as she rode her tilon toward the compound.  Behind her Litha laughed at her son’s antics.  Secretly, Judy had been wondering of late if Litha was pregnant, but somehow had never thought to ask her.  The tiny violet zanling clung to her friend’s shirt as they rode at an easy loping canter.  Aurora sat on one shoulder while Mark’s lizard sat on the other.  Just as they reached the grounds in front of the administration building, a booming noise filled the sky above them.

“What is that,” Litha asked, startled.  The tilons pranced uneasily.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that it’s the approach of an interstellar spacecraft,” Judy stated, also startled.

As if on cue, a large craft, ball-shaped, flew to the landing pad and hovered.  Landing gear shot out from the sides of the ship and lightly touched the ground, making the craft look like some bloated, oversized spider.  Slowly the ball-shaped craft lowered until it was poised only a few feet above the ground.  For a few minutes there was only the sighing sound of cooling metal and then a lock opened on the side and a ramp lowered to the ground. 

“Let’s get inside,” Judy said to the princess.  They quickly dismounted and went into the building.  The soldiers inside were confused, not having dealt with space travelers other than the Robinsons.   The commander finally ordered his men to arm themselves for a confrontation.  “Wait,” Judy called out over the tumult.  Everyone turned and stared at her.  “Who would these aliens be coming to visit?”

“The Purifier, I would suppose, Guardian’s daughter,” the commander answered.

“Then let’s give him the Purifier,” she stated tersely.  Everyone looked confused. Handing Mark to Litha, she walked over to a wardrobe, pulling out a robe and slipping it on.  It served to hide her features very well.  It also hid the laser pistol strapped around her waist.   “I don’t mind company,” she stated and then turned to leave the building.  A couple of the men scrambled to throw on the robes as well.  By the time she reached the landing ramp of the ship, she had several men following her.  “Let me do the talking.  Just follow my lead,” she muttered over her shoulder. 

A rotund, blue-skinned alien stepped lightly down the ramp and stopped several feet in front of her.  Judy kept her head lowered to hide her features.  She did notice the translator at his side.  His wispy yellowish hair seemed to float in the light desert breeze and his tiny black eyes darted from her to the men following her.   “Where is my merchandise, Purifier?” his guttural voice croaked from the translator. 

“In storage, awaiting the conclusion of the deal,” Judy replied, lowering her voice as much as she was able. 

“I should think that slaves would be in an enclosure, Purifier,” the alien said, suspicion heavy in his voice. 

This is it,’ she thought and whipped out her pistol, aiming not for the alien but for the airlock mechanism.  The bright light shot out and a blinding shower of sparks told her that she had scored.  Next she pointed the weapon at the alien’s head.  “Now tell your crew that the next shot will make a nice neat hole in your head, if they don’t come out empty handed.”  The alien ordered his men to comply.  Judy motioned him to move down off the ramp. 

“Now, if you just do as you are told, then we will be nice and give you your spaceship back when we’re done playing with it,” Judy said, her voice low and menacing.  She shrugged the cowling off and the alien gasped.  The commander rounded up the crewmen and herded them to the fenced enclosure.  “And while you’re waiting for us to download your computer, think about what a slave goes through waiting for his masters to arrive,” she added as they were being led away. 

 

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John began the same regimen with Penny that he had gone through with Will.  Glancing at his son, he was gratified to see him sleeping peacefully.  Quietly, he walked down to the nearest pool and dipped the cloth into it.  He didn’t like the idea of using the questionable water, but he saw no other solutions.  Wringing out the cloth and dipping it again, he returned to his daughter.  She was regarding him sleepily, her cheeks flushed.  “I’m sorry, Daddy,” she whispered. 

“Don’t worry about it sweetheart,” he said and put the cool cloth on her forehead.  He lay there holding her until Talon and Lucy returned.  He felt so tired.  The last two days had been exhausting and the last six months had been one stressful event after another.   An ice-cold lemonade and a long, long nap; how wonderful that would be,’ he thought languidly.

Talon and Lucy approached and landed, the latter squeaking a greeting.  When John didn’t respond, she squeaked again.   John jerked awake and reached for one of the soft, spongy fruits, eating it quickly.  Then he opened one of the others and held it for Penny to drink the juice. 

John Robinson, I am going questing for humanoid habitation.  You need to get your children to a doctor.  We can’t stay here,’ Talon said matter of factly.

“Yes, Talon, thanks,” John murmured as he placed the now cooled cloth back on his daughter’s head. 

Lucy, stay with them.  I will return as soon as I can,’ Talon told the white zanling.  She chirped affirmatively.   What the raptor didn’t say as he prepared to leave, was that it was a sure thing that if Penny Robinson had caught what her brother had, then John Robinson was going to as well, if he hadn’t already.  His powerful wings surged downward, catching a pocket of air underneath and lifting him above the ground.  Soon he was winging toward the lowering sun, the direction that his intuition told him to follow. 

Lucy sat in Penny’s lap and studied the girl’s flushed face.  John’s breath suddenly caught in his throat and he began coughing.  After awhile, he dozed off again.  Later, with a start he woke up and realized that the cloth needed to be rinsed again, so he made his way back down to the pond.   He felt it imperative to stay awake and splashed his face with some of the cool water as well.  Returning to his children, John thought he heard squeaking cries in the distance.  Or was he hearing them in his head?  Lucy suddenly sat up, squeaking happily.

John, Penny, Will, we have come!  We are here!’ came the telepathic shouts.  Suddenly the air seemed filled with flutter-dragons.  Silverado landed on John’s shoulder, rubbing his head against his friend’s chin.  Speechless with amazement, the professor could only stare at the zanlings. Silverado dropped a blackened cube in his hand.  John examined it closely and realized that it resembled the cube that Penny had been given by K’rthk’rnkl.  Or at least it had.  There was no doubt in his mind that this device was no longer operational.  He looked askance at his little friend with a question in his mind.

We took it from soldiers, made a wish and all came to this world.  We would have come sooner, but had to rest and eat.  It was too cold on the other world,’ Silverado explained.  John was amazed at the lizards’ display of intelligent reasoning, but then realized that he had felt them to be far along the sentient path for some time.

“Thank you for coming, my friends,” was all he could think to say at the moment. 

 

 

 

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