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
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
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.’
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.
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
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.
Robinson. What is wrong
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
thanks,” John murmured as he placed the now cooled cloth back on his
‘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.
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
‘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.