Nightmare Journey

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven-

Help Has a Familiar Face

 

 

Havreel cursed his fate with every step that he took on the slippery snow-covered path.  He cursed his predecessor; he cursed the Guardian, the Guardian’s family, Mizel, Reezel and everyone else that he felt had put him in his present circumstances.  As they slogged ever closer to the portal leading back to the jungle world, he heard a booming sound from above and looked up in fear.  To his surprise a Brumyatta ship was approaching.  It slowed down and then gently landed in a level field near them.  It appeared to be the one that had landed on Valanna.  Steam rose gently from the grass laid bare by melting snow, making a fog that seemed to etherealize the spacecraft. 

The landing ramp lowered and ubi Biro walked down it toward them.  The Brumyatta secretary did not look very happy.  “Greetings, Captain.  How fortuitous that we found you this easily.”

Frowning, clo Yondah asked, “Can I assume that there was an emergency on Valanna?” 

“Yes, Captain.  Forces from Krimlon attacked, but I was able to escape and jump here using the coordinates that you left.”

“Good.  You did well.  Now we will be able to use the star charts and track this Guardian.”  Turning to Purifier, he smiled.  It was not a friendly smile.  “It would seem, Purifier, that you are going to be living on a Brumyatta space vessel for a time.”

Havreel paled.  Enclosed in a machine with deviants for an indefinite time?  The One protect me,’ he cried mentally.  “No, please.  I can concoct a story that will please the king.  And then I can undermine his authority.  Please, Captain, I am not used to living in something like that.”

“Get used to it, because you are, Purifier,” clo Yondah hissed, leaning close to the Krimlon.  “And don’t whine, it’s unbecoming for one of your rank.” Turning back to his men he stated,  “We shall go now.  We don’t know how close the king’s troops are.”

“But, Captain, what about the other soldiers, the ones left behind at the gates?  Shouldn’t we find them?” ubi Biro asked.

“No, they are on their own, we can’t take the chance of the ship being taken.  We go now,” clo Yondah said and the tone of his voice was one of finality.  Havreel looked around and suddenly the snow-covered landscape looked very inviting. 

 

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“Why couldn’t they have just hidden in the jungle?” Maureen asked morosely.  “We would have found them by now.”

“I don’t know, but John had a good reason to continue through the gates, Maureen, or he would have waited,” Don countered.  He examined the binding on his arm that covered the long knife cut he had received in the last skirmish against those soldiers trying to escape from Dar’s troops.  To his chagrin, Dar had barred him from accompanying the soldiers as they secured the next gate. 

Those hunting them had the means to find your family.’  The thought came unbidden in their minds, a visual narrative of the John’s and the children’s sojourn in the jungle world.  I do not know how, I just know that it was impossible for John and his children to stay here,’ the thoughts continued.  Maureen saw a clear picture of John in her mind’s eye, as well as the children, sent by the mysterious telepath.  Her husband and children looked tired and disheveled, but otherwise fine.

Maureen looked up and saw a golden-haired sloth-like creature in the tree, looking down at them with empathy.  The large round eyes seemed to have endless depths of understanding, like bottomless pools.  I am Sun Dweller.  I met your mate and your children.  They are resourceful.  They will find a way to return to you.’

“I hope so, Sun Dweller.  And I perceive that you helped them.  Thank you,” Maureen said. 

You are quite welcome,’ the alien answered. 

Maggie and Jimmy Doolittle zipped in and around the branches, squeaked at Sun Dweller and then landed on their friends’ shoulders. ‘Fighting over.  Gate ours.  Can go find John, Will and Penny,’ they said brightly.

The next world is very cold.  Go carefully, friends,’ Sun Dweller told them as they got up to leave.  They thanked the alien again and headed toward the gate. 

They met Dar and his troops at the gate.  “Next time, Dar, I participate, injury or no injury.”

The prince just shrugged.  “We’ll see, my friend.  Right now both sides of this gate are open to us.   The only problem that I see is the cold.  We will also have to wait until daylight on the next world and then we move quickly.  Hopefully we’ll be able to find the Guardian and the children.”

Don nodded and helped the soldiers set up camp.  Maureen supervised the cooking of the meal, hoping it would take her mind off of the search.  It didn’t.

 

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John Robinson,’ Talon called.  The humanoid had fallen asleep between his children and what appeared to be innumerable zanlings.  John Robinson!’  Jerking awake, the human blinked sleepily at him and mumbled something that was not discernable.  John Robinson, I have found humanoid habitation.  I didn’t find humanoids, but the dwelling looked to be well taken care of.  You need to get your children to shelter.’

“Yes, you’re right, Talon.  How far is this dwelling?”  John asked.

‘Perhaps three or four of your miles distant, but the way is not hard.  There are paths that are dry and appear to be level and smooth,’ Talon reported.  John nodded and nudged his son awake.  The zanlings squeaked sleepily and beat their wings.  One by one they flew into the morning sky and then into the forest for breakfast. 

Will moaned slightly and then woke more fully.  “What’s going on, Dad?”  Talon handed him something to eat and he bit into it eagerly, his hunger aroused by the presence of Talon’s findings.  He still felt unusually tired, but much better than he had before.  His dad opened one of the juicier fruits and squeezed some of the liquid into Penny’s mouth.  She still looked flushed and ill.  After swallowing a little of the juice, she fell back to sleep in Dad’s arms. 

“Will, we can’t stay here.  Talon found a place where we will be protected from the weather and where we might find help.  I have to carry Penny; you’ll have to walk.  I’m sorry, son.  I know that you aren’t completely well yet.”

“I understand, sir.  I’ll be okay.”  His dad nodded, slowly stood up, perusing their surroundings, then picked up Penny.  She groaned slightly but was otherwise lay limply in his arms. 

The sun rose and traveled nonchalantly across the sky while the small group slowly made their way along the trail.  The distances were short between rests and at times Talon and the zanlings had to bully the exhausted humans back to their feet. 

It is not too far distant, John Robinson,’ Talon encouraged. 

Nova was squeaking and pulling at Will’s hair.  The boy just glared at his friend, but still got up.  Silverado was squeaking imperiously and staring into John’s face.  Glancing at his dad and sister, Will was alarmed to see that even beneath the growth of beard, Dad seemed pale.

“You are a hard taskmaster, Talon,” John told the bird with a wan smile.

I am only trying to get you three to shelter, John Robinson,’ Talon responded bluntly.  He watched the humanoid closely, seeing signs of progressing weakness.  Concern colored his thoughts and he berated his own weakness.  This humanoid, one of a species of hated races, should only be the means to his end, but he found himself liking this particular humanoid and his children.  This one, John Robinson, seemed to take him at face value as a sentient and intelligent being, instead of thinking of him as a dumb animal.  Perhaps he was different.  But regardless, the humanoid would not be able to help him if he became too sick to continue and then died out here in the swamp. 

“I know, Talon.   I am just trying to be humorous and failing miserably,” was John’s response.  “And you know, it would be easier and less formal if you just called me John.”

‘Yes, it would, John.  But you never invited me to before.’

Chuckling softly, John replied.  “Touché, my friend.”  His countenance turned more serious.  “You are sure this place is close, Talon?  I’m getting tired, Talon, and Penny seems to be getting more feverish.”  He sighed deeply and then began coughing.  “And I believe that she must have elbowed me a few times, because my chest hurts....  Damn, I am getting so tired of this,” he said more fervently. 

We are more than halfway there, John, but we must go on.  You are getting the sickness and soon will be unable to carry your daughter.’

“Not sick, Talon, just tired,” John insisted as he dragged himself to his feet.  “Okay, guys, wake up Will,” he told the flutter-dragons.  Will moaned and muttered at the lizards, but he, too, got up.  From then on, the group made steady, if slow progress and Talon noticed that John rested leaning against trees, sitting on boulders, but never laying his daughter down on the ground.  Whatever caused the human to change his tactics, Talon was grateful, because in the middle of the afternoon the small building finally came into view.

“I think it’s a barn, or something like that,” John commented.   Will tried the door and when it opened they all went in.  Gratefully John placed Penny on a pile of grass-like fodder and sat down beside her, his arms feeling like lead.  Will lay down nearby and was soon asleep.  “Let me rest a bit, Talon and then....”  Another coughing spell interrupted him and left him gasping.

I will try and find some help, John.  You stay here and rest.  I will return soon,’ Talon said, and walking awkwardly out the narrow door, flapped his powerful wings and was soon airborne.  He let the thermal air currents guide him in his quest and his sharp eyes searched the ground for any sign of humanoids.  He saw a male-child, somewhat smaller than the Robinson boy, fishing in a pond nearby. 

Boy,’ he called telepathically.  The boy looked around, but then went back to his fishing.  Talon tried again.  Hello, boy.’  Then he landed awkwardly, pretending to be hurt, dragging his wing and crying out pitifully.   The boy stared at him with wide eyes and then approached.  The raptor kept just out of his reach all the while hopping toward the little barn.  Soon he hopped over the threshold of the door and into a dark corner.  The whole room was becoming dark as the sun slipped toward the horizon. 

The boy peered through the door and looked all around.  Talon was beginning to think that the boy would never notice the humanoids when John started coughing.  The young humanoid jerked his head in the direction of the sound and gasped.  “Who’s there,” he called, obviously unable to clearly see John in the shadows. 

“My children are sick and need help.  Can you get someone to help us, please?” John said quietly.

“My mother’s husband is a doctor.  I’ll get him now.  Wait here,” the boy said. 

“I have no intention of going anywhere, son,” John commented, coughing spasms again hitting him.  The boy withdrew and Talon could hear him running away.  “Thanks, Talon,” the professor added.

How fortuitous that the first humanoid you meet is able to bring a doctor,’ Talon quipped.  He hopped over to John and the children.  How are the children?’

“Will has no more fever.  Penny has a fever but is resting quietly,” John answered. 

That’s good, John.’  Within an hour Talon heard the sound of an approaching vehicle and then footsteps, and he withdrew to the dark corner again. 

An older man peered into the room.  “Who’s in here?” he asked in trepidation. 

John jerked awake.   Hacking painfully, he answered.  “I have two sick children.”

“It sounds to me as though you are sick as well,” the older man pointed out acerbically.  He stepped into the building with a lantern and gasped when he saw the three humans in the corner of the building.  The lantern’s soft glow lit up the room with softly muted light as he approached and examined Will and then Penny. 

“No, the children.  I… I just need to rest,” John corrected, staring at the doctor, whose face was lit up in an almost demonic glow.  He was confused, feeling as though he were falling back into an abyss of time.

“Hrumph, just who is the doctor here?” the voice asked acidly. 

Full understanding and recognition finally came.  “You are, Dr. Smith,” John said, smiling slightly.

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve
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