Nightmare Journey

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve-

A Blast from the Past

 

 

“You three have what is referred to on Anoxis as the anot, Professor,” Smith said.  “It is a slang term of an old word for ‘welcome to the planet,’ and is something that happens to every humanoid that comes here.  It’s not contagious, and once one has had it and recovers, there is no reoccurrence.”

The doctor was checking Penny and finally noticed the silence that followed his explanation.  Glancing up, he saw that the professor was asleep, which didn’t surprise him in the least.  When he examined Will, he nodded in satisfaction, but he frowned in concern when he finished checking over the other two.  Sighing, he put his diagnostic tools back in the bag he had brought with him.  He wondered where the rest of the family was and where the Jupiter II had landed.  Something that large would have been noticed even in this rural setting.

Leaning over Will, Smith gently shook him on the shoulder.  “William?  William, can you hear me?”

The boy groaned slightly and then opened his eyes, finally focusing on the doctor. He gasped in surprise as he recognized him.  “Dr. Smith!  Is it really you or am I delirious again?”

“It is I, William.  In the flesh.  You are not delirious,” he said, with a slight smile. “You have grown, my boy.”

“I’m so glad to see you.  I’ve missed you,” Will said.  “So much has happened....”  He stopped and looked around as though aware of his surroundings for the first time.  “Where are we?  I don’t remember much except slogging through the swamp.”

“The swamp?   Where did you three come from and where is the rest of the family?”

“It’s kind of a long story, but....” Will paused again and turned to his dad.  “Oh, Dad is sick, too, isn’t he?  Is he going to be okay, Dr. Smith?”

“Yes, William, he is sick, but normally this illness is not fatal.  He should be all right with rest and medicine,” Smith reassured him.   “How are you feeling?” 

“I’m very tired, but I feel a lot better than I did when we first came to this world,” Will replied.  Looking up he saw six sets of golden eyes staring down at them.  “Nova, it’s okay.  You remember Dr. Smith, don’t you?”   A petulant squeak came from the rafters. 

The doctor looked up in surprise.  “Well, I see you still have your little friends.  Are they as obtrusive as they were before?”  Silverado floated down from his perch and landed on John’s chest, first glaring at Smith and then rubbing against his friend’s chin. 

“Oh, dear.  I believe that he still remembers that little incident back on K’rt’rm doesn’t he?”  Smith asked. 

John woke up with a start, his feverish eyes regarding Dr. Smith intently.  “I wasn’t dreaming, was I?” he asked.  “Did I understand you correctly, that we are sick due to something on this planet?”  A racking cough interrupted his questions. After gasping for breath, he finally asked, “Penny?   How is she?”

“Yes, you understood correctly, Professor.  As for Penny, I need to give her something for her fever, which is quite high.  But she’ll be fine in a couple of days.  In your case, I will have to deal with whatever got into your lungs before you catch pneumonia.  If I heard William right, you three came through the swamp?”

John just nodded, unwilling to risk saying anything that would cause his lungs to spasm again.   

“Then it’s no wonder that you are so tired.  I have my car parked outside.  The ride will be a bit rough, but my house is much more conducive to your recovery than this barn would be,” Smith explained.

“Thank you, Dr. Smith,” John said, grabbing a peg that stuck out from the wall and pulling himself up.  Will held onto his arm to steady him. 

As though in anticipation of the professor’s next comment, Smith said, “I will get Penny.  You worry about yourself.”  The doctor went out and by the time John reached the doorway, he was coming back in.  He had opened the doors to the bulkiest land vehicle that John had ever seen.  It didn’t quite have the same lines as a tank, but it looked almost as secure as one.  Perhaps the vehicle that it came closest to matching was a humvee.  Leaning against the outside of the building, John decided that he would be grateful for a goat cart.   Anything to keep from walking anymore.   Another coughing spell left him gasping for breath and dizzy.

Smith came out carrying Penny, placing her carefully in the back seat, Will climbing after her.  The flutter-dragons floated in behind the children.  With the doctor’s help, John got comfortable in the front and leaned his head against the cool metal frame as Smith started up the engine.  “It is not anything to look at, but it’s perfect for getting around these marshy areas and it certainly doesn’t blow away in a hurricane,” Smith said as though excusing his transportation. 

“Beats walking,” John murmured. ‘Talon?’ he called. 

I will follow from above. That would be better, John,’ the raptor answered. 

All right,’ he answered, trying to relax.  Smith was saying something, but for some reason, his voice seemed to get softer and softer, and soon John remembered nothing more of the ride.

                              

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Lying in the cold snow, Don muttered and cursed under his breath, before handing the binoculars to Dar.  “We missed them, just as we did on Valanna,” Don commented to Maureen who was behind him.  The echoing boom of the departing spaceship told the others what Don had already seen with the binoculars.

“Do you think they have John and the children?” Maureen asked with concern. 

“I don’t know, I just don’t know,” Don answered quietly, frustration evident in his voice. 

“Major West, look,” Dar said, thrusting the binoculars back into Don’s hands and pointing in another direction. 

Don searched the indicated area and was astonished to see an alien peering over a ridge near theirs.  And he didn’t look happy.  “Well, well,” Don muttered.  “Someone got left behind.  Maybe he has the answer to our questions.”  He handed the binoculars to Maureen and slid back down the ridge.  “I’m going to see why our friend was left behind.  I’ll be right back.”  Using bushes, trees and rocks, Don made his way around to the position where the alien was last seen.  A muttering sound told him that the spaceman was still there.  The snow was slippery and his quarry became aware of his approach, running away before he could reach him. But the slick surface gave Don an advantage, as he quickly scouted the smoothest way down and slid downhill as though he was on skis, knocking the alien off his feet and tackling him. 

The tall, thin humanoid fought; trying to bite, scratch and hit him, but Don pulled his arms behind him and was able to subdue him until Dar and his men could reach them.  While the guards held the Brumyatta crewman, Don pulled out his translator and turned it on.  “Who are you?” the major asked.

The man was silent.  Don sighed.  “They left you.  Abandoned you.  Wouldn’t wait.  How loyal are you going to be to that?”

The dark little eyes changed from defiance to despair.  “What little I know would not hurt my employers anyway,” the alien said in resignation.  “I am Mrindren, a technician on the spaceship that just took off.”

“Why were you left?”

“Captain clo Yondah had what he wanted.  Especially after the Guardian and his companions destroyed the gate to the next planet,” he answered.  

“What do you mean, destroyed the gate?  Do you mean the Guardian is on the other side and no one can follow?” Don asked, wanting corroboration for the assumptions he was making.

“Yes,” came the short answer. 

Don turned to Maureen.  “Well, at least we know that John isn’t a prisoner of this clo Yondah.  He can’t chase John and the children anymore, either.”

“Oh, but he can.  He has a copy of the gate destinations and can go there in the ship.  It just takes longer,” Mrindren stated with pride.  “That is how ubi Biro was able to come here and meet Capt. clo Yondah.”

“And what is the planet that this next gate went to?” Don asked tersely. 

“What is in it for me, if I give you the answer?” Mrindren asked, folding his arms and staring resolutely at Don and the rest of the company.  He had regained his composure quickly.

“A great deal, if you also give us the coordinates,” Maureen interjected.

Staring at her in curiosity, the Brumyatta technician just blinked and then finally said, “Give me an example of your generosity and maybe I can help you.”

Don was seething, wanting nothing more than to backhand the smug alien into the snow.  Maureen put her hand on his arm.  Don, no.’

“Safe passage to your home world,” Maureen offered.

“Not enough, there has to be some monetary gain in this, too.  I am losing pay by not being on the Lucky Harvester,” he said.  “You have to do better than that if you want me to give you the information you need to find the Guardian.”

“You should have taken me up on my first offer, Mrindren.  I know now that the planet in question is Anoxis.  Now, you can cooperate with us or I can use my telepathic abilities to find out the rest.  I just wanted to give you the opportunity to do this the easy way,” Maureen said smoothly, her whole body a study in firm resolve.  

Mrindren paled. “Telepathic?”

“Yes, and I can make digging the information out of your brain very unpleasant, if you refuse to tell us what we need to know,” she bluffed, sounding very menacing and convincing.

Mrindren’s thin white lips were drawn tightly across his teeth in fear and his bulbous eyes seemed almost to be bulging out of their sockets.  “Yes, I can help you with the location of Anoxis.”

“Good and if you do the job in a pleasing manner, then I will follow through and take you to the planet of your choice,” Maureen told him. 

Don caught himself gaping at his mother-in-law and had to exercise great control to avoid showing his surprise.  “I would suggest that we return to the Jupiter II so we can let Mrindren follow up on his end of the bargain.”  While slogging through the melting snow, Don realized that while this was not the conclusion that he had hoped for, at least they were heading in a positive direction.

 

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Penny sat at a small kitchen table sipping spicy tea, thinking in wonder of the arrival of her other three friends.  During her illness, she had sensed the presence of all of her zanlings, but wondered if she was dreaming.  When she felt better, she was delighted that they had come to her.   The sacrifice they had made coming through the gates and hostile climates touched her deeply.

“Hey, Penny, you look better.  How are you feeling this morning?” Will said brightly, entering the room.

“I feel much better, just so very tired,” she answered. “My arm hurts, too, where Dr. Smith had to take out that tracking device.”

“Well I’m glad he did.  That would give me the creeps, having a device like that in me.  Dr. Smith says being tired is natural with this sickness.  I think I slept almost all day yesterday,” he replied.

“I still can’t get over meeting him again.  But I’m grateful, because from what Imothera has told me, paranormal abilities are feared here almost as much as they were on Krimlon,” she said.

“Yes, but what I can’t get over is the fact that Dr. Smith seems more...um...”

“Happy?”  Penny answered for him.

“Yes, that’s it.  Happy,” Will answered. 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen
Chapter One
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