Nightmare Journey

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen-

Beauty that Tamed the Beast

 

Imothera Smith gave her husband’s patient and former shipmate the last of the soup she had made earlier in the day and then watched him as he continued to stare at her and talk to her.  She had figured out the first time she had cared for him that he was only semi-conscious.  While appearing to be aware of her, Imothera realized that he was in actuality looking at her, but seeing someone else.  And he had talked incessantly to her, which surprised her, considering the problem with his lungs.  When she had asked her husband about that phenomenon, he simply told her it was most likely a combination of the medicines and the sickness.

But whatever the reason, it kept him breathing deeply and coughing often, which was helping to clear his chest.  When Zachary had first brought the Robinsons to their home, he had become suddenly reticent to talk about his past experiences, even more reluctant than he had been before.  But taking care of the sick Robinson patriarch had made her think about the process of falling in love with one who had carried so much emotional baggage with him for so long. 

Imothera had been able to talk a great deal to young William, who had immediately noticed a difference in his old friend.  The boy was sitting with his father the morning after their arrival when she came in with some breakfast for both.  The professor’s fever was still quite high and he drank only a little juice before lapsing back into a troubled sleep. 

“Mrs. Smith, how did you meet Dr. Smith?  That is, if it’s okay to ask that kind of a question,” Will asked.

“Of course, it’s okay.  I met Zachary on a rather large carnival ship.”  She glanced up at the two zanlings perched on the headboard, watching her, seemingly in the attitude of listening.  William gave her a questioning look.  “Zachary said that it was like a traveling circus, going from one planet to another.  He had been assigned there as a sentence for theft on Brooolaren.”

“Theft?” Will interrupted.

“Yes, something to eat.  They are very strict about their laws on Brooolaren.  Zachary was caught and sentenced to hard labor.  Gilbrolen, the captain of the ship, bought the rights to carry out the sentence.  The captain was desperate for extra hands to take care of the animals.  Zachary was very despondent when I met him and I felt sorry for him.  So I began talking to him and we became friends.” 

Imothera thought back to the time when he had been desperate for a friend.  Anyone who would speak to him with kindness became a lifeline for him.  She was the only one at that time who was willing to see past his bellicosity.  After she had become close to Zachary and he had told her details of his past, Imothera had determined that if she had known him even a year previous, she would never have consented to marry him. But seven months worth of hardships and loneliness had made him much more amenable to an honest friendship. 

“And then a strange and deadly sickness was brought on board by one of our customers. My two children were stricken with it first, and that was when Zachary told me that he had received training as a doctor.  I was beside myself with worry, but he stayed with them and studied the sickness and finally discovered the means to halt its progression.  That was a hard time, but helping others seemed to bring him even more out of his self-centered shell.  The captain was so grateful that he declared the sentence served and made Zachary a full-fledged member of the crew.”

“Mrs. Smith, I have only met your son, Jaanor,” Will said quietly.  He was almost afraid of the answer. 

“My daughter died before the cure was discovered. Zachary was sick with grief.  He had become quite close to both Jaanor and Welleena, and at first he blamed himself for her death.  We helped each other a great deal during that time.  That was when we decided that we were more than friends.  We married on board the ship and decided to settle here on Anoxis.  Zachary has been working for the government, trying to discover the cause of the anot, the sickness that you all have had.”

“I’m sorry about your daughter, ma’am,” Will said sadly.  He turned to his dad and watched him for a moment with troubled eyes. 

“William, your father will be all right.  The anot is not deadly and Zachary tells me that the complications have been caught in time.  In a few days, he will be feeling much better,” Imothera comforted the boy.

Will sighed and kept his thoughts to himself.  Nova flew over and rubbed him under the chin, chirping in a consoling manner.  “Thank you, Nova.”

“Do you really communicate with them?”  Imothera asked Will, her blue eyes wide in awe.

“Yes, Penny is a very good telepath.  Dad is pretty good, too.  I can communicate telepathically, too, but not as well as Penny or Dad,” Will told her. 

“William, tell your...uh, friends to please go out late at night or in the pre-dawn hours of the morning to feed.  I have already had to tell passersby that you are all former associates of ours from the carnival ship and that these are trained animals,” Imothera explained.  “Telepathy and these kind of animals are looked upon with suspicion and fear.”  Silverado squeaked indignantly.  “And the Weerlorin needs to be warned as well, although I have a sneaking suspicion that he already knows the danger.”

Pondering, Will suddenly realized what Mrs. Smith was talking about.  “Oh, you mean Talon.  I’ll warn him, but he is already suspicious of most humanoids.”

By the end of the second day, the professor’s fever was beginning to ease.  Imothera had just finished shaving him when her husband entered the room. 

“You are going to turn out to be a good nurse, my dear,” Zachary declared from the doorway. 

“Thank you, Zachary.  I seem to have been getting much practice since I married you,” she said with humor.  “And by the way, you didn’t tell me that your former associate was so handsome.”

Clearing his throat indignantly, Smith frowned.  “Oh, please, Imothera, spare me.”

“Now surely, Zachary, you aren’t jealous, are you?” she asked mischievously.

“Of course not!  Besides, Prof. Robinson is married and quite happy with the situation,” he retorted and then looked carefully at her.  His wife chuckled at his discomfiture.  “I truly wish, my dear, that you would warn me when you are going to, as they say, pull my leg,” he huffed.

“Zachary, I learned the fine art of repartee from a master.  I know to whom I am loyal and who I love, but I am not blind.”  The only flaws she could discern was the professor’s height and the shape of his ears, but those were minor.   After he had finished his examination, she put her arms around her grumpy husband and hugged and kissed him.   “You are a grouch, but I will keep you.” 

He smiled slightly. “I suppose I have been rather grouchy lately.”

“Yes, you have, Zachary.  What is it about the return of some of your shipmates that has you bothered?” she asked, figuring that she already knew the answer.

“I’m also a psychiatrist and I’m not sure myself, but I do know that when the professor is feeling better, he and I are going to have to talk.” 

Imothera nodded as he left.  She stayed and waited for the professor to awaken enough to eat the dinner that Jaanor had brought in.  Soon he opened his eyes and gazed at her.  As before the hazel eyes were seeing someone and somewhere else, but he still ate the dinner with great relish.  She was pleased to see his appetite returning.  She also noticed that his cough was less severe.  Reaching behind him, she fixed his pillows to allow him to sit up more comfortably. 

“Mo,” he whispered hoarsely and reaching up with one hand, pulled her head toward him and kissed her soundly and passionately.  Then he murmured lovingly, “I’m so glad that you’re back.”

Startled, Imothera jerked back and stared at him.  He looked slightly puzzled, but soon fell back to sleep.  She wasn’t sure what had surprised her more, the very passionate kiss or him calling her by the nickname that her long dead father had used so many years before.  She, too, figured that she needed to talk to the professor when he was more lucid.  Still slightly shaken, she gathered up the dishes, and putting them on the tray, started from the room.

“Maureen?” Professor Robinson asked softly from behind her.  Imothera turned back and watched the hopeful expression change, and she realized that he now recognized her as a stranger.   Trying to clear his throat, he said, “I thought you were someone else.”  His voice was tight with laryngitis and she had to listen carefully to understand him. 

“I am Imothera Smith,” she told him.  “My husband and I have been taking care of you for the past two days.” 

The silver zanling squeaked in amusement from the headboard and the professor suddenly blushed.   “I was dreaming I was with my wife.  Did I really kiss you?” he asked.

“Yes, you did.”  Imothera suddenly saw the humor in the situation and began laughing.  “And I truly wish you could teach my husband how to kiss like that.  I believe he wants to be passionate, but the poor dear has had so little practice.  You apparently have.”  She laughed again at his growing consternation.   “Please, though, Zachary still has low enough self-esteem that I believe we need to keep this between ourselves.”

He nodded and smiled as he, too, caught the irony of what he had done.  Then he leaned back wearily.  “My children?” he asked softly. 

“They are fine.  William is totally well and has been catching up on old times with Zachary as well as becoming friends with Jaanor, my son.  And Penny is close to full recovery.  By the way, why did you call me Mo?  I haven’t been called by that nickname since I was a child.”

The professor stared at her in surprise.  “That is a very private nickname that I called my wife when we were in college together.  I still do occasionally.  Now all I need to do is find a way to reunite the family,” he whispered wearily. 

                  

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Judy studied the navigational disk with the robot.  “Have you copied those navigational charts?”

“Affirmative.”

“Now if we only knew which of these planets had gates,” she said.

“But we do, Mrs. West.  There is a record of planets and questing gates in the hard drive of the Brooolaren ship.  Given a little time I believe I can determine which planets the others have gone to,” the Robot told her. 

“How much time do you need?”  she asked.

“An hour at the most,” he answered.

“Good, then maybe we can go and meet Don.  An extra ship might be an asset for them, especially if the Brumyatta have done the same thing,” she mused.

It actually took the Robot forty-five and a half minutes.  “Mrs. West, there are two gates questing from this one.  According to the prisoners, the mountain world of Zaphr is the one the professor and the children took.  The world which is connected to it is Creon.”

“Do you think that they went beyond Zaphr, Robot?” she asked.  Mark chortled happily in his baby chair, alternately reaching for his toys and watching his little zanling flying loop-de-loops above his head.

“I believe that the professor would most likely have gone on to Creon.  If he could have hidden on the first planet, he would have come back through the gate to this planet. I could give you the statistics to back up that supposition, if you wish.”

“No, Robot, I think you’re probably right,” she said quickly.  “Let’s see what kind of hyper-drive this ship has.  Can we pilot it alone?”

“Affirmative.  I can make many of the proper settings in advance, which will automatically be activated when we take off.”  

“Then let’s do it,” she told him tersely. 

 

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Don was surprised to see a second spacecraft come in for a landing only an hour after the other one had left.  Mrindren smiled a feral smile, so the pilot figured that the arrival of the ship couldn’t bode well for them.  “Dar, these may very well be enemies.  We need to be ready,” he warned, motioning towards the Brumyatta technician.  Dar nodded.  They all watched from behind whatever cover was available, but no one was more surprised than Don when the ramp opened from the spider-like craft and Max walked down the ramp. 

Standing up slightly, Don called out, “Max, it’s Major West.  Acknowledge.”  Looking up toward his position, Max called out several predetermined phrases. Don answered with predetermined answers and was pleased when Judy and Litha walked down the ramp behind the robot, laser pistols in readiness.

Embracing his wife, Don murmured in her ear.  “How did you manage to pull off the theft of an interstellar craft, m’dear?”

“We just put on the Purifier’s clothes and walked up to the ramp.  Then we made the Brooolaren an offer they couldn’t refuse.  They cooperated with us when we told them we would give them back their spaceship when we were done with it.  Otherwise, no one would get to have it.”

Don laughed and embraced his wife again.  “You are a wonder, ma Cherie!”

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen
Chapter One
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