Nightmare Journey

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen-

Apologies

 

Judy glanced around, saw her mother’s face and sobered quickly.  “Did you find out anything about Dad, Will and Penny?”

“Yes, the Brumyatta apparently got a little to close for comfort, so your dad had to blow up the next gate to keep from getting captured,” Maureen informed her.   “If you have the star charts then we can hyper-jump to that planet and find them.  It’s a bit more time consuming, but it’s the only way I can see to do it.”

“Well, the Robot found a chart of questing gates and their corresponding planets, and the one that Dad, Will and Penny went to is called Anoxis.”

“Can we use this ship to fly there?”  Maureen asked, anticipation evident on her face.

“Yes, we could, but it might be a bit awkward for us to explain why we have a Brooolaren ship that is registered to someone else.  It should only delay us a short time to go back and retrieve the Jupiter II,” Judy explained. 

“I hate to delay even a short time, knowing that those Brumyatta are after John and the children,” Maureen said pensively. 

“I agree, Mom, but we are going to have to go to Anoxis and the Brooolaren ships are well known.  We would be pegged as hijackers immediately.  The way the Robot explained it to me, it is a shorter hyper-jump to Krimlon from Anoxis than it is from here to Anoxis.  If we go back to Valanna and through the gate to Krimlon and then jump to Anoxis, we will not have lost any time on the Brumyatta ship.  It sounded very confusing to me at first, but I think that I explained it right.”

“Well, all right, but I won’t be happy until we get John and the children safely on board,” Maureen agreed. 

“There’s something else we have to work around, Mom.  There is some kind of warning about the planet, Anoxis.  Any humanoid that lands there gets sick with something called the ‘anot.’  It’s nothing fatal and from what I read it sound a bit like the flu, but it does incapacitate the individual for up to a week.”  Judy paused to let the information sink in. “We wouldn’t be able to land.  We’d just have to hope that there is someone there willing to help us.”

“That would mean that John and the children got it,” Maureen pointed out.  Looking out over the snow covered hills, she mused out loud, “Then I suppose that it was a very good thing that John did blow the gate.”  Turning back to Don and Judy, she added, “We’d better get going, and quit dawdling around here.”

Within minutes, the group had entered the spider-like spacecraft and taken off.  The slight wind blew mournfully around bare-limbed trees and bushes. 

 

                                  ============================

 

John sat quietly at the little table in the enclosed patio, nursing a cup of spiced tea.  Silverado chirped softly on his shoulder.  Yes, I feel much better, my friend,’ he told the lizard.  On this, the fourth day since he had succumbed to the anot, he was feeling much better, finally able to stay awake for more than a few hours at a time.  But he was irritated that he still had the laryngitis that had resulted from his sickness.  Sighing, John realized that what aggravated him the most was the idea that he had babbled incessantly for almost three days.  Not that he had any dire secrets, but if his kissing of Imothera was any indication, the professor knew that his mind hadn’t been on classroom physics theories, and he hated the idea of someone listening in on his innermost desires and thoughts. 

You miss Maureen.  Understandable,’ Silverado stated. 

Yes, I do.  And Judy, Don, and Mark as well,’ he told his friend.  Taking another sip of the soothing drink, he looked up and saw Dr. Smith regarding him from the doorway.  Perhaps that was where most of his irritation lay, the idea that Smith was privy to his babbling.  He nodded to the doctor.

“I presume that you are feeling better,” the older man said brightly.   John nodded again.

“Good, because you had us worried for a while,” Smith commented.  John just sipped his tea and waited the doctor to say more.   Smith sat down across from him.

“Professor,” he began and then paused.   “You know, we didn’t always see eye to eye.”

John smiled slightly and nodded.  That’s an understatement, he thought in amusement.

“And I realize that my presence sometimes endangered your family.”  Smith looked thoughtfully at John, who again nodded.   “When I left the Jupiter II, I immediately wished to go to northeastern Georgia; a place that was not too far from where my aunt and uncle raised me.  I thought that in the rural backwoods of Eton or Chatsworth, I might find some of the peace that I had lost when I was very young.   I also felt that it was obscure enough to stay incognito until I was ready to make myself known.   I was wrong.  I had no money, so I contacted Aeolis Umbra Prime.  They were not pleased and suddenly I had the FBI and Alpha Control at my doorstep.  So you see, Major West was right, there’d be no way I could go back to Earth,” he said sadly.  “The places of my boyhood had changed too much anyway.”

Silverado chirped sadly.  “Well, at least your friend seems to sympathize,” Smith blurted out when the silence had grown heavy.  John only motioned for the doctor to continue. 

“I used the cube and visited several places that we had been to in the Jupiter II.  Again, I found things had changed.  I started wishing for places fitting certain criteria and while some were pleasant enough, there was something missing.  Professor, even though I was often vilified, most of the time rightly so, at least I had the companionship of your family.  The loneliness was oppressive; it became a tangible enemy and depression became its companion.  In the vernacular of my profession, I was a veritable nut case.

“I ended up on Brooolaren and from there to the carnival ship, where I met Imothera.  She was the oil that soothed the turgid waters of my psyche, Professor.  She literally saved my life, because I suspect that eventually I would have committed suicide.”

John wondered what his life had been like when he had left, suspecting that it wouldn’t have been terribly pleasant.  Smith sighed and closed his eyes and the professor waited for him to continue.   Finally, he set the cup down since the tea had become cold. 

“Well, I have been thinking....”  Smith cleared his throat.

Sighing, John waited a few more minutes.   Smith looked up at him, a wry smile on his lips.  “It’s ironic, now that you can’t repudiate what I am saying, I can’t seem to say what I want to tell you.” 

John did a double take, incredulous that the doctor was speechless, then he smiled slightly.  I can’t talk to you, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t repudiate what you have to say,’ he sent telepathically, hoping that Smith would understand him.  Silently, he asked for Silverado’s help. 

Smith gaped at him.  “Was...did you say something, Professor?  In my mind....”

Yes, since I don’t seem to be able to do it physically,’ he answered dryly.

“The lizards?”  Smith asked.  

John nodded.  They seem to build on whatever latent abilities an individual has.’

“Be careful, Professor, such abilities are very much frowned on in this part of this universe.”

I know, I’ve found out the hard way.  But thanks for the warning.’

“I suppose since you can read my mind, you already know what I’m going to say anyway,” Smith said peevishly.  

Looking up at him in surprise, John shook his head.  I have made it a point to avoid doing that.  I don’t know what you want to say to me, Doctor.’

Sighing, Smith looked down.  “I want to apologize to you....”

The silence hung deep.  “Accepted.  And thank you, Dr. Smith, for saving us,” John told him softly, when he had recovered from his shock.  Although his voice was still weak from the laryngitis, he nevertheless wanted to thank the doctor vocally. 

“The anot is not fatal,” Smith pointed out. 

But being exposed to the elements is,’ John replied telepathically.  

“You’re welcome, then.   But if the gate was destroyed, how are you three going to get back to the Jupiter II?”  Smith queried. 

John smiled and held up his fist, thumb up. 

“Hitching a ride with your creatures might be difficult, especially with the Weerlorin.  And Krimlon is not among the highlights of the galactic star lanes right now,” Smith explained. 

‘Valanna, then.  And we will be able to go through the gate,’ John told him, then pondered.  Isn’t there a big market in zanlings and other telepathic creatures as pets, entertainment, and the like?’

“Yes, there is, perhaps we can develop that line of reasoning.  Imothera could probably come up with a good story.  She lived with the carnivals long enough to know all the angles,” Smith ventured. 

“Did I hear my name used?  For the good I hope,” Imothera said, entering the little room with a steaming pot of tea in her hand.  She poured some into John’s cup and then sat down next to her husband.  “I heard a great deal of conversation, but it seemed one-sided,” she commented with a wry smile. 

John shook his head and Silverado squeaked brightly, his golden eyes gleaming mischievously. 

“Good heavens, no, my dear.  Just when I thought I had the professor over a verbal barrel, he learns to use telepathy.  He and that silver reptile have ganged up on me,” Smith informed her.  His wife laughed pleasantly.   “No, Imothera, we were just trying to figure out a way for the professor and his children to return to his family on Krimlon.”

“Well, I don’t know about Krimlon, but I think I have a partial solution,” Imothera stated.

“Yes, what is it?” John asked in a whisper. 

“My old associate, Gilbrolen, has been putting on shows the past week and is scheduled to ship out tomorrow.  Now I realize that you are not quite up to full recovery, Professor, but if you think you can handle it, I just can’t think of a better cover than to take employment on a carnival ship with your trained zanlings and Weerlorin,” she explained.  Silverado rose up on his hind legs and squeaked indignantly.  John shushed him with a gesture. 

Looking into his teacup, John pondered his options and could come up with none except what Imothera had suggested.  He didn’t doubt that the Brumyatta were still hunting him and the children.  Without any currency in his pocket, there really wasn’t any other option.  Sighing, he nodded.  “I have no choice,” he said softly.  “We leave tomorrow.”

“I will contact Gilbrolen.  And I must warn you, Professor, you have to be careful with your abilities.  I have already warned your children and they have, in turn, warned their zanlings,” Imothera admonished.  

John nodded and leaned back in the chair, suddenly weary again, thinking of the convoluted road back to his family. 

 

 

 

Chapter Fifteen
Chapter One
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