Nightmare Journey

 

 

 

Chapter Fifteen-

There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute

 

The Brooolaren and John regarded each other silently for a moment.  The latter was beginning to feel like a side of beef.  The alien’s tiny black eyes had regarded him from head to toe at least twice.

“Gilbrolen, this is Professor John Sims, the individual I told you about yesterday evening,” Imothera said, breaking the silence.  “And these are his children, William and Penny.”

“Hmmm.  Professor, huh?  Stage name or a real title?” Gilbrolen asked.  His voice had a throaty, guttural quality, but was easily understandable. 

“A real title.  I once taught young adults,” John replied quietly, his voice still a bit hoarse, but better than it had been earlier in the day. 

“Well, if I do use you in the performances, it would be good for stage, too.  What is your talent, besides managing to accumulate a quantity of zanlings as well as a Weerlorin?  They are rare, you know.  But then, zanlings have been, too.”

“We have trained them to do a few things, but my main talent is with computers and space navigation,” John told him honestly.  “My daughter has trained her zanlings to do quite a few tricks.  My son’s talent is with computers and robotics.”

“Hmm, anything else?”

John pondered a moment.  Will spoke up.  “Dad is a great swordsman.” 

“Oh, well, maybe we can exploit that,” Gilbrolen said with interest.  “We have to continually change our acts.  Give ‘em something new, you know.”

“I don’t fight for show, Captain Gilbrolen.  My son was being impetuous,” John told him.

“I was led to understand that through unfortunate circumstances you no longer have a spaceship, but you do have a destination.  Am I mistaken in that?” Gilbrolen asked quietly.  The little eyes regarded the professor steadily. 

Sighing in frustration, John answered, “You are correct.  I suppose that the idea of doing something that is mainly a hobby, in front of spectators makes me a bit nervous.”

“Stage fright.  You’ll get over it.  But are you also willing to work with the other animals?  You three seem to have a way with them.  I have noticed that all of your creatures have been very docile the whole time we’ve been talking.”

John had to laugh mentally.  Talon had been sitting on his right shoulder, striking the pose of perfect calmness, but his mind had been churning with the indignities of the role he had to play.  The lizards were better, but they, too were a bit perturbed. 

Yes, we are.  And Penny is especially good with animals. Has been most of her life,” he explained. 

“Well, if you three are willing to work, then you’re hired.  Right now it will be passage and meals, but as you get used to things and are able to do more in the show, there will be payment to be negotiated later,” Gilbrolen stated.  “We have several new additions to our itinerary in galactic quadrant thirty-four, so we will be working on acts that will please these new customers.  One of my aides will show you to your cabin.  We will be departing before the noon hour.”

“Thank you, Captain.  But what about the terms of our contract?”

“You do a good job and I won’t drop you off at the nearest planet.  You get tired of show business; you can leave anytime.  Just make sure you don’t leave because you owe one of the other crewmembers unpaid debts.”

“Fair enough, Captain.  But what about debts to you?  Do we incur any just for being on board?”

Gilbrolen laughed throatily.  “How astute, Professor.  Yes, if you have any extra needs, there could be expenses, but I am not harsh.  I don’t try to enslave my people.”

John nodded.  “Very well.  Accepted.”

“I must leave, Imothera, Dr. Smith. It was good to see you again.  I wish we had time to talk, but I must get the ship ready for take off.  Schedules, you know,” Gilbrolen said as he bowed, then turned and left.

John turned to the couple.  “Thank you, both of you.  I appreciate what you have done to help us.  Will and Penny hugged Dr. Smith and then Imothera, while John shook their hands.  “Oh, and Dr. Smith?”  The doctor looked up at him.  “Kiss your wife a bit more often, I believe she would like that.  Maureen does.”  And while Smith stared at him, a crewman motioned for John and the children to follow him.  The professor just smiled at the befuddled doctor and, nodding to Imothera, he turned and left, Will and Penny following close behind.

 

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

 

Maureen stood at the navigational console of the Jupiter II and delicately felt of its contours with her fingertips.  Just outside the observation window, she could see Dar and Litha watching astride their tilons.  Waiting for the spacecraft’s launch.  She smiled slightly at the sight of the little lizards clutching onto their shoulders. 

Sitting down, Maureen began the pre-flight sequence.  Don nodded to her once she was finished.  The Robot corroborated her figures.  “Go ahead, Don.  There’s nothing stopping us,” she announced when she had finished going through her checklist. 

Judy sat near her and manned the communications console.  Mark lay quietly in his flight chair.  As the ship gently lifted off into the afternoon sky, Maureen was amazed at the adaptability of the baby.  At four months, it was almost as though Mark understood the purpose of the flight chair.  He rarely if ever fussed when he was put into it.  He had also grown.  John was missing his grandchild’s progress.  She was missing John so much that it almost made her physically ill.  She had thought that the last separation was the worst; this was infinitely more agonizing.  And the children, her heart ached that they had to be the recipients of such hatred.  But at least John was with them. 

Watching the blue of the afternoon sky turn to the black of space brought her out of her miserable reverie.  Checking the figures for the jump, she relayed them to the Robot for confirmation. 

“All figures check out, Mrs. Robinson,” he intoned. 

“Then as soon as you clear the atmosphere, let’s make the jump,” she stated. 

“Shall do, Maureen,” Don answered.  The lizards suddenly disappeared down the stairwell to their arboretum, disliking the transitions of hyperspace jumps.  In a few minutes came Don’s command, “Prepare for hyperspace transition.”  The stars shifted, coalescing into lava-like streaks and flows of sparkling light, the black backdrop of space their canvas.  Despite her moodiness, Maureen watched the hyperspace art show with wonder.  It was beautiful, this technological wonder that allowed them to circumnavigate the normal fabric of space, almost as beautiful as regular space. 

The colors and motions of the colors soothed her and lightened her mood a bit.  She vaguely heard the return of the flutter-dragons and Mark fussing in his chair.  Sighing, she got up and turned to the others.  Judy was just unstrapping the baby.  “I’m going below and prepare something for dinner.  It’s been a long time since I cooked a meal and we deserve one."

“That sounds wonderful.  I’ll be down in a minute to help you, Mom,” Judy told her. 

While in the galley, she kept thinking about the dishes that Will or Penny or John liked the most.  Maureen almost wished that she could stop thinking, then everything wouldn’t remind her of those from whom she was separated.  But, hopefully, they would all be reunited when they reached Anoxis.  She clung desperately to that hope. 

 

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

 

clo Yondah was very frustrated.  Having reached Anoxis, he had immediately hired ground transportation and traveled to the site of the destroyed gate.  The gate was dismantled and evidence of the other gate’s destruction still lay littered around the area.  But cursory examination of the vicinity neglected to produce any sign of the three fugitives.  Logic told him that the three humanoids had never been to Anoxis before.  Therefore they would be incapacitated by the anot, perhaps only now getting over the sickness. 

There was no trace of them and what blackened his mood even further was the existence of Havreel, the Purifier.  The man was absolutely the worst space traveler he had ever encountered, and clo Yondah wished he had left him on Creon.  The thought of the Purifier frozen in the attitude of a whining diatribe was enough to bring a smile to his thin lips.  During this excursion, he had left the Krimlon on the ship.  Havreel had not been to Anoxis, and clo Yondah didn’t think he could handle a sick Purifier as well as a whining one.

Now he was approaching the house of one who was reported to be a doctor.  Although remote, it was within reason that his quarry could have either reached or been taken to the country physician.  Stepping out of the swamp vehicle, he approached the door and was met by a woman of Krimlon ancestry.  The blue eyes and upswept ears reminded him of Havreel, but her demeanor was much more pleasant. 

“Excuse me, but I was told that this was the house of a doctor,” he stated bluntly.

“Yes, my husband is a doctor, but right now he mainly doing research.  Is someone in your party ill?” she asked, concern tingeing her voice.

“No, but we are looking for some humanoids who may have been,” the captain replied.

Her expression became more guarded and she just nodded.  “Why are you looking for sick humanoids?” she finally asked.

“Did any come here in the last ten days?” he returned, without answering her question.

“That could be considered privileged information, unless you can give some very good reasons for wanting to know,” she retorted.  

clo Yondah reconsidered his tactics.   “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so harsh. I am Captain Brumyatta clo Yondah. These humanoids have destroyed a shipment of merchandise and I am trying to collect on the debt.  That is my right as the captain of a merchant ship and as a citizen of Brumyatta.”

“Perhaps,” she said evenly.  “Come in, Captain.  Let me fix you some spiced tea and then perhaps we can talk.”  As Imothera showed the Brumyattan merchantmen to the patio and then went into the kitchen, she considered her options.  She really couldn’t hide the fact that John Robinson and his children had been here.  There were too many people who had seen them.  And then he would know that she and Zachary were well aware of the Robinson’s secret.  Their peace on this planet would be shattered and Zachary would be in danger.  As much as she hated herself for doing it, she had to give the captain enough information to satisfy him, but not enough to pinpoint the whereabouts of the Robinsons.

Zachary was working in his little laboratory and was totally unaware of their guests.  That was just as well.  He had the tendency to get nervous under such circumstances and blurt out things unintentionally.  She took a tray with cups and a teapot and set it down on the little patio table.  After pouring tea for the small party of men, she sat down with her own cup. 

“Yes, Captain, we did have three sick humanoids.  I had no idea that they were fugitives from justice.  They were brought here and my husband and I nursed them back to health,” she said simply.

“And where are they now?” clo Yondah asked eagerly.

“I really don’t know, Captain.  As soon as they had recovered sufficiently, they insisted on being taken to Nerolin.  Not realizing the extent of their crimes, we did just that.  We had no reason to suspect anything, or we would have probably turned them into the police,” she said calmly.

“Any particular part of the city?  I should think that they had a specific request in mind,” clo Yondah said.

“No, they just pointed out a place and we stopped our vehicle and let them out,” she hedged. 

“Captain,” one of the other crewmembers said, leaning toward his superior. 

“Yes?”

“It is only logical that they would head to the spaceport.  This guardian would want to return to his own spaceship, would he not?”

“Yes, he would,” the captain stated, grinning maliciously. 

‘Guardian?’  Imothera asked herself in surprise, wondering more about these former shipmates of Zachary’s.

 

 

 

Chapter Sixteen
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