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
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
Captain. But what about
debts to you? Do we incur
any just for being on board?”
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.”
“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
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
“All figures check
out, Mrs. Robinson,” he intoned.
“Then as soon as
you clear the atmosphere, let’s make the jump,” she stated.
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."
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
“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.
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
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.
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
“Captain,” one of
the other crewmembers said, leaning toward his superior.
“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.