Nightmare Journey

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eighteen-

The Show Must Go On

 

 

You’re gaping, John,’ Talon smirked. 

John realized he had been staring at Gilbrolin in astonishment.  He mentally shook himself.  “You want me to do what?” he asked the alien.

“I want you to be the performance coordinator.  To announce the program and the acts,” Gilbrolen calmly repeated.   The Brooolaren seemed to be enjoying John’s reaction.  Contrary to everyone’s opinion, the captain had not been annoyed with John’s comments about the orantis, but had appeared genuinely glad to see the professor.  Now, after a full day of rest, John was ready for the bombshell that Gilbrolen had just dropped on him.         

“Why?”

“Because we are visiting markets in quadrant 35 and most of the planets in that area are inhabited by humanoids of Krilig stock,” Gilbrolen explained.  John looked puzzled.  “You are familiar with Krimlon, Krelison, or Krungen?”

“I have heard of Krimlon,” John answered vaguely.   He was still assimilating the fact that Gilbrolen wanted him to be a ringmaster.   During his college teaching days he had joked that he felt like one, but this was mind-boggling.

“We are visiting all of those planets and the people on all of them come from the same roots; the Krilig.  I am not surprised that you have heard of Krimlon.  An interesting little legend has filtered down from the planet and we’re going to take advantage of it.”      

John was only partially hearing Gilbrolen’s explanation, silently rejoicing at the news that Krimlon was on the itinerary of The Great Galactic Wonder. 

“You, my dear professor, are going to become a legend,” Gilbrolen announced dramatically, pausing to wait for John’s reaction. 

It took a moment for the news to sink in.  When it did, John did a double-take.  He had a sinking feeling he knew what was coming.  “What legend?” he asked anyway, pretending ignorance.

“Why that of the Guardian.  Haven’t you heard of it?”

“Yes, I have,” John answered nonchalantly.        

“You meet all of the criteria, except for the paranormal skills.” Gilbrolen was almost crowing with pride.

Sighing, John realized there was no argument he could give to get out of this assignment.  The Brooolaren misunderstood his momentary silence.

“You said you were a teacher of the young, didn’t you?  This assignment shouldn’t be difficult for you.  Just consider it an extra large class,” Gilbrolen said, his little black eyes glittering, his guttural laugh echoing throughout the room. 

Suddenly Talon’s thought burst in his mind, with surprise uppermost.  You are the Guardian, aren’t you?  I didn’t make the connection until now,’ the raptor commented.

That’s what they told me on Krimlon,’ John answered.  Looking toward the captain, he said aloud, “I didn’t think Krimlon was visited by space ships.”

“Recent developments changed that, apparently.  A contact told me that the government seems to be much more tolerant, so I had my agent arrange a visit. I have a one week contract to perform at the capital city.  We’ll have to feel out how we use this Guardian legend there, though.  Probably they’re a bit more serious about it than the residents of the other planets,” Gilbrolen explained. 

“Very well, Captain.  How long do I have to prepare before the first performance?”

“A week.  What I want you to do this afternoon is simply watch the rehearsals and get a feel for what’s in the show.  I want your zanling to get used to the other animals.  You also seem to have the Weerlorin well trained and you handled the orantis well.  I would like your entrance to include something exciting using both animals.”  Gilbrolen’s whole countenance was that of excitement, much like a child who has been given a hundred dollars to spend in a candy store. 

Talon sat quietly, but his thoughts were anything but quiet.  That pompous windbag.  That overstuffed mind-deaf little humanoid....’

‘Enough, Talon,’ John told him calmly.  To Gilbrolen,  “You seriously want me to handle the orantis, after what happened the day before yesterday?” 

“You already told me how to deal with an orantis as far as feeding it.  See what you can do to train it.  That creature was so irascible I was ready to dump it out of an airlock.  It wasn’t even tractable enough to put in the zoo, but it seemed to understand you, professor,” Gilbrolen said, a slight edge to his voice. 

“I was lucky.  I’ll try, but I can promise nothing as far as the orantis is concerned.  I’m sure I can figure out something with the Weerlorin and the zanlings.”

“Good, good, I’ll be looking forward to your debut, professor,” Gilbrolen said in way of a dismissal. 

                              

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Dr. Smith sighed.  Despite all of his most careful preparations, he and Imothera had brought the anot on board the Jupiter II and now they were not only dealing with three sick adults, but also a very active and vocal five month old baby. 

“The baby requires your attention, Dr. Smith,” the Robot intoned. 

“I am well aware of that, you irritating and irascible bucket of bolts,” he snapped.  “Oh, my, I have never had to deal with babies before.  Why now?  Why me?” he asked, looking heavenward.  Sighing, he walked over to the child’s playpen and looked in.  The baby’s pet zanling chirped soothingly next to the child’s ear, but it didn’t seem to have any effect.  Looking up, the creature squeaked in bewilderment.  “I totally agree, my friend.  I have not the slightest idea of what he wants either.  If only his mother wasn’t sick, she could take care of him.”

“Well, she is sick, but she’s awake enough to feed the baby.  That’s what’s wrong with the poor dear, Zachary,” Imothera said as she whisked into the room, snatched up little Mark and bustled out again, waving tiredly to him as she disappeared down the elevator. 

“Hmm,” Smith murmured to himself.  “Judy is sick, Major West is sick, Mrs. Robinson is sick, but the baby is not.  The baby is not!  Oh, dear.  There has to be a reason.  It’s been two days and the baby should have gotten the anot by now.”  Excitement brightened his eyes as he realized that he might be onto something important. 

Several days later, finally feeling well enough to emerge from her cabin, Maureen made her way to the galley where she found the area littered with scientific equipment.  She looked around in dismay.  Clearing enough room, she made a cup of coffee and was sitting in the only empty chair drinking it.  “Dr. Smith, may I ask what you are doing?”

“Madam, I am on the verge of a great discovery.”

She couldn’t help it; she snickered lightly.  “And what discovery is that?”

“Laugh at genius all you wish, but I think I have isolated the microscopic carrier of the anot,” he said in triumph.  “It’s not a virus, but something similar to it.   Unlike a virus, the anot can live in the very air you breathe.  When it finds a host, it explodes into activity, causing the immune system in a humanoid body to go haywire for a short time.  Eventually the host builds up a special immunity and the anot is never again a problem to that individual.  I was able to do blood comparisons, since the baby never contracted the illness.  I had been able to study blood samples before, but never from one who had prior immunity.”

Despite her fatigue and previous doubts, Maureen was impressed.  “Does that mean you can develop an antidote?” 

“At the very least, a serum that will keep a humanoid from automatically contracting the disease.  And because the pseudo-virus needs hosts to recreate itself, if the serum is effective then eventually the disease would become extinct.”

“Why was Mark immune?” Maureen asked, curious. 

“I’m not totally sure, Mrs. Robinson, but I cannot help but think that there have been slight mutations.  In other words, your grandson is a child of space,” Smith declared. 

“You are looking much better,” Imothera told her, walking in on the pair.  “I just checked on Maj. West and he is still feverish, but better than yesterday.”

“Maybe his disposition will improve as well,” Smith quipped. 

“Zachary,” Imothera chided.  “Judy’s fever has broken, she, too, should be feeling much better soon.” 

Maureen just nodded, thankful for the quick recovery they seemed to be experiencing.   “Imothera, where should we go to meet The Great Galactic Wonder?” she asked.

“Well, this is a guess and you don’t have to follow up on it, but the official itinerary said that they would be performing in Frilonx in a bit more than two weeks.   Knowing Gilbrolen as I do, he will make several short stops between Anoxis and Frilonx.  I would think Corinnlis or Leeibor are the most logical planets. They were always lucrative in the past.”

“Then we’ll check them out.  Where are we headed to right now?”  Maureen asked, unable to remember what had been decided before she had contracted the sickness. 

“Ter,” Imothera said.  “We can check there and then get the coordinates for the other planets before we leave.”  Again Maureen nodded.

 

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

 

Penny stood at the observation window looking at the ebb and flow of coalescing hyperspace activity outside.  She sighed and then felt Jeris move closer to her.  Lucy squeaked in amusement and flew off, chirping to the others.  Edmund, Susan and Peter joined her, winging gracefully toward the door.

“It’s disconcerting, but still beautiful,” he said quietly, sliding his arm around her waist.  “You are, too.”

She turned to look at him, at the same time sliding away from his arm.  The speed with which he had become familiar with her bothered her somewhat.  They had eaten together in the cafeteria, away from the rest of the crew, and Penny had to admit that Jeris was fun to be around.  Even though his life had been tough, he had a way of relating his experiences so they weren’t overwhelmingly sad or depressing.   He had a way of making listeners feel they were experiencing the adventures.  Occasionally, Jeris stopped and asked about her life, but she didn’t tell him much about Earth, feeling her life had been drab compared to his.  Mostly she told him about Priplanus and their search for Alpha Centauri. 

“Why did you say I was disconcerting?” she asked, slightly annoyed.

“You are a strong telepath, but most of the time you act as though it’s new to you.  And you are beautiful, you know,” he said, grinning.

“Maybe that’s because it is new to me.  I’ve only had this ability for about a year now,” Penny said, laughing and ignoring his comment about her being beautiful. 

Incredulous, Jeris just stared at her for a moment.  “Are you serious?” he finally asked. 

Nodding, Penny explained, “It’s the influence of the zanlings.  As soon as I bonded with mine, I started feeling the telepathic abilities develop, although I had slight abilities before we landed on Karturm.”

“I am impressed.”  He reached up to touch her cheek and Penny noticed for the first time, how slender and elegant his hand was.  Then she looked into his blue-green eyes and saw the depth of his passion.  His passion for the animals with which he worked, passion for the cause that he supported and his passion for life and his desire to live it fully.  And she saw that she was being included in that passion as well.  She felt his sincerity, but couldn’t bring herself to move as fast as he apparently wanted to.

“Jeris, you don’t waste any time do you?” she said, half teasingly, half seriously. 

“Life changes too rapidly to wait around, but I sense you don’t feel the same way,” he said softly.  Jeris looked into her large hazel eyes and saw an inner beauty to match what he saw on the outside.  He had never met a girl like Penny Sims; no, Penny Robinson, he corrected himself.  Then he wondered what she had gotten herself into that her father felt the need to use an alias.  He was able to pick some things out of her mind, but not everything.  A twinge of guilt gnawed at him, reminding him that one didn’t pry into the mind of a friend.

“No, Mom and Dad told me that good things are worth waiting for, but sometimes I feel the same way you do.  I...I just don’t want to...uh...”

“Get too close, too fast?” Jeris asked.

“Yes.  I’m not sixteen yet, either.”

Jeris just reached over and took her hand, holding it while they looked out of the view port.  Then he began to show her images of the beauties of his home world.  He heard her gasp in amazement, but she didn’t say anything.

 

 

 

Chapter Nineteen
Chapter One
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