John stood at the
door of the orantis’ cage, concentrating.
He felt that the key to dealing with this creature was telepathic
communication, but he was also worried about being detected by this
paranoid society. Setting
those thoughts aside, the professor began sending messages of good will,
while he quietly unlatched the door and stepped in.
A small rodent-like creature that had recently died in a squabble
over territory was dangling from his gauntleted left hand, while he held
his right arm up for the creature to land on if it felt so inclined.
Extra padding provided protection to his still healing arm. The orantis hissed and flared its leathery wings, its baleful
eyes burning into his own.
‘I will not hurt you. I have
fresh meat.’ John
held out the still warm carcass. Silverado
sat quietly outside the enclosure, helping him focus.
‘Running, breathing prey. Must
capture, rend, tear,’ came the hunger thoughts of the bat-bird.
Like Sun-Dweller, this creature communicated visually, with
strong emotional feelings intermingled in the messages.
‘I can’t give you living flesh,’ John told it.
‘But this is still warm.’
With a scream, the
orantis launched itself into the confining space of its cage, but it
didn’t attack, it only sent its desires to hunt John.
“NO!” John shouted forcefully, repeating the command
telepathically. ‘I am not your prey. I will
get food for you until we get someplace where you can hunt,’ he
reassured the predator.
‘Yes!’ John told the bat-bird.
Its thoughts became more peaceful and then it glided over and
landed on his arm. The
orantis’ grip was strong and the professor winced at the slight pain
it caused. He held up the
meat and it was snatched away from him.
One powerful downbeat of the leathery wings and the predator
retreated to a corner perch to eat its meal.
‘Better,’ it said, contented.
Sighing, John turned and walked out of the cage, carefully
latching it behind him.
“You are good with
animals,” a voice said behind him, causing him to pivot around in
against the wall was Jeris, a slight smile on his face.
understand that you’re even better,” John replied.
“I think for the
same reason,” the boy said quietly.
“Yes, I realized
that you had a ‘gift’ when I was in the cafeteria earlier today,”
John commented wryly.
Jeris’ smile grew a
little wider. “I guess I
was kind of obvious, wasn’t I?”
“I don’t normally
pry into other people’s business, and that includes their thoughts,
but when it concerns the welfare of my daughter....” John let the
sentence dangle, knowing that the boy understood what he was getting at.
He seemed to be a bit more worldly-wise than most young men his
“Well, I really do
like Penny, Professor, but she sort of told me how she felt, so I
didn’t do anything that would make you want to toss me out an
airlock,” Jeris said, his grin a bit more mischievous.
Laughing, John turned
back to look into the orantis’ cage.
His mood turned reflective, remembering what he had to do in less
than a week. “I have a
question, Jeris, that maybe you can answer.
Does the captain have the means of detecting telepathic
abilities, or does that technology exist in this galaxy?”
“It exists, it just
isn’t widespread, mainly because of expense.
Gilbrolen claims he has the instinct for that kind of thing,”
Jeris said with a snort.
relief,” John said, smiling at the unspoken assessment of the ship’s
captain. “Jeris, you’ll
have to excuse me. I have
another appointment with Capt. Gilbrolen.”
As John turned and
left, Silverado floating serenely behind him, Jeris stood motionless,
his grin fading, his feeling of unease at the unavoidable meeting
between John Robinson and Marrin growing.
He was still standing there when he received a mental summons
from the creenx.
At the regular
meeting place, Jeris waited for Marrin to say something.
‘I can assume from your
demeanor that you didn’t invite the professor to a meeting.’
‘No, he had to leave before I could invite him.
But Marrin, for some reason, the professor doesn’t strike me as
a violent sentient,’ Jeris said, voicing his concerns.
‘His title is not a stage designation.
I have checked, he is a scientist, educator, and computer
specialist, not a mercenary. Of
course he is not normally violent.
But he does have the telepathic abilities and I want to meet with
him. If he does not wish to work with us then we will take
measures to make sure he doesn’t interfere with our plans on Frilonx,’
Marrin said, a hard edge coloring his communication.
‘What kind of measures?’ Jeris asked, staring hard at the
‘Nothing so crude as killing him, if that is what you’re worried about, but we have to make sure that no one interferes with the uprising,’ the creenx reassured the boy.
John stood in front
of the mirror and studied his new outfit with a critical eye. If the effect was to enhance his height, then Gilbrolen had
succeeded. The lines of the
silver outfit were much like those of his own environmental suit back on
the Jupiter II, but from his shoulders near the end of each collar bone
down to a point below his waist, the color was a rich, luminous blue. The almost knee-high boots were soft and comfortable and of a
slightly darker blue color. The
gauntlet style gloves were also a dark sky blue and fit his hands
perfectly. In fact,
although the entire suit fit him a little tighter than his space suit,
it was still much more comfortable, with complete freedom of movement.
Sighing, he realized
he might as well go on down to the arena and get this over with. Silverado sat on his shoulder chirping encouragement.
At least, he thought morosely, it was a smaller market and the
audience was not very large. Curious, he wondered if Gilbrolen had planned it that way.
The arena was much
like that of any large circus, but not as impersonal as the huge three
ring circuses still popular in the United States.
Gilbrolen had set this up with two spacious rings, with a small
one in-between, which was where he announced from.
This circus was not under a tent, rather it was a technological
wonder of quick set up and take down, sturdy, but pleasing to the eye in
color and lines. With his
recovery from the laryngitis complete, Gilbrolen had been pleased to
note that a personal mike would be unnecessary.
John sincerely hoped the captain’s assessment was correct; he
felt the same way that he had years ago when he addressed his first
class. It had been an
auditorium class, with over seventy students.
It had not been a totally successful endeavor.
‘You will be fine,’ Silverado reassured him.
The rings were semi-dark, being lit just enough for the first
acts to assemble near them and for him to make his way to the middle of
When the lights went
on, the reaction was not unlike what he had received from Garoween and
his family on Krimlon, and when Silverado flew out and landed on his
shoulder, the crowd went into a temporary hush. Taking deep breaths to
control his nerves, John began the prepared ‘spiel’ that Gilbrolen
had worked out and that he had rehearsed with the performers.
At the end of the
show Talon appeared and flew in what the professor would have termed an
aerial dance for want of better words.
When Talon continued long after what had been rehearsed, John
ad-libbed with colorful descriptions of the Weerlorin’s home world and
of the Weerlorin race itself. Finally,
he whistled sharply and Talon slowly rose to the top of the arena and
dived toward him, flaring at the last minute and landing lightly on his
outstretched arm. As he left the announcer’s ring, John felt the spontaneous
approval of the crowd toward the show and despite his preconceived
notions of circus and carnival life and performers, he felt a bit of
pride in a job well done.
Jeris met him near
the exit. “Professor, you
have a minute?” he asked bluntly.
answered and followed the young man to the enclosure of the creature he
had learned was called a creenx. The
amber-colored alien surveyed him with luminous violet eyes that seemed
to bore into his mind.
‘You are Professor John Robinson?’
the Creenx asked. John
nodded, wondering where the alien had received information about his
real name. ‘I
am called Marrin. You have a gift that could be useful to our cause,’
John asked, instantly on his guard.
“You know the status of those gifted with telepathic powers.
When we arrive on Frilonx, we on this ship will begin an
insurrection that will make the mind-deaf feel our wrath for the
treatment we have endured for centuries.
They will also feel the power we wield,’ Marrin said
usually entails violence and bloodshed.
My experience and a study of history has told me those kinds of
revolt usually bring more violence and more hatred.
Change in attitudes usually comes by teaching and persuasion,”
John said, uncomfortable with Marrin’s disdainful scrutiny.
“Count me out.”
‘Very well, but do not interfere, John Robinson, or the
consequences could be very swift and harsh,’ Marrin said
“Don’t threaten me, Marrin,” John said in a frigid voice as he turned and left. Silverado stared balefully at the creenx as they left the room.
By the time another
week had passed, John had had a chance to become well acquainted with
every one of the performers and the stage hands.
At present he was having lunch with MriGrolar, the music
that new tune you played during rehearsal this morning was very
striking. Did you develop
that with any particular act in mind?”
slightly froggish face broke into a beaming smile.
“Why thank you, Professor.
And yes, since your Weerlorin has a propensity for embellishment,
I thought a small tune might be appropriate.
I made some changes.” Pulling out a flute-like instrument,
MriGrolar stuck half of it into his ample mouth and began to play the
haunting melody that sounded even more like one of his favorites.
It reminded him of Maureen and he stared pensively at the floor
while the band director played. Silverado
sat on his shoulder and crooned softly.
Suddenly MriGrolar stopped and pulling the instrument out, asked,
“Is everything all right, John?”
MriGrolar. That tune just
reminded me of my beloved and I was thinking about her,” he answered.
“Umm. I’m sorry. I
didn’t mean to cause any distress.
“Yes,” he said
simply, not elaborating. “Hopefully
we will be reunited before too long.”
He wondered if he had been lax or if MriGrolar’s choice of
music had been coincidental.
“Yes, I pray that
will happen for you as well,” MriGrolar said softly.
“And by the way, John, it is my opinion that Gilbrolen made a
wonderful choice for a performance coordinator.”
I appreciate that. It’s been a long time since I have done anything in front
of a large group of people,” he said with a smile.
deep in his throat, which John assumed was the equivalent to laughter.
“My friend, we might as well have lunch, since it is the time
for it and we are in the right place,” the music coordinator said.
They picked out the
meal of their choice, although John made it a point to ignore
MriGrolar’s fly soup type of concoction for fear of totally losing his
appetite. He looked around for Penny and Will, but before they could
sit down, Will rushed up to him.
what?” he asked breathlessly. “Nofrin
said that he needed someone to help him with the computer generated
effects and told me that I could have the job.
No more cleaning out stalls and cages!”
son,” John told him, also inviting him to eat with them.
Nofrin wants to go over some effects for the show on Frilonx.
I’ll see you later,” he said hurriedly, almost immediately
John chuckled over
his son’s exuberance. Glancing
across the room, he noticed Penny and Jeris eating together and he
frowned slightly. Although
a pleasant young man, there was still something about Jeris that
concerned him, not the least of which was his association with the
Following his gaze,
MriGrolar saw the pair. “John,
the boy is very impulsive and impetuous, but I believe he has a good
heart and will make good choices in the end.”
“Marrin hinted at
some kind of insurrection on Frilonx.
MriGrolar, I’ve tried not to be involved in these problems of
yours, but I’m afraid Marrin has something in mind that is extremely
dangerous for all of us. Jeris
is part of it,” John said ardently.
“John, you are
involved whether you want to be or not.
Marrin sees you as very dangerous, and many among the crew feel
you are not just playing a role, but that you are
the Guardian. You said the
rest of your family was on Krimlon, therefore I can assume you have been
there as well. Is that a
coincidence or would your visit be linked to the reconciliation that has
recently occurred there?” MriGrolar conjectured.
John just gazed quietly at the music director.
“John, you are the Guardian.
I know that and the Krimlon people know that.
And half of this ship believes it.
They would prefer a peaceful solution to all this.”
“Again, I’m being
put in a position I don’t want to be in.
I don’t have a peaceful solution, MriGrolar.
I was imprisoned on Krimlon for being the Guardian. I just want to find my family and return to my own galaxy.”
“The path to your own galaxy may lie through the reunification of this one, John,” MriGrolar said softly. “I will try to find out what I can, but I am not on Marrin’s list of confidants right now.” John just nodded.