The Great Escape
The ride was peaceful
and John found himself enjoying it immensely.
The loping gait of the tilon made him feel even more relaxed than
he already was, and the early afternoon sun filtered through the leaves,
which were distinctly greener with recent rains.
“I’m going to
kind of miss Krimlon. Even
though they have funny ideas about telepathy and those who are
different, most of the people are friendly,” Will said as they rode
out of the outskirts of town.
“Yes, I know what
you mean, son,” John told him. “It’s
hard to leave friends, especially if you feel you’ll never see them
especially, but also Litha and her father,” John said quietly.
“Dad, do you ever miss Dr. Smith?” Will asked.
Looking over at his
son, John sighed. “That’s
a tough question, Will, and I suspect that you already know my answer to
that one.” He paused to
consider his reply, as he knew that his son had a greater affinity for
their mercurial stowaway than he had.
“Son, I’ll have to be honest, I haven’t given much thought
to Dr. Smith, there’s been too much going on.
But he did make his choice; he took the teleportation cube and he
used it. I really do hope
that he found a place where he is happy.
I don’t wish ill on anybody, but he wasn’t happy with us on
the Jupiter II and a great deal of the time we weren’t happy with him,
“Sometimes I do
miss him though, Dad, even if he was a pain.”
“I know that, son.
You were a good friend to him, much more than he deserved most of
the time,” John said, remembering some of those times.
“Yeah, he....” Will was interrupted by a streak of bluish-green and yellow-orange. Penny’s two flutter-dragons landed on a limb nearby and squeaked loudly, their thoughts churning with fear and agitation.
“Hey, settle down
you two and tell me what’s going on.
Is Penny all right?” John
asked, alarm for his youngest daughter creeping into his mind.
He stretched out his arm and the two little creatures flew over,
their golden eyes boring into his own.
Images of imprisoned kreelings and zanlings came clearly into his
mind. The details of
Penny’s excursion unfolded up to the time she sent them back through
John drew in his
breath sharply, as the implications of his daughter’s predicament
became clear. “Lead the
way,” he told the two flutter-dragons.
He used his heels on his mount, and the tilon bounded after the
zanlings. Will followed closely behind, not having fully seen what
Peter and Susan had shown his dad, but nevertheless knowing that Penny
was in great danger. “At
least she’s waiting for help,” was his dad’s only other comment.
There was just the barest degree of relief evident in his voice.
flew inexorably toward the east, and the little used track became even
wilder, causing the pair to slow to a fast walk.
John chafed at the delay, but knew that to continue recklessly
would not help his daughter. After
several hours of riding through the thick brush, Silverado squeaked a
warning and suddenly Lucy and Edmund joined them, the white lizard
landing on his shoulder and the red one on Will’s.
“Okay, calm down,
Lucy. Tell me what’s
going on,” John admonished the zanling. Clear pictures of the
beginning of the chase came into his mind and he groaned at the clear
danger that Penny was now in. “How
far away is this gate?” he asked the flutter-dragon.
He got only a vague notion of distance from them, confused by the
differences in time of day from one place to the other.
“Let’s go,” he said after a moment.
John urged the tilon to a slightly faster walk, but it was still
another two hours before they arrived at the little clearing that held
Looking over his
shoulder, the professor noted the lateness of the day.
“Will, I will reconnoiter to find out what’s going on.
Then I want you to go back to the palace and let your mother know
what’s going on. Depending
on what I find, I might need Dar to bring soldiers.”
Calling Peter over to
him, he held out his arm for the little creature to land on and then
looked directly into the zanling’s eyes.
‘Peter, I want you to go
through the gate briefly and tell me what you see.
Come back quickly.’ The
flutter-dragon winged into the late afternoon sky and through the gate.
“Dad, this gate’s
been here for some time. Do
you think that it’s been used all this time, or recently
“I can’t imagine
that it was used continuously and the society still regressed this much.
Unless whoever has been using it wanted the rest of this planet
to be kept in ignorance. I
won’t know until I get to the other side, I suppose,” John said.
something the Purifier would have done,” Will commented dryly.
“You may be right,
Will. I think there was
more to the Purifier than a zealous desire for so-called racial
purity,” he commented.
Peter zipped back
through the gate and landed on John’s shoulder.
‘Two guards near gate.
Didn’t see me. Penny hurt,’ the zanling reported tersely.
asked in alarm. Quickly, he
swung off the tilon and approached the gate.
“I want all of you to wait until I give you a signal that
it’s okay to come through,” he told the flutter-dragons.
“Will, I want you to be ready to go back to the palace.”
Sighing, he looked toward the barely glowing posts.
“I wish I had thought to bring a communicator,” he added in
“We didn’t know,
Dad,” Will replied.
Silverado squeaked in
agitation. “No, you would
show up too easily. It’s
just fortuitous that I wore something a little darker today,” John
explained. And with no
further comment, he stepped between the posts and out of the evening of
Krimlon and into the dark pre-dawn of another world.
In comparison to the
forest that he had left, this was an almost silent world.
Only a few animal sounds greeted him, and from his crouched
position just beyond the soft glow of the gate, John could see two men
slowly walking back and forth about ten yards in front of him. He watched the guards for a few minutes and then, grabbing a
rock that lay next to his hand, began an almost silent run toward them,
not stopping until he had grabbed one around the neck.
The rock came down on the man’s skull almost at the same moment
that John had grabbed him. With
a slight groan the guard slid to the ground.
The second guard had
enough time to pull his rifle out of his shoulder harness before he was
hit in the mid-section with the fist holding the rock.
Gasping, the man doubled over and another fist to his chin
finished the job. Checking
the men, John found them both unconscious.
He took their weapons, keeping a rifle and knife for himself,
while throwing the other weapons out into the darkness.
Then he took their shoulder harnesses and tied their hands
tightly behind them. The
guards’ own bandannas served as gags.
stepped back through the gate and blinked as the glare of the setting
sun hit him squarely in the eyes. “Will?”
Dad,” the boy responded.
His eyes soon
adjusted. “The guards are
unconscious and tied up. I’m
going in with Silverado, I want you to ride back to Kirvos and tell them
that there are Krimlon soldiers on the other side, as well as captive
kreelings and zanlings. I don’t know who is behind all of this, and
I’ll have to get closer to get more details.
I can’t check it out telepathically because they have a way of
Will just nodded.
“I’ll make sure that they get word, Dad.”
“Good. Also tell your mother that I’ll find Penny and bring her
back quickly,” John said and he stepped back through the gate.
Will sat watching the glowing gate for a moment and then he
dismounted from his tilon. Nova
squeaked from the pommel where he had been perched.
‘Nova, fly back to the palace with Peter and Susan, and tell Mom and
Don what’s going on. Give
them all the details. Go
now, quickly,’ he admonished.
Watching the three lizards fly off into the darkening sky, he
slowly turned to the gate and walked toward it.
In his heart, he knew that his place was with his father, even
though he also knew that Dad would be extremely unhappy at his decision.
John covered the
distance to the camp at a run, knowing that his cover of darkness was
limited. A short distance
away from the compound he stopped to take note of the position of the
soldiers and buildings. He
noted the enclosures and felt the agitation of both zanlings and
kreelings. Then he mentally
did a double take. Part of
the agitation the kreelings were feeling was for Penny.
She was with them and she had
Without sending a
telepathic message, he tried to find out more information, but only
received impressions of pain and fear.
Apparently she was trying to shield her thoughts as well. He saw
only a few guards walking around the perimeter, and he watched them for
only the barest of moments. John stealthily made his way down to the
nearest and rendered him unconscious with a well-placed blow of the
rifle stock to the side of his head.
Quickly pulling off the guard’s harness, he slipped it over his
shoulders and transferred the rifle to the holster.
Although a bit snug, it nevertheless fit well enough to allow him
to carry a rifle and ammunition without it impeding his progress during
Next he ran at a
crouching run behind one of the buildings and grabbed the second guard
as he was coming around the corner.
His left arm held the man in a chokehold until the guard slumped
to the ground, unconscious. Grabbing
the soldier’s belt, he tied him, before looking for the last guard.
With a broad smile, John saw him sitting at a small, dying fire,
his back to him and his rifle laying on the ground next to him.
The guard heard him just before the professor knocked him over
the head with his rifle.
Making a quick sprint
to the enclosures, John saw Penny staring at him with wide eyes.
He put a finger to his lips and saw her nod in the semi-darkness.
While he worked at the lock he glanced at her bound arm and
realized that it was also splinted. She must have broken it somehow and although she had been
cared for, he could still feel her pain.
Frustration mounted and he smashed the lock with the end of his
rifle, hoping the sound wasn’t heard.
The kreelings were staring at him now as well.
“Go,” he whispered, pointing in the direction of the gate to
Krimlon. “Quickly, before
the sun rises.” The creatures stayed near Penny.
“I’ll take care of her.
You must go while you have time to escape.”
I’m so glad you’re here,” she whispered as he bent down and
picked her up. “You have
to release the zanlings, too.”
Carrying her to the
gate of the zanling pen, he was surprised and chagrined to see Will
opening the lock and releasing the flutter-dragons.
“Shh. Make no
sounds,” the boy told them in a low voice.
The lizards were immediately silent.
John pointed toward
the gate. “Go through the
gate to Krimlon. There is
safety there now. Quickly,”
John told them. “Silverado,
go with them, make sure they reach safety and then wait for us on the
other side.” The lizards flew off toward the portal to Krimlon.
The three humans ran as quickly as they could behind them.
Cradling his daughter as carefully as he could, he nevertheless
was able to feel her pain as they journeyed.
Lucy sat on his shoulder chirping mournfully.
“Daddy, put me
down, please. I can
A cry behind them
told the group that the escape had been discovered.
Realizing that he would not be able to run with her in his arms,
John quickly acquiesced. When
they were far enough away from the compound to talk, he asked, “What
“The guards at the
gate shot at me and one of the bullets hit my arm and broke it. Someone took care of it, but it hurts like crazy, Dad,” she
“And you, young
man, why didn’t you do what I told you to do?” There was displeasure
mixed with anxiety in his voice.
“Dad, I felt you
would need me. And you
didn’t actually order me to go back to Kirvos, you told me you wanted
me to,” Will rationalized.
John said nothing as
they trotted along, he just sighed.
The sky lightened as the group approached the gate and they saw
the two guards, along with several others who had driven motorized
vehicles resembling motorcycles. They
were all very heavily armed. Watching
from behind a small outcropping of rocks, the group noticed with chagrin
that more soldiers were coming from the compound.
There was a dead Kreeling in front of the teleportation gate, but
it appeared that the other escapees had made it to Krimlon.
Turning to Edmund,
John ordered, “Go through the portal.
Tell Dar and Don to be careful, there are many soldiers guarding
it. Send Max through
first when they get to the gate. Do
you understand?” The lizard squeaked an affirmative and flew off,
skimming close to the ground and flying around the legs of the guards,
who didn’t realize he was there until just before the little red
lizard zipped between the posts.
‘Is there another gate?’ he asked Lucy, on a hunch.
‘Yes, John, there are several,’ came the answer.
Looking in all
directions, John saw that this arid world would not allow them to hide
out until they could get through this gate.
The barren landscape was devoid of trees or landforms capable of
hiding them for long periods of time.
They would be quickly discovered.
He looked back at the children.
“There’re other gates,” John explained. “We’ll have to try for one of them and come back when all of the commotion dies down. By then, hopefully, help will have arrived from Krimlon. Penny, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to hold out awhile longer.”