Nightmare Planet

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two-

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 again.”

“Dar?”

“Yes, Dar especially, but also Litha and her father,” John said quietly. 

Will nodded.  “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, either.”

“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 the gate. 

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.

The flutter-dragons 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 the gate. 

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 discovered?” 

“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. 

“Sounds like 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. 

“Hurt?” John 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 self-reproach.

“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. 

Satisfied, John stepped back through the gate and blinked as the glare of the setting sun hit him squarely in the eyes.  “Will?”

“I’m here, 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 detecting that.”

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. 

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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 been injured. 

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 his sortie.

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.”

“Oh, Daddy.  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 walk.” 

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 happened?”

“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 explained. 

“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.”

 

 

 

Chapter Three
Chapter One
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