Flight into Oblivion
“You had him and
let him get away?” clo Yondah thundered.
The soldier before him visibly cringed, but said nothing, except
a quick ‘no, sir.’ clo
Yondah filed that away in the man’s favor.
The soldier was not trying to make excuses.
“One of the
Guardian’s companions warned him and I was unable to capture him.
He knocked me unconscious,” the soldier explained.
Grunting, clo Yondah
turned to one of the guards. “You
both allowed yourselves to be ambushed by one man.
Take your injured companion and return to your barracks.
Tell the guards on the other side that this man is coming with
me,” he ordered. Turning
back to the first soldier, he asked him, “I don’t think you will
make a mistake like that again, will you?”
I won’t, sir.”
“Good, fall in with
my other men.” He stared
at the softly glowing gate on the other side of the clearing.
Suddenly, the noises
of the jungle animals increased to an almost unbearable level.
The men kept craning their heads trying to locate the source of
the sounds, but found that impossible as the cacophony seemed to be
coming from everywhere at once. Then
the air was filled with flying fruit, sticks, leaves and even feces.
Several of the soldiers started to turn back, but a roaring order
from clo Yondah stopped them. They
put their arms over their heads and waited for orders, which their
commander finally gave. Gratefully
the men began walking between the posts and went nowhere, except into a
barrage of more debris.
Clo Yondah stared at
the portal in disbelief and as the refuse continued to pelt down on
them, he pondered momentarily. “Mrindoren,
do you have the quester materials?”
He asked one of his Brumyatta subordinates.
“Set it up using the last coordinates for this gate and then go through and reestablish the connections on the other side,” the captain ordered. Mrindoren nodded and set to work quickly. He placed a small cube into a larger device and then, punching a few buttons, activated it. Finally he walked between the posts and disappeared.
Max briefly came
through the gate. “Major
West, Prince Dar, you can come through now with minimum casualties.
There are only a few soldiers left who are putting up any
resistance at all,” he said quickly and then disappeared back through
go,” Dar shouted and he and Don led the contingent of soldiers through
the portal. Maureen and
Litha stood near the edge of the clearing with a few guards, anxiety
etched on both of their faces.
“They will be all
right,” Litha said softly, as much to reassure herself as her
“Yes,” was all
Maureen said, gazing anxiously at the empty clearing.
Silverado and Maggie sat on her shoulders. Two tiny zanlings were perched on Litha’s shoulder, the
same two that had interrupted the council of war the night before.
They were squeaking pensively, having picked up the agitation of
the princess. Silverado
turned to them and chirped testily. The little zanlings were immediately silent. Peter, Edmund,
Nova and Susan sat quietly on a limb.
Maureen sat staring
at the portal for what seemed an eternity, the fingers of her right hand
continually brushing the handle of her laser pistol.
Finally she was unable to wait
any longer. Before the
Krimlon could say anything or even move, she had sprinted to the portal
and passed between the glowing poles.
cried out as her friend shifted from one world to another.
Maureen realized as she passed through the portal that the
princess had used her name instead of the now familiar term
The sight that
greeted her was one of controlled chaos.
Several groups of men were guarded by soldiers from Kirvos.
She saw Don with a small patrol heading toward a strange shaped
spaceship berthed about a half-mile distant.
Approximately a half-mile or more beyond that she noticed a
military-like installation, complete with barracks and administrative
buildings. It appeared to
her untrained eye that Prince Dar just about had everything under
As Don neared the
landing pad, she heard the ship’s repulsor jets engage, and the ship
gently lifted off to a height of thirty meters.
Then its main engines engaged and within a few minutes the ship
was out of sight in the upper atmosphere.
Reaching Don, she
asked, “Do you know who they were?”
“No,” he answered
morosely. “I doubt that
they had John and the kids, but I was hoping to get some information
from the them. I have to
rely on Dar to get to that installation before some bright boy decides
to destroy any existing records. It
would be very nice to know who the Purifier’s office was dealing with.
I think this is a more than just the buying and enslavement of
“I agree,” Maureen said as they walked toward the barracks. “Now if we can only find out where John and the children are.” She was unaware of the flutter-dragons following behind her.
John sat uphill from
the now dead gate, staring at it in bemusement, knowing that he should
be heading up the trail after Will and Penny.
But for some reason, he felt a compulsion to wait, as though his
pursuers might pull a surprise. Shaking
his head, he brought his fingers to his mouth and blew on them.
It was too cold on this world.
He and the kids were dressed for the much warmer climate of
Krimlon. His teeth began
chattering and he clenched his jaw tighter to control the reflex.
Suddenly an alien
walked through the supposedly dead portal.
He was carrying what looked to be a laptop computer with a
cube-like device on it. The
device looked surprisingly familiar, but he couldn’t figure out why at
the moment. The alien
turned and reconnected the wires that he had just recently unhooked, and
then walked back through the portal.
Anger warmed him
temporarily and John turned up the trail that Will and Penny had taken.
It was cold enough that the snow was dry and powdery, but he
could still see their footprints quite clearly.
Just off the path, he pulled a limb from a bush and then
continued following the children. When he came to a side trail that led back down the hill, he
obliterated his children’s tracks and walked down the smaller pathway
until it reached a river that was choked with ice and debris.
Doubling back, he
erased his last set of tracks until he reached the original trail. In a brushy copse overlooking both routes, he waited
patiently, occasionally rubbing his half-frozen fingers.
His thoughts were bleak, but he was determined to protect his
Will and Penny. If these
men wanted to keep harassing him, he would be most happy to give them a
fight. Pulling out the
rifle from its shoulder harness, he checked the bolt and safety to make
sure all was in readiness.
John heard the men
before he saw them and watched them approach the fork where he had set
up the false trail. To his
amazement, he saw the same man who had come through the gate stop the
column and point up the main trail.
Peering out from between the branches, John knew that his job of
obliterating the tracks had been thorough and he was confused at their
ability to determine the right trail.
The leader didn’t even send anyone down the false trail to
check it out. Quietly
he waited until they had passed by.
There were eighteen men in all, including a Purifier, who was
complaining bitterly about the cold.
When they had all
passed by, John stood up and started after them, using boulders and
brush to hide his movements. The
powdery snow muffled the sound of his footsteps and he quickly caught up
with the last one. As his
comrades went around a curve on the trail, he clipped the Krimlon
soldier on the back of the head with the rifle stock.
Only pausing to grab the man’s ammunition belt, John stepped
over the still form and cautiously continued after his enemies.
Staying about five
yards behind his pursuers, John realized that he had to do something
more drastic than just picking off one man at a time.
Looking at the rocks above suddenly gave him an idea.
Stealthily, the professor climbed to the top of the ridge and
continued parallel to the column below him.
Soon he saw a loose shale-like formation of rocks on the ridge
ahead of him and he sped up his pace.
If he could get ahead of and block the column, he might be able
to discourage them from their pursuit.
Using his knife, John
dug swiftly under a boulder that perched precariously on top of the
shale. Pushing with his
shoulder, he felt the cold rock burn his skin even through his shirt,
but he continued his efforts. Once,
twice, then.... success! The
entire pile of rocks and boulders began sliding down the side of the
hill. As he sprinted to the
next pile of rocks, he heard screams of fear as every loose rock on the
mountainside cascaded down the hillside. Peering down, John saw that his rock slide had come down
closer to the end of the column then the beginning.
He had not only failed to stop the contingent, he had injured or
killed several men.
Sighing, John left
the disconcerted soldiers behind, running on ahead and then down to the
main trail, his breath puffing like a steam engine.
When he stopped to peruse the trail ahead, he began shivering
violently. Silently, he
cursed the cold under his breath. He
hoped that Will had found shelter by now.
children’s footprints, John noticed that the sun was noticeably lower
and surmised that is was late afternoon on this world.
Then the realization came to him that the various passages
through the portals had left him confused as to how long they had
actually been on the run. It seemed forever.
Suddenly he stopped. Ahead
of him was another river or perhaps the same one doubled back.
A dead tree had fallen over it and Will and Penny had used it as
a bridge. It was fairly
slender and swayed slightly under his weight, but broken branches
allowed him to keep his balance.
Pausing on the
riverbank John looked under the end of the tree and found it balancing
on several rocks. The rocks
themselves were half buried in the earth and couldn’t be budged, but
the end of the tree had begun to rot and was becoming soft.
Climbing underneath, he began to dig at the porous wood until it
shifted precariously on its base. Satisfied
with his efforts, John walked along the river bank until he found a
place to hide.
Soon the soldiers
came into view, advancing with greater diligence than they had before.
As the men crossed the log bridge, he watched it shift under their
weight. Cautious, the soldiers crossed two at a time.
Finally with a great crack, the log gave way and crashed into the
river. Two of the men
splashed and cried out for help. John
turned and watched the men remaining on the bank.
Their numbers were dwindling, he noticed with great relief.
The crackling sound
of a broken twig alerted John to the whereabouts of another man, and he
threw himself to the side as a rifle stock crashed down where he had
been hiding. Reaching out
with his leg, he tripped one of the men and then kicked the other in the
kneecap. The first grabbed him from behind and held him in a
John threw himself backwards against a large tree.
A bullet whizzed by his head as he struck his assailant in the
midriff with his elbow.
Hearing rifle bolts
sliding into place, the professor grabbed his adversary and jerked him
around in front of him. Four
shots went off simultaneously and the soldier slumped to the ground.
As he turned to run into the forest, a hand caught his ankle and
he sprawled over the man whose kneecap he had broken. Unable to stop his momentum, John slid forward into the
swiftly flowing river.
Although the river
was not deep, the current was strong and the many rocks lining the
bottom were slippery. As he
struggled to raise his head above the surface to breathe, John noticed
remotely that the water was slightly warmer than the outside air.
When he managed to get a breath, it was like breathing knives,
the air was so cold. After
what seemed an interminable time, he managed to get his feet under him
and stand against the current. By
this time he was out of the soldiers’ sight and he was able to
struggle to the river bank. As he crawled onto the shore, exhaustion set in, his joints
refused to work and he couldn’t feel his hands or feet.
‘No! Have to get to the children, have to.....’ he kept telling himself, but he couldn’t make his limbs do what he wanted them to. Finally he collapsed on the cold ground, beyond shivering, beyond feeling anything except the utter despair of failure.