Nightmare Journey

 

 

 

 

Chapter Seven-

Talon

 

 

You are soft and weak.  Move!  GET UP!!’  A very persistent voice broke into John’s frozen reverie.  He wished it would go away.  All it succeeded in doing was remind him of how cold he was.  Suddenly there was a sharp pain in his right shoulder and he cried out.  At the same time a piercing scream came from whatever it was that stood above him.

Weakling, get up!  You lay here and your children need you.’  

That cut into his semi-consciousness.  “Will, Penny....”  Slowly he rolled himself over, rubbed his eyes with numb fingers and looked into the face of the fiercest-looking raptor that he had ever seen.  “My children....”  he said hoarsely.  “You know... where are they?”

They are safe for the moment, although the cold causes them hardship as well.  You did not come prepared for a trip into my world.  That was almost as stupid as falling into the river,’ came the answer, the sarcasm easy to understand. 

John sat up slowly.  Every movement was painful.  This was much worse than cryogenics.  At least after one came out of the cryogenics chamber, one had the opportunity to be warm.  He wondered if he would ever be warm again.  Looking down at his fingers he thought he saw the beginnings of frostbite.  “Can you take me to them?” he asked hoarsely.  “I have to get to my children.”

No, you would not make it in your condition and the humanoids are still looking for you.  I can take you to a place that is safe and comparatively warm,’ the raptor told him. ‘As I said, the young ones are safe for the moment.  They found a small cave and your male child made an adequate fire to keep them warm.  I can watch over them during the night and then I will guide you to them in the morning.  Now you need to come with me.’ 

John nodded and stiffly stood up.  He looked steadily at his still wet and half frozen boots, because he couldn’t feel his feet.  The raptor hopped up the incline to an overlooking rock.  Come,’ he said.  Half sliding, half stumbling, grabbing onto anything he could, the professor managed to get to the top and then he saw the bird standing on another boulder about twenty feet beyond him.  Several times he had to pick himself up from the ground and several times he was tempted to curse the taciturn raptor, but kept his thoughts and comments to himself, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. 

Finally he reached an enormous tree and leaned against its rough trunk, unable to go any further.  “I’m sorry,” he said quietly, the cold air biting into his lungs.  “I can’t walk any more...”

The raptor stood on a limb above his head.  You don’t need to, this is your shelter for the night.  There is the entrance near your feet.  There are materials inside with which you can keep warm.  I will be alternating between this shelter and your children’s.’

“Thank you,” John said, then looked up curiously at his benefactor.  “I don’t even know your name.”

I am Talon.  I am the leader of the Weerlorin.  I have been slave and king, friend and enemy.  Feel fortunate that we have the same foes, humanoid.’

“My name is John Robinson and I do feel fortunate,” John told him as he got down and crawled into the hollow trunk.   Thank you, Talon, not only for helping me, but also for helping my children.’

I will return, John Robinson,’ Talon said as he stroked his powerful wings and flew away.

John fell across a pile of soft downy feathers and shredded bark.  Talon was right, he soon began feeling a bit of warmth and he pulled off his stiff boots and burrowed into the ‘nest.’  The return of feeling created a pain that caused him to sit up and rub his abused extremeties until the throbbing ended.   Then he burrowed back down into his soft bed and fell into an exhausted but troubled sleep.

 

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Don marched up the ramp of the Jupiter II and began barking orders.  “Robot, I want this ship ready to jump through the gate in an hour.”

“I have kept the systems in perfect working order, Major West, but the jump through the gate from Karturm was almost beyond the capabilities of the ship.  Another such strain might damage the engines as well as the navigational computer,” the Robot explained.  “And we still need to return to our own galaxy through the portal.”

“So essentially you are saying that the only way we can find John and the kids is to follow them on foot,” Don said pensively.

“Affirmative, unless there are some navigational records in the intallation on the planet Valanna.”

“That’s highly unlikely, since the Krimlon don’t have spaceships.  I can’t imagine space faring people just leaving star charts laying around for any primitive or inquisitive people that come along,” Don commented sarcastically.

“Then your first supposition may be the only solution available, Major,” the Robot told him evenly. 

“Great,” Don growled.  “Just great.”  Behind him, he heard Judy sigh.  Turning, he took her in his arms and held her close.

 

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Silverado perched on a boulder near the twin gates.  Nova, Peter, Susan and Edmund sat near him, squeaking pensively.  The silver flutter-dragon knew that John had gone through one of these gates and knew that he and his children were in danger.  Chirping loudly, he sent a message to the men assembling nearby.  Hurry!’  They didn’t seem to hear him. 

‘We will look for our bondlings,’  he told his companions.  ‘We cannot wait.  Must help John, Will and Penny.’  Squeaking in agreement, the others flapped their wings.  With the decision made the five zanlings rose into the air and flew quickly through the nearest of the two gate. 

The landscape was gently rolling hills covered with grasses and wildflowers.  The sun was warm and the breeze softly caressing.  They floated with the low thermals looking for the sign of human passage.  Edmund served as lookout against predators and the rest looked in various directions. 

Silverado could not feel the slightest hint of his bondlings presence.  John is not here,’ he announced. 

Through next gate?’ Susan asked. 

No, they were never here,’ Silverado replied.  ‘Go back.’

Without any questions, the other four zanlings turned and followed their companion.  They, too, could not feel the clues of their human’s whereabouts on this planet.  On their way back to the gate, they paused long enough to refresh themselves from the numerous wildflowers dotting the hillsides.  Finally they zipped through the gate and ‘listened’ for any news.  Not getting any, they zipped through the other gate where they were immediately accosted by the capricious winds of the high mountains. 

Bondlings here!’ Edmund cried. 

Yes, John and the children had been here.  Silverado led the way down the steep mountainside toward the dark rain forest below, fighting potetially deadly crosswinds that threatened to smash them against the side of the mountain.  

Many times the little lizards had to stop and rest in a sheltered nook, panting heavily, shivering from the chilly winds.  Finally the group of zanlings made it to the upper ranges of the jungle and they rested in earnest, occassionally getting nourishment from the prolific flowers that grew everywhere. 

We must go through the next gate.  Our friends are not here.’ Silverado informed the group. 

No, stay here. Rest.  Other gate cold.’  Along with those thoughts came visions of intense cold and snowy landscapes.    A shadowy form detached itself from the leaves of the huge tree the zanlings were resting in.  In size, it seemed grotesquely enormous to the little lizards, as though an elephant was walking in the trees.  When it moved, however, it walked with a delicate grace that belied its bulk.  The long, silky fur draped down its side in golden cascades and its intense eyes looked steadily into their own. 

Our friends, we need to find our friends,’ Edmund explained.

You will die, unless you wait.’ Again the pictures of intensely cold landscapes.  You may die anyway,’ the huge creature told them. 

Silverado pondered for a moment.  Yes, we will rest and eat and wait.  And then go a little later.’

 

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Penny sat huddled in the back of the tiny cave watching Will attempt to make a fire.  This cold was making her bones ache, it was so intense.  After awhile, she reached into her shirt and gently rubbed Lucy’s head.  The little flutter-dragon was suffering even more from the below-freezing temperatures than she was.  Lucy chirped softly. 

“All right!” Will cried out in triumph and the first tiny tendrils of smoke drifted to the top of the cave.  Next a flame spurted and then a blaze.  Soon their little shelter was cheerfully warm and Lucy popped her head out, squeaking happily.  The little zanling was soon sitting next to the little fire, turning occassionally to warm all parts of her body. 

“It’s getting dark, Will.  Shouldn’t Dad be here by now?” she asked in a worried tone.

“Yeah, but I’m sure he’ll be here soon,” Will said reassuringly. 

No, he won’t.  He is unable to join you until tomorrow,’ a voice intruded on their thoughts and conversation.  Both children jerked their heads up and stared at the entrance of the cave.  Will grabbed a stick gathered earlier for the fire. 

I am not here to hurt you, but to help you.  Put the stick away, young humanoid.  You must both stay here.  Your enemies will not hunt for you during the night, you will be safe here.  I am going to help your father.’

Is Dad all right?’  Will asked. 

He is undoubtedly very wet and very cold.  I must go and help him.  I will return shortly.’

“Who do you think that was, Will,” Penny asked.

“I don’t know, but I feel thankful for his help,” Will told her.  His sister just nodded. 

Later in the evening a very large raptor with bluish-grey head feathers and intensely green eyes poked his head in the entrance of the cave and dropped a fish near the fire.  Place this at the edge of the fire, turning it often.  It will at least partially cook it,’ he instructed.  And before you ask, your father is now in a safe and warm place.  I will stay here most of the night, but will check on him from time to time.  He was suffering greatly from hypothermia.’

“Thanks, uh....   What’s your name, please?” Will asked.

Talon,’ the raptor answered and withdrew from the entrance. 

The next morning another fish lay just inside the entrance.  The fire had burned down, so breakfast was placed directly on the coals.  As she watched the fish cook, Will left to try and find some more wood to build up the fire while they waited for Dad.  Reaching over, Penny grabbed a fin and flipped the fish over.  As she did so she heard a noise at the entrance.  “It’s almost cooked......”  The words stuck in her throat as she looked up and saw one of the aliens crawling into the cave.  The man was stooped in the cramped quarters and his body blocked out much of the light, but his leering grin was still evident.  And Penny didn’t need telepathy to know exactly what the alien wanted. 

He pushed her against the wall with one hand and brought his face close to hers.  Suddenly she felt the point of a knife under her chin.  “You will not cry out or struggle, alien witch.  You will be very quiet and do everything that I tell you to do.  Otherwise you will die.   Do you understand?”

Penny nodded slightly, very much aware of the knife point against her neck.  A tear slid down her cheek.  But her mind was busy.  Will!!   Daddy!!  Help me!’

 

 

Chapter Eight
Chapter One
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