Nightmare Journey

 

 

 

Chapter Eight-

The Gate of No Return

 

Penny felt her heart hammering in her chest as the man came closer to her.  Lucy, don’t make a sound or do anything.’  She felt the zanling’s reassurance in her mind.  The man was against her, the heat of his body making her faint.  Still she remained motionless, forcing herself not to shrink from the unwanted touches.  His foul breath made her want to gag, but she controlled that as well.  The shifting of her weight to her left leg was the only movement Penny made.  The alien’s thin white lips were tight in a horrible grin of pleasure and his hand touched her again.  This time it was not to push her against the wall of the cave.  His protruding eyes seemed to catalogue every inch of her body.  Wait, wait, she kept telling herself, mentally preparing herself for what she would have to do.

As her assailant was finding the buttons of her Krimlon shirt, Penny drew her right leg back and with all the force she could muster kicked him just below the kneecap.  With a howl, the soldier stumbled back, holding his leg.  Tripping over the dying fire, he fell near the entrance.  Lucy exploded with squeaks of rage and indignation, flying at the man’s face, flapping her wings and clawing at him with her little hands.  Penny found a rock and smashed him across the side of the head, having to restrain herself from hitting him again after he was unconsciousness. 

Finally satisfied that he was not going to bother her anymore, Penny dropped the rock and moved back as far in the cave as she could.  Lucy sat on the soldier’s chest, squeaking triumphantly.  The girl could only hold her arms tightly around herself, trying to stop the shivering that had finally begun.  The tears of anxiety, fear, shame and humiliation flowed unchecked down her cheeks.  Lucy flew up to her shoulder and rubbed against her cheek.  He will not hurt you again, Penny,’ Lucy reassured her.   

 

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Hearing his sister’s mental cry, Will dropped the wood he had gathered except for one club-like branch, which he held tightly in his fist as he scrambled up the incline.  Peering around a boulder he saw two of the tall aliens standing at the entrance of their shelter. The boy raced down the hill, using boulders and bushes as camouflage and made his way to their shelter.  Glancing out from behind a tree, he noticed the first soldier’s attention toward his companion and Will rushed up, knocking him unconscious with his stick.

Pivoting, he employed a chi chi nah move and caught the second soldier under the chin with his foot.  The man was slammed against the rocky hillside, dazed.  Will immediately followed up with the stick and both men lay unconscious in the snow.  With club ready, the boy stooped and entered the cave, where he found his sister against the far wall with her attacker lying on the ground near the entrance. 

Rushing over, he asked, “Are you all right?”  She nodded and he sighed in relief. 

Suddenly, she grabbed him and hugged him tightly.  “Thanks for coming so quickly.  I was so scared.”

“Yeah, but you already took care of him, sis,” Will told her, a bit disconcerted by her actions and very much wishing that Dad was here.  He felt her tears dropping on his shoulder.  They were both silent for a few minutes, she hanging on to him as though to a lifeline, and he just standing there trying to figure out what to say or do that would comfort her. 

 

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John awoke to find his avian benefactor staring at him with a huge fish-like creature in his beak.   The professor’s breath was foggy in the crisp morning air, but his body felt warm and he was grateful for the shelter that Talon had led him to. 

‘Breakfast, John Robinson.  You will not be able to cook it, but it is nourishment.  It will be much easier to eat if you pull the exoskeleton off and take small bites,’ Talon advised and then cocked his head in amusement.  Or does your sensitive humanoid stomach advise you against such fare?’

John had been figuring which end to tackle first.  As much as he would have preferred the fish cooked, he was too hungry to be fastidious.  He jerked his head up at Talon’s sarcastic comments.  “My sensitive human stomach is telling me to put something in it, and I’m not arguing,” he retorted dryly.  He grabbed the fins on both sides and proceeded to peel off the hard outer skin.  It was slippery and difficult, but the first bite was worth it.  Almost nut-like in flavor, he ate several more small bites, letting them slide down without chewing them.   Then he paused.  “Thanks, Talon.”

You are welcome....’

“Penny!” John cried, dropping the fish on the ground, grabbing his stiffened boots and forcing them on.  “Penny’s in trouble!”  Talon backed out of the shelter quickly as John began to crawl out. 

Yes, she has been found.  I can take you by the shortest route,’ Talon told him. 

“Yes, quickly!” he exclaimed.  The raptor set a fast pace, but it was slow enough for John to keep up with him.   The air was a bit warmer this morning and the snow was not as dry, but that served as a disadvantage, making the path more slippery.  As he scrambled up inclines and slid down slopes, John berated himself for leaving his children alone for this length of time. 

If you are going to mentally beat yourself up, kindly shield your thoughts.  I have felt nothing to indicate that Penny and Will have been hurt.  Until we do, we should concentrate on getting there and rescuing them,’ Talon told him tersely.

“Are you always this sympathetic with everyone you meet?” John panted as he reached the crest of yet another hill. 

When I need to be.  We are nearing the place.  I don’t sense the presence of soldiers ahead of us, but there are some not too far behind us,’ Talon informed him.  The raptor flew noiselessly to a boulder at the top of a hill and waited for him.  John joined him and peered around the rock into the gully below.  All he noticed was two prone soldiers.

Listening intently with both his ears and his mind, John detected various emotions radiating from his children, but nothing to indicate they were captives, so he slid down the slope and stooping down, entered the little cave.  Penny looked at him in surprise and as he stood up, immediately threw herself into his arms. 

“Oh, Daddy, I’m so glad you’re here.  I was so scared,” she said.  Will looked visibly relieved as well.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here sooner,” he replied.  Noticing the unconscious alien on the ground, he commented, “It would appear that you two are quite the commando force.”

Penny pulled back slightly.  “He wanted to......”  She was unable to finish verbally and sent him telepathic pictures of what had happened.  “I just used the defensive moves I was taught back on Earth and hoped for the best.”

“Yeah, I bet that jerk won’t feel like messing around with any of the Robinson's again,” Will quipped.

“I imagine not,” John agreed, but still feeling intense guilt for not being here to protect her from the attack.  “We need to tie them up. Talon said there were more soldiers behind us, so we can’t stay here long.  I wish I knew what was happening back at the installation and just how many troops this maniac has following us.”

“Dad, what puzzles me is the fact that no matter what we do, they manage to find us,”  Will said.   “It’s uncanny.”

“Yes, it is.  Tell me what happened this morning.  Try not to leave any details out,” he told Will as they were tying up their prisoners.  Will complied but John was still unable to make any sense of their trackers’ ability to unerringly find them.  Penny joined them and helped tie some of the knots holding their prisoners. 

‘There is a group of men approaching.  Their thoughts indicate that there are men left behind at the various gates you have come through,” Talon reported.  

John sat staring morosely at the cave wall, pondering his options.  Regardless of his desires to return to Krimlon, he couldn’t endanger the children any more than they already were at present.  One solution kept coming to him and he didn’t care for it either. 

“We could ambush them, Dad,” Will suggested. 

John shook his head.  “No, I already tried that and not only didn’t I like the idea of killing or injuring men who are merely following orders, it didn’t work.  It just decreased their numbers by only a few men.”

You ended up in the river as well,’ Talon commented wryly.  Will and Penny looked at Talon in surprise.  The bird just cocked his head at them.  John sighed, thinking of the individual that Talon most reminded him of.

Watching Penny tie up the last of their prisoners, he said, “Has your arm healed that much?”

“It feels well, Dad,” she replied. 

“Lucy,” John called.  The lizard hopped over to him.  “Check out Penny’s arm.  Tell me if it’s totally healed.”  Lucy crawled onto Penny’s leg and gazed at her arm.  Her golden eyes gleamed and then she gave a surprised chirp.

Penny’s arm is healed.  Something else.  A device, small and round.’

“What??”  John asked.  Leaning over he took her arm and gently felt it.  He could barely feel the tiny lump between the muscle and skin.  “So that’s how they’ve been able to track us so easily.”  His hazel eyes grew dark with indignation and his countenance boded ill for the one following that was responsible for this.  Suddenly John shook his head and heaved a great sigh.  “There’s nothing I can do about it right now.  I’m not going to try and get it out; it’s in too deep and I’m no doctor.  This only makes the solution I thought of more viable.”

“What’s that, Dad?”  Penny asked, her voice tight with agitation. 

“We have to blow the gate when we go through it.  Both sides.”

“But we won’t be able to get back to the Jupiter II!” Will cried. 

“The planet connected by gate to Krimlon was contacted by space ship.  So there are space faring races in this galaxy, and if we can contact one of them, we can get passage on a ship that will take us back to Krimlon or at least to the planet linked to Krimlon.  Valanna, I believe was the name I heard.  It’s the only way.  These men are killers and want us very badly.”

“I understand, Dad,” Penny said softly. 

Taking her in his arms again, he murmured.  “Penny, don’t worry about it.  There is nothing we could have done to change this situation.  And we’ll get back, I promise.”  He heard her sniffing and felt her tears.  “I would rather be separated for awhile longer than to have you subjected to these men again, sweetheart.”

“I know, Daddy,” she whispered.

John gathered all the weapons into one pile and examined them.  The cold, although not as biting as the day before, was still noticeable and he kept rubbing his fingers together as he examined the munitions.  Will helped him sort out what they had. 

“These all use gunpowder, Dad.  Maybe we can make a fuse from the gunpowder and light it as we go through,” Will suggested.  

John nodded and looked at the small round device in his hands.  It had the appearance of a grenade.  There were two of them.  Looking up he saw Talon watching him.  “Talon, could you be lookout for us.  As soon as you see the men coming up the ridge let me know.  I’m going to be concentrating on getting this device set up.”

I will be able to tell you when the men get close without having to watch from above.  I also intend on coming with you.  There is nothing here anymore until my people are liberated and can come home.  As inept as you seem to be, you are still the best hope for me to help my race,’  the raptor explained.  

“I appreciate your vote of confidence, Talon,” John commented sarcastically. “Sure, come with us, it’ll be like old times.”

Talon just cocked his head in momentary confusion.  Will snickered at his dad’s comment, understanding the caustic reference to ‘old times.’ 

Soon they had the weaponry laid out for the destruction of the gate.  John rubbed his fingers and blew on them.   “It’s as cold as Hell here,” he muttered.  

Penny stared at him for a moment and then, despite their situation, began to laugh.  Looking curiously at his daughter, John wondered what was so funny.  “I didn’t know Hell was cold, Dad,” she finally said, still giggling.

 

 

 

Chapter Nine
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