Nightmare Journey

 

 

 

 

Chapter Nine-

Surprise!

 

 

Standing on a small rise, Judy held Mark in her arms and looked over the small spaceport in chagrin.  The baby was playing with her hair, but she ignored him.  His fist jerked the strand of blond hair painfully, but still she continued to stare across the barren landscape.  Dad, where are you.  Will and Penny, are you all right?’  Her mind jerked itself out of its reverie when she noticed her husband walking up the hill toward her. 

“We found out a little background on the spaceship that landed, but, as I suspected, there were no charts nor means to follow it.  The Brumyatta are a highly competitive merchant race, and the Krimlon soldiers that were interrogated said that the Brumyatta captain was extremely incensed at the loss of revenue from the release of the zanlings,” Don explained.  “He followed your dad and the kids with a fairly large contingent of soldiers.”

Judy groaned softly.  “Dad would have been unarmed except for what he could confiscate here.   How many is a large contingent of soldiers?”

“About two dozen,” Don said simply.

“Don, we have to go through the other gate.   They have no chance against that many men.  Especially with Penny injured.”

“I know and almost two days has gone by since they went through the gate.  These men from the Purifier’s office have put up quite a fight. But Dar has soldiers almost ready to go.  I’m going with them.  I will send Jimmy back with periodic updates.”  Don saw Judy’s eyes pleading with him to let her go.  “Sweetheart, you can’t leave Mark.  He’s too young.  I’m sorry and this is going to sound so cliched, but you must hold down the fort.  Your mother has insisted on coming and as much as she’s been through lately, I don’t think I could say or do anything that would keep her here or on Krimlon waiting for word.”

Judy turned and looked at their son, softly rubbing his cheek with her finger.  He smiled his charming toothless smile and grabbed her finger.  A tear slid down her cheek.  “Find them, Don.  Just find them.”

“We will, dear heart.  I promise,” he murmured, leaning over and kissing her on the cheek, then holding her close and kissing her more tenderly.  Mark squealed with delight at the proximity of both his parents.  Pulling back slightly, Don tickled his son, kissed him and walked down the hill.  Judy saw her mother waiting for him and waved to her.   Mom waved back.  And then they both turned and walked toward the distant portal.

Turning, Judy walked back to the Krimlon gate and passed through it.   In front of her, the Jupiter II was sitting quietly, peacefully...empty and deserted.  Sadly she walked into the ghostlike vessel.

 

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‘The first group of men is less than a mile away, John Robinson,’ Talon said as he flew down from his vantage point on a nearby hill. 

“I think we have everything wired right for a very nice surprise,” John commented sardonically.  “Will, do you have the powder set under the posts?”

“Yes, sir.  It’s not much, but with the explosive power of the grenades, it should send this portal to kingdom come.”

“Good.  Lucy, you and Talon go through first, make sure we don’t have any surprises waiting for us,” John instructed.  Lucy crawled out from inside Penny’s shirt and onto her shoulder. 

Me?  Why?  We have to go through anyway.’ Talon protested.  Besides, the zanling looks to be quite capable of doing the job alone.’

‘Come!  Now!’ Lucy declared emphatically.   We all help.  Kings and workers.’

Talon drew back in surprise at the forcefulness of the little lizard’s comments.   Then he flared his wings and took off.  Well, then, let us go,’ he said and headed toward the portal.  Lucy squeaked in triumph and launched herself off of Penny’s shoulder, following the raptor through the gate.

The humans put the final touches on their demolition job and then waited for their avian friends to return.  As the time seemed to almost stand still, John kept looking back at the trail from which they had come.  Turning to his children, he noticed that they were doing the same thing.  “Are you ready to go?” 

“Yes, Dad,” they answered simultaneously. 

Walking over to the tiny fire that had been built earlier, he thrust in the cloth wrapped end of a small stick and watched it smolder and then ignite.  “I believe that the first soldiers are getting a bit too close for my comfort.  If Lucy and Talon don’t come through in the next few minutes, we go anyway and take our chances.  That’s what we seem to have been doing anyway, and we’ve come out all right.”

Talon flew through and landed near John’s feet.  You’ll love it, John Robinson, it’s warm.  No snow, no ice and no frigid rivers to fall in.’  

“Thanks, Talon,” John said with a sigh of resignation.  “Go on, kids.  You too, Talon.  Get far away from the gate.  I’ll be right behind you.”  Within a minute he was alone.  Looking up the hill, he pondered his decision, hoping it was the right one and feeling that it was the only one he could make.  Then he lowered the end of the branch to the line of gunpowder and as it began sputtering and burning, he jumped through the gate at a run.

He vaguely noticed the swampy landscape as he sprinted to get distance between himself and the portal.  The residue of the blast propelled him face forward onto the spongy ground and he felt the heat at his back.

 

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Silverado stared at the golden-haired creature with his luminous golden eyes.  Must go now,’ he informed Sun Dweller. 

Yes,’ the jungle creature told them sadly.  But you must be careful.  It is a very cold world.  Cold even for me and I have a thick coat.  You must follow the trail of your bondlings and rest in the areas where they rested.  They had to find shelter to keep warm, since they were not prepared for the cold.’

‘Careful.  Yes.  But we must find our bondlings.’ Silverado flapped his gossamer wings and stretched his legs.  ‘Come.’

The five zanlings took off and soared through the gate, where they immediately had to dodge several guards.  Zipping into some brush, they sat shivering on a branch while Silverado quested for John.  This way,’ he cried and took off, his companions behind him. 

After many hours the cold had almost numbed them, and Silverado knew that they had to find shelter soon.  The only thing keeping them aloft was the warmth of the afternoon sun on their backs.  John was here,’ he informed them as they landed on the branch of a very large tree.  Inside.’ 

Dropping down onto the snow, they entered the cavity of the tree that Talon had led their friend to.  Ignoring the half-eaten fish, the lizards dug down under the debris, and snuggled together for warmth.  Soon their body temperatures had risen and somnolence set in.  A slight sleepy squeaking was the only thing that might betray the presence of the zanlings to anyone who would be inclined to investigate the large tree.

The next morning, the five flutter-dragons set out, reveling in the warmth of the bright sun on their backs.  They continued until they reached the site of Will and Penny’s sojourn.  By that time the exhausted lizards were again in need of a warm place to sleep.  Silverado knew that they would need to find their companions soon.  The time between sleep cycles was growing shorter and shorter as their stay on this frigid planet lengthened. 

Questing for signs of his friend, Silverado was not surprised that there was no sign of John.  It was obvious the humans had been chased through the next gate. Looking around the zanling saw evidence of a fight, but nothing to show that John and the children had been captured.

After a short nap, Silverado roused the group with sharp squeaks.  Sleepily they all stretched and walked out into the late day sun.  They rose into the sky and wheeled in the chilly air toward the next gate.  When they reached the portal, they squeaked softly in surprise at the destruction below them.  A half dozen Krimlon and Brumyatta men were standing around muttering and cursing, examining what was left of the gate.  Silverado felt their anger, but he himself only felt despair at being stopped so close to the end of their quest. 

 

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clo Yondah paced, his anger a seething cauldron.  Stopping in front of a piece of twisted metal, he stared at the wreckage.  “Mrindoren, is there any way to get through to the next world?”

“I might be able to go through myself if the other gate is intact, but if both are damaged, then it will be impossible, sir,” the technician explained. 

“Try it!” clo Yondah barked.

“Yes, sir,” the technician answered and entered coordinates into his device.  Then he shook his head.  “No sir, they dismantled the portal on the other side.  I’m sorry, sir.”

Pivoting on his heel, the captain grabbed the Purifier by the collar of his robe and shook him.  “You and your Guardian!  I told you what would happen if I didn’t succeed in finding this alien.  One adult and two children have eluded and thwarted twenty men.   Now we have to go back to Valanna and track him with the spaceship.  And that entails even more expense.  I should kill you right now, Havreel,” clo Yondah hissed.  Giving the Purifier one last shake, he threw him to the ground and turned to his men. 

“We are going back, men.  But we will recoup our losses.  This Krimlon grigol will reinstate our losses from revenue and time,” the Brumyatta told his men. 

“But I have no access to the treasury at Kirvos anymore, Captain,” Havreel protested. 

“You will when I find this Guardian and then gather the rest of my clan for an incursion to Krimlon,” clo Yondah declared. 

“An invasion?”

“Yes, you did say that the old Purifier wanted to overthrow the existing government, didn’t you?”

“Yes...yes, I did, but not by force,” Havreel stammered.

“What difference does it make?  You will be in power, answerable only to the Council of Ten on Brumyatta,” clo Yondah explained.   What he didn’t explain was that Brumyatta made profits on their vassal states by whatever means necessary, even if it meant draining the planet dry.   “And you will help me to accomplish this, because if you don’t, my dear Purifier, I might as well kill you right now....”  He glared meaningfully at Havreel, who was still lying on the ground, his mouth gaping open, fear evident in his eyes. 

“No, Captain, I will help you.  Together we will rid the planet of zanlings and all abominations,” Havreel said, trying to save what little dignity might remain.  He slipped a bit as he slowly got up from the snow-covered ground.  No one moved to help him.  clo Yondah simply watched the Purifier out of hate filled bulbous eyes. 

At the captain’s command, the contingent turned and marched back toward the portal that had led them to this world.   The technician, Mrindoren, stood quietly, making adjustments to his device before joining the others.  Above his head, unknown to him, five very cold zanlings hovered in the frigid air. 

Silverado recognized the small cube in the device that the alien had in his hands, and suddenly realized how he and his companions could find their bondlings.  Wait here,’ he told the others and quickly went into a dive that took him almost into the arms of the Brumyattan, only flaring at the last minute.  His little hands snatched the cube from the device before Mrindoren even realized the zanling was there.  With a surprised grunt, he snatched in the air for the zanling or the cube, but both were well beyond his reach before thought became action.  He could only watch in frustration as the abominable creatures took off over the far hill. 

Looking down at his questing device, Mrindoren decided that silence was the better part of valor, especially since they were not going to go through any more unknown gates. 

 

 

 

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