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
Judy groaned softly.
“Dad would have been unarmed except for what he could
confiscate here. How
many is a large contingent of soldiers?”
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.
‘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?”
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
We have to go through anyway.’ Talon protested.
‘Besides, the zanling looks to be quite capable of doing the job
‘Come! Now!’ Lucy
declared emphatically. ‘We all help. Kings and
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
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
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.’
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
“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
“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
“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.
“Yes, you did say
that the old Purifier wanted to overthrow the existing government,
“Yes...yes, I did,
but not by force,” Havreel stammered.
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
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
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.