Planet of Tranquility





Chapter Three:

And it All Came Tumbling Down....



John slowly swam among fern-like fronds, feeling their feathery tips tickle his arms and legs.  Before him was a vast expanse of blue landscape dotted with rainbow colors.  The ocean had always had a tranquil effect on him and this one was no exception, although it couldn’t totally shut off the surreal and painful memories that he thought had faded to the back recesses of his memory.   John continued swimming, his aimless wandering finally taking him into an almost bowl-like area about forty feet beneath the surface.  The white sand lay in ripples with colorful fish-like creatures swimming to and fro above it.  The relatively small area was totally surrounded by coral growths of a variety of colors, but mostly blues and greens.  It was very peaceful looking and John found himself wanting to stay. 

The rebreather allowed him the option of ‘hovering’ in place and John chose that setting.  This was a peaceful little grotto, and he had a great deal of thinking to do.  Then again, thinking was not the correct term.  He didn’t want the unbidden thoughts to race around his mind as they had been doing since earlier this afternoon.  It was something that had taken him totally by surprise.  One minute he was being greeted by Weros and the next minute he was experiencing the same painful moments that he had thought were behind him on Krimlon.  The anti-telepathic device, its controller, the pain, the isolation....  It was not remembering, it was as though he was experiencing it all over again.  Over and over again like a revolving nightmarish merry-go-round.  Thankfully, he had been able to shield these nightmares from the others at their outset, but he could not shield them from himself. 

A yellow, lavender and white striped fish swam up to him, almost nosing his arm in curiosity.  John turned his head slowly, so as not to frighten it and watched it check him out.  Penny had told him that many of the denizens of this world did that. 

John, you left the others.  Is anything wrong?  Or is there something that you need?’ a voice penetrated his reverie.  His whole body jerked in surprise, causing the fish to flee and his heart to race.  Looking up, John saw one of the dolphins that had greeted them on their decent. 

Why did you sneak up on me like that?’ he demanded, glaring at the creature.  His breathing seemed harsh in his own ears, ‘I just wanted some time alone,’ he added tersely. 

I did not think I was sneaking up on you.  I contacted you as gently as I could.  But I sense that aloneness is not what you really need,’ the creature said softly in his brain.  It almost seemed a caress of caring.  Alone is what you had too much of before.’

‘What do you mean?’ His body was calming, but John was still irritated at the intrusion.

‘I sense an isolation that is frightening.  An aloneness filled with pain and suffering.  It will not leave you if you stay alone.  If you do not let others meld and share your isolation,’ the dolphin stated telepathically, his concern evident.

John shot back, ‘If others share it is not isolation....’  Then he stopped.   That was the point.  But he didn’t want others to feel the despair that he had felt; the gut-wrenching hopelessness of being humiliated, totally secluded, and powerless.  Powerless to protect his family; powerless to protect himself; powerless to fight.

‘Oh, John, two hearts knit together as one.  We share the good and the bad.  The pain, the suffering, the anguish along with the joy, love and the ecstasy.’ Maureen’s thoughts flowed lovingly amongst the painful visions.     

Turning, he saw Maureen swimming toward him.  He set me up!’ he stormed.

‘Yes, I’m afraid he did, dear.  But I have been blind and could not see what was happening since earlier today.’  Her loving, caressing thoughts embraced his and soothed him much more than the ocean around him did.

What is happening, Maureen?  It was so sudden, so powerful.  I don’t understand it.’

‘I don’t know, John, but you need to tell me about it before I can give you any real thoughts about what is happening to you.  Perhaps it would be better if we talked about this on the island.  That way we will have privacy and don’t have to worry about the capacity of the rebreathers,’ she explained, lightly caressing his arm.  He took her hand and rubbed it against his cheek, and then he nodded.  Slowly they swam upward.  

As they surfaced, John pulled off his mask and asked, “What about the children?”  

“I think Murreena has some inkling of what’s going on and will take the kids on a tour.  Don, of course, is totally puzzled as well as being concerned, but will leave us alone.”  They left their equipment beyond the high tide line.  “Pull up some sand, dear and let’s talk.”  

Instead, John reached for his wife’s arm and pulled her close to him.  She resisted him for only a moment, realizing that talk could come later, that right now he simply needed the assurance of her physical presence.   Tenderly, he caressed her neck with his lips, moving upward until he found her mouth.  Passionate thoughts entwined and flowed through their minds, forcing all the nightmares of the past into the back recesses of John’s brain.  He felt only the proximity of his wife, her loving and caring thoughts, and he let his own love for her guide his actions. 

Several hours later, Maureen rolled over in the sand and looked at the turquoise sky.  Their passionate fun in the sand had apparently relaxed John to the point that he was now sleeping peacefully at her side.  She stared at his profile for a moment, and reached over to brush aside a lock of hair.  As her fingers touched his forehead his body stiffened, his eyes flew open and he stared upward for a brief moment.  Then he jerked upright screaming, was on his feet in an instant, his hands tearing at an imagined object on his head, his eyes seeing something beyond the landscape around him.   

“No!  Get it off!  GET IT OFF!!” he cried, staggering and falling to his knees.   His hands continued to paw at his head, jerking at something that he imagined there.  Maureen stared at him in shock for only a few seconds and then she sent a probing thought into his mind.  She almost recoiled at the vivid images she was receiving.  It was like being on Krimlon once more, and she felt the constricting pressure of the controlling device at work.   Its power horrified her.
“John.  John,” she said softly and then more forcefully.  Maureen caressed his arm simultaneously, only glancing up when Silverado popped up from the waves and flew above them squeaking in alarm.  Her hand tingled with the realness of the bioelectric shocks.  “John!  It’s just a memory.”   He didn’t seem to hear her.  The terrible past kept marching through his mind, with its pain and torture.  
Maureen clung to his hand desperately, then she realized that she had to force herself deep into his mind before he built a telepathic block like the one he had unconsciously used before.  ‘John, focus on me!  The rest is just memory.  It isn’t real.  See what I’m showing you.  John, it’s just us right now.  Just us!  Look!’   Steadily, she fed him pictures of all the peaceful and happy moments they had shared over the years, hoping to break the stranglehold that this vision seemed to have on him.  Finally, after what seemed an eternity the horrific memories began to fade.  His screams faded, dying into moans of pain and then, even that stopped.  John sobbed for breath, shuddering and then turned toward her, his eyes focused on hers once more.  He looked down at her hand on his arm and touched it.  He was trembling violently, and Maureen threw her arms around him as she had done for the children when they were little and in the throes of an intense nightmare.  

“Maureen, what is happening to me?  What’s wrong?” he whispered.  “It was so real.  Too real.”

“I know, John.  I felt it, too,” she said.  Silverado squeaked softly and hopped onto John’s leg.  Maggie and the other lizards popped out of the ocean and flew in tight circles above them, chirping in concern.   John’s eyes were begging for an explanation, she could feel the tendrils of panic in his mind, of fear at the unknown, fear that he might be losing his grip on reality.

“John, I can think of only one thing this could be.” She paused briefly before continuing.  “I think you are going through post-traumatic stress disorder.  You have been through so much in the last six months.  So much with so little respite,” she said. 

He looked at her for a moment and his eyes took on a harder look, one of self-reproach.  “Six months, hell!  We’ve all been through ‘so much’ in the past four years.  We all should have this disorder,” he said tersely.   

“But, John, you’re the leader.  You, as the commander of this expedition, have been under even more stress then any of the rest of us has.  Mon ami, you have had to be our pillar for so long,” she murmured.  Reaching up, she began massaging his shoulders and felt the tension slowly ease its way out of his muscles as well as his mind. 

“Post-traumatic stress disorder.  Isn’t that associated with wars?” he asked.  “If so, your diagnosis would make no sense, Dr. Robinson.”

Hearing the bemusement in his voice, she chuckled slightly.  “Dr. Robinson, you have fought off assaults on the family, you waged a war against an invasion force, you were a prisoner of war, so to speak... should I go on?”

“No!” he said loudly.  Then he took a deep breath.  “No, but what do I do about these visions?  They’re real.  It’s like being there and going through all of this over and over again.  That scares the hell out of me, Maureen,” he said imploringly.   “I don’t think I can deal with that.”

“I’ll look in the computer data base, but I think relaxation will help.  I believe I’ve read that meditation and breathing exercises will help as well,” she said.  “Medication is another therapy, but I’ll have to see if I can synthesize any that is recommended.”

“Add massage to that list, my dear,” he murmured, beginning to feel lethargic under her ministrations. 

“I will, but my fingers are growing numb.  Do you feel up to going back in?  Murreena was worried about you,” she said. 

“Why don’t I massage your numb fingers and we’ll let them to that job,” John said, pointing to the circling flutter-dragons.  Looking up, Maureen laughed heartily, relieved by John’s return to a semblance of normalcy.   Silverado looked up at his bondling and chirped.  Launching himself into the air, the lizard dove into the waves and disappeared.  

Three days later, John finally gave permission for Penny to wear one of the devices.  She threw her arms around his neck and then danced with delight.  Seeing the pensive look on his face, she stopped.  “Daddy, it will be all right.  Murreena would never let me do anything that would be harmful.”

Deep inside, he knew that.  Logically, he also realized that the bio-adaptation device was a useful, harmless version of the mechanism he had worn.  Smiling, he got to his feet and put his arm around her shoulders.  It amazed him how quickly this middle child of his was growing.  “I know that, sweetheart.  I trust Murreena.  That’s the only reason I said you could use one of the adaptation units.  I want you to enjoy your time in the Mirin grotto.”  Leaning over, he lightly kissed her on the forehead, noticing how little he had to bend to do so now.   

She hugged him again.  “Thank you, Daddy.  I wish you could come, too.”  

Watching her slip on her rebreather, he wished the same thing.  Within the next two days, the rest of the family had followed Penny’s example. 





Chapter Four
Chapter One
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