Planet of Tranquility




Chapter Six:
Max took a break from working with the Robot and went into the living quarters to check on Professor Robinson.  His breathing and heart rate were strong, and the professor seemed to be resting comfortably.  That reassured him, as the martial arts robot did not doubt that there was muscular and joint discomfort as a consequence of the torturous amount of g-forces present in the take-off.  He checked the zero gravity straps again, wishing there was more he could do for his human friend.   
He turned to leave.  “Max?”  Turning back, he saw the professor’s eyes come to rest on him in a befuddled gaze. 
“How do you feel?” Max asked.
“I feel like I’ve been run through a gauntlet.  How long have I been out?”
“Eight hours.  The G-force was in excess of eleven.  You are very fortunate to have escaped with only a nose bleed, sore muscles and aching joints,” Max stated.
“I am presuming that the gravitational stabilizers are damaged,” John said, glancing down at the webbing. 
“You are correct.  The Robot and I felt that establishing the artificial gravity was not as important as correcting any damage to the engines and life support systems.”  
“Of course.” John extricated himself from under the webbing and slowly floated across the room.    He tried a telepathic communication to Maureen, but was unsuccessful.  Puzzled, he pondered the situation.  Despite the fact that he was, for the most part, only minimally telepathic, there had been no problem communicating with the ssHreana when the Jupiter II had been approaching the planet.  Then John remembered Murreena mentioning something about a device that focused and projected telepathic communications to ships within a certain distance of their planet. He could only surmise that the tidal wave had knocked it out.  “How’s the communications system?”
“Presently it is not working, but we did have a brief moment in which we were able to contact your wife, using an emergency power system and a computer code,” Max told him. 
“Thanks for letting her know, Max,” John said, gratefully, his anxiety eased.  He floated toward the small closet to get his gravity boots, but decided against it, feeling he would move faster through the ship without them.  He pulled himself along the corridor and into the area containing the power core, grabbing a handle near the doorway to slow his momentum.  “How is it going, Robot?” he asked.
“It will be several days before I can complete repairs on the engines, but the damage was much less severe than I had previously estimated.  Would you hand me the ionization indicator, Professor Robinson?” 
John pulled the indicated item from its magnetized toolbox and put it into the Robot’s pincer hand, peering into the work area.  The Robot was right; the damage was much lighter than he had seen in the past.  “Good.  By the way, before the wave hit I was running a geological scan of the area around the island.  By any chance, did you happen to get readings on that tsunami and the earthquake that caused it?” John asked, his curiosity piqued. 
“I have not tried to deal with the non-essential functions until the engines and life support systems are fully operational,” Robot replied.
“Since the rest of the family is down there, I want to find out all I can.  The ssHreana didn’t seem to have any warning,” he clarified.  But he realized the wisdom of the Robot’s logic.   “First, though, I’ll help you two work on the life support systems.  It seems a bit chilly in the ship,” added.
“That is a matter of adjustment.  In order to avoid expending needless resources, I kept the temperature low.  You were unconscious and under an insulating blanket,” came the explanation.
Again, John saw the flawless logic of the Robot’s statement.  Nodding, he said, “Let’s just keep it at that temperature for awhile.  I’ll clean up and put on my flight suit, then give you a hand.  You’ve done a great job, Robot,” he said, as he pushed himself toward the Jupiter’s living quarters.
A short while later found him in the zero-g shower, alternately singing arias and muttering about runaway soap and water.  As soon as the system had gathered all the water for recycling, he stepped out, grabbed a towel to rid himself of the last of the droplets clinging to his body, and floated toward the bed, where his clothing lay.  John gaped in astonishment.  Curled up inside the blanket, with only his head protruding, was Silverado, fast asleep.   Even as he struggled into his insulated flight suit, John wondered how the zanling had managed to get on board the ship.  Did Maureen come in a shuttle?  If so, where would she get one?  He sent another telepathic message to Maureen, hoping she was on board, but like before, received no answer.   He tried next to ‘talk’ to the lizard, but Silverado was too deeply asleep to be aware of his telepathic queries.  He placed a finger under the blankets and against his friend’s silvery hide.  Everything felt normal.  Why was Silverado so soundly asleep that he couldn’t communicate with him at all?  There were more mysteries popping up here than an Agatha Christie novel.  Shaking his head, John propelled himself back to the cargo bay.
“Robot, any contact from ssMrillorrin?  I just found Silverado in my bedroom and I can’t figure out how he got there.”
“Negative, Professor,” the Robot said, and then pondered the problem, the whirring of his internal processing units the only sound for the next few minutes.  “I am unable to ascertain how your zanling made it to the Jupiter II unless he found a way to teleport.”
Teleport?  John wondered what the lizards couldn’t do.  “That does sound like the only possible explanation.  Until he wakes up, we won’t know for sure.  I’ll work on the life support systems, while Max works on restoring the artificial gravity.  Then I’ll start in on the navigational control system.” 
Several hours later, he heard Max’s warning just a moment before the whine of the gravity generators kicked in.   The professor turned his body upright just in time feel the full effects of returning gravity, but, even so, he had to hang on to the edge of the computer console until his limbs got used to full gravity again.  Next, John climbed down the stairwell and began working on the navigational controls, coordinating his efforts with the Robot and Max, who were still below deck working on the power systems.  When the symbols and letters began swimming in front of his eyes, John finally took a break, realizing, to his surprise that he and the robots had worked for over eight hours straight.  From the top of a console, Silverado cheeped his displeasure at being ignored for so long. “I’m calling it quits, gentlemen,” he called out on the shipboard communicator.  “Give me a few hours sleep and I’ll be back.” 
Before retiring, though, he sent a quick coded message, letting everyone know he was all right.  Maureen sent an enthusiastic reply, relieved and overjoyed that he was all right.  The message also informed him that she, Don and Will were going on a short scientific expedition. 
What sea mount are you studying now?’ his coded communication asked. 
‘The area near the sea quake,’ came her answer.  John frowned, not liking the idea of his wife and other members of his family so close to an area of recent geophysical activity.  He said so in his response. 
Murwon and the other scientists have run every kind of conceivable test.  There is no instability in that area and there have been no aftershocks of any kind.’  As he considered his answer, another message came in.  ‘I wouldn’t take Will anywhere near there if I thought there was any danger.  We are not going the full distance.  We will only be going two thirds of the way and then we’re turning back.  It will take approximately two days each way.’
Still not satisfied, he typed in, ‘How can you be sure that the instruments that Murwon has been using to run these tests weren’t damaged by the tidal wave or the earthquake itself?’
They are not surface instruments, they were too far below the surface to be affected by the tidal wave and the quake only had minimal effect here in the Homeplace.  All instruments were thoroughly checked.  Readings will be taken throughout the trip to the site.  There will be no surprises this time,’ Maureen sent to him. ‘Stop worrying, John!’ she added after a short pause.  ‘We’ll be all right. Hurry with the repairs and join us!
He sighed, knowing how fascinated his wife had been with the life that teemed in the oceans of this world.  ‘Please be careful,’ he finally typed into the computer.  Not surprisingly, while Penny was enjoying the cultural life in the Homeplace as well as the flora and fauna, Maureen had become totally engrossed in compiling all the scientific data she could during their visit.   Realizing that Murwon and Murreena would let nothing hurt his family, John sent another message.  It simply said, ‘Have fun.’  
Six hours later, feeling a bit more refreshed, John pulled a muffin out of the replicator and rode the elevator to the observation deck, where he continued working with the Robot on restoring the Jupiter II to full operating capacity.  Off and on for the next two days, as he worked on the various ship’s systems, the remote survey kept coming to his mind.   It nagged at him slightly, but he stuck it in the back of his consciousness as the most trivial of his duties right now.   He had enough confidence in ssHreana technology to not doubt what Maureen told him.
Finally, after he was satisfied that the ship was almost fully functional, John typed another message.  Even though the Jupiter's communication system was functioning properly, apparently the ssHreana’s communications device wasn’t.  Then he brought up the records from the remote sensors.  He pulled up the geological survey program on the computer and checked out the input that had been received before the arrival of the tsunami.  He grumbled as the figures marched across the screen, indicating sea floor activity within normal ranges.  It didn’t make sense that there were no pre-indicators.  He slowed down the scans and paid closer attention to each one, slowing them down even more as the moment of the onset of the earthquake came closer.
John blinked and almost missed a slight anomaly that appeared briefly just before the seismic disturbance that spawned the huge wave.  Typing in a command, John watched that part of the scan over and over again, each time keying in different geo-physical equations, slowing the scans down even further.   A cold chill crept up his spine.  “Robot, how long do you estimate it will take to get the Space Pod ready for immediate departure?” he asked. 
“There was almost no damage to the Space Pod, Professor Robinson.   I estimate that it will be ready for launch in four point two hours.”
“Try for half that,” he said tersely.  Turning to the communications console, he keyed in a terse message to the Homeplace.  ‘Call back the scientific expedition.  There is possible danger.  I will be arriving in my space shuttle in a few hours to explain.’ 
He, Max and the Robot were able to get the Space Pod ready in less than two hours.  Silverado rode lazily on his shoulder as John piloted the Space Pod through the upper levels of the atmosphere.  When he touched down on the small island where he had lived for several weeks, he almost questioned the figures saying this was the right place.  It had been changed almost beyond recognition.  Through the observation port, he saw Murreena, Judy, Penny and Mark.  Flutter dragons flew in tight loops.   As he stepped out of the Space Pod, Judy and Penny enveloped him in their arms, their eyes asking questions.  Mark held out his chubby arms for his portion of his grandpa’s attention.   “Dad?” Judy began, but was interrupted by Murreena.
John, what did you mean in that message you sent?’   Her silver blue eyes showed great concern. 
“Did you contact the expedition?” he asked, temporarily ignoring the question.
No, John, we couldn’t get through to them at all.  There should not be a problem contacting Murwon, but I couldn’t get through to him.  It is like there is a force field keeping them from communicating with us and we with them….’
John just stared for a moment.  The implications of what could be happening to the expedition marched through his brain like so many goose-stepping soldiers.  ‘How soon can I be fitted with a device, Murreena?’ he asked tersely.  He ignored the twinges of fear that tried to infringe on his resolve.
Immediately,’ she looked at him curiously, her luminous eyes mirroring the concern that he was feeling.  ‘Please, John.  What has happened?’
“That earthquake wasn’t a natural phenomenon; it was deliberately set, Murreena.  And those who set it are apparently still down there.  If you can’t contact Murwon, then that can only mean that the expedition has been captured.  We have to get out there,” he explained.   Judy and Penny stared at him, their eyes wide with fear. 
We have little time to loose, John,’ Murreena said.  ‘Let’s go down to the reception center now and affix the device.  I will also contact Korellis and the pod leaders.  They will mount a large expeditionary force.’
That’ll be fine, Murreena, but I don’t plan on waiting for a force of that size to be put together.  I’m going out there as soon as you fit me with one of those bio-adaptation devices,” he said.
Yes, I agree, a few of us can be ready and go within a very short time.
Nodding, he slipped on the rebreather and mask, and walked into the ocean.  As the waves gently pushed him back, he dove in, swimming just far enough out to pull on the fins.  The others dove after him and swam effortlessly by his side. 
By the time they neared the reception dome Klik had joined them.  He was silent as were the flutter-dragons who stuck close by their sides.  




Chapter Seven
Chapter One
Lost in Space Fiction
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