Twenty-one - The Lord Commander Retires
Maureen sat next to her husband and lightly brushed the
unruly hair off his forehead. He moaned and stirred in his
sleep, and she took the opportunity to sit closer to him,
allowing his head to rest on her leg. It was so good to have
him back, but he had been through so much. The tears trickled
down her cheeks. She leaned over and kissed him.
"Maureen?" he murmured. He reached up with one
hand and touched her face, softly caressing her chin. His
fingers lightly traced the line of her lips, and then moved
across her cheek, where he felt the tears. "Maureen,
Iím fine, just so tired." As though he couldnít get
enough, his fingers delicately followed the contours of her
face and played with her hair. She giggled slightly as his
fingertips tickled her ear.
Then Maureen took his hand and held it tightly.
"Oh, John, these are tears of joy. Iím so happy that
youíre done with this Lord Commander business. Iím so glad
youíre home." He chuckled and brought her hands down to
his face, where he kissed her hands and nibbled on her
"Forgive me for deceiving you," he whispered
between kisses. "I just didnít want you to worry."
"Of course, John, I understand. Iím just so
"Yes. Sorry." His voice suddenly became
melancholy. "I killed over two hundred sentient beings,
Mo. I still feel their dying moment. How does one forgive
that?" He sat up suddenly and began rubbing the side of
his head. It almost seemed habitual now.
Maureen massaged his shoulders. "You forgive that
by realizing that you tried your very best to avoid it. You
forgive that by realizing that you saved over eight billion
sentient beings, including your own family. You forgive that
by realizing that the Graxod made choices as well. Choices
that you had to act upon. Oh, John, I am so proud of you and
the sacrifice you made for us. I love you so very much."
She put her arms around him and drew him to her in a tight
embrace. "John Robinson, I love you."
His head rested on her chest and soon his hands lay limp
by his side. After a few minutes, all she could feel was the
deep, steady ebb and flow of his breathing as he fell into a
peaceful, rejuvenating sleep.
Judy seemed impatient as Scott examined her. Even though
he still had deep feelings for Judy West, he had learned to
control them. He had also avoided her as much as possible,
only being in close proximity to her during exams. Since
Maureen was taking care of John, he had recruited Esther as
his exam Ďnurseí for this check up.
"This is a good news, bad news scenario,
Judy," he said with a slight laugh. Judy just stared
glumly at him. "That was supposed to be a joke," he
"Okay, whatís the good news?" she said,
"The baby is not ready to come yet. You have at
least a couple of weeks to your due date, and by the looks of
things, this baby may be overdue. Most first babies are,"
he said with a smile. Scott was happy to note a slight smile.
He knew that she was in that miserable time of pre-natal life
when most women wished they could just get it over with, but
he also knew that she had her heart set on Don being present
at the birth.
"Whatís the bad news?" she asked, a little
"I believe that youíre right. This will be a big
boy. Hard to pinpoint exactly how big, but I believe that
heís close to seven or eight pounds right now." Scott
chuckled at her look of disbelief. "But, Judy, heís
healthy. Very healthy and so are you."
He held onto her arm as she sat up. "Thanks, Scott.
I appreciate your help. I just wish that this whole thing was
over, so we could go to Urgorrim. So I could have Don
"I know," he said softly. "Don is one
lucky man to have someone like you."
"And Iím lucky to have him, Scott," she said
fervently. Then looking directly into his eyes, she added,
"Someday, you will find someone whoís as good to you as
Don is to me." She gave a quick kiss on his cheek and
walked out, leaving Scott staring in astonishment.
"I would say, Scott, that the patient knows what
the doctor is thinking," Esther said knowingly. "And
sheís right. Youíre too nice a man to not have someone
special just for you."
Scott blushed. "The problem with a telepathic
society is that there are no secrets."
"Telepathy, schmelepathy. Youíve been an open
book. I think the last one that realized it was Judy
herself." She paused and chuckled. "Except my son,
who is enamored with Penny. Who incidentally had a crush on
you until my boy came along."
"Me?" Scott asked. Esther nodded. "Good
heavens, I really know how to stir the pot. Itís a wonder
that Don or John either one didnít pop me."
Esther just laughed. "Itís because you donít
have a mean or devious bone in your body, Scott. I definitely
want you for my doctor if I decide to make space a full time
vocation. Iím returning to the control room, now.
I have a ship to run."
Pennyís flutter-dragons were putting on a show in the
galley for Josh. The young man was continually amazed at the
agility of the little creatures. They swooped and danced in
the tight quarters with great grace and skill, never hitting
anything, including each other.
"They seem to have recovered their strength after
helping your dad," he remarked. Lucy broke formation and
flew over to Penny, hovering in front of her face.
"Dad just woke up and is hungry. I need to take
something down." Just then her motherís voice came over
the intercom, giving the same request. Josh just gaped.
"I think all the flutter-dragons have formed a bond
with Dad since helping him so much these past five days."
Penny gathered up some soup, bread sticks and a thermos of
"Do you think your parents would mind if I came
with you? You do have a bit of an armful," Josh offered.
"I canít imagine why they would," she said,
handing the tray to Josh.
In the arboretum, Penny handed the thermos to her mother
and gave her dad a hug. Leaving the tray, the two teenagers
left quietly and returned to the galley.
"You know, itís really cool how much your mom and
dad love each other," Josh said softly. "My mom and
dad have been divorced for ten years. They arenít even
"Iím sorry, Scott. I guess I just take Mom and
Dad for granted, not realizing that everyoneís parents
arenít like that." She turned to Josh and realized that
he had leaned very close to her. Before she knew what had
happened, he kissed her quickly on the lips. "Oh,"
was all she could say. And then, "Why did you do
that?" Immediately, Penny felt stupid for asking.
"I donít know. I suppose itís because I really
like you a lot and wanted to tell you some other way instead
of just with words," Josh said with a smile. "You
didnít mind did you?"
Penny just blushed some more, and shook her head. She
really didnít. "Josh, I like you a lot, too." Josh
leaned over and kissed her again. This time it was a slightly
Then he took her hand and held it. "I wonít go
any further, Penny, but I would like you to be my
girlfriend," he said quietly.
"Iím not sixteen yet. My folksí rule. But I
donít mind being a very close friend," she said with a
smile. The flutter-dragons squeaked in amusement and started
dancing around the room.
"I really feel better, Maureen.
How long did I sleep?" John asked.
"Eight hours, but youíre going to sleep some
more, either here or in the cabin," Maureen said to him.
By the time John had finished the dinner that Penny had
brought down, he was yawning again.
"Letís sleep here," he said simply. She took
the tray, laid it by the chariot and then dug pillows and
blankets out of the all-terrain rover. With those in hand she
returned to John where she dropped one of the pillows in his
lap and a blanket next to him. "Thatís a broad enough
hint," he said laughing. Then he swung the pillow at her,
but he could only guess at her position and she easily jumped
out of the way. Maureen didnít anticipate his finding her
hand and pulling her down on top of him, though.
His lips found hers and John was finally able to give
his wife the long and passionate greeting that he had dreamed
of for more than five days. After awhile she was snuggled
close to him under the blankets and he murmured in her ear,
"This is what I missed, Maureen."
"Um, me too," she said sleepily. Soon both had
fallen asleep. Silverado and Maggie chirped happily from the
limb of a tiny tree where they had taken up residence with
The next morning, John woke up in a cold sweat, the
tendrils of a nightmare floating from his recollection. All he
could remember was that it involved a battle and the death of
many combatants. Immediately, he felt the light touch of
Silverado in his consciousness, a balm of Gilead to calm his
troubled thoughts. The flutter-dragon touched down on his
shoulder. Focusing, John saw his surroundings and to his
disappointment, noticed that Maureen was gone.
Throwing the blanket aside, he stretched and got up.
Silverado squeaked and he saw Maggie hover into view. Her
message was unmistakable. ĎCome to breakfast.í
Chuckling, John ran his hand through his hair, threw on his
clothes, and went up the elevator to the galley. There he saw
the family gathered, just beginning the meal.
"Remember me? Thought I might make an
appearance," he said with a smile and sat down at the
"It will be a quick one, dear. The Confederation
Council heard that you were indisposed yesterday afternoon and
postponed their meeting until this morning. As soon as
youíve eaten, you and Mdorin need to take a shuttle to the
"Youíre coming, too," was all he said,
before tackling the large breakfast she had fixed.
The ĎClawed Delivererí was a very large ship, and
her conference room was large as well. When John and Maureen
arrived, accompanied by Mdorin, he was embarrassed to be
greeted with a standing ovation, with only the Graxod
contingent remaining seated. He didnít blame them; his
action had effectively changed the way of life that they had
known for half a millennium. Silverado flapped his wings and
squeaked as loudly as he could. ĎYes, you are a superb
warrior, too,í he assured the lizard.
Prowlith greeted him with a bow. "Lord Commander,
we are honored by your presence."
ĎJohn Robinson, I told you that your friends from
Kírtírm would have a very important role to play. It
appears that I was right,í a voice flowed into his mind.
Looking around John was astonished to see Murreena, along with
several other of her race.
Smiling to her, he acknowledged her message. ĎThis
flutter-dragon not only saved me, but also Earth. Yes, you
were right, Murreena,í he told her.
Looking around, John was astonished to see
representatives of Marador and Wereeshen, as well as a few
worlds he was unfamiliar with. They had followed through, and
he was filled with gratitude, because he felt that now, not
only Earth, but other worlds would be protected from future
"John Robinson, the Council wishes you to speak to
the assemblage on fitting punishment or retribution for the
Graxod, since you have the most knowledge and experience in
this matter," Prowlith told him.
John perused the audience, looking hard at the assembled
Graxod. "I really have very little to say." He heard
his voice being translated and amplified. "Earth was
spared damage by Graxod invaders, and we suffered very few
injuries, so any discussion about punishment or reparations
will have to be dealt with by the diplomats that accompanied
us from Earth. What any other races desire will be between
them, the Graxod and this council should they choose to
continue their involvement. The only point I want to make is
that conquest of other races to perpetuate your own is
wrong." John looked directly at the Graxod contingent.
"But I donít believe that the Graxodís physiological
problems are irreversible. Earth doctors have been working on
immuno-deficiency diseases for several decades now and have
made headway. Artificial organs have been in use on Earth for
the past few years. I see no reason for that knowledge not to
be passed on to the Graxod scientists and physicians. Then
there would be no need for hosts. But that is something to be
taken up with the leaders on Earth."
"The last official act that I wish to make as Lord
Commander is to relinquish my position. I hereby declare my
second in command, Mdorin cl Graxod, as my successor and pass
to him my plantiod-crinth. As a Lord Commander, I give this to
you in hopes that it will help you to achieve long life."
John said ceremonially and handed the sword, with its sheath
to the faithful Graxod. "As a human, I sincerely hope
that you never have to use this on another sentient being.
Thank you for your loyalty and help. You have been a true
Graxod sub-commander." He bowed to the astonished and
"Thank you, my Lord. I will treasure this as well
as my service under your command."
Turning to Prowlith, John stated. "I thank the
Confederation and all of its members for answering my plea for
help in this manner. You have the gratitude of the whole
"It was only a matter of deployment, Commander
Robinson, because the request was just. I look forward, as a
representative of the Confederation, to a close relationship
with your home world," she told him.
"I leave the disposition of the captured ships to
the confederation and those who accompanied me here. I will
now take my leave. I made a promise to journey to the Urgorrim
world and that journey needs to be made soon. With your
permission, we will depart now." Bowing, he and Maureen
left the assemblage.