Planet of Freedom



Chapter 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 knuckles.

"Forgive me for deceiving you," he whispered between kisses. "I just didnít want you to worry."

"Of course, John, I understand. Iím just so sorry."

"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 added.

"Okay, whatís the good news?" she said, humoring him.

"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 more enthusiastically.

"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 back."

"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 water.

"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 decent friends."

"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 longer kiss.

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 their companions.



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 crowded table.

"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 Confederation ship.

"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 conquests.

"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 overwhelmed Mdorin.

"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 Earth."

"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.




Chapter Twenty-two
Chapter One
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