Planet of Freedom




Chapter Three  - Paradise Lost


Spring was beginning to cycle into summer, and Judy sat basking in the warmth of the late afternoon sun, feeling pleasure as well as discontent. That both emotions could sit side by side in her heart puzzled her, but that was how she had felt a great deal these days. The baby kicked and turned and she looked down with a slight smile. Little Mark was dancing again, she thought happily. Don reached over and placed his hand gently on her stomach, smiling when he felt the movement, too. Judy placed her hand over his, and they sat that way for a few minutes.

Up until a couple of months ago, it had not been quite so obvious that she was pregnant, but it seemed in the last six weeks that the baby had gone through a rampant growth spurt. At seven and a half months, Judy was beginning to feel totally awkward and uncomfortable.

"Judy, whatís bothering you?" Don asked softly. "I know that something has made you feel unhappy lately, but I donít know what."

Judy looked down, trying to put into words what had been clattering around in her mind the past month. "I donít know how to say what Iím feeling without sounding like a baby myself," she said. Her back had been hurting off and on for several months and the indigestion was terrible; it didnít matter what she ate. But that wasnít the main reason for her feelings. She chuckled slightly. As soon as the morning sickness had dissipated, then the other things had started up. Murphyís law.

"Try me. Although Iím trying to figure out if youíre happy or sad right now," he said looking at her with concern etched on his face.

"I am so happy to be having this baby; our child. When I think about it, I feel such joy. But on the other hand I feel afraid," she looked at her husband intently. Then she laughed softly. "I suppose itís no wonder that you canít figure it out. I canít either."

Don leaned over and gently kissed her, letting his hand run through her soft blonde hair. "What has you scared, dear heart?"

"Don, I know that the Jupiter II is a well equipped ship medically, but as it gets closer to the time when the baby is due, I canít help but feel afraid. Iím most afraid for Mark and I suppose this might seem a bit selfish, but Iím just afraid. I remember how hard it was for Mom when Will was born. I was ten at the time, and even though everyone told me not to worry, I was so scared for her and for Will, too. And we were near good hospitals." Judy looked intently at her husband, tears forming in the corners of her eyes. "I feel so....babyish. You know, Iím supposed to be strong and all that, but I canít help feeling this way." She swept her hand around, pointing out the area around them bathed in soft sunlight. "Itís so beautiful here, but itís so primitive!"

Don took her in his arms and held her close. "For what itís worth, my love, Iíll be with you the whole time. And youíre stronger than you think. Always remember that. And I also have great confidence in your mother. Sheís well trained and she says that everything is going normally."

As Aurora had been in the habit of doing lately, she dropped down from the tree and lightly landed on her stomach. The lizard stared down with gleaming eyes as though she could see the growing child inside. Cocking her head to one side and then the other, the flutter-dragon next looked up and stared directly into Judyís eyes. The baby was growing healthy as he should, happy and content within her. Judyís tranquillity grew as the messages from the little lizard corroborated what her husband and her mother had told her. Her feelings of fear dissipated and she settled back against Donís chest, letting him massage her stomach in the gentle motions that Maureen had taught him. And as he leaned over, he gently kissed her neck and ear, causing her to giggle with pleasure.



John was looking over the charts on Willís disk. Since he knew that the ship wouldnít take off until after the baby was born, he had felt no need for haste in examining the information. But spring rains had driven the family indoors for a few days, and John had felt the compulsion to finish the job he had worked on sporadically during the cooler winter months.

Silverado was sitting on top of the robotís clear dome, squeaking softly. The flutter-dragons seemed much less reluctant to come into the ship, but after a certain period of time, were ready to go back out into the forests. "Go on, if you need to," John told him absently. He had just gotten to the Alpha Centauri charts and was examining them before loading the data into the Jupiter IIís main computer. Amazed at his sonís attention to detail, the professor assumed that the next chart would be that of Earth, but found he was wrong; this one was the last.

He was about to close down the computer when he noticed some symbols in the corner of the screen. "Robot, that looks like some kind of computer code. Can you make it out?"

The familyís B-9 environmental robot wheeled over and looked at the figures with its optical scanners. "The best that my data banks can figure out, it is a request code for the next star chart," it intoned.

"Robot, locate Will."

"Yes, Professor Robinson," the Robot said evenly and stood quietly while it scanned its locators. "Will Robinson is in the cargo bay, working on the chariot with Major West. Do you wish for him to come to the observation deck?"

"Yes, please, Robot," John informed him.

Soon Will was at his side, wiping lubricant from his hands with a rag. "Son, did you order up additional star charts?"

"Yes, sir, I did, but they werenít available," Will said, but at his fatherís curious look, he continued. "Someone from a place called Graxod was looking at them."

Suddenly little fingers of apprehension started prickling up Johnís spine, and he began wondering what reason an alien race might be interested in Earth. Thinking about the star charts he had just looked at, someone else could say the same thing about them, but there was something that continued to urge him to investigate.

"Did you learn anything about these Graxodians?" he asked.

"No, but I think I met one on my way out," Will said, and proceeded to recall the encounter with Lord Mrolon, remembering things that had been forgotten until now. The boy was apprehensive at the alarm beginning to show on his fatherís face.

"Will, I think you had better tell me again what happened at that library and try not to leave out any details this time."

After Will had given him a detailed report of his encounter with the alien on Wereeshen, John sat back in the chair and looked at the monitor without really seeing it. He wanted to believe that someone was just curious, but a part of him wouldnít let go of a nagging feeling that something sinister was going on.

"Dad, do you think that the Graxod wanted the star charts for some kind of conquest?" Will asked.

Sighing, he looked up at Willís worried face and nodded. The boy could take a few clues and deduce anything. "Will, donít say anything about this for the moment until I have had a chance to think it all through."

Getting up and putting on a jacket, John walked out into the drizzle and down a now familiar path through the forest. Seeing in his mindís eye a picture of rain-slicked rocks and flowing water, he decided that the small pool was as good a place to contemplate as any other. Silverado greeted John with happy squeaks as soon as he walked into the clearing, landing on his shoulder and clutching on with tiny paws.

"Am I just being paranoid?" he said softly to nothing in particular. But knowing himself as he did, John knew that if there were any possibility of danger to his home planet, he would have to check it out. And there was only one way to do that. The drizzle intensified into a steady rain, which John felt served as a reflection to his dismal mood. But still he sat and thought, even after the rain began finding a way under his collar.

This was to be the planet of his grandsonís birth, beautiful, peaceful, and relatively safe and except for the amenities of a hospital, ideal. And now this news was going to take that certainty away. Rubbing the rain out of his eyes, he slowly got up from the sodden ground. John decided that a bit more research was in order before unduly alarming his family.

As he walked up the ramp, all of the flutter-dragons floated and squeaked around his head. Staring at them all fiercely, he tried to focus a command that they had to keep still about his theory. Silverado chirped loudly and the others echoed in softer tones.

After drying off and changing, he started back to the observation room. Judy met him just before he reached the elevator. "Dad, lunch is ready." She peered at him, taking note of his still wet hair. "Have you been outside in this rain?"

"Yes, I have. And just because you are soon going to be a mother yourself, doesnít mean you can start mothering me. Thatís your momís job," he chuckled good-naturedly. Her behavior reminded him so much of Maureen when they were younger and she was expecting. Radiant, that was the term he had heard often and he didnít understand itís true meaning until he had lived through his wifeís pregnancies.

"Judy, there are some things that I need to do in the observation room, so just put mine in the fridge. Iíll get it later," he told her with a slight smile and then went up the elevator.

"Robot," John asked as he entered the observation deck. "You were here while Will was explaining his experience on Wereeshen. With that in mind, plus the information on the tapes, what would you say is the probability of a Graxod invasion or attack of Earth?"

"I must examine the information on my data disks, Professor Robinson," the machine intoned. Several minutes later it said, "With the limited amount of data available, I would compute that the probability of a Graxod visitation of the Earth would be about fifty percent, with a plus or minus variation of five percent. If I had more information, I could make a better guess."

"Thank you, Robot. Would you and I be able to pilot the Jupiter II to Earth alone?"

"It would be very difficult, Professor Robinson, but it is possible."

He sighed, realizing that the Robotís answer didnít really make the problem easier to resolve. Sitting down at the navigational computer, John did some rough calculations of the amount of time the hyperspace jumps would take from Karturm to Earth and frowned at those results as well. He decided that it was time for a family conference.

John called everyone together and then paced back and forth across the observation deck, very much conscious of the scrutiny of his family. The little lizards were assembled on top of the Robotís dome and anywhere else they could find a perch on the automaton. Under normal circumstances, the Robot seemed to like occasionally raising and lowering his dome to aggravate the tiny creatures. This time, though, he stood still, sensing the gravity of the situation.

"For crying out loud, John, tell us whatís bothering you so much that you gathered us in here to watch you pace," Don finally said.

"Iíve learned something thatís disturbed me a great deal. But then again, it could just be my paranoid mind at work," he said cryptically.

Maureen gazed closely at her husband. The past months had been so peaceful and relaxing for the entire family that this display of anxiety from John disturbed her greatly. For some reason, the lizards werenít acting as conduits, and what was even more astonishing was the fact that they werenít even making any noise. All nine of them just sat on the robot staring at John with their golden eyes.

"I have reason to believe that Earth is going to be invaded or at least visited by a hostile alien race. The Ďvisití may already have taken place."

Maureen gazed in shocked silence for a moment. "John, what brought you to that conclusion?" she finally asked.

"I decided to do what I should have done a long time ago, and that was to finish going through those charts that Will brought back," he turned away from the group and looked out the observation window for a moment before turning back. The lizards started crooning softly, as though in sympathy, but John glared at them and they promptly ceased. Silverado flapped his wings in agitation, glaring back at his human.

"I should have checked out that disk a long time ago," he repeated with a sigh.

Maureen was now able to feel the depth of his inner turmoil. She was continually astonished that as close as they had always been, the sojourn on this planet had brought them even closer. "John, you had no way of knowing," she said, trying to comfort him.

"But what led you to think Earth is going to be invaded?" Don asked. Maureen knew that Don trusted Johnís decisions most of the time, but she heard a slight skepticism in his voice.

John had Will relate his experience on Wereeshen and then he told them how he had reached his conclusion.

"So what do we do now?" Don asked simply.

"There are two options," John stated tersely. "One is that the Robot and I will use the charts Will provided and travel to Earth with the warning. You will be in command here until I come back. Iíll leave the medical supplies, but I....."

"And the second is that we all go and give the warning together," Maureen interrupted, uncharacteristically.

"Yes, thatís the other option. I donít like either one. I can make no guarantees of getting back in time for the babyís birth by going alone, but on the other hand, I worry about any possible dangers on the way or what might happen if we meet up with these Graxod," John stated.

Judy slid out of her chair a bit awkwardly and walked over to the control panel to face her father. "Dad, I know that if it werenít for my pregnancy, you would have this ship out of here in a heartbeat. Iím as safe traveling in the Jupiter II as I am anywhere else. Even as tranquil as this planet is, we all know that there are dangers anywhere we go. There have even been a few moments during our stay here. I can tell how strongly you feel about this threat. I say we go."

"John, I donít know which of the two options you are leaning toward, but I agree with Judy," Maureen said. "We are in this together. If you feel that Earth is in danger, then we all go to give the warning and do what we can to help."



Chapter Four
Chapter One
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