Planet of Freedom
Chapter Five - Revelations at Wereeshen
Their take-off was flawless, and soon the ship was once again among the bright vault of stars. After submitting the coordinates and typing them in as a backup, John gave the signal to Don. The pilot hit the hyperdrive activation switch and the bright stars flowed and coalesced together in the rainbow kaleidoscope they had come to know so well before their sojourn on Karturm.
Judy complained about the fuss being made over her by Maureen, but it was quite obvious that the young mother was relieved by the clean bill of health that had followed the check up. "Mom and baby made it through take-off and hyperdrive transition with flying colors," Maureen announced brightly.
Don proceeded to kiss not only his wife, but also his mother-in-law. "Thank you, Maureen," he murmured.
"Thank God, Don. I just told you the facts," Maureen answered with great feeling.
During the first day after take-off, everyone was restless and not sure what to do with themselves, but within another dayís time, the routine had returned to shipboard norm. The new parents-to-be utilized the extra time in pilot simulation and preparing the extra cabin for the baby. John noticed that in the simulations, Judy was becoming quite accomplished and surmised that soon Don would be turning the controls over to her periodically.
With pleasure, he noted that Will and Penny were developing a proficiency on the computers that was uncanny. His son was able to program the navigational computer almost as fast and skillfully as he could. Maureen spent more time upgrading the sensors and the computer programs that ran them. It was almost as though everyone felt a sense of urgency to develop all the skills they needed to run the ship, and while it was only what John felt had been needed anyway; he was still a bit disturbed by the reason it was occurring.
On the sixth day, the hyperdrive unit chimed the impending return to normal space. The lizards disappeared down the stairwell with a flash of gossamer wings. It seemed that the transitions were felt more by the lizards than the humans.
When the transition to normal space was completed, an audible gasp was heard from the entire family. The stars were not only more numerous, but in some places clustered to give the appearance of huge gas giants. So bright were some that John gave an order to darken the observation window. "Wow, Dad! This is even more spectacular than I remembered," Will exclaimed.
John ordered up the planetary schematic for the nearest system and found, by virtue of the improved long-range sensors, an inhabited planet. Laying in a course, he leaned back and sighed. "Well, in a couple of days, weíll be able to tell if I was right about this invasion. I pray that Iím not."
Within a day the Jupiter II was in orbit around the inhabited planet. Other approaching space vessels told them that this was not a backward planet, but apparently one that was important to many space-faring civilizations. John was feeling more confident that this was, indeed, Wereeshen.
"This is the Jupiter II of Karturm, requesting clearance to land at your spaceport." John announced, establishing contact with the planet below. Don gave him a questioning glance, but said nothing.
"Jupiter II; what is the racial makeup of your crew, so that we may better accommodate you?" a voice returned shortly.
"Human; Homo Sapiens to be precise," he answered. "I am John Robinson, commander of the Jupiter II colonization and exploration mission. May we have permission to land, please?"
"Of course, Commander Robinson. We are sending the coordinates to your computer. Please acknowledge when received."
After the figures were loaded into the computer and he and Don checked them for landing, he re-established contact with the spaceport. Soon the space ship was resting on a landing pad not too far from what appeared to be some sort of terminal. After checking the air and finding it suitable, the ramp was lowered. When he walked down, John was greeted by several diminutive creatures, their pipe-stem legs and arms, round heads and cylindrical torsos covered in a furry sort of down. Even to the bulbous eyes and hooked noses, they closely fit the description that Will had given of the librarian. He felt a surge of triumph, realizing that he had guessed right.
"Welcome to Wereeshen, sir. Do I have the pleasure of addressing Commander Robinson?" the first little alien asked. John noticed that translating devises were attached to belts around their hostsí waists.
"Yes, I am John Robinson and we are here to do some research at your library facility," he told the welcoming committee. "My son teleported here some months ago and did initial research. I was impressed by the amount of information he gathered and wanted to make some additional inquiries."
"Yes, Wereeshen is the repository of the greatest collection of information in the galaxy," the alien said proudly. "Please follow me. Minor formalities must be attended to. How many are there in your group?
"Six, plus nine indigenous Karturmese," John answered and as if in confirmation Silverado flitted down the ramp and landed on his shoulder, chirping softly in his ear. "This is one of the Karturmese," he added. With a quick mental command, John sent the little lizard back to the space ship.
The alien leader peered at the flutter-dragon, bowed and gestured for them to follow. The Robot raised the ramp after they had left.
John noticed that this part of Wereeshen was very urban. A large city enclosed the spaceport on all sides, but the amethyst sky seemed to hold no hint of any pollution, and the air smelled fresh. The gravity was a bit lighter than Earth norm, but not enough to cause any problems in walking. The yellow-orange sun was bright in the afternoon sky, which was a good thing, as the air had a tinge of coolness to it.
Within two hours of their landing, John and Will found themselves at the entrance of the Wereeshen library, translators already provided and clipped at their sides. Without hesitation, Will led his father up the stairs and to the main desk. Not knowing the Wereeshen people well enough to tell them apart, he simply asked the librarian behind the desk for Shrooon.
"Will Robinson, you have returned!" Shrooon exclaimed. "And you have brought another human with you." Shrooonís head craned upward in order to look John in the face. "I had no idea that humans came so large." John smiled at the little alienís comment.
"Shrooon, this is my father, Doctor John Robinson," Will said by way of introduction.
"Ah, welcome, Dr. John Robinson. It was not known to me that Will was a young one, being the only Earth human I had met," Shrooon said. "You are to be congratulated, being father to one so interested in learning."
"Yes, Shrooon, I am very proud of my son, and we have both come to find more star charts and learn more about other races."
"Very good, we have much about both. And we edited and posted your comments about your home planet, Will. Several patrons have expressed interest and looked at that disk," Shrooon commented.
"Would one of those patrons have been Graxod?" John asked bluntly.
Shrooon looked at John for a brief moment before answering. Looking at his data pad, he finally nodded. "Yes....how do you wish to be addressed, Dr. John Robinson?"
"John is sufficient," he said, pondering the continued interest of the Graxod in Earth. "I am interested in the Graxod. May I look at disks which give history, physiology and sociology of these people?" Shrooon nodded and beckoned to John to follow him. "Will, I want you to find the quickest route from here to Earth while I work on getting information on the Graxod."
Settling John down at a computer station, Shrooon proceeded to show him how to call up the information that he desired. John pulled out the empty disk he had brought with him and slipped it into the slot. "Shrooon, thank you for your help, but may I ask one quick question before you return to your station?"
"Certainly, John," Shrooon answered.
"How long ago did the Graxod patron call up the information on Earth that Will left?"
Tapping a few keys on Johnís computer brought up a series of figures. "Six days ago," Shrooon answered.
"Thank you, Shrooon. I appreciate your help," John answered. "Computer, show me data on Graxod history, last hundred years, translated." Immediately the information began parading across the screen, narrative in English accompanying the pictures. As the Wereeshen librarian started to leave, John turned with one more question. He could see that there would be massive amounts of information which he wouldnít be able to remember in one sitting, but this information would mean nothing if the English narrative wasnít included on any copies he made. After being assured that it would be, John turned back to the monitor and continued listening to the recent history of the Graxod.
And the more that John saw and heard, the more disturbed he became. Frowning, he realized that he was entirely right in his earlier assessments, these people were out for conquest. Sighing, he stretched his long legs, leaned back in the chair and settled himself in for the long haul.
Several hours later, Will approached, disk in hand. "Got the information, Dad. Star charts for every jump between here and Earth. Actually, our detour here isnít going to take any more time than the original flight would have been. That should make Don feel a bit better."
Pausing the program, John stiffly pulled himself out of the chair, which obviously had been made for beings a bit smaller than himself. "Wonderful, Will. Iíd been hoping that would be the case. Let me save what Iíve found so far, and weíll take this to the Jupiter II. Iím going to get a quick bite and then come back. Iím saving everything I can find, but want to look over as much as we can before leaving tomorrow. Maybe you and the rest can do some sight-seeing."
"Then you were right, Dad?" Will asked seriously.
"Afraid so, son," he answered.
Several hours later John was again in front of a computer station looking over more information on the Graxod. It seemed that much of the data was submitted by non-Graxod, some of it from victims of their conquests. He was shocked that no one had formed a coalition to stop the invaders. Silverado squeaked softly in his ear. This time, when he had come back, the tiny lizard had refused to stay in the Jupiter II.
Now he was looking at a disk on the social order of the Graxod and noted that almost all facets of the Graxodiansí lives were bound by military protocol. Even the childrenísí play was geared to future battles and military action.
But the most interesting custom that he found was a ceremony called the Womgrantiod, in which high ranking officers were able to achieve rank and honor. It was a battle to the death and sounded very much like the old Earth custom of dueling, which was now almost extinct. It always included a saber-like sword called a plantiod-crinth, but apparently other weapons could be used along with the sword. As an avid fencer, this custom interested him and small ideas began forming in the back of his mind.
Silverado squeaked in alarm and wrapped his tail around his neck tight enough to cause discomfort. John gently unwound the lizardís appendage and picking him up, rubbed him under the chin. "Itís going to be all right," he said softly before placing the flutter-dragon back up on his shoulder. John sincerely hoped he was right, because what he was learning wasnít filling him with a great deal of optimism.
Next John looked into the actual physiology of these creatures and gasped in shock, finally understanding their need for invasion and conquest. In a state of physical decadence, the Graxod needed the bodies of their victims in order to survive. Some sort of radiation sickness had caused an immuno-deficiency in their own systems, and the Graxod turned to other compatible humanoid races for organ replacement, even to the most extreme extent of using the victimís whole body, with only the Graxod brain remaining from the original organism.
Apparently, the Graxod were also very prolific. With so many replaced body parts, he wondered how and by careful reading understood and was amazed. Protein tanks and artificial insemination. Natural reproduction had ended hundreds of years previously. John shook his head, appalled that all scientific study was geared to military conquest and superiority, without any thought to solving their raceís health problems. At all costs, these Graxod had to be stopped.
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