A large jet car came speeding up to the launch pad and the four doors opened quickly. The familiar face of Joan Dale rose above the cabin of the limousine and asked, “Are you spacemen going my way?”
Steve, shouting above the din of a scout ship launching off of a pad about five miles away, asked, “Now, where would that be?”
“Well, first I’m going to the neuro therapy center at the infirmary to drop your cadets in on Roger Manning then I thought I’d use these two round trip tickets to Mars... if I can find a traveling companion.”
Steve jumped into the seat next to her and said. “You know... I just happen to know someone who would very much like to have dinner on Mars.”
Tom, Alfie and Astro leaped into the vehicle and enjoyed the chauffeured service as the limousine sped past the quad which was filled with a new batch of green earthworms who were trying to remember the difference between their right and left sides while being screamed at and berated by the likes of Warrant Officer Mike McKenney. The cadets were glad that they were past that part of their training, but they were also thankful that Mike and his fellow drill instructors had done their part to make them good spacemen.
Shortly after passing the north monorail platform, the luxury vehicle turned to the left and pulled up to the entrance to the infirmary. Tom, Alfie and Astro climbed out and wished Steve and Joan a good journey as they resumed their ride to the civilian spaceport that was located close to Atom City.
Upon entering the building, Tom asked a nurse for directions to the neurotherapy center.
“Are you here to see Cadet Roger Manning?”, she asked.
“Why, yes! Yes we are.”, said Tom.
“Thank goodness he’ll have someone to harass besides us!”, she quipped. Pointing down a hallway, she said, “It’s just past the second set of double doors on the right.”
Tom thanked her and the cadets bounded toward Roger’s therapy room. As they entered, they had to remove their dark glasses because the room was dimly lit. Tom’s heart skipped a beat as he saw a figure in a blue jumpsuit curled up on a bed in a corner of the room. “Roger? Is that you?”
The shape slowly stretched out to reveal the short cropped blond hair that was Roger’s fashion statement. “Tom?
The three cadets rushed over to Roger and they all embraced. Astro was crying without shame as he hugged his best friend and rocked him in his massive arms. Even Alfie had to remove his glasses and wipe his eyes as the emotions of homecoming overwhelmed him.
After the initial greetings subsided, Roger began bombarding them with questions about their whereabouts over the past several weeks. The cadets, keeping with their oaths, related a very detailed story about how they had been rushed to Callysto to protect a mining colony from ore pirates who were raiding the area. They even had the details on the final capture and disposition of the offenders and their ship. Anyone doubting the story could find corroboration in the news archives, so well had the ruse been planned.
Astro dug into his pocket and pulled out a box and thrust it under Roger’s nose. “Here, you big bag of space gas... I brought you a little something from Callysto as a remembrance. “
Roger brought his hands up and touched Astro’s. Astro dropped the box into Roger’s palm and waited for him to open it. “What is it?”, asked Roger.
Astro thought Roger was playing games with him. “It’s a crystal chronograph, Jet Wash! Anyone can see th...”. Astro was horrified to realize that, in fact, Roger could not see at all. He brought his hands up to his mouth to stifle the scream that he wanted to release as his long gone rage was reborn.
“Hey, cheer up guys!”, It isn’t so bad.. really!”
Roger swiveled around on the edge of the bed and said, “Look here! I’ve got a big room, lots of music. Doctors, nurses and all kinds of help. I even go outside once in a while to listen to the ships coming and going. It’s really pretty good!”
Astro was incapable of speaking so Tom asked, “Roger, what do the docs say about your sight?”
Roger painted on one of his famous faces and replied, “Aw! What do they know? One will come in and say that my chances are good and another one will say that they are working on a procedure that may be helpful. And on and on! I’ve learned not to count on anyone but myself. I’ll be okay! Don’t any of you worry about me.”
Astro was overcome with grief and started for the door. He reached for the handle and as he did so, the door started to swing open, seemingly on it’s own accord. He looked up from the floor and saw Sarek and Lady Amanda standing at the entrance. He cleared his head and acknowledged them.
“Ambassador, M’Lady, please come in.”
“Thank you Cadet Astro.”, said Sarek as he and Amanda entered the room.
“Who’s there?”, asked Roger.
Tom, still holding his arm around Roger, said, “These are Sarek and Amanda, members of the mining colony that we were protecting.”
Sarek strode over to Rogers side and said, “My wife and I are greatly distressed because you suffered injury from a man who was looking to steal valuables belonging to us.”
“Aw, it wasn’t your fault, sir. I was just unlucky, that’s all.”
“Nonetheless, my wife has, at her disposal, certain medical abilities. Would you mind if she examined you?”
Shrugging his shoulders, Roger said, “Sure, why not?”
Amanda sat down beside of Roger and asked him to close his eyelids. As he did so, she opened her palm to expose a small device that had a series of rapidly flashing lights swirling around it’s perimeter. She glided the instrument around Roger’s forehead and eyes for a few seconds and looked at the pattern of lights as if she were reading a coded message. She then made an adjustment to the instrument and asked Roger to lay down. After doing so, she made several more passes of the instrument around Roger’s head and continued until all of the lights were flashing in a green color.
“Cadet Manning.”, spoke Amanda, “I want you to keep your eyes closed for a few more minutes. You may feel some slight discomfort or a burning sensation. Do not be alarmed, it will pass. When the pain has subsided, you may open your eyes.”
Roger replied, “Yes, Ma’am. I’ll do as you ask.”
Without hesitation, Amanda clasped her hand around the outstretched arm of Sarek and they both silently bowed and glided out of the room.
Roger suddenly grimaced and shouted, “Oww! Hey Doc! how long did you say this would last?”
“Sorry Roger, they’re gone.”, said Tom. “They said it wouldn’t last long.”
Roger began writhing on the bed and pressed his palms against the side of his head in an effort to relieve the pain. Tom thought that he might have to call a doctor to administer a pain control medication when Roger went limp and silent.
Tom looked down at his friend and studied his face. For the first time since he had met Roger Manning, the blond cadet looked completely at ease. Suddenly his eyelids began to flutter as he struggle to open them. In the dim light of the room, Roger opened his eyelids revealing large dilated pupils. His first words were, ”Hey Junior, you need to shave!”
The four cadets rejoiced for hours as doctors and medical researchers came to the room to confirm what seemed to be a miracle recovery. As Tom, Alfa and Astro started to return to their quarters, Roger told Alfa not to get too comfortable in the room because he would be evicted as soon as Roger could be released.
Alfa said, “I don’t mind, Roger. Besides, Astro snores!”
Astro wrinkled his brow and looked at Tom. “I don’t snore! Do l?”
Tom looked at his friend and said, “Astro, for the first three weeks of our basic training, I thought they were launching ships from just outside our room!”
Everyone except Astro began laughing as they continued their exit. Tom poked his head back inside the door and told Roger that he wouldn’t see him again for two days. When Roger asked why he would be absent, Tom said, “I’ve got to go to Atom City to thank some people.... for all of us.
End Chapter - 20
|Back / Next|