Author’s Note- This Story Starts shortly after the end of the Classic Series, but the events of the film and recent rebooted series are referenced in a way.
For the second time that week, the Jupiter 2 rose from its self-forged landing site, retracting its tripod landing legs and ascending into the sky with surprising speed, leaving most of its crew complement behind on the world of ruined wrecks. But the Jupiter would be back- they all come back.
And besides, the spacecraft had only embarked on a routine orbital test flight- it wasn’t as if the JunkMan had tried to steal it again. He had more than redeemed himself, assisting in the repair, reconstruction, and even improvement of the Jupiter, utilizing components from the multitude of alien space vessels that had crashed on his world over the eons.
It’s strange, thought Major Don West, how all this alien tech fits so smoothly into our old ship…
When it set out from Earth, 4 years previously according to its faulty Atomic Clock, not accounting for the effects of relativity and space/time warp effects, the Jupiter had been the “most sophisticated piece of hardware yet devised by the mind of man”, but unbeknownst to the crew, their vehicle had in fact been based on an alien design, alien technology…
And yet still it was outdated. Even the “Space Junkyard” had more advanced ships. But after 4 years onboard, the Jupiter Crew- the Robinson family, Don West, a General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot, and the stowaway Smith, not counting the occasional hitchhiker, called the sleek saucer-shaped ship their home. Fortunately for them, the JunkMan did not feel the same way, and had instead set his sights upon a different crashed vessel. Recently crashed too, and in good condition. Don suspected that the JunkMan had lured it there, but no one else inquired about its origins.
However, one Jupiter crewmember would soon take that ship out on a mission of their own…
The Robinsons had set up camp in the JunkMan’s cavernous factory, but their living arrangements were only temporary. Once the Jupiter returned, the family would search for newer, and hopefully more hospitable worlds.
In those 4 years of on and off space travel, they had lived in many strange lands, whether aboard the Jupiter or away from it. Some places were impossibly familiar, some unimaginably strange, but others were simply dull. And the Junk Planet, despite all its hidden treasures, was quite boring for most of the family.
Judy Robinson was “admiring” the “diamonds” that Smith had rescued from incineration, while Will Robinson worked on repairing and refining the Robot. For Smith, the shiny rocks were just about the only objects of actual value around, while Judy could appreciate their beauty and unique properties.
The planet was covered in many metals from all that machinery, most of which would be much more useful than those carbonized crystals, but the glistening lattices were quite pretty.
“Here now, my dear Judy, I’ll be taking these, perhaps I can spare a small sample to construct the perfect wedding ring for you and the Major, although I’m sure he’d much rather incorporate them into the Astrogator- unlike him, Judy, you have true, refined taste…. Howsoever, I found these metallic marvels, and I shall hold on to them for the time being!”
Knowing Dr. Smith, that “perfect wedding ring” would probably explode on Don- but despite that greedy lust for riches, for the moment, his heart did seem to be in the right place- and he did have a point about Don being distant- literally, at the moment…
Smith stroked the minerals lovingly and began to scheme.
Rings… the Astrogator, ah yes, I remember now, indeed, now if I could only convince her to reset our course for Earth again- now, now, Zachary, they’ll be time for that later, no need to get ahead of yourself… a treasure, and I suppose, a family, is enough. Now I only need a proper home… oh, Clarissa…
Those were Smith’s thoughts, but he had also conceived a new name for the Robot, and that was what he preferred to voice aloud.
“Once William restores him, I must have that Dreary, Dilapidated Dunce analyze these… diamonds further- Till then, they remain with me- when the Jupiter returns, if it ever does, we can find a nice little spot for them- in my quarters, away from the Astrogator and the prying eyes of a certain…”
“Um, Dr. Smith, I don’t know if they’re diamonds or not, but maybe Will could help you right now, hmm? He’s quite the geologist, and all I know is that they look pretty, but they aren’t Deutronium, so I’m sure my parents or Don wouldn’t be interested…”
Will would have been interested in the alien “jewels”, (and in all the alien technology scattered about), but at that moment he was rather preoccupied with the still recovering Robot.
“WARNING, WARNING, MAGNETIC IMBALANCE! DANGER, DANGER! MAGNETIC IMBALANCE ON…”
The mechanical man spoke in a loud robotic monotone which was his equivalent of a raised voice, echoing through the chamber, while he spun in all directions, arms flailing wildly. Will managed to press the reset switch within a chest console, and his cybernetic friend fell silent. The boy patted him reassuringly.
“We know all about that, Robot, this whole planet is one big magnet, and you’re still not coordinated yet… don’t worry, you’ll be okay!”
The reloaded Robot spoke again, but he still didn’t seem convinced, changing the subject.
“DANGER, DANGER, JUPITER 2 DEPARTING…”
Will rolled his eyes ever so slightly. “Oh- the test flight. That’s normal too, sort of.”
“IT DOES NOT COMPUTE”
This time, it was Will who changed the subject- he and the Robot had been through quite the adventure recently, but for some reason they were not involved in the flight. In fact, Will had been trying to ignore it, out of jealously. He couldn’t see why he hadn’t gotten to go this time- just because he learned how to fly the Jupiter 2 on his own? He could still use some practice! Under normal circumstances, the Robot would have gone as well.
But the Robot needed repairing, and the others were absorbed in their own affairs- the only ones focused on the flight and its implications were John and Maureen- they may have been away from the action, but the matriarch and patriarch of the family were in the middle of an interesting, deep discussion about recent events, neither looking at the other- they both sat focused beside a portable radar computer, tracking and guiding the Jupiter 2 on its path to orbit, a makeshift mission control and relay station.
“They’re growing up so fast now, but we have to stay together, we can’t-“ Abruptly, John’s words were cut off as a message came in from the rising Jupiter.
“We’re getting a lot of cosmic interference, but still climbing steadily!” came Don’s distorted voice over the radio.
“You’re passing the point of maximum dynamic pressure now!” reported John, switching from the calm, more natural voice he used when talking to Maureen to the louder but somehow emotionless voice of a commander- but he still grasped Maureen’s hand tightly- his grip firm as always, but perhaps a bit cold and shaken. Maureen still didn’t make eye contact, but understanding passed between them.
Their previous conversation had been silenced- they could continue it later, once the family was all together and underway- but there were more immediate concerns now… of course, there always were.
Aboard the Jupiter 2, Don radioed back- “Roger, Max-Q.” Everything seemed to be going well, for the most part- a few of the new upgrades had been lost, ripped off the hull during the ascent, but the good old spaceship itself was holding together.
The Jupiter had launched via rocket thrusters, it was dangerous to operate the main magnetic drive so close to the Junk Planet, and Don was still concerned about the primary propulsion system after the explosion in the Atomizing Units, not long ago. And there was that magnetic imbalance brewing in the nebula-like “Cosmic Cloud” surrounding the planet, creating a kind of Cosmic Storm.
But this was not important now, the Major had no plans to take the ship out of orbit anyway, unless the Jupiter’s other occupant had other ideas…
Only Don and Penny were onboard now- Penny had nothing else to do on the planet, and she was the only member of the crew who had yet to learn how to fly the ship.
As much as Don hated to admit it, (and he never would) Penny was a better learner than Judy, who “never did like school.” But Don found it easier to relate to Judy, after all, they were in love, and she was an excellent pilot as well.
Penny was more of an intellectual, but she had a somewhat airy attitude and carefree nature, the polar opposite of Don’s personality. They both had dark hair and animal companions named Debbie, but that was where the similarities ended.
But while Don was oblivious to the youngest Robinson daughters’ “crush” on him, he was still ambivalent. The Atomizing Units could explode again- probably not, but still, better safe than sorry, and handing the controls over to Penny did not seem safe at all.
Then again, this wasn’t the first time she had sat in front of those controls- several years before the Jupiter launched and gotten lost, she had participated in a training exercise with Don, averting a mock disaster in the simulator, and she had performed quite well- and there was also that one time she had stolen the Chariot on a daring rescue mission, but Don had only heard stories and dubiously accurate recollections about that incident, since at the time he had been stranded in the desert in the middle of a storm, (not a Cosmic Storm, just regular, but still…), the only one not rescued.
But Penny wasn’t thinking about the past, she was concentrated on the Jupiter’s main viewport, and what lay beyond it. She hadn’t even touched any of the controls yet, but at least she was paying attention, while Don reminisced.
The blackened hue of the Junk Planet’s atmosphere faded away, and the blue brilliance of the enveloping nebula shined through the viewport. On Earth, it was the other way around, but this was a strange part of space.
Back on the planet, her parents were still worried- John and Maureen trusted Don, but in the old days, they wouldn’t have even risked him, the pilot, (who John still regarded as sort of a young sidekick) on a test flight like this, let alone one of their children. Well, there was the time Penny had saved them in the Chariot, and the time Will had saved them in the Jupiter 2, but they didn’t exactly have permission in those instances, now distant memories after all that had happened since.
John Robinson, Professor and part-time pilot, only vaguely recalled learning how to fly the ship- at the time he had been possessed by an alien intelligence who demanded lessons from Don, shortly before attempting to murder him, finally sealing the Major in a cave with Judy and Maureen and attempting to take the children with him to some distant alien planet. When the intruder had been driven from his body, John found he still retained the knowledge… and the memories.
“Major West!” It was John’s voice, his words, but there was something else behind them. Canto scanned the “Jupiter 2” spacecraft’s Upper Deck, looking right through the meager Major, a necessary obstacle. He reached out-
“What’s up, John… um, Professor Robinson, sir. Excuse me I was, uh, just going over the preflight checks as you instructed”. He seemed nervous- had he noticed? John moved closer and indicated the main controls, which Don had been leaning back against haphazardly.
“I’ve devised a new control console, it will be installed in the center of the main panel, where your pilot’s chair is normally stored. And speaking of that chair… I’d like another one replicated for me, is that clear, Major? Unless you’d rather continue sitting on those controls, like an insubordinate child!”
Don had been defiant, but he kept to himself.
“Sure John… it’s your ship after all, but I’m the pilot and…”
“Then teach me how to fly it, West. And I’ll teach you how to operate the new guidance computer system!”
“John, look, you’re still recovering from that head injury. Maybe if we…”
John advanced towards Don, and back to the present. He couldn’t afford to think about those events now. That was years ago, it wouldn’t happen again. But apparently it had, when he had been replaced by his antimatter duplicate. But he couldn’t keep looking back to the past, he had to concentrate, this was an exciting mission- a younger John would have been so proud… my own daughter, flying the Jupiter!, but after so much, he just wanted his family to be safe.
A light flashed and the radar display changed- John looked down- the computer station he and Maureen were sitting at was based on the same design that Canto had created….
“They made it!” said John, perhaps a bit too dramatically, and Maureen let out an audible sigh of relief. They took their hands off the console and held them together, watching the tiny blip on the radar screen begin to circle the planet. Maureen smiled (“Oh, John!”), but she remained worried. Although her husband was with her now, she still thought back to that time when it seemed as if he and Don were gone, stranded in space after a very similar test flight- she had taken a detour in the Jupiter 2 to rescue them, but this time there was no other Jupiter left to spare, only the JunkMan’s new ship, parked outside. And her daughter was out there…
More recently, when Smith and the JunkMan had tried to steal the Jupiter, Maureen herself had been aboard, hiding on the Lower Deck, while the others had split up searching the planet. In the end, Will had flown up to the Jupiter and saved the day, and she had felt guilty ever since… she could have intervened, if only she had known…
The Jupiter 2 was kind of like Maureen’s extra child, after all, she had been critical in its construction, but she valued the safety of her biological children above all others- she had always felt like more of a biochemist than an engineer, but what really drove her was that motherly love… she wished she could be up there again.
Although both of the Robinson parents had participated in the Jupiter 2’s design, at the start of the mission the only one capable of properly piloting it had been Don “Crash” West- whether he piloted it well was another matter. But according to the original mission profile, he wouldn’t have had to do much piloting at all- the Inertial Guidance System and Astrogator automatic pilot would do all the work, Don was only there in case something went wrong.
More than a few things had, but those particular mishaps could not be blamed on the Major. Now they were lost, and in the years since, John, Maureen, Judy, Will, the Robot, and even Dr. Smith had been taught the intricacies of the Jupiter 2 by Don, or figured it out for themselves in the case of that troublesome trinity, Smith, Will, and the Robot. Now, after possessing the Robot’s memory banks, even the JunkMan knew how, so it was about time that Penny learned as well.
While Penny was absorbed in the beauty of the scene outside the viewport, Don was absorbed in the beauty of the consoles and controls below it, the flashing lights, screens and scopes that once only he had understood.
“So, the green buttons here control acceleration, and the red buttons on the other panel are for deceleration- except for this one, that launches the hyperatomic rocket missiles, but usually that’s covered, and it isn’t really a button, it’s a joystick, anyway…”
It all seemed very simple (That particular instrument was even labeled). “Okay” said Penny, continuing to stare off into space.
“Alright, great!” Don replied awkwardly. “Now that we’re in orbit, I’ll show you the Astrogator operations”
He unstrapped his flight harness and drifted across the deck, towards the Astrogator in the center of the Control Room. Actually, Penny knew all about how this important instrument operated, although it had been modified with new technology from the Junk Planet. A blue holographic display of the surrounding stars and systems lit up within the great transparent dome, while Don looked at a smaller star map along the device’s rim. The last time Penny had studied these astral charts, she was with Judy, only a short time ago…
“Why didn’t Dad select this galaxy? Look, it’s much closer...” Penny had said- technically, it was a star system, not a galaxy, but her point was still the same.
“True, but the chances of finding an advanced civilization in any of these small worlds is pretty slim…” her sister had replied. As it turned out, all the civilizations in that system had destroyed themselves, and the Jupiter 2 crew hadn’t had much better luck since… first the fire beings, then the plant beings, and now the Junk Planet. But even then, Penny was bored, and had admitted her desire to return to Earth.
“All of us feel the same way, Penny.”
“Yeah, but we’re so close!”
“Oh sure we are… just 10 million miles away, give or take a few million!”
The Jupiter crew finally had a good idea of their location in space, even if they were actually much further than that…
“…But let’s not rush things- we’ll get home. You know the old Chinese proverb- “A Journey of a Thousand Miles Starts with One Step…”
“We’ll lock on to the Cygnus Nebula again.” said Don- this time Penny was the one reminiscing, still sitting mesmerized by the much closer Cosmic Cloud of a nebula.
“Now, that’s a recognizable stellar landmark- it’s still pretty far away, but if we can get a fix on it, we’ll finally be able to plot our position exactly!”
And hopefully history won’t repeat itself, he thought, recalling that OTHER time, when Penny had reset the Astrogator to take them back to Earth, influenced by Dr. Smith, of course. “I touched that thing, that knob…” She hadn’t been thinking about that instance, but Don knew her feelings on the matter- Judy had told him about their more recent conversation.
Now Penny turned excitedly. “But not today…” sighed Don anticlimactically. “No, today we’ve gotta stay in this orbit…”. She looked back towards the viewport and studied the planet below.
The Junk Planet reminded Penny of a cross between the Earth and the Moon- gray, cratered and pockmarked, but with a blue beauty that was not apparent from the wasteland surface. And there were volcanos, and lava, and constant impacts… more like the Earth billions of years ago, when it was young. But this world gave the impression of being at the end of its life, rather than the beginning. She couldn’t wait to leave forever.
“This is Penny Robinson, the intrepid young space pilot?” Penny dictated into her diary/archiver tape recorder device. “Here we are on the Jupiter 2, and these are the controls!”
“Hey, isn’t that my job?” said Don- he essentially doing the same thing, checking off a long list on an old-fashioned clipboard while staring at the Astrogator’s complicated components.
“And here is Don West, the dashing pilot of…”
“Dashing?” he laughed, finding it hard to concentrate on the actual navigation.
“So yeah, usually this is when the ship goes out of control and we crash! Or something goes wrong, like it always seems to on the Jupiter 2, our home away from home, or…”
Right on cue, there was a flash of light in the distance. “Ooh, cosmic lightning!”
“It’s probably just more falling space junk…” Don strode over to the analyzer near the viewport. A large view-plate lit up with a close-up recording of the recent disturbance.
“Well, I’ll be, it is ‘cosmic lightning’. But it’s far in the distance, don’t worry. Still, I’d better warn the ground, just so they don’t think that big flash was us blowing up!”
Don reached for the main intercom- the cosmic interference was too strong, he couldn’t contact base. But he pretended to, for Penny’s sake, he didn’t want to scare her. But perhaps it would be better to abort the mission and try again later, if that magnetic imbalance became a Cosmic Storm…
“I am so happy to hear that they have achieved a stable orbit!” said the JunkMan, entering the Robinsons’ camp. John and Maureen were less enthusiastic. Since they had all been hanging out in the cave, no one had seen the flash from the sky, but something had shown up on the radar, and the parents were naturally concerned. And Dr. Smith, Judy, Will and the Robot had made a separate but surprising discovery…
“Ah, Mr. JunkMan” said John. “I don’t believe we’ve talked much before, but we’re having a problem here. We can’t reach our spaceship- the communications system was working fine, despite the magnetic shifts, then it just cut out. I can’t understand it!” John didn’t trust the mysterious metallic man, but he tried to remain calm.
“Well, we have to reach them, somehow- Maybe a signal fire, like the one you and Don used when this exact same thing happened to you, John…” Maureen suggested.
Surprisingly, Smith stepped forward.
“I have a BETTER idea!”
“Actually, Dr. Smith, it was my idea…”. Judy came from behind, followed by Will and the Robot.
“We helped!” said Will.
A short time later, Don and Penny sat side by side on the Upper Deck. “We’ll land once the storm has subsided”. Penny was busy reading a book, an old copy of Moby Dick- Don had taught her about as much as he could about flying the Jupiter 2, but he was afraid to touch the controls- a crash landing did seem likely, with all those electrical discharges messing up their instruments, and debris colliding all around them. But space was surprisingly tranquil- as Penny had once pointed out, it really did look like the Jupiter was standing still. Naturally, Don felt restless- while Penny had danced around the decks in the reduced gravity conditions before immersing herself in a fictional world, Don wouldn’t be at home until they were really flying again.
Suddenly, as if there wasn’t enough drama already, a strange blip appeared on a side radar screen. Penny was the first to notice.
“There’s something on the scanner!”
“Oh, just more junk, don’t worry, it won’t hit us…” Don called out nonchalantly.
That’s what he said about the lightning… thought Penny. It could just as easily be a space whale!
“Can I try the space harpoon on it, then?”
If it was some kind of space whale, she would want to help it, but if it was a piece of alien wreckage, maybe Don would want it brought aboard…
“It’s called a rocket-gun, Penny, and didn’t we just talk about the rockets?”
“Mom calls it a harpoon…”
Once again, Penny knew how to operate that device as well, but it would be fun to try it again. But whatever the object was would be gone by now- maybe next time. She returned to reading, but out of the corner of her eye, the small, blinking bright speck still arched across the monitor. And yet out the viewport, the sky was clear-no more flashes of light or collisions…
“Oh my- it’s a missile!” yelled Don.
“Oh no! Is it heading straight for us?” Penny had expected something to go wrong, but now she was actually scared.
“Yeah it is.” said Don grimly, looking out the viewport, where something was approaching from the planet’s surface. Several smaller rockets launched from the mysterious “missile”- they reminded Penny of fireworks, but she knew that they in fact spelled certain doom for the Jupiter 2!
TO BE CONTINUED!
This story is inspired by the cast, crew, and classic creation of LOST IN SPACE, which is the property of Legend Pictures, no copyright infringement is intended.
Many episodes are referenced, including the new ones from the reboot. One sequence is taken directly from the classic episode “The Flaming Planet” by Barney Slater- as you can probably tell, that excellent dialogue was not written by me!
The concept of Penny and Don having trained together in the simulator prior to launch was inspired by the Lost Back Story fanfiction by Chewie-Fan.
Thank you to TFALokiwriter for all the support!