“How are we gonna find them?”
“We’ll think of something.”
They’ve been trying to find their children for months now.
Not just John and Maureen, along with Don West, who’s become a permanent fixture in their lives living together with them on their Jupiter 2, along with his chicken, but other parents too. Six Jupiters in total. That is, all the ones that have been outfitted with a stolen robot engine, giving them the speed and power to travel across the universe for an extended length of time.
Maybe stolen isn’t the right word, John thinks. The engines they have were hard fought for, in unwanted battles with the robot ships that had left behind casualties and injuries.
He’s grateful to have it, because it gives them a means to search for their children, but if he could bring back the lives lost in exchange for not having them, he’d do it in a heartbeat. Victor Dhar’s wife was one of the casualties. He can’t imagine what it must be like for Victor, searching for his son while knowing that when he finds him, he’ll have to tell him that his mother is gone.
John absentmindedly runs a hand over his thigh, over the sunflower-shaped electrical scar, a reminder of a brutal fight with one of the robots. It’s his second one and he hopes it’s the last. It itches all the time, even with that thick, sticky balm he applies to it every morning.
But he’s grateful for that too, because he’d jumped in front of Maureen just in the nick of time. If he hadn’t she’d be the one bearing the scar, or worse, and that would’ve hurt him a helluva lot more.
John sees that she’s observing it now as he steps into the garage. He sees her studying that blue pulsating mass with its countless tendrils, dotted with hundreds of tiny lights. He has a rudimentary knowledge of how rocket engines work – he knows about thrusts and combustion chambers, pumps and fuel tanks and the need for an oxidizer to mix with the fuel, but this…this thing, he doesn’t even try to grasp it. It has a mind of its own and will often shut down when they least expect it.
He watches Maureen’s face as she focuses on a single tendril extending from its main bulk.
Of course she does try to understand it and he marvels at her perseverance. That and her unwavering faith that she will figure it out.
He doesn’t doubt it. She’s the smartest person he knows.
“Hey,” Maureen looks up at him when she sees him approach. And she’s smiling. “I think I may have had a breakthrough.”
She’s kneeling beside the engine and a computer monitor that is….tracking something. John’s not sure what exactly.
He squats down next to her. “Tell me.”
“Do you see these indentations on the wire?”
John squints. He sees markings of a sort, running parallel to the lights. “Yeah…”
“I think I figured out what they are.” Her face lights up when she turns to him. Her excitement is palpable. Right now, she reminds him of Will, after he’s figured out how to assemble a particularly difficult model. They’re so alike, in so many ways, mother and son, each with their own boundless curiosity. “They represent the other engines. They’re all connected, John! Think about it, how else did they know to come after us, first on the Resolute, then on our Jupiter?”
“You’re saying each individual engine can be tracked?”
“I think so.”
He struggles to contain his excitement. “You think you can figure how to track the engine on the children’s Jupiter?”
“I…” She hesitates and then raises her chin, casting off the doubt that crept in for an instant. Shaking it off as if needing to remind herself that if anyone can, she can. “I don’t how yet…but yeah, I think I can.”
He’s grinning too now – because the thought of seeing his children again floods his heart with joy - and he cups her face in his hands, before leaning in to kiss her. “You’re amazing.”
After everything they’ve been through, she always finds a way to give him hope.