“Nights through dreams, tell the myths forgotten by the day.”
- Carl Jung
The Robinsons were gathered around the console on the flight deck, watching the Space Pod disappear into the wormhole, carrying Will away.
“Hang on!” Don shouted. “We’re being pulled in.”
“Hitting full thrusters!” John yelled.
The family was thrown to the rear of the flight deck as the Jupiter fought the gravity of the wormhole. Robot rolled back into the astrogator, spun off and crashed into Dr. Smith who screamed in a high pitched voice. Smith had found the best way to quickly slip back into character was with a panic stricken scream. And after his calm, decisive instructions they all had witnessed as he directed Will in the steps the boy needed to take to save his life, not to mention telling Don to shut the fuck up and sit back down, Smith thought he might need to re-balance the foundation of their relationship. Be the coward. Always the coward. This was his mantra. This was his secret to survival.
Maureen was holding on to Penny while gripping the semi-circular railing of the elevator. Judy was holding on to the ladder rungs with both hands as John and Don struggled with the spaceship.
Finally, the Jupiter 2 circled the outer edge of the wormhole, the ship turning around and around as the centrifugal force spun it counter clockwise. John looked through the glass into the center of the vortex as they spun by. The Space Pod was gone, and inside it looked as if it were the center of a cyclone, sucking up anything close enough to be caught into the gravitational pull. For half a heartbeat, the scientist overtook the protective father in him, and he wondered at the technology they had designed to do what he thought was impossible.
Finally the ship was on the other side and leveling out. Doctor Smith made the mistake of being the first to talk. “I commend your piloting skills, Major West,” he said.
John was out of his seat and on Smith before anyone knew what was happening. His first punch glanced off Smith’s head as the Doctor turned to deflect the power of it. Smith slipped a left hook then realized he was showing his cards. Something he could never do. He steeled himself and took the next one between the eyes and was lifted in the air and knocked a meter across the deck. The last thing he thought before blacking out was, this job never paid enough.
Don and Maureen and the girls pulled John off Doctor Smith before any significant damage could be done. John’s face was red, his fists doubled up as he stood over the unconscious doctor. “John, it’s okay,” Maureen said. “It’s okay.”
Don was holding his arms, as Maureen and Judy pushed on his chest. John looked around at his family. He was embarrassed for just a second. He seldom lost it. But he could still hear his son’s final words, “Goodbye everyone,” as the boy choked on tears while he was pulled into the wormhole, leaving his family behind. For all his comforting words to Will, telling him they would find a way to get him back, John was certain he would never see his son again. And he knew he would never forget those final words, “Goodbye everyone.” And for just a few seconds, for everything they had put up with from Smith for the last four years, nothing felt better than his fist hitting the man between the eyes.
But now he knew it was time to control himself. There were decisions to be made. “I’m fine,” he said, “I’m fine.” They could feel him calm down as his shoulders relaxed.
John turned and looked out the window at the empty space ahead of them.
“What do you think, Doc?” Don asked.
John stood for a few seconds without answering. He had no idea how to go about getting Will back. The Jupiter 2 would never make it through the wormhole, and he didn’t understand the science behind it anyway. He couldn’t risk taking the rest of the family into it, even if there was a way.
“We have to go back to the planet,” Penny said.
They all turned and looked at her. “It’s our only chance to get Will back,” She added. “They created this. They have to help us.”
“But Penny, they caused this,” Don said. “Everything that happened.”
“Yes. But they aren’t bad people,” She replied. “They’re just…lost…like Will said.”
“Lost?” Judy asked.
“Yes. Will said we had been lost for four years, but we’re lucky because we have each other. I knew what he meant. We’re going to Alpha Centauri. Starting a new life. Even just looking for Alpha Centauri gives us a purpose. But what do they have? They live forever. They have nowhere to go. The only thing keeping them going is the hope that someday they can be normal. They have to help us figure out a way to get Will back. Marti will help. She likes Will. They like each other. She’s a good person.”
“I don’t know if Penny’s right,” John said, “But we don’t have many choices. Let’s turn around Don. But first let’s get Smith to his room. And he’s not leaving it.” He turned and looked at Robot. “You’re to be on guard outside his door at all times.”
“Yes, Professor Robinson,” Robot said.
While John and Don dragged Dr. Smith to the elevator, Judy watched Penny turn and walk to the ladder and climb down it without another word. She waited a while, then went down to the lower deck and stopped outside her sister’s room. She started to knock, but then she heard Penny crying.
She paused, thought about giving her some time, then called, “Penny?”
She heard Penny’s cries stop. Then her voice, “yes.”
“You okay?” Judy asked.
When there was no answer, Judy pushed the folding door open a crack and said, “Can I come in Penny?”
There were a few seconds of silence, then Penny said, “Yes.”
Judy walked in and saw Penny was lying face down on her bed, her face in her pillow. Judy walked over and sat on the bed beside her sister and put her hand on her shoulder. Penny had started crying again and Judy didn’t say anything for a few minutes, she just kept her hand on her and gave her time.
Neither girl heard Maureen when she came to the door. Their mother started to go in the room, but when she saw Judy there, sitting next to Penny with her hand on her sister’s shoulder, Maureen stopped and backed away. They’re getting older, she thought. And they will be able to take care of each other if they need to. She walked back to her room where she knew John was.
Finally Penny had stopped crying. Her head was still in her pillow and she was sniffling. She turned over slowly and looked up at her sister. “He told me I was his best friend.”
Judy just looked at her for a second. “You are his best friend, Penny.”
“No. I haven’t been. I’ve been horrible to him.”
“It’s true, Judy. When we were younger we were so close. We did everything together. But not lately. Not for a few years.”
“But Penny, it’s normal. Kids go through changes and drift apart.”
“But I know what happened. I got older. I thought of boys and all of that before he was thinking of girls and things other than playing chess and stuff. And we started getting further apart. But when I started going through that, you were there. And we became close. But then when Will started getting older, I noticed he was different. He was changing. It was just little things at first. Like if he was going to the galley he asked if I wanted anything. And he would just ask me what I was reading sometimes. Even if he wasn’t interested, he just wanted to talk to me. Be friends, I guess. But I always blew him off. I didn’t really need that, because I had you. To me he was still an eleven year old boy. Kind of annoying. But he wasn’t anymore. He was thirteen and then fourteen, dealing with all the shit I went through at that age.”
“I just need you to listen to me right now, okay?”
“Okay, Penny.” Judy knew she was right. She needed to talk.
“I wanted to stay on the planet, Judy. It wasn’t like you, when whatever they gave you made you forget us completely. I knew who you were. Who my family was. Who Will was. I mean, my mind wasn’t completely clear, but I still knew who everyone was. And still I would have stayed. But Will came and found me. And when I told him I wasn’t leaving he said he would stay with me. That eventually, when all the new wore off, I would need my family, and they would be gone. But he would be there. Even if it was just the two of us.”
Now she started crying again, and Judy almost lost it too. She rubbed Penny’s arm to comfort her, but she didn’t say anything. She knew Penny wasn’t done talking.
“He did that, Judy. He came after me, knowing that you were leaving and he might be left behind, and then when I refused to go, he said he was going to stay. If he hadn’t done that he would be here safe with his family. And I would still be on the planet. But he would be right. Eventually I would have wanted my family and they wouldn’t be there. But Will stopped all that. When we were there and I was refusing to leave, he told me I was his best friend. And all I could think was, I hadn’t been his friend at all in a long, long time.”
She paused and wiped her eyes and Judy took a tissue from a box on the bed stand and handed it to her.
“But to Will I was still his best friend. He never forgot how we were when we were younger, even though I did. And he said he missed that. I was so terrible to him, Judy.” She looked up at the ceiling. “And now he’s gone.” Then she was crying again.
After a while she stopped and just looked at the ceiling.
Judy finally felt her sister had gotten enough of it off her chest. “Penny, its normal to regret things, but I haven’t been a good sister either. We’re girls…with everything that goes with that. So it’s a little harder for us to think about what Will was going through, but now as you talk about it, I can think of so many things I could have done better. I mean, I had so many friends when I was his age. And we talked about everything. Me and my friends. Everyone mentions the talk you’re supposed to have with your parents, but is that even a thing anymore? I mean, I heard everything from my friends. And you have always had me. But Will had Doctor Smith and Robot.
“I mean, Dad is great, but I just can’t imagine Will wanting to discuss feelings with him.” Both girls laughed. “And Will could talk to mom about anything, but she’s still his mother, you know?”
“Yeah,” Penny said.
Judy was quiet for a few minutes. Finally she said, “You know, I thought I was going to come in here and cheer you up, but now I just feel guilty.” Penny could see the sadness in her eyes.
“I’m sorry Judy. You’re a great sister. I didn’t mean to drag you into my drama.”
“I think that’s the problem. I think we need to look at it differently. You’re worried about your drama. Like its your’s and your’s alone. But it isn’t. You and I have been going along like we are still back on Earth. But we aren’t. We need to take care of each other. You and me and Will. I think Will started seeing that the last couple years as he got older. Maybe he was actually maturing faster than either of us did at his age. Which makes sense. He was barely ten years old when we left Earth. He had to mature faster than either of us did at that age.”
“I did think Will had a problem with you the last year,” Penny said. “He didn’t seem to want to be around you much. And when he was he seemed like he was mad at you a lot. Did you notice that?”
“Yeah, but I understood. He’s getting older and dealing with growing pains. I think he was a little jealous that you and I got closer.”
Judy didn’t tell her what she really thought. That what had happened to her and Will on a strange planet they had landed on the year before had affected him deeply. And that her brother blamed himself and this was his way of dealing with it. “Let’s get him back then promise each other we will do better,” she said. “We’ll take care of each other. The three of us.”
She leaned over and hugged her sister. When she raised up, Penny smiled. “Thanks Judy. You really helped me.”
Judy stood. “I’m going up to the flight deck. You going to be Okay?”
“Yeah. We are going to find Will aren’t we?”
“Yes,” Judy said, firmly. She smiled and walked out.
“John, you alright?” Maureen asked, as she entered their cabin. Her husband was sitting at the desk. It looked like he was just thinking.
“Yeah, Maureen. I’m sorry. I kind of lost it there with Doctor Smith.”
“No need to apologize, he’s been asking for that. I think you surprised him.”
“You know Maureen, he sort of surprised me too. I’ve been in a few fights in my life, and I could swear Smith knew what he was doing.”
“Well, he didn’t know it very well, the way you knocked him out.”
“Maybe. But when I threw the first punch I was going to stop there, until it glanced off him. And for a second I thought it was just a bad punch, but he completely slipped the next one. I mean, he was standing there with his hands at his sides, not raising them to protect himself, and I threw two punches at him that didn’t even really touch him. I don’t remember that ever happening.”
“Well, three’s a charm,” Maureen said.
“Yeah…but. I could have sworn he just took it. He acted like he was so surprised the first two didn’t land that he just stood there looking at me half a second too long. But I saw him close his eyes, preparing to take the hit. I think maybe he knows a bit more about how to fight than we give him credit for. Maybe the good doctor is a little more than we think he is.”
“What would that mean, John?”
“If we spent almost four years completely convinced he is a coward, only to find out he isn’t…it would make him a very dangerous man.”