“We were driven completely out of our course; no conjecture could be formed as to our whereabouts. The crew had lost heart and were utterly exhausted by incessant labor.”
- Johann Wyss -The Swiss Family Robinson
“Explain the science, Bartholomew,” John said. They were back on the planet with the children who never aged, sitting around a table in what they had been told was the “Science Center.” It was one of the metal buildings set apart from the others. They had not been to this building when they were on the planet before. Only Doctor Smith was absent, as he was still banished to his room and handcuffed to his bed, despite his protests. Robot was on guard outside his door.
Bartholomew and Marti were both sitting at the table, along with another teenager. His name was Edgar. He was slightly overweight, wore thick glasses, and his clothes were unkempt. They had not seen him when they were here before. He seldom left the Science Center, Marti had explained.
Bartholomew was scowling, and offering little to the conversation.
“I’m sure you would not be capable of understanding how it works, even if I explained it to you,” Edgar answered. “You come from a very primitive society.”
John looked at Major West, who just sighed. “Well, try Edgar. We’ll see if we can keep up.”
“Edgar,” Marti said, “Explain it to them, please.”
“In primitive terms,” Bartholomew added with a sneer.
“Alright. Well, you call them wormholes. And your civilization has never been able to prove whether they exist or not.”
“True,” John said. “Einstein proposed the theory. We thought if we found them or created them, there was a possibility we could travel from one point to the next, at the speed of light.”
“Yes,” Edgar agreed. “Well, they exist. They cannot be created, or at least we never found a way to create them…”
“Too primitive?” Don asked.
The boy just ignored him. “But we discovered they do exist, at a quantum level. Connecting one particle to another, even light years apart.”
“Which is why some particles seem to be entangled, replicating every movement of each other,” John said. “Something Einstein called spooky action at a distance. He never understood why it happened.”
“Yes,” Edgar agreed.
“I’m lost,” Penny said.
“If you look at photons…wait…,” Edgar stopped, trying to simplify it. “If you look at very small light particles, they are all individuals. But occasionally, one of them splits, and you have two particles instead of one. These two particles may travel light years apart, and have no contact with each other, but they behave as if they do. We discovered it's because they are connected by wormholes.
“So, we look at the light particles, observe all of the entangled particles, and if one of its opposites is close enough that we can physically travel to it, we go there in our Scouts. Small one or two person spaceships. The opening near us is point A. To get to Earth, we found an entangled light particle near it, and one near this planet. The one just outside Earth's atmosphere is point B. So this is where the wormhole was. The wormhole connected the two.”
“But they are too small for anything to travel through them,” Marti added. “We have to expand them and keep them open.”
“With exotic matter,” Don said. “You discovered a way to produce exotic matter.”
“Yes.” Edgar looked at Penny. “There are four kinds of matter. Solids, liquids, gases and plasma. We created a fifth type of matter. You call it exotic matter. With classical matter, If you push it, it will go away from you. But exotic matter will go toward you when you push on it. It operates the opposite of matter.
“So we used it to stretch the wormhole, and hold it open. Gravity is pushing the wormhole together; exotic matter pushes it open. The balance between the two keeps it from closing for a while. How long is really hard to determine. Some stay open for a few days or weeks, some for a few months, but eventually they close again, or go back to their quantum size.”
“How did you produce it?” Don asked.
“Our Scouts have lasers on them. We launch a tiny chip packed with atoms into the wormhole, then hit it with a laser beam. The result is the creation of exotic matter, pushing out and expanding the wormhole. We can only make them large enough for small vessels to pass through. We put a laser on your pod, and set the automatic pilot to travel to point A, just outside our planet’s atmosphere, and launched the atom chip, then hit it with the laser. We used Doctor Smith’s coordinates for Earth for the pod to land in the ocean.”
“Smith knew what coordinates to give you for that?” Don asked.
“Yes. He knew he would be unconscious when it landed and wanted it to land in the Pacific Ocean.”
John and Maureen shared a glance. They were beginning to see Dr. Smith in a different light.
“And you think it did land there?” Judy asked, thinking about her brother.
“It did,” Edgar responded.
“How do you know?” Judy asked.
Edgar looked at Marti and Bartholomew.
“We picked up video transmissions,” Marti said. "Its easier with the wormhole. Will survived.”
“Can we see them?” Maureen asked quickly.
Marti pointed to a monitor in the corner behind them, and the family turned to watch it. She said, “I knew you would need to see it.” Then she raised her voice and said, “Play,” and the dark screen powered on.
At first there was static, then there was a visual of a young woman holding a microphone, standing on a street, with a crowd of people around her, in front of a metal barrier. Both sides of the street were blocked off and crowded with people.
The audio started: “…outside the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, where we expect to see Will Robinson as he is being transported to an unknown location. And…yes…he will be emerging in…there are vehicles exiting as I speak.”
The camera panned away from the woman and focused on the road, where a black SUV was emerging from a ramp beneath the building. As the vehicles drove by, the camera focused inside each one. When the fifth vehicle emerged, they saw Will sitting between two men, his face turned toward the camera.
“That's him!” Penny cried. “He made it!” She turned and hugged Judy who was sitting beside her.
“Thank God!” Maureen said.
“Thank Science,” Edgar replied.
“So what can we do to get him back?” John said.
"There's no reason to bring him back," Bartholomew responded. "He doesn't even remember who you are."
“What do you mean?” John asked.
“The same thing we did to you, to make you forget Will and Penny, we did to him. But it was much stronger. He will remember things, but not everything. And he will probably never remember who his family is again.”
“Why the hell…” John’s voice was high now and he stood from his chair.
“It was for Smith,” Marti explained. “Smith betrayed Barth. He was supposed to help get Penny and Will to stay, and when he didn’t this was Barth’s way of paying him back.” She gave her brother a disapproving look.
“It’s impossible anyway,” Bartholomew said with a scowl. “That’s what I tried to tell you. We have no Scouts left. Your pod is gone, and your ship cannot pass through the wormhole. We have no idea how long the wormhole will remain stable. It did you no good to come back here.”
“We know Will’s alive,” Judy said. “It was worth it for that.”
“Edgar, will you show us your laboratory?” John asked. “The lasers and the atom chips you use? Maybe we can somehow put our heads together and figure out if there is anything we can do.”
“It’s a waste of time…” Bartholomew started to argue.
“Edgar, take them to the lab,” Marti said.
“I’m going to go back to the ship,” Maureen said. “I want to make sure Doctor Smith isn’t up to mischief.”
“We chained him in his cabin,” Don said.
“Yes, I know. But I have a feeling if he really wanted to leave he would find a way.”
“You give him too much credit,” Don replied.
“Maybe. But maybe we don’t give him enough,” She glanced at John.
“I want to go with them to the lab,” Judy said.
“Alright, come on Penny,” Maureen stood up to leave.
As they were walking out the door, Marti kept looking at Penny until she caught her eye. Penny knew she wanted something, and also knew whatever it was she didn’t want to say it in front of the others. As Penny walked past her, the girl slipped a note in her hand. As soon as she and Maureen were outside walking toward the Jupiter 2, Penny looked at the paper. “Meet me in two hours on the landing pad near your ship,” It read.
When I find I'm worrying too much about how accurate the science is, I remind myself that at the end of "The Promised Planet," John Robinson suggests the reason the children cannot age could be "psychological" : )
With that said, some physicists have recently proposed that the strange behavior of entangled particles may occur because they could be linked together by wormholes, and in 2017, German scientists on the International Space Station created exotic matter by packing atoms in a tiny chip and blasting it with a laser.
“Wow. It’s a tree house. Its huge!”
“Its not a real tree house,” Penny said. She was eight, and was just at the age to question everything.
“Of course it is,” Judy said, giving her little sister a stern look, then nodding slightly toward six year old Will.
“Oh. Yeah. I guess it is. Its so big I didn’t think it was.” She smiled at Will then looked at Judy when he turned his head. Judy gave her an approving smile this time.
“Come on,” Judy said, grabbing her siblings by the hands and leading them to the huge tree. Penny pulled her hand away, too old to let her sister lead her.
They stopped at the base of it. “A waterwheel,” Will said. “Cool!”
They watched it for several minutes. The wheel seemed to be powered by the water flowing beneath it and several belts that connected to small bamboo buckets that were lifted somewhere up toward the top of the tree.
Will was only six years old, but he already had a mind for mechanics and stood there looking at how the belts were attached to the wheel and powered by the water. He reasoned that it was all connected somewhere to a motor, but then he pushed that out of his mind. His sister Judy wanted him to believe, and he wanted to believe himself, so he just smiled and looked up where rope bridges connected one room to the next above him. “Can we go up, Judy?”
“Of course, that’s why we’re here. Come on.” Penny walked in front of them and Judy took Will’s hand and they started up the wooden steps, winding higher and higher through the tree branches.
As they came to the first room, Judy pointed inside at the hand carved furniture, stuffed mattresses, and hand woven quilts. “This was one of the boy’s bedrooms,” She said.
“Can we live here?” Will asked, thinking about what it would be like to wake up every morning in the little room in front of him, surrounded by birds and monkeys and other jungle animals, the entire family living among the branches of the massive tree.
“Well, they don’t use it for that anymore,” Judy said. “Their name was Robinson, just like ours. And they were shipwrecked. You’ll see some of the furniture that was salvaged from the wreckage.”
Will had seen the movie…well, the animated one…and knew the story. But Judy was having such a good time telling it to her little brother, that he decided to act like it was all new to him.
Penny had run off ahead of them, and they saw her up above, climbing higher into the tree. “See, “Judy said, as they stood looking into another room. “That’s the piano they brought to the island from the wreckage…”
“Time to wake up. They want to interview you again.”
Will opened his eyes and looked at the guard. He sighed. This dream was a good one. But it had almost faded already. He could remember a girl, holding his hand and pointing out things she was describing to him. His hand felt almost warm where she had held it.
He shut his eyes again and tried hard to slip back into the dream. He wanted desperately to remember. At first, when he awoke back on Earth after four years, his mind was so cluttered and confused he couldn’t think. And then it had all come so fast. What Dr. Gaston had told him. All the attention from doctors and nurses and people outside the hospital. The lucid dreams…some pleasant and some frightening. It was so much he didn’t want to think. He just went through each day in a daze, feeling very little. But he had been here over a month. Not in the same place. They had moved him from one hospital to another, and then here, wherever here was. And now he wanted to know who he was and who these people were that he kept dreaming of.
Because he was lonely. He had no one to talk to that he thought he could trust. And he was afraid. He didn’t know why, except that he didn’t like Dr. Gaston. And so he didn’t talk to her or anyone else.
But this dream was different. He was so close to remembering. The girl was blond and beautiful and so friendly. She was taking care of him. Holding his hand. Speaking to him in a kind, soft, patient voice. He wanted that so much. To be away from the coldness of this place, of the guards who acted like he was just a piece of the furniture taking up space. Sticking their heads in to make sure he was still there, or telling him it was time to wake up, then closing the door behind them.
He had a family. Somewhere. In space, if everything they were saying was true. And he felt like they were still alive. Still looking for him. He didn’t know for certain, but he thought that’s why he kept dreaming of them. His eyes were shut tightly. He was thinking of the girl’s hand holding his, of her kind voice. He smiled at the thought.
“Let’s go!” The guard was louder this time.
Will opened his eyes and looked at him again. He was always just outside the door. Mid-thirties, dressed in a suit and tie at all times. He wasn’t mean but he wasn’t kind either. He was nothing. He never spoke to Will except to tell him it was time for another interview.
Interview is what they called it. But it was an interrogation. They would put him in a room and let him sit there alone for an hour or more before Dr. Gaston came in to talk to him. She would ask the same questions over and over again. So far he had not said a word. But he didn’t know how long they would let this go on. They could probably force him to talk, he knew, but they would not learn anything, because he couldn’t remember much. Still, he wasn’t going to make it easy on these people who had kept him isolated from everyone since coming back to Earth.
Earth. Some of it he remembered. And he remembered that he had not been back in a very long time. Four years, if Doctor Gaston could be believed. He wished he could watch TV or something so he would know what was going on. But he had no access to the outside world at all. They had brought him a few books. All classics. The Three Musketeers, Moby Dick, Tom Sawyer. So in between interviews, he spent his time reading or sleeping.
He had been at this place two weeks now. Four men dressed in business suites, all wearing dark sunglasses, had come to the hospital for him. They had taken him to the roof and put him in a helicopter. As the helicopter took flight, he noticed on both sides, high above them, were four fighter Jets. F22 Raptors, he knew. He had built a model of one as they were being rolled out the year before they left for space. One of the things he could remember.
Now he had no idea where he was. When they flew over, he noticed this place was surrounded by trees, with a tall perimeter fence around the compound. There were several brick buildings inside the fence, but the one he was in stood far away from the others. They had landed on the roof and walked him down to this room. It was small but comfortable. It contained his bed, two chairs, a small sofa and a desk. There was a bathroom in the corner. But there was no window. He hadn’t seen the outdoors since he was brought here.
Will climbed out of bed, went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, got dressed, and when he came back out the guard walked him down the hall. He was led to the same room he was always taken to. One table. Three chairs. The one he sat in, and two across from him. He didn’t know why there were two on that side, as Dr. Gaston was always the only person who sat across from him.
He sat in the single chair and faced the door. The guard left and he was alone. He wondered how long this time. He looked up at the monitor in the corner. They were watching. He didn’t know how many of them, but he knew they were there.
Dr. Gaston stood looking at the boy on the screen. Next to her was Agent Carmichael, her assistant.
“How long are you going to let this go on?” He asked her.
“I have a couple of ideas. But today its time to start applying a little more pressure. Watch him. I have a few calls to make, then I’ll go see him.”
Will sat patiently in the room for another two hours before the door finally opened and Dr. Gaston walked in. She took a seat across from him. Normally she asked him if he needed anything. Water perhaps, a soda. But he never answered. Today she didn’t offer him anything and he wondered if this would be different. It was.
“Okay, Will, my patience has just about run its course. You spoke to me in the hospital in San Diego, which means you can talk. So you simply refuse to. When you left that hospital you saw all those cameras and people on the street, so you know the world is watching. But I don’t think you understand how serious this is. We are people of science. We want to understand what happened to you, what happened to your family, and how you got back to Earth. But we have people to answer to who are less interested in all that. They want justice.”
This is a different approach, Will thought.
“Your family has disappeared. The first family in space. They were very important to this nation. They were our hope for a different life, on a different planet. And they disappeared without a trace. The space program was put on hold for four years after that. Congress withheld funds. Refusing to dedicate any more tax dollars to what one Senator referred to as a true black hole. A black hole we are just pouring money into.
“The Senator wants to drag you in front of congress and force you to testify as to what happened to your family. You think you are famous now? It would be televised worldwide. You sitting there by yourself with all the cameras on you. You would have whatever free attorney the government provided. Probably some kid a few years older than you, just out of law school, facing a Senate Panel on live television. He would be as frightened as you.”
Will tried to show no emotion, but he was sure she could tell that wasn’t the case.
“And that’s the best thing that would happen to you. They want to prosecute you.” Now she stopped talking, waiting for that to sink in.
Will almost spoke to protest. Prosecute? For what, he wondered. He couldn’t even remember what had happened to him.
“They want to prosecute you for the deaths of your family and Major West. Five people. Do you know what that means? You would spend the rest of your life in prison. You’re fourteen. That’s a long time in prison. And there is only one person who can speak to your innocence. You. And you refuse to talk to anyone. And yet…we know you can talk.
“See…that’s where you really fucked up, Will. If you were going to play this silent act, you should have done that from the first. At least you might have a little sympathy. But you will get no sympathy from a Senate Panel, nor a judge, nor a jury. Why? Because they will only know two things about you when you come in and they put you on the stand. You returned without your family…and you are uncooperative. You know what uncooperative means to a judge? To a jury? To the whole damn world? Guilty.
“Is that fair? Of course not. You have the right to remain silent. But it’s the way of the world, Will. So you think about it. And remember, you only have one friend. One person who can determine your future. And you are looking at that person.”
With that, she stood and left. She walked down the hall and entered the room where Agent Carmichael was still watching Will on the monitor. “He’s sweating,” the Agent said. “He’s scared.”
“Good, that’s the point.”
“So how much of that was bullshit?” The man asked her.
“Oh, it was all true except one part. That idiot Senator from Louisiana does want to drag him in front of congress, and there are more than a few people who want him to stand trial for something, if they can figure out what to try him for.”
“Then what part wasn’t true?”
“The part about the court appointed attorney. There are a line of civil rights groups and some of the most expensive liberal, do gooder law offices in the country trying to elbow each other out of the way to represent him, pro bono.”
“So what’s the next step?” Carmichael asked.
“Let him stew for a few days, then we’ll send in the good cop.”
They were at the top of the tree house now, as high as they could climb. Judy was looking all around, out past the limbs. But Will was just looking back down at the tree, and at the many rooms they had passed. His sister had pointed out how the waterwheel and bamboo bucket system carried running water to the room they used as a kitchen, which was pretty cool, Will thought. But he was mainly day dreaming about which bedroom would be his. “I wish we could live here,” he said.
“Me too, Will,” Judy responded. “We’re a lot like them. It will just be our family, going to space all alone. Well…and one pilot, I guess.”
“But instead of having three brothers, I’ll have two sisters,” Will said.
She turned toward him. “Does that bother you Will?”
He thought for a minute. Judy watched his face, knowing his mind was working. He seemed to always think things through before saying them. “It would be fun to have a brother,” he said. “But not if he was going to replace you or Penny.”
Judy smiled at him and gave him a quick hug. He was a great little brother, she thought.
“Do you think we’ll get shipwrecked, like them?” Will asked.
“No. We’ll get on the spaceship, then wake up just before we get to Alpha Centauri, and start a new life. But no one will be there but us at first, so in a lot of ways, it will be like these Robinsons. We’ll have to take care of each other, and figure a lot of stuff out for ourselves.”
Suddenly there was a loud crash. Will opened his eyes and quickly sat up.
“Sorry, I dropped the pitcher,” the girl said.
Will was trying to figure out who she was. She was small, with light brown skin, and a shade darker hair. His age, he thought. Maybe a little older. Her eyes were her most stunning feature. Green. No…turquoise. Will had a flash of memory. He didn’t know where it was from, but he had traveled with his family to the Juan Fernandez Islands off Chili before they went to space. The last family vacation they would have before leaving Earth. They had rented a boat and spent two weeks sailing around Mas a Tierra. They would stop in the lagoons and hidden bays of the archipelago and swim, snorkel and lounge around the beaches. Where the water became shallow, reflecting off the sand below, the color turned from deep blue to turquoise. This was the color of the girl’s eyes.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“I…” he started to talk, then didn’t. Don’t say a word, he told himself. The woman had done everything she could to get him to talk to her. Doctor Gaston. Well…not everything. She didn’t harm him, though he thought she was hinting at it. And now threatening him with prison.
“I’m your new attendant,” the girl said. “My name’s Mandra. If you need anything, just push the button on the side of your bed.” She walked over to him. “Can I get you anything now, Will?”
He just stared at her without answering.
“You don’t have to talk,” She smiled. “I wouldn’t either. Most of the people here just seem…stuffy.” She turned and walked to the door. Stopped and turned back to him. “Remember, just press the button if you need anything.” Then she was gone. Will kept looking at the door.
Mandra walked down the hallway, put her hand on a key pad next to another door, heard it unlock, and walked inside. Dr. Gaston was sitting at a desk, facing the door, as always. There was a monitor on the wall across from her. On it was a live feed of Will.
Mandra pulled out a chair across from her and sat down. “Have a seat,” Dr. Gaston said, sarcastically.
“Don’t mind if I do,” the girl answered.
“Well?” Gaston asked.
“Well, what do you think of Will Robinson? The most famous boy in the world."
“He’s a kid. What do you want me to say?”
“He’s only a year younger than you, Mandra.”
“I can’t believe this is what I’m doing. Didn’t I perform up to par on my last assignment? Now I’m babysitting.”
“Up to par is a matter of opinion. You were supposed to observe and report back.”
“I’m not that stupid, Jessica. You wanted her dead. She’s dead.”
“Please address me as Dr. Gaston. I might think you’re becoming disrespectful.” The girl smiled at her. She was probably the only human in Gaston’s orbit who wasn’t afraid of the woman. I’ll have to think of a way to change that, she thought.
Mandra turned and faced the monitor. Will was awake now, just staring at the ceiling. “He’s been back five weeks. Has anyone given him anything but hospital food and the shit they feed him here?”
“We have a Master Chef who has worked in some of the finest restaurants in Paris. I assure you the boy doesn’t eat shit.”
“Anyone ask the boy what he thinks of the La coq au vin?” The girl stood and walked toward the door.
“I suppose you’re dismissed,” Dr. Gaston said.
“Great, I have things to do.”
“Wait. What do you think we should feed him?”
She stopped but didn’t turn back to Gaston. She looked at the feed of Will. “Just do what you’ve been doing and leave the rest to me. I’ll literally have him eating out of my hand in days. That’s what you want isn’t it?” Then she left without a look back.
Insolent little rodent, Gaston thought. If I hadn’t invested so much time in her I’d make her disappear before I can no longer control her.
The next day Will was sitting on the small sofa reading a book when the girl walked back in. “Hi Will,” She said cheerfully. She walked past him into the bathroom and began cleaning. Will ignored her and kept his face in the book. But he wasn’t reading. He was listening to the girl running water in the sink, emptying the trash. He was craning his neck, trying to see her when she walked back out. He quickly looked back at the book. She smiled to herself.
She moved about the room, dusting and straightening things, making small talk with him as she worked, even though the boy refused to answer or even look at her. He knows I’m here though, she thought, smiling again.
When she was finished she walked over and stood directly in front of him so he couldn’t ignore her. “Hey Will,” She whispered. “I brought you something.” She looked up at the camera in the corner, then slid something out of her pocket and dropped it in his lap, hiding the movement from the camera. She put a finger to her lips, then turned and walked out.
Dr. Gaston was watching the recording on the monitor in a conference room, with the four men and three women of UT.
“What is it?” The Lieutenant asked.
“Just watch,” Dr. Gaston said.
After the girl had left the room, Will looked down and saw what she had secretly dropped. He picked it up and looked at it, holding it close to his chest so the camera wouldn’t see it. What he didn’t know was that there were three hidden cameras besides the one in the corner that was visible.
The angle changed so they could see Will from the front. He was just holding the object close, trying to make sure the camera didn’t see him.
“A Snickers?” The Lieutenant said. “A damn candy bar?”
“Just keep watching,” Gaston responded.
Will carefully unwrapped it, broke a piece off and put it in his mouth. He chewed slowly, taking his time, swallowing, before slowly breaking another piece off and doing the same thing. It took him almost twenty minutes to finish it.
“Brilliant,” One of the women said.
“No one asked the boy what he wanted,” Gaston said. “We’ve been feeding him probably the best food he’s ever had. Even before going to space. But he treated that fucking candy bar like it was his last meal. And that’s why Mandra is the right person for the job.
“He hasn’t had a candy bar in four years,” Dr. Gaston continued. “And it took another child to understand what that would mean to him.”
“So who is this girl?” The Lieutenant asked.
Dr. Gaston clicked the remote and a photo of the girl appeared. “Mandra Kendall. Fifteen years old. Both parents worked for UT. Both assassinated. She never knew her father. He was killed before she was a year old. Her mother was killed in Tunisia by a Russian assassin team when the girl was five. She was raised by another couple who were both members of UT, but not field agents. I have groomed her for this life. A special project of mine. She has a genius IQ, and an awareness that few agents twice her age have. My plan was to use her to recruit college students in a few years, but her skills have far surpassed that.”
She clicked the remote back to Will, who was once again reading. “The first day she met him the boy started to say ‘hi’ to her, after not speaking a word for five weeks. The second day she already made him her accomplice. Sneaking him a candy bar, hiding it from anyone watching. He’s a genius, but she’s an evil genius. She sees this as a challenge.” Gaston was lying. The girl thought this assignment was beneath her. “I think it’s already working.”
“I’m sure her looks don’t hurt any,” One of the women said. “And I’m sure you took this into consideration.”
Gaston shrugged. “He’s a fourteen year old boy.”
“So you think this is quicker than forcing him to talk?” The Lieutenant asked. “I thought you brought him here so you could do whatever you want.”
“It may still come to that, but once we pulled that body out of the grave in Texas, and I started questioning the Robinson boy, I realized there actually is a chance he doesn’t remember his family and exactly what happened. So, yes. I could get him to talk, but if whatever he told us under…duress…is something he made up, what good would it do? I decided to give his hormones a chance first. That’s something he will have no control over. And I think Mandra knows exactly how to exploit that. She was certainly right. She has him eating out of her hand already.”
“Speaking of that body in the grave,” one of the men said. “Anything yet?”
“I was coming to that. Radiocarbon dating may not be accurate, since he’s not from Earth.”
“Presumably,” The Lieutenant said.
“You can hold on to your preconceived ideas all you want Lieutenant, but I assure you he is not from Earth. Now can I continue?”
When the Lieutenant didn’t respond, she went on. “Carbon dating works because radiocarbon is constantly being created in the Earth’s atmosphere, carbon dioxide is formed, and is incorporated into plants through photosynthesis. Animal’s eat the plants; humans eat the plants and animals. When they die, the radiocarbon begins to decay. Measuring the amount of radiocarbon in wood, bones, etc. can help determine the approximate age of the sample.
“We can only accurately measure the age of the sample up to about fifty thousand years, using carbon dating. After that we have to determine the age of a skeleton based on bone structure, its surrounding environment and such. Since the body was intact, and DNA has established he was, in fact, human…and we have no environment to examine other than a Texas graveyard, we used carbon dating. We have to assume their planet’s composition was relative to Earth’s, but we don’t know how much carbon was in their planet’s atmosphere. So we are still guessing to a degree.”
“And what is our best guess?” One of the women asked.
“Had he been born on Earth, the corpse would be well over fifty thousand years old. The consensus is over two hundred thousand years old.”
They were all silent for a few minutes. “And no decay?” A woman asked.
“None. Even if the boy was only a hundred or so years old, like the grave is, that would be impossible. The coffin had disintegrated. Nothing left but nails. And the condition of his skin tissue, organs, bones…he could have died today. Whatever it is that happened to him, atrophy was completely reversed. His cells stop decomposing. Even after death.”
“So its true?” One of the other men at the table asked.
“It certainly seems to confirm the confession of Walter Wright Shoemacher. Somewhere there is a planet where people have discovered immortality. And Will Robinson has been there.”
Will woke up and opened his eyes. Dreaming. It was the tree house again. He was there with the blond girl and maybe another one. Younger. He wanted to remember, but now that he was awake, his mind went to something else. What to tell the woman. Dr. Gaston. The last thing he wanted to do was go to prison. He felt she was bluffing, but how would he know? This was Earth, his home, but this was nothing like he was used to. Or the bits and pieces he could remember of it.
He climbed out of bed and walked in the bathroom and took a shower. When he came out he saw a cart had been rolled in. Breakfast. What this time? He picked up the silver lid and looked at it. Eggs Benedict. He sighed. He hated it. He wanted pancakes or scrambled eggs and bacon or something. His mom’s cooking. Then he realized he could remember the breakfasts she used to make; he just couldn’t remember her. He sat on the small sofa in the room and picked at the food, then put his fork down and picked up a croissant and nibbled at it. He tried really hard to remember his mother. He thought for a second he was going to be able to, but he lost it. He grew really sad. He wanted to cry, but he knew they were watching him on the monitor and didn’t want to give them the satisfaction.
He assumed the guard would be in any minute to tell him it was time for his interview. He would usually come in sometime after breakfast and walk him down the hall, but it had been a couple of days since he last saw Dr. Gaston. When she threatened him. But again, the guard didn’t come. Will opened a book and started reading.
Around noon, the girl from the day before came in. Mandra. Will had wondered if she would be back.
She said, “Hi, Will.” Just as cheerful as the day before. He was ready this time and didn’t answer. She walked up to the cart that held his breakfast. She picked up the tray and looked at it. It had hardly been touched. “Sucks, doesn’t it?” She whispered and winked at him.
She pushed the table out and then pushed another one in. She picked up the silver cover on the tray. There was a small piece of meat with some type of sauce on it, and a small bowl with cooked carrots. “Mmm, lunch looks great,” Mandra said sarcastically. Then she looked at him with a gleam in her eye. “But maybe there’s something else somewhere.” She picked up the plate with the food on it and carried it over to a table and sat it down, then walked back and reached under the table cloth that covered the cart and took a bag out from a lower level. She opened the contents and put them on the tray, then rolled it over to Will.
He looked at it for a second. He couldn’t help himself. A wide smile crossed his face. It was a Big Mac and French Fries.
“But wait…there’s more.” She reached back under the table and took out a tall paper cup. “Vanilla shake anyone?” She sat it down by the burger and fries.
“Enjoy,” She whispered and walked toward the door.
Just before she got there Will said, “Mandra.”
She turned to him.
“Thank you,” He said.
She just smiled and walked out.
She went down the hall and into Dr. Gaston’s office. The woman was watching Will on the monitor. The girl pulled a chair around so she could see the monitor too.
“Proud of yourself?” Dr. Gaston asked.
“Not really. I just can’t believe how stupid you all are. Did you even do any research on his family? I mean, yeah, they were upper middle class. Both parent’s scientists. But pretty down to Earth. Kids went to public school. Will played little league. Penny took piano lessons. Judy was a talented actor and musician. Maureen was active in PTA.
“Normal American family. He’s been gone four years and not one of you ask him what he wants to eat. If he wants to go anywhere or do anything. You put him in a room and question him non-stop. Really surprised he doesn’t want to talk to you.”
“We’ve had more important things to worry about than what he wants for lunch,” Dr. Gaston said.
“Yeah, and how’s that worked out for you?”
“Now I have a question for you,” Gaston said. “Why did you leave? The kid’s been here for almost six weeks, and those are the first words he’s spoken since the first week he was here. Why aren’t you in there now, trying to see what he knows or if he’s bullshitting all of us?”
Mandra stood up. “How did you ever get this job, Jessica?” She turned and walked from the room, but paused to watch Will on the monitor. He dipped a fry into a pool of Ketchup before putting it in his mouth and chewing slowly. “Enjoy, my new best friend,” She said, then left.
The next day Mandra pushed the lunch cart in. Will was sitting on the couch reading again. They still hadn’t come down to get him for another interview. “Hi Will,” She said with a smile.
“Hi Mandra,” he smiled back at her.
“Soooo…I’m going to give you a choice,” she said. “Either I lift this lid and you can have what our fancy French chef prepared for you, or I reach under the table cloth and you can have what I brought you.”
He was still smiling at her. “I choose the table cloth.”
“Good choice,” She grinned. “Drum roll.” She made the sound of quickly beating drums as she brought out a pizza.
She looked at him and matched his broad smile with her own. “Pepperoni with extra cheese. Sorry, I had to guess at what you might want.”
“It’s perfect,” he said, grinning at the girl.
“But the problem is, I brought a large, which means you have to share,” She carried the box over and sat it on the couch beside him, then reached back under the cart and took out two cans of Coke, and sat next to him, the pizza between them.
She opened the box and said, “Go ahead.”
“Girls first,” he said.
“A genius and a gentleman,” she said, reaching for a slice of pizza.
They sat eating in silence for a few minutes, until she said, “Do you even remember pizza?”
He chewed and swallowed, then said, “Yes. Its weird. I can remember some things, but not a lot. Like I remember being on a beach and playing in the waves. Like on an island. The water looked like your eyes…” He caught himself. Then went on. “There were other people with me, but I don’t remember who they were. But it was fun. I remember that. And I didn’t remember MacDonald’s until you brought me the Big Mac, but once I saw the box it all came back, and I even knew what it was going to taste like before I ate it. But pizza I remembered.”
“Hey, do you want any different books or anything? I mean they gave you these three books, but maybe I could get you some others. Or how about video games?”
“Mandra, aren’t you afraid you’re going to get in trouble?”
“Afraid? No. What are they going to do to me?”
“Well…I wouldn’t want you to lose your job.”
“I’m not worried about that,” She said.
“I am. You’re the only…” He didn’t finish the sentence.
“They like me here,” She said, “But if it makes you feel any better, I’ll get permission first.”
They finished the pizza and Cokes, and she picked everything up. “I’ll see you tomorrow Will."
“Thanks again Mandra,” he said as she walked out.
This time Dr. Gaston was waiting for the girl when she walked in her office and sat down. “So, why did you change the subject when he was talking about things he remembered?”
“Do you think he’s a stupid boy?” Mandra responded. “I asked him one question, if he remembered pizza. Now, if I had followed that up with other questions, at what point would he have gotten suspicious?”
“So you ask him if he wants you to bring him a goddamned video game?”
“Yes. And I will. We’ll sit there and play video games together and I’ll keep taking him food that he likes, and candy and soda and he’ll start to trust me. He won’t want to because he’s brilliant, from everything I have researched on him. But he will. Because he’ll have no choice. Because I’ll be his only friend. And when I have his complete trust, he’ll start to talk to me. Then we’ll see what he really knows, but my feeling right now is that he isn’t lying. He’s forgotten almost everything.”
“Why do you think that, after having such little contact with him?”
“Because he isn’t like us. Our whole lives are built around lies. But when he didn’t trust you, he didn’t lie to you, he just stopped talking.”
“And you don’t think he’s smart enough to fool you?” Dr. Gaston asked.
“I think he’s smart enough. I don’t think he’s evil enough,” The girl replied.
“Evil? You think I’m evil?”
“Of course you are.”
“What about you? Do you think you’re evil?”
The girl turned and looked at Will on the monitor. He was reading Tom Sawyer. “I think he’s starting to trust me. In a few days he will trust me completely. I’m his only friend. And look what I’m going to do to him. I’m more than evil. I’m vile.”
Mandra brought a video game system and a monitor the next afternoon. “Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2,” She announced. “Its new so I’m sure you never played it.” This was her way of asking if he remembered playing video games without asking him directly what he could remember. She had brought burgers and fries for them both.
“You didn’t have to sneak them in this time,” Will said, noticing the food was on the cart that she wheeled in. He sounded suspicious when he said it.
“No, they agreed I could bring you lunch from now on.” Then she whispered, “I don’t think they trust me, but they figured you weren’t eating very well, and they probably don’t want you to die on them. I don’t know what they want from you, but it must be important.”
She noticed he relaxed as she showed him how to play the game, so she thought it must have worked. He still trusted her. He was starting to catch on pretty well to the game, and after about twenty minutes he said, “Super Mario Brothers.”
“Super Mario Brothers?” She asked. “You played that?”
“Yes. I remember that. I played with some other girl all the time. I really liked it.”
“I’ll bring it tomorrow,” She said.
“Really? You don’t mind?”
“Of course not,” She smiled.
The next day she brought the game and they played that the rest of the week. He didn’t talk about his dreams any more, and she didn’t ask him anything.
After a few days went by, she was leaving when she turned at the door and said, “Hey Will, want to do something fun?”
“I’ll come by around seven tonight,” She said.
“Okay.” She was only here around noon every day, so he was curious as to what she was up to. When she left, he thought about her. He really liked her, but for some reason, it wasn’t like Marti, who he really felt attracted to. Even though Mandra was a beautiful girl, Will saw her as more of a friend. And she was a friend. He had been suspicious at first, but she never seemed to want anything from him. She came in and cleaned and brought his lunch and sat with him and played video games. He found himself looking forward to her visits every day, and it kept his mind off things.
Dr. Gaston still hadn’t been back to see him after threatening him with prison, and he figured it was only a matter of time before that happened, but right now, he was just enjoying Mandra’s company when she was there. He finally had a friend. Someone he trusted. And he was afraid that if he did anything to upset Dr. Gaston, she might fire the girl, so it was another thing to worry about. He decided he was going to have to talk to the woman and tell her everything he could remember, and hope it was enough.
That night at seven, the door opened and Mandra was standing there. “Will, come on.” She motioned for him.
He stood up and hurried to the door. “What are you doing? They watch everything,” He whispered.
“Not all the time. At seven your guard leaves and the next one comes on at eight. And they don’t even monitor the cameras for an hour as the shifts change. As long as we’re back before then there’s nothing to worry about.”
She led him down the hall to a door marked “Emergency Exit.” She pushed the door open and there was a stair case leading both down and up. ”Come on,” She whispered. And took the stairs leading up. They climbed several flights until it ended at a door. She pushed it open and they stepped out into the night air.
“The roof,” She said. “No one is watching you here.”
“Wow,” He said. They were on top of the building. He stood and looked out at the grounds. There were acres of green grass with a few trees, surrounded by a high fence, and on the outside of the fence all around were woods. He turned and looked the other direction. There were other buildings in the compound, but they sat two or three hundred meters away.
“Come on,” She led him over to the side of the roof. There was a wide wall about a meter high surrounding the top. She climbed on it and let her feet dangle over the side. “Not afraid of heights, are you?” She asked.
He climbed up to the wall and sat beside her. “I guess not,” he said.
It was a beautiful night. The moon was full and there was a warm breeze blowing. They looked out at the lights in the other buildings and the trees beyond the wall. Off in the far distance there was a glow, and Will realized there was a city out there. He started to ask her where they were, but he figured he wasn’t supposed to know, and she had already done enough to get in trouble.
They sat there for a long time in silence. He liked that about her. She seemed content to just sit quietly beside him. Most adults always seemed to want to talk about something.
Finally he said, “Where do you live, Mandra?”
She pointed over to the glowing lights. “That town. It’s Alexandria.”
“Do you have a big family?”
“I don’t have a family,” She answered.
“You don’t?” He asked.
“No. My dad died before I was old enough to know him, and my mom died when I was five. I remember her though. She used to tell me every day I was special. She told me two things every night when she tucked me in, and one of them was, “Mandra, you are special. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.”
“What was the other thing?” Will asked.
The girl just looked out across the dark grass and the trees beyond. “Maybe I’ll tell you someday, Will.” She sounded sad.
“I’m sorry Mandra,” he said.
She was quiet for a minute. Will didn’t ask what happened to her mother, and for the first time, she felt a pang of guilt for her role in all this. He truly was a nice boy. “She left on a trip and didn’t come back. They said she died in a car accident. I live with my foster parents now.”
They both sat quietly until Will said, “I almost remembered my family. I think my sisters. It was a dream. I've had it a few times now. There was this big tree house, and my sister…I think it was my sister…she was older than me, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my mom. She was showing it to me. There were these rope bridges connecting all these little rooms and things, and she was telling me all about it. It’s the closest I’ve come to remembering them I think.”
“A tree house?” Mandra asked.
“Yeah, that’s all I remember. I know its weird. It seemed like a really nice time though. That day. She said our family was like the family in the tree house or something. I don’t know why. I think I have to tell Doctor Gaston about it though.”
“Why?” The girl asked.
“She said they might put me in prison if I don’t talk to her.”
She laughed. “Prison? What for?”
"Murder? Who were you supposed to have murdered?"
“My family I guess. I thought she was bluffing, but I don’t know. I don’t remember anything about them, so I really don’t have anything to tell her, except for that dream.”
Mandra didn’t answer him for a while, then she said, “Don’t tell her yet.”
“You don’t think I should?”
“Not yet. It seems to me like you have something she wants, and once you give her that, you really have no power left, you know? I mean, there’s a reason you’re so important to them. Knowing what happened to your family is important, but they brought you all the way here and have you hidden from everyone, so there must be something more.”
“I think its what I said to her when I first met her. That the people who sent me here were humans, and they couldn’t grow up.”
Mandra had been looking out at the night sky, but now she turned to him. “What do you mean?”
“I only remember a little bit of it. But there were some kids on this planet, and they couldn’t age. They were like, thousands of years old or something. And there was a girl that was nice to me. I liked her. I can’t really remember what she looked like, but she was nice to me. Like you,” he glanced at her. She looked away.
Mandra waited for him to say more but it looked like he was done, and she didn’t want to seem to be questioning him. “We better get back Will. If they find out you’re gone you’re in trouble and me too.”
They stood and went back down the stairs the way they had come. When they got to his door she opened it then turned to him. “I’m sorry you can’t remember your family Will. I bet you will eventually though.” She hugged him, and it surprised him, but he hugged her back.
When she turned to walk away she realized she had surprised herself as well. She couldn’t remember hugging anyone like that since her mother died. Then she smiled. He might be a nice boy, and she might feel sorry for him, but she had a job to do. “Sorry Will,” she said to herself. “I’m not here to be a shoulder to cry on.”
“Well,” Dr. Gaston said as Mandra walked in.
“He’s telling us the truth. He can’t remember hardly anything.”
“Well, I guess I have to take your word for it, since the communication was muffled most of the time.”
“What are you accusing me of?” She asked.
“Nothing. Just don’t play games with me, Mandra. I’m the one who trained you.”
“And you should know I’m doing my job the way you trained me. Now do you want to hear what my idea is or not?”
“He said he almost remembered his family in a dream. He thinks it's his sister. Maybe both of them. So plan A is, he needs to dream deeper and for longer. Tomorrow when I bring his lunch I’ll drug him, then let’s watch him on the monitor. Maybe when he wakes up he will remember more.”
“And if he doesn’t?”
“Plan B,” Mandra said.
“What’s Plan B?”
“Lets try Plan A first. Plan B might be a little harder to convince you of.”
It was almost dark when Penny left the Jupiter 2 and walked out to meet Marti. When she stepped on to the concrete of the landing pad, she didn’t see the girl at first, but she heard her whisper, “Penny,” and saw her standing near the building in the shadows. Penny hurried over to her.
“I have to show you something,” Marti said. She led her around the building where she had an electric cart waiting.
They drove across the concrete landing area and on to the path that led to Satan’s Garden. “We’re not going back to the Garden are we?” Penny asked.
“No, we’re going past that.”
Penny saw that the girl was telling the truth as she veered the cart to the right off the path. They could hear the noises that passed for music coming from the building. “I can’t believe I liked that,” Penny said.
When Marti didn’t comment she said, “I’m sorry Marti. That was insensitive. I didn’t mean that.”
“Its okay Penny. I’m actually glad that we found out that wasn’t what passed for music on Earth. We had a really hard time understanding the appeal, but it sort of grew on us. With the wormhole open, we are picking up more feeds from Earth, and I think we’ll probably start reevaluating our artistic choices,” She smiled.
Past The Garden was a wide field, then another path through the forest, until they came to a small clearing with another metal building. It was a moonless night and there were no lights out here and it was hard to see it until they were almost on it. Marti pulled the cart up and parked, and led Penny to a side door. There was a key pad, where Marti pressed her palm and the door clicked. She pushed it open and as they stepped inside, the lights came on.
The building was maybe twenty meters by thirty, but it was practically empty. There was only one item in it. It was shaped like a cigar, maybe six meters long with a circumference of three or four meters.
“It’s our last Scout,” Marti said.
“So you did have one left?”
“Yes. Our last one. That’s why Barth didn’t want to tell you. We had six. We sent all of them to Earth over the years since we have been here. Earth might seem like its on the other side of the Universe to you, but it’s the closest planet to us that will sustain human life. We had hoped there would be a way to get help from your scientists, or medical professionals. A way to reverse the results of the water. A way to age.”
“But you are so much more advanced that we are,” Penny said.
“We are over two hundred thousand years old,” Marti told her. “We are much more advanced in science, but where we were medically, is the same place we were when we came to this planet, and we have never seen this before. So we hoped that your society would advance to the point that they could eventually help us. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, your progression has always been stymied by war.”
“War?” Penny asked.
“Yes. Somewhere around three thousand years after our society evolved, we learned how to live together. Your civilization is twelve thousand years old, and still you have countries and continents and cities that are separate. Waring against each other. Using resources that you could use for the betterment of mankind, for advances in medical technology, in space travel…to kill each other.
“As Edgar said, we sent our last pod to Earth in eighteen eighty seven, with a young man on it. A brilliant young man. An artist. We hoped that somehow he would be able to communicate with the people there. If not through language, then through his art. We knew that they were not advanced enough to be of any help now, but remember, we live forever. If he could communicate with them, he would be able to help them advance. Tell them our story, eventually come here to help us. When we received the signal a month after he was sent, we were sure he was successful. But as your society advanced, and technology made it possible for you to send radio waves into space, we never received any word from him.” She paused, and Penny could see a pained expression on her face. “I worry for him.”
Penny could tell she was sad. “You were close to this boy, weren’t you?”
“Yes. We loved each other.”
“What was his name?” Penny asked.
“You would not be able to pronounce it in your language,” She said.
Marti looked back at the small ship. “So we decided to wait. Eventually we would try again, once we felt your civilization had advanced enough to be able to help us.”
“But when we came here, you decided you couldn’t wait?” Penny said. “So you decided to use me and Will.”
“Yes. And I’m sorry. But…we wonder if it will ever happen. If you will continue to advance or if you will destroy each other, or Earth, before you do.”
“Yes,” Penny said. “We wonder that ourselves. That’s why we went to Alpha Centauri, because of the overcrowding and what we are doing to our planet. But, Marti, we aren’t all bad.”
“Of course you’re not, Penny. And remember, when I talk about you I’m talking about us. Our ancestors colonized Earth.”
Now she looked back at the ship, “But Penny, there are many problems with this. If someone uses our last Scout to go to Earth, he will probably never return. No one has yet. So if your father went to find Will, and somehow bring him back, instead of having your brother back, you would probably be without your father as well.
“And would he be able to bring him back even if he could? There were a lot of people watching Will in that video. Would they even allow him to leave?”
Penny stared at the ship for a while, thinking. “But the ship is capable of traveling through the wormhole and back?”
“Yes. It can be programmed like your pod. And then your father would need to launch it to return the same way. It has fuel and the capabilities to leave the atmosphere of this planet and Earth’s. Two people can travel in it, so he could potentially go and return. With Will. But Penny, I am afraid you are not listening. I think you would lose them both.”
“I’m listening Marti. We can’t tell my father.”
“Because he would go. And while he is maybe one of only a couple people who could do this, you’re probably right. He wouldn’t return. Like the boy you loved.” She looked back at the small spaceship. “So he can’t go.”
“Then who? Major West?”
“No. We need Don too.”
“Penny I don’t understand.”
“The ship is programmed and launched from here, right?” She asked.
“Then I’ll go.”
“Marti, listen to me. When I was going to stay here, Will said he would stay with me. He didn’t want to, but he would have. And we made a pact that we would take care of each other. So if I go and can’t find a way to bring him back, then at least I would be there with him. He won’t be alone. The same thing he would do for me.”
“But Penny, even if you were successful, and somehow found a way to get Will, how would you be able to come back? I’m afraid Will might not be much help, since he won’t even remember who you are. I doubt you can even talk him into going with you. But if you did, the ship would have to be launched to come back. I mean, we could teach you how, but you are not a pilot. I just don’t know if you could do all of this alone.”
“I won’t be alone,” Penny answered.
“I said Dad was one of only a couple people who might be able to do this. There is someone else who might even be better at it. I would never have thought that before, but I have learned a lot since coming to this planet.”
Mandra had brought pizza for the two of them again, and two root beers. Then they played Mario Brother’s 2 for about forty five minutes, before Mandra said, “I better get going Will. I have a couple more rooms to clean this afternoon.”
“Okay.” He yawned and stretched. “I’m really tired anyway. I guess I’ll take a nap. They still haven’t come to talk to me anymore anyway.”
“Alright Will. I’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll bring us a couple milkshakes with lunch.”
“Thanks Mandra, that sounds great.”
The girl turned and walked down the hall to Dr. Gaston’s room. When she pulled out a chair and turned to the monitor, Will was already lying on the couch with his eyes closed. “How much did you give him?” Gaston asked.
“Two gs. He’ll sleep the rest of the afternoon.”
“Hope it wasn’t too much. If he doesn’t dream, it won’t help anything.”
“He’s already restless,” Mandra answered, as she watched Will’s feet kick a little. “He’ll dream. I just hope it’s the one about his sisters.”
“I want to be left alone.”
“As you wish,” The voice said.
Will kept his eyes closed for several minutes, knowing the voice was still there…somewhere. He waited. Waited. He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. Nothing. He rose from the bed. First Penny’s room. Then Doctor Smith’s room. Judy’s. The rest. The galley. All empty. He climbed the ladder to the bridge. There at the console, he expected to see the back of Judy’s head. But she wasn’t there. Was this a different dream?
He tried to remember everything that had happened. The family had eaten dinner together, then Dr. Smith asked him if he wanted to play chess. He said yes, but his father said, “Oh no you don’t Will. You failed you History quiz, and you’re going to your room to study.”
“But Dad…” He tried to argue.
“You heard your father,” His mother said.
“Alright,” He responded, dejected. He walked off to his room, each step a demonstration of his displeasure. The rest of the family just smiled at each other as they watched him walk away.
He was in his room lying on his bed, looking at his history book when Robot came in.
“Would you like me to tutor you Will Robinson?”
“What do you know about history?” Will asked him.
“I know everything about history,” Robot answered, and proceeded to tell him when the first nuclear test was performed.
“Not that kind of history,” Will said. “Ancient history. Romans and Greeks and all that junk.”
Robot told him he could learn everything in a matter of minutes, if he would let him use his history book, but Will said he was supposed to learn it himself. Robot left the room and Will tried to study, but soon picked up a book and started reading until he fell asleep. And then the voice woke him. A deep voice that seemed to come from everywhere at the same time.
It goaded him. Telling him he was misunderstood. That he wasn’t being treated fairly. And while Will was unhappy about being sent to his room, he wasn’t going to take this invisible presence’s side over his family. So when the voice offered to grant his wish, Will said all he wanted was to be left alone. The next thing he remembered was that he woke and looked for his family, but they were missing. All except Judy, who he found on the bridge. But she had seemed really angry with him, and sent him back to his room.
So this is what he expected to happen this time, but instead, even Judy was missing. He searched everywhere he could think of on the ship. The only place he hadn’t looked was the power core. The lowest level of the Jupiter 2. They had always been told to stay away from there. But with nowhere left to search, Will entered the storage chamber above the power core room, made his way past box after box of survival gear, then climbed down the ladder until he was in the room with the power core. There were computers and gauges throughout, and in the center was a large hexagon, leading down to the reactor chamber. Will quickly saw this room was empty as well, and climbed back out.
With nowhere else to look, he went back to the bridge. It was still empty, but now the sun was coming up. “But I just went to bed,” he said aloud. Then he realized the whole thing was a dream and he had slept through the night. His family must be outside. They had come to the planet several weeks before, as they had determined there was a vein of Deutonium and they were able to mine for enough of it to launch their ship again, and replenish their supply. They had decided to lift off back into space at the end of the week.
Will walked to the hatch, pressed the control, opened the door and walked down the ramp. The table where they ate breakfast outside was empty. It was too early for everyone to be awake anyway, he thought. But something had to be going on. He couldn’t even find Robot.
He wandered around outside for almost two hours. Then he saw the robot. He was standing rigid, slightly leaning over, arms drooping. Will ran up to him and saw his power pack had been removed. He looked all over for it, but it was nowhere to be found. Finally he went back to the ship. Maybe he could find it there.
When he walked back inside, Judy was at the console. Just like in his dream, except he wasn’t coming from the lower deck, he was coming from outside. The whole thing was so strange to him.
“Judy, where is everyone?” He rushed toward her. Stopped behind her chair. “I can’t find anyone anywhere.”
She stood, turned around. “Aren’t you supposed to be in your room?”
She grabbed his arms tightly, pinching his biceps. “Then go back there now!”
“Judy you’re hurting me!”
She let him go. “Get back to your room and don’t move until someone tells you to!” Angry, red eyes. But different this time. Dead eyes. He backed away from her, all the way to the elevator. He had never gotten this far in his dream before. Maybe he would finally find out what was going on. He didn’t take his eyes off his sister, but she didn’t approach him further, just stood glaring at him.
He stepped on the elevator, still watching her, pressed the button and went to the lower deck. He hurried back to his room, laid down on his back so he could see the door. He had no idea what was happening and what was wrong with his sister. He stayed like that, just watching and waiting. Something was wrong and he couldn’t figure it out. Where was the rest of his family?
After a couple of hours, Will heard footsteps approaching, and the door was pushed open. Don and Judy were standing there. Both of them looked angry. “Have you learned your lesson?” Don demanded.
“What lesson? History?” He asked.
“To do what you’re told when you’re told!” Don fired back.
“No…I mean…yes. But I don’t know what I did.”
“You never listen,” Judy said. “You think you can do what you want to do, but you can’t. At least not anymore. Now you do what you’re told. Get up and get to the bridge. Now!”
“You heard your sister,” Don said. “Do it or I’ll drag you up there.”
Will hurried past them. He didn’t get on the elevator because he didn’t want to be on it with the two of them. He climbed the ladder, Don climbing up after him, Judy riding the elevator.
When they were on the bridge, Don said, “Sit at the console.” He pushed Will into the pilot’s chair.
“Now, I want you to show us exactly what you know about flying this ship,” Don said. He was standing on one side of him, Judy on the other.
“But why? I’m not a pilot. You’re the pilot.”
Judy grabbed him by the back of the neck, applying pressure. “Stop talking back and do what he says!”
“Okay. Okay. Let go of my neck,” He looked at her, there were tears in his eyes but not from the pain, he just didn’t understand. No one in his family had ever physically harmed him before. “Please Judy.”
She released him. “Do it, Will.”
“We need to make sure you know what to do in an emergency,” Don said. His voice still angry.
“Okay, okay!” Will said, “First you have to power up the Jupiter, to warm up the nuclear engines. As that’s happening, you start the safety check. Thrusters…”
“We said show us, not tell us,” Don said.
“But the others aren’t even on the ship. You don’t want to…”
“Do it Will!” Judy said.
He hesitated, looking back and forth at them. “Fine. You better get buckled in. I’m starting launch protocol and bringing the ramp up.”
They glanced at each other. Don buckled himself into the co-pilot’s chair, and Judy strapped in to the navigation console.
“But don’t just do it,” Don said. “Walk us through each step. We want to make sure you know exactly what you’re doing.”
“Okay.” He flipped two switches. “Powering up the engines,” He said. The felt the ship power on and there was a low hum from below, and lights began flashing across the console. “Starting safety protocol.” He pressed a button and a mechanical voice said, “Safety protocol initiated. Prepare for launch.” As the mechanical voice announced each step of the launch proceeding, he quietly unbuckled his belt. He suddenly shut the engines down, sprung from the chair and ran toward the ramp. Don and Judy gave chase, but he was far enough ahead of them he was out the hatch and pressed the control to raise the ramp.
Don got a hand on the back of his shirt and he heard it rip, but he pulled loose as Don took his hand back to keep it from being caught in the closing hatch.
Will ran through the brown, sandy surface of the planet, then behind some boulders, and kept moving behind one and then another, changing direction often, while keeping the large rocks between him and the ship.
Finally, he stopped to rest. He sat with his back against one of the boulders, breathing hard. He couldn’t figure out what was happening. He tried to think of everything since he had been sent to his room the night before. That voice, asking him what he wanted. Then wandering from room to room looking for his family. He was sure it was last night. And Judy was at the console. And then it was morning and she wasn’t there, but when he came back inside she was there again, just like the night before. Then Don showed up, and they both seemed…different. And it didn’t make sense that they wanted him to show them how much he knew about piloting the ship. They wanted him to actually do it. He was sure they wanted him to launch, even though the rest of the family was not on the ship. Something was wrong with them.
Was it really Don and Judy? His sister had never acted like that towards him before. Even when she was babysitting him and Penny back home, she never raised her voice or acted angry. She certainly never grabbed him like that. And Don might boss them around a little, but he was never unkind.
I have to find the others, he decided. He stood and peered over the rock. There was nothing but brown sand and dirt, large boulders and a few scrubby plants. He thought he had run half a kilometer or so from the ship, but he wasn’t sure, with all the dodging and weaving he was doing. He decided the only thing he could do was circle around and try to watch the Jupiter 2, and see if any of the others came back.
It took him almost an hour to get close enough to observe the hatch and the ramp. There was a small tree not too far away. It didn’t offer a lot of cover, but he figured if he climbed up in it, unless they were looking up, he would be able to observe the ship without them seeing him.
He pulled himself to the first branch, then climbed to the one above it, then settled down to wait. It didn’t take long. He was watching the ramp when he saw his mother walk from the side of the ship and head toward the hatch. He had to warn her! He started to shout when Don and Judy walked out. The three of them stood talking for a few minutes, then they all went back in the ship. But Don and Judy didn’t seem to act the same way to his mom as they did to him. “I wonder if she’s like them?” He said.
He decided the safest thing to do was to wait and see if he saw his father, and try to get his attention. Then he heard footsteps and he saw Penny making her way toward the ship. Now he didn’t know what to do. Was Penny like the others? He watched her approach. She would be within a few meters of his tree when she passed by. Finally he decided he had to risk it. She was his sister, and he had to protect her from whatever was going on, if he could. When she was almost at the tree, he said. “Penny!” He kept his voice low enough that they couldn’t hear him from the Jupiter 2.
His sister stopped and looked around. “Penny!” He called again.
She looked up and saw him in the tree. At first she didn’t say anything, and he was afraid she was like the others, then she said, “Will Robinson, what are you doing in that tree?”
She sounded normal. He breathed a sigh of relief. “Wait. Stay there, I’m climbing down.” He climbed to the lowest limb, then jumped to the surface and ran over to her.
“Penny, something’s wrong with Judy and Don. And I think Mom too. They aren’t acting normal.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look.” He showed her his arms. They were already bruising where Judy had grabbed him.
“Judy did this to you?” She sounded concerned.
“But she wouldn’t hurt you, Will.”
“I know. That’s what I’m saying. She’s not herself. And neither is Don. And someone took Robot’s power pack. I was going back to find it but I had to get away from them. We have to find Dad and Doctor Smith. They weren’t with you, were they?”
“Hey where were you?” He asked. “It’s barely daylight.”
“I couldn’t sleep and just went for a walk,” She said.
He eyed her suspiciously.
But he realized it wasn’t unusual for Penny to go for early morning walks, and she seemed normal.
“Let’s see if we can find Dad,” Will said.
“Wait. Let’s get closer to the Jupiter 2 and watch them for a while. Dad and Doctor Smith will show up there anyway eventually.”
“Okay, but don’t let them see you. I think they’re dangerous.”
“Are you sure you’re not exaggerating, Will?”
“Do you think I put the bruises on my own arms?” He asked.
“No. I guess not.”
They crept closer to the ship, staying hidden behind boulders and small trees until they were just a few meters away from the ramp.
“Where could Dad be?” Will said. “You didn’t see him anywhere at all?”
“No, I just walked around for a while then came back and that’s when you saw me. Hey, Don’s coming out.”
Will ducked. They were both crouching down behind the large bolder. Will was a little in front of Penny. They watched as Don stood at the end of the ramp, looking around. Then Judy and their mom came out.
The three of them talked, then walked off together, away from the ship.
“I need to get back on the ship and see if I can find Robot’s power pack," Will said.
“You’re not going alone,” Penny replied.
“Okay,” Will agreed. “But we have to be careful. I don’t want to lose you too.”
They checked all around the bridge for the power pack.
They heard talking coming from outside. “Go Penny,” Will said, pushing his sister toward the ladder. Penny climbed down, Will climbing quickly after her.
Once on the second level, Penny whispered, “Where Will?”
“Follow me. I was here earlier.”
When Penny saw where he was going, she said, “But we were told never to go in the power core!”
“This is an emergency,” Will said. “I’m sure Dad will understand.”
He opened the door, and pulled Penny’s wrist, dragging her behind him.
“Hey, I heard something,” Judy said as they walked on the flight deck. “I think he came back.”
“Alright,” Maureen said. “Let’s check everywhere.”
Judy and Maureen got on the elevator. “Go ahead,” Don said. “I’ll make sure he’s not up here somewhere, then follow you down.”
What the three of them didn’t know was that they were being watched while they made their way back to the Jupiter 2.
Dr. Smith had woken early. He thought he had heard a voice. A deep voice coming from everywhere in the ship. “They don’t understand you do they?” The voice had asked.
“No,” Smith had answered. “They most certainly do not.”
“You are too smart for them aren’t you?”
“Oh yes, oh yes,” Smith replied, “I’m much smarter than they are.”
“What do you want?” The voice asked.
“I want to go home!” Smith answered in a nasal whine.
The voice laughed. “You are home. You have always been here.”
Smith was fully awake now. “Who are you?” He asked.
“You know who I am.”
“Oh, you want to play games,” Smith said. “I see. Let’s play my game. Are you an alien?”
“Are you one of the other crew members? Major West, trying to frighten me?”
“You certainly are not Professor Robinson, and the only other male is William. Are you William, disguising your voice to sound older, to frighten your poor friend, Zachary Smith?”
Now the voice was silent.
“Cat got your tongue all the sudden?”
“Do not toy with me,” The voice boomed. Now it seemed upset.
“You are not William. He might play a practical joke on me, but he would never carry it this far. But I do know who you are. You are an imagination. A projection. You are not real.”
“I am real!” The voice boomed again.
“Oh, you try to sound angry, but you come across as a petulant child. Because I have figured you out haven’t I? You are a projection from some unknown source. But you can do no harm. If you could, you would do more than try to frighten me. You expect me to go running to the others, in fear for my life. But you are like them. Underestimating me. I am not afraid of a voice. I am not afraid of you. So be gone. Go back to whomever you belong to and find another child to play with. I am not that person.”
Just like that, it was gone. Smith felt it. He smiled. Finally he climbed out of bed and went up to the bridge. It was empty. He looked all around, but could find no one. He started to go back to the lower level, but it was now daylight, so he went outside. He saw the table that they normally ate breakfast at was on its side. “What happened here?” He said. He sat the table back on its legs, then crouched down, where the sand was disturbed. He looked all around. “A struggle.”
He saw footsteps. Lots of them. He began following, but after a while he heard someone coming and hid behind a bolder to wait and see who it was. He was relieved to see it was Judy. He started to call to her, when he heard Don say, “Hey, Judy.” Something seemed wrong with the man’s voice, and Smith decided not to reveal himself just yet.
“What are you doing here?” She asked. “I was supposed to go first and handle the boy.”
Handle the boy, Smith thought? What was this all about? There was only one boy with them. What was she supposed to do with Will?
“You go on,” Don said. “I’ll join you soon, then we’re getting out of here.”
“What about the others?” Judy asked.
“Forget the others. We need to get as far away from here as fast as we can. That’s what John would do.”
This is indeed a strange turn of events, Dr. Smith thought. Perhaps I should observe for a while. He stayed hidden, and Judy went on toward the ship. Eventually Don left to join her. He followed Don, but waited outside the Jupiter 2 where he could watch. A couple of hours later Will came running out. He seemed to have gotten away, and Dr. Smith had just about decided to go try to find the boy when he came back with Penny. Dr. Smith remained hidden and observed. Not sure who he could trust and who he couldn’t.
Then the others came out of the ship, and Will and Penny crept back in. Smith stayed hidden, and had decided to go find the children when the Don and Judy and Maureen came back. Now the children were trapped.
He decided he had to help them. Smith crept into the Jupiter 2. He was almost to the elevator to go down to the lower level when he heard them below, on their way back up. When they stepped on the elevator, he climbed down the ladder. He checked every room. Where could Will and Penny be? Smith wondered. He decided to go back to his cabin and watch from the door and see what happened.
Will was pretty sure they would find him and Penny eventually. There was only one way in and one way out in the room that led to the power core, but he had decided these people weren’t his family and probably didn’t know the ship well. If they could conceal themselves among the storage boxes until their real family came back, or until they could think of something else, it might work.
Once inside the storage room leading to the core, he moved some of the boxes that held the emergency supplies around and created a small space for him and his sister. They sat down to wait. Twice they heard one of the others walk in and walk back out. After they left the second time, Penny whispered, “We can’t stay here, they’re going to find us.”
“If they get close, you stay here and I’ll lead them down to the power core room, then you get away and see if you can find dad.”
“I’m not leaving you, Will.”
“Penny, if they catch us both, it won’t help anything,” he argued.
They stayed in their small hiding place for an hour. Will’s legs were cramping until finally he had to stand to stretch them. As Penny started to stand with him he heard the voice again. “There you are.” It wasn’t echoing this time. But it was the same voice.
A figure was standing at the door. Will put his hand on Penny’s shoulder to keep her down. The boy had never seen this person before, but he seemed somehow familiar. The figure approached. Will shoved the boxes toward him and ran to the ladder leading down to the power core, and climbed to the bottom.
As he stood looking around, the figure climbed down after him. Will quickly looked for something to defend himself with, but there was nothing anywhere. He ran to the opposite side of the hexagon in the center of the room.
Doctor Smith had heard the voice again, and entered the storage area above, and saw the boxes that Will had shoved over, scattered across the room. As he approached the ladder leading down, he heard talking below him. He waited and listened.
Now the figure was standing directly across from Will. “There’s no place you can hide from me,” it said. “Ever.”
It was a man. He was older, maybe in his sixties. He had long gray hair and gray whiskers and mustache, unkempt. “Who are you?” Will asked, his voice trembling.
“You know who I am,” The man said.
Will just stared at him. “I do…I do know who you are.”
Now the man smiled, but it was an evil smile. “Yes. I am you. Fifty years from now. I am every bad thing that has ever happened to you. I am every evil thought. Built, brick by brick, upon a foundation of pain and loneliness. I am Will Robinson who has watched his family and everyone he loved die, one by one. I am the boy who becomes a man, forever condemned to travel space, looking for a home you will never find. Who never finds love. Never has a family. Who wanders from planet to planet, galaxy to galaxy for the rest of his life. Bitter and broken and dead inside.
“I am your future, Will Robinson. Your destiny. Look upon your eternal damnation, and weep for what you shall be.”
Suddenly everything became clear to Doctor Smith, as he listened to the words of this being from above the room. He was overcome with a powerful sense of sadness. He knew who these others were, and he knew why he was the only one who had not been taken. But he didn’t know why Will had not been. Nor Penny.
Below him, Will didn’t know what to say to the man on the other side of the room. How this figure had gotten here. If it was telling him the truth or not. He was shaking from fear and from what he had been told. Then someone else was climbing down the ladder. And Doctor Smith was standing there. “Do not listen to a word he says William.”
Smith looked at Will and saw the tears in his eyes from everything he had just been told. “Do not believe him William. He is the minister of lies. He has no more knowledge of what your future holds than you do yourself.”
“I know everything...” the man started to say.
But Dr. Smith interrupted him. “Rubbish. You are nothing but a manifestation of your own fears. You can’t harm the boy and you have no power here. Now disappear! William. Tell it to be gone.”
Will looked at Dr. Smith, then back at the man. “Disappear!” He said. “Go!”
And the man faded into a mist, which quickly dissipated.
Will looked at Dr. Smith. “What was that?” He asked.
“He was what he told you he was. Your Id. Every dark desire, unbound by a lack of moral code. The Will Robinson who you would be if you were not the lad that you are, raised by the good parents that you have, surrounded by your loving family. The manifestation of all your base instincts. But he is not you, Will. He shall never be you. Have no fear.”
“But how?” Will asked.
“It’s this planet my boy. Something is not right here. And these others are not your real family. But so far, Professor Robinson is not with them. We must find your father.”
They heard a noise above them and looked up as Don climbed down the ladder, followed by Maureen and Judy. Doctor Smith walked over and stood by Will, pushing him a little behind him so he would be between the boy and the others.
“You’re done interfering,” Don said, looking at Smith.
“And you’re not getting the boy,” Smith said.
“Who are you?” Will asked them. “I know you’re not my family!”
“Oh they are William," Smith said. "They are just like this being that disappeared into thin air. They are the other side of everything good about your mother, your sister, and Major West. The dark to their light. The difference is that they are actually physical beings, while the other who claimed to be you was a projection. His physical body is somewhere though.”
“But what about you, Doctor Smith?” Will asked. “Is there one of you running around somewhere else?”
Suddenly the man’s expression changed. Seemed to grow sad. “No my boy. I am what you see. I am the rare breed who is both manifested in good and evil at the same time. Alas, there is no other me.”
Will almost thought he was going to cry, but then he said, “For some reason they have kept the other physical you away. Why is that?” Smith looked at the three of them. But Will answered.
“They want me to fly the Jupiter 2,” Will said.
“Oh,” Smith replied, smiling an evil smile at this version of Don and the others. “You act as if you are powerful, and yet you are in a hurry to leave this planet. What are you so afraid of?”
“My father isn’t here,” Will said. “Are you afraid of him stopping you?”
Dr. Smith had slowly walked toward them, on the other side of the hexagon. “Well...is that it?”
Suddenly he lunged, pushing Don into the others. “Run William! Find your father.”
Will ran to the ladder and climbed up the first rungs before feeling Don’s hand on his ankle. But Smith pulled the man away and shouted. “Run boy!” Will was free and made it up the ladder. “Penny!” He yelled and she shoved the boxes over. Will grabbed her hand and helped her out of the pile.
They were off the ship and running as fast as they could, trying to put as much distance between them and the others as possible. Will hoped Doctor Smith was okay. But he knew the only way to help him was to find his dad.
The siblings hadn’t talked as they ran, but when they stopped to rest, Will said, “Penny, take us to where you went this morning. We’ll go past that. Dad has to be out there somewhere.”
“Will, who are they?” She asked.
“I don’t know,” he answered. Or did he? Was what Doctor Smith told him true? That these beings were part of his family? The dark side that would be there if they weren’t the good people he knew them to be?
And what about him? This older version of himself, telling Will he was the bitter, lonely Will, fifty years from now? A Will that saw nothing but loss in his life. Never finding a home or someone to love. It was too horrible to think about.
“This doesn’t seem like a fun dream to me,” Dr. Gaston said. She was watching Will on the monitor with Mandra. Will was crying in his sleep.
The girl didn’t answer. She left the room. Gaston watched her enter Will’s room a minute later.
She approached the sleeping boy, still crying softly, as he laid in a fetal position. She sat beside him on the bed and gently placed a hand on his shoulder. “Will, wake up.” She shook him gently. “Will, you’re having a bad dream.”
The boy opened his eyes. When he saw her he was embarrassed. He felt like a baby and didn’t want her to see him that way. He sat up. “I’m sorry, Mandra.” He wiped his eyes.
“It’s okay Will,” She said. “I have bad dreams too. I just walked in to see if you needed anything and saw you were...upset.”
“Stop apologizing. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."
“Yeah. I am now. I don’t know what I was dreaming. Thanks, Mandra.”
“It’s alright. Can I get you anything?”
“No. I’m going to get up and take a shower.”
“Okay. Just press the button if you need me, okay?”
She gently squeezed his shoulder and walked out.
When she was back in the room with Dr. Gaston, the woman was smirking.
“What?” The girl asked.
“I believe I am seeing a crack in that hard shell of yours,” Gaston replied.
“Just keep on underestimating me,” Mandra said.
“Oh, I assure you girl, I never underestimate you.”
The two of them just stared at each other for a few seconds. Finally Dr. Gaston said, “This certainly wasn’t the happy dream he had before.”
“No,” the girl answered. “This one scared him. He can’t remember any of it. So I guess it’s time for Plan B.”
“Okay, what is Plan B?”
“The dream he had that almost helped him remember…the pleasant dream…was a about a tree house. A large tree house. His oldest sister…”
“Yeah, well, he didn’t remember her name. Anyway, Judy took Will and Penny to this giant tree house and they walked through it. There were bedrooms and rope bridges and a waterwheel and everything. He remembered all that when he told me about it. It was the most detail he had remembered in a dream.”
“So the Robinsons moved from California when Will was five years old, to Titusville Florida…”
“Yes, outside of Cape Canaveral when Professor Robinson began working on the Alpha Mission. The Jupiter 2 launched from Cape Canaveral.”
“Yes. And fifty miles or so from Titusville is Disney World. And at Disney World they have the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House. It looks pretty much the way Will described it in his dream. I researched it."
“So you think Will is remembering his sister taking him there?”
“So your plan B is…”
“Is a field trip.”
“You want to take him to Disney World?”
“Do you think we are playing some kid’s game, Mandra?”
“No. But I think our best chance of getting him to remember this dream…and his family…is taking him someplace that will help jog his memory. Look, he didn’t remember what MacDonald’s was, but he said as soon as he saw the Big Mac box, he remembered it, and even what it was going to taste like. Once he started playing a video game, he remembered the one he liked to play before he left Earth. I think this dream meant a lot to him. A happy day with his sisters. And I think it might help him remember them.”
“We’re going to take the most famous boy in the world to one of the most crowded places in the world?”
“Close it down and take him to an empty park. He’ll be with me and you keep the guards out of site. Put them in a damn Micky Mouse costume.”
“Do you have any idea what that will cost?”
“And who’s going to tell you no?”
Dr. Gaston just looked at the girl for several seconds. “No one,” She said, and reached for the phone.
Penny left her room when she knew the rest of the family had gone to bed. She walked quietly to Dr. Smith’s room, where Robot was on guard outside, rolling back and forth as if he were marching.
“Robot,” Penny said in a low voice. “I need to see Doctor Smith.”
He stopped. "Why are we whispering, Penny Robinson?” Robot asked.
“So we don’t wake the others,” She whispered back.
“And why do you need to see Doctor Smith?” He whispered.
“I need to talk to him.”
“But my orders are…”
“You orders are to guard him, not keep anyone from talking to him,” She whispered.
“This is affirmative. You may enter.”
Penny smiled. “Thank you.”
“Doctor Smith,” Penny called quietly.
“Yes child,” he called back.
She opened the door and stepped inside, sliding it shut behind her.
Dr. Smith was lying on his back, his right wrist cuffed to a table beside the bed.
“I need your help,” She said.
“As you can see my dear, I am in a limited capacity to render any assistance to you or anyone else, since your father imprisoned me in my own cabin.”
“Maybe I can find the key,” She answered. “If you promise to help me.”
“While I would always be prepared to assist you in whatever you wanted, you need to tell me what exactly it is you need from me.”
“I need you to help me get Will and bring him back.”
“I’m sure that is impossible,” He responded. “Besides, if he is safely on Earth, I would be doing the boy a grave disservice to remove him from his home and help you return him to space.”
“But you know Will, Doctor Smith. He wants to be with his family more than anything. His family is his home, not Earth. You are the one who wants to return to Earth so badly. Maybe we can accomplish both.”
Now he sat up. “I’m all ears, child.”
“There is another ship. They call them Scouts. It’s capable of going through the wormhole. If we take it, you can help me find Will and get him back on it, and he and I will come back through the wormhole to be with the family. You can stay on Earth.”
“My dear child. I understand how much you want to reunite your brother with his family, but do you have any idea how dangerous that is? We don’t even know the science behind it. And we don’t know if young William even made it. It was worth the risk for me to return to Earth, but I never would have risked Will’s life to do this. And I certainly won’t risk your life. No, it is simply out of the question.”
“But Doctor Smith, Will did make it. That’s why I came to see you. They received a video of him. He was inside some cars with guards all around him. They were taking him from a hospital, and they said to an unknown whereabouts. But they have not seen anything about him since. We don’t know where he is. I need your help to find him.”
“It worked? He returned to Earth? William is on Earth?”
“Yes. And you saw what Will did for me. You were the only one who saw besides me. He was going to stay here when I was refusing to leave. I have to try to find him. That’s what he would have done.” Now she was crying.
“Now, now, Penny dear. Don’t cry. But what if we are able to get back and find him? That doesn’t mean you can safely return.”
“Then at least I would be with him. Just like he was going to do for me. I will do it for him. But how would we find out where he is?”
“Oh, I am quite certain I know where he is. And I am quite certain I know who is responsible for his disappearance.”
“An old, old adversary of mine,” Smith answered. He was staring at the wall, as if he was deep in thought. A thin smile had appeared on his face.
“Who are you Doctor Smith?” Penny asked. “I mean really?”
He was brought back to the present and he at the girl. “I am Doctor Zachary Smith. Your dear, dear friend.”
“Look Doctor Smith. I know that’s not everything about you. Will noticed it too. There is a lot more to you than you want anyone to know. And…your secret is safe with me. I just…I need your help to find my brother and bring him back.”
He thought for a minute or two, then he said, “Your grandparents have passed, haven’t they?”
“Yes, before we left.”
“And any other relatives?”
“No,” Penny answered.
“Then I will help you on one condition. If we find it is too dangerous to return, you will remain with me, until you are an adult. I will make sure nothing happens to you. I will have to hide you out, but that will be no problem. I have…friends.”
“Of course Will. If we can get him free. You children will be my responsibility. I will make sure you are well taken care of, until you are old enough to care of yourselves. You shall want for nothing, I promise you. You…the Robinsons...are the only family I have. And that means something to me, believe it or not.”
“I don’t know what to say, Doctor Smith.”
“You will say nothing. Ever. If we find we cannot return to Earth, as far as your family is concerned, I am the same frightened, bumbling Doctor Smith they have tolerated for the last four years.”
“But you aren’t, are you?” She asked.
“Oh no, Penny. I am not. I am far from that person.”
“Alright, Doctor Smith. I promise.”
“Now, first things first, I need to get out of here,” He said.
“I’m not sure where the key is,” Penny responded.
“Key? Oh, this.” He held up his wrist and the chain that connected it to the table. He reached in his pocket and slipped a thin object out of it, inserted it inside the lock on the hand cuff, and in a couple of seconds, the cuff popped open. Penny’s eyes grew wide.
“A much greater concern is our mechanical friend outside, parading back and forth like a plastic duck in a shooting gallery.”
“I can try to remove his power pack,” Penny offered.
“No. The others will discover him, and the jig will be up. We need to coerce him to our side. Bring him in.”
Penny stood and walked to the door, and poked her head out. Robot was still rolling back and forth in front of the door. “Robot, come in here,” She whispered.
He stopped and rolled inside the room. Penny closed the door behind him.
“Doctor Smith, how did you free yourself?”
“Never mind that, booby, I need you to let me out and continue to guard the room so no one will know I am gone. It will be hours before Maureen brings my breakfast.”
“My orders are…”
“Robot, please,” Penny said. “I need Doctor Smith’s help to try to find Will.”
“I am sorry Penny Robinson, but Professor…”
“But Robot, don’t you want Will to come back?”
He was quiet now, then he said. “Yes, Penny. I want Will Robinson to come back. But my orders are…”
“And just why are Professor Robinson’s orders more important than mine?” Doctor Smith asked.
“Because he is the commander of this mission. The Captain of this ship.”
“But Robot,” Penny pleaded. “If Dad finds out he will stop us. Please. I need your help. Will needs your help.”
Now Robot was silent. After several minutes he said, “I shall join this mutiny. For Will Robinson. I will forever be known as Mr. Christian. The Mechanical Mutineer. History will judge me harshly, but I do it for Will.”
“Oh Robot, Thanks!” Penny threw her arms around him and hugged him.
Smith stood. “You are doing the right thing my bosom buddy. Now, keep anyone from entering this room for as long as you can. I have no idea how long this will take.”
He peeked his head out the door. “The coast is clear, my dear. Let’s be off.”
The two of them hurried out the door and rushed to the ladder. Robot slid the door closed behind them and resumed his position, patrolling the cabin, rolling back and forth.
Smith and Penny met Marti at the end of the launch pad, where she waited with an electric cart. Twenty minutes later they were at the storage facility where the Scout was kept.
They walked inside and the light came on. “This is it?” Smith said.
“Yes,” Marti replied.
Smith walked to the small vessel and proceeded to walk around it while the two girls watched him. “It looks like we’ll be flying in a torpedo.”
“It’s perfectly safe for flight through the wormhole,” Marti said. “We used them for many years. They are not designed for long flight. But they will enter the wormhole and be through it in minutes. It can land and take off like any rocket.”
“Land? It has landing gear, or it must splash down?”
“It can be programmed to land, if we have the celestial coordinates to the planet, and the geographical coordinates of the planet,” she said.
“You have the celestial coordinates from here to Earth?” Smith asked her.
“And I can provide the geographical coordinates,” he responded.
“Where would we land?” Penny asked.
“You leave that up to me,” He said. “Let’s look inside.”
Marti walked up to the small spacecraft and pressed a button and the hatch opened from the top, and folded to the ground. There were four steps leading up and into the vessel. Smith walked up the steps, followed by the others.
There were two seats at the front of the unit, facing a console of instruments and computers, the rest of the spaceship was empty, except for two silver containers that looked like large briefcases.
“Good thing I’m not claustrophobic,” Smith said.
“You won’t be awake long,” Marti replied. “We program it to the coordinates, and program its return back to our orbit before you launch.”
She looked at Penny. “The trick will be to guide it in past the force field. You will be inside the protective container, and will be asleep until we wake you here. You and Will. We’ll show you how to launch.”
“We?” Penny asked. “Who’s we? I’m sure Barth won’t let us do this if he knows.”
“Edgar,” Marti said. “He will need to make sure the Scout is in working condition and capable of launching. He will program it for the round trip.”
“I thought Edgar did what Barth tells him,” Penny replied.
“Well, he does, but there’s a catch,” Marti said.
“What?” Penny asked.
“Oh, Penny dear,” Dr. Smith said, “If we are successful and you return with your brother I will certainly miss your sweet innocence. This boy Edgar that you speak of is obviously in love with our not-so young friend here.”
Penny looked at Marti. The girl just shrugged. “You two better get back,” she said. “I’ll go see Edgar and talk him in to this. Let’s plan to meet here tomorrow night, around midnight.”
“Will that be enough time?” Penny asked.
“You won't launch yet," Marti said. "Edgar will have to examine the ship and see if it’s in working order. But we can't wait long. We have no idea how long the wormhole will remain stable."
“Disney Land?” The Lieutenant said. “You can’t be serious.”
“It’s Disney World, and I am most definitely serious. The park will close at five PM, we’ll have our people in place and will have the park to ourselves from seven until Midnight. Guards will be stationed everywhere. We’ll even have them dressed up as characters.”
“Cast members,” one of the women said. They all looked at her. “That’s what they call them at Disney. Cast members.”
“Whatever,” The Lieutenant responded. “You think this will make a difference?”
“Who knows?” Gaston replied. “It’s the last attempt before more…extreme measures.”
“We should have started with extreme measures,” The Lieutenant said.
“Yes, I know how quickly you like to go there,” Gaston replied.
“It’s not going to help to fight amongst ourselves,” one of the other men said. “What is the purpose of this Disney World trip?”
“Mandra believes this dream he has had, where he has come close to remembering his family, was of a trip they took to Disney World when he was a small child. Soon after the Robinsons moved from California to work on the Alpha program. He has come close several times to remembering things. Food he has eaten that she brought to him, a video game he played as a small child. But this dream has been recurring. It was an important memory for him. And maybe it will work. She has certainly been able to break through to him more anyone else has. She’s his only friend. I think it’s a good idea to let her try.”
“What about the wormhole,” One of the women asked. “What’s the status?”
“Still stable,” Gaston answered. “How long we don’t know. The pod had some minor damage, but nothing too serious. It has been repaired and it’s at NASA. Every astronaut we have has volunteered to fly it. But without more information, we are completely blind. There is a laser on it, but we aren’t sure what it's for. It doesn’t seem to be for defense, which makes us assume it had something to do with this wormhole. But we have no idea. So we have someone pilot this pod through the wormhole, the same way it came here, and then what? He just shows up in some other solar system and says, "take me to your leader?”
“What about a shuttle?” The Lieutenant asked.
“It is an option that has been discussed. But we scratched it. We have two of those bags or whatever they are. The one from the Pod that Will Robinson was in, and the one from the grave that the boy was in. They seem identical. There is a chemical inside, we have determined, and apparently a release button. We are hesitant to test them, because we only have the two. And we have nothing that would duplicate them. The radiation levels near the wormhole are off the charts. We don’t believe anyone would survive without these units. We believe our best attempt is with two of our people on the pod, using the protection units that this advanced race designed for that very purpose.
“This is why the boy’s memory is so important to us. We may only have one shot at this. We’re equipping the pod with sensors, radio transmitters, and everything we have to record the data inside the wormhole, and what is on the other side of it. We’re waiting for one thing, and only one thing. This boy to get his memory back and help us understand what we are dealing with.”
“So what happens if they take this trip to Disney Land…”
“Disney World,” Several people said at once.
“Whatever the fuck it's called,” The Lieutenant responded, raising his voice. “And still no memory from this kid?”
“Then I do whatever it takes to get him to talk,” Gaston replied emphatically.
“Will, I have a surprise for you,” Mandra said as she entered his room to bring him lunch.
“What?” He asked, with a smile. Seeing his friend everyday was the only thing he looked forward to.
“I can’t tell you, but we’re going on a trip tomorrow. We’ll be gone a couple of days, but it’ll be fun. I promise.”
“Was it your idea, or theirs?” He asked.
“Mine,” she said.
He smiled. “Okay. But you sure you can’t tell me what it is?”
“Nope. Not going to ruin the surprise. Just be ready to leave by noon, tomorrow.”
The next day, Will was waiting when she knocked twice then walked in his room. “Ready?” She asked.
“Yes!” He stood up.
They walked to the door where four guards were waiting. Two walked down the hall in front of them, and two followed.
At the end of the hall they entered the elevator, and one of the guards pressed the button to the roof. Will looked at Mandra. “Helicopter?” He asked.
“At first,” She answered.
On the roof, Will saw a large black helicopter waiting for them, but he looked up and saw at least a dozen other's hovering. He looked at Mandra.
“What do you want me to say? You’re a celebrity,” she answered. But he didn’t seem happy about it.
She squeezed his shoulder. “I promise you it will be fun,” she said.
Once they were strapped in, they took off across the fields, with the other helicopters surrounding them. Dr. Gaston and her assistant was in one of them. Will looked down at the compound and the woods. He could remember almost nothing about being in space, but the longer he was back on Earth, the more he was beginning to remember of it. And he was still a fourteen boy, so a ride in a helicopter was as exciting as it would be for any child his age.
They flew for about a half hour, then landed at a small airport. He and Mandra were led to a private plane, where they were put in a compartment near the front, separated from any other passengers. He heard others boarding the plane in the rear. “Is Doctor Gaston on board?” He asked Mandra.
“Who cares?” She answered. A flight attendant came from somewhere behind them. She was a pretty girl with a wide smile. “Can I get you two anything?” She asked.
“Are you hungry, Will?” Mandra asked.
“No, just a Coke, please.”
“Two,” Mandra told the attendant, and the girl disappeared.
The attendant came back and handed them the Cokes, and touched Will on the arm. “Let me know if you need anything else, Will.” She walked off.
“I think she’s flirting with you,” Mandra said with a grin.
“No she isn’t,” he said.
“Sure she is. You’re famous. And I might be a little jealous.”
Will blushed. It was the first time Mandra and suggested she was anything more than a friend. He wasn’t sure how to take it. She was a beautiful girl for sure, but they had become good friends in the last few weeks, and he was happy with that. But he had to admit, he kind of liked what she said.
“I think I embarrassed you.” Mandra was grinning at him.
He just smiled and turned and looked out the window.
Four hours later the plane landed at another airport, and there was a line of black SUVs waiting for them. They all piled in and drove off. It was starting to get dark now. Will was intrigued about what they were doing. Mandra hadn’t said a word. Then he began seeing signs for Disney World and the many different parks.
“We’re going to Disney land?” He asked.
“Disney World,” She said with a smile.
“Really?” He suddenly remembered a theme park. He hadn’t thought about anything like that in he didn’t know how long. He had been lonely and sad for weeks. Mandra had made everything a lot better, but most of the time he was still by himself. And his dreams seemed to go from pleasant to terrifying. So he was seldom happy. But now, as the black SUVs cruised through the long drive toward Magic Kingdom he was excited. It was the first time he really felt like a normal fourteen year old boy again. He told himself that he didn’t know what was going to happen to him after this day. If Dr. Gaston was going to start interviewing him again. If she was going to make good on her threat to have him put in prison, but he wasn’t going to think about that the rest of the evening. He was going to have fun. Like any normal fourteen year old boy at Disney World.
“Mandra,” he said.
She looked at him.
She reached over and squeezed his hand and smiled, then looked straight ahead.
When they piled out of the SUVs, Will noticed there were few people around. “Where is everyone?” He asked.
“We are everyone,” Mandra answered. “The park is closed. We’ll have it to ourselves.”
“But why?” They were walking through the parking lot, the guards surrounding them but keeping their distance.
“They couldn’t very well let you come here during normal hours. You’re really famous Will. They worry about your safety.”
Now he was quiet.
“What is it?” She asked.
“What’s going on Mandra? You’re the only person I’ve met since coming back to Earth who has been nice to me. You’re a fifteen year old girl. They aren’t going to do all this just because you told them to.”
She knew she had to be careful now. Will wasn’t stupid. He was the opposite of that. She knew that he really wanted to believe she was his friend, so that helped him ignore some of the things that might normally make him suspicious. Like how they suddenly began leaving him alone after Mandra became his attendant. But she had tried her best not to blatantly lie to him. He was too smart for that.
“I think they decided, once you began talking to me, that the way they were treating you was not working. And you’re right, I’m only a fifteen year old girl. But, you are the most important person in the world to them, if they want to find out what happened to your family. So it was the fact that we became friends that made me more important to them. They actually began listening to me. And one of the things I have been telling them is that you really have forgotten your family.
“See, they didn’t believe you. When you remembered that it wasn’t aliens that made the wormhole, and the thing you were in that kept you alive when you went through it, they assumed you remembered everything, and for some reason, was hiding what happened to your family.
“I convinced them that you were being honest. And I convinced them that in the end, you were more than the genius child, the youngest member of the first family in space. The only one to return. You were a fourteen year old boy who hasn’t been back to Earth in years. And who missed MacDonald’s and hot dogs and chocolate and video games. Even if you didn’t remember them. I bet when you still had your memories you missed those things.
“Hey Will, you want to ride the monorail to the gate or the ferry?” She asked.
“The Ferry,” He answered. “I’m kinda feeling like going back in time, not forward. I think I’ve been there.”
“Not if you don’t remember it,” She said.
“Well, I remember the kids a little. The ones that couldn’t grow up. I don’t remember why. But I know they were just like us. Human I mean. Aliens I guess because they weren’t from Earth, but humans from a different planet."
The girl was listening intently. He had told her this before.
“They couldn’t age?” Mandra asked. “Why not?”
“I think they drank some water on some planet they landed on. And it changed them somehow. I don’t really remember them. I remember liking that girl."
“You really are trying to make me jealous, aren’t you Will,” She grinned at him.
“No. I didn’t mean…”
“Hey, I’m joking. A little.” She was still grinning at him.
“Come on,” She said. “The Ferry is waiting for us.” She started jogging and Will ran to keep up with her. She seemed as excited as he was.
There was a man in a Captain’s costume at the gangplank. “Watch your step,” he said as the kids crossed over to the boat. Mandra noticed his radio clipped to his collar, and the bulge of a gun under his jacket. One of us, she thought.
“Let’s go to the top,” She said to Will.
They hurried up the steps and stood over the paddle wheel as the boat sounded its whistle and left the dock.
Will looked at Mandra. She was smiling as the boat pulled out, watching the paddle wheel below them. “You haven’t been here before either, have you?”
She looked at him and he thought he saw her blush. She was not used to acting like a child, and she realized that’s what she was doing. Then she thought, fuck it, I can be a child for a while, can’t I? “No, Will, I’ve never been here before. But I’ve been reading up on it. I know exactly where I want to take you, if that’s alright with you.”
“Yes, I’ve never been here either, or if I have I don’t remember it. But why hasn’t anyone taken you?”
She looked back across the lake. “I’ve had an unconventional childhood, Will.” She sounded sad.
“I guess we both have, huh?” He said.
She looked back at him. “Yes. We both have. But you know what? We are at Disney World for a few hours, and we have the whole park to ourselves. Let’s be two teenagers for a while and not think about anything else, deal?”
He grinned. “Deal.”
Then she hugged him. When she let go they looked at each other for a second. They were both embarrassed. Will, because he was starting to like her more and more, and Mandra, because her emotions were surprising her. The boat whistle broke the moment, as the ferry pulled into the dock at the Magic Kingdom.
“Let’s go,” She said. She took Will’s hand and pulled him toward the steps leading down to the lower deck.
“Have a great day!” The man dressed as the Captain said as they stepped off the Ferry on to the gangplank.
Mandra ignored him but Will gave him a cheerful, “Thanks,” suddenly realizing this was the only other person he had spoken to except for Mandra in weeks. Then he decided it didn’t matter. He had no memories of his previous life, and maybe it was time to just get on with things. Perhaps Dr. Gaston wasn’t all that bad. She had left him alone, and had even given permission for them to come here. He decided that once back, he would talk to her about everything he could remember, though it wouldn’t be much. But maybe it wouldn’t matter. Mandra had convinced the woman that he wasn’t lying, so she had no reason to hurt him. And the prison thing was probably a ploy to try and get him to talk anyway. Yeah, he told himself, it was time to move on and start a new life.
There were several people at the gate. Mandra looked for the tell-tale signs of the small mics clipped to their collars and the bulges under their Disney uniforms to identify their people. They all were their people. There were some park employees still around, she knew. Most of them at the rides. But just about everyone had been forced to leave. Somewhere Dr. Gaston was sitting in an office, surrounded by her agents, watching every move the two kids made on monitors, connected to the vast network of cameras installed at the park for security purposes. Marti had been told the cameras would be practically invisible.
They were waved through the gate, no one stopping them for tickets or to talk to them. Then they were on the Main Street. Everything was designed to look like a small town in the early twentieth century. There was a town square, a fire house, a barbershop, and store fronts all along both sides of the street. At the far end was the famous Cinderella’s Castle. Like any tourist exploring the park for the first time, they were making their way toward it.
Mandra looked at Will and saw the boy was smiling. She was surprised that this made her happy. But what the hell, he was a nice kid and his personality was changing from the stoic, quiet boy she first met, to a normal teenager. For a second she became sad. What’s getting into you, she wondered.
Once at the Castle, they were greeted by a beautiful, smiling Cinderella and a handsome Prince Charming. “Welcome to my castle,” Cinderella said with a slight southern accent. She stepped to the side and waved her hand for them to go in. Mandra was impressed. They played the part well. She didn’t know who Prince Charming was, but Cinderella was Kariina Bieve, a former Chechen assassin who Dr. Gaston had recruited several years before.
“Stay away from her,” Gaston had told the girl. “She hates two things, Russians and young children.” But now the woman was all smiles as she watched Mandra and Will walk past her into the castle.
They walked through the center of the structure, looking at the tapestries and paintings on the walls, but both kids were slightly disappointed that there was no access to the rest of the castle. Will had a quick thought that he had been here before, and felt the same disappointment that it wasn’t the type of castle where you could climb the turrets and towers, but it was fleeting and once on the other side, Mandra looked at him and said, “You ready to find some rides?”
“Yes!” He answered.
She reached in her pocket and pulled a copy of a map out and looked at it. He saw she had drawn arrows and written notes in tiny, even print, so neat it could have been made on a computer. She saw him looking at it. “I’m a planner,” She explained. “Okay, let’s go.” She took his hand and led him away from the castle.
They jumped in two cars at the Grand Prix race track, though it wasn’t so much a race as a drive around the course and a little anti-climatic for their first ride.
“Okay, now we’re going to have some fun,” Mandra said. She led him past a sign indicating they had entered “Tomorrow Land.” Now the structures were futuristic, with shining metal buildings, and post modern lighting.
They stopped outside a large round structure. “Space Mountain,” Will read, then smiled.
“You know this?” Mandra asked.
“Yeah. It seems like I’ve been here. Maybe I just read about it.”
They walked through the gate and into the barriers where the lines would be, had there been others here. It was mostly dark, with enough blue fluorescent lighting to guide them. The walkway sloped upwards, past monitors showing videos of stars and planets and other spatial bodies, while strange music played over the speakers.
When they came to the top of the walkway, there were a line of carts, three seats to each one. There were four attendants here. Mandra quickly noted the two who were agents, and two younger people who she could tell were actually employees, a girl and boy in their late teens. Both of them were looking at Will.
“Welcome to Space Mountain,” The boy said. “Though I’m sure its nothing new for you, Will.”
Will looked embarrassed. “Hi,” he replied.
“Take the front seat,” Mandra said to him.
“You can have it,” he offered.
“Go ahead, we can just ride it again,” She smiled.
Will sat down in front and Mandra took the seat directly behind him.
“Get ready to blast off,” The girl said, smiling at Will.
As the carts left the dock, Mandra glanced up at the two men in park uniforms, standing next to the track, watching them impassively. They didn’t acknowledge her and she just looked past them and focused on the ride.
Within seconds, both kids were screaming as the small cart sped through the “mountain” in almost total darkness, except for the star bursts and flashing lights designed to look like stars and planets.
When it was over both kids were laughing. “Again?” Will said, looking back at Mandra.
“Yes!” She agreed.
“Let’s switch seats,” Will said. The attendant opened the cart and the two children changed, with Will taking the second seat this time.
The kids ended up riding Space Mountain four times before Mandra said, “We better get going if we’re going to do anything else.”
“Okay,” Will said, though he thought he could just ride this over and over again and be completely happy.
“We have to do some of the traditional things,” Mandra said when they were outside, "or it won’t really be a trip to Disney World.”
“Okay,” Will agreed. “I’m good to follow your map,” He told her.
They stopped and bought ice cream at a little stand. Mandra again noted the girl in the booth had a mic pinned to her collar and a firearm under her top, but she smiled and spoke to them like she was an employee.
“We have to do Small World,” Mandra said. And Will immediately began singing the song.
“Hey, you remember it.” Mandra said.
“I don’t think anyone can forget that,” he laughed.
When they left the ride, they were both singing it. “Now how do we forget it?” She said with a laugh.
They like the Haunted Mansion enough that they rode it twice. Mandra again noticed that two of the attendants were employees and two were agents.
They loved Big Thunder Railroad enough to ride the roller coaster a second time, and they got soaked on Splash Mountain and laughed the entire time.
They skipped the Jungle Cruise, but when Will saw they could take a log raft over to Tom Sawyer’s island, he asked if they could do that. He had been reading Tom Sawyer, one of the books they had given him. Mandra agreed, and they wandered the island for awhile, then rode the raft back to the park.
“Well, we have to do Pirates of the Caribbean,” she said. They both acted like it was corny, but they also kind of liked it, even though they wouldn’t admit it.
“Hey, you hungry?” She asked him, when they were off the ride. She kept glancing at her watch, and wanted to kill some time before their last stop. Besides, she was hungry and thoroughly enjoying the night. She was surprised at how easy it had been to become a normal child for awhile.
They stopped for burgers and fries and Cokes. When they had their food, delivered by a friendly park employee, and watched closely by a couple of agents behind the food counter, she said, “So what do you think, Will?”
“Its been the best day, Mandra. I don’t know how to thank you for this.”
When she didn’t answer at first, he wondered if something was wrong. The expression on her face was strange. But finally she smiled. “I’ve enjoyed it too, Will. I’m glad we did this.”
“Hey, I think I’m going to talk to Doctor Gaston. Tell her everything I remember. It isn’t much, but I keep having the feeling I’ve been here before, so maybe I’m going to start remembering more. She may not be so bad.”
Mandra didn’t answer for a few seconds. She knew that Gaston was listening to everything they said. She had a microphone taped to her chest. Finally she said, “I think that’s a good idea Will. I think you can trust her.” Mandra was surprised that she felt guilty saying that.
When they were done eating Will said, “So what’s next?” They had been here several hours and he knew the night was coming to an end.
“Follow me,” Mandra said, and led him down a path until they were in front of a huge tree. Or what looked like a tree.
Will stopped. He looked at the waterwheel, then scanned upward, seeing the tree house spread throughout the branches.
“I’ve been here,” He said. “It’s my dream.”
Marti had convinced Edgar to help them get the Scout in condition to fly, and to do it without telling Bartholomew.
He had tried to argue with her, saying “Barth is going to kill me when he finds out.”
“No one is going to kill you, Edgar. You are too valuable to everyone. Besides, you know we owe it to them. We caused this.”
In the end he agreed because he was in love with Marti, and had been for centuries.
Marti and Edgar had met Penny and Dr. Smith back at the building with the Scout the following night.
“Weeks,” Edgar had said, once he examined the ship.
“Weeks?” Penny said. “But Will’s all alone.”
“My boy, what can we do to expedite this process?” Doctor Smith asked him.
“Nothing,” Edgar said. “I have to practically rebuild the launch system. It might be able to launch now to get there, but it will never be able to return without some major repairs.”
With no other options, they went back to the Jupiter 2. They decided that Dr. Smith would just have to remain chained to his cabin until they were ready to launch the ship, and Penny would have to act like everything was normal.
John and Major West spent every day at the lab with Edgar trying to figure out if there was any way to make the wormhole large enough for the Jupiter 2. Judy was with them every day, and both John and Don were surprised that she was so interested in the science and had an aptitude for it that neither of them expected.
“It seems like it should be more simple than it is,” She had said one day, “Isn’t it just a matter of creating more negative energy to open a larger wormhole?”
“I know that sounds simple,” Edgar had replied. “But the more energy you dispense, the more unstable the wormhole becomes. Its not just widening the hole, its maintaining the stability. If it was to collapse when your ship passes through it, it will disintegrate. With you inside. We spent centuries on this problem.”
“Dad, there has to be something we can do,” Judy said, turning to him. “Will is all alone.”
“I know Judy. But we know he’s alive. That’s what matters. That he’s safe.”
“But how do we know he's safe?” She asked. “Those people have him, he was all alone, and did you see some of those signs? Some of them called him a murderer. One said he was an alien.”
“Judy,” Don said. “The government has him. He’s very important to them. I don’t think they are going to let him out of their sight.”
“It’s not just that,” Judy said. “If it was me or Penny, we would be fine in a while. Get on with our lives. I mean, it would be horrible, wondering what happened to you. Missing you. But we would survive. I’m not sure Will can. His family is the most important thing to him. I think he could live anywhere if we were with him. We just have to figure out something.”
Edgar listened to this and was tempted to tell them that there might be a way, and that he was working on it with Marti and Penny. But Marti had sworn him to secrecy, and he understood why. There is no way John Robinson would let Penny return with Dr. Smith. Edgar knew he could get the Scout in working condition and was pretty sure it would be able to make it back to Earth. But there were too many variables for him to really believe they could come back. But Edgar was a kind-hearted boy, and he was going to do his best to prepare the Scout for the trip and program it to return, in case this Smith guy was able to figure out how to get back.
Several weeks had passed when he told Marti the Scout was ready for departure. “Okay, I’ll let Penny know. Can we launch tomorrow night?” She asked.
“Yes. But there’s a problem. When we power the ship up, everyone will know. The network will signal the launch protocol. I figure we have ten minutes or so before anyone could get here to try and stop us. And there’s no way to test it. If it doesn’t launch, Barth will make sure we never have another chance.”
“Well, we’ll get Penny and Smith inside, and have everything ready before we launch, and hope you are as brilliant as I think you are.”
The boy blushed. “Tomorrow night then. After midnight.”
“After midnight,” Marti agreed.
Marti went to meet with Penny and told her the news.
“So it’s really happening,” She said.
“Its really happening.”
“Marti, tell me the truth, do you think we’ll make it back?”
The girl looked at her for a few seconds before answering. Then she said, “Are you going to bring your brother back, Penny?”
Penny started to quickly answer that she was, but she hesitated, knowing the girl was asking her for more than that. Finally she said, “I want to bring him back. Yes. That’s what this is all about. But that’s not really why I’m going. I’m going to make sure he isn’t alone. If I can’t bring him back then I want to be there with him. I want to do the same thing he would do for me.”
“Then do the best you can, Penny. But remember the real reason you’re going. And if you can’t do it...if you can’t return...then find Will and make sure he isn’t alone. Edgar assures me the Scout can make the trip.”
Penny hugged the girl. “Marti, I don’t know how to thank you. I know what this means. That you may never be able to get help. That you may be like this forever.”
“Forever is a long time Penny. None of us know what the future will bring. Maybe someday, if your people don’t destroy each other first, someone can help us.”
The next night Penny lingered at the dinner table longer than she would have. They were all there, her mother and father, Don and Judy. She didn’t want it to end. She was pretty sure it would be the last meal she would ever share with them.
Finally, Penny stood up from the table and hugged Don, then her sister, then her father, then her mother. When she was holding on to her mother, Maureen could tell she was upset. “Penny, what’s wrong?” She asked.
The others just looked at her, wondering what was going on.
“Nothing. I just love you all so much.” She let her mom go and they saw tears in her eyes.
“Penny, are you okay?” Judy asked.
“Yes, I’m fine.” She wiped her eyes. “I just miss Will, and I worry that something will happen to you guys too.”
“Oh Penny. We love you too,” Maureen said. “Nothing is going to happen to us.”
“I know. I just…nothing. I’m going to take Doctor Smith his dinner.” She hurried off.
“What do you think’s gotten in to her?” Don asked.
“I think its just Will,” John answered. “I don’t blame her.”
They just looked at each other. There was nothing left to say.
At eleven thirty that night, she went back to Doctor Smith’s cabin. When she called his name he came out, the handcuffs off. “I’m ready child.”
Penny turned to Robot. “Thanks so much for not telling Dad.”
“Penny, I am afraid I have not done the right thing. By my calculations, the chances of your return are…” He paused, deciding not to tell her what the chances really were. “Small,” He said.
“I know Robot. But I have no choice.”
“I know Penny Robinson. If you do not return, I will miss you. And Will Robinson.” He paused. “And you as well Doctor Smith.”
“Now don’t start blubbering, I have no oil can,” Doctor Smith said. But his voice was soft.
“Will you take care of my family and Don?” Penny asked.
“I promise I will protect them, Penny.” His voice was sad.
Tears came to Penny’s eyes now. She hugged him. “You are a good friend Robot.” Then she hurried to the elevator, Doctor Smith behind her.
When they pulled the electric cart up by the building, they saw the lights were already on inside. They opened the door and found Edgar and Marti waiting for them.
“You remember what to do?” Edgar asked Dr. Smith. He had gone over everything with him several times.
“Yes. It is programmed for the landing, correct?”
“Yes, as long as there is no problem, and it remains concealed, you should be able to launch. It’s programmed to return to the orbit of this planet, then we’ll bring you in. If you make it.”
“Never underestimate Doctor Zachary Smith,” He said. “Now, you said you can relay signals through the wormhole, is this correct?”
“Yes,” The boy replied.
“Then take this.” He handed him a piece of notebook paper. “These are the coordinates, and this is the message.”
There were just a series of numbers and letters and hash marks.
“A code?” Edgar asked.
“Yes. No one will be able to interpret it except for its intended audience,” Smith answered.
“Who is that?” Penny asked.
“Friends my dear. Friends.”
“You have to go now, before they stop us,” Marti said.
Penny hugged Edgar, which surprised him, then she hugged Marti. “Thank you so much, I’ll never forget this.”
“Penny, if you don’t come back, please tell Will I’m sorry.”
“I will Marti, I promise.”
Then Doctor Smith surprised the girl by hugging her as well. “If I can find a way to help you I shall.”
“Thank you Doctor Smith,” Marti said.
“Now I launch the ship,” Edgar said. “It will get past the force field and enter the wormhole. If all goes well, and your coordinates are correct, it will land on Earth undamaged. It is programmed to return, all you need to do is launch it.” He handed Dr. Smith a wrist band. It looked like a watch.
“Put this on and keep it. It has the coordinates to return in case something happens to the program. You can program it manually. Once I power up the ship, a signal will be given to our control room. So they will be coming. We have no way of testing it, so if it doesn’t work, they’ll stop you. But it’s the best we could do without getting caught. Once out of orbit, conceal yourselves in the containment units and press the button by your right hand. You will be asleep and in suspension until someone opens the units. Understand?”
“Yes,” They answered in unison.
Penny hugged Marti one last time and she and Dr. Smith climbed into the small ship.
“Strap yourselves in,” Edgar called, then pressed the control and the steps folded back inside the vessel.
“Can you hear me?” Edgar spoke into a device on his wrist.
“Loud and Clear,” Dr. Smith answered. He was strapped into the chair beside Penny.
“Alright. I’m going to give you a ten second countdown, then I’ll start pre-launch proceedings. And all hell will break loose.
When he reached zero, he pressed the launch button on a hand held control and the ship’s lights came on as the roof of the building retracted.
Back in the control room, everything flashed red. There were two kids stationed at all times in control and they looked at each other, then hit an alarm. It began blaring in every building in the compound.
A minute later Bartholomew and several other kids ran in the room, all of them half dressed. “What is it?” Barth yelled as he hurried over to the console.
“It’s the Scout!” The girl at the control panel said. “It’s started launch protocol!”
“The Robinsons?” A boy asked as he ran in the room.
“If it is they had help,” Bartholomew answered. “Where’s my sister and Edgar?”
They all looked around at each other. “Shit!” Bartholomew said. “Get people out there now, we have to stop them!” Several kids ran from the room.
“Marti!” He called over his radio.
“Yes, Barth,” She answered.
“You have to stop this,” he said.
“No, Barth, I’m not going to stop it.”
“But this is our last Scout. Our last chance.”
“I know that. But we did this to them. To Will. We have to try to help them if possible.”
“And what about us? What about helping us?”
“I don’t know Barth. We’ve lived this way for so long though. I guess we just keep going on.”
“Barth,” Penny’s voice came over the speaker. “I’m on the ship. I’m sorry. But I have to try and find my brother.”
“You’re by yourself?”
“Then who…Smith. Smith’s there with you, isn’t he?”
“Yes I am here boy. I am going to take care of her, and if I can return the children to their family I will do so. And you will have your ship back.”
“None of the ones we sent to Earth have ever returned,” The boy replied. “Your people are too…primitive. Will and Penny will never return.”
“Liftoff in thirty seconds,” They heard Edgar’s voice come over the speaker.
“Barth, we’ll never make it in time,” It was one of boys who he had sent after them.
“Forget it,” Barth said. “Let them go.”
He sat down at the console, dejected.
Then the Robinson’s were running in the room. John, Maureen and Don, with Judy close behind.
“What’s happening?” John asked.
They heard a roar over the speaker.
“That was your daughter,” Barth said. “She left.”
“Left?” Maureen said. “What do you mean?”
“Mom, Dad,” Penny’s voice came over the speaker. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t tell you. You would have stopped me. I’m going to try to find Will.”
“Penny! What are you taking about?” John asked.
“We had one Scout left. She’s in it,” Bartholomew answered. “She thinks she can find Will.”
“But Penny, you can’t do this alone,” Maureen said.
“I’m not alone, Mom."
“My dear friends, I am with her,” Doctor Smith said, “And I will do everything in my power to keep her safe, I assure you.”
“Smith! If I ever get my hands on you…” John said.
“If I don’t get mine on you first,” Don finished.
“Dad, its not his fault,” Penny said. “Doctor Smith didn’t want to do this. He’s doing it for me. For me and Will. He knew I would try to do it without him if he didn’t help.”
“Penny, why didn’t you say something to me?” Judy asked. “I would have done this.”
“I know. Or Dad, or Mom or Don. Any of you would have. And maybe we would never have seen you again. But Will was going to stay here for me. So I am going to do the same thing for him. If we can’t come back, at least I will be with him. We’ll take care of each other. Like we promised to.”
Judy turned and hugged her mother.
“I will do everything I can to return your children to you,” Dr. Smith said. “But if I cannot, I will make sure they are taken care of. You have my promise.”
John’s expression was a mixture of pain and anger. “Smith…”
But Maureen put her hand on his. “Thank you Doctor Smith,” She said. “I trust you. And I know you’ll take good care of them.”
The small craft had left the orbit of the planet. “Doctor Smith and Penny,” Edgar said, over the microphone. “You need to get inside the containment units. You will be approaching the wormhole soon.”
They both unbuckled from their seats. The small cases were by the wall. Doctor Smith took one of them out, laid it on the deck, pulled the ring on top and the case expanded. “Now get inside Penny,” he said.
She climbed in, and he zipped it to her chin. Then he expanded the second unit, climbed inside and pulled the zipper up to his neck.
“Goodbye dear friends,” He said, “You have my word, I will return your children to you if I can.”
“What about you, Doctor Smith?” Judy asked.
“No my dear, this is goodbye. I shall remain on Earth.”
There was a pause, then Judy said, “Goodbye Doctor Smith.”
“Goodbye Doctor Smith,” Maureen repeated.
“Doctor Smith,” John said, “Thank you.”
“Smith,” Don said. He paused. “Bye. Take care of the kids.”
"I shall do my best Major. Goodbye."
“I love you all,” Penny said. “If I don’t come back, I promise you I will find Will and we’ll be together. Okay?”
They could hear her crying as she spoke. “I love you Penny,” Judy said.
“Take care Penny,” Don said. “I…believe Doctor Smith will get you back safely. Somehow.”
Penny and Doctor Smith glanced at each other and smiled.
“Penny, I love you. We’ll keep trying to find a way,” John said.
“Thanks Dad. I know you will.”
“I love you Penny,” Maureen said.
“I love you mom. Goodbye everyone,” She said, echoing her brother’s final words from weeks before. She reached beside her right hand, found the button and pressed it. The unit sealed and began filling with the gas that would put her to sleep before the protective compound filled it.
Doctor Smith watched her to make sure the unit worked properly, then pressed the button by his hand, and closed his eyes as the container sealed. “Earth, sweet green, Earth,” he whispered. “I’m coming home.”
“Is this why you brought me here?” Will asked.
When Mandra didn’t answer he looked at her. “Is it?”
She hesitated. “I thought it might help, Will. I think you need to remember your family.”
“For Doctor Gaston?” He asked.
“No. For you. I have no family. But I remember my mother. Her memory is all I have of the person I used to be. I thought, if you could remember your family, you would feel better about everything. And…I wanted to bring you here. I wanted us to both come here. To be the children that we haven’t been allowed to be.”
He looked back at the tree house. “Thank you, Mandra,” he said. He started walking forward, and she walked with him.
They stopped at the base and he looked at the waterwheel. He could remember it. His six year old eyes looking up to where the bamboo buckets carried water high above them. He remembered thinking there must be a motor connecting it. But there was someone with him, and she was pretending it was real. So he believed it. He tried to remember who was with him, but he couldn’t.
They read the sign at the bottom of the wooden steps, leading up into the branches. The names of the three boys, Fritz, Ernst, and Francis, and that the family had built their home in the tree from the wreckage of the ship.
They began climbing the steps. They went slowly. Stopping at each room. Looking inside at the furniture that had supposedly been salvaged from the wreckage of the ship, or built out of bamboo. Mandra didn’t say anything. She was just walking with him, letting him take it in, letting him try to remember.
They took their time. They crossed over a rope bridge connecting one side of the tree to another. He remembered the piano, supposedly salvaged from the wreckage, and now in the room they used as a living room or gathering place. He saw where the bamboo buckets carried water into their kitchen. He remembered a kind voice, explaining everything to his six year old self. He could almost picture her. There was another girl above them somewhere, calling, “Will, look up,” and she was smiling down at him. He tried to remember what she looked like.
They walked on, climbing higher and higher until they were above it all. Standing on the highest platform of the tree. He stood there, holding on to the rail, looking at each room they had passed. “I wish we could live here,” He said.
“What?” Mandra asked him. It was the first words she had spoken since they began their way up.
“That’s what I said,” Will answered. “I was standing right here looking down and I said, “I wish we could live here.”
Then he turned to Mandra. “Judy. My sister was with me. Holding my hand. Telling me all about the tree house…and the Robinsons. She told me we were a lot like them. That we were going to space alone. I asked her if we would be shipwrecked like them, and she said no, we would go to Alpha Centauri and wake up and then begin to build a colony. But that we would be a lot like them, because we had to learn to live on our own. To take care of each other. She was right. My sister Judy. She was kind and beautiful and her hand was warm and she was taking care of me. She loved me so much, and promised she wouldn’t let anything happen to me. I remember her Mandra. I remember Penny and my mom and dad. I remember all of them.”
There were tears in his eyes now. “Are you okay, Will?” Mandra asked.
“Yes. Yes I’m great. I remember them Mandra. I remember my family. And it’s all because of you. I don’t know how to thank you.” There were tears running down his cheeks now.
“Will…” She reached out and touched his shoulder. “I need to tell you something…”
Then the lights went out. It snapped her back into her world.
They looked out on the park. It was completely dark.
“Something is happening, Will,” Mandra said. “Let’s go.”
“It’s probably just a power outage, there will be a backup…”
“No Will. Something is happening. Come on.” She started down, trying to hurry while being careful not to fall on the darkened steps.
“Will, you have to listen to me. We have contingency plans for this, but you need to do as I say. Let’s go.”
Will followed her down the steps carefully, trying to keep up, but the girl was fast.
Finally at the bottom she said, “Okay, stay with me.”
In the security room, located in the office buildings near the front gate, Dr. Gaston was sitting with her assistant, Agent Carmichael, and several other members of her team. They had watched every move the two children made since coming to the park and listened to every word they spoke. And the boy remembered his family. The girl had been right all along about this. But now the monitors were black and the room was dark.
“What the fuck is going on!” Gaston said as she stood.
“We don’t know,” one of the agents replied. “Auxiliary power should come on immediately. We’re checking it now.”
“Get some goddamn birds in the air!”
“On their way, Dr. Gaston,” Another agent answered.
“Mandra knows what to do,” Carmichael said. “We’re still picking up the sensors. She’s taking him to the extraction point. Do you think Russians?”
Gaston didn’t answer the man, but she didn’t think it was Russians.
Now there were helicopters in the sky, shining lights all around the park. Will looked up as one passed over, the beam flashing across the path in front of them. Mandra grabbed his hand and pulled him into the shadows.
“But they’re looking for us,” Will said.
“Yeah. They’re looking for us. But who are they? We don’t know if it’s our people or not.”
As soon as the helicopter had passed over they were running, but along the side of the road. Mandra was still pulling him by the hand.
“Where are we going?” Will asked.
“The Castle. Cinderella and Prince Charming are agents. If there is a problem we go there, and they get us out.”
Will looked up ahead of them. Everything was dark but he could see the outline of the Castle against the city lights in the distance.
Another helicopter flew over and Mandra pulled him into some bushes until it passed. Then they were sprinting toward the dark silhouette of the Castle.
“Here,” Will heard a woman call when they were almost there. He saw it was the woman dressed as Cinderella. The man dressed as Prince Charming was with her, both of them motioning the two kids to hurry, standing just to the side of the Castle opening.
As they ran up to them, Mandra asked, “What’s happening?”
“We don’t know yet, we’re getting you out of here,” The woman said, and turned to the wall, where she pushed the side of it open and Will saw there was a hidden door. “Come on, we go down.”
The man had a flashlight and went first, shining it down the staircase as he stepped into it.
Mandra was in front of Will. The woman dressed like Cinderella turned to go down the steps.
“Hey Kariina,” Mandra said.
Maybe it was the way she said it, the inflection in the girl’s voice, but Kariina Bieve was a trained assassin and instead of turning to face the girl, she stepped to the side and spun around as she reached for her gun. But it wasn’t easy to retrieve in the wide, layered costume she was wearing.
Then Will saw Mandra was holding a small handgun. She shot the woman in the stomach, then quickly stepped to the staircase and shot the man in the back of the head before he could get turned around to see what was happening.
Mandra reached inside her shirt and tore a small microphone and wires out and tossed them, then turned again to the woman who was holding her stomach but still trying to get her firearm free. The girl walked up to her, knelt down and put her gun to the woman’s forehead. She looked up at Mandra with no fear in her eyes.
“Tell me you didn’t kill my mother and I’ll let you live,” Mandra said.
The woman’s lips curled into a smile. There was blood in her mouth. “She begged for mercy and I shot her in the face,” the woman said, though now she had a thick, Eastern European accent.
“My mother never begged anyone for anything in her life you bitch,” Mandra said, and put a bullet in her forehead.
The girl stood and turned to Will. Her face was splattered with blood. Will wasn’t moving. There was a look of horror on his face.
“Take your shoes off,” the girl said, as she kicked off her own. “Will, do it! They’re tracking you. Tracking us both.”
“What are we doing?” He said as he pulled his shoes off.
“I’m getting you out of here. Away from them.”
She held the door open and said, “follow me.” She started down the steps, using a flashlight this time to illuminate their way. They stepped over the body of Prince Charming and made their way to the bottom of the stairs where a golf cart was waiting.
“What just happened?” Gaston asked the room. They had heard the gun shots, then the microphone went silent.
“Trackers aren’t moving,” One of the agents said.
“Where is everyone, goddamnit it!” Gaston yelled.
“We’ll have people on site in a few seconds,” an agent replied.
A man’s voice came over the radio. “Dead, both of them.”
“The boy?” Gaston asked.
“No. Bieve and Selkirk. Small caliber. Head shots. Professional.”
“Is Mandra and the Robinson boy okay?” Her assistant asked.
“They’re fine,” Gaston said. They all looked at her. “Do you see their shoes?” She asked into the radio.
There was silence for a few seconds. Then, “Yeah. Tossed them.”
“Close everything down,” Carmichael said. “Now. We want everyone here. And notify the FBI, locals, anything with a badge.”
Dr. Gaston just sat back down. “It’s too late,” She said. “We won’t find them. She had this too well planned.”
“Why would she do this?” Carmichael asked.
“Oh, we’ll know soon enough,” Gaston replied, though she already did.
“She’ll call us. She can’t help herself.”
The tunnel network under the theme park was massive. Practically a city in itself where the employees worked, ate, and even slept sometimes. Mandra seemed to know where she was going, taking one turn and then another. She kept the lights off on the cart, and everything was dark, but she didn’t seem concerned about running into anything. Will hadn’t said a word since they started down the steps. He didn’t know what to say. He had seen a lot since going to space, and had forgotten everything. But now it all seemed to rush back. Aliens…some friendly…most not, giant cyclops, killer plants. But he had never seen anyone assassinate two people so quickly and methodically before. Especially someone he knew and had come to like.
“Will, you okay?” Mandra asked, glancing at him as she drove.
He didn’t answer.
“There was no other way, Will. I had to get you away from them. You don’t know what they are really like.”
“You said she killed your mother.”
“That was something else,” She said.
She pulled the cart up next to the wall and turned it off. “Come on.”
He followed her when she jumped off the cart, but he didn’t know what she was doing. There didn’t seem to be anything here. But the girl took a panel off the wall and Will saw there was another opening. When he stepped into it, they were in a parking garage, but it only had room for a few cars. Only one was parked here.
She climbed in on the driver’s side, and Will got in the passenger’s side and buckled in.
“They used to use this for VIPs. Performers who needed to get in and out without being seen. Disney Executives that wanted to avoid the little people.”
“How do you know about all this?” He asked.
“Research, Will. Information is power. I need to know more than my enemies.”
“But, you’re only fifteen. What you did back there. And driving…”
“Gaston trained me for this. I was her project. She thought she could control me.”
“But how did you plan all this? Set it up?”
“I have friends, Will.”
The boy saw there were lights up ahead now.
“That’s the exit,” She said. “If they don’t have it blocked off, we’ll blend in with traffic outside the park and we’ll be free.”
Will could see there was a chain link gate in front of them. The girl wasn’t slowing down. “Hey…” he braced himself and the car plowed into the gate and kept going. They came out on a dark street, and Will saw there was a highway beside them.
Mandra followed the road, turned onto another one, then merged on to the highway with the flow of the traffic. There were helicopters everywhere and sirens as emergency vehicles and police cars all seemed to be headed to the park.
“Will, reach in the glove compartment. There’s a radio in there. Hand it to me.”
He found the radio and passed it to her. “Also, there’s a map, can you find it?”
He reached back down and started rummaging through some papers. “Why do you need a map? It seems like you’ve had this pretty well planned.”
He hadn’t seen the girl reach beside her seat, but he felt the needle prick him in the neck. “I don’t need a map.”
The boy slumped forward in his seat, unconscious.
“The second thing my mother told me Will, was never trust anyone.”
Mandra pressed the button on the radio. “Hello Jessica,” She said.
All the agents in the room with Dr. Gaston hurried over to the woman. She picked up her radio. “Hello Mandra.”
“How’s your day going?” The girl asked. “And don’t waste your time tracking this. The signal is being routed through another device. Your agents are speeding to an empty parking garage right now.”
“You want to cut the shit and tell me what this is about?” Gaston asked.
“You know what it’s about,” Mandra replied.
And Gaston did know. She also knew there was no point in lying to the girl. “Your mother was working her own game. She had to be eliminated.”
“And what? You felt so guilty you wanted to make sure I had a happy home after you murdered her?”
“No. You had your mother’s genes. I wanted to turn you into her.”
“Congratulations, it worked.” Mandra was trying not to cry. She couldn’t give the woman and all those listening the satisfaction.
“So what now?” Gaston asked. “What about the boy?”
Mandra looked over at Will who was unconscious, still slumped forward. “I’m going to sell him to the highest bidder. Russians, Chinese, Israelis, maybe Saudis. Once they find out about this planet with the children who never die, I think he’ll bring enough money I can be free of you forever. And you will always be looking over your shoulder. Goodbye now, Jessica. Sleep well.”
The girl tossed the radio out the car window and drove off into the night.
Will was dreaming again. Running across the brown dusty surface of the planet with Penny, trying to get away from whoever or whatever it was that had replaced their mother and Don and Judy. They had to find their father and tell him what happened. Try to find out what was wrong with the others, and try to free Doctor Smith from them.
He stopped to rest, and Penny stopped beside him. Both of them bent over, hands on their thighs, breathing hard.
“Did you come this far, Penny?” He asked.
“Yes. A little further. And I didn’t see him here. So we have to keep going.”
He looked behind them, but they weren’t being followed. “Okay, you ready?”
“Yes, let’s go.”
They started running again. Finally Will saw something ahead. He stopped and started walking. “Something’s up there.” He said.
“Like…I don’t know. It’s like an opening.” They kept walking. “It’s like a rift or something. Look you can’t see through it.”
They both stopped. It was almost like the air in front of them was visible and moving. It reminded Will of waves in an ocean.
“What do you think it is?” Penny asked.
“I don’t know.” He reached his hand toward it. When he pushed into it his skin began tingling, like there was static electricity encompassing it.
“I think we need to go in it,” Penny said.
“I don’t know,” He replied cautiously.
“Will, we haven’t found dad anywhere else. I think he’s in there somewhere.”
“But Penny, we don’t know…”
“Okay, if you’re afraid, I’ll go myself.” She stepped forward.
“No. If you’re going, we’ll do it together.”
“Okay,” She said. She took his hand. “Ready?”
They stepped into it.
On the other side, everything was dark. The planet looked the same as before. With the scrubby plants, the large boulders and the brown sand. But it was night. There were two large, bright moons, illuminating their path. But there seemed to be an electrical storm as well, with lightning flashes in the distance.
“This doesn’t make sense, “Will said. “This planet only has one moon, and it’s still daylight.”
“Let’s keep going,” Penny said.
He turned and looked behind them. “The rift is still here. So I guess we can get back. Okay. Let’s go.”
The children walked forward, still holding hands. After thirty minutes or so, Will said, “There’s something ahead. Firelight. Torches or something.”
He stopped, but Penny walked in front of him, then turned and looked at him. “Come on Will, maybe Dad’s up here.”
He hesitated. Then caught up to her. “Okay, Penny. But I don’t like this.”
They walked a few more meters, then she said, “Hey! Its Dad!” She ran towards their father, who was standing between two large boulders. Will ran to catch up with her.
He was a few steps behind and thought Penny was going to hug their dad, but instead, she turned and stood beside him. “I told you I could do it,” She said, a smirk on her face as she looked back at Will.
The boy stopped. His father was looking at him and was smirking as well. “Yes you did,” he said. “I should have sent you first.”
“Yes, you should have,” She replied. “They tried to leave you behind.”
“Well, we’ll see what they have to say about that,” He said.
Will was just looking at the two of them. He started to back up, but before he could they both ran at him. As he turned, Penny shoved him and he fell on the ground, and when he rolled over, they were standing above him.
“Get away from me!” Will yelled.
His father reached down and grabbed his arm and pulled him to his feet.
He was shaking, but he turned to Penny. “I trusted you,” He said, his voice cracking.
“Because you’re weak,” She said, bitterly.
“You want to know where your family is?” The man said. “Come on.” He began dragging him. Will tried to pull loose but the girl he had thought was his sister was behind him now and shoved him forward.
They passed between the boulders and he heard Judy yell, “Will!” Then he saw them. There were cages suspended several meters in the air, with torches all around. Each cage held a member of his family and Don was in one as well.
“Let my son go!” John called down to the man who held him. The man who looked just like he did.
“He’s my son now,” The man said.
“Dad! What’s going on?” Will called.
The man shoved him to the ground in front of the cages.
“Leave him alone!” He looked up and saw Penny in a cage next to his mother.
Will pushed himself to his feet. “Let my family go!” He ordered.
“We’re your family now, and if you want them to live, you’ll do what you’re told,” The man said.
He grabbed Will’s arm again. Then Will saw someone else walking out of the darkness. He saw himself. But slightly different. There was hatred in his eyes. He was scowling.
“It’s your fault I’m staying behind,” He said to Will.
“Blame him for your failures,” The girl who looked like Penny said to the boy. “But I succeeded. He told you to disappear and you just turned into a puff of smoke.”
“Shut up!” He yelled at the girl. Then turned to the man who looked like John. “Why can’t I go?” The boy said. He was angry.
“You had your chance. Like your sister said. And you failed. You will stay here and watch them.”
“Don’t argue with me," the man said. "Maybe the chance will come again for you. But for now, you’ll do what you’re told. We need him to fly the spaceship.”
“But we can make the other one, Smith, fly it,” the boy argued.
“That one I don’t trust. But I trust this boy to do the smart thing,” he said, looking at Will. “He’s going to fly the ship and get us as far from that portal as we can be.”
“I’m not going to do anything you say unless you let my family go!” Will yelled.
“And if you don’t, your whole family is going to die.” He dragged Will by one arm, toward the cages. Now Will noticed there was a wide hole in the ground. The man pushed him forward until he could look down in to it. There was fire and smoke far below, and a smell of sulfur.
“If you don’t do everything I say, we’ll lower the cages one by one. Slowly so they will cook for a while before they die.”
Will was trying to move away from the pit, but the man held him tight for a few seconds at the edge, before dragging him back.
“You’re not going to get away with this!” John said, from the cage above. “I’ll get out of here and I’ll track you across the universe!”
“I have already gotten away with it. My son is going to fly us off this planet.” He shook Will’s arm. The boy winced.
“Don’t hurt him!” Judy yelled. And the others were all yelling too now.
“Tell him to do what he’s told, and he won’t get hurt,” The man said.
“Will,” Maureen said. “Do what they say. Don’t fight them.”
They were dragging him off now, the man with one arm and the girl with the other, as the boy that looked like him stood scowling.
“No!” Will yelled. “Let me go! I want my family.”
He opened his eyes. He was sweating. His heart was pounding. The dream was a bad one. But he couldn’t remember what it was. He couldn’t remember what had scared him. And he couldn’t remember the faces of his family.