Let there be light.
The very fabric of the universe rippled with a blinding flash as he spiraled back into normal space. Although he was not what was considered a religious man, the space voyager could not help believe God somehow had a hand in the miracle that allowed the width of a galaxy to be leaped in mere minutes.
No matter how many times he made the leap through hyperspace, Jimmy Hapgood was sure he would never get over the feeling of awe he felt watching the billions of stars wink back on, one by one.
Hapgood was alone, as usual. Just him and his battered, yet still functioning, Travelling Man. Travelling Man was the name he had given his spaceship shortly after he had left Earth centuries before.
No, merely decades ago, Hapgood reminded himself. Although sometimes it seemed more like centuries.
The passage to normal space complete, Travelling Man shivered as it encountered the not-quite-so-empty vacuum of deep space. Space littered with debris of stars dying and being born.
"Donít forget why youíre here, Hapgood".
Hapgood talked out loud a lot. Sometimes he even argued with himself. Itís what kept him sane during his solitude.
Hapgood scanned the instruments, cajoling the readings he was looking for from instruments that were part Earth technology, part alien.
"Should almost be able to see that hunk of rock by now" he muttered. "Time for unfinished business is at hand." Hapgood pushed his stained and tattered hat aside. "Canít wait to see the Robinsons faces when they see old Travelling Man dropping back into their neck of the woods."
If theyíre still alive. Hapgood didnít verbalize every thought that crossed his mind.
"Should have done this thirty years ago." Hapgood said flatly. "Would have, if it hadnít been for that little detour to Terok Prime."
Hapgood shuddered, despite the heat within Travelling Manís cockpit. His experience at Terok Prime had changed his life forever.
Hapgood had regretted leaving the Robinson family within hours of his liftoff from the primitive planet he had found them marooned upon.
The Robinson family, their pilot Major West and their passenger Zachary Smith had probably watched Hapgood blast off from Earth. He had preceded the Robinson family into space by nearly a decade. The Robinsons had gone into history as the "first family in space" while Hapgood - well, he was just a loner.
However, the Robinsons and Hapgood had one thing in common. They all wound up lost in space.
There paths had crossed more than a dozen years after Hapgood had last seen his home planet. And Texas.
The Robinsons had welcomed him and Travelling Man. Made him feel right at home. However he had a falling out with them when he balked at taking the children back to Earth. The falling out was resolved and Hapgood had left the Robinsons.
He had second thoughts within days. Yet he had not gone back. Instead, he had gone back to hopping from star to star with a renewed sense of adventure. The Robinsons had given that back to him and he owed them something.
"I wouldíve been back a long time ago," he muttered. "If it hadnít been for that damned Terok mishap."
The Terok mishap was nearly a fatal one. Yet he had survived as he had dozens of times before. But it took years before he was able to venture back into space. It would have been easier to stay planet bound. He had returned because he owed something to the Robinsons.
The clanging alarms of Travelling Man brought him back to the present. Thrusters fired, slowing the ancient ship to a crawl.
"This ainít right!" snapped Hapgood as he watched globs of space debris glow and disintegrate as they smashed into his shipí forward force field. "The damned planet should be right beneath me."
In a sense, it was. What was left of it. Hapgood had no way of knowing that Priplanus had died nearly thirty years earlier when its planetary core had ruptured and obliterated itself into several million miles of dust and rubble.
Hapgood spent several weeks within the Priplanus Dust Cloud. He waited until Travelling Manís computers had mapped every junk of the planetary rubble. Travelling Manís computers had adapted over the years to Hapgood. The Pentium III chips had long been replaced by chips bartered from races with a more personal relationship with their machines.
Travelling Man had been searching. And it found what it knew Hapgood would be pleased to see.
"Well Iíll be French kissed by a horned toed lizard" said Hapgood. "You did good ,Travelling Man."
It floated mere meters in front of him. At first glance it was an ordinary chunk of planetary bedrock. A chunk of Priplanus. It spun slowly at the fringe of Travelling Manís forcefield. Hapgood focused the forward searchlight on the rock and smiled when he saw the words etched in the pitted surface:
Hapgood Was Here
Hapgood had carved those words on an outcropping of granite during his stay with the Robinsons. That it had survived the destruction of Priplanus was a miracle. In a galaxy of miracles.
"I gotta have this!" exclaimed Hapgood.
He activated the airlock and the shipís door swung open to the vacuum of space. Litter in the cockpit fluttered out the opening, joining the rubble that was Priplanus. Hapgood was face to face with the raw emptiness of space where no human could survive without a protective space suit.
Hapgood glanced to the corner locker where he space suit was stowed. He hadnít worn it in years. Not since the incident at Terok Prime.
Hapgood reached for the rock. His claw appendage extended through the door opening and snaked thirty meters to the souvenir. The claws clamped into the surface and it was dragged and stowed into Travelling Manís forward storage bay.
Hapgoodís metallic arms retracted back into his torso and the opening in his chest port slid shut with a click.
"Those Terokians always were good with the accessories" muttered Hapgood. His voice, as usual, had a metallic ring. Not surprising since he was ninety percent machine and ...
"Ten percent Texan!" finished Hapgood.
His incident at Terok had indeed changed him for life. His crash-landing there thirty years before had shattered every bone in his body and had torn most of the tissue and cartilage from his system. The Terokians had felt responsible. It was, after all, their planetary defense system that had caused the disaster.
The Terokians had done what they could with Hapgood. They salvaged what they could and rebuilt him with good intentions. However, a race of sentient machines had very little options on how to rebuild a race they had never encountered.
When Hapgood finally left Terok Prime he left as a Terokian exploration unit. A machine with a Texanís mind and will to live.
And a need to fulfill a promise.
He had returned to take the Robinsons back to Earth, but had arrived too late. He and Travelling Man's computers had been analyzing the rubble in an attempt to ascertain the fate of the Robinson party. Hapgood rotated his video surveillance array to the data screen to view the results.
If he still possessed lips, Hapgood would have grinned.
The comprehensive scan had detected the distinctive signature of a deutronium powered craft in a trajectory away from the Priplanus Dust Cloud.
"The Robinsons are a lot more spry than my grandpa back in Big Spring" muttered Hapgood as he transmitted a new course to Travelling Man's guidance system.
"Hang in there, folks. When Hapgood makes a promise, he keeps it."
Travelling Man's engines rumbled as the hyperdrive engines began prying open a sliver into hyperspace.
"I'll track you down like a stray herd and get you home."
Travelling Man blinked into the void of hyperspace.
"No matter what it takes".