The smoking control panel in front of him buzzed and sparked. 29-year-old Will Robinson became aware of the popping sound and smell of burning circuitry as he regained consciousness. He rubbed his eyes – his vision was still blurry. No, not blurry…the room was filled with smoke. Attempting to stand, he felt a sharp pain stab through his right leg. Trying to ignore the discomfort, the space pioneer stood and made his way painfully over to a nearby emergency fire control panel.
"Why the hell isn’t it working?" he cursed as he tried entering a manual override code on the smooth, flat keypad. "No response. Great!" he muttered. Damned alien technology, he thought to himself.
Slamming his fist on the keypad in disgust, he turned and grumbled, "Guess it’s back to the old-fashioned way," as he grabbed a fire extinguisher off the wall. Good thing we kept some of these old things charged, he thought as he squeezed the trigger on the unit and began extinguishing flames, the crystalline fire suppressant bellowing forth like a great snow flurry amidst the thick black smoke.
Will hated the acrid smell of an electrical fire, and not only because of the noxious fumes that were now stinging his lungs and depriving him of precious oxygen. Melted circuitry, wiring and microchips almost always meant replacing the Jupiter 2’s Earth and Ghelan technology with something alien and, for the most part in his opinion, unreliable.
The smoke continued to thicken in the sealed room. Will’s eyes watered and he coughed heavily. Dropping to the floor, he crawled on his hands and knees over to the other side of the room to grab the portable oxygen unit they kept stored here for just such emergencies. Strapping the mask over his mouth and nose, he opened the valve on the tank. Nothing happened.
"Great!" he growled, as his stinging eyes examined the miniature oxygen tank, noting the small screw that had impaled itself in the side. Guess I’m lucky that wasn’t my head, he thought. Not really feeling very lucky at all, he prayed the ship’s emergency backup ventilation system wasn’t damaged and would kick in, but had no way of checking on that now down in the power core.
In the meantime, not wishing to pass out from asphyxiation, Will grabbed hold of the seam on the shoulder of his uniform and tore away a large piece of material down the sleeve. Glancing around, he spotted and retrieved the water flask he’d brought down with him, opened it and saturated the piece of heavy fabric. Doubling it over, he held the dampened fabric over his nose and mouth to help filter out some of the smoky fumes and buy some time as he finished dousing the last of the flames.
The heavy layer of smoke was swirling now, enough to tell the young man that the emergency ventilation system had not been damaged. But, damaged… by what, he asked himself. His thoughts were interrupted by a sudden spasm of pain shooting up his leg.
Fires extinguished, Will decided he’d better head topside in case his father or Don needed his help. Before the ship was re-engineered, he would have had to climb up that damned ladder to get out of here. With his right leg now feeling like a throbbing lead weight, that would have been a bitch of a climb, he winced as he approached the hatch to the anteroom housing the turbolift that went up to the "lower deck" of the Jupiter 2.
He’d always thought it strange that Alpha Control hadn’t re-labeled it the "middle deck" on the schematics when they added the power core level and enlarged the designs of the old Gemini series ships.
Reaching the anteroom hatch control, Will noted the circuitry was not lit, but pressed the keypad anyway, just in case.
"Damn," he thought. Replacing inner-ship hatch circuitry and mechanisms was about the most tedious and time-wasting task he could think of. But his father insisted on keeping the ship up to "AC Standards" at all times, no matter how tedious, time-consuming or costly.
The communications panel next to the hatch was a shorted-out, smoldering mass. No use even trying, he thought. So, turning to his left, he elbowed a toggle-release panel, which popped open revealing a large padded handle. Gripping the handle, he forced it into the "pressure engage" position. The readout next to the handle indicated that pressure was beginning to build up in the override system, but at a very slow rate.
Probably because emergency ventilation is online, reasoned Will. The air within the room was clearing now, thanks to that very system, enough so that he was able to discard his makeshift breathing mask while waiting for the hatch to be forced open by the air pressure building up in the override system.
He could instinctively tell that the Jupiter 2 was no longer in flight. The ship had a certain "feel" to it in flight, even though the new in-flight stabilizing gyros they had recently "purchased" from a Ghelan privateer virtually eliminated the Jupiter’s old, familiar "ebb and flow" rhythmical movement that they had all become so accustomed to over the years. But, if no longer in flight -- what had happened?
The last thing Will remembered was coming down to the power core to run some routine diagnostics. On his way, he’d overhead Don saying something to his father about a radio transmission the Robot was trying to decipher, but didn’t think anything about it. He’d discovered numerous anomalous transmissions in this particular space sector, and after decoding a few, figured them to be akin to some sort of "galactic junk mail."
He’d just begun running his diagnostics when the ship lurched, like a boat sailing into a muddy bog. He’d felt that sensation before -- had to have been a tractor beam or vehicle stasis net of some sort, he thought. He remembered hearing the ship’s general alarm, and a few seconds later something impacting on the outer hull of the Jupiter 2. There was an explosion and…black. That’s all he remembered until he awoke moments ago amidst the flames and smoke.
Impatiently, Will glanced over at the pressure readout. This was taking too long, he thought. The display read 37.5%. Suddenly, the Jupiter 2 rocked from another explosion originating on one of the upper decks.
"To hell with it," he grumbled and limped across the deck to a storage locker. His right leg was now throbbing so badly that he wondered if just cutting it off wouldn’t feel better.
He paused in front of the locker and leaned his head against the door. He took a deep cleansing breath and held it, trying to employ the pain abatement exercises he’d been taught by the H’rlax. After a few moments, he exhaled heavily, took another deep breath and continued the mental discipline.
"Whhhh-okay, that’s a little better," Will uttered as he exhaled heavily.
Throwing open the locker door, he reached inside and pulled out a metal toolbox. Opening the box, he began removing the contents. Deft, nimble hands quickly snapped modular components together in a familiar manner that was second nature to the young man.
"Dad’s gonna freakin’ kill me for this," he said aloud to himself as he finished fitting the pieces together, "but I’ll be damned if I’m just gonna sit here like a trained Bloop while all hell could be breaking loose up there."
The device he’d assembled and now held resembled a cross between a blowtorch and a hand-held laser-cannon. The Ghelan smuggler who sold it to him called it an "Atomizer," explaining that it was a very handy "multi-functional repair tool." Will knew better, though. Maybe on its lower settings it performed something like a microwave welding torch, but cranked up on high like he had it now, it became a very effective offensive weapon, able to blow a precisely-sized hole through even the strongest zynithium hull.
Will adjusted the targeting controls and allowed for a few extra carpaths, since Ghelan Units of Assessment translated roughly into three-digit fractions of any standard Earth Unit of Measurement. Besides, precision wasn’t an issue right now -- all he needed was a hole big enough to climb through.
He didn’t have a blast visor, so taking careful aim with both hands, he steadied his arms, squared his shoulders, squinted his eyes shut and fired at the hatch. The concussion from the full-powered Atomizer blast at such short range knocked Will off his feet. He grimaced as he got back up. The fall had most likely worsened his leg injury, as pain shot from ankle to hip like a hot, sharp knife.
The Atomizer had done its job, though. Before Will there was a neatly "sliced" hole in the hatch 3 feet in diameter, give or take an inch. No debris either – the Atomizer doesn’t leave debris. It disintegrates it.
Another explosion rocked the ship, but this time it came from a distance outside. Will immediately knew from the vibrations and tremors that his assessment about no longer being in flight was correct. The ship was resting on solid ground. No doubt another "Crash West" belly landing he thought, rolling his eyes and suppressing a smirk as he drew a mental image of Don West in the pilot seat shouting, "Hang on! We’re gonna crash!"
Up until only a few years ago, the Major treated the youngest Robinson pretty much in the manner one treats a smartass nephew -- with lip service, never taking him or his opinion too seriously. "Military mentality," as Dr. Smith used to tell Will when he was young. It wasn’t until after their three-year ordeal on the planet Ghela, that Don treated Will as an equal and a trusted friend.
Will’s father, Professor John Robinson and Major West had entered Ghelan space innocently enough on an exploratory mission aboard the Jupiter 2’s auxiliary transport, the Space Pod. Apprehended by Ghelan authorities and charged with espionage, the two "aliens" were effectively framed, held up as "examples" to the citizens of Ghela by being issued life sentences in a Ghelan penal colony.
After his mother and Drykr made several unsuccessful attempts to reason with the local Ghelan authorities and intergalactic tribunal diplomats, Will decided to take matters into his own hands and made contact with a covert, underground Ghelan faction he’d heard about called the H’rlax. Sharing technology and eventually even participating in H’rlaxian raids on Ghelan military transports, the young man was able to not only gain the trust and confidence of the H’rlax, but build a reputation amongst them as one of their finest strategic operatives. All the time, however, Will kept his eyes and ears keenly open for any opportunity to use his new-found alliance to help secure the freedom of his father and Major West.
It was also during this period of time that he was also able to use the resources of the H’rlax to re-engineer the outer hull of the Jupiter 2, effectively increasing its overall size by 40%, while keeping true to the sleek saucer shape he’d always admired. Hull strength was also increased in the process by 72% and deutronium burning efficiency would now be a whopping 120% greater utilizing pirated prototype technology he download from a secured Ghelan information transport.
New in-flight systems and parts were adapted to the Earth ship from alien frigates and starcruisers the H’rlax had commandeered over the years, as well as from smugglers and other disreputable space scum looking to make a quick deal with the H’rlax. Unfortunately, Will would discover much later that some of this newly acquired equipment was less reliable than he was led to believe.
His experience in the H’rlax had also forced Will into coming to terms with the stark reality that the predators of the galaxy did not often play fair with defenseless travelers. So, adjusting his scientific idealism accordingly, he was determined to make the new, improved Jupiter 2 (which he now thought of more as the Jupiter 2.1) faster, stronger and, now, armed with both defensive and offensive weaponry in order to survive in real world of space exploration.
Political and economic turmoil eventually led to the downfall of the Ghelan High Council, and leaders of the H’rlax who were laying in wait, took advantage of the opportunity and seized governmental control. One of the first things the new Order did was release H’rlaxian political prisoners.
Will was waiting outside the gates of the Ghelan penal colony the day his father and Major West were finally released. He was more than a little relieved to see that, while dirty, ragged and unshaven, the two men he admired most in the universe were really no worse for the wear. He should have known. However, he’d heard harsh stories about the abhorrent treatment of H’rlaxian prisoners, and in spite of the training rigors and battles that had toughened the young man throughout the Ghelan ordeal, Will Robinson found himself weeping as he embraced them both.
During their incarceration, John and Don had heard stories too, receiving regular updates from newly arrived members of the H’rlax about the fearless, young red-haired alien who’d moved up in the ranks of the H’rlax, eventually helping to tip the scales in favor of a successful coup. Each of them having pretty much guessed the identity of this "alien," their deductions were confirmed on the day of their release. Seeing Will waiting for them, shoulder-to-shoulder with the new Ghelan chieftains, John Robinson felt a poignant emotion reserved in life only for fathers, while Don West finally acknowledged to himself that there was, indeed, much more to "the little professor" than he’d ever imagined.
After being reunited with the rest of the family, the Robinsons and Major West were escorted back to the Jupiter 2, which, on Will’s orders, had been transported from its hidden hanger on Ghela’s fourth moon to a metropolitan spaceport on the planet’s surface.
The newly returned pilot and commander of the Jupiter 2 were more than a little surprised at the changes in their spacecraft and spent the next several days being briefed on and impressed by its new technology and systems.
Shortly thereafter, the new Ghelan High Council summoned Will Robinson to its chambers, and offered him a governorship of Ghela’s eastern, rural provinces – the first time in Ghelan history an individual of alien origin had ever been offered a position of power in the world government. Will respectfully declined. He knew the planet’s political struggles were far from over, but his job was done. His family had been reunited, and felt it was best to get going while the going was good.
Another explosion outside the Jupiter 2 jolted Will’s thoughts back to present day reality. Climbing through the opening created by the Atomizer, he made his way up to the lower deck of the ship.
"Dad! Mom!" he shouted. "Hey, is anyone here?"
Looking around the deck, the scene was similar to, but not quite as severe as the one he’d left below in the power core. The power core always took the biggest hit during a belly crash. Instrument panels here were sparking and smoking, and the deck was littered with miscellaneous debris and pieces of equipment, but he sensed there was something else wrong. Closer examination of a nearby support beam confirmed this suspicion.
"Laser blast scorching?" he said, not wanting to believe what his trained, narrowing eyes now recognized. "What the hell happened here?"
Still holding the Atomizer, he instinctively raised it, took a defensive stance and made a careful 360-degree scan of what had just become a battle scene. He knew his leg was badly injured, but the rush of adrenaline caused by the discovery of the laser blasts made him momentarily forget altogether about the pain.
He moved as swiftly as he could, conducting a silent search of each cabin on the deck. Empty. Making his way over to the regenerators, Will could see that both electronic "sleep" chambers were empty as well. A quick search of the galley, geo-lab, Med-dem and even the bathrooms revealed no one. One last place, he thought. The robot bay.
The hatch to the robot bay was jammed and opened only a few inches. Smoke whisped out the opening, but by crouching down low, the young man could get a good enough look at all he needed to see.
"Shit!" he seethed in anger as he caught sight of scorched robot parts strewn about the compartment. "What the hell happened here?" he asked himself again in disbelief.
Taking a deep breath, he composed himself and prepared to go topside. Ruling out the elevator, tactically, and the ladder, practically (because of his injured leg), he headed into the rear corridor that went up to the main deck via the aft observation station and storage bays.
Stealthily and defensively moving upward, Will suddenly became aware of lateral air movement and a drop in cabin temperature. The main hatch must be open, he thought. The ship was completely silent, save a few popping conduits that were still spitting sparks in protest to the crash.
He heard no signs of life as he approached the control room. An electrical conduit somewhere below exploded and the ship plunged into darkness. Emergency backup lighting powered up, however the eerie glow produce by the luminescent orbs gave the ship a strange, surrealistic look, like an impressionist’s painting.
Will stopped at the end of the corridor. He steadied himself, counted silently to three and swung himself around the corner on to the main deck, Atomizer poised, ready to meet whatever adversary may be waiting. At first glance, the cabin appeared to be abandoned like the rest of the ship. But out of the corner of his eye, Will’s peripheral vision caught movement. He instantly dove behind the astrogator just as a disrupter beam erupted from a dark corner, narrowly missing him.
"I’m warning you, freak! Don’t come any closer!" screamed a panicked, hoarse voice that Will immediately recognized.
"Dr. Smith?" he asked in amazement. A quick glance behind him served to answer his question. The freezing tube that had held Smith in suspended animation for almost 15 years stood cracked and empty, the master control panel looking as if it had taken a stray laser blast.
Oh great, Will thought to himself. This is all I need right now!
"Who’s there? Show yourself!" shrieked Smith’s scratchy voice, still not fully recovered from the years spent in cryo-hibernation.
"Dr. Smith. It’s me, Will Robinson," replied Will, choosing to remain safely out of the doctor’s firing range. "Do you remember who I am, sir?" he asked, knowing full well the effects prolonged stasis can have on the mind.
"What kind of a stupid, condescending question is that! I remember enough to know that the real William Robinson’s voice sounds nothing like yours, you charlatan!" bellowed Smith. "You’ll not trick me! Now, you’ve got precisely 5 seconds to tell me exactly who you are and what you have done to my spaceship, or I shall be forced to…"
"Shut up!" snapped Will. "Just shut up old man, okay?! You’re only gonna make things worse with all your screaming!" Lowering his voice to just above a whisper he tried to be calm as he continued, "I can explain everything, but you’ve got to keep it down and remain calm.
Something in the tone of Will’s voice sparked a vague familiarity in the back of Smith’s still-groggy mind. It couldn’t be William, he surmised. The voice is much too deep and mature. But still, something about that voice…
"All right!" hissed Smith quietly. "But make it fast… and it had better be good or all you’re going to be is one more dead alien!"
Will could tell from the tone of his voice that the years Smith had spent frozen in stasis had neither reversed nor altered the affliction that put him there in the first place. Still aggressive and threatening, he thought. Nothing like the Dr. Smith he’d come to know over the first few years of their voyage.
The Aeolian mindwash that had originally influenced his actions of sabotage and treachery during the timeframe surrounding the original launch and crash of the Jupiter 2, resurfaced a short time after leaving the Galactic Junk Planet, unbeknownst to anyone on board. Reverting back to his evil persona, Smith once again set about to destroy the Jupiter and all hands on board.
His second attempt to destroy the ship was an utter failure, as the Robot’s circuitry and programming had undergone some sort of cybernetic evolution over the years, making him impervious to Dr. Smith’s repeated attempts of destructive reprogramming. It wasn’t until he seized the ship at gunpoint, critically injuring Penny in the process and completely destroying the ship’s inertial guidance system, that the truth fully emerged.
The alien mindwash was identified easily enough through a level 2 electro-cyber-MEM examination, but the complexity of it could not be broken or erased without triggering a subliminal feedback reaction that would have completely destroyed the doctor’s mind. Psycho-cerebel de-programming of this complexity was not an area of expertise to either Drs. John or Maureen Robinson, and given the very real threat that Smith now posed, it was decided the only humane thing to do was to put the good doctor "on ice" until suitable technology or expertise could be secured to reverse the effects of the mindwash and return Dr. Smith to his former glory of spinelessness and passively wicked charm.
Ghelan science was able to further determine the mindwash’s Aeolian origin. They had come across it before. Normally fading after 14 days without a trace of synaptic residue, the "Aeolis 14 Umbra" mindwash perfectly served the Aeolian’s knack for military espionage. Ghelan specialists were at a loss, however, as to why the mindwash had resurfaced in such an unorthodox, permanent state. Just as mysterious was why the Aeolians would have an interest in sabotaging what should have been to them, an insignificant colonization mission emanating from a technologically inferior (by their standards) planet like Earth. Try as they might though, even the most promising Ghelan specialists failed to find a treatment to eradicate the affliction.
"Dr. Smith," began Will in a calm, hushed tone. "Listen to me carefully. I am Will Robinson, but you have been in stasis – in suspended animation – for almost 15 years. I’m not a little kid anymore. That’s why I sound different."
"LIAR!" shouted Smith, losing control again. "Show your miserable alien face, so I can blast it off your ugly, scaly, stump of a body!"
"Quiet!" growled Will. "You’re still groggy and disoriented from stasis. Hell, for all we know you might even have hibernation fever from being in the damn tube that long. Think about what I’m saying. Listen to me…," his voice softened, "…please."
Once again, something about the tone of the hidden stranger’s voice triggered a reaction in the back of Smith’s muddled mind, giving him a moment’s respite. He almost believed this could actually be William. He wished it could be. But, if it was, would he have to kill him? His head ached and mind spun from conflicting mental images.
"All right then, young man – you have one chance to prove it," challenged Smith. "Tell me something only William and I would know."
Will paused for a moment, then replied quietly, "Kalokk 7."
Smith was taken by surprise, and immediately knew from this response that the hidden figure could only be Will Robinson. The chemical reaction produced by mental relief and adrenaline momentarily calmed the inner turmoil in Smith’s mind, producing a euphoric block to the madness that had come to control him.
"William, it is you!" shrieked Smith, tossing the disrupter across the dimly lit deck.
Will cautiously stood as Smith came forward and stopped before the young man.
"My dear boy, it’s true. You’re all grown up," said Smith in such a dejected and resigned manner that Will could almost forget the depravity Smith had become and what the man done to his sister.
"I feel somehow… cheated," he continued sadly. "How could you have grown up without your old friend Dr. Smith at your side?"
"You know the answer to that as well as I do." Will had to force the harshness in his voice and bit his lip as he reminded himself of the unmitigated evil that dwelt within the man standing before him -- a man whom he had, in more innocent times, considered to be his best friend.
"Yes, I suppose you’re right my dear boy," cowed Smith. "Oh, the pai…"
"Just shut up, okay?" interrupted Will, focusing his thoughts back on the urgency of his current predicament. "Look, I’m not real sure just what to do with you right now. We’ve obviously got a… situation here, and by the looks of things, you’re not going to be going back into that busted up tube for awhile. So I guess you’re gonna have to stick with me until I can figure something else out. But I’m warning you – give me a reason – the slightest reason… and I won’t hesitate to kill you."
Smith raised an eyebrow. "And I thought the Major was a ruffian," he retorted wryly.