Last week as you recall - with the shut down of the Orionís engines Captain Conway is faced with the prospect of Trimea being home for some time. Meanwhile Maureen Robinson has requested the Captainís presence with her at Robinson Ridge......
Washing the Chariot had never been a chore that Will Robinson had relished. When he had been younger, when he had been smaller, the Chariot had been a fun vehicle to travel in but a monstrous devil to clean. In those days he had climbed all over the beast scrubbing the dirt of an alien world away with the attitude of a child possessed. It had been a chore to finish quickly. There were adventures to be sought that were far more important than a clean Chariot. These days he still climbed all over the machine but his pace was less eager and his mind less centered on adventure. Still it was a chore to be finished quickly. He sat atop the Chariot and watched Matthew approach. Funny, he thought, I seem to spend most of my time up here. A week or so earlier he had sat in nearly this same spot on the Chariot and watched as Matthew called the whales at Valla.
Finished the Chariot? Matthew thought to his father. Thereís a dirty spot just here, the boy continued as he pointed at a dull spot near the tread section. Better get it clean before Mom sees it or there will be trouble! Matthewís face was held in an infectious smile.
"Do you know what annoys me about Telepaths?" Will asked.
Matthew replied, What?
Will laughed, "They donít always see the obvious." Matthew read his fatherís mind far to late. Will rolled to the side and snatched up a bucket of soapy water that he quickly dumped over his sonís head. Then he jumped down and picked up the startled youngster and carried his to the small creek that ran behind their home. "Stir me up will you?" Will laughed as Matthew tried to break free, "Well youíre not that good yet!" Matthew was laughing silently as Will tossed him harmlessly into the slow moving water.
For a moment or two he disappeared beneath the surface then returned with a big grin on his face. He dived beneath the ware and swam to the shore where Will waited for him. As Matthew tried to climb from the creek Will pushed him gently back in. This continued for some time before Matthew rose from the water thinking, Youíre in trouble! Matthew laughed as he pointed at the scowling form of his mother standing behind Will.
Lenore was not happy. Will helped his son from the creek and motioned for him to head towards the house. Aw! Come on! Matthew thought cheekily, canít I stay and watch the fight?
Will ignored his son and turned to face the angry woman who was his wife. "I donít understand it," he said softly in a very confused tone, "In my day you never talked back to your parents."
Lenore thought angrily, Why are you acting like this? Your mother expects you to pick her up in an hour! She walked away from Will, shaking her head as she went, And then weíre expected for dinner! And what are you doing? Youíre throwing our son in the creek!
Will understood his wife well. It was not the shenanigans at the creek that bothered her but the sudden closeness of her in laws. Since the arrival of the Orion their lives had been drawn back to the Robinsons in a way that she had not experienced for many years. And then of course there was Willís reluctance to discuss how he felt about returning to Earth. Here he kept his own council. Will took Lenore in his arms and held her close to his chest. "Take it easy, Lenore," he whispered, "It wont be so bad."
She pushed him away and stared at him with astounded eyes. Gods! she exclaimed silently, How can you be so blind? If you chose to go back to Earth I wont be coming with you! Nor will Matthew! This is my home! Will itís your home now too! Why donít you see it?
He allowed her to walk away knowing that there was little point in arguing with her.
Robinson Ridge was not a bleak place but the single carved tombstone gave it the air of the saddest place on Trimea.
Without exception, the Tauronís cremated their dead. Unlike humans who buried or cremated, the Taurons always cremated their dear departed. But like humans they created great parklands for their dead placing the ashes in specially created sanctuaries of cultivated bushes and shrubs. At Carala they had set out an intricate design of pathways, streams and gardens that had a calming effect upon the grieving relatives. Although Robinson Ridge was for Humans only the Taurons had created a smaller but no less intricate garden for its only resident. As Maureen stood before the tombstone she felt
her heart drop and a tear role from her eye. After all these years she still felt the pain of loss. She missed John, she missed him badly and nothing had ever replaced him. This simple carved tombstone was all that there was left of her husband. It was all she really had left of him. Even the logs that he had left were not as real to her as was this tombstone. To touch its cold hard edges was to touch all that was left of John Robinson.
She spoke to the tombstone was to talk to John.
"So thatís it, John," Maureen said softly, "Theyíve come to take us home, to take us back to Earth," she paused, "After all that we have been through, after all these years, the one thing that you truly wanted has happened." Again she paused as she crouched down and brushed away the old flowers and replaced them with fresher ones. "I donít know how Will feels," she said, "Heís so much like you that at times itís painful. He keeps his own council," she stood and looked around checking where the others were. Will was at the Chariot with Lenoreís father, Defore. Captain Conway was standing with Dr. Smith and the pair were engaged in a lively conversation. She looked back towards Will who was now adjusting something within the Chariots engine compartment. "He looks like you, " she said, "Even with the beard. Youíd be proud of him," she said. She fell quiet and thought for sometime before finally voicing the decision that she had already arrived at in her mind, "I wont leave you. I havenít told Conway yet but I will not be going back to Earth. I canít leave here, canít leave you behind. Don and Judy havenít said but I know that they will be staying. Penny has ties here, too, ties that she wont break," she shook her head and shrugged, "I just donít know how Will feels."
Clearing his throat politely Dr. Smith asked, "Mrs. Robinson, I know that this is a private moment but may I talk with you?"
"Oh Dr. Smith," she sighed, "Canít it wait?"
Smith replied, "I am afraid dear lady that what I have to ask can only be asked at this moment," he paused then added, "The right moment is always a fleeting one and this is one that I do not wish to lose."
"Very well, Doctor," Maureen said, "What is it?"
"Earth, my dear lady," he said in a worn out tone, "Earth. Once I would have sold my soul to return there but now, after this little unpleasantness, I find that my desire for those rolling green hills has waned somewhat," he paused then added, "In truth Mrs. Robinson my desire to
return there faded quite sometime ago. Weíve been out here to long and there can be little point in return. I say this not because I fear retribution for those crimes that I committed but because I feel that Earth as it is now is as alien to me as any of our temporary homes have been."
Maureen smiled as she suddenly realized where Smithís thoughts were going. "Dr. Smith," she said almost motherly, "Why donít you just ask me whatever it is that you want to ask?"
"My dear madam," he protested humorously, "What I have to say takes some time. Much thought has gone into this and I fear that the question may stun you," she nodded and motioned for him to continue, "thank you, now where was I? Oh yes! Earth! I have not always shown it, nor said it, but I think of you and your family as if you were my own. I am more fond of you all than you would understand. Even that tin plated terror, oh, I think of him as Kin," he moved closer to her and took her hand in his, "Dear Lady," he said, "I know that you will not leave Trimea. I know that you would not leave the Professor. I know that you will not be returning to Earth." For a moment neither person said a word then Smith drew a deep breath and asked, "What I ask of you is not easy but ask I do. Will you allow me the privilege and honor of staying here with you should the others decide to leave? I know that I have been a scoundrel and a villain, but oh Mrs. Robinson, I would be most honored to stay here with you."
She felt like blushing but did not. This was not a form of proposal but a request to of friendship. "Why Dr. Smith," she said warmly, "I would be only to pleased to have you stay here with me."
Smith smiled widely, "Good then," he said, "Then may I suggest that we retire from this place and return to the Jupiter for lunch? All this travelling and getting about has left me famished" Smithís eyes were wild and his face wore a roguish expression.
Maureen laughed at the site and said, "Oh Dr. Smith!"
Conway had been watching Smith and Maureen talking and had decided that now was as good a time as any to break the news of the Orion. He had been making his way over to them when Maureen had called out for him to join them. He picked up his pace and joined them as they walked away from the Tombstone and along one of the pathways. Maureen and Smith were both talkative, Conway noted, although it was Maureen who spoke the most. Her manner was light and relieved and Conway knew,
instinctively that she had come to some turning point, some pivotal decision. The path that they had chosen climbed a small rise and came to a halt at a small lookout. This lookout was two meters above the field where the tombstone lay and provided them with a view of the small cemetery and beyond. Maureen talk for a short time on her life on Earth and life with the family out in the stars.
"We have been away for so long, Captain Conway," she said, "Far to long for us to think of Earth as home," she took Dr. Smith by the hand and raised them so that Conway could see that they were both together on this, "We have decided that Earth was our home."
Smith continued, "Yes Captain," he said, "Regardless of what the others decide Mrs. Robinson and I have decided to stay behind. Return to Earth sir but not with us!" Smith saw a stunned look race across Conwayís face and interpreted itís meaning in a flash, "My dear Sir," he said wearily, "We remain here as the best of friends and nothing more!"
Conway smiled, "I did not mean to imply otherwise," he said, "Itís just about the Orion and returning to Earth."
Maureen asked, "Is there a problem?"
Conway laughed, "Well there by hangs a story!"
And with that he told them of the Orionís woes. After a few moments of stunned surprise both Maureen and Smith erupted into a howl of laughter!
Defore watched Will slam shut the engine compartment of the Chariot with some amusement. Will was angry, annoyed and confused. Defore knew this just by looking at him. As a Telepath he could have just read Willís mind to find the answers but he did not. Besides Defore knew Will well enough to know that it would not be long before he began to talk about his problem.
From the lookout above the tombstone came the sound of laughter and Will asked, more to himself than to Defore, "What are they laughing about?"
"I could find out," Defore replied, "If you really want me to."
He shook his head. "Naw," he sighed, "Their joke, not mine." Will looked at Defore and said, "Lenoreís not very happy."
"And why would that be?" Defore asked.
Will leant back against the Chariot and folded his arms across his chest, "This Orion thing," he said sternly, "Going home. Going back to Earth, God!" he exclaimed, "I wish I knew the answers," he paused and looked downward and away, "I wish that Dad was here," he said softly, "Thereíd be nothing then to worry about."
Defore smiled, "You are part of your father," he said, "So in a sense he is still here. Anything that he taught you remains with you."
Will shrugged, "I know that," he said, "Itís just that I am not sure of exactly what or where home is," he paused as he thought then continued, "I know that Judy has had the same problem. Home? She can just remember what Earth was like when we left! I canít yet I still think of it as home."
"I will tell you something," Defore said, "Something of my thoughts. After the war with the Pure, after we were put into the camps to await deportation to this planet, I was very angry. When we arrived here I was part of the then small resistance the wanted to return to Tauron to reclaim what was ours! In those days we thought that no sacrifice was too great, that no disaster too painful as long as we achieved our goal of returning to Tauron." He paused as in his mindís eye he saw the young faces of friends who had died during the attempts at reprogramming the Masers for stellar transportation. "We lost so many," he said, then, "One day after the Council ordered us to stop I sat down and drank myself into unconsciousness. When I staggered from my bed I had found that Lenore had cleaned the house and cleared away any evidence of my stupidity. I stepped out onto the verandah of and saw her playing with her friends. They were singing and laughing as if they had no cares in the world. For all itís harshness Trimea was their home. I closed my eyes and thought for a long, long time. When I opened my eyes I had my answers. Sometimes thatís all it takes," he patted Will on the shoulder and smiled, "Try it Will," he said, "Close your eyes and then open them again. Youíll see."
With that Defore walked off to join the others.
Will on the other hand stayed at the Chariot. He closed his eyes and left them closed for sometime. He could hear the wind, feel it upon his cheeks. Trimeaís sun burnt down upon him recalling the memories of his younger years when he had pursued idol pursuits with Dr. Smith only to be chastised by his father. Days when he and his father searched the barren landscape of some alien planet looking for Deutronium. days when he and
Penny had fought and argued. days when he and Lenore would shock the more traditional Taurons by openly flaunting their affections. So many days to recall. So much time spent here.
When he opened his eyes he had his answers.
Penny was adamant. "Damn it Manya!" she cried, "I donít want to argue with you!"
Manya snapped back, "Well and good then! It is settled."
Penny rose from her bed and threw her hands up into the air in despair. "Why are you making this so difficult? Itís just a party, a gathering of friends and family. You are part of my family!"
Manya shook her head, "No, Penny," she said, "I am not really part of your family," she stopped as she moved towards the younger woman, "You do not understand. There are things about me that you do not understand, that you do not know. Even among my own people I am uncomfortable at such events. What makes you think that I would enjoy a human gathering any better?"
Penny sighed in frustration, "What is it that you think I donít know?" she cried, "Do you think that we didnít talk? Do you think that he didnít tell me about your past, about your crimes?" She was referring to her husband, Manyaís oldest child. At Manyaís request his name was never mentioned. Penny could see the anger rise in Manya and realized that she had gone too far. "This is not going to be easy for me," Penny continued, not giving the woman time to reply "For the first time since I, since we, lost him, I have found someone that I truly feel for," she stopped assessing her words, "Someone that I truly feel comfortable with and soon they will be leaving!"
Manya asked, "Why not go with them?"
Penny hugged the older woman, "Because this is my home!" she said, "You are my family just as much as Mom and the others are. I could never leave."
Manya studied her daughter in law closely. "No one would ever talk to me the way that you have," she said, "Not here and not on Tauron." She stopped and held Penny at arms length. She saw not the woman but the bright eyed teenager that her son had brought home so many years ago. A
teenager with compassion and love for animals that equaled Manyaís own. "It has always been difficult for me to refuse you," she said at length, "And now is no different. I will attend this gathering of your motherís."
Penny again hugged Manya although this time it was with so much joy that she nearly broke the woman in half. "Thank you Manya," Penny whispered, "Thank you."
"Hah!" Manya laughed as they parted, "You do realize that I have nothing to wear!"
An hour later John Taylor arrived at the door.
He was dressed in full military dress uniform and looked embarrassed and uncomfortable. The suit was pressed and starched so that he could only just move. This had provided his Tauron escort with more than a few minutes of humor as Taylorís discomfort was clearly evident.
Taylor excused himself to Penny saying, "We donít have many formal functions aboard the Orion. This uniform has been hanging in my quarters for quite awhile. I am surprised that it still fits."
"And you look quite the gentleman too," Penny replied. She kissed him then turned to the escort and thought, you may go now. With a polite nod the escort turned and disappeared into the night. "Manyaís just getting ready and then weíll be off."
Taylor reached into his uniform and brought out a small wrapped parcel. "I brought you this," he said clumsily, "I hope that you donít think that I am being to suggestive, but I thought that you might like it."
Penny took the parcel and opened it. Inside was a small framed photograph of Taylor and his parents. In the photograph Taylor was young and Penny guessed that, by the uniform that he was wearing, it had been taken on the day that he had joined the space corps. Inside her mind she thought, oh god, a goodbye present! She fought back a sudden urge to scream at him by hugging him tightly. "Iíll treasure it," she said. She placed it onto a small table then said, "I have to leave the staff a few orders so just take a seat and I wont be long."
Taylor watched Penny leave and smiled. In many ways he was glad that they would not be leaving. He turned to sit only to be surprised again by Manya. She was standing directly behind him. "I wish you wouldnít do that!" he said.
Manya eyed him suspiciously then laughed. "So thatís your secret is
it?" she asked, then, "Penny will be pleased but Doctor remember what I have said. Treat her well!"
realizing that the old woman had read his mind Taylor spluttered, "Please donít say anything to Penny. The Captain is going to make the announcement tonight."
Manya laughed, "Do the Council Members know of this?" she asked.
Taylor replied, "No."
Again Manya laughed although this time Taylor recognized the sound of malice within it. "This I will not miss!" She said then turned to the surgery and shouted "Come along Penny, your motherís waiting!" and then softly to Taylor, "And we must not keep the Council waiting."