LIS Series End Challenge

Forces of Nature

Part 1

Other than birthdays, there hadn't been many reasons to celebrate over the last three years. Will was now an adolescent, gawky, sullen and pimply. Penny was about to celebrate her eighteenth birthday and had grown into a beautiful and desirable young woman.

Judy and Don… what had started out as a promising love affair had withered into a banal, uninspired, passive relationship. The moonlight walks became less frequent; the kisses less passionate, the conversations less romantic. Neither of them was sure how it happened, but they were no longer together… and no longer happy.

"It's your turn to watch Dr. Smith, Will," Penny said as she cleared the table from dinner.

"I watched him this morning!" Will replied. "It's Judy's turn."

"Judy's not feeling well. She went to bed early."

"That's all she does anymore."

Penny sighed. "I know, Will, but there's not much else for her to do."

"It's no different for us."

Penny wanted to tell him that they weren't mourning a failed relationship, but instead said, "You wouldn't understand, Will."

"Yes, I do. I know it's because she and Don don't get along anymore, Penny."

John walked into the room. "Aren't one of you supposed to be with Dr. Smith?" he asked.

"It's Judy's turn, Dad."

"Oh." John didn't need to ask about where Judy was. His oldest daughter had withdrawn from all of them in the last two months. He had meant to speak to Don about her, but Don hadn't been himself since they had taken off from their last planetary stop.

"Son, would you mind?" John asked Will. "I'll ask Judy to take one of your assignments."

"Dad, I wanted to do some research. Can't Penny do it?"

"I can't ask Penny to do a double shift."

"But he's been asleep for the last hour!"

"Will, I asked you to do it," his father reiterated.

"Maybe he'll stay asleep, Will?" Penny said.

"Sure. Does he ever sleep through the night?" Will looked at his watch. "He'll be up in twenty minutes and then pestering me to play chess with him. He won't know how to set-up the pieces and then he'll argue with me about why a king can't jump a bishop. Then he'll get mad and throw the pieces all over the floor, and I'll have to clean them up."

Maureen walked into the galley as Will went through his diatribe. She couldn't help commenting. "You know that's not his fault, Will."

"I know that, Mom, but we still have to put with it," Will said.

"And it's frustrating," Maureen added. "We all feel the same way, Will. It's not easy dealing with someone who has Alzheimer's."

"Figaro! Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!" Dr. Smith's voice reverberated throughout the lower deck.

"He's awake, Will."

Will rolled his eyes. "Okay, but I'm not covering for Judy again," he complained, and he left to take care of Dr. Smith.

Maureen watched Will stomp away and turned to her husband. She didn't have to say a word. Both knew that their family was falling apart.

The star configurations changed, but their destination remained the same – Alpha Centauri. Don sat in the lower control room and worked on calculation after calculation. Slide rule, calculator, computer… none gave him the answer he wanted, but only confirmed that Alpha Centauri was still distant and unreachable.

Don was convinced that the numbers lied. They were close. He felt it in his gut, and his pilot's sense had never betrayed him in the past. Don tossed the slide rule to the floor. "Maybe Judy's right," he mumbled to himself. "Maybe I am crazy."

Judy lay in her bed; not asleep, not awake. She let her mind drift to wherever the current took it. This time her mind drifted back to their few days on their previous, non-descript, temporary home. The planet was barren and lifeless, but they had only stayed long enough to make repairs on the repulsor system and navigation unit. Don had become obsessed with the notion that the navigation unit was faulty; that it had always been faulty – sabotaged by Dr. Smith. It didn't matter that Dr. Smith was losing his faculties, Don was as angry with him as he had ever been. Judy's and Don's last argument had been about Dr. Smith. She had accused Don of being obsessed with blaming Dr. Smith for their predicament. "Who should I blame, Judy?" he had asked her.

"How about blaming yourself!" she had screamed back at him. "Weren't you supposed to be the best and the brightest? Shouldn't you have been able to figure out what was going on to get us back on track?" He had had no response to that comment, but only turned and walked away from her. She didn't go after him; didn't apologize… and so their relationship had taken its final breaths.

Six years ago, when she had decided to join her family on this mission, she had traded in her dreams of the stage for the belief that she and Don would have their own family in a new world. Instead, she became a gardener with little hope of settling down to a home and family. All her dreams had been dashed by an unforeseen fate. "We should have been married by now," she whispered to herself. "Married with children."