LIS Series End Challenge

Forces of Nature

Part 10

"Major West," Don read aloud. "You never make anything easy. Both Dr. Smith and the Jupiter must be returned to Earth. I appreciate Colonel Bryce's offer to trade places with you, but we need someone who has had your experiences in space back on Earth. I can't convince the government that colonization is a viable option alone. I need you here." Don looked at his wife as he finished, "Your orders stand."

Judy tried to remain calm, but her bottom lip quivered, and she couldn't stop herself from bursting into tears. She ran out of the room. Don followed and caught her outside the building. John stood at the window and watched as his son-in-law took his daughter in his arms and tried to comfort her.

"How could General Bowers do that to him?" Penny asked.

"When you join the military, Penny, you take an oath," Tom replied. "Your country comes first. General Bowers has to make decisions based on what is in the best interest of the country, not just one family," Tom replied.

"But he let the rest of us stay," Will commented. "Why can't he let Don stay, too?"

"Because things have changed, Will," John told him. "That was when colonization was an abandoned idea. Thanks to the news that we survived, it's beginning to take hold again, but it won't take much for it to die. No, Frank would not have ordered Don back unless he needed our help."

"Our help?" Maureen asked.

John turned to Tom. "How difficult would it be to navigate back to Earth?"

"The longest stretch is from here to the edge of the solar system. Remember those fuel barges? They've been expanded and converted into space stations. They're the military outposts I talked about and lead right back to the moon where Red is stationed. From there it's just a few hours home."

"So, if we program the navigation computer from outpost to outpost, and we refuel at each stop, it's an easy trek back to Earth."

Maureen's stomach knotted. She knew what her husband was thinking. "John? I think we should talk about this ourselves before you go any further," she told him.

"The answer is obvious, Maureen. I'll go in Don's place."

At that moment, Don and Judy returned hand in hand and overheard John's offer. "I appreciate it, John, but it's still an Alpha Control vehicle," Don told him. "Someone from the Space Corps needs to be on it."

"Then we'll send one of my men," Tom replied.

"Who?" Don asked. "It has to be an officer."

"The best candidate," Tom said as he looked at Penny, "is Lieutenant Conway."

Penny's eyes went wide. "No! You can't do that to me!" she exclaimed.

Maureen bit her lip. It seemed that whatever was decided, one of the Robinson women would suffer.

"How about Dr. Smith?" Will suggested. "He's a Colonel."

"No," Don said. "Dr. Smith will just wreck havoc on the trip. Besides, your dad will need a co-pilot."

Will couldn't believe what he was about to suggest. "The Robot. I can program the Robot to fly the Jupiter."

John received the answer he had expected. Since he, himself, was returning, General Bowers had thrown his full support behind his proposal. Don's new orders were to oversee the establishment of a colony outside of the military outpost, which was, after all, what he had been originally trained to do.

As John and Maureen lay in bed together two nights before launch, the only question that remained was whether or not Maureen would join him. "You know, we've never really been apart," John told his wife.

"And I've never been separated from the children," Maureen reminded him.

"They're not children any longer, Maureen. Will is sixteen; Penny is a young woman and Judy is starting her own family."

"Does that mean we're irrelevant?"

"No, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that they don't really need us anymore. Suppose we were still on Earth and Judy and Don were transferred to, say, Europe? Would you follow them?"

"Of course not, but they wouldn't be four light years away from us."

John sighed in frustration. He was hurt that Maureen had conflicting feelings and told her, "You know you were the one who thought we should return."

"All I wanted was to keep my family together, John. Now that you've gone and volunteered…"

"And you're angry with me."

Maureen rose up on her elbow. "Yes, I am! You volunteered without even talking with me! That is not how we make decisions in this family."

John was just as angry. "What other decision could I have made, Maureen? Let Don leave Judy?"

"I'm sure you could have convinced General Bowers to allow Don and Tom to switch commands, but you never even tried."

That much was true. He hadn't tried and he wasn't sure why. "Frank and I started this colonization program together. I know I can help him rebuild the program, and then we can come back with the next group of colonists."

"By then, our grandchild will probably be a teenager."

John shook his head. "Maureen, there is nothing else I can say. I am launching in two days. You have to decide if you're coming with me or staying with the children."

The family gathered together for breakfast the next morning, and all awaited Maureen's decision. She wasn't sure herself what she was going to say. Penny and Will were already in the galley, and both were quiet and pensive. Don and Judy were the last to enter, with Judy looking rather peaked. She gave her parents a wan smile as she greeted them. She apologized for being late and added, "The morning sickness has started."

Maureen understood exactly what Judy was going through because she had been there herself. She realized that no one else on the planet could give Judy the kind of support that only she could. Her decision was made then and there.

She cleared her throat. "I know you're all waiting to hear what I've decided to do." She turned to her husband. "As difficult as it is for me to do this, it would be just as difficult for me not to." She took her husband's hand and said, "John, I'm staying."

John couldn't hide his shock and sorrow from his family. He would be returning to Earth… alone.

"Mom, you don't have to stay because of me. I'm almost an adult, I'll be fine," Will told her.

"And I will be too, Mom," Penny said.

"You know we'll take care of them, Maureen," Don added.

"Oh, I know," Maureen replied. "They are almost grown. They don't really need me anymore."

"Then it's because of me," Judy said. "Mother, women have been having babies for eons."

"And there's always been someone there to help them. Your father doesn't need me for what he has to do, Judy. You do. Besides, I want to be a part of my grandchild's life," Maureen told her. "And I can't be if I go back."

Don's shoulder was wet from Judy's tears, and he had shed a few of his own. "I feel guilty, Judy. I should be the one making that trip," Don told her.

"I know, Don. If it hadn't been for that condom that broke…"

"We'd be going and your parents would still be together."

Judy sat up. "They should still be together. The only reason she's staying is because of me. I'm going to go and talk some sense into her."

Don grabbed her hand as she tried to leave their bed. "Judy… stop… you can't do that. As long as I've known your parents they've always done what was best for their family. And that's exactly what they're doing right now. You'll never be able to change their minds."

Judy let Don pull her back into his arms. She knew he was right. She prayed that she would have the same courage as her parents in raising her child.

Will, Penny and Jim were leading the Robot onto the Jupiter. "I feel like I'm losing my best friend," Will told them.

"You are, Will Robinson," the Robot replied. "We have been companions for years now. I will miss you."

"Wait a minute! How can you miss him? You're just a machine," Jim asked the Robot.

Penny placed her hands on her hips. "Oh, no, he's not!" she told him. "He is as much a part of our family as any one of us."

The Robot stifled a sob. "Thank you, Penny, I will remember you fondly, as well as Judy Robinson and Major West."

Jim shook his head. "I can't believe he's crying."

"As the years went by, he became more and more human," Will told Jim.

"Thanks to you, Will Robinson," the Robot commented. "Now who will protect you and let you know when danger is approaching. Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!" the Robot exclaimed for old times' sake.

Will wiped a tear from his cheek. "There comes a time when every boy has to grow up, Robot. I guess it's time for me to make it on my own. Besides, my dad needs you more than I do, especially since Dr. Smith will be with him."

John and Maureen lay in bed, holding each other close. This might be the last time they would ever be together. "John?" Maureen asked. "Do you know how hard it was for me to make that decision?"

"Yes, darling, I do," he replied. "I also know that you have always put your family first."

Tears slid out of the corners of Maureen's eyes. "You are the love of my life," she whispered to him.

"I love you," he whispered back and buried his head in her shoulder.

The next morning came too soon. The family gathered outside the Jupiter as they waited for their parents to come outside for the final good-byes. Finally, Maureen and John walked down the ramp. Both looked ten years older than they had the previous day.

"Mother, it's not too late to change your mind," Judy said.

Maureen reached out to her eldest and placed a hand on her forearm. "I know, Judy, but…" She glanced at her husband who stood behind her. "I know I've made the right decision."

John walked up to Don and held out his hand. Don grasped it in a handshake. John opened his mouth to speak, but his throat tightened. Don spoke for him and said, "I'll take care of your family, John. You have my word."

John nodded and hugged his son-in-law who had also become his best friend. John moved onto Judy and held her close. "Have a healthy baby," he whispered to her.

She nodded, "And we'll tell him or her all about their grandfather," she said through her tears.

Penny reached out to her father, who took her in a hug. "Don't rush into anything, young lady," he told her.

Penny almost laughed through her tears. "I love you, Daddy."

Will stood next to Penny and John marveled at how his youngest had grown over the last two years. He had been a boy, and now was as much a man as any of the soldiers on the base. Will reached out his hand to his father. John took it and pulled Will in for a hug. "I couldn't be more proud of you, son."

"Thank you, Dad, and I'll carry on your work until you get back," Will told him.

The sound of loud voices caused them all to turn towards the approaching party. Dr. Smith was arguing with Colonel Bryce and Lieutenant Conway. "Why must I leave the luxury of my hotel?"

"Because you're going back to Earth, Dr. Smith," Tom told him.

"Earth? But I'm already here!" he exclaimed. When Dr. Smith saw the family gathered at the base of the Jupiter's ramp, he stopped and cocked his head. Recognition crossed his face and was gone just as quickly.

"Dr. Smith, I'm going to show you to your new hotel room," Jim told him. "We've upgraded you to a suite."

The Robot rumbled down the ramp. "And you have your own personal concierge, Dr. Smith. I will be at your beck and call," the Robot announced.

"Ah, accommodations befitting my station. Lead on!" he exclaimed to the Robot.

As the Robot led Dr. Smith into the ship, John took his wife in one last embrace. No words needed to be exchanged. He held her hand for as long as he could as he walked up the ramp and then entered the ship. He settled into the pilot's chair as the ramp retracted and the hatch closed. Dr. Smith was strapped into the seat beside John and the Robot locked himself in place between them.

The family backed away from the ship, and then they stood together, arm in arm. John took one last look at them. Don had his arm around Judy, whose hand was around her mother's waist. Penny's head was on her mother's shoulder and Will had an arm around his sister. Jim Conway stood behind Penny, and Tom behind Don. John saluted them all and engaged the engines. The Jupiter lifted into the air and disappeared into the sky like a graceful bird.

The family stared into the sky well after the Jupiter was smaller than a pinprick. "Do you think they'll be all right?" Maureen asked no one in particular.

"Dad is a survivor," Will told her.

"Just like you are, Mom" Penny added.

"And I've never met two people who are as strong as the both of you," Don commented.

"They'll be fine," Judy said with confidence. "And if Don and I can be half the parents that you and Dad are, our children will be fine too."

Maureen smiled through her tears. "Thank you, Judy. And I'm sure you're right. They'll be fine… wherever they are…"

The End

In memory of Guy Williams, Jonathan Harris and Bob May