Author's Note to My Loyal Readers: Well, the journey is over. I hope you enjoyed traveling across the cosmos with the Robinsons one more time! I have achieved my objective: that of returning the Robinsons to Earth. However, I know this won't be the last word: there are other writers out there already crafting new tales of Lost in Space, which I greatly anticipate! This last chapter, the Epilogue, is simply a short, quiet ending to a story of high adventure and not a little fun. The "cap", if you will. Thank you for sharing the journey with me; I will always be indebted to the wonderfully positive reviews you all have given me. The experience was uplifting, indeed! And now, for the last word…or, in the true spirit of all LIS episodes, perhaps not?
Lost in Space, The Return, Epilogue
"Now, for the final report this evening, something that has been on the news, in the tabloids, and in discussions around water coolers and over kitchen tables throughout the world. What of the Robinsons?"
The news anchor was standing in front of a dramatic artist's rendering of the Jupiter 2 in flight as if it were banking through towering cliffs of cumulus clouds, the sun glinting off the ship's curving, razor-sharp edges. Flashes and rays of light were coming from the propulsion module under the craft. Vague figures could be seen at the main viewport, standing in dramatic poses.
Holding a pen and a sheaf of papers, he continued.
"The stories on the already legendary mission of the Jupiter 2 and the space family Robinson have grown in these last several weeks following the landing of the family's vessel at Cape Kennedy. Everyone knows the story about the ship that became lost in space following a navigational system failure and encounter with a meteor storm. Not even fifteen years has dimmed the memories of that sad chapter in our space program, when congressional finger-pointing was rampant, conspiracy buffs were debating wild theories to explain the loss, and the promising organization, Alpha Control, fell in disgrace from its lofty heights as the preeminent agent of interstellar exploration management.
"Yet, while Earth-bound pundits debated, accused, and theorized, the Robinsons were alive and well, stubbornly surviving in frequently hostile and completely foreign worlds far from home. They encountered alien races, uncharted planets, monsters, cosmic storms, mechanical difficulties, food shortages, time warps, space pirates, alien zoo-keepers, artificial intelligences, and societies both far in advance of our civilization, as well as far more barbaric.
"And then came that incredible day two months ago, when the world awoke to the gripping news that the Robinsons had returned! We were relieved to discover that all members of the Robinson family, including both their pilot and physician, were safe, healthy, and unharmed, even though they had only aged three years, while Earth had seen fifteen summers! Scientists and philosophers are still discussing the effects of the trip, including the strange time compression that allowed the family to age far slower than life on Earth due to their near light-speed wanderings across the universe.
"From the technical angle, NASA experts have been poring over every inch of the fabled Jupiter 2 spacecraft, which survived a near catastrophic landing and fire September 13th at Cape Kennedy. Scientists and technicians have been examining the vessel in great detail, both to extract a record of its travels as well as lessons to be included in the next generation of spacecraft, whether destined for the planets or to attempt another passage to the stars. There are even plans to house the vessel in its entirety in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington as part of a permanent exhibit.
"And, where are they now? The Robinsons, following their week-long debriefing by NASA and other federal agencies, are still at an undisclosed location in Hawaii. They are undoubtedly enjoying their beach time and soaking up that Pacific sun at some unnamed resort that has been a closely guarded secret to protect the family's privacy.
"U.S. Air Force Major Don West, the pilot of the Jupiter, had announced his engagement to Miss Judy Robinson shortly following their landing on Earth, and that appeared to be no surprise to anyone in the family.
"Dr. Zachary Smith, the rather enigmatic unwilling member of the crew, was last reported to be vacationing somewhere in Europe, but his exact whereabouts are uncertain.
"The final member of the Robinson party, the B-9 Environmental Control Robot, is continuing to provide scientists with vast storehouses of data and information from the voyage. This robot had developed an incredibly human artificial intelligence over the course of the expedition that is the object of continuing intense discussion and study by computer experts from elementary school students to top engineers at MIT.
"What is next? Should humanity make another attempt to the stars? And, why not? The universe evidently is teeming with life and adventure, while we sit self-absorbed and huddled on our little blue world in a quiet backwater of the galaxy. Isn't it time to have another go at it? Can we afford to go? Can we afford not to go?
"Let's give it some thought, lest, in our fear of the unknown and hesitation to grapple with the mysteries of the universe, we provoke a puzzled rebuke from a famous and philosophically-minded Robot who may be wiser than all the rest of us. In his own words: 'That does not compute'.
"Thanks for joining us. We'll see you tomorrow night."
Professor John Robinson clicked off the television and tossed the remote onto the couch. In the sudden silence, he could hear the slight breeze outside the open windows rustling the fronds of the palm trees crowding their bungalow, as well as the soft susurration of light surf.
He rose to his feet with a slight age-induced groan (annoyed not for the first time that he was doing that more and more), leaned down, and picked up the Bombay Sapphire gin martini he was drinking. Placing the wide-brimmed glass between his lips, he took a slow, sensual sip, closing his eyes in pleasure as the icy cold liquid, slightly sweet, slipped across his tongue and down his throat. He carefully lowered the glass, intently examining the crystal clear liquor with the twist of lemon floating, weightless, inside. The drink was already having its usual effect on him. He was feeling pleasantly mellow and was already thinking of mixing a second drink.
All the lights were off in the living room. A silvery illumination came from outside, which he knew was the full moon, out in all its glory. It drew him towards the open sliding glass door that accessed their beach patio. He stopped in the doorway, raised his glass, and took another sip as he scanned the scene before him.
It was a fairyland of silver highlights in shades of blacks and whites. Beyond the patio and past the gently waving hibiscus bushes and royal palm trees, the broad white beach, indented with countless footprints, marched down to the surf. The Pacific Ocean sent gentle rollers hissing up the sands, while the moon, hanging low on the western horizon, illuminated the sea with countless pinpricks of diamond-like reflections.
As the sea breeze lazily lifted his carefully combed hair, he turned his attention to the figure relaxing full length on the chaise lounge nearby. It was Maureen. Her face was bathed in the ethereal light, and her blonde hair appeared to be glowing. A glass with a tiny paper umbrella in it sat empty on the small table next to her. She was wearing a silky full-length robe that rippled gently in the breeze. Her eyes were closed; her lips were upturned in the faintest of smiles.
"What are you thinking about?" John asked softly, leaning casually against the doorway.
She stirred ever so slightly. After a few seconds, she answered. "Just how beautiful it is out here."
John looked into the sky. Brighter stars could be seen through the lunar glow, sparkling warmly above the restless Pacific. "Yes. It is beautiful here," he agreed. His eyes scanned the heavens for a few more moments, then his head cocked to one side, as if in sudden thought. "You know, NASA is already talking about another attempt to Alpha Centauri, or perhaps even to the Clouds of Ariana to perform a long-range examination of Alcandria or Selesia. You know, to assess either the potential threat or possibility of initiating diplomatic contact."
Maureen shook her head resignedly, and her full lips twisted into an annoyed pout. However, when she spoke, it was in a carefully modulated tone. "Yes, I've heard about it."
He sensed her displeasure, but, seemingly unable to stop himself, he blundered on. "There's a new ship design for something called the 'Orion One'. I guess they decided to retire the 'Jupiter' name. I thought that was rather unfair." He took another sip of his drink, watching his wife over the rim of the glass. He lowered the glass, but continued to hold it before his face, like a shield. "It does look pretty impressive, though."
Maureen stretched her hands behind her head. Her eyes were still closed. "Imagine that."
Another pause. "You've seen the preliminary specs on it, haven't you?"
"Will downloaded the blueprints on it and forwarded me an executive summary. He said it's a 'cool' design, and I would have to agree."
"He would say something like that."
The Pacific continued its quiet, steady music that ebbed and flowed, almost like a heartbeat.
John drained his drink. He felt marginally out of sorts, like he was treading on unwelcome territory. He had to concentrate to keep the stammer out of his voice. "You want to have a look at it tomorrow?"
Maureen finally opened her eyes and turned her head with predatory deliberation towards him. He froze, startled like a deer in the beams of a bright light. The smile on her face was back, but there was a glint in her eyes. She gave every appearance of a dangerous cat about to pounce on something helpless. When she spoke, it was with a husky authority.
"Professor, cease your prattling, put your drink down, and come over here. I've got some specifications for you to examine, right here, and right now." She eased her legs off the lounge chair.
Hypnotized, Professor John Robinson watched her.
Then, he did as he was told.
To be continued NEXT WEEK…?
Same time, same channel?
LOST IN SPACE—THE RETURN
By William D. Ackerman IV
Dedicated to: Mrs. Debra D. Ackerman
With Respect and Gratitude:
Completed April 28, 2010
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