Another day dawned bright and vibrant on Priplanis, the alien sun illuminating the vast vistas of the rugged landscape. It shone down on the native life-forms that inhabited the planet, such as the enormous lizard-type monsters and pointy-eared bloops; but it also favoured something far stranger with its golden glow – something that was not of its world. To the creatures of Priplanis, the metallic object that crouched upon the horizon like some silent interloper was an outlandish sight, but to human eyes it would be instantly recognised as the Jupiter Two: a spaceship containing the pioneer family Robinson and their co-pilot Major Don West that some months ago had been lost in space!
Also upon that ill-fated spaceship had been the stowaway Doctor Zachary Smith and the Robot that he had helped to programme as an environmental aid to the Robinsons. As the sun rose into the sky that morning, the good doctor was to be found on the upper deck of the Jupiter, once again diligently working on the Robot's circuitry.
"Warning, warning," the metal man solemnly intoned. "Tampering with my circuits may result in an electrical charge fatal to humans."
"Be quiet, you silly goose," Smith chided disparagingly, narrowly missing being struck about the face by the Robot's wildly flailing arms. He ducked under the hazardous limbs and gave a few last twists of the screwdriver to the automaton's control panel. "There! That should do the trick!" Triumphantly he snapped the control panel shut and stood up, just as the Robot abruptly drew its arms back in towards its body. It took all of Smith's considerable grace and poise to avoid being knocked over the head, and even then he only just escaped unscathed.
"Now, my dear metallic friend, which side do you choose: black or white?"
The Robot surveyed the chess board that stood in front of it and appeared to be seriously considering the conundrum at hand. "Black," it decided finally, "But I must tell you Doctor Smith, no matter how many of my circuits you reconnect, I will still beat you at chess."
"Fiddle-dee fie. Back in my youth I was considered the finest junior chess player in the world. If only I had kept it up and not turned to a life of science – as brilliant as I am in that field – I might have made my fortune." Smith took his seat at the opposite end of the chess board with a flourish. His hand poised to select a champion for his cause, he ran his fingers over the two ranged rows of pieces before eventually selecting one. "King's bishop to B3!"
"That, Doctor Smith, is a rook."
"What?" Snatching up the piece, Smith brought it close to his face and frowned at it as if suspecting the piece of some act of independent treachery. "Ah yes, so it is. It's my eyes, you know, they're not what they used to be." He put the piece back down on the board. "Well then, you nickel-plated ninny? It's your move. Come along, come along and be quick about it."
The Robot made a noise that, had it not been made by a robot, would most likely have been mistaken for a world-weary sigh.
It was whilst this exchange was taking place that, unnoticed by the two noble combatants, the door to the ship slowly slid open to admit entry to a humanoid shape. It took a furtive look to the left and right before beginning to creep towards the ladder that allowed access to the lower decks, a suspicious bundle clutched in its arms. Almost halfway across the floor, its shuffling foot connected with the screwdriver that Smith had nonchalantly cast aside, sending it clattering into the main navigation bank. The figure froze.
"Destroy!" The Robot's cumbersome top half swung around to face the intruder as its right arm extended, preparing an electrical blast with which to fry the imminent threat to the safety of the ship. The fearsome intruder let loose with a little scream of surprise.
An expression of alarm crossed Doctor Smith's face to be rapidly replaced with one of sly cunning when he saw the true identity of their unexpected visitor. Hurriedly he stood up and went to the Robot's side, laying a restraining hand on its shooting arm. "Careful, careful; what do you think you are doing? You were about to blast dear little Penny, you malevolent machine."
"But Doctor Smith, you ordered me to destroy all non-essential family members…"
"Never mind that now," the doctor interrupted, catching the wide-eyed look that the Robinsons' youngest daughter was directing at him. To prove his innocence in any underhand attempts on the child's life, he went so far as to give the Robot's metal arm a sound slap.
"It does not compute," the Robot stated sadly, trundling away from the scene of its miserable confusion.
"I'll attend to you later, sir!" Smith called after it. He looked back to find that Penny had seized the opportunity to beat a hasty retreat and was once again making a break for the ladder. "Penny? Penny, my dear child!"
Thwarted in her escape, Penny reluctantly turned around.
"Whatever are you holding behind your back?"
"Behind my…"Acting as if up until that moment she had been unaware of having anything in her hands, let alone hidden out of sight behind her back, the girl looked with surprise over her own shoulder. "Oh, nothing really."
But Doctor Smith, who was no stranger to the art of duplicity – even if he did say so himself – recognised at once that not only was the girl aware that she was trying to hide something, she also knew that it was most definitely not a nothing! In fact, it could only be said to be none other than a something. And somethings were what interested Doctor Zachary Smith the most, especially ones that were worth hiding out of other people's sight.
"Then my dear child, perhaps you would care to play a game of chess with me?"
Penny's innocent face, unused to being used for such dishonest ends, contorted uncomfortably. "Maybe later sir; Mum said I had to tidy my cabin this morning."
"Of course," Smith replied in an indulgent tone that suggested he knew very well that Penny had been told no such thing, but was willing to go along with the excuse for the sake of the child's comfort. Dismissing her with a gracious wave of the hand, he continued "Far be it for me to stand in the way between a child and her duty to her mother."
He watched as Penny gratefully turned and hurried towards the ladder. In the attempt to negotiate the descent with the mysterious bundle in her arms, whilst at the same time trying to pretend that she was unhindered by anything, she almost dropped it several times. A faint squeak reached Smith's sharp ears. Perhaps it was the sound of diamonds rubbing against each other? Or the poorly-oiled hinges of some fabulous machine that needed only the hand of a skilled engineer such as himself before it could grant him untold riches? He smiled.
No sooner had he sat down to contemplate the incalculable wealth that would shortly be his, than he was disturbed again by the arrival of more of the intrepid Robinson crew. Ignoring him completely, John Robinson and Major Don West headed straight for the main bank of computers at the front of the ship and took up fretful – but unmistakably manly – positions before them.
"How long do you reckon we've got, John?"
"Oh, about twelve hours or so; but I'll know more once we've recalibrated the radar to pick up large moving objects on the planet's surface."
"I'll get right on it."
Self-preservation being one of Smith's stronger instincts, overriding even the noble pursuit of wealth, he instantly became alert to the possibility of encroaching danger. Quietly, he approached the two men and peered over their shoulders at the confusing array of flashing lights and sweeping radar screens.
"Perhaps I could be of assistance, sirs?"
Don glared silently over his shoulder at the doctor before turning his attention back to the computers. "Buzz off, Smith," he muttered truculently.
"Buzz off, indeed!" The doctor repeated in scandalised tones.
"What is it you want, Smith?"
"Oh Professor Robinson, I couldn't help but overhear that you were having some trouble recalibrating the radar and knowing the paltry knowledge the Major possesses of such things, thought perhaps that I could be of some help." He surveyed the machinery with a professional eye. "Ah, here's your problem!"
John quickly caught the good doctor's wrist as he was about to flip a switch that would unleash all of the Jupiter's not inconsiderable weaponry upon the breakfast table outside. "Thank you, but maybe we should let Major West handle this. He, ah, needs the experience."
"I understand completely, Professor," Smith conceded, failing to see the look of exasperation that passed between the two other men.
Silence ensued, broken only by the occasional tap or beep as Don deftly manipulated the machinery into doing his bidding. There was a sudden long electronic tone and the rotating beam of the radar scope immediately picked up a huddle of dots moving steadily towards the ship. A tight-lipped grin of triumph flitted across John's face and he delivered a hearty slap of congratulations on the Major's shoulder. Smith blinked in bemusement at the display.
"And what, pray tell, are those?" He stabbed an enquiring finger at the dots on the radar scope.
"Those, Smith, are a group of large slimy reptiles. Family members of yours?"
"Spare me the poisonous barbs of the lesser intellect, Major."
Conversation dropped to a lull once again, the three men fascinated by the inexorable approach of the unclassified dots. Strange that something so vague could exude such an air of menace. The very inevitability of it seemed to enrapture them.
Doctor Smith was the first to break the silence. "Good Heavens, it appears as if they're moving straight towards the ship." Nervously he pressed a hand to his chest, subconsciously seeking out the steady beat of his heart to provide reassurance.
"That's because they are."
"Our ship crash-landed directly in the migration path of a group of what appear to be gigantic reptiles. Don and I were out working on the Chariot this morning and the ground started shaking. He got the binoculars and we spotted the creatures slowly approaching. I think they make the journey to avoid the terrible heat that this planet endures in the course of its orbit."
"We'll be destroyed!"
"Yes we will, unless we can figure out a way to either move the ship or divert their course."
Smith's hand fluttered anxiously at his throat whilst he considered this statement. "Then I must begin to fortify the lower decks at once! If anyone needs me I shall be in my cabin, preparing our defences."
"Hiding under the bed more like," Don sniped as a smooth rumbling of gears behind him announced the descent of the lift, along with Doctor Smith, to the sleeping quarters.
"I heard that, Major!"
Never one to lose his sense of humour, even in the most dire of situations, John laughed and clapped his co-pilot heartily on the back.