CHAPTER 9

Just as the bacterial culture, off white and bumpy, began to die from exposure to one common, Earth generated antibiotic, the GODC crew paraded on deck in full protective equipment. Long before they approached Dr. Smith, they were regaled with much information from the crustacean crew chief.

They hastily reviewed Smith's data, concurred with his findings, and transmitted the information to their ship. Less than 30 minutes later they had created an antibiotic suitable for the Brokani descendants, which would probably control the course of the disease.

The odds were that Smith's solution might have also worked, but he was glad that he didn't have to put it to the test. Though he'd seen this through from beginning to end, he was immensely relieved to let the specialists take over.

The Bnlak Rulan, on board his ship, still clinging tenaciously to a tiny spark of life, was put under the best care any being could receive. He was whisked away to the hospital ship almost immediately.

Without further comment, Smith returned to the lab and scooped up his medical kit and diagnostic instruments. He assured himself that he'd gotten it all.

"Time to go, booby. We've accomplished our task. Admirably, I might add."

"You're actually including me in that 'we'?" the Robot asked incredulously.

"I'm feeling particular generous today, you ignominious ingrate. Don't make me regret my magnanmity."

The Robot raised both claws in surrender. "I'll quit while I'm ahead."

"Wise choice." Smith smiled with his eyes alone. "Oh, and before I forget, I am now reiterating my previous direct order. You are not to discuss any of this with the Robinsons or Major West. Understood?"

If the mechanical man could have shrugged his metal shoulders, he would have.

At the bottom of the ramp, Smith was greeted by the huge alien from the front desk. They talked quietly a minute and Smith followed him, but not before handing off his equipment to the Robot along with orders to return it all to the ship.

"Cut out of the fun again," the Robot grumbled as he rolled back to the Jupiter 2.

About an hour later a sober faced Dr. Smith heavily tramped up the steps. He checked to make certain the equipment was secured back in its proper place, and without a word went toward his cabin.

Don stopped him with a single word. "Doctor!"

Smith turned to face him. Darn, he thought. If he's treating me with respect then I'm definitely in trouble! Standing stolidly, thumbs hooked over his belt, he braced for whatever was coming.

"The Robot has been strangely silent about what went on over there. I don't suppose you'd be willing to tell us anything, would you?"

Still unsmiling, Smith slowly shook his head. "Sorry, Major. I did what I could, but as you probably saw, they still had to haul my patient away." He hated saying it. First, because the lie caused a perfectly good bragging opportunity to get chucked out in the garbage chute, and second, because it left him open to the Major's barbed insults.

Eyes glittering with evil intent, West geared up for a nasty comeback but was cut off by a hard look from Judy and the Professor.

Hands crossed over his broad chest, John Robinson caught hold of Smith's eyes with his own. "So you are trying to say that you accomplished nothing?"

"Not as much as I'd desired, but more than I expected," Smith answered cryptically, then disappeared into his cabin, closing the door with a loud thud.

John turned to Don. "Well, Don, time to shove off. I have no interest in having someone demand more of our deutronium. Let's get our pre flight checks underway."

As they were gearing up for their upcoming voyage, the staff of the Gaelorian Gem delivered a note to John with a grand flourish. When he opened the ornate seal, he found a note printed in English.

"What does it say?" Judy inquired, craning her slender neck around her father's should.

"I don't believe it!" he exclaimed incredulously. "The Gaelorian Gem has awarded us a full week's stay, complete with luxury accommodations and all meals, plus unlimited use of the facilities during that time."

Maureen gently took the paper and read it. Perplexed, she asked, "Why?"

"Pay back for the trouble they put everyone through," John surmised aloud. "Or maybe to assuage people who are considering litigation. Not that we'd go that route anyway."

"Well," Don interjected, "I don't know about you, but I sure would like to take them up on it. An all expenses paid vacation would give me a chance to wine and dine Judy until she can't stand it anymore."

Smirking, Judy lightly smacked his arm.

"Just promise me you'll stay away from Smith!" Don added loudly. "I don't think I could stand another minute of competition."

At that, Judy burst out with buoyantly joyful laughter. "Only if you promise me you'll be as charming as he was!"

When all but the elder Robinson had left the ship to examine their new quarters for the next week, Smith exited his cabin. He casually took the lift to the upper deck where John was securing the ship. John jumped when he realized someone else was there with him.

"Smith! I thought you'd gone already."

"Not yet. I just wanted you to have this," the doctor responded meekly.

John took the white rolled paper. Opened it. And gasped. He was holding in his hands a series of hand drawn but meticulously detailed star charts. A pay back from the Gem's staff for services rendered? he wondered silently, but didn't ask. Somehow he sensed he'd get a typically evasive answer.

"Do with them what you will, Professor."

Fighting to control the shaking of his hands as he located both Earth and Alpha Centauri, John asked, "Where did you get these? I tried days ago and was told there was nothing available for our sector of the galaxy."

Blue eyes, intense and piercing, gazed back. "Does it really matter?"

"Yes. I wouldn't want any trouble."

"Suffice it to say that a little birdy told me, and I can assure you, that it was honestly gained. So what will it be, Professor? Forward or back?" Smith asked, sounding as if the answer wouldn't really matter either way.

"What would you suggest?"

With a tiny half smile, Smith shrugged. "The choice is yours."

John tossed his head, laughing. "I'd still like to hear your opinion."

"Wherever thou goest, I shall go," came Smith's wry reply. Then he walked to the lift, got on it, and pushed the "down" button. Just as his head disappeared from view, a voice boomed out from below.

"But if you happen to crave another vacation, I wouldn't mind a little detour to the Riviera!"

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