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Found in Space

Authors: Steve McKinnon
Crossovers: Lost In Space
Show Year: Y1
Rating: PG-13
Date: 2004
Encountering the long-lost Jupiter 2 expedition, Alpha's existence is put in jeopardy when an alien warship appears seeking revenge on Doctor Smith.
Average Rating: 4.4/5 (based on 5 reviews)

The day began with Moonbase Alpha flying straight into a minefield.

The colony of 300 men and women that called the out-of-control Moon their home could only go about their lives and duck their heads when necessary. After three hours of enduring the pounding almost everyone's nerves were shot, and begging whatever God they believed in to put a stop to it.

The diligent crew that manned Main Mission, the heart of a lunar base, kept a watchful eye on all manner of solar debris that was heading their way, while a trio of Eagles maintained a high orbit over the Moon to blast whatever stray meteorites dared come within a certain radius of the lonely human outpost.

"Another one is coming in from sector five, Paul," David Kano reported, tearing off a strip of paper from his computer printout. "Computer suggests a combined assault to deal with it."

Morrow's eyes scanned the printout then his console to check the location of the Eagles, before switching on his transmitter. "Main Mission to Eagles 1and 6; new target at 11 by 238 by 77. We need both of you on it."

Eagle 1's pilot, Alan Carter, and Eagle 6's pilot, Kevin Bannion, responded that they were lining up the new target on their weapons scopes. Less than a minute later a satisfying sensor reading indicated that the meteor that had been nine times bigger than an Eagle had been reduced to thousands of baseball-sized chunks, and would impact the Moon hundreds of miles away from Alpha, somewhere in the vicinity of the Crater Vitruvius.

"Professor, how much longer do we have to do this? We can't blow up everything that's coming too close," Morrow complained. "Shouldn't we have passed the debris field by now?"

Victor Bergman knew the answer without even checking his star chart. He grimaced sadly as he responded, "Afraid not yet, Paul. Our course is running parallel to the counter-clockwise orbit of that destroyed moon. My best estimates show that we have nearly an hour before we can think about letting our guard down."

Kano tore another printout from his console, and handed it to the Controller. "Next closest targets, Paul," he said, sounding apologetic. "Alan and the others are going to be bragging for weeks about their marksmanship!" He returned to his panel even as Morrow contacted the nearest Eagle.

Bergman found the base's commander, John Koenig, approaching from his office, his face showing a hopefulness for good news, but could tell that it was somewhat premature.

"Victor, two weeks ago when we spotted this solar system, ahead of us I had to contend with a base full of people who got their hopes up that this might be the solar system for us to colonise. Then the closer we got the worse things became, when we discovered not one but two gas giants that were unstable to the point of destroying one of their own moons. Sensors show a habitable planet up ahead, but now your report tells me that we can't expect it to be a potential home?"

Bergman nodded. "My best guess is that the Moon has disrupted the gravitational field of this star system to such a point that we've actually caused the gas giants to shift slightly in their orbits, and the inner planet to a lesser degree has been affected by the movement of its neighbouring worlds."

"A bull in a china shop," Koenig mused.

"Yes, unfortunately, something the size of our Moon can't go unnoticed in the bigger scheme of things, anymore than the contents of a creek could remain pristine after a stone is thrown into it. There's bound to be a ripple-effect in the natural order of things as we pass through places we don't belong."

"It's never happened before. Not like this anyway."

"That we know of," Victor amended. "We can only guess what our Breakaway from Earth did to it, let alone the neighbouring planets of those we've inadvertently visited in the past. This system seems especially vulnerable to our entry, however."

Koenig looked up at the big screen and watched as an image of Eagle 4 silently blasting a meteor was displayed. "I almost feel like apologizing to someone. Can we expect this every Time we enter a new solar system, Victor? Inadvertently tearing the fabric of space as we travel through it?"

"It depends on a number of factors, John; the size and type of star, the number and size of planets and their orbital positions, our speed and trajectory. It's possible the worst is over and the planets will settle down. The only way to know will be to send a probe to the inner planet; we've detected an oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere. Even a planetfall on a place resembling the Gobi Desert or Siberia is better than an uncertain future here on the Moon."

Koenig managed a shrug. "After the pounding we've had to endure today I'd settle for a volcanic island; anything is better than this."

Alpha trembled slightly as a distant collision between the Moon and a piece of an alien moon took place, the rogue rock having penetrated the Eagle defences.

Less than 24 hours later, Eagle 1 was blasting off from launch pad one again, her fuel tanks filled to capacity again, but this time her sensors and scanning equipment were manned by Bergman, while Koenig and Carter manned the cockpit. She would have to pour on the speed to outrun the Moon and reach the inner planet in time to give them a decent amount of time to run tests and map the world in an effort to discover if it was worth transferring the eager Alphans to it.

The bombardment from the gas giant's devastated moon had continued for another ninety minutes after John and Victor had spoken, so life had resumed as normal as could be expected. Bergman realised how much was depending on him getting the scans correct, while the final decision rested on Koenig's shoulders. Crew morale could be sent skyward if the world ahead of them proved even marginally satisfactory. It wasn't an exaggeration to say that there were Alphans who would endure terrible environmental conditions if it meant being able to breath real air again.

"E.T.A. one hour, Commander," Carter reported from the pilot's chair. He checked his scanners, and shook his head. "Those gas giants are as unstable as a rock star in a rehab clinic. Glad that never happened to Jupiter and Saturn back home."

That we know of, Koenig wanted to add, but held back. The loss of the Moon in their star system was something that could only be estimated by Computer. The complex gravitational fields of the nine planets and dozens of satellites most likely endured a bigger jolt than the asteroid that struck the Earth millions of years earlier that lead to the dinosaur's demise. He shook his head, and tried to concentrate on what the sensors were showing him. It was complex stuff which he was sure Victor was loving every minute of. The Professor was in his element out here, his knowledge passing even the greatest minds back on Earth, as every day presented a new challenge to overcome, which Victor Bergman usually did with flying colours. Koenig shuddered to think of what Alpha's chances of survival would have been had Victor returned to England prior to Breakaway, rather than finding himself an unexpected passenger in their solar odyssey.

"So, uh, Commander...what do ya miss the most outta all the things ya used to do back home?" Carter asked in an effort to make conversation and pass the time.

Koenig took the bait and thought about it. "The most? So many things, so many people. Sitting on Clearwater Beach in Florida, just watching the waves crash onto shore. Making my own trail through a forest, and watching the squirrels and birds look down at me as I pass through their 'world'. Sitting in a seat that's too small for me, gradually getting a sun burn, as I watch a Yankee ball game in the middle of August." He thought of smells and sights of each example he'd just given, and smiled sadly. Such things were light years away. "How about you?"

"Easy! Pub crawling from place to place with some mates until 4 in the mornin', chatting up a half dozen ladies that seemed to get prettier as the night went on, if you get my meaning!" Koenig laughed at that comment. Yes, somehow alcohol magically altered the features of the opposite sex. Strange, but true. Carter added, "Also homesick for a decent game of football...checking the standings in the paper the next day...wishin' the next World Cup was next week."

The mentioning of football made Koenig miss the American version, even though he knew Alan meant the game that North Americans would refer to as 'soccer'. He'd never been a fan of the sport, but after months of unpredictable adventures in deep space Koenig would get excited about water polo if it meant the beginning of a new life on an Earth-like planet.

Eagle 1 approached the planet on time and began scans, but Bergman's findings were about to test Koenig's command judgement skills. The solar system was proving as unstable as Victor's worst computer projections. As Carter piloted the ship hundreds of miles over the mostly gray and brown planet, Koenig leaned over Bergman's shoulder to watch the computer readouts reveal a planet in terrible stress.

"See here; the northern polar cap is melting, collapsing into the sea. Volcanic activity is increasing in the southern hemisphere, and fault lines are fracturing the central continent. The planet is a mess, John. You have a very difficult decision to make here. We've talked about it, and made some off-hand comments about such a place being better than whatever Alpha had to offer, but is this planet truly better?"

"How much time do we have until we're out of range of it?"

"48 hours, 11 minutes."

"Keep scanning, Victor. The atmosphere can support us, so there must be somewhere down there that's not being ripped to pieces. Even an island half the size of Japan could offer us a better life."

As Eagle 1 swung around the planet, nearly catching up to where she'd entered orbit, and alarm caught Carter's attention, so he beckoned Koenig to return to the cockpit.

"What is it?" the Commander asked.

Carter fine-tuned his sensors, and responded, "Another ship. Looks like it's tryin' to leave the planet, but it's in trouble. It might not have the power to reach escape velocity."

Koenig resumed his co-pilot seat, and checked his readings. "Visual range in two minutes. I hope they're friendly."

Carter nodded, his anxiety level raised by 200 percent. The messed-up planet was enough of a problem to deal with, and now they had visitors. He loved the thrill of flying and the unexpected, but some days it didn't pay to get out of bed! A minute later the communications system showed a signal was being broadcast straight at them; they'd been spotted!

Koenig activated the receiver and was about to identify himself and ask the other ship's status when a male voice, high-pitched and on the verge of panic (or a nervous breakdown) could be heard wailing over the speakers,

"help us! Please, pleeeease! If only for humanitarian purposes! We'll pay you whatever you w-OOF! Unhand me, Major! Your marginal skills are required in piloting this accident-prone spaceship, whereas I have two free hands to-"

"---mess things up for the one hundred and eighty-fourth time!" another voice finished. "You don't have any business being up here! Get below!"

"In-deed! I'll have you know-"

"Smith! Get below!" a third voice, deeper and more-commanding, ordered sternly.

Koenig decided to intercede as a pause in the 'conversation presented itself. "This is Eagle 1 to unidentified craft; what's your status? May we be of assistance?"

The third voice returned to reply, "Yes! Our ship is low on fuel, and we're having difficulty breaking orbit! The planet below us is breaking up! Can you assist us?"

"Understood. We'll do our best. Stand-by," Koenig replied. He turned off his transmitter and ordered the grappler system brought on-line. "We'll latch on, and perhaps our combined propulsion systems can drag them out of orbit."

"Provided they're not five times bigger than us!" Carter cautioned.

Carter activated the system, as his ship caught up to the endangered vessel. Less than a minute later, he and Koenig, both veterans of the space service back home, laid their eyes on a spacecraft that neither had expected to ever see again. It was something that had been launched and presumed missing years ago, and had no business being light years away from its intended target.

"Holy cow, Commander! Is that what I think it is?" Carter asked, incredulous, unable to keep a smile from tugging at the corners of his mouth.

Koenig shared the smile, his mind racing. "It sure seems like it to me, Alan. This is Eagle 1 to spacecraft; we're about to latch onto you to assist in your retreat from the planet. May I ask you to identify yourselves?"

"I'm Professor John Robinson of the Jupiter 2. We're a non-hostile exploratory craft, if that's any consolation?"

Koenig grinned widely. "We already surmised that, Jupiter 2. We're coming within visual range; you might be as surprised to see who's rescuing you as we are to find you out who needs rescuing!"

Aboard the Jupiter 2 the pilots, Professor John Robinson and Major Don West, looked at each other in consternation, unsure of what their rescuer meant. Their scanners showed a ship coming around from behind them, but that was it. The scope simply showed a radar contact, not a visual image. Robinson activated the aft camera, and did a double-take as he checked the small viewscreen on the control panel.

"Don! Look at that!"

The pilot, a younger man with thick black hair and a high forehead leaned slightly to get a better look, and recognized their rescuers immediately, even though his mind told him that it was as impossible as being rescued by Superman, but there it was.

"That's an Eagle! That's impossible! What's it doing so far from Earth?! They can't fly at the speed of light!"

"I don't know, but I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth," Robinson said. "They're about to lock onto us with their grappler system."

"John, this is crazy! That ship couldn't be there! It has to be some kind of illusion!" West insisted.

Robinson checked his instruments, and grimaced. "We managed to synthesize only a fraction of the fuel necessary to get us airborne, Don. Real or not, alien trick or human fluke, we have to trust them to get us out of this one. The alternative is a burn-up in this self-destructing planet's atmosphere!"

Given that choice, West accepted the situation as the lesser of two evils; you just can't fight a whole plant. The Jupiter 2 trembled once as magnetic cables from the belly of the Eagle latched on, and then yanked them forward. West compensated for the strain on the rescue ship by pouring on additional thrust to make the effort easier. Lights on the control panel that had been flashing warnings for the past 15 minutes finally turned themselves off, as the ship's internal systems reported that the danger had passed.

"This is the Jupiter 2; thank you, Eagle 1, for your assistance. We have enough fuel for a short-range flight to your...mothership or...base of operations?"

"Acknowledged, Jupiter 2. We're disengaging the grappler. I'm feeding coordinates into your navigational system for Alpha. Please follow them and prepare for a landing shortly thereafter. I think you're in for a surprise; once there we'll compare notes. Eagle 1 out," the deep voice of their rescuer said.

After a long line of hostile aliens and tricksters, the help of what could actually be other human beings was extremely welcome. The two ships disengaged from each other, then altered course for somewhere back out of the solar system. A distant white object became visible in the three large viewports at the front of the silver flying saucer that was the Jupiter 2, and continued to grow in size and detail. It couldn't be another planet, Robinson thought, as their instruments had indicated that only three planets orbited this star, and the other two were uninhabited gas giants.

From behind them they could hear movement and footsteps, which presented itself in the form of Robinson's 13-year old son, Will, the trouble-making passenger, Doctor Zachary Smith, and their reliable mobile computer, the B9 Robot. Will peered out the viewports and spotted the Eagle flying above and ahead of them.

"Wow! Dad, that looks just like an Eagle transporter!"

"That's exactly what it is, Will," his dad confirmed. "Although we don't know how it's possible for it to be so far from Earth."

"'Eagle'? What are you two talking about? That bears as much resemblance to our avian friends as this bulbous booby looks like Mel Gibson!" Smith contended.

"Smith, how you're able to get along in life with less than a dozen brain cells is a mystery to me!" West grumbled. "It's not supposed to look like an Eagle, that's just the class of ship out there. And the last time we ever saw one they could only travel between the Earth and the Moon."

"Which makes me think that that ship out there must belong to a larger ship, a deep-space mothership or some sort," Robinson suggested. "Although the voice did mention 'Alpha'."

"Does that mean Alpha Control that oversaw our launch, or...Moonbase Alpha? Either one is crazy, so it's gotta be something else called 'Alpha'," West insisted.

"Preposterous! We're nowhere near Earth!" Smith sniffed.

"You're right about that, Doctor Smith," Robinson conceded. "Robot; analyse that ship. Question; is it truly a man-made Eagle spacecraft?"

The Robot paused, lights flashing on and off with rapidity across its belly, and within the oval dome at the top of its head. A plastic grill in the middle of its barrel-shaped central body lit up in unison with the realistic, digitized male voice that answered,

"There is a 98.7 percent probability that the ship out there is as it appears; and Eagle-class transporter from the planet Earth. I am able to identify several emblems on its hull designating it as 'Eagle 1' of Moonbase Alpha, and that there are three lifeforms within, all human. As human as Doctor Smith is cowardly."

"Nonsense, ninny! Your sensors must need to be tweaked as much as your verbosity!"

"Well, I think we're about to get some answers," West noted, pointing out the large viewports. "We're on course for a planetoid, even though our sensors didn't show a fourth planet in this system when we arrived here four months ago."

The group watched as the distant disk began to take shape and reveal surface details in the glare of an alien sun. Areas of white or gray, but everywhere were craters, some apparently very large, and others small and numerous.

But they were also far too familiar to be believed.

"John...that's the Moon! Our Moon! I hate like hell to agree with Smith, but this is seeming more and more impossible! How could the Moon be in an entirely different star system?!"

"Brilliant deduction, Major! So nice of you to get up to my speed of reasoning! I say, gentlemen, that we assume what passes for battle stations on this ship, and change course immediately! This is, no doubt, another ghastly alien attempt to trick us! How better than to render us quiescent than to tempt us with sights from home? The next thing you know we'll be welcomed by President Clinton and the Rockettes!"

They'd been tricked, brainwashed, lied to, and in general had their hopes dashed many times in the three years since they'd launched from Earth on October 16, 1997. John Robinson's goal back then had been to oversee his family's colonisation of a planet in the Alpha Centauri solar system. However, Zachary Smith had stowed away aboard the Jupiter 2 after a sabotage attempt had cut off his escape. The result was that the finely-tuned pre-determined course for the saucer had been thrown out of whack, and they'd instead encountered many alien species and crossed uncounted light years in every direction. This had altered his main priority to simply protecting his family and crew, and hopefully finding a new home, somewhere, if not a way to return to earth. Presented with the riddle before him, he could only trust his instincts and the Robot's abilities.

"Robot; scan ahead. Is that our Moon?"

Apparently, the machine had already done so, as it instantly responded, "Affirmative. Diameter: 2,160.1 miles; mass to earth is 1/81.3; density: 3.34; volume to Earth:

surface gravity: 0.165. Visual identification of landmarks such as the Crater Tycho, Mare Serenitatis, and Crater Plato are evident. Confirmation that this is the Moon can be found in the remains of the landing sites of the Apollo missions scattered across the surface. Attention! I am detecting hundreds of life forms within the Crater Plato!"

"Ah-HA!" Smith laughed with victory. "A hidden cache of alien accomplices, no doubt!"

"Plato...Don, wasn't that where they were building an international Moon base?"

West nodded. "Right, right. They laid the groundwork in '92, I think, and it was virtually completed by early '97. John, that's the 'Alpha' the pilot was talking about! Moonbase Alpha!"

As the Jupiter 2 followed Eagle 1 closer to Earth's former satellite, more questions came to mind, but none could be answered without face to face contact with the supposed human inhabitants of the base. They continued to descend, finally flying over one of Man's last great achievements before the thermo-nuclear explosions tore the Moon out of Earth orbit and on a journey into the unexplored universe.

"This is Eagle 1 to Jupiter 2; please touchdown on launch pad 4, the co-ordinates of which I'm sending you now. Your ship won't fit inside out underground hangar, so upon landing the platform will lower several feet to allow a docking tunnel to attach itself to your main hatch. I'm landing at the nearest pad, number 5, and will meet you and your crew a few minutes later. I'm looking forward to meeting all of you-we have a lot to talk about. Eagle 1 out."

West acknowledged and looked back at Smith. "Get below. We're coming in to land, and I wouldn't want to upset your tummy, Smith!"

"In-deed, Major! No doubt you honed your skills playing bumper-cars as a child! Come along, William."

Smith and Will Robinson departed, while the Robot stood guard over the ship's pilots, having received no instructions to leave. A signal was received and beckoned them to the edge of the sprawling base where a pair of launch pads were attached to the base, as well as to each other by an access tube. Robinson and West couldn't help but be awed by the size of the base.

"Incredible," Robinson murmured. "They really built it, despite all the political troubles back home. It's even bigger than the artist's concepts I saw years ago."

"I guess they expanded while we were away. I can't wait to find out how the heck they got way out here."

"I have been monitoring the Moon's course," the Robot announced.

Robinson looked at Don, then back to the Robot. "'Course'?"

"Affirmative. The Moon is not orbiting a planet, it is on an independent course through this solar system."

"With engines?!" Don asked.

"Negative. Propulsive force has not been detected, but it is travelling at a high speed."

"John, we're getting a green light down there to land; last chance to back out?"

Robinson chuckled bitterly. "To go where? We'd surely crash back on that planet, smearing ourselves across fifty miles of desert. Let's see this through. Take us down."

Almost simultaneously, the saucer-shaped Jupiter 2 gently set down on a plus sign-shaped landing pad while a trio of landing legs extended from the belly of the ship to touch the surface, while her engine's circular disk on the belly glittered off and on, illuminating lunar dust, but barely disturbing it. True to form, Major West's skill as a pilot lined up the saucer's main hatch with that of a docking system that extended forward a minute later. A gentle thump told the crew that contact had been made, while the Robot indicated that pressure was being equalised to allow them to disembark.

Were this an alien planet or alien space station Robinson would got it alone or just leave with Don, but all indications were that they were among friends, or at least people of their own kind, as hard as that was to believe. It was because of this trust that he announced to his family and Doctor Smith down below on the ship's second level that they were all allowed to leave the ship together.

Koenig, Carter, and Bergman entered the travel tube, and took a short trip directly to launch pad 4, their own senses in awe of the surprise visitors, although not as incredulous as the Robinsons would be. Bergman, having been informed of who they were bringing back to Alpha, was speaking excitedly,

"Professor Robinson is a genius, John! His theory of using light speed warp fields through theoretical wormholes to travel great distances was something that not everyone in the scientific community could accept, but were nevertheless highly interested in! The Jupiter series was his brain child and he fought to allow his family to accompany him to Alpha Centauri. The trip would still take years, albeit in suspended animation, but after a failed Jupiter 1 proto-type, the Jupiter 2 was launched in 1997. Unfortunately, an unforeseen problem occurred and the ship went off course, and off every available scanner. There were theories that the ship had been destroyed in a meteorite shower, or flew into a planet, or simply blew up because Robinson's engines imploded. Now we know! They survived, and wound up light years from anywhere Earth would think to look for them!"

"Ever meet Robinson, Professor?" Alan wanted to know.

The older man shook his head. "I nearly did several years ago when I went aboard to a seminar in the United States, but the Professor had been called away for a family emergency. I read virtually everything he wrote, however, up until he left Earth, but his reputation is spotless in the scientific community."

"Yeah, well, this'll be a reunion of sorts for me; I actually know one of the Jupiter 2 crew," Alan admitted.

Before he could be questioned further, the travel tube came to a stop and the door opened to reveal that Doctor Helena Russell and Controller Paul Morrow were waiting for them by the docking foyer. Koenig wanted to give the Robinson's a friendly welcome, so in place of security he opted for numbers.

He personally opened the connecting tubeway with his commlock, and watched as the inner door opened first, then the outer one connected to the Earth ship opened, revealing the silver hatch of the Jupiter 2. Moments later, that too, opened up, revealing several curious faces looking back at them down the short tunnel. Robinson offered a smile and a loom back at his charges, before grasping the hand of a lovely red-haired woman, and leading everyone into the interior of Moonbase Alpha. Following him were West, an attractive young blonde, then a second dark-haired girl, Will, then the Robot. Smith crept forward, looking for all intents and purposes like a man entering the dentist's office from Hell. He possessed all the bravery and confidence of a paranoid squirrel. Robinson brought his free hand forward, and his friendliest smile, which Koenig returned.

"Professor Robinson, I'm Commander John Koenig. Welcome to Moonbase Alpha."

"Nice to meet you, Commander. I can't wait to hear how you guys fot the Moon out here! But, first things first; this is my wife, Maureen," he said, releasing the redhead's hand, so she could shake Koenig's hand, too. She seemed friendly, but had an air of caution about her, too. And why not? They'd probably had their share of crazy experiences in their travels, and now a piece of home, a 2,160 mile piece of home, was presented. Robinson continued, indicating the willowy blonde with big blue eyes. "Our eldest daughter, Judy; our second child, Penny, and our son, Will. This is our pilot, Major Donald West, and..." Robinson paused as he came to the seventh member of his 'crew'. The man had a hawkish look to him, and deep lines bordering a tight mouth, possibly the result of too much yelling or frowning, Koenig wasn't sure which. His body language practically screamed, 'Say something offensive, I dare you!'. Instead, Robinson finished with, "Doctor Zachary Smith, our resident physician. And, of course, our robot."

"Very nice to meet all of you," Koenig said, shaking hands in turn. "May I present my department heads..." He went on to introduce Victor, Alan, Helena and Paul.

Hands were shaken, and smiles exchanged, along with the usual 'Nice to meet you's and 'Isn't this amazing's, but recognition was the sole reaction between Carter and one member of the Jupiter crew.

"Okay, this has got to be an illusion, because I know that Alan Carter couldn't stay away from his homeland more than a week without getting homesick!"

"Is that the impression I left ya with, Donny?" Carter laughed, he and West subconsciously engaging in a game of who could squeeze the other's hand tighter.

"That's all I ever heard you talk about, you old dingo! You must be going bonkers this far from Oz!"

"Look who's talkin'! Here's the guy that made me memorize all the roads and landmarks in Houston! You were always spoutin' off how great it was!"

"I was just trying to make sure you knew how to get home after all those bar hops, ya kangaroo!"

"Same ol' Donny!" Carter chuckled. "Never could drink me under the table, could ya?" he taunted, giving West a couple playful jabs in the ribs, which West blocked like he was being tickled.

"Who'd want to drink that tap water you call 'beer' all night? You should've-"

"Alright, you two," Koenig said, gently parting the old friends. "There'll be plenty of time to get reacquainted. We've got a lot to talk about. Professor, if you wouldn't mind, Doctor Russell would like to run some examinations of your crew? Just precautionary, since you've been places that we haven't had a chance to scan, and..."

"No problem, Commander. It would set my mind at ease to know we're all healthy."

Koenig thought it odd that Doctor Smith didn't question his medical expertise, but chalked it up to the logical fact that Smith didn't have access to a state-of-the-art medical facility. The Jupiter 2's 'facilities' were probably a spare room with a box of three-year old supplies. The Alphans led the way, followed by the Jupiter 2 crew.

"Come along...Donny!" Smith chuckled, scoring a direct hit against his nemesis, if West's sour, blushing expression was any indication.

With seven patients, but four doctors to examine them, the delay in debriefing was minimal. All were found to be in good health, although shots of B12 and vitamin C gave their systems a boost. It was with quiet relief that Helena could certify that each of them was as human as any Alphan on the base, so it was looking less and less like some strange alien trick at infiltration, and more and more like a one-in-a-million chance meeting between Earthlings.

While Smith was being examined by Mathias, West casually stepped forward, a thought occurring to him.

"This is some outfit you've got here, Doctor," West commented. "Tell me, does all equipment give you a thorough diagnosis?"

"As thorough as medical technology evolved by 1999, Major," Mathias offered with a shrug of his shoulders.

"What I mean is could you tell me if the good doctor here actually has spinal problems?" West asked, prompting Smith to sit up on his arms, staring cold daggers at the pilot. "He's often complained about such problems, which as luck would have it, force John and I to do about 90 % of the manual labour when required."

"Poppycock, Major! I have offered help whenever possible! 90 % is a highly-inflated estimate of your work ethic!"

"Sorry, Doctor. Make that 75 % for John and I, 20 % for Will, and 5 for you!"


"So, howabout it, Doc? Once and for all, can you settle this mystery for me? Does Doctor Smith have a 'bad back'?" he asked, using two fingers on both hands to indicate quotation marks in the air.

Mathias looked to Smith for permission. "Scan away, Doctor. I welcome the opportunity to put an end to this debate!"

Mathias offered a hand on Smith's back to help him up into a sitting position, his beady eyes locked on West's, the Major supremely confident that'd he'd be proven right if his stern, crossed arms stance was an indication. Running a scanning device up and down Smith's back, Mathias offered only the occasional 'Mm' or 'uh-huh'. The adversaries looked to him for a definitive answer. A minute later he was done.

"And the verdict is, Doctor?" Smith asked.

"There's evidence of two slipped disks on the lower vertebrae, and muscle tissue that's approximately 10 % weaker than normal."

"HA! I told you, Major! I told you over and over, but you would never believe me when I told you I had a delicate back! I'm waiting for an apology for your boorish, sadistic behaviour!"

West was shocked and speechless! This couldn't be happening! He could accept rescue by a travelling Moon easier than he could believe that Zachary Smith was anything but a lazy, labour-avoiding, coward who'd send his own mother up the river without a paddle if it meant a return to earth. Finding out that Smith wasn't lying about his bad back was like admitting baseball was invented by the Russians.

"I should point out," Mathias said, garnering looks from Smith and West, "that I said 'evidence of two slipped disks', and not 'currently two slipped disks'. The damage has healed as best it could after, perhaps, twenty years."

"What?" West gasped, unable to stifle a laugh.

"I-beg-your-pardon?" Smith asked at the same time, his voice dripping with indignation.

Bob Mathias hated to come between the two long-time combatants, but they'd started this, not he.

"Your back, although somewhat weak because of muscle degradation from age, Doctor, isn't in such bad shape. The pain from those slipped disks must have been excruciating when you had them when you were...what? 30 to 35 years of age?"

"I knew it! I knew it!" West laughed, slapping the examination table Smith was speechless on. "Smith, you really are the laziest man in the galaxy!"

"No! I am not! Doctor! Tell him! Tell him I could easily have popped a disk from too strenuous an activity! Tell him that digging ditches is no job for a man of my years or occupation!"

"Well...he does have a point," Mathias offered, lamely.

"Too late, Smith! The truth is out there!" Don laughed, joining John and Maureen Robinson off to one side. Smith glared at Mathias, who shrugged helplessly.

"" Mathias asked, gaining young Penny as his next patient as Smith cautiously exited the examination table.

Will was being examined by Helena, who seemed to have found a motherly instinct in herself that she hadn't realised she had. There was a subliminal pleasure she was experiencing at seeing not just new humans, but children. She hadn't realised how much she'd missed seeing the younger generation until she'd met Will and Penny, both so much younger than everyone else on the base.

Will was the epitome of the boy next door, possessing the freckled-faced appearance of a typical American boy, supplanted by good manners and a respect for adults, but also retaining a keen intelligence for someone so young. It wouldn't surprise her if Will turned out to be some kind of child prodigy. Of course, if the Jupiter 2 had experienced half of what Alpha had these past eight months in space then Will would have grown up much faster than normal, forced to deal with some very adult situations.

It was with pride that she announced, "You're perfectly healthy, Will. I can detect no diseases or viruses in you, and all of your muscles and organs are maturing at a normal rate. You'll be as tall and handsome as your father in a few years!"

Will hopped off the examination table, saying, "You hear that, Robot? In a couple years I'll be able to look you straight in the sensors!"

"I look forward to that, Will Robinson," the machine responded.

It took Helena a moment to realise what just happened here. The boy had spoken to the robot like another person, and the machine had answered in a tone that made it sound like there was a man inside it. Alpha's Computer spoke in short sentences, but it had a bored, or tired tone to it. The silver and gray mobile computer carried more personality in it than some of her former med school classmates.

"Will, I don't believe I've been introduced to your friend?"

"This is Robot. Robot, Doctor Russell," the kid introduced.

The machine offered a red claw on an expanding accordion-like arm, the equivalent of a hand to the mechanism. She grasped it like a door handle, and felt it move up and down of its own accord, obviously programmed for such a function.

"A pleasure to meet you, Doctor Russell."

She smiled, unsure if his...his? Its?...programming understood the meaning. "Just 'Robot'? Don't you have a name or designation?"

"I am an Environmental Control Robot, Model B-9, attached to the Robinson colonial/exploration ship, Jupiter 2. My creators apparently felt that such a personalisation of myself would be irrelevant."

"In fact, Robot used to speak a lot more like a robot when we first launched, Doctor," Will added. "He spoke with a monotone voice, but I guess he just got used to our tone of voice and mannerisms and began to emulate them himself. I've even heard him laugh."

"Usually at the expense of Doctor Smith," the Robot amended.

"Interesting," Helena commented, meaning every syllable of it. She'd noticed how of all of the people from the spaceship it was Smith who most seemed like an outsider. Major West was the pilot and unrelated to the Robinsons, but he was practically treated like John Robinson's younger brother. Even the Robot was afforded more respect and attention by her estimation. "I'm sure our engineers would love to know what makes you tick, Robot." Immediately, the oval bubble at the top of his neck popped up a couple of inches. It gave her the impression of someone whose eyebrows rose and eyes opened wide in surprise. "Oh, no, I don't mean to imply that they'd disassemble you! I just thought they might like to make copies of your memory banks, and analyse your technical data. We don't have any robots on Alpha."

"Thank your lucky stars for that, dear lady! Two such pompous bubbleheads would drive your people to race for the nearest airlock!" Smith said, appearing at her side.

"Patience, Doctor Smith. You might provoke the Alphans to do so first," the Robot countered, swivelling at his hipline to face the prowling physician.

Helena could only shake her head at the difference between the crew interaction. Will and the girls seemed to be the only ones immune to Smith's...brusque and unique personality. She noticed that the elder daughter, Judy, was certified fit by Doctor Vincent, which allowed the Jupiter 2 crew to reunite in the middle of the medical centre, bringing an end to whatever argument was about to develop between the two rivals.

"Well, since all of you check out healthy, there's no reason to keep you all cooped up in here. I'd like a chance to speak with Professor Robinson about our side of events, so I'm having all of you assigned individual commlocks," Koenig said, as he and Helena handed out handheld devices with several buttons on one side, a miniature tv screen at one end, and a thick antenna on the other. He continued, "When they designed Alpha they almost built the doors to open automatically when you crossed an electric eye, but somebody felt security could be compromised and privacy would be wanted by everyone who served on Alpha. By pressing this button and aiming so," Koenig said as he pointed towards an exit, the unit emitting a chirping sound, "you can come and go as you please, within reason. There're security areas in many places, but they're clearly labelled. We've arranged quarters for all of you in the Accommodation Building, so if you'd like to unpack, or at least get out of your spacesuits, you can begin to make yourself at home."

The spaceship crew separated into three groups, each interested in a different thing. John wanted to be debriefed by Koenig and fill him in on some of his own exploits, so Maureen opted to remain with her husband. West and Carter were eager to catch up on old times, so a quick tour of the Jupiter 2 and the Eagle hangar bays was decided. Judy Robinson joined them, much to Alan's delight. The third group, Will, Penny, Robot, and Smith requested and were granted a tour of the base. Koenig was surprised but pleased when Helena volunteered as tour guide.

It wasn't every day that John Robinson let his guard down, but the day that they encountered more than a lone human being in the vastness of the space was long overdue. They had been lost in space for so long that it was gratifying to see humanity in all of its shapes and colours. He'd seen so many green-skinned, blue-skinned, and silver-skinned aliens that he'd nearly forgotten about the different skin tones of humans, ranging from Goth-like pale white to pink, to beige, to yellow, to brown and even deep black. As he followed Koenig and Bergman down a corridor, into what was identified as a 'travel tube', and more corridors that led into Alpha's control room and Koenig's personal office, he marvelled at the wide-ranging design of human beings. Up-swept eyes, heavy-lidded, blue eyes, brown eyes, green eyes, high cheekbones, no cheekbones, men with beards or moustaches, women with hairstyles he'd never seen. He had been a witness to the sheer volume of variations in aliens, never noticing how varied Earth people, themselves, could be.

A small snack of coffee, tea, and biscuits was waiting for them, as well as what he could only refer to as 'groovy', 'new wave' or 'expressionist' furniture. The designers had opted for the outrageous, with lots of plastic and swirling contours, but the cushions were comfortable enough. The background noise of the bustling Main Mission was silenced by a wave of Koenig's commlock, which sealed them within his spacious office, a row of windows displaying the lunar expanse and the stars beyond.

"I suppose I'll go first," Koenig offered, feeling he'd held up the Robinson's curiosity long enough with their medical examinations. "Mankind thought he'd found a solution to the storage of atomic waste by dumping it up here on the Moon. Unfortunately, he had no idea that he was slowly but surely building the biggest bomb that Man had ever made."

Koenig went on to tell the story of how unknown magnetic radiation was found to be the cause of numerous astronaut deaths, and the inadvertent triggering of forces humanity had never known existed. Waste Disposal Area One had burned itself out, but Area Two was much larger, and on September 13, 1999, just four days after Koenig began a second tenure as base commander, unimaginable forces detonated the waste in a thermonuclear explosion that should have shattered the Moon to pieces. Instead, it tore the satellite from Earth orbit, and off the plane of the elliptic, preventing a collision between it and the Earth, or the Sun, or the other eight planets.

"Oh, my God," Robinson whispered. "But...this is crazy. You're light years from Sol. Are we travelling at the speed of light right now?"

Bergman chipped in with, "Our velocity changes so often that our calculations are usually incorrect by the following day. The Moon is pulled into solar systems and towards planetary bodies, but just as easily slingshot outwards. All I can estimate is that the Moon is pulled into subspace again and again, sometimes violently, sometimes without our knowing it, and controlled by whatever planetary system with sufficient power to reel us in." Robinson shook his head, letting out a confused sigh. Bergman returned the gesture with a smile. "I know, it's mind-boggling, isn't it, Professor? However, we've encountered several solar systems since we left Earth, even though we should still, by rights, be within the confines of our own system after eight months."

"So, what about you, Professor Robinson?" Koenig asked, finishing his coffee. "How did you get this far out from Earth? And so far from the direction of Alpha Centauri?"

"The short version is Smith-"

"John," Maureen cautioned, placing an arm on her husband's arm. "Do we really have to go into detail? What's done is done."

"I'm sorry, darling, but the facts are part of our history. Commander Koenig, although we've grown to...accept him, the truth is Doctor Smith was originally an operative for a foreign government that wanted to sabotage the Jupiter 2. Luckily for us, he was something of a bumbler, and was trapped on board at the time of our launching. It threw off the delicate computer calculations and sent us off course, forcing him to revive Don to deal with the crisis Smith had created. He's been lazy and a trouble-maker, but," he gave his wife a look, "I suppose he's got a good side to him. I wouldn't trust him with my life, but he clearly cares for the children, Will most of all. Our son isn't blind to the problems Smith has caused, but I suppose it's his youthful optimism that thinks that maybe Smith could change somewhere down the line."

"We've been to several planets, ourselves, but they always seemed to get farther and farther from Earth and Alpha Centauri," Maureen said, drawing the conversation away from Smith. "That last one had seemed safe enough, but a few days ago we experienced our first major tremor, and then our instruments began to forecast violent geological disturbances heading our way. We barely had enough fuel to launch, but when the valley below us collapsed in on itself I was glad we did. The planet just seemed to decide one day to crumble apart."

"Excuse me, Mrs. Robinson, but did you say a few days ago?" Bergman asked, sitting forward.

"Well, yea. Four days ago, wasn't it, John?" she asked her husband, to which he agreed. "Why? Is there something wrong?"

Koenig looked to Bergman, interested in what the scientist was getting at. "Indeed, Mrs. Robinson. When the Moon entered this solar system, I was under the impression that it was causing the nearby gas giants to shift and thereby disrupt the inner planet you were previously on. It seemed the logical explanation, given my facts at the time. Now I see that I was wrong; in fact, I had it in reverse!"

"How so, Victor?" Koenig asked.

"I thought the Moon was to blame for the system disruption as we worked our way inside it, but we weren't within range four days ago! The devastation began with the Robinson's planet and worked it's way outward to the gas giants, which in turn laid waste to a small satellite belonging to the gas giant; the one that broke up and hit our surface in pieces.

"Then, if the Moon isn't responsible for tearing up this solar system..." Koenig whispered.

"...then something on the inner planet is," Bergman finished for him.

Offered a chance to get out of the shimmering silver spacesuits, Don and Judy led Carter back to the Jupiter 2. As much as he wanted to play with everything, Carter cautiously avoided contact with the rows of computers and flashing equipment lining the upper deck of the saucer. Further along the circumference of the ship were six suspended animation chambers and rows of highly technical cryogenic equipment behind them, which merged into the front of the ship, where the pilot and co-pilot sat facing a trio of huge four-foot high portholes. Alan reckoned that they were made from that new-fangled transparent aluminium he'd heard of a few years back, because such a huge area was an easy target for stray meteorites, which would blow out even the strongest of glass windows, dooming the ship. He noted a circular console in the center of the ship, with a small saucer model propped up on a stand encased within the bubble. He guessed that it was a navigation system which would tell the crew if the ship was tilting or diving or whatever. A soft hum behind him told him that the elevator, a circular disk that ran to the lone deck below like a dumbwaiter, had returned, bringing Don and Judy back.

West was wearing a blue velour v-neck sweater with black trousers, while the attractive Judy was curvaceous in a yellow v-neck sweater and blue skirt. He felt a twinge of jealousy, as he knew what he was going to wear tomorrow, and the next day, and the next week, and the next month; his beige trousers and beige shirt with yellow left sleeve denoting his pilot status. Pretty bland compared to the colourful outfits the civilians got to wear.

"So what do you think, Alan? It's all pretty far beyond you, isn't it?" West grinned.

"Like hell, flyer! I was waitin' for you to show me something complicated, but I guess I'll just have to wait for the Jupiter Three!"

"Very funny!"

"I've got to ask; you two act like you've known each other for a long time. Do you?" Judy wanted to know.

Carter looked from her to West. "You didn't tell her yet? Keepin' yer exploits a secret, Donny?"

"No, but it just never came up until now. Alan and I took part in a joint NASA-European Space Agency shuttle flight on the Endeavour. We met during training, and spent a couple weeks up on the International Space Station. We tried to keep in touch, but he transferred to the Lunar Commission and Alpha and I became involved in your father's Jupiter Project."

"Couldn't get us much farther apart than that, eh?" Carter asked. "Until today, that is. I still can't believe it's really you, Donny!"

"Neither can I. And can you stop calling me 'Donny'? I was almost 20 years old before I got my own mother to stop calling me that!"

"Sure. And what should I call you, Judy? Other than the prettiest lady on the Moon?"

Judy blushed, her lovely full lips curling into an embarrassed smile, much to Don's hidden chagrin. He gently pulled Alan from his standing position, and led him to the elevator, on the pretence of showing him the ship's lower deck.

"And this is the Solarium," Helena was saying, as she led her charges into a large room that was playing calming music, with numerous tall green plants, four padded tables lined up underneath heating lamps, and much to her embarrassment, two bikini-clad ladies and one male Alphan with an embarrassingly tight blue bathing suit on. She recovered her voice explaining, "Many of us want to maintain a healthy tan, or enjoy the restfulness of the heating lamps, since we can't exactly step outside for a suntan."

The trio of Alphans welcomed the newcomers with smiles, and introduced themselves, Will getting the most attention from Tanya Alexander. She bent down face to face with him, her voluptuous cleavage barely held within her skimpy bathing suit. The adolescent in Will was unable to prevent his eyes from staring at her ample breasts, or avoid the scent of her perfume.

"And what's your name, sweetheart?" she asked, her Russian accent rolling her 'R's, while both of her hands enveloped the hand he offered her to shake.

The youngest crewmember of the Jupiter 2 stuttered, "W-Will R-Robinson, ma'am."

"Well, Will, you're just the cutest young man I've seen in ages! Welcome to Alpha! Maybe I can take you on a tour of the base sometime?"

"That's what I'm here for, Tanya," Helena asserted, taking Will by the shoulders, and casually pointing him away from the younger, sexier woman.

"Of course, Doctor. Nice to meet you, Will," she said, giving him a soft wink of and eye.

"Zachary Smith, my dear! Doctor Zachary Smith, that is!" the older gentleman announced, beaming, practically jumping in line and expecting a kiss from the very friendly Alphan.

Instead, Tanya gave him a polite smile without showing any teeth, and a limp handshake. Smith gave her gallant kiss on the hand, anyway, determined to show that he was a gentleman.

"Hi, I'm Penny Robinson," the young teenaged girl said, stepping forward.

Tanya shook her hand, saying that she was pleased to meet her, but her facial expression told the girl that something was up. The Russian Alphan shook her head, and said,

"I'm sorry, I don't mean to stare, but you look so much like my best friend, back home in Minsk. At least, back when she was your age. The resemblance is uncanny."

Penny could think of nothing to say, so she simply smiled, and waved a hand at the fourth member of the group. "And this is our friend, Robot."

"*Pleased to meet you, Tanya Alexander*," Robot said, in her native dialect. It shocked her, but she found herself shaking his claw, nonetheless.

"News travels quickly on Alpha; do I understand that you're all from an expedition from Earth several years ago?"

"Indeed we are, Ms. Alexander," Smith said, smoothly re-entering her personal space. "And may I say that such a beauteous lady such as yourself is food for a starving man," to which she let down her guard, and blushed from the compliment.

"Okay, everyone, I think we've interrupted everyone's Solarium time long enough," Helena's motherly instinct taking over, she caught sight of Will's eyes darting between Tanya's and Renata Devereaux's cleavage. Ushering them out, she wondered if Tanya's flirting was serious or playfulness at Will's expense.

Koenig and Robinson agreed that a reconnaissance back to the inner planet was in order if they were to learn why the planet was collapsing, or if the worst was over and an evacuation of Alpha was in order.

"first, however, I think we need to establish what you and your family want to do, Professor," Koenig said. "You're more than welcome to join us here on Alpha; we have more than enough room, all the facilities of home, and a community that would welcome you as one of us. The only drawback is that we can't control our course, which won't be taking us anywhere near Earth or Alpha Centauri in the foreseeable future."

The Robinsons looked at each other, smiles on their faces, and almost looked like an unseen tension had been lifted from their shoulders. John addressed Koenig.

"I'll put it to a vote, but I think that my family would be happy to stay here. Even if you brought the Jupiter 2 up to full launch status, giving us a full cargo hold, I'm not sure what we'd do with it. We've roamed from star system to star system, sometimes coming this close to getting ourselves killed. I'd feel a helluva lot better knowing that if trouble arises I'd have 300 people to back my family and I up. It's not Los Angeles, or even Ferndale, Arkansas, but you've created a home for yourselves here, and it would be really nice to belong somewhere again."

Koenig grinned and stood up, followed the by others, and shook his counterpart's hand firmly. "In that case, welcome to your new home, Professor Robinson."

With that settled, it was decided that the Robinsons would be the guests of Alpha's senior offices at dinner later that evening. While an Eagle would be dispatched to examine the planet, the Jupiter 2 crew could get cleaned up in their new quarters. The offer of a hot bath or shower was like a godsend to Maureen, who had long wished for a relaxing bubble bath once again. A private, sensuous shower shared with John would be next on her 'To Do' list, now that they were staying.

Koenig elected to remain behind in Main Mission to oversee with Paul the recon mission, while Victor escorted the Robinsons back to their spaceship to unpack a few personal belongings, and exchange their silver spacesuits for something more casual and comfortable. While aboard a travel tube Robinson's perceptive nature took over as he noticed that Victor seemed to have something other than the ride on his mind.

"You're concerned about that planet, aren't you, Professor?"

"I am, Professor," Victor conceded. "A planet should give you months of forewarning that it's going to break apart. And yet, you've only gotten a few days notice."

"Maybe this is the beginning of several month's worth of earthquakes," Maureen offered. "Until your ship returns from the planet we've only assumed that the planet would destroy itself in the next few days."

"That's true. I should point out, Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, that should the planet settle down then the Commander will have a difficult decision to make; namely whether or not to initiate Operation Exodus."

The two of them looked at one another, before looking back at Victor. "What's that?" John asked.

"Essentially the abandonment of Alpha. Should the planet settle down and prove worthy of colonization, John would have to make a decision whether or not to transfer all of us, our equipment, and our Eagles down there to start new lives. Our future on a Moon whose course we can't control is unpredictable. We might 'warp' to another star system in a few days, or months or even years from now; we don't know. Knowing that, would you be willing to return to the planet with us?"

"I thought...I understood that the Commander was offering us a life here on Moonbase Alpha?" Maureen said, feeling her heart break.

"And he still does. Perhaps it's more of an offer to stay with us, wherever we make our home."

"Even on an unstable planet?" John Robinson frowned, feeling like he'd been conned by a used car salesman into buying a clunker for an inflated price.

"Well, if I know John then he's of the opinion that the planet isn't in such bad shape and a new life can be salvaged there. If not, he'd be just as happy to have all of us together here on the Moon, then risk the life of even one person needlessly."

The travel tube came to a stop near Launch Pad 4, presenting the next set of passengers.

"Mom! Dad! Coming back so soon? Is everything alright?" Judy asked, from across the threshold.

Robinson spared Bergman a glance, but replied, "Perfectly fine. Commander Koenig is arranging to send one of his Eagles back to the planet to scan it fully, but in the meantime we've been offered a new life here on...or should I say, with the Alphans."

Judy's large blue eyes widened further. "That's wonderful! Don, isn't that great news? Think of what it would be like to live here and finally stop crashing on planet after planet!"

"'Crashing'?" Carter chortled. "Don, I knew I was always the better pilot, but I didn't know I was that much better!" he finished the comment with a slap on West's shoulder that nearly threw the Jupiter 2 pilot off balance.

"Yea, well, you try to land smoothly with a wonky navigational system and alien gravitational fields!"

"So, where are you three going?" Maureen asked.

"Takin' an elevator down to the hangar bays down below. They've shown me your ship, so now's my turn to show 'em an Eagle or two," Alan explained. "Wanna come?"

"No, thank you, Mr. Carter. My wife and I are going to get out of these flight suits, and start unpacking. Oh, by the way, Don and Judy, we've been invited to dinner with the Commander and his crew later on."

"That sounds great, Dad. It'll be nice to see what delicacies the Alphans have on their menu."

Carter laughed out loud, picturing the Alphan menu. So much of their food was artificially produced that he wasn't sure how much real food was still present to offer the wayward travellers. No doubt a couple bottles of real wine could be dug up somewhere, and he knew at least one Alphan whose hobby was brewing his own tepid beer, but if the Jupiter 2 crew were expecting pizza, cheeseburgers, or a turkey dinner with all the trimmings then they were in for a disappointment.

Alan decided to show his new friends a standard Eagle transport, as it was the most comfortable and least clinical of the series. The science ships had a bank of computers on one side, but after seeing the walls of blinking lights inside the saucer, he was eager to show a ship that felt homey or at least relaxing. Eagle 12 was parked in a bay, which he led Don and Judy towards, opening the hatch with his commlock as he approached the craft. He ushered them up a gantry and inside, giving them a look at the eight inviting passenger seats, each positioned before their own small tv screen, which he revealed could play DVDs, accept long-range communications, or access any of the Eagle's external cameras.

Taking the tour forward, Alan described the contents of the spacesuit lockers and equipment bays, small galley, and flight attendant station, then his pride and joy, the cockpit. West asked if he could try it out, to which Alan said that both should have a seat. Judy's eyes lit up in excitement, probably never having even sat in one of the Jupiter 2's pilot seats, if her reaction was any indication. It made Alan feel giddy and like a proud father spouting the brilliance of his son, as he pointed out the functions of the various controls, while Don and Judy took it all in like children at a fair ground.

"This here will cut in the booster thrusters, and that's the orbital manoeuvring jets to tilt us or edge us a coupla degrees. These're the short-range sensors, and these are the long rangers. Probably not as long range as the Jupiter 2, but the boys back home built these babies never expecting one to get anywhere beyond the Earth an' Moon. Here, Judy, this'll be something you'll like usin'."

"What's that?" she asked, eying the buttons Alan was pointing at.

"Pilot override. Yer in the co-pilot seat, so with a flick of that switch you might just keep Don from crashin' again!"

West gritted his teeth and managed a smirk, but he didn't want to be accused of acting childish in front of Alan, unable to take a joke. Yes, he'd crashed the ship more than once, but there were many factors involved, and none of the crew had suffered anything more than a slight bruise. Seven people entered the Jupiter 2 on October 16, 1997, and more than three years later there were still seven healthy people.

Carter went on to describe some of the Eagle functions, which West would have found more interesting if not for the joy Judy was getting from Alan's attention. She even laughed at a joke about the Eagles almost being called 'Moon Hoppers', and if they'd been designated with names instead of numbers, he'd fly the one called 'Dennis Moon Hopper', which garnered a playful squeeze of his arm from the blonde. Remembrances of what a playboy and fast talker Alan had been during their bar-hopping days came back vividly, almost always ending with Alan out the door with a different lady every time, or missing in action for an hour, or returning with a face that had probably been slapped. That wasn't such fun back then, but now it was getting personal with Judy, whom he had always hidden his feelings for. She knew he liked her, but she probably didn't know that he liked her.

"Okay, thanks, Alan, but I guess the tour's finished now, huh?"

"Not quite, mate. Lemme show ya the power behind this old girl. The reactor's aft, then we'll take a walkabout the outside. I've shown ya the inside, so you gotta see the outside to really appreciate her."

"That's fine, but what about the dinner your parents mentioned, Judy?" Don asked.

"I'm sure we've got plenty of time, Don. Isn't this interesting to you, being a pilot and all?"

"Uh...sure. Okay." Anything for you, sweetheart, Don wanted to say, but as usual his true feelings for her died in his throat.

Luckily for Don, Carter kept his jokes about West's piloting skills on the backburner, feeling he'd kidded him enough. Too many and Judy would turn on him, and then he'd just be a cocky pilot. It was appreciated by Don, who could eventually relax and take in all the details of the Alphan spaceships, feeling a little envious of the multi-task ships, void of children, robots, and paranoid troublemakers.

After several more minutes of touring the underground facility, and watching one of the heavy Eagles lifted and carried from one bay to another by a tram system like it was a toy, Carter treated them to a view from a Launch Pad, where they watched an Eagle rise gracefully amongst a cloud of lunar dust, then streak off towards the inner planet.

"I would've thought you'd want to be on that ship, Alan?" Don commented.

"Nah. Not when I can show you guys around and brag for a while. Gotta let some of the other guys take a recon once in a while." Carter's face seemed to drift back to the past, his eyes not seeing a distant alien world in trouble, enveloped by alien stars, but rather something much more familiar. Leaning his elbows on the window ledge, and staring outside he said, "I used to daydream a little on some of my Eagle flights, back before Breakaway. Used to think how cool it'd be to fly over other planets, even just Mars or Saturn, and running sensor checks on them and spottin' interesting features. Then I'd see Australia or Italy or the U.K. in my viewports, and think to myself 'What an interestin' planet down there.' It's got everything includin' its share of mysteries still to be discovered. Billions of people all livin' on this one blue' it's so big ya can't even see them from a certain altitude. Cities big enough for you to get lost in...they're just splotchy marks from a certain altitude. I think about Earth every day...and sometimes I miss it so much I want to tear my hair' other times I can't imagine a more excitin' life than the one I've got out here in deepest, darkest space." He thought about it a moment more, before blinking away his memories. "But, hey! Meetin' you guys out here is an incredible stroke of luck, and ya gotta look forward, right? We built a Moonbase up here, not a time machine. C'mon. I'll show you the nerve centre of the place."

As the trio took a travel tube to Main Mission, Don thought with relief that Carter had finally let his guard down, and appeared vulnerable and weak, and not the cocky joke-spewing pilot he'd shown Judy, but the minute of honesty he'd displayed seemed to heighten her attraction to him. The sly fox had shown his soft side, and had trapped Judy in it hook, line, and sinker! He'd have to keep an eye on the Aussie if he didn't want to end up an usher at Alan and Judy's wedding!

Helena had offered a less-technical tour of the base, preferring to show off entertainment and relaxation facilities, including the games room, the gymnasium, the swimming pool, and the observatory. Will and Penny had maintained their youthful interest, and wide-eyed fascination at one of Man's greatest achievements, while Smith had done his best to stifle more than a few yawns. Perhaps what she'd heard of Smith's preference of the youngsters over the adults was true. Maybe he saw himself as a sort of guardian over them, giving the Robinson's a break from constant monitoring. It was odd, because it was the same impression she got from the Robot, who simply followed everyone like a loyal, protective dog. As a robot, the machine wouldn't be distracted to boredom as Smith was apparently becoming, but it made her wonder what the Robot was able to 'see'. The machine had a computerised unit of flashing lights within an oval bubble propped up on a neck, so would that be the head? There were no identifiable 'eyes within the bubble, and wouldn't the glass hinder vision, anyway? At the base of the neck was a ring of ribbed opaque plastic, and below that was a ribbed plastic area that lit up in unison with whatever words the Robot uttered, so was that the Robot's head and mouth, and the bubble was a detached brain? Or were the Robot's surroundings simply a digitised, cyber-space set of figures and calculations? She didn't know, but still found herself comfortable around the mobile unit. Probably knowing that it was a man-made creation, and not an alien device helped ease her conscience.

"Tell me, dear lady, would it be too forward of me if we might have a small snack soon?" Smith asked, holding his thumb and forefinger an inch apart to emphasise his request. "You can appreciate that your clock and that of the Jupiter 2 can't possibly be coordinated, and that the children could use something to tide them over until dinner?"

"Actually, I'm not that hungry. Although a Coke would be nice," Penny admitted.

"Now that you mention it, Doctor Smith, I am kinda hungry," Will said.

"Doctor Smith is frequently in need of extra nourishment; a paradox, as he rarely uses the extra energy source for anything constructive!" the Robot noted.

"Ooooh, really! I'll have you know, you cackling calculator, that my metabolism has been poked and prodded from Day One of our voyage, and it's a miracle that I wasn't permanently injured by any number of alien creatures!" He addressed Helena, calming down instantly, and giving her a charming, if obsequious, smile. "Mrs. Robinson is a fine cook, working with a limited selection of supplies, so I can only imagine what a fine, well-stocked kitchen area you must have here on Alpha!"

Helena shrugged, somewhat embarrassed. "We've had to make do with what we've been able to recreate here, Doctor, and used to have regular supply runs from Earth, but what we have might not be you hope. But, we certainly can treat you to soft drinks and chips, kids. I don't think your parents would appreciate it if you sat down for dinner with a full stomach, and I know I'll hear about it from the Commander.'

"Whatever is sufficient in your mind, Doctor Russell, I am sure we'll enjoy," Smith assured, waving a casual hand towards what he now recognised as a travel tube door.

Helena smiled back, and led the Robot and the youngsters down the corridor, although a movement caught Smith's peripheral vision. He thought about checking it out, but felt his stomach growl from emptiness. He turned to follow the group when he heard a voice softly whisper down the hall,


The Doctor's eyes bulged and he spun about, but the corridor was empty. A pillar in the middle of the junction that Russell had referred to as a 'comm-post', retained a small viewscreen set inside it, but the screen showed an image denoting the building and corridor numbers. He shook his head, thinking he'd heard a pipe hiss or something.

"Smiiiith," the whisper repeated.

"NNOOO!" he cried, his hands jumping up as high as his head, before he turned around with a sudden burst of speed, and ran to where the others watched him scurry towards them like a scared cat.

Helena's big eyes were wider, shocked at the sudden change in Smith's demeanour. She asked him what was wrong, even as he repeatedly thumbed the call button for a travel tube car, sneaking looks over his shoulder every few seconds. Will stepped forward, the surprisingly young voice of reason.

"What did you see or hear, Doctor Smith?"

"Oh, William! I fear we've come upon the only haunted moonbase in the galaxy! A voice! An evil voice just called to me, but I couldn't see who it was! It seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time!"

Without prompting, the Robot returned to the place in the corridor that Smith had run from, his external lights flashing, while his silver body swivelled back anf forth. Helena became aware that Smith was protectively clutching the Robinson kids. No, he wasn't holding them protectively; he was hiding behind them, using them as a shield between himself and whatever he had imagined in the corridor! The Robot dutifully returned, an air of frustration seeming to emanate from his metallic persona.

"My sensors can detect no alien lifeforms, Doctor Smith. I can only deduce that you are having another one of your episodes."

"I'm telling you, you mechanical moron, that something spoke to me just now! It called me by name twice!"

"When the 'voice' called you did it refer to you as 'Doctor Smith', 'Zachary Smith', or just plain 'chicken'?" the Robot questioned.

"In-deed, you pompous, pot-bellied sceptic! Perhaps you should get your sensors oiled as soon as possible, because you're obviously incapable of even the most simple-minded of tasks! Once we've settled here on Alpha, I'll see to it personally that you're retired and given an easier job! Tell me, Doctor Russell, could Moonbase Alpha use another escalator?"

The incident made Helena wonder why she'd volunteered to play tour guide, having no idea of the animosity between Smith and the Robot. She'd never been so grateful as when a travel tube car arrived to usher them away from the so-called 'haunted corridor, and some place that Smith would feel more at home in.

"Eagle 3 to Alpha; orbital E.T.A. in two minutes...mark."

Morrow leaned forward, activating his microphone. "Acknowledged, Eagle 3. We're getting your scans and telemetry just fine, but the moment you register a gravity spike pull her up, Thompson."


On the big screen a view of Eagle 3's forward camera was displaying a panoramic view of the planet in question. It was 75 % covered with swirling clouds, the result of the upheaval it was experiencing. Patches of blue oceans and gray land could be spotted if one looked hard enough, but not for long. The storms were gradually overwhelming the entire face of the planet

Sandra sighed in frustration.. "Another disappointment. Again we discover a planet capable of supporting us, only to have it broken into pieces."

Morrow said, "Chin up, Sahn. We'll find out if the planet will settle down soon enough. After all, you can't say that Earth suffered earthquakes worldwide, just on the basis of the San Andreas Fault. All we have to do is locate an area relatively free of the geological disturbances and then we're home free."

"If you say so, Paul. I just wish this was much more easier for us; enter a solar system and find Earth's uninhabited twin. That's all I ask."

Morrow smiled sympathetically. "You and me both, Sandra." He could hear Alan's voice from down the hall on the other side of the big screen, and then registered the pilot's arrival with two of the newcomers. Morrow nodded at both after making eye contact.

"And this here's the heart and soul of Alpha, Main Mission. Paul's job is second in stress only to the Commander's. As Controller he oversees the safety and functioning of the entire base. Commander Koenig gives the orders, but he does so after this big guy tells him what kind of trouble is heading our way," Alan revealed.

Morrow went on to describe in simple terms his control panel, Computer, and the tasks performed by Sandra and Kano, after he'd introduced the two Alphans. He brought their attention to the Big Screen, which continued to show the cameras perspective from Eagle 3. Cloud cover and gigantic mountains that poked above even the highest of them approached the screen, and gradually crossed beyond the view, as Morrow asked Thompson for a check-in.

"Systems functioning properly. I'm passing over latitude 20 degrees by longitude 40 degrees. X-ray sensors show I'm over a chain of large islands...they're being lashed by heavy rain and electrical storms. Coming up towards a continent in a minute. That's a big storm; so far it's covering over 900 miles distance. Damn! Reading seismic activity on the edge of the continent. She's shaking like a Moroccan belly dancer. Picking up a change in an area of the coast...Jeezez, it's collapsing! A mile of the coast just sank into the sea like melted butter!"

Don sighed and shook his head, looking at the floor. A sympathetic squeeze on his arm from Judy brought back to him what really was important. They were safe and had left in time, although there was a chance they might wind up back on that planet, if what Alan had earlier described as Operation Exodus was put in motion.

Kano tore off a sensor reading and handed it to Morrow. "Telemetry of the first five minutes, Paul," he said, sounding apologetic, as if it was his fault and not Mother Nature. "I think I would have rather been in Turkey during the 'quake of '99."

That caught Don's attention. "Turkey? Was it serious?"

Sandra nodded, answering, "Over 17,000 people died. From what we're seeing, had this planet been inhabited the casualties would have made Turkey seem like a minor disaster."

Don grimaced. "Glad I missed it," he said, sadly.

"Eagle 3 here," Thompson's voice called, across the million miles of space between them. "I'm crossing into the continent at the 500 mile point. Sensors show no evidence of serious seismic activity, but there are variable light tremors. Weather scan shows high winds exceeding 100 kilometres an hour. This place is a just a big box of nasty!"

When Koenig appeared from his office, Alan realised that his tour had gotten side-tracked by recent events. It didn't seem to bother Don and Judy, at least, if their interest in the Big Screen was any indication. He'd hoped to keep the mood light-hearted and free of their memories of the planet, but then he'd never had the best of timing, had he? He'd broken up with his girlfriend, Carly, when he was 18 years old, just one day before her grandfather passed away. He'd been the last one to suit up for a space walk on that Endeavour mission with Don years ago, and had had the misfortune of winding up with the only faulty spacesuit on the International Space Station. And, of course, there was that decision to sign up for duty on Moonbase Alpha, only to find himself light years away from home.

Morrow relayed Eagle 3's status and findings to the Commander. "How big is that planet, compared to Earth?" John asked.

Kano had an answer in less than 3 seconds. "It measures 0.922 in mass; slightly bigger than Venus, but not as large as Earth."

"A lot of territory to cover, then," Koenig mused. "How much of the planet did you manage to scan as you approached it, Major?"

Don shrugged. "We came in a little hot, Commander. We managed to bring in the Jupiter at a decent angle and towards a land mass before we set down. We were stuck there for four months, and surveyed about a hundred kilometre circumference beyond the camp, with the help of the Chariot."

"'Chariot'?" Koenig echoed.

"It's a large solar-powered land rover that's stored inside the ship for long range surveys. Without access to our Space Pod, which is our small 2-person shuttlecraft, we had to make due with what was just in our own backyard, you could say. For all we know the planet was encountering these problems for weeks or months, thousands of miles away, and it only now caught up to where we landed."

Carter wanted to correct him and say 'crashed', which was what Judy had said, but this wasn't the time to rib his old shipmate.

"Hello, Alpha; I'm picking up something strange on my sensors. Focusing in on it," Thompson reported. He had the attention of every man and woman in the huge control room, even people who'd been walking by, reports in hand on clipboards, forgotten in favour of this new development. "X-ray scan shows...whoa! Look at that, Joe!"

Koenig waited patiently for the pilot and his co-pilot to elaborate further, but when they remained silent, he snapped, "Report, Thompson! What's so interesting?"

"Oh, uh, sorry, Commander. I'm holding position over them; man, they're red-hot and spewing heavy radiation! Transmitting sensor readings now."

The Big Screen shifted from a high altitude image of the planet from space, to a coloured diagram that was part real, and part computer-generated. Koenig stared open-mouthed at it, stepping forward as he whispered, half to himself,

"Gigantic craters...each of them five-times the size of the Grand Canyon!"

John and Maureen Robinson had shed their silver flight suits, and returned to their more comfortable 'civilian' clothing, although Maureen always considered them something of a uniform, too, bearing a general resemblance to each other, what with the v-neck tops made of velour, in various colours. She missed wearing actual civilian clothing; dresses, denim jeans, high heels, running shoes. She wondered if Donna Karin or Tommy Hilfiger were still popular in 1999.

Despite the cramped quarter she shared with her husband of over 20 years, she always enjoyed seeing him without a shirt on, his muscular pecs still a turn-on after all this time. He smiled at her, and picked a bit of lint off her shoulder.

"That's my beautiful wife, and less the astronaut that that silver suit makes you," he smiled, drawing her into his arms, and giving her a kiss.

"I thought you liked the way it showed off my curves?" she asked, stroking his biceps.

"I do, but it's still a little androgynous, isn't it? We all look alike in them."

"Really? I always thought that you and Will looked alike in them, only in the way his little blue pyjamas looked when he was younger!"

John laughed, hugging his wife. "By the way things are going, we might just never have to wear them ever again."

"Whether Commander Koenig takes his people back to our planet, or we're forced to travel on a wandering Moon, I don't care. As long as I'm with you."

"That goes double for me, darling."

They embraced and allowed themselves a bit of passion for a few moments. Their sex life had been severely restricted by alien monsters, travelling between planets, and all manner of incidents, but for a few seconds they felt like they were all alone aboard their ship. John broke the kiss abruptly.

"What's wrong?" Maureen asked, breathless, her eyes dilated by her building lust for her husband.

John's eyes flicked up once. "We've got company."

Maureen recalled that they'd left Professor Bergman upstairs on the main deck as they went down below to change. She released him, and straightened her hair, catching her breath.

"Whoops. Can't have him finding us in a compromising position, can we?"

John's eyes glinted with a dare to do so, but he stopped himself, and pulled the door screen wide open to allow them to exit their cabin. He thought about how a decent apartment on Moonbase Alpha would allow them some semblance of a normal life together, and a rekindling of their intimacy. It was enough to make him hope that the planet proved too dangerous to live on, just so he could be around people and have as normal a life as possible in the artificially-created society that was Alpha. When he and his wife appeared on the upper deck of the Jupiter 2, Bergman was attaching his commlock to his belt, giving no indication that he knew what they'd just been doing down below.

"I just received a call from Main Mission. The survey of your planet has made some discoveries that they want to share with us. Can you come with me now?"

"Certainly, Professor," Robinson said, instinctively grasping his wife's hand and leading her back out into the docking area of the launch pad, and down the hall to a travel tube, Bergman walking ahead of them, his expression pensive.

Doctor Zachary Smith had been many things when he'd lived on Earth. His first job had been in his father's deli, while his first job out of college had been as a waiter in a fine French restaurant, followed by a string of government jobs. He'd gotten a taste for the good life and good food, so it was with some disappointment that he'd found his 'snack' to be little more than army rations. Alpha was severely limited in their menu choices, moreso than that horrid little restaurant in Portland he'd once visited. At least that restaurant had had a bit of atmosphere to it, decorated in an old world decor to lure hapless travellers such as himself into its clutches. Now he found himself in what was essentially a cafeteria that belonged in a hospital or office building, with watery coffee and some kind of granola bars with raisins in them. At least, they seemed like raisins; they could have been mashed-up blueberries or bits of artificially-created flavouring. Either way, he politely ate what was offered, but his expectations of a fine five-course dinner was being lowered by the second by something much more basic.

With a chance to settle down and relax, and stop playing tour guide, Helena gave her charges the short version of how the Moon came to break free of Earth, and travel the galaxy as humanity's most unlikely spacecraft. It was an enthralling story, and one tat took Smith's mind off the chewy snack bar. Predictably, the kids were more concerned for all who were left behind.

Helena shook her head. "Our last contact was a one-way television transmission that we picked up, stating that the Earth was undergoing drastic weather alterations, and that the authorities weren't sure that Alpha still existed. What Breakaway did to the surface of the Earth is a mystery to us, but obviously we all hope that there was a minimal loss of life, and that our homes are still there."

"A tragedy of unparalleled magnitude," Smith said, his imagination somewhere other than the cafeteria. "One can only hope that some of the more magnificent achievements of Mankind survived; the pyramids, Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower. How careless of humanity to stockpile such dangerous materials on the Moon like a littler-strewn beach. Tsk, tsk, tsk."

"Actually, Doctor Smith, the explosion occurred because of unforeseen complications, including magnetic radiation and ultraviolet rays from the sun. Alone, each waste container was safe enough to leave in your own home, but together in an alien environment like the Moon, we just couldn't foretell the coming disaster. John--, that is, Commander Koenig, was too late in attempting a dispersal of the waste containers, although he may have saved our lives by depleting the storage chambers of dozens of containers before the eventual explosion. It was unbelievably huge and violent, but might have been bigger and more devastating to the Moon at full power, perhaps obliterating the Moon, and raining debris onto the Earth." She shivered, her mind imagining the carnage. "I'm sorry, I don't usually think about it. All of us here on Alpha have come to accept our fate, and have moved on. The wounds are still fresh, I suppose."

Smith actually offered a comforting hand on hers, his snack forgotten. "On the contrary, my dear Doctor, you've all proven adaptable to this calamity, perhaps you, yourself, more than anybody else I've seen here. It is a testament to your inner strength, if I may say so."

"Doctor Smith is right, Doctor Russell," Penny agreed. "If I didn't know better I'd think you were still orbiting Earth, or even aboard a space station. You've really done a super job keeping things as normal as possible."

"I second that," the Robot commented. "I calculate your odds of surviving the next five years at-"

"Silence, you mechanical misfit," Smith sneered. "It's enough that Doctor Russell and the Alphans are alive and well, without you laying odds on their survival like some kind of sure thing at a horse race! Make yourself useful, and bring us another pot of that delicious coffee."

As the Robot left Will jumped in to change the subject and tell Helena about some of their own exciting, off-beat adventures, keeping Smith's questionable antics and schemes out of the stories. Smith knew Will would so, and was able to relax and enjoy the boy's enthusiastic story-telling, without the necessity of creating barbs to fire back at Major West, had he been present.

Helena marvelled at the experiences. "Your family is very close, and it's good to see how they'd stuck together through thick and thin, even coming to accept Doctor Smith, Major West, and the Robot as part of your family. You already have a built-in love and trust; that's something we've had to develop here with people we might never have even spoken to on the street back home."

"But you've all done the impossible; surviving a horrific ordeal that most people on Earth couldn't-" Smith was saying, until he heard a whispered voice over his shoulder.


The Doctor gasped, and shot out of his chair, garnering curious looks from the trio of Alphans at a nearby table. He looked around the brightly-lit room, but nowhere was there anything more malevolent than the sub-par coffee. Will slowly stood up, and looked about.

"Something wrong, Doctor Smith?" he asked.

Smith sighed pitifully. "Oh, William, I fear I must be going mad! I could have sworn I heard that voice again! Didn't any of you hear it?"

Russell, Penny, and Will shook their heads, while the returning Robot withheld comment. Helena decided to take action and deal with the situation herself, but as gently as she could manage.

"Your experiences would have been draining on even the strongest of personalities, Doctor. Have you always gotten enough sleep? Or are you on any medication?"

"I tell you I heard something as clearly as I just heard you now, Doctor Russell," Smith assured, reaching out to clutch her hands between his. The clamminess and slight shaking in them brought out the motherly/doctorly instinct in her, so she stood up and suggested they return to Medical Centre to run some tests.

"Barring that, perhaps Moonbase Alpha possesses a spare room that could be lined with sufficient quantities of rubber!" the Robot quipped.

"Bah! Humbug!" Smith sneered, leading everyone out into the corridor. He hadn't gotten ten feet from the cafeteria door when a tall, dark apparition appeared before the small group, prompting Smith to scream like a coward once more.

"Danger, Will Robinson! Danger, Doctor Russell! Alien approaching!" the Robot alerted, even though everyone could see for themselves.

The alien was basically humanoid, standing six and a half feet tall, possessing blue skin with a lumpy texture, and hands that ended in a trio of long-fingered digits. A tattered black robe and cloak was worn by the stranger, while in one hand it carried a four-foot long silver and gold staff. Helena stared in awe at the creature, who pointed at Smith and whispered for all to hear,

" your...doom!"

Helena recovered and pulled her commlock off her belt, but the alien faded away, accompanied by purple smoke that faded away, too. The Robot moved forward, its body swivelling from side to side.

"My sensors cannot detect the entity. It has apparently transported out of my range."

"But where to?" Will wondered. "And what did it want with you, Doctor Smith?"

"How should I know, William?! Who knows what manner of insanity such a hideous monster possesses?"

"I don't understand, Doctor," Helena admitted. "It seemed to know you."

"Me?! Preposterous!"

"Is it, Doctor Smith?" the Robot challenged. "The entity said, and I quote: ' your...doom!'"

"Can it, you third-rate tape recorder!" Smith snapped. "I no more recognise that creature any more than I would Will and Penny's Aunt Betty! I suggest you inform your commander of this incident and have him make the necessary arrangements to prevent it from happening again!"

Helena agreed, and told John what had happened, via her commlock. As the other half of the Jupiter 2 crew was in Main Mission, Koenig asked her to bring the others there. Barely two minutes later, Helena was by Koenig's side, while all seven pf the newcomers and their robot had reunited at the steps to the Commander's office. He filled them in about the massive craters found on the planet that had gouged out millions of tonnes of earth and planetary crust, and were most likely the focal point of the planet's dying hours.

"I realise that the craters are thousands of miles away from your camp, Professor, but had you seen anything in the night sky that might have accounted for them? Comets or asteroids?" Koenig asked.

John Robinson shook his head. "No, Commander, we didn't. Everytime we've made a planetfall we've set up an astronomical unit to scan and record space, but the first sign of trouble were the tremors that forced us off the planet."

"Eagle 3 has recorded a massive amount of radiation," Victor said, "making them at least equal in power to the explosion that tore us away from earth, but we haven't been able to say for certain that it was caused by a stellar collision. That makes it appear more like an artificially-created event."

"Created by whom, though? The same alien race that our visitor belongs to?" Helena wondered.

Before anyone could answer, a call came in from Eagle 3; Thompson was in trouble. "It's a huge alien ship! It was orbiting the planet on the far side, but I'm getting a ***nal from it th*** ***** be a ******nal. Alpha? Come********pha? ****************" Thompson's transmission broke up into a frenzy of fizzing static.

Kano said, "I'm still getting a weak transponder signal from the Eagle, but it's changing course. Looks like it's heading for the planet."

"We've got to assume that they're under attack," Koenig surmised. "Paul, stand-by to launch a couple Eagles."

"Yes, sir."

"Getting a faint fix on Eagle 3 now, Commander," Kano said, checking his printout. "It's down! Either forced to land or crashed, I can't be sure. But they're on the surface, and weather conditions show heavy wind and rain."

"John, I need to be on an Eagle, in case Thompson or his co-pilot are injured," Helena said.

"And you'll need your best pilot, too," Carter volunteered, stepping forward.

"I should point out that our time line is being compromised as we speak," Victor warned. "We'll be within range of that planet for only another 41 hours, so any rescue operation will have to be swift and to the point."

"At full thrust an Eagle can make the trip in under 40 minutes at this range," Carter said, checking his figures on his Reconnaissance Station.

"And full thrust back here?" Morrow asked, raising an eyebrow. "You might burn out a system or two along the way."

"Yeah, so what? It'll be worth it to get Alex and Joe back in one piece!" Alan snapped.

John Robinson stepped forward. "Excuse me, Commander, but if time is of the essence, then what about the Jupiter 2?"

"You're suggesting we use your ship, instead of an Eagle?" Koenig asked.

"Sure, Commander Koenig!" Will said, coming forward, too. "Your Eagles are fast, but the Jupiter 2 is faster! After all, it's an interstellar ship, with a light speed engine."

"We could get there in a handful of minutes, just bringing the engines to near-light speed," Robinson said. "She's taken a beating, but she could weather that storm better, aerodynamically, than one of your ships probably could."

"What about your fuel situation?" Koenig wondered. "Isn't the Jupiter 2 low?"

Robinson looked down at Paul's station, and picked up an empty styrofoam coffee cup. "Our conversion process is so sophisticated that three of these filled with Eagle fuel could last us a week at sub-light speed."

Koenig was impressed, but still hadn't made a decision. Alan stepped forward and said, "I say we go for it, Commander. Send their ship back, but with an Eagle as a back-up. And I'm volunteering as Don's co-pilot."

"Well, since it's the Professor's idea, I'll leave his crew selection to him, but I'll let you and Helena go."

As usual, Smith wasn't about to jump for a place in the rescue mission, and John Robinson wasn't about to subject his wife or kids to danger, either, which left him, Don, and the Robot. The machine was extremely handy, but wasn't as mobile as a human, so he'd be left behind, too.

"It's settled, then. The Professor and Major West will launch the Jupiter 2, but then Alan will take over as co-pilot while the Professor converts the alternate fuel source enroute to the planet," Koenig said. "Maintain radio contact with us at all times, and don't take on that alien ship. If it makes any hostile moves against you back off immediately."

Maureen hugged her husband tightly, accustomed to John dealing with dangerous situations, but never seeing him sent on a mission. He gave his kids a quick hug, and was the last one out of Main Mission.

"You have a valiant staff, Commander Koenig," Doctor Smith said, sounding a little too casual. "I have every confidence that together we'll rescue your men."

Koenig gave him a sour look by way of a response. Doctor Smith could have been the medical operative on this mission, instead of risking Helena's life...or could he? So far the oily, timid Doctor had displayed little along the way of expertise in anything, other than bumbling around when trouble made the scene. And then there was that little tid-bit of news that Smith had originally been an agent sent to sabotage the Jupiter 2. Perhaps it was best that he remained on the base.

Ordinarily, Robinson's crew would take launch positions on the lower deck, but that was because of the need to blast off from a planetary gravitational field. Launching from the Moon, with one-sixth normal gravity allowed Alan and Helena to remain on the upper deck, although they had to hang on to the central navigational domed console. Neither Jupiter 2 pilot donned their silver flightsuits this time.

Once they were 200 miles above the cratered lunar surface, Robinson began a countdown for their short burst of speed. Alan and Helena looked at each other, both ready to jump for the other is\f they stumbled or fell, unsure of what kind of centrifugal force they were about to deal with. Robinson shouted out, "Zero!", and the saucer's engines revved louder, the floor beneath their boots vibrating more and more as the ship gained speed. Like a film played in fast motion, the planet seemed to fall out of the sky, intent on swatting them like a fly. It was the size of a basketball one moment, then the size of n SUV, then an immense office tower-sized apparition. Robinson ordered speed brought down to something closer to average Eagle speed, resulting in the planet suddenly ending its lunge for the Jupiter 2, and slowing to a fast creep.

Checking his readings, Robinson called over his shoulder, "We're at 10,000 miles from the planet. We'll be over Eagle 3 in a couple minutes."

"And staring that alien ship in the face Alex was talkin' about," Alan reminded.

"Hopefully it's left the area by now," Robinson said. "Alan, if you'd like to take the co-pilot's seat, I'll go down below to connect the fuel tank."

The pilot in Carter couldn't wait to check out the feel of the Earth ship in motion, so he gladly sank into the black leather of the chair, his eyes roaming across the blinking lights of the flight panel. He found the sensor read-outs, and reported with a sigh of relief,

"Okay, nothing up here that doesn't belong."

"Want to try and raise Eagle 3?" Don suggested.

Alan was about to but stopped himself. "Not yet. Let's get right over them, so we don't give away our position."

West nodded, continuing to send the Jupiter 2 towards her rendezvous with the downed Eagle. Strange how their paths diverged from those handful of years ago. Alan and he now had to deal with life-and-death situations on a daily or weekly basis, but there was more of a military feel with how Alan dealt with situations. He and John were more like a sheriff and his deputy out on the wild frontier of the old west, simply trying to ensure that his family lived to see tomorrow.

Two minutes later, a monster of an alien starship reared its ugly head across the horizon. It was dark and jagged, spikes and claws protruding from various angles and modules on the ship's hide. Windows gleamed yellow in places, while the twin engine nacelles pulsated like lightning captured in a bottle, desperately seeking to break free. It turned slightly in its orbit to stare down the tiny saucer.

"Big bastards," Alan whispered, suddenly looking over his shoulder. "Sorry, Doc. Pardon my French, but they're about nine-times bigger than us! Uh, Don, I don't suppose you got any weapons on this tub?

West shook his head. "Don't be ridiculous! This was supposed to be a colonial ship! We, uh, installed a couple alien missiles we found, once, but they were used up by the Junkyard Man."

"The what?"

"Don't ask."

"Then we better start makin' some fancy moves, 'cause we're coming up on him like we wanna get in his face!"

West turned the ship away from the behemoth, and it was just in time, as the alien ship lashed out with a twin blast of laser fire, missing the saucer, but forcing Helena to hang on for dear life. Alan tried to contact Alpha, but the channels were jammed, just as he expected. West was right about one thing; the Jupiter 2 was as manoeuvrable as a Gray flying saucer, able to make tight turns and bank and dip at a second's notice. They were fired upon again and again, but still outran or out-manoeuvered the shots. Eagle 8 was on its way to back them up, but by comparison they were walking towards the planet, and would be too late to lend aid.

"Better duck into the atmosphere, mate! Try and' lose him down there, since that bloke couldn't have been built for atmospheric flight," Alan suggested.

Don complied, fending off one last laser blast. While the Jupiter 2's gravity kept their feet on the deck, even when West performed an evasive manoeuvre, there was little the ship's systems could do against the power of Nature. High winds and torrential rain buffeted the craft, pushing them around like a helpless passenger in a crowded subway car. West compensated as best he could, but the planetary forces wanted to thrust him in any direction other than the one he tried to fly in.

"I've got a green light on the fuel lines, so John's hooked up the extra fuel. At least we're gassed up now."

The Jupiter 2 continued to descend, finally penetrating the thick up clouds, and allowed to fly above the surface, which was flooding from the heavy rains. Lightning blasted downwards, lighting up the horizon, and a heavy crack of thunder penetrated the interior of the saucer as Robinson climbed up the ladder from the second level.

"Have you found your Eagle yet?" he asked.

"No, but we found the guys that knocked them down here," Alan reported, relinquishing his chair for Robinson, so that he could join Helena. "We ducked down here to get away from them."

A blast of lightning illuminated the skies and shattered the ground below. No, not lightning; laser fire! West swung the saucer in a tight circle, coming about to fly in a different angle, but still attempting a zig-zag course towards the general location of the downed Eagle 3.

"They're shooting at us from above!" West shouted.

"Like fish in a barrel," Robinson grimaced, his eyes racing across his bank of controls.

Don had compensated for the thrashing winds and cockeyed planetary gravitational field, but there was little he could do against a high-power last blast that rocked the Jupiter 2, sending sparks flying outwards from several consoles, as if each were a piece in a domino line-up. Helena and Alan ducked as the fireworks from all sides threatened to tear the saucer apart from the inside out.

"I've lost manual control!" West cried, jamming fingers into non-responsive controls.

Robinson looked out the huge windows before him, and through the cold, intense rain he could see the horizon lifting up from below to dash him and his starship to pieces. The Jupiter 2 roared as it began to tilt to the right, out of control, her engines screaming in protest as if in a death throe, even as a line of mountain tops came perilously close.

"Oh, damn...not again," Robinson whispered through clenched teeth.

"This is Moonbase Alpha to Jupiter 2, come in. Jupiter 2, please respond. Alan, it's Paul in Main Mission; are you receiving me?" The Controller shook his head at Koenig. "I'm not even getting a transponder signal from them."

"How long before Eagle 8 catches up to them?"

"Computer estimates 15 minutes at present speed," Kano answered.

"Tell them to keep their eyes peeled for that alien ship; it might have broken orbit to come this way," Koenig warned.

The women from the Earth ship had resigned themselves to having nothing better to do but stand around and wait, so prior to the loss of contact with their ship, they opted to be taken to their new quarters. Koenig hadn't, as yet, informed Maureen Robinson that her husband could be in serious danger, his transceiver ominously quiet now for several minutes. Robinson's son, Will, had refused to leave the control room, while the Robot had remained by the boy's side like a guardian angel. Smith remained, too, perhaps feeling an impending need to console the boy, should something go wrong. Or perhaps he'd been so spooked by the alien visitations that he could only feel safe in a crowded room.

"Will?" Koenig beckoned, tearing the young man from the area behind Paul that he'd been hovering nearby. "You don't have to worry about what will happen, should your father be forced to make an unscheduled landing; I'll send every Eagle I have to to help him and my people. We still have plenty of time to launch several rescue missions. And we don't know exactly why we can't reach your ship; she could be on the other side of the planet, for all we know. But I just want you to know that you can trust us."

"Thank you, sir. I do."

Koenig smiled at the youngest Robinson. So polite, and yet so tough, having endured years of adventures and dangers that would have sent most kids into fits of screaming and crying.

Smith approached them, saying, "After everything we've been through, Commander, the mere fact that you're human beings is enough to instil our trust in you. Compared to some of the hostile aliens we've dealt with, we'd trust you even if you were a maniacal Captain Bligh! Wouldn't we, William?"

Will shrugged, uncomfortable with the weird compliment that escaped Smith's lips. Koenig was still trying to figure out the cowardly physician. His shipmates knew who and what he was prior to their being lost in space, and yet they were willing to allow him to act as an ersatz guardian or friend to the young and impressionable Will Robinson. Perhaps Smith had decided that associating with Will, and acting as a teacher or friend was a means of getting him back on track as a respectable person. It was still a mystery to him why Will saw hi as a friend on any level, what with a good 35 years age difference between them.

"Commander! I am registering a power energy stream heading towards us!" Sandra called out. "It is originating from the direction of the planet!"

Barely four seconds later, the Robot came alive, waving his arms about, as he called out urgently, "Danger, danger! Alien approaching!"

"Defensive screens!" Koenig barked out to Paul, but it was too late.

Power in Main Mission seemed to wind down like an engine out of gas, the lights lowering in intensity. Smith clutched Will instinctively, edging towards the Robot's side. In a swirl of purple mist, a tall cloaked figure in tattered robes appeared in the open area between the back of Paul's chair and the steps to Koenig's office. As before, he carried a silver and gold staff, apparently some form of device which may have enabled him to transport to Alpha. It was Koenig's first look at the alien species, which was generally humanoid in shape, but couldn't clearly be observed as the cloak obscured the upper portion of the creature's face. Reptilian-like scaled skin revealed a mouth only when the creature spoke, which it did, in Koenig's direction.

" your...doooom!"

"Yesyesyes, you already said that!" Doctor Smith snapped, almost sounding angry instead of afraid. "What's that supposed to mean?! I've never seen you before in my life!"

" a...diseeassse!"

"In-deed!" Smith growled, indignant.

"What's he to you?" Koenig demanded. "And just who the hell are you?"

" Ktkkttktktk," the creature answered. "And Smiiiith...will pay...for his...crimesss...againssst my...benefactorsss."

"I'd appreciate a straight answer," Koenig demanded, stepping forward defiantly, only to be sent sprawling to the floor with a wave of the alien's staff, as a weird sound emanated from it.

"Commander!" Paul called out, leaping out of his chair to help the Commander to his feet.

As it turned out, a security man that Koenig recognised as Durant, was present in Main Mission, and had unsheathed his laser. Koenig held up his hands to stop him, although the alien failed to notice the guard several yards behind him. Koenig and Morrow stepped to one side, slowly joining Will, Doctor Smith, and the Robot, giving Durant a clear shot at the creature.

"What benefactors? For what purpose?" Koenig asked, a little out of breath.

"Smiiiith...cheated our...benefactorsss. He tricked them. Then...he escaped from...them. We tracked him to the...nearby planet. We then...perforrrrmed our retribution for...his actionssss. Unfortunately, he escaped now...we will destroyyyy Moonbasssse the price for...your alliance!"

Koenig nodded, and Durant fired his laser. Incredibly, the beam bounced off the creature and richocheted back to strike down the guard, sending him sprawling unconscious against the observation windows. The creature faded from view seconds later.

"Paul, sound condition red! Scramble all available Eagles for immediate launch! If that alien wants a fight then let's give him one!"

"Good for you, Commander! I have every confidence-"

"Save it, Doctor Smith," Koenig growled, grabbing the older man by the arm to pull him away from his people, while others helped the stunned Durant to Medical Centre. He noted with interest that his actions weren't perceived as a hostile action against Smith by the Robot, although he was sure that the machine would think otherwise if he laid a finger on Will. "Alright, Smith, spit it out. What's the real story here? My people are in danger thanks to you, and your own shipmates are in danger thanks to unexpected trouble with Eagle 3. What did you do to bring down these alien's wrath down on us?"

"Commander...William! William, believe me when I say that I've never seen that alien before!"

"It wasn't that species that you encountered, Doctor," Koenig reminded him. "He told us he was an operative for somebody else. So? Who have you pissed off recently?"

"I could provide a list," the Robot offered. "Would you prefer alphabetically, or chronologically?"

"Not now, Robot," Will admonished. "The alien said you trick somebody, Doctor Smith; so what could that mean?"

Cornered by guilt at a potential lie to his friend, Will, the damning encyclopaedic knowledge of the Robot, and the icy cold stare of Koenig, Smith came clean. At least, as clean as he could manage.

"Well, uh, there was that time...that I played poker with Retubbo, and won the flight documents of his trader ship. I took it for a spin, remember, William?"

Will nodded. "It was barely a flight as far as the stratosphere and back. Then he said you'd cheated and left. We never saw him again."

"If it was him then he could have been angry enough to mistake my skill for cheating, but that couldn't have been enough to make him send some sort of intergalactic hit-man after me!"

"What about the Skizzoks, Doctor Smith? We encountered them on their space station, just before we crashed on this planet four months ago." Will suggested.

Smith bit his lip, saying nothing. It was as obvious as if he'd cried, 'Eureka!'. Koenig prompted him, saying, "Doctor? What about these 'Skizzoks'?"

The Doctor appeared ready to launch into a protracted version of events as he saw them until some inner demon, some force of guilt made him spill the beans.

"They wanted to take me away to their planet! And not as a friend or tourist, but as an unwilling groom for their queen! I had to talk my way out of it, claiming all manner of illnesses and poor husbandly qualities, but they wouldn't listen! I simply made a deal with them to come back another day when I was ready, but fortunately for us the Jupiter 2 launched from their station, and I escaped her terrifying clutches!"

"Would it have been so bad to finally settle down, Doctor Smith, and enter unto married bliss with Queen Boumo?" the Robot asked, indifferent.

"Queen Boumo was a 500 pound mermaid with the arms of a Hulk Hogan, you misguided matchmaker! It wouldn't have worked out in a million years!"

The Robot swivelled to face Koenig, and commented, "Apparently, Doctor Smith is a leg man! Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh!"

Koenig stared, wide-eyed, at the mechanism, and realised that it was actually laughing! Little by little the Jupiter 2 crew was crossing the line from valiant survivors to unique characters. Smith gave the Robot a slap on the shoulder, his facial lines etching deeply, stretching his features to form a thrown that threatened to hit the floor.

"Excuse me; I did not mean to insult the Doctor. Apparently, he goes for personality...and Queen Boumo's was all wet! Uh-uh-uh-uh!"

"Cease your prattling, doofus! I didn't see anything in her, and I don't know what she could see in me! Leave it at that!"

"Getting back to these Skizzoks, Doctor Smith...?"

"Yes, certainly, Commander. We came across their space station, and they seemed friendly enough, but instead of a young, virile, available human like Major West, Queen Boumo took an interest in me. Perhaps my stories of the grandeur that was Earth won her over, but it was never my intention to become her consort! The next thing I knew, her Dukes were planning our wedding! Luckily for us, the Professor was encountering some difficulties of his own with the Queen's Champion, so we left, and not a moment' too soon. Not for a minute would I have believed that Boumo would send somebody out into space to kill me, let alone want me as a husband when her own silly Champion was secretly in love with her!"

"Will? Does all that sound familiar?" Koenig asked, wanting an impartial judge to test the truth of Smith's words.

The boy shrugged his shoulders, and answered, "As far as I can say, sir, that's about right. She was pretty pushy when it came to getting her own way."

"Very true, William," Smith smiled, probably relieved that the boy had corroborated his story. "She wasn't at all curious about the women of the Jupiter 2, insisting that they always keep their heads bowed, and not look directly at the Queen."

"The Doctor is telling the truth, Commander. In that instance," the Robot reported. "She was prejudiced against robots, too. She thought it improper that I was, and I quote, 'running around naked', unquote. For that, she made me wear a cloak."

Smith grinned devilishly, and said, "Don't mince words, bubble-head! It wasn't a cloak, it was a dress! And you never looked lovelier!"

The dome of the Robot on his neck popped up a couple centimetres, as indignant as Smith had been moments before. "It was a cloak, Doctor Smith!"

"Nonsense! It was a dress!"

"It was a cloak!"

"IT was a dress! It opened up from behind, and had frills on the bottom!"

"They put my cloak on backwards!"

"It was a dress!"

"A cloak!"



"Gentlemen, gentlemen!" Koenig interrupted, realising that he'd just addressed the Robot as another male on the basis of the machine's masculine, digitized voice. "Let's move on, shall we? Now, that alien that was just here said that his people performed retribution against you for leaving. If we consider those huge radioactive craters on your planet, which was stable just a few days ago, that tells me that these aliens purposefully used weaponry to tear the planet apart, while you were on it. It all fits now; they found you, took action, disrupted the planet, which disrupted the outer planets that Alpha passed by earlier. Victor was right; it did start with the inner planet. Now, the question is, what do we do next? Their ship is still out there, and they've threatened to inflict the same destruction on the Moon as they did to your planet."

"Perhaps a trade? Offer Doctor Smith in exchange for the lives on Moonbase Alpha?" the Robot suggested.

"NO! You can't be serious?! Commander, you wouldn't do that to me, would you?" Smith asked, suddenly appearing like a frightened little boy, wringing his hands in stark dread.

Koenig was about to say that he would do whatever it took to save his people, but the wide-eyed look of hope in Will Robinson's eyes changed what he wanted to say. He shook his head, and said,

"I'll do whatever I can to help you, Doctor. Hopefully, they'll listen to reason." He left to ask Paul for an update on the Jupiter 2 and Eagle 3.

Paul answered, "No answer from either, sir." A few seconds later his controls bleeped and he pulled up the data. "Something's approaching over the horizon from the far side of the planet." Will bit his lip in hope. Paul shook his head. "It's huge, sir; it's the alien ship."

Will's heart sank with fear. Where were Dad and Don?

It was a shaky ride, and the controls fought Don's every command, but somehow the craft was fighting its way through the storm. Heavy rain pelted the windows, making it impossible to see clearly, so he was glad that the instruments were able to guide him all the way to Eagle 3. Thunder crashed in the distance, as the torrential rain flooded the grooves of the Alpha spaceship had dug into the surface as it came in for a landing. It was like looking through the plastic windows of a toy car, but the closer he got to the downed Eagle the easier it was to find a landing sport several yards away, as the grooves of churned up earth created a 90-foot long distress call.

"Continuing descent," Don reported, his hands held tightly onto the joystick controls. "100 feet...90...80...70..."

"Firing retros," Robinson announced, hitting a button, causing the four people crammed inside the Space Pod to feel the vibrations of reverse thrust at their feet.

"...20...15...10...5 feet..."West reported, letting out a heavy sigh of relief as the tiny ship stopped suddenly, tilting slightly just a bit to the left as it sank into a patch of muddy terrain. "We're down. Cutting engines."

"Good work, Don," the Professor smiled, giving his friend a slap on the shoulder. "A near bulls-eye!"

""Hell, that's as close as I'd want to make it without visual contact! One heavy gust of wind and I could have dropped us right on top of Alan's friends!"

Helena pulled out her comm.-lock, and tried to contact the downed craft, just a handful of yards away, directly in front of them through rain-lashed portholes.

"Doctor Russell?" Thompson's surprised visage asked on the tiny screen, as shocked as he'd have been if his own earthbound brother had contacted him. "Where are you?"

"Right beside you in a rescue ship, but it's not an Eagle. What's your status? And are you or Jackson injured?"

"A few bumps and bruises, but nothing too bad. The Eagle, on the other hand, needs a few things patched up before we can take off again. We've taken a hit on our access way, so we'll need to depressurise the cockpit and module if we're going back into space. Got any technicians with you to lend a hand?"

Russell looked at Robinson, barely more than a foot away within the cramped quarters, and was thankful when he nodded to her. She told Thompson to expect help in a few minutes.

"Okay, let's make this quick. Everybody hold onto someone else, since the winds are at hurricane-levels out there, and the rain'll make it hard to see. Mr. Carter, you lead the way, and hang onto Doctor Russell. I'll hold her other hand, and Don will hold onto me. Ready?"

His small crew agreed, then were struck by the devastating weather outside as the hatch was pushed open. It was like being caught in a high-power wind tunnel, and caught them by surprise as the soundproofed hatch had blocked out much of the roar of the wind. Alan climbed down the steps to the muddy ground, his hand holding Helena's so tightly that she felt like he might leave a bruise. The violent weather tried to beat the small chain of people down, make them turn around and leave the hapless Eagle 3 crew to their fate, but the four of them never let up their arduous, stilted walk towards the other ship. Robinson couldn't help but wonder if his own ship was still in one piece, after they'd abandoned it in mid-air with the alien firepower smashing manual control, he hastily set the ship on auto-pilot, letting its navigational computer take the ship down for a safe landing, while he, Don, Doctor Russell, and Alan Carter crammed inside the Space Pod, which was actually built to hold no more than three people. As the Jupiter 2 lost altitude, the space explorer pod turned lifeboat exited the saucer's belly, and turned away from the direction the mothership was flying towards. Sensors didn't register an explosion, which might mean that the Jupiter 2 hadn't been destroyed, or hadn't blown up upon impact. If at all possible he'd get Commander Koenig to retrieve the family's ship, as long as the aliens didn't stand in their way.

The rescuers were soaked to the bone by the time they entered Eagle 3, their drenched hair clinging to their skulls like swimmer's caps. The men looked like drowned cats, but Robinson noted that Doctor Russell, even though she looked like she'd been thrown into a swimming pool, still looked kinda pretty sopping wet. Of course, that was true with most women, who somehow took on a new persona when their hair was wet and out of place. Each was helped inside by Thompson and Jackson, relief evident on their faces as soon as the Eagle hatch was closed. The interior of the ship was still chilly, the result of a baseball-sized hold in the ceiling of the small connecting section between the cockpit and the module. The ship's power was presently kept at a minimum, so the light given off by the ceiling panels and lights on the computer consoles gave the impression of a dimly-lit bar or restaurant.

Introductions were made, then Thompson showed Robinson and West what needed to be fixed, leaving Jackson to grunt as he sat down in a passenger chair. It caught Helena's eye immediately. She removed the medical kit from its storage compartment, and ran a scanner over the co-pilot's chest.

"You've got more than a bruise or two, Joe. One of your ribs has a hairline fracture. That means you get to sit here for the duration of our stay on this planet."

"No way, Doc, I've gotta help Alex with-"

"He's already got help. If you move around too much you'll be in worse shape. That's an order."

The co-pilot sighed, although a part of him was relieved. Jackson had hidden his chest pains from from Thompson since they'd crashed in a secret show of machismo. Given a chance to relax and recuperate was more than welcome by him.

"We used the Robinson's ship to rescue you, but we were attacked, and had to get here in an escape pod," Russell explained. "Did the aliens attack you, or were you forced down?"

"Attacked. They strafed our flight path, and caught us up there," Jackson said, indicating the puncture in the ceiling. "Our systems automatically shut down everything aft of the cockpit, and Alex brought us in as best as he could."

"We saw the skid marks."

"He's The Man in my book. Saved our lives."

"I suppose he landed as best as he could manage."

"More than that. You mean you didn't notice what was out there when you landed?" Jackson wondered.

"The rain obscured our view substantially. What's out there?"

"Oh, nothing more than a cliff with a 400-foot drop! Another 60 feet or so and we'd have gone skydiving to boot!"

Russell felt the man's relief and was proud of Thompson's skill. She could only hope that the Eagle would be able to launch, because if it couldn't, then two people would have to remain behind. The Space Pod would have to escape a planetary gravitational field, and Robinson had noted that that was unlikely with more than four people aboard it.

The alien ship was heading straight for the Moon, apparently content that they'd dealt with the Jupiter sufficiently. After all, it was Smith they wanted, not an all-out war with a wandering asteroid. Eagle 8 had been told to give the vessel a wide berth, which pushed back it's orbital ETA, but Koenig wasn't ready to allow such a mismatched space battle to take place. Eagles were standing by on their launch pads, ready to be sent to confront the alien ship, if necessary. It was too easy to start firing, so he decided to take the high road and talk first.

Morrow said, "Transmitting on all frequencies, sir, but still no response. Do we launch the Eagles to intercept them?"

"Stand-by on that, Paul. Keep trying to get them to answer us."

"We have a limited time to launch a defence force, sir, or else they'll be over our heads, guns blazing."

"I know, but if we can resolve this without bloodshed on either side then so much the better."

The aliens continued to approach the Moon, gradually chipping away at the distance between themselves and Alpha. It was times like this that Koenig wished that the proposed defence tanks were completed, as ground defences were something he'd pushed for, but with limited resources, maintenance of the Eagle fleet took precedence over new projects.

Paul sighed, frustration seeping into his voice. "Why don't they at least tell us where to stick it? Would it kill them to give us one more threatening message?"

"Let's see if we can force them to answer. Open a hailing channel."

Maureen Robinson took in the expanse that was her new home. There was an airy open-concept feel to the place, where the living room, dining room, and compact office area merged into one large area, but it didn't quite feel like home. Perhaps it was the lack of windows, which was to be expected since Alpha's personnel would have long ago been assigned every apartment with a window. Perhaps it was because the place was fully furnished, but possessed none of the personal effects from the ship or even those they'd acquired since then during their travels. Or perhaps it was because she hadn't shared it yet with the man she loved.

John was still involved in the rescue mission, and try as she might, she couldn't get him out of her mind. Occasionally he'd take the Chariot out for an excursion, or used a jet pack to travel several miles from the camp, but rare was the time that hundreds or thousands of miles separated them. She could physically feel a part of her inner being missing, and yearned for his return. While many couples the Robinsons had called friends on Earth could tolerate a bit of distance between them, or consider a week apart from their spouse as normal, Maureen wore her heart on hr sleeve, and needed to be near her lover. Life without John was scarcely worth considering, which was why she followed him into space. If that's where their destiny led, then she would fight to be by his side. The apartment was attractive in a sterile, magazine photo type of way, but it would never be a something she could call 'home' until her husband was by her side. She examined every room, but had purposefully refrained from seeing the bedroom. She wanted to share that with John when he returned, and had a chance to look at their new home for himself.

The door chimed with the sound of a commlock opening it, making her spin on her heel, hoping it was John, but it wasn't. She smiled a welcome to her daughters, who were accompanied by Professor Bergman.

"Mom, you should see the apartment Judy and I will be sharing!" Penny gushed, treating the experience like a visit to the Trump Tower. "We can each have a computer terminal and access all kinds of movies and music! I was hoping Sarah McLaughlin and No Doubt released new CDs after we left and they did!"

"Yes, well, with over 300 Alphans stationed here the entire spectrum of music is probably stored here, either on computer or in personal collections," Bergman admitted. "I should think after a little searching via e-mail you'll be able to locate the owner of any CD or movie you'd like to see."

Judy's perky little nose bunched up, her face showing confusion. "What's 'e-mail'?"

Bergman blushed. "Ah. You've only been gone a few years, but before we left some elements of technology were making great leaps. You'll find out soon enough."

"So, how do you like the place, Mother?" Judy asked.

Maureen shrugged, indifferent.. "It's very nice. Very spacious."

"Alpha was built to house as many as 340 people, Mrs. Robinson, so we've more than enough room for your entire family. And luckily, your apartments will all be down the same corridor. Based on double occupancy, I suggested to the quartermaster that you and your husband would occupy this flat, and Judy and Penny would be in their own, while Major West and Doctor Smith shared the third one. Now, as for your son-"

Judy rolled her eyes. "Oh, my goodness!"

Penny's eyes bulged out. "Oooh, nooo!"

Bergman stopped in mid-sentence, looking at the three shocked women. "Was it something I said?"

Maureen controlled a fit of laughter, even as she uttered the improbable words. "Don and Doctor Smith in the same apartment?!"

Bergman blinked, oblivious. "Is that a bad idea?"

"Oh, no, Professor, not at all," Judy said, sarcastic, but still gently. "I'm sure they could co-exist as well as Batman and The Joker could under the same roof!"

"I see your point," Bergman smiled. "Well, an additional apartment to house the other gentleman can be arranged. But, I was wondering about your son, Mrs. Robinson? He's too young for his own place, so would you rather he lived with you and the Professor, or should he stay with your daughters?

"Oh, Mom, can he stay with you and Dad?" Penny nearly pleaded. "I care about him, but I'm getting too old to live with a boy. Besides, I'm sure he wouldn't want to live with a couple girls now that he's a teenager!"

Maureen stroked her middle child's black hair, and said, "Okay, but don't think you won't have a curfew on Alpha. No boys over after 9 pm!"

"Oh, Mom!" Penny giggled, blushing.

"Splendid. I think you'll fit in with our little community. You and Will will be the youngest Alphans here, but we have a few young people under 20 years of age. A couple of them were simply visiting the base prior to Breakaway, but others were brought to our attention completely by accident," he said, referring to the humans found in a hidden alien base on the Moon, their unconscious forms linked to life support systems that allowed them to survivor the cataclysmic forces that hurtled the Moon away from Earth.

"I'll look forward to hearing about that, Professor, but do you think we could return to your control room? I'd very much like to know how my husband is managing the rescue mission."

Bergman agreed, and led them to the nearest travel tube. He wondered how long it would be before the lonely Alphan males started chatting up Judy Robinson. Probably a matter of days. Penny would be too young for virtually every man on Alpha for at least three years, but in the meantime she could make many friends closer to her age. Maureen and John were obviously spoken for, but the Major was another matter. Unless he he;d feelings for Judy, then he, too, would probably find himself the object of attraction for several Alphan ladies. And Doctor Smith...well, the older gentleman might find a handful of older Alphans to associate with. A sudden feeling of dread made him wonder if he might be forced to be Smith's friend, due to their closeness in age.

"This is Commander John Koenig, of Moonbase Alpha, calling the approaching spaceship. Your threats against one of our people and my base will not be tolerated, and will be met with a show of force, if necessary. As a show of good faith, I'd like you to respond to this hail, so we can work this out peacefully."

There was no answer.

"You're acting on behalf of a third party; Doctor Smith hasn't harmed any of your people or commit any crimes against you. Let's make a deal, then. Perhaps there's something we can offer you, so that you'll spare our lives."

Still no answer.

"Listen to me! You've already attacked some of our people, and I could easily send enough of my ships out to completely outnumber and outgun you, but what would that prove? Lives would be lost on both sides, I can guarantee that. An attack on us would be replied with deadly force. So let's talk."

Still no answer.

Other than a trio of missiles fired at the Moon.

"Launch Eagles! Target those missiles and knock them out!" Koenig ordered.

From all five pads, Eagles blasted off to meet the threat, joining up as a squadron several miles above the lunar surface, their engines blazing to meet the attackers head-on. The pilots had only a general idea of what was heading for Alpha, but not one of them saw it as an impossible task. They would fight until their dying breath to save their loved ones behind them, the last remaining colony of humans in the galaxy, for all they knew. Three out of five Eagles fired their lasers, striking the missiles a second later, engulfing them within a trio of thermo-nuclear explosions that blossomed outwards at an impossible distance, bands of energy and shock waves travelling outwards in all directions.

"My God! They were going to use that on the Moon?!" the pilot in Eagle 4 gasped to his co-pilot. "That would have cracked it open for sure! Each of those things look like they carried an equal amount of power as the waste disposal areas did when they blew!"

Back in Main Mission, Bergman returned, the Robinson women in tow, all of which rejoined Will, Doctor Smith, and the Robot. Maureen asked what was happening.

"Our brave Commander has sent some ships to protect us, and they just blew up a number of missiles that were meant for us," Smith explained, beaming, before his face fell as reality sank back in. "I'm afraid we haven't heard from the Professor, just yet, but I'm sure he's unharmed."

"That opinion cannot be substantiated by any fact available to us, Doctor Smith," the Robot bluntly noted.

""It's a pity you can't experience intuition inside that metallic hide of yours, then, because I, for one, refuse to believe that the Professor is anything other than safe and sound, despite our dire predicament up here."

Maureen wasn't sure if Smith truly felt that way, or was saying it only for the benefit of John's family, but she appreciated the sentiment. She, too, felt a twinge of fear for John and Don, but something told her that he was still alive."

"This is Commander John Koenig to alien ship; my next order will be for my fleet to engage your ship. I can have five additional craft up there and in your face in two minutes, then you'll be outnumbered ten to one, and fifteen to one after that, if necessary. Do you really feel that confident of your chances of survival, or do you actually have a death wish? I'm waiting to hear your answer."

This time Paul received a transmission, and put it up on the big screen. It was apparently the same alien figure that had transported himself into main Mission, only now he sat on a stool-like seat, a single overhead light raining down shimmering yellow light on him, creating harsh shadows and angles in his cloaked visage.

"This ship carries...with it...twenty more planetary missiles. It will be more...than erase you...from existence."

"Really?" Koenig asked, defiantly, crossing his arms. "I'm sure you'll make a very big explosion when my fleet fires simultaneously on your ship. Unless you're willing to talk...right now."

The creature stared back at him, mulling it over. "Perhaps a middle ground...could benefit both of us."

"I'm listening."

"Queen Boumo and her people...are a powerful this ssspace sssector. She will not tolerate...failure. However, unforessseen events...could be explained away. Alternative resultsss...might satisfy for revenge."

"What do you suggest?" Koenig asked.

"Boumo wanted whatever planet...Smith was be obliterated...with him on it." Doctor Smith's eyes bulged widely at this tidbit. It was one thing to think it was a possibility, but far more frightening to learn it was actual truth. The alien continued. "We have done ssso already...but he essscaped. Others will learn that he still lives...and could inform her of our failure. We could still...please the Queen...upon presentation of our prisoner. All livesss on your Moon...would be spared."

Koenig looked at Smith, who was so startled by the conditions of the deal that he looked like he was going to faint. Will offered him a steadying hand on the Doctor's arm. Smith's eyes met those of the moonbase commander, and a bitter chill ran down his spine. Was Koenig actually considering it? Did he place his own people above that of harmless strangers like himself? Of course he would! Smith began to wring his sweaty hands, sure that his life could now be measured in hours, rather than years.

Truth be told, it was a fair trade to Koenig, but one look at the hopeful faces of Will and Penny, and the utter terror on Smith's was enough to dissuade him. Smith looked like an old man cornered by a gang of thugs. Koenig's heart sank.

"No deal. Human beings cannot be used a bargaining chips to settle a petty need for revenge."

"We have...our ordersss."

"Listen to me; our fabrication facilities are advanced enough to recreate almost anything you could need, and the surface of this Moon is rich in mineralogical value. We'll give you whatever you need, but Smith is off limits."

"Queen Boumo-"

"To hell with Boumo! Just tell her you blew up the planet you found the Doctor Smith on, and leave it at that! That much is the truth, isn't it?"

The creature that called itself Ktkkttktktk paused and sat still as a mannequin, almost as if it were a video image that had been paused. Then he stood up and sighed.

"You simply do not...underssstand. What you offer in our payment...from Queen Boumo. Smith will be...your doooom."

The creature's image faded from the big screen.

"Paul, scramble Flight Two. We'll launch on my signal."

"Oh, thank you, Commander! Thank you! I knew you wouldn't hand me over to them! Now we can concentrate, instead, on defending ourselves."

Koenig glared at Smith, and said, "At what cost, Doctor? You saw what just one of their missiles could do to this Moon! This isn't over. Kano, what's their range?"

As Koenig left to get more data and consult with Bergman and Morrow, Smith returned to his shipmates, indignant that Koenig had sounded upset that he couldn't just hand him over and be done with it.

"Don't worry, Doctor Smith; Commander Koenig will get us out of this," Will assured his friend. "He's got numbers and probably the firepower to stop the aliens."

"It's not that simple, Will," his mother noted. "That ship just has to break through Alpha's defences, and then we're an easy target. We really don't know what those alien's capabilities are."

The communications system chose that moment to break through the interference that the aliens had set up, allowing a garbled, but welcome message to come from the planet.

"Alpha! Alph** ***rter. We found E*******3, and' fixed her as best *******ould. We're laun****** ships to ******** the ********er 2. It's just ******* kilometres away. Are you recei****** **** ************* ******* *****..."

The signal broke up, but it was enough to buoy the hopes of the Jupiter 2 crew.

"Alan didn't say anybody was hurt, so Dad and Don must be okay!" Judy said, utterly relieved. "But when they get back into space, they'll be targeted by the aliens!"

"If only we could decoy the aliens, and make them turn away from the Jupiter 2 and Moonbase Alpha," Will mused. "But those Eagle Commander Koenig is going to send up will just head straight for the aliens to stop them."

As everyone watched the aliens get closer and closer to the Moon, and Koenig ordered the next fleet to launch in 5 minutes, the Robot appeared from behind Smith and Maureen, and asked,

"Doctor Smith, may I have a moment of your time?"

Smith's eyebrows rose, while his frowned lowered, stretching his face into comic incomprehension. "What could you possibly want, ninny?"

"It is important, Doctor Smith."

"Really? Are you that desperate for attention, or are you so sure we're about to be destroyed that you want to apologize for everything you've ever said to me before it's too late?"

"Something like that. Doctor Smith, if you please?" the machine beckoned, heading towards an exit. Smith huffed and followed the Robot out into the corridor.

Alan and Thompson piloted Eagle 3 through the ghastly weather, flying barely a hundred feet above the surface, while held near its belly was the Space Pod, locked within the comforting grasp of the transport's grappler system. Wind, rain, and sand buffeted the ships, and tried to turn them this way or that, but Alan was determined to remain on course for the location of the downed Jupiter 2.

Within minutes they'd located her, propped up at a slight angle on her three legs. Without a need to safeguard a crew, the autopilot had been able to land her in a way that might have broken bones, but had resulted in her landing intact. Carter lowered the twin ships down as close to the saucer as he could without letting go of the Space Pod.

Vicious winds blasted John Robinson as he jumped a couple yards out of the tiny space ship, while Don struggled to close the Pod hatch behind him. Carter and Thompson watched on a closed-circuit monitor Robinson's arduous journey back to his ship, just 30 yards away, which might as well have been 30 miles uphill. Robinson covered his eyes and gritted his teeth, feeling like a supernatural hand was pushing him away from his goal. Angry that a new life was being denied him, and fighting back the fear that he could die alone here on the surface without ever seeing his family again, gave him that extra burst of adrenaline to struggle to his family's home for the past three long years. His black hair was practically yanked out by the roots, while his clothing clung to him like hardened clay. He'd never experienced such horrendous weather on any planet he'd been on, but nothing could defeat his loyalty to his family. The metal of the ramp was ice cold, but it was his salvation. Robinson gasped for another breath, the winds stealing the air from his lungs, as he forced himself up the stairs.

"He's in! What a tough s.o.b.!" Alan marvelled.

A few minutes later, the circular disk on the belly of the Jupiter 2 began to come to life, the lights spinning around the circumference of the engine again and again, faster and faster, until the saucer was airborne once more.

"Holy cow! I don't know how he did it, but he got that crate in the air!" Alan laughed, sure that the attack and crash landing should have smashed every circuit needed to fly the ship. "Eagle 3 to Jupiter 2, how ya managing, Professor?" There was no answer. "Professor Robinson? Are ya receivin' me?"

Thompson shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe the transmitter's busted?"

Carter accepted that possibility, and followed the Jupiter 2 into the upper atmosphere, informing West in the attached Space Pod of the silent saucer.

"Really, Will and Judy, I should think that my future accommodations on this base would be of little consequence at the moment!" Smith blustered, pacing inside a speeding travel tube. "With those dreadful aliens heading for us I am hardly in the mood to pick out knick knacks or rearrange furniture!"

Will swallowed and looked at his older sister, who smiled reassuringly, answering, "It'll just take a couple minutes, Doctor Smith. It'll also take your mind off the aliens, too."

"Doctor Smith will be able to block out any fear he's experiencing if we head directly for the kitchen," the Robot commented. "Perhaps his refrigerator has already been stocked."

"Bah! You're lucky you don't need to eat! I'm afraid the choices of food for this base will be substandard for some time. Ah, finally! We're coming to a stop."

"I'll lead the way," Judy offered. "Will, Robot...let's show Doctor Smith the way."

The four of them left the travel tube, and appeared in a corridor that was vaguely familiar to the Doctor. He reflected that everywhere appeared virtually the same, which could mean he might get lost many times before he found his way around. He wondered how long he'd be able to tolerate the commlock attached to his belt, or if he'd be forced to wear the standard Alphan uniform. And what colour stripe would he wear? He had yet to see his favourite shade of blue on anybody. That stifling silver flightsuit wouldn't be needed, of course, but he'd grown quite fond of his black sweater.

"Can I help you?" a female Alphan asked from behind a reception desk.

"Pad 1?" Judy asked.

"Certainly. Right through there," she indicated, pointing at a nearby doorway.

"Thank you."

"'Pad 1', indeed!" Smith tutted, turning his nose up. "What a strange retro term for an 'apartment'. No doubt the apartment will have a psychedelic feel to it, complete with bead doors and black lights, and I'll have neighbours with names like 'Sunshine' and 'Flowerchild'! What's next? Piped in muzak playing Herman's Hermits? I tell you I'll...what is this? I know this place! This is just like where we got off the Jupiter 2 and met-- NNOOO! 'Pad 1' as in...Launch Pad 1? What's going on here?! Let go of me! Unhand me, you crazy calculator! Why are you taking me this way?! Miss! MIISS! Help, help! I'm being kidnapped by my own people and this infernal machine! I'm too young too-"

Smith's ranting was cut off abruptly as the doors closed. The receptionist looked down the corridor for a moment, then looked away, shrugging. Her Stephen King novel was just too interesting to bother interrupting for silliness that had nothing to do with her.

The first squadron of Eagles swarmed the alien ship, first issuing warning shots across its bow, then hitting it again and again along its angry, jagged hide. Blasts of return fire barely missed the Earth ships, but the beams seemed to get closer and closer, the longer the fight lasted. Despite the battle, the alien ship didn't slow its pace, prompting the squadron leader to order strikes on the warship's engines. It was the last order he gave before he and his Eagle were blown out of the stars.

Those assembled in Main Mission gasped at the tragic loss of life Koenig had correctly predicted. As good as his word, Koenig ordered the next five Eagles to launch from their platforms. Four launched immediately, but the fifth appeared grounded for some reason. Morrow checked his list and hit a button.

"Main Mission to Eagle 17; are you able to launch or is something wrong?"

Paul waited several seconds before he contacted them again, but before he could utter more than two syllables the spaceship launched, perhaps faster than normal, but she was spaceborne. Morrow frowned, but told Koenig,

"All Eagles away, Commander."

Koenig nodded and was going to tell the Robinsons that since it looked like the battle was going to get close to Alpha that it might be prudent to get below, until he noticed that only Maureen and Penny remained in the control room.

"Where're Doctor Smith and Will? And Judy and the Robot for that matter?"

It seemed to hit Maureen there and then that the others had left minutes ago, and that the Robot's requested 'moment' of Smith's time had stretched out longer than she'd realised.

"I saw them leave together, but...Penny?"

Penny could only shake her head. "I thought they were going to come back in."

Koenig nodded, not quite sure what to think, while at the same time more interested in protecting his base than filing a missing person's report.

"Commander! Eagle 11's in trouble!" Paul warned.

Seconds later the damaged transporter was an expanding ball of fire, expanding outwards as dozens of white hot streamers.

Koenig withheld a curse, uncomfortable with displaying too much of the Koenig temper in front of the two Robinson women. Instead, he instructed Paul to relay his order for the Eagles to bracket the alien ship, and strike simultaneously from either side. He was about to tell his guests to get below again, when a gasp from Sandra caught his attention. She was checking her console furiously, and met his intense gaze a second later.

"Commander! Eagle 17 has broken away from the group, and is on a full-power collision course with the planet!"

Koenig looked to Paul for answers, but he could only shrug his shoulders and respond, "But why? Eagle 8's the one scheduled to meet up with the Jupiter 2!"

Koenig had the crazy idea that the Robinson's and their Robot had something to do with Eagle 17's odd behaviour, but nobody had experience flying such a ship, so what was going on? He had Paul contact them again, but still there was no answer.

Aboard the wayward Eagle 17 Doctor Zachary Smith was having nervous breakdown number 79, and making everyone's ears and audio sensors hurt.

"Turn this ship around this instant, Judy! Have you all gone mad?! Has this metallic menace deluded even your impressionable mind, William?! What can be gained by flying into the planet?!"

"Doctor Smith, I'm trying to figure out what to do next, and the only way to do that is for you to be quiet!" Judy said between clenched teeth, in uncharacteristic anger. Her eyes flew from the controls before her to the ones on her left side, but they might as well have been the Jupiter 2 engine manuals, something she'd never gotten the knack of, either.

"We're on a collision course with that abominable planet! Turn us away! Turn us away now, I say!"

"I'm trying to figure out how to do just that, Doctor, but we seem to be stuck on course! I was listening to what Alan was telling me about the controls, but I'm starting to forget some of it!"

"Oh, dear, Heavens! Oh, my, oh, my, oh, my!" Smith wailed, close to tears.

"Logically, if this spaceship is unable to respond to your attempts to divert it," the Robot suggested from the passenger module, since his tank-like treads couldn't navigate over the rims of the hatch into the cockpit, "it is possible that the auto-pilot is engaged."

"Of course! I touched the control when I was trying to figure out how to programme a direct course! There it is! Okay, everyone, hold on!"

Judy yanked back on the controls, turning hard to starboard, and suddenly Smith was flying backwards out of the cockpit, and doing a backwards somersault into the passenger section, while the Robot almost fell to the deck, but saved himself at the last moment with a claw-hold onto a handle spacesuit lockers. Out of the forward viewports, the previously rushing alien planet swerved out of view and was replaced by a star field, even as Will's stomach did a cartwheel from his co-pilot seat. He watched as the Eagle flew erratically with wide-eyed fear, and wasn't reassured by Judy's surprised reaction that she'd gotten it right. He checked the sensors, and saw that they were now flying at nearly full speed away from the planet. And the alien ship. And the Eagles. And the Moon. Judy noticed this, too, and turned them around again, slamming Smith's shoulder into a locker this time.

"OOWW!" he cried. "My poor shoulder! My poor back! Thank our lucky stars you never flew the Jupiter 2, young lady! You make Major West's mediocre flying skills appear positively impeccable!"

The planet slid back into view, but at least it wasn't directly ahead with the potential to swat them like a fly. Will looked at his controls, and noticed a flashing light above the word 'receiver'. Was somebody hailing them? Was it Dad? He wondered. He activated it, and got Alpha, instead.

"Eagle 17, respond!" Paul Morrow's voice practically growled.

"He sounds mad," Will noted, swallowing hard.

"Answer him!" Smith snapped, climbing awkwardly back into the cockpit.

"What do I tell him?" Judy wondered, no longer feeling like she was in charge.

"Tell him you kidnapped me for no good reason other than for an insane joyride!" Smith suggested, his voice nearly cracking from rage.

It was only half right, but she felt she owed them an answer. She nodded to Will, and he activated the transmitter.

"This is Judy Robinson aboard Eagle number 17. We're okay. I had the idea of-"

"Judy?! Judy, what in the world do you think you're doing?! You flew right past the battlezone, then nearly flew straight into the planet!" he mother's voice accused.

"I was just trying to lure them away from Moonbase Alpha, Mother. I brought Doctor Smith on board so that if they wanted him they'd have to chase us away from you."

"I'm here too, Mom,"

They could picture their Mother's face going white as she gasped, "Will?!'ve got to come back now! It's too dangerous to stay out there!"

"This is Commander Koenig; consider that an order!"

"An order that she'll be glad to obey, won't you, Judy?" Smith growled, his fear replaced by indignant annoyance at being used as a pawn.

"We'll return as soon as possible. Eagle number 17 out."

Judy turned the Eagle slightly, adjusting for a course back towards the planet, and throttled back on the excessive speed. When Smith demanded to know the reason, she smiled and pointed out the viewports. He squinted and frowned, but found himself smiling seconds later. A reunion was about to take place hundreds of miles above the planet in turmoil. The Jupiter 2 was hovering while an Eagle was slowly edging beside it to lock on with a boarding tube, while the Space Pod returned to its tiny bay via a hatch on the saucer's belly. Presumably, Eagle 8 was the second Eagle present, watching the activity like a stern guard dog. The receiver light flashed again, but this time it was Alan.

"We've docked with the Jupiter 2, but I'm not readin' life support aboard her, guys," he explained. "That's probably how yer dad got her off the ground; suited up and flyin' her without air and gravity. Don's joined him now. Hey, who's flyin 17, by the way?"

Judy smiled. sheepishly at the speaker. "I am. You're a pretty good teacher., Alan."

"You are?!" Carter gasped. "You mean to tell me that you don't have anybody from Alpha on board?"

"Nope. Just Will and I, and Doctor Smith and the Robot."

"Geez Louise! You can't an Eagle back there! You might not make a decent landing...especially if you've been getting lessons from Don! Look, do you think you can manoeuvre over towards me without killin' alla us? I can lock nav-comps and then you can link with me on the other side. I'm getting' you back aboard the Jupiter 2, once yer dad gets life support back up and running."

"How can you land two connected Eagles, Mr. Carter?" Will wondered.

"I've got Eagle 3's original pilot still aboard her, so I'll fly 17 back. These things are expensive you know!"

It was with pensive relief that Koenig and the rest of the people in Main Mission watched the trio of ships link up, then return to the Moon, although they were flying into a tense situation. The alien ship wasn't as big and nasty as its outward appearance wanted people to think, but it wasn't down and out, yet. He'd lost two Eagles to alien firepower, but the two more had been knocked out due to damage suffered. The Eagle that the Robinson kids had 'acquired', which should have had an experienced team aboard, made five ships that weren't fighting the aliens, leaving it as a five-on-one struggle. And it was a struggle that Alpha's top pilot, Alan Carter, wasn't even involved in.

The alien ship fired at an Eagle, missing the silver engines by mere inches, then tried to predict the craft's course, and fired ahead of it, but the pilot had swung the Eagle about at the last second, saving his life. A pair of Eagles strafed the top of the alien warship, scoring hits but only piercing a small section of the hull, the rest of the beams merely scorching the hull black from the intense heat. The Eagles were more manoeuvrable, but the sheer size of the warship was an intimidating factor, even as it lurched towards the Moon.

It fired another planet-killer missile, which was chased by an Eagle like a dog panting after a thrown stick. The first laser shot missed the missile, impacting the lunar surface seconds later, but the second detonated the warhead, lighting up the sky. While everyone was distracted by the awesome nuclear explosion, the alien ship launched four more missiles! The Eagles instantly broke off their concentrated attack, and raced at full throttle to shoot down the missiles that would surely crack open the Moon like an eggshell. A second nuclear explosion bloomed as an Eagle detonated a warhead. Thirty-one seconds later another missile was destroyed. Eagle 9 couldn't get an accurate lock onto the third missile, but Eagle 12 could. That left one more missile on a direct course for the Moon, just a minute away.

The alien ship fired on the Eagles, scoring a weak hit on one, but it was enough to knock it out of the race to stop the missile. Threatened with enemy fire from behind, the other Eagles had to regroup and adjust their courses, even as the last missile streaked towards their home.

Kano cried from his station, "It's coming in from sector 44; Computer predicts impact in the Sinus Iridium region!"

Maureen looked to Koenig for clarification, which wasn't good if his pale face was any indication. He answered her unspoken question.

"That's only a few hundred miles from here."

"Not that it matters," Morrow frowned, his shoulders sagging. "Just one anywhere will probably implode the Moon."

A pair of Eagles managed a few half-hearted laser strikes, but it was just too far for an accurate laser-lock, but it had been a valiant attempt, anyway.

"Impact in 10 seconds...9...8..."

"David...shut up!" Morrow sneered, accepting death.

Kano frowned indignation, but watched the big screen anyway, like everyone else.

The missile impacted into the soft, unprotected hide of the Moon.

"You can't be serious, Professor?!" Smith was yelping, struggling in the grip of not just Major West, but also Helena. "This is ludicrous, I tell you! Insanity!"

"You have a better idea, Smith?" Robinson dared.

"Yes! Peace and harmony! A simple life that involves me still breathing!"

"There's nothing to worry about, Doctor!" Helena grunted, "I'm here! I understand the principles, and will bring you back as soon as it's safe! Now, if-you-please!"

Helena and West gave Smith a final shove, and then their plan was put into motion.

Maureen had been holding her daughter tightly, but had held her eyes open, resigned that the sight of her girl's black hair would be the last thing she'd ever see. When several seconds passed, she wondered with just the merest fraction of hope if a small miracle had happened.

It had.

Paul was the first to speak. "It was a dud! They hit us with a bloody dud missile!"

"Which could detonate by accident, or be sent a destruct signal by the aliens if they realise what went wrong," Bergman warned.

"I'm reading two of our Eagles approaching from the planet, Commander," Kano said. "The Jupiter 2 isn't far away, and it's connected to a third Eagle."

Koenig did a mental calculation, and realised that every Eagle was accounted for. Eagle 3 with Thompson and Jackson had been retrieved, and the Eagle Judy Robinson had taken was there as well, in addition to Eagle 8. The question was how long would the Moon still be around for them to attempt a landing? Over their speakers they registered Professor Robinson's commanding voice as he made contact with the alien ship.

"This is the Jupiter 2 to alien ship; you can break off your attack on the Moon; we have Smith aboard our ship. I say again, break off your attack on the Moon."

The ghostly alien commander whispered back, "If thisss is some...kind of trick..."

"No trick. Transport aboard my ship if you don't believe me. I'm sure the Eagles will back off so I can prove it to you."

Koenig understood the comment as a subtle request, and had Paul order the Eagles clear of the alien vessel. He couldn't believe Robinson was actually turning over the cowardly Doctor Smith, but perhaps he'd finally had had enough of the trouble-maker, and felt that saving the lives of hundreds of future friends and companions was worth one life. John hated being a part of the decision, but anything that saved the lives of his people, no matter how callous, was grudgingly accepted.

All hostilities were broken off. The Eagles put some distance between themselves and the warship, and the aliens deactivated their laser turrets. The Jupitr 2 approached Ktkkttktktk's ship slowly like a naughty child to an imposing parent, and finally came to a halt just a couple miles away.

In a swirl of purple smoke the hooded creature reappeared by the exit of the Jupiter 2, and got right to the point.

"I want...Smiiiith."

"That'll be a problem. See for yourself," Robinson stated, waving the alien over.

The creature hesitated, then slowly crossed the open area around the navigational console, and stopped before the glowing tube that Doctor Smith was held within, his eyes closed, and his skin a deathly gray. The alien looked at the still human, then slowly faced the Professor.

"What is the meaning...of thissss?" it hissed.

"Suicide. Doctor Smith has killed himself."

The alien looked back at the tube. "Explain." It was a threat, not a request.

"These chambers aboard are ship are for our enemies; they're life-draining tubes. Ordinarily, when we encounter and defeat anyone that threatens our lives, we place them inside one of these tubes and terminate their life functions. Rather than be a slave or married to Queen Boumo, Doctor Smith ened his own life." He let that fact sink in, before he continued. "So you see, there was no reason to continue your attack against Moonbase Alpha and its ships. It was Smith you wanted, not them."

"This will make...Queen Boumo...very...very...angryyyy."

"Why? You carried out your instructions; destroy the planet Smith was on, which you did, and kill him, which you did. In an indirect way."

"Right; it wasn't by your own hand, but you did as Boumo asked," West added. "She wanted probably Smith dead more than she wanted to marry him. That was her real objective, wasn't it? Good riddance to Smith, I say."

The alien looked back and forth between the Jupiter 2 crew, and the inert form of Smith. It spared Helena a glance, then turned towards Robinson, and said menacingly,

"I will need...proof."

John Robinson swallowed, unsure what the alien meant. Its clawed hand griped the end of its staff, twisted, and removed a small handheld unit. Robinson stiffened, unsure what to expect. The alien raised the device, and for a split-second the area was lit up by a flash of yellow light. The alien returned the unit to its staff.

"What was that?" Robinson demanded.

The alien stared at him, making him feel uncomfortable. "A camera. Queen Boumo...may want to...frame it."

With that the creature walked back to the Jupiter 2's exit and faded in a puff of smoke. Nobody dared breathe a sigh of relief or say anything aloud, just in case the alien was simply invisible. West jumped for his seat in the pilot area, and laughed aloud as he cried,

"We did it! They're leaving!"

Robinson joined him, and grinned with relief as the alien ship sped away, and then burst away at light speed. He slapped Don on the shoulder, all tension lost.

"We did do it! He believed us about Smith killing himself!" Robinson sighed, grinning widely.

Robinson stole a glance back towards Smith, who wasn't in a torture chamber, but rather one of the six suspended animation chambers that lined the wall of the saucer. He'd been lucky that the alien hadn't examined the equipment too intently, or else he would have discovered that Smith's life functions hadn't been turned, but simply slowed to a snail's pace.

"And he's never looked better!" Don joked. "Hey, John, any chance of leaving him hooked up in there? He'd be a lot less trouble if we did!"

Robinson shared a laugh with his friend, but shook his head. "I don't think so, Don. I'm sure Will and Penny would have something to say about that!"

"Okay, but if he's caused trouble for us, you can bet he'll cause trouble for Moonbase Alpha, if history is any indication."

Robinson suddenly lost his jovial mood, and bit his lower lip, while his forehead crinkled in foreboding.

The landing pads of Moonbase Alpha were chaotic, what with several Eagles requiring an immediate landing due to battle damage, as well as for the newly-found Earth ship and its civilian crew. Robinson had taken no chances, and allowed only himself and West to remain aboard his ship, while Helena, Will, Penny, and the Robot were flown back with Alan. Robinson found his kids eagerly waiting his return as the boarding area door slid open and allowed them to jump into his arms. A travel tube opened down the hall, and the love of his life, his wife Maureen, looking more ravishing and desirable than he'd ever seen her, made a dash for him. He met her half way, and their lips locked into a warm kiss, their arms tightly clutching the other's welcoming form. Judy found herself jumping into Don's arms, burying her face into his neck, which Alan saw, and withheld all comments that came to mind. They seemed right for each other. After all, ol' Don had three years jump on him, where the lovely blonde was concerned.

"I was so worried, John! Don't ever do that to me again!" Maureen begged, although she was smiling.

"And the same for you, Donald West!" Judy said, half-jokingly. "This base has more than enough Eagles then it knows what to do with, and enough pilots to man them!"

"Okayokay!" West smiled. "Consider me in semi-retirement then! Or at least on vacation for awhile!"

"Not likely, chum! You're scheduled for Eagle pilot training tomorrow at 0800 sharp!" Alan joked.

"By you? I think we both know I could fly rings around you, kangaroo!"

"Who said anything 'bout me? I was talkin' about Judy teachin' ya a thing or two!"

"Where's Doctor Smith, Dad?" Didn't you unfreeze him yet?" Will wondered.

"Not yet, son. Soon."

"Ahhh. Peace and quiet!" the Robot quipped, prompting laughter amongst his shipmates.

As the Moon continued its travels towards the outer edge of the solar system, leaving the crumbling planet to its destructive fate, the seven people and one robot from the Jupiter 2 watched alongside Koenig, Helena, Carter, Bergman, Morrow, Kano, and Sandra and other Alphans as a remote camera beamed back an image of a trio of Alphan specialists. They'd made the trek out to the Mare Iridum to examine the dud alien missile, and were able to report with relief and complete assurance that the weapon had been deactivated, and was as cold and dead as any lunar rock. Koenig had them disassemble vital parts, nonetheless. He turned to the anxious faces of the newcomers.

"I believe I owe you all a dinner."

"Splendid! I'm sure you'll understand that suspended animation has a habit of increasing the need for nourishment, Commander!" Smiled smiled, widely, images of exotic foods dancing in his mind. "That said, you'll forgive me if I have a second helping of everything!"

"Actually, Doctor Smith, I was going to suggest a reduced diet for the time being," Helena admitted, somewhat apologetically. "Your metabolism has to recover, and you can't possibly do that with a full stomach."

"I take it you've officially decided to stay?" Koenig asked Robinson.

The Professor placed a comforting arm around his wife's waist, which she gladly returned in kind. "We have, Commander. Our days of wandering lost in space by ourselves are over."

"In that case, welcome to your new home," Koenig smiled, shaking Robinson's hand.

"Does our new home include a garage?" Don wondered. "You can't fit the Jupiter 2 down below in your hangars," Don noted.

Koenig pursed his lips, and shrugged. "We'll work something out." Good question; just where was the saucer going to wind up?

As the two sets of people exchanged handshakes and words of encouragement and excitement, Will caught Smith's look of discomfort.

"What's the matter, Doctor Smith?" This is going to be great! We'll have all kinds of room to move about, and can make all kinds of new friends!"

"Oh, William, your youthful expectations are just that; youthful. I'm too old to start a new life as some kind of moon man! And I was only being polite about the food; it is truly pitiful."

"If the Alphans can exist on it then so can you, Doctor Smith," the Robot said, appearing from behind them.

"Oh, cease your insistent prattling, you bubble-headed cheerleader!" Smith moaned.

Koenig caught Smith's discomfort, and drew him back into the group, giving him a reassuring pat on the shoulder. He'd been a thorn in the Robinson's side, but perhaps a stint on Alpha could turn him around. The Doctor seemed to relax, and actually began to speak with pride about his own powers of survival with an interested Kano, which allowed a somewhat relieved Victor Bergman to edge away from the boastful Smith and over by Don and Judy.

As he stood back and watched how well the Robinsons seemed to fit in with his own crew, Koenig had a sense of optimism about the future. Breakaway had dealt the human race a terrible blow, but his runaway Moon with its tiny complement of men and women in search of a new Earth to settle had twice acquired additional members of the human race along the journey. The first time had been when several humans had been discovered hidden in secret Gray bases scattered across the lunar surface, and now with the valiant Jupiter 2 crew. With the numbers increasing, despite the losses in battle, the Moon was scooping up wayward travellers and allowing Alpha to develop into a new, thriving human colony out amongst the furthest regions of the galaxy.

Perhaps that was their ultimate destiny.


Copyright (c) 2004. Reprinted with permission.
Space:1999 is (c) 1976 by Carlton International Media.
All stories are the property of their respective authors.

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