The Airlock

Many fans have expressed the thought that the Robinsons should have flushed Smith out the airlock. Professor Robinson and Major West certainly would be tempted, but would they?

The Airlock

Smith learns that actions have consequences.

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Chapter 1: The Professor

In the split second before his head slammed into the wall, Smith wondered what could have set the Professor off into such a fit of rage. One minute, he had been looking out the viewport, watching the planet they’d just left fade into the distance. The next minute, he found himself being flung across the upper deck by a man who rarely lost his temper. He’d expect such irrational behavior of the Major. The fact that it was the Professor thoroughly confused him.

Dazed and barely conscious, he felt strong hands pulling him… somewhere. Before he could determine where, he blacked out. When he came to, he was in a dark, cramped space. A small shaft of light shone in above him, through a porthole. Panic seized him. “Oh god, the airlock…”

Smith scrambled to look through the porthole. On the other side, the Professor was waiting.

“Professor Robinson! What is the meaning of this?!” the doctor howled.

“The Tholiss knew our every move. They knew about the Jupiter 2. They wanted it. The way I figure, there’s only one person who would have tipped them off.” The Professor’s eyes narrowed, wordlessly accusing his captive.

Smith lowered his gaze, unable to look the other man in the eye. The Professor knew the truth. One wrong word and that was it. “Oh,” was all he could manage.

“What did they offer you, Smith? The Jupiter 2 in exchange for… what?”

“I changed my mind, Professor! I didn’t go through with the deal. I…”

“WHAT DID THEY OFFER YOU!?”

Smith cringed at the hostility directed at him. “Does it really matter now?” he asked timidly.

“Before I flush you out this airlock, I’d like to know what you would betray my family for! Money?! Power?! A trip back to Earth?! What?!” He slammed his fist against the door. “And was it worth it?!” The Professor’s rage was palpable and if Smith didn’t know any better, he would’ve thought it was radiating through the airlock door, causing droplets of perspiration to roll down his back.

“All of the above,” Smith admitted. Guilt prodded him to get it all out in the open. Continuing to hide it now would do him no good. Not in the situation he was in. “They wanted the secret of atomic energy. They offered to pay me handsomely if I delivered it to them. And to take me back to Earth once they had successfully integrated the technology into their society. But I couldn’t go through with it,” he admitted, with a voice so sincere that the Professor actually did believe him. “Not after I learned what they planned to do with you!”

“That doesn’t matter one bit, Smith! You betrayed us and nearly got us all killed! We’re lucky to even be standing here. I can’t let you put my family in danger again!”

The Professor turned and took a few steps away from the door. Smith watched him for a few moments as he paced back and forth, deep in thought. The doctor’s panic slowly transformed into calm. No, not calm. Acceptance. There was no escaping his fate. The Professor was a fair man. Whatever punishment he saw fit for him was what he truly deserved. He’d used up his second chances long ago. He’d exhausted the last of the Professor’s patience. He had only himself to blame. When the Professor returned to the porthole, he saw Smith staring blankly at the outer door. The doctor wondered what it would feel like, how long he’d be conscious, how long it would hurt, how long until he didn’t feel anything anymore.

“Smith?”

The doctor quickly returned to the porthole. “What are you going to tell them?”

“About what?”

“About why I’m… gone,” Smith asked.

“I hadn’t thought about it.”

“Tell them it was an accident,” Smith pleaded. “Professor, please don’t tell them what I did.”

The doctor’s demeanor unnerved the Professor. He wished he would lie to save his skin, beg like a coward, make it easier for him to push that button to open the airlock and save the rest of them a lifetime of trouble. Instead, he pitied the man.

“Smith, give me one good reason why I shouldn’t flush you out the airlock,” the Professor asked, hoping the doctor’s silver tongue could successfully dissuade him from a course of action he felt bound to, but really didn’t want to take.

“Professor, if a man of your moral character cannot find a good reason, what makes you think a man like me can provide you with one?” He paused a moment. “I don’t want to die. I wish I had another chance, but… we both know what I would do with it. I am a weak man and I fear that will never change.” Smith turned to look at the outer door once more, then sat down to await the Professor’s decision. “It wasn’t worth it,” he mumbled.

“What did you say?” the Professor asked.

“I said it wasn’t worth it,” the doctor reiterated a little louder. “I don’t know what made me think it would be,” he admitted. “I’m sorry for all the trouble I caused you.” His voice faltered as he made one last request, “Please, Professor, if you’re going to do it, have mercy on me and get it over with quickly.” Smith sat with his back against the wall, hugged his knees to his chest, and put his head down.

He heard the Professor’s hand slam against the wall. He tensed as he heard the mechanical sound of the airlock door releasing. He hugged himself tighter and trembled as he anticipated a violent and messy end. But it didn’t come. Instead, the darkness retreated and the compartment was flooded with light. He looked up and saw the Professor standing over him.

“Damn. Seems I hit the wrong button… this time.” The Professor left without another word.

The doctor took in a deep, shuddering breath. As the Professor descended the ladder, he heard a meek “thank you” behind him.

Some two weeks later, the Jupiter 2 made planetfall again to replenish the deutronium and other supplies they’d lost to Tholiss raids. As the Major and the Professor set up the forcefield, Smith walked by toting a stack of boxes toward the girls and the hydroponic garden.

“I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes,” the Major remarked.

“What?” the Professor inquired.

“Smith. I have never seen him so… helpful. He’s been on his best behavior since we left the Tholiss homeworld. I wonder what got into him.”

“We had a little talk,” the Professor admitted.

“Is that all it took?” the Major laughed.

“That’s all it took.”

“Perhaps you should have had a talk with him a lot sooner,” the Major suggested.

“Perhaps I should have,” the Professor agreed.

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Chapter 2: The Major

That’s how it COULD have happened, but this is how it really happened…

After a harrowing and stressful day, the others had gone to bed early. Only Smith and the Major were awake, both on the upper deck. The Major was on watch. Smith just couldn’t sleep. The two tolerated each other’s presence and stayed out of each other’s way. Or so the doctor thought.

Lost in his own thoughts as he watched the planet they’d left hours earlier shrink into the distance, Smith didn’t notice the Major’s approach. Suddenly, the doctor’s head whipped sharply to the side, victim of the Major’s right cross. He stumbled backwards, trying desperately to regain his balance and defend himself against further attack. He was unsuccessful. A left hook caught him in the jaw and he went down hard. His head hit the floor, rendering him unconscious.

As he came to, he slowly pulled himself up. Groaning loudly, his blurry eyes finally focused and he found himself in a small, dark place. Above him, he could make out a window through which a small light filtered. A face moved into view to block the light. It was the Major. His heart nearly stopped as realization set in. “Oh god, the airlock…”

Smith scurried over to the porthole and nearly pressed his face against it, seething at the Major.

“Major West! What is the meaning of this?!” the doctor howled.

“The Tholiss knew all about the Jupiter 2, Smith. They wanted it and you were going to give it to them.” The Major’s eyes narrowed, wordlessly accusing his captive.

“Is that what they told you?! Lies! All lies! They meant to foment discord amongst our ranks in order to defeat us!” Smith proclaimed.

“Can it, Smith!” the Major barked. “You’d better tell me everything, from the beginning, no embellishment, no lies, or I will push this button here and be rid of you once and for all.”

Smith gulped. He tried to peer out the window to see where the Major’s hand was, but he couldn’t quite see the buttons on the wall panel.

Knowing he was trapped and couldn’t talk his way out of it this time, Smith relented.

“Ok, Major. It seems you have me at a distinct disadvantage,” he paused, knowing he had to choose his words wisely. “Please hear me out before you make a decision, Major. Don’t do anything rash.”

“You have my word,” the Major growled.

Smith took a deep breath before he began, “It’s true. I did tell the Tholiss about the Jupiter 2. They wanted it and they were willing to kill to get it, Major. Naturally, I didn’t want any harm to come to any of you…”

“Oh, I’m sure,” the Major said sarcastically.

“It’s true!” Smith insisted. “I brokered a deal with them for the Jupiter 2 with the provision that nobody would be harmed.”

“I bet it was a sweetheart of a deal for you. What did they offer you?”

“Well, I should get SOMETHING for my time and effort…”

“WHAT DID THEY OFFER YOU!?” the Major yelled, quickly tiring of Smith.

Smith cringed at the Major’s aggression. “Does it really matter now?” he asked timidly.

“Before I flush you out this airlock, I want to know! What was it?! Money!? Power?! A trip back to Earth?!” the Major demanded, slamming his fist against the door to punctuate his point. The Major’s rage was about to boil over. Smith knew if he didn’t calm him down quickly, that would be the last of him. Droplets of perspiration rolled down his face and back as the stress and terror became almost too much to bear.

“All of the above,” Smith admitted, as calmly as his nerves would allow, which was still frantic compared to his normal cadence. “They wanted the secret of atomic energy. They offered to pay me handsomely if I delivered it to them. And to take me back to Earth once they had successfully integrated the technology into their society. But I couldn’t go through with it once I learned what they planned to do with you all,” he admitted, with a voice so sincere that the Major actually did believe him.

“You betrayed us, Smith. You’ve betrayed us for the last time. I’m not going to allow you the chance to do it again.” The Major’s voice was hard, confident, and struck pure fear into the heart of the doctor.

The Major turned and took a few steps away from the door. Smith watched him for a few moments as he paced back and forth, agitated yet deep in thought. The doctor panicked and banged against the door. “Major! Major! Listen to me!” But the Major kept pacing, paying him no heed. Smith slumped against the wall, defeated. If anyone else knew what was going on, the Major could be dissuaded from this course of action, but he was alone. The Major had him right where he wanted him, with no one to interfere.

When the Major returned to the porthole, he saw Smith looking thoroughly despondent. Despite his anger with the man, he couldn’t help but feel a little pity for him.

“Smith?”

The doctor quickly reappeared at the porthole. “Major, you can’t go through with this! What are you going to tell them?”

“About what?”

“Surely they’ll notice if I’m not on the ship!” Smith exclaimed. “What are you going to tell them about why I’m… gone.”

“I hadn’t thought about it.”

“If you cannot be dissuaded from this course of action, I beg of you, tell them it was an accident.  Please, do me the kindness of preserving the good memories the children have of me. Not for me, for them. They wouldn’t understand,” he gestured with his hand to indicate the situation that was unfolding, “… this.”

Smith knew he had little time left. The Major ran the risk of being caught by one of the others the longer he lingered over a decision. “Major, you may be hotheaded, impulsive, and brash, but you’re also a reasonable and rational person with a strict moral code. I am not a threat to you. I am completely at your mercy.” He paused a moment. “You are NOT a murderer.” Smith sat down to await the Major’s decision and calm his frantically beating heart. His life was now in the Major’s hands.

Smith saw the Major’s face leave the porthole. Despite his curiosity, he stayed put, waiting, and waiting. Five minutes turned into ten, then twenty. Smith finally went to the porthole and saw no one. His brow furrowed. Where had he gone and why? He banged on the door and yelled, but nobody came up from below decks. Thirty minutes turned into sixty and still he waited for the Major to return. It wasn’t until he started to become sleepy that he realized the air in the airlock was running out. The Major wouldn’t flush him out the airlock because he’d apparently found a more palatable alternative! He was going to let him suffocate and pass it off as an accident. Smith struggled to stay awake, but with the oxygen rapidly depleting, he eventually succumbed.

A few minutes later, the Major peered through the porthole. He had considered just leaving the bane of his existence there, to be found by someone else after he had suffocated, but Smith was right. He wasn’t a murderer. At the last second, he changed his mind. He wasn’t sure he could forgive himself if he went through with it. Over the years, he’d come to accept, even like Smith in some respects. He wouldn’t miss the self-serving troublemaker, but he’d miss the clever, witty, likable Smith. He opened the airlock, hefted the doctor’s considerable and completely inert weight onto his shoulders, and carried him to the lower deck.

“John?!” the Major called out.

The Professor bolted awake and stumbled out of his cabin, quickly joining the Major at the lift.

“Can you help me with him?”

“What happened?” the Professor queried, as he helped carry the unconscious doctor to his bed.

The Major cringed inwardly as he recalled Smith’s words. Smith was right, he did have a strict moral code and that included honesty. He hated lying to the Professor, but at least it was about why Smith was unconscious and not about why he was dead. He chose his words carefully. “I found him in the airlock, unconscious. Don’t ask me how he managed to get himself trapped in there.”

The efforts of the two men were loud enough to wake everyone else and they gathered around to find out what was going on.

The Professor patted Smith’s face. The doctor groaned, but he didn’t open his eyes. “Smith?” he patted his face again. This time Smith slowly opened his eyes. Confusion washed over him as he looked around the room...  his room.

“How the devil did you manage to get yourself trapped in the airlock?” the Professor asked.

Smith struggled to sit up and the Professor helped him. He saw the Major standing at the door with a look that said “Don’t screw this up.” Smith gave the Professor a puzzled look. He groaned again and rubbed the back of his head. “Airlock?” he asked. “I must have had a very good reason for going in there, but it seems to escape me at the moment. I believe I hit my head. Memory loss can often accompany head trauma.”

“And those bruises on your face?” the Professor continued.

“I must have taken quite a tumble,” Smith countered. He rubbed his sore jaw and quickly glanced at Major West. “I really don’t remember, Professor.”

The Professor was going to press him further for answers, but just then Mrs. Robinson squeezed her way into the cabin, armed with a cold compress and pain medication.

“Bless you, madame,” Smith said, thankful both for her tending to him and providing a distraction from the questioning.

Mrs. Robinson smiled as she handed him some aspirin and a cup of water. He took it from her with a sheepish smile. Just hours ago, he'd nearly gotten these people killed and here they were concerned about his well being. "Thank you," he whispered.

"I think we should let Doctor Smith get some rest," the Major suggested. Everyone murmured their agreement to that idea and filed out of the cabin. When everyone was gone, the Major shut the cabin door and approached Smith. The doctor trembled and pressed himself back against the wall, unsure of what the hot-headed pilot had planned.

The Major brought his face within inches of Smith's and pointed toward the door. "The only reason I spared your sorry hide, Smith, is those people out there. For some reason I can't quite fathom, they care about you. And I... I care about what they think of me. You're right, I'm not a murderer. But, so help me, Smith, if you EVER do anything to harm them, I will make sure you will never be able to harm them again." He stood up and took a step back. "Don't tempt me again, Smith. You have no idea how close I came to pushing that button." The Major turned and left, quietly seething.

The breath Smith had been holding came whooshing out in a relieved sigh. "No, Major. I'm pretty sure I do know," he whispered.

Smith could not sleep that evening. He had plenty on his mind, his actions, the family that had come to accept him as one of their own, the words of Major West. His conscience wouldn’t let him rest. So, as long as he was awake, he would do something.

That morning, the family awoke to the most sweet and savory smells emanating from the galley. The first early riser was surprised to find the doctor hard at work, chopping this and mixing that.

"Well, this is quite a surprise," Mrs. Robinson beamed. "Feeling better, I take it?”

"Yes, madame, thanks to your superb nursing abilities," he complimented.

“Anything I can do to help?”

“No, thank you. I have everything well in hand. Please, take a seat,” Smith gestured toward the table. “I hope you don’t mind. I had to make do with canned food, as fresh was not available.”

“Oh, no, that’s quite alright,” she replied as she sat and waited patiently. A few minutes later, Smith plated his culinary creation, garnished it, and arranged the presentation until he was satisfied with it.

“Voilà! Breakfast is served,” he announced as he set the plate before Mrs. Robinson. “Crêpes de pomme par Zachary. If that is not enough, I have pain au chocolat baking in the oven.” Smith gave an apologetic smile. “We had no chocolate, so I had to improvise with cocoa powder and other ingredients.”

“This is wonderful! Thank you, Doctor Smith.” Before Mrs. Robinson could even eat a forkful, the other occupants of the Jupiter 2 came trickling out of their cabins.

“What’s for breakfast?” Will asked groggily, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

“Smells fantastic!” Penny chimed in.

Smith set plates of food down on the table as the Robinsons flocked to breakfast. As the Major took his seat, he gave Smith a questioning look. The doctor turned away and occupied himself with removing the pastry from the oven and preparing a plate for himself. When he returned to the table and sat down, the Major gave him another questioning look. The look Smith returned made it clear that the message delivered the previous evening had been received loud and clear.

Though the Robinson matriarch was accomplished in the kitchen, Smith's culinary talent was much appreciated and Mrs. Robinson didn't mind a break from the duty. Smith had intended taking over the galley only for a short while as penance for his betrayal, not that it would ever be enough to erase that black mark against him. He was just thankful that the only one privy to the matter was Major West and so far, he’d kept his mouth shut. Smith received such praise and sense of purpose from feeding the crew, however, that he endeavored to prepare meals for them regularly, finally becoming a useful member of the Jupiter 2 expedition.

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