Chapter 25: Fond Farewells

"Madame, you have once again outdone yourself," Smith said while gently patting his satiated stomach. He took a sip of the wine, which T'pat had also graciously provided. His gaze wandered around the table as he studied the faces of his companions one by one.

The Professor caught the smile on the doctor's face. "What is it, Doctor Smith?"

The question shook Smith from his reverie. "What? Oh, nothing. It's nothing."

"C'mon, Smith. Why are you grinning like an idiot?" the Major asked.

Smith's grin grew wider. "If you insist on knowing, Major..."

"I do."

Smith took a deep, deliberative breath while he considered his words. "I was just thinking... It was only a few short months ago, I awoke to find myself utterly alone on this strange planet. You all had been taken from me. I never thought I'd see your smiling faces again." The doctor paused a moment. "I am truly grateful to be safe, in the Jupiter 2, among all of you again. Yes, even you, Major. I consider it a miracle that we all escaped unscathed."

"Well, most of us," the Major pointed to the doctor's left side.

"Yes, well... I can tell you from experience, sustaining a few scrapes and bruises is considerably preferable to being dead." For a brief moment, the memories of Smith's afterlife meeting with his loved ones flitted through his consciousness. The feeling of helplessness at having to leave his companions behind disturbed him once more.

The haunted look that flashed briefly across the doctor's face gave the others pause. They would probably never know what happened to him, but it was clear it had had an impact on him.

The Professor broke the awkward silence. "I propose a toast," he declared as he rose his glass. "To..." he glanced around the table while searching for the perfect thing to toast. He smiled when he found it. His eyes rested on Doctor Smith. "To family."

"To family," everyone repeated as they clinked their glasses together and drank.

...

After dinner, Will, Penny, and Judy, exhausted from the day's momentous events, went to bed. Smith went outside for a visit with T'pat. The Professor and Major joined him. Mrs. Robinson promised to join them as soon as she was done cleaning up from dinner.

The Professor and Major took up residence near the Asmani campfire, both with fresh cups of coffee in hand. They made small talk with the others while Smith took T'pat aside for a private talk.

"T'pat, there's something I want you to have," Smith announced as he fished something from his pocket.

"I believe this belongs to you," Smith said. He took T'pat's hand, placed the item in it, and closed his fingers around it.

"T'pat opened his hand to look at the item and his eyes widened in surprised. He tried to hand it back to Smith. "This isn't mine."

"It most certainly is," Smith replied.

"You don't understand. This medallion is meant for Asmani leadership. Only our leader may wear it. It was Mal J'hat's. Where did you get it?"

Smith smiled and refused to take it back. "I know exactly what it is, T'pat. M'jek told me about it. I took it from J'hat before we fled the base. It's yours. Keep it. You've earned it."

"No. I can't. It is only for our chief, someone who is smart enough, strong enough, and brave enough to lead our people."

"Well, that disqualifies Mal J'hat," Smith joked, "but I think you're amply qualified."

T'pat looked into Smith's eyes and saw sincerity there. "I... I don't know what to say." He thought a moment. "By all rights, this should go to the Grand Master."

"I've heard the Grand Master doesn't want the job." Smith grasped his friend's shoulder. "Just say you'll consider it."

T'pat looked down at the medallion he held in his hands and ran a finger over the intricate design. Finally, he nodded. His gaze rose to meet Smith's. "I've come to trust your judgment. I will consider it."

"That's all I ask," Smith replied.

They rejoined the others. T'pat showed his men the medallion. A cheer went up and several of them congratulated the guard with hearty pats on the back.

"What happened?" Major West asked.

One of the Asmani replied, "T'pat holds the Asmani medallion of leadership. We have all been graced by the presence of the next Asmani leader, a just and temperate leader."

"I only said I would consider it," T'pat corrected.

The others teased him for even considering turning down such a lofty office.

The Major looked at Smith who was standing unobtrusively off to the side. He suspected the wily doctor had something to do with this, just as he still suspected the doctor had much more to do with the whole rebellion than he was letting on.

Smith caught the Major's look and flashed the most innocent look he could muster.

"Your people would be blessed to have you as their leader, T'pat," the Professor stated.

"They surely would," Mrs. Robinson agreed as she joined her husband.

"They could certainly do much worse," Smith remarked. "In fact, they already have."

The Asmani erupted into laughter. A raucous round of curses, both verbal and physical were unleashed at the mention of Mal J'hat. M'jek arrived just in time to hear some of the more colorful ones.

M'jek smiled as he spotted Smith looking much better than he'd found him earlier.

"You're looking well, Doctor Smith."

"I'm feeling well, M'jek."

As M'jek began removing the devices from Smith's left side, Smith remarked, "You know, we could use such devices on the Jupiter 2. You must show me how they work. Perhaps between Will, the Robot, and I, we could find a way to build one for ourselves."

M'jek handed Smith two of the devices. "Keep them." He lowered his voice to a whisper, "Consider them payment rendered for your assistance."

Smith accepted the devices, but thought a moment, somewhat puzzled. "You saved my life. I thought my assistance was repayment to you. I thought we were 'even'," he whispered back.

"As far as I'm concerned, we could never repay you for what you've done. This will have to do."

Smith graciously accepted the devices. "Thank you, my friend."

"You're very welcome," M'jek replied. "I hate to impose on you, doctor, but we could use your help at the makeshift clinics we've set up. There are quite a number of wounded and not enough medical personnel to treat them all."

"Of course," Smith answered.

"I will send someone for you tomorrow. As your doctor," M'jek grinned, "I insist you get a full night's rest first."

Smith nodded. With the fatigue he was feeling, he had no doubt he would comply with his doctor's orders.

...

The crew of the Jupiter 2, with the exception of Doctor Smith, spent the next morning taking inventory, inspecting the ship, cleaning, and starting repair work. Smith had left early to assist M'jek at the various clinics that had been set up in the dozens of camps that dotted the plains.

In addition to their medical work, they took a census of the survivors and devised a system to reunite families and friends. Smith was relieved many of the aliens he'd grown fond of had survived the tumult, including Kress, whom he'd spotted nursing wounded at one of the clinics. Still, there were more casualties than Smith deemed "acceptable", some killed by Asmani guards and many more by the explosions. Many of the dead he had known, including the strong, but generally docile Kir Gal who had hid him from guards. He couldn't help but feel somewhat responsible. M'jek seemed to sense this and often reminded him of how many he saved. Without his help, they were all doomed to a dreary existence and eventual death in captivity. Smith shoved the negative thoughts aside as he cared for his patients. He'd saved the ones that mattered most and decided to console himself with that.

Meanwhile, T'pat had successfully delivered news of the defeat of Mal J'hat to the palace site without incident. The population there pledged to help rebuild their society under new leadership. T'pat worked closely with the Grand Master, who encouraged T'pat all too eagerly to accept the leadership role Smith had recommended him for, the one he himself did not want.

...

Once the situation had stabilized, the Asmani planned a grand celebration of their newfound freedom. All work ceased to prepare for it. The Asmani scavenged what they could from the ruins of the base and from the palace. The Robinsons and many of the aliens contributed what they could find or hunt down in the nearby woods. Smith and M'jek spent their time building a still and brewing up some potent concoctions. Artisans from the various cultures worked on creating some of their native instruments, carving and sculpting monuments to the occasion, and otherwise contributing their talents in whatever ways they could.

When everything was ready, all that could attend met in the center of the plains. There, they shared food, drink, stories, music, and the best each culture had to offer. What was planned for one day turned into three, as no one wanted it to end. The event was like a salve to deep wounds, a healing most thought would never come.

On the fourth day, they remembered those who were not there to celebrate with them, including K'val, to bring closure to a horrific ordeal. Each culture held memorials according to their custom. The Robinsons, fortunate that their party was whole, attended memorials for friends. It was too much for Smith to bear, so he slipped away to a quiet spot with a bottle of M'jek's finest to remember in his own way, in solitude.

With the last of the memorials over, the celebration was declared over and everyone returned to the work of rebuilding.

When everything had been assessed, the Major broke the news to the Robinsons that repairs to the Jupiter 2 would take a few months. The revelation brought mixed feelings. On the one hand, they wanted to leave the scene of their worst nightmare as quickly as possible, and the bad memories with it. On the other, they'd be leaving new friends they would sorely miss.

Upon hearing the plight of the Jupiter 2, Asmani engineers divided their efforts, dedicating time and materials to help the Robinsons on their way as well as building and repairing ships to return the former prisoners to their home planets.

M'jek and Smith were busy as well, with plans for a hospital for the Asmani and aliens that chose to remain on the planet as settlers, the newest of Asmani citizens. With the efforts of an eager and talented construction crew, the new hospital was built and ready for business in short order. While repairs to the Jupiter 2 continued, Smith spent most of his time helping M'jek at the hospital, returning to the ship for occasional meals and rest from his duties.

As repairs to the Jupiter 2 neared completion, Smith scaled back on his duties at the hospital, in anticipation of lift-off. Despite his knowledge of the affection the Robinsons held for him, a small part of him couldn't help but worry they'd take off without him.

With a week left to go until their ship was space-worthy, M'jek arrived in the Robinson's camp. He was there on business and not just a visit. He found the entire Jupiter 2 party sitting at a table outside, enjoying a meal together in the pleasantness of the sunny day.

"Doctor Smith, I'm sorry to disturb your meal, but I wish to speak with you," M'jek announced.

"What is it?" Smith answered.

M'jek hesitated a moment, uncomfortable about saying what he had to say in front of the others. "Well, I... I wished to ask you if you would consider staying here as chief physician of our hospital. We have decided to dedicate the structure in your name."

Smith's eyebrows rose in surprise, as did that of the others sitting at the table. He quickly stood. "I think, perhaps, this is something we should discuss in private." He grabbed M'jek's elbow and guided him to a spot out of earshot.

A quiet conversation broke out at the table, speculating on Smith's response. Will sat quietly, worrying he was about to lose his friend again.

"M'jek, I think you have already surmised my answer, but deemed it necessary to ask anyway, in the hope I might surprise you," Smith answered.

"Yes," M'jek answered, dejected. "I had hoped there was a chance, but I realize you would not go through so much trouble for them only to leave them." He sighed heavily.

"I am truly flattered by the offer," Smith replied, "but you would make a more fitting chief physician."

M'jek smiled. "Well then, will you at least do us the honor of spending your last days teaching your medical knowledge to our young medical staff?"

Smith's eyes lit up. "The chance to mold young minds and impart my knowledge to them? I can't resist the opportunity."

"Can you come immediately? I understand your timetable to lift-off is very short, so time is of the essence."

"Yes, let me pack a few things and let's be off!" Smith ran eagerly into the ship and reappeared minutes later, suitcase in hand.

The sight of Smith, packed and eager to leave, caused much consternation in the Robinson party.

"Doctor Smith!" Will cried, as Smith neared M'jek's vehicle.

The Professor placed a hand on Will's shoulder. "Now, son, Doctor Smith is free to make his own decisions."

Will shrugged off his father's hand and yelled out to Smith again. Smith turned and was surprised to see the anguish on the boy's face.

"What is it, William?"

"Aren't you even going to say goodbye?"

Smith followed Will's gaze to his suitcase and realization dawned on his face. He dropped the case and walked back to the table.

"Oh, my dear boy, in my haste I seemed to have given the wrong impression. I am not leaving... not permanently. I turned down M'jek's offer of a position at the hospital. I am merely going to teach some of the medical staff for the remainder of our stay here. I will return. I promise you that."

Will nodded, his frown quickly turning to a smile. Everyone at the table seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.

"I will see you all in seven days," Smith declared, then turned to leave with M'jek.

...

True to his word, Smith returned to the Jupiter 2 in seven days, acting quite pompous and self-satisfied. It was quite clear he had enjoyed the attention and notoriety he'd received at the hospital. Before he had left, he had said heartfelt goodbyes to M'jek and T'pat, in case he might not get the chance once he returned to the Jupiter 2.

As the crew of the Jupiter 2 made preparations to lift off, a large crowd of former prisoners gathered around the humans' camp site. Nearly all of the alien species they had come in contact with on the planet were represented. They were there to see the humans off.

The Robinsons, Major West, the Robot, and Doctor Smith stood on and around the ramp to the ship as John Robinson addressed the crowd. He spoke on behalf of his entire party, expressing thanks for everyone's assistance during their ordeal. He reserved special thanks to the Asmani chief medical officer, M'jek, who stood near the front of the crowd.

"Without the daring risks you took, we would have one less member of our family. We thank you for bringing Doctor Smith back to us," the Professor finished.

A cheer rose up from the crowd. Several aliens near M'jek clapped him on the back and offered their gratitude as well. He smiled, somewhat embarrassed at the unexpected attention he was receiving.

As things quieted down, a lithe female figure sauntered through the crowd, which parted for her as she neared the Jupiter 2. It was Kress.

Smith spotted her in the crowd and his breath caught for a moment. A big grin spread across his face, the hope that she was headed for him his only thought.

She stopped in front of him and his heart started to race. "Doctor Smith, the Utak are very grateful to you and your family for helping us gain our freedom. I have been chosen as a representative of my people to thank you."

West whispered to the Professor, "Why does he get all the thanks?"

The Professor whispered back, "Because we would get in serious trouble for accepting that kind of 'thanks'."

West only grumbled in response.

Smith looked to the Professor on his right and the Major on his left. "Strictly in the interest of 'research', gentlemen."

"Oh, brother," West muttered. "Smith, I don't think it's a good idea for you to..."

Before the Major could finish, Kress had wrapped her arms around the doctor and pulled him in for a deep kiss. He slid his hands around her waist and closed his eyes in anticipation. Another cheer rose up from the crowd, accompanied by several alien equivalents of "wolf whistles". Smith accepted her willingly and her tongue darted unobstructed through his lips to gently pierce the soft upper palate of his mouth. Once again he felt a rush of warm, tingling sensations envelop his body as the drug she had just administered quickly took effect. His eyelids became heavy and he began to lose himself in the feeling. Just as he was about to completely surrender, he felt her tongue tangle with his for a moment and then delicately puncture the soft tissue under his tongue.

Kress withdrew and whispered breathily into his ear, "This will be very special."

Before Smith's brain could register her comment, his body shuddered and his eyes rolled back in his head. A low, throaty moan of pleasure accompanied the lopsided grin that tugged at his lips. His legs turned to jelly and the Professor and Major West caught him as he lost consciousness.

Kress smiled seductively and caressed Smith's face with slender fingers one last time. She decided that while she'd miss all the humans she'd met, she'd miss this particular one the most. She waved goodbye to the crew of the Jupiter 2 and sauntered back to the midst of the crowd.

The Major couldn't help but watch as Kress left. He exhaled loudly and shook his head slightly to rid himself of the thoughts she inspired. Smith, you lucky bastard, he thought and for a moment wondered what pleasant thoughts were currently occupying the doctor's brain. He quickly brought himself back to the present.

"Uh, we should probably get sleeping beauty here all strapped in for the ride," West suggested as he readjusted his grip on the slumbering doctor.

"Yes, let's. He's getting heavy," the Professor concurred.

Continue to Chapter 26: The Truth According To Doctor Smith

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