There were just hours before the scheduled execution and Smith sat quietly in thought in his cell. Mrs. Robinson walked over and sat next to the forcefield, prepared to offer some companionship or a sympathetic ear.
“Doctor Smith?” Mrs. Robinson said softly. “Would you like some company?”
Her voice broke Smith from his reverie and he turned to regard her. “Yes, my dear lady. I appreciate the gesture. However, I can't promise I will be much company in return.”
“That's understandable,” she stated.
Smith went back to staring at a spot on the wall his gaze had already burned a hole through in the past hour, glad to at least have someone supportive near.
“Would you like to talk about anything?” Mrs. Robinson prodded.
Smith started to say something, but abruptly closed his mouth. He sighed and then started to say something else, again closing his mouth before he could begin.
“Mrs. Robinson, there is plenty I would like to say, but I'm finding it difficult. I simply don't have the courage or the will to express my thoughts at the moment,” he confessed. “By the time I find them, I fear it will be too late.”
“Just take it a little at a time then,” she encouraged. “You can tell me.”
Smith's gaze turned back to Mrs. Robinson. “You have always been an understanding and sympathetic ear, very easy to talk to. That hasn't gone unappreciated all these years,” Smith confessed. Mrs. Robinson smiled in response to the compliment. “As you can imagine,” he continued, “I've had plenty of time for contemplation lately.” His gaze went back to the wall. “I've come to at least one conclusion about the last few years of my life.”
“And what's that?” she asked.
“I've been handed a curse and a blessing,” Smith replied.
“How so?” she asked, intrigued.
Gaze still riveted to the wall, he explained, “I was cursed the moment I was trapped aboard the Jupiter 2. I was cursed to end up here. I was cursed to have to endure hardship and challenge in the many years in between. But…” He turned to look at Mrs. Robinson once more and hesitated a moment before he finally admitted, “I was blessed to endure it all with a family named Robinson.”
Mrs. Robinson smiled, touched by the doctor's sentiment. “Oh, Doctor Smith,” she said quietly.
“It's true, madame,” Smith insisted.
“Well,” Mrs. Robinson replied, “I can't say we've exactly been blessed by your presence, Doctor Smith…”
Smith chuckled softly at the honest assessment.
“…but, you have brought a measure of adventure and entertainment to our lives.” She smiled. “We'll miss you.”
Smith grew quiet and simply nodded in affirmation. The two talked a little while longer until Smith admitted he would like to be alone. Mrs. Robinson understood and gave the doctor some space.
Smith stared out of the transparent wall of his cell, watching for the guards that would come for him soon. The Major and the Professor stood nearby, keeping their own silent watch. A low murmur traveling through the cavernous room alerted Smith to the guards' approach. When he finally spotted them, the icy hand of fear gripped his heart and a rush of adrenaline through his veins signaled his body to flee the impending danger. But, he had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
As the guards approached, Smith looked to his young friend Will. Fear and concern were etched into the boy's face. He looked to the others, one by one, and saw the same emotions evident on their faces as well. Knowing that fear and concern was for him, he swallowed hard and straightened himself to his full height, determined that his last moments, the ones his friends would most likely remember him by, would be dignified, no matter how much intestinal fortitude he had to muster.
Despite his resolve to combat the coward within, he trembled noticeably. One of the guards lowered the forcefield that imprisoned the doctor and two others flanked him, each grabbing an arm to pull him along when he would inevitably resist like all the others. Smith briefly looked into the dispassionate faces of the two guards, then straight ahead, focusing on some distant point to keep himself from looking to the Robinsons, which he knew would cause him to break down.
A dozen guards or more fought back the attempts of the other prisoners to interfere with the plans to execute the human doctor. Another pair of guards gathered together the Robinsons and Major West, explaining that Mal J'hat requested their presence at the execution. As distasteful as the thought was to them, they followed along in the solemn procession, determined that their friend would not die alone among strange aliens. The guards chained them together and surrounded them to keep them from attempting something foolish in an attempt to save their friend.
Though he didn't resist as many others had before, his legs did give out once or twice during the lengthy walk. When they arrived at the execution chamber, Smith balked at the threshold to the door, leaning all his weight backwards and refusing to enter. A guard shoved him inside and locked the door. Smith looked around the room, terrified, his mind barely comprehending his surroundings as his heart raced.
Beyond the large glass windows of the room, Smith could see the Robinsons being seated in the first row of what appeared to be bleachers, each of them chained to a railing that ran in front of the bleachers, to prevent trouble. The Professor and the Major each tested the strength of their bindings. West wrenched and pulled so hard that the manacles bit into his wrists. Both found they were truly helpless to do anything and slumped into their seats. Farther up, Smith caught a glimpse of the smiling visage of Mal J'hat himself. If he could form a coherent thought at that moment, it would probably have been disgust for his alien captor's gruesome form of entertainment.
Smith's head whipped around quickly when he heard the door of the chamber open. His eyebrows rose in surprise, but then furrowed in confusion and anger. It was M'jek and he was carrying a bag which he set on a nearby table. The alien physician walked over to Smith and placed his hands on the trembling doctor's shoulders. “I am sorry, my friend. I was unable to convince Mal J'hat to spare your life, but I did persuade him to allow a more humane method of execution. I am here to administer the drugs that will painlessly end your life.”
“I suppose I should thank you,” Smith somehow managed to reply. “But since I shall end up dead in either circumstance, I'm not quite sure what there is to thank you for.”
M'jek nodded solemnly, understanding the human doctor's reasoning. “If you cannot thank me, I hope you will at least forgive me, my friend, for it is a duty I do not wish to perform.”
Smith stared into the alien's eyes. He saw sincerity. He saw sadness. He saw a glimpse of something else, but he was unsure what. He had no doubt M'jek meant what he said and nodded in affirmation that the doctor was forgiven.
“I will give you a few minutes… to say goodbye,” M'jek motioned towards the Robinsons.
Smith turned to look out the window at the seats where the only people who mattered in his life sat. Slowly he walked towards the glass, not wanting to say goodbye, but knowing he had to.
He went first to those he felt closest to, the children. He placed both of his hands against the glass and bent down to face them eye to eye. Will and Penny each placed their smaller hands against the glass opposite to his, tears already streaming down their faces.
“William… Penny… This is difficult for me,” Smith admitted. The children nodded in understanding. “I know I have said it before, but I truly do mean it. I have come to view you two as my own. I regret I will not be able to see you grow into the handsome man and beautiful woman I know you will become.” If you survive this place, came the unbidden thought.
Penny started to sob and Will put his arm around her, his own face tracked with tears.
“Shhh… Shhh… My dear, it will be ok.” Smith's voice caught in his throat and he bowed his head to fight his own tears that were threatening to fall. He composed himself and began again. “I hope you will think of me on occasion and when you do, think of me kindly. Remember all the good times we had together.”
Will and Penny both vowed to do just that.
“Goodbye, my sweet Penny.” He kissed his hand and placed it back against hers on the glass. “Goodbye, dear William.” Again, he kissed his hand and placed it back against Will's on the glass. “Mind your parents,” he added, acknowledging his days of overseeing the childrens' activities were over.
The others couldn't help but be touched by Smith's farewell to the children. Major West shifted uncomfortably with the heavy emotion that seemed to hang in the air and wrapped an arm around Judy's waist to calm himself. Even M'jek was affected by the scene. He turned his back to it and readied his tools for the task before him.
Both children croaked out a barely audible goodbye. Smith lingered a moment more, memorizing their faces. Then, he stood and wiped his eyes with his sleeve.
The children went to their mother and held her tight, seeking comfort from the loss they were about to experience. John Robinson stood next to Maureen, one arm tightly around her.
Smith moved to address John and Maureen, but found it difficult to look them in the eye. If it wasn't for his actions over the years, the family might safely be at their intended destination instead of being captive of an alien species, possibly doomed to die just as he was about to.
When he finally worked up the courage to look them in the eye, all he could think to say was a whispered, “Forgive me.” He had no time to elaborate and no need. The Robinsons were no fools and he was sure they knew of all his transgressions towards them. Even if they hadn't suspected him of sabotaging the Jupiter 2, he'd certainly caused them enough trouble in other ways. Maureen dabbed a tear from her eye and looked to her husband. They both looked back at Smith and nodded. Smith seemed to exhale in relief and looked as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He simply nodded back appreciatively, as his voice briefly failed him.
Maureen put her hand on the glass, as the children had done. John followed suit. Smith placed his hands against theirs and they said their quiet goodbyes.
Again, Smith wiped his eyes with a sleeve and moved on toward Judy. “My dear Judy… You are the kindest soul I know, coming to my aid, even when, perhaps, I didn't always deserve it. Mere words cannot express my appreciation for your kindness.”
Judy put a hand to her mouth as tears flowed freely down her face. “Doctor Smith, I'm going to miss you,” she managed to say, her voice trembling.
A melancholy smile appeared briefly on Smith's face. He glanced at West, “I'm not sure what she sees in you, but you're a lucky man, Major.”
Judy tried to smile at the doctor's last barb, but her smile was quickly replaced by tears. West placed a comforting arm around her shoulders. She put her hand to the glass and said goodbye. Smith put his hand to hers, no longer bothering to hide or wipe away the tears on his face.
Smith looked at Major West. He leaned close to the glass and whispered four solemn words, “Take care of them.” Then, he turned to face his final moments.
From behind him he heard, “Is that an order, sir?”
Confused, he turned and looked at the Major again. “What?”
“Is that an order… Colonel?” West snapped his hand to his brow in a crisp salute and held it.
Smith was shaken as he read the Major's face and recognized the gesture as a genuine display of respect.
“That's an order, Major,” Smith confirmed in quavering, but commanding baritone. He brought a trembling hand to his brow and snapped it downward, ending the salute. The Major did likewise and put his hand to the glass. Smith walked back toward the glass and touched it briefly. “Farewell, Major.”
“Goodbye… Doctor Smith.”
The doctor turned again and walked back toward the table where M'jek was waiting. M'jek directed him to lay down and he reluctantly did so, his gaze locked on his family. The alien doctor explained what he was going to do and how the drugs would work.
Smith looked at M'jek, nodded, and interrupted, “I know the procedure, doctor.”
M'jek and his assistants then attempted to secure restraints on Smith's arms, legs, and chest. Smith knew it was futile, but panic overcame him and he resisted anyway. Once secured, he realized he couldn't fight back if he wanted to, not that it would do any good. He pulled hard against the restraints and finding no give to them, he lay his head down on the table and closed his eyes to the stinging tears starting to form. His heart beat wildly in his chest.
As M'jek hooked up a heart monitor and started the IV lines, brief snippets of memories surfaced and played through Smith's mind. Some were from early childhood, others from his life on Earth, but the most cherished of them were of life with his adoptive family, the Robinsons.
M'jek announced he was going to inject the first drug. Smith turned his head and looked at his family. He saw grief on their faces that mirrored the grief in his own heart. The Robinsons bowed their heads briefly, as if in prayer. Tears dripped sideways across Smith's face and onto the table beneath him. Doctor Smith had tasted many failures in his life, but this was the most bitter of them all. He had come there intent on freeing them and never even came close. He felt the drug start to take effect and he struggled to keep his eyes open. He wanted one last glance at his family before he left them. He quickly lost the struggle. As his eyes shut, a fresh round of tears welled up in the eyes of those who loved him.
M'jek announced he was going to inject the last drug. Shortly afterward, a shrill sound from the monitors signaled that life had left the doctor's body. M'jek checked for a pulse and looked up into the audience at Mal J'hat. He nodded solemnly and began to remove the monitors and IVs.
It was over so suddenly, in a matter of minutes. The Robinsons and Major West sat in shock and grief. They watched as M'jek and his assistants removed the restraints, lifted Doctor Smith's limp body, and rested it reverently on a gurney. M'jek draped a sheet over the body and briefly rested a hand on the doctor's chest. He then signaled for his assistants to move the body to a small, windowless room adjoining the chamber.
Mal J'hat smiled as he and his entourage came down to the chamber and entered the adjoining room. Mal J'hat leaned over Smith's body and placed his hand on the human doctor's chest. He held it there for several seconds and then placed his ear there as well. Satisfied Smith was truly dead, he nodded to M'jek in acknowledgment. As he entered the execution chamber again, he looked at the humans and smiled wickedly. He pointed at the Major, as if to say “you're next”. The Professor and the Major strained against their chains, angry, defiant, and eager to get their hands on Mal J'hat. Mal J'hat laughed as he turned and left.
M'jek walked over to the Robinsons. “I'm sorry,” he apologized. “I had grown fond of him. He will be missed.”
“Then why did you kill him?” Major West growled, pulling instinctively on the chains that bound him in place.
“I did not enjoy this, Major West. It was simply best this way,” M'jek replied calmly. “If Mal J'hat had had his wish, it would have been a prolonged and painful death. I hope you will realize this and forgive me as Doctor Smith did.”
West was about to wind himself up for a fight, but Judy calmed him.
Ever the diplomat, John Robinson replied, “We understand. Thank you for sparing him that.”
M'jek nodded and with another apology, went back to the room where they had taken Doctor Smith.
Smith had the vague awareness of people calling his name. They were familiar voices, but voices he hadn't heard in years. He sat up and opened his eyes, only to have to shield them from a blinding white light. Slowly, the light dimmed enough that he could see who was calling him. There, in the corner of the small room, stood his mother and his great aunt.
“Mother? Aunt Maude? What… what are you doing here?” Smith looked around the room. It was then that he saw his own body laying on the table. “I'm dead.” He looked up at them again. “I'm dead, aren't I?”
They both nodded in unison. Then his mother spoke. “Zachary… son… you need to come with us.”
A sense of peace enveloped him and he found himself drawn toward his dearly departed kin. He took a few steps, but then remembered his other family. He turned and walked the short distance through the wall into the execution chamber. His mother and aunt followed him. He saw his adoptive family still there. M'jek was talking with them. The children were clinging to their mother, tears streaming down their faces.
“They'll be fine,” his aunt Maude assured.
Ignoring his mother's pleas, Smith strode over to the Robinsons and Major West. He knelt in front of the children, trying to reassure them he was okay, but they couldn't hear him.
“Zachary… please, son, come with us,” Smith's mother implored.
“I can't,” he replied, unable to take his eyes off the children. “I came here to help them.”
“You don't have a choice, Zachary,” aunt Maude insisted. “Your old life is over. It's time to move on. Come with us.”
Smith stood and turned back to his mother and his aunt. Despite his desire to deny the truth, he knew his aunt was right. They beckoned to him and held their arms open to receive him. Smith looked over his shoulder once more, brow furrowed in sorrow and concern. He didn't want to leave them, but he knew he had to. He smiled sadly at the Robinsons and Major West, turned back to his waiting family members, and walked into the light.
Continue to Chapter 17: Second Chances