After the tea was gone, Smith sat in his bed for several hours bemoaning his fate. It took a while before he spared a thought for the fate of the Robinsons and Major West. His overwrought mind conjured up all manner of cruel and gruesome misfortunes for his friends, overwhelming him with anxiety and worry. Eventually, his emotion spent, he fell into a fitful, but merciful, sleep.
When Smith awoke, he tried to convince himself it was all just a horrible nightmare or perhaps lingering delirium from his illness. The evidence, however, remained as a rude reminder of his new reality. He was utterly alone with little recourse to change that fact.
Smith eyed the Robot again, wanting desperately to get to work fixing him, both for companionship and, hopefully, answers to what happened to his companions. However, as his stomach reminded him, he could not remember his last meal. Sustenance, as it often did for Zachary Smith, would have to take priority.
Having little zeal for culinary experimentation after the evening he'd had, Smith settled for slightly stale muffins slathered in some congealed substance that might have at one time passed for jam. Though palatable, he didn't relish his meal as he usually did. Popping the last bit of muffin into his mouth, he brushed away stray crumbs and headed toward the Robot.
In a matter of minutes, the doctor had removed several panels and started assessing the extent of the damage. He mentally cataloged the parts he'd need, which fortunately so far, he knew were available in the Jupiter 2's inventory. The damage was seemingly confined to a small, concentrated area near the laser blast, but he couldn't be positive until he'd replaced the most obviously damaged parts. He just hoped no short circuit escaped his notice, as he had no desire to see any more of the mechanical man's components go up in a poof of smoke and shower of sparks. Satisfied with his diagnostics, he disconnected the ohmmeter and began methodical removal of damaged wiring and circuit boards.
“It's been a long time, old friend, since I've seen some of these components.”
A wry grin briefly tugged at Smith's mouth as memories of his earliest work on the B-9 filtered back into his mind. As he removed each part, he studied it as if it was some archaeological artifact, then placed it in an orderly fashion on a nearby tray.
“I imagine you'd be obsolete on Earth by now,” Smith sighed as he struggled with a stubborn screw. “Long since replaced with something smaller, lighter, faster, more capable,” he grunted with exertion as the stubborn screw finally gave way, “and probably less expensive.”
The doctor patted the Robot's metal hide. “But don't worry,” he smiled. “You'll always be state-of-the-art here,” he absentmindedly gave a wave of his screwdriver-bearing hand, “as we really have no ‘art' to speak of. At some point, I suppose, you'll reach the point at which you can no longer be repaired. Then, I imagine, you will become the galaxy's largest and most expensive coat rack.”
Smith frowned. Tossing insults just wasn't the same when the intended victim couldn't hurl back. It just wasn't sporting. He wiped the sweat from his brow with a sleeve and set his screwdriver down on the tray.
“Not that you'd care, but I simply must rest. I haven't been required to be this resourceful in quite some time.” He took a seat on the floor near the Robot, folding his hands in his lap. “Unfortunately, I believe it was that resourcefulness that got me into this whole mess in the first place.”
Smith imagined how the Robot would respond, probably with a flippant remark that still somehow hit the target of truth much closer to the center than the doctor cared to acknowledge. Even after several years, it still simultaneously annoyed and intrigued Smith as to how the Robot had developed some clearly human characteristics. There was simply nothing in the many functions and subroutines of the Robot's programming that could account for it, at least not to the sophistication he was seeing. He should know, he wrote most of them himself. Clearly, it was due to either an unexpected glitch or the sheer genius of the programmer. Smith decided to choose the latter and be done with it.
The doctor's mind wandered back several years to his time at Alpha Control. Long before the Jupiter 2 was even launched, he'd kept his distance from the crew. “Just six more casualties in man's quest to colonize space“, he thought. “What business did man have out there anyway? Why not solve Earth's problems rather than running from them?” That was such a strange thought coming from an avowed coward who ran from most of his own problems. In any event, the Jupiter 2 was a necessary sacrifice, he decided, for the good of his bank account and for whatever the aims were of whoever was paying him. If he hadn't thought of it in those terms, he never could have talked himself into it.
Now that he was trapped along for the ride, he depended upon them for his very survival. He briefly considered the concept of karma, wondering if there truly was such a thing, and if this was some cosmic justice for his past misdeeds. “No,” he mused aloud. “Justice would have been much harsher.” He looked cautiously around, knowing he had no audience, but checking anyway. “Things could be much worse than being stuck with the Robinsons,” he decided.
His thoughts turned back to his companions. “No, not companions,” he thought. “Friends.” He shook his head. “No, not friends,” he corrected himself once more. “Family.”
His mind struggled with the concept. His family, most of it anyway, had shown him about as much love as a pack of rabid wolves fighting over a dead carcass. The Robinsons were so very different. He had tried to kill them and was certain that they knew that. They were not idiots. Still, he did his best to convince them he was not the culprit. He played the fool, played the coward. Well, not so much played the coward as merely gave into his natural instinct to flee from danger while others more courageously fought that urge. After all, running away had on more than one occasion allowed him to see another day. Still, they suffered the fool. They protected the coward. They even tolerated his hubris, to a point. At times, he felt they might even feel genuine affection for him, despite what they knew him to be. He wasn't sure why. He wasn't even sure he cared why. The fact that they did was enough and he admitted to himself that he appreciated it more than he ever could or would express to them. But, that was all gone now.
He shook his head to release the unpleasant train of thought that was gaining momentum in his mind. If he followed that track, he knew he'd end up in a place he couldn't bear. With an audible groan, Smith pushed himself up off the floor, brushing the non-existent dust from his pants. He gazed in the direction of the Robot, the last remnant of his “family”, and frowned.
Smith was not normally a patient man. He preferred instant gratification with as little effort on his part as possible. Repairing the Robot would neither be instant nor effortless and it grated on his nerves. With a heavy sigh, he gathered up the tray of damaged components and brought it with him to the storage area. He systematically found each needed part and replaced the damaged with the new, until he had everything he needed on the tray. He grabbed the soldering kit and a welding torch, just in case, and made his way back to the Robot.
Smith set the tray down and puzzled for a moment over which parts to replace first. He picked up an actuator for the Robot's right arm, turning it to the correct orientation for installation. Bracing himself with his left hand on the Robot's side, he inserted his right hand, which held the actuator, into the gaping hole in the front of the Robot. He struggled to see inside the darkness of the confined space and missed seating the component as his hand kept encountering resistance. Finally, he found the proper spot and the base snapped into place with an audible pop.
Securing the ends of the actuator arm was going to be even more difficult in the confined space. His right hand sought the screwdriver on the tray, while his eyes stayed fixed on the actuator within the dim recesses of the cavity. He fumbled blindly for a moment and, not finding the tool, spared a glance at the tray. It took a moment for his mind to register the red smear he saw there. Blood. He examined his hand and quickly found the wound, a neat razor thin cut, no doubt caused by the sharp metal that made up the component bays in the Robot's chest. He hadn't even felt a thing, he still didn't. He looked around and spied droplets of red on the floor, on his clothes, and slowly dripping down the front of the Robot itself.
The doctor took a deep breath and a wry grin formed on his lips. He pointed an accusing finger at the Robot and shook it in mock anger. “You wound me, ninny!” he pronounced with melodramatic flare. “Cut me to the quick, even as you sit there lifeless.” He held his wounded hand before the Robot's inoperative visual sensors for effect. “I,” he dramatically placed his non-bloodied hand on his chest, “who would breathe life back into your cold, dead transistors once again. How could you?” His brow furrowed and he shot his most wounded look at unseeing mechanical eyes. Then, his features softened and he chuckled softly. Slipping into the Brooklyn accent of his youth, he quipped “That's gratitude for ya.”
His brief but self-satisfying performance over, the doctor cleaned the wound, bandaged it, and wiped away the blood from the “crime scene”. A quick search turned up gloves thick enough to protect his hands from further damage, but thin enough to not hinder his repairs. He donned them, grabbed the screwdriver, and continued.
After several dropped screws, a few bruised knuckles, and much cursing, the actuator was secure. Next, Smith focused on the circuit boards. As he was about to remove one of the boards from its shiny, silver anti-static wrapping, he remembered he hadn't grounded himself to avoid static discharge, which might harm the sensitive components. He hoped that lapse hadn't already damaged something. He mentally reprimanded himself for having to make so many trips to the storage area as he sought an anti-static wrist wrap. A few minutes later, he returned, secured the device to his left wrist, and grounded the other end.
Smith again picked up the board, still contained in its silver wrapping, and removed it carefully. A quick check of the component bay and the pins on the back of the board confirmed proper orientation for installation.
“This won't hurt a bit, old chum,” Smith grinned as he slid the board into place. He encountered resistance, then pushed with equal pressure to both sides of the board, and was rewarded with a “click” as the board was secured. Removing another board from its packaging, he repeated the procedure in another slot.
“Piece of cake,” he stated, rubbing his gloved hands together in satisfaction. Cake. He salivated slightly and moistened his lips as he imagined one of Mrs. Robinson's delicious chocolate cakes baking in the galley. He could almost smell the aroma.
“Stop it, Zachary,” he chided himself, the tone of his baritone voice serious. “Keep your mind on the task at hand. Your survival, and perhaps your sanity, depends on it.”
As the last in the array of circuit boards was snapped into place, the doctor's efforts turned to repairing the wiring. He sat there, befuddled for a moment at the jumbled bird's nest of burnt wires. Then, calling upon a talent he kept to himself for the obvious intellectual advantage it gave him, he closed his eyes and mentally flipped through schematics of the Robot's innards he had seen just once before. His formidable memory presented the correct schematic and he analyzed it one section at a time.
Flipping open a small pocket knife, he set to work scraping insulation off two wires dangling from the Robot's chest cavity. He twisted the exposed wires together, then grabbed the soldering iron. Priming the tip of the iron with a little solder, he held the device to the wires and expertly guided the flowing metal alloy across the whole connection. He paused to let the joint cool and then ran his fingers over the length of it, feeling for any exposed wiring. Satisfied with the job, he tore off a piece of black electrical tape from the roll on the tray and tightly wrapped it around the soldered connection.
Referring frequently to the schematic that had until recently been tucked away in the dark recesses of his brain, he worked section by section, wire by wire, for hours until the last connection had been repaired. Standing up, he placed both hands on his lower back and stretched the kinks out as best he could. As he wiped the sweat from his brow with a sleeved forearm, his stomach reminded him that he'd foregone lunch to finish his task.
Smith took a quick inventory of the food supplies before he prepared his lunch. The supply was adequate, but the variety was sorely lacking, especially for a man of his refined tastes. He would remedy that with a supplement of fresh fruit and vegetables, if this planet had any, once the Robot was in working order and could help him. As he had with breakfast, he ate his meal quickly. He was anxious to test the Robot to see if his repairs had been successful.
Eagerly, he walked to the Robot and admired his handiwork once more before he closed up the Robot's chest cavity with the various panels he had removed to gain access. Smith checked the panels once more to make sure they were secure then took a deep breath. “The moment of truth.” He powered up the Robot. Several lights on the Robot's panel lit up and flickered while many remained dead.
Failure. The word echoed in his mind. “Damn!” Smith cursed and slammed his hand into the Robot in frustration. Immediately, the Robot's bubble popped up and his panels lit up like a Christmas tree. The familiar whirring of his various motors and sensors broke the tense silence.
“Ugh. Did anybody get the license plate of the truck that hit me?” the Robot groaned.
A smile tugged at the doctor's lips. “I was hoping you could tell me.”
The Robot swiveled to face him. “Doctor Smith, where are the others?”
“Taken,” Smith stated, his brief smile replaced with a frown. “I don't know when, why, or by whom, but I have surmised how. By force. Their laser weapons knocked you out of commission. I've spent the last nine hours repairing you.”
“Thank you,” the Robot offered.
Smith simply nodded in acknowledgment. Several moments passed in silence before the Robot asked, “Are you ok, Doctor Smith?”
Having not received a response, he began to repeat his question, when Smith cut him off with a wave of his hand, “I'm fine. I'm fine.”
The Robot knew from analysis of the doctor's voice and body language, that wasn't quite the truth, but he let it pass.
“First thing's first,” Smith continued. “Systems check.”
“All systems in working order and performing within acceptable parameters,” the Robot reported. “You really did a fine repair job,” he added.
“That's enough,” Smith said gruffly. “We have work to do.”
The Robot studied Doctor Smith again. It had been several minutes already and he hadn't been insulted. That in itself was odd, but the fact that Doctor Smith had minimized all efforts to praise him for his repair work also concerned him. Doctor Smith was the one crew member of the Jupiter 2 he could never really completely figure out and today was no exception. Just when he thought he had, the doctor would behave in ways completely different from the established norm. He would have to keep his sensors glued to the man.
Smith paced back and forth in front of the mechanical man, his hands clasped behind his back. The Robot swiveled in unison with the doctor's motion in order to keep him within sight of his visual sensors. He questioned the Robot as if he were a witness to a crime, which essentially, he was. “What do you remember about the attack on the Jupiter 2?”
The Robot immediately related his experience on that fateful night. “Professor Robinson, Mrs. Robinson, and Major West were on the level above. My sensors detected several aliens in the vicinity, approaching the ship. I sounded a warning and was about to enter the lift when Professor Robinson commanded me to stay down here to protect the rest of the family. I complied with his command. I cannot report for certain what happened above, but my audio sensors detected laser fire. The aliens demanded weapons be dropped or Mrs. Robinson would be killed. My sensors indicate they complied and Mrs. Robinson was unharmed.”
Smith released an audible sigh of relief. He was about to ask another question when the Robot continued.
“Several of the aliens then came down to the lower level. Before I could charge my defensive systems, they had captured Judy Robinson. They handled her very roughly. When Will Robinson tried to intervene, the leader shot him. The last thing I remember…”
Smith abruptly stopped his pacing, “Will? They shot Will?”
Smith trembled, a little from fear, but mostly from anger. His knuckles grew white as he unconsciously clenched his fists tight. “Was he…?” His jaw clenched tight, refusing to speak the last word.
“Killed? Negative. My last scan before I was rendered inoperative indicated his wound was survivable,” the Robot reported.
Smith's clenched fists and jaw relaxed a bit at the news. “They wouldn't have bothered to take him otherwise,” Smith surmised. “Was anyone else harmed?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
“I don't suppose you know where they were headed,” Smith asked.
“Negative. However, they approached from the northeast. It is safe to assume that is the direction to which they returned.”
Smith stood silently, his hands fidgeting as he mulled things over in his mind.
“We must rescue them, Doctor Smith,” the Robot stated plainly.
When Smith didn't respond, the Robot continued, “If you won't, I will. They may not mean as much to you, but they are my family,” the Robot pronounced as he headed toward the lift.
“Wait!” Smith held his hand up, commanding the Robot to stop. He was loathe to admit it, especially to the Robot, but the Robinsons were his family now, too. Had he the courage, he would have gone after them the very second he discovered them missing. But he didn't. Grimacing slightly, as if the words were being forcibly extracted from him, he finally admitted, “You are not the only one who holds some affection for the Robinsons, my mechanical friend. But, we cannot just go running off after them without any preparation.”
“I am prepared,” the Robot countered.
“You may be prepared, but I am not. In case you've forgotten, I am human. A human that is still recovering from some unknown alien virus…”
“It's your fault you contracted it, Doctor Smith. You shouldn't have sneaked in to Will and Penny's rooms in an attempt to treat them. Mrs. Robinson had everything…”
“Silence, you ninny!” Smith commanded as his hand went up again to forestall any more off-topic discussion. The Robot complied with his order. “As I was saying, I need supplies: food, water, and medical. We need some semblance of a plan. And most of all, we need to learn everything we can about our new foe.”
“You are right,” the Robot conceded. “It would be best if the two of us prepared and planned, together.”
Smith simply nodded in response.
Continue to Chapter 3: Rocket Man