Chapter 9: Fools Rush In
Many of the guards, some of whom were strongly devoted to Mal J'hat, noticed Smith's growing rapport with T'pat. One in particular, calculating that a report of the doctor's activities may find him favor, decided to inform his chief.
"That is... interesting," Mal J'hat replied, deep in thought over the report he'd just heard. "I think it's about time I met this Doctor Smith."
"Very good, sir," the guard replied. "I will fetch him for you."
"The doctor needs to be taught a lesson on how things work here," Mal J'hat snarled.
As the Robinsons, Major West, and Doctor Smith were sharing another meal of prison rations together, several prisoners came rushing toward the Robinsons' camp. They were obviously very agitated. The Professor noticed their approach first and rose to greet them, an unsettling feeling growing in the pit of his stomach. The others turned to see what was going on.
Two large Kir Gal males grabbed the doctor's arms and started to haul him off. Smith took issue with their actions quite vocally while the Professor and Major attempted to step in and stop them.
The aliens explained that they had information that a guard was coming for Smith. Fearing that Mal J'hat knew that Smith had been aiding the prisoners and was intent on harming him, they had come to hide the doctor. Smith immediately became silent and trembled visibly at the news. He turned and bolted in the direction the Kir Gal had been taking him, the Kir Gal males following closely behind. They quickly caught up to him, grabbed his arms, and carried him faster than the terrified doctor could run.
Several of the remaining aliens quickly devised a plan with the Robinsons to stall and cover for the doctor's absence, while the rest of the aliens set off in different directions from the camp. One of the Kir Gal laid nonchalantly on the doctor's bed. Several moments later, the guard arrived.
"Where is Doctor Smith?" he inquired.
"He's not here," the Professor answered.
"I can see that," the guard barked, clearly agitated. "Where did he go?"
The humans all shrugged while the Kir Gal and Utak confirmed in their respective languages that they had no idea of the doctor's whereabouts.
The guard punched a button on the communicator on his wrist and made a request for something the humans didn't quite understand. The alien prisoners, however, seemed to know what was going on.
Within a few minutes, another guard arrived with a pair of four legged creatures that somewhat resembled dogs.
"The t'kurra will find him," the first guard announced as he took the leashes from the second guard.
"Is this his bed?" the guard asked, gesturing to where the Kir Gal lay.
The Professor nodded.
The guard ordered the Kir Gal off the bed and the t'kurra immediately began sniffing to try to pick up the doctor's scent. They were having trouble isolating the scent of the human over the stronger scent of the Kir Gal. The t'kurra sniffed aimlessly around the camp, confused. After a few minutes, one of them appeared to finally catch the scent and headed off in the direction the Kir Gal had taken Smith.
The Robinsons, Major West, and the aliens all cast worried glances at each other as the guards disappeared from sight. The Professor thanked the Kir Gal and Utak for their assistance before the aliens left to return to their own areas.
In the far reaches of the cavernous room, the Kir Gal were busy hiding the doctor under one of their beds. One female lay atop the bed while several Kir Gal children sat in front of it, the blanket draped over the side to conceal the doctor. Underneath it, Smith tried to keep himself from hyperventilating. He tried to listen to what was going on, but he could barely hear a thing over the furious pounding of his heart.
The Kir Gal grew nervous as they watched the team of t'kurra and their handlers steadily heading their direction. The t'kurra eventually pinpointed their quarry, alerting their masters by sniffing and growling at the bed.
The guards angrily ordered the prisoners away from the bed and they hesitantly complied. The guard who had informed Mal J'hat grabbed the blanket, pulled it off the bed, and tossed it aside. He knelt down and peered under the bed. What he saw was the frightened gaze of the human doctor looking back at him.
The guard grabbed the doctor's arm and tried pulling him out from underneath the bed, but Smith grasped whatever handhold he could manage with his other hand and resisted. He immediately released his grip, however, when he felt cold, sharp metal pressed against his neck. With one swift pull, the doctor slid out from underneath the bed. The two guards hauled him up to a standing position and shoved Smith forward, laser pistols trained on his back. Smith spared a glance over his shoulder and paled at the sight. He walked ahead as commanded, mind racing and heart pounding over his possible fate.
As soon as the guards were out of sight, one of the aliens went back to the Robinson camp to inform them of what had happened. He apologized, though the Professor assured him there was no need and again thanked them for taking a risk for the doctor. All the Robinsons and Major West could do was wait and pray that Smith would not be harmed.
The guard that had brought the team of t'kurra parted ways with the first guard when they reached the stockade entrance. The first guard marched Smith toward Mal J'hat's quarters.
The guard waved his hand in front of a panel on the outside of the chief's quarters. A speaker above the panel announced permission to enter. The guard grabbed Smith by the arm and dragged him along behind, then shoved him forward to face Mal J'hat. The chief casually reclined in a large well cushioned lounge chair, seemingly disinterested in the human that stood before him.
The guard saluted the leader and announced his visitor. Seeing as he'd have to interact with the prisoner, Mal J'hat donned the headset that would serve as translator. He dismissed the guard with a wave and sat up.
"Ah, yes," Mal J'hat responded through the headset. "You were with the humans from the ship we raided. Smith, is it?"
Smith nodded, wisely declining to speak unless absolutely necessary. His instincts told him to let the alien to steer the conversation and to keep his mouth shut.
"I have heard you've been quite busy, doctor," Mal J'hat stated. "Treating the prisoners' medical ailments..."
Smith again declined to comment and allowed the alien to continue.
"How is the boy?" Mal J'hat inquired, keenly aware, from the information the guard gave him, of the doctor's fondness for the little human.
"He's recovering, slowly but surely," Smith replied hesitantly.
Mal J'hat shook his head, a malevolent smirk on his face. "That's too bad. I should've finished him off when I had the chance. He's useless to us. At least the filthy t'kurra that roam around this place eat our garbage. The boy isn't even as useful as a stinking t'kurra," he laughed heartily at the insult.
Smith struggled to maintain a passive expression. He already knew he despised the alien simply from the stories he'd heard about him, but the more he spoke, the more Smith felt the urge to do something to wipe that smirk off his face. He only wished he had the courage to do so.
The doctor was not the only person in the complex who despised the alien leader. He was genuinely liked by very few individuals. His cruel and callous demeanor did not win him many friends, as Smith had learned quickly, but rank had its privileges. Mal J'hat reveled in his position of power and the freedom it gave him to taunt and torment those around him.
Mal J'hat quickly found he especially enjoyed harassing Smith. "Are you humans one of those species that displays their trophies on the wall? How do you think the boy's head would look right here?" he said pointing to a spot on the wall.
He could see from Smith's expression, the doctor was not amused. Smith's mind screamed at him to commence a blistering verbal assault against the alien, but he clenched his jaw shut to avoid saying something he would regret. His whole body tensed and trembled, a mixture of fear and rage building with no outlet. He grabbed the chain of his manacles and held it taut between his hands.
The chief needled him further. "I could feed the rest of him to the t'kurra. They do so love garbage," he laughed.
It briefly occurred to Smith that perhaps Mal J'hat was trying to goad him into a physical confrontation for some reason. What disturbed him even more was the thought that he was quickly reaching the point where he might actually oblige. He shook the thought out of his mind and tried to fortify himself against any further taunts the alien might hurl at him.
The doctor's instincts were correct. It was Mal J'hat's every intention to provoke the doctor into a confrontation. He had been informed of the other prisoners' attempts to hide and defend the doctor. In addition, his chief medical officer was involved in the human doctor's activities, meaning any misfortune that should befall Smith would most likely trigger an investigation. It was clear that his desire to rid himself of the pesky human would have to be handled delicately or he'd risk punishment from the high council. His father was likely still fuming from the reports of the last time the high council humiliated him. Unlike most things he did to prisoners, this would have to be done in as legal a manner as he could manage. Provoking the human to violence against him would be just the thing to ensure the doctor's demise and would send a strong message to the rest of the prison population.
He pressed a button on the gauntlet on his left arm. A voice responded and he ordered his guards to fetch the human boy named Will. Mal J'hat rose and selected a polearm from an impressive display of a multitude of weapons on the wall behind him. The weapon stood a foot shorter than both the alien and the human, including the spike on the end. It closely resembled a small halberd, only the axe blade was serrated. It was very ornate, most likely ceremonial, Smith guessed. But, as the doctor observed, it was definitely sharp enough to inflict fatal damage. The other end of the weapon held a smaller crescent shaped blade, just as sharp and intimidating.
Smith swallowed hard, realizing what Mal J'hat had in mind. His pent up rage quickly turned to pure fear. The doctor hated physical confrontations, only engaging in them when absolutely necessary. He had a gnawing feeling in his gut that for the sake of Will, and more importantly himself, he would have to stop Mal J'hat from carrying out his plans. Whether that meant verbal confrontation or physical, he did not know yet, but he decided then and there he'd do whatever was necessary. Despite the fear gnawing at him, he realized he couldn't live with himself if Will came to harm and he could have done something to stop it.
"What are you planning to do with that?" Smith inquired, his voice quavering.
"What do you think I'm going to do with it?" Mal J'hat countered.
Rather than voice his suspicions, Smith ignored the question and simply replied, "What purpose would that serve? The boy may be useless in your eyes, but how does his existence harm you?"
The chief strode up to Smith and glared at him, his face mere inches away. "I am Mal J'hat. I am free to do as I please. My actions need no purpose."
The coward in Smith had the strong urge to shrink back and assuage the alien's ego. But something within the doctor would not allow him to back down from this vile creature. Before he could stop himself, he spoke, "On my world, it is seen as weakness for one to destroy another that is smaller and weaker than one's self. There is no challenge or honor in it."
Mal J'hat took a step back and thought for a second, apparently unsure of whether he should feel insulted or not. Angrily he barked, "What do I care of the customs on your world? Your word 'honor' has no meaning to me."
"That's obvious," Smith muttered.
Ignoring Smith's comment, the incensed leader continued, "I am chief of the Asmani. The people fear me for the power I wield. Nobody tells me what I can or cannot do. No one tells me what is or is not proper. That is for ME to decide!"
Smith could just imagine what the Robot would say at this exact moment. "Warning! Warning! Tactical error committed!" The doctor mentally kicked himself. He assumed the leader would not want to be seen as weak and would therefore spare the boy. It was apparent, Mal J'hat didn't care. He acted like a spoiled child. He had a hair trigger temper. He had no shame in attacking and tormenting the weak. He was essentially a bully. And in Smith's experience, he knew most bullies were cowards if they encountered resistance. How much of a coward the leader was remained to be seen and Smith wondered how much of his own cowardice he could suppress if needed.
A chime announced the arrival of the guards, who were commanded to escort the boy inside. Doctor Smith, with a quick glance, appraised the boy's condition. Although he had made significant recovery from his injuries, Will looked pale with fear. The boy looked questioningly at Smith, who simply shrugged and smiled weakly. The guards were dismissed and left quickly.
Mal J'hat assessed the two humans before him. He strode over to Will and swung the end of weapon around so the smaller crescent blade was facing forward. The action caused Smith to take a halting step forward. The alien turned to look at him, his face revealing a warning to stay back.
The alien chief slowly waved the blade in front of the boy, relishing the look of fear on his face. "Do you remember, little human, when you confronted me on your ship?"
Will nodded slowly. "Yes, sir."
"I was just telling your friend Smith that I should have finished you off that night." Mal J'hat laughed when the boy gulped audibly and his eyes widened. Will looked at Smith, the expression on his face clearly a plea for the doctor to do something. The pained expression on Smith's face did nothing to inspire confidence.
"I intend to do that now," he continued. "Kneel." Will hesitated, looking to Smith for guidance. Smith nodded, reasoning that when the time came for action, the quicker Will could hit the floor and get out of the way, the better. The boy complied, but was confused. He hoped the doctor had a plan, but couldn't help but think Smith might actually let the alien kill him in order to save his own skin.
"Good. Now close your eyes."
Again, Will looked at Smith. This time, Smith spoke, "If you're going to kill the boy, at least be a man about it. Only cowards won't face their victims eye to eye."
Annoyed, the chief swung around and leveled the blade in Smith's direction. "You will be next, Smith. I will make sure it's especially painful. Do you have any further comments?"
Smith quickly and silently shook his head and Mal J'hat turned back to the boy. "Close your eyes. I will not ask again." Will, trembling, shut his eyes tight.
Mal J'hat flipped the weapon around again, intending to use the heavier blade. With both hands, he swung the weapon back. Just as he was about to begin his downstroke, something knocked the weapon from his grasp, leaving a large, bloody gash on his right hand. Shocked by the sudden pain, he didn't notice the figure rushing towards him. A split second later, he was on the floor, the cold metal chains of Smith's manacles biting into his neck. He struggled to lift Smith's hands, but he was no match for the doctor's adrenalin fueled rage. The sheer panic in Mal J'hat's face only encouraged Smith. The alien struggled to reach his gauntlet and punched the button to summon the guards.
Smith looked around for Will. He was still kneeling, eyes shut tight, afraid to see what was going on. "Will! Run!" Smith pleaded, but the boy hesitated. "GO!" Smith commanded.
As Will turned to run, four guards rushed in. One grabbed Will and restrained him. Another locked his arms around Smith's neck in a choke hold and pulled him off the ground, forcing him to release his grip on Mal J'hat. Smith elbowed his attacker in the mid-section and backhanded him in the face with the metal cuff on his wrist. As the guard stumbled back, grabbing at his bleeding nose, Smith picked up Mal J'hat's weapon and swept the guard's legs out from under him.
Another guard came at him, swinging a sword down upon him with both hands. Smith thrust his weapon upwards to parry the blow, catching the sword's blade with the serrated teeth of his own blade. He immediately stepped towards his attacker and swung the tail of the weapon around, catching the guard in the head and knocking him to the ground. He leveled his weapon at the guard, but immediately ducked to avoid the glistening blade that another guard had thrown from behind the first. It nicked his temple as it went by, eliciting a surprised yelp from the doctor, and it stuck firmly into the wall behind him. His eyes widened in fear at the close call and another surge of adrenalin caused his heart to pound faster.
Will watched in awe as the doctor displayed tenacity and prowess he had been sure the man did not possess. He cheered his friend on, grateful he seemed to have the upper hand so far, but fully aware of the consequences of failure. Mal J'hat, who had regained consciousness, watched in horror as he saw his guards disarmed and held at bay by a single aging human. He scrambled towards the door, which did not go unnoticed by the doctor, and hovered there. Mal J'hat was mesmerized by the fight, but ready to make a hasty exit if needed.
Smith spared a quick glance to see where the projectile launched at his head had landed. He quickly realized his mistake as he turned back and was greeted by a thundering blow across his jaw. As he stumbled backward, his vision grayed for a split second, but miraculously he kept his feet beneath him. Unfortunately, he couldn't manage to hang on to his weapon.
The guard stood before Smith, stance wide and arms ready to grab the disarmed doctor. As Smith fell to his knees, Mal J'hat was sure the doctor was signaling surrender and the fight was about to end, but the wily doctor was not quite through yet. He dove to the ground and crawled through the guard's legs. The bewildered guard tried reaching down and grabbing the man, but was surprised by a boot against his backside, which sent him headfirst into a wall. As Smith pushed himself up, he was again greeted by swinging arm, which he quickly ducked. Staying low, he tackled the last guard and landed his own blow against the alien's iron jaw. He yelped and shook his hand in pain.
The guard reached for the laser pistol at his hip and attempted to bring it to bear on the doctor. Smith grabbed the guard's hand and the two struggled with the pistol as it inched closer and closer to his head. The guard fired off a few shots, which were close enough that the heat from the discharge raised small blisters on the side of Smith's face. Determined not to see his head disintegrated, Smith bit into the wrist of his opponent, who howled in response and dropped the pistol.
Unfortunately, the guard recovered quickly. Before Smith could grab the laser pistol, the guard's powerful hands encircled Smith's neck and began to squeeze. Smith grabbed the alien's fingers trying to pry them loose. The last thing he heard before blackness enveloped him was Will yelling "Doctor Smith! Look out!"
The guard on the floor shoved the unconscious doctor off him. The other guard, standing over them with a club in one hand, offered to help him up. Mal J'hat smiled as he unconsciously rubbed his sore neck. The guards looked at him for direction.
With an exhausted wave of his hand, he commanded "Take them both back to the stockade. I've had enough of humans today."
The two guards who had defeated Smith each grasped one of his shackled wrists and dragged him out of the quarters. They were followed by the guard who was still restraining Will. On the way back, one of the guards received a communication from Mal J'hat directing him to convey a message to the doctor when he awoke. The guard acknowledged the orders.
The Robinsons and West stood as the trio of guards approached. The two guards dragging Smith dropped him face first on the floor and the guard restraining Will released him. Two of the guards left without a word, while one stood back, waiting for Smith to regain consciousness. The humans eyed him suspiciously, but quickly disregarded him. Maureen gathered Will into her arms and hugged him. He buried his face into her, not ready to talk about the experience.
Smith moaned and rolled over onto his back. When he opened his eyes, he saw Major West hovering over him, with several of the Robinson's faces crowded behind him.
"Smith, what happened to you?" West inquired.
Smith sat up with some difficulty and brought a hand to his pounding head. "I don't quite remember."
At that moment, the remaining guard stepped forward and unceremoniously announced "Doctor Smith, you brutally attacked our chief, Mal J'hat. You are to stand trial for his attempted murder." His orders carried out, the guard turned and quickly left.
"Oh, right," Smith said sheepishly as he pointed toward where guard had stood. "That's what happened." Then the words hit him full force and his right cheek twitched in a barely perceptible tic. "Attempted murder?" His mind raced trying to determine just what the penalty was for such a charge. Suddenly, he decided he preferred not to know.
"Attempted murder?" The Professor echoed. Unable to believe the charges, the Professor made assumptions. "Smith, what did you do that got you pummeled by guards and brought up on phony charges?" he inquired.
"No," Will corrected. "Not phony."
"You mean you actually tried to murder their chief?" West asked incredulously.
Smith hesitated, his mind still trying to comprehend the depth of trouble he was in. He eventually nodded in confirmation. "If you consider strangling him attempted murder, then technically that would be correct. But, I only did so in a moment of weakness," he cringed. Smith further qualified his answer, "He was threatening to harm Will." His actions confirmed by both the guard and Will, he had no choice but to confess.
"A moment of weakness? You tried to strangle him? I'm surprised you're still in one piece. Taking on their chief, especially when he's in a position to crush you like a bug, doesn't fit any definition of weakness I know. It does fit my definition of crazy, however," West argued.
Smith bristled at West's suggestion. "Major, I'm quite certain of my sanity. Although yours may be a bit suspect." He thought for a moment and then continued, "No, it was definitely weakness."
"Well, tell us what happened," the Professor prodded.
Smith looked at Will, knowing the boy would talk if he didn't, and would most certainly embellish the story, as children are wont to do. Hesitantly, he began, "First, let me just preface this by telling you that Mal J'hat is one of the most vile, cruel, disgusting beings I've ever had the misfortune to meet." Will nodded in agreement. "From the moment I entered his quarters, he was intent on provoking me into a physical confrontation, which I vehemently resisted, despite his crude taunts."
"Like what?" West probed.
The doctor shot the major a dirty look.
"I'm just trying to decipher what kind of taunt would cause you, avowed man of peace that you are," West said half mockingly, "to resort to violence."
Smith sighed, knowing the major would keep badgering him unless he threw him some bones. "He told me he should have finished off Will the night they captured all of you."
"He was the one that shot Will?" the Professor asked.
Smith nodded in confirmation.
"And that's when you went after him?" West questioned.
"No," Smith shook his head. He continued, "He told me...", looking over at Will and Mrs. Robinson, Smith lowered his voice. "He told me the boy's head would look good as a trophy on his wall."
"And THAT's when you went after him..." the Professor proclaimed.
Smith shook his head again. "He said he'd feed the rest of him to his alien pets." He looked between West and the Professor to see if they were going to interrupt him again, but their expressions simply told him to continue.
"He ordered his guards to bring Will. Then, he removed a large bladed weapon from the wall. When Will arrived, he ordered him to kneel and he readied the weapon."
Smith relived the feeling of Mal J'hat's neck being crushed beneath the chains of his manacles. A small part of him was revolted that he enjoyed it, the rest of him indulged in the feeling. The memories caused anger to flare again. He confessed, "I believe that was when I attempted to throttle the bastard."
The Professor's eyebrows rose at Smith's uncharacteristic choice of language. "Your 'moment of weakness'?" the Professor confirmed.
"Yes," Smith nodded.
"You are a far more tolerant man than I, doctor," the Professor smiled. "I would have throttled him much sooner," the Professor confessed.
"Me too," West added.
"And that's when the guards proceeded to pummel you..." the Professor concluded.
"Precisely," Smith replied, conveniently neglecting to mention the pummeling he had dished out.
Satisfied that Smith was done with the story, the two men helped him over to one of the beds, while Judy and Penny brought water and some cloths to the bedside. The two Robinson women tended to the battered and bruised doctor, while the men and Mrs. Robinson tended to Will.
"Are you ok, son?" the Professor asked.
Will nodded. "I am now, thanks to Doctor Smith."
The Professor smiled and ruffled his son's hair.
"You should have seen him, dad!" Will exclaimed. Smith, overhearing the boy, groaned, not from pain, but from the knowledge that his carefully cultured image as an inept coward was about to be blown to smithereens. Smith feigned unconsciousness, not wanting to face the questioning stares that were soon to come. He would deny it all later, suggesting the boy was exaggerating, the guards were clumsy, or some other ruse, but he doubted they would believe him. Perhaps he'd get lucky and they'd just forget all about it.
Will proceeded to give a blow by blow account of what he had seen of the fight. Occasionally, Judy and Penny stopped their ministrations to the ailing doctor to hear snippets of Will's tale, only to turn back to stare at his inert form suspiciously.
West was the most enthralled of them all. He grinned like the cheshire cat, filing all of this away to use against his sparring partner later.
When Will's tale was over, Maureen brought Will to Doctor Smith's bedside. Major West followed.
"Doctor Smith?" Maureen asked, intending to gently rouse the doctor from his slumber.
Smith ignored the woman, hoping she would go away.
"Doctor Smith?" she said a little louder.
Smith opened his eyes and, trying to keep the annoyance from his voice, replied "Yes, Mrs. Robinson?"
"Will told us how you defended him, Doctor Smith. It took a lot of courage to do what you did. Thank you," Mrs. Robinson gently squeezed the doctor's arm.
Smith spared a dull glance from Will to his mother. "It is indeed a banner day, madame," he announced tiredly as he plopped his head back on the pillow and tried to massage away the pain in his head. "For Doctor Zachary Smith shall surely never attempt something that stupid again," he groaned. "I think even my bruises have bruises. Courage, indeed. Sheer, blinding idiocy is more like it." He turned to look at the Robinson matriarch and his features softened. In a barely audible voice, he added, "But... you're welcome."
West laughed. "Well, for once, Smith, I'm glad your 'sheer, blinding idiocy' came in handy."
Smith visibly cringed at West's statement.
Mrs. Robinson ushered everyone away. "Come on, everyone. Let's let Doctor Smith get some rest."
Continue to Chapter 10: Caged