Planet of Freedom
Chapter Twelve - Earth
Approaching through the asteroid belt, Don saw the possibilities for the explosives, but still had a question in his mind. ďJohn, this is pretty large territory to cover. We arenít just talking about a ring around an imaginary core. We are talking about millions of square miles.Ē
ďI know, Don, but I have the coordinates of Graxod. I know the hyperspace coordinates that they will most likely be using and we can concentrate there, putting lesser amounts of explosives at other strategic points. We just have to trust that our calculations are correct,Ē John said, relieved that the invasion had not occurred yet. He had spent a great deal of the past two weeks worrying about what he would see when they returned. "Orbital Station Delta, this is the Jupiter II requesting permission for emergency docking."
There was a short silence. "Jupiter II?? Did I hear you right?" That the communications officer was astonished was an understatement.
"You heard correctly. This is Doctor John Robinson and we need to dock immediately and speak with the commander of the space station. It is a matter of vital concern."
"Give verification signals, Doctor." John did so. "Docking Bay 5 is available and docking can commence as soon as you reach Delta. Welcome home, Jupiter II." John acknowledged the instructions and the welcome.
Dr. Scott Barlow was comparing blood samples of Station Delta occupants. Mark Johansen popped his head into the infirmary and smiled brightly. "Want to hear something to excite your dull, drab existence on this floating space palace, Doc?"
"Sure, why not, Mark?" he answered. Actually, he found his work in the space program exciting, even the mundane jobs. The fulfillment of his dream had finally come to fruition four months ago.
"The Jupiter II just docked at Bay 5," Mark said glibly, fully realizing how that kind of news would affect the young doctor.
Looking up in astonishment, Scott could only gape. Finally words came out. "What? Did you say the Jupiter II? The Robinsons?"
Mark nodded. "I heard that you had gotten chummy with Professor Robinson during his last visit, but it appears that he brought the whole crew this time. Got some cute little pets with them, too."
Scott didnít even hear the last statement. The microscope was forgotten and he was out the door and heading for Docking Bay Five, breezing by the laughing astronaut. As he approached the docking bay, he heard familiar voices in the debriefing room.
"I need to contact the current head of Alpha Control on the secure closed circuit. Itís imperative that I talk to him," John was saying, with an urgency in his voice Scott had not heard before. "Of course, if you gentlemen donít want to accommodate me, then I can just take the Jupiter II and land on the east lawn of the White House." John was glaring at Major James Morley, the head of scientific studies on the space station and current commander.
"John!" Scott cried, interrupting what appeared to be an impending argument. The professor looked tired, but otherwise no different than he had eight months earlier.
"Well, Scott, you finally made it into space. Wonderful, now if you can talk your friend into cooperating with me, I will make a few well-placed calls."
Scott looked around the room and saw the rest of the family, but when his eyes lit on Judy Robinson, he almost gasped in astonishment. She was even more lovely than the night he had seen her at a college dance, during his days at the University of Houston. Then he noticed what should have been very obvious at his first glance; she was very pregnant. Scott deduced that she must be about eight months along.
But at that moment the doctor didnít care. The beautiful girl he had tried so hard to date and get close to five years ago was now a beautiful woman. In his eyes, she was gorgeous. A sudden pang of jealousy washed over him. Don West had accomplished what he had been unable to even dream of doing.
Scott realized that the same desires he had felt before had never totally gone away. He still loved Judy Robinson. No, he corrected himself; Judy West. And with that thought, guilt came crashing in. Guilt for desiring what wasnít his to have, guilt for desiring someone elseís wife.
He caught her eyes on him and smiling slightly, looked back at John, hoping his indiscretion hadnít been noticed. "Oh, Bradley Houser is the new Alpha Control chief now, John. And Iím sure we can patch you through to him."
"Major Morley just told me, but thanks," John said, looking curiously at Scott.
"Sorry, John, I just couldnít get over the fact that all of you are back home. You had mentioned something about star charts. Why did you decide to come back now?" Scott asked politely, although he guessed it was for the birth of Judyís baby. Johnís next comment startled him out of his self-induced misery.
"I really donít feel I can tell you right now, Iím sorry. Thatís why I need the closed circuit communication. It is not something I feel I can talk about publicly," he said bluntly.
Major Morley and Scott just looked at each other and then turned back to John.
It was only then that Scott noticed the silver colored flying reptile clinging to his friendís shoulder. Although it didnít have a real mouth, the creature squeaked softly, almost mournfully in the silence that followed Johnís comment. Scott looked around and saw that each member of the Robinson family had one, each a different color. The only exception was Penny, who had four, and they were harmonizing a soft crooning melody. The girl had a warm smile for him, which he returned.
Major Morley stood rubbing his chin for a moment. Scott knew that if the ultra-secure communication circuit was used for a trivial reason, the majorís head would be served up on a platter. "Major, I can tell you that if Professor Robinson says that his message needs to be sent under tight security, then youíd better send it," Scott said, trusting John implicitly.
"Professor Robinson, shall we go to communications?" Major Morley finally asked, his voice quiet.
Although a bit worried about Johnís last words, Scott nevertheless turned to Judy and tried to sound very nonchalant and professional. "Mrs. West, you look fatigued. I really think that I need to check you and the baby."
"Why thank you, Doctor....," she paused and it was very obvious that she didnít remember him.
Why would she, he thought bitterly, I never got a chance to get close to her. "Scott Barlow," he said.
He had scoffed at those who talked about love at first sight until he had seen Judy. The day he had laid eyes on the eighteen-year-old hanging on the arm of another Ďspace brat,í he had been smitten. Unfortunately, her family was in its last year of training for their voyage to Alpha Centauri. There was never time for a date when he had tried that route, and by the time he had managed to Ďaccidentallyí run into her in a few public places, she had decided to accompany her family into space. The reason, he found out later, was Major Don West.
"Thank you, Dr. Barlow. Iím fine, but if you feel it best, then I donít mind," she said with a smile. "Don, Iíll be right back as soon as I get my clean bill of health." She kissed him quickly and walked down the corridor with Scott.
Neither saw the deepening scowl on Don Westís face. Jimmy crooned on his shoulder, but the pilot seemed oblivious. Finally he turned back and boarded the Jupiter II.
"You do look a little bit familiar, Dr. Barlow. By any chance have we met before?" Judy asked, a slight frown of concentration on her face.
"As a matter of fact, yes, we did. About a year before the launch," Scott said. "I tried very hard to get a date with you, but you were extremely busy."
She laughed. "Very busy." Then she looked at him with recognition dawning. "Oh, Scott Barlow, first year medical student. I think we talked in the food court at Brighton Mall. And somewhere else, too. I think," Judy said brightly. "And you made it through medical school, I see. Is there a Mrs. Barlow?"
"It was a Burger King, and yes, I did make it. I was working at Washington DC Trauma Center when your father suddenly appeared. And no, Iím not married."
Scott did his best to keep his professional equilibrium as he examined Judy, and for the most part succeeded, but it was hard in a way that he had never experienced before. Every time he touched her, he felt a thrill course through his body. He had to keep reminding himself that she was a patient, only a patient. That was when he was glad for the invention of more technologically advanced diagnostic tools. It would have been much more difficult had Judy had to disrobe for this examination.
As he finished his exam and checked the results on the diagnostic, Scott was amazed when the little flying lizard on her shoulder, a violet hued one, calmly crawled down the front of her shirt and sat on her swollen stomach. It turned its head, first one way and then the other. Then it stared with startlingly bright golden eyes straight down at her abdomen as though it could see through the clothes and flesh all the way to the baby. Looking up at Judy, the creature squeaked happily and stared at its mistress.
"Yes, you darling, Mark is growing very big and very strong." The lizard launched herself into the air and flew in tight circles around the humans, squeaking happily.
"You understood what it was saying?" Scott asked in abject curiosity.
"Telepathy, Doctor. Aurora and her companions are extremely telepathic and can show us pictures and feelings in our minds. Itís really quite incredible," Judy said and laughed at the look of astonishment on Scottís face. Scott sincerely hoped that the little creatures were not letting the Robinsonís know what he had been thinking.
"Do they tell you what others are thinking?" Scott asked in trepidation. He was almost afraid of the answer.
"Sometimes if the emotions are strong enough we can pick them up through our flutter-dragons, but we have learned to Ďshieldí our thoughts from others and vise versa," she said, to his obvious relief. He would have to watch himself, until he could deal with the emotional turmoil churning around in his mind. "Penny had a great deal of trouble until she learned to do that. She was having awful headaches, caused by the thoughts and emotions of other people. Penny had some para-normal talent even before we found these little darlings." Judy scratched lightly under her dragonís chin. It made a slight crooning sound and relaxed on her shoulder again.
"And you are all telepathic because of these little creatures?" It was so incredible to him.
"Dad thinks that there may have been some latent ability before we landed on Karturm, but the telepathic ability varies in each of us. Next to Penny, Dad is the most telepathic. Don says that Jimmy, his flutter-dragon, has to knock him over the head with a telepathic brick before he picks up anything. I guess I am somewhat closer to Don in ability than Dad," she explained with a smile.
Scott enjoyed listening to Judyís easy bantering as he slowly took control of his emotions. Just being near her was comforting, hearing her voice and looking at her. "How long have you been Mrs. West?" he asked softly.
"Would you believe it, our nine month anniversary was a week ago. I can safely say that we didnít waste any time," she said laughing again. "But Iím at the point of thinking that Iíll be heartily glad for Mark to be born. He must be twenty pounds if heís an ounce."
"More like seven or so," he answered with a laugh of his own. "This may sound bold, but may I make a special request?"
"Two actually. First, would you call me Scott. And second, may I kiss the bride?" He felt a bit of guilt, but he couldnít help wanting to get some kind of a kiss from her.
Judy giggled. "You will be the only one who gets that privilege, Scott. It was a very tiny wedding and no reception."
Before she could say anything else he leaned over and while his lips were very close to disobeying his mind, he gave her a somewhat more than brotherly kiss on the cheek. "Congratulations, Mrs. West," he murmured, now wishing he were alone, so that he could purge these feelings of despair from his soul.
Blushing, Judy looked up at him. "Thank you, Scott. Youíre very sweet." The flutter-dragon looked up at him, blinked and squeaked softly in what seemed to him a friendly manner.
No, Iím not, he thought bitterly, but he squelched that thought, smiled, and said, "Thank you, Judy.Ē
Penny watched Dr. Scott Barlow and Judy walk out of the room. When she had seen the doctor come in, she had stared at him in abject interest. He was the most handsome man she had ever seen. And his smile. And to think that Dad had roomed with him for a couple of days. While she looked at the empty doorway in bemusement, her flutter-dragons launched themselves into the air and flew in noisy patterns above her head. They were apparently feeling her happy emotions.
A technician asked them if they wanted a quick tour, since the station had changed a great deal since their departure. Mom assented and the three of them followed. Penny sincerely hoped that she would get to see Scott again soon. Her heart beat a little faster at the thought, and she touched her face with her fingers. Somehow she felt a bit flushed. The little lizards floated along behind her like a rainbow.