Planet of Wishes
Chapter Twelve -
Good News/Bad News
John and Maureen sat on a boulder together overlooking the tranquil pool below them. The only sound they heard was that of the little stream splashing its way down the slope and into the pool.
She held his hand tightly for reassurance. "John, that was too close a call. Don and Judy both could have been killed, and no one would have ever known what happened."
John said nothing. This time he couldnít reassure his anxious wife because he was still trying to come to terms with the fact that he had given his blessing for the couple to go to the planet that had almost taken them away from him.
"Have you given any more thought to staying here?" Maureen asked him softly.
"Yes, I have, Maureen, and Iím still undecided." He sighed heavily, feeling the burden of the decision he was trying to make. "I feel the need for safety and tranquility, but I also feel the obligation of trying to find our way back. Will may have made that possible with his little trip to that library."
"Let me complicate the issue a bit more then. When I ran the
diagnostic on Judy, I found that sheís pregnant. She was before they
went on their honeymoon. As far as I can tell, the teleportation had no
effect, but it will be awhile before I can be sure."
John stared at his wife in obvious shock. "What?" Then a big grin spread across his face. "Well, Iíll be...."
Maureen smiled back at him. "Yes, you are going to be a grandpa in about eight and a half months."
"Complicate, nothing! It makes the decision easier!" John burst out. "We have to stay here, at least until the babyís born. As far as the surveys and reconnaissance flights have shown, this is a pretty safe planet. A perfect place for a new space pioneer to be born."
The two flutter-dragons that were sitting on the limb above their heads squeaked happily.
"Now, what about those on Earth who are expecting a visit from us? Penny all but promised, and I think we owe them something, too," Maureen said wistfully. "We know that two can teleport safely with that cube, and at least we wouldnít be guessing the dangers of an unknown place. We already know the dangers of Earth." She laughed softly at her own joke. John joined her.
"Perhaps we should surprise Colleen at her New Yearís Eve Party and then we can briefly visit with my Dad," John proposed with a smile. His sister in lawís parties were well known up and down the west coast. Big, elaborate, boisterous, and extremely fun.
"Is it..." she began and then saw John nod. "I had really hoped to see Colleen again."
"Then we will," he said.
Later, in the Jupiter II, it soon became obvious to John that Judy had passed the good news on to the expectant father. Donís whole countenance radiated happiness. He walked up to John with a great big grin on his face. "Iím going to be a father," he told him and then immediately repeated himself, a little more loudly, grinning even more broadly.
"Good heavens, why did you do a stupid thing like that, Major?" Dr. Smith asked disdainfully.
Donís smile instantly turned into a frown of revulsion. "Smith, first of all, it isnít any business of yours why we did it, and second of all if you donít can the remarks about my wifeís pregnancy, I will readjust your nose so that itís sitting on another part of your head. Do you understand me?"
Smith nodded quickly, looking to the professor for help. The hard expression on John Robinsonís face showed no sympathy, and the older man decided it was time to retreat with as much dignity as he could muster. "I tried to tell you earlier, but what you and Judy decide to do is your own choice. Far be it for me to give advice, even though I am a doctor." The major growled and stepped forward. Smith shrieked in fright and rushed to the elevator.
"John, if he doesnít keep his mouth shut, I swear, Iím going to do something Iíll regret," Don remarked vehemently. Then he pondered briefly, looking at Smithís retreating back. "Nah, no regrets." John just looked heavenward and sighed.
"Don, I just wanted to let you know that Maureen and I are going to pay a visit to her sister and then my father. I assume that we wonít be away more then three or four days, but please try to avoid homicide while weíre gone," John said with a slight smile. "At least make sure itís justifiable," he added, chuckling.
"With that weasel, anything is justifiable, but, yeah, Iíll try to restrain myself," Don said evenly, and then he brightened. "Hey, get hold of my folks, would you? Let them know the happy news. Figure after you and Maureen get back, I can tell them in person, but for now, you know..." Suddenly he got a bit tongue-tied and stood quietly for a moment. "John, this is so incredible. I canít explain how I feel... so wonderful...."
"Nothing to explain, Iíve been through it three times, but the first time is the most incredible."
Maureen fixed an early dinner in honor of the parents-to-be, a mixture of things replicated and local fruits and vegetables cooked on the new stove. The flutter-dragons danced merrily in the sky above the Jupiter II, squeaking and chirping, their varying colors making a rainbow as they spiraled and dipped on the air currents.
The mood was extremely bright and happy. Even Dr. Smith offered a toast to Judy, at which time she blushed happily. Maureen was delighted at the happy atmosphere and carried her mood throughout the evening as she prepared to visit her sister. John just looked at her in bemusement. "Mo, we are only going to visit for a few days, and I donít think the cube can take suitcases. Just put a few things in a backpack, if you must."
"John, itís New Yearís Eve, for crying out loud. I have to wear something more than this old thing," she fumed, looking down at her utilitarian outfit. To her exasperation, John just shrugged and smiled placatingly. "And I suppose you are all ready to go?" she added.
"Yes, I am." John had been out earlier that afternoon, looking along the streambed for just the right rocks, finally finding exactly what he was looking for. The gemstones he had found were in his pocket, and now he was calmly reading the paper that Penny had wrapped a few of her presents from Earth in while Maureen fumed and fretted over what to take with her.
John had forgotten what a simple pleasure reading a newspaper could be, although most of the news on the two pages he had was ephemeral and meant very little to him. What was interesting, however, was an article about the appropriations committee talks on the new Jupiter mission proposal. Interest turned to alarm, though, as he read further of the forced vote to be held just after New Yearís to finally shelve the funding for the project. Despite their own problems over the past three years, John had never stopped believing in the benefits of the space colonization program, and he was irritated with the legislators who could not see the benefits of long-term involvement in space travel.
Tossing the paper on their bed in disgust, he glanced up to see Maureen with the backpack on, smiling at him knowingly. "You have also forgotten how disgusted reading the newspaper made you feel, too. By the way, Iím waiting." Silverado floated in through the doorway, followed closely by Maureenís blue lizard. Landing on his shoulder, the little creature was squeaking so furiously that its tiny sides were heaving. Maureenís little flutter-dragon sedately sat on her shoulder, gently nuzzling her cheek.
"Excitable, isnít he?" Maureen asked.
"Donít think he wants me to go." John pulled the tiny creature from his shoulder and gazed into its golden eyes. "It will only be for a few days, you spoiled baby. Off with you." Silverado chirped sadly and flew dejectedly out of the cabin. John caught slight feelings of cold and darkness but shrugged them off. Maureenís little lizard flew out after his.
"I suppose that if youíre ready, then I am, too. If you really think about it, this has got to be the only way to travel for the holidays," he quipped. Maureen laughed, reached over and took his hand. The cube rested warmly in the palm of her hand and they curled their fingers around its smooth surface.
"Well, John, letís go to Colleenís. This should be an evening to remember," Maureen said and closed her eyes to concentrate. John leaned over, kissed her tenderly and closed his eyes as well.
Maureen felt a dreamy state of somnolence come over her and then she felt a mental jerk. Suddenly, she was aware of being alone, as though John was nowhere near her. Then she felt a cushioned chair. Slowly opening her eyes, she looked into the dark brown, shocked eyes of her niece, Joan.
"Maureen, MAUREEN!! You just appeared.... how did you...? Maureen, when did you....?" Joan was suddenly speechless, staring intently at Maureen, who looked around in confusion.
"John," Maureen continued to look around. "John, whereís John?" Her voice rose in alarm. "He came with me. Oh, John." She couldnít help it; the tears began to roll down her cheeks unbidden. Joan rushed over to her and enveloped her aunt in a tight embrace.
"Maureen, how did you get here?" Joan asked again. Suddenly her sister, Colleen, hearing the commotion, came into the room. Only for a moment did she stare before rushing over as well.
"Maureen, I have missed you so. When did you get back?" Colleen was crying, Maureen was crying and Joan was crying. Finally Colleen gained enough control to grab a box of tissues and hand them all around. "Maureen, tell me how you got here and what are you saying about John?"
Maureen explained the cube, showing them the device as she talked, before placing it in the bottom of her backpack. "But John was with me when I left. He must not have had his fingers on the device and was left behind," she said, suddenly feeling foolish for her outburst. "From what Penny told me, that is the only logical thing that could have happened. Don and Judy had no problems." She looked up at her sister with a smile. "Iíll be right back. Iím going back to the Jupiter II to get him." Maureen started digging in her pack again.
"Oh, please, not right away, Maureen. John is safe. At least talk to me while you get ready for the party, and then you can go back to the Jupiter II and get him. Heíll be so surprised when he sees you all dressed up," Colleen assured her. "Iíll order a tux for him. Same size, I suppose." Maureen nodded, amused by the yearly ritual. John loved Colleenís parties, but hated dressing up in a tux.
"No, Colleen, I would really feel much better if I went back and got him now. It will only take a minute," she said. "You go ahead and order the tux, and weíll be right back."
"Iím sorry. Youíre right of course. Itís just been so long, Maureen. Weíll be waiting," Colleen told her.
Retrieving the cube, Maureen held it tightly and thought of the Jupiter II. Soon, she felt the shift to semi-somnolence, the floating sensation, and then.....she was in their cabin. A few minutes later, Silverado flew in, squeaking furiously.
"Well, tell him itís time to go, you little stinker," she told the agitated lizard. Walking out into the corridor, she met Will.
"Hi, Mom, what did you forget?" he asked with a curious look on his face.
The little fingers of anxiety started walking up her spine. "Your father, Will. Where is he?"
"Uh, Mom, he went with you.... didnít he? Will asked, his voice trailing off as he realized what his mother was saying. "Didnít Dad get to Colleenís with you?"
"No," she whispered, the horrible possibilities presenting themselves in neat order, one right after the other.
John held on tightly to his wifeís hand, ready to make the trip to his sister-in-lawís apartment when the thought of the congressional hearing in the capital crossed the forefront of his thoughts. If only he could talk to these political geniuses, maybe they would understand how important the Jupiter Mission really was.
Instead of the gentle lethargic state that he was told the teleportation process induced, he felt a peculiar wrenching and sensed his fingers literally being jerked from his wifeís hand. A feeling of nausea coupled with a sensation of disorientation flowed over him. Within a very short time the lethargy did come, but along with it came a sensation of intense, bitter cold.
The air in his lungs was frozen, his body began shivering from the cold, and John desperately tried to wake up, but nothing seemed to want to obey his mental desires. Within a short time the shaking stopped, and the professor acquiesced to the wishes of his body, falling into a deep sleep, where he no longer felt the burning cold, the nausea or dark loneliness.