Planet of Wishes
On the metro transit, John quickly explained the means by which he had arrived in Washington, DC. "Thatís the reason I feel like a fool. Iím a scientist; I should know better then to let my mind wander. But I would appreciate the use of your vid-phone to contact my wife when we arrive at your apartment. I have something I brought with me to reimburse you for the hospital visit plus whatever other expenses I incur," he said, fingering the gemstones in his pocket. He had been astonished that they hadnít been noticed when he was being cared for in the hospital.
"There is absolutely no problem with that, Professor Robinson. I still canít get over the fact that you are coming home with me," Scott said.
"May I assume that you are a space enthusiast?" John asked, amused with the young manís demeanor. "By the way, just call me John. The only other person who has called me Professor Robinson for the past three years, other than passing acquaintances, I wouldnít trust as far as I could throw him. I count you as a friend, so please, letís skip the formalities."
As soon as the two men reached the young doctorís apartment, John booted the computer phone link and placed a call to Colleen Markley. He tapped his fingers on the table, while waiting. Finally a soft chime signaled an answer, but it wasnít what he expected.
"This is a protected call; an identifiable password or message must be presented," a neutral voice said expressionlessly.
John sat frustrated, glaring at the screen. Scott came over. "John, that means that they put a block on their line. Youíll have to give a password or some kind of message that will identify you to the person at the other end," he explained.
"I know, Scott, I just donít know what her password would be now. Let me think of an appropriate message." Then taking a deep breath, John began. "I just want to discuss with Mo the probably of a geophysical force attracted to a biochemical one." Then he sat back and waited for an acknowledgment.
Colleen finally put a block on her computer vid-phone, knowing full well that it would make it more difficult for John to get through. But there were too many crank calls; apparently someone at the party had called one of the papers and told them that Maureen Robinson was attending. After Pennyís appearance in Massachusetts last week, the rags were going to have a field day with this one. She sighed thinking of how long it had been since she had been able to peacefully enjoy the company of her sister. Well before the launch, she thought.
Irritation began to eat at her normally mild demeanor. She had been the idiot that had suggested that Maureen go to the party for a short time instead of waiting by the vid-phone all night. Optimistically, Colleen had figured that it would help to raise her sisterís spirits. Maureen had only agreed when the promise had been made that she or Joan would remain by the phone. After too many nosy and ill-timed questions, her sister had retreated to the guest room to rest while she waited.
A chime from the computer phone link interrupted her reverie. She pulled up the password, which turned out to be a message. When she read it, she laughed, recognizing the peculiar humor that John and Maureen shared. Reaching for the intercom she pushed the send button. "Maureen, I believe thereís a phone call for you in the rec room."
Colleen decided that she had better initiate the contact before John got discouraged and logged off. Opening the line, she said, "Hello, John, Ďbout time you called. Your wife is frantic."
"Well, I havenít had a chance until now, and then I find your phone blocked. Where is Maureen?" John asked, smiling. "And itís good to see you, Colleen."
Colleen saw a young man behind him. "Sheís coming. And itís very good to see you, too. Whoís your friend?" John introduced Scott and then quickly explained the connection. Colleen heard her sister rush over to her side. "Your better half wants to talk to you," she told Maureen. "But youíd better make it clear that if he has any plans to do anything about the Congressional committee, heíd better lay low until he actually meets with them. The tabloids are making a great deal of interstellar hay right now." Colleen vacated the seat and let Maureen sit down. She sat down on the couch to listen.
Maureen had to work very hard to keep her emotions intact. "John, I sure do wish you and the kids would quit putting me through all of this. Itís hard on the nerves."
"Iím sorry, Mo. This really was unintentional, and I certainly wouldnít call an evening in the Washington DC Memorial Trauma Center a fun way to spend New Yearís Eve. I would much rather have worn the tux that Colleen probably ordered for me to wear to her party." He paused a moment. "Maureen, Iím going to try to find a way to speak to the Congressional committee on the third. You know how strongly I feel about the space program. They canít quit now." He exclaimed, vehemently. "And yes, I also heard Colleenís comments, but I havenít traveled halfway across the galaxy to sit hiding in a friendís house for two days. I have every intention of visiting with my father."
"Yes, John, I agree. But why donít I come to get you and bring you back here," Maureen suggested. Strangely, she watched John fidget a bit and look uncomfortable before finally answering her.
"Maureen, I certainly have no problem with you coming here, but I donít want to have anything to do with that teleportation device until itís time to go back to the Jupiter II. I know it was my fault, but..."
"John," she interrupted him, "I understand totally. Give me the address so I can get in touch when I am ready to meet you. I would now, but there is a lot of catching up to do with my sister. However, I, too, want to visit with your dad, and I certainly wouldnít miss your entrance into that committee meeting for the world. By the way, my dear, Happy New Year."
As they logged off, their fingers were touching figuratively on the screen. John was getting heartily sick of these forced separations. Staring at the monitor, he pondered who would make the best liaison for him to work with. He was determined to present his arguments, but didnít want to be part of a media circus. Finally deciding, John logged in a code from over three years ago and was gratified to get the signal indicating that the number was still in operation. A very sleepy and disheveled Lisa Mitchell answered. "Who is this? Do you have any idea what time of the morning it is? I sure hope this is important."
"Well, as a matter of fact it is, Lisa. Is Ben there?" She nodded, rubbing her eyes. She hadnít put her glasses on. "Tell him itís Professor John and then time his eruption from bed."
Her eruption from sleep was pretty spectacular, John thought. "John? John Robinson?" She squinted and then jerked back in shock. "Beníll be out in a minute."
It was closer to a half a minute. "John, how come us ground crew types are the last to know these things? I thought I had heard some rag material about Penny being seen in Massachusetts, but didnít know you folks were back."
"Technically speaking, weíre not. Penny came back by way of an alien teleportation device. Maureen and I did the same thing, except she and I got separated in transit." John paused a minute before laying the bombshell on his close friend. "I need you to make contact with the chair of the space appropriations committee. You know, the one thatís expected to vote down additional spending in a couple of days."
Ben nodded, and then a great smile broke out on his face. "Professor, you always were good at teaching great lessons. What a kick in the pants for the space program."
"Let me get back to you the evening before the meeting and see what youíve scared up," John told him.
Ben gaped at him. "You donít believe in keeping in touch, do you? What are you going to be doing for the next day and a half, or is it any of my business."
"Ben, letís just say that Iím going to do some visiting." John yawned. "I have to go. I may have slept earlier in the evening, but Iím still tired. Must be getting old," he said with a laugh. Ben just snorted.
Logging off, he rubbed his tired eyes. "Scott, if you donít mind, Iím going to crash on your couch for a few hours." Not even waiting for a reply, John was asleep almost immediately.
Later in the morning, John called his fatherís house and almost wasnít able to talk for a brief moment. "Dad," he finally said. "Itís John."
"John? Johnny, is it really you? Are you all right? Where are you?" came the choked voice. "It is so good to hear your voice. Now I wish I had one of those computer phone link-ups."
In amusement, John thought that the lack of a video link-up wasnít such a bad thing right now. "Dad, Iíve been told that the media harassed you a week or so ago. I want to get together, but certainly donít want that to happen again. How about making the annual pilgrimage. Meet, say about a couple of hours before sunset? Would that be too difficult? I know itís short notice, but believe it or not, I am under a bit of a time line. We can spend the night nearby, too."
"What about the weather, John? Iím assuming you are referring to Christyís place? The one with the lovely trail thatís about two and a half miles," his father sounded as though he was enjoying the cryptic subterfuge.
"No, actually the church just beyond the trail. And I checked the weather. Tolerable," John said with a laugh. Dadís silence indicated his confusion. "I would never make a good spy; Iíd laugh too hard to be taken seriously. I really am looking forward to it, Dad." John sat staring at nothing in particular after hanging up the phone, just feeling a surge of anger at the inconvenience that was being imposed on his father.
The banging of kitchen utensils brought him out of his reverie, and he looked around at his young benefactor. "Need any help?" he asked, standing and stretching to relieve the stiffness incurred from a night on a hard couch.
"No, John. Iím just throwing together some pancakes and eggs. You like sourdough?" Scott asked. John nodded and pulling out some dishes from the cabinet, proceeded to set the table. He chuckled to himself; some things never changed.
Scott had been told how the teleportation device worked, but was still shocked when he and John were sitting in the breakfast nook a short while later and suddenly Maureen Robinson was looking at them sleepily from his living room couch. John was at her side in an instant. "Oh, John, I donít know why you dislike this kind of travel. Itís the only way to..." She was unable to continue, because suddenly John was busy greeting her.
"Just a half a day, and I missed you terribly. I donít make a good bachelor, my love," he murmured, kissing her again. "Guess I should introduce you to the young man who has kept me off the streets since I arrived, although I suspect that he knows about as much about you as I do." Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Scott blushing a bit in embarrassment. "This is Dr. Scott Barlow, and he is an avid space enthusiast, my dear; wanted to go into space medicine, but our untimely disappearance changed that."
Laughing slightly at the young manís discomfiture, he continued. "I hope that after the third, he might be able to pursue his original plans." Looking at Scott, he said, "I assume that you would still go into space medicine if given the chance?" Scott nodded enthusiastically.
Over breakfast, John informed Maureen of his plans. "Iíll condescend to use the cube because it will decrease the chances of an eruption of a media circus. Iím beginning to see what we have not been missing by wandering the galaxy. But I still canít understand the furor, especially after all of this time." He shook his head in amazement.
"Have you forgotten, John? UFO sightings, alien abductions, Bermuda triangle, area 51, etc. and so on. Folks love a mystery, and you people have been the ultimate mystery ever since you disappeared. Nothing to indicate a total destruction, so ergo, a mystery. I, myself had a website, until I got so busy in the trauma center that I had to turn it over to my friend to maintain. Got a lot of hits, too. Space itself had seemed a bit unattainable after your disappearance, but after the initial shock wore off, the mystery and interest just increased."
John just stared at his new friend for a moment before getting back to his breakfast, still dumbfounded at the revelation. Being something of a celebrity was disconcerting, and it disturbed him greatly.
After breakfast, John and Maureen spent a bit of time ordering some winter clothing through the computer catalogues. "Maureen, may I ask what youíre using for credit? Those sparkling little rocks of mine wonít cover a great deal," he said as she punched in her first order. With a smile, she held up a credit card with Colleenís name on it. "I should have known," he said, chuckling.
By late afternoon, ready for the cool outdoors, Maureen and John interlinked their hands and this time made the transition without incident. They found themselves sitting side by side in a nineteenth century country church. The warmth of the afternoon sun had not penetrated the old wooden building and they sat close for a few minutes until the lethargy of the trip wore off.
"See, I told you it was the only way to go, John," Maureen said quietly, feeling the peacefulness of the old church. "Letís go out and walk around the grounds a bit. You only brought me here once after we were married and I want to see if Cadeís Cove is still just as beautiful as it was then."
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