Planet of Wishes
Chapter Two - Walls
"Some honeymoon," Don growled as he sat at the control panel of the Jupiter II. John was working on the navigational computer again, trying to guess which computations would be the most logical to try this time. Having slept little the night before in anticipation of another uncertain hyper-jump, he was edgy and in no mood for any complaints.
"Did you know that Smith had the gall to knock on our door at 6:00 this morning? I couldnít believe it. Claimed that Penny had left some of whatever he uses on one of his aches or pains or other ailments in the closet. And the man almost never gets up before 9:00, so what happens on the day after our marriage? Bangs on our door at six!" Don said in exasperation. John just pressed his lips tighter together and tried to concentrate on the figures on the monitor.
"And then he had the temerity to give us ten reasons why it would be unwise for Judy and I to try and have children right now. As though it were any of his business, either way. The jerk! Just because he has a doctorate to go with his name. Probably got it from the home study program of Timbuktu University."
"Don," John sighed in exasperation. "Do a check on the hyperdrive system from your station. The computer analysis program."
"John, we did that yesterday. Before the wedding, remember?" Don reminded him, a bit irritated at his friendís lack of concern at his problems.
"Yes, Don, I remember," he said testily. "Would you just do it?"
Don looked at the professor in concern before saying anything. "John, I think you are overly anxious. The hyperdrive system is probably the only flawless part on this whole ship."
"Don, I am responsible for seven lives on this voyage, and I will make whatever tests I deem necessary. Now if you arenít going to help me, then please move so I can do it myself," John snapped.
Don drew himself up and took a deep breath. His eyes flashed in anger, but he bit back the first retort that he had wanted to make. After taking a few deep breaths, he finally said, "John, I want to point out that you are not alone in this. I was chosen for this trip because I am a darn good pilot. Just because you have the greatest expertise at the helm and in astro-physics doesnít lessen the need for my abilities. Let me know when youíre finished with your tests and ready for the actual jump." Don turned on his heel and stormed out.
Dr. Zachary Smith had come up the elevator near the end of the exchange and calmly sauntered over to the control panel. "May I offer my assistance, Professor Robinson? I am certainly not an expert at this, but perhaps I can do something," he said placatingly in his smooth as oil voice.
"You can stay out of my way, Dr. Smith," John said acidly. He was still fuming over the exchange with Don and feeling guilty at the same time.
"But I am quite good with my hands, Professor," Smith bragged. Getting on someoneís good side, especially Professor Robinsonís, was an opportunity not to be missed. Especially when the good professor was upset with Major West, as he seemed to be now. Having an ally against the pilot was well worth cultivating.
"Shut up, Smith. I know youíre quite good with your hands, you got us into this mess in the first place," John snapped as he finished the analysis of his computations. "Robot, come here and check my figures," he called over his shoulder, totally ignoring the older man.
Smith huffed and walked away. Being spoken to by Professor Robinson in that manner was not a rarity, but it happened little enough to take him by surprise. However, he certainly wasnít going to wait around to be insulted anymore. He almost ran into the Robot on his way to the elevator. "Get out of the way, you discombobulated bucket of bolts."
Silently, the Robot checked the professorís figures and declared them sound. "The hyperdrive jump can be made anytime, Professor Robinson."
John had been staring out the viewport while the robot worked. Jerking his head around at the Robotís monotone announcement, he nodded. "Thank you. Stay here and donít let anyone get on the computer. Iíll be right back."
Knocking on Don and Judyís cabin door, John pondered everyoneís lack of patience and good humor. Judy opened the door and looked at her father in concern. "Judy, may I borrow your Ďhomeí for a moment, to talk to Don?"
"Sure, Dad." Turning to her husband, she said, "Iím going to see if Mom needs my help, Don." She smiled reassuringly at her father as she left.
"Don, Iím sorry for blowing up like that on the bridge. It was uncalled for," John said, softly.
The anger in Donís eyes quickly faded. Nodding, he said, "John, I know how hard these jumps are on you; Iíve sensed it for some time. But they are hard on the rest of us, too. I guess this not knowing business is finally getting to us and making everyone short tempered. Maybe if there is a suitable planet after the next jump, we should take a short vacation. Judy even said that Will argued with Maureen during one of his lessons and stormed out. That definitely means we need a rest from this ship."
"We need a rest from this trip, Don. We need to know that there is an end to all of this wandering. We need some hope." John paced as much as he was able in the small room. "It has only been a month since we relished returning to the Jupiter II after our time underground on the Urgorrim world. How long is it going to be before we become angry enough to really hurt each other?"
"Physically, never, but there have been a lot of hurt feelings lately, John," Don said, quietly. "Maybe thatís a good reason to take a break on habitable planets, even if it may seem like weíre wasting time."
Pacing a bit more before answering, John finally stopped and smiled. "Youíre right, Don. Letís go and make that jump. Maybe fortune will smile on us this time." He laughed suddenly, "Usually itís me calming you down."
Don laughed along with his father-in-law, his built up tension finding a release. "Well, just remember that if Smith gets on my nerves too much, please donít calm me down."
Judy watched from the end of the corridor as her father and her husband walked out of the room. A great sigh of relief escaped, and she realized that she had been holding her breath throughout most of the exchange. She felt a bit guilty for eavesdropping, but knew how irritated Don had been and how stubborn her father could be. Except for the wedding, this past couple of weeks had been one instance after another of raw nerves and short tempers.
Judy realized that she, too, had been ill tempered, harboring resentment for the type of wedding she had the day before. It didnít seem fair that after years of dreaming of the perfect wedding, she had simply exchanged vows on the deck of a spaceship, with only six people in attendance, including the groom. Sighing, Judy shoved those dismal thoughts out of, what she had been calling the airlock of useless sentiments. She had chosen to come with her parents on this journey; no one had forced her. In order to assuage her guilt over listening in on the menís conversation, young Mrs. West went to her parentís room to see if there was anything she could help her mother with.
The voice of her husband came over the intercom warning of the impending hyper-jump. A slight disorientation accompanied the shift from real space to hyperspace.
A week later a similar disorientation signaled the return to normal space. Another wondrous panorama of stars greeted everyoneís sight, this time accented with a distant gaseous nebula that filled up one side of the observation window.
Quickly doing the necessary computations, John pulled up the star charts, showing unfamiliar territory once again. He sighed, but this time voiced the commands to examine nearby star systems for compatible planets. Leaning back, the professor waited impatiently for the computer to analyze the data. Don anxiously looked over his shoulder.
"If this area doesnít work out, I opt that we make some short range computations and jump without delay," Don told him.
"Dad," Penny said as she climbed up the stairwell. Her dark eyes were wide and full of excitement. "Youíve found a planet." It was more a statement and than a question.
"I donít know, Penny, the results of the long range scan havenít come up yet," John said, looking askance at his youngest daughter and feeling that somehow they were going to find a planet nearby.
"Hey, John, look at this!" Don exclaimed, pointing at the screen.
"Well, Iíll be. A very promising system with a very, very promising planet," John said with a smile. "Head for it, Don. I even believe we can compute a short jump for this one."
Don grinned. "Aye, aye, Captain, sir." And his hands flew over the control panel with the ease of one who had much practice. John simultaneously worked on the navigational computer and within minutes, the two men entered the commands, and the ship made the short jump to the large planet. Judy stood behind her husband and smiled. When the two men in her life worked together, they were like two cogs in the same wheel, meshing perfectly.
Within the day, the Jupiter II was orbiting the very inviting planet. The large sphere swinging majestically below them vaguely reminded everybody of Earth. Blue-green seas alternated with patches of brown, green and white. Clouds obscured many of the landforms, and everyone on board was excited at the prospects of being free, at least temporarily, from the ship. Only Smith stood wringing his hands, anticipating some evil creature lurking behind an equally evil tree or bush. Even vegetation scared him now.
"Will, I would like you to work with the robot on preparing a surface analysis," John said with a slight smile. "It will make up for the work you missed the other day when you snapped at your mother and walked out of her xenobiology class."
Will looked up at his father in bemusement. He had thought the incident had been forgotten. Sighing, he called the Robot over to the central computer and began working, realizing that the Ďpunishmentí wasnít really that bad.
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