Planet of Wishes
Chapter Seven - I'll
Be Home for Christmas
Maureen left John alone for several hours and then went looking
for him, finding him in the cargo bay, working on one of the jet packs.
"Might as well do an aerial survey," was his only comment when
Sitting down next to him, she asked, "John, are you all
He continued working on the machine for a few more minutes in
silence. Maureen sat quietly without saying anything. Finally he put his
tools down. "Mo, I suppose that as long as I never heard any news,
I could always picture my parents alive and well in my mind. Always
there, waiting if we ever managed to find our way back. Just as they
were when we left. What Penny didn't reveal in her disk told me that
Mother had died, and I wasn't there with her. I know it was nothing that
could be helped or changed, but I feel I let her and Dad down." He
heaved a great sigh. "Am I making sense?"
Maureen picked up a rag and wiped a smudge from John's cheek.
"You're making perfect sense, John. I felt those same emotions when
my parents died. But we can't be sure that's what Penny was
"What did you get from Penny's message?" he asked
"The same thing you did, John," she answered softly.
He suddenly leaned over and grabbed Maureen in a fierce embrace.
"I'm so glad to have you. So grateful, so blessed." His breath
caught raggedly in his throat. Maureen held him tightly, feeling equally
blessed. She knew that he was trying hard to control his emotions and
only partially succeeding. Neither saw or heard their youngest child
come into the cargo bay, realize what was going on, and retreat as
quietly as he had come in.
"Mother was the glue that bound our family together with her
humor and inspiration. She wouldn't let me give up on my dreams of
space, even when there was no money for school. She pushed me to do
better," he said quietly, and then looked lovingly at Maureen.
"She did all of those things, just like you do now, Maureen."
He and Maureen sat close to each other in comfortable silence.
John's eyes had a faraway look, which Maureen recognized as reminiscing,
and she, too, thought of the woman who had always made her feel a member
of John's large and boisterous family.
After awhile, a thought occurred to him. "You know on that
disk, Penny mentioned what the date was on Earth." Maureen nodded.
John continued. "It had to be a hint. She wants to celebrate
Christmas. And we should. Even with all the hardships, we still have
each other, we have what we need, and having a Christmas celebration
would be a perfect way to express our gratitude," he stated.
"And perhaps we might surprise Penny, although I tend to doubt
it," he added with a slight smile.
And then a thought crossed his mind, one that made him pause. It
was a wild idea, and he smiled slightly at the thought because it was
one that his prankster mother would have found extremely amusing; that
is, if he could pull it off. "We'll organize it secretly, and we
can fool the rest as well as Penny. I will be in charge of the tree, why
don't you be in charge of..." he paused, looking at his wife for
"I might as well take on the food. I've been in charge of
that for three years anyway," Maureen smiled.
John smiled. "What a wonderful party this is going to
A short time later, while working under the chariot with Don, the
professor made basically the same pitch. Don volunteered to be in charge
of activities. "Games and things like that, right, John?" he
"Yes, and it must be kept a secret, although heaven knows how
we can do that on this ship," John told him emphatically.
Will was placed under the same restrictions when asked to make
decorations. His eyes gleamed with excitement. Judy, being more
musically inclined than anyone else in the family, was happy to be in
charge of the singing during the little Christmas Eve celebration,
promising to keep silent about her preparations.
John decided that Dr. Smith could participate in the party, but if
he were told anything at all in advance, then everybody else in this
section of the galaxy would know about it in approximately one nano-second.
So the older man was left out of the preparations, which frustrated him
because he knew that something was afoot but couldn't find out what it
And for the next two days, many places on the Jupiter II became
restricted zones by various members of the family.
Penny reveled in the attention and the love of her father's
extended family. Grandpa, along with her Aunt Roberta and Uncle Jason,
took her shopping at the mall where, to her surprise, she had problems
adjusting to the crowds. Staying close to her grandfather, she gazed in
alarm at the three stories of shops, the huge numbers of people and the
cacophony of noises. The elder Robinson saw her discomfort and guessed
that life for three years with only six other people would make such
crowds seem threatening.
He decided to cut the trip short, only stopping for hamburgers on
the way back home. Thereafter, most everything was done at home where
his grand-daughter felt more comfortable, with only short trips for
certain items she wanted to take back to the Jupiter II with her.
Her cousins sat with her around the dining room table plying her
with questions about her adventures on the voyage. Often the adults
would stop and listen as well. But halfway through the second day, the
girl kept seeing in her mind visions of her family working in and around
the space ship, the flutter-dragons swirling and swooping in their
aerial dances. And she realized that she was homesick.
"Judy and Don proposed to each other while we were on the
Ugorrim world. And it was Dad who kept the two races from destroying
each other when the Rylorr tried to make him take a bomb to blow up
Mmringorr's people." A knock on the door interrupted her story.
Uncle Randy answered, and all in the kitchen listened intently when his
voice rose in anger. Grandpa joined him.
Penny couldn't help but hear what was being said. "Sir, I
don't care what your sources have told you, and I don't care what your
credentials are, I wish you would stop coming to see me every time
someone on the internet puts up a Jupiter II sighting," she heard
Grandpa say wearily. "My son made a commitment almost eight years
ago, and although I don't believe he's dead, I am not going to look
behind every bush for him to appear."
"But, Mr. Robinson, I have a photo of someone with you
yesterday who bears a striking resemblance to Penny Robinson. Have any
of the Robinsons contacted you?" the voice asked.
"Yes, my son Randy, here; my daughter Roberta; my other son
Jason; and my youngest daughter, Michele. Now, mister, are you going to
leave or do I call the cops?" Penny decided that she would not want
to be in the shoes of their visitor right now. Grandpa had that deadly
cold sound in his voice, the same one that she had heard occasionally in
her Dad's voice when he had had enough and was not about to take
anymore. But it bothered her that he was being pestered like this on her
When he returned to the dining room, Grandpa looked at Penny and
sighed. "I'm sorry, Penny, that you had to hear that. Believe it or
not, your family has not been totally forgotten the last three plus
years. It's even worse on the anniversary of the launch. And now that
there have been all those hearings in Washington debating the voyage of
another ship out to Alpha Centauri, the tabloids have been trying to
have a field day. It's almost as bad as the UFO sightings that used to
be reported when I was younger."
"Oh, but that's wonderful that someone else would be able to
go to Alpha Centauri," Penny exclaimed. "Dad's survey made it
sound like a wonderful place."
"But it doesn't look like it's going to pass. The Jupiter
II's so-called destruction is still too fresh," Uncle Randy told
her. "And with everything going on in the Middle East and Asia,
defense is more important now, at least according to the majority on the
hill. Sending a group of people in cryogenic chambers is considered
risky and counterproductive."
"But we have hyperdrive or else we couldn't have visited all
the planets that we have. Our only problem right now is not knowing
which part of the galaxy we're in," Penny explained.
Her grandfather looked at her in amazement. "Too bad you
don't know how it works."
"Dad understands the principle, but he hates the jumps. They
make him nervous. We just kind of stay out of his way just before a
hyperspace jump." Penny chuckled and then stopped abruptly. In her
mind, she visualized Dad looking at the plate she had brought back and
suddenly realized that he had figured out that Grandma was dead.
"He knows," she whispered.
Grandpa looked at her pale face in alarm. "Knows what, dear?
"Dad knows about Grandma," she said. "He figured it
out from the note I wrote, even though I didn't say it directly. Don't
ask how I know, I just do. I must go back tonight." Grandpa nodded.
Grateful, Penny knew he understood her needs.
Because of the visit of the tabloid reporter, the rest of the
afternoon and evening was spent in the house. The chatter and love of
all of her relatives was like a warm, fuzzy blanket enveloping her,
filling her with warmth, and she was so happy that she had come.
Part of the evening was spent packing the items she had picked out
to take with her to the Jupiter II. Finally, they had all been placed in
the backpack that Uncle Randy had bought for her.
Still, the family talked, each giving her messages to convey to
the rest. A message disk was made, with everyone putting in a few
sentiments. As the younger cousins grew more tired and sleepy, still
Penny couldn't quite pull herself away. Frodo had again found his way
into her lap, but was beyond kneading and purring. She stroked the
sleeping cat absently as they continued to talk. "Well,"
Grandpa finally announced, "It's several hours into Christmas
Eve." Looking at her with a loving smile, he added. "Penny,
you need to go back before you get too tired to work that thing."
She nodded and handed Frodo to Aunt Michelle. Putting on the
backpack, Penny took out the cube and gazed at it before closing her
eyes. Picturing her family and the Jupiter II, she let the longing wash
over her...and she woke up with the backpack prodding her painfully in
the back. Penny crept out of her cabin and onto the observation deck
where a small, decorated tree was standing in the middle of the room.
Four sets of golden eyes peered at her from under the upper branches,
and she was shocked to realize that the flutter-dragons were inside the
space ship. They were the ones that had 'adopted' her. Squeaking softly,
they greeted her, but didn't leave the safety of the tree.
"Welcome back, Penny," her father said softly, swiveling
the seat around from in front of the navigational computer. She hugged
him fiercely and sitting down in the chair next to him, handed him the
disk that his family had made. Then she placed her presents under the
"It's a lovely tree, Dad, even if it resembles a magnolia
more than a pine," she said laughing merrily. Then she sobered.
"You know about Grandma, don't you?"
With a slight smile, he said, "Yes, I know, Penny." He
paused and coughed slightly as though clearing his throat. "You
have already given me a Christmas present." Penny looked puzzled.
"You have returned, and you have also given me the opportunity to
hear my family again. Thank you, sweetheart. Now, off to bed with
you," he told her.
Later in the morning, Maureen chuckled as she saw that the pile
under the tree had mysteriously grown. When she fixed breakfast, she saw
a very tired Penny join them and hugged her tightly before allowing her
middle child to have any breakfast. Again, the girl had to answer
myriads of questions about her visit.
As soon as she could, Penny ran out into the midmorning sunshine,
the flutter-dragons following. Letting the bright sun warm her skin, she
reveled in the sounds of the forest and the squeaking of the little
Late that evening the Robinsons had their Christmas party. When
Judy brought out her recorder, and Maureen, the large plate of
confections and cookies, and Don, some games, everyone looked at each
other and then stared at John. He just shrugged and smiled knowingly.
Smith sat glumly on the far side of the observation deck.
"John Robinson, you deliberately tricked each one of
us!" Maureen exclaimed happily.
"Merry Christmas, everyone. Let's see what Don has provided
for our entertainment and then we can dig into the treats and let Judy
lead us in the Christmas songs," John said.
"I'll be right back," Will announced and ran back to his
cabin. When he went outside a short time later, he found the family
engaged in a rousing game of flag football under the Jupiter II's
landing lights. Laughing, he dashed into the fray and tackled his Dad,
who had been handed the ball by Judy. Several flutter-dragons squeaked
softly in confusion and then began aerial acrobatics above the players.
"This was okay twenty-five years ago, but I'm getting too old
to play in the dirt. I thought it was supposed to be touch football
anyway," John protested with a laugh. A nut from above hit him on
the head, and he glared at the little lizards, whose eyes gleamed
mischievously. "If that was a hand-off, you failed miserably,"
he told them. "All right, crew. Let's try this again. I'll be
"All right, crew. Let's try this again. I'll be quarterback."
Will centered the ball for him, and on his count
handed it back. Looking around, John found no one waiting for the
hand-off. In confusion, he looked around just in time to catch Maureen's
flying tackle in the midsection. Penny grabbed his ankles. From the
ground he looked up wryly at his laughing family.
"That will teach you to play tricks on us," Maureen
laughed merrily. "But it was such a fine trick. Worthy of a
Robinson." John laughed with her as he got to his feet and dusted
After that, the game pretty much became a free-for-all. John
didn't believe he had ever participated in a more bizarre football game.
Will even coaxed the Robot to play quarterback and throw the ball a few
times. Of course, no one tried to tackle the quarterback on those
occasions. Finally, John called a halt. "Refreshments, gang,"
he panted. The only person not participating was Dr. Smith, who stood on
the sidelines, mumbling to himself.
An hour later, everyone sat gazing at the tree, now complete with
jury-rigged lights. "What a nice touch that was, Will, adding
lights." Maureen said. "They're very lovely." Everyone
Will colored slightly. "The Robot helped. I just wanted it to
look more like the Christmas trees we had before we left Earth."
The next morning, presents were handed out. Most consisted of
promises of services to be rendered to the recipient, but some were
homemade items made from wood, or naturally occurring foods or things
available on the ship. John and Maureen sat back and watched. "Just
like old times, isn't it?" John murmured.
Maureen squeezed his hand and nodded. "Oh, John, this has
been such an enjoyable time. I'm so glad we had this celebration."
When all were finished opening their presents, John stood up.
"I have to admit that I wasn't as creative as the rest of you, and
I only had time to make one present and even at that, recruited Don's
help, but I think it's one that will benefit all of us. Follow me."
Leading everyone into the kitchen area, he asked Maureen to pull the
blanket off an object standing to one side. When she did, she gasped
audibly. It was an oven, rebuilt from the old one that had broken down,
but now it was new looking and appeared to be fully functional.
"Merry Christmas, Maureen."