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a cruel kind of agony; abridged

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He opened the door then walked through the doorway and watched as everything changed around him to the scenery that wasn't so bright, optimistic, and hopeful. It became sad, it became dreadful, it became ugly. All the likes seen in a fever dream.

It lost its bright theme to the neighboring walls becoming a dark counterpart of itself. It became sour to his eyes. Depressing to a point. All there were people sitting at tables drinking with screens displaying the news that were part of the walls. He searched for the professor and the major, the ones of this universe, only to find they were no where to be seen.

Not even on the stools that he had first seen them. And they never did go here. Smith reminded himself. He walked out the back door then strolled out the passageway. He stopped in his tracks then turned around and saw the timeless, the classic, the friend that he ever needed back where they had first met.

"Doctor. . . Doctor Smith?" Robot asked, raising his bobbed transparent helm up in shock. "This does not compute. This does not compute."

The transparent specter was surrounded by the Robinsons then, they too, faded away as did a small smile toward them that was taken away by tragedy. It's for them. He trudged his way back to the forsaken shop then went toward the hangar where he had stolen the two piece outfit so long ago. He had it folded nice and neat then slid it on the table then smiled back, innocently.

"Here to return." Smith said, softly.

"Return what?" The wardrobe specialist looked up toward him, startled, tilting their three llama like heads.

"This choice of clothing." Smith said.

The wardrobe specialist stared down upon the outfit then back toward Smith.

"Sir, I have not seen this before." The wardrobe specialist said. "Never been on my hangar before."

"I took this off the hangar a long time ago," He placed the silver on to the table. "This silver will more than make up for it."

"Name?" The wardrobe specialist took out a blue pad and a thin pen object.

"Doctor Zachary Smith." Smith tapped on the counter. "You may have heard of me."

"Ah," the wardrobe specialist grinned jotting on the screen. "I have!" they put the object aside. "That will cost you fifty pieces of silver!"

Smith put a extra ten on the table then stacked it on the top of the other.

"Sixty-four," Smith tapped on the stack. "Nothing more."

"All that you have?"

"Yes." Smith said.

And at that moment, he felt older. He felt twenty years older and heard the voice that went through the arch instead of the deep young one that had taken time to become accustomed to. The arthritis nagging at his bones were there for a moment then it vanished replaced by the consistent pain in his entire being.

"All that I have."

And the aged whine compliance to it was replaced by youth.

"Take five back for a motel room." The wardrobe specialist handed the five coins back to him.

"I will take the clothing." they took the folded clothing and unfolded it. "How long have you had it?"

"Not quite sure." Smith shrugged. "I have only worn it; sometimes. The women have done their work tending the garment, I am sure."

"Looks very well taken care of and very new."

"I guess? It has been through a lot. And I don't mean that lightly."

The wardrobe specialist handed another five back to him.

"You sound like you have been through hell."

"That. . . I have, my dear." Smith smiled back. "I had friends and family to help me through it. And I owe them everything to be a better man then when I entered their lives."

The specialist smiled then hung the clothing on the hangar among the set of clothing. Smith went to another station and purchased McFlurry Oreo icecream to help soothe the pain in his heart. It couldn't help him with the constant chronic pain but it could help the emotional pain. He was nearly at the bottom when he looked up spotting a familiar young man going on by him. It was himself.

He froze spotting his wary but scared counterpart who was visibly trembling. Had he trembled that badly when he was fleeing from them? He wanted to reach out and assure him-no, Smith decided as a smile grew on his face watching his counterpart go to the hangar and grasp on to the two articles of clothing. He needs to find that out himself.

He had a single thought: What if they see me? What if. . .Then remembered that he had a third eye. His younger counterpart lacked that. No. I won't go back to that horrid family. Never. But I can watch. He turned around watching the scene unfold just as it had happened so long ago. It was a matter of minutes watching his counterpart flee through the market place with the bracelet glowing on and off as he passed each building. He looked down toward his own, then noticed it was loosened and slackened, then slid it off and it was missing a bubble. He was thrown back to the moment in how he had lost it. He grimaced at the memory.

"Smith!"

Smith turned in the source of the familiar voice spotting West.

"Smith!"

He watched Major Don West and Doctor Judy Robinson pause in the middle of the market place.

"Damn it, we lost him."

It occurred to Smith as he proceeded to grin, widely. He were witnessing a casual time loop with the vest and the shirt. Stolen, worn, damaged, repaired, returned, stolen, worn, damaged, repaired, returned, stolen, worn, damaged, and the loop went on forever until soon enough it were too old and not as novel as they were before that the clothing needed to be replaced in such a way that it were painstakingly made identical to the original then returned in placement of the stolen article of clothing. He wondered, briefly, about the subject: If it didn't come from here then where did it come from?

"I am sure that he went this way."

"If he were a monster then he would be easy to spot." West scanned the environment with hate in his voice.

Smith watched his counterpart come out of the alleyway, trembling, holding on to his hands in a hunched position.

"Maybe he went into another building?"

West turned his attention toward Judy.

"Okay, we can try that building."

Judy and West went into a building as his counterpart discarded the Jupiter 2 equipment on the tables at the market place as he went past them. More so dropping them as bread crumbs. It was a intentional act. He was scared and a little unsure that this could work. After all the bitter failures to cure him of the infection leading him down this market place was noisy and active.

It was more so of a jungle that his younger self easily navigated through. Smith looked down toward his own hands that were trembling holding on to the cup then back up. The door to the building that they went in opened and his counterpart speed walked through the market place and the major came out catching a glimpse.

"He went that way!" West announced.

West ran after him.

"Don!" Judy called. "Don't try to kill him! He is scared as it is right now!"

Watching them run after him, their fates were sealed. He waited a few more minutes leaning against the station watching his counterpart become a specter. Enjoy the Robinsons, accept them, let them in, Zachary! Before it's too late, this time! Was what he wanted to say but he couldn't say it. Enjoy what little time you have around the Robinsons!

He stopped and wondered. Was I always meant to be here? Just as the articles of clothing? He tossed the cup into the recycling bin including the spoon with it. By now, the major and Judy were slowly making their way back to the family to report on the news that he had vanished without a trace. The correct announcement would be; he escaped. And he is never coming back. Was never coming back for that matter to the reminder of Hell, agony, heartbreak, sorrow, mistreatment. 

He turned away from the path that he went down, sighed, then shook his head taking the thought of coming back to this version of the Robinsons off his mind. His shoulders loosened, his hands unclasped, with a fresh wave of certainty and relative happiness of his current state of being. His path next was forward directly to the shop managed by Professor Eglardo.


Eglardo exited the lab shortly after Smith had made his path away from the shop while cleaning a goblet that he dropped earlier. A loud series of knocks drew him forward then he came to the door and unlocked it. Eglardo slowly opened the door and paused with his eyes on the man. The goblet shattered into several pieces once landing to the floor. A large floating machine went over it and sucking in the contents. The machine vanished from Smith's line of vision.

"Hello, Professor Eglardo." Smith said with a wave and a broad grin that broke the tension. "Problem free."

"It. . . It. . . It worked," Eglardo said, almost speechless with eyes in awe. "It worked."

"I am here to return your machine," he carefully took the machine out of his long pocket then handed it into the shopkeeper's hand.

"Come in, please!"

The awe melted away into a confident smile and a dark look in the man's eyes. A look that he had seen many times in his lifetime on Earth and on the space station waiting for time to catch up with him the long way. One that had helped him get through life before and after the war.

A darkness that was necessary to bring him home. A darkness that he hadn't seen in his first time walking in through the doorway into the shop. He was young even clouded by fear and desperation back then. How did he not notice that? The major's words struck back at him. He was too distracted by his own pain. Smith walked past Eglardo.

"Here is some tea," Eglardo handed the tea cup to the man then went over toward the door and applied his hand on to a light blue screen. "You have been on a long and perilous journey."

Smith leaned against the counter as Eglardo turned back toward him as the door had a unreadible click.

"You don't know the start of it," Smith took a good long sip leaning against the counter then set the tea cup alongside the cashier. "I come to ask for a little more of your help."

A glint showed off from one of Eglardo's eyes behind the visor.

"Anything," Eglardo looked down toward Smith in awe.

"I want to be sent back to my home planet," Smith said.

"That is very specific," Eglardo said.

"You sent me somewhere that helped me. You can do it again," Smith said. "But . . . it has to be this universe."

"What system?" Eglardo asked.

"The system in which I came from," Smith said. "Earth."

Eglardo mulled it over then returned their attention on to Smith.

"Where do you want to go to your home world?" Eglardo asked. "Anywhere more specific on the planet?"

"I will input the date and time to the machine," Smith said. "That is for me to know."

"You don't know how to operate it," Eglardo's comment earned enlarged eyes from the older man.

"Do not challenge your elders, Eglardo," Smith said.

"How . . . How . . ." Eglardo started. "how do you know my name?"

"You once had a dream of becoming a intergalactic police officer," Smith said. "He was the first man to cross paths with me after I went into the bar."

"Once," Eglardo said. "I did. But that was in a time. . ." he stopped. "There is not much darkness where you went."

Smith looked off momentarily back at the past growing a small fond smile at a memory and back again at Eglardo.

"There is more hope, kindness, and patience there then you can imagine," Smith said.

"So. . ." Eglardo slowly stepped aside. "heaven?"

"Heaven is a place that you make," Smith shook his head walking in then turned toward the shop keeper who closed the door behind him. "It's always there."

"How long have you been in this station?" Eglardo asked.

"Four standard minutes," Smith replied as Eglardo locked the door behind him.

"Four standard minutes," Eglardo raised a eyebrow. "That long. . ."

"I wish that you don't try this on someone else," Smith plead. "No one deserves to go through what I did."

"Arranged," Eglardo looked down toward the bracelet. "This have all the data I need-" he stopped looking down toward the contents of the bracelet and his eyes were wide. "What happened to the other glass bubble?"

"My colleague happened," Smith said, ruefully. "I had no choice but to send him through a very weak multiphasic barrier."

"He is never coming back," Eglardo said.

"There is a possibility that he can-"

"He can't," Eglardo said.

"How are you sure that it only works twice?" Smith asked.

"I thought it worked like a card would and the barrier was the door in my experience," Eglardo said. "If he does come back then it will be to his own timeline."

Smith's heart momentarily stopped for a moment.

"What do you mean by his own timeline?"

Eglardo tapped on the device and took out a replica of it: one glowed black and the other glowed a navy blue.

"You never came back to your native timeline, Doctor Smith," Eglardo said.

"Where am I?" Smith felt his stomach drop.

"You are in one similar to it but not too quite," Eglardo said. "That's the one glitch of the machine as it turns out." Eglardo shook his head. "You never quite return where you come from."

Smith shook his head.

"That's not possible." Smith scowled in response. "If I am from a different timeline .  .  . THHHHHHHEEEEEEN WWWWWWWWWHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHY AAAAAAAAAAAM IIIII HEEEEERRRRREEEEEEEEEEE?"

Eglardo stared back at the older man in a moment of shock then looked toward the device.

"These glass balls say otherwise." Eglardo tapped on the bulbs.

"I have some hang overs from the bright universe so it is a false registration." Smith acknowledged. "Too much of it. It'll go away with time."

"That. . . would explain." Eglardo said. "A few things."

"So, I am in my native universe, after all." Smith said.

"The darkness still flickers off the band, but now you, you are just-" Eglardo stared at him shaking his hands trying to grasp a intangible object. "Radiating the light."

"I like being in the light," Smith said. "Thank you very much." He looked toward the wrist watch. "It is hardly radiating darkness and hasn't been in the last four months."

"It''s been four months. .  ."

"Yes."

"Now, your back?"

"Healed."

Smith's hands slipped over a piece of pottery tipping it over so that it crashed to the floor in front of him.

"Good!" Eglardo said. "Where are you going?"

"Running away used to do a lot of good for me," Smith said. "Once."

His voice high pitched as his senses alerted him that he was in great danger.

"And it did provide you with some use." Eglardo said.

"But I can't run away much longer." Smith admitted. "And I like to have a ride back home if possible since I have just proven to you that travel between universes is possible."

While talking, Smith backed away from Eglardo with his hands that were outlining the edge of the counter. He felt the air descend into a atmosphere promoting chills, stiffness in the limb, and heaviness in the heart. He can sense evil radiating from his very being. His heart raced as he began to tremble in the silence between them with his fingers outlining the counter that he was walking back alongside.

All very contrasting how long ago that Smith had sensed none of it from the man. It was plain as day. The once kind eyes had turned to darkness. His back met the closed door from behind. It was as if Eglardo had gone through a total character shift. A shift that spelled certain doom for the plan. Any other plan that meant getting directly back to Earth to surround himself with a predictable environment.

"You will go home," Eglardo pressed on a button to the vape. "Just not right this moment. But soon."

"What do you want?" Smith hissed.

"Your memories." Eglardo's comment earned horror.

"No!" Smith shouted.

"Don't worry, I will take the bad ones that you made where you went," he placed the vape on to the table as smoke drifted out of it falling over the counter coming down to the floor with a hiss. "You can keep the most precious ones!" Eglardo had a laugh. "I am a scientist but I am not that cruel of a scientist."

"I want to keep them all!" Smith protested as he stepped back from the being with a visible tremble. "All my memories before the cure and after them are not entirely pure!"

"Not everything is free, Doctor Smith." Eglardo said with a puff and a bitter reminder. "Everything has a cost."

Eglardo tapped on his visor.

"No! Nooo!" Smoke began to fill the room from around them. "Nooo! Noooo!"

Smith fled past the man as the barriers to the shopping windows came down. Eglardo's visor turned into a gas mask from behind Smith. The window was covered by a thin layer of metal. From outside, it appeared that the blinds had gone down and the text 'CLOSED' appeared on the door.

Within the shop, Smith was hitting the door with his side trying to force it open.

Eglardo's laughter was the last thing that Smith heard as he fell to his feet and landed to the floor losing consciousness.

"No. . ."

And he was welcomed into the black like a old friend.


"I have a bad feeling about this," Margret said.

Smith's figure was laid in a stasis tube that was frosted over and hard to see through but only his general shape was to be found. Eglardo stood by the side of his young companion who seemed generally concerned about what had to be done next so the professor turned toward her with a grin.

"It will be okay, Margret." Eglardo reassured.

"What if I don't come back?" Margret asked.

"You will." Eglardo assured then his features darkened. "You will take the long way is all. Or the short way."

"How long did he wear it?"

"A long time." Eglardo said. 

"How LONG of a time?"

"According to the time sensors, twenty-three years in our time!"

"Twenty-three years."

"Very long time."

"Where was he?"

"In the light. Lost track of time itself. Hell of a thing."

"The light? You mean, he was dead?"

"No. He just. . . It's a summer afternoon, you sit on a pontoon, you look at your watch, it's been five hours but it feels like it were five minutes to you." Margret merely stared back at him. "It's hard to explain, Margret."

"Then try." Margret said. "Without needing to use that comparison since that comparison is too horrifying to believe."

Eglardo could not blame Margret for her belief, if he had been in her shoes then so would he.

"I have never seen any case like it." Eglardo confessed then popped dozen blueberries into his mouth and proceeded to chew them with a long moment of silence before adding. "Doesn't show any signs of notable aging but just the machine does and it looked different --- like a older version, more resilient, less obsolete, eternal --- until I took it off and it were back to the way that it were before."

Margret looked toward the tube in horror.

"I don't get scared that easily and this method of travel is more frightening than initially expected."

"So, what did that world . . . do . . . to him?" The question had difficulty coming out,

"It turned him into a brave Earth man to come back and face me and bring him back to his home world." Eglardo reasoned looking the frost paneled glass. "I could say the word that he were was experiencing The Simpsons, no one aging, as that would make sense, yet I feel time itself continued for lifeforms that walked on four feet and plants. Other than that, it's a puzzle that can't be solved by conventional memes."

"Turned a coward into a courageous man," Margret said. "Impressive."

"Yes. . . It did." Eglardo said. "I need you to put this --" he gestured toward the replica set in the glass case across from the resting older man. "--on when the exhibit starts before the audience."

"And then what do you need me to do?" Margret asked.

"You will know what to do when it glows." Eglardo grinned with a nod down toward her.

"Is this his?" Margret looked up from the bracelet in the glass case beside them.

"No." Eglardo said with a shake of his head in disappointment. "I can't replace the missing bubble. . . Bummer.

"Was it important?" Margret asked, curious

"Not really." Eglardo said. "Just a decoration piece. The first five bubbles were important."

"And?" Margret asked.

"We got them." Eglardo raised his visor then winked.


It was a week later and Eglardo gave her the new device. Margret hesitated then dropped the slick wrist band on to her hand and watched as the small circular points expanded to become large bubbles. She looked up toward the roaring crowd then on toward her nodding companion beckoning her on. She was in a dark spacesuit uniform that had little design piece to it except it was a onesie and a strange neck collar at that. She walked up the stairs quite slowly, shoveling her hands in her pockets, her figure trembling, her shoulders lowered, reluctant to walk forward, but surely.

"Now. . ." Eglardo boomed toward the crowd. "Watch her!"

The bubbles glowed a bright green brightly in a pulsing way. Eglardo beckoned the woman on. Margret took a deep breath then on the stage with her eyes closed and her hands rolled into fists that trembled. She stopped in her tracks having difficulty with the barrier fighting against it. She was fighting against the against the fabric of reality as she took a step forward singing halfway in. The crowd cheered her on. She looked on toward Eglardo who nodded her on with a grin that acted as encouragement.

Margret headbutted the barrier vanishing behind the veil then so did her arm and leg then so did the other parts of her body. The crowd stood up to their feet roaring with applause. From behind Eglardo was dropped a pod out of the stage frame above by two large elaborate metal arms. A thin black film began to retreat away from the glass window ever so slowly as minutes ticked by. Drinks and food were given to the visitors one by one. In it rested Smith snoring away with his head lowered in a black two piece uniform. The loud applause disturbed his slumber bringing out of the comforting abyss.

Smith awoke,raising his head up, his joints felt sore, and his throat was dry. He planted his head against the head rest as his eyes adjusted to the color of the scenery. It wasn't difficult to do adjusting his eyes to the glimmers of light fixtures and layers of dark colors. A long transparent tube came into his field of vision then slipped into his mouth so he bit on to it squeezing the water from it. It was yanked out of his mouth with a feeling of renewal surging through his being. His mind reeled through the chain of events that left him here. Bright light blinded him momentarily and he squeezed his eyes over the sound of voices.

"This is my volunteer," Eglardo stood beside the booth. "The man responsible for this ground breaking effort in traveling between universes."

It occurred to Smith as he shook his head.

"Now, you have seen my previous volunteer walk off into that side of the stage," Eglardo pointed toward Smith's left. "Right now she is heading right this way."

Smith's eyes became fully adjusted watching the crowd of unfamiliar people dressed in dulled but still as colorful day wear. He recognized several species among them as ones that had been around in the planet the Robinsons had stayed on but heavily different and their theme was darker versions of their counterparts. He saw a bright figure walk down the row that drew everyone's attention. Eglardo's grin began to fade watching Margret come closer. His happiness faded into sadness.

Gasps escaped from the crowd. No longer was Margret in the uniform as she had been before but in a blue top and navy blue pants that had thick pockets. She had a confident stride, her head held high, and her hands were relaxed showing not a sign of fear. She walked up the stairs as everyone's eyes were focused on the scars decorating her exposed skin telling a story of war, survival, and victory.

"You look well for a dead man." Margret said.

Margret handed the bracelet back to Eglardo.

"Margret," Eglardo's voice softened and his facial features fell to dismay. From the box, Smith was struggling in the chair that restrained his movements that no one was paying attention to but only on the couple. "What happened?"

"I attended a star war," Margret said. "That is enough I can tell."

"I can finish this another time," Eglardo's voice was small.

"No," Margret shook her head. "I like to see your presentation conclude to finish this order of business."

Eglardo's grin returned.

"Ladies, gentlemen, entities!" Eglardo faced the crowd. "Watch this man vanish and reappear!"

"The passage of time will be different to him than it is to us so when he does reappear," Margret said. "He will be in a different uniform!"

Eglardo slid down a switch then the microphones turned off. Eglardo came to the console alongside the machine glancing off toward the colonel.

"Please, don't!" Smith plead behind the barrier as he struggled shaking his head. "Don't! Let me keep them! These are my memories! Spare my memories! Spare me!"

"When you put that wrist band on, they became mine just as you did becoming part of my experiment,"

Eglardo took off his visor then narrowed his many eyes back at the man.

"On second thought . . ."

Smith's vision began to darken as his head started to lower while breathing in the smoke filling in the booth.

"I will not bring you back, after all!"

Smith glared up toward Eglardo, a mix of feelings, unable to discern if he were being deceived then it was all darkness. And everything changed from there for Smith to a familiar place: Mission Control; his medical lab. He watched himself walk through the doorway and the door close behind him. Smith staggered back and fell into the chair. He turned away from the door then put his hand on the table coming to grips. What had just happened? What had just happened? He wasn't quite sure.

One moment, he was preparing to wheel the plans of the future. He wasn't quite sure but as he looked toward the machine beside him; he saw a familiar model on the counter. It was a Apple Computer, circa 1997. He withdrew his hand and the modern variation appeared. He put his hand back on the keyboard then watched it reappear. He withdrew his hand feeling exhausted and rested his back against it. Dopplegangers were often times seen as a warning. Perhaps, he better not.

Then he remembered, quickly, but it wasn't memories of a nightmare and that was apparent. The sabotage, the betrayal, the attempt to save himself, being assigned into cell that was a medical lab, the Robinson children posing as prison guards, the Proteus, the long and torturous month, going through the doorway, and that was it. And he was home after a series of events that likely proceeded after his return and had to be difficult.

Smith grinned then relaxed in the chair slouching in it feeling satisfaction as a plan unraveled in his mind to make Global Sedition pay for something so horrible. It felt all right to be back, safe and sound, unharmed. One thing was very certain: he would not join his counterpart. The events would happen just as they had before as what happened, happened. But, he could alter his counterpart's future. First, he had to visit a restaurant and have a meal fit for a king before beginning his vindictive agenda.


General Goddard (formerly General Herris) walked into his office reading a pad of what had been reported. The Jupiter 2 was lost. Lost and unable to be reached after the last contact with Jupiter 1, Major West, indicating they were flying toward the sun even the last communication that they were going to go into hyper drive was some sign of hope that they could be found.

And they were lost without hope for the time being. Lost, without hope, everything was up in the air. That was a cruel kind of agony that brought despair, tragedy, and a lonely but sad existence moving from planet to planet --if they survived the first year-- searching for a way to Alpha Prime A losing things along the way and using equipment that couldn't be replicated and souls lost forever to the dark grasps of the feline wrapped in galaxies, suns, worlds, asteroids, aliens, clinging to the family clawing at them until death was a sweet fitting surrender without contact from civilization.

Another thought plagued him. One day, they wouldn't be able to get up and leave the planet, they would be planet found, castaways, unable to leave and spend the rest of their days somewhere that they weren't trained to live on. He had a significant pause, briefly closing his eyes, at the horrible situation that his mind was bringing him.

A hot headed young man dooming the expedition with a crash, dying by being a lone wolf, and their Rambler Crane being the sole protector for as long as it could until nobody was left to protect. The general resumed walking. We're going to find them and bring them home. It was a personal vow and he wasn't about to give up hope that they would get home one way or another.

Even the Proteus that was originally going to be a research station was quickly becoming a rescue vessel.

Goddard stopped in his tracks then looked up spotting a all too familiar man at his desk with his feet stacked on the counter and his arms folded.

"Smith."

A word that sounded familiar from the general, a word that vaguely familiar, something that was warmly regarded and he couldn't pin point where exactly it was. It was almost a throw back to the distant past of what he didn't recall the general in his youth which was incredibly strange to him as Smith felt like he knew him, personally, not the way that the doctor knew him professionally. Smith smiled sliding one boot after the other off the desk then it slid down and put a hand on the counter tapping on it.

"General Goddard." Smith greeted the general while he leaned into the chair acting casual. "How good to see you."

Goddard glared down the colonel.

"Why are you, of all people, in my office?" Goddard spoke in best but controlled voice with a glare that felt eerily familiar to Smith yet it carried a hint of irritation. "Wanted to repay the favor for me visiting Rambler?"

Smith propped himself up then got out of the chair and shook his head.

"To confess." Smith dusted his hands off.

Goddard frowned as his eyes tracked the colonel.

"Regarding your cynicism about the mission?"

Smith's eyes flashed open wide.

"Bah hum bug!" Smith walked past Goddard with a wave of his hand. "That mission was doomed at its bare concept, General."

"Can you please get out of my office." Goddard requested, annoyed yet struggling to be polite.

"Not until I confess." Smith turned toward the general.

"That you think this mission is doomed." Goddard sighed, exasperated, then rolled his eyes. "We got a lot of personnel who think that." he folded his arms, patiently waiting for the man to leave his office, exasperated. "We just lost the Jupiter 2."

"I am not leaving until you ask for a investigation until my finances." Smith proceeded to spill his guts, verbally. "That I was wired riches by Global Sedition to perform sabotage for the mission. I murdered Captain Daniels."

He was pacing back and forth relaying the information then paused in his tracks turning toward the General.

"I sabotaged the rambler crane series Robot just a few short hours ago. I sent the ship astray toward the sun by being electrocuted by a communicator awarded to me by Global Sedition. I awoke Major West." he gestured toward the window. "And the rest, you know."

Goddard looked at Smith like he had grown two heads, the body of a horse, and had sprouted wings and horns.

"You are not being serious." Goddard turned toward Smith.

"I am serious as the planet dying," Smith replied.

"Get out of my office, Smith." The general growled. "You've lost your mind."

Smith had a long and weathered glare to Goddard.

"The crops are dying, floods have destroyed entire communities, smog has gotten difficult to live with!" He stood on the tips of his toes towering over the shorter man to his full height then set himself down and folded his arms. "And don't get me started on the buildings melting under the sun during the heatwaves."

Goddard stared Smith down quite shocked.

"Who . . . who. . ." Goddard said. "Who told you that?"

"Twitter, my dear General. And the likes of Reddit." He cleared his throat before adding. "If I had to NOT spill the reason why this were happening, I would have been needed a fantastic share and I wanted it and it bit me in the ass." The general was still processing the announcement. "You can't suppress the truth for long." he sat down into the chair across from the desk as Goddard paled. "I am not leaving until there is a arrest warrant."

"I got something better," Goddard said, full of resolve glaring him down, much to Smith's displeasure. "Throwing you out."

"My dear General, please." Smith sighed, setting his hands on the arm rest, exasperated. "Look at this replica of the Jupiter 2 for one moment."

Goddard looked over.

"That's a concept-" Goddard watched as Smith's fingers landed on the item then held it in his hand and turned before his eyes into the outer saucer the ship had gone in. ". . . Artistic representation. . ." Smith leaned into the chair. "How long has this been happening?"

"Since I awoke; eight hours," Smith said then shrugged. "Thought everything I had remembered was a dream."

"Until," Goddard said.

"I saw evidence of my own conduct on my comn." Smith replied.

"What happened?" Goddard said.

"The last I recall was fleeing from Major West into a bar then the next I know is that I am at my lab." Smith grimaced, looking aside, struggling to recollect what he could remember how he returned. "I don't have a infection in my back due to him bringing me along."

"That sounds like him." Goddard said. "Hot headed lone wolf thinking he was still in command. Is he okay, though?"

"AND abusive!" Smith insisted then clasped his hands together, spread his palms apart so that only his fingers touched, then lowered his head for a moment.

"We had a perfectly good pilot but then you had to go and poison him." Was the argument.

His shoulders lowered then he raised his attention, glaring, back at the general.

"You should have never assigned him to the Jupiter 2. There were other people and you knew he was a lone wolf!" he pointed his finger at the general. "They had a chance of getting somewhere and surviving a hundred years even after I --" Smith pointed back at himself as his voice proceeded to raise with volume and anger with intensity. "--sent them off course; but NOOOOoo you had to assign someone so dangerously immature, spoiled, inexperienced, arrogant, and misogynistic TO THE ROBINSONS!"

"You have nothing to lose then." Goddard said. "Except your life. If what you say is true."

"Right now, I am saving the life of Judith Robinson out there," he pointed toward the window that the general looked toward then back toward Smith. "I will be restricted to a cell by the professor and the ship goes through a few things shortly after. . . ." Smith sighed looking down before lifting his head up and finishing in a single but desperate breath. "Because I sabotaged the Rambler Crane series mode."

"Then how are you here?" Was the question.

"I am in two places at once because I am a time paradox and I plead with you not to authorize the Proteus!"

Baffled, Goddard stared at him. Alarm bells rang. How did he know?

"That's a scientific research vessel." Goddard then added. "And highly classified."

"Doesn't matter. Don't name it the Proteus!" Smith insisted. "For the love of God, don't!" Smith put it on the table and it remained its shape. "The Raft. The Rescuer. The-anything will do!" his voice strained in emphasis. "The Robinsons lives hinge on this!"

Goddard's eyes shifted toward Smith.

"You are fully aware that by asking to be investigated by United Global Space Force, you may not come out of this clean." Goddard noted. "And you will face death; humanely."

"I am painfully aware," Smith looked toward the desk then back toward the general. "I can give you the coordinates of the planet. Only. . ."

"Only if what?" Goddard asked.

Smith walked toward the side then looked out the window in a moment of reflection scanning his memories. Somethings may change, but the key players will be there. And they will wait for them.

"Only if West's colleague Jeb is assigned to the mission. He needs a familiar face."

"Accepted." Goddard said. "What is the condition?"

Goddard waited for the other shoe to drop.

"And the condition is, I like to be confined to stasis after the trial." Smith squeezed his eyes close then opened them as he reconciled over the next comment. "Forever." he turned away from the window toward the general. "Since my counterpart can suffer the consequences to your liking."

"That does pose a obstacle now that you point that out." Was the word of agreement. "However, sleeping forever isn't a fitting punishment after what your betrayal."

"This galaxy cannot tolerate two Doctor Smith's running around, nothing good comes of it." Smith reminded. "Now, can it?"

The general squinted back at the colonel. trying to determine if this were a trick question given the discussion at hand.

"Only if you're found guilty." Goddard hated it.

Smith grinned, broadly. The general was negotiating with a potential traitor, saboteur, and murder. And the thought of it made his blood boil but he kept himself professional about it. And the look in Smith's eyes told him that it was really happening. And he was telling the truth. It was insane. It was bizarre. And it was happening in his office.

"Guilty enough to spend a eternity home." Smith said.

"And have evidence of wrong doing." was added

"That, too." Smith said. "Is this a deal?" "It depends if we find what you insist."

<>"Oh, your investigators shall." Smith replied. "They shall. . . You can inflict the full arm of the justice with the saboteur."

"The saboteur, who?" Goddard asked, certain this was another trick question.

Smith was quiet as he looked aside, looking down, tapping on his left temple then looked toward Goddard once the tapping stopped.

"Colonel Smith." Smith replied as he stared toward the general. "Please refer to me directly as Doctor Smith." Smith got up from the chair then clapped his hands together. "It will clear much of the confusion for the classified material regarding the rescue of the Jupiter 2."

Armed security offices arrived into the office.

"Take him to a holding cell."

Smith was taken away while the general was disappointed as he shook his head. Strangely, instead of sorrow that followed; the general was feeling a lot more hope than before. He turned around to face the window facing the sky with his hands linking behind his back staring toward the dark window. The general felt warmth in his chest, a grin that spread from corner to corner, certainty ahead for the future.

We're bringing them home.

 


 

The trial was clear and precise. The courtroom was crowded with each testimony on every day the trial was running with eyewitnesses found regarding his behavior leading up to the final moments of the Jupiter 2. He refused to speak of the future of the Jupiter 2. He had little knowledge about it. Little to tell. Little to reveal other than what he had known and had been urged by his defense lawyer, Elice, not to testify on the stand as he was doomed. Doomed. Not quite doomed but the future him was doomed. The sounds of photographs being taken were loud and clear enough to stand out against the talking. Even the sound of the microphone getting high pitched when the prosecutor was questioning eyewitnesses.

Mission Control's Colonist Health Clearance chief was a young man who spoke clearly and didn't show any contempt unlike the others. A red head who was a lackey or more often than not when it came to people like him, a goon, a henchmen, a instrument of evil, a instrument of the federal government using its strong arm to get what it wanted. Smith recalled handing the disks over regarding the final health examinations of the Robinsons and didn't seem to be suspicious of him in the very least. The most neutral member of the entire operation made of men and women helping the Robinsons prepare for the mission.

The basic and fragile skeletal system that could be compromised at any moment and fall part with a single step. That was what they were in all of the comparisons on Earth. They were the supporting system of the operation that allowed the Jupiter 2 to fly off from Mission Control to break through the atmosphere of Earth for space. One that he mockingly called Alpha Control. Waiting in a cold and dead rodent infested cell did nothing to feel worse. He had felt worse. The terrible treatment was nothing compared to the little accident that threatened to alter his mind.

The sound of hearing people walk by the court reminded Smith many times over: You're home. You're not alone. You're safe. And the future is uncertain. Just the way that he liked it. A bit of mystery in the dark was better than seeing what was ahead within the dark being even more dreadful than exploring the dark at all.

The cell door to the holding cell opened with two federal marshals waiting in front of the doorway. He was in a new change of clothes retrieved from his apartment days earlier. A suit worn at a funeral. In many ways the trial was the funeral of a hired assassin not a once high rising global space force officer. Not a promising and well decorated spy with rewards that were classified.

Now, today, was the day that he would find out his fate. That was all he was there for. It was not just sentencing. It was the fate of the man who would be awake to see it happen and face the consequences of his actions. It was determining if they in fact believed the prosecutor over the wild story spun by his defense regarding being trapped aboard the ship after staying too long checking on life support systems to get a reduced sentence. The lawyer hadn't liked the approach, admitting on the stand, only disputing the facts and the fact that he had gone through a ordeal to come back.

He was escorted to the court room that was filled up quickly. Everyone sat down into their seats all at once with a sound that echoed through each layer of the room. The judge arrived to the chair then it began as it normally had. A blur that he could skip over. But, he chose not to.

He closed his eyes, wincing, at the nagging thought to look behind him. They are watching you. The urge grew strong that it nagged at his conscience. Nagged him, turn around. It is imperative that you look behind. A nagging feeling that aided him through his long and decorated life.

He looked over his shoulder toward the row of reporters. There was a familiar young woman with dark hair in her forties at the back beside a camera man as she had a hand on the side of her ear and frowned at what she was hearing. A name echoed in his mind. And he frowned, perplexed, for a moment. Penny. And in the flash of his eyes, she was a young girl with dark hair and bright contrast of purple and green, smiling, playing with her experimental earrings then she was older once more. It was coming to him.

"See you later, my very dear child." And he had.

A blonde well aged woman was standing beside her waiting patiently with her hands clasped in her lap. She was staring at him attentively with bright blue eyes that were neutral but fierce. The image of her smiling leaning back into the chair with her hands clasped in her lap beginning to laugh replaced it. It all came flooding back to him about the last eternity. All the good and bad memories were shown before his eyes. Judy.

General Goddard had his back to the women with eyes that were endless pits of scorned wells. Their last conversation echoed and the single word of 'Jupiter 2', his mind clicked in recognition then smiled: they had echoed in time. Major West. The Major West. His older appearance was replaced by a drastically younger but more recognizable version of himself, in a silver and orange uniform, raising eyebrows facing a view screen decorated by space and his hands were grasped on the two handles of the craft. A memory that flickered away.

Among the onlookers was a red head in his forties drawing on a painting with his attention shifted down toward it- William-. A image of him as a young boy replaced looking at him giving a dirty look with his arms folded seated in the far off chair at the galley. Anger and disgust toward him. It all felt so long ago. And it had been a very long time ago. Smith looked, regretfully but apologetically, toward the specter for how their time together had been spent as with no control of why it had to be that way. The mirage ended, vanishing like a fog, replaced by a stranger. The artist raised his head up meeting Smith's gaze then flipped another page and began to quickly scribble on the paper lowering his head.

And he sat beside another red head in her sixties. The face was so familiar. Maureen. Her eyes were replaced from anger to kindness and her scornful furious restraint was replaced by a smile in the image that replaced her aged appearance making her appear younger. It was the madame's counterpart. The real counterpart in his mind. She had aged wonderfully and gracefully in a dark time.

From beside the well aging red head matriarch was a older man that strikingly resembled John with grayed hair and lines that weren't there before. Easy to tell who he was. His demeanor had not changed in the flash back, attentive, neutral, only lifting a brow up then the mirage ended. A sad and bittersweet smile replaced Smith's contempt then turned away from the onlookers.

"All rise,"

The crowd stood up.

"Please," the judge said, once seating, observing the crowd that stood before them with a sole finger aimed at the chairs. "Sit." Everyone sat where they could in the court room. "Does your client have anything else to say before the judgement is given out?"

Elice looked toward Smith.

"I do," Smith whispered.

Then Elice stood up.

"Yes, your honor," Elice said.

The crowd from behind the defense and the prosecutor mumbled loudly in a way that was quite cross. The judge smacked the small hammer against its resting place stirring silence into the court room with three smacks.

"Is this to add insult to injury or. . ."

"It is about the Robinsons." was all Elice made herself say.

"I will allow for it," The judge said.

Elice looked down toward Smith then slowly seated down beside him. Smith cleared his throat then got up to his feet placing his hands on the table. He buttoned up the black suit with speed that belonged to a older man. Not someone in their thirties. It was slow and concise. The silence was overwhelming then he released a sigh that cleared the tension in the air. He raised his head up toward the direction of the impatient judge. It was ominous standing before his peers and someone who held his fate in his hands. It wasn't so much different from being threatened in space with people of his choosing.

"The Robinsons were. . ."

Smith stopped short, emotionally, turning his head away looking back at his time with the other Robinsons. No one wanted to hear that the Robinsons were on thin hope that was beginning to run down and despair was on every corner when it came to the ship making it to Alpha Centauri. No one wanted to hear that they were decades if not hundreds of years into the future searching for the planet. No one wanted to hear the sweet failures they would be undoubtedly facing in the voyage watching everything they held dear be consumed into flames.

"Are the most kind, compassionate family I ever met," Smith continued. "Making me be part of it."

Smith shook his head, his eyes lowered, bitterly then raised his head back up facing the court.

"It makes me sad knowing that we don't have the hope they did . . ." Smith said. "There are days I feel that I did not deserve them. I didn't but then I did. Because of them, I finally felt human again. I had hope by my side. People who supported me. Something I lacked when I left this dying planet."

Loud alarmed murmurs broke out from behind Smith. The gavel was slammed multiple times, echoing through the court room, as Smith turned away then seated into the chair and clasped his hands into his lap. He faced the judge with little display of being bothered by the commotion. The spectators left leaving only the artist, the military officers, the reporters, and the notably frozen audience members staring off in the direction of Smith.

"I will have order in this court! Earth is not dying! I repeat, Earth is NOT dying!"

The court room grew silent.

"Jury," The judge's fingers tapped on the desk. "What is your decision?"

"Your honor," started the short woman crumbling the paper in her hands. "we find Doctor Zachary Smith guilty on treason against Earth and attempted murder on the first degree."

"Members of the Jury, this Court dismisses you and thanks you for a job well done."

The judge shifted toward Smith a glare that could kill.

"Sentencing will be arranged when it has been decided."

The judge's eyes remained fixated on the man with contempt.

"For now, you will spend time in the best military prison on Earth. I have to think really hard and long about this decision. It isn't to be made lightly unlike the one that brought everyone into my courtroom," she picked up her small hammer then shook it in the general direction of Smith then lowered it. "This court is adjourned."

His counterpart's future was secured, so was the Robinsons, so was his future.

No more agony, just blissful sleep back on Earth and little to no disturbance forever.

Smith was happy at the end but his counterpart wouldn't be for facing the consequences of treason.