I’ve always loved to write “what ifs.” What if things had happened differently from the way that they had in the series. This is one such story, based on the second-season episode, “The Deadly Games Of Gamma 6.”
Smith had been embarrassing John Robinson in front of Will, implying that he would be a coward if he did not enter the alien games, and make use of his great athletic prowess. John had said, “One more word out of you, and I’m going to demonstrate that athletic prowess…on you!” Smith had foolishly uttered additional words.
Without thinking, John whirled and punched Smith in the stomach. Then he watched in shame as his pathetic victim doubled over, crumpled slowly to the ground, and lay curled in a ball, issuing moaning, choking noises.
After assuring himself that Smith was not seriously injured, John entered the Jupiter II to where Don West was working at the astrogator. He approached the pilot reluctantly.
“I…have a confession to make.”
Don looked up at him. “You?? That’s unusual.”
“Yeah. And I don’t know whether you’re going to laugh, or get mad at me.”
Don observed him quizzically. “Interesting choices.”
“I’m all ears.”
“I…just punched-out Smith.”
Don burst into hearty laughter.
John nodded again. “Well, I guess that now I know how you’ll react.”
Don struggled to get hold of himself. “Now why in the world did you think that I might get mad at that?!”
John shrugged. “I don’t know; I guess that all of those times that I held you back, and now I went and did it….” He looked rueful, and shrugged again, more elaborately.
“Oh, yes, that,” Don concurred. “Well, that’s okay, because from now on, you can’t hold me back from doing the same. Now I have a right to hit him, too! You established a precedent!”
“Yes, I figured that you’d think of that.”
“Oh, boy, I can hardly wait! Why so grim, John? You should’ve enjoyed it! I’m sorry that I missed it!”
“I’m ashamed of myself.”
Don frowned. “Why??”
“Because he’s just a helpless old man.”
Don corrected firmly, “He’s just a crafty old operator; that’s what he is! What finally pushed you over the edge?”
“He shamed me in front of Will.”
Don whistled. “That’s a dirty trick, all right. Anyway, where is the old beggar?”
John gestured. “Out front, writhing on the ground, making a big production of it.”
Don laughed again. “Boy, am I ever going to enjoy this!” He charged gleefully outside.
John sighed and followed.
Will was kneeling next to Smith. He regarded the two men with unmistakable resentment.
Don ignored him. He bent and playfully rubbed Smith’s midsection, and cooed patronizingly, “Awww! Did it get its little tummy hit???”
Smith groaned, and made a feeble attempt to push away the offending hand.
Don straightened and chuckled.
“Leave him alone!” Will fumed. “You probably put Dad up to this!”
Don protested, “I wasn’t even here!”
“No, but you’ve been pushing for this for years!”
“Now, just a minute, Will.” John drew himself up sternly. “I can’t say that I’m too proud of what I did. But it was my decision. And right or wrong, the responsibility is mine alone.”
“Maybe Dr. Smith’s right about you,” Will accused. “You won’t fight in the games, but you’ll beat up a defenseless old man!”
John stared angrily at his son. “You know, Will, when I first came back out here, I genuinely regretted what I’d done. But now that I hear how thoroughly Smith has brainwashed you against me, I’m only sorry that I didn’t hit him any harder.”
Don, too, was angry. He stuck a finger in the boy’s face. “That was uncalled-for, and a foolish mistake!”
John was livid. “I think that I should enter those games after all. Didn’t Mr. Miko say that any fighter was free to choose his own opponent?”
Don’s eyes lit. “Way ahead of you, John! And I’ll join the games, too. We’ll work as a team. And we’ve got our opponent all picked out already.”
“Smith!” the two men announced simultaneously.
Will stared, aghast.
A whimper was heard from the ground, and drew the attention of all three. It was followed by a pitiful, “William, dear boy. Next time, please do not help me so much.”
Will squared his shoulders bravely. “Then you’ll have two opponents: Dr. Smith…and me.” He couldn’t bear to think of his poor old friend facing John and Don alone in the ring. Although, even as he said it, he felt his heart flutter with fear. The sheer size difference between the two adults and him was appalling.
John’s head snapped back in shock. “You can’t be serious, Son.”
Don shook his head in disbelief. “You can’t take it; you’re too young.”
Will looked away from them. He was obviously fighting to keep his voice steady. “I guess that we’ll find out, won’t we?”
John didn’t like Will’s challenging tone. “If you’re bluffing, and if you think that I’m going to back out in order to protect you, and save your pride at the expense of my own, you’re sadly mistaken, young man.”
“And if you think that I’m going to back down, and cry and whine like a scared little kid, then you’re mistaken, too.”
“William, please, let’s back out gracefully,” Smith begged from the ground. He was ignored by all three.
“But the fact is that you are a scared little kid,” Don told Will. “Are you going to try to deny it? Are you going to lie and tell me that I don’t see fear in those eyes?”
Will stiffened. “You’re just making me more determined when you say things like that!”
“All right. Fine,” John declared. “Come on, Don. We’ll go inform Mr. Miko.”
“Right with you,” Don agreed.
“Uh oh,” Will murmured. “Now, I’ve done it.”
Smith groaned in agreement.
For several days, each side remained stoically determined, except for Smith, for whom groaning became a constant accompaniment, subconscious, and hardly noticed by anyone, including him.
Each night, Will writhed in nightmares of angry brown eyes and drawn fists and pain.
On the evening before the fight, after the women and Smith were in bed, Will took the elevator up to the control room. John and Don sat at their piloting seats, talking quietly. They heard him, silenced their conversation, and turned to regard him expressionlessly.
Gingerly, Will advanced as far as the astrogator, reached out to it to steady himself, and then drummed his fingers nervously on it. He stared mutely at the men.
“Will,” they acknowledged emotionlessly.
“Hi.” He was barely audible.
“Are you ready for tomorrow?” John inquired formally.
“No,” Will whispered.
“Why not?” Don asked blandly.
Will took one step closer. “Dad? Do you love me?”
“Yes,” John answered steadily, noncommittally.
“What’s that got to do with tomorrow?” Don asked.
“I can’t,” Will murmured.
“We made a commitment, Will,” John said.
“You’ll kill me.”
“No, we’re not going to kill you,” John said.
“You’ll just make me wish that I were dead, right?”
“This was your idea, Will,” Don reminded him.
Will was visibly fighting for control now. He tiptoed close to them, dropped to his knees between them, placed a small, tentative hand on each adult leg, and wept. “I’m afraid! Don’t do this to me!”
“Oh, Will.” John scooped him up and placed him on his lap. He rubbed a diminutive shoulder.
Don reached and patted his back.
“I don’t want to be hurt! I’m frightened!” Will wailed. He sobbed noisily.
John rocked him. Don patted him. They let him cry for a while.
At last, Will sniffled, “Mr. Miko can think what he likes. I don’t care if he knows that I’m a quitter.”
“No, Will,” John said softly.
“What?” Will was confused.
“We’re going through with it,” Don said quietly.
“We don’t just back out of agreements,” John stated flatly. “Now, you started this; you’re going to have to face up to it.”
Will’s breathing came in spasms. “But…but…you...comforted me!”
“Sure,” Don acknowledged matter-of-factly. “Why not?”
“I…I won’t go!”
“You will go,” John said simply.
“What…what are you going to do?? Carry Dr. Smith and me???”
“We’ll carry you,” John agreed evenly.
“I won’t step into that ring!”
“We’ll put you in the ring,” Don informed him.
“I’m too little!”
“We tried to tell you that,” Don reminded him.
“Yes, it will,” John confirmed.
Will’s face worked in silent emotional agony.
In the ring the next day, Don stood to Will’s left, and John to his right. Smith was a few feet away, wringing his hands in horror.
John and Don each made a fist.
“Please don’t do this to me!!!” Will pleaded.
The fists drew back dramatically.
“Mom!! Help!!!” Will yelled senselessly.
Don launched a blow past Will’s tummy, and John threw a punch over his head, both clean-misses.
Will’s eyes darted wildly in utter confusion. Both men relaxed their stance.
Don explained, “It was all a charade. We never really signed up with Mr. Miko. We wanted to cure your cockiness.”
John continued, “Mr. Miko was in on it. He agreed to let us use the ring for your punishment. Have you learned your lesson now?”
Will nodded and promptly fainted; so did Smith.
Later, Will awoke in John’s arms, with Don sitting next to them. He saw at once that their eyes were once again warm and loving, instead of cold; the game was indeed over and done.
“Why didn’t you stop it, cancel it, after last night?”
Don provided the answer. “We didn’t want you to get the idea that you could just beg your way out of things in life.”
John added, “That’s how Smith plays it.”
“I see. But please reassure me: you would never really beat me up, then?”
John’s brows rose. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that. If you had gotten significantly cockier than you did….”
Don nodded concurrence. “We might have decided to deal you a careful blow or two. Maybe in the tummy; that’s pretty safe.”
“No!” Will whined. “That’s where Dad hit Dr. Smith! And he suffered!”
John nodded. “And I suggest that you remember that.”
Will became very quiet.
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