Chapter 1: Adrift
They had made it. Maureen was both relieved and extremely sad to see the wormhole close behind the Jupiter, taking her kids away from her. She took a deep breath. How long would it take for her to find them? The possibility of never seeing Will, Penny and Judy again was unacceptable and hadn’t crossed her mind. Not even once. Maureen knew she was going to do whatever it took to reunite with her family again. It was just a matter of time.
“So, what’s our next move?” John came from behind her and broke her thoughts.
“We find our kids.” Maureen stated. “Let’s get to work. We’re taking the long way there.”
“When aren’t we ever?” John remarked.
The sight before their eyes was of the impossible. An astronomical improbability, actually. How could a planet be torn apart like that? Shattered like something fragile that could easily be broken? And that wasn’t even the shocking part.
When Judy had spotted that wrecked ship orbiting the planet, she somehow had sensed something big was about to happen. Life-changing even.
Fortuna. That was the word written on the side of the spacecraft (or what had been left of it, anyway). She was very familiar with that word. She had been since she was a kid and had heard it more times than she could count. Her mother used to tell her the story practically every night before she went to bed. It was a beautiful word, she had always thought. It was Latin for fortune. Luck. And even though fate hadn’t turned out to be all that lucky, Maureen had always made sure to tell her father’s story as a heroic tale about a man willing to sacrifice his own life for the greater good. Judy had always been incredibly proud of that man she had never known, but who lived in her in so many ways. In little quirks, the color of her skin, the shape of her hair, her spirit, her courage.
“What do you mean that’s your father’s ship?” Penny asked, dragging her back to reality.
It took Judy a moment to answer her sister. Mainly because she had no idea what to say. For nineteen years she had believed her father was gone for good and that was about it. But now, staring at the debris that once were his ship, somehow gave her hope that maybe he was still there. He was a brilliant man after all. A genius. So, if there was someone capable of living on a dead rock in outer space for two decades, that person was Grant Kelly.
“We need to go there and check if there’s anyone alive.” Judy said already speeding up towards the planet.
“Judy.” Penny called, full aware of her sister’s intention.
“I just need to find a place to dock our Jupiter…”
“It won’t be long. I just need to…”
“Judy!” Penny finally seemed to get her sister’s attention.
“I know what you’re gonna say.” Judy started. “And you’re probably right… but I need to be sure.”
Penny knew that her sister was, above all, logical and very rational (overly so, at times) but the redhead couldn’t help but worry about Judy’s unrealistic expectations in finding her long lost dad.
“I know.” Penny finally said. “I just don’t want you to get your hopes too high, you know? I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Judy smiled at her younger sister.
“My father’s been dead for twenty years, Penny. And I came to terms with it a long time ago. If there’s no one there, I’ll be the same old Judy you’ve always known, ok?”
Penny nodded in agreement, realizing that her sister would be just fine. She was the strongest person the redhead knew.
“All right. Let’s do this.”
The whole scenario was, at best, terrifying. If the wrecked ship floating in the darkness of space wasn’t scary enough, the dead half a planet behind it only gave the sight an extra touch of horror. Against all of the odds, they had found a place to dock the Jupiter in a sector of Fortuna that apparently hadn’t been as damaged as the rest of the ship.
“So, what do we do now?” Penny asked, trying to hide her fear.
““We” won’t do anything.” Judy began. “I’ll go to check if there’s anyone or anything useful on the ship.”
“You can’t go alone in there!”
“Penny,” Judy called. “I’m the captain, all right? I’m not risking anyone else’s life.”
“I’m going with you.” Penny stated, challenging her sister.
“No, you’re not. I need you here in case something happens to me.”
“What are you talking about? I’m not just gonna let you walk into that ghost ship by yourself! We, Robinsons, have to stick together, remember?”
Judy could see the concern growing on her sister’s face. But things were different now. They weren’t just the Robinsons anymore.
“We’re not just a family anymore, Penny. I’m responsible for almost a hundred lives here. Kids. I can’t just act impulsively and put everyone in harm’s way. I can’t and I won’t.”
Penny knew her sister was right. And she hated that.
“I need you here to take the kids to safety in case something happens, ok? You’re the second in command, after all.”
“I am?” Penny was surprised. “I was pretty sure that given the choice, you’d name Will as captain.”
Judy smiled at her sister. She was well aware that Penny didn’t think she was a good enough Robinson.
“I wouldn’t trust anyone more.” The doctor stated. “Now come help me suit up.”
Judy had no idea what she could encounter on the ship. The simple act of entering Fortuna and come in contact with an unknown substance could very well kill her in minutes. Seconds even. With Penny’s help, she had put her space gear on and the helmet should, theoretically at least, protect her from anything airborne, but still, one could never be sure. And, of course, there was always the not-so-remote possibility of being eaten alive by some dangerous alien life form that lived in that galaxy. She couldn’t deny she was afraid. She was used to having her family (her whole family) with her in situations like that. But this one, she had to face alone.
“Are you sure you wanna do this alone?” Penny asked for the tenth time.
“I have to.” That’s what Judy kept repeating to herself.
“I’ll be monitoring your every move, ok? I’ll be talking to you the whole time. If something happens, and I mean anything, you get your ass back here as quickly as possible, all right? Don’t you dare play the hero, you hear me?”
“I won’t. I promise.” The doctor said. She was really nervous.
“Be safe. Please.” Penny was almost crying, but she was trying to keep it together for her older sister and everyone else on board.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be back before you know it.”
Penny just nodded, maybe too freaked out to verbalize any of her thoughts. Judy let out one deep breath before opening the door that led to the exterior of the Jupiter and into the dark interior of the other ship.
The two sisters turned to face that voice they came to know fairly well during the time they were stranded on that alien planet not so long ago.
“What are you doing here?”
“Where are you going, Judy?” Dr. Smith answered Penny’s question with another.
“You were not supposed to be here.” Penny said angrily. “But I’m guessing you probably knew that.”
“I had to come.” Smith said. “Somebody had to look after you and Will.”
“That’s why I’m here.” Judy stated.
“Judy,” Smith started. “I know you’re not a kid anymore. But let’s face it, you’ve never been away from your parents. None of you have. You don’t know how dangerous things can really get.”
“And you think you can help us?” The doctor asked ironically.
“I know I can.” Smith said. “Unlike you people, I’ve been through a lot. And despite of what you might think about me, even you must agree that I am the best person to have around. Especially now that you’re about to walk into that ship all by yourself.”
Judy stared at the older woman for a moment. Smith was a complete mystery and it was a waste of time to think one could ever know what her angle really was.
“I can go with you, if you want. I know you won’t risk anyone else’s life.”
“What’s in it for you?” Penny asked, losing her patience.
“Does it really matter?”
Smith was right. It was hard to admit it, but she was. Obviously she had a hidden agenda like she always did, but Judy was scared to go in alone and the idea of having some company felt incredibly relieving. If anything happened, it wouldn’t be that big of a loss, anyway.
“All right. You can come.” The doctor agreed.
“What?” Penny was shocked.
“It’s gonna be fine, Penny.” Judy said. “And you,” She turned to Smith. “Go put your gear on. We’ll leave in two minutes.”
Something was wrong. Maureen had been looking at that hologram for about half an hour and was still trying to make sense of what had happened.
“What’s the problem?” John entered the room. He had been at the garage with Don making an inventory of their supplies. “I don’t like that face of yours… it usually means trouble.”
“I don’t know yet. But something doesn’t add up.” She said.
“What are you talking about?”
“Remember that human signal we intercepted on the Resolute?”
“Of course. That was coming from Alpha Centauri.” John replied.
“Well, that’s the thing.” Maureen started. “Come look at this.”
John approached her and stood beside her.
“According to this map, Alpha Centauri should be somewhere around this galaxy.” Maureen pointed to the right end of the hologram.
“But the coordinates to the signal we’ve picked on leads to somewhere around here.” She gestured to the opposite end of the map.
“So, what are you saying?” John was concerned.
“I don’t think the kids went to Alpha Centauri.”
“So where the hell did we send our kids?”
“I have no idea. But now we really need to find them.”
“So, how’s everything so far? Any scary-looking alien ready to eat you alive?”
“We’ve just entered the ship, Penny.” Judy said over her comm.
“I know, but you can’t really blame me for being super nervous… Especially since you’ve decided to take Dr. Evil with you on this deadly adventure.”
“You know that I can hear you, right?” Smith spoke.
“Yeah, I know.” Penny stated.
“Everything looks fine so far.” Judy started. “It’s just… a ship.”
And it really was. It was a very dark and awfully quiet ship, but a ship nonetheless. Fortuna was somewhat similar to their Jupiter. When Grant Kelly went to space in order to look for planets to colonize for the Alpha Centauri project, they were already testing that design for the spacecrafts that would take the colonist groups to their new home. It was easier to navigate through a place that was familiar, Judy thought. She was beginning to feel less nervous and scared.
“And how are things over there, Penny?” Judy asked.
“So far, so good. Will and the Robot are watching over the kids.” The redhead said. “And according to the atmosphere diagnosis I’ve just run, the air on the ship is breathable, so you can take off your helmet, if you want.”
“Good. Keep me posted, ok?”
“Yeah. You too.”
With Penny on standby mode, Judy removed her helmet and took a deep breath. The air seemed pretty Earth-like, at least for now. She then decided to concentrate on the task at hand, which she wasn’t entirely sure what it was anymore. Now that she was inside of Fortuna, it felt silly to think that her father could have survived there for almost twenty years. The place was completely lifeless. There was nobody there.
“Why are we here?” Smith broke the silence and removed her helmet as well.
“I’m trying to find something we can use on our Jupiter to make contact with the others.”
“You’re lying.” Smith was blunt.
Dr. Smith smiled at her.
“I know you.” She began. “You wouldn’t risk coming here alone on the off chance of finding something useful. That’s not you.”
When Judy didn’t say anything, Smith decided to carry on:
“You’re a scientist just like your mother. You don’t act on impulse… It’s gotta be something more… I saw how agitated you were when you saw this ship.”
“I think we should keep goi…”
“Penny was very nervous, too. It’s like she knew that no matter what she said or did, you’d still go through with this.” Smith cut Judy off. “The only thing that makes you, Robinsons, act irrationally is family… so this is personal. Why are we really here?”
Judy was amazed at how good Dr. Smith was at reading people. She could be a bitch most of the times, but she had to be given credit for that skill. Maybe she really was a therapist after all.
“This…” The doctor started. “…was my father, my biological father’s ship.” She finally came clean.
“Well, that’s a twist.”
“Look, I know how crazy this is, to think my father could still be here, but I needed to be sure.” Judy had no idea why she was explaining herself to Smith.
“I’m not gonna judge you. Coming here and risking your life was a bad idea, but I think we all make questionable decisions sometimes that might hurt other people. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change and do better.”
Judy knew Smith was referring mostly to herself, in an attempt to be forgiven for all that she had done. That was her M.O.
“Let’s go back to the Jupiter, all right?” Smith continued. “As you can see, there’s nothing here.”
As much as Judy hated to admit, Smith was right. That was a ghost ship. Nobody had been there for God only knew how long. It was time to put hope behind her for once and for all and focus on trying to find a way out of that rock.
And that’s when it happened. She had been feeling a bit woozy for the past ten minutes, but she had blamed it on her anxiety. But now, the sensation of drowsiness seemed to be taking over her body and her mind. What the hell was happening? Smith. It had to be her. Somehow she had managed to drug Judy before they boarded the ship and was probably working an angle to take over the Jupiter and become captain.
“What did you do to me?” Judy asked in a groggy voice.
But when the doctor turned to finally face the other woman, Dr. Smith was already unconscious on the floor. Judy was about to join her in a minute or two. She could feel her body give in no matter how hard she tried to stay awake. Before blacking out though, Judy could make out one last thing: a silhouette of a human-like figure approaching her. And then everything went dark.
Chapter 2: Trapped
Hey everyone! I know it's been way too long, but a lot has happened in the last month so I didn't have time to sit and properly write this. I've got some good news though, my sister's decided to jump into this with me and she's a much better writer than I am so be ready for some fun stuff! That being said, we intend to post on a more regular basis now and keep in mind that this fic will focus on the Don/Judy relationship but there's also a lot more going on. So we hope you guys like where this goes. Here it is chapter two:
It was taking her an almost superhuman strength to keep her heavy eyelids barely open and the throbbing pain in her head only made the simple act of opening her eyes a lot harder.
The faded white of what Judy immediately recognized as the ceiling of the room she was in was oppressively bright. What had happened? She remembered walking into the Fortuna, accompanied by Dr. Smith, remembered taking a few steps and…
“Next time, I think we’d better keep our helmets on.”
That unmistakable voice forced Judy to open her eyes at once, making the sensation of dizziness in her head even worse.
“What did you do?”
“Me?” An incredulous laugh followed. “When will you people stop assuming I’m responsible for everything bad that happens? Maybe it’s time for you to take your share of responsibility in all of this too.”
It was all coming back now. As Judy regained consciousness, she remembered seeing Smith already on the floor moments before passing out. So, that pretty much ruled out her having anything to do with their current predicament, right?
But yet, there she was, looking fully recovered, standing up and all, like nothing had happened.
“How do you…” The doctor couldn’t articulate a sentence. “How can you...”
“Stand up?” The older woman finished the question. “Well, I’m not proud to say this, but this is not the first time I black out due to drugs, so…” She walked towards Judy and reached out a hand to her.
“Drugs?” Judy asked before reluctantly accepting Smith’s help.
“A kind of gas, perhaps. Something very strong and probably anesthetic.”
“How do you know?” Judy was finally up.
“Within minutes after we took off our helmets we were already on the ground. Therefore, it had to be something we inhaled and that acted pretty fast.” Dr. Smith sounded as calm as she always did. “And do you feel this tingling sensation in your feet and hands?”
And that was when Judy noticed the sensation, or lack thereof, in her extremities.
“It’s the effect wearing off…” Judy said mostly to herself. As a doctor, she was very familiar with the side effects of anesthesia in the human body. Smith, on the other hand…
“And how do you know that?”
A smirk preceded the answer.
“Does it matter?”
Judy rolled her eyes. After all, it didn’t really matter how or why Dr. Smith knew the things she did. In fact, as much as it hurt to admit, her abilities had helped and even saved lives before, including her family’s.
“Where are we anyway?” The eldest of the Robinsons asked, hoping that guessing where they were was one of Smith’s secret skills.
“I thought that by being your father’s ship and all, you could tell me.”
The room was small, rectangular and boring in every possible way. White ceiling and walls. Cold. Complete absence of furniture, windows or any element of decoration whatsoever. The door, the only way out, was locked and it didn’t even move when they tried to push it open.
“We’re trapped in here.” Judy stated the obvious. “And I can’t contact Penny or anyone else in the Jupiter.”
“Yeah, well that’s basically the definition of being trapped.”
Judy wanted to ignore the comment, but given the current circumstances and her growing headache…
“You know, instead of sarcasm, do you think you could offer anything that might actually help us?”
But the question was rhetorical and Judy wasn’t planning on letting Smith talk anytime soon.
“I should’ve never agreed to you accompanying me in the first place and should’ve never…”
But the metal sound on the door shut Judy up right then and made Smith take a few steps back, placing herself slightly behind the young doctor.
Silence entered the room, making it even colder. And along with it, a human-like figure, covered from head to toe. It was the same silhouette Judy saw before losing consciousness. The two women held their breath instinctively and at the same time.
The helmet that covered that head was removed in what it felt like an eternity. Judy and Smith kept the air in their lungs until the piece was completely taken off. None of them could’ve been able to anticipate what happened next.
“What do you mean they didn’t go to Alpha Centauri?” A very confused Don West asked the same question Maureen had been asking herself mentally for hours.
“You sure we can trust that map? These things are the first to fail and we just almost blew up, in case no one remembers! That type of technology is annoyingly sensitive.” The mechanic said.
“The map’s fine.” Maureen kept looking at the ship’s control panel and then at the map, searching for anything that would give her one of her usual brilliant ideas. “The hologram is nothing but a representation of where we are in the exact moment that we are. And if the system says Alpha Centauri is over there…” She pointed to the opposite direction from where the kids had gone. “Then it’s because it is.”
“I wouldn’t trust so much in the system if I were you.”
The scientist turned to face Don, a little surprised by his comment.
“Well, that’s an odd thing for a mechanic to say…”
“Hey!” He started in his own defense. “Mechanics like machines, okay? And I trust my machines more than I do people. When they’re fine, they’re fine and end of story. When they’re not, they just stop functioning properly and the only thing I gotta do is to find the problem, fix it and voilá, they get up and running again.” Don gave a cocky smile, satisfied with his explanation so far. “Machines are honest. Now, systems... Well, they can keep on working even when they go haywire, and most of the times, we don’t even notice… Truth is that systems, my dear, are like people. They’re not fully reliable because they can lie.”
John, who had been quiet until then, decided to speak:
“So, you think the map is lying to us?”
Even Don had to agree on how stupid that sounded. But his opinion wasn’t going to change.
“No. I’m just saying I wouldn’t trust it blindly, that’s all.”
“Look,” Maureen was growing tired of that pointless discussion that wasn’t taking them anywhere. “Forget about the map, okay? It doesn’t matter what it says about the location of Alpha Centauri or any other planet in this damn universe. The only location I’m interested in is of the Jupiter that’s taken my kids. And unfortunately, I don’t think it’ll tell us that…”
John took one of his hands to his wife’s right shoulder, in an attempt to comfort her. But then he remembered who his wife was and that she rarely needed that sort of thing.
“…So, we’ll have to figure it out ourselves.” She said with the same level of confidence a general would before his army. “And I already have an idea of how we can start.”
A pair of green almost blue eyes, messy hazel almost blonde hair and a thick reddish beard finally allowed Smith and Judy to let out the breath they had been holding. It was a man. A human being.
“Who are you and how did you get here?”
He had a deep voice and an American accent. There were surprise and curiosity in his question. There was also a bit a fear that he tried to hide, of course, but it showed nonetheless.
Judy remained still, but her thoughts were running a thousand miles per second. How was that possible? Who was that man? How long had he been there? Had he... It was too crazy to think about it, but perhaps... No! It was impossible. However... Had he known her father?
“Don’t you think it’d be chronologically smarter to have asked us that before drugging and then locking us here?” Dr. Smith spoke before Judy could muster any reaction.
The new comer smiled at Smith frightened sarcasm, but it was Judy’s perplexed expression that got his attention.
“What was it?” Smith continued, forcing the “visitor” to look at her again.
The man didn’t seem to follow so she gestured to the air.
“Oh!” He realized what the woman was referring to. “It’s a gas. Fentanyl. Completely odorless and undetectable.”
“Fentanyl...” Judy repeated the word slowly, trying to remember if she knew what it was. “Wait... that’s a potentially lethal substance!”
“You talk! Great!” The man seemed pleased. “Yeah, don’t worry about it. The dosage you guys inhaled only cause the fun side effects.” He smiled again, making Judy even more pissed.
“What’s wrong with you? First, you nearly get us killed with an extremely dangerous substance, then you lock us in a room without our consent and still have the nerve to joke about it?”
“What’s wrong with me?” The man sounded outraged. “Well, as far as I know, you were the ones who broke into my ship.”
“This isn’t your ship!”
Judy said, stricken by a sudden fury for almost dying and by the petulance of that man for saying that Fortuna belonged to him.
He raised his eyebrows at her and his interest was once again drawn to that young woman.
“Is this how you treat all your guests?” Smith asked in order to break the tension. She had no idea who that man was and what he was capable of, so the best option was to try to keep him calm and let him know that they didn’t pose a threat.
The man turned his gaze from Judy to his other “prisoner”.
“Guests are usually invited, or at least, they knock first.”
“I’m Dr. Zoe Smith and that’s Judy.”
Smith offered him a handshake as a sign of surrender. It was better if he saw them as just two helpless women. At least for now.
Judy’s protesting gaze met hers, but with a subtle nod and without the need for words, Smith managed to convince the younger woman to play along.
“We sincerely apologize for trespassing. But our ship’s run out of fuel and we thought we could find something here to help us…”
Her voice sounded so naive and innocent that Judy was forced to admit that if there was something Smith was undeniably good at, that was lying.
“And how did you get here exactly?” The man insisted.
“We… got lost” Now it was Judy’s time to play innocent.
“Once again, we do apologize for the invasion, and we don’t mean to bother you any more than we already have.” The young doctor looked at Smith for approval before continuing:
“So… if you don’t mind, we need to go now. We’d like to thank you for the hospitality and we’ll be out of your way in no time.”
That frighteningly strange man was the only thing between them and the open door. Smith had tried to scan him already. Was he armed or something? But his clothes covered practically his entire body so it was impossible to be sure. Was he some kind of psychopath, driven mad by the loneliness of space? Smith knew the second option was, undoubtedly, the most dangerous and unpredictable.
Anyway, getting the hell out of there was paramount and they were so close… She could tell by the way he was breathing, slower now, with his hands relaxed at each side of his body. They just needed to take one more step…
His right leg moved slowly to the side. More of the door came to view. Their hidden anticipation started to show. He moved his other leg, but when he was about to get out of the way completely, he hesitated. He looked at them right in the eyes:
“Are you two alone?”
That was a tricky question. Saying “no” could make him feel threatened, putting everyone in the Jupiter at risk. Saying “yes”, on the other hand, could give him the idea that nobody would miss them, meaning he could do whatever he wanted with them.
The two women shared a gaze, but Judy spoke first, decisively:
“Yes. We are.”
“Is that so?”
The tone of his voice had a seriousness that he hadn’t used so far. His eyes squinted and his lips formed a sort of smile.
“Because I’ve been talking to this Penny person over here…” He showed Judy’s comm. “And she told me that if anything happens to you, she’s got an army of a hundred men and a giant assassin robot ready to attack my ship and, I quote here, “to rip my guts out of my ears”.”
Judy rolled her eyes and exhaled. Penny.
“So, until I know who’s lying, you’re my “guests”.”
He closed the door behind him, but not before giving a sarcastic look towards Smith.
Once he was outside, he brought a type of watch to his lips and couldn’t contain his excitement while he talked over his own comm.
“Hey, Kelly! Get your ass back here. You’ll never guess what just happened!”
Chapter 3: A Light in the Way
Don tried for the third time to repeat that practically unpronounceable word that Maureen seemed to say without the slightest difficulty.
“Yeah. That.” West rolled his eyes and gave up.
“And that’s what’s gonna make us find the kids?”
Maureen smiled at her husband’s question’s naivety.
“It’s not guaranteed, but the triphenylimidazole might help.”
The scientist who, up until that moment, had her full attention drawn to her white board, turned to face the two confused men, who clearly waited for a more elaborate explanation on her part.
“The triphenylimidaloze is capable of producing light when it reacts to certain chemical compounds, electromagnetic waves or even some subatomic particles…” Maureen turned again to face her notes on the board. “All these things should be expected after a spatial anomaly.”
Don and John shared a gaze, hoping the other one had understood at least a small part of what had been said. Did that woman always have to be the smartest person in the room?
The unexpected silence made Maureen turn her gaze back to the pair of listeners, only to find them looking even more confused.
“And here I was thinking this “tri-whatever” was the hard part of the plan…”
“I’m not following either, Maureen.”
The scientist let out a sigh. In her opinion, her explanations had been quite easy to grasp so far.
“All right.” She erased her notes and started over. “We’re here.” She drew a circle on the extreme left side of the board. “And Alpha Centauri, or wherever the kids are, is here.” And drew another circle, but this time on the opposite side from the first one.
“When the robot took our kids from here…” She pressed the marker against the board in a firm line that connected the two circles. “… to here, it opened a kind of portal, somehow. The distance between these two dots is astronomical, light-years perhaps. However, the hypervelocity created by the robot’s technology was able to transport them there almost instantaneously.”
“So, you’re saying the robot created a black hole?” John cut her off.
“Not exactly.” Maureen corrected. “But something similar. Something that might have behaved as one, possibly causing the same alterations in space that a wormhole would.”
“And I imagine that among these alterations would be those electromagnetic waves and subatomic particles you’ve mentioned….”
Maureen smiled at her husband and nodded in agreement.
“Hey!” Don exclaimed. “Am I the only one who still doesn’t understand shit of what’s going on here?”
But the Robinson couple already had everything figured out and exchanged a look that carried something resembling hope.
“I think it might work.” John said, smiling back at his wife.
“Fine! Forget about the stupid mechanic here. No problem. But when someone needs me to fly anything, you can count me out!”
“I think it might.” Maureen repeated confidently.
“How long have we been here?”
Judy was pacing back and forth in the room, making it feel smaller and more claustrophobic. With her arms crossed in front of her chest and a seemingly calm voice, the young woman didn’t wait for a reply as she carried on:
“I can’t believe Penny would say such a thing! An army and an assassin robot! What was she thinking?”
She picked up her pace and her voice sounded less calm.
“I should’ve stayed in the Jupiter! How could I think that my sixteen-year-old sister would be capable of taking care of ninety-seven children?”
Now she was practically yelling, like a spoiled teenager, echoing her rebellion through the tight space of the room.
“As Captain, I should’ve known better. Should’ve been more… Needed to be more…”
“Mature?” Smith tried to guess, comfortably lying on the floor.
“I was going to say unwavering.”
The older woman got up and smiled. There was no indication of nervousness in her behavior whatsoever.
“Maybe it’s time for you to finally recognize that you don’t have what it takes to be captain of a ship.”
Judy opened her mouth to counter-argue, but was cut off.
“I know you’re smart and really want to do the right thing, but you’re only nineteen!” Her tone was honest. “You’re naïve and that can be a weakness. I mean, look what happened with the cute psycho just now… if it weren’t for me, you would’ve practically handed him your diary.”
“Well, I’m sorry if I don’t think I have to lie to everybody all the time!” Judy said, hiding the small part of her that knew those words carried a bit of truth.
“You know, sometimes lying is the only weapon we’ve got.”
That comment almost made Judy reflect, but the sound of the door being open abruptly ceased all possible reflections.
The two women got closer to each other in an instinctive impulse.
The man entered the room again. He seemed calmer, more relaxed. The gear he was wearing before didn’t cover his entire body anymore. Besides his face, his toned arms were now visible even through a long-sleeve t- shirt. His legs and feet, however, remained hidden by his pants and boots.
He gave them a mysterious smile. The probability of him being a space psychopath was still pretty high.
Judy felt a shiver down her spine. Maybe Smith was right. She was too young and naïve to be in charge of anything let alone a ship with a hundred lives inside.
“Get out!” The man ordered in a tone that was meant to be authoritarian but showed certain cordiality.
“There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”
He held the door open and looked at them. The older woman was a complete mystery. On the surface, she was smiling condescendingly, but he could tell that she kept secrets buried deep down and locked in an impenetrable safe. The younger one had an almost angelical beauty which she was obviously unaware of. On the outside, she tried to look tough, fearless. But the inside was so crystal clear that anyone with a pair of functioning eyes could see right through her.
They didn’t move. They were probably thinking he was crazy, or worse, some kind of space psychopath.
“I’m Jesse, by the way. Jesse Ford.”
He finally decided to end their little role-play as prisoners and guard.
There was still no movement indicating that any of them was inclined to follow his previous command though.
“I’m sorry if it looked like…” He trailed off, trying to choose the right words. “It’s just that we never get visitors. I mean… ever.”
Judy and Smith shared a gaze. Who the hell was “we”? So he was crazy, after all. They could only hope that he wasn’t a psychopath too.
“Why did you use the first-person plural?” Judy asked, trying to sound as calm as possible. “Who else is here?”
But before Jesse could answer, the answer itself appeared in the room.
With slow, but firm steps, he stopped at the door, looking like a photograph in a frame. A photograph that Judy knew all too well. She couldn’t prevent her mouth from opening wide in complete shock. The same smile she had grown so used to seeing and those eyes, intense and dark, just like in the pictures, were now looking at her with suspicious kindness.
“This is the reason why I used the first-person plural.” Jesse joked, but Judy didn’t hear him.
“I give you, Grant Kelly. The Captain of Fortuna!”
Maureen had already synthesized a good amount of triphenylimidaloze, thanks to the fact that some residues produced by the Jupiter provided the reagents necessary for the formation of the compound, when Don walked in:
“Okay, let me see if I got this right, and I’m quoting John here, so the plan is basically to “light the way”?”
The scientist laughed and put aside the task at hand for a moment to face the mechanic.
“Quite literally.” She confirmed. “The anomaly created by the robot’s hypervelocity produced alterations that, in spite of being invisible, are everywhere. So, all we have to do is throw a little tryphenylimidaloze in the vacuum of space…”
“And let there be light.” Don completed.
He smiled. Finally their plan was starting to make sense. The tryphenylimidaloze would create some kind of breadcrumb trail, except that instead of bread, they’d be following light. Simple as that. However, Don still had some doubts which needed clarification.
“If you don’t mind me asking, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve said it yourself that the kids are very far from here… Like light-years far… So how are we…?”
“I know what you mean…” Maureen didn’t wait for him to finish. “The anomaly won’t last forever. You’re right. In fact, I think we’ve already wasted too much time and that’s why I’m thinking the reaction might have a smaller range than I had initially anticipated.”
She stopped talking right then and Don waited. In a few seconds, she’d surprise him with a “but” that’d represent a magical solution, capable of making the tryphenylimidaloze reaction last for months and guide them right to the kids without any obstacle or difficulty. However, that “but” never came, nor any other conjunction whatsoever. Only silence.
“So...” The mechanic insisted.
“So what?” The scientist didn’t seem to follow.
“So, you’re saying this is not gonna work?”
Don sounded disappointed and annoyed. Now that he’d understood and even liked the plan…
“It will work.” She, unlike him, sounded confident and calm. “The chemical reaction will, at least, point us in the right direction…”
Don didn’t look convinced though.
“I know it doesn’t sound like much, but we’re in outer space!” Maureen emphasized. “And any sort of direction is a huge step.” She finished what she was doing and got up. “Trust me, Don. It will work… And if we're lucky, we’ll find them before we go blind again.”
“I didn’t think you, scientists, counted on luck.”
She laughed at his comment in the exact moment John entered the room.
“All set?” He asked and had his wife’s confirmation. “I was working on a way to amplify the antenna’s reception.” He started. “If the signal we picked up on the Resolute gets near us again, maybe the Jupiter can receive it too, and that will give us an idea where the kids went when the tryphenylimidaloze stops working.”
“Great idea!” Maureen said proudly.
The Robinson couple smiled at each other and held hands. It was undeniable that they made a hell of a duo.
“You people are unbearably optimistic.”
Kelly offered Smith a handshake, which she accepted without hesitation.
“Dr. Smith.” She introduced herself. “I’m a psychologist.”
“Oh!” Grant sounded impressed. “For someone who’s been lost in space for quite some time, I guess you’re just about the right kind of doctor to show up on my ship!”
Everyone laughed except for Judy who was still in catatonic state.
Kelly then turned to her.
“And this beautiful young woman would be…”
But Judy couldn’t move.
“Judy.” Smith intervened. “She’s still pretty shaken...” And touched the girl’s arm in an attempt to bring her back from her trance.
Judy blinked a few times and then closed her mouth. She finally managed to regain some of her composure.
“I’m sorry…” She finally accepted the handshake offered by Kelly. “My head still hurts because of the gas and...”
“Allow me to apologize for that, by the way.” Grant started. “The gas is a... protective measure. We installed it some time ago. After all, you never know what might show up on your door when you’re stranded on a ghost ship in outer space.” He laughed before carrying on. “But I’m sure you understand... Jesse’s told me you need help, correct? Well then, if you want, I can show you far more comfortable accommodations than this room, and then we can talk. I’m sure you are as curious as we are about… Well, about all this.”
And then he left accompanied by Jesse, waiting for the two women to follow. But they remained still. Smith stared at the door, where Kelly had been and then at Judy in complete disbelief.
“Is that your father?” She whispered after the two men had already left the room.
But Judy was still looking at her own hand. The one that had just shaken that man’s. How was that possible?
“How old is he?” Smith asked, still in shock.
“Fifty-four.” The younger woman stuttered the words out.
“So why the hell does he look thirty-five?”
Judy finally redirected her gaze to the now empty door frame.
“I have no idea.”
Chapter 4: Getting Acquainted
Since we're all to stay home, here's a new chapter to make the night a little better. Hope you enjoy!
The trail of light that was formed before their eyes looked like millions of fireflies stuck in traffic on an interstate highway.
Don’s eyes filled with awe and wonder. It was obvious that both Maureen and John shared the same look, but he was too much of a military to admit it, and she, too much of a scientist.
“Are you two gonna admit this is pretty cool, or is it gonna be just me?”
The Robinsons laughed.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool, Don.” Maureen agreed, while her gaze stared at that sea of light.
“And the best part is that it worked.” John added and approached his wife, placing one of his arms around her shoulders. “We’re going to find them.” He kissed her forehead.
Her hopeful smile made everything look easy and simple. At least for a moment.
Judy walked out first. She crossed the door frame as slowly as if she was walking barefoot on broken glass. Smith came right behind her, equally reluctant. Trusting strangers was something she seriously lacked practice in and had no intention in acquiring any time soon.
“Are you going to tell him?”
Her whispering voice echoed through the hall.
Judy reprimanded her with a look. And only answered when she was sure she couldn’t be heard.
“I don’t…” She also whispered. “I don’t think that... I can’t.”
“Can’t or don’t want to?”
Judy stopped abruptly. That simple question sounded too complex and unanswerable.
“I don’t know.”
She started to walk again in the same slow pace from before, realizing that, out of everything that could have happened when she decided to go into that ship, that was the one she did not prepare herself for at all.
“All set!” John exclaimed satisfied. “With this, any signal, alien or human, broadcast within a two hundred-mile radius shall be received by us.”
The Jupiter was following the trail for hours now and up until that moment, even though it wasn’t as bright as before, the tryphenylimidaloze was still working, producing the guide light they needed to find the kids.
“And how long until we pick up a signal?” Don, who had worked with the soldier on amplifying the ship’s receiver, asked.
“There’s no way to know for sure…” John clarified. “It could be tomorrow, next week or even months from now.”
“Months?” The mechanic was surprised. “And how exactly do you plan to fly for months if the fuel is about to run out in just a few days? Or do you guys plan to use another hard spelling chemical compound to make the ship remain in the air forever?”
The sarcastic tone used by the other man sounded amusing to John.
“We’ll think of something.” He said as he started to leave the room.
The answer, however, didn’t sound amusing at all to Don West.
“Are you serious?” He wasn’t joking. “We’ll think of something?” He repeated. “And what if we can’t think of anything? What if there are no more brilliant ideas or crazily unusual ways to get out of the trouble that we seem to be constantly getting ourselves into?”
John couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Look, I know you’re the kind of family that prioritizes yourselves above all else, and don’t get me wrong here, I think that’s pretty cool and all… I mean, I wish my family was like that… But I’m not a Robinson, okay?” Don carried on. “And I know that. And as much as I like you guys and really trust your crazy ideas, I can’t shake this feeling that if one day something happens and it’s necessary, I mean extremely necessary, you’d get rid of me…”
John was almost offended at this point. If the mechanic had any intention of continuing, he didn’t allow it:
“You’re starting to sound just like Smith, Don.” The soldier was now staring at the other man angrily. That was unacceptable. How could he think he or his family was capable of such a thing?
West, in spite of not wanting to cause that reaction on his friend, didn’t falter and held John’s gaze.
“Is everything all right?” Maureen walked in and immediately sensed the tension in the air.
The level of testosterone in the room went down considerably, causing the two men to break eye contact.
“Everything’s great!” Don spoke first and stepped away from John. “Your husband and I have just turned the Jupiter’s antenna into a lightning rod. But instead of lightning, it’s gonna attract signals from everywhere.” He smiled at her. “So, I guess we should really call it a signal rod or something…”
And he left, talking to himself like nothing had happened. Maureen followed him with her eyes and then turned them back to John and raised her eyebrows. But her husband smiled too and nodded, trying to convey that everything was really all right. But when he left, he went the opposite direction from where Don had just headed. The scientist was left alone and very confused. Men…
The narrow and excessively long hall finally ended in a much bigger room than the one they were in just moments before. A room that appeared to be the hub of Fortuna. It looked a lot like the Jupiter’s, but the technology was clearly obsolete when compared to the one used on the modern ship.
Judy, however, was so confused, that any other detail simply escaped her.
Grant Kelly had a comforting smile on his face, but for some reason, it looked forced.
“Please, make yourselves at home.” He indicated the seats around an old table, full of unidentifiable gadgets on. “And welcome to Fortuna! She has seen better days, but I believe that if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be here.”
Smith took a seat and pulled another chair for Judy, but the young woman remained standing.
“Looks like you’ve seen a ghost, kid.” Jesse said. “Why don’t you sit and rest a little?”
“Yeah, Judy. Why don’t you sit for a bit, huh?” Smith pulled the girl’s arm downward in an attempt to make her take a seat, while her eyes begged Judy to get a hold of herself and put aside, at least for the time being, the fact that her long lost dad was alive and looked twenty years younger than he should. “I’m sure these two lovely gentlemen can help us and answer any questions we might have…”
The doctor finally gave in and sat down. She looked at her father. The same suspicious smile. Then she looked at Jesse. An incredibly mocking stare.
“Where’s Penny?” She asked serious, holding the man’s gaze.
“So you admit you’re not alone? Great! That helps us trust you guys a lot more…”
“Jesse.” Kelly reprimanded and then directed his attention to Judy. That smile of his was starting to get on her nerves.
“Where’s my sister?”
Smith rolled her eyes. That girl really needed to learn how to control herself.
“Sister?” Jesse spoke again. “Well, this keeps getting more and more interesting...”
“Jesse!” Grant called him out again. But this time, he was firmer, abandoning the fake smile for good.
Suddenly, Judy stood up again, making everyone look at her. If the throbbing headache and growling stomach weren’t enough, she was growing tired and very annoyed with that situation. If Smith thought that nonsense was useful, for her it was nothing but a waste of time.
“How about we stop pretending to be friends and cut right to the chase?” The doctor didn’t hesitate. “My name is Judy Robinson and I am the captain of the Jupiter outside that currently harbors ninety-seven children, including my sister, Penny Robinson, and my brother, Will Robinson. We had another destination in mind, but we ended up here by accident, after we entered a kind of wormhole created by a robot, which is also my brother’s best friend and practically an alien weapon.” She spoke eloquently and very firmly. “What I’m saying is the truth, no matter if you believe it or not. I don’t nor have I ever had any intention to deceive you or steal from you. However, all those lives in that ship depend on me and my capacity to keep them safe until we reach our new home. And I guarantee you that I’m willing to do whatever it’s in my power to be the captain they need and deserve.”
The reactions in the room varied considerably. Smith had her eyes wide open in complete surprise. Jesse had a look that mixed both suspicion and admiration and Grant was paying attention to every word with his lips closed in a thin line.
“So, I’m going to ask one more time, where’s my sister?”
Don had been watching the stars for a while now. At times, they confused themselves with the lights which were guiding them in the darkness of space.
He didn’t like spending too much time alone, especially in silence, because in moments like those he was forced to think.
The conversation he’d had with John had caused him some regret, but he wasn’t quite sure if he regretted the things he had said or saying them in the first place.
Of course, he, Don West, poor mechanic/smuggler with no perspective in life didn’t expect to be treated as a member of the Robinson family. They knew each other for only a few months and to expect such a thing would be, at least, naive. He then remembered Smith and her always suspicious and selfish ways. He thought she was a despicable human being, but, at the same time, he could understand the protection such traits could provide. Maybe he should be more selfish as well. Maybe he should see the time spent with the Robinsons purely as a means to an end. He wasn’t willing to sacrifice himself for them. Not again. And even though they had never left him in the lurch, the idea of that ever happening scared him more than he’d like to admit...
He resumed gazing at the stars and forced his thoughts to go a different direction. He thought about the Jupiter with the kids and if he would ever see them again. Unfortunately, he didn’t share the Robinsons’ unbreakable optimism. He remembered Penny’s feisty attitude and how she’d always face a hard situation with humor. He could relate to that… He thought about Will and the innocence and kindness that he carried with him so effortlessly. That, he had lost a long time ago… Then, he thought of Judy and how, in spite of not being John’s biological daughter, she was exactly like him. With all her strength and resilience. She’d be a hell of a captain… He smiled at the memory of her smile and on how she’d always try her best to hide her soft heart. He then felt his own heart beat a little faster, almost imperceptibly. He shook his head as if the movement was able to erase her from his mind. He wiped the silly smile off his face and gave up on the stars. They definitely weren’t helping…
He finally got up and decided to look for something to do. There was probably a broken machine somewhere needing his expertise, or maybe Debbie was starting to miss him…
“Judy!” Penny exclaimed in relief for seeing her sister alive and well. “What the hell is going on?” She whispered in Judy’s ear while she hugged her older sister.
“Everything’s fine, don’t worry. Just… don’t say anything, okay?”
The doctor also whispered, making sure only Penny heard what she had to say.
“Oookay.” Penny didn’t follow, but agreed all the same.
“There! Your sister’s safe and sound, as promised, and has just backed your story up so I guess we can finally start off with the right foot here.”
Jesse approached the sisters and got an ironic smile from Penny which he returned.
“You two look nothing alike, did you know that?”
“Really? Because we do have a lot in common…” Penny replied. “Like our total contempt for jerks.” The redhead smiled again and Jesse followed suit.
“I think I’ll like you…” He exited the room, leaving the girls alone.
Only then, Penny felt safe enough to ask.
“What do you mean “don’t say anything”? What happened in the last three hours? Did you know that I almost had a heart attack when you didn’t answer me? Or worse, when, instead of your voice, I heard a jackass asking who I was? I thought you had died or something!”
Then she hugged her sister again, taking a break from her passionate lecture.
“I’m fine.” Judy tried to comfort the other, although “fine” wasn’t exactly the best definition for what she was felling in the moment. “How’s Will?”
“He’s okay. He’s got the protection of a bodyguard, remember? We’re all okay, Judy.” Penny concluded. “I’m so happy that you’re alive!”
And the third hug followed, tighter this time, almost hurting Judy.
The doctor put her arms around Penny and squeezed her back. She smiled, satisfied. Despite their new problems, knowing that her siblings were fine made her feel a lot better than she thought it would.
“Now, if you don’t mind me asking, who are the two creepy dudes over there?” The redhead whispered again. “Do you know if any of them knows… knew your father?”
“So, you’re Penny?” The two girls were so invested in their conversation that they didn’t even notice when one of the creepy dudes approached them. “You should’ve listened to your sister’s speech just minutes ago… She really lives up to the title she owns on your ship.”
Penny gave the man the same smile she had given Jesse.
“Judy’s great, I know! There’s no one in the world that I’d trust my life more.” She said proudly. “And you would be…”
“Kelly.” He reached out his hand. “Grant Kelly. I’m the captain around here.”
Penny’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open. Judy could only hope that she wouldn’t say anything and Grant wouldn’t notice the sudden change of reaction. Then, however, as if Penny had read her thoughts, the redhead changed again and accepted the handshake.
“You look surprised.” Kelly observed.
“Who? Me? Surprised? No, no! It’s just that I...” She stalled. “I didn’t expect someone so... young as captain, that’s all.”
“I’m flattered, but I’m not that young…”
The two sisters laughed awkwardly and Judy prayed for Penny to drop the subject for good. But this time, their thoughts were out of sync.
“Well, you look pretty young… I mean, how old are you?” The redhead asked and was pinched on the arm by her older sister.
“Thirty-six, if my math is right…” The captain of Fortuna replied with a smile on his face. “Time goes by differently here in space.”
“You have no idea…” Penny quipped. “And how did you end...”
“Penny!” Judy cut her off. “How about we go check if everyone’s okay on the Jupiter? It’s been a while since last I saw Will. I almost miss him.”
The redhead raised an eyebrow. Judy replied by raising two and signaling her head subtly towards Kelly. It was amazing how their communication worked even without words.
“Right!” The younger one agreed. “Will, of course!” Then, she turned to Grant. “She’s overprotective, you know? Two hours away and she already starts to lose her mind…”
“Penny!” Judy called again, halfway to the door.
“Coming!” The redhead answered. “It was a pleasure to meet you, sir.”
And then she left to join her sister and already expecting to be scolded at.
From the control room, Kelly watched as the two girls walked together in a loving embrace. He couldn’t remember giving or receiving that kind of love anymore. He faked his smile until they turned right down the hall and disappeared from view, leaving him all alone. His loneliness, however, lasted only a few minutes, when it was interrupted by Jesse. He had a worried look on his face.
“Do you think it’s him?” The man asked with hesitation.
“I don’t know, Jesse. You know him better than I do.” Kelly said, without gazing away from where Judy had been moments before. Something about that girl intrigued him…
“If...” Jesse started. “If it’s really him then...”
“Then we’ve finally found our way off this goddamn rock!”
Grant completed and smiled. But this time it was a different smile. Machiavellian.
Chapter 5: Secrets
Judy’s speech had really impressed her. The words had been a bit exaggerated and the tone, a bit pedantic, but the courage to do it, especially in front of those two strangers, was admirable. Her shocked expression translated just that.
“So, I’m going to ask one more time, where’s my sister?”
The question, with no hesitation and full of confidence, had been the icing on the cake. Maybe she was wrong about Judy. Maybe she was stronger than she had anticipated…
Smith smiled to herself before those two male faces just as shocked as hers. Then, it was Kelly’s turn to smile.
“The people on your ship are very lucky to have you as their captain.” He said and then turned to Jesse.
“Go get the girl.” Kelly ordered. “See if she backs this brave young woman’s story and bring her here.”
The younger man stood up and prepared to leave.
“And Jess…” Grant called him back. “Be nice.” And smiled again, facing his recent guests.
Jesse Ford nodded in agreement and finally left.
“If anything happens to my sister…”
“Nothing’s going to happen to your sister.” Kelly assured. “I know that he can be…” Grant tried. “He likes to play the bad guy sometimes, I admit. But I’ve known him long enough to guarantee you he’s a good man.”
The three remaining people in the room gazed at one another with very different things running through their minds. “What does this man want?” was the constant question in Smith’s head. “He looks exactly like he does in the photos” was Judy’s thought every time she looked at Kelly. And “who are these two?” had been Grant’s suspicious inquiry ever since Jesse had told him about their unexpected “visitors”. Silence lasted for a couple more minutes.
“How long have you and Jesse known each other?” Smith wanted to know.
“Some time.” But the captain of Fortuna chose to be vague. “Long story short, he showed up here one day and has kept me company ever since.”
Smith raised her eyebrows. That man would be quite a challenge…
“That was incredibly short.” She tried to sound less interested than she really was. “And how exactly did he show up here?” She tried her best not to be invasive.
Grant Kelly, however, didn’t buy it and answered with another question.
“Is this one of your sessions, doctor?” He smiled and then turned to face her. The “therapist” didn’t feel intimated though. On the contrary, actually. She took the opportunity to try to solve the riddle that that man represented.
Penny’s voice, however, made her look away for a moment.
She watched the two sisters run to each other and get lost in a tight hug. She couldn’t help but remember her own sister. Maybe a bit of envy and sadness was what she felt.
By the time she redirected her attention back to Kelly, he already had his usual impassive look on. He smiled again and walked towards the girls without saying anything else. Jesse, who had brought Penny in, also looked far more interested in the pair of sisters.
And just like that, Smith saw herself completely alone. And the opportunity of being invisible was too good to be denied. She glanced at the group briefly, only to make sure no one would miss her. She got up and slowly walked out of the hub and into one of the halls of Fortuna.
If nobody was willing to tell her what was really going on, she would try to find out herself.
“And Jess…” Grant called him back. “Be nice.” And smiled again, facing his recent guests.
Oh, that smile… The arrogance well disguised behind white teeth. A subtle way of saying, without actually saying, “I’m better than you and you know it.” He hated that goddamn smile and the patronizing way Grant treated him sometimes.
When he got to that place and found Kelly’s wrecked ship, the man was acting like a crazy person. He kept going over and over on how he needed to get back to his wife on Earth and be there for his daughter’s birth… Maybe space had driven him mad… Or at least, that was what Jesse had thought at first.
A few weeks later, however, Kelly started to sound saner and gradually Jesse began to trust that man’s skills. Grant had helped him a great deal, saved his life even… So it was hard to deny him a request, even when he did it with that annoying smile on his face.
Jesse only expected that Kelly saw him more like a partner than a subordinate, especially after all they had been through together. After all, without him, Grant would never get what he wanted…
He shook his head and decided to focus on the task at hand. If Kelly thought it was wise to trust those two, he wouldn’t be the one to disagree. However, he also had plans of his own and didn’t have any intention of letting anyone get in his way.
At last, he got to the door that gave access to the Jupiter docked outside and pushed the button to open it. He could only hope that that Penny was nicer than that Judy.
The hall Smith had decided to explore led her to another hall, and then to a different one, and suddenly, she didn’t even know where she was anymore.
The ship was monotonous and revealed very little. The doors, all unlocked up until that moment, gave access to either bunks, similar to the one they had been trapped in, or storage rooms for food and supplies.
She walked in no hurry, seeking for the smallest of details that could help her find out who Grant Kelly was and what he was really after. He may have fooled Judy with that story of being just a man stranded on a ghost ship waiting to be rescued but she knew something was off. He had a hidden agenda, she could tell that much. And she just needed to figure out what that was.
The corridor she was on bended to the left and ended in the hub again. The interior of the ship, just like the Jupiter’s, was circular and all the halls inevitably seemed to converge to that central room. In front of her, however, there was a door, just a few feet ahead, that called her attention. Smith hesitated only for half a second before moving towards it.
The door was made of steel and looked like it had been hit by something she couldn’t quite identify. She slid her fingers through the dented metal and imagined what kinds of secrets that ship held.
There was a type of identification system on the door that Smith didn’t even consider to bypass. The last thing she needed was the alarm tipping everyone off about her snooping around the ship. The door, unlike the others, was locked and certainly kept something either incredibly valuable or very dangerous inside. Undoubtedly, she preferred the former, but something like intuition was telling her it was the latter. The dents also helped to back up the second hypothesis… She stayed there for a few more seconds, allowing her curiosity to take over for a while. Then, she decided it was time to head back. Maybe someone had already noticed her absence.
Just when she was about to enter the hub, she saw Judy and Penny walking out, leaving Grant Kelly alone. She watched as the two girls turned right onto a different hall. She didn’t walk in though. She stood still and gazed at Kelly, standing still just like her. He didn’t seem to have noticed her presence. Smith took a deep breath and made sure she hadn’t been seen. She squatted behind a cabinet and observed Kelly crossing the bridge that connected the hub and the control room. Only after he was out of sight, Smith felt safe enough to finally go into the room. She tiptoed to behind one of the walls that formed the entrance of the control room. Luckily, the door remained open, and although she couldn’t see him, Smith knew Grant was there. She hoped her presence would continue to remain unnoticed. After all, it would be kind of hard to explain what she was doing there without saying the obvious.
The noise of a doorknob being turned and then followed by steps, caused her to stop breathing for a while. The person who had just walked in there could have only come from the locked room. Besides the main entrance, the control room looked inaccessible from any other way, so that was the only plausible conclusion. Smith was paralyzed and the only sound she was making came from her vital functions.
“Do you think it’s him?”
A hesitating voice echoed and it didn’t take her long to recognize who it was.
“I don’t know, Jesse. You know him better than I do.”
Kelly’s tone was harsh. Very different from the one he had used when they had been introduced earlier. He sounded like a different person now.
“If...” She heard Jesse started. “If it’s really him then...”
“Then we’ve finally found our way off this goddamn rock!”
A mixture of euphoria and fear accelerated her heart rate. “Who the hell was “him”?”
“Will!” Judy exclaimed at the sight of her younger brother and ran to him.
The robot appeared only seconds later and she mentally thanked the universe for the protection the alien provided.
“I’m so glad you’re okay!” The kid hugged her sister tightly, mimicking Penny’s reaction from moments before. “We were just about to go in after you when that guy said you were okay and we’d see you soon.” Will started. “That was right after Penny threatened him with the robot and...”
“An army of a hundred men…” Judy completed, raising an eyebrow. Penny, who came right behind her, remarked.
“It worked, didn’t it?”
The doctor simply smiled. She had to admit that her sister’s crazy ideas actually worked sometimes.
“Next time, you take him with you.” Will practically ordered.
“And leave you guys unprotected? I don’t think so.”
Judy messed up Will’s hair fondly.
“I can take care of myself.” She concluded and smiled again.
“So can we.”
Will didn’t repay the smile though. Knowing that his sister considered him incapable of taking care of himself somehow sounded like an offense.
“Hey!” Penny intervened. “I hate to interrupt a family discussion, especially one between you two, because you know how much I love when you fight, but now that we’re alone, can we talk about… I don’t know… the fact that your dad’s alive?!”
“What?” Now it was Will’s turn to be surprised. “Your dad’s alive? How is he?”
“He’s thirty-six.” Penny quipped.
“What?” Will asked again. “What do you mean he’s thirty-six? I thought he’d be around his fifties… I mean, I didn’t even think he was alive to begin with…”
“Stop!” Judy spoke, ending that unwanted discussion.
“Come on! Aren’t you at least curious?” Penny continued. “Do you really think you’re gonna convince us that you don’t want to know what happened? I mean, he’s your father and…”
“Exactly!” Judy cut her off. “For twenty years I thought I had lost my father. I even told you that I had made my peace with it…”
She was trying hard to hide the emotions that started to surface. She lowered her gaze. “And now, all of a sudden, he’s back and…” The words failed to come out. “And I don’t even know what I’m supposed to feel…” She looked at her siblings again. “Of course I want to know what happened. How he is alive, why he looks a lot younger than he should and how all of this can be happening, but now…” She inhaled deeply. “Now, the only thing I want, the only thing I need is time to sort everything out. Time to deal with my dad being alive and the fact that I have no idea what to do with it.”
After she was done, Judy simply turned around and left. She didn’t wait for anything. Not a hug, not comforting words or any other form of consolation. Truth was she didn’t even want any of those things. All she wanted was to be alone. Accompanied only by her own thoughts.
The control room had been awfully quiet for quite some time now. Probably nor Grant or Jesse were there anymore. They had to be in the locked room, Smith reasoned. The secret room… She would give anything to know what those two were up to in that exact moment. Patience, however, had always been one of her greatest weapons.
She needed time. Time to get close and earn their trust. Actually, now that she had come to think about it, that Jesse guy seemed irrelevant… Acting as a mere subordinate, following orders rather than giving them.
Grant Kelly, on the other hand, looked like the one in charge. It was his trust that she had to earn.
She needed to get close to him. That was it! Show him that she was willing to help without ever getting too invasive. She needed to make him feel comfortable to answer her questions even when there was no question at all. He needed to feel in control even when she was the one calling the shots…
That would be a challenge, Smith gave him that. And she had already had a small sample of how evasive and vague that man could be. He, however, hadn’t had the opportunity to know how persuasive and manipulative she could really get.
Time. She just needed time. And, given their current circumstances, that was the one thing she had plenty to spare.
Judy shut the door of one of the Jupiter’s bunks a little harder than usual. She wanted to blame the stress, but deep down she knew anger was the real responsible. But what was she angry at? The doctor asked herself mentally.
If somebody had told her that she would have met her father after twenty years, the last thing she would imagine feeling was anger. Was that anger directed towards herself? At the way she had handled things when they finally met? Or at the circumstances? Finding her dad in the middle of space after an epic battle against assassin robots didn’t sound like the best scenario for a family reunion… Or perhaps she was angry with Grant himself. For disappearing and making her suffer for as long as she did and then, after she had finally accepted fate as it had come, returning only to mess everything up again.
Suddenly, Judy felt incredibly alone. And although she had sought for loneliness, now it only caused her pain. She wanted to share what she was feeling, but who could understand her? Her mom had suffered a great deal, too, and to be fair, even more than she had. But her relationship with Grant was different and Maureen could never see things from her perspective.
Her siblings could understand even less. None of them really knew what it was like to lose a father without ever getting to meet him. They had grown up with John. And even though he hadn’t been the most present father in the world, he had always been there. Especially when things got hard…
Judy held back a tear that threatened to roll down her face. John… He was probably the last person she should talk to, especially about that particular matter, but at the same time, he was the one Judy wanted to talk to the most.
She inhaled as much air as she could until it filled up her lungs. Then, she exhaled slowly, trying to get rid of the anger she felt at whatever it was.
She closed her eyes and, out of the blue, there was Don.
The sudden thought startled her. Why had he invaded her mind like that in a moment like that? Judy opened her eyes quickly, somewhat embarrassed for thinking of him so unexpectedly. She concentrated on her breathing for a few minutes. And after embarrassment was gone, she was left with a warm feeling that seemed to have calmed her heart a little.
Only then she realized she missed him. Missed someone who wasn’t a Robinson. Someone who didn’t know her so well. Someone who didn’t judge or expect anything from her… She remembered the freedom his company seemed to give her and missed that too. A lot.
She realized that her mind wanted him there to put her at ease. Maybe he could understand her. Maybe he had lost something too…
Then, she realized that her heart also longed for Don West. She didn’t exactly know why though. Maybe it had to do with the lightheartedness she felt whenever she was around him. Or maybe she just wanted to hear him say: “everything’s gonna be fine, princess…”
Whatever the case, she was no longer angry when she finally left her bunk. It was time to go back to being Captain Judy Robinson.
“Seriously?” Don asked to Debbie while staring at the chessboard. The match, which had been going on for hours, was about to end.
“Checkmate, baby.” He made his last move, becoming the winner.
“Don!” Maureen walked into his bunk suddenly, startling him and his chicken.
She stared at them both and then at the board. She preferred not to ask.
“Judging by your face, I’m guessing it’s bad news, right?”
The scientist looked worried.
“You gotta come see this.” And she left without answering his question.
Don let out a sigh.
“Pretty sure it’s bad news…” And got up quickly. He gave one last look at the chessboard.
“At least I won.”
And before leaving, he smirked, receiving a cluck as a comeback.
Chapter 6: A Little Backstory
“This ain’t good…” Don said. “Exactly how sure about this are we?”
“We got the warning a few minutes ago.” Maureen confirmed. “It’s miles away, but it is approaching the ship.”
Don West stared at the piece of space framed by the broad window in the Jupiter’s control room. Such a calm sight! It was hard to imagine that a meteor storm was headed their way…
“Do you know what the odds are of coming across a meteor storm in outer space?” He asked but soon answered. “Because I’m pretty sure it’s smaller than winning the goddamn lottery…”
“So, we should consider ourselves lucky?”
John tried a joke, but neither Don or Maureen seemed to have any sense of humor given the circumstances.
“I’m not interested in the odds right now.” The scientist cut right to the chase. “What do you think, Don? Can she take it?”
The mechanic’s eyes widened before looking at Maureen.
“Wait a minute!” He started. “What are you...?” He laughed. “You’re kidding, right?”
But the look on her face was too serious for that to be a joke.
“Are you really suggesting that we should let the storm hit us?” Don was in disbelief.
“Maureen...” John also wasn’t sure about her plan.
She looked at her husband.
“We don’t know the scale of the storm. If we divert from it, we might lose our trail. The tryphenylimidaloze reaction is wearing off …” She inhaled deeply and then exhaled determinedly. “Can she take it or not, Don?”
West took a couple of seconds to reply. He could understand where she was coming from, but that was suicide.
“Don?” She repeated anxiously.
“I don’t know… I mean, I’ve never had the pleasure to go through a meteor storm myself, so I can’t really tell. But, if you’re looking for a reasonable mechanic’s opinion, then I wouldn’t risk it.”
“As far as we can tell, the storm could be more gaseous than solid. And the meteors can be a lot smaller than we’re thinking…” Maureen tried. “If we could only wait, then…”
“Maureen...” John rested one of his hands on her shoulder. “If we wait, it might be too late.” He was being realistic. “If you could guarantee that that storm is small and harmless, you know I’d be the first one to say that we should go for it.” His tone was confident. “But you can’t do that, can you?”
The scientist, however, wasn’t ready to accept her defeat.
“Our kids are out there, John.” She said, begging. “Don’t you think that we should, at least, try everything we could to find them?”
“Not if that puts our lives on the line.” John Robinson stated as a true military. “There’s nobody looking for them right now. No one knows the robot’s sent them somewhere else and that they’re practically lost is space.” Those words hurt when said aloud, but that was the truth. “They need our help. And we can only help them if we’re alive.”
Finally, Maureen gave in to her husband’s irrefutable reasoning.
“And in order to do that, we need the ship intact.” Don completed, backing John up. “If something happens to it, for as small as it might seem, that could very well stop us from keep looking for them…” The mechanic wasn’t thrilled about it either, but they didn’t have any other option at the moment.
The scientist still tried to ponder on what had just been said but, at last, and reluctantly, she admitted they were right.
“We’ll go around it, then.” She said in a low tone.
John looked at his wife’s resigned expression.
“We’ll find another way.” He assured. “We always do.”
And the trail of light being left behind felt like the hope in finding their kids was also drifting away.
Smith was on her way to the hub so caught up in her new findings that she didn’t even notice that the captain of Fortuna was following her.
“Are you lost, doctor?” His tone was ironic and they both knew it.
Smith smiled quickly and answered right way.
“As a matter of fact, I am.” She lied. “I’m looking for Judy, but it looks like she’s already left and has forgotten all about me…”
Grant gave her a suspicious look in return.
“She and her sister went back to your ship.”
“Thank you.” She said. “I guess I’ll go join them, then...” And left in a hurry. When she was a few feet away, however, Kelly called her back.
Before turning around, Smith put on a smile again.
“You've never told me what your connection to those three siblings is, have you?”
Her smile was so fake that it almost hurt.
“No. I don’t think I have.” She thought for a moment. “I guess I’d consider myself a friend of the family.”
Smith tried to convey what she had just said with a smile that wasn’t really fooling anyone. Kelly had one more question though.
“And what about them? Would you say they consider you a friend as well?”
Smith’s lack of reaction only lasted for a split second which she hoped had gone unnoticed.
“I hope so.” She answered. “Why don’t you go ask them?
And gave him one last smile. Challenging. Way more convincing than the previous one.
“Tell Judy the access to Fortuna is clear. Everyone on board your ship is welcome to come and go as they please. We have enough food and oxygen here.”
Smith nodded and threatened to leave for the second time. Again, however, Grant stopped her with one last request.
“Oh, and tell her that I’d like to talk to her when she can. Captain to captain.”
They had been flying blind for a while now. The light created by the tryphen… whatever had finally worn off. And soon, they’d be out of fuel as well.
In other words, things weren’t exactly looking up for them. And Don knew it. Actually, he’d have to be an idiot not to. And even though John had confidently said they’d find another way, it was becoming really hard to believe there was any way at all out of that mess…
They needed the fuel not only to maintain the ship in the air, but also to power a number of different systems in the Jupiter. They needed to find a planet that provided a source of energy that could be easily extracted and stored and then used as fuel so they could continue their voyage for at least a few more days… Well, truth was they needed a goddamn miracle.
And every time he started to get all religious and shit, the best option was always to have a drink.
Don stepped out of his bunk, where he’d been since the meteor storm discussion, and headed to the galley, crossing the silent halls of the Jupiter.
The kitchen was dark, but he soon realized there was someone already there.
“Looks like you’ve found my secret stash.” The mechanic said approaching the table and finding one of his whiskey bottles open.
“I’m sorry.” A voice apologized. “I didn’t think you’d miss just one sip...” And smiled.
“May I?” Don indicated a chair.
“Sure. I could really use some company…”
West fetched him a glass before pulling a chair to sit down.
“John’s never been much of a drinker….” Maureen confessed and took a sip of her own drink. “He’s always been so… correct. Annoyingly so, you know?”
“Actually, no. I definitely have no idea what that is…” Don remarked and managed to get a smile from her. A sad one, but a smile nonetheless.
“I’m sorry.” She said again.
“Don’t worry about it.” He replied. “If I’m not mistaken, I still have seven of these, so...”
“That’s not what I meant…” The scientist replaced her glass on the table. “I’m sorry for being reckless and putting my children’s lives above all. Above yours. I know that sometimes I may look like…”
“A crazy, overprotective mother?”
She laughed and Don smiled.
“That’s okay.” The mechanic tried to comfort her. “I think every mom should be crazy and overprotective sometimes. At least, I wish mine had been…”
He drank a little of his whiskey and felt the hot bitterness running down his throat.
“I like to think that anyone would do the same thing if they loved someone as much as I love my kids...” Maureen said more to herself. “There’s nothing in this universe that I wouldn’t do for them.” She then remembered how she had broken the law to get Will in the Alpha Centauri project and how she didn’t regret doing it. “Wouldn’t you? Do everything for someone you love?”
Don thought about that question for a moment. Then, he took another sip of his drink.
“Guess I’d have to love someone first to know…”
Maureen felt sorry for him. A man who didn’t love anything was, undoubtedly, worthy of pity.
“Well, I think you would.” She was honest. “I mean, you did come back for me and John before the Resolute exploded, even knowing all the risks, so…”
West gave her a shy smile.
“Is this your subtle way of saying that I love you and your husband? Because if it is, then you’ve clearly had one too many for today…”
“No. This is my subtle way of saying that you’re a good man, Don. And you’ve proved it. More than once.”
The mechanic looked down. He was certainly way more used to dealing with criticism…
“Well, anyway I do think you’ve had one too many for today…” Don grabbed the bottle from the table. “Mainly ‘cause I just remembered that I finished one of these a couple of days ago, so I guess there are only six now…”
He got up in order to put it back to its place, but hesitated.
“You know what? I think I’ll change my hiding spot.” He walked back to the table, putting the bottle where it was. “If you figured it out, imagine when we find the kids! Will looks like he’ll be a whiskey kind of guy…”
Maureen smiled. He really was a good man…
“Thank you.” She said and Don didn’t seem to understand. “For saying “when” we find the kids and not “if”.”
He gave her a little smile in return. Those children were really lucky to have a mother like Maureen.
“Good night.” He said at last and started to move towards the door.
“What about this?” The question made him turn around.
The scientist was holding the bottle of whiskey they both had been drinking in one hand.
“Keep it.” He decided. “For the rough nights...”
She nodded her head in appreciation and he returned the gesture.
“I’m sure they’re all right.”
And he finally left, truly wishing to believe in the words he had just said.
Her palms were wet. She kept rubbing her hands together in an attempt to make them stop sweating, but it was useless.
She had been staring at the closed door that gave access to Fortuna for a few minutes now. The feeling was the same from when she was six and was about to walk into her classroom in her first day of school. On that day, at least, she had had her mother’s comforting presence to help her go through it.
Now, however, she was completely alone.
Ever since Smith had told her Grant wanted to talk to her alone, her whole body seemed to have been taken over by an uncontrollable nervousness, while her mind worked incessantly, trying to think of what he could possibly want to talk to her about.
A great number of possibilities had crossed her mind, but none seemed to really convince her. Of course she knew that was a side effect from her anxiety and she also knew that the sooner she pushed that button and face her father, the sooner the agony would be over…
Yet, there she was. She looked at her watch. Standing in front of that metal door for ten whole minutes. Come on, Judy! You can do this. She took a deep breath and thought of her mother. God, how much she missed that comforting presence of hers...
“Please, take a seat.” It was the first thing Kelly said, pointing to a chair in front of his own.
The room looked a lot like an office and seemed to be used exclusively by him. There was a window from which it was possible to see the Jupiter and the planet behind it. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant sight to look at.
Judy sat down with hesitation. Perhaps she should have remained standing, showing she wasn’t intimidated by his authority…
“You look nervous.” He observed while sitting as well. “That’s not an attitude that best suits a captain.”
Judy smiled awkwardly.
“Well, I’m pretty new at this, so...”
“What do you mean?” He looked surprised. “I thought that ship had been under your command for some time... I mean, you look very young, but I also became captain before twenty-two… If you don’t mind my asking, how old are you?”
Hesitation again. Each answer she gave him only led to the inevitable discovery of who she really was. And even though that was her father, Judy didn’t know if she could trust him yet.
“Nineteen.” Her tone was low. “But I’ll be twenty in a couple of months...”
Kelly looked pleased.
“You spoke like a true leader during your speech and the way you handled the situation was pretty impressive... That’s why it’s strange for me to see you like this, so retracted and… scared, perhaps?” He tried. “Are you running away from something or in some kind of danger?
“No.” She answered quickly. “Like I said before, we’re just lost.”
He nodded. And suddenly the room seemed to be filled with silence. What did that man want after all?
“I guess you’re probably wondering why I’ve called you here, right?” Grant read her thoughts. Judy smiled in confirmation.
“Well, I think we should get to know each other better, don’t you agree?” The same patronizing tone Jesse hated so much. “However, I also think that an intelligent young woman as yourself wouldn’t just trust a complete stranger, so that’s why I brought you here.”
Judy didn’t seem to understand right away.
“I want you to know me.” He clarified. “And then you can decide if you should or not trust me.”
He was fidgeting a little. One could tell that he was nervous as well.
“I would offer you something to drink… that is if you were old enough or if I had any booze here with me…” He laughed. “But I’m afraid we’ll have to do this completely sober.”
He laughed again. More anxiously this time.
A moment of silence preceded Grant Kelly’s story. Morbid silence.
“You know, just like you, I am lost, too. I have been for quite some time...” His tone was apprehensive, like he didn’t want to keep going.
“I don’t usually talk about my past, mostly because I consider the memories, given my current predicament, to be more painful than pleasurable…” Grant cleared his throat and walked to the window. “I’ve always been so obsessed with the exciting and unknown vastness of space, that when they recruited me for that mission I didn’t even think twice…” His gaze was directed to the view, but he seemed to be looking at something else. “It was a simple mission and everything should’ve gone according to plan… I should’ve been a hero, you know? Go home decorated, the whole world proud…” The words sounded like they were coming out of a different person. “But something went wrong… I lost contact with the tower, then my systems failed and…” His voice sounded resigned, as of someone’s who tells a story they already know the terrible ending of.
“I never really knew what or how it happened, but it was so fast and unexpected that all of a sudden, I was here. That dead planet along with my ship were the only things I had left… I didn’t know where I was and although I had managed to restore some of the systems, I couldn’t go on. Not without any location or direction…”
“Luckily, the planet still seemed to have some sort of gravitational field, so I was able to orbit around it while I tried to reestablish contact with Earth… But I never could.” He was still facing the window, his gaze staring at the invisible. “For months, I tried and I tried... Almost went mad trying... Perhaps I even have…” He smiled and turned to face Judy. “Then, I finally realized I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so the only thing left to do was survive.” He let out a breath of relief for sharing all that. “So I survived. For days, weeks, months… I survived for what felt like an eternity.” He directed his gaze back to the window. “When I look at it now, I don’t see that exciting unknown vastness, ready to be explored and charted… what I see is a dark and never-ending prison. The worst kind of punishment any man could ever be sentenced to…”
All sorts of emotions were running through Judy’s heart. That had been hard to listen to. Knowing what her father had been through, while she and the rest of the world thought he was dead…
She wanted to hug him and tell him that everything was going to be fine, but managed to control herself. Her eyes carried the glow of unshed tears.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t wish to go back in time and say no to that mission and have my old life back…” He didn’t look like the captain she had met hours ago. “I didn’t even get to meet my daughter….” Kelly said more to himself, but she heard it. And to those words, her entire body shivered. “But we can’t go back in time, can we?” Grant smiled. “Sometimes, however, I think that would be the only way to make things right again. To have back what I’ve lost…”
He lowered his gaze, trying to hide the sadness in it. Judy felt a sudden urge to tell him the truth, but she lacked the courage.
“I’m so sorry.” It was all she could articulate. “How long have you been here anyway?”
“Well, I don’t know exactly where I am, so that’s a tough question… But, taking my last known location and assuming I’m not that far from it, I’ve managed to develop a type of calendar that synchronizes the days here to the ones on Earth. So, if it’s accurate, then I guess… two years. Maybe a little longer…”
Judy forced a smile. He was, undoubtedly, very, very far from his last known location…
“I know that I don’t look much different from when I got here, so it has to be something around that.” He sounded confident. “Two years! I keep imagining the things I’ve missed...”
You have no idea... Judy thought instinctively.
They exchanged a smile. A nice one, she’d even say. His eyes looked a lot like her own in that moment and right then Judy felt a connection to that stranger who was starting to become familiar. The beginning of a friendship, perhaps…
“Well, then you guys showed up and suddenly…” Kelly thought about his next words carefully. “And suddenly it looked like I’d finally have my chance to get off this planet…” The captain sounded disappointed. “But if you’re lost like me, then…”
“There are other people.” Judy decided to finally come clean. She felt that she could trust him now. “We are lost, but there are people looking for us.”
“Who?” Grant asked surprised.
“My parents.” She said. “They can help you. They can get you out of here.”
She didn’t, however, get into the details because it was too early for the whole truth. But the perspective of helping her father made her happier than she thought it would.
“When they find us, they’ll help you. I promise.”
Kelly raised an eyebrow.
“And why are you so sure they will find you?
Grant Kelly asked skeptically, but Judy replied with a confident smile.
“Because you would be too if you knew the Robinsons.”
Judy had left his improvised office a while ago but he had decided to stay there a little longer. In spite of hating the loneliness of space, the new comers had him missing it a little…
His eyes stared at the nothingness outside and his thoughts ran deep in his own memories when the door opened.
Jesse walked in without permission and took a seat.
“You spent almost one hour with the girl!” He said hurriedly. “Care to share the short version at least?”
Grant Kelly smiled at the younger man’s petulance.
“She’s naïve, as I had anticipated, but she’s a good girl. I think she already trusts me…”
“Good!” Jesse celebrated.
“But we have a problem.”
The younger man rolled his eyes.
“She’s not alone.” The captain stood up and went to the window.
“If you’re talking about the kids and that weird woman, I don’t think they…”
“Her parents.” Kelly cut him off. “I’m talking about her parents.” He repeated. “They’re on the way... The Robinsons, she said.”
The serious tone used by Grant bothered Jesse a little.
“And do you think we should worry about them?”
The other man’s question brought back the irritation Kelly had been feeling since his conversation with Judy.
“I don’t know.” He spoke. “But we’ll definitely have to change our plans.”
And suddenly, space became darker and emptier.
Chapter 7: Signal
After her conversation with Grant, Judy was taken by an inexplicable feeling of content in her chest. Everything he had shared with her had really made her feel closer to him, as if she had known him for years…
Judy didn’t consider herself to be a romantic, on the contrary, actually, but maybe there really was a deeper kind of connection between a father and a daughter that went beyond biology…
Lying in bed, her mind travelled from the recent events and the uncountable doubts and uncertainties they carried to some of her oldest memories… She thought about her family and felt the longing and the agony that accompanied those recollections… Then, Don revisited her thoughts the same way he had before. Lighthearted. Free.
Feeling her eyes getting heavy, Judy finally gave in and fell asleep.
The sound of voices echoing outside woke her up.
She hadn’t slept much, but it had been a peaceful rest. She got out of the bed slowly and didn’t even bother tying up her hair. She dragged her feet lazily to where the voices apparently were coming from.
“We just need to find a way to do it!”
Will’s voice became clear and recognizable.
“Well, and how do you suggest we do that, exactly?” Penny asked skeptically.
“Judy!” The boy spotted his older sister and ran to her. “I figured it out.” He spoke proudly. “I found out a way for us to find mom and dad!”
“More or less.” Penny approached and quipped.
“It can work.” Will insisted.
“Hold on!” Judy was still blinking fast, trying to adapt her sight to the light of the room. “What do you mean find mom and dad?”
She had no idea what was happening.
“What did I miss?”
Penny folded her arms in front of her chest.
“I wouldn’t say “find them” exactly… it’s more like the other way around, actually…” The redhead said disbelievingly.
“Penny!” Will exclaimed angrily, but Judy intervened.
“Can somebody tell me what is going on?”
“Okay.” Penny laughed. “Will here had a brilliant idea to make mom and dad find us.”
The kid stared at his sister again.
“What?” She asked innocently. “It really is a brilliant idea. I just don’t think it’s gonna work…”
“What’s not gonna work?” Judy asked eagerly.
“Fine.” Will spoke. “Remember how we got here, right?”
“The robot brought us…”
“Yes, but why did he bring us here in the first place?” The kid questioned, gesturing in such a euphoric manner that it was funny to watch.
“The signal!” He answered his own question. “The human signal that we picked on the Resolute that we thought was coming from Alpha Centauri. That’s why the robot brought us here!”
“Okay…” Judy didn’t seem to follow. “And how can that help us?”
Will rolled his eyes.
“The Resolute’s been destroyed, remember?” Judy pointed out.
“So let’s build another one!”
Judy widened her eyes at the absurdity of what her brother had just proposed.
“Not the whole thing. Just the antenna.” He clarified. “If the signal broadcast by your father’s ship was strong enough to reach the Resolute, all we have to do is find a way to amplify it so it can also be received by our Jupiter…”
“I don’t know, Will.” Judy pondered. “I don’t think we can do this...”
“See?” Penny remarked.
“Especially here. Away from everything. I mean, we don’t have the right equipment or...”
“But we have him.” Will pointed at the robot which was standing only a few feet away. “He can help us. His technology is way more advanced than ours and he can definitely create or even use some of his own parts to develop a way to amplify the signal… If we all work together, I’m sure we can do this!”
The two girls looked at each other amazed at how easy Will made his plan sound. They had to admit that when he put things like that, it was hard to say no.
“Come on!” He wouldn’t just quit that easily. “You can talk to Grant. He seems like a very intelligent man who could definitely help us and then…”
“Fine!” Judy gave in, cutting the boy off.
“Seriously?” Penny sounded surprised, but then smiled at her brother. “You really don’t let things go, do you?”
“It’s a good plan.” The eldest stated. “Let’s try it.”
“Really?” Will wasn’t expecting to convince Judy that fast.
The young doctor smiled. Her brother’s excitement was truly contagious.
“I’ll go talk to my fath…Grant right now.”
Judy’s hesitation didn’t go unnoticed by her siblings. And for a moment, they were surrounded by an awkward silence.
“You can say “father”, if you want.” Penny assured her. “I mean, he is your dad after all, right?”
Judy let out a sigh.
“I know. It’s just that…” She hesitated again. “It’s so…”
“We get it.” Will tried to comfort her.
“Actually, we’ve got no idea.” Penny was honest. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t count on us.”
Judy thanked her with a smile. Those were the best siblings anyone could ever ask for…
“We’re not gonna say anything to anybody, don’t worry.” The redhead guaranteed. “Not until you’re ready.” She poked Will in the ribs with her elbow. “Right?”
“It will be our secret.” Will agreed.
They shared a loving gaze. In spite of being away from their parents, they still had each other, and in that moment, that was enough.
“Amplify the signal?”
Grant Kelly asked curiously.
“And how do you plan to do that?”
“The robot.” Judy answered quickly. “He can do it.”
Suddenly, Kelly looked more interested.
“I thought it was just a bodyguard… An alien weapon, as you said it yourself earlier, if I’m not wrong…”
“Well, he’s… more than that.” She added, trying to reveal as little as possible about the robot’s abilities. Kelly noticed her intentional omission and decided not to push it.
“And do you think we can trust it?”
Judy remembered everything the robot had done for the Robinsons. If it weren’t for him, she and her family probably wouldn’t be alive.
“Yes, I do. I’m sure of it.”
Grant smiled. And his smile didn’t look forced anymore. The man was genuinely starting to like her.
“And it’s your brother’s best friend too, right? I remember you’ve mentioned it before …”
She looked somewhat embarrassed.
“I know it might sound strange… A twelve-year-old boy being best friends with an alien robot, but Will has always been…” She mentally searched for the best word to describe her baby brother. “Special, I guess.”
The captain of Fortuna didn’t mean to pry, but couldn’t help his curiosity.
“And how does that friendship work, exactly? Do they talk and play video game together?”
“Well, Will seems to understand him and he understands Will as well… But they don’t talk. Not with words, at least. It’s more like a bond that they have. It’s like they’re connected to one another somehow….”
Kelly raised his eyebrows.
“It really sounds like something special.” He commented.
“I’m sorry I can’t give you any precise information, but the robot is a true mystery.” Judy apologized.
“And you still think we can trust it?”
She thought about his question for a moment and despite of being so sure the first time she answered it, Judy hesitated for a second.
Grant spoke again, leaving the unanswered question as food for thought.
“So, do you think that if we manage to amplify the signal your parents will find you?
“Yes.” Judy was objective. “I mean, if they receive it, I’m sure they will.”
It took Kelly only a split second to decide.
“Let’s do it.”
And his decision got a big smile from his daughter.
“Thank you.” She said. “We can start now if that’s okay with you.” Judy made sure to treat him respectfully. “Where is the signal being broadcast from? The control room, I imagine.”
Grant found her question odd and his facial expression translated his confusion.
“Oh.” It took him a few seconds, but he finally seemed to understand. “So you think the signal you picked on came from my ship?”
Now it was Judy’s time to look confused.
“If I was able to broadcast anything, I think I would’ve managed to get out of here a long time ago…”
“If the Fortuna isn’t the source of transmission, then…”
“Then I hope you’re not afraid of walking on a dead planet…”
And outside, from the window, the big rock at the distance seemed to stare at them challengingly.
“And you’re sure it’s safe?”
Penny asked while Judy put on her space gear.
“I think being sure is something we lost months ago, right?”
Smith commented, even though the question hadn’t been directed to her.
“I wasn’t talking to you.” The redhead replied angrily. “And where have you been, by the way?” Penny focused her attention on Dr. Smith. “I haven’t seen you since we left Fortuna... What are you plotting now?”
The older woman rolled her eyes in an attempt to show she was more offended than she really was.
“I’m not plotting anything… Unless you consider helping the kids adapt some sort of evil plan.”
“You, helping?” Penny said ironically. “Please.”
“I wasn’t really expecting that such an immature girl like you could ever recognize that, in spite of our differences, I have helped your family more times than…”
“You never cared about my family!” Penny didn’t let the other one finish. “As a matter of fact, you don’t care about anything but yourself. And every time you say that you helped, you weren’t exactly doing it for us, were you?”
“And I don’t see how that makes my help any less important.” Smith added. “I don’t think any of us would be here right now if it weren’t for me when you decided to turn the Jupiter into a boat and sail to the horizon.” She said. “So, regardless of what my motivations might be and whether or not you approve of them, you needed my help once and, who knows, you might need it again…” She prophesied. “Maybe you should learn to show more appreciation for what I’ve done for you people so far…”
“Hey!” Judy intervened before Penny could lose her temper. The doctor turned to the redhead. “It’s safe. Don’t worry.” She finally answered her sister’s question, ignoring the discussion and hugged her tightly.
“Don’t listen to her.” Judy whispered. “And promise me you’ll take care of everything while I’m gone.”
Penny took a deep breath in an attempt to calm her nerves. “I promise.” She said, returning the hug.
“I’ll be back soon.” Judy assured her.
“Well, I guess I could find that comforting if it weren’t exactly what you told me before going inside the Fortuna…”
The older one smiled. She really couldn’t blame Penny for being worried.
“Well, this time I’m taking him with me…”
Judy looked back at where Will and the robot were waiting for her. In her space suit, she walked towards them.
“All set, Will?”
The boy nodded in confirmation and directed his attention to his metal friend.
“You know what to do, right? Go with Judy to the planet, find the source of the signal and create a way to amplify it, okay?”
The robot seemed to understand every word.
“Yes, Will Robinson.”
The kid smiled broadly like he always did when the robot called him by his name.
“Take care of her!” Will touched one of his metal arms. “And be careful.”
Judy, who was already at the door, gave one last look at her siblings and smiled. The robot followed her without hesitation.
Judy was inside the shuttle which would take them to the planet and ready to leave when she heard steps approaching.
“What are you doing?” She asked slightly annoyed.
“Thought you could use a guide.”
Jesse walked into the shuttle and stopped right behind her chair. Judy just stared at him.
“Grant thought it’d be useful to have someone who knows the terrain...” He explained. “And I thought you’d like some company…”
“If that’s the case, I already have company, so thank you.”
As soon as she said it, the robot appeared.
Jesse turned around quickly, startled by the sound. His expression, although controlled, mixed surprise, fear and curiosity and Judy had to fight back a laugh.
“He normally gets that reaction from people…” She said while observing the new comer give a few steps backwards, apprehensively stunned by the alien in front of him.
“It…” The man tried to find the right words. “It looks different.”
“Different?” Judy questioned. “From what?”
Jesse hesitated for a brief moment but then answered.
“Different from what I was expecting…”
He reached out his arm towards the robot as if he wanted to touch it but was scared to do so.
“Don’t worry. He’s nice.” Judy guaranteed.
But the other one didn’t seem to believe her. He lowered his arm and took a seat beside her. His head, however, couldn’t stop turning to where the robot was. Judy laughed.
“Are you okay?”
But Jesse took longer than expected to answer her question. There was something off about the way he looked at the robot. Something Judy couldn’t really put her finger on.
“Yeah.” He finally said. “I’m fine... it’s just that...I’d never seen anything like it before…”
Well, that made sense... Judy thought.
“Can we go now?” She asked.
Jesse answered, recovering his usual laid-back behavior.
He wasn’t sure when the view outside had become so oppressive. The idea of that empty void being the last thing he’d ever see was terrifying.
Don really thought he’d have a few more adventures left. More space travelling, more fights for stupid reasons, more girls he wouldn’t fall in love with… A few more bottles of whiskey…
Sitting in front of the window he looked at the one in his hands. One third to the end. Then, he’d be left with only five… On the bright side though, he’d probably be dead by the time he got to the half of the third, so…
It was just a matter of time now. And even though nor Maureen or John had the guts to admit it, Don West knew very well that was the end of the line. And anyone who bothered to take a closer look at the Jupiter’s navigation system would have to agree. No fuel, no planet nearby… nothing. Just the dark emptiness of space.
The mechanic stood up in no hurry. Still with the bottle in one of his hands, Don started to walk aimlessly around the ship. The silent corridors were even scarier than his own thoughts.
When he was close to one of the bunks, however, a dim light coming from under the door and the sound of muffled voices drew his attention.
“We knew the risks, John.” Maureen said. “But we had to try.” Her tone was low. “They needed us.”
“They still do!” John sounded angry. “But we can’t help them now, can we?”
Silence. Don moved a few inches towards the semi-closed door.
“If you really want to blame me, then…”
“I’m not blaming you...” John interrupted her.
“Good!” She said, louder this time. “Because if I remember correctly, I was the only one willing to go through the storm and ...”
“And what, Maureen? Die for being reckless? For not thinking of the consequences and risk it all on an impulse?
“Trying to save our kids will never be an impulse!” She scolded. “But we didn’t risk it, did we? We didn’t go through the storm... we didn’t even try.” Her tone was controlled again. “So, I guess you’ve got nothing to worry about anymore, John.” She was on the verge of tears. “We’re not going to die because I was reckless or because I acted on an impulse. We are going to die lost in the middle of the fucking space, without fuel, without oxygen and without our kids.”
Don felt a knot in his stomach to the sound of that statement.
“We are going to die knowing that they might be in danger and there’s no one to help.”
Long silence now. Scarily long…
“You sure there isn’t…”
“There’s nothing we can do, John.” She stated bluntly. “Believe me, I’ve gone through all the alternatives. Possible and even impossible…”
“How long?” John’s cold tone shocked West a little.
“A couple of days if we’re lucky…”
A loud sigh from someone Don couldn’t really identify ended the discussion.
He backed away from the door with unexpected resignation.
Not that he didn’t know already, but hearing from the smartest person on the ship that they would all going to die and worst of all, within two days, was the undeniable confirmation he needed.
He looked at the bottle in his hands again. On second thought, maybe he could finish all five...
Chapter 8: Meeting Jesse
The trip to the dead planet had been smooth. And, despite of being a quick journey, it felt like it lasted a lot longer. Maybe it had something to do with his annoying insistence in filling the silence with a stupid comment regarding something random or with a completely useless observation about an uninteresting topic.
“You don’t like me very much, do you?”
Judy pretended to be focused on pushing buttons on the control panel while she thought about what to say.
“It’s okay if you say no.”
“No…” She started.
“See? It wasn’t so hard, was it?”
“That’s not what I meant…” Judy tried to explain. “I… I don’t even know you.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Jesse looked confused. “That you don’t have an opinion about me or that you can’t trust the one you already got?”
His rather philosophical question made Judy think for a moment. She opened her mouth but then closed it. When she was about to speak, she stopped again, unsatisfied with her own answer.
“What about you?” She asked instead. “Have an opinion about me yet?”
“I have an opinion about everyone…” Jesse replied quickly. “I just don’t think they’re always right.”
Judy narrowed her eyes at him.
“So tell me what your opinion about me is and I let you know if it’s right or not.”
Jesse smirked. The question had a challenging tone to it and he liked it. Instead of answering her, however, he redirected his attention to the control panel.
“We’ll be there soon.” He stated. “I’ll show you a safe place to land.”
The bitter liquid ran down his throat. He had already lost count on how many glasses he’d had. Yet, it didn’t matter how much he drank, nothing seemed to make him forget that his days were numbered. And he only had two. Two fucking days! What one could do in such a short period of time?
If he was on Earth, he could at least go to some party, get drunk and be with as many women who wanted him as possible… But he was in outer space. And even though he was in fact getting very drunk, drinking alone had never been his best idea of fun. Well, to be fair, he wasn’t completely alone… He looked at Debbie and laughed at the pathetic situation he found himself in.
He took another sip and the heat in his chest due to the whiskey made him realize how much his heart was cold. He tried to remember the last time he had been in love and found out that maybe he never really had. He then remembered the times he had actually been proud of that. The man who only loved himself…
However, and he blamed it on his current predicament, in that moment, Don West really missed having someone. And not just anybody, with a nice pair of legs and big boobs. Someone… different. Someone capable of climbing into his mind and reach his soul. Someone he loved.
He laughed again. Maybe that was even more pathetic than having a chicken as a drinking buddy.
He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. Then Judy crossed his mind and this time he let it. He let her stay there a little longer, smiling at him the way she did, half-shy, half-challenging. She was angelically beautiful in a sexy kind of way… Was it really that crazy to want Judy Robinson?
He shook his head at last, trying to make her go away like he usually did. One more sip. It was definitely the alcohol.
Apparently the combination of whiskey and impending death turned him into a sentimental loser…
“We’re here.” Jesse said as soon as they managed to safely land.
Judy looked out the window. Nothing but rocks and dust. The whole scenario looked like it came straight out of a nightmare.
Jesse got out first and Judy followed quickly. When she was about to get out of the shuttle as well, she tripped and fell into his arms.
“Are you okay?” He asked with his hands around her waist.
Judy blushed a little, embarrassed by her own carelessness.
“I’m fine.” She assured, noticing that his green eyes really had a shade of blue.
She finally let go of his arms and stood up properly. The robot came last, making a sound with every step he took.
Jesse looked at it again. He looked more used to its presence now. Only then, he held his helmet and took it out in a swift move.
“WHAT ARE YOU…?”
But Judy didn’t have time to finish as the other one took a deep breath as if that simple act gave him great pleasure.
“The air is good.” He clarified. “I mean, the nitrogen levels are high, but there’s plenty of oxygen as well...”
The doctor was skeptical at first and only considered removing her helmet after watching Jesse well and alive for a few minutes.
“You can trust me.”
Judy looked right into those bluish green eyes and saw honesty in them. She took off her helmet apprehensively and, following his lead, inhaled deeply.
The air was different from Earth. Or at least different from what she remembered. It was heavier…sweeter, perhaps. She inhaled again and allowed the air to fill her lungs completely. The sensation was good.
“It’s good, right?” Jesse interrupted her moment. “Pure air in the lungs. Almost makes coming here worth it.”
That planet didn’t seem to provide anything worth it so far, Judy thought.
“And do you come here often?”
“Sometimes…” Jesse said. “There’s a primitive type of vegetation here and some seeds. They don’t taste all that great, but they’re edible.”
He gave a few steps forward and gestured for Judy to follow him.
“Here. Try this one.” And plucked a leaf from a small plant in front of them.
Judy bit into it reluctantly. She chewed with certain difficulty and then made a face.
“Nothing that some ketchup can’t fix.” Jesse joked and carried on. “There’s also water in underground wells. But the problem is that it’s boiling hot when we collect it, so we have to be careful...”
Judy raised her eyebrows curiously.
“That happens because of the gas pressure in the mines, which coincidentally is the same gas we use as fuel to keep the ship running…”
She looked genuinely surprised.
“So, bottom line is…” Ford concluded. “I know it looks ugly and wrecked, but this planet is practically the only reason why we’re still alive.”
The robot, who had accompanied them in the tour, approached Judy as if he wanted to remind her of the reason that had brought them there in the first place.
“Come.” Jesse understood. “I’ll show you where the signal’s coming from.”
“You look concentrated...”
Grant had his gaze directed toward the view from his office’s window and through the glass he saw her reflection before she spoke.
“And you look like you don’t touch your feet on the ground when you walk.”
“I didn’t mean to scare you…”
“You didn’t.” Kelly guaranteed. “And to what do I owe the pleasure, doctor?” The sarcasm was evident.
“I…” Smith stalled. “I just wanted to thank you. Judy told me that you’ve agreed to help us amplify the signal…”
Grant finally turned around to face her.
“Well, I came to the conclusion that by helping you people, I’d also be helping myself, wouldn’t you agree?” He started. “If her parents really do find us, I win my ticket back home, I guess.”
Smith pondered on that for a moment.
“I think most people wouldn’t consider your motives very noble…”
Grant simply smiled at her comment.
“Most people wouldn’t consider their own selfishness as the only reason behind everything they do either.” He said rudely. “And even when some of our actions end up helping somebody, everything we do comes purely from our selfish whims.”
Smith raised her eyebrows in surprise. What would Judy think about that Grant Kelly if she could hear him now?
“So you don’t believe in selfless sacrifice?”
Kelly looked amused by her question.
“There’s no selfless sacrifice.” He was blunt. “Every sacrifice is selfish. Tell me doctor, what is a mother who sacrifices her own life for her children really doing? Preventing their death or the pain she’d feel if they died?”
But Smith didn’t say anything. She just realized in that moment that with a little bit of effort, Grant Kelly could become a perfect ally. She walked towards him and stopped by his side.
“Judy’s told me you’ve been here for two years…”
Kelly nodded in confirmation.
“And that you have a wife and...”
“What’s your point, doctor?”
That topic seemed to always get on his nerves.
“I don’t…” She hesitated. “Sorry if I sound invasive. It’s just that...”
She made an intentionally long pause before carrying on. “Aren’t you afraid?”
Grant didn’t seem to understand where she was going with that. Noticing his confusion, she explained herself.
“Afraid that she might have…” She chose her next words carefully. “Learned to live without you.”
The Captain quickly understood Smith’s euphemism.
“So, I guess that what you’re really trying to ask is if I’m not afraid that she might have found another…”
“Well…” Smith was vague. “Two years is a long time…”
“Judging by what you’ve just said, I can only assume that you have never loved anyone in your life…”
Smith didn’t take offense though.
“So, in your opinion, love should last forever?”
Grant Kelly went speechless at that. If he said yes, he’d be behaving as a hopeless romantic which he wasn’t. But if he said no, he’d be accepting the fact that maybe his wife had indeed learned to live without him.
“I just came here to tell you how much I appreciate your help.” Smith changed the subject. “And I don’t care what your motives were to offer it.”
She concluded and turned around to leave.
Kelly looked out the window again, but his thoughts were far away.
“Doctor.” He called her back, but could only see her reflection. “As a friend of the family, what can you tell me about the Robinsons?”
She thought about that for a moment.
“They are a very united family, that’s for sure.”
“And do you think I’ll like them?”
Now it was Smith’s time to smile.
“I think you’ll be surprised.”
And with those final words, she left him the way she had found him. Alone, accompanied only by memories and illusions…
Grant Kelly then remembered his wife and really missed her in a way he hadn’t for a long time. A single tear rolled down his face. But only the stars witnessed it.
“The signal’s coming from there.” Jesse pointed at some kind of cave. “Grant and I have tried to find out what exactly broadcasts it, if it’s a tower or a radio…” He sounded disappointed. “We do know the signal reaches the surface from that underground chamber, but it’s too deep and unstable inside so we never found the source…”
Judy was intrigued. A signal broadcast by an unknown source on a dead planet…
“Do you think your robot can do this?”
Judy laughed at the question.
“He’s not my robot.” And she looked at the metal alien.
The robot, which had been listening to Jesse’s explanations quietly, didn’t wait for a request or any instructions and just walked into the cave without hesitation.
“I think that’s a yes.” Judy added.
The two humans watched until the robot disappeared from view.
“He’s not much of a talker, is he?”
“I think words don’t mean as much to his species as they do to ours.”
“Maybe…” Jesse said. “But with your brother, he’s more comfortable to communicate, right?”
“I wouldn’t say comfortable…” She started. “They just seem to have this connection…”
Then she changed the subject drastically.
“You’ve really taken an interest in him, haven’t you?” She asked suspiciously. “I noticed from your reaction back in the shuttle. I even thought you had seen something like him before…”
Jesse smirked at her observation.
“A ten feet tall robot that walks and acts like a human would probably shock a few more people than just me… Or am I the only one who finds him a little… intimidating?”
“That’s not what I meant…” Judy began.
“All right.” But Jesse didn’t let her finish. “Enough about the robot, then.” He stated firmly. “How about a different topic? You, for example?”
The young doctor chuckled at the “subtlety” of his comment.
“And what do you want to know about me?”
“Well, I already know your name is Judy Robinson since you made sure to say it loud and clear during that little speech of yours…” He said. “I know you’re gonna be twenty in a few months and that your parents are on the way…”
“Apparently my d…” She corrected herself quickly. “Grant told you about our conversation...”
Luckily, her hesitation went unnoticed by him.
“There are no secrets between us.” Jesse lied. “Or at least when it comes to the important things… He must’ve talked to you about me too.”
Judy remembered what Kelly had told her. How Jesse liked to play the bad guy but deep down was a good man…
“He didn’t really.”
He looked somewhat disappointed, but relieved as well.
“So, what would you like to know?”
“About you?” Judy considered the question slightly arrogant, since the subject had changed from her to him all of a sudden, but then saw it as a good opportunity to learn more about that stranger.
“Let me see…” She thought. “How did you end up here?”
Her question made his face change almost imperceptibly. He looked away for a moment.
“I…don’t know.” He answered shyly.
Judy insisted though.
“What do you mean? You don’t know how you got here?”
“I don’t remember, actually.”
He lowered his gaze, as if that confession caused him embarrassment.
“I don’t remember anything before getting here…”
Judy looked baffled, but before she could ask him a hundred questions, he spoke first.
“I mean, Grant’s told me that I showed up on the Fortuna’s radar out of the blue and that he even thought he was getting crazy, but then I crashed into the planet… My ship was completely destroyed and by the time he found me I could no longer remember anything…”
Judy was listening to his story attentively.
“There was a tag on my suit with the name “Jesse Ford” written on it, so I assumed that was my name…”
“I have no idea how old I am. I’d guess twenty-five, maybe…”
She nodded in agreement. He looked like he was in his mid-twenties… They exchanged a long gaze.
“Anyway, I guess there’s not much to know about me, after all…”
Judy Robinson tried to imagine how it was to live without memories. A life without identity.
“I’m really sorry.” She said honestly and received a melancholic smile from Jesse.
“Don’t be.” He assured her. “It was hard in the beginning… I tortured myself for months trying to find anything that could help me remember who I was… But then, I guess I ended up accepting it.”
They were sitting side by side in front of the cave, waiting for the robot.
The dark sky full of stars above and the solitude made Judy realize that that was probably the most pleasant moment she’d had since she had been separated from her parents.
Maybe Grant was right. Maybe Jesse was really a good man…
“You know…” He broke the silence between them. “Sometimes, when I hear Grant talk about his wife and daughter and how he wish he could go back and do everything differently...” His tone was serious, sad even. “I see how memories can be painful. How missing something can hurt you... in those moments, I’m almost glad that I can’t remember anything before this…”
Judy raised her eyebrows, impressed with his confession.
“There’s something freeing in not having a past… or not remembering it, at least.” He corrected. “You’re kind of forced to live in the present, you know? Carpe Diem in its most literal sense.”
“Maybe I was a millionaire with the best job in the world and the hottest girlfriend...” Jesse supposed. “Or maybe I was just another loser, unemployed with no self esteem…”
She laughed again. He certainly had been a guy with a good sense of humor…
“What I’m trying to say is that because I don’t know who I was I can be whoever the hell I want. I’m immune to the past and its regrets and vices. Immune to the suffering of missing something and, best of all, I can create my own memories.”
The doctor smiled. Apparently his amnesia had a silver lining after all.
“And who are you in this imaginary past of yours?”
Her question made him smile as well.
“I’m a ruggedly handsome pirate in quest of a lost treasure who dates a mermaid…”
They both laughed and right then Judy changed her opinion about him completely. They shared a gaze. This time, longer and more intense.
“The answer is yes.” She said suddenly and he didn’t seem to follow. “To your question earlier. If I had an opinion about you or not. The answer is yes.” Judy explained.
“And…” He was curious.
“And…” She kept the suspense. “I’m glad I didn’t trust it.”
Jesse smiled, hiding his embarrassment.
“Is that a good thing?”
But before Judy could answer, the sound of metal against the hard ground dragged them both from their conversation back to reality.
She stood up quickly and walked towards the robot.
“Did you do it?”
“Yes, Judy Robinson.”
The robot said and got a broad smile from the young doctor.
She then turned to Jesse and gave him a thumbs up. He smiled satisfied and stood up as well.
“Now we just need to pray they intercept the signal.” She started. “I really hope they find us…”
Jesse Ford took a look at the girl beside him. She was the perfect balance between stern and innocent. Her beauty was intimidating and yet, comforting.
“We should go now.” He pointed out. “They might be needing us up there...”
And started to walk towards the shuttle, determined to never forget that moment.
Chapter 9: Miracle
“Did you do it?”
Will asked anxious and enthusiastically as soon as he spotted his sister and the robot step into the Jupiter.
“We did it.” She tried to sound as excited as the boy. “Your plan seems to be working really well so far…”
“Well, that was kind of the easy part…” He started. “I knew he could do it.” And looked at the robot proudly.
“Now we just need to cross our fingers and hope that has been enough to make mom and dad find us.” Penny said.
“They will.” Will stated and looked out the window hopefully. “They’re already on their way... I can feel it.”
The two older girls couldn’t help but look at all that space outside too, caught up in their brother’s innocent hope.
Grant asked, indifference in his voice, as he heard Jesse’s familiar steps walking into the control room.
Kelly, who had been lost in thought while he stared at the window sadly, turned to face the younger man. Although he knew Jesse had understood exactly what he meant, Grant Kelly wasn’t really in the mood for his games. Sometimes, Jesse’s immaturity could really get on his nerves.
“How was with the girl?”
“Oh! Well, she’s… nice I guess.” He preferred to be vague. “She’s a good girl, just like you’ve said.”
Kelly raised his eyebrows and Jesse looked away.
“What?” The younger man played dumb.
But Grant always seemed to see through him.
“I hope “nice” and “good” are really the only qualities you’ve seen in her, Jess…”
The other man hesitated for a fraction of a second.
“I know she’s pretty. I’m not blind.” The captain completed. “And you’re young so...”
“What’s your point, Kelly?”
But Grant didn’t answer right away. He simply turned around again in order to face the window.
“There’s no point.” He said. “I’d just like to know if I have to remind you what we’re doing here.”
“Well, since you never let me forget, I think that’d be a little redundant, don’t you?”
The captain of Fortuna laughed. He liked when Jesse talked back.
“And you’ve never struck me as a redundant kind of guy, Kelly.” Ford continued, revealing some slight irritation. “Sometimes I wonder if it’s not you who forgets that “what we’re doing here” kind of depends on me to work…”
Grant was still in no mood to argue. So, he moved his arms backwards and held his hands behind his back.
“How was the trip?” He then changed the subject.
Jesse didn’t insist and gave up on the discussion.
“Normal…” His tone still showed irritation. “But nothing on the source of the signal. The robot got in there and apparently did what they said it would and came back up. It was pretty much it.”
Kelly blinked slowly, as if he had been tired for too long…
“And do you think we can use it?”
“I don’t know.” Ford replied. “I mean, maybe... Guess I need to get to know it first. Jud... the girl said its technology is advanced, but I don’t know if it’s gonna be enough…”
“It’s a lot of ellipses there, Jess.”
“Well, it’s a lot of variables too.” The younger man fought back the urge to respond more aggressively. “I just need a little more time.”
Grant sighed in frustration.
“Time.” He repeated. “Time is the one thing I’m fed up with…”
Jesse then finally approached the other man and stood by his side. Their eyes directed towards something beyond what one could see.
“We knew it would take some time…” The younger man spoke softer this time. “Actually, there were times when I thought it would be impossible… But now, we’re closer than never!”
They finally looked at each other. For real, this time. And anybody who walked into that room and dedicated a few seconds to observe those two men in silence couldn’t deny that despite it all there was a sort of friendship between them.
“I just need a little more time.” He repeated. “And you just need to trust me on this.”
Jesse’s hesitating hand touched Grant’s stiff shoulder and he even seemed to relax a bit.
“You know I do.”
Grant stated sincerely.
“And you’ll have all the time you need, Jess...” He said somewhat resigned. “It’s just that sometimes I…”
“I know.” Jesse anticipated his next words. “Me too.”
Grant smiled and turned his attention back to the window. Sometimes he had to remind himself that he wasn’t as alone as he felt.
Jesse turned around and started to leave when the captain stopped him.
“Don’t let these people get into your head, Jess...” Kelly pointed out as a piece of advice.
“I know how loneliness can cloud a man’s judgment… Just be careful.”
And through the reflection on the glass, he saw the other man finally leave without saying another word.
John was staring at the Jupiter’s control panel so attentively that at first, one could assume he was looking for something that could help them escape their dark fate.
But what looked like attention was, in fact, resignation.
Part of being a good military, in his opinion, lay in the ability to accept defeat. And although “defeat” in their case meant death, John Robinson was forced to take it as it came.
Of course that was by far the scariest thing that had ever happened to him, but a small part of him was, as crazy as it sounded, thankful.
He remembered the time he had spent away from his family and the almost divorce and how he had thought he’d lost the affection from everybody he had loved forever. And how that realization had scared him way more than his current predicament.
Many would call him selfish. And maybe he really was… But his soul felt somewhat relieved to have Maureen with him. He really couldn’t think of anybody better to die beside him… And the possibility that she felt the same way made the whole situation a lot easier to go through.
He then decided to believe that his kids would be just fine without them and would have a great future in a much better place than Earth… They’d eventually get to Alpha Centauri and start their lives as they deserved.
He leaned further back into the pilot’s seat and looked out the window. And suddenly, the chair felt softer and the view before him, peaceful and comforting.
Maureen was in her bunk, accompanied only by the bottle of whiskey Don had given her a few nights ago. She hadn’t even bothered to fetch her a glass or anything like it and each sip she took, came straight from the bottle. The liquid ran down her throat as the memories ran through her mind.
She remembered Will’s face as a baby. Judy’s school plays. How much Penny looked like her but at the same time, was so different… She then remembered the tight hug she had given them before they went to Alpha Centauri and a tear or two rolled down her face, leaving a trace of deep longing on her cheeks.
She took one last swig and hoped that would diminish her almost painful desire to hug her kids again. Tighter this time. So tight that they couldn’t escape her embrace…
What would they do without her? What kind of mother abandoned their children like that?
She hated herself for leaving them in the first place. Then, she hated herself even more for wanting them there with her, knowing what that meant… At least, they’d die together. As a family.
The bottle, empty now, was useless and she considered throwing it against the wall. Watch it break into a million pieces, just like her last hope.
She even threatened to throw it but quit in the last second. The noise would probably make John go there to check on her… She then thought about John and about how his presence should make her feel better…
So why did she prefer to stay locked in her room drinking alone? Maybe only alone could she really suffer the way she wanted. The way she needed. A selfish decision, she concluded.
However, neither that realization nor her conclusion made her open the door to let him in…
Don had quit drinking a while ago. And Debbie had finally gone to sleep, leaving him completely alone.
But loneliness, once so feared by Don West, didn’t seem so bad anymore. And although facing it totally wasted could be considered cheating to some, he was pretty satisfied with himself.
He felt relaxed, optimistic even. He thought if heaven really existed and if so, what it was like. There had to be plenty of whiskey for sure… A fountain of it! That never ran dry… He thought if animals were allowed there and decided that if that was the case, Debbie would remain his pet even in the afterlife…
Then, he thought that the people who ended up going to heaven were all very nice and had never done anything wrong in their lives. Or at least, nothing too wrong… He knew the Robinsons were going there. They had nothing to worry about… Him, on the other hand? He’d probably be stopped at the Golden Gates and escorted right off.
Heaven was certainly no place for a selfish smuggler like himself. And although in his ledger there had to be a few good deeds, the not-so good ones definitely outweighed the positive side, forbidding his entrance in the Kingdom of God.
He laid comfortably in his bed and felt his eyes got heavier due to the excessive drinking. At least he’d try to pay the Robinsons a visit, he decided. Tell them the news in hell and catch up with theirs. Because he would definitely miss them a whole lot.
Before giving in to sleep, however, he gave one last look at Debbie and then at everything around him. From the simplest thing, like the empty glass of whiskey on the nightstand to the most incomprehensible and complex, like the entire universe outside… With his eyes already closed, Don West realized he would miss life.
The subtle beep of the radar on the control panel took a little longer to be noticed by John. Mainly because at that point, he wasn’t expecting to hear or pick up anything at all.
He jumped up and sprinted to the screen that indicated that something had just crossed the Jupiter’s reception antenna.
“MAUREEN!” He called out.
The woman, who had been caught by surprise, went to the cockpit as fast as the whiskey allowed her.
“What is it?” She sounded desperate, anticipating that the situation had taken a turn for the worse.
“We’ve just picked something on the radar.” John explained and finally went to check what it was.
The audio transmitted by the ship was exactly the same they had picked up on the Resolute and neither of them needed more than a millisecond to identify it.
“The signal!” They said in unison.
It didn’t take long for Maureen to locate the coordinates from where the signal was being broadcast.
“It’s not very far from here…” She concluded.
“So, you’re saying that…”
“That we have enough fuel for the trip.” She could barely control her excitement as she ran to her husband to give him a hug.
“We’ve found them!” She kissed him passionately. “We’ve found our kids!”
“What’s going on here?”
The sleepy voice coming from the door made both Maureen and John look away from each other.
“We’re still dying…” Don continued. “Right?”
The scientist and the military smiled, pulling away from their hug.
“We’re not dying!” Maureen practically yelled. “We’ve just received the same signal the kids followed that we thought would lead to Alpha Centauri…”
West, and he would blame it on the alcohol again, still looked confused.
“We’ve found them!” She said for the third time. “According to the radar, the kids are close and we have more than enough fuel to get there…”
“And where exactly is there?” Don asked curiously. “Because we know it ain’t Alpha Centauri…”
“I don’t care where it is.” Maureen said. “If that’s where my kids are, then that’s where I’m heading…”
“And as far as we know…” John added. “The signal has a human origin, so besides finding our kids we might even get some help…”
The mechanic was still sleepy and too drunk to get really excited like the rest of the gang. However, that was good news, right? He smiled.
“You and John did an excellent work on amplifying the reception range of the Jupiter.” Maureen said, approaching him. “You helped me find my kids… Thank you so much, Don.” And she hugged him with so much affection that that moved him more than he had anticipated.
“Are you crying?” She asked, noticing his eyes tearing up.
“I’m super drunk and up until two minutes ago I thought I was dying, so... Of course I’m crying!” He confessed. “How come you guys are not?”
They laughed and exchanged looks that said so much more than words ever could.
“Enough with the drama and let’s go find the kids!”
Maureen said resolute. Thank God she hadn’t thrown that stupid bottle.
Penny was looking out one of the windows in the Jupiter as she imagined where she’d be in that exact moment if she had never left Earth.
Before the frighteningly dark and uncertain vastness of space, Earth, even after the Christmas Star, was like paradise. When did things start to go so wrong?
She had never wanted to leave her friends and the familiarity of her home planet, and in spite of having done that for her family, she now regretted her decision.
Gazing at the stars, so much brighter and closer from up there, all Penny could think about was how much she missed watching them from Earth…
And suddenly, a star seemed to move. A shooting star, perhaps. Maybe she should make a wish.
But the movement of said star didn’t cease. Was that a meteor? Was it even mathematically possible for them to have that much bad luck?
However, the meteor kept approaching the ship, and with each mile closer, the less it looked like a meteor and the more it looked like…
“JUDY! WILL!” She called at the top of her lungs.
Her scream got the attention of a few more people than just her siblings. Practically everyone on board went to join Penny at the window as their curious eyes followed the moving light.
Judy and Will, however, got there first and stopped each one at each side of Penny.
“What is that?” The eldest of the Robinsons asked, sharing the same desire as the other two for one specific answer.
It was only when the meteor turned into a ship, a Jupiter to be exact, that their eyes glowed in a way that not even the brightest of the stars could…
“It’s mom and dad…” Will spoke first. “Didn’t I tell you they were on their way?”
They wrapped their arms around one another, forming a unity of three with two missing pieces. Just a few more miles and there would be no more missing pieces anymore. Just a few more miles and they would be the Robinsons again.
Chapter 10: Family Reunion
Hey guys! I know that we had promised to update last week but, as usual, life got in the way...Hope you guys enjoy this chapter and let the shipping begin!
Everything was so fast and unexpected that Judy only realized what was about to happen when she saw her mother running towards her with open arms and a broad smile.
Suddenly, fast turned slow and her mother seemed to be running in slow motion. Judy felt a fearful enthusiasm that only lasted a couple of seconds, the same amount of time Maureen took to get to her kids.
She hugged them all at once in one tight embrace. She tried to kiss all three foreheads at the same time, but she lacked enough lips to do so.
“I missed you guys so, so much…”
She kept repeating while kissing and hugging her children. Her voice muffled in the midst of their bodies.
John soon went to join them to add his arms to the sum of already eight.
And there they were… The Robinsons. All the pieces back together again.
Don just watched the scene from afar, knowing that anyone who dared to approach would be ruining that so highly anticipated family reunion. He then smiled and wished his arms could also be part of that group.
“How are you guys?”
John asked, breaking the hug in order to take a better look at his kids.
“A little tighter and I think we’d be suffocated by now…”
Penny joked and got a collective laugh from everyone.
“So, you’re the famous Robinsons, I presume.”
His calm and steady voice seemed to silence the room.
Judy felt a shiver run down her spine and her instinctive reaction was to look at her mother.
Maureen, who up until that moment held a genuinely relieved and happy smile on her face, had her lips pressed together in a thin line. Her eyes widened while she frantically scanned the place, searching for that voice she knew all too well.
“Mom…” The young doctor tried, but her tone was low, almost hesitant.
At last, Grant’s imposing and impassive figure revealed itself to the new comers.
“I must say it’s an honor to finally meet ...”
But the sentence ended in the middle. Interrupted by a sight Grant only remembered. A sight that often visited him, but only in his dreams.
Impassiveness gave way to bewilderment and imposingness bowed before the unbelievable.
Kelly’s barely audible voice articulated that name with so much effort that he almost didn’t say it.
Maureen had already let go of her family and found herself standing in front of something only her memory still possessed. The image of a man who only existed framed in a photograph.
Her faltering voice tried.
But Kelly didn’t answer. His lips were paralyzed and his eyes fascinated by the woman before him. His wife was there and nothing he could do or say seemed enough. Only he knew how long he had waited for that… She looked beautiful. Different from what he remembered though. Older... Actually, looking closely, a lot older...
“What happened to you?”
However, before anyone could answer any questions, a violent shudder shook Fortuna, drawing everyone’s attention to it. Jesse entered the room in a hurry.
“Kelly!” He called. “It’s happened again.” And walked out as fast as he had walked in.
The captain’s complete state of shock lasted a few more moments though, preventing his legs from moving and his brain from processing his friend’s words.
And suddenly, there was another shudder. Stronger this time. Strong enough to drag Grant back from his trance. He blinked a few times, as if he had just come back from a hypnosis session.
“Kelly!” Jesse was back and practically yelling.
Grant looked at the other man, finally regaining his composure.
The younger man didn’t hide his impatience and the captain simply followed him without looking back.
The shudder didn’t seem to disturb Maureen as much as her recent discovery. Her body still felt somewhat numb.
“What the hell was that?”
Don asked when the second shudder hit the ship, but no one but him looked worried.
“Mom...” Judy tried to get a reaction from her mother.
“Maureen?” John tried too.
The scientist, however, allowed herself a few more seconds in that catatonic state. How could he be alive? And looking exactly like she remembered?
When she finally came to her senses she looked at her eldest daughter.
“I know it seems crazy…” Judy started.
“How is that possible?” Maureen cut her off.
“I don’t know.” Judy replied. “But it’s him. It’s dad.”
And to the sound of those last words, before getting confused, John felt a cold shiver that felt a lot like fear.
Grant could see Jesse’s lips moving but no word seemed to be coming out. The revelation from minutes before was still the only thing he could think about.
“… so we need to check the perimeter to see if there was any damage and…”
Only then, Jesse realized he was talking to himself.
“Hey, Grant!” He called out. “Are you even listening to me?”
And since Kelly really wasn’t, he didn’t reply.
“What is it?” The captain of Fortuna finally spoke, a little startled by the other man’s yell.
“What’s going on?” Jesse sounded more concerned than curious. “You look like... I don’t know. It looks like you’ve seen a ghost or something.”
“It’s her, Jess.”
Grant said those words as if he couldn’t believe them himself.
“Her who?” The younger man asked, remembering the Grant Kelly he had found on that planet over a year ago. A very disturbed Grant Kelly, haunted by the memories of his past, sanity partly gone…
Jesse’s concern grew before the possibility of Kelly having gone mad this time.
“Look, Grant, I know that…”
“It’s her.” The captain stated, completely sane. “She’s here.”
Even though he had sounded pretty convincing, the improbability of that made Jesse doubt him. However, they had bigger problems to solve.
A third shudder shook the ship again.
“Forget about your wife, Kelly.” The younger man decided to leave that matter for another time. “This was the worst we’ve had so far.” He pointed out. “If it gets any worse, then...”
“What’s the time gap?” Grant suddenly seemed to be back to his usual self.
“Thirty seconds between the first and the second. Now it’s been almost fifty since the last one…”
“We’ve never had a gap that big…” Kelly added. “I don’t think there will be another…”
“You don’t “think”?” Jesse laughed sarcastically.
But before Grant could think of a comeback, Judy entered the control room.
“Should we be worried about this?” She asked as she stood by her father’s side facing the panel.
“About what? The explosions on the planet that have just hit our ship stronger than never in gaps of less than a minute? Nah. There’s nothing to worry about…”
Jesse’s answer was filled with sarcasm, and for who was a good observant, a good amount of fear too.
Judy just rolled her eyes.
“What were those... tremors?”
Maureen’s voice echoed through the room and made Grant’s heart feel tighter in his chest. However, he kept his gaze at the monitors.
“Tremors?” Jesse repeated. “That’s a pretty optimistic way to see things…”
“We don’t know exactly what they are…”
Kelly interrupted the other man with frightening seriousness. At last, he turned around. His eyes scanned his wife from head to toe. It was really her. Older, but her. There was no doubt about it.
Then, he looked at Judy and all of a sudden her eyes became so familiar that it felt like he was staring at his own.
Finally, he gazed at John, who had followed his wife and stood behind her with suspicious eyes.
And although a lot of things didn’t make sense at that point, he figured it out. He figured that that girl, whose eyes were exactly like his, was his daughter and that that man behind his wife was… Well, apparently she had learned to live without him after all.
“It’s some kind of seismic activity.” Kelly completed so impassively that everyone, including himself, was surprised by it.
Maureen managed to hide how much his ex-husband indifferent tone had affected her. Everything still felt pretty crazy and as the good scientist that she was, she decided to deal with one problem at a time.
“How is that possible?” She approached the monitors. “That planet looks destroyed, it shouldn’t be presenting any...”
“Looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to this place.” Kelly cut her off, the anger well disguised by his neutral tone.
“I’ve been monitoring everything that happens on that planet since I got here. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about it is that nothing is what it seems. Its core is highly unstable and the internal pressure fluctuates with an unnatural frequency…”
“It’s like whatever happened down there had happened…” Now Maureen was on curious scientist mode.
“Recently.” She and Grant completed in unison. They glanced at each other surprised by their own voices, but he looked away and carried on.
“We don’t know exactly what happened but it was definitely recent…”
“And do you think that what happened before can happen again?
John finally jumped into the conversation and asked.
“You mean the planet imploding again?” It was Jesse who replied. “Unfortunately, that’s kind of a possibility.”
Kelly then continued:
“These last “tremors”…” He made sure to use the name given by his wife. “Have been the strongest we’ve had so far. They have happened four times since we’ve been here, but never with so much intensity…”
“The indicator seems to be getting back to normal… And it’s been two minutes and thirteen seconds…” Jesse interrupted and Kelly nodded in acknowledgement.
Then, he turned his gaze towards the group that waited for further explanations.
“The biggest time gap we’ve had between the tremors has been forty seven seconds. Normally after that, we kind of know it’s over.”
“What do you mean over?” Maureen sounded concerned. “If that’s happened before, shouldn’t we at least...”
“Look lady, with all due respect, you’ve just got here…” Jesse cut her off. “So, I don’t think you…”
“Jess.” Kelly called, immediately silencing his friend who knew that tone very well.
“Don’t be rude to our guests.” He glanced at Maureen but soon looked away. “Why don’t you go check to see if the perimeter has been damaged?”
Jesse knew that was more of an order than a request.
“John.” Maureen said suddenly. “Why don’t you go with him?”
She didn’t wait for a reply as she added.
“Then we can start getting to know how things work around here…”
And redirected her teasing gaze at Jesse, who didn’t look exactly thrilled with the idea of taking a total stranger to an unstable planet.
John didn’t look very happy with Maureen’s idea either. The last thing he wanted was leave his wife alone with her ex-husband. Why was she trying to push him away?
“He has a military background.” Maureen completed. “I’m sure he’ll be of great help.”
The way she had said those words was all the confirmation John needed to be certain that his wife was really trying to get rid of him. He felt offended and somehow threatened.
However, for reasons he still didn’t know entirely, he didn’t oppose.
Jesse waited for Grant’s approval.
“Take him with you, Jess.” The captain finally spoke. “You might need help.”
The younger man looked annoyed, but didn’t protest.
“We also need to check if there has been any damage to the ship’s systems.” Jesse observed before heading out. “They all crashed last time, remember?”
“Judy can do that, right honey?” And besides her husband, Maureen had just volunteered her daughter for a task that wasn’t really in her area of expertise.
“Get Don to go with you.”
Well, that made more sense… However, Judy really preferred staying there with her mom, given the current circumstances…
“Okay.” She agreed hesitantly. “I think I can do that.”
The doctor then looked at Kelly, waiting for him to agree as well since it was his ship and all.
“Go ahead, Judy.” He nodded in approval. “I believe you know where the maintenance room is, correct?”
“I’ll figure it out.” The doctor said and stalled a little longer before she turned on her heels to leave. “Mom…”
But Maureen didn’t let her finish.
“Go.” She ordered. “We’ll talk later, ok?”
Why didn’t her mother want her around in such an important moment as that one?
However, she didn’t object and finally headed out.
Don spotted her from a distance walking slowly towards him with an indecipherable expression on her face.
He had seen her walk towards him several times before, but this one felt different somehow.
The mechanic wanted to smile but her apparent seriousness put him off.
“Come with me.” She said and walked right past him.
He hesitated only for a few seconds before obliging. Clearly something that he didn’t completely understand had happened.
“So, no “Don, how you’ve been? I missed you!”… anything?”
He joked, trying to break the ice but already regretting it even before finishing the sentence.
Judy, who was leading the way, turned around with the same puzzling look on her face. She sure could be an easier woman to read…
“I’m sorry.” She apologized. “It’s just that...”
“I know.” He interrupted. “I mean, I don’t really, but I noticed the tension after that guy walked in…”
Judy forced a smile.
“That guy is my father.”
She sounded as serious as she looked and then resumed walking.
The short walk from the control room to maintenance was done silently.
After learning the shocking news that that Grant guy was Judy’s biological father, Don was kind of at a loss for words.
“Where are we exactly?”
He finally spoke when they stopped in front of a closed door.
“Maintenance room.” She replied and opened it. “Let’s find out if one of those shudders has caused some damage around here…”
“Oh, so that’s why you brought me along…” West concluded. “And here I was thinking it was because of my pleasant company…”
Judy smiled again, but it wasn’t forced anymore.
The silence had helped her calm her nerves and now even Don West’s jokes started to sound a little funny…
“I’m really sorry for the way that I...” She trailed off. “I should’ve been nicer to you, I guess.”
Don smiled. She clearly had a hard time with apologies.
“Don’t sweat it, princess.” He said lightheartedly. “I have no idea how hard it must’ve been for you to go through all of this, so it’s all good.”
They finally entered the dark room and Judy realized how much his presence could put her at ease in a way that she couldn’t really explain.
“Is there a light switch around or will I have to work in the dark?”
“I don’t know…” Judy shoved one of her hands in her back pocket and retrieved a flashlight from it. “It’s not exactly a switch, but I hope it does the trick…”
She turned it on and directed it towards him.
Don closed his eyes instinctively due to the sudden clarity and then protected his eyes with one of his hands.
“I think it’ll do.” He said. “Just try not to point it directly at my face, all right?”
“Sorry.” She laughed and he liked to hear it.
“Okay, let’s see what we got here…”
West said mostly to himself as he looked for something that could be out of place.
“There.” He pointed and Judy immediately redirected the flashlight to the spot he had referred to. “It looks like some cables got detached from that panel.”
The mechanic didn’t waste any more time and started working.
“Tell me what to do, okay?” Judy asked, lighting up the spot where Don was.
“Just keep doing what you’re doing.”
Judy kept holding the flashlight as steady as she could, focused on the wires that he seemed to know exactly what to do with. She observed attentively as he skillfully connected the cables with his long and fast fingers. She had always imagined that a mechanic’s hands had to be dirty but Don West’s were perfectly clean.
“What would you do if you were me?”
The sudden question startled Don.
“What do you mean?”
Judy then approached him and sat on the floor to get more comfortable. She kept the flashlight in place.
“If your father, who you thought had been dead for over twenty years, suddenly reappeared. What would you do?”
“I… have no idea.” It was a though question, but Don decided to put some effort into it after seeing the disappointment on her face.
“I think I wouldn’t do anything… I mean, there’s not much to do, right?”
The disappointment seemed to grow and he hated seeing her like that.
“I guess…” She agreed. “But don’t you think you’d hug him and say how much you missed him or something?”
“I don’t know… Maybe if I really had missed him…” He didn’t want to keep letting her down, but those kinds of questions weren’t exactly in his wheelhouse. If only they had to do with engines…
“Look, my dad bailed on my mother, my younger brother and me when I was five years old. I’ve never seen him again…” He paused and looked right at her. “If he showed up now after all these years I don’t think I’d hug him let alone tell him I missed him because it wouldn’t be true. I’m not saying is the same thing with your dad, but… I really don’t know. I think every case is different.”
Judy was looking at him too and even though it was dark and she couldn’t really see him, she knew he hadn’t just made that up only to make her feel better.
“So you think I should’ve hugged him then?” She asked.
“Did you feel like you wanted to?”
Don answered with another question which made her think for a moment.
“I don’t know what I felt to be honest.” She was sincere. “And I still don’t. Not completely, at least. And now that my mom and my d… John are here everything’s got even more complicated…”
She finally let out a sigh she had been holding for quite some time.
“I’m glad he’s alive, but at the same time, it’s like him being here messes up with something that was already right, you know?” Her own words seemed to embarrass her. “I mean, I’m afraid that he can’t be part of my family without destroying it…”
She let out yet another sigh and felt like an enormous weight had been lifted off her shoulders.
“Does that make me a bad person?”
Don stared at that incredibly vulnerable girl he didn’t know yet and felt something change inside of him.
“You wouldn’t be a bad person even if you wanted to, princess…”
He finally got up from the floor and reached out his hand to help her up as well. She took it hesitantly. Judy Robinson wasn’t the kind that accepted help easily, he was well aware of that.
He pulled her up but used more force than he had initially intended and she practically fell into his arms. Embarrassment mixed with something else seemed to light up the darkness for a brief moment.
“You’re lighter than you look...”
He said trying to hide his nervousness in having her face so close to his own.
“All princesses are.”
She remarked playfully, recovering her personal space.
He hoped she was also nervous, but Judy looked calmer than never.
“So, are we good to go?”
She asked, presuming the work was already done.
Don simply nodded, mainly because words were starting to fail him. And before he followed her to the door, he felt his heart beat just a little bit faster than usual. He wanted to blame the whiskey, but this time the alcohol was innocent.
Chapter 11: Blast from the Past
They had been left alone in the room. Completely alone.
Maureen couldn’t deny she had planned that. But the idea had only come to her when Grant told Jesse to go to the planet to check the perimeter.
At the time, it felt like the perfect excuse to send John along with him and then ask Judy to leave as well.
She needed, although she regretted it now, to be alone with Kelly.
Her heart was pounding uncontrollably in her chest. A whirlwind of emotions came rushing in, confusing her body and her mind.
“Would it be too bold of me to presume that I still know you enough to know that you wanted us to be alone?”
Grant’s voice startled her. No one but her would’ve been able to notice it though. She smiled weakly.
“We need to talk.” She disguised whatever she was feeling with a neutral tone. “And I think it only concerns us two.”
Kelly smiled as well. He still knew her after all…
At last, he looked at her. Searching for feelings that she might have been hiding which, if someone dared to look closely, her soul, reflected in her eyes, gave away.
“And what exactly do you want to talk about?”
The question annoyed her and Maureen answered it with a frown.
Grant couldn’t help but laugh at that so familiar expression. He felt longing mixed with anger.
“What happened to you?”
He asked the same question he had before the tremors and hoped that nothing would interrupt the answer this time.
“What happened to me?” She repeated. “Twenty years, that’s what happened to me!”
The words came out angrily and Maureen couldn’t explain why. Maybe there had been a dormant anger inside of her for the past two decades that she was unaware of.
Kelly was dumbfounded. Less than he had thought though. The whole situation was so absurd as it was that nothing could really surprise him at that point.
“Twenty years.” He said it again, more as a statement this time.
He then gazed at his wife’s blue eyes one more time. They were the same he had fallen in love with. However, they looked distant somehow, frightened even. And in that, they didn’t look at all like the ones from the past.
“How long have you been here?”
A forced smile was formed in Grant’s lips.
“Two years.” He spoke slowly. “I’ve been stuck here for two years…”
“My God…” The scientist sounded shocked. “How is that possible? I mean, it is possible if we take into account time relativity and your location reg...”
“What happened to me?”
Grant cut her off abruptly. It was clear that he couldn’t care less about the scientific explanation as to why he had ended up there.
Maureen, who wouldn’t be wrong to assume she still knew her ex-husband as well, noticed a resigned expression in his eyes.
She then moved towards him instinctively, feeling the urge to comfort him. She placed one hesitant hand on his right shoulder and let it rest there.
“You... disappeared.” She started. “Your ship simply vanished from the radar... They kept looking for you for days, sent all kinds of signals, but you were gone…”
Maureen let out a heavy sigh as if telling that two-decade-old story still hurt.
“They couldn’t detect anything before or after your vanishing. Any abnormality or foreign object. It was like, all of a sudden, you had ceased to be…”
Grant heard it all with the same impassive look on his face. Those words should hurt him or shock him, but he didn’t feel pain or surprise. He seemed numbed. He felt empty inside.
“When they told me you had disappeared, I couldn’t believe it.” Maureen continued. “I mean, there had to be an explanation, at least, something anybody could do… I spent weeks trying to find out what could have happened to you, trying to create a theory that could justify it, but I couldn’t. No one could.”
The scientist fought back the frustration brought by the memory.
“I thought I’d never see you again…”
Maureen touched Grant’s face delicately, as if she suddenly couldn’t recognize it anymore. Kelly felt his whole body react to her touch, but suppressed any physical reaction. His heart, however, was screaming, but since he was the only one who could hear it, the moment was involved in pure silence.
Suddenly, John walked in and couldn’t help but see his wife’s hand on the face of the other man.
Grant and Maureen backed away from each other quickly, and she smiled at her husband in an attempt to assure him nothing was going on. Before smiling, however, she lowered her gaze a little embarrassingly for a fraction of a second that didn’t go unnoticed by the military.
Jesse came right behind John, breaking the tension and the silence.
“The perimeter is secure.” He started. “But next time I think I’d rather go alone. My friend John over here clearly had his mind elsewhere…”
Nobody seemed to be listening to what he was saying though. John didn’t even react to the mention of his name and had in his eyes the same fear from before and was too scared to show it.
“Some cables had gotten loose, but I think we…”
Judy began, as she also entered the room, but gave up as soon as she noticed the palpable tension in the air.
Don, who had been following her, stopped in his tracks as well.
Luckily, the awkwardness lasted only for a few more seconds and it was Grant Kelly who ended it.
“Thank you, Judy.” He said approaching the young doctor and ignoring John on purpose. “And you, I believe we haven’t met yet.”
Kelly referred to West and reached out his hand. The mechanic didn’t hesitate, accepting the handshake.
“Don West.” He introduced himself. “And I guarantee you the systems should be back up and running in no time.”
“So, you’re the mechanic.” Grant smiled and directed his attention to his daughter. “And Judy’s boyfriend, I assume?”
Don’s mouth opened in order to correct him, but no words came out.
“No.” It was Judy who denied it. “He’s more like… a friend of the family.”
She had a hard time choosing the words to define what Don West represented not only to the Robinsons but to her as well. It sounded a bit inaccurate when she finally said it.
“Another one?” Kelly asked.
“What do you mean, another one?” Maureen got curious by his observation.
“Apparently the Robinsons are a family with a lot of friends…” Grant carried on a little harshly. “And speaking of which, where’s the other friend of yours, Smith? It’s been a while since last I saw her…”
Judy looked at her mother trying to convey an apology for not telling her about the other woman being on board.
Maureen, however, didn’t seem to mind her daughter’s omission and taking into account Smith’s manipulative and selfish ways, her being there wasn’t exactly shocking news.
“I’m Jesse Ford, by the way.”
The younger man stated as he introduced himself to Don as well. His posture was different, he was trying to look taller than he actually was but only Grant seemed to notice.
Don instinctively corrected his own posture and accepted the handshake a little reluctantly, forcing a smile.
Jesse was about three inches taller than him. And the muscles in his arms were far more apparent and toned. He had a smug look on his face which, to Don, was probably trying to hide some insecurity. A very tiny and possibly below average insecurity located between his legs…
“Don West.” He made his voice deeper without sounding ridiculous.
The two men stayed that way, in that silent competition for way longer than necessary.
“Mechanic, huh?” Jesse had heard the other man’s conversation with Grant, especially the part that Judy denied them being girlfriend and boyfriend, so he felt confident to speak first.
The mocking tone didn’t go unnoticed by West. He simply nodded in confirmation and then smirked.
“And what about you?” He said defiantly. “What do you do around here?”
“A little bit of everything, I guess…” Jesse started. “I do everything that needs to be done.”
The arrogance behind those words seemed to amuse Don.
“Everything except for the mechanic part, I’d say…” He remarked, still smirking. “No offense, but judging by the little I saw back in the maintenance room, you haven’t done much over there….”
Jesse couldn’t ignore the teasing tone of those words, and in spite of that being far from the truth, he decided to let it go. At least for the time being.
“So I guess we should be glad that you’re here then…”
Although his words were dripping with sarcasm, Jesse had agreed with him, so West was forced to drop the discussion.
“You really should… and you, how did you end up here?” He changed the subject. “I’m sure it must be a hell of a story…”
All of a sudden, Jesse seemed to change his attitude completely. He lowered his gaze and the mechanic realized he had hit a nerve.
Judy, who had been witnessing their conversation, intervened.
West then looked at her, reacting to the mention of his name and the sudden interruption, but couldn’t quite decipher the words she didn’t say.
The only thing he did notice and deeply hated was that there was some kind of intimacy between Judy and that asshole that he simply couldn’t put his finger on.
“I imagine you must be very tired from the trip…”
Kelly’s strong voice echoed through the room, drawing everyone’s attention to it.
“You may consider Fortuna an extension of your own ship. You’re all welcome to come and go as you please.”
Then, he looked at Maureen as if she was the only one there.
“It’s a pleasure having you here. Make yourselves at home.”
He finally headed out, making sure to walk with firm steps that were meant to hide the fragility of his heart.
His office had never looked so hopelessly empty. And the view outside, so frighteningly oppressive.
The conversation with Maureen had rattled him more than he‘d like to admit.
He, whose sole purpose in life during the last two years had been to find her, had never imagined that actually finding her could make him feel anything but complete happiness.
However, there she was and he didn’t feel happy at all.
Maybe there was some comfort in just wishing for something, he concluded. Something that never came true and remained an unattainable goal which, in spite of causing a great deal of frustration, made existence a little more bearable…
The constant knocks on the door announced someone on the other side.
Kelly didn’t answer right away though, enjoying his last moments of solitude.
The door was finally opened and Jesse’s voice entered the room before he did.
“If you want to be alone, I get it, but I just came here to say that…”
“Come on in, Jess.”
Grant allowed absent-mindedly.
Jesse walked in slowly and stopped at the chair in front of the one occupied by the captain.
He considered if he should wait for an actual invitation to take a seat, but soon realized Kelly hadn’t even registered his presence there. He sat down.
Although Grant’s eyes looked like they were staring at him, it was like they were actually looking at something beyond him or nothing at all, he couldn’t be sure.
The silence started to bother Jesse.
“So...” He began while he tapped his fingers on the hard surface of the table. “What did you think about those Robinsons, anyway? I particularly didn’t like at all that…”
“We don’t have any more time, Jess.”
Kelly’s sudden interruption got Jesse off guard.
“What? What are you talking about?”
“You know damn well what I’m talking about.” Grant finally seemed to look at him as if he had regained consciousness of his reality. “Our plan.” He said impatiently. “The plan we’ve been working on since you crashed in this god forsaken place and…”
“I know the plan!” Jesse cut him off, a little scared by the other man’s tone. “I’ve already told you that I need more time...” He was confused. “And you have told me that I’d have all the time I needed! You’ve said that…”
“I KNOW WHAT I’VE SAID!”
Kelly yelled, punching the table with both fists so strongly that Jesse even backed away from where he was sitting.
“I know what I’ve said.”
He repeated in a calmer tone. Then, smiled.
It was like there were two Kellys, the good and the bad, fighting each other in his mind to see who should be in charge.
Jesse straightened himself in the chair and waited for the captain to continue, but he just kept smiling that cold smile of his.
“I need more time.”
The smile was gone.
“You don’t have any more time.” Kelly was blunt. “None of us do.”
Then, he stood up and went to the window. He had his arms crossed behind his back and his gaze lost in a past he didn’t know…
“Twenty years, Jess…” His tone was now resigned. “That was the time I’ve lost. A time that I’ll never be able to get back…”
He turned around again in order to face the other man, whose expression was a mix of confusion and fear.
“I want my life back. And you promised you would return it to me.
“I know, but…”
“You owe me that much, Jess.” Grant said as if it was hard for him to say those words, but at the same time, he had a sick pleasure in doing so.
“I saved your life. Now it’s your turn to save mine.”
If that wasn’t the great Grant Kelly, captain of Fortuna, Jesse would dare say he’d seen tears in the corner of his eyes. Tears that perhaps would never know the freedom of rolling down that man’s sad face, but tears nonetheless.
However, that was the great Grant Kelly, captain of Fortuna after all.
Maureen had been walking around the ship trying to make sense of what had happened in the last few hours for a while now.
Her thoughts altered themselves between past and present, following the rhythm of her pace. Grant Kelly appeared in both times. Unchanged.
It was unbelievable how the last twenty years seemed to have disappeared when she saw her ex-husband‘s young and handsome face before her. Her heart raced the same way it had when she said goodbye to him for the last time, right before he left on that mission that would take him away from her forever… She remembered the kiss she had given him then, overly passionate, as if somehow she knew that would be the last kiss they would ever have…
She shook her head, sending those thoughts back to where they belonged, the past.
Finally her science curiosity stepped in and only then she realized how crazy and impossible all of that actually was.
Twenty years for her and only two for Grant… How could that be? He had to be very far from the Solar system for that time difference… However, they were there as well and according to the Jupiter’s map, their location wasn’t too distant from…
That familiar voice startled her at first, but then, she felt annoyed by it.
“How come I’m not surprised to see you here?”
She said sarcastically and then forced a smile.
“And why would you be surprised?” Smith was ironic. “You should be thankful, actually. Having your kids under the watchful eyes of an adult...”
Maureen laughed loudly and ironically.
“Right. I’m pretty sure that’s why you came…”
Smith smiled, ignoring the sarcasm coming from the other woman.
The scientist was in no mood to argue, so she turned around and resumed her walk.
Smith, however, caught up with her and without asking for permission, started to accompany her.
Maureen even considered asking her to be alone, but sometimes, and she had learned that the hard way, the best thing to do was ignore Smith completely.
Silence lasted for only a few more steps though.
“Judy’s told me all about... You know, all about the story of your…”
“Why don’t you just cut to the chase and ask what you really want to know?”
Maureen really wasn’t in the mood for her games. Smith didn’t hesitate.
“How was it?”
She asked a little too excitedly.
The scientist didn’t seem to follow so Smith completed:
“How was seeing your husband after all th…”
Maureen cut her off and Smith smiled.
“So, you’re saying you didn’t feel anything?”
“I didn’t say that.” The Robinson clarified and immediately regretted it. She didn’t owe that woman any explanations whatsoever. “I just said he’s my ex-husband.”
“Actually…” Smith paused for a moment. “He’s not. I mean, I imagine you guys never got a divorce since he was, you know, technically dead…” She played with the words, always attentive to the other woman’s reactions. “But he’s not dead anymore, is he?”
The question was rhetorical, but even if it wasn’t, Maureen wouldn’t have answered it.
Truth was that for some unknown reason, knowing that Grant Kelly was still legally her husband, made her feel disloyal and confused.
“Now that he’s back, I guess you’ll get to choose which husband you prefer…”
Smith joked and finally left, amused by the situation Maureen, only then, realized she was in.
John came to her mind, assuring her that he was her real husband. The one she had built a life with, a family.
She found herself alone again…
However, in the loneliness of her steps and her thoughts, Grant appeared in her mind again and his face suddenly replaced John’s. Then, the inevitable “what if…”
And she, who had wanted to be alone so bad, wished, although she’d never admit it, the annoying distraction Smith provided.
Chapter 12: Foursome
Maureen stopped at the door of the bunk she shared with John on the Jupiter 2. Even though she was pretty tired, she didn’t feel like going inside right away.
Perhaps she just needed to be alone for a little longer… She soon remembered, however, that for the last few hours, being alone had been taking her to a place she thought she had already forgotten. A place in a distant past that, all of a sudden, seemed to have happened yesterday…
She finally entered the room without knocking, knowing her husband would be waiting for her.
Since she had found out that Grant was alive, they hadn’t had the chance to properly talk. And although Maureen wasn’t exactly eager to have said conversation, that was something they simply had to do.
She took a deep breath, fighting a small part of her that was rooting for him to be fast asleep.
“Are you still awake?”
She asked, pretending to be surprised to see him sitting on the edge of their bed.
John was looking down and didn’t even bother to look up to greet his wife. He just nodded his head in confirmation, answering her question.
“Can’t sleep.” He finally spoke.
His tone was different than usual and even though Maureen knew exactly what was troubling him, she preferred to make small talk.
“Busy day, huh?”
She commented, changing into her nightgown.
John was following her with his eyes. He was desperate to hear her say that she loved him and nothing and no one would ever change that. Desperate for her to assure him that what they had was indestructible. But maybe not even he believed that was true… He then remembered their almost divorce and finally looked away, gazing at the floor.
Silence filled the space in the bunk. Maureen finally lay in the bed. Why couldn’t she say something? And what was this thing she was supposed to say anyway?
“Aren’t you coming to bed?”
That was all she could muster. John turned around and saw his wife partly covered with their blanket and her back resting against the pillow.
She smiled at him. A smile that seemed to hide an apology.
Silence again. For almost two whole minutes…
“What happens now?”
John asked, trying in vain to hide the anger and fear that came across with the question.
Maureen’s smile faded and it was replaced by a pair of inquisitive eyes.
“What do you mean?”
He lowered his gaze again, hating the whole situation.
“What happens to us now?” He rephrased it.
Maureen froze up for a moment. The way her husband had said those words made her speechless.
He let out a sad sigh.
“I can’t believe you don’t know how to answer that…”
The scientist let out her own sigh, a little outraged by his innuendo.
“And what the hell should I answer?”
“I don’t know.” John said rudely. “The truth would be a great start...”
“The truth…” Maureen repeated. “What truth?” She asked angrily. “What exactly do you want to know, John?”
Since he didn’t say anything, they just held each other’s gaze. No one willing to give in. He smiled a sad smile at last, breaking their little stand-off.
He headed to the door without looking back.
“Like I said, can’t sleep.”
And before he left:
Judy looked around at the common area of the Jupiter 2. She missed being there with her family, even though that felt like decades ago.
It was hard to believe how things were different just a few months ago… Hard to believe how things could change so fast.
She then wished she had had more time. More time to prepare for the changes that were about to happen. More time to adapt, to grow…
And maybe just a little more time to live like a normal nineteen-year-old girl…
She took a sip of her water and looked at the glass. She really missed the time when her life was simple and transparent like water.
Penny asked in her pajamas as she walked into the room.
Judy seemed to get startled by her sister’s sudden presence.
“I didn’t mean to scare you.” The redhead apologized. “I just thought that…”
“It’s okay.” Judy smiled and looked away from the glass to her sister. “I was just thinking…”
“Oooh.” Penny joked. “About what?”
“Life.” She answered. “And how crazy it can be sometimes...”
Penny approached her older sister and placed one of her hands on Judy’s shoulder.
“I know I’ve already said this, but you can count on me, okay?” The redhead said sincerely. “For anything…”
The doctor smiled.
“Including listening to your ramblings about life and how crazy it can be sometimes...”
Penny repeated her sister’s previous words, making her laugh.
“Is it just me or you’re making fun of me and my ramblings?”
“I would never!” The redhead said ironically. “But you have to agree that thinking about life is not exactly you.”
Judy laughed for the third time.
“I don’t even know what is anymore…”
They both stayed silent for a while.
“How about we drop the life philosophy for a moment and focus on something more trivial?”
Penny suggested mischievously.
Judy raised her eyebrows.
“And by trivial, you mean…”
The redhead said quickly and smirked.
“I’ve seen the way he looks at you…”
Judy tried her best not to show any reaction, but she could feel the heat on her cheeks. She stood up and used the act of taking her glass to the sink as an excuse to not look directly at her sister.
“What are you…”
“…talking about, Penny?” Penny herself completed the question, mimicking her sister’s serious tone. “Oh, come on! Don’t tell me that you haven’t noticed it!
The doctor didn’t reply and just kept washing her glass for way longer than necessary.
“You see romance in everything…” Judy finally spoke as she felt ready to face her sister again. “That’s why you’re such a good writer.”
The redhead frowned.
“Don’t think you’re gonna make me change the subject by pretending to appreciate my literary talents…” She laughed and carried on. “Just agree that he’s super hot and I swear I’ll drop it.”
Now it was Judy who laughed. A little embarrassingly though.
“Do you really think I’m gonna believe there’s a chance you’ll drop this subject?”
The redhead was having fun.
“So you agree?”
“No!” Judy said louder than she had intended. “No. I don’t agree.” She tried again, calmer this time. “He’s not even my type...”
Penny laughed loudly and was pinched in the arm by her older sister.
“Quiet!” Judy ordered in a whisper. “Most people here are trying to sleep...”
“Fine! Sorry.” The redhead apologized but continued. “He’s not your type? And what exactly makes him not your type?”
She asked, but didn’t wait for a reply.
“He’s too tall? His body is annoyingly athletic?” Her mocking tone was evident. “Oh, I know! His eyes are in a shade of green that you hate…”
“His eyes are more blue than green, actually.”
Penny widened her eyes in complete shock at her sister’s comment and Judy herself regretted doing it as soon as the last word came out.
“I KN…ew it! The redhead started loudly, but lowered her voice to prevent being pinched again. “I knew you had liked him…”
“I don’t like him.” Judy disagreed immediately, but her cheeks betrayed her agin. “I mean, he’s cute…”
Penny was ready to argue, but Judy carried on.
“When I said he wasn’t my type, I didn’t mean physically…”
The redhead crossed her arms in front of her chest and looked at her sister disbelievingly.
“I mean, he’s reckless, jokes about everything, including delicate matters, he’s immature and completely incapable of taking anything seriously…”
“In other words, he’s pretty much everything you’re not!”
Penny quipped and it took Judy a few seconds to realize that what she disliked about Jesse was exactly what she lacked.
“Haven’t you heard that opposites attract?”
“And haven’t you heard that quantum physics has discredited that crap already?”
Judy remarked satisfied and Penny rolled her eyes.
“Who’s a show off?”
A male voice invaded the room suddenly, startling both sisters.
“Apparently no one can’t sleep on this ship tonight…”
“I was sleeping, actually, but Debbie woke me up.”
Judy gave Don a forced smile, a little embarrassed by his unexpected presence. She could only hope he hadn’t heard much of their conversation.
The mechanic fetched him a glass of water and went to join the two girls on the table. He didn’t look like he had heard anything besides Penny’s last words.
“So, who’s a show off?”
The redhead smirked.
“Judy here.” She answered. “Always the smartest one in the group...”
The doctor, who would have found that funny in another circumstance, got a little shy and denied it with a head nod.
“Well, I must say I agree with Penny on that one.” Don said. “You have your mother’s brains and your father’s strength…” The mechanic then realized that that reference could upset her. “And I mean both …” He corrected. “Your two dads scare the shit out of me… I mean, if I was smart and strong like you, I’d be a show off too.”
Their eyes finally met. Don was deeply regretting making that gratuitous compliment which probably revealed a lot more than he wanted it to. He even considered making a stupid remark right after in an attempt to make everyone forget what had just been said or maybe change the subject completely.
Judy, on the other hand, smiled embarrassingly, wondering if she should say something or just let the moment pass… They looked away from each other at last.
Penny glanced at Judy and then at Don. What the hell was happening between those two?
“So...” She started, still a little unsure if she should interrupt whatever that was. “How’s Debbie anyway?”
Judy thanked her with her eyes and Don seemed to relax in his chair.
“She’s fine, I guess… I mean, it’s the first time I have a chicken as a pet, so I don’t have much to compare her with.”
His answer was barely heard by Judy, who was still thinking about what he had said, and by Penny, whose interpretation of what had just happened still seemed absurd. And maybe it really was…
The redhead looked at Don again, searching for anything that could prove her new theory. His eyes, however, gave nothing away.
Then, she stared at her sister, whose brown eyes looked exactly like they had always looked… How could that be? She could’ve sworn she saw something happening between them just now!
“You guys are throwing a party and didn’t invite me?”
Jesse’s voice entered the room before his steps did.
He looked directly at Judy as if she was the only one there.
The doctor stood up quickly.
“Hi!” She smiled. “Don’t tell me we’ve woken you...”
She sounded genuinely concerned. At that, Penny glanced at Don. His eyes showed a visible discomfort.
“No. Don’t worry…” The man said and smiled as well. “ I was looking for you, actually.” He paused for a second. “Thought you could still be awake… I even went to your bunk, but you weren’t there…”
Don raised one of his eyebrows and shot him a glance which luckily no one but Penny seemed to notice.
“Then I heard voices and here I am.”
He finished with a smile that Judy repaid.
“Well, then I guess you finally found me…”
The doctor said in a soft voice that surprised both her sister and Don. They knew her well enough to know that that definitely wasn’t her usual tone.
Don looked at his glass. Empty. He decided he needed to drink something heavier than water. He remembered the bottle of whiskey in his bunk. He felt an urge to go there to get it, but there was no way he’d leave Judy alone with that idiot.
Then, he felt like an asshole for thinking he had the right to meddle in her life.
However, he didn’t move a muscle and just kept looking at his empty glass.
“So, why were you trying to find me? Is it something important?”
Judy asked curiously.
“Well…” The new comer started a little unsure. “Not really...”
The eldest of the Robinsons raised her eyebrows suspiciously. What did Jesse want after all?
Don sure wanted to punch the guy right in the gut if you asked him.
“Tomorrow I’m going to the planet again to collect food…” Jesse explained. “Now that we have visitors the demand’s increased a great deal…” He laughed. “Thought you’d like to tag along.”
Then he approached her and whispered in her ear:
“And I don’t think we’ll need the robot this time.”
Judy laughed embarrassingly and avoided making eye contact with both Penny and Don. If she had though, she would’ve seen two pairs of shocked eyes.
“Sure!” She answered euphorically. “Maybe we could try some more of those horrible-tasting herbs while we’re there…”
They both laughed and Penny, who had been following their banter attentively, laughed as well.
“You like this idiot?”
Don asked the redhead in a low tone so the couple a few feet away wouldn’t hear him.
“I barely know him…” She answered in an almost whisper. “But he’s super hot...”
“You really think so?”
She made a face at him.
“Please, don’t tell me you’re that kind of guy who can’t acknowledge another handsome man…”
The mechanic laughed loudly.
“Sorry to disappoint, princess, but I’m afraid I’m exactly that kind of guy…”
Penny rolled her eyes.
But before Don could have a chance to reply, Judy returned to the table and sat back down. She had a look on her face that Don hated.
“Good night, guys!”
Jesse said and left.
The three remaining pairs of eyes in the room followed him until he disappeared in the end of the hall.
Their opinions on Jesse Ford, however, differed considerably…
“He’s really hot.” Penny stated after Jesse was gone. “And you have to agree...” She teased Don again.
The mechanic laughed one more time and denied with his head.
“Oh, come on!” The redhead insisted. “Even Judy agrees...”
“Penny!” The doctor objected.
“You do?” Don asked genuinely surprised and without caring to hide it.
Judy then realized both of them were staring at her anxiously, waiting for an answer, as if she was the tie-breaker of an important competition.
“Well…” She started. “I agree that is already pretty late and I’ll have a busy day tomorrow...”
She got up slowly.
“I’m going to bed. And I advise you two to do the same.
She gave one last reprimanding look at her sister but could barely look at Don. She couldn’t figure out why though.
She finally left, feeling both excited and unsure about her trip with Jesse the other day.
Penny waited until Judy was gone to turn her attention back to Don.
His face looked the same as always, but there was something, maybe at the corner of his eyes, that held a certain sadness to them.
“I’m going, too.”
He said indifferently already leaving the room.
“Are you taking the empty glass with you?” Penny asked, realizing he still had the recipient in one of his hands.
“It won’t be empty for long…”
He left with his head full of unwanted thoughts that a few glasses of whiskey would definitely make go away.
Penny widened her eyes for the last time that night. When the hell had that happened? Or was she seeing things?
Maybe Judy was right after all and she did see romance in everything...
Chapter 13: Insomnia
I know! It took us a little longer to update, but here it is. Hope you all enjoy!
The sleeplessness continued for some members of the Robinson family… Including Don West, who wasn’t a Robinson per se, but almost, given their history.
After witnessing front row seat the open flirtation between Judy and Jesse, not even a few glasses of whiskey had managed to make him black out and forget about it.
He didn’t even bother to check the time as he got up and walked slowly to the door. He stopped for a moment.
If he left his bunk, he’d risk running into another unwanted situation between those two that could be even more terrifying than what had just happened in the common area a while ago. If he left his bunk, he could very well catch Jesse knocking on Judy’s door and going inside for God’s sake!
With that last thought in mind, Don opened the door a little more drastically than the act required and started searching for evidence of what he had been thinking about for the last hour. Judy’s bunk, which was a few feet away from his, was closed.
He then walked cautiously to it so he wouldn’t be heard and pressed one of his ears to the door. Nothing. Absolute silence.
He let out a relieved sigh as he mentally scolded himself for his inappropriate behavior. Who the hell was he to decide who Judy could or couldn’t fall in love with?
He laughed. What a bunch of crap! Fall in love? The expression itself sounded exaggerated and a little hasty. She barely knew the guy after all… And besides, a girl like her would never fall for a guy like Jesse Ford.
Judy needed someone older who could understand her. Someone supportive who wouldn’t feel threatened by her achievements. Someone completely different from that Jesse Ford…
If that mental monologue could be heard by somebody else other than himself, that person would most definitely say that Don West was jealous. And that person would most definitely be very wrong.
Don West was not jealous. At all. Ever. That was just healthy concern for a friend whom he‘d grown very fond of over the last months…
And with that satisfactory conclusion from his little conversation with himself, the mechanic decided to go back to his room and luckily try to get some rest…
However, as the sleeplessness continued for some members of the Robinson family, a noise coming from the kitchen prevented Don to go through with his initial plan.
“I’d offer you some whiskey, but Maureen’s told me you’re not a fan…”
John didn’t seem to get startled by the other man’s unexpected presence. He forced a smile.
“Maureen’s not always right about me…”
His words, although spoken amicably, carried a resentful sadness. Or was it a sad resentment?
Don raised his eyebrows, surprised by John’s statement and even more so by what it omitted.
“So that’s a yes to the whiskey, then?”
The soldier nodded affirmatively, in such subtle way that it was almost imperceptible.
At that, Don went back to his bunk to fetch the bottle of whiskey only to join John again in the kitchen three minutes later.
They stayed there for a moment, sitting opposite from each other just staring at the brown liquid in silence.
Don finally filled one of the glasses and handed it to John. The military grabbed it reluctantly, reconsidering.
“Are you gonna let me drink alone?” He asked and forced another smile.
“Sorry, but I think I’ve had one too many for tonight already…”
Don answered and John took a sip, making a face similar to a kid’s who had just been given a bad-tasting medicine.
“So, I guess I’m not the only one having a shitty night around here…”
The soldier tried and the mechanic didn’t agree nor disagree either.
A few more seconds went by in silence just staring at the damn whiskey. The discomfort in the room was almost tangible and West started to regret being so curious and going to check what had caused that noise in the first place.
However, another thing that was almost tangible was John’s nuisance. And Don hated seeing him like that.
His problems were definitely Maureen-related, which wasn’t exactly hard to guess given the recent events…
But Don West had never considered himself the best shoulder to cry on. His philosophy in life had always been to joke his way out of any trouble and never, under any circumstance, take anything even remotely seriously.
So what should he say to John, then?
Thank God he didn’t have to come up with anything, since John himself spoke first.
“Have you ever loved someone?”
The mechanic laughed at the question. But not because it was funny or hid any irony or sarcasm to it. His laughter had been exclusively due to a memory of a conversation he’d had with Maureen, when the two of them drank together not so long ago, while lost in space. She had said something similar. About him loving someone.
“If by love you mean the way you and Maureen love each other, I can’t say I have…”
Don tried to cheer him up with those words. Truth was that he had never truly loved anyone at all.
John realized his intentions and thanked him with a look, then smiled.
“We were about to get divorced when you met us… Do you think that’s love?”
Don hesitated before answering:
“Isn’t it normal for couples to go through tough times?” And added. “And isn’t it during those moments most grow stronger?”
John smiled again. The man was really trying, the soldier had to give him that…
“Actually, no.” He said and took another sip of his whiskey. “Most couples just drift apart during tough times…”
“You guys didn’t.”
Don stated, determined to convince John. But the older man looked inconvincible. And the sad smile on his face was more than proof of that.
The military didn’t say anything else and the silence of the night echoed through the ship.
“It’s been twenty years…” West continued, a little insecure about what he was going to say next. “I mean, do you really think she’s gonna leave you for a guy she hasn’t seen for two decades?”
John raised his eyebrows. Don’s pragmatic tone caught him off guard.
“He’s Judy’s biological father and…”
“You’re Judy’s father!” The mechanic corrected him. “As far as I know, the guy died before she was even born...” He then remembered the conversation he’d had with her in the maintenance room and how she sounded confused with the situation as well.
“This whole thing’s been a pain in the ass for everyone, I guess.” Don let out. “And I don’t think you’re the only one having doubts and going through hell…” He stopped for a moment before carrying on. “I don’t mean to meddle in anyone’s business, but maybe you should talk to Maureen before presuming what she might or might not be feeling.”
John finished his drink in one last gulp. His look was a mixture of so many feelings, and yet, it didn’t seem to express anything at all.
Don immediately regretted saying those words. Was it just him or had he just implied that John Robinson was presumptuous?
He opened his mouth to apologize, but the soldier spoke before he could:
“I can tell you suck at this, but… Thank you.”
John’s genuinely grateful tone, followed by a less sad smile deeply pleased Don.
“Thank you for trying to make me feel better, but mostly for the advice.”
The mechanic smiled a relieved and satisfied smile.
“What about the whiskey? You’re not gonna thank me for that, too?”
He joked, making John laugh.
“I don’t think so.” The military answered sincerely. “It always amazes me that someone can actually drink this, let alone thank for it...”
This time it was Don who laughed. At that, John stood up and the mechanic was able to notice a subtle change in his attitude.
“I guess I prefer to believe Maureen and I aren’t most couples…”
“You guys are definitely not.”
They exchange a smile and an understanding look that said so much that words just seemed unnecessary.
John finally left the room with firmer and more confident steps than the ones he had walked into.
Don West, however, stayed a little longer, enjoying the solitude and the quietness that, all of a sudden, didn’t feel so scary anymore.
He glanced at John’s empty glass and then at the bottle in front of him. He didn’t feel like drinking though.
Apparently, there were other things that could make him feel better which didn’t have alcohol content.
Maureen put on John’s jacket and decided that being in bed overanalyzing her own thoughts wasn’t exactly helping her case.
She opened the door of their bunk and left without a destination in mind.
She’d think about it on the way, while she cleared her mind and put her ideas and feelings in order….
Why was John treating her that way? His habit of pushing her away whenever they had a problem had been the main reason she had wanted the divorce in the first place. His lack of communication seemed like a coward attitude, incomprehensible to her. Why couldn’t he just tell her what was bothering him?
When she came to, however, she had walked until the entrance of Fortuna. The silence and the darkness that surrounded her were practically forcing her in… Maureen went inside.
Maybe she was being too hard on John after all. She then tried to put herself in his place. Imagined if it were him who had just encountered his ex-wife, presumably dead for over twenty years…
The situation itself was so preposterous that Maureen simply couldn’t. She then thought about how she’d feel if she lost John. If he stopped loving her or chose someone else…
Then, she got angry before that possibility, because that was certainly not the case. She wasn’t thinking about leaving him, especially not for somebody else!
She walked a little further into her ex-husband’s ship and noticed light coming from under one of the closed doors.
She pondered if she should knock or not, mainly because she was almost certain of who was inside…
Grant couldn’t sleep.
He had been awake for a few hours now and had made peace with his insomnia a long time ago...
He would always go to his office in nights like that. And had already lost count on how many there had been… Most nights had been a product of his concern and fear of never going back home. Others, he had blamed on nightmares and crazy digressions…
That one specifically, however, didn’t fit in neither case.
What was keeping him awake was a paradox. An obvious mystery.
He was feeling something that obviously had to do with Maureen, but mysteriously, he didn’t know what that feeling was.
Was it surprise, some sort of shock? Or was it anger? Longing? Perhaps even disappointment?
Or was it something more complex, like the combination of all those things, altering in his mind and heart unpredictably?
Or maybe, it was just something as simple and inevitable as love…
The knocks on the door prevented Kelly from finding an answer to his agony though.
He allowed, already expecting to see Jesse there.
He didn’t even bother to look at the younger man as he kept looking out the window at the framed part of space outside.
“I thought it was you…”
The voice made Grant turn quickly to face it.
“How did you… I didn’t know you…”
“I can leave if you want.”
Maureen interrupted his hesitation.
“No.” Kelly stated. “Please, come in.” He asked. “You just startled me, that’s all.”
The scientist smiled a little embarrassingly and then obliged. She left the door open behind her.
Grant was quick to offer her a seat which she refused. She didn’t have any intentions of staying there much longer.
They looked at each other. Smiled. Then lowered their gazes, facing the floor. Then, they looked at each other again.
“I don’t mean to bother you, it’s just that I couldn’t...”
“Sleep?” Grant guessed. “Me neither.”
They smiled again.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to seeing you like this…” Maureen approached him, staring at that so familiar and yet so strange face. “So young and so…”
She didn’t continue. She didn’t know exactly what to say next.
“Ever get used to?” Kelly repeated. “So, I can hope that we’ll keep seeing each other?”
She raised her eyebrows in surprise.
“I didn’t mean… Well, that was just a figure of speech.” Maureen clarified. “But it’s not that I don’t want to see you, it’s just…”
But Grant’s laugh cut her off.
“You don’t have to measure your words with me, Maureen.” He pointed out. “And, if I recall correctly, that was the second or third item on our list…”
The scientist smiled at that memory.
A week before their wedding, they had decided to make a list of five things they should never do as a married couple.
It had been a joke, but Maureen really believed in every single item. She had completely forgotten about it, but now, hearing him mentioning it, even the color of the pen she had used came to her mind vividly.
She remembered it was raining on the night they had chosen the five items, and due to that fact, the first one had been: never go inside the house in wet shoes.
“It was the third.” She stated so certain that both her and Kelly were impressed.
“The first one is unforgettable.”
Kelly commented and they couldn’t help but laugh. But not the way they had on that rainy night, over two decades ago. They were different people back then.
“I remember that in the end, we decided to follow the list backwards...” Maureen was lost in her own memories now. “Instead of having the most relevant item as the first, the way it happens with practically every list, we’d make the last one our most important rule.”
“And just like some sort of reverse psychology crap, the hardest would automatically become the easiest and then we’d always be able to follow it, no matter what…”
Grant completed and Maureen smiled, genuinely moved by the memories of her the past with that man.
She remembered the last item on the list and she knew he did it too.
A profound silence filled the room. Maureen looked at Kelly again and then asked:
“What happened to you?”
Grant smiled sadly.
“I think we both have made that question already...”
“But I mean it!” She changed her tone drastically. “What really happened to you? How, according to the laws of physics, have you been here for only two years, while on Earth it’s been over twenty?
It took Kelly a few seconds to reply to his wife. And when he did, it was resentfully.
“So, that’s why you’ve come all the way here? To discuss possible theories on how I ended up here and lost twenty years of my life?”
Maureen stepped back before his aggressive tone.
“Don’t you wanna know as well?” She answered with another question.
Grant’s gaze got lost on the floor for a moment.
“What for?” His aggressiveness had turned into resignation. “Would it change anything if I did?”
He redirected his eyes back to the window.
“You’re a woman of science, Maureen. Always have been… I know that finding out what happened to me is something you gotta do…” He paused. “Just don’t expect me to share your enthusiasm... Science has failed me and still can’t give me the one thing I really need…”
The scientist didn’t fully understand what her ex-husband had meant. However, after all he must have been through, understanding him was perhaps too pretentious even for her.
“And what is it that you really need?”
After leaving the kitchen and the company of Don West, John, despite the bitter taste the whiskey had left in his mouth, was savoring the sweet idea of reconciling with his wife.
He’d follow Don’s advice, he had decided. He’d apologize to Maureen for the insensitive way he had treated her and then would be more than willing to listen to whatever she had to say.
She didn’t deserve his suspicions, nor had she ever given him any reason for them.
They had faced the impossible together, so it wouldn’t be the comeback of an ex-husband, dead for twenty years, mind you, that would rock what they had built in the past two decades.
John Robinson exuded confidence when he entered their bunk. To his surprise, however, the place was completely empty.
He then pretended not to care about his wife’s absence and held onto his determination.
First, he inspected the Jupiter, including his kids’ rooms, but the whole ship looked deserted and incredibly quiet.
He walked a little further and got to the passage that separated their ship and Grant Kelly’s. He hesitated and then turned around. He faltered for a few seconds and turned around again. At last, he stepped into Fortuna.
The spaceship, although old, looked neat and well-maintained. John was forced to give Kelly some credit in that.
He then imagined what was like to be lost in space for so long, and worst of all, completely alone…
While he explored the ship, John started to feel nervousness creeping into his mind, trying to take out his confidence. He reasoned it aside as he considered the possibilities.
If Maureen was really there, it didn’t necessarily mean anything. She’d be undoubtedly looking for answers. She would have decided to do it at that hour because, as she always said, she worked better alone and in silence…
However, the more he moved further into that ship, the more he didn’t want to find her there. He was secretly hoping to see what he had on the Jupiter: a deserted and quiet place. He’d then return to his bunk only to see her walking out of their bathroom…
Muffled voices accompanied by dim light which seemed to emerge from a half-open door called his attention though. He approached it carefully. Nervousness beating reason.
“And what is it that you really need?”
Maureen’s voice made John’s heart jump in his chest.
Inside the room, Kelly smiled.
“Time.” He said mostly to himself.
He then turned from the window to face his ex-wife as he continued.
“I need time to get used to all of this… Finding out that I’ve been dead for twenty years, meeting my… she’s my daughter, right?”
Maureen nodded affirmatively.
“And you two will have to talk about it at some point…”
“I know.” Grant turned around again. Always gazing at the non-existent horizon of space.
“There are so many conversations I need to have, so many things I need to get familiar with…”
Resignation overflew in his words.
“But right now I just need time to be angry. Angry and sad. I need to grief my own death and everything it has taken away from me...”
And just then, Kelly felt that warm and soft hand, which he knew so well and had longed for so badly, touch his. The act had caught him so off guard that he wasn’t able to move. He simply allowed his emotions and memories to take over. He didn’t dare look at her. He was afraid that if he did, she would disappear, leaving him all alone again.
“You don’t have to go through this alone…” Her kind tone sounded exactly like he remembered. “And that’s why I’ve come here. Not to discuss theories or talk about science… I came here to tell you that you’re not alone, Grant. Not anymore…”
Their hands barely touched. Their gazes were directed at the vastness of the universe.
Outside, John could hardly breathe. He couldn’t keep his eyes away from those hands. He felt an urge to open the door violently and scream at the top of his lungs. But he didn’t move a muscle.
“I still follow every item on the list...” Kelly broke the silence. “Including the last one.”
Maureen tried a smile and to her surprise, a single tear rolled down her face.
“Me too.” She said and rested her head on his shoulder.
John left quietly, with only the bitter taste of the whiskey in his mouth.
Chapter 14: Love Hurts
The way back to the Jupiter felt a lot faster than going to Fortuna, although John had taken the exact same route…
When Einstein theorized about time relativity he really knew what he was talking about.
It was crazy how a single emotion could change everything, including the passing of minutes.
When he had gone to Fortuna, hoping not to find Maureen there, his anxiety had made the walk last for what it felt like hours… Now, after seeing her with her head resting so affectionately on Kelly’s shoulder, his disappointment had somehow numbed his notion of time and he was already a few feet away from his bunk without even realizing how he’d gotten there.
“You never struck me as someone with sleeping problems…”
The voice, immediately recognized by John, echoed through the empty hall of the ship.
The military turned automatically, as if his body was detached from his mind.
“Wow!” The voice said surprised. “You look like you have a lot more on your plate than just trouble sleeping…”
“What do you want, Smith?”
John asked without trying to hide his annoyance.
“That was a joke…” She swallowed a laugh.
John turned around again without even having heard what she had said. The only thing he wanted was get to his room as soon as possible and just be alone with his thoughts.
But her insistence prevented him from doing so. He turned yet again as Smith continued.
“If you want to talk…” She then reconsidered. “I mean, I imagine I’m the last person on the planet you’d like to open up to, but we’re in outer space and the only planet around here seems to be dead for a while, so…”
The Robinson forced a smile.
“I’m fine, thanks.” His tone was harsh, but Smith noticed something else in it too, a little sadness perhaps. “Good night.”
The soldier managed to take a few steps toward his bunk until her voice made him turn again.
“I assume Maureen’s talked to you…” She did her best to sound genuinely innocent. “We had a conversation earlier today and she sounded… confused.” Smith smiled. “But then, who can blame her, right? I think if my husband showed up after twenty years, “confused” would be the least I’d feel...”
“What do you mean confused?”
John fought as much as he could, but gave in at last.
She really had a way of making people give her exactly what she wanted.
“Confused.” She repeated, intentionally provoking him. “Without knowing what she feels... or what she can feel…”
“Did she tell you that?”
Smith smiled again.
“She didn’t have to.” She stated firmly. “Sometimes one can say so much without saying a single word...”
John hated himself for getting right into her mind games. He knew that was what she wanted. Making him doubt Maureen’s feelings for him and, somehow, put their trust to the test…
Then, he hated even more the fact that, if he was being honest, Smith didn’t really have much to do with his doubts and suspicions.
He wished she did though. Everything would be much easier and way less painful if she did…
“But I guess I’m intruding, right?” She faked. “But my offer still stands, okay? In case you want to talk to someone… I’m therapist after all.”
She laughed at her own joke and before leaving:
“Good night, John.”
The soldier, however, remained speechless. He didn’t want to or simply couldn’t say anything. He followed her with his eyes until she was out of sight.
He finally reached his bunk with the image of Maureen resting her head on Grant’s shoulder printed in his brain and Smith’s words echoing in his ears.
He was under no illusions he’d sleep that night.
Judy opened her eyes lazily.
Even though her watch indicated that she had slept for seven whole hours, she still felt tired.
Maybe the recent events and the emotions they had caused were the reason for her tiredness. However, and she’d deny it if someone asked, the events and emotions of the other night specifically were the ones taking over her mind.
She got up from bed, ignoring the memories and headed to the bathroom.
“And I don’t think we’ll need the robot this time...”
Jesse’s voice echoed vividly in her brain. She smiled.
He was, undoubtedly, annoyingly self-conceited and pretentious but, and Judy hated to admit, even to herself, Penny was right. Jesse Ford was pretty hot.
Once in the bathroom, she stared at the mirror in front of her. She held her hair up in a pony tail but for some reason didn’t feel pleased with it. She let it down again.
That was her usual look. Or at least it had been for the last few months, which had demanded practicality above vanity.
However, in that specific morning, her pony tail didn’t seem good enough. But why?
Judy refused to acknowledge that her dissatisfaction had anything to do with her trip to the planet with Jesse. She had never been particularly vain and had always been proud of that. And getting all dressed up for a guy? That was even worse!
She had to admit, however, that the dark circles under eyes, a little gift from last night, could really benefit from some concealer.
She then opened her little nécessarie. She couldn’t even remember the last time she had worn something from that bag…
Judy applied the concealer cautiously, making sure she didn’t look too artificial. Right next to that item, she found some mascara practically untouched. She grabbed it reluctantly. Just a little wouldn’t hurt, right? She applied two layers and watched as her eyelashes grew thicker and darker.
She then used some powder blush she had also found in there and applied some lipstick on her lips.
She stared at herself in the mirror, contemplating her work. Was all that for Jesse Ford?
She considered washing her face but that would take too much time. She then tied her hair up in her usual pony tail and finally stepped out of the bathroom.
The movement in the halls of the Jupiter indicated that the ship, just like the new day, was starting.
Judy had always been a morning person. She loved the pancakes Maureen used to make for breakfast, the small talk about the weather and the local news, sitting with her siblings at the table while the delicious smell of bacon went up her nostrils… In space, however, there were no mornings because the sun didn’t come up. And without it, there were no pancakes, conversations about the weather or sitting in the kitchen just listening to the pleasing sound of bacon being fried in the stove.
And suddenly, Judy Robinson really missed the sun.
“Ready for your little adventure?”
Penny dragged her back from her digressions.
“You know, your little trip with Jes...” The redhead stopped talking abruptly, giving way to a very broad smile. “Are you wearing make-up?”
“No!” Judy denied way too fast for her own good. “Just a little…” But then agreed. “I had hideous dark circles under my eyes this morning, so…”
“What about the lipstick? Was your mouth hideous too? The redhead teased.
Judy opened and closed her lips, mentally searching for an answer. She couldn’t find one though. Then she simply rolled her eyes. She should’ve washed her face when she had the chance...
“I’m kidding…” Penny spoke again. “I mean, I am, but Jesse Ford will definitely not...”
“Has any of you seen Debbie?”
Don interrupted the impending discussion.
“And good morning to you, too.” Penny quipped and Don gave her a sarcastic smile.
“I mean it. I can’t find her any…” He finally looked at Judy and he was at a loss for words for a fraction of a second. “…where.”
She was different. It was subtle, but she was. Her make-up was too natural to be properly noticed by typically male eyes like Don’s. And that was why he just found her even more beautiful than she usually looked.
He smiled embarrassingly, as if she was capable of reading his thoughts.
Penny, on the other hand, wasn’t only capable of reading them but had finally figured everything out.
That was the final piece of evidence that she needed to confirm her suspicions from the other night.
The way Don had looked at Judy then was the exact same way he did just now. As if nothing else existed but her.
But the mechanic, just like he had last night, managed to go back to his usual careless self so quickly that one could even say nothing had happened.
“What is it?”
He asked, noticing the redhead’s inquisitive eyes on him.
“Nothing.” She shrugged, but her mischievous smile said otherwise.
This time, Don wouldn’t fool her.
“Are you two going alone?”
Penny asked on purpose, causing an initial confusion.
“You and Jesse.” She then clarified. “Are you going alone to the planet?”
The question, clearly with a hidden agenda which Penny didn’t even bother to hide, would give her undeniable proof to sustain her recent theory on Don’s feelings for her sister.
Her full attention was on Don’s reaction, but he simply raised his eyebrows almost imperceptibly.
“Yes, we are.” Judy said with hesitation.
“Why?” The mechanic asked before realizing what he was doing. He regretted it immediately. “I mean, isn’t it… dangerous?”
The young doctor laughed, slightly irritated with his patronizing tone.
“I think I can handle a deserted planet, given all I’ve been through the last months...”
“That’s not what I meant…” West tried to redeem himself.
“So what exactly did you mean, Don?”
Penny jumped in. That was extremely amusing.
The mechanic shot her a furious glance. Then, he looked back at Judy.
“I think you’re more than capable of handling pretty much anything… it’s that Jesse fella I don’t trust.”
The eldest of the Robinsons laughed again, this time with intentional exaggeration.
“You’re sounding like my dad.” She observed. “And I think I already have too many of those on this ship…”
Penny laughed as Don listened to her in silence.
“I appreciate your concern, Don, I really do, but worrying about me would be a completely unnecessary waste of your time.”
“I didn’t say I’m worried about you, I just…” He looked at Penny, who seemed to be dissecting him with her eyes. “I just said I don’t trust that guy…”
The two sisters looked at each other and then redirected their gazes back to the mechanic.
“I said the same thing about Smith, in case you don’t recall. And, who knew, I was right!”
“That’s completely different!” Judy argued.
“Why?” Don was now irritated. “Because he is, what was it that you said last night, Penny? Super hot? That’s why it’s different?”
Judy felt offended and didn’t bother to hide it. Don, on the other hand, was deeply regretting his last words but it was too late to take them back.
“You clearly don’t know me.” She said seriously. “And much less Jesse.”
“And you do?” West asked in a calmer tone, although he was still pretty mad.
“Better than you, I can guarantee you.”
“Enough to trust him?”
“Enough to know that it’s not dangerous to accompany him to a dead planet to get food.”
Don didn’t know what else to say. As a matter of fact, he didn’t even know why he had said all those things and why he had gotten so angry. He even considered apologizing, but for some reason, he was still pissed.
“If anyone asks, tell them I went to the planet and will be back soon.”
Judy told Penny and left without saying goodbye to Don. They watched her go away with firm steps.
“They’re so hooking up.”
Penny said with the sole intention of teasing her friend.
The mechanic, however, was too mad to actually care.
“So I hope they enjoy it.”
And stomped off.
“I’m gonna go look for Debbie.” His voice echoed through the hall. “She’s the only one who still cares about my opinion anyway…”
Penny watched as the mechanic walked away. In the opposite direction, she could still see her sister, disappearing from view.
She smiled satisfied. Oh, love…
Maureen had returned to her bunk so late last night that she had found John already asleep.
She hadn’t wanted to wake him up. She didn’t know if she hadn’t wanted to bother him or if she just hadn’t been ready to have that conversation they had needed for so long…
She hadn’t slept at all last night. And now, looking at her alarm, the torture of being lying there waiting for some shuteye that would never come was finally over.
She got up and heard the sound of water running in the bathroom. John must have been up too.
And if she knew her husband well, he hadn’t had the best of nights either…
“Good morning.” She said hesitantly when John stepped into the room.
However, he simply looked at her impassively and didn’t answer.
Maureen could have overlooked his reaction, but she decided, ready or not, that the time for that conversation had arrived.
“I think we need to talk, John…”
The soldier, who still carried the hurt and frustration from the night before, remained silent.
“John, please.” Maureen insisted.
“And what do you want to talk about?” He finally broke his own silence. “About how you prefer going to your ex-husband for comfort in the middle of the night rather than talking to your actual husband?”
Maureen was taken aback by his aggressive tone.
“Were you spying on me?”
“Don’t try to make this about me.”
“I’m not!” She replied. “The only thing I’m genuinely trying to do is have a conversation with you. But apparently, you’re the one who doesn’t want to talk.”
John managed to control the anger that threatened to take over.
“This has been really hard on me…” The scientist continued.
“And what about me?” But he cut her off. “Do you have any idea how hard this has been on me? He let out. “I keep thinking I don’t have the right to be upset about this whole situation, that this is something that only concerns you and Judy… That my job is to support you and pretend that everything’s okay… But the truth is all of this is killing me…”
He looked exhausted, as if every word he said had taken up a great amount of effort. Maureen approached him. That was incredibly painful to hear.
“If there was anything I could do or say to make you feel better, I would…” She spoke sincerely.
“Then, do it!” John demanded. “Say that seeing him hasn’t changed anything. That seeing him again didn’t make you wonder about what your life could’ve been if he hadn’t disappeared…”
Maureen’s eyes widened.
“It’s not fair to ask me that...”
But John carried on.
“Say that all your feelings for him died twenty years ago… Say… Say that you don’t love him anymore!”
The scientist looked right in her husband’s eyes. She was fighting a battle against the impending tears.
“You know I can’t say that…”
“So you still love him?”
John’s gaze repeated the question.
And just when the first tear was about to win the battle...
“Mom! Can you come here help me with something?”
Two knocks on the door, followed by Will’s voice broke the silence at last.
It took them a few more seconds to look away from each other. No one daring to say anything and yet wishing the other one would speak first.
“I’m coming, honey.”
Maureen finally answered her son and headed to the door.
Before leaving, however, she wanted, more than anything, to give her husband an answer. However, and to her own surprise, she realized she didn’t know what that answer was.
Chapter 15: Kiss
Hello guys! Long time, no see, huh? Here's another chapter, hope you guys like it!
Unfortunately, the last thing she had managed to hear from John and Maureen’s discussion had been something along the lines of “say that you don’t love him!”
Actually, on second thought, those had been John’s exact words. Smith remembered now perfectly.
After that, Will had showed up at their door and she had needed to hide fast so she wouldn’t be seen.
Damn it! She thought.
She wished she had heard the whole argument! Wished she had heard the tears shed by John. But, mainly, she wished she had heard Maureen’s reply to his desperate plea.
“Say that you don’t love him!”
Damn it! She said it out loud this time.
But her frustration wouldn’t prevent her, as it rarely did, from finding out a way to use that to her own advantage.
What would Grant think of that if he knew it?
She had been trying to get closer to the man for a while so she simply couldn’t miss an opportunity like that!
And to be fair, she hadn’t even needed to deceive and/or manipulate anybody this time. The opportunity had presented itself so naturally that one could even call it fate. That was if she believed in such thing… Out of all the halls in the Jupiter, of all the bunks, of all the moments, she had been in that hall, in front of that door, in that exact minute…
Grant Kelly would love to know what his recent resurrection was causing in Maureen and especially in her marriage…
Smith smiled at the possibility of becoming Grant’s ally and perhaps having some influence in the next important decisions. After all, the Robinsons didn’t trust her anymore, so it was time to find someone who did.
She walked away happily, humming a song and mentally thanking a fate she didn’t even believe in.
Jesse exclaimed way more excited than the situation called for which made Judy laugh.
“I know it’s weird to get excited to come here, but when you have nowhere to go, anywhere is interesting…”
The doctor raised one of her eyebrows.
“I think I’ve just found out what he did before all this.” She paused, building up the suspense.
“I think you were some kind of motivational guru or something.” Then, she laughed. “I mean, with all this crap of getting excited with anything, living in the moment and blah, blah, blah…”
Jesse laughed at her comment.
“Well, in my defense, I thought it’d be better to tell you that than that the real reason for my excitement is being here with you.”
He then approached her suddenly, freezing her in place.
“You look beautiful, by the way.”
Judy felt her heart start to race and her lips parted even though she had nothing to say.
Ford finally backed away with a smirk on his face.
It took Judy a few seconds to recompose herself. She smiled as well and rolled her eyes, mentally hating herself for behaving as a starry-eyed teenage girl.
“Does this change your opinion on the motivational guru?”
The doctor smiled again.
“Completely.” Then she added. “Now my hunch is that you were a professional ladies’ man.”
Jesse burst out laughing and Judy felt pretty pleased with herself.
“And why would you say that?”
He approached her again, in the same way he had just a few minutes before.
This time, however, Judy was ready for that and even counting on it.
“Mainly because of this.” She said, referring to his proximity as she stood still in place, as if his presence didn’t bother her at all.
“So, when a guy gets this close to you he’s nothing but a player?”
“Not exactly…” Judy carried on. “But when this guy tells me that I look beautiful for no reason at all, he usually is.”
“All right.” Jesse smirked. “What if I told you that you are the ugliest chick I’ve ever seen? Would that change your mind?”
“Yeah.” She was blunt. “Now you’re an idiot!”
“Then what do I have to say so you don’t think I’m a ladies’ man and much less an idiot?”
Judy thought on that for a while. Even though their little banter was fun and all, she couldn’t deny that was also intimidating. Flirting was so not in her wheelhouse…
“Maybe there’s nothing you can say.” She finally spoke. “I think you’ll have to prove it.”
That sounded like a challenge and Jesse Ford loved a good challenge. Especially when it came from someone as beautiful as that girl.
“Is that a challenge?”
“Actually, no.” Judy clarified. “I just think words are easier to manipulate. Anyone can say or unsay whatever they want and whenever they want… Actions, on the other hand, are more revealing. That’s why they count more, I guess.”
“So, you don’t think someone can manipulate an attitude?”
“I do.” She wasn’t naïve. “But I also think that’s harder to do. And it doesn’t last long.”
She finally moved away, leaving Jesse confused and with the scent of her perfume all over his nostrils and brain.
Smith was... Euphoric, maybe that was a suitable definition.
Sharing John and Maureen’s discussion with Grant would definitely make him see that she was on his side.
And Smith knew very well that, sooner or later, the ship would inevitably be divided in sides. Two, if her predictions were right.
John’s and Grant’s. The present and the past. And she, who had already lost a place in the former, knew that the past was all she had left. Or the future, if she played her cards right.
Smith picked up the pace, moved by the excitement of finding Kelly and finally becoming his ally.
She entered Fortuna and walked confidently to Grant’s office which she already knew exactly where it was.
She crossed the silent halls quickly and just as she was passing through the central room, a noise called her attention.
She scanned the room, searching for the source of the sound.
She couldn’t find anything right away though. The noise, however, continued incessantly. It wasn’t particularly loud or annoying. It was just... Strange.
Smith, temporarily forgetting what she had gone there to do in the first place, decided to follow her curiosity as she moved toward where she thought the noise was coming from.
She walked slowly, allowing the anticipation to increase her curiosity, making her discovery even more exciting.
To her surprise, she found herself standing in front of that locked door which she had come across during her first exploration through Grant Kelly’s ship.
The sound was definitely coming from the other side. She approached her ears to the metal door, in an attempt to hear it a little clearer. The noise was exactly the same.
After a few seconds, however, it stopped.
The sudden silence startled Smith and she instinctively looked around. She was still completely alone.
She then put her hands on the cold steel and with her fingertips she could feel those dents that had picked her interest in the first time she was there, caused by only God knew what. She glued her ears to the door again. What was that noise? And where was it coming from?
And then, just like that, a loud din breaking the quietness made Smith back away from the door, pushing it violently with her hands.
With her heart racing and her breathing heavy from the scare, it took her a few seconds to realize that her push had opened the door. It was only inches, but it was open nonetheless.
The only locked door in all Fortuna apparently wasn’t locked anymore. And what it was hiding was about to be revealed.
No alarm went off and the identification system didn’t look affected at all.
Smith needed to make sure she was really alone. She checked her surroundings again and then, with a little hesitation, finally stepped toward the door.
The noise was the same as before and now, because the door was open, it was possible to see that a blue fluorescent light was coming from the room.
The question she had mentally asked herself the first time she had been there repeated itself in her mind.
“What could be so precious or dangerous that had to be held behind that metal door?
She finally pushed it open all the way, feeling a combination of fear and excitement.
Her eyes glowed, reflecting the light. She couldn’t help a smile.
“What the hell is that?”
“It’s some kind of root.”
Jesse answered as Judy held a piece of something that looked a lot like a tree branch in her hands.
“The taste isn’t all that great, but it has a good amount of proteins and fibers, apparently.”
He explained as the Robinson stored it in a box.
“I think we’ve already got plenty of food for today, right?” Judy asked. “I’m exhausted…”
“I don’t know how you and my d… Grant have managed to survive for this long… I can’t even begin to imagine…”
Her hesitation in calling the other man “dad” didn’t go unnoticed by Jesse and he considered if he should say something about it or not.
“I guess you end up doing whatever it takes to survive…” He said it instead. “And then, after a while, it’s like that’s always been your life…”
They smiled at each other and Judy felt incredibly sorry for him.
The bags they had been taken to collect the food were practically full at that point. There was nothing left to do on that planet anymore. However, Judy didn’t feel like leaving just yet.
There was something about being away from everything she knew that made her feel… free.
And there was also something about being with Jesse that made her feel… Well, she didn’t know exactly what it was, but it was something good.
The young doctor then sat on the ground, exactly where she had been standing, without caring for comfort or cleanliness.
“You really are exhausted!” Jesse exclaimed, a bit surprised by her attitude.
Judy just smiled. Then, she lay on the ground.
“I am exhausted.” She confirmed.
And the way that she had said it revealed that she meant more than just physical tiredness. Jesse Ford could tell that much.
He lay down beside her.
Above them, the stars were like little white dots on a huge black sheet of paper.
“I miss this…” Judy started hesitantly.
“Looking at the stars?”
She took a few seconds to answer.
“Not worrying about anything…”
Jesse kept his gaze at those sparkling specks so far away from them.
“I can’t remember the last time my biggest problem was a test at school or a stupid argument with my mom about my curfew…” Judy continued. “I know everybody expects me to be strong and always ready to deal with any difficult situation… But sometimes, all I want to do… is to fall apart.” She stopped talking for a moment. “… To cry and just be weak. It’s so exhausting being strong all the time... And I know it’s my fault for making everyone believe that Judy Robinson never fails. That Judy Robinson is always okay… And the worst part of it all is that I believe it as well…”
She then looked at Jesse, but he was still looking at the sky. She wondered what he was thinking about her confession…
“I just wish I could start fresh, you know? Be another version of myself and do everything differently…” Her voice faltered, but because that was the strong Judy, it was only for a fraction of a second.
“I like this Judy…” Jesse finally spoke.
She laughed and their gazes met at last.
Jesse thought that she looked the most beautiful he‘d seen her ever since he met her. He liked to think that he would’ve certainly kissed her if it weren’t for the inconvenient of the moment and the subject.
“If you don’t like it, why don’t you change it?”
Judy smiled a resigned smile.
“Well, aside from the fact that changing alone is an incredibly hard thing to do, I think that doing that now would be… selfish.”
Jesse made a face and she then clarified.
“I feel that if I changed and stopped being the Judy that I’ve always been, I’d end up letting everyone down…”
Ford stared at her.
“Including yourself?” He asked, taking her a little aback by his question.
“Probably…” She said and stared back at him.
“I know this is gonna sound stupid, but sometimes I envy you…” She said hesitantly. “Not remembering who you are must sure make changing a little easier…”
Ford thought on that for a moment.
“Maybe.” He started. “But it can also cause you to make the same mistakes from the past…”
His tone was unusually serious.
“I know that I’ve said that having no memories allows me to be whoever I’d like to be, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m really being who I want or exactly who I used to be…”
Judy was quite impressed by his reflection. For some reason, prejudice maybe, she had to admit, she never thought that a guy like Jesse Ford could be that deep…
Judy then remembered their first trip to the planet and on how her opinion about him had slightly changed back then. She had to admit that the longer she spent in his company, the more he became the exact opposite of what she had imagined…
“You’re different than I’d thought.”
Judy finally verbalized what her mind had been whispering quietly in her ears.
Her statement seemed to embarrass Jesse, who laughed and then asked:
“Is that so? And what do you mean by that, exactly?
And there she was again. Those brown doe eyes and those pink lips that looked like a rose in a garden… Beautiful.
In his mind, he kissed her again. In reality, however, he didn’t dare move a muscle.
“I mean exactly what I said.” Judy teased. “That you’re different than I’d thought.”
“And is that a good thing?”
“Well, when I first saw you I thought you were a psychopath who kidnapped women, so I guess anything other than that is good, right?”
They both laughed.
“I don’t remember if I ever apologized to you for that, by the way... So, I’m sorry.”
Judy smiled at his honest apology.
“I guess I need to apologize, too. After all, I did invade your ship…”
“And I’m starting to think that was about the best thing that ever happened to me…”
Judy managed to hide her embarrassment and the heat on her cheeks.
“And I’d be flattered, if that hadn’t come from the guy with no memory!”
Ford burst out laughing but soon became serious again.
“I guess even if I had memories from entire lifetimes, that’d still be true…”
Judy looked away for a moment. Then, she stared at him again.
That was it. He was going to kiss her…
“See?” But Judy spoke first. “Definitely a professional ladies’ man...”
Ford gave up on the kiss immediately and laughed his discomfort off. He realized right then, a little reluctantly, that that girl intimidated the hell out of him.
“We should head back.” Judy suggested, already up and with one of the bags hanging on her shoulder. “We need to take these “yummies” back to the ship…”
She joked and started walking toward the shuttle.
Jesse, with a broad smile on his face, remained still. But only for the time that took him to kiss her again in his mind.
Chapter 16: Yes or No
There were a few knocks on the door.
Grant was familiar with the way Jesse used to knock, so he immediately knew it wasn’t him. He then thought about the possibility of the person on the other side being Maureen and his heart started to race.
He was about to say “come on in” when the door was open before he could even articulate the first word.
It took him a second or two to express any reaction whatsoever.
“You.” He didn’t bother to hide his disappointment.
“What?” But Smith didn’t falter. “Were you expecting someone else?”
The broad smile on her face got Kelly a little on edge. However, he managed to hide it.
“No.” He replied. “Is there anything I can help you with?”
He asked without really meaning it.
Smith then broadened her smile and approached his desk, taking a seat without ceremony and much less permission.
Grant didn’t approve of her audacity, but decided not to say anything.
They stared at each other for a while. Smith, smiling and Grant, suspicious as hell.
“Maybe I’m the one who can help you…”
She said slowly, observing his reaction at each word pronounced.
It was obvious that Kelly was, at the very least, fearful. And she loved that part.
“I don’t recall asking for your help, doctor.”
She smiled again. Ironically, this time.
“So, you don’t think I can be useful?”
“That’s not what I said…” Grant soon clarified. Then, he stared at her pointedly.
“What do you want, after all?”
He asked impatiently. She, however, made sure to take her time before answering his question.
“It must’ve been really hard…” But she didn’t quite answer it. “I can’t even begin to imagine… Being alone, completely alone for so many years…”
Then, she stood up and went to the window.
“It’s a nice view…” She turned around to face him again. “But I guess it does get tiresome…”
“What do you want?”
Kelly repeated without trying to hide his anxiety. Smith, however, pretended not to notice and carried on with the suspense.
His vulnerability somehow gave her a sense of inexplicable pleasure.
She redirected her gaze back at the space outside.
“I can help you get your family back...” Then, she added. “I can help you get Maureen back.”
Grant held his breath for a second. For a moment, he was at a loss for words. But then, he finally recomposed himself and managed to say:
“And how exactly do you plan to do that?”
Smith smiled one last time.
Judy stepped into the Jupiter with her hands so full of bags and her mind so full of thoughts that it took her a moment to realize she was being spoken to.
“How was the trip?”
It was Don West.
Since she had headed off to that dangerous planet accompanied by that idiot, he hadn’t been able to think about anything else. And God knew he had tried… First, he had looked for something to fix but the Jupiter was annoyingly in good shape. Then, he had tried someone to talk to but it had been particularly hard to find a person above the age of sixteen on that ship those days…
And that was why he had spent the last three hours torturing himself with pretty graphic images of what Judy and that moron could be doing alone in a deserted planet…
“It was good.” The doctor raised her arms, showing the bags. “We did what we went there to do…”
“Here, let me help you.” He grabbed one of the bags from her. Don even considered taking the two, but he knew her well enough to know that Judy Robinson wasn’t that kind of girl.
“It’s heavy…” He pointed out.
Then, he couldn’t help but notice that she was carrying hers with way less difficulty.
“Or maybe I’ve gotten the heavy one and you the lighter…”
“They’re both the same weight...” She stated. “But I can take yours, in case it’s too hea…”
“Not at all!” West was quick to answer. “I think it’s my wrist… I hurt it when I was fixing the chariot a couple of days ago…”
“Yeah, right….” Judy mocked him and they both smiled.
They sustained their smile for a while, looking at each other. Don felt strangely intimidated and Judy, extremely uneasy.
“You know, where I come from, it’s considered chivalrous for a guy to help out a girl carry heavy bags and whatnot…” Don started.
“Even when the guy has more difficulty carrying stuff than the girl?”
Judy joked again and they laughed. It didn’t even look like they had fought just a few hours ago…
“Very funny.” The mechanic said sarcastically. “I’m just saying that that Jesse guy could’ve helped you, that’s all...”
The way Judy stared at him needed no words.
“Or maybe the place he comes from it’s the girls who deal with the heavy stuff…”
“Why do you hate him so much after all?”
Judy wasn’t looking for another argument, but she simply couldn’t stay silent. Oddly enough, she felt a weird necessity to defend Jesse.
“You don’t even know him!”
“And that’s exactly my point.” West replied. “I don’t know him and that’s why I don’t trust him… And I also think he doesn’t have the best of intentions towards you either…”
“We’ve already talked about this.” She started. “Fought over it, actually.”
“I know.” Don decided to give in and not start a fight. “I know…” He repeated apologetically. “And I’m sorry if I acted like… a jerk earlier today… It’s just that I care about you… About all of you.” He clarified. “I feel like I need to protect you guys.”
Judy was moved by his confession.
They finally reached the pantry and stored all the food there.
“You don’t need to protect me, Don.” She stared at him in a serious manner. “You’re not my dad or my older brother…”
The mechanic then waited for her to tell him what he was. That he wasn’t her father or brother, he was well aware of and even preferred it that way. But what was he to her after all?
“Thank you for caring though...” But she didn’t tell. “I mean, I care about you too... Everything you’ve done for my family, all the risks you’ve taken for us, the crazy things you’ve said yes to… I don’t think I know anybody as crazy as you to do half the things you’ve done…” She said without much certainty about what she really wanted to say.
She then looked right into his eyes, realizing for the first time that they weren’t completely brown. They had shades of green and hazel that she had never seen before.
“You’re an amazing guy, Don West.” And there they were. The words she’d been trying so hard to find. “And I’m really lucky to have you in my life.”
All of a sudden and at the same time, they realized how close they were from each other and how they had no idea when that’d happened.
Judy could hear her own heart pounding in her chest and could swear she had heard his as well.
“Even when I’m an overprotective jerk who can’t carry heavy bags of food?”
Don, out of pure nervousness or maybe something else entirely, decided to interrupt whatever was happening there with one of his usual stupid remarks. Judy laughed and mentally thanked him for doing so.
She replied and moved away from him.
“Thanks for your help, by the way.”
She said and finally left the pantry, promising herself to never think about whatever that was. Ever!
Don, on the other hand, stood frozen in place, certain that that moment would repeat over and over in his brain.
Perhaps just a few minutes had gone by, but Don had completely lost track of time.
When he came to, he realized he was still in the pantry.
“You’re an idiot, Don West!”
He finally left, cursing himself out loud.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself.”
Her voice startled him.
“Jesus!” The mechanic exclaimed. “What the hell are you doing here?”
It was Penny. She smirked and folded her arms in front of her chest.
“Wouldn’t you prefer to know how long I’ve been here instead?”
West shrugged. He was hoping the redhead was just teasing him. He went past her without saying a word.
“What’s going on between you and my sister?
Penny was blunt and didn’t hesitate.
Don widened his eyes and faltered for just a fraction of a second before answering.
But that was more than enough.
“Oh, my God!”
The redhead couldn’t have asked for a more revealing reaction.
“I can’t believe it!” She exclaimed euphorically. “I knew it!”
That was it. He was screwed. He thought about his options for a moment: he could literally run away from that painfully embarrassing situation or he could say the first thing that crossed his mind. However, he ended up choosing none.
Penny kept staring at him disbelievingly.
“Aren’t you at least gonna try to make something up?”
West then smirked at her the same way she had before. He was going with option number three…
“And what would be the point? Apparently you already know everything, don’t you?”
He asked and started to walk away without showing any other reaction.
“But that’s just too easy…” Penny said, clearly annoyed and went after him.
“So, I’m right. Is that what you’re saying?”
He didn’t seem to follow.
“Right about what?”
She rolled her eyes and he continued.
“You asked what is going on between Judy and me, right?” She crossed her arms in front of her chest again. “So, instead of being there, speculating a lot of nonsense, why don’t you let me answer?”
Penny raised an eyebrow and waited.
“I was helping your sister with the bags she’s brought from the planet. They were heavy and she asked me to help her, that’s all.”
The redhead frowned.
“That’s all?” She repeated. “So why would she say something like “you’re an amazing guy, Don”?” She inquired, trying to sound like Judy.
“You heard the entire conversation?!”
West was outraged.
“Not the entire conversation per se, but a huge chunk, yes.” She confessed. “I did tell you that you should’ve asked how long I’ve been here…”
He forced a smile.
“And here I was thinking that you, Robinsons, were too polite to eavesdrop…”
“I wasn’t trying to hide from you guys, I just so happened to be crossing the hall...”
“What do you wanna know, exactly?
He stared at her pointedly. Penny, however, didn’t seem to get intimidated at all.
“The truth.” She stated.
“You’re really gonna make me say it, aren’t you?”
The mechanic blinked slowly, as if he had no clue about what she was referring to. The third option, in case it hasn’t become clear at this point, was to play dumb.
“All right. I’ll do it.” Penny inhaled and then exhaled slowly.
“Are you in love with Judy?”
The question, asked that way, with every single word spoken like that, made Don’s heart skip a beat. His palms became clammy and he felt a not in his stomach. There was only one thing left to do…
He laughed it off.
“What are you talking about?” He managed to articulate in between the laughs.
But Penny didn’t look amused.
“It’s a simple yes or no question.”
Don finally stopped laughing and changed his manner to a more serious one.
“Look…” He started. “Don West doesn’t fall in love, all right? Ever. That’s the kind of stupid shit I just don’t do.”
Surprisingly enough, his statement didn’t lack conviction.
“And what kind of stupid shit do you do exactly?” But Penny wasn’t about to let him off the hook that easily. “Would talk trash about Jesse to Judy, even though you’ve never spoken to the guy for more than a minute, be one of them?”
Don rolled his eyes. He really shouldn’t let that sixteen-year-old girl trap him with all of those questions! Just leave, West.
“For starters...” But he didn’t. “I have spoken to him, okay? For solid five minutes, if you really need to know… And I don’t think it’s stupid trying to open her eyes about guys like him… I’d do the same for you.”
“Oh, really?” Penny pretended she was flattered. “Because when I was with Vijay, I don’t recall you saying anything…”
“That’s different.” Don clarified. “Vijay is... I mean, you are... you two... It’s completely different!”
The redhead then threw her hands in the air.
“Why can’t you just admit it?!”
“That you like her!” Penny replied. “Okay, maybe “in love” is a strong term, but it’s obvious that you feel something for her that you definitely don’t feel for me or anybody else on this ship.”
Don laughed again. He was undoubtedly nervous.
“That night in the kitchen…” Penny continued. “The way you looked at her… And earlier today, when she said she was going to the planet with Jesse… I mean, your face was…”
“Fine!” Don cut her off, losing his temper. “Fine! What do you want me to say? She’s pretty, I admit it. And I also admit that I don’t know Jesse and that gives me no right to talk bad things about him… You’re right about that, too, okay?” He took a deep breath before carrying on.
“I like Judy, all right? But I like her as a friend. I feel like I need to protect her… And if you heard that part of our conversation, then you know I’ve actually said that…” Penny smiled embarrassingly. “I know she likes to look strong all the time, but she’s a lot more fragile than she thinks… She has this bad habit of thinking she needs to help everybody and never being the one asking for help. She’s always so serious and focused, that it’s almost scary… I don’t think I’ve ever seen her laughing, I mean really laughing…” West smiled at that thought. “She deserves someone who can make her laugh a little… Someone to share the weight that she thinks she needs to carry all by herself…”
Don then looked at Penny and raised his eyebrows.
“And as you probably heard that part of the conversation as well, you know that carrying weights is not exactly my strong suit…”
Penny smiled, managing to hide the surprise of hearing that extremely honest and totally unexpected confession.
“Even if I was in love with her, I don’t think I’d stand a chance. Judy deserves a lot better and she knows it. Don’t worry about it.”
He had never talked so much about his thoughts and feelings before. He was exhausted.
“I’m not worried.” Penny assured him. “But I think you might be wrong…” She then carried on. “Maybe what she needs is a guy exactly like you…”
Don smiled at her comment. He was too embarrassed to even try a funny comeback.
He was feeling calmer now, even though his hands were still wet and his heartbeat a little above the normal rate.
“Well, if the interrogation’s over, I think I’m gonna head out…” He said, already walking past her. Penny didn’t stop him this time though.
“And try not to eavesdrop anymore, it’s considered to be rude in some cultures…”
Don joked, ruffling her hair on his way out.
“I’ve already told you it was completely unintentional!”
Penny defended herself while she fixed her hair. She could hear his laughter echoing through the hall as he left.
He really was an amazing guy... Judy was right about that.
Penny stayed there a little longer, enjoying the solitude and the quietness. Maybe Don had been honest after all. And maybe Judy was also right about her seeing romance in everything…
The redhead then felt bad for pushing him that way. She shouldn’t have been so intrusive, especially about something that wasn’t really her business… But then it hit her.
Don West never, indeed, answered her question!
She smiled again, fully convinced that she wasn’t seeing things…
And it had only been a yes or no question!
Chapter 17: Revelation
A bit shorter than usual, but a new chapter nonetheless! Merry Christmas, everyone! Hope you all enjoy it:
“If you don’t tell me what it is, I can’t help you.”
Smith insisted for the fourth time. Or was it the fifth?
Grant Kelly, however, remained silent.
When she had barged into his office, about half an hour ago, something had told him that that was going to happen…
Maybe it had been the annoying smug on her face, or the way she had looked at him. It really didn’t matter anymore. She knew.
He then hated Jesse for being so careless. “Make sure it is locked at all times.” He had repeated countless times, especially after the Robinsons’ arrival.
Behind that door, there was his most valuable possession. Something he had been working on incessantly for over a year. The only thing that could give him his life back…
And now, someone knew about it too. Someone had found out his secret. And, as if it could get any worse, that someone was Smith.
Grant wished he could beat up Jesse and then kill Smith. In his mind, he executed both, but in reality, he remained sitting in his chair, completely still.
Smith was about to ask for the fifth or sixth time about that noisy blue thing locked in that room, when Kelly finally broke his own silence.
“I think you’ve already asked too many questions, doctor.” He said ironically. “Now, it’s my turn…” And didn’t wait for a reply. “You’ve told me that you can help me, but haven’t told me how. So, I ask you: How can I trust someone who has a plan but isn’t willing to share it?”
He tried to turn the tables on her, but Smith just wouldn’t have it.
“I think the same goes for you, captain.” She said. “Or do you really think I’m stupid enough to believe you don’t have your own agenda? I’d even dare say that that… thing back there is a part of it…”
Grant smiled at her.
“That thing.” He repeated. “That thing”, doctor, is my only way out of this hell and back to my old life…”
Then, he looked at Smith curiously.
“What do you think it is after all? I’m sure an intelligent woman as yourself must have a hunch at this point…”
Suddenly, Smith felt intimidated. He had finally managed to turn the situation around to his own advantage.
“If I had to guess…” She hesitated but didn’t show any sign of it. “And only taking into consideration the fact that the door seem to have been hit by something… I’d say it’s some kind of weapon…”
Grant looked somewhat relieved.
“However…” She then continued. “I don’t see how a weapon would be able to get you out of here...”
But before Smith could finish her sentence, Kelly’s laugh echoed through the room.
“Are you presuming I’m suicidal, doctor?” He asked point-blank.
“In a situation like yours, it wouldn’t be so uncommon.” She said. “It’d even be understandable...”
He laughed again.
“Do you really think I’m that kind of man?”
“What kind, exactly?”
But he didn’t answer.
“So, your hunch is that I keep a gun hidden behind that door?”
The question was clearly meant to be rhetorical because he didn’t give her any time to reply.
“Well, I must confess I’m a little disappointed… I’ve always considered myself to be a more complex man than that…”
“What is it anyway?” Smith was done playing his games.
“Because frankly, the only thing that can get you out of this rock and give you your life back is a goddamn miracle!” She blurted out in irritation, trying to get under his skin. But Kelly simply smiled condescendingly.
“You’re right, doctor.” He said in a serious manner. “It is a miracle. I think you couldn’t have given it a better definition. “That “thing”…” He stared at her with despise. “…is the goddman miracle that’s gonna take me home... To when I was happy...”
Smith widened her eyes.
Maybe he hadn’t even noticed. Maybe he hadn’t even meant to. He’d definitely prefer playing the mind games he thought he was so good at…
But those words had been enough for Smith to finally figure everything out. And to be honest, she just really needed one. “When”.
Grant soon realized what he had said and regretted it almost immediately after, but he knew it was too late…
“It’s a time machine.”
Smith stated as if she wasn’t even remotely shocked.
The captain of Fortuna did try his best to hide any reaction, but an involuntary twitch in his left eye gave him away.
Silence then took over the room for what felt like hours.
She had finally understood it all. And despite “it all” sounded a lot like the plot of a science fiction movie, Smith knew she was right.
The quietness surrounding them lasted for a couple more uncomfortable minutes.
“You are truly a remarkable woman.” Kelly started. “I think asking you to forget everything you’ve seen and heard would be pointless, am I right?
Smith smiled. Victoriously.
“How is that even possible?” She didn’t quite answer his question. “How did you manage to build a time machine? Especially here. Alone, in the middle of nowhere…”
“I haven’t confirmed your hunch yet, doctor.”
“Oh, please! Save it, captain. At least recognize that you’ve lost...”
“And what exactly have I lost, doctor?”
Kelly finally stood up and approached her, shortening the distance between them in a threatening manner.
“I wonder what Maureen would say if she found out that her ex-husband has built a time machine.” Smith held her ground though. “Do you think she’d approve or simply…”
“It doesn’t work!”
Kelly cut her off abruptly, losing his temper.
“So it is a time machine then.” Smith insisted.
Grant took in a deep breath.
“Yes.” He said defeated. “It’s a time machine, but it’s worthless because it doesn’t work! It requires technology that I don’t have…”
But Smith didn’t look at all convinced.
“And how do you know about this technology? On second thought, how did you even know how to build a time machine in the first place?”
Kelly hesitated but only for a fraction of a second.
“I didn’t!” He answered, outraged. “I’ve been here for years... I’ve been working on this ever since. It’s not like I’d woken up one day and knew how to do it!”
Smith just stared at him. She was looking for any sign that could indicate he was lying or, at least, not telling the whole truth.
“How was it that that Jesse Ford got here again?”
That was it. Grant had finally had it.
“And what does that have to do with anything?” He threw his hands in the air and went back to his desk. “You’ve found out about my secret, doctor. Congratulations!” He said sarcastically. “What else do you want to know? Would you like a full report on what’s like to be stranded in space for years, without knowing when or if you’ll ever see another human being again? Or maybe you’d like to hear about what’s like to find out that everyone you’ve ever loved, the only reason that has kept you alive, seem to have completely forgotten about you and moved on with their lives?”
“All right. I’ll admit. I’ve lost. You’ve won. You’ve found out I have a time machine!”
He stared at her with pure hatred in his eyes.
“But I can assure you that’s the only thing you’ll ever find out about me.”
Then, he let himself fall into his chair. He was exhausted. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt so powerless.
“I know you’re gonna use that against me. Blackmail me, threaten to reveal my secret to Maureen and everybody else…” He supposed. “I have no illusions on that regard. So the only thing I ask you is to cut to the chase.”
He let out a sigh:
“What do you want?”
Will had been particularly bored the last few days.
Even though finding Fortuna had been amazing and getting separated from his parents, pretty scary, things seemed to be getting back to normal.
Not that “normal” was bad. It was just… boring.
On that day specifically, right after breakfast, he had decided to visit Grant’s ship.
Since they had gotten there, he hadn’t had much time to explore Fortuna. Learning more about a two-decade-old spacecraft was something that certainly piqued his interest. And that was precisely why he had been beyond excited when he crossed the passage that gave access to Kelly’s ship. It felt like he had traveled back in time.
Will had been there for about an hour, crossing halls, getting in and out of places that looked more like storerooms. He had seen things he had never seen before, much less heard about.
He hadn’t touched anything though. He wouldn’t really admit it aloud, but the truth was that he was a little bit scared of Judy’s new dad…
He then went by the common area. He already knew it. It had been the first place he had stepped on when he was there for the first time, right after his sister’s “kidnap”.
It looked a lot like the Jupiter’s, except it was undeniably older. It would definitely be filled with spider webs... That is if there were any spiders in outer space…
The sound of voices coming from one of the rooms dragged Will back from his thoughts.
His curiosity practically made him follow the noise. He tiptoed to the door where the voices seemed to be coming from. It was locked. And just when he was about to knock:
“It’s a time machine.”
Smith said, freezing him up in place.
Will pressed his ear against the door instinctively. What was she talking about? And with who?
“You are truly a remarkable woman...”
He recognized Grant’s voice, but his tone was low, practically inaudible.
The kid tried to focus on what he was saying, but he couldn’t make out most of it.
“I wonder what Maureen would say if she found out that her ex-husband has built a time machine...”
Smith spoke again and this time Will was able to understand every word.
He backed away from the door quickly, as if he had just witnessed a crime. He mentally analyzed the possibilities:
a) Smith could very well be making that up. He, better than anybody, knew what she was capable of.
b) Said “time machine” could be a code for something else.
c) Smith could be actually telling the truth and Grant had indeed managed to build a time machine.
d) Holy Shit!
He placed his ear against the door again. Maybe he’d be able to get some answers from the rest of the conversation.
“All right. I’ll admit. I’ve lost. You’ve won. You’ve found out I have a time machine!”
The words said in Kelly’s severe tone were easily identified by Will this time around.
He widened his eyes in total shock.
So it was letter c! Grant had somehow managed to build a time machine!
The excitement along with some fear made Will sprint out of there.
If there really was a time machine on Fortuna, he needed to tell somebody!
After their trip to the planet, Judy had been forced to admit that Jesse was definitely messing with her head…
She didn’t really know in what way exactly, but his very presence made her feel… uneasy.
Maybe she even felt intimidated whenever he was around… But why?
She then remembered the flirtation they had on the planet and smiled. Was she…. Liking him?
Suddenly, her mind took a turn and led her back to the pantry. To those brown eyes with shades of green which she had never noticed before… Her heart skipped a beat at the memory.
What the hell are you doing, Judy?
She got startled and jumped in place, interrupting her thoughts.
Jesse then approached her.
“I was looking for you…” He started. “I docked the shuttle and then next thing I know, you had already gotten inside…. I would’ve helped you with the bags...”
“It wasn’t necessary.” She replied. “I’ve already taken them to the pantry and stored everything.”
Jesse looked bothered.
“Just don’t think I didn’t help you because I didn’t want to.”
Judy pretended to ponder on his words.
“Well, I don’t know about that. I mean, they were pretty heavy… So maybe you are making up an excuse. Believe me, I’m great at seeing through a lame excuse. Penny makes them up all the time…”
They both laughed.
“In my case, I can assure you it isn’t an excuse…” Ford clarified. “Actually, I’d have to be an idiot or crazy not to want to be with you for as long as I can…”
He then approached her suddenly. The same way he had back on the planet.
“If I was ever making up an excuse, it’d be one to be close to you…” He said, shortening the distance between them even more. “Like this…”
Judy then felt one of his hands around her waist, while the other one went on to touch her face.
He leaned in slowly. He had finally built up the courage! He was going to kiss her…
But she stopped him. His lips just an inch from hers.
“I don’t think this is a good idea…” Judy said, backing away from him.
Jesse smiled in disappointment.
“Well, who’s making up excuses now, Robinson?”
He joked and gave a few steps back himself.
The awkwardness of the situation made Judy really want to have something to say. However, she knew that whatever she could come up with wouldn’t make things any less uncomfortable.
“Next time, I’ll help you with the bags, okay?”
He noticed her embarrassment and decided to change the subject.
Judy felt incredibly relieved and thanked him with a smile.
“Just promise me you won’t make any more excuses…”
“Only if you do the same.”
He said and before he left, he made sure to give her a broad smiled on his way out. He didn’t want her to think that her refusal had made him quit.
As he started to leave, Jesse couldn’t help but admit (again) that that girl really did intimidate him…
Judy, on the other hand, stood frozen in the middle of the hall, imagining what his lips tasted like.
Jesse wandered around the Jupiter for a few minutes, completely lost in his thoughts. Why didn’t Judy want to kiss him? Was that really a bad idea? Back on the planet, he could’ve sworn they’d had a moment. Or was he misreading the signs?
Then, he realized he practically didn’t know anything about her. The only valid piece of information he had was that Judy was Grant’s daughter, which didn’t exactly make things any easier… He imagined if she had a boyfriend or someone she’d left on Earth.
Shit! He thought.
He needed to find out! Talk to someone who knew her, but who’d also be able to understand him. Help him, even…
Penny didn’t look like she liked him very much. The boy, on the other hand, probably wouldn’t be able to answer half of his questions. The parents… Well, the parents of the girl you’re crushing on are always out of the question. And that woman, Smith, didn’t look reliable…
So, who could hel…
Jesse interrupted his own thought. He smiled. He knew just the guy…
Chapter 18: Discovering Feelings
Hello you guys! I won't even go and say that it's been a while because that's pretty obvious... Well, anyway, we haven't forgotten about this fic and to prove it, here's a new chapter that we think Don/Judy fans might enjoy. Keep in mind that kudos and comments continue to be highly appreciated and will possibly make our day. So, here we go:
Ford approached the table West was sitting by eating a sandwich he had just made with the few ingredients he had managed to find in the fridge.
He laughed and couldn’t help but think the other man had done that on purpose.
“It’s Don, actually.” He corrected. “With a “d” and an “n”.”
“Oh!” Jesse faked embarrassment. “Sorry, man.”
And with that, silence reigned over the room. Jesse just standing there while Don ate his sandwich.
If that idiot was waiting for him, Don West, to ask him to join him, then he couldn’t be more wrong…
“May I join you?”
But Ford was faster and dismissed his invitation.
The hell you can, asshole!
“Sure. Make yourself at home.” The mechanic said instead.
Jesse quickly went on to occupy the vacant chair in front of Don’s and just waited for the other man to say something. However, more silence was all the reply he got.
“I think we started off on the wrong foot, don’t you agree?” Jesse tried.
“When we met, things were kind of heavy and confusing, so I guess I wasn’t the best host…”
Host? And here I was thinking this ship was Judy’s dad’s…
“Don’t sweat it.” That was what Don actually said. “That’s water under the bridge.”
He lied and took a bite out of his sandwich.
Ford kept staring at him though, as if he wanted to say something else but just couldn’t build up the courage to do so.
Don sure as hell wouldn’t be the one to ask. First, because he was a firm believer that a real man had to have the balls to ask things for himself, and secondly, because he couldn’t care less about what that boy could possibly have to say.
Jesse stared at the mechanic for a few more seconds.
That Tom fella wasn’t exactly the intimidating type, but it was undeniable that he wasn’t enjoying his presence there.
“Do you know if Judy has a boyfriend or something?”
The question made West choke on his food. He almost spitted out a chunk of his sandwich as a result of his shock, but managed to hide it by clearing his throat.
“Wh… What?” He stuttered.
“Does Judy have a boyfriend?”
Jesse repeated, completely ignoring the other man’s reaction.
Don opened his mouth, mentally searching for the best way to answer that.
He knew that by saying “no” he’d be giving Jesse the perfect opportunity to make his move on her. However, saying “yes” could be just as bad, especially if Judy found out about his lie afterwards.
Bottom line was there wasn’t an answer that would make him happy.
“Why don’t you ask her yourself?”
Don then preferred not to answer it at all.
Ford smiled a little embarrassingly.
“Well… I don’t want her to think I’m intruding…” He started. “I mean, if I ask her straight up she might feel a little…”
“Intimidated?” The mechanic tried.
“I don’t know! Maybe...” The younger man replied. “The last thing I want is for her to have the wrong idea about me...”
And what idea would that be, exactly? That you’re playing nice only to try getting in her pants?
“Judy would never think that…” Don commented. “I’ve known her for a while now, and I can assure you she’s not that kind of girl.”
“So what kind of girl is she, then?”
The kind that doesn’t get sweet-talked by jackasses like you!
West was starting to get a little annoyed by that pointless conversation and the direction that it was heading.
“Why are you so interested in Judy, after all?”
The mechanic finally asked, although the answer was pretty obvious to him and everybody else.
“It was just a simple yes or no question!”
Ford exclaimed before the other man’s total lack of cooperation.
West, on the other hand, couldn’t look calmer.
“You’re the second person to tell me that in less than twenty four hours.”
“And that other person got an answer, at least?”
Don couldn’t help but immediately remember Penny’s mischievous smile after she saw him and Judy talking at the pantry.
And then, just like that, his thoughts were back at the pantry and at those doe brown eyes so close to his own…
He forced himself to stop thinking about it by having an overly aggressive bite at his sandwich.
“Why are you deflecting my question?”
Jesse suddenly asked, this time with irritation in his voice.
“I’m not deflecting anything.” West said, lacking conviction. “What do you want me to say?”
Ford then leaned against the chair he was sitting in and crossed his arms in front of his chest. At that, silence returned and made itself at home.
Don decided to pretend not to care about Jesse’s presence and kept savoring his meal.
When he was a bite away from finishing his sandwich however, he made the terrible mistake of making eye contact with Jesse, who apparently had been dissecting him with his eyes, one eyebrow raised and a dumbass smile on his face. His arms were still folded in front of his chest.
“I see.” Ford spoke at last.
He smirked and stared at Don pointedly.
“You like her.”
Don would’ve choked again hadn’t he been smart enough not to shove the last chunk of his sandwich down his throat before Jesse said anything.
He didn’t even have time for a proper reaction as Ford carried on:
“And don’t bother saying anything because that wasn’t a question.” He stood up.
“I could, however, ask if she knows...” Jesse then stared at West again. “But then I guess that’d just be the third yes or no question you wouldn’t answer in less than twenty four hours…”
Jesse was in no hurry to leave. He kept staring at Don’s eyes, which at the moment, reflected a mixture of anger, embarrassment and surprise in similar proportions.
“Guess I’ll have to find out about the boyfriend on my own, then.’’
He placed one of his hands on the mechanic’s shoulder.
“Careful not to choke...Again.”
And finally left.
Don West, on the other hand, remained sitting. Speechless. Still angry, embararrassed and surprised. He then looked at the last piece of sandwich still in his hands. He had just lost his appetite.
The photograph had been taken a couple of years ago... But she remembered that day perfectly.
Laura had insisted that she accompanied her to that party, using as main argument the fact that Adrien Farrell would also be there.
She had a major crush on him since the fourth grade, when he had offered her his last red jelly bean. If it had been the green or the yellow it wouldn’t have mattered so much, but the red! He had to be pretty smitten…
After that, they’d had a few classes together and had even been lab partners in Chemistry once or twice…
In the picture, Adrien was about two or three inches shorter than her. His glasses barely covered the many freckles on his face. He had a shy smile unlike hers, which was broad and bright.
Penny hugged the image close to her chest. With her eyes closed, she imagined what Adrien looked like now. She thought if he’d gotten taller and if he still tried to hide his freckles with his big glasses, which she had always thought was adorable…
When she finally opened her eyes, she got startled at the sight of Judy, watching her by the door. She smiled.
“How long have you been standing there?”
The eldest then entered the room.
“You looked so caught up in your thoughts that I didn’t have the courage to bring you back…” She smiled at her sister. “Where were you?”
Penny glanced at the photo in her hands one last time before putting it back in the box she had found it.
The redhead then looked back at her sister and tapped on the mattress a few times, inviting the other one to join her.
Judy accepted the invitation and took a seat.
They stared at each other for a while before Penny broke the silence.
“But I’m pretty sure you didn’t come here to know about my trip down memory lane…”
“So, what brings you to my humble bunk?” Penny joked.
The doctor, however, hesitated at first. Then regretted going there and even considered getting up and leaving, without saying anything.
“Is it something serious?”
The lack of reply from her sister worried the redhead a little.
“No.” But Judy quickly calmed Penny down. “It’s nothing serious, don’t worry.” She then smiled, trying to hide her embarrassment.
“It’s just...” Judy paused and sighed before finally concluding.
“Have you ever liked someone?”
Penny’s eyes widened.
“Oh, my God! It is serious!”
“Penny!” Judy reprimanded. “You’re making this harder than it already is!” She continued, clearly still a little embarrassed.
“I know that it should be the other way around. As your older sister, you should be coming to me with those questions and…”
“Oh, please!” But the redhead cut her off. “Are you really using the older sister speech on me right now? I don’t care about how older you are or how younger I am, since I’m pretty sure it’s the same thing…” Penny stopped for a moment to do the math. “What I mean is that we’re sisters! And that’s all that matters!”
She then smiled genuinely at Judy.
“Let’s not get into that “older sister, younger sister” bullshit, okay? You know how much I hate these stereotypes…”
“And I hope I don’t need to tell you that you can talk to me about anything, right? I mean anything.”
She then realized she wasn’t embarrassed anymore. Somehow Penny always knew what to say to make her feel better.
She held her sister’s hand, fully aware of how lucky she was for having Penny as part of her family.
“But you didn’t answer my question.” Judy said. “Have you ever liked someone? I mean, really liked someone?”
The redhead thought on that for a moment. She looked up and then at the walls, as if she was searching for the answer somewhere in the room.
“I think “like” can be a very subjective term…I mean, I had one or two crushes back at school…” She thought about Adrien again. “Then, there was Vijay… But, I don’t know! Really liking someone sounds like such a big deal that it’d be a little disappointing if I said yes…”
“So, you never really liked Vijay?” Judy sounded surprised.
“I did.” Penny clarified. “Or at least I think I did...”
“But no butterflies or anything?”
“Nope.” The redhead didn’t hesitate. “Nor the lack of appetite or the silly smile that won’t go away…”
“Huh.” Now Judy sounded disappointed. “I thought those were the most common symptoms…”
“I know, right?” Penny agreed. “Maybe it doesn’t work with everybody or maybe I‘ve never really liked anyone…” She reflected for a few seconds. “Or maybe liking someone isn’t all that meaningful and life-changing as everybody claims it is…”
Judy laughed at her sister’s theory, but couldn’t help think that perhaps she had a point.
“But why the question, after all?” Penny asked curiously. “And don’t you dare say you were just curious about your little sister, because I’m not buying it.”
The doctor laughed again and slightly blushed in a way that nobody would’ve noticed. Nobody expect Penny Robinson.
“It’s Jesse, isn’t it?”
At that comment, Judy’s eyes widened.
“I didn’t even say anything!”
“You didn’t have to.” The redhead quipped, satisfied. “But don’t worry, it’s not that obvious. I mean, it isn’t exactly rocket science, given your current options... It could only be Jesse, right? After all, what other guy, not related to you and old enough to be legal, is there on this ship, right?”
Penny tried, secretly rooting for Don’s name to appear in the conversation.
Judy, however, looked like she hadn’t really gotten her sister’s innuendo so she just looked confused and a bit annoyed, as if she had been left out on an internal joke.
“Never mind.” Penny deflected and carried on. “So, Jesse Ford, huh? Has the sexy space stranger finally managed to soften the heart of the ever tough Judy Robinson?”
The doctor smiled.
“Ok, that’s a bit much.”
“But do you like him or not?”
Penny asked in a serious tone.
“I don’t know…” Judy analyzed her own feelings. “I mean, he’s funny and sassy... But sometimes… I don’t know, sometimes it feels like he uses his jokes to hide something.”
Penny then thought about herself and the number of times she had also deflected her emotions with humor.
“Well, that doesn’t make him a bad person, does it?”
“Not at all.” Judy replied. “He’s not a bad person... He’s just a person that I barely now… I can’t believe I almost let him kiss me!”
As soon as Judy said the last words, she realized that she had said them out loud,
“WHAT?” Penny couldn’t control herself. “You guys kissed?”
“Almost!” Judy corrected.
“And you were planning to tell me that when, exactly?”
“Never.” The doctor answered quickly. “Nobody was supposed to know that, mainly because I have no idea what it meant to me!”
“Oh, please!” Penny exclaimed. “Of course you know what it meant to you! Not wanting to admit what it was is one thing, pretending not to know is another completely different.”
“What?” The redhead continued. “Are you really gonna tell me that you don’t know what you felt when his lips almost touched yours? When his hands touched your skin?”
Penny, however, didn’t wait for a reply for neither of her questions and carried on.
“Forget about this really liking thing for a second. If when you close your eyes, the first thing that goes through your head is that you should’ve let him kiss you, then you know very well what that meant to you.”
Judy looked at her sister horrified. How could Penny tell her all those things? And worse, in such a forthcoming manner?”
“Look, I know that as your younger sister, I shouldn’t be the one giving you advice. But you know what? Next time, if you have another chance, don’t waste it. After all, it’s just a kiss, right? And you don’t have to be madly in love with the guy to kiss him…”
Judy wasn’t so sure if she agreed with her sister, but she couldn’t help but smile at the whole situation.
“Worst case scenario, we’ll have a lot to talk about in another sister-to-sister conversation.” The redhead joked. “And besides, a kiss would be great material for the sequence of my memoirs in space…”
“Don’t you dare!” Judy objected. “There’s no way I’m letting you expose my love life in a book.”
“Your “love life”?” Penny mocked. “Wow! For someone who didn’t even know if she had feelings for the guy, the term “love life” sure sounds a bit too much, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Shut up, Penny!”
Their voices and laughs kept going, echoing through the halls of the Jupiter which, if they could talk, would say they hadn’t had that much fun in a while…
Maureen backed away from her white board and took a good look at it.
It had been hours since she had locked herself in her bunk and had started to come up with theories that could, at least, begin to explain what had happened to Grant.
She had been so caught up in her own thoughts and notes that the knocks on the door startled her more than they should have.
“Mom, can I come in?”
Will’s voice sounded agitated and when Maureen finally opened the door, it took her only a second to realize that something had happened.
“Are you okay?” She asked concerned.
But the boy didn’t answer. Apparently he hadn’t even heard her, given how anxious he looked.
“Mom.” He started. “I need to tell you something, but you have to promise that you won’t be mad at me. I wasn’t eavesdropping, I swear… I mean, I kinda was, but I didn’t mean to and…”
“Will.” Maureen interrupted. “Slow down.” She then smiled, trying to calm her son down. “First, you tell me what you need to tell me and then I decide if I’ll be mad or not, okay?”
He took a deep breath.
“I think I know what happened to Grant…” Will spoke in an almost whisper, as if he was scared of his own words. “The reason why he’s here and hasn’t aged like everybody else…”
Maureen looked at her board again. Then, at her son. How was it possible that an eleven-year-old boy would have more answers than a renowned scientist like her?
“So, what do you think happened?”
“I think… I think he traveled through time.”
She suppressed a laugh.
“Will! Time travel only exists in theory and you know that…”
Maureen then resumed taking notes on her white board. “Believe me, if that was possible, I would’ve thought about it myself…”
“What if he had a time machine, would it be possible then?”
The scientist looked back at her son.
The worried look on his face made her finally understand what was beyond his words.
“What are you not telling me, Will?”
The boy hesitated again.
“I heard him say it, mom. I really did!”
“Heard what, sweetheart?”
And then, all of a sudden, Maureen felt a shiver down her spine, as if she knew something very serious was about to happen…
Chapter 19: The Truth
Grant could feel the burning sensation on his face now, but what really hurt had been Maureen’s look.
She had never hit him before. Not even during the worst fights they had had when they were married…
He wished, despite the whole situation, to be still married to her.
He wished they could go back to argue about stupid things, like him forgetting to take the garbage out, or more important things, like the name of their daughter…
He wished what he had wished ever since he got lost in space. He wished what he always had, actually. Her.
She, however, would wish something else entirely.
25 minutes earlier
Maureen Robinson left her bunk in a hurry, as if she was late for an important meeting.
Will followed right behind her, trying to keep up with his mother’s pace and already regretting telling her what he had found out about Grant.
She walked past Penny’s bunk so swiftly that both the redhead and Judy got alarmed.
“Mom.” The doctor called out. “Something happened?”
But the scientist didn’t reply and continued to move toward the same direction she had been ever since she had left her room.
“Will!” Penny then spotted her brother. “What the hell happened?”
The boy, on the other hand, stopped to answer.
“Nothing for now. But it will.”
The two sisters looked at each other worriedly and then decided, just like their little brother, to follow their mom.
As Maureen crossed the passage that separated Fortuna and the Jupiter, she started to walk a bit faster.
Her goal was to reach Grant’s office as quickly as possible and finally confront him about that time machine story. She was so anxious that she couldn’t even register what was happening around her.
Then, she finally saw him. He was in the common area. Good, she thought. Closer.
“Just tell me that it isn’t true!”
Her voice, which normally was like music to his ears, sounded nervous and accusatory.
Kelly looked at her direction and got a little startled by that Maureen standing in front of him.
“What are you talking about? I don…”
“Just tell me it isn’t true!”
Grant then spotted Judy and her siblings entering the room, looking just as confused as he did.
Maureen was finally getting hold of her emotions again as she paced back and forth, trying to control her breathing.
Her tone resumed to its usual calmness but the look on her face was still cold. She stared at Grant.
“I’m going to ask you something and if you are not capable of telling me the truth, at least have the decency not to lie to my face.”
Judy felt a knot in her stomach. But since she didn’t say or do anything, no one noticed.
“Is it true that you’ve built a time machine and have been keeping that a secret from all of us?”
The question, made in such a straightforward manner, would’ve taken Kelly completely off guard hadn’t he known Maureen’s eyes and all the feelings revealed in them.
He had always known when she was mad even before she did or said anything. He just needed to look at her…
He smiled, defeated. Like someone who had just lost at a poker game.
“Who told you that?”
Maureen’s expression translated pure disappointment.
“And what difference does that make?” She asked. “I made you a very simple question. You either say yes or do what I asked you to do the moment I got here: tell me that it isn’t true!”
She demanded again and banged her fist on the table.
The loud sudden noise drew Jesse’s attention, who sprinted toward the common area to see what was going on.
Smith, who had heard it too, walked in hesitantly and stood in the back, just waiting to see how everything would play out.
“Is everything all right?” Ford asked worriedly.
“It’s okay, Jess.” Kelly guaranteed. “Just stay out of it, all right?”
Ford nodded in acknowledgement.
However, that didn’t stop him to place himself only a few feet away from Kelly, ready to step in if that became necessary.
“So?” Maureen spoke again. “Are you waiting for more audience to finally answer me?”
And just as if she had predicted, another curious face showed up.
It was Don. He came in a hurry, but as soon as he took a look at the situation, he decided to stay with the kids in the back.
“What’s happening here?” He asked in an almost whisper.
“I have no idea.” Penny replied. “But it looks serious...”
West then glanced at Judy. Her face reflected an agony that he hated witnessing.
“Maureen?” John’s voice echoed through the room. “I heard a noise. Is everything okay around here?”
The military then stared at Grant suspiciously. Kelly, on the other hand, repaid the stare with a smile.
“The last Robinson!” Grant exclaimed. “Now I think you’re all here, aren’t you?”
He said with undeniable irony.
Suddenly, he felt anger toward that family and what they represented to him and his plans.
“Do you always do everything together? Like those annoyingly perfect families from a commercial?” He then carried on. “Guess I could ask you to have this conversation in private, but I’m starting to think that is you who wants an audience, Maureen…”
The scientist rolled her eyes. Kelly’s sudden outburst sounded exaggerated and made no sense to her.
“We all have the right to know!” She yelled. “If you have a time machine, then…”
“Then what?” Grant cut her off furiously. “Why, all of a sudden, what I have or don’t have is so interesting? If I recall correctly, I’ve been here for two, better yet, twenty years and nobody seemed to care if I was even alive!”
“That’s not fair!” Maureen interrupted. “You have no idea what I went through…”
“Don’t I?” Grant was outraged. “I don’t have to know. I see it!” And then pointed to John. “I’m sorry if I find it a little hard to believe that you went through a lot.”
At that, John gave a step toward Kelly, but Maureen, noticing her husband’s intention, prevented him from getting closer to the other man.
“I don’t need you to believe it.” It was her who approached Grant instead. “We both went through things the other one will never understand…”
Kelly laughed sarcastically.
“So why do I look like the only one who has actually lost something?” He asked rhetorically. “I haven’t just lost twenty years… I’ve lost my entire life! Things that I could have done, things that I could have been…” At that, he looked at Judy. “People I could’ve known…” Then, he looked at Maureen again. “People that I knew… And loved…”
“Grant, I’m so s…”
“YES!” But the captain of Fortuna wasn’t interested in anyone’s pity. Especially not hers. He just needed to get that out of his chest for once and for all:
“Yes, it is true.” He finally answered her question. “I have built a time machine! I’ve spent the last two decades of my empty and almost unbearable life building the only thing that could give me back what I’ve lost!”
“I knew I had heard it right…” Will mumbled in the back.
“What?” Penny turned to face her brother. “You knew?”
“I had just found out, actually. That’s what I’ve told mom and made her snap like that.”
“Maureen…” John called. “What’s he talking about?”
But the scientist didn’t even register her husband’s words. In fact, the only thing she had managed to hear in the last minute had been “I have built a time machine!”
“But how?” Maureen directed her attention back to Grant. “That’s impossible! You’ve been here for twenty years.” She started pacing back and forth nervously. “If we don’t have the technology to create time travel now, how the hell did you do it? Especially here, alone, in the middle of space?”
Kelly smiled sadly.
“You’d be surprised by the determination of a man willing to do anything to get back what had been taken from him…”
“Oh, please!” Maureen was blunt. “That goes far beyond anyone’s determination and you know that very well.” She lost her patience.
“Look, I know you need to find someone to blame for this situation and I think everybody would do the same thing if they were in your shoes. And like you’ve said, I can’t even begin to imagine what you’ve been through this whole time… But the only thing I do know is that you lied to me. To all of us!” She then stopped pacing and stared at her ex-husband. “I’m sorry but now I’m the one who doesn’t believe you.”
“Are you calling me a liar?”
“Tell me how you got the technology to build the time machine, that is if it really exists, and then maybe I’ll start believing in you again…”
“Do you really think that…”
“It was me.”
Suddenly and unexpectedly, Jesse’s voice broke the argument. Everyone in the room took a few seconds to recognize it given how shocked all of them were. Nobody said anything for a minute or two until Judy decided to express her perplexity verbally.
He glanced at her quickly. Only someone who had been paying attention would’ve seen embarrassment reflected in his eyes.
“I’m the technology.” Jesse stated, now facing Maureen.
“Jess…” Kelly tried to prevent the other man from carrying on, but Ford didn’t let him.
“Not only did I help Kelly build the machine, I also showed him how to do it.”
Maureen laughed skeptically.
“You?” She asked disbelievingly. “And who the hell are you to know how to build a time machine?”
Jesse hesitated for a few moments. He considered looking at Judy one more time and hoped she would accept the apology his eyes were so desperately trying to convey.
He didn’t though.
“My name is Jesse Robert Ford and I’m a space engineer.”
Maureen laughed again.
“So am I.” She replied impatiently. “But that doesn’t make me an expert in time travel...”
Now it was Ford’s turn to laugh.
“Yeah, but I might be a little ahead of you when it comes to technology, I mean, no offense.” He joked.
“I´m a space engineer...” He then made a dramatic pause. “In 2678.”
Jesse would’ve found everyone’s shocked faces pretty amusing if only he wasn’t dying of shame for lying to Judy about who he really was. He didn’t have the guts to face her afterwards.
The doctor, however, couldn’t help but confront him.
“What are you saying?” She approached Jesse with an expression that mixed confusion, and unfortunately, disappointment.
“You told me you had lost your memory…”
“Did you know about this, Grant?” Maureen then intervened.
“I’m so sorry.” That was the only thing Jesse managed to articulate to Judy without being able to look her in the eyes.
Ford then turned to face Maureen.
“It’s not his fault.” He defended his captain. “We didn’t plan for it to be a secret intentionally…” He started to try to explain.
“So all that crap about you not remembering anything and wanting to be a pirate was also a lie that you told me unintentionally?”
Judy cut him off, looking furious this time.
Jesse opened his mouth to reply, but once again Maureen was faster.
“I’m not interested in the lies you both have told, had they been intentional or unintentional…” She stared at Grant for a moment, and then redirected her attention back to Ford. “If what you’ve just told me is really true, not only have you built a time machine, you have also…”
“Traveled through time using one?” He tried. “Yes. And more than once if you must know…”
At that, the scientist couldn’t help herself and for a moment, her anger gave way to her curiosity.
“But how? I mean, when in the future does time travel become possible? How the theory becomes practical? How?”
Jesse laughed a little before Maureen’s incessant questions.
“Well, I can tell you that you guys from now are not so far from discovering all that…”
“Where is the machine?”
Maureen then resumed her cold tone from before, but this time the question carried some anxious curiosity to it.
“I’m sorry to break it to you, but the machine doesn’t w…”
“We’re not showing it to you.”
Kelly cut Ford off abruptly. The younger man didn’t seem to understand the interruption but didn’t continue nonetheless.
“Why do you want to see the machine?” Grant asked.
“First, so I can believe you and second because I think I have the right to…”
But Kelly’s ironic laugh prevented Maureen from finishing her sentence.
“You have no right! None of you do!” He then stared at the Robinsons with disdain. “This is my ship and only I get to choose who I show MY machine to.”
Although nobody had noticed or even said anything, Jesse Ford didn’t like one bit the possessive adjective used by the other man.
“Plus, my dear Maureen, I don’t think I care if you believe me anymore…”
“I never lied to you, Grant.”
She spoke, genuinely hurt.
“Yeah. You’ve just decided to live a life without me...”
“Stop using that against her!” John finally intervened. “If you really loved her as much as you make it look, then you should be happy that she has moved on. That she has a family and has found someone who loves her and makes her happy.”
“And that someone would be you, I’m assuming.” Grant said sarcastically. “I don’t think Maureen ever told you this, but she used to hate militaries. Or least, that’s what she used to say… How stupid and alienated they all were…”
“John!” Maureen managed to hold her husband’s arm right before he was about to punch Grant in the face.
“And violent, too.” He laughed. “But don’t worry. Apparently a lot has changed in the past two decades... So maybe that’s been one of them.
Kelly then approached the Robinson, invading his personal space intentionally.
“Calm down, John. Something tells me that you two will live happily ever after.”
“What do you want after all?” Maureen was fed up with Grant’s sarcasm. “An apology? Someone to hash things out? Someone to hit? What?”
“I don’t want anything from you!” Kelly replied rudely. “Nobody here can give me what I want!” And then backed away. “And that’s why I’m gonna get it the way I have for the last twenty years! Completely on my own!”
Jesse remained in silence, but couldn’t help the resentment he felt after hearing the captain’s last words.
“Where’s the machine?”
Maureen asked for the last time.
“Screw you!” Grant finally snapped. “You’ll never see the machine, you hear me? Ever!” He then laughed maniacally. “You’ll stay here, waiting for help that will never come. You’ll be lost in space, feeling powerless and hating every second that will always feel agonizingly longer than the one before… You’ll lose your sanity until you start doubting your own memories. Then, you’ll lose the will to keep on living and will consider taking your own life every minute you spend alive… You’ll lose every ounce of hope you still got left until you can finally understand how empty someone can really feel… So terribly empty and dark as the universe itself. And then, when everything you are is completely destroyed, you’ll wish the only thing that can really save you… You’ll wish to go back in time and undo all of it!”
Grant’s speech had left everyone appalled. That definitely wasn’t the captain Grant Kelly they all had met.
He took in a deep breath. He now regretted his words and lack of control, but he also felt a great relief which he hadn’t for a long time.
He then spoke again. This time, however, he sounded like his usual self.
“I’m going to walk into that machine without hesitation, go back in time and finally wake up from this goddamn nightmare.”
Maureen, in spite of being as horrified as everyone else in the room, chose to believe that his resolution was only a product of the frustration and anger he was understandably feeling.
She then took his hands and tried:
“We can help you, Grant. I can help you.” She emphasized. “But you can’t just travel through time like this! It’s too risky and…”
“Do you think I’m afraid of the risks? After all this?”
“It’s not only risky to you, but to everything else. The theories about time travel are too divergent. There’s the problem with causality, for example, that might…”
Grant laughed, interrupting her.
“So, it’s with the greater good that you’re worried about then, huh?” Grant laughed again. “Maureen, the selfless heroine, everyone!”
He laughed yet again.
“Or is it with your causality that you’re so worried about?”
“Too many lives can be affected…”
“I DON’T CARE!” Kelly yelled. “I don’t care about anybody. Just like anybody cared about me!”
He then walked toward his ex-wife, shortening the distance between them.
“I’m going to travel through time and have my life back, whatever the cost!” He gave one more step toward her. “Even if the cost is the lives of your pathetic kids and your stupid husband!”
Judy exclaimed in the exact moment that Maureen’s hand had landed hard on Kelly’s face.
The sudden noise from the slap echoed through the room for the next minute or so. It was the only sound made for a while.
Maureen’s words, the last from the discussion, broke the silence at last.
Her voice conveyed all the pain she was feeling and a single sad tear rolled down her face.
“You might be right about me getting stuck in space, powerless and hating everyone second... I might even feel as empty and dark as the universe, just like you said…” She then looked at Grant right in the eyes to make sure he would hear her next words. “But the only thing I’ll wish is that you really had died twenty years ago.”
Chapter 20: The Aftermath
Almost an hour had passed since she had locked herself in their room.
John was hesitant on the other side of the door. He didn’t know if he should let her be for a little longer or if he should come inside to keep her company…
It was hard to imagine what feelings the discussion with Grant had awoken in her.
After the fight, everyone had gone to a different room and made sure to stay there, so now the ship experienced an oppressive silence like it had never before. When it all happened, John had even considered following his wife, and although she hadn’t exactly verbalized it, he knew she needed some time alone.
However, now, the time she was taking started to seem a bit too long and he wondered if he had done the right thing. Maybe she needed him there with her…
He finally opened the door and walked in slowly.
Maureen was sitting on their bed, holding her knees. John couldn’t tell if her eyes were of someone’s who had cried too much or hadn’t shed a tear at all.
He didn’t ask. Instead, he sat on the bed next to her and waited in complete silence.
He didn’t know exactly what he was waiting for, but he just didn’t feel like there was anything he could or should do.
An audible sigh from Maureen made him look directly to his wife for the first time since he had entered their bunk.
He tried a smile hesitantly, which she, unexpectedly, replied.
“I don’t know who that man was…” The scientist started. “But he was definitely not the man I married twenty years ago…”
She then faltered, as if she was reconsidering her last words.
“Or maybe I’m the one who doesn’t know people…” Her tone changed. “And that was exactly the man I married...”
“Maureen…” John interrupted. “Don’t do this.”
She stared at him before asking.
“This what, John?”
“Think that you need to understand and figure out everything.”
She stood up.
“I don’t think I need to understand or figure out everything…” Maureen then walked until she was facing her husband. “I just need to understand and figure out the things that matter to me!”
“And does he matter to you?”
John asked and before Maureen could assume any other intention hidden in his question, he hurried in explaining himself.
“I’m not asking this as the jealous husband who feels threatened by his wife’s ex.” He clarified. “I’m asking as the husband who truly cares and genuinely wants to understand what you’re thinking and feeling.”
Maureen sat down on the bed again.
“Does he matter to you?”
John repeated his previous question.
Maureen, instead of looking at her husband, had her gaze at somewhere distant, as if she was trying to see something far beyond her reach.
“I don’t know...” She said, a little unsure. “He was my husband and he’s Judy’s father… But I really don’t know what he means to me…”
She then inhaled deeply, fighting against her own words.
“The truth is that I hated him right then… The things he said… I truly hated him.”
She finally turned to face John.
“How can I hate someone that matters to me?”
First, John answered Maureen’s question with a genuine smile. Then, he put his arms around her shoulders.
“You shouldn’t look for answers in hatred.” He started. “No one should, actually. It’s a powerful emotion but it fades quickly too...”
Maureen rested her head on his shoulder.
“He’s been here for twenty years. Completely alone.” John carried on. “I’m not trying to justify the things he’s said and done, but I don’t think you hate him.” The military disagreed. “And believe me, it’s not easy for me to say this. Especially during the last days, which I confess would’ve been a lot easier if you did.”
At that, the scientist let out a laugh.
“But that would be the jealous and selfish John that I’m trying not to be… At least, not now.”
Maureen stared at her husband’s eyes. She had seen it many times before, but still, the kindness she found in them struck her then like never before.
“I don’t know him, but you do.” He stated. “Never doubt that.”
John then smiled shyly at her like he did sometimes.
“You’re two different people from who you were then, but if you ever loved that guy, it’s impossible that you hate him now. That much I’m sure.”
Maureen remained quiet for a moment, as if she was reflecting on her husband’s last words. Or maybe she was just a little surprised by hearing him say them.
“Do you think I was too hard on him?”
“He was hard on you, too.” John replied. “But, like I’ve said, hate fades quickly…”
They smiled at each other. First, with their eyes, and then with their lips.
“Love, on the other hand, lasts longer…”
John spoke and kissed her wife. The kind of kiss they hadn’t shared, he realized it, for way too long.
“I love you, John.” She said with undeniable certainty.
“I think I was wrong about militaries, after all…”
John raised an eyebrow.
“They’re definitely not stupid.”
The scientist joked and kissed her husband again.
“I love you too, Maureen.”
Penny walked slowly through the quiet and empty halls of the Jupiter.
Everybody was probably in bed by then… But for her, that was the last place she wanted to be.
She kept going back to the fight from earlier and on how everything had been so unexpected. She didn’t know Grant Kelly, but if anyone asked her, she would definitely not say he was a man capable of saying the things he had.
Even if the cost is the lives of your pathetic kids and your stupid husband!
She felt a shiver down her spine as she remembered his words.
Then, she thought about Judy and how her sister must have felt.
In fact, that was the whole intent of her walk. To find Judy.
She had disappeared right after the fight, leaving the common area so quickly that Penny hadn’t been able to see where she had gone, much less if her expression had been of someone’s who wanted company or just be left alone. Knowing her sister like she did, the second option was, undoubtedly, the most probable one. Penny glanced at her watch. Even though she knew Judy would like some time alone, she had had plenty of that already.
Up until that moment, the redhead had already checked her sister’s bunk (too obvious), their parents’ room (locked), the common area (too accessible) and the control room (empty and boring as usual).
Now she was headed to the cargo bay. That was a good place to serve as a hideout for someone wanting to avoid any kind of company…
The redhead climbed down the stairs quietly, making sure to get there unannounced. It was pretty dark but it didn’t bother her.
She already had a script in mind prepared to deal with any Judy she could find down there. The tough one, the angry one and even the crying one.
She had barely touched her feet on the ground when the sound of her boots gave her away.
“What are you doing here?”
The voice startled her and it took Penny a second to finally recognize who that was.
“Guess I could ask you the same thing.”
The Robinson replied as she approached the person sitting in one of the corners of the room.
“I thought you were on the other side…” She commented.
Jesse’s face finally started to appear, as she got used to the dark.
“Other side of what? The ship or the fight?”
Penny hesitated at first, but then answered.
“Both, I guess.”
At that, they stayed silent for a moment. The redhead, thinking if she should to talk to him or not and Jesse, if he should stay or get up and leave. However, none of them did anything.
“I don’t like seeing things that superficially, you know. With sides and stuff.” Jesse finally spoke.
“You must hate polygons, then…”
The redhead quipped, making the other one laugh.
“I like your sense of humor.”
He said and Penny finally decided to sit down. She leaned against the wall next to him and took a deep breath. Then she waited for the will to say something.
However, it was Ford who spoke first.
“For what?” The redhead asked. “I mean, I can imagine for what... I just don’t think you’re talking to the right person here. I’m not the one you’ve lied to.” She was blunt. “To be honest, I barely know you... I think the only time we talked was when you kidnapped my sister.”
“Sorry about that, too.”
“Dude, again! It’s not me you should be apologizing to…”
Ford let out a sigh.
“Do you think she hates me?”
The redhead didn’t answer right away.
“Maybe…” She started. “But in her defense, you’ve lied about pretty much everything.”
“My name is really Jesse Ford.” He was quick to defend himself.
“Okay.” Penny didn’t doubt him. “So, Jesse Ford, why don’t you tell the truth?”
He laughed sarcastically.
“And do you really think Judy will be interested in the truth now?”
Penny thought about his question for a moment.
“Probably not... But I never said to tell her the truth…” She pointed out. “I just think you’d feel better if you told the truth. To anyboby.” She advised. “ Telling the truth kind of makes us get to know ourselves better, I think. And when we do that, people get to know us better as well…”
Ford didn’t say anything right away. In the dark, he smiled a smile that only he could register.
“So, what do you say? Would you like to get to know me?”
He reached out a hand to Penny, offering her a handshake.
“Guess I’ve got nothing better to do anyway…” The redhead joked, finally accepting his offer.
“Penny Robinson.” She went first. “Aspiring author, middle child and Oreo unconditional lover.”
Jesse Ford laughed.
“Jesse Ford. Space engineer, time traveler and amateur piano player.
Her gaze had been altering between the bottle of whiskey in her left hand and the coffee mug in her right one for a while now.
A good amount of minutes had already gone by since Judy had entered the pantry and her current dilemma. Sitting on the floor opposite from the door, she kept repeating the same question mentally over and over again.
Should she take a sip or not?
After that horrible fight, she had taken a good while to process everything she had heard from both of her parents.
She had always seen her father as a hero. Someone whose memory had been practically sanctified. Her mother, on the other hand, had always been the voice of reason. The embodiment of common sense.
And that was exactly why it had been so shocking to learn about their other side. Their dark side. Her father, a selfish man willing to do anything to get what he wanted. Her mother, a resentful woman, unwilling to hear any other truth but her own.
Judy filled half of the mug. Then, she smelled the whiskey. She had found that bottle hidden among water gallons in a box on the top shelf. That was definitely Don West’s doing…
Her thoughts went to the mechanic momentarily. To his apparently carefree way of seeing things that she secretly had always envied…
Then she felt angry at herself. And hated how perfect she had been at everything. As a daughter, as a sister, at Med School… Even in the freaking outer space she had been exemplary! Always willing to help and be useful… The perfect Judy Robinson.
With that in mind, she finally took a sip on her whiskey.
How can someone drink this? She thought about West again.
The pantry was extremely small and suddenly she felt suffocated. She didn’t want to be alone anymore. Hiding, suffering in silence just like everybody expected her to do. She decided right then that she was done with being perfect. Tired of being exactly what everyone expected and wanted her to be.
It was a time for a little rebellion. To be imperfect and do what SHE wanted for a change.
The only thing I’ll wish is that you really had died twenty years ago.
Her mother’s voice came on her mind, as if she was hearing it again in that moment.
Judy finished the whiskey left in the mug and jumped up.
She wanted to forget about the past. Forget about her problems.
When she finally left the pantry, she was determined not to think about anything else.
Jesse was lying in his bed facing the ceiling as he thought about the unexpected conversation he’d had with Penny a few minutes ago.
He had told her everything. Well, almost everything…
He had told her about how he had ended up on that planet. The accident he had gone through in 2678 when he was trying to incorporate the same technology used in time machines in spacecrafts. It had been a revolutionary idea, really. And he had been the one to pitch it to his superiors.
He remembered how everything had happened so fast that when he finally came to, he was about to collide with that dead rock.
He had no idea what had gone wrong or how he could possibly have crashed there. He had also told Penny that it had been practically a miracle that he had survived and that it had been Grant who had saved his life… He had recalled the terrifying moments when he really thought he was going to die…
Then, he had told the redhead about the state he had found Kelly in. A man on the edge of sanity, who used to say things that apparently made no sense. With time, however, Jesse started to get to know Grant a little more and soon realized that there was more sanity in that man’s mind than it had seemed at first.
He had told her about how Grant would always talk about his wife and newborn daughter whom he hadn’t had the chance to meet. About how he’d like to go back in time if he had the chance.
Jesse took a deep breath as he remembered Grant’s request one day, when they were talking about the past.
“So, can you build it here?” Kelly had asked in a straightforward fashion.
Ford remembered laughing at the occasion, but the other man had never looked more serious.
“Building it is not the problem… Making it work, on the other hand…” He had answered. “I’d need a technology that simply doesn’t exist here… in this place, at this time…”
At the time, Jesse believed they were stuck in 2029 as Kelly had guaranteed, based on the fact that the older man also believed he had been gone for only a year or so…
The captain of Fortuna had promised he’d find the technology Jesse needed to make the machine work whatever the cost.
Then, the Robinsons had arrived and Ford had realized that maybe they really had a chance at that…
That part he obviously hadn’t shared with Penny. After all, he needed to run some tests first to better understand that “technology”, which wasn’t as advanced as the one he was used to in the future, but apparently looked like it could do the trick…
Ford was still staring at the ceiling as he tried to wrap his mind around the shit show his life had recently become.
He and Grant were actually in 2049 and what had felt like two years had been in fact twenty. Twenty years lost in space, although Kelly hadn’t lived that time in his mind or body…
He thought about how he had always been attracted to the concept of time and how that had been the reason he had gotten interested in time manipulation through time travel.
Time… So apparently predictable and yet so dangerously incomprehensible.
Another deep breath and Jesse’s thoughts started to travel in another direction.
They went back to a few hours ago, to that horrible discussion and then finally to Judy’s face, which he hadn’t had the courage to look at. Then, he wondered if she would ever forgive him… If they would ever talk again.
During those two years he had been stuck in the past and lost in space, Ford had always had the intention to go back home one day.
The time machine he had built with Grant had been his sole purpose for all that time. And now that they were closer than never, something was a bit off.
Going home, suddenly, didn’t feel so urgent anymore. Didn’t feel so… desirable.
Ford was taken aback by that sudden realization.
In 2678, he did have his dream job, but if he was being honest, that was pretty much the only thing he had worth going back for. He didn’t have a family, just a few friends… No, on second thought, he didn’t have any.
He then thought about the relationship he had built with Grant in the past couple of years and how it didn’t have anything in common with the other relationships he had back home. And although they didn’t always see eye to eye, Jesse considered Kelly a friend. A good friend.
Then, he thought about the Robinsons and on how he had never thought he’d miss having a family…
Finally, he remembered the day he and Judy went to the planet to get food. That felt like centuries ago…
He refused to admit, even only to himself alone in that room, that he was falling for her.
However, her red lips couldn’t get out of his head… Nor the desire to kiss them. Stronger now than on that day in the hall…
A few knocks on the door startled him, dragging Ford back to reality.
He got up swiftly and a bit suspiciously as well.
Who would be knocking on his door at that hour?
She hesitated only for a few seconds before closing her fist and knocking at the door.
She’d be lying if she said she didn’t consider leaving right after doing so. However, the door opened before she could make a decision.
She smiled, a little embarrassingly while she stared at his shocked expression.
“What are you doing here?”
Jesse looked disappointed.
“Were you expecting someone else?” Smith asked sarcastically.
Ford, however, didn’t answer. He just kept staring at her right where he stood, trying to guess what she could possibly be doing at his door, especially at that hour.
“Aren’t you gonna invite me in?”
Her tone carried the same irony as her smile.
Jesse looked at her suspiciously. Then, he walked inside his bunk again, leaving the door open so she’d understand the invitation that he simply wouldn’t verbalize.
Don’s eyes widened before her figure framed by the door of his bunk.
Of all the people on the ship with a reason to knock on his door that late at night, not even for a second, did he consider that person could be her.
John, maybe. Even Maureen… Someone in need of his mechanic’s skills or something. He probably wouldn’t have gotten so surprised to find Will or Penny standing outside his door. But her? She really had the power to bewilder him.
She looked like she had been crying, or at least that was what he thought.
“Aren’t you gonna invite me in?” Judy spoke at last and flipped her hair that he didn’t remember ever seeing hanging loose. He decided she should wear it like that more often.
“What are you doing here?” He repeated.
“You’ve already asked me that.”
Then, she walked in without a proper invitation.
She was wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt two sizes too big, which made her look incredibly sexy, although Don had a feeling that was her pajamas…
He pushed those thoughts aside as he watched her walk through his bunk, analyzing the place. He wished he had cleaned it.
Judy finally looked back at him.
“I’m sorry if I woke you…” She apologized. “Judging by the look on your face, you’re not exactly happy with my visit…”
“You didn’t wake me.” He finally managed to articulate a full sentence. “But you haven’t answered my question yet though. What are you doing here?”
“And do I need a reason to pay you a visit?”
She approached him in a way that was unlike her. That definitely wasn’t the Judy he had come to know. Maybe it was the way she walked, the way she looked at him…
“Not necessarily.” He started. “But, since you’ve never showed up here ever since we got stranded in this place, I think I have the right to consider your visit… unexpected, to say the least, right?”
But she didn’t answer. She simply walked towards him a little more and smiled a smile he had never seen on her face before, although he wasn’t quite sure what was so different about that particular smile from the other ones he’d seen.
“Something happened?” He asked worriedly.
Judy just shrugged. She backed away from him and sat on the bed.
“I can go if you want…”
“No.” He said maybe a little too quickly. “I mean, I don’t want you to go, it’s just…” He sat on the bed next to her. “What’s going on, Judy?”
Again, no response. In fact, she looked like she hadn’t even heard him. Her beautiful brown eyes, which looked like were holding back tears, just gazed at him for a moment.
Of course he had an idea why she was sad. After hearing everything she had, especially from her parents, it was no wonder she was feeling down. However, she didn’t look like she wanted to talk about it and he wouldn’t be the one to insist. After all, what could someone like him do to make someone like her feel better?
He tried a smile at first, which she didn’t reply. Then, when he opened his mouth to say something that not even he was entirely sure of what would be, the most shocking thing happened.
Her lips suddenly touched his so abruptly that he couldn’t even register what she had just done. Almost in an automatic reaction he backed away from the kiss and looked at her in complete surprise.
“What are yo…”
But before he could finish, she kissed him again. Gently this time, without the impulsiveness of the first kiss.
This time, however, and he’d regret it later, he kissed her back. He let her mouth explore his slowly. He restrained himself with difficultly. Although she was trying not to show it, he could tell that she was nervous. Her lips trembled ever so slightly. He tasted whiskey in her mouth, but it was so imperceptible that he thought it was just his imagination.
In an attitude that cost him a lot more than it looked, he backed away from her and stood up.
What the hell are you doing? She’s practically your sister! But then soon disregarded the last part of his mental scolding.
After all, if he was being honest, kissing her wasn’t exactly something that had never crossed his mind.
Penny and Will, fine. He could even go and say he considered them his siblings in a very emotional situation, but Judy… Well, Judy had always been another story…
“What are you doing?” He finally managed to ask.
She, however, didn’t look at all bothered with the evident shocking state she had left him in.
“You really don’t know?” She asked ironically. “And here I was thinking that Don West was a ladies’ man...”
He got offended, but only for a second. Then, he finally realized her game.
“Look, I get it that you’re angry and think that…”
“You don’t understand!” Judy cut him off. “I’m not angry! I’m just...”
She stopped talking for a moment and looked down. She took a deep breath as if she was trying very hard not to feel what she was feeling.
Then, she looked back up at him. Her vulnerability giving way again to a fake boldness.
She approached him and placed one hand at each side of his face.
He could feel the heat emanating from her skin. It was completely unfair how good she smelled…
Don was fully aware she was going to kiss him again. And although part of his body, mostly from the waist down, really wanted that kiss, a small, but stronger part, stepped in first.
“I know what you’re doing…” He held both of her hands, preventing her from doing what she intended.
Judy rolled her eyes.
“I’ve been where you are.” He started. “Acting by impulse because you’re angry or because things didn’t go your way… I get it, all right?”
“If you get it, then why do you keep stopping me?”
The proximity of her lips to his own was starting to get more and more difficult to handle.
“Exactly because of that.” He answered and backed away again.
It was pathetic how hard it was to get away from her.
“Believe me, princess, you don’t wanna do this.”
But she ignored him and insisted. She walked towards him again, standing barely an inch away from his body.
He could feel her breathing on his face. The scent of her hair that was a mixture of vanilla and oranges, maybe… He swallowed hard.
If she kept trying, it was hard to tell how long he’d resist at that point.
It had been a long while since the last time he’d been with a woman…
But she’s a girl! Wake up, West!
He smiled nervously.
“What was your plan, exactly?” He asked, trying to maintain an indifferent tone. “Come here and seduce me?”
“Am I seducing you, then?”
He smiled again, more nervously this time.
“Why are you doing this?”
But she didn’t reply. Instead, she used their proximity to kiss him yet again.
This time, the kiss lasted a lot longer than the previous one and its intensity almost took his breath away. However, he was able to walk away from the kiss with such tremendous effort that even he got surprised by his attitude.
Judy looked disappointed though.
“Why do you keep pretending you don’t want this?”
He hesitated for a couple of seconds before answering. It was getting practically impossible to keep his body and mind under control.
“You’re a girl! This is... wrong!” He tried to convince himself more than her. “Your dad is at the end of the hall.”
Judy couldn’t help but laugh at his last comment.
“So you don’t want to be with me because of my dad?”
“And because of your mom. And your siblings, too. Look, the Robinsons trust me, okay? So I don’t think doing this would be right.”
Judy rolled her eyes in frustration. Then, she looked at him with a mixture of disappointment and sadness.
“I thought you’d understand...” She started. “I thought you could help me…”
“Help you?” He looked genuinely surprised. “Do you really think that sleeping with someone is gonna help you?”
But Judy didn’t say anything. It was pretty clear that she wasn’t in a talking mood.
“Look, I can only imagine how hard it must’ve been hearing all those things…” He continued, since she preferred the silence. “How hard it must’ve been dealing with this whole situation, actually. I know you must be feeling pretty bad and confused, but acting like this, by impulse…this isn’t you.”
She laughed sarcastically.
“And who am I then, Don?” She asked furiously. “How should the perfect Judy Robinson behave, in your opinion? Should I play strong and pretend that all of this is not wrecking me? Be the reasonable daughter and act like everybody expects me to? Or should I cry myself to sleep when nobody is watching like a good girl ought to do?”
The anger she felt as she pronounced every word was evident. He just couldn’t tell who she was so angry at. The world or herself.
“I don’t expect or think you should be or do anything…” He said honestly. “I just don’t want you to do something you might regret later.”
Her eyes were watering at that point and he had to restrain himself not to go to her and kiss her sorrow away.
“Okay.” She took a deep breath as she recovered the same daring attitude from earlier. “If you won’t help me, I’ll go find someone who will.”
“What are you talking about?”
But she didn’t respond. Instead, she started walking to the door, intentionally ignoring his question.
Even with the lack of an answer, he had understood very well what she had meant.
“Judy!” He called. “Don’t do this.”
But she just kept on moving toward the door.
When she was about to open it and leave, however, he held her by her elbow and pulled her backwards.
He used more force than he had intended so she ended up in his arms. Their faces only an inch away from each other.
“I won’t let you go after him.”
And before she could protest or say anything, this time it was him who kissed her. A kiss that he’d probably regret later, but one that he had simply given up on denying.
He felt that she didn’t offer any resistance, on the contrary, actually. She gave in completely to him. Not that he was surprised or anything. After all, that had been her sole intent ever since she had set foot on his bunk. However, he was kind of hoping that if he was the one making the first move, she’d change her mind.
But the kisses were getting more and more passionate by the second and now he was the one who seemed to have changed his.
They walked slowly to the edge of the bed. He had his arms tight around her waist and she was holding him by his neck. The kisses were intense and filled with passion now.
He took off his shirt in a swift move, leaving her lips for only an instant.
It was funny how with the passing of each second, the less he hated himself for doing that. Of course, a part of his brain was still trying to be rational and reasonable, but her tongue was quickly shutting that part up.
Then, he wondered if she had done that before. He tried to convince himself that she had, although he had a feeling that would probably be her first time.
You’re a dick, West!
The thought almost gave him enough strength to walk away, but then Judy took off her shorts, revealing sheer white panties.
They had to be white… He thought and reflected on her possible virginity again.
No girl should lose their virginity like that, by impulse. It should be something special, to someone they cared about and all that romantic/sexist bullshit, right?
So, why was it ridiculously hard to stop the kisses and send her away?
Instead of trying to answer that question, however, he lay her gently on the bed, over the already messy sheets. Then, he removed his shorts and lay as well, on top of her.
At that point, the chances of that ending up in a way both of them would most likely regret later were pretty high.
Maybe he should ask if she was sure that was what she really wanted…
However, he preferred to take into consideration what the kisses and her hands had been saying. And they really did seem pretty into it.
You’re a dick, West!
He ran his calloused fingers over the hidden soft skin underneath her T-shirt. He did it a little cautiously though, as if he was waiting for her permission to take that piece of clothing off. She smiled at him and removed the T-shirt herself.
Her breasts were bigger than he had imagined. And she, half naked like that, didn’t look like a girl anymore.
She was undoubtedly a woman. The most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
He then touched and kissed her breasts a little aggressively, given how much he wanted to have her already.
Now it was close. And he knew that pretty soon, there wouldn’t be enough blood flowing through his brain to make him think straight. He decided that was the moment. He’d stop that craziness for once and for all and ask her to leave him alone.
Just when he was about to make that ultimate sacrifice which would demand an almost superhuman strength, her lips freed from his momentarily and said:
“Do you think you can take off my panties or will I have to do that by myself, too?”
The challenge, intentionally seductive, had him frozen in place. He looked at her for a mere fraction of a second. Long enough to realize she had won.
That was, undoubtedly, the lowest blow he had ever received in his life. And for the record, he’d had his fair share of bar fights…
He smirked and allowed himself to enjoy each second his skillful hands took to remove that last barrier that separated him from her. Then, he tossed the piece of garment onto the floor with fierce determination.
He took off his underwear as well and waited for a reaction. For some reason, perhaps the persistent uncertainty of it all, he wanted her to be the one to make that final decision. God forbid he looked like he was forcing things on her, even though he had a hunch he’d be feeling exactly like that the next day.
However, he couldn’t go any further into future speculations for that moment, which seemed to last forever, had become all that mattered. The only thing that truly existed.
She finally opened her legs, intentionally slowly, giving him the permission he so longed for. He then placed himself between them delicately, although the desire to have her was practically killing him at that point.
He watched her for a few more seconds, trying to memorize every single detail.
The heat emanating from her was an undeniable invitation. Her hair, the perfect frame for that perfect face. Her parted lips and heavy breathing, which was making her start to pant…
He felt his heart race. He could hear it pounding in his chest, an awfully similar sensation to being in love.
You’re a dick, West!
He kissed her with all the passion he had and then didn’t think of anything else.
Hello you guys! So, we hope this chapter has made a lot of Don/Judy fans very happy! Let us know what you all felt about it. This chapter was written from Don's pov and the next one (Part II) will be Judy's. The idea here was to show both of their impressions on that night. A lot more is about to go down so stay tuned! Até a próxima!
Chapter 22: Two Versions of the Same Night: Part II
Okay! So after a lot longer than we had intended, here it is Judy's pov of their night together. Hope you guys like it and then let us know which one you have preferred.
She hesitated only for a few seconds before closing her fist and knocking at the door.
After leaving the pantry, she had gone to her room to change. She had decided to wear her pajamas to give her unexpected visit a touch of spontaneity. Now, however, she wasn’t sure if that had been the smartest choice, or even if she should be there, standing outside of his door that late at night.
She considered turning around and call the whole thing off. However, the door opened before she could make a decision.
She smiled, a little embarrassingly while she stared at his shocked expression.
“What are you doing here?”
Don’s face would have been amusing if she wasn’t ridiculously nervous.
Come on, Judy! You can do this!
“Aren’t you gonna invite me in?” She finally managed to ask.
She then flipped her hair, trying to look seductive. He had a sleepy face, or perhaps the face of someone who hadn’t been sleeping at all. She couldn’t tell which.
“What are you doing here?”
“You’ve already asked me that.”
Then, in a consciously bold attitude, she walked in without a proper invitation.
The grey shirt he was wearing revealed his biceps and the shorts showed off his calves which were surprisingly toned.
Suddenly, she felt even more nervous than before. She started walking around the bunk, pretending to be distracted with the place when she clearly wasn’t paying attention to anything.
After calming herself down a little, she looked at him again.
“I’m sorry if I woke you…” She apologized. Then, smiled. “Judging by the look on your face, you’re not exactly happy with my visit…” She joked.
“You didn’t wake me.” He stated bluntly.
“But you haven’t answered my question yet though. What are you doing here?”
“And do I need a reason to pay you a visit?”
She walked towards him, trying really hard to look like a supermodel on a runway. Then, she batted her eyes at him in a failed attempt to look sexy.
She really sucked at that…
“Not necessarily.” He started. “But, since you’ve never showed up here ever since we got stranded in this place, I think I have the right to consider your visit… unexpected, to say the least, right?”
But she didn’t answer. Instead, she decided she needed to get closer to him and smiled a smile that she hoped was both bold and seductive.
“Something happened?” He asked and she could sense concern in his voice.
She simply shrugged. She backed away and sat on the bed defeated.
Couldn’t he at least make things easier for me? She thought.
Back at the pantry, when she had decided to go see him, never in a million years had she imagined he’d play hard to get. Mainly because she had always considered Don West to be a very easily seducible kind of guy…
Now, however, she was seriously starting to regret going to his bunk in the first place.
“I can go, if you want…”
“No!” But his quick answer made her believe that maybe she had a chance after all.
Then, he carried on, indifferent this time.
““I mean, I don’t want you to go, it’s just…” He sat on the bed next to her.
“What’s going on, Judy?”
Again, she didn’t say anything.
Why did he keep making questions she didn’t want to answer? Wasn’t it obvious by then that she simply didn’t want to talk?
She was hurting, that was a fact. Witnessing her parents’ fight earlier had been one of the most painful experiences of her life. However, the last thing she needed was to be put in a vulnerable position and forced to confess what she had been feeling ever since.
She had always had great admiration for strong people who seemed to face their problems with their head held high and without shedding a single tear. Ever since she was a kid, she had wanted to be just like that. She didn’t know if it was natural of her personality or if it was something she had been taught. But the only thing she did know in that moment and before everything that had happened to her in the last weeks, was that being strong suddenly felt like a tremendously stupid effort.
Then, he smiled. An annoyingly condescending smile that she simply hated.
Who the hell did he think he was to assume that she needed to be comforted? Or worse, who the hell was he to feel sorry for her?
Judy Robinson did not want or need anyone’s pity!
Judy Robinson faced her problems with her head held high and without shedding a single tear!
All of a sudden, she felt anger growing inside of every fiber of her being and decided to take advantage of the courage that the feeling provided. She noticed that he was about to say something. And before he could do so, she kissed his lips on an almost aggressive impulse.
She felt his mouth on hers, but merely for a fraction of a second.
In an almost automatic reaction, he backed his face away from hers quickly and stared at her with eyes filled with astonishment.
“What are yo…”
But before he could finish, she kissed him again. Gently this time, without the impulsiveness of the first kiss.
Courage was starting to leave her now and she could hear her own heart pounding in her chest. When his tongue finally found hers, her heart began to beat even faster.
She didn’t really know what she was doing and for a moment, she wished she had more practice in the matter at hand. Her vast experience with the opposite sex came down to Patrick, a boy from her senior year in college, with whom she’d had only two dates and barely a proper kiss.
Don West, however, was nothing like Patrick. In fact, he was nothing like any other boy she had ever met. After all, Don West wasn’t a boy, he was a man.
And just when she was starting to get used to the taste of his mouth (and quite enjoy it, by the way), he backed away again and stood up from the bed.
What the hell are you doing? She thought. Why do you keep pushing me away?
Her mental questions didn’t seem to have any plausible answers, not to her at least.
Unless, of course, he didn’t find her attractive at all and was only kissing her back out of pity… The mere thought of it made her want to curl up in a ball and die.
“What are doing?!” He asked baffled.
Now she was feeling terribly insecure and decided to hide behind sarcasm instead of crying her way out of his room.
“You really don’t know?” She asked ironically. “And here I was thinking that Don West was a ladies’ man...”
At that, his behavior shifted slightly and his tone started to get patronizing as it did sometimes, which she hated.
“Look, I get that you’re angry and think that…”
“You don’t get anything!” She cut him off. “I’m not angry! I’m just...”
She stopped talking for a moment and looked down. Anger was all she felt. He was right.
Anger, frustration, insecurity and a bunch of doubts clouded her already confused mind. All of a sudden, she felt an almost uncontrollable need to cry. She took a deep breath, trying her very best not to feel what she was feeling.
Then, she looked back up at him. Her vulnerability giving way again to a fake boldness.
She approached him and placed one hand at each side of his face.
She could feel the heat of his skin on her own. His beard causing a pleasant sensation on her palms. He smelled like eucalyptus and something metallic that she decided she liked.
When she was about to kiss him yet again, he stopped her.
“I know what you’re doing…” He held both of her hands delicately.
She rolled her eyes.
“I’ve been where you are.” He started. “Acting by impulse because you’re angry or because things didn’t go your way… I get it, all right?”
“If you get it, then why do you keep stopping me?”
She finally verbalized the question she had mentally asked herself just a few minutes ago.
At that, his lips formed a forced smile.
“Exactly because of that.” He answered and backed away for the third time.
She had to admit that he was starting to piss her off. Maybe going there had been a huge mistake.
“Believe me, princess, you don’t wanna do this.”
But she ignored him and insisted. She walked towards him again, standing barely an inch away from his body.
She whispered the words. Her lips pressed against his right ear. She smelled a slight scent of mint (probably from the after-shave lotion that she never thought he wore). Then, that crazy desire to kiss him again. She restrained herself this time.
He smiled nervously as if he knew what she was thinking.
“What was your plan, exactly?” He asked, breaking the moment. “Come here and seduce me?” His tone was slightly accusatory.
“Am I seducing you, then?”
She asked defiantly. The heat of his breath so close to her face seemed to hypnotize her.
He smiled again, more nervously this time.
“Why are you doing this?”
But she didn’t reply. After all, it was more than obvious at that point why she was doing what she was doing. Or at least, trying to do.
Instead of saying anything, she used their proximity to kiss him again. Desire outweighing fear this time.
The kiss felt like it lasted hours and its intensity almost took her breath away.
However, and that was becoming an annoying habit of his, he managed to break the kiss and get away from her.
That was seriously becoming a problem!
“Why do you keep pretending you don’t want this?”
His hesitation made her think he was about to reject her one more time and send her away. She tried her best to look indifferent, although she was terrified.
“You’re a girl! This is... wrong!” He tried, lacking conviction. “Your dad is at the end of the hall.”
His justification made her chuckle. That wasn’t so bad for her ego.
“So you don’t want to be with me because of my dad?”
“And because of your mom. And your siblings, too. Look, the Robinsons trust me, okay? So I don’t think doing this would be right.”
She rolled her eyes. Despite of admiring the consideration he apparently had for her and her family, she was deeply hating that pointless resistance that didn’t make any sense at all.
She really thought that he, more than anyone on that ship, actually, would understand her need to numb herself. To forget about her problems and seek pleasures capable of shutting down her mind, even if only temporarily.
“I thought you’d understand...” She started. “I thought you could help me…”
“Help you?” He sounded genuinely surprised. “Do you really think that sleeping with someone is gonna help you?”
Her disappointment, however, didn’t allow her to say anything. If he wasn’t willing to give her what she had gone there after, then she’d also keep denying him answers.
“Look, I can only imagine how hard it must’ve been hearing all those things…” He continued, since she preferred the silence. “How hard it must’ve been dealing with this whole situation, actually. I know you must be feeling pretty bad and confused, but acting like this, by impulse…this isn’t you.”
She laughed sarcastically.
“And who am I then, Don?” She asked furiously. “How should the perfect Judy Robinson behave, in your opinion? Should I play strong and pretend that all of this is not wrecking me? Be the reasonable daughter and act like everybody expects me to? Or should I cry myself to sleep when nobody is watching like a good girl ought to do?”
The resentment she had been feeling finally showed. She felt angry at everyone who saw her as someone infallible. Then, she felt angry at herself for always letting people see her that way.
“I don’t expect or think you should be or do anything…” He sounded sincere. “I just don’t want you to do something you might regret later.”
The tears, which she had managed to hold back until then, were now imminent. She realized that if she didn’t leave that room as quickly as possible, she’d start sobbing like an idiot.
Doing her very best to control her voice that kept cracking, she was able to articulate what she thought would be her last words to him.
“Okay.” She took a deep breath. “If you won’t help me, I’ll go find someone who will.”
She had said those words in the heat of the moment, although she was considering going after Jesse. Perhaps he could help her…
Why had she gone to Don instead of Jesse, after all? But she couldn’t find an answer that satisfied her rationality.
“What are you talking about?”
She could tell that he had said something that she could barely hear, so she didn’t even bother giving him a reply as she walked toward the door.
“Judy!” He called. “Don’t do this.”
Now she had heard him loud and clear, but decided to ignore it on purpose. She just kept on walking.
When she was about to open the door and leave, she felt his hand on her elbow as he pulled her backwards.
The force he used threw her off her balance, making her trip and land right into his swift arms. Their faces only an inch away from each other’s.
“I won’t let you go after him.”
And with that, he kissed her. Him.
It hadn’t been another humiliating attempt on her part. This time, it had been his lips that had demanded hers. And she gave in willingly and with all of her soul.
She felt like an invisible tension had left his body. His kisses were lighter and more passionate now. And the way he ran his hands through her body was carefree and, at the same time, eager. Maybe she was being presumptuous, but it felt like he had been restraining himself the whole time and suddenly, he just couldn’t resist anymore.
Every time their tongues intertwined, she could feel her own resistance go away as well.
Then, she felt free. Desire being the only thing that existed.
He guided her to the edge of the bed. He had his hands tight around her waist and she had grabbed his neck a little too desperately. The kisses filled with passion didn’t feel enough.
He took off his shirt in a swift move and soon enough his lips were already pressed against hers again. Although he had been pretty quick at undressing, she had been able to get a glimpse of his quite toned and surprisingly tanned abs.
It was funny how with the passing of each second, the more she felt comfortable and the less she could remember the anxiety she had felt when she had knocked on his door half an hour ago.
Her rationality was slowly giving way to the sensations his touch was causing in her body. The shiver down her spine, the heat that emanated from within, the almost painful pleasure between her thighs.
She had almost forgotten that that would be her first time. She thought if she should tell him, but the last thing she wanted was to ruin that moment with words.
She then took off her shorts and mentally complimented herself for changing her underwear before going to his bunk. She couldn’t help but remember that those sheer white panties had been a gift from Penny. On the occasion, her sister had even joked about it, stating that those should only be worn in case of emergency. She had never tried them before and had lost count on the number of times she had thought about throwing them away or even giving them to someone else. Now, however, those panties seemed to be the best gift Penny could have ever gotten her.
She was surprised by the sudden realization that she wasn’t nervous at all. She had always thought that her first time would be something excessively planned out, done the traditional way, with a long term boyfriend, etc.
It was almost hilarious that for such a control freak like her, none of that seemed to matter now.
She then allowed herself to be romantic for a moment and believe that she had always been destined to lose her virginity after a horrible fight between her parents in a bunk on a ship lost in space to a smart-mouth mechanic called Don West.
There, in his arms, she had no doubt that was really the case. She felt safe with him and with the decision she had made.
He lay her on the bed with excessive care and she could smell his scent on the messy sheets.
Then, he removed his shorts and joined her. She didn’t pay much attention to his underwear as she couldn’t wait to see him without it.
At that point, the imminence of what was about to happen was certain.
She then was taken by a sudden feeling of detachment from everything outside of that room. She forgot where she was, who she was, her father’s harsh words, her problems… She forgot about her past and her future. Her present, being the only thing that was real. The only thing that really mattered. His mysterious brown eyes, the only thing she could see, his calloused fingers exploring her body, the only sensation her skin could feel, his scent mixed with mint, the only smell her nostrils could capture, his lips, the only taste her mouth could savor and his heavy breathing in her ears, the only sound she could make out.
She repaid every touch of his with the same or even more intensity. The more she gave in to him, the more she felt incredibly distant from the rational and controlled Judy that she had always preferred to be. For a moment, she imagined if she would be able to keep even if only just a tiny fraction of the spontaneity and liberation she was feeling when all of that was over.
She felt a shiver run through her spine when his fingers slid underneath her T-shirt. She felt them on her tummy first, then they started to move up shyly, toward her breasts.
She smiled at his unexpected restraint as she took the piece of clothing off.
She had always imagined that she’d be a little embarrassed to expose her breasts to a guy for the first time, so she was quite surprised by how natural it all felt.
He soon understood her silent permission and abandoned all restraints for good.
She loved having his mouth on her breasts. Actually, she loved having his mouth on every single part of her body…
She used her own hands to explore his back, his arms, his soft and messy hair… She found out she loved all those things as well.
She then looked at him for a moment and thought he was beautiful. A beauty she had never noticed before. Had it always been there or the one to blame was that almost uncontrollable desire that seemed to be taking over her?
He also looked like he wanted her badly, in an almost aggressive kind of way.
Differently from the beginning, his kisses dictated the rhythm now instead of just following hers. His hands explored every inch of her body, with much less prudence or need for permission.
It sounded dumb, and she would probably deny thinking about it later, but in that moment, she felt like a new Judy had emerged. A more confident, more secure, more womanly Judy.
And she had always been a firm believer that sex didn’t change anything in a girl’s life.
In that instant, however, her whole world came down to that half-naked man in front of her that was practically killing her with desire.
She broke the kisses with difficulty. He was taking too long and the anticipation was starting to hurt.
“Do you think you can take off my panties or will I have to do that by myself, too?”
And she could have. Just like she had taken off her shorts and T-shirt. But for some inexplicable reason that her overly logical mind couldn’t really comprehend, she had wanted him to be the one to do it.
She had asked him in a daring way that she thought he’d like. And the smirk on his face only proved that she had been right.
She enjoyed in a pleasurable aching expectation the time his fingers took to slide her panties down her thighs.
She felt a sense of relief through her entire body, as if that small piece of fabric represented a huge obstacle that had been finally taken out of the way.
Then, he removed his underwear and she couldn’t help but get a little overwhelmed by what she saw.
Not that she was naive or anything, but in her defense, the only man she had ever seen naked in her life had been her twelve-year-old brother.
She felt nervous again. But good nervous. Like when you’re next in line to a roller coaster ride.
The sight of him so confidently imposing before her revealed a subtle vulnerability which made her smile.
The nervousness was gone and for a split second, although she’d refuse to admit in case anyone asked, she realized she could be falling for Don West.
At last, she opened her legs. She loved how his expression looked like of someone’s who was about to go mad. She concluded that teasing him was incredibly fun.
He placed himself between them delicately and his desire was almost tangible.
She watched him for a few more seconds, and for the first time, she felt like she was seeing him. Really seeing him. Beyond what he appeared to be, beyond what she thought of him.
The stiffness his body had over hers was the perfect armor for his almost child-like fragility. His lustful eyes were clear windows to his pure soul. His parted lips looked like they wanted to say something, although there were no words capable of outbeating the silence.
She felt her heart race and then experienced a feeling of euphoria that she had never experienced before.
You’re stupidly in love Judy Robinson!
She refused to believe that and kissed him passionately. Then, she let go of any other thought her mind kept on forming and finally surrendered to the brand new sensation of sharing her body with someone else.