Jennifer Watts – Eyes as blue as hers
One month later. Jennifer Watts was sitting in her bedroom, alone. Her house, in Los Angeles, was silent. As it has always been, when she was at NASA. The only family she had was a younger brother, Brian, who was studying law at Harvard, after her father's death.
He was preparing a brilliant career. He was building his future.
She, however, destroyed hers. By joining NASA when she was eighteen. By becoming this brilliant pilot, this only female between so many men. She was given a space shuttle to pilot, in the world's most important mission, one month ago.
Why? Why didn't she listen to her mother, who, before abandoning her father, told her that astronomy wasn't for her? She was right, after all. Hard, military training, no right to emotions, required perfection… At thirty-two, she was still single. She pushed away the men who asked her to give them a chance. She sacrificed her social life for space program. She never allowed herself to love. It was hard, so hard.
And the last time she loved, it destroyed her.
That asteroid was going to hit Earth in twelve days. She knew she was going to have to fly a team of astronauts, along with a colleague, Colonel Sharp, to that asteroid. She knew she might die, but she'd be glad to do it. She had almost no one who would regret her, she had no one she would regret.
She learned after that Harry Stamper, the man who was to teach the astronauts to drill, wanted to bring his own team to do the job. She thought it would be suicide, but nothing would make her disagree with Dan Truman's decisions. Anyway, her job would still be the same: fly that shuttle, land on the rock, wait until the drilling is finished, then get back on Earth – or die up there, maybe. But death didn't scare her.
The day she had to meet the new team, she couldn't hide the skeptical feelings she had about them – they weren't even able to survive the fly, according to the tests results. She tried to look nice, confident, cool, but she couldn't. When Truman said her name, she couldn't even smile; she just nodded briefly.
She watched discreetly each one of them: most of them looked scared, impressed by the size of the L71, or by the team that was standing in front of them. There was only one young man, holding the girl's arm, who looked like nothing could bother him. And there was another one, older, who was staring at someone in front of him – her, actually.
"I thought, hum, you guys could meet", Truman said, before leaving them alone.
They looked too impressed to say a word. The man who was looking at her stepped forward and introduced himself as Harry Stamper. That was him!
- This is my daughter, Grace. Here's AJ, Rockhound, Bear, Max, Chick, Oscar, Bennie…
She looked at him as he was talking. He had a sun-tanned skin, a few blond hair on the top of his head and laser blue eyes – as blue as hers.
Then they had to start working and she forced herself to forget her feelings about him – she had to be cold, strong, and strict. The other men helped her indirectly to this, they were too lazy and this would make her get more and more angry.
When she was training them to use their thrusters, she heard Oscar, Rockhound and Bear saying that she was hot, having fun of her. They were really getting on her last nerve…
"BEAR! she shouted. Do we have a problem?
- Because I'm trying to describe to you how these DAT keep your ass on the ground, so if I were to kick you in the balls, and you don't know how to work them, what happens to you?
- I'd float away, he said.
She was too angry. She tried to control herself. Cool down, sweetie, this is just a joke… Cool down!
As she told them to put on their helmets because the oxygen was going to be sucked off the room, she saw Harry looking at her. He was smiling. She opened her mouth to shout again, and closed it. He was their chief. He was the most serious one. He had passed all the tests. He did everything he was told to – almost. So she had no reason to shout at him. She smiled quickly and turned her back, got out the vacuum.
The night before, Truman came to her and told her she could go out wherever she wanted.
- How is that possible? Sir? she asked, trying not to look too surprised.
- Harry Stamper asked for it, Truman replied. I don't want to freak you out, Watts, but this might be the last time you see Earth, so I suggest you have some fun, you do what you want to, you know…
- Okay, thank you, Sir…
He smiled to her and turned away.
She went out, at the Apollo 1 launch base. She took out her cell phone, started to dial her brother's number, then stopped. There was no reason – they were really separated. She would hurt him more if she showed any emotions, if she made him feel that she, the professional astronaut, thought that this mission might end badly. If he heard the news, he would know. She'd send him an SMS later, just before the flight, as she used to do when she was a teen and she would travel somewhere. She loved traveling. She loved Earth.
She leaned on one of the metal pillars and looked at the sunset. The red light, the orange ball was so beautiful… Tears filled her eyes when she thought it might be the last time she'd see it.
She heard footsteps behind her. She wiped her face quickly, and looked behind her. It was Stamper. He saw her, and walked toward her.
- Hey, he said.
- Hello, she said, trying to make her voice sound cool, as usual.
- Are you okay? he asked. I thought I saw you…
- Well you thought wrong, she replied.
- I'm sorry, I didn't want to…
- It's okay, I'll just leave… she said, turning her back.
You can't love, she told herself. Not just before dying. Why would you have waited so long? Don't, Jennifer.
- No, stay here. I'll leave, Stamper said.
- She turned again.
- Excuse-me, it's just that I'm…
- No, she said immediately.
- Don't worry, you have the right to feel emotions. Even a military can.
- Emotions can ruin perfection. I have a mission; to make this trip safe. And emotions can just…
- Pressure can do worse, Mrs. Watts, Stamper said.
- I'm not married.
- Okay, Miss Watts, then. You don't have to pressure yourself that much to reach perfection – you're a human, after all. And what are we fighting for, if it's not human values?
She looked at him. His eyes were so blue… She knew he was thinking the same thing about hers, she knew he knew what she was thinking about.
There was a link, a connection between their eyes. They couldn't just stop staring at each other. And a moment after, they were passionately kissing each other, leaning on the pillar.
After minutes, they stopped.
- What's your first name? he asked her.
- My name is… Jennifer, she said.
- The first time I saw you, I knew your name would be Jennifer.
Slowly, he passed his hand around her head and pulled off the elastic that was holding her hair in a chignon, throwing it away.
Her hairs were so blond, glowing like gold in the sun light.
- He kissed her again. Then they talked, again.
- Are you married? she asked.
- My wife died when my daughter was two.
- Did you love her?
- To be sincere, not long. See, I have a passion – oilrigs, and she just couldn't live on one. She was so materialistic, perfectionist. The only thing I loved about her is my daughter. She is as beautiful as her mother was, but she doesn't have her personality. I raised her like a boy.
Jennifer could read some guilt in his blue eyes.
- What does she think about it?
- She screamed all her frustration to my face the day General Montgomery came to the oilrig. And then I could just see what she thought about me taking her here…
- At least now it's getting better, isn't it? Truman told me she helped you picking the best employees…
- Jennifer… She wants to marry AJ Frost.
He looked worried, sad, when he said these words.
- So? What's the problem? Doesn't she love him?
He wanted to protest, but he just thought about something.
- Yes, she does… he admitted.
Jennifer smiled to him.
- Love is the thing we're fighting for… I've finally understood it…
They saw Grace wandering from the opposite side of the monument, looking at her reflection in the mud.
- You should go and spend some time with her, Harry, Jennifer said.
- Let me kiss you one last time, Jennifer. Up there, we will not have some time…
- At least, we'll be together if the worst was to happen…
Tears appeared in her beautiful blue eyes, and ran down on her cheeks. He wiped them slowly with his finger.
- What's going on, Jennifer?
- You said "one last time", Harry… To think that this might be the last time you kiss me is just… painful… I love you.
- Oh, Jen… I love you too… The first time I saw you, I knew I loved you…
He kissed her. One long, loving kiss…
From the moment she saw him turning his back, leaving her, joining his daughter, things passed so quickly…
There was the launching. Then the fuel incident at the Russian Space Station. Then the landing on the asteroid.
This was the most difficult part, but she focused on what she was doing – she couldn't allow herself to make any mistake. When she saw the body of the Independence pilot bouncing in front of them, on the shuttle, she saw for a moment Harry's face instead of Halley's. She concentrated all her efforts not to scream – Calm down, Jennifer, he's behind you, locked on his seat, actually shouting "Sharp, what the hell is that?".
Then there was that secondary protocol. She wanted to protest, to tell Sharp he had to trust them, they knew what they were doing, but she couldn't. She was his co-pilot, her rank wouldn't allow her to contradict his orders.
Then they blew the Armadillo. Their last hope was gone. They were going to die…
She wanted Harry to come back to the ship, to take her in his arms, to kiss her until the asteroid hit the Earth, to kiss her until they die. But he wouldn't come back to the ship. She was alone with Sharp, who was sitting on a seat, depressed.
- Well, I didn't know I would fail it so quickly, he said.
- This day had to come, Colonel.
- I could have avoided it, Watts… I could have…
- There is no need to regret all of this, Colonel. If we die, we'll simply stop existing, and we won't feel any pain anymore… Or at least we'll all see each other again in paradise, if it exists…
- Do you believe in paradise, Watts?
- After fourteen years at NASA, with the science's evidences in front of my nose… not anymore, Colonel.
- Same to me… Well, we'll see in…
He looked at the clock over him.
- A few hours. I will finally see if science was right or wrong. Isn't that exciting, Watts?
He tried to look cool, distressed. She just turned her head. Why wasn't Harry coming?
It was simple. The second Armadillo came back – AJ, Bear and Andropov, the Russian Cosmonaut. They survived, and came back…
You're not gonna see if science is wrong, Sharp… not this time, she thought, as she was jumping from her seat to tell Houston what was happening.
Zero barrier minus eighteen. They had lost Gruber. The bomb was damaged. Someone had to stay. As she was preparing the ship to fly, she heard all the conversation. Harry wanted to sacrifice himself. Please, no, don't leave me…
They finally decided to draw straws. AJ got hired for the bad job. She felt sorry for Grace but on the other hand, she was happy that it wasn't Harry. She couldn't stop thinking: It wasn't Harry.
He went down, to blow himself. Harry went with him. And he came back. AJ came back!
She tried to do her best not to cry. She had one thing in mind: if Harry was to die, then she would.
He spoke to his daughter, but she knew he was speaking to her too. As for him, he was thinking "Jennifer" in the same time.
Naturally, the ship wouldn't fly when she tried to. She knew that. She could have fixed it without even leaving her seat. But she wanted to loose time, she wanted him to blow them – her.
She went down, pushed some buttons that wouldn't do anything, just because she needed to move, to do something. Lev Andropov followed her. He wanted to help her. That idiot… What brought him here? Why wasn't he just sitting on his seat like a good space shuttle passenger?
- Back off, you don't know the components…
- American components, Russian components… ALL MADE IN TAIWAN!
She was boiling. On one side, Sharp, was ordering her to be quicker, on the other, that Russian guy was harassing her…
- I know how to fix it, please move. I… I'll have to take you away if you don't move…
- Watts, you gotta get that shuttle started, you gotta fire it up, NOW!
- DAMN IT SHARP, GET OFF THIS ROCK! screamed Harry.
- I'm telling you, please, MOVE! said Andropov, pushing her away.
She almost fell. What the hell was he doing? That idiot… How could he push her!!!
- This is how we fix problems in Russian Space Station! he shouted, hitting brutally the panel with an instrument.
What was she worrying about? Didn't he blow up his Russian Space Station? She just had to wait, and he'd blow them up…
Or maybe he wouldn't, they would reach zero barrier before Harry blew them up and it would be World's end… And Harry would come back to the shuttle, they would stay alone somewhere and wait to die, kissing each other…
She heard the characteristic sound of the engine… he fixed it…
An uncommon energy pushed her up, she locked herself to her seat…
She wasn't Jennifer anymore, she was Watts, the co-pilot.
They fired the shuttle. They flied. They went away from the asteroid.
- WE WIN, GRACIE! shouted Harry, seeing the shuttle becoming a small point in the sky.
However, his last thought was not about his daughter… as he lifted, pressed and held the remote, he saw a beautiful blond woman with laser blue eyes… Jennifer Watts floated in his mind as he was, by his suicide, saving humanity…
I love you, Jennifer… So much… Sorry for what I did to you…
He was saying these words, knowing that she was hearing him…
And she was. In her heart. While flying back home…
One month later
She had left NASA. After this emotional breaking, she could never concentrate again on her work. The day before, she was preparing to go to Grace and AJ's wedding. She had her hair fixed, make-up on her beautiful face that didn't need any, and she'd already worn a beautiful blue gown… As blue as her eyes…
The taxi was waiting. She grabbed her small bag and went out… long enough to tell him she wouldn't go. She ran back in her house, sobbing.
She dialed Chick's number, told him to send her apologies to Grace and AJ, to tell them she couldn't come because she had a terrible headache.
Harry died to save his daughter's marriage. She had tried everything but she couldn't stop hating Grace for this.
She was bound to spend her life in despair, like a widow who wasn't even married to the man she was weeping.
From her bed, she saw through the window a car stopping in front of her house, a man coming down. It was Sharp.
What was he doing here? If he didn't pressure her so much on the asteroid, she'd be now in heaven, with Harry…
She came down to open the door. He had been her superior.
How dare he call her Jennifer?
- Yes, sir? What's the matter? Is there any other asteroid coming on Earth now?
She was looking aggressive.
- What's going on with you? he asked, worried.
- Just… leave me… Don't you have to join your wife and your daughters? she told him, hiding her face.
- Yes, Sir?
- I don't have a wife…
She looked at his eyes and almost had a heart attack. Their color had changed… they became as blue as Harry's ones were… as blue as hers…
She knew it was him, reincarnated into Sharp.
I love you, Jennifer… So much… Sorry for what I did to you…
- Oh, Harry… she said, falling in his arms.
- I'd prefer if you call me William… I know what a loss Harry was, however…
She didn't listen to him. At the exact moment she wanted to believe it was Harry, and nothing would make her change her mind…
She was a stubborn woman. With laser blue eyes…
Jessica Steen as Jennifer Watts
Bruce Willis as Harry Stamper