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And We Took It Believing It Free
when you wake in the face of the blinding sun
Ulysses Adair was dreaming. He knew he was dreaming because he was walking through a meadow with his mother. He knew he was dreaming because his mother was in cold sleep.
He knew he was dreaming because his mother was dying.
He knew he was dreaming...
...but it felt so real.
Her hand was dry and warm, fingers wrapped around his smaller ones, occasionally squeezing his as she looked down at him and smiled. The sun shone on her dark hair, bringing out warm highlights. Smile lines creased her cheeks, and instead of making her seem old, made her seem young, her eyes dancing beneath dark lashes.
He knew he was dreaming because she seemed alive, and bright, and healthy. And happy. So very happy.
"I'm so glad we came here, Uly." Devon released his hand, and gestured to the sky above them, two moons barely visible, like pale clouds against the almost too-blue sky.
"But Mom... that lady said that the planet would hurt you." Uly looked up at her, and she caught him around the waist, grinning.
"Oh, what does Elizabeth know? The planet healed you, didn't it?"
"But you aren't sick the same as me, like I was." Uly climbed down off her lap, frowning.
When he turned around again, she was gone.
Then he was gone.
The world went white, and then darkened into corridors lit by halogen lights, and technicians pushed past Uly as if they didn't even see him. This place... this was familiar to him. He kept walking, trailing one hand along the wall, and using his walking stick (but hadn't he...?) to count his steps (...left it...), feet ringing (with Mom?) on the metal.
"Ah, Ulysses," Dr. Vasquez looked up. "There you are, we've been waiting for you."
"Yes, she's doing much better today. I think she's strong enough to survive the cold sleep journey."
Uly looked past the doctor, and gasped as he saw his mother, pale and grey, lying in the bed, encased in an immuno-suit. Her breath rasped, and she coughed in her sleep.
"Mom!" Uly yelled, and then there were hands on his shoulders. "Mom!"
Danziger shook Uly's shoulder gently, and the boy's eyes snapped open.
"Mom!" he cried, and Danziger folded him in his arms as the nine year old sobbed.
"It's okay, kid. It's gonna be okay."
True stood in the entrance of the tent, just watching. She wasn't sure what she was feeling, but a tear slid down her cheek all the same.
Yale stood at the foot of the old Earth ship, a relic of the past, a tomb for the hopes for the future. He stood, without seeing, really. He didn't go in. He couldn't. But he couldn't stay away either.
They say that surviving your own child is the worst fate a parent can ever face.
I am beginning to understand that particular saying. And I wish to God above I didn't.
Devon Adair is not dead--yet. And she is not my daughter. But she is the closest thing I have to a family, her, her son, these people. And it grieves me to see her locked away, like Snow White in a glass case, while our doctor works furiously, trying to unlock the mystery of what afflicts her, a task which I do not envy. But Julia will not allow herself to get caught up in the pall that has fallen over all of us since burying Elizabeth, and placing Devon in cold-sleep. She cannot, and tries to work through it, fastening her teeth on the problem instead. But it is wearing on her. It wears on all of us.
Julia called up Devon's samples for the millionth time, and realised she was looking, but no longer seeing. She pressed her hands to her eyes, resting her elbows on the table. She looked up as the med-tent flap opened, and Alonzo entered. She tried to smile gamely, but knew she had circles under her eyes.
Alonzo massaged her shoulders, and she sighed. "Any luck?" he knew everyone had been asking the same question for the past nine days.
"I don't know where else to look. I don't know what else to look for. I hate this."
"We all know you're doing your best, Doc."
"Have you had any dreams?" Her expression was so hopeful, probably a mirror to his own when he had first walked in, and just as she had hated to crush his spirits, he was loathe to give his answer, but he had no choice.
Julia compressed her lips into a thin line, and squeezed her eyes shut for a second as if that could stop the lump from rising in her throat. She quickly pulled herself together, although her eyes still smarted.
"Uly says he has been dreaming of his mother, but I'm beginning to think that's more wishful thinking on his part than her using the dreamplane to contact us. Still, the bond between parent and child is one of the strongest..." Julia shook her head. "I think I'm grasping at straws."
"Have you had a single unbroken night's sleep in the past week?" Alonzo asked, already knowing the answer, as he brushed a lock of dark blond hair from her cheek. She pushed his hand away.
"I can't sleep, every time I close my eyes, I get new ideas, I have to try them all."
"You're not any good to anyone, especially Devon, if you burn yourself out," Alonzo cautioned, but Julia didn't seem to hear him. Her frustration was almost palpable, something he could touch, and a very real wall between them right now.
"She said that the planet would reject us, but that doesn't make any sense! It doesn't. Gaal, Dell, Waylan, all of them, lived here for years, without showing any sign of this disease, or whatever it is. Eight years Elizabeth and Bennett were here, before discovering whatever it is they think they discovered. We've been here for six months. That's it. Six months. It doesn't make any sense," she repeated, and he sat down on the cot, hands on his knees.
"Maybe we'll all come down with it. Maybe it'll take eight years, ten--"
"I don't believe that. I can't..." Julia's voice broke, and he didn't know if it was because she was unwilling to believe that this planet was killing them, or that she seemed unable to find out how or why. Suddenly her blue eyes darkened, and something like a fire lit inside her. "I'm contacting Reilly." Her voice was steady now, determined. Alonzo could only look up at her in shock, as she stood, smoothing her hair back and taking a deep breath.
"I have no choice. I have to know what it is they found. And Reilly--Eve is the only one who can tell us."
"Uly, it's time for your lesson," Yale said gently as the boy lay on his stomach on the cot, arms folded beneath him, feet on the pillow, staring straight ahead. The cyborg knew that beyond the thin canvas, the metal hull of the Council ship gleamed in the morning sun.
"I don't want to go to school today, Yale."
"It's not a matter of what you want, Ulysses. It's a matter of what you need, and you can't simply skip lessons when you don't feel like it."
"I said..." Uly actually looked up at the tutor, and his expression was curiously vacant. "I don't want to."
Yale bristled, but something was off. The boy wasn't being petulant, even though the words he chose would have sounded like a tantrum under any other circumstances, but neither did he sound depressed. He just sounded... empty.
"Uly, what are you doing that's more important than your lessons?"
The boy was silent, and rather than push, Yale decided, for today, to walk away. As he closed the tent-flap, he heard Uly trilling softly, and the sound made the hairs stand up on the back of his neck.
"You can't," Alonzo insisted.
"Julia, that computer almost killed us!"
"But it didn't."
"Look at what it did to you, what Reilly, or Eve, or whatever it wants to call itself, did to you."
"This isn't about me. This isn't even just about Devon. Alonzo, we have over a thousand people coming here, and after that... after that, who knows how many. Between the syndrome back on the Stations, and whatever is killing Devon here, the human race may be extinct in two generations--"
Julia and Alonzo looked up from their argument at the sound of the tent flap being pulled back, and Yale entered.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but it's Uly."
"Is he okay?" Julia slipped on her diaglove, ready to be at the boy's side in seconds if she thought he was in any kind of danger, but Yale frowned and shook his head.
"I'm not entirely sure. He's acting... strange. I just saw him in Danziger's tent. Alonzo, I think you might want to talk to him as well."
Yale nodded, and they trooped out of the tent one after the other.
Uly stood and waited, never glancing back at the camp he'd left. There was a time when he never would have left his mother's side. That time had past, and if he ever wanted to see her again, he would need more...
The terrian swam up from the earth to loom over the boy. The terrian questioned, Uly answered, and then voiced the music of his questions. The learning and understanding began as the sun climbed higher in the sky.
"Uly," Yale called as he opened the tent flap, and then blinked as he realised the tent was empty.
"Maybe he's outside?" Julia suggested, even though they hadn't seen the boy as they walked from the med-tent to Danziger's tent.
"Maybe." Yale's expression was grim.
Uly wasn't outside. Julia, Alonzo and Yale searched every inch of camp, and he wasn't to be found. The cyborg was frantic with worry.
"Yale, I'm sure he didn't go far," Julia assured him, leaving off the obvious he wouldn't leave his mother behind.
"He is taking this so hard, and with the dreams..."
"Maybe he just needed some time alone?" Alonzo suggested. "Away from us, away from all the reminders."
"You think he's with the terrians." Julia's eyes were fastened on the Council ship, beyond the tents, thinking aloud.
"He seemed convinced they can help Devon somehow, his dreams... I don't know." Yale shook his head.
"We'll organise search parties, we'll find him." Alonzo said firmly, and they went to find Danziger.
"This is all we need now," Danziger sighed, rubbing between his brows and blinking rapidly. That didn't stop the headache that was coming. The dull ache had announced itself the second Yale had told him Uly was missing, and it was growing exponentially.
Walman and Baines had divided the camp into groups, and armed with gear and hopeful expressions, they began to spread out.
"Danziger, I need to talk to you," Julia laid her hand on the mechanic's forearm, as he headed out towards the rail with Walman.
"Doc, can it wait?"
"It's about Devon."
Danziger gave the doctor his full attention. "What about Devon?"
"I need to get Elizabeth and Bennett's data from Eve."
"What, are you asking my permission?"
"I don't know if she'll, it'll... Reilly will just give it to me."
"I don't care if we have to sell our souls, time is running out. Do whatever you have to."
While those words didn't comfort Julia any, they did give her impetus to finally act, that alone was infinitely better than banging her head against the wall trying to cheat death. And that would have to be enough, for now.
"Uly!" Morgan yelled through cupped hands as he and Bess tramped through the underbrush. "I wish he'd taken his gear."
"Well, he didn't." Bess sighed.
"This is all wrong, all of it."
"Morgan, let's not start this again."
"Our leader is in stasis, and we're just sitting here waiting for this god-forsaken planet to kill us, and while we wait, new Pacifica isn't getting any closer. How did everything go so wrong?"
"We'll be okay, Morgan. Devon will be okay, we'll all be okay, we just have to get through this like we've gotten through everything else."
Since Devon had been placed in cold sleep, Morgan had gotten more and more agitated. Even he wasn't sure quite why. Devon was the only one who knew what he was capable of, besides Bess of course.
"I wish I had your confidence, Bess."
Bess just laid a hand on his shoulder, and gave it a reassuring squeeze. Frankly, she wished she was as confident as she sounded. But she had to be strong, for Morgan's sake, for all their sakes.
They continued searching, calling the boy's name.
Julia stood in the centre of the cockpit, and took a deep breath. She touched the comm panel, and the screen appeared above the conical projector, rotating calmly, completely unaware of the knots her stomach was tying itself into as the milliseconds passed.
Reilly appeared surprised to see her. Despite all she knew, all she had learned, it was hard not to think of him as a person, someone to be hated, and feared, rather than a subroutine running on a computer orbiting miles above her head.
That thought bothered her. She should have the upper hand against a personality matrix. Should, being the operative word. Somehow, that didn't fill her with confidence.
"Citizen Heller, so nice to see you again. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"This isn't a social call, Reilly. I need some information."
"And why should I supply this information?"
"Because if you don't Devon Adair will die. And after that, one by one, Eden Project will die, as will the millions of people you want to send here, to colonise the planet. If that's not a good enough reason for you--"
"You're so defensive. Whatever had I done to inspire such venom?"
"Remember, Reilly, you owe us."
"As I recall, your group was dying. I'd say we are even, wouldn't you?"
"Fine, then I'm asking as a favour."
"Ah, well that's different."
"I've looked for everything I can think of. I just don't know. It could be in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water. There has to be something I've missed."
"What makes you think you can succeed?" Where we have failed was implied, but Julia chose to ignore it.
"You, Eve, are just a computer, and a computer is only as good as it's programmers. Elizabeth was working with decades-old science, things have progressed so far, you know exactly how far. The Council engineered me to be the best doctor possible. Let me do my job. Let me help Devon, help all of us, the thousand people coming here, the millions."
"Then you will help the Council colonise this planet?"
"If that is what I have to, yes. All of my findings, all my records, you can have them. But I need your help."
"You've made a very wise decision, citizen."
As the sun set, and the two moons began to climb in the indigo sky, the teams of two returned from their search glum, and empty handed. They met in the centre of camp, and shared their lack of information.
"Dad, do you think he's okay?" True crawled into her father's lap as he sat down heavily on a supply crate. He'd been searching for hours, and as night fell, so did the spirits of Eden Project. First they lost Eben, then Devon, and now Uly. He didn't know how much more he could take. And on top of all of it, until Julia found a cure, there was a death sentence hanging over their heads, a dying woman's words robbing them of the bright future they had counted on when they came here.
"I don't know, True-girl. I just don't know."
"You look tired." She stroked his curly hair with her small brown hand, and he smiled just a little. "I bet Uly's tired too."
"Dad, is this like Mom?"
"Is what like your mother, sweetheart?"
"Well, you showed me Mom all hooked up to those machines, and I was thinking that it's kinda like Devon being in cold sleep. And ever since she got sick, you look tired all the time, and so does Uly."
"You're too smart for your own good, kid."
"Julia'll fix everything," True said with the kind of certainly that only the young possess, that goes hand in hand with complete trust in adults. Danziger wished he could live up to that trust, because right now he just couldn't tell her the truth. That grown-ups weren't any more right or wrong, fool-proof, or bullet- proof, than kids. All they were were bigger, and older. Wiser wasn't a given.
Julia had downloaded the data from the satellite to her log, and started going through it bit by bit. She had already gone over the actual medical data, the reports of sickness and death that matched, or came close to matching, what she had on Devon Adair already. It gave her no answers, but she hoped Elizabeth's personal log might hold the key.
Alonzo was stretched out on the bed, trying to see if he could find Uly on the dreamplane. It seemed their best shot at the moment, and it made him feel better, knowing that he could help somehow.
She brought up the first entry she'd flagged, and began to read.
There's something wrong here. Terribly, terribly wrong.
We were ten when we started on G889 a year ago, but there
are only nine of us left. I couldn't do anything for
Martin, she died right before my eyes. Martin was the
youngest of us, only three years younger than I am. Her
family was among the first, they will be saddened to
learn of her death. As we are saddened by it, and
In the year since we landed here, we have found both
paradise and, it seems, hell. I only wish I could do
Dammit, we lost Harry Nielsen today. It makes no sense!
A year, no more than that, and no one else has fallen
prey to the same strange virus that killed Martin, until
now. Nielsen was one of the strongest, the healthiest...
There was no warning. Within four days, he weakened, and
finally, complete system failure.
I feel so helpless. So... useless. And I've never felt
so alone. Those... creatures, who swim up from the
ground, continue to haunt us in our dreams, and I can't
help but feel they want us gone.
It's not just us who are dying. We found a penal
colonist eight days ago who sickened and died before
eyes. He had been scientist on the Stations, fairly high
up even, who had been sentenced here for some
bureaucratic crime or another. He stumbled into our camp
begging for food and water, it seems he'd been here
almost ten years. It's hard to imagine. But he
recognised us as being from the Stations, and offered to
help us. How could we say now?
Then, just like the others, he died. And once again, I
could do nothing to stop it. All I can tell is that it's
as if the planet is trying to kill us. It's like a
virus... and nothing can stop it.
"It sure feels that way," Julia sighed, and leaned back in her chair. Alonzo shifted in his sleep, and Julia watched the steady rise and fall of his chest for a moment, a little peace in the centre of all the turmoil. His eyelids flickered beneath his lids, and she hoped he was having better luck than she was.
"Geez, Walman, what's eating you?" Cameron jumped out of the way as Walman practically slammed a supply crate down on his hand without even acknowledging the colonist's presence.
"Nothing," Walman snapped, and Cameron took an involuntary step back.
"Walman's just missing Devon, aren't you Walman?" Magus said in a tone halfway between sympathy and teasing. He'd been positively shattered when they'd placed Adair in cold-sleep, and she was hoping that he would lighten up soon, because his dark mood was dragging them all down.
It didn't look like he was going to lighten up. In fact, it looked like he was about to boil over.
"All we've done since we got here is sit and wait. Goddammit, she's dying. We should be able to do something besides waiting for our doctor to find some magical cure. But we're just sitting around, doing nothing!"
"Take it easy, Walman," Danziger, who had silently observed the confrontation to this point, cautioned, placing a hand on the agitated crewman's shoulder. But Walman didn't heed the warning, and focusing his helpless anger at the situation at John, he pushed.
Magus regretted her teasing fairly immediately as the two men started rolling around on the ground like children.
Baines, Cameron, Magus and Mazatl just watched, somehow knowing that this was the kind of stress release they both needed. Danziger was being torn apart by not only unresolved feelings for the sleeping woman, but also the responsibilities that had previously been split between them, for good reason in many cases, not to mention the pressure of Uly's gaze, and his questions. Walman didn't have unresolved feelings as far as he was concerned; he was devoted to Devon Adair, no question about it, and whether that was loyalty or some deeper emotion behind it, maybe even Walman didn't want to examine it, and it was frustration that was pushing him to his limits.
So, for the moment, beating the stuffing out of each other seemed like the best option.
Alonzo could hardly believe he had once feared the dreamplane. It seemed like a lifetime ago when he had first been submerged in the planet's subconscious, the peace washing over him, lapping at his fears for Uly and laying them to rest. The boy was fine. Alonzo could see him now, as he flew across the dreamplane, drawn to his desire with the speed of thought. The boy was a part of the planet now, and the planet, in the form of the terrians would always protect him. And for reasons the pilot still couldn't quite comprehend, the terrians had chosen Alonzo to be their link to the unchanged humans of the Eden Project.
Terrian voices/minds sang in his ears/thoughts as he saw Uly standing between two dreaming Terrians. The boy slept, reminding Alonzo of the hibernating terrians in the Elder's caves, and Mary. She had preferred dreams to speech, and he couldn't blame her. There were no words, sometimes. No words that quite fit.
Like now. Alonzo touched Uly's shoulder, and the boy's eyes opened. With his gaze came images, half-formed thoughts, and emotions. Alonzo gasped as the all too human emotions-- fear/pain/anger/grief/love/sorrow-- poured over him as Uly showed him his dream.
They stood in a hospital ward, and Alonzo recognised Dr. Vasquez who had been introduced at the giant cocktail party Devon had thrown for the Ops and Eden Advance crew so everyone could get to know one another.
Vasquez looked up, and seemed only to mark Uly and Alonzo as being present with part of his mind, the rest focused on his patient. Devon lay in the bed nearest the doctor, incongruously large, for as far as they eye could see grey, dying children in immuno-suits slept. Her breathing was shallow, punctuated by coughs. Her cheeks were hollow and her skin was slightly yellow, and looked paper thin, almost translucent. The circles under her eyes were purple smudges that seemed almost bone deep bruises.
A Terrian stood beside Vasquez, cocking its head and blinking as it regarded Devon. The terrian reached out and held a handful of dust over her chest. He released it slowly, dust motes dancing in the air as it disappeared as it struck the suit.
The world changed around them, and now Devon lay in the med- tent, Julia running her diaglove over the unconscious woman, the doctor's features pinched by worry and exhaustion. On one side of her stood Vasquez, so out of place in his formal Stations garb, and on the other, the terrian, who continued to sprinkle handfuls of sand that seemed to do no good.
"I think I understand." Alonzo nodded, and Uly squeezed his hand. The dream faded.
Julia ran her fingers through her hair, and brought Devon's data back up on her screen.
"Like a virus..." she murmured, Elizabeth's words still echoing in her mind. "But it's not, it can't be. Unless..."
She brought up another file, and her eyes widened as she began to see the connections.
Alonzo rolled over and opened his eyes, seeing pretty much the same thing he had when he'd closed them. Julia sat at her desk, still pouring over the data she'd downloaded from the satellite. She glanced up, feeling his gaze, and blinked her weariness away.
"Did you find Uly?"
"Yes. He's about a mile from camp, with the terrians, he'll come back when he's ready."
"I suppose if he's determined... it's so hard to remember that he's more than just a little kid." Julia shook her head.
"There's more," Alonzo sat up, and began to describe the dream he'd shared.
Walman and Danziger sat on the ground, a foot apart, panting and bleeding.
"You two schmucks feel any better now?" Magus raised an eyebrow, and held out a hand to Walman who waved her away and staggered to his feet, rubbing his jaw. He in turn held out a hand to Danziger.
John accepted both the hand and unspoken apology that accompanied it, and the two men shook their heads as they inventoried the damaged done.
"C'mon, let's go get patched up." They shambled off towards the med-tent, buddies again, for now.
Men, Magus sighed to herself.
"What the hell happened to you two?" Julia stared in disbelief as Walman and Danziger stumbled into the med-tent, bruised and bloodied and grinning like fools. Grins which disappeared under her disapproving gaze. Walman fidgeted, resisting an insane desire to mumble "he started it."
Danziger didn't bother to resist. "Walman started it."
"I don't care who started it, just don't let it happen again. What'll Devon think when she comes back to find us beating each other to a bloody pulp?"
"If she comes back," Walman slipped back a step into depression.
"When." Julia said firmly, and Danziger noticed for the first time that she seemed much more focused and confident than she had that morning.
"Did you find something?"
"I think so, I think I definitely have a better idea of what's going on now. I don't know how well I can treat it, but at least now I've finally got a place to start."
Alonzo described the dream again, assuring them that Uly was fine, and raised Yale on gear while Julia brought up her research on screen for Walman and Danziger.
Yale slipped his mic to the on position, and was greeted by a smile on Alonzo's face.
"Did you find him?" the tutor asked, his heart leaping into his throat.
"He's okay, he's about a mile north of here, with the terrians."
"We need to go to him--"
"No, Yale. He needs this time with them, we met on the dreamplane. When he's ready to come back, he will. But right now, he's learning from them, about what's killing Devon and might kill us, and I think he can really help."
"He's just a little boy," Yale began, but the pilot shook his head.
"No, that's just it. He's not. The kid needs them right now, Yale. And they need him, to help the planet understand us. It's complicated, but I think in the end it'll be better for all of us."
"I don't like the idea of leaving him out there, what if the Outcasts try and reach him?"
"The terrians won't let him. He's dreaming with them. The planet itself will protect him I think, at this point."
"How can you know that?"
"I just know. I wish I could say it better, but there are some things that I just know, and that Uly knows too. We have to trust him."
"Julia has a lead, and it looks good. A hell of a lot better than things looked this time yesterday."
"Near as I can tell, Elizabeth was wrong. The planet's not rejecting her, Devon's body is rejecting the planet." Julia gestured to the text and numbers on her screen, but Danziger ignored it, watching her instead. Now that she actually had something to work with, albeit dreams and fifty year old data, it was like she was lit from within, and hope began to rise in his chest even though common sense warned him that it was premature.
"I don't get it." Walman was honest.
"Okay, look at it this way," Julia ran her fingers through her hair, trying to translate her theories and findings into everyday speech. "Humanity adapts, right? But living on the Stations changed us, all of us, in ways that produced the Syndrome. The Syndrome children lost their immunities to simple viruses and bacteria from Earth, their immune systems couldn't handle life period, Stations or no. The Syndrome is genetic, and the planet changed Uly all at once. But with Devon, whose family has been on the stations longer than the rest of us, these genetic changes were more subtle. Near as I can figure, it's like a virus, a good virus, that is trying to rewrite--correct--her genetic code one cell at a time. But until it reached her bone marrow, her own immune system is attacking the changed tissue and cells, rejecting them. That's why I was reading shock and impending system failure, and elevated white count. The planet trying to heal her is what's killing her."
"So how do we help her?" Danziger didn't care about the specifics, just so long as they led to the result he wanted: Devon Adair, whole and healthy, back where she belonged.
"It's almost like what the planet, the terrians, did to Uly," she brought up the boy's file, and two double helixes rotated on screen, "but the change isn't as pronounced, and it didn't take place as quickly. The virus, for lack of a better word, needs help. I have to think four steps ahead, see what it's trying to do exactly and then affect those changes for it. I think it'll work."
"You think." Walman frowned. He didn't like grey areas, not when you were dealing with someone's life.
"We never faced anything like this back home, the planet's symbiotic relationship with the life it supports is practically unheard of." Julia glanced from Danziger to Walman, her hands fluttering as if trying to keep up with her mind, which frankly, was moving a little too quickly for either man to follow at this point.
"We know how hard you're working Julia, no need to get defensive." Danziger shot Walman a warning look.
"It's like I have to switch off her immune system until the change is complete, that's what frightens me, but I can't think of any other way."
"But doesn't she need that to fight infection?"
"If I can create a sterile environment, like a bubble, kind of a huge immuno-suit, then I think I can do it."
"Just like in Uly's dream," Alonzo had absorbed all of this slowly, and was now matching what he'd heard to the visions he'd experiences. "He saw her in the children's ward back on the Stations, in an immuno-suit, and it was like she was trapped between two sides that couldn't communicate, Science from back home, Dr. Vasquez, and the Planet, that's why the Terrian was there. But you," he looked up at the doctor, "you were in the middle, you were the bridge between the two sides."
"I'm flattered at the image, I only hope I can live up to it."
Danziger stood inside the cold-sleep crypt, in near darkness. he hadn't cued the lights, and the only illumination came from the pale blue glow of the cold-sleep chamber that was Devon Adair's entire universe.
"Uly's taken this pretty hard," he began, knowing she couldn't hear him, but needing to talk to her anyway. "He, ah... he's off with the terrians right now. I screwed up royally taking care of your kid, I mean, a week and I've already misplaced him. Now, I know you'd be worrying, but you don't have to. 'Lonzo says the kid's getting help, for himself and you. He thinks that the terrians can help, and Julia's got a lead now, based on what she got from that damned computer. We'll have you out of here in no time, you'll see. I know, I know, I probably shouldn't have let her talk to Reilly, or Eve, or whatever the hell it's calling itself today, but right now all I care about is getting you back. And if that means giving Reilly the data he wants, well, it's just data. He can't touch Uly, we'd never let him, and if people are coming anyway, well... they need our help too."
Danziger leaned against the wall, staring at the walking stick Uly had left at his mother's side, a reminder. He rubbed his eyes with one hand, weary.
"You'd better get your ass back here, and well again, soon Adair. We're a real mess here without you. I don't know if I'm cut out for this. The Ops crew still sees me as, you know, one of the guys. This isn't like a regular foreman job, you know. Fixing or building something with tools. I mean, in a way it is, geez I hate this, trying to fix us, build this colony I guess in our minds until we reach New Pacifica. See? You're the one who's good at this. Me, I'm strictly short-term. Food, water, shelter. I can barely think a week ahead, let alone two years, or decades. That's what you're good at. You look at people and see the long term. How people fit, you did it with this project, and when we crashed, you managed to get the lot of us to work together.
"I'm worried I'm gonna screw that up here. I mean, we've broken into little groups since setting you up in here. Julia lives in the med-tent, trying to find a way to cure you, and if 'Lonzo wasn't with her, I don't think she'd eat or sleep. The Martins basically freaked out. Bess is trying to calm Morgan down, but I can tell she's scared. Yale is a mess, what with you in here, and Uly out there.
"Walman and I damn near killed each other. You know, you're going to have to do something about him when you're okay again. Magus, Baines, Cameron, Mazatl and Denner are trying to keep him on the steady, we're all just trying to stay busy. Baines keep saying he's glad we're stopped, he's modifying that damn perimeter shield again. Can't stop fiddling. Denner is still missing Eben pretty bad, they were bunkmates you know. Well, of course you know, I forget, you hired them. They did three missions together before this one. I'm hoping Baines'll wake up and help her out a little, she seems lost. And you know Magus. She's in the middle of it all, acting like nothing's too big to handle, and what the hell's the matter with us..."
He took a deep breath, and it came out a sigh.
"I used to talk to Elle, when they first put her on life support, you know. Just... talk to her. Pretend that everything was going to be okay. I knew it wouldn't be, but I had to try...
"Anyway, so you gotta be okay, because I can't do this without you."
//Ten days. Who would have thought how long ten days can become? It can be an eternity. Ulysses has found his own measure of peace, with the terrians, and I can't help but think that, no matter what happens with his mother, this time will change him. Has changed him. And things will never be the same again.//
The camp had assembled around the med-tent, and were looking expectantly at Julia, who fidgeted. Alonzo touched her shoulder, and she reached up and gave his fingers a gentle squeeze. True sat on Danziger's lap, and Yale watched her nervously chewing on the end of one plait absently. She didn't like Uly being out there, even after all of Alonzo's assurances that it was alright, that he couldn't be safer. After all, as much as the boy sometimes annoyed her, he was her only friend, at least, only friend her age on the planet, and she had perhaps spent more time with him since their journey began than anyone.
Since placing Devon in cold sleep, True had watched silently, and without any of her usual fuss, as everyone looked at him with sympathy. And, if they looked at her at all, it was to see how she was treating him. That had to have been hard one her. Like Uly, she only had one parent, and imagining what it must be like to be cut off...
Yale wished he had taken her aside, spoken to her since Uly had disappeared. It was easy to forget how young she was, since she presented herself usually as some kind of miniature adult. Smart, fast, and capable. Everything John Danziger could want in a daughter, and whether that was conscious or not wasn't Yale's place to either criticise or question. Easy to forget how deeply affected she was by the emotions of the group.
Julia cleared her throat, and all the whispered conversations ground to a halt.
"I think I can heal her," Julia said without preamble. She had to be completely honest with these people, her friends. her family. And herself. "but it's risky. I think you all need to know that, first and foremost." She carefully described what she'd learned about what was killing Adair, and met their eyes as she went through her theories step by step, Alonzo filling in here and there about the Terrians side of things, as best he could understand them.
"Just do it, Julia," John Danziger said. "All we ask is that you your best."
"I'll bring her back to us, Danziger, if it's within my power to do so."
There were no questions voiced, they held them in their hearts instead, to be answered either when Devon Adair returned to them whole and healthy, or they had to return her to the earth, even if it wasn't the earth that bore her.
And the limits of power would be set.
Ulysses Adair was dreaming. He knew he was dreaming because he was standing in the coldsleep crypt in the Council ship, over a mile from the cave where he stood and dreamed. He knew he was dreaming because he could look at his mother's still form without crumbling into a thousand scattered pieces. He knew he was dreaming because only on the dreamplane would he have the strength to do what he was about to do.
He knew he was dreaming, because he compelled, through sheer force of will, his mother's dreaming mind to awaken.
Devon Adair blinked in confusion, and leaned against the wall. She stayed there for a moment, breathing. That was important, the breathing part, her fuzzy mind assured her. She reached out and touched the red ribbons of her son's walking stick, leaning against the wall, and tears sprang to her eyes. She finally looked up and saw herself, encased in the coldsleep chamber.
"Am I dead...?" she asked, and Uly and the terrians stepped out from the shadows.
"Uly!" Devon ran to him, throwing her arms around him. "Oh God, Uly, I never thought I'd see you again."
Uly closed his eyes. It was so real... so real...
"Mom, you have to listen to me," he said into her hair. "We don't have much time."
"What do you mean?"
"Julia is coming to wake you up, so we can heal you."
"Mom, listen to me, it's really important."
Uly could see them entering now. Julia, Alonzo, Danziger, Yale, and Walman. Julia tapped in the sequence that would begin to release him mother from coldsleep.
Devon watched them, and almost smiled. "I knew they'd find a way."
"We found a way." For the first time Devon noted the terrians standing sentinel behind her son.
"Is she coming out of it?" Danziger asked Julia as the doctor ran her diaglove over the unconscious Adair.
"I had to bring her up slowly, her core temperature is rising, EEG's on target, alpha rising--"
Devon coughed. Danziger never thought he'd heard a sweeter sound.
"Okay, let's do this quick and easy," Julia stepped back. "Careful," Julia cautioned needlessly as Danziger lifted the unconscious Adair from the sleep chamber. She weighed next to nothing, and he tried not to think about that as they hurried to the med-tent, which had been moved to the entrance of the Council ship.
Devon watched in an odd kind of detached horror John lift her body lifted into his arms. She wanted to feel his touch suddenly, unreasonably. To remind herself that she alive.
She followed them, trying not to think of herself as the ghost she felt like. This shouldn't be so hard, she'd been on the dreamplane before. The last time...
She'd seen a slice of a possible future. That much she remembered, though the memories had faded rapidly, as dreams were wont to do. But that had been a possible future, no guarantee she'd live to see her son grown and strong.
"Uly, can we follow them?"
"Yes," Uly smiled and took her hand, leading her outside.
Julia had rigged an oxygen tent around a cot, used the diaglove to check Devon's vitals before she administered the immunosuppressant. Outside the clear plastic, Yale, Danziger, Alonzo and Walman stood, watching.
"Uly should be here," Yale was concerned, but Alonzo put a hand on his shoulder.
"He is. In his own way." Alonzo couldn't explain how he felt the boy near, but he did. When he closed his eyes he could see Uly there, on the dreamplane. And he could see...
Alonzo's eyes snapped open as he heard the hiss of the hypo. Julia held the diaglove over Devon's still form, lost in the information it was feeding her.
"Okay, looks like it's working, her white count is going down." The doctor reached for another hypo, and looked up at them briefly. Danziger nodded, and she pressed the hypo to Devon's neck, and stepped outside to watch from there.
"What is she doing?" Devon couldn't keep the curiosity from her voice as she watched Julia, colours a little brighter than in the waking world, but otherwise the dreamplane didn't seem that strange to her.
The terrian trilled, and Uly turned and listened, his head cocked like a bird, and then trilled softly in response. Devon suppressed a shudder at the alien sound coming from her son's throat.
"He says that she is trying to help the planet heal what is broken, by stopping you from fighting the change."
"The Change? Uly, what does he mean?"
"You'll understand," was his cryptic answer, and she did frown then, but turned back to watch.
The respirator and heart monitor began to whine shrilly, and Julia furiously tried to stabilise Devon's system as the change began, and the unconscious woman began to convulse. Outside the protective cocoon, Danziger's hands balled into fists. Walman began to murmur a prayer.
Devon felt like fire was running through her veins, and she fell to her knees, gasping. Uly moved to her side, and looked up at the terrian with hopelessness in his eyes.
"Look into your heart, Mom. Trust it!"
"Dammit, she's failing!" Julia swore, and tried to use the glove to find the answer. "It should be working.... why isn't it working?'
"It is!" Alonzo touched the plastic barrier. "Trust it!"
On the dreamplane, Devon's form began to shimmer, and fade, and Uly's hands went straight through the dream image. He knelt on the ground, crying. The terrian placed a hand on his shoulder.
In the cave, Uly's eyes snapped open, as did the terrian's, and on an unspoken signal, the earth swallowed them.
The ground erupted inside the oxygen tent, and Uly and a terrian rose from the earth. Julia started to go back in, but Alonzo held her back.
"No," she tried to pull free, but Alonzo held fast.
"It's their turn now, watch."
The terrian held out a hand, and sand spilled from its cupped fingers, falling to the convulsing woman's chest. She stilled, and Julia's eyes widened as the machine stopped their symphony of beeps and squeals.
"It's working. My God, she's stabilising..." She looked up at Alonzo with blue eyes shining with tears. "It's working!" She hugged him tight, wiping at her eyes, and he kissed her hair.
"It's working," Danziger whispered, a grin splitting his face.
Colour rushed into Devon's cheeks, and her breathing grew less laboured as her son and the terrian stood over her, working whatever magic the planet could provide.
Blue eyes flickered open, squinting against the sunlight filtered through the canvas. They fastened on her son, her beloved child, and her fingers flexed. Uly grasped his mother's hand at last, and her fingers curled around his, warm, dry, and safe.
"Hold still," Julia took Devon's vitals. They had removed the oxygen tent that morning, and Julia had been taking Devon's white count every hour since the "change" as Uly called it. There didn't appear to be any complications, as a matter of fact, Devon was probably healthier than she'd ever been. The changes to her genetic material were almost negligible, but they were enough.
Enough to ensure that the Syndrome would never again appear in the Adair line.
"That's all I've done for the last three days." Devon groused. Julia could hold back a smile.
"Uly's a better patient than you are."
"He's had more practice."
The tent flap rustled, and Uly and True entered, followed by John, who hadn't stopped grinning since Devon'd first opened her eyes.
"You up for visitors?"
"Yes!" Devon smiled as her son threw himself into her outstretched arms. He had lost the distant look that had plagued her so, but he still wasn't quite the same little boy she'd landed on G889 with.
"Are you all better, Mom?"
"Getting there, kid." Devon smoothed his dark curls from his forehead. "You need a haircut, little man."
"Mo-om," Uly sighed, and True elbowed him.
"How 'bout you, True? Was my son a good houseguest?"
"Yeah, I guess so." True shrugged. But inside she was signing, and not just because Uly had gone back to sharing a tent with Yale.
Her dad was finally happy again. Everything was getting back to normal.
"Okay, visiting hour's over, the patient needs rest." Julia shooed the children out.
"Julia? Can I have a minute with John?"
"Don't tire her out, Danziger." Julia wagged a warning finger, and Danziger held up his hands in surrender.
"Yes, ma'am. Wouldn't dream of it."
Julia glanced back at the mechanic as he pulled out a chair and took Devon's hand, and smiled on her way out.
Reilly seemed pleased to see her, which was of course a complete fiction. But he seemed to want to maintain the pretence of being human, and Julia didn't feel like arguing.
"So, I take it everything went well?"
"Devon seems whole and healthy, yes."
"I'm ready for the uplink then, and don't be thinking of planting any little surprises. Bennett may have been able to fool us once, but we won't be fooled again."
"Oh, I wouldn't dream of it." The scarcasm dripped from her voice, and Reilly tsked.
"Why so bitter, Dr. Heller? Aren't you the one who insists we need each other?"
"Oh, Elizabeth's data was helpful. She was wrong, of course. She had never seen the Syndrome, left the Stations before it ever appeared, so she couldn't see the connection."
"What are you talking about?"
"You'll see. You'll see it all, a promise is a promise."
"And what does your fearless leader think about your temporary return to the fold?"
"I haven't come back to you, Reilly. I think you know that."
"So haven't told her."
"I told her. Right now, all we care about is getting to New Pacifica, and preparing for those colonists. They will all need the treatment, and it'll be a long road. But we're here to stay."
"That's good to hear," Reilly said pleasently.
"Thank you." Devon squeezed Danziger's fingers.
"For taking care of Uly. For taking care of me."
"I didn't do that great a job. I lost your kid first chance I got."
"No you didn't. You just misplaced him." Devon's eyes sparkled, and Danziger started. "You were there when he needed you, that's all I ever asked for and more. You were there when I needed you."
She carassed his thumb with a finger, relishing the touch. Alive. She was alive...
"I want you to ride in the Transrover with John."
"Julia, I feel fine," Devon asssured her.
"That's nice," Julia remarked cheerfully. The doctor obviously wasn't going to budge.
"What's the matter, Adair? You don't like my company?" Danziger leaned across and opened the passenger door for her, offering his hand.
Devon scrambled up, ignoring the proferred hand, and Danziger chuckled.
"You are one bullheaded woman, you know that?"
"You wouldn't want me any other way," Devon laughed, slamming the Transrover door. John shook his head, chosing to ignore the double meaning.
For now, anyway.
Yale watched the Transrover pull away, Devon and John chatting, about what he did not know, and smiled. From the depths of despair to hope and joy in the space of a few days. The Eden Project laughed and joked and complained as they once again packed up their lives to try and get one step closer to New Pacfica and their future.
As we leave this place behind, with its graves and the Watcher high above our heads, we leave the fear and the pain, taking with us only our memories. We are changed. A boy has found a balance between his two natures. A doctor has trusted her instincts above the science she revered. And all of us faced the prospect of the loss of what we took for granted.
Everything has a price. Life on the Stations. Life here. Knowledge. Wisdom. Love. Our children's smiles.
And we took it believing it free.
We will not make that mistake again.
ljc's earth 2 fan fiction