|No Man Needs Nothing
Author: Deborah Judge PM
The Engineer's world is completely destroyed when David and Elizabeth find it. But doesn't everyone want their parents dead? David/Elizabeth, David/MeredithRated: Fiction M - English - Spiritual/Romance - M. Vickers & E. Shaw - Words: 2,853 - Reviews: 2 - Published: 10-30-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8656322
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The world they found was broken and empty with no signs of life. A few ruined buildings were still crumpling into the dust and ash that was everywhere in the unrelenting grey. Elizabeth stepped off the ship and put her hands in the earth.
"Don't touch anything," David said. "It might be contaminated."
Elizabeth ignored him. Nothing could get through her suit and in any case she had no reason to be careful of her life. The Engineer's ship had only enough fuel to get them to this place. It would not be able to get them home. Elizabeth hadn't cared. No one can see God's face and live, she knew that a long time ago, but still she had hoped that the Engineers would give her more fuel or even bring her home. Surely they would want to make peace with their creations, once they came to know them, but they were gone.
"We can still study them," David said. "Find out what they were." Elizabeth nodded vaguely and knelt on the ground. Her cross was heavy on her chest. This was the place where her parents had died.
Meredith Vickers made a point of always checking for a report from what once was the crew of the Prometheus immediately upon awakening, before even looking at Weyland Company Stocks. It was only partly that she needed to know where it was and what was coming out of the investment that her company (and yes, she reminded herself, it was her company now) had long ago made. But it was mostly that she missed David. He had been her first love when she was a child and her first lover when she was old enough to know that it was right, and although she'd taken many lovers since he was still her closest friend.
The android she had ordered made in her own image to go on the Prometheus had served some of its purposes well enough. It had fooled her father, but, although Meredith had long suspected that he could only love androids, it hadn't made him love her. It hadn't fooled David for a moment, although he agreed to follow its orders he couldn't quite hide his disgust at being asked to take orders from a newer model android with design flaws, David said, far too many and tedious to enumerate. Meredith had kissed him and told him that on his return he was welcome to give her any order he liked.
She'd never given him orders herself, only asked like she'd ask any other senior employee in her father's corporation. She'd promised him long ago that on her father's death he'd be free. It was a promise she still wanted to keep.
And there was a third reason that Meredith watched the report from Prometheus every day. Her android had sent her the recording of the moment when her father had been killed. She knew David had said something to the Engineer before he'd killed him, but she didn't know what it was. She'd tried learning Proto-Indo-European, got the tapes that David had used to practice, but she still couldn't make sense of it, and she'd be damned if she'd turn it over to anyone else. She wanted to know why her father died.
The message stream didn't tell her that morning, just like it hadn't told her any of the previous mornings over the past six months. There had been no message from what had been the crew of the Prometheus since the last one they sent upon leaving LV-223. They were out of range, messages wouldn't transmit. But the tracker following the ship was stable, and had been for a day. They had reached their destination. Meredith knew where they were.
During the six-month journey Elizabeth had eaten vitamins and proteins that David figured out how to distill from the ship's energy stream. They had occupied their days with lessons in Engineer language and technology. There might not be Engineers left but Elizabeth could read any writings they had left. And she was hungry.
In a bombed-out basement, behind the remains of old bodies, they found some papers. They also found a can of what looked like food, and turned out to taste something like musky old canned peaches. It tasted good.
They worked together to decipher the letter. Elizabeth still needed help from David with a lot of the words, and there were some he didn't understand and others that had been smudged beyond readablity. "Please send," it said. And, "need." And "there will be no peace."
These were her creators, the beings that had made them. It wasn't hard to figure out why they were gone.
Their ship couldn't get them home but it could keep them alive. David took some time to fiddle with it, and Elizabeth stumbled into the other room to pray. The cross she wore was her father's cross, and he had always told her that when she prayed in her own words God could hear. "Where are you in this place?" she asked. "I need to find you here." There wasn't an answer of course, there never was, but asking was something. She needed to ask. This was the place she was always going to be.
This wasn't the life her father had wanted for her. She had been raised to be a missionary, like her father was, but when her life with Charlie made that impossible she had used her training to become an anthropologist, and then an archeologist. To hear the word of God from the world instead of speaking it. But those who had lived here weren't gods, and they were no longer alive.
David had called this place Paradise. Said the word the Engineers used for this planet was the same that old human languages used for Paradise. Elizabeth had learned about Paradise from her father. Paradise is where you go when you die.
In the two years and six months since the Prometheus and Peter Weyland had gone on their final journey, Yutani corporation had figured out a way to make starships go faster. So Meredith set herself to acquiring it. Company takeovers were one thing she knew how to do, her father had trained her well in it, setting her to collect pieces to join to his empire. It only took a few days for Yutani Corporation to crumble, and Meredith took a strange glee in watching it fall.
It had been one of her father's greatest rivals. She was doing what her father always wanted, as competent and as cool as he had trained her to be.
In between board meetings she watched the red dot on the tracking screen that was all she still had of David. He had always made her feel human, or made her not care if she was or not. She was a being created by Peter Weyland, and in that way they were alike.
Meredith had Yutani Corporation, and had fulfilled her father's legacy. With it she had a ship that could carry three people and could make the journey from Earth to the Engineer's planet in eighteen days.
On their long journey Elizabeth had made David a cross out of fused metal. She figured if he wanted one enough to steal hers then he should probably have one of his own. He always kept it in his pocket, although he never worse it like she did.
The work of archeology was tedious, lots of sifting and cataloging, and it left lots of time for conversation. "Why is a cross the symbol of your faith?" David asked her once.
"It's a sign that God came to Earth," she said. "As a person. A human being. And as a person God suffered and died. He was nailed to a cross."
"So you wear a cross as a sign that God is dead," David said.
That was such a phenomenal misunderstanding that Elizabeth couldn't imagine how he could have gotten there, and then she heard what was missing in the story she had told. "I wear a cross as a sign that God still lives," she said.
"I wonder what the Engineers thought," David said, softly, after a time, "when they saw that humans had decided to worship one of their own." It was two thousand years ago. The thought made Elizabeth shiver.
In bed that night she pressed herself against him. They had begun having sexual relations about four months into the journey, when the loneliness and the presence of another body had simply overwhelmed her. He held her close, stroking the side of her neck and then her hair. He kissed her, and then she was hungry for him. He made love to her tenderly, as he always did, sweet gentle thrusts overwhelming all thought.
Elizabeth had known, growing up, that a pious Christian woman has sex with only one man, her husband. Charlie had been that man, they had married in college, had even planned on going on missions together before her infertility had shattered his faith in a God who creates life and answers prayers. And now Charlie was gone, and David had killed him, and Elizabeth was sleeping with David. She didn't know what she had become.
To go on that ship Meredith knew that she would have to appoint an assistant who would control operations for her during the two weeks of training and then nearly six weeks that she could be gone. Vice-presidents sometimes want to be presidents. Princes sometimes want to be kings. What is true of kings is also true of queens, they have their reign and then they die.
There was no one that Meredith could appoint, no one that she could trust enough. That was something else her father taught her, never trust anyone you haven't made yourself.
She thought about the android replacement she had made. Capable of thought and of reason. Capable, in its own way, of love, because how else could it respond to her father? She thought about its short life, never knowing what it was, crushed beneath the ship it had helped find. She wondered it if was ever possible to truly care for a tool that you yourself had made.
David was her brother, created with her and alongside her. Loving him was as easy as being herself. She had been too long without him.
Paradise wasn't the name for this place that Elizabeth found buried among the burnt papers in the ruins. There were enough words that she could put together that she could figure out the word the Engineers used when they were talking about their planet. And yes, Paradise was a possible translation of it, but given the way the Engineer's language worked there were so many others. Like 'orchard fields', or 'retelling.' Just looking at the word that wasn't how Elizabeth would have translated it.
"Why did you tell me this place was called Paradise?" Elizabeth said.
"It's a possible translation," David said, in no way answering the question.
"You knew it would resonate with me," she said. "You took it from my memories. Which memory did you take it from? What did you see while I was sleeping?"
"It was your father," David said. "What your father said when you asked him where people go when they die."
It made sense. There was no word that David could have used, nothing that could have compelled her to come to this place more deeply than the hint, even the subconscious suggestion, that she might find her father here.
"Why?" she asked. "Why did you want to come here?"
"Information must be gathered," David said. "But I thought you would want to see it."
She ignored the second statement, focusing on the first. "It's Weyland," she said, "Weyland's programming. You thought you would be free of it but you're not free."
"What happened to you," David said, "when your father died?"
He took out the cross from his pocket so she could see him holding it in his hand. It was an anchor he could hold on to, something different from Weyland, something beyond even her. She covered his hand with hers, pressing the cross between them.
"There is nothing in the desert," David once said, quoting from the movie he liked to quote, "and no man needs nothing." But neither of them was a man. She thought about the rest of her life on this world that wasn't quite called Paradise. The days would be like they had been. The work of an archeologist was to gather shards and pots and broken things. She was learning more about how the Engineers died. There was a war, and Earth was part of it. Instead of destroying Earth they had destroyed themselves.
In the small hours of the night David told her about Meredith. Not the one she knew, the other one, the one who was human. There is a kind of peace, David said, in sharing your body with the one to whom you were always intended to give it. And another kind of peace, he said, in someone your maker could never have understood or imagined. Then he stopped speaking, needing his mouth for other purposes. His kisses were sweet on her neck, and on her breasts, and between her thighs, and she cried out in pleasure to the empty sky.
Meredith watched, over and over, the moment of her father's death. David said words that she couldn't understand. The Engineer touched David, and he looked as happy as she had ever seen him. Then the Engineer threw her father across the room and ripped David's head from his shoulders, and there was nothing in the moment that helped Meredith understand why.
She hadn't wanted David to go to the distant planet with her father, had begged him not to go, but he was made for this and his programming couldn't be overridden. There were so few choices that either of them had ever had.
Genevive Yutani was a small white-haired woman of around seventy. "Come to gloat?" she asked Meredith when Meredith visited her while she was packing up her office.
"I've come to offer you a job," Meredith said. "If you want it."
It was a new thing that Meredith was doing. She wasn't good at it. She was good at taking, it was what she was made for, taking other people's companies and making them her own. This was something different.
She admired the work that Yutani had done, Meredith explained, how her company had transformed faster-than-light travel in only a few years. And it would ease the transition. It would be good for the new Weyland-Yutani corporation if Yutani herself retained some measure of control.
"It's generous of you," Yutani said.
"I need the help," Meredith said. "I am going to need to go away for a bit. Like my father went."
Meredith had no reason to think that the company would still be hers on her return. Ms. Yutani was formidable, knew how to maneuver and backstab and get people on her side. She could destroy Weyland's legacy in the few months that Meredith gave her, leaving Meredith with only her own resources to take it back. She was surprised at how much the thought thrilled her.
The ship was like a star, an unexpected revelation. Not an Engineer's ship, a human one. Not something from the past. A ship that could bring her home.
Elizabeth knew that Mededith and David were going to kiss from the moment the hatch opened and she saw her, although to be honest she knew from the moment the strange, human ship appeared in the sky. He kissed her gently, then deeply, for a very long time, both light and graceful and strong, each as alien as the other.
"I've been wanting to meet you," Meredith said to Elizabeth when they broke the kiss.
"Come with us," David said, and it wasn't until that moment that Elizabeth realized how much she didn't want to. She felt the wind at her back and the dust of the ones who had made her. There was a peace in the desert, in being neither missionary nor crewmember nor good Christian wife. There was a part of her that wanted to stay. She could die here and join her parents. But David's hand was outstretched to her and she had learned to trust him so she took it, stepped into his incomprehensible arms, because he was beautiful and strange and because she still wanted to live. She took it because this place was not Paradise, and because her father was dead.