Author's Note: A warning for all ye about to enter here. This is a sequel to "Light and Shadow of the Distant Sun", which was in turn a sequel to "Lily and the Art of Divine Responsibility" which was in turn a crossover of "Lily and the Art of Being Sisyphus" and "October". If you haven't any idea what that means, you will be dreadfully confused.
"The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it."
- The Lord of the Rings
The universe, Elizabeth Shaw, would soon discover, was much smaller than she had realized.
Her world had started so wide and vast, carted about the world by her father, but with his death it seemed to gradually shrink with every passing year. It was, perhaps, part of the reason she was so confident in her theory of Engineers and intelligent design when so many had argued against her.
The world, even the universe as vast as it was, had always been small and there were too many wonderous coincidences in the world for Elizabeth to ever truly accept the shrugging explanation of mere happenstance. On finding her Engineers on the wall of that ancient Scottish cave, three years ago now, which in turn matched Engineers in other ancient forgotten places pointing towards the stars that were their home, the world had seemed joyously smaller.
Answers, for the first time in hundreds of thousands of years, were within human reach.
The universe, however, was smaller still.
The Doctor Elizabeth Shaw, of that moment, standing on the bridge and staring with the other crew members at the video feeds set up outside the ship was only on the cusp of realizing it.
"Holy mother of Jesus," Charlie said as he looked at the screen, "Ellie, baby, I know what we've been saying but I didn't think—"
"That they'd come out to greet us?" Milburn, the biologist asked, a joking edge to his voice, trying to cover the way it was shaking.
Elizabeth didn't blame him, she was shaking too, because she had thought she'd prepared herself for anything. She had been prepared for their demise eons ago, she'd been prepared for a civilization so advanced its technology came to resemble magic, but she was not sure she had prepared herself for this mix.
It was a barren, desert, world that lacked Earth's rich diversity. There seemed to be nothing living where they had landed, but there were signs of civilization, dozens of pyramid temples buried in the sand. Then, when they'd landed and prepared for disembarking, a lone figure in white had appeared just in front of their ship on the path to the pyramid.
"Fucking Christ, is it human?" Fifield asked, twitching slightly, raking a hand through his bright red mohawk, back and forth until it lost its texture.
It was too hard to tell, the resolution was not what it could be, their higher definition cameras hadn't been set up yet, these were only the installed lenses that had lasted three years through space flight.
He looked human, he was tall for a human man but not outside the realm of possibility, he stood on two legs with a human's posture. More, in the grand scheme of the universe and the distance between them, he looked damningly human.
Enough that there was little doubt in Elizabeth's mind that somehow, across all that space and time, some other man was here on this small forgotten world. And in the face of that small fact, a coincidence so large it hardly seemed a coincidence at all, the human crew of the Prometheus and its one android could only stare open mouthed as if waiting for something.
"He's just standing there, why is he just—"
"He's waiting," Elizabeth said, something that seemed so trivial and obvious, and yet still had to be breathed aloud in wonder, "He's waiting for us to come out."
Did he know it was a ship? Did he know there were people, humans, inside? Did he know where it had come from? Had he come here by similar means himself or had he always been here? Were there others, was he an Engineer, had he been waiting all this time for them?
She suddenly felt nervous, she'd been prepared, but she hadn't truly been. She'd prepared herself too much in the wrong direction. She had been prepared for the disappointment of finding they had never been there or they had but were long gone. Suddenly, after three years spent sleeping, they were here, and the moment had come to not only see her makers but to in fact meet them.
At a sound Elizabeth turned around, noted that Vickers, Weyland's lead representative was not merely suited up but loading a gun. The woman, colder than ice, far colder than even the android David, merely raised an eyebrow at Elizabeth's expression as if to dare her to say something.
The man, the thing, didn't look armed but on the cameras it was hard to tell. More, whatever weapons he might be carrying could be incomprehensible to them as guns would have been in the Middle Ages. They were minutes from walking out into the unknown and even Elizabeth knew better than to argue that.
So, she said nothing, held her tongue and accepted the weapon she'd been trained in but wished she had no need for, and with all but the pilots disembarked and slowly approached the figure.
Up close, he looked both more and less human than he had on the screen. He was taller than she'd thought, and very thin, giving him a stretched out and almost delicate look. The skin of his hands, his long thin fingers clutching a dark walking stick, was impossibly pale. There was no hint of blue veins, brown freckles from the sun, or pink from blood, instead it was all a pure and daunting white. As if he had been carved from marble. Beyond that it was hard to tell what to make of him, the rest of him was covered in layers of thin pale fabric worn in deserts, dark goggles perched over his eyes, leaving only his hands and strands of flaxen hair peaking out from beneath a white shawl.
There was no suit though, no suit, no mask, and no obvious supply of oxygen. He, alone of all of them, because even David had donned a suit even when he had no real need to, was truly exposed to the elements.
He looked, for a moment, like a science fiction writer's interpretation of Lawrence of Arabia. For the oddest of seconds, she could almost imagine Peter O'Toole standing beneath that costume.
He stood as still, but again almost unnaturally so, as still as a statue. Yet, for all that he simply stood there, there was a kind of presence to him as if you could tell his eyes beneath that dark glass was turned directly on them and nowhere else. Though he gave no physical sign of it, it was somehow obvious that he was waiting.
Slowly, uncertainly, Elizabeth turned to David. He, as far as she understood, had spent the past three years studying languages for some hint of the Engineer's mother tongue. Somehow, he looked almost surprised by her attention, then he blinked, and the expression was gone, and he slowly began to address the man in what appeared to be standard greetings in a variety of languages. Some, Elizabeth thought she could recognize, the rhythm and sounds that had carried even into languages of the modern era. Others, though, were formed of syllables she hadn't realized could be pronounced by a human tongue and throat.
Next to her, Charlie, unnerved but trying not to show it, muttered under his breath, "Jesus, what's even the point? The likelihood that he knows—"
"Outlander," the man called out, in a crisp, English, accent that halted David halfway through his sentence, "I appreciate your effort, though you do not have to go so far."
"Holy shit—" Milburn gaped next to her, cursing under his breath, and Elizabeth couldn't say she blamed him.
The alien, no the man, didn't wait for them to gather their wits and think about what it must mean. That someone from Earth, someone from England perhaps, had come here before them. Or else that they had been watching closely, far closely than even Elizabeth had thought, and had close kept track of Earth's current lingua franca.
Instead he said, in a voice somehow clear despite the wind and the fabric, "I am in need of passage on your starship."
"Our spaceship," David said then, seamlessly switching to English, keeping his calm while the rest of them were only capable of staring, "Is your own in need of repairs?"
Unspoken was an assumption, that the man had traveled here himself, that he was not from this place in the same way that they weren't from this place. Elizabeth held her breath, uncertain of which answer she should wish for and what that answer might mean.
The man considered this, for a moment, and then answered, "My means of transport," he paused before that final word, as if that was not what he would have called it if he was speaking to someone else, "Cannot be remedied so easily as that."
David still seemed the only one capable of speaking, but he did so as if holding a normal conversation, as if he was speaking to a man lost in a city, "Do you even know where we came from?"
"Earth, I presume," he said before adding, a mischievous smile now in his tone, hidden behind fabric, "The third planet from a central star, that pale, blue, blessed dot. Earth, I promise you, is close enough to where I wish to be."
"Well—" David stopped, paused, narrowed his eyes as he looked at the man. It was… such a human expression, Charlie had often said that he thought Weyland and Yutani were making androids too human these days, that it unnerved him. Elizabeth had always felt this extreme, had found herself oddly fond of David, but in this moment, she could glimpse what Charlie meant.
Just like a man, he could hesitate, pause, and you could see the wheels in his head spinning.
"I am afraid there is no room on our transport for another, living, being," the android finally answered, polite and deferential as always, "We have neither the food, the room, nor the equipment to begin to support your travel to Earth."
"I do not need much," the man said, leaving it to their imagination what that might mean.
"You are an organic life form, I presume," David answered, the slightest of smiles on his lips, "You will need more than the Prometheus can possibly provide."
They waited, each with bated breath, Elizabeth noticed how Vicker's hand drifted slowly to her firearm as if just waiting for an excuse. The man, however, didn't move, gave no reaction to the words at all.
"And what is this Prometheus of yours," the man finally asked, "Here to provide?"
Here Elizabeth finally found her tongue, stumbled forward despite Charlie's warning grip on her wrist and her name hissed in warning from his lips, "We are an expeditionary mission, we're here to see, to learn, to meet the people who built this?"
Finally, this seemed to get a reaction, the man shifted backwards, as if something had just bumped into him. Then, out of nowhere, he laughed. It was a bright, melodic, sound enrapturing enough that it took a second or two before Elizabeth realized she was being laughed at, "Why in the world would you wish to learn from these people, Outlander?"
Elizabeth flushed, felt oddly like a schoolgirl who'd been a tad too overeager about a lesson, and hedged, "Well, on Earth, you see, we found an… invitation of sorts to this place. I believe they were left by a civilization that had some hand in creating us."
The man laughed harder, almost falling over himself, having to hunch forward on his stick as he caught his breath, "You mean you came here, willingly, all the way out to this barren, godless, wasteland, in search of the star flower? Did you forget to look in Scotland?!"
"Oh, so you know what Scotland is?" Charlie asked, voice scathing, and immediately as the words were out he looked as if he just wished he could shove them back into his mouth and eat them.
That seemed to be what the man needed to remember himself, he righted himself against his stick, standing upright, and noted almost with fondness, "So, you truly have come all this way, to find answers in this place?"
It seemed he was waiting for a response looking, strangely enough, to Elizabeth specifically. This though, this she had been asked before, and asked often at that. This was a question she'd faced since the very beginning, from Charlie, from Peter Weyland, and even here when they'd already made it, "Yes."
"Then come," he said, turning on his heel towards the pyramid, striding in with complete confidence and leaving them to follow like errant children, "While there's still daylight to spare."
He paused then, glanced over his shoulder and stopped in his tracks, and noted, "Oh, one more thing, beware the trail beyond the path and the shades left behind there."
"So, you truly mean to do this," the star flower, Lily, said to him.
They were seated on his home world once again, herself returned from the Martian kingdom run by the man who was both like her and not in the same instance. A shadow of her, though he himself did not fully realize it.
She had returned with tea and stories besides, of men and kings from Earth and Ubiquitous, and the two immortal men who remained there. All others, as far as he knew, had passed her by years upon years ago through wars, famine, and the mortal fragility of the human body.
Still, even in this timeless moment, of himself, god, and tea between them, he felt how far the universe had shifted since the beginning of his people, "Yes."
"I don't approve," the girl who was now and would always be a woman, noted, "I hope you realize that."
"I do not always seek your approval," he responded, and he thought such a response would please her. She was often a contrary thing, approving of when they did not blindly approve of her, and stubbornly digging her heels in the sand when they tried to treat her as she was rather than what she sometimes wished to be.
She still sometimes wished to be seen as the fool when they'd known since the dawn of creation that she had been the sage all along.
"I know," she said drily, trying to frown but not quite able to manage it per her own amusement.
"Nonetheless, Light," she said, his given shortened name light on her tongue as she sipped tea, "What good do you possibly think war will bring?"
"They're too close," he spat, all his bitterness, contempt, and envy for Lily's chosen people rising in him all over again. As always, forever, he and his people had had to fight even for her attention, while humanity consistently had it and squandered it, "They get closer and closer every year. They are on Europa now, did you know that?"
"You're well hidden," Lily said, a sort of resigned weariness in her voice as she spoke, "You made sure of that ages ago. Even Ubik, between the the wars with the dissolution of the statute, and far closer to Earth and in a more enviable spot than this place, has been summarily forgotten by the people of Earth."
"And what if that's not true?" he asked, slamming down his tea and ignoring the warm droplets landing on his hands, "What if they come here? What if they manage to break through and poison our world and enslave our people the way they did to their own?"
"That's a lot of what ifs that are very unlikely to happen anytime soon," Lily commented with a sly sort of smile, "And even if they did come, you live on a pile of dirt so small that they keep debating on whether or not to bother calling it a planet."
She sighed then, gave him a clear, frank, look, and then said, "No, Light and Shadow, what you really want, what you don't want to say to my face, is that you aren't thinking about fear or self-defense. You simply think they deserve to die, and you find their expansion into space, this last desperate bid for colonization and survival, infuriating."
He opened his mouth but before he could respond she cut him off, "Don't lie to me."
She did not always look like a god, she hid it very well at times, but sometimes she would forget herself and her origins would shine through in the smallest of gestures.
"You gave them the Earth," he said, such a beautiful, enviable world that had almost seemed made for life, nurtured by the sun and its solitary moon with life overflowing in every corner, "And they squandered it. Why should they be able to claim anything more than what they have? Why can't they live with the consequences of their actions? Why should they have so much, take even more, when you gave us so little?!"
For a moment she didn't answer, simply stared out into the stars, and then said quietly, "It's strange, you know, I can think of so many people who would look at you and say the same. They'd see the immortality, the raw power, and they'd say it'd be more than worth the wastelands of Pluto that required it. You, after all, have the power that the wizards lacked that could have saved their world, rather than driven them as refugees to Ubik's soil."
She looked back at him with a sigh, raking a hand through that dark red hair, and looked at him with those strange green eyes, "Light, I won't tell you what to do, and I won't hold you back from your wars, pointless and cruel as they might be. I'll only warn you that, as always, you have entirely missed the point."
He did not believe that, as she very well knew, and just as he did not stop her when she embarked out into the great void of stars, she did the same. She only watched, leaning against the side of his house, sleeves tugged on by children still growing, as he stepped forward and entered the warp.
Author's Note: Written for the 1200th review of "When Harry Met Tom" where brumalis asked for a sequel to "Light and Shadow of the Distant Sun", which I'm making into a multipart Prometheus crossover because I can. I have missed our crazy, side-fic, crossover, alien priest and warlord. Naturally, more to come.
Thanks for reading, reviews are most appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or Prometheus