ANOTHER FINE MESS

Author: Allison McDonnell

Disclaimer: Amblin's. Universal's. You know the drill.

Rating: PG-13 (coarse language)

Feedback: Yes, please! :)

Author's note: Thanks to Manuela for her proofread and for her very helpful suggestions and support.

Timeline and summary: This D & D story is in two basic parts. The first section is a missing scene which takes place in the middle of "Better Living Through Morganite, Part 2." I've always wondered what might have happened while Devon, Danz and crew were being held against their will in the Terrian cave. With time slipping away and emotions running hot, it's hard for me to believe that they would just sit there quietly.

The second section is set after the episode ends. I wanted to more clearly define where D & D may have stood with each other during that part of their journey. Additionally, I wanted to show the pair gaining a slightly better understanding of each other and of themselves. There's also a bit of foreshadowing regarding a few of the future decisions the two will end up making (particularly in "After The Thaw," "The Greatest Love Story Never Told" and "Survival Of The Fittest"). Hope you like. :)

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"We are finding that it's impossible to learn about this planet without also learning about ourselves."

- Morgan Martin, Better Living Through Morganite, Part 2

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For most people, barely escaping being petrified by a geolock, having three of your friends kidnapped and sentenced to a sunrise execution by seven foot tall dirt aliens and, now, being taken prisoner by those same creatures while trying to rescue your former boss (who also just happens to be a colossal pain in the balls) would be a very unusual day, indeed.

But for John Danziger, it was just another Thursday.

Yep, it seems that the fate of humanity on G889 hangs in the balance... again. If this was some sort of twisted joke played on Danziger by the cosmos, he wasn't laughing-- and he certainly wasn't liking what looked to be the punchline.

The mechanic surveyed the large room of their stone jailhouse to assess the gravity of their latest predicament and to explore their escape options. First, he eyed the pile of pistols and mag-pros which had been confiscated by their captors and placed well beyond their reach. Okay, so getting to the guns and shooting their way out wasn't gonna happen, he easily concluded.

He next examined the location and distance of the cave's three exits. He then reminded himself that, at the moment, he and his fellow kidnappees were surrounded by several weapon-wielding Terrians who, in John's mind, were itching for the slightest provocation to justify opening fire and slaughtering them. Okay, so making a run for it was out of the question, too, he grudgingly acknowledged.

Finally, Danziger centered his attention on what he considered to be the greatest obstacle to his survival. Currently, the auburn-haired Obstacle was staring daggers back at him, looking as though she was just short of starting to foam at the mouth-- and all because he'd tried to help. Danziger's blood began to boil just thinking about it. He'd gone to a helluva lot of trouble, even putting his own life in danger, all for the sole purpose of saving Adair's ridiculously naive hide. And this was the thanks he was getting.

He opened his mouth to express his resentment of her open hostility toward him, but changed his mind. What was the point of trying to talk to her, anyway? Face it, the woman is shanking impossible, Danziger told himself. The only reason she listened to him at all was so she could contradict everything that he said. Sometimes he didn't know why he bothered wasting his breath.

Meanwhile, Devon noticed that John looked as though he was about to speak, undoubtedly to try his hand at making an already bad situation even worse. And, as far as Devon was concerned, Danziger had already caused more than enough trouble for one day, so she tried to head him off.

She leaned forward and whispered curtly, "Don't say a thing. Not a sound, do you hear me?"

The mechanic rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Believe me, I don't have to say a word. All of this speaks for itself," he dryly declared.

"You know, I had everything under control before you got here," she seethed.

He let out an irritated scoff. "Oh, yeah, I could tell," he replied in a mocking tone. "You and Flyboy surrounded by a dozen Diggers pleading for mercy. Diplomacy at its finest."

"You're one to talk," Devon snapped, her voice growing louder. "Between you and the Martins, it's a wonder that half the planet hasn't been freeze-dried."

"I didn't hear any brilliant ideas coming from your direction," he shot back, matching her volume.

"My idea was to come here and talk to them."

"Yeah, great idea," John snorted. "We can all see how well that strategy turned out."

"I knew that it was a mistake to call you on gear," she spat angrily.

"Then why did you, huh?" he jeered. "Probably because you were afraid that the Terrians wouldn't listen to reason and take you prisoner... which is exactly what happened."

Devon's hands clenched into fists and it took nearly all of her self-discipline to keep from lunging at him. "You are such an egotistical bastard!"

"Hey!" John hollered, folding his arms in indignation. "Do I go around callin' you a self-righteous bitch who has a stick up her ass the size of a Terrian staff? No, I keep that opinion to myself because to say it out loud would be rude."

Devon was seriously contemplating hurling a nearby rock at Danziger's head when her thoughts were cut off by an outburst of Terrian trills along with the crackling sound of weapons being powered up for use. It seemed that the Terrians had had quite enough of the feuding couple. And they weren't the only ones.

"For Christ's sake, will you two give it a rest before the Terrians start zapping us?" Walman hissed as he traded an exasperated look with Baines. Meanwhile, Alonzo had buried his head in his hands, wishing that the Dreamplane wasn't broken so he could will himself there to get away from the bickering.

The Edenites nervously held their breaths, worried that the Terrians were about to act on their urge to quiet them permanently. Several minutes of tense silence passed before the creatures apparently decided to give their captives a reprieve and disabled their staffs.

The group exhaled a collective sigh of relief at their temporary good fortune. But all of them, including Devon, understood that, after the reckless and grossly irresponsible behavior that Eden Advance had exhibited during the past twelve hours, the Terrians had become too angry to listen to any further pleas for a compromise or for additional time to rectify their mistakes. Therefore, it was highly likely that their luck would run out at daybreak, if not sooner.

Devon turned to Alonzo who was slumped against the wall to her right. "When do you think Mary will be back?" she asked in a low voice.

The pilot wore a solemn expression and his eyes were trained on the Terrians as he spoke. "I doubt that she's coming back," he said.

Devon and the others couldn't believe their ears. "Wait a minute, are you saying that she's not going to help us?" Baines exclaimed in shock.

"That's exactly what I'm saying. Even if the human part of her disagrees with what the Terrians are doing, she won't go against their decision," Alonzo stated plainly before pivoting back to address the leader directly. "Devon, I think we're on our own."

Devon exhaled a heavy sigh and veered her gaze toward the ceiling, deep in thought. If Mary was out of the picture, things were looking pretty bleak indeed. She began to consider tactical scenarios in her head, desperately grasping for any course of action which would allow for her crew to make a clean getaway without bringing any harm to their Terrian guards.

When nothing came to mind, she leaned forward and whispered to Danziger, "So how long do you think it'll be before the group sends out another rescue party?"

John's face suddenly became sheepish and his eyes plummeted to the floor. "Um, nobody else'll be coming. At least, for a while."

Her head arched backward in bewilderment. "Why not?"

John's gaze remained glued to the ground and he made no effort to respond, so Baines supplied the needed explanation. "Because Danziger told them to stay put, that's why," he declared sourly. "He even told Magus to shoot Morgan if he tried to follow us."

Devon's eyes narrowed, amazed at the mechanic's audacity as well as his consistency. "Gee, Danziger threatening people with violence," she proclaimed with a healthy dose of sarcasm in her voice. "What a surprise."

John grumbled something under his breath. Although the first part was unintelligible, the words "and the horse you rode in on" could be clearly heard.

He remet Devon's gaze, staring at her with eyes that somehow appeared to be looking right through her and imagining her being drawn and quartered at the same time. Several moments passed before he finally turned away in order to check his chronometer.

"Do you have someplace that you need to be?" she said flippantly.

Danziger almost answered her with a snide remark, but, considering the subject matter, he felt that it was best to reply with honesty instead. "I was just wonderin' if it was sunrise yet."

Devon's face went pale and her mouth dropped open. How in Heaven's name could she have forgotten? "Yale," she whispered.

He nodded, mirroring her crestfallen look. "Do you think he's still alive?"

The leader straightened up in her seat and her expression hardened. "What do you care?"

"Excuse me?" Danziger asked with a crinkled brow, immediately going on the defensive.

"I know all about that little pow-wow you had behind my back. You put Yale under twenty-four hour armed guard. Don't try to deny it," she fumed.

"I'm not denying anything," he exclaimed. "I wasn't gonna take the chance of him losin' it and attacking one of the crew."

"You told the others to shoot him," Devon expressed with obvious bitterness.

"Yes, if necessary," Danziger pointed out, shaking his head in both anger and surprise at what she was implying. "Jeez, Adair, what kind of a person do you think I am? Do you honestly think that I want Yale dead? The guy's a friend of mine," he loudly declared with wide eyes. "And you know damn well why I had to go behind your back. If Yale's mindwash failed and he went off the deep end, someone had to make the decision to put him out of his misery before anyone got hurt. It couldn't be you because you're too close to him. So, I made the decision for you. You would've probably hated me for the rest of your life, but it was something that would've had to be done. Hell, if we get outta here in one piece, it might still have to be done!"

He stopped suddenly when the Terrian stationed closest to him took an imposing stride forward and let out a menacing trill, an obvious signal to Danziger that he had become too agitated and needed to calm down. Baines who was sitting directly behind the mechanic, and quite possibly in the line of any Terrian fire, understandably grew a bit anxious by the creature's advance.

"Uh, 'Lonz, why don't you call your friend off before he goes and does something rash," the crewman nervously suggested.

Solace slowly raised his hand outward in order to direct the Terrian's gaze away from Danziger and toward him instead. "It's okay, buddy," he assured the creature using a soft, soothing tone. "Just a little difference of opinion, that's all. Nothing to get upset over. Everything's fine."

The Terrian considered Alonzo's explanation for a moment before answering with another series of fierce trills and retreating back to his original position.

"What did he say?" Devon worriedly asked.

The pilot's eyes fell to the floor. "He said, 'Your group proves to us that we are right. Many human minds cannot agree,'" he sighed defeatedly.

Devon was equally crushed by the Terrian's pronouncement and sagged back against the cave wall in frustration. She shut her eyes and briefly surrendered to the negative part of her psyche which she rarely permitted herself to listen to.

Perhaps the Terrians understand us better than we do, she supposed. Maybe when it comes down to it, groups of humans simply lack the ability to work together to achieve a common purpose, no matter how determined they are or how selfless their cause might be. After all, she inwardly reflected, even the road to Hell is supposed to be paved with good intentions, isn't it?

She clamped down on those pessimistic thoughts and quickly banished them from her mind. Instead, she began to ponder a new, much more sensible theory which was more in concordance with her positive outlook on life. She rationalized that most groups of humans were entirely capable of working together as a unit to successfully and harmoniously attain their objective. But, unfortunately, there were also exceptions to every rule and the most glaring exception in the case of Eden Advance was the presence of a certain confrontational mechanic. Devon concluded that it would be almost impossible for any group which included John Danziger in the mix to ever see eye to eye on anything.

Devon thoughts were abruptly cut off and the crew was jolted to attention by a high-pitched screech which filled the chamber and echoed off of the surrounding walls. To John, it sounded as if the cave was being torn into pieces. To Devon, it sounded as if the planet itself was screaming in agony.

"What the hell is that?" Danziger asked as he and the others searched the room in confusion.

Devon's mouth went agape and her horrified eyes met Danziger's as the realization hit her head-on. "It's the geo-lock," she gasped in an almost accusatory tone. "Did you-"

John shook his head before she could finish her sentence, uninterested in the conversation. He was too busy focusing on the actions of the Terrians; watching the baffled creatures as they vacated their posts to investigate the source of the uproar. Seizing this as their opportunity to escape, Danziger jumped to his feet.

"Let's go," he commanded, swiftly ushering the Edenites away from the ever-loudening sound of the geo-lock and toward the only tunnel in which none of the Terrians had gone.

Devon retook the lead as the group hurried through the myriad of narrow passageways, inwardly hoping that they were indeed traveling in the direction of the cave's exit. As they rounded a particularly sharp corner, Devon was filled with sadness and remorse as they came upon the petrified Terrian protruding outward from a nearby wall, the unfortunate victim of Eden Advance's carelessness and disregard for the planet.

Danziger hardly noticed. Instead, he was gripped with fear as he caught sight of a pair of armed Terrians quickly approaching their location from an adjoining corridor. He wasted no time, grabbing Devon's forearm and propelling her toward an alternate tunnel and then stepping directly in between her and the Terrians to shield her from whatever unpleasantries the creatures may direct their way.

However, any retribution which the Terrians may have had in mind ended up taking a back seat to the deafening noise of the geo-lock which overtook their senses as it reverberated throughout the cavern. The Edenites were quickly rendered powerless and sank helplessly to the ground with their hands clamped over their ears, praying that their eardrums wouldn't burst. Both groups watched in amazement as the land was unlocked and the frozen Terrian burst forth from the stone wall and slowly rose to his feet.

"Oh my God, he's alive," Devon exclaimed as the rejuvenated creature was briefly inspected by his comrades and then escorted into a neighboring tunnel to rejoin the other members of his tribe.

She turned toward Danziger whose awestruck expression was still clearly visible, even though most of his face was hidden by tangled curls and several days of beard growth.

"It's reversed. Let's get outta here," he declared, climbing to his feet and then yanking Devon up to stand next to him.

As the Edenites recommenced their journey out of the cave, Devon reminded John, "We have to get Yale."

"Yeah," the mechanic answered in his typical gloomy fashion. "If we're not too late."

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It was nearly midnight when the not-so-gentle slamming of the biodome's outer doors awoke Devon with a start. She inwardly scolded herself as she shook herself the rest of the way awake. She certainly hadn't meant to fall asleep. Not long after putting Uly to bed, she'd sought out the quiet refuge of the loft to await the return of the remaining teams still out searching for Mary. Yale had checked on her a few hours earlier, doing his best to coax her into getting some much needed rest. However, she'd sent him away, adamantly telling him that she couldn't allow herself the luxury of sleep until she knew that every member of her crew was safely back at home. What Devon hadn't told the tutor was that she also had an ulterior motive for her continued vigil. The truth of the matter was that something was weighing heavily on her mind and there was only one person in the world who she could speak to about it. So, she waited patiently for his return.

As she descended the ladder leading into the main room of the dome, she could hear the final search party of two, Denner and Danziger, warming themselves up with coffee as they put away their gear and tracking equipment. Denner jumped slightly when she noticed that Devon had joined them at the table. Danziger's reaction to the leader was one of indifference and he turned away from her to concentrate on recharging the pair's depleted battery packs.

"Any luck?" Devon asked even though the answer was obvious. If they'd uncovered any clues as to Mary's whereabouts, she would have been informed.

Denner shook her head. "Maybe she found a cave somewhere," she speculated. "Or maybe the Terrians decided to take her back."

"Or maybe she froze to death," came the blunt (though probably most realistic) guess from Danziger, who didn't bother to look up from what he was doing as he spoke.

Denner decided that it was time for her to make a hasty retreat to her tent. Besides, after the long day she'd had, she figured that the last thing she needed was to have to witness yet another shouting match between the two short-tempered leaders. She couldn't possibly have known that she wasn't the only person in the room who had hoped to avoid an argument that evening.

Denner refilled her thermos to the brim before zipping up her winter coat. "Well, I'll see you all tomorrow."

Devon gave the crew woman a tired, but friendly smile. "Goodnight, Denner."

"Yeah. See ya'," John murmured in her general direction, still focused on other tasks. He suddenly snapped to attention and called out to her just as she reached the door. "Hey, thanks for staying out so late. You did a great job out there tonight."

Denner couldn't help but feel a slight swelling of pride. Danziger didn't hand out compliments unless he really meant them. "No problem," she nodded before exiting the dome.

Now that it was down to just the two of them, Devon turned to address John, but he was already in motion. She watched as he wordlessly moved to a counter situated on the opposite side of the room and began carefully laying out tools along with several strands of wiring. Devon's head shot backward when she realized that, even at that late hour, Danziger was about to start toiling away on some type of equipment repair.

I don't believe this, the man refuses to stop working, Devon thought to herself in astonishment.

After a few moments of hesitation, Devon picked up her mug and made her way over to him. "You know, whatever you're about to fix, I'm sure that it can wait until morning," she suggested as she slid into the seat directly across from him at the table. "You've been up for over 36 hours. Why don't you get some sleep?"

"Can't," he grunted as he started wiping down a pair of pliers with a worn rag. "I got guard duty in less than an hour."

"Not anymore," she told him. "Morgan has generously offered to take your shift." She added with a shrug, "He insisted on it, actually."

John paused and tilted back in his chair. "What's it gonna cost me in return?" he asked with more than a hint of skepticism in his voice.

"Nothing at all. I think that he feels really badly about his role in what happened. This is his way of showing you that he's sorry."

"He can show me that he's sorry by staying out of trouble," Danziger said coldly. "And by staying out of my way."

He scoffed as he roughly tossed the pliers onto the counter. "You mark my words, Adair. It's only a matter of time before one of Martin's hair-brained schemes gets somebody hurt... or killed."

Devon sighed and averted her gaze, a clear signal to him that she had no desire to continue the topic of conversation which was just fine with him.

Danziger dragged his fingers through his hair, completely exhausted. God, he was so tired of it all. He was tired of fighting with Devon. He was tired from his twelve hour hike through knee-deep snow searching for poor Mary who had most likely ended up paying the ultimate price for the crime of disagreeing with her Terrian guardians. He was tired from his day to day responsibilities of making sure that the members of Eden Advance had a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and food in their bellies. He was tired of living with the knowledge that his precious little girl-- his biggest, if not only reason for getting up in the morning-- wasn't safe on this planet. He was tired of living in fear that one day he'd be unable to protect her from the countless unknown dangers that seemed to lurk around every corner and under every rock. Plus, he was just plain tired because he hadn't slept in almost two days and he could sure use a nap.

Devon redirected her eyes to Danziger and was surprised by his defeated expression. Although even on his best days she would never describe him as a cheerful man, at that moment, he looked positively miserable.

Devon wasn't quite sure why, but she suddenly felt the need to boost his spirits. "You'll be happy to know that Yale's doing much better," she offered, grinning slightly. "I think that it's all still sinking in for him. But unlocking his past seems to have given him a sense of peace."

John didn't return her smile. "Yeah, well, at least something good came outta this mess," he said drearily.

He reached behind him to retrieve a busted gearset from a nearby shelf which another Edenite had set aside for him to fix. The two sat together in silence for several minutes while Devon watched in fascination as John performed reconstructive surgery on the ailing equipment. As he continued to tinker away, Devon also wisely used the quiet time to organize her thoughts regarding the best method to reapproach a subject which had been addressed earlier in the Terrian cave and that both considered to be delicate, if not volatile, in nature.

She finally decided to break the stillness between them. "You know, there's a part of me that is absolutely furious with you for secretly giving the order to shoot Yale if he'd become a risk to the crew's safety," she began, speaking slowly and carefully choosing her words.

Danziger stopped working and his head whipped up. However, before he could be given the chance to respond, Devon continued, "But there's an even larger part of me that admires you for that very same reason."

John's face softened and his shoulders noticeably sagged. Although he knew that he'd done the right thing, that didn't necessarily mean that he was proud of his actions.

Devon looked equally ill at ease. "Can I ask you something?" she inquired, shuffling uncomfortably in her seat. He nodded for her to proceed. "If Yale had... taken a turn for the worse... I mean, if he'd tried to hurt one of us." She paused awkwardly. "Could you have done it?"

If Danziger was surprised by her question, he made certain not to show it. "You mean kill him?" he asked in a low voice. She nodded her reply.

"It would've been hard to live with myself afterward, that's for damn sure. The last thing I'd ever want is to be responsible for somebody's death," he said straightforwardly. "But, if it came down to it, yes, I would kill anyone or anything that threatened a member of my family."

"Even if that threat was from another family member?"

There wasn't the slightest hesitation in his reply. "Yes."

Devon veered her gaze to her hands which were rigidly folded on the table. "I've been struggling with this all day. If Yale had attacked one of us... I honestly don't know what I would have done," she confessed, her voice a bit shaky. "Even if he'd come after me. If I'd had to choose between shooting him or dying by his hands... I, I'm not sure that I could have pulled the trigger. Not if it meant killing someone that I loved."

"If Yale had gone berserk, you would've taken the necessary steps to protect yourself," Danziger relayed in a no-nonsense tone while he set the newly mended gear back on the shelf.

Devon's face openly displayed her anxiety as she remet Danziger's eyes. "How can you be so sure? I mean, look at how I've acted these past few days," she exclaimed, shaking her head in exasperation. "God, I feel like such a fraud. As the leader, I'm supposed to be objective. I'm supposed to be able to put the welfare of the group before my personal feelings. The signs were everywhere that Yale's mindwash was failing, but I insisted on walking around here with blinders on. When crewmembers came to me in concern about Yale's aggressive behavior, I tried to explain it away or, at the very least, minimize the severity of his condition. After he finally became so erratic that it couldn't be dismissed, you were the only person who I could talk to about it. And, even then, I wasn't completely truthful with you. I didn't tell you that I'd already suspected that Yale was lying to me about his nightmares."

Devon briefly paused when she realized that John hadn't seemed to react at all to the disclosure that she'd withheld critical information from him regarding Yale's deteriorating mental state. Perhaps he'd already figured it out, she inwardly theorized.

She shut her eyes and exhaled a sad sigh. "I couldn't admit it to you then, probably because I couldn't admit it to myself. I felt like I was twelve years old again, stubbornly digging my heels in and refusing to listen to anyone. Doing everything that I could possibly think of to convince myself and everyone around me not to give up hope. That, with enough love and support, we could keep Yale from reverting back to his criminal past."

John studied her conflicted features for a few seconds, a bit taken aback by her unusual candidness. It also seemed more than a little odd to him that, for the second time in two days, Devon had apparently chosen to seek out his guidance instead of another member of Eden Advance. Maybe she listened to his opinion after all... or, at least, she'd occasionally take his opinion into consideration before doing whatever the hell she wanted to, he thought to himself.

He leaned forward and reached for her hands which had remained folded on the table. Devon's eyes sprang open and she flinched slightly when she felt the touch of Danziger's hand upon hers. However, she made no effort to pull away.

"Devon," he whispered, giving her fingers a comforting squeeze before his arm quickly retreated back to his side. "Nobody blames you for not wanting to give up on Yale. What you did may not have been all that smart, but it was the right thing to do, both then and now. Yale's very lucky to have somebody like you in his corner. In fact, that bullheaded attitude of yours is probably the biggest reason that he's still alive."

He exhaled a deep breath before continuing in a frank, but sympathetic voice, "That being said, if Yale's mindwash had failed and he'd ended up tryin' to hurt you, your self-preservation instincts would've eventually kicked in... and killing him would've also been the right choice to make."

She tried to look away, but John followed her gaze to keep her from breaking eye contact. "There's no reason for you to feel guilty about any of the decisions you made, Devon. Just be happy that things worked out this time and move on to the next catastrophe."

John's expression and tone darkened. "And the way things have been goin' lately, I'm sure that our lives'll be in danger again any second," he muttered under his breath.

Devon furrowed her brow, disturbed by his words and the sudden change in his demeanor. "Are you all right?" she asked. "You don't really seem like yourself tonight."

Now it was Danziger's turn to look elsewhere. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just need some shuteye, that's all," he assured halfheartedly, unable to mask his frustration. He abruptly pushed his chair back and shot to his feet. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go make sure that my kid is still safely locked up in the Transrover."

Devon watched an obviously troubled John as he marched back to the other side of the room to grab his winter jacket. "See you in the morning, Adair," he grumbled over his shoulder as he made a beeline for the exit.

"John, wait," she called out. He stopped, but didn't bother to turn around, his less-than-subtle way of showing her that he didn't wish to continue the conversation any further and wanted to be left alone. Devon, of course, was undeterred by his body language and plowed forward anyway. "Look, I know that you and I have had our differences-" she began before being cut off by a loud snort from Danziger.

She continued in earnest, "But it really helped me to talk to you about Yale. And if I can ever return the favor... I mean, if something's bothering you and you need to talk to someone... I just want you to know that you can always come to me about anything."

Danziger remained stationary, his weary gaze focused on the doors directly in front of him. As appreciative as he was of Devon's offer, at the moment he didn't have the energy to begin what would probably be a long and detailed discussion of the daily trials and tribulations of life on G889. Besides, he could never reveal to her or anyone else that he often found himself wondering who else among Eden Advance would end up falling victim to the planet or its inhabitants. After all, in the two and a half months since they'd crashed there, every one of their lives, including his own, had continually been placed in jeopardy. They had already lost Commander O'Neill, Les, Alex and several other crewmembers from escape pod #2. That very morning the Edenites had been on the brink of war with the Terrians. And, although bloodshed had fortunately been averted (thanks mostly to Devon's efforts, John was forced to admit to himself), the crew's relationship with the creatures was precarious at best. Danziger felt as if the group was walking on a tightrope. How long before they made another misstep? And who would end up falling by the wayside the next time? With so much hanging in the balance and such a long road ahead of them, would any of them live long enough to reach New Pacifica?

With those bleak thoughts permeating his mind, he rotated back to face Devon. "Just promise me that you won't fight your instincts," he declared. "If you're ever in danger and it comes down to choosing between your life and the life of somebody else-- whether it's Yale or some crazed penal colonist or a pissed off Terrian, or, or... hell, even if it's me--" He noticed her eyes bulge at the suggestion. "You save yourself, do ya' hear me? You do whatever it takes to survive. Okay?"

Devon remained locked in Danziger's determined gaze. She could see how important it was to him to hear her say the words... regardless of whether or not she completely believed them. "Okay," she acquiesced.

John's hardened exterior began to dissolve, relieved that now he had one less member of Eden Project to worry about-- at least for the moment. "Good," he nodded.

Danziger's relief was contagious and Devon reclined back in her chair, looking and feeling more relaxed. As she watched the mechanic fasten his coat and replace his nearly threadbare gloves, she continued to absorb his somber request. However, one part of his plea caused a small smile to form on her lips.

"Even if it's you, huh?" she couldn't resist asking, laughing softly.

Another snort came from Danziger's direction. "Everybody has their breaking point," he proclaimed with an arched eyebrow. "One day that constantly yappin' mouth of yours is gonna push me over the edge."

Devon's smile widened. "And if and when that happens, and I'm lucky enough to get to a mag-pro, I have your permission to shoot you?" she said, her voice taking on an almost playful quality.

He gave her a lopsided grin. "I'd expect nothing less," he chuckled before heading out the door into the frigid night, presumably to check on the welfare of his daughter.

Devon continued to smile long after the double doors had swung to a close behind him, deep in contemplation as she reflected on the events of the past few days. Those thoughts quickly led to the memories of some of her more recent verbal exchanges with Danziger.

She was constantly amazed by the kaleidoscope of emotions that the two of them could experience within the span of a single conversation. Sometimes talking to him could be downright draining. Still, despite their many clashes and their often opposing styles of management and problem solving, she was very glad that she'd chosen to confide in him. As difficult as John could sometimes be, the man was a straight shooter and he always gave her his honest opinion (whether she wanted to hear it or not). In fact, she realized that Danziger's input was gradually becoming as important to her as Yale's point of view.

Her smile broadened. It was good to have someone else to talk to and to bounce ideas off of. It was nice to have someone else whom she could trust.

As she rose to her feet and drifted back toward her bedroom located at the rear of the dome, she wondered if Danziger was slowly beginning to trust her, too. Unfortunately, she couldn't be sure of the answer because, unless he was either interacting with True or letting out his anger, Devon found him almost impossible to read.

She paused as she reached the threshold of her quarters. Whatever burden Danziger was currently carrying on his shoulders, Devon was hopeful that their talk had helped to alleviate some of it. Perhaps he was correct in saying that he just needed some sleep.

Yes, things would look much better for the two of them in the morning, Devon inwardly decided with her usual optimism. After all, now that this whole geo-lock business was over with and Yale's temperament had returned to normal, maybe both she and John could finally get a peaceful night's rest.

She certainly hoped so.

THE END :)

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