Title: Five Things That Never Happened to True Danziger.
Spoilers: The whole series.
Notes: Done for the Yuletide 2004 challenge for Tommygirl. Holy, monkeys, Batman! It's Earth 2 fic! By me!
She's tired of the rain. It seems a silly thing; small in the grand scheme. But when you're ten and it's been raining for three solid days, it's hard to focus on the positive things.
True sighs and stretches herself across her mattress a little more. She can hear the patter of water on the roof above her. The first day it was soothing. The first day, she'd had a few books to read and a stack of homework she'd been avoiding. The second day, she'd spent four hours beating the Terrible Tragulians of Tendor Six in VR.
Today was different though. Today, everything seemed too small or too quiet.
Restless. That was it. She wanted to be anywhere but here. Anywhere other than this glass bubble surrounded by trees and water and bugs.
Not that she had much of a choice in terms of scenery. Her dad had taken the job – needed to take the job - and that meant moving everything, again, and 'following the work'. Still.
She missed Chicago. Chicago had been amazing with all of its people and towering buildings and trains and restaurants. Yeah, there'd been trees and parks and other nature-oriented things, but there'd been nothing like this overwhelming sense of green.
True dropped her head backwards over the side of the bed and gave a deep, dramatic sigh. In Chicago the rain stopped long enough so that kids could actually go outside.
There was no avoiding it. Arkansas sucked.
She misses her dad on nights like this.
It's cold in the tent. Despite the extra blankets and being curled up tight into her mother's back, her nose is tingling and her teeth hurt. Yale says that most people back on Earth had to live with weather all their lives. That it's actually a good thing, and that being in a 'natural' environment is for the best.
He said it cured Uly.
True's fairly sure that the Terrians healed Uly, and really, besides Yale and Devon, who cared about that?
Uly was a pain who didn't even know how to fix simple circuit break.
But, to be fair, he could rewire a VR headset in under five minutes. Still. He was a pain who needed a good kick.
True sighed and snuggled a little closer to her mom. Off to her right, she could hear Magus's heavy breathing. Beyond her True knew Devon and Uly and Eben were curled in an odd little lump.
Julia had been adamant about the sleeping arrangements. Seems, the geniuses who'd planned this trip – True mentally glared at Devon for the millionth time – had thought they were going to be in a more temperate area and hadn't packed much cold-weather gear.
"Body heat is the best we've got, so we're going to have to bunk up together." Julia'd said, her arms crossed over herself and avoiding eye contact with Devon and Ellie. True still didn't know exactly why they'd left Julia back in the plains to begin with. To say her reappearance had been a shock was a bit of an understatement. But she was a doctor, and that was probably more important.
And whatever had happened, everyone trusted Julia's medical advice. She'd been first in her class, after all. Her mom had mentioned that back at the beginning of their journey.
So here they were, lumped together in two tents to keep warm and try to outlast the winter.
True hated nights like this. With the wind blowing hard outside and nothing but the occasional shuffle outside from the person on watch. Nights where she was too tired and cold to do anything but stare at the roof of the tent and wish for the colony ship to swoop down and carry them home.
But that wasn't going to happen. She and her mom had had a long talk recently. Mom said they weren't going back to the stations, no way, no how. This place was a chance for them to start over. A place without debt. Without anything over their heads.
True had pointed out that there was plenty over their heads, namely the atmosphere. Ellie'd laughed and ruffled her hair before gazing back at the horizon.
"You're too smart for your own good, my girl," she'd said. "Too like your dad, and twice as blunt."
True's sure that her dad wouldn't have decided to stay. He'd have taken her home. But even in her own head that sounds like a lie. She never knew her father. He'd died before she was born in a repair accident.
True knows that's why her mother doesn't want to go back. She doesn't exactly care though. The sky and weather and dirt and Terrians and Kobas and trees are scarier than the blackness of space. That she understands.
Her feet are cold. She doesn't understand that.
She misses her dad.
But in the end, that doesn't really matter.
"Dad...?" Her breathing is harder tonight, her face hot to the touch.
"Hey, baby girl."
She's smiling at him, eyes hazy. "Hey. How was work?"
John shifts and tries to rearrange his face into something positive. Work was shitty and hard and his bosses were all assholes, but beggars couldn't be choosers in this universe. Besides, the pay was decent and that was beyond necessary at this point.
Light fingers danced on the back of his neck, and his smile grew a little less strained. He turned and winked at the woman behind him.
"We've been fine today too." The older woman grinned down at him and his daughter. "She managed to get through the first two vid lessons. You've got a smart cookie there, John."
"That I've always known." He didn't even try to keep the note of pride out of his voice. Handicapped his daughter might be, but her brain was as sharp as anyone else's. "After all, she comes from good genes."
He tried not to wince at the slight wheezing gurgle from his baby. The sound was wet and clung long after the vibrations dissipated, wrapping around his brain and heart. Squeezing whatever was left long and hard.
"I need to go." Kera twirled away from the medi-cot to collect her jacket and tool-belt, long legs graceful and sure in the surroundings. She'd been a godsend two years ago and continued to be to this day. Between them, she and John had routine medical procedures down and were able to split the cost of quarters. That she could watch and teach True during his third shifts was only an added bonus. "I have to be topdeck in fifteen."
John nodded and waved. "Darjeeling?"
She smiled slightly, her eyes hooded. "No. Job interview."
That did surprise him.
"Adair, Dad. Kera's gonna go impress the brass."
John's gut clenched and he swung around. Adair. Eden Project. "Kera, no."
She smiled at him oddly, face betraying nothing. "It makes sense, John."
"But we're just-" Bitterness swelled inside him. Rage at everything and anything in reach. For the debt and his daughter and the silent thing that was killing them both. The Syndrome.
Kera shrugged and waved her hand over the door catch. A slight woosh and her frame was halloed from the back-lighting of the hall. "It's a chance, John."
He felt fingers on his sleeve, tracing the fabric and drawing his face down and into the eyes of his daughter. His only child. His little girl, wasting away in a suit that did everything but breathe for her. And who really knew how long it would be before it had to do that too.
"It's my chance, daddy," breathy with asthma and pain, it still sparkled in his mind. True's voice.
And there was nothing else to say, really. When he looked up again, Kera was gone.
The rocks are gritty under her hands. Even after eight months, she's still not used to how different everything is. She scraped the hell out of herself at home – grating wasn't always very fun to skid across, even in canvas – but she's pretty sure that she hasn't gone more than three days here on G998 without some type of abrasion or cut.
Last count had pebbly scabs across her shin and a slice on her arm from catching a sharp edge of the ATV while chasing Uly in their last game of tag. Bess keeps teasing her that she's going to be more scar tissue than actual skin by the time they reach New Pacifica. But that's not important right now.
No, right now she has something extremely important to do. She can't be distracted by mental tangents or nostalgia. Right now she has to stay stock-still because Uly is on the hunt.
Six games of hide and seek today, and he'd found her every shanking time. Not this time though. Nosiree, bob. This time, she was going to win, and if it meant staying face-down in gravel for the next two hours, so be it.
She is strong. She can do this.
Below her little ledge and to the right, she can hear the mechanical whine that accompanies Zero wherever he goes. Yale had been fine with them finishing lessons early today and roaming the explored perimeter of their temporary camp, as long as they were in sensor distance of the robot at all times.
A few months ago she would have pushed those boundaries just because she could. Then again, a few months ago, they hadn't almost all died . True can live with Zero keeping an eye out.
But she's not really supposed to be thinking about that.
"Come out, come out, wherever you are!"
True smirked into the scrub in front of her face. Uly was on the other side of the slight bowl that was sheltering Eden Advance for the night. There was no way he was going to find her before the fifteen minutes elapsed. Victory was hers! This time.
She was still smirking about it five minutes later when she felt footsteps by her leg.
The hand on her back was heavy with the reality of her defeat. SEVEN games. She groaned into the bushes and thumped her head on the ground.
"Fine, fine, you win," she sighed and rolled up onto her feet. Uly had gained a couple inches in the last few months and was no longer the shrimp he'd been at the beginning of the trip. It was probably some Terrian mojo or something.
She dusted her hands on the edges of her coveralls and pulled a face. "Man, you suck."
The boy grinned at her and patted her arm. "Nah. I just cheat."
She stared at him for a minute before throwing her head back and laughing. Well, that explained that. The kid was learning.
"Ulysses! True! Dinner!" Devon's voice carried up the hill, sounding tired but relaxed. That was something else that'd changed in the last month. Devon didn't seem as... tightly wound as she'd been before... everything.
Glancing back over her shoulder and down, True waved at the distant woman. Uly peeked around her and did the same. Devon returned the wave and walked slowly around the med-tent and back towards the fires. Her gait was slow and hitched, her body still healing from the surgery that had saved her life and damaged her spine.
Still, Devon had said, eyes strangely sad, it was a small price to pay to see her son grow up.
"C'mon. Bess cooked tonight." Uly bounced down the hill. True followed at a slower pace, absently rubbing the raised patch of skin that covered her own microchip.
'Sacrifices,' her dad had said. 'For the greater good.'
True finds them at 3a.m. on the way to the lav-tree. Her father has Devon pressed up against the transrover's tire, his hands in her hair, his mouth pressed hard against hers.
Devon is clutching fistfuls of her dad's jacket. Bunching and relaxing her hands before pulling him tighter to her.
She finds them two months after her father took her into VR and introduced her to the husk that was her mother.
Her father was supposed to be just off watch. He was supposed to come into their area of the dome and kiss her head. He is not supposed to be kissing Devon.
But he is.
And she's kissing him back.
True doesn't remember getting back to her cot, but she manages it. Removes her boots mechanically – "Don't rip your bedroll, Truegirl. It's the only one you've got." – and crawls tight under the covers, aching bladder forgotten.
It's not long after that she hears him, quiet footsteps on the concrete floor, coming home.
She can hear him stripping off his jacket and dropping it on his bed. Insanely, she is glad of it. She couldn't bear to see the wrinkled fabric.
He continues stripping his outerwear, but stops before removing his boots. They clomp softly as he makes his way over to her cot and leans over to kiss her forehead.
She rolls over and stares up at him before he can lean down and touch her hair. He blinks and tilts his head, hair swinging away from his broad face.
"Hi, dad." Her voice is flat in her own ears, edgy in a way it shouldn't be so early in the morning. Not if she just woke up.
"Why are you awake, True?"
She stares at him, looking for differences. Wanting to see something of Devon on him. Something she can point at, something that is tangible. There is nothing except a fading flush that could have been nothing but the night air.
True knows better.
"I had to pee."
He chuckles at her and skims a finger over her nose. She flinches slightly, ignoring the flash of hurt in her father's eyes. It is nothing. It can be nothing.
"Want me to walk you out to the lav-tree?" He offers her a hand. His fingers are long and she can see traces of engine grease under his nails. They are the same hands that she has clung to all her life. Strong hands.
True shakes her head and sits up before stuffing her feet back in her already-warm boots. "No. I know the way."