Stepping Stones

By Joan Powers

Chapter 1 The Memorial Part 1

Author's notes: This is a reposting of a story originally written in 1995/96. Originally it was posted in sections; here the story is complete but organized slightly differently. It is part of the series nominated for the best Earth 2 series of stories. It follows "Grieving Time". "Boundaries" and "The Road Not Chosen" continue this series.

(1) This story takes place after "All about Eve" and my story which immediately followed that episode called "Grieving Time". The story attempts to answer some of the questions raised in "All about Eve".

(2) "Grieving Time" took place two weeks after Devon was placed in suspended animation, when the group had left the space ship and resumed their journey to New Pacifica. It primarily dealt with John Danziger coming to terms with his feelings about Devon.

(3) Special thanks to Chris, Alyssa and Vicki for their greatly appreciated input and support!

Type: Drama, D/D angst

Summary: As Eden Advance continues their trek to New Pacifica, without Devon, they are plagued with nightmares. They also stumble across a discovery which may provide answers about the mysteries of Planet G889 and possibly lead to a cure for Devon's illness. Sequel to Grieving Time.

Timeline: Post "All about Eve", direct continuation of my story "Grieving Time".

Rating: K+

(Voice of Bess)

We'd been on the road continuing our journey to New Pacifica for over a month. Forty days since we'd left Devon in suspended animation on the spaceship. With each kilometer that passed, increasing the distance between the spaceship and the Eden Colonists, our hearts grew heavier and our spirits dragged. Group morale was low. We were devastated by Devon's illness and heartbroken about having to leave her behind. We were still trying to fill in the gaps created by her absence.

In addition, our encounter with Eve had unpleasantly reminded us of the Council's presence on this planet, and Elizabeth's warnings that we couldn't live here continued to preoccupy us as well.

In the meantime, Julia continued to search for a way to cure Devon, but thus far her efforts had been fruitless. Uly and Alonzo hadn't been successful either in their attempts to enlist the Terrians' assistance in healing her.

As our hopes for saving Devon in the near future grew fainter, we also found it difficult to sustain the vision of New Pacifica colony without her. Most of us prayed that the colony ship would arrive with the appropriate equipment to diagnose her illness or that this mysterious planet would somehow reveal to us whatever it was that we were missing.

Lately I'd been experiencing a new problem. I was having recurrent nightmares about people dying. They frightened me so badly that I began to dread going to sleep at night. Were the dreams simply a result of my subconscious reflecting on some of the horrors that we had recently experienced or were they visions revealing our future? Maybe Devon's illness was only the beginning of the planet rejecting us all.

XXXXXXX

True struggled as she attempted to collapse the tent that she shared with her father and Uly. Due to her small size, it was a battle, but she was determined to win. After several minutes of wrestling with the nylon monster, she grinned with satisfaction as she tamed the beast and placed it into the Trans-Rover. At least her Dad had one less thing to worry about now.

He seldom smiled anymore and when he did, it was strained. He seemed preoccupied most of the time. True wished she could make all his problems go away, but she had no idea where to start. She was just a kid. At least he was sleeping better than he had been during those first few days after they had left the spaceship. She beamed with pride - she and Morgan had made a difference. Her father was still hesitant to talk about Devon, but he seemed to have resolved some issues within himself.

Yet, he and Uly often had nightmares. Occasionally she woke during the night to hear one of them murmuring in his sleep. Last night had been worse than usual. Uly woke up screaming and had scared them half to death. It'd taken a long time for them to calm him down.

In fact, she herself had a disturbing dream, similar to one she had the night before. She wasn't exactly sure what it was about but it had left her with a creepy feeling. She'd gotten up early to rinse in a nearby stream to try to rid herself of that icky sensation. It was as if her body was being physically changed in the dream. Some sort of viscous substance had been oozing out of her pores, coating her skin. She shuddered and decided not to think about it.

XXXXXX

"Come on Morgan, get a move on it" Bess insisted. "You know Danziger wants us on the road soon - we're all ready behind everyone else." She plunked down on a nearby crate, impatiently glaring at her husband. Normally she was more tolerant of Morgan's lackadaisical style, but she wasn't in a forgiving mood today. She had another one of those awful dreams. It was so disturbing that it woke her in the middle of the night and she had been unable to fall back asleep. She realized she wasn't being fair to Morgan, so she tried to look the other way as he scrambled to get his gear together.

She could never remember precisely what had happened in the dream - just an image of people suffering, in agony...possibly dying. Their cries of pain were etched in her mind. Was it the Eden colonists? As hard as she tried, she just couldn't tell.

She shook her head trying to rid herself of the image. It's just a dream, she attempted to reassure herself. But Bess was aware that on planet G889 dreams were often more than they appeared to be. Fear filled the pit of her stomach, tying it up in knots as she analyzed and re-analyzed the implications of the dream, anticipating the worst. Perhaps when she was feeling less irritable, she would ask her husband if he had a similar experience.

XXXXXX

Dr. Heller pushed back the flap of the Med Tent then walked towards Bess. Bess offered a weak "Hello" out of courtesy, which wasn't acknowledged as the Doctor strode past. Julia was preoccupied with some new theories regarding diagnosing Devon's illness. The young doctor took it upon herself to bear the entire burden of responsibility for identifying a cure for her. She was convinced that eventually she would have to come across the answer to their problem. Failure was not an option in her mind. She'd been pushing herself mercilessly ever since Devon had collapsed.

Many evenings after the group had stopped to set up camp, the doctor labored for hours testing out new hypotheses, re-examining Devon's cell slides, pouring over what little information they were able to collect from Franklin and Elizabeth's computer, and continuing to examine the therapeutic properties of G889 specimens which she had the children collect for her. She'd become so immersed in her mission that she hardly paid attention to those around her any more.

"Julia" Alonzo called over to her, "You didn't get any breakfast. Better hurry, we're leaving soon."

"I'm not hungry" she flatly commented as she continued walking past him.

XXXXX

Uly was handing supplies up to Yale which he stowed on the Trans-Rover. As they completed their task, the Teacher jumped down from the vehicle and said, "Thanks for your help Uly." He put a hand on the boy's shoulder and steered him away from the bustle of activity at the camp. He commented, "I hear you had a bad dream last night."

The boy nodded. Since his mother'd been absent, Uly hadn't been very talkative.

"Do you want to tell me about it?" Yale prompted. Danziger and True had been up with the boy for over an hour that night trying to calm him down. Uly had refused to comment about the dream. John was worried and asked Yale to probe deeper if he could.

Yet the boy was still resistant, shaking his head towards him. Yale felt a bit hurt, the boy had always confided in him. Lately Uly had started to include Danziger in that circle as well, but now he wasn't opening up to either of them.

I'm losing my family. First Devon, now Uly, he thought. Then he chided himself for being too dramatic. This must be part of getting old - being overly sentimental. Perhaps Uly would open up later, when the dream didn't seem as threatening.

XXXXXX

Finally the camp was struck down and the vehicles were loaded. The Eden crew assembled to discuss their route and assign vehicle drivers. Morgan was not pleased with the assignments and complained, "How come Julia gets to ride again? That's not fair."

Julia grimaced, "Fine, I'll walk then."

Danziger glared at Morgan, attempting to exercise his self control to refrain from calling him every rotten epithet he could think of. It was common knowledge that practically the only sleep Julia was getting lately was while they were traveling. "Listen up buddy," Danziger began, malevolence dripping from his voice.

Sensing imminent danger for her husband, Bess quickly interceded by stepping between the two men and grabbing her husband by the arm, "Morgan, you want to walk with me, don't you?" She elbowed him in his side.

He conceded, somewhat intimidated by his wife and Danziger's wrath, "Okay, I'll walk. No big deal. I just think we're all getting tired and we need a break. We've been traveling for more than a week straight now. Even Devon would let us rest every seven days or so."

"Yeah" Baines added, "We need a chance to recharge. When do we get a break?" Others were beginning to chime in as well.

"Hold it" Danziger spoke authoritatively, "We're all tired, I know. Let's see if we can make it to this lake that's on Yale's survey map. We'll have to push ourselves to cover the distance in one day but that ought to be a good spot to make camp for a day or two." The group was somewhat pacified.

The caravan started and Danziger walked with Yale and the children. While it was not yet summer, the temperature was rising and the sun beat down relentlessly on the travelers. Many Eden Advance members sported sun burnt faces and arms. Luckily, Julia'd been able to concoct a sun block lotion to prevent further injury to the crew.

The hilly terrain provided some lovely scenery - tall pines and some deciduous shade trees along with many breathtaking views.

For the most part, Danziger had made a smooth transition into the role of group leader. No objections were raised to his statement that he had promised Devon that he would lead the group - no one else wanted the job. In fact, most of the Eden crew were relieved that some one was willing to take charge of the situation. Few questioned his authority since he'd all ready been performing some of the duties he currently assumed. Yet, even those tasks seemed like more work to him without Devon.

He was relieved that Bess had intervened to prevent him from making a fool of himself in front of the group. He'd been ready to give Morgan a good chewing out. Even though he'd occasionally proven himself in times of crises, that guy still got on his nerves. Danziger's habit of speaking his mind regardless of who it offended always had gotten him into trouble. He was surprised he'd been able to quell the potential mob scene, although it was only due to Yale's prior suggestion of taking a break at the lake.

The responsibilities of leadership weighed heavily upon John Danziger. He was continually preoccupied with worries. While the vehicles had been running well, it would probably be a good idea for him to do some routine maintenance at this next stop to insure their continued performance. Fortunately, he didn't have to be overly concerned about food and water at present, the surrounding area amply supplied for both of those needs. In addition, Bess and her assistants had been eagerly collecting and preserving various food specimens as they traveled to build up their reserve supply.

John was hopeful that they could push their way through these hills in order to reach lower ground before winter. With a little luck, the climate at the lower elevations would be warmer and permit continued travel so they could arrive at New Pacifica within several months.

Even though things were going fairly smoothly, Danziger wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea of having a group of fourteen people looking up to him for guidance. Sometimes it gave him chills. And once they reached New Pacifica, he had no idea how to set up a colony. He wasn't even supposed to have set foot on this planet. But that didn't matter any more. He feared that he had gotten in over his head.

Thankfully, Yale was familiar with the details of Devon's plans and was a terrific source of information. He had been invaluable thus far. Each day John grew to appreciate Devon's devotion to the Teacher even more. They had to make it to New Pacifica - for her.

Likewise, he had the children to look after and worry about as well. True had been pretty much her rambunctious self and had helped him out immensely. He monitored Uly closely, knowing that the boy was dealing with a heavy burden.

Finally, there was Devon, who never fully left his thoughts.

XXXXXXX

The group pushed themselves to reach the lake by night fall. After setting up camp, many crew members who were drenched with sweat and covered with dust after the day's exertion, decided to go swimming. The cool refreshing water had a soothing effect on the exhausted colonists.

Fully clothed and completely soaked, Bess was returning to her tent to find some dry clothes when she saw Alonzo sitting pensively on a log nearby camp. She joined him, "Hi - water's great. Why don't you grab Julia and go for a romantic star light swim?" He looked terribly unhappy. She wasn't sure if it was her place, but her mothering instincts took over, "What's wrong?"

He turned away from her. She took a guess, "Julia's been pushing herself awfully hard, hasn't she?"

Alonzo broke down, "She thinks if she doesn't find a cure for Devon that she's a failure. I've tried to convince her that she's being irrational. We all want Devon back with us, but Julia is only human. Nobody expects her to be superwoman and solve everything." He rammed his fist into his thigh with frustration. "She won't listen to me. I've told her this over and over and she's shutting me out. She's becoming all Doctor Heller and not my Julia."

"Why is she taking this so personally Alonzo? When we were all so sick, Julia was working just as hard, but she didn't seem as emotionally on edge as she is now."

Alonzo agreed with her observations, "You're right. Maybe it's just too much at once for her. She's been working non-stop on this problem for over a month. That could account for her obsessive behavior." He also suspected that Reily's appearance had been a very unpleasant reminder to Julia of her past. Perhaps she felt that she needed to re-establish her loyalty to the group.

"You need to march into that tent and sweep her off her feet. Save her from herself."

Alonzo laughed dryly, "If only it were that simple."

XXXXXXX

Several Eden crew members were still swimming in the cool lake water. True had tried to liven up the party by initiating several splashing fights, though most of the others were too tired to retaliate.

Worn out, Danziger pulled himself out of the water and sat on the shore beside Uly. Since some of the others were still in the lake, John felt secure enough about True to turn his attention to Devon's child.

"Water feels good, doesn't it?" John asked.

"Yeah" he responded. Uly seemed withdrawn and tense.

Attempting to get the boy to open up, he asked, "Was your nightmare about your Mom?" He denied it. "Come on. You can tell me about it. It won't seem as bad then." John urged.

The boy met his glance and decided it was okay to tell some of it. Very softly, he said, "I think the Terrians are mad at me."

Danziger was confused, "What? Why?"

"When they wouldn't heal my Mom, I got mad at them and told them to leave me alone" Uly explained. "They wouldn't even let me talk to her on the Dream Plane - they said her spirit was too weak."

Danziger was at a loss. He understood the Terrians less than almost anyone in the group. What words could he offer the boy? "Do you think they were telling you the truth?" he asked.

The boy's face became flushed. Since the Terrians had healed him, he had automatically assumed that they could heal his Mom as well. But in his heart, he believed that his Terrian brothers wouldn't lie to him and he realized that perhaps he had been mistaken. "I just want my Mom back"

"We all do Uly" John concurred. "But you've said that you were mad at the Terrians, why do you think they are mad at you?"

Uly somewhat hesitantly explained, "In my dream last night the Terrians acted strangely towards me. Before, I've always felt comfortable when they've contacted me. This felt different - like they were screaming at me, though I couldn't understand what they were saying. It was horrible."

The boy pressed his face against Danziger's shoulder and the older man put an arm around the shaking child. Uly was not able to share any more details with him.

XXXXXX

At daybreak, Danziger and Yale were sitting by the camp fire, discussing plans to send out a scout to check out the next leg of the journey. Alonzo strolled by, "For a day of rest, you guys are sure up early."

"You might say the same thing yourself, Solace" Danziger replied.

"Me? Nah, I just finished my shift at guard duty. You want me to take the ATV ahead?" he offered.

"Maybe later. Get some rest first." As an afterthought, John added, "Alonzo, have you been having any Terrian dreams lately?"

"To tell you the truth, I haven't been sleeping well so I haven't made contact for the last few days." Concern about Julia kept him awake at night.

"Uly's been having some bad dreams which he thinks are from the Terrians." Alonzo looked puzzled. "He's pretty scared," John explained. "Could you try to make contact and see if you can get any insight?"

"Sure" Alonzo immediately agreed. That poor kid. First to lose his Mom and now this. But why would the Terrians torment Uly? That didn't make any sense. He would be sure to contact the Dream Plane as soon as possible. Maybe he'd even get Julia to give him a Sedaderm. He departed in the direction of the Med Tent.

"So he had another nightmare?" Yale asked.

"Yeah," John described to Yale what Uly had shared with him.

"Let's hope Alonzo can get some answers." Changing the subject, he commented, "John, I'm getting very concerned about group morale. People are tired and irritable - but most importantly, they seem to be losing hope."

"Do you feel any differently?" John frankly asked.

Yale admitted that he felt similarly, "I know you and I haven't completely given up the hope that we will be reunited with Devon someday, but it right now it seems difficult to get motivated each day. I sense the others are feeling this way as well. Bess and I were talking the other day about this situation. We were thinking - perhaps we need a memorial service for Devon to provide closure."

"What are you talking about? She's not dead - why would we want to do that?" John snapped at him.

"It would be a chance to officially recognize our cares and concerns and honor Devon. We could each take a turn to share about her. It might be the glue this camp needs to hold it together. It would also be a good opportunity to express other grievances as well. People seem to be preoccupied with matters which they are keeping to themselves."

Danziger was resistant, "If you want to do it, count me out."

"But if you don't attend, others might make the same decision and it wouldn't work. We need to do this together," Yale insisted.

"I can't. It would be like admitting she was dead and I can't do that." He didn't particularly relish the idea of talking about her in front of the entire Eden crew either.

"We're not saying she's dead, John. We will be honoring her memory and acknowledging our fears. Sometimes if concerns are shared, it helps people deal with them more constructively. Each one of us has been affected by all that has happened within the past months. I think we should try."

"You'll have to tell me how it goes." That was the end of that subject, as far as Danziger was concerned.

XXXXXXXXX

So far, True was enjoying her day off. She had slept in late, then quickly performed her chores. Since Yale and Bess were busy planning some type of service for Devon, she had the rest of the day to do as she pleased, so she pestered Uly until she convinced him to go to the lake with her. They enjoyed splashing around in the water. Then they decided to do a little exploring as well. Her father wouldn't have to know all the details of their excursion. As they climbed over a small bluff, Uly cried to True, "Wow! Look at this!"

TBC