Summary: EA is trapped for the winter in the BioDome and their food situation becomes dire. How far will Danziger go to keep them alive?
Timeline: Winter camp in the BioDome. The story begins just after the events of "Survival Of The Fittest" and ends just before "Flower Child."
Main Characters: Danziger, Devon, Julia, True
Disclaimer: Amblin and Universal own these characters, but neither company deserves them. PS- Please don't sue.
Author's Notes: As always, a huge thanks to FCBKate and Manuela for their amazing support, their expert proofreading abilities and their general awesomeness.
Something had to be done.
Those words repeated themselves over and over in John Danziger's mind as he stared blankly at the flickering fire. It was just past two a.m., though time mattered very little at this point. All Danziger needed to know was that it was the tail-end of another miserable day which would end up bleeding right into another equally bleak, desolate morning. And the members of Eden Advance would remain trapped within the boundaries of their Winter campsite with the cold weather as their unrelenting captors.
The mechanic hadn't originally been scheduled for sentry duty and, in fact, it had been Morgan's turn to endure the graveyard shift. However, John had insisted on replacing him in order for the government liaison to rest his still-healing back injury.
And though John would never openly admit it to anyone, including himself, taking over for Morgan was just one more way for him to serve his penance for the many mistakes he'd made during the disastrous scout to retrieve Cargo Pod 9. He'd felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for overruling Morgan's vote to abandon the scout mid-way. Instead, he'd bullied the smaller man into going along with his gamble that they would reach Pod 9 intact. And when that bet had been lost on a grand scale and they were already several days past fail-safe, it was Morgan who had suffered the greatest consequences when John's short fuse and lack of concentration had sent the Dunerail tumbling down a sharp incline.
And most of all, there was no question in the mechanic's mind that the incident with the Grendler, and the subsequent actions taken by the scouting party in order to survive long enough for the rest of Eden Project to rescue them, would haunt the foursome for the rest of their days. Again, Danziger blamed himself as the root cause of the troubling situation. Indeed, taking on a few extra guard shifts was the least that he could do.
Another stiff pocket of wind bristled through camp, dislodging snow from the nearby trees and diminishing Danziger's overall visibility, as well as depositing a healthy dose of the powder-light substance under his open collar. He yanked his coat closed and visibly shivered while dusting the snow from his shoulders and now saturated hair. He panned the surroundings and momentarily considered finishing his shift in the warmth of the BioDome, with only brief outings to check the perimeters. After all, John couldn't imagine any predator braving the cold in the dead of night and mounting some sort of an offensive against the camp under these insufferable conditions. Then again, with so many variables on G889, it was always better to be safe than sorry. Plus, remaining outdoors would ensure his privacy and provide him with plenty of time to think.
He pushed aside his outward feelings of cold, along with his inward guilt over the botched scout to retrieve Cargo Pod 9 and replaced them with another much more important subject that required his immediate and full attention. Eden Advance's food supply was several days beyond the critical stage with no solution in sight.
Danziger clamped his eyes shut. There were four sounds which stuck with him throughout his life and never failed to cause his heart to clench tighter in his chest whenever the memories were recalled: The first was his mother's anguished cries when his father and older brother were killed in a crane collapse. The second was the explosion and accompanying screams of his fellow soldiers when their sand freighter hit a landmine during the Mediterranean Uprising. The endless rhythmic, almost-maddening hiss of Elle's respirator in the Quadrant's Long Term Care Facility For The Neuro-Dead was the third. But there was no sound that devastated Danziger more than the growls of his little girl's food-deprived stomach. And its hollowed echo played on a constant loop in his tormented ears.
John's friends and family were hungry and they were already beginning to suffer the dire effects of an unhealthy diet. Every one of them was showing signs of weight loss and a decrease in overall strength. Many were also battling bouts of overpowering fatigue and there were several complaints of general listlessness and confusion. To make matters worse, heightened irritability caused tempers to flare at an alarming rate and it seemed that calmer heads were also in very short supply. And it was only going to get worse. Much worse.
Something had to be done.
For the rest of his shift, Danziger successfully shut out the frozen wasteland surrounding him and he remained deep in thought. He didn't know how he was going to accomplish it, but somehow he was going to find a way to fill their bellies before it was too late.
At that moment, John was only certain of two things. First, there was no way in hell that he was going to sit back and watch his little girl slowly die. And secondly, whatever the solution was, Danziger couldn't-- he wouldn't-- wait another day.
Despite feelings of lethargy due to lack of food, Devon forced herself to rise at the crack of dawn. After layering herself in almost her entire wardrobe to protect herself from the elements, she took an extended tour of the outskirts of camp. She didn't necessarily expect to see anything different from all of her previous morning walks. However, she felt that it was important to keep up appearances and to inspire the other members of Eden Advance to keep pushing forward, even if they remained technically stuck in one place. Devon simply couldn't allow them to give up hope that one day soon the gray skies would clear and they would at last be able to abandon the BioDome for greener pastures filled to the brim with food.
Of course, inwardly even she was beginning to give in to her doubts about getting relief from the weather and shrinking supplies. In fact, she was downright terrified at the rate the members of Eden Project were emotionally and physically deteriorating from the gradual dwindling of their rations.
Devon wished that she could confide her fears to Danziger, but she purposely decided not to further burden him. He clearly had been having trouble dealing with his role in the death of the Grendler, as well as the scouting party's use of its carcass as nourishment. And along with his guilt over the incident, it was obvious that, the first days after the party's return, he was being scrutinized rather harshly by a few crewmembers who had disapproved of his choices. Even Devon had to admit that her initial gut reaction to the horrible events that had taken place had been revulsion with a tinge of anger.
However, once she gave the matter some additional thought and after she'd spoken separately to Morgan, Julia and Alonzo, the leader's views had softened; so much so that, without Danziger's knowledge or participation, she had called a group meeting to give them a good talking to. It was imperative that from then on, Danziger was treated with nothing but the gratitude and the respect that he deserved. After all, John had been forced to make a life and death decision in the blink of an eye, under extraordinary pressure. No one in the crew had the right to judge him, nor could any of them honestly claim that they would have made a different choice if faced with identical circumstances. In fact, they should be thanking him for doing everything possible to keep himself and his compatriots alive until they could be safely retrieved. Since that late night gathering, Devon noticed a more positive general attitude being directed toward Danziger. Unfortunately, she noticed no such positive change in the mechanic himself.
Several times Devon had approached John in order to try to get him to talk to her about his experiences. However, he'd patently refused and had always insisted upon switching the topic back to business. Almost all of their conversations centered around his ideas for replenishing their food supply.
His first suggestion had been to visit the members of the underground colony to ask for any food which they could spare. Devon had agreed that this was a tangible idea and the pair had jointly made the short journey to the commune. However, after making an appeal to the Elder, he regretfully informed them that his small group barely had enough food to sustain themselves. As such, Devon and Danziger returned to the BioDome empty handed.
Danziger's second proposal had entailed using Alonzo's unique access to the Dreamscape to their advantage by enlisting the Terrians' help to locate food. But after several trips to the alternate reality, the pilot's efforts proved fruitless and every attempt at contact went unanswered. Either the hibernating creatures didn't hear Alonzo's messages or they simply weren't interested in aiding them.
Over the past days, John's ideas had become increasingly outlandish in Devon's eyes. He'd broached the subject of opening more of the artificial biosphere canisters in the hope that it would contain some sort of edible plant, as opposed to another horse. Or something even less practical. That suggestion was hastily struck down, as was taking the risk of using the spider tunnels to hunt for food.
John then wanted to employ Bess to reinitiate trading with the Grendlers. However, Devon was quick to point out that every piece of Eden Advance's supplies was crucial to either their immediate survival or to the construction of New Pacifica. Much to Danziger's ire, as far as Devon was concerned, nothing in their inventory could be spared.
Danziger then tried to renew interest in his idea from the prior month about embarking on a long range scout, complete with the aforementioned beacon system. However, the venture was no longer intended to find a navigable road of travel which would lead the crew all the way to the west coast, but to instead locate the nearest warmer climate with ample vegetation that was safe for human consumption. Devon was also quick to squash this idea, especially when Danziger revealed that, this time, his intention was to leave Alonzo and the others behind and travel alone.
The mechanic had even put forward the very dangerous offer of organizing a team to spy on Whalen Curry with the prospect of learning how and where he'd obtained the food which had kept him alive all of his years on G889. Devon continued to grow increasingly worried about Danziger, and his desperate grasping at straws to fix their current food situation was doing little to alleviate her concerns. She was almost frightened to think of what he might come up with next.
As Devon rounded the ice-encrusted Transrover, she was more than a little surprised to spot Eben on sentry duty. She eyed the crew-woman curiously as she shuffled her feet back and forth and practically hovered over the top of the campfire in a futile effort to stay warm.
"How's it going?" Devon greeted as she approached her.
Eben looked every bit as cold as she'd felt. "Freezing," she shivered back, pulling at her coat.
The leader quickly searched the immediate area. "I thought that Danziger was supposed to be on duty this morning."
"Nope," Eben shook her head. "He pulled the midnight shift again."
The disappointment was evident in Devon's face and tone. "Oh," she said, her feet already in motion as she veered toward the BioDome. "Well, I'll just check in with him later after he wakes up."
The leader's back was already to Eben when the latter woman called out to her. "Danziger's not in camp."
Devon whipped around to face Eben just as she furthered, "He left to go foraging right after I came on duty. He said that he told you what he was doing... and you approved it on the condition that he be back by sundown."
Devon's expression appropriately conveyed that this was the first that she'd heard of such a conversation. This sent Eben into immediate damage control-mode for the sake of her friend and boss.
"I'm sure that he meant to tell you," she relayed in encouragement. "Plus he's on foot, so he couldn't go that far, especially in this weather. And he promised to check in on gear every two hours. In fact, you could call him now if you want to."
Devon noticeably bit down on her bottom lip as she contemplated her various options.
"Just let me know if he fails to check in," she finally answered, her voice a mixture of emotions.
After thanking the crew-woman, Devon made her way to the BioDome. She grabbed her allotted portion of almost-coffee for the day and sank into the nearest chair, alone with her thoughts.
She was beyond furious at John for leaving without telling her for what felt like the thousandth time. Moreover, Devon couldn't help but be concerned that the mechanic had abandoned camp for places unknown, all by himself. If something went wrong, who knew if they'd be able to get to him in time? And as much as the cold weather had been a factor in interfering with their gear transmissions and throwing off the compass readings, who knew if they'd even be able to find him at all? Hadn't he learned anything from his harrowing experience of getting lost in that sand storm a few months before?
To Devon, this was yet another example of Danziger's growing devil-may-care attitude when it came to his personal safety. She began to wonder if the side-effects of hunger could possibly be a mitigating factor in his foolhardy choices of late. Food was already scarce and it wouldn't be all that shocking to the leader if John had been giving part-- if not most-- of his meager rations to True. She certainly couldn't fault him for that. After all, she'd been doing the very same thing with Uly.
Devon let out an exasperated sigh as she slumped forward and rested her elbows on the table with her head in her hands. Why did John Danziger insist on taking such reckless chances? And what in Heaven's name could he possibly expect to find in all of that snow?