"To the question your eyes seem to send,
Am I your passion, your promise, your end?
I say I am, yes I am."
Melissa Etheridge, Yes, I Am
"Three weeks! I can't believe he's only been here for three weeks!"
Devon winched as her ears were assaulted by Morgan Martin's whine echoing tinily in her ear as his face floated ghostly in front of her while she walked. "Yes Morgan, I understand." Was all she'd managed to contribute to the one-sided conversation for the past 15 minutes. Surely he'd have to stop for a breath soon, she wearily told herself.
"The man is as audacious as he is asinine! The worst caliber of bureaucrat--a sincere one! Believe me, I know! When someone in government starts believing their own rhetoric, the best course of action is to run---really, really fast! I only believe half of what I say myself! All he's done since getting off the Colony ship is whip the people up into a frenzy just to undermine your credibility! Devon, one thing this place has managed to teach me these past 2 years is that fracturization is *deadly*. He has to be stopped!"
"Morgan, I'll discuss your concerns with Isaiah when I see him. Until then..."
Devon's forward momentum abruptly stopped. She squeezed her eyes shut and grabbed the wall of the residential building she'd been walking along side of to steady herself as a wave of nausea and vertigo crashed into her and sweep her along mercilessly. Morgan noticed her ashen expression and halted his whining tirade.
"Devon? Are you all right? Should I call Yale or Julia?"
Devon's eyes popped open and flashed with their fiery determination of old. "I'm *fine.*" She brusquely replied. "Devon, out!"
She reached up and flipped the eye piece back. Looking around to make sure she was unobserved, Devon leaned wearily against the wall and slowly slide down it until she was resting on her haunches. She pulled the gear off her head and brushed her auburn bangs from her eyes. The Meeting Hall, her destination, lay only a hundred yards off to her right. Yet it might as well be a hundred light years.
Mentally she cursed the weakness that impeded her. She had a better insight into what her son had gone through but she was use to conquering obstacles and this one was proving even more obstinate then herself. At least now she was out of that accursed immunosuit and could walk under her own locomotion. (So long as she didn't push herself too hard and stopped to rest occasionally.) Her recovery was slow but progressing. Julia fussed at her for doing too much but she *had* to deal with Isaiah Ford before he drove irrevocable divisions between the colonists. She'd come too far and fought too hard to let some ex-Council Adjunct muck everything up.
Her eyes had been brutally opened to what the Council was capable of in order to attain their goals. She couldn't permit them to have the same iron fisted choke hold on this planet that they did on the Stations. Not if they hoped to prevent history from repeating itself. Devon's eyes slowly traveled around the compound. After nearly a year, she was still amazed that she was actually here.
Elizabeth had tried to warn her. Devon just didn't understand her cryptic last words. She still didn't understand everything Elizabeth had said. There was no evidence that the planet was rejecting them. Perhaps that part had been merely the delusional ravings of a dying woman. Elizabeth and Bennett had made their loathing of the planet very obvious. They knew so little about them. The isolation combined with the alieness of planet living might have wrought some sort of dementia or paranoia in them. A milder version of what happened to Whalen Curry.
Shortly after Elizabeth's death, everyone began to recover. Everyone except Devon. No one noticed or suspected because she kept her distance and her fears from the others. She couldn't recall the exact moment when she realized it, but she knew she was dying. Knew it with an instinct she thought only animals like elephants had possessed. Like those extinct behemoths, she'd tried to go off and find a quiet place to die. Driven by her motherly fear of Uly being the one to discover her body and what effect that might have on him, she stumbled out of their tent only to collapse a short distance away. After that, the world shrunk down to a mix-mash of garbled voices and nightmarish visions....
A sea of worried faces whirled giddily in and out of focus before her pain glazed eyes.
"…What's wrong with her…?!"
"…complete systemic shut down…"
"…What caused it?!…"
"…I don't know! I don't know!…"
Don't blame yourself Julia…
"…Are you sure?…"
"…The cryonic chamber is her only hope. Otherwise we'll lose her!"
"…Mom? I love you, Mom…"
…I love you too, Uly.
"…Don't worry Devon. We'll get you out of here…"
An icy cold crept through her body.
Was this it? Was this …death?
Take care of my boy, John…
Make sure everyone gets to New Pacifica safely.
…I'm counting on you.
"…Okay, her thetas and alphas have stabilized. I'm not certain how long they'll remain constant so let's get going…"
"…Is she awake? …Can she hear us?"
"…I've only brought her up enough to take her off of life support. It's possible, but don't expect her to open her eyes or respond to you…"
"…She doesn't look so good…"
"…What did you expect? This isn't a Terrian instant cure. It isn't really even a cure…"
"…Devon? We have to move you. It isn't safe here anymore. Julia thinks she's found a way to help you. Just hang on a little while longer…"
A sensation of being lifted that changed to one of flying....
Cold. So cold. Why is death so cold?
"…We really appreciate this…"
"…We're happy to help. You are always welcomed here…"
"…Here, take this gear set. We'll check in weekly but contact us if there's any change, however minute in either of their conditions…"
"…That won't be necessary. …We have more reliable ways of communicating."
"…Maybe so, but take it anyway. In case anything happens to me…"
....."An ingenious plan, Doctor. There is nothing our friends can do for her directly, but they can protect the other one. In strengthening one, the other is strengthened.".....
The cold was gone.
Replaced by a warm thrumming caress. The sensation of flying had returned, only it was different this time. Less jerky. More like floating.
This is how I'd imagined Death would feel like.
"…I don't get it. It's just a niche carved out of the rock wall. How can that sustain her?"
"…It's a connection."
"Enjoy your flight Devon…"
The world seemed to expand and fill the whole Universe. Devon felt herself expand along with it until she *was* the Universe. Her soul raced across the Cosmos to the edges of Creation where it then folded back upon itself. She was encased within the Infinity which was housed within her and she was unable to separate herself from it. Like a drop of water that falls into a glass, she lost herself yet became a part of something greater....
"…Devon? …Devon can you hear me? Try and open your eyes."
She complied and her eyes were savaged by light they hadn't been exposed to in months. Through painfully watering eyes, Devon attempted to focus on the face of the voice that had summoned her from someplace unimaginably peaceful. After her unfettered experience in the Terrian bed, awakening within the confines of her own body was claustrophobic. That she had to fight for each breath she drew only added to that feeling. A crushing weight seemed to be pressing down on her chest preventing her from taking the deep filling inhalation she longed for.
She tried to lift her right hand to shield her eyes but it would not obey her command. It was as if the gravity of the planet had suddenly increased, yet she seemed be the only one who was affected. Her cracked lips moved but she didn't have the strength to force enough air through her vocal cords to make her voice audible. From somewhere behind her a hand appeared with a water bottle in it. Small mouthfuls of water were squeezed into her parched mouth and she greedily swallowed until all the water was gone.
"…Devon, give me just a few moments and I'll have the immunosuit operational. …You'll feel more comfortable then."
Devon felt a headband slipped on her forehead and then an oxygen tube was fitted under her nose. "No..." Was all she managed to croak out.
"Devon, we had to use Uly's old suit to make a modified one for you."
"Nooo!" Devon glared at Julia with eyes full of angry confusion and fear.
"Devon, the suit is only temporary. Until your strength is built back up."
Devon could not believe what she was hearing and feeling. Unable to flee, she turned her head and closed her eyes. The hand was back. This time it gently stroked through her hair and caressed her cheek in a feeble gesture of comfort.
This is a nightmare. It *has* to be a nightmare. It wasn't happening. It couldn't happen. Not to me!
"We'll let you rest now Devon. There's lots we have to discuss but that can wait till you're feeling better."
A squawking noise erupted from the far corner of the tent. Devon opened her eyes and turned her head but was unable to see what it was. Something about it was familiar.
"What was that?" She asked in a choked whisper. "It sounded like a ba.…"
Devon snapped out of her dark revelry at the sound of her child's shrieks. Looking up she couldn't help but smile as her eleven month old daughter tottered drunkenly towards her across the courtyard shadowed protectively by John Danziger. Virginia Adair climbed into her mother's lap and attempted to smother her with sticky sweet kisses which Devon returned with abandon.
"Who's been feeding you candy, young lady?" She mockingly scolded.
"Ooly." Came the lisping reply.
"Well, your brother knows better than to stuff you full of sweets." She brushed Virginia's curly strawberry blonde locks off her forehead, revealing a set of bright blue eyes shot through with golden flecks. Devon kissed her then hugged her to her chest. Next to Uly's cure, Ginny was the greatest blessing she'd received from this planet.
"She's like her mother. Irresistible when she'd determined to get what she wants." Danziger replied, standing over them with his hands shoved deep in his pockets. A bittersweet expression played across his face as he watch mother and child interact.
"He knows too many sweets gives her a stomach ache. Tonight is not the time for me to be dealing with a sick child." Devon sighed in exasperation.
"If she gets sick, I'll take care of her. I don't like going up to those Terrian caves anyway."
"Thanks." Devon smiled wearily up at him squinting against the sun's brightness so she missed the wistful expression on his face. She tried but failed to regain her feet with her toddler in her arms. Danziger bent over and easily lifted Devon to her feet while Ginny was nestled in her arms. He fell into step beside her as she headed once more for the Meeting Hall.
"Morgan called me and said you were having some trouble." He ventured neutrally.
"Morgan has a tendency to exaggerate a situation." She answered coolly.
"So you want me to believe that you just decided to do a little sunbathing here when you should be meeting with Ford?" He cocked one eyebrow at her.
"I don't care to discuss it with you when you have an attitude like that." Came her terse reply.
"What attitude? You're the one in denial, not me." He answered, anger creeping into his voice. "Why aren't you using your ATV? You aren't exactly in marathon condition yet."
"Shhh!!" Devon stopped and glared at him then looked pointedly at Ginny who was playing with her mother's gear oblivious to the argument taking place between the two adults. However, she did notice when Uly and two other boys came into view in the alleyway between two buildings.
"Ooly!!" Ginny squirmed out of Devon's arms and raced towards her brother and his friends.
"Uly, keep an eye on your sister!"
Uly waved to his mother and waited for his little sister to reach him. Then he walked off with her in tow. Devon glimpsed him handing her a candy as they rounded the building. She frowned and was about to holler at him to come back so she could lecture him on the dietary limitations of toddlers when Danziger spoke.
"Devon, I want to talk to you about Ginny."
Devon turned and looked up at him guardedly. "What about her?"
"Well, for one thing, do you know she calls me 'John'?" He paused and looked thoughtful for a moment. "Actually it comes out more like "Nonne."
"What should she call you?" Devon asked impatiently then cringed at her own insensitivity. Isaiah had her nerves so rattled she was lashing out at everyone around her.
Danziger took and angry step towards her. "Maybe I'm old fashioned but I would prefer it if my child called me 'Dad' or 'Daddy,' not my first name." He growled through clenched teeth.
"I'm sorry. She's just a little confused. I'll have a talk with her tomorrow." Devon hoped that would appease him and attempted to walk away.
"She's more than a 'little confused,' Devon. She doesn't know that I'm her father. I want to spend more time with her." He blurted out.
Devon stopped but didn't turn around. "How much time?" She whispered as she absently rubbed her suddenly throbbing temple. "You know you can visit her anytime you like."
Danziger stared at Devon's ramrod back. This was not turning out how he'd hoped. "I want to see her when she wakes up in the morning. I want to tuck her in at night. I want to be there to comfort her when she wakes up crying from a bad dream." Danziger's fingers knifed through his hair as he floundered for the right words. "I want to be her father, not some guest who drops by for an occasional visit! She's going to be a year old in a couple of weeks. She's lived with you for the first year, I was thinking maybe she could stay with me and True for the second." He took a deep breath, rubbed his cheek nervously with his hand and hesitantly started to add. "Or..."
But he never got any farther before Devon whirled around and pounced on him. "Stay with you and True?! True barely acknowledges her existence! What makes you think I'd let you take her away from me?!" She yelled not caring who witnessed the spectacle of her and Danziger arguing in the middle of the compound. "I know I haven't been the traditional mother but that's because I was sick, not because I didn't care about her." Devon threw up her arms in exasperation. "God, I've only been able to pick her up without help in the past two months! Now you want to take her away from me?!"
Danziger reacted to the panic in Devon's eyes and fought down his own anger. "I don't want to take anything away from you, Devon. I just want to be a father to my child." He told her quietly.
Devon could feel the many sets of eyes on them and she too reigned in her emotions. "I-I don't want to alienate Ginny from you. I appreciate all you've done for me and my family." She faltered as the crowd of curious onlookers began to grow around them. "Can we discuss this later? I'm late for a meeting with Isaiah."
With that said, Devon turned and tried to look calm and professional as she made her way to the Meeting Hall. Danziger stood there watching her. The words "my family" echoing in his head. "Damn right we'll discuss this later, Adair." He muttered to himself. He glared angrily at several people in the crowd before he turned and headed back to the maintenance shop.
That flatly acerbic greeting accompanied by a sour expression was what Devon received upon entering her small office in the back of the Meeting Hall. It brought her up short. Isaiah's brusque manner still managed to catch her off guard but she was able to keep her smile on her face.
"I had a few details that took longer than I anticipated. I apologize."
The green eyed man didn't seem appeased by her apologetic tone. Running a hand lightly along the side of his flaxen pony-tailed hair in a preening gesture, he frowned at her.
"Hrmm...Was one of these 'details' playing out a little drama with that drone of yours outside?"
Damn. He must of seen her altercation with Danziger from the window. "John Danziger is not a drone." She replied icily. "If you check the Stations records you'll see that his debt was paid in full before we left. Even when he was in debt he was his own man."
Ford graced her then with an oily smile. "Paid by you. I bet he was very grateful."
Devon took a deep breath and silently counted to ten.
"If anyone has a need to feel grateful, it's myself and this Colony. John has earned his pay many times over. He's gone well and above the call of duty for Eden Project. I doubt we could have reached New Pacifica without his knowledge and expertise."
"Expertise." He repeated with a smirk. "Devon, I understand the appeal of someone like Danziger. I've been known to do a little slumming in the Quad myself." He walked around and laid his hand on her shoulder giving her a tsk-tsk look. "But people in our positions have to be conscious of our images. Our indiscretions should be kept hidden."
Devon shrugged off his hand impatiently. "Isaiah, I didn't come here to listen to you make double entendres and sophomoric innuendoes. I have things I need to do before tonight's ceremony."
Ford examined his manicured fingernails. "Ah...yes, that Moon Rise thing."
"Whatever." Ford picked a piece of imaginary lint off the sleeve of his stylish umber jacket. "Postpone it."
"It's too much too soon. I don't trust these Terrarians."
"Whatever. I don't want the families rushing into anything when we aren't sure what these aliens hidden agenda might be."
Devon sighed. "Isaiah, *we're* the aliens. The Terrians are native to this planet. They don't have agendas, hidden or otherwise. They don't understand human concepts like duplicity and subterfuge. We can't postpone Moon Cross. It happens only once a year and Alonzo says that's the best time for the Terrians to heal so many children at once. It took a whole tribe to heal Uly, Moon Cross connects all the tribes on the planet. Some of these children don't have another year in order for you to satisfy your doubts. Three didn't survive the cold sleep trip here. You've seen the results in my son. He's suffered no ill effects."
"I don't consider being part gopher a *good* effect." He stated drolly. "You're asking us to hand over nearly a quarter of our population--over three-fourths of our children based solely on blind faith in your say so!"
Devon lost her patience.
"Blind faith in my say so *got* us here!"
"And look what's here!!" He hollered at her as he made a sweeping gesture with his arm. "A shambles of a colony *nothing* like you promised. My God! Buildings made of *wood* and *mud*?! Crops grown in *dirt*?! Where are the biodome structures and hydroponic greeneries we were promised?!"
Devon advanced until she was toe to toe with him."I didn't force you or anyone else into this venture. In fact, I recall you *begging* me to make room for you and Max days before our launch."
"You misrepresented this project, yourself, and your capabilities to these people, Adair! Believe me, I'll see that you answer to them!" He stormed out of the room leaving Devon alone to deal with her impotent rage.
Devon's dull headache became a stabbing white hot pain fueled by the blood her hammering heart sent surging through her body. She could hear it roaring like the ocean in her ears. Soon it was joined by her wheezing lungs as the vertigo and nausea returned with a vengeance. She managed to sit down in the chair in front of the utilitarian table that served as her desk. Propping her elbows on the table top, she cradled her forehead in her palms. Closing her eyes, she sought to use one of the biofeedback exercises Julia had taught her. Only her mind was bursting with too many angry, worried thoughts and visions of Isaiah, John, Ginny and the whole Colony for her to clear it and achieve a calming meditative state.
The wheezing increased and her lungs began to ache in burning protest about the lack of oxygen they were receiving. Fumbling with her navy blue jacket, she drew forth a small inhaler from the right pocket. Placing it in her mouth, she took a couple of quick hits off of it and hoped that would be enough to relieve the spasm. It helped some but she knew from experience that she better get to Julia before a full blown attack set in. She eyed the gear set she'd toss onto the desktop during her argument with Isaiah. Picking it up, she set it on her head and signaled the one person she knew who would help her with minimal fussing.
"I'm in my office." She gasped between wheezes to the image projected in her eyepiece. "I could use a little help getting to the hospital."
"I'll be there in two shakes."
True to his word, she'd hardly turned off her gear when the door popped open and Alonzo Solace sauntered in with a nonchalant style and smile that belied the concern he felt upon seeing her. Crossing the room in two huge strides, he helped her to her feet. As they slowly made their way to the door, he flashed her a boyish grin.
"You've been screeching at Ford again, haven't you?" He teasingly scolded.
"I don't screech, I discuss." She gasped back.
"Maybe so, but you should let Morgan run interference for you more." He stated in a suddenly serious tone.
"He does, but Isaiah is too much for any one person to deal with for very long."
A sudden fit of coughing seized her just before they exited the Meeting Hall. Alonzo stopped to give her a moment, carefully watching her for signs that she was losing consciousness.
"You should not be talking. Conserve what air you can get. Do you want me to carry you to the 'rail?" He queried softly.
Devon shook her head no as the coughing subsided once more to a wheezing. Ford had made clear his intentions of challenging her authority. It would not help her chances of keeping the Colony's trust in her abilities if she was seen being carried to the hospital.
With his arm around her waist in support and Devon's head resting on his shoulder, they looked like a pair of lovers walking off for a quiet rendezvous. In fact, a few people did turn to gawk at them as they casually made their way to the waiting Dunerail.
*Great* Devon thought. I'll be hearing stories about my "stable" of men by this afternoon.
Alonzo seemed unconcerned about the amount and kind of attention they were receiving. He flashed his winning smile this way and that playing the Lothario to the hilt. Alonzo seemed to trip through Life like it was all a grand game. Devon had come to learn that this posing was the real game he played. At heart, Alonzo Solace was a serious man. He helped her into the passenger's seat then trotted around the side and hopped into the driver's seat. He gunned the 'rail and took off in his usual style--hell bent for leather.
They reached the Roanoke Memorial Hospital in record time. Alonzo placed Devon in the nearest examination room. He waited with her while Mark, a physician's assistant, put her on supplemental oxygen then tracked down Julia via her gear set. Alonzo sat on the edge of the exam table and held her hand companionably while she breathed in the oxygen her body craved. Her blue eyes warmly observed him over the oxygen mask.
Alonzo was easily the most incongruous resident of New Pacifica. An old man within a young body. Simultaneously reverent and hedonistic. One moment everybody's best friend, the next distant and aloof. He managed to be the boy-next-door and the mystery man at the very same time. All in all, every woman's type as Bess was wont to say. He was also the first person who managed to crack through her armor of depression and self-pity that possessed her those first weeks after her reawakening....
She'd listened only halfheartedly to Julia and Yale's attempts to explain the circumstances of her revival and new motherhood. But those details were meaningless. The only thing she could focus on was the fact that where she'd once been a strong, active, independent woman, she was now an invalid trapped in an immunosuit dependent on others for the simplest of things. This was not how she'd envisioned her arrival to New Pacifica.
As far as she was concerned, her body had turned traitor. She couldn't even turn over or sit up in bed without help. Others fed her, bathed her, and dealt with her lavatory needs. Privacy was a luxury she no longer possessed. Members of the group knew her on more physically intimate levels than her last lover.
It wasn't that she was treated unkindly. Quite the opposite, she was treated like a porcelain doll--and she hated every minute of it. She hated that the others had their health. She hated that her son had to see her in this helpless state. She hated the looks of pity and phony cheerfulness. She hated Julia for doing this to her and she hated John Danziger for giving her the ammunition to do it. Most of all she hated the miserable wretch she'd become.
Unwilling to face this reversal of fortune, she retreated to the only place available to her. She ran inward and she became that porcelain doll. She ate when and what they fed her. She wore what they clothed her in. She allowed them to express her milk for the baby. She offered no suggestions, requests, or complaints. If she spoke at all, it was a monotone yes or no. She took no interest in the baby or the building of the Colony.
Then one day, Alonzo came into her tent. He didn't say a word but just lifted her out of bed and carried her outside. At first, she thought he was just taking her out to set her under the canopy like they usually did after breakfast. Only he walked right past it and the hammock beneath it. He didn't stop until he reached the Dunerail. Then he gently set her down in the passenger seat and fastened her safety belt securely since she wouldn't be able to hold on if the ride got bumpy. He turned around to find a curious Julia and a scowling Danziger standing behind him.
"Where you going, Solace?"
Alonzo smiled. "Devon wants to go for a ride."
Startled, Julia studied the nearly catatonic woman. "Are you sure you want to go,Devon? Do you feel up to it?"
The small part of Devon that was still remotely aware of herself and her surroundings wondered what Alonzo had planned. Looking up, her eyes strayed over to where he stood, just to the left of Julia and behind her. He grinned, nodded and mouthed the word "yes" at her. She didn't fear any sinister actions by him and the idea of getting away from the camp sounded appealing.
"Yes." She answered in a soft rasp then turned her head and gazed once more off into the distance at nothing in particular.
Stunned by Devon's sudden interest in something, Julia turned and addressed Alonzo. "Let me get my med kit and I'll go with you." She started to head for the med tent when Alonzo rested a restraining hand lightly on her shoulder.
"Devon wants to go alone, Doc." He said softly.
"Alone?" Julia wrinkled her brow in bewilderment. "You're going."
"I'm just playing chauffeur."
"*Where* are you going?" Danziger once more demanded.
Alonzo shrugged. "Wherever the wind takes us? The road less traveled? The Emerald City?" He gave a wink then strolled around the vehicle and climbed into the driver's seat.
An anxious Julia followed him. "Alonzo, Devon's condition is still precarious. Don't go too far."
He stroked her cheek and gave her a quick kiss on the nose. "Okay."
"Make sure you have your gear with you." Danziger barked.
Hearing John Danziger lecture anyone about taking their gear with them brought a snort from Devon. Recognizing his own hypocrisy, John shuffled his feet guiltily.
Alonzo patted the left breast of his leather jacket. "Got it right here." He cheerily told Danziger, then he gazed at Julia with dark somber eyes. "We'll be back in about an hour."
On a hill about half a kilometer south of Eden Advance's final campsite, Alonzo brought the Dunerail to a gentle stop and set the brake. Here Devon had a lovely view of the beach below and the small meadow that lead to the forest in the east. Without a word, he got out and strolled off across the meadow towards the woods leaving her alone.
The sounds of the woods and beach grew louder and sinister. Turning her head quickly from left to right, she anxiously scanned her surroundings. She felt panic welling up inside her. She was vulnerable sitting here alone in the Dunerail virtually immobile. What if something happened to her? What if a wild beast or unfriendly Grendler attacked? What had possessed Alonzo to leave her here? Where did he go? More importantly, when would he be back? Then she spied the extra gear set Alonzo had left on his seat. It was already set on standby. All she'd have to do is hit it to trigger the alarm. She could manage that much.
Sighing, she turned her face into the cool steady breeze coming off the sea using it to blow the stray locks of auburn hair from her eyes and mouth. She drew in a deep breath and savored the combination of the ocean's salty tang and the forest's loamy pungency. She watched the waves toss themselves up onto the beach then scamper backwards only to race up the shore again and again. She watched the trees waltz in the wind and listened to the mournful cries of the sea birds as they skimmed across the water. The place no longer felt ominous but peaceful and restive. She quickly forgot her concerns and lost herself in the beauty and richness of the land around her.
She was gazing out at the ocean deep in thought and didn't notice Alonzo return until he was climbing back into the 'rail. He smiled at her but offered no explanation of his absence. They returned to camp in the same wordless silence they had left in. Alonzo didn't speak to her until after he'd carefully placed her in the hammock beneath the big canopy.
"Same time tomorrow?"
Devon nodded and even managed to return his smile.
So this became a part of her daily routine. Each morning, after breakfast, Alonzo would come for her and they would ride out to the same spot he'd taken her that first day. She found herself looking forward to the trip. Even getting jittery and restless if it got close to the appointed time and Alonzo hadn't shown up yet. But he always did. These little escapes from camp, the hovering bodies and worried looks meant a lot to her. They represented freedom and she dared to begin to entertain hope once more. Though she still retreated back into her shell upon returning to camp and all its reminders.
This went on for several days. Until Alonzo broke the silence that always accompanied them on their trips.
"Don't you think you've sulked long enough?" He asked in a soft voice.
Startled, Devon stared into his dark brown eyes. Eyes that usually sparkled with friendly mischief now stared back as hard and unyielding as the earth. She'd grown use to his quiet company. His abrupt accusatory question stung like a slap to the cheek.
"I'm nearly killed a second time by a government I once trusted. Then I wake up an invalid with a child I didn't choose to have. Don't belittle my hurt and anger. My feelings are justified."
"Justified, but beneath you." Alonzo shifted in the seat until his whole body was facing her. He laid his arm across the back of her seat and leaned forward. "Devon, I understand the anger and frustration you're feeling. I had those exact same feelings after the crash when my legs were broken. I felt useless, vulnerable. I didn't even feel like a real person anymore. Just another piece of baggage to be carted across this planet."
"I recall you put on quite a show of self-pity then. Don't you dare lecture me!" She shot back hotly.
Alonzo looked away as the memory of those days came rushing back. When he looked back, his eyes were full of empathy tinged with melancholy. "You're right. I wanted to die. I tried to kill myself even. I was a worst basket case than you are now. But I am not the leader of Eden Advance or a parent. So my attitudes and actions then didn't have the same impact on the group that yours do now. These people look to you for leadership and guidance. Julia and John feel guilty as hell. Uly and Yale are worried sick about you. And there's a beautiful, innocent, little baby girl without a name or a mother."
"It's hard." She whispered as tears began to fill her eyes.
Alonzo gently kneaded her left shoulder. "Since when has anything worthwhile been easy?" He asked with a sad smile.
"I'm not strong enough to deal with *this*." She choked.
"That's a lie. You're the strongest person I've even met. Believe me, I've met a lot of people over the decades. What happened to the little girl who fought for Yale? Then grew up into the woman who fought for her son? For 250 other Syndrome children? For Eden Project? For nearly everyone of us here? You're not a quitter, Devon. Why don't you try fighting for *yourself* for a change?"
Devon didn't answer. She'd turned away when the hot tears started to cascade down her cheeks. Believing his words had fallen on deaf ears, Alonzo sighed and they returned to camp in an uncomfortable silence.
But Alonzo's words had sunk in. Devon played them back back over and over in her mind. That night, she took her evening meal with the others and joined in the table talk occasionally. Later, with a little help from Julia, she held her baby for the first time and nursed her. The next morning she christened her daughter and had the name of the newest citizen of New Pacifica officially entered into the records. To this day, she and Alonzo still take their morning walk together...
"What's my second most exasperating patient up to today?"
Julia asked as she bustled in wearing a white lab coat and her hair pulled up in a less severe version of her prelaunch chignon. Devon started to remove the oxygen mask and reply but Alonzo answered first.
"Not too good. She walked all the way into town and got into a screaming match with Danziger then with Ford. I show up and she's gasping like a fish out of water."
Julia observed Devon with dismay. Since the Colonists had arrived she'd been pushing herself much too hard.
"Devon, exercise is good but if you over exert yourself, you'll just end up getting sicker. Moderation--remember? You've made fantastic progress, especially these past couple of months. Don't go and screw all our hard work up, okay?"
Devon nodded and managed to look contrite. Alonzo got up to leave Devon to Julia's ministrations and scoldings.
"I'll get your ATV and leave it out front. Give me a call if you need help getting back home."
Devon lowered the mask. "Thank you, Alonzo."
He turned and tipped an imaginary hat her way and bowed. "Always glad to be of service, M'Lady."
He winked at Julia as he opened the door. "See you later, Doc?"
"Pick me up here. I want to get to the caves early."
She answered while she rolled a largish machine over to Devon's exam table. Julia was relieved when the Colony ship arrived and managed to deposit all of its supplies planetside without any tragic incidences. A diaglove could only do so much.
"What's that?" Devon asked as she eyed the new machine suspiciously.
"It's something Dr. Vasquez was working on before Eden Advance launched. It delivers a combination of several antibodies and synthetic drugs deep into the lungs to ease breathing and strengthen the heart and lungs. So far its effects are short lived but we hope to have it reduced down to a mechanism that can be carried in a person's pocket." She handed Devon a long tube and motioned for her to place it in her mouth. "Inhale deeply and hold it till I say you can exhale."
Devon complied and after several inhalations she felt her chest muscles loosening and her headache easing up. Julia silently monitored Devon's progress but found her thoughts drifting back to the day she'd discovered what had struck Devon down....
They'd been traveling for a month without Devon when Yale informed them that Bennett's ship was signaling a reactor leak. It would be two years before it was no longer be able to power the cryonic chamber, but Devon would be dead of radiation poisoning long before then. Julia thought she finally knew what had struck Devon down and was working on a solution but this added twist only made the situation more desperate.
"It was right under my nose mocking me." Julia declared. "Added to the evidence Yale uncovered in EVE's database, I'm certain of it."
"You're telling me Devon has the Syndrome?" Danziger asked incredulously. "No child has ever survived past the age of nine with it, and no adult has ever been diagnosed as contracting it. You said so yourself."
"Not the exact same thing as the Syndrome but a remarkably similar condition. Dr. Vasquez postulated that the Syndrome only attacked children because their immune systems were still immature. It might be able to get a toe-hold in an adult but eventually their more experienced immune systems would fight it off. All documented cases confirm that all Syndrome children were healthy and disease free until about the age of three. None of them had so much as a sniffle or earache prior to then. That indicates that the Syndrome needs 'virgin soil' to root in and grow."
"That is why the Council had finally appeared to relent and allow Eden Project to leave the Stations. Dr. Vasquez was too close to uncovering the truth and they could not allow him to make his findings public." Yale interjected quietly. "What monstrous people. What makes them believe they have the right to play God with our children? Did they really think they could control something like that?"
"Population control was an unpopular topic on the Stations. The lower classes would feel they were being unfairly targeted and the upper classes would feel they should be exempt since they funded the construction of the Stations. The Council believed they had the perfect method of dealing with it discreetly." Julia paused, "That is until a scientist with a conscious thought that by releasing it, the Council would have to admit their role in its creation since even Council children would be at risk. Instead, they sought to cover it up and try to regain control over it."
"If the Syndrome is just another virus, why wasn't it detected and isolated?"
Julia turned to face Cameron and shook her head "no" as she answered him. "The Syndrome isn't a virus. A virus invades the body and does its damage by forcing the body's cells to make replicas of the invading virus. The best way I can describe it, is that it's a suicidal bomber. Though, it may original introduce itself into the body by hitching a ride on or in a virus. However it does it, it gets inside the body, manages to avoid detection by the T-cells, goes off and either destroys or damages beyond repair the body's various biological systems in a cascade effect. It might possibly be detectable in a very early stage, if you knew what to look for but once it goes off, it destroys itself and any evidence of its existence."
"But why risk creating an adult version? And why only infect Devon?" Danziger demanded.
"According to Reilly, and I tend to believe him about this," Julia held up her hand to ward off Danziger from voicing his disagreement. "Blalock acted on his own when he tried to blow up the ships. The Council wouldn't have been sloppy enough to allow hackers to access that newscast. They want to control Eden Project not destroy it. Why Devon?" Julia shrugged then hypothesized. "They must figure if they cut off Eden Project's 'head', they can control it 'body.' Devon's the only person in Eden Advance who didn't have a biostat monitor implanted in her. That doesn't mean there aren't people on board the Main Colony ship who have been similarly infected. I wouldn't be surprised if Dr. Vasquez and the rest of the research team is also infected. Since they didn't expect Devon to survive, why monitor her? Or it could be that the biostat monitor would interfere with the Syndrome's progress."
"Yeah, so we know what it is that's killing her. That doesn't change anything. We still can't *do* anything about it." Morgan drawled.
"If it's the Syndrome, can't the Terrians cure her?" Danziger asked Alonzo.
Alonzo shook his head. "No, I don't understand how the Terrians cured Uly but apparently they can only effect changes in children. They cannot cure an adult human of even something as simple as a paper cut."
Julia turned back to her lab table and studied the medical clutter that covered it from end to end. "I know the what, why and how of Devon's illness. That gives me a lot more to work with now. I have a starting point and I feel more optimistic about success knowing I'm dealing with a human medical problem rather than something bourn of this place."
Danziger and the others took this as their cue to leave as Julia returned to her work. As they filed out of her med tent he unnecessarily reminded her to keep him informed of her progress. Julia merely nodded, already deeply engrossed in the testing of one of her hypothesis....
"Good." Julia said as she took the tube from Devon and notated the final readings off the machine into her electronic chart. She regarded the woman who had become one of her closest friends. "Devon, I'm sorry." She whispered softly.
"Sorry for what?"
"For not preparing you better for what happened to you. For not finding a way to let you participate in deciding what was to happen to you. For assuming too much. Doctors spend all their training and their lives fighting Death that sometimes we loss sight of the patient and their wishes. I was blinded by the fact that I had the means to keep you alive. I didn't think about the consequences that came with those means. Sometimes Life isn't the best choice. Danziger tried to warn me but I refused to listen to him."
"No, Julia. I owe *you* an apology. I really treated you and everyone else like dirt those first weeks. You acted out of friendship and love. Without life there is no hope. And like someone I respect very much told me once, 'since when has anything worthwhile been easy?'"
She smiled and squeezed Julia's hand reassuringly. "You made the right decision. I wouldn't have wanted to miss any of this for the world. I'm getting stronger everyday and I'm fully confident that one day I'll have this beat. I'll fight it until my dying day. And I have you to thank for this second chance. I just wish I could convince Isaiah to take that chance."
Julia saw the sad expression on Devon's face and regretted that she would have to add to her sorrow. "So he's not going to allow the Terrians to heal Max?"
"No. A part of me understands and sympathizes with him. He's a concerned parent with a sick child. I know how alone and painful that feels." Devon's eyes grew angry and she squeezed her hands into fists. "But there's this other part of me that wants to just grab him, shake him and shout, 'Open your eyes! Here's what you've been praying for! A cure! Take it!'"
"Eighty-three other families have refused to participate in Moon Cross as well." Julia added glumly.
"Eighty-three?" Devon slumped back against the wall. "That's five more than yesterday."
"Seems Ford's been busy planting fears and suspicions in people's minds. I think he's planning some sort of demonstration tonight to either convince or prevent the others from going."
Devon slammed her fist down on the exam bed. "*Why*?!"
Julia shrugged. "Fear of the unknown? Let's face it, the Terrians won't ever be mistaken for teddy bears. Look at Danziger, Walman and Morgan. They know the Terrians aren't dangerous, yet they still prefer to have as little contact with them as possible." She sighed and added, "Human nature, I guess."
Devon sat up and shook her head. "Why is it whenever people want an excuse from the responsibilities of their actions they invoke the defense of 'human nature'? If humanity is so bloody wonderful and adaptable, why can't we over come our so-called natures?" She fumed.
"I can't answer that Devon. You've left the medical side of the argument and moved over into the theological side. It's certainly beyond my field of expertise. The Council wasn't interested in the moral issues of a problem, just the quickest, most efficient solution."
Devon hopped off the exam bed and headed for the door. "I better go and see what I can find out about Isaiah's demonstration."
Julia blocked her path. "Let Morgan and Alonzo do the snooping. The key to good leadership is delegation. I want you to go home and take a hot bath and a nap."
"A hot bath and a nap?" Devon repeated. "That's a prescription I can live with. Have them notify me of what they uncover." Devon's eyes strayed to a shelf on the wall by the door where a specimen jar was displayed. "I can't believe you kept that thing. Let alone had it mounted." She giggled.
"Why not? It was one of my successes. Even doctors are entitled to a few trophies." Julia grinned. "Cameron asked me to donate it to the museum he's designing. Wants it to be the centerpiece of the Adairian hall." She gestured grandly and laughed.
"Oh God!" Devon moaned. "I hope you told him no."
"As a matter of fact, I did. But I promised to will it to the museum after my death."
"Then I better go before you do." Devon quipped as she walked out the door.
Danziger was frustrated. This wasn't an unusually occurrence after a run in with Devon Adair. She was arguably the most frustrating woman on G889. He could almost feel sorry for Ford, if he didn't dislike him so much. Since he couldn't take his frustration out on her, the hoverjet stoically bore the brunt of his anger.
He remembered when they'd first found it. Then it was viewed as a thing of beauty even in its dented, dilapidated condition.....
"I'm telling you, I know what I saw!" Baines hotly responded to the cool disbelief of the others. "And I saw the nose of a hoverjet sticking out of a clump of weeds and bramble."
Danziger quietly regarded Baines. He'd come to know him pretty well these past few months. Like anyone else, he had his weaknesses and flaws but he was usually reliable. Yet Danziger couldn't allow himself to even start to hope that their luck was actually changing for the better. Not when they so desperately needed it to change now.
"Did you see the rest of it? You sure it's intact?" He asked the excited man.
Baines yanked the rag covering off his head and used it to wipe the sweat streaming down his forehead. "No! I told you, that crazy Grendler got wind of me and chased me practically all the way into camp."
"John, it's worth a try. There is just as much of a chance that it is functional as it is not." Yale softly advised.
"Yeah but we aren't going to be able to trade a few bent utensils for it. That Grendler may not know what he has but he'll know we want it and that will drive the price up. That and the fact that it's big." Bess chimed in from where she sat cross legged on the table top.
"Bess, you're not going to even attempt to trade with that Grendler." Morgan admonished her. "You know how hostile that one's been since we've been in this area."
"Morgan, if you were sitting on top of a mother lode, you'd be suspicious of strangers nosing around too. All we have to do is show an interest in it and a willingness to barter fairly. He'll get real friendly then."
"What do we have that a Grendler would be willing to part with a hoverjet?" Walman asked. "Do you know how much one of those babies costs back on the Stations?"
"We know they have a taste for human blood." Magus ventured unhappily.
Julia immediately shot down that idea before the others had the chance to entertain it. "No, we don't know the long term effects of ingesting human blood has on them. It mimics a narcotic by the way they behave, it could also have some serious side effects like narcotics too. I don't want to be responsible for irreparable harm done to another living being because I was instrumental in turning an otherwise healthy being into a junkie." Her eyes rested on the thoughtful face of her lover. "'Don't harm' isn't just a Terrian credo. Doctors make the same vow."
Morgan rolled his eyes and shook his head in disgust. "Great! *Now* she rediscovers her medical ethics!"
"Stow it, Morgan." Danziger growled. "You certainly don't have any high moral ground to stand on and look down your nose at anybody."
Realizing the situation was quickly deteriorating into a sparring match, Yale clapped his hands together several times loudly. "People! People! We won't accomplish anything tearing each other apart."...
"Dad? Dad, whatever argument you're having with the hoverjet, I think you won."
Danziger shook his head to clear it of the memories that had been clouding it. He peered from under its belly and grinned sheepishly at his daughter.
"Sorry. Had my mind on something else." He set down his wrench and wiped his hands with a nearby rag. "Here, help your old Dad up." He held his large hand out and smiled at her.
She laughed. "'Old Dad,' huh? Who was the captain of the winning full-contact rugby match last week? Who threw the most blocks?" She teased him even as she struggled to help pull him up.
Danziger groaned theatrically. "Don't remind me. I soaked in epsom salts for two days afterwards." He rubbed his right shoulder as the memory evoked a phantom pain in it. "Besides, if Solace had been here playing against us instead of up there yibbering with the Diggers, we probably would have lost."
"Gee, can I tell him you said that?"
His face turned stern and he shook his finger at her ominously. "You do and you're grounded."
Both of them collapsed into giggles. Danziger grabbed her and pulled her to him in a big bear hug. "So Sweetheart, how was your day, hm?"
True pulled slowly away and her smile was replaced with a unreadable blank expression. "Okay, I guess." She shrugged. "There are actually more boring teachers than Yale now on this planet."
"You know, Yale would be more than happy to tutor you and give you a hand with your studies. He still helps Uly out with his and he's done wonders with Ginny. Got her spouting her ABC's already. Course, they don't always come out in the right order..."
"That's okay. I'm doing alright in school. It's nice to finally have other kids to hang around with."
"I've noticed how you haven't been associating with the Adairs much lately. Devon's even remarked that you barely take an interest in your sister."
True didn't look at her father or answer him. Instead she fiddled with the various tools strew across the work table. He watched his daughter and knew there was a storm about to break. He would be glad to finally hear what's been bothering her for so long. Danziger walked around until he was beside her, stooped down and tilted her chin up with a finger in an attempt to catch her eye.
"True? Answer me." He prodded her gently but firmly.
Her brown eyes met his and flashed with an angry golden fire. "She isn't my sister." She grumbled through tightly pursed lips. "Virginia *Adair*. That spells it out right there. As far as Devon's concerned she's an Adair. The idea of Ginny being a Danziger never ever crossed her mind!"
Danziger nodded his head slowly in comprehension. "So that's it. You think Devon's snubbed us."
"Well, didn't she?" True demanded crossing her arms.
Danziger scratched his chin as he considered his answer. The truth be known, he was a little disappointed when Devon announced the formal name to be recorded in the Eden Advance records but True didn't need to know that. "Sweetheart, according to Station law children born outside of a marriage contract are deemed the heirs of the mother. Or in some cases, like ours, the heir of the surviving parent. If Ellie hadn't had that accident and lived but never married me, you'd be a Moore not a Danziger right now."
"I'm a *Danziger*. I'll always be a Danziger and nothing will ever change that!" She proclaimed loudly causing Danziger to smile. "Anyway, we aren't on the Stations anymore. Why should we follow their laws?"
"Whose laws should we follow? The Terrians? Station Law is all any of us has ever known. We may eventually change them to suit conditions here but our legal roots will always go back to Earth."
True looked at her father speculatively. "You're sure it wasn't because Devon didn't want to admit she has a kid by a drone?"
"Hey, I don't want to hear that word coming out of your mouth." He pointed his finger at her when he said this. "That's one thing we *are* going to leave behind. No class divisions here."
"Then why doesn't she ever introduce you as Ginny's father? It's not like people don't know."
"Devon's a very private person. It wasn't an easy situation for her to deal with: suddenly waking up, facing a long hard recovery, having a baby thrust into her arms and told it was hers. People can be very ugly with gossip. I'm sure you've heard quite a bit since the Colony ship arrived."
"Yeah....I guess so. I suppose I owe Devon an apology." She added glumly.
"I think she'd settle for a little more friendly and helpful attitude." He ruffled her hair affectionately. "Why don't you go change into your coveralls and give me hand out here?" Danziger gazed at the hoverjet and ran his hand along its nose cone affectionately. "You remember the condition this thing was in when we first got it?"
"I remember how mad you were when you found out Bess traded the ATV for it. You looked like you were having a brain hemorrhage."
"You can't blame me. We hadn't even inspected it yet. For all we knew, it was in pieces. At least we knew the ATV worked." He replied defensively.
A laugh burbled up from her chest as that day replayed in her mind. "It was funny watching Bess trying to teach that Grendler how to drive it!" She grinned broadly at her father. "I wonder where that Grendler is now? The way he took off on it, I bet he's clear on the other coast by now!"
Danziger smiled and shook his head. "I doubt that ATV is still running. It was in pretty sorry shape and I doubt that Grendler is much of a mechanic."
"Well, he definitely isn't in your league." She quipped as she turned and headed for the door that lead to their living quarters. She paused and then turned back around. Her face now somber. "Dad? Do you think Devon would marry you if you asked?"
Danziger shrugged indifferently. "I really couldn't say what Devon would or wouldn't do on any given day. Why do you ask?"
"I know you like her. You're always watching her. You have a child by her. I know you want to be a bigger part of Ginny's life. If we were one family, that would make it easier, wouldn't it?. I know Mom hurt you when she turned down your proposals. Devon isn't Ellie. Maybe she's been waiting for you to ask her. Anyway, I think you should give it a shot."
With her lecture done, she slipped out of the work bay and left Danziger gaping at the spot where his astute daughter had been standing.
"Young girls are so full of romantic notions. They have no idea how the real world works."
The voice was smooth, cultured and oh-so friendly but the hairs on Danziger's neck stood up and his jaw tightened reflexively just the same. He slowly turned around and there stood Isaiah Ford with his hands clasped neatly in front of him wearing a feigned sympathetic expression.
"Don't you know how to knock?" Danziger demanded coldly.
"The door was open and you were having such a touching moment with your daughter, I didn't want to disturb you two."
Isaiah stepped from the doorway into the bay, being careful to detour around several puddles of grease and other unidentifiable spills on the floor. He stopped next to the cluttered worktable and regarded it with nose wrinkled in disgust.
"How do you function amongst all this filth?"
Isaiah absently brushed at his jacket though he hadn't come into contact with anything in the shop. Danziger purposefully bumped into the impeccably neat man's shoulder as he reached around him to retrieve a wicked looking crowbar.
"There something I can do for you?"
He asked curtly as he hefted the bar menacingly close to the smaller man's face forcing him to tilt his head back to avoid being popped in the jaw by it.
Isaiah replied, recognizing Danziger's attempts at intimidation and was unimpressed by them. Twenty years with the Council had taught Isaiah more about intimidation then any unwashed hoodlum from the Quads would ever know.
"And perhaps there's something I could do for you."
"I don't want you doing anything for me."
Danziger turned his back on Isaiah and went back to work on the hoverjet.
"You may think you're in like Flint with Devon because she's had a child by you, but you're wrong." Came that soft slippery voice that grated on Danziger's nerves since the first time he'd heard it. "Seems she's grown bored with you already and has moved on to other diversions."
"You got something to say to me, spit it out and stop wasting my time."
"After your lover's quarrel, Devon was seem seeking solace in the arms of another man."
Danziger straightened back up and advanced on Isaiah who smiled but didn't retreat.
"What the hell are you talking about, Ford?" Danziger asked crossly.
"Apparently Alonzo Solace escorted Devon to the hospital when she supposedly suffered another 'attack' of hers."
Danziger's anger shifted to concern. "Is Devon alright?"
"Yes, yes. She's fine but you're missing the point."
"What point might that be? I'd hardly call being taken to the hospital a romantic jaunt." He shot back.
"No. It isn't romantic but it is telling." Again, the smarmy smile. "When you're hurt or in need of help, you want someone who you trust and can rely on. If Devon's calling on Alonzo Solace for assistance, apparently that someone isn't *you*."
Ford's observation hit home. Trying to hide how much that comment stung, Danziger gruffly asked, "Just what do you want of me?"
Believing he had the mechanic hooked, Ford started to reel him in.
"Throughout the centuries various things have been used for the basis of currency. Gold, silver, silk, platinum, uranium, people--all used as currency and all granted the possessor power. Today's currency is information. I'd like you to help me get some."
Alarms went off in Danziger's head and he decided to play along to find out what exactly Ford was after.
"What kind of information?"
"I'd like to know just what's in Eden Advance's sealed records. Most if it seems to be about Dr. Heller, but they were sealed by Devon Adair. I'd like to know why she and everyone else here is so protective of a Council spy."
Ford smiled broadly at Danziger's stunned expression.
"Oh yes, I recognized her back on the Stations. She's the spitting image of her mother. The Council owns whole families not just individual members."
"If you recognized her, why didn't you say anything to Devon?" Danziger growled.
"Like I said, information is currency. You don't give it away without receiving something of equal or greater value in return. Besides, I figured we'd be safe with Council operatives on board. Especially that one. With her on board, I thought Devon had cut a deal with the Council."
"Yet you expect us to trust you even though you're a member of the Council."
"Ex-member." He corrected. "I'd been looking over my shoulder for three years. If I'd stayed on the Stations, I would have been dead very soon. The Council doesn't like loose ends."
"What do you hope to accomplish with this information?"
"Discredit Devon. She'd not competent to run this Project. Crashing on this planet, traipsing thousands of miles, and living hand to mouth should make even you aware of her inabilities."
"What makes you think I'd help you?"
"In return for your assistance, I'd see to it that you get sole custody of Virginia....That is what you want, isn't it?--You don't actually think you'd get Devon to publicly acknowledge you, let alone marry you, do you?!" Ford laughed. "You're just a toy. Something to amuse her on boring nights. I bet she laughs whenever she thinks about your puppy dog affection for her."
"I've heard enough, Ford. Leave."
"You know she couldn't ever harbor any genuine feelings for you other than short lived lust?"
Danziger face began to darken as his blood pressure started to rise.
"Be quiet, Ford."
"Enjoy what you can get out of her now. You'll have to tell me what's she's like in bed sometime."
"Shut up, Ford."
"I mean, is she into anything kinky or is she..."
Ford never got the chance to finish or to see the blow that sent him hurdling again the work table. He fell unconscious face down into a oil spill. Danziger advanced on him, the crowbar clenched tightly in his right fist. He stood over the bloody, crumpled, unmoving form for several moments trying to reign in the murderous blood lust raging through him. Taking a deep breath, he dropped the metal bar to the ground then leaned over and grasped the inert man by the collar. Just then, True reentered.
"Dad? What happened?!"
"Nothing." He replied without looking at her. "Ford had an accident." He hauled the man up and slung him over his shoulder.
"Where you taking him?"
"To the hospital."
With nothing more than that as an explanation, he walked out into the orangery dusk of the setting sun. Leaving True to clean up and wonder what had actually happened.
After depositing Ford in the lobby of the hospital, Danziger headed off for a long walk to work the remaining anger and frustration out of his system. He hated losing control like that but damn it, Ford shouldn't have pushed him like that. He'd been walking aimlessly for what seemed like hours, he found himself standing outside of Devon's abode.
"Damn, she's left the perimeter guards off."
Still full of tumultuous emotions, he marched past her ATV and up to the front door. After getting no response from his rather loud hammering, Danziger walked around to the back of Devon's small bungalow. The ATV was still parked out front so he knew she had to still be here. He remembered how she looked earlier today when he'd found her practically slumped over in the alleyway near the Meeting Hall, and a look of apprehension crept across his face. He should have never agreed to her living on the outskirts of New Pacifica, not until she'd fully recovered. But they'd all been so relieved to have her back that he found he couldn't say no to her when she'd picked out this little hill over looking the beach. He was finding it harder and harder to say no to Devon Adair these days. And that was starting to piss him off.
He rounded the corner of the cabin and spotted her laying in the Adirondack lounge he and Uly had built for her. She was curled on her side facing him. As he approached, the light from the cabin softly illuminated her sleeping face. She was wrapped in a plain and simple white terry robe. Devon never dressed provocatively but her beauty managed to shine quietly through nevertheless. Her near lack of awareness of her attractiveness is what Danziger found so alluring about her. She may be obstinate, annoying and shrill upon occasion, but she was never vain or self-indulgent. Devon Adair was nothing like he'd imagined and for once he was pleased to be proven wrong.
His eyes hungrily drank in her sleeping form. She was so relaxed and off her guard in sleep. He stood watching her for several long moments until he began to feel guilty over invading her privacy. She would be embarrassed if she should wake and find him standing there in the dark staring at her. Come to think of it, so would he. He forced his gaze from her exposed legs poking naked from thigh to toe from under her robe. Just on the other side of the lounge rested a make-shift tub still full of soapy water.
To distract himself, he walked over to it and fished the softball size natural sponge out of the now cold waters. He squeezed the sponge and watched as cool rivulets of scented water trickled down his forearm before splashing back into the tub. Unbidden images of Devon bathing with the sponge flashed in his head causing his pulse to quicken. He cursed softly as he tossed the sponge on the little table that held her other toiletries. "Get a grip, John Danziger." He muttered. "She's making you so nuts that you're even getting jealous of bath sponges. Next thing you know, you'll be wanting to trade places with her toothbrush."
He leaned down to release the plug from the front of the tub and watched the water glugged its way down the small drainage ditch where it would eventually pour into a filtering septic tank that prevented ground water contamination. Then he turned back around and faced her. From this angle he got a pleasant view of her derriere nicely outlined by her robe. She must of just slipped on the robe without drying off first from the way it clung to her. For a moment, he considered allowing her to sleep but knew she'd hate to miss the mass healing she and Alonzo had negotiated with the Terrians for this Moon Cross. She would want to be there to sooth the nerves of worried and wary parents when they witnessed their children being sucked into the ground by 7 foot corpse-like beings.
He sat down on the edge of the lounge but was careful not to allow any part of his body to touch hers. The gentle lapping of the waves against the beach drew his attention away from her. The smaller moon was already high and full in the clear night sky. The larger moon was full too and just beginning to rise from the ocean like an aqueous Phoenix. Both moons had a shiny twin in the ocean. Their watery reflections shimmering and dancing in time with the waves. Danziger sighed. He understood why she chose this spot. It was the spot he would have chosen too. Again, his treacherous mind tormented him with visions of Devon cavorting in the luminous waves. Did she ever sneak down to the beach at night after Uly and Ginny were asleep, he wondered? Did she shed her inhibitions when unobserved? God, there were so many things he wanted to discover about her, if she would only let him.
He thought he'd been very patience with her, bidding his time, allowing her to decide when to move on to the next level. But so far, she'd given him no hint that she was prepared to do so. He'd tried to broach the subject this morning, but she'd misinterpreted him. Thought he was threatening to take Virginia from her. Hell, he wanted to cement their families together, not tear them apart. But he'd screwed up and put her on her guard. Isaiah was trying to take the colony away from her, why shouldn't she think Danziger was trying to take her--*their*--child?
Danziger was a man of action not words. He shouldn't have tried to *tell* her what he wanted, he should have *shown* her. A grim chuckle rumbled in his chest at the thought of him *showing* Devon what he wanted from her in the middle of the Meeting Hall courtyard. That would have sent her over the edge screaming bloody murder and given all of New Pacifica something to talk about. As if their tongues weren't wagging enough. Who could blame them? A love-child born out of a passionate affair with the hired help made a much more fascinating story then the plain truth. Hell, he found it preposterous himself that he had a child by a woman he hadn't even kissed yet. His memory drifted back to that fateful day nearly 22 months ago.....
John was sitting in his tent cleaning his tools before putting them away. If he'd known he was going to end up planetside, he would have sprung for an enviroment-controlled case rather than a standard one. Humidity and dirt could foul up even tools of the best quality. He laughed softly. If he'd known he was going to crash land on this planet he would have done lots of things differently. Like not signed up for Eden Project. Well, he should have known better. If a deal sounds too good to be true--watch out. He threw a glance over his shoulder at the sound of the tent flap being lifted.
"Oh, hi Doc! What's up?"
Julia stood hesitantly in the doorway. "I'm sorry. I hope I'm not disturbing you."
"Naw, just taking care of a few chores. Come on in." He beckoned her inward with a toss of his head as he put away the last instrument and closed the case.
Julia dropped the tent flap and approached Danziger but ignored his invitation to sit. "I'd like to ask you a few questions, possibly ask a favor of you."
"Shoot Doc." Danziger slapped his palms down on his thighs and smiled. "If there's anything I can do, I will."
"I hope you really mean that." She mumbled.
Danziger finally noticed her strange mood and shot her a puzzled look. He watched her as she fiddled with an empty specimen jar.
"This visit have something to do with Devon? Did you make a breakthrough?"
"Of a sort." She took a couple steps closer to him and leaned forward and quietly asked, "Are you certain that True is your child?"
Danziger leaned backwards away from her, his brow furrowed and the friendly smile replaced with a scowl. "Yea. Who's been saying otherwise?" Came his defensive response.
Julia ignored Danziger's rising ire. "I mean, you had it proven through DNA testing. You didn't just assume she was yours?" She pushed, desperate for the truth.
"Yes. I did." He snapped back. "I had to in order to claim custody since Ellie and I weren't married."
Julia straightened up and smiled. "Good. That will save me the trouble of doing my own testing then."
"Glad I could put your mind at ease. Now you mind telling me why the sudden interest in my kid's parentage?" He snarled.
It finally dawned on her how voyeuristic her questions seemed. Blushing, she attempted to assure him that her interest was strictly of a medical nature. "You know I've been working on a theory about Devon's illness."
"Un-huh." He replied as he crossed his arms over his chest and waited for her to elaborate.
"I've been discussing the feasibility of it with the Elder and the Terrians through Alonzo. I think we've come up with a viable solution to boost her immune system and if not cure her, at least arrest her condition." She held out the specimen jar to him. "But I need your help."
Danziger took the jar and curiously turned in around in his hand. "What's this for?"
"I need a semen sample." She blurted.
Danziger froze and visibly paled. "A what?" He gasped.
"Nevermind! I heard you. Just tell me why. And give me the condensed version."
"So I can impregnate Devon with it."
"Impregnate...Devon." He repeated quietly as if the words were incomprehensible to him. When they sunk in and his rattled mind grasped their meaning, he stood up and bellowed. "What the hell for?!"
Even though Julia knew Danziger wouldn't hurt her, she backed away from the towering, angry man. "Pregnancy will boost her immune system." When he still stared hotly at her, she hastened to enumerate the benefits to be reaped. "Her blood volume will increase by 25 percent, her heart rate will rise without pushing her blood pressure dangerously high, her kidney function will increase to help filter out toxins, her digestive system will slow down to allow better absorption of nutrients. After the child is delivered, I can give Devon an infusion of the cord blood to help strengthen her system even further. If need be, when the child is a year or two old I can do a bone marrow transplant. None of this will cure Devon, but it will give her a fighting chance."
John listened to her impassioned justification of her bizarre theory. He didn't understand it completely but he'd come to trust Julia's medical instincts and capabilities. She definitely wasn't a quack. And yet....
"Why not use Uly's bone marrow?"
"Because I can't risk her body rejecting or not being able to utilize his Terrian altered cells."
"What about one of us?"
"I've checked everyone here. There isn't a viable donor. Besides, it's the cord blood that will be the most beneficial. It's genetic structure is totally different from regular blood cells. Dr. Vasquez used it with limited success on Syndrome children. There was a preserved supply on board the Roanoke but it wasn't in the supplies I managed to bring with me."
Danziger raked his fingers through his hair. "Why me?"
"I can't impregnate her while she's in cold sleep. Once she comes out, the clock starts ticking again. You're the only male here that has fathered a child or at least has knowledge of fathering a child. In breeders' terms, you're a proven stud."
"Aw man, this is nuts!" A sudden thought popped into his head and he asked Julia a question that he dreaded hearing the answer to. "Does anyone else know why you're here?"
"No--Well, Alonzo does because I had to use him to communicate with the Elder and the Terrians."
Danziger started to sigh with relief. He could count on Alonzo to just privately torture him about this.
"Yale knows cause he helped me with my research into EVE's files."
Yale. Danziger could deal with Yale.
"Ummm..." Julia grew thoughtful while Danziger grew panic stricken when she began to tic names off of her fingers. "Morgan, Walman, Baines, Cameron, and Matzal probably know because I had to interview them to see if any of them were fathers."
"So you're telling me that everyone in this whole camp knows what you're doing here."
Julia was stunned by the expression Danziger worn. It almost looked like the big man was about to cry. "I don't think Uly or True know yet. And of course Devon." She answered weakly.
"So you're just going to thaw her out, knock her up, then hand her this kid when she wakes up?"
Julia bristled at his flippant remark. "I agree it will be a shock but I think I know Devon well enough to know that she wants to live, she wants to reach New Pacifica and she wants to watch her son grow up." She paused a moment. "Bess has expressed a willingness to adopt the child if neither of you are interested in claiming it."
"Morgan raising my kid? Like hell."
"I take that to mean you've agreed to this?" Julia held her breath. She knew that she was practically blackmailing Danziger into doing this but she needed his cooperation--and his semen.
"Yea...." Danziger stared long and hard at the mug size specimen jar. He looked up at Julia wearing a worried expression. "Do I have to fill it?"
For perhaps the first time in her life Julia was thankful for her emotionally reserved genetic makeup. She was certain any other doctor would have howled hysterically at Danziger's earnest inquiry. She'd just gotten his cooperation, she didn't need to blow it by laughing at him.
She smiled in a manner that she hoped was reassuring. "No, no. 20 cc's will be plenty. 30 more than adequate." Then a frown crossed her face. "You haven't.......recently, have you? That could affect the success of fertilization."
Danziger shook his head no but refused to look at her. "How soon do you need it?"
"There's no rush. We still have to get the hoverjet operational and there's a few more details I need to go over with the Elder."
She turned to leave but then stopped and turned back around. "Alonzo told me he'd overheard Baines offering Walman this VR program he had written. Said it would keep him up at night. I could see if he'd loan it to me.....if you think it might help."
"Baines, huh? You seen this thing?"
Julia felt herself flushing. "No, I imagine it's your standard adult sim program."
Danziger snorted. "You obviously don't know Baines as well as you think you know Devon. There's nothing 'standard' in that man's head. I'll pass."
"Alright. I'll make sure no one disturbs you." She turned and fled the tent.
How do you get yourself into these messes, John? Why couldn't it be a kidney or a lung?
John hadn't realized he'd spoken out loud until Devon stirred next to him. She rolled over bumping into him in her sleep. Looking down at her lying there on her back, he saw that the robe had pulled open enough to offer him torturous, shadowy hints of what lay beneath its scant cover. Her bare thigh laid pressed against his clothed one where his hand rested on it mere centimeters from her exposed flesh. Rather than give in to the desire to slide his palm along the inside of that creamy thigh, he moved his hand away and shifted until the physical contact was broken. His eyes traveled up her body while thoughts and images invaded his mind that even he found shocking.
Finally his gaze reached her lips and stopped. Quietly he contemplated them. He could read her moods by the set of her mouth. Her usual friendly yet reserved half grin. The rare wide joyful grin accompanied by the even rarer laugh. The way she bit her lower lip in hesitation or deliberation. How they pursed tightly when angered. His favorite was the soft mysterious motherly smile she wore when cuddling with one of the children. He often dreamed of those lips. What they would feel like against his, how they would feel dropping kisses along his chest and other places better left unthought of.
Wake her up and get out of here before you make a fool of yourself, John.
Not trusting himself to touch her, he cleared his throat and gruffly addressed her.
"Wake up, Devon. Come on, time to go."
Groggily, still half asleep she replied.
"Is everything packed and secured?"
He smiled and almost laughed out loud.
"No Devon, we aren't breaking camp. We reached New Pacifica, remember?"
Though he'd spoken more softly that time, his reminder of where they were jarred her fully awake. Alarmed, she sat up.
"What are you doing here? Is something wrong with Ginny?"
"Ginny's fine." He reassured her.
His eyes locked on the front of her robe which had fallen open even farther. Devon looked down and saw her exposed cleavage and froze. She knew she should pull her robe close and demand that John leave but all she could do was stare at him and insanely wonder if he found her attractive. She watched mesmerized as he reached towards her. A gasp escaped her throat when he took hold of the left lapel of her robe. Gently he pulled it close, tucking it primly under her chin.
"Why didn't you call me?"
Flustered, Devon shook her head in confusion.
Was that a look of disappoint he saw flash across her face or just his mind playing wishful games on him?
"Why did you call Alonzo when you needed help getting to the hospital?"
Devon ran a shaky hand threw her damp, tousled hair.
"Oh, you found out about that. Why am I not surprised? Here I was worried about communication problems after the Grendlers damaged the dish."
You didn't answer my question."
Devon glanced back at him upon hearing the sharp tone in his voice. The expression she saw told her this was very important to him for some reason.
"I knew you'd make a big fuss. That we'd probably end up arguing. I didn't feel like another fight today."
Apparently, her answer satisfied him because he nodded and his expression lightened.
"So you're not having a torrid affair with Solace then?"
"WHAT?!" Devon rose indignantly to her feet clutching her robe tightly closed. "I could expect a comment like that from Isaiah or some of the other colonists, but I thought you knew me better than that!"
"Relax Adair, I was kidding."
Devon stopped in mid rant, her chest heaving and eyes flashing fire.
"Then why are you here?"
He winced as if she'd struck him.
"After I found out about your trip to the hospital, I wanted to see how you were doing." Then he paused to take a deep breath. "And I figured you better hear what happened from me than from someone else."
"Hear what?" Suddenly Devon's attention focused on the rising moons over his left shoulder. "Oh no! I have to get dressed! I wanted to beat Isaiah to the caves."
"Don't worry about Ford. He won't be causing any trouble at Moon Cross. He's in the hospital."
"What?!" Devon recognized the guilty look on his face. "What did you do to him?" She demanded.
Danziger rubbed his cheek and mumbled.
"I broke his jaw."
Devon sat down heavily next to him, stunned.
"And two ribs."
"That all?" She asked sarcastically.
"He's got a concussion too."
Devon turned to him wearing a bewildered expression.
"It doesn't matter." He answered gruffly looking away.
Devon reached out and grabbed hold of his shoulder.
"Yes, it does! John, I know Isaiah is irritating but you can't just go around breaking people's jaws for that. This isn't going to look good to a lot of people. They might think you acted on my orders."
"I'm not some lap dog that runs to you at your beck and call." He shot back hotly.
Devon's brows drew together. "I never said you were, but not everyone knows you as well as I do."
Danziger sighed in frustration.
"He wouldn't shut up."
"He wouldn't shut up?" Devon repeated. "So you broke his jaw?"
"How was I suppose to know it was made of glass?"
"It doesn't matter! You shouldn't have hit him in the first place!"
"I didn't like the way he was talking about you. He can talk about me any way he wants to but I won't put up with his shit when it comes to you or the kids."
"What did he say?"
She queried, curious in spite of her anger to find out what Isaiah Ford could say about her to drive Danziger to violence. Danziger stared at the toe of his worn and scuffed boot lost in thought.
"Devon, do you ever think about me?" He finally asked quietly, ignoring her question.
"Every time I look at Ginny I think of you." She answered honestly, caught off guard by his question.
"But never before her or without her?--Never just me?"
The mournful question sounded as if it been torn from his heart and Devon couldn't not give him a truthful answer.
He looked up from his boot and fixed her with an inscrutable gaze.
"What do you think about when you think of me?"
Uncertain about whether she wanted to go that far down this particular conversational path, she turned his question around on him.
"Do you ever think about me?"
Her heart began to pound and she clutch her robe even tighter around her neck. He gazed at her with a raw, hungry look.
"What do you think about?" She asked breathlessly.
He lifted his right hand slowly as if afraid she might bolt if he made any sudden moves. Gently he cupped her cheek and most of the left side of her face in his large hand. His eyes were draw again to her lips. They were slightly parted and the bottom one was quivering. Danziger brought his thumb up and caressed her soft, full bottom lip idly. Devon closed her eyes and snuggled her cheek against his palm. His other hand came up and cupped her other cheek. His fingers tangled in her still slightly damp hair tilting her head back. She watched him expectantly through half closed eyes as if she were afraid he too might flee if he suddenly realized what he was doing.
"I think to myself, 'I wonder if her lips taste the same as they do in my dreams?'"
He whispered huskily as his face lowered towards hers. Neither of them closed their eyes until their lips met in the barest of kisses. Danziger lightly brushed his lips across Devon's. She sighed and he shared her breath. The tip of his tongue lazily explored the outside of her mouth between soft nibbling kisses. His hands still cupped her face and his left thumb stroked her jaw, encouraging her to open her mouth to him. When she responded to his silent request, he wanted to shout with joy but instead he accepted her invitation and tenderly slipped his tongue into her moist mouth.
Devon couldn't prevent her body from tensing slightly. It'd been years since she'd experienced such a caress and though she found it pleasing, at the same time, she found it disconcerting. After all, this was John Danziger who was kissing her. The last man she ever expected to do so. Tentatively she laid her hands on his chest. She could feel the heat of his body through the fabric of his shirt as well as the strong pounding of his heart. Allowing instinct to take over, she relaxed and leaned forward returning his kiss earnestly.
Her action emboldened him and his fingers sank deeper into her hair as he deepened the kiss becoming more possessive. He pulled her closer pinning her hands between their chests. She could feel the extent of his desire as he pressed against her. John moved his lips from hers and kissed a path along her jawline to her ear, kissing and gently tugging at its lobe. The feel and sound of his hot, ragged breath against her ear and neck sent shivers up and down her spine.
"Devon," he whispered in a hoarse desperate voice against her ear. "if you don't want this to go any further tell me now while I still have the strength to stop."
He closed his eyes and waited for her to decide their fate.
Devon's fingers clutched his shirt and twisted it.
"You stop now and I'll kill you."
He offered up a silent prayer of thanks that he wasn't going to have to spend the rest of his life taking cold showers. His hands slipped down to where the collar of her robe rested against her neck and slowly pulled the robe downward exposing her shoulders.
She tipped her head back and closed her eyes as he rained soft, tender kisses down her neck and ran an exploring tongue along her collar bone. He pulled the robe all the way open. Then he stopped kissing her, pulled away slightly and gazed at her for a long silent moment.
"You're beautiful." He finally managed to croak out in a voice thick with passion.
Devon didn't reply. She merely reached up and cupped his face in her hands and kissed him passionately. Without breaking the kiss, she leaned back, pulling him down with her until she was lying on the lounge with Danziger sprawled on top of her. The kisses became darker and more intense. Danziger didn't know where to touch her first. So he touched her everywhere. His large work roughen hands sweep over her skin stoking the flames of desire that licked at her flesh.
His right hand slide up until it was resting just under her left breast cupping it. While his other hand migrated southward, down past her hip and thigh, curving under the crook of her knee pulling up on it gently to making room for him to rest more comfortably between her legs. His fingertips lightly caressed the sensitive skin behind her knee eliciting a soft gasp.
The knowledge that Devon was responding to him was an incredible aphrodisiac and Danziger wanted more. The thumb of the hand cradling her breast brushed across her nipple making it pucker. He was rewarded with a moan as she pressed her breast upward against his palm. Danziger knew his self control was quickly spiraling beyond reach. His body demanded satisfaction and he nearly gave into it by releasing his erection and driving into her immediately. But he wanted Devon with him on each step of the journey they were taking. He didn't want to reach their destination first so he desperately attempted to ignore the pounding beat of his heart in his ears and its equally powerful echo pulsing in his penis.
His left hand retraced its path back up along her thigh until it was resting on her hip. The thumb of that hand rubbed back and forth along the bony protrusion that was her pelvis slipping farther inward with each stroke. Devon closed her eyes and caught her bottom lip between her teeth as her hips lifted up in a silent plea for him to end his torture and touch her more intimately.
His mouth left her lips and he greedily kissed his way down to her right breast. Devon's fingers tighten on the back of his shirt pulling it free of the waistband of his pants. She wanted to feel his bare chest pressed against hers and clumsily attempted to yank the shirt off him. His teasing fingers, lips and tongue left her in a feverous state. She was ready to scream at him to touch her when his thumb slid through her pubic hair and reached its goal.
"Hello? Devon are you here?"
Devon managed to shove/squirm her way from beneath John. Pulling her robe close and knotting the belt securely, she bolted inside and sat down at the wooden table that acted as her vanity leaving John to gather his own wits together. Catching sight of her flushed face and disheveled hair in the small mirror attached to the wall, she quickly picked up her brush and began to smooth out the tangles.
Danziger sat up and raked his own hair back with short frustrated jerks of his hands. He couldn't imagine feeling any worse, not even if he'd heard them call out his ticket numbers on the Station Lottery and then going, "Oops! Sorry, that last number was a 6 not a 9." Tucking his shirt back inside his waist band, he briefly considered heading down to the beach and drowning himself. Instead, he got to his feet and stumbled to the doorway and leaned against the frame thinking he'd rather grab Devon and run with her until he found someplace private where they could finish what they'd started. Before he could put that plan into action, Yale entered the bedroom from the doorway that lead from the living area.
"Devon are you still here?" Concern tinged his voice.
"Oh, hi Yale!" She chirped out far too loudly and sweetly. "We were talking and I guess we didn't hear you come in."
She watched as Yale looked from her to John then back again, drawing his own conclusions. Suddenly, Devon was sixteen again and was being caught by Yale in a compromising position with Malcolm Kennedy.
"If you don't hurry, you'll be late for the ceremony." He stated neutrally.
"Perhaps," he continued softly, "John and I should go outside and give you some privacy so you can change."
The older man advanced slowly but steadily towards the younger, taller man. Danziger backed out onto the patio to keep from colliding with the tutor. Yale pulled the door shut and stood there staring at Danziger with a stern, fatherly gaze.
"John, you know I respect you and everything you've done for Eden Advance. I count you among my friends."
"Thanks, Yale. I consider you a friend too."
"Then you will forgive me when I ask just exactly what your intentions are towards Devon?"
"Intentions? What do you mean by intentions?"
Not buying Danziger's innocently ignorant act for a second, Yale decided to beat him at his own game so he stepped forward smiling.
"Do you see this cybernetic hand?"
Yale held up his left arm rotating his wrist slowly back and forth. When Danziger nodded, Yale stopped its movement but left it up, holding the mechanic's attention with it.
"It's more than just a computer interface and holographic projector. For instance, with a psi of twenty it makes an excellent nut cracker."
Yale closed his fist ominously as he said this in his cool, clipped accented voice with no trace of a smile visible on his face.
Danziger shifted uncomfortably, even took a step back. He understood Yale's oh-not-so-veiled threat. He also knew it wasn't an idle one and he had no wish for Yale to demonstrate any of his surplus abilities on him.
"You made your point, Yale. But it doesn't matter what my intentions are, it's up to Devon to allow me to keep them."
Yale lowered his arm and clasped it in his other hand behind his back.
"I don't wish to see her hurt." Yale's smile returned for a second. "She such a warm, loving and devout person." Yale paused, uncertain of how much information he could offer without betraying a confidence. "Relationships, both intimate and platonic, have been difficult for her. When one is from a wealthy, high social ranking family, one finds out at a young age that others are often more interested in what being associated with you can do for them rather than being just interested in you as a person."
Danziger nodded in understanding. Yale had given him an insight into why Devon was often cool and remote.
"Who or what Devon is has no bearing on how I feel about her Yale. I can assure you of that."
"And how do you feel about her?"
"I love her."
Yale pressed his lips together but his smile would not be denied and it beamed through his merry eyes instead.
"I am pleased to hear you finally admit that to yourself. I do not think Devon could find a more suitable man either here or on the Stations. You are of that rare, near dead breed John, a man of honor. For what it's worth, you have my blessing."
Danziger wasn't one to embarrass easily but Yale's words of praise brought a tinge of pink to his cheeks.
"Thanks Yale." He mumbled. "Maybe if Devon won't have me, you'll agree to marry me?" He added with a wink.
Yale chuckled and slapped Danziger on the shoulder.
"My dear boy, you would find out that we are incompatible in other areas! I assure you Devon is the one you want."
"That's true, she is the one."
Just then, Devon opened the door and hurried out. Her thick auburn tresses were caught up in loose chignon and she was in the process of rolling up the right sleeve of the dark green shirt she wore. A mustard colored vest, black slacks and boots completed her simple yet practical outfit. She stopped when she noticed Danziger standing next to Yale.
"Oh, you're still here."
She uttered unable to think of anything else to say. She wondered just what the two men had been talking about in her absence.
"Yale, we really should be going."
She bustled past them and headed for the path that lead back to the front of the cottage. Trying to act as if nothing untoward had taken place less than ten minutes before, she shoved the memory of Danziger's kisses and caresses far down in the recesses of her mind. She business to take care of.
"Devon, I've asked John to come with us."
She stopped and turned back to face them.
"To the Terrian caves? I thought you weren't interested in going up there?"
"I felt it would help ease any fears the colonists may have if all of the members of Eden Advance attended the ceremony and John graciously agreed to come."
"We won't all three fit on the ATV."
"I brought a Dunerail we can all got to the caves together."
Knowing she couldn't put up an argument without looking bad or having to explain her reasons for not wanting John Danziger in the same vehicle with her, she relented.
"Okay," She shrugged. "Let's go."
They traveled in an uneasy silence across the meadow to the hills where the Terrians in this area made their home. Devon swore she could feel John Danziger's eyes on her back the entire time. She wished she knew what he was thinking. He hadn't said two words to her since Yale appeared. Of course she hadn't said anything to him since then either. Was he angry at her? Disappointed that they'd been interrupted? Or was he relieved that Yale had shown up when he did?
Her own emotions were in such a chaotic turmoil, she wasn't sure what she was feeling herself. Her body still tingled at the memory of his kisses and caresses. His taste and scent still flooded her senses making her giddy. Yet at the same time, she was mortified by her actions. For a moment she wondered if her behavior could be explained away as a side effect of the new drug therapy Julia had given her this morning. However much she'd like to excuse herself, Devon knew that her response to Danziger was genuine, not artificially induced. The fingers of her right hand stole up and lightly touched her lips. She smiled remembering how he'd told her she was beautiful.
But why his sudden interest in you *now*? The little voice in her head whispered conspiratorially. Could it be because he wanted to insure your cooperation with Ginny?
Her hand dropped to her lap and the smile disappeared, replaced by knitted brows.
It wouldn't be the first time a man tried to manipulate you through emotional attachments, the voice continued. Remember Dyson? How he pretended to be your friend and to champion your cause with the Council? The way he listened to your hopes and dreams with such sympathy and understanding? Do you recall how he lent you his shoulder to cry on as one bureaucratic road block after another came up? Only to discover a month before launch that he had masterminded those very road blocks? His commiseration had been just a pretense to learn of your plans ahead of time so he could devise counter measures and more delays. Delays that nearly cost you your son. Then the man blatantly tried to kill you and several hundred other people when the delays failed.
But Dyson didn't succeed. I found out about his duplicity and we escaped his bomb. We made it to G889 despite his attempts to waylay Eden Project.
What about your father's top executive and supposed friend, Josh Whelk? Didn't he try to cheat you out of your father's business while you were still grieving?
Yes...but he didn't succeed either. I was stronger, smarter and more ambitious than he suspected. I not only took over my father's position as chair of Adairian Spacetectures, I managed to oust him from his board position and the company in less than a month.
And of course, you mustn't forget Uly's father.
Devon balled her hands into fists and shook her head no. She didn't want to think about Uly's father. That was still too painful a subject for even private reflection. If not for the loving and positive presence of both her father and Yale, she would have probably grown up believing all men were conniving bastards.
Devon was brought back from her internal conversation when Yale brought the vehicle to a bumpy halt. Off to her right, she could see a large open field surrounded by burning torches with several campfires and canopies set up in the perimeter. Nearly half the colony was here. She hoped such a large crowd of humans camped outside their front door didn't make the Terrians too uneasy.
"It's about time you got here! What were you doing? Taking a moonlit stroll?!"
Devon nearly panicked but quickly realized that Morgan hadn't guessed the truth. He was just being his usual sarcastic self.
"I'm sorry, Morgan. I overslept and then got caught up in...a discussion with Danziger and didn't notice the time until Yale showed up looking for me."
Morgan finally saw Danziger seated in the back of the 'rail and pitched a fit.
"No, no, NO!" He sputtered shaking his index finger at the mechanic. "Devon, you cannot be seem with this man right now! He shouldn't even be here! He's caused enough trouble already." Morgan glared at Danziger. "I've been doing nothing but damage control after that little stunt you pulled today with Ford."
"My, my, look at the worm squirm." Danziger stood up in the 'rail and glared down at Morgan in an attempt to ignore the sinking feeling that the little weasel might be right for once. "Considering how many of your 'stunts' I've had to deal with, I'd say you owe me a few," he finally shot back.
He jumped out of the vehicle and landed heavily a few inches from Morgan. The smaller man scampered back several paces until he stood behind and a little to the left of Devon.
"That's enough!" Devon hissed at them both. "We accomplish nothing by arguing." She turned towards Morgan and asked him in a softer voice, "What did you mean by 'damage control'?"
Morgan brushed his hand down the front of his shirt and kept a wary eye on Danziger while he answered. "It seems some people viewed Danziger's attack on Ford as a plan to silence him."
"Oh come off it!" Danziger barked throwing his hands up in disgust. "It wasn't an 'attack'! The jerk barged into my place and started shooting his big mouth off! There wasn't any 'plan'!"
"Several more families have withdrawn their consent to have their children healed by the Terrians as a result....Plan or no plan." Morgan continued to address Devon but made sure Danziger heard as well.
"How many more did we lose?" Yale asked.
"Forty-two. But there are several here that are still waffling and they could easily sway and pull their kids out. If they catch sight of Devon and Danziger together acting cozy, that just might be the deciding factor."
Devon paled and hugged herself. "That makes 125 total. Over half..."
A wave of guilt washed over Danziger as the full impact of Morgan's words sank in. Kids might die, and he was partly responsible. He quietly turned and started to walk away into the night. Devon rushed after him and grabbed him by his shirt sleeve.
"Where are you going?" She demanded.
Resolute blue eyes framed by an even sterner face locked on hers. He leaned forward and answered her in a harsh, low rumble. "As much as it kills me to admit it...Morgan's right. Me being here will only make people wonder if maybe we had planned to take Ford out of the picture."
She reached up and cupped his cheek. "Now you listen to me, John Danziger," she softly admonished. "Your every action has been done with the well being of this expedition in mind. No one is more aware of that than myself. I seriously doubt there would be a New Pacifica without your presence. I know I wouldn't be here without your help. I'm also certain that Ford sought you out with the intent of pushing you until you lost control. I can't believe someone who's Council trained would drop his guard unless he wanted to play victim to purposefully make you look bad. I refuse to play into his hands. We made it this far as a team, I won't allow wedges to be driven into the group now."
Danziger covered her hand with his. "Thanks," he murmured.
She took his hand and began to gently lead him back towards the temporary camp set up outside the cave entrance. "Come on. We have a lot of feathers to unruffle."
"This is not a good idea, Devon." Morgan grumbled as she walked past him with Danziger in tow.
Devon didn't stop or even glance over her shoulder as she made her reply. "Morgan, if I'd listened to everyone who's ever said that to me, I'd be an old woman on the Stations now mourning the death of her little boy, and you'd still be a lowly, even more bitter level 3 government worker stuck in some dingy cubicle wondering what the hell happened to your life."
Morgan slapped at an unseen buzzing insect and muttered at her retreating back, "Oh yeah,....*this* is much better!" He then began snapping his fingers and dancing around Yale mambo-style. "It's just party, party, party! Right, Yale?!" Morgan gave a yelp and slapped again at his neck. "Why must these minuscule bloodsuckers always bite *me*?!"
Yale rolled his eyes and drolly replied, "There's just no accounting for taste, I suppose." Sighing, he ambled after Devon and Danziger leaving Morgan alone.
"I happen to *like* dingy!" Morgan hollered defiantly at the trio who either didn't hear or chose to ignore him. "Ow...blasted bugs!"
Devon's pace slowed as she approached the center of the temporary encampment. Even from this distance she could tell something was wrong. Julia was having what appeared to be a heated discussion with one of the colonists while others watched intently. She was flanked protectively by Alonzo and Walman, both looking uncharacteristically grim. The rest of the Eden Advance group hovered nearby. Magus glanced up and saw Devon, Danziger and Yale coming towards them. She shook her head glumly signaling that all was not going well. As Devon drew closer, she caught snatches of what was being said.
"I realize this is a strange and somewhat unorthodox medical treatment but..."
"'Unorthodox' isn't the word Lady! Try unethical! Or--or--monstrous! Considering that you came from the goop in the bottom of a test tube, maybe alien gene manipulation sounds like business as usual..."
"Hey! You want your kid healed, don't you?"
The man stared at Walman for a moment then stiffly uttered through clenched teeth, "My Henry died in cold sleep. He's beyond your so-called healing, thankfully."
As Devon joined the group, focus shifted from Julia to her. She smiled softly, "How are things going?" Her eyes drifted from the stern stares of Alonzo and Walman, to the pinched, frustrated features of Julia. Finally, they landed on the subject of all this anger and frustration. She nodded sympathetically towards the man and lightly touched his shoulder, "I grieve for Henry's loss too, Frank. I blame myself for not being able to overcome governmental redtape sooner. I'm pleased though that you've come down to support Henry's friends and their families."
Julia let out a breath and attempted to keep her voice calm and her words neutral, "There seems to be a little confusion and concern over the healing procedure."
Devon arched a brow, "Oh?"
A short, moonpie-faced woman pushed her way into the center of the group, clasped Devon's hand in both of hers and pumped it up and down vigorously the whole time she spoke. Her nervousness was apparent in the way she prattled on, though she tried to hide it beneath her polite manners.
"I'm sure none of us mean you any disrespect, Ms Adair" She glanced uneasily in Frank's direction, then turned back and flashed Devon a smile that rivaled the brightness of the two full moons slowly lumbering higher into the sky overhead. "I for one am grateful for all you've done for me, Janae, Liam, Jerrikka. I-I look at Uly, and I'm just stunned. The change in him is remarkable! And far more than I ever dared allow myself to dream of when I first heard about Eden Project."
Devon managed to twist the wince forming on her face into a smile. Desperately she searched her memory for the woman's name. Between the sheer number of people involved in Eden Project and the fact that back on the Stations most of Devon's energy had been directed towards hacking through the bureaucracy and getting launch approval as soon as possible, so she did not get many opportunities to socialize with the other families unless they were directly involved in some aspect of Eden Project. Plus it had been over two years since Devon laid eyes on any of the colonists from the main ship so while the woman's face was vaguely familiar, her name eluded Devon.
Still smiling, Devon laid her free hand on top of the woman's hands in an attempt to at least slow down the pumping motion before Devon's arm fell off. "Thank you, Ms..."
"Xieng, Maura Xieng. But please, call me Maura!"
"Thank you, Maura and you must call me Devon." Giving Maura's hand a firm yet polite squeeze, Devon extracted her hand. Surreptitiously she wiggled her fingers once her hands were safely tucked behind her back and out of reach in an attempt to restore the blood flow.
Maura Xieng, ah yes, with the woman's name, Devon's memory finally clicked. Maura Xieng was a rare and special breed. The majority of the parents here, like Devon, had a child that was born with the Syndrome. A few were medical personnel who'd grown attached to and adopted a Syndrome child who's parents for either emotional or financial reasons had abandoned the child. And then there was Maura Xieng. One day she walked into Dr. Vasquez' clinic and walked out with Syndrome child a few hours later. A couple of days later, she returned. That time she left with three others. When asked once why she adopted kids doomed to such miserable and short lives instead of healthy ones? She just smiled and quietly replied, "Because God told me to." None would argue that Maura Xieng was anything less than a saint upon seeing how she lovingly cared for her children. Maura's example was the seed that germinated in the fertile mind of Devon Adair into Eden Project.
"I'm so glad you've chosen to participate in Moon Cross, Maura." Devon graced her with a companionable smile that people who've shared a common struggle or heartache pass between themselves. A smile says I understand. "You won't be disappointed," she added softly.
"You've chosen to participate in a farce, Maura! She's just gonna let those...*things*...turn your kids into freaks like hers!"
The warm glow that had been slowly growing inside Devon quickly cooled into a cold, hard lump in her stomach when her gaze drifted over Maura's shoulder to seek out the speaker of those angry words. The lump grew heavier when she noticed a line of about six or seven men loosely strung between the gathering and the entrance to the Terrian cave. Armed with clubs, their faces harsh with the wild eyed look of the religiously zealous. So determined to save the nonbeliever's soul, they were willing to kill to prove their piety. Blind to the hypocrisy of their actions. Maura turned too and a soft gasp escaped her throat at the threatening sight. Devon reached out and squeezed her shoulder comfortingly. A movement in her peripheral vision caught her attention. Looking to her left she saw Frank Gooding. His astonished, uneasy gaze met hers as he hoarsely attempted to assure her.
"I didn't know about this." He then called out to the imposing men, "Isaiah didn't say anything about violence!"
"Yeah, well that was before they put Isaiah in the hospital, Frank! We won't stand by and let this atrocity happen! Believe me, they'll all be thankful later! Once the little freak starts showing his true colors!"
Devon felt Danziger jostling around her. Quickly she shot out a halting hand against his chest. "Stay," she quietly commanded. Without looking at John or dropping her stare from the one who was doing all the talking, she advanced purposefully towards the self-anointed militia. She didn't stop until she was toe to toe with the apparent leader. Her stare bore into his eyes. The only sign of her well checked anger was the intense fire that burned in her eyes. Through clenched teeth she grimly addressed him in a quiet voice that carried easily through the silent, attentive group.
"Don't you *ever* call my son a freak again. That's an ugly, hateful word to level at anyone. I heard it enough on the stations from rude, unfeeling passerbys whenever I went out in public with Uly. I'm sure you heard it whenever you went out with your child too. How *dare* you use that word when you personally know how much it hurts to hear it."
The man had conscience enough to cast his eyes down and shuffle his feet guiltily.
"I'm sorry....but what if you're wrong? It's not just you who'll have to suffer the consequences."
Her gaze soften slightly and she whispered back, "I can ask you the very same question."
She then turned to address the entire gathering.
"I know what you're all going through....I went through all the fears, all the what ifs when the Terrians took Uly. They didn't understand how terrified I was of what they might do to my son. Terrians don't harm. They're appearance contrasts with their natures. They only meant to heal my son as an expression of good faith. They understand now that just taking a child without permission or explanation is deeply distressing to humans. That's why tonight they insist that the children come willingly and with their parents permission."
A voice, this time from the crowd, possibly one of the parents who were still struggling with themselves over what to do waveringly asked, "How do we know we aren't selling our children's souls to these devils? How can we be certain how far the gene mutation goes? What if they do turn our children into dopplegangers?"
Tiredly Devon raked her fingers through her hair sending several strands spilling out from the loose chignon she had carefully twisted it into before coming. A sigh from her innermost soul whispered out across her lips.
"I confess....There were some nights, black desperately endless nights when I was alone in my room after Uly had been rushed yet again to the hospital....when hope was all but gone. Dark empty nights when tired of praying to a God that never answered, I appealed to the devil. Begged for his help...offered him anything, my life, my wealth, my body, my soul...if he would only free my little boy from this hell that his life had become." Her gaze slide over the crowd holding a gaze here and there until it finally came to rest on Uly. A tremulous smile tugged at her lips as the tears filling her eyes threatened to overflow. "I offered him everything *but* my son. *Never* would I do that. I would never sell Uly to the Devil, to the Council, to his father, or to the Terrians."
Blinking rapidly and wiping her nose on the back of her sleeve, she quickly forced her emotions under control. "I don't have any proof to offer you other than what you refuse to accept with your own eyes, that your children will come to no harm. No one is being forced to participate in the Terrian healing...." Wiping around, she stared hotly at the men blocking the path to the cave. "Nor will anyone be *prevented* from participating."
No one moved. No one dared to breath. An imminent altercation had been replaced with a tense standoff. With every thudding heartbeat, Devon could feel the seconds slipping by....time was the enemy she reminded herself. These people where in the grip of the most powerful fear....fear of the unknown. They all feared the premature deaths of their children, but that was a known fear. One they had all lived with for so long, it was like a relative. Albeit, a poorly liked or welcomed relative, but a relative nevertheless. What the Terrians offered was just as alien as their appearance. Finally, someone moved. Devon watched as Uly made a beeline towards her where he took up a post next to her and gazed quietly out at the crowd.
"I'm not a mutant. Or a freak. Or a dop-doppleganger. I'm a kid. A kid that use to be sick but now I'm not anymore because my mom refused to give up on me." He slipped his hand into his mother's and Devon squeezed it encouragingly. "When I was sick, I use to dream about running. Running so fast no one would be able to catch me! And-and-and it wouldn't hurt when I ran either and I wouldn't need an immunosuit, or-or a respiratube...or ever take medicine again. When the Terrians cured me, they made my dream a reality." He stole a gaze up at his mother and grinned a wide toothy grin. "I bet I ran instead of walked everywhere those first few days. For once, people couldn't keep up with *me*. Huh, mom?" His young eyes then sought out and gazed knowingly at the group of children staring raptly at him. "You all have secret dreams too."
"I...I always...wanted to be...a ballerina," Janae wheezed out shyly.
Uly walked over and squatted down so he was eye level with the little girl in the magna-grav chair. "Janae, if I promised you that if you come with me into the Terrian cave, you'd walk out in the morning without this chair and be taking your first dancing lesson in the afternoon. That this time it's a *real* cure, not just a 'promising treatment.' It won't hurt and you won't be turned into a zombie. ...You'd believe me, wouldn't you?"
The sallow faced little girl regarded him gravely then nodded. "I'm tired...of being brave...I don't...want to.....die," she quietly gasped.
Maura bit the knuckles of her right hand to hold back the sobs but was unable to prevent the stinging tears from racing down her cheeks. Like so many parents of terminally ill children, she'd tried to protect Janae from the harsh reality of the Syndrome. Tried to keep her young mind distracted from the inevitability of the Syndrome. Tried to keep the little girl's spirits up even when her own were down. Now she realized that the children had been doing the same thing for the benefit of the parents. Putting on a happy face.
Devon was stunned by the maturity and eloquence of her son's speech. The sound of crunching dirt and stones drew her attention back to the cave. The human barricade was silently dispersing. Devon took a deep breath and murmured a silent prayer of thanks. The one that had been the spokesman muttered as he passed her, "Don't think this is over, Adair. You've got other things besides this to account for."
Too tired to argue anymore, she just watched them disappear into the night. Then Alonzo suddenly appeared at her side.
"It's time, Devon."
Glancing over her shoulder she spied Alonzo and three Terrians. Mutely she nodded her agreement and she watched as Uly lead the procession of children into the cave like a piperless Pied Piper. Only the hamlet of New Pacifica would have a happy ending....it had to.
Devon slipped away from the worried hubbub into the quiet solitude of the woods where Yale had set up a tent for her to rest on the outermost perimeter of the gathering. While pleased that at least half the Syndrome children would be healed, the other events of this night had her feeling unsettled. She walked into the tent and slumped dejectedly to the sleeping bag on the ground. With her arms wrapped around her drawn up knees, she rested her forehead against her kneecaps and attempted to visualize the calming image of the rolling surf outside her cabin window. The sound of someone moving through the underbrush outside the tent reached her ears. The softly veiled threat spoken to her leaped into her mind. Had one or several of the dissenters circled back to confront her out of sight of the others?
"Whoever's out there don't come any closer. I've got a gun and I'll use it."
The shadow of the bulky form looming against the thin wall of the tent stopped and stood stock still. Nervously Devon eyed the shadow. What now, she wondered. Her stalker hadn't called her bluff yet but he might when he got tired of standing there. Her right hand cautiously groped behind her for something she could use as a weapon. When her fingers closed around a fist-size rock, she breathed a little easier. Then the figure took a step forward.
"Stay back! I'll shoot you!"
The tent flap was suddenly flung back and a crouching Devon stared open mouthed up at her stalker who gruffly grumbled, "Come on Adair, we both know you're a lousy shot."
The moonlight washed down illuminating the man and Devon's eyes confirmed what her ears told her.
"*Danziger!* You nearly scared the life out of me!"
Briefly she considered giving into the desire to hurl the rock she held behind her back at his smug face.
"What do you want?" She asked more harshly then she intended to, but damnit, he *had* nearly scared the life out of her.
Danziger's scowl hid his feelings as he softly growled back.
"Don't worry, Devon. I'm not here to molest you. I just wanted to make sure none of Ford's people didn't try anything." He looked into her eyes and hated the fear and indecision he saw staring back at him. There were times when Danziger wished he had a smaller, less threatening build. His gruff mannerisms and temper didn't do much to soften his intimidating appearance either. "I can stand watch outside if you want to get some rest."
Devon's eyes slide from the gun strapped to his thigh to the silvery glint of the thermos he grasped in his hand. "Is that coffee?"
Danziger's lip curled up in distaste. "It doesn't deserve to be called by that name."
Devon laughed softly. "Well, give us a season to plant our coffee bushes and before you know it, you'll be grinding up and quaffing the real thing instead of G889's substitute." She motioned for him to come in and sit. "I still could use a cup, whatever it is."
Relief washed through Danziger. She was still willing to be alone with him. He hadn't totally screwed up. Folding up his bulky frame, he seated himself cross-legged facing her. He spun the top off the thermos and pour a generous draught of the steamy beverage into the cup he had clipped on his belt. The cup was passed to Devon and Danziger kept the the thermos for himself. Tipping back his head he took a cautious sip of the thermos' contents, the top of his head brushing the sloped roof of the 2-person tent in the process. Setting the thermos down next to him, he smiled and glanced around the cramped space.
"Boy...this brings back memories."
Devon nodded fondly in agreement as she sipped at her drink. Danziger nervously cracked his knuckles, his left knee bouncing up and down restlessly. Noticing Devon's notice, he ran his palms down his pants and tried to surreptitiously pin his uncooperating leg down. He cleared his throat several times and Devon politely smiled attentively, waiting for him to speak.
"Um...look, Devon. I'm sorry."
"About....earlier. I was way out of line. It won't happen again."
Peering over the rim of her cup, her brows tensed slightly. Silently Danziger swore at himself for bringing up the topic and ruining the companionable mood. Blue eyes locked on blue eyes and Devon neutrally queried, "Answer me one question?"
She waited until Danziger solemnly nodded at her.
This sudden...interest...in me. It doesn't have anything to do with your wanting to have Ginny come stay with you for awhile, does it?"
The muscles in Danziger's jaw worked convulsively but he didn't say a word until he had his temper firmly in hand. It was a perfectly justified question he told himself. He'd be suspicious if he was in Devon's place too. Hell, if she'd been the one to make the first move after that fight they'd had in the Commons, he'd think she was trying to wrap him around her little finger so she could change his mind about Ginny.
"I wouldn't call it a sudden interest. Just an interest I previously tried to ignored because it seemed too impractical and too complicated to pursue." Danziger shifted a bit in his seat and turned his unreadable blue stare upon her as he quietly added, "Plus the fact that I never got any hint that you would be interested in my interest. Ginny simply made me reconsider my previous decision." The egnimatic gaze fell as Danziger turned his head away and took a deep swig from thermos, ignoring how the liquid burned a path across his tongue and down his throat.
The conversation took an awkwardly silent turn as they both sat there fidgeting nervously like a pair of teens on their first solo date. Devon was the first to break the silence.
"You know...I'm envious of your relationship with True."
Relieved that she not only spoke but that she changed the subject, he was also confused by her statement. "Envious? How come? You and Ginny got a great thing going between you two."
"Yes...Yes we do. Now."
Comprehension slowly dawned on him. "Devon, no one blames you for taking awhile to warm up to Ginny. I can only imagine the shock of waking up suddenly finding yourself a parent. We all understand that...and Ginny will understand that too when she's older."
"Will she?" Devon hadn't meant to discuss her fears with Danziger but it was either Ginny, Ford or what had happened between the two of them at her cabin. And her worries over Ginny had been festering the longest. A pained expression filled her face. "What am I going to tell her when she comes to me and asks about where she came from? What do I tell her? 'Mommy was dying sweetie and you're just a side affect of her cure?' Some cure," Devon snorted.
Danziger scooted over next to her and circled his arm around her and gave her shoulders a comforting hug. "Hey now...Where's the idealistic visionary I'd grown so fond of crossing verbal swords with, eh?" He looked down at her and smiled. "I'm the cynical one, remember?" He gave her a mock scowl and shook his finger at her admonishingly. "Don't go horning in on my act now."
Devon unconsciously responded to his friendly overture and laid her head against his shoulder. "The idealistic visionary finally woke up and opened her eyes. Julia was right, I was such an *idiot*."
"Yeah well, we could use more idiots like you lady. Don't put away your rose colored glasses for good, okay? As for what you should tell Ginny...when that time comes you'll explain it, badly probably, but with love. She'll understand. It's not important how or why she got here. What matters is she is loved." He dropped a light kiss on the top of her head as if she were one of his daughters.
Devon nodded absently and sighed. "I just wish one of my children had been conceived in love. I love them both so much and don't want to even imagine what my life might have been like without them. A child should be an expression of the love two people hold for each other. Not simply a tool created to serve as a leveraging device or a means to an end. I look in Julia's eyes sometimes and I see echoes of self-doubt, a hesitancy born of a lack of self-love, a sense of self-worth that is only possible when striving to fulfill another's desires. I don't want Ginny growing up feeling inadequate or somehow less than anyone else."
Danziger's embrace tightened slightly as he slowly became aware of Devon's closeness, the fragrant scent of her hair as it tickled his nose. "But she was conceived in love," he whispered into her hair.
She laughed and gave him a poke in the ribs. "Come on, John. I was half dead in cold sleep and you were masturbating into a specimen jar hundreds of miles away. Hardly the makings of a great love story."
Smiling ruefully, he lightly rubbed where she had poked him. "Yeah....'specially when you put it that way."
Devon twisted her head back and looked up at him. "I didn't mean to cut you off. What did you mean when you said Ginny was conceived in love?"
Idly playing with a loose strand of her auburn hair, he seemed lost in thought and didn't answer her right away. She could hear the steady pumping of his heart. It slowly lulled her mind and her eyelids drifted down. Just before she drifted off across the sandy plains of Nod, his voice rumbled softly through his chest.
"I was laying there. Trapped in my tent. Julia had fled leaving me alone with that damn specimen jar. The camp was quiet. Too quiet. The thought that everyone knew what the hell I was suppose to be doing wasn't very conducive. A lot of the same worries you spoke of now were floating through my head then. Did we have a right to bring a child into the world for the sole purpose to save another person's life? How were we going to justify our reasons to this child? And what about you? Was it fair to thrust this child that you had no say in creating on you? Welcome back to the living Devon. Oh, by the way, here's your kid."
He exhaled long and hard. Devon was fully awake now. Riveted to every word, she didn't realize she was holding her breath until her chest began to burn. She wondered if he was going to continue or not. Rather than risking him clamming up, she didn't say a word. Her hand rubbed his chest in what she hoped was a soothing and encouraging manner.
"I'd always found you attractive....irritating as hell sometimes, but attractive. I began thinking about you. How things could have been different between us. How it would be like to....be....with you." A soft snort of a laugh blew out of his mouth. He then reached up and rubbed his face with his free hand. "I tried to 'connect' with you. Let you know what was going on. Tried to figure out if it was what you wanted." His hand dropped listlessly back down on his thigh and his voice fell to such a soft whisper, Devon had to strain to hear his next words. "When it comes to dream connections I guess I'm no Sheppard."
Devon's hand move up his thigh, hesitated a fraction of a second then slide over and began to gently caress him through his pants. "You were making love to me in you mind?" She felt his body lurch upwards against her hand in response to her touch and his heart began to hammer wildly in his chest.
Her actions had taken him by surprise. One of his lungs was trying to exhale while the other one was trying to inhale. He wasn't sure if his dizziness was caused by that or because all his blood was rushing away from his head like metal shavings in answer to the magnetic pull of her hand. All he managed to wheeze out was a gasped yes.
Devon was also surprised by her actions. Fleetingly she wondered if she had taken leave of her senses. Rather than analyzing her actions, she simply escorted the rational side of her mind into a mental closet and locked it in for the night. All she knew and all she cared about was that she wanted to touch this man, to give him something of herself. Her exploring fingers grew bolder as he bloomed beneath her minstrating hand. The growing excitement she felt and heard from him, fired her own. She could feel her own skin flushing and staring to tingle. Her fingers strayed up to fastenings of his pants and began to slowly unseal them.
A large, powerful hand captured hers and pulled her up to a sitting position. Danziger, his lungs working like a marathoner's, brought her hand up to his lips where he tenderly kissed and nibbled each fingertip. Taking a long, shaking breath, he let it out slowly. Gazing at her, she saw that his pupils had nearly swallowed up the blue of his eyes. He swallowed convulsively several times before telling her in his raspy voice, "Devon. Your hand, my hand. It doesn't matter. Because it isn't enough."
"No, I guessed it couldn't be," she replied before slowly leaning forward and kissing him.
Danziger drank in every kiss she gave him. His lips greedily demanding more and more. The tent grew jungle steamy as clothing was pushed aside and ultimately abandoned by boldly caressing hands and devouring mouths. Their lovemaking was darkly frantic and besides their mingled raspy breaths and kissed muffled moans, nearly silent. They weren't that far away from other tents and neither one wanted to interrupted by someone investigating "strange noises." John kept altering the rocking rhythm trying to keep himself and Devon balanced on desire's razor edge. He watched her writher beneath him and saw his own pained expression reflected in her unfocused gaze. That was the paradox of lovemaking. It felt so good it hurt, and right now John was in agony. Then Devon fell off the precipice they'd been clinging too. Freed from his self-imposed restraint, he captured her mouth in final possessive kiss and plunged over the edge after her. For those few brief, eternal moments, they were one.
Danziger nuzzled her neck and shoulder blade. He felt good. He felt great. He felt like doing it again. Lifting his head, he stroked Devon's cheek and was just about to suggest the same to her when her head gently lulled over to one side.
Worry creased his brow and tighten his jaw. Damnit! She's still pretty fragile. Wasn't Julia always warning Devon not to over exert herself? What the hell was he thinking when he made love to her like that. Course, you weren't thinking, were you, John? Can't think without any blood in your lousy brain, huh? A soft snore interrupted his silent self beratment. He laughed then bent down and kissed her lightly on the tip of the nose.
"I'm suppose to be the one that falls asleep, not you Devon."
Grinning, he stretched out on his back with Devon cradled against his side. He wasn't ready to give into sleep just yet. Even if sleep had claimed Devon already. Lightly he ran his fingertips up and down her bare arm. He knew nothing had been resolved this night. If anything, their loving making only made things more complicated than before. No matter, he wasn't going to spoil his mood by worrying about what tomorrow might bring. There would be time to deal with that tomorrow. Reaching out with his other hand, he pulled back the tent flap and stared up at the sky. As the moons "kissed" creating their celestial fireworks, he quietly made a wish.
"Where the hell are my shoes?"
Devon glanced around outside the tent then poked her head back inside and check there again. "I don't know...perhaps a grendler?" She offered as she stuffed the tail of her green shirt back into her waistband.
Squinting, he scanned the morning mist filled wooded area one more time. "I don't know. We would have heard or smelled a grendler if one was nosing about."
Only half listening, Devon finished cramming her own shoes back on. "You can get another pair when we get back to the New Pacifica." She nervously brushed her fingers through her tousled hair. "How do I look?"
Danziger took in her rumpled, tousled, breathless appearance and grinned. "You look great."
She didn't pick up on his playful sarcasm and nodded. "Good. Let's get going then. The children will be coming out soon."
Devon marched off towards the Terrian cave. Danziger brought up the rear making cautious progress in his socked feet. They arrived just in time. Devon stopped a respectful distance away and watched memorized as one tearful reunion after another played out before her. Danziger was making his way towards her when he was stopped by a question.
"Hey, Danziger....what did you do? Leave your shoes outside Devon's tent?"
He turned and scowled darkly in the Cheshire grinning face of the Eden Advance pilot leaning nonchalantly against a tree. "You know, Solace....sometimes I don't know who it would give me the greatest pleasure to slowly choke the life out of, you or Morgan."
Alonzo sauntered over and slapped Danziger fondly on the back. "Hey big guy, no contest! You know you'd get ten times more pleasure out of killing Morgan than you would me!"
Danziger grinned and nodded. "You're right." Then he spun around rapidly and hoisted Alonzo up to his eye level by his jacket collar. Giving the pilot his best mylar melting glare, he issued an ultimatum through clenched teeth. "My shoes better be waiting for me at the 'rail by the time I get there." Then he dropped the smaller man back to the earth and turned to rejoin Devon a short distance away. Alonzo's playful laugh following him on the breeze.
"Okay, okay! I didn't know you were such a tenderfoot, John!"
Devon felt Danziger's arm brush against hers as he stopped and stood beside her. She sighed softly and slipped her hand into Danziger's. "Isn't it beautiful?"
He nodded absently. His attention pulled away from the families at the cave entrance to where her hand rested nestled inside his. It was such a simple gesture, but one that was done naturally, without thought. Danziger was well aware that he had been given a special gift this Moon Cross. Something better than a happy ending, a beginning.