by Joan Powers
A/N: I started writing this story in 1997 and finally got around to finishing it. Just another look at solving the mysteries of Devon's illness and the fate of the Eden project on Planet G889.
Timeline: Post series ending
Summary: When Devon is revived from her cold sleep chamber, things haven't gone exactly as she had planned.
My body is rigid, literally frozen in place. My mind is hazy and my thoughts tend to wander along random paths. As I lay suspended in my cocoon, I'm not fully cognizant; yet I know that I'm still alive, somehow suspended in the nether world between the living and the dead.
How long have I been in this chamber? Days? Weeks? Months? I shudder to consider other possibilities, though I can't logically rule them out. I wonder if Eden Advance has made it to New Pacifica by now. Or will they open my chamber only hours after placing me inside, to cure me and allow me to continue the journey with them?
The faces and voices of those whom I hold dear, along with those I grew to care for during our journey, lay forever imprinted upon my memory. Especially my final glimpse of them as they transferred me to this stasis chamber. Their pale faces, their fears and doubts, along with my own, lay thick in the air. Uly's anguished cries still pierce through me. But I comfort myself with the knowledge that John, along with Yale, will take good care of him.
I had such hopes, such dreams. Was I foolish to want so much? To take such risks? In only a few months, we'd come so far. Uly had become a normal nine year old boy who could run and play - a true miracle I thanked god for every day. And we'd made such progress in our relationship with the Terrians. If only that tenuous bond would continue to strengthen and grow. If the colony ship had arrived, perhaps the other Syndrome children were all ready healed. I could only hope that this would be true. That New Pacifica had become all that I'd dreamed; that it would provide a new future for humanity.
There were other possibilities. Those too dark to think of, yet they tormented and frightened me. What if Eden Advance never made it to New Pacifica? What if they were attacked by penal colonists or ambushed by Council operatives? What if the Council captured Uly then continued their unethical experiments on him? What if my son and the others died while simply trying to survive on this planet?
Worst of all, I torture myself with the thought that the planet had rejected them. I can only pray that the others haven't succumbed to my fate; that Elizabeth's dire warnings referred to some other situation which our group could combat.
But...what if she was right?
"Here we go. On my mark. One, two, three."
Devon became vaguely aware that the voices surrounding her weren't those created by her mind. Her body was in motion, tumbling forward, yet she had no control over it. Several sets of hands securely grasped her shoulders and legs to transfer her on to a platform.
"C'mon! Life signs. I need a reading -- quick!"
"Heartbeat's sporadic and respiration's irregular. Get the stabilizer unit and give her some epinephrine."
She half-smiled as deep sleep once again overtook her. It was time to return to the world of the living.
"....you can imagine how shocked they were to find a person in that ship," a hushed female voice stated. "The transfusion seems to be helping."
"Wonder how long she'd been there?" a deep male voice whispered.
"Shh! She's coming to." In a cool, more professional tone, she asked, "Can you hear me?"
Devon's head lolled to the side. She opened her eyes to discover that the confinement of her cryo chamber had only been exchanged for another prison. Her body lay horizontally encased by a machine. Her head and extremities dangled outside of a dark gray metallic cylinder. Tubes filled her nose. Heating coils within the unit busily hummed, presumably regulating her temperature yet her body still felt numbingly cold.
"Huh?" Devon mumbled as her pupils tentatively darted about.
The male voice became more soothing, "Relax. You've been through a lot. You need to rest. Try to build up your strength."
She weakly tried to call her son's name, but her cry was incoherent.
Devon lacked the energy to try to speak any more. With her last reserve of strength, she scrutinized her surroundings. She didn't remember seeing equipment like this listed on any Eden Project cargo manifests. But many of the scientists under her employment had been working day and night, devising technological improvements to assist with the mission of colonizing a new planet. Perhaps this chamber had been designed with the purpose of sustaining the life of a Syndrome child if G889 hadn't turned out as planned.
Yet if that were so, why was its size appropriate for an adult?
Once again, time was her enemy. As she lay on her back, she listened to the hum of the machine as it stimulated her lungs to function, and her heart to beat. She felt detached from her flesh as if it no longer belonged to her. Time, how much time had passed? It could've been twenty-four hours or twenty-four years since she'd been placed in that cryo chamber. Where was Eden Advance? Where was her beloved son?
Logically speaking, the colony ship must've arrived. She hadn't recognized either the doctor or her assistant. That wasn't surprising, considering that the ship had housed almost a thousand people. And the device which was currently sustaining her life wouldn't have been included in the Eden Advance cargo.
Always the optimist, a flicker of excitement passed through her. They must've made it. Otherwise, how else would these people have known where to look for her? Uly's absence and the lack of any familiar Eden Advance members disturbed her, but they must be terribly busy helping the newcomers adjust to the planet, then all the actual work of building and sustaining the colony. It wouldn't be a leisurely lifestyle. Only the hands which were needed would've attended this trip.
Still, she was surprised that not one of them had come by to visit. Perhaps she'd been asleep and missed them? Or perhaps her condition needed to be stabilized before they could transport her to New Pacifica?
The thought of Uly made her smile. How much had he grown in her absence? Her glimpse of the future Uly had been encouraging, she was fully confident that he was going to become a fine young man that she would be proud of. Even at the young age of nine, she could imagine him eager to help out with the Syndrome children, encouraging them to embrace the changes that had made him whole. She could envision the faces of their parents, beaming upon seeing their children fully healed. She had so looked forward to that moment.
How had the remainder of Eden Advance's journey gone? Most certainly it had been arduous, trekking across the seemingly endless mountains and desert. She would've loved to have been there when they reached New Pacifica. Did they whoop with joy and dash into the ocean's waves? Had it been a raucous celebration or a time of quiet reverence and reflection?
Had they been able to locate those errant cargo pods which contained the materials for constructing the hospital? Or had they had to improvise? Although she'd been limited to using metallic prefab sheets when designing the hospital, she'd tried to integrate architectural features which might embrace the natural beauty of the land and were more harmonious with nature. Transparent windows as opposed to hi-tech screens designed to create any desired panorama. Skylights to let in natural light. Restful courtyards stocked with natural flora and fauna.
Maybe they'd even resorted to using native woods or stone to build out buildings and individual units. With a careful conservation plan in place, it could work. She sighed, envisioning her future unit - with a broad porch to sit on overlooking the ocean. So close that she could taste the salty spray and hear the tide as it ebbed and flowed.
As she began to fade, she noticed that this hospital room was decidedly utilitarian, with metallic walls of dull gray and no windows. It reminded her of the Stations. She'd have to talk to the designer about that.
"Devon who?" a muffled voice asked.
Devon stirred slightly.
"Devon Adair. That's the ID that came up when we did the bioscan. The records say she led the Eden Project."
"Oh," a hushed whisper replied. "So that's really true?"
Despite the machines regulating her breathing, she could swear her heart rate was accelerating. How could those people not know who she was? She struggled to open her eyes to demand answers but it took too much effort.
Devon opened her eyes, half-expecting to see Uly at her side. Sufficient time had passed for him to travel here. Remnants of an unpleasant dream lingered. It had to have been a dream or a side effect of the medication. Of course the hospital staff knew who she was. She'd been involved with every aspect of this project.
Several IV bags containing viscous fluid hung nearby, dripping through her veins. Perhaps if they cut back on some of these meds she wouldn't feel so weak and disoriented.
She was anxious to see Yale or John. Or any member of the Eden Project, for that matter. At that moment, she would've welcomed even Morgan Martin with open arms. She wondered if Julia and Alonzo were still a couple. They were good for each other. She fervently hoped that most had stayed on at New Pacifica rather than returning to the Stations. Especially John and True Danziger. Just thinking about his curly blonde locks and broad grin made her smile.
She longed to see a familiar face. And strangely enough, to see the beauty of the planet she'd grown to love.
When a male nurse entered the room, she was ready with questions.
"Uly….where is he?" Her voice was weak so the man crossed over towards her.
"I'm sure you have lots of questions but for now you need to rest. You're very lucky we found you."
"But.." she gasped. "New Pacifica."
"New Pacifica is a thriving community. Rest."
She drifted in and out of consciousness for several days. Once her strength started to return, she demanded answers from the thin female physician who had entered her room.
"Where am I and what's going on?"
The doctor, clad in a white lab coat, reluctantly pulled up a chair to sit beside her. "You're in a treatment facility. At New Pacifica."
Devon struggled to sit up, but could barely move. "Uly, Yale…I have to see them!"
"One thing at a time." Although her words were compassionate, her voice lacked warmth. A quick glance revealed dark circles under her eyes, along with hastily pinned back brown tendrils.
"No! I have to.." Devon struggled for breath, her lungs gasping for air. "Now."
Monitors on the machine sounded madly.
"You've got to calm down," the physician warned, grabbing a hypoderm.
"No!" Devon protested as the sedative kicked in.
How many days had she lost this time? Day or night, the metallic grey walls and subdued lighting of her quarters remained unchanged. Why did she still feel so weak? She was growing concerned about her condition. Certainly it couldn't be the planet rejecting her as Elizabeth had so gravely pronounced. Otherwise, how could anyone live in New Pacifica? Or on Planet G889, for that matter?
The staff avoided her; furtively checking her vitals and IV then scurrying off. When eye contact was made, they merely encouraged her to rest. Occasionally she heard hushed murmurs amongst them when they thought she was asleep, suggesting that she was the latest fodder for gossip. If she was in New Pacifica, why were they keeping her isolated? Only her drive to see Uly kept her going.
Finally she mustered her strength. When a man started to change her IV, she looked directly at him and firmly stated, "I need answers. Now."
He tried to avoid her determined gaze but she wouldn't let him off the hook.
"Get me some one in charge," she intoned as best she could. He rushed out of the room after completing his duty.
She was pleasantly surprised when the harried looking doctor returned.
"You're not leaving until you answer all of my questions," Devon gasped. Not quite the intimidating tone she was used to having at her disposal, but she'd made her point.
The woman sighed, pulled up a chair and sat down beside her. "I don't know if you're strong enough. We shouldn't push things. You need to focus on getting well. You're lucky to be alive."
"I don't care about that. I need answers!" Devon snapped.
Resigned, the doctor responded, "What do you want to know?"
"Where's Uly? And John and Yale? And Julia and Alonzo?"
"I don't know who you're talking about."
Devon was stunned. But if New Pacifica was as large a community as they'd implied, perhaps this overly dedicated doctor wouldn't know every member. Her pale complexion suggested she spent most of her time indoors at the hospital.
Trying to be helpful, the woman asked, "You organized the mission to colonize this planet?"
Devon nodded firmly.
"You must be thrilled that thousands of people have emigrated from the Stations."
That thought gave Devon some comfort. The word "thousands" caused an internal alarm to sound but it didn't fully register.
"What about the Syndrome children?" Devon asked.
"What do you mean? Didn't the Terrains heal everyone?"
The blank look on the woman's face revealed her ignorance. She rose as she spoke, starting to pace about the room. "Being on this planet has definitely helped. Significantly fewer children have been born with the Syndrome. The 'absence of Earth' hypothesis is a valid factor. Exposure to this planet has also helped stimulate many patients' immune systems. This, plus newly developed synthetics, have enabled many Syndrome patients to live to their twenties or even thirties."
This couldn't be right. Were the meds clouding her perception? Uly was healed and whole. She'd seen it. He had his whole life ahead of him. Not just twenty or thirty years.
The woman wearily sank back into her chair, absently rubbing her temple. "Some cases have been more challenging than others. Several patients have had difficulties with side effects from the meds. We've been able to sustain most of them in hyperbolic chambers like the one you're in now."
A sinking feeling overwhelmed her. No, it couldn't be. It wouldn't make any sense. Yet she had to ask. "What's wrong with me?"
"I think you've had enough for today."
Devon despised being placated. "What's wrong with me?" she pressed. She couldn't have the Syndrome.
"We're not entirely sure. It's taken us some time to figure things out. If we're on the right track, I've never seen such an advanced case."
"For lack of a better term, we call it 'rejection'".
Bile rose in her throat. Yet it had to be coincidence that she'd used that word. Did she want to know more?
"What do you mean?" was her guarded response.
"After a while the original settlers of New Pacifica began to experience symptoms of fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Even when they rested, the mind numbing weariness continued to grow worse. Scientists discovered that a toxin was gradually accumulating in their blood streams. A substance native to this planet," the doctor explained.
"No, that's not possible. The penal colonists have been here for years. It doesn't make sense." Devon argued, desperate to refute Elizabeth's warnings.
"We've been studying these phenomena for a while. We've since learned that the environmental levels of this substance vary greatly from location to location. We got lucky with New Pacifica - areas adjacent to the oceans tend to have much lower levels while those closer to acidic lakes tend to be significantly higher. People's individual metabolic makeup can affect uptake and toxicity as well. Fortunately we caught on early enough to devise a preventative treatment."
"What is it?"
The doctor patted the IV bag. "We all have periodic transfusions with this cocktail to flush the toxins out of our systems. We automatically gave it to you before we had any idea about your diagnosis. Most likely it saved your life. Blood tests showed your toxin levels were off the charts. With some rest and therapy, you ought to recover, though it will take some time. In fact, in a few days, we may be able to remove you from this chamber."
News of her recovery flew right by her.
Uly! John. Yale…
"How much variation is there between individuals?" Devon urgently asked.
"It's hard to say. Children tend to be more susceptible than adults but I've seen the opposite too. Like I said, it also depends on the environment."
"How did the area I was found rank?"
"Due to it's proximately to an acidic lake, it's been ruled out as a potential settlement."
"But this toxin, it could take months to accumulate. Right? One person might be sick but for another it could take weeks or even months to produce a debilitating effect. Right?" She rationalized, staring at the doctor, willing her to say that this was true.
If she had been at the head of the curve, perhaps the others had time. Hopefully they'd moved on after leaving her in that chamber, away from higher levels of exposure before they too became sick. She clung to that thought.
"Could you look for information about my son? Ulysses Adair. Please?" Devon was close to tears. It wasn't like her to beg but given her current circumstances she didn't have many options.
Sadly, she responded, "Devon, I'm sorry. He's not here. None of them are here."
"How do you know that? How can you be sure? You didn't even know who they were when I first asked. How can you know this if you haven't even tried to find them?" The woman's obvious discomfort caught her attention. "What aren't you telling me?"
The woman swallowed nervously. "More time has passed than you realize."
Bracing herself Devon took a breath.
A century had passed in the wink of eye. All those she'd known and held dear were gone. She was beginning to relate to Alonzo's stories about his frequent cold sleep missions. That the world went on without you and that it could be difficult to relate to the changes that had occurred. And how challenging it was to discover your place in it.
Still Devon's optimistic heart clung to the possibility that Uly's children's children or a descendant of an Eden Advance crew member would be alive. Some one might know of her and of Eden Advance's fate. Surely Uly had told them stories about her and their audacious trip across the heavens. There must be some one living in New Pacifica that was related to the original Eden Advance team and she was determined to uncover them.
Finally she was strong enough to leave the confines of the hyperbolic chamber. The orderlies gingerly transferred her to a hospital bed. Moving her extremities took effort, but it was a good feeling. She was recovering, slowly but surely.
A woman with dark shoulder length hair, wearing a white lab coat peered into her room. "Ms. Adair?"
She meekly stepped into the room. The diminutive woman asked, "Are you up for a visitor?"
Even though Devon was feeling tired, she was intrigued. "Of course."
She sank into the chair by the bed.
"I had to come when I heard you were here. They wouldn't let me see you until you were stronger. My name is Mariah Alverez. My great grandfather told me about you. About how brave you were and how dangerous it was to venture out here. About all the obstacles you had to deal with. He was just as concerned about the growing number of Syndrome cases and he dedicated his life to fighting it. He was the first to develop Lydocam – a spray that helps open up Syndrome children's lungs. We've been continuing his work developing synthetics for Syndrome patients."
Devon didn't need to ask. "Dr. Vasquez was an amazing man."
It warmed her heart to hear that some one in this world knew of her and had some ideas of her struggles.
"Did he tell you about setting up the colony at New Pacifica?"
Mariah laughed. "It's so hard to think of it that way now. It's a city of almost a million people. His stories almost sounded like holo-vids. The primitive conditions. Living in tents and no indoor plumbing. The fighting with the natives."
More impatiently, Devon interrupted, "What about the members of Eden Advance? Did he ever speak of them? What did he say about them?"
She averted her eyes. "No. No one was here at New Pacifica when the colony ship arrived. I….I'm sorry. I guess they never made it."
Despite her efforts, Devon's morale was flagging. With Mariah Alverez's help, she'd searched the data terminals for days. Nothing. Not one word about Eden Advance other than the official record which described the faked explosion of the Advance ship as it left the Stations, listing that as their demise. That was it.
Her physical therapist, Gina Martin, a dedicated young woman with a bubbly personality, had been concerned about her growing depression so she egged Devon on by promising a special surprise once she finished her daily exercises.
"Here it is," Gina grinned, pushing an errant strand of her curly red hair from her face. A wheel chair. Devon wasn't strong enough to walk just yet. "Where do you want to go?" her green eyes twinkled.
Gina Martin and Mariah Alverez differed greatly from one another. Mariah was a reserved scientist spending most of her time on her work. Gina enjoyed her work as a physical therapist but she loved to talk. She considered getting to know her patients a job perk. These women were the closest semblance of friends that Devon had. While she had never been one to share many confidences, both women had grown to understand how keenly she missed her son and companions and how much she'd grown to love this planet.
"Outside," Devon stated, a spark starting to well in her chest.
"We can't go far, you're still weak. Just a peek out on the patio. Maybe once you're standing on your own, we can have lunch outside together."
Gina certainly understood how to motivate her patient. Devon envisioned the two of them sipping cool drinks at a table with a view of the ocean.
Devon was convinced that seeing the planet would help restore her. That nature played a far greater role in the welfare of the human psyche than scientists gave credit. Anticipation filled her as she was wheeled down multiple hallways while Gina continued to amiably ramble. She hadn't realized how large this facility was. Would there be an ocean view? Or would they look out on the nearby tree covered mountains?
"Here we are." The doors mechanically hissed as they passed through.
Devon's breath caught in her throat.
"What did you do?" was her horrified response.
"I don't understand. I thought you wanted to go outside." Eager to calm her patient, Gina added, "I'm sure things have changed over a hundred years. Is that it?"
It was more than the towering grey metallic structures that were crammed on every available spot of land. Or the scores of vehicles and people that darted about. In the distance, the ocean was visible yet the din of the city overwhelmed it. The landscaping was sterile - lacking trees, flowers or plants of any kind. A few sedate plots of sickly yellow grass dotted the area. Somehow the land itself seemed gray.
"It's not the same as other parts of the planet, not nearly as lush. But at least we're safe from the natives," Gina said.
Devon almost didn't want to ask. The truth had been all there all along. She hadn't wanted to put the pieces together.
Gina explained, "It's hard to tell what's fact and what's been embellished over the years for better story telling. The original settlers claimed that the natives were monsters that could travel through the earth. Some claimed that they tried to invade their dreams and drive them insane. Others were worried they'd steal their children. It scared the hell out of them.
"The colonists drove them away. That's when they claimed that the land changed. Nutrient content in the soil radically altered. Eventually all the trees, flowers, plants, any vegetation withered and died. But with our technology, we learned how grow food to sustain us. Living here is significantly better than living on the over crowded Stations where the number of Syndrome births continues to escalate at an alarming rate. With our perimeter guard, we keep to our area and the natives keep to theirs.
But now New Pacifica is becoming so crowded they're looking for other sites to colonize. That involves determining an area with lower toxin concentrations and then subduing the natives, which can be an involved process. That's how they found you."
Devon sighed. Closing her eyes, she mumbled, "Why didn't they just leave me there? Why did they wake me up?"