By Joan Powers
A/N: Years ago I heard a rumor that the writers of Earth 2 were considering having Danziger somehow carry Devon's consciousness with him in Season 2. That concept partially inspired this story. It is not associated with my previous series which includes: Grieving Time, Stepping Stones, Boundaries and The Road Not Chosen.
Timeline: Post series ending
Summary: John Danziger receives a disturbing message from a surprising source. Can he do what's asked of him, even though it's against his better judgment?
It had been another disappointing day. Alonzo, Walman and I had discovered Grendler tracks so we'd hurried to pursue them, hoping they would lead us to his stash. For a while we were encouraged, anticipating the discovery of much needed food or additional winter clothing. It had propelled us through the crusty layers of snow and ice. Hours later, nearly numb with cold, we'd lost the trail only to have the long trip back to camp with nothing to show for it.
All I wanted to do that night was warm up by the fire then get some sleep. The caves were primitive in comparison to last winter's BioDome but at least they provided shelter. As always, the minute we hit camp, there were squabbles to deal with. As if we were a bunch of children. Whose turn was it for guard duty? How would we divvy up the rations? What was our next plan of action for finding food? How much longer would we be stuck here? Hunger, boredom and confinement didn't bring out the best in people. For some reason, they looked to me to solve their problems.
After I did the best I could to address those concerns, Yale seemed to expect me to make some sort speech to inspire group morale. I hated to disappoint him but that's not my style. Never has been. Never will be.
Another day. Another dead end. I could've used some of Devon's optimism. We all could've.
Alone in his chamber, save for his sleeping daughter, he could finally let down his guard and relax. He was tired of the demands of leading the group. It was bad enough that they'd crashed onto this planet in the first place, totally disrupting their lives. And that had been only the tip of the iceberg. Look at all they'd been through – attacked by convicts and ZEDs, pursued by the Council, nearly dying from disease, food and water shortages, not to mention those blasted biostat implants. Now people were looking to him for guidance and inspiration? He shuddered. Talk about the blind leading the blind.
Damn Devon for extracting that promise from him. Damn her. He wasn't leadership material. He knew it. He accepted his shortcomings. Damn her for trying to make him into something that he was not.
If she were here now, she'd be tearing him a new one. There was no way they were going to make it to New Pacifica before the colony ship arrived. First they'd lingered at Franklin and Elizabeth's ship far longer than they should have. He hadn't wanted to leave until he was absolutely certain nothing more could've be done for Devon. And even then, when they'd finally moved on, it had been gut wrenching. Then they'd had trouble with the Trans Rover's wheel bearings due to the rocky terrain. It had taken time to rig replacement parts but they'd managed. Once they'd recovered from that, they'd run into a camp of penal colonists that were decidedly unfriendly, resulting in a lengthy, unanticipated detour. Still, they'd kept moving until the snow had compelled them to seek shelter.
Damn her for forcing her mission on him.
Huddled beneath his blanket, stewing in his thoughts, he suddenly flinched as if scalded.
He'd woken up True.
"Whaa?" her voice groggy with sleep, eyelids half-open.
"Nothing, True-girl. Just a weird feeling. I'm okay. Go back to sleep."
He rubbed the stubble on his chin. Such an odd sensation. It felt as if some other presence had been inside his head. He ruefully chuckled, thinking he was finally losing it. What he needed was sleep so he closed his eyes. Just as he dozed off, he thought, Damn her for leaving us.
Later, it happened again. Yet this time, he didn't wake up. Somehow, he wasn't asleep either. He cautiously opened his eyes to a blinding white light. It was weird as hell. He felt as if he was completely exposed and vulnerable. Why would he choose to dream this? It felt like a nightmare.
Recognizing the voice, he started, wondered why he was torturing himself. He'd done everything he could for Devon. He'd had his share of nightmares: Grendlers raiding the ship and stealing her body, or the ship experiencing a massive power failure. Most of the time he tried not to think about her: stiff and motionless in that cryochamber. He preferred to remember her as she'd been: vibrant, full of energy and confidence. That head of auburn hair and those blazing eyes. The stubborn set of her chin.
"I…I..didn't know," her voice said, with confusion.
What was going on?
Suddenly he could see Devon before his eyes. Wherever they were, he couldn't hide a thing. She'd known exactly what he was thinking and even…feeling. The regrets, the guilt, the desire…
Trying to save face he answered, "Of course not." Getting down to business, he asked, "So….what brings you here?" He was hoping to interject some levity while also distracting Devon from his emotional baggage that was painfully exposed.
"I'm not completely sure. Somehow, I've been communicating with the Terrains or the planet itself and they're helping me reach you."
Same old Devon, filled with idealistic nonsense.
She raised an eyebrow.
Of course, she'd heard that. This was going to be awkward.
"I don't fully understand it," she explained. "It's just…a feeling."
Great. What else was new? More touchy-feely nonsense?
She glared at him.
He wondered, "Does this have anything to do with how the Elder used the sleeping Terrains to send Alonzo messages while I was in the penal colonist's cave?"
"No," she denied a little too strongly.
"How can you be so sure?"
"It's not the same." Her dismissive tone didn't encourage further discussion of that point.
"Why here? Why now?"
"I have an urgent message for you. You have to evacuate the caves – they're not safe anymore," she warned.
Although he was somewhat impressed that she was aware they'd taken shelter in caves, her statement was ludicrous.
"Are you nuts, Adair? It's the dead of winter. There's nothing around for miles. Without shelter, we'd freeze to death."
"You need to get out! Now!" she insisted.
Always skeptical, he demanded, "Why?"
"I..I don't know. I just have this terrible feeling."
Danziger's patience was running thin. "Look, even if you feel like something's going to happen, what do you want me to do? It's not like I have lots of options."
Then it occurred to him that maybe she could get him some useful information.
"Hey, do you know where any-"
"It doesn't work like that! I'm not some sort of computer interface," she snapped.
"Figures," he mumbled. Food would've been nice. With some sarcasm, he asked, "Where exactly are we supposed to go?"
"West." When he crooked an eyebrow, she added, somewhat apologetically, "That's all I'm getting."
He objected. "I can't do that."
"You have to!" she insisted.
His voice rose. "Are you out of your mind? You want me to march those people, including our kids, to certain death? There's nothing out there but snow. No shelter. Nothing. We wouldn't last long."
"You won't be safe in the caverns either," she pronounced with dire certainty.
"What is it? Are the Terrains mad at us or something?"
He wouldn't put it past them to hold a grudge about god knows what. Then a worse thought came to him.
"Are we on their turf?" The idea of them showing up unannounced to claim their winter digs gave him the creeps.
"No. I…I don't think so."
Right. The communicating with the planet mumbo jumbo.
She glared at him.
"What about Uly or Alonzo? Can't they speak with the Terrains to get additional information? If something this important is going on, wouldn't they know about it?"
"I don't know. I'm not completely sure if this is the Terrains or the planet itself. I don't have all the answers," she replied.
Maybe you should stop acting like you do.
I heard that.
The words rang out loud and clear even though Devon hadn't opened her mouth.
That was interesting. He'd been so absorbed trying to conceal his thoughts and emotions that he hadn't realized that he had full access to hers.
"Why are you asking me? Why not Uly? Or Yale?" They'd certainly be more inclined to believe this stuff.
Losing patience, she retorted, "I don't even know how I'm doing this. Don't you think I'd talk with them if I could?"
Nothing like putting a guy in his place.
"No…I…" she fumbled, aware of what he was feeling. "I think, subconsciously, I knew that you would be the one who could help the group the most."
Good old dependable Danziger. Yes ma'am. Just tell this good ole boy what to do.
"I can't endanger the entire group based on your feeling."
More softly, she replied, "Have a little faith, Danziger. Hasn't this planet shown us that miracles can happen?"
Even without his bizarre direct line to her thoughts, he recognized she was referring to Uly. He couldn't explain how they did what they did, although he suspected there might be a higher price to pay later.
"Yeah. And it's also scared the hell out of us."
"That wasn't the planet. That was the Council. Penal Colonists, ZEDs, the biostat implants. Even the memory virus came from the Stations."
"Yeah? What about…" He couldn't say it aloud.
What about your illness?
She had no answer.
"Please, John." Realizing his weakness, she asked, "Will you do it, for me?"
Didn't she understand that what she was asking him to do was completely against his cautious nature? John Danziger didn't take anything based on faith alone. Happy endings might happen for others but never for him. Look at his lover Eleanor Moore who had been classified as neuro-dead after a tragic accident caused by negligent Station bureaucrats. Look at his friends Alex Wentworth and Les Firestein who died as a result of a virus caused by a chip furtively planted by Station technocrats in Alex's cranium.
Look at poor Ebon Synge who died due to a malfunctioning implant that she didn't even know she had. Planet G889 certainly hadn't given her a second chance.
He'd never had the luxury of such hope, of believing the best in people when all too often they'd demonstrated the worst. His grandparents had been ripped off long before he was born. He was still paying off their debt to escape Earth to immigrate to the Stations. In the depths of the Quadrant he'd learned all too young that you took care you and yours because no one else would. With so many disappointments, so many lost opportunities, you learned not to expect much.
She was listening to all this, wasn't she?
His face burned.
More softly she said, "John, this planet has changed you. You know that, right?
About to deny it, he realized maybe she was right. He'd never dreamed of rising beyond his station. It had never occurred to him. As much as he hated the mantle of responsibility associated with leading the group, on the Stations it would never have been an option. Although dealing with challenges of G889 exhausted him, in some ways it was refreshing to have his fate in his own hands. To know that he could decide whether he and True would return to the Stations once they reached New Pacifica or remain with the colony. It was his decision. No one else's.
What was that?
Warm waves of emotions emanated from Devon. He could feel them as if they were physical entities, surrounding him like some sort of cocoon. It didn't make any sense but he felt cushioned as if wrapped in a lush, thick blanket. A very pleasant sensation.
Why is he being so stubborn? Doesn't he know that he's a natural leader? He's not afraid of offending people. He'll always stand up for his beliefs. People listen to him. They trust him. Doesn't he realize how much Eden Advance depends upon him?
Doesn't he understand how much I'm depending on him?
I'm scared. I'm tired of being in this odd in between state. I'm tired of being strong. I wish he could just hold me.
The fact that a woman like her would be even remotely interested in a guy like him reminded him how much his life had radically changed on Planet G889.
Buoyed by the heady sensations, he said more calmly, "It doesn't make any sense."
"I know," she replied.
Before he could get the words out, she answered, "I'd do it. It wouldn't be easy but given what we've learned about this planet, I'd do it."
"Let me get this straight. Danziger has some crazy dream so we're gonna leave the caves? What's next - reading tea leaves or bumps on people's heads?"
Julia scoffed, "There's more to it than that, Morgan."
Danziger rubbed his pounding temples. He couldn't sleep after hearing Devon's message. He'd been up most of the night hashing things out with Yale, Julia and Alonzo. Now, with the exception of the children, at first light they'd gathered in the largest chamber of the caves and were discussing it with the entire group. It was just as awful as he'd thought it would be.
"How do we know that our fearless leader isn't cracking up?" Morgan asked the others. Alonzo shook his head in disgust.
Danziger wondered about that himself. It was a valid question.
"Isn't Alonzo our resident Dream boy? And if we do decide to believe this so-called 'message from beyond', do we really have to leave? Couldn't we just stay outside the caves tonight? Camp in the vehicles where it might be warmer? Why commit suicide traipsing off into the unknown?"
"Morgan does have a point," Baines reluctantly admitted. "Do we have any confirmation?" He looked anxiously toward Danziger who turned to Alonzo.
"Nothing. I'm not getting anything from the Terrains," the pilot relayed.
"What about Uly?" Baines asked.
"He hasn't heard a thing either," Yale stated.
"So that's it? We're just gonna pack up and go west until we freeze to death? Is that the plan?" Morgan asked verging on hysteria. He paced about nervously. "Does this seem logical to you? To anyone? Hello people! 'Cause it sure doesn't to me."
"We're going to vote," Danziger explained, with limited patience.
"Danziger, we want to believe you. We do. It's just…c'mon, this seems crazy," Baines said. "I mean, what could happen to the caves that would harm us?"
"We've already discussed this," Danziger reminded him. The only scenarios they could envision involved a hostile group of Terrains reclaiming the caves or some natural disaster in which the structure was damaged.
"Why can't we just stay in the vehicles tonight and see what happens?" Baines asked.
It was a sorely tempting suggestion that appealed to Danziger's common sense. He wanted to do it. But he couldn't.
"No. We've already discussed this. We either believe this message or we don't. We do exactly what she said or completely ignore it. No in between."
He did his best to ignore the concerned looks Baines, Walman and Magus were exchanging. He couldn't blame them. If one of them had been acting like he was, he'd be making contingency plans as well.
"Maybe we could have half the group stay with the vehicles while the others scout west, like Devon said," Bess suggested. "That way the children could keep warmer." She was trying to appeal to Danziger's parental sense.
Julia reminded them. "Splitting up never works well, especially when bad weather is involved. It's not a good idea."
"That's it? That's all we have to go on?" Morgan gasped.
"Yeah," Danziger reluctantly answered.
"When would we need to go?" Morgan asked.
"Now?" The government liaison gulped. "But…but, it's freezing out there."
"Tell me something I don't know, "Danziger grumbled. "Let's vote."
"Some one wanna tell me once again why we left the warm caves for this?" Morgan ranted, his breath fogging in his face. He'd wrapped his scarf about his head, nearly obscuring his features. The snow was deep and progress was slow as he plodded along.
Short of patience, Bess rebuked him. "You're not helping."
They'd loaded the Trans Rover with all of their gear, which left limited space for passengers. They'd briefly considered leaving their equipment behind to make more room, but decided it was vital for their survival as well. The children rode in the Trans Rover, bundled with blankets about them. Eden Advance members lacking proper boots or coats had next highest priority for spots in the vehicles. The rest took turns walking.
"We've been heading west for hours. Normally we would've set up camp by now. But…there is no place to set up camp. It's gonna be dark soon. Bess, I can't feel my toes anymore."
"Morgan, you're not the only one who's uncomfortable," Bess snapped. She'd already lost sensation in her finger tips.
Danziger trudged past the bickering couple. Maybe he was leading them on some wild goose chase. Maybe he was starting to crack up. It had shocked him that based on his conviction alone, the majority of the camp had voted to follow him. Even though it went against their better judgment, Walman, Baines and Magus had supported him. He wasn't sure what frightened him the most.
It didn't make sense. The Terrians didn't have a vested interest in their survival. Neither did Planet G889. If anything, one could argue that humans were detrimental for both.
Why was he doing this?
Was he so desperate to believe that Devon cared about him that his mind had created the entire scenario? Did his guilt about his failure to revive her bring this about? Was he kidding himself to think that she had feelings for him? Was he being a complete fool believing her? His steps became heavier.
The light was fading, along with the vehicle power.
"Let's set up camp," Danziger shouted.
"Where?" Morgan gestured about the snow covered landscape.
"Go look for firewood." He needed Morgan Martin out of his sight. Now. Or he wouldn't be responsible for his actions.
Morgan scurried towards some trees.
The vehicles were parked close together in an effort to create a shelter from the biting wind. Once they'd started a fire, they could alternate positions by the fire or stay in the vehicles, huddling together to keep warm.
"You okay True-girl?" Danziger peered into the Trans Rover. Huddled with Uly and Yale beneath a blanket, she nodded.
"How about you, Uly?"
The boy nodded. He hadn't been speaking much since his mother had collapsed. Leaving her behind had taken a toll upon him.
Just as Danziger was about to step away, he asked, "You saw my mom?"
What if wasn't real? Yet he hated to disappoint the little guy. "Yeah, Uly. I did."
"How was she?"
"She looked good. You know she misses you, right?" He punched him affectionately on the upper arm.
"Yeah." A trace of a smile formed on the boy's face.
Shrieks came from a few feet away. It was Morgan.
Danziger was going to wring that man's neck if he caused anymore trouble. He shuffled over with the others to check out the commotion.
Near several trees, Bess was leaning over something, calling frantically to her husband.
"Well?' her impatient voice demanded.
Devon was finally back. The events of the past days should've convinced him that he hadn't lost his mind. Yet hearing her voice again finally gave him the closure that he'd needed.
"Is everybody okay?"
Details John, details!
"What happened? Where are you now?" She was nearly frantic.
Hold your horses, Adair.
She apologized, "I'm sorry, it's hard for me to keep track of time. It feels like it's been weeks since I last spoke with you. I thought…"
I thought I'd lost all of you.
No wonder she was so upset. In reality, it had only been three days.
"We traveled west, like you said. It was pretty rough. Julia's treating several bad cases of frostbite. The kids are okay though. Just as darkness set in and we started to assemble a makeshift camp, Morgan literally stumbled onto a building that was concealed by the foliage and snow."
"Yeah. Concrete foundation even. Get this, it's built into the side of a hill. We have no idea whose it is. It's empty now. Spent most of the past few days getting the generators to work. I think it was some sort of abandoned research facility. The computers are ancient but Morgan thinks he can get them to work and then hack into the data base."
"Council?" she asked, with concern.
"No idea. Could be more scientists jettisoned off the Stations for disagreeing with the status quo. Or someone entirely different. We'll find out. Do you know if-"
What do you mean if?
He continued, "If anything happened back at the caves?"
"No. And I don't need to," she stated with confidence.
Out of habit Danziger started to disagree. Then he realized they'd been led to a potential gold mine. The generators would keep them warm. The structure needed repairs yet it was sturdy. There was more than ample space and some dried food stocks along with warm blankets, clothing, first aid and other supplies. They might even have the chance to learn more about survival on this planet based on the data stored on the computers. A more than consuming project for people with abundant time on their hands.
He was still confused. "I don't understand. Why would the Terrians or the planet want to help us?"
Why is that man so stubborn?
"John, why is it so hard for you to trust anyone? Maybe the fact that my consciousness is altered, that I'm on this plane, they've been able to access my thoughts and emotions better. Maybe they're getting a better understanding of me and thus our group and now they want to help us.'
Adair, you'll never change.
"It doesn't make sense," he shook his head gently.
"Then healing Uly wouldn't make any sense either. But they did it," she insisted.
Yeah, to advance their own self interests.
You don't have to understand everything Danziger for it to be real. Just accept it!
That brought up another issue that had been festering within him since she'd first appeared to him. He had no desire to talk about Sheppard. He hated even thinking the guy's name. The starry eyed look she'd had when she claimed she'd felt as if she'd known him forever made him want to slug the guy. But he had to know.
Was he feeling closer to Devon only because of this strange channel of communication? Was that what happened between Sheppard and Devon? Or was he reading far too much into things in the first place?
Damn, she was listening. He'd never get used to this.
"No, John, you're not. The feelings I had for Sheppard were…complicated. I was alone and scared. He listened to me. He was there when I really needed him. I loved him for that. But the dreaming itself didn't create the bond."
He tried to ignore all thoughts and feelings about that man that were floating through her head. It wasn't easy.
"Why are you so certain that this communication between us isn't like what you experienced with….him?" he asked.
"It just isn't. Sheppard was able to control the process. Any of the convicts could pick and choose who to speak with and when. We could probably do it ourselves if we were to touch a hibernating Terrain. I…don't seem to have that option."
He waited, there was more. Heavy waves of sadness floated about him.
"Talking with Sheppard was just that. Talking. Just on a different plane. This is very different. Much…deeper."
He chuckled. "Isn't that the truth?"
"I don't know if I'll be back," she said sadly. "I haven't been able to contact Uly. Is he okay?"
He wanted to lie, to give her more peace of mind but he couldn't. She would know. "It's been hard for him."
Trying to encourage her, he said, "He'll be okay. I'll make sure of it."
I'm not going to be able to see you again. Not like this.
Although he felt she was most likely correct, he assured her, "I'll keep looking for you."
It was a weighty promise but one he meant to keep. He wouldn't give up until they'd found a cure for her. Once he'd gotten this group to New Pacifica and established the colony, he'd be the first to organize a group to retrieve her from the downed space ship. Maybe the colony ship would have the resources to cure her. Or maybe Julia would discover a cure from the information on the computers at their new winter camp.
One could only hope.