Disclaimer: Nope, Defying Gravity isn't mine. Also, please not, I have not seen the last four episodes yet, so any character development that might have occurred is not included in this story!
Engines powering up, the dull roar of the nitrous oxide flames making the situation all the more clear. Lights flashing, sending thick beams of red and yellow out into the darkened sky, like the spotlights that danced across the New York City skyline. Dust clouds spiraled, a hurricane of reds and browns, distorting any sort of view through the clear, thick, chemically-modified plastic that ensured the oxygen she needed planet-side kept flowing to her lungs.
Amazing what technology could do, wasn't it?
It could send the brave into the deepest oceanic canyons, mysterious openings in the deep full of marine life that had never been named. Could build a ship that endured hits by space debris and meteors. Could keep a girl alive on Mars long enough to explore, to gather specimens and samples.
How was it, then, that with all this amazing technology, she was being left behind?
There had been warnings, of course. Weather forecasts and geophysical analyses, going back ten or twenty years, had predicted a storm of this magnitude sometime in the near future. But nothing had indicated to them that this storm was approaching. Three weeks, three friggen weeks, they'd been stationed on Mars, living and working, the four of them taking shifts while Goss commanded things from home base back on board the ship. And now, only after all that time in relative safety, as they were preparing for the return trip home, the storm was hitting with deadly force.
Keep walking, Sharon, just keep walking. You'll make it back to the shuttle, she told herself, putting all her concentration on walking against the strong, gusting winds that distorted her line of vision. Hold on Maddox, don't leave me behind here.
Jeff was falling behind, she could sense it. At forty-eight, he was older than most of the other people in the space program, but he was the best, the expert. He had a family back home, a wife and two kids that had practically grown up without their father. Space owned Jeff Walker, and if he got a month or two at home every couple of years, his wife was pretty content. It was their unspoken agreement.
It was also the reason why Sharon didn't date outside the space program. She liked affection, and the guarantee of sex more frequently than every six years.
But she wasn't going to leave Jeff behind- he was family. He might not have been the best dad, but his kids sure as hell needed their dad.
"C'mon Walker," she shouted into the comm on the inside of her suit. "It's just a little breezy. Nothin' we haven't handled before!"
"Get your ass over to the shuttle, Lewis. That's a direct order."
Somehow she doubted she would follow his orders. Just like she was starting to doubt either of them would make it off Mars alive.
"Can't do that, Jeff. No one's staying behind today. If you did…" she couldn't say the words.
"Sharon…" Jeff's words held a note of warning, of frustration and desperation.
"No one. Is staying. Behind." Firm, with determination, she was shocked by how calm and hopeful she sounded. Sharon never realized how easily she could lie to herself, or how easily she believed it. "C'mon!" She held her hand out to him, and through the thick, pressure-resistant suit, she could feel Jeff take her hand.
Fighting against the winds, Sharon moved forward, forward, forward, looking through the thick dust for any sign of Donner's face in the cockpit window. God, if she was going to be left behind, would it be too much to ask to see him one last time?
Hitting the button hidden on the inside of her glove, she switched her comm over, back to the shuttle. "Donner!" she shouted.
"You will die, the mission will fail!" Goss was shouting in her ear.
"Donner?" she shouted, more hesitant this time. Goss hadn't meant for her to hear those words. He was the professional; he wouldn't want her to panic. He'd never lost his head on them before. If Goss was pulling them out, leaving them, there was really no hope.
"Sharon!" he shouted her name. "Just give them a couple of minutes Goss, we're not leaving."
"Donner! What's going on?"
"DONNER! Pull out! Stop holding the pressure and pull out."
She almost didn't hear it, the words were so desperate and quiet and full of a helplessness and guilt Sharon had never experienced. "Donner? DONNER!" she shouted into the mic as her comm cut out.
The dust was spinning, spiraling, and God she couldn't see a damned thing. Didn't have to see anything to know what was happening. The blasting explosions of the shuttle thrusters lifting up off the surface of Mars nearly shattered her ear drums. Away, away, away from the planet they were floating, and she and Jeff were still there.
Training didn't prepare them for something like this. They were prepared for damaged hulls and oxygen leaks, to abandon the main ship into the shuttle if the systems failed. They expected problems on the ship, not planet side.
Holy Jesus we're stranded here. The situation was finally sinking were really left behind. Abandoned in space. When the lights of the ship finally faded, they'd be stranded in total darkness, the sun's light completely obliterated by the swirling sands. When the oxygen packs ran out, they'd be dead. She'd be dead.
Space was dangerous. It came with the territory. The risk, the exhilaration of facing danger every day, was part of the appeal. Part of what made them all heroes to the folk back on earth. Death was always a possibility. But Sharon Lewis sure as hell never thought she'd be dead before she hit thirty.
The shuttle rose smoothly through the dust, and Sharon looked up, hoping beyond hope that she would be able to see Maddox Donner one last time. And there he was, the dust storm parting for the space craft, sitting safe behind the window, hands clenching the controls. His face was contorted, with anger and guilt and sadness.
It's not his fault, he can't think it's his fault…
She lifted her hand to wave goodbye, hoping to convey this. This was life in space. It could just have easily been her pulling away from the planet, leaving him behind. He had to understand, she loved him anyway.
He saw her.
Sharon could tell, from the way his eyes lit up, just momentarily. His lips were moving, and she had a feeling no actual words were coming out. Was it "I'm sorry?" Or maybe "I love you?" She imagined it was both, though she'd only really needed to hear one.
And then they were gone, and the darkness fell over them.
"Can you hear me Sharon?" Jeff shouted. She knew he was probably screaming at the top of his lungs to be heard through the thick plexi-glass, but it sounded more like a mumble. She nodded. "How long do I have?" He turned around, back facing her.
Were they there already, counting down the minutes 'til the air was gone and they suffocated?
"Jeff, they just left… there's still a chance! The storm will clear up, and they'll come back. They can orbit a few days without compromising the mission!" she shouted back, feeling a burn in her vocal chords as she strived to raise her voice above the howling wind.
Jeff turned to face her, shaking his head sadly. "Think, Sharon. Think back to this morning, when we pulled the O2 tanks. We took the partials. It was supposed to be a cut and dry sample pickup. There was no reason to bring the full ones…"
Jeff turned back again, and she read the number on his tank. "Two hours. Plenty of time for this storm to let up," she shouted at him.
Another lie. The last time Mars had seen a storm like this, it lasted eighteen weeks. Eighteen damn weeks.
"You've got an hour and a half Sharon. I'm sorry kiddo."
"So we just wait here? We wait to die?"
This was so not how she imagined this. She was supposed to be a little old lady, confusing the names of her three and a half dozen great-grand children that were the long term result of her and Donner getting married and having little space cadet babies. She was supposed to be in bed, tucked in with blankets, just drifting off to sleep. Maddox was supposed to be at her side, holding her, telling her it'd all be alright.
Or maybe he went before her. She'd always had an inkling it'd be him to go first- strange how things turned out, wasn't it? But he'd be there as she closed her eyes one last time, waiting with arms outstretched to bring her home one last time. Alright, maybe she'd seen it in a movie, but damnit, she deserved the cliché. She wanted the cliché.
She wanted Maddox, one last time.
"We don't have to wait," Jeff said softly, his hand pointing to his helmet. "It'll be fast. Over before we know it."
"Have lived without their dad all his life. I tape a message before each mission, just in case. Leave it with my wife. There's one for her too. They knew the risks. I knew the risks."
Knew? For the love of God, they weren't dead yet.
"If I'm going to die today, Sharon, I'm going to die on my own terms. I don't want to sit around waiting for the air to run out. But if that's not what you want, I won't leave you. I… I can wait… until…"
He didn't have to finish. He would wait til her air ran out. Jeff was a good friend.
"Just… just give me a few minutes, Jeff. I need to think…"
Taking a few steps away, she looked up toward the sky. The stars were hidden from view by the sands. They were what drew her out here in the first place, so tempting and bright and shiny. The romance of space wasn't what it seemed in the movies, but with Donner, it had almost reached that ideal.
She'd gotten to see him one last time, hadn't she? Perhaps the stars were too much to ask for.
Space was her home. She grew up here, fell in love here. It only made sense that Sharon would die here too.
With each moment, each breath, she knew her control of her destiny slipped away. She had a choice. Slow and linger, short and quick.
The storm showed no sign of letting up.
Sharon returned to Jeff. "I'm ready."
"You know you don't have to. If you want to wait…"
She shook her head with emphasis. There was no turning back now. If she thought about it, she'd change her mind. And then, when an hour and a half was up, and she was gasping for the last vestiges of oxygen, she would be disappointed that he couldn't make it back. She didn't want to die being disappointed in Donner. He fought to save her, did all he could. She was proud of him.
"It's easier this way. You sure you're ready?"
Jeff nodded. "Came to peace with this a while ago." He looked up to the sky, and Sharon wondered if he was looking for the stars like her, or just some sign the shuttle was returning. Whatever it was, he saw neither. "It's been a pleasure serving with you, Sharon. You're one of a kind."
"Same to you, old man," she said with a smirk, jokingly pushing his shoulder as they had back on board the ship. "I'm glad you're here with me. Well, not glad… but… well… you know."
"Count of three?" he asked. "One… two…"
Sharon lifted her hands to where her helmet met the rest of her suit, her gaze falling on the vast expanse that was space one last time.
Holding her breath and saying a silent prayer, Sharon lifted the helmet from her head.
And for one perfect moment, the sky cleared, and all she saw was stars.
Wow! So this story, as well as the last one, are pretty depressing, aren't they? I'll have to think up a more fluffy one to make up for all my depressing contributions to the DG fandom! But really, poor Sharon left on Mars. And poor Jeff, who will forever be known as "The Guy Left on Mars with Donner's Girlfriend." They really deserved a bit more character development, and I'm sure we would have seen it somewhere down the road had the show not been cancelled! Hope you enjoyed the story. Please leave a review on your way out- your opinions, positive or negative, are always appreciated, as well as any constructive criticism! Best wishes!