A/N: This story has been years in the making; probably ever since the final credits rolled on my screen, and NBC left Eden Advance forever stranded on G889, and Devon forever frozen in that cryo-chamber. This story is my attempt to explain several plots lines that were left dangling.
Standard disclaimer: These characters are not mine; they belong to whomever can legally lay claim to them. I am simply borrowing them for a while.
24 hours ago, we took the desperate measure of placing Devon in cold-sleep. It was the only possible action to take, drastic as it was, to preserve her precarious state of health. She was probably only minutes away from total organ failure. The entire group, as affected by Devon's sudden turn for the worse as I was, did not object when I made the suggestion.
I still have no idea what caused her systemic failure. It was unlike anything I have ever seen before. Devon's sudden collapse and loss of motor control does somewhat mimic a disease that was known back on Earth as Multiple Sclerosis, a progressive neurological disorder...but that would not explain the suddenness of its onset, nor the rest of the puzzling symptoms and effects.
I made one notable and shocking discovery that I would never have known to look for had it not been for Elizabeth Anson: Devon does not have a bio-stat implant. This means that whatever was causing her initial symptoms like the rest of us was clearly unrelated, and it means I am once again chasing a phantom.
There are so many questions that are burning inside me. They have kept me awake since we put Devon into that cryo-chamber...
Alonzo gently shook the young doctor's shoulder.
"Mmm?" Julia lazily stirred from the workbench in the Med-Tent, her ponytail askew, tendrils of her dark-blonde hair spilling around her cheeks.
"Julia," Alonzo said, taking in her slumped body position and exhausted expression.
She raised her head and turned to face him, wiping a hand across her face. She blinked at him, bleary-eyed, and noticed how intently he was observing her; how he made no attempt to hide his concern.
"Don't say it," Julia preempted him, already guessing his reasons for being there.
"Don't say what?" Alonzo appeared slightly flustered. His eyebrows shot skyward, and he glanced away briefly.
"Oh, please," Julia said with mild irritation, as she moved her hands to re-secure her unruly hair. "Give me a little credit. These conversations are getting to be so predictable. How many times have either you, or someone else from the group told me: 'Julia, you need to get some rest. Real rest. Falling asleep in the Med-Tent with your head on the table doesn't count', or words to that effect?"
Alonzo gave a sheepish grin that she found irresistibly disarming. "You got me, Doc," he said simply. "Yes, I did come to try to convince you to take a break."
"Well, I appreciate everyone's concern," Julia said, not wanting to fight him on the subject. She smoothed back her hair and brushed off some non-existent dirt from the thighs of her pants. "It's just that I can't stop thinking about everything that's happened in the past couple of days. I need time to sort through it all... Sleeping seems a waste of precious time."
"Well, it doesn't look like we're going anywhere too soon," Alonzo said with a slight shrug. "We've barely recovered from the effects of the faulty bio-stat implants. Danziger doesn't seem eager to leave, either, and so far no one's questioning him about it."
"I just feel like it would be wrong to rest while Devon is so ill, and I'm getting nowhere," Julia continued as if she hadn't heard him. "Alonzo, I'm worried, and not just about what's happened to Devon..."
The handsome pilot frowned. "What do you mean?"
"It has to do with what Elizabeth Anson said*," Julia responded. "She seemed to think that it was hopeless for humans to exist on this planet. She said G889 would ultimately reject us. But that can't be right, Alonzo."
Alonzo folded his arms across his muscular chest. "Franklin and Elizabeth worked for the Council, right?"
"Yes," Julia answered, and recounted what they knew about the doomed expedition. "Franklin Bennett and his crew were the first of the Council-sanctioned operatives to be here. They were here for eight years before they concluded that G889 was rejecting humans."
"And that was fifty years ago," Alonzo added. "They didn't have a link to the Terrians and to the planet like we do now."
Julia nodded. "Elizabeth never knew about what the Terrians did for Uly. There was no time to fully explain. Alonzo, she was wrong about this planet. She has to be... but then there's also..."
"There's also...What?" Alonzo prodded her to continue her train of thought when she fell silent.
Julia stood, her hands on the table behind her, supporting herself. Alonzo's question hung in the air several moments. Finally, Julia looked up at him and sighed aloud. "It's just... everything: EVE, Reilly, The Council, Eben... Devon falling ill like that... even how we found Bennett's ship in the first place..."
"What about it?"
"Well, Morgan said he'd been contacted in VR... but when Bennett woke, he seemed to have no knowledge of that initial contact at all. In fact, he emphatically denied it... but somehow, I don't think Morgan was making up that story. How else would he know the codes to activate the cryo-chambers?"
Alonzo placed his hands on Julia's shoulders and searched her face. "I don't know how Morgan knew. Maybe it was EVE. Maybe she... it... whatever, was waiting for us to reach this zone. Maybe she was transmitting a VR signal that Morgan chanced to pick up. Maybe any one of us could have picked it up. But you know what a VR addict he is..."
Julia listened to Alonzo's suppositions, and smiled slightly at his mention of Morgan Martin's 'hobby'. "You're probably right," she said. "But there's one thing that's been bothering me about EVE..."
Her thoughts flew back to the encounter they had with the artificial intelligence from the Council satellite.
Franklin Bennett's creation, intended to be the Council's monitoring hub, orbiting above G889. Fifty years ago, Bennett uploaded a virus in an attempt to kill the program, hoping he'd be long gone by the time the virus became active. Fifty years ago, Bennett and his crew were trying to flee this planet, believing that it could never be a viable option for human colonization.
But Franklin and Elizabeth didn't know what we know now. They didn't have the link to the Terrians, and ultimately, to the planet, that now exists; a link that is thriving through Ulysses Adair.
"Only one thing's bothering you about EVE?" Alonzo asked, quirking an eyebrow. "That program terrorized us. You, especially."
"I know," Julia said pensively. "But 'Lonz, I've been over in my mind every single encounter I had with Reilly since we landed on this planet-"
"You mean with EVE," Alonzo corrected, removing his hands from her shoulders.
"No," Julia countered with a shake of her head. "One time sticks out in particular: I'd entered VR, fully expecting to find Reilly waiting for me. He wasn't there. I had to wait for him to show up. When he finally did plug in, he seemed surprised that I'd made contact with him in such quick succession. Alonzo, a computer program just doesn't behave like that."
"What are you thinking, that EVE and Reilly aren't the same? Even after what you saw?"
"I know what we saw, but... Look: one time, when Reilly was trying to convince me to... remove Uly's pineal gland, he... he told me that twelve years ago, he himself had removed the pineal of a child penal colonist." Julia shuddered at the memory.
Alonzo reacted with disgusted grimace, but said: "Couldn't that still have been EVE playing the Reilly persona to convince you of his intentions?"
"Just... Hear me out," Julia said, putting up a hand, indicating her arguments were still not finished. "When we were inside Bennett's ship, EVE only switched to the Reilly persona after we showed up. Do you remember how he greeted us? He said 'hi' to Devon and me, but didn't seem to know the rest of you, which makes no sense at all. Remember what happened when we confronted him in VR after the Z.E.D. incident? He saw you, Devon and John, and he reacted quite strongly when you showed your support for me... and Alonzo, you offered to spell out your name for him in case he missed it."
"Yeah, I did..." Alonzo scowled at the memory.
"As a Council satellite, EVE would have access to Council personnel files," Julia continued, giving free rein to her theories. "All she had to do was pull Reilly's profile. She could have built a composite of him from all the data the Council has on him, from his appearance to his psychological traits, everything... The Reilly I saw beaming down from EVE was not the Reilly I encountered in VR. It was close, but EVE's Reilly was... benign. If it's even possible, EVE's Reilly looked somehow younger than the VR Reilly."
"I don't know, Doc," Alonzo said, doubts clouding his thoughts. "Bennett did say EVE was infected with a virus he created... Maybe what we saw on the ship was a glitchy EVE."
But the more Julia thought about it, the more convinced she became. "I know what I'm talking about. EVE tricked us. You were there in VR when... You heard how... menacing Reilly was. He accused me of treason. There was none of that malice with EVE; no threats issued of any kind. It was as if we'd never even had any battles over Uly and control of the planet."
Alonzo ran a hand over his mouth and let it linger on his chin. "So what does this all mean?"
"I don't know," Julia replied sullenly. "I guess I'm... concerned that the real Reilly is still out there, monitoring us."
She looked away from Alonzo, not wanting him to see the depth of her worry.
"Hey, Doc..." Alonzo said soothingly, reaching out to touch her face. Julia brought her hand up to meet his and allowed herself a brief moment of comfort the contact brought. "Whether Reilly's 'out there' or not, you know we'd never let the Council get their hands on you – or Uly, for that matter."
My heart aches for the child. He is only nine years old, and he carries a heavy burden. Whether he senses it or not, the fate of an entire race rests on his tiny shoulders: the human race. His connection to the Terrians is likely our one chance at survival.
His cries for his mother when she fell ill were painful to hear. He was brave in his acceptance of the unanimous decision to place Devon in cold-sleep. He was quiet and reserved as he placed the walking stick at the door of Devon's chamber.
Unless I am able to find a cure for Devon, I fear it may very well become her tomb...
"Uly..." Julia murmured. "I can't even imagine what this is doing to him. He's only a child. How much can he understand of what's happening?"
"He seems to be bearing up okay. He's quieter, but Danziger's been looking out for him. I mean, we all have, really."
"'Lonz," Julia started tentatively, "the bond you and Uly have with the Terrians... do you think maybe there's a way you could ask them for help? Maybe they know something about this planet. Maybe they know why Devon's so desperately ill."
"I don't know," the pilot replied. "We've already asked them for so much. They've already done more than we could have hoped..."
Julia let out a sound of exasperation. "I know... I just thought it might be something worth exploring. I know so little about everything we've encountered. I hate feeling so helpless."
"It is worth a try," Alonzo said encouragingly, trying to bolster her spirits. "Besides, I bet Uly will want to do something -anything- that could potentially help his mom."
"So you'll do it? You'll try to contact the Terrians?" Julia asked anxiously.
"Absolutely," he said, grinning with pleasure at Julia's hopeful expression. "Anything for you, Doc."
"Thank you," she said simply, smiling back at him, feeling her heart swelling with affection.
"But I thought Bennett said EVE and Reilly were one and the same," John said, furrowing his brow.
Julia had just finished laying out her theories to the mechanic about their encounter with the Council satellite.
"Yes, but Bennett never said that he created the Reilly persona. He just called EVE a 'clever girl'. That, and there was nothing threatening about him at all. The Reilly we encountered in the past in VR was livid that I'd betrayed the Council... yet when we were inside the ship, he made no mention of that transgression at all. The Council doesn't forget that easily."
"Sounds really far-fetched," John said, rubbing the stubble on his jaw. He saw Julia's face fall, and tried to salvage the conversation. "Look, it's not that I don't trust your instincts on all things Council-related, but don't you think you're bein' a little paranoid? I thought you'd be relieved to find out that the Council wasn't orbiting up there; that there is no Reilly." John pointed skywards and made a cork-screw motion with his finger.
"I am relieved," Julia protested. "I mean, I would be, if I could be positive about it. But I'm not."
"So what are you suggesting?" John asked.
"I'm suggesting that we be cautious and vigilant," Julia said carefully.
John rolled his eyes. "We've been 'cautious' and 'vigilant' since we got here, Heller. We've got Zero constantly monitoring our surroundings, and everyone who's not still sick in bed doin' sentry duty. We've got the zone perimeters on at night, too. What else is there that we can do?"
"I think we should set the perimeter during the day, too," Julia said, not at all fazed by his bluster.
"Aw, come on," John groaned. "That's gonna suck more power than we can spare if we run 'em during the day and night."
Julia bit her lip. She had to admit he was right.
"Look, Doc," John said, taking a more gentle tone, "I know you've been working yourself to the bone, trying to find out what's happening to Devon. It's wearin' you down. You barely gave yourself a chance to recover after those brain implants went haywire. Don't borrow more trouble than you need right now, okay? The Council doesn't have to be this dark presence overshadowing everything. You'll make yourself crazy if you start lookin' for danger and conspiracies everywhere."
This planet has taught me far more about myself than I ever thought possible. I thought I knew who Julia Heller was. I was born on the Stations, the daughter of a member of the Council's Board of Regents. My genes, for lack of a better phrase, were 'skewed'; altered so that I would be genetically predisposed to the medical arts. My destiny was laid out for me even before I was born. And I was taught that it would be the highest honor to fulfil that destiny, as the Council saw fit...
I followed the directives of the all-powerful Council with complete, blind faith. Here on the planet, that loyalty was tested. I came to see that the goals of the Council were utterly reprehensible and untenable with my own new-found sense of truth and loyalty. My loyalty lies with the Eden Project, and all the members who rely on me for their health and well-being. I broke their trust once, and thankfully regained it.
I will not break it again.
I'd rather die first.