She's screaming inside her head. Pain…all she can feel is the endless, electric shocks of pain lancing through her brain like lightning strikes. Pain…
And then she's jerked awake, free, gasping for breath, stunned, looking up… into dark intense eyes that shouldn't be there. Eyes that should belong to a dead man. Was she dead too?
This was too real, though. She could feel the cold floor beneath her, the water dripping from her limbs, the bright lights of an alien environment – and above all his eyes, his voice, his hands freeing her from the tubes that entangled her – No! She couldn't think about that. She barely choked back the sob of hysteria.
He took her arm and pulled her to unsteady feet; he reached for a strangely lit length of piping, brandished it as a weapon. As the pain receded, her mind began to clarify. Or was it his presence that cleared her mind? This man who must've been - what – captured? Had the aliens held him the whole time they'd thought he was dead? Flashes of terror and pain struck her, God, how had he survived?
There was no time to question, to ask. He moved and she followed, her feet, her bare feet, slippery on wet metal and shattered – was that plastic or glass? It didn't cut her feet. He must have broken it to free her.
He shifted suddenly to the side, back up against the wall, and she could hear them now, hissing, clicking nearby. She flung herself back against the wall beside him, faintly hearing her own voice whispering "My God."
He peered around the wall strut they'd used for the hope of hiding. He was as wet as she was, wearing the same strange black garment, damp strands of hair stuck to his forehead, cheeks and neck. Yet, he was calm, focused. Seemed to know where to go, gave her two words of cold comfort, "This way."
He led with silent, crouching, surprisingly graceful movements. She copied him. Followed him. Trusted him and a faint whisper in the back of her mind wondered how that was so easy. She'd never trusted him – she'd outright hated him; hadn't even mourned his apparent death. Yet now, now there was no one she'd rather be running down this alien corridor with, not Matt, not Greer, not Young, not anyone. In this surreal moment she was desperately relieved that it was Nicholas Rush who was grabbing her elbow and yanking her around a corner, shielding her with his body and his makeshift weapon as they turned, paused, and then ran harder.
That brilliant mind with its frigid focus had always scared her, intimidated her. He wasn't geeky, awkward, sweet, like Eli; he was genius in full awareness of itself and its power, analytical, pragmatic, arrogant, certain. She'd called him a computer on two legs; now she clung to that very icy ruthlessness that she'd so hated before. If there was a way to survive, he'd find it. Arrogance was confidence now. Manipulative planning was hope. His calm in the face of crisis leaked through to her, coated her, kept her on her feet, moving.
She felt it before she heard it, a powerful grasp on her arm, and she did scream as it pulled her backwards. Even through the armband protecting her skin, its touch was like cold fire. It glowed, hissed at her, dragged her towards it. Terror froze her veins, shut her scream off; her heart skipped a beat, air stilled in her lungs.
Then, suddenly, she was free, falling onto the floor, that shock reverberating through her body, restarting her heart, seizing air into her lungs, but it was screaming now, the alien, a high-pitched sound that scraped at her nerves and hurt her ears. She looked up to see Rush swinging that pipe, muscles corded, teeth gritted in a snarl, his entire body twisting around as he connected with the alien's head.
It went down with a loud crack. She snatched her feet back, curled up to avoid contact with it. Rush swung again, the blow breaking through its skull, viscous, bright blue and white fluid splattering. He dropped the pipe, jerking back. His face was covered in a curtain of long, wet strands of dark hair; he was gasping, chest heaving.
She scurried up to her feet, reaching out to touch his arm, just barely brushing it. He reacted instantly, his hand seizing hers in an iron grip, his voice low, harsh, thickly-accented as he told her to hurry. Come this way. Now!
His brilliant focus snapped back into place, the shock thrust aside, and again she felt herself respond, drawing on his clarity to push the horror into a locked corner of her mind.
They managed to avoid the aliens long enough to reach a doorway into a huge, cavernous chamber.
"There," he pointed. "Their fighter ships. We need to get into one. Escape." Short, punctuated words whispered in her ear as they huddled behind a pile of strange equipment near the doorway.
"How? Can you fly it?" she whispered back.
"I think so," he said, abruptly shoving her down further towards the floor, covering her body with his. She could feel his breath on the skin of her cheek, the compact strength of his body pressed to her back. She lay still, holding her own breath, as she heard another alien move past them. In the silence, the pounding of her heart, of his, was heavy in her ears.
Seconds – an eternity – later, he was lifting up, sliding over her, to peer around the edge of the oddly curved 'box' they were behind. "Move" was all he said, a human hiss in her ear, his hand seizing hers again to lift her up into that tip-toe crouch they'd both been using, every nerve on edge.
Somehow they made it to one of the pod-shaped ships and his fingers were a confident blur on an external control panel. The sound of the door swishing open seemed so loud, she almost cringed, but he was drawing her inside. The door shut and he didn't waste a moment. Seizing the closest object he could find, some kind of crystal, he hammered at the internal door control, shorting it out.
She gasped, they'd be locked in, but he seemed so certain. She fed off that yet again, not making another sound as he led her up a step, though an open doorway and into a space that looked almost familiar. It reminded her of Destiny's shuttle. Two seats, panels, an observation window.
The seats were oddly shaped, made for alien physiology, but yet not so far off that she couldn't imitate him and secure herself into the second one.
He raised his hands over the central controls and then paused for a moment. Hesitated. Fear curled up deep in her belly, but he spoke before she could.
"They've been using a neural interface to probe my mind," he shot her a quick glance. "Our minds," he amended. "I managed to use it on…against…them, didn't have much time, I got the basics, but…" He shoved the long strands of hair out of his eyes and turned their full intensity on her. "It's gonna be a wee bit rough."
She nodded. That seemed to all he needed, all he expected.
He closed his eyes for the length of a deep breath, opened them, and then his hands were busy on the controls. The pod fired up, engines roaring. It shuddered, lifted, swayed, and he grunted, grabbing at controls that hadn't been designed for his hands to hold.
"Hang on!" he yelled and they accelerated forward. She clung to her handholds, felt her body shoved back into the uncomfortable chair, as the pod hurtled down a tunnel, colliding with the side, then broke off, out into the void of space, spinning.
She thought she was going to vomit, but somehow he got it settled down, swung them around in a long curve and then – there – she saw Destiny spread out before her. It was shooting on the bigger ship behind them, the one they'd just escaped, weapon fire blooming against the darkness. He growled and they jerked sideways. They'd just missed being hit by their own people.
"Oh God, Oh God, Oh God," she muttered, biting at her lips, even as he fought with the controls and sent them flying towards Destiny, weaving and wavering, nearly spinning out of control once again.
"Bloody hell," he swore, barely bringing them back in line and closing in on the larger ship.
She gritted her teeth; she wouldn't scream. She wouldn't. She couldn't distract him, not now. Not as he struggled to force the alien pod into a raw landing on Destiny's topside, the metallic scrape and shudder jolting her bones.
He slumped and lifted white-knuckled hands off the controls. His eyes burned into hers as he turned to look at her.
"How did they get you?"
"I…uhhh…" it was hard to focus, to remember. "A hole in the ceiling. Light coming through. I looked up and heard a hiss…that's all I remember." No, not true, she remembered waking up in that tank, seeing the alien; she remembered pain…
"They've got the cutting equipment we need," he responded, grim satisfaction cold in his voice. The sound broke her free of the entangling memory, the horror of it. He was freeing himself from his chair and she copied his motions, following him again.
It took a bit longer for him to figure out how to make this machinery operate. He hadn't known to look for it in the neural link, not consciously, so he had to use more of his own knowledge of technology. He fumbled a bit more, but he solved it, as she'd known he would. A faint memory stirred of Eli complaining about trying to figure out everything this man had been doing on Destiny. How much of their survival had rested on his shoulders? Most of it, she knew now, with certain instinct.
They had to crawl down into Destiny's inner workings, the space between hull and inner corridors that was filled with cables and machinery. She caught a faint gleam of interest in his expression as he took it all in before concentrating on cutting through the thick ceiling. The round chunk finally fell with a loud clank and he was urging her down.
She leapt and landed in a crouch on the fallen metallic circle and she swung her eyes around, automatically checking for danger, and then her eyes fell on familiar shapes. Human. That was Greer… and Matt. In an instant, she was up and running into his arms, collapsing into his familiar embrace with a sob.
It was a while later that she looked back for the man who had saved her life. He was climbing wearily to his feet with a rather stunned Greer staring at him.
His eyes met hers and held, just for a nearly imperceptible moment, yet something passed between them. Something she couldn't name: an electric shock of connection, flaring and dying in the instant between one breath and another.
Then it was all relief and recovery and questions and explanations.
Until she was resting in Matt's arms, listening to him softly snore in his sleep, awake in the darkness, and the hands holding her felt somehow wrong.