LEARNING EXPERIENCES



Author: Allison McDonnell

Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine. They're Amblin's and Universal's.

Rating: PG-13 (language, violence, adult themes)

Timeline- Post All About Eve

Teaser: Eden Project is back on track toward New Pacifica. Devon has been cured, at least physically. Unfortunately, there are storm clouds brewing on the horizon. The Terrians are beginning to have second thoughts about sharing their planet with humans. Important decisions are made and the lives of the members of Eden Advance will never ever be the same. Who will survive? And, more importantly, who won't?

Author's note: This was intended to be a character study regarding the ability of several of the Edenites to cope with two types of loss- The loss of people they care about and the loss of control over their situation. It also addresses their survival instincts.

You'll find a spattering of religion throughout the work. I included it because it is pivotal to how one crew member deals with her circumstances. My apologies to anyone who may be offended.

At times, this fiction becomes quite dark and some readers will not like what happens to these characters. Let me put it to you this way, if you're looking for a story filled to the brim with warm fuzzies, skip this one. What can I say? Sometimes, life is messy.

Now, on with the carnage...

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"Every day we head deeper into danger and every day we are changed... whether we like it or not." Alonzo Solace- Promises, Promises

"[The Terrians] fear us... they're confused by us... they fear we're evil." Alonzo Solace- First Contact, Part II

"[The Terrians] will not forgive you... It is not their way." Yale- Better Living Through Morganite, Part II

"Opportunity comes at a cost." Morgan Martin- Better Living Through Morganite, Part I

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It was Day 269 and we were in the midst of our first full season of summer on G889. Devon had recently retaken her place as the leader of Eden Advance and had insisted on driving us at a grueling pace across the continent. She seemed absolutely consumed with making up the three month period of time that was lost due to her illness and subsequent recovery.

The days had been scorchers with the temperature often reaching over one hundred degrees. Exhaustion, both from the heat and the expanded traveling schedule, had begun to take its toll on some of us. Many Edenites, especially John, tried to persuade Devon not to push us so hard, but she wouldn't listen. Despite these problems, we took solace that we were all healthy and alive. We hadn't lost anyone since Eben and the hardships we'd endured those first six months of our journey faded into the back of our minds along with Elizabeth's warnings of the planet rejecting us. Instead, we dared to look ahead and focused our efforts on reaching the goal of New Pacifica.

I sometimes think back to those innocent days in wonderment. I suppose that we'd survived so much together, we began to believe that we were invincible. We couldn't have known that catastrophe was just around the corner. How could we have been so naive?

- Bess Martin Journal Chronicles, Archive File, Entry Date- Year Two (Day 673)

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The blazing morning sun beat down upon the weary Eden Advance crew as they endured another seemingly endless day of travel. The group had been averaging twenty-three clicks a day, an amazing feat considering the difficulties posed by the searing heat and the eclectic terrain. There were only minimal stoppages to allow for the vehicles to recharge. Even Julia had clashed with Devon regarding the shortness of the breaks and the doctor had taken it upon herself to ensure that everyone alternated between walking and riding in the vehicles. Food was also becoming short in supply. The Spirolina, once their much-hated mainstay of energy, was now completely gone and the few crates of fruit that had been gathered a few days back was rotting at a much faster pace than anticipated.

The mind-numbing temperature and uncertainty of the food situation were more than enough to cause tempers to flare. Several arguments had erupted about everything from the rationing of their water to whose turn it was to ride in the 'Rail. Even Bess and Morgan were barely speaking much of the time.

However, no one was more agitated than Devon Adair. But she wasn't tired of the traveling or the inclement weather. She'd had more than enough of her groups limitless whining and complaining. If they'd only put half of their effort into putting one foot in front of the other as they did into their griping, we'd already be at New Pacifica by now, she coldly thought.

Suddenly, she was shaken out of her reverie by the Transrover grinding to a halt ahead of her.

She angrily addressed the person walking closest to her. "What's going on? Why are we stopping?"

Cameron shrugged his shoulders and hoped that he wouldn't be the latest recipient of one of Adair's infamous tirades. His prayers for clemency were answered as she briskly moved passed him in search of a more worthy adversary.

"DANZIGER!"

Either John ignored her angry bellowing or he was too engrossed in his conversation with Julia and Alonzo at the head of the caravan to acknowledge her. Probably a little bit of both, although no one blamed him for not wanting to butt heads with their turbulent leader... especially lately.

"Danziger!" Devon yelled as she furiously marched up to the trio. "Didn't you hear me call your name?"

The mechanic didn't even bother to turn around and stated matter-of- factly, "Most of the planet heard you yellin' for me, Adair. I'll be right with you."

Not being a patient person, particularly these past weeks, Devon stepped directly in between Danziger and Alonzo.

"Why are we stopping?" she spat, poking her finger into John's chest. "Answer me!"

Quickly losing his own composure, he pointed and responded through clenched teeth, "We're stopping because of that."

Devon squinted to see over a dozen Terrians lining the hills several hundred yards ahead of them, their lightning staffs at the ready.

"Well?" Clearly not impressed, she turned to Alonzo and questioned impatiently, "What do they want?"

Before he could answer, Julia crisply replied, "I don't know, Devon. Give us a few minutes for Alonzo to contact them on the Dreamplane and we'll find out."

Adair had no problem showing her displeasure and hissed back, "Just be quick about it. We're behind schedule as it is."

She turned her back to them and commanded to the others, "All right, everyone. We're taking a quick break, but don't get too comfortable. I expect us to make at least another eighteen clicks today."

She then stormed off toward the 'Rover to join Yale and Uly, the only two members of Eden Advance who she had not completely shut out of her life.

Although there was a chorus of moans at the statement of her further expectations from them, the group didn't really pay much attention to the Terrians or the possible reason for their visit. They were just glad to get a few minutes rest.

"Let me know what you find out, okay?" John requested in a calm, but authoritative tone to the pilot.

Both Alonzo and Julia nodded and found a shaded spot under a nearby tree that was far enough away from the others to ensure their privacy. After the doctor checked his vital signs, Alonzo closed his eyes and began his communication with the Terrians.

Seeing that Solace was in good hands, Danziger went to go check on his daughter who had been riding in the cab of the Transrover with Mazatl. However, just as he reached the front tire of the vehicle, a hand grabbed his forearm and attempted to spin him around.

"Can't you do something about her?" Morgan irately challenged.

Danziger slowly rotated to stare down the bureaucrat. "You'd better back off or your gonna lose that hand," he warned in a low growl.

Morgan hastily let go and the mechanic began to walk away, but the liaison stepped in front of him to block his exit. "Devon expects too much of us. We can't keep up this pace much longer. And the heat is-"

John threw up his hands in exasperation. "Martin, what do you want me to do? I know that everyone is tired. I know that it's hot as hell and there's no sign of the weather letting up. I know that the vehicles are barely holding together. I've tried talking to her about this, but she doesn't want to hear it. All she cares about is getting to her precious New Pacifica."

Danziger wiped the sweat from his brow and ran his now-soaked fingers through his hair. In a softer tone, he uttered, "At this point, you probably have more influence on Adair than I do. Maybe you should try talking some sense to her."

A look of genuine surprise overtook the bureaucrat's face at Danziger's statement. He opened his mouth to respond although he wasn't quite sure what he was going to say. However, a kind voice interrupted him.

"Morgan, Honey, why don't you come sit down with us over here?"

As Martin turned to address his wife, John took the opportunity to take his leave and reinitiate the quest to find his daughter. Morgan wandered over to Bess who was congregated with Magus, Baines and Denner in the shade of a large rock.

As she handed him a very ripe piece of fruit similar to a nectarine, the Earth-res stated, "You really should leave him alone. He's got a lot on his mind right now."

"Who, 'The Missing Link'?" Morgan remarked mockingly as Bess frowned at his newest description for the mechanic. "We all have a lot on our minds right now."

"Not like Danziger," Magus noted, shaking her head.

Denner looked at her quizzically. "What do you mean? Is there something wrong with him?" she meekly asked.

Baines stammered with a mouthful of food, "What? You haven't heard?"

Denner shrugged her shoulders in confusion as Magus relayed, "Danziger told Devon how he felt about her and it didn't go as well as he'd hoped."

"You can say that, again," Baines commented.

"You're kidding. What happened?"

"About two weeks ago, Walman was doing a late-night perimeter check when he heard voices coming from behind the Transrover. He went to investigate and overheard a particularly nasty one-sided conversation between Devon and Danziger." Magus looked to ensure that neither of them were around before continuing. "Apparently Walman missed Danz's confession entirely, but he sure got an earful of Devon's response."

When Magus stopped to take a breath, Bess picked up where she'd left off. "Devon told him that there would never be anything between them. That John meant nothing to her beyond what he could do to keep the vehicles and the generators running. She also told him to stay away from her." She shook her head in disgust. "I think it was downright mean."

Denner was shocked. "My God, what did Danziger do?"

"Nothing," Baines answered. "Absolutely nothing. He just stood there and took it. When Devon was finally done mentally beating him to a bloody pulp, she just strolled away like it was no big deal. A few minutes later, Danz went back to his tent."

"And he's been avoiding her ever since," Magus added.

"Haven't we all?" Baines blurted out. "That woman has been in a bad mood ever since she was released from cold-sleep. It's like her personality is still frozen."

"Not her whole personality- just her heart," Bess ventured as she took a bite of fruit.

"I hate to admit this, but I liked it much better when Danziger was leading us," Denner disclosed as the others, with the exception of Morgan, nodded in agreement.

"Yeah, he may have been a bit standoffish, but John was always fair. He pushed us, but he always made sure that we were fed and well-rested. He also kept us informed on what was going on. At least we knew were we stood with him."

"We know where we stand with Devon, too," Magus snorted. "She acts like she's on a cattle drive herding all us dumb animals to New Pacifica. And when we get there, we have the extreme privilege of building her a city."

"I'm getting really tired of her crappy attitude," Baines sneered. "She'd better curve that temper of hers or she'll be running a colony of three- her, her kid and his tutor."

John had just sat down in the shade of the 'Rail hoping to spend a few quality moments with True when he heard angry shouts coming from the direction where Alonzo was situated.

Here we go again, Danziger thought as he shook his head and stood up. This was becoming a daily, sometimes almost hourly, occurrence. When the hell did I become the peacekeeper of this group? he wondered.

He exchanged an all-knowing look with his daughter before leaving to join the loud conversation already in heated progress. Devon was apparently being her usual undiplomatic self while Alonzo was attempting to reason with her. Julia looked as though she was about to punch the leader in the face.

"I will not change our route," Devon snapped as she folded her arms in front of her.

Solace answered, "We don't really have a choice, Devon. This tribe of Terrians doesn't want us on their land."

Devon noticed John's presence beside her and made a big show of taking two large steps away from him.

"Well, we won't be on it for very long," she pressed. "Tell them that we're just passing through and we won't bother them. They'll hardly know we're there."

"They won't budge about this. Believe me, I tried. Apparently, they aren't very fond of humans. And there's more." Alonzo divulged in an apprehensive voice, "They want us to travel to a specific place about fifteen clicks north of here."

"Did they say why?" Danziger asked.

"They wouldn't tell me. They just said to go there and wait for further instructions."

Adair was less than thrilled. "Wait? Wait for what?"

"Could it be another Terrian ceremony like Moon Cross? Something they may need Uly to participate in?" Julia posed.

Devon's face showed momentary panic, but she quickly regained her composure and replaced her mask. However, John noticed her frightened expression and sought to calm her fears.

"Maybe they know that we're running low on food and water and they're directing us to an area where we can replenish our supplies."

Alonzo nodded. "Could be. They did mention that the place was located near a river."

Julia added, "Perhaps that's the edge of their territory and we'll be able to resume our course from there."

Devon took a deep breath as she mulled over the proposed reasons for straying from their path. Many of the ideas made perfect sense but, in the long run, the points were moot. Nothing mattered to her except keeping her son safe and getting to New Pacifica as quickly as possible.

"No," she decided. "We are not going to veer off our planned route. We don't have time to go on wild-goose chases at the whim of the Terrians."

Julia shook her head angrily. "It's their planet, Devon. And they were pretty clear that they didn't want us setting foot on their soil. You're saying that we should ignore their wishes and go barging through their territory?"

"That's exactly what I'm saying," Devon replied a bit too casually. "Tell them we're sorry, but we have a schedule to keep."

"I disagree," John interjected. "Last winter, 'Lonz, Magus and Baines were shot at by a tribe that didn't want us coming near their land. If these Diggers feel the same way, we could be placing ourselves in danger. We should head north and find out what they want."

"John's right," Julia said.

Devon turned to furiously address the doctor, but Danziger interrupted her, hoping to avoid a further confrontation. "If you want to bring it to a group vote, I can call the others over and fill them in on what's going on."

There were a few moments of tense silence. John knew that once the colonists were informed of their options, they would vote against Devon. And more importantly, Devon knew it, too.

"Fine, we'll go," she relented. She turned to John for the first time and icily stared him down. "And when the colony ship lands and there's no hospital or housing for them because we were too busy traipsing miles off- course across the countryside, I'll know who to blame."

The mechanic's face was set in stone and he didn't even blink as he replied, "Makes no difference to me who you blame, Adair."

Devon barely waited for his response and stomped away without saying another word.

Alonzo scoffed in irritation, "The Terrians are the ones that healed her. You'd think she'd be grateful to them. Instead, she acts as if they're an inconvenience."

"At the moment, they are an inconvenience to her. They're a threat to her making it to the west coast in time for the Jamestown's arrival," Danziger reasoned. "Besides, you and I both know that the Terrians may have been the ones who caused her illness in the first place."

"We don't know that," the pilot challenged.

"Exactly. All we're sure of is that one moment Devon was dying and the next she's fine. It took almost two months of you and Uly negotiating with the Terrians to convince them to finally help her. And we still don't have the slightest clue what happened to make her sick or what the Diggers did to make her better. Devon feels like she's lost control of her life and it scares the hell out of her."

"That doesn't excuse her conduct," Julia pointed out.

"Look, I'm not saying you should excuse it. I'm just saying that it's the reason she's been so difficult to deal with since she's recovered." He calmly related over his shoulder as he walked away to rejoin his daughter, "Just give her time. She'll get past this."

Alonzo and Julia stared after him in disbelief.

"I cannot believe that he's actually defending Devon after all of the grief she's caused him the last few weeks," the doctor remarked in amazement.

They watched as Danziger happily scooped up True and swung her around to a sitting position on his shoulders. Her giggles filled the air as they joined Cameron and Mazatl by the ATV for a quick bite to eat.

Alonzo shrugged his shoulders. "I guess John's just happy to have Devon back alive."

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They traveled most of the afternoon crossing over and between several small mountain ranges. Danziger had to take over driving the Transrover and was just barely able to manage the vehicle through the extremely rocky terrain. Luckily, the surroundings eventually became grassier and he was able to relinquish driving duties to Baines who looked as though he needed a break from walking. Soon their path was lined with tall trees which shaded the colonists from the blistering sun. As the Edenites neared their destination, they noticed vegetation bearing several types of fruits and nuts. Maybe the Terrians really are leading us to supplies, Devon reflected.

The caravan continued plodding forward as Bess and True each grabbed a crate and began to hurriedly fill them with food. John became aware that both of them were lagging behind the rest of the group and went back to get them.

"Hey, Dad. Can I eat some of these now?" True excitedly asked as she showed her father the nearly half-filled container of nuts.

He chuckled and planted a kiss on top of her head. "Tell you what, Sport. Go see Julia and make sure that they're safe. Once you get her seal of approval, you can have all you want."

With giddy delight, True yanked the crate to her chest and starting running as fast as her legs would carry her toward the physician.

"Just make sure you share with the others," he added as his daughter disappeared into the small crowd ahead.

Danziger scanned the woods for Bess, but didn't see her in his line of sight. He called out her name several times, but got no response. As he searched, his eyes focused in on a large pile of an apple-like fruit that was loosely scattered around the base of a tree about twenty yards away. John wandered over to investigate when he suddenly heard a loud rustling noise up above him. Before he could react, he was hit in the head by several objects as they rained down from above.

"Hey!" he shouted as another apple smacked him squarely in the forehead.

"Oh dear, I'm so sorry, John!" Bess apologized as she stood on a large leafy branch about twelve feet above him. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Just might be seeing double for awhile, that's all," he said in a serious tone although she knew he was joking. "What the hell are you doing up there?"

"I'm jumping on the limbs to make the fruit fall. It's much faster than picking them one by one."

Danziger looked up ahead and noticed that the convoy had reached the other side of the hill and was now completely out of their view. "Well, hurry up and get down here before we're left behind."

Bess swung downward and dangled from the large branch as John grabbed her securely by the waist and eased her to the ground safely. As she thanked him, his gear began to beep incessantly. Knowing full well who it was, he grudgingly placed the equipment on his head to answer the call. Bess could clearly hear the screaming on the other end.

"Danziger, where the hell are you? Get back up here now!"

Between Devon's earlier denunciations and the surprise fruit attack, John wasn't in the mood to engage in another pointless battle. "Relax, Adair. Take a breath and count to ten. Bess and I are just getting some fruit for dinner tonight, okay?"

"Bess is with you? Well, tell her to hurry up, too. We're not stopping for either of you!"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he muttered as he hung up on her and shoved the apparatus down around his neck. He arched his eyebrow as he met Bess' sympathetic gaze. "And people wonder why I never wear my gear."

Bess chortled in amusement as she and Danziger began tossing the apples into the crate that she had placed behind the tree. "No offense intended, John, but how do you put up with Devon when she acts like that?"

"Well, actually-" he started before the conversation was abruptly suspended by Bess' own gear sounding off.

"Gee, wonder who that could be?" he sarcastically asked as she answered the call.

Although Danziger couldn't hear the bureaucrat's actual words, he could certainly make out the whining tone of voice that resonated through Bess' earpiece as she tried to pacify her husband. He sat back against the tree with his hands folded behind his head and proceeded to enjoy the show.

"Yes, Morgan."

"Mmm-mmm."

"I know, honey, but-"

"Morgan, we're just getting fruit for-"

"Well, I would have told you I was leaving if you weren't so immersed in your VR."

"Mmm-mmm."

"Mmm-mmm."

"Calm down, Sweetie. It's just-"

"Mmm-mmm."

"I'm sure you're fine Morgan. If the symptoms don't disappear by this evening, we'll have Julia check you out."

"Mmm-mmm."

"Morgan Honey-"

"Morgan-"

"Okay, Morgan. Just sit tight and I'll be right there."

As Bess removed her gear and replaced it into the holder on her belt, Danziger was surprised to see that she looked a bit embarrassed.

"You know what you said to me just before we were rudely interrupted? I guess I could pose that same question to you. How do you put up with Morgan when he acts like that?" John smirked and dryly added, "Of course, no offense intended."

"Yeah, well, Morgan certainly has his moments, but he has a lot of redeeming qualities, too. But you're right. Sometimes," she sighed, "sometimes he is a little hard to take and I'll admit that my patience with him has been wearing pretty thin lately."

Despite their recent difficulties, Bess still felt it necessary to defend her husband as she had so many times before. "But he's not used to this kind of life. You know, the living outdoors in tents and all of the traveling. I'm sure that things will change for the better when we get to New Pacifica. And I know that deep down Morgan needs me and he loves me."

John let out a slow breath and shrugged his shoulders. "I understand," he stated sincerely.

For the first time, Bess realized that John actually did understand because he himself was in a similar situation regarding Devon.

She had watched Danziger with great interest these past few months. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that he had fallen hopelessly in love with Devon. Bess remembered how distraught he'd been that first night after their leader was placed in the cold-sleep capsule. John had walked out of camp and planted himself on the edge of a nearby cliff. He'd just stared at the clear, star-filled sky all night long, refusing to speak to anyone. The next day, he was eerily calm and took over leadership duties as if nothing was amiss. Bess knew that it must have ripped him apart to leave Bennett's ship and continue their voyage to New Pacifica, but he showed nothing.

Instead, Danziger threw himself into making sure that everyone was well taken care of, especially the children. Bess surmised that John didn't think that the group would survive losing another member and took steps to ensure that this didn't occur. Although New Pacifica was a priority, he had no problem venturing off-course a few clicks if it meant restocking their food and water supply. However, he stayed strangely unemotional and kept to himself most of the time. Even True had mentioned that she felt excluded from his life. John barely ate or slept and he hardly spoke unless it was regarding camp business. Sensing that he could use a friend to talk to, Bess had attempted to break through to him, but he'd kept her at a distance. Moreover, unless he was checking with Julia about a cure or conferring with Alonzo and Uly about a possible Terrian healing, John never ever mentioned Devon by name.

When the Terrians finally agreed to save her life and the Edenites returned to that cursed canyon, John actually refused to enter the ship. Instead, he waited alone in his tent and had Julia contact him on gear when everything was over. A few of the crew thought that he was being heartless by not wanting to be there when Devon awoke, but Bess knew better. She understood that John was frightened by the feelings that seeing her again would evoke from him. Alonzo and Bess had to physically drag him to the med-tent to visit her that following morning. Of course, no one knew at the time how much the two months of imprisonment in the cryo-crypt had changed Devon. They'd assumed that everything would go back to the way it was before they'd ever heard the name Franklin Bennett or Eve. They were wrong.

As Devon regained her strength, she became more and more difficult to deal with. She was angry at the Terrians for their clandestine role in her illness. She resented Julia for not being able to find a cure. She somehow found fault with almost every decision that Danziger had made in her absence. She blamed everyone for her predicament except for Yale and Uly, her former inner circle from the Stations. Devon became positively consumed with recommencing the trek to New Pacifica as quickly as possible. And she didn't care who she stepped on or over to get there.

In contrast, the old John Danziger started to slowly reemerge. However, there were a few very noteworthy changes. As angered as John was at Devon's tactless demeanor and tantrums, he stayed silent unless he felt that she was placing the colonists at risk. Remarkably, Danziger became the arbitrator of the group and continued to gain the respect and loyalty of the Edenites in the process. He also seemed much happier and earnestly tried to make up for all the time lost with his prized True when he had taken over the role as leader.

Bess was sure that John must have been devastated after Devon coldly rejected his confession of love for her. Still, he seemed hopeful that Devon would eventually come around and realize that she loved him, too. Plus, he was just plain grateful that Devon was physically healed, even if the emotional scars remained. He seemed content to wait it out and see what happens.

John noticed that Bess had stopped loading the crate and was staring at him strangely.

"Did I say something wrong?" he asked in concern.

She smiled angelically. "Nope. Just thinking about how much some of us have changed these last few months."

"Don't remind me," John groaned as he rolled his eyes.

He went to grab the now-full box of fruit, but Bess darted in front of him and attempted to pick up the crate herself.

"What are you doing, Martin?"

"It was my idea to go foraging. It's my responsibility to carry it," Bess insisted.

Danziger shook his head. "Don't be stupid. That box must weigh fifty pounds."

"I can carry fifty pounds."

"I'm sure you can, but I'm not walking back empty-handed while you drag that oversized crate behind you," he challenged. "Hand it over."

Bess stood her ground with a smile. "No."

John leaned in toward her with his hands on his hips. "We can do this the easy way or do it the hard way, Bess. Just remember, I'm much bigger than you."

She strained as she lifted the crate, spilling part of the bounty in the process. "Yeah, but I have youth on my side!" she teased as she reset the container on the ground with a thud.

Danziger's jaw dropped wide open. "I cannot believe those words just came out of your mouth!" He chuckled as he bent down to pick up the dropped fruit. "Besides, I'm not that much older than you."

He stopped for a moment and hesitantly inquired, "Wait a minute. How old are you?"

"Twenty-four."

John's brows furrowed and he shook his head. "You're right. I am a lot older. Carry the damn apples."

Bess grinned devilishly. "So, Danziger, what is your age, anyway?" She winked and whispered, "Come on, you can tell me. It'll be our secret."

"Never you mind," he grumbled good-naturedly as they each picked up a corner of the crate. "Let's just say that my age is somewhere between yours and Solace's."

Bess and John continued to laugh and converse as they made their way up the hill jointly carrying that night's meal. Neither of them noticed that they were being observed by two figures just beyond the copse of trees.

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