Standard Disclaimer: Property of SGU, the too-recently-departed show, goes to MGM and affiliates, and I don't own them, unfortunately.
Two Weeks: He had two weeks to fix everything, but it's been one hour and he's wondering what will happen if he's not going to be able to fix anything.
"We all came here together, and if need be we're all going to go out together." ~ Ronald Greer
The view from the observation deck was majestic, with the rushing colour of FTL pulsating and crashing over the ship in waves. There was a soft hum to be heard, and it was something Eli had never heard before, the hum having been drowned out by the sounds of the ship cycling life support for more than eighty people, not to mention the sound of every hiss and every groan as the strain of battles recently fought began to take its toll. The soft hum was just the Destiny, flying straight and true through FTL. The lights were off, the life support was functioning silently, and the damaged systems now lied dormant, mercifully quiet in their sleep.
Everything on the ship was sleeping, except for Eli.
It had been barely twenty minutes since Young and Rush were placed in their pods and the ship put into stasis of her own, but to Eli it felt like hours had passed, watching the rush of blues and greens and purples and colours he couldn't even identify. He tried to keep his mind blank, just allowing the feeling of calm to wash over him, but it wasn't working.
Because there was something else festering inside. He had two weeks to solve a problem. Any further than two weeks meant drawing more power from the systems needed to keep FTL running, and any further than two weeks would mean death to everyone else on board, not to mention his own.
He's run the numbers a dozen times. It's not two weeks. Not exactly.
"Fourteen days," he recited. "Fourteen days, six hours, twenty-three minutes." He fetched his phone, his only source of time-keeping at present, from his pocket, and checked it. "Twenty-two minutes," he corrected.
Mentally, he realised that even speaking aloud would cause life support to drain ever-slightly, and he could be looking at twenty-one minutes and forty seconds instead.
No time to talk. He needed to fix the last stasis pod.
Reluctantly, Eli took a step back from the observation deck, turned, and walked away. After he crossed the threshold on the way out, the door behind him closed, and the silence was broken. Eli preferred it when the silence was gone. The silence and the loneliness gave birth to doubt and despair, and he wanted nothing more than to push those thoughts away. It was easy to assure Young that he'd catch up with him soon. But now there was no one to assure, and because even talking to himself would use too much of the power being saved for life support, he was plagued by negative thoughts.
He walked slowly away from the observation deck, his footsteps deliberately heavy to produce more sound, his left hand holding his phone like a flashlight and his right hand feeling the walls of the ship, guiding him to his destination. He ambled down one corridor, took a right to avoid crossing through the sealed gate room, and passed by Rush and Chloe's hall of crazy, the one covered in chalk markings and plastered with stray sheets of paper, one set of the equations written in rough hand and another written more delicately, a few alien symbols bolstering the complex numbers.
Eli spent a good five minutes in the hall of crazy searching for it. He did all his calculations in his mind or on a computer, and apart from Rush and Chloe, there was one more person's handwriting on a part of these walls.
It wasn't on the left side of the room, and he remembered he being low... There. In the corner where two corridors met. Small, neat, efficient numbers written in her home planet's language.
Ginn. Eli reached out and touched the wall, fingers tracing the solution she found to a problem that had been bugging Rush for weeks, something to do with the Destiny's shield systems. Eli had taken her for a walk on their first unofficial date, and their walk had taken them to the hall of crazy. Not exactly something out of a romance novel, but for two math enthusiasts, it was fun night.
A small smile graced Eli's face at the thought. A very fun night.
He lingered in the hallway for more time than he should've. When he finally left, he got back on the path towards his lodgings for the next few weeks. To save power by saving life support, he had the ship shut down the area around the living quarters, including his own, and elected to make his workspace as close to the pod rooms as possible without actually being in the rooms himself. That in mind, he had packed two weeks worth of food and water, a makeshift bed, a stack of notes, a solitary Kino and his laptop in a small control room, complete with access terminal to the database. The room was no larger than his own room by the Kino dispenser, and served as an auxiliary lab for monitoring the stasis pods from afar. It was home enough for him, and it was just temporary.
The moment he closed the door behind him, Eli made his way over to the console, tapped a few buttons and turned off life support to the corridors outside, to further save power. He badly wanted to turn on the lights in the dim little auxiliary control room, but he couldn't. Instead, he sat down on the chair beside the console terminal, and brought up the Ancient's stasis pod instruction manual, some seventeen hundred pages long and entirely in a language he was a little shaky in when it came to engineering terms. But there were equations on every other page and there were troubleshooting pages somewhere, and that's all he needed.
Or so he thought. He read for half an hour straight, cycling through the pages bleary-eyed. As the words went on, something cold settled in the pit of his stomach.
He was alone now, and not as confident in himself as he should've been.
He had two weeks to fix everything, but it's been one hour and he's wondering what will happen if he's not going to be able to fix anything.
And that scared him.
Thirteen days, twenty-two hours and forty-six minutes left, and Eli was eating a light dinner after a marathon session pouring over the Ancient's notes on the pods. He lingered a long time in the general operations sections, hoping to find the problem the remaining pod had right off the bat. From what Rush and he had figured out before the former went into his own perfectly-functioning pod, there was something that interfered with the last stasis pod simply being able to start up, like a computer well past its prime. It reminded him of when his first computer, gifted to him when he was nine, died after a year. Despite everything he tried, it wouldn't start up again.
He had saved up to buy another some time later, but that wasn't the solution for the pod. He couldn't get a new one to replace the old and broken one.
He pondered this frustrating thought in between bites of space deer jerky, washing it down with a sweet juice Becker had distilled from mixing several alien fruits together. He figured that the food was going to go off anyway, and a full stomach might help him think, hence the dinner only a short time after the last supper he had with everybody else in the cafeteria.
A full stomach would help him think, he knew that. He needed it. He would have to go over the circuitry notes in the Ancient operating manual. He could do it.
Thirteen days, eighteen hours and two minutes left, and Eli was watching Kino videos on his laptop. Hours and hours of home movies, the closest thing to entertainment he had on hand. He watched the little adventures he himself had gone on, from the desert planet to the planet with the burrowing alien creatures that had killed him in at least one alternate timeline. He moved on to some of the early days on Novus, watching his alternate son Hunter and Greer and Park's second daughter playing together in a grassy meadow. Eli had led a full life on that planet, one of the founding fathers of an entire galaxy full of prosperous settlements, humans on the fringes of the universe like them.
Yet with this extended FTL jump, the very idea he himself had had, he and the crew were bypassing any possible human-populated planet the drones hadn't destroyed. The drones would keep looking for humans, TJ's ALS cure wouldn't be found...
Eli left that sobering thought behind and skipped back to some of the day to day footage, spotting a few lost faces here and there, smiling and laughing silently at every quip he made, even the ones that made everybody else look at him like he was crazy.
The food hadn't helped. The full stomach, a first since he had gotten to the ship, left him lax and like his old self, back on Earth before all this began. And here he was, again, distracting himself from what he really should've been dealing with: life. His life.
But he couldn't stop watching.
Eli slept fitfully, and when he woke up, he repressurised the air to the corridor outside and ventured out, barely registering that he now had a little less than thirteen days to go.
After hours of reading, he felt the need to check over the pod personally, and so he went.
It was dark in the stasis pod room. Rush, the Colonel, Chloe, Scott, Greer, Camille and TJ were all in their pods, eyes shut as if in peaceful rest. Eli thought it looked odd more than anything else. He thought about how someone as paranoid as Rush would never be caught sleeping where people could see him, or how Young really needed this sleep, or how calm Greer looked or how scared TJ looked while they slept. He felt almost voyeuristic as he looked over Scott and Chloe, pondering roads not travelled with the latter. In the light of his phone combined with the dim light of the stasis pod, he thought he spotted a flash of red in Chloe's hair.
It was gone immediately, and Eli shook himself from the thought.
The pod, the one that was his, was across from TJ's and he had his back to her as he fiddled with the controls, careful not to cause any more damage. There were small dials for calibration inside each pod, to better tailor them for a specific person - like their size, their breathing capacity and any conditions that would need to be monitored. Eli dialled it to his specifications and made his way over to the diagnostic terminal, going through the motions of checking every light was green before executing the program.
The console beeped at him, shrill and angry. It wasn't working. Nothing had changed.
He re-calibrated it twice more, and got the same result. He created backdoors and tried to copy a working pod's diagnostic over and over, but the pod still wouldn't budge.
"The circuitry," he muttered angrily. "It has to be the circuitry."
He headed back over to the pod, nodding his head towards the people he passed, and shone his light on the interior of the pod. It was completely smooth, no visible wall panel or circuitboard for him to get into.
It was another two frustrating hours before he found a groove on the floor, and, after taking the time to pry it open with his bare hands, Eli found himself staring at a tangle of multicoloured wires, which reminded him all the more about how he was just the numbers guy, not the engineering guy.
"Great," was all he said, leaving the circuits behind to go back and check the manual.
Eleven days, twenty hours and thirty-three minutes left, and Eli was sniffing at the air. He hadn't showered for days now, and it was beginning to grate on him. Showering would drain too much power, power he needed to utilise other bodily functions at timed intervals. He considered for a while, wondering if he could nab something from somebody's room in order to block the smell. Deodorant disappeared a long time ago, but somebody might be keeping something, somewhere, for a special occasion...
He shook his head again, his neck, rigid from hours of reading, letting its protest be felt at the action. There were more important things to worry about.
Eleven days and ten hours on the dot left, and he had figured out the circuitry was fine on the floor panel, and he even managed to make the door to the pod close, but the rest of the pod still wouldn't work properly.
And now, hours later, he was starting to think this noble sacrifice of his needed a backup plan, and he ran the gamut of thoughts on some.
He thought about the stones, even though he knew Homeworld Command wouldn't expect anyone to show up for three years and thus wouldn't have anybody on stone duty. He thought about reviving Brody or Rush, or Brody and Rush, to help him out, even running the numbers in his head, over and over, about how many days of life support would go away on the gamble that all three of them could solve it. He even dreamed up a plan where he'd drop the Destiny out of FTL in the middle of nowhere, get a repair robot working on the FTL drive in order to speed the trip up for everybody else on the power they had left, allowing him maybe a few days more time... But the repair itself, the systems he'd have to activate... It would cost more power than he wanted to spend.
He considered taking a walk, hoping to clear his head, but he didn't know where he wanted to walk. He didn't need to walk, he didn't even really want to...
There was a solution to be found somewhere in this database, and he wasn't done looking yet.
Eli ate breakfast on the observation deck, with ten days, ten hours and ten minutes, and with ten seconds just passed, left on the countdown. He was feeling happy with himself, having finally gone through the entirety of the manual, all seventeen-hundred pages of it. Sure, he had skimmed a few pages and he probably could've finished sooner if not for the breaks for sleeping and eating and watching Kino videos, but the end result was the same.
He had found a solution. The problem wasn't the pod itself. Well, it sort-of was, but it also wasn't. The pods worked in tandem with Destiny's computer, constantly sending updates and running self-sustaining troubleshooting programs back and forth. As long as the computer had power, the ship could solve any problem the pods had while somebody was inside of one, forcefully ejecting somebody if something unfixable came up, which it really wouldn't. However, there needed to be a connection between the ship and the pod. And Eli's pod? The buffer had just stopped working over the millennia, some niggling problem in the computer that got left by the wayside thanks to more pressing issues, a single screw in an entire building loose.
But there was a bypass he could create. It involved numbers, and when it came to numbers, Eli knew his stuff.
So he celebrated by having his meal with a view, mentally calculating the first few algorithms for the self-sustaining bypass he was creating from scratch.
After he was done, he started wandering the halls, the Kino he had on hand floating beside him. He felt like talking, and he did. It felt good to talk.
"I'm glad I stocked up on enough food," he enthused, a spring in his step as he strolled down the dark corridors. "I know it's going to suck when we wake up and go back to rations, but for now?" He chuckled. "Feels good." He tapped at the walls with a hand, the cold metallic echo continuing on down the hallway. "And nobody else around. I'm all alone..."
He laughed. He didn't know why immediately after, but it felt like the right thing to do.
Less than ten days left, closer to less than nine than Eli would like, and he felt like he did before he had just solved the secret equation in Prometheus, the online game that started it all. He felt happy, more than a little hungry, and eager to put his equation to the test. So he chewed on some space deer jerky and put on a slideshow of his collected clips of the continual Riley/Brody prank war that sprouted one day and continued for a few weeks, ending with a purple Brody and Riley being ordered by Young not to take Brody away from his work by placing him in the infirmary again, even though Young said it in between little chuckles of his own.
The thought of Riley made Eli a little wistful for the early days, back when he hadn't even met, and consequently lost, Ginn (twice), and when he was still hopeful of being rescued by people back home. It had gotten steadily worse since the early days, and it was only in the last few weeks that, despite the loss of Ginn a second time thanks to Rush and Perry's accident, Eli felt a little more content.
And now he was holding on to every memory over the past year, every good moment and bad, clips in a documentary he'd never get round to finishing because it kept getting longer and longer...
Or would it end in a few days? Would his program work? If so, what if the ship had another curveball to throw his way?
Negative thoughts again, and Eli shook his head to clear them. He tapped a few familiar buttons and re-vented the air outside, getting the Kino to follow him into the stasis pod room. He immediately double-checked the calibrations of the pod, closed the open circuit boards, and uploaded his bypass program. An initial diagnostic confirmed it was good, and would work, so he tried to activate the pod.
The console beeped angrily. The moment power came on and the buffer bypass activated, the pod died again.
The program wouldn't work. Something was in the way. He kept trying, and trying, but there was a problem. A big one, one in the mainframe of the computer itself.
Eli slumped on the console. The Kino hovered nearby, and he felt the urge to talk to it. "Little snag here," he said morosely. "I can't run this bypass and have the stasis pod activate properly... until the old buffer gets deleted and replaced with my bypass. It's a dead program, and its corpse is, uh, blocking any progress..." He frowned. "I'll have to go over my equations again. Try to, um, try to work something out."
He was Math Boy. He could do it. He was the smartest person on this ship. He could do it. He went back to his room, determined to work out a way around. He could do it.
He couldn't do it.
Nine days, two hours and thirty-six minutes left, and he realised how screwed he truly was. The dead buffer, the one that was supposed to transfer real-time updates from the ship's computer to the stasis pod and was a vital for continuing function while in stasis, couldn't be removed in its current state. Any bypass, and he tried so many, wouldn't work. Couldn't work.
There was one option. It would involve completely shutting down the Destiny's systems, a total reboot that he could use to implement his bypass in while the computer was asleep, sweeping the dead buffer out of the way as he did. But doing so would deactivate every system except for life support. The pods would open, the ship would drop out of FTL, and the power would begin to bleed again, and the ship would be back to square one.
He was stuck.
Eight days, nine hours and fifty-seven minutes left on the countdown, and Eli's wandering the halls of the ship again. Every step in a section getting life support back was another second taken away from the countdown; he didn't even truly know how long he had actually been alone, because the countdown was ever-changing in his mind, the tiniest variable like running simulations or diagnostics, or repressurising hallways and rooms, each taking time away, time he didn't feel he had.
Time, he felt, was beginning to slip away from him.
How much longer would it take for him to give up? He didn't know. He couldn't know. The confidence he once felt was slipping, and it wasn't a good feeling.
In his wanderings, he passed by the outlying living quarters, recently used by the Novus folk they had on board for nearly two weeks, and found himself gravitating towards a few familiar sets of quarters. He found Riley's old quarters and ventured inside, standing there for a moment and mourning his lost friend. Riley had actually once had quarters closer to Eli's, but gave them up in a show of solidarity to Dr Boone, who wanted to stay close to his botanist sister. Riley had been selfless that way, and while Eli had had some black days in his time, Riley's death had been one of the blackest.
Then there was Sergeant Spencer's quarters, a room that the man had picked to be as far away from everybody else as possible, the room that still had a bloodstain on the wall from where Spencer met his fate head on.
It wouldn't be hard, Eli knew. It wouldn't be hard to put the air back in the corridors leading into the armoury, pick up a pistol, load a single bullet into it like Scott and Greer had taught him and the others one boring afternoon, press it to his head and pull the trigger.
Of course it wouldn't be hard. It would be more than hard. It would be death. It would be giving up when there was still time left. It would be letting down everyone who expected to see him on the other side of this trip as if nothing had gone wrong while they slept, it would be leaving Young and Rush to explain to the crew what had happened, and it would be guilt pressing on them forever. It would be his mother never hearing from him again.
The thought galvanised him, a rush of warmth surged in his veins, and he began to jog the halls. He'd had an idea. It would cut more than a day off his countdown time, but it was something he had to risk. Better than the alternative. Better than any alternative.
He needed the neural interface chair.
His open palm slammed on the door control, and the door whined as it opened slowly. The room, like every other, was dark and dim, but the chair itself seemed illuminated by a ethereal whitish glow.
He had avoided this room since Rush last sat in the chair - everybody had. It was getting to the point where the blood of three people was dry on the bolts that would drill into somebody's head, and that freaked Eli out a bit. Not only that, but the last remaining program the chair had run was flawed, and the chair itself was perpetually frozen in the flawed simulation for as long as Dr Perry was in the ship's database quarantine.
The idea he had was to go in to the ship's database and manually take out the dead buffer program to replace with his bypass, sort-of like a heart transplant, but with numbers and computers and a lot less blood and guts.
But he stopped short in front of the main terminal sitting behind the chair. He didn't activate it.
There was no one else to save him if he sat in the chair. He didn't want to be uploaded into the Destiny's computer. He didn't want to disappear in a white mist like Franklin did, or...
Ginn. He wouldn't need to sit in the chair. He still had Ginn.
Eight days, seven hours and five minutes left, and Eli was sitting back in his makeshift quarters, inputting in a different program, one that had nothing to do with the stasis pods.
The quarantine he had placed Perry, and consequently Ginn, in was a cordoned off little part of the database where defective programs went to later be repaired - it was actually where the pod's dead buffer would go if all went to plan. Although he truly hadn't wanted to, the only way to stop Perry was to shelve Ginn as well - Perry had taken control of every system, and, in suppressing Ginn like she had in order to try to save Rush herself, had made the two inexplicably linked, and while he couldn't take down Perry directly, Eli had been forced to move Ginn's memory first, taking Perry with her and deleting the echoes Perry left behind in the ship's memory.
In the days afterwards, Eli had devised a bypass equation to bring her back from the quarantine. It wasn't difficult, not in his grief and his rage at Rush, but he couldn't activate it back then for fear of bringing back Perry - she was too tangled in core programs, an echo of her was in every system, and he couldn't delete those echoes, echoes that were stuck in a constant feedback loop of whatever it was that corrupted her in the first place. But now, with the power off to nearly every essential system, Perry's control was limited.
And Eli could bring back Ginn to help him.
So he did. He had his finger hovering over the execute button for twenty minutes, realising that this would be a drain on the power that could take nearly a day off his countdown... but it would be worth it.
He pressed the button, and seven days, six hours and forty-nine minutes remained on the countdown.
"Ginn!" he called out. "I know you're probably disorientated, but you need to act fast. Everyone is asleep, every system is dormant, and Perry's power will be limited!" He stood up. "Okay? Don't try to turn anything on, but just try to suppress her, like she did to you." Nothing happened, and he murmured, "Please. Please work. Come on Ginn."
The lights in the room flashed on, and Eli was momentarily blinded by it. He screwed his eyes shut until the lights turned back off, and when he opened them, Ginn was standing in front of him.
Her chest was heaving and she looked to be breathing heavily, the conscious strain on keeping Perry down evident on her projected avatar. But she looked... Like herself, and Eli's heart jumped. Her hair, her eyes, the shape of her body... It was all the same. It was something Eli had missed more than he had realised, more than he thought he could ever miss a person.
"Ginn," he breathed out.
She looked at him, still disorientated. "Eli."
Her voice was enough to drive him over the edge, but combined with the fact she was the closest thing to company after dozens of lonely hours... It was too much.
"You're really here," he croaked.
"Perry's... Fighting me," she said, frowning slightly. "But you were right. A lot of systems are dormant, and her echoes aren't helping her gain control of anything. She won't do anything. She can't do anything." The frown disappeared, and she smiled. "Eli, you did it."
He grinned at her, weak and hesitant, but a grin nonetheless. "I think I did."
She stepped forward and held out a hand, and he reached for it himself. They couldn't touch, they both knew that, but it was the gesture that counted, and Eli shut his eyes and tried to recapture the feeling of her touch as he reached out.
"Why is everyone asleep?" she asked after the moment was over.
"It's a... long story."
So he sat down and set about telling her. He told her about the drones, their blockade, the plan to use a blue supergiant and how he had been very tempted to pull her out of quarantine to help him run the numbers back then.
"But it was good that you didn't," Ginn said. "Perry..."
"What happened with her? Rush wouldn't tell me, so..."
"She... corrupted herself, Eli. She and Rush tried to use the chair so they could be together..." She looked away from him. "It worked, but she made a mistake. One simple parameter, and as she tried to fix it, she managed to corrupt every system in her grief, her feelings... She suppressed me because she thought she was doing things right, she thought that I wasn't as smart as her... So I told you to put us away, because I knew you'd understand why, and that it was the only way."
"It still..." Eli swallowed heavily. "I didn't want to."
"I never wanted to."
"Perry couldn't be helped, and she was linked to everything. This was the only way."
"But I never wanted to. There could've been another solution."
"But there wasn't."
And even then, Eli knew that if it wasn't for the fact the ship was half-asleep, Ginn wouldn't be there with him now. When the ship's power came back on, if Ginn and Perry were still out of quarantine, Perry would be back to corrupting things accidentally again, and the only solution then would be quarantine. Again.
He knew he had precious few days with her, but, as much as he didn't want to, he asked, "The buffer. Can you go into the system and remove the dead buffer in my pod?"
She looked forlorn, but nodded. "I can, but..."
He laughed shakily. "There's always a but."
"Deleting the inert program would mean deleting the framework, and you need that for your bypass program."
"You'd still need another way to activate the stasis program with your bypass, or you'll die here, Eli."
Seven days, four hours and sixteen minutes left, and Eli stood in the stasis pod chamber, Ginn standing beside him.
"I couldn't do it."
"It's not a solution. It's murder."
The idea was a stray thought in his head, an idea that wouldn't go away. He could simply steal another pod's framework. The stasis would deactivate in that pod, but he could still keep the person inside asleep for the remainder of their lives, though without them being kept alive indefinitely... There were a few people he didn't like onboard the ship, like Morrison or that corporeal with red hair and the big nose, but it didn't make him eager to simply kill one of them and take the framework for his own pod. It would be murder. And he couldn't do it.
"I know you're not going to do it," Ginn assured him, hovering at his shoulder. "You're a good man, Eli."
"You think so?"
She smiled softly. "You're staying behind, aren't you? You knew the risks, and you still sacrificed yourself. Even if you don't save yourself, you'll still save everyone else."
"An idiotic man can sacrifice himself too," he joked.
"But a good man will still look for any solution that doesn't involve hurting others," she countered.
"I should go," she said suddenly, and it hit Eli with the force of a freight train. "Just actively appearing to you costs power, and you're talking and expending life support..."
"No, don't," he murmured. "Please. Just stay. We still have a week to solve this. I do my best thinking if I'm in a good mood, so... Let's take a walk?"
They shared little smiles, and she gestured for him to lead the way.
The hours disappeared, but they were some of the best in Eli's life. Seven days to six and a half, six and a half to six, six to five... He and Ginn walked and they talked. Sometimes he and Ginn sat on the observation deck and tried to stay as close as possible. Other times they just revelled in each other's company.
After losing her after barely a week of having her back, this extended time with her was the best Eli could ask for.
They didn't just talk of lighter subjects, or with him telling her jokes about the incidents she missed out on. For more than an hour they debated on the stasis pod problem, and she disappeared for a few hours while he slept in order to read through the instruction manual herself, coming to the same conclusion as he did about the system itself being faulty.
"We can't afford to waste too much more time, Eli," Ginn said with five days, fourteen hours and ten minutes left.
"I know, I know," he said, but his grin was infectious, and she was grinning back, as he led her down another hallway. "I set up a timer on the life support. In about five days, the air will be getting pretty thin. I don't intend to be around for that part."
"That's good. But... where are you going?"
He just smiled and continued walking, Ginn's avatar trailing.
"The Novus refugees we brought aboard didn't have much to do during the trip," he explained. He had told Ginn of the Novus; she even knew that Eli had had a child with Corporeal Barnes in an alternate universe, and she had appeared to be more than a little exasperated when he spent hours constantly reaassuring her that he really didn't think much of Barnes in this universe as long as there was a chance that Ginn was still around. "So a bunch of them got together, and..."
The door opened, and a rush of recently repressurised air spat out, rustling over Eli and mussing up his hair, but he ignored it. He led Ginn inside, and hit the lights. The brightness was a bit of an adjustment to Eli, and as he blinked it all away, Ginn wandered over to the far wall of the storage room they were in.
"This is the room you kept us in," she said, eyes transfixed on the far wall.
"When you first got here, yeah. We also kept the Novus refugees here, and, like I said, they got bored. They made this paint out of something back on the planet we found them on, and well, they knew quite a lot about our adventures..."
A colourful mural covered most of the far wall, painted by dozens of Novus refugees and a few of the crew, with Wray's skilled hand leading the effort for days at a time.
"You've seen the hall of crazy," said Eli. "But this... this is the wall of awesome."
From left to right, the wall told the story of the Destiny's crew, right up until the founding of Novus. An exploding planet leading to a majestic ship. A desert, a frozen, poisonous wasteland, a jungle, a rocky canyon, a beautiful Eden... Depictions of great battles, from the first encounter with the blue aliens, to the first contact with the drones... even the Lucian Alliance incursion had its own story, and Ginn stared at that part of the wall for a long time.
"That's me, isn't it?" she asked, pointing.
"It is." Eli chuckled. "They actually thought you were blonde for some reason, but I corrected them on that."
A dark shadow was hovering over the depiction of Ginn, and the present Ginn breathed out, "Simeon."
Eli frowned and headed over to her, wanting badly to reassure her even though he couldn't. But she was transfixed by the part that depicted Simeon's death, the figure standing over the body roughly the shape of Eli himself.
"Rush was a demon in their society," Eli said quietly. He pointed to the figure with two sharp horns at the centre of the painting, the one being stared down by the larger-than-life illustration of Young. "So stories got warped, and they said I was the one who killed the one who, uhh..." He cleared his throat. "That I killed the one who took my first love, to quote Jason and Ellie."
"I knew you'd like it."
He led her down the path, showing her to the abandonment of the Destiny, and the first founding days, from Volker's death to Scott and Chloe's wedding, and the first birth on Novus - TJ and Young's son. Beyond the first days of founding, the painting told of the descendants two-thousand years later, and how the ancestors had returned to save them from the drones, and images of the near-destroyed Novus took up the far right of the wall.
"This is wonderful," Ginn said reverently.
"That's good to hear, Ginn, because..." The words died in his throat, and after Eli cleared his throat, they came out croaky. "Umm, I brought you here because I have some bad news." He paused. "I think I'm not going to make it."
She snapped her head towards him. "What?"
"I thought the problem was fixable, something I could just do, but..." He didn't want to look at her as he said it, picturing the shock and disbelief on her features. "My stasis pod is beyond repair. I can't... I've tried everything. You've got access to the database and you can't think of anything. We're just... Lying to ourselves."
"Ginn. I have less than five days left and... then I'll have to die."
It wasn't giving up, it was just facing the facts. Eli had tried everything, he had felt confidence he never felt before, and it wasn't enough. He had Ginn nearby, but it wasn't enough. She couldn't help him. He couldn't help him. But he could still end things as soon as he could to give more power to his friends to go on. Ginn had told him about sacrifices, and he understood that now.
Four days, seventeen hours and twenty-four minutes left, and Eli and Ginn were in their sixth hour of scouring Kino footage. Eli had finally decided it was time to cut together his documentary before he died, and nothing was going to stop him from making sure a legacy would be left in his death. Ginn was quiet, but as supportive as she could be, laughing as he laughed and offering a few bits of advice here and there.
Three days, six hours and fifty-five minutes left, and the laughter had stopped. Eli had finished most of his final cut, but there was still something left to be done.
"Uhh, hi," he said to the Kino, his grin faltering. "It's been about nine days, I think, maybe less, since everybody else has been put in stasis. I've been running calculations, and uh, everything's going smoothly... for them. I've done a bit too much talking and having Ginn around has drained a bit of the power, but..."
He looked up and past the Kino, making eye contact with Ginn. She nodded encouragingly, a sad smile on her face.
"I can't fix an unfixable problem. Not in the time I have. It's possible I've underestimated my usage of power in reviving Ginn, so I..." He pressed a single button on the nearby console. "I just set the life support into a steady shutdown. Won't take much longer, maybe two and a half days tops, and the air will get thin pretty soon. I'll have enough time to record some goodbyes and put them where the others can find them... I just hope that they make it. It's why I'm shutting down things, it's why I'm giving up now." His own word choice made him pause, and he closed his eyes as he corrected himself, "It's not giving up. I should stress that. It's... a sacrifice. I'm smarter than Rush - there, I said it for the camera - but I doubt even he could come up with a solution. Ginn can remove the dead buffer with a snap of her fingers, but there would be nothing left for me to put my bypass."
He was silent for a moment, staring down at the floor. "But I'm... happy. Content. It was my choice, and this way, everyone else gets more of a chance. And that's what they need right now. It's what we all need right now. A chance. The journey's just beginning for them, but for me... Well, it's gotta end sometime, right?" He laughed a desperate laugh, but there was a hint of resignation in it. "I've got Ginn. That's the important thing. At least this way I've chosen my... Path. The path that I've chosen."
And nothing was going to change that.
The air was getting thinner and thinner, and with one day, nine hours and thirty minutes left, Eli was getting lightheaded. He took a long nap just hours earlier, hoping beyond anything else that he would still wake up in the morning.
When he awoke, bundled up in a warm blanket one of the Novan refugees had gifted to him, he found Ginn lying next to him, tantalisingly close but unable to be reached. She was smiled slightly - she was always more of a morning person than him.
"Hey," she murmured, the word one she had picked up from him back when she was still alive. "How did you sleep?"
"I definitely woke up better than I slept," he returned, leaning forward and placing his forehead just in front of hers, shutting his eyes and forgetting for a single moment that this might be the last time he ever woke up. "Did I... ever tell you the first time I saw you?"
She shook her head, though he knew she probably remembered the incident. She leaned her head on her palm, and Eli copied the gesture as he spoke.
"I had, you know, seen you on the Kino recordings Camille had me look over, but the first time I actually saw you was after the others got dropped off. After Riley..." Died. Like Ginn had. Like Eli was about to. Death. So close. "We were in the cafeteria and nobody was really talking, but then they brought you all in. It was the first time you got to eat with the rest of us. You all split up - Varro, you and the little one, Koz, took a table, while Simeon and his meathead friends took another. We just watched, you know, as you ate and talked to each other like normal people, even though it hadn't even been two weeks since you were shooting at us, heh... Then Greer said something about not trusting you all. And I remembered something Riley said at breakfast the day before. That you were human beings, that you deserved to be treated as such, and that's what he believed, even though we made fun of him for it. I looked over at your table, and you were there. You... smiled at me."
Ginn smiled, a different one than she used back then. Back then, her smile was supposed to be disarming, supposed to convey that she wasn't a bad guy, and that she was just as relieved to be alive as anybody else. The smile she used since getting to know Eli better was warm, was knowing, was something that he wanted to wake up to every morning... and he had, for every morning he had left since reviving her.
"I remember," she said quietly. "I remember being so relieved to be there. This is Destiny, a place I'd only dreamed of when I was young... And I wasn't being forced to go to another planet like the others. I wasn't going to be abandoning this ship. I made this choice to end things when I shot Dannic, and it worked. More than I could've possibly imagined."
"I feel the same," Eli said. "I made a choice. I got you back for these last few days, and I..."
She knew, and she didn't have to say anything to let him know that she did.
They were quiet for a while, listening to the soft hum of the ship. Eli's stomach grumbled in protest, however, so he ate a small breakfast from what little he had left and booted up his laptop to work on his documentary.
The laptop died before he could get passed the loading screen.
"Battery ran out," he said to Ginn. "It just died."
One day, six hours, forty-nine minutes, and he hadn't finished his documentary.
"Eli?" Ginn asked, with twenty-two hours left on Eli's internal countdown.
"Yeah?" he rapsed out. The air was getting near impossible to breathe in deeply, and talking took effort. He found himself wrapped in his blanket and leaning against a wall, the sheer effort of doing anything else beyond him at present.
"What's going to happen to me when you're gone?"
"The power drain will be too much for the system, so..."
"I'll go back to quarantine."
She said nothing.
"But I can... Leave instructions. To Rush, when he wakes up. The ship will go into a power down mode as it drifts towards the nearest star to recharge. Rush can use that time to fully separate Perry from her corruption, if I leave him instructions on exactly how to do it. He can preserve both of you intact, and you'll still live. If the chance comes, you'll still could get a body somewhere down the line. You've still got a chance."
"Don't make me beg," he joked. "Everything will work out for you."
"Eli, you could still... join me."
He shook his head sadly. "The chair's in a lockout because of Perry's simulation, and I don't enough time to work around it, and even then, the power surge that would happen when I upload myself would be too much on what they need."
Ginn knew this, and Eli could tell. But she still wanted to say it.
Eli sighed and leaned his head back against the wall, babbling, "The chair... That chair... Franklin sat in that chair, and he just... disappeared. He disappeared after Spencer killed himself. I didn't like Spencer. Kinda scary. But Spencer died after Gorman got shredded, and that happened after Palmer and Curtis got stranded, and that happened after Chloe's dad died... One long chain. From Franklin to Rivers, and then that one guy whose name I don't remember, then Riley... And you. I was so happy when you came back, you know. I can't even... So happy. We got you out of Chloe, but Rush and Perry ruined it. Rush sat in that chair. That freakin' chair, and you were gone."
"I'm here now Eli."
"I know, but that chair..."
The chair. It was a neural interface. Real-time updates moved from the chair to the ship's computer, a similar system to the stasis pods.
Eli stood, and immediately grabbed hold of the nearby console to steady himself. "Twenty-one hours and forty minutes. I can do it."
"Do what, Eli?" Ginn asked, frowning in uncertainty.
Eli's eyes were alight, and he grinned. "I can live."
Ginn looked hopeful, as if daring to believe that, after the past few days of despair Eli had been in, he had an idea. "How?"
"The neural interface of the chair sends updates via a buffer, a lot like the stasis pods. The framework is right there."
"But the chair is an interface with the ship's computer, Eli. The pods weren't built for that. The only information the pods were built to transmit were status updates, not entire consciousnesses."
"Right right, exactly. We don't need that, but if we take the framework, we can divert it to the pod, and I can use my bypass program to activate the stasis."
Ginn nodded as he explained, her brow creased in that way Eli noticed she did when trying to solve a difficult problem. "I can remove the buffer and transfer what you'll need."
"But I need to get past Rush's lockout manually." Eli typed a familiar sequence, and the console in front of him indicated the air had been let back into the corridor outside. He mentally did the math: twenty-one hours and twenty minutes, and it would continue to tick down as long as there was air.
So he ran. He bolted out of his control room and ran towards for the chair room, and when he got there, Ginn was waiting by the main terminal.
"It's there for you," she said.
Eli nodded his thanks and passed by the chair on his way to the console. The math was hard, the light-headedness harder, but Eli had worked well under pressure before. It was no different than working with a lack of air like when he first arrived, no different than the pitched battles with aliens or drones or the incursion and the white dwarf, or even dipping the ship into a blue supergiant.
It was doable. The framework was there, and he moved the consciousness uploading parts aside with varied algorithms. He was in his element, typing away at the main console while the hours dropped off from his countdown.
"It's done!" he exclaimed with nineteen hours and thirty-something minutes left. "It's done!"
But Ginn was frowning. "Transferring it will cost power, and it will take time. The systems tied around the chair are tied in to the computer itself, and separating it for use in the stasis chamber..."
"How many hours?" Eli asked.
"More than we have."
Eli swore internally, tapping his fingers against the console angrily. "Then shut down life support."
"Just do it. I should have enough time to get into a suit."
"But if you-"
"I'll be fine." He stood, and was halfway out of the room when the air started to hiss out slowly. "Start the transfer!"
And he was running again, heading down familiar corridors and doors opening while a small pocket of air travelled with him as he did. At his command, Ginn turned off the artificial gravity, and Eli floated down the corridors weightlessly, eventually swimming his way to the suit lab. He slammed the door control with his fist, and could hear Ginn's encouraging voice in his ear, telling him to put a suit on, and put one on fast.
It was hard, he'd never done it alone before, and the lack of gravity exacerbated things, but he got into the suit and managed to get his helmet on, taking deep breaths the moment he sealed it. The life support outside the suit finally petered out, and he just stood for a moment, breathing in precious air again.
"Never. Again," he groused, and soft laughter filled his ears. "Ginn?"
"The power it'll take to appear to you will be wasted," her voice said. "But I'm tapping into the suit's communications. I'll be here the entire time."
Eli smiled, even though he knew she couldn't see it. "Thanks. The transfer?"
"It's working Eli, it really is. The buffer has been deleted, and the new framework is fitting in..."
"But not perfectly I take it? Square peg, round hole?"
"I think, though I am a little confused with the analogy."
He laughed, and began his journey back to the control room.
He didn't know how long it took for him to float his way to the stasis chamber, but by the time he did, the transfer had been completed.
"We did it," he breathed happily. "We did it." The feeling of relief, of a returning confidence and the feeling that he was alive again was almost too much, the warmth in his stomach pressing down on him. He whooped in sheer joy.
"You did it," Ginn's voice corrected him. "You did it."
"Thank you, so much..."
"It's not over yet, Eli," she warned. "You still need to work in your bypass."
But that was nothing to Eli, and even though his gloved hands had trouble typing properly, he still uploaded the bypass to the framework, and ran several successful diagnostics. It was perfect, and it was about to get better.
"The framework here..." he said, talking to Ginn's disembodied voice. "It's the chair's."
"And it can be modified, fixed and... I can get around the lockout Rush and Perry accidentally set the chair in! Do you know what this means? The pod can be adapted. It can work a simulated reality. And when I'm in there, I can be with you."
"I know, Eli, I do," she replied. "I saw it the moment you took the framework, but... I can't be in there with you for three years."
Eli sighed. "Because of the power."
"I need to go back to quarantine, Eli. Perry too."
"You're nearly done, Eli. Right now is the best time."
"This is goodbye."
"But not for good."
It was the first real goodbye they ever had. Eli had wished her luck before she went off to Earth by using the stones, she had been strangled by Simeon hours later, and he never got to say goodbye. Their second goodbye was cut off by Perry, the potential for any goodbye shattered and the last words she said to him an instruction for him to do what he had to do: block her from him. But this time... Even after he thought he was going to die, even after he got her back... She would have to go, and when he woke up again, the power would be back to full, and Perry would be harder to marginalise.
"I'll find a way to fix it," he said determinedly. "It took nearly two weeks, but I fixed this, didn't I? I can do it. Rush'll want Perry back, and if we can take control away from her, we can separate you, get you into the ship's memory again... And then I'll use the pod, and we can be together."
He could almost feel Ginn's smile, the warmth of her breath on his ear as her voice spoke. "I would love that."
"But for now..."
"You know what to do, Eli."
He tapped a few buttons on the console, bringing up her program and the quarantine section. "I... I'll miss you."
"I know," her voice whispered. A flicker of something appeared in his vision, and he could see her standing in front of him, through the suit's helmet. Vibrant red hair shining, a sweet smile gracing her face... She was so close, and yet, so far.
He hit one button, and the console beeped its affirmative.
She disappeared, and he was alone again.
But it wasn't the loneliness of before. It wasn't the despair and shot self-confidence. It was what he felt when he looked from the observation deck, smiling at the powerful rush of FTL, the lights and the beauty, remembering all he had done and all he could still do. In less than two weeks, he had done it. He had proven that he could do it, and more than that, he could still save Ginn when he awoke.
But now, it was time to go to sleep.
More button-pushing, and Eli made his way over to his stasis pod, muttering, "See you soon," to everybody else on the way.
He fixed the calibration to factor in the weight of his suit, stepped into his pod, and tapped a sequence on the suit's wrist control panel.
Nothing happened. The doors wouldn't close.
"Oh right," he said, remembering that he hadn't factored the doors themselves in with the stasis bypass or the chair's framework. He reached down to trip the circuit manually, the same one that would shut the doors. He was half-crouching when they closed, and stayed like that as the hiss of the stasis started up. He recalled the feeling of Ginn as he closed his eyes, hoping for pleasant dreams...
In three years, two months, one week, four days, nineteen hours and twenty seconds, the air would begin to repressurise in every stasis chamber. One second after that, and the stasis would begin to deactivate. After another ten seconds, a groggy crew would awaken. The doors would open, they would step out and find themselves in a new galaxy, the ship drifting for the nearest star to recharge its power reserves and continue the path the seed ships had chosen, the accumulation of knowledge and greater understanding continuing on for years to come. The crew of the Destiny would keep on fighting, keep on their journey, and Eli would be one of them.
It would be two weeks after Eli awoke when he saw Ginn again, and those two weeks would be some of the hardest in his life.
But, ultimately, it would be worth it.
It would always be worth it.
Post-Story Author's Note: The finale was great, and I loved it for it was. Endlessly bittersweet, but perfectly circular to the first episode, even though it had been written and shot before the hammer came down and the show was killed. A big shame, and I wanted this fanfiction to reflect the loss more than anything else. I put in a lot of references to the great story that had been told, specifically choosing Eli as my main character simply because his arc was the most fulfilling, and more than anything, I wanted to break him, to test him, and give him the ultimate reward: access to Ginn, who he lost too many times than he should've.
Thank you all for reading. I might do more SGU fics, continuation stories most likely, as time goes on, but we'll see. Again, thanks.