By Joan Powers
A/N: Originally, I hadn't planned to continue this story but I came up with some fun ideas to play with.
Timeline: Post series ending, sequel to my story "Faith"
Summary: Eden Advance learns more about the former occupants of the compound while Danziger struggles for direction.
"How'd it go?" Julia asked. Her pupils remained focused upon the computer screen before her which displayed indecipherable symbols.
Alonzo took off his gloves and heavy coat then sank onto a nearby cot. "I'm not sure."
She turned away from her task. "What do you mean?"
Alonzo and Danziger had just returned from investigating a Terrain cave the kids had stumbled onto while exploring earlier in the week. The men had wanted to ensure this particular group meant them no harm.
"Nothing's wrong with the Terrains. As I suspected, with this snowy weather, they're hibernating. They're not going to bother us. I tried to dream with one but I didn't feel like I was connecting."
"Then what's bothering you?"
Should he tell her what he'd seen? Or maybe he was making too much of what he'd witnessed.
"What?" Julia asked, curiosity peaked.
Alonzo paused, not sure how to proceed.
"What is it? Is there something strange about the Dream Plane here?"
"Danziger?" Julia half-laughed. Everyone knew there was no love lost between the gruff mechanic and the enigmatic natives of G889. She couldn't imagine him wanting to have much to do with them.
The pilot reluctantly nodded.
Noting the slump of his shoulders, she turned her chair in order to grab his hands in hers. "What happened?" she asked, more softly.
He took a breath. "Danziger asked me to leave him alone in the caves for a few minutes."
Julia's eyebrows rose.
"I waited. And waited. Finally…I took a peek inside the chamber."
He couldn't do it justice with words. "He…he had his palm on a sleeping Terrain."
Trying to make sense of it, Julia considered, "I suppose it's not that unusual. Didn't Devon tell us the penal colonists used to communicate with people back on the Stations that way? Though, it is Danziger and I have no idea who he'd be trying to contact… Maybe that's what he was trying to do."
"You didn't see his face."
Or hear him calling her name. That guttural moan was lodged in his skull.
"He's trying to contact Devon," Julia realized.
The pilot sighed.
About six weeks ago, even though Devon's body had been left behind in a stasis chamber on Franklin and Elizabeth's ship, Danziger claimed that her subconscious had managed to make contact with his mind. Although it had sounded crazy, she'd warned them to leave the caves where they'd established their winter camp. She'd given them instructions which had led them to discover the compound in which they were currently residing.
"I don't think it worked."
"Oh," Julia murmured.
No one had a clue how this so-called link had been established. Some members of Eden Advance had even questioned Danziger's sanity when he'd reluctantly shared Devon's dire message with them. Even though the discovery of this compound had been beneficial for Eden Advance, some were still keeping John Danziger under close scrutiny. If someone like Morgan Martin were to hear of what had just transpired in the Terrain caves, he'd sink his teeth into it and never let go.
"Did he say anything about it?" Julia asked.
"Danziger? He's not much for talking."
"Should we be concerned?"
Danziger was their close friend. And their acting leader.
Alonzo responded cautiously, "I think he's okay. Let's just keep an eye on him."
The mysterious compound concealed within the mountainside had decided advantages over our former winter camp in the abandoned Terrian caves. With generators, heat, electrical lights and furnishings, it was far more comfortable. Despite occasional water leaks given its location, it felt more like the Stations than any tent had. It was a god send. It provided Eden Advance with much needed food, shelter and supplies. Yet, even more important, it promoted a renewed sense of purpose for the group, especially given the interminable dark days and subzero temperatures of winter.
The symbols displayed on material, food supplies and computers were foreign to us. While some members of Eden Advance searched the vast compound for signs of the former occupants, others embarked upon the ambitious project of decoding their language. Morgan and I headed our efforts to work our way from labels on objects from food to medical supplies to painstakingly uncover the Rosetta Stone. Baines and Cameron had a surprising aptitude for this task as well. Others, such as Danziger, were irritated beyond belief by such work. They spent their time searching computer files for schematics of instruments or other recognizable items, or tinkering with the instrumentation found about the complex. Anything to learn more about the mysterious former inhabitants.
Who had built this compound?
And for what purpose?
"Who do you think they were?" True asked her father as he pulled a chair up to the table to join the group already seated there.
He didn't need to ask whom she was referring to. Other than New Pacifica (and Devon's illness which people only whispered about), there was only one other hot topic of conversation.
"I don't know, True-girl."
"Couldn't they have been another group from the Stations?" True asked.
Uly was sitting beside her, playing with his soup rather than eating it.
"We're been through this before," Yale replied. "Whoever lived here was similar to us. But not identical. The berths for bedding are slightly longer and wider. The chair seats are more generous. Even the computer keyboards are better suited for larger hands. The clothing we found suggests a similar biology, only slightly larger."
"Couldn't it have been the Terrains?" True asked.
"It's highly doubtful. Their bodies don't fit the dimensions of the furniture and clothing we've found here. The Terrains are significantly taller. As far as we know, they have no need for a written language. The computers, the generators, the boxes of packaged items are all manufactured goods. We've seen no evidence of that activity on this planet, nor have we seen Terrains using such things."
"It still could be humans," Uly pointed out. "Chinese people might look like aliens to us if we hadn't seen them before. In general, people of that origin tend to be smaller. But they're definitely human."
Yale grinned, pleased to hear from his charge who'd been so quiet for so long. "That's right, Uly. But I have access to all the written languages on Earth over several centuries and these symbols aren't in my data base."
Uly stubbornly stuck with his theory. "Maybe they evolved on a parallel Earth."
Yale chuckled. "While that's an interesting suggestion, there's no evidence to support it. Otherwise we would've been traveling there to start a colony rather than twenty-six light years away from the only home we've ever known."
Uly frowned while Yale patted his shoulder.
"The similarities are…uncanny," Bess said. "I just don't see how these people could exist in the universe without our knowledge."
"Yeah. Even the principles behind the technology are the same," True said.
"They seem to be a lot like us," Bess stated.
"Careful, Bess," Yale cautioned. "It's easy to bias your observations."
"Their computers resemble ours. They have sleeping quarters with bunks. They have a mess hall for eating. They even have a sick bay!" Bess insisted.
"While we've seen rooms we can attribute those purposes to, that doesn't mean the original inhabitants used them as such," Yale replied.
"What about the doll we found?" Bess reminded him. "It's a kid's toy. A kid's toy would resemble her."
"Not necessarily. Ancient voodoo dolls were created for a far different purpose than play. And what about rag dolls?"
"A rag doll looks more like me and you than a Terrain does," Bess teased.
"Why do you think they were here?" True asked.
"Our best guess – the same reason we are. Building a new home. We believe the computers house information they've gathered from about the planet," Yale explained.
"Why did they leave?" True wondered.
Danziger shrugged. "Don't know. Maybe they couldn't handle the cold."
Those gathered about the table laughed ruefully.
"Are they coming back?" True's lips trembled as she meet her father's eyes.
"We'll be long gone before they do," Danziger assured her.
"Unless you get another psychotic…er…psychic message from beyond that we're supposed to stay here instead," Morgan snidely commented as he approached the group.
"What else have you gotten?" Danziger asked, impatiently.
Julia looked up from her computer screen. Three days ago, Morgan and Yale had finally cracked the language code and devised a program to convert individual computer files to English. Julia had slowly been converting files she hoped might contain pertinent medical information.
"I've uncovered some medical records. The similarities of their physiology to ours are astounding. Yet there are marked differences-"
Danziger interrupted, "Nothing about diseases on this planet?"
"Danziger, there are hundreds of data files on this computer alone. Right now I'm concentrating on converting and scanning the ones that seem promising. This is a long, slow process that takes time," Julia reminded him.
"Speaking of time." Morgan entered the room. "Shouldn't we be organizing a scouting party? The days are getting longer."
"Are you nuts? We just broke the code. There's still snow on the ground. Let's learn more about what we're dealing with," Danziger answered.
"Do you think that's wise?"
Irritated, Danziger responded, "Why not? We've spent weeks trying to crack this language. We could learn a lot from their data. After all that work, don't you want to cash in on it?"
"Well, we lingered around Franklin and Elizabeth's ship too long and look where that got us," Morgan stated.
Julia glared at Morgan for bringing up such a traumatic time. No one in Eden Advance had been eager to make decisions then. And even if they had started on their way to New Pacifica sooner, there had been no guarantee that they would've completed the journey before winter had arrived.
Barely reigning in his annoyance, Danziger ignored him.
Morgan continued, "This could be something but isn't getting to New Pacifica our top priority? We could at least send out a small scouting team to prepare our route."
Julia replied, "That sounds reason-"
Nearly losing his temper, Danziger shouted, "I'll decide when we're leaving. We'll scout when I say so." He stormed out of the room.
Once Danziger was out of earshot, Morgan said to Julia, "Should he really be the one making that decision?"
"Danziger! Danziger!" Julia called, rushing down the hallway. Catching up to him, she asked, "What was that all about?"
"As infuriating as Morgan can be, he does have a valid point. Interpreting this much information is an enormous project. It could take years to put the pieces together."
Danziger didn't respond.
"Are you okay?"
Julia had noticed that the blonde mechanic had been more short-tempered than usual. Over the past week during the course of a conversation, his concentration seemed off. She'd assumed it was due to the fact that they were all working so hard on learning about the compound and whoever had resided there.
"I'm fine," he insisted. "Nothing a good night's sleep won't cure."
"Do you need a sleep aid?"
Julia wasn't fully convinced that would help but prying wasn't going to work. Maybe she needed to enlist Alonzo's assistance.
Danziger stubbornly repeated, "No. I'm fine."
But he wasn't.
After putting some distance between he and Julia, he ducked into an open doorway, slamming the door shut behind him then leaning against it. It was only a supply closet but it offered a modicum of privacy that the communal rooms couldn't.
Was Morgan right? Was he becoming irrational?
The fact that he was even considering that man's opinion frightened him. Even his staunch ally Julia was growing concerned about him.
What was going on?
Morgan's suggestion had stirred up so much resistance within him that he hadn't even considered what he had to say. Danziger was all for getting on the road to New Pacifica. He had no desire to bump into whatever creatures had formerly lived there.
So why did leaving this complex suddenly seem so wrong?
Sending out a scout was a reasonable idea. Why hadn't he come up with it himself?
He was having trouble concentrating. If he could just get a good night's sleep. That would account for it. That would explain his irritability and loss of focus. Like he told Julia, a good night's rest and he'd be fine.
Then why did you refuse the sediderm?
He ignored the question, not wanting to face the answer.
Besides, he should be sleeping great. Devon hadn't barged in on his dreams for almost two months. It was a relief not to feel so exposed. Talk about feeling vulnerable and foolish. In that odd state of limbo, she'd known his thoughts and feelings. He'd felt as if he'd been stripped naked and laid out on display for all to see. It had been humiliating. He'd hated being so intimately linked to her. Thank goodness that was over.
Then why did he miss her?
Every time he closed his eyes, he tentatively searched for her. Hell, three weeks ago he'd even put his hand on a Terrain in a pathetic attempt to reach her. Thankfully Alonzo hadn't said anything. Yet.
The last time they'd met in that bizarre manner, Devon had felt certain that they wouldn't come into contact again. Although it had made him sad, he'd had a sense of peace about it. It had been enough – to know some part of her was still alive, to know that she cared so much for him. Just thinking about it had encouraged him – those waves of love and warmth enveloping him. It had been a heady sensation. One he'd never experienced to that extent.
So why had that sense of peace been gradually eroding?
Lately every time he closed his eyes, he waited. He fought sleep, for fear that might be the night she'd try to make contact. He couldn't miss that.
Why was he struggling now?
It had been rough leaving her in that chamber on Franklin and Elizabeth's ship but he'd handled it. He was a man who didn't let his emotions get the best of him. Why did it seem like that was happening now? Why was his sense of loss growing worse?
Because he hadn't known that she'd felt the same way about him.
Yet, there was even more to it. Devon's message leading them to this compound hadn't been mere chance. By all rights they should've froze to death and died from exposure that night. The odds against them accidently stumbling across this compound by mere chance were astronomical. Yet they'd found it. The more he thought about it, the more convinced he became that Eden Advance had been directed here for an express purpose.
He didn't trust the diggers. Never had, never would. But Devon had an almost child-like faith when it came to them. She'd been drawn to this planet via Sheppard's messages. Upon their arrival, the Terrains had healed her child. Were they now reaching out to help Eden Advance?
Was it too much of a stretch to entertain the notion that the Terrains might be on their side?
Why was he even thinking that way? It went against everything Danziger held dear. But once the alien symbols had been decoded and they'd started translating the computer files, the seed of hope had germinated within him. One of those files must hold the cure for Devon. That had to be why they'd been brought there. It was an enormous mountain of data but they wouldn't have to go through every last file. As inexplicably as they'd been guided to the compound, in a similar fashion they'd be directed to the relevant data.
Why didn't Julia and Morgan see that?
And that was…insane.
If he only could somehow re-establish the link with Devon – to get some direction. But when it came to meta-physical matters, Danziger was in way over his head. What could he do? He worried a sediderm would only knock him out for an entire night. His experimentation with hibernating Terrains had been fruitless. Should he enlist Julia's assistance? Maybe she could give him a compound which might create a deeper meditative state. Or would she confirm what he feared – that he was losing his mind?
Why was he even considering this?
Every time he banished this inane line of thought, new embers flickered then reignited. John Danziger was a realist. People let you down and miracles didn't happen, especially not for men like him. But after experiencing one miracle, was it unrealistic to expect another?
Would anyone understand? Even though Devon's warning had panned out, Morgan continued to ride him and Baines, Walman and Magus were keeping a close eye on him. Yet he didn't hold that against them. Hell, under the circumstances, if it had happened to anyone else, he'd be doing the same. Did he really want to add fuel to that fire? Especially lacking proof of any kind?
Could Planet G889 be on their side after all?
"That's not right," True shouted.
"Yes is it," Uly insisted. "I was standing right here."
Danziger glared at Yale, annoyed to be called away from his work for what appeared to be moderating a kids' squabble.
"Children," Yale cautioned. He motioned for Danziger to join them. "One more time. I want you to tell me exactly what happened."
"We were playing hide and seek," True started.
That would explain how they found this place. Most of Eden Advance hadn't ventured this far back into the vast complex which was concealed beneath the mountain. The large room had a high ceiling, unlike other parts of the building. The floor was painted oddly with a red bulls-eye in the center. Instruments resembling lamps resided in the four corners. Baines and Walman were examining circuit panels that lined one side of the room.
"Then I bumped into that red button." Uly pointed.
Losing patience, Danziger asked, "What's going on?"
"When Uly ran across the room to hide his gear set fell on the floor," True said.
"Uly," Danziger cautioned. Gear sets were in short supply. They couldn't afford to be careless.
"Where exactly did it fall?" Yale asked.
Uly pointed to the red symbol on the floor located in the center of the room.
"Well, it's not there now," Danziger grumbled.
"Then what happened?" Yale asked the children.
"I told you. I heard True coming so I ran across the room, thinking I could hide behind the instrument counsel. Then I bumped into the red button."
"It wasn't the red one!" True claimed.
"How do you know?"
"I was watching you the whole time, silly. It was the yellow one."
More intently, Yale asked, "Are you sure?
"So you saw it too? The energy surge?" Yale asked.
A chill ran through Danziger.
"It was like a lightning bolt appeared out of nowhere and took the gear," True replied.
"Where did it appear to come from?" Yale asked.
"I…don't know. It just happened then went away in a matter of seconds. And the gear was gone," True answered. "But it was the yellow button."
"No, the red!"
"Enough, children. Go play somewhere else now."
Once they'd left, the men gathered to speak.
"This doesn't sound right," Danziger said. Damaging or losing a gear set was a pretty serious offense. One serious enough that even the most honest kid might feel tempted to come up with a crazy story.
Yale was speaking intently with Walman and Baines. "Is this possible?"
Danziger felt his stomach knot as he recognized Yale was deadly serious. There was more to this than he'd realized. "What is it?"
"We have reason to believe this may be a transporter device," Yale explained.
"Our instruments have independently confirmed there was a brief power surge in this room when Uly and True claim the gear disappeared," Walman confirmed.
Danziger was still having trouble accepting the idea. "C'mon, kids lose things all the time."
"John, they both saw it happen," Yale insisted.
"There's more. I've been doing some translating. I haven't gotten very far but this symbol definitely means 'portal'." Baines explained, gesturing to the panel.
"To where?" Yale asked.
"Another location on this planet?" Baines suggested.
"Possible but doubtful. A civilization as advanced as this would be hard to conceal. We would've noticed it as we orbited," Yale said.
"Unless it's hidden underground, like this building is concealed within the mountain," Baines answered.
"You may have a point there," Yale reluctantly admitted.
"What about another planet?" Walman's voice waivered on the final word.
"C'mon, there's no one but us out here. We have no records of any alien life other than that on this planet," Baines stated.
"The Council wasn't exactly forthcoming with that information either," Walman reminded them.
"What about another dimension?" Yale asked.
Danziger started to laugh.
"John, are you okay?"
Despite his efforts, the laughter continued to build. He could see Yale, Baines and Walman staring at him, alarm growing in their eyes, but he couldn't stop.
"Danziger? You okay?"
He opened his eyes to find himself lying on a bunk in the med center. His temples throbbed, he felt awful. The ever-present bright fluorescent lights had been turned off with only a lumalight providing dim illumination.
Why was he here?
Alonzo was sitting on a chair by his side.
"My head," He rubbed the side of his face.
"We're worried about you."
Even dimly aware, Danziger knew that couldn't be good.
"I'm okay." He tried to rise but Alonzo stopped him.
"Rest. Doctor's orders. Julia will tie you to this bunk if you try anything."
Danziger believed it. Besides, he didn't feel like going anywhere. He was exhausted.
"What do you remember?"
It came back to him all too quickly, along with a tightness in his gut. A portal. Those aliens could pop in on them at any time, unannounced. Although they had learned from the files they'd decoded that the aliens, which they'd named the Saurons, closely resembled humans physically, they had no clue about their values and social structure. Even though they'd invested considerable time and energy studying Planet G889, their purpose was unknown. Were they a peaceful race? Or one set on conquering then domination?
Were they even in the picture at all? Maybe they'd gotten what they wanted then left.
Or had Planet G889 rejected them according to Elizabeth's dire prediction?
But that wasn't the worst part for Danziger. That wasn't what had triggered his extreme reaction.
"They want us to get rid of the portal so the Saurons won't return. Damn diggers – don't even do their own dirty work. Always looking out for themselves."
He'd been a fool to believe that the Terrains had anything other than their own selfish goals to advance. They'd brought them here for a purpose, alright. Just not the one he'd so fervently hoped for. And now he was scaring Alonzo.
"You might be jumping to conclusions. This technology could be useful for us. We might be able to harness it like those spider tunnels to a make a quick trip to New Pacifica," Alonzo suggested.
"Are you crazy? We have no idea where that gear set went. All we know is that it disappeared."
"Umm…We retrieved it," Alonzo sheepishly admitted.
"Baines and Walman figured out how to activate the controls."
Danziger tried to sit up again but was still groggy from the sediderm Julia had injected him with. "Are you nuts? Do you want them to know we're here? You're sending them a message loud and clear. We have no idea what we're dealing with. They could be royally pissed that we took over their place."
While the Terrains were a pain in the neck with their cryptic messages and bizarre concepts, with the amount of technology the Saurons possessed, they could be a formidable enemy.
"We're just experimenting with instruments to try to document what's on the other side."
"We don't know what we're dealing with, Alonzo. The Saurons could be hostile.
And god only knows where that portal leads to."
"What's going on?" Alonzo asked. "You haven't seemed like yourself lately."
"Not you too," Danziger grumbled.
"It's not like that. I believe you experienced what you described with Devon. I've been through too much myself on this planet not to believe you. I just think the experience might have affected you more than you're letting yourself believe."
Danziger wasn't going to touch that.
"Sometimes hiding your feelings only makes them harder to deal with," Alonzo said. "Acknowledging them can make all the difference in the world.'
Danziger sighed, convinced the former pilot didn't know what he was talking about. Addressing his feelings about Devon wouldn't change a thing about their situation.
"What do you think of this transporter, 'Lonz?"
"I don't know. That's why we're trying to get more information so we can make better decisions. That's all."
"Better post a guard or Zero in that section. I don't want any surprises."
"Already done. We don't have to make any decisions right away."
But soon they would.
After Alonzo left, Danziger closed his eyes, thinking about the situation. What should they do?
Devon had been so convinced that the Terrains had their best interests in mind. She'd almost convinced him too. While destroying the portal might suit the diggers' interests, he wasn't sure what would benefit Eden Advance. Perhaps the Saurons, with similar physiology and technology, would be valuable allies. Pooling their information about the planet could help with their survival. They might even be able to help them cure Devon. But that was a lot of ifs.
The safest option would be to walk away. Yet his emotions warred with that idea. Regardless of his sense of betrayal, part of him still believed the answer to Devon's cure could be here. Yet it might take months or even years to process all the data to form some coherent picture.
The prospect of meeting the Saurons scared the hell out of him. It had taken him long enough to get used to the alien life on this planet. Would the Saurons be sympathetic to their plight? Were they an ally worthy of befriending? Had they left with no intention of returning?
Why couldn't he make a decision?
He'd hated Devon telling him to accept what she'd asked of him on blind faith. It had been beyond humiliating to tell the group. Yet at this moment, he was completely blocked. Rather than making a decision based on the available information, he found himself longing for guidance from Devon.
Maybe he was losing his mind.
He shouldn't need mystical signs to make decisions. He was a man used to making hard decisions.
Why couldn't he put his emotions aside? Yet they tugged him in different directions: his rage and sense of betrayal with the Terrains, anger at himself for being foolish enough to believe that the odds might have been in his favor, his intense desire to cure Devon, his deep longing to see her again, his distrust of yet another questionable alien race, along with his primal urge to protect his people at all costs.
What should they do?
He sighed. He was worn out. He'd figure things out later.
Later, he opened his eyes, slightly disgusted that he'd drifted off again. Despite the fact that he'd slept, he still felt woozy. True was now seated beside him.
"Hey, True. You okay?"
He tried to sit up but True objected. "You're supposed to be resting." She reached for his hand and grasped it.
"It's gonna be okay, Dad. We'll figure things out like we always do."
Lacking conviction, he replied, "I know."
"You know, sometimes I get mad when I'm trying to do something. I keep doing it over and over again and I just get madder and madder when I keep making mistakes. It doesn't work very well. Sometimes I have to just stop and take a break. Come back later - you know? It usually works better."
His cheeks grew warm as he assumed she knew about his attempts to reach Devon. Then he realized she could just as easily be referring to making the best decisions for the group.
"It's not just your decision, Dad. Don't you always say, you gotta just make a choice and move on? That you can't think something to death?"
"Yeah." He was impressed that she'd remembered. Too bad he was having trouble taking his own advice.
"It'll be okay. Just get some rest and everything will be fine." She stroked his hand.
Devoid of energy, he closed his eyes. He felt empty, he couldn't think about any of it right now. He allowed himself to drift.
Then, just as he was about to fall asleep, he felt it. It was nothing like the full blown effect: the strong emotional sensations or the brilliant light. It was just a feeling - a faint twinge. She was there.
It was enough to keep him going.
Tomorrow they'd discuss what to do about the portal.
THE END (?)