A/N: Multi-chapter fic headed your way. Enjoy!


I remember lonely and
what it tasted like before
your name took root in my throat,
before everything reminded me of your mouth.
I don't know how I lived that way…

—Warsan Shire


They were running, despite the fact that she could barely move from her injuries. Bower was half-carrying her, half-supporting her, and the sound of rushing water was everywhere; it was the Tanisian ocean—they were underwater, they had been all this time—flooding the Elysium.

Before Nadia knew what was happening the ocean water in the ship was waist-deep, and Bower was lifting her and shoving her roughly up into a lifepod capsule. She struggled ineffectually, fear rising in her throat. "Are you crazy?"

He wrestled her in, climbing in beside her and activating the locking mechanism from outside. The capsule's door shut over them. Nadia began a full-fledged panic.

Bower directed her line of sight with a nod of his head. "You see that?" It was a Hunter, crawling into the lifepod bay room from a ceiling vent, and it had spotted them.

"Fuck him," Nadia spat. Around them, the water that had flowed into the capsule was cold—biting, stinging cold. She shivered, teeth chattering.

The lifepod began to shake as it prepared to launch. Nadia's panic increased exponentially. They were going to be expelled into the ocean depths and die slowly, painfully, by suffocation. It was her worst nightmare, more so than her past few months on the ship. "We need to get out of here!"

"Hold on." Bower held her securely, attempting to pacify her. How the fuck he could be so calm when he'd just experienced a paranoid hallucination on the bridge moments earlier was beyond her comprehension.

"Not like this," she hissed, fighting him with her last ounce of strength. "I can't die like this!" Like an animal in a cage. If I'm to die, she'd already thought a million times since she'd first woken up on the ship, it will be fighting—it will be while slashing with my knife at the belly of the beast.

But he was relentless; he held her tighter, pulling her into him and throwing her arms around his neck. "Hold on!"

She grappled for purchase in the capsule, her feet slipping against the watery floor, and that was when they heard a thump and a snarl—the Hunter was flattened against the lifepod window as it drowned. The water in the room had reached the ceiling.

And then they launched, the force of it pulling both herself and Bower underwater. The capsule's interior lights shorted out as they surfaced briefly for air, before they were dunked under again. With the motion of the pod and the water sloshing around inside of their capsule, it was impossible to keep their heads above it.

She saw flashes of red light—Bower had cracked a lightstick. He pressed her up against the console's interior, keeping her afloat, and it was then that Nadia realized he was hastily trying to fit a breathing mask over her face.

She fought him again. "No, I can't—"

"Just breathe," Bower said sternly, and she clutched at his arm as he fit the mask over her nose and mouth. "Breathe!"

Nadia breathed, and inhaled deeply the paralysis-inducing drugs in the capsule's ventilation system, designed to send the passenger into immediate hyper-sleep.

She awoke on the surface of Tanis, floating on the water in their open capsule as a makeshift boat, Bower's arm supporting her.

"Just breathe," he said again, and she coughed water as she gasped for air.

And it was air, not the stale stench of the ship, but fresh, clean air—something she couldn't even remember from Earth. Perhaps they weren't meant to remember their lives before the Elysium and before Tanis. To live new lives, they would have to wipe the slate completely clean and start anew. Perhaps it was better that way anyway, as their homeland was gone forever.

Bower's hand cradled the back of her neck. His tone had gone strangely quiet and gentle. "It's safe to wake up, now," he said, his voice croaking slightly.

She lifted her eyes to meet his. He had put her briefly to sleep during their painful ascent to the surface, and had held his own breath underwater the entire time. He'd sacrificed his air for hers. He'd saved them both. Nadia felt the corners of her lips shakily turning upward, even as she still panted with disorientation.

The landscape of Tanis was spread out as far as they could see—the beach, the cliffs, the waterfall runoff from a higher-altitude lake. Two nearly-full moons hung like transparent ghosts in the still-lit sky. It was like something out of a dream; she was sure she'd never seen anything as beautiful.

And then another lifepod from the Elysium suddenly popped up beside them, breaking the surface of the waves. And then another. And yet another.

The breach of the ship's hull had activated the remainder of the active hyper-bunks, and ejected them to the surface.

Bower smiled—the first time she'd ever seen him do so genuinely, where it reached his eyes—and he ducked his head, pressing his forehead against hers as they watched their fellow colonists all around them awakening from over nine hundred years of sleep.


It had been relatively easy to maneuver their capsule to the shore. It had been a little more difficult to swim out to the other hyper-bunk capsules to help the newly-awakened passengers do the same with theirs, but Bower had insisted upon doing so himself while Nadia remained on the beach. The stab wound she'd sustained from the crazed madman in the bowels of the ship ached with what was probably infection from his rusty blade, and it hadn't helped that Gallo had punched her there during their brief scuffle on the bridge. She held her side, pressing her hand against the painful wound as she rummaged through the inside of the capsule.

It was important to salvage everything they could; the lifepods contained emergency medical supplies, rations, and compartmentalized basic survival equipment like blankets, clothing and even camping gear designed to weather harsh climates. The hyper-bunks had been designed to allow them to crash-land on the surface of a planet and at least give them a fighting chance, in a worst-case scenario.

Having finally gotten out of the ship, Nadia decided their scenario had just taken a turn for the better. For the moment, at least.

The others that had awakened were still disoriented, still shaking from the effects of their extended hyper-sleep, with wobbly movements as they peeled the gelatinous layers of excess skin from their bodies and faces. Nadia saw from a distance as Bower swam from capsule to capsule, speaking briefly to each passenger and moving on to the next. It was probably his military training that enabled him to press on in the face of what had to be certain fatigue—she wondered briefly how many hours he'd been awake—but sooner or later she knew his energy would run out and he would crash, and crash hard. Hopefully he'll make it to shore before then.

Her searching hand fell on a medical kit, and with trembling fingers she pried it open and fumbled through it. No injectable antibiotics, but there was some sort of topical stuff. She tore the package open with her teeth and quickly applied some to the wound near her ribcage; it wouldn't stop an infection that had already reached her bloodstream, but it was better than nothing. She would have to find intravenous supplies soon to prevent sepsis.

No sooner than she'd tended to her injury she heard sloshing at the water's edge, and turned to see Bower staggering ashore. His exhaustion was palpable, even from a distance.

He flopped down in a soggy heap beside her in the sand. "…Hey," he panted in greeting. She nodded in return, and he looked at her re-bandaged stab wound. "Are you all right? Did you find anything to treat it?"

"Just some topical," she replied, wincing as she turned to him. "I need to properly clean it and find more antibiotics. Injectables."

"We'll find some, don't worry. I'm sure we have them somewhere." His blue eyes roved over her searchingly as he fought to catch his breath.

There was so much to say to one another, now that they were free of the nightmare they'd experienced—are you all right, too? My God, we made it …how many of us are left?—but instead her natural German reticence kicked in, and all she said to him was a clipped, "You should probably rest for a bit, yourself."

Bower gave her that innocent grin again, and it reminded her of their exchange in the biolab when she'd asked if he were hungry. His response had made her think of a little boy. I'm starving. She wondered exactly how old he was, whether he was a few years younger or older than herself.

"You don't have to worry about me," he said, still with the small crooked smile, "even though it's nice that you do."

At that, she frowned. "You are most likely the highest-ranking surviving officer from the ship…and you now have a lot of people to look after. You need to take care of yourself." She fixed him with as stern a look she could muster over her pain level. "Just keep that in mind."

Bower's expression fell in surprise at her reaction. His confusion was so obvious, his face so open and honest, that Nadia knew then he'd never be able to keep anything from her. She didn't know whether that was necessarily a good or bad thing.

"I just—" he began, hurt evident on his face, "I didn't mean—"

She got to her feet, a bit off-balance. "Of course you didn't," she offered tersely, staggering away from him to put some distance between him and herself, for reasons she didn't want to fully admit to.


Nadia only saw glimpses of Bower for the remainder of the day. She busied herself, as she saw he did, with helping the other survivors. The Tanisian sun was starting to set by the time everyone had made it ashore with their capsules. The metal tubes littered the beach like giant silver coffins; it was ironic, she thought, given that the hyper-bunks were what had ultimately rescued the remaining sleepers.

There were plenty of capsules that contained supplies only, no passengers, and there were plenty of necessities to go around. There were only approximately eleven or twelve hundred people left. Of an original crew of sixty thousand, that was a miniscule percentage—but it was indeed enough to start over. Just with a smaller gene pool instead of a larger one.

There was no one still alive from her own team, so despite her inherent reserve she made it a priority to introduce herself to her fellow colonists. Everyone would have to work together now—not as it had been on the ship, where all were forced to fend for themselves and kill or be killed. Nadia knew the transition would be difficult for her and most likely for Bower as well. They'd been through something horrifyingly traumatic, she for several months, and nearly everyone else who'd survived had slept right through it.

In her efforts to help she had somehow located a passenger with medical expertise, and they'd quickly found her the necessary intravenous antibiotics for her stab wound. It was a good thing she hadn't had to wait too long to treat it—she had noticed the injury had become progressively more painful by the hour. She saw from a distance, as the practitioner re-bandaged her wound with fresh gauze, that Bower had found more surviving officers—flight crew from the ship—amongst the awakened colonists. She wasn't certain at first whether they outranked him or not, as they didn't have their flight uniforms, but she soon realized there was at least one who did as she witnessed Bower pull a quick salute.

So he's not going to be in charge, she thought, with what she recognized was a small sense of relief.

Amidst the other supplies that had washed ashore with the rest of them, there was an ample supply of clean clothes. Most of them still resembled flight suits, but were at least made of a more comfortable and breathable material, mainly cotton synthetics. Nadia found a secluded spot to change, and after her quick rinse in the ocean and a new uniform even she was surprised at how much better she felt. She still needed a proper bath, but with the sun setting it would have to wait until the next day. Food and sleep were more priority than anything else; she was starving and couldn't remember the last time she'd gotten restful sleep in the last several months.

She rejoined the rest of the colonists on the beach. Several had already set up nylon weather-resistant domed shelters a safe distance away from the water's edge; there were more than enough tents to go around. The supplies had accounted for many more surviving the trip.

She was just about to secure her own shelter and a supply of rations for the night, when she was approached by a tall, dark-haired man wearing a crisp new flight suit, like Bower's but with more insignia on it. "Entschuldigen Sie," he said in a terrible German accent, and inclined his head politely. "Dr. Nadia Mueller?"

It felt like forever since she'd been addressed by her full name and title. "…Ja," she replied, before she could stop herself. She shook her head. "I speak English. Yes?"

He extended a hand, and she returned the gesture tentatively. "Sergeant Wilkes. I'm with Flight Team Eight. I believe you're familiar with Corporal Bower, ship's mechanical engineer, Flight Team Five?"

"Yes," she said curtly, nodding and pursing her lips. "Yes."

"I know it's getting late, and we just landed, but I'm going to have to insist that you join us for a debriefing session," he continued, thumbing at a large, white domed tent behind him. Her heart sank. "We need to verify some of Bower's outlandish claims."

Nadia averted her eyes briefly, before looking at Wilkes again and nodding at him. "Yes," she said again, feeling a pit of dread forming in her stomach. "I would imagine you would."


In the tent, which was large enough for several adults to stand at full height, she saw a handful of what were presumably lower-ranked officers seated cross-legged on the cushioned floor mat. They looked up with interest as she entered. Bower was over on the far right, his form slightly hunched over and practically hugging his knees with his arms; he raised his head at her appearance, and she was almost taken aback at the hope that briefly lit up his eyes. He masked it soon afterwards—something he probably wasn't used to, hiding his feelings—and Nadia felt a pang of regret for her earlier treatment of him when they'd washed ashore.

But you did it for a reason, she reminded herself, and fortified her emotional defenses. It was so easy to shut her feelings down now, after her experiences on the ship. They hadn't served her any purpose.

I just need to find out for myself.

"This is Dr. Nadia Mueller," Wilkes announced to the group at large. "She's now the head of Ecological Development and Biological Sciences. She was awake on the ship for the longest of anyone here—she and Corporal Bower escaped the ship together after the hull breach."

Wilkes took a seat near the other officers and gestured to her at the space opposite them. She sat, straightening her back and trying not to look at Bower. The sergeant had picked up a palm computer and was now thumbing through it, most likely pulling up files.

"So, let me get something straight," he began. "You were awake on the ship, for approximately how long—a few months?"

"Five or six months," she replied, a bit clipped. "There was no way to tell exactly."

Wilkes glanced at his file. "And…you had contact with these…these man-eating creatures, these 'Hunters', as Corporal Bower describes them?"

"Yes, several times."

"How did you manage to survive for so long?"

Nadia squared her jaw. "Running. Hiding. Stealing." She shuddered imperceptibly as she recalled the feeling of her bare feet, wrapped in rags, pounding the metal floor grates of the ship as she ran with inhuman screams floating up behind her. "I became very proficient with my knife."

The other officers seemed to nod their approval. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Bower gazing at her thoughtfully.

"Dr. Mueller," Wilkes continued, his stare penetrating, "what exactly were those creatures?"

She dropped her eyes briefly. "It is my belief that they are the descendants of passengers that were let loose on the ship, a long time ago…and that they evolved into what they are because of the allazosartan in our feeding tubes."

"That's the pharmacological name…you're talking about Adaptor, which is the evolution-accelerating enzyme," Wilkes confirmed, and she nodded at the drug's generic name. "Could this have happened on a relatively quick timescale? Like ten, fifty years or so?"

"No." Nadia's eyebrows knit. Hadn't Bower told them how long they had been asleep? "It's fast, but it would take at least centuries…even longer."

The sergeant and the other officers exchanged knowing looks. Bower told them and they don't believe him, she realized.

"Before the hull was breached by Corporal Bower's weapon," she asserted, raising her chin and noticing Bower shift slightly in her peripheral view at the strength in her voice, "we saw the flight computer register the recorded time since Elysium's launch. It has been eight hundred years since our landing on Tanis." She shook her head. "There is no other explanation as to why the reactor was in its final shutdown stages, and how those beings on the ship came to be. It's because nearly a thousand years have passed."

A couple of the lower-ranked officers paled a bit.

Wilkes cleared his throat and sniffed. "In regards to the hull breach—tell us what happened, exactly."

Nadia turned her head to glance at Bower and met his eyes; she saw his throat jerk with a quick swallow. Wilkes' voice drew her attention to him again. "Tell us exactly what you saw."

Now it was her turn to shift uncomfortably. She did not like reminiscing on the details of what had happened a mere twelve hours ago. "When we made it to the bridge, there was already someone there—someone named Gallo, who had masqueraded as Bower's lieutenant." She glanced at him again, and Bower's eyes changed as his lips twitched. "He's the one who broke the flight rotation and set some of the crew loose, trapping them in the bowels of the ship. He left them there to fend for themselves, as he went back into hyper-sleep. He freely admitted this to us."

Wilkes nodded. "Go on."

"He was overcome with this…this space madness, that flight crews have called 'Pandorum'. He began trying to convince Corporal Bower that he would be better off without the chains of his morality." She shifted again as she recalled Bower's eyes during the conflict. "Corporal Bower fought against him, of course. But…"

"But what?"

"There was a moment when his resistance faltered," she admitted, her voice losing its edge and becoming quiet. In her mind, she saw Gallo pressing Bower's head into the armrest of the captain's chair, and Bower's eyes glazing over as he stared at the console on the other side of the bridge. They're coming in.

"Go on, Doctor."

Her gaze became far away. "I attacked Gallo, hoping to break whatever hold he had on Corporal Bower," she went on. "But I had already sustained a crippling injury, and he was very strong. I wasn't a match for him." Gallo wrestling her knife away, and turning it on her to swipe at her, in his frenzy—she dodges him effectively enough and manages to knock her blade out of his hands, but he punches her ruthlessly, lifting her up in the air as he holds her by the neck.

"He incapacitated me and had me at knifepoint, and was about to cut my throat. That was when Corporal Bower discharged the weapon."

"Did he do it to save you?"

Nadia's blood went cold. She had to answer truthfully. She knew now that this wasn't just a debriefing—this was an interrogation, maybe even a court marshal, of Bower.

"No." Her eyes darted away. "He fired it at the console. He…he thought the creatures were coming in through the side panel of the bridge." She caught sight of Bower lowering his head slightly. "It was the ricochet of his weapon that caused the hull breach."

All of the officers, including Wilkes, tightened their lips in unison. "So you confirm that Corporal Bower had succumbed to Pandorum, then."

"…Only momentarily."

Wilkes seemed surprised. "Only for a moment?"

She steeled herself, finding her resolve from somewhere deep inside, and fixed them with an unwavering stare of her own. "He snapped out of his hallucination the moment that he saw the glass from the overhead viewfinder was cracking, directly over where I was on my knees on the floor."

Bower raised his head.

"So you're saying that he regained his senses, brought himself out of the throes of Pandorum, because he saw that you were in danger?" Wilkes asked skeptically.

Nadia nodded, stiffening her back, and raised her chin defiantly.

"Yes."

The sergeant gave Bower a long, calculating look, and then turned his attention back to her. "I certainly hope you're being truthful, Dr. Mueller," he said, his voice low and somewhat menacing. "Pandorum is nothing to trifle with. A single officer under its influence took the lives of over five thousand people during the Eden mission. I would hate to put our fragile new colony at risk because of one man's mental breakdown."

Her jaw worked. "So would I."


The impromptu meeting was adjourned. She exited the tent shortly after, intent on putting distance between herself and the interrogation, the sergeant, Bower, all of it—but someone quickly grabbed her arm once she was outside, holding her back. She didn't even struggle in his grip; she knew it was him. If it had been anyone else, she would have instantly put a blade to their neck.

"—Hey, wait. Wait." Bower's voice cracked slightly. "Nadia, wait."

She stopped in her tracks, turning to face him in the light of makeshift hurricane lamps and torches flickering in the ocean's breeze. His face was earnest and plaintive, his brows knit together in consternation. He swallowed quickly.

"I…I wanted to thank you," he said, his voice low, "for saying what you did, to them."

Nadia pursed her lips, noting that his attention shifted immediately to her mouth. "You don't have to thank me." She glanced at the tent they had just left before looking back into his eyes. "They were going to court marshal you in there, weren't they?"

"If they thought I was some kind of threat, yes, probably." Bower still looked apprehensive.

"What would they have done with you?"

He shrugged. "I have no idea what they think they can do, here on Tanis…it's not as though they can just imprison me somewhere, right?" He half-smiled, attempting to make a joke of it. Nadia flinched.

"You're lucky they don't," she retorted, her eyes hardening. Once more she felt herself doubting, and she turned away again out towards the night.

"—Wait," Bower insisted, holding her arm, and when she looked at his face she saw the agitation there. He looked as though he were struggling to say the right thing to keep her there beside him. "…Where are you going?"

"Food, shelter for the night." Her tone was clipped.

"I have food. My shelter's not far from here." He jerked his head in the direction of it. She balked, still uncertain.

Bower's grip tightened slightly. "Please," he entreated, his tone gentling. "I need to talk to you."

There was that look again in his eyes—the desperate, helpless one she recognized from the ship, when he'd watched her clean her wounds with motor oil; the same one he gave her later after he'd convinced Leland to free them from their chains, but not before the madman had thrust a rusty blade below her ribcage to shut her up. It was a complicated look, with a lot of layers of meaning underneath. She didn't like to analyze it too heavily.

Nadia uneasily lowered her gaze. "…All right, then," she yielded, her voice soft.

He led the way. The surviving colonists had already set up rows upon rows of compact shelters, lined up as neatly as if they were miniature track houses. Apparently no one wanted to venture very far from the group at large—at least, understandably, not on their first night on a new planet. The closeness would make for an interesting lack of personal privacy, she mused.

Then again, it's not as though you're thinking of doing anything remotely considered private with him, she reminded herself, and her inner voice sounded mildly chastising in her own head.

Bower entered first, ducking below the flap at the entrance. When she followed him in she saw that she could stand to full height inside, as she was able to with the sergeant's tent; it was a large enough temporary living space for at least four people, more if absolutely necessary. He'd already secured rations of food and a portable heating stove with a hand-primed generator, as well as the essentials such as sleeping mats and blankets. There were more supplies gathered in the far corner.

"The officers got the first picks of everything," he explained. He brushed past her as she gazed around the tent, and activated a small portable heater on the floor to warm up the enclosed space. The air outside had chilled considerably since sunset. "Are you hungry?"

Despite herself, her mouth quirked at the corners at his question. "Don't tell me—grasshoppers?"

Bower gave a short, barking laugh. "No." He must have hated eating them. "The rations aren't that much better, really, but at least they're not crunchy on the outside and slimy on the inside."

"We're all slimy on the inside," she murmured distractedly, and then bit her lip when she realized what she'd said. Bower turned his head to look at her curiously in her peripheral, but she chose to pretend not to see it. The fact that she'd let such a weird comment slip was a sign that she was quickly becoming exhausted, but she needed to be more careful with her words around him.

He was heating up a portion of food—something that vaguely resembled instant oatmeal—and the aroma, however bland, was making Nadia salivate. "I've already eaten some, so this is for you," he noted. "You should have found me earlier—I've been eating nonstop since securing this stuff. I didn't realize how hungry I really was."

When it was done, she took the container and utensils he offered and sat cross-legged on the floor, hungrily diving into the food. It was hot, though, and her eyes teared up as she panted while trying to wolf it down.

"…Easy," Bower cautioned, with a hesitant smile. He handed her a juice pouch. "Easy. Don't go so fast. I almost got sick doing that." She nodded impatiently and tried to take smaller bites.

He sat beside her and watched her as she ate. Nadia found she was so ravenous that she couldn't have cared if he'd insisted she strip naked before eating—nothing was going to disrupt her appetite. She barely looked up at him the entire time; it wasn't until she was on her last few bites when he finally spoke, his voice low and gravelly with an undercurrent of hurt.

"Do you hate me?"

She nearly choked on the remainder of her food as she looked up. "Hate you?"

"For what I did, on the bridge…when you and Gallo were fighting. When you needed my help."

"I don't hate you, no." Nadia shook her head. "But I am—"

"—Afraid it'll happen again," he finished, his blue-gray eyes boring into her, "aren't you?"

It was why she'd been so abrasive to him, after they'd washed ashore and she realized he was most likely the only surviving military officer left—and therefore in a position of leadership. She looked at him now skeptically as he sat before her, scrutinizing him, but her voice retained its earlier softness. "How do you know it's gone, just because you're off the ship?"

Bower ducked his head, averting his gaze. "I don't know how to explain it. I remember everything I did, but…I know I wasn't in control any longer, when I fired on the console." He looked into her eyes again, and the honesty showing in his own made her heart lurch up into her throat. "The minute I turned and saw you on the floor, with the glass view pane cracking over your head, I was in control again. I knew what I had to do…nothing else mattered."

Nadia held his stare evenly. "I've never known anyone who had Pandorum…so I don't know anything about it—how it manifests, how long it lasts." She shook her head. "If you honestly believe you are over it, that you won't let it overtake you again as it did on the bridge, then I have to think that you've beaten it."

He nodded earnestly in reply. "I have."

"But there's no way to be sure," she reasoned, trying unsuccessfully to ignore his wounded expression. "This condition is in your mind. And we know that your mind can trick you."

His voice was now a whisper. "How can I…prove it to you?"

"You can't." She shook her head again, tiredly. "We'll just have to wait and see. Only time will tell." She pursed her lips, once more noticing his attention to them, and chose her next words carefully. "In the meantime, you should at least be monitored closely for signs of its reappearance."

This time his expression relaxed and his eyes changed, a hint of a smile appearing in them as they had when he'd thought she was worrying over him. "…And whom do you propose should be watching me, so closely?"

Nadia bristled. "I'm not saying this just to have an excuse to be by your side—"

"—You don't need an excuse. I want you there."

Damn him. Her mouth worked to form words that died on her tongue; it wasn't fair that he could render her momentarily speechless like this.

His gaze as it roved over her was gentle, curious. "Nadia Mueller," he said, trying out her surname. "I didn't know you were a doctor."

"Philosophy doctorate," she explained quietly. "Developmental and Evolutionary Biology."

There was that teasing grin, again. "That's a mouthful."

It was her turn for her gaze to skip to where his lips curved, observing the shape of them and the changes in his face when he smiled, the strong line of his chin, the shadow of blond whiskers appearing around his mouth. A part of her wanted to smile and tease with him, to shed once and for all the emotional baggage of what they'd gone through during the previous thirty-six hours or so—but her exhaustion was catching up with her quickly, and with the warm fullness in her stomach from the food she knew she would need to crash soon. It had to have been obvious on her features. Nadia lowered her eyes. "I should…"

"…Stay here." When she glanced up at him quickly, he deadpanned, "There's more than enough room. It's dark, I don't think you should sleep somewhere by yourself, not here—"

She gave him a reproachful look. "Are you sure that's appropriate?"

"Why wouldn't it be?"

Bower could be such a little kid, sometimes. But to her surprise, he then did something that she hadn't been prepared for—he blushed, just slightly pink around the bridge of his nose. "I'm not going to try anything, I promise," he assured her in earnest. And then, almost quietly, with a self-deprecating quirk of his lips: "…I'm too tired to, right now, anyway."

She allowed herself to smile at his honesty. The expression on his face when he saw her doing so became rapturous with wonder, as if the sight of her smiling was a miracle in and of itself, and it fueled her amusement further—her smile became wider and she dissolved into giggling. A grin slowly dawned across his features, until he too was laughing outright. His laugh was gravelly but gentle, like his speaking voice, and she found she liked the sound of it.

He shook his head. "We're fucking crazy."

"We're fucking delirious," she corrected, her laughter gentling. "There's a difference." Barely.

He went about setting up two bedrolls with blankets and pillows. They were atop thin but insulating air mattresses, auto-inflated, and were actually quite comfortable when put over the uneven ground. As she settled into one of the bedrolls, Nadia couldn't shake the feeling this was like some strange camping expedition; she could hear the waves breaking onto the shore not far in the distance, and the low chatter of others' voices in other tents around them, almost like white noise and nearly undetectable from background unless she really listened for it.

She should have still kept up her vigilance that she'd maintained on the ship—she'd survived for that long on virtually no sleep, and the barest of minimal food—but with the lulling sounds around her, it seemed impossible to stay awake any longer. The shelter was warm, cozy. Despite any misgivings she had about Pandorum, Bower was a calming influence as well. His very presence was soothing. He hovered over her, arranging blankets around her. He must have seen how I can't even keep my eyes open anymore.

"Aren't you going to sleep?" she asked drowsily, as she saw him moving afterward to sit against the wall of the shelter close by, his arms resting on his knees.

"Yeah," he replied, his own voice thick with exhaustion as well. "In a little while. I'm just going to stay up for a bit longer."

She had no strength left to argue. "…Okay."

Behind her closed eyes, images drifted in and out of her mind. Her laboratory on the ship, the sterile white walls, white lights, white benches. The embryonic vault, in all of its magnitude—so many plants and animals, waiting to come to life again, to be reanimated, as they were. The vault would hold in the face of the water breach; as long as the reactor was still online, the specimens would stay intact.

But I'll have to go back for it, she realized dazedly, just before she drifted off into oblivion. I promised to protect it. And we have a new world to build.


entschuldigen Sie: (German) Excuse me, pardon me

allazosartan: A name I made up to denote the pharmacological designation of the evolution enzyme. "Allazo" in Greek means "I change".