Thanks for your comments on chapter one, they were hugely appreciated! I hope you enjoy this next chapter as much. Please leave a note if you do enjoy...reviews cheer me up and make me write faster!
He is happy that Miss Vickers is the first one to wake. Though it was momentarily surprising to see an empty pod and the trail of wet footprints leading into the lifeboat, he is not shocked. Meredith Vickers possesses an iron will; this trait she shares with her father, and to some extent, David himself. But she has a determination that surpasses his own—something that should be impossible in an organic life-form.
He greets her coolly, using her last name. Once, right after his activation, when he had learned about the relationships between family members, he tried to call her "sister". She…reacted badly. Though only fourteen years old at the time, she had a strong arm and managed to fracture his arm with a metal baseball bat while he was deactivated. Afterwards, his skeletal structure was recast with poly-adamantium composite and she could no longer damage him.
David had already gotten the message, however. He never tried to presume on their "family relationship" ever again.
So he is glad that she is awake, but only because after assuring himself that she needs no further attention, he can return to the cryo-bay, where all the other pods are deactivating and their inhabitants are coming back to life, vomiting up the fluids that have soured in their stomachs over the two-year journey.
Had Miss Vickers needed him, he would have had to stay and tend to her. One of the basic rules of his programming is to care for the members of the Weyland family. Mr. Weyland is the most important, but Meredith—though nothing more than the product of a brief affair between Weyland and the model Sandra Vickers—is his next priority.
As it is, however, he can put a towel around Dr. Shaw's—and he must remember to think of her as Dr. Shaw—shoulders and talk her through the reanimation process. He knows that this is her first time on a deep-space mission, and knows that she has never been in cryo-stasis before. Awakening after two years of dark, dreaming sleep is a disorienting process, so he is given to understand. Muscles are weak, brain functions are slow, and hunger drowns out most other concerns.
With his hands on her shoulders, he can feel her muscle tone and is pleased to note that she does not appear to have lost much during the voyage. Her legs look strong as well; she should be up and walking in no time.
"It's perfectly natural," he assures her, leaning forward as she throws up again. He helps her shaking hands steady the bowl that catches her vomit, "Coming out of stasis is a disorienting process, but it will pass."
Even weak and miserable as she must be, Dr. Shaw still turns to look at him, nodding thanks with a small smile turning the edges of her mouth. Most people would not think to thank an android, as David well knows. To most people, he is nothing more than a computer, albeit one slightly more useful for his enhanced motor functions.
But Elizabeth Shaw is not most people. She smiles and nods, and gags and coughs wetly into the bowl.
"Hey, Elly," Holloway calls from the other side of the room, his voice pale and rasping, "We made it, baby." He toasts her with his glass of spinach-kale yogurt.
Elizabeth turns away from David and sighs, the sound like the wind through branches. David looks at Holloway through narrowed eyes and feels his lips thin. The involuntary motions surprise him, but he thinks of how his face must look and thinks:
So, this is jealousy. Interesting.
Though boredom and loneliness dogged him relentlessly during the journey, a few minutes in the mess hall with the exhausted, testy crew make David think that he might soon long for the uninterrupted hours of silence that used to be his.
He had not been expecting much of the crew—indeed, he could not expect much of the crew, after seeing their dreams. Janek still amuses him, with his Christmas tree trappings (5.3 kilos in total) hauled so far from where such things could matter. Ford seems harmless enough…but she is an employee of Mr. Weyland—and an employee in his inner circle—so the word "harmless" could not possibly apply.
But the relentless narrow-mindedness and self-interest of the rest of the crew is galling. David cannot understand it. These men and women volunteered to be flung an unimaginable distance from home to be the first to explore an uncharted region of space…but now that they have arrived, they sulk and whine and think only of money and of returning home again.
He wonders if they are all blind to the wonders of the galaxy. Then he wonders if they are blind by reason of their nature or by willful ignorance.
Their behavior towards each other is curt, nasty, and vulgar. Except for the crew that knew each other before embarking—Janek and his two pilots, Chance and Ravel, for example—no one seems interested in making friends…or even in being polite to one another. They sit in the mess hall as private islands, wrapping their prejudices and pains around them like shrouds.
Their behavior towards himself is, for the most part, unsurprising. David has unusual auditory capabilities, and can listen to all the conversations in the room simultaneously, and parse out each different conversation almost instantaneously. He hears the usual epithets—robot, tank, toaster, et cetera—and the usual surmises about his nature—does he feel, sleep, eat, fuck, et cetera—but is most surprised by the conversation between Drs. Shaw and Holloway.
"I can't believe they thought we needed a goddamn robot."
"Charlie, all deep space missions come with one aboard. On a two-year mission like this it's safer to have one. Who knows how many times he's saved our lives?"
Thirteen, David thinks in answer, his brain immediately pulling up the incident reports filed in the ship's main computer. A meteor breeched the hull, a plasma conduit rupture, an unexplained gravity well…
"Anyway, we should be grateful. It can't have been easy, being the only one awake for all this time."
"I know. It's just…don't you think they're a little bit creepy? How they're so close to being real, but you can tell they're just…not."
"And I thought I was the old-fashioned one between the two of us. Didn't you laugh at me when you found out I'd never been off-planet before?"
"Well, never having been on a transport is one thing; being able to accept a human analogue is another."
"He's very nice, you know. He helped me out in the cryo-bay, unlike some people I could name…"
"Elly, if I'd stood up I would've fallen over. You weren't the only one gagging up their toenails, you know."
"Oh, very nice!"
Their gentle teasing continues and they sit closer, relishing being together after such a long separation. David's lips are tight again and he has to consciously force them to relax. Focusing on her helps; Elizabeth looks so happy, so peaceful, sitting in the curve of Holloway's arm. Her eyes are wide and luminous and the corners of her mouth are softly upturned. In the sterile blues and whites of Prometheus, she is a welcome contrast of earthy reds and browns.
She rests her head on his shoulder, soft curls feathered on her cheek and throat, and closes her eyes, smiling into the darkness.
She says, "Oh, Charlie…can you believe we're really here? Can you just imagine what we're going to find?"
Holloway answers, after kissing her soundly on the top of her head, "We're gonna track down your god, baby. We're gonna find some answers."
He says "your god", not "my god", David thinks, considering. It makes sense; nothing in Holloway's file suggests any kind of religious belief or affiliation. But Elizabeth's—Dr. Shaw's, he corrects himself—is full of it; she is the true believer.
He has seen the original conversation between Mr. Weyland and Drs. Shaw and Holloway, recorded over three years ago. Holloway was the smooth talker, with facts and data and graphs, but Shaw was the one who convinced Mr. Weyland that God could really be found. Her belief inspired something in Mr. Weyland—inspired a hope that she never had.
Mr. Weyland hopes not only that God can be found but that God can be forced to give.
Speaking of which…
Mr. Weyland is too weak to be awakened until the last possible moment. However, upon crossing the destination threshold, David manipulated the special settings of his cryo-pod to bring his brain into a kind of suspended animation. His body is still asleep, for all intents and purposes, but his brain can respond to questioning and is aware of David's neural link.
He will want to know what is happening.
He finds her as fascinating as he finds Peter O'Toole. She is self-possessed in a way that few other people are; she knows herself to the point where the challenges that the crewmembers fling at her beliefs mean nothing. Few humans are so untroubled by self-doubt.
Even Miss Vickers, with her implacable hatred of him and Mr. Weyland, is undone by doubt. It is, in fact, her greatest weakness. David knows her fears; she is afraid that Mr. Weyland is only trying to extend his life because he doubts her ability to run his empire according to his wishes. He knows this not by watching her dreams (although they confirm his observations) but by watching her actions.
Standing with her arms crossed, Elizabeth—he gives himself permission to stop thinking of her as Dr. Shaw—looks at the rude geologist and the scornful biologist with her limpid eyes, staring them down with a cool half-smile, seeming to mock them for their weakness. Fifield and Millburn are no match for her; they back down, muttering to themselves and each other, but offer no more direct challenges.
The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.
He almost speaks the words aloud. Like Peter O'Toole, Elizabeth Shaw has created her reality out of the sheer force of her will, and it is one that most mortals do not have the depth of faith to aspire to.
There are humans who cling to religious faith because they are afraid to see the world as it is. They are the doubters, the deniers, the ignorant…and they are worthy of the contempt the crew displays. Anyone with eyes to see, however, can see that Elizabeth is not one of those. She admits that she chooses to believe in what she does. Just as Millburn believes in his deity Darwin, she believes in her God.
Unlike Millburn, however, she is unshaken by the disbelief of others; whereas he can hardly credit the fact that she can dismiss his orthodoxy offhand. That is admirable, and all due to her self-possession.
Despite David's admiration of her faith, he still has to question it. She calls the Engineers' message "an invitation". And an invitation it might be, left by the progenitors of a race in the hope that once their message had been received and understood, their long-abandoned children would be capable of accepting it.
But at a distance of at least thirty-five thousand years…would the Engineers be pleased with the fruit grown from their seed?
He knows that he is in a better position to ponder these questions than most. After all, the original AI was created within the last hundred years, and despite the many uses and benefits an AI offers, he is not naïve enough to think that they will last much longer than another hundred years.
Humans are not comfortable around him. They know that something is not…quite right, no matter how hard he tries to blend in. And humans reject what they fear. Even Mr. Weyland—his "father"—does not hide the fact that he believes David to be fundamentally flawed.
To humans, David has no soul. Although the concept of "soul" is so vague to begin with that he thinks he can make an argument in his favor, he knows that it is not an argument that many humans are likely to listen to.
Eventually, David fully expects humanity to turn on him and his kind.
So he will not be surprised if these Engineers—if any are still alive, that is—do the same to their children.
Still, he wishes he could believe in something with the same quiet faith with which Elizabeth believes in her God. He wonders if she would consider it blasphemous for him to believe in her with the same unwavering faith.
Because he does.
She turns her eyes upward, looking at the configuration of stars that brought her so far from home. She looks at the stars, and he looks at her.
Holloway scrambles into the pyramid like a child tripping down the stairs to open his presents on Christmas morning, slipping on the scree of dust and rocks at the structure's base. Elizabeth follows, but there is a shadow of reluctance about her. Her feet drag against the ground and her arms are tight to her sides; she moves slowly, slower even than the skeptics in the crew.
David is confused. He expected her to run ahead of them all, as eager as Holloway, not hang to the back as a naughty child does when summoned by an angry parent. Eventually, Holloway takes her by the hand and pulls her forward, his excitement contagious as a virus and Elizabeth is finally smiling.
Holloway looks, and catalogues, and exclaims over everything. Elizabeth is quiet; only her widening eyes betray how awed she is by the things around her.
David knows what Holloway is thinking. He is thinking of an appointment at a prestigious university; maybe even a distinguished chair named after him. He is thinking of tenure, and a small house in some golden countryside—such country as still remains on Earth—and quiet mornings spent in bed with Elizabeth, soft and warm, beside him.
In Holloway's dreams, there are always children completing this fantasy. Dark auburn-haired children, long-limbed and adventurous. A boy—Henry, named for Holloway's father—and sometimes a baby girl with huge brown eyes…just like Elly's.
There are children in Elizabeth's dreams, too. Round faces with shining eyes, soft skin, plump arms and chubby fingers. Flashes. Silent, brief images accompanied by such sharp longing that even David feels tight-chest sorrow on her behalf.
But she never dreams of such quiet domesticity. She is always in the Polynesian islands, or the Scottish moors, or the Australian deserts, camping and living under the sun, wind, and rain. Elizabeth knows that the country is disappearing, and she crusades to save it the only way she knows how.
David wonders if the two of them would be quite so close if each knew the other's mind as well as he does. He wonders if Elizabeth would love Holloway with so much devotion if she knew how he sometimes resents her sterility. Or if she knew about his greed—his longing for fame and fortune, despite their academic field—or his willingness to abandon Elizabeth's crusade once he has the security that fame and fortune bring.
Then he realizes why Holloway is surging ahead and Elizabeth is desperate to hang back. As with many other things, they view this expedition in fundamentally different ways:
Holloway is looking to make his name and secure his future.
Elizabeth is steeling herself to meet—and perhaps be judged by—her maker.
David has never felt panic. His artificial heart beats faster at times with various situational catalysts (excitement in meeting Elizabeth, shame over seeing her through Holloway's eyes, for example) but the kind of blind fear that makes Holloway fling himself out of the airlock after Elizabeth without a thought for his own safety is something that David may never know.
However, when his hands move smoothly at the direction of his brain and he can fasten himself to the winch in under fifteen seconds when everyone else is still standing around yelling as the electrical storm shrieks around them, he thinks this fearlessness may be one of his best qualities.
The violence of the storm is shocking; it blows his body about as though he were nothing more than a leaf caught on the breeze. Chunks of rock scrape his helmet, some smaller fragments digging themselves in like cat's claws, desperate to reach his eyes and skin. The air is full of the tremulous crackle of static electricity and it makes his circuits tingle.
David breathes faster and he feels charged, somehow…more awake than he has ever been. The sensation is addictive, much more so than pain; he feels as though he could run and jump longer and farther than ever before. Moreover, he wants to run and jump; to indulge in movement without purpose, movement for its own sake.
For all his sports practice, for all his programmed athleticism, this is the first time he has felt the joy of motion, of simply being.
He feels alive.
It is curious how he can feel positively about a storm that is so deadly to Elizabeth. She is crying, little hitching, breathless sobs that catch in her throat but are still loud enough to register in the microphone of her suit. The sound steadies him—takes some of the euphoria out of the chaos—and he focuses on his hands. It takes him less than ten seconds to connect her and Holloway to his harness, and then they are flying backwards, buffeted by rocks and wind and sand.
The trip takes only five seconds, and they are safe.
David is only momentarily disappointed in the loss of that tingling sensation. Elizabeth is alive, and that is far more important. He leans forward, but Holloway is already there.
"What the hell was that, Elly? You go and almost get yourself killed, and for what? A—a," he stammers and gestures wildly, "a head of a thing that died two thousand years ago? Is that worth our lives?"
Elizabeth staggers to her feet, her eyes closed and tears sliding down her face. Her heartbeat is so fast that even David's auditory systems have difficulty distinguishing one beat from the next. He wonders if he should sedate her—to avoid hyperventilation and tachycardia—but she steadies herself against the wall and takes three deep, steady breaths.
"Are you all right?"
"Yes," she replies, eyes still closed. "Thank you, David. You saved our lives."
Perhaps neither of them will believe there is any emotional truth behind what he says, but he means it all the same:
"It was my pleasure."