Rating: M, for every reason conceivable.
Disclaimer: I don't own Dead Space or the characters.
A/N: So I played Dead Space and then I played Dead Space 2 and then I read a whole lotta stories, but none completely satisfied my utter need for Isaac badassery. And I thought. I thought some more. Then I thought of a story that showcases Isaac's innate ability to kick ass and take names, and consequently, save the universe.
DEAD SPACE: RECONCILIATION
Chapter One: Home Free
Isaac sat beside Ellie in the co-pilot seat and watched the bursts of orange/white/yellow as the Sprawl violently exploded into nothing but pieces of space slag. Inside him was a numbness, the sort of numbness a veteran of the Resource Wars could relate to, since he'd survived a second encounter with a Necromorph outbreak, had destroyed another Marker, and lived. He'd lived. Ellie had lived, and that, Isaac felt, seemed fair. Right. But aside from the twinge of justice at having helped Ellie survive, a cold blankness had yawned open inside him. Shock, he supposed.
The engines of the ship roared- -shaking the interior metal- -under the pressure Ellie put them, but were steady and to his engineer's ears, sounded strong and powerful. Constellations and pinprick lights from the stars furled out in the utter black of the universe, the big rings of Saturn swooping out with audacious beauty. The scene outside the window was truly singular, majestic, even, yet Isaac couldn't find an ounce of appreciation for it anywhere in his aching, abused body.
Besides that, the javelin-sized holes in his hand and shoulder throbbed in angry pain despite the painkillers he'd downed. They'd patched up the wounds as best as they could, but both knew he'd need professional medical attention. At this point, Isaac would rather bleed out than deal with more fucking doctors. For Ellie, though, he'd risk treatment if he could find a doctor who wouldn't turn him over to EarthGov.
"You're awful quiet," Ellie said over her shoulder. "You okay over there?"
He had nothing to say to that, so he settled on saying, "Yes. I'm…everything's fine."
"Some day, hunh?" She chuckled to herself. "Sort of puts all my other bad days into perspective."
At least she'd had a handful of bad days. Isaac had had three years of bad, most of which he could barely remember. As if the idea of the research that delved into his tormented mind had generated it, a headache pulsed dully behind his temples. He was familiar with the painful ones that shot an orange haze and searing lights across his vision, that felt like nails piercing through his head, but he was familiar with this type of headache as well. Stress. Exhaustion.
Her prompt reminded him he was in a conversation. "Hm. What's our next move?"
"Frankly, anywhere we can land that'll get us some food, a hot shower, and a bed. We both smell like…like"- -he heard the pause as she groped for an adequate comparison- -"an emergency room gone bad. Also, I'm guessing that EarthGov'll be looking for you. And the Unitologists. If they aren't," her tone turned ominous, "I'd be suspicious."
"What's the next closest station?" He no sooner had spoken then a buzz rattled through the ship. "That the comm link?"
"It's a transmission," she confirmed, waiting for him to put up his visor before she punched a button. A video hologram opened on the windshield of the ship, displaying a neatly dressed older woman wearing the white uniform and gold pin of EarthGov. Static crackled. Then the picture flickered, went out, and came back on. Ellie leaned forward. "Hello? Can you read me?"
More static hissed through the live link as the woman responded. "…es, we read you loud'n'clear! Oh, thank God. Have you come from Titan?"
"Yes, yes, we have!"
"More survivors!" She repeated it over her shoulder, with such relief and joy, and Isaac heard clapping and celebratory noises in the background. "We've established an emergency refugee center here on Rhea. Are you able to fly the distance?"
"Roger that. We'll be touching down in approximately two hours. Is there medical staff available?"
The older woman nodded. "Yes. I'll notify a few doctors to be ready to receive you when you land, and I'll keep this line open in case you need any further assistance. Before we sign off, we're supposed to ask if you have a passenger by the name of Isaac Clarke aboard your vessel?" Her question came paired with an inset picture in profile and face-on of Isaac.
Son of a bitch, thought Isaac, they are after me. Then, I've put Ellie in danger. Dammit. She should've left me.
Ellie leaned forward and squinted. "No," she answered slowly, "that doesn't look like anyone I know. Why's he so important?"
"Apparently he's the one who started the whole Titan disaster. The higher-ups say he's a terrorist, who'd kill you as soon as look at you…though, we're hearing some strange stories from some of the other survivors. Something about dead monsters and zombies?"
"I'm on board with a security officer I picked up. No Isaac Clarke here," Ellie repeated. "Thanks for keeping a look-out. Expect us at oh-four-hundred hours. Signing off."
Before the EarthGov woman could continue the conversation, Ellie terminated the video. After a moment, in which Isaac lowered his visor, she rotated the pilot's chair to gaze fully at him with her remaining eye, and he saw how pale her face had become and wondered if it was blood loss that caused the paleness or fear.
"Isaac," she murmured, "Isaac, what're we going to do?"
Helplessness shaped her features much younger than she was. And even though a bloodied piece of gauze covered her right eye socket, she reminded him of his mother's cherished china dolls. Smooth skin, fine lips, an exquisitely exotic brow, and a feminine chin. Isaac's first instinct was to touch the side of her marred face, but that show of comfort required too much effort, and he had no energy for it. The best he could do was put up a show of confidence for her sake.
"We stick with the plan." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "We can reprogram my RIG to match one of Tiedemann's security guys, easy. I keep my visor up and hope nobody cares."
"Do you think it'll work?" Her arched eyebrow expressed her dubiousness. "Sounds too easy."
Isaac shrugged inside the harness. "It has to. We have no other option."
"We have enough fuel to make a run to Iapetus. You'd have more a chance there than in a refugee camp with loads of people!"
"No, Ellie. Both of us are too exhausted to last the trip, and our patch jobs won't hold forever," he added, placing a hand over the bandage thickly wrapped around his shoulder under his suit. "We have to risk it."
Her smile was quick and weak. "Just chock-full of bad ideas, aren't you?"
"I told you," he replied, matching her smirk with one of his own. "You focus on getting us to Rhea in one piece. I'll figure out the RIG."
It was common knowledge that there was an electronic chip in the RIG that stored all the vital information- - name, birth date, allergies, next of kin, clearance levels, etcetera. The chip could be removed and reprogrammed, but of course, there was a specific computer system that had to be used. He doubted the ship they flew would have the system necessary for the changes, and he being a mechanical engineer, with cursory knowledge on the inner workings of computers, had known that when he told the lie to Ellie.
"Fine, I suppose. You're the nerd, anyway," she said without venom. She pivoted the pilot's chair to face forward again. "I'll keep us on course."
Isaac unbuckled his harness, wincing and gasping once when he shifted his shoulder wrong, and went to explore the ship. The inside was clean, low-gleam gunmetal, all electronics and devices functional, with no sign of struggle or death whatsoever. He'd forgotten how a ship could look on the inside without dead bodies, generous smears of blood, piles of gore and body parts…for a second, he feared he'd go into a terrifying flashback, but the images receded. He shook his head. Christ. His newest memories were ones he already wanted to forget.
After a few minutes, Isaac came to the armory. Inside was an alcove labeled 'Suit Repair' in a room with a workbench and several other similar stations. The alcove itself was big enough to accommodate a chair in which a suited man could sit. Isaac eased himself on the chair. A holographic screen popped up and angled to the sides were holographic panels with various keys. The Suit Repair had a diagnostic scanner, which with some modifying, he thought he could probably change the information on his RIG, or if not change it, delete it and blame it on the rough and tumble battles he experienced surviving the Sprawl.
He activated the Suit Repair systems. The alcove closed him in, and he felt like he was inside a store whenever he purchased a new suit from scavenged credits. Magnetic locks snapped him in place as a feminine voice with a clipped accent informed him of the scanner's purpose. It told him to sit still while the diagnostic was in progress. From above the holoscreen, a red light blinked awake, and Isaac, with his visor down, waited for the lasers to fall over him. A few seconds of muted humming.
In front of him on the holoscreen, a model of his suit popped up with orange circles around the damaged areas of his suit and little blurbs of explanations. He went ahead and hit the repair button. The Suit Repair told him, again, to sit still while the repairs were in progress. In the cool dark of the alcove, Isaac's exhaustion hit him like a fist to the face. And before he knew it, Nicole's muffled voice in his ear woke him up.
"Isaac, are you there? Come iiiiiin, Isaaaaaac? Oh, God, I'm so sorry, Isaac! Look, the time difference!" she said, laughing, when he rolled over and accepted the video feed. "I'll call you back later-"
"No, no, it's okay. It's okay." Déjà vu filtered into his fogged state. "How're you doing?"
Her reply wasn't as clear as he would've liked because his starving brain focused on soaking in her familiar features. The holovid washed the color out of her, but his imagination supplied the correct tone to her cream skin, her sunny blonde hair, and the warm, intelligent blue eyes. His heart jerked in his chest, a keening pain that lanced straight to his core. Her lilting voice stopped; she expected an answer. What had he said before?
Something like- -"Enjoy it while it lasts. You know, they're decommissioning her next year." Such a stupid thing to say, he thought. Why hadn't he warned her to get the hell off and never look back?
She became serious. "Thank you."
"For what?" But he knew what she was going to say and he hated himself for what he'd done.
"Just pushing me to do this. I mean, if it weren't for you, I never would've made it this far. You made me stick with it."
And the next thing he said, "Just remember, I'm giving you up for six months so you can do this," was so ironic because he hadn't known that six months would actually mean forever.
Static sizzled across the screen. The Ishimura was going out of range, but instead of explaining that, Nicole said, "You've come so far yourself. You're not done yet. It's time for you to stick with it."
"What?" Isaac's fogginess drained away, and he sat up, alert and awake, staring at the apparition in the video screen. "Nicole, what are you talking about?"
She smiled sweetly, genuinely. The static hissed through her words. "There're…Markers, Isa…. More…for you…destroy."
Then the video feed snapped off with such finality that he jumped, and suddenly a new voice said his name in his ear. "Isaac? You there?"
Ellie on the RIG. He blinked with the glaring glow of the holovid. "Yeah. What is it?"
"I haven't heard from you for a while and I wondered how the reprogramming was coming along. We're closing in on Rhea," she said, reaching across the screen to mess with some controls. "Thought I'd give you the heads-up."
"Thanks. I'm…I'm almost there," he said. He wouldn't tell her about his Nicole-dreams. She'd worry. "Give me a little more time on this."
"Sure." Ellie smiled and signed off the RIGlink.
The Suit Repair had waited patiently for him, displaying on the screen a question that hesitated Isaac's finger over the 'yes' key in utter disbelief from the stroke of luck. The question on the Suit Repair screen was: Are you Isaac Clarke? And under it the option for yes or no. To see what would happen, he clicked on the no option. No alarms sounded. A blip, maybe, as the screen switched to another line of text that told him to use the commanding officer's RIG to verify and the voice in Suit Repair stated it for good measure. Had they, in the last three years, changed the availability of RIG programming?
Isaac gingerly- - as his wounds whined each time he even breathed wrong- -exited the Suit Repair, somewhat amazed and relieved, and returned to the line of lockers he'd passed on the way. There, he jimmied open the locked ones to search for the highest ranking officer's spare jacket and consequently, RIG. Once the correct RIG was found, he returned to the Suit Repair alcove, showed the RIG to the red eye, and the screen blinked with acceptance.
The voice repeated the acceptance, and on the screen in front of him, gave him the option of manually entering his name and information or of transferring RIG information. Using the keyboard, he typed in Arthur, which was his father's middle name, and Ore, which was a professor's last name during his college days, and he filled in the essentials, such as allergies (he was deathly allergic to a type of anesthetic) and medical issues. Much of the form he left blank. Isaac certainly didn't put anything for the 'Religious Preferences' section.
He called Ellie on her RIG, but she beat him to the punch. "Sergeant Ore, hunh? I think I like that."
"I didn't want to use someone else's name for fear that the causality report has already been relayed to EarthGov," he said. "Try not to call me Isaac in public."
"Sure thing, Ore."
He snorted. "That's Sergeant Ore to you, civilian."
"Fine." The laughter was natural. "Get up here and take over. I have to take a bathroom break, and I can't trust auto-pilot when we're so close to safety."
"I'll be there soon."
He signed out and trudged his way to the cockpit to pilot the gunship as Ellie rested. Piloting was not a challenge, as he'd piloted ships before, and the seemingly eternal passage of space lulled him into a comforting neutral that he hadn't experienced since working on machinery before the Ishimura.
Rhea was a chunk of rock in the middle of the nothing ocean, with the mandatory blinking lights and flares to signal pilots that there was, in fact, civilization up ahead. Ellie took command of the controls before they entered Rhea's airspace, dealing with EarthGov and Rhea's flight control tower as Isaac kept his visor up to shield his face from onlookers.
True to their word, EarthGov had stationed medical officers around their airy, wide-open dock, and as soon as Ellie stepped out, three or four white-uniformed medics swarmed around her from a side-chamber. Helpless, Ellie cast a glance over her shoulder at him, but he nodded. Only then did she allow the medics to hustle her into a stretcher and strap her in. A man who looked to be in his mid-fifties, with wireless glasses and cold blue eyes, approached Isaac as the medical team carted off Ellie, rolling her into a shuttle. It did not immediately take off.
"I'm Dr. Olden," the man said, holding out his thin hand. When Isaac took the hand, immediate tingles of distrust shuttered up and down his spine. Dr. Olden continued, "Welcome to the Rhea station."
"I'm Arthur Ore. Ore, for short." Regardless of the powerfully radiating hotspots in his hand and shoulder, he would not reveal himself to this particular doctor. "Send her on ahead. I'll meet her at the hospital and be there for her recovery."
Dr. Olden scowled, apparently unused to the hard edge in Isaac's voice. "You should go too, Ore. Your RIG is in the yellow. Come with me, and I'll examine you on the way."
"No, thank you. I'm fine without treatment. Isn't there somewhere to sign in?"
Another scowl at his difficult nature. "Yes, of course. There's a registration table to keep track of the survivors, and of course, you must register for quarters. Please step on the shuttle so I can examine you."
"Typical EarthGov. Ever fond of bureaucracy. I said I'm fine, anyway. Signal the shuttle that they can go." Isaac was too old and too tired to be sanguine with this doctor. He waved dismissively. "I received nothing more than a few bumps and bruises. If you'll tell me where, I'll register myself and my friend."
"Then come with me," responded Dr. Olden down his nose, though Isaac stood taller than he. "I'll take you to the designated table."
He signaled the pilot to the shuttle to lift-off, which it did with a gust of air. Ellie was in good care. Then Dr. Olden spun on his heel and began marching down the length of the docking bay and in through a side chamber into a hub. A few steps behind, Isaac followed.
Rhea looked much like Titan, with clean, aesthetically pleasing lines and colors, glass, and with small, tasteful oases of plants and ferns, the organic greenness stinging his tired, weary eyes. Everything was compact and created for maximum efficiency. A small number of people bustled around between areas and on moving sidewalks, but the noise and smell of living humanity came into Isaac's helmet with full potency. He realized he hadn't been a part of a community in a very long time.
At the junction where the docking bays stopped and Rhea Station began, they came to a table, obviously set up to receive survivors because of the hasty, hand-printed signs on easels, and several people sat at the tables with datapads in their hands. They did not wear uniforms, but rather brightly-colored pins that stated in simple lettering VOLUNTEER. Scattered on the tables were disposable cups, marked with the universal symbol for coffee, and used plates on trays, as if the volunteers had not left their posts for any reason all day and night.
"Register here," Dr. Olden said. He gestured to the tables, which were disappointingly free of survivors. Ellie and I, thought Isaac, would probably be the last two. "If you do not need anything further, I'll be leaving you. Though," he said, after a chilly pause, "I'll see you in the ER when you pass out from your injuries."
Isaac remained where he was, though eager to be parted from Dr. Olden's company. "I'm fine. Thank you, Doctor."
Dr. Olden's face squinted, like he'd tasted something sour, and he curtly nodded. He walked away from Isaac, and his back soon disappeared behind the wide, self-opening door that allowed Rhea Station employees and civilians passage into the heart of the station from the docking hub. When the door closed behind Dr. Olden, Isaac approached the table. No one had questioned him about keeping up his visor; no one seemed interested. That, at least, was a small favor.
"Welcome," said a woman with sleek brown hair. She had a way of speaking that sounded friendly and warm, without any of the culture that Unitologists worked into their speech. "You're here from the Sprawl?"
Isaac felt some of his tension ease. "Yes."
"Good to have you here, sir. I jist need you to answer a few quick questions, and then we can get you a place to rest your head. If at any time you feel you can't answer the questions, jist say so, okay?" A warm, toothy smile. "Awright. Ready?"
"Ready." Or, he added silently, as ready his battle-weary brain could be.
The questions were not personal questions, but ran along the lines of where he was when the evacuation began, what did he witness, how he survived the terrorist attack- -and that question was certainly telling in and of itself- -and of course, did he know of or anything about Isaac Clarke? Answering the question was as easy as telling her that in the confusion, he'd not seen much, and lying about the rest. She didn't give anymore away about what the general populous believed had happened at Titan, and Isaac thought it wise not to press for answers yet.
"Did you come in with anyone else?" she asked after he'd finished responding to her last question.
"Yes. Ellie Langford. She was taken by a medical team for treatment. I don't know where, though."
The woman fiddled around with her datapad for a moment. "Ah, yeah. Ellie Langford has been checked into Rhea Station General Hospital. We'll set both of you up nice and pretty. Here," she reached underneath the table for a moment and when she withdrew her hand, she held forth two credit chips. "There're five hundred credits on each of these for you'n'her. Spend it on food and clothes. Your room is free for now, so don't worry about rent. Once all the refugees are organized, we're holding a meeting to discuss the events on Titan Station. From there, the CEC and EarthGov'll take care of displaced employees and such like. Also, the local Unitologist church is holding a prayer meeting this afternoon at fourteen-hundred hours. If you're interested, that is."
"No," Isaac said, controlling the spark of anger that ignited in his chest. "Where are we staying?"
"The Grand," she said. "I'll download the coordinates to your RIG, but you can get there easily enough without it. It's the center-point for all Rhea's community activities, so jist follow the crowd. I assume you want the coordinates of the hospital? There," she said, before he could answer otherwise, "done. We'll be keeping survivors updated through texts to your RIG, so don't worry about missing any important times or dates." She paused to shoot him a smile. "Any questions?"
"Thank you," he answered as he tucked the credit chips into his suit. "Out of curiosity…how many other survivors have there been?"
"Well, now, we had a dozen or so big shuttles come in all at the same time, and then a few stragglers here and there such as yourself. You're the first in a few hours," she said. "But considering the Sprawl was home to a population of over a couple hundred-thousand…very few survived whatever happened."
That was sad news indeed, but better than two people total. "I see. Thank you."
"You're welcome. Make yourself at home. People expect you to," she said and waved as he walked away from the table. "Take care of yourself, now."
He waved back at her, and went to the door that Dr. Olden had exited through. He spread his hand against the holographic security button in the center of that sliding door. It sighed and opened for him with a gentle release of electronic tension. Isaac glanced at the height of the buildings, the solar glint, the looming rings and body of Saturn outside Rhea's protective layer, and held out his hand over the sidewalk. His waypoint sounded, and on the inside of his visor, he used a voice-command to display the coordinates for the hospital. Obediently, his waypoint changed and a brilliant blue streak of light shot forward and curled around a corner.
The Grand could wait. Ellie, and her condition, was his priority.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed, everyone, as there's more to come. Next update: Aug. 11th.
Lite edits 08/13/12.
Lite edits 04/05/13.