So... this chapter was one of those that basically had me going "Well... they know this already. How does Belle change this?"
In short, it wasn't my favorite to write, but it had to be done. Next up is the Twin Destinies arc, then moving into the general Novis arc.
Running, running so fast, but he couldn't get away. They were closing in, every second they came closer to him.
He wasn't going to make it.
Dr. Rush jolted awake, eyes wide open. He was looking at the metal ceiling of the Destiny, and turned slightly to see Belle staring down at him. His arms reached out of their own accord, drawing her down to lie next to him. She kissed his cheek softly, relaxing into his grip.
"I'm sorry for startling you." Belle whispered. "I just didn't know what else to do."
"No, I'm glad you did. I'd much rather be awake."
"Still the same?" she asked, closing her eyes again. She would probably spend the rest of the night locked in is arms, actually, but Belle didn't mind.
It was always the same. The aliens were after him in one way or another, and no matter how many times he might have the nightmare it would always seem so real. No matter how many times he woke to Belle's arms, he could never stop them. Belle's awful dreams, she said, were the opposite. She knew it was a dream the whole time, and all she could do was watch and relive it from some place outside her own mind. On a good day she might even be able to wake herself up.
Nicholas didn't tell her, however, that he woke three times that night, and two of the dreams were not about aliens. He was walking, but he was a passenger in the body, unable to control where he was going or what he was saying. There were a few men standing outside a van, and he was feeding them crucial information about Destiny and her systems. He turned to leave after the job was done, catching a glimpse of his reflection in the van's rear view mirror... He was Colonel Telford.
That was a week ago.
"Alright, the gate room is sealed." Eli said. "When they come, we're ready."
"What about Telford?" Brody asked, casting a glance towards where Telford-Rush was speaking to the Colonel.
"I don't know." He admitted. The Colonel probably had some kind of plan up his sleeve, but if he did he hadn't told anyone. Belle had been kept as in the know as possible, but even she couldn't tell them much. They had actually only told her what was going on for her sanity's sake- seeing your loved one suffocating and then being revived isn't a thing that comes without questions.
Eli went off the kino room to try to gather some information on the Lucian Alliance, while Belle, Brody, and Volker double-checked the ship's defenses. Everything seemed sound, but none of them felt prepared when the ship finally dropped out.
"Alright, we've got incoming." Brody murmured, pulling up readings from the gate. People were definitely coming through.
All the civilians had been confined to their quarters for their own safety, but even that wasn't guaranteed. Any moment now they would begin to vent the air from the gate room.
Belle was on pins and needles, pacing back and forth, waiting for some kind of sign that Nicholas was back in his own body. She didn't want anyone to die, and had stood with Camille on her diplomacy plan, but… today, she was feeling slightly selfish. If someone was going to die, she didn't want it to be Nicholas.
Colonel Young spoke into the intercom, addressing the Alliance members. Belle heard it as a sort of roaring in her ears, aware of the fact that he was speaking, but not what he was saying. Telford-Rush shook his head slightly, like he was clearing a fog or coming out of a daze. In an instant she had made note of the motion and registered what it might mean, walking over to him slowly.
He turned, taking in the room, noting where he was at and who was there, and nodded slowly. Belle sighed, relieved, pulling him to the side so they could talk.
"Belle- ah!" Nicholas cried out as she promptly slapped him. It was probably going to leave a red mark for a while, too. "Ok. I probably deserved that one." He admitted sheepishly.
"Don't you ever do that to me again. If you go off somewhere, you tell me exactly what you're doing, or as much as you possibly can tell me. I don't want to see you dead on the floor of the ship- do you have any idea how scared I was?! " her voice had unintentionally risen in volume, and a few people were staring.
"I'm sorry." Nicholas whispered. "I don't know what else to say, but-" his last words were muffed by a kiss from Belle.
"You may be a genius sometimes, but I swear you're an idiot. Don't do it again." She rolled her eyes and went back to whatever she'd been doing at the computer screens.
"Well, looks like Rush is back." Volker muttered.
"Uh oh." Belle said, squinting at a few numbers on the screen. "We've got trouble."
"What kind of trouble?" Young asked, coming over to glance at the numbers flying across her screen.
"They're opening the doors. This is bad- this is very, very bad." Belle tapped on a few keys, trying to figure out exactly which parts of the ship they might be able to access. "They're spreading out. I don't think they'll go too far just because their numbers aren't as extensive as they'd like us to think, but… basically locks are useless. Why didn't we vent the gate room again?"
Several heads turned towards her, confused. They were probably wondering how she could've missed it.
"Sorry." She muttered. "I was chastising someone."
"We decided to try the diplomatic route to avoid costing Rush or Telford their lives." Camille explained. She hadn't been there earlier, but must have made her way to the room during the Colonel's broadcast.
"What happened to Eli and Chloe?" Young asked.
"We don't know." Brody checked the readings for the kino room, but it seemed empty. "It's like they disappeared."
"We'll have to manage without them for now." Rush said, all business. "If they've expanded into the corridors, it means they've got hostages. It's all a waiting game now."
"A waiting game?!" Camille looked outraged. "You can't seriously be willing to gamble with the lives of those people!"
"I'm not!" Nicholas snapped. "I'm simply saying that sooner or later, they're going to get impatient, and if we don't act on this quickly, people are going to die. Now, I'm going to guess that Scott and Greer have secured hostages of their own. It's all politics from this point out, Camille."
"How can you be so cold about this?" she snapped. Belle almost opened her mouth to contradict her, but Nicholas was faster.
"If Belle were hostage with them I would be doing the exact same thing. You want to save their lives, you'll play the game. Understand?"
"Belle!" Volker called, waving her over. "Get a lock on this- someone's activated a panel." She left her position beside Rush in favor of seeing what was going on.
"Already on it!" Brody said. "Looks like Telford and the gang are going around the back way to try to get to us." He was still tapping on keys, people rushing around the control interface room, when the power flickered.
It was a short loss, but it was disturbing enough with the situation they had going. Destiny was an extremely advanced ship- power loss meant extremely bad news.
"Crap." Brody mumbled. "Let's add that to the laundry list of thing we have to figure out."
"Nick and I will take it." Belle offered. "You two keep trying to figure out a way to log their movements and figure out what the hell is going on over there." Dr. Rush shrugged and moved over to the last of the four main computer screens in the room. This was probably going to take some time, but Belle was right- even having four people on the job rather than two wouldn't make a lot of difference, especially at the cost of losing information about what was actually happening outside those doors.
"What the hell was that?!" Colonel Young burst into the room, fuming.
"We don't know." Belle said, trying to remain calm for all their sakes. "We're working on it, but it was almost like a freak outage- it's hard to trace."
"Well, find out!" Young was gone again before any of them could comment, and Belle simply sighed.
"He's worried. Give him time." She said, casting a glance towards the way he'd walked.
"We don't have time." Nicholas muttered. "I found what's causing the problem."
Some hours later, Belle pointed to a star chart of the area near Destiny. She and Rush hand managed to isolate what the problem was, but the discovery brought more questions than answers.
"It's called a binary pulsar, and it's emitting gamma radiation and x-rays that are off the charts. The blasts are huge, and Destiny is diverting power to the shields to keep us from being roasted alive."
"So what happens when we run out of power?" Young asked.
"We die." Rush muttered. "FTL won't engage for some reason. We're working on fixing it, but it's going to take time."
"How long do we have?" Camille asked, biting her lip.
"Two more blasts and people start dying." Belle said. "They come at regular intervals, so we have about an hour and forty minutes."
Camille and Young immediately launched into a discussion with Greer and Scott about what to do with the Lucian Alliance members. It would probably be best to make them aware of the situation- Camille argued that they could survive if they worked together, but going out alone was risky.
The science team simply kept working on the problem at hand, Rush and Belle working frantically to fix the FTL drive while Brody worked on the shield problem.
"Hello?" a voice suddenly came through the intercom. "This is Eli. Can anyone hear me?"
"Holy… Eli?" Brody checked the map, making sure that the location on Eli was correct. "How the hell did you get down there?"
"Doesn't matter. Listen, Chloe is hurt, and there's something going on with the power-"
"We know." Dr. Rush said. Explaining things was becoming a bit redundant, but he talked him through the pulsar scenario anyways. Thankfully, Eli actually knew what a binary pulsar was, so there was less explaining to do.
"I think we found a way around the shield issue, though." Brody said. "The shields on the side facing the pulsar are shot, but the shields on the side away from the star are fine. If we can transfer the power there, it'll buy us time."
"Time is good." Belle said, nodding. "But how do we do that? We don't have access to the core systems-"
"Manually." Nicholas said suddenly, pulling up a map of the ship's exterior. "We do it manually. There's a spot out on the hull that we can do it from, but we'd need volunteers and we'd have to go through Kiva's territory." Belle groaned.
This was going to be tricky.
"What's going on?" Brody asked. "Why did the transfer stop?"
Kiva had demanded control of the ship and Colonel Young as a hostage in exchange for letting Scott and Greer come and fix the shields, but Telford was transferring the power back to Rush, Brody, and Belle in a different control room. Apparently something had gone wrong- or worse, Telford had been caught.
Scott and Greer, thanks to some quick thinking from Eli, had made it inside the ship before the blast, successfully resetting the shields. Prisoners were sent through the stargate, down to a planet below. They were safe from the radiation, and not quite stranded, not yet. However, they were still pushed for time, and the tiny group of people sitting around computers could possibly be the last line of defense against the Lucian Alliance.
"I don't know." Belle scanned over the screen for a second before rising, but Nicholas immediately put a hand on her arm.
"I know what you're thinking, and I'm not letting you leave this room." He shot her a look that very clearly stated that he meant what he said. Belle was the type to go out and investigate, but if he could help it she wouldn't be out of his sight until this whole thing was over.
"So what are we going to do about the FTL?" Belle asked. "We've got it working, but we have no control. We're stuck in a stalemate!"
"Not for long." Nicholas said. "The transfer didn't complete, but we still have control over some of the ship's systems." He didn't bother to explain farther before starting up a programming sequence.
"You guys there?" Eli's voice came through the intercom, and Brody responded.
"Yep, we're here. Are Scott and Greer with you?"
"Yeah, they're fine. But why are we losing shield power? Are you guys doing that?"
"That's me, yeah." Nicholas said, slipping his glasses on. Belle stared for a minute, unable to think what to say.
"Are- are you crazy?!" she leaned over his shoulder to look at the screen. Shields were dropping in power, and it looked like… he was disabling the FTL?
"Why would you do that? Are you trying to cook us all?" Eli sounded scared even over the radio. Rush continued to work, but explained his plan.
"Listen to me. The pulsar levels the playing field- it's dangerous to us both. If they want to live, they'll have to work with us. They should notice the shields dropping soon."
"What about the people on the planet?" Brody asked. The Lucian Alliance had taken the hostages to a planet in range of the gate with the intentions of leaving them there. the only good thing coming of it was that they were also out of harm's way from the pulsar.
"We can go back for them once we gain control of the ship again. Anyways, we're not going to jump until I enable the FTL drive again, so they're fine."
"So now we wait?" Belle asked, eyebrows raised. She didn't like waiting- it wasn't her thing. She preferred action, especially when anyone tried to prevent her from acting (even if they were concerned for her safety).
"Now we wait." Nicholas confirmed with a nod. It only took a few minutes before a call came through.
Oh, they prattled on for a few minutes about not wanting to sacrifice their own people, but Belle kept her mouth shut and listened. And prayed. Lots of praying.
In the end, it worked out that a female voice- not Kiva's- took over the radio and accepted the offer to surrender. Everything was over rather quickly, resolved faster than it had begun. The only problem was… it wasn't over, not yet. Not for Belle.
"Nicholas…" Belle said that night, perching on the edge of the bed they shared.
"What's wrong, love?" Nicholas sat beside her, wrapping an arm around her waist gently. Belle was deeply troubled tonight- he could tell by the look in her eyes.
"You… the things you said today… You really scared me." she didn't know how to put this other than very frankly. "I haven't heard you talk like that since before we were... this."
"I didn't mean most of it." He said with a sigh. "But that doesn't make it any better, does it?" Belle shook her head sadly. Words were something that were permanent, unfortunately.
"I don't think you meant them back then, either. Nicholas, I don't want… I don't want everything we've done…" she didn't have to finish her sentence. Both of them knew where this was going.
Everything that they had done together was helping them heal. Oh, of course they still had little scars- the occasional nightmare, the too harsh words spoken in anger, but Belle knew better than anyone what pressure could do to someone in their situation.
She was trying to keep him from turning back into the bitter, callous man he was around everyone but her. It used to be his way, his life, but now it was more like a shell, a persona he wore around everyone but Belle. Spiteful words only went so deep and came so often, and people could tell that he was changing for the better. No one knew the extent of this change, however, save the woman he spent his nights beside, and no one else would know when the alarm bells were going off for a relapse.
"Nick," Belle reached up, running her fingers through his hair tenderly. "You can't shut off. I know it's what you do, I know you're trying to protect yourself, but you can't do it. I can't be the only person you ever show yourself to- it's not healthy."
"It's habit." He shrugged, drawing her closer. "It's just habit by now."
"Don't do this to yourself." Belle whispered, pressing a kiss to his cheek. "Please. You're not going to lose everyone you love, Nick."
"Neither are you."