The Promised Land
By Joan Powers
A/N: Originally I'd planned to follow up my story "The Road Not Chosen" with one about Eden Advance at their second winter camp. Many years later, I've been inspired to pick up the story at a different place. Don't worry if you haven't read my previous stories, background information will be provided. Special thanks to Virginia R for being brave enough to brain storm with me and to Nancy and Tracy for their greatly appreciated suggestions. Chapters will be posted roughly every other day. If you're reading, I'd love to hear from you.
Parings: Devon and Danziger, Julia and Alonzo, Morgan and Bess
Timeline: Post series ending; Part of my series including "Grieving Time", "Stepping Stones", "Boundaries" and "The Road Not Chosen".
Summary: Arriving at New Pacifica should've been everything they'd dreamed. But life has a way of introducing the unexpected, especially when the Colony ship reached New Pacifica months before Eden Advance.
Today's our anniversary. We arrived at New Pacifica exactly six months ago. No one seems to be celebrating or even acknowledging it. Maybe something will happen later today like a special dinner or a movie. That would be great.
It's funny how things don't turn out like you expect. All those months on the road to New Pacifica. If we could only get there, people kept saying, then life would get better. Easier. But it's not. Sure, it's nice to have better food and water and not have to sleep in a tent anymore. But there's just as much work and rules here as there were traveling.
And the Colony ship… Somehow all those playmates I'd envisioned weren't working out that well. Most of those kids were total wimps – practically scared of their own shadows. And those that might be a little more daring were severely punished by their parents if they stepped out of line.
I guess it's better than the Stations…
"Devon," Yale's voice called, waking her out of a sound sleep.
Startled, Devon struggled to rise.
"Breakfast is ready."
She panicked when she realized that Danziger hadn't left last night and was lying beside her, snoring loudly while pinning her midriff beneath one of his arms.
"Danziger!" she hissed as loudly as she dared. "Danziger!"
He didn't stir.
What was with him? Hadn't they agreed to be discrete? She nervously hoped that Yale or Uly wouldn't come bounding into her bedroom to find her like this – completely naked with John Danziger sprawled out beside her.
Of course if he kept snoring like this, it would be a moot point.
She nudged him with her elbow but it was useless.
"John! John!" She shook him more vigorously.
"Huh?" he finally stirred. "Wha…Uh-oh."
He bolted upright and haphazardly searched for his clothes. "I gotta-"
"I know. True."
Devon rose to hastily pull on underwear then a black T-shirt and pair of dark green pants. "Give me a minute and you can sneak out while we're eating breakfast."
Danziger clearly wasn't awake. Once he'd located his clothes, which had been strewn about the floor, he couldn't seem to remember how to put them on. Installing that compressor unit yesterday must've really wiped him out.
Devon took pity on him, helping him pull his T-shirt over his head as he perched on the edge of the bed.
Unable to resist those blue eyes and those unkempt blonde lockes, she briefly sank into his lap and covered his mouth with her own. He held her tightly and kissed her again, more deeply.
"Devon?" Yale called.
She pulled away. "I'm coming." "See you later," she whispered and rose.
Entering the common area, she greeted her son and Yale. "Good morning."
She could swear that Uly had grown at least four inches since they'd reached New Pacifica. Her eleven year old son was bright-eyed and ready to face the day. He dove into his pancakes with gusto.
"Would John like some coffee?" Yale asked.
Taken aback, Devon blushed. "Uh…no."
Maybe they hadn't been as discrete as they thought they'd been. She sat down at the table beside her son and examined the contents of her plate.
The Adair family quarters weren't much to speak of. They, along with the other members of Eden Advance, were housed in one of the dormitory units that were originally hastily constructed for the Jamestown families. Individual suites consisted of two or three small bedrooms connected to a common room equipped with a sink and electric burner for simple cooking. Communal bathrooms, one for men the other for women, were located at the center of the complex. A full kitchen and mess hall that doubled as a gathering space were housed in a separate building.
Most of the pre-fab construction material that had been aboard the colony ship had been utilized to construct the hospital. The dormitories were an odd mix of pre-fab steel, rock and lumber, lacking sophistication or any attention to fine detail. Walls constructed of wood weren't painted or stained. Most units lacked windows. Yet, with running water, electricity and heat, it felt luxurious compared to living in tents or caves.
"Tonight's the big meeting," Yale said as he joined them.
Suddenly her pancakes weren't looking as appealing. Maybe she ought to jot down some notes for her speech. "If I can just get on that governing board-"
"Devon, that's not going to guarantee anything,"
"It certainly can't hurt. That committee makes important decisions about use of resources – waste disposal, which trees to cut down, what crops to plant."
Yale sighed, he'd heard this many times. "That doesn't mean they'll vote in favor of your ideas."
"At least I'll know they'll be heard. We've got to convince them that the Terrians are our friends and it's in our best interests to live in harmony with them."
Trying to change the subject, Yale mentioned, "Today's our six month anniversary here. I wonder if they have any plans."
Sadly, she answered, "They won't. They don't want to remember."
Dr. Julia Heller silently fumed as she watched Dr. Vasquez examine a girl while her parents hovered nearby. Like most Syndrome patients, eight year old Claire Brighton was clad in a dull gray immunosuit that assisted her bodily functions. Julia had practically forgotten what those suits looked like until their arrival at New Pacifica. Uly's had been relegated to storage long ago. During the chaos of traveling, it had been lost and not missed. She'd hoped never to see those suits again.
The blonde girl with the attractive heart shaped face was struggling to breathe.
Syndrome children lacked the ability to thrive, having compromised immune systems and moderate to severe breathing issues, along with other complications. Yet the extent of these issues varied broadly from patient to patient. Some Syndrome children had been bedridden since birth, requiring constant medical attention. Claire had been at the middle of the curve – able to live with her parents and occasionally attend school.
Once any Syndrome child hit eight years old, they were living on borrowed time. When the decline started, marked by increasing difficulties with breathing and fighting infections, the end was near. Their remaining time could vary broadly from weeks to months but death was inevitable.
This was Claire's third breathing emergency this week.
"She's had a little too much excitement today," her father, Leon Brighton, a man with curly black hair and a large nose, nervously explained, poorly masking his concern.
Almost every member of the New Pacifica colony could recognize the signs of the decline. No one wanted to state the obvious. Claire was in trouble.
Dr. Vasquez handed the father an inhaler. "Let's try a dose of this every few minutes. It ought to help sustain her air passages."
After the delivery of the drug, Claire's breathing settled.
"That's wonderful," his father beamed. "Could this be a more permanent development?"
The senior physician was cautious, not wanting to give false hope. "It's too early to say." He cleared his throat, "We'll…need to keep her here in the hospital. For her safety."
Claire's parents' faces drained of color.
Her mother, Audrey, a thin, drawn woman, remained quiet. She was dressed modestly in tan pants with a salmon colored top. Unlike many colony women, she chose not to wear makeup, which emphasized her plainness. It was difficult to believe that she and Leon had produced such a beautiful child.
At one point during the examination, Julia discovered that Audrey was glancing towards her, almost trying to catch her gaze. Yet when Julia actually made eye contact with the woman, she had broken away.
Dr. Vasquez rose to leave. "Dr. Heller, can you do an analysis on this blood sample?'
Plastering a neutral smile on her face, she replied, "Sure."
Taking the vial, she walked down the hall to the main lab. While the dormitories had been crudely thrown together, the hospital was as close to state of the art as they could attain, given their limited resources. Climate control was meticulously maintained by a system with multiple backup generators. As opposed to the living quarters, electrical outlets were plentiful, along with bright fluorescent lighting. The labs were stocked with sophisticated medical testing equipment that would rival that found in any lab on the Stations.
Julia sighed. She was tired of all the junior tasks Dr. Vasquez assigned her. While it was wonderful having access to more state of the art equipment and medicines, she was rarely allowed to interact directly with patients.
Maybe it was the fact that she didn't care to wear a lab coat. When she'd first earned her medical degree, she'd been inordinately proud, almost ridiculously so of the achievement it represented. She'd worn it constantly. Her original lab coat had gone down with the Eden Advance ship. The new coat, another physician's cast off, never felt right.
Although the hospital in many ways resembled one on the Stations, it didn't feel the same to her. Their trek across the planet had changed her. Living with so little for so long had brought home what she really needed. The white lab coat was just an outer trapping. It didn't feel comfortable anymore.
Colony people tended to stand on protocol. Having elaborate rules and rituals gave them a sense of security. Due to the fact that most of them had Syndrome children perhaps having those guidelines provided the illusion of control. Perhaps it bothered them that Doctor Julia Heller no longer resembled her holocard with her blonde hair neatly pinned up and carefully applied makeup.
She shook her head, knowing that wasn't entirely true.
Stepping into the lab, Julia inserted her sample into the analyzer and programmed it. Then she strode back to catch Dr. Vasquez in his office.
"Julia." He looked up from his desk.
She couldn't think of a way to sugar coat it so she just said it. "I don't understand. I've proven my skills. I've kept Eden Advance alive for over two years with limited resources. Why won't you let me treat patients without direct supervision?"
He stammered, making excuses. "You're the most junior member of the team with the least experience."
Before crash landing on G889, that statement would've been sufficient to cause her to back down. Not now.
"I've proven myself time and again. What's going on?" She was more than a glorified lab tech.
"Maybe the parents are just more comfortable with me."
Given what they'd experienced over the last few months, that was a distinct possibility.
"After all, I've been with most of them throughout their entire experience. It's not easy having a Syndrome child."
"You trust Garrison and Fox and Wells with patients," Julia pointed out.
"They were on the colony ship. They've had time to develop that bond with the children and their families."
Julia went for broke. "Why wouldn't they trust me?"
Not that she didn't already know the answer. She wanted to know if he had the guts to say it.
He didn't. He looked away.
"I guess…you'd have to ask them."
"Let's go, Morgan." Bess rose from the bench by the long table to carry her empty mug and bowl to the counter. "Time for work detail."
Rather than eating in their unit, Bess and Morgan typically went to the mess hall which was filled with dozens of people.
In order for the people at New Pacifica colony to survive, hundreds of jobs needed to be attended to - daily. With over a thousand people, food needed to be grown, fields plowed, crops planted and harvested. Meals needed to be prepared and served. Power plants needed to designed, constructed and maintained. And a large number of the Syndrome children required round the clock care. Those members of the colony with specialized talents were permanently assigned specific tasks while those with more general skills were rotated about.
Bess was usually assigned meal preparation and serving at the hospital, assisting with the Syndrome children. Other than Julia, she was the only other Eden Advance member assigned to the hospital. That didn't bother Bess. She'd been eager to get to know new people even though Morgan preferred to stick closer with members of Eden Advance since he was most comfortable with the familiar.
Bess peered at her husband, who still sat at the table, staring blankly ahead. She'd have given anything to hear him complain about the quality of the food or demand better quarters for a man of his position. She could only imagine his disdain if he were aware of some of the work details he'd been assigned to such as cleaning the septic tank or weeding. It would've been wonderful even to see him sneaking off to play in VR.
But that wasn't going to happen.
Their first full summer on G889, while stuck at base camp, Walman and Morgan had chosen to scout ahead, unaware of the unusual properties of the red vines that carpeted the area. Uly had warned them, but they hadn't taken the child's word seriously. By the time the Terrians had returned Walman and Morgan, they were not the same men they'd been. The red vines had issued a chemical that reacted with the souls of living creatures. Critical parts of the men were 'missing'.
From the outside, Morgan and Walman appeared the same. Their physical appearances hadn't been drastically altered. But a closer look would reveal the lack of focus in their eyes, accompanied by a pleasant yet vacant expression. Both could follow simple instructions, with guidance. Any attempt at deeper conversation would be met with a blank stare.
No one at the colony would've believed that Morgan once could've easily solved their ongoing computer issues. That he'd cracked more than one complex computer code at Independence Colony to help them learn about the earlier ill-fated Council settlement. No one would know how he loved jazz and vintage 30s styles. That he once had political aspirations. All of that was irrelevant now.
Bess swallowed hard to choke down the familiar bitterness. The Terrians had magically healed Uly. Later, they also healed Devon, yet they were unable to help her husband or Walman? It didn't make sense. She'd begged and pleaded with them, to no avail. She'd pestered Alonzo endlessly to act as her ambassador yet they still wouldn't listen. After a while she began to wonder if Alonzo, and the rest of Eden Advance, were against her as well.
At first, upon Morgan's return to camp, she'd babbled incessantly, trying to cram knowledge back into his brain, trying to re-stimulate those neural pathways. Julia had felt it was worth the effort. Over the passing months her endless stream of chatter had gradually tapered off as Morgan's response had remained unchanged.
It should've been enough to have Morgan back. She hated herself that it wasn't. At one point she'd even contemplated starting a family, to propagate Morgan's genes – to once again see some lost part of him that she loved. Then she realized she'd be taking care of two children.
Ironically enough, it would've been better if Morgan had lost a leg or an arm, or had been blinded. It would've been a bear taking care of him on the road, but he still would've been him. Not this shell. Every time she looked at this person, she expected to see him. Not the casing.
"Wanna hand me some nails?" Rod Meitzer asked. He was an imposing figure of a man, nearly as wide as he was tall. His shoulder length brown hair was pulled back into a pony tail.
He, Danziger and Morgan were poised on the roof of one of the massive dormitories, replacing damaged shingles.
"Sure." Danziger complied. Then he looked over his shoulder to check on Morgan who was staring at his nail. John cautiously made his way over, grasping the nail from Morgan then turning it in the proper orientation. Using his hammer, he mimicked the motion for him. "Like this."
Danziger returned to the area where he'd been working. He hoped that Morgan wasn't going to have trouble with his balance, given the pitch of the roof.
"What's with that guy? He gives me the creeps," Meitzer asked.
"Cut him a break. It's not his fault."
Danziger and Morgan had never been close. Hell, they'd barely tolerated one another. Over the years, his selfish cowardly nature had caused situations that were dangerous for everyone involved. Taking the escape pod with only two occupants while leaving the rest of the crew to fend for themselves. Using the Geo-lock to secure sunstones for himself while nearly petrifying their camp filled with people. Danziger had been ready to tear him a new one many times.
Despite this, it sickened him to see Morgan and Walman reduced to this. He'd have given any amount of money to hear Morgan complaining right now. And Bess…This was killing her. Her sweet nature had been overcome by bitterness.
"Since when did you become his nursemaid?"
Danziger's mouth opened then closed. He and Meitzer had once been close. They'd worked several jobs together back on the Stations. Over the past few months, they'd shared an occasional meal and had enjoyed catching up. Now Danziger found himself wondering if their bond had ever been that strong or if it had only been based on drinking games and bets placed during down time that they'd reminisced about.
Meitzer wouldn't understand that Eden Advance had become his family and that family looked after its own.
"And what about Devon Adair running for the governing board? It wasn't enough to boss us around during the mission preparation. She's got to have her finger in everything."
John simmered, trying to hold his tongue which wasn't like him. However, the wrong words could stir up trouble and they'd already had more than their share.
"What was it like dealing with her every day in the wilderness? Remember we used to call her 'Dragon Lady'?" Meitzer chuckled fondly.
They had. He wasn't proud but they had.
"She's different when you get to know her better," Danziger diplomatically replied.
"I'll bet," he laughed.
"She is. She's a smart lady."
"Really? She sure left us with a mess."
Why did everyone on the Jamestown dwell upon that? Danziger was sick of hearing it.
"Look, I'm sure it was hard for you not having the hospital already constructed for the Syndrome kids when you arrived."
"Hard? It was a shanking nightmare. Some of those kids died."
Danziger's voice rose. "You think we wanted to crash? That we had a choice in the matter? What is wrong with you people? You think it was fun traipsing across a continent mostly on foot with limited food and water? We suffered just as much as you did and we had a hellavu lot less than you guys did. Get over it!"
The people from the Colony ship love to celebrate. It helps maintain morale. Every minor advance of a Syndrome child is announced with joyful shouting. Due to their short life expectancy, half and even quarter birthdays are sometimes celebrated. Each harvest warrants a banquet. A party is thrown as each new building is erected.
Not that we have that much extra in the way of food, but a party is a party. To a girl who'd never really celebrated her own birthday, it was a big deal. Even the anniversary of their arrival at New Pacifica, when they were greeted by wilderness instead of an outpost with a fully functional hospital, is a holiday from all work, filled with day long special events.
Is our arrival not worth celebrating?
It was wonderful, at first. Finally arriving at New Pacifica was all that we'd dreamed. Joy filled us as we saw the settlement and other people. There was lots of hugging and cheering. I didn't even care that most of the people grabbing me were complete strangers. We all rushed into the ocean, soaking ourselves, running around like idiots in the waves. There was a celebration that night. A huge bonfire with lots of food. Even dancing.
Then things got a little weird. Someone accused us of not doing our job, of leaving them in a lurch. It was awkward. We did the best that we could– the crash wasn't our fault. After spending more than two years trekking across this continent, we couldn't have done anything more. They didn't seem to care about the obstacles we'd dealt with. There was an argument but it seemed to blow over quickly.
Then the Terrians appeared.
How could these people live here and not know the Terrians? They were white as sheets. Many ran to get their MagPros then fired them up. Uly and Alonzo immediately tried to communicate with the Terrians. The colonists stared in horror when Uly crouched and trilled with them. Some woman fainted. Many rushed off with their Syndrome children to hide in the dorms as Devon and Julia frantically tried to convince everyone that they meant us no harm. Shots were fired. Thankfully no one was hurt and the Terrians left.
Maybe it's because it's only been six months? Maybe they'll celebrate on our official first year anniversary?
Even though this is a new place with lots of potential, some things never change. It used to be that you could tell the difference between the drones and the upper class. No one had to spell out the rules, the looks of disdain were sufficient. Then, after arriving on this planet, there was the subtle distinction between being a colonist or crew member of Eden Advance.
Now there was definitely a line drawn distinguishing members of Eden Advance from those of the Colony ship.
Who am I kidding?
They'll never acknowledge our arrival. They don't want to remember that night when we brought the Terrians back into their lives.
A/N: Morgan and Walman's encounter with the red vined areas is described in my story "The Road Not Chosen".