A Snippet Story
Ghosts were a fact of life on G889, as the apparitions of Mary's parents in and around the biodome proved to all the members of the EA crew.
Those ghosts were nothing compared to the ones who appeared on the dreamplane at night when Alonzo was trying to sleep. Waking to the sounds of screams within his head, and the feel of his heart pounding as adrenaline coursed through his bloodstream in the mistaken belief the dreams were really happening, was becoming more and more of a nightly occurrence for him.
It seemed the farther away the group moved from the valley where two members of the group stayed behind, the more vivid the dreams became. Yet, when he opened his eyes and saw the real world around him, the messages of the dreams faded as quickly as if being turned off by a switch.
The dreamplane was trying to tell him something-of that he was certain. The problem now was learning how to interpret what it was saying.
Perhaps it was time to tell the others and let them try to help him make sense of it all. He certainly wasn't capable of doing it on his own.
Despite the growing conviction he must talk to the others about the dreams, Solace waited three days before saying something. He'd had two nights of peaceful slumber and his resolve had crumbled, though he knew it was foolish to let it. It took another nightmare to finally convince him to talk.
Though the days were getting warmer and longer as spring progressed, the group still built a roaring bonfire to gather around at the end of each day's journey, and it seemed as if with every passing day the talking between them became lighter and easier and more prone to laughter and joking. The guilt of moving on while Devon, and to a lesser extent, Eben, stayed behind was beginning to be less hard to bear.
In light of that, Alonzo felt a little troubled at having to bring up such a disturbing subject when everyone seemed to be coming to grips with their losses.
Even so, he knew it had to be done, and to his surprise, when he finished recounting his dream, every member of the group admitted to having had a similar nightmare at least once since leaving the valley.
Not knowing what was causing the dreams was almost as annoying as not remembering the dreams after waking. If it wasn't for the physical stress, no one would have remembered them at all.
It seemed the only common thread between the group was the almost unanimous feeling they were left with of being frightened by having seen a ghost. No one remembered anything else, and it was the main reason no one spoke of their dreams until now.
These experiences were not at all like the dreams incurred by Dell Curry, where everyone had been left with the feeling they had dreamed of their mothers, nor like the sightings of Mary's deceased parents at the biodome. Neither of these was threatening in any way.
Julia was quick to look for a medical explanation, questioning everyone on their regular sleeping habits and whether or not they were being forthcoming in their answers.
Physically there was nothing wrong with the group, and that left Julia to wonder about the planet.
Alonzo's dreams seemed to happen most frequently, while the others had only experienced them once or twice.
Perhaps his Terrian link was responsible for this.
Unknowingly, the doctor had opened a door to understanding the dreams by making the first connections between the dreams and the planet.
A week later, Julia had an unusual dream. As before, she awoke suddenly to darkness and the lingering feeling she had seen something that frightened her. The difference between this dream and all the others was this time she remembered John Danziger being in the dream with her.
Getting up quickly she wrapped a blanket around herself and went to the opening of her tent and pushed the flap open. Unmindful of the crackle of the material and whether or not the sound might disturb Alonzo's sleep, she stepped through the opening and into the night air. She looked around the campsite.
Yale was on watch, sitting near the fire and looking at a hologram displayed in his open hand. A mag-pro lay across his lap.
Turning her attention to the tents, she looked to her left. There was a dim light showing in the Danziger tent.
Julia headed in that direction, abruptly realizing she was barefoot when the stones of the graveled ground surface made her wince. Carefully she approached the tent.
"Hello?" she called softly. "John? Are you awake?"
A few seconds later, the hushed sounds of movement came from inside and the tent flap moved outward, the sound of the heavy material bending sounding very loud in the stillness of the night. Danziger ducked through the opening.
"Julia? What's the matter?"
"I had another dream. The first in weeks. I felt I should come and talk to you."
He stared at her for a few seconds, then looked away, towards Yale's back in the distance. "I had one, too. I was just wondering whether or not I should go to your tent and wake you, or..."
He let the sentence drop, but Julia could tell there was more he wanted to say. After second or two he finished with a lame sounding, "Or wait until daylight."
"What happened in the dream, Danziger?" she prompted. "This is the first time I remember anyone being in the dreams with me. I dreamed you were there and when I woke I knew I needed to talk to you."
He took a deep breath. "I dreamed about Eben Sinh. She told me to get you and take you to the glade where the vehicles are parked."
"She wants to talk to us."
" How?! What do you mean?"
He took another deep breath, looking for all the world as he was about to dive into deep water. "I think she's the person we've all been dreaming about. The dreams that have been bothering us, that we don't want to remember. I think she's been coming to us all in our dreams and trying to talk to us, but no one wants to believe it's really her. We've been getting scared and turning away from her, thinking it's a trick of some kind."
"Eben?" Julia said softly, thinking back to the other woman's unfortunate death. "I... Oh, John, I think you're right!"
He nodded and slipped his hands into his pants pockets. "I'm going to the glade. You don't have to come, Julia, if you don't think you can, but I have to find out what all of this is about, why she's been trying to contact us."
Julia reached out and put a hand on his arm. "Danziger, there's something I've never told anyone. Remember, just after we left Bennett's ship, we were looking for water? You and I went north to investigate a sensor reading? We found a small pond being fed by a hidden source and you went looking for the source? I stayed and tested the plantlife."
"Yeah, sure. I remember. The spring gave us enough water for weeks."
"While you were gone, I saw Eben. I talked to her. She came to me and stood as close as you are now and she felt as real as you do now. She told me to talk to you and Yale about Uly and try to convince you to let him develop his Terrian abilities. Remember? We talked about it a few days later? We decided to let him and Alonzo go to the Terrians and learn whatever they could teach him. I fought so strongly for that because Eben told me our future depended on Uly and Alonzo, both, getting to know their abilities more intimately. I believed her."
"Okay. I remember. Alonzo got as much out of the Terrian visits as Uly did."
"She also told me everything would be explained in time, and for me to remember this isn't Earth nor the stations. After talking to her, I fell asleep in the dunerail, and when you came back and said you'd found the spring, I was never sure whether I'd dreamed Eben appearance or if I really saw her. Not until just now. When you said she wants to see us in the glade, I knew I hadn't dreamed her before."
Danziger put his hand over hers and gave it a squeeze. "Why don't you go back to your tent and get dressed. Wake up Lonz and bring him along. I'll wait with Yale. I think he should come, too. Make a record of what happens so he can show the others later."
Ten minutes later, the foursome made their way quickly and quietly across the camp, rounding the parked vehicles and approaching the moonlit glade just beyond them. Boulders half the size of trees and rocks of varying sizes littered half of the glade so heavily they formed a barrier as impenetrable as their laser defense grids. They had parked the vehicles here to take advantage of the natural barrier.
Danziger, leading the way, stopped in front of the dunerail and looked around.
"You were dreaming, Danziger," Alonzo, suppressing a yawn, said behind him. "How can you be certain this is what you were supposed to do?"
Yale answered. "It is," he said simply and gestured ahead of them, indicating they look in the direction he was facing.
A familiar looking figure was coming toward them from the shadows of the taller trees.
Julia's head whipped around and she felt a chill go through her, raising the hair on her arms even though the night breeze was as warm as a daytime wind. The feeling was deja vu. She had done this before.
The Eben apparition was dressed differently than the last time(the first time?)Julia saw her. At the pond she'd been wearing a jacket and pants in the cold spring breeze, but tonight she was dressed in a short sleeved shirt and cut-off shorts, as if she felt the warmth of summer, too. The breeze blew a strand of hair into her face and she reached up to tuck it behind her ear. The soles of her boots crunched against the gravelly dirt and twigs on the ground beneath all of their feet. She stopped a few meters away from the staring, silent foursome, and crossed her arms, hands on elbows, in front of her.
"John," the Eben... thing said with a small half smile. "Thank you for coming. All of you. I knew you were stubborn people, but I didn't realize how much until I tried to communicate with you. I was beginning to think none of you would ever listen to me."
"We're not exactly used to ghosts talking to us in our dreams," Danziger said in a bemused tone, and then, more firmly, "Eben! Is it really you?"
She spread her hands. "As much as I can be, yes, I'm here."
"It's the mother!" Alonzo said suddenly, and moved to stand beside John. "It's the planet, John! She's the mother."
The apparition cocked her head to one side and smiled wider. "The Terrians will be pleased you recognized us, Solace. The mother is here with me - I couldn't hold this shape if she wasn't, but I'm here, too. I'm me, Eben Sinh, as much as I can be under the circumstances."
Alonzo was nodding his head and he raised a hand and pointed his finger at her. "You've become a link to the mother. A link to the planet."
"Yes, but more specifically, I'm John's link to the mother."
Danziger was stunned. "My link? I don't need a link to the planet."
"Of course you do," Eben told him. "The mother has been trying to talk to you since we crashed, but you won't let her into your dreams."
"What dreams? I don't have Terrian dreams."
The mother/Eben looked exasperated. "We need to sit down and talk."
The image of Eben Sinh disappeared and instantly reappeared thre meters away, sitting on one of the ATV's front tires. She motioned for them to join her. Crates and boxes stacked between the little vehicle and the transrover were the right height for seats.
After a second's hesitation curiosity overcame apprehension and the four walked past the larger vehicle and sat down on the boxes.
Yale leaned forward and reached out a hand to touch the woman on the ATV tire. "Forgive me, " he said, "but I must try to understand who or what it is we are talking to, Eben. Do I still call you Eben?"
"Of course," she answered and put her hand into his. "Julia did the same thing the other time we met."
"What? What other time?" Alonzo said in surprise, looking sharply at Julia.
The doctor, watching Yale marvel at the hand in his, held one hand up to Alonzo and shook her head. "Later. I'll tell you about it later."
Yale was on his feet now, and Julia couldn't help but experience the feeling of deja vu as she remembered touching Eben's hair and face and clothing with exactly the same movements Yale was making.
The warmth and texture of her skin, the throbbing of a pulse on her neck, the brush of hair on his hand as the wind ruffled it gently, a small bruise visible in the moonlight just below her left knee...Yale could scarcely believe the reality of the young woman's form in front of him.
"How?" he finally asked. The one simple word hanging in the air like the echo of a thunderclap.
"I don't really know," Eben told him with a shrug of her shoulders.
Alonzo frowned and leaned forward, exchanging a look with Danziger as he did. "You don't know?" he said. "But...shouldn't you know everything now?"
Eben laughed, a sound caught by the wind and carried away as if it was the rustling of leaves passing from tree to tree. "Alonzo!" she said. "I died, I didn't go away to college!"
A short laugh erupted out of Julia and she took a moment to compose herself before speaking. "The other time you and I talked, you said many things would be explained at a later date. I never really knew if I had just dreamed our meeting or if it actually happened - until now. Eben, I'm sorry I never believed in you."
"I knew I shouldn't have let you fall asleep," the other woman told her, looking around Yale. "It would have made things a lot easier for me to contact the others if you had told someone you had seen me, but I guess, you couldn't, could you? Your scientific mind would have doubted the experience even if you had stayed awake. Still, if John or one of the others had known you thought you saw me, they might not have been so afraid to admit they had seen and dreamed of me many times. As it is I think I scared all of you out of your wits by entering your dreams. I tried appearing to Magus and Cameron a couple of times, but they refused to believe their eyes and turned away without a sound and never looked back. I thought perhaps, it would be easier to communicate in your sleep, but I still scared you."
Danziger, listening to all of this in silence, was growing uncomfortable. The thought that the mother had been trying to communicate with him since the crash landing was unnerving. He had never envied Alonzo's link with the Terrians, better him than John; and he didn't care if he never understood what happened to young Ulysses Adair while he was within the planet's crust being changed, cured, whatever. It was none of his business. His business was to survive and see to it his daughter and his ops crew and his friends survived, too. He didn't need the planet to do that.
He was doing it all on his own.
Yale was backing away from Eben now. He sat on the ATV's rear tire and watched, in fascination, the mother/Eben specter.
"What did you mean?" Danziger said suddenly, his voice harsh with impatience. "You're my link to the planet? Why do I need a link to the planet?"
Eben looked from him to Alonzo a couple of times before speaking. "Haven't either of you ever wondered why things on the planet are the way they are for you? Why Alonzo can speak to the Terrians? Why John knows so much about surviving on a planet he's never seen before? Julia, Yale," she looked at each of them as she said their names, "haven't either of you ever wondered why John is constantly being tested in ways none of the other members of the group have ever been? Why only Alonzo has Terrian dreams and can communicate with the Terrians without trilling the way Uly, and Mary Lachance do?"
"Of course!" Alonzo exclaimed and jumped to his feet. "I've never known why the Terrians chose me to have dreams and talk for them. I've asked them, I've had Uly ask them, but they seem to think I should know." He tapped his chest with his fingertips in emphasis.
Eben smiled. "The Terrians chose you because you are the oldest person among the group. They have a great respect and admiration for the elders in their tribes. They chose you because they thought being over twice the age of everyone else in the three cargo pods, you must be the wisest and most knowledgeable of all the humans who survived. They are paying you a great compliment by accepting you, as an elder, into their lives. You have managed to live a long life without ever going through renewal, as they do when they go into the planet at moon cross."
"That still doesn't explain me," Danziger said, impatiently. "The planet has never tried to contact me through dreams or any other ways."
Eben seemed to take a deep breath and her shoulders slumped a little. "Yes, she has, John. You just won't listen. You don't want to hear her."
"And why..." he began loudly, almost shouting.
"John!" Yale said sharply. "Let her finish. I have often wondered, to myself - I never shared the thoughts with anyone, why you have so often been the focus of many of the hardest lessons we have learned about survival on this planet."
Eben straightened up again and pointed a finger in Yale's direction. "Exactly!" she exclaimed, and turned back to Danziger. "Didn't you ever wonder why all of the trials and tribulations we've endured seemed to end up on your shoulders?" She jumped to her feet and began to pace.
"The Terrians chose Alonzo to speak for them because he was the oldest among us," she nodded in his direction and Solace quickly sat down on a crate as if pushed, "but the mother chose you, John, to speak for her because you were the one most in need of a home."
The retort he had on the tip of his tongue remained silent as John looked from the mother/Eben to Yale and Julia and back again. They were no help. Yale looked as if he was just discovering his true name for the second time, and Julia, who was uncharacteristically silent through all Eben had said, was looking at the other woman with rapt fascination.
In need of a home? Danziger thought. This ZED infested planet?
Suddenly, Julia broke her silence and jumped to her feet. "So...so she's been testing him!" she said and started pacing, too.
Eben quickly sat down on the ATV tire to get out of Julia's way, drawing her legs up and crossing them to be sure she wouldn't get bumped.
Julia stopped abruptly and dropped to her knees in front of Danziger. She grabbed his arms and looked into his face. She was smiling as brightly as the twin moons in the sky.
"Don't you get it, John? Going after the cargo pod and almost starving, dealing with the frozen Terrian, finding Shepard and his people, going into the caverns to get Uly, even the way you dealt with Gaal, it all comes back to you! I mean, we all learned something from each hardship we faced, but it was always you who had to face the consequences alone."
"And even with all of my knowledge," Yale added, raising his cybernetic hand, "my vast library of facts and figures, you have always seemed to know what to do without asking for help from me."
Danziger shook his head. "You're forgetting one thing," he said, gesturing with one hand. "I was in the military for six years. I spent time in survival training on Earth, from the Arctic to the worst of the Red Zones."
"A dead Earth," Eben said immediately. "It was nothing like this."
She uncrossed her legs, stood and walked over to stand beside Julia. She held out her hand to Danziger. "You wouldn't let the mother into your dreams, you wouldn't accept her presence in your life. When I got sick, and it became apparent I wasn't going to live, she spoke to me in a dream. She asked what I wanted most in the world, and I told her I wanted all of you to live, especially you and True. I wanted you and True to reach New Pacifica and decide there where the rest of your lives would be lived. She offered to let me be the link between you and her, a link you would be more likely to accept than just a voice in your dreams, or a voice in your head prompting you to chose one path over the other. Of course, I accepted her offer! I knew if I asked to be allowed to live there would never be anything between us ever again, nothing lasting. We had our chance and it didn't work. So, I chose to be the mother's voice, a known voice you might accept and allow to be a part of your life just as Alonzo has come to accept his link to the Terrians." She paused for a moment, still holding out her hand. "Was I wrong?"
The fear, apprehension in her voice was evident.
After a moment, Danziger took the smaller hand in his and closed his fingers around it. "I don't know," he said gruffly. "You feel real and you look like Eben, but I'll tell you now, no one, mother, Terrian, ghost, Adair, the Council, or the two damn moons in the sky has ever forced me to make a decision against my will! I'm not being controlled by anyone, and I'm not going to be in the future! If that means keeping the planet - you! - out of my head, then you're damn well never going to get into my dreams!"
Again, the peal of laughter from the apparition might have been the rustle of leaves and grass in a strong breeze, a sound sweeping away on the wind and fading with distance. Eben clasped both hands around John's. "You are so predictable! I told her you would say that!"
Eben looked over Julia's head at Alonzo. "Solace, have the Terrians or the dreams you've had ever forced you to act against your will? I mean, besides stopping you from going over the cliff in the ATV."
"What?!" Julia and John both said and turned sharply to look at Alonzo.
"When did that happen?" the doctor demanded, turning on her knees to face Alonzo.
Oh, no! Alarmed, Solace glanced at them and then back at Eben. "No! Never. I've always been free to make up my own mind. Look at how many times I've been wrong!"
Damn, Eben! he thought. Why did you have to mention that? Sneaking a glance at Yale revealed the older man looking at him inquisitively. Oh, hell. He knows! He knows when it happened. Alonzo sank back onto his crate and looked past Julia to the figure beside her.
Eben was talking to Danziger again. "Think of how many times you've been wrong," she said. She shook her head slightly. "The mother has never done anything more than give you a nudge in a direction you might never have considered taking. How you use the hints and prompts she gives you are entirely up to you. And, anyway, never mind her, since when did you ever listen to me?"
Julia reluctantly turned her attention back to the situation at hand. She rose to her feet in one fluid motion and put a hand on Danziger's shoulder.
"I believe her, John," she said, and her simple declaration meant more to him than she would ever know.
Danziger looked at the hands gripping his own and then up at the face of the specter. "No matter what happened, you were always there for True and for me."
"What else are friends for?"
"No, I mean it. Even after the fiasco the hunt for cargo pod nine became, you were there. Afterward, you listened and helped me through it."
Eben tilted her head to one side, as if listening to something far off, before she spoke. "There were others who wanted to help you, but the mother warned them away and they heeded her warnings, but... She says I was the only one who didn't."
Julia breathed in sharply and raised one hand to her mouth. "She's right, John. Later on, Devon and I talked about what happened and how much we'd wanted to talk to you about it, but we never felt the time was right, and then, it seemed too much time had passed and we'd lost the opportunity. So we let it drop." She looked at Eben. "But, you charged ahead anyway, no matter what the mother was making you feel."
"I didn't really do anything but listen - which is all the mother and the Terrians ever asked of us," Eben looked directly at John, "and all she is asking of you now."
"It seems to me, I haven't got too much choice, if you can pop up and disappear at will."
"Oh, don't worry. You won't become the haunted wagon train, or vehicle train, or whatever Devon called it. I don't think the others are ready to know about me, yet. We were too close. I'm afraid they thought they were going insane with grief when I tried to let them see me."
The look of sadness on her face was very real for a ghost to be feeling.
Instinctively, Julia reached out and gave her a hug. "We've all missed you, Eben. I wonder if you know how much?"
"It's all right. I've got your attention. I won't need to bother anyone else after this."
Yale had gotten to his feet and walked closer to them. "May I ask, Eben, if you can feel us when we touch you?"
She shook her head. "I can hold the form for as long as i want, but it isn't alive. I react from memory," she told him. She gently drew away from Danziger and Heller. "I think I should let you go. I've given you enough to think about, and I've disturbed your sleep too often as it is. If I remember correctly, and it hasn't been that long, being up so late at night makes a person feel tired, and they have a tendency to oversleep in the morning." She turned only her eyes to Danziger. "Or they have a tendency to be more grumpy than normal."
Smiling at him, Eben took a few steps backward and turned away, giving them a wave before walking briskly in the direction she had come. She passed into the shadows made by the trees and was lost from sight, and even the crunch of her footsteps on the stony ground could be heard no more.
Alonzo rose from his box and walked over to touch Danziger's shoulder and give it shake. "You okay, Danz?"
"Are you kidding me? Now I know how you felt after the crash!"
"It isn't so bad. At least, you got an explanation up front. That's more than I ever had."
Yale spoke up. "I think we should return to the campfire," he said in his measured way. "It is almost time for watch rotation. I wouldn't want Baines sounding an alarm should he find me missing from my post."
Danziger remained seated. He looked up at them and waved them away. "You go on, all of you. I have a lot to think about. I'll be back later."
"If there is anything I can do to help, John, do not hesitate to ask," Yale said.
Alonzo let him pass and made to follow. "Me, too, pal. I'm the only expert on this link business you're ever going to find, you know."
A short laugh was Danziger's reply.
Alonzo smiled to himself and walked past Julia, taking hold of her arm and pulling her along. Reluctantly she let him lead her away.
"He'll be alright," Alonzo said as they trailed after Yale. "If he needs us he knows where to find us."
Julia walked away silently, looking back at Danziger. Just before they went around the dunerail and lost him to sight, she turned to Alonzo.
"What did Eben mean about you almost driving the ATV over a cliff?"
The question and Alonzo's groan carried lightly on the breeze, and all of a sudden Danziger didn't care about links and planets and ghosts and dreams anymore. He wanted to hear Alonzo's answer! Getting up from the crate, he hurried after the others.
Besides, it didn't really matter what Eben had told him tonight, did it? He still had a job to do. He still had to get the group to New Pacifica to meet the colony ship; and he still had to do everything in his power to help Julia find a cure for Devon. He still had two children to keep safe and sound until he could reunite them with their mothers, if that was really what his child wanted, of course.
Anyway, what did it matter if the planet did give him a nudge in the right direction once in a while? If it meant getting his people safely to their destination, he would accept help from a damn koba!
He stopped suddenly as a familiar sound swept through the trees above him, the sound very much like laughter rustling through the leaves and traveling away in a fading echo.
Yale was seated at the fire, looking up at the trees, and Alonzo and Julia were standing just outside their tent doing the same thing. Danziger slipped unnoticed into his tent and lay down, fully clothed, on his bunk. He put out the light and closed his eyes. He fell asleep quickly with one thought on his mind. How many humans besides himself could say they had made a planet laugh?
Earth 2 Home
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