The Next Chapter Is Here
After a lot of delays, I've finally fixed this chapter and gotten it back on track after taking a couple of little side trips : one into Solace/Navarro land and a separate one into Terminator/John Connor territory.
I've decided to go ahead and open a short Uly substory that I've been thinking about for a long time. In TMWFTE2, just before True and Uly find Gaal, the little boy can be heard telling True about how the Terrians can stretch their arms out to get things just out of reach, and that bit of information has always stuck in my mind. In COM, we saw him pass his hand through the ground and in Mooncross he was able to fire lightning from a staff, so I've since then imagined Uly being able to do many other things, too.
And anyway, Bev asked for a long story, so the more doors I open now, the more I'll have to close on the way to the conclusion.
Also, I need a few clues here. What shall they find in the pod? I'm thinking items that they can use but which won't make the remainder of the trip to the coast too easy. Any ideas? Personal items like they talk about or just building materials? Another vehicle? Better camping gear?
One of those long, fully equipped RV campers like they had in Jurassic Park II? Just kidding. That would be too easy.
Isaiah Ford's frozen embryo?Chapter 6
Cameron, Mazatl and Baines stood side by side on the grassy bank of the lake and watched the tiny figure of Zero, a splash of off-white color against the blackened hull of the ship, as the unit carefully and slowly made its way toward the cargo pod hanging beneath the only surviving sensor arm on the outer hull. He was accumulating the remnants of burned material, possibly soot, from the ship and he was becoming harder to see as the sun moved to throw this side of the ship into shadow.
It was midafternoon and they stood in a false twilight area created by the mass of the ship, even though the sun was just slightly to the west of zenith.
It was hard keeping their attention on the progress of Zero with Alonzo restlessly pacing back and forth on the sand a few meters in front of them. Every now and then Solace would look up, note the robots position and begin ranting at the lack of progress. It did no good to point out that five minutes or less had passed since the last time he stopped and looked.
Normally Mazatl and Solace got along fine, but at the moment, Mazatl wanted nothing more than to yell at Alonzo to stop acting like he was the only one affected by this turn of events, to go do something useful so sane people could monitor Zeros position. Not that it would do any good, but hed feel better afterward. He had to figure Solace was upset because of the uncertain fate of the other survivors and that he wasnt thinking rationally. It was pretty obvious he had been counting on finding the lander in good condition. Now he probably had his hopes set on a smaller flying vehicle of some kind being inside the pod.
The headlong rush by many members of the group to get to the top of the hillside and see the ship didnt seem to surprise Danziger or Heller when the main part of the group reached the camp marker. The two gladly relinquished the dunerail so the first group of people could make the trip to the top. Cameron, Denner, Magus, and the two children joined Mazatl to visit the site of the Roanokes landfall.
It was spectacular. Yet. . .
Here was Alonzo muttering about never getting a break, and all Mazatl could see was the biggest break of all sitting in front of them. What were the odds, anyway, that the ship would be spared a fiery death by quick thinking crew members trying to save themselves? And then having it land in a big old puddle of water?
Mazatl himself was drinking in the sight of the enormous craft he had helped build. They had done it right, from the designers and engineers to the construction crews and fitting teams. Somehow they had built a behemoth that had survived atmospheric entry and a crash landing.
Can you believe it? Magus voice spoke softly to no one in particular. She stopped beside the three men while Denner and the children walked a short way down the beach to look at the ship without having to deal with Alonzos muttering.
Cameron turned to glance at her. I left a couple of packs in one of the mens rooms. I wonder if theyre still there?
She laughed lightly. If it was mylar it probably melted and stuck everything together.
Damn. I had some Earth cigars and Scotch in one.
So did the commander, she said. I saw him bring a crate aboard after Devon was settling in.
Mazatl crossed his arms. According to Navarros message the inside of the lander bay never reached flash point. I doubt if the rest of the interior did either. If we can get in we might be able to salvage some personal goods, but most liquids probably burst their containers as they heated up.
Magus patted Camerons arm and turned to walk away. Well, Ill leave you two to dream of contraband. Di and I are going to take the kids back down the hill to eat something, and let the others come up.
For a short time the sounds of True and Uly protesting their return to the bottom of the hill echoed across the water and through the trees.
Alonzo glanced their way briefly, but quickly returned his attention to the ship. How much longer can this take? he asked no one in particular.
Mazatl gave Solace a weary look and went after Magus. Ill go with you, he said, lengthening his stride to catch up to her. If no one else wants to come up, Ill bring the rail back with some food we can prepare up here.
Something was happening here that Julia couldnt quite figure. Bess Martin, instead of urging Morgan to go with her to the top of the hill to see the ship as Julia would have expected, had shown little excitement about the Roanoke and had chosen to wait to make the trip. The doctor could see that, although relieved by this, Morgan was also acting a little puzzled by Bess insistence that the other members of the crew go first to see the great discovery.
Instead of charging ahead, Bess was almost single handedly making camp. While Morgan tossed tents and packs to the ground from the transrover, she was cheerfully dragging them away to places around the site where they could be opened or erected when the others returned. Throughout it all, Julia could swear Bess was watching every single move she and John were making since coming down from the hilltop.
It was ridiculous, but Julia just couldnt shake the impression and the guilty feelings associated with it. After all, Bess couldnt possibly know anything. Whatever happened on top of the crater rim was between herself and Danziger, and she was dealing with it. Besides, she had something more important to be worrying about. She still needed to talk to Danziger and Yale about Ulysses and what the Mother had told her through her dream of Eben Sinh.
It would be best to do it soon, before Zero found a way into the cargo pod or the ship itself. There would be no time after that.
For his part, Danziger merely concluded the Martins had stayed behind because Morgan was fearful of going to see the ship with the crew members whod known the people in the stasis tubes. It would be a typical Morgan reaction, and a normal Bess response to back him up, to be the buffer between her husband and the others.
He thought little more about either of the Martins as he and Yale talked about the condition of the ship and its survivors. It whiled away the time as they began positioning the laser defenses around their new campsite. His mind was on what they might find in the cargo pod and inside the ship itself - if they could enter it. They were due a break in their misfortunes. Thats all he wanted. A break, a little luck to go with the fact that he was feeling better about life than he had in weeks.
The campsite was in shade, a kind of twilight made by the hill as the sun sank low enough to be lost from sight. Beyond the hill and its shadow the flat, grassy prairie was still aglow with sunlight.
Hey, Bess called to Julia. Do you think we should build a fire, or wait for the others to come down from the ship first? Im not on meals this week, but Ill be glad to get something started.
Julia, looking up from her work, moved her shoulders in a shrug. Whatever you think is best. Arent you and Morgan going to see the ship before nightfall?
Oh, I dont think the others will return before then. But thats okay. They have more reason to want to see it than we do. She looked toward her husband at the big vehicle. Our memories arent exactly pleasant, in spite of everything weve discovered today.
Well, I can understand that. Im sorry if youve had a hard time recently.
Bess smiled and folded her arms across her waist. Well make it through to the other side. How about you? Seeing the ship for the first time must have been a shock for both you and Danziger.
Julia frowned and put her head to one side. Yes, it was. I dont think Ive ever seen anything so amazing, yet frightening at the same time.
Bess nodded, looking toward Danziger and Yale who were talking about something as they erected the perimeter lasers. Finding the ship has kind of awakened all of us, dragged us out of the fog weve been in since we had to leave Devon behind, and after losing Eben. I have a feeling were going to see a lot of odd behavior among ourselves as we adjust to how things are, and as we try to move on.
Julia turned her attention back to her work. You could be right, Bess, she said with a sigh and tried to focus on her instruments.
Uh, huh. Learning to live again can be an experience that changes the attitudes of some people. Especially if theyve been unhappy but never realized it.
The doctors frown came back. Are you and Morgan having trouble dealing with what we found at the site of the ship? she asked, looking at the other woman.
Bess eyes widened. Oh, no! No! Were fine. I was just speaking in general terms. She shrugged and gestured with one hand. Well, you remember. You said almost those same words to all of us after the crash when Morgan and I met up with the rest of you.
Julia looked up again. Well, at the time I was talking about learning to live outside the familiar environs of the stations. Here and now, I think weve managed to move past survivors guilt as far as our feelings about Devon and Eben are concerned. Im more concerned about false hopes being raised by the remarkably good condition of the ship.
Bess nodded. Perhaps that would be worse. She raised her eyes and looked out over the wide plain they had crossed that day to reach this place. False hopes? What could that have to do with what shed seen through the jumpers? She tilted her head and looked at Julia surreptitiously. Oh, this was maddening!
Julia caught movement from the corner of her eye, and she leaned forward a bit to look past Bess, to the hillside sloping upward from their campsite. Looks like some of the others are coming back, she said. You and Morgan might get a chance to see the ship today after all.
Bess turned and looked up the hill as the dunerail barreled down toward the camp. Well. I guess I dont have to worry about starting a cook fire. Here come the cooks.
Cameron had gotten tired of watching Alonzo pace soon after the dunerail left, and he had gone to the shed to look around and see what might have been left behind when the companions of the five in the stasis tubes departed for the com dish. He knew the colonists inside the chambers, but the others he recognized only from seeing them around the ship in the days before final boarding. He decided to poke through the crates and boxes, remembering back to the day a year or so ago when he and three others found a convicts stash in a cave. There might be something useful in them.
A few minutes of poking around revealed most of the crates in the shed held building materials, tools and what looked to be kilometers of cord and wiring on spools.
He closed the last of the crates and straightened his back, stretching his arms. He should have gone back down with the others. He took a few seconds to look at the people in stasis, then walked out of the shed to return to the lakeshore. Oh, well. At least there was another door to replace the one Danziger almost blew off its hinges.
Baines, a little more understanding of what his friend was feeling, sat on the sand above the waterline, and muttered answers to whatever Solace said; but it was only a matter of time before he got tired of it, too.
Alonzo! Will you shut up and sit down for a few minutes? Youre driving us all crazy. Take a look around, will you? Im your only friend. Everyone else left. He began digging into one of his pockets. Come on, sit down. Have something to eat.
Im not hungry.
Ill drag you over here if I have to, Solace. Sit down and calm down and, for petes sake, shut up!
Alonzo sighed loudly, threw his hands in the air and trudged across the sand toward Baines. He glanced at Cameron coming slowly through the trees and lowered himself to the ground beside the other man. He crossed his legs and slumped forward, holding his head in his hands. When he spoke his voice was muffled.
I really thought the lander would be here. I would have moved heaven and earth to get it out of the ship and airborne, not matter how long it took.
I know, man. I felt it, too. Baines had a small cloth bag of dried berries in his hands. He poured a bit into the palm of his hand and handed it to Alonzo. Here. Aint much, but theyre the sweet/sour ones with the natural folates that Julia is so hyped on. Whatever that is.
Alonzo took the bag and poured a few for himself. Please, lets not talk about Julia. Im not her favorite person right now. We had a fight. I think I might have made her cry.
Baines looked at him. I know. He tapped the back of his hand against Alonzos arm. Sorry. Julia said to keep in touch when Danz and I left, so I had my gear on, she had her gear on. . . Well, I didnt listen in on purpose. Just happened.
Alonzo grimaced. I should have let it go. I was just so damned. . . I dont know. Whats another word for friggin disappointed? Dispirited? Yeah, thats better. I think I felt my spirit die for the second time on this planet. This time I dont think dreams of people from my past will bring it back. First time I just lost my ship, now I lost something more important, maybe for a second time.
The sound of footsteps approaching from behind caused both men to look over their shoulders, even though they knew who was coming.
Cameron stopped beside Baines and looked down at both men.
Have a seat, Alonzo said, and tossed the bag of berries up to him.
You should have told her about Britt, Baines said as the third man lowered himself to the ground beside him. It might have eased the tension. Seeing Britt burned as bad as she was probably didnt help your state of mind. Julia would have understood. Shes a doctor. She already knows the toughest half of it.
Alonzo shook his head. I cant. If Id had more time to get used to it, maybe it wouldnt be so hard. She keeps being snatched away from me just when I think were going to have time to work things through, you know?
Baines shrugged, knowing he wasnt referring to the doctor. Im sure they made it, Lonz. Theyre probably at the com dish right now wondering where the rest of us are.
Solaces head lowered again. They didnt come back, Jake, he said in a low voice. Britt got all the stragglers off the ship and safely to the ground. She would have come back for these five if she could. He shook his head slowly. Something happened. Something bad. Shes. . . dead, anyway. After all this, she dead, anyway.
You dont know that! Baines answered and glared at him. Man, look at you! Youre making me look like an optimist!
Alonzo made a sound halfway between a choke and a laugh. Dont try to cheer me up, man. I still have to face Julia later and I think shes going to want an apology. I dont know if I can give it.
Hmmh. You were pretty hard on her.
I know, but. . . he said miserably. She didnt get it. She just didnt get it.
Baines looked at him. And she never will until you tell her the whole story about you and Navarro. What was she supposed to do? Read your mind?
Alonzo looked up at the ship. After we get inside the pod and the ship. After we see whats there. Maybe then.
He lowered himself onto his back and stretched his legs out across the sand. Putting one arm behind his head, he crossed the other over his eyes. He knew Baines would be giving him a disgusted look, and he didnt want to see it.
His thoughts immediately turned to Navarro. Baines was right, of course. He should have told Julia about her a long time ago, but he believed her to be dead from the mutated virus that ravaged the crew members of the third escape pod. Dead was dead and talking about her to Julia wouldnt have brought her back or made her rest easier. Britt had come into his life, turned it upside down, and left it again without ever knowing she had affected him so profoundly. Now, it seemed, she had come and gone again - and he was more deeply shaken than hed been initially.
With the children back in camp, Yale decided to give them a quick lesson before they began their evening chores. While the others went about their business, he chose a spot for the lesson partway up the hill and well out of everyones way. It was quickly clear that Uly was having trouble keeping his mind on the lessons. Yale was able to gently bring his attention back to the subject at hand, but both the teacher and True could see something was on Ulys mind.
Afterward, True was determined to find out what he was thinking, or worrying about. It had be very interesting to make him not take advantage of showing how much more he knew about Earth history than she did.
When Danziger saw the three of them coming down the hill, he called to the two youngsters to help gather firewood but to stay within sight of camp.
Knowing this was as good as an invitation to explore, True and Uly immediately ran for the small group of trees nearest to the campsite.
What do you think is going to be inside the ship? True asked as she walked slowly, looking up and down for dead branches to collect for the fire. I hope we can find some personal stuff.
Uly kicked gently at a rock, turning it over slowly to see what, if anything, would scurry from under it. Nothing moved. Something to help Dr. Heller make my mom better, he said. The Terrians told me.
True frowned. How can the Terrians tell you whats inside the ship? They dont know!
Yes, they do! They know lots of things.
Not about the ship. How can they? Not even the grendlers have been inside it since the crash. My dad says its sealed up tight.
They just know. He squatted to dig a rock out of the ground and look it over. Hey look at this. It has blue lines in it.
True came closer to look. Thats the really hard rock. The stuff Yale said we might use to make statues and monuments some day.
Yeah. I wish we could find something really new. He dropped the rock and rose. Hey! Look over there! A broken branch. Do you have your cutter?
Of course. But what I meant was, what do you want us to find in the ship? You know, like stuff you had to leave behind but you wished you could have brought with you.
They walked to the branch while True dug through her pockets for her cutting tool.
Oh, Uly said. I had a lot of toys and stuff and VR programs. I might like to have some of those. The Opening of King Tuts Tomb
was about all the treasure they found inside it.
True made a derisive noise. Judging by what we found in pod twelve, Ill bet they were all educational like that! Ill bet none of them were fun like Groundside Agents: Streets of Vice
Huh? What kind of game was that?
She stared at him, open mouthed for a moment. A really great game about secret agents who get shipped to Earth and Mars and the moon to look for bad guys hiding among the dirtwalkers. The agents had to go in and bring em back dead or alive. All of us kids used to play it in the Quadrant. It was easy to hook up to the neuralnets and have hundreds
of people playing at the same time. You could be a secret agent or a bad guy or a wild card. Youve really never heard of it?
Uly shook his head and True smiled to herself. Whew! Then her little exaggeration about hundreds of kids playing it would get by. In reality the maximum number of players was just six at a time.
No, he said, but I played Rafting the Great Rivers of Old Earth
once. There were six players and we had to see who could get down the rivers without being wrecked by rapids and waterfalls.
True rolled her eyes. See? Educational! I bet your mom and Yale were two of the players!
Well, yeah, but. . .
Well, I had the Groundside Agents
program. My dad and Alex Wentworth never found where I hid it, so its still in the ship.
Uly stared at her. Really?
Yeah. I hope it didnt burn up or melt.
Reaching the branch, the two looked at it critically.
Lets just take the small branches for now, Uly suggested. We can bring Zero back to carry the heavier logs.
Returning to camp with bundles of kindling, the pair walked quietly past the transrover. The wood, heavier than they expected, had them too winded for talking by the time they reached the perimeter of the campsite.
On the other side of the vehicle people were unloading items from the large bed. Not seeing the kids passing, someone tossed a large bundle of something back onto the bed of the vehicle. It hit high on the opposite side and bounced straight up and over the side toward a passing True.
Uly, walking a few steps behind her, reacted instinctively and quickly. With no time to shout a warning, he dropped his wood and reached out to push the falling object away from his friend. The bundle fell harmlessly to the ground behind True, who barely noticed the sound of it hitting the ground.
Uly had astounded himself. True and the falling item were a good five feet away from him, yet hed been able to reach his arms out far enough to knock the bundle away from her. He hadnt taken a step towards her.
Turning around to see what the noise was, True saw Uly standing still and looking with wide eyed astonishment at his hands. Seeing his kindling and a tied bundle on the ground, she asked, What happened? Did you get hit? Did you cut yourself No answer. Uly?
How did I do that? he said breathlessly and examined his hands from all angles.
When he didnt answer, just continued to stare at his hands, True turned around and ran off to find Julia.
Julia brought the boy to her med tent and immediately looked for the cuts or bruises True was afraid he had gotten. She found nothing wrong with him.
What happened out there, Uly? True seems to think a bundle fell from the back of the transrover and struck you. Did you get hit by something?
No. It wasnt me that almost got hit. It was True. I . . . I just helped her.
You helped her what?
I dropped my firewood and helped her not get hit.
Julia sighed. Well, that was kind of you, but what made her think youd hurt yourself?
After looking at the floor for a few moments, Uly shrugged his shoulders. I guess I better tell you. I found out I can do this. Without moving from his seat, he reached for Julias gear on the table beside her and brought it to hold in front of him. His arm had spanned a four foot area with no effort. Not wanting to see the expression on her face, he turned the unit over idly in his hands.
Julia was alarmed and one hand reached for the corner of her seat behind her, but she managed to keep herself where she was and did not propel herself away as every instinct was telling her to do..
The Terrians do it all the time, he said with a shrug. I can do a lot of the things they can do. Its getting easier as I get a little older, but it isnt bad stuff. It doesnt hurt and it might look funny, but thats how it is now. He turned his head a bit to look at Julia.
Gathering her wits about her, Julia grabbed for her diaglove and began to put it on - her fingers fumbling with the fasteners as if shed never done this before. Uh . . . Let me take a quick scan of your arms, Uly. You, uh, said youve never done this before? It just happened?
Uh huh. I dreamed about it a couple of times, but I never really did it before now.
Yes, well . . . Id still like to take a closer look at you, anyway.
You dont have to shake so much, Doctor. You dont have to be afraid for me. This is what Im supposed to do.
Julia looked into his eyes and he managed a reassuring smile for her.
Tell you what. Im going to have Yale and Danziger come join us, okay? Since theyre both taking care of you while your mother is away, you should tell them what youve told me, too.
Quickly summoning Danziger and Yale, Julia asked Uly to repeat his story for them. With the two of them watching, she did a thorough examination of the boy, drawing samples of blood and tissue for testing before and after the boy demonstrated what he is newly able to do.
To say the two men were as startled as Julia had been was understating the case badly.
While Julia and Yale studied the physical evidence from the boy, Danziger took Uly outside and had a serious talk with him. Uly admitted he had been having frequent dreams in which he visits the Terrians and talks to the Mother, the planet. The dreams began as soon as they left the valley where his mother was. In the dreams he has been learning how to use his Terrian powers, and while awake, he has been secretly experimenting with moving through the ground.
This is the first time Ive been able to do other things the Terrians are able to do, he said, cocking his head to one side. I think I learn how to do them in the dreams and then Im supposed to practice when I wake up.
Danziger had a hard time keeping the uneasiness he was feeling from showing in his expression the more Uly talked. This was, after all, something to which Devon Adair had objected to having happen to her son. It was something she didnt understand and, therefore would never have allowed to take place until she did.
Again, Uly assured an adult there was no need to fear for him. The Mother had been waiting a long time to begin teaching him how to use his Terrian gifts. While his human mother was sick and away from the group, the planet was taking the opportunity to teach him what he needed to know.
Uly related the information in a matter-of-fact manner, as if it was a natural progression of events. He missed his mother very much and also dreamed about her frequently, but he seemed to understand the Mothers desire for him to know the extent of his abilities before the rest of the Syndrome children arrived on the second ship.
Danziger knew very well that Devon would fight tooth and nail to keep this from happening were she here.
Knowing he has no choice but to follow Devons wishes, Danziger sent the boy away to play and then went back to the med tent to relay this new information, and his feelings about it, to Julia and Yale.
Hed barely stepped inside the opening when Baines voice, coming over their gear units, interrupted their concern over Uly.
Baines to camp. Everyone listen up! Zeros reached the cargo pod!To be continued . . .