dwell.htmlTEXTStMlt/>jԶ" Pandora's Hope I

Disclaimer: the characters and concepts of Deepwater Black/Mission
Genesis are the copyrighted property of Sunbow, Empire Entertainment, YTV, the Sci-Fi Chan nel, based on the novels written by Ken Catran. No
challenge to copyright is i ntended, no profit has been or will be made on
this work.

Part One of "Pandora's Hope"
by Jacynthe Demorae

Gret Saunders stared out at the lurid Martian night. She couldn't
remember when she'd last felt rested. When Lowell Pharmaceuticals shut
down the lab, her w orkload had been halved. Research-wise, anyway.

Close. We'd been _so_ close.

Now, the bodies rolled in, piled up at the doors, carried in
still-twitching piles from the streets. Some died before they could so
much as speak their names. Others, in Pandora's middle stage, staggered in under their own power, only to die days later, screaming in
virus-induced dementia. No time now for research. She barely had enough time to collect the genetic samples the Project needed.

The Project. Those words had replaced God, faith, and beauty in her life.
The Project. Deepwater Black. It held their only hope, now. Gret closed
her eyes and rested her forehead against the viewing port's frame. The
safety field buzzed under her ear. The ark-ships, still in their docking
cradles, were almost ready. The Genesis bio-program had been completed, loaded up aboard all the ships. Now, they waited for their gene banks.

But who would be chosen to oversee the ships and their precious cargo? An Earthman named Reb Anderson had designed the ships. The project heads had decided to set the Anderson DNA in one of the six crew positions. Who better than the designer to oversee the ship's maintenance?

Anderson had been a strange one. He'd died long before she'd come to
Arraxis, but he'd left piles of note-disks and journals behind. She'd
read some of them. His feverish intensity, his sheer drive to complete
the arks, had disquieted her. But obsessions had always made her nervous. Dale always teased her--

Dale would never tease her again. Gret sucked in a deep breath, pushing
the grief and pain back. Tears burned her eyes and closed up her throat.
Laughing, mischievous Dale. Friends. Family. All of them gone, carried
away in identical bodybags, all bearing the "bio-hazard" symbol.

Damn you, Lowell. Damn you to hell.

Her communicator beeped, calling her back to duty. Gret hastily wiped her
eyes and gathered up both her materials and her composure. Her precious moments of solitude were over.


The Project heads gathered around the worn, scarred table in one of the
few co nference rooms available on Arraxis Base. Almost every available
space had been taken over by the medical staff, either as sickrooms--or
increasingly--morgue space. Gret seated herself in her usual place, then
froze as her gaze fell on two newcomers seated across from her.

They wore the stark black uniforms of the Sentinel Corps. The one on the
right had a heavy build and a bulldog's face. The left Corpsman was
slender, dark-haired, with eyes that might have been beautiful if they
didn't have a soldier's steely glint.

"What," Gret said between clenched teeth, "are they doing here?" If
there was anything she despised more than people like Lowell with their
corporate-profit mentality, the military took that 'honor.'

The Project Director raised a placating hand. "Dr. Saunders, we are all
aware of your views on the Corps. However, General Morraine brought
something to my attention." The gray-haired man settled himself, and
looked around at the other Project workers.

"We projected five hundred years as the time-cycle needed for Earth to
regenerate, for the virus to die out. We can't predict what else might
be with us in the universe now, never mind then. We are putting the
future of the entire human race in these arks. They'll need a defender."

"From what?" Gret couldn't make her hands stop shaking. As more and more familiar, beloved faces disappeared forever, she'd buried her heart under a heavy shield of cynicism and restraint. Seamless, impenetrable, bought at such a heavy price.

"It's the military's short-sightedness that brought us to this point!"

"That was never proven," the General interrupted.

"Tell that to the dead," Gret spat. "Maybe they're interested in your
evasions and your excuses. I'm not."

The younger man leaned forward, drawing Gret's attention. "Excuse me."
He had a soft, polite voice, but he never lost the hardness in his eyes.

Gret locked gazes with him, expecting the same impatience/dismissal the
General radiated in such thick waves. Instead, she found a steady,
focused intensity. Disciplined, restrained, the very anti-thesis of the
chaos she'd come to expect of the Corps.


"It's too late to pass blame for Pandora," he said, still in that soft,
polite voice. "It may be too late to stop the virus, but it isn't too
late for the Deepwater Project. The best minds on Earth and the colonies
are here on Arraxis to give humanity a future. We can't risk it."

Gret's hands clenched. Such persuasive arguments. So very compelling.
So full of lies. "The Project," she said through clenched teeth, "is our
last hope. Our second chance. I will not countenance turning it over to
trigger-happy goons!"

The Corpsman raised a dark brow, while the General harrumphed and folded his arms.

"Dr. Saunders," the Project Director began.

Her glare froze him into silence. She remembered the Sentinel Corps
gunning down people trying to flee the plague, the needless deaths and
suffering. Remembered the young girl who'd broken quarantine, lost in
Pandora-induced dementia, shot down before her eyes. Slaughtered like an animal.

"The clones who emerge from the modules will be vulnerable, in ways we can't truly understand," Gret said, trying to make these blind people see.
"It is not in humanity's best interests to imprint whole populations on
the Sentinel Corps!"

The Director frowned. "Deepwater Black is a civilian project--"

"In facilities secured by the Corps," General Morraine bristled.

"And your tenacity is noted and appreciated," the Director soothed,
raising a placating hand.

"Deepwater Black should remain a civilian controlled project," Gret pressed her advantage.

"With a military presence," the younger Corpsman insisted.

"Half of the ship's crew should be drawn from the military donors," the
General added.

Gret surged to her feet, slapping her hands down on the surface of the table. "Absolutely not!"

He shrugged. "We'll settle for two."

"You haven't been promised even one!" Gret felt her control cracking, the
intensity of her emotions made her muscles quiver and tremble.

"Dr. Saunders!" The Director's voice cut through the brewing storm. He
matched gazes with both Gret and Corpsmen. "Perhaps we should adjour--"

Wrist communicators began clamoring for attention, cutting him off in mid-word. The medical staff tensed as one.

"We'll pick this up tomorrow," the Director said. By his tone of voice,
his focus already lay with whatever emergency was calling the medics

Gret sank back down into her chair, running thin hands through her hair.
She was so tired. She couldn't remember the last time she'd logged eight
solid hours of sleep. It seemed that every time she closed her eyes,
something or someone needed her attention.

"'And miles to go before I sleep,'" she whispered, rubbing the back of her
neck. If only it didn't all feel so useless.

"Dr. Saunders?"

Gret started. She'd completely forgotten the Corpsmen. Raising her head,
she looked around. The General had left, probably to harangue the medics who had better things to do than listen to a blowhard. The young one had stayed behind, however. She watched him, wary and tense.

"You're dead-set against including the military in the Project." Not a

Gret sighed. "We're trying to preserve humanity."

The Corpsman smiled. "Funny. I could've sworn that was in my job
description as well." He tilted his head to the side and pretended to
consider. "In fact. ..I did swear. To preserve, defend, and protect
humanity. To stand watch against the darkness." He looked her straight
in the eye and Gret found herself pinned by his dark gaze.

"And we have as much right to a future as anyone else." His eyes kindled, his fists clenching before his military discipline re-asserted itself.
"Who set you up as God, to determine who gets that second chance you spoke of so eloquently, and who dies forever?"

The breath rushed out of her as if he'd hit her in the stomach. An echo
of her own angry, despairing words, flung at Lowell's uncaring visage.
She stared at the Corpsman, her heart pounding. Her words deserted her. He stood up, coming to a species of attention.

"Think about it," he said softly. He ducked his head a short nod of farewell, and began to turn away.

Gret found her voice. "Wait!" she said. "What's your name?"

He looked back over his shoulder. "Commander Stuart, ma'am. Bren Stuart."

The young commander held her gaze a moment longer, then walked out, as silent as he'd come.


Gret stepped out of the lift, showing her clearance badge to the scanner.
It let her pass without a sound.

She'd only been up here once before. The mechanical side of the Project
didn't interest her. As she could do nothing to help this arm of it, she
wisely chosen to keep out of the way. Now... She touched a control
panel and waited while the shields drew back from the viewing ports.

The apex of Arraxis Base had been turned into a giant dockyard. From
here, she could see a docking cradle, the broad, sweeping lines of the
ark-ship. Worklights blazed like small suns, bouncing off the snug metal
skin. This was the brightest place on Mars, now.

'Who set you up as God?' Stuart had demanded.

A harsh question. An honest question. And like Job, she had no answer.
Who was she to decide one group of people should not be permitted to

"'Where is the dwelling place of light, and where is the abode of
darkness?'" she whispered, her voice almost swallowed by the silence.

She pressed a hand against the viewing portal. Deepwater was the hope of the world, and she could not deny it to anyone. Bowing her head, Gret
wept for the future.

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