Her dreams were clouded. There was a presence, at times nurturing, at times menacing. It showed her a life of peace and a life as its puppet, always in pain. In both of the visions, she saw the others on the ship treated like slaves or turned into emotionless robots. Either way, it would win.
I will give you time to decide, dear Taryn, darling Taryn, foolish Taryn. Take the time I give you and no more, for it is all you shall receive, dear Taryn, darling Taryn, foolish Taryn.
When Taryn awoke, the pain was gone and she was in the engine room. Their loud hum comforted her and she knew what she had to do. She just had to figure out how.
She would find Beckham and…well, that was the part that made her feel queasy. She would kill him. There was no other way. If imprisoned, he would talk. If sent into eternal sleep, there was no guarantee he wouldn’t wake up. He had to be stopped. And this was the only way. Somewhere, in the deepest pit of her heart, she knew it meant her death too. She didn’t think of that though. It was too hard and made her feel like she might vomit. With a new sense of purpose, Taryn left the engine room. She had her mission. She just hoped she would live to see their new home planet, now visible even from the small windows that dotted the entire ship.
For the first time since the journey began, the ship stopped moving. Captain Aaron surveyed the small group he had gathered. The absence of Pearce and Taryn struck him as wrong, but he knew neither of them could be here. Pearce wouldn’t, couldn’t, do what had to be done. And Taryn, well, he couldn’t bear to think about it. Cassidy was there. Her brown eyes shining with determination. They had their orders and they dispersed. He slumped in his chair and struggled not to think of Taryn as he knew her, but a faceless girl infected by something he didn’t have the capacity to understand. It was the only way, he knew that. Beckham had to die, which meant Taryn had to die. He would regret it until the day he died, but everyone else would live. And that was all that mattered.
“Where’s Taryn?” Cassidy asked.
Pearce looked up at her, startled. He’d been comforting a terrified Ellis. He and Cassidy had pulled her away from Beckham and were keeping her in Cassidy’s room. Pearce had just finished telling her about the Voice. She hadn’t taken it well.
“What?” he responded, more than a little incredulous.
“Taryn. I need to find her,” Cassidy said.
“I can’t tell you. Where is she?”
“I don’t know.”
Cassidy heaved a disappointed sigh. She spared a soft glance at Ellis, put a comforting hand on her shoulder and left. When Pearce had finally comforted Ellis, he followed Cassidy. She’d been acting strange and he had a feeling there was a gigantic secret she was keeping.
Taryn was not surprised to find Beckham in his rooms. He was a creature of habit, after all. He looked a bit more disheveled than usual and was pacing the room. A mute Richmond watched him patiently.
“We’re almost there, you know,” Taryn said casually, as if Beckham had not tried to kill her not so very long ago.
“Taryn. You’re alive. What a surprise,” Beckham said no hint of shock.
“I’m surprised too. So, should I be thanking you? For not killing me.”
“Don’t waste your breath. The Voice had plans for you,” he said harshly “I suppose you’ve heard. Your precious captain wants us both dead and gone before they land.”
The words fell like blows. She let out a humorless laugh. So she was a dead woman, no matter what.
“I have. It’s why I found you. I have a way out,” she said calmly.
“You do?” Beckham said, real surprise creeping into his voice.
“And you’re telling me about it?”
“Yes. Out of the two people who have tried to kill me today, you’re the one who never pretended to be my friend. So screw Captain Aaron and everyone else.”
“Glad you’ve come ‘round.”
“We’re going now. Just us. Sorry, Richmond,” Taryn said with a shrug in the giant’s direction.
Richmond shot Beckham a desperate look.
“Goodbye, Richmond. Where to, Taryn?” Beckham said taking her arm.
“This way,” Taryn replied, trying not to wince from his touch.
Cassidy saw the pair of them go into the engine room. As silent as a panther, she followed them. From a distance, Pearce followed her. His heart leapt to his throat. In a flash, he knew what was happening. To save them all, Captain Aaron was sacrificing Taryn and Beckham.
It was easier than Taryn had thought it would be. She knew how the doors worked. Captain Aaron had shown her. She pressed three buttons. One sealed them in. On the other side of the door, she saw Pearce and Cassidy. Pearce shoved Cassidy aside and tried desperately to open the door. The second one disabled the engine. That would keep the ship from crashing. The third brought in cold and pain and then a great peace. The Voice yelled at her once more in agony, its screams mingling with Pearce’s. But she was back home, sitting at her mother’s kitchen table, watching a brilliant sunset.
When they landed, they found out they weren’t alone after all. Pictographs left behind by a people who resembled odd, insect-like birds told of a bodiless malice. It possessed people in pairs and used them to carry out its ill will. Although it was hard to tell, it looked as if it had only taken ten years for the Voice to kill the Ones That Came Before.
Taryn sleeps. She doesn’t know Pearce saved her. She didn’t see him close the door to the outside and burst him at the last moment. She was half gone by then. In her dreams, she bathes her feet in the oceans of home. Pearce has made up his mind to save her, and perhaps one day he will. But for now, she rests in an effortless, peaceful dream, free from music and disembodied Voices.