The sudden surge of electricity through the circuitry sends him reeling back with a shocked gasp. Crap. Crap. His fingertips are burned; his entire forearm tingles like it's fallen asleep. He shakes his hand with a loud curse.
It's fried. The pod is fried. There's no way he's going to fix it now, if he was even able to do it in the first place. This latest blunder shot any chances of that happening to hell. It's broken. The pod is broken.
Oh, God. Oh God. He's going to die. He's going to die. Him and his big mouth, 'I'm smarter than Rush', and now he's going to die alone on this freaking flying death machine, oh dear God. A small voice in the back of his mind yells at him to wake up Colonel Young, to tell him it didn't work and what now? Because Young will offer his pod – he will insist on it – and then Eli won't have to die, but no!
No, he can't give up this easily. He still has almost a week left. Shit, only a week. Less than a week. But he can't let panic take over now, not when everyone is counting on him. Most of them may not know it, but they are. And his mom, God, he can't die. It would kill her.
Back to the drawing board, it is.
With shaking hands he gathers his laptop and goes back to the bridge. He has most access there. Who knows, maybe there is another bank of stasis pods hidden somewhere on the ship. Somewhere they haven't discovered yet. Rush spent weeks trying to uncover Destiny's blueprints in the mainframe, without luck. But it's Eli's only chance now, so he sits down and gets to work.
It takes him two days of adrenaline-fueled searching to find the blueprints. A vicious stab of prideful triumph nearly overtakes him, and absentmindedly he wonders if his grin looks as maniacal as it feels. God, he needs sleep. He's no Rush, he can admit that much (he's better, because he found these), and he needs sleep.
The elation last for mere minutes before it turns into doubt, and then frustration, and then panic. He feels tears choking his throat as he scans his eyes over the blueprints again and again. The banks with the rows of stasis pods are there, all of them. And that's it. There's no more. No hidden pods stashed anywhere, no last-minute rescue, no nothing.
He's going to die. Oh, God. Oh fuck, he's really going to die.
The shock, the lack of sleep, the lack of food... they all catch up to him, and the next thing he knows everything goes black.
When he wakes up his head hurts and there's a crunchy, tacky residue on his forehead. Ah. Blood. Awesome. He must've hit his head when he passed out. That's really all he needs right now, a concussion. He blinks blearily against the low lights that pass for Destiny's dusk and dawn, and...
Shit! The time! How much time is left?
Thoughts immediately coalescing into something more focused, more present, he scrambles up from the floor. His breath rushes out in a relieved whoosh when he checks the monitor and finds he hasn't been out for longer than six hours. He still has three days left. Three days. Oh, no. Only three days.
All of a sudden his heart is beating so loudly in his ears he can't think. His skin prickles into almost painful goosebumps and his hands clench uncontrollably. His breath is coming in stuttered gasps, he can't breathe, and oh dear God, he feels like he's dying. He's going to pass out again and then he's really going to die, because he only has three days left and there is nothing he can do.
Vaguely, in the back of his mind, he realizes he's having a panic attack. With his last strength he slides down the wall until he's sitting against it. Hyperventilating, crying, shaking, until finally, after what seems like hours, his body calms down.
His mind is still a whirlwind of fear, but it's easier to think clearly when his body isn't actively screaming at him that he's dying this very instant. He takes a deep, unsteady breath.
Right. He still has three days left. He can still think of something. And if not... If not, he needs to use the stones one last time. Say goodbye to his mom. Use a kino to say goodbye to everyone here. And then he'll have to find a way to kill himself that will be least traumatizing to the ones who'll find him. His hands tremble as he once again brushes his fingertips over the gash in his forehead. It's swollen and sore, but it doesn't feel too big.
In the end he decides to go to the infirmary to disinfect it. Rush will never stop bitching at him if he somehow figures out a way to survive the Big Jump only to succumb to blood-poisoning from one stupid little head wound.
Besides, if Eli doesn't believe he's going to make it, who will?
He's sweating, and his hands sometimes shake so hard he doesn't hit the right commands on the control panel. He's slowly going crazy, he's pretty sure. Not enough sleep, not enough food, the constant presence of his impending demise, and a complete lack of social interactions are not conducive to his state of mind. He knows this.
What he doesn't know is whether his plan is genius or downright moronic. It had come to him in a dream – and really, are dream ideas ever any good? He doesn't know. The actual feasibility of it is still unclear.
The shuttle, he'd thought. The shuttle. If he could somehow turn the shuttle into one big stasis pod-like... thing, he could stay in there. He'd be fine. Two issues with that. First, the shuttle is much larger than any one stasis pod, so the estimated energy cost might just cause them not to make it to the other galaxy in the calculated three years. Well, let's just call a spade a spade: if he decides to do this, he could be solely responsible for everyone aboard the ship never seeing their loved ones again. The second issue is actually more pressing. He has no idea how to turn the shuttle into a stasis pod. Sure, he's read everything there is to know about the stasis pods, twice (that is 3400 pages of very dry literature in a language he'd never heard of before coming here; he'd like to see Rush do that in less than two days), but even still, despite the fact that the shuttle possesses a number of characteristics that make it somewhat viable – he's approximately seventy percent sure it can be turned into a stasis pod – it is a massive project. He only has eighteen hours left. Can he even make it in that time?
He bites at the corner of his nail, too hard, and hisses as the sensitive flesh of his nail bed starts bleeding. He has no time for this. No time to second-guess himself. He has to try.
He gathers his tools from next to the burnt out stasis pod, casts a desperate glance at everyone he's come to regard as family here, and makes his way over to the shuttle.
For the next fifteen hours, he cusses more than he has in his entire life.
“Hi mom,” he says, when she opens the door with a confused expression.
He's decided not to tell her. At least this way she'll have three years of not knowing, of hope, and in the end it feels like that's the best he can give her. He's written her a letter with all the things she needs to hear, Chloe will relay it to her when everyone is out of stasis. This goodbye is for him.
She makes him cookies, and he has to bite his lip to keep from crying, and when she tells him about Aunt Gina and her new boyfriend throwing a fit at church last weekend he laughs until his stomach hurts.
“You know I love you, right mom?” he asks, and he can't help the tears gathering in his eyes.
She puts her hand on his own, kind and gentle, and he really thinks she's the perfect mom, the best mom he could've ever wished for.
“Of course I do, sweetie. I love you, too,” she says, worry in her eyes. “What's wrong?”
He blinks quickly, wills his voice not to break, and smiles. “Nothing. I'm just gonna miss you, is all.”
When he gets back to the ship there's less than half an hour left. He walks the corridors. Everything feels empty, like he's in the innards of a metallic ghost. He makes his bed, puts the USB drive with the kino recordings he's made for everyone on his desk, on top of the letter to his mom, then checks his room one last time to make sure he's leaving everything just the way he wants it. It's weird how all the panic and the fear from the past two weeks have kind of slid off of him now that it's really time to go. Like he's been so scared, so terrified, for such a long time that his fear reserves are just depleted or something.
He looks up when a sudden alarm blares. Oh, crap, that can't be good.
He rushes over to the nearest console to find out that there is something going on with one of the stasis pods. Shit. There's that fear again, guess he still had some left in the tank after all.
In less than ten minutes he's standing in front of an open pod. A man, one of the military guys – and Eli doesn't even know his first name for sure, but he thinks it was Mike, or Mitch – 'GRAHAM' in stark black letters on his uniform, is slumped on the ground. A small trickle of blood runs from his ear into his collar, and Eli nearly throws up before checking his wrist to find that, as he feared, Graham is dead.
What the hell happened? A quick diagnostic shows the stasis pod is functioning perfectly, so how the hell did Graham die? And... And what is he supposed to do now?
He only has fifteen minutes left before Destiny goes into hibernation mode.
It's a snap decision, in the back of his mind he hears Rush tell him it's the only logical choice, and then he's dragging Graham's lifeless body into one of the rooms without life support. There's no atmosphere or climate control in here, and it is literally freezing. Hopefully it will preserve the body. Eli squeezes his eyes shut like that can protect him from his own thoughts, a jumble of pragmatism and despair and freaking the fuck out.
With a mere five minutes to spare, he enters a few lines of programming into the stasis console.
Then, with his heart in his throat, he steps into Graham's pod and closes it.