He was waiting for them outside the ship. He was dressed in his pale robes again, dark goggles on, huddled against the wind and sand it flung about even as he leaned against the ships metal bearings.
In the bleak settings, with the dirt in the wind, you could almost look past him as pale as he was. He was not a gleaming white the way he would have been on Earth, but instead a worn, pale thing, like snow that had been on the ground for too long.
This wasn't the reason he was overlooked though and Elizabeth knew it. More, no matter what he thought, it wasn't just because he wanted them to overlook him either.
No, the small secondary expedition, Weyland himself, didn't notice him because they didn't want to. They had convinced themselves that they didn't have time to notice anything they didn't wish to see.
For all that funding, all that faith in Elizabeth's theory, the only thing Weyland had taken from it was exactly what he'd wanted to hear.
Earlier, when Elizabeth had followed after David in an almost numb haze, she'd found herself navigating through the ship until she'd ended up in the medical bay. There, along with Ford the medic and biologist, was the mission's sponsor and Elizabeth's patron, Mr. Peter Weyland.
He sat there, weak and shaking, dripping with the biomedical fluid from hyper sleep. He was dried off by an efficient and gentle David, who seemed to take neither pleasure nor displeasure in the task, only that polite and constant interest. He'd looked up at Elizabeth, almost amused by her appearance, as he explained why they were really here.
To meet the Engineers, to see what they left behind, of course. However, unlike Elizabeth his ideas extended further. He would see what the Engineers had to offer that mankind did not, a way to extend his life and wealth even further than it already reached, and just as the alien had promised, one Engineer was still alive to grant it.
Three were dead, Charlie was dead, and even though Elizabeth hadn't been inside, had only the word of an alien and a… the woman, to go off of she knew that the Engineer would never give Peter Weyland what he wanted. She doubted he'd even deign to give Elizabeth what she had come for, answers.
Still, she'd suited up with the others and walked out of the ship, still in that numb haze even as they passed the man, Light and Shadow the woman had called him, who silently trailed behind them like a pale version of his namesake.
She'd walked this path before, not so long ago, and yet it felt like it'd been a lifetime. She remembered the anticipation then, the nervousness, and while a part of her had been afraid there hadn't been this sense of dread.
Dread and guilt.
As the pyramid loomed closer and closer it struck her that she'd abandoned Charlie to this place. She hadn't meant to, had thought there'd be time, but none the less she'd left him behind to chase after the alien she'd never come for. She should have found him, taken him with her, except she never would have. That was the trouble, without knowing it was the last time she'd see him, she never would have acted differently than she had. The pyramid, abandoned as it was, had been filled with nothing but possibility.
So, she hadn't known, and she'd left Charlie to die.
It was just as dark as before, the entrance like the sunken maw of some great beast. The sound of the wind immediately faded as soon as they entered, replaced by the quiet, almost inaudible dripping of water down the tunnel walls. The bright lights on their suits flickered on automatically in the dark, lighting the path forward.
She had never been further than this, last time. She found her head turning to the alien, his dark gaze unflinchingly meeting hers in turn, and she wondered if he was thinking the same thing. Last time, he'd lingered in the entrance and so she had lingered with him, even as the others had wandered off towards the right and the left.
Just as before, though, David didn't seem inclined to linger.
"This way," he said, again so politely, as if none of this was outside of anything routine.
She'd hoped to talk to him, to ask how he felt, if he felt anything about any of this. His creator, his puppet master, was on the edge of death and seeking help from all the wrong places. He had to know that, he had been told that as Elizabeth had, had seen the results of the expedition firsthand and yet… Yet, no matter what he thought, what he believed, his expression never changed.
Elizabeth didn't know if he wanted Weyland to live or die.
She had always believed androids were capable of that, of thought and yes even feeling, and yet…
He led the path easily, never pausing even as they passed by looming giant figures, the ancient petrified progenitors of men scrabbling at the walls of the tunnel as if to escape a flood. Their eyes were so dark, thick black veins weaving across pale skin, and their mouths open in stark and unmistakable terror.
A flood, no an outbreak, whatever had gotten to Milburn, Fifield, and – and Charlie – had gotten to the Engineers first.
Elizabeth's head whipped back to everyone now in front of her, so eager to rush ahead while she fell further and further behind, but they didn't even seem to see them.
A hand fell on her shoulder, causing her to shudder, but before she could shriek another hand fell across her mouth. Those long, delicate, fingers were warm to the touch, warmer than she ever would have expected, almost burning.
"Do you have your answers?"
He released her mouth, hand loosening on her shoulder, and she sucked in the stale recycled air of her suit. She imagined, if she'd been fool enough to take off her helmet, that the air would taste bitter, mold with a hint of something alien and lethal, poisonous.
His question jarred her though, reminds her of who she was, of where she was going and how far she had come. She was terrified, yes, she was bitter and filled with dread, but she had come this far. This, the aftermath, this was not what she'd come for.
She had come for answers and the question had not changed.
Why create mankind? Why send an invitation? Why stay away for so long? And now, if the thing behind her was right, why change their minds?
If she turned back now, she might have her life, but never her answers.
Charlie had come this far without her; Elizabeth could do nothing less in honor of him.
Head held high she walked forward, waiting as David's fingers flew across a hidden panel, and opened a barely visible door disguised as a simple wall. Whatever waited for her, for mankind, she would not flinch from it.
The door opened in a swift, easy motion, despite the age and disrepair of the temple. Inside was what appeared to be a central chamber, the heart of the pyramid. In the center of the room was a large basin, decorated with gray stones of varying sizes. Rising above the basin was a single, dark, chair, far too large for even a tall man but perhaps the right height for the frozen men who had been in the hallway.
On the outer edges of the chamber, arranged in a circle around the basin, were carved and sealed caskets made of some dark and unknown stone.
David stepped into the chair, not even flinching as it lifted him upwards and into a dark hood. There he rapidly touched holograms that appeared, moving them this way and that, and as he did so one of the caskets became transparent until an Engineer's face was visible inside.
He looked so human, Elizabeth thought. More human, perhaps, than even the alien behind her who had seemed remarkably human for all his hints of other. The pale skin, even the height didn't deter her, she saw so much of mankind in him.
She hung back, at the very edge of the room with the alien, as the casket opened. A pale mist rose out of it as the Engineer, with trembling limbs, forced himself upright. He looked at them with dark eyes, fogged at first, and then sharper.
There was no surprise that Elizabeth could see but there was also no hint of welcome. Whatever invitation mankind may have once had, it no longer held, thousands of years out of date.
Despite herself, even as Weyland tried to move forward, Elizabeth took a step back. She hit something solid, the alien, who hadn't moved an inch from the doorway. He looked down at her with his own dark eyes, eerily similar to the Engineer's, and said with a wry smile, "Like grapes."
Then she remembered.
He'd said the Engineer would crush their heads like grapes.
Weyland prompted David, and this was Elizabeth's chance, she should move forward and ask, demand her answers. She tried to but the alien held her in place, hand tight against her wrist, even as David stepped down from the console to greet their host.
As always, as he always would be, he was so very polite and polished. The strange, foreign, language that he had somehow picked up through written word and whatever holograms these people had left behind sounded natural on his tongue. She imagined his accent was crisp, elegant, just as his English accent always had been.
David, for as little time as Elizabeth had known him, seemed to strive for perfection in everything he did. Not just strive, he chased human perfection the way Elizabeth had chased her Engineers, with a single mindedness that left others awed and dazed in his wake.
What did he say though?
None of them could understand him, even as they hung on his every syllable with bated breath. David could tell the Engineer whatever he wanted, and Elizabeth knew his face would never give him away.
Did he translate Weyland's message, his desire for immortality? Did he say what he wanted, whatever it was that David wanted? Or, did he say something else, something Elizabeth couldn't even begin to imagine.
Whatever he said, the Engineer's reaction was clear. Looming over David, standing on both feet, he reached out slowly and caressed David's silicon face. Then, fast as a viper, he tore off David's head.
David's body hit the floor with a thud, white fluid gushing out of his sparking neck in place of blood and spinal fluid, his face began twitching, eyes still blinking rapidly as he lost access to memory stored in his torso.
The Engineer wasted little time with him, instead descending on the others. The alien standing next to Elizabeth, Light and Shadow, wasted even less. He picked Elizabeth up off her feet and began running, sprinting down the hallway without once looking back. They tore past the other, dead, Engineers and finally scrambled back out of the entrance.
Out there he didn't stop, just kept running towards the Prometheus, only barely visible on the horizon.
Elizabeth, however, looked over his shoulder and paled. The pyramid, it was moving, rising out of the earth and into the sky, rearranging itself, until it was clear what it was.
"A ship," she whispered in terror, "It was a ship."
A war ship, it had been a war ship carrying a biological weapon, one so deadly they had lost control of it themselves before they could ever depart. The alien's words came back to her, his mocking certainty that the Engineers were headed to Earth.
She radioed into the Prometheus, "Chance! Chance, you have to stop it! The ship, it's headed for Earth—"
She didn't get much more out than that, her coms sparked and then shorted. She looked up at the man carrying her, but he didn't look down, if anything he sprinted faster towards the Prometheus, as if his legs could not carry them nearly fast enough.
"Are you mad?!" she screamed.
He didn't answer, but he didn't need to. He'd known, he'd told her, told them from the beginning, but more than that he had intended to make room for himself on the Prometheus. He had let them wander in there, knowing at least one would die, all for a ride back to Earth on the Prometheus.
The Prometheus had no weapons systems, the only thing it had was itself, and already it was rising into the air to face the threat attempting to leave orbit.
She could feel Light and Shadow's legs pounding even faster, desperately moving forward with all he had. The Prometheus jerked as it rose, as if it was being held by some invisible tether, but it broke loose and as it did the man holding her screamed. Screamed and watched as it crashed into the ship that had once been the temple.
The ship shuddered, then fell, forcing them to run further away to avoid being crushed. In the aftermath, there was no sign of the Prometheus nor any lifeboat.
There were only the remains of civilization, the world Elizabeth had sought to meet, and the endless and eternal desert.
The woman, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, had left to fetch the puppet's wayward head and body. She would be back soon, had promised and intended to keep it, as she always intended to keep her word.
In turn, he had remained behind. It was not his scene to enter, his time on this world had passed, as had his means of escape home. The Prometheus was gone, everything but himself, the woman, and the remains of the android were gone.
And, as Lily had promised, his journey would continue yet.
Ordinarily that would be her cue to reappear from thin air, to smile across him, that fond if amused expression of an old friend forever teetering towards something more. She didn't though, but he felt her green eyes just the same.
He closed his eyes, tilting his head back, and tasted her presence on the wind.
He could try to persuade them, the woman especially, to return to Earth. The woman was resistant, willful and more powerful than she knew, but she could be overpowered. The puppet though… There was no truth to him, no human soul or mind, and he would remain an uncorrupted witness. The woman's future, the puppet was always in it, and he would permit no action against her which did not first come from himself.
And he was the one who would fly the ship.
More, Lily had prophesied it already, he would not be going home yet.
They would not be his enemies in this, no matter how much easier that might be, instead companions on a strange journey to the origin of men and all the answers such a world promised.
Yet, even as he saw the distant figure of the woman emerge, dragging a duffel bag filled with parts behind her, all he could see was the hologram of Earth, floating in the ship's central chamber in the palm of his hand.
Author's Note: And there we have it. The end of the story.
Thanks to readers and reviewers. Reviews are much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or Prometheus.