Rygel raced through the Transport Pod's access port. He looked around quickly to find that he was the last of the landing party to arrive. Trying to sound more relaxed than he felt, he encouraged Aeryn to engage the pod's engines and leave immediately.
"Whadya do Sparkey?" Crichton asked, taking the seat next to Aeryn.
"Nothing. I am merely anxious to return to Moya," he replied as he hovered toward the back of the transport. He checked out the supplies they had acquired while Aeryn prepped the pod for take off. Satisfied that everything had been delivered as promised he returned to the front of the ship just as Aeryn engaged the thrusters.
She accelerated quickly taking Rygel by surprise. He wasn't prepared for the sudden shift in direction and he lost control of his throne sled for a few microts. Not for long, but long enough. As he struggled to regain control, a small statue rolled out from under his robes and landed heavily on the console between John and Aeryn.
They both reached for the statue, grabbing it before it rolled into the controls. When their hands met a spark of electricity surged through the statue and they tossed it off of the control console toward Rygel who was trying to slink away.
"Okay Sparkey, what's that and where'd you get it?" John asked as he got out of his seat to lift the statue off the pod's floor.
"It's ... it is merely a statue. I acquired it from a legitimate vendor." He replied. His use of the word legitimate should have been their first clue that something wasn't quite right, but they'd had a long day on Qaran and they were tired.
"Well, keep it outta the way, will ya?" John said, tossing it to Rygel.
A short time later, Aeryn brought the transport into the hangar. As it settled to the deck, D'Argo, Chiana and Zhaan approached to help unload their cargo. Rygel was first out of the pod even as the gangway lowered. He sped out of the hangar toward his quarters without a second thought for the work that remained.
It took almost an arn to unload the supplies. Most of it was food, but there were also spare parts for Aeryn's prowler, some medicinal herbs for Zhaan and a few other things that had been requested by the members of the crew who had stayed aboard Moya. When the unloading was finally complete, the crew dispersed throughout the ship, leaving John and Aeryn the task of locking down the transport.
They worked in companionable silence for about a quarter arn. This was something they had each come to enjoy. Though more often than not, they spoke very little, they each felt close to the other one. They had learned to work as a team - at least in the docking bay. As they stowed their tools, preparing to leave the transport hangar, John placed his hand on Aeryn's arm. She stopped working and turned to look at him, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth.
"For what?" she asked, confusion causing her brow to furrow.
"For staying to help. It was nice to have company." He replied quietly.
"Don't be ridiculous Crichton. There was work to be done. It's obvious that two can complete the task more quickly than one."
"I know. But you didn't see any of the others offering to stay and help, did you?" He grinned. He knew she understood what he was trying to say, but was deliberately making it difficult for him. "Come on. Let's go get something to eat." He continued, taking her hand. He was surprised that she didn't pull away, but curled her fingers lightly around his.
As they headed into the corridor, Aeryn suddenly felt lightheaded and she stumbled slightly. John put his arm around her protectively, supporting her. "You okay, Sunshine?
"I'm fine John." She smiled wanly.
"I know you're fine" he murmured suggestively, a broad grin on his face. "But are you okay?"
"Yes, just a little light headed. Probably just because I'm hungry. After all, you didn't buy me dinner down on the planet like you were supposed to." She teased.
"I was supposed to buy you dinner?" John was taken aback. Aeryn in a playful mood. Now this is different.
"Well, you have offered every other time we've been on a Commerce Planet together."
"And you've turned me down every single time."
"Well I wouldn't have said no this time."
John stepped back to get a good look at her. Her eyes flashed with humor. Yep. She's okay. He offered her his arm like the southern gentleman he was. "Join me for dinner, my dear?" he asked, a broad smile on his boyish face. She linked arms with him and they started again for the center chamber.
A few steps later, she was overcome with a wave of nausea. This time her knees buckled and she sank heavily to the floor. John dropped down beside her, concern etched on his face. When he looked into her eyes, he was surprised to see a mixture of surprise and fear reflected there. He shouted into his comms, "Zhaan! Zhaan, I need you. There's something wrong with Aeryn. We're just outside the Transport Hangar." Then he turned back to Aeryn. "Okay now, don't tell me you're fine. Something's wrong. Talk to me."
"Honestly John, I don't know what's wrong. I never get sick," she said as she struggled to stand, but John pushed her back to the floor.
"You just stay down there until Zhaan gets here. You don't always have to be the bad ass Peacekeeper."
She relaxed under his grasp, which surprised him. If she's staying down, she must really be sick.
A quarter of an arn later, John laid Aeryn gently on the bed in her quarters. Zhaan had drawn some blood and conducted a quick exam in the corridor. She had wanted Aeryn to come to the infirmary for a more thorough examination, but Aeryn had refused, insisting she was merely tired and needed rest. And so John had carried her back to her quarters. At first Aeryn had resisted, but as she had tried to stand, the nausea returned and she reluctantly agreed to his assistance.
He sat beside her and gently caressed her cheek. She was pale. Paler than usual. "Do you want me to stay?" He asked quietly.
"You don't have to watch over me John."
"I know. But it's no trouble. If you want me to stay, I'll stay."
She smiled up at him weakly. "I think I would like you to stay for a little while. But if you don't mind, I would like to change."
"No problem. I'll go check with Zhaan and be back in a bit." He stood and headed for the corridor. As he reached the door, he turned, "If you need me, you'll call, right?"
She reached behind her, grabbed her pillow and fired it at him. "Get out of here!" she laughed as John ducked and scooted out the door.
Zhaan was bent over her scanner as John walked into the lab. "Any luck?"
She stood and shook her head. "No John. I can detect nothing that would have caused this condition. Did Aeryn eat anything or touch anything out of the ordinary on Qaran?"
"Not that I know of. We didn't stay long enough to eat and she was never out of my sight, so no, I don't think she touched anything that could have caused this."
"Well, I'll keep testing, but I don't know that I'll find much more. Perhaps she is just tired. We have all been pushing pretty hard lately."
When John returned to Aeryn's quarters, he found her curled up on the bed sound asleep. He smiled at the picture she presented. She looked so innocent, so at peace. Her raven hair was fanned out around her face. God she is beautiful. I hope it is just fatigue. He longed to go to her, to wrap his arms around her and hold her, protect her from harm. Instead, he rummaged around as quietly as possible to find an extra blanket and pillow, then curled up on the floor by her bed.
Several arns later, Aeryn woke to find her chamber bathed in just enough light to see John curled up on the floor. She smiled at the feeling of comfort that spread through her to see him there. She wasn't sure why, but knowing that he was there felt good. He always seems to be here for me. No matter how badly I treat him ... and I do that sometimes ... he's there, willing to give without expecting anything in return. I don't deserve that.
As she gazed at his sleeping form, he stirred and stretched slightly, trying to find a more comfortable position on the hard floor. He rolled over and noticed that Aeryn was leaning on one elbow, looking at him. "Hey." He said, a sleepy grin spreading across his face. "You feelin' any better?"
She smiled in response. "Yes. Much. Why don't you go to your own quarters? You can't possibly be comfortable down there."
He sat up, bringing him nose to nose with her. He reached up and pushed a stray lock of hair back from her face. Wow, in this light she looks so beautiful. He inhaled deeply, trying to clear his sleepy mind. "You sure?"
"Just go John. I appreciate your concern, but I don't need you to watch over me."
He pulled himself up from the floor and headed out the door toward his own quarters. As he walked through the darkened corridor he couldn't stop thinking about Aeryn. She had seemed so different, so much more at ease for the past couple of days. Something had changed in their relationship. He wasn't sure just what, but he had to admit that whatever it was, he liked the change. When he arrived in his quarters he pulled his boots and pants off and dropped into bed. Pulling his blanket up, he rolled onto his side and was asleep almost instantly.
John rolled onto his back and inhaled deeply, hoping to silence the Conga band playing in his head. He reluctantly opened his eyes and immediately regretted it. Though the lights were low, they intensified the pounding in his brain. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to push the bile rising in his throat back down. Damn, that musta been a helluva party if I feel like this. Wish I could remember it.
In an effort to stop the room from spinning, he stuck one leg out from under the covers and firmly planted it on the floor. After a few minutes of intense concentration he managed to bring his rolling stomach under control. He sat up slowly and brought his other leg over the side of the bed. His stomach began to roll again as his head tried to adjust to the change in elevation. He leaned forward and rested his pounding head in his hands.
Slowly, cautiously, he opened his eyes again, shielding them with his hands. The faint golden light made his head pound harder and his stomach lurch again. Haven't had a hangover this bad in ages. What was I drinking and with who? DK? Alex? He took several deep breaths and raised his eyes from the floor only to have everything turn upside down.
Where the hell am I? And how did I get here?
Quiet. It's too quiet. Aeryn's eyes snapped open as she leapt from the bed in a fluid motion. She spun around swiftly, examining her surroundings in silent shock. A Leviathan? When did I get here? How did I get here? She moved quickly to the closed gate and swept her hand across the control pad. The gate swept open smoothly and she breathed a silent sigh of relief. Why am I here? I don't remember being transferred.
She crossed the room to what appeared to be clothing storage and began rummaging through the neatly folded garments. There wasn't much to choose from and most confusing was the lack of a proper Peacekeeper uniform. Bits and pieces, yes, but a full uniform was nowhere to be found. As she wondered about this as she grabbed a towel and headed for what appeared to be a private washroom.
She had been on Leviathans before, but never for an extended time, and never in what appeared to be a converted cell. She let her mind wander as the water from the shower streamed over her. Must be aboard a prison ship. But why would they be using cells to house soldiers? And why don't I remember being transferred? Was I injured and don't remember it? Could this Leviathan be a medical ship? Unusual, but not unheard of. She stepped out from under the water stream, which instantly shut off and began to towel off. Heading back into the main room, she picked out some clothing that was as close to a full uniform as she could find, then strapped on the sidearm she found neatly stored beside the bed. Hmmm, just where I'd keep it.
After tying her hair back in a tight braid, she strode out into the corridor. Surprisingly, it was deserted. Where is everyone? There should be guards in these corridors. She hurried from what she assumed were her quarters to the Command deck, believing she would find answers to her questions there.
John staggered to his feet, his head reeling. Where am I? What is this place? He stood in the center of the room, turning slowly to take in the entire room. He stopped facing the view port. Stars? He stumbled across the room and pressed his face against the port. I'm in space? His knees buckled and he dropped heavily to the floor. He buried his face in his hands and started to chuckle. I'm either dreaming or DK is playing one helluva practical joke on me. Either way, might as well play along.
He pulled himself up from the floor and started exploring his accommodations. He rummaged through the clothing, finding a fresh tee shirt and a pair of pants that looked like they'd fit. Grabbing a towel, he headed for the small bathroom he'd found just off the main room. Maybe a good hot shower'll clear my head and I'll wake up from this nightmare.
A short time later he stepped out from under the water flow, feeling somewhat better. He still wasn't sure where he was or how he got here, but at least his head had stopped pounding, He returned to the main room and pulled on the clothing he'd found, surprised that it fit as well as it did. Both the shirt and pants were slightly loose, but they'd do. Guess I'm lucky they fit. Leather pants? Who the hell picked those out?
Once dressed, he decided it was time to look around, find out a little more about this nightmare he appeared to be stuck in. He approached the door cautiously and peered out into the corridor. It appeared to be deserted, but he could hear heavy footsteps approaching. Just as he stepped into the corridor, he heard a deep, gravelly voice call out, "Crichton! Where the hezmanna have you been this morning?"
He stopped dead in his tracks. Whoever was behind him knew his name and had apparently been looking for him. Okay, let's see who's behind this. He turned toward where the voice had come from and found himself face to chest with the largest ... uh ... man? he had ever seen. Tentacles. Braided red hair. Tattoos. He squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again, one at a time. "John," he mumbled, "you are definitely NOT in Kansas anymore." He leaned back to look whatever this was in the eyes, which he was surprised to see were a deep blue. He cleared his throat nervously, "Do I ... do I know you?"
"What kind of game are you playing at Crichton?"
"Okay, that's twice you've called me by name. Who put you up to this? DK? Rick? Ben? Cool makeup, by the way."
"Enough of this nonsense Crichton. You're supposed to be helping me store the supplies you, Aeryn and Rygel brought back from Qaran yesterday."
"Yeah. Right. And I supposedly know this Aeryn and Rygel too, hunh?" He began slowing backing away from the big alien.
"Crichton, have you finally lost your mind? Of course you know Aeryn and Rygel. We've been shipmates for nearly two cycles."
"Shipmates? Cycles? What the hell are you talking about?"
"You don't recall any of this? Don't remember being shot through a wormhole? The Aurora Chair? Crais? Scorpius? Peacekeepers? The false earth? Marrying Princess ..." He stopped, seeing John's eyes growing wider with every question.
"Okay," John chuckled uncomfortably, "This has gone far enough. You can drop the act now. This ain't real. It can't be..." He shook his head and turned away from the big creature. "DK!" He shouted into the air, "Call off your goon! This isn't funny anymore!"
"Crichton. Your friend DK is not here. You came through the wormhole alone. Don't you remember?"
"That's the second time you've mentioned a wormhole." John said, whipping around to face the 'alien' again. "What the hell are you talking about? Wormholes are still theory. No one's ever proven they exist or that they're stable enough to travel through. It's all just science fiction."
As the big man began to reply, he was interrupted by a feminine voice coming through a small communication device on his tunic, "D'Argo, I need your assistance in Command. Aeryn seems ..."
"I have my hands full with Crichton at the moment Zhaan. You will need to manage or call Chiana."
"Your name is D'Argo? What or who is Zhaan? And Chiana? Are they like you?"
"I think you need to come with me to the infirmary, John. Clearly something has happened to your mind."
"Oh no," he said, backing away from D'Argo. "I'm not going anywhere with you."
"Yes John, you are." D'Argo replied matter-of-factly. And without warning, shot his tongue out, stinging John in the neck. John's eyes grew wide, then rolled into his head and he dropped heavily to the deck.
D'Argo bent down and slung the human over his shoulder and headed toward the infirmary.
Aeryn moved confidently through the corridors. Fortunately, every Leviathan was laid out basically the same so she was able to find Command without a lot of trouble. She swept her hand across the access control and the door swung open on its central hinge. She stepped into the room, ready to report to the commanding officer, but was stunned into silence. Before her, standing at the center command console was a Delvian. What the frell?
She whipped her sidearm out of its holster and pointed it at the Delvian. "Step away from the console, now!" she demanded.
The Delvian woman turned to face her, a surprised expression on her face. "Aeryn? What are you doing?"
"I said, step away from the console. Now."
The Delvian backed slowly away from the console, raising her hands reflexively to show that she was unarmed. Aeryn moved quickly across the chamber to the main console, keeping her weapon trained on the other woman. She checked the readings on the console only to be further confused. We're in the Uncharted Territories? Since when have Peacekeepers had Leviathans in the Uncharted Territories? Turning her attention to the Delvian, she demanded, "Name. Status."
"My name is Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan. But you know that Aeryn."
"How do you know my name?"
"We have been shipmates for nearly two cycles." Zhaan replied calmly, "Something is obviously wrong. You were ill yesterday, perhaps you are still feeling the after effects. Please, put down your weapon. Come with me to the infirmary."
"This is impossible. Why would I be shipmates with a Delvian?" she asked, shaking her head. "I was assigned to my first Command Carrier two cycles ago. What am I doing aboard a Leviathan?"
"Aeryn, please. Come with me to the infirmary. Something seems to have caused your memory to fade out. I would like to examine you."
Aeryn lowered her pistol slightly, confusion etched on her face. "Was I assigned to this ship? How did I get here? When did I get here?" She mumbled more to herself than to the woman who began to approach her. As Zhaan's movement registered in her confused brain, she raised the weapon again, though she noticed that her hand was shaking ever so slightly. "Stay back." She commanded and Zhaan stopped her approach.
"You must let me try to help you. Please."
Aeryn closed her eyes and shook her head as if trying to clear away the confusion. As she did so, Zhaan tapped her comm badge. "D'Argo, I need your assistance in Command. Aeryn seems ..."
"I have my hands full with Crichton at the moment Zhaan. You will need to manage or call Chiana." D'Argo replied gruffly.
Aeryn's head snapped up when D'Argo's voice had come over the comm. "Who was that? Who else is aboard this ship? How many of you are there?"
"There are six of us, yourself included. Don't you remember any of this?" Zhaan asked, outwardly calm, though inwardly frightened for her shipmate. She had never seen Aeryn so confused.
"No. No, I don't remember any of what you're telling me. How can I know that you aren't lying to me?"
"Search your heart Aeryn. Surely, you must know that I am your friend and that I would not mislead you about this." She once again approached the Sebacean woman, cautiously reaching out her hand toward the weapon that was still pointed at her. "Aeryn, give me the weapon. Let me lock it away until we determine why you have lost your memory. I will give the key to Pilot for safekeeping."
The two women's eyes met and in that instant Aeryn knew she could trust this Delvian woman. She didn't know why she felt that way, but she was confident that she was making the right decision. She popped the Chakan Oil cartridge out of the pistol in a fluid motion and handed both parts to Zhaan. "I will trust you Delvian. For now." Zhaan smiled reassuringly, lightly placing her hand on Aeryn's arm to direct her toward the infirmary.
D'Argo strode into the infirmary with John still slung over his shoulder just as Aeryn and Zhaan were arriving. Instantly, Zhaan's attention turned to John, "What happened D'Argo? Is John hurt?"
"No." He replied, gently laying his friend on the exam table. "Physically he's fine, but I had to sting him to get him here. He claims he doesn't remember anything that's happened since he arrived. Doesn't remember any of us either."
"Interesting...." Zhaan turned toward Aeryn who had moved over to John's side. She tapped her comm, "Rygel? Rygel, where are you?" After a few moments of silence, contacted Pilot, "Do you have any trace of Rygel. He doesn't appear to be answering his comms."
"I am sorry Zhaan. I have no trace of him and the DRDs are occupied elsewhere."
"Thank you Pilot. Chiana, will you find Rygel and bring him to the infirmary, please?"
The young Nebari's voice came back, "I'm kinda in the middle of something Zhaan. Can't D'Argo do it?"
"I need his help with John and Aeryn. Please Chiana. I'm worried. Aeryn and John seem to have been affected by something. Rygel was with them on the Commerce Planet yesterday and I need to know if he has been affected as well."
"Okay, okay. I'll see what I can do."
Aeryn stood over John's inert body. Another Sebacean? He looks so familiar... She reached out and ran a finger lightly over his eyebrow. Why did I do that? She jerked her hand back just as his eyes snapped open.
John looked up into a pair of sapphire blue eyes set in what could only be described as a human face. A human? It was all a dream. It had to be. He smiled at the woman who stood above him and tried to sit up, but his head began to spin and he gratefully sank back to a horizontal position. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of the creature that had confronted him in the corridor. Damn. It wasn't a dream.
"John," a feminine voice spoke his name and he turned his head to find the owner.
Oh this just gets better and better. "You're ... you're blue ..." he stammered. Then turning his attention to D'Argo he demanded, "What the hell did you do to me? And where am I?"
The blue woman replied, "You are in the infirmary John. You don't remember me, do you?"
"Yes. My name is Zhaan. You've already met D'Argo and this is Aeryn." She said gently, reassuringly. "I need to run some scans of you and Aeryn. Something has apparently affected your memories and I will do whatever is necessary to determine the cause."
"Yeah, right. Whatever." John said, closing his eyes tiredly, the confusion of the past hour taking its toll. This is insane. Technicolor aliens... close encounters my ass. He lay still, eyes closed, as Zhaan began her testing. She started with a full body scan then moved on to blood and tissue samples. I don't know what she's hoping to find. I'm fine, just don't know how I got here. But I'm not gonna fight her, not with that D'Argo character in the room. He'd probably have me for lunch if I gave him a reason.
When Zhaan finished her work-up on John, she turned her attention to Aeryn, putting her through the same set of procedures. As John watched her, he was impressed with the calm assurance she exuded. He'd been told that she suffered from a memory loss similar to his own, but she seemed to be handling it extremely well. None of the panic he felt; at least she didn't show it outwardly.
"This is interesting..." Zhaan muttered thoughtfully. D'Argo moved over to stand beside her as she examined the scanner readings. "Look at this D'Argo. They appear to have lost some body mass. And these readings," she said, pointing at the scanner. "indicate that they have..."
"Alright! I'm here." Rygel interrupted as he and Chiana burst into the infirmary. "What was so important that you had to wake me?"
With all attention focused on the newest arrivals, John approached Aeryn who had risen from the exam table. He extended his hand shyly, "Hi, we haven't really been introduced. My name's John Crichton."
She looked at his extended hand suspiciously. It was an unfamiliar gesture, but one which seemed to suit him. She looked at his open face and without a second thought, reached out and grasped his hand. "I am Officer Aeryn Sun. Icarian Company. Pleisar Regiment."
"You're a soldier?" He asked as they wandered further from the others in the room. "I wouldn't have pictured you as a soldier."
"I am a Peacekeeper, a pilot by training. What is your rank and regiment."
"I'm not a soldier, I'm a scientist. Just finished my doctorate in Cosmic Theory. I was hoping to join the IASA astronaut program ..." he trailed off as he noticed the confused expression on her face. He grinned, "you have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?" She smiled at his infectious grin and shook her head. "Do you know your way around this boat?"
"Yes, I've been on Leviathans before. But ..." she hesitated, knowing instinctively what he was driving at. "We should stay here," she mumbled flatly.
"Why? Why should we wait here for them to decide what to do with us?" he whispered insistently, "I don't think much of the idea of being dissected by an alien. And I want to get a look at this place."
She looked at him intently for a moment trying to decide if she could trust him. As she looked into his ice blue eyes a shiver ran down her spine. Why do I feel that I know you? What is it about you? She smiled hesitantly, "Yes. Let's go."
They glanced quickly over at the others who were arguing among themselves, then slipped quietly from the room. Aeryn led John from the infirmary to the quarters she had occupied earlier. When she revealed their destination, he stopped. "Wait a minute. Won't that be the first place they'd look for us?"
"We're not staying there. I merely want to retrieve something. And I doubt they would look for us there for that very reason. Come on." She said softly as she swept her hand across the control pad. The gate swung open quietly and she slipped into the room with John right behind her. He looked at this room that looked on the surface so much like the one he had awakened in, but was so very different. This room didn't look lived in except for the few pieces of clothing stored on the shelves against the wall.
"They said you've been aboard this ship for two ... what'd they call 'em ... cycles. But this room barely looks lived in. Maybe they're lying to us. Maybe we've both just arrived."
"That is possible John, but remember, I am a Peacekeeper. We are taught to live simply, without accumulation of personal belongings. We can be transferred at a moment's notice and possessions become a burden."
"I can't believe you lived like that."
"It's the only life I've ever known. The only life I've ever wanted to know." she replied as she turned to face him. She had found the second sidearm she suspected she would find stored in the room and had slipped it into the holster on her right thigh.
"Whoa...do you really think you'll need that?" John asked as he backed away from her slightly.
"John, let me explain something to you." She spoke firmly. "This ship is configured as a prison ship. You and I are guards for the four we left in the infirmary or we are prisoners ourselves. I doubt that if we were prisoners, I would have a weapon in my quarters so that leaves one option. We are their guards and they have found a way to neutralize us by subverting our memories. For now, I will allow them to run freely, however, I want to be armed."
"But what would they gain by this elaborate a ruse?"
"Freedom John Crichton. Freedom."
"Okay, I'll buy that. But there is another option. We were their guards and joined them in their bid for freedom. We may all be on the same side."
"Possibly. But we'll never find out if we stay here. You said you wanted to see this ship. Come on." She said, leading him into the corridor again.
For the next few hours, or arns, as she called them, John followed Aeryn around the Leviathan with a look of wonder glued on his face. He had never seen anything quite like this ship which she explained was a living ship, a biomechanoid. A living ship. Man, DK, you would not believe this! This ship is incredible. The technology is beyond our wildest dreams.
As they rounded a curve in one of the corridors, they were met by a phalanx of small yellow robots. John stopped walking as one of them moved toward them with what looked like a small weapon extended. "What the hell are those things?" he asked, looking to Aeryn.
"They're DRDs." She said with disappointment. "It looks like they've found us."
"Well, let's just get out of here before the big guy with the sword gets here." He turned to head away from the DRDs only to find that another group had moved in behind them, cutting off their retreat. He stepped toward the line of DRDs, expecting them to retreat before him. But they didn't. They held their ground and advanced slightly. He back peddled until he bumped into Aeryn who had drawn her weapon and was pointing it at the tiny army. He pushed her hand down, shaking his head. "No. Let's not make it any worse."
The DRD army continued to advance until John and Aeryn were backed against the wall of the corridor. They remained this way, standing side-by-side, backs to the wall until D'Argo and Zhaan arrived a short time later. D'Argo had his blade drawn and Zhaan carried the pistol Aeryn had relinquished to her earlier.
"Why? Why did you run from us?" Zhaan asked sadly. "We are only trying to help you."
"Are we your prisoners?" John asked, looking her directly in the eyes.
"No, of course not. You are our shipmates."
"Then why did you send an army of DRDs against us?" Aeryn demanded, raising her weapon slightly.
"Because of that." D'Argo snarled and pointed at her weapon.
"I trusted you Delvian." Aeryn replied angrily. "Is this how you repay that trust?"
"I might ask you the same. Why Aeryn? Why did you rearm yourself? Why couldn't you trust us?"
"I am a Peacekeeper."
"Give me your weapon Peacekeeper." D'Argo growled pointing his now activated Qualta blade at her. She hesitated.
John leaned in closer and whispered, "Do it. I don't want you getting hurt because you came with me." She looked him in the eye, searching his face for guidance. "Please Aeryn." he added softly, his eyes filled with pleading and compassion.
She glanced quickly at the Delvian and Luxan then met John's eyes. "I'll do it for you John." She turned to face Zhaan and handed her the pulse pistol without further argument.
A short time later, John and Aeryn watched as the gate closed on the cell D'Argo and Zhaan had escorted them to. The indicator light changed from red to green showing that the gate was securely locked.
"I thought you said we weren't your prisoners." John said glaring at Zhaan and D'Argo.
"You aren't. We are doing this for your own protection." John snorted in response and Zhaan continued, "We don't know what caused your memory loss. It could be progressive. It is for the best that you are in a controlled environment, for now."
"The best for who?" he mumbled and turned his back on the two in the corridor.
"John, Aeryn. Listen to me." Zhaan protested. "I know you don't like this. I've been on that side of those bars, but this is for your own protection. You must believe me. The readings I took earlier show that you are growing younger."
"Oh, this is ludicrous!" Aeryn snapped. "You can't honestly think we'll believe that dren, can you?"
"How old are you Aeryn?"
"John, how old are you?"
"No. You're not. Just a few days ago you told me you were thirty-seven, John. And Aeryn, you're almost thirty. I know it is difficult to believe, but it is true. If you don't want to believe me, believe yourself John." He turned to face her again, unsure what she meant. She continued, pointing toward the wall, "Over there, on that shelf. There's a recording device that you brought aboard when you joined us. You've been making recordings for your father and your friend, DK. Listen to them. Perhaps you'll begin to believe that we are telling you the truth. We will leave you alone now. Listen to the recordings John. Let us help you and Aeryn."
He walked across the room to the shelf she had indicated. There was, indeed, a small, handheld tape recorder sitting there with several tapes. IASA issue? What the hell? She can't be telling the truth can she? He picked up the recorder and stared at it, then raised his eyes to the stars visible through the view port before him. What am I afraid of?
"Are you going to listen to the recordings?" Aeryn asked. She had moved across the room to stand directly behind him. He turned, they stood face to face. He reached up and cupped her face in his hand, running his thumb from her cheekbone down to her chin.
"I don't know Aeryn. I don't know if I have the courage."
She smiled at him. "You do." He returned her smile and picked up the tapes that still lay on the shelf. Then, taking her hand, walked over to the table in the center of the room and sat down. He put the tape labeled as number one into the recorder, placed it in the center of the table and pressed the play button.
Zhaan entered the infirmary several arns later to find D'Argo waiting for her. "Did you talk to them? Do they believe us?" he asked impatiently.
"No, I did not talk with them. They were just listening to the last recording when I arrived at the cell."
"We should go and talk with them."
She laid a restraining hand on D'Argo's arm. "No D'Argo." She said softly, but firmly. "They need time to come to terms with what they have learned. It cannot be easy to learn that they have lost several cycles of their lives. And consider everything that they have been through, everything that John would have recorded. They need time D'Argo."
He nodded, acknowledging the truth of her words. "You're right, as usual Zhaan. It's just that I want to help them. I have come to value their friendship and seeing them like this is hard."
"I understand how you feel. I wish there was more that I could do as well."
"But you can help them by discovering what caused this."
"That's just it D'Argo." She said, moving across the room to stand near the center work area. "I feel as if I am failing them because I have no idea what could have caused this. If Rygel had been similarly affected, I could be certain that it was something they came in contact with on Qaran. As it is, I have nothing to go on. Their blood samples show nothing out of the ordinary. No viruses or unusual bacteria. Nothing that could account for this."
"Have patience Zhaan. You will discover the truth of this." He said simply, laying a reassuring hand over hers.
John stood hands clasped tightly behind his back, feet shoulder width apart staring into the void of space. He had dreamed of flying amid the stars since he had been four years old and the first astronauts had landed on the moon. And now, he had lived in space for two years and he didn't remember a bit of it. This can't be real. It just can't be. I feel so cheated. So much has happened since I arrived here and I don't remember any of it. I don't even remember Aeryn. Aeryn, the woman I love and I don't remember her.
Aeryn stood a few arm lengths from him at parade rest as well. She too stared into space. For all of her life she had lived in space. She had been born there and she would die there; it was the way of the Peacekeepers. But now ... now this man had turned her world inside out. Irreversibly contaminated. All because I defended him. She inhaled deeply trying to calm the fear that rose up in her heart. The only life I've ever known has been taken away from me. But his recordings say he loves me ... do I love him? Can I love him? Why can't I remember?
"It's not fair!" he shouted to no one in particular as he punched the wall in front of him. He continued lashing out at his surroundings as he vented the anger and frustration that had been building up in him; pounding on the walls, throwing things, overturning furniture. Finally, his knuckles bloodied and his emotions spent, he collapsed to the floor gasping for air. He jerked as Aeryn put her arm around his shoulders, pulling him close.
"Are you finished?" She asked softly, turning his face toward hers.
He looked into her sapphire eyes so filled with strength. God she is something. He let her pull him to his feet and lead him to the wash room where she began washing the blood from his hands. She worked quickly, yet gently. It was obvious to him that she had some training in battle triage as she applied the dressings efficiently.
When she finished, she busied herself with cleaning up the blood that had spilled into the basin. She wanted to avoid thinking about the way his touch made her feel. Though she couldn't remember the history they apparently shared, there was something between them. Something she desperately wanted to avoid. He's an alien. This goes against everything I've always believed. He is just a shipmate. I will not allow him to be more.
John watched her work for a few moments then headed back into the main room. He looked around him, disgusted with himself for losing of control. As he started cleaning up the debris left from his tantrum, he noticed one of those little mechanical things that had corralled him and Aeryn earlier watching him from the corridor. He noticed that one of its antennae was broken and had been repaired with what looked like blue electrical tape. Blue? Who would use blue electrical tape? He approached the locked gate and squatted down near the DRD, gazing at it intently through the bars.
"Hey little guy. How'd you get hurt?" He asked, doubting it could understand him, but feeling the need to talk to it anyway. The DRD wiggled its antennae and started to back away. "Hey, don't be afraid. I'm not gonna hurt you. Hell, I wouldn't know how to hurt you." He paused. For some reason, that sounded familiar. Almost as if he'd played out a similar scene once before. As the DRD spun around and sped up the corridor he called after it, "Tell your friends we need to talk!"
He jumped, started by her nearness, as Aeryn asked, "Who were you talking to Crichton?"
"One of those little mechanical things ... you know ... a DRD. He's been watching us for a while."
"They are the eyes and ears of the Leviathan and Pilot. It has probably been assigned to observe our actions and report back when we finished listening to the recordings."
"Well, if he saw my little tantrum, he sure got an eye ... er ... antenna full." He said, ducking his head in embarrassment. "I'm really sorry about that by the way. I don't usually come unglued quite that badly."
She nodded, wordlessly accepting his apology. She didn't know what to say. What they had learned over the past few arns would be enough to overwhelm anyone and had it not been for her military training she would probably have reacted similarly.
"Well," John said, breaking the awkward silence, "I should probably get this mess cleaned up before our jailers show up."
They were just righting the last piece of furniture when Zhaan and D'Argo approached the cell. "What happened in there?" D'Argo asked as he palmed the control pad, opening the gate.
John cautiously took a couple of steps back as D'Argo and Zhaan entered the chamber. Just as he was about to answer, Aeryn spoke. "Nothing of importance. What do you want?"
"You have listened to John's recordings?" Zhaan asked, ignoring the challenge in Aeryn's tone. At their nods she continued, "We want to help you. We want to work with you to determine what has caused this ..." she paused, searching for the right word, "this transformation. And to discover a way to reverse it."
"What do you want us to do?" John asked quietly, thoughtfully.
"First, trust us." She smiled. "Come, it is time to eat. Rygel and Chiana are waiting for us in the center chamber. If we don't get there soon, Rygel will have appropriated our share of the food."
"You don't remember anything about the last two cycles? Nothing at all?" Chiana asked, leaning closer to John. She had deliberately chosen a seat near him when they sat down to eat. D'Argo had flashed her a disappointed look, but she had blatantly ignored him.
John tried to put a little space between himself and Chiana, having seen the look D'Argo had given her earlier. Though the recordings he and Aeryn had listened to earlier indicated that they were friends, he didn't want to get between the Luxan and Chiana. He had learned long ago the trouble coming between lovers could cause and he certainly didn't want D'Argo coming after him with that Qualta Blade of his. "No, Chiana. I don't remember any of it."
"Nor do I." Aeryn interjected. She didn't like the way the Nebari woman was sidling up to John. She caught John's eye and saw that he was equally uncomfortable with her advances. She smiled, satisfied that he wasn't interested in Chiana or what she was so obviously offering. I have no claim on him, so why does this bother me so much?
"Chiana, it would appear that John and Aeryn have regressed about ten to twelve cycles in age." Zhaan explained. "With their physical change, they also appear to have lost the corresponding memories."
"But what could have caused something like that?" Rygel asked between food cubes.
"That is what we need to determine Rygel." Zhaan replied patiently. "You were with John and Aeryn on Qaran yesterday. Do you recall anything that could have cause this? Did you they eat anything or touch anything that could account for this transformation?
Rygel thought for a few microts then shook his head, "No, I don't recall anything. We were together the entire time we were on the planet."
"The entire time?" D'Argo asked. "That is hardly like you Rygel. You usually manage to sneak off to do some private negotiating."
"Well I didn't this time." The little Hynerian snapped back. He turned his throne sled and sped out of the chamber in a huff.
"D'Argo," Zhaan said softly, "we need his help. He is the only one who remembers what happened on Qaran."
The big Luxan looked at her for a long time, as if weighing her words. Finally, he nodded and said quietly, "You're right. I will talk with him later."
Zhaan turned her attention back to John and Aeryn again. "There are a few more tests I would like to run."
John pushed his plate of food cubes away from him largely untouched. He looked up at Zhaan and was surprised by the compassion in her eyes. As he considered whether to allow the tests, he found himself fighting fatigue. "Can they wait until tomorrow?" he asked trying to stifle a yawn. "It's been an exhausting day and I, for one, could use some rest." He stood and stretched, then headed tiredly down the corridor.
He heard footsteps behind him but continued on a pace for the quarters he assumed were his own. His pursuer quickened her pace and finally fell in step beside him. They walked along quietly for some time until Zhaan finally broke the silence. "John, I think it would be best if you and Aeryn slept in the infirmary tonight. I can keep you under observation there."
They stopped before the door to John's quarters and John looked into the Delvian's eyes. He saw compassion and genuine concern mirrored there. But he was determined. He'd been observed enough for one day. "Aw, c'mon Zhaan, how much worse could this get?"