Author: Johryn
Rating: PG-13 
Notes: THANKS: I owe a very special thanks to QuiltLady for her suggestions and encouragement on this story. Without her input this would have been a VERY different story. Also, thanks to JilaCosa for her beta reading skills! Without you two ladies, I'd really look foolish. <G>
Part:  1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |
 

Part Three

The small shuttle settled softly to the deck in the hangar. D'Argo and Chiana stood awaiting the Qaran representative, weapons drawn and ready. Zhaan had tried to talk D'Argo out of this show of force, but had been unsuccessful.

B'dak walked slowly down the gangway. He had agreed to come alone and unarmed but as he stepped onto Moya's deck, several DRDs raced past him to check the transport for unexpected company. The Qaran walked across the hangar to face D'Argo and Chiana. He stood slightly taller than D'Argo, but was much thinner. "I have come unarmed as requested, yet you meet me with weapons drawn. I can only assume that you are guilty of the crime of which you have been accused."

"We are merely being cautious Prefect." D'Argo responded as calmly as possible. He saw the DRDs leave the shuttle and sheathed his blade smoothly. "If you will follow us, we will take you to our center chamber where we will discuss your charges."

 

Zhaan rose from her seat at the center table as D'Argo escorted B'dak into the chamber. She bowed in greeting and motioned for him to take a seat across from her at the table. As he complied, D'Argo eased back to the door, acting as a guard for their negotiations.

"Prefect B'dak. Welcome to Moya. We are pleased that you have chosen to seek a peaceful solution to this incident."

"Are you willing to return your three crew members to Qaran to stand trial for what they have done?"

"No. We are not." she replied firmly, "We are, however, prepared to make restitution."

"You admit, then, that an artifact was removed from our planet in violation of planetary law?"

"I do. However, it was an innocent mistake. A member of our crew, Dominar Rygel XVI of the Hynerian Empire took a liking to the statue in question. He did not realize, nor was it pointed out to him, that it was a crime to remove it from the planet. His only crime is avarice."

"You are prepared to return the artifact, intact?"

"We are." She said simply, nodding to D'Argo. He left the chamber to retrieve Rygel who had been banished to his quarters.

"I am curious, Pa'u Zhaan. If you were willing to admit so freely that you had the artifact, why did you insist that I come to your ship?"

Just as Zhaan was about to explain the situation, D'Argo returned with Rygel in tow. The Hynerian knew he had been caught and that his shipmates had lied to protect him, but he was still reluctant to part with the artifact. D'Argo literally pushed Rygel up to the table and stood behind him to see that he followed through on his part of the deal. Reluctantly, Rygel reached under his robes and pulled out the statue. This isn't fair. I paid good money for this and now I'm being forced to return it without any compensation.

B'dak reached out reverently and lifted the icon gently. He held it up in one hand and tilted his head back as he closed his eyes. He silently breathed a prayer of thanksgiving for its safe return, then shifted his gaze to meet Zhaan's.

"Though you are not from my world, as a priest, I believe you can understand my reverence for this icon. It is a representation of one of our gods and is believed to hold great power. You can understand, then, why we were so devastated to learn of its theft."

"I did not steal it!" Rygel protested, "I paid good currency for it."

"Rygel." D'Argo interrupted, "I think you should return to your quarters now, before we decide to let Prefect B'dak take you back to Qaran with him."

"If I may ask, Prefect," Zhaan interjected quickly, "what sort of power?"

"She is the giver of vitality and health, the giver of longevity and strength. She is our mother goddess, our giver of life." he said, bowing his head reverently. "You mentioned something earlier about two of your shipmates being ill. As I told your Luxan, I am a physician, perhaps I can help you."

"Your assistance would be greatly appreciated Prefect." She replied, rising from her seat.

 

"I can see why you are frustrated Zhaan." B'dak said, straightening up from the microscope. "I can see no medical cause for the transformation you described."

"Yet the transformation is very real and I am fearful, if we don't find a way to stop and reverse it will be deadly."

B'dak turned to face Zhaan, a perplexed look on his face. "Deadly? How?"

"Each of these transformations has been approximately one-third of John's and Aeryn's ages. If followed to its logical conclusion, they would eventually cease to exist."

"That will not happen Zhaan." B'dak rose from the stool, on which he had been sitting and walked to Zhaan's side at the scanner. He laid his hand on hers. "We will find a way to stop this before that happens."

"Thank you Prefect." She smiled tiredly and tapped her comms. "Chiana, D'Argo, have you managed to get Aeryn and John to the Center Chamber for the evening meal?"

"Yes," D'Argo replied gruffly, "they are here, but they are not happy about it."

"Perhaps, if you tried to be more understanding ..."

"Understanding?" D'Argo roared, interrupting Zhaan, "That little hellion tried to bite one of my tentacles off! You two had better get up here before I lose my temper completely!"

"We're on our way. Just try to stay calm D'Argo." Zhaan replied, stifling a laugh at D'Argo's predicament. She turned to B'dak who was also trying to suppress a laugh. "We had better hurry before Aeryn injures poor D'Argo. Though I think it is his pride that is most in danger of being injured."

As they neared the Center Chamber a loud crash echoed through the corridor followed by the roar of angry voices. Zhaan and B'dak raced the remaining distance to the chamber only to find Chiana trying to restrain Aeryn while John and Rygel struggled to keep D'Argo at bay. Stopping in the middle of the melee, Zhaan looked at both sides of the struggle before raising her hands, hoping to calm them all.

"Please, everyone calm down. This is not helping." She looked directly at D'Argo and added, "Now, I want everyone to sit down and tell me calmly what is going on here."

One by one, everyone took a seat; John and Aeryn together on one side of the table while D'Argo, Chiana and Rygel grouped together on the other side. B'dak joined John and Aeryn while Zhaan moved to the end of the table between the two factions. She sat gracefully and leaned forward, looking intently at each person in succession.

She closed her eyes and silently prayed. Kahalen give me patience. Give me wisdom. She sighed and said, "Aeryn, please tell me what happened."

"Why do you ask her?" D'Argo demanded.

"D'Argo, you will have your chance." she replied, biting back an angry retort. "I want to hear Aeryn's account of what went on here." She turned to face Aeryn who sat on the far side of John and B'dak. Interesting that she is drawn to John even now. "Aeryn, please explain what caused you and D'Argo to argue."

"He is a Luxan!" she snapped. "You ... you are treating us as prisoners. It is my duty as a Peacekeeper to escape and I will do whatever is necessary to accomplish that."

"Surely you must know that we are only trying to help you."

"Why should I believe that? Since I awoke on this Leviathan, I have been attacked by that," she said, stabbing her finger toward D'Argo, "strapped to an exam table in your med-lab, subjected to medical tests, shot at by your DRDs, locked in a cell and dragged here against my will. And now you want me to calmly accept that you are trying to help me! I don't think so. I may be young, but I am not naive."

Zhaan sighed in disappointment. As she listened to Aeryn, she realized how their attempts to discern the cause of John's and Aeryn's transformation appeared. It's no wonder they are resisting our efforts to help.

"I am sorry you feel that way Aeryn." she paused then turned to John, "Is that how you feel as well?"

"That about sums it up. Yeah."

She turned toward D'Argo. "Do you have anything to add?"

"Don't forget they tried to contact the Peacekeepers. Their ignorance could cost us our freedom. I will not treat them any differently until they prove to me that they can be trusted." he replied.

"D'Argo, you know they don't know they must not contact the Peacekeepers. They don't remember." Zhaan bowed her head, sighing deeply. Kahalen help me. Help me convince them to trust me. To trust us. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to help them. She inhaled deeply and looked up into B'dak's eyes.

Sensing Zhaan's desperation, B'dak turned slightly so that he could face John and Aeryn. "I know this has been a confusing time for both of you and that you really have no reason to trust these people. I am an outsider here myself, but from all I have seen, Zhaan, D'Argo, Chiana and Rygel are doing everything in their power to help you."

"And just who the hell are you?" John asked, "And why should we trust you?"

"My name is B'dak. I am a Prefect from the planet Qaran, your ship's last port-of-call." He replied. "You have no reason to trust me. But I hope you will at least hear me out." He paused, trying to read their expressions. He could see the emotions that warred within them - the desire to believe that he spoke the truth mixed with the fear that he was trying to trick them. As he watched them struggle to make a decision he realized they were probably frightened by the scrutiny of the others. "Come, walk with me. We will talk. Just the three of us."

He rose from his seat and came to stand behind John and Aeryn, resting his hands lightly on their shoulders. John looked up meeting the alien's eyes. Can we trust these people? Can I trust them? God, I wish I knew what to do. They've given us little reason to trust them. But this one, he seems different. Maybe 'cuz he's not one of 'em. Maybe it's a gut feeling. Maybe it's just that I want so desperately to trust someone. He looked from B'dak to Aeryn, then rose from his seat.

Aeryn hesitated, looking from John to B'dak, then back to John. "Crichton?"

He leaned down close to her ear and whispered, "What have we got to lose?"

"Our freedom?" she whispered back.

"Come on, let's at least hear him out. What's wrong? Are you afraid?" He challenged, suspecting that would be the best way to gain her cooperation.

At his suggestion that she might be afraid, she raised up to her full height and inhaled deeply. "I am a Peacekeeper. I am not afraid." She moved cautiously to join John and B'dak at the door. As the trio headed toward the corridor D'Argo began to protest, but Zhaan laid a gentle restraining hand on his arm, stopping him.

 

"You expect us to believe that fairytale?" John asked, laughing.

"I know it sounds like nonsense," he replied as they continued walking, "but this story is part of my people's history, part of our theology. There are documented cases that prove its truth."

"And you think this is what's happened to the two of us?" Aeryn asked.

"Yes, I suspect it is. But I cannot be certain. I would like to observe you to see if there is another transformation. Zhaan seems to think that there will be another change sometime in the next few arns."

"Hang on here for a sec. Let me try to understand this," John said as he stopped walking, Aeryn and B'dak turned to face him as he continued, "We're going through a reverse aging thing here. And we don't remember anything about it because for some reason we only have the memories that we'd normally have at that age."

B'dak nodded. "Yes, I'd say that sums up the situation rather well."

"Well, why would anyone want to undergo a transformation like this if they weren't going to be able to retain their memories and knowledge?"

"According to our legends, the change does not affect our people in this way. It must be your alien physiology that has caused this side effect."

"Peachy. Just peachy." John muttered under his breath. He looked over to Aeryn who was watching him with interest. Turning to B'dak, he asked, "Can we talk about it?"

The Qaran nodded, bowing from the waist. "Of course. I would not expect you to make such a decision in haste. When you have made up your minds come to the Center Chamber. I will await your answer there." He turned and strode away leaving John and Aeryn alone in the corridor.

"You cannot possibly believe any of that nonsense Crichton." Aeryn said as soon as B'dak was out of earshot.

"Well do you have a better explanation for our presence here?"

"No."

"Neither do I. And yeah, I know this sounds insane, but what if it is the truth Aeryn? What if this is what's happening to us? It'd sure explain a lot."

"But it sounds so nonsensical. Like a fabrication to make us begin to trust them."

"Is that so bad Aeryn? Is it? Yeah, they've done a lot of weird stuff to us, but they could have killed us. They could have kept us locked up in that medical lab or even in those cells they had us in for a while. But they haven't. They say they're trying to help us and I want to believe them Aeryn." He paused, "I need to believe them."

"What do you mean? Why do you need to believe them?"

"Aeryn, listen ... this is your world. But it's not mine. I want to get home. I want to get back to my family and the only way that's going to happen is with help from these people. I can't speak for you, but I'm going to let them observe me. If I'm gonna change again, I want someone to know what's going on."

"I don't know John. I don't like the idea of being watched." Aeryn said as she began pacing back and forth across the corridor.

"I don't like being watched either, but they're probably gonna be keeping an eye on us whether we like it or not. At least this way we can set some limits."

She stopped pacing and turned to look at him intensely, weighing his words. Why do I trust him? What is it about him that makes me want to trust him? "Okay. I'll do it. But we're in this together. We won't let them separate us again, right?"

 

Zhaan and B'dak stood at the Center Chamber's large view port with their backs to the entrance. They seemed lost in conversation and didn't notice as John and Aeryn entered. Not wanting to disturb the conversation, they sat down quietly at the table. John realized that he was hungry and pulled a plate of food cubes toward him and Aeryn. He looked at them then at Aeryn. She leaned close and whispered, "Food cubes. Not very tasty, but they're better than starving."

He reached out and took one, tentatively tasting it. "Not by much. Tastes like cardboard." he muttered, wrinkling his nose in disgust. Aeryn giggled at his reaction and he found himself chuckling at the sound. I like this girl. She's so different from the girls back home.

"You've made a decision?" B'dak's voice broke John's concentration on Aeryn.

"Yeah, we have." he said.

 

Aeryn's eyes snapped open. It's so quiet. No. It's too quiet. She sat up and looked around, trying to adjust her eyes to the dim golden light surrounding her. This isn't my barracks. Where am I? Where are the others from my unit? She swung her legs over the side of the bed and groggily rubbed her eyes. She swept her hair out of her face and raised her head. A Leviathan? How did I get aboard a Leviathan?

She was instantly on her feet, pacing silently around the room. She tugged at the black tee shirt she wore. Where'd I get this? It's far too large. Where are the others from my ship? Am I the only survivor? She approached the gate and pressed the access control. Nothing happened. Locked in. Am I a prisoner? Why? Who could have attacked our training vessel? And why? She pulled on the bars, trying to force them open, but they wouldn't budge.

She turned her back on the bars, frustration surging through her. As hot, angry tears threatened, she pressed her eyes closed. I will not give in to this fear. I have to stay strong. As she fought the fear, the anger, she heard a soft moan from across the room. She hurried toward the sound and saw a Sebacean male of about her age. He doesn't look familiar. Must not have been part of my squad.

As she examined him, he moaned again and his eyes flickered open. He reached up and rubbed at his eyes then swung his legs over the side of his bunk. When his bare feet hit the floor he raised his eyes and looked around.

"Who .... who are you?"

"My name is Aeryn Sun. And you?"

"I'm John. John Crichton. Where are we? And how did we get here?"

"You don't know either?"

"Whadda you mean? You don't know?"

She shook her head, sitting on the bunk beside him. "No. I don't. The last I remember I was aboard a training vessel. The ship must have been attacked and we are the only survivors."

"Survivors? What about my parents? My sisters?"

"You must be a new recruit."

"Recruit? What're you talking about?"

"You're how old? Ten, maybe twelve?"

"Eleven." he replied so softly she barely heard him.

"Peacekeepers often take recruits at that age. Though it's hard for them to fit in." she paused, looking intently at him. "I was born a Peacekeeper." She added with obvious pride.

"My mom and dad would never have allowed that."

"They probably didn't have much choice. From what I've heard, recruiters can be brutal if a family won't cooperate."

"You mean, they'd have taken me against my parents' wishes?" he asked, his voice quivering with fear.

She nodded sadly and laid her hand on his. "It'll be okay John. I'll help you get used to things." She stood as she spoke and started rummaging through the clothing piled on a nearby table. She continued, "But first we need to figure out how we got here and where we are." She looked up to see him still sitting on the bed, obviously confused. "Come on. Get up. Do you want to still be sitting there when whoever brought us here comes to check on us?"

"No. No, I guess not." he mumbled as he joined her and started digging for some clothes that would fit better than the huge black tee shirt he had on. He found another one that was still far too large, but closer to his size.

"Whoever brought us here must be very powerful. Even though it was only a training vessel, the Nebula was a strong ship with a well-trained crew. It would have taken a lot to destroy it."

"You mean we were in some kind of a battle? No, that's not possible."

"We're prisoners here. We must have been hurt. This looks like some kind of a medical lab. Who knows how long we've been here." she rattled on, thinking aloud. She turned to look at John and started to giggle.

He could feel the heat rising up his neck to his cheeks. "What are you laughing at?"

"You ... you look so silly in that ... that ..." she trailed off as he was overcome with another fit of giggles.

Her laughter was infectious and he found himself starting to chuckle. "Well, you're no fashion model yourself."

"Good, you're awake and in good spirits."

They both whirled toward the source of the voice and John felt his stomach lurch. A very tall, very purple man stood on the far side of the latticework gate. What is that? "Who ... who ... who are you?" he asked, backing away as the door began to swing open.

"My name is B'dak." He said as he walked into the chamber. "We met yesterday. But I can see from your expressions that you do not remember me."

"What are you? Why have you brought us here? Are you one of the people who attacked our training ship? Did you ..."

He raised his hand as if to ward off her onslaught of questions. "Hold on Aeryn." B'dak said, laughing. "One question at a time."

"You know my name?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper.

"Of course I do. As I said, we met yesterday. You don't need to be afraid of me. I'm here to help the two of you."

"Where are we?" John asked, moving closer to Aeryn. "How did we get here?"

"Come, sit with me and I'll explain."

John shook his head, moving further away. He skittered around the end of the bunk, keeping it between him and B'dak. "Where are my parents? Where's my family?" he asked, his voice quavering from the panic he felt beginning to rise.

"John, calm yourself. Your parents ... your family aren't here. They never have been."

"Why ... why are we here? Why did you take me away from my mom and dad? I wanna go home."

Sensing that John was beginning to panic, B'dak rose from his seat and moved toward him. John moved quickly away, keeping as much distance and as many pieces of furniture as possible between them. "Stay away from me!" he shouted as he pressed himself against the wall.

Aeryn, who had been watching the interplay between John and B'dak, moved into action, placing herself between them. Though John was obviously older and slightly larger, she felt the need to protect him. "Get away from him." she said with more bravado than she felt. "What are you? I've never seen a species like you."

B'dak stopped his advance. In his haste to study their transformation he had forgotten that they had become frightened children. He looked at the scene before him, shocked that he could have been so foolish and so oblivious to the emotions tearing at them. John had slid to the floor where he sat, knees pulled tight to his chest, arms wrapped around them, his face buried between his knees. Aeryn stood before him, defiant and protective.

"I am so sorry," he said as he began to back away. "I didn't mean to frighten you. Please forgive me."

 

Zhaan started the day as she did every one, deep in meditation. This was the key to her inner peace. This was how she kept her sanity when the demons within her raged. And for the past two days, she had felt those demons raging. She had felt the demons of uncertainty and helplessness raging within as her shipmates changed and she could find no cause.

But this morning as she found herself in deep communion with the goddess, the demons were silent. She was certain that with B'dak's help, they would find a way to reverse the strange transformation affecting John and Aeryn.

"Pa'u Zhaan." B'dak called softly from the corridor. "Forgive my intrusion, but I need your help."

Zhaan pulled herself back to the present, trying to focus on her surroundings. It was a difficult transition when her meditation was ended as suddenly as it had been today. She pulled her robes around her and rose gracefully from her bed.

"Prefect B'dak, please come in." she said as she turned to face him. The agitation she saw etched on his face was startling. "What is wrong?"

"I have made a grave error. I went to see John and Aeryn a short time ago ..." he paused, a feeling of dread sweeping over him.

"Prefect, something is obviously wrong. What happened? Have Aeryn and John changed again?"

"Yes, they have. They appear to be approximately 10 cycles old. But that isn't the problem. I made an error in judgment and fear I may have frightened them. I didn't take into account that they would have lost their memories of yesterday and approached them as if they would know me."

"And that frightened them?"

"Yes, I'm afraid I was far too casual with them. When I left them, John seemed to be terrified and Aeryn was quite defiant. I think they may need your calming influence."

"I will go to them immediately." Zhaan replied and excused herself. As she changed her clothing, she considered B'dak's analysis of the situation. How can I break through their barriers?

 

As the gate swung closed and the lock engaged again, Aeryn turned toward John. She found him cowering against the wall, his knees drawn up tightly to his chest. He had wrapped his arms around his knees and buried his face in them. He rocked back and forth whimpering softly. "This cannot be real. This cannot be real. This cannot be real."

Aeryn knelt before him and grasped his hands firmly. She pulled them away from his knees and he looked up into her eyes. Blue. His eyes are blue. But I've never seen eyes that color blue before. She looked away, surprised by the intensity of what she felt as she looked into his eyes. It's almost like I know him. She shook her head and turned back to face him again. She was surprised that he was staring at her. He's crying. He must be terrified.

"C'mon John. He's gone. It's just you and me again. There's nothing to be afraid of." She said softly. "We can overcome this together."

"Wh ... wh ... what was that?" he asked, wiping angrily at the tears on his cheeks.

"I don't know. I've never seen anything like him before."

"Where are we Aeryn? What kinda place is this?"

"It looks like a med-lab of some kind. Come on." she said, pulling him to his feet, "let's look around, see if we can find a way out of here."

As he stood, he caught a glimpse of the stars outside of Moya through one of the view ports. "Space," he gasped, "I'm in space? No ... no ... no ... nonono ...this isn't real. It can't be."

Recognizing the panic in his voice, Aeryn pulled at his arm, turning him from the view port. "What's wrong John?"

"Aeryn, Earth doesn't have space flight like this. We've only made it to the moon."

"Erp? That's a strange name for a colony?"

"Earth." he corrected absently. "This has to be a nightmare. It has to be. Mom was right. I shouldn't have eaten that salami sandwich so late. But I've gotta wake up pretty soon. I've gotta."

Aeryn, who still held John's arm, pulled him toward the lattice work gate. "Come on, let's see if we can get this thing open and get out of here before that alien comes back."

He allowed her to pull him toward the corridor, though his eyes were still on the stars visible through the view port. As he turned to see where she was leading him he stopped dead. "She's ... she's ... she's blue." he stammered, his eyes growing wide.

In the corridor, Zhaan swept her hand across the door control. As the door swung open John pulled his arm free of Aeryn's grasp and backed away. He could feel his heart starting to pound as he stared open-mouthed at the tall alien before him. This has to be a dream. It can't be real. Oh God, please let this be a dream. I just wanna go home. I just want to see Mom and Dad.

Zhaan stepped across the threshold into the infirmary and the door swept closed and locked behind her. She looked from John to Aeryn and back to John. He continued to back away from her though his eyes never left her face. He stumbled as he backed into one of the bunks and sat down heavily. Zhaan and Aeryn moved as one toward him, each seeking to protect him, but for different reasons. John scrambled off of the bunk, continuing to back-peddle until he couldn't back up anymore. He pressed himself against the wall his eyes darting from Aeryn to Zhaan to the chance for freedom in the corridor beyond.

I've gotta get outta here. I've gotta find a way to get away from these ... these aliens. He looked at Aeryn who had moved to stand between him and Zhaan. Though he didn't really know her, he felt he could trust her. Their eyes met briefly before movement in the corridor distracted him. His eyes grew wide at the sight of a huge, tentacled alien in the corridor.

"W...w...w...wh ... what ... what is that?" he whispered, slumping to the floor.

As Zhaan watched John, her heart sank. How can I reach him? How can I help him reach past his fear to help him see himself as I see him? How can I help him recover himself as he helped me? Her face lit up as realization dawned on how she could help him.

She dashed forward to kneel beside him. Aeryn leapt forward and grabbed Zhaan by the shoulders. "Stay away from him Delvian!" She shouted, pushing the Delvian back.

"I can help him." Zhaan pleaded, "I can help you both if you let me." She pressed toward John, but Aeryn pushed her away again. As they continued to struggle with one another, D'Argo rushed forward and grabbed Aeryn, pulling her away from Zhaan.

"Get your hands off me Luxan!" she screeched as she struggled to break his grasp. D'Argo wrapped his arms around hers, holding them tightly to her sides as he lifted her off her feet.

"Stop struggling Aeryn. We're here to help you." Zhaan said, as she leaned close to John. She reached out and gently, but firmly grasped his face between her hands, turning his eyes to hers.

"No ... please ... get your hands off me ... please ... no ... please leave me alone ... Aeryn ... help me ... " he wailed as he struggled against Zhaan's grasp.

"John, calm down." Zhaan whispered. "You can trust me. I won't hurt you." She closed her eyes and leaned in close, resting her forehead on his.

"No ... please ... please ... what're you doing ... stop ... " he trailed off as he felt himself suddenly drifting. Drifting into a strange place. A place that was at once familiar and alien. He found himself awash in a blue light; light that penetrated his very being. He found it to be both comforting and terrifying. He felt a presence nearby, but found he was unable to move, unable to identify the source.

"Calm yourself John, you are in no danger." A soft melodic voice said from everywhere yet from nowhere. It seemed to be within him yet not within him.

"Where ... where am I?"

"You are safe John. Do not fear. Our minds; we are joined in unity. This is a bond we have shared before, do you remember?"

"Who are you? How ...?"

"My name is Zhaan. Let me show you ..."

"Where are my parents? I wanna go home." He cried.

"I know you do. That's why we are here. Listen to me John. I know this is confusing for you, but you must look deep within yourself. You will see the truth of my words. Let me show you how I see you. Let me show you the John Crichton I know and care about."

Images swirled through John's mind. A small white craft emerging from a swirling blue vortex. A tall man in a khaki uniform, standing in a doorway with a beautiful blue woman. The same man now wearing a red and black leather uniform watching over an unconscious woman with long dark hair. The same man again, clad this time in what looked like a black spacesuit standing beside a tall alien with long red hair and tentacles.

"This is how you see me? As an adult?"

"Yes John. You are an adult. You are an astronaut. You have been with us here aboard Moya for two cycles."

"But how? How can that be?"

"Look inside yourself, John. You'll know I'm telling the truth. I cannot hold this Unity much longer. Look inside yourself John. You must believe me."

John felt himself slipping out of the light, out of the warm security he had felt. Zhaan released her grip on his head, slumping heavily to the floor. John fell back against the wall and Aeryn dropped to her knees beside him as D'Argo released his hold on her. He raised up weakly, looking over to where Zhaan had fallen.

"I know her, Aeryn. I know him too. I think we can trust 'em. They wanna help us."

"But we shouldn't be here. We should be on the Nebula." Aeryn said, her voice soft and uncertain.

"I don't know why, but I believe we should be here." He pushed himself up to his knees and looked over to where D'Argo was trying to help Zhaan. "She'll be okay, won't she ... D'Argo, is it?"

"Yes. She'll be fine. Unity can be very tiring for her. You remember me?"

"Sorta. She showed me some things. We're supposed to be friends, right?"

"Yes. All of us." D'Argo replied looking directly at Aeryn. She glared back at him, but didn't argue.

 

Chiana slipped quietly into the Center Chamber. B'dak, the Qaran Prefect, stood at the view port, his back to the main room. She watched him for several microts unsure if she should disturb him or just go her own way. As she observed him, she realized there was something about this alien that she found unsettling. Perhaps it was his easy way with John and Aeryn or the close bond that he seemed to have developed so quickly with Zhaan or the air of superiority that so reminded her of Salis. Whatever it was, she decided, she was going to keep an eye on him. It's the least I can do for the others. And myself.

She cleared her throat to announce her presence and B'dak spun around quickly. "Oh ... Chiana is it? You startled me. I didn't hear you come in."

"You seemed a million metras away Prefect. Is everything alright?" She purred as she moved seductively across the chamber to join him at the view port. "Is there anything I can do for you?" She said, tilting her head to look up into his eyes. Her meaning was obvious to B'dak who, at first appeared taken by surprise, yet he didn't dismiss her immediately as she had expected.

He looked at her intently for several microts, hunger and longing clearly etched on his face. Suddenly, he blinked and his expression returned to the bland, disinterested gaze to which she had grown accustomed. He took a shuddering breath as if trying to control a deep primal urge.

"Thank you for your kind offer," he said, taking a step back from Chiana. "But I think it best to remain focused on the situation at hand."

"Oh that is exactly what I intend to do." Chiana said as she turned to leave the Center Chamber. She took several steps toward the corridor before turning to look over her shoulder at him. "Please Prefect," she added in her most sultry voice, "if I can do anything to help you, don't hesitate to ask."

She sauntered as casually as she could until she rounded a curve in the corridor. When she was out of sight of the Center Chamber, she began to run toward her quarters. By the time she reached her quarters, tears streamed down her cheeks. What have I done? What was I thinking?

 

Aeryn stomped across the room to the closed lattice gate. She stood with her arms crossed staring through the grate. No. I won't believe this. I can't believe this.

D'Argo and Zhaan watched her struggle with what she had heard. They had spent the better part of an arn explaining what had happened over the past few days. Both John and Aeryn had struggled with the information, but Aeryn had been incredulous. As a result of his Unity with Zhaan, John had been more accepting, but even he had found the story hard to swallow.

Aeryn whirled abruptly. "How can you expect me ... expect us to believe that story? There is nothing that could reverse aging as you describe."

"You don't know that Aeryn. We have seen many amazing things here in the Uncharted Territories. And you are living proof that this icon really can reverse aging."

"No." she said firmly. "I cannot ... I will not believe this is possible. You're trying to confuse us."

Zhaan sighed at Aeryn's stubbornness. "If you will not believe D'Argo and I, perhaps you will believe your own eyes."

"Whadda you mean?" John asked. "Our own eyes?"

"Last night, you agreed to let us observe you. Pilot has found the appropriate part of the recording; the part that shows your transformation."

"Show us." Aeryn said as she rejoined the others at the table.

The clamshell viewer shimmered into action. An image of the room in which they now sat flickered into view. The room was dimly lit and quiet except for the low hum of the two DRDs who watched over the two sleeping forms. The image drew in tighter to reveal the faces of the sleepers. It was John and Aeryn, but as teens.

As they watched, the sleeping figures began to move restlessly. Tossing and turning, but not awakening. John groaned and Aeryn whimpered softly as if in pain. The DRDs moved in closer, as if trying to ease their suffering. The image focused in on their faces, which were twisted in pain. After several microts, the pain seemed to ease and they relaxed.

But in the place of the teens who had slept so peacefully, two young adolescents now lay.

Silence reigned in the room as the video display faded. Zhaan and D'Argo were stunned by what they had seen. Though Pilot had told them that the transformation had been recorded, they had been unprepared for the apparent suffering of their shipmates. Zhaan looked to where John and Aeryn had been sitting throughout the playback of the recording. No one was there. She looked to D'Argo, who pointed toward the back of the chamber.

John and Aeryn stood side by side near the view port, each lost in their thoughts. Could it all be a clever lie? Could this be a way to gain our trust only to betray us later? I want to trust them, but can I? I want my life back. After several microts, they turned toward one another. Their eyes met and a look of unspoken agreement and understanding passed between them. They turned to face Zhaan and D'Argo.

"Okay. Where do we go from here?" John asked.

 

B'dak watched Chiana's sultry departure for several microts. What an interesting creature. She could be very useful. But I sense danger. I must be careful around that one. He turned to face the stars again. From his vantage point here in the Leviathan's Center Chamber he had an unobstructed view of his ship which held position a few metras to hammond. He smiled; his second in command was following his orders to the letter.

As he watched, the beacon he had been searching for began to pulse. Excellent. He reached into a pocket in one of the folds of his robe, pulling out a transmitter. He pressed the activation switch and began downloading the data he had gathered. After a few microts, the transmitter indicated that all data had been downloaded and received. He quickly switched off the device and hid it again.

He stood for a short time longer, gazing out at the vast panoply of stars. He smiled again as he considered all that had happened in the past few days. Their plan had succeeded beyond anyone's wildest imaginings. It's too bad the human and peacekeeper must be sacrificed.

Part 4

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