blood red of the foliage was almost assaulting to the eyes, yet it
reminded him of fall in new England. It brought with it the sudden
memories of his days in school on the bank of the Charles
River. The placid river
reflecting from its banks further mimicked the nearly violent colors of
fall. He had become aware for some time that the usual pangs
of home had been growing more and more distant. This scared him more
than being out here. Was all that he was now gone?
blood red leaves floated down slowly from the towering trees like a
child’s balloons. The black tortured trees had taken hold in the most
unusual places in the cavernous city. He had on occasion needed to climb
over one as he made his way. When the slightest wind blew, the small
spherical leaves would loft in the air for arns it seemed before slowly
drifting back to the surface.
empty world had been the perfect resting place following all they had
been through. He walked the long narrow bridge that extended from one
shattered tower to the next. The remnants of the empty city itself were
still amazing. The glass and stone buildings that remained had an
organic look. It was as if they had been grown from the raw materials of
glass and stone and crystal. Just a few years ago he would have stopped
and studied each of them in turn, but not now, not today. They were
heading home. Moya had returned from her feeding at a local gas giant.
They had collected more supplies than they could ever need. But as Rygel
has said on more occasions than he would like to remember, “If we have
it, we will find use for it.” As much as he hated the little slug,
there was a wisdom in him that had saved them on occasion.
had made camp on the ramparts of a local landing port or what was left
of one. The huge structure sat like a giant stone and glass mushroom on
the edge of a meandering river that cut its way through the expansive
city. They had chosen it as the base because it provided a defensive
position. He had trusted without question Aeryn’s evaluation but the
eight-story spiral ramp that they traversed every day was a workout.
mind drifted further to Aeryn. John poked through his pockets in search
of Granny’s little freeze-dried mind numbing insect extracts. He
inhaled deeply. All the memories were there but the cold pain of loss
dissolved. John looked at the little black ball. He was using it more.
It was dulling the pain less. He hoped Granny’s jaunt into the hills
would bear fruit in finding the ingredients to extend the virtues of the
little inhalant. He shifted his thinking away from that prospect of the
drug’s effect wearing off.
the top of the spiral ramp he stopped, his chest heaving from the
workout. Running on Moya helped but with the two trad heavier gravity of
this world, this was a real work out. He surveyed the area.
the center of the huge pad was a small stone building. It had been burnt
out in the attack of the city. To one side three large insect like
transports lay in charred ruins. Two appeared to have been just sitting
there in the attack; the third had obviously crashed back to the
surface. Its face was buried deeply into the platform, landing gear
flailed out like a bug splattered on the windshield of his pickup. Just
beyond it were the two transport pods from Moya and Aeryn's prowler. A
large gray tarp suspended between the pods. The tarp, or camonet as
Aeryn called it, surface continually changed to mimic its surroundings.
As the mild breeze caused the camonet to ripple in the air its outer
surface changed to mach the surroundings. The Peacekeepers think of
sweet home.” He walked slowly back to their encampment. He was the
first back. He chimed his com. Nothing but static. Aeryn said that it
was one of the tell-tale signs of a Peacekeeper invasion. Before an
attack Peacekeeper’s would fire off scrambling transponders deep into
the planet’s crust, using the planet itself as a giant resonator,
subsequently jamming all radiant signals. Just the thing necessary to
send planetary defenses off balance.
his arrival, this place made John feel constantly ill at ease but he
could not put his finger on the feeling gnawing at him. At first he
thought is was because Scorpius was still in his cell back on Moya. Or
the strange way Rygel had been insistent on staying on Moya once they
entered orbit of this nameless world.
he knew none of that was the cause. It was not until today, during his
scavenging travels deep to the Spinward direction of the city that he
realized what had been bothering him about this place. It was an older
section, one that he did not know. He was walking up a deserted street
whose buildings were far closer to his scale.
him in a small ravaged park was a damaged holographic statue of a
humanoid woman. She was dressed in elaborate gold robes reminiscent of a
Roman senator. Her iridescent green eyes blindly looked down the street
to his direction. Incongruously, a warm ethereal expression greeted the
ruins of the city beyond. Earth!
city represented all that he feared of his quest to return home. The
Peacekeepers so easily devastated this world – what hope would Earth
have? The heaviness returned, as did the thought of the statue staring
out with such serene warmth at the frigid husk of a ruined world.
startled by a sound from the encampment. He quickly pulled his gun and
moved to the edge of the blockhouse at the center of the landing field,
peering around. Standing near the pile of dren they had collected was a
small silhouette under the tarp. The unannounced guest was busily
digging through the modest stash.
John yelled, feeling foolish for using the cliché.
small form climbed over the pile to its far side as John sprinted into
mean… Stop! Don’t move! Whatever!”
was only then that he realized that their visitor was a child, a young
boy to be precise. The boy stood at the other end of the pile, hands
raised into the air. His small chest heaved from fear. His eyes gazed at
John whispered. He changed his tone, softening it; his edge was gone at
the site of the scared child. “OK…OK…take it easy, buddy. It’s
going to be alright.”
The boy flinched
at John’s words. His head moved slightly from one side to the other.
It was obvious he was surveying possible escape routes, but they were
blocked by the two transports.
his gun. “I am not going to hurt you.”
This was the
first being they had encountered. They had seen herds of animals walking
slowly throughout the city, grazing on the long blood red grasses that
grew amidst the wreckage.
John folded his
arms and turned to the side. “Take what you want and go.”
The boy did not
look at him. He climbed over the pile with great expertise and sprinted
to the ramp way, not even glancing at John as he passed.
watched the kid disappear down the ramp way. “Just keeps get-in better
sat down on the landing strut of the closest transport and watched the
red spherical leaves blow in small spirals across the landing grid. The
remains of the city beyond stretched to the horizon.
was tired. He leaned back and stared at the ravaged spires of the
unnamed city. John had sat there for over an arn before he decided he
needed to eat. He pulled open the food locker and chose a package of
crackers. He grinned as he looked at them. When
you’re hungry they do matter.
he realized he wasn’t alone. He turned slowly. Near the burnt out
building at the center of the landing deck stood his small visitor. The
boy obviously found John of interest.
made his movements slow and deliberate.
hungry?” he yelled, louder then he had planned.
boy moved back out of view. John scratched his head with the packet of
it! This ain’t no daycare.” He turned back to the food locker.
Pulling a cylinder of water he walked back over to the landing strut and
sat down glancing back at the boy who was now in full view.
continued to ignore him. He heard footsteps. John looked back and saw
the boy standing just inside the overhanging tarp.
how you doing?” John smiled slightly at the silent boy. Now that he
was able to get a good look at him, the boy seemed in relatively good
condition. Perhaps a little thin and in need of a good washing but other
than that he seemed no worse for wear considering his environment.
John’s suspicions were accurate. He had meet a Vladic once before.
This child’s piercing green eyes were the same. It hurt to just to
look into them, yet, as with his previous encounter, John felt an
undeniable urge to look into them. The act seemed to stir something
primal, something that his conscious brain could not control.
he had learned with his last encounter with Vladics, they had the
ability to induce what they called Rapture
to sedate their prey. But he also knew that the ability was only
developed in adult Vladics. His thoughts drifted back to Enra, one of
the few allies. She had been out of contact for well over a cycle.
slowly moved to gesture at the boy. “Vladic… right?”
The boy’s sad
expression changed to a slightly to a puzzled look.
knew why the boy was puzzled. “Ah…No… Me human, not Sebacean, I
only play one Peacekeeper on TV.” John smiled again but the boy’s
I am not a Peacekeeper. I am not here to hurt you or anyone else.” The
boy’s expression did not change.
surveyed the area. “You alone? Where are your folks?” The boy did
not answer. His eyes trained back on the deck plate in front of them.
your name?” John asked feeling second tide of sadness just looking at
Erruck Radic…” the boy spoke slowly and softly.
smiled again finding a flicker of hope from the boy’s response. He
shifted, getting a bit closer. Immediately the boy stepped back. John
stopped. “OK sorry… No fast moves… I get it.” He raised his
package of crackers. “Its nice to meet you, Nomari. I am John
the boy paused. “Nomari is my clan.” Again looking up at John, the
sadness seemed to deepen.
right… Sorry. I am still trying to catch up on all the rules and dren.
It is nice to meet you, Erruck.”
The boy said nothing else and looked back down at the ground.
what can I do for you?” John sat back on the landing strut of the
transport pod trying to seem less threatening.
boy’s staring continued. He did not react. John looked around the camp
for something that might interest the boy. He stood slowly and walked
over to the pile of stuff they had collected. “Anything here you
the boy said softly.
What are you looking for?” John asked in a matching soft tone.
The boy shrugged slightly.
I see…” John moved back to the landing strut once again, taking slow
deliberate steps. “Sounds like you and I have more in common then I
boy finally looked up at him the puzzled expression returned.
up bud… things can always get worse.” Now John found that the
boy’s sorrow was spreading. OK,
enough of this. Lighten up, Johnny boy!
searched the ground for one of the red spherical leaves that continued
to blow around everywhere on this world. He scooped up three and stood a
good distance back from the boy. John attempted to juggle the small red
spheres. He did so poorly at first. But was able to keep two of the
small red spheres in the air. He looked down at his young visitor and
for the first time the slightest glimmer of a smile appeared on his
lost his concentration and the two spheres fell from his hands. He
reached down, picking up three more. Turning away from the boy he
puncture one of the red spherical leaves and stuck it to his noise. he
started juggling the other two and slowly turned to face the boy. The
child erupted in laughter. It lifted his own spirits as well.
took his attention from his juggling as the boy’s laughter faded. Once
again John was drawn to his alien eyes. John heard the voice but was
unable to react to the familiar soft tone. He knew the voice but refused
to acknowledge it. The boy’s green eyes were now almost black. John
struggled at first he knew what was happening. The child had captured
him in the rapture. This could
not be happening but as consciousness faded, the strange voice in his
mind grew stronger.
It will be all right… It’s ok, Johnny, go back to sleep. No one is
going to hurt you.
John lost consciousness to the reassuring sounds of his mother’s
shifted the large sack from one shoulder to the other as she and Sikozu
walked up the ramp way. She marveled at how Sikozu was able to carry a
load twice the weight of hers and still move effortlessly.
stopped, facing back down the spiral ramp way. “Do you think we should
wait for her?”
That old frellnic! No. We will be lucky if she is on the second floor by
now.” Chiana started trudging up the ramp. “It figures… we land on
the only place that doesn’t have level risers.”
location was not my suggestion. Aeryn Sun demanded that we land in a
defendable position.” Sikozu stated with an air of defiance.
“Besides, if it were up to me , I would have remained on Moya.”
dropped her bag. “That was not going to happen.”
placed her own bag on the ramp and walked back to Chi. “I am aware
that you and your shipmates do not trust me.”
“I don’t trust anyone and especially not you.” She dipped
slightly, keeping her gaze on Sikozu. “What do you see in him?”
She asked. “You mean Scorpius?”
laughed. “We have similar interests. He… unlike you… can
appreciate my intelligence.”
picked up her sack and started back up the ramp. She turned back with
out stopping her stride. “Take a friendly warning… He is
quickly caught up to Chiana with two leaps. “I can handle Scorpius.”
continued her climb. “Sure… Give it time. You’ll see. I thought
you were supposed to be so much smarter then the rest of us?”
was about to answer when they reached the landing platform. Chiana
paused only long enough to drop her bags then ran past Sikozu toward
halted over the body of John Crichton. He did not move as he lay on his
back, pulse gun still in its holster. Chiana stooped over him, waiting
anxiously for movement. He was breathing.
that on his nose?” Sikozu questioned.
of the strange red ball leaves clung to the tip of John’s nose. Chiana
popped it off and smelled it. “I don’t think they would cause this.
I mean I don’t think…’
There are no trace chemicals in the local fauna that would be considered
Something else must have happened to him.” Sikozu pulled the crude
peacekeeper scanner from her satchel. She scanned the area. “Nothing.
No insects. No animals.” She turned the device onto John.
shows no signs of injury. It would appear he is sleeping.” She lowered
stood still holding the red sphere. She rolled it between her fingers.
“No. Something is not right.”
scanner might be crude but it doesn’t lie.” Sikozu responded calmly.
“He’s taking a nap!” She added sarcastically.
frell your techno chat, Red! Look at him. He’s not…”
Girls! Will you keep it
down…” John raised his hand to his temples as if that would stop his
head from spinning.
placed her hand on his shoulder. “Crichton are you ok? What
Chi, please my head is spinning bad enough… He tried to open his eyes
but it made the dizziness worse.
you ill? Sikozu asked in an
almost clinical fashion.
worry, Sputnik, I ain't gonna hurl on your fine Versace boots.” He now
had both hands over his eyes trying to rub the dizziness away.
dipped closer “What happened?”
was paid a visit by a local.” John found the dizziness fading as he
concentrated on not moving.
Sikozu questioned. “There are no bio signs of indigenous people. We
scanned the planet completely before leaving Moya.”
the scans are wrong!” A jab of pain and dizziness erupted with his
unlikely.” Sikozu countered as if his questioning the data was a
to round up Aeryn and Granny and get back to Moya. It’s not safe,
there might be more…”
stepped back from John, looking around the encampment. “Who are
this is Carnival…Casival or what ever it’s called. No wonder Dominar
Pain-in-the-ass didn’t want to come down. He knew it the moment we
arrived. But the little slug wouldn’t spill it!”
lowered herself to one knee. “I am not familiar with this world?”
looked up at her mocking her tone. “The brains fall short on this
one.” She smiled. “This
is Casival… one time home of a race called Vladics.” She shifted
back to John. “They were exterminated by the Peacekeepers over ten
You mean as in live feeders?” Quickly Sikozu stood looking cautiously
about. “I have seen one once and that was enough.” She adjusted the
scanner but still showed no signs of life.
“Relax the one
I met couldn’t be more then seven or eight."
sensors must be in error.” She continued to scan the area.
sat up slowly. “Jesus! Well it could have been worse.”
so?” Chiana's head bobbed with the question.
could have killed me.”
moved closer and pulled the collar from his neck. The two crescent shape
cuts were evident. The area of the extraction point was already turning
purple. “Well I would say to rest now old man. It looks like he made a
good size withdrawal.”
just what I wanted to be… a walking blood bank.” Chiana held him for
a moment before laying him back on the decking.
held the red sphere that had been on John’s nose. “Why was this on
trying to entertain the locals. I guess they didn’t like my act.”
John slipped once again from consciousness. The next time John Crichton
would awake they would be deep in what was known as tormented space.