Author: Karl
Rating: PG-13
Timeline: Immediately following A Clockwork Nebari
Summary: While trying to uncover more of the mysterious Earthling that had preceded him by more then 500 years, John is given more than he bargained for… 
Part: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
 

Part 2: Contact

"Does this mean you will allow us passage though Khephri space?" Asha did not respond to the Luxan's question.

She ignored him and stepped past the small human. She warmly regarded the command of the mighty Leviathan. "You must tell me how you arrived here and how you are lucky enough to be on board a free Leviathan." She glanced briefly at the others. "And how you came to be among such an eclectic group of species?"

John look back to Aeryn. "Well, it's a long story."

D'Argo stepped forward, his patience worn to the bone. "Will you allow us passage through your space?" It was more of a threat than a question.

Asha's tone did not change though her expression lost some of its warmth. "Calm your Luxan, John Crichton. I will not allow his blind rage to interfere with our gathering."

John grinned slightly. "He's not my Luxan to control." He looked back at his angered friend. "And he asked a very good question. Will you allow safe passage though your space?"

Asha moved back to the center of the group, allowing her glance to dwell on the Delvian, Hynerian and the Luxan. "No. You cannot stay. I am already in violation." She looked coolly at Chiana who seemed to shift slightly away from Asha. "If you did not have the Nebari," her gaze turned to Aeryn, "Or the Sebacean we might have allowed passage."

Johns stepped in front of Aeryn as if to protect her from Asha's baleful stare. "Then why the frell are you here?"

He moved even closer to the tall being. John could not figure out what is was that was wrong about Asha. She seemed to glow, almost as if she were not real. He reached his hand out to touch her arm. She recoiled from his advance. John stepped forward quickly and his had passed though her arm. Where it entered her body there was a slight glow to his skin. "What the…"

Asha continued to step back from stunned Human.

Aeryn was not surprised. She had seen hi res projections in training but none as perfect as this. "She isn't here John. She is a projection."

Asha turned again to the Sebacean. "She is correct. No direct contact would beallowed."

"Then why are you here?" A tinge of frustration was more than evident in his voice.

"I am here to meet John Crichton of the planet Earth." She looked warmly again at the puzzled human.

Asha's smile widened as moved closer to John. "I am a student of history, in particular the era leading up to the Reformation. To have one of the race that had caused such a change in our culture present is astonishing."

"I am not surprised. When humans are present only chaos can follow," D'Argo stated in his gravely tone. The humor was not lost on any of them causing even Chiana to crack a smile.

"Whoa... whoa... whoa. Hold on, ladies. What are you talking about?"

"We retrieved a ship from earth 500 cycles ago. It contained one Human… Mark Steven Goddard of a region of earth called Worchester Massachusetts." She had watched the records a thousand times but this was the first she had ever spoken the strange tongue out loud. The experience excited her.

"A bit far for a Yankee to travel..." John's joke fell flat on the uneducated crowd. Still the idea that a human from the past could have traveled here was highly unlikely.

"Well, I can tell you this, miss. Five hundred cycles ago the Earth didn't have a space program. Hell they didn't even have TV." Asha smiled. The nonsense comments John made were similar to the type witnessed in the history records of the other. "The dimensional string that brought him here is temporal in nature. I assumed you would know..." She stopped herself. If he was from an earlier time there were possible implications to temporal stability. But her internal argument ended as she realized the event that had propelled both men here was nearly impossible to recreate, and that this human was stranded here permanently. No, there was no reason for keeping the information from him.

"Dimensional string?" The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. The glimmer of hope returned. "What is it exactly?"

Asha looked at him puzzled. "It is temporal in nature. The records state that his travels began in the Earth year 2278. That an accident during re-entry opened a dimensional string to our space. Residual radiation on his craft proved that it had been slightly altered on the quantum level. We
tried to recreate a passage at one point to allow him to return home, but all our efforts were unsuccessful." She watched as the human's face seemed to harden. "I am sorry John but there is no way to return to your world."

"Ya well you don't mind if I keep trying?" He turned away from Asha's empathetic smile. "Do you have technical data on their attempts? Perhaps even his ship? Any records at all that could assist me in..."

"I am sorry, John. That time is over, all articles you would be seeking were destroyed in the Reformation." Asha looked to the floor. She mourned every day over the sins of her progenitors in their heinous acts. "All that remains are incomplete historical records of that turbulent time."

John moved forward. "Can I see them?" His tone was more of a plea than a question.

Asha suddenly turned her attention to the ceiling and seemed to be speaking to someone. John could tell by the expression what the answer was. "No, that would not be possible."

She stepped back from the poor human. "I can tell you this. What he had done to our society in the three years he spent with us is astounding." Asha's mood had darkened. Her stare shifted from John to the Sebacean. "It was his divine intervention that realigned our place in the galaxy. It was his actions that showed us our limitations and our erroneous path. It is thanks to him that we found our true path to enlightenment and the shedding of the false arts."

Asha choked on the last statement but knew that RA had been monitoring all and that if she wished to interact with them, she would have to stay within certain holy rules.

"False arts?" Aeryn questioned, allowing her hand to fall from her pulse gun. She knew the futility in firing at the bent beams of light that made up Asha's image.

"Yes, after the Reformation we cast off the false arts." The smile that she maintained was hollow. Even the beings watching her could see there was a lie buried in her statements.

It was D'Argo's turn. His arms slowly crossed and with a slightly accusatory tone he asked, "Reformation?"

For the first time she smiled at the Luxan. "Yes, when we were punished for our sinful ways." She looked back at John. "This really isn't important. I am here to talk to you, John Crichton."

"Well ma'am, I will be happy to talk once you have answered our questions." John tried to act more serious but found he couldn't. The woman's gaze seemed to disarm him. He waited for her to speak but she stood there simply smiling. He scanned the room at his shipmates. D'Argo did a version of a shrug that for some reason always looked preposterous to John. A small smile betrayed his cool demeanor. "OK, let's try it this way." Moving forward again his hands raised out from his sides slightly. "You ask one of your questions I will ask one of mine? How's that?"

"Excellent!" Asha seemed to glow at the proposition. "What is it like for you, John Crichton, to travel out there." Her impossibly long finger pointed out in the direction of the UT.

"Well ah…" he looked to Aeryn for help. She granted him one of those looks. This was your idea not mine. "Well it's… uh scary."

His mood changed with his thoughts of the past two years. "Real scary, Asha, always fighting to survive…" He had to clear his thoughts. He looked away from the alien. "Oh, but the wonders I have seen." John looked up at his shipmates his friends. "And the people I have met." A sly smile came to his face as his gaze fell upon Aeryn. "It has been a wild ride."

John looked back at Asha. Her hungry smile was almost evil. "Exploration is always fraught with difficulties, but that's what makes it exciting. "That's what tells you that you are alive!"

With those words her image dissolved into waves of white light.

"What the frell! Asha! It was my turn to ask a question!" John yelled at the ceiling, feeling as if he had been cheated.

"Asha, you are to stop at once!" Ra's voice boomed in the projection chamber as the image of the Leviathan's command area dissolved into darkness. "I will have to report this transgression. You know it is forbidden to speak of the reformation. Asha remained in the chamber, her eyes closed. "You cannot understand, Ra, without it what are we? Nothing! We do not learn we do not explore we are dead!" She felt the vibration of the ship as the synapses of Ra's synthetic mind tried to calculate a response to her.

***
The destroyer Achvalcor continued its projected course. The slight sensor ghosts of the Leviathan offered their only lead. The destroyer's captain remained steadfast in his need to continue his hunt for the Leviathan. He had communicated only once with the abomination, Scorpius, since they had lost the Leviathan in Khephri space. The hateful hybrid was on his way. His command carrier would arrive in thirty-eight arns.

Jared stood command, bitter thoughts churning through him. No! The Leviathan would not escape! The prospect of losing the Leviathan only compounded his anger. He had dealt with challenges in the past and had overcome them.

Slowly it occurred to him. This blind anger was not caused by any of these problems. It was from a woman. How is it possible? He had single handedly destroyed a Scarran assault probe!

But now his anger, his feeling of betrayal, all from Sela was something he was not trained to deal with. Could it be that he loved her? No! It couldn't be… It will not be. His anger needed focus. He found it in the Leviathan, sitting just out of reach. The subject for his anger would be Moya. Jared swore to capture the Leviathan at any cost!

***

Unable to sleep, Sela lay in her narrow bunk, staring blankly up at the rusted bottom of the bunk above hers. There had been lovers in the past... those she had left... those who had left her. This was the first time such a separation was marked with pain. If she cared to listen, there were noises of those around her as they slept nearby. Background noise. It was part of her existence, her world. She had always known the presence of other soldiers around her. Yet, now, she felt completely alone. She turned on her side, her hand pressing against the cold metal wall along her bunk. It only reinforced the feeling. The comms plate across the narrow passage between the beds chimed, pulling her from this mire of alien thoughts.

"Lieutenant Sela Tyron… Commander Varner requests your presence for an interview."

Sela picked up her ident chip and shoved it into the comm to confirm receipt. "Frell!"

She quickly got dressed and walked down the long row of bunks. What would the political officer want with me? She retraced her
steps over the last year trying to see if she had done anything to bring the wrath of the political officer down on her. The thoughts angered her
she was a good soldier. She was a loyal soldier. She had never done anything against the glory of all! Sela punched the wall in a fit of frustration as she stepped up onto the core transport. The small transport accelerated. As she approached her station for Del Varner's office her fears rose.

The political officer's space was even larger than the captain's. It was the size of a command staff office on a carrier. Used to the confines of crowded marauders and runners, she felt uncomfortable in such a wide open space. She felt at a tactical disadvantage, vulnerable. The knot of dread in her stomach tightened.

The side door to the large room opened and the short old man entered. She had stood next to him during many briefings but had never spoken to him. The was an air of friendliness about him that made Sela that much more suspicious.

He stopped in front of the tall lieutenant. "For the glory of all we serve." He said with the least amount of excitement she had ever witnessed.

Sela stood at attention and started reciting the mantra just as it was written in the Decca. "For the Glory of all we serve! For the glory of all we live! For the glory of all we give up...

"Yes, yes, Sela. Very good... That's enough! I have not asked you here to recite the Decca." He clasped his hands in his lap as he sat at his desk. He smiled slightly at the young woman. "I regret, Lieutenant, getting you out of bed but I did not want to interrupt your duty cycle."

He motioned her to sit on one of the six metal chairs that faced his desk. He watched as she nervously took a seat, her back rigid.

"Would you like something to drink?" Varner raised his hand and a young attendant approached from the darkened corner of the immense office. The woman approached with a tray of metal cylinders the smell of fresh hot raslak filled the room.

The attendant moved silently next to Sela. She looked up at the wide-eyed woman. It was unusual for anyone to have a Sebacean for an attendant, but political officers were allowed certain luxuries unimaginable to lower ranking officers. Sela removed one of the cylinders from the tray and opened it. It had been so long since she last had real raslak. The smell was calming to her. Jared always kept fresh raslak in his quarters. Even this casual memory produced a hollow tug of pain, catching her by surprise.

"I can see that you are anxious. Is this the first time you have been asked here?" He knew the answer, but Del liked playing with the mindless drones onboard this ship. Yet he could tell from her record that Sela was different. She was smart and a bit ambitious. Del liked ambition. It was one of the few drives allowed by the regime.

"Yes sir... I am sure you have my records on file." She was surprised by her own candor. She had seen the outcome of a bad meeting with a political officer before. On her first assignment the alcove outside of the captain's quarters often displayed the heads of those who were deemed traitors, rotting on Jinka poles as a reminder to the crew and its captain who was truly in control. The knot in her stomach tightened further. But no, that was a different ship. She could not recall seeing that barbaric act here.

Jared would never allow that!. A almost painful reassurance came over her.

Del smiled slightly. "Yes that is true... You know what it says about Lieutenant Sela Tyron?" He looked closely at the young woman in front of him. Evaluating her on levels only a political officer would. Stature, hair color, complexion. These were all key in the purity of the Sebacean people. It was his job to make sure that those that fit the ideal were promoted sooner. Del was forever weeding the ranks. Peacekeepers that posed a threat. Self-thinkers were the worst. He knew Sela was one. It was obvious to all but her. In time she would realize it. If Del so chose he could weed her form Peacekeeper existence.

No. Jared found her pleasing, that was enough. If Sela only knew how close she was to eradication. Del smiled smugly at the young woman before him. " It says that you have been a good little Peacekeeper. High command could not be happier with your performance." He stood and moved around to the front of his desk. "Are you happy Sela?"

"What?" She was surprised by the question she recovered quickly. "Yes, Sir!" Sela was not use to this form of combat. It was frustrating to her. She couldn't fathom what Del wanted and what she needed to do to win this battle.

Del's smile faded. "We are going to play a little game - it's called telling the truth." The smile drained from his face. "I will tell you the truth and then
you will tell me the truth. Do you understand?"

Sela's mind raced trying to get a grip on the game Varner was playing. Unconsciously her hand fell down to where her pulse gun should be, finding nothing there but her duty uniform. Her only comfort was left back at her bunk.

"Do you understand?" Del's head cocked to one side.

"Yes sir." She spat .

"Good." He relished in the power his position gave him. The friendly smile returned. "I know that you object to our remaining here in search of the rouge Leviathan." He waited for her response.

"Yes, sir. This is no secret, sir." She knew better than to lie.

Now that he had her defenses off guard he would strike. "What if I were to tell you that I know you and our captain have been together for over a quarter cycle." He tilted his head slightly trying not to look directly at her.

Sela's eyes widened as she tried to recover from Del's statement. "Sir… It is… Was wrong. Ask Jara..." She corrected herself. "Ask the Captain. It is over."

"Yes I know." Del looked down at his transparencies neatly stacked in front of him. " I have made arrangements for the new political officer to put a blind eye to the situation."

It took time for it to sink in. Sela spoke cautiously. "But sir, it's over. We are no longer. I don't understand?"

"I wouldn't expect you to. It is simple, my good little solder. Jared is my closest friend and you make him happy." Del sat back at his chair, his eyes locked on Sela's. "You will continue doing so. Or your command record will suffer. Do we understand?"

Sela wanted nothing more than to jump over the frelling old man's desk and slit his throat. Her chest heaved in anger. She felt the room shrink around her she found it difficult to breathe. She was trapped. "Sir… I have been a good soldier... I have done nothing to deserve this!"

"Irregardless, you will take care of Jared for me or you will find yourself on some backwater world fighting hand to had without the ability to fire a pulse gun!" He held up his hands, curling his trigger fingers into the palm of his hand to replicate the look of hobbling. Del smiled again. He spoke slowly and calmly. "Do we understand each other, Lieutenant?"

Sela had seen deserters hobbled when she was in commando training. First they severed the trigger fingers then crushed the palms of the hands in a very accurate device, leaving the traitors with no ability to defend themselves in combat. Pulse weapons were perfectly balanced. The idea of trying to fire one without a trigger finger and with crushed bones was impossible.

"Yes sir, I understand." Sela did not wait for his permission to leave. She walked from his office in a daze, finding her way to her marauder. In the deepest darkest corner of her ship she sat and cried like a child.

She had been through so much in her life, but she had always gained control of her own destiny. Yet now it was under someone else's control. Did Del do this as a favor or an order? Was this Jared's doing? The strange feelings of loss enveloped her again. No. Jared couldn't… he wouldn't. She knew him all too well. He would never do this to her. He would never do this to anyone. There were many things that Jared was, but this…

The next thought struck her with indelicate simplicity. In one awestruck breath, she glimpsed the great machine of which she was a part and realized it for its true worth: nothing. Every ideal for which she had fought was a lie. There is no "glory for all." It is all a game of power. Her mind reeled as it tried to figure a way out of this situation.

Hope, however small at first, grew with every passing microt. She was no longer going to be the good little soldier. She will play by their rules. No! Del Varner you will not win! No one will have control over my life! "No one!"

***

John stormed into the hangar and stopped in front of his module.

The hatch opened and sitting there was his specter. Scorpius was smiling at him. John, do you think it is wise to try and go over there?

"Not now!" John stopped in his steps. "I thought the Nebari Mind Be Gone had worn off by now."

John you know better. The apparition grinned.

Ignoring the last comment. "So what do you want?" John started his inspection of the module, slowly walking around Farscape 1 doing pre flight.

John do you think that Asha is going to let you just land on there ship? John's specter laughed sarcastically.

"Look, she might have data that would be useful…" He stood at the open canopy of Farscape 1.

Yes, I suppose you are right. If there is even a chance of gaining more knowledge on wormholes, by all means…But I think you would have a better chance getting aboard that ship if you didn't bring so much hardware. The lizards long slender finger pointed to the storage bin of P suits left here by the Peacekeeper crew.

"Space walk?" John turned back to face the empty cockpit of his module. "Jesus John your mind really is frelled. Next you'll be seeing Santa Claus."

"Who are you talking to John?" Aeryn stood at the center of the hangar. How long she had been there was unknown.

She looked at John with a certain sense of concern that still seemed somewhat alien to John. " No one… No one at all, just talking to myself while I checking out the module."

"They won't let you board. You know that?" She took a few steps towards him. He had not been the same since the mind cleansing but she knew better than to raise the issue with him.

"Don't worry, Ms. Sun, the Farscape Module is staying here." He finally turned back from the ship to face her. "I promise."

"Is everything alright John?" She tried not to sound concerned but she failed miserably.

"Oh ya, just ducky." He moved back to the folded joint of winglet and ran his hand over the pitted heat shield of the wing. "Look Aeryn, when you aren't happy you want to be alone…" He turned back and faced her. "I am not happy!" He watched, emotionally drained, as Aeryn blinked once tilted her head slightly as he could see she was calculating what to do. She then turned without saying more and retreated from the hangar.

John looked over to the storage lockers housing the P suits. Scorpius sat on them like a throne. Good job, John. I don't see what you see in her.

"Ya well you wouldn't. Now get outta my way…" shooing the apparition like it was a bothersome housefly.

***

Asha's huge vessel had taken up position within ten yards of Moya. John's plan was simple. Collapse the field blister of the terrace and use the small vector pack that was with the P suits to get across to the mirrored vessel.

He made his way quietly to the terrace. How many times had he found solitude here? As he sealed the door behind him he felt the all too familiar popping in his ears from the pressure lock. John looked up and marveled at the dancing light of the great gas cloud that stretched through this region.

He locked his helmet in place and waited for the seal to activate. He had played once in the vacuum of space without a P suit and did not relish the idea of ever doing that again. He had no formal training for EVA. IASA felt it was too costly for payload specialist to be trained in Zero G maneuvering.

John locked his tether onto the organic loops near the base of the sealed hatchway. He opened the glowing dome that covered the bluster field controls. The terrace was also used as a mating lock between vessels. He thoughts drifted towards that day that the Leviathan Lursa had docked here, and its unusual passengers. Pangs of home erupted as thoughts of his father…"No, not now!"


He pushed those memories out of the way. He pushed the copper down and there was a quick whoosh that picked him up from the floor of the Leviathan, then deposited him right down. With the blister down the atmosphere dissipated quickly.

He released the locking clamp and walked to the edge of the terrace. He felt the strange twinges of the reduced gravity as he stood on the rim of the terrace; one other step and he would be weightless. John looked across the immense ship. Moya's reflection was in front of him and the leading edge of the ship glowed slightly with the untold energy source that drove it.

He uttered the words in an almost mocking tone. "One Small Step…" As he pushed off from the terrace and with that the fleeting gravity that Moya provided her traveling companions. John floated free. "… One giant leap for gett'n home."

 

***

Ra had tracked the human's steps from the time he had entered the atmospheric blister on the top of the Leviathan. Ra processed his options. He had no intuition, yet it knew what the human was going to do. Ra's energies increased as he calculated his strategy. What should be done? Ra was unable to conclude a final solution and called Asha to guide his direction. Ra had deemed her opinion contaminated, yet he still needed guidance.

Ra called to her; she had been quietly meditating in her chamber after the interface with the Aliens. She responded slowly to his request.

She entered the Apex and Ra showed the human floating across to him.

 

Ra could sense her excitement. But she must know that Ra would not allow the Alien to board. Asha watched with anticipation as the human approached Ra. She  turned to the great glowing orb at the center of the ceiling. "You will let him board, Ra." She said it not as a question but as a command. Her tone was different than it had ever been to the mindless machine.

"No," Ra responded. "It is heresy to allow an outsider to touch us." He now processed, with all of his available powers, actions to address this conflict.
He powered up his weapons and trained them on the small being who was now less than a treneth from his skin.

"You will disengage weapon system NOW!" In their lineage together she had never given the great intellect a command. Ra reeled from her reaction as he tried to decide for himself what to do. But he was unsure of his actions. What power did Asha have over his processing ability?

"Ra, you will acknowledge my command!" Asha raised her hand to the orb, the casing of Ra's intelligence. Ra monitored as the human touched his skin.

Ra finally asked the question. "Why?" Ra needed a reason not to dispatch the creature now crawling around on his surface. Asha acting this way alarmed his cognitive motivators . On some level the great machine knew how much she meant to him and how important for his survival that the system stayed intact.

He opened his skin within the area of the human's location. The circular opening was illuminated with the white light of decontamination emitters. Ra monitored with what could only be described as fear as the human entered him. But all that could be done had been done. There was nothing left for this human to do.

Asha touched the Orb as she raised her other hand to her chest. "Thank you Ra, the gods will be proud of your decision."

She walked quickly from the apex, moving in a way that Ra had never seen before.

She waited at the entrance of the passage that was still processing the visitor. She could not recall ever seeing the decontamination system in operation. It was another lost technology. Locked in the Khephri past.

John waited as he felt the gravity activate in the blinding white room he had entered. His faceplate compensated for the illumination. John stood slowly from the surface he had settled on as the gravity strengthened. The outer door to the reflective skin of the vessel sealed seamlessly. "Well looks like they were expecting me after all."

When John was thrown into darkness, a breath of panic passed through him. But then, at the far end of the darkened chamber, came a light. John cautiously walked towards it. Standing in an open corridor was Asha, the guide of Ra. She stepped back from the doorway allowing him entrance.

She bowed slightly, both hands crossing her chest. "Welcome John." There was excitement in her voice that seemed to echo through the immense ship. "You may remove your helmet. It is safe."

John released the seal of his P suit. The stale processed air he had been breathing on his EVA was replaced by a warm sweet smelling air that seemed to be just as stale. All he could think of the first night in the fall back home when the heat turned on. John once again wiped the memory from his thoughts. " I know, I am not suppose…"

She turned from her visitor and started down an impossibly long corridor. "Please follow me." She ignored John's statement as she walked away from him.

John had to walk quickly to keep up with the long fluid strides of Asha's. "This ship is amazing! How many are aboard?

"None. I am the only one." She did not look at him as they continued their journey. "At one time there were many that traveled with Ra but now Ra only needs me."

"Ra… you mean the ship's alive?" He stopped in mid stride. Asha stopped a few steps in front of him and turned back to face him.

"In a way." She grinned. "Our symbiosis could compare to the relationship between your Pilot and the Leviathan." Asha's grin faded she turned back towards the direction she had been traveling. Her pace quickened. "But unlike Moya, Ra is not sentient he is merely Intellect on a massive scale. That is why I am here. I guide him through difficult decisions. For example, Ra wished to eradicate you before you touched his skin. I guided him away from that direction."

"Thanks …" John looked around at the room they entered it was immense. "I mean thank you!" John dropped his helmet on the floor and allowed it to roll away from them. "OK Asha you would not listen to me on my turf so I thought I would do better on yours. " His nervous apprehension wavered as he looked at the impossibly tall exotic female in front of him.

Asha smile widened "I know why you have come John but I can offer no other information."

"Why, Asha?" John tried not to look in her eyes. "You know we are no threat to you!"

"If you only knew, John Crichton of the planet earth, the threat you present to us.

"How?" His mounting frustration seemed to still as he looked into her eyes.

Asha looked to the ceiling and spoke in a strange language of musical tones, pops and hums. There was a response from the large blue dome at the center of ceiling in the large room. She reacted slightly to the response from the dome.

Asha's stare fell to John's feet. "Ra has something to show you. It is a record of the last Human that visited us. It is incomplete. Parts of the record had been destroyed but enough remains to enlighten you."

She seemed to age as she spoke. John could not help but notice her impossibly huge eyes seemed to radiate a profound sadness. Even the shell that he had developed over the years out here could not shield him from the empathy he felt for her.

"Watch," Asha said, pointing reluctantly to the far side of the chamber.

At first it looked like a mere projection, then it became much more. It was as if he was looking though the eyes of someone. He was no longer viewing the events, he was immersed in the memory. It dawned on John that he was seeing the memories of the astronaut from earth who had arrived here over 500 cycles ago.

"Asha, how is this possible?" John's voice cracked slightly as he tried to accept what he was seeing and feeling.

"That is not important…" Asha solemnly replied as she walked from the command apex. Ra allowed the human to see the record but he would not allow her to witness her own history. She retreated to her quarters to wait to be called by Ra.

The grayness of the image burned to complete clarity as John watched the events unfolded in front of him. If he was not mistaken he could swear he smelled the familiar odor of burnt shielding.

"What the hell! Amy! "The general warning still rung in the background. Mark clawed at the release of the safety harness. As he moved from the deceleration chair he could tell he was no longer in the grasp of Earth's gravity. Gracefully he rebounded off the ceiling of the cabin and made his way forward. "Amy, this ain't coming out of my pay, girl, this is your doing!" He moved into his station behind Amy's, he had seldom found himself in the flight chair. His mind raced through the emergency procedures that Amy used to drill him on during their long trip between Earth and Mars. He looked at the control station. All the boards were flashing; each display was normally green now all were bathed in amber. "This ain't fucking happening! Amy! Report!" He closed his eyes for a moment waiting to hear her reassuring voice, but nothing followed other than the constant screech of the general alarm.

Mark pushed from the command chair to Amy's station. As he approached her station the blunt odor of burning insulation burnt his eyes and nose. "Fuck! Amy, you can't leave me like this." He ran across the system administration controller all-dark. Amy was off line, leaving Mark alone for the first time in his three years as support officer on board the Stellar Transport the AMI -J11278. Mark franticly opened the access panel, allowing the cover to fly haphazardly across the flight deck. He read each of the subsystems out loud to help drown out the general alarm and to keep himself from the panicking thoughts that were lapping at his consciousness. His mind drifted towards the fear… the image of being trapped onboard a dead spacecraft that was now hurtling away from Earth. "No! Not now!" He closed his eyes to hold his composure. He opened his eyes slowly surviving the core display looking for the back up system instructions.

Mark found what he was looking for at the base of the central control conduit. "There you are, babe, you're gonna help now aren't you?" Mark said in a warm tone, his voice still having a shaken tone to it. He removed the storage locks on the emergency back up support administrator, then raised the large memory cylinder from its holder and maneuvered it to Amy's station. "Sorry love but I can't get you up and running if we don't get the ship working first." He disengaged Amy's central processor from the control station. Unlike the cover, he placed Amy carefully on the deck plate and inserted the emergency system.

System Active. The cool female voice announced, Mark could tell by the slightest dimming of the fight deck lighting that the back up was functioning.

"Shit! Thank god!" Mark patted the memory core reassuringly. "Look we are in a pant load of trouble."

Please stand by ship damage control system evaluation in process…

The abruptness of its announcements were music to Mark. "Ok, Ok, first things first."

Control system: Malfunction of telemetry lock, tracking system nominal.

There was a sense of relief. At least if the ships telemetry was functioning, even if his damaged vessel was headed out into deep space, they could track him by his own onboard navigation beacon.

Communication system: Communication array functional Communication system nominal.

"Good! Contact polar beacon controls and report the aborted areobreaking maneuver. Then contact AMI retrieval squad on emergency Alpha1 band." He hesitated waiting for a response. "Are you getting any of this?"

Please stand by. Ship damage control system evaluation in process…

Power plant: Fusion reactor, Output Nominal. Cooling, Nominal. Radiation, Nominal

Propulsion system: System nominal. Prepare for control burn to stabilize trajectory.

Mark moved back to the flight control area and locked himself into the chair, watching somewhat impatiently as the number of red indicators seemed to now be even with the number of green indicators. Ya not much to talk to but you're a hell of a mechanic. He felt the ship correct the slow rotation until his inner ear could no longer detect the rotation, then the main engines fired reducing the ship's speed. As the noise subsided so did the force against his restraints. Mark sat motionless, staring at the indicators and trying to run though his head what had happened. It was all a blur. He remembered their dive into the upper atmosphere of earth, then darkness and disorientation. And the helplessness of being strapped into the deceleration couch. He shuddered as the thoughts of a spinning whirlpool briefly appeared in his memory. He tried to concentrate on the ghostly image but as he did, it dissolved into his subconscious. Get a grip or they will throw you off the assignment. Again, returning to the emergency control system. It didn't have the same interface protocol as the standard ship's computer. This thing was nothing like Amy. As the fear of the accident set deeper in his consciousness, Mark wished he could just talk to Amy. Her protocol was designed to help him through stressful situations.

Aero-breaking shielding: Loss in shields three and four; damage to outer hull sectors three and nine.

Structural stability: damage to outer hull sectors three and nine. Loss of compression locks to cargo ports. Internal atmosphere contained.

Cargo: Container 1 jettisoned at 01:123:90; Container 2 Jettisoned at 01:124:59; Container 3 missing sensory data confirms that it was sheared off during aero-breaking.

Life support: System nominal

Administrator: Pulse rapid but appears to be uninjured… System nominal

"Ya sure, babe. Whatever you say." Mark fished through the side pockets of the command chair looking for one of the cylinders that contained his smokes. His hands passed over everything but. Out of the corner of his eye he saw them floating near the access panel that he had thrown off during his attempt at activating the emergency system. Mark released his harness and floated over to the cylinder. He pulled the green cigarette from its canister and fumbled through the pocket of his flight suit for the little chrome lighter in the shape of a hula girl. As he pulled it out and looked at it he smiled. He was gonna get it when they retrieved him, but that didn't matter. He kissed the little lighter and lit his cigarette. He pulled deeply on the smoke as if trying to inhale the entire cigarette in one drag. Heaven! Mark could feel some of the fear subside with every breath.

Warning! Fire control has detected combustion on in command.

Mark glided over to the one control panel he was most knowledgeable about. With two switches he overrode the fire suppression system. He took another drag. "Usually by now Amy would be rattling off all the dangers of smoking." Mark looked at the lifeless cameras that were trained on him. "But then again… You 're no Amy!"


This is the end of part two…

Part 3

 

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