Author: SETI_fan Please send feedback to scifibard@yahoo.com 
Rating: PG, for language
Category: Drama/Action Adventure
Notes: Special thanks to everyone at Kansas who encouraged me to finish this story! And many thanks, as always, to AmyJ for her help and wonderful illustrations.
Summary: During a supply run on a seemingly abandoned planet, Aeryn's Pilot DNA begins to resurface mysteriously. While she deals with the mutations, John returns to NamTar's lab to get the cure, D'Argo seeks the cause, and Pilot begins acting strangely...
Spoilers Up to Twice Shy, especially for DNA Mad Scientist
Season: AU Season 4, when J/A are hiding their love
Parts: 1 2  |  3  |  4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 |

Part V

Waiting is interminable no matter what part of the universe you’re in. John slumped in the chair in Kornata’s empty office, watching his fingers drum “Smoke on the Water” on the arm for the third consecutive time. He was sick of the song, but it was stuck in his head, and in the end it didn’t really matter what song he used. It as all just a nervous pastime to keep his mind off the worries that waited in the wings, ready to take center stage the minute any of his distractions botched a line. 

Unable to bear the grinding rhythm any longer, John aborted before his fingers could begin a fourth intro and leaned back in the chair limply, casting his gaze out the window. From way up here, he could make out most of the features of the giant skull imbedded in the asteroid. Some genius had set up a restaurant and hotel in the eye and apparently charged exorbitant prices for the privilege of lodging in this oddest of places. He had never figured out what kind of beast had died there, but it was clearly enough to give a budong a run for its money. 

And there his trail of distractions failed as this reminded him of Aeryn’s experience aboard Talyn and quickly plummeted him into the well of fears lurking beneath him. Aeryn alone on Moya, counting on him. How far along was she now? He tried to remember how much time had elapsed when they were last here. He wished she was there with him. It was one thing to know she was suffering and hold her hand and talk her through the worst. It was another entirely to know her pain and be a universe apart from her, waiting, impotent, ignorant even of how severe her condition was. This was as bad as the Gammack Base. 

A skittering sounded behind him, like tiny claws on plastic. Sometimes relief comes in the strangest forms. Distracted from his despair, John tilted his head back and stared upside-down at the mass of tubes in the corner. A shadow darted by behind the tinted plastic. 

Space gerbils? John wondered. 

The door opened and he nearly flipped backward off the chair. He could have sworn he heard the creature in the cage chirp at him in amusement. 

Kornata paused in the door, a small smile in her face. “That’s why we put four legs on that,” she offered dryly. 

“Yeah, funny. Is it ready yet?” he demanded. 

She nodded. “They just completed a batch in the apothecary. A nurse will run it up in a few microts.” 

“Yes!” He grabbed Kornata in a hug and planted a kiss on her cheek, then froze and backed off sheepishly. He coughed. “Um, sorry. I, uh—” 

“It’s alright,” she laughed, blushing a bit. “I’m used to it around here. If you want to call your crew, I’m just going to take care of things around here.” 

“Oh, God,” John muttered, his cooped up mind unfolding at last. “Kornata, thank you.” 

“Don’t mention it. I wish we could do more for you.” She pulled a bag of seeds and dried fruit from a drawer in her desk. 

“Seriously, I don’t know how to repay you.” He stopped, appalled that he had forgotten so crucial a detail. “Damn. I don’t know how to pay you!” 

Kornata shook her head. “We are responsible for Aeryn’s condition. All treatment is on us.” 

His brows arched. “Wow. Thanks. That’s a generous insurance plan.” 

“Not at all.” Kornata gestured expansively as she walked over to the tubed structure. “All of this would have been impossible without you. Much as he hates it,” she said with a nod to the critter coming to explore the dish she had just filled. 

“‘He?’” John inquired. He moved closer to peer into the cage, then recoiled, shooting a look at Kornata. “That isn’t—” 

“One and the same.” 

“You built a Habitrail for NamTar?!” John gasped. 

“Of course! He has to live somewhere. Who else would care for him?” She reached in and scratched NamTar’s head. The rodent jerked back skittishly and hissed. “He’d die without my aid.” 

“Not seeing the problem,” John muttered, glaring at the tiny villain. 

Kornata frowned at him. “Are you truly so cold?” 

John looked over the cage at her. “Are you kidding? That bastard played Dr. Moreau with the woman I love. He nearly killed her then, and she’s suffering again, all because of him. As far as I’m concerned, he’s only alive because death is too merciful for him.” 

Kornata nodded acceptingly. “I understand that. But regardless of what he was, right now he’s just a helpless animal in need of food and a safe home.” 

John watched her incredulously. “Even though he turned you into his own personal Igor?” 

She gave him a sad smile. “That’s a small transgression compared to what I did to him.” 

Now John shook his head. “No. Uh-uh. You must’ve been on this rock too long, because I cannot believe you feel guilty for taking him down. He was a monster—” 

“Does Aeryn remember being transformed?” 

He blinked. “Yeah, of course.” 

“Any lingering characteristics?” Kornata demanded. “Heightened senses, increased rapport with Leviathans?” 

“The second one. Maybe the first. Why the analysis, Doc?” 

“I still overestimate the strength of my right arm,” she answered, flexing the limb thoughtfully. “Phantom pain, that sort of thing. Can you imagine what it must be like for NamTar to remember what he had, the power he wielded, and to know he can never achieve that again? Can you imagine the feeling of loss that must involve?” 

John stared at the once-powerful scientist as he chewed a nut open with his incisors. Kornata’s words made sense, but he wasn’t ready to let NamTar off the hook that easily. “I guess I can understand that, but he’s not getting any sympathy from me.” He extended a finger toward NamTar, jerking it back when the alien rat tried to take a chunk out of him. “Certainly hasn’t done much for his attitude.” 

She chuckled closing the cage again. “No, it hasn’t, but I don’t mind it. We’re just paying for our sins together.” 

“Uh-huh,” John muttered as he watched her pass NamTar a piece of fruit through the bars. 

The following moment of silence was broken when the door swept open. 

“John?” 

“Over here, Scorpy,” he called. Speak of the devil… 

The leather-clad hybrid entered, allowing a respectful distance between himself and John. “I assumed we would be ready to depart soon.” 

“Just a few more minutes, Scorp. When Kornata’s nurse brings the magic potion by, I’ll give Chi a call and we’ll go.” He met Kornata’s eyes as she returned to her desk. 

“I passed Chiana in the hall on my way up,” Scorpius offered.  “Her…companion will bring the serum. We can leave whenever you’re ready.” 

“Oh.” John nodded, not quite reassured that Scorpius was on top of things. “Good. Kornata, thank you again.” 

“Anytime, John, though I hope you won’t need my services again in this capacity.” 

“Me too. Come on, Prometheus. We’ve gotta get home.” 

“Good luck, John,” Kornata called after them. “And remember, it has to be the eye.” 

As John hurried out, Scorpius paused a moment. Beside him, a tiny hairless creature was squealing obnoxiously. He hissed at it and the little animal scurried away in fear. With a nod to Kornata, he followed John to the Pod. 

# 

One of the things Aeryn Sun prided herself on most was self-control. Needless to say, she hated the events of the past arn. 

She had felt it happening ever since the transformation started; a haze across her mind, memories of things she had never done, places she had never been, faint echoes of voices. At first, she had thought this might have been related to her proximity to Moya, since she was becoming Pilot and Pilot himself was bonded to her. In truth, since her Pilot senses had kicked in, she did feel closer to Moya, able to understand her movements and her DRDs. Frell, a few times she could have sworn she heard Moya’s voice. 

But then the urges had started. She had begun to feel like a prisoner in her own body, as if her mere skin was clinging and heavy. Her quarters closed in as an unspoken voice in her mind pushed her to flee. Slowly, she had felt her own mind relegated to the back as these new drives took over. 

Now here she was, flying a Transport Pod towards the lonely planet below. She had a vague, horrible memory of knocking D’Argo out and of calling Sikozu a derogatory name in Pilot. And it terrified her, though a part of her mind soothed her that she was doing the right thing. She had to come to the planet. 

Fear ground her nerves as she descended into the thickest clouds. She had crashed the Pod while flying at the peak of her skill. The idea of making the same trip in her half-mutated body nearly made her turn back for Moya. Instead, she found a cool calm and confidence settling over her. No, she realized slowly, she hadn’t blacked out during that first landing. Her memory at the time could not comprehend what she had done, but now she knew. She reached out all four arms and controlled the Pod as an extension of her body. 

When she felt the soft bump of contact with the ground, Aeryn jerked back from the controls. Her heart raced as her mind fought this unfamiliar knowledge that threatened to overcome her. She was Aeryn Sun, Sebacean, beloved of John Crichton, who was coming back to Moya to put a stop to this. 

A panic not her own built in her mind again. She clutched her head as she lurched from the seat and staggered to the door, desperately craving fresh air. She stumbled out and a cacophony of voices hit her. The fog swirled and her thoughts were drowned out, muffled. Her stomach leapt as if she had just made a sharp Prowler maneuver. She looked down, flinging aside the blanket that constituted the only covering she wore since her mutations made clothing impossible, as the sensation overtook her whole body. She dropped to the sandy loam as her legs gave out. Gray-violet chitin poured across her body like molten metal, pliable, stretching to encompass her altering shape. The transformation was breath-taking, faster even than the wormhole had caused. 

Aeryn, her screams muffled by the fog smothering her, hastily yanked together every bit of mental force she could muster and threw it all into what she could only hope was a defensive shield of pure will around her womb. With her energy so distracted, the fog was able to penetrate her mind as well and her very consciousness blurred away. 

Her eyes snapped open. She understood. There was no more fear, no more argument, no more resistance. Carefully, she pushed herself upright, got her bearings, approached the same cliff that had tripped up Chiana only arns before, and scaled it slowly on four strong, arthropodic legs. 

# 

“Ugh! Is it open yet?” Chiana groaned, her head flopped back over the copilot’s chair. 

“When it is, you’ll know,” John muttered, glaring at the wormhole’s allotted tract of space. Why is everything slow when you’re in a hurry? 

“Well, can’t you make it open or something?” 

“Oh, honey, not twice in one night.” He shot a look at her. “What’s up with you anyway? I thought you’d be mellow after ‘having your ankle healed.’” 

Chiana rolled her head over to glare at him. “And what makes you think I went with him to have a frell?” 

“I’m a scientist,” he deadpanned. “I’m trained to recognize patterns emerging.” 

She smacked him playfully on the arm. “We talked, if you must know.” Off his look, she admitted, “Among other things. But I picked up some pamphlets about pregnancy and birth for Sebaceans.” 

“Aeryn will be happy,” he answered, face neutral. 

She cocked her head at him, dark eyes slightly narrowed. “What’s up with you, huh? I mean, we did it! We got the stuff to save Aeryn.” 

John’s hand moved subconsciously to his coat. The syringe was smooth and cool under his fingers, but radiated a silent importance that energized the nerves all the way up his spine. He was taking no chances where it was concerned. 

“I mean, you’re about to return a conquering hero in her eyes,” Chiana continued. 

“Why should I care what Aeryn thinks about me?” John asked idly. His private mind wondered briefly how she would go about thanking him, but he stifled the thought. 

Chiana rolled her eyes. “Come on, John. Who do you think you’re fooling?” 

Fear nagged at his mind, which was all too aware of Scorpius seated only a few feet behind him. Just stick to your guns. “What are you talking about, Pip?” 

He heard a frustrated breath over his shoulder. “Oh, honestly, John, just stop it. I know you’re in love with Aeryn and I told you I wouldn’t use it against you.” 

“You see?” Chiana said. “I don’t believe him, but at least he already knows about it, so stop torturing yourselves and go with it!” 

John glanced at Scorpius, then Chiana. “Did you tell him?” he whispered harshly. 

She scoffed. “Oh yeah. You and Aeryn were so subtle he never would’ve guessed it. Nah, there was nothing going on between you two.” 

“I get it, Chi, thanks.” He frowned. 

“In all truth, John, one would have to be blind not to know,” Scorpius piped up. 

“Watch it,” Chiana snapped back. 

“What I meant,” he amended with strained patience, “is that I pay attention. It is as you said yourself: I am a scientist. I am trained to recognize patterns. And I simply don’t care. If I truly was as bad as you believe me to be, I could have used her and the child against you on the Command Carrier.” 

John felt his blood drain towards his boots. “You knew…” 

“It did cause a rather sizeable shift in her energy signature,” Scorpius said. 

This had no better implications. “So…you can tell—” 

“When you’re lying? Yes. For the most part.” 

John considered that. “Fooled ya in the Chair,” he muttered. 

“Yes,” Scorpius agreed quietly. “So you did.” 

They all sat in a heavy silence for several long microts. Then: 

“Is it open yet?” Chiana asked. 

“For the last time—” John started, then paused as his mind twinged. “Yes! Thank you, God, we’re going home!” 

I’m coming, Aeryn, he thought as he threw the Pod into the wormhole. Hang on. 

# 

Aeryn let go of the Cliffside and dropped a metra to the solid rock below. It hadn’t been nearly so steep a descent as she had first expected. 

Here in the valley, the pressure had increased somewhat, but her exoskeleton stood up to it. Still, the mists swirled, obscuring everything outside a one metra radius. This mattered naught to her, though. An internal compass, of sorts, aligned her with her goal. 

She started to walk that way and paused. Hesitantly, she glanced back up the cliff to where the Pod sat behind a blanket of fog. A small part of her mind longed to return to the vehicle, fly home, and pretend this little constitutional had never happened. It was summarily squelched by the knowledge of What Had to be Done. 

Not even allowing herself a wistful sigh, the drive pushed her steadily along towards her goal and ever deeper into the mists. 

To be continued…

Part 6

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