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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
funny. Is it ready yet?” he demanded.
nodded. “They just completed a batch in the apothecary. A nurse will
run it up in a few microts.”
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—”
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.”
God,” John muttered, his cooped up mind unfolding at last. “Kornata,
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.
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
shook her head. “We are responsible for Aeryn’s condition. All
treatment is on us.”
brows arched. “Wow. Thanks. That’s a generous insurance plan.”
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.
John inquired. He moved closer to peer into the cage, then recoiled,
shooting a look at Kornata. “That isn’t—”
and the same.”
built a Habitrail for NamTar?!” John gasped.
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.”
seeing the problem,” John muttered, glaring at the tiny villain.
frowned at him. “Are you truly so cold?”
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.”
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
watched her incredulously. “Even though he turned you into his own
gave him a sad smile. “That’s a small transgression compared to what
I did to him.”
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—”
Aeryn remember being transformed?”
blinked. “Yeah, of course.”
lingering characteristics?” Kornata demanded. “Heightened senses,
increased rapport with Leviathans?”
second one. Maybe the first. Why the analysis, Doc?”
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?”
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.”
chuckled closing the cage again. “No, it hasn’t, but I don’t mind
it. We’re just paying for our sins together.”
John muttered as he watched her pass NamTar a piece of fruit through the
following moment of silence was broken when the door swept open.
here, Scorpy,” he called. Speak
of the devil…
leather-clad hybrid entered, allowing a respectful distance between
himself and John. “I assumed we would be ready to depart soon.”
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.
passed Chiana in the hall on my way up,” Scorpius offered. “Her…companion will bring the serum. We can leave
whenever you’re ready.”
John nodded, not quite reassured that Scorpius was on top of things.
“Good. Kornata, thank you again.”
John, though I hope you won’t need my services again in this
too. Come on, Prometheus. We’ve gotta get home.”
luck, John,” Kornata called after them. “And remember, it has to be
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
of the things Aeryn Sun prided herself on most was self-control.
Needless to say, she hated the events of the past arn.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Is it open yet?” Chiana groaned, her head flopped back over the
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
can’t you make it open or something?”
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
rolled her head over to glare at him. “And what makes you think I went
with him to have a frell?”
a scientist,” he deadpanned. “I’m trained to recognize patterns
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.”
will be happy,” he answered, face neutral.
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.”
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
mean, you’re about to return a conquering hero in her eyes,” Chiana
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.
rolled her eyes. “Come on, John. Who do you think you’re fooling?”
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?”
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.”
see?” Chiana said. “I don’t believe him, but at least he already
knows about it, so stop torturing yourselves and go with it!”
glanced at Scorpius, then Chiana. “Did you tell him?” he whispered
scoffed. “Oh yeah. You and Aeryn were so subtle he never would’ve
guessed it. Nah, there was nothing going on between you two.”
get it, Chi, thanks.” He frowned.
all truth, John, one would have to be blind not to know,” Scorpius
it,” Chiana snapped back.
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.”
felt his blood drain towards his boots. “You knew…”
did cause a rather sizeable shift in her energy signature,” Scorpius
had no better implications. “So…you can tell—”
you’re lying? Yes. For the most part.”
considered that. “Fooled ya in the Chair,” he muttered.
Scorpius agreed quietly. “So you did.”
all sat in a heavy silence for several long microts. Then:
it open yet?” Chiana asked.
the last time—” John started, then paused as his mind twinged.
“Yes! Thank you, God, we’re going home!”
he thought as he threw the Pod into the wormhole. Hang
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.
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.
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.
even allowing herself a wistful sigh, the drive pushed her steadily
along towards her goal and ever deeper into the mists.