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 VIII

 

“Yow!” D’Argo yelped, jerking his singed fingers from a DRD’s wire innards as a connection sprang to life. 

The little robot chirped gleefully and spun around on the repair table. 

“Yeah, yeah, you’re fixed. Go on.” D’Argo shooed it away. 

Chiana groaned, wiping sweat from her brow with an oily arm. “How many more of these things do we have to repair?” 

D’Argo sighed. “Only a few more, I think. Then they’ll take over the job for us.” 

The ClamShell in the Maintenance Bay flickered. “Moya and I thank you both for your efforts on our behalf.” 

“No problem, Pilot,” Chiana called with forced enthusiasm. “You and Moya are feeling better, right?” 

“Yes, Chiana. We are both back to full health.” He hesitated, looking down at his console. “We need to apologize for our behavior today, especially to you, Ka D’Argo.” 

He flexed his leg, now mending well under Noranti’s unusual ministrations. “It’s alright, Pilot. Like I told Aeryn, you weren’t yourselves.” 

“No, most certainly not. Fortunately, the beam from that crystal ended the influence. To be absolutely sure, though, Moya has flushed all the mist from her system.” 

“So that fog was the cause, huh?” Chiana asked. 

“Indeed. The fog was the water of this world; it’s…lifeblood, if you will. When enemies of the Builders struck the planet, they evaporated all the oceans, eliminating the Pilot’s homes and casting the world forever into barren darkness. The Pilot civilization only survived because the Builders joined us to Leviathans, allowing transport for all to a new home world far away. Before leaving, however, the scientists of the day set up a desperate plan to restore the outcasts to their rightful home. The crystal and projector were installed as you found and the mists were seeded with Pilot hormones.” 

“That explains why Aeryn’s Pilot DNA came out,” D’Argo said. “But they couldn’t possibly have done that expecting her.” He and Chiana chuckled. 

“Not exactly,” Pilot said. “The location of our original home world has long been lost to the ages. The hormones were placed to provoke genetic memories in any Pilot descendant who reached the planet. That Pilot, of course, would need to be able to leave its Leviathan and walk planetside. I know of very few unjoined Pilots who use Leviathans for transport, and none who can sever their bond and walk at all.” 

“And it doesn’t strike you as just a little convenient that Aeryn should be the one to find this planet and then to land on it?” Chiana asked. “A woman carrying Pilot DNA and able to leave a Leviathan?” 

“Wasn’t it also convenient John fell through a wormhole and landed with us right when we were escaping the PeaceKeepers?” D’Argo countered. “Or that Aeryn’s Prowler got pulled with us? Or that we encountered Salis’ ship in time to save you? Or that John met the Ancients and received wormhole knowledge? And met Scorpius? Or—?” 

“Alright! Alright!” she interrupted, shaking drips of some kind of DRD fluid from her fingertips. “I get it. Our whole frelling lives run on coincidence.” 

“I believe Fate has more influence on this than you suspect,” Pilot said. “There is an ancient myth about our home world that all Pilots learn as youths. It includes a line stating that life would return to the planet ‘When the Sun Touched the Ocean Floor.’” 

D’Argo and Chiana exchanged a look. 

“Couldn’t be,” he argued. 

“Stranger things have happened,” Chiana shrugged. “That avatar-thing knew John’s name. What was that, anyway?” she asked Pilot. “A hologram or something?” 

“Moya and I have not yet found an explanation for that,” he confessed. 

Chiana shivered. “Too weird. I’ll leave that up to you. The DRDs at least have a schematic to follow.” She frowned. “Where’s John? He was supposed to help us out with this.” 

“I’m not sure,” D’Argo said, picking up another still DRD. “I think he was headed for Command.” 

# 

John strolled the long, familiar route up to Command. Around him, he saw DRDs buzzing about, making minor repairs or cleaning up. One broke off from the pack and whirred over to John, bumping apologetically against his ankle. 

He paused to brush the DRD’s top affectionately. “It’s okay, One-Eye. I understand.” 

Reaching the door, John paused, stealing a moment to enjoy the silent tableau before him. Even though they had given in to their relationship, it was still rare for him to catch Aeryn in these unguarded moments when she thought she was alone. She had submitted to a medical scan by Noranti, who assured that both mother and fetus were in good health, the youngster still safely and obliviously resting in stasis. Now, her long hair still tousled and wavy from a soothing shower, Aeryn was back in black, the glossy leathers and sleek T-shirt accentuating her again-Sebacean body. She frowned in intense concentration at a holographic map of the system they had just departed that hovered over the Strategy Table, her chin perched between thumb and forefinger of one hand, lips pursed slightly. 

Slowly, she noticed his presence in the doorway and cast him an inviting half-smile. “Hey.” 

“Hey,” he answered, sidling over to her. 

“Enjoying the view?” she asked, brushing an errant strand of hair back self-consciously. 

He grinned lovingly, relishing the blush this caused her. “Just thinking how good it is to see you again. Scared me today.” 

“Mm.” Aeryn nodded. “But you changed me back to normal.” She leaned her shoulder against his. “For which I have yet to thank you.” 

John nuzzled her hair, bringing a hand up to touch her cheek. “Scorpius knows,” he whispered. 

She jerked out of his arms, fear in her eyes. “What?!” 

“So does Chiana, and probably D’Argo.” 

Aeryn’s eyes flared as she saw everything they’d worked so hard to build in secret suddenly in the line of fire. “Did Chiana figure it out? Did that trelk spread another of my secrets to everybody—?” 

He shook his head, stroking her cheek again soothingly. “No, it’s alright. He’s known for a long time. I don’t think he’s going to do anything.” 

After returning, Scorpius had closed himself in his cell without a word. John knew he ought to swallow his pride and go thank the son of a bitch for his help, but he couldn’t quite bear the taste of that yet. 

“Doesn’t mean I’m about to turn my back on him,” John continued, “but at least we can hold hands in public now.” 

“At the very least,” Aeryn agreed, anger falling by the wayside as she understood the freedom now open to them. She kissed him, their first kiss now unfettered by the shackles of fear and conspiracy. 

“So, what do you say? Shall we take a break and have dinner together? Or does food still taste weird?” 

Aeryn sighed. “No, it’s not that. I just think I should try to decode more of this frelling map before I quit for the night.” 

John stared at the hologram, the dusky crystal sitting solidly at its heart. “Is it giving you that much trouble?” 

She scooted over to show him the panel she worked off of. “Well, it was grown specifically to be read and interpreted by Pilots and Leviathans working together. Pilot and Moya are doing their best and I’m trying to handle the more menial parts of the job for them, but this would be a lot easier if I were bonded to Moya again.” 

John frowned. “Again?” 

“As a Pilot,” she explained, leaning on the table, her shoulder passing through the planet’s orbital path, “especially as our Pilot, I could sense much of what Moya was doing, even without being physically bonded to her. I could hear every movement of her engines, feel the DRDs moving around. I—I could hear her, John. Moya herself. And now that I’m Sebacean again, it’s like suddenly going deaf. The silence is a little…unsettling.” 

John’s brows creased with concern. “Was it like this the first time?” 

“No.” She shook her head. “That was different. Very different. I think that fog enhanced the connection.” She shrugged, trying to seem nonchalant. “The feeling will pass. In the meantime, I’m determined to help figure out this map for Pilot.” 

“Why don’t you show me what you’ve got so far?” John said, eager to take her mind off the troubling sensations. 

Aeryn spread both arms in a frustrated flourish at the solar system. “This is it. It looks like the planet and its sun are the center of the map. They’re what showed up first.” 

“You are here,” John quipped. 

“Well, it makes sense. The point of this map is for us to carry it out into the universe and help other scattered Pilots return to the home world that is rightfully theirs.” 

“That barren salt heap?” John asked. “Lucky them.” 

Aeryn’s eyes focused middle distance. “As a Pilot, I got the impression that in a few cycles, the planet will be full of life again.” 

“The Promised Land,” John muttered, staring at the tiny holographic orb. “Huh. Are Moya and Pilot willing to take on a mission that big?”  

“They are,” Aeryn said with a glance at Moya’s golden walls. “No matter what they say, I know they were getting tired of fleeing through the universe with no goals but those of their crew. I think Pilot is looking forward to being a hero to his species.” 

“A modern-day Moses,” John smiled. “Well, good for him. He and Moya can go down in history as more than a getaway car.” He glanced at the gem. “You’re sure no one’s going to be mad we took that off-planet? The castle ghost down there made a big deal about how you ‘returned the heart.’” 

Aeryn smiled enigmatically. “That’s not the Heart. The planet is fine, John. We’re doing the right thing.” 

“Glad at least one of us knows what she’s doing.” He turned to the map. “So any Commerce Planets around here or is our romantic dinner going to be stale food cubes and recycled water?” 

She grimaced at the thought. That meal was bad enough on a normal palate. “We’d do best to StarBurst. I’ve decoded light-years radius around the star and there’s absolutely nothing out here. The planet is completely isolated from the rest of the galaxy except by StarBurst.” 

“Or a convenient wormhole…” John said, mind working. “Could the Ancients have known about the Pilots?” 

Aeryn shrugged. “You’re the expert. How did they lose their home world anyway?” 

“Never said.”

They met each other’s gaze. “Looks like we all have something to work on now,” Aeryn said. 

“Could Earth be on that map?” John asked breathlessly. 

“I can’t tell yet. I don’t know if anyone could have known about Earth back then.” 

“Stranger things have happened,” he murmured. “If you find anything—” 

“You’ll know,” she assured him. 

“Thanks.” He kissed her cheek. “If you’re going to work here a while longer, I’d better go help D’Argo and Chiana with the DRDs. Give me a call when you’re done.” 

“It’s a date,” she called after him. 

Alone again, she turned back to the scroll of symbols on the readout before her. She wondered if this was how it felt for John to read wormhole equations; picking individual symbols out and comparing them against the others she knew until they flared into a pattern in the hologram. 

Struggling with the alien coordinates plucked from the crystal’s lattice, the relative silence of Moya began to press on Aeryn. It occurred to her that a part of her felt the slightest bit of resentment at being Sebacean again. She squashed that impulse. Still, to be able to multi-task, or consult Moya’s opinions… 

A soft trill at her elbow drew her wandering attentions. She glanced down at the DRD Pilot had sent to aid her. “What?” 

With another series of chirps, it extended a small arm, the pincher clasping something little and shiny. 

Aeryn recognized it immediately. Crais had put it in her duffel when Talyn and Moya reunited over a cycle ago, a silent reminder that she would always have a home with them. Discovering it while still dealing with her grief for the dead John Crichton, she had pitched it across the room and forgotten about it. Apparently Moya hadn’t. 

Gingerly, Aeryn reached out and took the neural transponder in her hand to examine it. It had clearly been modified, touches of golden biomechanoid technology highlighting the silver and black. 

She looked back at the DRD, who sat, yellow eye-lights eagerly awaiting an answer. She looked at the hardware again. 

“Let me think about it,” she told the droid. It beeped cheerfully and scurried off. 

Aeryn turned her attention to the database again and began to pocket the tiny device, then thought again, turning it in her fingers so the light caught the colorful metals in it. 

Finally, she placed the transponder on the Strategy Table beside her and scrolled up another line of code. Her mind, however, began to consider the new possibilities she suddenly saw open to her. 

# 

Moya sparkled blue in an act of natural beauty unrivaled throughout the universe and StarBurst away from a small planet circling an unnamed star in a distant arm of the galaxy. 

From the surface, this phenomenon was too small to be seen, but it hardly mattered. The planet certainly had enough to occupy its attentions. Millions of square miles of fog unleashed a continuous torrent of rain across the globe. Thunder and lightning cracked the air that had lain silent for too long. Parched earth drank in the water greedily, vast rivers of overflow poured in waterfalls down into the canyons that would soon be seas and oceans. The megalithic fossil beast found itself almost completely submerged again, only the plates of its back peeking above the swirling waves. 

Deep within its shell, a small column of manufactured technology blinked rhythmically. No sound was made, but anything on the planet could feel the pulse of it. Scrub brush drowning in the current embraced the rhythm and found itself evolving at an astonishing rate, roots altering to a more freeform lifestyle and long kelp-like leaves unfolding. 

Below even this, a cluster of chemicals and primitive amino acids in the peat around the leviathan’s sternum drifted lazily and slid against each other. Without fanfare, without distinction, so subtle that it was difficult to say at exactly which second it happened, the primordial ooze birthed the first new native life to inherit the planet. 

High in the skies, the rain over the ocean came to a temporary stop. Exhausted clouds, drained pallid with the effort of their labor, parted and sat back to observe the rushing water with the peace of new mothers. A rainbow arced over the waves. For the first time in millennia, sunlight shone on the surface and warmed the muddy earth. 

The lonely planet’s heart had at last been restored. 

FIN

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