Space Station Friendship, 23:00 EST, Event Time minus 0:05
Control, this is Friendship Station, reporting that search program
charlie-forty-two has been completed. Preliminary results look
good, and you'll get the full package in the next data transmission.
I've begun switching over the array for the next search program,
and expect to complete calibrations and begin search by zero hundred
hours," Mission Specialist Tony Santini said.
Station, we copy that. Good work, Tony, you're already eight hours
ahead of schedule. Keep this up and you'll get to come home early,"
Angela Porter said.
friend from their days together as novice astronauts in training,
Angela would be part of the team that replaced his, during the
next crew rotation. But that was months away, and for now, she
and the rest of her team divided their time between training exercises
and taking shifts in space station control.
worry, there will still be plenty of NEOs for you to find when
it's your turn up here," Tony Santini replied. "Friendship out."
toggled off the radio, and used his right foot to kick off from
the comm station, drifting lazily across the compartment. As he
approached the bank of monitors, with the ease of long practice
he caught the grab bar with his left hand, and brought himself
to a slow stop.
eyes swept across the display screens. All indicators were green,
which meant the station's functions were within acceptable operating
parameters. Touching the telescope array monitor screen with his
free hand, he called up the status menu, and saw that the repositioning
was nearly complete. Once finished, he would run calibration tests,
and then start the next phase of the search program, as they continued
the mapping of near-earth objects.
Santini paused a minute, savoring the peacefulness. The low hum
of the electronics and whir of the air circulation system were
as familiar to him as his own breathing. He loved this quiet time
during the night watch. Everyone else on the space station was
asleep, except for Alexei Kirillov, who was in the science module
as he encoded the next data transmission. This was as close to
being alone as it was possible to get, and he always looked forward
to those nights when he had the watch.
that he didn't like the rest of the crew. On the contrary, the
fourteen member crew had trained for this mission for two years,
forging strong bonds. But still, Friendship station was a small
place, that fourteen people more than filled. No matter that the
station was many times the size of its predecessors, when it came
right down to it, it was still a small series of modules that
required the crew to work together in very close quarters.
high-pitched chime sounded, breaking into his reverie. His eyes
went at once to the status monitor, and read the blinking message.
'Warning, object detected within 50 kilometers.'
The radar was designed to guide incoming supply ships, and would
also warn of objects in their near vicinity such as communications
satellites. But there were no supply ships scheduled, and their
orbital path shouldn't bring them near enough to any satellites
to trigger a radar alert. And any asteroid or space debris large
enough to trigger the radar alert should have been detected long
before it got within fifty kilometers.
later, the chime sounded again, this time louder, and began repeating.
His eyes stared at the screen in disbelief. 'Warning, approaching
object detected within 15 kilometers.'
told him this was impossible, even as his hand slammed the crew
alarm button. Given the speed at which the space station traveled,
anything within fifteen kilometers was an immediate threat.
happening?" Alexei Kirillov's voice came over the crew intercom.
toggled open the general crew intercom. "Collision alarm," he
reported. "Radar is picking up something in the fifteen kilometer
range, but I haven't been able to get a fix on it."
my way," Colonel Sarah Blackwell, the space station commander,
responded. "Everyone else, suit up and get to your emergency stations."
hands danced over the radar controls. The data he was seeing made
no sense. If this was a satellite in geosynchronous orbit, they
should have passed it by now. If it was a piece of space debris,
or an asteroid fragment, it should have either impacted with them
or disappeared behind them. But instead the object had slowed,
and was now point six kilometers from the space station.
was a crackle of static, and a male voice came over the radio.
"Space Station, you copy me?"
now, IASA, we've got our own problems here," Tony said tersely.
Station, this is Commander John Crichton of Farscape One," the
voice said. "You've probably picked me up on radar by now."
blinked. He felt a touch on his shoulder, and looked back to see
Colonel Sarah Blackwell and Alexei Kirillov had joined him in
the command module.
turned the switch so the radio was broadcast over the intercom,
as well as through his headphones.
you repeat that?" Tony asked.
Station, this is Commander John Crichton of Farscape One," the
voice said. "Suggest you turn on your external cameras, and since
it looks like it's night down there, start waking up the folks
down in Canaveral."
felt a slow anger begin to burn inside. This was someone's idea
of a sick joke. John Crichton had been killed over three years
ago, when the initial Farscape test had gone horribly wrong. Tony
had not known him personally, but he deserved better than to have
some stranger make a mockery of his sacrifice.
looked over to see his own anger reflected on Colonel Blackwell's
face, as she said, "This is Colonel Blackwell of Friendship Station.
Listen, I don't know who you are, or how you got on this frequency,
down, Mustang Sally," the voice said, invoking the nickname that
had followed Sarah Blackwell around since her days as the first
woman to pilot a stealth fighter. "I know this is a surprise,
but play along for a minute."
looked down at the status board. "Colonel Blackwell, radar shows
the target is now within two hundred meters of the space station,
approximately nine-o'clock off the forward telescope array," he
Kirillov had taken his place at the communications console. "External
camera activated, and on monitor four," he said.
eyes turned to the monitor, as the camera panned the area. A triangular
white shape appeared, and was swiftly brought into focus.
be damned," Colonel Blackwell breathed. "Crichton?"
me, alive and kicking, so to speak," Commander John Crichton said.
could hear startled exclamations from the rest of the station's
crew, as a dozen voices tried to talk at once, until Colonel Blackwell
ordered everyone to silence.
how? What happened? Where have you been?" Colonel Blackwell asked.
later," Commander Crichton answered. "You got IASA on the line?
Tell them to fire up the Farscape One monitoring protocols."
done so," Alexei Kirillov reported. "They've got audio and video
could only imagine the frantic scramble that must be going on
down in Canaveral.
Blackwell toggled off her microphone. "Can we capture it here
the audio signal through this channel. Still working on the video,"
it," Colonel Blackwell said. Then she toggled back on her microphone.
"Okay Farscape, IASA Mission Control is online."
Control, this is Farscape One, do you copy?"
uh, Farscape One, we copy." For the first time Tony could ever
remember, Angela Porter sounded flustered.
sure you got the recorders on, because I'm only going to say this
once," Commander Crichton instructed.
central monitor blinked, and went from displaying the image of
the Farscape craft to an image of the interior of the cockpit,
showing someone who looked very much like the picture of John
Crichton that was hung in the main reception area of the IASA
don't have a lot of time, so here's the deal. You've got six hours
to round up Colonel Jack Crichton and Doctor David Kroger, put
them on the X-44 space plane, and send them up to the station.
this is Senior Duty Officer Mike Gerard-" a voice interrupted.
now keep quiet and listen up. You put my Dad and DK on the space
plane, send them up, and I'll come in and tell you what happened,
and where I've been."
be reasonable," Colonel Blackwell began.
image of John Crichton shook his head. "Sarah, we do this my way,
or not at all. I'm not landing the craft, I'm not negotiating,
and in twenty-two point seven Earth hours I'm outta here, and
your chance to talk is gone."
Crichton leaned his head to the right, letting the camera see
a second figure seated behind him. It was a woman, with dark hair
and dark eyes.
wave hello to the nice Earth people," he said.
jak," the woman said, with a grimace. She did not wave.
Farscape a single person craft?" Tony Santini asked.
one bothered to answer him.
time to dust off the first contact protocols. Send my Dad, DK,
the flight crew, and pick two of your own, I don't care who. That's
woman said something indecipherable.
Crichton said. "Anyone except Cobb, that is. No extra tourists,
no weapons, no tricks. Anything looks strange, and I call the
whole thing off."
you can't expect us to launch in six hours," the duty officer
try to bullshit me. The X-44 rescue craft is prepped for a two-hour
launch window. Six hours is more than enough time to get my people
on board, and get it launched. You send them up so I can talk
with them, and I tell y'all where I've been, and give DK the plans
for the hetch drive."
Mike Gerard asked.
Commander Crichton said.
than light. It was the holy grail of astrophysics, an impossible
dream to some, and a quest pursued with fervent devotion by others.
If Crichton had indeed discovered an FTL drive....
Colonel Blackwell said, making his name into a question.
all," Crichton answered. "Got questions play back the tape. I'm
not talking again until you tell me you've got my Dad on his way
to Canaveral. In the meantime, I always promised myself that one
day I'd walk on the moon, and now is as good as time as any."
the duty officer protested.
radio went silent, as Crichton shut off his microphone. Alexei
Kirillov switched the monitor over to the external camera, just
in time to capture the image of the Farscape module disappearing
at an unbelievable rate of acceleration.
you see that?" Tony Santini asked. "Nothing can move that fast."
Blackwell nodded. "Nothing from Earth, that is."
City, near Homestead, Florida, Event Time +02:45
Crichton awoke to the sound of a helicopter passing overhead.
Even before he was fully awake, his mind cataloged the details.
A heavy chopper, flying very low. It sounded like military engines,
but no sane controller would authorize such a low flight over
a residential area. Most likely it was a medical rescue chopper,
flying to or from a nearby accident site.
opened his eyes, and turned to glance at the clock. Glowing green
numbers revealed that it was ten of two in the morning. He rolled
over and tried to convince himself to go back to sleep. Sleep
came harder to him these days than it once had. And this was the
second time he had been awakened. There had been that strange
phone call just after midnight, when someone had asked his name.
Jack Crichton had identified himself, and then the caller had
thanked him and hung up. A wrong number, no doubt, but at least
the caller had been courteous.
rolled out of bed, and grabbed his robe. He was halfway down the
stairs, as the doorbell rang again.
flicked on the porch light, and opened the door.
Air Force officers, a male major and a female lieutenant, stood
on his porch, and behind them in the driveway was a police cruiser.
Crichton swallowed hard. There was only one reason the military
sent personal messengers, rather than simply making a telephone
call. And yet, that made no sense. His son John had been dead
for over three years.
opened the screen door and stepped out onto the porch, and into
the warm Florida night.
you Colonel Crichton? Colonel John Crichton?" asked the major,
who was the senior of the two.
Colonel Jack Crichton. Retired."
major, whose name tag read Adams, pulled a photo out of his pocket,
and compared the picture to the man standing in front of him.
Then he nodded.
I need you to get dressed and come with us. Immediately," Major
lieutenant, pulled out a small radio, and spoke into it. "We've
got him," she said.
is this about?" he asked. It felt surreal, and he was tempted
to pinch himself to see if he was still asleep and dreaming. It
had been over a decade since he'd retired from the Air Force,
more than two years since he'd resigned from IASA. What could
they possibly want with him?
haven't been briefed on that," Major Adams said. "All I can tell
you is that we've got a chopper waiting for you. The chopper will
take you to the airport, and from there you're going to Canaveral."
we don't have much time," the lieutenant said.
course," he answered. He'd spent enough time in the military to
understand that there was a time to ask questions, and a time
when all a man could do was salute and follow orders. He may have
been retired, but he was still an American.
in," he said, holding the door open.
went up the stairs, taking them two at a time. As he dressed,
his mind turned over a dozen possibilities, each more incredible
than the last. But the more he thought, the less sense the situation
made. He was an Apollo-era astronaut, who'd joined IASA as a mission
consultant, mostly as a way to stay close to John. He was still
a hell of a pilot, but it had been nearly twenty years since his
last shuttle ride, and he had no special skills or expertise that
they'd need in any kind of emergency.
if something had happened with DK, it would be his family they
summoned, not Jack Crichton. Besides, the next test of Farscape
Two wasn't for another four months.
hoped it wouldn't be too long before someone decided to tell him
what the heck was going on.
his watch and wallet from the dresser, he stuffed the wallet in
his back pocket, then slipped the watch on. Moving to the closet
he grabbed a small travel case, a ready bag kept always packed,
a habit left over from his days in the Air Force.
then five minutes after he had climbed them, he came back down
go," he said.
and Major Adams climbed into the back of the police cruiser, while
the lieutenant rode up front. As they left, she spoke into the
small radio again, telling someone that their ETA was two minutes.
drove through the streets of the subdivision. His eyebrows raised
in surprise, as they headed towards a small neighborhood park,
and then he saw the flashing lights of two police cruisers.
the center of the soccer field was a black army attack chopper,
rotors slowly turning, while police officers kept away the small
crowd of curious bystanders.
Crichton took a deep breath, feeling a sudden surge of adrenaline.
Whatever was happening, the military was absolutely serious about
not wasting any time.
cruiser drove onto the grass, past the police officers, and drew
to a stop a short distance from the chopper. Jack Crichton followed
Major Adams over to the chopper.
is as far as I go," Major Adams said. He held out his hand. "Good
luck to you, sir."
Crichton shook his hand. "Thanks. I may need it."
sergeant wearing the uniform of the National Guard hopped out
of the chopper, as they approached. "I'll take that, sir," he
said, grabbing the travel case. "Climb in."
Crichton climbed into the chopper, and took the vacant right seat.
The sergeant tossed in the bag, and then climbed in, closing the
door behind him.
go," the sergeant said into his headset, banging his free hand
on the door that separated them from the cockpit.
the helicopter lifted off at a steep angle, Jack Crichton buckled
himself in, and the sergeant did the same. The noise of the rotors
made it impossible to talk. He was surprised they had sent an
attack helicopter, but then again, perhaps they had sent the first
chopper they could find with fuel and a flight crew.
fifteen minutes later they landed at Homestead airfield, next
to a Learjet that bore no obvious government markings. The helicopter
had barely touched down, when the door was opened, this time by
an Air Force staff sergeant.
we're your ride," the staff sergeant said.
Crichton walked over towards the aircraft. A man was standing
by the stairway. He wore a dark shirt and denim jeans, but his
bearing proclaimed his military background.
Crichton, I'm Commander Endicott, IASA," he said.
what's all this about?"
soon as we're airborne, I can fill you in," Commander Endicott
nodded, and began climbing the stairs. Commander Endicott followed,
and then the staff sergeant who had greeted him, carrying the
plane started moving before the staff sergeant had fully closed
the door. The tower must have been holding the runway for them,
for they taxied directly to it and took off. It was an impressive
display of logistics, or of the clout of whomever was behind this.
Crichton watched the runway disappear beneath them.
turned to Commander Endicott. "You mind telling me what this is
all about? What on Earth does IASA need with an old war-horse
like myself, and why the rush?"
Endicott reached under his seat and pulled out a small metal briefcase.
Opening up the briefcase, he took out something that looked like
a slightly larger version of a cell phone.
phone," he explained. Then he pressed a key, and held it to his
ear. "Commander Endicott. Yes, we're on our way."
listened for a moment. "Roger," he said.
he held out the satellite phone. "If he asks, you can tell him
that our ETA in Canaveral is just under one hour. Liftoff will
be on schedule."
Crichton took the phone. Then the last work penetrated his consciousness.
Commander Endicott said, gesturing to the phone.
Crichton raised the phone to his ear. "Colonel Jack Crichton,"
Dad, it's John."
mind reeled. It could not be. And yet that voice was so familiar....
are you there?"
here," he said. He squeezed the phone so hard he thought it might
I know it's hard to understand, but it's really me," John said.
felt numb. Disbelief warred with a sudden impossible hope. His
chest felt tight, and it hurt to breathe.
How?" he managed to croak out.
is easy. I'm in Farscape, in Earth orbit. How is a long story."
are you landing?" No wonder he was being rushed to Canaveral.
Suddenly the frantic haste made perfect sense.
do you mean?"
this is a visit. Nothing more. If you want to see me, IASA will
send you and DK up on the X-44 space plane that's launching in
just under three hours. If you don't, I'll understand. But either
way, I've got less than twenty hours before I'm gone."
What was he talking about? "Son, this is crazy," he said.
laughed. "My life is crazy. But you've got to trust me. I know
what I'm doing."
was a long moment of silence, as Jack Crichton tried to come to
grips with the knowledge that the son he had mourned for so long,
had returned to him. Alive.
you come?" John asked. In his voice was all the uncertainty of
the boy he had once been.
course," Jack Crichton answered.
would go anywhere, do anything to see his son again. Anything.
he saw John, he knew he could convince him to stay.
Mission Briefing Room, Canaveral Space Center, Event Time +05:10
Crichton had been a test pilot, an astronaut and a mission consultant.
He had sat through dozens, perhaps hundreds of mission briefings.
But this was the strangest briefing he had ever attended.
and the other three who would be making the trip sat in the front
of the room, while Tom Kenyon had gone over the mission plan,
and the information they had received so far. Behind them, a team
of controllers and mission specialists took notes on their PDA's.
Video screens displayed images of the support teams in Houston,
Washington DC, and Kaliningrad, all intently listening.
to wrap it up, we have a lot of speculation, and very few hard
facts," Tom Kenyon said. As the senior IASA manager in Canaveral,
it had been his decision to agree to John's demands, and he had
convinced the President to authorize the mission. "That may be
John Crichton up there. That may be the Farscape One craft. That
may even be an alien as his companion. Or this could all be some
strange kind of hoax."
something up there, and it didn't come from Earth," said mission
specialist Angela Porter, who was the IASA pick for the team.
"Rocket, shuttle or space plane, we would have detected a launch."
where has John Crichton been for the past three years?" asked
Walter Klein, the designated State Department representative.
In his late twenties, he was young for this assignment, but perhaps
that was an asset. He was still young enough to be excited, whereas
a more experienced diplomat would have been quick to see the myriad
of things that could go wrong if this truly was a first contact
never found any trace of debris. Not a single scrap of metal,"
Jack Crichton reminded them.
was one of the reasons why he had had such a hard time accepting
John's loss. A piece of scorched metal, a fragment of the module,
even a radar trail of debris falling back into the Earth's atmosphere
would have given him proof of John's fate. But the lack of debris
had left too many questions. As the months had passed, he had
tried to convince himself that the lack of debris was a good thing.
It meant that the module's destruction had been so complete, that
John's death must have been instantaneous. There would have been
no time for him to suffer.
it seemed he hadn't died after all.
craft looks like Farscape One, but clearly it's been modified.
Those aren't the engines John and I designed. Not from the images
I saw, or from the way that thing moves. They're estimating it
made the trip to the moon in minutes. Minutes. Do you know what
that means?" DK's eyes shone with excitement, just as they had
in the old days. "With that technology, we could reach Mars in
days, maybe hours. And then--"
Kenyon cleared his throat.
if that is John Crichton, this could still be a trap. We don't
know where he's been, or how he managed to survive. Someone helped
him, but just because they helped him doesn't mean they are friendly
towards us," Tom Kenyon said. "So I'm giving you all one last
chance to back out. No one will think any the less of you, if
you choose to stay behind."
my son up there, and nothing is going to stop me from going,"
Jack Crichton said.
too," DK answered.
was going to serve on the space station eventually. This is just
a little early, sir," Angela Porter said.
Klein nodded vigorously. "Yes, yes, I'm going. Just hope I don't
get sick during the flight."
space-sick civilian. That was just what they needed to make this
bizarre expedition complete.
that's decided. You have a plane to catch. Good luck to you all,"
Tom Kenyon said.
rose to their feet, and as they left he shook each of their hands.
Behind them, the IASA team members filed out the back of the room,
and returned to their duty stations, or to the watchers gallery.
No one wanted to miss a single minute of this mission, and Jack
Crichton couldn't blame them.
far, the audience was restricted to essential IASA personnel and
a few key government officials in Washington, DC. But it would
be impossible to keep the lid on this for long, no matter what
story they told the media to cover the emergency scramble to launch
the X-44. Sooner or later, there would be a leak, and then the
whole world would be asking the same questions that ran through
his mind. Was this really John who had returned to them, and if
so, where had he been all this time?
the briefing room, an aide waited to escort them. "The bus is
waiting outside, to take you to the field," he said.
Crichton caught DK's arm, and pulled him aside, letting Angela
Porter and Walter Klein precede them. He waited till they were
a few paces ahead, before they began to follow.
you talk to him?" Jack Crichton asked. This was the first chance
for him and DK to speak privately. When he had arrived at IASA,
he had been taken for a rapid medical check, and then ushered
into the briefing, which had already started.
sir," DK said.
it's Jack," he told him.
Colonel Jack," DK said. "Must have been after you spoke with him,
because he told me you had agreed to make the trip."
Crichton turned to look at DK. "Did he sound... himself?"
bit his lower lip. "He sounded like John. And we saw the videos.
he wasn't the only one who had doubts. Doubts that neither of
them had wanted to voice in the conference room, in front of the
others. "But since when did John start giving IASA orders? Setting
nonnegotiable terms? Refusing to explain anything?"
like he doesn't trust us," DK said. "He didn't tell me anything,
except that he's spent the past three years in a galaxy far, far
away. And he stole that quote from Star Wars."
lot can happen in three years," Jack Crichton said.
it has been three years for him," DK answered. "For all we know,
his disappearance could be linked to a time dilation effect. From
his perspective John may been gone three minutes or thirty years."
enthusiasm for science sometimes ran away with him.
saw him. He wasn't thirty years older," Jack Crichton said. But
John had looked older than he appeared in the photographs taken
on that last day. A few years. Maybe three. Maybe more.
still John," DK said. "You know what he asked me to bring?"
butter and a stack of micro-cassette tapes."
Crichton laughed, struck by the sudden absurdity of it all. "Peanut
DK said, as they reached the lobby and saw the crew transport
bus waiting outside. "It's John up there. I know it is. Maybe
he doesn't trust us, but I still trust him. It's going be all
hope so," Jack Crichton said.
Space Station, Event Time +14:52
Crichton looked at Colonel Sarah Blackwell. "We're ready when
you are," he said.
floated in the main habitat module, along with DK, Angela Porter
and Walter Klein. Colonel Blackwell had selected her medical specialist
Hiro Tanaka, and the communications specialist Alexei Kirillov
to join them, making a total of seven.
rest of her team would gladly have crowded in with them, but they
didn't want to overwhelm John or his mysterious companion.
folks, you know the drill. Everyone else stays at their station,
unless I give a direct order otherwise. Understood?" Colonel Blackwell
chorus of affirmatives drifted over the intercom.
do this. Alexei, tell our visitors that we're ready," Colonel
this is Friendship Station," Alexei Kirillov said.
voice came over the speakers. "I scanned seven humans on the space
plane. Dad, you one of them?"
made it," Jack Crichton said. "Me, DK, Mission Specialist Angela
Porter from IASA, and Walter Klein from the State Department.
Plus a three person flight crew."
you give me your word it's safe? No tricks?"
felt his heart twist as he wondered just what could have happened
that had made John so cautious. It was more than mere caution.
It was as if he was afraid.
tricks," Jack Crichton promised his son.
X-44 has cleared off," Colonel Blackwell said. "You can dock Farscape
as soon as you are ready."
docking," John said. "Expect us at the secondary airlock in two
going EVA? Is he nuts?" Angela Porter asked.
was a very good question.
secondary airlock was just off the habitat module, meant for emergency
evacuations to the rescue craft. In just under two minutes there
was a metallic Clamk as something banged against the hull, and
then the sound of the airlock cycling.
Crichton drifted over, the others tactfully letting him take the
time it took for the airlock to reach station pressure seemed
the airlock door opened, and a figure in black stepped out. It
took him a moment to recognize John. He realized that somehow
he had expected John still to be wearing the orange IASA flight
John wore a skintight suit of a matte black material. In one hand
he held a clear glass helmet and a tether attached to a small
John came a second figure, the woman he had seen on the video.
She wore a suit identical to John's, with her helmet clipped to
a belt loop. She looked even more beautiful than she had on the
video. And deadly, for unless he was very much mistaken that was
a weapon she held in her hands.
eyes met his, and then swept the module, nodding as he recognized
DK and Colonel Blackwell.
okay," he said. "Put the pulse rifle away."
woman said something that seemed all consonants and tongue-clicks.
woman lowered the barrel of the rifle, until it was pointed down,
and then attached it to a belt harness. She showed no signs of
giving it up.
Crichton pushed off, until he crossed the meters that separated
them. He grabbed John in a hug, a nearly impossible feat in zero
gravity. Only when he touched him, did he finally accept that
this was indeed his son, come home.
returned the embrace, with his free arm. But then, a moment later,
he was the first to break free.
this is Officer Aeryn Sun, formerly of the Sebacean Peacekeepers."
to meet you," Jack Crichton said, puzzled as how to greet her.
Sun stuck out her right hand awkwardly, and he took it, as she
gave a surprisingly firm handshake.
said a phrase, of which he recognized only the word Crichton.
says she's honored to finally meet you," John explained.
John, you're looking great for a guy who's supposed to be dead,"
DK said, coming forward and tapping John's shoulder with his fist.
DK, at least, had no doubts, for he was grinning ear to ear.
the same sense of humor," John said, with a wry smile. "Aeryn,
this is DK, the other half of the Farscape team."
Sun nodded, acknowledging the introduction.
that's Colonel Blackwell," John said, pointing her out. "She's
the space station commander, and the person who taught me how
to fly stealth fighters."
Crichton, welcome back," Colonel Blackwell said. "Aeryn Sun, on
behalf of IASA, it is an honor to welcome you aboard."
Colonel Blackwell introduced the rest of those present, Jack Crichton
kept his eyes on his son. John acknowledged each introduction,
but he stayed very close to Aeryn Sun, and his expression remained
Crichton had had a dozen hours to get used to the idea that his
son was still alive. But this was not how he had imagined the
reunion would be. John was too quiet. Cautious. Reserved. Something
waited till the introductions were finished. "Colonel, I know
you have eleven other persons on this station, plus the three
crew out there on the X-44. Tell them for their own safety to
stay away from my module. They can take all the pictures you want,
but if anyone gets within twenty meters, the module's defenses
will take them out. No exceptions, no apologies."
Colonel Blackwell said, her voice hardening.
gave a half-smile, and for a moment he looked the way Jack Crichton
remembered him. "I know I'm being difficult, but I do appreciate
your letting us borrow your space station for this meeting. And
I promise that we'll be out of your hair in a few hours."
the pieces came together. John's insistence that this was only
a short visit. His excessive caution. His alien companion, and
the weapon she carried.
are you her prisoner?"
laughed. "No. Aeryn's a friend. My friends on Moya wouldn't let
me do this alone. They claim I have a bad habit of walking into
wondered just how many times John had walked into a trap, that
his friends now called it a habit? And what exactly those traps
had consisted of?
Sun said something to John.
wasn't my fault on the Commerce Planet. It was Rygel's. And I
was the one who got us out of that. Eventually," John argued.
understands English," Alexei Kirillov observed.
Russian and any other language you can think of," John explained.
the rifle?" Jack Crichton asked. "I thought you said no weapons."
are six billion of you, and only two of us," John said. "A pulse
rifle and a couple of pistols just evens the odds out a little."
the first time he noticed the object strapped to the outside of
John's right thigh, something that could well be a pistol. Aeryn
Sun wore a similar weapon on her left leg.
he didn't like at all the way John had referred to humanity as
"you" and not as "us".
could not comprehend John wearing a sidearm, to what should have
been a joyful homecoming. "John, you ever used that thing?"
a decent shot. Not in Aeryn's league, but I can take care of myself.
But if you want to know how many people I've killed, you're going
to have to ask," John said flatly.
the air was thick with tension. No one said anything, no doubt
because they were nearly as shocked as he was. He couldn't think
of anything to say that wouldn't seem like an accusation.
came to his rescue. "Aeryn Sun understands us, and you understand
her language. How is this possible? Universal translator, like
Star Trek?" he asked, neatly changing the subject.
of. In their galaxy they have genetically engineered microbes
that are injected at birth, and colonize the base of the brain.
They act as a translator," John said.
And you had this done?" Hiro Tanaka asked, with the intense curiosity
of a medical specialist.
thing they did when I got onboard Moya," John said.
Crichton looked at Aeryn Sun. "She looks human," he said.
shrugged. "Out there they tell me I look like a Sebacean. Small
differences, but close enough to pass most visual inspections."
looked at his father. "You've already earned yourself a stay in
quarantine by coming up here," he said. "If you want, I can fix
it so you can understand her. But once the microbes are injected,
you've got them for the rest of your life. That's going to make
the quarantine boys mighty unhappy."
thought of alien bugs crawling around his brain made him feel
queasy. But he could see that this was important to John. And
he wanted to know more of the alien woman that John called friend.
"I've come this far, no sense stopping now," he said.
the end, six of them chose to take the injections John offered.
Only Hiro Tanaka abstained, explaining that he would remain a
neutral control subject.
drifted into the central area of the main habitat module, spreading
out around the circular room. Aeryn Sun took a position near the
airlock, across the room from where John floated. John tied the
tether of the metal box to a convenient handhold, and then opened
it up. Reaching within, he withdrew a narrow silver cylinder,
a little longer than his hand. He tossed the cylinder over, and
Jack Crichton caught it with one hand.
end goes against your skin. Doesn't matter where," he said. "Push
the red button once."
Crichton hoped that none of his nervousness showed on his face.
He placed the injector against his wrist, and pressed the red
felt a light prick, like a mosquito sting. When he pulled the
injector away, a single drop of blood welled up.
it?" he asked.
it," John said.
long does it take to work?" he asked.
click javel click click zhashtl and he looks different than I
remembered," Aeryn Sun said.
you saw was based on my memories. It's been three cycles here
on Earth. He's older," John explained.
speaking English," Jack Crichton said with wonder.
understood that?" Alexei Kirillov asked.
Jack Crichton said, turning to face Aeryn Sun. "You are my son's
Friends. Yes," she said.
next," DK declared, drifting over to take the injector out of
Jack Crichton's hand.
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