"Aeryn, honey, you know I love you, but, damn! Couldn't you have waited a while to release the stasis?!" John Crichton knew the frustration in his voice was evident, but he could not help it. It was the fourth time in as many arns he had puked his guts out - or at least tried to. There was nothing left for his poor, abused stomach to void.

Aeryn Sun gently stroked John's shoulders. She was sorry he had what he called "morning sickness" - Peacekeepers had no such term for the nausea that sometimes came with pregnancy - but she could not find it in herself to feel sorry that she was not going through it. She had, in fact, experienced a bit of the nausea prior to their current situation. It had not occurred early in the day, as the Earth term for it implied, but it had not seemed nearly as bad as what John was going through.

"John, you really should speak to the old woman. I trust her no more than you do in matters involving powders or chemicals, but I do believe she could concoct something to help you with this morning sickness."

He shot her a look as he stood back from the basin he had been leaning over for the past several hundred microts. "No drugs. Pregnant fathers, er, mothers...Aw, frell! I'm not supposed to be the one who's pregnant!" He ran a somewhat shaky hand through his short brown hair, leaving it standing in all directions, and tried again. "Pregnancy and drugs don't mix. I don't want any more risk to our baby."

Almost two monens had passed since the Qujagans had "neutralized" Aeryn and John for analysis, and the little issue of "improper reintegration" had still not been resolved. In spite of the oddities the Qujagans had found in their DNA sequences, the aliens had put the pieces back together as best they could. Human DNA was entirely unknown to them, although there was a passing familiarity with Sebacean DNA structures. They were a bit taken aback, though, when they discovered Pilot DNA sequences thrown into the mix. The recordings taken during the neutralization pass had shown what looked like two Sebaceans in the vessel, so three different and distinct types of DNA, one of which was a total mystery, were quite unexpected.

From the DNA sequences and their own limited knowledge of the species involved, the Qujagans had decided there was an equal probability the baby belonged with John as with Aeryn. Unfortunately, they chose incorrectly - John shuddered to think that something as random as a coin toss might have decided their fate for them again. He wished the Qujagans had thought to talk to someone - anyone - on Moya before reintegration, but they had stubbornly ignored all attempts at communication from D'Argo and Pilot.

***

The neutralization process itself had not been at all painful or even uncomfortable - one instant they had been in the rowboat engaging in what might very well be their last kiss, an alien craft plunging rapidly toward them. The next they were in what appeared to be a small, dimly lit laboratory, each lying on some sort of platform or table - not Serta, by any means, but not a cold concrete floor, either.

John had started to sit up, but an alien - yet another in a long line of weird-ass beings he had met over the past few cycles - had stopped him. "Do not move or speak until the scan is complete. We wish to be certain nothing was missed during reintegration."

The tall, leathery-looking critter with the big head walked over to some sort of control panel and punched a couple of buttons, causing a faint background hum to fade into silence. John had not even realized the faint noise was there until it was gone. "I am Koraj Garn. You will be released to your companions when we have determined that it is safe for us to do so." He punched another button, which caused some sort of screen to pop up at the foot of Aeryn's platform.

"The scan is complete. Reintegration based on DNA analysis of your component particles is successful." Koraj Garn's voice was deep and gravelly, with a resonating quality, almost as though more than one voice were speaking the same words at the same time, not quite in harmony. "Our initial analysis of your particles indicated that you are not an immediate threat to Qujaga," he continued, as he read what must have been the results of the most recent scan from the screen.

"Where are the others, our companions?" Aeryn asked, her intense grey eyes following the Qujagan as he moved around her platform, releasing the restraints holding her arms and legs in place. The view was partially obscured by his body as the alien moved between the platforms, but John realized that the last restraint - the one holding Aeryn's right arm in place - was being unfastened, leaving her free to move.

"Big mistake, Koraj," John said, wincing in sympathy when Aeryn's strong fingers grasped the top-heavy alien by the throat as she swung her legs gracefully over the side of the platform. "That's gonna leave a mark."

"What, exactly, have you done to us?" Aeryn was using her scary Peacekeeper voice, but John heard the underlying worry for their baby in the tone.

"Aeryn, don't squeeze too hard," John said as Koraj gasped for air. "We might need Leather Lips to find our way back to Moya."

She shot him a look that said, quite eloquently, "Don't be a drannit. Of course, I'm not going to harm him. Permanently."

With Aeryn's attention momentarily on John, the alien's hands flew to the Sebacean fingers tightening around his throat in an attempt to pry them loose. Startled, Aeryn's grip loosened slightly, but only enough for the Qujagan to suck in enough air to scream. John was pretty sure it was not the guy's hands that had distracted Aeryn enough for that little alarm to sound, though - the scream brought a brief flash of the android in "Alien" to mind - but rather the sight of that leathery head splitting apart at what John realized must be actual seams, allowing what looked like another eye on a flexible stalk to lunge out of the newly opened cavity. Neat trick, that. The cavity itself appeared to be more-or-less lined with eyes, although the others seemed to be of the non-telescoping variety.

Hoping to find a weakness he could exploit, John struggled against his own restraints, but there was no slack to be found. Somewhere outside the lab, coming rapidly closer, he heard what sounded like pounding feet. "This can't be good," he said to himself, then, more loudly, "Aeryn . . ."

He was interrupted by the hiss of a door sliding open, although he could not see it from the angle at which he lay. Aeryn had regained her grip on the Qujagan, who was now down on his knees in front of her, still fighting to break free. Peripherally, John saw several Qujagans in some sort of uniform pour into the room, weapons ready and pointed directly at the ex-Peacekeeper.

"Don't shoot!" John yelled, figuring it might not help but it sure could not hurt the situation - besides, he wasn't much good for anything else at the moment. Four nasty-looking rifles of some sort remained trained on Aeryn and Koraj Garn.

***

Koraj Garn suddenly found it much easier to breathe as the Sebacean released her hold on his throat and took a step back, raising her arms in a gesture of surrender. Corporal Kreetaq stepped forward, slinging his weapon, and roughly pulled her arms behind her back in what must have been a painful grip, despite the lack of expression on her face.

"I am not harmed," Koraj wheezed in response to his superior's unvoiced query. His words were vocalized, if not very strongly, due to the fact that he could not think past the pain in his throat to properly direct his response.

He pulled himself up to his feet, using the edge of the platform the Sebacean had previously been lying on. At the same time, he allowed his head to relax back into its more normal state, effectively silencing most of the cacophony of distressed voices echoing in his mind. He no longer felt the need for the added support and security to be gained from allowing his unit members to see and hear what was happening around him. After all, several of his unit were here now, themselves, and no longer had any need to see through his eyes.

Koraj shook his resealed head. One hand rose involuntarily to his damaged throat. The non-Sebacean had been correct, it had been a bad mistake to release the other without waiting for his unit to arrive or even consulting with them prior to his ill-advised action. Almost as though prompted by the thought, the non-Sebacean spoke again. Koraj looked over to see that the alien was looking up at the ceiling.

"Now that all the excitement is over, can someone please explain to us what the hell is going on?"

***

Now, after spending several days off and on in Koraj's company as the Qujagan tech searched for a way to get the baby safely from John A to Aeryn B, John knew that he - it? - was hermaphroditic. All the Qujagans were hermaphroditic, reproducing more or less at will - tribbles? - John really did not want the details on that one. The concept still freaked him out a little, but he was getting used to the idea. A mildly alien concept was a lot easier to accept, after all, than the reality of that head-splitting-apart-to-reveal-more-eyes thing. And it kind of explained why they had not realized that John was not the proper "host" for the growing fetus, what with not having to deal with that whole male-female thing.

"Perhaps you should try to eat something," Aeryn said, stepping back from him as he pushed himself up from the basin. She offered a hand to help him up.

He stared at her, ignoring the helping hand. "Are you crazy?"

"Sometimes nausea is easier to handle if there is actually something available for your stomach to void." She let her hand drop to her side.

"I think I'll take a pass on that one." This was followed by a groan as he dropped down on their bed and stared up at the dark ceiling high above.

"Commander . . . " Pilot's voice sounded over the comms.

"Yeah, Pilot."

"I have just received word from Captain D'Argo. He and Chiana are returning from the commerce planet."

Aeryn pushed him back down when he tried to sit up. "Rest," she told him. "Pilot, did he give you an estimate of when they will arrive?" She took John's hand as she sat down beside him on the bed and leaned back against the wall.

"Yes, Officer Sun. He said they should be here in approximately three arns."

"Time enough for you to sleep a bit," she said in an aside to her exhausted mate. "Have you notified the Qujagans that they're on their way?" she continued on to Pilot. She did not want D'Argo and Chiana to also be "neutralized for analysis" - the Qujagans as a whole were, as John so eloquently put it, twitchy.

"Yes, the Qujagan Defense Ministry is expecting them."

"Good." She leaned her head back against the wall, her eyes drifting over the electronic equipment ranged against the opposite wall. Something John called "classical music" swirled about the room. She noticed the DRD 1812 there, almost as though absorbing the notes.

"I will let you know when Lo'La is in range," Pilot volunteered.

"Thanks, Pilot," John replied, just to let them know he was still in the game. He turned toward Aeryn, resting his head on her leather-clad thigh as he closed his eyes. "Man, I wish this boat would stop rocking." His right hand came to rest on her knee.

Aeryn did not respond to his words except to stroke his hair - she loved the feel of it against her skin. She looked down at his head and smiled to herself as she remembered just how much she loved the feel of his hair on places other than her hands, and wished she could stop Moya from rocking for him. The gentle, faint motion was not helping his nausea.

***

Moya floated in the soothing waters of Qujaga's largest sea, still recovering from the harrowing flight from Katratzi and her even more terrifying separation from Pilot. Recovering both physically and emotionally. While she was grateful for the instant and unquestioning support she had received from Stark and the others during that awful and painful separation, she knew she would have the Leviathan equivalent of nightmares for cycles to come. It no longer mattered to her that Pilot had been forced on her after her previous pilot's murder - that was no more his fault than it was Aeryn Sun's - Pilot was Moya's other half and she did not want to ever be without him again. She had never felt so alone.

While Pilot monitored the repairs still being made by her DRDs as well as the other day-to-day operations on board, Moya checked on the rest of her family. She would not be able to truly rest and heal until all of them were back on board. She had lost her beloved Talyn. She had lost gentle Zhaan. She had almost lost Aeryn Sun and John Crichton. Moya would not be able to rest until Captain D'Argo and Chiana were safely back on board. Once her crew was again whole, then she and Pilot could both relax.

The one called Noranti was in the galley with Dominar Rygel. Noranti was preparing a meal for the other biologics in Moya's and Pilot's care, while Rygel looked on and offered advice. Every time he reached for a taste, Noranti swatted him with one of her cooking implements. This, of course, did not stop the Hynerian from reaching again. And again.

All was as it should be in the galley.

The Banik Stykera, Stark, was asleep in his quarters, the chamber that had once been Zhaan's. From the lack of movement, except for the rise and fall of his chest with each breath, it appeared to be a peaceful sleep.

No problems apparent there...

John Crichton also slept. He was in the quarters he now shared with Aeryn Sun, while the former Peacekeeper watched over him. Music they had brought back with them from the Commander's home world was playing softly in the background from the electronic device he called a stereo. Under other circumstances, Moya would have enjoyed simply listening to that music, but at the moment she was too preoccupied to do more than make note of its presence.

With the possible exception of Chiana, who had still been blind when she and Captain D'Argo had left in Lo'La two days ago, Moya felt the greatest worry for Commander Crichton. On the surface, he and Aeryn Sun appeared to be as they were before the Qujagans' neutralization process had disrupted their life functions, but Moya knew how deceptive those appearances were.

Part of Aeryn Sun had been taken from her - her child. Moya was well aware of the fear that could cause. That same child was now growing in John Crichton, and that should not be. As the child grew and matured, the situation became potentially more dangerous for both the baby and for its father. Each day it became more urgent that the Qujagans find a way to safely move the baby to Aeryn Sun, and they could not simply "neutralize" them all again and start over. According to the Qujagan Koraj Garn, the neutralization and reintegration process was relatively safe the first time it was used on someone, but became riskier each subsequent time, more likely to result in either death or permanent and debilitating damage at the cellular level.

Moya was distracted from her contemplation of John Crichton and Aeryn Sun by another in-coming communication from Captain D'Argo - it had been such a short time since the Captain had last spoken to them. She listened in as Pilot answered the Captain.

***

"No, Captain, there has been no progress from the Qujagans in regard to correcting their mistake with Commander Crichton and Officer Sun," Pilot responded to Ka D'Argo, his calm voice filling the cockpit of the Luxan ship.

"We're bringing a couple of guests with us, Pilot." He reached up to flip a switch in response to a yellow light that appeared on his console. "We spoke to a Diagnosan who is certain he can help with John and the baby."

"What about Chiana?" Pilot asked.

"I'm still blind, Pilot, but it's getting better. I can see a little light, anyway." The little Nebari lounged in the co-pilot's chair next to D'Argo, trying to distract him by sliding a foot slowly up and down his leg.

"Was this Diagnosan able to determine what is causing your blindness?" Pilot's question sounded concerned rather than merely curious.

"We'll talk about it when we arrive, Pilot," D'Argo interjected, effectively preventing Chiana from answering that question just yet. He preferred to tell the story - or listen to it - only once, when they were all back together on Moya. While the Diagnosan had given them hope in regard to a cure, the proposed remedy was not certain and he had yet to convince Chi that it was a viable option. He had hopes that the others on Moya might prevail where he had so far failed.

"In fact, Pilot, you can ask him your questions directly - Diagnosan Tikrel and his assistant are here with us on Lo'La." Chiana followed this statement with a little laugh as she took her foot up along D'Argo's leg far enough to make him gasp.

"Our previous ETA has not changed," D'Argo said, grasping Chiana's ankle to stop that annoying - well, more intriguing than truly annoying - motion of her foot.

"Moya and I look forward to your return."

***

Aeryn gently extricated herself from under John's head, trying hard not to wake him. She knew how exhausted he was - he desperately needed the peaceful sleep he seemed to have fallen into. Too often of late she had had to wake him from a nightmare, if not one of Scarrens torturing her on that freighter then one of Scarrens invading Earth in search of those frelling flowers, destroying whatever they could not enslave.

Good. She was successful - John remained asleep, even as his arms curled around the pillow she pushed toward him as a substitute. She pulled the cover over him, but her stomach chose that moment to gurgle, deafeningly to Aeryn's ears. The noise did not wake him.

Obviously, she needed sustenance, but she also planned on bringing John something, even if she had to force him to eat it. And perhaps there was something in Moya's stores that could lessen his nausea, rather than approaching the less-than-trustworthy old woman. If not, then perhaps D'Argo had obtained something on the commerce planet - that was one of the things on his limited "shopping" list - and he and Chiana were due back any time now.

Quietly she left in search of food, leaving John under the faithful watch of 1812. The red, white, and blue DRD meshed fairly well with Moya's less colorful ones, but it seemed to have a distinct attachment to John.

When she reached the galley, she found not only Noranti there stirring one of her concoctions, as expected, but also Rygel and a sleepy-looking Stark. As she watched, the old woman handed a bowl of something steamy to Stark.

Noranti's attention turned to Aeryn as she entered the room. "How is Crichton?" she asked.

"Asleep. What are you cooking? It smells good." Aeryn was a bit surprised that this was so.

"Trevonian stew. Or rather, a reasonable facsimile, since we don't have any Trevons in our stores."

"Trevons?"

"Small rodents from Trask. They're really quite delicious." She added a bit of something to the stew, stirring the pot.

"Rodents, hmm? What have you used instead?" Sebaceans as a rule did not eat rodents or other types of vermin, but Aeryn had been away from the Peacekeepers and "civilized" territories for a long time. If the substitute was no worse than the original, she supposed she could pretend it was something else - maybe John's "chicken" from earth.

Noranti's reply was interrupted. "Officer Sun."

"Yes, Pilot."

"Lo'La is now within Moya's sensor range. They should be aboard in approximately five hundred microts. Captain D'Argo has advised me that he and Chiana are bringing two guests with them - a Diagnosan and his assistant."

"Thank you, Pilot," Aeryn replied, spinning to retrace her steps through the galley door as she headed toward the great ship's docking bay. She could eat later. "John, are you awake?" she asked through the comms. If D'Argo was bringing a Diagnosan back with him, it must be because of John and the baby. If he answered her comm, she would swing by their quarters for him; if not, she would let him sleep.

"Yeah, Aeryn. Where are you?" He sounded a little groggy, but not too bad.

"I'm on my way to the docking bay. D'Argo and Chiana will be here in five hundred microts. They have a Diagnosan with them."

"'Kay. I'm on my way."

None of them had known when D'Argo and Chiana left if the two would find a Diagnosan on the commerce planet one solar day beyond Qujaga, but they had all hoped. The Nebari's blindness had gone on so long and the Qujagans were uncertain as to whether their own surgeons would be able to correct their mistake . . . .

Aeryn swung around the corner into the corridor on which their quarters were located to see John leaving their room, pulling a jacket on over his black shirt as he walked toward her. She was amused to see 1812 following closely behind. The little DRD from the Leviathan Elack never let him get too far away.

"Do we know how Chi is doing?" John asked, catching up to her at the corner.

He and Aeryn continued on together to the docking bay. "No, not yet, but I assume the Diagnosan is here as much for you as Chiana."

He shot her a quick look from those blue eyes she could never get enough of looking at. "You think? I guess we'll know soon enough."

***

Sschi'itakhra of Paakri'i hovered over her master's right shoulder as they waited for the hatch to open. She was a little bit nervous, truth be told, even though Chiana had assured her several times that there was nothing to be nervous about - too nervous, even, to land on his shoulder, which was her normal position when they traveled. She was afraid that she might knock his mask askew if she tried to land, as she was also generally quite clumsy when nervous, and that could have serious repercussions. Her diaphanous wings fluttered even faster in anticipation - she was nervous, yes, but not in a bad way - causing her small body to momentarily lift up closer to the top of her master's head.

The tiny Paakrit had listened avidly as Chiana had related her symptoms to Diagnosan Tikrel, fueling her own interests even as she tried to keep track of everything for him. While she spoke, the old Diagnosan had circled the Nebari, occasionally making one- or two-word comments to Sschi'itakhra to be included in the notes, prior to the one-on-one session between the Nebari and the Diagnosan. It was during the one-on-one that the true business of diagnosis and possible treatments would be addressed, when Diagnosan Tikrel and Chiana could be in a sealed room. Then he could safely remove his mask without fear of unknown contaminants in the air causing him harm.

Sschi'itakhra had wound herself up so tightly, she could not suppress a little shriek when the hatch door swooshed open, revealing a Sebacean man and woman on the other side. She touched Diagnosan Tikrel's shoulder lightly in unspoken apology, even though she realized he should be used to it by now. It was usually very hard for Sschi'itakhra to contain either her enthusiasm or her curiosity.

The air smelled much better than the last time Sschi'itakhra had been on a ship, excepting the Luxan ship, of course. That last transport - the only large ship she had been on in her life - had been a Zenetan cargo vessel, while D'Argo had told her this one was a living ship - a Leviathan. She supposed that might explain why it smelled better than the Zenetans' ship, which had been rather unorganized and dirty. Of course, she had since discovered that the Zenetans were not traders at all, as she had originally believed, but rather pirates - she had been quite lucky to merely be stranded on a commerce planet.

Diagnosan Tikrel moved forward into the docking bay when he was introduced to the Sebaceans by D'Argo. Sschi'itakhra stayed where she was for a handful of microts, wings whirring against her yellow carapace. Then she saw Chiana motioning for her to come out as D'Argo said her name, so she took a deep breath and shot forward, almost colliding with the Sebacean man's head.

"Oh! I'm so sorry!" she exclaimed. Her carapace faded from the cheerful, if nervous, yellow she had been sporting microts before to the deep purple of profound embarrassment. "Please forgive me!"

"No problem." The Sebacean man had a soothing voice - her carapace faded to more of a blue color, but still with purple overtones. "I'm John Crichton, at your service."

"Oh, no, Johncrichton! I am at your service!" He was not a Sebacean after all, but something called a Human, Sschi'itakhra suddenly recalled from D'Argo's description of his friend.

"What's your name, Sprite?"

He has such a nice smile, she thought as she watched his mobile face. The facial expressions of others always fascinated her, having none of her own. Her tough shell did not allow movement where it was not jointed. Then she realized she had not answered him and said, "Oh! I am Sschi'itakhra."

"Sschi - whoa! That's a tongue-twister if I ever heard one. We can't call you Sschi - that's a little too close to 'Chi,'" he said, nodding toward the Nebari. Chiana was talking to the others, none of whom seemed to be paying any attention to the Paakrit or the Human. "Do you mind if I just call you Tinkerbell?"

"You may call me whatever you'd like, Johncrichton." She was now entirely blue, since she was no longer feeling at all embarrassed, but rather a bit pleased with herself.

"Okay, Tink. Hop on." He indicated his shoulder with a quick nod of his head. "Let's go join the party."

She barely hesitated before landing lightly on his shoulder, bracing herself with one hand on his ear as he walked over to the rest of the group in the enormous docking bay. His shoulder was much warmer against her bare feet than Diagnosan Tikrel's, but it was otherwise just as comfortable a perch. Sschi'itakhra decided she liked Humans, if Johncrichton was a fair example.

***

John barely noticed when Ssch-Tinkerbell alighted on his right shoulder. Well, he barely noticed her weight, anyway - she could not weigh more than a few ounces, tiny as she was - but he did notice a pleasant cinnamon scent. Or was it cloves? He felt the slightest breeze as the movement from her wings stirred his hair, reminding him that he needed a haircut. Glancing at her out of the corner of his eye, he decided she was a pretty little thing, kind of a cross between the Tinkerbell of Walt Disney fame and the dragonflies he and his sisters used to try to catch when they were kids. Her little hand felt cool on his ear as her grip tightened when he came to a stop with Aeryn and the others.

"Did we miss anything?" he asked of the group in general.

"I see you've met Sschi'itakhra," D'Argo replied. "We were just discussing quarters for Diagnosan Tikrel and his assistant, since they will be here for two or three solar days."

"Well, it's not like there's no room at the inn."

"Captain, there is a chamber near to my den that could be made comfortable for the Diagnosan," Pilot's voice volunteered. "It can be sealed off from the rest of Moya's atmosphere and the air inside purified for Diagnosan Tikrel's comfort."

The Diagnosan said something incomprehensible, which caused the little pixie to fly from John's shoulder over to the healer. She hovered at his eye level, in an attitude of listening, then turned to the group and said, "Diagnosan Tikrel says that will be fine. He would like to acclimate himself to the motion of the ship and the room he will be using before he visits with Johncrichton." She was doing that chameleon thing again while she spoke, John noticed, this time turning green. I wonder what the different colors mean, he thought, bemused.

"In that case," Pilot responded, "I am sending a DRD to lead you and Diagnosan Tikrel to your quarters while you are on board Moya." With that, a yellow DRD indeed came coasting into the docking bay, stopping just short of the Diagnosan's feet, then wheeling around to go back the way it came. The Diagnosan and his assistant followed without hesitation.

Not one microt after the two passed through the doorway, a loud rumble filled the air with sound. Everyone turned to Aeryn, the source of the noise, who shrugged and said, "I'm hungry."

"Well, what are we waiting for?" Chiana said, holding out a hand. "Let's go! Somebody lead me to dinner." Being the quintessential southern gentleman, John took Chi's hand in the crook of his arm and led her off to the galley, Aeryn, D'Argo, and 1812 trailing behind.

***

The air in the chamber just did not smell right. It was not stale, exactly. It did not smell bad, exactly. Just not right. It did not even smell the same as the Diagnosan's chamber back on the ice planet - that had been a much larger chamber and the atmospheric scrubbers there had been of an entirely different set up than the ones on Moya. For one thing, there was no movement of air through the vents in the room, which were closed off tight to prevent any outside air from getting in.

Sterile. That was the word for it. Like a hospital, but without all the chemical smells. That was a good thing, because John was pretty sure he would lose the little bit of Trevon stew Aeryn had forced him - okay, persuaded him, and pretty enjoyably, too - to eat if the room had smelled too much like a hospital back on Earth. And that was in spite of the "tonic" Diagnosan Tikrel had given him for the morning sickness.

John stood more or less in the center of the room as Diagnosan Tikrel walked around him. Tink was covered up in what looked like some sort of Barbie-sized EVA suit, complete with helmet. Something to do with her scent when she flies, he supposed, can't have that cinnamon and cloves frelling with the diagnosis. Since her wings were presumably bottled up in the suit, she was sitting on the Diagnosan's shoulder as she took notes.

Bored, John started whistling. It started out a tuneless thing, but shortly merged into the beginning riff of Billy Joel's The Stranger and then melted into the theme from the Andy Griffith Show. Tinkerbell looked over at him, pausing in her note-taking, but quickly looked away again when she saw him watching her. Tikrel said something to her.

"I am sorry, Johncrichton, but please do not sing. The music is disturbing to Diagnosan Tikrel's concentration." Her voice sounded tinny and apologetic through the external speaker of her helmet.

"It's called whistling. I'll stop. Sorry." He blew out a heavy sigh and tried to keep from fidgeting. It had only been a few minutes since the examination began, but it seemed like hours.

The room not only smelled different from the rest of Moya, it looked a little different, too, he decided. It was bronzy-brown and ribbed just as the rest, but for one thing, it had a solid door, so it had probably not been used as any sort of prison cell - nothing for a guard to look through. It was smaller than the former cells, but not by much. And there was what looked - and acted - like any run-of-the-mill ceiling fan back on Earth. It was moving the air in the sealed room, preventing it from becoming stale. There was also what could pass for a writing desk along one wall. He opened his mouth to ask Pilot what the room had been under the Peacekeepers, but stopped himself before he could disturb the Diagnosan again.

Tikrel stopped in front of John, after what must have been his sixth circuit around him. The two studied each other in silence, while Tinkerbell waited to add more information to her notes. If the Diagnosan had had a recognizable nose, John was sure it would have been twitching. The tall alien abruptly knelt to bring his head down to the level of John's abdomen, causing little Tink to grab onto his collar to keep from falling off. She emitted a squeak as she did so.

"Please, remain still, Johncrichton," she politely commanded when he instinctively reached out to catch her if she fell. With her wings encased in the suit, it would have been a long and possibly painful drop for her.

He straightened up again and Tikrel continued his olfactory diagnosis. Just as abruptly as he had knelt down, the Diagnosan stood up, speaking to Tinkerbell in that trilling language of his. She turned toward John and said, "The examination is finished for now, Johncrichton."

"It's just John, Tink, or Crichton, but you don't have to use both names." Although he did think it was kind of cute the way she shoved all the syllables together into one word. He glanced over at the Diagnosan, who was replacing the mask/filter over his face. "Does this mean there'll be more later?"

"Perhaps. Diagnosan Tikrel must go over the notes I have taken and compare them to the impressions he has received before he will be willing to say for certain."

Fresh, albeit super-scrubbed, air began to flow into the room as the vents were opened, apparently in response to something Tikrel said into the comms Pilot had given him. Huh. Pilot must speak Diagnosan, because Tikrel's words were definitely not in any language John's microbes could handle. Or maybe Tikrel had just said something slowly and John missed it - he had not been paying much attention to the Diagnosan as his assistant spoke.

"I guess I'll see you two later, then," John said, punching the button to open the door.

"Yes, Johncri-John. I will see you soon to discuss Diagnosan Tikrel's preliminary diagnosis."

***

After the door closed behind the Human, Tikrel said to Sschi'itakhra, "This case is much more unusual than I anticipated." He gently placed her on the desk so that she could more easily remove her environmental suit, without the worry of trying to keep her balance as he moved about the room. He had some thinking to do and he thought better when he was moving.

"In what way, Diagnosan Tikrel?" she answered, her voice a bit muffled by the removal of her helmet. She tossed it to the side and it rolled to a stop against the wall, very near the edge of the table. He heard her mutter "Frell!" under her breath and then her sigh of relief that she would not have to make the effort to prevent its fall to the floor and possible damage.

The Paakrit was a joy to work with, although he had never told her that. Her temperament could be a bit flighty at times, but she was very efficient and intelligent, for all that. She was becoming quite a good healer in her own right, absorbing everything she could from him. Obviously, there were things he could not teach her, nor would she be able to learn them even if they could be taught since she was not of the Diagnosan race, but she was very good at expanding on the ideas he gave her to put into his notes.

He stopped pacing. "At first, from what the Luxan and the Nebari said of his situation, I believed this would be a fairly simple ectopic pregnancy, albeit the female of most species carries the offspring, not the male." The pacing started again. "The scent I am associating with the fetus is...wrong."

Tikrel turned to look at his assistant, whose head was cocked to one side as she listened. As always, she seemed to be hanging on his every word. Her wings were free from the constricting suit, slowly moving in time with her breathing and wafting a faint spicy scent into the air, her color shifting slowly back and forth between the pale yellow of curiosity and the deeper orange of concern.

"The Human seems healthy," he continued. "I am not familiar with his species, but his physiology seems very close to that of both Sebaceans and Interions..." His words trailed off. He would have to consult with the Leviathan's pilot - a physical scan of the Human would be necessary. There was something very odd about the fetus, but he could not yet place it. It smelled sweet, as the unborn and very young always did, for him, but there was an undertone to the sweetness that he did not like, almost like decay.

"Ship's...Pilot," he said, slowing his speech to the point the translator microbes could do their job.

"Yes, Diagnosan."

"Do you have...a scanner? I...must scan...John Crichton to complete...my diagnosis."

"There is a scanner in the medical facility. I can have a DRD lead you there whenever you wish."

"Thank...you." He turned to his assistant and spoke to her normally, relieved to not have to concentrate so much on forming his words. He was quite thankful that Sschi'itakhra was able to understand Diagnosan so well. "Please find John Crichton and advise him that I must perform a scan. I presume he knows the location of the medical facility - have him meet me there in an arn." That should give him time to go over his notes prior to the further examination of the Human.

"Should I return to help you?" She sounded hopeful that his reply would be no.

"If you wish to spend time with the others, you may." He knew how much she enjoyed the company of others. The Paakrit were social creatures in general, but Sschi'itakhra seemed more so than most. "Then please accompany our patient to the medical facility."

"If you are certain, Diagnosan Tikrel..."

"Go, little one." He waved her toward the door. "Enjoy yourself."

With that, she clapped her hands together and launched herself with a squeak from the table to the door controls. As the door opened, he saw a bright yellow blur as she streaked out of the room. He shook his head in amusement and closed the door behind her.

***

Sschi'itakhra was halfway to the hanger when she realized that was the only place on Moya that she knew and that it was unlikely any of the crew would be there. She stopped where she was and hovered in place - the junction of three corridors. The one to the left would take her to the hanger, but she had no clue about the one to the right.

She looked down at the tiny comms hanging on a short chain around her neck. She had not yet used it, but Chiana had said that all she really had to do was speak into it. She brought it up closer to her face. It was much smaller than the one Chiana had given to her for Diagnosan Tikrel - proportionally speaking, it appeared to be the same size in comparison to her as the others were to the Diagnosan and the crew. The comms was sort of pretty, she thought, in a practical sort of way.

She held the comms close to her mouth. "Pilot?" she asked, in a tentative voice.

"Yes, Sschi'itakhra?"

"Uh, where might I find Johncrichton? And the others?" She was relieved he had answered, because, truth to tell, she had been spinning as she hovered, looking at the comms, and now she could not remember which corridor would take her back to her quarters, let alone where to go to find Moya's crew.

"Commander Crichton is here with me, along with Officer Sun, Captain D'Argo, and Chiana. Noranti is in her quarters. Stark and Dominar Rygel are in the galley."

"Oh. Pilot, how do I find you? I am so sorry, Pilot, but I do not even know where I am at the moment." She felt her carapace turning purple as she made that admission.

"I will send a DRD to your current location, Sschi'itakhra. You may follow it to my den."

"Oh! Thank you so much!" She would finally get to meet Moya's Pilot face to face. How exciting! She had read about the Pilot race, but had never actually met one before. For that matter, Moya was the first Leviathan she had ever seen, although she could not properly claim to have met her. She had not yet been formally introduced. Perhaps Pilot could do so?

She stopped hovering when she saw the yellow DRD come from the corridor she guessed must have been the one that was originally to her right, before she got herself all twisted around. When it noticed her coming to meet it, the DRD wheeled around, leading her deeper into the beautiful - and fascinating - Leviathan. Her carapace was now approaching the same color as the DRD she followed, although there were spots that had become more blue than yellow.

Sschi'itakhra could not wait to meet up with the others. She had so many questions about Moya and Pilot and Humans and other planets and species. She hummed tunelessly as she followed above and behind Pilot's DRD.

***

"Commander, I am afraid that you and Officer Sun have been...euchred...again." Pilot laid his last two cards, both red Jacks, on the flat surface that was serving as a card table to the side of his control console, simultaneously pressing one his controls, almost as if the two actions were related.

Did Pilot sound smug when he said that? John couldn't tell for sure. He shot a look at Aeryn who merely shrugged as if to say, "This isn't my fault." He stuck his tongue out at her in response.

"Later," she said, with a little half smile.

Pilot pushed the pile of cards over to D'Argo, whose turn it was to deal. The five of them - John, Aeryn, D'Argo, Chiana, and Pilot - had spent a good half an arn learning to play euchre. Well, John was teaching while the others were learning, but the fact that they had never played before did not seem to stop Pilot and D'Argo from rolling right over him and Aeryn. And that was with D being handicapped by a playful Chiana. Maybe it was a mistake to teach Pilot cards - he had all the earmarks of a card sharp. Must be the multi-tasking.

"Are you sure you haven't played this before, Pilot?" he asked.

Pilot punched two controls and seemed about to say something when he was interrupted by a yellow blur shooting into the room, almost knocking over John's "emergency bucket" - even though Tikrel had given him something for the nausea and it seemed to be working, he was not taking any chances.

"Ahh, Sschi'itakhra has found us," Pilot commented.

"Tink!" John was surprised to see her so soon after the exam.

"What brings you here?" D'Argo, said, quickly adding, "Please, join us." John could see he was fighting to hold in a laugh as the little sprite landed on the impromptu card table and more or less skidded to a stop.

"Hello, CaptainD'ArgoAerynsunChianaJohn." She nodded to each in turn, but she spoke so fast that it sounded like all one long word. "I am here to speak to you, John," again she nodded in his direction, "but I would also like to be introduced to Pilot and Moya, if that is acceptable?"

"Well, of course, that's acceptable!" Chiana exclaimed in response to the Paakrit's tentative suggestion, her still-blind eyes widening. "Why wouldn't it be? C'mere, Tink." Chiana gestured for her to land on her arm. "You can guide me over to Pilot and I'll introduce you. I'll let him introduce you to Moya, though..."

Tink flitted over to land where Chiana indicated. John noticed that she was fading to green as she talked Chi around the "card table" and over close enough to Pilot touch him. Obviously, Tink could have gone there herself, but just as obviously, she did not want to presume. Ms. Manners did not have a thing on Ms. Tinkerbell.

With Chi and Pilot going through their introductions, Aeryn laid down her cards - they were useless now anyway, since the hand was over - and came over to crouch down between John and D'Argo. John just leaned back in his chair and watched her, enjoying the view of her approaching nearly as much as he enjoyed watching her walk away. The look she gave him when she was at eye level told him that she had caught him leering, so he just smirked and waited for whatever she had to say.

She surprised him a bit by addressing D'Argo, "What do you know of Diagnosan Tikrel and his assistant? Why were they willing to come here, rather than for John to come to them?"

D'Argo shrugged. "I know little more than you. We found him by asking around on the commerce planet for someone who could be discreet and who might specialize in more unusual medical problems. As for why they were willing to come here, there did not seem to be any ulterior motives involved. He said he had been planet-bound for several cycles and wanted to get away for a few days." He paused and looked over at the Diagnosan's assistant who seemed to be in earnest conversation with Pilot, her colors whirling green, blue, and yellow. "Some of that probably came from Sschi'itakhra."

As if she could feel the pressure of their eyes turned on her, Tink bowed in mid-air to Pilot and then flitted back over to hover before John. "May I speak with you now, John?"

"Sure, Tink. Do we need to talk privately, or is here and now okay?"

She looked at them all and said, "These are your family, John, are they not?" She continued after a nod from him. "Here and now is...okayee...if that is all right with you." She stumbled a bit on the unfamiliar word.

"Go ahead." Her color was oscillating between shades of yellow, green, and orange, now - the blue was gone.

"Diagnosan Tikrel has not yet made a final diagnosis, but he is working on it right now. He sent me away so I would not distract him, although I do not think he knows that I know that is why." She sighed when she finished speaking.

John swallowed a grin and saw Aeryn quickly look away so that Tink would not see her own smile. They were not laughing at her - no one wanted to offend her - it was just that it was so...different...to have someone so innocent and trusting on board Moya.

"He says that you seem to be quite healthy, John, but that your case will be more complicated than he had at first anticipated. From my past experience with Diagnosan Tikrel, this means that it may take longer than a solar day or two for him to formulate a treatment." The yellow was gone now, taken over by green but still with those flashes of orange.

"Not a problem, Tink, we're not going anywhere just yet." The Qujagans were supposed to get back to them sometime within the next solar day regarding their progress on fixing the infamous reintegration malfunction.

"Indeed," Pilot concurred, "Moya does not feel that she will be able to leave here herself for at least another weeken."

"The Diagnosan would also like for you and me to meet him in the Leviathan's medical facility in about an arn." She thought for a moment. "Well, perhaps three quarters of an arn, now. I got lost looking for you and then, talking to Pilot...." She sounded chagrined and purple crept into her color mix.

"Commander, Diagnosan Tikrel has just contacted me about conducting a bio scan. The scanner has not been used since Zhaan...left us..." His words trailed off as he depressed another control.

Aeryn looked over at Pilot and said, "I can operate it, Pilot. I remember what I did to run a scan on Rygel a few cycles ago."

"It is a fairly standard bio-scanner, Officer Sun. Since you have indeed operated it in the past, you should have no problems with it."

"Since that's decided," Chiana chimed in, sitting back down next to D'Argo, "is there time to finish this game? I may not be able to see it, but I still have a, uh, bet riding on the outcome." She ran a finger down D'Argo's back, causing him to shiver, which in turn made her laugh.

***

Koraj Garn was more than a little worried as he initiated contact with the pilot of the Leviathan, currently floating in the warm currents of the Joluquen Sea. He had been hoping that the next time he spoke to John Crichton and his mate that he would have good news for them.

The pilot's image appeared on his screen. "Yes, Koraj Garn?"

"I must speak to Commander Crichton, ship's pilot." He was not sure if he should seek to come aboard the Leviathan and speak to the Human on his home territory or if he should set up a meeting in Joluquen City. He liked Crichton, but he had recently learned some potentially disturbing things about him and the other aliens aboard the Leviathan, Moya. He had seen reports that claimed them to be infamous criminals in other parts of the Uncharted Territories, others that said they were hunted by both Peacekeepers and Scarrens, wanted in the Territories and in Tormented Space. Some of the things claimed in those reports.... He had no idea how the Human, let alone his ex-Peacekeeper mate, would take what he had to say. Ah, well, he would simply have to trust his instincts that John Crichton and Aeryn Sun would not harm him for being the bearer of bad news.

When the pilot hesitated, he continued, "It's very important."

"I'm here, Koraj. What's up?" He was surprised to see Crichton move into the view screen to stand next to the pilot. Both were holding something in their respective hand and claw. He had not known how large the pilot was until seeing him in relation to the Human. He heard Crichton say something that sounded like, "Don't be lookin' at my cards, Pilot..." and heard what sounded like a snort in the background.

Garn made up his mind, seeing and hearing how at ease these beings were with each other. The stories he had heard may be true, but he was certain they were not the whole story.

"May I come aboard? I have news for you and Officer Sun, but I don't feel it's appropriate to speak to you other than face to face."

He must have sounded as uneasy as he felt, because Crichton replied, "I'm guessing it isn't good news."

"No, Commander, not exactly."

Crichton's image turned and addressed someone off screen. "How much time for the bio scan, Tink?" Garn did not hear the reply. He turned back to face him and said, "Give us a couple of arns, Koraj."

He nodded. "I will see you in two arns, Commander." The image faded away as he broke the connection.

Garn picked up the crystal containing the data from his research into correcting his mistake and locked up his office. He would notify his unit of where he was going and what it might entail and then get something to eat before going to the Leviathan. His personal transport - good for travel on both land and sea - was parked nearby.

While he drove, he spoke to the members of his unit, most of whom did not seem to find it a bad thing for him to visit the alien ship. Corporal Kreetaq insisted on coming with him as a bodyguard, though. He supposed that was because he could not keep the worry out of his thoughts, but he was certain - almost - that it was entirely unnecessary. Well, he should know in about two arns, he supposed.

***

"Commander?"

"Yeah, Pilot?"

"Koraj Garn has arrived. I have had a DRD take him to the common room on tier three."

"Thanks, Pilot. We're on our way." He looked at Aeryn, who was still playing with the yo-yo he had introduced her to just a few minutes before.

"And this was a weapon on your world?" she asked, shooting it toward him at a high velocity, a playful twinkle in her eyes.

Jumping back from the pseudo-projectile, he said, "Yeah. It was used by the aborigines in Australia. You gonna take that with you?" He was a little afraid that she might use it on Garn, if she disliked what he had to say badly enough. For that matter, he might let her.

She removed the string from her finger and laid the yo-yo on the table, thus closing that option. It was just as well, he supposed.

"Let's go." She held out one hand for him to take, opening the door with the other. Hand in hand, they left for the common room on tier three.

Before they had gone more than a few steps, Aeryn asked, "Should we have Diagnosan Tikrel and Tink meet us there?"

"Not a bad idea." John hit his comms. "Hey, Tink? You busy?"

"Is that you, JohnCri-John?"

He could not help but chuckle. "Yeah, it's me, Tink."

"I am not busy, John. Why do you ask?"

"Koraj Garn is here to talk to us about whether or not they can fix the problem with us and our baby. We thought you and Tikrel might want to hear what he has to say, since it may have some bearing on whatever plan of 'treatment' he may come up with."

After a short pause, Tink's voice sounded again over the comms. "Yes, John. Diagnosan Tikrel would like to be there. Where are we to go?"

Aeryn said, "Are you in your quarters?"

"Yes, Aerynsun."

"It's on our way. We'll pick you up."

"Thank you, Aerynsun. John. We will be ready."

***

The first thing they saw when they came through the door was a very nervous Koraj Garn sitting at the table in the middle of the room, a very protective Corporal Kreetaq standing behind him. Not for the first time, John wondered about their relationship to each other, but he was not going to pry.

"Koraj! Kreetaq! How's it hangin'?" He almost laughed at the look the two Qujagans exchanged at his no-doubt unfamiliar greeting. Aeryn shook her head as she followed him into the room, followed in turn by Diagnosan Tikrel and Tinkerbell.

Garn started to rise from his position at the table, but John waved him back down. "No need to get up." Saying this, he took a chair across from Garn, flipped it around, and straddled it, resting his arms on the back of the chair.

"You guys have met Aeryn, of course." Gesturing to Tikrel and Tink, he continued, "This is Diagnosan Tikrel and his assistant, Tink." He winked at Tink as he said it.

The two big-headed aliens nodded greetings to the tall and small aliens in turn. Aeryn sat in the chair next to John, although she did not follow suit in rearranging the furniture. Tinkerbell landed lightly on the table and sat in a position that John thought of as "Indian-style," folding her wings neatly along her back. The Diagnosan, like the Qujagan corporal, remained standing.

"So, what's up, Koraj? Talk to me." John said.

Garn cleared his throat before beginning, "We have determined that it would be detrimental to your offspring's health for it to be surgically removed from your body, John."

"Detrimental in what way?" Aeryn asked. She had beat John to the punch - he had hoped, since they could not go the neutralization/reintegration route again, that they would instead surgically remove the baby from him and implant it in Aeryn.

"The process of reconstitution in tissue so undeveloped has caused complications at the cellular level. Your offspring has a greater chance of survival if carried to term and birthed naturally, but if we try to remove it before it is mature, it will cause cellular degeneration. It is unlikely that the offspring would survive."

"Natural childbirth? There ain't nothing natural about me giving birth! I don't even think it's possible - I don't have the right equipment."

Diagnosan Tikrel said something then to Tinkerbell, who in turn addressed Koraj Garn. "Diagnosan Tikrel has asked if the child could be surgically removed once it is mature? It seems that the child's physical maturity may be the key to avoiding cellular degeneration?"

The Qujagan looked at the tiny Paakrit seated on the table as if he were surprised that she could speak. "The physical maturity of the offspring is essential, however, it may not be the only factor."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Wait a minute! You mean I'm gonna have to spend another, what, six months-monens-or so in this water park?"

"The Sebacean gestation period is approximately ten monens-"

John cut off the rest of what Garn had to say. "Yeah, and the Human gestation period is nine monens, so either way that means at least another six, right?"

"Yes..."

"That's too long. We got places to go, people to meet, things to see." He looked over at Aeryn, to see how she was taking this bit of news. She did not return his look, her eyes remaining fixed on Garn.

"Is there some safe way we could speed this up?" he asked, hopefully.

Tikrel said something else. "There may be a way," Tink translated. "Koraj Garn, may Diagnosan Tikrel have access to your records on John?"

"Of course," Garn replied. He removed a crystal from a pouch, handing it to the Diagnosan. "This data crystal contains a copy of all the information and notes from our research."

Tikrel accepted the crystal and spoke once again to Tink. When he was finished speaking, he turned and left the room.

"Diagnosan Tikrel will compare your notes and observations to his own as well as to the bioscan that we just completed, John. He said he should know something in a few arns."

"What's a few arns compared to six monens?" He turned to Garn and Kreetaq. "Is that it? Any more news? No? Well, you guys want to stick around for a few or do you have to get back to the office?"

The way the Qujagans looked at each other, John knew they must be discussing their options. After a few microts, Garn said, "We will return to our unit, John. We hope that the Diagnosan will indeed come up with something."

***

"Sschi'itakhra, please transfer the results of the fetal bioscan to the diagnosticomp." Diagnosan Tikrel was quickly typing his notes from his one-on-one session with John Crichton into the portable diagnostic computer. For the thousandth time he wished he had some information regarding normal Human physiology - he was not comfortable correlating everything to Sebaceans and Interions, but it was currently the best he could do. "When you're finished with that, start downloading the data from the Qujagan data crystal."

"Yes, Diagnosan Tikrel." The Paakrit, entirely green at the moment, was apparently already working on the transfers. Not surprising.

"Pilot?" The newly learned fact that Pilot spoke Diagnosan made Tikrel's life so much more...efficient.

"Yes, Diagnosan?"

"Would you be so kind as to search your data stores for any information you may have on Human physiology? I have access to no information of my own."

"Certainly, Diagnosan. I do have data from a previous scan done about a cycle ago on Commander Crichton himself, although it is not necessarily normal..."

Tikrel stopped typing. "Not normal? In what way?"

"Crichton had a severe head injury at the time."

"Ah. The rest of his systems should have been functioning in a relatively normal fashion, though. Good. That may help."

"I also downloaded some general medical information on Humans not long ago from the Commander's home planet."

"Perfect! If you would be so kind as to give my assistant access to this information...?"

Three hundred microts or so later, Tikrel heard a squeak from behind him, in the general vicinity of Sschi'itakhra. He stopped typing, but before he could ask her what was wrong, he was interrupted by the voice of the Leviathan's pilot. "The download of information from Moya's system to your own has been completed, Diagnosan Tikrel."

"Thank you, Pilot. Yes, Sschi'itakhra? What is it?"

"I do not know if it is important, but it appears that both John and the fetus are missing a specific protein sequence that is present in Aerynsun. It is not a sequence that is normally present in Sebacean physiology, but it is present in Pilot physiology." Her carapace began fading into a pinkish purple as she continued, "I am so sorry, Diagnosan, but I do not know what the protein is called."

"Irrelevant that the moment, child. I wonder, is it present in Qujagan DNA?"

"I do not know, Diagnosan."

Tikrel approached Sschi'itakhra's workstation. "Curious. Aeryn Sun possesses Pilot DNA, but Crichton does not. Their offspring possesses what appears to be Pilot DNA, but that DNA does not possess one particular protein that it should. The DNA structure of the Pilot race normally contains this protein sequence and so may the structure of the Qujagans, but Humans and Sebaceans as a rule do not. Perhaps the missing protein is the key..." The Diagnosan's thoughts whirled as he continued to scan through the relative wealth of information gleaned from the Leviathan's data stores.

***

Aeryn stalked her way around the chamber in which the Qujagans had politely asked her to wait - keeping her out of the way, she supposed, while they worked with Tikrel and Tink on fixing what they had so thoroughly frelled. She hated feeling so helpless. There was literally nothing she could do, in this instance, to direct her own fate beyond taking some sort of drastic measures that would help no one and accomplish nothing. In kinship with her Luxan friend, she wished she could just shoot something. Or, if she were Chiana, she might simply vent her frustration and worry with a scream. Worry was another feeling she hated. It was an alien emotion that she would not be experiencing now if Garn had not mentioned their child dying from cellular degeneration.

She wished now that she had not volunteered to pilot the transport for the Diagnosan and his assistant. John had elected to remain aboard Moya - something about not wanting to be a...guinea pig?...any longer. The two healers had packed along several data crystals filled with information on Humans in general and John Crichton in particular, making his presence redundant.

She paused at the sound of the door opening, whirling to meet whoever had opened it. Brushing long black hair out of her eyes, she saw little Tink hovering at eye level in the middle of the doorway.

"Aerynsun," the Paakrit began.

"Just Aeryn."

"Diagnosan Tikrel and Koraj Garn wish to see you."

"Wonderful. Is that good or bad?"

Tink cocked her currently yellow-green head to one side as a fresh whiff of sweet spices drifted to Aeryn from the open door. "It is neither, Aeryn. They need some information about you and need to perform a bioscan." She paused before continuing, after looking over her shoulders to see if anyone in the room beyond might be listening. "I believe they are coming close to a workable treatment for John, though, and that is why they need this new scan."

The Diagnosan's assistant turned, then, and flew back to her station on Tikrel's shoulder. Aeryn followed her into the room. The door closed automatically as she left the motion sensing field and approached the old Diagnosan.

Koraj Garn addressed Aeryn from his workstation. "We need a new bioscan of you to compare with that which was taken immediately following your reintegration."

Aeryn looked over to Garn and then back to Tikrel and the still-incongruous sight of Tink seated on his left shoulder, taking notes. "Why?" she asked. She was leery of submitting to any type of examination after the last few she had undergone.

Apparently recognizing her reticence, if not the reasons for it, the Diagnosan answered here directly, rather than going through Tink for a translation. "I must...determine...how the trace...amounts of a...protein found in...your DNA...during the initial scan...compare to that...which exists in...your DNA currently."

"And this will help how?"

"It's presence...or absence will...determine a course...of treatment."

She appreciated that he felt strongly enough about it to address her directly. "What do you want me to do?"

"Please, Aeryn, lay here on the scanning platform," Tink said, flying from Tikrel's shoulder to what appeared to be the very platform Aeryn had been strapped to a few weekens before. The Paakrit sounded apologetic, but her carapace was still the green color that Aeryn associated with efficiency. "The Qujagan bioscanner is similar to the one on Moya, so you should not be surprised by anything."

Aeryn positioned herself on the platform - this time, however, she was not strapped down. She held herself still as a device lowered from the ceiling and moved over her from head to toe. It hummed and emitted some sort of radiation that made her skin tingle where it was not covered by her leathers. The scan did not take long - only a hundred microts or so - and when it was complete, the device moved back up into the ceiling.

Tikrel said something to Tink, to which she replied in the Diagnosan's language. The Paakrit then turned to Garn and said, "Diagnosan Tikrel would like you to run a direct comparison of the genetic signatures of Aeryn Sun, John Crichton, and their offspring, please, Koraj Garn." Aeryn was amused to hear that Tink was being very careful to enunciate both names, rather than running them together into one word.

Garn moved away from the platform toward a keyboard and screen on the wall opposite the door. Aeryn sat up and swung her legs over the side of the platform, curious as to what the scan showed about her DNA in relation to the baby. She had no intention of leaving the room again short of at the end of a pulse pistol.

Only a few microts later, Garn said to Tikrel, "The protein sequence is missing in both John Crichton's and the fetus' genetic signatures, but it is present in Officer Sun's. I have compared these against the genetic signature of Moya's Pilot - the protein sequence is present in his DNA." He paused for a moment, reading something from his screen, then continued, "There is much of Pilot DNA found in the genetic signatures of both Officer Sun and the fetus. The only thing missing from the fetal DNA is that one protein sequence."

Tikrel nodded and said something which Tink translated, "Diagnosan Tikrel says that is as he suspected. It is his understanding that this protein sequence is also found in trace amounts in your planet's oceans?"

"Yes. Yes, it is. It is found in all of our oceans, but it is there in abundance in the Joluquen Sea. I take it this is significant?"

"Diagnosan Tikrel believes that if the protein sequence can be introduced into John and Aeryn's baby, and can be made to replicate in the baby's cells, the..." Tink's voice trailed off as she looked to the Diagnosan. "Could you repeat for me please, Diagnosan? I do not recognize the word that you used." Aeryn watched as the little assistant faded to a light shade of purple.

Tikrel apparently answered Tink's. "Ah. Thank you," she replied. Then, turning to Aeryn and Garn, who had returned to the platform, "We could turn off the mechanism in the baby's cells that is causing apoptosis." The last word was said very slowly as she made sure she pronounced it correctly.

"Apop what? What is that?" Aeryn asked. Whatever it meant, it did not sound good.

"It means programmed cell death. When a cell's particular function is completed and there is no longer a use for it, it dies. Diagnosan Tikrel has discovered that something in your baby's DNA - or, rather, something it lacks - is causing this to happen. He believes that it can be reversed if we can introduce a specific protein into the baby's DNA."

"And that protein is found in the sea in which Moya floats?"

"Yes."

Aeryn held up a hand as Tink began to launch into a typically enthusiastic explanation of what the protein would do when introduced into her child's DNA. "I do not need to know how it works. Will it work?"

"If Diagnosan Tikrel and Koraj Garn can introduce it into the DNA strands on a permanent basis, then yes, I believe it will."

***

"Rubber ducky, you're the one - you're the one makes bath time fun," John sang as he splashed about in his warm seawater bath. Too bad he did not actually have a rubber ducky. Maybe he could have squirted Aeryn to stop her from rolling her eyes at him as he sang.

"You are so..." she began, shaking her head.

"What?"

"Odd."

He laughed out loud when Tink interjected, "What is a ... 'rubber interruptions, as much as I am able."

"Sure, Tink." He and Aeryn sat. "What do you have for us, Doc?"

The Diagnosan's oddly trilling voice came to them through the ventilation mask, Tink translating continuously. As Tikrel spoke through Tink, John found himself occasionally forgetting she was there - something he would have previously thought impossible. None of the Paakrit's speech patterns came through as she translated. It all seemed more or less like a medical consultation would have back on Earth, with only the two of them and a Human doctor in the room.

"The procedure we are going to use is called electro-osmosis. The key is the Joluquen Sea in which your ship is floating. Through this process, using magnetic beads which the Qujagans are providing and running electrical current directly through seawater to the fetus, the protein molecules will be transferred osmotically through a silicon base."

"You can do that? How?" John felt like he was missing something. "I can understand how the protein can be absorbed by the baby, I guess, but how does it get into the cellular structure? Isn't this protein supposed to be something the cells should produce on their own?"

"Indeed, yes, they should be producing it automatically. The fact that they are not is what is causing the instability in the replicating cells. Were it not for the presence of the Pilot DNA in the fetus, in this particular case defective DNA, the fetus would be stable and could be transferred surgically to you," he gestured to Aeryn, "Officer Sun."

"So the presence of Pilot's DNA in our baby is what caused the problem with the reintegration process?" Aeryn asked.

"Not so much his DNA as the fact that, in the fetus, it is missing that key protein to regulate its function." Tikrel paused. "May I ask how your pilot's DNA came to be present in your genetic signature, Officer Sun. It is most unusual."

"I...was an unwilling test subject a few cycles ago."

"It's a very long story, Doc. Maybe we could go into it later." John did not want to cut off the Diagnosan, but he was anxious to get this all over with. While he knew it would not happen that day, he still wanted to move more quickly to the solution.

"In answer to your earlier question, Commander Crichton, the protein will be introduced into the fetal tissue by way of silicon-coated micro fibers. It will travel along medium, pulled by the magnetic beads upon the introduction of electrical current. Once I am sure that process is working, I will microsurgically implant the protein into the appropriate site in the fetus' chromosomal DNA originating from Officer Sun."

"Okay, this is getting a little too technical." John thought Aeryn's eyes looked like they might be starting to glaze over.

Tikrel emitted a sound that was suspiciously like a laugh which Tink did not bother to translate. Then he said, "The electro-osmosis will not take long and will be more or less a simple bath, as far as you will be concerned. After that, the microsurgery may take several arns."

"When the microsurgery is over, will the baby's cells be replicating the protein on their own?"

"That is the hope."

"Once the cells are producing on their own, can the baby be transferred to Aeryn?"

"Although I believe the cells will be producing the protein on their own, they will not necessarily become stable enough to allow a surgical transfer. There are other issues involved, considering the presence of three distinct and separate species in the fetus' DNA. It would be safest, even if it were possible, for you to carry the child to term, Commander."

John sighed, resigning himself to being the first man in the history of the human race to actually have a baby himself. Arnold Schwarzenegger in that silly movie - Junior? - did not count.

***

The door to the medical facilities opened and DRD One Eye trundled through, followed by Chiana holding the other end of what looked like a leash attached to the DRD. The sight was enough for Aeryn to stop polishing her boot and say, "Does D'Argo know you have that?"

"Have what?" Chiana's still-blind eyes widened as she realized what Aeryn was referring to. "This?" She jiggled the end of the strap she was holding, which she had snurched from D'Argo's things. It was actually the strap he used to hold his Qualta blade scabbard to his back, but she had wanted a little more independence and so had hooked it up to a DRD instead. "He never uses it, at least, not for his Qualta blade." She laughed her breathy little laugh. "How is John?"

Aeryn shook her head, glad enough to have the Nebari invade her solitude and help take her mind off the microsurgery being performed in the next room. "The surgery has begun, but we won't know anything for a few arns, yet."

"You gonna shoot Tikrel if it doesn't work?" Chiana was looking at the table between her and Aeryn, at roughly the spot in which Aeryn's pulse rifle lay, awaiting field-stripping and maintenance. The ex-Peacekeeper could not help but look more closely at the other woman's eyes to make sure they were still the white that seemed to indicate her blindness.

"How can you possibly know that I have a weapon here?"

Chiana laughed. "You don't do anything without having a weapon nearby. Besides, I could smell the Chakkan oil." After a pause, she asked, "Are you?"

"Am I what?"

"Going to shoot him."

"No, Chiana, I am not going to shoot him. I merely have my rifle here to perform long-overdue maintenance on it." She blew a wayward strand of hair from over her eye. "I must do something while I wait - it may as well be useful."

"Well, I don't really have anything to talk about, Aeryn, so I'll go. I just wanted to, you know, check in on John." She pulled on the "leash" and One-Eye turned around to lead her back out the door.

Aeryn stopped her before she could leave. "Chiana..."

Chi turned. "Yeah, Aeryn?"

"May I ask you something?"

"Sure. But, I may not answer..." She smiled as she said it.

"D'Argo told us that Tikrel had suggested a course of treatment that he felt would ... cure ... your blindness." When Chiana said nothing, she continued, "Why have you chosen to do nothing?"

It took a handful of microts before Chiana said, "What do you care?"

Aeryn was surprised at the question, or rather at the almost belligerent tone of it. "I consider you my friend, Chiana. I simply want to understand why you would not do what was necessary to regain your sight."

The Nebari relaxed. "Sorry, Aeryn. I didn't mean to sound so... Tikrel said he could alter my optic nerves and the way they interact with the rest of my brain. I just don't want to have my head cut open." She shrugged. "I dunno. D'Argo's been after me to do it, since Tikrel and Tink will be with us for a while, but... I guess I'm just...scared."

"More scared of that than of being blind?"

"Maybe." A shadow crossed Chiana's face. "There are worse things than being blind." Perhaps to forestall another question, she said, "See ya, Aeryn," and practically ran from the room.

Prepared to wait for several arns, if need be, for John to come out of surgery, Aeryn returned to polishing her boots.

***

"Damn." John said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He and Aeryn were back in their quarters following the osmotic bath. "Tikrel's drugs have been working so well, I almost forgot about the frelling morning sickness. At least I should be out of that stage soon..."

"Perhaps next time you will not forget to take them." Aeryn tried to keep any sign of amusement or smugness out of her tone, deciding that he might not appreciate any levity at the moment. She was surprised sometimes that she found any amusement at all in the situation - she supposed that was just one of the ways John and the others had changed her in the cycles since she had come aboard Moya. In fact, she was not certain why she found John's morning sickness at all humorous, unless it was simply that, as John himself would say, she had "dodged the bullet."

John sat down on the floor, leaned back against the wall and pulled her in to sit nestled between his legs. Once situated, he put his arms around her and she leaned her head into his shoulder. This would always be one of her favorite things, being held this way.

"Are you okay with this, Aeryn? Me being the one to bring the baby to term, I mean?"

She felt the rumble of his words against her back and shoulders and the warmth of his breath in her hair. Reveling in the feelings, she did not answer right away.

"Aeryn?"

She gave his arms a squeeze while she marshaled her thoughts. When she spoke, an image of her mother, hard and battle-scarred, would not leave her mind.

"John, I had no expectation of ever having a child." She closed her eyes. "Service, promotion, retirement, death. Remember?"

"Yeah, I remember." He brushed his lips against her hair. "I also remember how hard you fought for this baby to even exist."

"No matter who gives birth to her, I will always be her mother and you her father. Nothing can change that."

"What makes you so sure it's gonna be a girl? It could just as easily be a boy." He paused for a moment, as though something had just occurred to him. "Peacekeepers don't have some way to, uh...I don't know, predetermine something like that, do they?"

She laughed. "No, John. Well, perhaps they do, but I simply have a feeling that we will have a daughter." She brought one of his hands up to her lips. "If there were some way I could spare you the discomfort..."

Now it was his turn to laugh. The feel of that laugh surrounding her made her smile. "Usually, it's the guy who says that. Well, the ones who aren't jerks, anyway. I guess we'll just have to see how this whole thing plays out."

She twisted around a bit to look into his eyes. "I love you, John Crichton."

His response was to tighten his arms around her and kiss her, which was what she wanted, anyway.

***

It seemed like she had been pacing forever - how long was this going to frelling take? - when she ran into what felt like a stone wall. She looked at the obstacle and realized that it was D'Argo.

"Sorry," they said, simultaneously.

"Will you two stop pacing?" Chiana asked in an exasperated tone, "You're driving me fahrbot!"

"You were already fahrbot," Rygel chimed in, hovering nearer the ceiling to stay out of their way. "What are you so nervous about, anyway, Aeryn? I've had thousands of progeny - there's nothing to it."

"I could make you something to help you stop pacing," Noranti offered. "No, actually, I can't. Never mind." She waved her hands, Aeryn supposed to indicate that they should resume their interrupted pacing. She and D'Argo both shook their heads and did just that, careful not to cross paths again.

A quarter arn later, the door from the hallway to the medical facility opened behind her, causing her heart to stop for a microt.

"Aeryn?"

Tink's voice behind her sounded excited. Aeryn Sun whirled around so fast her hair smacked Stark - who had been begun pacing in synch with her a few microts ago - in the face, tangling in his mask. She shot him a dark look and yanked her hair free.

"John?"

"John is fine. He wants to see you."

"The baby?"

"You have a beautiful baby girl, Aerynsun." The little Paakrit was almost glowing, she was such a bright yellow. "Please come in to meet her."

Aeryn took a deep breath and entered the room where Diagnosan Tikrel had just finished surgically delivering their child. She was not sure if she should be glad that she - as well as the others - had been barred from the room during surgery or if she should feel cheated that she had not been allowed to witness the birth of their first child.

"Aeryn, baby, lookey what we made." She had never heard such a sweet sound in her life as John's voice drifted to her from the bed. He sounded a little bit groggy from the anesthetic Tikrel had used. She looked over at him and the tiny little being lying in the crook of his arm, wrapped snuggly in one of Moya's shimmering coverlets.

She approached her mate and their child, not even noticing Tikrel replacing his mask in the background or Tink leaving the room to join the others out in the hall. Aeryn's attention was totally consumed by the pair in front of her. She reached out a tentative hand to touch her daughter, but, suddenly shy, she let it fall back to her side as her eyes met John's.

"Go ahead, Aeryn. You won't break her. She's your daughter, for crying out loud, she's one tough chick."

Breaking into a smile, she reached out and gently, carefully lifted her daughter, cradling her in her arms. "You will never be alone, little one. You will always be surrounded by those who love you."

The End

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Morning Sickness

Story by SabaceanBabe

Timeline placement: right after Bad Timing (4.22) (therefore spoilers)

Disclaimer: The Farscape universe, and all that is in it, is not mine, but rather belongs to the Jim Henson Company. This is a work of fiction based in that universe and is a merely an attempt at catharsis following the gut-wrenching season 4 finale. No copyright infringement is intended and no money has been or will be collected.

Address for feedback: karenburkey@hotmail.com

 
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