"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
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
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
"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
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
"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.
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
"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."
"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
"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
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
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
"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.
"Do you have...a scanner? I...must scan...John Crichton to complete...my
"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
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.
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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,
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.
"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
"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
"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?"
"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?"
"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
"Is there some safe way we could speed this up?" he asked,
Tikrel said something else. "There may be a way," Tink translated.
"Koraj Garn, may Diagnosan Tikrel have access to your records
"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.
"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
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
"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.
"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
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
"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
"And that protein is found in the sea in which Moya floats?"
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.
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
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
"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
"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,
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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.
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
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,
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
"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.
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 is fine. He wants to see you."
"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
"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
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."
Return to the fiction page
Timeline placement: right after Bad Timing (4.22)
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.
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