Chapter 3 - Countdown

"You are trespassing interspatial territory." The comm message repeated on Moya's viewer screen. Rygel's face glistened, eyes strained. He felt his three stomachs gurgle, taking on this threat.

"I represent this vessel and all aboard. I am Rygel the sixteenth, Domineer of over six-hundred billion subjects. Show me your leader." Rygel hovered in his floating throne, hoping negotiations would commence. Besides, Commander Mele-On Grayza should not have dispersed the wanted beacons this far into the Uncharted Territories.

"You are trespassing interspatial territory. Flee now or be destroyed in 600 microts, counting down now. 558...554."

"Mippippippi 553, Mippippippi 552," Rygel said, mocking the countdown. "Pilot! wake Crichton and that...that Sikozu. I need them here, now. There's trouble!"

***

Commander John Crichton, who had reunited with his friends months ago, jumped from his bed, then sprinted to Command Control and found Rygel had left a distinct aroma of his helium gas. Sikozu followed quickly behind.

"Okay," John said, voice high pitched from the helium, "what's cookin' here? Ohhh, Sparky, did you fart again?" John's brow wrinkled, fanning the stench from his nose.

"Rygel," Sikozu said with a tiny voice, flailing her arms to clear the fumes. "This negative gaseous response must cease. One day you'll have us blown to bits."

"This is serious." Rygel said, "They won't listen to me. We have to starburst out of here or there won't be a chance for my helium to blow us up, but they will."

John saw the small blue, green sphere displaying it's polygon shaped satellites blinking red lasers, targeting Moya's outer shell, apparently weapons. The countdown continued on the comm:

"101...100...99..."

"Pilot!" John turned to the clamshell and saw the multi-task navigator appear, their mediator between Moya and the crew. "What happened?"

Pilot's shelled head swayed, his brow, like ridges, crinkled together. "Commander, it is as the Domineer explained. Moya is very worried and would like to starburst immediately. She wishes not to die."

"Tell her to stay put. We'll figure something out." John had to precaution Pilot and Moya because, if safety dictated, having a mind of their own, they would indeed starburst before you could say Scaramouch!

They needed a commerce planet for food, clothes, and other supplies they could purchase. This planet appeared to be one. John had to take a chance at this or they'd starve to death.

The comm continued, "You are trespassing interspatial territory..."

Rygel ears flopped down, "They won't listen to me."

"Okay, Sparky, let's give this a whirl." John braced himself at the controls. "Pilot, put us through their main systems communications."

Pilot acknowledged, "I will try." More seconds passed.

John drummed his fingers on the console, hoping Pilot would hurry. "Pilot, Pilot, come on or we'll be toast!" John said at a murmur. They had less than minute, not enough time to starburst.

Finally, Pilot appeared, "You may proceed, Commander. Please do not cause our demise."

John smiled, "I won't.

"If anybody hears me out there, I'm John Crichton. We mean no harm. We are not Peacekeepers. All we want is some groceries, toilet paper, handi-wipes, Kentucky Fried Chicken, you know."

The satellites, spiraled to display a green light, kept counting: "7...6...5." Then it stopped.

Pilot appeared on the clamshell, "I have a transmission!" Suddenly another voice came through the comm, then the critter appeared on Pilot's viewer shell. A fragile creature, mustard colored with three bug-like eyes spoke in a sing-song manner. To John, it sounded like a receptionist.

"Your message has been received. We apologize for our abruptness. Our security only serves as protection. Will you forgive us?"

"Well, yeah. Sure." John looked at Rygel incredulously.

"Will you be gracious to hold for a moment while our Regent responds?"

"Gladly!"

"Thank you for your kindness." The screen went blank.

"Apparently," Sikozu crossed her arms, "You, Crichton, are the cause of this turmoil. You have risked our lives to satisfy your gambling ego."

John grinned, this over-educated, self-reliant red-headed female was sounding like Aeryn. Sputnik he nicknamed her or spitfire, whichever suited, always negated him every turn. Miss Spitfire stood with arms akimbo and head tilted.

John swaggered toward her until he stood one foot away. "I've saved everybody's butt again. Be satisfied." Sikozu opened her mouth, "Shut-up." He put his fingers on her lips, "Don't say a word." He turned away from her. "Now it looks like they're taking a little while, so let's wake D'Argo and Chiana--"

Before he finished, D'Argo came, pulsed and ready for a fight. His friend with many tentacles for hair stood, towering over John.

"Trouble?" D'Argo asked, his base-sounding voice.

"Not anymore." John explained their situation as Chiana entered. Then he rehashed the story to her. "Now all we need is a call back from the planet."

John glanced at Chiana doing her head dance, and he presumed she was assessing all that transpired. The gray girl leaned against a comm station, giggled. "It'll take a whole planet to feed us. Food...finally."

D'Argo crossed his arms, "John, this could be a trap."

"Yeah," John nodded, "I thought of that, but...hey, two out of three, we'll beat the odds. We've got to stay alive and find Aeryn. Right?"

"Then what's your plan?"

"Wait for their replay, then we act. Is everybody cool with that?"

Sikozu narrowed her eyes, "Not until you tell us what it is. Then I'll let you know. I may have a few myself."

"I bet you do." John didn't care if she heard him or not. "What about Grandma, is she okay?"

Chiana looked guilty, head swaying, she looked up. John cocked his head, mocking her swaying.

"Well?" John asked.

"She was cooking something...truffles and fell asleep on the floor." Chiana's arms went up, "She looked so comfortable I let her lay on the floor. Besides, there wasn't anything edible she was cooking with."

"Maybe that's why she's sleeping. No voodoo dust to spice the sauce. Remind me to add that to the list." They laughed with John.

***

"Commander," Pilot appeared again. "The transmission is reactivated." The viewer burst to life with garrulous colors and a man, appearing Sebacian, smiled. His gold tunic sparkled with small studded crystals or diamonds, John thought, decorating the top--what a rich fat cat.

"Greetings from us, the Planet Yontur, it is a pleasure to have you." The rich guy raised his arms, displaying even more of the loud tunic, "I am the Regent Mo-tan-nish-no. We are glad you received our invitation finally. We had thought you would never come since there has been no response. Will you do us the honor to visit our humble world? We are communing with others from worlds afar and are privileged to have you come also. So privileged until our hearts burst with joy."

John turned to D'Argo and wanted to snicker, "What is up with this guy? This has got be the best gilded trap I know of."

"Ask why." D'Argo said.

"Your Regent," John wanted to scream, laugh, howl, something. This was on the border of ridiculous. John and his friends were fugitives, outlaws, and the Regent was honored by them? "Why do you feel privileged at our arrival?"

"We have searched for you almost a cycle to procure an invitation to this great event, which actually revolves around you. Each time we would locate you, we would always meet with news of your departure dozens of solar days after our arrival. It had become hopeless. And, yet, here you are."

"Why do you want us here?"

"Why? Oh my, it is because of all that you have done against the Peacekeepers. We hold them in great fear and distrust. We wish our galaxy to be free of their tyranny and folly. Did you know they wish to treaty with the Scarrans?"

"I've had a little history on that. But the Peacekeepers joining them? No."

"Our people have indicated this forthcoming news. Can you imagine answering to two, instead of one, tyrannical governmental rule? Both seemingly to annihilate us. Well, if you allow, we must commune later on this. But let me enlighten you on our gratification whilst we comm.

"You, Commander John Crichton, and your friends, are legendary here in the Uncharted Territories. For you have destroyed a Gammack base, which is astronomical. And you have crushed the depository, a feat beyond many. However amazing, you didn't stop there. No, you actually demolished a complete command carrier, the power structure of their military, and even preserved many lives in your attack. Such a merciful act from such a powerful foe. Even so, you had no legions or fleets to carry out your mission. Inconceivable. Whilst in contrast, it would have taken us just that and more. You and your friends are in our highest regards. You are legendary beyond all others in this galaxy."

Legendary? John stared into the clamshell, shocked. It was all about survival, protecting each other from a relentless and formidable nemesis. Those acts were inevitable, forced, not planned like the strategies of war, or politics of vying nations. All John wanted was peace, a life with Aeryn, to raise their kid, and a simple planet to live on. Not this commando crap!

"Please do not consider our satellites an offense," the Regent continued, "but a defense to protect you while you are here on Yontur. We have them designated to not allow any hostiles. Please accept our invitation with no hesitance."

"Regent, give us about a quarter of an arn, okay?" John asked. The rich guy nodded, and patiently waited in mute. "Okay, guys lets go with this. How about it?"

They were either thinking quietly or sleepy. John couldn't figure which, but he wanted to get this over with. "Look, I'm going down there by myself whether anyone agrees or not. Is that clear?"

D'Argo nodded, "Then I'll go with you."

"Okay," John said, "Rygel, Chiana stay with Granny, and Sikozu you come with us." Chiana stepped forward.

"You promised."

"Not this time, Pip, it's Sputnik's turn." He touched Chiana's cheek, "Mmm, mmm good, remember food?" John rubbed his belly, she pouted.

"Frell, it'd better be next time when I go." Chiana pointed at Sikozu, "If you frell up, you'll be a bucket of dren when I get through with you."

John noticed Pip's eyes sparkle with welled tears and wished he could take her along.

Sikozu heightened her chin, "I never frell anything up," she said.

"Yeah, like crash landing on Elack, destroying all my wormhole notes," John said, murmuring. He saw Sikozu's discontentment and turned to the viewer to begin preparations for landing with the Regent. He was weary, hungry, spent, and wanted to complete this little escapade to continue his search for Aeryn, a higher priority than restoring wormhole equations, previously destroyed by yours truly.

"And of course, you wish me to stay and negotiate." Rygel said. "In case there is a need. Correct?"

"You bet your sweet bippy I do!"

***

John got a full tour by the Regent's overseer, Palimous the third, a very high station claimed by the guide. John was taken to view the cylinder skyscrapers, reaching doubly high as the Sears tower. Some of the achromatic structures were halved edifices many concave, others convex. Majestic.

They traveled in an automated mobile that could go aerial and sub terrain. John and Sikozu witnessed a variety of teaching institutions for children and adults in huge complexes. Though dissimilar to Earth's way of doing things, the basic principles applied, the more education, the better chance to upscale in society. They thrived on learning institutions, economics, industries, even agriculture. The planet teamed with life, everywhere, flora, hexapods, arachnids, arthropods, ephemera, especially on the windshield--bug juice. John chuckled, relaxed in his seat with Sikozu. He liked it here. It was more like his home, Earth, than any other planet he'd visited on this side of the galaxy.

Previously, John arranged with D'Argo to keep track of their trail and stay hidden behind by the cloaking apparatus of his Luxen ship. D'Argo kept their movements on scan from the stratosphere, as the mobile that carried John and Sikozu moved above and below the planet's surface.

They finally arrived. John, with Sikozu following, exited the mobile. The overseer, taller than John, with a long face like a mule like Jughead, led them to a large tarmac field with aircraft departing, landing, hovering, all in a conglomerate.

Palimous the third, gracefully gestured to the airfield. "We have had many newcomers due to a vicious attack targeting our planetary neighbors. We have provided solitude."

"Very commendable of your people, Palimous," Sikozu said with a fresh smile.

She had a way with her salmon hair and iridescent skin. Yep, John thought she was charming when she wanted to be.

"Our Regent desired me to introduce you to our new recruits, eight of them to be exact," the overseer said. "Since most have been delayed, we still have a couple of them. They should arrive about now. Will you follow me to the hanger?"

***

"Ahh, here they come!" Palimous rushed ahead inside a huge hanger, maybe a half mile long, to greet the two coming. John couldn't see who they were, but he straggled behind.

At least he could see the jets screaming overhead before they entered. Many fighter crafts had strange markings, alien to John's eye, but others were prowlers. Their advanced technology marveled him. He stared at their diamond formation, like a child's first sighting of the magical U.S. Navy Blue Angels. They were banked in rows of twelve. Beautiful. John put his hand on the small of Sikozu's back to hurry her along. They were dragging too far behind.

Sikozu gasped at the great machines, dozens lined, ready for flight inside the hanger. "This is wonderfully efficient. I would love to get my hands on one of those."

"Yeah, you can fly anything," John grinned, looking at her. "Like riding a bike, once you learn, you never forget." The breeze felt nippy on this planet and swirled into the huge hanger. John was glad he wore his black leather coat. He thought he was imagining things. To John's left was a shadow that hastily sprinted behind a fighter's wheel, probably a mechanic or technician. He shrugged away his suspicions but still felt rattlers in his stomach.

Still catching up, John heard Palimous's voice and looked up to be introduced. John stopped, abruptly, causing Sikozu to bump into him. Heat flashed through his body, face flushed, heart palpating when he saw her, in an all black flight suit, sleek, and lustrous ivory skin. She was radiant while she stood erect with helmet in hand and hair loose, face flint like an eagle, he then noticed, soften.

Aeryn!

To hold you after all this time.

Their eyes locked. Memories flooded John's senses--the feather-light scent of her skin, her large gray orbs, innocent, yet war torn that always reflected clarity, sincerity of how she felt. He felt his groin ache, his knees buckle.

Oh God, Aeryn, my radient Sun!

John hoped no one noticed his angst for her. He didn't trust the regent, the overseer, nor the situation. He had learned the hard way many times before, making life-threatening mistakes. Clint Eastwood, help me here, need your stoicism. He purposely scowled to appear like his movie idol, hard, unfeeling, coiled for action and braced his legs in a straddle to keep from falling.

John wasn't sure about his surroundings and scanned the perimeters, which he was thankful for, it made him look busy. He felt the rattlers in his stomach increase overtime, maybe because of Aeryn. He scanned for any other followers or anyone hiding waiting to pounce them. He saw another shadow. Then he pushed his coat over to expose Wanona strapped on his right thigh, and his fingers fidgeted over the pistol.

***

Frell the human, Aeryn mused. It took fate long enough to return John to her. Aeryn perused the crimson-hair beauty with golden skin, flanked to John's right in contrast to his light brown, well trimmed hair with pink skin. She purposely constrained her disdain. A female replacement of herself, most likely.

Despite Aeryn's Peacekeeper upbringing to be emotionally detached, she felt her heart tug. It wasn't an opportune time to become invidious. She was overreacting as if he were "her John."

Aeryn's muscles tensed, she haughtedly lifted her chin. Strange how she believed he was useless, stupid, a lesser species, when there he stood towering over her, strong, masculine, and fit for use. His shoulders spanned, like the wings of her prowler. Then her eyes perused down his torso, lower. His hips were slender in the tight black leathers that exposed his virility. She closed her eyes to turn away and opened them again to focus elsewhere. Only a few monens ago, she had found him asphyxiated, near his last breath. Now, she felt his warmth, his heat.

Her resolve was weakening. She wasn't nearly as strong as their first reunion on Moya after her John's death. She couldn't grieve like any normal Peacekeeper. If grieving was the correct word. No, it was too Earth oriented. Detach was more appropriate for her.

There wasn't any room to forget her John's face when this present John stood directly in front of her still alive, still powerful, still as beautiful.

John seemed agitated and flapped his ebony coat back to expose Wanona, his beloved pistol. His fingers rested near the release clip, then fidgeted. His face was flushed, poised for action. She hoped he would calm down.

Palimous began introductions, "Commander John Crichton, this is one of our most excellent flyers, Officer Aeryn Sun. She has already flown four missions with successful results. How many of the enemy crafts did you destroy?"

"A significant amount, sir. Over thirty-five." Aeryn said.

"Commander John Crichton," Palimous pointed to her, "Officer Aeryn Sun."

"My pleasure, Officer." John said, softly and extended his hand to her. She grasped it and felt his grip tighten and his pulse quicken. She noticed Palimous witnessing this human's alien custom of greeting with a raised brow. To make things more embarrassing, John didn't let go for such a long time.

"If I may, sir?" Aeryn asked. Palimous nodded.

Aeryn reluctantly, slowly removed her hand from John's grip and pointed to Kendrell. "This is Captain Kendrell my teammate, my back wing on our missions. I am proud to present him to you, Commander John Crichton," she turned to the teal-uniformed one, "Captain Kendrell, Commander John Crichton."

***

"Look-see here, you are unique in the universe. Commander?" Kendrell put forth his hand with a captivating smile.

"Pleased to meet you, Captain." John was struck by the term, "unique in the universe," which only Scorpius and Crais had repeated. How did the captain know? Crichton, though suspicious, took an immediate liking to Kendrell who reminded him of the warrior in D'Argo...no...a Jamaican soul brother. The guy was too human looking; he had to be Sebacian, sporting burnt umber dred locks past his waist with highlights of red. The captain's skin was like mocha...hmmm...he'd kill for a delicious mocha, frothy coffee, sweet like hot chocolate.

Part 4 : Intertwined >>

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Story by Cathy Hubbard

Beta readers: I thank Ennix Sun for her excellent keen eye proof of grammar & understanding the characters. Phi Phi Trelk for checking it out and giving this a look over. Thank for your changes. Though subtle and surprisingly few, they were impactive. ScaperRed for her ingenuous and scholarly latest addition of "fixies." She can POLISH a story. (Also Julia, Eva... you guys encouraged me and helped with lots of fixies.)

Disclaimer: Henson, Creation, the characters, belong to them. Adu, Palimous, the Regent, & other extras like the Spherical and Yontur are mine. No money exchanged, no profit involved.

Rating: PG-13 for Adult Themes/Violence Genre: Drama/Comedy/
Shippiness/Action and Adventure

 
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