Disclaimer: The characters of the TV series "Farscape" are the property of creator Rockne S. O'Bannon. I have borrowed them with love and respect but not permission. The other characters are mine and if you're familiar with the series, you'll know who they are.
My thanks to the talented actors who have brought to life, characters so fully realized that it is a joy and pleasure to write about their continuing adventures. And a personal thank you to my friend and Beta reader Joy, my wonderful writing buddy Koren and my sister Maria, who inspires me in all things.
LOG FILE NO. 10115.5
The small figure was so bright that for a second he had to close his eyes against its radiance. Yet even in the darkness of his mind's eye, he still saw it's shimmering wings stretched wide, refracting colors so vivid he could taste them on his tongue. It swooped down to pause in front of him, gazing warmly into his soul with golden eyes that blazed like firestones. Then bidding him farewell, it soared off in a burst of joy and goodness so pure it made him weep.
Teurac awoke as he had every daybreak since they had landed on this commerce planet, with tears streaming down his rough face, his throat tight with desolation.
"That cursed dream again," he groaned, rolling off his sleeping platform. "It's just ancient lore ... an addled priest's prophecy." He washed his face then stared at his reflection over the basin. "But why now? Why does this place make me dream of the Bucca?" He sighed heavily, allowing himself the luxury of believing for a moment that there could be a force so pure and powerful it could bring peace and prosperity to his ravaged world.
Straightening, he scowled and pulled on his armor. "Dreams are for the weak," he spat. "The destiny of the Sheyangs lie in the hands of the warrior clans, not the prophets."
Grabbing his weapon he turned hard on his heel and strode out of his tent.
~ 1 ~
"Ohmigod. Aeryn! You gotta see this!"
Aeryn grimaced in irritation, blowing a lock of hair out of her eyes as she looked up. She opened her mouth to point out that he was interrupting her negotiations with a seller, but paused and then smiled, despite herself.
John was standing near one of the stalls in the huge bazaar with four small silver spheres floating over his head. As he moved his arms and hands, they twirled and hummed, changing colors as they changed tone. The resulting combination of light and music was oddly pleasing and Aeryn found herself wandering over to join the small crowd that was forming around him.
"This is so great!" he crowed exuberantly, flashing her a smile as he sent the spheres swirling in the other direction.
Aeryn grinned in return, taking in the unaffected wonder and enjoyment shining from his eyes. "Like a child," she thought to herself. And for a moment, she flashed on her own stark childhood and it's endless litany of training, discipline, punishment....
Aeryn gave herself a mental shake and looked at him quizzically. "I *am* here," she pointed out, frowning slightly.
"No, I mean come *here*," he stressed, jerking his head to motion her forward. "That's it," he coaxed as she walked into the circle of swirling lights and music. "Come right up against me and turn around so that we're facing the same way."
As she turned and leaned back against him, he lowered his hands to her shoulders and the lights and music faded to a hum. "Now raise your arms," he instructed, his voice soft in her ear.
"John, I can't do this," she protested, pulling away in confused embarrassment.
"Yes, you can," he said, tightening his grip on her shoulders and keeping her in place. "Look up at the spheres. Listen to the music. Forget the people around us. It's just you and me here." He slid his hands down her arms and urged them up. "Just follow me."
The orbs began to pulse and slowly move, picking up speed as they started to resonate with a richness of timbre that hadn't been there before. Aeryn continued to follow John's movements, her face glowing with pleasure as the music swelled and flowed around them, the lights taking on a deep intensity of color.
The music faltered as she stopped, suddenly realizing the crowd gathering around them.
"John, it isn't safe to draw attention to ourselves this way," she whispered in alarm, stepping away and blinking her eyes. She scanned the crowd, now quickly dispersing and murmuring disappointedly as the spheres came to an abrupt halt. "Especially without D'Argo here, I really need to..."
"I know, " he said heavily, suddenly sobering. "I keep forgetting we're fugitives."
Aeryn grunted softly. As exasperating as she found his sense of humor and never-ending curiosity, she much preferred it to the bleak look that was now in his eyes.
Snatching the silver spheres out of the air, she tossed them to the vendor and offered him an ornate dagger with an air of indifference and a deprecating remark about the quality of the spheres. After trading a few insults, she and the vendor clasped hands and she turned to John.
"Now don't get the wrong idea," she said roughly, shoving the package into his hands. "I just figure if these keep you busy, you'll stop bothering me and let me finish the trading we need to do today."
John looked down into her face, the corners of his mouth twitching. "Can I at least say thank you?"
"What for?" she asked, tossing her hair back and fidgeting with the strap of her pulse rifle. "It's not like that dagger was worth anything."
"Yeah, about that dagger," John began, "Where did you get it? I've never seen you with it before."
"I won it from Rygel in a wager."
"Really," John said, looking at her speculatively. "What else have you won from that little scavenger?"
"Lots of different things," she said evasively.
"Like that pair of white boxer shorts you sleep in?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.
"As I said before, those aren't yours," she insisted stubbornly.
"Yah, and they certainly aren't yours either," he said, snorting in disbelief. "Unless Calvin Klein has come out with a new line of Peacekeeper clothing that I don't know about!"
"So who is this Calvin Clown...."
".... and why are you wearing his underwear?"
"I'm NOT wearing his underwear!" John exclaimed indignantly. "I mean, I *am* wearing it, it's just that it's not *his*. I mean it *is* his, but not his as in his personal .... underwear ..... you see...." his voice trailed off as Aeryn continued to stare at him in confusion.
"Well," growled a familiar voice. "It looks like we're just in time to interrupt another argument."
"D'Argo! Zhaan!" John said, with relief. "You weren't interrupting anything."
"No," Aeryn agreed. "John was just explaining to me why he's wearing another man's un..."
"Aeryn," John said warningly, "I'm sure they don't want to hear about that anymore than they want to know why you were in my underwear."
"She was in your underwear?" D'Argo said, looking with interest at Aeryn.
"No, I wasn't!"
"Yes, you were!"
D'Argo looked from one to the other, shaking his head. "You two could argue about nothing."
"We weren't arguing."
"Yes, we were!"
"I was just trying to explain...."
"No, you were disagreeing with me...."
D'Argo gave Zhaan a long-suffering look. "Now they're arguing about arguing," he rumbled in exasperation.
"Then let's leave them to it and go have something to eat," she suggested with a serene smile, taking his arm and leading him away.
As they walked past a nearby stall, a bulky figure rose from the shadows and began to follow them. He kept his distance but took notice of the decidedly protective air of the tall Luxan toward his companion.
"Yes," he hissed excitedly to himself. "This is information Overlord Teurac will find extremely valuable."
~ 2 ~
Pilot's pointed claws clattered over the control panels, his brow creased in worry as he stared at a sudden fluctuation in one of Moya's systems. Pausing for a moment, he tilted his head, as if to listen.
"What is it Moya?" he murmured, his eyes darting over the multiple screens and schematics as his hands resumed their movements over the control panel. "What is troubling you?"
The ship groaned and shuddered, sending the nearby DRDs scuttling off in alarm.
"Moya!" Pilot exclaimed, his head jerking up in shock.
"Just what the hex is going on Pilot!" Rygel demanded indignantly as he flew in and hovered at eye level. His robes were in disarray and water was dripping from his ears. "My shower is spurting!" he huffed. "How do you expect me to...."
"Not today, Rygel," Pilot said tersely, keeping his eyes riveted on the view screens.
"Not today?" Rygel repeated incredulously. "It's bad enough that frelling excuse for a biped speaks to me that way and worse yet that Aeryn has picked up his obtuse colloquialisms, but you....."
"Cannot talk," Pilot said abruptly. "Must concentrate...."
Rygel watched uneasily as Pilot's four hands danced swiftly over the bank of instruments. His silence and the intensity of his focus was unnerving and Rygel hovered closely, his fingers twitching nervously.
Suddenly, Moya trembled and began to make a high pitched whine.
"Pilot!' Rygel cried. "I demand to know what is happening!" "We are in crisis," Pilot said shortly, his clipped voice tight. "Moya is attempting to take control from me."
~ 3 ~
Yes," Teurac breathed, hissing in satisfaction. "Perhaps this is the Luxan I seek." He waved his hand at the young soldier who was waiting anxiously at the entrance to the tent. "Come forward and tell me more."
The soldier scuttled forward, his eyes bright with anticipation of how delivering this information might benefit him. He glanced in awe at the other warriors surrounding the Overload and swallowed nervously.
"There were four of them in the bazaar," he began eagerly. "The Luxan warrior I heard them call D'Argo, a pair of Sebaceans -- the female had a Peacekeeper weapon -- and a Delvian female. They were obviously traveling together."
Teurac nodded, frowning in concentration.
"And from my observation, the Luxan appeared to be quite protective of the Delvian female," he offered, watching Teurac's face closely for a reaction.
Teurac's eyes flashed and his mouth pulled back in a hiss of appreciation. "Although I do not understand it, I have observed among the warm-blooded species that they place a high value on their mates and family. Even going so far as to keep and raise the offspring themselves."
Seeing the look of shock on the young soldier's face, Teurac nodded. "Yes, you will see many strange sights among these aliens."
"Indeed, Overlord," he said with feeling. "I thank the gods that those Sebaceans wore coverings over their bodies. The sight of their faces alone..." he shuddered in remembrance.
"Yes, that smooth pale skin is something that still makes the scales stand up on the back of my arms," Teurac said, shaking his head. "But then not all races can be as handsome as the Sheyangs," he added, grunting as those around him in the tent hissed and blew spurts of fire as they nodded their heads in agreement.
"You have brought me good news this day," Teurac said as he rose. "The fleet is moving on but my flagship is staying for a very important acquisition." Reaching out, he clasped the forearm of the young soldier, startling him with the unexpected honor. "And I will count you among those who will take it with me."
~ 4 ~
The smells and noise in the last section of the bazaar were particularly intense and John hesitated as Aeryn strode forward.
"What?" she said impatiently, turning to look back at him.
"Umm, I was just thinking that maybe I could look around somewhere else and meet you later," he said, glancing at the cages of animals that lined the various vendor's stalls.
Aeryn followed his gaze. "This bothers you?" she asked.
John shrugged. "I'm just not used to being this close to my food."
As Aeryn searched his face, he met her eyes in his usual open way. And in his clear gaze she saw not weakness but compassion and it softened the retort that was on the tip of her tongue. Instead, she nodded and agreed to meet him back at the transport shuttle.
As John moved away, a commotion at a nearby stall caught his attention. A merchant was loudly cursing a raggedly dressed child who struggled to dodge the heavy hand that swung at him.
"You useless offspring of a Slime Eel!" he roared, cuffing the slight youngster with a force that nearly knocked him over. "If you want to eat, you'll bring back something of worth."
Without thinking, John moved swiftly toward them, stepping in between the two and slamming the stout merchant up against a stack of crates.
"I'd call you a piece of crap, but that would be insulting to crap," he said, his blue-grey eyes flashing angrily.
"Please, sir," the vendor whined, his tone changing suddenly. "How have I given you offense?"
John tightened his grip on the rich fabric of the merchant's robes, jerking him up unto the tips of his boots. He looked into the alien's face, and while the scaly greenish skin and odd facial markings were unusual, the calculating look of deceit in his reddish eyes was not.
"Ever hear of picking on someone your own size?" John said, letting go abruptly and giving him a sharp shove backward into the crates causing the animals inside to begin screeching loudly.
"You are either overly confident or grossly stupid," the merchant sneered, reaching into the folds of his robes. "But then, that's what I've heard about you Peacekeepers," he added insultingly, a wickedly curved blade suddenly appearing in his hand.
"He's not a Peacekeeper, he just looks like one," said a familiar voice.
John didn't have to turn around to know that the look of anger he saw flare in the alien's reddish eyes was caused by the sight of a pulse rife pointed unerringly at him.
The merchant nodded curtly, his weapon disappearing as quickly as it had appeared. "So, what do you want?" he asked, giving John a calculating look. "The child?" His arm snaked out, caught the youngster by the scruff of his ragged shirt and threw him contemptuously at John's feet. "And what do you intend to give me for him?"
"How about this?" John answered, his fist shooting out.
"Well," Aeryn said in surprise as the alien hit the ground with a satisfying thud. "You've got that Pantac Jab down cold."
"And don't you forget it," he said smugly.
"And don't you forget I never taught you how to deflect one," she reminded him, smiling as the self-satisfied grin faded from his face.
A sudden movement at his feet caused John to look down.
"Hey there, buddy," he said softly, holding his hand out. The youngster ducked his head involuntarily, then looked warily at the outstretched hand.
"C'mon, get up. We're not going to hurt you," John said, smiling in encouragement.
He scrambled to his feet, suspiciously eyeing the hand John still held toward him.
"Let's go," Aeryn urged, nudging John.
"But the kid...."
"He'll be all right," she said. "He's probably been taking care of himself since he was born."
John turned to follow Aeryn, then abruptly swung back toward the boy. "It's just the rest of my lunch," he said, digging a paper wrapped bundle out of his vest pocket. "But I think you need it more than I do."
The child hesitated, then snatched the food from his hands, nodding mutely.
John smiled and nodded in return, then jogged off to catch up with Aeryn.
"And don't think I'll share my food with you just because you gave the rest of yours away," she said acerbically as they made their way through the crowded aisles.
"But I thought you didn't mind protecting me," John teased.
"Protect, yes. Feed, no."
John laughed, stopping suddenly as he felt something tug at his pant leg.
He caught a flash of ragged clothing as something was shoved into his hands. Aeryn was at John's side immediately, but the youngster had already slipped into the crowd.
"Are you okay?" Aeryn said, her eyes scanning the crowd around them.
"Yeah, it was just that kid," John said, raising the small makeshift cage up to eye level. "He gave me this."
Aeryn leaned against him, peering over his shoulder. "What is it?"
John turned the cage around, trying to find out if the roundish green occupant had a head.
"Well, hey!" he said softly, his eyes wide with amazement as a tiny dragoned-shaped head lifted to gaze directly at him. The pale eyes stared intently into his and John had the distinct sensation of hunger and worry.
"She's hungry," Aeryn blurted out, then looked at John in surprise.
"You could sense that too?" John whispered excitedly.
Aeryn nodded. "And she's also scared."
"I wonder what kind of...."
"D'Argo, what's wrong?" John looked up as the tall Luxan shoved his way through the crowd toward them, Zhaan trailing closely behind him.
"I got a hurried communication from Pilot saying they had to leave orbit."
"Leave orbit? Why? Where'd Moya go?"
"I don't know," he answered heavily. "I just know she's gone."
~ 5 ~
"Did Moya just starburst on her own again?" Rygel gasped incredulously.
"Yes," Pilot said, his hands continuing their endless roving over the controls. "I don't know what caused her to panic but I was able to alert the others before we left orbit."
"Frell them," Rygel said irritably, "What about us? Where the hex are we?"
Pilot paused for a moment and swiveled his huge head to regard Rygel. "I believe I understand now, why those who know you would want you assassinated."
Rygel's eyebrows shot up in amazement as his whiskers quivered with insult. "Why you farking, bowl-headed, dren brain sorry excuse for a...."
His tirade was cut short as Moya groaned loudly, twisting and shuddering, the lights flickering in response.
"Are you hurt, Moya?" Pilot said, concern creasing his furrowed brow. "Or is it Dahlbred who is in pain?"
"Dahlbred? Who the hezmana is Dahlbred?" Rygel asked peevishly.
Pilot moved his claws rapidly as he bent his head to peer at the various view screens. "Another Leviathan!" he exclaimed. "Another pregnant Leviathan!"
~ 6 ~
"They are at the inn, Overlord. All four of them."
Teurac grunted in approval. His men had scouted the inn when they'd first landed and found it too risky to be a headquarters so he had made the decision to set up his encampment near the bazaar. But the reconnaissance of the inn's weaknesses would provide him with information that would be invaluable tonight.
"Gather your soldiers," he ordered. "And instruct them well. I only want the Delvian captured."
The officer nodded. "And the pair of Sebaceans?"
Teurace grimaced at the thought. "They are of no importance to me. I would just as soon have them killed than to be forced to look upon their hideous faces and smooth skin.
"But the Delvian must be handled carefully," he continued. "She is of value to the Luxan and therefore of great value to us. He may not negotiate if she is damaged in any way."
"I see no problem, Overlord. She is, after all, only a female."
Teurac nodded and watched as he left. "I have a score to settle with you Ka D'Argo," he said out loud. "You were clever enough to best me once before, but now I will have more than just scavenger rights to a gutted Peacekeeper Command Carrier."
Pulling on his armor he snorted excitedly. "Never in the history of the Sheyangs has anyone claimed such a prize as a Leviathan." He paused as he imagined the rise to power this acquisition would bring him. "Yes," he hissed, as he slapped his breastplate into place with a resounding thump. "This is what we need -- the power of a Leviathan, not the fraddling dreams of myths!
~ 7 ~
"Until we can get back in touch with Moya, I think you and I should keep watch at night," D'Argo said.
Aeryn nodded, looking up and down the dimly lit hallway. "I don't like this place," she said shortly, "Too many ways of getting in."
"I agree," he rumbled. "But with the transport pod nearly full of cargo we couldn't stay there and this is the only inn in the city."
Aeryn shifted uncomfortably then looked up at D'Argo. "Why would Moya leave us?"
D'Argo shook his head. "I'll wager it has something to do with her pregnancy." Seeing the worry in her grey eyes, he added gruffly, "She'll be back. In the meantime, you and I need to make sure we're all here when she does.
"So," he said briskly, "do you want the first watch, or shall I?"
"Why don't you take first," she said. "I want to check in with Crichton and see how that creature he has is doing."
D'Argo tilted his head, eyeing the cloth wrapped bundle she carried. "He was so concerned about that useless thing, he never came down for dinner," she said defensively. "So I just thought I'd...." She broke off and glared at D'Argo as he continued to stare at her in amusement.
"I'll expect to see you in three arns," he reminded her, turning away.
"I'll be ready," she threw back at him. She looked down at the bundle of food in her hand. "This is ridiculous," she muttered. "If he was hungry he would have come with us." She looked across the hall at his closed door. "But on the other hand, it would be just like him to stay in his room to take care of that creature instead of himself."
Walking over to the door, she knocked lightly.
"Shhh, she's almost asleep," John whispered as he eased the door open.
Aeryn stepped in, a small smile curving her mouth as she caught sight of the little creature on the bed, curled up in her cage. She walked over and sat down next to it, peering into the open top. "What's she sleeping on?" she asked curiously, fingering the soft grey material that lined the bottom of the cage."
John chuckled as he walked over to her. "Daisy took a liking to my tee shirt while I was showering. She decided it was hers and wouldn't give it back to me.
"Daisy?" she repeated, turning and suddenly finding herself confronted with a naked and decidedly well muscled chest and a flat expanse of stomach that momentarily made her lose her train of thought.
"Yeah, I decided to name her Daisy," he answered, sitting down next to her on the bed and reaching into the cage to stroke the smooth iridescent green skin.
Aeryn watched the play of muscles in his arms as his hand moved. She had once told him that human and Sebacean males were very similar but she hadn't told him about the differences. Sebacean males were by far stronger, but they didn't show it the way human males did, she reflected as her eyes moved over the muscles in his strong back and shoulders.
"She reminds me of a little puppy I had once," he continued, unaware of Aeryn's appreciative scrutiny. Lifting Daisy gently out of the cage, he settled her on her back in the crook of his arm. "Watch this," he said with a grin as he began to scratch along the edge of her muzzle then up behind her pointed ear. Although her eyes stayed closed, she stretched her neck back and began to rumble softly. And as John continued to scratch, one of her hind feet began to energetically paw the air.
Areyn shook her head as John hooted softly. Evidently this was some joke humans shared with their pets.
"So your puppy was green?" she asked curiously.
"No," John said with a laugh. "I didn't name her Daisy because she looked like my puppy, she just reminds me of her. A daisy is an Earth flower."
"Oh, daisies are green."
"No, they're white or yellow."
Aeryn blinked in confusion. "Then does she smell like a daisy?"
John leaned down and sniffed the top of her head, causing her to wake with a tiny snort and warble in irritation. "No, she kinda smells like a cupcake."
"Then why didn't you name her Cupcake?" Aeryn asked, her voice rising in exasperation.
John stared at her, his brows drawn together in puzzlement. "What kind of name is that for a pet?"
"Pet?" Aeryn exclaimed. "She's not a pet! She was going to be sold for someone's dinner!"
"No, she wasn't."
"Yes, she was!"
"She was that boy's pet."
"He gave her to you in exchange for food...."
"He was hungry."
"And he'd do the same even if he thought you were going to eat ....
Suddenly a high pitched keening noise filled the room. They looked down to find Daisy frantically looking from one to the other, her pale eyes bright as she radiated her distress.
"What's wrong?" Aeryn asked worriedly.
"I don't know," he answered, grimacing as Daisy scrabbled across his bare chest, digging her claws in. "Ouch!' he yelped, trying to pull her off as her claws tangled in the hair.
"Give her to me," Aeryn said, coaxing her off John's chest and into her arms. Daisy immediately clung to her, tucking her head under Aeryn's chin as she tightly clutched her white tee shirt. She was still upset but her keening had subsided to soft cries.
"Did you think we were angry?" John asked, trying to look under Aeryn's chin at Daisy's face. "We weren't you know." Glancing up into Aeryn's eyes, he added, "We don't mean anything by it. It's just the way we talk to each other sometimes.
"As a matter of fact, we're actually rather fond of each other," he said, slipping his arms around Aeryn and pulling her close. "Aren't we?" he asked softly, as he looked searchingly into her eyes.
Aeryn lifted an eyebrow as she returned his gaze. "I thought we agreed that this was never, never going to hap...."
The rest of her response was lost as John lowered his mouth to hers, silencing her with kiss so full of warmth and promise that she suddenly felt breathless.
"John," she gasped softly, breaking from their kiss and leaning back.
"What," he murmured, leaning forward as he tried to follow her mouth. He pulled her closer but stopped as he heard an indignant squeak.
Looking down, he saw Daisy's small wedge-shaped head peeking out from under Aeryn's chin.
"That's what," Aeryn said, with a breathy laugh.
"Well, I guess it's bedtime for Daisy then," John said firmly, reaching down to pick her up. But she was just as determined to stay and chattered in consternation as she tightened her grip on Aeryn's tee shirt.
John kept trying to pull her off but all he accomplished was a gratifying glimpse down the front of Aeryn's neckline as Daisy clung tenaciously to the stretchy material.
"Stop it! You'll rip my shirt!" Aeryn snapped, pushing his hands away. "And I certainly can't walk around without one like you do."
"Oh. Right," he breathed, blinking as he suddenly flashed on that stunning image.
Sighing heavily, he sat back, eyeing Daisy enviously as she settled into the crook of Aeryn's arm and snuggled up against the curve of her breast. Thinking this would be an opportune time to retrieve his own shirt, he reached for her cage and suddenly noticed a cloth wrapped bundle lying near it.
"What's this?" he asked, picking it up and tugging it open.
"Just some food," she said stiffly, coloring slightly as John looked at her in surprise. "After all, you're of no use to us if you don't keep up your strength." She avoided his eyes and shrugged self-consciously. "Besides, I have no idea what kind of stamina you humans have."
John leaned forward. "Oh, I assure you, I have plenty," he growled softly, close to her ear. He smiled to himself as he felt Aeryn shiver involuntarily, then shove him away half-heartedly.
"Eat," she said with mock sternness. "A full stomach might help to counteract the high oxygen levels that are evidently in this room."
~ 8 ~
"What have you found out? Why did Moya starburst?"
Pilot glanced up, his eyebrows raised in surprise. "Moya detected a fleet of Sheyang vessels. She was moving out of their range when she heard Dahlbred's distress cry."
"Sheyangs?" Rygel repeated. He shuddered as he recalled their last contact with the violent scaveners. It had involved the Zelbinion -- a Peacekeeper Command Carrier that still held nightmares of memories for him.
Pilot nodded, his claws tapping intermittently as he frowned in concentration at the various display screens. "One of the vessels appeared to be the Sheyang Flagship we encountered before."
"The one D'Argo bluffed into letting us go?" Rygel smirked. "That Overload had trigopods for brains. I wonder if he ever figured out -" he paused and looked at Pilot. "Do you think he did?"
"He did say he makes a point of killing a clever opponent."
Rygel nodded. "And with Zhaan's help, D'Argo defeated him without even a crew, much less an army of soldiers."
Moya suddenly groaned and shuddered, sending Rygel flying over to Pilot's shoulder.
"Yes, Moya," Pilot said reassuringly. "We will help her."
"What do you mean, *we'll* help her?" Rygel demanded, looking over Pilot's shoulder at the array of blinking lights and the blur of images flashing across the viewscreens. "Let her crew take care of her."
"Dahlbred is an older Leviathan. She and her Pilot have paid off their debt and are Free Contractors," Pilot explained. "She is in between contracts and has no crew at the present time to help her with this complication."
"And what complication is that?"
Pilot swiveled his head around to look Rygel in the eye. "The baby is entangled in it's web of nutrient cords. If it is not freed, both it and Dahlbred will die."
~ 9 ~
"Don't feed her that."
"Give her this fruit instead."
"What's wrong with giving her this?"
"She won't eat that."
"Oh, like *you* know..."
"It's just logical..."
At the sound of insistant warbling, John and Aeryn glanced down and burst out laughing. Daisy was standing on her hind legs in-between them, her mouth open and her head up as her eyes followed the food in their hands.
"Sorry, girl," he chuckled, lowering his hand to her. She grabbed his thumb and hung on as she gobbled the piece of bread from his palm. "See," he said, looking up at Aeryn, "she liked it."
"She's so hungry she'd probably eat anything," she retorted, leaning forward to hold out a large slice of sweetfruit. Daisy chirped happily and grabbed it with both forepaws, chewing noisily as she shoved her muzzle into the juicy pulp.
"Geez, get her a bib," John exclaimed as juice and seeds splattered about.
"Better yet, get her a bath," Aeryn muttered, looking at the bits of fruit clinging to Daisy's face and chest as she raised her head from the empty rind and burped contentedly.
Laughing, John scooped her up with one hand and carried her to the bathroom. As he filled the basin with water, she chattered impatiently then suddenly jumped from his hand into the water.
"Aeryn, look at this!' John laughed as Daisy splashed around, dunking her head under and radiating feelings of joy and delight.
Aeryn shook her head, folding her arms across her chest as she leaned against the doorway. "Why would you want to have something so helpless, that you have to feed it, bathe it and take care of it?"
John shrugged as he lifted Daisy out of the water and wrapped her in a soft towel. "I guess because she accepts me unconditionally. She doesn't care who or what I am. I don't have to continually prove myself to her." He turned and faced Aeryn. "Sometimes that can be very comforting."
She nodded thoughtfully. It was a need she understood all too well. One she had been trained to see as a weakness.
But as she saw the warmth and honesty in John's eyes, she came to a sudden realization. It wasn't that her training had been failing her, the simple fact was that she was discovering that in many ways, her training had been wrong.
Pushing off from the doorway, she moved to stand in front of him. "So, did you get her clean?" she asked as she ran her hand along Daisy's back and let it drift to trail against John's arm.
"Better than you, it seems," he said with amusement, reaching a hand up to brush away some fruit pulp that had splattered onto the front of her shirt.
"Hmmm. Maybe I should take it off and wash it," she suggested in a low voice, smiling as John's hand froze in momentary surprise.
"I don't think you need to wash it," he murmured, returning her smile as he lowered his hand to lightly trace the edge of her neckline with his fingertips. "But don't let that stop you from taking it off..."
Suddenly Daisy keened in alarm, struggling in John's arm as she stared at the door. As he and Aeryn both turned to follow her panicked gaze, it was thrown open with a crash.
"Sheyangs!' D'Argo growled. "I spotted a group approaching the courtyard and I'm sure there are more in the back."
He ushered Zhaan into the room as Aeryn grabbed her pulse rifle. "Both of you, stay here," he rumbled, throwing Zhaan a look that softened his curt order. "Let's go, Aeryn."
As she passed John, she leaned into him for a moment, short as a heartbeat, then she was gone without a backward glance.
~ 10 ~
"I think the Luxan spotted Kamar and his men when they circled to the front, Overlord."
"Frax!" Teurac spit out vehemently, sending a short burst of flame at the hapless soldier, who grimaced but bore it stoically. "And did you find out where the Delvian is?" he demanded.
"Yes, Sir. They were all given rooms together by the courtyard entrance."
Teurac hissed in satisfaction and turned to the officer at his side. "The Luxan will not leave her unprotected. Send two soldiers to kill whoever guards her and bring her to the rendezvous point. When we are all assembled, I will have the transport shuttle pick us up."
As he turned to lead his men toward the inn, he caught a flash of clothing behind a group of nearby bushes. Silently motioning his men to proceed forward, he circled back and pounced on the small figure that was huddled there.
"What are you doing here?" he growled, grabbing the youngster by his ragged shirt and holding him up to his eye level.
The boy whimpered and threw a thin, grubby arm across his face as if to ward off a blow.
"Spying for someone?" Teurac continued, giving him a rough shake. "Speak up or you'll get more than a slap."
The boy abruptly went limp and before Teurac could react, he suddenly found himself holding a filthy but empty shirt. He hissed and belched a spurt of fire in frustration, as his eyes darted around in search of its owner. But the sounds of fighting caught his attention and he turned on his heel, throwing down the rags in disgust as he moved off quickly toward the inn.
Darting forward, the young boy snatched up the shirt and pulled it on. He paused for a moment, staring at the inn, his dark eyes deep and older than time. Then, soundlessly, he was gone.
~ 11 ~
"Are you managing to find your way, Rygel?"
"As well as can be expected under less than acceptable circumstances," he grumbled querously.
Pilot continued to scan his monitors and viewscreens, paying particular attention to the one that tracked the progress of Rygel's hoverplatform through Dahlbred's interior corridors. "Dahlbred and Moya are grateful for your assistance."
"Well, it's not as if I had a choice," he retorted.
Piloted lifted his eyebrows in surprise. "You were not coerced. Neither Moya nor Dahlbred would be capable of forcing your help."
Rygel grimaced and snorted softly. "Then what the hex am I doing here?" he muttered to himself. He glanced down at the DRDs that were scurrying ahead, lighting the dark hallway. The floor was damp and he could smell an odd sharp odor and sense the tension in the air. As Dahlbred shuddered again, he suddenly had an image of this majestic Leviathan writhing helplessly in pain, alone in space as both she and her baby lost their fight for life.
"Not if I can do anything about it," he said resolutely, straightening his shoulders and lifting his head. He pushed the speed control higher, moving his hoverplatform forward to catch up with the DRDs. "I may be self-centered but I'm not heartless."
~ 12 ~
Aeryn fired rapidly, covering D'Argo as he broke off to circle around to the back. The Sheyang's returned the fire, and by the movement of their rifle bursts, she could tell they were splitting up to try and pin her against the inn's wall. Throwing herself to the ground, she rolled until she was behind the low wall of the courtyard fountain. She froze for a moment and heard the scuttling sounds of the soldiers advancing forward. Jerking up, she fired as they passed her, hitting three of them, and then dove quickly into the fountain as the other two spun around and spit a firey blast at her.
The two soldiers paused, and in the silence that followed, they lowered their weapons and turned to stare stupidly at each other. The officer leading them had been shot and without direct orders, they were unsure of what to do. They glanced back at the fountain, puzzled to see no sign of the Sebacean female.
"Not all species tolerate water," one of them ventured hopefully.
But before the other could answer, Aeryn erupted out of the fountain and threw herself between them. Startled, they turned toward each other, automatically belching out fire as she flew by. Aeryn twisted in mid-air and landed on her back, watching in amazement as the two Sheyangs fell to the ground, scorched to death.
She laughed in disbelief as she pushed herself up. "And I thought there wasn't anything with less brains than a Sebacean Rock Slug."
The sudden quiet that descended over the courtyard made her scramble quickly to her feet. Snatching her rifle out of the water, she ran into the inn, her heart pounding in her chest as she sprinted down the hallway. She flew into John's room and came to an abrupt stop at the obvious signs of struggle in the empty room.
"No," she breathed, her voice suddenly tight. She walked quickly over to where D'Argo knelt by a dark stain on the floor.
"Sheyang blood," he said shortly, his voice a mixture of relief and surpressed rage.
She knelt beside him for a closer look, needing to reassure herself that he was right.
D'Argo glanced over at her and frowned slightly. "Why are you wet?"
Aeryn looked down at the puddle of water forming beneath her. "It's how I managed to kill two Sheyangs without even firing a shot." As D'Argo creased his brow in question, she looked him in the eye, her gaze steady. "It's a good story. I know John and Zhaan will enjoy hearing it when we find them."
D'Argo paused, a flash of understanding crossing his face for a brief moment before it was replaced with grim determination. "Then let's not keep them waiting," he growled, as he surged to his feet. Aeryn nodded, and together they strode out of the room.
~ 13 ~
"Is something wrong?" Pilot asked quickly, swiveling his head to look closely at Rygel's comm link indicator on the monitor. At the same time he mentally touched on his contact with Moya, noting she was anxious but not alarmed. "Are you lost?"
"No, the DRD's are lighting the way. It's just that...." Rygel grunted and looked warily at the darkness around him. "It's strange to be in an empty ship." For a moment he flashed on the broken ruins of the Zelbinion's interior and his heart began beating faster as a surge of panic washed over him.
Pilot's brow furrowed in concern as he noted the sharp spike of activity on the comm link charts that monitored Rygel's bio-functions. The Hynerian's levels were often high due to his propensity to be easily upset, but these were almost as high as when ....
"Moya, ask Dahlbred to engage illumination in Lower Tier Zed-Four through Zed-Nine," Pilot asked urgently.
Rygel breathed in relief as the hallways began to glow and shed light.
"Is that better?" Pilot asked, watching as Rygel's bio-functions slowly began to level out.
"That really wasn't necessary," he said snappishly. "I've survived worse than dark hallways."
"And it is to your credit, that you have," Pilot said calmly.
Rygle grunted in surprise at the comment. He continued following the DRDs who were now leading him through a narrow access corridor that led to the birth chamber. He swallowed nervously at the close space and closed his eyes for a moment, willing himself to breath more calmly.
"I am here, Rygel."
He was silent for a moment, looking down at the Medallion of Office he wore. "While I was imprisoned, I was able to get others to do things for me. But they only did it out of respect for my title or the expectation of getting something in return."
"That is not uncommon behavior," Pilot commented. "I would imagine the same was true even when you were Dominar."
Rygel chuckled. "Very true, Pilot." He fingered the small comm unit pinned to his robe. "And what about you, Pilot?" he asked softly. "Do you respect my title or expect some reward?"
"Your title means nothing to me and neither do I personally require anything of you," came the clipped reply.
Rygel found himself smiling. No one had ever ventured to say anything so disrespectful to him. Or so comforting.
"That figures, you ungrateful Trelkez," he said gruffly. Suddenly he noticed the DRDs were gone. And just as he was about to contact Pilot, the corridor opened into a large room.
"Pilot, I think I'm here," he whispered, moving into the chamber.
"What do you see? How is the baby?"
"Not good," Rygel answered grimly, moving in closer.
The small Leviathan was tilted precariously in the tangled nutrient web, it's outer hull mottled and dull. The cords that were twisted around it, were dark and flaccid and those that were clear were straining with the effort to sustain the nutrient level. As Dahlbred groaned, the web tightened and the baby shuddered and shifted weakly.
"Can you tell what's wrong?" Pilot asked anxiously.
"Yes," he said heavily. "But we may be too late."
~ 14 ~
D'Argo repeatedly kicked the stone fountain as he spat out a string of Luxan curses, stopping only when he ran out of breath.
"So, did that make you feel better?" Aeryn asked, looking up from where she sat cleaning her pulse rifle.
He turned and growled, then limped over to sit next to her. "Sheyangs are nothing but looters. Why take hostages? It makes no sense."
Aeryn shrugged, shoving the parts of her rifle back into place with practiced ease. "It was obvious that they were here with a specific purpose in mind, not just their usual thievery."
D'Argo nodded. "The ones I killed were guarding the hallway. I didn't realize until I got into the room that they had been stalling me in order to give the others a chance to take Zhaan and Crichton."
"But as you say, why take Zhaan and Crichton hostage? They aren't important to anyone but us." Aeryn colored suddenly as D'Argo turned to stare at her. "I meant important as crewmembers...allies....shipmates...." Her voice trailed off as she ducked her head to make an unnecessary adjustment to her rifle.
"There is more to life than just fighting," he said softly.
Aeryn looked up to find D'Argo staring intently at her. "It's all I know," she said, her voice defensive and wistful at the same time.
"Is it all you want?"
She turned her head away, unwilling to let him see her pain, even for a moment. "I used to think so," she whispered.
D'Argo nodded in understanding. "I once dreamt of being a great warrior."
"It is an admirable dream," Aeryn commented, looking back at him.
"To be known only by your battles? To have your worth judged by the amount of death and destruction you create?"
"There is honor in victory....."
"There is also honor in being a warrior. But when there is no longer anyone to hate -- to wage war against -- what will be your purpose in life then?"
D'Argo watched as a flash of pain and confusion flickered in Aeryn's eyes. "Death is easy," he continued. "As soldiers we were both trained to accept it. The hard part, is choosing to live."
"When I didn't stay and accept my punishment from Crais .... when I escaped with you and Crichton....I felt like a ...coward," Aeryn said painfully.
D'Argo shook his head. "Choosing your own way, requires more bravery than facing an enemy in battle."
"You thought what I did was brave?" Aeryn asked incredulously.
"You stood up for Crichton, despite what you'd been taught and regardless of the consequences."
She blushed and fidgeted uncomfortably. "I still don't know why I did it," she muttered
Looking up, she saw an amused gleam in D'Argo's eyes. "What?" she demanded irritably.
But before he could respond, there was a sudden rustling sound. They both jumped to their feet, their weapons drawn, then relaxed as they saw a small raggedly dressed child facing them.
"You seek your fellow travelers," he stated in a voice that startled them with it's age and weariness. Looking closely, they realized they had been fooled by his youthful appearance.
"Who are you?" D'Argo asked, mesmerized by the ancient eyes that stared so knowingly at him.
"I am known as The Seeker," he answered. Tilting his head, he considered them both thoughtfully. "Your species are not yet ready, but I now understand what the Arbiter sees in you.
"When I gave her to your companion, I wasn't sure" he added, turning his gaze on Aeryn. "but she was adamant."
Aeryn blinked in stunned amazement. "You mean Daisy?"
"Daisy?" he repeated in a puzzled voice. He paused as he lightly touched on her mind. "Ah, yes," he said softly, giving her a smile. "The one you call Daisy."
"You called her an Arbiter," D'Argo said. "What does she sit in judgement on?"
"The potential of species," he answered.
~ 15 ~
"Are you in position, Rygel?"
"Almost," he grunted. He moved his hoverplatform closer to the baby, anchoring it to the nutrient web. "I'm ready now. Tell Dahlbred to slow down the nutrient flow as much as possible."
"I will pass that onto Moya." Pilot hands moved swiftly across the controls panel, his eyes darting back and forth between the two main viewscreens. He tilted his head as Moya hummed, then nodded in agreement. "Excellent idea Moya. Have Dahlbred reroute the nutrient flow to their Pilot instead so that he can regain consciousness. His assistance will be invaluable in this crisis."
"I'm going to start moving these dark cords," Rygel announced. He reached out and grabbed one but immediatly snatched his hand back with a gasp of pain. "Frax!"
"Rygel! What is it?"
"My hand," he moaned, looking at the blisters rapidly forming on his palm and fingers. "The frelling nutrient cords burned me!"
Pilot quickly pulled up two more monitors, his eyes widening in alarm as he scanned the information. "It is worse than I had initially thought. The cords that are tangled around the baby have degraded to the point of toxicity."
"You mean it's being poisoned?" Rygel exclaimed, his ears laid back in shock.
Dahlbred shuddered but this time the baby remained motionless.
"Pilot! The baby! It's not moving anymore!"
~ 16 ~
"How is your shoulder, John?"
"Not bad," he gasped, hissing softly as he tried to move it. "But next time, stop me before I use a flying tackle on a Sheyang soldier."
"He did appear to have a center of gravity not unlike that of a boulder."
"And the brains of one," John added with a short laugh. "I still can't believe he took a swing at me with his sword while I was holding onto his legs."
"Yes, it was fortunate he ended up injuring only himself." She paused then began hesitantly, "I truly regret not using my Tenth Level ability to protect you, but when I put aside the ways of the Seek...."
"It's okay Zhaan. By tackling that soldier unarmed, I evidently rose a notch in their estimation and qualified for the Kill Later category versus the Kill Now." He moved slightly, then groaned sharply in pain as he jostled his shoulder against her back.
Zhaan shifted, grimacing as the cords that bound them together cut into her arms. Leaning back to rest her head against his, she closed her eyes and concentrated on the waves of pain coming from him. As she absorbed them, she felt John's body slump in relief.
"I still have the ability to heal. If you would allow me to join with you?" She felt him nod his head and as he relaxed, she slipped gently into unity with him.
John sighed as she moved into him, taking on his pain as she manipulated the muscles around his dislocated shoulder and eased it back into place. Her touch was light and cool and as she drifted back to herself, he felt a twinge of regret at her departure.
"Did you wish to stay in unity with me?" she asked, an edge of amusement in her voice.
"Not unless you wish to pull a Luxan Qualta blade from my lifeless body," he countered. "That is, assuming I survived the Sebacean head lock I know Aeryn would put on me."
Zhaan chuckled and leaned back against him. "They do have a tendency to be rather territorial in regard to us, don't they?"
"Territorial? That's one way of putting it," John said, grunting softly. "I've had women *say* they'd kick my ass if I stepped out of line, but this is the first one I've met who can literally do it."
"Aeryn is Sebacean, John. Do not judge her by human standards."
Something in the way she said it, made it sound like more of a warning than a comment. But before John could pursue it, his attention was caught by a soft, high pitched keening sound.
"Daisy?" he whispered in disbelief. He heard her chirp, then saw her dart into the cave and sprint toward him as fast as her short legs could carry her. "Hey, quiet down now," he said, trying to shush her as she clamored onto his leg, chattering worriedly.
"John, is that the creature you and Aeryn brought back from the bazaar?" Zhaan asked, trying to twist around to look over her shoulder.
"Yes, and I can't believe she came to us," he exclaimed. "When I had to leave her at the inn, I just assumed she'd run back to that little boy."
He smiled as he watched her sniff and touch their bindings. "It's too bad she can't read minds instead of just sense feelings. I could do the Lassie Thing and send her off for help...." John stopped and blinked. "Zhaan....you won't believe...."
"What? What is she doing?"
John grinned as he threw off the cords Daisy had bitten through. "Who needs Lassie?" he laughed, as he scooped her up and startled her with an enthusiastic kiss to the top of her head.
~ 17 ~
"How do you know where they are?" Aeryn asked as she and D'Argo followed the boy through the dense woods behind the inn.
"I can sense where the Arbiter is and she is with them," he answered simply.
"You said she judges the potential of other species," D'Argo began. "And those that are deemed unworthy, what happens to them?"
The Seeker looked at him in alarm. "It is not a situation of making a judgement on the worthiness of a species," he exclaimed. "We merely seek out species we feel have the ability to become more, given time. When we find them, we leave an Arbiter with them as a Marker. And when they are ready for true contact with us, the Marker lets us know."
Aeryn shook her head. "I still can't believe that Daisy..." she paused as D'Argo stopped abruptly and cocked his head.
"Sheyangs," he hissed, his nose twitching. His eyes widened as his keen sense of hearing picked up the faint sounds of fighting and with a deep growl and he took off running, Aeryn close behind him.
~ 18 ~
"What if I cut off the bad nutrient cords?" Rygel asked.
"I was just asking their Pilot that very same question," Pilot said, pulling up another monitor and viewscreen. "He said the cords release at the time of birth anyway."
"Is Dahlbred that close to giving birth?"
"Their Pilot seems to think so. Besides," he added, his brow furrowing in concern. "At this point the baby will surely die if we do nothing. Cutting the cords may be it's only chance."
Rygel nodded. "I remembered that Moya couldn't tolerate a metal knife, so I brought along that ceremonial one of D'Argo's and a little clorium just in case."
"Well done," Pilot said warmly. He rapidly made more adjustments through his control panel, then contacted Dahbred's Pilot to relay the information.
"You may proceed, Rygel. Dahlbred is ready."
Rygel pulled the small container of colrium from his pocket and sprinkled the anethestic liberally over the dark nutrient cords. Then, he shrugged his robe off of his shoulders and pulled the sleeves down over his hands to protect them.
"Stand back," Pilot warned. "The nutrients in those conduits...."
Rygel gasped sharply as choking fumes hissed out of the first group of cords he cut.
"Are you all right?" Pilot watched in alarm as Rygel's bio-functions spiked jaggedly on the monitor. "Rygel! Answer me!"
Pilot swiveled around and pulled up a viewscreen. He quickly brought the area into focus and paused in surprise, his dark gold eyes gleaming.
Rygel was busily cutting the damaged nutrient web away from the baby. He had wrapped his hands in the thick fabric of his robe and positioned his hoverplatform so that the propulsion field kept the toxic fumes away from him. And as Pilot enlarged the viewscreen, he noticed the thin protective membrane that now covered Rygel's eyes and nose.
"So that is how the Hynerians survive in the moisture rich atmosphere of their homeworld," he said, leaning in to get a better look.
"Yes, Moya, he is doing his best." Pilot opened up a frequency to his counterpart on Dahlbred, checking to make sure he was ready. His eyes flew back to Rygel's monitor, noting the dangerously high bio-function levels. Looking back to the main viewscreen, he saw Rygel cutting through the last of the damaged nutrient web.
"Now!' Pilot ordered, turning to monitor the atmosphere as Dahlbred's Pilot released a blast of oxygen rich mixture into the chamber, flushing out the toxic fumes.
Rygel took a deep breath, wheezing and gasping loudly. He rubbed his hands over his face and blinked as his eyes began to tear.
As Dahlbred groaned and shuddered, he reached out to steady the young Leviathan who swung unsteadily back and forth, attached to the few remaining nutrient cords.
"Take it easy," he croaked, giving it a gentle pat. His eyes widened in surprise as he noticed the mottled color of it's hull lighten beneath his hand. Leaning forward, he began to rub the surface, noticing how the color changed and the hull began to glow.
"Pilot!" he exclaimed excitedly, his hands moving feverishly over it's hull as he felt the baby move.
Pilot's head jerked around as the screen monitoring the baby began clicking.
"Yes, Moya, Dahlbred's pilot confirms it -- the baby's vital signs are indeed stronger!"
Dahlbred groaned again but this time the lights dimmed and flickered as the walls of the chamber flexed. Pilot swung around, this hands racing across the control panel as he exchanged information with Dahlbred's Pilot.
"Rygel!" he said sharply. "Get out! NOW!"
~ 19 ~
The unmistakable sounds of fighting caused Teurac to look up from his communciator. He hurriedly transmited the coordinates for their pickup and then turned and ran toward the cave.
As he ducked into the entrance, he hissed in anger. Not only had the prisoners freed themselves, but they were now fighting the two soldiers who had been left to guard them.
Quickly, he moved toward the Delvian female, concerned that the soldier struggling with her would forget his orders and harm his valuable hostage. "Stand down from her, she is my property," he shouted, reaching his hand out and grabbing her shoulder.
He yelped in surprise and pain as a long tongue lashed out, cutting his arm deeply. He spun around and suddenly found himself confronted with a towering vision of Luxan rage. As he cradled his bleeding arm, he realized that the onscreen image of his enemy was nothing compared to facing him in person.
"Your fight is with me, not her, you cowardly piece of scavenger drek," D'Argo growled, his voice loud and menacing in the small cave.
Teurac moved back, taking a series of deep breaths. But before he could gather enough pressue to even let out a small belch of fire, the tip of D'Argo sword was at his thick neck.
"Do you wish to continue this futile exercise?" D'Argo drawled cooly, watching as just the act of swallowing nervously started a thin rivulet of blood down Teurac's neck. He stared into his beady dark eyes and saw the moment when Teurac conceded the fight. Dropping his sword, D'Argo stepped away and nodded at the soldier Zhaan held pinned helplessly against the cave wall. "Take your men and leave us."
Sheathing his sword, he turned to see how John was doing.
"Anytime Aeryn. Just step right in," he gasped as he tried to keep the bulky Sheyang in a kneeling headlock.
"If you hadn't noticed, this is a little close range for a pulse rifle," she retorted as she moved forward swinging her weapon behind her. "Besides, I didn't want to interrupt your fun."
Grabbing the soldier by the shoulder of his armor, she hauled him to his feet and jerked him around. She'd drawn her combat dagger but catching the look on John's face, shoved it back into it's sheath and used a Pantac Jab instead. It connected solidly, and the Sheyang hit the ground, unconscious.
She turned and extended a hand to John. "C'mon, let's get out of here."
He took her hand and as he let her pull him to his feet he suddenly caught his breath. He'd thought she was distracting in her fitted black jumpsuit and snug white tee shirt before, but it was nothing compared to the sight of those clothes plastered wetly to her.
"What?" she snapped irritably, pulling her hand away as he continued to stare at her.
"Ummm, nothing," he said, desperately trying to look away and failing miserably. A sharp tug at his pants leg caught his attention and he glanced down to find the little boy from the bazaar, Daisy cradled in his arm.
"You did not kill them," he said, making it sound almost like a question.
John snorted softly as he watched Teurac and his soldiers limping away. "Why bother. As a species, these guys aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. I figure at some point, natural selection will take them out."
Looking back at the boy, he reached out and scratched Daisy's head. "I'm gonna miss you, girl," he said wistfully.
"John," Aeryn began, pulling his hand away. "There's something you need to know about this boy and Daisy...."
"What he needs to know, it is already in his heart," the boy said, handing Daisy to John. "I must go now." Bowing his head slightly he turned to leave, then paused and looked back over his shoulder at the group.
"I will see you .... eventually," he said with a small smile.
~ 20 ~
Rygel sped his hoverplatform to the entrance of the narrow corridor that led from the birth chamber. He was barely through the opening when Dahlbred began shuddering and groaning. The lights flickered and as Rygel peeked out of the small tunnel, he saw the walls flex again but this time they continued to undulate, increasing the pressure in the chamber and shaking the nutrient web loose from the small Leviathan. He heard a loud tearing sound and suddenly the baby fell out of the web and began moving forward unsteadily, the remaining cords trailing behind it. It hovered erratically in the middle of the chamber, then dropped down just as Dahlbred slid open the floor ports.
"Pilot! The baby has fallen out of the cargo doors!" Rygel shouted in agitation. "Can you do something? Catch it? Grab it in your docking web....."
"She is fine," Pilot said calmly, a hint of amusement in his voice. He switched to his outside viewscreen and watched as Dahlbred rolled over slowly, stretching and gliding gracefully. A tiny ship was pulled along in her wake. Small and slightly mottled but glowing warmly and following with a determination that belied it's fragile appearance.
"She is fine."
~ 21 ~
Teurac stood looking at the waning sun. His men were already on the shuttle but he was loathe to join them. It was hard enough to accept defeat at the hands of a more worthy opponent, but he somehow felt he had lost more than just the opportunity to commandeer a Leviathan.
The sound of light footsteps caught his attention and he turned to watch a small boy walk up to the top of a nearby ridge. He recognized the child as the one he'd discovered spying on him and he wondered idly what he was doing here.
Suddenly the boy began to glow and change, shedding his rags as he unfurled his wings and flew off.
The small figure was so bright that for a second he had to close his eyes against its radiance. Yet even in the darkness of his mind's eye, he still saw it's shimmering wings stretched wide, refracting colors so vivid he could taste them on his tongue. It swooped down to pause in front of him, gazing warmly into his soul with golden eyes that blazed like firestones. Then bidding him farewell, it soared off in a burst of joy and goodness so pure it made him weep.
"Well!' Rygel huffed indignantly, "It just goes to show what utter barbarians humans are."
"Humans are not barbarians," Zhaan said gently as she applied more salve to Rygel's blistered hands. "They are just different."
"Crichton is more than different," D'Argo growled, looking toward the hallway at the sound of John's muffled laughter.
"He has no idea of the great honor that this naming brings...." Rygel began.
"True, he does not," Zhaan said soothingly, adjusting the bandages on his hands.
"To have the baby Leviathan named after me because I saved its life!" he exclaimed, his eyes shining. "And what is even more astounding -- Dahlbred chose to combine our names -- it is unheard of, it is not, Pilot?"
"Quite so. Neither Moya or I have ever heard of such an honor being bestowed."
Rygel snorted. "What does Crichton know. I can think of no grander name, more full of dignity and importance."
Pulling himself up to his full height, he looked regally about and reverently uttered the name again.
~ 23 ~
"Daisy, bring that ball back here."
Aeryn scooped up the small metal sphere Daisy rolled over to her and tossed it into the air. She had been practicing on the Terrace for the last arn, but the best she had managed to do was get three in the air at once.
"Just look at the spheres. Listen to the music," she repeated to herself. She moved her hands slowly, concentrating on the changing color of the lights and the modulation of tones.
She smiled as a melody began to emerge and as she continued moving her hands and arms, the music became stronger and more bold. "What do you think, Daisy?" she asked, glancing down at the small creature sitting at her feet. Daisy chirped and tilted her head, then turned and walked off.
"Well, it wasn't *that* bad, was it?" Aeryn laughed softly and continued to move the spheres. The colors and music were pleasing and she found the experience enjoyable but still....
She sighed and dropped her arms. "Maybe another time," she said wistfully, reaching up to catch the spheres. They darted away and suddenly began to move around her, the tone soft and gentle, the lights warm and vibrant.
She didn't have to turn around to know he was there. She sensed him before she even felt the solid warmth of his body behind her. Leaning back against him she raised her arms, following his movements.
The music swirled and flowed around them, rich and deep and so full of color that Aeryn had to close her eyes for a moment. As she sighed, the spheres picked up the tone and the music swelled with longing.
Then John moved his hands, changing the direction of the silver orbs, throwing them into a headlong rush of sound and light. She followed his movements, adding her own notes and color, turning them over and swirling them faster. The music intensified, the tones and lights pulsing hotly as it resonated through them. The sensation was overwhelming and Aeryn found herself breathless.
Suddenly John reached up, coaxing the spheres back, gentling the music. The lights glowed warmly, slowly, the color fading into soft hues.
As the lights and music softened to a gentle hum, Aeryn turned and slipped her arms around John's neck.
"You were doing pretty good there by yourself," John said softly, running his hands up her supple back.
She smiled and pressed closer to warm herself against him. "Yes, but I enjoyed it better when we did it together. Do humans have things like that?"
"Mmmm," he murmured, leaning in to nuzzle her neck. "There *are* are few things that come to mind...." he paused and looked closely at her shoulder, then leaned back to look at the front of her tee shirt.
"What?" she said, starting to move out of his arms.
"Oh no you don't!" he said warningly as he grabbed her. "Unless the GAP now has a galactic franchise, that's *my* grey tee shirt you have on!"
"No, it's not!"
"Yes, it is!"
Areyn twisted in his grasp and ducked, making a mad dash for the terrace doors and leaving John standing in amazement, a warm grey tee shirt in his hands.
"Well," he said with a grin, reaching down to scoop up Daisy. "Let's go find her. Maybe I can get those white boxers back too."