Round up the usual suspects: I own none of the following. The characters and situations all belong to someone else. As a matter of fact, UCSBdad is a wholly owned subsidiary of UCSBmom.
This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship: Since I don't make any money out of this, and am getting only ego gratification, please feel free to archive this.
The problems of two little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy mixed up world: But I'm rating it PG just to be safe.
There's a Free French garrison at Brazzaville: They aren't sure when this took place either, but sometime in the future.
I'm shocked, shocked, to find gambling going on here: At least there are no real spoilers.
It's times like these that I miss John the most.
My back was stiff and sore from the many arns I had spent working at my desk. If John were here, he would have massaged my back and said something, well, Human, to make me feel better.
I stood up and walked to the vision port, stretching and rotating my back as I walked. I looked down on my beautiful home world and started picking out the landmarks visible from space. Seeing them brought back memories and then the memories brought back more memories .....
"Crichton, this is the biggest frelling garbage dump I've ever seen!" Actually it was bigger than the biggest frelling garbage dump I'd ever seen. I was just about to remind John of that again, when he called over to me.
"Aeryn, this is the Discoverers Hall of the Great Library of Thabos. For thousands of cycles explorer's records have been archived here. Navigation records for Delvia, Hyneria, Lux, Sebacea and maybe even Earth could be here."
Now that was Human optimism at it's best. I looked around at the Hall. It had started out bigger than Moya. But in the thousand or so cycles that it had taken for Thabosan civilization to collapse from organized warfare, to banditry, to bloody anarchy, the Hall had been fought over many times. Floors had collapsed onto each other, huge machines had been torn and twisted around each other, and the center had been blown open to a gray, damp sky. What was left of the records was pathetic. Books that turned to dust at a touch, data cubes turned cold and black with age, shredded map fibers, and any amount of completely unidentifiable garbage.
It would take the two of us a thousand cycles to find anything useful in this ruin. Rygel orbited overhead in Moya, and Zhaan and D'Argo were guarding what had been the front and rear doors, when there had been doors. Chiana sat in the transport pod nearby, ready to pick us up if any of the locals decided to try to take a pulse rifle off of it's dead owner. Well, at least after the ambush D'Argo and I had sprung on them, that was a minor possibility. But still a possibility. I decided I'd better close up on John before he wandered off completely looking for a nonexistent map to Earth.
As I rounded a smashed stairway, I caught sight of what John had named a lab rat pulling at something on the stairway. Lab rats were scavengers. Small, messy, smelly, unpleasant scavengers. I decided against killing it with a pulse rifle and picked up a small, round data ball. I took aim and hit it right on its ugly head. The lab rat bolted up the stairs and as he went up, a torrent of garbage came down. First small pieces, then larger and larger pieces. A small part of me laughed. I could be the first ex-Peacekeeper ever killed by a garbage avalanche. I turned and ran for a pair of smashed bookcases that looked like they might be able to stop the garbage slide. I clambered up one bookcase and jumped down on the other side. As I started running again, I lost my footing and went head first into a shiny metal box. By the time I got up again, the avalanche was over. I could hear John calling my name over and over. I was about to answer, when a picture on the box caught my eye.
"I'm over here, John," I called as I knelt in front of the box.
"Aeryn." I looked up to see John's worried face between two wrecked machines. He was tearing pieces off of them to get to me.
"I'm all right, John, but I need some information."
John stopped and looked puzzled. "Information?" he asked.
"Didn't you say that the false Earth the aliens created for you was exactly like the real Earth?" I asked as I moved the box into slightly better light.
John thought for a microt, and then said, "It was as real as my memories could make it."
"When I flew the transport pod down, we looked first at the continent where your home nation is. Doesn't your nation have a peninsula at one end?" I asked.
"Yes, Aeryn. It's called Florida. Why?"
"Is the peninsula sort of shaped like a boot?"
John looked disappointed. "No, Florida doesn't look like a boot. Italy looks like a boot."
I looked carefully at the box and the picture of the planet on it. "Is the boot facing west and almost touching a large, triangular island?"
John's eyes lit up and he yelled, "Aeryn, that's Italy."
John started pushing his way towards me, yelling "That's Italy." Over and over and over and over.
When he saw the box he screamed, "Aeryn, that's Italy!" and picked me up and started swinging me around and around. I enjoy being with John, and when we're alone I feel I can relax and be someone I've never been before. But in front of the others, even at a distance, I feel we should maintain a certain professionalism. You try restraining an exuberant human some time.
We had a good five arns before local sunset. I opened the box. Inside were books, printed on some sort of metal. They looked as new as the day they were printed. I picked up the first book and couldn't read any of it. It was written in tiny characters just big enough for me to see. Translator microbes are like that. If your language lacks a concept, the microbes can't provide a translation. If your language is expressed in sounds, sometimes they can't translate a language expressed in odors. Still, we decided to look through every page of every book. Four bad arns later, we had one book with one picture that John said showed Humans. How he could tell what they were under all the dirt and grease that covered them, I didn't know or care.
I opened the next book and realized I could read it. I stopped and looked down again. I could still read it. I turned to John, "John, this is written in Basti. It says, "The travels of the Ship Light Father to the unknown." I turned to the next page and read in a different language, "Unknown Voyaging of He Who Commands the Shining Sire." I kept looking and found the tiny characters the rest of the books were written in.
"John, all of the pages in this volume have the same passage in different languages. Pilot and Moya should be able to translate the one page in the unknown language by comparing it to the ones we do know. Then we can translate the rest of the books."
John smiled and used another Human expression I didn't know. "It's a Rosetta Stone, Aeryn." Well, at least he was too tired to pick me up and whirl me around.
DRD's moved back and forth as Pilot tried to translate our find into usable navigation data. John leaned over to me, "Aeryn, I've given this a lot of thought. My number one priority is to keep anyone on this ship from getting hurt if, no, when, we find Earth. So I want Moya to stay out beyond the orbit of Mars, our fourth planet. Nothing Earth has can reach that far in time to be any danger to you. I'll go to Earth in Farscape 1 and if everything's OK, I'll come back alone. If you lose contact with me, if I have any problems, if anything happens except me coming back alone, I want everyone to leave and never come back."
John could be obtuse at times. "Interestingly, John, my number one priority is to keep anyone on this ship from getting hurt. And that, of course, includes you."
"Aeryn, " he replied, "I'm not going to get hurt. This is my home world we're talking about and I'm the Uncharted Territories' greatest living expert on Earth and Humans. They'll have to quarantine and debrief me, but nothing will happen to me once they decide I'm not a threat."
I tried to keep our discussion on a professional level. "You have no idea how your people will react to you. No Human has ever contacted another species. They may be so frightened they'll put you in a cage for the rest of your life. They may dissect you to see if the translator microbes are dangerous. They may do any number of things that neither you or anyone on this ship can predict."
I could tell that John was getting angry, and stubborn. "It's my planet. I go down alone and if there are any problems, I deal with them. Everyone else stays where I say it's safe."
I could do angry, too. "Oh, I see. Crichton XVI, Dominar of Earth is forbidding us to go to his world. If I try to take my Prowler to Earth, were you planning on having me chained up and thrown into a cell? Beaten, perhaps? For my own good?"
John stopped and stared at the floor for several long microts. "Aeryn, you don't want to go to Earth. How many times have you told me that."
"When did I ever say I didn't want to go to Earth? Of course, I want to go to Earth." John was having trouble talking as sounds, but no words, came out of his mouth. I decided to continue. " I may have said I didn't want to live on Earth, but I certainly want to visit. To walk in the rain. To meet your father in person. And to shop."
John found his voice. "To shop. You want to go to Earth to shop?"
I nodded, "I need some new Calvins and I'd like some of that beer. I'll take my Prowler down, whether you like it or not, and ask the first Human I see for directions to the nearest beer and underwear store."
For some reason John was trying to stay mad and not laugh at the same time. "Aeryn, you don't speak any Human language and there are no such things as beer and underwear stores."
I had him. "Then of course, you'll have to come with me. Certainly the Uncharted Territories greatest living expert on Earth and Humans can come up with a plan to get one Human-looking Sebacean around Earth for a short time." I meant that. Sometimes John's lack of knowledge kept people, even those who knew him well, from seeing what a ferocious intelligence he has. He had surprised me more than once. When he got over the idea that this was a one way suicide mission, he'd think of something.
Pilot cleared his throat. As far as I knew, that was a Human affectation that no other Pilot used. John was having an effect on all of us.
Pilot turned to us, " Commander Chrichton, Officer Sun. Moya and I have determined that the data you provided is usable and, if the wormhole described in it is still functioning, we can be at Earth in 22 solar days."
I smiled at John and Pilot. "Well, Pilot, please begin planning our trip. No one will begrudge John and I twenty-two days to go to Earth."
John took me by the shoulders and turned me towards him. "Aeryn. Read. My. Lips. You are going nowhere near Earth. Not under any conditions. Not ever. Never."
Well, I had heard that word before.
Earth filled the forward vision port of my Prowler. Behind me, John was watching the equipment he had rigged to monitor Earth's communications.
I could barely hear John mumble, "I'd rather be doing this myself."
I asked, "What was that Crichton?"
"Just keep on this heading, Aeryn. I'm starting to pick up a picture. I think....I think... Yes, we won't have to fall back on Plan B after all. Morning in America is broadcasting outdoors from their Terrace. I'll guide you. You can watch the other monitor, too."
John gave me directions that led to a huge city. New York, he had called it. I had seen cities with far larger populations, but the way Humans crowded themselves into such small areas was amazing. He had me fly up a river, and then fly between tall buildings. I could see what looked like vehicles moving on the ground, of all places. Suddenly, I caught sight of my Prowler in the monitor John had rigged for me.
John called out to me, "Okay, Aeryn. Put her down just beyond where the two Humans at the desk are sitting, on the green stuff."
"Do you mean on the lawn, Crichton? You know I didn't sleep through your briefings about Earth."
I glided over the lawn and hovered silently for a few microts and set down.
On the ground, we quickly dismounted from the Prowler and walked up a flight of steps. John wore his IASA flight suit and I had my Peacekeeper blacks on. I had weapons, tools and anything I thought might be vaguely useful hidden on me. John had decided to depend on his smile and personality. We passed a dozen or so shocked looking Humans, then fifty or so of them sitting in chairs, then past a battery of machines, to two Humans sitting behind a large desk.
John smiled and extended his hand to the male. "Hello, Stan. You probably don't remember me, but I'm John Crichton. You came to my house to interview my dad for Morning in America after his last Shuttle mission. I left Earth on the Farscape 1 a few years back and now I'm back. I've never met you, Carolyn, "this to the blonde sitting with the male called Stan, "but I've always been a fan." I wondered about John and blondes sometimes.
To Stan's credit he began asking intelligent questions. We soon established that John had been halfway across the galaxy, had met dozens of non-Human species, and that I was not a Human. Carolyn was less impressive. She asked far more questions, but what questions they were. How was my room on Moya decorated? Did I cook? What did I wear? She asked how I kept my hair looking so nice. I smiled at her and told her that Sebacean hair stayed nice and black as long as we used our brains. If we stopped thinking, it turned blonde. John translated that politely, and inaccurately, on my behalf. I decided that even Humans couldn't watch something like this in large numbers. The fifty or so Humans watching from chairs, the audience, John had called them, probably represented the majority of those who could watch this. The broadcasting was probably done for the handful that couldn't make it in person.
Carolyn had asked if I had ever had trouble with space women chasing after John. John must have guessed what kind of reply I was thinking of, since he leaned over and whispered in my ear, " Aeryn, we need Human good will. Sometime, somewhere, someone may translate Sebacean into English and we don't need you looking like a smart ass." With that, he kissed me and turned to Carolyn and said, "She doesn't have any trouble at all." The audience was clapping and cheering and Carolyn looked ecstatic, as though she had planned this herself. I blushed, smiled and then glared at John.
Two arns later we were done. As we were walking away from what John called the set, he said, "There's our protection. I borrowed a cell phone and called him during a commercial and are we ever lucky he was interested. His name is Hugh Glass."
On our way to Earth, John had said we'd need some sort of protection for a while on Earth. I don't know what I had expected him to find. A regiment of Human mercenaries. A horde of savage Humans. Perhaps even one of the fierce linebackers John had mentioned. Whatever I had expected, Hugh Glass wasn't it. He was as tall as John, but much skinnier. He had the white hair and wrinkled skin I had learned were associated with old age in Humans.
He smiled and held out his hand, which John took. "Hello, Commander Crichton, Miss Sun. Glad to meet you. I think I may be able to start helping you right now."
We had reached the bottom of the stairs and turned towards the lawn and my Prowler. My worst fears had come true. Between us and the Prowler were at least two dozen armed, uniformed Humans. In front of them were several differently dressed Humans, including one who looked very angry, but frightened, at the same time. I reached for my pulse pistol, but John put his arm around me, trapping my arms at my side. "Just relax Aeryn and let Mr. Glass do his thing." If I hit John, I might hit him too hard and then I'd have to drag him to the Prowler while fighting off hezmana knows how many Humans. If I didn't hit him hard enough, we'd end up fighting each other as well as the Humans. I glared at John. "His thing seems to be betraying us. He's greeting those Humans like long lost comrades."
Hugh Glass brought the angry looking Human towards us. "Eddie, I'd like you to meet my clients, Commander John Crichton and Miss Aeryn Sun. You know Eddie, if you're thinking about Albany next year, you should be giving my clients a ticker tape parade instead of rolling out the paddy wagon. John is a second generation astronaut and Aeryn is our first extraterrestrial visitor. John and Aeryn, this is His Honor, Mayor Eddie De Bartolo." Hugh talked nonstop and I hardly understood a word he said. But suddenly the mayor was smiling and shaking our hands, talking to some Humans pointing small machines at us, and the uniformed Humans were shooing stray Humans away from the Prowler.
John freed my arms, and I asked him. "Who is Hugh Glass?"
"He was a Senator for 18 years, but before and after that, a lawyer."
I wasn't sure I understood the term. "And what is a lawyer exactly?"
"An expert on human laws. Rules, regulations, that sort of thing, Aeryn".
"John, do you mean to say our protection is a frelling administrative rules tech?"
"No Aeryn, I mean to say he's a Human lawyer and he protected us perfectly, didn't he?"
Earth and Humans might be more difficult to understand than even a couple of cycles of John Crichton had prepared me for.
Hugh Glass came up to us. "I understand you can understand me, Miss Sun even if I can't understand you. I took the liberty of renting the penthouse of the Millennium Hotel for you two. I have a map for you and there's a helicopter pad beside it. Can you fly that thing there, Miss Sun? And I do want to thank you and Commander Crichton for calling me. This is going to be a blast, a really far out blast, as they used to say."
I nodded to Hugh and wondered how my translator microbes were going to hold up.
I was looking around the penthouse, when a musical sound distracted me. John went to the door and opened it for Hugh Glass and more than a dozen other Humans.
Hugh walked over to me, "Miss Sun, if you are going to prosper here on Earth, you need money. There's an old saying that money is the mother's milk of politics. I don't necessarily like it, but it's true, and for more than politics. Commander Crichton is an employee of the government, and they can and will, consider all the knowledge he's acquired as government property. I'm going to suggest to our US customers that since John works for IASA, the government might have to share his discoveries with our European and Asian friends. But the technology in your ship and whatever else you have, is worth billions, if you'll sell it. Is that what you want to do?"
John and I had discussed this aboard Moya. It would take decades for Humans to absorb Peacekeeper technology. And with what I now knew about Peacekeepers, I was happy to see to it that Humans and Sebaceans would meet on more or less even terms. I nodded.
I heard that musical sound again, and decided it was an alarm that sounded when some one was at the door. A man came in with a wheeled cart with large, thin, square boxes on it.
John was smiling. "I have been waiting for this for years. Aeryn, there's one for you, too."
He handed me a box. It was slightly warm and there was an unusual odor coming from it. I opened the box. There was something in it. It was thin and round and colored red, gold, and yellow. It had black, green, white and brown things on it. I thought that something on it might be meat. I looked at John. "What is this?"
I should really know better than to ask John questions by now. "And what is pizza, John?"
"It's food. I got you the super combination. Go ahead and try it. It's great."
I put he box down and went towards a small pack I had prepared. "I think I'll just have some food cubes for now."
"Aeryn, you're on Earth now. When on Earth, do as the Earth people do."
John already had taken two huge bites out of his pizza. I took a small bite out of the very end of one of my pieces. It was chewy and not at all bad. I took another small bite. This time I got a piece of what tasted like spiced meat. It was all right. I took a slightly larger bite. This was really different, but a good different. I took a large bite and decided I liked pizza. I took another bite and my mouth caught fire. I grabbed a can of what I hoped was liquid from John. It was beer and I felt better.
"What the frell was that, John. It was like kissing a Sheyang."
John grinned at me, "I think we'd better pick the jalapeno peppers off of yours, Aeryn. And how do you know what kissing a Sheyang is like?"
For the next arn I was asked the occasional question and signed my name innumerable times at the bottom of documents written in Human. No, I must remember that John speaks English, only one of many Human languages. Finally, a woman named Lydia, an expert in initial public offerings, whatever that was, led me to a television. She turned it on and explained the controls. The first thing I saw was my Prowler landing. Then I saw John kiss me. I saw my smile but not the glare I had given John since the picture changed to Carolyn's reaction to the kiss. The next program was also about John and I, and the next, and the next and the next. The kiss seemed to feature prominently in all of them.
I turned to John and asked, "How many Humans have seen this?"
One of the other Humans, who was sitting at a small machine displaying some form of data, looked up and said, "The ratings aren't complete, but Morning in America is estimated to have had more viewers than the last Superbowl and the taped rebroadcasts are being watched all over the world."
All Humans apparently talked like John. All that and he hadn't answered my question. The Human must have figured out why I was staring at him.
He continued, "Estimates are about 3 billion people have watched some part of the broadcast or a repeat."
I turned to John, "Crichton, do you mean to say that 3 billion frelling Humans watched you kiss me?"
"No, Aeryn. I mean to say that 3 billion Humans watched us kiss each other."
Well, I only kissed him back because he surprised me. It was just a Sebacean reaction.
I finally found a program about Earth. It showed Humans swimming under the ocean, a huge expanse of open water. They had some sort of equipment that allowed them to remain under the water. Earth was a beautiful planet and I watched the magnificent, colorful creatures and plants of Earth in fascination. I made a mental note to ask John if we could go to the ocean. I watched that for an arn. That was followed by a program showing Humans living in a desert. I knew John could tolerate heat much better than I, but it was amazing to see Humans actually function in an environment lethal to Sebaceans. I watched for two more arns, but the images of the ocean stayed with me.
I changed channels. A group of Humans were moving to some music. I couldn't figure out what they were doing. I glanced over at John and he didn't seem busy.
"John, what are these Humans doing?"
John came over to me, glanced at the television and said, "Dancing."
Well, at least he didn't say it was pizza. He did understand that a further explanation was needed.
"Aeryn, Humans dance to music for fun. They do it to socialize, you know, to be with other people. I know Peacekeepers have music."
"We have work songs, marching songs, and battle songs, but we don't move around to any of those songs, John. How do you do that anyway?"
"Well, this is a sixties oldies program, so I'm not an expert on these dances, but watch me."
I followed John's movements as best I could. Then I noticed the program was showing only a young Human female in a very short dress, who seemed to be dancing quite well. I tried to follow her movements, but somehow my boot collided with John's shin.
"Ow. Be careful, Aeryn." He reached over and turned the television off.
"John, I wanted to dance."
He smiled at me. "Aeryn, there's dancing and then there's dancing."
He rummaged through a cabinet before finding something he put in another machine near the television. Then he demonstrated a dance step to me and put his arms around me, first pushing something on the machine. The music started. The song was about a Human male who had left an internal organ in some city. I knew that had to be a metaphor, but for what I wasn't certain. I was also sure that Human technology, couldn't get little cable cars, what ever they were, half way to the stars. But the sound was nice and I enjoyed being in John's arms. I rested my head on his chest and stopped worrying about Human soldiers capturing us, or dissections, or prisons, or anything else.
John sang to me and I found I liked that, too.
"My love waits there, in San Francisco, above the blue and windy sea, high on a hill it calls to me."
The song played over and over and we kept dancing together, when suddenly a voice joined in from behind us.
"When I come home to you, San Francisco, your golden sun will shine for me."
I turned and saw who it was. "Jack Crichton!" I screamed and threw my arms around him. I suddenly realized I'd never actually met Jack and tried to back off. But by this time John had me caught in a hug between him and his dad.
"Sorry I couldn't get here sooner, John, but I had to fight my way past every reporter east of the Mississippi waiting outside the house." He turned and looked at me. "And this could only be Aeryn Sun. I'd guess I'll have to get used to having her around. But, how did she recognize me?"
John laughed and started to tell his dad about the false Earth when Hugh Glass interrupted.
"Don't stay up too late. I just got off the phone and you're going to DC tomorrow to meet the President, and then you'll be the guests of honor at a state dinner."
I was standing in a darkened room in the residence of the ruler of John's nation, looking out of a window at a city at night. I wasn't going to leave.
I heard a knock on the door and Kathi- with- an- eye opened the door. I couldn't understand why she called herself Kathi- with- an- eye when she obviously had two. Kathi- with- an- eye was another lawyer who worked for Hugh Glass. I heard her speaking with John.
"I don't know what the problem is, Mr. Crichton. I've tried to help her get ready for the dinner, but she turned out the lights and is just standing there looking out the window."
A light was turned on and I heard John come up behind me. I felt his hands go to my shoulders.
"Aeryn, what's wrong?"
I turned around so he could see me. "I look ridiculous and I am not going out where anyone can see me."
John guided me to a large mirror, where I could see myself. I didn't like what I saw.
"Aeryn, you are beautiful. I can't imagine what the problem is."
I looked at John to see if he was serious. "John, let's start with what Kathi- with- an- eye put on my face. I'm not a Delvian. There's no reason my eyelids should be colored blue."
John grinned a little and I almost said something, but he beat me to it.
"This is makeup. Human women use it to enhance their appearance. See, the blue on your eyelids brings out the blue of your eyes. The same with the lipstick, it enhances the color of your lips. It makes you more beautiful, Aeryn, believe me."
I went on, "And these things on my ears. They pinch and I can't get used to having them dangle there."
I could see from John's expression that I had said something wrong.
He reached under my hair towards my ears, "Dad brought those from home. They were my mom's earrings. But if you don't like them...."
I managed to get to his hands before he took the earrings off. "Well, I wouldn't be much of a soldier if I couldn't get used to a little something like this. Leave them there."
I looked back in the mirror. "But, John, this dress is absurd."
The dress was white and started just above my chest and ran to my ankles. It was skin tight down to the knee, and then there was a slit so I could, just barely, walk.
"I can hardly move in this, I certainly couldn't fight or run for cover. There's no place to put my pulse pistol or any of my tools, and it looks absolutely absurd."
John ran his hands from my shoulders down my sides and around my waist. He leaned forward and kissed my shoulder. "Aeryn, you have no idea how good you look."
Suddenly, John got a strange look on his face and slowly ran his hands back from my waist up my sides and to my shoulders. "Er, Aeryn, what exactly are you wearing under the dress?"
I wondered what sort of human taboo I had violated now. "I don't have anything on under the dress. I was going to wear my Calvins, but Kathi- with- an- eye said they didn't look good, and I have to admit, well, the Calvins did look bulky. But you should see the flimsy things she gave me." I gestured towards a small pile of discarded clothing. "How do Human women ever wear those things?"
John put his hands back around my waist. "Aeryn, you don't need a pulse pistol. If you want to conquer Earth, all you need is that dress."
There was a soft knock at the door and I could just hear Kathi- with- an- eye speaking to someone. She came towards us. "The President is going down to the dinner in five minutes. You have to leave now, I'm afraid." Then she turned to me. "Miss Sun. I know you're not used to Earth or our ways, but I want you to know you have nothing to worry about tonight. Every other woman here tonight has to worry, but not you. You are the most beautiful woman here."
John took my arm and I let him lead me out the door and down a hall. As we walked, I said to John, "At least with all the important Humans here tonight, no one is likely to notice me."
John found that hilarious.
The limo was stuck in traffic, as usual. I took another lick of my ice cream and leaned back on John's shoulder.
"I'm perfectly serious, John. We'll put small refrigeration units in my Prowler and in all the transport pods. That way if I start to overheat, I can use the ice cream to cool down and not develop Sebacean Heat Delirium."
"That's ice cream, Aeryn."
What was John talking about. "Of course it's ice cream. That's what we're talking about."
John laughed. "You're calling it "ize krim" instead of ice cream, Aeryn."
There was no Sebacean word for ice cream, so of course I had to use English.
John went on, "And if you keep eating "ize krim," you'll look like the girl on the end over there."
I looked out the window of the limo and got another shock. There on the sidewalk were four of me. Four Human women, no really young girls, all dressed like me. Black Peacekeeper boots, dark pants, a gray tee shirt , a web belt and pouch, and black hair. Somehow, the hair didn't look natural. The one on the end was, well, generously built.
"John.... John..." I didn't know what to say. "They can't do that, can they?"
"You're a fashion trend setter, Aeryn. Don't worry. You have at least four fans who'll complain if someone wants to put you in a cell, or worse."
There was something in John's voice I didn't like. "Has anyone been suggesting we should be put in prison, or held in protective custody, or disappeared?" I used the Human word "disappeared" for emphasis.
John pulled out a Human computer and started it up. I waited for microts for it to start working.
John turned the screen to me. "I wanted to wait a while before showing this to you, Aeryn."
What I saw was a crude drawing, but obviously of me. I was shooting Humans. Men, women and children. John did something to the computer and the picture changed. This was a slightly better drawing, but the same subject matter.
John pointed to the drawing on the screen. "This is a group in the Mideast. They believe that you're here to help America enslave the rest of the world. The one before it is from the U.S. They're what we call a hate group. They think you're here to destroy America."
I really didn't understand this. "One group is afraid one ex-Peacekeeper will destroy their country and the other thinks I'll help this country destroy everyone else? Don't they realize how absurd that is?"
John looked glum. "No Aeryn, they don't have a clue."
"John, what are we going to do?"
His answer really surprised me. "Nothing." He continued before I could say a word. "I've told you about freedom of speech, Aeryn. The ones in this country can say, and I emphasize the word say, anything they want. The people in the Mideast, well, they're too small and too hard to get to bother with. But there's a bright side to this."
I couldn't imagine what the bright side to being feared as a mass murderer was. John changed the image again. It was a picture of me in the white dress. I read the caption and then read it again to be sure.
" The Shrine to Our Raven Haired Goddess? Crichton! Humans are worshipping me! "
John smiled and gave me a small hug. "Aeryn you only have one worshipper. No, these aren't really worshippers. But they are interested in you, concerned for you and our friends still on Moya, and determined to see that Humans make friends with you. Don't worry, I won't let anything happen to you."
Both Jack and Hugh had translator microbes now, so I decided I'd drop the subject with John, and take it up with them. I leaned back against John again. "What flavor did you say this is?"
"Cherry Garcia. It's a pun, a joke, a play on words." John looked down and I smiled at him and he continued explaining. "Aeryn, if you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your head...."
"John, neither of the runners was touched by the ball."
"It was a force play, Aeryn, the batter has to run to first when he hits the ball, and the runner on first has to run to second. Last inning, the runner was stealing second, so the second baseman had to tag him. I bet when Rygel gets down here, he'll enjoy a game were you can steal a base."
I gave John my most severe look. "Really, John, that's procure a base, I'm sure."
After two weeks of nonstop whining from Chiana, we had allowed her to come down to Earth. John had said I was the perfect person to go with him, since being female and looking Human, I was the least threatening. You can imagine how I felt about that. And Chiana, being almost Human-looking and also female was the next least threatening. That was almost as funny. But Chiana was on her best behavior, and while I had hated the reporters and television cameras, Chiana loved them. Hugh had taken her to be on a talk show while we were at he game. Zhaan was already talking to human religious leaders over our communications system. I think they were surprised. I was curious what Human's would think when confronted by Rygel or D'Argo.
"Well, at least I don't have to explain to you who's on first, do I, " said John.
I was confused. "Who's on first?"
I stared at John, not sure that I heard what I thought I heard. "What?"
"Second base, Aeryn."
This was getting unusual even for John.
"I don't know..."
"Third base. Aeryn, you're such a tease. I bet the Sebaceans have been playing baseball for years. You know this game better than I do." John was grinning and he knew he had me confused. I just wasn't going to let him know that I was confused.
Finally, he relented. "It's a play on words, a pun, like Cherry Garcia. I'll explain later. Now pay attention, we're up."
I took a bite out of my hot dog. That was another strangely named Human food, that was even stranger looking, but which I had developed a taste for. This had everything on it and it was one of the most colorful foods I had ever seen. I put the last piece in my mouth, and drank some beer to wash it down.
"John," I said, "Will you buy me some ice cream now?" I was rather proud of my pronunciation of ice cream.
John got a pained look on his face. "Poor underpaid civil servant, John Crichton, has to buy ice cream for Aeryn Sun, sole owner of Sun Systems? Aeryn Sun, who daily has high tech companies begging her to take billions of dollars for what ever scraps of Peacekeeper technology she might throw to them."
I frowned at John. "Yes. I've been talking to Lydia and Kathi. They say that a Human male is supposed to pay for the female on dates."
John looked extremely shocked. "They're ignoring the effects of feminism on society, completely disregarding the concept of Dutch treat, assuming that this is a date, and, these women are applying the rules carefully built up for dates between Humans to Human-Sebacean relations? Is that what you're saying?"
"Yes. I don't know about the first two, but I distinctly recall you saying we had a date to go to a ball game. And, I might add that you have been encouraging me to eat like a Human, do business like a Human, and even to dress like a Human."
I turned back and forth so John could see I was dressed in sandals, white shorts, a red and white shirt with the name McGuire and a number on the back, and an Atlanta Braves baseball cap.
"And I expect to be treated like a Human, too. As a matter of fact, I'm even beginning to feel a little like a Human."
John put his hand on my forehead. "Sebacean heat delirium. I blame myself for letting you stay out in the sun so long. I remember when you would have been insulted to be compared to a mere Human."
"That was when I only knew one Human. Now that I've met a larger group...."
I heard the crack of the bat and saw a blur heading straight for John. I leaned past John, stuck out my right hand, and caught the ball just before it hit his head. The Humans around me were laughing and clapping and one even pounded me on the back. I usually hate being touched by strangers, but this seemed harmless. But, they looked at me expectantly.
"John, am I suppose to do something? Throw the ball somewhere?"
"No, Aeryn, just hold the ball up and wave it around for a few seconds, so everyone can see you caught it." Which I did. Then he said, "You know, I'll bet you don't even throw like a girl."
The word was out of my mouth without thinking. "What?" Before John could say anything I added, "Second base, of course."
John suddenly turned his back on me, and I thought I had said something wrong, but he called out, "Hey, two ice creams over here for me and my date."
The ocean was beautiful. It's colors had ranged from a cold and forbidding gray to a clear blue and now it was a green I had never seen before. Over it the sky was blue from horizon to horizon. A few white clouds hung above the ship. I had never seen anything like it.
We had flown to the Bahamas in a strange Human aircraft. I tried to look confident, but I wasn't happy trusting Human technology after what I had seen of Farscape 1. Jack Crichton and Kathi were with us. It seems that Kathi has been appointed my official guide to all things Human and female. When she found out we were going on a vacation, (another Human word creeping into my vocabulary), she announced we were going shopping for me. I had expected to be able to pick up some new Calvins and perhaps one of those black suits I had seen the Humans on the television wear under water. I didn't believe all of the clothing Kathi tried to buy for me for one short vacation. I especially didn't believe what she wanted me to wear to go swimming. I don't believe any Peacekeeper has ever been seen in something as revealing as a bikini. But I found I enjoyed the effect it had on John. He not only couldn't keep his eyes off me, he had trouble finishing his sentences. I discovered that if I stretched or leaned the right way, John would start sounding like he did when I woke up and found him with me, just after I was stabbed.
Jack watched Kathi, but she didn't have the same effect on him. I understood that Jack was, by Human standards, much older than Kathi. I slept lightly at night and could have told if either of them were leaving their cabins, but neither of them did. There was a lot about Human relations I didn't understand.
I put on my fins, facemask and snorkel and slid into the water. The sun, as Human's called their star, was just coming up over the horizon. I could clearly see the bottom and plant life I couldn't identify was everywhere. Strangely, there were no fish. I looked back and saw John standing on deck looking in my direction. I waved at him and he waved back. Then I saw I had company. A huge fish, easily twice my length. He was sleek, strong looking and a dirty gray in color. He stopped just in front of me. I heard a splash and saw John swimming towards us. The fish looked once in John's direction and then headed slowly the other way. I surfaced to tell John about my new friend, but he didn't give me a chance.
"Aeryn, get back to the ship now. Don't argue, just do it."
John had been swimming much longer than I had and could usually outswim me. But he swam right beside me until we got to the diving platform at the stern. Then he jumped onto the platform grabbed me by the arms and threw me onto the stern.
"John, you don't have to be so rough. Did I do something wrong? Why are you mad at me?"
When John got up beside me, he put his arms around me. "I'm not mad, just concerned and very frightened. That was a Great White."
Well, that was useful. So I asked, "A Great White what?"
"A shark. One that big could have you for breakfast in one bite. Look, Aeryn, there is a lot about Earth you don't understand, and a lot that could hurt or kill you. So in the future, if you want to do anything, we'll do it together, okay?"
I told John that together was fine with me. I suggested we start by having breakfast together.
John looked at me suspiciously, "Do you intend to have ice cream on your waffles again?"
What a silly question. "Of course."
John turned and started towards the galley. "Two orders of waffles with ice cream, coming up."
I shouldn't have, but I couldn't resist. "You know, John, I'll bet that shark recognized a Commando trained Peacekeeper when he saw one and decided to go elsewhere for a meal."
I rushed through the bedroom door. I grabbed the covers and pulled them off of John.
"Get up, John. Hurry."
I ran to the window to be sure it was still there, although I knew it would be. I ran back to John and dragged him, protesting, to his closet. I started trying to put a pair of pants on him.
Finally, he looked at me and growled, just a little,"All right, Aeryn. I can dress myself. I'm a big boy, now."
I ran downstairs. We had moved to a large farmhouse in upstate New York. Normally, at least one of our friends would be staying with us, but this weekend it was empty, except for John and me. I ran to the front door and looked out. It was still there.
I heard John coming down the stairs. "Aeryn, whatever it is will have to wait until I get a cup of coffee, at least. After all those days in the Uncharted Territories with no coffee, I refuse to start a day on Earth coffeeless."
Well, if he could go for cycles without coffee, he could go a few minutes more. I grabbed John by the arm and dragged him through the front door to the porch. I left him there and ran out into it. It was white, and cold, and beautiful, and best of all, it was still falling. I gathered two handfuls and threw them into the air.
I heard John laughing. "Aeryn, it's only snow."
"No, it isn't 'only snow.' It's beautiful, exciting, fascinating, wonderful snow. And I've never seen any. It's even more fun than rain."
I turned around and threw more snow up into the sky so it could fall on me again. Suddenly, a larger snow mass hit the back of my head. I had read about snow, but I didn't remember it falling in such a large mass. I wondered what caused this until I turned around and saw it was a who not a what that caused it.
"John, what are you doing?" I batted a small mass of snow away.
"Snowball fights are another Human custom you'd better get used to, Aeryn." He was throwing snowballs so fast I had trouble making my own and batting them away, so I just let them hit me. I concentrated on hitting John. He was moving toward me, so we were both easier to hit. As he got to me, I bent down to gather more snow. Big mistake. I felt his hand at my neck and felt a large snowball go down the back of my sweater. I screamed and put my hands behind me. Another big mistake. John dropped the next snowball down the front of my sweater. Then he put his arms around me, keeping my arms at my sides and the snowballs firmly against my skin. We were both laughing, but I eventually managed to trip him onto a large snowdrift, causing him to let me go. I sat astride his waist and shook myself to get the snow out. I started to stand, but John pulled me down on to him. He looked at me for the longest time, and then said, "I love you, Aeryn Sun." I smiled and.......
.....the message alarm went off on my computer. My back was better. Not as good as if John were here, but he never would be with me again. He had lived for 108 years. Very old by Human standards, even with the advances Zhaan had brought to Earth. But it was about half of what a Peacekeeper who survived combat could expect to live. I lifted my gaze from my beautiful home world of Earth to the stars. Our grandchildren and great grandchildren were exploring the nearer solar systems, planning colonies and meeting new species.
Their grandchildren would eventually meet Sebaceans. My number one priority was to see to it that the next meeting between Humans and Sebaceans resulted in as joyous and fruitful a union as the meeting between the first Human and Sebacean. I turned back to my desk.
It's times like these that I miss John the most.
I loved you, and so I drew these tides of men into my hands
and wrote my will across the sky in stars
To earn you Freedom, the seven pillared worthy house,
that your eyes might be shining for me
When we came.
Death seemed my servant on the road, till we were near
and saw you waiting;
When you smiled, and in sorrowful envy he outran me
and took you apart;
Into his quietness.
Love, the way-weary, groped to your body, our brief wage
ours for the moment
Before earth's soft hand explored your shape, and the blind
worms grew fat upon
Men prayed me that I set our work, the inviolate house,
as memory of you
But for fit monument I shattered it, unfinished: and now
The little things creep out to patch themselves hovels
in the marred shadow
of your gift.