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"Aeryn, are you done fixing the transport pod yet?"
I turned to John. "Yes. It was only a burned out light in the indicator. Nothing serious."
"Good. I have to take Jool down to the commerce planet in a hurry. She needs to see a doctor."
That was news to me. "A doctor? I didn't know she was sick. What is it?"
John looked slightly bemused, as if I should know the answer. "Jool isn't sick, Aeryn, she's pregnant."
I looked at John in shock. "Pregnant? How did that happen?"
John gave me a very strange look. "The usual way, Aeryn. I'm sure I don't need to explain the birds and the bees to you."
What avians and insects had to do with anything was beyond me. "I know how pregnancy occurs, John. How did this one happen? Who's the father?"
John stared at me in a manner I didn't like. "I'm the father, of course, Aeryn.
I tried to keep the various emotions surging through me from showing on my face, but I'm sure I failed. "But, John, what about us."
John laughed. "Aeryn, we're still a team. I depend on you to be the emotion free, level headed soldier who protects us. Just like you always are."
I tried hard to ask a sensible question. "John, if Jool's pregnant. If you're the father. I mean, how are we a team? I don't understand."
"Easy, Aeryn. See, over there is a critter, just by my module. The one who looks like a cross between a 'gator and a camel. I point it out and you kill it. See? That's teamwork. Go to it, Aeryn"
John pointed across the docking bay and there was a large green critter with patches of light brown fur. I pulled my pistol and started shooting. He kept fighting even after I shot his head off. Eventually, I had to chop off his arms and legs and tear his heart out.
By the time I got back to the transport pod, John was helping a visibly pregnant Chiana into the back of the pod.
"Crichton! I thought you said it was Jool that's pregnant."
John gave me that boyish grin of his. "Jool needs to see the doctor. Pip is just going along for the ride."
"And the father of Chiana's child is..."
"John Robert Crichton, Jr. at your service, Aeryn. By the way, you didn't kill the critter's mate. And that's a nasty gouge you have on your arm. Be careful, Aeryn."
I drew my pistol again and proceeded to kill the second critter. John, Chiana and Jool were standing by the module watching me. I walked over, determined to have this out with John.
Chiana started clapping. "Bravo, Aeryn. You saved us all. You couldn't have handled those critters if you were distracted by your emotions."
John grinned at me. "I'm really proud of how you handled yourself, Aeryn. If I had the time, I'd help bandage you. But, I'm sure you'd rather do that yourself."
Jool interrupted him. "John, our son kicked me. Is that normal? I think I should scream."
John immediately started reassuring Jool and helping her into the transport pod.
Chiana turned and smiled at me. "Aren't you just thrilled that John is finally going to have children, Aeryn? Oh, I'm sorry. Thrilled was a bad choice of words. Too much emotion for you. Aren't you just mildly interested that Jool and I will have John's children?"
Before I could say a word, Chiana turned and walked into the transport pod. The next thing I knew, they were gone.
At the other end of the bay, just past the dead critters, I saw D'Argo. Just the person to help me on this.
"D'Argo, what's happened to John? He's starting a family with both Jool and Chiana. I don't understand."
D'Argo snarled at me. "What's to understand, Peacekeeper? My former best friend betrayed me with my former betrothed."
"D'Argo, we have to do something. We need to talk. We need to help each other."
D'Argo turned away from me. "Do you think that that I am so desperate that I would accept my worst enemy's discarded lover? I realize that I will be a better warrior for having no emotional tie to Chiana, but for now, stay away from me, Peacekeeper."
I walked away from D'Argo and wandered aimlessly through the hallways. Suddenly I found myself watching Rygel stuffing his face.
"Rygel. Would you like my share of the rations today?"
"I already ate your share, but if you could hand me your rations for tomorrow?"
I reached over and grabbed a package of food cubes and gave them to Rygel. "Rygel, you need to help me. I need to tell you what John has done."
"You mean impregnating Jool and Chiana?" Rygel started on the food cubes.
I stared at Rygel. "You knew? And you didn't tell me?"
Rygel burped. "Never occurred to me that you'd be interested."
"Rygel, I have saved your life on more than one occasion. You owe me an explanation of what's going on here."
Rygel snorted. "I owe you nothing. You are a soldier, nothing more. You risk your life for others because that is you only purpose in life. Go away, Aeryn."
Rygel returned to his food. I left.
Stark. He could explain these mysterious going on, I was sure of it. I found him sitting in Zhaan's former quarters, meditating.
"Stark, I need your help."
Stark opened his eyes and looked up at me. "You are not Zhaan. You never could be. Never will be."
"I know that, Stark. I need to know what is happening with John."
"Death and birth. Life and death. My side, your side. My side, your side. Begone Peacekeeper. This is beyond your comprehension."
"It is not beyond my comprehension. Listen to me, Stark."
It was too late. He had closed his eyes and had returned to his meditation, mumbling under his breath.
I had one last, true friend to ask for help.
"Pilot, how good to see you." I tried to sound cheerful as I walked into his den.
"Officer Sun, I'm afraid I'm very busy. Commander Crichton wants a large family, so I have to rearrange some of the quarters to make a nursery. Then we'll need a child care facility and the kitchen needs to be changed, and I have to childproof all of Moya. What do you need?"
"I need to talk about John. What's happened to him? Why has he changed?"
"I have no idea, Officer Sun. Is that all you needed? If you want, I'm sure I could locate a critter in Moya's lower tiers that needs killing. If not, I'm very busy."
I walked out of Pilot's den. I wandered through Moya, eventually finding myself back in the docking bay. I sat down and decided to wait for John to return. I'd get an explanation from him one way or another.
"Aeryn, are you done fixing the transport pod yet?"
I sat bolt upright in the pilot's seat of the transport pod. "Yes. It was only a burned out light in the indicator. Nothing serious."
John walked into the cockpit and knelt by the pilot's seat. "Aeryn, you look like dren. No wonder you're falling asleep on the job. Go back to your quarters and get some sleep. I'll get someone else to go down to the planet with me."
I stared at John suspiciously. "Who would you get to go with you?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. Whoever doesn't have much to do right now."
"Jool and Chiana usually don't do anything at all."
John smiled. "Good thinking, Aeryn. Neither one of them is exactly a workaholic. They could use a little work. I'll get them."
John started to get up and I grabbed his arm. I pushed him towards the co-pilot's seat and started the pod's engine with my other hand.
"Crichton, sit down, shut up and hang on." We shot out of the hanger and into space.
John was quiet for a few microts. He leaned over and made a show of examining me.
"Are Peacekeepers a little cranky if they don't get an afternoon nap, Aeryn?"
I pushed my feelings down inside of me and smiled at John. "We're a good team. We work well together and so we should work together. Okay?"
John shrugged, but then smiled back at me. "Okay, Aeryn. We're a team. Actually, we're a great team."
And don't you ever frelling forget it, human.