Zotoh Zhaan and Aeryn Sun were in command. Pilot was visible in the communicator.
"Moya says that the trajectory of the projectile was right on target. It should have landed within 50 metras of the anomalous lifeform readings, with high probability. If your assumption is correct, Crichton, D'Argo and Rygel should have the information now pinpointing the location of the origin of the power drain."
"Thank you, Pilot," Aeryn said. "Do you have any more information on it, the power drain? Anything we can do from up here?"
"I am afraid not, Aeryn Sun. The source appears to be located at the planet's surface. Moya says that if she landed directly on it, there is a good possibility that we would crush it. However, that is much too risky even without her pregnancy."
Aeryn turned to Zhaan. "Do you have any more ideas?"
Zhaan said, "No. They will have to help themselves. The question is, how long should we wait?"
"Oh, let's not start that again. We searched. We found him. After all that time -- this is no time to give up!"
"But we must be realistic, Aeryn. Without power, there is no way for them to return to Moya. Unless they can stop that power drain, they are trapped. We might join them. Perhaps they need our help. Is that what you want to do?"
"I want you to be little more hopeful," Aeryn said. "No, I don't want to go down there. We don't ..."
Pilot broke in: "Pardon the interruption. Moya reports that the power drain has stopped. Power reading are now appearing from a number of sources on the planet. We have identified the shuttle, Crichton's ship, and Dominar Rygel's levitation pallet."
Zhaan grinned. "That's wonderful!"
Aeryn frowned. "A moment ago you were getting ready to abandon them!"
Zhaan said, "I was not! I was considering our options. It was contingency planning, Peacekeeper. Or don't you understand such things?"
Aeryn's eyes flashed, but she said nothing. Then, "Pilot, can you open communications with any of them? Are they all right?"
"I have been trying, Aeryn Sun..."
There was a whine of static, then D'Argo's voice became audible: "... read me? Come in..." A faint chant could be heard: masata, masata.
"Greetings, Ka D'Argo," Pilot said. "It is good to hear from you."
D'Argo said: "Pilot!" Then, "Crichton, we are back in contact with Moya."
"D'Argo, are you all right?" Aeryn asked. "What's happening?"
"Everyone is fine down here."
John's voice broke in, "Hey girls! We're all fine! Looks like Rygel got hisself a fan club! The MAN is in the BUILDING!"
Zhaan asked Aeryn, "The what? Did your microbes..."
"No. That's Crichton, all right."
Back on Acquara, John held his hands about a meter apart: you have that much space. He could see D'Argo looking at him, and the shuttle moved forward about a meter. Then John held out his thumbs and waved his fingers down: come on. D'Argo eased the shuttle down the last few meters, and landed. He popped the hatch.
"Good job, D'Argo. I can taste those jerky burgers now!"
"We need the food," D'Argo said. "We used up a lot while finding you. Let's get to work; what do you want: carrying or loading?"
John indicated the pile of bags already gathered. "That's hard work. I'll take the loading. You know where to go?"
"Certainly," D'Argo said, heading up the slope towards the village.
John climbed up, hit the control for the rear lift lock, then stepped to the back of the shuttle. He lowered the lift, then started moving bags. Strange times, he thought, disorienting. Just a day ago, I was about to be beaten senseless. Then they reappear, my psychotic alien buddies, and save me... and almost get me killed... and save me again. And it turns out, not that psycho anyway. They came back for me! Did they really, could it be false? Well, the power's back on... and it was hard to see how it could be a ruse. Why would I ever have seen them again unless they came looking? There was simply no answer to that one, other than that they had searched as D'Argo and Rygel said. Or could Moya have a problem? But no... he'd seen her burst away. They had to have returned here intentionally.
OK. Enough for a load. Hit the lift control, and up. And now, start moving again. Pretty easy, compared to lugging these damn things down here.
... and if they returned intentionally... that means they did not abandon me. Even though they sent no message, and there was no warning. That really sucked. But... if they didn't abandon me, then they can still help me... they may still help me... they did before, anyway, so why not again?
Help me get back home!
What was it like, John wondered to himself, searching. Searching for me. Suppose Rygel disappeared. Nobody can figure anything. How long would we look? He smiled... 'we'. How easy it was to fall back into old habits! Here it is, less than a day that D'Argo is back, and I am already thinking as a team player again! Rygel, though... what do we owe him...what do I owe him? Of course, that was different from, say Aeryn... if she were lost here, I would keep looking for her, until we found her. I owe her that. Hezmana! I owe her my life. His own words rang in his mind: "... and I'm sick of you!" Damn! Shouldn't have said that. Some real apologizing to do, when I get up there. That look on her face... yep, that was a hit. Peacekeeper or not. "You sank my battleship!", he thought to himself and smiled ruefully. First time I break through her damn walls... and I regret it to hell. I wonder if she has forgiven me for that? I wonder... when they were looking. Did they talk about me? They must have... and what did they say? Did Aeryn forsake me, after what I said?
At that, John heaved the last of the first load into the cargo area, then dropped the lift.
Rygel was there. "Hello", he said. "I came down to ask how much more food do you think we can take? Two shuttles? Five?"
"You said before we only need two shuttle loads," said John. "Right?"
"Yes, that is the minimum. But we could get... more..." said Rygel, rubbing his hands together.
"Just two, Rygel. Look: that power suppressor is off, right? But we don't know anything about it...maybe it only turns off for a day, then goes back on."
Rygel looked affronted. "I would just command it to turn back off! I am the rightful ruler of these people, and the rightful ruler of that machine!"
"Maybe it takes time to recharge, or something. Maybe you have to wait a cycle or two for that. Who knows? All I know is, we can get off now. So, let's move it. Two shuttle loads only, say our thanks to Kato-Re, and we are outta here."
"Very well. I shall ask D'Argo." Rygel raised his chair, as if to leave.
"Rygel," said John, and sat on a bag. "Can I ask you something?"
"Certainly," Rygel said magnanimously with a sweep of his hand. "What is it?"
"On Moya... when you were looking for me... did you ever lose hope? That you would find me?"
"I had no such hopes from the beginning. I said we should just leave you... but they wouldn't listen. Instead we used up a quarter cycle of food on this hopeless search! Well," he said, noting John's look, "not quite hopeless."
"What did Aeryn say? About me, about the search?"
"Oh, I don't know. Not much. She wanted to keep looking, and that was that. But she didn't talk about it, except when Zhaan and D'Argo were debating it. They would never agree, then they would always ask her, and she would always say to keep looking. And so they did. Well, they should have asked me! They were making decisions while I was sleeping! Imagine! The rightful sovereign of over 600 billion subjects, and they don't consult me!"
John stood up. "Well, back to work. I appreciate the concern, Rygel."
"Don't mention it. Now, I return to my subjects!" Rygel hovered off towards the village. John grabbed another bag, and started loading the pallet again. Urmph. Move bag, repeat.
John turned to thought as he moved the food. His heart felt light. So... I guess she did forgive me! That definitely rates a woo-hoo! He looked around... Rygel was out of sight... "Woo-hooo!" he said out loud. Yessir, things were looking up. A nice vacation here, he thought to himself, but I have to move on. Back to Moya, and back to trying to find my way back home. He thought about that. Wormholes, and how to create them. Would they go to earth? It seemed unlikely... how would you know? If there was a stable one, perhaps I could pop through and have a look, then come back? But maybe not... maybe they are one-way only? How would you know unless you looked?
Something from the previous conversation was bugging him. He thought about it, about Rygel, and what he had said. Aeryn had taken my side in a debate... and a debate has two sides. So, either Zhaan or D'Argo was arguing against finding me? Who? Surely not D'Argo, after Dam-Ba-Da... or could he? "I will not abandon you", he had said then, when they had us pinned down... and he had not. But maybe that only applied in battle. Or could it be Zhaan? Perhaps... she had seemed so distant, so emotionless, since the struggle with Tahleen. Surely, it must have affected her, John thought. I wonder if she is losing control?
Will I return to an insane Delvian? The thought was chilling. D'Argo probably would have mentioned it, though, if she was crazy. Hard to hide the eyes, anyway, if she had flipped out completely. But if she were only just losing it, like Tahleen was... then the others might not know.
He was almost finished with the next load, when D'Argo and ten of the warriors appeared, each carrying a load of food. D'Argo had practically a triple load, a huge amount. John waited for them, instead of raising the lift. They each filed up and gently placed their load on the stack.
"Hey," John said.
D'Argo waved off the warriors. "Go on back, I will join you in a moment." They started to troop off. D'Argo turned to John. "Crichton, I was thinking. Why don't you take your ship up to Moya, and send down Aeryn in the other shuttle? When she gets down here, this one will be ready, and she can take it back up. That way, we can load faster. I can handle things down here. The villagers are helping," he indicating the backs of the warriors. "It honors their... ruler." He looked disgusted.
John laughed. "Rygel must think he's in heaven. About loading: it will be faster with me helping. I think I should stay and help."
D'Argo seemed to be inspecting the shuttle. "While we were searching for you," he said, "I talked to Aeryn and Zhaan. You said earlier, that you have apologies to make. That is true. I thought perhaps you might like the opportunity to get back to Moya now, before Rygel and I get back."
John blinked, and looked at him again. D'Argo was being... thoughtful! "D'Argo, you're right. I do need to get up there. You're sure you can handle it here?"
D'Argo nodded. "I am certain. Go."
"Thanks, D'Argo. You're a good man... um... creature."
Crichton landed the Farscape in the docking bay, and shut her down. Pretty good performance, he thought, these biomechanoid modules. A quarter cycle sitting out in the heat and rain, and they worked without a hitch! He popped the hatch, and got out.
The access door opened. Aeryn walked out, in her bulky pilot's outfit.
She smiled. John realized she was responding, that he was smiling too. He felt foolish. He walked to her, and grabbed her in as good of a hug as he could produce given her suit. He hoped she took it right, and didn't kill him on the spot. She didn't kill him. He wondered if Sebaceans hugged each other. He wondered what she thought. He let her go, and stepped back.
"That was a hug," he said. "Do you guys do that? Never mind... it means, it's great to see you again!"
"Well, I'm... glad... that we found you," she said.
"Look, Aeryn, I... back when... before all this, before you guys took off. I just got fed up," he said, and remembered Zhaan's non-comprehension. "I got tired of always being told I was stupid, being blamed for things that didn't work... and I was frustrated with being half in prison here. Can you understand that?"
"I guess so. D'Argo always said that it wasn't your fault, that we drove you from the ship."
"I just wanted to take out the Farscape and pretend that I was free, for a while, to be away from you people and get my sanity back."
Aeryn frowned and started walking away. "John, I need to be getting down there... D'Argo has the other shuttle almost ready to go. The sooner we get away from this rock, the happier I am."
"Wait. Look, I am trying to apologize! I said some things that I didn't mean, that I shouldn't have said. To you. And... I'm sorry."
She stopped and faced him. "That's what I had thought," she said. "Apology accepted." Then she smiled briefly.
He could see that all the niceness was embarrassing her. "Hey," he thought to himself, "I'm the guy, that's my prerogative!" He wondered if she would ever apologize to him, for knocking him out, for beating him up, for all the superiority and slights and cruel remarks. Not very likely.
"Great. I'll see you later," he said, feeling the lameness of it as he said it.
She looked at him a bit quizzically. "Yes, you will. By the way," she said, "get a shower. You smell like dren." Then she turned and walked to the shuttle.
John said, "I don't understand it. After all we've been through."
Zhaan said, "John, 'reality changes what is wise'. At the time, it seemed prudent. As luck had it, we found you, and I am very glad we did. Both things can be true."
"But... I saved you. I saved your sanity. Don't that mean anything to you?"
"Yes, of course. I will never forget that. And I apologize for my behavior, before you left us. You needed my help, and I could not help you. John, you know I have ceased to be a pa'u. Do you know why?"
"What? No... you never explained that."
"The Seek is called the Seek, for a reason. A pa'u is looking for something, greater knowledge, greater abilities to control her mind inside and her body outside. As you have seen, there is a danger. If a Delvian unleashes the darker part of her mind, and cannot control it, she will go insane. This is a danger for any pa'u, John, not just some."
He squinted. "So, if you start going crazy, you stop being a pa'u? Is that it?"
"No. Being a pa'u, you seek. It is the same thing. If your seeking is leading you in a direction that you are not able to control, you need to stop. That is why I stopped being pa'u. By the time you notice the insanity, it is too late. But there are other dangers, as well, John. When you seek, your mind is acting constantly, changing constantly, and it can be very difficult to accept. Outside distractions, of travel, of new people, of new places -- these can be dangerous, imbalancing. Inner distractions can be dangerous in the same way. Strong emotions, especially hate, are extremely dangerous. That is why Delvian missionaries isolate themselves: to cut off new people and new sensations, while they seek. Pa'u Tuzak, though... even though they were cut off from outsiders, the hate that they brought with them was too much. They should have stopped seeking with that much hate in them. They went too far, too fast."
"But... you are traveling all the time with us, seeing different things, new people."
"Exactly. I could handle it before I joined with Tahleen. Now I cannot. She changed my mind, do you see? She took my control, and she gave me powers that I had never thought of. I cannot accept it all, so fast. So now, I have stopped being pa'u. I do not seek, for it is dangerous to me right now. And for that reason, I suppress my emotions with logic. Do you understand?"
"I guess. You're defending yourself."
"The logical assessment, after we looked for a while, was that you were gone. Probably dead, or stranded in a place where we would not look. And with the Peacekeepers pursuing us, the danger has been rising. The logical thing to do was to abandon the search. Do you see? Aeryn and D'Argo chose with their hearts... but I cannot. Not now. I am sorry."
"I guess I do see.... you're afraid of your emotions right now." She nodded. "That's awful! Will you be able to recover?"
"In time, all things change. I will recover in time. I am still getting used to the new me, rebuilding my control, and accepting what is there from Tahleen. And... what is there from you. Yes -- you did save me. And I will be pa'u again, do not fear."
The comm unit chirped, and Pilot appeared. "Officer Sun is returning with the loaded transport pod, and should be on board in half an arn. D'Argo reports that loading is going smoothly. He should be done within three arns."
"Thanks, Pilot," John said, and stood. "Coming?" He extended a hand.
"Yes." She took his hand, briefly, squeezed, then let him go as they walked to the corridor. "John, I ask a favor. I have told you more than I have told the others, because you have a right to know. Will you keep it between the two of us?"
"Sure, if that's what you want."
"Thank you, John."
They walked towards the docking bays.
It was dark on the terrace, because Pilot had turned Moya so that the terrace was in her shadow. Millions of stars provided the only light. John lay on the floor, looking up.
One of those lights might be Earth's Sun. How funny, he thought. Perhaps it is not far from here at all, only unexplored. Who would know? But back there, somehow, must I get. How? It seems impossible... maybe I'll never reach it. But what sort of life is that? Just living on a ship, running... always from, never to. Hardly seemed worth it. Have to keep trying.
Aeryn walked in. Apparently she didn't see him, on the floor in the dark. "John?"
"Here," he said. He felt happy and thought to himself, "No, it is worth it."
She looked his direction, still not seeing, and said, "I thought I would find you here. You are occasionally predictable."
He said, "After 110 days on the ground? The one great thing about being here, Aeryn... the stars! Look at them all."
"They look normal to me."
"Yeah, but you were raised on a ship! I was raised in an atmosphere."
They were silent for a while.
"Hey, come here," he said. "Sit down." She sat, facing him. "Look up there."
Aeryn looked up. "What?"
"Up there! See that?"
"I see a lot of stars. What are you talking about?"
"OK. See the planet? The brightest one?" He pointed.
"Just to the right of it... about an half second of arc. A small, yellow star. See it?" He wondered if "arc second" would translate, but apparently it did, because she didn't ask about it.
"Um... I can see several yellow stars there, John. Which one?"
"Choose one... that one is Earth!" He smiled, though he knew she couldn't see him.
Aeryn flopped on her back. "You are quite bizarre," she commented. "It is pretty, though, isn't it?"
"I think so. Aeryn, tell me something. Do you ever think about the future? I mean, on Moya, what you're doing here?"
"What I am doing? I am being more, I think." She laughed ruefully. "I regret it, but what's done is done. And I miss it, the certainty of what my life was before. You get up, you do your job, you eat, you hit the dreamer. That's it. Everything is tidy and certain, nobody wants you to think, and you don't. There is no future, really. That's what your superior officers are for -- to decide on that. I have not been accustomed to thinking about the future. I never got trained to."
"Do you know what I did there, Aeryn? On Acquara? I caught monster crabs, cooked them, and chatted with the occasional native. That's all I did, for a quarter cycle. After a while, I stopped thinking that I would ever go home. The ship didn't work, nothing worked, actually, and you guys had abandoned me. I was going to grow old and die there. You know, I used to believe that people were basically good. Then I came here, and lost that faith... but I was just getting it back, and you guys took off. It's a terrible thing to have your faith jerked around like that. Don't know who to trust, or if the whole idea of trust is a sucker's game. Makes you cynical."
There was another pause. John wondered what she was thinking.
He continued, "But... you did come back for me."
"We never abandoned you. Moya did, and it was an accident."
"Yeah, I know. I was talking about how it seemed to me. You came back. I always thought that what people need is a dream, something to plan the future with. And I was always planning, always learning and preparing for a future back on Earth, my future as an astronaut. Didn't happen like that. Next thing I know, boom, I am here and all my plans are toast. Then I am just getting on my feet here, and boom, stuck for life on Acquara. That changed my view, because on Acquara the only thing they have is a present."
He paused and looked back out at the stars. "Then you came back and I realized that I had never settled in there, never made a place for myself, even though I could have. So I really hadn't given up, like I thought. And that made me see that I am living for something, even if I can't get back home, ever. I'm living for my friends, for you and D'Argo and the others."
They were silent again. Then Aeryn reached across and took his hand.