Party, Doll?

By Bob Hutchinson (UCSBDad)
Copyright 1999

Blanket disclaimer: Absolutely no blankets were injured in the making of this fanfic. Oh, and the characters and situations of Farscape are owned by someone else. I just borrowed them, really.
Spoilers? None, really.
Rating, PG.
Time frame? Well, sort of in the first season, maybe. You know how fanfic is.

Some of the evil in my tale may have been inherent in our circumstances. We had crossed an unimaginable gulf where stars were few and inhabited worlds non-existent. Finally, we came to MaKung, a poor excuse for a commerce planet, consisting of one small city and a few farms. We had nothing MaKung wanted except the ability to move bulky cargoes between the stars. Each time we returned, we expected to see Crais's Command Carrier waiting for us. But, so far, so good.

When we had barely enough money for the bare necessities, we went into town to let Rygel wheel and deal. I had been sitting in the merchant's office listening to Rygel for arns and as near as I could tell his negotiating strategy was to brag about himself and the Hynerian Empire until the poor merchant would pay him to go away. If that was his strategy, so far it hadn't worked. Aeryn and D'Argo stood behind Rygel, weapons at the ready. While the MaKungians were a humanoid race, the merchant we had picked looked like a crocodile on steroids. It was apparently customary for the merchant's whole family to stand by sharpening knives, loading weapons, and crushing beer cans against their foreheads during negotiations. Even so, if anything had gone wrong, I would have bet heavily on Aeryn and D'Argo.

I was the only one with really nothing to do, and standing around pretending that I was tough enough to disassemble any of the locals got old after a while. I turned to Aeryn, and whispered, "I'm going across the street to check on Zhaan and Chiana."

Aeryn smiled and replied, loudly enough for everyone to hear, "Fine, and if he charges one stotol over three hundred, bring me back his ears. All four of them." It's hard to read crocodilian expressions, but I would've bet they were laughing at me.

Zhaan and Chiana were standing outside the local version of the pharmacy, arguing. Chiana had apparently decided that a little breaking and entering was the appropriate way of making our limited funds cover our medical needs. Zhaan was not impressed.

"I'm sure an enterprising thief such as your self can get by any electronic lock in existence, but what will you do about the harpin poison tree just before you get to the storeroom?" Zhaan inquired sweetly. Chiana didn't bat an eyelash, but started a long discussion about antidotes that I couldn't follow. I waved at them and Zhaan waved back. Chiana smiled, blew me a kiss, and pretended great pain when I didn't reply in kind. I silently wished Zhaan all the luck in the universe on her project to turn our Nabari thief into a productive member of society, and headed towards the main bazaar.

I must have gotten turned around, since I soon found myself in a maze of darkened alleys. I had just seen a lighted inn that I recognized, when I heard the scream. Four locals were dragging a young girl across a square towards the shadows. Her next scream was cut off by a brutal punch to the stomach. I yelled and took of after them. When they saw me coming, they dropped her and ran for the shadows.

The girl was good, and if she'd been a split second more patient, she would have gotten me. I saw her swing the club as I went by and ducked under it. She screamed something that my translator microbes couldn't handle and the four thugs turned and headed for me, joined by half a dozen more from the shadows. Brilliant, Crichton. The oldest trick in the book and you fall for it.

I took off down the nearest alley with all of them in hot pursuit. The girl was closest, screaming what she would do to me when she caught me and what she would do to her gang if I didn't get caught. I assume they were suitably motivated by her tirade, I know I was.

As I came into a large square, I saw a man come out of a large building. I headed for him screaming for help. Sensible being that he was, he took one look at what was headed for him and ran. I ducked inside and tripped over something just inside the door. Leaping up, I headed for a large shadowy something in the center of the darkened building. The something I had seen were stairs leading to a platform about six feet off the ground. Once on top, I felt around on the ground for something I could use as a weapon. I could just make out the gang circling me, getting ready to rush me from all sides.

In the middle of the platform was what felt like a large stone Easter egg, about the size of my head. I picked it up and suddenly a brilliant burst of white bathed the insides of the building in light. The Easter egg had changed into something vaguely resembling a club and then the first of the thugs was right in front of me. I swung as hard as I could and felt a good solid impact. The others stopped for a moment to consider things and I explored my club. To my surprise, it appeared to be a pistol. I could just make out the girl in the moonlight that came through holes in the roof of the building. I aimed about three feet over her head and pulled the trigger. To our mutual surprise, I shot her right earring off with a burst of purple light. She screamed and headed for the door with her gang.

I bent to put the pistol back down, but stopped. I hadn't been able to count exactly how many of the thugs had come in or how many had left. If anyone was left inside, I didn't want to get shot in the back with my own pistol, so I decided to keep it until I got outside. Outside, I looked at the shadows that could have hidden ten or twelve gangs and decided to keep my pistol a while longer.

I got back to the merchant's just as Rygel was finishing up his negotiating. Aeryn glanced at me and noticed the gun in my belt. She smiled and turned to D'Argo, "Well, we can go back to Moya, now. Killer Crichton is here to protect His Insignificance." D'Argo didn't say anything, but he looked like he was torn between praising his ally for finally getting with the program and hoping I wouldn't hurt anybody.

"Aeryn, I just found this thing and I'm going to get rid of it now." I took the gun from my belt and started to put it down, when Aeryn stopped me.

"That's an old weapon. It may be a valuable antique. Let me look at it."

I started to hand it over, when Rygel spoke up. "I'm off to Moya. You five are going to have to stay at the spaceport with the transport pods."

D'Argo snorted, "Nonsense. We'll all ride up to Moya in the transport pod with you."

Rygel smiled. "Impossible." He gestured to our toothy host, "Snizmar is having our pods loaded now, and if no one is guarding them, all of our supplies will be stolen by the thieving scum who infest the spaceport. Snizmar will be flying me to Moya on his personal transport. That's what I spent the last two arns negotiating. You can come up in the morning when the loading is done."

I heard Aeryn whisper, "We won't have any trouble if we kick the thieving scum off of his throne." But the rest was lost in D'Argo's roar. Rygel sped into the back of Snizmar's shop and away from an angry mob of his shipmates. I tucked the pistol in my belt and forgot about it.

Our quarters at the spaceport were a stretch of concrete in a hangar with a flimsy looking roof over it. I spread out my bedroll and was glad to see Aeryn put hers down next to me. She glanced at me and said, "I hope if I sleep between you and the door, you won't be able to wander off." I winked at Aeryn, but Chiana saw me and winked back and then announced that Crichton had winked at her and she just didn't think she could trust herself in the same room with me. I suggested she could sleep outside, preferably someplace where a large heavy freighter was about to land. By the time that was over, Aeryn had rolled herself in her bedroll and was facing away from me, apparently sound asleep.

I had nonstop nightmares that night. I dreamed of tanks burning on an endless steppe. I saw mass graves in the Balkans. I watched napalm burn orangely in a green jungle. I felt the concussion as artillery battered cities to rubble. I watched jets hurtle out of control towards the ground. I saw a Viet Cong executed by a Vietnamese general. Lines of soldiers marching into a desolate landscape. Death. Horror. Ruin.

"Crichton, wake up." My eyes opened and I saw Aeryn leaning over me. "What the frell is wrong with you? Are you all right?"

I wasn't all right. My mouth felt like a camel had slept in it. Then the camel had gone downstairs to my stomach to do some tap dancing. I sat up and promptly threw up. D'Argo screamed for me to get out and I did. For some reason, I ran as fast as I could out of the hangar. Aeryn started after me, but collided with Zhaan while trying to go between Chiana and D'Argo. I started running through the alleys, knowing Aeryn could catch me easily. Why I didn't want Aeryn to catch me, I didn't know.

I ran into a small square with a fountain in it. I stopped to splash water on my face, and then heard footsteps behind me. I ducked behind a wall just as Aeryn entered the square. Aeryn looked around and took off down another alley. I walked back out to the fountain and knelt to take a drink. I felt my stomach tightening up again.

"This is what's good for you, Johnny," said a voice behind me. I turned and saw a humanoid outlined against the rising sun. In his outstretched hand was a bottle. I grabbed the bottle and took a drink. Beer? It couldn't be. I looked at the label. Lone Star Brewery, San Antonio, Texas. This was not good.

"No, Johnny, I'm not Maldis, or Namtar, or a bounty hunter come for you. The name is Ventorix and I'm from Earth, just like you."

I stood and drained the bottle in about three gulps. My stomach felt better, even if the rest of me didn't.

I stood up and looked at him. He looked human enough. About five feet, four inches, reddy gold hair and a beard and light blue eyes. He was dressed in a pair of baggy white pants and an equally baggy pullover shirt. He had some sort of a case hanging by his side.

He laughed and handed me another beer from the case. The label read Coors, Golden, Colorado.

"Don't worry, Johnny, I'm here to see that we both get home. But first come along to my house." He reached down to my belt and took my pistol and returned it to a holster at his side. "I'll take this back if you don't mind."

I sipped the beer and followed him. By the time we had gone a couple of blocks, I recognized where we were.

"I was here last night. In that building over there." In the daylight the building looked like a near ruin. Holes in the walls as well as the roof, trash scattered everywhere, and rubble from parts of the building that had apparently collapsed decades earlier.

Ventorix laughed again. "That's home, sweet, home, alright."

Inside was as bad as the outside except for a small area cleared of trash and rubble. In the center was a small, round table, flanked by two couches that looked like they might hold two people comfortably. But what was on the table was what interested me.

Ventorix handed me another beer. I didn't bother to check the label this time. "I think I got all of your favorites, Johnny. We have filet mignon, medium well, fried chicken, baked potato with sour cream, cheeseburgers, French fries, potato salad, chili cheese dogs, Polish dogs, Philly cheese steak sandwiches, pizza with everything, tacos, burritos, bacon and eggs, pancakes with maple syrup, and lots and lots of chocolate. Oh, and a cooler full of beer. How about breakfast?"

I spent the next five minutes taking a bite out of everything in sight while Ventorix sat on the other couch and watched.

Finally, I had to ask, "Okay, who are you?"

Ventorix took a drink from one of the beer bottles."A Human, like yourself. I've been waiting here for you for about three thousand years."

He could tell I didn't believe him, so he continued. "Of course, we Humans didn't get here by ourselves. That was the doing of the Sho."

Suddenly, in my mind was a picture of a beautiful creature looking like a cross between a monarch butterfly and a floral bouquet. Ventorix continued. "I was born in what I believe you would call Holland more than three thousand years ago. About fifty years before my birth, the Sho came to us. Beings with magnificent minds, but very weak bodies. They could travel between galaxies as easily as you might walk from one room in your house to the next, but could be torn apart by a puppy."

In my mind I saw the Sho approaching and befriending a group of Humans. The Humans were taught some basic skills, and were used by the Sho to help explore Earth.

Ventorix continued, "They discovered one interesting thing about we Humans. Our minds, once properly trained, are capable of great things. The memories I've shared with you are only a small part of what they taught us to do. They decided to take my tribe with them when they left Earth. There were a few thousand of us and a few hundred of them."

In my mind I could see Humans entering, well, a vague shape. Ventorix laughed. "Their ship existed in dimensions Humans aren't able to comprehend as well as those that we do understand. We traveled throughout the Milky Way and after a while, the Sho chose this world for another base. The inhabitants didn't have the mental skills of we Humans, but they were technologically advanced and interesting in and of themselves."

"What happened to the Sho? I asked. " I haven't seen many around."

Ventorix sighed. "We behaved like Humans. We became tired of being pets, or assistants, or whatever we were to the Sho. We rebelled. Oh, it was supposed to be a nice bloodless coup d'etat. It wasn't, of course. For over a year we fought a war with the Sho. When it was over, the Sho were gone. I don't know if they died, or if they went where ever their home was, or what. I was left on a ruined planet with three other Humans. One was an old man who soon died. The other was a woman. A beautiful thing, really. I had hoped…Well, I had many hopes. She had been wounded and grew weaker and weaker until she died. The one Human left with me was a man of about your age. He couldn't stand the thought of growing old on an alien planet and killed himself. The people on this world who could have helped me build a space ship had been killed in the slaughter. The industries they would have used to build a spaceship were in ruins."

Ventorix stopped and looked at me. "You needn't worry, John. You won't kill yourself, no matter how long you are in the Uncharted Territories. You are too curious and too gregarious, and you know how to make friends. Try making friends with a race whose planet you've helped reduce to chaos and poverty. I was able to build a stasis chamber to preserve myself and put it in this building. You should have seen this place three thousand years ago, John. It was a masterpiece. I surrounded myself with all of the technological toys that a Human would find fascinating. Each one contained a small sensor that would detect Human DNA. When a Human finally touched one, I would be awakened and I would be among my own kind again and on my way home."

I really wished I didn't have to tell Ventorix that I had no idea where Earth was and probably no one in the Uncharted Territories did either.

He laughed again. "I know exactly where Earth is, John. I'll have no trouble guiding Moya there."

A familiar voice broke in. "I think the rest of the crew may have something to say about that."

Aeryn stalked into the room and faced Ventorix. I tried to stand and go to Aeryn, but my body seemed to have decided to stop obeying me. I couldn't stand and could only manage to weakly whisper Aeryn's name.

Ventorix got out of chair and walked up to Aeryn. "We'll deal with you later, Miss Sun."

Aeryn glanced at me and obviously didn't care for what had happened to me. I tried to wave or smile or something, but just managed a small grin. Aeryn went for her pulse pistol, but Ventorix moved faster than any Human, or Peacekeeper, I'd ever seen. He pulled Aeryn's pistol out of it's holster and threw it on his couch. Aeryn was shocked, but quickly reacted. She feinted a kick and aimed a fist at Ventorix's throat. He blocked her easily and smashed his fist into her forearm. I heard the bone break and saw it push through the skin of her arm.

The shock of seeing that got enough adrenaline into me to get me on my feet and staggering towards Aeryn. Ventorix kicked Aeryn's knees and I heard more of her bones break. He easily batted aside her only good arm and drove his fist into her face repeatedly. He backed off just as I got there and caught Aeryn. Blood poured from her broken nose, one eye was closed and she had a deep gash down one cheek. As badly hurt as she was, she was still trying to get to Ventorix. In my condition, whatever it was, it was all I could do to hold her back.

"Aeryn, please. We have to get you out of here and to Zhaan. You're hurt."

She kept pushing towards Ventorix. "You never backed off when I needed you, John. I'm not leaving you now."

I heard Ventorix laugh behind me and I turned in a rage. "Damn you. You didn't have to hurt her like this."

Ventorix laughed again. "Really, Johnny. Knowing how you feel about Aeryn Sun, you don't think I'd hurt her do you?"

Before I could figure out that statement I heard a throaty laugh behind me and a slim, but strong hand turned my head back towards Aeryn. A pair of warm, soft lips kissed mine while a pair of strong arms pulled me against her. It took a few seconds, but I pushed her away and looked at her. Her face was unmarked and her arm and legs unbroken. She let me look at her for long enough to see she was all right, and then pulled me back into the kiss. She guided back to the couch while continuing the kiss.

Eventually, she broke the kiss and whispered into my ear. "I love you so much, John." She giggled and continued. "Haven't you ever just clicked with someone?" Seeing my shocked look, Aeryn went on, " I know I haven't always treated you like I love you. You have no idea what it's like to be a Peacekeeper. Or what it's like to deal with emotions for the first time, and what emotions they are. And you are so hard for me to understand. You aren't remotely like anyone else I've ever met before. But all that is going to change, John. I'm going to let you know how much I love you every single microt we're together. Would you like to make love to me now? I'm sure your friend will excuse us."

Nothing that I had seen or done in the Uncharted Territories, nothing, had ever surprised me as much as Aeryn's speech.

She was pulling my shirt up and trying to unbuckle my belt at the same time. I grabbed her hands and held them. "Aeryn, please, you need to get out of here, now."

She stared at me and said, "It's Zhaan isn't it. Oh, John. I know that males of the species are attracted to Delvian Pa'us, because of their reputation for eroticism. But, Zhaan doesn't love you, not like I do."

"Aeryn, it's not Zhaan, she's …" Well I wasn't sure what she was, but she wasn't my dream woman.

"It isn't Chiana, is it, John? I know she's young and uninhibited and she seems to understand you better than I do, but she doesn't have any feelings for anyone but herself."

I didn't even manage to get a half of an explanation out this time.

"It's because I'm not an Earthwoman, isn't it." Amazingly, she was starting to cry. "They look attractive and they do understand you. Peacekeepers aren't trained to consider their appearance. I noticed on the false Earth that Earthwomen make an effort to look attractive, in the way they dress, and use makeup. I think I look, at least acceptable. You don't think I'm unattractive, do you, John? I'll work at looking better. And I'll work at understanding you. Please, John, I know I can do it."

Five minutes ago, Aeryn Sun had been Miss Badass Peacekeeper. Now tears poured down her cheeks, she was shaking like a leaf in a hurricane, and repeating over and over again, "I know I can do it."

I took her in my arms and kissed her. She mumbled against my lips briefly, and then kissed back. My God, can that woman kiss. I broke the kiss and brushed the tears off of her face.

"Aeryn, Zhaan is a friend and no more. Chiana is a pain in the ass and I'm sure she'll eventually be a bigger pain in the ass. And I wouldn't trade one microt with you for all the women on Earth. And all the Delvian, Nabari and Sebacean women for that matter. But Aeryn, you have to leave." As soon as I said that, her arms tightened around me. But I continued, "Aeryn, Honey, we have a situation here."

Aeryn buried her face in my chest. "John, I'll never leave you. If you want to go to Earth, we'll go to Earth. If you want to stay with your friend here, we'll stay. But I will stay with you."

I had to stop to try to understand what was happening, but my brain didn't seem to work any better than my body. I didn't notice Aeryn pick up the beer bottle and put it to my lips until the beer was in my mouth.

One part of my mind insisted that my body was right there on the couch with Aeryn. But most of my mind knew that my legs had taken off by themselves and were running around the room. I wasn't sure about my arms, but I thought I saw them arm wrestling behind Ventorix. My eyes were rolling all over the building and my brain had squeezed out of my skull and was sitting on Aeryn's lap. My brain was trying to tell Aeryn that it was only interested in her mind. The liar. After a few minutes, my body reassembled next to Aeryn. It was just in time. All Hell broke loose.

D'Argo dropped from the rafters immediately behind Ventorix. He swung his qualta blade straight down at Ventorix's head and should have sliced him in two. But Ventorix leaned ninety degrees to one side, a move I was sure no Human could make and the blade thudded into the table, scattering food and dishes everywhere. D'Argo kept slashing away and Ventorix kept moving out of the way. Suddenly, D'Argo's blade went spinning away and Ventorix grabbed D'Argo by the scruff of the neck and started pounding his head against the table. I could hear bones breaking and could see dark blood flowing. I tried to get up to help D'Argo. But between having Aeryn wrapped around me, and my inability to control my legs, I got nowhere.

Suddenly Ventorix stopped and let go of D'Argo. I looked at D'Argo's smiling, unmarked face. He saw me and bellowed, "My Lord Crichton. I salute you, My Lord and I salute your Lady. I am yours to command. My Lord, I have composed a song to honor you."

Without further ado, D'Argo began singing. If I ever get to Lux, I'd better bring my own music. Luxan honor songs are very loud, mono-tonal and translator microbes don't seem to be able to handle a rhyming scheme. And, as I was to find, they are very, very, long.

"My Lord John Crichton was the bravest warrior on all of planet Earth,
As a pilot he slaughtered enemies by the hundreds,
And was also a brilliant tech. You might think being a
Tech and a warrior are not compatible, but that's Crichton for you."

D'Argo was obviously thrilled to have this opportunity to showcase his singing and Aeryn loved every syllable of the song.

In D'Argo's' version of my arrival at Moya, I attacked Crais's brother, who fled in terror from me, only to be caught and rammed by Farscape 1. I then shot down Aeryn's Prowler and defeated her in single combat aboard Moya. But I was so impressed with Aeryn's beauty and courage that I didn't kill her as was my right, but accepted her as a friend. I also considered her as a possible lover, if she could measure up to my high standards. My memories of my arrival on Moya were different.

Aeryn whispered into my ear, "Is that true? Did you find me attractive from the start?"

I remembered Aeryn knocking me on my butt the first time we met. I decided answer her honestly, "I thought you were a remarkably beautiful woman. And you also scared the crap out of me." Aeryn decided to take this as compliment, which it was.

Ventorix spoke up. "I hate to interrupt you Johnny, but we do have more company to entertain." With that, he stood up and faced away from me.

Zhaan stepped put from behind a pillar and came towards Ventorix. Something that looked like a small lightening storm was between her hands. She stopped in front of Ventorix and put her hands on either side of his head. Ventorix stood there smiling. After a minute or so, Zhaan turned and walked towards Aeryn and me.

Ventorix laughed again. "Well, Johnny, we don't want Zhaan being blue, now do we?"

I tried to figure out what he meant, but my brain seemed to be out to lunch again. Zhaan was blue? Zhaan was sad? Zhaan was depressed? Zhaan was unhappy? I looked at Zhaan and I thought that something about her was different, but I couldn't put my finger on it. As she approached us and sat down beside me I tried to go over every part of her to see if I could find what was different. Her long black hair fell beyond her shoulders and her warm blue eyes gazed at me. She was dressed, as always, in a pair of tight black pants, and a short black halter-top. Otherwise, there was only her flawless ivory skin. Her appearance hadn't changed.

Zhaan whispered into my ear. "You are the most fascinating being, John. Ever since we had Unity together I haven't been able to think of anything but you. I know that you are attracted, well, more than attracted to Aeryn, but I think you'll be able to find time in your life for me."

D'Argo continued his song. He was up to our encounter with Namtar. As usual, his version didn't match my memories. I had, it seemed torn Namtar limb from limb and then devoted about five minutes to researching alien genetics so I could return my beloved Aeryn to her normal self. I had also returned the original scientists to their normal selves. They all turned out to be beautiful women who begged for me to father their children. Being the heroic type, I remained faithful to Aeryn.

Aeryn loved it all. "That's when I first thought you might actually like me a little, John. When you stayed with me even when I was changed."

With that, Zhaan started rubbing my head with fingers that felt like they were electrified. She was talking to me, but either my translator microbes had shorted out, or I didn't have the words to go with the concepts she was using. I couldn't understand a word. Wait, it couldn't be the translator microbes, because I could clearly hear every word Aeryn was saying into my other ear. I didn't think a Peacekeeper could be that imaginative. I missed Zhaan putting the beer bottle to my lips until the beer was going down my throat.

I froze solid. I couldn't move. My heart stopped. My blood stopped in my arteries and veins. Every internal organ seemed to freeze solid. I could tell that the protons and electrons in the atoms of my body had stopped. I knew that if someone hit me, I would shatter into subatomic particles. I stayed that way for somewhere between a nanosecond and a century and then came out of it.

In front of me was Chiana, holding Ventorix's own gun on him, her own pistol in the holster attached to her black Peacekeeper pants. Her long black hair was worn in a ponytail from the top of her head. Her blue eyes flashed in her pale white face. A grin of triumph was on her face. The grin became a smile, and the smile became a laugh, and soon she was laughing so hard, she couldn't keep Ventorix covered any more. She laughed so hard she couldn't even hold his gun any longer and it fell to the floor. Ventorix picked it up and returned it to his holster.

Chiana staggered over to me, still laughing. "Oh, John. I frelling love you so frelling much. And you don't know how hard that is for me to say." She laughed louder. "What am I saying. Of course it's not hard for me to say. I've told half of the men I've ever met that I loved them, the dumb kinkoid losers. But I mean it with you. You love your little Pip don't you?" She had her arms wrapped around my neck and seemed to be trying to climb me like a tree, but couldn't because of her laughing.

I had one hand wrapped in Aeryn's long hair, while she guided the other hand under her tee shirt, while I held Zhaan's head in my hands and felt an unbelievable something coming from her mind, and I wrapped my arms around Chiana and drew her to me. I don't even know which one of them gave me the beer this time.

I ceased to exist. No wait, I could see myself standing there wrapped around three beautiful Peacekeepers, but I wasn't there. But there were three of me holding three Aeryns. No there were just the two of us: Me, Aeryn, Zhaan and Chiana.

Suddenly, I was standing in front of Ventorix. "It's time we talked, Johnny. We have so much to do ahead of us."

I stared at him. He seemed larger than when this had started. "We are going to Earth. All of us, my friends included?" I asked.

"Of course, Johnny. I've learned much since I launched the rebellion against the Sho. I will not underestimate my enemies again. Oh, yes, Johnny, enemies. Humans were not meant to live on one planet circling around a single star until some wandering Peacekeeper task force decides to enslave us. We are the Universe's natural rulers, Johnny, and I intend to see that we fulfill our destiny. You see how powerful one Human can be. A Peacekeeper, a Luxan, A Delvian Pa'u and a Nabari thief were no match for me. For that matter a Hynerian, a Pilot and a Leviathan were no match for me. We have changed much in the last three thousand years, but I was happy to see from your dreams that the urge to conquer and rule at all costs has not left humankind. Soon we will have six billion human soldiers at our command and I can build weapons that will make a Command Carrier look like a toy. We will smash everything that gets in our way. Let me show you, Johnny."

He reached out and took my hand and I changed. I could feel the entire city around me. I was somehow connected to every single being in the city. I looked at my friends. They were small, weak and scared. I pitied them. I opened my mind to Aeryn. "Aeryn, I will always protect you, I will always stay with you and I will always love you." For an instant our minds were one and I knew everything there was to know about Aeryn Sun. And, except for one thing, she knew everything about me.

I opened the minds of my other friends. "Don't worry. I will protect you all."

Suddenly, my perspective changed. I could see all of the Uncharted Territories. I could see Maldis, struggling to reassemble himself. I could see Taleen, still working on a garden of dead trees, still insane. I saw Crais's Command Carrier and had a sudden urge to smash it to pieces. But there were others aboard that ship, so I let it be.

Again, my perspective changed. I could see the Hynerian Empire and Delvia, held down by Peacekeepers. I could see Lux wondering if it was to be next. And behind me, impossibly far away, and impossibly beautiful, was Earth. I could see Earth's land and sea, the clouds in her skies, and I could see the people and cities of Earth before me. I heard, felt, smelled, tasted and saw my Earth.

My perspective changed again, and I saw the whole of the Milky Way galaxy around me. I experienced each individual atom of an entire galaxy.

And then I was standing with one foot at each side of the Milky Way. I reached out and grasped a globular galaxy and turned it in my hand. I was John Crichton and I was God. I threw back my head and screamed to the Universe and my right hand shot, in triumph, into the vastness of the cosmos above me. Ventorix was still Human enough that his eyes and his thoughts went upwards with them. With my left hand I drew his pistol from his holster and shot him in the head. The Universe exploded in my head and I fell backwards onto the table.

I leaped up, ready for whatever Ventorix would do now. In front of me was Zhaan. Blue Zhaan. Bald Zhaan. My legs gave out and I was headed for Moya's deck when a familiar pair of strong arms caught me and held me up.

Aeryn held me up until I could lean back against the bed in my quarters. Even then, I still needed her support to stay upright.

Zhaan began checking me. "Thank the Goddess, John. You've been unconscious for five days. I think you're normal, well, normal for a Human, but you gave all of us a scare."

I managed to croak, "What happened to Ventorix?"

"You killed him. We destroyed his body, reduced it to its component atoms. Along with all of his equipment we could find."

Zhaan poured some sort of liquid down my throat. I almost felt like I might live.

Zhaan looked at me curiously. "Why did you kill him, John? I could feel some of what he was offering you."

I had thought about that, but now I had to put it into words. "I think that Ventorix expected that once I had felt his power I would want to use it as he did, to conquer and rule. I didn't. I wanted to use it to stop him. I couldn't accept humanity as he wanted it to be."

Zhaan looked at me very seriously for a very long time. Then she turned and headed out of the room. As she left, she said over her shoulder, "I must tell everyone that you've revived."

That left me with Aeryn. She had her arm around my back and her shoulder under my armpit, holding me up. But she had her head down so I couldn't see her face.

Oh, God. Aeryn. Was she there? Did this all happen in my mind? No, of course not. Zhaan just said she felt what happened, so everyone was there. Did Aeryn say all of those things? Did Ventorix put those ideas in her mind? Did she mean all of those things? Does she remember saying she loves me? Does she love me? Does she hate me? Come on, Aeryn. Look up at me. Give me a clue. Give me a little help here. But Aeryn kept her head down, staring at the floor.

"I always seem to end up apologizing to you, Aeryn."

"What do you think you've done now, Crichton?"

That was good. At least she would talk to me.

"Everything. I got you kicked out of the Peacekeepers. I almost got you blinded because of my research on wormholes. I got you chased around a false Earth and.."

She interrupted me. "You might not get in any trouble if you hid under your bed for the rest of your life, but you wouldn't be any use to the rest of us." She stopped for a moment and then continued, "You wouldn't be any use to me." She still didn't look at me, but she slowly rested her head against my chest.

"I should give up my dreams of finding a wormhole back to Earth. I think I'm just wasting my time, anyway. I should be trying to find a home for us."

I waited for the explosion that I was sure would come for suggesting there was an "us". But Aeryn just stood there with her head against my chest. I put my hand up to her hair and began stroking it. Still no reaction. I could hear our friends coming down the passageway, and I assumed Aeryn wasn't going to say anything more.

Being Aeryn, she surprised me. "All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible."

The End