The Trouble with Hokas

By Bob Hutchinson (UCSBDad)
Copyright 2002

Disclaimer: Farscape belongs to DK, Rock and the Muppets. The Hokas are the creation of the late Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson. Larry, Moe and Curly work for Don Vorleone, the Vorlagfather, but none of them are in this. Time: 4/4, I think. It has a good beat, but it's hard to dance to. Rating: Aeryn would say this is at least a Denka Four. Archiving: Oh, give it a home where the vorlags roam.


HOKA, (Plural HOKAS): The inhabitants of the planet Toka (See Galactic Ephemeris, Volume Forty-Two, Entry 7349). These sentient ursanoid beings are said to resemble the Teddy Bears of Earth lore, but most experts deride this as mere anthropomorphism. The Hokas average 1.3 meters in height and have an average mass of slightly over 100 kilograms. They are bipedal, covered with dark brown to golden brown fur and have been described as having " cute button noses." Hokas have taken to human culture with an alacrity that has often worried the representatives of the Interbeing League. The capability of Hokas to lose themselves in their own imaginations has lead to Toka being covered with representations of 1897 London, complete with music halls, deranged killers of fallen women, Master Criminals, and Sherlock Holmes. Others prefer Imperial Rome, with contending Emperors, gladiators and barbarian hordes. Or 1920s Chicago with hoods and G-men, flappers and speakeasies not to mention other representations of human culture too numerous to mention. Most experts contend that Hokas, at some level understand that these representations are not reality, but only "play", especially since the Hokas go to a lot of trouble to see to it that no one gets hurt. Most experts also agree that the Hokas simply don't care. They're having too much fun.

ENCYCLOPEDIA GALACTICA, 57th Edition, Copyright 2743 C.E.


Certainly nothing to worry a Commando trained former Peacekeeper, right?

"Officer Sun?"

I pulled myself out from under the defense screen console I was trying to repair and replied. "Yes, Pilot. Do you have more DRDs to help me?"

"No, Officer Sun. Moya has located a ship at extreme sensor range."

I dropped my tools and headed for command on the run. "Pilot, have they seen us? Can you identify them? Are they hostile? Can we starburst?"

Pilot didn't reply for several microts. That was an awful long time for him to consider those questions. "Officer Sun, they are headed this way, but they don't seem to be in any hurry. I believe they have not seen us. I can't tell if they are hostile, but if Joolushko doesn't finish the repairs to the Moya's main vector node, we won't be able to starburst."

I swore under my breath. "Jool! What's the status of the repairs?"

Jool must have been listening since she started whining at once. "I'm in the middle of the protein inhibitor removal. That will take at least four arns to set. Why didn't anyone tell me..."

I changed channels and cut her off. "Chiana! I need you in command now." I waited for a few microts and called again. Still no reply. "Listen you trelk, if you're not here in..." I stopped. That would do no good with Chiana.

"Pilot, can you locate Chiana?"

Pilot cleared his throat. "I believe her communicator is in her quarters. Would you like me to assign some DRDs to locate her?"

I thought about it, but Pilot interrupted my train of thought. "Officer Sun! This is most unusual. The ship has apparently seen us and is accelerating this way. But they are communicating in English?"

"English? What the frell is that and what difference does it make?" By the time I got that out, I remembered the answer. English was the human language John used.

"Are you certain, Pilot? If humans are as technologically backwards as John's module indicates, they shouldn't have faster than light travel for hundreds of cycles." While I waited for Pilot's reply, I ran any number of possibilities through my mind. Could humans have advanced so fast? Certainly John had proved far more capable of absorbing unfamiliar technology than anyone had imagined. Or had John traveled through time as well as space when he went through the wormhole?

"Pilot, is there any possible way to contact John?"

As I knew it would, the answer came back at once. "No, Officer Sun. Talyn passed the extreme range of Moya's communications array a solar day ago. Neither Commander Crichton, nor D'Argo, Rygel, Stark or Captain Crais will be available for at least three solar days."

Frell! That left me with Jool and Chiana to depend on, in other words, nothing. No, I had pilot and the DRDs and I had to admit both women had managed to grow up a little since arriving on Moya. It wouldn't be that bad. It wouldn't be like having John by my side, but we'd manage.

"Pilot, are they still trying to initiate communications?" I asked as I arrived in command.

"By voice only, Officer Sun." I hadn't expected that.

"Pilot, can you give me a visual of their ship?" In answer, a ship appeared in the clamshell in front of me. The front part consisted of a circular module attached by a strut to a long cylindrical hull. Two struts angled out from the hull ended in what I thought were engine nacelles. I quickly ran the ship through Moya's data banks, but found no matches.

"Pilot, please put their communications through to command." Instantly, a familiar language filled command. "Unidentified ship, please respond. We come in peace. Unidentified ship, please respond. We come in peace."

I took a deep breath and answered. "This is the Leviathan Moya. We also come in peace."

I heard some background chatter and then a new voice took over. "Leviathan Moya, this is Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation Starship Enterprise. We are on a five-year mission to boldly go where no man has gone before. To seek out new civilizations...."

The communications link was suddenly cut. Then it came back on with some sort of argument going on. "Oh, all right. To go boldly where no person has gone before. Satisfied?"

Somehow they sounded like John's race. "Excuse me, but are you humans from Earth?"

The captain's voice became somewhat deeper. "You bet. And you? Our Universal Translator indicates you're not speaking English, but you sound nice."

I thought he sounded pushy, but if these were John's people, I didn't want to be hasty with them. "I'm a Sebacean. We appear to be humans on the outside, but there are internal differences."

"Fascinating." Said another voice.

"We'll beam over in just a..." There was another gap in the communications and then I head another voice. "I'm giving it all she's got, Captain, but I must have more dilithium crystals. We canna use the transporters without more crystals."

I heard a sigh from the other ship. "Er, Miss...."

"Sun. Officer Aeryn Sun." I replied.

"Yes, Miss Sun, we'll come over in a shuttle."

"I'll have Pilot deploy the docking web for you." I headed for the docking bay.

I ran from Command to the docking bay. I arrived just as Pilot pulled in a large boxy looking transport pod. My mind had been in hetch drive ever since I had found out they were human. Would they know John? Would they want to take him back to Earth? How had they achieved faster than light drive so rapidly? How would they feel about me? I had thought about everything except what confronted me when they disembarked.

My hand slid to the butt of my pulse pistol when they left their shuttle. These beings were no more human than Rygel was. They were short, but rotund and covered with fur. All four wore black pants and had on colored shirts. Certainly John would have mentioned if humans had a different physical form at different times in their lives. Wouldn't he?

The center one, wearing a gold colored shirt spoke. "Greetings Miss Sun. I am Captain James Kirk of the USS Enterprise. We come in peace."

I tried to keep the suspicion out of my voice. "Are you humans? You don't look like the only human I've ever seen."

One of the "humans" approached me with some sort of instrument in his hand. "It's life, Jim. But not as we know it."

Jim, apparently the one in the gold shirt, nodded and turned to me. "Of course we're humans, Miss Sun. Well, except for Spock here. He's half human and half Vulcan."

He pointed to the being next to him. He seemed to have pink, pointed, hairless ears clipped on over the round furry ones his companions had. He stared at me and intoned, "Fascinating."

Suddenly, the fourth one, wearing a bright red shirt squealed and fell over on his back. The one who had been inspecting me ran over to his companion. After briefly looking at whatever his instrument was, he said, "He's dead, Jim."

"What happened, Bones?"

"Fascinating." Interrupted the one with the strange ear coverings. "I have named it the Red Shirt Syndrome. Every time we contact a new civilization, someone in a red shirt dies."

I had had enough of this. "Excuse me, but he isn't dead.  I can see him breathing. Look! He just turned his head and opened his eye. He's frelling alive."

The one referred to as Bones knelt and ran the box-like device over the one in the red shirt. He glared at me and announced in a loud voice, "He's dead, Jim." The effect was spoiled by a giggle from the deceased.

I stepped back and drew my pulse pistol. "Get back in your transport pod and leave. I don't know who you are, but I want you out of here." They started backing away. Suddenly, the one called Bones said, "Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor not a bricklayer."

The other "humans" stopped and looked at him strangely. "I didn't say anything, Bones," said their captain.


I stepped forward. "Move!" I aimed at the Captain and gestured with my free hand. Too late, I realized I had walked past the one in the red shirt. I whirled, but felt something wet splash against my arm and then I started falling.

Someone was yelling. I was awake. And my hands were manacled behind me. I sat up and found myself in one of Moya's cells. One of our unwanted guests was in with me.

"I won't eat none of this slop!" Screamed my cellmate.

I looked around. My cellmate, I noticed, was dressed in a black and white striped suit. Outside was another of the furry aliens dressed in a black suit with some sort of white collar around his neck.

"Now, Mad Dog," the one outside said softly, "be listening to Fightin' Father Feeney, me bucko. There'll be no call from the Governor this night. It's about time ye be makin' your peace with your maker."

Suddenly Mad Dog, if that was his name, sagged. "Come here, Padre and hear my confession."

Fightin' Father Feeney approached and was grabbed around the neck by Mad Dog. He rammed his hand against the other alien's throat. "Freeze, coppers. I got a gat here. One move and he gets it, see?

Then Mad Dog turned to me. "Marie, I carved a gun outta a bar of soap. We're gonna crash out of this dump." That particular piece of lunacy was delivered in a whisper that could be heard a dozen tiers away.

"Are you farbot!" I yelled at him. "Moya's soap is liquid. You can't carve it. And who the frell is Marie?"

"Marie Garson, That's you, babe." He gave me a goofy smile. "I wouldn't give you two cents for a dame without a temper."

Maybe they were humans. They were reminding me of John more and more.

The doors to tour cell opened and Mad Dog left with Fightin' Father Feeney in tow. "C'mon, Marie. I gotta a getaway car on the outside."

They just might be humans. That almost sounded like John. I headed for the door, intending to run the other way as soon as I could. As I walked out of the cell, I smiled at Mad Dog, whirled and ran for it. Right into some other frelling fur ball, who promptly collapsed.

"Jeez, Marie. You got him." Said Mad Dog admiringly. Before I could run away, Mad Dog grabbed me and threw me over his shoulder. Fightin' Father Feeney, wisely, escaped.

"Put me down, you frelling welnitz!" I yelled in his ear.

Behind us one of the people who had been guarding Mad Dog pulled out a device and pointed it at us. There was a loud bang and Mad Dog yelled back over his shoulder, "Missed us, coppers!"

Oh, frell! That was some sort of weapon. I decided to stay where I was. For a while.

Three tiers later I parted company with mad Dog. I dove into one of Moya's ducts. Mad Dog tried to follow, but he was too wide around the middle to get in. I wriggled my way down a duct to a passageway and started running. Behind me I could hear Mad Dog yelling, "Ya can dish it out, but ya can't take it!"

I stopped finally. I had to get my hands in front of me. Frell! I hadn't kept up on my exercises. Could I raise my hands from behind my back and over my head? I started stretching. I stopped when I hear footsteps. Chaina? Jool? A DRD? That was answered when a furry alien walked down the passageway. He had dyed himself white and had long ears clipped to his own short ears and wore a short coat. He was staring at some kind of ancient timepiece and singing.

"I'm late, I'm late, "

"For a very important date,"

"No time to say Hello, Goodbye, "

"I'm late, I'm late, I'm late."

He smiled and nodded at me and continued down the passageway. I shook my head. They could be some form of humans.

I did a few more stretching exercises and then raised my handcuffed hands up over my head and in front of me.

I decided to head for Pilot's Den. If I was going to have any hope of taking control of Moya, I'd need to start there. I made it to one of Moya's main hallways.

"Buenos dias, Senorita." Said the alien. He was dressed all in black. Black boots, pants, shirt and cape. Over his face was a black mask and on his head a wide brimmed hat. In his hand was some sort of sword. Frell!

"Hello." I replied.

"Do not be afraid. I am Zorro," he replied.

"Zero?" I tried.

"Zorro!" he said a little louder.

"Sorrow?" I repeated slowly.

"Zorro!" he yelled.

I shrugged. "But that's what I just said."

"No, Zorro!" He used his sword to carve some sort of a mark in Moya's wall. "I befriend the friendless, help the helpless and defeat the featless. See! Z for Zorro."

I examined the mark on the wall. "That's a two."

"It's a Z!" he yelled, stamping his foot.

"I've been studying human writing and that is definitely a two."

He carved another mark in the wall. "A Z! It's a Z!"

Then we were interrupted. "I have you at last, Zorro!"

Z, whoever, whirled to face three new aliens in some kind of uniform. One in the lead had a great deal of gold braid on his uniform, while the other two had plainer uniforms.

"Don Montero!" Cried, well, whoever this Z person was. He smiled and cut the air with his sword.

I cleared my throat. "Excuse me, but he's not this Zorro. As near as I can determine his name is Tworro, or something like that."

All four aliens froze. "Curses! Foiled again." Screamed the one in the braid. "Sergeant Garcia, we must find Zorro at once."

"I am Zorro." Said the black clad alien, stamping his foot in frustration. "See, I have the black outfit, the dashing smile and the devil may care attitude. Now, fight me, you grinders of the faces of the poor."

Don Montero just sniffed. "Not until you can prove you're Zorro. Do you have any ID?"

I left the four of them arguing and crawled back into another tunnel. I came face to face with another alien. This one I thought looked suspiciously like the Captain Kirk I had originally met. He was dressed in a different black suit, but with a white tie. He was tapping a white cylinder against a golden case of some sort. He nodded to me and smiled.

"Bond." There was a pause. "James Bond."

Well, this one knew his name. "Sun." I also paused. "Aeryn Sun."

He put the cylinder in his mouth and lit it, then inhaled. He coughed loudly and a cloud of smoke shot out of his mouth and nose. He kept coughing while I hit him on the back, but finally stopped.

"Dreadfully sorry, Miss Sunnypenny. I just can't seem to smoke those. " He stared morosely at the golden case, which I saw was full of similar cylinders.

I took the case from his hand and examined the cylinders. "I really don't think that inhaling burning vegetable matter smoke is very wise." I told him.

"P'raps you're right, Sunnypenny." He smiled at me. "Well, I'm off to see Q, perhaps he can give me something better." With that he strode down the hall to whoever or whatever Q was.

I decided to head for the nearest tool room to trey to get the frelling manacles off my wrists. Sure enough, as soon as I hit a corridor, I ran into another one. This one had some sort of leather pants, a shirt and a broad brimmed hat, which he tipped to me. He also had two pistols strapped to his waist.

"Howdy, Ma'am. You must be the new schoolmarm. I'm Bronco Buck Tex Duke. Proud to make your acquaintance, Ma'am," he drawled.

Well, he seemed friendly, so I decided to ask for help. "Can you get these hand cuffs off me?" He looked oddly at me, so I tried to come up with a good explanation. "Er, I had an accident."

He came closer and examined the hand cuffs. "Um, we need a key, Ma'am."

"Or a tool to cut through the metal?" I said helpfully.

"Um, yes, " he managed.

"Do you have something that'll cut metal, Bronco?" I asked, trying to control my temper.

His eyes lit up. "I could shoot 'em off. They do it all the time."

I took one look at the antique weapon he had pulled out and said, "No way. You'll hurt me."


"Anyone could see that, ya 'tarnal idgit!" Came a rough voice from behind us. Bronco Buck Tex Duke whirled to face the newcomer.

"Lucky Wild Bill the Kid!" Bronco cried.

That was presumably the newcomer's name. He was dressed all in black also, except for the handles of his pistols, which were a shiny white.

Bronco drew himself up. "Smile when you say that stranger."

Lucky smiled. "You're a lily livered polecat, Bronco."

"You ain't callin' me no lily livered polecat you poisonous varmint!" Retorted Bronco.

"You're a sod-bustin' sheep lover, Bronco." Laughed Lucky.

"You low-down back shootin'....." Bronco had seemed to have run out of appropriate insults.

"Well," I said, "He looks like a drannit to me."

"Yeah," Bronco laughed, "Yer nothin' but a low down back shootin' drannit!"

"Drannit!" Blustered Lucky. "I ain't no gol durned drannit."

"I don't think he knows what a drannit is, Bronco." I teased.

I left Bronco and Lucky screaming at each other about who knew what a drannit was.

I headed down another corridor towards a nearby tool bin. Before I got there, I heard a clattering and clanking coming towards me. Frell! I was trapped in the middle of a corridor with no exits near. Around the corner came another of the little aliens. This one was covered from head to foot in some king of metal suit. Over one shoulder was a bent piece of wood. At his side was a sheathed sword.

"Ho! By these ten finger bones, a lass. Tell me lass, have you seen Sir Nigel and the White Company?"

I tried to control my temper. "There's no one called Sir Nigel or any company of any color here. This is a Leviathan called Moya."

He shook his head. "Me thinks the lass has lost her wits. Everyone knows Sir Nigel Loring and the famous White Company. Why, my own self at Poiters saw young Squire Loring..."

I strode over to him and pushed my face into his. "There's no frelling person named Loring or any frelling company here. "

"No need to be cranky, lass, just because you don't know the man." He sniffed. "If you do see him, tell him Samkin Aylward seeks him with a message from Sir John Chandos. Here's a few coppers for your trouble, lass."

He threw a few copper coins at my feet. I reached down to grab them and shove them down his furry little throat, but with my hands manacled, I took too much time. By the time I had them he was out of sight. I stormed down the corridor just hoping I met one of the little furry monsters again. Naturally I did.

He had on a pair of blue tights and a matching shirt with a "2" on it, and a red cape. No, it wasn't a "two", it was an "S".

"May I help you, Miss?"

At least he was polite. Who knows, maybe he could help. I held out my manacled wrists. "I need the hand cuffs taken off."

"I could tear them in two with my bare hands."

I rather doubted that, but I didn't want to discourage him. "Well, go ahead then."

I knew it! He just stood there looking embarrassed. I started to walk past him. The tools should be one tier down.

"Well, you don't expect me to display my superhuman strength with all this kryptonite around do you?" He moaned.

"Kryptonite?" I don't know why I bothered asking.

He brightened considerably. "I'm Superman. I have superhuman powers unless I'm around kryptonite. Since I don't have my powers, there must be kryptonite around here somewhere."

I knew I was going to regret talking to him. He must be related to John. "Excuse me, but there is no kryptonite around here. As a matter of fact, I've never heard of kryptonite. So, you must be mistaken."

"Of course there's kryptonite around. It's green and it glows. You must have seen some."

I shook my head. "This kryptonite sounds like Rygel or rather something he's eaten. Sorry." I started walking away. I soon found the little alien in front of me.

"If we looked, I'm sure we could find kryptonite here. The ship must be full of it."

I made an effort to control my temper. "The ship isn't full of it, you are. Now if you can't help me, I'm going."

He refused to move. "I could help you if I had some froonium."

"Froonium?" Why did I ask?

He nodded. "The most powerful substance in the Universe. This ship has to be powered by it. Something this large would have to have a froonium drive."

"Moya does not have a froonium drive. There's no such thing as froonium. Only a deficient being would believe in froonium." I yelled that in his face and shoved my way past him and down the corridor.

I managed to find the tool bin without running into any more of the lunatic aliens. I walked inside and turned on the light. Nothing happened. Before I could try to find out why the lights remained off, a furry arm grabbed me.

"So, Master Jim, ye be trying to avoid Old Blind Pew?" Said a voice in the dark.

A light came on and I saw another of the little aliens. This one was also dressed in black and had a black strip of cloth around his forehead, just over his eyes.

"You're Blind Pew?" I asked.

"Old Blind Pew," he nodded. I moved slightly to my right and his eyes followed me.

"If you blind, why are you looking at me?"

"I am not looking at you. If I'm Old Blind Pew, I must be blind. It stands to reason," He grumped.

Reason was one thing these aliens were impervious to. I started to leave and ran into another one.

"Now, Young Jim, don't be a funnin' Old Blind Pew. He lost his lights in the same broadside that took me leg." He pointed down to two perfectly good legs. He did have a crutch, though.

"How many legs did you start with?" I asked, hoping for a sensible answer.

"Argh, matey. I had two, of course," he replied reasonably.

"Look, you...."

"Long John Silver, matey. Yer shipmate on the Hispaniola."

Before I could try to make sense of these frelnicks, another, tinier alien spoke up. "Polly wanna margarita." The brightly-feathered alien staggered around from the back of John Whatever's neck. He clutched onto John's shoulder and slowly turned his head to stare at me. "Polly wanna margarita now!" Then he fell on his nose, still clutching onto the alien John's shoulder.

I decided I needed to find out more about the alien named John. He was the only other John I had ever met. Perhaps he really was from Earth.

"Er, Mr. Silver?" I began.

"Jim, me lad. I'm yer shipmate, not Mister." He grinned and put his arm around me. "Here, mate." He pushed me down onto a case of some sort and pushed a bottle into my mouth. My tongue burned, the back of my throat started to close and my eyes started tearing.

"Frell! What was that?" I managed to get out.

"Alcohol, lad. Just a little rum."

From outside the tool room came the sound of singing.

"Fifteen men on a dead man's chest,"

"Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum,"

"Drink and the Devil done for the rest,"

"Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum."

A dozen or more of the furry aliens were headed our way, singing in high pitched, off key voices. This John person pushed me out into the corridor to meet them. "Turn off the lights, Old Blind Pew, if ye will." He called back over his shoulder.

"Where's the bleeding switch?" Pew mumbled.

"On the right! Are ye bleeding blind?" Retorted Long John Silver.

"Well, technically speaking..." I heard from the tool room.

"Wait! Oo's this 'ere?" asked another high-pitched voice.

"This 'ere be Jim 'Awkins, me shipmate. Don't ye ken 'im, Israel Hands?" Answered Silver.

"He don't look like 'Awkins ter me." Israel Hands walked around me, mumbling. "Don't look like no Jim 'Awkins ter me! This one's too effeminate." A dozen or more strangely dressed little aliens were crowded around.

"Effeminate!" Roared Silver. "Shiver me timbers. I'll show..." He stepped towards Hands.

I put my hand on Silver's arm and pulled him back. "Excuse me, I believe he was talking to me."

I smiled at Israel Hands." You have a problem with me?"

Hands nodded. "Me thinks yer a girl."

I nodded. "And girls don't belong with...?" I left the question hanging.

"Pirates." he said, smiling. "Nope girls don't have no business being pirates."

"Israel Hands always was a dyed in the wool reactionary." Muttered someone.

"Pirates is supposed to be reactionary capitalist robber baron types. Everybody knows that." Hands roared at his companions. "Anyone have a problem with that?"

Hands turned to me and I smiled and then kicked him in his mivonks. Hard.

"I have a problem with all of you. Now if you will excuse me, I'm busy." I yelled the last part over my shoulder as I strode off down the corridor.

"Talk about yer troglodyte moss back conservatives." Muttered Silver.

Frell. I didn't need to learn about another being named John that badly.

I decided to head for Pilot's Den directly. So far I hadn't had that much trouble with the little furry aliens. They were pests, but not dangerous.

I stopped. Ahead of my I heard someone calling out. "Water. Water."

I rounded a corner and saw another of the aliens crawling along the corridor. He had on a long blue coat and a visored cap with a long white length of cloth on the back of it.

I walked over to him and knelt. "Do you need water?"

"Yes." He gasped "The Sahara is merciless on a lone Legionnaire, cut off from Fort Zinderneuf. I lost John and Digby in a sandstorm. There isn't an oasis for miles."

Another John?

"Excuse me, but you can get water from the fountain on the wall there." I pointed to the fountain on the wall.

The little alien smiled at me. "It is a mirage, lass." He gasped dramatically. " Meant to drive a Brave Legionnaire and a Beautiful Flower of the Desert mad."

I walked over and poured out some water into my cupped hand. I walked back and poured it over his head.

"Bless you, Mademoiselle." The little alien stood up and then bowed. "Beau Geste, of the French Foreign Legion. I joined the Legion to forget a woman. Paulette, I think she was called. Possibly it was Anne. Brigitte?" He scratched his head. "But no matter, My Sweet Desert Maid, I am heading for the lost city of Sham Ba La and when I find the lost treasure that we English gentlemen of the Foreign Legion find, I shall take you back to Baskerville Hall and make you my own dear, sweet wife. Bien, ma cherie?"

By the Goddess, he was crazier than the rest.

Suddenly, he whirled and brought what I thought was some sort of rifle to his shoulder in a less than smooth move. He stared at one of the DRD passageways that honeycombed Moya. He turned and whispered to me. "We're hunting wabbit."

Another of the little aliens stuck his head out. This one had long phony ears clipped to his own smaller ears. "Eh, what's up, Doc?" he asked.

The blue clad alien pushed the barrel of his rifle into the doorway the other had quickly vacated and fired. A loud explosion was followed by an acrid smell. I didn't see anything to indicate a hit, except perhaps on Moya.

"Be careful!" I yelled. "You'll hit Moya."

The little alien turned and cocked his hat over one ear. "Moya?"

I was sure he was as impervious to common sense as any of the others of his kind. "You must be careful and not make noise."

"Eh bien, my Wild Tuareg Flower," he nodded. "We must not alert your father, The Lord of the Riff." He turned and headed down one of Moya's passageways. "Come, mon cher Margot, I will lead you to safety." Well, he was headed in the direction of Pilot, so I followed.

In a few microts he started singing in a squeaky voice,

"Ho! So we sing as we are riding

Ho! It's a time you best be hiding

Low, It means the Riffs are abroad,

Go, Before you've bitten the sword.

Ho! That's the sound that comes to warn you.

So! In the night or early morn, you know,

If you're the "Red Shadow's" foe,

The Riffs will strike with a blow,

That brings you woe. "

In spite of the singing, we didn't attract any attention. That was because the little furry aliens had taken over Moya. They seemed to be in every compartment and on every tier, carrying on in manners that made Crichton look rational. One group in some sort of uniforms with numbers on them were gathered around another little alien in something like Rygel's hover throne. The alien on the throne was speaking, with tears in his eyes.

"None of you ever knew George Gipp. It was long before your time. But you know what a tradition he is at Notre Dame.. And the last thing he said to me -- "Rock," he said -"sometime, when the team is up against it -- and the breaks are beating the boys -- tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper... I don't know where I'll be then, Rock", he said - "but I'll know about it - and I'll be happy."

As we walked away they started cheering for some reason.

Two aliens dressed a little like Bronco and Lucky whatever-their-names-were sped past chased by a larger group. "Who are those, guys?" someone yelled.

Amazingly, we finally made it to Pilot's Den. I turned to my alien guide. "Thank you. But now I have to talk to..."

"Your Father, the Lord of the Riff." Finished the little furry fellow. "I shall go to the Casbah and wait for you." Suddenly, he bent over my hand and seemed to be kissing it. "Come with me to the Casbah, Gaby."

I smiled and removed my hand and headed for Pilot. The strange little alien cautiously made his way out, only stopping to trip over a DRD. "Sacre bleu!" he cried.

Pilot seemed to be asleep when I got to his console. "Pilot?"

He looked up and smiled at me. "Offisher Shun. Sho nishe to shee you."

"Pilot, what's wrong with you?"

He stared at me for a long time. Finally, he spoke. "Shorry, what wash to queshtion?"

"I asked what's wrong, Pilot."

"I'm...." There was another long delay. "......fine," he finally managed to get out.

I hopped up on the console to get a better look at Pilot. I heard high-pitched laughing from a deck or two down. Three of the little aliens were shooting at Pilot's lower extremity with pistols that shot a stream of some sort of liquid. I suddenly remembered the little alien in the red shirt who'd shot me with some sort of liquid. Whatever it was had knocked my out, but given Pilot's greater mass, it only made him, well, drunk.

I put my hands on Pilot's shoulders and looked him in the eye. "Pilot, do you know where Chiana and Jool are? Are they all right? Especially Jool. I'm sure she'd go absolutely farbot with these little aliens around."

Pilot tried several times to get a reply out. Finally he managed. "Li'l aliensh?" Then he started giggling.

I decided it was no use and jumped down off of the console. Right next to another one of the little pests.

"Princess Leia?" This one was dressed all in white. He was obviously as farbot as the rest. That didn't keep him from talking, though. Hmm. They were looking more and more like some form of humans.

"Princess Leia?" He asked again. " I'm Luke Skywalker. My friend Han Solo and his friend Chewbacca and I are here to save you." He smiled at me and started to take my arm.

"What exactly do I need saving from?" I asked as I pulled my arm away.

He just pointed behind me to another little alien entering Pilot's den. This one was dressed all in black and had some sort of a large helmet on. He stopped and pointed at us. "Luke! Join me on the dark side."

"Never, Darth Vader!" Replied the alien with me. "I will never join you, Darth Vader, for you are the Evil Lord of Sith."

I sighed. They all seemed to be so emotional. One more proof that they were really humans?

The alien in black laughed. "I am also..." The alien stopped dramatically. "... your mother!"

The white clad alien lurched into me. "NO! Never."

The other alien began coming towards us. "Yes! I am your mother. Is your homework done? Did you remember to pack a lunch? And who is that woman you're with?"

"NO-O-O-O-O!" Screamed the little alien in white. He ducked under my arms, so that my manacled arms were around his shoulders and ran for a rope hanging from the ceiling of Pilot's den. With me hanging on tight, he grabbed the rope and swung out over the void.

"Are you wearing a sweater?" I heard from behind us.

"Are you completely farbot you little maniac?" I snarled in his ear. Before he could reply, we reached the end of our arc, a good three metras from the far side of Pilot's den and started to swing back. We swung back and forth and eventually we stopped, suspended several hundred metras above Moya's lowest levels. The idiotic black clad alien had at least left.

"Don't panic, Princess Leia. I'll save you." With that, he started climbing hand over hand towards the ceiling of Pilot's den, far above us. I decided against saying anything to the little welnitz and contented myself with thinking of ways make sure he never bothered me again.

Finally, he pulled us through an inspection hatch on Moya's top level and onto solid footing once again. Naturally, he wanted to talk.

"Princess, I've thought you were the most beautiful person in the entire Universe ever since I saw your message. I'll do anything for you. Anything."

He looked so sincere I didn't have the heart to dismember him. I patted him on his head. "Now, listen, Duke.."

"Luke." He corrected.

I knelt down to be on his level. "Luke. I have some very important things to do, things I can only do alone. But, I have a very important job for you. Do you think you can handle it?"

He nodded enthusiastically. So eager to please. So human-like.

I smiled at him. "Go down to Pilot, the large purple being below us, and get the three beings who are shooting him with the liquid to stop. All right?"

He nodded and thanked me and headed off down a maintenance walkway. Well, some of the little furry lunatics weren't so bad. I headed off down another walkway and in ten microts found a tool locker with a cutting tool that finally removed my handcuffs. I looked around and as near as I could tell, the upper levels of Moya were clear the aliens. I curled up behind the tool locker and went to sleep.

Several arns later I awoke with a start. At first I thought it was Stark, but it was another of the little frelling aliens. This one had a metallic mask covering half his face, like Stark. Unlike Stark, he was wearing a rather nice suit.

"Christine?" He asked. "Dear Christine, it is I, the Phantom. My Love, we must flee before the others arrive. Have no fear, My Beloved, I know the Paris Opera House cellars like the back of my hand." With that, he turned and walked into a wall.

I stood up. I was beginning to understand how to deal with these aliens. "I am not Christine. But she went town that maintenance shaft over there. Hurry and you can catch her. She doesn't know the cellars of the Ferris Oprah House like you do."

He looked first at me and then down the shaft. "Er, your positive you're not My Christine?" He asked hopefully.

"Positive. Now, on your way."

In a microt he was gone. Really, this was getting easy. All you had to do was to be firm and give precise instructions. Much like dealing with John.

I headed back down to try to find Jool or Chiana. It was too much to hope for that Luke had been of any help to Pilot. Then I ran into another band of the little menaces.

"I say, old boy!" Cried the first one I saw. "A woman."

No fooling this bunch. Then I noticed that one of them had dropped to his knees and was banging his forehead on the deck. The other three just stood there. They had on rough looking clothes and broad-brimmed hats. The one in the lead had some sort of an animal's pelt wrapped around his hat.

"I say, Umslopogaas," Cried the one with the strange hat, who I noticed, was carrying what looked like a primitive rifle. "Why are you bowing to the lady? Is she English?" The two other little aliens gave me a speculative look.

"No, Kemo Sabe. Not English." Cried the prostrate alien.

"Kemo Sabe?" Muttered one of the little aliens.

"Sorry, Bwana. It's She."

The three aliens still standing scratched their heads. "Well, it is a woman. But isn't it correct to say, "It's her," Umslopogaas?" Said one.

The other alien arose and glared at the other three. "It's SHE! She Who Must Be Obeyed."

"Oh!" The others cried in unison, taking off their hats. One of them stepped forward.

"Hello, Ma'am. I'm Alan Quartermain. My friends and I, Sir Henry Curtis, Captain John Good and Umslopogaas are trying to find our way out of these beastly caverns to reach King Solomon's mines. I was hoping we'd be near the top. If we are, Umslopogaas here can dig our way to freedom with his axe."

With that, the furry idiot who had called me "She" twirled a huge axe, nearly decapitating this Alan person. They were just dumb enough to try to chop through Moya's hull to the vacuum of space outside. For some reason, I decided to stop them from killing themselves.

"You have to go down." I said firmly.

"Down?" They cried in unison.

"Ridiculous." Cried the one called Alan.

"Pwepostewous!" Said one with a piece of glass over one eye.

Before the third one could say a word, Umslopogaas spoke up. "Down it is."

With that, they all began yelling at each other. "Up!" Roared one. "Down." Cried another. Finally, I whistled shrilly and they shut up. "You have to go down. Anyone knows that mines are down. Did you ever see anyone start a mine by digging up?"

That, of course, confused them to no end and they resumed arguing about mines and caverns and diamonds and a host of things I didn't understand. When they finally ran out of steam, I asked them a simple question.

"If I am She Who Must Be Obeyed, why aren't you obeying me. Should I change my name to She Who Is Ignored?" I smiled at them sweetly.

The four little aliens hastily agreed to go back down and off we went. We walked for almost a quarter of an arn until we ran into another of the little maniacs. Worst luck, I knew him.

"Mon Cher Tuareg Belle!" Shouted the little alien in blue that I had last seen in Pilot's den. He ran to me and effusively kissed my hand.

"I say, old boy." Inquired Alan, " Have you been properly introduced?"

The alien in blue drew himself up and faced my companions. "Of course! I am Legionnaire First Class, Beau Geste, an English gentleman, seeking the Fabled Sapphire Blue Water here in the desolate Sahara. This lovely Desert Flower saved me and taught me the ways of the Desert. And much else besides." The little blue clad alien smiled at me.

"Much about the desert, of course." I hastily added.

"But, old boy, were in the dreaded rainforest of the Congo. Or was it the endless plains of the Serengeti?" Muttered one of my companions.

"And She Who Must Be Obeyed is leading us to the Lost King Solomon's Mines." Stated Alan firmly.

"Magnifique!" Cried the blue clad alien, tossing his white hat into the air. "I have trudged across all of Africa to find a great adventure with fellow English Gentlemen and in the company of a mysterious, beautiful woman." He winked broadly at me.

Beau, the little soldier, as he seemed to believe himself to be, fell in behind us and we continued on our way down. Everything went well until we arrived at a vast empty storage area. Umslopogaas raised his huge axe and told us to stop.

"What is it Umslopogaas," asked Alan quietly. "People like Umslopogaas, trained from birth as hunters have powers we so-called civilized men can only wonder at." Alan quietly advised us.

"We're entering shifta country, Bwana." Opined Umslopogaas.

"Dash it, how can you tell?" Asked Beau. "One bit of this endless plan, er, rainforest looks the same to me".

Umslopogaas pointed to a neatly lettered sign in front of us. "Entering Shifta Country. Please wipe your feet."

"Perhaps we should go around?" Said Alan quietly.

"Too late." Umslopogaas pointed with his axe towards another band of little furry aliens edging towards us from behind a row of barrels.

"I'll impress them with our magic." Alan said as he stepped forward. "I happen to know that there's a total eclipse of the sun due today. I'll pretend to make the sun go away and bring it back once we've impressed them."

As idiotic as an eclipse inside Moya sounded, it was just the sort of thing these beings would fall for. I looked over the shifta's assortment of spears and swords, and started planning my escape route.

"My friends and I are gods. If you don't let us pass peacefully, I'll make the sun go away and you will be without heat or light." Alan turned and smiled at us. "It's almost too easy to take advantage of the little blighters."

"Another damn tourist with a copy of the Old Farmer's Almanac." Snorted the shifta in front. "Turn over your weapons, cash, credit cards and jewelry, and oh, yeah, the cute chick and we might..."

"The cute chick?" I started towards the little lunatic, who immediately started backing up. "What the frell did you call me? I'll show you all the cute chick you want." The little furry shiftas, whatever they were, all started tripping over themselves trying to get away.

"Magnifique, Ayesha." Cried Beau from well behind me.

"I say!" Cried someone else.

I had almost caught up to the shifta leader when another band headed into the fray. Their leader was a furry lunatic who had painted his face blue and gold and had on a very unbecoming skirt . "Scotland forever!" He squeaked as he and his band charged the rear of the shiftas.

Before that got sorted out, another set of blue clad aliens charged Alan and Beau. Their leader had a long blonde wig on. "Charge home, Seventh!" He called and everything dissolved into chaos. I quickly made my way to a passageway and headed off.

Before I had gotten a dozen metras I ran into another little alien. "Mom, I have two dates for the Prom. One is a beauty, but shallow. The other..."

I picked the little pest up and placed him down firmly behind me. "NO!" I leaned down and glared at him. "Solve your own frelling problems you little pest." I strode away from him.

"This family is SO dysfunctional!" He wailed as I left.

I took my bearings and found I was only one tier from one of Moya's alternate control stations. From the sounds of havoc coming from behind me, the little furry aliens would be busy with each other for a long time. I smiled and hurried along, thinking of how I'd get rid of these little monsters. Suddenly I felt something splash on my arm and I started to fall. Frell!

I woke up in a cell with my hands manacled behind me again.

"Ahem!" Said a voice from above me. One of the little furry monsters had climbed up on top of a supply cabinet that had been pushed into the cell for storage.

"I am Count Dracula." He announced from above me. This particular lunatic was also dressed in black. That was a shame, as I had always liked that color before. He had some sort of black cape wrapped around him.

"Aeryn Sun. Could you let me out of here?" No harm in asking.

He seemed taken aback. "Of course not. I'm a vampire."

"A campfire?" That couldn't be right.

"A vampire!" He squeaked indignantly.

"A van spire." I tried slowly.

"I am a being who can change into a gigantic bloodsucking bat and drain you of all your blood." He huffed. With that announcement, he lifted his arms, and stepped off the cabinet and fell a good three metras, flat on his face. He lay stunned on the floor, trying to get up.

Then I heard another voice.

"Doctor Watson! Wake up." I'd never complain about having to listen to a human again. Well, I wouldn't tell John that.

"John...." I began, but he put a finger over his mouth in a gesture I knew meant silence. He did smile at me.

He walked over to the little alien struggling to disentangle himself from his cape and stand up. John grabbed him under his arms and pulled him to his feet. "Doctor Watson." John said to the little furry alien. "You have been hypnotized by My Nemesis, the Evil Professor Moriaraty, the Napoleon of Crime."

"What?" The little alien was having trouble staying upright after his fall. "I'm a vampire, sir." He paused. "Aren't I?"

"Of course not!" John said firmly. "You are my good friend and the chronicler of my adventures. You are Doctor John Watson."

The little alien drew himself up. "Of course, Holmes. Dear me. I thought I was a vampire? And I threatened a lady? How embarrassing." The little alien seemed quite abashed. "My humble apologies, Miss...Er....." He looked at John.

John smiled. "I can tell you nothing about the lady other than the obvious. She is from an old, but impoverished family from the West Country and had an eccentric uncle greatly interested in clocks. A distant relative in the Scottish Highlands has recently died, leaving her a puzzle in the form of a rebus. She has come to London to seek my help deciphering it, but has been followed everywhere by a man wearing shoes made in a small village at the south end of the Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, who was recently released from prison in Canada. She escaped him by using her trained operatic voice to impersonate a street busker. Other than that, I know nothing at all about the lady?"

"Nothing you say?" Gasped the alien.

"She is a fantastic kisser, of course." John added, unnecessarily. But correctly.

The alien seemed to blush. "That's amazing, Holmes."

"Elementary, my dear Watson." John replied.

"But, what about Moriarty, Holmes?"

"Quick, Watson, the game is afoot." John said dramatically.

"'Ere, what's all this." I groaned inwardly. It was the lunatic who thought he was a pirate.

"Polly wanna frelling margarita frelling NOW!" Screamed his friend on his shoulder.

"Inspector Lestrade. Just the man, right Doctor Watson?" John said walking over to the pirate with his hand held out.

"Argh, Matey." He backed a step away from John, but seemed quite confused. "Er, em, Dr. Watson? Inspector Lestrade?"

John shook the little alien's hand. "Yes, Inspector. That fiend, Moriarty, is even now in the process of finalizing a fiendish plot against Her Majesty." John quickly peered out into the passageway. "Splendid, Lestrade. You've brought reinforcements. The very best of Scotland Yard's constables."

The "reinforcements" were the rest of the would-be pirates I had met earlier.

"Constables?" Sniffed Israel Hands. "Why we be...."

"Constables!" Bellowed the one now called Lestrade. "Constables, here to assist he world's first consulting detective, Mr. Sherlock Holmes! Now fall in."

The little aliens milled around in confusion, but seemed to decide that constables were preferable to pirates and soon fell in behind Lestrade.

"Splendid!" John announced as he looked out over the little band of furry lunatics. For the life of me I couldn't see what was so splendid. I cleared my throat and when John looked my way, I indicated my still manacled hands.

"Oh dear!" Squeaked the one called Watson, hurrying to me with a key he had fished out of his pocket. "So dreadfully sorry, Ma'am. The fiend Moriarty made me think I was a vampire. No English gentleman would...hope you'll forgive me." He continued to babble apologies as I took my place beside John.

I glared at John and then leaned over to whisper in his ear. "Are these beings some form of human, John?"

John gave me a strange look. "Be serious, Honey."

Before I could tell him I was serious, we set off, with our constables singing as we went and drowning out my questions to John.

"When a felon's not engaged in his employment."

"Or maturing his felonious little plans,"

"His capacity for innocent enjoyment"

"Is just as great as any honest man's"

"Our feelings we with difficulty smother"

"When constabulary duty's to be done."

"Ah, take one consideration with another,"

"A policeman's lot is not a happy one."

" Ah, when constabulary duty's to be done, "

"A policeman's lot is not a happy one, happy one."


We hadn't gone fifty metras when we ran into the warring mob I'd just left behind. I nudged John as we stopped and took in the battle. "I'm amazed the little terrors aren't all dead."

John leaned over and whispered in my ear. "Their guns are loaded with blanks and the edges of their other weapons are so dull I doubt they could do much damage if they tired, and they don't try."

A group of the little furry lunatics started eyeing us and preparing to charge. John smiled and stepped towards them. I got ready to start teaching them about inflicting damage.

"Aha!" John roared out over the dull roar of the fight. "The Baker Street Irregulars! Good lads! But the game is afoot. My Nemesis, the Napoleon of Crime, Professor Moriarty, is even now perfecting an act of devilry that will rock the Empire to its very core. We must be off!"

One of the furry menaces, it might have been the one called Alan, pushed the brim of his hat out of his eyes and then pushed a large shifta off of the top of him. He looked around confusedly. "Baker Street Irregulars? "Moriarty? Em, er.....Mr. ?"

"Holmes! Sherlock Holmes." Grumped Dr. Watson. "You've been having too many pints down at the Plow and Stars, unless I miss my guess, Tim O'Hara."

The newly named Tim O'Hara strode towards us. "Mr. 'Olmes? Beggin' yer pardon, Sir. Didn't recognize you, I didn't." He turned and glared at his friends and foes. "Don't stand there like a lot of bleedin' fools. We're off to help Mr. 'Olmes."

"Now then." John began. "We're looking for two ladies, much like the Countess of Sun, here. One is a redhead and the other is rather gray. Has anyone seen them?"

A little ex-pirate approached John, tugging at the fur on his head. "Sorry, Sir. I'm trying to tug at me forelock, but I ain't to sure where it is."

"You have news?" Demanded Watson.

"There was two ladies, real quality like, eating wiff some of the lads. Breakfast they was 'aving. Real early. Along about first sparrow fart, it were."

A large female clouted him over the head. "You be watchin' yer language, Wilf. There's ladies present."

"The center chamber. That's where Jool and Pip are, Aeryn." John stared over the heads of his new-found followers, down one of Moya's corridors towards the center chamber.

I nodded. "How are we ever going to get there? There are hundreds of these..." I quickly corrected what I had been about to say, "..beings aboard Moya."

"Plan B." John replied.

I just shook my head as the mob shambled off with us in the lead. Plan frelling B?

Before we had gone another fifty metras, we ran into another set of the little nuisances. The Goddess alone knew what they were supposed to be, but John seemed to know.

"Aha!" John cried. "Colonel Smythe-Pilkington and the Grenadier Guards. Honi soit qui mal y pense! Hurry, lads, even as I speak, Professor Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime, is hatching his nefarious plot."

As idiotic as that sounded to me, it seemed to make sense to the furry aliens. After a few microts of confusion, they fell in behind us and started singing a song in competition with the constables. The din was unbelievable.

"John!" I screamed. "Do you have any idea what the frell these little menaces are doing, or how to stop them?"

John just shook his head and my heart sank.

"Aeryn, I have no idea where they came from, but they do have a grasp of human culture. And they seem to have great imaginations. Every group I came across seemed to be play-acting out the plot of some human movie or book or something."

"I figured that much out for myself." I replied acidly.

John grinned at me and put his arm around my waist. I let him keep it there. For now.

I had to lean over and yell in his ear. Another gang of the little pests had joined us, bringing some sort of musical band. "But how will we get rid of them. Once you catch this Moo Ree Are Itty person, what then?"

John pressed his lips against my ear and left them there entirely too long. "We'll just have to make it up as we go along, Honey."

"Isn't that what they're doing?" I yelled, gesturing to the mob of aliens around us. John just laughed.

By the time we got to the central chamber, I was sure that every one of the little aliens on Moya was following us. And singing a dozen songs, and yelling at the tops of their voices.

"Up and at 'em, Guards." Bellowed one.

" A moi, La Legion!" Replied another.

"Rock and roll!" Screamed a third.

I could only hope that this was the normal way these beings behaved and that the oncoming horde wouldn't frighten Chiana or Jool, or any of the little monsters who might be with my friends.

Finally, we arrived at the central chamber. What I saw made my blood boil.

Chiana put down a bowl of sweet kalashka berries in front of a good dozen of the little furry monsters. They were sitting at the table with the remains of a huge feast in front of them.

"Hi, John. Aeryn. Aren't these the cutest little fellows." Chiana said cheerfully.

Jool stuck her head out from around the food preparation area. "John, can you tell them that story about the bake ball team whose player was called First?"

"Who's on first?" John replied.

"Who's on frelling first and what are these little furry menaces doing eating our frelling food?" I screamed at them.

"Aeryn," Chiana said, "These are our guests. You should...."

" I should dismember the little oafs. I have been knocked out, manacled, thrown in a cell, manhandled ..."

Before I could continue, a burst of intense light flooded the chamber. John drew Wynona and tried to push me behind him. I pushed my way to his side.

"Remain where you are." A deep, penetrating voice called to us. I could just about feel Moya's wall vibrating from the power of the voice.

"You will return to your ship, now!" The voice demanded. Somehow I knew that we were to remain and the little aliens were to leave. A furry hand gently pulled on my wrist.

"Adieu, My Desert Flower." Beau declaimed. "I shall always cherish our time together. We'll always have Paris." He kissed my hand and then he strode off with the rest of his friends.

I turned towards the voice and found myself staring into unbelievable brightness. I could see two beings at the center of the light. One could have been Sebacean, or human. One was not. He appeared to have between eight and ten arms and his body also seemed to shift in size.

"Where are you taking them?" I was surprised to find that I had asked that question.

"Home." Replied one of the new aliens. I couldn't tell which one had spoken.

"Whatever they've done here, you have no right to punish them." Frell. I was getting soft.

"We will not punish them. Merely return them to their proper time." Was that the other one replying?

"Their proper time?" That was John.

"I am Dura Poln of the Time Patrol. We were on a routine patrol in their era and had a temporal mishap. As a result they ended up here, in the wrong time. We're merely correcting an error."

"What about us?" Asked John. "Will you erase this from out minds? Reset time so this never happens? What?"

"We will do nothing to you." Frell. Now it sounded like both were speaking together. "Erasing memories hardly ever works. Too many people wonder why parts of their memories are missing. That can cause more problems than it solves. As for resetting time to erase this, you obviously know nothing of temporal mechanics. We'd be here forever." I almost thought I heard a little humor in that remark.

"But what about the alien's memories?" I asked, but, the light disappeared and the time travelling aliens were gone.

I tapped my communicator. "Pilot? Are you there?"

"Of course, Officer Sun. Where else would I be?" Pilot answered instantly.

"The aliens ship? Where is it."

"Gone, Officer Sun. Just like that." Pilot sounded impressed.

"Pilot, are you all right. The last time I saw you.."

Pilot quickly cut me off. "Yes. Master Luke, as he asked me to call him, chased those other beings away"

I decided Pilot didn't want to talk about his incapacity. I didn't blame him.

"Pilot?" John cut in. "We'd better check Moya. Those guys could get a little rambunctious. I found one group re-enacting the Alamo in the hangar. I haven't seen any damage, but we should check."

Pilot considered that for a microt. "Commander Crichton, if you and Officer Sun could check the hangar and the maintenance bays, the DRDs can do the rest."

"We're on it, Pilot." John winked at me. "Maybe your new boyfriend left you a present, Aeryn."

I decided not to hit him.

I left John in the hangar and headed to one of the maintenance bays, where spare parts were scattered about almost beyond the ability of the DRDs to re-order. In half an arn I came back out to find John sitting on the wing of his module.

"Hey." I ventured.

"Hey." Back to me, I supposed.

"You aren't accomplishing much, John."

John smiled at me. He seemed a little embarrassed. "Sorry. I couldn't stop thinking about those time travelers. They've got to know about me. I have the terrible feeling that they know I won't ever get back to Earth and decided it wasn't worthwhile to erase my memories of the future. That's what they'd have done to Picard."

I sighed and ignored the incomprehensible Earth cultural reference for the millionth time. "How do you know that they didn't already frell with your mind. Filling it full of images of little furry aliens, instead of what really happened?"

That got his attention. "That's my Aeryn. Always looking on the bright side."

Frell! Now he was more upset than before. I thought for a microt.

"Then again, consider the obvious, John. When we get back to Earth, you'll be bringing faster than light technology, and all of the other advanced technology that implies. You won't just bring news of a single alien race, but thousands. There's really nothing you've seen with those little aliens that would be at all important compared to all the other information you have."

That seemed to cheer him up. "Now, John, can you finish up here?" Before he could reply, I strode off to my next job. I didn't make it out of the hangar before he figured it out, though.

"When we get back to Earth?" He yelled after me.

I kept walking and didn't let him see me smile.




If you're interested in reading more about the Hokas, you can find "Hokas Pokas" and "Hokas. Hokas. Hokas." by Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson at, and elsewhere I imagine.


"One Hoka is a threat to human sanity. Two Hokas are a menace to civilization. And three Hokas...."