Night Walker
(First posted July 8, 2002)
Rating:  PG - A little profanity and several rather gruesome scenes.
Disclaimer:  The characters and vision of Farscape belong to Henson Co., and the Sci-Fi Channel.  The idea
for this story belonged to a bard who lived and died generations before any of the rest of us poor mortals were
even a glimmer in our grandparents’ imagination, and I hope he isn’t turning in the grave as I smush the two
stolen creations together and hopefully create a little non-profit entertainment in the process.
Spoilers/Time Frame:  This story takes place right after “Self-Inflicted Wounds”, and contains substantial
spoilers for that two-part episode.  

Note to the reader:  I had two goals with this story.  First, I had become fixated with the battle between
Beowulf and the monster, Grendel, at some point, and kept thinking how an underwater battle would make a
very interesting Farscape story.  Secondly, partly in response to some comments about how I always beat John
up (he’s imminently hurtable -- how can I resist?), I wanted a fiction where as many characters as possible get
injured.  I wanted limping damaged bodies everywhere.  I did pretty good, except for Rygel.  The regal little jerk
just would NOT get in the lake.  This is, without a doubt, the most self-indulgent story I’ve ever written.  There is
a ton of stuff that doesn’t belong in here, and I left it in because I was having fun.   

Hope you enjoy it too.  


*  *  *  *  *

Chapter 1

His name was Eomenri, he was five cycles old, and his destiny was assured.  He was accustomed to being
called Menri, but he had reached the Age of Determination and his mother had told him that he would have to
get used to being called by his full name now.  He hurried down the path that ran along the edge of the fields,
knowing that he was late, but reveling in the newly bestowed privilege of making the trip from the common
market to his home in the village by himself.  He was hurrying, but he wasn’t hurrying too fast because then his
solitary journey would end too soon.  

Menri slowed a little, giving his feet more time to travel the path undirected while he examined his hand.  He was
five.  He held his hand up and curled both thumbs against his palm, examining the remaining fingers.  That was
five.  He had been to the Center for the testing and the tall men had told his parents that he had inherited the
genes that made so many of his relatives brilliant healers.  He would be a healer, too.  It was assured.  Menri
unfolded his a-thumb and looked at his hand again.  ‘Anterior thumb’, his cousin had taught him.  His first new
word from his life’s new purpose.  Menri mouthed the phrase silently.  

Anterior thumb plus five fingers was six, and that was when he would begin his schooling as another of his
planet’s healers.  

He stumbled over a rock that had remained hidden in the gloom.  Black eyes looked up in dismay to find that
the sun was setting, casting long shadows across his route in order to deliver the message that he was much
later than he thought.  His name was Eomenri, he was going to be too late to see his father’s nephew again,
and five cycles was too old to cry.  He began to run in the hope that he might get home in time to see his cousin
before he left.  His cousin was an Aleph, a member of the most highly talented and skilled healers on the
planet, possibly in the entire universe.  Menri had been told that he might be an Aleph some day, if he worked
hard, and he wanted to share that distinction with his cousin before he returned to his posting.

He reached the fork in the path.  He’d been told repeatedly that he must never take the left turning after dark,
but it was so much shorter to go along the lake, and he was late.  He looked at the sliver of sun still showing
above the horizon, hesitated, and turned left, reasoning that it was still daytime.  He would run quickly so that
he would be through the marshes and past the lake before the sun set completely -- before it was night and he
was breaking the rules.  

His name was Eomenri, and as he hurried through the darkening twilight, he had no idea that his destiny was
already stalking him.    

*  *  *  *  *

A small noise woke her.  Aeryn Sun lay motionless, listening to the rumbles and thumps of the Leviathan
around her, trying to sort out the noise that had brought her out of a sound sleep.  She waited, breathing
shallowly, alert to anything out of the ordinary that would explain why her perpetual internal alarm system had
gone off.  It was a remnant of her Peacekeeper training that occasionally caused a poor night’s sleep, but one
she would not have willingly given up under any circumstances.  Her ‘early warning system’, as Crichton called
it, had served her too well during the past few cycles.  

Her momentary consideration of Crichton’s term triggered something in her subconscious, giving her the
answer she was seeking.  Aeryn slid out of bed and moved silently to the door of her cell.  A cautious peek
laterally down the corridor confirmed that Crichton’s door was open.  That was the sound that had brought her
out of her slumber.  The doors to her own cell slid open with the same sibilant metallic grinding she’d heard
microts earlier, producing more noise than her own whispering passage on bare feet as she went to check his
chamber.  

“Frell!”  The expletive burst out before she could consider the others sleeping nearby.  She swept a glance
around his empty room, noting the leather pants in a crumpled heap on top of his boots, and his pulse pistol
safely stowed in the holster that hung from a hook in the corner.  

“Aeryn?  Is something wrong?”  Chiana stumbled toward her wrapped in a shaggy robe that looked like the pelt
of some primitive beast except that it was bright orange.  

Aeryn blinked several times, struggling to look toward the iridescent color and having trouble getting her eyes
to adjust so early in the morning.  She shook her head, not sure herself whether the gesture was a response to
Chiana’s question or an effort to relieve the optical discomfort being caused by the orange wrap.  

“Everything’s fine except Crichton’s wandering around again.”  She gestured at the abandoned cell.  “At least
he isn’t fully dressed.  He may settle down tonight.”  

Chiana stepped forward to peer in, black eyes reviewing what Aeryn had already discovered.  “Do you want any
help or anything?” she yawned.    

Aeryn looked at the blurry gaze beneath white hair standing in disarray, and shook her head again.  “We can’t
keep chasing him around trying to get him to sleep.  We’re all getting exhausted.  Go back to bed.  That’s what
I’m going to do.”  She strode back to her chamber, using sound instead of sight to make sure that Chiana
returned to her own cell.  

Aeryn waited until the doors down the corridor slid closed, then pulled her pants on and went in search of
John.  He’d been sleeping poorly ever since they’d managed to separate Moya from the Pathfinder ship, his
misplaced sense of guilt driving him into the corridors night after night.  Sometimes he’d get dressed and
badger Pilot into finding him some minor maintenance task to complete, but most nights he would just wander
endlessly through the tiers, returning to his bed one or two arns before the end of the Leviathan’s night cycle.

Aeryn found him in the Center Chamber picking at some cold fried melvak beans, idly rearranging the green
vegetables on his plate as he ate gaps into his previous pattern.  He looked up when she entered, a flicker of
annoyance passing over his face before he could get a more benign expression in place.  He answered the
question she’d asked the last three nights in a row before she could ask it again.  “I’ll go back to bed in a bit,
Aeryn.  You don’t need to watch over me.”

“John.”  She searched for something new to say, a new approach to his stubborn reticence, but there wasn’t
anything that hadn’t been said before.  “You have to move on.  You have got to get over this.”  She wanted to
say more, but he turned his head away from her, staring into a corner with his most obstinate expression on his
face.  “John,” she tried to draw him back.  

He looked down at his latest bean design, flicked it into chaos, and shoved the plate away.  “We’re almost out
of food,” he changed the subject.  “We’re down to one day’s supply of real food, then we have about three days
of dried food cubes.  After that it’s fried dentics.”  He smiled at her, trying to add more humor into his weak joke,
but it was obviously a strain.  

“We can talk to Pilot in the morning.  Get some sleep.”  Aeryn started out of the chamber, waiting at the door for
him to join her.  She gave him a small inclination of her head, beckoning for him to follow her back to Quarters.  
John got up, stretched, and followed her silently through the corridors.

He sauntered willingly into his cell and collapsed onto his bed as the quiet muttering of Aeryn’s bare feet
headed toward her own chamber.  He waited until he heard her doors close before getting back up.  He pulled
on his pants and socks, picked up his boots, and crept quietly out of his room, waiting until he was on another
tier before pulling on his boots.  He was never sure just how far Aeryn’s acute hearing could detect his
footsteps.

It was too close to Moya’s version of morning to get any sleep, he decided.  It took arns of wandering up and
down the tiers to tire himself to the point that his body would sink into unconsciousness before his brain took
over and began replaying the final moments of the Pathfinder ship.  He considered his options, and decided to
talk with Pilot about a solution to their food shortage.  

*  *  *  *  *

Crichton sat with his legs inside Pilot’s station, further behind Pilot than usual after the exasperated creature
had threatened to banish him from the Den if he didn’t stop swinging his feet and letting his heels bang against
the base of his consoles.  John had finagled himself a reprieve by moving around behind Pilot to sit on an
overhanging ledge.  There he could swing his feet to his heart’s content, and there were no obstacles to create
the drumming that had driven Pilot to the point of issuing his threat.     

“I have located a planet that appears to have some surplus food supplies.  This is not an actual commerce
planet or an agricultural world, but they do seem willing to negotiate …”

“That’s great, Pilot,” John broke in, drowning him out.  “Who are these people, and how far away is the
planet?”  

Pilot sighed loudly, letting John know that he was annoyed at the interruption.  “They call their world and their
species the Ashreikechin, which seems to indicate ‘people without war’.  They refer to themselves as the
Ashrei.”  Pilot’s arms moved without pause as he accessed the information streaming into Moya’s data stores.  

“People without war sounds like some folks we ought to get to know better, Pilot.  We haven’t stumbled across
enough planets like that.”  John slid off his perch and moved forward, trying to make some sense of the data
that flowed in a steady stream across one of Pilot’s displays, but was unable to catch more than a fraction of
the flickering symbols.    

“The term seems to apply more to the individuals who inhabit the planet, rather than their society,” Pilot said
tentatively.  He manipulated several more controls, more assurance in his voice as he broached a different
topic.  “I have tried to contact their government or some sort of leadership, but there doesn’t appear to be any
sort of hierarchical group in charge of their society.”  

“Who do we talk to then?”  John slid over the bulwarks and began to pace from one end of the Den’s center
platform to the other, content to watch the energy pulses move through Moya’s conduits while the large
creature behind him continued his search through the recently acquired information.  

“I have been able to contact some sort of civil servant, who was very interested in dealing with us once I sent
him some preliminary data on our identity.”  John’s head came up with a snap and he turned around with the
beginning of an objection spilling out.  “I did NOT reveal our actual identity.  Crichton, the past two cycles in
your company has taught me far more than the basic premises of obfuscation and prevarication.”

Crichton pointed at his own chest, feigning shock at the accusation.  “Me?  Pilot, I’m hurt.”  

“Yes,” Pilot drew out the word over several microts, warning him with his tone that he was going too far with his
teasing.  “Actually, I was referring to everyone aboard Moya.  Be assured, Rygel and Chiana have far more to
offer in the way of deceitful behaviors than you do.”  

“That makes me feel better … I think.”  

“The individual on the planet merely seemed interested that we were not of his own species.  He is arranging
communication with someone who might be able to help us with our negotiations.”

“Pipe him through.”  John started to climb back in next to Pilot.  

“Do NOT come back in here, Crichton.”  Pilot treated him to his ‘I’ve-had-enough’ growl.  “The Ashrei have full
voice and video transmission capabilities, but their representative seems to be transmitting from somewhere
that lacks video capacity.  I can provide you with adequate voice reproduction over your comms right where you
are now.”  

John stumbled as he moved away from the symbiote’s domain, tripping over absolutely nothing, and it took all
of his energy to right himself.  Moya’s huge cavern seemed to oscillate around him slightly, Pilot’s voice
reaching him sounding slightly muffled as his mind and body struggled to cope with his self-imposed
exhaustion.  He knew that his irritating behavior and restlessness were the result of being overtired, prompting
him to issue a silent mental warning to take extra care during the pending discussion.

“All right, Pilot.  I’ll stay out here.  Just tell me who’s on the other end of the blower.”  

“His name is Vossmarr, and he seems to be some sort of … physician.”  Pilot looked up, eyes bulging mildly
with surprise.  

The unexpected announcement helped John focus his attention.  “Are you sure you got that right, Pilot?”  The
expression on Pilot’s face was all the answer he needed, and he waved the pending reply away before the
annoyed tone was bestowed on him again.  “Put him through to my office.”  

*  *  *  *  *

When John didn’t appear in the Center Chamber for First Meal, Aeryn was tempted to ask Pilot if he knew
where their wandering insomniac was, but decided not to alert everyone on board to the fact that he had spent
another night without sleep.  She double checked his quarters after she finished her meal, and was on her way
to Pilot’s Den to ask the question in person when her route took her past Command.  Her casual glance
transformed into a glare when she spotted Crichton stretched out on the strategy table, apparently sound
asleep.  

She started into the chamber, preparing to unload her aggravation on him, then decided that he needed the
sleep more than she needed the release.  Aeryn stuffed her un-vented concern and frustration back down
where it had been fermenting for almost three solar days, and turned quietly to leave.  Her retreat was arrested
by a mumbling voice behind her.  

“I’m awake.  Come on in and let me have it.”  John sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the table so he
faced the forward view portal, his back turned toward Aeryn.  

“Let you have what?”  

“Aeryn, drop the act.  Every time you see me not sleeping in my quarters, or sleeping not in my quarters, you
let me know exactly what you think.  Don’t hold back now.”  He didn’t bother turning around to face her.  

His t-shirt and leather pants never looked any different whether he slept in them or not, but his hair was matted
against his skull, clearly dirty, and she could smell the acrid tang of old sweat as she drew closer.  He finally
turned to look at her as she stopped alongside him, the gray tones of exhaustion highlighting the dark smears
under his eyes.  John had never looked this bad before, and instead of feeling annoyed, Aeryn felt the smallest
vibration of fear run up her spine, striking a chill into her back.    

John’s capacity for coping with everything life threw at him had always seemed limitless, something she had
come to take for granted over the past cycles.  But in the instant that he turned to look at her with those
bloodshot eyes, she questioned that perception for the first time.  Aeryn found herself wondering if he had
finally been run over by the experience that would drive him into permanent emotional imbalance.  

She looked away, giving herself time to think by watching the gradual shift of the stars through the forward
portal.  The Leviathan was maintaining an unswerving course toward a distant planet; one dim sphere remained
directly in front of them as the others slowly migrated.  “What’s going on?  Where are we headed?” she asked
mildly, trying to maintain a calm attitude.   

“Pilot found a planet with some surplus food supplies.  They’re willing to swap munchies for some sort of
services rendered.”  He scratched at the stubble on his chin.  “We’ll be there in about six arns unless I fell
asleep here for a while, in which case we’ll be there sooner.”  He cocked his head, seeming to notice that he
had stated the blatantly obvious only after he’d finished talking.  “There’s your original Yogi Bera insight,” he
grinned tiredly.  

The calm attitude fled in the face of fierce irritation.  “It’s all set up already?  You found the planet, negotiated,
arranged for the supplies, spoke for the rest of us?”  Aeryn stalked to the navigation console and stared at the
displayed information without really seeing what was before her.  “Are there any decisions you didn’t make for
us, John?  I thought this was exactly what we decided got us into that last situation.”  

“Aeryn, this one wasn’t … a tough one to figure out.”  He’d started to say ‘rocket science’ but shifted when he
realized that the cliché was only going to give her free ammunition.  Then he’d been about to say ‘brain
surgery’, but decided that little subject didn’t need to come up either, not after what they’d been through in the
last cycle.  “We’re out of food, and although I’d love to sit around all day licking barbeque sauce off my fingers,
I haven’t noticed a keedva stashed aboard Moya lately.  And the “Be-Slim-Fast” plan didn’t work real well the
last time we tried it, in case you’ve forgotten, or perhaps you enjoyed your experience with the blooming blue
bush, as you called her.”  

“That isn’t the point, John!” Aeryn yelled at him, her temper almost out of control as the memory of her struggle
with Zhaan ignited a fierce pain deep inside.  “We agreed that no one was going to make decisions for
everyone else from now on.  That’s the way you wanted it.”  

“We … need … food,” he chanted back at her, beginning to raise his voice also.  “They have food.  They will
trade for food.  They don’t want currency for food.  We are almost out of currency.  What is the big decision to
be made here?”

“What decision are we making?” D’Argo asked cheerfully, walking into Command without noticing the rigid,
angry stances.  

“Stay out of this!” both combatants yelled at the same time.  

“Whoa …”  The warrior took one look at the pair and backed carefully out of the chamber, disappearing hastily
as soon as he was out of the door.

“So you’re completely comfortable taking over on this one, is that it?”  Aeryn waited for the nod she knew she
would get from John, but somehow didn’t feel pleased when it arrived.  “Then why don’t you go down to your
quarters and get some sleep?  Isn’t that what all this wandering around at night has been about?  You should
be able to sleep fine now that you’ve worked this out to the point where you can lead us all wherever you want
to go.  What do they have on that planet besides food?  Are we going to trade for some wormholes while we’re
there?”  

She watched his face go even paler underneath his mask of fatigue, the last of the blood draining away as her
words echoed around them.  She’d tried to bite back the final accusation, but it had escaped from her lips
before she knew what she was saying.  John backed away from her looking as though someone had just
stabbed him in the stomach with a commando long blade.  He opened his mouth twice, no words coming out
either time, then turned and started toward the door.  

“No, goddamn it.  That’s not fair.” John turned around, the flush of anger accentuating his pallor and hollow
eyes.  “This isn’t the same at all.  D’Argo!  Get in here!”  

Aeryn watched the jerky motions, the glittering hint of madness in his eyes, and knew that John had hit a new
level of anger unlike anything she’d witnessed in him before.  She’d accidentally ripped an already raw wound
wide open, subjecting him to a pain that was intolerable in his current state of exhaustion.  She’d seen him
crazed, angry, possessed, annoyed to shouting lunacy, and driven to madness by the chip; but she’d never
before seen him in this state of anguished fury.   

D’Argo walked cautiously through the ovoid door, stopping prudently halfway across the room from where John
was waiting, his back turned toward Aeryn.  He watched the pair warily as John’s furious shout reigned in the
chamber.  

“Do you agree with Aeryn?  Is this a decision that should have been made by all of us?”  John stood absolutely
still while he waited for the verdict, but the muscles in his arms and shoulders were clenching and unclenching
with the tension that his anger was packing into his body.  

“Well, John,” D’Argo said hesitantly.  “You did vow …”  

“PILOT!” John yelled before the Luxan could finish.  “Stop the boat!  We’ll be changing port of call.”  

“Where are we going now, Crichton?”  Pilot’s image appeared in the clamshell, looking exasperated.  “I have
already explained to you that there is no other planet within five solar days travel that has the surplus food
supplies which meet our requirements.”  

“I haven’t a clue, Pilot.  Ask Ensign Pulverizer where she and her faithful followers want to go.  I’ll be in my
quarters, but feel free to comm me when dinner is served.  I’d prefer something more appetizing than fried
dentics.”  He hurried toward the door, his posture still shrieking a warning to everyone that he was furious.  
“Been there, done that,” he grumbled as he went past D’Argo and disappeared into the tier.  

The warrior waited until the ringing footsteps faded before he let his breath out in a long tone of relieved
astonishment.  “That was …” He completed his slow turn away from the empty doorway barely in time to notice
Aeryn’s still overcharged posture before he said anything more.  He clamped his mouth shut, not sure what he
could say at this point without setting off another explosion.

“Aeryn,” Pilot’s holo-image ventured carefully.  “Moya would like to know what course we should take up
next.”       

“Continue toward the planet with the food supplies, Pilot.”  Aeryn stared blindly at the view screen, trying to
analyze why her own emotions had spun out of control so easily.  She finally shook her head, unable to delve
deeply enough into her own labyrinth of mixed feelings to ease the cause free.  She looked across at D’Argo,
smothering an urge to smile when she noticed the way he was standing.  He looked like a man awaiting his own
execution.  “I’m under control now,” she told him.  

“You were not out of control,” he tried to reassure her.  

“Yes, I was.  I can’t explain it, D’Argo.  John was absolutely correct in the decisions he made, and he’s right that
we have no other options, but when he told me what he’d done I just …”  She stopped, at a loss for words,
distracted by a sharp mental image of John eagerly headed for the hangar bay several days earlier with the
Pathfinder recording device in his hand, Moya’s predicament secondary to his pursuit of wormhole knowledge.  

“You went into Sebacean hyper-rage?” D’Argo offered when she continued to hesitate.   

“Sebacean’s don’t have hyper-rage.”

“Tell that to Crichton,” he mumbled under his breath.  

“I wouldn’t care if he were the one to pay the price for his decisions,” Aeryn went on, not hearing his quiet
comment.  “Sometimes it seems like he keeps walking away while other people pay for his mistakes, and it
makes me angry.”  

“That’s not true, Aeryn.  John has certainly paid the price a number of times.”  

“He’s still here, D’Argo.”  Tears threatened unexpectedly, and Aeryn rubbed at her eyes, forestalling a release
of the liquid weakness.  “I wouldn’t mind his choosing our path if he was the one who paid this time.”  

There was a loud hiss from her companion, drawing her gaze toward where D’Argo stood with both hands on
the console, shaking his head emphatically.  

“What’s the matter?” she asked him.

“You tempt fate when you say such a thing, Aeryn.”  

“I don’t want him to get hurt, D’Argo.  I would never wish for that.”  She stopped again, uncertain where she had
been going with her argument.    

He changed the subject abruptly.  “I’ll go see how much food we have left, and check with Pilot to see if we need
any other types of supplies.”   He stopped at her side as he moved toward the door.  “We all need time, Aeryn.  
Zhaan meant a lot to everyone.”  

D’Argo stared at the floor as he left the chamber, allowing himself the luxury of wallowing in his own grief for a
few microts.  He looked up as he rounded the first corner of the corridor and jumped, brought to a complete halt
by the sight of Crichton leaning against one of Moya’s thick internal ribs, close enough to the door to have
heard every word of their conversation.  

“John,” he stammered, immediately embarrassed by what had been said in Command.

“I was coming back to apologize to Aeryn.”  The explanation was barely audible, a quiet whisper of tenuously
contained emotions.  “Guess there was nothing to apologize for.  She had it all in perspective.  Next time, I’ll
make sure I’m the one who jumps in front of the runaway train.”  

“Aeryn did not mean it the way it sounded, John.  She doesn’t blame you, and she doesn’t want to see you
hurt.”  

“No, she’s right, D’Argo.  I keep getting people hurt or killed.”  His friend was shaking his head, refusing to
accept his assertion.  “Let’s see how John Lafitte, Curse of the Uncharted Territories has done so far.”  John
began holding up fingers as he ran off the names.  

“Crais’ brother.  Hassan.  I almost got Aeryn killed by letting Larraq on board, and Larraq is dead because of
my dumb idea.  Verrell died, Matala went with him.  I personally sliced and diced Br’nee.  I released the override
on Talyn and blew the snot out of a pile of Plokavoids.  That got Stark killed.  Well, he came back so I guess
that doesn’t count.”  John put a finger back down.  “Almost forgot!  Gilina would still be happily splicing cables
on some Gammak Base except for me,” he put a finger back up in the air.  “Scorpius killed over ten thousand
Baniks just so he could get his hands on John Crichton.  And let’s not forget the really stellar performance of
the cycle … I killed Aeryn.  If it weren’t for Zhaan, she wouldn’t be alive today.  And after that …” he stopped,
looking as if he were going to be ill.  

“You are not responsible for all of that, John.”  D’Argo started to reach for his friend, intending to put his hand
on the human’s shoulder in an attempt to reassure him in a more basic, physical manner, but Crichton pulled
away.  

“I feel responsible.  I wish …”  John fell silent and began walking in the direction of their quarters.  “I hope that
next time I make a lousy decision that I’m the one who pays for it instead of someone else.”  

D’Argo shook his head, disturbed by the similarity of Crichton’s and Aeryn’s remarks.  “John, do not make such
a statement.  My people have a saying.  ‘Be careful what you wish for.  It may come true.’”     

“We have a saying on my planet too, D’Argo.  ‘Do not fold, bend, spindle or mutilate.’  They’re both just
sayings, nothing more.”  Crichton slapped one of the arching golden ribs as he turned the corner and
disappeared from sight, leaving a perplexed Luxan transfixed in the middle of the corridor.

*  *  *  *  *

Aeryn continued to stare out the forward view portal, deliberately using the incremental, hypnotic shifts in
scenery to calm her until she could review the recent exchange without triggering another emotional
bombardment.  It had been John’s reference to Zhaan -- ‘the blooming blue bush’ -- that had ignited the
explosion within, rendering her incapable of a balanced, rational response to his actions.  Slamming a fist
against the navigation console released some of her pent up misery, but did little to ease the rising flood of
grief and guilt.  “It was a poor trade, Zhaan,” she said to the empty chamber, then turned her thoughts to how
she could initiate an apology to John.  

“Aeryn?”  Pilot’s purplish image appeared in the clamshell.  

“Yes, Pilot.”  

“The Ashrei representative that Crichton spoke to earlier has contacted us.  He would like to discuss our
projected time of arrival and arrange a meeting place.”  

“John has gone to his quarters, Pilot.  I’ll talk to …”  She realized that she didn’t know anything about what John
had arranged, or who he had been talking to on the planet.  

“His name is Vossmarr,” Pilot offered.  

“Open a comms channel and put the image up here, please.”  

The image of a slender, thin-faced being appeared before her, floating semi-translucently before the changing
view of the stars.  His expression changed to one of wary shock as soon as he saw her, and he spoke before
she could say anything.  “This is, perhaps, a bit unexpected.  I had anticipated an exchange with a Mainart
Kreps.”  His gaze shifted away from Aeryn, focusing off to one side briefly, then shifting back again while his
light brown skin paled to a washed out beige.  

“What’s going on?” D’Argo asked from behind Aeryn’s shoulder.  

“He was expecting you know who.”  Aeryn avoided using Crichton’s name despite her whisper.  “Vossmarr,” she
raised her voice as she returned to the transmission.  “Kribs is not free to talk to you at this time, but I’m sure
we can agree upon a time and place for a meeting.  Was there any other matter that needed to be discussed
prior to our arrival?”

Beige skin slowly transitioned back to light brown as they waited through obvious indecision.  Vossmarr finally
shook his head.  “It is, perhaps, more desirable to continue my discussion with the individual who initiated our
tentative agreement.  If he is no longer available, then perhaps this trade is not necessary.”  

“No!” D’Argo said vehemently.  He stepped in front of Aeryn, and continued with more moderation.  “We do
desire the trade.  We’ll find him for you.  Can you wait a few microts?”  

Vossmarr nodded gracefully.  “I will be here when you are ready.”  The screen went blank.  

“Your reaction was a little extreme,” Aeryn observed impassively.  

“John was correct, Aeryn.  We’re out of food and there isn’t any place within five solar days travel that can
provide what we need.  If we don’t get supplies here, we go hungry.  Where is Crichton?”    

“John, we need you in Command.”  Aeryn called to him over her comms.  

“I’m busy,” his disembodied voice floated back.  

D’Argo placed a hand on her arm, preventing an angry retort, and took over.  “John, we’re in contact with the
planet, but this person will only talk to someone named Main Art Kribs.  You must come up here and deal with
him.”

“It’s ‘Meynard Krebs’, and tell him I can’t be disturbed.  I’m fasting.  It’s a religious thing.”  

D’Argo sighed through his nose, managing to sound depressed and irritated at the same time.  “John,” he
admonished.    

“Why Command?  Do we have a visual transmission this time?”    

“Yes.  He’s waiting for us to contact him.  Please come up here.”  D’Argo raised his eyebrows at Aeryn, silently
questioning whether his polite urging would persuade the human to acquiesce.  She shook her head, uncertain
whether enough time had passed to allow John to calm down to the point where he would cooperate.       

The comms relayed a sigh and the squeaking rustle of leather.  “On my way.  Have the senior officers meet me
in my ready room.”  The comms chirped once and went quiet.  

D’Argo looked to Aeryn a second time.  “Senior officers?”  

She was already shaking her head.  “I haven’t a clue,” she said disgustedly.  

*  *  *  *  *

John Crichton sat motionless on the beach, his arms resting on his knees, watching one long roller after
another crest, break, and smash down onto the sand.  The foaming remains of each wave slithered up the even
hard-packed beach to reach for his toes, hissing in disappointment each time that it failed to touch him.  Wind-
flung sand nipped at shoulder and ribs on one side of his body, a Lilliputian attack that was equally impotent as
the foam that eased away just short of him again and again.    

The sun beat against the back of his shoulders, sinking warmth into muscles that hadn’t soaked in the heat
under a blue sky since … since … he couldn’t remember.  A name floated into his memory, disturbingly bereft
of any associated image.  There had been a place that was sunny and warm, but the niche in his mind with the
label ‘Acquara’ over it was empty of any other details.  He wasn’t worried about the gaps in his memory,
everything here was too familiar.  He inhaled deeply, enjoying the smell of the ocean.  He reflected on the irony
that it was rotting sea life that made a beach smell this way.  It was death and putrefaction that triggered the
pleasant memories of sandcastles, dams melting before the tide, and carefully dug canals filling with rushing
water.  

John squinted against the glare as he scanned up and down the beach, trying to remember just how he had
gotten here.  He knew he was at Hampton Beach -- he recognized it from when he’d come up here with a group
from college -- but he’d never seen the entire beach empty like this, especially on such a nice day.  He could
hear the traffic and chaos of the boardwalk behind him so he knew that other people were here, they just
weren’t on the beach, which was puzzling.  It didn’t really matter, he decided.  It was too nice a day to worry
about what anyone else was doing.  

His legs were cramping from his unmoving position, somehow feeding the discomfort into his stomach as well.  
John unwound himself and got up, twitching the black trunks a little further up on his hips as he strode down to
where the waves were rumbling onto the shore.  He danced back as the first wave washed around his shins,
chilling his ankles to aching numbness at the first touch.  It was New Hampshire after all, he lectured himself,
summer here seemed to last about two and a half weeks, which was never long enough for the water to get
warm.  

The discomfort in his stomach and legs was getting stronger, a pulsing throb that seemed to come and go in
time with the waves.  The roar of the surf had taken up residence in his ears, making it difficult to hear the
breeze and the seagulls, making it hard to think.  The cold water would mute the pain, and ease the hot feeling
in his stomach, he decided.  John waded into the surf, ignoring the first cutting fingers of cold, moving deeper
until the water washed away all of the soreness.  


                                                                   * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
                                                                                                                                                                       Chapter 2
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