Child Of The Night
(Director's Cut 2009)
(CoTN was first posted October 7, 2002)
Introduction
(Posted with the story when it originally appeared at Kansas in 2002)
Hello, gentlebeings,

I began writing “Child Of The Night” shortly after ‘Dog With Two Bones’ aired here in the U.S.  I wasn’t trying to
resolve the cliffhanger, I just wanted to tell this particular story.  I needed a strong, loving relationship between
John and Aeryn, and I chose to go forward in time instead of back.  So I made a few SWAGs (Scientific Wild Ass
Guesses) about where the show would go, and started typing.  I was writing several others stories at the same
time, however, and didn’t get it finished before the beginning of Season 4.  

At that point the show ‘ran over’ the assumptions of the story, they left Jool on Arnessk, and I filed the story in a
sub-directory labeled ‘Road Kill’ until I could get back to rewrite it.  And there it sat until we received news that
Farscape had been cancelled.  I, like many of the writers, was torn between writing letters and writing fanfic,
and had trouble getting the muses to stop by.  The Youses-Muses-Gang made itself extremely scarce at that
point in time.  So, in something approaching an act of desperation, I decided to pull this one out, dust it off, and
slap an ‘Alternate Universe’ proviso on it.  It has Jool but not Harvey, people chasing the crew but not the
Peacekeepers, Noranti didn’t stick around, the Scarrans are still a threat, and most importantly, John and Aeryn
are together … and I mean
together.  

I will give you a
WARNING right now, I’m going to treat John worse than I have ever treated him before.  Read
the rating and the warning below before proceeding.  

Some of the story is a bit self-indulgent, which accounts for the length, but I couldn’t find another part that I was
willing to rip out of it.  So if I rattle on a bit, forgive me and flip the pages faster until it gets interesting again.

                                                                                                    * * * * *

DIRECTOR'S CUT 2009:  This version of Child Of The Night is the third edition of the story.  The first version
was posted in 2002, and consisted of only 17 chapters instead of 20.  A second version (the first 'Director's
Cut') appeared a year or two later, and reincorporated some scenes that I had deleted from the first edition
because they did not move the plot forward and were therefore somewhat redundant.  In the years since then, I
continued to play with Child of the Night from time to time, improving some scenes and even adding one or two
segments.  I enjoy the story too much to leave it alone entirely.

In November 2009, I began yet another edit of the story as part of a larger project.  That "Third Edition" from
2009 is now the only version available on the internet.  It incorporates the additional scenes that I have written
since 2002; corrected some rather abysmal syntax, punctuation, and sentence structure; and straightened out
some rapid, unnecessary, and downright dizzying shifts in point-of-view (POV).  From start to finish, it is a better
story, which is why I went to the trouble to replace all the older versions of the story with the new one.  Also,
since I was editing and revising anyway, I added even more spice to Chapter 20.

Hope you enjoy it,

Kernil Crash
Purveyor of Hallucinations

                                                                      * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *


Rating:  This story is rated R for scenes involving torture.  The last part is rated NC-17 because I left John and
Aeryn together too long and they got frisky.    
Disclaimer:  Not mine, no profit … kind of like Sci-Fi’s claim.
Spoilers:  Minor spoilers splattered across the entire first three seasons.  This takes place somewhere vaguely
after ‘Dog With Two Bones’ in what is essentially an Alternate Universe setting since there are a number of
premises that do not match up with canon.
Beta-Readers:  Thank you so much to ScapeArtist and Scrubschick for prying time into your already very busy
schedules to take a look at this.  As usual, I got a screaming case of the dithers, and needed some
reassurance before deciding to post this.  The feedback provided insights and revelations that I would not have
reached on my own.  I chose not to incorporate certain suggestions, and this was a long story to beta-read, so
if there are inconsistencies or discrepancies, don’t blame them.

FINAL WARNING:  This story involves torture, and it isn’t particularly glossed over.  The worst of it appears in
Chapter 7, although Chapters 17 and 18 aren't a walk in the park either.  If you don’t like those sorts of things,
then I strongly suggest you seek out something else to read.

                                                                            * * * * *


CHAPTER 1

Aeryn Sun looked over her shoulder, and was reassured to find D’Argo at her back.  Behind him crouched a
platoon of mercenaries, ready and watching for her signal.  Every individual carried one of the heavier,
shoulder slung pulse rifles, the smallest pulse weapon that would kill a scarran with any effectiveness.  They
waited motionlessly despite the tension generated by the impending assault, the extent of their training obvious
in their self-control and patience.  Aeryn took a deep breath and nodded.  One member of the platoon stepped
out, aimed a shoulder-mounted multi-delivery weapon at the heavily armored door, and let go a rocket.  The
roar of the explosion was carried back on a storm of heat and dust as the barricade disintegrated into a cloud
of metal fragments.  The mass of fighters kept their heads down until the last of the shrapnel clattered down on
their helmets.    

Aeryn rolled around the corner and went in low, confident that any resistance would be firing mid-chest height
for a sebacean.  Presented with a forest of scaled legs beneath the haze of smoke, she fired upward into the
half-hidden crowd.  The roar of weapons fire quickly accelerated into a deafening bellow, bits of ceramic raining
down as errant shots and ricochets blew fragments from the hardened walls.  Yells and shouts sounded behind
her, growls and roars ahead.  She ignored both sets of noises and kept moving forward, firing at anything that
moved in the smoke and haze filled corridor before her.  

Once the pressure of noise eased, she dropped to one knee.  The lessening of the clamoring against her ears
was the first sign that firing was dwindling, alerting her before she could actually hear a change in the noise
level.  She used the time to scan for more of the enemy with her heat-vision lens, waiting impatiently for the
firing around her to first drop away and then stop altogether.  Behind her, more troops moved up in a mass;
reinforcements pounded into the hallways branching off to either side to take cover and wait for the advance.  

When her fast scrutiny revealed none of the rippling images of the heat-heavy scarrans before them, Aeryn
moved up to the first corridor junction.  She stopped to scan again, and the hair on the back of her neck fought
to stand up as the howling of some animal filled the corridor.  It was a primeval sound, the bellow of some
bestial creature announcing its rage and anger to the world.  The sound faded to silence for a moment, and
then returned in greater fury with a new note in it.  It was then that she realized it was not a howl of defiance; it
was the sound of supreme suffering.  But this was a scarran stronghold after all.  The torment of a dumb animal
was to be expected in a place like this.  

“Which way, Aeryn?” D’Argo asked from no more than three or four denches behind her shoulder.  

He was so close she could feel the heat of his body radiating against her back.  Under normal circumstances,
she would have ordered him to move away.  The close proximity was unsafe in combat, putting both their lives
simultaneously at risk.  But she knew he was hanging close in order to watch out for her because Crichton was
not with them, found his protectiveness reassuring, and let him stay close.  She focused her attention on the
job ahead of them instead, using the time it took for reinforcements to move into the building to consider the
battle that lay before them.  The troops soon clogged the hallway from side to side, waiting patiently for her next
signal.  Both the howling and the sporadic firing had stopped, and it was strangely quiet except for the shuffle of
feet.  She motioned them forward, and the mass of fighters moved deeper into the warren of hallways.     

They came to yet another intersection of corridors, one that looked identical to all the rest.  Aeryn dropped to
one knee while she considered their choices, trying to pick out some detail that would indicate which way they
should turn next.  

“Any idea?” D’Argo asked behind her, still hanging protectively close.   

“I don’t know.  The information we purchased only said that they had brought him here.”  

A new noise rolled down the hallway from their right:  a scream of hair-raising, horrifying intensity.  It echoed off
the walls and then wrapped itself around the entire mass of fighters before bounding on down the corridor,
ricocheting off the ceramic walls.  The noise faded away almost immediately as the lungs producing it expended
their supply of air.  The screeching tones fell away into a smaller, equally tortured cry of breathless agony.  
Then it returned, full-throated and strong, rapidly rising into the howling they had heard several moments
earlier.  

D’Argo seemed to stumble for a microt.  He started to pitch forward then caught himself by placing a hand
against Aeryn’s back.  Still kneeling, Aeryn dropped her head for a moment in response to the wave of
dizziness and nausea that swept over her.  It passed, leaving her chilled and sick.  

“No,” she whispered, and steadied her swaying body by leaning back against the familiar weight of D’Argo’s
hand.    

“Are you two all right?” the mercenary captain asked.

“We’re fine,” D’Argo snarled, suddenly enraged without any apparent cause.  “Are your troops ready to go?”  

“Of course!”  

The officer was indignant and rightfully so.  They were one of the most expensive mercenary units available,
and one of only two outfits willing to take on scarrans.  The private army made its living fighting the small or
politically insignificant battles that escaped the interest of the Peacekeepers, and they had found a profitable
niche for themselves by specializing in operations against the slowly advancing scarran threat.  This unit
enjoyed killing scarrans, as a matter of fact, and had quoted a rock-bottom price in return for the privilege of
destroying the installation once the purchased mission was completed.  

“This way.”  Aeryn motioned the troops forward with new confidence, and lunged around the corner into the
hallway that led toward the source of the howling.  The pounding of the armored feet filled the corridor behind
her.  The mass of troops moved up as a single cohesive unit, flankers splitting off from the main group
automatically as they forayed further into the building.  She ran without hesitation to the door that hid the
suffering creature, gesturing toward their goal before she actually reached it.  The lungs inside were taking a
rest.  Smaller, equally agonized whimpers made their way past the sound barrier provided by the heavy door to
the hallway outside.

“This one,” Aeryn said, gesturing toward the door.  

There was no hesitation.  In response to their captain’s crisp hand signals, two soldiers stepped forward with a
heavy, percussion-augmented ram.  Two additional troopers slung their weapons and took hold of the rear
grips while the platoon arranged itself on either side of the door, pulse rifles at the ready.  There was a flurry of
clicks as chakan oil cartridges were replaced, and then the hallway was quiet.  The scream inside the room was
starting up again just as the captain gave a quiet, barking command.  The mass of men surged forward behind
the group with the ram.  The four men smashed through the door in a single blow, carried forward by the mass
of fighters ranged around them.  They were greeted by the full power of the tortured howl, a noise seemingly
too horrible for a single creature to produce even though it was obvious that only one throat was singing that
song of agony.  This time even some of the experienced soldiers faltered for a microt; then their training took
over and they pressed forward into the room, firing as they spread out.  

Aeryn and D’Argo were swept forward in the center of the group.  As soon as she got inside, Aeryn stepped to
one side and scanned the contents of the room.  She spotted a scarran with his hands on the controls of a
machine and fired without hesitation, destroying the equipment with three accurately placed shots.  The
tortured sounds coming from deeper within the room ended abruptly.  The scarran turned with a snarl and
D’Argo stepped forward, vaporizing its head with four shots so closed spaced they sounded like one.  The body
stood on its own for a microt and then toppled to the floor.

They looked up from their task and the battle was over, leaving twelve dead scarrans scattered around the
room at the cost of only one wounded soldier.  The mercenary captain scanned the room to confirm that the
fighting was finished, and then motioned for most of his men to continue sweeping the enclave.  A small reserve
remained in the smoke-hazed room, taking up positions near the door and around the perimeter.  

The officer scanned the scorched equipment and the headless body lying on the floor in front of it.  “Is that
him?  Is that your man?” he asked, gesturing further into the room.  

“Yes, that’s him.”  Aeryn and D’Argo moved to stand next to the still figure they had risked so much to retrieve.  
It was strapped spread-eagled on a gleaming metal table, lying in the center of a spattered pattern of sweat,
blood, and filth.  Aeryn leaned against D’Argo for several microts, permitting him to put an arm around her, then
carefully pushed free of his embrace and pulled herself rigidly upright.  

“Kelvo Fourteen,” the captain said.  He was bent over the destroyed control panels, looking at the frozen
indicator.  “I’m sorry we were too late.”

Aeryn looked dry-eyed at John Crichton’s body.  Shock was keeping her unnaturally calm for the time being.  
“He’s still alive.  I want to get him out of here and back to our ship.  He survived Kelvo Ten once before; he’ll
make it through this.  It’s only another four levels.  He’s going to recover.”  

The mercenary officer shook his head.  “You’re better off letting us put him out of his misery right now.  I’ll do it
for you, if you’d prefer not to do it yourself.”  When both D’Argo and Aeryn shook their heads he signaled to his
several of his medical staff who had been waiting to one side.  The men moved forward and began releasing
the straps that were holding Crichton in place on the metal table.  The only movement coming from the captive
was the slow up-down movement of his diaphragm, evidence that he was at least breathing.  

The mercenary leader tried again.  “This is not the same as those induced delusions they --”  

“We are NOT LEAVING HIM!” D’Argo bellowed.  

The officer raised his hands in a placating gesture.  He had seen luxan hyperrage on two occasions in the past,
and he spoke quickly in the hope that he could calm this one down before his anger had progressed too far.  
“Ka D’Argo.”  He was working hard to put emphasis into his words while continuing to make an effort to placate
the angry warrior.  “This was direct nerve induction, not that brainwave gadget they use, and this never leaves
much of the victim intact.  I’ve never” -- he paused, trying to impress something on them --  “I have never seen
anyone survive Kelvo Ten, let alone Fourteen.  Very few manage to cope with Kelvo Eight and come out in any
shape resembling a sentient being.  He’s insane, crippled, or both.  You’ll be doing him a favor if you kill him.”

Aeryn turned on him this time.  “We said no!” she yelled.  “We are going to take him back to our ship, and we
will get him whatever help he needs to recover.”  

He took one step away from the anger in her eyes, not understanding the vehemence in her outburst or their
passionate concern over a single damaged fighter.  “In that case, my people will help you get him out of here
and transport him back to your ship.”  He switched on his headset in order to issue commands to someone
outside the building, and within several microts four of his men appeared carrying a stretcher.  Everyone in the
room waited patiently while the medtechs finished removing the electrodes that had been fastened to Crichton’s
body and released the last of the wide straps holding him down.  

The last latch was pulled loose, the strap eased away from his throat, and the tech rolled Crichton’s head to
one side where it lolled without any intervention from its owner.  Aeryn moved forward just in time to see a line
of spittle run from the corner of his mouth, slither across his cheek, and drip to the surface beneath him.  There
was blood running from his ears and nose; the slow crimson drops added a thicker counterpoint to the delicate
spray already drying on the table.  The coppery tang that belonged with it was undetectable, masked by the
acrid stench of urine and vomit that she had smelled from the first moment they had burst into the room.  The
combination of odors bit deep at the back of her sinuses and struck even deeper into her subconscious, telling
her more about what had transpired in this room than the pale, virtually unmarked body lying before her.  

She tried to focus on something else to draw her attention away from the images springing to life in her mind,
but she kept going back to the table’s finely applied patterns of flung droplets, unconsciously gauging the force
it would have required to separate thickly viscous liquids into an almost vaporized state.  The straps would have
made it hard to snap the blood and sweat free like that.  It would have demanded either a great deal of strength
or a spastic frenzy to create that artwork.  Aside from where John had been lying, no portion of the table had
gone unscathed.  Every dench of the table, as well as a wide halo of floor to either side, had been coated with a
fine mist of bodily fluids.  

Aeryn started to shake, no longer capable of maintaining her rigid self-control.   

D’Argo’s voice drew her away from her fixation on the sights and smells.  “Why don’t you wait for us at the
transport?  I can stay here until they bring him out.”  

She shook her head, not ungrateful but unwilling to leave John for even a microt.  Her mind strayed
immediately, sauntering back to consider what it would have taken to make John vomit and urinate on himself in
this manner.  The howls they had heard rang in her mind repeatedly.  The images from her subconscious
merged with the sounds stored in her memory to create a detailed vision of the cherished body transported into
a hideous frenzy where the physically impossible became possible.  

One of the medtechs looked toward his commander and held up a blue syringe with a long slender needle.  
The simple motion and the query in the trooper’s expression tore Aeryn’s attention away from its morbid
fascination a second time.  The technician received a quick nod from his superior, and the man felt for a point
under Crichton’s throat, placing the needle against the pale clammy skin with delicate accuracy.  

“What are you doing?” Aeryn demanded.  She grabbed the man’s hand to stop whatever he was doing,
convinced by the wordless exchange that they were going to carry out the offer of a mercy killing.  

“No, Officer Sun!”  The mercenary officer leapt forward and pulled her away.  “You do not want them to move
him if he can feel anything.  This will cut him off from all sensory input for several arns.  We will leave you a
supply of the drug at no extra charge.  If his consciousness is still inside there in any recognizable way, you do
not want him connected to his nervous system while we’re moving him.”  

“Please listen to him, ma’am,” one of the medical techs said.  “We’ve had quite a bit of experience with this sort
of thing.  The scarrans use it whenever their cognitive dislocation methods don’t work.”  

Aeryn hesitated.  She looked down at the lax figure on the gleaming metal table, comparing that sight of
apparent senselessness against their claims of unseen damage.  From the neck down, Crichton’s body
appeared unharmed.  The only visible evidence of his mistreatment -- the reddish welts from the straps -- were
fading now that the restraints had been removed.  D’Argo was standing silently on the other side of the table,
looking no more decisive than she felt.  They hung there, uncertain, for tens of microts.  Their mutual reverie
was interrupted by a series of vibrations generated by a distant explosion.  The minute tremors tingled through
their feet first, followed by the rippling rhythms of multiple pulse weapons firing from somewhere in the building.  
The mercenary officer put his hand to his ear, listening to transmissions from his subordinates.  

“I do not have time for this,” he said in an impatient snarl.  “They’re counterattacking.”  He reached past Aeryn
and ran his hand heavily down one of the unmoving arms from shoulder to elbow.  

Crichton screamed.  

The apparently inert body came alive, arching off the table its entire length, tendons and muscles standing out
in tautened spasms, limbs shuddering and flailing spastically.  

Aeryn swung around and punched the officer in the side of the throat, putting all of her strength and the
rotational force of her turn into the blow.  It drove him to his knees, gagging and coughing for breath.  She
stood over him for a microt, struggling against the rage that urged her to kick the stunned mercenary where he
knelt fighting for air.  The scream behind her was cut off abruptly and she whirled back in time to see a syringe
needle buried in John’s throat, driving up toward the base of his skull.  D’Argo was still nodding his consent
even as the medic delivered the relief.  

“We had to Aeryn,” he said quietly, explaining why he had given permission.

Crichton’s body slumped back onto the table.  Tranquility was restored.  Once again, he appeared completely
senseless.

The commander was being helped to his feet by one of his men.  He looked at Aeryn with something resembling
admiration, and whispered, “Nice punch.”  He cleared his throat several times, sounding as though each
attempt was a painful struggle.  Despite his repeated efforts, his voice was no stronger when he continued.  He
rasped, “My men will take him back to your ship and get him settled.  They can give you the location of several
medical facilities nearby, but I doubt any of them are going to be of much help.  We have taken men there
before.  None of the healers have been able to do anything for them when this happens.  The best they have
been able to offer is a quick, painless death.”  

He craned his neck, massaging the spot where Aeryn had hit him.  “Best of luck.  I’m sorry you lost him.”  

“He is not dead yet!” D’Argo yelled at the departing figure.  

“Yes, he is.  If he’s capable of anything resembling a coherent thought, your man already knows it.  It’s just
going to take you and the rest of your friends a little longer to accept that you’re never going to get him back.”  
The voice continued to rasp but it was strong enough to make it back into the room as the group of fighters
headed toward the battle in the distance.  

                                                                           * * * * *

The medtechs were conscientious about getting Crichton settled comfortably in the converted maintenance bay
that served as Moya’s infirmary before they left to rejoin their command.  They showed everyone how to
administer the drugs that cut him off from his nervous system, making highly specific references to the readouts
from the scanner in the process, and left a supply of the loaded syringes as promised.  The four men who had
carried Crichton aboard insisted on washing some of the sweat, blood, and dirt off his body before they
transferred him onto the medbed.  They finished the job by covering him with one of the golden thermal sheets
and securing it to the underside of the bed as a soft overall restraint that would keep him from accidentally
rolling off.  

Aeryn knelt with them as they sponged him clean, inexplicably bothered by having strangers bathe the
intimately known body.  She ran her fingers along a darkening band spanning John’s chest, recognizing the first
signs of deep bruising.  There had been no room underneath the thick straps; she had seen that for herself.  It
would have taken repetitive and desperate battering against the strictures with no regard for the damage it was
causing to create that sort of bruising.  One of the men lifted a leg to wash beneath Crichton, turning the limb at
an angle to Moya’s muted yellowish light, and more bruises sprang into sight.    

Chiana sank to her knees across from Aeryn, crowding between two of the soldiers as they rolled John onto his
side to wash his back.  “What did … how …”  She touched the wide stripes of livid flesh that were visible only
when illuminated by the leviathan’s gentle, penetrating light.  Her hands drifted from ankles to knees to thighs
while Chiana struggled to phrase a question.  She finally managed to ask, “What did this to him?”  

John let a breath out on an extended sigh.  Although she drew away quickly, Chiana’s hands continued to
hover over the bruises as though she could comfort him without actually making contact.      

“He was strapped down,” one of the soldiers said carelessly.  “But it’s never enough to keep them from beating
themselves to a pulp against that table.”  He was concentrating on helping two of his comrades wrap a towel
around Crichton’s waist so he missed the effect his statement had on the small group watching and did not
know to stop.  “This guy’s lucky.  Most of them manage to shatter bones or dislocate joints trying to --”

“Shut up!” the two med specialists barked simultaneously.  

The soldier looked up, too late aware of his thoughtless comments.  He glanced around at the strange group
standing above them -- no two the same species, no two dressed alike -- and acknowledged for the first time
that these were not soldiers and would not be familiar with the unforgiving results of torture.  “I … I’m sorry,” he
stammered.  The soldier finished his awkward apology, looked down at Crichton, and then back up at the
gathered crewmates.  “I wasn’t thinking about … I didn’t … I’m sorry,” he finished lamely.  

“Argelians!”  The panicked shout from John broke the silence that had fallen over the chamber once the soldier
finished his stumbling apology.  Everyone froze, waiting for another outburst.  Nothing more followed.  

“What’s an Argelian?” asked Chiana.  

“No idea,” D’Argo said.  His gaze remained fixed on his friend, watching for another sign of awareness.  

The six men in uniform lifted John and placed him gently on the medbed, taking their time getting him settled in
order to ensure that he was in a comfortable position.  One of the medtechs stepped across the infirmary to
retrieve several small cushions from the other medbed.  He returned and tucked them under John’s knees and
forearms, rearranging the bits of padding until the human lay in a more relaxed, natural posture.  Two of the
soldiers finished securing a thermal sheet to the underside of the bed while the others began picking up and
stowing their gear, quickly and efficiently organizing it and then rolling it into the stretcher.  

“You need to keep in mind that there is no way to know how badly he has been damaged cognitively,” the
senior tech warned the worried little group.  “Even if he can hear and understand you, he may not be able to
answer.  You are not going to be able to tell whether he is thinking straight and can’t move, or is moving right
and has gone completely insane.  And it can change from arn to arn.”  

He looked at the rigid postures, the disbelieving faces, and tried again, speaking softly.  “He is insane inside
there, you have to trust me on this.  We have pulled too many of our own men out of that frelling contraption to
get this wrong, most of them before they had to cope with Kelvo Ten.  We have never rescued anyone who
survived anything beyond Kelvo Twelve, and that guy eventually had to be put out of his misery, so your man
is … well, he’s not lucky, but he is certainly unique.  You may see moments when he seems lucid, but it’s kind of
like an echo of what he used to be.  It’s a reflex … nothing more.”  He gave them a few microts to absorb what
he was telling them.  “It won’t last.”

“Surely there is something that a diagnosan or some other medical expert can do for him,” Rygel said into the
gloom-filled silence.  “There is always something that can be done as long as someone is still alive.”  The
throne sled floated closer to the medbed.  Rygel hovered there, watching the motionless features.  

“Crichton, we’re going to help you recover from this,” Jool said, adding her assurances to the mounting refusal
to accept the medic’s pronouncement.    

The medic responded aggressively.  “No, you are not, and you need to face up to this right now.  All of you
have got to face this.”  The medtech stopped what he was doing in order to face the small group.  “That
scarran torture has totally frelled his nervous system from the center of his brain all the way to the ends of his
fingers and toes.  That cursed machine disrupts every aspect of the victim’s physiology:  neurons,
neurotransmitters, chemical balances, the chemistry that permits muscular contractions, the works.  There isn’t
anything resembling a normal synaptic response left inside him, and no one around here has discovered a way
of realigning or reinitializing the responses in a case like this.  We have tried, believe me.”  He knelt to finish
collecting his gear.  “He is gone and he is not coming back.  I understand how difficult it is to accept your loss,
but that’s the way it is.  The sooner you accept that he died the moment the scarrans strapped him onto that
cursed table, the sooner you can start the process of putting this tragedy behind you.”    

The medic finished packing away the last of his instruments and looked around him to make sure he had not
forgotten anything.  “Your comrade lasted through Level Fourteen.  That’s an amazing tribute to his courage.  
Put a pulse blast through his head, remember him for his strength, and get on with your lives.”  He threw them a
hasty salute and the six men hurried out of the chamber, headed back to the planet to rejoin their brethren.  

The chamber was silent except for small shifts and sighs.  After a dozen microts, they were all staring at
Crichton.  He looked as if he was sleeping soundly.  All the damage was internal, hidden from sight.

“Should we do what he said?” Chiana asked.  Her voice squeaked and rasped from the effort of fighting back
impending tears.

“No!” Aeryn and D’Argo barked together.  They looked at each other then D’Argo continued, the passion in his
voice reined in but no less evident for his restraint.  “John got captured making sure the rest of us got away.  
We are not abandoning him now.”  D’Argo turned toward the motionless figure.  “We are going to find a way to
fix this, John.  I promise you that.”

There was a single, brief flutter of eyelids, and then Crichton was still again.  

“There’s no way of knowing.”  Rygel was almost whispering.  He seemed to come to a decision, because he
suddenly sat up straighter and looked imperiously at the others.  “I choose to believe he can hear us and
knows what we are trying to do.  I choose to believe he understands.”  

“Very good, Rygel,” Jool said.  Her voice held a full load of sarcasm.  “Now tell us all what we are going to do
about getting him some help.  Just for the sake of argument, let us say that those military morons knew what
they were talking about, and we choose not to take him to any of the medical specialists on that list.  I am willing
to concede that they know we cannot get Crichton any help in this portion of the galaxy.   Where do we go to
find someone who can help him?”

D’Argo was the first to list a requirement.  “We would need someone who understands synapses and synaptic
responses.”   

“Someone who can get inside Crichton’s head and see if he’s sane,” Chiana chimed in, “or as sane as he’s
ever been.”  

Aeryn made an effort to smile at Chiana’s attempt to lighten the conversation, but the expression felt false and
unnatural on her face.  She continued to stare at John, unable to pry her eyes off his face for an instant.  For a
moment, it looked though he was smiling, as though he had heard and enjoyed Chiana’s small bit of teasing.  
The short-lived expression faded before she could be sure.  She glanced around to see if anyone else caught
it, but everyone else was glaring at Rygel, who had just vented a generous supply of helium.  

“I’m angry,” the former Dominar said in a growl.  “I am very angry.”   

“You are very disgusting,” D’Argo countered.  Subjected to the influence of the hynerian’s emissions, the
normally gruff luxan baritone had been transformed into something closer to the screeching of a vorc.  

Aeryn glanced at John.  There was no doubt this time.  He was definitely smiling.  

“Look!” she said, pointing to the light-hearted expression.  

She started to touch his cheek, intending to caress the smiling face so he would know she was there, only to
snatch her hand away as four voices yelled “No, Aeryn!” in unison.  As soon as they had returned to Moya,
D’Argo had described to everyone in shocking detail what had occurred on the planet, trying to impress on their
shipmates the importance of not touching John unless they were certain the medication was doing its job.  They
all understood the horrid consequences that might result from even the most compassionate caress.  Aeryn
folded her arms and tucked her hands securely under her armpits so she would not be tempted again.  

The smile disappeared even as they all watched, to be replaced by a distressed frown.

“We’re here, John.  We’re going to find some way to put this right,” Aeryn called to him, hoping to reach the
awareness that constituted John Crichton.  

The anxious expression did not alter despite her assurances, and she understood for the first time the dilemma
of what the medic had described.  She had been certain for all of ten microts that he was listening, and now she
could not tell what had provoked the muscles in his face into the short-lived expression of joy -- cheerful
emotions, insanity, or random muscle contractions.

“Back to our discussion,” Aeryn said in a distracted manner.  She forced herself to turn away from Crichton,
resorting to looking at the others in order to get herself to concentrate on finding a solution.  “Does anyone
have any other input?  Any ideas?”  

“We would need to find someone who can understand the intricacies of his nervous system.  This hypothetical
specialist would need to be able to differentiate between his autonomic and voluntary responses, have the
capability to rebuild the synaptic connections, the capacity to determine if Crichton is sane, reinitialize his
neurons, repair any muscular or organ damage that has occurred, and be sophisticated enough to cope with
what may be an unknown species,” Jool said, rolling off the requirements they were seeking.  “And if he is truly
insane, we would need to find a species or medical specialty that can move beyond the purely physical and
reach into the psyche in order to restore a person’s mind.”

“We should be able to find someone like that on every commerce planet we come to,” Chiana said sarcastically,
somehow managing to sound frivolous and depressed at the same time.  Her next comment shifted to
dejection.  “Where are we going to find someone like that?”

“I think --”  Aeryn paused, reconsidering what she was about to propose.  “I think you just described a delvian.  
But John is so badly injured, a single priest cannot possibly heal everything that has been damaged.  We need
to find more than one priest.  What if we went all the way back to the New Moon of Delvia?”  

“Those blue butted lunatics really were crazy!” Rygel yelled.  “How can you expect to find help there?  They will
only make matters worse.”  

“What’s the New Moon of Delvia?” Jool asked into the silence following Rygel’s outburst.    

D’Argo ignored her question, responding to Rygel’s observation first.  “Zhaan gave them the key to finding their
way back to balance.  That is, John and Zhaan together aimed them in the correct direction,” he said,
rephrasing his statement.  “Aeryn, you may be right.  They are a fully integrated delvian community.  If anyone
has the healers and priests necessary to help John, it’s them … provided they aren’t all insane.”

“Pilot?” Aeryn called toward the walls of the chamber.  

Pilot’s image appeared in the clamshell hanging in the corner.  “I have been listening most intently, Officer Sun.  
After consulting the charts I have been assembling in Moya’s datastores ever since our mutual escape from the
Peacekeepers, Moya and I have determined that we can reach the delvian colony in just over twelve solar
days.  You must advise us, however.  Will twelve solar days be soon enough considering Crichton’s current
condition?”  

Aeryn looked at the supply of syringes arranged in a neat row on the work surface.  There were almost thirty of
them, but they had not yet determined how often John would need the system numbing injections.  If he
required their influence more than twice a day, they would be faced with the sounds of his unendurable agony
throughout the last two days of the journey.

“Only twelve solar days, Pilot?” Rygel asked.  “We were there almost three cycles ago.”  

“We have not been traveling a particularly linear course, Dominar Rygel.”  Pilot stated the obvious first, his
more formal manner of addressing the hynerian serving to add a bite of sarcasm to his observation.  “My
calculations are based upon a maximum effort by Moya, with minimal recovery time between starbursts.”  

Aeryn wavered.  “I don’t know.”  One microt earlier she had been certain that saving John was the right course
of action; now she felt as if she was only prolonging a miserable existence merely for her own benefit.  She
could not bear the thought of losing him a second time.  “If we decide to do this, we will be headed right back
into the middle of Peacekeeper territory.  It would be incredibly dangerous for all of us.  This is not a decision I
should make on my own.  If we are going to do this, everyone has to agree.”

The small group hovered indecisively, each individual shifting slightly as they considered their limited options.  

“D’Argo?” Aeryn asked, breaking the silence.  “What do you think?”   

“Go.”  The slurred voice was quietly insistent.  The unexpected whisper cut into the silence of the group’s
indecision.  A fierce battle was waged between the expressions crossing Crichton’s face and then he repeated
the single, tiny word.  “Go?”  It was taken over by a whine of sorrow, not pain.  “Go we know not where.  Wait for
me.  Waiting for Godot.”  He ended on an almost cheerful note, a complete transition from how he had started
his brief, jumbled contribution to the conversation.  

“Take it as a sign, not a command,” Chiana suggested more brightly.  

They had all been standing silently after John’s initially lucid utterance faded into confused, untranslatable
ramblings.  

“Pilot.  Set a course for the New Moon of Delvia, please.  As quickly as Moya can manage.”  D’Argo looked
around the group to see if anyone disagreed with his instructions.  His shifting glare was met by nods all the
way around.  

“Please prepare for starburst in … ten microts.”  

Pilot’s countdown was so short, Aeryn was sure that Pilot and Moya had been preparing for starburst even
before the group had reached a decision.  She smiled at the preemptive actions of the ship and her pilot and
held on to a workbench, waiting for the lurch that signified they were under way.  

“Stars in her hair were seven,” Crichton breathed, “blessed damsel of heaven.”  He twitched slightly and let out
a short-lived airy cry.    

“What if we go all the way back there and they haven’t recovered from their illness?” Aeryn asked.  “We only
have the one chance to take him somewhere.”  

“Does anyone have another idea?” D’Argo said to the group as a whole.  “Is there anywhere else we can take
him where we might have a chance of helping him?”  The entire room lurched as they entered starburst, each
person finding something to hang on to as they slid into the passage between dimensions.  They looked at
each other.  No one offered a suggestion.  

“So we go there and hope we’re doing the right thing.”  

John opened his eyes and Aeryn sucked in her breath.  The blue irises appeared purple, drifting aimlessly in
the center of bright red orbs, the result of what she guessed was internal hemorrhaging.  She drew her hand
slowly from one side to the other above his face and there was no reaction.  John was either blind from the
damage to his eyes, or cut off from his sense of sight by the widespread destruction of his nervous system.  
The others watched with horror and despair.     

“Hurry, Moya,” Chiana whispered.  “Hurry.”


                                                                           * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
                                                                                                                                                                             Chapter 2
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