Child Of The Night - Chapter 2
Red light, green light … red rover, red rover, let someone come over. Who should come over? Come on over
to my place after … after what? Raven’s wing hair. Is that a cliché? Soft, caring touch of someone’s fingers,
sweet smell nearby, pain, pain … more pain. Where is Aeryn? Ahhhhh, it hurts. Mom’s going to be ticked,
he’s late again. Title of his paper was ‘Theoretical Application of New Fuel Sources in the Pursuit of the Outlaw
Josey Wales’. That doesn’t seem quite right. Spinning spinning spinning, cast off from gravity, darkness, light,
silence spiraling in to possess him. An image of Aeryn turning, catching her lower lip in her teeth and smiling
entirely with her eyes, devious pleasure lurking there. Grab at it, hold on to it, anchor himself to keep from
spinning away. Memory fades, slips through his fingers as quickly as he grapples to hang on to it. Watching
pinpoints wheel overhead, stars falling into his brain where they implode, dragging him with them into the
crushing pain of the gravity well. Agony demands that he cry out, but they’ve removed his mouth, a smooth
expanse of skin where it once existed. His arms and legs are gone, he’s truly disembodied … a floating wraith.
Ask her out, be courageous, after all the worst she can say is ‘Yesterday’.
“She’s getting some sleep, Crichton.” Jool watched his brow furrow. Over the space of several microts, a look
of anguish gradually appeared on John’s face. It was a slow migration of adjustments, muscles shifting so
subtly that the change occurred invisibly, creating the impression that she had hallucinated the original, placid
look, and that the anxiety had been there all along. She tried to reassure the damaged mind. “Aeryn will be
back in a few arns. She’s been sitting with you almost the entire time over the last five solar days, Crichton.
She isn’t far away.”
“Iscandar is burning. Skiffy stinks.” He tossed his head on the pillow once then was still again.
* * * * *
“How is Moya holding up?”
Aeryn was sitting on Pilot’s console with her legs hanging inside the island. She knew she was in a spot where
John often chose to perch when he came to talk to their alien overseer, and had copied his position
deliberately. Sitting in that specific place, she could find a tiny sense of connection to the man who no longer
seemed to inhabit the shell in the infirmary. No matter that it was a fragile tie, it was something that she could
hang on to until they were in range of the delvian habitat and could find out whether Crichton would ever
Pilot raised his eyes from his controls, bestowing a sorrowful yet determined gaze on Aeryn. “This is not my
choice. Although she is beginning to tire, Moya refuses to slow down. Provided she can maintain this pace
until we arrive at the New Moon of Delvia, we have determined that we can take an additional three arns off our
Watching Pilot manipulate the controls, Aeryn recognized that he was diverting an even greater percentage of
Moya’s calorics to her drive system. The knowledge drifted out of her subconscious without conscious effort.
Knowing how Moya’s controls worked was an unthinking process; it never involved active, deliberate recall.
From there her thoughts spun back to John’s shattered intellect, as they did almost every microt she was
awake, and she wondered what it would be like to exist forever in a world where organized thought was an
impossibility, comparing her own instinctual but organized knowledge of leviathan systems to the chaotic and
frequently indecipherable ramblings that periodically broke loose from the devastated human lying in the
medical bay. It was not a new comparison for her to ponder. She had been questioning their decision to keep
John alive ever since they slid in to starburst the first time six solar days earlier.
“Pilot, hurting or injuring Moya is not a good trade. We may not be able to save John, and we do not want to
lose Moya as well. She is just as important to every one on board as Crichton.” Aeryn found herself warring
between a hope that Moya would slow down to preserve her health, and a desire that she would continue at her
present pace, bringing them to New Delvia as soon as possible. As though reading her thoughts, Pilot ignored
her plea and tapped another intricate pattern into the controls, once again making adjustments that would
maximize their velocity.
Aeryn leaned to one side, stretching across in front of Pilot to open a comms channel. “Moya,” she called to
their host, forcing out words that were painful to speak, “we need you more than we need Crichton. Do not
injure yourself in this attempt.”
The great chamber reverberated with a roaring noise. Every DRD in the Den came to a halt for the length of
time it took for the last of the echoes to fade. Aeryn had heard a lot of noises from Moya over the cycles, but
never one laden with such purpose. This had been more of a growl than one of Moya’s more familiar moans,
and was completely unlike any of the rare voiceless communications Aeryn had heard the leviathan emit during
the last four cycles.
“Moya and I have calculated this very carefully several times, Aeryn. We feel that the effort is more than
worthwhile. Moya will not slow down. She says she can rest and recover once we have reached our
destination.” Pilot closed Aeryn’s comms channel and opened another one in order to address the entire crew.
“Please prepare for starburst in twenty microts.”
* * * * *
Something pursuing him, chasing him, seeking him, desiring to catch kill dismember devour him. Run. Run
quietly and quickly, don’t hide, just run. No legs, he remains motionless, it’s getting closer. Lash out at it, drive
it away, no arms, too late, it’s here. What was he thinking about? There’s a poster of Clint Eastwood on his
wall within his mind that keeps on truckin’ down the road to Bali dancing in the moonlight over Havana cabana,
can he have a banana split? And what if they’re out of ice cream, you scream, we all … he wanted chocolate
sauce, anything chocolate because he hasn’t had any since … since when? since where? Doesn’t matter who
he is. WHAT is he? And it’s there again, chasing him, no time to scream, no time to run away, it has him and
and and … and … Where’s Aeryn? She runs into his quarters and grabs him, keeps him from turning his
hands into mush by trying to batter a mirror into shards. Hang on to it, grab the image, center himself with it,
find a way to hang on, to stay in one place to find to find to find to find … Something pursuing him, chasing
Jool hovered alongside Crichton, clutching at the edge of the bed as Moya slid into starburst once again. He
had begun mumbling more than usual and was sweating heavily. Over the past eight solar days, they had all
come to recognize that this meant he was approaching the point where he would need another injection of
sensory oblivion. Jool looked back at the carefully stored ampoules. There were ten left. If John continued at
his current rate of needing a third injection every couple of days, they would run out before they arrived at their
destination. Jool set the syringe down next to the others and settled back to wait. They would have to stretch
each one out a little longer. There was no method of transporting him that could be undertaken if he did not
have one more dose left when they arrived.
“Aristophanes?” It was a querulous tone. “Not funny.” Insistent. “Groucho,” he demanded, ending the brief
She wondered where he was and who he was talking about. Light, hurrying footsteps approached and a microt
later Chiana entered the chamber. The nebari hopped up to sit next to Jool on the spare bed.
“Did he eat anything?” Chiana asked. There was a tray with several cups and bowls on it sitting on a counter
nearby, but she could not see if they were empty.
“No dead fish … cheese whiz … not now, not now.” Crichton licked his lips, took a deep breath, and then was
Jool slid down from her seat and picked up a metal flask from the tray. She tilted it carefully, holding it to
Crichton’s mouth and he drank as fast as she let the water ease between his lips. She returned to her seat
when the flask was empty and finally answered Chiana’s question.
“He drank some of the soup and all of the water. He seems to be permanently thirsty; that was his third flask of
water. I’ll try to get some solid food into him later.”
Jool looked at the syringe propped safely out of the way. They had dropped two of the cartridges the first day,
not knowing that the shattered ampoules represented the margin between comfort and unadulterated agony
before they found someone who could provide John with permanent relief.
Chiana tucked her hands under her legs and sat on them as if it were the only way she could prevent herself
from going over and touching the restless human. Once settled, she asked, “What do you think about this
delvian colony that Aeryn and D’Argo told us about? If they’re all like Zhaan was, do you think they’ll be able to
“Neinwannwann,” John mumbled. A microt later, he began to cry. Neither woman moved to dry his tears.
Unless he had just received an injection, even that light touch was impossible. They had tried to clean or
comfort him just twice without the aid of the chemical oblivion, and had learned the difficult lesson from the
shocking results. Now they sometimes had to watch the salt tears dry into crusted traces without helping him.
They knew the exact length of their window of opportunity and were prepared for a cleanup whenever he
received an anesthetic booster.
“Grissom knew … Mom? May I be excused? … rattlers.” Crichton took a deep breath and suddenly started
laughing, trailing off to another round of jumbled utterances.
Chiana was startled by Jool’s voice cutting in over the deep-voiced ramblings, answering her question.
“The capability of delvians to heal minds is well outside my expertise. Their powers border on the mystical. My
people prefer to deal with measurable treatments and results.” Jool seemed to be implying that the delvians
were some sort of charlatans, and Chiana started to protest. Jool continued her explanation, unaware that she
was cutting off an objection. “However, I have seen things more unbelievable since I was abducted, and I
believe everything I have heard about Zhaan’s abilities. I believe they are his best hope.”
It wasn’t exactly a glowing recommendation. Just the same, Chiana recognized it as Jool’s best effort to be
positive. “I think they’ll be able to help him, too. Definitely.”
She slid off the bed and went to stand beside John, for the first time hoping she would have a flash of the
future. She willed a prescient vision to visit her, to tell her if he would recover. Nothing came of her attempts.
By this time Crichton was mumbling a steady stream of disjointed syllables. Now and then a few words broke
out of the jumble. “What light? Sun breaks.” He took a longer breath and called more loudly, “Aeryn?”
“Aeryn’s not here now, Old Man. You’re going to be all right. We’re almost to that New Moon place and
Zhaan’s people are going to fix you up.” She stroked the pillow next to Crichton’s head, a fabric surrogate for
his sweating forehead.
“Shark!” he cried. “Cut it loose!” He opened his eyes and looked at her without recognition. They had all
become somewhat inured to the blood red eyes and unfocused gaze, but this time his eyes seemed to be
pointed in different directions and the blue eyes had gone black from the congested blood. Although every one
of their scans indicated that he was permanently blind, he blinked several times and his eyes came into
alignment. He stared in Chiana’s direction.
“Where’s Casper?” he asked with a soft-voiced, childish curiosity. “Is he with you?”
“No, Gasper’s coming later, Crichton. He’ll be here later.” She thought perhaps he was asking after a
childhood friend, wandering through his memories in his darkness and confusion. “Be still and get some
He turned his gaze away from her, looking to the empty side of the bed. “Mom? MOM?!” He started crying
again. “I’m sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry …” His eyes closed and the single word faded into a whisper.
* * * * *
Gentle wafting scent, quiet sounds of someone moving nearby, rustle of leather on leather and the clank of
metal against some other object, familiar ring of a pulse pistol grip striking a workbench. How many times had
Winona hung up on some object or projection before each and every one of his movements had adjusted to
carrying the weapon? He needs to open his eyes and verify who is there -- to make sure it really is Aeryn.
Nothing moves, nothing happens, his dark world persists. What is the problem? What has happened? Look
to the past, look to the future, look back look forward look back look forward. Nothing exists except the now,
the here, the quiet voice murmuring in his ear, telling him that he will be all right. Isn’t he all right now?
There is only the here, the now, the sweat trickling alongside his nose, tickling slowness working its way down
his cheek, fraternal streaks blossoming from the cool beads on his forehead to wander along his temple and
sink into his hair. There is only the increasing pain, sensitivity to every small touch on his skin, no ability to cry
or sigh or moan as every fiber on the covering over him becomes an agonizing weight too heavy to be carried
any longer. Fingers tilt his chin, creating an inconceivable explosion from scalp to toes demanding a scream
that dies unvoiced in a throat that refuses to respond. Lancing agony strikes through his throat, sinks deep
into his brain, driving shaft attempting to sever his spine … succeeding. Sweet sobbing relief without the sob.
The now, the here, the quiet noises around him, the scent of Aeryn nearby. Aeryn, Aeryn, Aeryn. Why can’t
he tell her that she is his entire life, the beginning and end of his existence?
Burst of cold air as the blanket is pulled aside, moved shifted rolled adjusted sponged toweled mopped fed,
greedily gulping whatever they would let him have because he is hungry, thirsty, hungry thirsty, hungrythirsty
hungrythirsty. Whatever they were giving him is gone. He should tell them he wants more, but there is the
restrictive covering again to hold him down, denying him movement when he only wants to reach for Aeryn to tell
her that he’s here, here in the now and knowing that she is near here in the now.
Silence reigns except for the rumbles and grumbles, source unknown, rumbling and grumbling into his
thoughts, head spinning, stomach isn’t grumbling anymore, stars are in his head now, shattering his thoughts,
spinning him out of control. It’s the … he’s the … Grendel never had this problem. Broken pattern, no
touchdown. She never should have been valedictorian, voting had been … who’s there? Knock knock. Ten
pin bowling isn’t supposed to be a contact sport … not for the bowlers. Big cockroach with pointy teeth walks
toward him after appearing out of nowhere, sinks its fangs into the back of his head and rips out his brain.
Crichton hauled in a lungful of air and started to scream. D’Argo jumped and then stumbled over Jool. Both of
them were trying to get around Rygel’s momentarily stalled throne sled at the same time that the hynerian was
doing his best to get turned around to return to John’s side.
“We just gave him an injection,” Aeryn yelled over the screams. “This shouldn’t be happening.”
Chiana was the first to make it to Crichton’s side. She hovered, unable to help him as he sucked in another
breath and continued screaming. “He’s not moving. He’s not fighting against anything. I don’t think this is
pain,” she called to the others. “Crichton, it’s all right! You’re on Moya, and you’re going to be all right!” Her
shouts went unnoticed by the frantic human. Everyone was hovering around him now. Everyone had gathered
in the chamber to help feed and clean John while they could touch him. “This is terror,” Chiana concluded.
“John! I’m here,” Aeryn yelled to him, desperately trying to penetrate to wherever he resided inside his mind.
She grabbed the sweating face, holding him by both sides of his head, and tried to reach him with her voice.
“You’re home. You’re on board Moya and you’re going to get better.”
The screaming stopped abruptly, replaced by tears and the voice of his deepest fear. “No. Please. Please
don’t. Not again … I don’t know anything about wormholes. I don’t know anything about any damned w-w-w-
“Scorpius,” D’Argo said flatly. John was sobbing uncontrollably now. Jool handed D’Argo a cloth and he began
wiping away the steams of tears.
* * * * *
“D’Argo!” Aeryn ran into the Center Chamber where the luxan was getting something to eat. “Pilot says we’re
in range of the delvian colony. He’s attempting to contact them to find out if they’re sane and willing to help
Crichton.” She did not wait for an answer but headed out of the chamber at a run, turning in the direction of
Command. D’Argo threw down the plate of food he had just taken from the warmer and went after her.
They arrived in Command just as the image of three delvians, all of them wearing the vestments of a high-level
priest, was projected on the forward portal. The three figures floated ghostlike, appearing semi-translucent in
front of the view of the stars. Aeryn recognized Tahleen standing in the rear beside an elderly male delvian,
and quickly searched her memory for the name of the third individual, a woman. ‘Lorana,’ flicked into her mind
just as the woman addressed Pilot, answering his query.
“We have received your transmission, Pilot. We welcome you and all aboard Moya. How may we help you?”
Tahleen and the third priest moved forward to stand alongside her. All three pairs of eyes were a deep, sane
shade of blue.
The immobility of a completely motionless figure was usually wrapped in some kind of muscular tension. The
delvians, however, emanated a deep tranquility, a level of comfort with their stillness seldom observed among
other species. Aeryn began to relax in a sympathetic response to their appearance. She was also relieved to
see the blue eyes and the healthy, blue and yellow mottled skin, both of which assured her that they had
succeeded in overcoming the encroaching madness that had threatened the colony’s existence several cycles
Pilot’s hologram appeared in the clamshell, providing Aeryn and D’Argo with the same image he was sending to
the delvians. “Commander Crichton has been severely injured. All who reside aboard Moya hope that you are
willing and capable of helping him. We have been unable to find anyone else who possesses the capacity for
repairing his injuries.”
Aeryn clutched at the edges of the nav console until her fingers ached, and waited for their answer; the fear
that they might refuse left her momentarily chilled and sick.
The blue-patterned faces all registered shock and Aeryn thought she was going to pass out, certain that their
reactions were a prelude to refusal. For two microts, she was convinced that they were going to reject the
request for assistance, based on an imagined grudge or lingering resentment over the events that had
occurred on the moon several cycles earlier.
Lorana was speaking. Aeryn had to replay the last few words inside her head in order to catch up. “We owe
him a great debt. By all means bring him to us and we will do anything within our power to help him. How long
will it take for you to reach our sanctuary?”
Pilot replied, “We will enter orbit in just over six arns.”
Lorana stepped back, allowing the male delvian to take over. He said, “We await your arrival. Can you send us
details of his injuries?”
“The data is being transmitted … now,” Pilot said.
Three heads bowed gracefully and the screen reverted to the darkness of space, transmission concluded.
“Now we have to hope they can do something for him,” D’Argo said. “I don’t know if we have done the right
thing bringing him here, Aeryn. This is a long way from any other help. If they can’t repair the damage --”
Aeryn cut him off before he could go any further. “They will be able to help. They’re delvians. They can do
the Unity thing and get inside him where he’s damaged, D’Argo. If Zhaan could bring me back from death
single-handedly, an entire colony of delvians has got to be able to bring John back. He is not dead; he’s only
trapped inside his own mind.”
She knew what D’Argo had been intending to say, and could not stand to hear the words spoken out loud.
They had only one syringe left and it had to be reserved to get Crichton down to the moon. If the delvians
could not heal John, he would never leave the sanctuary alive.
* * * * *
“How is he holding up, Rygel?” Aeryn entered the medical chamber and went to stand beside John. He was
sweating heavily and she recognized some of his Earth curses amongst the steady babbling.
“It depends. How much longer until we get there?” Rygel had grounded his chair on the spare medbed next to
Crichton and was watching him from there.
“Pilot says a little over an arn.” She wanted to wipe some of the sweat off John’s face before it trickled into the
already soaked hair, but it had been too many arns already since the last time the remedy had disappeared
into his neck, and they still had too long to wait before they could use the last one.
“I think he’ll make it if nothing else changes.” Rygel lifted the throne sled and came to hover beside her.
“End run … don’t let the binars in!! Five’s alive.” Crichton rolled his head from side to side and sighed
heavily. “Blew up --” He broke off and made a snorting sound of disgust.
“John. We’re almost there. Try to relax. That should help.”
He sighed and then began breathing more quickly, panting as though he was attempting to fuel an intense
“Try to relax. Take slow even breaths and let your muscles go limp. You only have to wait a little longer.” The
quiet, even toned litany had no effect on his anxious ramblings.
“Ephemeral?” he called and opened his eyes. She could not imagine what, if anything, he could see with those
damaged eyes. The old bleeding had solidified, turning solid black and in the process creating the illusion that
two holes had been bored into his skull. “Take the fifth … Screw you, Barry!” He seemed to be calling to
someone, but nothing he said made any sense anymore. The rare bursts of coherency had disappeared after
the first six solar days of their journey, leaving only his disjointed remarks. John took a longer breath; the
exhausted panting slowed a bit. He drew another breath in through his nose. “Aeryn?”
“Yes! Yes, I’m right here, John. I’m right beside you.” She grabbed at the side of his bed to keep from
“Fly safe,” he cried, “fly safe.” He closed his eyes and for the first time since she entered the maintenance bay,
Aeryn wondered for the hundredth time if they had done the right thing. Despite her assurances to D’Argo
several arns earlier, within the privacy of her own, unspoken thoughts she questioned whether the delvians had
the knowledge and capability to restore his mind. Unity would not help John if there wasn’t a consciousness for
them to join with when they tried to heal him. If he could not be made whole, she did not know which one of
them was going to have the strength to put him out of his suffering.
John moaned and shifted under the light restraint of the thermal sheet.
“Pilot, how much longer?” she called.
* * * * *
Esoterica, erotica, exobiotica. Exo-biotica? Make up rhymes, add some thyme, take the time … where was
Aeryn? Consider the plight of a twin, taking it on the chin … pantak jab would have been easier … than what?
Another hole spinning in his head, blackhole sucking his life into it, except there wasn’t a life anymore, only the
pain. If I fall in a forest … what are trees? What is me? Wander in an empty room, wonder in an empty tomb,
there’s nothing in an empty womb … where had he put Aeryn? He had hidden her from the Others only he had
forgotten where. Now he couldn’t find her.
“We’re almost there, Crichton, don’t cry. We’ll be on the planet in a few more microts, and then the delvians
are going to help you.”
“How is he doing, Chiana?”
“He’s crying for some reason, Aeryn, but aside from that he’s not any worse than usual. Concentrate on
Mama Bear, where did she get the porridge? Wrong story. There was a Papa Bear as well … oh god, where is
Papa Bear now? What’s happened to him? Goldilocks gots nothin’ on Aeryn Sun. Where is Aeryn? Zhaan
says she’ll stop by again later, bringing two friends so they can play bridge, bridge the gap to where? Bridges
of Toko-Ri? Holden should have been beholden for such a role done. He had hidden Aeryn somewhere so
the Others couldn’t find her, so that if he gave them everything else … what else is there? Is there anything
else? Was there ever? They’ll never get Aeryn from him. But now he can’t find her. Where where where
where where had he put her? He will have to look for her again. She’s in here somewhere. Stuff his hands in
the pockets of his jeans and start looking.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *