Child Of The Night - Chapter 4
Aeryn is back! Aeryn is back!
His relief and delight at her presence crashed over her, making it difficult to think for several microts. She was
forced to concentrate on something other than John in order to remember what they had asked her to teach
him. There were things both sides needed to know. Meylan had asked her to search for certain reactions and
responses, and they wanted John to understand that there were always going to be people there to help him if
he desired their company. She moved farther into him, letting the relief pass through and beyond her so she
could pay attention to other details for a few microts.
The muscle aches had eased, washed away by the lack of gravity, and the pain in his joints had quieted to a
dull throb. Other parts of his body were missing entirely: he knew it so she knew it. It was easier to breathe
now. She could feel that it wasn’t a choking effort each time it was necessary to draw in the suspended
oxygen. The feel of warm liquid flowing through his sinuses wasn’t unpleasant; it eased the constant headache
and took the pain away from the eyes that could no longer see.
His new world cradled him. It wrapped comfortable liquid fingers around his entire body, sucked him in to its
peace, and cloaked him in silence. It was warm and no one came here too often; it was a nice place to dream.
Merging more thoroughly, Aeryn determined that John was basically happy in the dreaming space, but he was
disturbed by several intrusions that occasionally forced themselves into his quiet world and upset his carefully
constructed safe place. He was hovering in the place where he went to worry about the annoying details. She
asked him to show her the things that bothered him.
He was hungry.
Aeryn shunted the thought back behind her, wondering whether someone was there to catch it. What else?
He was thirsty.
But it’s salty.
It’s just right, they know about these things. Trust them to make it just right for you.
Aeryn? What’s that? Cold pressure against his lips, quickly warming in the water, coaxing him to let it find its
way between his teeth, alarm closing his jaw with momentary permanence. Aeryn, what’s that!?!
Eat it and find out.
Don’t remember eating this before but it’s familiar.
I dub thee, trigapod.
I don’t understand.
Eat some more, John, you will understand later. John, I have to --
John … Is that me?
Yes, you are ‘John’. I’m going to leave for just a few microts. I’ll be right back.
Aeryn will be back, she’ll be back. I’ll wait for you here.
Stepping away from the group surrounding John, Aeryn resorted to grabbing on to the shoulder of whoever was
standing next to her. “I had to leave for a few microts,” she said, gasping for breath. “That’s so much harder
than yesterday.” She waded to the side of the pool and boosted herself onto the edge where she sat hunched
over, staring at her floating feet while she waited for her body to stop shaking. “Why is it so tiring today?”
“You are quite correct. What you are doing today is far more difficult than the formless emotional reassurance
you offered yesterday,” Lorana said from beside her knee. “You are forming coherent images and helping him
rebuild the first stages of language, and that is far more demanding.”
“Rebuild language? Aren’t we talking in there?” Aeryn straightened, finally catching her breath. “I know
exactly what he’s telling me.”
“Not really. You are using something similar to a sign language. The symbols are becoming increasingly
complex with every exchange, however. This is a very positive indication.”
Aeryn spent several microts observing the efforts of the group that was tending to the body beneath the water.
They were using firmer touches today, bringing more pressure to bear on John’s muscles and joints without
provoking as many twitches and jerks from his nervous system.
“Why?” she asked. “Why is that a good sign?”
“Because it proves that there is something left of his intellect, Aeryn Sun.” Lorana placed a wet hand on
Aeryn’s knee. “Do not read too much into that observation, however. It will require a much deeper level of
interaction to determine how much of John Crichton remains within this vessel. We will not be able to make that
determination for several days, at least.” The priest looked at Crichton and those who surrounded him. “Do
you feel capable of continuing, or should we ask another of his friends?”
“I can go back.” Aeryn slid into the water. “I want to, and I promised him I’d return.”
John, I’m back.
Aerynaerynaerynaeryn. Easy, pleased awareness of her presence flowed from him. Happiness that she had
returned without the explosive excitement.
We were talking before about the things that bothered you. What else is annoying?
Who is John? I don’t know who John is any more.
He had spent his brief interval alone gnawing on the mystery. She paused, uncertain how to show him this,
waiting to see if there was something more to his dilemma.
I’m John, you’re Aeryn, right?
You already know that, and you know you can trust me.
I know, I know. But WHO is John? His cry was basic, a wail of uncertainty, of a child left alone. I don’t know
anymore, he’s gone!
He will be back soon. He is happy and calm right now. He knows he is going to be all right because we are
taking care of him, so he can be calm and wait for more to return.
I have to wait?
Just for a while, then you will know who John is again.
I will wait then.
Show me what else is bothering you.
He led her to the burning discomfort, showed her how running the warm water through the sinuses behind his
eyes eased the pain but would not extinguish it, leaving the raging discomfort that pounded inside his head, too
close to his mind. It rocked his thoughts into senseless foam, battered at his fragile occupation of this small
peaceful dreaming place.
She floated the thought back in turn, and could feel it when a pair of hands touched him lightly over his eyelids
and took the fiery pain away. Although it left his eyes feeling hot and swollen, the raging conflagration guttered
and died out.
Who are they? They’re nice. Are those the ‘nice people’?
It was a flashing impression more than a formed thought, the first minute step toward trust. Is there something
else that’s annoying?
NO!! He sensed that his denial had been too vehement and tried to make it go away with one that was quieter.
John, what else? You can show me.
You can tell me so quietly no one else will ever know.
Can’t won’t don’t shouldn’t wouldn’t couldn’t, not that, never do that to Aeryn. The refusal ran headlong into a
wail of distress.
It won’t bother me, you don’t have to whisper at all, just think about it and I’ll hear.
A quick glance, a flick of the curtain so she could see what was behind it.
It was the missing anatomy she had noticed earlier. It wasn’t senseless; he was hiding it from her. Show me.
Show us. We can help if you let us find what you’re hiding.
IT HURTS, IT HURTS. IT HURTS SO MUCH.
The pain smashed into her, raw and unbuffered by thought.
Aeryn floundered back and slipped. The water closed over her head just as she needed a breath. She flailed
her way to the surface coughing and gasping for air. A priest named Daaren had been the one to guide her
into John’s mind this morning and he lifted her up, providing critical support while she fought to catch her
breath. “Take me back,” she demanded as soon as she could speak.
“You have done enough.” Lorana was behind her, helping her stand and trying to move her away at the same
time. “That is enough for one day.”
“No, look at John. He’s tense because I left so suddenly. Were you able to see where the pain was coming
from?” Aeryn was already moving back to grasp John’s head. Neither Daaren nor Lorana joined her there.
She made a fast, frustrated gesture, indicating that one of them should help her reinitiate the Meeting. It had
no effect on either of the delvians.
“There was not enough time to find the locus of the discomfort.” Daaren continued to make coaxing motions
away from Crichton. “Aeryn Sun, I think you should take a moment to rest.”
Daaren’s attempt at persuasion was cut short as one of Crichton’s hands clenched into a fist and he fought to
sit up. There were only four delvians in the pool with him at that point, and they were struggling to compensate
for the strength generated by John’s pain and fear. Although the efforts were poorly directed, his frenzy lent
him power. He twisted wildly in their grasp, straining and writhing. He managed to get his head above the
surface where he coughed out a torrent of water. Before they could get him under the water, he sucked in a
strained breath, the fluid gurgling and burbling in his chest and throat. His next exhalation was a rasping,
bubbling cry and more water ran out of his mouth and nose. Daaren quickly laid his hands over Aeryn’s,
easing John back into the oxygen-saturated pool at the same time that he forced them back inside the frantic
I’m here, I’m here, I’m here. I didn’t mean to leave. It wasn’t intentional.
She was surrounded by panic and unbelievable levels of pain. She was forced to push through a jungle of
sounds and sensations. Amidst the confusion, there was no way to find an individual coherent thought to trace
back to its owner. There was no way to pick out such a small detail through the sheets of yellow and red
agony. John’s panic started to overwhelm their combined intellect, and she felt herself giving in before its
Where do I look? she asked the azure wraith over her shoulder.
Follow the pain. He is fighting it, which only serves to make it worse because he is embracing it.
She saw the river and began pushing upstream. The torrent increased in strength as she ascended. Isn’t this
backwards? she asked. Receiving no answer, she pushed on, hoping she was headed in the right direction.
She found John immersed in it, mindless in his struggle to control the deluge washing over him. Come with me,
come with me, I’ll show you the way out, she coaxed him. He wasn’t able to move. He knew she was there but
couldn’t do anything about it. She tried again. We can handle this together, come with me.
NO-NO-NO, not you, don’t touch it, don’t come near, I won’t share this with Aeryn, not with Aeryn.
Ignoring his protests, she moved closer to where she could help him.
Somewhere someone was supporting their body as their knees collapsed but their legs couldn’t be failing
beneath them because they were floating but their feet were on the bottom of the pool but their feet were
kicking free of the water feeling cooler air on wet flesh but they were standing and it was making it easier to
work gradually down the torrent to where the waves of pain were not as strong. Their body shuddered as the
waves receded, leaving them panting and gasping for air which came in the form of water except it was sweet
clean air filled with moisture that soothed their lungs. They walked further down the spate, a single pair of feet
stumbling slightly in the unaccustomed sensations until they stepped out of the remaining stream and stood
beside it, stunned at the ferocity. They gulped warm liquid into their stomach trying to provide moisture in a dry
mouth that was drowning. The aftermath shook them and the water rushed out again, along with the contents
of their stomach. They were rapidly shifted and moved, feeling twice cold and shivering in tandem between
coordinated breaths and then plunged again into warmth.
Aeryn was pulled away from John. Some force ripped her loose despite her efforts to stay. John collapsed by
the side of the stream, exhausted by his battle against the pain that had taken over his entire existence. She
tried to go to him but the distance between them was increasing despite her attempts to move in his direction.
The force carrying her away was inexorable.
John, I’ll be back, I’ll be back, she promised as the last touch faded into nonexistence.
Aeryn emerged from the Meeting thoroughly confused. The air passed too easily into her lungs, and was too
cool on her bare arms and shoulders. The light was too bright, the noises beating without mercy on her ears.
They had also moved to a different pool. She remembered the surge from her stomach and matched it up with
the memory of someone being sick. The delvians had moved them both. There had been a mad scramble to
relocate both of them after someone had vomited into the water.
Even as they were lifting her and wrapping her in a heated blanket, her entire existence was devoted to the
body being pushed toward the bottom of the smaller pool. The world was fading into gray indistinct shadows,
but her last memory was clear. John’s spastically moving body was once again fighting their grasp as they held
him pinned face down on the pale white floor of the watery enclosure. He was panicking inside there, and she
could not do anything to help him.
* * * * *
Aeryn was gone, Aeryn was gone.
He was alone again with the pain, and the strangeness. They were holding him, and making him hurt again,
and no matter how hard he fought, they still had him. He took another breath and the last of the horrible
rattling went away as his lungs filled completely with water. He closed his mouth and inhaled through his nose,
running the warmth through his sinuses, using the trick he had discovered that helped sooth the horrible ache
in his eyes and his head.
The soothing hands were back; he could feel them running up and down his body and taking the agony away.
They had found the shrieking that was in his arms and his legs, and the pathways were adjusted and modified.
There was only the intermittent stabbing in his chest now, coming and going in time with his pulse. He
somehow knew this was wrong, but he couldn’t tell anyone about it. He tried one more time to follow Aeryn, to
take the route she had taken, but that way no longer existed.
A quiet enquiry broke in on his exploration and he froze. There was someone else here with him, but it wasn’t
Aeryn or John. It wanted to know about the remaining discomfort; it could feel it but couldn’t find it and wanted
him to lead it there.
No! Don’t trust it, don’t know it, don’t show it where it hurts. He was restricted from moving, too close to being
strapped down -- it had to be one of their hideous tricks.
He was partially released, the hands still moving over him in a constant pattern, but not holding him with
restrictive force. The gentle enquiry nudged at him a second time, encouraging him as he moved warily in the
direction of the discomfort, cautiously watching to see what the presence would do as he got closer. Nothing
else happened so he pointed to the stabbing pain in his chest, showed it that the discomfort didn’t belong there
and why. He knew why! The realization exploded into excitement, and was answered by a shooting pain in his
shoulder and chest. The hands were leaving him and he tried to scream for them not to leave. He KNEW what
this was and he needed their help. But they were letting go.
He was spun in the water and the hands returned in a rush, all in the same spot. They piled on in a mass,
covering the center of his chest. The pain was easing, the rhythms returned accompanied by a weak, melting
sensation of relief. These were friends, they were kind to him and would take care of him in extremis. These
must be the ‘nice people’. He could ask them the question now that the pain was gone, they would know.
Who is John? Show me where he is? They could not help him, they would if they knew, but they did not know
the answer. It was there for his finding if he chose to look for it. They seemed busy with something else, their
hands continued to press hard against his chest.
Who is John? Who is John? He had to find someone who could tell him. There was a way out of this place off
to one side, and he headed that way in search of his answer. It wasn’t the way Aeryn had gone, but he was
willing to try the new route if it led to his answer. He was mulling it over as he approached the exit.
The avenue was blocked. He staggered back. THEY were there. They had been waiting for him all along.
They were coming to take him back to their room. The pain struck again beneath the matrix of hands. He
didn’t have time for it; he had to get out of there. He ran from the dark creatures but they grabbed him, pulled
him back, strapped him down, and all he could do was scream.
* * * * *
There was a quiet shuffle nearby and a soft cover was drawn up under her chin. Aeryn opened her eyes to
find a familiar looking male delvian leaning over her, adjusting the coverlet. She gave herself a microt to think
by stretching and giving in to an impending yawn. “Hasko.” He had been one of Tahleen’s disciples, helping
her with a scheme born of madness until he relented and helped save them all.
“Yes, Aeryn Sun. How are you feeling?” She was trying to sit up, feeling as if she had just been through a
hand-to-hand combat evaluation. Hasko slid an arm beneath her shoulders and helped her make the
“What happened?” Before he had a chance to answer her question, she remembered the river and the battle
in John’s mind to control what he was enduring. They had been sick from the shock of the pain. Belatedly
aware of a faint lingering aftertaste in her mouth, Aeryn realized that John was not the only one who had
vomited in the pool. “We were … at least, I was sick. Were we both sick?” The memory was muddled, tangled
into a snarl of odd images.
“I would like to allow Pa’u Meylan to explain what has occurred. I can tell you that John Crichton did not suffer
any ill effects from his experience. His condition is slightly improved as a result of your last … Meeting.”
Hasko was choosing his words too carefully; he was concealing a portion of whatever had occurred. His
expression, on the other hand, was absolutely clear and unequivocal. It said that he was not going to answer
any of her questions. He moved to one side, allowing Aeryn to see that she had been sleeping in a small
private chamber. There were a series of vague, confused fragments of memories -- all too similar to what she
had encountered in John’s mind -- of being carried there half conscious, and being encouraged to rest.
Everything after that was a blank.
Hasko indicated some clothing draped across a bench. “You may find these garments more comfortable for the
next several days. If you continue to assist with Crichton’s recovery, you will want something that dries quickly
and provides warmth when you get out of the pool.”
She swung her legs over the edge of the bed, sitting very still for a moment until a wave of dizziness passed.
Her body was humming to her, a low buzzing running through her bones, and she ached on a level that was
almost subliminal. She was suddenly anxious to get back to John and find out how he had fared. Aeryn tried
one more time to get some sort of information about John’s condition from the reticent priest. “Can’t you tell me
Hasko shook his head, declined to provide any information, and left so she could get dressed.
* * * * *
Half an arn later, Aeryn was ushered into a large room with a shallow, rippling pool in the center. Something
moved beneath the surface, flicking quickly from one side to the other, and she stepped closer to peer into the
pond. It was filled with the half-plant, half-animal food source that John had nicknamed ‘trigapod’ so long ago.
At the time, she had been annoyed by his arrogance in giving the creatures a new name when they already
had one. They had not known each other very well at that point. She smiled, thinking that she would not have
found the small moment so grating if she had known how many other habits she would come to first resent and
The hallway echoed with more noise than seemed normal for the delvian habitat, and Aeryn turned toward the
door opening just as the rest of the crew entered. With one exception, they were all wearing the same loose,
light blue, quilted clothing that she had been given. Only Rygel had retained his own clothes. His royal robes
looked absurdly out of place in the midst of the delvian garments.
“What’s going on, Aeryn? You’ve seen Crichton, how’s he doing?” Chiana appeared even younger than
usual. Her slim frame was lost inside the padded tunic and pants, reminding Aeryn of a child who had been
caught trying on her parent’s uniform in anticipation of rank and achievements yet to come.
“It’s hard to explain. They’ve done a lot for him,” Aeryn said. She had not made sense in her own mind of
everything that had happened so far.
“Is he better? Can they heal him?” Chiana demanded anxiously.
“He’s … different.” Aeryn stopped, not sure how to explain what had been accomplished inside John’s mind.
“Perhaps we can be of help. Please sit down, and I will explain.” said a tranquil voice.
Pa’u Meylan and Tahleen walked together toward a bench. Tahleen took up a position standing behind Meylan
while he made himself comfortable on the carved seat. The message delivered by their relative position and
stances was clear. Tahleen had taken up a subordinate role in the hierarchy since their last visit to the New
Moon of Delvia. As she stood calmly behind Meylan, every vestige of the arrogant leadership qualities that had
led the sanctuary toward irreparable madness was missing, replaced with what appeared to be a serene
concern for the welfare of everyone around her.
Meylan began speaking in a slow, resonant tone. “We have restored the more basic neurological responses.
The remainder of the synaptic resequencing will take a great deal of time and effort, and is of little use if we
cannot first restore his mind.”
Aeryn opened her mouth to say that John’s mind was intact, only to discover that she was suddenly uncertain of
“Aeryn Sun, you were going to say that he survives, and you are correct. But John Crichton has retreated
deep into his own psyche, where he has built a peaceful and safe existence for himself. It will not be an easy
process to draw him out. Until he agrees to resurface, we will not know the extent of any damage to his higher
reasoning capabilities.” Meylan paused, giving them time to absorb what he was telling them. “We have
provided an environment that represents the safest haven his mind has ever known --”
“For most species, that would be the womb,” Jool said, stating it in a manner that implied they had done
Aeryn looked at her impassively, watching silently until Jool’s hair turned a brighter shade of red.
“Oh … please continue.” It was unusual to see the interon so off balance. Jool straightened up into a more
arrogant posture. Despite her haughty glare she looked as though she was struggling with the depth of the
delvians’ spiritual capabilities and the fact that their approach was yielding a better result than what her
intellectual process could have produced.
Meylan continued, showing no sign that he was bothered by the interruption. “Yes, he is warm and is in a water
environment with all of his physical needs being attended to by others. His only remaining concern is the
workings of his own mind. Aeryn Sun was able to discover the source of an enormous degree of discomfort
and that has been mitigated.” He turned to look at Aeryn and examined her carefully for several microts. “That
Aeryn shook her head, both in denial and in confusion over his comment. “I just followed John wherever he
went and tried to find the source of his pain.”
“You joined him in Unity.” It was Tahleen who spoke this time. “Pa’u Daaren felt you move toward Crichton and
tried to stop you, but you joined with him. That is why you became ill when he did. You experienced a
sympathetic physiological reaction to the trauma suffered by his body.”
D’Argo, Jool and Rygel stared at Aeryn in shock. Chiana had the opposite reaction. She laughed and rocked
back on her bench. “I’m not surprised, Aeryn! Crichton keeps saying you can be more! I’d say you just proved
Aeryn was examining her fragmented memories of her foray into John’s mind, trying to comprehend how it had
happened. “I don’t have any skills that would allow me to do that. Your priest must have assisted. Daaren did
it.” Aeryn shook her head, unwilling to believe she had initiated Unity with John. That was the expertise of a
priest or a mystic, not of a soldier.
“Many extraordinary things can be accomplished when the need becomes great enough. John Crichton
needed you, and your need to help him transcended any potential limitations from lack of training.” Meylan
nodded several times as he considered Aeryn’s reaction to the unexpected announcement. “This union will
help enormously during his recuperation.”
“In that case, what do you need the rest of us for?” Rygel demanded, bored with the repetitive discussion of
Aeryn’s feat. “What can we do that your healers cannot?”
“When it comes time, we will need your assistance in convincing John Crichton to leave his mental sanctuary
and come back to this harsh world full of pain and fear. It will take time and effort on everyone’s part. Once he
has rejoined us, we will be able to assess the rest of his injuries and continue repairs. I am quite certain there
will be an extended recuperation even after that.”
Meylan’s expression of depthless sorrow left Aeryn once again questioning whether they had done the right
thing. She considered the frightened, desperate mentality she had encountered during the last Meeting. It was
true that John was still fighting, even if it was in the small self-contained world he had built for himself. He had
not wanted her to become involved in his physical suffering to the extent that he had tried to shield her even as
he lay crippled and ostensibly insane. But that was as far as his confidence extended. There had been a far
stronger impression that he was not interested in leaving his mental sanctuary. Within the confines of what
meager rational thought remained, he was happy in his limited but otherwise safe private existence. Aeryn
turned away from the others and rubbed at her eyes with the heel of one hand.
“But will John eventually recover? Will he be himself?” D’Argo’s frustrated question spoke for all of them. “Or
are we doing all this only to keep some … some kind of wreckage alive?” He struggled and failed to find a
kinder way of asking the question, suffering from the same indecision that had been haunting all of them during
their journey to the sanctuary.
Tahleen spoke slowly, gently placing each carefully chosen word before them. “We cannot predict the outcome
until we have a consciousness to examine. I can tell you that he is particularly, shall we say … willful?”
“Impossibly stubborn?” Aeryn suggested.
“That might be a better term,” Tahleen admitted, generating the first truly humorous laughter from everyone in
the room. “As Lorana explained to Aeryn Sun earlier, portions of Crichton’s intellect are certainly intact, and he
is struggling tenaciously to retain an ordered version of the small universe he has created for himself. These
are very encouraging signs, but there is no way of determining the final outcome of our efforts until he chooses
to emerge from his refuge and interact with us on a more deliberate, conscious level.”
Tahleen waited, giving everyone time to cope with her explanation. Chiana left the small bench where she had
been sitting alone, and went to sit next to D’Argo, curling up alongside him and wiping away a few tears as he
put an arm around her.
“Physically, Crichton seems to be extremely resilient and has responded well to our repairs. However, we are
having difficulty determining the extent of the damage. Our healers have made several attempts at joining with
John Crichton in Unity in order to determine the depth of his injuries. Only one person has been able to get
past his defenses, however.” Tahleen finished explaining and turned to look at Aeryn. “It really is quite
amazing, Aeryn Sun. I envy you.”
Tahleen’s continued look of mild jealousy stopped Aeryn before she could argue that she had no talents of
which to be envious, letting her know that the delvian had been referring to her emotional bond with John rather
than her ability to join with him.
“We were able to persuade him to reveal the source of some of his most intense physical pain,” Meylan
interjected into the silence. “Until he revealed the nature of the problem, we were not aware of some of the
correct functions of his circulatory organ, and did not realize that it had been damaged.”
The room spun wildly for a microt, and Aeryn grabbed at the bench to steady herself. John only had one heart
and humans were far more susceptible to permanent damage than sebaceans. Meylan’s voice seemed
muffled, as though the sound had traveled a great distance in order to reach her.
“We have achieved a partial repair, and the remainder of the process will be completed tonight. We are taking
steps to avoid any emotional distress until we finish this process. The level of urgency in his mind alerted us to
the malfunction, and we now understand the critical design of his heart.”
“So what do we do? You have taken care of everything so far.”
Jool’s voice was emanating from a location several light years closer than Meylan’s had just a few microts
earlier as Aeryn slowly recovered from the shock of his announcement about John’s heart. She told herself
that she had to trust the delvians to achieve what they promised when they claimed that they could heal the
injury. She held herself very still as her mind rejoined the discussion. The numb feeling was draining out of her
body very gradually, leaving an unpleasant chill and mild nausea in its wake. She looked around, careful not to
set off the whirling sensation again. Her gaze finally came to rest on Rygel who was staring at her with an
unaccustomed look of concern.
“We would like those of you who are willing to attempt the Meetings. There are memories and thoughts that
each of you can stimulate that will serve to draw John Crichton further away from his refuge. When the time
comes, you may all need to help him make the final transition.”
“You want us to help Crichton be born a second time, don’t you?” Jool was the first to recognize the depth of
“Yes, that is exactly what needs to be done.”
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *