(First posted June 6, 2004)
Welcome to ‘Whispers’ -- sometimes referred to as the 'forever promised, never written’ fanfic. I originally
intended to bang this out over a year ago in one of my frenzied, marathon writing sessions. I had one shift left
to work, and then I had three weeks of vacation planned, during which I was going to write this story. It was my
bad luck to schedule that vacation to begin on September 9, 2002. Such is life. However, I never gave up on
it, no matter how slowly it progressed, and here it is at last.
I’d like to offer a collective ‘thank-you’ to GalaxyZero, Tiriel, Newscaper, and Pitdog for pitching in ideas on
colliding gravitational fields. This occurred over a year and a half ago on the Dominion Board, but thanks are
owed despite the lapse in time. Quantum gravity is far too complicated for my poor little brain, and although
your input did not result in anything of story-shattering import, it did resolve a problem with how the inside of the
space station was going to look. Thank you.
Last comment, then I’ll get started. When I was working on one of my earlier stories, ‘Cloths Of Heaven’, there
were times when it was difficult to get myself to sit down and write because of the emotional pain involved in the
John/Aeryn relationship. This one was downright excruciating. Let that be a warning.
Hope you enjoy it.
Purveyor of Hallucinations
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Disclaimer: Farscape and all related characters are the creation of, and are owned by, the Henson
Company. The producers, cast, and crew are enormously talented, imaginative, and dedicated people who I
hope will understand that I have no intention of infringing on their ownership or making any profit from their
labors. Thank you all for your extraordinary vision.
Spoilers/Time Frame: This story occurs between Fractures and I-Yensch, You-Yensch and may contain
spoilers for anything up to that point.
Beta-readers: Once again, Scrubschick, despite her occasional denials of involvement and the fact that I
argue fiercely every time she makes a suggestion, must take credit for her role in bringing this story to life. And
just as importantly, PKLibrarian, despite her strident claims that she wasn’t involved, gave it that all-important
once over from the reader’s perspective to make sure I wasn’t going to confuse the stuffin’ out of everyone.
Thank you, Ben Browder and Claudia Black, for making Farscape in general, and ‘Fractures’ specifically,
such an engaging and enthralling show. This story would not have gestated if it weren’t for your exceptional
talents in bringing John and Aeryn to life.
* * * * *
Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak
Whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bid it break.
(William Shakespeare; Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 3)
* * * * *
“I don’t hurt. I … I did some good things. I’m proud of my life. And I’m with you. Don’t worry about me. I’ve
never felt better.”
John Crichton bolted upright on his bed, sweating and inexplicably short of breath. The words from his dream
reverberated in his mind as though someone had just recited them in his quarters -- someone using his own
voice. The only noises around him however, were Moya’s thumps and rumbles, providing a steady, calming
constant in his life that stood in stark contrast to the surreal imagery that had invaded his sleep. He flopped
back and pulled the thermal cover over his damp t-shirt. The golden sheet, an effective insulator against the
cool drafts, was useless against the dream-generated chill crawling about inside his body. The uncomfortable
sensation drifted along his arms and legs before taking up residence between his shoulder blades. The dream
had involved a memory that didn’t belong in his mind and yet his psyche insisted that it had been real. It was,
at best, a spooky, unsettling feeling.
He had been observing from somewhere inside Talyn; somewhere that had allowed him to watch his own blue
eyes staring sightlessly into an infinite distance. As he watched the last bit of life fade out of that blind stare, a
level of grief unlike anything he had ever experienced in his life had threatened to overwhelm him. On a
rational level, John knew that there was no way in the universe he could remember the death of the other John
Crichton in this manner, and yet he was confident he had just seen what had actually transpired. Crichton
shifted restlessly. He turned to lie on his side, jammed a pillow under his ear, and tried to make some sense of
the image his brain had delivered to him unbidden.
His half-directed, meandering deliberations were sidetracked by a new idea pressing in on him. “Aeryn?” He
called out softly, unable to explain how he knew that she was close by.
A shadow detached itself from the dark masking one side of the corridor, moved silently through the open
doors to his cell, and drifted to the side of his bed. “I was on my way to the Center Chamber to get something
to eat.” She looked uncomfortable. “I was … I was about to come in to see how you were feeling this morning.”
“Good. I’m fine. Still me. No additions or subtractions this time as far as I can tell.”
She moved about his chamber in a restless circuit, not quite touching each item as she moved past it: Winona,
his coat, his vest. Her fingers drifted over each item in turn, first drawn to them and then apparently
encountering a mysterious force field that prevented her from actually making contact. “I … I wanted to make
sure … after what happened yesterday,” she said, stumbling through the words. “Chiana mentioned that you
He chose his words carefully, knowing that almost anything he said these days hurt her in ways he couldn’t
begin to understand. “I don’t know what they were trying to accomplish, Aeryn, but it looks like you got there in
time. I’m okay. I promise.”
The last two words seemed to work. A ghost of a smile flickered across her face -- the first smile he had seen
since she walked off the transport pod four solar days earlier.
“I’m glad, John.”
She gave him another thin smile, drifted past his bunk without getting too close to him, and hurried from the
cell. John watched the corridor long after she disappeared, dividing his attention between wondering about the
forces that had drawn her to his quarters and trying to determine how a venture that was supposed to be so
simple had once again turned into a chaotic disaster. It was supposed to have been a fast, simple exchange of
credits for supplies and information. It was supposed to have been easy. They should have known better.
Nothing they did ever turned out the way they planned it.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
A stray beam of starlight caught on the gleaming bronze hull for an instant. It flickered across the uneven
surface in an intricate pattern that highlighted the joints and grooves of her metalloid exterior, leapt free, and
was swallowed by the dark. The leviathan slowed long enough to ease past a large tumbling amalgam of ice
and rock, taking care to allow plenty of room in case there was a sudden change in the rogue’s course.
Accelerating, Moya ducked beneath a glittering, scattered handful of asteroids, rolled playfully along her axis
several times before realigning her trajectory, and then began the gradual spiral into orbit around a cloud-
Her sensors couldn’t detect sound in the vacuum of space, but the rustle of dust grains scratching along her
hull were transmitted into her data stores, forever recorded along with the hiss of ion flow and the gentle roar of
solar energy sweeping warmly across her hull. Space wasn’t a cold, barren place to Moya. It was full of
migrating particles, charged matter, and pulsing waves of energy that told her where she was in each solar
system and to which side of her hull lay the nearest star or gravity source.
If she had been equipped with toes, perhaps they would have curled with exquisite discomfort for the length of
time it took for her to wade through the shadow of the planet, shut off from the sun’s radiation. Instead, she
transmitted a tiny sensory shiver to her pilot, which arrived in his brain as a request to realign their orbit so she
could bask in the energy restoring rays. Mechanical levers and slides triggered the relays that would realign
her trajectory; signals flowed from the Den to her drive system, shunting more of her calorics to maneuvering;
and she curved gracefully into the new alignment within the planet’s magnetic field, sunlight streaming off her
hull in shimmering halos.
Only then, when the radiation warmed her, did Moya retune a portion of her sensors to her internal spaces,
diverting more of her attention and that of her pilot to the activities of the beings who lived within her. The
human was once again engaged in one of his shockingly peculiar behaviors, and the pair watched the incoming
signal with shared fascination.
“No, no, no! I am not going anywhere in a transport pod with a scarran, D’Argo.” Crichton was yelling and yet
he had his hands clamped over his ears. It was a combination that made no sense to the pair of unseen
observers. The human proceeded to plug both ears with his index fingers, and began singing “la la la la” in a
toneless chant. Above Crichton’s head, a DRD spun around, swiveling its eyestalks to keep him in sight for as
long as possible. The recording of Crichton’s bizarre performance was diligently transmitted to both ship and
pilot for their further consideration. It didn’t provide any further insight. A DRD stationed several motras from
the entrance to Command picked up the remainder of the noisy conversation.
“John! Naj Gil has done nothing to betray my trust in him. He did not try to escape while we were rescuing His
Gasness, and he has been helpful ever since.” D’Argo yelled louder and louder with every word, trying to make
himself heard over John’s insistent drone.
“Read my lips,” John bellowed back at him, fingers firmly lodged in his ears. “No! We are about to leave Moya
for some floating service station full of a species that no one on board has ever seen before, whose alliances
are unknown, in an attempt to find out where Scorpius’ Command Carrier is located. I am not going to take a
scarran along with us. I don’t care what he claims about his current loyalties. It wouldn’t be prudent,” he
finished in a strange, nasal, almost mincing voice. He dropped his hands and walked more quickly toward
Command. “What a truly fantastic idea, D’Argo. Why don’t we just take on a Command Carrier and a Scarran
Dreadnought at the same time? Mighty Mouse of the frelling Uncharted Territories!”
D’Argo let out a quiet snarl and hurried after his friend. He caught up with Crichton just as the human strode
through the door onto Command. Every muscle in the back of Crichton’s neck was rigid, shouting out his anger
at the suggestion that Naj Gil might be of some assistance. “John, he has information on the politics involved --”
Crichton waved him away with a flicking motion alongside his head and angled across the large chamber toward
the navigation console. Spotting Aeryn poised at that station, his confident stride broke into a stumble. He
turned away, moving more slowly to stand at a different console where he stared intently at the panel, refraining
from moving his eyes to either side. “What have we got?” he asked. Every bit of energy and exuberance had
been wiped from his voice.
“It should be coming into view in ten microts.” Aeryn was staring forward with the same intense focus that John
was devoting to the readouts in front of him. Poised at the console he had shunned, she was gripping it tightly
enough that it looked like she was trying to keep either herself or the console from toppling over.
“Tell me again what this thing is called,” Rygel demanded imperiously. He was floating near the view screen,
managing to obstruct the view of every other person in the chamber.
Aeryn repeated the information she had supplied several times over the past two solar days, showing no sign of
impatience or irritation. “It’s known as the Kyelligg. It is the home of the entire surviving population of a species
called the Hvisk. The history I was taught said that a genocidal war eight hundred cycles ago left their planet
incapable of sustaining any life, and they’ve been living on board this station ever since. They move from one
solar system to another, trading with anyone and everyone.”
“Completely neutral. A floating Switzerland.” John’s interpretation yielded irritated glances from most of the
gathered crewmembers. It was a familiar reaction. He ignored them, and prompted her for more information.
“So you’ve run into this species before.”
“I only know what I was taught and I’ve heard a few additional stories over the cycles. I wasn’t even sure the
Kyelligg had moved into this portion of the Uncharted Territories.” She paused. “There it is.” The migratory
station was cast in shadow, looming alongside the planet they were orbiting. Moya arced slowly toward the
station, chasing it as it gradually lost ground to the spin of the planet below. Sunlight hit the first corner of the
construct and it moved into view bit by bit.
“Great Caesar’s ghost,” John breathed. “That thing is --”
“Sweet Hezmana,” D’Argo interjected.
Towers, extensions, platforms, canyons, and massifs moved into the sunlight one by one as the Kyelligg
crawled out from behind the planet, a sparkling silver construct that shattered every stray beam of light into
thousands of reflections.
Crichton shook himself, recovering from his initial shock, and asked, “You said the entire surviving population.
How many thousands served is that? We talkin’ the equivalent of East Cupcake, Michigan here, or all of Los
Pilot’s purplish holo-image rippled into view in the clamshell. “Moya’s sensors cannot make a precise
determination, but the readings indicate approximately three point eight four six million life signs aboard that
“Thank you, Mr. Data.” He continued to gape at the behemoth that was expanding in the view portal. Moya’s
pursuit was rapidly closing the distance between them. In a matter of microts, the assembled crew was able to
make out the first details. The trade station was an enormous, complex crystalline sphere, with hundreds of
arms and protrusions reaching outward from an inner skeleton. Metal flashed in the diffuse sunlight,
scintillating as myriad surfaces reflected the light, angling it into the inner passages to burst in dozens of new
“Snowflake on steroids,” John said.
“Where are we going, Pilot?” Aeryn asked.
Her question was delivered before he could finish his quick comment, as if she hadn’t heard him or didn’t want
to listen to what he had to say. It triggered a resurgence of the too-familiar ache that had taken up permanent
residence halfway between his stomach and his throat. A flicker of more muted light caught John’s eye. He
turned toward the strategy table, deliberately smothering the stomach twisting reaction to Aeryn’s behavior. It
hadn’t taken him long to discover that if he concentrated hard enough on something else, he could ignore the
pain for a short time. A miniature representation of the Kyelligg appeared, with a tiny speck of a leviathan flying
along a superimposed flight path. Leaning closer, he could make out that the proposed trajectory led to a
docking station located within a hollow between two branching arms.
Pilot’s calm tones flowed over the comms. “They have transmitted the displayed vector coordinates for our
approach, and have assured me that the selected port is compatible with Moya’s treblin side hatch on the
uppermost tier. It will not be necessary to use the transport pod to transfer to and from the Kyelligg.” The tiny
speck above the strategy table was drawn along its light-displayed thread, rapidly approaching the larger
The entire crew gathered around the holo-image, examining the reproduction of the Kyelligg in awed silence.
The top half of the station sprouted sixteen major arms, each of them giving way to rigidly symmetrical
protrusions, branching into ever-smaller constructs until the outer surface was a bristling array of such intricacy
that the leviathan’s imaging system could no longer reproduce the final details. The outer extremities of the
image were a blurred haze that couldn’t mimic the thinnest portions of the station. The station’s waist wore a
short, sturdy skirt made of landing areas and loading docks, each one flanked by doors that looked more than
big enough to accept Moya. The lower half of the hvisk’s home sprouted towers as well. These were less
ethereal than those on the top, being more solidly built and with fewer hollows passing between the branches.
Chiana poked at one of the image’s recreated hangar doors. “Pilot, Moya could hide inside the station, couldn’t
she?” She looked around at the others. “Wouldn’t it be safer if the Peacekeepers can’t find her until we form
some sort of a plan?”
“The hvisk initially transmitted data that would have allowed us to take refuge inside the station,” Pilot said.
“However, Moya and I have agreed that we prefer a docking station that will allow a hasty departure should it
D’Argo nodded and added, “We know nothing about this species. They are rumored to claim complete
neutrality, but none of us know what sort of allegiances they have been forced to make in order to travel freely
through this region of space.”
John ignored the short debate, glancing from the holo-image to the forward portal where the station had
expanded until it blocked the entire view. Moya had begun her final approach to the docking port, gliding in
beneath the farthest reaches of the upper arms on little more than imparted momentum. He walked to the front
of Command where he took up a position beside Rygel to peer up at the thinnest branches. “It’s beautiful. And
these people destroyed their own planet? Seems hard to believe.”
Rygel lolled back in his airborne chair, fingering an earbrow. “In my experience, the capacity for creating
beauty has never precluded the ability for violence. The greater the capacity for art, the greater the
imagination for developing the means for destruction. With an artificial habitat of such grandeur I would expect
this species to be a collection of butchers and conquerors enslaving anyone they consider beneath their level
“That’s more your style, isn’t it, Rygel?” Chiana challenged the deposed ruler.
“The Hynerian Empire never resorted to slavery, and any butchery was conducted solely in self-defense.” It
was an overly loud objection, delivered as he glanced around to confirm that everyone knew he was
“Yep, I’m sure the folks on Acquarra would agree with you there, Buckwheat. Getting trapped on a planet
without the potential for technology just so they could idolize an overgrown frog couldn’t be considered
slavery.” Crichton bumped against the throne sled intentionally as he turned away from the forward view
screen, sending the floating chair wobbling across Command for nearly two motras before its occupant got it
Rygel sulked for a microt, then turned toward Crichton, his eyelids half closed with a sly look of promised
vengeance for the insult. “If you feel that way about my people, perhaps you should negotiate with the hvisk
without my assistance. I’m sure you won’t do much worse than you did on Jocacea. Since you’re seeking word
of where Scorpius is located, if you do half as well this time, you should be able to pull the entire Peacekeeper
force down upon us.”
John turned, ready with a furious comeback, but Aeryn attacked the hynerian before he could get his mouth
open. “In that case, Rygel, you can stay on board Moya with Naj Gil. Chiana and Jool will try to find the
supplies Moya has requested, and I’ll accompany D’Argo and Crichton to determine if the hvisk have any
information that might help us.” She waited until the Dominar turned around to face her, then added, “You will,
of course, welcome Crais aboard if Talyn returns while we are on the station.”
Rygel gulped several times, considering his options and the proposal that he remain behind with their scarran
guest. “In the interest of acquiring the most accurate information possible, I will make the personal sacrifice and
go aboard the Kyelligg,” he said, reversing his last proposal.
“Thanks, Dominar.” John managed to get some sarcasm into his voice, but he was watching Aeryn out of the
corner of his eye and the sight of her had the power to leech every bit of energy out of his body in a split-
microt. She hadn’t looked his way once during her fast verbal attack on the hynerian, and she was staring
steadfastly at the docking receiver while Moya crept into position beneath the designated hatch. The past
several days had been a string of similar moments.
“That’s settled then,” Aeryn said. Moya lurched to a stop. “We’re docked. I’ll stay here to watch over Naj Gil
and wait for Crais.” She spun toward the door, and marched out of Command.
John leaned both hands on the console and hung his head, waiting for the ache in his chest to subside. She
had barely spoken to him since his brief moment of elation when she had moved to stand beside him in Pilot’s
Den three solar days earlier. The pain of being around her had actually become physical. Every look away,
every avoided touch left him with the same empty ache inside.
“Time to go, John,” D’Argo said behind him.
John nodded and continued to stand with his head hanging, wondering what else he could do to break through
to Aeryn. There had to be some word, some touch, some look that would let her know that he was still here and
still loved her as fiercely as ever.
“Time,” his friend’s voice reminded him, intruding on his thoughts.
“I know she needs time, D’Argo. The problem is that she doesn’t need time, she needs an entire frelling
millennium.” He sighed. The long exhalation did nothing to relief the uncomfortable tight spot in the middle of
“I meant that it is time to go meet with the hvisk. They signaled a time and place for an information exchange.
They treat everything as a trade agreement. We should try to be on time.” D’Argo waited patiently.
“Yeah. Don’t want to be late for your first date,” John said on another sigh. Several more microts passed
before he pushed himself away from the console. “Let’s go.”
* * * * *
Crichton adjusted his pace so Chiana could keep up with his longer stride. They were working their way
upward through the tiers, headed toward the hatch designated by Pilot. The treblin side hatch on Tier One was
an easy one to get through, but it was out of the way and required a lot of walking through Moya’s corridors just
to reach it. He checked Winona over as he strode along, his feet guiding him through the correct turns without
any conscious thought. He slapped the chakan oil cartridge back into place, holstered the pistol, and then
asked, “You okay with this, Pip?”
“What’s not to be okay with?” She smiled up at him, cocking her head to peer out from under her bangs.
“We don’t know the first thing about these critters, and we’re asking you to go off with just Jool for backup. We
could rearrange this so that D’Argo or I go with you instead.” They reached the airlock and stopped, waiting for
the others to catch up to them.
“Crichton, we’ve already agreed that Rygel and D’Argo are going to be the ones who negotiate with Scorpius
when we find him, so they should go with you. Jool and I will be fine. All we’re doing is bargaining for some
iriscentant fluid and a few other things for Moya and Pilot. How hard can that be?”
“Does the word chromextin mean anything to you?” John wandered back down the corridor, listening for D’Argo
and the others while keeping an eye on Chiana for her reaction.
She laughed and gave him a gentle bump with one elbow. “Yeah, but that was you doing the bargaining,
Crichton. Only you would get blown up while --” She broke off, looking uncertain once she remembered exactly
who had been injured in that blast.
He turned his back, ducking his head so she couldn’t see his face. The movement, meant to cut off any further
discussion of Kanvia or what had happened there, backfired. Behind him, Chiana offered an awkward attempt
at an apology. “It’s just that you’re so much … I mean. It was hard to tell … Forget it,” she said, finally giving
up when every explanation went wrong.
“No problem, Chi. If it was the other way around, it would have worked out the same. You know that.” John
took a deep breath, trying to decide whether he would have preferred to be the one who got blown up and went
on Talyn, or the one who got left behind. He shook himself, using the physical movement to break away from
the useless conjecture. “I could try to get Jool to take a weapon,” he said, returning to his concern for her
She looked at him more seriously this time, humor muted by the verbal blunder. “You know if she has a pulse
rifle, she’s just as likely to shoot me in the hind parts as whatever she’s aiming at! If anything goes wrong, I’ll
give her one good slap and you’ll be able to hear the Princess screaming all the way to Moya.” Chiana
reached out to run one hand down his arm, offering a silent reassurance and an apology at the same time.
The sound of multiple footsteps approached from further down the corridor. John strode back to a corner and
yelled. “Big D! Let’s move it! You’re the one who said we had to be on time.”
He spun around and returned to the hatch, reaching it just as D’Argo, Jool and Rygel joined them. The heavy
airtight door swung open easily when he pushed against it, Moya having equalized the atmospheric pressure
shortly after they docked. Crichton led the way, ducking his head out of habit in spite of the fact that the
doorway was more than tall enough to accept his frame. The group jostled their way through the multiple
airtight doors separating Moya’s interior from the inside of the Kyelligg and emerged into the space station.
“Whoa!” Crichton staggered his way out of the innermost doorway. He called a warning back to the others.
“Watch it! There’s a gravity shift.”
What had been a vertical wall when he stepped out of the final hatch quickly became the floor. He made his
way unsteadily onto the new ‘floor’ and then took a moment to look back at where he had been microts earlier.
His eyes, brain, and inner ear fought a short battle for dominance as he looked back down the sloped ramp
leading from his floor to the hatch. Chiana was half way up the ramp standing at forty-five degrees to his own
orientation. Behind her was Jool, who appeared to be lying down while still on her feet. “That’s cool,” he said in
time with a stumbling loss of balance.
Rygel was grousing his way through the transition. “I abhor these variations. They’re totally unnecessary and
a nuisance.” A further complaint from the hynerian turned into a yell of panic. He had tried to match the
orientation of the new floor too soon and the adjustment came close to pitching him forward out of his seat.
“Ride ’em, Sparky!” John cheered him on. The floating chair over-compensated; it rocked forward and back
several times, very nearly ejecting its occupant before Rygel managed to level off.
“Hvisk,” D’Argo said, nodding to a spot behind John.
Crichton turned in the direction D’Argo had indicated, but he was still concentrating on the variable gravitational
field and wasn’t ready for the sight that awaited him. Aeryn’s glacial reception and incommunicative shell over
the past days had continued to occupy almost his entire attention span, so he had been concentrating on
anything except what he might run into aboard the Kyelligg. It left him ill-prepared to deal with a new species.
For the first time in over two cycles, he jumped with surprise. He’d been half-expecting a bunch of businessmen
in suits. The five individuals approaching them
didn’t come close.
“Whups. Not exactly Lee Iococca,” he said to himself in what he thought was an inaudible whisper. A fast,
dismayed hiss from D’Argo let him know that his voice had traveled farther than he had intended. ‘Big Bird’
leapt into his mind next. That didn’t describe the hvisk any better than his first label.
Fully a head taller than Crichton, the lead individual’s black eyes stared down into his from above a thick, short
beak. Pale greenish skin crinkled around the edges of its eyes in what might have been a hvisk-smile of good
humor. A crest of semi-translucent green feathers ran over the top of its head; the colorful collection
straightened to a bristling ridge as the hvisk moved forward to meet them. At first glance, the only difference
between the five individuals was the color of their crests: orange, reddish brown, green, blue, and a shade of
purple so dark that it appeared black depending on how the light hit it. John studied at the quintet more closely
and managed to pick out a few subtle differences in their beaks and other features.
“Don’t ask me to pick this group out of a police line up,” he said quietly to D’Argo. The comment earned him a
hard shove forward toward their hosts.
The leader, eyeing Crichton more warily than when they had first approached, extended a hand in a palm-
forward salutation, simultaneously inclining its upper body, bowing toward the group in general. The hand had
three thick fingers, as did the creature’s feet. A small flash of light ricocheting off a hard surface drew John’s
gaze to a fourth appendage part way up the creature’s wrist. ‘Cockspur’, he catalogued the sharp protrusion
while he copied the gesture and the bow. The hvisk squinted again, managing to look amused despite the
limited facial movements caused by the beak.
Smile, John decided. It was probably smile … or maybe avian indigestion. “John Crichton. Nice to meet you,”
he offered, hoping it was the right way to start.
The lead individual whistled a three-toned trill at him, bowed a second time, and then stepped aside and
motioned to his companions. Each of the hvisk bowed slightly and gave a similar complex whistle.
“Anyone getting a translation?” John asked over his shoulder.
“No.” D’Argo moved up to stand alongside him. “Ka D’Argo,” the warrior tried, skipping the bow. He was
greeted by the same collection of multi-note trills. “We can’t understand you. Do you understand us?” The
five heads nodded to the accompaniment of a complex harmony of whistles and musical tones.
“It’s a tonal language,” Jool said abruptly, sounding triumphant.
“What?” John and Chiana asked simultaneously. The whistles coming from the hvisk welcoming committee
nearly drowned out their question. Five crested heads ducked and nodded, clearly agreeing with the interion’s
Jool shouldered her way past Rygel and D’Argo in order to get closer to the hvisk, and explained her initially
cryptic answer. “Their language is based on tones. Each transition from a previous note or combination of
tones is the equivalent of a word or an idea.”
“So you can understand them,” D’Argo said, starting to relax.
Jool’s familiar impatience for the intellectual shortcomings of other species appeared in an instant. “Of course I
can’t. Although I possess most of the qualities that distinguish more evolved species, I was not so fortunate as
to inherit the gift of perfect pitch. Only someone with the capacity for detecting absolute harmonic resonances
would be able to understand their language.” She ended with an accusatorial glare at her companions. Each
person looked at the others in turn.
After several microts of exchanged looks, Crichton found himself the center of attention. Everyone, including
the hvisk, was looking at him. “Don’t look at me for help! It’s my eyes that are better than twenty-twenty, not my
ears. I use a bucket to carry my tunes.”
D’Argo hissed in aggravation then activated his comms. “Pilot!”
“Do either you or Moya have the capacity for detecting absolute pitch of musical tones?” D’Argo asked. John
gave him a quick thumbs-up, silently commending his idea.
“Not precisely. However, between the two of us we have the capacity to analyze tones and make an
assessment that approximates the ability you are describing.”
“I think that was a yes.” John was rubbing an ear vigorously in response to Pilot’s explanation. He turned to the
hvisk and beckoned toward their leader. “Would you talk to our pilot? We think maybe he can understand
“Commander Crichton,” Pilot interjected over the comms before any member of the quintet could respond. “I
attempted standard communications with the hvisk when we first contacted the Kyelligg. Their language is
far more complex than a simple tonal symbolism.” The group turned as one to glare at Jool, who began to
protest. Pilot continued before she could get started. “It seems that each individual begins a sentence
with a personalized signature. The subsequent sentence is then constructed from that primary signature.
“-- it changes for every individual,” Crichton finished for him, seeing the beginning of a problem. “Thank you,
Pilot. We’ll see what we can work out here.” He turned toward the hvisk delegation. “So there’s no way we’re
going to understand you any time this century. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you’ve got a way
of working around this problem.”
All five pairs of eyes squinted and a harmony of high-pitched chords wafted over him. Smiles, he decided for
certain, looking at the squints and the bobbing heads.
“The two women wish to trade for supplies for our leviathan,” D’Argo said.
Two of the hvisk sang to them, beckoning, and Jool and Chiana followed them hesitantly into the main
thoroughfare of the station.
“Chiana?” John yelled after them. Both women turned to look at him. “Be careful. Comm us if anything doesn’t
seem right.” They smiled tolerantly at his concern, waved, and disappeared around the corner.
“We’re here to purchase some information, if you have it,” D’Argo told the remaining three individuals. They
ducked and nodded before he could add any specific details, motioning for them to follow. The group stepped
out of the dead-end alley where the hatch was located, crossed a wider street and moved into a bustling,
The hvisk led the way, the clatter of their triple-clawed feet against the metal flooring carrying clearly until they
moved into the humming chaos of the larger circumference construct. John stopped for a microt, his forward
progress interrupted by shock. They had emerged into what he guessed was one of the sixteen major arms of
the Kyelligg. The street was packed with bustling hvisk moving past them in unbroken streams. With hundreds,
perhaps thousands, of hvisk talking all at once, the sound of their musical language was nearly deafening.
Rygel’s sled hummed past his head. The quiet whine drew John’s attention back to their chaperons, and he
moved forward, hurrying to catch up.
Smaller avenues and alleyways branched off at regularly spaced intervals, invariably projecting off the primary
extension at some perception-twisting angle. Crichton lagged behind to stare ‘up’ a smaller street that seemed
to rise at an impossible angle from an opening to his left. Both sides of the narrower avenue were lined with
dwellings, each one bounded by lush gardens and gushing waterfalls. From his perspective, the streams were
performing a magic trick of running sideways, flooding away from him as they gurgled and splashed from top to
bottom of the gardens.
“Crichton!” D’Argo bellowed over the heads of the crowd. Hordes of black eyes swiveled in the luxan’s
direction, watching the loud individual who was beckoning for his friend to catch up. John waved an
acknowledgement and started after him, glancing overhead to see if this larger thoroughfare had proportionally
“Whoa! Crap!” He staggered and started to fall over backwards. Two strangers caught him; four hands
propelled him effortlessly onto his feet. He nodded his thanks to the pair of passersby, and looked up more
“Crichton, what is the problem?” D’Argo had retraced his steps and was standing beside him. He’d been so
distracted, he hadn’t heard the luxan returning.
“Look up … down. Look at that!” John fumbled through the words, awe depriving him of an adequate
description. He pointed up, looking down from above into an equally busy street on the opposite side of the
enormous tube, completely disoriented by the conflicting views.
D’Argo looked where John was pointing, sparing less than three microts on the view. His response was both
nonchalant and unimpressed. “Flipped gravity. Efficient use of space. I would have expected them to use at
least four surfaces for living space, but they seem to use the sides for vegetation.”
“To generate oxygen,” John theorized, paying more attention to the forests and gardens that crawled up the
sides of the enclosure. “Closed ecological system.” Holding on to D’Argo’s arm to steady himself, he looked
up/down into the canopy of a small forest on the other side of the station, seeing movement both above and
below the trees. Flying fauna of some sort, possibly an equivalent of Earth’s birds, flickered across bluish-
green treetops for a microt, disappearing into the branches in fast moving waves. It was like flying inverted …
except that his feet were firmly planted on the ground. Crichton grabbed onto D’Argo’s sleeve more tightly,
illogically convinced that he was about to fall upward.
“Do you intend to stand here gaping all day, or can we go to this meeting?” D’Argo pulled out of his grasp.
“You act as though you’ve never seen variable gravity fields before, John. Surely you had something similar on
“Oh yeah. Absolutely. I used to ride the Round-Up at the carnival every year. It was close to this.” Crichton
took one more look at the bustling street above/below him, managing to remain upright this time, then fixed his
gaze firmly on the broad luxan shoulders bulldozing through the crowd and hurried after D’Argo.
* * * * *
Aboard Moya, Aeryn traversed the empty, nearly silent tiers, setting each foot down with cautious deliberation.
For the first time in almost a half-cycle there was little in the way of threats to be considered. For the moment,
peace reigned aboard the leviathan -- although their planned assault on the Command Carrier promised an
abrupt end to the interlude. Each of her steps was planted on the burnished floors with exquisite care. It wasn’t
to avoid being detected. It was an attempt to prevent the familiar ringing tones that echoed through the
corridors when she moved with her usual lithe stride. Returning to Moya had been just as painful as she had
anticipated. Every smell, every sight, and every tiny sound had the power to set loose a barrage of memories.
The warm muted light, familiar surroundings, and Moya’s rumbles calmed her in ways she would never have
predicted; everything else, from the odors to the echoes of her own footsteps, seemed to trigger a memory.
A DRD scuttled out of a maintenance hatch, scooted across the passageway and disappeared into another
tunnel. It was a familiar sight, entirely ordinary aboard a leviathan, and yet the fading whine reminded her of a
moment when a different color DRD had approached a junction aboard Talyn. They had been standing
together, the mists of drexim swirling around them, caught up in a passion they’d denied for too long, until they
had been interrupted by the DRD that had coasted toward them through the shifting chemical fog.
Aeryn rested her forehead against one of Moya’s ribs for the time it took to force the memory back into the dark
chasm where she had stored so many bits and pieces of recall. She closed her eyes, envisioned wadding the
moment into a small bundle, and pushed it down deep to join the growing collection of unwanted memories.
The hard cold knot in her stomach expanded to take up a little more space, spreading its discomfort so that
every breath took slightly more effort. It felt like that all the time now; it never eased.
There had been a short time after Valldon when she had managed to make the sensation go away, leaving her
empty but free of the pain. It had lasted until the moment when their voices had chimed ‘I’ve got an idea’ in
perfect synchronization and for a brief moment she had forgotten that it was not him. A short time later, braced
against the lurching of D’Argo’s ship as it sped in pursuit of the commandeered transport pod, she had
struggled to remind herself that the black suited figure sitting across from her wasn’t John. Each of his features
was so familiar, every reaction perfectly timed to hers, and yet it wasn’t the person she wanted beside her. Or
maybe it was.
Aeryn pushed herself upright, locked the internal cell door so that the memories couldn’t get loose, and
continued toward the Den.
She greeted the symbiote simply but with affection. “Hello, Pilot.” The chaos that passed for normal life aboard
Moya had begun within arns after she had stepped off the transport pod. There had been little opportunity for
her to spend time with the large creature whose DNA remained inextricably integrated into her own.
“Officer Sun,” he responded. Pilot’s expression brightened to the closest version of a smile he was capable of
“Are the docking arrangements suitable for Moya?” she asked. “Is she satisfied that she can get loose in a
hurry if it becomes necessary?”
“Yes. If she is forced to pull away without the docking clamps first being released, there will be some damage to
her outer hull, but Moya is confident that she can free herself if it becomes necessary.” Pilot attended to his
controls for several microts then peered down at her, examining her more carefully than a casual physical
inspection would normally merit. “How are you? Is there anything that either Moya or I can do for you?”
“No, Pilot. Thank you.”
Aeryn turned her back on him, leaned back against the outer wall of his consoles, and gazed into the distant
corners of the central neural plexus. She could easily stand here for arns, she thought, listening to the quiet
rhythmic sounds and staring into the dark. It was almost like sleeping, only more peaceful. Her sleep was
frequently broken by the invasion of her memories in the form of dreams and nightmares; here there was little
to consider other than the whirring of the DRDs, the hum of calorics flowing through conduits, and the
underlying hush of air circulating through the cavern.
“Both Moya and I would be more than willing to listen if there was something you would like to talk about,” Pilot
“You’ve been around Crichton too much,” she said, smiling to take any sting out of the accusation. “Sometimes
talking makes things worse, Pilot.”
“Officer Sun … Aeryn,” he started over, looking mildly uncomfortable with the more casual address. “When
Crais first took Talyn away, Moya could think of nothing other than her offspring, as could I. It took a very long
time to adjust to his loss.”
“Holding on to the chance that you might find him some day must have helped.”
Pilot’s eyes receded slightly and he lowered his head, resulting in a mournful look. He peered at Aeryn from
under the front edge of his cranial shell. “It made it worse because Moya felt that his development would be
harmed if he did not have another leviathan to guide him through the maturation process.”
“Well, he is a wonderful ship despite that, Pilot. You saw how much he cares about Moya when he came to help
after she had been burned. He is strong and brave, and he’s learning more about compassion every day.”
There was a jailbreak in her soul. The memory of her impassioned plea for the young gunship to let John back
inside forced her to relive the decision to expose her inner heart to another living creature. Aeryn turned away
from Pilot to stare into the dark. It took several microts to imprison the fugitive images.
“The point I attempt to make is that it took many solar days for us to reconcile ourselves to the fact that Talyn
was gone.” Pilot drew her back into the conversation. “It was not easy.” Without bothering to face the
sympathy she knew was hovering behind her right shoulder, Aeryn nodded her understanding. “Moya wishes
that there was something she could do to help. As do I.”
“How did you --?” she asked in a whisper.
“We talked about it a great deal, Moya and I.”
Aeryn shook her head more vehemently. “I don’t think talking will help this time, Pilot. I watched him die. I felt
him die. There’s nothing more to be said.” She leaned over the barricade to touch one of the shelled claws for
a moment, trying to convey an appreciation of his offer that she couldn’t voice at that particular moment, and
then hurried from the Den.
Once Aeryn’s slim figure had disappeared from sight, Pilot spoke aloud to his large partner. “Yes, Moya, I
agree. There is much that still needs to be said, but she must first find the right words to express what is
breaking her heart. It is doubtful that what she said here today is the source of the problem.” He listened to
the mournful reply streaming into his mind, grateful once again that he had a lifelong partner with whom he
could share his every thought. When Moya finished, Pilot nodded ponderously in agreement. They would give
Aeryn Sun more time before offering their help again.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *