The Changeling
(First posted  August 18, 2005)
Rating:  PG-13.  
Category:  Future Fic.  It takes place approximately a quarter of a cycle after the end of PKW.
Disclaimer:  The characters and universe of Farscape are the property of the Jim Henson, Co., and I am
endlessly thankful that they are generous enough to tolerate us playing with their creation.  
Spoilers:  This story contains spoilers for Farscape: Peacekeeper Wars.

Test Drivers/Betareaders:  I can never offer enough thanks to PKLibrarian, Reefrunner, and CrystalMoon for
their help.  The proverbial brick wall and I became intimately acquainted very early in the creation of this story,
and it took a combination of some insightful comments, strong urgings from these three (also known as a swift
kick in the butt), and some pretty drastic surgery for me to get this story finished up in acceptable condition.  
PKLibrarian deserves an Honorable Mention because she did what may be the most difficult thing a “test driver”
can ever be called on to do:  she came right out and said that a change to the story wasn’t working as well as
the original version.  That is especially hard to do when it is the writer who initiates the revision.  Thank you to
everyone who contributed to this story.  

Author’s Note:  The idea for The Changeling infiltrated my Farcosis-afflicted brain almost a full year ago.  The
original concept had it running about a quarter of the length you are going to run into here, and I dreamed it up
before Peacekeeper Wars aired, so the first version I wrote had D’Argo (the Big D, not the little one) in it.  
Canon changed, the backstory got away from me completely, the Youses Muses Gang was of little help when I
needed their assistance the most, and the story got rewritten from scratch no less than four times because I
was having trouble getting it to work out the way I wanted.  Suffice it to say, it is a stinkin’ miracle that I finally
finished it … except the concept refused to leave me alone, so I should have known that I would complete it
eventually.  That’s Farscape for you.

Enough blather.  Here we go.  

                                                           * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Part 1

He knows it is a dream because his son is crying.  

Little D’Argo, having entered the universe in the midst of a full-bore raging battle, is always happiest when he
has chaos to keep him amused.  The racket of energy blasts howling overhead is the heavy metal equivalent of
a lullaby to their child.  Pulse weapon fire ricocheting wildly off the stones and burst into showering fireworks
should serve as glittering entertainment, generating shrieks of pleasure and bubbling laughter.  Instead, his
son is inconsolable, screaming out his distress in long, lung-wracking howls.  It provides the background theme
of terror necessary to turn this vision into a full-fledged nightmare, and John Crichton is helpless to make it
stop.  He plays the pre-ordained part, following the script that his subconscious has provided, and watches with
dread fascination as the worst moment of his life approaches.  The crying goes on, intermixed with the coughs
and howls that tear at his heart every bit as viciously as they are tearing at Little D’s throat.  

He runs the back of a grimy finger down the tear-streaked, flushed face of his son, and bends down to kiss
him.  It is a last touch rather than an attempt to calm him.  When he straightens up, Aeryn is leaning in close so
she can make herself heard.  

“Promise me!” she yells over the pounding of the cannon that the charrids have brought up in an attempt to
hammer their way through the rock wall.  Each time a bolt hits, slivers of stone sail in slicing showers, one more
threat to their safety in an already out of control situation.  There is another slamming impact, and she bends
over, using her body as a shield to protect D’Argo.  Rock fragments rattle and chime against the blocks behind
them.  Aeryn straightens and grabs the back of his neck with her free hand.  “You promise me you’ll be here!”

“I promise!”  He brushes a fast kiss across her lips.  The caress brings away the sharp taste of salt, underlain
by the muted bitterness of ignited chakan oil and the metallic bite of scorched rock and sand.  He kisses her
again, the touch every bit as fleeting as the first, and repeats his assurance.  “I promise.  And you promise me
that you’ll keep your gorgeous head down and take care of the chubster.”  

She nods, and they scramble past each other, swapping places.  The rest of their group is doing the same
thing, sorting themselves out into two groups.  At one end, John, Arlan, and six of the captain’s men crouch in a
small huddle, preparing their weapons.  The remainder of the besieged group -- Aeryn, Yn’dlath, the two
luxans, and the remaining eight Peacekeepers -- hand over their extra weapons and whatever cartridges they
can spare, and then gather at the other end of the jumble of stone blocks.  

Aeryn lingers, gently bouncing a still screaming D’Argo with her left hand.  Her pulse pistol is in her right.  
Mother and soldier, she cares for an infant and a weapon with equal familiarity.  She wears both personas
comfortably, somehow managing to merge the two into a single amalgam of beauty, strength, compassion, and
ruthlessness that sometimes defies logic.  He loves her so much that he can barely breathe for worrying about
what the next few moments will bring.    

“I’m sorry,” he says.  The syllables emerge in a torturously slow nightmarish drawl, giving the remorse more time
to etch its damage on his soul.  “I’m sorry.”  The slow motion words ooze into his dream the same way acid eats
a fizzing pattern into flesh, leaving an agonizing trail in its wake.    

Aeryn’s reply passes more quickly, as though the dream-gods are fiddling with the recording’s Pause and Fast
Forward settings.  It turns what should be a loving assurance into a high-pitched parody of an auctioneer’s
delivery that lacks any hint of emotion.  “We made the decision together.  There is no way we could have
predicted this.”  She looks at him for a moment, fast-forward rocking the baby, and then draws her hand down
his cheek.  The remembered touch is too brief.  “I love you.”  

The replay speed returns to normal.  “No goodbyes,” he says.   

“No goodbyes,” she says, nodding.  “You hang on.  No matter how long it takes, you hang on.”    

There is a fast jump after that.  He doesn’t have to relive the first, terrifying bolt out from behind cover, or the
way the soldier in front of him loses the entire top half of his head to a chance shot from the cannon.  There is
no forced recall of the suicidal charge across the sand, tossing off wild shots at anything that moves behind the
charrid lines in hopes that it will draw their attention.  Perhaps sleep has intervened for a time; he has no way of
knowing.  As far as he can tell he simply jumps from the feel Aeryn’s fingers drifting out from under his when he
pulls away, to the insane dash toward the welcoming maw of the tunnel, fountains of dirt showering up all
around them because the charrids have taken the bait.  

The diversion, although pathetically small and insignificant, has worked.  From the amount of firepower being
poured in their direction, he finds it tough to believe there is anything left to interfere with the main party’s

He is in the middle of the pack.  Arlan and the comms sergeant are ahead of him, dragging a wounded soldier
between them.  Behind him there are only two voices streaming out curses in Sebacean where there ought to
be three.  He flicks a glance over his shoulder to see if it is because the third man is concentrating on running
or if he’s been shot, and that’s when the nightmare constricts into a horrifying, tunnel-vision moment that slows
to a standstill at the instant his life comes to an end.  

He catches the movement out of the corner of his eye, and turns his head to watch.  In the distance, the lithe
figure sprints across the open ground that lies between the rocks where they had taken shelter and the
transport pod.  She looks as though she is flying.  Black coat flapping behind her, long legs eating up the
distance at a pace that would put an Olympic sprinter to shame, one arm curled protectively around the baby
suspended in his sling, Aeryn is a vision of beauty in high speed motion.  The shot comes out of nowhere,
precursor to an accelerating hail of fireworks.  The ball of energy streaks toward her with the single-minded
purpose of a missile homing in on a target beacon.  It catches her square in the back.  Aeryn goes down in a
slithering, face-first slide into the sand.  Even this far away he can see her feet fly up into the air, the
momentum of her run nearly flipping her over end for end.  The boots come down, and she seems to burrow
nose first into the sand, the baby beneath her body.  

He is powerless to scream as long as he is trapped in the nightmare.  

That is reserved for when he wakes up.   

                                                                     * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

The heap of stones stands in the midst of a wind-blasted sterile plain.  It is the last remnant of a structure that
once loomed high, lording over metras of carefully tended water gardens and aquifer-fed forests that stretched
further than the eye could see in every direction.  Where the royalty of a long-vanished species once picked
their way carefully through tangles of succulent plants provided for no reason other than to be plucked and
eaten at the residents’ leisure, there now lay overturned stones that have been hewn into hulking lumpish
shapes by thousands of cycles of wind-blown sand.  The central monolith is little more than an irregular hillock,
less than a quarter its original size.  It is buried beneath enough dirt that it is no longer recognizable for the
structure it once was, diminished by collapse, folding in upon itself one level at a time, rumbling out notice of
internal failure to an empty planet.

Where there once stood great halls, porticos, ramparts, and buttresses, now rests a lunatic’s labyrinth of
lightless chambers, caves, dead-end corridors, and cavernous pits.  And for every motra of space above
ground level, there is three times as much territory beneath.  What had been subterranean servant’s quarters,
access tunnels for moving supplies, and a warren of storage areas extending eight levels below the ground
floor has survived the eons far better than the structure above.  The lower levels, foundation for the palace,
had been built with exceptional care.  The basement has held for the most part, resisting the rot and ruin that
rains down above, providing a home to a species of small scuttling creatures with ten legs.  They are hairy,
sightless from the perpetual darkness, and harmless, feeding on the molds and lichens that line the ancient

The sun hammers mercilessly by day; the rain pounds down by night.  A peculiarity of landmasses and lunar
cycles, the weather patterns never vary.  With sunset comes the rain, turning dust to slimy mud.  With full dark
comes the first trickling seepage that will invade even the lowest levels, turning them into a foul, slick sewer
running denches deep in a viscous soup of algae and mud.  The sides of the passageways are the first to give
way to the insidious flood.  Small runnels ooze from the fissures overhead, surging downward to puddle and run
sideways.  Depressions in the stone floors fill slowly at first, eventually picking up momentum until they overflow
and the rivulets curl snakelike into the unending night of the tunnels.  They worm along the floors, sneak into
the joints between the stone blocks, and disappear toward the next lower level, summoned into the vacuous
belly of the ruins.  Each night as the downpour far overhead wears on arn after arn, the caverns begin to
shower a stinking mucosal rain.  

When the stones begin to weep, the creature knows it is time to kill.  

The caverns have become home to a new resident.  This one is larger and heavier than the little ones that
have lived here for hundreds of cycles.  Its size and shape are unsuited to the cramped quarters.  It scrambles
after the small scuttling ones, finds them by touch, and then skewers them with one of its long metallic fangs.  It
hunches over its kill in the dark, rips away the spindly legs, and then tears at the body with its teeth, snarling
and coughing between mouthfuls.  Once finished, it huddles in upon itself for a brief time, arms wrapped around
its midsection as if to suggest that it finds its meal unpalatable, and then leans over and spews up a portion,
perhaps as an offering to whatever god sentenced it to this stooped over, sightless existence.  

This night, as always, it crouches in the small hollow that it has come to consider its bedroom, waiting for the
quiet, hesitant trickles of water that will tell it that the time to kill is about to arrive.  At one time he had name.  He
used to think of himself by a set of labels that had to do with his place among similar beings:  father, husband,
son, friend.  The days of thinking of himself in that manner are over.  His identity is defined by his actions; his
life has devolved into a mindless but painless existence that consists only of the present.  

When he comes back to his dank, dark home each morning, he thinks of himself as the Sleeper.  The night’s
activities always leave him exhausted; the routine is reassuring in its sameness, requiring little thought.  He
feels his way to the torrent that plunges out of the ceiling on the third level, stands beneath the pounding
stream of water long enough to wash away the worst of the filth, and then clambers his way back up to his little
hovel near the surface level in order to rest.  The Sleeper crawls into the rounded pocket that has been well
padded with the clothes of his dead friends, curls up in his stoned-walled nest, and sleeps through the heat of
the day, relying on the rains to wake him.  

When he slithers his way down to the lowest levels in search of food, he is the Hunter, chasing down spider-like
creatures that he is thankful he will never see.  He doubts he could get himself to eat them if he knew what they
looked like.  Their flesh is rubbery and acidic; he seldom manages to keep an entire meal in his stomach.  The
Hunter doesn’t care about the revolting taste or that the food makes him sick; all that matters is that enough
stays in his stomach to keep his body alive another night.

Sometimes he is the Explorer, who spends his idle arns working his way methodically from one end of the maze
to the other, gradually memorizing every twist and turn, and every lethal hole in the floor.  The Explorer gathers
the knowledge that can be used to kill his pursuers if they decide to come in after him again.  There was a day
when the ones who live on the surface, no longer willing to come into the tunnels themselves, tried sending a
Brindiss hound in after him.  It was the Explorer who knew how to trick the beast, and the animal now lies with all
the other dead at the bottom of one of the deep pits:  a dead guard dog steadfastly watching over the rest of
the dead.  

The Explorer has a twin brother who puts in an appearance from time to time.  This is the Idiot, and he
occasionally gets lost and spends arns or even days finding his way out.  But it was the Idiot who accidentally
located a well-hidden exit leading out of the underground universe.  When the ones who live above bombarded
the heap of rock in an attempt to seal him in, the Idiot was the one who knew the route out, and so he earned a
place of respect among everything else that he becomes.

And then there is the other one, the one that goes outside at night hoping that it will find some measure of
peace in the ritual of stalking those who are responsible for his current existence.  That part of his life has no
label.  When he is outside, he is a held breath, a quick furtive movement, silence, a painstakingly slow crawl
across open ground.  He becomes something that he doesn’t wish to identify; he transforms himself into a
relentless desire to ease the ache in his heart, a never-ending quest to drown the memories in a shower of
charrid blood, and the need to make them pay for what they have done.  He defines this creeping, crawling,
wielder of weapons with shadowy, indistinct images that refuse to bear a name.  When he goes outside, he
becomes the sterile ground beneath him, the relentless rain falling from above, and the next target for his
vengeance.  He becomes death.  

He prefers to become each of these things in succession because the present doesn’t carry the weight of his
past.  When he is so careless as to remember, the memories cause him to kneel in the middle of a lightless
passageway and curl in on himself, howling and weeping out his grief, sometimes choosing to smash his head
or hands against the unfeeling stone because that sort of pain is preferable to the type that blossoms inside his
chest.  Concentrating on the next several microts of his existence keeps the phantoms at bay.  It allows him to
forget the details of a plan gone desperately wrong.  If he can keep himself balanced carefully in the midst of
now, looking neither forward nor back, he doesn’t have to recall a lithe, running figure taking a energy charge
square in the back, or how she had slithered face first into the dust, every vestige of energy, strength, and
beauty forever stripped away from the beloved body by an enemy’s weapon.  If he can transform himself into
nothing more than what he is going to do for the next arn, he doesn’t have to remember that she had been
carrying their son when she got hit.  

“Oh, god.”  

It is a quiet supplication, a whispered howl of self-recrimination both for the original rotten plan and for being so
weak as to allow the memories to get loose.  He sinks down, ignoring the cold creep of water working its way
through the worn knees of his pants, and rocks forward and back, trying to stop the agony that expands
outward from the center of his being.  It takes dozens of microts to get it under control.  The past is harshly
jammed back into the place where he refuses to look, the future is shoved aside because it is irrelevant, and
the numbing calm of the present settles over him.  Emptiness is preferable to the aching loneliness that began
the moment he saw them die.  

Peace of mind restored, he sprawls face first into the wet and slithers his way forward, fingers searching for the
edge of the lethal sinkhole that begins on this level.  He feels the air moving first, and then picks up the faint
smell of rotting meat.  He ignores the wafting odors.  There is nothing to be done about the stench.  Shifting to
the right, he first locates and then begins to squirm along the narrow shelf of rock that still clings to that side of
the wall.  Leather passes over wet, grimy stone with a gritty susurrence that reminds him of the slide of a knife
blade across a sharpening stone.  It conjures up thoughts of a sunlit kitchen, cooking smells, a cup of coffee at
his elbow, laughter and conversation while he sharpens knives for his mother.

“No, no, no, no, no!” he whispers viciously, and bumps his head against the stone to help make the memories
stop.  Those days are gone forever.  Right now he is the Crawler, working his way carefully to the end of the
ruined corridor where he will find the slanting spill of rock and begin the climb to the surface.  It is night.  The
tunnels have begun to stream with water.  It is time to kill.  Nothing else matters.  

The journey is completed easily and without a visit from the Idiot.  He draws to a halt at the Waiting Spot, which
is located two intersections from the mouth of the tunnel.  This is where he sits every night until the trickles to
turn to a steadier pattering flood.  It is critical that he not emerge too soon.  If he does, the ground will have
softened enough to bear tracks, but will not have had time to turn to the soupy slime that oozes into the
depressions fast enough to hide the marks of his passage.  When the slow drip on the top of his head develops
into a steady, stone-warmed shower -- not entirely unpleasant despite the gritty particles of eroded palace that
are carried with it -- that is when he knows that it is safe to begin his nightly excursion on the planet’s surface.  

The sidling passage through the cleft in the rocks is always the worst.  It is the only thing that keeps the
charrids from finding his only remaining entrance, and it is also the most dangerous portion of his nightly
transition from cave dweller to skulking seeker of the enemy.  Standing upright for the first time in arns,
shuffling sideways with the rock walls brushing both his chest and his back, there is no way he can defend
himself if they have managed to track him to this spot and are waiting just outside the passage.  Some nights
he goes through all in a rush, relying on surprise to give him an advantage if there is someone waiting on the
other side.  Tonight he takes his time, stopping often to listen for errant splashes in the steady drumming of the
rain, and to sniff the moisture soaked air.  Charrids reek worse than he does.  If they’re out there, he’ll smell

There is no one waiting for him.  He eases out from between the stones, sniffs several times just to be sure,
and then drops low so he will be harder to see, and disappears into the rain.  

                                                                      * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

It takes half the night to locate and kill the first of his prey.  He knows in a hazy, poorly thought out manner that
it is due to a combination of things.  The lack of food is exacting a harsh toll on his body; he is becoming
weaker with each passing day.  It takes a full extra arn to reach the special mud hole that is his first destination,
and by the time he gets there he is gasping for breath and has begun to shake.  He eases into the glutinous,
sticky morass and begins to roll around, making sure he is thoroughly coated from head to foot, but also
relieved to be lying down.  

This is the secret the charrids haven’t been able to discover.  Some facet of this particular mud, possibly a
mineral or low-level radioactivity, masks him from their sensor sweeps.  As long as he is well coated, he can’t be
detected by their scanning equipment.  The first time they had missed him, it had been an accident.  He had
fallen into the bog while being chased, and a patrol had gone right past without noticing that he was lying there
with nothing but his nose and his eyes showing.  He has started each night at this spot ever since.  Tonight he
counts off an extra sixty microts to rest, and then forces himself to keep moving.  There is work to be done. This
is not the right time to give in to weakness.  

The other problem he runs into is that the charrids have yet again tightened the defenses along their perimeter
in an attempt to stop the nocturnal attacks.  There are thousands of them however, with metras of encampment
to patrol.  He knows that if he is stealthy and takes his time, he will eventually find a way in.  It takes several
arns and more energy than he can afford to expend, but as expected, he discovers a weak point in their
defenses.  After prowling back and forth for half an arn to make sure he isn’t overlooking a hidden observation
post, he takes out three of the guards in quick succession, creating a large enough gap that he’ll stand a good
chance of getting in and out without being caught.  The guards go down as easily as all the others he has killed
over the past days.  Charrid armor is made to defend against pulse blasts and other energy weapons.  It isn’t
designed to stop a knife.  

One by one, he hauls them to where he knows there is a gully deep enough to conceal three bodies for several
arns.  He lingers long enough to carve his mark into each of their bodies, and then slips through the opening in
their lines and goes in search of his next victim.  

An officer dies next, caught strolling in the shadows behind a building instead of out under the lights where it is
safer.  The excitement has been mounting ever since he killed the first guard.  He feeds on it, drawing strength
and energy from the adrenalin surge, and this time he yanks the knife so hard he takes the officer’s head right
off.  The body spews out a final fountain of gore before slumping to the ground with a splash.  The head, still in
its helmet, wobbles an erratic course into the halo of illumination beneath one of the lights.  He freezes.  If
anyone notices the gruesome football, he will be discovered.  With his knife clenched between his teeth, he
worms his way through the puddles, snares the prize with an outstretched hand, and then quickly slithers back
into the dark.  

Someone shouts, and he dives into the shadows near the base of a building, squirming down into the mud.  But
it’s only one charrid calling for another to wait for it, and they hurry on by, heads down against the rain.  

The prey veers away from the better lit areas of the compound, taking a shortcut.  Perhaps they believe they
are safe because there are two of them.  They don’t notice the dripping shadow that slides along behind them.  
The first one is easy; its head comes off just like the officer’s.  The second has time to turn, Rastafarian locks
swinging, and he lunges in with the point of his blade, driving it under the lip of the helmet with all the strength
he can muster.  It staggers back, spraying blood with each breath.  

He knocks it over backwards and kicks the helmet off.  Anger snarls up at him through a froth of blood and
saliva; fury and dismay glare at him between gargling, pain-filled attempts to sound an alarm.  

“Don’t go away,” he says, and leans on the knife hilt.  It slides home with a crunch, lodged in the charrid’s
spine.  The prey refuses to die.  Incapable of moving, it continues to watch him with furious dirt-colored eyes.  

Revelation interrupts its choking attempts to breathe.  The charrid has figured out how he has been hiding from
their sensors.  He allows it to go on living for a little longer, basking in the knowledge that this one will have time
to anticipate its own death.

For the moment, it is the dead charrid that interests him most.  His hands fly through the small carriers attached
to its armor, searching for one particular item.  Spare ammunition, bits of equipment, and a hailstorm of
personal items are flung into the mud.  A fast search inside the chest plate brings up a ractor knife.  He grins
with delight, tucks it in his belt, and goes on searching.  What he wants isn’t there.  He scrambles on hands and
feet to the dying one and tries again.  This time he finds it straight away:  field rations.  Rummaging through the
packets, he comes up with half a fistful of foodcubes.  They’re the only thing the charrids eat that he can
stomach.  He crouches in the rain, watching for any sign that he is about to be discovered, and wolfs them
down in a hurry, choking almost as often as he manages to swallow.         

Once he is finished with his snack, he leans over the dying charrid so he can look into its eyes.  “Sorry I can’t
stay for dessert and coffee.”  The ractor knife makes a quiet hum when it’s turned on.  It is inaudible against the
steady rush of the rain.  “No, don’t thank me for stopping by.  It was my pleasure.”  

He claps a hand over the charrid’s mouth, and slashes hard and deep with the ractor knife, carving his
message into its forehead.  Its eyes bulge; it gargles, and fights to scream.  Blood foams out around the blade
that remains lodged in its throat.  He checks his work, goes back to make one stroke clearer, and then
straightens up.  He leaves the same message every time.  It doesn’t matter that they won’t understand it; it is
something that he needs to do, an offering to the ghosts that rule his existence.  The message is about what
should have been, and what was taken away from him.  

It reads:  J+A=3.

The charrid continues to watch him with bewildered, dying eyes.  It seems confused by the onset of death.  He
hunkers down with his forearms resting on his knees, the rain beating fast and hard on his shoulders and back,
and watches it die.  Cold trickles run down his back at the same pace that the bloody rivulets streak down the
creases in the charrid’s skin.  Its breaths become more irregular.  It chokes more frequently, battling back with
increasing difficulty after each bout of strangled coughing.  

A stream of cold water snakes behind his ear, soaks his collar, and then burrows under his jacket.  He shivers
and looks around.  He has no idea how long he has been sitting here.  The rain has begun to wash away his
layer of clinging camouflage.  He sets the ractor knife down on the charrid’s chest, lies down, and rolls in the
mud.  Three rolls way from the body and three rolls back is enough; he is well coated.  Experience has taught
him that the new mud will keep the special mud from washing off.  

When he gets to his knees, the charrid is dead.  

It takes four tries and a boot placed firmly on the corpse’s neck before he manages to get his blade loose.  He
slithers away, putting distance between himself and the bodies just in case they are found.  Once he is safely
away, he stops and tries to remember how much time has passed.  He is Cinderella for several microts,
counting off the arns in his head to make sure he hasn’t stayed out too late.  If he is late reaching the rocks, he
dies.  The night’s activities tangle into a blur of motion, effort, and revenge.  He has no idea how much time has
passed, and decides it would be safest to begin the trek home.

He comes across two more on his way out of the encampment:  a female and a small one.  It seems right that
they should die as well.  It’s justice.  He slinks along behind them, waiting for the right moment.  The female
stops in a stupid place in order to talk to the small one; they are standing in a shadow, hidden from the sight.  
It is the perfect place for an attack.  He crouches next to a stack of containers, soaked and shivering, and goes
on watching them.  He can hear bits and pieces of their chatter.  The small prey doesn’t like walking through the
puddles.  She picks the little one up and begins to carry it, sacrificing the ability to defend both herself and her
small one.  

They walk away, headed toward the light and noise of the central barracks area, and he doesn’t move.  One
portion of his brain is screaming for him to run after them, to kill the little one first so the female can know what
it is like to watch her offspring die, and to do something excessive with the two bodies.  He grasps the knife so
tightly that his entire arm begins to shake, and conjures up thoughts of dismemberment, of placing limbs and
organs and pieces in patterns that will tell a tale of what these creatures have stolen from him.  The rip and tear
of metal slicing through muscle and sinew will feel glorious.  Ecstasy is the deep grating vibrations of sharpened
hydrosteel glancing off bone.  

There will be no jubilant evisceration of females or children tonight.  A different portion of his mind takes over
before he can move forward, commanding him to stop.  The soft, always-collected voice of a ghost speaks to
him from his memories.  It urges him to retain a vestige of the person he had once been, not to cut the last tie
to the passion they had shared.  He can make no choice other than to obey her.  He goes on kneeling in a
deepening puddle long after the prey has disappeared, the knife resting against his knee, consumed by the

Their life together wasn’t supposed to end this way.  Not in the dark and the cold and the wet.  Not apart.  Not
so soon.  He huddles against the downpour, warm salty trickles mixing with the water on his cheeks, and misses

In the end, it is the promise he made her that drives him to his feet and sends him stumbling into the night.  It
doesn’t matter that she is dead, or that no one knows he is alive and needs to be rescued.  He vowed that he
would hang on.  Letting go of his promise means finally letting go of her, and he can’t bring himself to do that.  
Not yet.  And there’s the fact that Aeryn is still here.  Her body is out there in the dark, little D’Argo forever
pinned beneath her, somewhere close to the landing area and the scorched hulk of the transport pod.  By this
time they’ve both been hammered into the mud by the passing vehicles, possibly mangled, either rotting from
the wet or desiccated by the sun.  They’re gradually becoming part of the landscape.  

They never say goodbye.  It’s a rule he's not about to change now.  “I’ll never leave you,” he whispers to her.  
“Never.”  And with the new vow made, he blends into the night.  

                                                                                                    * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
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