Date: Monday, February 17, 2003 8:08 AMTITLE: Reflections in a Stolen 'I' AUTHOR: Fialka FANDOM: Farscape SUMMARY: The one where Aeryn comes back. Again. SPOILERS: Not exactly, but it will make more sense if you've seen Bringing Home the Beacon and A Constellation of Doubt. CATEGORY: Adventure, Angst, Wild Speculation RATING: PG WARNING: The FS universe is not a gentle place. Read at your own risk. FEEDBACK: firstname.lastname@example.org DISCLAIMER: What I have done is nothing compared to what awaits us. Beta by Cofax and Maayan. FUTURE NOTE: "Reflections" was written in a desperate burst of inspiration after BHTB, and posted before Prayer. It was not intended as a rewriting of the end of Season 4, but offered as one possibility, based on what we'd seen till then.
REFLECTIONS IN A STOLEN 'I'
Halfway through sleep cycle, it's quiet on command. My preferred time, my preferred shift. No company; just me, my controls and the stars.
I was always good at this. Loosen the shoulders, relax the calves, sink into the hips. It's a position I can hold for arns, suspended between sleep and readiness, between thought and silence.
I've grown to appreciate silence. When I'm allowed it.
Alitha comms from the galley, where she's making herself a meal before going to quarters. She asks if I want something to hold me through. I think about it, decide I don't. I eat, of course, the proper amount at the proper time, when we have enough food for proper meals. We're stocked at the moment, so well that I don't expect we'll be stopping anywhere soon.
I check the sensor readouts, adjust course one degree. It's a difficult part of space to navigate, vast distances between inhabitable planets and all kinds of anomalies in between. It's said that those who venture too far don't come back. That's true, but not for the reasons given. Spend too long out here and you grow a little wild, a little fahrbot. You don't want to live in the settled territories again.
Tobay, our captain, keeps discipline tight to make sure that doesn't happen. Keeps it all familiar. I thought I couldn't return to this life, but I was wrong about that.
"Tell me you didn't go to bed with your boots on again," Alitha says. She spent half a cycle alone on a stalled marauder before Tobay picked her up; she's not particularly fond of silence.
"I didn't sleep with my boots on," I say. I didn't sleep at all, but she doesn't need to know that.
"Good," she answers. "I hate to get into bed and find grit at my feet."
There are too many of us for a Banta-class freighter, we take it all in turns. Sleep and eat in shifts, fight together when there's need. Usually we go in small detachments, two or three per assignment. When I first came I volunteered for every mission. I nearly laughed when they told me I didn't have to try so hard to prove myself. They didn't understand. I craved the movement, the danger, the need to keep my mind in the present and my attention on my surroundings. Alone, lying on a narrow cot staring at the mattress above me, there was too much time to think.
It's better now. The discipline of being a soldier again has been good for me. Things I've remembered from long ago -- how to stand for hours and watch the stars and think of nothing. How to obey orders without question, how to function in a unit, a team, without the need for personal attachment.
Allegiance to a cause is simple. Simple is good. That's enough for me.
"So, did you get some sleep?"
"Yes," I lie. My patience with Alitha's chatter only runs so far.
"Good to hear it," she says, but her tone indicates she knows I'm lying. "Take care of the body, it will take care of you."
I shrug, safe where she can't see it, though the lens above my head will record the movement. That's another thing I had to get used to again. The constant surveillance, even of one's most private bodily functions.
It's how she found out. How they all found out about the dreams.
It began on Bedi Prime, just before we lost Yoshian. I had been sent for weapons supplies, an easy enough assignment. We left the freighter far out, came down in an ordinary cargo shuttler. We were dressed like colonial Sebaceans, dun weaves and canvas trousers. Our story was easy: we were miners and we wanted explosives for our work.
Bedi lies along the edge of the Uncharteds, a small system with a sparse but rich population. After this, civilisation begins to disintegrate and there are no more designated commerce planets. Bedi Prime is where the traders gather, for exotic goods from the further reaches of what they call tormented space, for more mundane supplies from the settled territories.
I was looking for Felarian particle grenades, having left my supply on Moya. "You're lucky," the merchant told me. "I haven't seen those in awhile, but a supply came in not a weeken ago."
I knew the moment I saw the crate. "This came from a leviathan," I said and his head wobbled up and down.
"Could be. I got it off a Kalish hunter."
I've heard of the Kalish, but they are rarely allowed to leave Scarran space. I could not believe that leviathan hunters had taken Moya, but I knew the grenades were mine, even before I opened the crate. There they were, exactly as I had stored them, carefully packed in layers of protective grasses manufactured by the DRDs.
I bought them, of course, and would have scoured the market to see what else of mine my former shipmates had sold, but that was the moment Yoshian took to violate planetary protocol. He pulled his weapon on a trader, shouting that the behlek was trying to cheat him.
It was our fault, really. Yoshian was young and badly controlled. We should have warned him that each of these traders would have guards in the crowd. No sooner had we noticed what was happening, than he lay dead on the ground.
Trey signalled me from several booths down. We packed up our purchases and went back to the shuttler before they picked us out as Yoshian's companions. Another group would have to finish collecting the supplies.
I did the unloading, and I don't know how long I stood beside that crate before I was able to put my hands on it again.
That sleep-cycle, I dreamt John and I stood face to face, holding guns to each other's heads.
I dreamt of running down Moya's corridors, terrified, dragging John behind me like dead weight. I dreamt of places I had not seen, landscapes that did not fade upon waking; of wormholes spinning before my eyes, swallowing him, swallowing me.
Once, only once, I dreamt I lay with him in one of the officer's quarters on the top tier. We were hushed and frantic, and when I awoke I was certain I could still feel him.
The dreams changed abruptly just before we entered Scarran space.
I have battled a Scarran hand-to-hand and survived. I have shared Moya with one, and seen countless others. I am no more afraid of this than any other assignment.
Why, then, do I keep dreaming that they are holding me stretched upon a metal frame, asking question upon question while I burn?
"Fears can be deep-seated," Alitha said, the time I panicked the entire ship with my screams. I blame it on the fever, something I contracted on Teliap three solar days ago, and cannot seem to shake.
I am not afraid of Scarrans. I'm afraid of the leviathan we spotted when we first arrived, the one that seems to be moving along with us, carefully staying out of weapons range.
The leviathan is a curiosity rather than a threat, and could easily be monitored by the sensors we have. Captain Tobay sends me on the visual recon for many reasons; one, I am sure, is that in my present condition, I have made myself expendable to him.
I could have refused. I could say I am ill, but I can't.
The prowlers are all on the outside racks. I suit up, follow the appropriate tether, and for once I do not feel the temptation to let go, to simply remove the helmet and return to the nothing from which we begin.
Perhaps John was right and fate does have a plan. I've sometimes thought of this, staring at the stars when it's quiet on command.
I learned I had conceived on the Marinan, a mere arn after I had decided I was meant to die there. Crais and Talyn would destroy the ship, and I would remain to rescue its population. How right that seemed to me then, how fitting an end to the events Crais set in motion when he sent me into exile. All the abominations gone: myself, Scorpius, Crais. Talyn, our psychotic offspring. And the ship where Talyn was conceived, where the wormhole technology lived. The monstrous experiments would all come to an end.
I left just before my former home crumbled around me. John had given his life on Dam-Ba-Da so I would not give mine, and if he had given me a child, perhaps there was a reason. If I was killed before I found out the truth about that, so be it, but I could not choose to die. I knew that even on Valldon, even before Xhalax came.
The leviathan appears within visual range, and I wonder what fate means by bringing me back. Perhaps I should have packed the few possessions I still have.
Pilot's voice on my headset brings a rush of fever, makes my heart pound behind my eyes. I am on fire, hands shaking so badly I cannot handle the controls. This is not how I wanted to arrive, but I want less to injure Moya with a bad landing. I cut my engines and let Pilot use the docking web to bring me in.
I can hear voices through the canopy of my prowler, loud and excited. The fever is unabated and I think I may have been here for some time.
Once the canopy is open, it's a little easier to breathe, but the shouts are like pulse blasts, searing me from ear to ear.
"...out now! Hands empty and above your head!"
His voice. John. He's alive, he's here. My eyes are suddenly full of smoke and I wonder if all this heat is inside me, or if I set something on fire when I landed.
I grab onto the edge of the cockpit and lever myself to my feet.
I do not expect to be greeted with open arms, of course. I understood when I left that I was hurting Crichton beyond forgiveness, that if I met any of my former crewmates again I should not expect them to be glad to see me.
But I did not expect them all to be here, still, or again. Haggard and beautiful they look to my burning eyes, as if I haven't seen them in a hundred cycles.
I also hadn't expected them all to be pointing weapons at me.
John stands just beyond my wingtip, Winona steady in his outstretched hand. He could be a statue, he's so still.
"Come out of the prowler."
It is D'Argo who speaks, and that allows me to let go of the canopy struts, to breathe and look away from John. Someone has had the good sense to roll up an access ladder and I am able to haul myself out.
For a moment the fever withdraws, and I see it all with startling clarity. This is not quite the Moya I left; it is darker than I remember and the hangar reeks of desperation and fear. Chiana has a small white pistol and a new fury in her eyes, what I can see of them beneath her unkempt hair. The old woman is still here, weaponless yet somehow seeming armed. Beside her stands a small orange-toned Kalish, a female. The one who sold my grenades, I suspect.
Only D'Argo seems exactly as I remember, and only he lowers his weapon even one dench.
"Aeryn," John says. It sounds as if he cannot decide whether or not it's a question. He's gripping Winona so tightly his hand has begun to shake, but he's still pointing the gun directly at my head.
I start to climb down the stairs, and just as I do, my body ignites. For a moment, I retain that perfect clarity as I see my foot turn beneath me. I see exactly what is going to happen, which ribs will connect with the edge of which step, which part of my skull will strike the ground when I land.
And then I'm holding onto something soft and hard, shins scraping against metal as John drags me down the last few steps.
"Say 'baby'," he hisses in my ear.
He holds me tighter, one hand wrapped around my braid, pulling my head so far back he's practically bending me in half. "In English. A, B, C."
I don't know what he wants but I can mimic the sounds. "Bey bee."
He lets go of my hair. "Say it again," he says, and suddenly it sounds like a plea.
"Aeryn. Oh, god. Aeryn." I raise my head and see tears in the eyes of a madman. He puts his hands on my face, Winona pressing cold against my cheek, and pulls me towards him.
I remember it all in that moment. My body remembers, melts against him. His kiss is hard and desperate, and he tastes...not like yesterday, not like death. He tastes like breaking open, everything I've learned to live without rising from within.
He lets me go at last and there's blood on his lips, tears on his face. The tears are his, the blood, I realise when I touch my mouth, is mine.
"Tell me," he whispers. "Tell me what happened."
"Now, the last four days. How did you get away from the Scarrans?"
He goes completely still, then suddenly throws me across the floor.
"Talk to me in English." John looks like he's about to cry, but he stands and walks towards me, the gun outstretched, his eyes stone dead despite the tears. "Say something in English!"
A quick flurry of movement and I'm isolated, surrounded.
"What have I done?" They may be my last words, and I direct them at D'Argo looming protectively behind John, his Qualta blade now in rifle mode. "Before you kill me, at least tell me what I've done."
The answer is a sharp sting on my cheek, and then it's all gone.
I wake to a feeling I recognise from long ago, the residual headache from D'Argo's tongue.
"Every test I've run, every scan we've tried, says this is Aeryn Sun." The old woman sounds calmer than I remember, a tone in her voice indicating she's been saying the same thing over and over and failing to convince anyone. "The scars you describe are there, the DNA and energy signatures are hers. You asked me to scan for fetal activity, and yes, there is an embryo in stasis. The bioloid Aeryn didn't have one."
I move my head and see John standing about three paces away, the line of his back as rigid as a soldier at attention. I'm in the second maintenance bay, the one we use as a medical facility, lying on one of the diagnostic tables.
"This could be a better copy."
"Crichton, I assure you it is not."
"Yeah, well, your assurances don't mean that much."
"She's awake," Noranti tells him.
He turns and looks, not at me, but at someplace near my head. Held tight as a grenade, primed but not yet thrown.
"Scarrans," he says. "If the Scarrans didn't get you, then where have you been?"
"With my unit."
Winona appears again, whining to life. I roll off the table, put it between us. I have seen this man in many moods and I know when he's grown dangerous, but this is far past that, past even what the neural clone made him do. This is a John I've never known.
The others line up behind him like guards to a commandant. Even Rygel has appeared now, hovering on his little throne. All of them staring at me like an unknown species who's just staggered from a transport pod.
"What unit?" John demands. "Where? Where have you been?"
"I can't tell you that."
John vaults over the table, an unexpected blur of black. The weight of him alone is enough to knock me off my feet. We go down, a painful mess of elbows and knees and white stars exploding as my head hits the ground.
I kick and jab, and succeed at last in getting out from under him. From the corner of my eye I see something dark and I roll fast, get my hands on it and keep rolling.
Winona. Thank frell.
On my knees, the room is less than steady, but I have Winona, and John's hands are empty. He sits up, looks at me, rather than through me. So much longing in his eyes, I could almost forget he's gone completely mad.
I breathe through my mouth, ignore the twist of desire his look brings forth. Everyone else has fallen silent, and I take the chance to assess my position. D'Argo's Qualta blade hangs low but ready. Chiana's gun still points in my direction, but her hand is trembling. The Kalish holds her rifle as if it's too heavy for her strength, but she looks as if she could aim well enough to do some serious damage.
"What the frell has happened to you all?"
John scoots forward until he's within arm's reach. I test my grip on the pistol, press my toes against the floor, ready to roll again or leap to my feet. There's something in his eyes that stills my motion, makes me wait.
I remember this now, this look, this tentative reaching out. This time, he does not find what he's looking for.
"When did you cut your hair?"
I see him prepare to lunge and I roll fast, but not fast enough. He gets me around the waist, just off-balance enough that he can drag me across the floor and slam my wrist against the leg of the table. Once, twice, and my fingers go numb. I've lost the gun.
I free my arm, slam an elbow deep into his gut, bruise my knees as I scramble away. I come up just under the pulse from somebody's weapon, and I dive for cover, reaching for my pistol as another blast ricochets off the floor.
"Stop!" Noranti runs between us, waving her arms. "Stop immediately!" She faces Crichton, blocking me with her body.
My holster is gone. I taught them well, the fekkiks; they disarmed me while I was unconscious.
"Get out of the way, Grandma! It isn't her."
"It is! You kill this woman, you will kill Aeryn Sun!"
Silence again, only the sound of gasping breath. My own, theirs. John is still on one knee, his free arm wrapped around his gut. He looks bluish-grey, I must have hit dead-on.
"Talk to her," Noranti implores. "Just put your weapons down and talk."
No one seems willing to follow her advice. That much, at least, is recognisable from before.
"I found the renegade squad," I say. "That's where I've been. You, on the other hand, have all gone frelling farbot."
No response. "Look, just let me get to my prowler, and I'll go."
Now they all look to John. Crichton. I need to remember that. This is Crichton, who I left.
Welcomed back with loaded arms.
I cover my mouth because there's a laugh bursting inside me. Maybe a laugh. Maybe something else.
"If you are...if you are. Her." Crichton's voice is hoarse and tight and makes me look up. He comes over slowly, hand still pressed to his stomach, limping a little around the soreness. "Tell me. When did you find out you were pregnant?"
My face gives away my surprise, I'm sure. "How could you even know?"
"Answer my question," Crichton says, "and I'll answer yours."
Noranti said something before. I turn to her and she nods, smiling happily, her third eye blinking bright blue. "On the command carrier," I say to Crichton. "I asked the meditechs to look me over."
"Why? Did you think you might be pregnant?"
"I knew that it was...possible."
"So who's the daddy?" I am the one who has to look away now. The question I have not yet sought to answer.
"What? You telling me you still haven't bothered to find out?"
"I wanted--" I stop, surprised at the answer that arises. "No, I needed. To hope."
He comes closer. The emptiness of the choice I made stretches out to infinity in his red-rimmed eyes.
"How did you know?" I ask.
His answer is beyond belief. "You told me when you came back. Half a cycle ago."
I have to touch everything in my cell. My favourite leather vest, forgotten in my haste. A locket Chiana once gave me, which I've never worn. Things I left behind over a cycle before.
Fever dreams or space madness? It all seems real, but so do my memories of the last cycle. The steel-and-oil smell of the freighter, the shelf-cot where I never slept well, Alitha's incessant chatter. My last day aboard Moya, crates breaking beneath my boots. If I had stayed, who knows what else I might have broken?
"I haven't been here, Crichton."
I haven't, yet I recognise my own handiwork on the table, a disassembled nine-barrelled shooter with all its pieces neatly laid out.
"We went to Earth. You learned to speak English."
I round on him. "That was a dream we had." I'm hot again, the fever must be coming back.
Crichton leans his head back against the wall and closes his eyes. "You dreamed it with him," he says quietly. "You went with me."
"I cannot have had a whole life with you, Crichton, and not remember!"
He rubs his eyes hard. When he opens them again, they're red and sore. He doesn't look insane any more. Just exhausted.
"It wasn't a life," he says. "It was just...we were there. You were here. Ask the others."
"Are you telling me now that you never died? That nothing I remember ever happened?" I hear my voice growing harsh, and he lifts a hand, as if to shield himself.
"He died." The hand drops back to his side. "I know you wish it was the other way around, but that's what happened. He died, I didn't."
"I don't--" A great blast of heat sears my skin and I have to hold very still until it passes.
"Yeah," I hear him say. "Maybe the universe would have been better off if we'd never met."
The doors close behind him before I can formulate an answer.
The bed looks so inviting, gentle curves instead of a narrow shelf. I find myself drawn to it, crawling along the edge until I can stretch out.
I don't feel much better lying down. In fact, I can only remember feeling this ill twice in my life, and I'm sure my paraphoral nerve has not been damaged, nor is the temperature in my quarters is above optimum. There are rumours that the Hokothians are trying to engineer a virus specific to Sebaceans. My unit did a recon there just after I joined, but that was so long ago. If we'd been infected then, we would all be dead by now.
I hit my comms to contact my unit, but the badge is gone, probably lost somewhere in the hangar. I stumble to the door and wave my hand over the control, but it does not open. He's locked me in.
When I can see again, I am lying on the floor. I look up, through the bars. They are cool to the touch and I press my face against the steel. Someone is out there, hiding in the darkness; I feel myself being watched.
"Let me out," I say.
The shadows swerve. What appears is not a man, but a DRD, oddly coloured to my feverish eyes.
I no longer know if I'm speaking out loud. I reach my hand out to the little machine, but it's gone, and I'm not sure it was ever there. I'm alone. There is no one watching. No one is going to come.
I dream I am back on Moya and my shipmates are standing over me, arguing fiercely in hushed tones.
"Wiped and replaced?" That is Crichton, voice tight with anger. "That's ridiculous. How would they know what memories to give her?"
"Maybe they've captured other renegades before." An unrecognised female voice answers. "Noranti swears the DNA is the same."
"Yeah, well. Any copy would have the same DNA." John bites hard on the word 'copy.'
The female is out of patience. "But why cut her hair? It's an easily-spotted difference."
"I know! It's a, a clone from the time when she left."
"Chiana!" D'Argo explodes. "Aeryn has not been cloned."
"How do you know? John was cl--"
A yelp from Chiana ends her statement.
"Scarrans can make you believe whatever they wish. The details come from your own imagination."
I know that voice, the calm rationality, the perfect Sebacean accent that hides the beast underneath.
Scorpius? On Moya?
I jerk awake, holding a cry behind my teeth. "He is right," I hear, and look around wildly for the source of the unknown female voice.
There, a flash of orange, in the corridor just outside the door. My hand goes to my thigh. Nothing there, of course.
"What I cannot fathom," Scorpius continues, "is the purpose of making her forget that she has been here."
Not a dream. A nightmare. He's still speaking when I reach the doors, open now. I don't see him, but I see Crichton and D'Argo with their backs to me. The women face in my direction, but they're too short to see past the men.
Ten steps, half a microt. I grab Winona and push Crichton forward, hard. The gun comes away in my hand, the group scatters, and suddenly Scorpius is there, black-winged and lethal, directly in my sights.
Four pairs of hands reach for the gun and my shot goes wild. Scorpius slips around to circle behind John.
"Get out of my way, Crichton!"
"Aeryn, listen to me. You don't want to do this. You wouldn't let me do it, you made me promise not to hurt him when you brought him on board."
"I?" Now I know he's lying. He's lying or it's the fever. I'm still on the floor of the cell. I'm hallucinating. Maybe it is heat delirium. Maybe I never left the freighter at all.
"You. You brought him on board. I know you don't remember," Crichton adds quickly, as I circle, looking for a clear shot. "Just give me the gun, let us figure out what's going on."
It all comes together then, so clearly I can't believe I haven't thought of it before. Emotion clouds judgment. A lesson I can not seem to learn.
Don't feel. Observe.
Heat. Reality fragmented. Everything turned inside out and put back wrong.
Scarran interrogation techniques.
John comes towards me, carefully, his hand outstretched. The only person I've ever trusted with any part of myself. Even as a product of my own mind, if he has the answer, he will tell me the truth.
"You said I was captured by the Scarrans."
Slowly, he nods.
"You're right. I'm in a holographic chamber. Now, how do I make this stop?"
His face changes. Somewhere, outside, they must realise I've discovered the secret. "You can't stop this, Aeryn. This is real."
He moves towards me, and I remember what he told me about his own capture. How he tested his reality when the Scarran had him.
I raise Winona and pull the trigger.
For a moment, there's nothing but the ringing echo of a pulse blast and the surprise on Crichton's face. He falls to his knees and I watch, frozen, as the blood begins to darken his shirt.
Scorpius and the stranger escort me to a room I've never seen. If I fought them I would probably win, even in this state; Scorpius is unarmed and the Kalish woman looks weak.
"I am Sikozu Shanu," the Kalish says. "Do you not remember?"
She begins to take my arm and I smack her hands away. "You are a leviathan hunter." I may not care enough to fight for my life, but I will not have her touch me.
"Was," she answers. Her eyes narrow to slits as she tilts her head back and looks down her short nose. "Were you not once a Peacekeeper?"
The twist she puts on the word is intended to infuriate, but she does not have that power. I doubt anything does now.
I drag myself onto the high cot she indicates, and turn my back on both of them. There is a jab in my neck, just as I expected.
I wonder which poison she has used. Kalish come from Scarran space, where neurotrin gas is openly sold, but its liquid form is not the best for extracting information. "I have nothing to tell you," I say, and it gives me some pleasure that their interrogation will be fruitless. "It's not a matter of resistance. I know nothing about wormholes, about Peacekeeper movements--"
"Sleep," the woman says. When I am next aware I am strapped to the cot, encased in some kind of suit. Scorpius bends over me, his fetid breath coating my face. In his glittering eyes, I see that I have become him at last.
Scarran shadows hang in the corners of the room, huge hulked shapes impossible to mistake for anything else. They stretch their hands towards me and the fire becomes intolerable.
"You will not die," Scorpius hisses. "I will not allow it."
John once spoke of a place beneath the surface of his planet, where you burn and burn when you've done things that are beyond forgiveness.
I suppose this is what he meant.
In darkness, I hear Chiana call my name. It echoes low and long, to where I lay in ashes deep beneath the ground.
"Aeryn." So close this time, it's as if she has her lips right beside my ear. "Aeryn. Come back."
I cannot move, cannot answer. I think my eyes are open, but I cannot see.
This must be the living death.
Once before, I almost came to this. John was new and untested. I did not yet trust him with my life, but I thought that I could trust him with my death.
Maybe it will be D'Argo who finally understands, does what is necessary to release me.
At the end of his life John was content, beloved, surrounded by friends. At the end of mine, I am not even dead.
When I finally wake, I know the fever will not come back. I have walked to the edge of the living death and peered right in, but somehow, it did not claim me. I have escaped again.
The coolant suit lies crumpled on the floor, still slick inside from my sweat. It is too cold in the room clad in nothing but my underwear, but I will not wear that another microt.
The Kalish tells me I owe my life to Scorpius, who made me this suit when I first came back to Moya. I listen to the story she tells, about Ullam of Hokothia and how she and Crichton fooled him, but I know I did not kill the Hokothian leaders. I was on Bedi Prime, perfectly well, half a cycle ago.
I never came back to Moya. No matter how hard they try to convince me otherwise, I must hold onto that.
I move towards the door and Sikozu edges closer to the wall. "I want to see John."
"He's okay, he's gonna be fine. He had Winona on the lowest setting." Chiana wavers before me, as much a product of her overexcitement as the residual effects of my fever. "So, you know, you blew a hole right through him, but at least you didn't blow his head off."
"I want to see him." I have to see him with my own eyes, touch him with my own hands. Only then can I believe I did not kill him.
She trades glances with Noranti, who remains as far from me as she can get. That is fine, my abdomen is still sore from the heat cramps and between Chiana's movement and Noranti's smell, I feel as if I'm on a garbage scow, the only time in my training I ever got spacesick.
"Aeryn, he won't know you're there. Come, I'll take you to your quarters. You need to rest." Chiana wraps a golden sheet around my shoulders, tries to guide me in the other direction.
"Don't touch me." I jerk away by reflex, my hands naturally falling into combat position. She backs away, looking hurt. I've little strength, that's obvious, but I can still do some damage.
Noranti burbles from her wall. "Let her go. She won't rest until she's seen him."
"Fine." Chiana scoops up the sheet and throws it at me. "Go frelling make yourself sick again, I don't care."
It takes half an arn to reach him, not because he is so far away, but because I have to keep stopping for breath.
Crichton lies where I was a solar day ago, on a bed in the medical facility. Alive, asleep via Noranti's drugs, not unconscious. The wound is small, and healing well.
The room spins with relief and I kneel beside the bed, afraid of falling. Or worse, of waking him.
I have not had time to look at him before, the events of my arrival went too fast. There are lines on this man's forehead that were not there before. The muscles in his arms and shoulders seem more defined even in sleep, his bones more prominent. He looks worn down, pared away.
His hair still feels familiar. I rest my cheek on my arm and allow myself to touch just that much of him. I could be back on Talyn, watching the other John sleep, considering how long I would let him rest before moving over him to begin again. The desire to recreate had never been so permanently with me; no matter how often I had him, it was never enough.
Maybe we knew we would not have long together. It was a logical assumption based on the facts, on the life we led. If he had not died, if we had returned to Moya, where the Crichton we refused to think about waited, what would have happened then?
We put those questions aside, as I put John Crichton aside after I left. I had been taught to hold nothing close, to expect nothing from life but fulfillment of duty and honourable death. I learned that again as I relearned Peacekeeper discipline, and I was grateful for the quiet. The crate I found on Bedi Prime brought everything back, as if it were my memories packed away between those layers of fibre grass.
Crichton turns his head to look at me, eyes filmy and bloodshot but still so strangely blue.
"I'm sorry," I hear myself babbling. "I'm so very sorry."
He doesn't answer. His eyes seem to dim before they close again, as if he were slowly backing away from me, from my hand stroking his hair.
Love is a softening, that is what I remember. A hesitation, a misjudgment. My eyes were so full of John, and his of me, that neither of us bothered to look clearly at Furlow. It is a mistake I dare not make again.
I stumble along the corridors until I find the quarters that used to be mine and remember that there are no surveillance cameras on Moya.
I have not cried in a very long time, not since the day I left him.
"What the hell have we got here, instant frelling replay?" I can hear Crichton shouting long before I reach command. "What part of 'Fuck off' do you guys not understand?"
"You will allow us to board and retrieve Aeryn Sun at once. Our scans show you have no weapons. We would prefer not to fire upon your leviathan."
I step into command, only to walk straight into D'Argo, who quickly ushers me out.
"It's under control. Don't show yourself."
I push past him. No time to explain. Crichton stands defiant before the viewscreen, cradling his right arm in a makeshift sling. Gahn will certainly fire upon Moya any second. The only surprising thing is that they would bother to retrieve me first.
"Officer Aeryn Sun, reporting for duty, sir." I move in front of Crichton, present myself to the screen at full attention.
Surprise breaks through the harsh angles of Gahn's face. There is something in him that reminds me of John, though whatever it is, it's not apparent on the surface. In my weakest moments, I have even considered recreating with him.
"You are absent without authorisation, Officer Sun. Have you been held on this leviathan against your will?"
The question has several edges. Do we escort you back free or in restraints, in your own ship or with an attachment of prowlers? There is, of course, no option not to return.
"I have been ill, sir. These people have been looking after me."
Alitha comes into view on the edge of the screen. Whatever she is saying, it is not picked up by the comms, but I know what it might be. Alitha knows that I was not feeling well before I left; she had been urging me not to take the recon assignment.
Gahn does not acknowlege he has heard. "We are less than twenty arns from our destination. You will be back onboard within one or we will be forced to take measures." The viewscreen winks out, to be replaced by the stars.
"Since when do you take orders from Peacekeepers?" Crichton asks. His tone has an odd, dry quality. I'm not surprised to look over at him and find Winona in his good hand.
"You're pretty fast to draw that thing."
"You're still faster."
"Guy's gotta even the score somehow."
I look at D'Argo, standing legs apart with his arms folded across his chest. His gaze is firmly on the viewscreen. He will offer no help.
"They're from my unit. I told you I had joined a renegade squad."
I lean against the table to steady myself as it all sinks in. Gahn is real. My memories are real. I was never captured. I have not lost my mind.
John takes three steps forward and presses Winona against my forehead.
"Then where's the real Aeryn Sun? Where's the Aeryn that was here with us?"
"John?" The fever is gone, but once again everything is upside down and backward.
"I shot one bot, don't think I won't do it again. Where is Aeryn Sun?"
"I am Aeryn Sun!" I try to step back, but the table is right behind me and there's nowhere to go.
"John, stop!" D'Argo pushes us apart, puts his body between me and Crichton. He points a finger at me. "Explain!"
"I've already told you. Lieutenant Gahn is from my unit. That is where I went when I left Moya. That is where I'm supposed to be now."
"Why would Peacekeepers be travelling on a freighter?"
"Because we are not Peacekeepers, and the work we do is secret."
John lowers the gun at last. He's staring at me as if he can't decide whether to shoot me or shoot himself.
"Hey, Crichton?" Chiana asks, as I leave the Command. "If this is really Aeryn, who the frell's been here this whole time?"
I am in my prowler and primed, but they will not let me go.
"I'm sorry, Officer Sun, but I am under orders from Captain D'Argo not to open the hangar bay doors until he has spoken to you."
Pilot sounds like his reasonable self, but his words make no sense. There has never been a captain on Moya.
I hear a thump on the canopy and look up to see D'Argo's fist.
He has no weapon in his hands when I open the canopy and stand to look out. No weapon but Chiana and the Kalish, holding on to the nose of the prowler as if that can keep me here.
"Captain?" I ask.
D'Argo nods, almost looking embarrassed.
"Aeryn. If you are truly Aeryn, then hear me out."
I sit on the edge of the cockpit and listen to the story he tells, to Sikozu and Chiana and the details they add.
"Why would you want to risk your life like this?" I ask when they have finished, when they have outlined the edges of an insane plan. "When you are not even sure who this woman is?"
D'Argo glances at Chiana, as if looking for permission to speak. "Because Crichton believes she is Aeryn Sun. And he will frell the entire universe to get her back."
"Katratzi," Sikozu repeats. "Can your people help us? Do you know where it is?"
Perhaps it is fate that brought Moya across my path. Why else should they be asking for the very place we have been assigned to destroy?
They make odd allies, John Crichton and Biell Tobay, staring at each other over the flimsies Gahn has laid out.
Without Tobay's intel, it would have taken them monens, perhaps cycles, to find Katratzi. They'd have flown right across Scarran space, never knowing they had passed it along the way.
"Here and here," Gahn tells me, pointing out the ventilation ducts that supply air to the prisoner cellars. "Twenty-five to thirty denches wide."
I measure the span with my hands. Roughly the width of my shoulders. Too narrow for the men. Especially Crichton, whose injury has yet to fully heal.
"I'll need Alitha. And--"
"Negative." Tobay speaks to Crichton, not to me. "We are sorry for your loss, but we cannot spare personnel for a pointless extraction. If the Scarrans took your shipmate several days ago, she is already dead."
"You don't know that," Crichton says quietly.
"I do. We Sebaceans do not survive Scarran interrogation. She has either told them all she knows, in which case they have used and disposed of her, or she has managed to resist, in which case they will continue trying to extract the information until she enters the living death."
"Then we'll retrieve her body," Crichton insists. "We don't leave our friends behind." He glances at me quickly, sharp as a knife.
Tobay follows Crichton's gaze to me.
"I have fought with them in the past," I say. "They will be fine."
Gahn and Tobay exchange a look, a subtle nod. "For the Kalish and the weapons, we will transport two others." Tobay concedes. "You will have approximately one-half arn to retrieve your comrade. Gather what you've promised and Sun will bring you aboard."
There is silence when they've gone.
"John, perhaps--" D'Argo finally says.
"No." Crichton straightens, looks over my head to stare D'Argo down. "That was Aeryn. Believe me, I would know."
No one makes the pertinent statement. We cannot both be Aeryn Sun.
"Take this," Crichton says, shoving some kind of apparatus across the table at me. He is still angry that he won't be going down to the base, but D'Argo has finally convinced him he does not have enough motion in his right arm to wield a gun.
If that too is fate, I will bow to it. At least I will not have to watch him die.
"What is it?"
He does not look up from the cartridge he's carefully filling with armour-piercing projectiles. "Tarkan body shield. I don't know how well it will work against their heat ray, but it did pretty good in a lava bath."
I lay the shield on top of the pile of armaments I'm collecting. The last case of Felarian grenades. A large gun he says he got on Earth, capable of spewing a hundred of the small projectiles he calls bullets.
"You'll need to keep shooting yourself for the shield to work."
"Only you, Crichton, could come up with something as ridiculous as that."
For a moment our eyes meet and it's so familiar I even smile. He does not smile back.
I turn back to my grenades to hide the tremble in my hands. I know better than to allow this sort of weakness. What we have to do will require every ounce of my concentration.
"These will pierce armour," he says, holding up an Earth bullet to catch my attention. "If they won't go through a Scarran, nothing will."
He shows me how the small gun works, how the top must be jerked back to allow the first bullet to slide into the firing chamber. The movement requires enough strength to make him wince in pain.
"Chiana's not going to be able to cock this in the heat of battle."
"So you or D will have to do it for her."
"Crichton, you know I can't go with them."
He slams the gun down on the table. "Then you are not Aeryn Sun."
Among the many species on Moya, there is one who can safely enter Scarran space. Because we found the Kalish, we no longer have to come in hot.
'A trowdjan horss,' Crichton called us, something that will be allowed to enter because it looks harmless.
Sikozu pilots the shuttler while the rest of us huddle below decks, in a chamber specially constructed to resist bio-energy scans. We have used nearly all our food supply to fill the cargo bay, but that is irrelevant. We will not be needing food on the freighter after this; none of us who go in are likely to make it out.
I wear the coolant suit beneath my armour. It will not protect me from direct attack, but it might allow me to last long enough in the central power chamber to place the explosives where they will do the most damage. The Tarkan shield I give to Chiana. Perhaps she will survive to bring it back to Crichton.
D'Argo keeps his distance from both of us, a difficult thing to do in the confines of the hidden chamber, studying the flimsies as if he could memorise them. Scorpius kept himself hidden when my commanders were on Moya, but I saw the two of them together just before we left, and I know he's contributed something to D'Argo's plan.
So far, none of my unit have discovered Scorpius's presence. If they did, I know they would kill him in an instant. I would like to understand why that is unacceptable to the rest of Moya's crew, but there will be no chance to ask.
The chamber resists scans, but not all sound. We stand silent in the dark after Sikozu has landed, listening to the argument overhead. At last, all is quiet. Sikozu must have convinced them this food has been ordered.
It seems an interminable wait before the hatch clicks open and she motions us out. "They left two guards, just outside the ship," she whispers. Gahn signals Trey to join him. Both carry the small projectile weapons supplied by Crichton as part of the deal.
Chiana squeezes my hand when the guns go off, terrified and defiant, and in that moment I understand why they are here. We kill, we die, we do what we must, and if we are not machines, it is always for love.
We blow a hole in the first ventilation shaft we see, and Chiana wriggles inside without a word of goodbye. The rest of us head for the maintenance stairwell just inside the loading bay doors. Twenty-four personnel, four key targets. The others peel off as we descend; only Alitha taps my faceplate for farewell.
D'Argo is assigned to us until we reach the lower levels, where he will have to find and breach the prisoner blocks alone. My detachment's assignment is simple: get as close to the power center as possible before the explosives we carry detonate on their own.
We are nearly to the bottom when the klaxons go off. We threw the bodies of the two guards down the disposal conduit; something else must have set off the alert.
"Captain!" Gahn snaps.
D'Argo is holding his tunic to his ear, trying to hear Chiana above the noise.
"Three lost, pinned down at thirty metras." Tobay is panting hard. Their target was in the command-level residence, he must have run right into a platoon of guards. "Report."
"Intact, not acquired," Gahn answers. The other two replies are lost in the sound of a grenade going off.
I grab Gahn's sleeve, pull him to the wall and flip my faceplate up, turning off the comms.
"Sun!" he hisses in my helmet. "What the frell do you think you're doing?"
"D'Argo, Chiana. They'll never make it back without me." I lift my weapon. It's a larger version of the one Tobay carries and we both know damn well he'd have been dead within five microts without it. We'd probably have been shot out of the sky before we even landed, if it were not for the Kalish. "Let me give them a chance, as they gave us."
He flips his plate up as well. My suit must be working; I feel fine, but he is already drenched in sweat.
"You would desert us now?"
"Let them live, Gahn. This isn't their war." The others are waiting for Gahn's signal, deafened to our conversation by the helmets they wear. "I will still do what I must. Just let me get them in and out."
Gahn hesitates, then leans forward so that our helmets never touch. "If we survive," he says softly, "let our paths never cross."
He flips his helmet down and waves his hand. The first of our troops leap through the door.
The firing has already started by the time D'Argo and I come through. I grab his tunic and drag him in the opposite direction.
"What's the plan?" he growls, low, as if he'd been expecting me to stay with him all along. I indicate a turn towards hammond. We come around another corner to see three Scarrans running towards us.
I lift the gun, remember Crichton's explanation. Don't aim, just spray. I stop running and hold the trigger down.
It's a primitive weapon, requiring a good deal of strength to hold it steady as the string of bullets shimmies through, and its accuracy is negligible. It does, however, neatly pierce the skin of a Scarran.
I leap over the three bisected bodies, take down two more before we can clear the corridor. The voices of my unit shouting to each other as they make their own way forward is deafening. The small weapons, I can only hope, are as effective as mine.
"She's got her!" D'Argo shouts, suddenly pulling me toward one of the blocks of cells.
I learn the strange weapon as I go, moving and firing, aware of the string of bullets rapidly coming to an end. By the time we reach the end of the block the floor is littered with dead Scarrans, and I am nearly out.
The passageway has no exit. I flip my visor up and station myself full centre, awaiting the next wave of attack. D'Argo uses the Qualta rifle to obliterate the lock on the last cell. He kicks the door open and Chiana stumbles out.
"Frell," she screams, and I push her back behind me. Another wave of Scarrans, and I'm aware of a sudden heat in my side. The last of the bullets takes them down.
I duck into the prison cell to reload, clumsy with the unfamiliar apparatus.
It's not me that D'Argo is calling. He's speaking to a crumpled pile of black clothing lying on the filthy stone floor of the cell.
I get the next string of bullets fed through at last. "Let's go!" I shout, as I move back to the door and crouch low to peer around.
A grenade comes rolling down the corridor. I watch in horror as Chiana leaps from beside me and runs towards it.
The explosion is blinding, close enough to knock me to the ground. I manage to stand and see a grey form staggering towards me through the smoke.
"Futbal," she says, laughing like a lunatic before collapsing at my feet.
It's sheer luck that gets us out. The grenade has blown a hole in the blank side of the passage, revealing a maintenance access running parallel between the two blocks of cells.
I move as quickly as I can through the maze of pipes and thick pillars, hugging Chiana to my side. She's alive thanks to the shield; semi-coherent, though her feet do not move as quickly as I'd like. The weight of her sends waves of pain arcing out from the wound in my side, but I grasp her tighter and force us on.
The passage ends in a flight of stairs and I shove Chiana ahead of me, shouting at D'Argo not to stop. Behind me, I can hear him grunting beneath the weight of the woman he carries. It's only then I realise the voices in my helmet have gone completely silent.
The first explosion comes from far away, just as we reach the top. D'Argo is still one flight below us, pulling himself up by the handrail, his burden slung haphazardly over one shoulder.
Chiana slides behind me, reaching to help him up. I crack the door just far enough to peer out and when I turn again, she has D'Argo's Qualta blade in her hand.
Three quick moves and it's a rifle again. She grits her teeth and nods, raises it behind me.
I peer through the few denches of open doorway. We are on the far side of the hangar, not exactly where I hoped we'd come out. There is nothing between us and the shuttler but a huge expanse of open ground.
A second explosion rocks the stairs beneath our feet. Not the power station, not yet, but our time is running out.
"What the frell do we do?" Chiana hisses.
I look at D'Argo, who has caught up to us, chest heaving with effort. He gives me a grim nod and shifts the woman higher, gets a tight grip on her legs.
I check my string of bullets. Nearly out.
Suicide. In the end it's so often that. Take the suicide run or die where you stand.
"Follow me," I tell them. "Low and not in a straight line. If I go down, don't stop. Don't stop for anything until you get there."
I kick the door open before they can argue. It's a long way, a very long way. One Scarran on my left. I get off a clean shot before he can raise his weapon. Three more steps and I feel a second blast of heat against my shoulder, angle the machine gun that way and fire. Fourteen steps and a complete squadron of footsoldiers appear in the main entrance, heading right towards us.
A moment later, they disappear in a white cloud.
I look up in time to see Sikozu drop from the ceiling, onto the floor in front of me. "Shoot!" she screams, pointing towards my left. I whirl and paper the hammond side of the hangar with a layer of bullets, the last I have.
It's enough to get us there. Chiana leaps aboard and I grab D'Argo and the unconscious woman, thrust them both into Chiana's arms.
"Aeryn!" D'Argo reaches for me and I step back, hauling the bag of explosives over my head. The timer is on red. Five microts or less.
"Go, you fekkiks!" I scream at them. "Go!"
Sikozu is already in the pilot's seat, hands a blur on the controls. The loading doors groan their way slowly closed, just as a pulse blast cuts through the empty space, barely missing me.
I turn and hurl the bag in the direction of the doors, struggling against the arms around my waist, trying to drag me back on board.
Sikozu pulls the acceleration back, hard. Loose in the empty bay, D'Argo and I slide across the floor, slam into the just-closed doors. He still has his arm around me.
"Id-ee-ut," he growls.
The ship clears the edge of the dock a microt before the hangar blows apart.
The heat I felt, and the dreams, they must have come from her. Another me, eyes open, but sightless; lying ragged and limp in D'Argo's arms.
I crouch before them. Her face is mine, though the bones jut out at harsher angles, and her hair is so long it spills onto the ground.
This must be how John felt, confronted with his twin. This irrational urge to attack, this need to destroy what should not exist. There should not be two of us. There cannot be two of us. I was never in the place where John was twinned.
D'Argo cradles the woman close, brushing the hair out of her face with a tenderness I've rarely seen him exhibit.
"She's gonna be okay, right?" Chiana comes and kneels by D'Argo's side. "Right? She's gonna be okay, now we've got her back?"
"No." I do not know how she can look so much like me, but I know the answer to that. "No, she will not come back. She's in the living death."
Sikozu sends the news ahead at my insistence. I have not forgotten what happened the day we came back from Talyn, the hope draining from Crichton's eyes. I cannot do that to him again.
We land, and we are alive, but there is no celebration. The wrong Aeryn Sun has survived.
I remain on the shuttler as long as I can after they have carried her away, but at last the pain in my side forces me to come down. Pulse wounds infect quickly if they are not cleaned, even simple scores such as these. I had expected them to be in the medical bay, not in my quarters. I should have realised they were no longer mine.
It is Crichton who holds her now, on his knees by the bed, rocking back and forth with his face buried against her neck. He cries like a child, like nothing I have ever heard, a terrible strangled sound that roots me where I stand. I would not wish anyone to see me cry like that, but he doesn't seem to notice the crowd gathered around him; Sikozu on the other side of the bed and Chiana draped like a coat across his back.
D'Argo stands above them all, standing guard, tears running unashamed down his cheeks. By the time I begin to breathe again, become aware of my feet and the need for a silent retreat, he has noticed I am there.
He comes towards me, one hand raised as if he thought I might enter and disturb them.
"What is she?" I ask. Not quite the question, but I do not know how to phrase the one I want to ask. Who was she to him, what did she do that she should be cried over like that?
D'Argo waves the doors closed, puts an arm around my shoulders to guide me away. "She is you. About nine cycles older, Noranti says."
"That's not possible."
He wipes the tears from his face and nods. "Yes," he sighs. "Yes, Aeryn. It is."
We walk in silence to the central chamber, where he sits me down, reaches up to a high shelf and takes down a bottle of holnak.
I hate holnak, it's a taste only a Luxan could find pleasurable, but I drink down the cup he pours for me. And another.
He drinks two himself, and sets the bottle and the cup between us.
"Aeryn," he says quietly. "Noranti also says she never had the child."
I nod stupidly. "The body sheds the embryo after seven cycles, if the stasis has not been released."
I reach for the bottle and he covers my hand with his own. "Two is enough for Sebaceans. You don't realise it, but you're already drunk."
He's right, of course. It's all taken on a certain distance, so much that even the whine of Rygel's thronesled does not disturb me. "Holnak?" he says, immediately spying the bottle on the table. "I don't suppose you've got any left?"
There's no joy in his voice, none of the usual greed I remember. D'Argo passes the bottle without comment. Rygel pours himself a cup, tosses it down and licks his lips.
"Still frelling awful," he says miserably. He puts the cup down and looks at me. "Tell me you're not going to go walking on high ledges again."
I close my eyes. Even the holnak can't distance that memory.
"Aeryn." Rygel pats my shoulder, forces me back to the present.
"Do you believe there can be two Aeryn Suns?"
"Of course," he answers. "Two Johns, two Aeryns. It's all getting to be a habit. Soon there'll be two of me, eating everything in the galley."
"You don't do that already?" D'Argo says, pulling the bottle over to refill his cup.
"Two Norantis," Rygel offers.
D'Argo shudders at the thought, blowing air out of his nose.
Something rushes up inside of me and I lean forward, brace my elbows against the table and cover my face. "Too much holnak," D'Argo says, leaning over to wrap his hands around my wrists.
"Yeah," I mumble, though we all know it's got nothing to do with the drink.
On Talyn, it was I who prepared John for space, though I lay beside him for almost a full solar day before I could force myself to do it. I would not have Crais handle his body so intimately, and I would not want Crichton to have to do that for me.
And so I bathed this other Aeryn, dressed her in clothes I found in our quarters, things that were new to me. I brushed her too-long hair, and catalogued the unfamiliar scars. Whatever I would go through in the next nine cycles, I would not escaped unmarked.
"You would not wish to live in this state," D'Argo says from the doorway. It's a statement, not a question, but I shake my head anyway.
He comes towards us, slowly drawing his Qualta blade. "You should not remain."
"I will do it." I had not intended to say that, but as soon as I have, I realise that of course it must be me. I am all the family we have. It is my obligation. My duty.
I draw myself up, turn to face the Luxan, soldier to soldier. In this we have always understood one another, D'Argo and I.
"Not in this instance, Aeryn." Damn him for the compassion in his eyes. That is not what I need.
"In this instance above all others," I say.
He gives me the blade and crosses his arms against his chest. "Then I, too, will remain."
We sit beside her for a very long time, one on each side.
I see now why my species beg to be killed before we enter this state. It is so much easier to kill someone convulsing in pain. This Aeryn stares at nothing, feels nothing. Wants nothing. She is only breath.
It's a state I almost envy.
"Noranti's drugs will not last much longer," D'Argo finally says. "We must do this while Crichton is still asleep."
"He will not forgive us."
"No, he will not forgive us." A heavy sigh, and then he adds, "Do you really think it would be easier for him if we wait?"
I put D'Argo's blade aside. I don't know why I asked for it; the shedding of blood is not for mercy. I wait until I am quiet inside, then I take her head between my hands and snap her neck.
D'Argo places her body carefully in its coffin, arranges her hair, spends a long time looking at her face.
"If you are planning to leave Moya," he says at last, "do it now. Let him bury both of you when he wakes."
Crichton is on the terrace, his back against the wall. As if the illusion of floating among the stars is more than he can stand.
I enter and let the door close behind me.
"I haven't been here for a very long time," I say, tilting my head back to take in the full effect.
"I stopped coming up here after you left." His voice is cracked and dull and he does not turn to look at me. "The first time, when you went with him."
Several hundred microts of silence pass. "Why do you think she did it? Came back to this time?" I finally ask.
"Why do you think she never had the child? You think it wasn't John Crichton's?"
My hand goes automatically to my abdomen, the possibility lying dormant there. "I think there was a war. And she was alone. I don't think she...I..." I take a deep breath, concentrate on the stars above my head. "I don't think I ever came back to Moya."
He draws up even tighter at that.
"I don't know, maybe I looked and never found you, maybe I waited for fate to intervene and nothing happened." I fall silent. I feel like a thief, stealing her life, saying 'I', yet speaking of someone I've not become. Yet.
"I would have destroyed the universe for her. For you." He goes on staring at the stars, and at last I realise what he's doing here. He's looking for her. Looking for the constant center I could not be for him.
Maybe it was she who stole my life, did what I did not have the courage to do.
"You told me once that I could change. Do you think...do you think that's how we change the future?"
"There's a theory." He stops to wipe his tears with the side of his hand. "That each choice we make collapses all others. And all the futures which stem from them."
"So if we change the past--"
"You already did." He glances at me from the corner of his eye. "You killed the Prime Hokothian."
"No, I didn't. We were there, but he was assassinated later. No one knows who did it." The implications fall into place. "That's why she came back."
He shrugs, as if it no longer matters.
I move into the room, fold myself up to sit beside him. "But how?"
"Wormholes." He closes his eyes. "Isn't that what it's always about?"
"But how could I, how could she--"
"I don't know." He opens his eyes and draws a shaky breath.
"Do you still love John Crichton?" he asks. So quiet and flat, as if even that much hope is now beyond him.
"Yes." I catch my breath against the tears, flooding my eyes without warning.
I want it to be as John believed, that wherever she went, he was there to meet her. That we can choose our future, microt by microt, step by step.
I look up, follow his line of vision to where a small chromium coffin floats unseen among the stars. I will not be bound as I have been, as she was. Perhaps fate comes to us, perhaps we go to meet it; perhaps she changed it all, and gave us both a second chance.
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"Impossible is not in our vocabulary." -- Terra Firma
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