Wayward astronaut John Crichton returns home after almost a decade away
from Earth, and brings his daughter. Insert your favorite disclaimer here.
Also, my only knowledge of any space program comes from re-runs of “I
Dream of Jeannie,” so don’t expect a lot of verisimilitude. Just suspend
[More corrections: in the last installment I wrote "There's a large alien craft orbiting the ISS." Well, of course I meant to write that there's an alien craft orbiting earth close to the ISS, or something like that. The ISS isn't the center of anything's orbit! Any volunteers for proof-reader and goof-catcher?]
"Yes, General Crichton, you are the devil I know, and as my grandmother used to say, better the devil you know than the one you don't." Gen. Simpson said as they entered the "situation room." John thought he looked a little less friendly now.
"Well, I'd like to get up to speed. Can I have a visual of the unknown craft? And how about hearing the first transmission?" John asked impatiently. He looked around, and realized there were only military personnel present; John didn't see any IASA administrators, engineers, or technicians in the room. "This is not good," John thought to himself.
One of several lieutenants in the room said "The visual will take longer, but you can listen to this while you wait," and pressed the play button on a tape recorder. Only John Crichton understood every word of it. To everyone else in the room, it was a jumble of clicks and other sounds, except the names Crichton and Moya.
"This is the Peacekeeper Carrier Zeuxis to Earth Space Station. Do you read, space station?"
"They won't understand you, Lieutenant Marv. They don't have translator microbes," Aeryn Sun explained.
"Brigadier Sun? If they don't have microbes, why are we even bothering? Should we board them instead?" Lt. Marv asked.
"Because we can't afford not to try," Brigadier Sun told Marv. Then to herself she said "I wish I paid more attention to John, if I knew more Earth words...Let me try something. (louder) Earth Space Station, this is Aeryn Sun. I was a shipmate to John Crichton aboard the Leviathan Moya. Please respond. We have urgent information to relay. (Pause) Perhaps we are not in their receiving range yet; we'll try again later."
John was both stunned and elated to hear Aeryn's voice again. Of course, he would prefer that Aeryn announced she had come to Earth to claim John Crichton as hers and hers alone and take him away to a secret love nest, but he knew how much she disliked public displays of affection and open declarations of love. But a guy can dream.
"It's all right - they're friends. Aeryn Sun is a Brigadier in the Peacekeepers, they're part of the Territorial Alliance. She says she has urgent information to relay. Let me talk to the Zeuxis," John said, and he hoped that he didn't sound to eager - he knew Simpson wouldn't react well to that.
"Visual's ready, sir" another lieutenant said, and they all looked at a monitor. They saw a massive (by earth standards) space ship. John recognized the design as similar to the Zelbinion. John could also see hasty repair work - the Zeuxis must have sustained heavy damage in battle, and there was no time to fully repair the ship.
John stood next to the monitor and pointed to various features as he spoke. "This is the Zeuxis - top of the Peacekeeper line. This insignia indicates it's membership in the Territorial Alliance, and it's obviously suffered damage. Please let me contact them and find out more."
Gen. Simpson frowned. "No. Tell us about all the weapons: range, type of damage they inflict, any weaknesses they have or how to disable them."
John didn't like the way this was going. "What's the word from the space station - has Nakahara pieced together anything new?" he asked.
Gen. Simpson merely said "Tell us about the weapons, John."
For some reason, Simpson reminded John of Scorpius. Inwardly, he shuddered. John ran a hand through his hair, then crossed his arms and said "I'm going to need some coffee."
"We're all out," Gen. Simpson said tersely.
"Well, that's OK; I'll just go get a soda - I saw a vending machine on the way in." John left before Simpson could say anything.
John saw several MP's in the corridor, he walked slowly so they wouldn't become suspicious. When John turned the corner and got to the soda machine, there was only one MP watching him. John ducked into a restroom, and left through the window. John made his way to the Farscape, his black uniform keeping him hidden. Luckily, everyone was too concerned with the Zeuxis to bother with securing the Farscape's hangar.
John and two night janitors moved the Farscape out of the hangar. After an abbreviated preflight check, John launched the Farscape for the second time that night. Overall, John was pleased with how easy it was to escape - except for the part of him that was insulted that Simpson regarded him as such an amateur.
John had thought about contacting the ISS, but decided against it -the less information Simpson had, the better. When John and the Farscape approached their destination. John pressed various buttons on his communications panel. "This is General, Lord Crichton to the Zeuxis, come in Zeuxis. Request permission to come aboard." John tried to remain calm; he couldn't believe he was going to see Aeryn again. They had seen each other only a handful of times since Aeryn had rejoined the Peackeepers and he had enlisted in the Royal Defense Force - the Nebari War didn't put itself on hold just because two people wanted to be together. Each time had been too short.
"John--General Crichton, this is Brigadier Aeryn Sun. Your request to come aboard is granted. Use docking bay four - it is the least damaged. General Crichton, I look forward to seeing you again." John could hear the emotion in Aeryn's voice - or had he only imagined it?
John opened Farscape's hatch and climbed out. There was the usual honor guard to greet General, Lord Crichton, but the only person in the hangar he really saw was the radiant Aeryn Sun. John wanted to run to Aeryn and gather her in his arms, but knew Aeryn would not allow it. Crichton removed his helmet and revealed the tattoo on his right cheek. The Zeuxis crew--Sebaceans, Delvians, Luxans, and Sheyang alike-- were shocked and surprised: they had never heard of anyone surviving a Scarran death camp before.
Lt. Marv, one of the original Sebacean members of the crew from before the Nebari War, could not fathom how General, Lord Crichton, could escape the living death. The young Sebacean took careful note of his commanding officer's reaction to their guest: Brigadier Sun inhaled sharply, and although she never lost her composure, seemed deeply affected by Crichton's presence.
Marv, like all aboard the Zeuxis, knew they were shipmates on Moya before the Nebari War, and that this was why Brigadier Sun was committed to having an integrated crew. While the PK's were afraid of contamination from other species, Brigadier Sun had learned first hand during her exile on Moya how different species could work together and play off each others' strengths. Brigadier Sun had also changed the role of techs aboard the Zeuxis. As non-combatants, techs were often treated as second-class members of a PK crew. Brigadier Sun, however, had often sought their input and advice on occasions. She even required some of her soldiers to cross-train as techs, and gave any tech who wanted it training for combat. The crew was hesitant (to say the least) at the beginning, but they knew that the only reason they survived their last encounter with the Scarrans was the combination of fighting and technical skills that the crew had attained.
Brigadier Aeryn Sun stepped forward. "Welcome aboard, General Crichton. It is good to see a familiar face after all this time," she said. "Does your presence here mean that your home world is now part of the Territorial Alliance?"
John stood with his arms akimbo, and laughed. Aeryn thought she would never hear his wonderful laughter again, and hoped to hear it for a long time to come. "Actually, I'm still trying to convince the leaders of Earth that they should join. But I'm not quite getting through. I keep telling them that they ought to deal with the Alliance before they have to deal with the Scarrans, but they're too scared to think straight."
Aeryn held her chin up and said "Well, they're going to have reason to be scared, John. The Scarrans have wormhole technology, and I think they're headed for Earth."