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
John Crichton deactivated the invisibility shield and landed the Farscape module behind his father's lake house. John and Jessica climbed out of the cockpit. Katie, happy to see her father again, ran out of the house and into her father's arms as Leslie, Mike and DK looked on. "Daddy Daddy Daddy! I'm so glad you're here!" John Crichton dreaded telling his daughter, his little princess, why he had come to Maine. Katie seemed so completely happy, and he didn't want to do anything to change that.
Jessica's heart broke, knowing what John had to tell his daughter. "I'll tell the others," she said quietly as she entered the house. Katie immediately became alarmed.
"Katie, I have some very bad news for you," John said as he carried Katie into the kitchen. He held Katie as he told her that her grandparents were dead, assassinated by the Scarrans; and continued to hold his daughter as she cried. When Katie had finished, she very calmly said "It's because they couldn't get to me, isn't it, Daddy? The Scarrans wanted to kill me to interrupt the line of succession, and they couldn't find me, so they went after Grandmama and Grandpapa instead."
John looked into his daughter's eyes, still wet with tears. He nodded and said "Yeah. No one thought they'd have the nerve to try it, but they did. And we have to get you back to the Royal Planet before any civil unrest has a chance to grow, or a sense of panic sets in," he said softly. This was part of the Scarran plan all along: interrupt the line of succession, and hope civil war (or at least unrest) breaks out. And as the Scarrans were ready to pay dissidents and agitators, the chances of this happening were very good.
"When do we leave for the Royal Planet, Daddy?" a solemn Katie asked. John closed his eyes, and touched his forehead to his daughter's.
"You leave for the Royal Planet as soon as I bring you back to Moya," John told Katie quietly.
Katie, surprised, pulled away. "You're not coming with me? Daddy!" Katie couldn't help but whine, then she resumed crying.
John hugged his daughter close and said, "I'm sorry, Katie, but I do have a plan. Granddad will take you to the Royal Planet; he'll be your guardian for awhile. And Rygel has agreed to go with you and act as political advisor. Say what you will about the toad, but he knows his politics and how to navigate through court intrigue. And even though Moya, as a diplomatic vessel, is supposed to be safe from attack, Aeryn - Brigadier Sun-has arranged for a security detail from the Zeuxis."
Katie tried to stop crying. She felt better knowing Granddad would be with her, but Katie also wanted her father to escort her to the Royal Planet. "And where will you be?" she asked, and hoped it didn't sound petulant.
"I'll be staying behind. I'm going to train Prowler pilots," he answered.
Katie looked puzzled. "But the Peacekeepers and the Royal Defense Force have pilots."
John sighed and said "Yeah--Sebacean pilots that are stopped by the Scarran heat shield."
Katie smiled brightly. "You're going to train human pilots, aren't you? Human pilots who won't go into heat delirium and crash their Prowlers!"
"Got it in one, Princess."
It had been a long day. What had started on board the USS Ticonderoga three days ago as diplomatic negotiations had quickly turned into forging a mutual protection pact. The Zeuxis would remain, orbiting Earth, in case the Scarrans attacked. The latest intelligence indicated otherwise: that the Scarrans were massing for an all-out offensive against the Royal Planet and its territories.
"Let me see if I understand you correctly, General Crichton," Fleet Admiral Morrissey of the British Navy asked. "In exchange for the protection of Brigadier Suns' ship, the Zeuxis, you want us to give you human pilots." She was nothing if not skeptical.
"Yeah. Earth militaries have exchange programs, right?" Crichton asked. He was getting impatient with all the briefings and negotiations. "Your point?"
"My point is, if the intelligence reports are correct and Earth is NOT a Scarran target after all, then the Zeuxis might as well be on R & R for all the risks they are taking. Our pilots, however, will be going into battle in unfamiliar ships against a heavily armed enemy." The large contingent of generals and admirals from Earth's G-8 countries looked the former astronaut expectantly.
John Crichton looked at the middle-aged woman and suppressed the very real desire to strangle her. John reminded himself to be civil to the admiral.
"That's exactly the point, Admiral Morrissey. Sure the Scarrans have big, bad, guns; but as I've already explained, they are running low on ordinance. They're running low on everything ever since the Nebari War - that's why they're trying to take the Royal Planet and it's protectorates. They want the natural resources to rebuild their own planets." Crichton paused to take a deep breath, and thought that this is what it would be like if Mr. Rogers gave a military briefing. "When Scarrans engage Sebaceans in battle, they use a heat shield. The shield induces heat delirium in Sebaceans, who end up crashing their ships if they're lucky, or flying in any direction until their fuel runs out and they starve to death if they're unlucky. Humans look Sebacean. We modify some sensors to emit Sebacean life readings & heat signatures instead of human, then the Scarrans will use their heat shield instead of the frag cannons - they need to save the ordinance for other species. Then, instead of falling to the heat delirium, the human Prowler pilots attack virtually unopposed. With enough human pilots in the first sorties during a synchronized attack, we can take out every major Scarran offensive hold, and most of their defensive holds in one strike."
"Still, the risks are very high. It will take months of training for our pilots to learn to fly these Prowlers," said Gen. Luigi D'Amico of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana, the Italian Air Force. "Surely you need pilots sooner than that for your plan to work.
"Gimme four weeks and I'll turn any pilot with at least 1,000 hours of flight time in a single-seat tactical fighter into a Prowler pilot." His audience was stunned. He continued, "Pilots with Harrier or other V-STAL experience would be preferred, but I'll take any experienced pilot who wants to volunteer," Crichton said firmly.
"Why Harrier pilots?" Admiral Morrissey asked. The RAF had Harriers-the so-called jump jets--she didn't want to lose an inordinate number of pilots.
Crichton smiled and said, "Any pilot with V-STAL -Vertical or Short Take-off And Landing-experience would have an easier time in training - the Prowlers have pedals in addition to hand controls. Hell, I'll take Apache helicopter pilots, too - they'd be able to transfer to the Prowler quite easily, as well."
"You sound very sure of yourself," Gen. D'Amico replied.
"Look, we'll train in phases. First phase, classroom training: lectures on enemy weapons, defensive maneuvers, general technical info, and getting used to the PK pressure suits. This will be done while the flight simulators are upgraded to the Prowler design. Brigadier Suns' techs are already modifying one on the USS Ticonderoga. Second phase, intensive simulator time. Third phase, training flights."
It seemed to go on for hours, but in the end Earth signed the pact.
USS Ticonderoga, Officer's Mess.
While John Crichton was busy negotiating with seemingly every general and admiral on Earth, Aeryn and Robert "Howdy" Jones decided to jump the gun and go about informally recruiting pilots. With Howdy translating, Aeryn briefly told the interested personnel what qualifications they were looking for, and about Prowlers - their maneuvering, speed, weapon systems, etc. She estimated that of the twenty or so pilots gathered here, maybe two or three would actually volunteer; and for every ten volunteers, eight would probably wash out or drop out.
One of the pilots raised his hand, and Aeryn nodded at him. He stood and said "Ma'am, I'm Jim McDowel. I don't mean to be impolite. You referred to the Prowler's speed in terms of hecht drive - can you rephrase that in human terms?"
Aeryn spoke to Howdy, who looked surprised, whistled softly, then translated. "Prowlers can fly at least has fast as Mach 9, although this speed is not recommended for dogfights." Lt. McDowel tried to absorb this, and muttered to himself "shee-it!"
Brigadier Aeryn Sun looked around the room and saw similar amazement. She also noticed that there were nineteen males and three females. She turned to Howdy and asked, "Why are there so few female pilots here?"
"Well, Brigadier, most militaries on Earth do not allow women in combat. Some, like Israel do, but women have a limited combat role in the US military," he replied.
"We have to recruit women - Peacekeeper forces are almost evenly split, and many commanders believe females make better pilots. If we show up with a majority of male pilots, the Scarrans will suspect something."
Katie had finished showing Jack Crichton his new quarters. Katie thought it was funny that he insisted on bringing his toothbrush even after she told him about the dentics. "But Grandad, the dentics really are more efficient," she reassured him.
Jack laughed and picked up his granddaughter. "Sweetie, when you get to be my age, you don't always care about efficient. You just want to get through the day without putting any bugs in your mouth!"
Chiana and Rygel appeared at the doorway. Chiana smiled brightly and said, "So, Princess Katralla and Counselor Crichton, are you ready for dinner?" She didn't bother asking Rygel; he was always ready for dinner. The four friends made their way down the gold colored corridor towards the center chamber. They met several of Moya's diplomatic passengers and nodded as they passed.
Jack, startled, asked, "Did you just call me 'Counselor' Crichton?"
Chiana nodded, but before she could respond, Rygel answered for her. "Yes, it seemed a good compromise - you told me that Americans do not use aristocratic titles. Besides, it would have been too confusing to have two Lord Crichtons, even though John is also a general "
Pilot quietly observed the scene before him. Zhaan and D'Argo often came to his den to discuss an item of great import. With the large diplomatic presence on Moya, it was one of the few places they could be guaranteed privacy.
Lt. Marv, senior-ranking officer of the Peacekeeper security detail for the future Empress Katralla, just stared at the beautiful Delvian priest. He could not believe what she had just said.
"Pa'u Zhaan, are you sure? It is very dangerous for you to go off by yourself in an unarmed transport pod."
General Ka D'Argo stood with his arms crossed in front of him and said, "I agree." He had long ago gotten over the irony of being on the same side as the Peacekeepers. And Lt. Marv seemed to be an honorable man; many other Peacekeeper officers retained their hatred of other races. It was obvious that Brigadier Sun had successfully integrated her crew and taught them to accept other races.
Pa'u Zhotoh Zhaan laughed. Unlike D'Argo, she had not gotten over the irony of being on the same side as the Peacekeepers, and (after her years of imprisonment) having a PK officer concerned for her safety struck her as a little odd. "My dear boy," she said as she caressed Lt. Marv's cheek maternally, "there are no predators for me where I am going."
"Which is countless metras away!" the young officer protested. "Your safety is not guaranteed en route. I must insist on accompanying you." Even as he spoke, he knew he would lose the debate.
D'Argo again said, "I agree." He was deceptively calm. He knew he must remain aboard Moya and watch out for Katie as he had promised John, his friend and ally. But he also wanted to escort Zhaan to her destination, even though it would be far more dangerous for himself than for Zhaan.
"And we both know that you would not be safe once we arrive at my destination," Zhaan said quietly.
Marv sighed in defeat, then said, "Of course, you are right. But I insist that you take a Marauder, staffed by my men. I have enough personnel on this detail to spare two officers to escort you, Pa'u."
"They must of course be the two Delvians," Zhaan said.
"Of course," Lt. Marv replied.
The oft-ignored Pilot finally spoke up. "Zhaan, I took the liberty of plotting the safest course possible for you, as well as contacting the settlement. Em'Lee is looking forward to seeing you again."
Code One Magazine was instrumental in writing segments of this installment (www.codeonemagazine.com)
Thanks for reading!