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
Aboard the International Space Station.
As the space shuttle crew readied for their return to Earth, John was busy showing off the modified Farscape module to his father, DK, and the rest of the ISS crew.
Katie was well-versed in Farscape’s features and capabilities, but tagged along to be with her new Granddad and Uncle DK. They were amazed at the biomechanical components, the defense shield, and the short-term invisibility shield.
“Where did you get that?” DK asked about the invisibility device.
“From a sociopath named T’Raltixx. It came at a high price – we paid for it with more than just crackers,” John answered cryptically.
“Of course, Daddy had to fix it so it would work right. Did you know my Daddy fought T’Raltixx in battle and won? Daddy was the only one who could fight him, because everybody else on Moya was affected by paranoia induced by T’Raltixx. Uncle D’Argo let Daddy use his Qualta blade. Uncle D’Argo told me all about it!”
“Uncle D’Argo told you all about it, princess? Remind me to never let a Luxan warrior tell you bedtime stories anymore,” said John as he tousled Katie’s golden brown hair. John hated the fact that Katie had lived almost her entire life in wartime, but hated even more that she had accepted it as a normal way of life. John hoped he could give his daughter a better life on Earth, even if only temporarily.
As the adults continued to discuss the modifications, Katie wondered why Daddy never talked about his victories in combat – either one-on-one, or as General in the Royal Defense Force. Even when Katie thought Tyno was her father she loved hearing about General, Lord Crichton’s exploits in battle. It was a good thing that, as Princess, Katie was expected to attend the ceremonies where the highest of military honors are bestowed, because Daddy would never have told her about his medals – he was very modest. Katie had been present when her Daddy had been decorated with the Royal Defense Medal, Distinguished Service Cross, Military Service Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, the Empress’ Medal for Gallantry and Bravery, and the Imperial Service Medal. But Katie’s favorite medal was the War Cross with Meritorious Service Ribbon, because she had given it to Daddy herself.
Toshi said “I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait to meet this D’Argo – sounds like he’s got a lot of great stories to tell! So, what are Luxans like, anyway?”
“Let’s see, they’re bipedal, like us, two arms like us, but they’re taller than humans and have tentacles on their heads. And they’re prone to hyper-rage, so you do not want to get on their bad side!”
“And this Ka D’Argo was your shipmate?” DK asked. He was still trying to resolve the scientist his friend was with the combat hardened soldier John had become.
“And one of my best friends, too. Hey, let’s have one last cup of coffee together – I’m buying!”
John, Jack, Katie and DK had the lounge to themselves. Both the ISS and space shuttle crews were giving them time to say their good-byes.
“Daddy, if the United States and the United Nations have both granted you diplomatic status, and you’re now the Territorial Alliance Ambassador to Earth, why do they want to keep your return to Earth a secret?” Katie asked over her hot chocolate. Growing up in the Palace with Empress Novia, Katie had a solid education in both palace and political intrigue, but was not familiar with Earth politics.
“Well, sweetie, they’re not sure how to explain my sudden reappearance after almost ten years, and they don’t want to frighten anyone. They want to take it slowly, figure out the best way to make the announcement that there is other life out there. That’s why we’ll be landing the Farscape module at an Air Force base away from Canaveral, where your Granddad and the shuttle will land. What few reporters that are still interested in shuttle landings will be there, and no one will know we’ve landed. Besides, it’ll give you a chance to be just a regular kid for a while, not Princess Katralla II, Heir to the Throne, Defender of the Realm, yadda yadda yadda. You can skip rope without the Palace Guard getting in your way.” John was doing his best to reassure Katie, but he had some misgivings of his own. He could only hope that everything went as planned.
Jack saw the concern on his son’s face. “Hey, don’t worry. The President personally guaranteed your safety; you’ll both be just fine. And they’re setting up new identities for the two of you – it’s not wise for John Crichton, prodigal astronaut, to use his ATM card just yet - the reporters would find out eventually. And,” Jack set down his coffee mug to pick up Katie, “while your Daddy is briefing the President and the UN Security Council and whoever else needs to be briefed, you are coming with me to Maine and you’re going to meet your aunts, uncles and cousins.”
Katie giggled. "Will there be ice cream? Daddy told me about it, and I can’t wait to try it!”
“Yes, there will be ice cream, and chocolate bars, and pizza and anything else you want to try” Jack said as he carefully spun his granddaughter around in the small lounge. Katie laughed some more. She couldn’t remember her Grandmama or Grandpapa on the Royal Planet ever holding her like this, or laughing so much. She knew that they were raising her to be a future Empress, but it was only now that Katie realized what she was missing out on—being treated as a child. Katie was very rarely allowed to act like a child, and it was usually when General, Lord Crichton visited the palace. He would find time to play games with Katie, or tell stories, like “Goldilocks and the Three Keedvas” or “Snow White and the Seven Hynerians,” or just ask her how her day went and actually listen to her reply.
There was a knock on the doorway. Captain Karl Robertson, commander of the Space Shuttle Endurance, walked in. “Dr. Knight?” he said.
“Please, call me DK, everyone does. Want to join us for a cup of coffee?”
“Actually, sir, there’s an incoming transmission for you, it’s urgent.”
“Urgent? OK, I’ll take it in command,’ DK said as he headed for the door.
“The offer for coffee is still good, Captain Robertson,” John said to the astronaut.
“I think I’d like that. This mission, it’s different from anything I’ve ever flown before,” he said with a sigh as he helped himself to a cup of coffee. “I mean, first they tell us the supply run is moved up –OK, no big deal,” he added sugar to his coffee. “But then someone at the Pentagon tries to send a team of Navy SEALS with us, then the President calls up and that order gets cancelled so fast it’ll make your head spin.” Karl looked for the non-dairy powdered creamer, looking in cabinets and not at his audience. “Next, I find out we have to take an old NASA retread with us to get his son’s remains, but the son isn’t dead after all--” Karl almost dropped his coffee when he turned around and saw that the NASA retread was in the room. “Oh, crap.”
“Granddad, what is ‘crap’?” Katie asked as innocently as only a seven-year old can. John and Jack burst out laughing. Jack was laughing so hard he had to put Katie down.
“That is a word you are not allowed to use, honey,” he managed to say.
“What was that you said about bringing my remains back?” John asked.
“Ah, well, there were a lot of rumors flying around. Our additional orders were given very hastily, as we were boarding the shuttle. We knew that we were bringing supplies to the ISS, but the revised orders said that we were to assist in John Crichton’s return to Earth. I just assumed that they finally found the wreck of the Farscape and your remains in it. The rumors that you were alive and brought back a half-human daughter were just too wild to believe…oh, crap.” Karl Robertson sat down.
“Would it make any difference if you knew I hadn’t slept in almost three days because we were busy getting the shuttle ready two weeks ahead of schedule?”
Katie tugged on Jack’s sleeve, urging him to bend down enough for her to whisper in his ear “Granddad, is he mentally sound enough to pilot the shuttle? Maybe you should fly it instead.”
“I don’t think that’ll be necessary, pumpkin.” Jack turned to Karl. “The shuttle crew was told as little as possible, in case you told anything to the press before the launch. The powers that be decided that if they tried to keep this mission a secret, that it would just pique the curiosity of the reporters, but if it was treated as just another regular mission, it would largely be ignored. So far, the reporters are telling the world that the engineering geniuses in the space program miscounted their own rations.” Jack extended his hand. “No hard feelings?”
“None at all, sir,” Karl said as he shook Col. Jack Crichton’s hand.
“I tried to tell you after liftoff, but you seemed, well, distracted,” Jack told him.
“Distracted? Yeah, I guess you could call it that. I’ve flown six shuttle missions already, but never with a living legend on board. I felt like a sixteen-year-old taking a drivers’ test.” Karl turned to John “It must’ve been hell going through the training program, trying to live up to his name.
“Well, I guess I thought that at first, until I realized that his name is mine, too,” John said.
DK returned to the lounge. “Guess what? I’ve been recalled to Canaveral. They think I’ve spent too much time up here, and are ordering me to go back on the Endurance, so this really isn’t goodbye after all.”
“That’s great!” John exclaimed. “Put in for leave and join us at the cabin in Maine!”