by Eva Porter, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Talyn Returns
Disclaimer: I do not own FARSCAPE or any of the characters in this story.
Time: Immediately after Thanks for Sharing.
Feedback: Please, at email@example.com
Spoilers: Season 1, Season 3
Aeryn landed on the floor with a heavy thud as Talyn pitched back and forth. She sat up, startled and wide-awake. She rubbed her left hand, then pulled herself up and stalked into command wearing little more than her underwear.
"What the frell is going—" She stopped when she saw Crais and John grappling on the floor. John had Crais in a headlock and his hand was dangerously close to the transponder on Crais’ neck.
"Aeryn," Crais breathed. "Get this…Get him off me!"
"John." She pulled at him but he pushed her away and she stepped back to balance herself as the ship continued to sway.
"What are you trying to do, kill us all?"
"No, just this sumbitch," John said. He released his hold and pushed Crais forward. Crais turned to John and the two men stood nose to nose. She rolled her eyes. Not this dren again.
"Aeryn, he should be locked up. I don’t care how…fond…you are of him." Crais rubbed the back of his neck and glared at her.
"Are you all right, Crais?" she asked, ignoring them both.
"He’s just fine," John said. His eyes looked at her approvingly and he smiled. "Sorry to wake you up."
She looked down—tank top, boxers—she hadn’t even bothered to put her frelling boots on. She rubbed her hand again, not sure if she had been dreaming it or not, but she thought the burning in her arm had awakened her before she’d fallen out of bed.
"You okay, Aeryn?" John asked.
"Can one of you explain to me what’s going on?" she asked.
"Ask our buddy Crais." John held up a vid chip. "I guess Talyn’s got some divided loyalties or I would never have seen this." He held it out to her but she stood her ground, as did Crais who looked at her with darting eyes.
"What is it? Crais?" She folded her arms across her chest and waited, ignoring the burning that had spread to her back and head.
"It’s nothing, Aeryn. Nothing that you were meant to see. Crichton…" He waved his hand dismissively.
"No, you explain it to her, Crais," John said. "Explain to Aeryn the real reason you brought her on board."
Sometimes it came back, the burning, stretching sensation in her left hand that now spread through her body. She stared at both John and Crais, each of them waiting for the other to speak first. Though she hadn’t experienced any visible effects of Namtar’s experimentation since those effects had been reversed, she had learned to live with the ones that had manifested themselves inside her. It happened more often than she’d ever admit to herself, much less anyone else, and it seemed to be getting worse.
Her hand burned and she rubbed it absently. She could hear Talyn’s pulse beat in her head, dispensing orders to the DRDs that maintained him. There’d been nights when she’d sat up from a sound sleep, feeling as though her body was growing another arm so that she would end up the way she had in Namtar’s lab, a hybrid of two distinctly different species, lost.
"Are you sure you’re okay?" John said again, his voice sounding distant. He reached out to touch her but she took a step back, her arms still crossed. If she kept still and focused, the sensations would soon pass.
"Fine, fine," she said. "Crais?"
He punched one gloved fist into the palm of his other hand and began pacing. "There was no need to show you this, Aeryn."
"Oh, no, no, no, no, you are not going to start with this crap," John sputtered. "We’ve played out that little hand and it’s not going to work. Tell her what’s on the chip."
"What? Another family member?" Aeryn said.
Crais said nothing but stopped pacing and took the chip from John’s hand. "Talyn saw fit to give this to Crichton through one of the DRDs. I had no idea he was doing it and, frankly, Aeryn, I had forgotten about this until Crichton showed it to me." Crais cocked his head a little and waited but neither she nor John moved.
"Lying son of a bitch," John said. "You knew exactly what was on it—" He started towards Crais again but Aeryn held him back.
"What’s so frelling important that John wants to kill you?" She smiled a little at John and he returned the favor and relaxed under her touch. The atmosphere aboard Talyn had been tense between the two men but John had taken care to stay out of Crais’ way for her sake. She could think of nothing that would have provoked him.
Crais took the chip and inserted it into Talyn’s control panel and she watched as a hologram of Talyn appeared before her.
"Talyn is a project," Crais began.
"Your project, Crais. Yes, I know that," she said impatiently. Focus, focus, focus, she thought. "He was bred to be a gunship."
"Every ship needs a pilot but the Peacekeepers believed they would need a pilot with Peacekeeper instincts and training. Ship and pilot would be one, much like the Leviathan and your pilot on Moya but with warlike intent and purpose."
"Yeah, yeah," John interrupted. "Skip the science lecture, Professor, and show the feature presentation."
"John, please," she said quietly and grasped his arm to steady herself, not even realizing she had done so. The images in front of her changed and she saw a Sebacean woman lying on a platform, asleep. The woman was alone in the room. The walls were gray and bare except for Peacekeeper markings. There were some kinds of machines in the vicinity but she had no idea as to their purpose. She let her eyes wander back to the woman; younger, fuller, the face at rest, but there was no mistaking who she saw.
"It’s you, Aeryn," John said softly.
"I don’t remember that…being there…" she stammered. She released her grip on his arm and turned away.
"Of course not. We—they began with limited DNA experimentation in the ranks," Crais continued. "You were one of the few. It was unfortunate that you ended up on the very leviathan that bred Talyn. That they could not have planned."
"Yeah, but you could have," John said. "Opportunity knocks and you always open the door, huh, Crais? Too bad we screwed up your little experiment."
"What are you telling me?" She went for Crais herself, her hands clutching both sides of his collar. She was in his face and she could feel sweat running down her back.
"Aeryn," Crais said calmly, his hands gripping her wrists. "You must believe me when I say, I was not a part of this project."
She pushed away from him and stepped backwards toward the control panel, her eyes averted from what was still in front of her.
"When Namtar did that DNA thing to you, we thought we’d flushed it all out," John began. "But we didn’t get rid of the part the Peacekeepers had already given you."
"What?" She looked at each of them, both staring back with something that looked like pity. "Frell this," she said. She staggered to the door and it opened just in time for her to fall flat on her face in the passageway.
"Aeryn, Aeryn." John loomed over her as he supported her head with one arm and brushed the inhaler under her nose with the other, bringing her to consciousness. Crais stood off to the side, his dark eyes worried, but whether the worry was for her or himself she couldn’t judge.
Thank you for your help, Officer Sun…We make a good team, Pilot… It made sense now, her ability to communicate with Talyn, the ease with which she’d worked with Moya and Pilot from almost the first day she’d been shipboard, even the way her body had adapted to Namtar’s experimentation when other creatures in her place had turned into unsalvageable mutants…
"I see where this is going," she said. She pulled away from John and brought herself to her feet, eyeing Crais. "You thought by bringing me aboard and convincing me to take the neural link…"
"Yeah, you’d be just one more happy little Peacekeeper in the armada," John finished.
"You lied to us, Crais." She put her hand to her bruised forehead; the rest of her body had quieted for the time being.
"Crichton is mistaken. I did not bring you on Talyn to fulfill the Peacekeepers’ mission. Talyn needs you and I am hopeful that you can make a favorable impression on…your mother," he finished uncomfortably.
"My mother?" she scoffed. "What, my mother loved my father? It doesn’t matter, does it? John is right about you. I think I’ll kill you myself."
"You saw the surveillance. You know of her feelings for you," Crais began.
She waved him away with one hand and walked to her quarters, John at her heels and just barely keeping up.
"We have to get off this boat," John said. He sat on the bed as she got dressed. "You cannot meet up with that squad."
"How much do you know about this?" She knotted her hair into a ponytail.
"This little chemistry experiment turns you into the perfect fighting machine, a Peacekeeper soldier with a gunship as an accessory. It’s not just a transponder like Crais’. The Pilot for this ship is like our Pilot, permanently attached through the neural link. Once it’s done, you can’t ever leave the ship. That’s the whole reason for the DNA, so you’d adapt and survive."
She sat next to him and pulled on her boots. "Why? Why would they do this?"
He shrugged and rubbed her arm thoughtfully. "Why? These are Peacekeepers, Aeryn. Does there need to be a reason?"
"There’s a reason for everything."
"I guess they were looking for unwavering loyalty. Best weapons, best pilots…Maybe they learned something new at Peacekeeper school and wanted to try it out. Hell, I don’t know. But, as far as I do know, there’s only one Talyn. You know, on Earth men who did this kind of thing were monsters."
"Then perhaps our worlds aren’t so different." She attempted to stand but he held her back and turned her towards him, his hands firmly on her arms, forcing her to look at him.
"What’s going on with you, Aeryn? You didn’t look too good earlier and I noticed it the minute you walked into command. Why didn’t you tell me before?"
"Why would I? There’s nothing you can do." What was the point, she wanted to say, but she knew it would only hurt him. There was so much that he could do nothing about—her past, her present, her future—that she often wondered what was the purpose of talking at all. It would only be another reminder to her of how much she had tried to leave behind and how unsuccessful she’d been at doing so.
"No," he said thoughtfully and put his arm around her. She leaned on him, allowing herself to be taken care of, if only for a moment. "You’re wrong. Maybe I can’t fix it or change it or do anything but I can support you. You can let me do that."
"Yes, all right." She pulled away and stood up and, even without looking, she could sense his dejection.
Crais stood in command and looked out into the stars. "I know, Talyn, I know," he said aloud to the ship as it squeaked and beeped at him. "She won’t believe it. Isn’t it enough that we showed her Xhalax?"
"No, it’s not." Aeryn strode in with John at her side and Crais whirled around, cornered. "What else are you keeping from us?" she asked.
"Crais, you brought our asses out here," John said. "Is this your shot at redemption, offering Aeryn as a trade for you?"
"It’s nothing of the kind. Peacekeeper High Command doesn’t offer ‘deals’, Crichton. Xhalax plans to take Talyn. Aeryn will be able to convince her otherwise. I am certain."
"And how exactly am I supposed to do that?" Aeryn said. "Appeal to her heart? She is Senior Officer Xhalax Sun and I—" She was surprised by the catch she heard in her voice and she quickly cleared her throat to disguise it. I am no one, the sentence played out in her head, no one in the Peacekeepers’ eyes. Irreversibly contaminated, a traitor to every vow she’d taken. She hadn’t thought that way of herself in almost two cycles but her past was hunting them down in the shape of a Peacekeeper retrieval squad.
The ship pitched unexpectedly and then Rygel slid into command on his throne sled with Stark trotting in behind him, muttering.
"I feel it. Death. Death is among us." Stark stretched out his hand. "May our journey be peaceful…."
"Oh, shut up, you frellnick," Rygel said. "Crais, I demand to know what you plan to do with this ship. I’ve been awakened from my slumber yet again. Do you need a flying lesson?"
"Dominar, this is not the time," Crais began.
"No? We have a retrieval squad on our trail led by no less than her mother—" Rygel glared at Aeryn. "I have to share my quarters with this farboht who talks in his sleep. Do you hear him now? I have to listen to that dren all frelling night!"
"Yeah, Spanky, we can see you need your beauty sleep. We’ll get you a Sominex at the next commerce planet," John said, "But right now we have bigger fish to fry."
"Fish? Crichton, what exactly are fish?" Stark asked.
"Enough!" Crais shouted. "Dominar, accommodations are what they are. You are free to sleep in the maintenance bay."
"Yes, well…" Rygel stopped and looked at Aeryn. "What the frell is wrong with her? Oh…."
They all turned and saw Aeryn facing the control panel, her eyes locked on the viewer as an unfamiliar ship came into their sights.
"Crais…"Aeryn began. She motioned him over and he stood beside her, his gaze following hers.
"I’m not familiar with that craft," he said quickly and turned away.
She steadied herself against the control panel. John stood on her other side, his shoulder just touching hers. The ship wasn’t familiar to her either and she felt a small smile come to her face. John had said it once; just what they needed, one more set of bad guys chasing them through the uncharted territories. She could feel Talyn’s anxiety beneath her fingertips and she stroked the panel gently.
"Talyn, steady," she said quietly. "Let’s just see where this takes us…"
"It is a harbinger," Stark began. "Aeryn, arm the cannon, aim, fire. That ship—it can only lead to your destruction."
"This is no time to panic, Stark," Crais said.
"This is a perfect time to panic," Rygel said. "Peacekeepers on one end of us and this pellish venker in front of us. And you don’t even know what it is. I thought you were a great military strategist, Crais, not some common thief flying the uncharted territories in your stolen gunship."
"Sparky’s got a point," John said. "Aeryn, maybe we should send a transmission."
"What, the ‘don’t shoot us we’re pathetic’ one? That won’t work, John." The ship was maintaining its distance and hadn’t made any offensive moves. "It could just be nothing."
"Nothing," John repeated. "Tell me, when was the last time it was just nothing?"
She turned to him. He smiled a little and she nodded in agreement. "All right, transmission then."
"I strongly advise against that," Crais interjected. "Talyn, ready your cannon."
"No," Aeryn said. "We don’t need to provoke them."
"Well, we need to do something," Rygel said. "Or are you going to stand here and argue over who gets to issue the firing command?" Rygel cleared his throat and reached for the control panel. "I am Dominar Rygel XVI…."
"Shut up, Rygel," John and Aeryn said in unison and Rygel floated downward, subdued.
"Talyn," The voice registered through command, a male voice without any contours. "Crew of Talyn, I seek Officer Aeryn Sun. Dispatch her to our ship, alone, and we will retreat without further incident."
"No way, homeboy," John said. His arm slipped protectively around her waist.
"I am Captain Bilar Crais. Identify yourself."
"Do you carry the one named Aeryn Sun on your vessel? If so, send her immediately or we will commandeer your ship."
"Talyn can’t sense how many life forms are on their ship," Crais said, studying the control panel. "It appears our scans can’t penetrate their vessel." He faced the viewer. "Identify yourself or we will fire."
"I’ll go," Aeryn said. She stepped forward, feeling a heaviness in her body that summoned her towards the ship—fear, anxiety and a curiosity that had all taken residence inside her. "I am Ex-Officer Aeryn Sun. Who the frell are you?"
"I am known as Talyn," the voice said.
"Talyn?" Aeryn turned to John, eyes questioning. "What?" she asked and he shook his head.
"’Luke, I am your father,’" he said under his breath and she was almost relieved to realize that, as usual, she had no idea what he was talking about.
"This is not a good idea." John argued with her at the base of the transport pod as she double-checked her pulse pistol and grabbed two pulse rifles. They’d left the rest of the crew in command; John was the only one she’d allowed accompanying her to the hangar.
"Not now, John." She pulled at her leather vest as though to ready herself for duty.
"At least, let me go with you. Aeryn, you’re in over your head on this one. This Talyn thing, Xhalax out there…you…."
"He…it, whatever, wants to see me alone. Your presence could be seen as provocation."
"Yeah, well I have that kind of effect on people." He reached out and stroked her hair and she felt her body relax.
"I will be back," she said softly.
He nodded. "I know." He leaned forward and they kissed then she turned, one foot planted on the first step of the pod as he reached out and grabbed her arm. She faced him again.
"If anything happens to you…Crais—he’s a dead man," he said.
She smiled a little. "Perhaps you should let Crais know that."
"He’ll know." He reached out and touched her face one more time, then kissed her again and pulled away before she could respond. "The Goddess be with you, Aeryn."
She nodded and entered the transport pod, looking down at him until he disappeared behind the closing door.
She stood in the hangar of the cavernous, inanimate ship, which, on the inside, was reminiscent of every Peacekeeper carrier on which she’d ever lived, except for the noise. Carriers were like commerce planets, bustling with activity and the business of war. This one was no more than a dead ship, maintaining its orbit with no visible assistance. There were no troops, no soldiers to commandeer Talyn, no Prowlers in the hangar. The lights were down to almost nothing and she squinted in the dark. The walls were sleek and smooth and she felt her hand rest reassuringly on her pulse pistol as she moved forward.
"Hello," she called out and heard her voice echoing back to her. Home…Her mouth twitched slightly at the word that made its way into her mind. Her homes now were living creatures—mother and son—and the thought that she’d actually missed a ship like this crashed against her like waves on jagged rocks. This would never be home again.
"Officer Sun." The voice emanated from all around her and inside her.
"Who are you?" She didn’t see anyone and she felt her way along the walls as the sounds in her head came to life again. Whirring all around her, the steady hum of the ship’s power source. She was drawn to it. She didn’t need the lights and relinquished her hold on the walls. "Where are your troops, the ones you threatened us with?"
The voice boomed in something that resembled laughter but it had an empty quality to it that sent a shiver down her spine.
"Show yourself," she said. "This may amuse you but Talyn—our ship—is armed to fire at my command."
"Certainly not with you on board, Officer Sun. I suspect your value to those on your ship exceeds the value of my extermination. You are Xhalax Sun’s daughter?"
"Look, is there some point to all this?" She began to perspire again and she could feel the straps of the pulse rifles sliding down her shoulders. "I am here, state your purpose and allow us to continue."
"Yes, I understand your circumstances are dire. Do you feel it, Aeryn Sun? You are becoming a wonderful creature."
"I am what I have always been," she faltered.
"No, you are so much more." The timbre had changed and a tall, thin man stepped out of the shadows. He was draped in a black, hooded robe. She could make out a little of his face—high-bridged nose, cheekbones prominent in his slim face, pale skin.
She caught herself trying to search out his eyes.
"Xhalax Sun wants nothing more than your death…and your ship," he continued.
She shook her head, forcing herself to stop looking for what wasn’t there, then laughed a short, sardonic cackle. "Oh, yes, right, you’re the family historian then. Who are you really, ‘Talyn’, and what the frell do you want with our ship?"
"I want nothing more than to finish what was begun." He reached out his gloved hand and she stepped forward, her body independent of her will.
John braced himself against the console. Crais stood across from him at Talyn’s control panel.
"You’re wrong, Crichton," Crais began. "About my intentions."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Aeryn’s out there on a ship you say you’ve never seen before with some psycho who calls himself Talyn and you think I’m going to listen to you? It’s another PK mind frell in a long line of PK mind frells."
"I didn’t ask her aboard Talyn for anything other than her ability to assist in his guidance and to protect him from Xhalax. I didn’t foresee this turn of events, as much as you would like to believe otherwise. And I certainly did not ask for you, but I have humored her, Crichton, because you are important to her for some reason I have yet to understand."
"You, humoring Aeryn? Damn, Crais, I wouldn’t let her hear that if I were you." John pushed himself away from the console and moved towards Crais who remained still and stared ahead, hands clasped behind his back. "Let me get this straight now, just so we all know where you stand. You tell her about her mom for bargaining power. You know about some little Mengele experimentation that can turn her into a pilot hybrid and then you conveniently pretend to forget all about it? What more are you keeping from her?"
"I told you, I knew nothing of her involvement in this until I saw her on that chip!"
"You know, Crais, I wouldn’t believe you if you told me my eyes are blue, so save your breath."
Crais turned to him, his eyes dark and narrowed. "This is her fate now, Crichton. You must accept it."
John held his ground and stared back. "Hell, no, I’m not accepting it. And I don’t get why you would either."
"Because we have no choice." Crais spat the words out.
"You know what? This is just more of your b.s." He lunged at Crais before the other man could maneuver away. The advantage once again went to John as he held Crais face down, John’s knee just deep enough in Crais’ spine to keep Crais from moving.
The ship pitched once again but John maintained his hold.
"Get off me, you fool," Crais sputtered. "You can’t navigate Talyn without me, and Aeryn—" He stopped himself and took a deep breath as John dug further into his spine.
"Have a little pain," John said into his ear. "You were saying…Aeryn?"
"Once he’s done with her, Aeryn’s as good as dead," Crais shot back.
"Screw you, Crais!" John pushed away from him and jumped to his feet. Crais knelt and rubbed his back thoughtfully, then stood up straight.
"You let her go—" John paced towards the console and stared at the ship in front of them. "Hell, I let her go." He started towards the corridor but Crais grabbed his arm and pulled him back, almost yanking him off his feet.
"Get your hands off of me," John said.
"You must understand." Crais was calm, his voice soft and John listened. What else was he going to do? "That ship out there is the last vestige of the laboratory where the experiments took place. Her father wasn’t a Peacekeeper soldier but a high-ranking scientist. His mission was to create the ultimate weapon. He went too far…" Crais’ voice dropped off. "It was an abomination and destroyed his reputation and career. All record of him and his work was removed from the Peacekeeper data banks."
"Except for the chip Talyn accessed," John said.
"Yes." Crais nodded. "Talyn—Aeryn’s father—was banished with what was left of his ship and laboratory. It is a surprise to me that he survived."
John moved in very close to Crais. Crais’ eyes were downcast, then he cleared his throat and faced John again. "We were not proud of this moment in our history."
"Xhalax Sun is after Aeryn too, isn’t she," John said.
"I suspected she was, but only because of Aeryn’s association with Talyn. The rest of this—"
"Yeah, on your honor as a boy scout." John shook his head disgustedly. "Aeryn’s the last part of Peacekeepers’ most embarrassing home videos, right, Crais? Dysfunctional family of the year? Right? Hey, Crais, I’m talkin’ to you, boy."
"What her father did was unforgivable but he was losing time and acting in desperation on orders from Peacekeeper High Command. There was a Scarran advance at the time. When they realized what he’d done.…"
"And you had the brass to know all about this and still not tell Aeryn. You think she should trust you?" John checked his pulse pistol. "This is the way it’s going down so take notes." He pointed the gun at Crais; it was an empty threat and they both knew it, but it sure made him feel a little better. "I’m getting her off that ship alive and you’re waiting for us to get back here. As soon as we’re back, we’re blasting that piece of crap out of the sky. If it doesn’t happen that way, then I’m blasting you out of the sky. Got that?"
Crais smiled thinly. "You still don’t see. Our proximity to the ship has acted as a catalyst for Aeryn. The Banik’s description of it as a harbinger is suitable." He snapped the sleeves of his jacket and it occurred to Crichton that in spite of Crais’ rhetoric, he still looked, acted and sounded like a Peacekeeper.
"What’s going to happen to her?" John asked. His chest felt like he’d just taken a boot to the solar plexus.
"She will continue to experience symptoms until they overtake her consciousness. That is my understanding of the process," Crais said flatly. "It was never meant to be reversed." He looked at John and John thought he saw it, just a flicker, something in Crais’ eyes that looked like deep sorrow at the loss of a comrade and friend.
"No," John said. "I won’t let it happen. Something, Zhaan…" But he stopped himself. Zhaan was gone, Moya wasn’t in range and it was just the five of them trying to outrun an elite squad of Peacekeeper commandos. It had been a suicide mission from the start.
"I’m bringing her back." He headed out of command and this time Crais made no move to stop him.
Aeryn followed the man through the darkened ship, her body staying just a foot behind him like an invisible rod was pulling her along. Her chest tightened with the effort of moving. Twice she’d stumbled in the dark and she had felt the flutter of his robe beneath her fingertips. He had neither stopped nor spoken to her and she had righted herself without his help. She had shed the pulse rifles and her pistol had remained holstered. She had willed herself to raise it up against him but her arms were powerless and the rifles had finally slid off her shoulders and clattered on the floor. She dimly remembered stepping over them as they’d continued their trek through the ship. She’d lost count of how many tiers they’d traversed or how long they’d been walking.
If this was truly the man he claimed to be—her father—then she had been wrong about everything. The vid chip Crais had shown her was meaningless. A woman who’d been sent to capture Talyn and a man who had been reduced to floating in dead space on a deserted ship had conceived her in love. That was where their involvement in her life had ended, only to be resumed in anything but love. She’d clung to one long-cherished glimpse of her mother and had never known her father. Reality had shattered whatever dreams John’s idealism had allowed her to believe. These were her parents.
Yet, she couldn’t stop thinking of what could have been.
"Can we stop?" she said. She reached out for the wall but her legs continued to push her forward. "Talyn, or whoever you are, we must stop. I…I can’t breathe."
"We are here." He stopped abruptly and she ran into his back then rebounded from it, landing on the floor. She looked up and, even in the dim light, she recognized the room she’d seen on the chip.
"What are you doing? Why are we here?" she asked. She tried to stand, pushing herself up with her arms but her legs went out from under her and she lay sprawled on the floor. His hand grasped her arm tightly and he pulled her to her feet.
"You must get up," he said. "You will not lie there defeated."
"I am not defeated." She pushed stray strands of hair away from her face and forced herself to look at him. "You owe me an answer but you haven’t given it to me yet. Are you Talyn, the one I’d named our ship after?"
"I know nothing of that." He turned his back to her and walked to the machines. "Tell me, what are you feeling now, Aeryn Sun?"
"It’s none of your frelling business until I get an answer." She successfully fought the urge to sit down, afraid that she might never get up again.
He turned to her. "I see you have inherited Xhalax Sun’s stubbornness."
"You know Xhalax?" Her head throbbed in unison with the ship’s whirring engines and she rubbed her hand absently, waiting, but he turned back to his machines.
"I knew Xhalax. She will not desist until she completes her mission. Whatever feelings she once had are gone and she will complete her mission without mercy or remorse. I never believed this moment would arrive, Aeryn Sun," he said. His hand passed over the control panel and the mechanism hummed to life, another sound building in her head. "I can assist you with the process."
"Assist me? I’m not sure I’m interested in your kind of ‘assistance’." The room seemed to fade in and out until she realized she was the one doing the fading. She leaned her back against the platform, its flat, sharp surface digging into her spine, the discomfort enough to keep her focused on him. But her breathing was shallow, the room, suffocating; she wasn’t sure how much longer she’d be able to keep her eyes open.
"Aeryn," John’s voice crackled through her comm, desperate. Her head bobbed upward at his voice. "Aeryn, baby, if you’re out there, answer me."
Talyn turned towards the sound of John’s voice. "Who is that? I will kill him if he enters this room. He must not interfere."
"John, stay back. I…I’m fine," she said.
"Oh, yeah, you sound like the picture of health. Stay where you are. I’ll find you."
"He is not Sebacean." He turned back to his monitors. "He appears to be an unclassified life form. Interesting."
"He has nothing you want," Aeryn said. "I am the one you sought out. You realize you’re frelling killing me. Is that what you wanted? To bring me out here to die?"
"I must rectify my mistakes. I’ve had fifteen cycles to re-think the work." He paced back and forth between his monitors and machines, muttering to himself unintelligibly. Each time he changed a setting, a new pitch struck in her ears until she could hear little else. She was slipping, both physically and mentally. The sounds she felt were worse than anything she’d experienced before and she knew it had to do with being near him.
"Before I die, Talyn, I want to see who you are." Her voice cracked and she could feel tears in her eyes but she held them back and swallowed. "I want to see your eyes. I am your daughter, aren’t I."
He stepped towards her, tightening the hood over his face and eyes but she pulled his robe with her last bit of strength. The momentum sent her crashing to the floor, clutching the robe in her hands.
She grabbed the platform with one hand and pulled herself to a seated position on the floor then looked up at him. He wore the remnants of a Peacekeeper captain’s uniform, patches of scaly, gray skin showing through the holes in the fabric. His hands were misshapen, the fingers claw-like. She turned away from his face but not fast enough to avoid intense gray-green eyes that mirrored her own.
"That is the answer you seek, is it not?" he asked. He took the robe from her hands effortlessly and wrapped himself up again, hiding everything but his eyes.
"What have you done to yourself?" she whispered. His face looked like pieces of it had fallen away. The skin on one side sagged and almost appeared liquid. The other side was gray and hardened and matched the skin that had been visible on his arms. One eye drooped almost an inch lower than the other.
"Look around you." He spread his arms wide. "Do you see test subjects? Technicians? Other scientists?" He dropped down on his haunches so that his face was close to hers. "Do you fear what you see or are you simply repulsed?"
"The only test subjects in this room are you and me," she said haltingly. A black veil was falling over her consciousness but she locked onto his eyes, forcing it away. "I just want to know why."
"Why. We had our orders and we strove to obey them any way we could. Create a hybrid pilot for our hybrid leviathan. When I performed the tests…" His voice wavered. "I didn’t even know who you were. Xhalax told me after she arrested me. I should have been executed for my misjudgment in using live Sebacean subjects but they chose to do this instead." He stood up without touching her and returned to his machines. "Your companion…he is making his way here. He apparently locked onto your comm signal. No matter." He was oblivious to them both, his earlier interest in Crichton gone.
She heard John’s heavy footsteps echoing through the passageway. She saw him step into the room and stop, looking around in wonder.
"Holy crap, Crais was right." He drew his pulse pistol. "Aeryn?"
"Over here, John. Here," she croaked.
He rushed to her side and put his arm around her waist then pulled her to her feet. She leaned against him to maintain her balance. "God, Aeryn, we have to get you out of here…" He turned towards the hooded figure. "That’s him. Talyn? What the hell is he doing to you? Yo, Talyn, if this your idea of family bonding, remind us to skip the next reunion, okay? This isn’t how you treat a daughter." He aimed his pulse pistol at Talyn’s back. "We’re leaving the ship."
"You will kill her if you take her from this ship now," Talyn said without bothering to turn around. "And then I will be forced to kill you. It’s all quite symmetrical."
"You don’t need me," Aeryn said. "The ship, our ship—Talyn—doesn’t need a pilot. It’s not the way you intended."
"I understand that. I understand it all." Talyn turned to them, holding a silver colored cylinder with a needle. "I beckoned you here for a reason, Aeryn Sun, and I must finish what was started sixteen cycles ago."
"No way." John stood between her and Talyn. "You’ve done enough, don’t you think, Dr. Frankenstein? You want to shoot her up with something else? I don’t think so."
Talyn continued his approach. She pulled away from John and dragged herself towards her father.
"Aeryn." John grabbed her hand but she shook him off.
"He’s right, John," she said. The signal from Talyn was too difficult to overcome and once again she felt her legs propelling her forward towards him. He held the needle out in front of him and his eyes were expressionless. She just wanted it to be over, to be free of whatever had taken over her body and would soon conquer her mind.
"Aeryn, no!" He jumped towards Talyn but Talyn’s arm went out swiftly and connected with John’s head. She heard him fall just as Talyn stuck the needle in her neck. Her legs finally gave out and she crumpled to the floor. John lay beside her, his eyes open and glazed over.
"I am sorry…Aeryn," Talyn said. His fingertips grazed her forehead slowly and touched her hair. Then he withdrew to one of the consoles and hit a control. Instantly, the countdown began, lights flashing red throughout the room.
She reached out towards him but he was outside her grasp, then disappeared from her sight entirely. She rolled over and moaned. Her body felt like thousands of needles were stabbing her all at once. She grabbed at the platform with her fingertips and hot, angry pain shot up her arm. It went through her legs from her foot as she stood up. Her head felt like it was gripped in a vice. The sounds themselves were ebbing, but not enough for her to ignore the countdown taking place around them.
"John, get up." She braced one arm against the platform and pulled him by his wrist. "You have to get up!"
"I’m up, I’m up," he mumbled. "What the hell did he do to you?"
Her clothes were soaked through with perspiration, her vision blurred. The sounds were a distant hum in her head but the unrelenting pull she’d felt earlier was gone. Her mind was her own again.
"I—I don’t know," she said. "Do you remember the way to the pod?" she asked.
"Yeah, I think so."
"I can meet you there." She turned back towards the laboratory. He grabbed her hand and pulled her into the passageway just as the door closed in front of her, sealing them out of the lab.
"Aeryn, this place is ready to blow. What the hell are you doing?" The countdown continued, lights flashing in unison with the flat voice that ticked off the microts. "It’s too late."
She pulled away from him and flung herself against the door, trying to ignore the pain. "It’s not too late. I am this close, John, this close—
"No." He pulled her away and dragged her up the corridor to the transport pod. "Wait," he said. "There were two—Get in, Aeryn." He pushed her up the steps and into her seat then took control as they flew out of the hangar.
The explosion behind them shook the pod as it flew towards Talyn then she heard Crais’ voice, unsteady over the comm.
"Crichton, are you there? What happened? Aeryn…"
"We’re both here. I’ll give you the readers’ digest version later, Crais. Leave the light on for us. We’ll be out past curfew." He set the controls then got out of his seat and approached her where she stood at the small window, watching as the last of the explosion faded from the sky.
"He took our transport," she said flatly. They’d avoided the explosion’s power; there was no reason to assume he hadn’t done the same.
John put his arm around her. "Aeryn, Crais told me Talyn wasn’t given much of a choice back then. Maybe he was just trying to set things right."
She shook her head. Her mouth was dry. She flexed her fingers. Slowly, she could sense her body coming back to her but she felt like she could sleep for days without waking.
"Doesn’t matter," she said, taking in a deep, unsteady breath. She turned to him and he wrapped his arms around her. She buried her face in his shirt and cried soundlessly, her shoulders shaking against him as he ran his hands over back.
"We’ll find him again, if that’s what you want," he said. "I think he cared enough to float around the universe for fifteen cycles hoping to find you."
"Did he? I wish I could be as certain." She raised her head. He reached out his hands and wiped her tears with his fingers then they both turned and stared at the black sky.