Simple Things: Part 1: Rise and Shine

A Farscape fanfic by Hmpf MacSlow

Disclaimer: I don't own them. I only love them.

Thanks to: Sheridan, who told me she liked what I'm doing, and who beta'd this. Also, to AnduraNova for being enthusiastic, and making me believe in myself. Also, to ankae, for an unexpected second beta! ;-) And, last but certainly not least, to Scapekid, for very constructive criticism and a poem.

Note: This is more of a writing exercise than a real story - the first in a prospected series. It contains, at the moment, some of what I consider my best writing, and some that is, well, not so successful (but, I hope, still serviceable). The point of this piece was simply getting into the minds of the characters. The point of the next one will be to write dialogue, which is something I'm not very familiar with. I hope that all of these 'writing exercises' will add up to something like a story in the end... (I do have a vague idea about where I'm going with this.)
This is set in early season two.

Feedback to: hmpf1998

For all of my fics (and a nifty layout), please visit .com.

Simple Things: Part I: Rise and Shine "I miss the sun. Days, nights, simple things."

John Crichton, A Human Reaction

John.

The only way back to a universe that makes sense leads through sleep. Only in dreams is the ground he walks on still firm, only in dreams does the universe follow rules he understands. Earth, Galileo be damned, is the centre of that universe: the planet where he was born - a place that does not continually pull out the floor from under his feet. Even twisted by dream logic it is infinitely less confusing than what he has, over a bewildering and frightening year, learned to call reality.

Sleep holds him in a comforting embrace, but his consciousness draws away, reluctantly, to slowly rise towards that strange and dreadful place, the waking world. He does not, really, want to reach it. And so he gives in to sleep pulling him back into the warm depths once more; sleep restraining him with soft fingers - fingers Alex places on strategic parts of his anatomy to make him remain beside her, under the covers, and miss the morning lecture.

'Ah, frell astrophysics 101,' he mumbles against her shoulder, and a part of his mind that is not entirely entangled in dream reality perceives an inconsistancy.

Frell?

Where did that word come from?

He feels her turn to nestle in the curve of his body, silky skin of her back against his chest, and presses closer to her, seeking contact with every inch of her. He is disturbed by some vague, unwelcome intrusion into their capsule of contentment. Distractedly he places a kiss on her milk-white shoulder.

"I love you," she murmurs in reply, in a sleepy voice.

Love.

A supple, sleep-warm body next to his. Small, and so terribly vulnerable. Deep inside him, an unexpected pain stirs. But Alex isn t vulnerable, never was. . . Wisps of fine, blonde hair tickle his face.

Love?

Wrong colour. Her hair has the wrong colour.

Again, that flash of pain. What was that?

But what other colour should her hair be? Alex has blonde hair, always had blonde hair, and he loves the way the sun paints a halo on it when he awakes beside her. He loves the way it makes shiny criss-cross patterns on the pillow, he loves its soft fragrance -

A wave of indecipherable emotion rises in him, suddenly, and staggeringly more complex than his feelings for Alex ever were, more intense and more demanding; a violent need, and something else, something. . .

(A whisper:) Guilt.

With a sudden urgency that frightens him he grabs her, pulls her close, holds her fast as if he fears she will drift away into empty space without him. He feels too much at the same time, an electric charge of emotions that jolts him violently, and he clings to her to ground himself. There is love among the confusion, but who is it directed at?

Blonde hair across his field of vision. Blonde. Wrong colour.

Blonde.

Gilina.

She is motionless in his arms.

Wrong colour.

No. Not motionless - lifeless. He is holding a cold dead body in his arms.

(Someone is chuckling softly at the very back of his mind.)

Gilina?

Her hair should be black. Black. . .

(Somewhere, someone is whispering to him, and a freezing chill runs down his spine.)

And with that sound still in his ear, that chill still in his bones, he wakes to dim Moya early morning light, and an empty bed. Aeryn.

A lifetime of military discipline has made her a precise sleeper. She falls asleep at a command and not so much wakes in the morning as snaps to attention, calling her mind back from some dark, empty place where she put it for the night. Except that place is not as empty as she would like it to be.

Cadet Sun.

Yes, sir.

This your pulse rifle?

Yes, sir.

Clean it.

But, sir. . .

Are you questioning my orders, cadet?

No, sir.

Kneeling beside her bunk on the cold metal floor, she is disassembling her pulse rifle by the feeble light of a panel over the door turned to night mode. The panel is defective, throwing flickering light over all the other eight-year-olds asleep in their bunks, making them disappear and re-appear in an erratic rhythm. None of them is awake - they have learned to sleep through these nightly interruptions, as long as they are not directly concerned. The light is hardly sufficient to clean a pulse rifle by, but then, she does not need light. She could take her weapon apart and put it back together with her eyes shut; has, in fact, done so often. The man who is standing at her back knows this. He is one of the officers who have been training this group of children for three years, and he knows that Aeryn Sun, cadet of great promise, cares for her weapon almost religiously. The cleaning of the rifle is not the point of this exercise.

She turns the release switch. Removes the chakan oil cartridge. Perfunctorily pushes a thin metal rod into the injector tube, and wipes the inside of the ignition chamber with a cloth soaked in solvent. There is no chakan oil clogging the tube, nor is there any residue of it in the ignition chamber, because she has already cleaned her weapon before she went to bed. The man at her back stands immobile, throwing a deep black shadow over her and her work. She knows he has intentionally placed himself there so as to make it more difficult for her to see.

She puts the cloth down, and the panel over the door chooses that moment to give up its ghost for good. Closing her eyes she finds the cartridge on the floor with the certainty of a routine repeated a hundred times. She replaces it and checks the fueling status.

A red diode glows in the dark. She rises, and stands at attention.

Done, sir.

You can go back to sleep now.

Yes, sir.

She slips under her blankets. The measured steps of the officer on guard moving along the central aisle, the regular breathing of nineteen future Peacekeepers, and the soft background drone of the ship form an intimately familiar, reassuring soundscape. The last thing she is aware of as she is quickly swallowed by sleep is the acrid smell of the cleaning fluid issuing from the gun that she has propped up carefully beside her bed. It is the smell of home.

It is the first thing she notices when she awakes in the morning, every morning, in a converted cell on a stolen Leviathan lost in the Uncharted Territories.

After more than a year of being a hunted defector, Aeryn Sun still sleeps like a soldier: lightly, always ready for the call to arms. There is no capacity in her for the guilty pleasure of oversleeping, and Pilot never has to wake her. She awakes in time for the morning drill, every day.

Open your eyes. Sit up. Check your weapon.

It is where she always puts it, by the side of her bed. D'Argo.

Before the bitterness, before imprisonment, before her blood on the hands of her brother, there was peace - peace and the songs of birds he could not name. Their jubilant notes trembled in the air like the leaves of the squat trees that dappled the banks of the creek with shadow.

In the evenings, when the sun was setting, and Lo'lann was putting Jothee to bed, he would go out and stand beneath the roof of gnarled branches. He would listen to the intermingling sounds of birdsong and quick-running water, watch the sky over the empty, flat lands that began right beyond the line of trees, and he would be filled to bursting with a happiness that made all their troubles and hardships seem like trifles.

A ghost of this old happiness is with him now as he is standing once again in the shadow of the trees, looking out at the setting sun beyond the stream with the feeling of one returned from a long journey. Everything is as it should be, the water tinted an improbable purple by some minerals washed out of the hills upstream, the high, three-note bird calls, the sky aflame with sunset, yet something is wrong, something he cannot lay his finger on. Maybe the leaves of the black-barked trees are not bright enough; maybe the white boulders out on the flats have just a hint of the insubstantial about them. . . Is it only the estrangement of the traveler, come home to a once familiar place, now subtly changed, or is there something more deeply amiss?

A murmuring wind rises on the plain, carrying fine veils of dust across the stream. The veils converge, condense into a whirl, turning denser, turning opaque, turning into a stationary dust-devil that whirls faster and faster. Something about it draws his gaze. The dust-devil whirls, hypnotically holding his gaze, turning faster, faster, faster - turning into an indistinct shape, a slender shape on the other side of the stream. The veils dissipate, fall away, and he recognizes -

"Lo'lann."

She replies - does she reply? Her words are carried away by the wind, across the plain, with the dust plumes. "Lo'lann!" He takes a step towards the brink of the water.

She moves, floats, veiled in purple, and he cannot decide whether her feet are even touching the ground.

He steps into the stream.

She turns away, with soft finality, her hair fluttering in the breeze.

He takes another step, and at the same time, at that exact moment, Jothee starts to cry, a high, drawn-out wail of fear.

And the water turns to mud, imprisoning his feet, dragging him down.

"Lo'lann! Jothee!"

He struggles, but the more he struggles, the faster the mud holds him. He growls with frustrated rage and mounting despair. He cannot move, because the mud clings to his feet, because he cannot decide which way to turn, because there are chains binding his feet and his wrists and there are chains fixed to his collarbones, and Jothee's screaming fills his ears, fills his world, and he cannot move - cannot run to help his son, cannot run to help Lo'lann, cannot save them - again cannot save them.

He awakes sweating, cramped, in a cell, but free of the chains whose weight he felt just a moment ago. Free, or as free as a fugitive, constantly on the run, as free as a man who has lost everything except a wild hope can be. Chiana.

In a swirl of black in a swirl of colour she swims she founders in a swirl of darkness in a swirl of brightness in a swirl of blinding light she falls she hurtles through nothing through colour she falls she trundles through light through a shadow towards a piercing pain and there's Nerri holding her hand Nerri holding her cradling her murmuring comforting meaningless words to her her brother her brother her dead brother dead dead -

And then they run as they've always run free free free as long as nobody catches them as long as the Establishment doesn't catch up with them free to run free to do whatever they want to do to snurch whatever they want to go wherever they want to frell whomever they desire no rules no laws no conformity no Establishment no mind-cleansing free as air free as wild animals hunted animals small animals with sharp claws and sharp teeth scratching clawing slashing rutting running hiding -

Hiding in holes hungry things squealing at night hiding in dank dark corners stink of a hundred kinds of piss hiding in alleyways hiding in cargo bays between stacks of packing crates in abandoned hangars sleeping on cold compound floors under looming damp walls always looming damp walls every commerce planet every spaceport always looming damp walls dripping corrosive liquids on the rabble shuffling through the lowest levels their condensed breath dripping dripping mixed with a thousand kinds of chemicals dust industrial exhaust mildew -

And time is precious and life is short 'cause no one lives long in the dregs she moves with grace and recklessness a hysterical kind of beauty a hectic blazing brilliant beauty burning too fast and too hot 'cause no one's beautiful in the gutter for long she kisses licks touches with hungry hungry fingers greedy lips burning flesh feral flirtatious and delirious -

Sly slow smile beckoning deep dark gaze so demanding suggestively sinuous move of hips and shoulders head cocked mouth opened tip of pink tongue lasciviously licking grey lips so seductive so sweet so desirable such a well practised routine -

Then an alley or a corner the darker the better eager body against body pressing close pressing closer shifting hips against hips leg around leg arms around neck mouth on mouth tongue against tongue and swift pale hand snaking down back down down down searching gently finding gently snurching gently -

Searching white fingers finding ways into pockets and packets and bags finding keys currency identchips docking permits searching swift and sure as pink tongue searches hot mouth snurching quickly silently while soft moans escape grey lips while half-closed eyes furtively watch out for a head of black hair just around the corner and there he is and not a microt too early fierce older brother protecting kid sister enraged coldly furious with a knife he would never dare to use but waves convincingly -

And they are free and running and she's giggling with excitement whooping with triumph flying high but he's angry still angry at her now not at a witless offworlder and when she shows him the loot a full monen's living a room in a hotel new clothes the best food a dream come true he is angry he would have whooped and laughed with her a few monens earlier not now though not now now he's brooding he's worried about her and she's worried about him he's thinking too much not like him to think so much to brood so much what is he thinking about and what's the harm in taking a little risk what's the harm in having a little fun -

And then a flash from the future and she knows he will leave her leave her never to return leave her and die and she'll never even know how he died never know never see him again -

She wakes, curled around herself, and quietly waits for the tears to subside before she uncurls, and gets up to face the day. Rygel.

Bishan is laughing.

Stupid fekkik. He has no idea how frelled he is yet.

Bishan is reclining in a ridiculously ornate throne sled, bloated with newly won importance, believing himself secure under the protection of his hired Peacekeeper thugs. His fat short arms, resting on a belly covered by usurped royal robes, are shaking with the repercussions of his mirth, and a tiny rivulet of spittle is winding down from the corner of his lips. His broad, greedy mouth opens wider, exposing brown teeth and glistening gums as he is cackling while two servants are rubbing scented oils into the hair on his earbrows. The sight fills the rightful heir to the throne of Hyneria, currently bound and gagged and held by a pair of big Peacekeeper hands, with enough hatred to last him a lifetime - or, at the very least, a very long exile. His Eminence Dominar Rygel the Sixteenth is somewhat surprised to discover in himself the talent for such hatred. He has had dissidents executed, exiled, or imprisoned for lesser crimes than Bishan's, but until now, it has never been personal. Being betrayed by a member of his own family is, well, certainly not a surprise, but it hurts. Oh, it hurts not to have seen it coming, not to have guessed the treacherous thoughts behind that fat face.

Pathetic little yotz. He does not realize that he is already dead, frell, more than dead, and may hezmana have mercy on him when I'm done with him.

Bishan is gloating. Bishan is stroking his protruding belly, leaving a smear of oily marjoles juice on the priceless garment covering his unworthy body. Bishan is stuffing his face.

"Best marjoles in the Empire, cousin. Worthy of a dominar. So sorry you can't enjoy them with me." He starts cackling again.

Hatred sweeps through Rygel like the hot breath of fire, preceding destruction. It is a searing flame that consumes him, yet keeps him alive; yes, even strengthens him. He does not hear Bishan's scorn. All he hears is the rush of hatred in his veins, shutting him off from all outside sensations.

Bishan is laughing. Bishan is gulping down marjoles by the handful, their cold broth dripping from his flabby chin onto his robes, leaving dark, wet, spreading splotches. Dark, wet, slowly spreading -

Like blood.

Every marjole that disappears between Bishan's greedy jaws feeds the flame of Rygel's hatred. It is growing hotter and brighter, a commanding power at the center of his mind and soul now, and he basks in it. He knows he can do anything with a power like that. . .

Anything.

Enjoying your marjoles, cousin? You may find them more than you can stomach.

The fury of his ancestors is with Rygel - the fury of glorious Rygel the ninth, who led the desperate campaign against the Charrids, a legacy Bishan will never be worthy of, even if he lived five hundred cycles.

But he won't live even one more cycle.

Rygel does not feel the hands of the PK weighing him down anymore. There is only him, Bishan, and the marjoles now.

Marjoles? Oh, that's what you think, Bishan. But then, you never did see very well.

Bishan does not notice the shift in reality. As he pops the last marjole into his mouth, he looks once again at the former dominar, expecting to see helpless rage on his cousin's face.

Rygel is smiling.

That flusters Bishan. He blinks suspiciously, opens his mouth to give an order.

Then the convulsions begin.

Rygel smiles as the usurper starts to flail and jerk and scream, smiles as the servants step back in fear and confusion. He smiles as his cousin turns one last, horror-stricken, pleading glance at him. Then a stream of blood erupts from Bishan's mouth, and he is again wracked by convulsions. Rygel smiles.

Even if I wanted to, I couldn't stop the parasites now, Bishan. But, even if I could, I wouldn't want to. You should have been more careful of whom you betray - and you should have been more careful of what you eat.

Rygel's smile widens as his cousin thrashes about, as the parasites are eating away at Bishan's insides, and he smiles when he hears his people begin to chant his name - 'Rygel! Rygel! Rygel!' - a growing chorus outside the palace. The Peacekeepers turn and run, but the palace guards gun them down, and a dozen servants come rushing to free Rygel of his bonds, and a dozen Hynerian beauties crowd close for the privilege of kissing his earbrows -

Rygel awakes smiling, but the pleasant residue of the dream fades quickly. It takes only a few microts for the Hynerian royal's features to set in disgruntlement. After all, what can he expect here but another day of humiliations and inanities from the pathetic group of mismatched aliens he has the displeasure to live with. . . Zhaan.

"Goddess, have mercy on this sullied soul. Goddess, take this life which I no longer lay any claims to and make it yours. Lead me on the path through your garden where I am life among life. Nourish me with your water. Make my soul blossom."

P'au Zotoh Zhaan does not sleep. While her companions lose themselves in nightly labyrinths of hope, yearning and fear, she strives for perfection. Spiritual perfection does not come easily, not even to a tenth-level P'au. The rewards of the seek - fleeting, fragile, impalpable; shattering - come only to the preternaturally patient. It takes decades to learn such patience; centuries. Some never learn it; some reach a certain level and stagnate there. Zhaan has learned patience in the long slow cycles of her imprisonment, in the emptiness of days and nights of aimless waiting. At times she misses the quiet of those days, when no one disturbed her concentration, when her seclusion was almost as complete as in a Delvian monastery. Only at night, when the distractions of the day retreat, can she find the peace to pursue the seek.

She is sitting cross-legged on her bed, naked, no separation between her body and the world but her breathing blue skin, and opens her mind in a complex sequence of control and release.

First, control: capturing the microscopic processes of breathing and metabolizing in the magnifying glass of awareness, turning the spotlight of the mind on the permeation of tissue with oxygen, the dissociation and association of molecules, the saturation of her juices with sugar. . .

And then, release: a gradual widening of focus. From the molecular to the cellular, to the world of veins and fibres, and then out, out. Her cell, air the exhalation of the peaceful motherly beast; then reaching out beyond the small confines, into the living walls, following ducts of warm air and mysterious fluids welling through hidden lacunae, following Pilot's tendrils winding through tissue. She feels safe, protected by the ship's humming life, cradled by its great alien consciousness. Her voice, rising and falling in chant, subtly twines around the great ship's gentle throb. Her words fall like petals, rippling the dark nighttime silence.

She feels her fellow travellers, her fellow fugitives, in their cells all about the ship. Cocooned in their various miseries, they sleep uneasily. Her consciousness, pushing out, yearning for the spaces between the stars, is checked for a microt as it touches their dreams. All their losses - past places and past people and past selves - all their regrets. . . All their longings, mirroring her own. A pain grows in her, turning her saps bitter, disrupting her concentration.

And there it is, the seed of the pain and its fruit, bright blue Delvia. Only a projection of her burning wish to return home, yet no less beautiful for it. She raises a hand to touch it, stretches out a trembling finger - and her mind soars, out and up and away from Moya, a thousand metras a microt, propelled by amassed longing. Space welcomes her. She bathes in the light of stars - touches life on a thousand planets, and as she sends her mind out farther and farther, the cold emptiness of space ceases to be empty and cold.

She is ecstatic. Feeling the warm embrace of the Goddess.

And yet, even as her soul expands to encompass all life and the source of life itself, a tiny and contained place draws her back, out of transcendence, and that place is not Delvia. Clutching, clinging vines of love, pity, and responsibilty drag her back. Back to exile, back to Moya. She cannot go home yet. She is needed here. Pilot. Moya.

Starscape.
Immensity.
Cold -
empty.
Wide -
wide -
wide.
Falling into eternity -
falling -
into the spaces between stars.
So wide.
Falling -
gliding -
floating -
swimming -
in the empty spaces between.
Between Stars.
Between
bright fires in nothingness.
No longer flat canvas of dreams -
three-dimensional now -
immense emptiness.
Space -
to be.
Space to be -
free.
Space to be alone -
alone -
alone among the stars -
among the stars -
never alone -
never alone among the stars.
One. Two. One. Two.
Two.
Dance of claws.
Smell of red.
Taste of guilt.
Pain of remembrance.
One. One.
One now.

Nine senses to see the stars. The price not too high. Never too high. Morning.

Pilot and Moya see everything. They are watching their passengers readying themselves for the day through the sensors of DRDs: Crichton critically sniffing a t-shirt; Aeryn, already dressed, buckling her boots; D'Argo lost in recollections, a hand on his chest where the image of his wife and son rests in his flesh; Chiana rubbing scented oil - doubtlessly stolen from Zhaan's store of herbal essences - into her cleavage; Rygel already floating down a corridor on his way to the mess; Zhaan gracefully gathering her robes around her. . . Pilot and Moya see everything, yet the impressions of early morning activity only fill a minute fraction of their immense consciousness. The stars are always there, a backdrop to everything that happens on Moya, a backdrop to Pilot's mind that is a promise and a reminder of his guilt. Their beauty touches him like the first day.

"Hey, Pilot! You watching?" Crichton is snapping his fingers in front of the DRD, bending down until the DRD's visual sensors get an unnaturally distorted view of him, head huge in the foreground, body dwindling in the distance. His articulation is indistinct due to a dentic in his mouth. He remains bowed like that for a moment, a slight grin barely this side of manic on his face while the dentic is at work on his teeth. Pilot registers a trace of gamma rays far to Moya's right and does a quick analysis of every nearby star while he is watching Crichton's upper lip bulge over the dentic. Suddenly Crichton straightens and spits the dentic into his cupped hand. Dropping it into a cup of water, he addresses the DRD over his shoulder. "You know, Pilot, I was just wondering. . . have you ever heard of the concept of privacy?"

The comm beeps as Pilot activates the speaking channel.

"Moya and I are only trying to take good care of everyone on board, commander. You've been sleeping uneasily since - "

"Yeah?" Crichton interrupts. "So what does you watching my sleep like you were my momma do to help?" His voice is casual, yet his pointed modulation betrays his annoyance. There's a tenseness to his spine that Pilot cannot help but notice, but a spike of pain issuing from Moya distracts him. Pain at the rejection of her care, pain at the mention of motherhood. An image of Talyn shoots through Pilot's mind for a fraction of a second, swept up by a yearning that echoes in the shell of Pilot's head like a deep bell. For a moment, all he can do is to project calm, keenly aware of the insufficiency of his comfort to the hugeness of the Leviathan's grief. When he becomes aware of the Human again, Crichton is gone from the DRD's field of vision, but Pilot can hear the sound of his fast steps over the comm.

"I'm sorry, commander. . . I was distracted. What were you saying?"

For a few microts Crichton does not reply. Pilot hears his steps slowing, then stopping. When his voice finally comes, any trace of harshness is gone from it. "Nothing," There is a pause. "Pilot, I'm sorry. I know you only mean to help. . . It's just that. . ."

Pilot waits.

"Ah, I dunno. I'm a bit jumpy recently. Bit on edge. I'm sorry I lashed out there."

"We can remove the DRD if you feel better if you're alone at night."

"No, listen, Pilot. . . I think. . . I think I'm grateful you're there. You know. . . you can wake me up if I have a screaming nightmare or something. I think I'd like you to stay."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure." A smile is colouring his words. "Only don't watch me while I'm getting up, okay? It creeps me out to have you watch me clean my teeth and all. I look like hell in the morning."

"We will honour your wishes, John."

"Thanks."

"What will you be doing today, if I may ask?"

"Oh, same old same old. Tinkering with my module, maybe getting myself thrown around the practice room by Aeryn a bit. . . killing time, you know."

"You could. . . see if there is anything you could do about the defense screen, if you like. Most of the DRDs are still busy checking for permanent damage from Nilaam's actions."

"I'll tell the others." His steps sounding again. "I guess we could all need something to keep us occupied. Keep our thoughts off things."

Pilot heartily concurs, but he doubts that there is enough spare work on Moya to keep her passengers' minds from 'things' for a long time. 'Things' have a way of rearing their ugly heads and making the lives of Moya s crew miserable. Pilot cuts the comms before he sighs, deeply. [To be continued in: Breakfast of Losers] *****