John Crichton found himself sitting on Moya’s terrace again. He often found himself up there, staring into the black emptiness of deep space these days. No, rather he was staring at the tiny specks of light that littered the eternal night sky. It was the stars that always held John’s attention. He would focus on one, than another, and than move to the next one. At this distance the stars were only pinpricks in the curtain of night. Yet, John concentrated on every pinhole individually. Earth orbited one of those stars, now all that was left was for him to determine which star.
With the ever-present hum of the hetch drive and the rhythmic breathing of Moya in the background John felt comfortable here on the terrace. He found himself sitting here for hours at a time, just starring at the stars. It was one of the few places on Moya he felt completely at ease lately. “Would he ever awake from this dream?” He moved onto the next star. “Or was it a nightmare in which he now lived?” Sitting cross-legged on Moya’s deck and just staring into space. John’s attention moved from the stars as he pondered the soft golden glow of Moya’s outer skin that provided just enough light to allow him to see without interfering with his view of the stars. One of those half-cocked smiles crossed his face. It was another wonder that he realized he had never appreciated before. “Would there ever be a day that a new wonder does not occur in my life?”
The clear dome that separated life from death in the void of deep space was only feet, no just a samat or two away he corrected himself. It was funny how he was adjusting to live in the Uncharted Territories. Only a few weeks aboard Moya and he was already adjusting his nomenclature. “How long until I forgot the old standards? Oh well, When in Rome…”
“You know what is odd Aeryn?” He questioned her unexpectedly as she stepped on to the terrace. Without waiting for an answer or even turning to look at her he continued. “I lived in many place and while I lived and trained in Houston for the Shuttle Missions, when people asked where home was, I’d answer Houston.”
“How did you know I was here?” At first Ex-Officer Aeryn Sun spoke in but a whisper and than wondered if she had truly spoken her thoughts aloud. Aeryn raised her voice to her normal speaking level. “I assume that Houston was a metropolis on your Earth?” Aeryn asked John as she always did. She walked up behind him and looked at the stars that held his total attention.
“Yea, Nice place, rented a house in Galveston, right on the beach. I would sit there and watch the waves roll in for hours some days.” John looked over at her as she sat down next to him on the deck, pulled her knees up to her chin and looked at the stars that always made him feel so insignificant. “Than at night I would watch the stars, stars like these. The sounds of the surf, the smell of the sea breeze,” his voice softened as he spoke, “that was home.”
Aeryn turned her head just slightly towards him. “Sounds lovely.” John did not know if she was being sarcastic or if this one of those rare instances where she was truly interested in what he was saying. “I grew up in space, on board Peace Keeper Command Carriers mostly, as well as other smaller ships. It was all the same.” As she spoke her head turned unconsciously more towards John. “The hum of hetch drives was our Lullaby as we fell to sleep every night. We lived in barracks as we learned to be soldiers for the common good of the Peace Keepers.” Aeryn returned her gaze back towards the stars. “I lived in space, yet never spent much time looking at the stars until you dragged me off.” It was a pause, almost for dramatic effect, as John would say before she continued. “It is surprising how hypnotic they can be.”
John Crichton turned to face Aeryn; a small smile crept across his face as he spoke to her. “Here, I maybe as far away from Galveston as I can be in the Universe, and it’s still home. But home is no longer Somerville, or Galveston, or Oak Hill, or any of the other places I lived on Earth. Now home is just Earth. This little bluish green planet, orbiting a star we call Sol, in a Spiral Arm of the Milky Way.”
“You are going to make yourself” Aeryn paused as she searched for the word “homesick, as you call it, again.” She turned to face Crichton completely, “And when you are home sick you get depressed and not a fully capable member of this crew. So stop it.”
“Aeryn, you are used to whizzing around the Galaxy, talking to Hynerians and Luxans and god knows what else as normally every day occurrences. You grew up as a child in the stars. This is still new to me, every day I see something new…”
“John we spend so many solar days at a time on Moya where we see nothing at all. Nothing but the inside of Moya.”
“Everyday I see something new. And everyday I am reminded of the stuff I miss at home.” He returned his Gaze heavenward, and finally in just a whisper “Everyday.”
“Well if it makes you feel better, Pilot has informed us that on the edge of Moya’s sense horizon is a Free-Floater.”
“Yea, who would have thought there would be one all the way out here? I suppose it makes some sense that in this cluster of uninhabited systems there would be one somewhere.”
“What’s a fleafloater?”
“Oh, sorry, a Free-Floater is a” Aeryn paused “city in space, sort of.” Aeryn stood up and offered John a hand. “We are wanted in command, D’Argo will probably be upset it took so long. Where is you communicator by the way?”
“Kind of a oversized space station, huh?” John took hold of Aeryn’s hand and stood up. Crichton took one last gander towards the stars as the two of them exited the terrace and entered the maze work of the Leviathan’s corridors.
“Well many of them start out as derelict ships, adrift usually in orbit around a star somewhere. Someone comes along and makes the ship hulk habitable again.” Aeryn explained as they turned a corner and started down another passage way.
It took a moment for John’s eyes to adjust to the increased light of Moya’s passageways.
“So this is some habitable derelict ship in orbit around that star?” Crichton pointed back along the way that they came, towards the terrace. “With a bunch of outlaw gangster on-board?”
“No these Free-Floaters start to grow, generally by attaching other derelict ships to the first one. Soon you can have a rather large metropolis in space floating in orbit, and generally they are fairly civilized.”
“How can you be so sure they are not un-civilized?” John and Aeryn rounded another corner in the passageway.
“If they were, they are not so big and their leadership would be easily replaced by one that is. And the Peacekeepers would see to that, quite quickly I am very sure.”
“I suppose you got a point there.”
“What took you so long?” Ka D’Argo spouted as the Aeryn and Crichton entered Command. “Where’s you communicator?” The tall Luxan warrior moved to stand directly in front of smaller human John Crichton. Aeryn continued to walk towards the central command console as John stopped.
“I must not have put it on this morning.” Crichton smiled as he stepped forward. John studied the muscles on D’Argo face; they seemed too tense, as if they wanted to explode.
“Well wear the frelling thing.” D’Argo relented as he went back to the command console and stood next to Aeryn.
“John, it makes it much easier to locate you, when you are needed, please remember to wear the communicator from now on.” Zhann explained.
John wanted to respond with a ‘Yes Mom’ or maybe even an ‘okay coach’ however he thought better of it. “No point in picking a fight today.” He rationalized. “Aeryn tells me that there is a free-floater at the edge of Moya’s Sense Horizon.” John changed the subject.
“That is correct Commander.” The slightly purple translucent image of Pilot spoke from the clamshell viewer, located behind the command console. “It appears to be of substantial size and is about four to five arns away at our current speed.”
“Let me guess, Rygel wishes to pay a visit and try his hand at trading again?” Crichton asked the group the completely rhetorical question. He turned to look at his royal excellence. Rygel XVI, Dominar of over sixty billion Hyenrians. Make that deposed ruler of over sixty billion Hynerians. “Maybe more stale food cubes?”
“Stale Food Cubes? May I point out that you and D’Argo ate your fair share of those stale food cubes.” Rygel ended his unusual quietness. His throne sled hummed as he floated over to the group around the command console.
“While are food stores are a bit on the low side, we probably could find a better market. There must be a Market Planet near by.” Zhann added.
“What have we got to trade Rygel?”
“Not much I am afraid.” Rygel adjusted his position in his throne chair. “If all we trade for is food, than sooner or later we are going to run out of stuff to trade.”
“And I assume we are getting pretty near that point?” Crichton asked.
“D’argo and Aeryn I assume want nothing to do with this?” Crichton looked at the two.
“There is the chance that there might be Peace Keeper presence onboard the Free-Floater, on the look out for us.” Aeryn Responded, paused and than she continued. “While we are in the uncharted territory we have strayed close to the borders with the Peace Keepers.”
“We do not know anything at this moment.” D’argo added. “It could be controlled by the Peace Keepers.
“Zhann?” Crichton asked.
“I do not think it is a bad idea, however I am not convinced it is a good one either. However we are low on food cubes as Rygel has pointed out many times.”
“That black-hole of his always reminds him that we are low of Food Cubes.” D’Argo added.
“So I need to break the tie than?” Crichton looked around at the crew. “Two for and two against.” Crichton turned to face the Vu-Screen. The usual view of deep space was displayed on the screen, no different than the one from the terrace. “Spectacular View.”
“What do you think Pilot?” Crichton asked suddenly.
“Free-Floaters are a mixed bag, Commander.” The translucent image of Pilot answered. “There is both good and bad to visiting a Free-Floater. Free-Floaters generally attract the worst dregs of society. Many of whom wish to escape their previous life and problems associated with them. However; not all people on board these Free-Floaters are lawless scum Commander. Many Free-Floaters are large enough to have some Peace Keeper presence on-board. Especially the ones this close to Peace Keeper territory.”
“As our supplies are low and we are not sure of next opportunity it may be good time to fill the pantry.” Crichton reasoned aloud.
“Might I suggest that you take the transport pod to the Free-Floater, leaving Moya and myself far enough away.” Pilot added.
“That’s a good idea Pilot.” “Lets not let anybody get too close to Moya.”
Zhann spoke “I also will stay behind.”