Written for SC89 – The Wonders I Have Seen
Set during Terra Firma in S4.
6 x Short fics - All rated PG
Word count 4020
The characters are not mine, although in my heart they are a little.
Thanks to A Damned Scientist for the beta, for his always spot-on suggestions and for pushing me to write one more vignette when laziness had convinced me there was no need to just because...
A Royal Audience (PG)
Rygel could not help but being impressed by what his handlers had told him about this meeting. The little old Human woman sitting primly across from him had been monarch for more than 50 Earth cycles – a very long time given the short life span of Humans -, had never been challenged to the throne, never been the victim of an assassination attempt and by enlarge was widely admired and loved by her subjects. All in all quite a feat! As an exiled Dominar himself, he had to admit that she must have been doing something right during her reign, in spite of her unassuming looks.
Rygel once more sized her up, taking in the pale coloured gown she was wearing and the large, sparkly crown sitting on her head. She really didn’t look like much. Humans truly were an inferior species in so many ways, he thought disdainfully. That thought however only lasted until his observing eyes met hers and his attention was suddenly captured. Steel and determination radiated from them and, in spite of himself, Rygel was wowed for a fleeting microt.
“Dominar Rygel XVI, I am told that you are no longer Ruler of your people.” She addressed him politely, studying him in turn, the vaguest of amused expressions hovering across her eyes at the sight of his stubby little legs and purple, velvet gown.
“My dear woman…” One of the Human aides assigned to him scurried over, bent down and, in an urgent whisper from behind, reminded him of the proper etiquette to be used when addressing the monarch.
Rygel coughed and started again: “Your Majesty, my problem was family. I was betrayed by my cousin Bishan. The most heinous of betrayals given that I always treated him with magnanimous largesse when he was my subject.”
“Ha, family.” The little old lady sighed under her breath and her eyes seemed to warm a little towards him while she nodded in understanding. “I have had my share of troubles with family, my dear Dominar. I sympathize.”
That’s all it took for the ice to be broken and, after that, the afternoon passed in pleasant conversation over tea, cucumber sandwiches and scones: a myriad of topics were broached and discussed, highlighting both common ground and vast differences between the two Rulers’ governing experiences.
At the end of the meeting, Rygel had to begrudgingly admit to himself that, after all, not all Humans were as hapless and daft as the one that fate had sent to cross his path four cycles ago: No doubt the company of this woman on Moya would have been vastly more entertaining and suited to his intellect and status but, as he knew only too well, one can’t always have what one wishes for in life.
As he was leaving Buckingham Palace being driven back to his more humble lodgings, Rygel addressed his Human liaison: “Those fat, stubby, four-legged creatures the Queen surrounds herself with… what are they called?”
“They are a breed of dog dear to her heart, Dominar, they are called Corgis.” The aide replied.
“Well, I want a few dozens of those sent to Moya before my departure.” Rygel instructed “The Queen is a woman of taste and they look rather tasty indeed!”
Child’s play (PG)
Chiana and the other aliens had been made abundantly aware that the Humans were curious and wished to meet and learn more about them so, when asked to do a tour of the schools in the local town where the Crichtons resided in order to answer questions and enhance alien relations with the local community, she had accepted thinking “Why not?” There was only so much sitting by an artificial pond on a sun lounger that one could do before boredom set it.
So here she was, looking out on fifty or so small children running around the playground on their school grounds. The noise they made was deafening, worse than the racket made by a pack of panicked flibbisks! Only these young creatures were not panicked, on the contrary they were playing and laughing and joking and squealing and arguing and plotting and singing – a wonderful cacophony of sounds the likes of which she had never encountered before and certainly never even dreamed of on Nebari Prime, where schools had no playgrounds at all. There, on her home planet, children were instructed to be quiet, subdued, and obedient. They were forbidden from expressing their feelings, cowed into unthreatening and homogeneous sameness.
Chiana’s eyes filled with tears of mixed joy and sadness. Joy at the sight of the freedom these children delighted in and sadness at what her own and Nerri’s and all other Nebari children’s childhoods had been like in comparison.
A chubby little Human, six maybe seven cycles old, with a dirty face and stubby little legs approached her hesitantly at first, the sight of her - of her difference in appearance - a little scary to him. He stopped a few steps away and stared until curiosity finally won over his fear.
“Hi, I’m Mark.” He said extending his podgy little hand towards her, a shy but determined look in his hazel eyes. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Chiana.” She replied in her hesitant English and gave him her hand, which Mark shook with enthusiastic ardour, obviously having made up his mind that she was no threat to him: the effect of which decision was a cheeky grin marred by the endearing gapping resulting from several missing teeth.
“You are really pale. Are you sick?” He stated and then asked her with a frown. “Are you eating all your vegetables? My mom always says that you have to eat your vegetables if you don’t want to get sick!”
Chiana could not help but smile at this. “No, I am not sick and your mom is right of course, moms are always right.” She winked at him and explained: “This is just the colour of my skin. I am always pale like this.”
Mark looked her up and down and finally decided that, indeed, she did not look sick. She was very pretty, even prettier than his older sister; and she sounded nice. “Do you want to come and play with me?” He asked; his big eyes hopeful.
“Yes, I... I do.” And Chiana realized with surprise that, yes, she really did want to go and play with him and the other children.
“Well, then let’s go. The last one to the monkey bars is a rotten egg!” Mark challenged and took off towards a contraption in the centre of the playground; all the while looking back to make sure that his new friend Chiana was following.
A big happy grin lit Chiana’s face as she took off after him, grin which was only briefly dimmed by the fleeting thought of how much little Mark reminded her of the John Crichton of a few cycles back: open and sweet and innocent – all the things that life on Moya had made him forget how to be.
She determinately chased the passing sadness away and caught up with Mark. And when she did, she played and played and played until she was too exhausted to play any more, in just one afternoon making up at least a little for all the playing that she had never been allowed do when she was Mark’s age.
“A Healthy Diet” (PG)
“So, what we are about to make is called a fruit salad.” Olivia explained while making herself busy in Jack’s kitchen. Aeryn was by her side, keen to learn everything she could about Humans and their habits. And since John was once again missing and clearly avoiding her, Olivia was the next best choice for company. Being his sister, Olivia knew him better than most and being close to her was a little like being close to him by proxy. Not quite the same, granted, but the best Aeryn could hope for given the way things were between them at the moment.
“I have had salad before at one of the refreshment places at the shopping mall. I thought it was mainly made of leafy green ingredients…” Aeryn expressed her confusion.
“Well, yes, that’s one type of salad. But this is the type people in hot climates would have at the end of a meal or as a healthy snack.” Olivia readied the various fruits on the counter, placed the chopping board in front of her and grabbed a sharp knife and started slicing.
“What are these fruits called?” Aeryn asked picking up and handling a round, red fruit with mild curiosity.
“The one in your hand is called an apple. Take a bite; you can eat the skin and all.” Olivia encouraged her. Aeryn did as she was told and her eyes widened in surprise at the juicy, cool taste and crunchy deliciousness of it.
Enticed by the good experience with the first one, Aeryn eagerly moved on to the next one: a weirdly shaped, brownish-yellow coloured fruit. She brought it to her nose and the smell made her mouth water. “What is this one called?” She asked again, this time really eager to learn the name of it.
Olivia looked up, saw the new fruit in Aeryn’s hand and answered: “That’s called a pear. Go on; take a bite of that one too.”
Aeryn hesitantly bit into the ripe pear: an explosion of juice and sweetness filled her mouth; she closed her eyes and enjoyed the grainy texture of it against her tongue. A moan of pleasure escaped her lips, which attracted Olivia’s attention and made her look up. The sight of the beautiful alien moaning in closed-eye wonder and pleasure at something as mundane as a pear brought back yet again to her in very sharp relief why her brother had fallen for her, because no matter what he said or did not say about it, fallen he had and harder than she had ever seen him fall before.
Almost embarrassed at the direction her thoughts were taking in making the connection between Aeryn’s almost sensual abandon at eating a pear and her brother’s love life, Olivia averted her eyes and returned to her slicing.
“Can I take a bite out of this?” Aeryn innocently asked after a couple of seconds of silence.
Once again, Olivia looked up to see what Aeryn was holding and burst out laughing: “Not if you want to keep all of your teeth! That’s called a pineapple. The edible part is on the inside of the hard shell. Here, I’ll show you.” Olivia gently took the fruit from Aeryn’s hand and expertly sliced the fruit open, cut a square piece out of the yellow, succulent inside and handed it to Aeryn. “Now, that part you can eat.”
Aeryn once again brought the fruit to her mouth, chewed it and, with a stunned expression, looked at Livvy: “That is so… so sweet and juicy and yet a little tart. I love it. It is my favourite by far.”
Olivia’s face suddenly lit up with an impish smile: “Is it now? Well, let me tell you about the wondrous properties pineapples have…” And, in great detail, she did proceed to tell Aeryn all about them. She would probably go to hell for it, Olivia thought to herself with amusement, but, on the other hand, she was pretty sure John would end up in heaven if and when he finally got his head out of his ass, admitted his feelings and made up with this stunning alien.
A couple of weeks later as the visitors prepared to leave Earth, Rygel turned his thronesled into one of Moya’s corridors and nearly collided with Aeryn who was pushing a large crate on a wheeled pallet in front of her. “Watch where you’re going, you stupid woman!” He complained.
“Shut up and get out of my way, Rygel.” Aeryn pushed past him without a second glance, but the crate had of course caught the greedy Dominar’s eye.
“What’s in that container? Is it valuable?” He asked with eager interest.
“No, it is not valuable. Stay away from it or I will shoot you, understood?” Aeryn threatened, her seriousness leaving no room for misunderstanding about how highly she prized the contents.
“Fine, fine. No need to be ornery. But what’s in it?”
“Erp fruits called pineapples. They are for me and for… for Crichton. So stay away from them.” Aeryn warned again.
“Hmph!” Rygel whirred away muttering under his breath “Sure, she gets to bring a whole crate of her precious fruit onboard, but when I ask for a couple of Corgis all I get is a disgusted ‘no’.”
Sunset over Napa Valley (PG)
D’Argo stood on top of the hill and took in his surroundings. Rows and rows and rows of well-ordered vines lined the landscape as far as the eye could reach, over and around hills. In the distance he could see the farmers tending to the plants and the fat, juicy fruits called grapes that grew on them. They would soon harvest them and squeeze out of them a heady extract the Humans called wine – red, white, rose’ coloured produce that when imbibed in quantities would make your head spin and give raslak a run for its money. Or so he gathered from what he had been told. He was looking forward to tasting it and experiencing the inebriation it produced, later, when his schedule would bring him to a vineyard to be shown what the locals called the art of wine-making.
But for the moment, D’Argo just stood and took in the beauty of the valleys extending for vast distances all around him. Envy tainted the perfection of the moment with a slightly sour taste. Envy for the simple life these people led. Envy for their hard but rewarding manual labour. Envy for a life lived outdoors and filled with basic pleasures such as life-bringing rain soaking their clothes and warm life-giving sunshine drying them.
D’Argo stood and for the first time truly understood Crichton’s unbound love for his home planet, his willingness to die to protect it, and promised himself he would help him accomplish that no matter what it entailed. He would stand by his friend’s side to help him shield Earth, to stop the monsters from coming here and marring the wonders that existed, still untouched and inviolate.
D’Argo stood and drank everything in with his eyes. Deep down he knew, although he couldn’t explain exactly why or how he knew, that he would never be given the chance to find his own planet, work his own land, feel the joy of a long hard day of toil followed by a tired, well-earned sleep. It was not in his future. It was not written in the stars. That firm conviction saddened him, of course, but his determination to help his friend at least went some way towards assuaging that sadness and making him accept whatever destiny had in store for him.
D’Argo stood on a hill overlooking the peaceful valleys now set ablaze by the waning sun of this star system with oranges and pinks and purples and let the beauty of it all envelope him as if in a warm blanket. He opened himself up to it fully and let it seep through to his bones and deeper again to the very centre of his soul until it ached. A bitter-sweet ache that constricted his throat and filled his eyes with tears.
He stood for a long time, rooted to the spot, lost in his reverie, until darkness fell and wrapped everything in a black shroud, forcing him to come back to himself and walk away.
Taking Part (PG)
Noranti was enjoying every single moment of her round the world visit of Earth. She was being chauffeured from place to place, lodged at some lovely establishments; fed wonderfully tasty and varied foods and being delighted day after day by the rich and diverse cultures this planet had to offer. As Crichton would say, she was having a ball!
Had she been asked to choose which part was her favourite, she would have had to think about it long and hard but, in the end, her answer would have probably been the variety of the dances each race on this still primitive but enchanting planet had to offer. As a young girl back on her own home planet she had been trained in Traskan dances and had excelled at all of them: her young and supple body gyrating at the various rhythms of the music with wild abandon and enthusiasm. She so missed that feeling of losing herself in a demanding but liberating physical activity. Dancing was like sex in many ways. And she had sorely lacked the regular presence of both of those actions in the last few dozen cycles of her life.
On this trip, Noranti had already sat with transfixed and rapt joy through a beautiful rendering of the graceful dance – referred to as ballet by her escorts – called “The Swan Lake”. The beautiful story, the powerful music and the spellbinding performances had made her three eyes tear up all at once; something which had not happened to her in decades! But how not to be moved by the lightness and grace and apparent ease of powerful tendons and muscles strained to their limits?
She had just as much enjoyed the raw power and drum beat of African tribal dances performed in her honour. Dark skinned, muscular Humans dressed in beautifully vibrant clothes, bodies adorned with tattoos and feathers. She had bounced and whooped at their gyrating, syncopated and primitively sensual tempos and revelled in their earthy cadences.
She had felt light headed and had been almost hypnotized when lavishly dressed people called the Dervishes had performed the Sumi Whirling Dance for her.
She had sat through a Kabuki styled dance and admired the control and precision of the slow movements and gaped at the richness and intricacy of the clothes the performers wore.
She had been mesmerized by the Khatak dance of India when beautiful women with hair as black as Aeryn’s had told their stories through complicated moves while wearing long veiled dresses covered with sparkling stones.
She had clapped along at the upbeat tapping of Irish dancers’ feet and legs moving in perfect unison, the noise of their heavy shoes beating on the ground resembling the sound made by an orderly marching army.
And now she was patiently waiting for the next dance performance. Her escort had described this one as a dance that drew its origin from the desert tribes of North Africa, what and where that was however of little interest to her. Her excitement was reserved for the number about to take place on stage.
Soon three scantily clad women walked out and when the music started in earnest, they began shaking and rotating their hips, their bare, undulating midriffs attracting the eye of everyone present. Bells around their waist and ankles jingled in time with their rotations and finger cymbals punctuated their sensual moves.
Noranti suddenly stood up, clapped with excitement and with a girlish squeal she exclaimed: “I know this one!” and before anybody could stop her she had taken all of her clothes off and joined the performers on stage for a wild belly dance that, the next morning, made the headlines of all of Earth’s main newspapers, to the horror of readers of all ages, races and creeds.
She hated Earth and the Humans.
Those insignificant, inferior beings had had the gall to request that she submit to being probed and studied. As if she would ever stand for it.
But, to be fair, she had not expected much to begin with. The planet was exactly what she had anticipated it would be given that she was well acquainted with Crichton’s worst character traits: disorganisation, chaos, arrogance and an irritating lack of logic. Everything she abhorred in him, she had found magnified to an even higher and therefore unacceptable degree in most of his fellow Earthers. It had proven utterly unbearable.
So she had left and not a microt too soon. But not before helping herself to something - the only thing - she had found herself unable to resist. Something her people or any of the other species she had come in contact with did not possess. Something primitive but utterly fascinating. She had hidden it among her scanty belongings when she had left the planet. Once on the pod guarding the wormhole to Earth, she had hidden it from Scorpius because she had feared his silent scorn and judgement and when Moya had finally picked the pod up and she had returned to her quarters on the Leviathan, she had hidden it in a niche in the uneven golden-bronze wall, behind some furniture.
After that, every time she got the chance and when she knew that the others were not likely to come looking for her and catch her in the act - in the middle of the night cycle or when chores had the rest of the crew occupied - she would return to it. She would take it out of its hidden place and caress it with a tenderness she had never felt before. She would enjoy the feel of its bulkiness in her hands. And even though she did not understand its contents, she would open it and run her fingers all over it, loving the smoothness of it and the symmetry and order of its inner appearance. For delayed gratification, she would draw out the moment that she most cherished in this secret little ritual of hers until the anticipation would finally become too much and she would succumb to the need to bring it up to her nose to inhale the wonderful, heady smell of the core of it, the like of which she had never smelled before. Then, guiltily, annoyed at her own ludicrous weakness, she would put it away again, urging herself to not come here again; and her resolve would hold… but only until the next time when the allure of it would become too strong to resist.
A few weekens later, after Scorpius and Sikozu in a sudden twist of events had been ejected from Moya, John Crichton was wandering along one of the Leviathan’s corridors, bouncing a ball against the bulkheads as he went along and pondering, among other things, about wormholes, dangerous alliances and the horrifying thought of the Scarrans getting to Earth in search of flowers when he saw a DRD gliding towards him holding in its pincers and on its back a bulky, familiar looking object.
“Hey little fella! Stop scurrying away and come to Papa.” John barred the DRD’s progress and dropped to his knees in front of it. “What have you got here? Wow!” John could not believe his eyes. “And where did you find this?” To his surprise the DRD was carrying a book, a book that was not part of his own private collection; a book that looked brand new and unread, which he deducted from the fact that when he picked it up, the spine easily opened right in the middle of it and nowhere else as if the owner of it always ever went back to the same two middle pages.
“Commander,” Pilot interjected over the comms “the DRDs were clearing out Sikozu’s quarters. That object was found hidden away and I instructed them to dispose of it.”
“Oh no, Pilot, good books should never be disposed of! I’ll take it. Thanks.” John let the DRD go on its way and from his kneeling position he moved sideways until his back was leaning against the bulkhead, legs bent at the knees supporting his newly found treasure.
He had no idea what Sikozu might have wanted with it or why she kept it hidden in her quarters but the moment he passed his hand over the etched golden leaf of the title that read “The Lord of the Rings” and then opened it to its first page to start reading, John was transported to a whimsical world of magic where seductive rings of power bewitched their finders and bred twisted desires in their owners.