Title: Hunter's Moon
Author: Karolyn Gray <kmgray3@aol.com>
ScifiBB/Chat Handle: Gray3
Rating: PG
Type: Story; Future AU
Synopsis: A bar room storyteller turns out to be more than expected by a young man searching for a legend.
Spoilers: None.
Archiving: Yes
Disclaimers: All Farscape names, characters and other related indicia are the property of Jim Henson Productions, Hallmark Entertainment, Nine Networks, the Scifi Channel and all associated parties. No copyright infringement is intended.


Hunter's Moon
By Karolyn Gray


Part 1: Ksalkas


The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you will find him;
His father's sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;

-- The Minstrel Boy
Thomas Moore (1779-1852)


The man flicked his eyes up, taking in the presence of the young sebacean looking being standing before him dressed in leathers and packing a pulse pistol on his hip.

"So you're back, huh?" The man asked, his voice as rough as his scarred and unshaven appearance.

The young man nodded his head and sat down, running a hand over his cropped, black hair and flicking his blue eyes over the remainder of the small bar.

"You know the game: no drink, no story."

Blue eyes fixed onto his own before nodding. The young man gestured the barkeep over.

"That's better." The older man said before glaring at the barkeep. "Raslac. The good stuff. Not that dren you give the rest."

Mere microts later, a large cup and dusty bottle were placed between them. The old man poured himself of the drink and took a long pull. "Mm. Better."

A shift from across the table caused the man to scowl at the younger. "So what is it this time, kid? Another story? Didn't think I'd see you again after the last one."

The younger man frowned at the sneer that came to older man face, a sneer that only deepened the scars that cut across the old timer's features and somehow made him look even older than his gray hair conveyed.

"What's your name?" The younger mans asked.

"What's my name?" The older man asked, as if surprised. When the younger simply stared at him he shrugged. "Name's aren't important. Just call he Ksalkas, kid. It's what everyone else call's me."

"My name's Cressin." The younger man replied. "What sort of name is Ksalkas? It's not Sebacean."

"No it isn't. Not sure what it means." The older man shrugged again. "Just something some jittering religious nut and his followers called me until I blew their frelling heads off for my first employer. Name just sort of stuck. I've heard some say it means soul-less, others void. Personally I like to think it means soul-less void."

Cressin looked over Ksalkas again, his face unusually blank. "Tell me about you."

"No story. You want to know about me instead?" Ksalkas shook his head; an unsettling rumbling that might have been a chuckle came forth. "I used to be famous. Oh, not the famous cold-blooded bastard sitting here with you drinking. No, I'm talking about another life. It's not important now. I'm just a tired old mercenary with a rap sheet longer than a Leviathan can starburst."

"And?" Cressin prompted, ignoring the older man's odd speech and in turn earning a glare from Ksalkas.

"Don't push it kid. You don't want to know about me."

A determined look settled on Cressin's face. "How did you get here?"

"How'd I get here, huh? Through the rabbit hole." Ksalkas replied sarcastically, looking a bit irked when the young sebacean didn't so much as blink, instead repeating the question.

"How'd you get here?"

Ksalkas sighed in irritation. "Fine, but you must have cat food for brains kid. I came in my ship just like anyone else."

"Quit being an eema and just tell me." Cressin snapped, though none of the younger man's irritation came across in his tone.

Ksalkas leaned back, light glinting off some of the metal embedded into his face and shoulder, and smiled. "Being an eema, huh? Nah. Being an eema would be to take your drinks, feed you a line of dren, and then shoot you in the back as you leave so I can sell your carcass to the local carrion eaters."

His smile grew at the look of disbelieving contempt that passed over Cressin's young face. "Don't think I've done that before? You'd be wrong. I've done worse."

"Tell me how you got here."

"You don't let up. Do you?" A shake of the head in reply brought a frustrated sigh from the older man. "Fine. Waste your time and money. It's not like I got anywhere to be."

"I'll skip the boring parts of how I got out here in the Uncharteds, who taught me to fight, to fly, to shoot. It's not all that interesting except to say that was where it all started, on a Leviathan no less. Took a while but I had friends there- a demented sort of family if you will. We'd made some enemies over time and it came back to bite us in the ass."

"I was on some commerce planet, don't even remember the name now, picking up the last of our supplies when I got word some Peacekeepers had shown up looking for us. The others left before I even had a chance to get the pod powered up, but I don't blame 'em. "

"Damned PeeKay bastards."

Cressin was now leaning forward, elbows propped up on the table, listening intently to every word. "Did the Peacekeepers get you?"

Ksalkas shook his head slowly. "No. For whatever reasons the PeeKays never landed on planet, so I decided to hang out and wait for my ship to come back. Waited a whole damned cycle before I finally got it through my head that they weren't coming back. By that time I'd lost just about everything: used up the supplies, the money, even sold the pod. All I had left was my ol' girl here, some cartridges, and the clothes on my back." The old mercenary patted an older model pulse pistol strapped to his side.

"Took me a while but finally got myself a job as a bodyguard for some local trader. Seems having a PeeKay looking bodyguard was a big deal. No one thought I was much good for anything but killing and frelling with. I guess they turned out to be right in the end."

"Things went well for about a half cycle. I saved up my currency and started looking around at transportation. Then my employer decides that he needs me to personally guard a shipment headed towards the Sebacean Colonies, the Royal planet itself. Sounded good to me, as I knew some people there who might be able to help. The transport never made it. Zenitian pirates got us, but not before I took out about ten or eleven of 'em."

"They killed everyone else on board 'cept me. Seems I impressed their leader, some moron name Umzincz. Ummi went on to tell me how my employer had planned the whole thing, some sort of insurance scam or something. Had told Ummi to make sure I was dead. You know how us PeeKays can be when we get betrayed. Ummi decided he could use a good hired gun for 'special jobs' and that guy would be me. I wanted to live so I took the job. Even got the tatts to prove it as you can see on face." Ksalkas gestured to the black and red tattoos that trailed from his right temple down past the edge of the cloth of his shirt. Scars had obliterated most of the tattoos as did strange red and white splotching on the older man's skin, but the remaining were recognizably Zenitian.

Cressin nodded. "Third Tracers, Red Band Pirates. Right?"

"Good eye, kid." Ksalkas agreed.

"So what happened?"

Ksalkas took another long drink, a strange smile coming to his lips. "So I did some of Ummi's dirty work. Didn't bother me much as I always got assigned to dealing with the scumbags of the universe. Nope. I had no problems taking out other pirates, slavers, and arms dealers, the usual pieces of dren. Besides I learned lots of interesting information during that time. Who was doing what to who, where and how. Passed on some of the info to Ummi, who used it for raids and such."

"With these successes he got cocky. Heard about a Scarran convoy one day and decided to take. Got himself and half his people killed. Me? I got screwed up pretty well and put in a Scarran holding cell. Got interrogated for my troubles naturally, but did have some fun with them. It's not everyday you get to steal a Scarran fighter and blow up one of their battle ships after all."

Cressin sat up suddenly, a surprised look coming to his face. "The Sebac-incha-je? That was you?"

"Coldfire." Ksalkas chuckled at the nickname. "Heard about that, huh?"

Cressin nodded. "It's said that the Coldfire was responsible for hundred of Scarran deaths. I've heard the Scarrans speak the name with fear. That was you?"

"Yeah, that was me. How'd you think I got the old fighter? Scarran kindness? Ha!"

A fond smile came to Ksalkas battered face. "Yeah, me and the old girl had some good times for awhile. She wasn't particularly fast until I did some modifications to her but she was tough one. Got into the running business, cargo, people, didn't matter. It was a way to keep moving, keep looking for my old ship. It was early on then that I came here to the Moon. I liked the place, dump that it is, so I kept coming back over the cycles."

"That's about it." Ksalkas gulped down the rest of his cup and refilled it.

"Did you ever find your old ship?" Cressin asked after a moment of silence.

"Did I find them?" At Cressin's nod the older man shook his head, a dark look settling back over the man. "Nope. Heard about 'em. Tried to find them, but always missed them. Closest I came was by a couple of arns. Never was able to catch them. Kept looking and looking, leaving message buoys, comms traffic, anything I could think off."

"Stopped looking after I showed up at a Budong mining camp I had left a beacon on and found out that one of them had seen it and destroyed the message buoy. Never even asked anyone where it had come from. They just destroyed it and left. I may be slow sometimes, but I ain't stupid. Why bother looking for something when you're not wanted."

"So you kept cargo hauling?" Cressin asked, earning another shake of the head.

"Freebooting got too dangerous then, what with all those frelling wars breaking out. Frelling bastards, all of them. Everyone was out to rob, maim, enslave and kill everyone else. I could fly, I could shoot, I could even do a bit of tech work, so I did what I could. I took up bounty hunting for anyone willing to pay: PeeKays, Scarrans, Tavloids, Plokavoids, didn't matter."

A sardonic grin flashed briefly across Ksalkas' scarred featured. "Turned out I was good at it, too good maybe. Got a rep as one who finished his missions, killed his targets. Assassin was the term some used. Hit man is the way I see it. Did things that would make a Peacekeeper tremble in fear and a Scarran beg for mercy."

"Paid for it a bit. Lost some body parts in the process, but somehow I always managed to get myself patched back together by some bone-hunter or saw-doc. Even got a couple of fringe benefits out of it." Ksalkas rubbed along the metal piece covering his right eyebrow. Cressin frowned as he recognized the small array of sensors there. Cressin recognized them as neural-sense trackers, tech used by some races to help interface with weapons systems and fighter craft.

"You're a professional killer." Cressin spat out with distaste. "A bio-hunter. They're the only ones who augment themselves with those sensors."

"Very good, kid. You're smarter than you look." Ksalkas nodded, his face going frighteningly blank. "I ain't proud of what I've done but I ain't going to apologize for it either. You get lied to; cheated, beaten, and backstabbed enough you don't give a frell about the rest of the universe. The way I see it, I got screwed from day one out here. It's just payback time."

"I see you looking at me, judging me. Don't bother, kid. You don't know what it's really like out here when you've got to be on your own. No friends. No allies. No family. Nothing. Just you, the dark, and your pulse pistol keeping you a heartbeat away from death."

"So, have I answered your question?"

Cressin nodded. "What would you do if you ever saw you old crew again?"

"If I saw them again? I don't know. Embrace them, kill them. Maybe both. I doubt they'd even want to see me. I probably wouldn't even recognize them anyway." A haunted look passed through Ksalkas eyes. "I've done things they wouldn't, couldn't forgive. How could they since I haven't even forgiven myself? Best to leave it behind. Not think about what could have been."

"Why not?" Cressin asked.

"The past is past." Ksalkas replied tiredly. "So, are we done?"

"No. I want to hire you for a job." Cressin said.

Ksalkas looked at him with disinterest. "What do you want me to do?"

"I need you to find someone."

"Find someone. That's all? Don't want him dead?"

"No. Just find him."

"Fine. Show me a image and I'll see what I can do."

Cressin placed a holo-imager on the table and tapped a button. Instantly a holographic image of a sebacean looking male appeared with close cropped brown hair, blue eyes, and an irreverent grin that belied the severity of the somber, dark leathers and pulse pistol he carried.

Ksalkas studied the image for several microts. "That him?"

Cressin nodded.

Ksalkas reached across the table and shoved the imager away. "Sorry, kid. Can't help you."

"Why not? I can pay." Cressin asked incredulously.

"Why? Cause this one'll get you killed." Ksalkas snapped.

"You know him?" Cressin leaned forward, for the first time excitement burning in his eyes.

"Yeah, I know him. Devilish bastard. Best you forget him. Go back to your friends and family. He'll only lead you to pain and death. Trust me." The older man replied.

"When did you last see him?" Cressin prompted, oblivious to the growing scowl on the old man's face.

"Last saw him a long time ago. Probably fifteen, maybe twenty cycles. He was pretty messed up. Suicidal nut bag taking on the universe, he was. Forget about him, kid. You won't ever find him."

"Why not?" Cressin asked.

"Because he's dead, kid! I know. I was the one that killed him." Ksalkas snarled, yanking Cressin up by the collar of his leather coat.

"I don't believe you, you frelling drannit."

Cressin's head snapped back as Ksalkas backhanded the younger man and threw him to the floor. Cressin scrambled to his feet, glaring at the old mercenary while trying to staunch the flow of blood from his split lip.

Ksalkas rested his hand on the butt of his pulse pistol in a plain warning. "Believe what you want, kid. Now get out of here, go home and be happy you've got some place to be. I see you here again and they'll be dragging your corpse to the reclamation center."

Cressin glared at him for a long moment before sidling over to the door and leaving.

Ksalkas sighed and sat down again. "Sorry, kid. It's for the best." He murmured to himself as he picked up his cup. Noticing the holo-imager was still on he saluted the man there.

"Here's to you, John Crichton, you old bastard."



Part 2: Sundown

"Land of Song!" cried the warrior bard,
"Tho' all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!"

-- The Minstrel Boy
Thomas Moore (1779-1852)


Aeryn Sun shifted uneasily on her feet, nervously checking up and down the street. "Where the frell is he?"

The shorter of her two larger companions shifted his head slightly. "He'll be fine. Cressin knows not to cause trouble."

Aeryn sighed. "I know, Jothee. But we can't take any chances. Last reports indicated the Scarrans might be headed towards this sector. We can't afford to be here when they arrive."

Jothee sighed and rolled his eyes to meet his father's own exasperated look. Knowing better than to argue with the ex-Peacekeeper D'Argo just shrugged and remained silent. He knew all too well not to argue with Aeryn when it came to Cressin. She was as stubborn as a mule, whatever that was, in that regards. Not unlike he had been before reuniting with Jothee.

"There he is." Jothee nodded behind them as he spotted the dark haired youth cutting through the crowd.

Aeryn frowned as she noticed Cressin's split lip when he finally reached them. "What the frell happened?"

"Nothing." Cressin muttered. At his mother's look, he sighed. "Look. It was nothing. I was just down at the Crater talking with that guy I told you about yesterday."

"Why were you there? I told you not to go back there. It's dangerous." Aeryn lectured.

Cressin held up his hands as if surrendering. "I know. I know. I just thought..."

"Thought what?"

"I thought maybe this guy could help us."

"And just who is the man that you thought could help us?"

"He's called Ksalkas."

"Who the frell is..."

"Ksalkas, the Hunter? The Ksalkas?" Jothee asked in disbelief, interrupting Aeryn.

"Just who is this Ksalkas?" D'Argo asked.

Jothee looked between the puzzled looks of Aeryn and his father with surprise. "You don't know? He's only the most vicious mercenary in this sector of the Uncharteds. It's said he's killed hundreds, maybe thousands of people during the last couple of wars. Real monster, from what I've heard. Will do anything for anyone if the price is right."

At the skeptical look his father gave him, Jothee shrugged. "It's probably not even him. I've met three different people claiming to be Ksalkas. None of them were the right species though. All anyone agrees on is that Ksalkas looks Sebacean, might even be an ex-Peacekeeper."

"Well this one looks like a Peacekeeper." Cressin noted. "Acts like one too sometimes, though he's got a funny accent like he spent to much time out in the deep range colonies."

Aeryn fixed a cold glare on the young man before her. "And what were you doing with such a person?"

"I heard rumors that Ksalkas was on the Moon. I thought he could help us." Cressin replied uncertainly, leaving out the real reason he had gone in search of the man.

"Cressin maybe right." Jothee threw in. "If this is Ksalkas, then he'll know this area of space better than anyone else. He might be able to help us avoid the Scarrans."

After a moment's consideration, Aeryn nodded. "Alright. Take us to this Ksalkas."

Aeryn was not impressed by the dilapidated building Cressin led them to, frowning in disapproval the locals' disheveled appearance and overly attentive glances in their direction. Once inside the building her opinion changed little, noting the dust and grime of the place. The only thing that gave her pause was the small anti-personnel pulse cannon attached to the top of the bartender's station, the cannon tracking their progress.

A small pale green creature with tufts of yellow fur protruding at seemingly indiscriminate locations from its bodies hissed and hooted to itself as it wiped down glasses. It's red slit-like eyes flicked up briefly when Cressin stopped in front of him.

"Where is he?"

"Who?"

"The man I was talking to here a quarter arn ago."

"Don't know who you mean? Many customers today. You want drink, too?"

"No. Where's Ksalkas?"

The little alien stopped and blinked at that before shaking its head from side to side. "Not know. Ksalkas not here."

"I can see that. The table we were at is empty. Where did he go?"

"Not know Ksalkas. Best to not know."

"I can make it worth your while."

"Can bring me back from dead?"

"No."

"Then not worth my life. You leave. Not come back."

"Tell him I have a job for him. Different from the last one offered. More money."

"Why I should tell."

"I'll give you a cut of what we'll pay him."

The alien's eyes blinked rapidly, changing from a deep red to a bright pink, as it extended a three-clawed hand forward. "Pay now or I say nothing."

"Why?"

"Because it is the only way to get past me." Came a deep rumbling voice from behind them. D'Argo and Jothee spun, their weapons aimed into the darkened corner the voice had come from.

"Who the frell are you?" Jothee demanded.

The shadow shifted, growing until it was a full head and shoulders taller than D'Argo and nearly half again as broad. "Kellix." The shape replied.

D'Argo sniffed the air and hissed. "Scarran."

"No." Kellix replied stepping from the shadows to reveal a distorted face of a Scarran with dark blue eyes. "Not entirely."

"You're a hybrid." Aeryn stated matter-of-factly looking over the creature, noting Kellix's more rounded sebaceanoid face, unusually smooth skin and less numerous scales, the usual claws on the four digit hands. Under the cloak the creature wore she could see he was thinner than she had previously thought. "What do you want?"

"The question is who you want Sebacean." Kellix twisted his head to the side curling his lip in an apparent smirk.

"I'm looking for Ksalkas. I heard he was here."

"Was here. Gone now."

"Then where can we find him?"

"You cannot find Ksalkas. He will find you."

"And you are offering your services to locate him?" Aeryn asked sarcastically.

The Scarran shook its head. "No. Offering advice. Leave here or die."

"Really?"

"Young one should have followed advice. No place for him. No place for you here. Go home."

"You seem confident that you will walk out of here alive." D'Argo challenged.

Kellix smiled, his eyes flashing briefly in amusement. "So do you. Perhaps I should educate you to the error of your ways."

"Oh?"

Kellix actually chuckled. "Srak!"

A short burst of energy stitched the floor between D'Argo and Jothee, causing the pair to jump for cover, before stopping a few denches short of where Aeryn stood.

Aeryn looked up and nodded in admiration at the dilapidated pulse cannon now trained on her. "Impressive. I'm surprised that piece of dren even fires."

"Looks are not everything, Aeryn Sun." A new voice rasped, a heavily scarred and tattooed sebacean male limping into view from the shadows behind Kellix.

"Ksalkas, I presume?" Aeryn asked, looking over the battered relic before her with an impassive expression.

The man snorted. "What do you want?"

D'Argo and Jothee had returned to their feet, weapons still drawn. D'Argo sniffed. "You're not sebacean." He sniffed again. "I can't tell what you are."

"Scent inhibitors. Keeps the sniffers like you away." Ksalkas replied casually, patting the Scarran on the side in a manner that suggested affection. Kellix growled softly and shifted until he stood behind Ksalkas. "Now. What exactly do you want?"

"Cressin seems to think you can help us." Aeryn said gesturing to the young man beside her. "If you are who you say you are."

"The Hunter help the great Aeryn Sun?" Ksalkas mocked as he sidled back into the Scarran.

"They say you know this sector better than anyone. Ways in, out, around. That you can deliver to locations no one else can."

"And you want me to deliver something to someplace."

At a nod from Aeryn, Ksalkas glanced over his shoulder at the Scarran. "Why?"

"There are certain people we'd like to avoid."

"Scarrans?" At their hesitation Ksalkas smiled. "I'll take that as a yes."

"We can pay."

Kellix and Ksalkas grinned at one another at that, the Scarran turning away as he started to laugh.

"Yes, I'm sure you can." Ksalkas replied with a grin, gesturing for them to join him at the table behind him.

*****

"Commander Zyornn. Our spies report that the our quarry has contacted Ksalkas."

The Scarran commander whipped around from his viewing of the report on screen and snarled. "What? Where?"

"The Crater." The smaller Scarran replied.

Zyornn snarled shaking his head in rage. "I knew the son of a tralk was there!"

"Yes, Commander. The escaped mutation Kellix is there as well." He added.

"Kellix and the others are of no consequence." Zyornn waved his clawed hand dismissively. "Prepare the squadron. I want Ksalkas."

******

"Fifty thousand. No more." Aeryn countered.

Ksalkas blinked once, staring blankly, saying nothing.

"She said fifty thousand. You will not get a better offer." D'Argo growled, careful to restrain his growing frustration at the strange mercenary given how the Scarran beside him watched them all intently.

After a moment Ksalkas squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. "I believe you are out of time."

"They're here?" Kellix asked, looking down with some concern at Ksalkas and resting a hand on the battered merc's shoulder. Ksalkas merely nodded as he raised his head.

Aeryn leaned back in surprise at how old and tired Ksalkas looked. It was a look she recognized, but for some reason could not place. "The Scarrans are here."

"What? How?" D'Argo bellowed.

Ksalkas shrugged and slowly stood. "I've suspected they were on the Moon for a while."

"We must leave immediately." Jothee said.

"They're not looking for you." Ksalkas chuckled. "They want me."

"How do you know this?"

"Oh the hunting party is run by an old friend of mine. A Scarran Commander named Zyornn."

"You mean Fleet Captain Zyornn?" Aeryn asked in horror, recognizing the name immediately.

"Who else?"

"We're frelled." D'Argo muttered.

"Perhaps not." Kellix replied, looking at Ksalkas with an expression the others could not read. The twisted smile that came to Ksalkas' face did nothing to improve their trepidation.

"We'll surrender." The pair said in unison before Ksalkas' started to laugh hysterically.

"You're farhbot" Aeryn whispered.

"You would know, Officer Sun. You've known him longer than I." Kellix replied before disappearing back into the darkened corner of the room.

"What the frell does that mean?" Aeryn asked, irritated as Ksalkas simply continued to chuckle to himself as he stared off into nothingness.

*****

Part 3: The Scarran Initiative

The Minstrel fell but the foeman's steel
Could not bring that proud soul under;
The harp he loved never spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;

-- The Minstrel Boy
Thomas Moore (1779-1852)


Kellix's blue eyes met Aeryn Sun's own, never wavering but refusing to answer the question the sebacean had posed. She could see a mix of anger and sorrow in the large alien's eyes, curious as to what it could mean.

"Scarrans are on our street." Ksalkas announced, cutting off any further inquiries from Aeryn. Ksalkas pointed to the alien behind the bar and waved his hand once. A microt later the creature had disappeared as if it had never been there.

"Is there an alternate entrance from here?" D'Argo asked, gripping his qualta blade tightly in his hand.

Ksalkas just looked at him, his brow furrowed as he pinched his nose as if in pain. "Yes, but it won't help you." The mercenary replied slowly.

"Why?" D'Argo replied.

The doors to the bar exploded inwards, the smoke filling the establishment doing little to hide the entrance of a handful of Scarrans storming into the room with their weapons at the ready.

"Drop your weapons!" The lead Scarran snarled. The four froze as they realized several targeting devices that centered on them not were coming from the Scarrans. The ominous hum of the pulse cannon above the bar filled the silence.

"What the frell?" Jothee gasped as Kellix slapped the rifle from his hands. The half-Scarran snarled menacingly as he pushed the young Luxan over to the others.

"That's why." Ksalkas replied softly, aiming his old battered pulse pistol on the four. "I suggest you do as the Scarran says."

Aeryn looked over the Scarrans before reluctantly dropping her pistol to the floor. The others followed suit, D'Argo hissing in frustration.

"Room secured." One of the Scarrans announced.

"Good." Came a deep rumbling voice, as a sixth Scarran entered the room. He sneered at the four beings before him before turning to address Ksalkas. "I received your message. It was as easy as you said it would be."

"Only as long as you keep you part of the deal, Zyornn." Ksalkas replied, locking his pistol back into its holster.

The Scarran captain laughed at that. "You may a son of a tralk, Ksalkas, and a pain in the eema but you are worth nothing compared to these." Zyornn walked over to them, looking over Aeryn Sun carefully. "The great Captain Sun. So good to finally meet you."

"Frell you." Aeryn spat.

Zyornn chuckled at that. "You may very well when we are through." He turned back to Ksalkas. "Be gone from this place in a solar day before my beneficence is gone."

"This my world, Zyornn. You don't dictate to me here." Ksalkas tilted his head casually to the side.

"My dreadnaught will be here in a few solar days." Zyornn stated simply.

Ksalkas and Kellix exchanged amused grins at the implied threat. "Care for some target practice, Kellix?" He asked. He looked back at the Scarran pointedly causing Zyornn to growl in displeasure but otherwise remain silent. "There is the final detail of the bounty payment."

"Very well. You obviously know where my compound is. Report there in an arn for payment." Zyornn grumbled at that before visibly calming himself. "We would be interested in knowing what weapon you possess that can destroy Scarrans vessels so easily. I would pay well to obtain such a device."

Ksalkas nodded as he approached the Scarran Captain until he was within arms reach. "Oh, I'm sure you would but it is not for sale."

Zyornn hissed out, a wave of heat spreading toward the mercenary who remained stock still seemingly unaffected by it. The prisoners recoiled, Aeryn falling to her knees, held around the waist by a worried looking and pale Cressin. A microt later Zyornn hissed and jerked back holding a bleeding forearm.

Ksalkas now held a thin silvery knife flecked with the Scarrans blood in front of him. "Do that again and I will use your entrails to decorate the walls in here. Comprende?"

Zyornn nodded once, obviously angry as he gestured for his troops to secure the prisoners. Stunned, D'Argo, Aeryn, Jothee and Cressin remained silent as they were bound and lined up. Noticing the young Sebacean male, Zyornn snagged Cressin by the back of his neck and shook him. "This one is of no use to me." With that he slammed the young sebacean into the wall and let his form crumple to the floor.

Aeryn struggled to reach the young man. "Cressin!" A Scarran backhanded Aeryn to silence, a trail of blood trickling down her chin and throat.

"Move them out!" Zyornn ordered.

"I will find you and kill you for this Ksalkas." Aeryn hissed, earning another blow to her face, followed up by several kicks to her ribs when she stumbled to the ground. Ksalkas' face remained emotionless as he watched them depart.

*******

The steel door at the only entrance to the cells opened, a now familiar and hated form passing from the hall to the room just outside their bare cell with the ever present shadow of the Scarran half breed at his back. Ksalkas seemed to revel in their hateful glares and growls of anger he received.

"What are you doing here?" Aeryn Sun snapped. "Where's Cressin?"

"Oh, the kid is fine, Aeryn Sun. I sent him back to his transport pod without a scratch." Ksalkas replied. "I'm not a monster."

"Could have fooled me." Jothee muttered.

Ksalkas chuckled at that. "As to why I am here, I just wanted to see this. It will be an image I savor for quite sometime."

"Why?" Aeryn asked, shaking her head.

"Give you to the Scarrans?" Ksalkas chuckled, a cruel smile twisting his features.

"Yes."

"Well I am a mercenary, after all. Highest bidder and all that." He replied with a toss of the head, the smile still there.

"No. This goes beyond money. We could have easily matched the Scarran's price. This isn't about money."

"No. It's about survival." Ksalkas replied evenly. "Nothing personal. I want to live. The Scarrans either get you or me. I decided that they should get you." He chuckled again, delighting their glares he was receiving from them.

Aeryn shook her head, narrowing her eyes. "No. That's not it either. That's too convenient. If what everyone says is true you have no love or need for the Scarrans. You could wipe out Captain Zyornn and his ships in microts. What's the real reason, Ksalkas?"

Instantly the smile was gone replaced with a silent fury. "Payback for all the many years of suffering you've given me." He snapped back, the bitterness in his voice causing Aeryn to actually flinch back.

"What? What are you talking about?" D'Argo asked.

Ksalkas started laughing at that, a crazed hysterical laugh that unnerved the others present. Only Kellix seemed unaffected, merely flicking his blue eyes over to Ksalkas before returning to studying the prisoners. After several microts Ksalkas' laughter subsided, by that time the others were looking at one another with worried looks.

"You still don't know do you?" Ksalkas asked, glancing over to Kellix who merely snorted in derision at them. "Perhaps a little reminder then. A beacon on the Budong mining camp near Resik's Redoubt."

"Resik's Redoubt?" D'Argo asked in puzzlement.

"A little message from an old friend of yours." Ksalkas prompted.

"The fake message from Crichton?" D'Argo shook his head.

"It wasn't fake!" Ksalkas shouted the fury in his voice silencing the Luxan. "You never even bothered to verify its authenticity. You just destroyed it and left."

"You left the beacon for Crichton." D'Argo spoke softly, horror dawning on his face. "I-I didn't know. We had been tricked before..."

Ksalkas snorted. "How convenient for you."

"Where is Crichton?" Jothee asked.

"Wh-where...?" Ksalkas started giggling. " Did I really mean so little to you that you don't even remember what I look like?"

At these words the prisoners stared back at him with confused expressions. All of them except Aeryn, who had closed her eyes as if in pain. Ksalkas ignored the other two, focusing his attention on her.

"You are not making sense, Ksalkas." D'Argo said. "We have never seen you before. I've never..."

"Yes, we have." Aeryn interrupted softly, earning a puzzled look from her friend. Aeryn slowly opened her eyes, a slight tremor passing through her frame. "It really is you, isn't it?" She whispered.

"Long time, no see, baby." Ksalkas replied with a sneer, any warmth that once might have been in the strange but all too familiar greeting gone.

The clanging of the steel door drew attention to the Scarran that entered the room, ending further discussion. Ksalkas nodded once in silent greeting to the large alien but made no other gesture.

"Ksalkas, the rest of your payment has been deposited at your ship," Zyornn stated. "You and your mutant are no longer required. Leave before I decide to bring you back to the Imperium for questioning."

"More than happy to oblige, Cap'n." Ksalkas replied as he headed to the door, Kellix trailing behind.

"Ksalkas." At this Ksalkas stopped and looked back at the Scarran Captain.
"When next we meet I will kill you."

"Guess I get to take you off my Christmas list." Ksalkas replied with a small laugh. "Don't worry, I think I can live without seeing your ugly mug again. Just do me one favor?"

"What favor?" Zyornn asked, curious at what the mercenary could possibly want.

Ksalkas nodded to the trio in the cell. "Make sure they suffer for a long, long time. Especially the female."

Zyornn growled humorously. "I can assure you that will be the case, Ksalkas."

The battered mercenary nodded once and left, followed by Kellix who hissed at the prisoners one final time before joining his companion.

Zyornn looked them over momentarily, as if trying to decide something. After several microts the Scarran shook his head, growling softly and left the room, slamming the metal door shut behind him.

Aeryn slowly sank down to the floor shaking as she closed her eyes and hugged herself tightly.

"Aeryn?" D'Argo touched her shoulder, causing her to jump. Looking at him he could easily see the tears she desperately fought to hide.

"Aeryn? Who was that? Who is Ksalkas?" D'Argo asked softly, wondering at the pain in his friend's eyes. A familiar pain he had not seen in many cycles.

"J-John." She whispered, tears flowing from her eyes.

"It was John Crichton."



Part 4: Decisions


And said "No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and bravery!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!

-- The Minstrel Boy
Thomas Moore (1779-1852)


Ksalkas stumbled back more in surprise than pain at the blow to the face. Shaking his head he felt the small trickle of fluid from his nose, ignoring it as he focused his attention on the young Sebacean male before him. Kellix already had the boy's arms pinned holding him off the ground, a stream of invectives flowing from his mouth.

Ksalkas nodded once, earning a puzzled look from Kellix before the Scarran-hybrid roughly threw Cressin to the ground. The dark haired Sebacean was quickly on his feet, drawing a knife as he stood, and waved it threateningly at Ksalkas.

"I would have thought your mother had taught you better, son. Never bring a knife to a gunfight." Ksalkas said mockingly, his hand resting casually on his pulse pistol.

"Frell you!"

Ksalkas chuckled. "Such language." He waved his hand dismissively to Cressin. "Look, kid. I like you. That's the only reason I'm letting you walk away from this in one piece. Go home."

"To what, freljak? You sold out my family to the frelling Scarrans! I don't have anything left." Cressin screamed, lunging towards Ksalkas with his knife. Ksalkas easily avoided the blade, striking Cressin sharply across the back of his head and sent him sprawling into the dusty street.

"You've got your life, kid. Move on." Ksalkas spat back, getting annoyed at the young man.

Cressin got to his feet surprisingly fast. His knuckles turned white as he tightened his grip on the knife. "Not until I see you dead." He replied furiously.

"I don't want to kill you, kid." Ksalkas replied tiredly.

"Yeah, right. Next you're going to tell me that you didn't want to kill my family. Right?" Cressin spat back.

Ksalkas' face went blank at that. "No. I won't lie and say I don't want them dead. I did it because of what they did to me."

"They didn't even know who the frell you were!" Cressin snapped. "How the hell could they have done anything to you?"

"They abandoned me!" Ksalkas snapped, eyes flashing in anger. "Left me alone to die!"

"Just like you're doing to me." Cressin replied, suddenly dropping his knife and looking tired. "Why don't you just kill me and be done with it?"

Ksalkas shook his head slowly. "I won't kill you. Just go kid. Go make a life for yourself away from all this insanity."

Cressin looked away, blinking back tears. "I'll find you. You know that. I'll find you and kill you for killing my parents."

The last part caught Ksalkas attention and even made Kellix cock his head to the side with a questioning look. "Parents? I'm only responsible for killing your mother, Cressin."

Cressin glared at him. "You told me yourself that you killed my father!"

"The only person I told you I had killed was John Crichton." Ksalkas replied slowly.

"John Crichton was my father!" Cressin screamed. "I'll see you dead Ksalkas Sebac-incha-je. On this you have my vow."

Cressin didn't notice Ksalkas pale during his rant, the mercenary suddenly looking older and unsettled. Ksalkas nodded once as if to calm the young man before him. Only Kellix knew it was Ksalkas calming himself.

"What is your name?"

Cressin glared at Ksalkas. "Cressin Sun. Cressin Crichton Sun. Remember it when I kill you."

With that Cressin stormed off down the street. Kellix started to raise a pulse pistol at the retreating figure but stopped and lowered it at a look from Ksalkas.

"I will." Ksalkas whispered softly.

Kellix flared his nostrils as he came alongside his friend. "He's brave. Stupid, but brave."

"Like father, like son." Ksalkas muttered.

Kellix shifted from one foot to the other, sighing in annoyance. "We're going back to rescue them, aren't we?"

Ksalkas shifted his gaze back to meet the Scarran half-breeds half smirking expression. Anyone else would have mistaken it for a sneer or a threatening flash of teeth. "Got a problem with that?"

"Do we keep the money?"

Ksalkas tapped one of the small sensors on his brow, grinning. "Of course."

"Then I have no problem. You lead. I follow." Kellix replied.

Ksalkas waved his friend off. "No. Go tell the others we're leaving. We're returning to Serenity. I'll get them away from Zyornn myself."

Kellix frowned at that, allowing a small blast of heat to escape as he vented, literally, his frustrated on the surrounding air.

"Just do it," Ksalkas ordered.

Kellix sighed and bowed his head in obedience. "Yes, Ksalkas."

*****

D'Argo watched Aeryn sitting quietly in the corner of the cell they shared. She had been silent ever since Ksalkas...Crichton had left. At first there had been tears but they had quickly dried into the numbing silence that now enveloped them. He still found it difficult to believe. To find Crichton after so long only to have this happen; to be betrayed by him.

He growled softly to himself at the thought, earning an inquiring look from Jothee. He nodded once to his son realizing his anger was pointless. Crichton thought they had abandoned him, left him to die, and destroyed his attempt to contact them because of their own paranoia. If the human's current physical state was any indication to the horrors he had been through it was no wonder the human had come to hate them.

The sound of weapons fire startled all three out of their reveries, Jothee quickly on his feet trying to peer down the short hallway to the door. Moments later the door exploded, debris and smoke filling the cell room. A familiar shadow entered a moment later, a faint red glow emanating from where D'Argo guessed would be an eye.

"What the frell?" He muttered as the figure coalesced into an all too familiar person.

A smile twitched briefly across Ksalkas' face as he looked at the lock and shot it with his pulse pistol before pushing open the cell door. D'Argo now recognized the low red glow coming from Ksalkas' right eye as an older model ocular implant. "Your pod is prepped and ready to go. Weapons outside the door. Captain Zyornn is a little distracted at the moment. I suggest you take the opportunity to leave."

The trio stood there gaping at Ksalkas for a moment before Jothee whooped in joy and dashed out of the cell. D'Argo stared at Ksalkas for a moment earning a nod in reply to his silent question before he followed his son in retrieving their weapons. Aeryn was slower to react, walking carefully towards Ksalkas as if afraid he would disappear if she came too close.

"Why?"

A myriad of expressions flashed across Ksalkas face before he settled back into his grizzled ever-present frown. "Later."

She nodded in agreement and joined the others, gratefully accepting her pulse pistol from D'Argo. "Are you coming with us?" Aeryn asked as Ksalkas walked by them checking his pistol over.

An old familiar grin spread across his face. "Cressin said you might need an escape route. I just happen to know this area space like the back of my hand."

"Is that a yes?" D'Argo growled, surprise at the sudden warmth of friendship he felt rekindling within his hearts.

"Trust me. I've got a plan." Ksalkas replied.

"That's what worries me." Aeryn replied, earning a startled expression from the grizzled mercenary before them. After a moment Ksalkas snorted once and nodded for them to follow him.

Several hundred microts later they reached the landing zone, surprised at the number of dead Scarran warriors lying about. They had bypassed several raging battles between the Scarrans and the locals to reach this point, surprised at the how easily these supposed pirates and vagabonds were able to hold their own against the better equipped Scarrans.

Ksalkas pointed to their shuttle pod sitting nearby a smaller, dark vessel that seemed to be all angles and sharp edges; definitely Scarran in design. "Get to Moya and prepare for starburst." He pressed a data crystal into Aeryn's hand. "Make sure these coordinates are input into Moya's navigation before she starbursts.

"But..."

"Go!" He shoved her, turning and heading to what Aeryn realized was a heavily modified Scarran transport.

D'Argo and Jothee clamored aboard the transport pod, giving good-natured slaps to Kellix as they started up the transport's stairs. Aeryn paused at the bottom puzzled as she watched Ksalkas sit down in a reclined chair of the transport and begin to punch a few buttons.

"Aeryn Sun, we must go." Kellix tapped her lightly on the arm, the sound of the transports engines nearly drowning out his voice. "He will be fine. Come."

Aeryn nodded and quickly boarded the ship; a little surprised that Kellix followed her.

Moments later the transport pod was off the ground and streaking for orbit. Aeryn could not help but smile as she watched her son's hands fly over the controls with a practiced ease she had seen few possess.

"We've got incoming ships," Cressin announced.

"Which one is Ksalkas?" Aeryn asked, focusing on the small display screen, as she felt the heat from Kellix behind her.

"You will not see his ship. The signatures from the main port are our people. The two from the adjunct facility are the Scarrans." Kellix replied.

"Ravagers?" Cressin asked over his shoulder earning a confirming nod from the Scarran hybrid.

"Do not concern yourself. Ksalkas will deal with them." Kellix turned to Aeryn nodding the crystal in her hand. "Send your message. Time is critical."

Aeryn simply nodded and hopped into the co-pilots seat, opening a comm to Moya. "Pilot. Prepare for immediate Starburst. I'm sending coordinates for you now."

"What's wrong, Aeryn?" A gruff male voice came over the comm, earning a brief smirk from the ex-peacekeeper.

"Nothing we can't handle, Venn. Be sure we're ready to Starburst the microt we land." Aeryn replied.

"Yes, ma'am."

Aeryn couldn't help but shake her head at that. Despite years away from the Peacekeepers the former soldiers like Venn never completely lost their peacekeeper discipline, always referring to her and the other 'original' crew of Moya as "ma'am" or "sir".

A blossom of orange followed by a slight rocking of the transport pod brought Aeryn out of her brief reverie. Glancing at her son she saw him sigh and shake his head.

"That was close what ever the frell that was." Cressin muttered.

Kellix chuckled. "That was Ksalkas."

Cressin merely snorted in disgust at that, a frown creasing his brow, but remained silent and lined the pod up to enter the rapidly approaching Leviathan. Less than a hundred microts later, he brought the pod in for a smooth landing grinning at his mother's nod of approval.

"Pilot, now!"

"Starburst in five microts!"

******

"What is this place?" D'Argo asked studying the blue-green world with its seven moons and several orbital star docks and dozens of planet side star ports.

The question was greeted with a loud, drawn out sigh that caught the attention of Aeryn, Cressin, and the several other aliens manning various positions around Command who turned to where the sound had come from.

Ksalkas met their gazes in turn while Kellix merely smiled revealing sharp teeth. "A safe place." Ksalkas finally replied as his eyes were drawn back to the planet before them. Aeryn and D'argo both looked at each other at the hint of longing they detected in their former shipmate's voice.

"Commander Cri...Ksalkas. I have received a transmission confirming our approach to the planet." Pilots voice came over the comm.

"Good," was the only reply. He looked over to Aeryn and D'argo again. "I'm sure our traders will be more than willing to barter for whatever provisions you may need before you depart."

Aeryn mentally shook herself, recognizing Crichton's old stubbornness after all these years. Even worse she realized just how much he distrusted them after so much time apart. She didn't realize until this moment how much she wanted his trust and friendship back. "Thank you." She replied. "I'll have Venn make the arrangements tomorrow."

He simply nodded at her words, turning back to face the planet.

"It's a beautiful world." She noted softly.

"Yes, it is." He agreed.

"Does it have a name?"

"I believe the peacekeepers call it IX-97-Velka15432-Teraan Obas 3."

"And the Scarrans, Scerrak-dan." Kellix added. "As far as both are concerned it's a waste hole of a planet without suitable atmosphere or minerals to make it worth looking at."

"We call it Serenity." Ksalkas said quietly.

"How...how has this place avoided the wars, scavengers, pirates?" D'Argo asked.

Ksalkas and Kellix started laughing. Turning to face them, his eyes flashing with genuine mirth Ksalkas smiled broadly and took up a cocky stance, Kellix matching. "We are the pirates, the scavengers, and the soldiers in this sector of space."

"Why do you think the Peacekeepers or the Scarrans or the Nebari do not venture out into this sector of space?" Kellix asked.

"So you say you're responsible for all the ships that have disappeared in this sector?" D'Argo asked with a mix of shock, anger and disbelief.

"Not all," Ksalkas admitted. "There's the Budong nest over in the Gessal Drift, the Bonejackers of Iljak 2, and the Obellian Cannibals near the Perinni Nebula. Nice people really."

At this Kellix nodded his head vigorously. "Best chef's this side of the Royal Planets."

"Besides, some people chose to disappear out here." He waved to the array of ships orbiting the planet and docked with the stations. "The rest we take care of when they cause trouble."

"Care to share your secret?" D'Argo inquired.

The smile of Ksalkas face faded to suspicion. "What secret?"

"How you've been able to keep this place secret for so long," D'Argo noted. "This place, the Moon, how ever many other hide outs you and your people use. We could use such places."

"I don't take sides anymore, D'Argo." Ksalkas shook his head. "None of us do. We left that behind."

"Ain't that the truth?" Cressin snapped.

At a look from Aeryn, Cressin nodded and stalked from the room, casting another baleful glance over his shoulder at Ksalkas. Aeryn shrugged apologetically for her son's behavior before continuing on.

"We're not asking for you to take sides, Jo..." Aeryn's voice trailed off at the sudden growl from Kellix and the cold hate that settled onto Ksalkas' face. Swallowing she started again. "We're not asking for you to take sides, just agree to not attack our support ships. Maybe we can even hire your freighters for supply runs. We could make this quite profitable for your people."

"You would have me risk all we've built here for your stupid and pathetic wars." Ksalkas stated.

"No. You can operate as you always have, the difference being sometimes it would be for us." D'Argo corrected. "No one would ever know of this place."

"No." Ksalkas replied.

"We're going to be here for a few days. Just think about it?" Aeryn asked.

"Fine. I'll inform the others of your offer. I promise nothing more." Ksalkas conceded.

"They'll go against it if say no." Aeryn noted. "We could use your help, John. You could help a lot of people."

"I make no promises." Ksalkas replied.

"I know." Aeryn said.




Epilogue: Pax Leviathanum

Excerpt from the final entry of Force Commander John R. "Ksalkas" Crichton, Jr.'s personal journal as quoted in Cressin Crichton Sun's Pax Leviathanum: The Coldfire Legacy. Terran Press Unlimited, English version. 2088 A.D.


I can't believe how long it's been since I've written in this journal. It seems like it was just yesterday but it's been over fifty years if I've got the date right. Aeryn was right about cleaning up our old quarters on Moya. I guess I didn't feel the need to write down things after I was reunited with Aeryn, D'Argo and the rest on Moya. When I think back on it now, I don't see why I stopped writing.

I know things certainly weren't going well between us in those early years. Real tense, especially between Aeryn and I. I admit I was surprised when my people at Serenity decided to accept Aeryn and D'argo's request for assistance. I didn't like it but went with what the others wanted. Compromise, it was the way Serenity worked and why we were so successful. At least that's what Scorpius keeps telling all those years.

The first few months after our reunion, things were tense. Scorpius didn't help that any. I know his presence freaked the others out when they discovered he was living at the colony. Even more so when they found out he was continuing the wormhole research based on the information the Ancients gave me. To avoid the tension I even took a number of the early smuggling runs. I claimed to do it to make sure they were being honest with us, but it was more to do with avoiding contact with Moya and those aboard her.

It wasn't so bad talking to D'Argo and Chiana, a little uncomfortable and stilted, but tolerable. Pilot and the newer additions to Moya weren't really a problem. I didn't know the new aliens and I never did blame Moya and Pilot for anything. Aeryn and Cressin were the reason I stayed away.

I could tell Cressin hated me from the start. It surprised me how much it hurt to know that my son hated me, my own words condemning both of us with the false belief I killed his father.

And then there was Aeryn. I was so angry much of the time I could barely stand to be around her. We would coordinate our efforts but there was no doubt that we barely tolerated each other. I hated her and I thought she hated me. It wasn't until later I found out the truth.

I had returned from a long-term solitary run that kept me away for three months. Usually the first few nights after a solitary run I would walk the halls of whatever ship I was on, in this case Moya. The first night back I wound up in Pilot's den. I'm not sure how we got on the subject of Aeryn, but we did. I remember making a comment about Aeryn being a cold-hearted bitch and Pilot handing me a data chip telling me to watch it and understand what happened while I was away from Moya.

It took me a week to finally watch it. I think I waited because I already knew the truth deep down and didn't want to admit it, didn't want to think how wasted all those years of my life had been, how much I'd missed. Watching that chip was both the best and worst thing to happen in my life.

Seeing the images of Aeryn pushing the rest of the crew to look for me, her concern for me giving away to her pregnancy and birth of Cressin, the attempts by the peacekeepers and others to use my image to try and capture them. Through it all what struck me most was Aeryn's loneliness and sadness. She hid it well, but I could see it in her eyes. And as I watched the collection of images of her, my son, and the others, I could see that pain and guilt reflected in their eyes.

For the next week or so I was in a very dark place. I got plastered on any and every intoxicant I could find on Moya, the Fleet, any planet we came across. I started more bar brawls and fistfights than I think the entirety of fights I'd been in during the last ten years. I insulted Aeryn, D'Argo, Cressin, even Kellix. Pushed away everyone who cared. I didn't want to admit it then, and for a long time after, but I wanted to die. I was a fool, useless, had wasted my life and now just wanted it to be over.

It was Cressin who saved me, ironically enough. I was drunk and standing on the ledge of a building thinking of seeing if the laws of gravity applied on that planet. I honestly don't remember what happened other than he was there but the next morning I woke up on Moya with a massive hangover. No one ever mentioned a thing, acting as if nothing was out of place. I knew something had changed though when Cressin showed up in the maintenance bay the next day asking if he could help me repair my ship. I didn't question it, just grateful that I'd get to spend some time with my son, even if he never knew who I really was.

About that time things changed between Aeryn and I. Nothing earth shattering, we just started talking. A few minutes here, a few minutes there, mainly on my part to assure her I had no intention of trying to turn Cressin against her (not that it was likely to work even if I had tried). Our short conversations turned into messages via comm buoys when we were away from Moya or the Moon on our respective duties.

It didn't even realize how much I enjoyed talking to her again until after about six months of this I would find myself getting angry if I missed a message buoy or rendezvous with Moya. When I nearly strangled a Thraxan trader for delaying me from rendezvousing with Moya, I realized just how much I still cared for Aeryn. I knew she didn't share the same feelings for me, but I couldn't help but want to at least have her friendship. As much as I am friends with Kellix, it Aeryn who understood me the best and with that in mind I decided to try and regain some small part of that friendship.

It turned out easier than I thought. I guess Aeryn was as lonely as I was and wanted our friendship back as well. We started off with just joining our respective crews on jaunts down to the local bars of whatever planet we were in orbit of and invariably found ourselves off in the corner watching, commenting and comparing our crews to our own misadventures. I quickly found myself spending more time on Moya as our schedules started to 'coincide' with each other's and no longer felt like the odd man out.

Things came to a head on a visit to Moya after a long cargo haul. I was anxious to see Aeryn and she hadn't greeted me like she customarily did which made me nervous until Pilot informed me she was on the terrace. I went there and as soon as I saw her I realized I was hopelessly in love with her despite all my efforts. I'm not sure who initiated the kiss, but that's what we did. No words of greeting, no welcoming smiles. Just a kiss so passionate you wanted to curl up and die from pleasure.

Of course, Cressin came in at that moment looking for his mother. We broke apart and I was certain I was about to feel several pulse blasts as I turned to face Cressin. Much to me surprise the boy was grinning from ear to ear as he apologized for intruding and left. I quickly followed him. I needed to make sure he was ok with this. How odd, huh? Biological parents worried that their son's approval. When I confronted him about it he just smiled and made some comment about just being happy to have a 'real' family now. It took me a few days to realize he knew I was his father and that he had forgiven me for not being there his entire life.

Things changed rapidly after that. Not so much between myself, Aeryn, and the rest. That took time but everything else changed. One day Kellix returned with a fleet of some twenty Leviathans that he had liberated from the Peacekeepers and some five hundred people; mostly peacekeeper soldiers all clamoring to join Ksalkas's Hunters, as my allies had come to be known, to fight in some war or other.

What war that was I had no clue but the next thing I knew I was suddenly Force Commander Ksalkas commanding a rag tag army of twenty-two thousand soldiers, pilots and techs from a dozen or so planets and star systems. Aeryn seemed awfully amused by the whole thing, amused even when we formally combined both of our allies and associates together under the so called Pax Leviathanum Treaty.

Obviously none of the big powers found it amusing, especially the Scarrans and Nebari. I became universal public enemy overnight across the known universe by governments worried I'd bring my "Hunters" into their space. The bounties on my head got worse when the Peacekeepers came out of no where and signed on to the Pax Leviathanum. With the PKs signed on the Luxans, Delvians, and a half dozen other races quickly followed suit.

I didn't find out to much later that the change in PK Central Command had come about due to several familiar names: Braca, Chatto, Grayza. I don't know what they said or did or even why. Scorpius was never able to get a clear reason from them either when I sent him out to meet with Captain Braca and the ageing Admiral Josbek.

The sudden alliance with the PKs set off a new war with the Scarrans and Nebari, but both were so worried about Hunters showing up in their systems to forment rebellion, their initial assaults faltered and were quickly repulsed by the Peacekeepers and their allies and the war ended half a cycle later.

I wish I could say peace reigned after that, despite the stories and claims that the last fifty or so cycles have been the most peaceful in recent history, but wars break out every few cycles. Small to be sure and short lived, but they're still there.

Despite everything that has happened in my life, I think the hardest, and yet most rewarding thing was finding Earth shortly before my 110th birthday. Everyone I knew was dead: Dad, DK, my sisters, and my friends. Seeing how my home world had changed in my time away was both fulfilling and painful knowing that wars that had come and gone, the unnecessary strife and conflict. My return led to a new wave of upheaval that thankfully ended quickly. Earth quickly signed onto the Pax Leviathanum and somehow wound up the center of much attention by the rest of the races. Leviathans in particular seem to have made a permanent holiday spot out of Saturn and Jupiter. I guess they liked all the human organizations that cropped up demanding freedom for Leviathans and starting save the Budong campaigns. Oh you wont find many humans out here yet. Most seem to be sticking close to Earth but it's been a long time since I've been to a Leviathan that did not have at least a handful of humans on board.

At 129 cycles of age I'm not really sure how to take the praise and adulation I receive from so many so I just keep my thoughts to myself. I can't complain. I'm happy. Well and truly happy. I do miss D'Argo since he passed on but seeing Jothee and his family carrying on his family's honor mitigates the loss somewhat. Sebacean medicine has given me many more years than I ever expected to have. Aeryn and I have four beautiful children together whom Cressin just loves doting on even now that they're adults. I think Turra, Jaysen, Chaim, and Lanasa would be hell on the universe if not for their older brother reigning them in. We share an estate on Serenity, though it seems like we spend more time on Moya visiting the traveling Leviathan fleets than anything else.

Aeryn says I should not be so humble about all I've accomplished; that what I've created will last for generations. Scorpius agrees with her. Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is that I've done some terrible things in my life. I don't think I could ever do enough to make up for those shameful acts. I suppose I'll just leave that for humanity to do.

Despite the wondrous things so many attribute to me I have no prophetic words to give out, no sage wisdom or thoughts to guide the universe. I'm just a human who got lost in space and did what I had to do to survive. Tried to do the right thing when I could. I guess that's as good a legacy as any to leave.

I'm looking forward to a well-deserved rest.

Oh and to anyone who may ever read this intent on searching for words of wisdom, I've got two words for you: Beep! Beep! Contemplate that.



From Pau Si'kaan's The Way of the Leviathani. English translation. 2202 AD Terran:

"As a religious scholar, the use of 'Beep, Beep' by the religious among the Leviathani to convey the arcane is still one of the last great words of wisdom left by John Crichton yet to be deciphered. While obviously the words are of great importance I have yet to understand why every human who is greeted by these solemn words appear to develop a human version of the intons not unlike giggling. My hypothesis is the reaction is due to the humans being so moved by the words that it results in this particular physical reaction."


*****


The Minstrel Boy
Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
This is a traditional Irish song that was popular during the War,
and speaks as directly to the Southron as to the son of Erin, about
the love of country trancending the odds, and how, while the true
patriot may be crushed, he can never be defeated.

The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you will find him;
His father's sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;

"Land of Song!" cried the warrior bard,
"Tho' all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!"

The Minstrel fell but the foeman's steel
Could not bring that proud soul under;
The harp he loved never spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;

And said "No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and bravery!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!