Almost Like Tea
He still hadn't gotten used to the movement of the ship. It was night now---or, the equivalent of it, he supposed. In space, it was always dark. But the ship…moved. The rhythms were as alien to him as the creatures aboard. John Crichton kicked at the thermal sheet for a few minutes, half-heartedly attempting to settle himself, then gave up and padded barefoot into the corridor, looking for the dining area. Although he knew that 'night' was an arbitrary thing out here, he was too well-trained to raise his voice above a whisper as he fumbled for his comm.
He did not have to say anything else. This was not his first wander since the days he had come aboard, and Pilot had already sent a drd for him to follow. He was a bit dismayed to finally reach his destination and find it occupied.
Zaahn sat serenely at one of the tables, eyes closed and hands clasped above a steaming mug. "John," she said without looking up. "Will you join me?"
"Ah, sorry. Didn't mean to interrupt your…"
"My what? I was saying a blessing before I drank. Come, join me. Would you like me to pour you some?"
He joined her at the table, peering curiously into her mug. "Is it decaf?"
"Decaf. Will it…never mind." He shook his head. "I'm wide awake anyway."
"Well, this should help sedate you. It's made from steamed kantha root, and has a calming effect."
He cracked his knuckles as he finally pulled up a seat. "Yep. I could definitely use some of that."
She rose to prepare the drink for him. "I can imagine. This whole experience must be an enormous adjustment for you."
"I'll say. Deep space, aliens, crazed military commander who thinks I killed his brother, and this ship…this ship! It's…"
Zaahn set down the mug. "Remarkable?"
He squinted, trying to find the words. "It's loud. It…it moves."
"That it does," she chuckled. "Remember that it is not only you this will be new for. I was planet-bound before my capture, and although Rygel has been on ships for many cycles, his species is aquatic."
"Really? Huh. But water moves too, doesn't it?"
"As do planets. But nothing moves like a ship, and Moya being alive…"
He sampled the drink with a cautious sip. It was almost like tea, sweet, with a vaguely tart aftertaste. "Yeah. Still trying to get my head around that. Do you think we…hurt her somehow? By stomping around in her corridors when we're supposed to be sleeping?"
"Pilot would tell us were that so. Do not forget, John, that Moya is above all else a SHIP. She is meant to have passengers. She is happiest when she has life aboard her."
"What about him?"
"Does he enjoy it too?"
"I assume he does. He did choose the path of being bonded to a leviathan." She sipped her drink with a slight smile. "Although I wonder if perhaps he was not quite prepared for this little mutiny of ours. I wonder if he enjoys his freedom from peacekeeper control as much as the rest of us."
"Not all of you are enjoying it, Zaahn."
She looked briefly confused, then she nodded slowly, eyes a little grimmer than they were before. "You mean the soldier you rescued. Aeryn."
"Yeah. She hasn't slowed down for a minute! I hear her pacing in the corridors as soon as Pilot turns the day lights on, then she's at her prowler, or the command, or at the cargo bay pounding on a punching bag…I invited her to come eat with us yesterday. She told me she still had seven diagnostics to run on the drds!"
"She is trying to stay occupied, I suppose. She is from a world which is very structured, very orderly. It must be disorienting for her to be in an environment which lacks that."
"Well, she's not acting like she lacks it. That is a girl who likes her routine! And it's freaky, because the rest of you seem to be relaxing, and she seems to be getting more and more uptight."
Zaahn could not suppress a tiny smirk. "I was not aware you had been monitoring her movements so carefully, John."
He sighed. "Yeah. I guess I just…I feel a little responsible, you know? It's mostly my fault she's in this mess, and she just LOOKS so human, I forget she isn't sometimes. And then she goes all psycho obsessive-compulsive whenever I intrude on her little routine, and it hits me all over again that I'm all alone out here, on a ship with a bunch of aliens. And with that alien in particular, who has a lifetime of insane commando training."
"You are not the only one who is wary of her," Zaahn admitted. "I am an optimist, and not only that, I am a priest. I always believed I had a special talent for seeing the good in others. That one, she will be my special challenge, I think."
"So you think this is like fate or something? That all of us were put here as some sort of…test?"
"I don't believe in tests, John. But I do believe in the interconnectedness of all things. Yes, I will grow from having her here. The hope is that she will grow too…"
"And if she doesn't?"
"She will be more unhappy than circumstances require her to be. And I will grow anyway."
"That's a sort of callous way of putting it."
"That's life. All of us are going to have to adapt if we wish to survive out here. She may think she is our superior, but she is subject to that need just as we are."
"Do you think she'll succeed? Learn to adapt, to live out here?"
"I think that she will stick to her peacekeeper routines until they stop working for her. When that happens, I do believe she will grow. She is thoroughly conditioned by her training and her upbringing, but I do not believe she lacks intelligence and I do not believe she lacks a will to live. If she did, she would have let Crais kill her."
He pushed his tea aside. "Maybe. I still can't sleep, Zaahn."
"You'll adjust in time. You'll…"
"Stick to my human routine until it stops working for me?"
"Something like that."
"Well, thanks for the tea. I guess I should be heading back to my room. Gotta get started on that whole adapting thing, you know…"
"Shall I call for a drd to direct you?"
"I got it covered. I think Pilot's watching me. If I get lost, he'll send someone after me."
"Yes, I imagine he will." She was already standing to leave. "Did you need anything else?
"No. Goodnight, Zaahn."
She gave him a final smile, and he made his way back to him room, feeling unaccountably sleepy. Perhaps that tea had worked better than he thought. Or, perhaps he really was adapting. He barely made it to his bed.
In the darkness of his silent room, the drd gave an unseen signal to Pilot, and the few remaining lights shut off. Now that Moya's last two occupants were sleeping, Pilot could finally relax. He closed his eyes, a part of his brain staying with Moya and a part staying with the chronometer, where he counted down the hours until he would wake them again.