Clarity returned to Aeryn in a ringing burst, waves of sense and reason washing away the chaos of joining Moya. She felt again; knew that she was herself, but linked with Moya as her Pilot.
She was Pilot.
Irritation spiked her awesome realization and delight – someone was talking to her. She didn't need to talk to communicate with Moya; she just thought. No, it was an even higher level than thought, more like the beginnings of thought, the conceptualizations before they were twisted down into anything as restricted as thought. She slowly remembered how to talk – how useless and lowly that seemed – and spoke.
"Will you please be quiet?"
"Aeryn?" said a voice, surprised and alarmed. "Is that you? Are you okay? How do you feel?"
"I asked for quiet," she croaked, working her way out of his arms – he was holding her? – and turning to face him. Cords and tendrils hung around her like a halo, a cloud of her links with Moya. She knew him merely as an inhabitant of Moya, one that Moya trusted dearly. That meant a lot to Pilot, but not everything. He wasn't anything to her, not a friend, not a companion. He was along for the ride, and it was Pilot's job to keep him and the others alive. That was all.
"Aeryn, what's happened?"
"I am part of Moya now, I am her Pilot." She lost interest in the man and turned to the boards, watching with new eyes the progress of the panels lifting and dropping. She reached out and pressed one herself, feeling the power and complete control. She knew everything they could do, all the indecipherable patterns and sequences to guide Moya through the vastness of space. It was Pilot's job to know these systems, and she did; she relished in it, enjoyed the absolute certainty and elegance.
"But you're still Aeryn, yeah? Still you?"
"I am Pilot," she said, annoyance rising. Would he never desist? "Moya's Pilot."
"And what about me… us?"
"The unit 'us' is inaccurate," she corrected. "I am Pilot. You are an inhabitant of Moya. We are separate. There cannot be an us." She wondered at his reaction, at the sob that leaked from him before he smothered it, at the distraught expression across his face. Vaguely she remembered that he had been her friend, and maybe something more, before her change. But that was irrelevant now. Pilot belonged to Moya, and had no time for anyone else in the way that her old self had. She watched the man go, then turned away and began to control the ship.
Crichton staggered into his room, barely making it past the threshold before collapsing to the floor. Agony and loss ate away inside his chest, tearing out his heart and shattering it to atoms. Aeryn was gone. Pilot, as she now called herself, didn't even know who he was, much less cared. Emptiness spun away into the black void of his feelings, and by far the worst was the knowing that every time he had to talk to Aeryn, every time he saw Aeryn, it wouldn't be her looking out at him.