Disclaimer: Love 'em, but don't own 'em. Farscape belongs to Henson.
"'Kozu-kozu-kozu-kozu-kozu!" Sikozu Svala Shanti Sugaysi Shanu, age seven, turned to watch her brother Shellin, age five, careening down the hill towards her on his short legs. She reached out a hand and he grabbed it as he came to her, using her to check his forward momentum. "Where ya goin', 'Kozu?"
"Exploring, c'mon." She pulled his hand and led him into the woods at the bottom of the hill. The family was vacationing on Anakh, a farming and forestry planet in a system near their homeworld, Kish. It was the first journey off-planet for both children, and now the whole family was settling into the guest houses over the hill: her parents and her newest younger brothers, the twins Skaan and Skean who were less than a year old. She had taken the first opportunity tow leave the family behind—but 'Chel wasn't a nuisance.
The two children stepped cautiously into the shadow of the strange trees. Kish was an industrialized planet, specializing in medical research; their hometown, Kassanti, was always bustling with activity. Here everything was cool and quiet. The massive trees—far larger than anything in the parks of Kish—loomed overhead, their branches forming a ceiling so thick that all was twilight below. Vines crept up the thick trunks, twining with the tree branches as they reached for the sun. It might have been easy to think they were the only breathing beings for miles, but the low buzz of insects reminded the children that larger animals also sheltered in these trees. Sikozu shivered, in spite of herself.
"Oh, 'Kozu, it's scary!" Schellin stepped closer to her, clutching her hand tightly.
At his words, Sikozu drew herself up. I'm not a baby. No need to be afraid!"Don't be a baby, 'Chel, it's not so bad. In fact, I think it's really cool!" Her eyes caught a flash of red in the shadows, and she turned towards it. "C'mon, let's look over here!"
Dragging her younger brother by the hand, Sikozu ran towards the distant glint of color. Reaching it, she stopped and simply stared.
It was a tree, but a tree so massive that it dwarfed any tree she had ever seen before. It was bigger around than she and 'Chel together could reach, and so tall that its top was lost among the leaves of lesser trees that grew around it. Climbing up it was a tangle of vines, one sporting the bright flowers that had first attracted the children's attention.
"That's a BIG tree, 'Kozu!" Sikozu laughed, a little, at her brother's simple observation. Seven is so much older than five!
"Yes, 'Chel, it is."
"I bet we could see forever from the top!" Now that was an interesting idea. Sikozu considered the tree again, critically this time.
"You're right—let's try it!" She put her hand on the bark, feeling for the innate gravity of this massive object that would allow her to use its mass to aid her climbing. The tree was dense, and she thought it would be possible to support her weight against it. I've been doing this constantly for a whole year now. I can climb this tree!Grasping the vines, she hoisted herself up until she was no longer touching the ground. Then, slowly, she shifted her gravity towards the tree until she felt it take her weight and she was crawling, not climbing.
The whole world changed in that instant. No longer was she pulling herself upward, laborious, though tough vines that choked her way as much as they helped. She was crawling through a fascinating jungle, where blossoms larger than her hands swayed gently, brushing her face with their sweet fragrance. She crawled faster.
"Sikozu!" Her brother's voice broke her reverie. She paused, looking behind her at Schellin laying against the base of the tree.
"Aren't you coming?"
"How are you doing that?"
"Just make the tree DOWN!" It was so obvious; she didn't know why Schellin hadn't thought of it. He had already crawled up a wall at home once or twice, and he was almost six. "C'mon, 'Chel, it's just like a wall!" She turned back to the tree and continued climbing.
She had gone a mere two motras farther when she encountered a new puzzle: the vegetation was thinning, twisting out from the trunk as branches joined the tree, and directly in front of her, blocking her path, was a branch the size of a normal tree. She sat back on her knees to consider this problem. Certainly, she could not continue as she was. At her present gravity, there was nowhere for her to go. But could she shift enough to circumvent the branch without losing her hold? She inched over, counterclockwise, until she felt herself to be just on the point of falling off the edge. There she paused, slowly bringing herself to believe that the bark below her was her true DOWN. It was tiring, but it was possible. In this same manner, she slowly inched herself around the branch, then moved above it and inched back so it was below her. Rolling onto her back, she put her feet against the branch and, gratefully, let normal gravity reclaim her.
Immediately she fell, landing facedown on the branch, arms and legs hugging it to keep her grip. But the branch was large, eventually she was able to rest and relax her arms and legs. Then she ventured to peak over the side.
'Chel! In her preoccupation with the branch, she'd completely forgotten her younger brother, determinedly crawling up the tree behind her. She had been correct, he was capable of following.
"'Chel! Hey 'Chel!" He looked up to her, stopped moving. "'Chel, isn't this fun?"
"Sure, 'Kozu." Strange, he didn't sound like he was having fun.
"Hurry up, 'Chel! It's cool up here, and we can have a rest." She sat back, no longer looking over the edge.
Schellin, determinedly crawling towards his sister, had finally reached the branch.
"'Kozu, there's a tree in front of me, what do I do now?"
She peaked around the tree, looking at him. "It's not a tree, silly, it's a branch. You have to edge around it."
Suddenly, he was afraid. Something was not quite normal about the way his sister was looking at him. She was... upside down!
"Sikozu! 'Kozu, how are you doing that? You're all upside down!"
"I'm the one who's right, silly! You're the one whose DOWN is the tree!" And suddenly he remembered. He wasn't crawling forward along the pleasantly rough ground amid a forest of flowers, he was crawling up, like a fly on a wall, and gravity was pulling him back, its strong fingers reaching to him with a grasp he could not deny. Twigs and vines, which had so fascinated him during his climb, were now his enemies, scratching his face and hands as he fell. He grasped at them all the same, the only thing keeping him from free fall, and as he fell he heard his sister scream: "SCHELLIN! SCHELLIN, THE TREE IS DOWN!"
The vine he had grasped fell away in a large section, and he was falling away from the tree, freefalling, when her words—or, perhaps, simple instinct—kicked in. He swung back towards the tree, hitting it with a solid thump, but as he rebounded off again he thought, "DOWN!"
The tree bark was once again welcome ground under his grasping hands. He spread his arms and legs to hug it to him, then dared to peak over his shoulder to see how far he was from the ground below. The hard, rocky ground was little more than his height below him. He could have died—but right now, it means I can let go.Normal gravity took him again, and he fell backwards to rest on the blessed, true ground, which could never bounce away from him. Then, exhausted, he immediately fell asleep.
In her fear, Sikozu had navigated the branch without a thought and come running down the tree on her feet, leaping to the ground and changing mid-stride without even thinking about it. She reached her brother as his eyes closed, and for a moment she thought he was dead. But no—he was breathing. Now what?She couldn't move him herself, but there would be trouble if they weren't back soon. She sat back, resting against the tree, willing her heart to stop pounding.
"Sikozu! Schellin! Where are you?"
"Here, Father!" Her relief at the arrival of an adult outweighed any fear of punishment for leaving the adults behind.
"Sikozu! Sikozu, what...?" Her father assessed the situation: the tree with its torn vines, his son's battered state. "You climbed the tree."
"Come with me." Her father was a man of few words. Lifting his son easily in his arms, he turned and walked back towards their lodgings.
They were almost back at the houses before he spoke again.
"Sikozu, do you know why Schellin fell?"
"No, Father. I had gone ahead, and was sitting on one of the branches."
"He forgot the true DOWN, Sikozu. It is a lesson we try to teach all of our children, and the reason we do not like you to experiment on your own so early. We must never forget the true direction of gravity's pull, lest we be surprised by it. We must also shepherd those younger than us, Sikozu, and your responsibility towards Schellin is as ours towards you. You must not let him overtax himself. He will be weaker than you for several years, and you must remember that. It is your responsibility to make sure that Schellin—and, eventually, Skaan and Skean—know what they are capable of. Both what they can and cannot do. Do you understand, Sikozu?"
"Yes Father." But you don't know what I can do, Father. I ran down that tree without a thought, and I could do it again. I could do it again. But she must protect her brother. "Yes, Father."