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More Is Not Just A Word
Laughter Becomes Something More
What The Yotz Is Football?
Laughter Becomes Something More
Usual disclaimers: I don't own 'em, I'm just enthralled by 'em. Henson or some other equally gothic corporate entity owns 'em. But I'll play nicely with the Farscape characters, honest. I'll even put them back where I found 'em when I'm done.

Archiving: Please email me first. Failure to do so will result in Peacekeepers using your bones for dice.
Respond to:
Rating: G.
Synopsis: John makes the mistake of laughing at Aeryn.

"No. That's no frelling good. Do it again."
Aeryn Sun slapped her hand with each syllable on the nearly unyielding mats of her private space from her prone position. She was unsure whether the rhythm of the strikes matched her ragged breath or the remembered mocking cadence of Senior Officer Dreeson, one of her instructors in unarmed combat. Not that it mattered.
"Get up, Aeryn. You will keep at it until you do it correctly." Despite her tiredness (after all, this was her sixth attempt in full Peacekeeper combat gear), she levered her lithe figure off the mat and resumed her ready position.
"Now, remember. Snap the draw hand over your striking hand. You need complete and unimpeded travel for the blow to be fatal," she coached herself as she rocked her body. This was in preparation for her seventh attempt at Hand-To-Hand Response Drill No. 138.
She knew this drill, had practiced it nearly daily since she was very young and had even excelled in it. Like an old friend, it helped her to connect to her past. "That is, I excelled when I was still Officer Aeryn Sun of the Pleisar Regiment's Icarians," she said aloud to the empty room. The mere mention of her former unit helped her to square her shoulders and renew her practice.
The drill's scenario called for her to seize, bare-handed, the command center of a vessel from a minimum of three bridge personnel. She was required to coordinate a series of attacks, drawn from the Peacekeeper diversified and lethal arsenal of martial arts techniques, to accomplish this. While somewhat stylized, the drill honed her hand strikes and kicks.
With a final breath, she hurled herself into the exercise. Unfortunately, as she had the previous six times, she crossed her feet while executing a complicated kick. The shin guards of her armor caught, locked and knocked her off-balance, leaving her in a very un-Peacekeeper like heap on the mats again.
Over her own breathing and blood pounding in her ears, she thought she heard laughter. Willing herself to be quieter, she confirmed that it was, indeed, laughter. And she knew exactly who was doing the laughing without even looking.
"Crichton! What the yotz do you find so funny?"
John Crichton strode over to his fallen shipmate, still chuckling. As far as Aeryn was currently concerned, his chief attributes were an addiction to incessant talk, curiosity of a foolhardy and dangerous stripe and an all-too-frequent employment of one of the most irritating laughs in the Uncharted (or any other) Territories.
"C'mon, Sunshine. I don't know why I was laughing. Well, I do, actually. You did look kinda silly swinging your hands and feet around in the air. Is that some kind of Sebacean or Peacekeeper dance?" he said, extending his hand with those damnable blue eyes just screaming sincerity. "Let me help you up and you can tell me all about it."
His proffered hand was accepted and consequently used, very efficiently, against its owner. John Crichton found himself in a very uncomfortable position against a far bulkhead. Pulling himself around from his mostly upside down position, he groaned against the pull of some abused muscles but fixed Aeryn with one of his patented lopsided grins and said, "Well, it wasn't a pantak jab but that was pretty painful."
He let his eyes travel up to take in a very angry Aeryn, once again in the ready position and "full kick-ass mode" as he termed it. He tried negotiation, "Y'know, Aeryn, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were gonna knock the crap out of me."
"Crichton, I can't remember what 'crap' means but if it entails making you very uncomfortable for the next weeken, you are so right!" she said, launching herself forward.
John had no intention of being made uncomfortable for a microt, much less a weeken. He figured his best bet was to make a run for the door, beat cheeks (let her try to figure out that Earth expression!) and come back later to apologize when his favorite ex-Peacekeeper had a chance to calm down.
Unfortunately, she had tossed him (How the hell had she managed that, he thought to himself) against the wall opposite the door. From his vantage point, even now that he was rightside up, the door looked very, very far away.
"Now, Aeryn, I'm sorry. I do know you take your training very seriously," he began, gathering his feet beneath in preparation for his escape.
"Yes, I do, Crichton. But, do you know," and she gave Crichton a sarcastic shade of a smile and that tilt of her head that he usually found completely enthralling.
"It's been so frelling difficult not to practice with a live opponent. How fortunate for my training regimen that you have volunteered," she snarled out the words as she swung a heavy boot at his mid-section.
Dodging by a margin narrower than he would have wished, Crichton rolled sideways and somehow got to his feet. Abandoning all pretense of dignity or Earthman machismo, he sprinted for the door.
Or he would have if an enraged ex-Peacekeeper hadn't spun around quickly. She dropped to one knee and used an outstretched leg to sweep his feet out from under him. In the process of falling, Crichton managed to latch onto one of the shoulder extensions of Aeryn's armor. He pulled instinctively and ended by falling on top of Aeryn.
"Hoo, boy. Talking about riding the tiger," he said as his face bounced off her chestplate. Slightly dazed, he looked up and saw only the stormy intensity in Aeryn's eyes. He figured that, since escape now seemed to be impossible, it was time to go on the offensive.
This, he thought, was going to be something of a problem against a professional skilled in the art and science of delivering serious hurt to other beings. So Crichton decided to do the unexpected and bizarre, a trait for which he was justly famous.
He pulled his body upward to kiss her on the mouth, realizing that she may bite his lips completely off. He used his own not inconsiderable strength to pin her arms. He spread his legs wide to better hold her down, remembering some moves from his high school wrestling days.
"Burning hezmana! Why can't you even fight back, you frelling human!" she yelled when she could finally free her mouth.
"Be… cause… I… respect… your… ab… ili… ties," Crichton said, the effort at speaking punctuated by a very active Aeryn struggling to dislodge him.
With a speed and strength that only raised his respect for her, Crichton suddenly found himself on his right side with Aeryn poising a gloved left fist for striking. A very hard, pain-dealing fist, from Crichton's point of view.
"I give. I surrender. Uncle. No hitting. 'Kay?" Crichton said with palms up and outstretched, hoping his sudden submission might deter the fist.
It did. Mostly. She drew the fist back further and bumped his forehead just enough to push his head back.
"That was for cheating, Crichton," she said and flopped down on her back.
"Yeah, but I enjoy that kind of cheating," he confessed, easing his body to prop it on one elbow.
He gazed from her raven-black tresses to her eyes and once again appreciated her sculpted cheeks and proud chin. "Yes, I did," he said again. He involuntarily drew back when he saw those eyes lose their focus. When Aeryn wasn't in action, which wasn't often, she was thinking. And that was nearly as dangerous.
He watched as the most complex, most beautiful, most deadly woman in his experience slowly unlock and then remove her heavy gloves. Her fingertips seemed to travel on their own to her lips.
"Yes, I believe you did, Crichton. And I did, too," she said quietly. "But that doesn't stop me from being irritated and annoyed that not only did you interrupt my training but you also laughed at me. Practicing and staying sharp is one of the few consolations available to me."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Peacekeepers don't exactly have wide and deep senses of humor. I'm sorry, Aeryn, really I am," He said and braved the distance between them with a hand to brush a lank strand of hair away from her forehead.
Thankfully, she accepted his touch and even seemed to turn toward him in subtle recognition, in silent acceptance.
"So tell me what you were doing?" Crichton said, in a conversational tone.
Aeryn happily retreated from where that fleeting touch of her forehead may have lead to explain, "It's a Peacekeeper training drill. It's designed to test and extend martial techniques in a given scenario."
"And what is the scenario?" Crichton asked, relaxing with his head propped onto his hand. Both of them chose to ignore that his other hand stayed in contact with Aeryn's cheek.
She eased into the familiar territory of Peacekeeper doctrine and practice, seemingly grateful to return to a place of comfort if not superiority. "This drill, Number 1-3-8, takes place aboard ship. The goal is to seize the bridge from a minimum of three defenders. The Peacekeeper is unarmed."
"Why unarmed?"
"What the yotz difference does it make? It's an exercise, Crichton. Do I ask you to explain your fahrvotz lifting of weights?" she said, a bit of the usual Aeryn blaze escaping.
He just nodded, if a little sheepishly, inviting her to continue.
She also chose to relent, rising up on her side to face Crichton, "Well, maybe it's because the Peacekeeper has just escaped custody or a lucky shot has disabled her weapon and she's thrown all of her knives or she has run out of ammunition. The point is that she is unarmed."
"Okay, so she's unarmed. Those bridge guys still don't stand a chance," he said, returning to his usual (and from Aeryn's point of view totally unwarranted) cheerfulness.
"The bridge has three entry points. Each of these offers advantages and disadvantages," she continued, unconsciously taking on a didactic tone.
"Of course. All good exercises do," he agreed, beginning to stroke her cheek.
"Crichton. John. Stop doing that. Do you know that I once bit off two fingers of a Transdidiahn rebel when we were fighting hand-to-hand?"
No. I don't believe you did. That you told me, that is. Is that a threat, Sunshine?"
"You may take it however you wish, John. I stated a fact to you. Do you wish for me to continue or not?"
"Yes, please, Instructor Sun. So how do you choose which entry?"
"In my case, two of the entrances require a certain space to be covered before reaching the bridge crew. As running is not of my greater assets, I usually choose the entrance with as little need to close as possible."
"Sounds sensible. But you seem to have no trouble running from me," he said, instantly regretting the injury made possible by a quick wit and even more glib tongue.
"Crichton. This is the last time I am going to tell you. Do not interrupt. You will regret it. And so will I."
"Sorry, Aeryn. I am listening."
"But there is a drawback to this as well because it requires a frontal approach in full view of my opponents, obviously sacrificing the advantage of surprise."
John chose to nod again, clamping down on his lip to keep from making any sort of smart-assed response.
"However, fortunately, this plays into one of my own strengths as I am able to combine attacks at an acceptably high level of efficiency."
"Of that I have no doubt," John offered, hoping his tone would not provoke Aeryn.
"In Peacekeeper simulators, the bridge personnel change randomly in their position and in the order of their own attacks. Here on Moya, I am, of course, limited to my own imagination," Aeryn said with equal parts of wistfulness and regret in her voice.
"I'm sure you have a very adequate imagination for these kinds of exercises," John added.
"But it's still not the same, Crichton. You, as a scientist, should know that. I mean, you did all kinds of simulations with your toy, your module, but you had to do the actual test, didn't you?"
"Yeah. So how can I help?" he dared with the question, almost hoping she'd say "no."
"Help. You?"
"Yeah, y'know. As in render assistance, provide support, offer aid, that kind of thing."
"Well, I don't know. I hadn't thought of approaching anyone but D'Argo in the matter. After all, he is the only other warrior convenient."
"Well, yeah, D'Argo is a warrior, the genuine article, no doubt. That's why I wouldn't trust either of your tempers. Drilling or sparring or whatever you want to call this could get out of hand really quickly. But, as far as being the only warrior about, c'mon, I'm not in bad shape physically. And you're coming dangerously closing to wounding my male ego."
Aeryn allowed herself the luxury of minutely studying the shape enclosing that male ego; a decidedly pleasing male shape, despite his other irritating qualities.
After a moment, she said, "Very well. We will take it slowly and from the beginning. "
Another few moments passed and then she smiled. "Going slowly and doing the basics. That is not altogether a bad thing, Crichton. One can always learn something from the basics."
Aeryn clambered to her feet and hoisted John to his. While she enjoyed his nearness, the touching, she became all business.
"I'll begin as I was taught, starting when I was barely seven cycles old," she began tonelessly.
"Everything proceeds from your stance. What appears to be a punch or a throw is really nothing more than your upper body building on what your lower body does …" she began, unconsciously mimicking the pedantic tone of Senior Officer Dreeson.
"Watch me, shoulders relaxed, feet shoulder width apart. Now pull your right foot straight back. No, John, bend your left knee more," she continued.
"Gee, Aeryn, isn't this just a bit too basic," Crichton complained, even as he emulated her movements.
Feedback is always appreciated.

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More Is Not Just A Word
Usual disclaimers: I don't own 'em, I'm just enthralled by 'em. Henson or some other equally gothic entity owns 'em. But I'll play nicely with the Farscape characters, honest. I'll even put them back where they belong when I'm done.
Archiving: Please email me first. Failure to do so will result in Peacekepers using your bones for dice.
Respond to:
Rating: G. (Surprised? I was...after the strange turn the plot took on me.)
Synopsis: Our favorite Peacekeeper begins to cope with the scope of "being more."
"What a frelling..." the curse began and descended into a string of such obscene allusions to the anatomically impossible and realistically improbable that only a veteran Peacekeeper could conceive of such things, much less yell out, into the darkness.
"Life used to be so simple," Aeryn Sun, thought, pounding out the words to the rhythm of her fists into the punching bag. Those fists, only recently healed from their last onslaught against the mute yet accusing red plastiform, made the only sound apart from her own labored breathing.
When she was Officer Aeryn Sun, proudly claiming her place in the Icarians, Pleisar Regiment, life was indeed simple. "You trained, you received orders, you went on missions. You succeeded. Or you died," she thought, beating out a cadence with her fists reflecting her words.
Simple. A universe comprehensible and direct. Rewards clear. Punishments equally clear. She had been, what, happy? No, not happy. But she had a sense of completion, of mission, of clarity. Certainly that would satisfy most beings as a definition of happiness. Moreover, she had a future. She could look forward to advancement and increasingly satisfying, if not profitable, assignments.
But what of her past's morality? Certainly she had thought of herself as moral, as completely consistent when she had been performing within the requirements of a Peacekeeper officer. And a Prowler pilot on top of that. She thought the Peacekeeper way supplied the only moral compass she would ever need.
Then came that laughable, cosmically ludicrous chain of events that resulted in her condemnation as "irreversibly contaminated" by her contacts with these other criminals and shattered that simplicity. As casually and as permanently as a blastrifle's charge or a blow to the face. And then there was that equally laughable, cosmically ludicrous refugee from the backside of nowhere, Crichton. Somehow, there was always, unremittingly always, Crichton, hovering in her thoughts.
Now, she thought bitterly, as her fists slowed under their own sheer weight as she neared exhaustion, what am I?
She strove for some mental clarity, even drew on her Peacekeeper training in observation and reconnaissance, as she took stock of herself. Obviously, as the dummy rocked under a renewed hard right fist, she was physically healthy. Retained all of her other faculties? Well, that, outside of her five acutely trained senses, that might be debatable.
Happy? No. Still not happy but also obviously lacking that sense of clarity, of any moral center. The worst of it was that her new life, such as it was as a galactic criminal, could not possibly take shape and gain any clarity so long as her old life kept shattering those first, tenuous steps.
If it wasn't running to Crais for his help in finding a safe haven for D'Argo and Crichton in the asteroid field, it was that damned record of her participation in the execution of Moya's first Pilot.
Confusion ran on top of feelings of loss on top of feelings of separation and, most horrifying to her, need. She really didn't know where to start. Introspection was not on the Peacekeeper training agenda.
Now thoroughly tired, she slumped down to lean on the punching dummy, much as she had when Crichton had found her after the tape of her murder was first shown to the rest of Moya's crew.
Aeryn had claimed this area as her own space. It had housed a messhall for a section of the prisoners that Moya once held. It was now furnished (decorated was far too strong a word for the spartan aesthetics of a Peacekeeper) with various training and exercise gear that Aeryn had scrounged or salvaged. It was her sanctuary. The lighting had been altered so that it was nearly dark, more comfortable for her Sebacean needs. The temperature was "friggin' freezin'" as Crichton always put it.
Topmost in the turmoil was the question, Why wasn't she embarrassed at her total breakdown in the presence of the infuriating human? She hadn't cried like that, clutched so... been so frelling needful since she was a child. A very young child. But it had felt so right. In no one else's presence would she have felt safe enough to so completely vent her feelings, of that much she was sure.
That was so different than when they were lounging in Pilot's chamber seemingly only a few arns ago. She had luxuriated in his arms around her, not even minding his absent twirling of her hair. Of course, that was something known and knowable. She knew how to accept a male's attentions. And return them. With interest.
But even that casual intimacy didn't threaten to open the cauldron that contained, if barely, her deeper needs, her base understandings of herself and her place in the universe. Her hand moved absently to her cheek and the now-damp locks of hair in an imitation of his, John's, touch.
"Well, isn't this choice?" began the thin, sarcastic voice from near the door. "Seems like I chose the right moment to approach, when you look too tired to easily reach me and kick my ass."
"Chiana," somehow the young Nebari always managed to get a rise from her, "I would cheerfully, no gleefully, rise from my deathbed just for the last satisfaction of kicking your ass. What the yotz do you want?"
"Oh, nothing." Noting the unmistakable darkness of an Aeryn outburst growing on the ex-Peacekeeper's face, she hurried on, "Actually, Pilot wanted to let you know that he is purging the hangar area with Moya as part of routine maintenance. That means your precious Prowler will not be available for a few arns. He would have told you himself but you had disengaged the comm in this area."
"Well, thank you very much, Chiana."
The younger female hovered near the entrance, prompting Aeryn to challenge her with, "Well, what else?"
"Oh, nothing," Chiana repeated, "Just know, you and me. We don't."
"Give a dried Hynerian's fart for each other?" Aeryn sneered in classic Peacekeeper mode.
"Ooh, just like the Aeryn we've all come to know," Chiana crooned, ducking her head and shoulders in her feline-like way. "No. I mean, yes. It seems that, well, we don't seem to be finding our separate ways very quickly from Moya. In fact, speaking only for myself, I like it here. Like it better than nearly any other place I've been. Not that it's perfect. Not that I want to stay here the rest of my life."
Somehow, something deep in Aeryn recognized that Chiana was sharing something from equally deep in her. Now, she decided, now was another opportunity to break with her Peacekeeper past. Instead of shredding the irritating little Nebari, maybe she could listen.
She rose slowly, not wishing to provoke Chiana into fleeing. "Go ahead, Chiana. You have my full attention."
"Well, I know we haven't gotten on famously. Like the times you have just dumped your laundry on me," Chiana abruptly cut off her words, "But that's not important now. I've been thinking. I can do that, you know. And I've been thinking that we, all of us on Moya, that is..."
"Chiana, please. Patience is a virtue new to me. Pray do not use up all of my ration," Aeryn said, feeling the familiar anger rising.
"Ooooh. All right. Here it is, then. We've been lucky, all of us, so far. We've avoided capture, permanent capture anyway, and we're still alive. All of us. Well, except Gilina and she wasn't really part of us."
"Anyway," she breathed unconcerned about the nearing outburst, "I think that we're only going to continue to survive if we trust each other. And trust springs from knowing each other. So I think it would be good... good that we should get to know each other. Better, that is. Y'know, kind of become like friends."
The disingenuous face, the raspy, breathy voice and all of the outward appearances of sincerity brought a smile to Aeryn's face. Not the nearly-reptilian smile of a predator but a genuine smile that illuminated her totally.
"Chiana. This is a most unexpected offer. And I know that I should thank you. I know it isn't easy for ... any of you to approach me. And that's been partially by design and partially a legacy of my Peacekeeper training. But now..."
"I think that it would be good if we talked and got to know each other. But not just now. I have a variety of things to ... sort out."
Chiana breathed out heavily, "Well, I guess that'll have to do for now. Thank you, Aeryn." With that, she was on her way.
But before she could disappear, Aeryn called out, "And, Chiana?"
"Yes, Aeryn?"
"Thank you."
"Think nothing of it."
With Chiana gone, Aeryn could only groan softly and resume leaning against the punching dummy.
The encounter with the young Nebari had only stirred the seething emotions and contradictions within her.
"Friends? Friends with that thieving, lying, promiscuous little..." she intoned quietly, acutely aware that Chiana was capable of sneaking back into hearing range. Then she calmed, summoning up the will to make sense of her new life. "But yes, that is possible. Even necessary. If we are to survive. If we are to be ... more. If I am to be ... more."
Feedback is always appreciated.

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What The Yotz Is Football?
Usual disclaimers: I don't own 'em, I'm just enthralled by 'em. Henson or some other equally gothic corporate entity owns 'em. But I'll play nicely with the Farscape characters, honest. I'll even put them back where I found 'em when I'm done.

Archiving: Please email me first. Failure to do so will result in Peacekeepers using your bones for dice.
Respond to:
Rating: G.
Synopsis:John attempts to explain Human sport, specifically football, to Aeryn. Forgive the Packer-centric aspects. I happen to live in Wisconsin.
"Ready right, ready right…Eighty-Two, eighty-two…Set…Hut, hut, hut!"
Aeryn Sun thought she was accustomed to the utterly bizarre noises and behaviors of John Crichton, galactic refugee and sole representative of Homo Sapiens Sapiens in the Uncharted Territories. After all, he had been aboard Moya for going on two cycles.
But, as she leaned against a bulkhead with arms crossed, she found she was wrong. This was even more crazy than usual. "This is so," she found herself without the right adjective and then settled on, "So Crichton."
Aeryn had been drawn to the sounds coming from her training area, a largish space on Moya that had been used as a mess hall when the Leviathan had been a prison. She found the human in a sort of crouch, arms extended but slightly bent, hands about a head's width apart and fingers outstretched. He was staring fixedly at something in the distance.
After barking out the totally incomprehensible string of words, Crichton lurched up and took three steps backwards, paused and made a throwing motion with his right arm. Then making a breathy sound, he shot both arms in the air, held them stiffly aloft and began bouncing up and down, "And he scores! The crowd goes wild! It's Favre's second TD pass of the quarter!" He then made the breathy noise again. When Aeryn thought he'd gone into convulsions, she involuntarily took a step forward.
In the process of executing a particularly energetic spin, John spotted his shipmate near the door. He immediately stopped in mid-spin but incongruously left his arms in the air.
"Oh. Aeryn. Hi. Guess this looks pretty stupid," he said sheepishly and slowly lowered his arms.
"No more stupid than usual, Crichton," the ex-Peacekeeper said, entering the room, smiling to take away a little of the sting. "Are you alright? You looked like you were suffering some sort of neurological disorder."
"Sure, I'm alright. Why wouldn't I be?"
"Like I said, you looked like you were in pain or something. I know I'm going to regret this for asking but what the yotz were you doing?"
Crichton let his shoulders slump, "Well, if I've got my calendar right, it's mid-August back on Earth. And August means that the football pre-season has started. And I do love football. So I was pretending to be in a football game."
Aeryn gracefully eased herself down to the mats, noting Crichton had finally made the transition to using "Earth" instead of home. She had resigned herself to enduring yet another of Crichton's long, nearly incomprehensible explanations. She settled in a crossed-leg position and leaned forward, propping her head on her elbows.
"Okay. I'm assuming that this 'football' is some sort of activity. Right?"
"Well, partially. It's a sport. A sport is an organized game with teams and rules and uniforms and specific places, sometimes called stadiums, where it's done. Sports are done for recreation but there are also professional leagues. Most sports are big businesses now. There are many sports. There are individual sports such as tennis and golf and there are team sports. The best of all, best by far, is football. But there's baseball. Soccer. Tennis can also be played by teams. Basketball. Hockey," Crichton stopped the list when he noticed Aeryn's usually focused grey beacons start to glaze over.
"Don't Peacekeepers have sports? I'd think that their inherent competitiveness would make sports a natural."
Aeryn pondered the idea. "Well, we do have competitions." John silently noted that, in her musing, Aeryn had neglected to separate herself from Peacekeeper culture. "Shooting. And in martial arts like the exercises we've been practicing. But there aren't any special facilities or uniforms. We just wear what we always wear and the gyms or ranges are just the usual gyms or ranges.
"They're considered, well, not exactly compulsory but anyone who doesn't participate is thought to be unambitious. And there are no teams. Outside of military requirements, Peacekeepers aren't encouraged to be anything but individuals, you know. I placed first for three cycles in a row in Drill No. 138 while I was in training. So, yes, I suppose you could say we have sports."
"Well, some humans treat it as much more. Many humans wear replicas of their favorite team's uniforms or use the colors of the uniforms in their clothing. They keep track of their favorite players' performances through statistics. They collect all kinds of memorabilia related to their team. They paint their vehicles in team colors and put all kinds of banners and labels on them. When one team dug up its playing field, it auctioned off chunks of sod from its playing field.Made a fair chunk of money doing it, too."
"Crichton. Now I know you are lying. No sane person would pay another person to own a clump of dirt and plants, regardless of its origin."
"Aeryn, if I'm lyin', I'm dyin'. It's true. It really happened. Some people are so devoted to their chosen teams that it's more like a religion."
"A religion? Sport is religion?" Inwardly, Aeryn groaned at the mere concept.
"Never mind. I was indulging in some sarcasm about the level of adoration of some football fans."
"Fans? What does moving air have to do with a sport that is a religion to some? And how can a ventilation device have a 'level of adoration'?"
"No, no, no. A 'fan' is a devotee of a sport. I think it evolved from the word 'fanatic.'"
"Let me get this straight. For a given sport, such as your 'football,' devotees, called 'fans,' go to specific places, these 'stadiums,' to worship their teams when the teams participate."
"We usually say teams 'play,' Aeryn. And 'worship' might be a little strong as a description. Unless, of course, you include Green Bay Packers fans," John corrected.
"'Play?' What you were doing before didn't look like play," Aeryn said, shaking her head.
"Well, that's true. Most sports involve a lot of physical activity. But I think we retain the word 'play' because most sports started out as strictly impromptu recreation."
"Oh. Crichton, you do realize that you're making less sense than normal even for you," Aeryn said, feeling the onset of a headache. Briefly, she wondered if it was from the translator microbes overheating on the alien concepts.
They were silent for a while. Against her better judgment, Aeryn felt compelled to ask, "And what is a 'Green Bay Packers'?"
"The Packers are a professional football team, Aeryn. One of the 30-some teams in the National Football League. They are headquartered in a city called Green Bay."
"Well, at least that part of your explanation makes sense. So how often do these 'Packers' engage these other teams?"
"Play, Aeryn, play. But yes, they have a season, or schedule might be a better word, that goes from August through January," he said, quickly translating, "About half a cycle. They play one game per weeken."
"So how you can have a 'pre-season?' It seems to me you have a season or you don't."
"That's understandable and I agree. But the logic is that the pre-season is considered kind of a warm-up for the regular season. A time when teams try out new players and new tactics and generally get ready for the 16 games of the regular season. Then there are playoffs in the post-season."
"I don't even want to deal with the concept of a 'post-season.' Anyway, I thought you said teams play each other so how can they each have 'plays'?"
John sighed. "A play is a set plan, where each of the 11 players or team members on the offensive team has a specific thing to do."
"Ah. A duty. That I can understand. So what's the point?"
"Let me back up a little. Football is played on a flat, rectangular field. Oh about four times wider and 20 times longer than this room. The surface is usually grass but is sometimes a synthetic material called astroturf. The field is surrounded by seating for the fans."
He held up a hand, warding off the predictable question, "No, astroturf didn't come from off-planet. It was just a term applied to the material."
"Each football team has 11 men, 11 players, on the field at one time. And, no, I don't know why there are 11. There just are. One is called offense and one is called defense. The offensive team's objective is to move a ball," he held his hands out to indicate the size and shape, "An brown ovoid made of pigskin, a type of leather, across the field to cross the goal line into the endzone. No, I don't know why the ball is shaped the way it is. And, no, I don't know who decided on the size and, no, I don't know why pigskin was chosen."
"And how does the offensive team achieve its objective?"
"They can advance the ball by holding it and running with it or throwing it to another of their players who have run downfield. Advancing the ball has to be done according to specific methods."
"Like you were pretending to do earlier."
"Right. I could see myself as Bret Favre. He's the quarterback for the Packers. I guess I should explain that each position, on both offense and defense, have names. A quarterback…"
But Aeryn was deep in thought about another area, "And they use these plays to accomplish this goal? Fine. Just like a Peacekeeper training exercise."
John frowned. "Sorta. I guess. Anyway, the defensive team's goal is to stop the offensive team."
"I thought you just said the offensive team had the goal."
"No, I didn't."
Aeryn fixed her gray lasers on his blue eyes, "John. You just said the offensive team had to move this ball across the goal line. Hence, it is in possession of the goal."
"Sorry, Aeryn. I misspoke. Using specific techniques defined by the rules, the defensive players obstruct or stop the offensive players from carrying out their specific tasks."
The ex-Peacekeeper nodded sagely, "Just like Counter-insurgency Drills. Then I should think I would prefer to play on the defensive team."
"Why is that, Aeryn?"
"The way you describe the offensive team makes me think of garrison duty and drearily doing the same task over and over again. Your defensive team sounds a lot more exciting because it requires improvisation and good reactions," and she beamed, "I think I'm beginning to grasp this football of yours, John."
"Well, it's not quite that simple but I get your point."
"What categories of weapons are they allowed?" Aeryn asked excitedly.
"No weapons outside of their bodies. They wear helmets and a variety of pads, not too much different than your Peacekeeper armor. They are allowed to use their bodies in specifically defined ways with the ultimate goal of tackling the offensive player with the ball."
"'Tackling' in this case means stopping?"
"Right, Aeryn. Grappling the offensive player with the ball and putting him down on the ground. You are getting this game."
"When an offensive player is tackled, what happens next?"
"The referee blows a whistle to signal the play is over and the offense goes into a huddle and decides on its next play."
"A huddle. Strange term. Sounds rather too submissive to me. Why don't they just decide beforehand what to do?"
"Because the choice of play is based on the situation."
"Ah. Like evaluating battlefield status reports and adjusting tactics."
"Yeah. Something like that. Then the offensive team comes out of the huddle and goes into a formation that will execute the play at the scrimmage line. This is the imaginary line that is drawn across the width of the field at the point where the ball was stopped."
"Then what happens?"
The quarterback calls out the signals. I imagine you heard that part of my little fantasy, too," he said then winced when she nodded, "Oooookkkkaaaay. Anyway, the signals tell all of the offensive players if they're still doing the same play, or using the right words, indicating a change. That's called an 'audible.'"
"Ah, yes. Encrypted communications. Essential in any battlefield situation. But it's all audible, John."
"Yes, it is."
"So if the offensive team adjusts its tactics appropriately and then selects the right plays," she hesitated, waiting for John's acknowledgement that she had the concepts correct.
When he nodded, she continued, "They advance, what, downfield, was it? And then move the ball across the goal line."
"That's right. They score a touchdown for six points. Abbreviated as 'TD' as you heard me yelling earlier."
"A touchdown. Not a 'goal'? Not very consistent, Crichton. And six points?"
"I don't know why six points, Aeryn. Except that after the offensive team scores a touchdown, it has the opportunity to score one or two additional points. For one point, one of the offensive players can kick the ball through the goal posts. Or they can do a running or passing play for two points if they cross the goal line."
"Seems unnecessarily confusing, Crichton. And completely arbitrary."
"I suppose."
"Now, after scoring a touchdown, who performs the victory ritual?"
"That jumping up and down and making sounds that you were doing."
John shook his head, "Oh. That. It's not required by the rules, Aeryn. And the officials of the league were starting to clamp down on excessive, spontaneous celebrations like my little victory dance."
"I'm so glad to hear it, John. Now you have a referee for assessing progress and overseeing this game. Then there are these rules and specific methods you spoke of. I assume there are penalties for violations?"
"Oh, definitely. Penalties involve the loss of yardage, mmmm, ground, rather or the loss of a down. Sometimes, for flagrant violations, a player can be ejected from the game. Football is all about gaining or losing territory, Aeryn."
"That is a completely understandable purpose. So a team wins by accumulating touchdowns and one or two points after each touchdown?"
"Partially. An offensive team can also score a field goal by kicking the ball through the goal posts. Goal posts are shaped this way and are at the outside edge of the endzone," and John sketched the Y-shape in the air with his hand.
"Then why don't they do that all of the time? That sounds simpler than scoring touchdowns."
"Well, I gotta back up again. Each play that is run is during something called a down. The offensive team gets four downs to advance 10 yards, about the diameter of this white circle we're sitting on. If they don't get close to the 10 yards within three downs, and if they're close enough to the endzone, most teams will attempt to kick a field goal. And a field goal is only three points."
"John. This is completely ridiculous."
"Wait. I'm not done. There are other ways to score. The defensive team can also score points."
Aeryn groaned aloud as John continued, "The defensive team has the opportunity, during a play, to take the ball away from the offensive team, either through picking up a fumble or catching a ball intended for one of the offensive players. If a defensive player does one of those things and crosses the other goal line, the defense scores six points. Then there's the safety."
"The safety what."
"It's another way of scoring. A safety is worth two points. That's when the defense is so successful that the offense loses ground and is pushed back across the defense's goal."
"Then why isn't the defense then called the offense? It seems to me that it has seized the initiative and has gone on the offense."
"Conceptually, I suppose you're right but the offense still has the ball for four downs before it has to give it to the other's teams offense."
"Other team's offense?"
"Yes. The two teams take turns on offense and defense. When an offensive squad uses up its downs, the other team's offense comes on the field."
"Why don't the 11 members of each team play offense and defense?"
"Because football is very demanding physically. And because football has become a game requiring specialties."
"That aspect is one that a Peacekeeper can relate to. You said there are 11 males from each team on the field at a given time?"
"When do the females participate? I mean play."
"They don't."
"You mean the females of the team play at different times? Or do they have separate teams?"
"No, I mean women don't play football. Well, at least in an organized way. I've heard of young women playing for high school or college teams but I don't remember a woman ever being a part of a National Football League's regular roster."
"That's completely ridiculous, Crichton. Peacekeeper males and females compete equally in all activities. Why would a team deny itself the contribution of females players?"
"In one sense, I agree with you, Aeryn. But, like I said, football is a very physical game and puts a premium on size, height and weight. And males of my species, on average, are much bigger than the females. Take me, for example. In the context of football, I'd be considered on the small side. D'Argo is about average, I'd say."
"Aren't there any females of your species who are agile? Fast? Smart? Certainly these sound like attributes that would be of equal value to a team as brute force."
"You're right, Aeryn and many Human females are all of those things and more. But that goes into the more complicated area of Human male-female relationships."
"And these are more complicated than football?"
"Much, Aeryn, much."
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