You Scratch My Back, I'll Scratch Yours!

I've been in a cave for forty days,
Only a spark to light my way,
I want to give out,
I want to give in,
This is our crime,
This is our sin,
But I still believe, I still believe!
Through the pain, through the grief,
Through the lies, through the storms,
Through the cries, through the wars,
Oh, I still believe...
Still believe!

Flat on my back out at sea,
Hoping the waves don't cover me,
Turned and tossed, upon the waves,
When the darkness comes, feel the grief.
But I still believe, still believe!
Through the cold, through the heat,
Through the rain, through the tears,
Through the crowds, through the cheers,
Oh, I still believe...
I still believe!

I'll march this road, I'll climb this hill -
Upon my knees if I have to.
I'll take my place upon this stage,
I'll wait till the end of time for you like everybody else!

Out on my own, walking the streets.
Look at the faces that I meet,
Feel like I, like I want to go home
What do I feel? What do I know?
But I still believe, yes, I still believe!
Through the changes, through the grief,
Through the heart ache, through the tears,
Through the pain, through the years.

Some people like us, in places like this,
We need all the hope we can get!
Yes, I still believe... and, I still believe!
-I Still Believe
(Michael Been & James Goodwin)

       Well, it wasn't a particularly bad planet, as planets in the Dark Zone went. The sun was at just the right distance to bake most of its second satellite with an even, sub-tropical heat, though the light it cast made the sky a rather obnoxious shade of pink. The only drawback to this particular piece of interstellar property was its lack of dry land. Ocean covered 99.999 percent of this globe. Ocean that teemed with, as The Lexx put it, "suitable proteins in primitive forms". Unfortunately, the oddly colored sunlight also tinted the gently rolling swells of this vast body of water a very unsettling shade of red. From orbit it looked exactly like a huge pool of human blood.

       Stanley Tweedle, the Captain of The Lexx by dumb luck and bizarre circumstances, had stated this fact, loudly...but his observation hadn't phased the ship he commanded or the only other living person on board in the slightest. The Lexx was hungry and Zev, his beautiful, half-love slave/half-Cluster Lizard and very strong-willed crew-mate, was suffering from a severe case of cabin fever. He had gotten his way in demanding a double-checked scan from The Lexx and 790 for any traces of sentient life forms or civilization, abandoned or not. They had come back negative, and so he had no choice but to capitulate under Lexx's wistful reminder that he was getting very, very hungry and Zev's, 'If I don't get off this ship soon, I'm going to eat you. Very slowly and very painfully.' stare. He did consider for a moment suggesting that they get Kai out of the freezer, just to be safe, but his hormones overcame his common sense, as they normally did. Stan was very well aware of the fact that when Kai was up and moving, any possibility that he might have a chance to get up close and personal with Zev became non-existent.
       The Lexx landed close to the largest island on the planet, which wasn't in any way large at all. Stan estimated that The Moth they were using was going to occupy most of the available ground as he guided the bio-meched creature in a tight bank around the small, barren knoll. He steadfastly resolved to remain in the safety of the Moth as they descended and shook his head with a sigh combined of frustration and resignation as the silver-blue haired beauty next to him bailed out of the cabin before the winged craft had totally touched down. Stan did manage to hold to his resolve for a while, but circumstances were against him, as always. The lazy warmth of the air moving on a gentle breeze through the opened eye portals of the Moth and the un-threatening rhythmic lap of the swells wove in and out of the delighted laughter and happily splashing of a now mostly naked Zev and was too much of a lure for him to resist. It didn't take much longer until Stan was stripped down to his skivvies and stretched out on the dark purple sand to soak up some of the abundant sunshine, though there was no way in either Universe that Zev was going to coax him into setting one single toe into that ominously colored water.
       Stan had finally managed to totally relax and was hovering in that place which flirted with the edge of sleep, where wonderful fantasies could unfurl (and in Stan's case, had just started to) when 790 went off.
       "Oh, shut up!" he grumbled as the robot head started coo-ing calls entwined around insipid endearments for Zev to come back.
       The robot ignored him, as was normal, and turned up his volume.
       Stan stuck his fingers in his ears and tried to re-form the image of Zev that had been the starting point of his daydream, but her perfect body kept ending up topped with 790's nagging head. He ground his teeth in vexation and sat up to glare at the small portion of robot.
       "790, shut up!" He could hardly hear himself over the robot's amplified voice and scowled as 790's entreaties started becoming interspersed with scathingly couched demands that Stan go and rescue the most perfect bio-form ever to be created. Stan's response was to walk on his knees to a spot directly behind the robot's head and began to rapidly excavate a 790 sized hole in the sand. The robot let out a startled squawk as Stan tipped him in.
       "What are you doing, you moron?" the outraged 790 bellowed as sand hissed down over his casing.
       Stan didn't bother to answer and studiously ignored the robots rantings as he filled in the hole as quickly as he had created it. He patted the unintelligibly muttering mound with a little satisfied smirk, then glanced out toward the water, expecting to see Zev paddling out past what 790 probably considered a safe distance. The Lexx surfaced for a moment against the cloudless horizon, then re-submerged. But no where did he see any sign of Zev. He waited for the woman to appear for few more moments, then scrambled to un-bury 790.
       "Where's Zev?" he asked as he shook the robot head to clear it of sand.
       "You mean she hasn't come up yet?" the robot moaned with a tone of panic in his voice.
       "Come up yet?" Stan echoed in a small voice.
       "That was what I was trying to tell you when you dumped me in that hole, you rancid sack of water! Zev went under and hasn't come up! Zev! Love Dove! Most miraculous mating of molecules to ever exist! Where are you?"
       Stan tucked 790 under his arm as he stood and then shaded his eyes with his free hand. He turned himself and the robot to do an anxious 360 scan. Still, there was no sign of Zev. He chewed on his bottom lip and wondered how long Cluster Lizards could hold their breath as 790 continued his unending tirade against Stan and pleas for Zev to come up. Stan eyed the eerie-colored water and paled a bit as he considered going after her. Zev was a big girl. She could take care of herself. She had proven that time and again. But what if she wasn't okay? If he lost Zev, he'd be all alone in this dangerous and scary part of creation. Well, not totally alone. He'd still have 790, The Lexx...and Kai. Though the thought of being stuck with a rather simple minded Bug, an abusive robot and a dead guy who might not be very pleased that he'd let something happen to Zev was in no way comforting.
       "Stanley Tweedle, I demand that you attempt to resemble something of a man and go and find Zev!" 790 snarled as Stan began to advance tentatively toward the water.

       "Shut up! I am going..." Stan paused with the tips of his toes just a hair's breath shy of being touched by the easy, incoming wavelets. His expression was one of total distaste as he took a deep breath and lifted one foot in preparation to step into the water. Then he froze as a vision straight out of one of his fantasies erupted out of the water a few meters in front of him. Zev's exquisite features bore the expression of delighted exultation as she tossed her head to flip her wet hair out of her face and sank back down to her shoulders.

       "Zev! Love dumpling! You're all right!" 790 burbled happily from the crook of Stan's arm.
       "Are you going to come in and swim now, Stan?" Zev asked with a sultry smile.

       "um..." Stan shook his head, hard, trying to get his brain to form coherent words, "" He took a very deliberate step back from the water and couldn't help but stare as Zev came toward the shore.
       She walked in very slowly, her perfect body revealing itself centimeter by centimeter as the sandy bottom rose toward the small island. Stan suspected it was a calculated torment for him on her part, but he didn't really care. She was beyond beautiful. The water clung to her skin like tiny oval jewels, as if loath to separate from such perfection. Against her pale skin, they no longer resembled blood, but seemed to glow with an inner light like the highly prized fire-sapphires from Jozua Eight. The spell was broken, though, when she emerged enough for Stan to spy the two large, wiggly, vaguely fish-like creatures she held in each hand.
       "What happened? Where were you?" Stan demanded as Zev continued to head for the beach. "We thought you were drowned..." she ignored him as she walk up onto dry sand, "or something was eating you..." he continued as he turned to follow "..or..."
       Zev interrupted before he could continue his list of possible disasters. "I was hunting. Here, I caught one for you too." She held out her left hand and offered the now unmoving, vaguely fish-like thing to him with a sweet smile.
       Stan took it cautiously by the tail, at least he assumed it was the tail, and held it at arms length to give it a careful scrutiny. Zev crossed her legs and sank gracefully to sit on the sand as Stan unconsciously wrinkled his nose with disgust at her offering. Zev studied her catch also, perplexed by Stan's reaction, then shrugged and bit into it. Stan dropped his 'fish' as if it had stung him and took a little, startled leap back and away as hers squealed and thrashed back to life. Zev's eyes sparkled with amusement as Stan swallowed convulsively and looked slightly nauseous as she chewed slowly.
       "It's good, Stan," Zev purred. "Try yours."
       "No thank you. You probably shouldn't eat that you know. It might be poisonous, or carrying a disease, or something."
       "Lexx is eating them," she answered with an assured smile.
       "Lexx eats garbage, too," Stan shot back.
       "The waste of skin does have a point, my unadulterated beam of starlight," 790 added.
       Stan realized that he was still holding the obnoxious robot head and tossed 790 toward Zev with a frown.
       "You both worry too much," Zev told him as she caught 790 with one hand and set him down on the sand next to her. Then, as if to underscore her self-confidence, she took another large bite of her prey. Stan shuddered as the creature twitched.
       "Somebody has to," he muttered darkly as he turned away from his crew-mate and headed for the other side of the small island to get as far away from Zev and her delight in her meal as he could. It wasn't far enough, though. Zev's lilting voice drifted over to him as he stretched out horizontally next to the water. She had begun a running commentary of what each bite revealed of the insides of her dinner. Stan figured it must be some form of Cluster Lizard humor and stuck his fingers in his ears once more.

* * *

       Stan was very relieved to be back on board the safety of The Lexx. All in all, their twelve hour stop on Ocean (Zev's pet name for the planet that was now receding on The Lexx's view screen) had been worth it. The Lexx was full and contented, the food dispenser was now putting forth substances that tasted like real food even though it in no way resembled any, Zev was back in a good mood, and nothing had tried to kill them. All things were now right in Stanley Tweedle's personal universe. Well, almost right. The only thing still out of whack was his inability to convince Zev that her obsessive infatuation with that dead Brunnen-G was futile and bordered on insanity. He simply could not fathom how she continued to fail to see that he was the only one on board that could satisfy her many, many needs. He sighed unhappily, knowing that Zev's rushed, 'Good night, I'm tired. See you in a couple of hours," as she plunked 790 rather haphazardly onto his stand was the start of her evening trip into the lower regions of The Lexx.....

       He hadn't really meant to spy, but he had been curious to know where Zev kept wandering off to when she had told him she was on her way to bed. He had followed her down to the area where the cryo-units were kept and hovered in the safety of the shadows around the doorway as Zev had proceeded to talk to the frozen Brunnen-G as if he was aware of her presence. Stan had trailed her (very, very, very carefully) for three evenings, just to make sure this was where she went every night, and every night it was the same routine. She would tell Kai the events of her day. Sometimes she was full of laughter, sometimes almost hissing with vexation at himself, but always she ended with her cheek resting against the cold pane over his chest and whispered some soft, wistful sounding words that Stan never dared to get close enough to hear, though he had a very good idea of what they were.

       He found the intimate little sessions heart-wrenching on so many different levels that he chose to ignore his awareness of them the best he could, never mind his fear of what Zev might do to him in retaliation if she ever found out he had spied on her!
       "Lexx, are we back on course for Number Eight?" he asked around a yawn and over 790's newest (or still on-going, he still couldn't decide which), mind-numbing poem about Zev.
       "Yes, Stan," Lexx answered with his deep, gentle tones.
       "Good. I'm going to go get a couple of hours of sleep. Call me if anything unusual shows up."
       "Yes, Stan."
       790 paused his poetic composition just long enough to toss in an acid-toned aside as Stan headed off the bridge. "As if you'd be able to do anything remotely resembling intelligent about it if anything does."
       Stan shot a withering glare at the robot over his shoulder as he stepped through the low arch that separated the bridge from the catwalk that led to the crew-quarters. He kept his mouth shut though, for he had no desire to be drawn into a verbal sparring match with 790 at the moment. He never won and it was a constant frustration to him that he couldn't seem to manage to match the robot's wit. He shoved all thoughts of 790 away and turned all his attention to the task at hand. That was to keep his eyes focused on the slender span under his feet and away from the huge drop that plunged into dim shadows on either side of it. Stan let out a small sigh of relief, as he always did, once he reached the end of the walkway and decided at the last minute that he needed a shower before he needed sleep. Sand had managed to worm its way into his coverall and he felt...well...sandy.

       Twenty standard time units later found him whistling the little ditty he had composed specially for the Divine Predecessors embarrassment as he turned into the entrance of a short, cylindrical corridor. He and Zev had discovered ten small, roundish rooms that opened off of it in opposing pairs, and they had chosen the two closest to the entrance of the passage to use as personal cabins. He glanced at the opaque membrane that served as the door for Zev's chamber and wondered if she was back as he paused at the entrance of his own room. Then he gave a little shrug as he reminded himself that it was none of his business and placed his open palm on the membrane that formed his own door. The membrane irised open at his touch.
       There wasn't much to the chamber beyond. Anybody else would have found the room cramped, but to Stan it seemed palatial, especially after living so long in the coffin-like lodgings on the Cluster. He hopped on one foot, then the other, as he pulled off his boots and tossed them over his shoulder while the door shut behind him. Then he wiggled and kicked his way out of his coverall as he crossed the room and left it in an untidy pile on the floor and finished undressing by tossing his hat onto a convenient ledge as he crawled onto the spongy bed platform that lined the raised alcove nestled into the far wall. He curled up on his side with a secret, delighted smile. The part of his ship that made up his mattress conformed to the angles of his body in the most wonderful way and vibrated gently with the slow, steady pulse of Lexx's mighty heart. In his sub-conscious mind, he was once again back in the safety of his mothers womb. He was asleep in seconds......

You Scratch My Back, I'll Scratch Yours! (Part 2)

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