Chapter 1 (Summer, 2000 AD) Deep in the blackness of space, as stars shined all around, gaseous nebulas shifting and shimmering in all kinds of different colors, a ship moved slowly through the infinite expanse. It resembled the abdomen of a wasp, a rounded cone ending in a sharp tip. It was silver, though a long spike out of the tip, like a wasp’s stinger, was black as the night sky. Four large dark golden solar sails, each the length of the ship, unfurled into an X-like shape. Cosmic winds helped the vessel pick up speed. It was important for the leader of the very small band to ensure the ship never had to deal with such creatures again. Inside the ship, a sapphire blue light permeated the ship. The walls gently curved, suggesting the interior of an oval, coming to a rounded tip at the ceiling. The walls were like rough-hewn unpolished marble, with rows of brown stalagmite-like structures following the gentle curves of the floor layout. Several of the larger structures had green diodes on them that blinked off and on, revealing the status of ship functions, such as environmental control and hull stability. The lead creature slowly ambled toward the command center, which included steel-framed staircases and a large black pedestal that projected a large rectangular hologram. Sections of the walls looked like the inside of a carcass … red and white mottled walls with curved ribs arching upward. Yoz was a Halosian. She resembled a black-headed vulture in shape, though the constant exposure to the blue light had significantly degraded her form. The tip of her beak was yellow with a black point. Her eye ridges were highly pronounced. Sharp black quills ran along the midline of her skull toward the back of her neck. Her skin was highly wrinkled, though around the jaw, there were a few metal screws to which were attached some artificial tendons, as her cheeks had been completely decomposed. Her lower jaw had no bottom and could be seen through from below. The edges of her beak were lined with jagged yellow-brown teeth. She had large black wings that seemed far too frail and diseased to carry her large body, which was cloaked in black robes. She inched toward the holographic screen, mindful of every step. Due to the physical degradation caused by the blue lighting, she could barely see. While her sense of smell was keen, she could only see objects that were within a couple of nanometras beyond her beak. A furry creature skitted across the hard floor. She felt the vibrations in her feet and bent over quickly, snatching up the creature in her beak and quickly gulping it down hole. Without a tongue or a bottom to her jaw, she could not afford to savor her food. The screen showed multiple images of her kind loading the carcasses of the dead into airlocks. Thirty members of her crew had been killed recently in a provoked attack, the legacy of their former leader, a male Halosian named Tak. A large body count would lead to a promotion, or “evolution”, for Halosians valued supreme political power. Their Code demanded the destruction of many hostiles in order to obtain each evolution. Tak had been a complete drad. Yoz was right to kill him. Now she was evolved one step higher, the commander of her own vessel, the Halos-1. Still, thoughts nagged at her. Yoz slowly approached the chanting blue creature who stood chained to the metal staircase leading to the upper deck in the command center. It was a bald female in blue clothes with a large heavy golden collar draped over her shoulders. She stopped as soon as the speckled blue alien was in proper focus. Suddenly, the alien stopped chanting peacefully, opening her eyes and staring warmly at Yoz. “I believe,” Yoz told her, in a deep female voice that was punctuated by labored inhalation, as her voice had be generated solely in her larynx like a bird, “I believe … that your Moya … peaceful.” The alien nodded, smiling knowingly. “So he will attack when he searches the ship?” she asked casually. Yoz nodded, shrugging slightly. “Perhaps.” That creature, that alien who scented nothing like a normal warm-blooded beast, had enlightened Yoz to a foreign concept: selflessness. The alien had clearly been powerful, however. For all the talk of peace, the alien had easily overpowered her, knocking her unconscious. Had the chanting been a spell for enhanced strength? Halosians were not unschooled in mysticism. Though the emperors and their followers had a long tradition of smiting enemies physically, several of their dwindling group practiced the Spiting Arts, where discord and confusion and aggression were enhanced in enemies to force them to fight each other and allow the practitioners to escape unharmed. In some circles, killing enemies with the Spiting Arts was far nobler, as it resulted in no harm to the perpetrator. After several arns, Yoz found a small corner in which to sleep. Each Halosian had separate sleeping quarters, but her recent upheaval left her less willing to trust a mere door to keep her safe. No, she would rest out in the open, so that any who tried to kill her could be dealt with. Her eyes closed, she began to dream, with blurry images combined with strong smells and sounds. Again she found herself standing near the blue alien. “You know this is wrong!” hissed the blue alien as Yoz tried to walk past her. Yoz stopped, glancing at her. “Can do nothing,” she replied, inhaling deeply. “Our code forbid me --.” “Frell your code!” retorted the alien. She nodded toward Tak, who had begun to order the attack on the Leviathan ship Moya. “Stop him!” Yoz moved in closer. While her face could not emote very well, a hint of curiosity shown in her brown eyes. “Am fascinated … by your code … those on Moya … not your race … yet … you worry.” The alien appeared disgusted. “Yes, of course!” Yoz shrugged. “We worry … about nothing … but ourselves.” “That’s hard to swallow,” noted a smarmy male voice. Yoz turned and saw a pale pink creature dressed in black robes with a frilly black collar surrounding his neck. He appeared to be bald aside from gray tufts of fur over his rounded external ears. He smiled cheerfully, his yellow eyes glistening green in the blue light. “My deepest apologies for intruding, but how can you say you’re interested in yourself when you clearly have no real ambition?” Yoz glared at him, tilting her head slightly. “Real … ambition?” The stranger nodded. “Over sixty million cycles ago, there was a planet of interest to you with the key to unlimited power.” He sighed and turned his back on her. “Of course, if by being evolved you simply mean achieving meaningless ranks within your ship, a creature such as you would never be interested in the power to manipulate the universe to your whim.” Yoz scoffed. “Halosians … have power,” she noted, pointing an arthritic bony finger at him. “You … nothing.” The man turned to glare at her. “Yoz, Yoz – you are a species trapped within the confines of the mere physical. Have you no sense of your species’ beginnings? For millions of cycles, the legends talk of a powerful race of energy beings, beings with the power to alter reality as they chose. They had the gift of life and death at their long fingertips. Yet they damaged the key to their power, and as a result they split into two subspecies: the mammalian Mystics and the avian Skekses. The Mystics could create harmony with just their voices, while the Skekses could introduce chaos and destruction.” Yoz shrugged. “Halosian … mystics practice … Spiting Arts,” she told him frankly. “We hear … also … of species … forcing … peace … to avoid … danger.” She approached him, surprised this aged creature seemed to view her without fear or disgust, which most Sebaceans would do if they were unfortunate enough to meet a Halosian, the hypocrites. Nothing was uglier than the Sebacean species. “So what?” she asked him pointedly. “Sebacean offer … useless.” He growled. “I am nothing like Sebaceans!” he protested angrily. She could hear his pulse in his neck. “I am omnipotent. I merely require the means to influence the universe!” Yoz chuckled and turned from him. “Potent … with no … power,” she retorted. “Funny.” The male creature smirked. “Be that as it may. If you truly desire to evolve, to rid yourself of this decomposing state in which you happen to find yourself, I suggest the planet Thra. On its surface is a large crystal, roughly twice your height, floating above a fiery abyss in the depths of the remains of a long-dead ruin.” He shrugged. “Or you can fall apart at the seams, unable to stop the ravages of the radiation killing your species slowly. How many of you are there, Yoz? Twenty? Ten? Five? Can you really decline my offer? Think about it,” he told her before disappearing as she slowly awoke, the coordinates of the planet embedded in her consciousness. <><><> Somewhere distant, there is a glistening castle, sitting atop a floating rock held by chains to the shores of a gigantic lake. All was fine greenery around the castle, for the waters were pure. Deep within the throne room of the castle, a thin woman sobbed as she sat on her snow-covered throne. A brief flash of bluish-green caught her eye. She looked up and noted a peacock fluttering about the throne room, shaking its tailfeathers around clunky bronze robots. The woman stood, stifling her tears, clenching her jaw. “Reveal,” she hissed under her breath. A torrent of mist swirled around the peacock, which grew into a six-foot-tall woman with chocolate skin and shoulder-length turquoise hair. The visitor smiled warmly, brushing away the mist from her thin sea-green dress. Her folding fan headpiece glistened with frozen dew. “Goodness, Mizumi – your welcome could have been warmer.” “What do you want?” Mizumi asked bitterly, glaring at the woman. “You will find nothing to scavenge here in Moraine.” “Well, there’s your pride,” the woman noted with a playful smile, clasping her hands behind her back. She rocked side to side and blew Mizumi a kiss. “You’ve thrown that away.” “If you don’t want the entire Trash Kingdom washed away, I suggest you return there immediately, Eshe, for I have no time for you,” Mizumi retorted, returning to her thrown and staring at a distant frosted window. Eshe sighed, shrugging. “It’s been a year, Mizumi. He beat you. Get over it.” Mizumi refused to afford her a glance. “So you can obtain him on the rebound? Hardly.” Eshe crossed her arms, frowning. “You know very well he’s still pining over that, what is she now? You know, that school teacher, S—.” “Your survival requires never saying that name in my presence.” Eshe laughed. “He spurned us both, Mizumi. He’s tossed us away.” Mizumi’s lips quivered. “You fail to be inspiring, my dear.” Eshe approached. “You fail to understand, dear Queen of Cups. He threw that woman away as well. He let her get away from him.” “She chose the life of a servant,” Mizumi noted with a tinge of bitterness and admiration. “She might as well have slapped him in the face.” “I thought Jareth was into the whole ‘appreciate the different’ thing,” Eshe offered. Mizumi chuckled, glancing at Eshe. “If that were true, he would have chosen you. Indeed, he still does not seem to know what he wants.” She paused, letting acid drip into her next words. “And the Labyrinth cannot function so long as his heart is conflicted.” Eshe nodded tenderly. “Neither can Moraine.” She sat on her knees in front of the throne, the frigid temperatures giving her goosebumps. “My dear Mizumi, Ruler of pristine Moraine, a heart divided cannot beat well.” She took a small mirror from her dress and held it out. An image of a thin athletic girl with long black pigtails and a scar over her left eye appeared, as did the image of a rotund girl with short black pigtails and dark freckles covering her cheeks. “Release your daughters, Milady.” “You would have me without hope?” Mizumi asked sadly, her tears streaking down her cheeks and freezing before they can fall from her chin. Eshe shrugged. “You’d also be without regret.” She put the mirror up. “They don’t have to be bound within your heart to support your soul.” Mizumi growled at her, angrily jabbing a finger. “How dare you burst into my castle and attempt a coup?” “Pardon?” Eshe asked, seemingly shocked as she stood quickly, stepping back a few paces, placing a hand over her chest. “What gives you the right to accuse me?” Mizumi grinned darkly. “I am not Jareth. Yes, I am distraught with lost opportunities, but you are no peacock, but a vulture, soaring in arcs around our destinies. You can’t wait to swoop in and take advantage of the situation.” “Hello? I am trying to salvage your relationship,” Eshe protested in an offended tone, tilting her hip slightly as she crossed her arms. “That human wouldn’t marry Jareth if the fate of the universe depended on it. You’ve got a much better chance than she does!” “You will never get Jareth,” Mizumi replied in a deadly tone, her eyes filled with loathing. “On the other hand, if you help me try to win his heart once more, you are certainly assuming my attempt will fail, allowing you to succeed me as his latest conquest.” Eshe chortled. “Conquest? Hardly! Jareth isn’t the only one who knows his way around destiny, Mizumi. I give life to the lifeless.” She glared at Mizumi with a dark grin. “And nothing is more lifeless than his love for you.” AUTHOR’S NOTE: See season 2 of Farscape, the episode titled “Out of Their Minds”, for the appearance of the Skekses-like Halosians. Also, Mizumi is from the comic, “Return to Labyrinth” by Jake Forbes. Eshe is my name for Sesame Street’s Queen of Trash from Elmo in Grouchland. I have only seen one or two clips on youtube, so I’m just sorta winging her characterization. This is one of those crossover fics. In other words, I like writing as though all the Henson or Henson/Disney projects occur in one universe. You won’t need to read my other fics, hopefully, to enjoy this one, as the continuity of my ficverse is going to be messed with soon. Still, if you’ve been a reader of mine, it could be enriching to know how the “original universe” of mine went to appreciate some of the details of this one. Like I said, though, this is pretty much it’s own story. I’m not going to write it in acts this time, as it’s just one story instead of several stories linked together. I hope you enjoy. I can’t help but be excited to have my Muppet muse return to me after so long of not really having one.