|No Place Like Home|
by Psyscaper, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
About No Place Like Home
Disclaimer: Farscape is owned by the Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Entertainment and Nine Network Australia. Iím only borrowing these characters and promise to return them in good working order. Well, all but one of them, anyway. Please donít sue me; Iím already broke and have no desire to make any money off this story. (Unless, of course, TPTB would like to pay me to turn it into a teleplay for the show! Wink!)
Spoilers: Premier, A Human Reaction, Nerve, The Hidden Memory, Wonít Get Fooled Again, Fractures
Note: This takes place immediately following Fractures. Special thanks go to my beta-reader, Teri Woolley. Constructive feedback is always appreciated and can be sent to email@example.com. But, please be kind; this is only my second attempt at fiction Ė ever!
Summary: Crichton goes homeÖmaybe
She moved quickly through the crowded bazaar, heading for the far end where most of the weapons dealers gathered. Well, as quickly as she could, sidestepping the many gesticulating shoppers pressing three and four deep on both sides of the narrow street as they haggled loudly over various merchandise. Passing an intersection, she nearly gagged at the smell emanating from a food trader. She shook her head and winced. The commerce planet was hot and the air seemed to hang close to her like a fog. There was no wind. Even if there were, there was no place for it to go. The high stone buildings and close, narrow streets made it virtually impossible for the air to move anyway. The din was ear splitting and she was glad they hadn’t brought Chiana or Rygel planet side. She didn’t want to be stuck on this rock any longer than absolutely necessary.
Aeryn’s PK training kicked in as soon as she made it to the first weapons dealer. It wasn’t quite as crowded at this end of the bazaar, which afforded her the opportunity to quickly scan the wares laid out on the tables. As she looked over the merchandise, she went through her mental shopping list: chakan oil for the pulse weapons; frag canisters – preferably with explosives, although empty canisters would do, they’d just have to make their own bombs; wiring and chrono mechanisms. Oh, and a couple of pulse rifles wouldn’t hurt.
She wasn’t terribly impressed with anything the first three merchants had, but one of the others looked promising. She leaned in to inspect the condition of some frag bombs. Not too bad. A few had explosive charges that appeared to be in pretty good shape. Most of the rest at least weren’t ruptured. Plenty of chakan oil, fairly clean, too. She picked up a PK issue disrupter rifle, assessing the weight and balance. Satisfied, she checked every moving part as well as the oil cartridge. Everything was in good shape. This was definitely a find. She’d been hoping to find standard pulse rifles. A disrupter was top of the line. Assassination and retrieval squads were the only PKs to use them. It appeared to be relatively new, too. Probably hadn’t been used all that much.
She nodded at the proprietor, a giant insect with huge multi-faceted eyes, six arms and a shiny black carapace. "I’ll take this, the chakan oil and those frag bombs and canisters there," she told it, laying the disrupter back down on the table.
Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out some currency. The seller hissed a stream of foul mist out of his mandible. Looking directly at the currency, it nodded its head and named its price, "4000 kretmas."
Aeryn stared at it for a microt. "Don’t be a drannit," she told him. "You know very well this lot isn’t worth even 2000 kretmas. But, I’m in a hurry, so I’ll humor you. 3000. Take it or leave it." It was a gamble and she knew it. The disrupter alone was worth at least 2000. She only hoped the dealer didn’t realize what he had. She held her breath, waiting for his response.
The dealer started to protest, but quickly acquiesced when Aeryn put her hand back in her pocket and started to move away.
With the transaction completed, the ex-Peacekeeper made her way back to the transport pod, keeping an eye out for Crichton as well as any sign of potential trouble. She stowed the weapons quickly and stood on the pod’s ramp. Wiping the sweat off her brow, she cursed the heat and humidity. D’Argo should have come down here with John, she thought. "It’s too frelling hot for Sebaceans," Aeryn muttered to herself. She checked her chronometer. It was getting late. Aeryn headed back to the bazaar, scanning the area as she walked.
Two prowlers were just landing as she made her way out of the spaceport. "Frell!" she said to herself. "That’s a problem." She picked up the pace, taking the most direct route back to the center of the marketplace. She needed to find Crichton, quickly.
Aeryn stopped at the first intersection and stepped up on a low wall separating two merchant stalls. She scanned the crowd in all directions. There were very few Sebaceans. That was a good thing; it would make it easier to find Crichton. She looked back the way she had come. She could see the two Peacekeepers entering the market. They turned left down an alley to cut across to the next street. Aeryn decided it would be best not to let them get too far away. She headed down the street parallel to the alley, occasionally pushing people out of her way.
When she got to the next intersection, she stopped again to look around. The street to her left was much less crowded than the others. The Peacekeepers were walking toward her position. She spotted Crichton several hentas away from the PKs, walking toward them. He didn’t see them. Aeryn started up the street behind Crichton, moving as quickly as possible without attracting attention and keeping an eye on the PKs. She tried to stay in the shadows as much as possible. She caught up with Crichton only a few hentas away from the Peacekeepers, who spotted her just as she was about to get Crichton’s attention.
"Crichton!" she shouted.
The PKs drew their weapons, but Aeryn managed to get a shot off first. The pulse blast hit one of the PKs who fell to the ground.
Screams filled the air as shoppers ducked and started running away from the confrontation. Some dove behind merchants’ tables.
"Aeryn! Get down!" Crichton pulled her down behind him. His right hand moved to his sidearm and pulled it from the holster. A pulse blast from the second PK hit the wall where Aeryn had been standing. Crichton fired and hit the PK in the leg. A second shot from Aeryn finished the firefight, hitting the PK square in the chest.
Their weapons trained on the fallen Peacekeepers, Crichton and Aeryn walked over to check them out. One was dead, the other unconscious. They removed the pulse weapons and comms, gathered the supplies Crichton had been carrying and hurried back toward the spaceport.
"They brought two prowlers," Aeryn informed him as they walked. "You get back to the transport pod. I’m going to make sure they can’t use the prowlers to contact their unit."
"Be careful, Aeryn. I’ve got a feeling there may be more than just these two." Crichton gave her a worried look, nodded to her and made his way back to the pod. Once there, he quickly stowed the rest of the supplies and started preflight. Then he commed Aeryn, "How long ‘til you get back here, Aeryn?"
"Change of plan, Crichton," she replied. "Some of the locals must have notified the constabulary about the shooting. They’re closing in on my position. I’m taking a prowler. You get going. I’ll meet you back on Talyn." With that, the transmission ended.
"Damn!" Crichton raised the loading ramp and sealed the doors. He decided to skip the rest of the preflight check and fired up the engines. Out of the center view plate transparencies he saw a small contingent of local law enforcement running toward the pod. He lifted the pod off its pad and turned away from the advancing security troops.
The plan had seemed simple enough. Find Scorpius’ command carrier, wait just out of range until a patrol was sent out and follow it back to the command carrier when they returned. Plant the frag bombs in the generator core and propulsion systems, rendezvous back at Aeryn’s prowler and get the frell out of there before the carrier blew. Simple.
And watching the carrier blow all to hell was a very beautiful sight. But now, as he completed another pass through the debris field, Crichton was kicking himself for allowing Aeryn to talk him into splitting up on the carrier.
"We need to get the bombs set and get off this ship as quickly as possible. That means splitting up," she’d argued. He’d tried to convince her they should stick together, but as usual, once her mind was made up, there was no changing it. So they’d split up with Aeryn heading for the generator and Crichton for the propulsion system.
Setting the bombs had been easy enough. But, Crichton had almost run into Scorpius on the way out. He’d managed to hide in a small access shaft. He’d barely had time to replace the cover before Scorpius passed. The Scarren-Sebacean hybrid paused momentarily as if sensing something was amiss. Unable to pin down exactly what it was, he eventually continued down the corridor.
Crichton checked his chrono. The bombs were about to detonate. He’d have to haul ass back to the hangar bay. An intruder alert went off just as he entered the cavernous hangar. A quick scan of the bay told him Aeryn’s prowler was gone. Someone aboard the carrier had apparently noticed, too; hence the alert. He could only assume she’d waited as long as possible before hightailing it out of there. He’d have to find some alternate transportation.
Luckily, Crichton had some experience flying prowlers. What he didn’t know how to do was hot-wire one. Once again, Lady Luck smiled on him. Another prowler detail was being readied to go after the intruder. The PK techs had one prowler ready to go. John strode up to it and climbed into the cockpit. With his flight helmet on, the techs assumed he was the actual pilot; they gave the all-clear signal and waved him out of the hangar bay. He had just barely made it out of range before the carrier blew.
When he’d made it back to Talyn, Crichton was surprised and concerned when Crais told him Aeryn had not yet returned. He quickly refueled his Farscape module and headed back out to look for her. There was a single star and planet in the system close to the debris field. Crais and Talyn took the section of the field farthest from the star to minimize the impact of the solar flares on the leviathan-gunship. Crichton took the section closest to the star and began sweeping the field. He had spent the last several arns criss-crossing the debris field and still no sign of Aeryn or her prowler.
Rubbing his eyes and stretching his neck, he turned at the far end of his sweep to start yet another pass. Blinking, he noticed a slight blip on the display screen above the instrument console. According to the display, there was a small ship just beyond the planet. "Aeryn?!" he called out hopefully as he swung his module in the direction of the ship.
"Crichton!" Aeryn’s voice crackled through his comm. "I got hit by debris. Propulsion…sens... are gone. Direction… thrusters non-functioning… dead in space. The flares… frelling with my comms……there?! Can…hear…"
John’s face lit up with a smile. "Hang on, baby!! I’m coming!" Then he commed Talyn. "Crais, did you get that? Looks like Aeryn’s on the other side of the planet. I’m on my way to her now, but Talyn’ll probably have to tow her in."
Aboard Talyn, Crais instantly turned the leviathan gunship in the direction of Crichton’s signal. "Talyn can’t get too close to the star because of the flares, but we’ll get as close as we can. He’s picked up Aeryn on his sensors now."
The prowler slowly came into view in front of John. As the module curved around the planet, another, larger ship could be seen several metras behind the prowler. "Frell!!" Crichton’s face fell. A Peacekeeper marauder was bearing down on Aeryn’s prowler from the opposite direction.
Crichton opened the throttle, gaining speed, and cut into the planet’s atmosphere as he tried to close the gap between himself and the prowler. As he neared maximum velocity he could see that even with a sling shot maneuver, the marauder would probably get there first. Still, he gritted his teeth and changed course as soon as he hit perigee. He aimed a trajectory straight for the prowler, picking up speed exponentially.
"John!! I can see you now," Aeryn’s voice rang with relief. "I wasn’t sure you’d made it off the carrier. Where’s Talyn? We’ll need his docking web to get me back aboard. The sooner the better," she said. She knew at least one marauder had escaped the carrier’s destruction and wasn’t keen on being caught by it.
Before he could answer, the marauder reached the prowler and extended it’s docking arms.
"Crichton!!" Aeryn cried. Looking over her shoulder she could now see the Peacekeeper ship drawing her in. "Crais!! Where the frell are you?!" Aeryn was getting desperate. But, Talyn was still too far away. Weaving in and out amongst the remnants of the command carrier, Crais knew they weren’t going to make it in time.
Not knowing what he could do, Crichton tried to push every last drop of speed from the module, willing it move faster than he knew it could. He was just about at the outer edge of the planet’s atmosphere when the module started to shimmy and an eerie blue light glowed through the cockpit. He turned and looked out into the mouth of the wormhole he’d just created.
Crichton fought to maintain control of the module as the gravity well from the wormhole pulled him inexorably toward itself. Looking back toward the prowler, his cry was just as desperate as Aeryn’s had been.
The last thing he saw before being swallowed up in the wormhole’s blue glow was the marauder’s hangar bay door closing around the prowler. The last thing he heard was the frenzied cry of the woman he loved more than anything.
Crichton lay on a cot in a small room, one arm covering his eyes. The room contained the cot, a small desk and chair and a nightstand. Untouched on the desk was a tray of food. On the wall at the foot of the cot was a door to a small lavatory. On the opposite wall was a door to the hallway; he knew an Air Reserve MP stood on the other side. He had poked his head out shortly after the base and NORAD commanders had left. Until he figured out the game, there was no point trying to get out.
He went through the events of the last two days again. The wormhole had spit him out in the upper atmosphere of a blue planet that looked remarkably like Earth.
Just what I need, he’d thought. Another mind frell.
He remembered how the Ancients had created an Earth-like environment from his memories. And when D’Argo, Aeryn and Rygel had followed him through the Ancients’ fake wormhole, they’d made him think Rygel had died and been dissected and that Aeryn and D’Argo would be next.
One of the aliens had even taken the form of his father. Looking back, that had been the hardest part of the deception to deal with. It wasn’t bad enough they’d made him think he’d come home or that his friends were in danger from his own people. That would have been hard enough to deal with. No, they had to make him think he’d reconnected with his father. He’d even had a heart-to-heart with his ‘dad’. He’d felt that his dad finally understood what it had been like for him, growing up in his astronaut-father’s shadow. Yeah, he thought, I wasn’t homesick enough.
The fact that the Ancients had ‘given’ him a leg up on wormhole technology wasn’t much consolation, either. Thanks to the equations they’d put deep in his subconscious, he’d been on the run for the past two cycles from probably the cruelest, most ruthless being in the universe.
Scorpius had stumbled across the equations when he’d had Crichton in his Aurora chair, a nifty little torture device that basically rips thoughts and memories from its occupants’ minds. Crichton hadn’t even known the equations were there until Scorpius found them.
John had ended up in the chair while trying to get a Sebacean tissue sample to save Aeryn from certain death. Scorpius’ ability to discern deception had tipped him off to Crichton’s ruse and the rest, as they say, was history. When the chair failed to extract the information, Scorpius had implanted a neural chip containing a copy of his personality in Crichton’s head. The chip had damn near driven him insane.
But, it had saved him from a Scarren-induced ‘Earth’ insanity trip. He’d woken up one day to find himself in a hospital room. His ‘father’ was there and he’d explained that the Farscape experiment had failed, that he’d crashed the module and been in a coma for a week. Of course, John didn’t buy it for second. When Aeryn had walked in dressed as a doctor and introduced herself as ‘Bettina Fairchild’, his suspicions were confirmed. Things went downhill pretty quick from there.
It seems the Scarren was taking John’s memories and twisting them in an attempt to drive him insane. The goal, apparently, was to determine what it was that Scorpius wanted from Crichton. It had almost worked, too. Especially after Crichton’s dead mother showed up in a bar begging him to ‘stay with’ her ‘this time’ as she died. The Scorpius clone manifested itself in the hallucination and urged John to fight the Scarren’s attempts to break him down. In the end the clone had stopped John’s heartbeat long enough to convince the Scarren that he was dead and John had killed the Scarren.
His thoughts drifted back to his arrival on this particular world. As he’d flown, he’d recognized various cities along the seaboard of what appeared to be the southeastern United States. He’d been impressed with the level of detail. It looked pretty much as he remembered it. Of course, whoever was behind this was probably using his own memories to create the scenario. It stood to reason that things would be exactly as he remembered.
The fighter escort was a new wrinkle, though. For some reason he hadn’t thought to turn Farscape One’s radio on when he’d arrived. He’d only thought of it when he saw the two F-15s headed his way. Turning it on, he heard the voice of one of the pilots.
"...unidentified aircraft. You have violated United States airspace. Identify yourself immediately. Failure to do so will result in the application of terminal force. I repeat. You have violated United States airspace. Identify yourself. If you do not do so immediately, you will be shot down."
Hmm. That’s new, he thought. Not something I would have expected, but okay; let’s see where they’re going with this. He hit the transceiver control.
"This is Farscape 1. Commander John Crichton, IASA astronaut. I’m just on my way to Canaveral. Over." He waited for the reply.
"Farscape 1, this is Major Fuhrman, NORAD Alert Detachment, 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard. We will escort you to Homestead Air Reserve Base. You will not deviate from this course. Any deviation will result in the use of terminal force. Do you understand? Over."
"Affirmative, Major. I understand," Crichton replied. He didn’t know what was going on, but he was pretty sure this was not the Earth he knew.
After landing at Homestead, he’d been taken under arrest, given a physical and brought to this comfy little room. The base commander and the NORAD unit’s CO had shown up asking the usual questions: Who was he, really? Why hadn’t he responded to the air traffic controllers? Why wasn’t a flight plan filed? And, most importantly, why didn’t anyone at Air Force Space Command and Kennedy Space Center know about his flight?
Fed up with the mind games, he decided he wasn’t going to cooperate this time. Staring the commanders in the eye, he said nothing. What were they going to do, kill him? After an hour or so, they gave up and left. He’d refused to talk to anyone else they sent in, too. They’d even sent Dr. Logan, the former director of the Farscape project. That had been tough. He’d almost started talking to him. Then he remembered the last two times he’d been on ‘Earth’ and the wall slammed down again. He still didn’t understand the game and thought he might have to start talking in order to get some information from his captors. Or, he could just try to wait them out. Wait ‘til they gave away their motives.
Outside in the hallway, two men approached. The MP snapped to attention as they reached the room.
"Colonel Crichton," he nodded to the elder gentleman, then to the younger man, "Dr. Kroger."
"Sergeant Cobb," Jack Crichton addressed the MP. "I’m here to see my son." He was angry that NORAD had waited more than a day to inform him of his son’s return.
"How is he?" asked David Kroger.
Cobb frowned, "Not good. He hasn’t said more than two words since he got here and from what I hear, he hasn’t eaten anything in two days. Rumor is he just sits there staring into space." He shook his head sadly. "I don’t get it. Why wouldn’t he talk?"
"Well, there’s only one way to find out," Jack said. He stepped past Cobb, took a deep breath to settle the rattlers in his stomach and opened the door.
Damn, John thought, my head is killing me. He knew he should eat something, but couldn’t bring himself to. He heard the door open as someone stepped in, then heard the door close. He didn’t move, just waited for whoever it was to start talking.
Jack Crichton stood just inside the door, his eyes taking in the small room, past the food sitting on the desk, his gaze finally resting on the form on the cot. He felt his mouth go dry.
"John?" He could barely get the word out past the lump rising in his throat.
On the cot, John squeezed his eyes shut against the tears that threatened to spill over and kept his arm tight over them. He felt a lump rise in his own throat as his body tensed. It’s not real, he told himself. It’s not real. It’s just another mind game; that’s all. He’s not my dad. He couldn’t allow himself to even hope that it really was his father. He didn’t think he could take it again if it wasn’t.
Jack’s heart sank with every second that passed without a response. He stepped over to the desk and pulled out the chair. Turning it around, he sat down near the head of the bed facing his son. He regarded him silently for a few moments then asked softly, "What happened to you, son?" He couldn’t imagine what could have caused this kind of a reaction from him.
As he waited, as patiently as he could, for a reply, he thought back to the party they’d thrown after John returned from his first shuttle flight. He remembered how excited and awestruck John had been after being in space for the first time. He’d been on cloud nine and he got the biggest smile on his face when he tried to describe the experience to his sisters and friends. He soon became impatient for his next trip and he had come back from his second space flight just as excited as the first. He couldn’t stop talking about what he’d seen and how he’d felt out there.
He was drawn out of his reverie by a soft mumbling emanating from the form on the bed. He looked up, trying to make out what his son was saying. John hadn’t moved a muscle; his arm still draped over his eyes. It seemed that every muscle in his body was tensed at that moment.
"John?" he asked again softly. "What…?"
The mumbling continued, growing louder and more intense as the seconds passed. It sounded almost like a chant. It took a moment, but he finally figured out what his son was saying. The realization tore at his heart.
"It’s not real!" John said. "It’s Not Real!!" He sat up suddenly, his back to the wall. "YOU’RE NOT REAL!!!" he shouted venomously. He was red-faced and trembling; tears now flowing freely down his cheeks.
The hatred and loathing he saw in his son’s eyes shocked Jack Crichton. "Son…" he started.
"Don’t you call me that!!" John spat. "You are NOT my father!! You’re not REAL!" He took a shaky breath and, still glaring at Jack, said menacingly, "Get. Out!"
Jack tried to calm his son down. "John…"
"Get Out!" he repeated, louder this time. When Jack didn’t move he shouted, "Get Out! Get the fuck out!!"
Jack could see that John was losing what little control he seemed to have. He stood up slowly, raising his arms in an attempt to placate his son. "All right, John," he said cautiously. "I’m leaving." He backed slowly toward the door. When he reached it, he turned and placed a hand on the knob. With his head bowed, he took another deep breath and left the room.
Crichton paced around the small room. He’d been pacing on and off since his ‘father’ had left. The more he thought about the encounter, the more he felt he had to get out of there. He still hadn’t figured out the game his captors were playing and he decided he really didn’t care. It was time he found his module and got back into space. As much as he would have liked going home, he knew deep down that it was impossible. Even if this was Earth, and he didn’t believe that it was, he knew he couldn’t stay. The Peacekeepers would eventually follow. And that was the last thing he wanted.
He glanced up at the clock above the door. Nearly 2:00 AM. He started to pick up the chair when he noticed the food on the desk. The military had stopped leaving cooked food after the first three meals went untouched. What they’d left the last time was some kind of wrapped submarine sandwich, a bag of chips and a can of soda. John decided he was way too hungry to leave it. Besides, he was interested to see if it would taste the way he remembered.
He unwrapped the sandwich and took a bite. Roast beef, lettuce, tomato and a hint of mayo, he thought. A little dry, but not too bad, considering it’s been sitting here for hours. He popped the tab on the soda can and took a long drink. He grunted in disgust after swallowing. Aw, I hate warm soda. Still, it was better than nothing and he needed something to wash down the sub. After finishing both and the chips, he grabbed the chair and went into the bathroom. Closing and locking the door behind him, he placed the back of the chair under the doorknob. That oughtta keep them busy for a while, he thought to himself. Then he closed the toilet lid and stepped up onto it to reach the small window above the washbasin. He looked out the window. He was on the first floor. Quietly, unlocked the window and opened it as far as it would go. It would be a tight fit. He reached through and grabbed the outside edge of the windowsill then hauled himself head first out the window.
Hopping to his feet, he slapped the dirt off his pants, then looked all around, trying to figure out where he was in relation to the flight line. He figured they’d have put the Farscape module in some hangar and, most likely, would have started taking it apart by now. But, he had to chance it since it was his only way off this rock.
With nothing really to go by – all he knew was that he was somewhere west of the flight line – he decided to stick close to the building and headed to his right. It was the direction he’d been brought from when they took him to the room. If he could determine which buildings he’d gone through, he should be able to figure out his way back toward the hangars.
Crichton ‘retraced’ his steps, quickly figuring out which buildings he’d gone through and soon he’d made his way back to the row of hangars on the edge of the flight line. He stayed in the shadows and started checking out the hangars, keeping a wary eye out for any base personnel. He figured NORAD would have placed guards at the hangar containing his module. He didn’t see any sentries on this side of the hangars, so he ran across the street between the two closest buildings. Once between them, he stopped and listened closely. Hearing nothing, he jogged to the other end of the buildings and stopped again to listen. Again hearing nothing, he carefully peeked around the corner. He saw no guards to the right. He checked the other way; no guards down there either.
Well, he thought, six of one, half a dozen of the other. He checked both directions again, then darted around to the left. There was only one other hangar beyond the one he was running past. If it wasn’t in either of these, he’d just have to check the rest. When he reached the other side of the building, he stopped and checked around the corner before ducking between the two hangars. He stopped to listen again and this time he thought he heard noises coming from inside the last hangar. He looked back toward the street and noticed lights on in that building.
There was a door about halfway down the side of the hangar. He moved in front of it and carefully placed his hand on the knob. His heart pounding, he slowly tried the door. To his surprise, it opened. He stepped quietly into a lit hallway with doors on either side as well as at the other end.
He read the nameplates on the doors as he made his way down the hall. They were mostly offices and briefing rooms. These rooms were dark, but he could see light coming from the other side of the door at the end of the hallway. He stopped when he reached it and again listened closely. He could make out voices now and also heard the sound of tools being used. It was obvious that some sort of maintenance was going on in the hangar. His right hand instinctively moved to his leg, reaching for his pulse weapon. He cursed silently as he remembered the MPs had confiscated it. Damn! It’s probably in a room somewhere with three or four techs trying reverse engineer it, he thought bitterly. Oh well, ‘Once more unto the breach!’
He opened the door and walked into the main hangar. On either side of the door stood large shelving units stacked with various parts and boxes. He cautiously stepped to the edge of the shelf on the right and looked into the hangar. There in the middle of the maintenance area was the Farscape 1 module. Inside, around, under and on top of it were a number of mechanics and technicians. Some wore coveralls with Air Force insignia; others he recognized from the Farscape Project. He took a couple of steps inside the main hangar. No one seemed to notice him. He took a few more steps toward the module. The techs had removed some of the modifications he’d made during his time in the Uncharted Territories. The inertial stabilizers were in pieces on the floor and three techs were arguing over how to remove the hetch drive for study.
As he stood staring at what was left of his module, a man walked around the front of the craft and saw him. He walked up and faced Crichton.
"John," he said with some disbelief. "They let you out?"
"Ah, not exactly… DK," Crichton replied carefully. He looked closely at his friend. He looked older than he remembered. For some reason, it unsettled him a bit. "I see you guys have gotten off to a good start dismantling Farscape 1," his voice hinting at his anger.
"Yeah, well, NORAD tapped IASA pretty quickly when they figured out you are who you said you were." DK told him. "They didn’t believe you at first. Like the rest of us, they thought you died when the Farscape experiment went bad."
"You mean IASA or NASA or somebody else didn’t notice the distortion from the wormhole? They didn’t see me coming?" John asked sarcastically.
DK paused a moment before speaking. "From what I heard IASA, NASA, the French, Germans, Japanese, the Russians… they all tracked you, bro. But, when NORAD got hold of you and they found out you’d identified yourself, IASA decided to wait until the Air Force contacted them. Didn’t want to tip their hand, I guess."
DK regarded his childhood friend. He shook his head and chuckled. "My god, John, how did you survive out there?!"
"That, DK, is a very long story. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time. They’re gonna notice I’m gone any time now. Any chance I could get you to stop what you’re doing here?" he asked.
"You know, John, some of the modifications you’ve made are very intriguing," DK said. He pointed to the inertial stabilizers and the hetch drive in turn. "I’m guessing those extensions are dampers or stabilizers of some sort. And that propulsion system!" he exclaimed. "I can’t wait to hear about that. It looks amazing." His face lit up with excitement, just like old times.
John smiled ruefully. "Yeah, that hetch drive is a real kick in the pants," he said. "And, I could really use it right now, DK, ‘cause I need to get outta here." His voice belied his intensity.
DK saw the look in his friend’s eyes and knew he wasn’t kidding. "You’re not staying?" he asked, unbelieving. He shook his head.
"What is with you, man?! I mean, you flip out on your old man; you went all psycho on him! You wouldn’t even talk to him!?! And now, after a friendly little conversation with me, you’re just gonna take off again?!" He looked at John, exasperation in his voice and on his face.
"Do you have any idea what that’s going to do him, John? Do you have any idea what he went through when you disappeared? Do you even care anymore?! And God! What about your sisters, man?! What about them? They know now that you’re alive. Hell, they’re on their way down here right now. You’re just going to take off without even seeing them?" he asked angrily.
John looked at the floor. "Look, DK, you don’t understand…" he started.
"You’re damn right I don’t understand!" DK spat. He started to turn away, then stopped and looked John in the eye. "I don’t know what happened to you out there," he said softly. "But, you sure aren’t the John Crichton I knew." He turned away again. "You do what you have to do, John. And so will I." With that, he walked back to the module and leaned heavily against it.
Crichton looked around the hangar. The techs and mechanics were all staring at him. Realizing he wasn’t going to get the module, he turned around and started back for the hallway he’d come in through.
"’Bye, DK," he whispered past the lump that had risen in his throat. He walked quickly back through the hallway and out the door. Once outside, he leaned against the wall and struggled to regain composure. He started repeating to himself the mantra that had gotten him through this far, "It’s not real. It’s not real. It’s not real."
Once he’d calmed down, he tried to come up with a fallback plan. He’d been counting on getting his module back. Without it he was more or less screwed. There was no way he’d get back into space now. But, he knew he had to get off this base. He tried to remember the layout from his final approach. The main runway was on the coast-side of the base, a line of trees marking the eastern perimeter. The hangars were inland from the runway. That meant his best bet would be to cross the airfield and head for the trees. Hopefully he’d find some way to get outside the perimeter fencing once he got to it. He went back to the runway side of the hangar and stopped to check for MPs. Seeing no one, he darted across the taxiway toward the main runway. While there were ground lights marking the taxiways and runways, there weren’t any overhead lights. That made it easier for him to remain concealed.
When he got past the runway, he ran into the thick stand of trees and stopped to catch his breath and get his bearings. He started walking toward where he thought the fence should be. When he got the fence, he started looking for a way out.
He looked up at the razor wire topping the 12-foot chain-link fence. It was pointed outward, which meant it was designed to keep people out, not in. That would make it easier, but he still preferred a safer approach. He walked the fence for several hundred feet looking for hole. What he found was a drainage ditch with a pipe that looked like it passed under the fence. He jumped down into it and entered the pipe. He got all the way to the end, but was stopped by a locked security gate. There was a little room at the top of the gate, but it wasn’t nearly enough for him to get through. He shook the gate in frustration, then turned around and headed back through the pipe.
He climbed back out of the ditch and heard dogs barking in the distance. It sounded like they were coming toward him from both directions along the fence. Looking up at the top of the fence and seeing no other choice, he started climbing. He still wasn’t sure how he was going to navigate the razor wire. As he reached the top, he could hear the dogs and the MPs shouting. He put his right foot and left knee on the top fence rail and used both hands to try and keep his balance. His only hope was to try to jump over the wire. He tried to get his left foot up on the top rail, but started to lose his balance and just pushed off with his right leg, trying to dive forward over the wire. He felt the wire slice into his left leg just above the knee as he went over and pulled his leg back to avoid getting it caught.
"Oh, shi-!" he yelled as he pitched headfirst toward the ground. He put his arms out to help break his fall and tried to twist his body so he wouldn’t land on his head or back. He heard the crack as his right wrist broke on impact a split second before his head hit the ground. He saw a flash of white, then nothing.
He regained consciousness a moment later. He’d landed on his right side with this arm underneath his body. He felt something warm in his eye and saw the bloody rock his head had hit as he tried to pull himself up. Pain shot through his arm when he put his weight on it and he immediately dropped back to the ground. He groaned as the MPs came up to his position on the other side of the fence. He heard them radio for a medic and a stretcher before succumbing to pain and exhaustion.
Jack Crichton had fallen asleep waiting for his son to regain consciousness. He sat in a chair next to the bed in the base hospital room. A groan and the sound of rustling sheets woke him with a start. He shook himself alert and looked over at the bed. John had begun tossing and turning. A look of pain and fear crossed his face and he cried out, "No!"
Jack jumped up and touched his son’s arm. "John?" he said.
John cried out again and wrenched his arm from his father’s grip, ripping the IV out and leaving the fluid dripping onto the floor. He rolled away and tucked himself into a fetal position, his hands covering his face and head. His body shook with fear and he whimpered softly, "No. Please. No more. No more" He didn’t wake up.
Jack walked around the bed and sat down near John’s head. He gently laid his hand on the back of his son’s head, caressing it tenderly. He spoke softly, "It’s going to be alright, son. Everything’s going to be all right. You’re safe now."
Eventually, John stopped whimpering and rolled onto his back again. Jack stood up and went to get a nurse to hook the IV back up. He thanked her as she left the room and he walked slowly back toward the chair, watching his son sleep.
He was still shocked by how much John had changed. The years in space had not been kind. His eyes were bloodshot and puffy; the dark circles under them appeared permanently etched. His cheeks were drawn and had lost their fullness, making his face look a little more angular and his mouth formed a seemingly perpetual frown. A few solitary strands of gray hair had started to appear. He looked much older than the five years he’d been missing would have implied.
He stopped as he passed the small bureau against the wall and stared into the mirror above it. For the first time in a long time he noticed the lines that had been etched into his own face in the intervening years.
He sank heavily into the chair, propped his head on his arm and continued watching his son.
Sometime later, John groaned slightly as he slowly opened his eyes. His head still hurt, only worse now. And for some reason, his arm and left leg hurt, too. He brought his right arm up to check his head and saw the cast on the wrist. Then he remembered his less than graceful dive over the security fence. He looked to his left and saw the IV connected to his arm and his father in the chair next to the bed. No, he corrected himself. That’s an alien posing as my dad.
He turned toward the door as he heard it open. DK took a step inside and stood there holding the door open. Behind him was a woman; John couldn’t make out who it was until she stepped slightly to her left.
"Jen?" he said softly. His little sister looked the same as he remembered, yet somehow different. Her face looked a bit fuller than he recalled. As she stepped around DK and walked to the side of the bed, he saw why. "You’re pregnant," he said, surprised.
Jenna laughed. "That’s what I love about you, John," she smiled at him. "You’re sharp!" She reached out and took his left hand in hers. His gaze fell on the ring on her finger.
"You’re married?!" he asked. Okay, he thought, what the hell is going on? She was not married when I left Earth. But, then, she wasn’t pregnant, either.
DK stepped beside Jenna and put his arm around her.
"Wait a minute!" John said. "You married him?! DK?!" He looked at his sister, then his friend and shook his head. He vaguely recalled Jen having a crush on DK when she was a teenager, but he thought that was so over years ago.
Before he had a chance to question them further, two men strode into the room. The first was in uniform and John recognized him as the NORAD commander. The second man, whom he didn’t recognize, wore a suit and carried a briefcase.
"Colonel Crichton, Dr. Kroger, Mrs. Kroger, if you’ll excuse us, we have urgent business to discuss with the commander." The suit started to usher DK and Jen out of the room and gestured for Jack to follow them.
"Hold on," John said, raising the bed so he could sit up and looking at the man. "Just who the hell are you? And what makes you think I’m going to discuss anything with you or anybody else?"
The suit returned his glare indignantly. "Commander Crichton, I am Dr. James Adamson, Executive Director of the International Aero Space Administration. And you will tell us what we want to know. Now, Dr. Kroger, ma’am, if you’ll just step outside. Colonel…"
"Uh-uh," Crichton shook his head, never taking his eyes off Adamson. "I don’t think so," he said. "You want to ask me something, go ahead. Doesn’t mean I’m gonna answer." He paused, "But they stay."
"Commander Crichton," the NORAD officer, Colonel Nedved, stepped forward. "What we need to discuss is classified as a matter of national security. I’m afraid we need to clear the room."
"Fine," John replied, staring him down. "Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out."
Adamson looked at the officer. "We don’t have time for this." He balanced his briefcase on the end of the bed and opened it, taking out two file folders. Handing the folders to Colonel Nedved, he then closed the briefcase and set it on the floor.
Nedved stepped over next to Jack Crichton. Addressing John, he said, "Approximately 20 hours after you arrived here, another ship was detected exiting the ‘wormhole’, for lack of a better word. A third ship was detected approximately 15 hours after that. The International Space Station as well as several military and government satellites captured images of both those ships." He handed the folders to John. "Do you recognize either of them?"
Crichton opened the top folder. The first image was taken from a distance and he couldn’t make out the ship. He flipped to the next one and his heart skipped. He closed his eyes and shuddered almost imperceptibly. His reaction wasn’t lost on his father, however.
"Do you recognize it?" Nedved asked.
Crichton looked through the rest of the photos without answering. Whoever’s pulling the strings here either already knows the answer and is looking for a reaction, or they don’t have a clue, he thought.
"Friends of yours?" Nedved again.
John chuckled mirthlessly, but said nothing.
Well, he thought to himself, if they’re really here, and they’re not just part of the game, they’re looking for me. He looked around the room. If this is some kind of game, they’re playing it well, he thought. It still didn’t feel right to him, but there was enough to keep him guessing. All the changes he’d noticed in his family and DK were plausible enough. Jen and DK being married. Okay, I’m not too sure about that one, but I guess it’s possible, he thought. Everyone looked a little older. Except dad, he thought. He looked at his father. He looks more than a little older, he thought. All the changes were perfectly believable. Of course, they could easily be extrapolated from his memories, too.
He noticed a newspaper on the bureau. "Hand me that paper, will you," he asked.
Jack handed him the paper and he looked it over. It was the sports section of the Miami Herald. He read the headline; Panthers clip Wings 3-2 in overtime, force game 7. Stanley Cup hockey. He’d never really been a hockey fan. He tried to think of a time when he would have paid any attention to it. It wasn’t something he was consciously aware of. This could be real, John thought. But then, he hadn’t known the wormhole equations were there, either. He looked at the date on the paper. June 15, 2004. Five years. He thought about it for a moment. It was conceivable. The wormhole was, after all, a distortion of space-time. Three years in the UT could translate to five years on Earth. At least, he thought it could. His head began to throb again. Ah Hell, he thought despairingly, I don’t know. I just don’t know.
Jack and DK had stepped outside. Jen maneuvered herself into the chair next to the bed. Her brow wrinkled as she considered her older brother. She had caught Jack’s look of concern when John had first seen the photos of the ships. She knew he suspected John recognized them.
"So, John," she said, "who are these aliens, anyway? Are they your friends? Or are they the first wave of the apocalypse?"
John looked at her, feigning ignorance. "What do you mean?" he asked, though he was pretty sure he knew.
She smirked at him. "Come on, John. You know you never could lie to dad." She shifted uncomfortably in the chair. "He knows it, too. He’s going to come back in here and demand that you start talking." She frowned. "He’ll badger you until the two of you end up shouting at each other and one or both of you will say something you’ll regret." She paused.
"You know I’m right," she said after a moment.
He looked at her for a moment, then down at the bed. He struggled with his feelings of confusion and depression. He really needed to talk; he knew that. He didn’t know what to do, what to believe. Didn’t know who, if anyone, he could trust. Back on Moya, he’d at least had D’Argo or Chiana or even Pilot to talk to. He missed his friends and briefly wondered how they were faring. They hadn’t approved of the plan to go after Scorpius, but they’d stood by him. He knew he could count on them. But they were on the other side of the universe.
His thoughts turned to Aeryn. God, I wish you were here, baby, he thought, as if she could hear it. Even when they weren’t getting along, they could always talk. He trusted her to give him the straight deal, no dren. No matter what. Thinking of her brought yet another wave of despair. He didn’t know if she was alive or dead. He might never know.
Jack walked back into the room shaking his head. DK followed him in. "Jack, you haven’t eaten or slept in two days. You need to rest, too, you know. Why don’t you and Jen go get something to eat? I can stay with John," he said.
"No," Jack replied. "I’m fine. I’m just going to stay here for a while."
It was DK’s turn to shake his head. "You’re as bad as he is," he said, gesturing toward John. "Both of you are stubborn as mules."
Jen smiled, "Well, what did you expect? Where did you think John got it from?"
"Same place you did, I guess" DK said. "Speaking of which, how’re you doing? When’s the last time you had something to eat?"
"It’s been a while, but I’m okay," she told him.
"Uh-huh," he replied. He walked over to where she was sitting. "Come on, you’ve got a baby to feed," he said, leaning down to help her out of the chair. He looked over at John who was still staring down at the bed. "We’ll be back, bro." John didn’t answer.
"No, I’m fine, DK. I’m not hungry," Jen lied. She was hungry, but she was more worried about leaving John alone with their dad. Looking over at him, her concern grew. He hadn’t moved since Jack and DK had come back into the room. Something was obviously wrong; he looked so lost and alone. Jack had noticed, too.
"I’m not taking no for an answer, honey," DK said firmly. "You may not be hungry, but I’ll bet our baby is. If your dad’s not going to take you to get something to eat, then I will. Come on. Let’s go."
Jen sighed. "Oh, all right," she said. She didn’t want to fight about it. DK helped her out of the chair and she leaned over to give her brother a hug. "Do me a favor, John; talk to dad," she whispered to him, then kissed him on the cheek.
"You want us to bring something back for you?" DK asked.
John didn’t answer, just continued staring down at the bed.
DK shot Jack a worried glance. "How about you, Jack?" he asked.
"Hmm? Oh, no that’s all right. I’m fine," he answered. He was concerned about John as well.
Jen and DK walked out of the room, leaving father and son alone in their respective reveries.
After a moment, Jack sat down next to the bed. "So," he said quietly. "Who are these aliens?" He watched John, trying to read his reaction to the question. John just tilted his head to one side. He didn’t answer.
"I know you recognized those ships," Jack continued. "And I got the feeling you’ve had a run in with at least the first one. What’s going on, son?" He spoke quietly and carefully, trying to gauge his son’s mood.
"I don’t know," John said softly. "I wish I did." He didn’t look at his father, just stared straight ahead. He was tired of playing games, tired of trying to figure out what was real and what wasn’t. Truth be told, he had no idea. He just wanted it to be over.
Jack was relieved that John was talking at last. "When I first came to see you," he said slowly, "you said I wasn’t ‘real’. What makes you think that?" he asked carefully.
John shook his head sadly. "That is a very long story," he said. "One I really don’t want to go into. Let’s just say if there’s one thing I’ve learned in three cycles in the Uncharted Territories," he paused, drawing a shaky breath. "It’s that I can’t trust my own mind. At least," he continued sadly, "not where Earth is concerned."
He turned slightly toward his dad, though still not looking at him. "I don’t know what’s real anymore," he despaired. He laughed dejectedly, "For all I know, I could be in some alien laboratory getting my brain sucked out.
He looked around the room. "Maybe all of this is real," he said. "Then again, maybe none of it is." He turned to look at his father, tears forming in his eyes. "I just don’t know anymore," he shrugged.
Jack didn’t know how to respond; didn’t know what to say. He thought for a moment, trying to imagine what his son was going through, trying to think of something he could say or do that would convince John that all of this was real. His son was finally home, but how could he convince him of that?
He sat on the beach listening to the sound of the surf, watching the waves rolling in. He’d always loved the ocean, the sound of waves pounding the shore, of gulls screeching and squawking, searching for morsels of food. It had always had a calming effect on him. Even now, he could feel some of the tension start to melt away.
He heard footsteps in the sand behind him. Looking around, he tried to guess which of the people he saw were agents keeping an eye on him. There were certainly enough people around; any number of them could be watching his every move. Just like with the Ancients. The only difference this time was that no one else had been captured coming through the wormhole. He thought about the ships Colonel Nedved had shown him. He knew it was only a matter of time before the Peacekeepers showed up.
"Still think all this is an illusion?" Jack was standing behind him. He stepped around and sat down next to John, gazing out at the ocean, but keeping his son in the corner of his eye.
John shrugged. "It doesn’t really matter now, does it?" he asked. "If it is, I’m going to have to figure a way out of it. If not, if this really is Earth and I really am home," he paused, "well, then I can’t stay anyway."
Jack turned to look at him. "Why not?"
John looked back at his father, trying to determine whether or not he should tell him. He was pretty sure the Scarrens weren’t behind all this. It didn’t seem weird enough. After a moment he decided it couldn’t hurt. He explained about the Ancients and how they’d placed the wormhole equations deep inside his brain. He considered telling him about Scorpius, too, but thought better of it. If this man really was his father, he might sleep a little better if he didn’t know.
"Certain… elements in the universe would stop at nothing to get at what’s in here," he said, tapping his head. "If I stayed, I’d just be putting the entire planet in jeopardy."
Jack was quiet for a moment. "Can these aliens really destroy a planet?" he asked.
Crichton smiled humorlessly. "Some have turned it into an art form."
"Those ships that came through the wormhole after you," Jack said, "they could destroy the Earth?"
Jack stood up. "Then Colonel Nedved was right," he said. "NORAD needs to know."
John squinted up at him. "Why?" he asked. "It’s not like Earth has any kind of defenses. If a command carrier comes through, it’s basically over. Besides," he continued, "this could all be a figment of my imagination."
"You need to tell them everything you know about those ships," Jack was insistent. "Come on. I’ll take you back." He held out a hand to help John up.
John looked back at the water. So much for rest and relaxation, he thought, taking his father’s hand and standing up stiffly. He winced slightly as the bandages on his knee lightly rubbed the wounds and limped back to the truck.
Neither spoke during the ride to the base. The sentry at the gate informed them that Colonel Nedved was looking for them and that they were to go to the brig. They followed a couple of MPs to the base jail and were escorted inside.
A whirlwind of activity met them in the main area. Behind a counter, officers barked orders to soldiers who were running in all directions. Others sat at desks and fielded the many phone calls that were coming in. A sergeant saw them and motioned them around the counter. As the two men walked around, a squad of MPs entered from a side hallway; they were escorting two prisoners. The shorter prisoner appeared human and wore what looked like a military uniform. The taller one was clad entirely in skin-tight black leather. Large shoulder shields resembled an insect’s carapace. The figure wore a black skullcap over the head with leather straps that crisscrossed the face, a face that resembled a corpse. The skin was blanched and pulled tightly over the cheeks, eyes sunken and dark. Thin black lips stretched over razor sharp teeth. The prisoners entered the large room and all activity slowly ceased as the soldiers got a good look at the alien.
Jack sensed his son stiffen and turned to look at him. The color had drained from John’s face and he stared at the prisoners as though he’d seen a ghost. He swallowed hard and took a step toward the prisoners, who were now standing against the far wall flanked by MPs.
"John?" his father asked, wondering what he was up to.
Crichton ignored him and continued toward the two prisoners. They still hadn’t noticed him. Passing an MP, Crichton reached down and, never taking his eyes off the corpse-like alien, deftly removed the MP’s weapon from its holster. In seconds, he’d stepped past the soldiers guarding the prisoners. He shoved the alien back with one arm and held the gun under the alien’s chin with the other.
The Peacekeeper smiled coldly at him. "John! So good to see you again." He took a sharp breath. "I was hoping we’d run into you here."
Crichton did not return the greeting. "Where’s Aeryn?" he asked pointedly. Behind him the MPs had drawn their weapons and leveled them at him.
"Sir, lower the weapon and step back slowly," one of them ordered.
Crichton never took his eyes off the alien. He released the safety, then reached up with his thumb and cocked the gun. "I’m only gonna ask once more, Scorpy," he said angrily. "Where’s Aeryn?" he asked again, louder this time.
The MP tried again. "Sir! Lower the weapon and step back!"
Scorpius smiled again and laughed. "John, you’ve already tried to kill me and failed. Twice. Even if you succeed this time," his voice turned cold, "you will never see Officer Sun again."
"John," he heard Scorpius’ voice behind him, "are you sure you want to take this course of action?"
Crichton glanced over his shoulder. "Not now, Harvey!" he spoke sharply to the Scorpius clone that only he could see. The humans watching this tableau looked around at each other, puzzled.
"Now, John," the clone continued, "while my survival is no longer linked in any way to Scorpius’, I must point out the futility of this endeavor. If you kill Scorpius, you likely will never see Aeryn again. The Peacekeepers will kill her in retaliation," he said.
His temper rising, Crichton again addressed the clone, "Harvey! Shut up!"
"I believe what we have is a stalemate, John," Scorpius said arrogantly and tried to step around Crichton, who shoved him back against the wall viciously.
"I don’t think so, you cadaverous son of a bitch!" he said. "Now, where is she?!" he shouted.
"John!" Jack Crichton stepped forward. "Don’t do this!"
Crichton seethed. "Back off, ‘dad’!" he warned, pure hatred in his eyes.
The MP took another step toward him. "Sir!" he said. "Put the weapon down, now!"
By now, Crichton was breathing heavily, his face twisted with rage. Without warning, he squeezed the trigger. Scorpius’ head snapped back and his body sank to the floor leaving a trail of blood and brain matter on the wall. "So much for your stalemate, Scorpy," he said, looking down at what was left of his nemesis.
Jack Crichton, along with everyone else, stood in stunned silence.
John turned to face the other prisoner. "So, Braca," he said softly, raising the gun, "you wanna tell me where Aeryn is, or do I have to blow your head off, too?"
"Crichton!" The voice came from behind and stopped him in his tracks. He slowly turned around to face its owner. Without a word, he lowered the gun in his hand and walked past the MPs who still had their weapons trained on him. He stopped in front of the woman who was flanked by MPs herself.
"Aeryn," he said softly. He took her face in one hand and held out the gun in front of one of the MPs. As soon as the soldier took it from him, he put his arms around her and held her tight. "I wasn’t sure I’d ever see you again," he told her. But, he thought, is it live or is it Memorex? At the moment, he didn’t care.
"Crichton," she said carefully. "You killed Scorpius?"
He glanced back at the wall. "Looks like it," he said.
It was Jack Crichton’s turn to pace. He’d been in Colonel Nedved’s office for more than an hour bargaining for his son’s release. He’d called in just about every marker he had and no one was willing to help. With the heightened state of alert, no one wanted to take the chance.
"Colonel," Nedved began, "understand, your son murdered someone. He shot a ma… an alien… in cold blood! On a federal installation. We can’t just cut him loose."
"I understand that, Colonel," Jack said. "All I’m asking is that he get some help. He’s obviously unstable. If you could transfer him to a hospital where he can get the help he needs, that’s all I’m asking."
Dr. Adamson, who had been sitting across the desk from Nedved, leaned forward, "Colonel Nedved, there have been several documented cases of what has been termed ‘space dementia’ in astronauts who have experienced extended time in orbit. All such cases exhibited extreme violence and paranoia, just as Commander Crichton has exhibited. And those astronauts were not in space anywhere near as long as Commander Crichton. His behavior would seem to indicate that he is suffering from this type of dementia. I would suggest a full psychological and neurological workup is in order here."
Nedved sighed. He felt for Crichton. He really did. He looked at Adamson, then Crichton. "Look, I’m not guaranteeing anything, but I’ll see what I can do," he said.
Jack stopped in front of the desk. "Thank you, Colonel," he said.
John Crichton sat in a cell trying to come up with a plan. Aeryn was in the cell next to his. Braca, in the cell across from John, stood staring at the human. He still couldn’t believe Scorpius was dead.
Aeryn stood and walked over to the bars separating her from John. "Well," she said, "how do you propose we get out of this?"
"I’m working on it," he replied.
The door to the main building opened and DK stepped through. An MP escorted him to John’s cell, opened the cell door, then closed it after DK stepped inside. The soldier walked back to the outer door, turned around and stood at attention.
"Hey," DK said.
"Hey," John replied.
DK glanced over at Aeryn. After he’d been taken into custody John had explained to his dad and sister who she was and how the Peacekeepers had captured her on the other side of the wormhole. DK nodded to her and said, "Hey."
Aeryn nodded to him.
"Uh, John," DK stared down at his friend. "Your dad told me what happened." He paused for a moment. "He also told me that you’re still planning on leaving… Earth. You’re going back into space?" he asked.
"Yeah," John replied. "That’s the general plan, although I’m not sure how I’m gonna pull it off at this point."
"Yeah, well," DK stepped over to the cot and sat down. He lowered his voice; "Your dad’s working on getting you out of here. He said he got Nedved to consider moving you to a hospital. I don’t know if it’s gonna happen or not, but if it does, maybe you can figure out a way to get out of it." He looked over at Braca, then at Aeryn before turning back to John. "A few of us have managed to stall the work on Farscape 1. We told the Air Force we can’t do any more without you. We’re working on re-installing the modifications we took apart." He paused again to make sure the MP wasn’t listening. "If you do manage to escape, Farscape 1 will be ready for you, bro"
John looked at his buddy. "I thought you were pissed that I was leaving again," he said.
"Yeah, well, I am," DK told him. "But your dad told me why." He looked around the cell. "Jen’s pretty upset about it, too. Oh yeah, Kathy finally made it, but they’re giving her a hard time about visiting you in here. She’s about to go postal on someone." He paused. "I don’t think anyone’s told her you’re planning on taking off again." He looked back at John. "Your dad said you know how to make wormholes?" he asked incredulously.
John shrugged, "I’ve made a couple, but I don’t have it down yet."
DK shook his head in amazement. "Damn!"
They talked for a while longer; DK detailed all the big events in the Crichton and Kroger families from the previous five years. John told him a little about the Uncharted Territories and what it was like out there. For a few brief moments, John felt almost at ease, like old times. After they’d exhausted all the big news, they sat silently for a few more moments.
Slowly, the two men stood up and the MP walked back to the cell.
"Good luck, man," DK slapped John on the shoulder.
"Thanks," John replied. "For everything."
After DK left, John and Aeryn started planning their escape. Crichton figured their best bet would be for him to jump the MP who came to get him. He could then let Aeryn out and they’d try to make their way back to the hangars. That is, if only one came to get him. He was pretty sure they were screwed if more than one came for him.
"That’s your plan?" Aeryn asked dubiously.
Crichton admitted it wasn’t much of a plan, but then, a lot of his plans were similarly anemic. "We’ll just have to play it by ear, I guess," he said.
Aeryn looked confused. "Why would we play with our ears?" she asked.
"What?" John asked. "No," he said, shaking his head. "It’s just an expression. It means ‘take it as it comes’, improvise."
"Why not just say that, then?"
"Aeryn, can we not do this right now?" he asked.
"Fine," she answered. "We’ll ‘play with our ears’ then."
"Play it by ear," John corrected.
"Whatever," she shook her head.
As bad as the escape plan was, somehow it worked. Crichton was able to overpower the guard when he came for him several hours later by hitting him in the head with the cast on his arm. After that, it was a simple matter of removing the keys and his weapon, then releasing Aeryn. They locked the guard in John’s cell and started toward the door to the rest of the building.
"Wait! You’re not just going leave me here?" Braca called after them.
John and Aeryn looked at each other. Sighing and shaking his head, Crichton turned around and opened the cell door. Brandishing the guard’s pistol, he warned, "You better keep your trap shut ‘til we’re outta here."
Braca just nodded and the three fugitives carefully made their way out the back of the building. They met only one other MP on their way out and Aeryn quickly dispatched him with a pantak jab. Night had already fallen as they stepped outside. Crichton looked around to get his bearings and quickly figured out where they were in relation to the hangars. The three figures moved stealthily through the shadows toward the flight line. When they made it to the hangar where Crichton had found the Farscape module, he turned to Braca.
"Sorry, Braca," Crichton said, "my module only seats two. You’re on your own. Good luck getting outta here." He and Aeryn parted company with the Peacekeeper.
They entered the hangar through the side door and walked down the now darkened hallway, then went through the door to the maintenance area. Crichton was surprised to see the area empty and the Farscape 1 module back in one piece. He noticed someone leaning into the cockpit from the other side. It was DK.
Crichton walked out toward the module. "Hey," he said.
"Hey," DK replied. "She’s almost ready for you," he said. "Just a minor adjustment here." he turned the wrench in his hand a couple of times, then stood up, jumped down off the ladder he’d been standing on and walked around the module. "She’s all gassed up and ready to go," he said.
He turned to Aeryn who had started toward the module. "Hey."
She nodded, "Hey."
John looked around. The hangar was empty except for the three of them. He started as he heard a door open at the front of the building, but relaxed when he recognized his father and sisters walking toward him. He took a few steps in that direction. Kathy had tears in her eyes.
"I can’t believe it," she cried. "We thought you were dead."
She stepped forward and gave her brother a big hug. She sobbed faintly as they held each other close for a few moments, then John stepped back and gave Jenna a hug as well.
"What’s this crap about you not sticking around?" Kathy asked, wiping her eyes.
John looked at her for a long moment, tears welling up in his eyes as he was struck by another wave of homesickness. "I can’t stay," he said sadly. "I wish I could." Damn, he thought, how many times am I going to have to do this?
Jack Crichton fought to keep his emotions in check as he faced his son. "I can’t even begin to understand all of this," he said. "I sure wish you’d stay, but if what you told me is true," his voice trailed off. He stepped forward and embraced his son tightly. "You take care of yourself out there," he said, his voice cracking a little.
John returned the embrace. "I will," he promised. After a moment they separated.
DK stepped up. "Take care of yourself, bro," he held out his hand. John took it and drew his friend into a hug.
"You take care of my little sister, DK," he said softly, "and take care of that baby or I’m gonna have to come back kick your ass!" The two men laughed awkwardly.
"You’d better get going before the MPs start swarming this place," Jack told him.
John and Aeryn started prepping the module for flight and climbed into the cockpit as Jack and DK opened the hangar doors. Jen and Kathy walked to the front of the hangar and the four of them watched as John taxied the module out toward the tarmac.
A few moments later a number of jeeps sped past the hangars as they watched the lights of the Farscape 1 module start down the runway. They saw the boosters fire and an earsplitting boom shook the hangar around them a few seconds later.
"That must be the hetch drive," DK mused.
Jack Crichton and his daughters just stood silently as the lights of the module disappeared into the darkness.
John sat on the floor of Talyn’s small terrace, his back against the bulkhead, staring out at the stars. They’d met up with Talyn and slipped through the wormhole shortly after leaving the planet. He scratched his arm absentmindedly. Talyn’s surgical DRDs had made short work of repairing his broken arm and the lacerations on his knee, but his arm still itched where the cast had been.
Aeryn walked in slowly. She stood a few paces in front of him. "Hey," she said softly, gazing out at the same stars.
"Hey," he replied.
After a moment of silence she said, "Hey," again.
When he still didn’t say anything more, she glanced over her shoulder at him. "So, was that your home?" she asked.
Crichton shrugged, "I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not." He went silent again.
"Did you want it to be?" Aeryn asked, turning back to the stars.
He shrugged again. "I don’t know. Part of me hopes it was," he said.
"Well," he said, "if it was, at least this time I got to say goodbye."
Aeryn nodded. "But," she said, "part of you hopes it wasn’t?"
"Yeah." He paused, then continued, "If it wasn’t, well then maybe there’s still a chance the Peacekeepers won’t ever go there."
The two of them remained on the terrace for several hundred microts, each lost in their own thoughts.