by LeatherGirl, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Precious Memories
Summary: John loses all his memories and ends up in the hands of his enemies while the crew discovers a new ally. This is NOT your average amnesiac-goes-to-the-dark-side story.
Spoilers: Everything up to "Fractures": first of 4 fanfics to "imitate" the final four episodes of season 3.
Disclaimer: I do not own Farscape or anything associated with Farscape. The character Rykon and the locations in this fanfic are entirely of my own creation. No profit will ever be made from my fan fiction. I only write fan fiction because I enjoy doing so. I want to create a world for my readers to lose themselves in. Hopefully I have done justice to both Farscape and my readers.
Thanks to my beta-readers, pkbarb and jilacosa for catching everything I screw up on!
He had lost every memory. Every single one. Nothing remained of his past. His mind was as empty as the canvas of space before him. He was standing on a ship. He wasn’t completely sure of what kind of ship or who inhabited it. The only thing he really knew was that he had just woken in this small featureless room.
Not remembering anything was something he could almost handle. Being on a ship in space and not knowing who was on the other side of the door beyond him was understandable. What had him transfixed there, staring out into space, was one thing that frightened him to the core. He couldn’t remember his own name.
The only clue of his past life was the clothes he currently wore. A red tinted leather jacket with black buckles strewn across the front. A simple black t-shirt beneath the jacket. Slick black leather pants comfortably suited upon his waist. Large, military style black boots upon his feet. An empty harness for a weapon stationed upon his right thigh. Why was it empty?
Maybe he had gone insane. Maybe whoever owned this ship was holding him prisoner for some unthinkable crime. Whatever the reason, he knew it was time to find a way out.
At that moment, the door behind him opened. A rather nasty looking creature stepped in. Two beings much like himself stood guard behind the creature. He took a step backwards, just in case. The creature wore a black leather suit that encased his entire body. The prisoner could already tell the suit was for purposes beyond fashion. The wrinkled, hideous face of this being bared a smile only a thousand dentics could cure over time.
The guards beyond the creature were dressed in similar attire to the prisoner. Only they wore brighter red and black jackets with no buckles.
Maybe he’d been rescued after being lost for many cycles. That thought only raised more questions. The guards stationed themselves at the doorway and remained quiet.
“Consider yourself very fortunate, Commander.” The creature began to circle the prisoner, eyeing him with a hint of playfulness in his eyes.
“If we had not rescued you, you would be dead.”
The creature continued to circle him. The prisoner didn’t know whether to feel threatened or to take offense.
“Dead? What happened to me? Where’d you….”
The creature raised his hand for silence. The prisoner shut up immediately. He felt that for some reason, he shouldn’t be directing eye contact at a superior officer. Just like the guards before him. But another, more nagging sensation, told him to remain as he was.
“You’ll be given a full briefing in an arn. For now, let us simply…talk.”
Talk? What the frell for? It didn’t appear he was going to get any answers and he didn’t really have anything to talk about. How could he with not a single clue as to who or what he was?
“Before we talk, I need to know something. Who are you?”
The creature nodded with a smile. He appeared to expect this question.
“I am Scorpius. You will answer to me at all times. No more questions. You are here to work for me, not to socialize.”
“Socialize? Hmm. How will I know to answer to you if I do not know my own name?”
The prisoner had a point there. Scorpius struggled not to show his distaste towards him. He stood before the prisoner and played a genuine expression unto his face.
“Your name is Commander John Crichton.”
Ne’Bri was unlike any other colony they had ever encountered. As a leisure colony, it was based upon a large asteroid amidst three merged nebulas shimmering of color. The location was rare…considering the colony could accommodate virtually every creature in the universe. Temperature adjusters, spas filled with liquids ranging from water to amnexus fluid, and best of all, alcoholic beverages for every type of taste bud.
Upon arrival, Moya settled into a soothing amnexus spa. The crew, suffering from each other, headed to the nearest service bar. Unbeknownst to them, the main focus of the service bar was a muscle treatment center. Massages. That’s exactly what they had been looking for.
Jool and Rygel directed themselves to alcoholic beverages and browsed the entertainment while Chiana and D’Argo decided it was time to relax. Ordering massages, Chiana and D’Argo rested upon a blue-tinted liquid surface that was soft and cushiony, like a pillow. That’s when they met the creatures of the colony first hand.
The creatures, known as Mastonals, were thought to be ancient ancestors of Scarrans. Their rough tanned skin was stronger than a Scarran, for one thing. From the tip of the head to the tip of one’s spiked tail grew a thin black fin that protruded to sharp points. Their hands were surprisingly soft, yet the fingertips bore little slits hiding dangerous retractable claws. Their faces were long and scaly. Their eyes were large and placed to a point where they could see nearly 360 degrees. Long, tan beaks of tough skin protruded from their faces. Their arms and legs could be used interchangeably; they could walk on the first two, all four, or the back two.
“Do you feel guilty?” Chiana asked in a muffled voice. Her chin rested upon the blue mat with her bare body lying behind her. A Mastonal masseuse began to massage her shoulder muscles.
D’Argo glanced over to Chiana with unease painted upon his face. He was quite shy when it came to undressing for anyone but his albeit former lover. But Chiana had convinced him otherwise…after a few drinks of course. She could be very persuasive. And it was the only way he could get her to talk about the visions and feelings she had been experiencing lately.
“Guilty?” D’Argo knew where this was headed. “Chiana, we had a choice. We decided to stay behind. Aeryn and Crichton…well, at least Aeryn and Crais will be fine. Crichton…he’s sure to find some kind of trouble sooner or later.”
“I don’t know, D’Argo. I just…I have this feeling…forget it.”
“What is it, Chiana?” D’Argo straightened, against his masseuse’s wishes. The masseuse struck him especially hard on a deeply formed knot. D’Argo yelped and then relaxed as the masseuse worked it out.
“Look Chiana, you have to talk to me. If there is a problem with any of the crew, you have to let me know. We’re all we have left of each other.” D’Argo reminded her. Chiana knew this too well. She just didn’t want to face it.
“We shouldn’t have abandoned them. We should have supported them. How can they take over a frelling Ga….”
D’Argo put his fingers to his lips and motioned his eyes towards the silent masseuses. Chiana released a frustrated sigh. D’Argo nodded then, showing her he understood.
“We’ll retrieve Jool and Rygel, pry Moya away from the amnexus spa, and begin a search immediately.”
The masseuse found another knot within D’Argo’s sore shoulders and kneaded it in. D’Argo mouthed an “oooh” and looked to Chiana in bliss.
Chiana gave D’Argo her most sincere smile. Inside, she was quaking with fear. From the past few solar days of mysterious visions to the deepened sense of loss and fear, Chiana couldn’t ignore her intuition any longer.
The Service bar was completely crowded. Jool had already had to defend herself from several flirtatious patrons. She took a drink of Fellip Nectar from her flask, her eyes scanning the crowd. Where was that little hairless rodent?
A shriek and a giggle could be heard over the crowd to her left. Jool rolled her eyes, slammed her empty flask down onto the counter, and headed in the direction of the commotion. She was sure to find Rygel at the source.
Sure enough Rygel was chuckling as a small hairy creature scurried away from him. Jool grabbed him by the ear and bent over to be eye level with him.
“What the frell are you trying to do, Rygel? The less we’re noticed the better. Shove your mivonks away and let’s go.”
Rygel didn’t take her seriously enough. Jool proceeded to grab him by the eyebrows and pulled. Rygel squirmed. He was beginning to turn colors. Jool laughed dryly and released her grip. As she did so, a small sparkling crystal protruded from within Rygel’s cloak. Jool snatched the crystal before Rygel could react and gazed at it in genuine curiosity. She then realized what it was and nearly dropped it to the floor.
“Are you fahrbot?!” Rygel grabbed it quickly from her and concealed it within his robes. “That’s a magnastone.”
Jool widened her eyes in fear.
“What the frell are you doing with a….” Rygel hushed her raised voice and brought it to a whisper. “Where did you get this Rygel? Do you know what would happen if a magnastone were even within one hundred denches of another?”
“Of course I do you tralk! My size does not equate my brain functions. This magnastone alone will buy us all the freedom and Hynerian Marjoules one could ever ask for!”
“Where did you get it?” Jool hissed. Rygel motioned for her to come closer. Once she did, he pulled on one of her long curls. Hard.
Jool prepared to scream but a hand slapped across her mouth. As Rygel hid the magnastone from view, the two looked to see D’Argo standing beside them. Chiana was nervously scanning the crowd behind him.
“We’re leaving.” D’Argo stated in a low voice. He too appeared alert.
“What for? We just got here.” Jool argued. The look she received from D’Argo was enough to convince her.
“Please, do not leave.” A voice urged from behind. The crew turned, alert and wishing they had brought their weapons from Moya. It was a peaceful colony, no weapons allowed, unfortunately.
“My name is Rykon…formerly General Aribe Rykon. I’m a host of the Ne’Bri colony.” The large Mastonal stood before them with a genuine smile. A large scar ran from his left eye to the back of his head, most likely an old war wound.
“Rykon. Why don’t you allow my friends and me to leave before anyone gets hurt?” D’Argo folded his arms across his chest. Even at his staggering height, he had to look up to meet Rykon’s gaze.
“I wish to speak with you…not here. Please, follow me.” Rykon gestured towards the exit of the service bar.
D’Argo and the others exchanged weary glances. Chiana stepped forward and nodded first to Rykon, then to her friends.
“We should do as he says.” Chiana stated.
Trusting in their friend, D’Argo and the others followed her behind Rykon to his dwelling. They stepped out into the open atmosphere of the asteroid, looking over a large valley dotted with various spas. Moya was out there somewhere. Or at least they hoped she still was.
The group traveled toward the cave dwellings stationed within Mount Siris, the highest peaked land formation this side of the asteroid. Rykon led them to the largest of the cave dwellings. They stepped into the rounded entrance, instantly entering into a cooled environment lit only by sleeping Night Drannits. Their skins glowed a cool neutral white and pulsed with colors only near the wakening stage.
“What do you want?” D’Argo asked, once they were standing within the confinements of the dwelling. Chiana, Jool, and Rygel cowered behind him. Rykon smiled at the group.
“I know who you are. You’re legends.” Rykon was almost giddy. D’Argo and the others instantly relaxed.
“Legends? Great…now we’re the talk of every space vessel and inhabited rock from here to the borders of PeaceKeeper Territory.” Jool pouted.
“You don’t understand. My people worship you. Have you noticed the ease of security upon your arrival? The lack of questions upon the diversity of your crew? We were contemplating on whether to have a feast in your honor.”
“It’s about time someone recognized my worthiness. A feast shall be required, my friend, and….” Rygel was cut off as Chiana smacked him on the side of his head.
“What exactly do they say about us?” D’Argo asked carefully. He folded his arms across his chest to appear more stern.
“The legendary crew of Moya. Ha! You’re the group of escapees, renegades, even mercenaries…living on a stolen leviathan.” Rykon spoke as if painting a scene with words. “Heroes who single-handedly destroyed not only a secret Gammak Base but collapsed a Shadow depository and annihilated a Dreadnaught. You better be careful around here…some of my customers are still a little angry about the loss of their funds from the depository.”
Rykon chuckled, holding his flat scaly belly before continuing on. He quieted down, speaking in awe of the crew before him.
“Truly impossible missions for such a diverse group of allies. I’m honored to be of service to you, really.” Rykon bowed before them.
“Dreadnaught? Oh…right.” Jool pondered only for a moment.
“The children here immerse themselves in hero games. My own nephews request constant re-telling of ‘Booch and Sunray’ every time I visit.” Rykon chuckled. He then grew serious. “Unfortunately, you are not all here. Where are the others? The crazed Banik slave? The beautiful ex-peacekeeper? The peaceful Delvian? The fabled human…what was his name? John Crichton?”
The crew became silent at the mention of their fellow crewmates. They had to be asking themselves the very same questions. They observed Rykon, recognizing his genuine concern. The Mastonal shielded concern with a reassuring smile.
“Don’t worry. The visitors here could care less who you are. The colonists worship the ground you stand upon. Your leviathan is in good hands, I assure you. Relax. That’s what we do best here.”
“Relax? That’s what gets you killed.” Chiana stated in a serious tone. She looked from Rykon to D’Argo and then retreated to the back of the group.
Rykon suddenly changed in mood. His expression grew dark and cold. The fins on his back began to rattle.
“Do you not think I know the price of being free? I was a general in fifteen war campaigns. My people lost ten of those campaigns to the likes of PeaceKeepers, Scarrans, and Charrids. We know everything of loss and fighting for life as we know it now. The scar on my face is a memento of the sacrifices my people suffered. All for this.” Rykon motioned towards the view outside the doorway to the valley of spas. His anger quickly melted and he returned to his normally relaxed state.
“I…I am sorry. My anger sometimes exceeds my judgement.”
“You must understand our caution. We would not have survived to this day without it.” D’Argo reiterated the fact.
“Understood. Please, allow me to honor your presence with a feast tonight. Perhaps we can speak more freely then. I sense there is an urgent matter in need of resolve.” Rykon suggested.
Chiana glanced at D’Argo who in return looked to the Mastonal.
“A feast will be greatly appreciated.” Rygel stated in his most official voice. Rykon nodded with happiness and then turned to leave.
“Hey…are you going to just leave us here?” Jool stepped forward.
“My dwelling is yours. Please, enjoy yourselves.” Rykon said and then left the crew to themselves.
Jool came to face both D’Argo and Chiana as Rygel began lurking about the dwelling in search of valuables.
“We should leave.” She decided.
“No. Rykon has information we need.” Chiana argued and instantly became quiet. Not even she had anticipated her own abrupt response.
“Is there something I should know?” She placed her hands on her hips. She had suspected something between the two earlier as well.
“Not now, Jool. Not now.” D’Argo stated softly, glancing about the dwelling in search of surveillance. Jool noted his caution and nodded. She looked to Chiana, who appeared as nervous as she felt. In this universe, trusting someone was putting your life at risk.
Sweat was trailing down her forehead. Her skin was a reddened tint. Her body was fatigued, her muscles screaming for rest. But her mind was reeling. How could they lose him? How could one person disappear without a trace?
“Aeryn…we must stop.” Crais stated in a weakened voice beside her. Aeryn pushed a few more controls on Talyn’s scans and finally receded from the console to face Crais. He was in just as bad condition as she was.
“The heat delirium…do you think it has set in yet?” Aeryn pondered, leaning against a wall support within Command.
“It’s too soon to tell. But it is inevitable. We must retreat. Or we are no good in the search for Crichton. We must rest. Allow Talyn to send out a stealth distress signal to Moya. That is all we can do.” Crais urged. Talyn himself wasn’t too well. He had been searching relentlessly with the two ex-peacekeepers for almost a monen now.
Aeryn looked out the view screen to the small planet hovering before them. The softened glow of the reddened planet made Aeryn want to vomit. They had been searching the planet, Xelia, from space and ground. The unfortunate circumstance of it all was the two suns that provided life to Xelia. The singeing temperatures on the planet surface kept Sebaceans at bay. In the sixty-arn days that governed Xelia, only nineteen were enveloped in darkness that brought cooler temperatures. Even then, the heat was intense. Aeryn and Crais had taken shifts…one arn each to search vectors of Xelia with Talyn as a guide from above.
They had searched most of Uquari, the only settlement of Xelia. Uquari inhabited nearly all of the planet’s red soil. The discarded other thirty-three percent of the land was barren. Not a single creature inhabited it. The creatures living on Xelia were known as the Junthrops. The Junthrops were small, extremely intelligent, and quite stealthy. Their slick, greenish tinted turtle-shaped bodies thrived in the intense heat. Regrettably, they were little to no help at all to the search. They despised PeaceKeepers.
Uquari itself was a dingy city. Because of the commerce center situated outside Uquari, there was no need for foreigners to wander within the city’s thick sandstone walls. For that matter, they weren’t welcomed. This alone had made Aeryn and Crais’ search nearly impossible.
And if the heat and the Junthrops weren’t a large enough problem, Aeryn and Crais had to be extremely cautious in their search. Scarrans had been patrolling the planet regularly in the past monen. Talyn had managed to keep a low profile in the atmosphere but he was still at risk. They were running out of time.
“We should have waited until the night phase to go with him. We could have avoided this.” Aeryn pointed out.
“We would have only slowed him down. The heat did not affect him as much as it did us. You cannot be regretful. Focus your mind. We’ll send the distress signal and wait for Moya. If Crichton is still alive, he will find a way to contact us.” Crais tried to coax her.
Aeryn looked over to him, noticing how weak he really was. Crais had one hand on the console before him for support. The other was wiping his brow of sweat. Aeryn depressed a symbol on the scans before her.
“Distress signal activated.”
She slumped against the wall support once more and stared at Crais. They both knew time was running out for not only Crichton…but themselves as well.
“PeaceKeeper. I am a PeaceKeeper.” Commander Crichton breathed as he anxiously entered into the Officer’s Lounge. After a short physical and mental exam with the med tech, Commander Crichton was reinstated to his commanding position of this base. He and Scorpius agreed that he should make an appearance in a social setting, so nothing looked out of ordinary. Scorpius had also gone on to say that he was a Special Commander of High Command, whose skills were solely dedicated to the research on this base. Of course, Commander Crichton only nodded during the entire conversation. He had no clue what Scorpius was talking about.
“Commander Crichton!” An exasperated voice called from to his left. An officer acknowledged him from a booth full of other officers nearby. They all appeared to recognize him. Wearing a half smile, Commander Crichton nodded with an attempt to look stern. Failing, he quickly made his way to the bar. The less he was noticed the better.
“What will you have Commander?” The bartender came to him as he approached the bar. Commander Crichton was bewildered. Even on his way to the Officer’s Lounge, PeaceKeepers had been acknowledging him as if they had known him their entire life. He was beginning to wonder if Scorpius had ordered everyone to do so just so he wouldn’t somehow forget his name.
“Ah…um…what do you offer?” Commander Crichton was embarrassed to even ask. But now that he thought about it…he didn’t even know the names of the liquor served there.
“Why don’t I start you off with Raslak. It’s quite popular here.”
Commander Crichton rested his elbow on the bar and turned to face the crowd of techs, officers, and a few other species he could not immediately identify. This was a special base, he knew this much. Everyone who worked here had been cleared by High Command.
The bartender placed a small metallic flask of Raslak on the bar behind him and returned to serving other customers. Commander Crichton turned to retrieve it when something peculiar happened.
He was standing in another Officer’s Lounge. There were officers everywhere around him, enjoying their beverages. A rather beautiful gray tinted woman was soothing her way to a particular officer’s heart behind him. Standing beside Commander Crichton, was an Admiral. He didn’t know this man, but the Admiral appeared to be speaking to him as if he did. Commander Crichton couldn’t hear a single word. The crowd suddenly seemed to hush around them and Commander Crichton looked to the doorway of the lounge. Standing there in shimmering leather was Scorpius.
Commander Crichton turned back to the Admiral only to find himself back in the present. What had just happened? Had it been a memory from the past?
With a sigh, the commander skimmed the crowd, hoping for a familiar face to appear. Nothing. He contemplated the images he had just witnessed and came to the conclusion that it was a missing memory from his past. At least it was something.
“Commander Crichton.” A voice addressed him. The commander looked up from his drink and nearly choked. Scorpius was standing beside him. Commander Crichton straightened but then relaxed. He did not need to be formal with this creature.
“It is time to return to our research.” Scorpius stated.
Commander Crichton looked for the guards from earlier to find Scorpius had come on his own. He then studied the creature’s dark brown eyes for anything. A flinch…perhaps even a questionable glance. Nothing. This creature was good. If he had anything to hide, there was no way Commander Crichton would be able to detect it.
“Research…wormhole technology. Yes. We must get back to work.” Commander Crichton surprised himself again. He hadn’t known what Scorpius was speaking of. The “wormhole technology” bit had come from nowhere.
“Excellent. Care to accompany me to the lab?” Scorpius asked, holding a hand out towards the exit. Commander Crichton nodded and finished his flask quickly. He placed it back onto the counter and then followed Scorpius out into the hall.
The two remained silent as they passed through a hall of small portals with a view of the space surrounding them. Commander Crichton observed a blue glow reflecting off the side of the outer base, but he could not see the source.
“Where is my weapon?” Commander Crichton asked. He was careful to watch for a change in posture or expression in Scorpius.
“The techs will bring it to your quarters in two arns.” Scorpius stated in a dull voice. “Minor daily maintenance.”
Commander Crichton knew his own patience was running thin with this sudden loss of memories. He could only guess how it was affecting his superior. But more questions were arising by the micron and he desperately needed some answers.
“What exactly happened to me?” Commander Crichton felt this question was necessary…but he sensed he had crossed a line. Scorpius stopped immediately and turned towards him, a forced smile playing upon his lips.
“You had an accident on one of our planet bases. Your transport crashed during an ambush by Scarrans. We were successful in rescuing you but not before the rest of your escorts were killed. You suffered severe cranial hemorrhaging and we nearly lost you, Commander.” Scorpius explained without so much as a glance to his right hemisphere for a creative aspect to his story. Commander John narrowed his eyes in suspicion anyway.
“Why not even a residual headache…or even a scar?”
The two came to an entrance and Scorpius punched in an access code. Commander Crichton had one for this area of the base as well. Not many officers or techs were allowed beyond this point.
“Our med techs are very resourceful.”
This time, Scorpius did glance in his direction. But only for a microt.
As they entered into the large hanger Commander Crichton instantly became paralyzed by the sight out the large view screen. A brilliant blue wormhole dancing in the space among the distant stars. He knew this was a rare phenomenon. According to Scorpius, he had studied them quite extensively.
Another flash of what he could only discern as a memory came to him. He was hurtling through a wormhole in a primitive ship of some kind. He wore a strange orange suit and a rather uncomfortable white helmet. He had lost control of the ship. As he was tumbled out into clear space, he glanced around wildly to find nothing but scattered asteroids. Something was supposed to be there but it wasn’t. Then, steering straight for him was a ship out of control. He recognized this ship. There was one, a Prowler, in the hanger aboard the base he was presently on. Just as the ship was about to collide with him, Scorpius interrupted the memory.
“The flux levels are unacceptable, Strappa.” Scorpius was saying to a strange, bald-headed greenish-blue alien standing before them. The snub-nosed creature was rather tense around Scorpius. Commander Crichton couldn’t blame him for that. He felt the same way.
Scorpius then led him to a room overlooking the hanger. Strappa followed behind. Commander Crichton observed the hanger carefully, noting everything from the exits to the type of machinery being used in modifications to the Prowler resting in the center.
The three entered into the command center where Commander Crichton could get a closer view of the wormhole out another view screen. The beauty of the phenomenon awed him.
A Lieutenant approached the men and awaited acknowledgement from Scorpius. The man glanced at Commander Crichton for only a microt. The commander already sensed this man despised not only Scorpius, but him as well.
“Scorpius. Commander. There are no further developments at this time.” The Lieutenant informed them.
“Thank you Lt. Braca. I would like to have a word with you as Strappa updates Commander Crichton on the research he missed.”
Scorpius then walked away with Lt. Braca. Strappa came to stand before Commander Crichton. The commander, however, gazed past him to watch Scorpius leave with Lt. Braca. He didn’t quite trust them. For that matter, he didn’t quite trust anyone. And how could he trust himself when he didn’t even know who he was? He had to play it safe.
“Schematics?” Commander Crichton asked, visibly relaxing. He walked around a console littered with them. Strappa nodded and grabbed a few to show the commander.
“Every vector has been diagramed sir. We need to balance the flux within the wormhole in order to stabilize it. There is no way we can safely travel through it at the moment. As you may have witnessed, several Prowler pilots have been…liquefied.”
Commander Crichton nodded, not really listening to the self-conscious alien. A few techs in the command center were busy at work, hardly noticing his presence. But he still felt as if he were being watched.
“Have we the data recorders from the Prowlers? I want the data analyzed and brought to me in an arn.” Commander Crichton ordered. He gazed at Strappa with the sternest expression he could manage.
“Right away sir. Do you wish for visual as well?”
“The more the merrier.”
Strappa paused. A few techs nearby stole a glance in the commander’s direction. Commander Crichton wore just as puzzled an expression as the rest. Where had that come from?
“I’ll be in my quarters.” Commander Crichton stated and with that, left as quickly as possible. He didn’t exactly know how to get to his quarters. But that wasn’t really on his agenda anyway.
Gallant ribbons of green, pink, and blue danced into the night air pointing towards the heavenly midnight sky. The sky was sprinkled with shimmering stars and the nebulas beyond were only a distant glow…similar to auroras. Somehow, the asteroid’s atmosphere blocked most of their light and radiation levels out. Thousands of Mastonals and visiting aliens danced upon the soft soil to the local musicians’ serenades. A large flat stone boasted most of the food for the feast, with towering waterfalls of Fellip Nectar and Raslak rolling into individual flasks for the taking.
Rygel was busily devouring every morsel upon this stone while Chiana, Jool, and D’Argo sat in a circle with Rykon around a flickering blue fire pit. Relaxation had set in. Even Chiana was starting to enjoy herself.
“What is it you really want?” D’Argo questioned, after formality had been lowered. This new “friend” was beginning to fit in with them now.
“Please, enjoy the festivities…business is something I do not like to intermix with pleasure.”
Jool smirked at this and gave Chiana a meaningful stare. Chiana ignored her and raised her flask to finish her drink.
“We haven’t survived in the Uncharted Territories for three cycles with every known species hunting us down for nothing. What was it you needed to speak to us about…besides telling us how much you worship us?” D’Argo questioned. He hadn’t bothered with his drink the entire evening. Rykon had taken notice.
“You want the truth? My people are being threatened.”
Chiana interrupted him before he could go any further.
“Oh…so that’s what you really wanted? Frell, we’re becoming hired Drats.”
Rykon chose to ignore her.
“The Scarrans are invading every known population within the Stykar System. We border this system but that doesn’t keep them from trying to overpower us. What they’d want with a relaxation colony, I cannot fathom. But as you may know, we are distant ancestors. Some of my associates believe the Scarrans are looking for recruitments. They’re using every resource available towards overpowering the PeaceKeepers.”
D’Argo, Chiana, and Jool looked from one to another seriously. All they needed was to be caught in a conflict between their two greatest enemies.
“And what do you think we could possibly do?” Jool pondered.
“We have a contract. With a planet known as Xelia. It is small, barely something of value to either a Scarran or a PeaceKeeper. In fact, Xelia’s surface temperatures are above lutra ten. No Sebacean would last an arn on Xelia. Which is why we chose to sustain a trade contract with the planet’s inhabitants, the Junthrops. Now the Scarrans have increased patrols there. We suspect they want to overpower Xelia for use as a base.” Rykon informed the crew. He then glanced around, leaned forward, and lowered his voice. “It’s been rumored that there is a secret PeaceKeeper base on the outer boundaries of the Stykar System.”
“Secret PeaceKeeper base?” D’Argo grew alarmed. That had to mean a possible presence of Scorpius.
“Do you think Crichton and the others came through here?” Jool asked. She stiffened as she received a glare from the others. The less information they gave, the safer they were.
“Is he traveling on another vessel?” Rykon perked up.
“Why are you so interested in where he is?” D’Argo questioned.
“If you must know…my contacts have informed me of a sighting…a ‘Sebacean’ male on Xelia, in fact. Who looked rather peculiar and talked it too. I took little notice…until you showed up. I know this Crichton is from an unknown species called human. I’ve heard stories of how he operates.”
“Do your contacts know anything more? Did they spy a gunship? Perhaps two other Sebaceans as well?” Chiana questioned. She looked to D’Argo, her instincts now beginning to scream at her once again.
The festivities around them began to grow rowdy as the crowd consumed more alcohol. At that moment, a Mastonal approached the group and motioned to Rykon. Rykon rose and stepped over to his friend and the two whispered momentarily. The Mastonal then placed a small metallic chip within Rykon’s hand and walked away. Rykon looked back to the curious shipmates. He then reclaimed his seat before the crew. Rygel decided to join the group at that moment, after devouring more than he could stomach in one evening.
“Pilot and Moya are doing quite well with the cleansing crew you have provided. They wish to thank you for your dedicated service.” Rygel announced and belched as he settled in beside Jool. She crinkled her nose in disgust.
“I am happy to provide it.” Rykon smiled. “I must inform you that a holo chip has come into our possession from one of your friends. You must view it immediately. I will leave if you wish.”
“Please.” D’Argo stated and Rykon obeyed, handing D’Argo the holo chip.
As Rykon stepped away, D’Argo placed the holo chip in front of the fire and activated it. An image of Stark appeared. The right portion of his face was a hollowed black but his expression was of extreme happiness.
“I hope this message finds you well. Zhaan and I miss you all dearly. I discovered her several weekens ago. There is something that I must speak to you about in person. It is urgent. I have signaled to Moya and she should be able to track us easily. If Crichton, Aeryn, or Crais are not in your presence when you view this, then we may already be too late.”
The image of Stark instantly dispersed. Confused, the crew glanced to one another with worrisome expressions. As each arn passed between their departure from Talyn and the others, the more guilty and fearful they grew.
“D’Argo.” Pilot’s voice carried over his comms. D’Argo tapped it to respond.
“Pilot, what is it?”
“Moya’s receiving some kind of signal, she wishes to follow it. She’s anxious…I don’t know how long I can keep her here.” Pilot sounded worried.
“Is it Stark, Pilot?” Jool asked.
“It is a distress signal…and Moya thinks it is Talyn.”
“Talyn? Are you sure Pilot?” Chiana tilted her head.
“Stark just informed us that he would….” Rygel began but stopped, realizing Rykon had rejoined them upon hearing the commotion.
“Yes…yes it’s definitely Talyn…and he’s nearby!” Pilot informed them.
“I will take you to Moya immediately. But I must request…may I assist in your mission?” Rykon asked, excitement dancing in his large eyes.
D’Argo tightened his lips with stubbornness. The crew’s trust in this creature had yet to be strengthened. He nodded, realizing this was Rykon’s chance to prove himself. The crew then rushed from the festivities with Rykon leading the way.
“How close is he, Pilot? Any word from Crichton or Aeryn?” D’Argo asked into his comms as they made their way through rough terrain.
“Not far…Moya believes him to be stationed near a small planet.”
“Xelia.” Rykon conjectured.
The crew feared why Rykon would conclude this. From the information they had been given in the last solar day, things were definitely becoming worse for their friends, somewhere in the universe.
He knew this was a restricted area. The heightened security of several guards and numerous ident-stations hinted this. But questions were beginning to burn his curiosity. He had to know. Who was he?
A small sector on the base was dedicated to data bank storage. Nearly a cycle of information regarding wormholes alone was stored here. Commander Crichton would have been giddy if he’d known how important the information was to him.
Commander Crichton eagerly stepped up to a viewing console within the sector, glancing to the opened door beyond his right shoulder. No sign of being discovered yet. Even so, he felt like he was being watched, again.
He revealed a small chip and inserted it into the viewing console. He had discovered the chip beside the schematics in the command center. He had had a feeling. An instant 3D holo image sprung upwards to hover before him. Overwhelmed, Commander Crichton stumbled a step backwards.
Symbols upon symbols of foreign information swirled in streams throughout a suspended sphere. Commander Crichton reclaimed his footing before the holo image and peered closely. He struggled to read the symbols; somehow interpret them so he could comprehend. Nothing. But he knew it was important.
Commander Crichton retrieved the chip quickly. The image dissipated instantly, leaving him with even more questions. Did this information have to do with the wormhole research? Why did none of the symbols resemble PeaceKeeper written code? A noise disturbed his thoughts. Commander Crichton checked over his right shoulder for any sign of trouble. He was safe…for the time being.
A voice nearly sent him racing for an escape. It had originated from his comms. Commander Crichton calmed himself, realizing momentarily that his right hand had instinctively reached for the empty harness on his right leg. He then began walking out of the sector, speaking into his comms.
“The data is ready.” Strappa announced. Commander Crichton nodded.
“Thanks.” There was an odd silence. Commander Crichton realized Strappa hadn’t anticipated such a reply. For the commander, it had felt like the right thing to say.
He ended the conversation and headed for his quarters. His weapon would hopefully be there, waiting for him. This time, he knew where he was headed. After all, during his time in the sector, he had taken liberty of researching the schematics of the base itself.
Talyn’s docking bay was freezing. D’Argo and Chiana noticed the temperature change immediately. Moya had barely exited the Ne’Bri colony when Talyn had come to them instead. The silence over the comms was enough for D’Argo and Chiana to take a transport pod over to the stilled gunship. Rykon, Jool, and Rygel remained on board Moya, prepared to do whatever was necessary of them.
Cautiously, the armed duo made their way towards Command. There were no signs of sabotage. Not even a sign of deterioration. Talyn himself appeared to be healthy.
“I told you D’Argo. I knew they were in trouble. We should never have let them go….” Chiana stopped as she came to the entrance of Command. D’Argo paused in the hall behind her.
“What, Chiana?” D’Argo asked in frustration of her nagging. He then noticed the seriousness that had overtaken her. He approached from behind Chiana and paused. There, lying unconscious on the floor in the center of Command were Aeryn and Crais. The Sebaceans’ skin was red from overheating.
D’Argo and Chiana rushed over to their fallen comrades and contacted Moya.
“Pilot, Aeryn and Crais are injured. We’ll take them to the colony.” D’Argo ordered. Chiana only sat there, glancing around Talyn as if she could hear voices.
“Not now, Chiana.” D’Argo tried to waken Aeryn but so far, neither Sebacean had even stirred.
“D’Argo.” Chiana raised her voice.
“NOT NOW, Chiana!” D’Argo barked.
Chiana stared at him, quaking with fear. D’Argo finally took notice.
“Crichton’s not here.”
“I know he’s not here…he’s probably somewhere else on the ship…go find him.”
“No, you don’t understand, D’Argo. He’s not here.”
D’Argo straightened. He was beginning to realize the seriousness of the matter. He feared the next question that had to be asked.
“Where is he?”
“Right where we’ve always wanted him.” Scorpius sneered to Lt. Braca in his quarters. Lt. Braca finished placing a coolant rod within the half-breed’s neural chamber. He proceeded to depress the inject button and watched sourly as the neural chamber zoomed back into the half-breed’s head. Scorpius released a sigh.
“Do you think he suspects anything?” Lt. Braca pondered.
“Only that trust must be earned, not simply given.”
“Perhaps he regains some of his memory and we….”
“Not possible.” Scorpius interrupted him with a snarl. “The med tech assured me his memories had been completely erased.”
“Do you think….” Lt. Braca began to ask but Commander Crichton’s voice interrupted them over the comms system.
“We have some developments to discuss, Scorpius.”
“Right away, Commander.”
The comms signal was terminated and Scorpius turned back to Lt. Braca.
“And what about Officer Sun and Captain Crais? Shall we still summon the tribunal?”
Scorpius tilted his head at this in great thought. He took a deep breath and stood before his lieutenant. Lt. Braca could barely tolerate the creature’s forbidding breath.
“No. They are no longer within our grasp. Leave them be. Xelia’s surface temperatures surely have taken care of them by now.”
“And Lieutenant.” Scorpius added, before leaving his quarters. “Our conversation is restricted. Not even High Command shall know of our plans. Their cooperation in the matter of John Crichton was strong. But I fear they may work against us with an agenda of their own. We mustn’t let Crichton fall into their hands. I fear we will no longer be needed if that happens.”
Lt. Braca gulped. He understood perfectly well what Scorpius was suggesting. Working on this Gammak Base had become more dangerous than ever.
Standing amongst a group of techs and a reluctant Strappa, Commander Crichton was entertaining the group as they awaited the arrival of Scorpius. Shaking his hand up and down several times, he finally stopped with two fingers protruding out from his fist. The group giggled…many were quite young and curious.
“It’s all in the game, boys and girls. No matter how many times you play, the chances are fifty-fifty.” Commander Crichton smiled. He didn’t really know where this new game had surfaced in his mind. But it was entertaining.
Someone cleared his throat and the group quickly separated. Strappa resumed study of the charts and Commander Crichton turned back to stare at the wormhole. Scorpius stepped into the command center, glancing around the room as if he realized he had just missed something.
“Scorpius.” Commander Crichton appeared delighted. He walked over to Scorpius, urging him to view the wormhole schematics sprawled across a console near Strappa.
“Have you discovered something of importance, Commander?” Scorpius drove right to the point.
“Yes. The fluctuation levels…they’re all wrong. Who constructed this thing anyhow?” Commander Crichton ridiculed. Scorpius and Strappa exchanged annoyed expressions. Even when this human had no recollection of who he was, he could still be as annoying as ever.
“You were as much a part of this wormhole experimentation as either Strappa or I.” Scorpius pointed out. Commander Crichton nodded.
“Oh yeah, right.”
“What do you suggest, Commander?” Strappa begged an answer. It was what he and Scorpius had been anticipating, after all.
Commander Crichton stared at the schematics, then to the wormhole outside. He paused for several microts. Scorpius grew anxious. Was a memory surfacing at that moment? Was the human remembering something vital that could disrupt the entire operation?
The human snapped his fingers. Strappa jumped in surprise; Scorpius never even flinched. Commander Crichton looked back to them and shook his finger towards the schematics in deep thought.
“The…the phase progression…it’s all jumbled…is there some kind of phase mechanism on the Prowler? Something that could shift the inner structure of the Prowler and its pilot as they pass through an unstable wormhole?”
“No…and we have no idea how to construct one…do you?” Scorpius questioned, his patience for once growing thin.
“No.” The excitement building within the human appeared to diminish. His shoulders drooped. But suddenly, the enthusiasm returned and his eyes danced with determination. “But I have an idea of how we can. We don’t even bother with a phase mechanism…we toy with the wormhole itself. There is a way to stabilize it…we’ve just gotta figure out how.”
“Where do we start? We have nothing.” Strappa threw down some schematics on the already towering pile of them.
“We have something…a wormhole is a phenomenon, my friends. And that is powered by none other than natural occurrences. We’re going about this all wrong. We need to recreate this wormhole.” Commander Crichton turned back to the view screen to gaze at it once more.
Eagerly awaiting a concrete answer to the latest find, Scorpius stepped up to the human. He didn’t care that the human’s speech was slipping into his own dialect or accent. He only cared for the key to his wormhole research. And he almost had it.
Jool lifted Aeryn’s lolling head to bring a cup of water to her dried lips. The Sebacean was barely conscious. The timing of their rescue could not have come at a better time. As well as the location. The Ne’Bri colony was fully equipped for such emergencies. Rykon’s medical staff was busily regulating the sickened Sebaceans’ temperatures.
D’Argo entered into the room where Aeryn was being cared for.
“Crais is awake, but barely. He muttered something about Xelia. How is Aeryn?”
Jool looked to D’Argo with a worrisome expression. D’Argo took a seat beside them and rested his hand upon Aeryn’s.
“She’s better. But she needs rest. If we want any answers, we’re going to have to ask Talyn himself.”
At that moment, Aeryn stirred, opening her eyes fully. At first, things were a bit blurry, but she quickly recovered to focus on both Jool and D’Argo. She grunted with recognition and perhaps defeat. Aeryn then tried to sit up without Jool’s assistance.
“Where am I?” Aeryn asked in a dry voice.
“A place called Ne’Bri. We’re near the Stykar System where Talyn had come from. What were you doing there and where is Crichton?” D’Argo retreated his hand and gave Aeryn a sincere expression.
“Frell.” Aeryn slumped back onto her bed and ran a weak hand across her forehead before turning back to her visitors.
“Aeryn, we need to know where Crichton is.” Jool pushed on.
“I don’t know.” Aeryn responded. She seemed frustrated by that notion, yet hinted that she didn’t care either.
“We have information, Aeryn. Something’s wrong and Crichton’s in the middle of it, again. If we don’t figure things out soon, it may be too late for him. Chiana thinks he was taken, kidnapped, I don’t know. She gets these feelings and…please Aeryn. You have to tell us what you know.”
Aeryn turned her head to look to D’Argo then. She gave him a look that told him she understood the seriousness of their situation. But how much she cared about it she would not allow them to see.
Rykon then entered into the room, trying not to disturb their conversation. Unfortunately, Aeryn noticed him immediately and reached for her pulse pistol. To her dismay, it was no longer in its harness. In fact, she wasn’t even wearing the harness. She was barely wearing anything at all underneath her sheets.
“What is that doing here?” Aeryn glared at Rykon. Rykon appeared to take no offense.
“Aeryn, calm down.” D’Argo ushered her.
“Are you fahrbot? He’s a Mastonal. An ally to the Scarrans.” Aeryn redirected her glare to Rykon. If looks could kill, Rykon would be long dead.
Jool and D’Argo took note of Aeryn’s last statement but did not act upon it.
“Aeryn. Calm down.” Jool ordered, placing a hand upon her arm. Aeryn snarled at her and shook free of her grasp. She then pushed herself to sit upright. She was slightly dizzy, but nothing serious.
“Where’s Crais? We must continue our search.” Aeryn stated through gritted teeth. Jool could already see the Sebacean was too weak for sitting up.
“Rest.” Jool stated and Aeryn fell back onto the bed in defeat. Her eyes drooped and she soon gave in to overwhelming exhaustion.
Jool and D’Argo then turned their attention to Rykon. The Mastonal sheepishly avoided their quizzical gaze.
“Ally to the Scarrans?” Jool nodded her head with a small laugh.
“Did you forget to mention this or were you waiting for the right moment?” D’Argo cocked his head.
“I…I’m sorry. Would you have trusted me had I admitted this? I only wished to become your ally as well. My species, we survive upon neutrality and peace. At whatever the cost.”
Jool and D’Argo searched each other’s expression. Could this Rykon be trusted? At this time, more than ever, they needed as many allies as they could gather.
“Is there anything else we should know before we allow you to help us?” Jool questioned.
“Nothing.” Rykon shook his hands. His fin shook and he stepped away to leave them be.
“Talyn has some important information regarding Crichton and the others.” Pilot broke the silence between them.
“Thank you Pilot. We’ll be right there.” D’Argo spoke into his comms and then ended the transmission.
“Right now, we keep what we learn to ourselves. Rykon appears to be as trustworthy as Rygel.”
The two then left Aeryn to rest and headed for Moya. Their relaxing vacation at the colony was history now.
Two arns had passed before Commander Crichton couldn’t take it any longer. He broke free of the intense recalibrations of wormhole structure with Strappa and Scorpius. He was thirsty. So he headed back to the Officer’s Lounge. The bartender greeted him with a smile.
“Don’t you know High Command and its officials drink in another lounge?” The bartender cleaned a spot on the bar in front of him. Commander Crichton came up to him and smiled.
“You know, I just feel like mingling with the common folk I guess.” Commander Crichton smiled back and proceeded to order a drink.
“No, it’s on me, Commander.” The bartender offered. Commander Crichton nodded in appreciation and was served a fresh Raslak.
The bartender then left him to drink alone. Commander Crichton surveyed the thin crowd of officers in the lounge. None of them seemed remotely familiar. How could he have been on this base for monens and not recognize a single soul? He feared he would never regain his memory.
As Commander Crichton swallowed some of his drink, he noticed someone standing beside him.
“Hey Scorpius.” He acknowledged.
“No need to address me, John.”
Commander Crichton paused and looked to Scorpius.
“You called me John.”
“I’m not really here. I’m a neural clone of Scorpius enslaved in your mind.”
Commander Crichton began to laugh, ridiculed. His laughter grew stronger as he focused on Scorpius. He tapped the bar to order another drink.
“Hey, a Raslak for my friend here, please.”
Commander Crichton turned towards the bartender. The server looked extremely perplexed, appearing not to see this Scorpius.
“That’s it. I’m cutting you off.”
Commander Crichton watched the bartender leave and then turned to Scorpius. The creature was bearing his rotten teeth.
“Your situation is grave, John. I can relish in it no longer. You do not see your true enemies here. Scorpius is one, I will admit, but there are others…more threatening. You must remember.”
Scorpius stopped then, unable to continue. Commander Crichton was beginning to wonder if he was suffering a relapse from his accident.
“Remember? Remember what? Scorpius, what are you talking about?” Commander Crichton stepped up to him.
“I cannot…I am trying to give you a glimpse but I….” Scorpius strained his voice. Suddenly, he began to fade and finally disappear.
Commander Crichton wrinkled his brow. Another memory suddenly came to surface.
Standing in full Captain’s uniform, Commander Crichton had just struck a blue woman in the nose. Delvian. She was then imprisoned behind him in a cell. The surroundings appeared to be that of a biomechanoid ship. Leviathan. The memory ceased before anything more could happen. This time, he at least had two clues. What Delvian and Leviathan meant to him, he could not fathom.
If this illusion of Scorpius was trying to raise memories to benefit him, why were they portraying him as a violent and destructive man? Commander Crichton was beginning to believe that other forces were at hand. Even so, his intuition told him this Scorpius was to be trusted.
Rygel zoomed into Pilot’s den with a growling expression. Chiana rushed in behind him.
“Watching Crais was as entertaining as the funeral procession for Dominar Rygel XV!” Rygel complained. Chiana smacked him on the head to be quiet.
D’Argo and Jool stood beside Pilot, awaiting their presence before speaking.
“Okay, Pilot, tell us what Talyn knows.” D’Argo urged.
“Talyn relayed to Moya that he had been orbiting the planet Xelia for over a monen. When they had first arrived there, the crew discovered the atmosphere was potentially deadly for Sebaceans, but the human would be able to withstand the intense heat for a longer period of time. They were in need of supplies and this commerce planet was their last chance. Crichton went down to the planet’s surface without incident. He even responded to inform the crew he would be returning within an arn. That was the last they heard from him. Aeryn and Crais then traveled to the planet during the night phase to search for the human. They did not find anything. The planet’s inhabitants would not assist in the search. That is why Aeryn and Crais were so ill when we discovered them. They had been searching the planet every night phase for the entire monen.”
As the information sunk in, Rygel stated the one thing none of them wanted to face.
“If he’s been missing for an entire monen…we can’t have much hope of ever finding him.”
“Then we must presume that he is dead.” D’Argo stated in a soft voice. The crew looked sadly from one to the other and then to Pilot.
“What do we tell Aeryn and Crais?” Jool asked.
“The truth.” Rygel was as serious as ever.
“No…no he can’t be dead.” Chiana became apprehensive. She stood away from the others. “I sensed him. I…saw something.”
“What did you see?” Pilot inquired.
Chiana remained silent, tears threatening to spill onto her delicate cheekbones.
“Chiana, what did you see?” D’Argo repeated Pilot with frustration seeping into his voice.
“I saw him but it wasn’t him. Something was different, I…I don’t know.” Chiana was having a hard enough time accepting these visions let alone what they meant.
Before D’Argo could press on, Rykon’s voice interrupted them over the comms.
“Attention, crew of Moya. I’ve discovered something you will be very interested to hear.”
“What is it, Rykon?” D’Argo demanded to know.
“I have been informed of a new High Command operative working with Scorpius at a Gammak Base. It’s all been confirmed. There is a base nearby, and this operative was noted as quite peculiar in nature.”
The crew exchanged glances.
“Thank you Rykon.” D’Argo ended the transmission. “We must go to this Xelia and find some answers. The more we know about his disappearance, the better chances we’ll have of finding Crichton.”
“Do you think it’s possible that he’s….” Chiana asked unable to finish. She didn’t know whether to ask if he was still alive or captured on the Gammak Base.
“We need answers.” Jool shook her head.
“I’ll try waking Crais and Aeryn.” Rygel volunteered. “We’re going to need their expertise in these matters.”
“I’m going to speak with Rykon. There’s more that he’s not telling us.” D’Argo stated and then patted his Qualta Blade. “And I’m going to make sure he talks.”
The crew then separated out of Pilot’s den. The longer time went by, the further Crichton slipped from their grasp.
Commander Crichton was angry. He should have been angry from the beginning. But somehow, who ever he had been before the accident was beginning to seep through. If he had been such a heartless PeaceKeeper before, what had changed him? It really didn’t matter now. He had experienced another confusing memory. He had killed. Many times. It appeared to have been an ancient battle yet he had pulse technology; his enemies did not.
Charging into the research facility, Commander Crichton spied Scorpius and Lt. Braca observing the Prowler. He made his way through the bustling techs. Scorpius turned in time to see him reach for his pulse pistol. Lt. Braca immediately discharged his own and had it pointed at Commander Crichton, along with two other officers on the opposite side of the Prowler before the commander could even blink.
Reddened with anger, Commander Crichton came to a stop before Scorpius and snarled at him.
“You lied to me.”
Scorpius was cautious. He did not know what had occurred for this change of emotion in the commander. He feared the worst.
“I never was High Command, was I?” Commander Crichton bluffed.
Scorpius relaxed slightly and glanced to Lt. Braca briefly. He then kept a steady gaze on the human.
“What makes you think this?”
“Just answer me! I am not an official of High Command, am I? I never was.” Commander Crichton spat into Scorpius’ face.
“You do answer to them, but you were never a member.” Scorpius admitted. “Your status as a commander is genuine, I can assure you.”
“Okay. That wasn’t so hard, now was it?” Commander Crichton appeared to calm down slightly. Scorpius motioned for the officers to lower their weapons. The techs around them who had paused during the confrontation returned to their work.
“Is there any other concern you wish to inform me of?”
“As a matter of fact, I do.” Commander Crichton said and paused. Should he mention the neural clone? Or should he bluff a little further into the game? “My accident. I want details.”
“Your accident should be of no concern to you commander. It was a routine mission.”
“Why would you bother rescuing me? What about the others who perished in the crash? What made me so special that you had to risk intervention with Scarrans?”
Commander Crichton understood that Scarrans were the enemy. He was catching on to a lot of PeaceKeeper tactics by now. What he couldn’t comprehend was why he was regarded so special above everyone else. Especially as a commander.
Scorpius gritted his teeth and put his arm around Commander Crichton’s shoulders, leading him towards the command center. Lt. Braca followed cautiously behind.
“You and I are the most vital of minds in the research regarding wormhole technology. Without this technology, we as PeaceKeepers are nothing. We would perish at the hands of our enemies with humiliating loss. Your official status is of little value to that of your mind in this matter. Think nothing of it.”
Commander Crichton couldn’t use that answer any more than he could remember who his parents were. He relaxed and patted Scorpius on the back.
“Already done. I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.” Commander Crichton dropped the angered act and allowed a smile to play upon his lips.
“No need to apologize, Commander. You have been under an incredible amount of stress. Perhaps you need rest.”
“Maybe you’re right.” Commander Crichton turned to leave. “Oh Scorpius.”
“Yes?” Scorpius tilted his chin. The commander turned back to face him.
“Have your lieutenant here send me the data recordings of the accident. I’d like to go over a few things before I rest.”
Scorpius appeared to grow flustered. There it was. The change in composure Commander Crichton had been searching for all along. Score one for the underdog.
“Of course.” Scorpius managed to say. He forced a smile.
Commander Crichton smiled. He then raised a hand and pointed his forefinger towards Scorpius with his thumb raised. He then lowered his thumb with a clicking noise and winked. Scorpius and Lt. Braca remained frozen until the commander left the facility.
“Give him what he wants, Lieutenant.” Scorpius turned to Lt. Braca. “If he wants a data recording of the accident, we’ll give him one.”
Scorpius gave Lt. Braca a suggestive expression and Lt. Braca immediately caught on.
“Yes sir.” Lt. Braca then left for the tech lab. The techs could easily conjure up a data recording in little time.
Scorpius turned to the view screen to view his precious wormhole. The human may have somehow defied all odds by remembering something, but Scorpius was determined to remain in complete control of the human’s beliefs.
A black void entwined with a countless sea of sparkling lights. This scene from out the portal in his quarters had robbed his attention for nearly an arn now. How could the space beyond these thin walls of this base captivate him so?
Commander Crichton could feel the frustration rising within. This base he was living on was supposed to be his home. Why couldn’t he remember it? Nearly every inhabitant of the base he passed by recognized him…by name. Why couldn’t he recognize them? He didn’t even know how to act. He was talking, even walking differently than them now. He had no past, no values, nothing to tell him who he was. Only the PeaceKeeper rules described to him once again by the med techs told him who he should be. He was realizing this was not the life he wished to live.
His heart ached. He yearned for anything with even a hint of familiarity. He was walking in a cold world, where nothing was completely comforting. Memories were precious…he simply hadn’t realized this until he had lost them.
Commander Crichton recalled the neural clone from earlier. He didn’t even know how to react to that one. Should he listen to it? Should he tell the med techs? What if he was suffering some sort of relapse? He shook his head. This clone was a clue. No matter how much he despised it or its real counterpart, he had to play along. This was a game. He had to learn who the enemy was, who the ally was, and where he stood among them.
He could be making things up. His mind could be creating false memories in an attempt to ease his frustration. The med techs had said it was possible. Frell, the terms Delvian and Leviathan had been circling in his mind since the last memory he had experienced. Perhaps he had made those up, too. Commander Crichton was realizing that as time went on, the further his unknown past slipped away from him.
“Commander Crichton.” Scorpius’s chilling voice stated. Startled, the commander nearly fell of the bed he had been sitting on. He made a quick sweep of the room with his eyes. Had it been the neural clone? No, he was alone. This Scorpius had contacted him via the comms.
“Yes.” He answered, his heart beating wildly.
“The data recordings you requested are prepared for your viewing.”
“I’m on my way.” Commander Crichton ended the transmission. He stared back to the stars once more before preparing to leave. He was determined now more than ever to discover who he really was.
Jool and Chiana had been preparing for Aeryn and Crais to return to Moya when the leviathan lurched forward into the atmosphere above Ne’Bri.
“Pilot! What the frell are you doing?” Jool enraged.
Pilot’s holo image appeared on the clamshell in the med bay.
“Moya has detected Stark’s signal. She wishes to follow it.”
Chiana and Jool exchanged wary glances. Through all the other stresses of their day, they had nearly forgotten about the message from Stark.
“Pilot, don’t follow it just yet. Monitor the signal and keep us informed. We need to get the others aboard before we depart.” Chiana ordered.
“But the signal is originating from within the Stykar System…near Xelia in fact.” Pilot informed them.
A flash of blue before her eyes sent Chiana stumbling backwards. She grabbed her head and shrieked as a clear image of John replaced the blue. Then, as suddenly as the image had appeared, it vanished. Chiana shook her head and found Jool standing denches away, flabbergasted by her actions.
“What is it?” Jool’s voice shook. She was beginning to trust Chiana’s increasing visions of the future.
“I don’t know.” Chiana responded in fear. She stepped over to a bed and sat upon it, keeping her wide eyes focused on Jool’s. “I think it was Crichton…only he was dressed as a PeaceKeeper. He was drinking in a booth at a service bar of some kind. I couldn’t be sure…but I think I saw a Junthrop behind him. Junthrops inhabit only one planet that I am aware of….”
“Xelia?” Jool whispered in realization. Chiana nodded in confirmation.
“Why the frell does everything seem to center around this frelling planet?” Chiana pondered out loud.
Rykon stumbled across his quarters, tripping on a Night Drannit. He regained his footing on all fours just as D’Argo charged at him again. The Luxan was extremely angry…barely tapping into Hyper Rage. Rykon was fearful but prepared. He revealed his long, razor-sharp claws and struck at D’Argo. Ducking, D’Argo lowered his Qualta Blade and fired a shot denches from Rykon’s body. Rykon froze and hissed.
“What the frell are you doing?”
“You deceived us one too many times, Rykon. Tell me the whole truth and I will spare your life.” D’Argo bargained with his weapon trained on the Mastonal.
Rykon straightened to stand upon two limbs, his fins shaking upon his spine. D’Argo looked upwards to retain eye contact.
“Truth? Truth is not something I enjoy telling.” Rykon admitted, tilting his head with a smile.
D’Argo fired another shot, this time directed near Rykon’s head. The creature flinched with a snarl.
“I did not survive eight cycles of torture and three cycles of the Uncharted Territories to be fooled by you.” D’Argo sustained.
“And I did not fight in fifteen battle campaigns and procure the Ne’Bri colony from the Scarrans to be threatened by you.”
The two angered creatures grew quiet then. They each had a point. Perhaps even a reason to trust one another.
“I assure you I can be trusted…even if so to be earned like that of the Hynerian in your company. Give me a chance and I will prove myself.”
“Give me one reason why I should.” D’Argo continued to train his weapon on Rykon. The Mastonal hadn’t retracted his claws yet either.
“I was an ally to the Scarrans once long ago, yes, but as I have said before, I acquired this colony with the intent of providing peace and relaxation. I am a retired General. Politics are no longer of concern to me. And again, I honor and respect you and your shipmates. I only wish to be of service in whatever way I can.” Rykon wore a genuine expression of honesty. D’Argo lowered his Qualta Blade. Rykon retracted his claws. “Do we have a truce?”
D’Argo studied Rykon. He was hoping for a sign not to trust him. After everything he had survived, D’Argo had discovered it easier to distrust.
D’Argo brought out a hand and Rykon peered at it curiously.
“Truce…it was something a friend of mine taught me…you shake my hand and we agree on the truce.” He described.
Rykon graciously accepted his offer and shook his hand. They smiled and finally relaxed. Things were beginning to change for the better, or so they hoped.
Rygel was finding it quite easy to waken both ex-peacekeepers. He had to admit that the Mastonal medical staff had done well in rejuvenating the Sebaceans back to near perfect health. This colony was wondrous.
“Stop pinching me!” Crais muttered, opening his eyes to view Rygel hovering above him. Rygel smiled and turned to Aeryn, who was also rising from her deep sleep. The two Sebaceans had been brought in to a recovery room an arn earlier.
“Get up, now. We’re leaving.” Rygel told them. He zoomed towards the doorway, thinking his work was done there.
“Rygel, where are our clothes and our weapons?” Aeryn demanded to know as she sat up from her bed. She had the blanket wrapped around her body so neither male could see bare skin below her shoulders.
“Beneath your beds. Yotz!” Rygel shook his head and waited impatiently at the doorway.
Aeryn and Crais unsteadily arose from their beds and dressed in their clothing, facing away from each other. Rygel kept his gaze focused on the activities outside the recovery room, which were close to none.
As Aeryn gratefully strapped her pulse pistol back into its harness, she glanced at Crais. He was as ready as she was.
“Are you ready yet?” Rygel snapped at them. Aeryn narrowed her eyes.
“Where is everyone?”
“Back on Moya. We’re headed for this Xelia everyone seems so fascinated about. Frelling better have satisfactory food provisions there.” Rygel muttered. Aeryn and Crais followed Rygel out into the hallway.
“What is our current status?” Crais demanded to know.
“If you must know, we have information regarding Crichton’s whereabouts on Xelia. There’s been confirmation of a frelling Gammak Base with Scorpius no doubt behind the entire operation. And I haven’t eaten in over an arn.”
“We already knew of the Gammak Base. We were preparing to infiltrate it.” Crais stated. The group rounded a corner in the hall and came to the exit. One of Moya’s transport pods was resting just beyond on a plateau outside.
“With what?! Three pulse pistols and an unruly juvenile gunship?” Rygel snorted and began to laugh.
Aeryn bent over and grabbed Rygel by the lining of his robe. The struggling Hynerian snarled as she drew him close to her face.
“What information do you possess on Crichton?”
Rygel gulped hard. He could feel a bubble of helium lowering within.
“Crichton may have been captured...by Scorpius.”
The information was all there. The flickering image of a transport burning upon the reddened soil of Xelia. Bodies strewn everywhere. His badly wounded body lying beyond the wreckage. A Scarran Piercer fleeing from the scene. Not such a routine mission after all. It was everything he needed to see…yet he hadn’t seen anything.
Commander Crichton stood before the holo-image with his arms folded across his chest. Scorpius and Lt. Braca stood before him, opposite the holo-image. They appeared anxious to see his reaction. He refused to give them one.
“Why’d they strike us down?”
“They knew you were aboard. They wish for the information both you and I possess regarding wormholes.”
“And how did you manage to save me but none of the others?”
“You are of higher status. They were simply techs.”
“Techs? They were simply techs? They deserved as much a chance at survival as I.” Commander Crichton grew angry at this notion. Yet he was perplexed by his own reaction…why did he even care?
“Calm yourself, Commander.” Scorpius urged. Lt. Braca remained still as ever beside him.
“What was the mission?”
This time, neither Scorpius nor Lt. Braca had an immediate response. Commander Crichton smiled to himself and awaited an answer with his arms resting behind his back.
“This is of no concern, Commander. It was a simple routine mission to ensure our presence on the planet was secure.”
Commander Crichton stilled. His mind was still as vacant as ever. How could he question these beings when he couldn’t even remember the accident or the circumstances surrounding it for his self?
“You’re right.” He surprised Scorpius. “It is none of my concern.”
Lt. Braca and Scorpius exchanged glances. Lt. Braca then ended the data recording of the accident and traveled out of the private quarters of the commander. Scorpius rounded the console between him and the commander. He came to a stop before him and cocked his head.
“As it should be.”
Another flash interrupted Commander Crichton’s thoughts. There he was again, in PeaceKeeper attire, resting uncomfortably in a dark chamber. The burning remains of a Scarran lie nearby. Scorpius was standing before him with a knowing smile. Commander Crichton blinked his eyes and refocused on the present.
“I’m ready to recreate the wormhole.”
Scorpius almost looked shocked. He hadn’t anticipated the answers to come to the human that quickly. He eagerly led Commander Crichton towards the exit.
“We must get to work immediately then Commander. Time is of the essence.” Scorpius patted Commander Crichton on the chest.
Commander Crichton stopped before the doorway, causing Scorpius to as well. He turned to Scorpius and with a relaxed expression.
“Allow me an arn and I will be ready.”
Scorpius tilted his head once more, studying the human’s face. He searched for a change in the being’s energy signature but found none. Commander Crichton smiled reassuringly.
“Just give me an arn. I want to verify some things first.”
“Of course, Commander.”
With that, Commander Crichton left a perplexed Scorpius behind. The human was forming a plan. It seemed it was something he was rather good at doing.
A blast of hot, gritty air greeted the crew as they stepped off the transport pod. The air was thin. Particles of red sand carried by the gusty wind threatened their vision. Aeryn was already struggling with the heat; her face was beaded with sweat and becoming as red as the soil of Xelia. The stubborn Sebacean had insisted upon accompanying them while Crais reluctantly stayed behind on Talyn, to monitor situations in orbit along with Moya.
“Can you pick up on his scent?” Rygel questioned D’Argo as he hovered near him. D’Argo sniffed the air, as did Rykon. They looked to one another and then to the crew beginning to crowd around them.
“This way.” Both Rykon and D’Argo responded. Rykon pointed towards the outskirts of Uquari. D’Argo pointed towards a path leading into the depths of the city. Aeryn frustratingly lifted up her pulse rifle and looked in both directions.
“We’ll go this way.” Chiana began walking down the path. Jool grabbed her arm before she went too far.
“Are you fahrbot? We should go this way!” Jool pulled Chiana towards the outskirts.
“Girls! Girls! We can’t find Crichton with your bickering. Chiana, Aeryn, and I will go into the city. Rykon, Rygel, and Jool head for the outskirts. Report anything you may find regarding Crichton’s whereabouts.” D’Argo took charge.
With no further arguing, the crew separated to begin their search. Not a quarter of an arn into their divided treks, Crais contacted them.
“We detected a PeaceKeeper Marauder landing on the opposite side of the city. It is not the only one presently residing in Uquari. We urge you caution in your search.”
“Thank you Crais.” D’Argo responded.
“What are they doing here?” Aeryn pondered.
“Maybe they know something we don’t.” Chiana suggested.
Aeryn walked ahead of D’Argo and Chiana, her weapon poised to fire. Since they reunited with her, they had been observing her every move. Her motives were questionable. Did she no longer care for the crew…more importantly, for Crichton? They almost feared what she would do to Crichton once they found him. Fortunately, their faith in Aeryn was strong. D’Argo and Chiana both believed time would heal her wounds.
As she, Chiana, and D’Argo rounded a bend in the path, they came into view of a large service bar. Energized music carried out as the entrance opened and a drunken Junthrop was thrown into the red soil of the street. The entrance closed and the sore Junthrop wobbled off into the shadows.
Aeryn wiped her brow with some effort. D’Argo stepped up to her and looked to the service bar with fire in his eyes.
“Let’s get some answers.”
Inside, the service bar was almost as stifling as outside. Hundreds of Junthrops inhabited the spacious dwelling under a soft glow illuminating from the walls themselves. A large counter stretched across the far wall where a handful of Junthrops currently were serving alcohol.
D’Argo and the others approached the counter, all the while searching through the crowd. Any chance of PeaceKeeper or Scarran presence and their search would be immediately terminated.
A particular Junthrop wearing a black patch upon his left eye approached them from the opposite side of the counter.
“What business does a Nebari, Luxan….” The Junthrop snarled at Aeryn. “And a PeaceKeeper have here? The Commerce district is outside of the city.”
The Junthrop began to turn away but D’Argo grabbed onto the creature’s arm and pulled him close. Several other Junthrops surrounding them turned to observe.
“We’re looking for a…Sebacean male. He was last seen on this planet over a monen ago. You may have noticed that he was traveling during the day phase.”
“Yes…yes…he was quite peculiar for being able to withstand the heat for so long. We gathered he was not a Sebacean. Is he a member of your…clan?” The Junthrop snorted. D’Argo tightened his grasp on the Junthrop and snarled.
“When did you see him last?” Aeryn asked with a weak voice. Chiana glanced at her and realized how ill she was becoming.
“Two…three…no maybe four arns ago.” The Junthrop stated. “He was near the outskirts, heading towards the city.”
D’Argo released his hold on the Junthrop with shock. The Junthrop fell to the floor and quickly crawled away. D’Argo growled in frustration and looked to his companions.
“Do you think it was him?” D’Argo asked. Chiana had become still, as if listening to a tune in the air only she could hear.
“If he had been here, why had he not contacted us by now? It’s been a frelling monen.” Aeryn was growing tired fast.
Her frustration was overpowering her sustained calm. Did the human not realize the sacrifices she, Crais, and Talyn had made to search Xelia for an entire monen? Aeryn was beginning to believe that leaving Crichton behind would have been in the best interests of everyone involved.
“He’s here.” Chiana said. She gave D’Argo and Aeryn a half smile and began to look through the crowd. She was instantly reminded of the vision she had experienced earlier of John in a bar.
“Here? As in here at the service bar?” Aeryn urged some clarity.
“I don’t know exactly.” Chiana admitted but continued to search the crowd.
“D’Argo, we found something.” Rykon’s voice carried over their comms at that moment.
“What is it, Rykon?” D’Argo answered him.
“Perhaps you better meet us first.” Jool answered instead. Worry edged her voice.
D’Argo frowned to Aeryn and Chiana.
“What is it?”
“Wreckage. Crichton’s module, as a matter of fact. Somewhere within a metra of the city.” Rykon answered.
The comms went quiet. Aeryn had to tell herself to breathe. D’Argo and Chiana looked to one another with pure emotion. Could Crichton be dead?
“No…no, he’s here.” Chiana denied. “I can feel him.”
“Chiana.” D’Argo wrapped his gentle hands around her slim shoulders. Chiana shrugged him off and stepped back.
“No!” She then looked to Aeryn. Tears were floating in both women’s eyes. “He’s alive. He’s here. We can find him.”
Scorpius entered into the command center to find Lt. Braca and Strappa engaged in a hushed discussion of urgency. Suspecting something gone awry, he made his presence known. The two came to attention.
“Where is Commander Crichton? We must begin re-construction of the wormhole immediately.”
Strappa swallowed hard and glanced nervously to Lt. Braca. Scorpius snarled and charged up to them.
“Where is he?” The half-breed growled into their quivering faces.
The PeaceKeeper Marauder landed beside the stolen marauder in Uquari. Commander Crichton had eluded security. Scorpius could only assume the human was armed and dangerous. Nonetheless, his orders to the search team were to retrieve the human, unharmed.
Scorpius stepped out of the marauder and gazed around at his new surroundings. He hissed as the search team dressed in special cooling suits gathered behind him. The half-breed had been well aware of the planet’s extreme temperatures, even during night phase. Not only would the elusive Crichton be a challenge, but also evading his yearning for the heat.
Through various interrogations of Junthrops along the way, Scorpius and his team learned of a commander residing at a service bar. When they arrived at this service bar, Scorpius ordered the search team to remain outside. He would go in and retrieve the commander, hoping the human suspected nothing.
Scorpius walked amongst the crowded bar, searching through a sea of black eyes and vacant expressions. The Junthrops were never a content people.
A face captured his attention. Scorpius almost had to blink twice to recognize it. The Sebacean female from the cryo-pod on the Ice Planet. She had been John Crichton’s mate. Scorpius scanned for the usual companions and spied Ka’ D’Argo almost immediately, followed by the Nebari. Scorpius smiled to himself. Even if these crewmates reunited with Crichton, the human would not recognize them. His mind had been erased. All Scorpius needed to worry about was how the crewmates would try to reverse the memory loss.
At that moment, as if by some universal fluke, John Crichton came into Scorpius’ view. Grinning with satisfaction, Scorpius trekked forth. He had the human in his grasp once again.
Commander Crichton was beginning to find Raslak as one of the finer pleasures of the universe he knew so far. He had already ingested four flasks with the fifth on its way to his booth. He twirled the empty flask upon the table, his thoughts elsewhere. After evading security on the base he had traveled to a nearby planet in search of some much-needed separation from the stifling environment. It had all been a little too easy.
As the server placed a flask before him, with an obvious hint of disregard, Commander Crichton grasped a firm hand around the server’s wrist and drew it close. The Junthrop allowed a whine to escape from its lips and blinked with fright dancing in its hallow eyes.
“You ever have one of those dreams where you keep running and running and you don’t have a frelling clue what it is you’re running from?”
The Junthrop took that moment to defecate upon Commander Crichton’s boots. Commander Crichton lowered his eyes with a hint of disgust on his face. He allowed the Junthrop to scurry away and lifted up his new drink.
“Didn’t think so.” He muttered under his breath.
“John, you mustn’t let your guard down.” Ah, that familiar voice that sent chills crawling up his spine.
Commander Crichton gazed over the tip of his flask as he took another swig. Sure enough, Scorpius was seated across from him.
“They say Sebaceans can’t survive down here during the day time. Shame to think of all the Soaps they’re missing.” Commander Crichton pointed out. The Raslak was beginning to make his head feel fuzzy. He welcomed the feeling, for it was something he could grasp onto in the void that was his mind.
“Soaps?” Scorpius appeared puzzled. Commander Crichton felt the same way. Eccentric words and expressions were beginning to make their way into his speech. And he had as much a clue to their meaning as Scorpius.
“I like to have all my bases covered, Scorpius…Scorpy.” Another confusing jumble of words. What was even more confusing was that they felt right.
“You are not a Sebacean.” Scorpius admitted precariously.
Commander Crichton slammed his flask down on the table. He ignored the stares from nearby customers and looked to Scorpius in shock. Sure he had suspected as much, but he hadn’t had to face it until now. What was he?
“Then I am not a PeaceKeeper.” Commander Crichton concluded.
Scorpius suddenly disappeared. Commander Crichton blinked several times, glancing around as if he might spy the creature running away. No such luck. A dull ache began to resonate through his skull. He lowered his head and swallowed another swig of Raslak.
All those precious memories of a past life were gone now. Nothing to tell him who he had been or who he now was. When he did experience a so-called memory, it pertained to violence and death. For the recognition and respect he received upon the Gammak Base, his peacekeeper persona must have been menacing. His intuition disagreed with this portrait of his former self. Perhaps he could start life anew, somewhere he could remain anonymous.
The human leaned back and sighed. He almost had to chuckle. Every single alien in the universe knew his name.
Aeryn searched the crowd with wary eyes. She looked to D’Argo, standing half the bar’s length away. He shook his head and then looked to Chiana, who was just as far from him. The uneasy Nebari shook her head and turned back to scan the crowd.
The anger had been boiling within her for quite some time since the death of her lover. Now, it was resonating into her veins. When she finally did find Crichton, she was afraid of what she might do.
D’Argo approached Aeryn, disrupting her from her anger. She silently nodded in agreement that it was time to leave and meet up with the others. Chiana was young; she often reacted before reason. Acquiring a tuned sense of premonition was not something she was ready to master.
As the two approached Chiana, the Nebari suddenly began to dart into the crowd. She had her focus narrowed in somewhere across the room from her.
“Chiana!” D’Argo called out. He and Aeryn rushed to catch up with her.
“I see him! He’s over there!” She pointed through the crowd. Excitement tingled throughout Chiana’s body as she raced to greet her friend. She could sense D’Argo and Aeryn close behind.
Aeryn squinted. In a brief parting of the crowd, a familiar being appeared at a booth across the room, posed over his drink. The crowd rejoined and she could see him no more. Her heart began to beat faster. She didn’t know whether to rejoice or to scream.
D’Argo spotted the human as well, unsure of whether the vision was real or dream. Perhaps his impatience was overriding his reasoning. He pushed forth into the crowd of drunken Junthrops hopeful the vision was real.
Chiana rushed forward ahead of them, struggling against the boisterous crowd. A handful of Junthrops in front of her came to a stop, allowing no one to pass any further. Chiana heard D’Argo hiss behind her. She heard Aeryn’s pulse rifle begin to whine in preload. She even heard John Crichton’s soft voice through the screams of the Junthrops before her.
TO BE CONTINUED
Watch for part 2, “Traces”, coming soon.