The Faces Change, The Game Remains The Same

"You claim to know nothing of wormholes."

The new visitor was a woman -- a woman who, oddly, seemed to have hired Servalan's own hairdresser. She was dressed in an outfit that either signaled some unusual division's uniform, or was civilian clothing, not a uniform at all. It seemed stylish enough, but Servalan didn't know enough of these people's fashions to be able to tell.

This must be the much-rumored Commandant Grayza. Servalan didn't stand, because that would demonstrate a deference she didn't want to express, but she sat up straighter, and smiled as if these people hadn't tortured her with a device that had pulled her memories out of her head and put them on display. Pretend to be in control, and often the pretense came true. She smoothed out her black evening gown -- which was filthy by now, and smelled, but that couldn't be helped, and black at least hid much of the dirt. "That's correct," she said. "I'm not a scientist or technician; I'm a soldier." It was true, but she'd also figured out that it was the right answer to get respect from these people, assuming they'd ever give any respect to someone not of their race at all.

It was funny, how human they looked. The Andromedans had looked human, but they'd been faking it in order to hide among humans. These Peacekeepers were in their own place of power, with no need to hide, but they still looked just like people.

"How did you reach our region of space, then?"

Servalan controlled her annoyance at being asked a question she had answered a dozen times. "I was aboard an experimental, advanced ship which was falling apart. Since my choices were to be killed in an explosion, thrown into vacuum, or use the teleport device on the malfunctioning ship and hope it could transport me to safety somewhere, I used the teleporter. I didn't expect it to drop me on one of your ships, and to be frank I have no idea how that could have happened." She leaned forward. "But none of that's important. I'm told that there's only one other human in this region of space, and that he can control these wormholes you speak of?"

"Do you know John Crichton, then?" Grayza asked.

Servalan shook her head. "Earth is a very large place." And some of the rumors about Crichton -- had he really danced on a table in front of the great powers of this region of space claiming to be an American? How many centuries ago had the American Empire fallen, anyway? History had never been Servalan's strong point. In any case, if it was true then Crichton somehow came from centuries in the past -- either these wormholes, or Liberator's teleport had been even more damaged than expected, or he'd been in cryo-sleep... it hardly mattered. The point was that she not only didn't know him, she didn't know his culture. But it shouldn't matter that much. Human nature didn't change. "But I know human men. I know how to make them do what I want."

Grayza's eyes narrowed. "Human men are supposedly much like Sebacean men. But Crichton has resisted techniques that Sebacean men invariably succumb to."

"That merely makes him more of a challenge, don't you think?"

Grayza lifted her head, an expression almost like a sneer on her face. "So you think you can succeed in getting the secret of wormholes out of him, when so many others have tried and failed?"

"Of course. None of the others were of his same species, were they." She didn't phrase it as a question. She knew it to be true -- if any humans had attempted to learn of these wormholes from Crichton, the Peacekeepers didn't know about it, as they'd described her as the only other human they'd encountered.

"Do you know our political situation?"

"You're at war with the Scarrans. I haven't heard any more details than that."

She actually could guess at a great deal more. The Scarrans, it seemed, outnumbered the Peacekeepers dramatically, were particularly vicious conquerors who enslaved anyone useful and annihilated those they considered inferior, and they apparently considered Sebaceans, the race these Peacekeepers belonged to, to be inferior. They had only held off making war as long as they had because the Scarrans had thought the Peacekeepers had wormhole technology, but this fellow Crichton had reportedly disabused them of that notion by starting a bidding war between the two factions and then blowing up the Scarran homeworld or something like that. Then he'd disappeared. The Peacekeepers were very eager to figure out where he'd gone to ground, and to somehow extract the secret of wormholes from him once they'd solved that little problem, and they didn't want to involve the man whose job had been doing exactly that because he was half Scarran and they didn't trust him. Or because he'd failed, so far. Or both.

Servalan had a talent for putting together information from bits and pieces of overhead conversation, seemingly irrelevant details, and body language. She wasn't, she was sure, supposed to know any of this. She also wasn't supposed to know that Grayza herself had failed spectacularly at learning Crichton's secrets, and that her attempt had involved a seduction gone humiliatingly wrong. The details of Grayza's humiliation had remained unspoken within Servalan's hearing. But from Grayza's sneering disbelief when Servalan had claimed she could learn Crichton's secrets, Servalan was sure the vague rumors she'd gathered had a basis in fact.

She would have to tread carefully. Grayza had the power here, Servalan did not. And a woman who used sex as a weapon would see another woman as a potential rival in a way that men generally did not. If Servalan could not prove herself useful to this vast military complex, they would probably perform medical experimentation on her in hopes of learning human weaknesses that could be used against Crichton. It was what she'd do if the situation were reversed. But if Servalan succeeded where Grayza had failed, Grayza would see that as a threat. Even offering her knowledge and skills in that area was a challenge to Grayza of sorts. Servalan herself would not tolerate such a threat, and she didn't imagine Grayza would.

Except, if the situation were desperate. At Star One Servalan would have tolerated anyone, no matter the threat to her power they represented, if they had the power to help fight the Andromedans. When the human race was at stake, issues of her personal power had had to take a back seat. She suspected Grayza felt the same way. Whatever one thought of one's species, one could not very well rise to power above them if they were all dead. Grayza would accept Servalan's help, because she would do anything to stop the Scarrans from slaughtering her people. And then she would stab Servalan in the back as soon as she could.

Unless Servalan beat her to it, of course.

"Yes. John Crichton's control over wormholes is a military necessity. If you think you can find him and gain his cooperation -- or his knowledge -- we will give you the resources you need to do it. Your interrogation in the Aurora Chair convinced several people that you do, in fact, have the skills you claim." Very bland tone, wide eyes. What she meant was either "you convinced several people who aren't me", or "I've seen your memories and I know to watch out for you"... or both.

These wormholes were probably Servalan's only hope of getting home. And, perhaps, much more than that. She had heard that Crichton had thrown a sun at a Scarran warship. With that kind of power in her grasp, what couldn't she do? Humans were obviously superior in intellect to these people, if a human pilot had managed to uncover a technology that they hadn't succeeded in developing for centuries. Perhaps the solution was simple enough that she could understand it. Perhaps it simply would require controlling Crichton. But most men were easy enough to control. And those that could not be controlled could be predicted and manipulated. She thought of Avon.

It was possible that she wasn't going to bother with going home.

"Thank you for your generosity, Commandant," Servalan said, her tone quite sincere. "Give me access to your files on Crichton, everything you know about him and his companions, and I'm sure I can find him for you." Because if she couldn't, she was useless, and therefore dead. Because if she could, it could mean ultimate power. "Naturally I'd also like a change of clothes, some more pleasant quarters, and other such personal necessities."

"Naturally." Grayza gestured. "My guards will make sure you have what you need."

Servalan stood up then, brushed her gown down with both hands, and followed Grayza and her men out of the cell. "I'm sure you won't regret your decision," she said, and knew, perfectly well, that the other woman knew she was lying.