TITLE: A new device is being tested
CATEGORY: J/A, Other
SPOILERS: Everything through 322.RATING: Strong R
WARNING: General warning for all the bases. Nothing in particular, just proceed delicately.
SUMMARY: "And I support you in your trusting / and I commend you in your wisdom / and I'm amazed by your surrender in the face of adversarial forces that I represent." -- AM, "Surrendering"
DISCLAIMER: RSO'B and DK are even crazier than I am, and they made this. BB and WP and CB got their hot little hands dirty too. And I'm none of them. Sections of dialogue that are recognizable come from episodes 320 and 321, and were written by Rockne S. O'Bannon, not me.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: From both ends of the burning candle, Punk and Pene, my betas and the loves of my life, know everything. They own the rights, and any residuals should be sent their way.
Thanks to cofax, for the conversation. Nestra, for Scorpius, The Universe And Everything After in 1,000 words or less. Fialka, for the Survival Kit. And Maayan, for all of that, even though we might never agree.
SOUNDTRACK: Alanis, "Under Rug Swept"
There are two fuel tanks. The left one is empty; the right one has two good thrusts left, then infinity on a slow coast assuming no gravity wells or debris to interfere with Crichton's trajectory. Turn down the heat, another kick to the engine, slam into an asteroid maybe. Maybe freeze to death.
There are two oxygen tanks. The left one is three quarters full and so is the right one. Forty arns at sea level, four days with the atmospheric pressure cut back to a minimum. Maybe freeze to death, maybe go hypoxic, maybe drown.
But IASA taught him emergency procedure and he followed it the first day, cut back oxygen, put on the thermal bodysuit, kept the radio channels open, kept talking so he didn't go insane.
For kicks, he would flip the switch. "Pilot?" Scanning all familiar UT comm frequencies, then the unfamiliar ones, but the static just pops with background radiation and the occasional thrum of a pulsar. The thermal suit is shiny and he feels like a TV dinner.
He has to piss. He doesn't. He tries to sit still, not exercise any muscles, like they taught him. "This is John Crichton to anyone who can hear me." He tries it in Sebacean, just in case, isn't sure he gets the words right.
Out the window, the stars collapse when he's got one eye closed. Depth perception has tricked him into seeing space on one plane, a flat field disappearing into the horizon in every direction, like the ocean. He has never been this alone. He consoles himself that few have. It's not very consoling. In the beginning, he tried to describe the view to DK. Really, there is nothing to describe.
Harvey stares at his reflection in the window. "I'm thinking of something...pink."
"Is it bigger than a breadbox?"
"A seashell," Crichton says.
Harvey snorts. "Fine," he says. "You think of something."
Crichton balls his hands into fists, tries not to lick his cold lips. Outside, the stars are the same.
"Besides her," Harvey says. Crichton yawns in the thin air and fiddles with the dial again.
"Crichton to -- this is John Crichton. Come in, Houston. Request -- emergency something something. Fuck." Words he remembered, words they taught him. He tries to remember. Something. "Houston?" It's so cold.
"I'm thinking of something brown," Harvey says.
"Houston," Crichton slaps the radio.
"Well done, John."
"I'm thinking of something --" Crichton says. It's so cold. "I'm thinking of something to say."
Harvey yawns, crawls from the cockpit and curls up on the jumpseat in the cargo compartment. "I think, Commander, that it might be bedtime."
"No!" Crichton slaps the console again with his fat gloved hand, shakes his head hard. "Gotta stay awake, somebody, anybody --"
"Good night, John," Harvey says, closing his eyes.
"I'm thinking of something white," Crichton says.
He wakes up when Harvey reminds him about the suicide pill. It's still in the first aid kit with the bandaids and Neosporin and Tylenol, innocuous. It's white, stamped Bristol-Meyers-Squibb and sealed in a bubble pack, the only hint of its purpose a little black skull and crossbones inked on the foil side.
Clock says 0:502, he's been asleep twenty arns or two days, and the left oxygen tank is empty. Crichton fingers the blister seal, pushes on the plastic to test its tensile strength.
"Stupid to move, right?" he asks Harvey. "Waste our fuel and coast and probably hit something."
"Probably," Harvey says.
"Stupid to stay here," Crichton says, and thumbs the suicide pill. "Crichton to base, Houston, do you copy?" The Farscape is silent, and it's very, very cold.
His head aches. His ears ring. There's something he's supposed to know, but he's not sure what.
Somewhere, a pregnant woman is crying and he thinks, she's so beautiful. "Do I know you?"
"It's me, John," Harvey says.
"John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt," John says. "His name is my name too." The dark haired woman wipes her eyes and walks away, long braid slapping angular shoulderblades.
John clutches the pill. "Houston," he closes his eyes. "We have a problem."
Harvey's at the window, and outside a pregnant woman is waving with four fingers. She mouths words he can't understand and he wants to. He bangs the glass. She shrinks away. It's so cold. His head hurts.
"Quick, John, how many fingers?"
She smiles, then she laughs, then she unholsters a weapon and presses it to her temple. "I'm thinking of something --" she says.
Ink on his wrist. Ink on his wrist, on his forehead, backwards. Ink on his forehead, backwards, in the semiglow of the monitor, reflected, forwards. His forehead forwards, into the console, a klaxon's gone off somewhere and it's bedtime now, right, Co-Kura? He sits up. Ink on his wrist, under the I-Yensch bracelet. He rubs it on his thigh, misses jeans.
"Shoulda brought jeans," he mutters.
"And who is he?" Co-Kura does that eyes-wide thing, peering all light blue and cartoony over the damphalscope. Crichton laughs.
"Jeans," he says. "They're like -- blue pants. Never mind."
"Ah," says Co-Kura, but he doesn't sit down again. "You're tired, Commander."
"Hell yeah I'm tired," Crichton says. "I've been up for, what is it now? Four days?"
"I can't imagine Scorpius would mind if you took some time to regenerate," Co-Kura says. "He needs you in proper working condition, Commandant Grazer or no Commandant Grazer."
"Good call," Crichton says.
Crichton likes Co-Kura. He tries to ignore that most of the time, but in between, when they're working together and the blue guy's falling right in step with Crichton's twisted hypotheses, he thinks, this isn't so bad. He thinks, I'm a scientist, I'm at home here. I could stay. And Co-Kura smiles.
And then Scorpy walks in, tight-lipped professor in the vinyl tux, and just for a minute Crichton forgets where he is, gets excited, spouts theory, tries to please him. And sometimes Scorpy smiles. And sometimes, because he feels it on his own face first, Crichton smiles back.
He walks down the corridor, dark and late, fourth watch and all the smart folks have gone to bed. But he knows Scorpy's still awake, pacing somewhere. He can feel it in the soles of his feet. Scorpy hasn't slept since Commandant Grazer came aboard, and Crichton hasn't either. But he knows Aeryn will materialize if he needs her; somehow she always does, around this time of night.
Turns a corner, goes downstairs to the steam room and kicks off his shoes, shuffs around on the tile. Harvey stands up, slings his rifle over his shoulder. "Over there! Over there! Send a word, send a prayer, over there!" Crichton joins him, stomping around barefoot on the wet tile floor.
"That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming over there!" And the Yanks are gonna kick some wormhole ass, he thinks.
"What are Yanks?" He looks up. It's Aeryn.
"Americans, if you're European. Northerners, if you hail from the land of Dixie," Crichton says. "Sit down."
"Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton..." Harvey begins, but Crichton tunes him out because it's Aeryn.
"How's it going?"
"The knowledge the Ancients put in my head is starting to do its job," he says. "I can see which paths will work and which ones are dead ends."
"So you will be able to steer Scorpius onto the wrong path." It's not a question, not congratulatory, not even conspiratorial. And he remembers that she's not a scientist. And he remembers that she had a John who built a wormhole already. And he rubs his nose.
Crichton sighs, the blue glow of an unfinished wormhole spinning in his mind's eye. "Yeah, I can screw up his research for years to come."
She looks at him. "Why aren't you happy about that?"
"Cause I'm not 100% sure it's the right thing to do," he says, and wishes he could take it back. He knows what's coming.
"The other John gave up his life to stop the Scarrans from getting this information --"
He cuts her off, maybe more forcefully than he'd wanted to, because he can't think about the other John anymore. "I know, but it's my shift now. He didn't know what we know. He didn't get Scorpius' backstory, he didn't see Scorpy put his ass on the line for us."
So what, now you're actually considering helping Scorpius?"
"No," he says. He's tired of fighting her. "It's just not clear what my next move is."
"Then you get clear," she says. "I said I'd back you up and I will, but you have to make a decision."
He doesn't believe her, and he presses his lips together. Harvey's practicing jodie calls, and Crichton wants to join in. "I don't know but I've been told, wormholes are as good as gold!"
"Yeah," Crichton says.
He's too wired to sleep, or too guilty, or something. Goes down to the mess hall but it's empty now, chairs upturned on the tables. Goes out to the planetary reconstruction park, it's a little chilly but the sun's out, perpetual midday. Crichton sits on a bench and watches the river.
"Is this seat taken?" He looks up and it's a PK girl he's never seen before, short blonde ponytail and a scar across her chin like Indiana Jones.
"Nope," he says. "What are you doing up so late?"
She giggles. "Missed rendezvous," she says. "He's still EV."
"Well, that bites," Crichton says. "Sorry to hear it."
"You're John Crichton, aren't you?" He knows she knows. He nods.
"I should kill you right now," she says.
"I won't," she says. "Too frustrated that Careb's still on duty."
"Not in the killing mood?"
"Something like that."
He looks at her, sees Aeryn in her eyes, early Aeryn in the way she won't smile even though she wants to. Sees Gilina too. People the other John had. "Me neither," he says.
"I heard you're not Sebacean," she says, makes it sound like a come-on.
"You heard right," he says.
"But you can still recreate with Sebaceans?"
He thinks of Scorpius, of Aeryn, of this woman who hasn't killed him yet. He remembers that PKs aren't supposed to recreate with outsiders, but her question sounded like a world-worn opening line, and he's sure he won't be her first or her last. "Why not?" he says.
"Good," she says, reaching up, running a hand across his cheek. "I'm sorry, but if I ever want to sleep tonight --"
"Yeah," he says, and he wants her, something different, something that actually belongs here. Something the other guy didn't have. "No problem. Seriously, no problem at all. Anything I can do, and I mean anything --"
"Shut up," she says, and she pushes him down on the bench, squeezes him between her knees, shoves her hands up under his shirt. He shudders and laughs, thrums with the harmonics of a static shell.
"Hey," he says. "Isn't it a little -- bright out?" Anyone could see them, he means. Scorpius. Aeryn.
"That bothers you?"
Oh, he's straining, he can feel it, but he winks at Harvey and begs to make it to his quarters. "I've got a real nice room --" Let's make a wormhole.
She sighs. "Okay, quick then."
On the way he learns her name is Anabel Po, Staff Sergeant, Calubra Regiment. On the way, he tells her he hasn't slept in days, but she doesn't seem to care.
Throws him on the bed, tears his clothes off, kisses him hard. Energy rides on the waves of answering energy.
"You want me to --"
"Frell, shut *up*, Crichton!"
He shuts up.
Harvey's found the violin in his footlocker, he's donned a waiter's tux and he's playing "Blue Moon" and singing.
"...knew I was saying a prayer for, someone I really could care for..."
*SLAP* across his face and Crichton opens his eyes. "Why'd you do that?" But she's way down between his thighs and when she looks up her face is wet.
Scorpius. The bracelet feels tight. *SLAP!*
He inhales, swallows. "Never mind." She goes back to what she was doing and his back arches into her, and it's been way too long since he's done this. His head flops back and forth on the pillow.
He grabs for Anabel's hair, pulls her up so they're face to face, kisses her hard. And he wants to come, so bad he's afraid he'll die, but he won't let Scorpy have that, not yet.
"Anabel --" Crichton whispers, rolls her on her back, finds a nipple and tugs it with his teeth. His cock twitches and he tells Harvey to shut up.
"Is it --" she bucks a little, hiccups. "Is it not done that way with your people, then?"
"Oh no," he says. "No, you were doing great, baby. Just great. I just want it to last a little bit longer."
She looks confused. "Why would you want that?"
"Frell you, Scorpius," he says to Harvey, he hisses, writhing on his cot in the bunker.
*SLAP* across his face again, throbbing in his knees, in his forehead. Scorpy's having a fit over there, whatever he's doing. Crichton can picture him, on his knees, fists into the floor, screaming. Who's got the power now, Grasshopper? Crichton grins. "You like that?"
He crouches, drives himself into Anabel and she growls. "For us --" she says, panting. "Recreating is about eliminating the sexual urge so our focus can return to other matters. But then again --" She raises her hips up into him, and he reaches a hand around, gives his balls a squeeze for Scorpy's sake, slides his finger up into the slickness of her. "Then again," she groans, "this is nice too!"
Crichton remembers Co-Kura telling him Scorpius wants him in proper working condition. He bites his lip. It bites back.
"Can't hold out much longer, Commander," Harvey's kneeling over Crichton on the bunker cot, reptilian tongue stretching down toward Crichton's face. Claps a rubber hand to Crichton's crotch and squeezes and Crichton moans.
Anabel kisses him, does that shudder-tongue Sebaceans are fond of and he notices, not for the first time, how much smoother Sebacean tongues are. She traces a finger up his chest, tweaks a nipple, tickles the edge of his ribcage and he squeezes his knees around her hips and tries to think about baseball. Thinks about the periodic table instead, thinks about the rough ride of his module, surfing the wave of a wormhole, surfing home.
Thwack of his head against something hard, his palms, fists, punching a surface, the wall, the floor. He thrashes backwards, tumbles forward again and buries his face in Anabel's hair. "Sorry," he says.
Harvey slides a hand inside Crichton's pants, reaches for his cock and tugs. "Any minute now, John, really..." and the tent lights flicker and go out and he can hear Harvey moan. The cot squeaks.
In his quarters, Crichton slaps the wall. His brain resonates, his skull hurts. He can't breathe. "Anabel -- Scorpius --"
"Careful, John," Harvey licks his ear.
"Now?" she says.
And the torture's too much even for him. "Please!" And he closes his eyes and lets himself collapse into her, her ankles locked on the small of his back, her shoulders arched off the mattress and she swallows him whole, and he slackens. And then a second shudder, and he knows Scorpy's slackened too.
In his head, Harvey lights two cigarettes and offers him one. They stare at the tent roof together.
He comes to and he's an earthworm, or a mole, or a badger, and everything's dark because he's dead. He rubs his eyes and his hands feel crunchy. He frowns.
Harvey's on the beach in the rain, soggy newspaper on his head. "Where are we?" He plucks a muddy boot from the sand and it drips blood.
"Dunno," Crichton says. "What's the last thing you remember?"
"You mean, after you left me aboard the command carrier to die?" Harvey asks, from somewhere else. Crichton blinks and he can smell the blood. Harvey puts a hand on Crichton's forehead, gently, smoothes away shocks of hair.
"Look around you, John," Harvey says.
The beach is strewn with bodies and all of them are Aeryn. Crichton covers his mouth. Harvey retches into the surf.
"Aeryn," Crichton says, and then he gets slapped in the face.
When he blinks his eyes open a moment later, he's on an unfamiliar ship, and there are bodies everywhere.
"A race called the Charrids," Harvey says. "Most unpleasant."
"I killed all these people?"
Harvey grins. "No, my dear Crichton. I did."
"I did?" Harvey's eyes widen.
Crichton blinks again and there are two Harveys, his head hurts, and he's surrounded by dead Carrots and there are two Harveys and one of them is scared and one of them is smiling.
"Don't I even get a thank you, Commander?" the smiling Harvey asks. "I saved your life." And he is Scorpius. Crichton clenches his fists and struggles to his feet.
"What the fuck are -- where are you taking me?" Crichton seethes, scraping his brain for lucidity. "Where's my module?"
"I retrieved it," Scorpius says. "It's in the hangar awaiting repairs. The Charrids wanted your ship because they believe they can use it to traverse a wormhole." Scorpy gestures to the floor. "I disabused them of that notion. Never fear."
Crichton breathes through his nose. "I never would," he says. "You gonna tell me what we're doing here?"
"I wanted to speak with you," Scorpius says. "I believe we can help each other."
Scorpy shrugs. "What you want is of no concern to me," he says. "And what I need is simple. I'm a wanted man, John. I need a safe planet to retire on, somewhere far from here. And I need you to take me there."
Now Crichton laughs. "You expect me to show you how to make a wormhole," he says. "You still don't get it, do you?"
"I don't expect anything," Scorpius says. "The information is in the Charrid computers; you'll what you need to do. Leave me at the next non-Peacekeeper planet we pass. But before we discuss this any further, you should rest some more. I took the liberty of setting up quarters for you while you were unconscious."
And because he has no answer to that, and because he doesn't want to talk any more or think any more, Crichton turns away, and heads into the rear of the Charrid ship to be alone with Harvey again.
He tries to access the ship's computer, but Charrid user codes are strange, and the computer locks him out at every prompt. Outside the stars are the same, and after three years in space he still sucks at celestial navigation -- he has no idea where he is. He supposes it doesn't matter.
They had been so close -- he remembers Scorpius on the Farscape, face like a child in awe at the wormhole Crichton gave him -- and Crichton had taken it all away.
"You once said that it was as if the fates meant for us to be together," he hears Aeryn say. Fate that the Ancients had chosen him. Fate that Scorpius had saved his life and brought him here.
"Do I think he's being sincere?" Harvey asks. "Hard to say, John. Hard to say. I think he killed the Charrids so they wouldn't kill you and take your ship, yes. What he wants from you now is another matter."
"You think he's still after wormhole tech?" Crichton asks. "He's ostracized from the Peacekeepers, he's got one beat-up ship -- does he genuinely think he can take on the Scarrans by himself?"
Harvey shakes his head, shakes out a beach towel and lies down in the sun. Crichton rubs his face. There's a girl in a red two-piece running in the waves and she looks like Aeryn. "Hard to say," Harvey says again. "As you said, John, you stripped him of his power. So I would not be surprised if he reaches for anything that might give him some of that power back."
"Or I can just shove it in his wrinkled face -- no offense," Crichton says. Harvey's eyes widen.
"Of course not."
"I can do this, Harv," Crichton says. "If these Charrids have data that'll let my ship go through a wormhole -- it's fate, right?" He runs his fingers along the ink on his arm.
Harvey cracks the spine of a fat paperback. "Fate?"
The woman in the red bikini climbs up the beach, squeezing her hair dry. Crichton watches and a little boy, maybe four, runs up to her, throws sandy arms around her legs and drags her to the ground. Behind the crash of waves, Crichton thinks he can hear them both laughing.
"I gotta do this, Harvey," Crichton says.
The next day, Crichton and Scorpius start work on the wormhole.
The Charrids had retained a great deal of information about a test flight due to be performed on a replica of the Farscape One. Several stages of development are chronicled, dating back to the first entry -- "leaving Dam-ba-da for orbit in new ship. Phase stabilizer installed and outlook is favorable."
Crichton doesn't like these Carrots much. All their scientific data is poached, their implementation completely devoid of passion or creativity. Scorpius shares his distaste, and after downloading the retrofit data to the Farscape, they purge the Charrid computer and dump the Charrid bodies into space.
Crichton won't allow Scorpius aboard his ship while he's working, so Scorpius spends most of his time perusing star charts, searching for a suitable planet for his exile.
"I'll drop you off wherever you want to go, Bug Boy," Crichton had said. "I don't care."
Anywhere in the universe. You pick the planet.
After that, he figures, he'll go home.
Scorpius has promised him the coordinates for Earth, and it's an opportunity. Now. Now that Aeryn's left him. Make a family somewhere else. So Crichton and Harvey work on refitting the Farscape, bastardizing circuits and relays from the Charrid ship.
One night over dinner, Scorpius tells him about Braca leaving.
"She offered him things I could not," Scorpy says, and Crichton knows he means Grazer. "He is a model Peacekeeper. He deserves his new assignment." He sounds removed. Crichton nearly pities him.
"I'm sure it's nothing personal," he says, and he feels sick for saying it. "Unless it is."
"So tell me, John," Scorpius says, some days later. "Who was she? On the command carrier."
"What's it to you?"
Scorpy chuckles, hands John a couple more feet of dilax cabling. "I think I have a right to know the name of the young woman with whom we spent such a highly memorable evening."
Crichton stares at the circuit matrix, turns a few screws. "I don't think this goes here," he says, tugging a node free. "I think we need the internal circuitry live before we wire the guidance system."
Scorpius palms the leftover bolts. "You're in charge, Commander," he says. "I'm just along for the ride."
Spires, spines, cold steel -- not like virtual reality, he thinks, more like the Teacup ride on crack, but he's got stuff to hang on to and he's not gonna lean over the rail, hey, look, it's a movie!
And Scorpy's digging around in his mind like a dentist and he finds Crichton's third-grade girlfriend and she kisses him again with her spitty pink tongue and her freckles and Scorpy's in there, digging around with the red '63 Mustang his father never let him drive and the time he was so drunk he slept in the bushes because he didn't remember about keys and his roommate kicked him awake in the morning on his way to work and Scorpy's shuffling through high school (it's a movie, Aeryn, it's a movie, remember?) and his first job at the garage and Crichton tries not to think about Gilina tries to forget her blond hair and her round little face, tries to forget her name, sing-thinks "Scooby Dooby Doo, where are you?" instead because he can't let Scorpy have her, of all the things in his brain he can't let him have that, and Scorpy's MAD (hah! It's a movie, it's so totally a movie) which is satisfying and scary because Crichton thinks it's working and Scorpy can't find whatever it is he's looking for in there in the hot electric mush of his brain and the chair's vibrating and Scorpy's (he's in a movie and he's) leaning in real close, angry and yellow under his latex fun suit and Crichton can feel almost everything and the chair makes his heartbeat last forever with wire and needles and Crichton tries to focus on that too because he won't let this happen he won't get her and Scorpius is saying things but Crichton might be deaf because it just sounds like a hiss (it's a movie it's a movie) --
And he must have done something right because Scorpius doesn't get Gilina and she lives for a whole five arns more before she dies.
When he wakes up, he finds something called a "displacement engine" in his brain. Its purpose is dim but it scares him, there's something awful there, something the other John told him about that he can't quite see.
He fumbles his way to the Farscape and tries to read the fading ink on his skin.
"Are you sure you want to do this, John?" Harvey's in a chaise lounge drinking something from a coconut.
"I wonder what it is," Harvey says.
"It's dangerous," John says. "I'll bet you a quarter."
Harvey picks a dollar bill up from the umbrella table. "Raise you," he says. He closes his paperback and grips the spine. "But you're building it anyway?"
Crichton ignores him and goes back to work. Eight arns. Twelve. Fifteen. Scorpius offers dinner and Crichton ignores him.
"This thing --" he tells Harvey. "This thing could suck the energy from a sun."
"Last time you tried that it killed you, John," Harvey whispers, and he peers at John over his book. "I'm not ready to die."
Crichton squares his shoulders. "That. Wasn't. Me," he hisses. "I can control this. I need to try. I need to see."
Twenty arns later, with a radioactive core stolen from the Charrid ship, the displacement engine blinks into functionality on the floor.
"Who are you trying to kill?" Harvey asks.
Princess Katralla's still frozen somewhere, and eighty arns from now she'll defrost with Tyno at her side, a living John Crichton for all the Crichtons lost since then. They'll raise a family, rule a kingdom, just like normal people with wisdom and peace. Queen Katralla and King John Crichton, somewhere, with a beautiful child that isn't Crichton's, and is, and never will be.
Aeryn's somewhere too, with a beautiful child that isn't Crichton's, and is, and never will be, because she wants it that way.
"Just another John Crichton to bite the dust," Crichton says, and Harvey hyper-blanches. Rubber fists clench.
"John, you wouldn't really --"
Crichton thinks a minute. Harvey's his, but it isn't for Harvey's sake any more than it would be for his own that he'd do this. "Do you love John Crichton?" he'd asked, but she could have meant any of them, any of the dozens and thousands plaguing the uncharted territories with stupid decisions and lovesick quests. Any of the thousands of Johns and a thousand wormholes, and fate decided he'd be the one left here. And fate, he thinks, is better at making decisions than any of them.
"I made this thing," he tells Harvey. "You bet I would."
Crichton and Scorpius sit side by side in the Farscape One. They've siphoned all the fuel from the Charrid vessel; this is gonna be a one-way trip. And Crichton's ready to go.
Scorpy'd tried to ask where, and why, but Crichton had shut him up, and now, with one hand on Winona and a thumb on the throttle he doesn't even need to look to the passenger's seat to know Scorp's quaking in his lizard boots. But he wouldn't miss it for the world, and that's what Crichton had counted on.
"My turn," Crichton tells Harvey, Aeryn, the other John. "Gonna take this bastard out with me."
Spun red tail of the solar flare, they whip around like the barrel rolls Crichton used to practice in an old Cherokee Warrior at the training fields in Galax. And the wormhole, sucking, blue, spirals open.
"You don't have to do this," he tells Co-Kura, for the fourteenth time. He buckles the straps on the Aurora Chair, flashing memories of Gilina, Stark, pain. He tastes bile.
"I know, Commander," Co-Kura lisps. "I'll be all right. Better than having Scorpius after me for the rest of my life."
Crichton's not so sure. "We can handle Scorpy," he says. "But this -- I've been here, man. I've done this. You can't go back. You're not going to --"
"Wormhole technology is too dangerous for any of us to have," Co-Kura says. "I see that now."
"Maybe not," Crichton says. "Not if we handle it right, not if we only --" and he stops, because he can't believe it himself. "Yeah," he says.
"Commander," Co-Kura says, and his voice trembles. "Please. Flip the switch."
Rantath flux levels are in the green, smooth sailing. Palm on the lever, just a shift of his weight and the displacement engine would engage and Crichton and Scorpy would get the nitty-gritty on a star. And another John Crichton gets a burial in space. In the crunchy gloves, his hands are sweaty.
"John, this is -- I can't even begin to express how I feel now," Scorpius says, but Crichton knows, because he was in there with Scorpy last time and they'd had the bracelets and he felt everything. Awe. Nausea. The sense of being small in the universe, all at once, and his own senses tugging at him, the sense of being smaller than that other guy, smaller than Aeryn, smaller than Crais. But from Scorpius there was only awe, last time, sour and addictive, enough to make Crichton want to push a little harder, just to see, just to feel Scorpius' gratitude. He scrapes for it, misses it. Harvey's standing stock still in the lobby of a church, shuddering.
"I feel we could go anywhere. The universe is ours, Commander!" Scorpius says, and he probably doesn't even know what he's saying, doesn't know that he's sitting pole straight, face to the glass like a golden retriever. "Crichton! This is marvelous!"
But it doesn't feel the same this time. This time, Crichton thinks, he's not going to push it quite that far.
"Commander," Co-Kura says. "Flip the switch."
Crichton slips his hand off the lever. Takes the stick, whips the ship around, surfs the periphery of the vortex before slingshotting out into space, back with the Charrid ship, right back where they started.
"Don't go backwards, John," Jool had said. "She's leaving."
"That's forwards," he'd said. "And I don't want to talk about it anymore."
Later, much later, bombs bursting in air and Harvey singing the National Anthem, Crichton finds Scorpius in the hangar beside the Farscape module. Crais is dead. Talyn is dead. The ship explodes around them, a fiery requiem throbbing in minor chords, the harmonics of wormhole technology, the music of the spheres.
Crichton stalls a moment, and even Harvey is silent. He feels Scorpius stalling too. Fire and death. They hiss, playacting at evil because it's familiar. They stall.
"While holding two lights," Scorpius says, finally, "depress 3-1-7. And release." Crichton takes his time, moves his fingers to his wrist, touches the hot metal of the bracelet over the ink on his wrist.
"Hold two," he says to Scorpius. "Press 9-1-1. And release."
Cold, he notices, without the Scarran heat inside him. Quiet. Alone. He looks for Harvey, for something to hold onto, but Harvey's still scared of the explosions and is hiding under the bed. Crichton is almost alone.
"We were close," he says to Scorpius, and he's almost surprised when he doesn't feel the familiar rush. They lock eyes for a long moment. We were so close. Scorpius smiles, not outwardly, but that dark hybrid smile Crichton knows now better than his own face. "If you're gonna get off this boat," he says, "now would be a good time."
"I may not be getting off this ship, John," Scorpius says, and Crichton feels a hollow in his chest when he turns around. "Goodbye, Crichton."
And then he's gone. "Scorpius!" Crichton calls after him, the name leaping from his throat. And in the smoke he thinks he sees a shadow bow and drop to its knees. Then the smoke clears and it's gone. He's gone, Crichton tells Harvey. Harvey has nothing to say.
"Crichton!" It's Aeryn's voice over the comms instead, familiar and friendly and he wants to crawl inside it, forget the agony of the past week and hold on to her and not let go. He collapses against the side of the Farscape and listens. "The others are on D'Argo's ship," she says. "I've taken a prowler and am leaving now." Oh, keep talking Aeryn, he wants to say, though he knows he'll see her soon.
"On my way," he says, palm against Farscape's hull. The smoke is thicker now; Scorpius is gone. "Aeryn!" Crichton calls, because she'll answer him, she always has and always will.
"Fly safe," he says. And means it.
Later, much later, side by side in Moya's great main window, he's afraid to speak to her. Someday, he thinks, he'll tell her what went on on the command carrier. He'll tell her just how close he was.
But not now. The markings are still dark on his flesh, a gap in them where the bracelet used to be. And if he ever builds a wormhole again, it will be with her, to take her home, because that's what this is about for him now. Scorpius is just a memory.
They both know better than to speak. And he thinks, she knows. And he thinks, she doesn't hate him for it. And he thinks, I'm the Infamous John Crichton, and I've made mistakes that don't bear repeating.
"It didn't work," he tells Scorpius, and somehow it's the truth.
Scorpy cowers, eyes like a junkie. "Make it work, John! I want to do it again. You don't need to give me the calculations, just take me somewhere, anywhere!"
"Can't even die properly," Harvey had said, but his knees were knocking as they stepped out of the church into the light. "Well, good on you."
"Yeah," Crichton says. "I am so much better dead." Just another thing that came easy to the other John, another thing he'll be denied. He shuts himself in the Farscape in the hangar for two days and doesn't eat the food Scorpius brings him.
On the third day of drifting Scorpius pounds on the door and doesn't stop when Crichton tells him to go away.
"Yeah, Grasshopper, what's up? Quick."
Scorpius looks over his shoulder. "I've been detected, John. Peacekeeper Vigilante less than an arn away. We must flee."
It takes Crichton a long moment to remember what Peacekeepers are, and once he does, he can't imagine why he cares. No more wormholes. Nothing left to worry about. "So?"
"They'll kill me, Commander!" Scorpius' eyes widen. "We need to take your ship, leave this sector."
Crichton shoots a glance at the fuel tanks, still half full after the aborted wormhole flight. "You think?"
"Crichton, please. Now." Scorpius pulls himself up to his full height and Crichton can't figure out why the guy ever seemed menacing. Crichton laughs.
"Nah," he says. "I think I'll stick around. See if they wanna recruit me."
"They'll kill you too," Scorpius says. "You're John Crichton."
"I'm John Crichton," Crichton says, testing the words. "No, I don't think so, Penelope. You must have me confused with someone dead."
Scorpius claps a hand on the jamb of the Farscape's hatch, tries to shove his body inside, and Crichton doesn't do much to stop him. Sits down at the command chair and looks back at Crichton.
"I will undoubtedly destroy your precious ship if I try to pilot it myself," Scorpius says. "You wouldn't want that. Help me, John."
Crichton steps out of the Farscape and into the hangar. "Go ahead," he says. Harvey's been sleeping for days, and somewhere in Crichton's brain he opens one eye, yawns, closes it again.
"Crichton!" Scorpius says again, and this time his words are cut off as the internal comms clicks on.
"Attention Charrid vessel! This is the Pan-Argellian Unit 49441! You will power down and prepare to be boarded!"
Crichton blinks. "Pan-Argellian?"
"Now!" Scorpius says. "John, there's still time --" he springs from the module and plucks Winona from her holster, presses the muzzle to Crichton's chest.
Crichton laughs again, holds his arms in the air and waves his fingers around like he's conducting a drunk orchestra. "Go ahead, Salamander. Make my day."
"This is your last warning," the Pan-people say. "Power down. A boarding party is en route to your ship."
"Seriously," Crichton says. "Seriously. Kill me. I clearly can't do it myself. And you didn't kill the other John. You know you want a crack at me."
Harvey opens both eyes this time, sits up in his prison cot. "John, you don't mean that."
"Oh, I do. I really do."
"If you don't open the hangar door, we will be forced to blast our way in," the Pancakes say.
"Blast away," Crichton says, but only Scorpius and Harvey can hear him. He clears his throat. "Last will and testament, John Fitzgerald Crichton. Being of sound mind --"
"Crichton --" Harvey says, shaking at the jail bars. "Dear Crichton. Listen to me."
"Being of sound mind --"
The roar of weapons fire and the ship thrashes. Crichton falls to his knees and Scorpy stands above him, still pointing Winona.
"I hereby bequeath all my possessions to my father, with the exception of my Cornell jacket, because Alex always wanted that. Oh, and DK can have the chopper, but he's gotta get it tuned, so make sure -- oh! And you, Grasshopper. I bequeath you Winona, since you like her, and the little bastard in my head, if you can get him out."
"I thought we were friends, John," Harvey moans, leaning his forehead against the cell wall.
The rumble of footsteps, and the Pan-people thump into the Farscape's hangar. Scorpy's face goes white, and Crichton laughs some more.
"Whassup, Hopper? Friends or foes?" He rolls onto his elbow, props himself up so he's leaning against the landing pad. Squints at the Pan-people in their black suits with their black guns.
Aeryn either doesn't notice him or pretends not to.
He struggles to his feet, slaps his face, hates the prickle of three-day beard there. There's food on his shirt and he brushes at it. Scorpius is still holding the gun like a monkey with a remote control, and everybody's staring at everybody.
"Aeryn," he says, and he's not sure if he says it out loud. He tries again, and his voice cracks. "Aeryn."
One of the Pan-people strolls up to Scorpius, takes Winona away and pockets her. "Tell us about the wormhole," the Pan-guy says. Scorpius babbles something but Crichton isn't listening, he's watching Aeryn and she's still not looking at him. He tries to take a step closer to her, stumbles, palms Farscape's hull to steady himself.
"Aeryn," he croaks.
"We were merely experimenting, testing a theory," Scorpius is saying. The Pan-guy crawls into Farscape leaving the other three soldiers holding their pulse rifles on Crichton and Scorpius.
"Go," Harvey says. "Right now, John. Walk." Crichton tests his knees, takes a step toward Aeryn, and another. She's shouldering her rifle but she stares right through him, eyes locked on Scorpius. He gets to her side but her eyes don't waver.
"Aeryn," he says, and collapses at her feet.
Back on Moya she's looking for a reason and he wants to give her one but he doesn't have it, he can't say here's why me, here's why I won't hurt you, I would never hurt you, Aeryn, I promise, he can't promise, so he palms a wafer bolt, flicks it between his fingers, shows it to her.
"Here," he says. "I've got fate. Fate. Look, here, coin toss!"
She frowns, crosses to him, face white like a murder witness. "What, like that side up, you stay?"
"Absolutely," he says. "Fate." If I can will it that way, he thinks. Which side was he? The other one? My side, your side! He whips the disc into the air and she catches it mid-fall, claps it between her hands.
"Just make a frelling wormhole and go home," she says, and the words make him think of Scorpius and he doesn't want to, not ever, not ever again. He wants to get on that prowler and get the hell away from here, with her, but he doesn't have reasons for that. Scorpy, wormholes, those he has reasons for. But Aeryn --
He stumbles. "There is no. Home," he says. "There is no wormhole. There's only --" And his head hurts and his heart hurts because these words have never changed anyone's mind in the history of love, and they certainly won't work here with an alien and her ship and her gun and a dead man. "You. Aeryn." His heart is breaking. She's moving away as he watches her. "Anywhere in the universe. You pick the planet."
"It's too late for that," she says, like he knew she would.
"It's not too late --"
"No, you're not listening to me --" and there are tears in her eyes, and he put them there and he's being blamed for it, even now. "It's too late for me."
"You do this," he says, "and we'll never see each other again."
She looks up at them, all that pain on that incredible face and he put it there, and he wants her to run from him, far away so he can't do this to her anymore, but his heart's not listening and his words lodge in his throat.
"Do you love Aeryn Sun?" she asks.
Long ago, he knew that. Lost. Hopeless. Just another John Crichton in love with this astonishing woman.
"Then don't make me say goodbye," she says. "And don't make me stay."
And he knows he can't. But when he turns to go he hears her kicking cargo crates, hears the crack of the wail and if she were any other woman, any other woman he'd turn around and grab her and say I know you want me, you wouldn't be here otherwise, wouldn't do this, stay with me, stay -- but it's her, hurt too much already and always because of him. And this woman shouldn't have her decisions made for her. Not by an idiot like him.
But he turns before he goes, picks the wafer bolt off the floor where she kicked it. Snaps it between two fingers and sails over his head, back toward the prowler.
He doesn't stay long enough to see how it lands.
"You're suffering from malnutrition and dehydration," Aeryn says. He blinks his eyes open. "You need to eat, John."
He's in a holding cell, presumably aboard the Pancake ship. His head hurts, but he's lucid, more lucid than he's been in a while. He feels around for Aeryn's hand.
"Aeryn," he says.
"You've been saying that for two arns," she says. "Muttering it in your sleep."
"I've been saying it for three cycles," he says. "Aeryn."
"I can't stay," she says. "I won't ask you what you're doing here. With him. That's your business. I will, however, tell you that Cabel Parva will be here to check on you shortly and he is a less generous captor than I am."
"I wasn't -- with him," Crichton says. "I was -- he found me."
She stands up. "As I said, it's not my concern, Crichton. I'm just -- glad you're safe."
And then he stands up too, grabs her shoulder. "Aeryn. How come you didn't tell me?"
"That you're pregnant, Aeryn. Why did I have to find out from the, the, psycho bitch with the bat ears?"
She inhales through her nose a long moment and then shakes her head. "I'm not pregnant, Crichton."
Her eyes are fixed on his like she's searching for something, but she frowns. "No," she says. "Now here." She pushes a bowl of stew his way. "Eat."
And she leaves.
Couple minutes later one of the other Pan-people shows up and rattles the bars. "PKs are gonna love this," he says. "The enigmatic John Crichton. We can trade you for a marauder, fifteen pelz of pulse weapons, you name it. Pretty stupid move to conjure up a wormhole in this sector."
"Scorpius is a more valuable prisoner than I am," Crichton says. "Trade him."
"Commandant Grazer's got a one million drekmer bounty out on the hybrid," the soldier says. "Our people can make the trade in half a pon."
"And just who are your people?"
"Pan-Argellian unit. Black ops, anti-terrorism squad."
"Not Peacekeepers, then?"
"I used to be a Peacekeeper. So did that Officer Sun. Rab-Anada was a civilian and the little guy's his brother. They were raised on an actual planet."
Crichton snorts, takes another mouthful of soup. "So was I," he says.
"Yeah, Erp, we heard. Dossier on you is about a metra long, Commander."
Crichton hands him the bowl through the cell grid. "So where are we going now?"
"Back to base. Squad leader's gotta process you before we can use you as currency."
"Time for a nap, then," Crichton says, and lies down on the cot. "You mind?"
"Sleep well," the Pancake says, and leaves.
It's a good ten arns before Aeryn comes again, and when she does, she unlocks the door to his cell and ushers him out without a word. He follows her down the corridor, to the hangar, to Farscape.
"Get in," she says. "Now. Go."
He squares off, inches from her face. "Not without you." Not again.
"This is my place now, Crichton," she says. "I don't want to see them kill you, but I can't go with you."
And it all comes rushing back like none of the past few days ever happened, like they're still standing there on Moya with the wafer bolt and she's about to break his heart again. "Yes. You can. Aeryn."
She looks at the floor. "Crichton. Get in your ship, please."
"And go where? Moya got sucked through a...something, a wormhole maybe, did you know that? D'Argo, Chiana -- everybody else is gone. I have no place to go. And I don't want to be anyplace else, if you're here."
She blinks up at him. "John." It comes too easily for her now, leaves a knot in his stomach. "I can't help you."
"I don't want you to help me," he hisses. "I want you to be with me. Love me, Aeryn. You said you did. You can. You did -- with him."
"Yes!" she shouts, and then catches herself. "I did with him."
She swipes the back of her hand across her forehead and a lock of hair trails along with it and hangs down over one eye. He reaches up to brush it free. "Moya disappeared?" she asks.
He nods. "Right after you left. Right after she -- told me."
"I'm not pregnant, John."
"I said okay," he says.
She shrugs, a limp motion with both shoulders, exhausted. "I don't know what to tell you. I don't know where you should go."
"Then I'll stay here," he says. "Let them trade me to the Peacekeepers if it means I get one more microt with you."
Harvey clears his throat, and Crichton shoves him back to the cell of his subconscious. He doesn't need that kind of help now.
"I love you, Aeryn."
"I know," she says.
"Did you miss me? Tell me that. When you were away." He knows it's manipulative. He doesn't care.
"Yes," she says. "Every microt of every day."
"Good," he says.
"And you? Half a day after I leave and you're cavorting with Scorpius, stirring up wormholes?"
He rakes a hand back across his skull. "It wasn't like that. You were -- you left me, Aeryn. I nearly died out there, and not just, not just because I was out of air and freezing to death -- and that creep found me, brought me onto this weird-ass ship with all these dead Carrots --"
She laughs at that. A smile creeps at her lips, and it's only then that he realizes she's been crying. "Carrots? You mean Charrids?"
"Them too," he says, and smiles back. He rests a palm on her cheek and she places a hand over it, holds it there for a moment before letting it drop.
He nods. "And I'm just saying, I went crazy out there. And, swear to god, I'm gonna go absolutely batshit if you leave me again, so you need to understand -- you hold me together."
"You tear me apart," she says, slowly, and he knows she's telling the truth.
"Come with me. Anywhere."
She takes a deep breath, tips her head up to look at the Farscape One. "All right, John," she says.
His heart leaps, and he dives at her, kisses her forehead, her hair, the smell of her hair, just the same, like sweat and pulse pistol backfire, the pointy birdbones of her shoulders in the palms of his hands and for a second she relaxes, but when she pulls away, her face is stone again.
"I will help you find Moya," she says. "And then, I'm going back to join my unit."
"They'll take you back, even if you let me go?" he says around a lump that's forming in his throat.
"Not this cell. But the Pan-Argellian units are discrete entities, in case one cell gets captured or interrogated. So no unit knows the other units' orders -- or its complement."
"Lucky you," he says.
"Yes," she says. "Lucky me."
Something somewhere on the Pancake ship creaks, and Crichton jumps. "So we should --"
"Get out of here, yes," she says, swinging past him and releasing the hatch on the Farscape module. "After you," she says. He climbs in.
They're miles away before they speak again, constant acceleration in a ship that belongs to him again, and he's back on Route 66 with DK, kicking the Toyota into cruise control and just driving, driving.
But it's not DK, and it's not the same, and it'll take a week or a cycle to find Moya and until then it's just the two of them. Different because it's going to end, but he's not going to let those words form in his consciousness, not gonna let Harvey spoil this either. Gonna lie to himself, if that's what it takes, for as long as it takes to just. Have this.
"I was so angry," he says, as she's drifting off to sleep on his shoulder. "When I thought you were pregnant and you left anyway."
She picks up her head and looks at him. "I would never let that happen," she says.
Ambiguous, but he's not going to press it now. He slips an arm around her waist.
In the dark parts of his brain, the sun comes up over the beach, seashells washed up from the surf and all the sand bleached white after the rainstorm. Harvey's deep in his paperback, and Crichton walks along the coast and lets the cold salty water bite at his ankles. Aeryn's there too, red bikini and a pulse pistol at her side and she splashes him with seawater and sand, laughs as she tackles him to the ground.