Space Station, Event Time +17:30
it," John said. "The Ancients had managed to reclaim one of their
old energy sources, so they offered me the chance to come back
home. They constructed the wormhole, but it will remain open for
just over twenty-three hours. Then we have to get back, or we're
A galaxy so far away that their own Milky Way was unknown. A place
populated by alien races, full of strange creatures including
the living ship Moya that John inhabited. It was a fantastic tale.
If he had heard it from anyone else, he would have dismissed it
as science fiction or the ravings of a deranged mind.
And yet he
was compelled to believe, for here was his son, returned to him
after all this time, floating so close he could reach over and
you mean stuck?" Jack Crichton asked. "Why not come home to stay?
You and Aeryn Sun would be welcome."
his head. "No, I know better than that."
understand," he said, hearing the frustration in his voice. He
had only just found his son. How could John speak so calmly of
walking out of his life again, in just a few short hours?
"Can I have
my life back? Will they give me my old cubicle at IASA? Let me
go watch Monday night football with the guys? Golfing with you
at dawn? Drive my T-bird down to the air base and borrow an F-16
to get my flight hours in? Is any of that possible?"
lie to me. Don't lie to yourself. I go down to Earth, and everyone
is going to want a piece of me. Whether it's Area 51, or somewhere
else, they're going to lock me up and throw away the key. And
if Aeryn stayed, she'd be in even more danger."
be like that," Walter Klein said. "On behalf of the State Department,
I can assure you--"
promises you can't keep," John said angrily, pushing himself away
from the wall, and drifting across the compartment, seemingly
at random, although when he checked his spin, he was beside Aeryn
his forehead with his index finger. "I've seen things you couldn't
imagine. I know the answers to questions our scientists haven't
even thought to ask. I've had enough experience being hunted for
what's in my brain. I'm not going to let it happen here."
opened his mouth to argue, and then closed it firmly, as he realized
he had no idea what to say.
what was in his brain. He didn't think John had meant to let that
phrase slip out.
had described a conflict between the Peacekeepers and his friends
on Moya, but he had only touched lightly on any dangers he had
Yet his friends
sent an armed soldier to protect him, and John had developed a
sense of caution that bordered on paranoia. And at some point,
judging from his earlier outburst, he had learned what it was
searched his son's face, finally acknowledging that this was not
the same man who had left Earth on that fateful day. There was
no trace of boyishness left in John's face. Instead he had new
lines of determination, and his blue gaze had a hard-edge to it.
At this moment
John reminded him very much of the combat pilots he had known
in his Air Force days.
a story, Commander Crichton. You've given us all much to think
about," Colonel Blackwell said, in an oblique reference to the
Earthbound audience who were surely hanging on every word. "Perhaps
you and your father would like some time alone?"
"I'd be grateful,"
watched as the others made their way out of the habitat module,
until only himself, DK, Aeryn Sun and John remained. No doubt
Colonel Blackwell wanted to confer with Mission Control down on
Earth, to see their reactions to what they had heard so far, and
to find out if they had new instructions for her.
her motives, he was grateful for this opportunity, even if it
was only the illusion of privacy. Alexei Kirillov had taken the
portable video camera with him, but there were still the fixed
cameras, and the microphones would record their every word. But
even an illusion was better than nothing, and without the others
present he might finally be able to get through to his son, who
now seemed infinitely distant, though he floated only a few feet
you mean when you said you were hunted for what was in your mind?"
Jack Crichton asked. "Was that the Captain Crais you mentioned?"
wanted revenge because he blamed me for the accident that killed
his brother. It took a while, but eventually he changed his mind."
trust him," Aeryn Sun said.
trust him either," John said patiently. "But he's too busy running
from his own problems to be any threat to us."
Jack Crichton asked.
time I met the Ancients, they put me through hell. Made me think
I'd come back home, only to discover they were just playing with
my mind," John said with a grimace. "Afterwards they felt sorry
for me, so they tried to give me a gift. They knew I needed a
wormhole to find my way back here. They weren't willing to give
me the answers outright, but they implanted equations in my mind
that would serve as a subconscious guide."
You know how to generate them?" DK asked.
John said. "But I'm close. Closer than any other scientist, in
this galaxy or theirs. It makes me special. Unique."
Aeryn Sun added.
John agreed. "Didn't even know I had the equations inside me,
till that bastard Scorpius frelled with my mind."
Jack Crichton asked. It was not a name John had mentioned earlier.
scientist. Brilliant guy, with unfortunate hobbies, like torture
and performing brain surgery with an ice pick," John said, attempting
a wry smile. As if unconsciously he raised his right hand, and
began to rub the back of his neck.
reached over and caressed the back of John's head, before capturing
his hand in hers. John gave her a grateful smile, and some of
the tension left his body.
realized there was much more to the relationship between the two
of them than was covered in the simple word friend.
For his own
part, he felt sick and angry at the same time. "Tortured?" he
"No big deal,"
John said, dismissing the incident. "It was only a few days before
Aeryn brought the cavalry and they broke me out. But Scorpius
put me on the Peacekeepers' most wanted list, which drew way too
much attention from the Peacekeepers, and from their enemies.
For a while there, it seemed like everyone wanted a piece of me."
"So why go
back? Why not stay here?" DK asked.
know what I'm up against, and I have my friends to help. The Uncharted
Territories is a big place. The odds that they'll find us again
friends here, too. And your family," Jack Crichton pointed out.
another reason. Scorpius has all the wormhole knowledge he picked
from my brain, plus his own research. Eventually he's going to
figure it out. And when he does, I don't want to give him any
reason to come looking for me here," John said.
has the answer, he has no reason to look for you," Aeryn Sun said.
towards her. "You don't know him the way I do. It's not finished
between us. Wormhole equations or not, he'll come looking for
me. And I'm not going to give him any excuse to park a Peacekeeper
command carrier in Earth orbit. I can't take that chance. You'd
do the same if it was your homeworld."
looked around the module. "If this is the best of your technology,
then I can see why you are afraid. This station doesn't even have
a decent gravity field. Your planet is hopelessly primitive. They
wouldn't last an arn against a command carrier."
exactly primitives," DK argued.
standards you are," John said. "But we can work on that. Dad,
would you open up that case?"
swam over to the metal box, which was still tethered to one wall.
He opened the case. There were several objects inside.
a silver globe, and a black datacore. That's the thing that looks
like a laptop. Pull them out, please," John said, drifting to
the middle of the compartment.
picked up the globe, a silver sphere a little larger than an orange,
and the thin black rectangle that did indeed look very much like
a laptop computer. As he lifted the datacore, he saw underneath
stack of micro-cassettes.
also a bunch of cassette tapes in here," he said.
"Yup. Those are for you and DK. Recordings I made back on Moya.
I used the data tapes I had on the module, then found a techshop
that manufactured duplicates."
count, but he could see at least two dozen tapes, perhaps more.
insist on making copies, but the originals are for you. And, uh,"
John paused, rubbing his hand along his jaw. "Um, some of those
tapes were made on bad days. Days when I just needed to talk to
you guys, even if it was only on a tape I didn't think you would
ever have a chance to hear. I thought about editing the tapes,
but was afraid once I started I'd wind up erasing everything until
all you had was a bunch of blank tapes."
He knew he
had been given a glimpse into how lonely John must have been,
when he had no one to confide his fears to except a tape recorder,
and the memory of his friends back home.
"If you made
them, I can hear them," Jack Crichton said.
the imager, that's the silver ball thing," John said.
it over, and John caught it with one hand, then placed it carefully
in the middle of the compartment.
a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are a few million
words," John said. He gave the ball a squeeze with one hand, and
over the ball, an image appeared, of a burnished copper object
against a starfield. It was so real that Jack Crichton drifted
over and tried to touch it, only to see the image waver as his
hand passed through it.
observed, drifting closer to get a better view.
Our ship," John said. "And there's her son Talyn, back when he
was a baby."
flickered, and this time it showed a creature that looked like
a multi-armed, wrinkled turtle, whose head widened into an enormous
our navigator. And that's Zhaan," John said, as the image of a
blue alien came up. "She's a plant."
Jack Crichton asked.
animal, mineral, plant. Zhaan's a plant," John said offhandedly,
as if blue people that were actually plants was a common everyday
occurrence. "And that's Rygel, and D'Argo, and his son Jothee,
and there's Chiana. And that's Stark."
flashed by. Some of the creatures, like Chiana and Zhaan looked
human, or at least humanoid, while others such as Rygel were clearly
alien, and might well have walked off the casting lot of any Hollywood
science fiction feature.
wasn't a film, Jack Crichton reminded himself. These beings were
real. His son's friends and companions.
changed, to show John bent over the engines of the Farscape module,
holding something that looked like a welding torch.
did that get on there?" John asked.
idea," Aeryn Sun replied. "She thought your friends would like
images of you as well. Pilot did the programming."
appeared of John in his orange flight suit, looking around him
in wonder, and Jack guessed it had been taken soon after his arrival
on Moya. Other images showed John playing chess with the small
frog-like creature called Rygel, and doing something incomprehensible
with the blue alien Zhaan, the one he had described as a priest.
A religious ceremony? Meditating? It was impossible to tell.
appeared as well, standing opposite John in a large empty room.
They bowed to each other and then began slowly circling. Aeryn
sprang, and they grappled in a seemingly deadly flurry of strikes
and blocks, neither having clear advantage. And then, John must
have made a mistake, for Aeryn grabbed John by the arm and flipped
him over, pinning him to the ground with one foot placed across
couldn't you show one of the matches I've won?" John complained.
"As soon as you win a match, we can do so."
to DK. "Trust me, I don't always get beaten up by girls. Sometimes
I even win."
was something John had never had an interest in, or time for,
in his former life. It was just another sign how much he had changed.
image showed John and his shipmates seated around a large table,
which was covered with plates and bowls containing a variety of
oddly colored substances. John laughed, appearing happy as he
stood up and raised his goblet in a toast.
that, after our visit to Niskayuna? That was a great party," John
said to Aeryn Sun.
Aeryn said. "You out-ate and out-drank everyone, including Rygel."
image lingered in the air, and then disappeared.
John said. "You can freeze an image if you touch the globe while
it appears. Batteries should be good for a hundred Earth years.
Just don't let any of the techs try to open it up."
Jack Crichton said, knowing that simple word was inadequate to
describe how he felt. It was interesting to see the pictures of
John's companions, but it was the images of his son that he would
treasure. He would be eternally grateful to the alien Zhaan for
having the forethought to include them.
is for DK," John said, swimming over to take the black object
from his father, and then handing it to his friend.
up. All the way, so it's flat," John directed.
DK did so.
the payoff I promised, for bringing you guys up here," John said.
asked, his voice reverent.
the hetch drive, yes," John said. "But just having the plans won't
be enough. The design is all in there, but the fuel source depends
on a couple exotic isotopes. I couldn't remember how common they
were on Earth. You may have to do some prospecting out in the
asteroid belt to find them."
a couple of other toys in here," John said. "How to build a gravity
manipulation field, for a start. Let you control gravity on this
space station, or use it to geometrically reduce the power required
to liftoff from Earth."
field theory? Quantum mechanics?" DK asked. At least someone knew
what John was talking about.
of both," John said. "And there's a fusion power source design."
like lukewarm. But it's safe and cheap, and will provide plenty
of power for the next generation spaceships, until you can get
the hetch drive up and running. Here, let me show you how to access
the data models," John said, pressing a button on the side of
the alien laptop.
appeared over the laptop, something that looked to his untrained
eye like sentences in an alien alphabet or perhaps equations,
followed by a set of three dimensional graphs. Within minutes
the boys had their heads bent over the laptop, with DK firing
off questions and John doing his best to answer them.
them, he felt for a moment that the past three years had just
been a bad dream. What could be more normal than watching DK and
John wrangle over ideas, creating scientific breakthroughs as
they crafted theories that Jack Crichton knew he would never understand?
inherited his love of space from his father, but his gift for
science had come from his mother. John had been thrilled when
IASA accepted him into the program, for it gave him a chance to
satisfy both of his passions. But it was these passions that were
his downfall, for they had led to the Farscape project, which
had ultimately taken him far from Earth.
For the past
three years Jack Crichton had blamed himself for his son's loss.
If only he hadn't encouraged John to enter the space program.
But merely being an astronaut wasn't enough for John, instead
John had to prove himself by designing and testing an entirely
new type of spacecraft. He'd been so proud of his son, who had
great dreams and the talents to make them come true.
it had seemed that John's dreams had cost him his life. And perhaps
they had. Not literally, for John was still alive. But there was
truth in what John had said, that his old life was gone forever,
and could never be reclaimed.
He felt a
touch on his shoulder, and looked over to see Aeryn Sun had joined
admires you very much," she said softly.
glanced across the compartment. John and DK were deep in some
technical discussion, and paying no attention to their companions.
"I am proud
of him," Jack Crichton said. He could not help wondering at the
nature of Aeryn and John's relationship. Were they friends? Lovers?
Something in-between? A part of him said that if John wanted him
to know he would have told him. But another part wanted to ask,
even knowing that any answer would be recorded and replayed a
thousand times by the Earthbound analysts.
"He has become
a fine warrior," Aeryn Sun commented.
not please you?"
"My son John
was a dreamer. A scientist," he said. "Not a warrior."
his son back. The John Crichton who had talked of travel to the
stars with wonder in his voice. Who had dreamed of great explorations
and new discoveries. Who had once said that the thrill of seeing
his theories proven right was the greatest feeling in the world.
But he had to change to survive. The Uncharted Territories are
neither easy nor forgiving," Aeryn Sun said.
had cost his son his innocence. He could see it, in John's eyes
and in the new lines in his face. Somewhere along the way, John
had been hurt, and he had learned what it was to kill. It was
a knowledge that Jack would have given anything to have protected
his son from.
"He got hurt
pretty badly out there, didn't he?" Jack Crichton asked.
regarded him gravely. "Yes," Aeryn Sun said, confirming his worst
fears. "As Zhaan would say, there was a time when he lost his
center, his sense of who he was. But he found his way back to
not elaborate on what had driven John to that state, and Jack
Crichton did not ask. He did not think he could bear to know.
"Do not worry,"
Aeryn said, reaching out and touching his arm hesitantly, as if
she was unused to making such gestures. "He is still Crichton.
Still kind. Still stubborn. Still cares for others far more than
is good for him, and tries to help whether they ask for it or
Aeryn agreed. "I was a Peacekeeper. A warrior. Then my own people
condemned me, for having been contaminated by contact with an
unclassified alien lifeform. John could have left me to die, but
he didn't. He insisted I come with him, and brought me onboard
Moya. At first I resented his interference, but eventually I discovered
that there was more to life than I had ever believed."
As she offered
one of her rare smiles, Jack could see why his son would find
for him," Jack said.
"And he cares
for us. Shipmates. Comrades," Aeryn said.
It was less
of an answer than he had hoped for, leaving John and Aeryn's precise
relationship still murky. But he tried to take comfort in her
words, and in the knowledge that John would not be alive today,
if it were not for these strange creatures whom he had befriended.
her head, and looked at him. "I will tell you the same thing I
told the alien who took your form on that false Earth. Do not
worry. I will protect John. I will keep him safe," Aeryn Sun promised.
Space Station, Event Time +18:56
"If I had
time I would have programmed more of the theories, rather than
just the applications. But you should be okay. You know how I
think, you'll be able to figure it out," John said.
DK felt like
a kid in a toy shop, or the way Sir Isaac Newton would have felt
if someone had handed him a textbook on quantum physics. It would
take months, perhaps years to explore all the knowledge that John
had placed in this alien laptop. The possibilities were fascinating.
let yourself be intimidated. The Sebaceans have a head start on
us, but they don't know all the answers. They never figured out
the Farscape effect, so there's one for our side. Trust your instincts.
You'll be fine," John assured him.
better if I had my old science partner," DK said.
know how often I wished I had you there, to help me figure this
stuff out," John said. "But then again I was grateful that I knew
you were safe, back home."
word again. It was clear that however exciting John's life may
have been since he had arrived in that strange galaxy, the word
safe was no longer part of his vocabulary.
if Jack Crichton realized just how much his son was concealing
in his stories of the Uncharted Territories. Hiding the truth,
glossing over the bad parts, trying to protect them.
fool his father. He had done so in the past. To this day, Jack
Crichton still hadn't guessed that the fender-bender that John
had been in during college had actually been a fairly serious
accident, when the car he had been riding in had been struck head-on
by a drunk driver, landing John in the hospital with bruised ribs
and a nasty concussion. John hadn't wanted to worry his father,
and had glossed over the incident. DK had known better, and had
wormed the truth out of him.
mother had died, John and his father had drawn even closer, as
they tried to take care of each other. John had never wanted his
father to worry, saying that his father had enough to worry about
in raising the twins.
Even on that
fateful day, it had been DK that John confided his last minute
doubts to, doubts that would later seem an eerie premonition.
When Colonel Jack had arrived, John had quickly buried his misgivings,
and put on a confident face for his father.
more than a friend, he was the brother DK had never had. And for
over three years now, DK had lived with the thought that he had
helped kill him.
time I kept thinking it was my fault," DK confessed. "If only
we had known what the meteorological data was trying to tell us.
If we'd recognized the radiation wave sooner, and I'd been able
to warn you when there was still time to abort. If--"
said, grabbing his shoulder. "It wasn't your fault. It was no
"But if we'd
only delayed the test for an hour, just long enough to confirm
the data, then none of this would have happened."
to stop thinking like that. When I first got to the Uncharted
Territories, that's all I could think of. If only I had done this,
or if only we hadn't done that. Took me a long time to realize
there is no point in second-guessing the past. What's done is
done. I was in the right place at the wrong time. A billion to
one chance, but there I was."
his gaze and looked into John's eyes. There was no trace of the
condemnation he had feared to find. "It's not your fault," John
DK felt the
knot inside him begin to loosen.
rough out there, isn't it?" he asked, unwilling to be let off
"It can be. But it can also be wonderful, the way we dreamed of
when we were kids. I've watched the double suns rise over Ionna
Three, and gone mineral hunting in the rings of a gas giant. I've
seen floating cities, and space colonies. I've met aliens of every
kind you can imagine, including beings that exist as pure energy,
held together by their own consciousness. I've even been close
enough to a quantum singularity that I could touch it with my
hole," John said with a grin. "Nearly did touch it, and wound
up slipping in and out of time for the next day."
in and out of time. Suddenly he envied John, for all that he had
seen and been able to do.
"A part of
me wishes I could go with you, but another part knows I'd be scared
out of my mind," DK confessed.
that. Sometimes I am scared. But I've learned a lot about myself
out there. I've learned that I can be stronger than I ever dreamed
I could be."
was clear that John had gone through a trial by fire. DK wondered
if John realized how much he had grown to resemble his father
in these past three years.
if I went with you Melissa would kill me," DK said.
Melissa Sullivan from JPL? You still together?"
two years ago. And this spring we're expecting our first," he
said, with the idiotic grin he always wore when he thought of
his wife and the child to come.
"You? A baby?
You lucky bastard," John said. "Congratulations."
to think of me as a father, I know," DK said. He felt odd, at
the realization that his life had continued in a predictable path,
while John had been living this strange adventure. "And there's
you, coming back to Earth like John Carter, accompanied by the
John asked incredulously.
towards Aeryn Sun.
on John's face cleared. "Oh, you mean Aeryn. Aeryn's wonderful,
but if you want to stay on her good side, be sure to call her
a warrior. And don't use the word Princess. That brings up bad
memories, for both of us."
I have no idea what you're talking about," DK said.
John said. "Let's just say you ought to be careful who you go
Space Station, Event Time +21:30
watched as John dipped the spoon into the peanut butter jar, and
then withdrew another generous helping. As he tasted it, his expression
was one of pure bliss.
the rest of the station's personnel had gathered, sharing an impromptu
meal. It was crowded, but no one seemed to mind. Even the crew
of the X-44 had been recalled, allowed to dock and to come in
and meet the visitors.
had sampled the peanut butter, but declined a second taste, and
had instead eaten one of the packaged meals prepared by the station
crew. John had declined all offers, declaring his intention to
eat nothing but peanut butter, until he had consumed the entire
case that DK had brought from Earth.
crew were polite, but they swarmed around John and Aeryn Sun,
finding excuses to be near them, or to engage them in conversation.
The six personnel who had taken the translator microbe injections
were highly in demand, as translators for the others. The crew
offered gifts, taken from the few personal luxuries they had been
allowed to bring on station. John refused most of them, but there
were a few items he could not resist. A handheld digital media
unit which held five hundred books, and thousands of hours of
music. A month's supply of coffee. And digital photos of the meeting,
and of DK and John's family.
sent a flurry of messages and instructions. There had been invitations
to speak with the President, the Secretary General of the UN,
and various other heads of state. John and Aeryn had declined
them all. They had also declined IASA's offers to set up media
interviews, insisting that they had no time for such things.
accept IASA's offer to set up video calls with his sisters Melissa
and Ruth. Born a dozen years after John, the twins had been in
college when the older brother that they worshipped had seemingly
died. They had never had the chance to know John from the perspective
joined him for the calls, which were both joyous and painfully
awkward. Like himself, the girls were thrilled to learn that John
was alive, and then bewildered by John's insistence that this
was a visit, not a homecoming.
of the State Department, Walter Klein had repeated his offer of
asylum for Aeryn Sun and assured John of his safety. When this
offer was refused, it was repeated on behalf of other countries,
with the same results.
had asked for and was granted DNA samples from both John and Aeryn
Sun. Soon those samples and the recordings would be the only tangible
evidence that they had ever been here.
watched his son with hungry eyes, feeling the time slipping away
from them. In less than an hour John planned to leave, and he
had yet to find a way to convince him to stay.
were interrupted by Alexei Kirillov, who tapped him on the shoulder.
Blackwell would like to see you in the control center," the Russian
over, to where John was gesturing as he tried to explain something
to a fascinated audience of scientists. Aeryn Sun was nowhere
to be seen, having accepted an offer to tour the X-44, and discuss
flying with the pilot. They would not miss him.
Alexei Kirillov into the control center, where he found Colonel
Sarah Blackwell stripping off her headset.
she said. "Give us a minute, would you?"
nodded, and disappeared back towards the main living habitat.
IASA," Colonel Blackwell said. She lifted her right hand and rubbed
the back of her neck, rolling her head to relieve the stiffness.
our friends down below have any useful advice?"
two bits of news. First, the net media have broken the story.
They've got the details wrong of course, but at least one news
service is saying that an alien spaceship has taken over the space
station, and that this is the forerunner to a full-blown invasion.
Naturally IASA is denying everything, but it's a mess."
how long it would take for the story to get out. There were simply
too many people involved to maintain secrecy. Not when the news
was this fantastic. And it wouldn't be long before some news organization
put the pieces together and came up with the right answer. After
all, landing an attack chopper in a suburban neighborhood might
be the fastest way for IASA to retrieve him, but it was not particularly
discreet. All someone had to do was realize that Colonel Jack
Crichton and Doctor David Kroger were part of the X-44 launch,
and they'd connect the dots and find John's name. And then there
went any hopes of keeping John's homecoming quiet.
did they have to say?" he asked.
suggested that I find some way of convincing Commander Crichton
to stay with us past his deadline," Colonel Blackwell said.
suggested," Jack Crichton said, echoing the emphasis she had put
on the phrase.
eyes met his. A twenty-year veteran herself, they both knew what
it meant when command 'strongly suggested' a course of action.
There was no need for her to spell things out.
But to his
surprise, she did so.
has even floated the idea that I should take any means necessary
to detain John. In his best interests, of course," she said.
he said, feeling a slow anger begin to burn inside. He did not
want John to leave. But neither did he want to see John coerced.
IASA vetoed the suggestion, and the security advisor in Washington
quickly backed down. He claimed he never meant that I should try
to use force to keep John here. But it's only a matter of time
before the suggestions turn into orders," she said. "As it is,
we're lucky the Farscape craft didn't dock with the station. Otherwise
they would have ordered me to seize his ship hours ago."
looked at her, wondering what she would do. He knew Sarah Blackwell
only by reputation, but her reputation was good. And John had
trusted her, which was a point in her favor.
you?" he asked, knowing he would have to find a way to stop her,
should she decide to try and hold John against his will.
she said. "And I don't care that the recorders are going to pick
up that answer, and I'll find myself busted down to a ferry pilot
when this whole thing is done. I don't give a damn about what
IASA and the government think, they don't own John. He deserves
to make his own choices."
do you think we have before they make it an order?" he asked.
the deadline as well as we do," Colonel Blackwell said. "That's
why I've instructed Alexei that we're going to have communications
problems, beginning now. The recorders will still be on, but we
won't acknowledge any transmission from Earth until this is over,
one way or another."
he was watching a talented officer destroy her career. As soon
as IASA realized what she had done, Colonel Blackwell would be
summoned to Earth and stripped of her rank. She might even be
court-martialed or tried for treason, if she wound up defying
a direct order from the President.
"It may not
come to that," he said. "I'm still trying to reach him, to convince
him that he should stay."
Colonel Blackwell gave him was one of pity. "You know the life
he would have down there. Is that what you want for your son?"
"So I should
just let him leave? Go out of my life, knowing he will never return?"
Jack Crichton demanded.
"Try to see
this as a gift," Colonel Blackwell said. "Twenty-four hours ago
we didn't even know he was alive."
Space Station, Event Time +22:15
running out. He could almost hear it ticking, as John's deadline
of the station crew had already made their farewells, and returned
to their duty stations. Even the contact team had left at Colonel
Blackwell's request, joining her in the command module, leaving
him, DK, John and Aeryn Sun to make their final farewells in private.
"I know it
was selfish of me to come. It might have been easier for you to
keep thinking of me as dead," John said. "But I just had to see
you one more time, and give myself a chance to let go of my old
have to let go," Jack Crichton said. "There's no reason you can't
stay, even if Aeryn Sun chooses to return to her galaxy."
wanted to stay, would you?"
John said automatically.
are more than friends," Jack Crichton said, stating the obvious.
his head, and smiled wistfully as he caught sight of Aeryn Sun,
who was talking with DK. Earlier, Aeryn had resumed her position
by the secondary airlock. It could be a coincidence, but Jack
had the feeling that she was guarding their exit route, leaving
nothing to chance.
"I love her,
and I know she loves me," John said, then he turned back to face
his father. "Some days that's enough. Some days it's not."
I can ask her to marry me, and promise her a happily ever after.
How can I ask her to share my future, when I'm not even sure I've
got one? We could be together for the next forty cycles or it
all might be over an arn after we return."
that uncertain, why not stay here? Even if they do quarantine
you at first, at least you'd be safe," Jack Crichton said.
his head. "No. I'm not going to spend my life locked up in a cage.
I'd rather take my chances in the Uncharted Territories. We've
survived tough spots before, we can do so again. And with luck,
someday we'll find a place where Aeryn and I can both be safe."
A part of
him wanted to argue, to convince John to stay. But another part
of him knew this for a selfish desire. Staying would ease his
mind, but would John really be safe? What kind of life would John
have, if he stayed on Earth? Even Colonel Blackwell believed John
had a right to be wary.
He had to
accept the bitter knowledge that he could not protect his son.
Could not promise him safety, or bring him home. His influence
at IASA, his fame, all the favors he had accumulated over the
years, were all useless. Nothing Jack Crichton did or said was
going to change the decisions being made on Earth. Already government
officials were ready to detain John against his will. And once
in custody, it was likely that John would never get out. Or if
he did, he would have just exchanged one prison for another. Whenever
the story finally broke, John was going to be the most famous
man on Earth. The first man to bring back irrefutable proof of
alien life, and the knowledge of dozens of alien civilizations.
Every scientist, every journalist, every lunatic with a UFO theory
was going to want a piece of John. There would be nowhere he could
hide, no chance for a normal life.
closed his eyes, thinking of all the things that he had wanted
for his son, things John would now never have. A wife. A family.
Awkward steps and teddy bears. Little league games and science
projects. Braces and driving lessons. The chance to watch your
children grow, until the day you realized they had surpassed you.
for these things, and he mourned for himself as well, for the
grandchildren he would never know, and the son he had thought
lost, whom he must now give up all over again.
okay?" John asked.
Jack Crichton said, opening his eyes. He took his grief, and he
willed it away, as he had learned to do years ago. It was not
gone, just banished for the moment. But for now, he could not
let his emotions rule him. There were still things he needed to
do. To say. He would not ruin these last moments while he still
had his son. There would be time later to grieve.
He had had
three years to learn about regrets, and to remember all the things
that should and should not be said.
"I know you
feel you can't stay," Jack Crichton said. "And I understand."
John asked, his voice rising in disbelief.
Jack Crichton said, putting all the conviction he could muster
in his voice. "I'm not happy about it. I wish that we could turn
back the clock, and find a way to bring you home safely. But I
know that you are doing the right thing, for yourself and for
a father needed to lie to his son, to reassure him that the world
made sense, that everything would be all right, despite all evidence
to the contrary. It was the only comfort he could offer.
to hear you say that," John said, the misery vanishing from his
eyes. "And I don't want you to worry about me. I'm going to be
okay. Trust me."
he not worry? "It's a father's prerogative to worry, at least
a little," Jack Crichton said, knowing he would wonder about John
every day for the rest of his life.
try not to worry too much. I'll be fine," John said.
It was a
promise John could not possibly make. But he needed his father
to believe him, or at least to pretend that he did.
"I know you
will. And remember this, you have family back home that love you,
and are proud of you," Jack Crichton said.
John said. Anchoring himself with his left hand, he reached out,
and wrapped his right arm around his father.
returned the embrace, wishing he could freeze this moment forever.
know if it will ever be safe for me to come back. But no matter
what happens, I'm still your son," John said. "I'm doing my best
to be the man you wanted me to be."
yourself, that's all I ever asked," Jack Crichton answered, finally
releasing his son. "I couldn't be any more proud of you than I
hard and nodded, blinking back tears from his eyes. Jack Crichton
knew his own eyes were moist as well.
A chime sounded,
and both men looked over towards Aeryn Sun.
himself off from the wall, and drifted across the module, as Jack
DK," John said, as he reached the airlock. "You take good care
of Melissa and your new family, you hear me?"
And you take care of yourself. Try to leave a few things for the
rest of us to discover, once we reach the stars," DK said with
a grin that didn't quite reach his eyes. He reached over and put
his hand on John's shoulder. "Stay safe, you hear?"
was wonderful to meet you. Take care of our boy and keep John
in his place, okay?" DK asked.
"I will remember
that John is only a human," she said, with a wicked smile.
A flash of
humor, very much at odds with the serious commando persona that
she projected. He realized there were unexpected depths to this
woman, and wished he'd a chance to get to know her. It was another
regret, that he'd add to the long list of regrets this day had
took her hand in his. "Aeryn Sun, it was an honor and a pleasure
to make your acquaintance. I'm only sorry we had so little time.
But I am grateful that you came here with John, and happy to know
that he has such a good friend," he said. He leaned forward and
kissed her on the forehead, as if she were one of his daughters.
was mine," Aeryn Sun said. "John has spoken of you so often I
feel I already know of you."
at John, but there was nothing left to say. Or rather there were
a thousand things to say, and no time left to say any of them.
luck," John finally said.
son," Jack Crichton answered.
the tether for the metal box, which now contained the peanut butter
DK had brought, along with the gifts from the station crew. Then
he opened the airlock door, and Aeryn Sun entered the airlock,
one hand on her pulse pistol.
her enter, and then turned back to look at his father.
he said, and then bit his lip as if to stop whatever else he had
meant to say.
turned, and entered the airlock.
felt his heart drop into his stomach, as he watched his son walk
away from him, knowing that he would never see him again. He wanted
to reach out, to call him back.
watched in silence as Aeryn and John donned their helmets, and
then checked the glowing telltales on their wristbands. Then he
turned to DK.
a hand with this," he said, grabbing the airlock door. He swung
it shut, and DK turned the lever that fastened the locking mechanism.
There was a gentle hiss as the seals tightened, and then a few
moments later, the sounds of the outer door being opened.
up to command," DK suggested.
shook himself out of his reverie. "Okay," he said.
DK into command, and found Colonel Blackwell and the contact team
gathered around the monitors. They made room for him and DK, as
he watched the image of Aeryn Sun and John maneuvering over to
the Farscape craft.
DK said. "Wonder what they are using for propulsion?"
stared at him, wondering how DK could think of such things at
It took mere
minutes for John and Aeryn Sun to reach the Farscape craft, and
to board it.
Station this is Farscape One," John's voice crackled over the
radio. "Thanks for the hospitality and give my regards to IASA."
God speed John Crichton," Colonel Blackwell said, echoing the
benediction that NASA had given John Glenn, when he became the
first American in space.
It was a
fitting blessing, for the first human to venture into another
Enjoy the show," John said.
craft began to move, at first slowly, and then it began to accelerate.
Within seconds it had disappeared from camera range.
to radar display mapping," Alexei Kirillov said. "Radar on screen
one, and Farscape video feed on screen four."
screen blinked and then switched to a computer generated picture
showing Earth, and the Farscape craft's approximate position and
speed. The secondary screen showed images taken from the camera
mounted to the front of the Farscape craft.
watched as the craft completed one orbital rotation in record
time, continuing to accelerate throughout. Then it dove into the
a flash of blue light and then the monitoring screens went blank.
him," Alexei Kirillov said, in an eerie echo of the first Farscape
"No. We didn't
lose him," Jack Crichton said. This time he knew better. "He's
gone, but he's not lost."
For the second
time John had traveled through a wormhole, to a distant galaxy.
This time by his own choosing, to return to the new life he had
made for himself there. And a part of Jack Crichton would always
be with his son, in that distant place.