Alas! it is delusion all
The future cheats us from afar:
Nor can we be what we recall,
Nor dare we think on what we are.
~George Gordon, Lord Byron
"They say that Hope is Happiness"
Get to the prowler.
The thought was the center of her universe. She had always believed
in setting clear, straightforward goals; now she put one foot in
front of the other, ignoring all else, and followed her own order.
Step, step, stumble, you frelling fool, don't fall, walk, keep going.
She stared at the prowler, her vision swimming and tilting wildly.
Objective accomplished. Next orders?
Get in, start the engine, get the frell into space.
Cool, calm space.
Sweat poured off her as she doggedly climbed the ladder. Her slick
hands slid on the metal; she missed a step and brought her chin
down on the next wrung, biting her tongue.
Get it together, Sun. You're making a frelling disgrace of yourself.
What would Captain Crais say if he saw you like this?
But Crais wasn't a captain anymore, he wasn't even alive anymore,
and he certainly wasn't her commanding officer.
In the end, she'd been the one to send him off, been the one to
order him on his last mission. "Now you go," she'd said
firmly, smacking him lightly on the cheek. No soothing promises,
no emotional goodbye they'd been through too much for that,
hated and betrayed and trusted and relied on each other too much
for that. "Now you go," she'd said, and he went without
a word, following her orders to his death.
Focus, Sun. Get this frelling prowler into space. Unless, of course,
you want to be buried on a planet like one of the lesser species.
She followed orders. She was a Peacekeeper, and that was what Peacekeepers
Just like Crais.
The blood was all but boiling within her. Her hands trembled, her
vision was shutting down, she couldn't hear anything but a steady
hum in her ears.
Hello living death, goodbye meaningful life.
Meaningful life - ha! Tell me one meaningful thing you ever did
in your life, Sun, just one. Soldiers aren't known for having meaningful
lives, and you were never anything but a soldier.
("You made a bad deal, Zhaan," she told the Delvian, guilt
and honesty and respect forcing the admission from her. "I'm
only a soldier."
The pa'u, with her large, beautiful blue eyes, smiled with a wisdom
and gentleness that spoke of impending death, and acceptance of
what was to come. "Don't underestimate yourself.")
"I didn't," she said aloud, but only the flickering stars
Are you giving up, Sun? I thought you never gave up.
("I never give up," she told Crichton as the drexen mist
leaked from Talyn's split conduits.)
No, no, don't think of Crichton. Aren't you in enough torment?
But it was too late. Crichton her protector and betrayer,
the human who had ruined her life and saved it a hundred times.
"I'm frelling dying," she said bitterly. "I get to
think of whatever the frell I want."
But when she thought of his smile and laugh, a tightness formed
in her chest that made her feel as if she were drowning and
she knew what drowning felt like.
(Falling, falling from the sky, fighting against a harness that
wouldn't give, and Crichton with the frelling neural chip was still
circling overhead. His voice was in her ears, and Crais' and D'Argo's,
all of them telling her what to do but not actually offering anything
useful. She knew it was over, she was too practical not to know,
and so she crossed her arms and bowed her head, bracing for what
was to come.
Impact, all air forced from the lungs, water cold as space inhaled
and retained. Crying out one last time, "Crichton! Cri")
"Crichton," she said now, her head bowed, arms crossed
over her chest. But now she was drowning in fire, not water.
Get it together, Sun. You've been in worse scrapes than this. At
least this time, it's only death. It won't hurt like other things
(She watched the vid chip, but in her mind she saw each scene in
advance. Marching, waiting, firing...killing, and not caring.
The screams of Moya's first Pilot echoed though the cycles, and
when she jerked the chip from the player and smashed it on the table,
she could still hear the screams. The looks on their faces said
it all disgust, anger, revulsion, hate. Zhaan, D'Argo, Chiana,
Rygel: in an instant they were against her, and she was against
herself. Killer, barbarian, murderer, Peacekeeper. What else did
you do, have you done? And what Pilot said: "You defile Moya
with your presence. Leave..." Disgusting, honorless filth
leave. They all felt that way, and worst of all, so did she.
"No, Zhaan, you're right, and Pilot is right. And I will be
in my prowler and off Moya within the arn." So she pulled out
a bag and began to stuff it with whatever came to hand, not really
caring what went in. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. She was
frelled this time, well and truly frelled she had thrown
her lot in with these prisoners, and now they were throwing her
out. Once in her prowler, that was the end of the line; she had
absolutely nowhere to go.
What happens to an ex-Peacekeeper with nowhere to go and nowhere
"She becomes an assassin," she answered, wiping sweat
from her forehead. She glanced at the thermostat; she couldn't reduce
the temperature without risking damage to prowler functions. Of
course, it wasn't as if she had anywhere to go.
Crichton wasn't going to help her this time. Crichton was dead,
and soon she would be, too.
"Except that I won't, you frelling idiot," she told herself
"That's why they call it the 'living' death."
("Hey, when Sebaceans die, what do you guys believe happens?
You believe in a heaven and hell, all that jazz? Humans believe
well, some believe that there's, like, this bright
light, and you end up somewhere else, along with your friends, family,
relatives, all the people that died before you. Does that ring a
bell?" Crichton said, watching her nervously as she prepared
the kill shot.
She looked at him askance, wondering if he was curious or afraid.
She hoped for the former, but suspected the later stupid
human. Who'd be afraid to die, anyway? It happened to everyone at
some point or other. "Sebaceans believe that when you die,
you die. You go nowhere, you see nothing."
He laughed a little. "Well, guess I'll find out in a minute,
And later, when the oxygen was running below critical levels, and
it seemed as if they were both going to die, she glanced at him
out of the corner of her eye and asked, "What did you see,
after the kill shot, when you were dead? Did you see the things
that humans believe the light, friends?" She told herself
that she asked purely out of curiosity.
"No," he answered grimly. "I didn't. All I saw was
black. I don't know. Maybe Sebaceans are right: maybe there's nothing
after this. Maybe maybe I wasn't supposed to die that time...")
She abruptly lowered the thermostat, ruthlessly jerking the control
as low as it would go. The temperature began to plummet almost instantly.
"You weren't supposed to die that time," she said angrily.
Already her breath was forming little clouds in the sir, and still
she felt as if she were being cooked from the inside out. "You
were supposed to live, you frelling human. You told me once that
you'd never leave me..."
(All of Moya was blue, and the noise filling the air made her want
to scream for silence. She was alone ... until Crichton returned.
"I didn't think you were coming back."
"I would never leave you," he said over the modified headset.
His voice made it sound as if she were deficient for even considering
"...and I believed you." She shook her head, coughing
a little. Her hands felt stiff at the control bars. "But you
did leave me. You were the one good thing I had in my life...we
were so perfect...and then. . you died."
("Don't worry about me," he said quietly, staring at something
she couldn't see, a place she couldn't go. "I've never felt
He sighed just a little, and she knew. She had seen death before,
had caused it and experienced it herself; she recognized the stillness,
the unfocused eyes. What she had never known before was the agony
that made her feel as if something inside were being ripped apart,
microt by microt, one small piece at a time. She reached out with
a trembling hand, hesitated, then reached out again and closed his
eyes, shutting him away from her.
She thought she might scream, but instead all she could do was gasp
for breath and weep quietly. She spread the red blanket over them
both, cuddling as close as she could, clinging to all that was left
of him. She tucked her head next to his shoulder and wept until
exhaustion finally won out, and sleep eased the tears.
When Crais and Stark returned for his body, she was dry-eyed and
cold. Don't let them see, she told herself. Don't let them know
how much it hurts. She could see the sympathy in their eyes, and
it angered her. What did they know? But Stark had lost Zhaan...
So she forced down the anger, too. Feel nothing, she told herself.
And when they gave his body to the stars, she sent with him the
locket Chiana had given her, the only thing of value she truly possessed.
The locket and her heart were all she had to offer.
He would fly among the stars until swallowed by a sun, and she would
never see his blue eyes smile at her again...
She was alone...)
She cut the prowler engine, letting it drift aimlessly in space.
Odd how the air could be so cold and she could feel so hot.
"Did you see the light, John?" she asked. "Are you
with your friends?"
If she knew how to pray, she would pray for him. Let him be happy,
she thought desperately. Let him be at peace.
"If I believe hard enough, Crichton if I remember you
hard enough can I be with you when I die?" she half
sobbed, running a hand over her head.
Of, Sun, you are so frelled. When you die, you die. Remember? You
go nowhere, you see nothing.
"Crichton," she said softly. She crossed her arms over
her chest and bowed her head.
She was not an easy person to find. Even with all his contacts,
he could only find ends, places she had been, people she might have
dealt with. It was comforting, in a way, to know that the training
Peacekeepers instilled in their officers would hold true even under
less than optimum conditions. That was one of the things that made
him believe the Peacekeepers could defeat the Scarrens, even outnumbered
as they were. Peacekeepers were obviously the superior species.
Of course, harnessing wormhole technology would aid in accomplishing
the goal of Scarren obliteration.
He smiled, imagining the expression on Crichton's face when the
human discovered he was still alive. But he would have to play Crichton
differently this time. The human was difficult to manage
he would break neither to torture nor threats, promises nor bribes.
Crichton was cunning and deceitful, if blindly stupid and purposefully
oblivious; the human lacked all ability to see beyond the short-term
Yet he, Scorpius, had come to realize that there might yet be a
way to control the human. There was one final leverage yet to be
Who was it that Crichton had been attempting to aid when he invaded
the Gammack Base? Whose "death" had distracted Crichton
so that Braca could lead the commandos on the ice planet? On the
command carrier, who had constantly been at Crichton's side?
What exactly was she to the human? Ally, confidant, protector, lover,
friend impossible to know for certain, but it was clear how
much he valued her. All other things being equal, Crichton held
Officer Sun in highest regard, and that made the Peacekeeper traitor
very valuable indeed.
Determining Officer Sun's worth was one matter, but locating her
was quite another. Following her trail consisted of relying on possibilities
and speculation; it was one part conjecture and two parts fortune.
She never used the same name twice, altered her appearance at every
turn, exchanged liaison contacts like currency... a professional
assassin, and a very good one.
How was it possible that he should now come across her prowler floating
dead in space? Perhaps she had caught wind of his pursuit, and this
was a trap to destroy him. She was not beyond such plots.
He was going to have to manage Officer Sun quite delicately.
Towing her prowler into his ship's one docking bay required little
effort, but determining how to approach Officer Sun gave him pause.
Scans showed that the cockpit held one Sebacean; he was almost positive
it was her. But why had she not responded to his hails? Why had
she allowed herself to be brought aboard? (He dared not think of
her as captured.)
Only one way existed to answer his questions.
The hatch opened with a hiss. The ladder descended to the docking
bay floor at a slower than usual speed, yet showed no sign of damage.
Unarmed but for caution, he warily set his foot on the first wrung
and began to climb.
Within the cockpit, the elusive Aeryn Sun sat half-slumped on her
side, her eyes closed, great beads of sweat sliding down her skin.
Heal delirium. As someone who had been born with the condition,
he recognized the signs instantly; as someone who had fought the
disease on a daily basis for cycles on end, he recognized the degree
instantly as well: critical.
He growled with frustration. He had not spent this enormous time
and effort only to have the incompetent assassin die before he could
use her against Crichton. He need her to live, at least for a short
Leaning into the cockpit, he slid his hands down to release the
safety harness, then scooped her under the arms to lift her out.
A hand snapped out to close around his throat in a death grip.
"Got you now, you frelling bastard," Aeryn Sun said quietly,
watching him with bright, fevered eyes.
they watched each other, unmoving, unblinking
one just back from the edge of death, one rushing towards it
and they both thought of John Crichton
"If you kill me, there'll be no one left to protect Crichton,"
he said calmly.
"Crichton's already dead," she replied just as calmly.
He thought he could break her hold before she broke his neck.
She thought she could break his neck before he broke her hold.
What did the traitor mean, Crichton was dead? Based on the time
he had spent tracking her, he was almost completely certain she
had not been in contact with the human. Had he somehow missed their
communiques? Was John Crichton indeed dead?
Impossible! The more likely explanation was that heat delirium was
altering Officer Sun's mental status. That being the case, it would
be much easier, and certainly more productive, to manipulate her
emotions than to use force.
"I assure you, Officer Sun, Crichton is very much alive,"
he told her. "You, however, are soon to leave this plane of
existence, unless you allow me to help you." He paused, then
added, "I doubt John would be pleased to hear of your death."
She laughed just a little. Loosening her hold around his neck, she
shoved him backwards, off the ladder. He landed on his feet and
watched her laboriously climb out of the prowler. By the time her
feet touched the deck, she again looked ready to lose consciousness;
she clung to the ladder with both hands, as if clinging to life
"You know how emotional Crichton is," she said, not looking
at him. "Kill me, then go to him and explain what happened.
He'll be grateful to you for sparing me pain."
A tempting suggestion, but open to suspicion, if for no other reason
than that she had provided it. Very clever. "We both know the
only thing greater than Crichton's inability to control his emotions
is his inability to apply logic in any meaningful fashion. If I
told him you were dead, he would kill me immediately, figuring he
had nothing left to lose." He paused, then added, "The
only one in this situation who has anything to lose is you."
"You're wrong about that," she said, and slumped against
You had to have something before you could lose it. She had nothing.
Everything was beginning to blur together, physically and mentally.
She couldn't see the difference between memories anymore; only fragments
were clear, brief bursts of instances she didn't want to recall.
(Looking at the bioanalysis report, wondering what the frell she
was going to do next. Pregnancy the universe's final joke
made at her expense. After everything else that had happened ...
"Frell it, frell it all," she snarled, throwing the bioanalyzer
against a far bulkhead.
Option, think of options: 1) abort the fetus; 2) carry the fetus.
Those were the options, and she wanted a third. Dren, she wanted
One thing she knew without doubt: silence. Keep your frelling mouth
shut, Sun, until you figure out what you're going to do.
Not a difficult order to obey, considering the circumstances. She
was on board a command carrier, her former home, and everyone thought
she was a traitor. Perhaps that was only because it was true.
This was it she had hit a wall. Her life was nothing but
a frelling pile of dren: Talyn all but dead, Zhaan dead, Crichton
dead, and, to make things really fun, pregnancy.
"There's so much you don't know, Henther," she told her
old friend, putting the desperation in her voice that she couldn't
put into words. But Henther hadn't turned around, didn't care, would
soon try to kill her.)
And now here she was with Scorpius. She had had the chance to kill
him, but lacked the strength she, Aeryn Sun, who had always
prided herself on physical strength, could not muster enough willpower
to crack the halfbreed's neck. Excellent job, Officer Sun.
But... wait. Had that really happened, or was it a trick of her
She hadn't seen Scorpius since destroying the command carrier.
The delirium had abated, but only slightly. The living death would
wait for a few more arns, at least, possibly even a few solar days.
It was fortunate that the Leviathan Moya was not terribly far away.
Still, it was also possible that Sun would expire before reaching
Crichton. Perhaps he could convince her to make a recording to the
human, a form of emotional plea for him to surrender wormhole technology
to the peacekeepers, as her dying request. That would be a properly
emotional, logicless demand that Crichton would understand.
Of course, the only emotion Officer Sun was displaying at this point
was anger. She lay on a bunk in one of his coolant suits, half-consciously
cursing a handful of people, Crichton among them.
He leaned over to peer into her bright, fevered eyes. "Really,
Officer Sun, how many times can you use the word 'frell' in
a sentence? You should consider expanding your vocabulary."
She was conscious enough to throw a handful of phrases at him, most
of which concerned impossible physical acts.
"Imaginative, yet highly unlikely," he replied, somewhat
pleased by her response. "Although I do retract my statement
about your limited vocabulary. Quite impressive."
To which she answered, "Frell off."
Good, defiance was good. It signified a will to survive. "Let
us be honest, Officer Sun. You are well on your way towards the
end, be it a living death or a more traditional form. My coolant
suit cannot bring your temperature down enough to save you."
She laughed a little. With obvious effort, she sat up and swung
her legs off the bunk. "Did I ask for your help? Did I imply
I needed your help? Do I want your help? No, no, and no. It's a
small word, Scorpius; even you should understand it. Where's my
"When you die, Officer Sun, who will protect Crichton?"
he asked her bluntly. He had little time for games, and she was
too deficient to understand subtleness.
"Not my concern," she said. She got to her feet, swayed
in place for a microt, then slouched back onto the bunk. "Crichton's
This was cause for concern. Twice now she had claimed thus, and
while he was prepared to dismiss whatever she said under the fever's
influence, she was properly cool now to see reality. "When
was the last time you saw Crichton?"
"The last time I saw Crichton..." she repeated dully.
(Reaching out a trembling hand to close his eyes, spreading a red
blanket over them both...)
No, no. She had seen him after that. There had been more.
(Run through the checklist again, you don't know exactly how far
you'll have to go before you find the group. Are you certain you
didn't leave anything behind that you'll want later? You won't be
Don't think about that, she told herself sternly.
She saw Crichton enter the bay, but ignored him. Don't look at him
and maybe he'll go away. Maybe, just this once, he'll make things
easy on you.
But no, of course not. He dropped two bags near her, then went to
her prowler and sat down on the ladder's top wrung.
"What are you doing?" she was forced to ask.
"I'm coming with you," he said neutrally, his gaze steady
"No. I'm sorry." And she was, for so many things. Things
she should or shouldn't have done, things she should or shouldn't
have said but it was too late now. They argued back and forth
until finally she confessed, "It's too late for me.")
And now it really was too late. She was dying, right here, right
now. There was no one to save her this time. Crichton was frell
only knew where, and she was here with Scorpius Scorpius!--
and she would never see the human again.
Why, why had she run away from Crichton?
"I...was confused," Officer Sun said slowly, putting
a hand to her head.
Then all was not lost. "Then you admit the heat delirium is
affecting your memory. Is it affecting your judgement as well? Or
do you yet comprehend the danger Crichton will be exposed to when
"Are you trying to tell me that you'll protect him?" she
asked. "Don't make me laugh. You don't like John, don't care
anything about him you only want wormhole technology, and
he happens to be the vessel it's stored in."
"True," he acknowledged. He must carefully weave as much
truth into his story as possible. She was not so far gone that he
could lie to her outright and expect her cooperation. "That
said, you must admit that it is in my best interest to keep Crichton
alive and safe. He has already demonstrated that the knowledge he
carries cannot be taken by force; thus, I must wait for him to see
reason and make the logical choice. If he is dead, I will never
get the information I need to maintain Peacekeeper autonomy from
the Scarrens." He paused, then added, "We have a common
goal, Officer Sun. Soon you will be gone, and Crichton will be alone."
"Once I'm dead, I won't be able to stop you from doing whatever
the frell you want," she said, slanting him a guarded look.
"What do you want from me?"
Scorpius returned her gaze openly. "Your endorsement. If I
go to John without your approval, he will reject any alliance I
propose. However, if he believes you think my aid is valuable..."
He must really think I'm a frelling idiot, she thought. Suddenly
she could see straight through his thin masquerade of aid and alliance.
He wanted what Crichton knew, and he wanted to use her to get it.
Well, she could play the manipulation game as good as he could.
All she had to do was pretend to let heat delirium take over (not
at all difficult), and Scorpius would do exactly as she wanted.
Except that Crichton would then be dealing with two versions of
the real one, and the one in his head. That was stacking the odds
against the human.
But...wait. The Ancient posing as Crichton's father had removed
the neural clone from John's consciousness. Crichton would only
have to face the halfbreed head-on, and he had shown himself more
than a match for Scorpius.
"Neural clone," she muttered, closing her eyes.
So, she was going to put terms on the deal. Very well, he would
bargain with her...to a certain extent. "Yes, that can be
handled appropriately. I believe it has far outlived its usefulness."
She was slipping into unconsciousness again. He could see it in
the slump of her shoulders, the rhythm of her breathing. Her temperature
"Do we have an agreement, Officer Sun?" he asked.
She was still for so long that he thought he might have lost his
chance, but then she nodded.
"Excellent. I shall immediately set a course for Moya."
He stood up. "You should rest, conserve your strength. As I
said before, the coolant suit may not save you entirely. If it does
not..." He drifted off for a microt, giving her time to think.
"Would you like to make a recording for Crichton?"
She glared at him. "I'm not dead yet, Scorpius. We may have
formed an alliance, but we are not allies. I hold you responsible
for a good many things for which you will not be forgiven. I intend
to live through this sickness and one day, I will kill you."
The few words seemed to take the last of her energy. She lay back
down on the bunk and turned her face away from him.
Defiant to the last he almost respected her for that. "I
never thought anything else, Officer Sun." He turned and walked
away, allowing a small smile of triumph to cross his face. Now he
had what he needed to secure wormhole technology from Crichton.
He might be going to the human as a more humble person than he had
once been, but he was not going with empty hands.
As soon as he was gone, she sat up and propped her back against
the bulkhead. Laying down made her dizzy, and she wanted to think.
She had made a dangerous bargain, one that Crichton might not understand.
Scorpius would keep him alive she believed that at
least for as long as he was useful. And she was dying she
believed that, too. When she was dead maybe then John would
go home, or maybe he would finally kill Scorpius. That choice would
be her final gift to him.
Why, why had she ever left him?
Oh, Sun, you are so frelled.
No, she told herself sharply. Not this time. You're finally doing
something right. She was going back to Crichton; she would see him
again, talk to him again, see his blue eyes smile at her again
even if it was for the last time.
She had nothing, but it was no less than she'd ever had. Her hands
were empty, but that was how they'd always been.
(Wait," the Seer creaked, opening his metal shell. "Most
of the time, what we do is an illusion, a hoax. But with you, Aeryn
Sun, it might have been real. Shall we try...one more time?")
Key to Referenced Episodes
1. In the end, she'd been the one to send him off, been the
one to order him on his last mission.<Into the Lion's Den: Wolf
in Sheep's Clothing
2. "You made a bad deal, Zhaan," she told the Delvian
Wounds: Wait for the Wheel (S3)>
3. "I never give up," she told Crichton <Meltdown (S3)>
4. Falling, falling from the sky, fighting against a harness that
wouldn't give <Die Me, Dichotomy (S2)>
5. She watched the vid chip, but in her mind she saw each scene
<The Way We Weren't (S2)>
6. "Hey, when Sebaceans die, what do you guys believe
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