Empty Hands

by KNS


Alas! it is delusion all ˆ
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"
/Sun/

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 ˆ 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 did.

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 heard her.

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.)

Crichton.

No, no, don't think of Crichton. Aren't you in enough torment?

But it was too late. Crichton ˆ 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 ˆ 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! Criˆ")

"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 have.

(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 ˆ 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 ˆ 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 ˆ 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 to stay?)

"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 grimly.

"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 ˆ well, some believe ˆthat 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 ˆ 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, huh?"

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 ˆ 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 ˆ 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 the idea.)

"...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 better."

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. Feel nothing.

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 ˆ and her heart ˆ 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 ˆ if I remember you hard enough ˆ 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.

*

/Scorpius/

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 ˆ 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 situation.

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 tried.

Aeryn Sun.

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?

Aeryn Sun.

What exactly was she to the human? Ally, confidant, protector, lover, friend ˆ 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 while.

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.

/Sun, Scorpius/
Soˆ
they watched each other, unmoving, unblinkingˆ
one just back from the edge of death, one rushing towards itˆ
and they both thought of John Crichtonˆ
*

"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.

*

/Scorpius/

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 itself.

"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 ˆ is you."

"You're wrong about that," she said, and slumped against the ladder.

/Sun/

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 ˆ 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 another choice.

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 ˆ 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 ˆ 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 mind?

She hadn't seen Scorpius since destroying the command carrier.

Right?

*

/Scorpius/

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 prowler?"

"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 dead."

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?"

/Sun/

"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 coming back.

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 on her.

"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 ˆ 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 ˆ Scorpius!-- and she would never see the human again.

Why, why had she run away from Crichton?

/Scorpius/

"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 you die?"

"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 ˆ 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."

/Sun/

"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 Scorpius:

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.

/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 was climbing.

"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 ˆ 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 ˆ 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.

*

/Sun/

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 ˆ she believed that ˆ at least for as long as he was useful. And she was dying ˆ she believed that, too. When she was dead ˆ 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 ˆ 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?")

Yes.

*



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

(S3)>

2. "You made a bad deal, Zhaan," she told the Delvian <Self-Inflicted

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 in advance

<The Way We Weren't (S2)>

6. "Hey, when Sebaceans die, what do you guys believe

Contact KNS

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Empty Hands

by KNS

Disclaimer: Hey, still not mine. All characters and the universe in which they exist belong to the Jim Henson Company, the Sci-Fi Channel, and anyone else who isn't me. The only thing to which I lay claim is the plot line.

Rating: Probably PG-13 for language, violence, and adult themes.

Author's Note: Episode two in the Unscripted Territories Series. Takes place in Season 3/4, between the episodes "Dog With Two Bones" and "Crichton Kicks", and includes spoilers up to that point. This is a fill-in-the gap fic, specifically the gap left explaining how Aeryn formed an alliance with Scorpius. You have been warned. Parenthesis( ) indicate a flashback to an old episode; slashes / / indicate the POV of an individual character. I would very much like to do some kind of music video with these scenes and along this plot line, so if anyone out there who is more technically savvy than me (and that's just about everyone) wants to collaborate, please drop me a line. Smiles :-) :-)

 
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