Ann Harrington (aka Annigmatic)
Return To Sender Part Two>>
Notice: Farscape is owned by The Jim Henson company, Hallmark
Entertainment, Nine Network Australia and the Sci-Fi Channel. They
own all rights to characters mentioned within this story. I have
merely borrowed these characters to play with, and promise to return
them in good working order.
All of Season 2, up through "A Clockwork Nebari"
Scorpius makes John an offer he can't refuse
heat blistered his fingertips and John Crichton dropped the plasma-welder
with a startled curse. It clanged off the floor of the shuttle bay,
as John shook his hand trying to ease the stinging pain.
you aren't paying attention. You need to focus," a soft voice said.
Crichton did not turn around. He knew that there was no one to see.
The voice was his torment, his alone.
fixed his gaze on the left wing of the Farscape module. How long
had he been here? He didn't even remember coming down to the shuttle
bay, or deciding that it was time to repair the micro-meteor punctures
that the craft had received during his last trip. And yet he must
have done so, for the holes were neatly welded, and running his
hand along the wing he could find no flaws.
that he would trust to his own eyesight and sense of touch. He would
let the DRDs do a proper scan in a moment.
need to be careful, John," the voice reminded him.
said nothing. Sometimes, if he ignored it, the voice went away.
Other times it did not. At least it was only a voice this time,
easier to deny than the visual hallucinations.
did it have to be Scorpius that he heard and saw in these visions?
Why couldn't he be one of the people who saw Elvis, or a six-foot
you're not afraid of a six-foot rabbit," he said aloud. And he was
afraid of Scorpius. Or more specifically of what Scorpius would
do to him, if he was ever recaptured. John had survived a few days
in Scorpius's care. Barely. Even now, memories of the time he had
spent in the Aurora chair were enough to make his stomach knot,
and a cold sweat run down his back. John could not face that. Not
again. He would take his own life before it came to that.
yet his fear of Scorpius was an old one, still present but now it
shared space with a new fear. Slowly but inexorably, John was losing
his grip on reality.
was not just the hallucinations, the conversations he had with someone
that no one else could see or hear. Gaps were appearing in his memory,
times when he had no idea where he had been, or what he had been
doing. Like today. He remembered morning and breakfast, Rygel droning
on about his favorite Hynerian delicacies. It seemed like moments
ago that he had stood up, leaving his uneaten rations for Rygel
to finish. But his chronometer showed that it was now deep into
the night, or the sleep cycle as the others called it. Where had
those missing hours gone? Where had he been? And what had he been
his precipitous arrival on Moya, Crichton had worked hard to prove
his worth, and to gain the acceptance of the crew. They had learned
to trust him, and he had learned to value their friendship. Now
all that was coming apart.
was becoming harder to hide his growing weakness from his friends.
He knew Aeryn suspected something. He had even told her some of
it, when he had to explain why he had nearly killed her with a shot
meant for someone who was only a hallucination. And Zhaan was quiet,
but her eyes saw far more than she said. Many times he thought about
asking her for help, remembering the unity they had once shared.
Yet each time something inside him stopped him, before he could
frame the words.
it was that he already knew there was nothing she could do to help
him. No one could. Confessing his fears would only hasten the day
when his condition would be discovered, and the crew would be forced
so he had learned not to start when he heard a voice that could
not be there, or saw visions that no one else did, and a dozen other
ways to cover up the fact that John Crichton was no longer in control
of himself. What choice did he have? Should he summon the crew and
confess to them?
could see it now, everyone gathered in the common room as he said
"Guess what? Turns out Aeryn was right after all. Humans don't do
well in space. I'm cracking up. Sorry for the inconvenience."
if he confessed, what would they do? They were his friends, but
they could not save him from himself. Sooner or later, his friends
would have to act, as much for their own protection as his.
they banish him from Moya, leaving him to make his way alone? Or
would they lock him in a cell, watching helplessly and he slipped
deeper into madness? Would someone have the compassion to end his
life, when there was nothing of John Crichton left?
knew his time was running out. He had days, perhaps a week at most,
but no more than that before someone, probably Zhaan or Aeryn, summoned
the nerve to confront him. He could no longer hide the signs of
what was happening to him, for the mental stress was taking its
toll on his body. He had to force himself to eat, but still he was
losing weight. And his face was drawn from lack of sleep, though
that, too, was a mystery. Most nights he spent a full sleep cycle
in his bed, and yet he woke each morning nearly as tired as he had
been the night before.
days ago Zhaan had offered him a concoction to help him sleep, mentioning
that she had heard him cry out the night before in his sleep. And
yet he had no memory of that dream, or of any dreams in these past
days, and this troubled him. Somehow not being able to recall his
dreams was more frightening than any nightmare could be. It was
as if there was another piece of him that was slipping out of his
grasp, a part of him lost forever.
Crichton?" Pilot's voice came over the comm.
Pilot? What's up?"
am receiving a very odd communication signal," Pilot said. There
was a pause. "At least I *think* it may be a signal."
a ship?" Crichton hazarded a guess. It could not be from a planet
or a base. They were deep in the Uncharted Territories, far from
any solar system. Or at least they had been, last time he had noticed.
And a ship meant the potential for danger.
Moya does not sense a ship anywhere. And yet there is this signal,"
Pilot said. "It is really most odd."
tension that had gripped him began to fade. It was an anomaly. A
mystery, nothing more.
you play it for me?" he asked.
was a series of tones, pulses of uneven length. Like the old Morse
code, except these were of different pitches, almost musical. The
signal ran for about ten seconds, paused and then repeated.
Pilot said. "The signal just repeats over and over again, on very
low frequency communication waves. Similar to those of your module."
mean radio," John corrected him. "Then there's no need to worry.
That signal could have been sent yesterday or a thousand years ago.
Radio waves can travel forever in space."
you certain?" Radio waves were far outside of Pilot's experience,
almost as much as a telegraph would have been. A primitive form
of communication, when compared with Sebacean technology.
John said. He was no longer certain of anything. "But if I'm wrong,
you'll be the first to know. No need to wake the others, but to
be on the safe side, why don't you ask Moya to run the deep range
scans every ahn for the next day."
well," Pilot said.
was a brief click, and John knew that the communication channel
had been closed. There had been something strangely familiar about
that musical signal. It repeated over and over again in his head,
as if it were one of those annoying radio jingles. He shook his
head to clear it, but the odd tune persisted.
moment later he moved back to the Farscape module. At his touch
the canopy opened, and he climbed inside. As if in a dream he saw
his right hand move to the communications board, tuning to the emergency
frequency, and then flipping the communications toggle on. He donned
the headset, carefully preserved although not used since he had
left Earth and IASA behind.
module had its own communications system, one that was not monitored
by Pilot. This was somehow important, and yet the thought disappeared
almost as soon as it had formed.
is Commander John Crichton of Farscape One," he said, his voice
flat and calm as if this was just another routine transmission.
I am pleased you received my message. We need to talk," Scorpius's
voice crackled through the headset.
should have felt surprise, but somehow he did not. And unlike the
soft voiced hallucination which tormented him, John had the feeling
that this imperfect, scratchy communication was the real thing.
are you?" he asked.
Very close indeed. In a few microts the Leviathan will have fallen
into my trap. You will be surrounded by ships from my command carrier."
heart sped up. They were in danger. He needed to warn Pilot and
the others. A small part of him screamed that he needed to summon
help, but it was drowned out by whatever was controlling him.
why are you telling me this?" It was foolish for Scorpius to tip
his hand like this. There was still time for Moya to starburst and
escape. That is if this was really Scorpius and not just the newest
variety of his hallucinations.
am telling you this because you have a choice, John. Stay where
you are, and the Leviathan will be captured, and you and all your
friends will become my prisoners. Whether you surrender peacefully
or risk your lives in some foolish attack, in the end it will be
felt sick as he realized his long nightmare might finally be coming
true. Prisoner of Scorpius. It did not bear thinking about. "You
said I had a choice," Crichton said, struggling to keep his voice
have no interest in the others, only in you. You can choose to surrender
yourself, and I will promise to let the Leviathan leave unhindered.
Your sacrifice for their safety."
was a trap. It had to be. And yet---
can I trust you? And why would I be so crazy as to give myself up,
so you can put me through the hell of that damn chair again?" His
right hand shook and he clenched it into a fist, grateful that Scorpius
could not see him. There was no need to let Scorpius know how much
he frightened John.
have never lied to you, John," Scorpius said. "Surrender and keep
your friends safe. Or try to preserve your own life, and you damn
then all. Time is running out. In the end, you know there is only
one choice to make."
was a burst of static and then the radio went silent.
stripped the headset off. It wasn't real. It was just another hallucination.
It had to be, he told himself.
if it wasn't? He had promised himself he would never be taken alive
by Scorpius. To surrender himself willingly went against every instinct,
every fiber of his damaged soul. And yet, could he bear the alternative?
What would it mean if Aeryn or Chiana or the rest were Scorpius'
prisoners as well? Did he have the right to subject any of them
to the horrors that he had endured?
was interested in one thing only. Wormhole technology. Crichton
had this knowledge, his friends did not. To Scorpius, Moya's crew
was useful only as bait or as hostages. It was possible indeed that
Scorpius might keep his word and let them go free, once he had what
he wanted. Even Crais had confirmed that Scorpius had no interest
in Moya or any of her passengers. Only Crichton himself drew this
life for theirs. It was almost the same bargain Crais had tried
to make with him, when John had been Scorpius's captive. Strange
to think that back then he had been afraid of dying at Crais's hands,
not realizing that in a short time a quick death would seem preferable
to the pain of having his mind ripped apart by Scorpius's infernal
the bargain Crais offered had been a bluff, and Crichton had seen
through Crais's lies, before was forced to make the impossible choice
between protecting Gilina or savings his friends.
would not make the same mistakes that Crais had. He would not have
made his offer, unless he was certain that John would have no choice
but to accept.
lurched and the engines protested suddenly and then fell uncharacteristically
Crichton! Moya's short-range sensors have detected a squadron of
Peacekeepers. They just appeared, out of nowhere, and are moving
to surround us."
we starburst?" Crichton asked.
we can not escape them," Pilot said. "I have summoned the others,
they are on their way to the command center."
where the frell are you?" Aeryn's voice came through the comm. "We
need you up here. Now."
sense of fatalistic calm descended over him, washing away the fear.
He made no movement to leave the module.
keep looking," John said. "There ought to be a command carrier around
command carrier?" Aeryn asked.
did not respond. He hit the button that lowered the canopy, and
his hands began the familiar ritual of bringing the module to life.
A small part of him noticed that his hands had stopped shaking,
now that he had made his decision.
knew him, almost as well as he knew himself. In the end, there had
been only one choice he could make.
hands continued to move, skipping most of the normal preflight checklist.
There was no need for safety precautions. It would not be a long
engine sequencers ran through their cycle, and the module came to
Crichton, what are you doing?" Pilot asked.
tell Moya she has a dozen microts to open the shuttle bay door,
or I am going to open it for her," John said. He had made his decision,
now he needed to implement it. Swiftly. Before he lost his nerve,
or his friends tried to stop him.
what are you thinking? This is no time for foolish games," Ka D'Argo
said nothing. If he was right, even now she was making her way to
the shuttle bay at a dead run, preferring direct confrontation.
But she would not get her wish. Not today.
aimed the Farscape module at the closed doors, and placed his hand
on the control throttle, letting power begin to trickle through
the craft. Slowly it began to move. "This is going to leave a big
hole," he warned.
the last possible instant, the doors slid apart, and the Farscape
module slipped out into the blackness of space.
prowler swept by, close enough so he could see the face of the Peacekeeper
pilot, and then the craft continued on. His eyes followed its path,
and he saw it was one of many that were circling Moya, holding her
hostage like an atom surrounded by particles. Every direction was
closed off. There was nowhere for her to go, no escape for the ship
or its crew.
picked a direction at random, and accelerated. The module was modified,
but it was not nearly as fast as a prowler, or for that matter,
a command carrier. It was useless to think of escape, merely of
ending this quickly. He would find the carrier, or the carrier would
find him. Either way, the end would be the same.
what do you hope to accomplish?" Zhaan asked, in cool tones of reason.
trade," he said. "Scorpius gets what he wants, and you and Moya
get to go free."
don't be stupid. You can't bargain with such a creature. Return
at once," Aeryn said, her voice sharp edged with concern. "We will
find a way out of this, but only if we all stick together."
hour ago he would have given anything to hear such reassurances,
but now they were too late. Aeryn, once so pragmatic, was indulging
in foolish optimism if she thought there was indeed any chance of
avoiding this fate. Once John had possessed such an optimism himself,
but it had fallen away, another casualty of his experiences in these
Farscape module passed between two prowlers and slipped through
the outer shell of the blockade. No one tried to stop him, or to
follow him. So Scorpius was that confident of John's compliance.
And why not? They had not seen the trap coming until it had sprung.
No doubt he had planned John's capture with equal efficiency.
would have left the ship anyway," John said, trying to explain.
"Aeryn, you know that. The hallucinations are getting worse. I no
longer know what is real and what is not. My being there was a danger....
to all of you."
we trust you," Aeryn said.
can you, when I can not trust myself?" Even now, he did not know
if his sacrifice was an act of courage or just another sign that
he had descended into madness.
could hear the sounds of the crew arguing, and someone was shouting
his name, but he refused to listen. His throat was tight and his
eyes wet with unshed tears, as he left behind his friends, and the
ship that he had started to think of as his home. Leaving them hurt,
with a pain that was almost physical. Would they ever understand
why he had done this? Would they ever forgive him?
one thing for me. Starburst, the moment the fighter screen breaks,"
John said. He closed his eyes for a moment and prayed to the Goddess
that Zhaan served that Scorpius would honor his bargain, and let
his friends go free. John's sacrifice had to mean something.
module vibrated slightly and then changed direction. So the carrier's
crew had found him, and was now using its capture field to haul
in their prize. He took a deep breath, as he realized that in a
few moments he would be face to face with the one person he feared
alien module settled gently onto the hangar floor, and as the docking
bay doors slid closed, Scorpius felt satisfaction, mingled with
a tinge of relief.
had planned this operation carefully, considering every possible
variation, until nothing was left to chance. And yet in the past
Crichton had shown himself a wild card, who found the one contingency
that no one had considered. But this time he had met his match.
Scorpius had offered the bait, and Crichton had fallen into his
had known from the start that there was no way to take the Leviathan
by force and still guarantee Crichton's safety. For while the neuro-chip
should be able to prevent Crichton from suicide, it would not be
able to stop him and his companions from an act of desperation that
would lead to all of their deaths.
could the chip prevent one of Crichton's companions from killing
him, taking his life in a misguided attempt at mercy. No, trying
to take Crichton by force was too risky. Instead, he had offered
Crichton the one thing he could not refuse, the chance to save the
lives of his friends.
he was puzzled. Three days ago, Crichton, acting under the chip's
control, had sent a signal, indicating the experiment was to be
terminated. But it had not given the code that would indicate that
Crichton had succeeded in discovering the secrets of wormhole technology,
leaving him to wonder at the reason for the summons.
now? What threat had the neuro-chip perceived, that required putting
an end to the charade of freedom that Crichton had enjoyed for these
was no movement or sign of life from inside the module, and yet
the scans had confirmed that Crichton was alive and inside. A hundred
microts passed, and just as he was about to order his guards to
open the module, the clear canopy raised, and Crichton's face appeared.
eyes searched the room, until his gaze fell on Scorpius. Then Crichton
pushed himself out of the seat, and climbed out of the capsule.
signaled the guards to stay in their positions at the door, and
as Crichton descended, he crossed the few meters that separated
them. He was intrigued by the craft that until now he had seen only
through Crichton's memories. Unique, the only vessel known to have
traveled through a wormhole. And yet the craft was a minor treasure,
compared to the creature that piloted it.
Crichton's feet touched the floor, he paused for a moment, laying
both hands flat on the sides of the craft, and pressing his forehead
against it, as if somehow he drew strength from the vessel. Then
he pushed away, and turned around.
got what you wanted. Now let Moya go free," he said, fixing Scorpius'
gaze with his own.
Sebaceans dared return his gaze, for they were afraid of him, and
what he could do to them. Crichton had more reason than any to be
afraid, and yet he caught and held Scorpius' stare, unyielding.
courage had to be respected.
have already recalled my ships," Scorpius said. "And yet the Leviathan
lingers. Perhaps your friends harbor some foolish thoughts of rescue."
Crichton shook his head. "They know better than that."
for yourself," Scorpius replied, waving his hand towards the communications
console on the nearby wall.
after one look at Scorpius, crossed over to the wall, where the
console screen displayed the image of the Leviathan, and the retreating
have kept my word," Scorpius said, coming to stand behind the human.
the sound of his voice, Crichton flinched. An unusual reaction,
or perhaps not, given the fear that Crichton was trying so hard
to hide. Still he was beginning to suspect that there was something
wrong, some subtle clue or sign that he had overlooked.
touched his comm badge, apparently not even considering that Scorpius
could block any transmission. But he was curious to hear what Crichton
had to say, and waited.
what the frell are you doing? Why haven't you starburst?" Crichton
we--" a female began.
Crichton interrupted. "This is not the time to be stupid. Think
of Jothee. Think of Talyn. Think of yourselves, damn it, but get
the frell out of here. Now!"
turned the communicator off. An instant later, the screen image
began to brighten, until the Leviathan turned incandescent, and
was as Scorpius had planned. He had no need for the Leviathan or
any of its crew, save as a means of gaining Crichton's trust.
stared at the screen for a long moment, and swallowed hard. His
shoulders sagged, and as he turned back to face his captor, the
strength seemed to drain out of his body, as if, too, had vanished
with his friends. He leaned back against the wall, as if he needed
eyes that met his were dull. He realized that Crichton had used
all of his courage and strength to carry him to this moment. Now
that his friends were safe, Crichton could no longer ignore his
did not like what he saw. His mind registered the changes in Crichton's
appearance, since he had last seen the human on the Royal Planet.
Crichton had lost mass since then, the borrowed Peacekeeper's uniform
hanging loosely on his frame. And his face was drawn with fatigue,
and with something that hid behind his restless eyes, that now would
not keep still.
did you mean when you told your friends the hallucinations were
getting worse?" Scorpius asked.
laughed, a harsh sound without true mirth. "You made a bad bargain.
Damaged goods. Humans don't take well to having their minds frelled
with. Ever since Gammak base I've been hearing voices, seeing things
that weren't there. Won't be long now before Mama Crichton's boy
becomes a permanent resident of the loony bin."
reference was obscure, but the meaning came through. And the Scarran
heritage that gave him the ability to detect lies, told him that
John Crichton indeed believed that he was going mad.
Scarrans could read and control minds, but Scorpius could only perceive
thought patterns. This was enough to worry him. Crichton's thought
patterns were jumbled, chaotic, a mind under great stress, on the
verge of tearing itself apart. He probed deeper, sensing confusion,
despair, and overwhelming fear that was not quite panic.
is it you see in your visions?"
pressed his lips together, and shook his head, this time careful
to avoid Scorpius's gaze.
mystery then. So be it. He would let Crichton have the illusion
of his secrets. Once Scorpius accessed the neuro-chip, it would
tell him what he wanted to know.
straightened up, pushing himself away from the wall. "Let's get
this over with," he said. "You might as well save your questions
for the chair."
shook his head. "There is no need to fear the Aurora chair," he
said. "It has already proven itself ineffective. We both know it
will not give us the knowledge we seek."
had looked forward to matching wits with his adversary, but that
would have to wait. Crichton could barely stand, and he needed to
know what had happened that had driven the human to this state.
are exhausted. You need to rest," he said.
me something I don't know," Crichton replied, the sarcasm coming
automatically to his lips. And yet his expression revealed his confusion,
as his fears warred with the desperate hope that he might indeed
be spared the torments of the Aurora chair.
had never been his intention to make Crichton suffer. The Aurora
Chair had simply been the most efficient means of extracting information.
And indeed it had proven effective, for it had uncovered knowledge
that Crichton himself did not know he possessed. It was Crichton's
own stubborn refusal to yield that had turned what could have been
simply an unpleasant experience into unbearable agony.
he realized that the knowledge Crichton held could not be extracted
by the chair, Scorpius had released him, placing his faith in the
neuro-chip, and in Crichton's own intelligence and determination
to discover the wormhole technology that would lead him back to
his home world.
now that chip had summoned Scorpius, to protect Crichton when it
was clear that Crichton could no longer protect himself. It was
ironic that the enemy Crichton most feared was also the one person
who could save him, and preserve his sanity.
you have nothing to fear," Scorpius promised, slowly reaching his
right hand into his belt case, and withdrawing the medi-injector.
was too valuable to risk harming. Wormhole technology would tip
the balance of power in favor of whomever held the secret. Such
a man could rule the universe, if he chose.
would keep Crichton safe... and in time would control him.
the injector crossed into Crichton's line of sight, he stepped sideways,
but Scorpius had expected this, and grabbed Crichton with his left
arm, pinning him the wall. Crichton struggled, but he was no match
for Scorpius's strength. With his right hand he pressed the medi-injector
against the human's neck, and injected the drug.
face was only inches from Crichton's, and he could almost taste
the human's overwhelming despair. "A sedative, nothing more. When
you are rested, we will talk."
Crichton repeated. "Yeah, right."
Scorpius affirmed. He held Crichton in place, watching as the consciousness
faded from his eyes, and his muscles turned limp, until Crichton's
head lolled to one side and fell forward. Only then did he signal
for the guards to come, and to carry Crichton to the quarters that
had long awaited his arrival.
task of taming Crichton would not be easy. But Scorpius had the
advantage of the neuro-chip, and of years of experience in interrogating
prisoners. Crichton was obviously anticipating torture, whether
mental or physical. It would be interesting to see how he reacted
when he realized that Scorpius had something quite different planned
To Sender Part Two>>
E-mail the author: NGMA607@aol.com
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