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Part Two

 

by Ann Harrington (aka Annigmatic)

 

 

Copyright 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.

Spoilers: All of Season 2, up through "A Clockwork Nebari"

Summary: Scorpius makes John an offer he can't refuse

<<Read Part I of this story

 

Part II

There was a moment of disorientation, and then the Leviathan emerged from starburst. Aeryn Sun shook her head to clear the lingering dizziness, as Moya's engines hummed back to life.

Her eyes sought out the others. They looked stunned, disbelieving, as was she herself. It did not seem real, somehow. One moment she had been sleeping in her quarters, and then next awakened by Pilot's urgent alarm. Almost before she knew what was happening, it was over. John was gone, having surrendered himself to his greatest enemy.

Less than a quarter arn from the first alarm, till the moment when Pilot had initiated the starburst.

Aeryn's fists clenched by her side. Pilot had done what he had to do, and yet at the moment she hated him for it, nearly as much as she hated herself for being so helpless.

"Were we followed?" Rygel asked.

"No. And Moya's sensors indicate no trace of any other ships in this area," Pilot said.

Ka D'Argo growled. "That is no guarantee of safety. Moya didn't spot these Peacekeepers until they had already surrounded us."

"I do not understand why Moya was unable to detect the Peacekeeper ships," Pilot fretted. "Her sensors were off-line earlier, but Commander Crichton had finished his recalibrations several ahns ago."

"Typical," Rygel said. "The human doesn't fix things, instead he takes apart things that are working fine and breaks them."

It was true that when Crichton first arrived on Moya, he had been as likely to break things as he was to fix them. But those days were long past, and it was not like him to be careless. Not when he knew their lives were at stake.

And if it was not carelessness, what could it be?

"Scorpius must have found a new way to hide his ships," Aeryn said, though she had never heard of such a technology. Still she was a warrior, not a tech.

"Perhaps," D'Argo said.

"And where were you when this started?" Aeryn said, turning to pin Rygel with her stare. "You had the watch tonight. So why were you the last to arrive in command?"

Rygel drew his robe tightly around him, and his throne-sled rose in the air, retreating from her. "I was in my quarters, sleeping if you must know. Crichton offered to take the watch. Said he wanted to work on his module. I saw no reason why both of us should lose sleep."

Trust Rygel to think of himself first. She had seen John only in passing yesterday, but even then he had looked exhausted. Any idiot could have seen that he was in no condition to take on the responsibilities of the night watch.

But if Crichton had already been in the module bay, it explained why he had been able to leave so quickly, before she could reach him. And yet what was he doing working on his module at that hour? There were no urgent repairs that needed doing. Surely whatever needed doing could have waited until tomorrow.

Unless there was another reason he was there.

"Pilot, was there anything else unusual that happened? Any sign that the command carrier was near?" Aeryn asked.

"Moya picked up a low frequency communications signal. I asked Commander Crichton about it, and he said it was something called radio, and that there was no need for concern." There was a long pause. "Then a few moments later, the Peacekeeper ships appeared."

Aeryn swallowed hard.

"Crichton knew they were coming," D'Argo said. "He said so himself, when he told Pilot to look for the command carrier."

"No," she insisted automatically. And yet a part of her had already begun to doubt. There were too many coincidences.

"Of course he did," Rygel said. "No doubt you'll find he reset the scanners as well, so we would have no warning."

Chiana drew closer to D'Argo, placing one hand on his shoulder. "But why would he do that? He hates this Scorpius. You know that."

Crichton hated Scorpius, but even more he feared him. Whatever Scorpius had done to John, it had scarred his soul permanently. John would give his life for his friends, yes. But he would not conspire with his enemy. Nor was it like him to give up so easily, without a fight. And yet he had done exactly that. Handed himself over to Scorpius, without giving any of them the chance to reason with him or to come up with a better plan.

Zhaan had silently watched the interplay, but now she spoke. "Aeryn, what did John mean when he said his hallucinations were getting stronger?"

With one hand Aeryn pushed away the hair that had fallen into her face. "After the Royal Planet, John told me he was having visions. Seeing Scorpius, even talking with him. He told me not to worry, that if the visions continued he would go to you for help. I thought it might be transit sickness."

Zhaan shook her head gravely. "I knew there was something troubling him, but he never spoke to me, nor did he mention these visions."

Aeryn realized she had been a fool. It was John's nature to talk about what troubled him, and to try and solve the troubles of those around him. It was one of his most endearing and annoying qualities, depending on whether he was sharing his own feelings, or trying to probe hers. She had counted on John behaving as he always had, and assumed that he had gone to Zhaan for the help that she could not give him. When the weeks had gone by with no further mention of the visions, she had thought him cured.

She had not realized that John might have changed, so much that he would not, or could not ask for help. For he had said nothing to Zhaan, and apparently the visions had grown worse instead of going away. There had been desperation in his voice in his last message, a tone that reminded her of the tortured creature she had rescued from the Gammak base.

How long had he carried this burden? And why hadn't he trusted her enough to share it with her? What had happened, that had made him believe his only choice was to surrender to his worst enemy?

"Pilot, D'Argo and I will check the sensors," Aeryn said. She already knew what she would find.

D'Argo nodded.

Chiana took her hand off D'Argo and glared at him angrily. "You can't believe this. Crichton would never betray us."

She turned and began to walk away.

Aeryn's words made her stop in her tracks. "Crichton didn't betray us. He betrayed himself."

 

Scorpius waited patiently for Crichton to awaken, his mind turning over the knowledge he had gained when he accessed the memories stored on the neuro-chip. Not that there had been time to digest all of the information, indeed it would take many weeks, for the neuro-chip had had months to access Crichton's conscious thoughts and sensory input.

Still there were advantages in having designed the neuro-chip as an analog of his own personality. The chip had prioritized the information presented in precisely the same order that Scorpius would have chosen, had he done the job himself. There would be time later to go through all of Crichton's memories, but for now he knew what he needed to know, to understand Crichton's mental state, and to make his plans accordingly.

Just as Crichton's physical composition was similar to a Sebacean's but not quite identical, so too, his neural patterns were subtly different. His mind had proven surprisingly resilient, in the face of stresses that would have overwhelmed a lesser creature.

Too resilient, in fact. For each time the chip had been forced to override Crichton's conscious mind, it had left behind a thread of neural pathway. The pathway should have been erased, but instead traces had remained. Crichton's subconscious mind had seized upon these traces, forging its own links to the functions of the neuro-chip.

Within a few weeks of the implant, the links were strong enough that under stress Crichton's mind became aware of the chip. Unable to comprehend its function, his mind had translated the chip's input into aural and visual inputs, which Crichton perceived as hallucinations in which he heard and saw Scorpius.

The neuro-chip had performed as designed, preserving Crichton's life and sanity through its actions. But each time the chip acted, the links grew stronger, and as what he perceived as hallucinations became more common, Crichton grew more afraid for his sanity.

And then Crichton had fallen into the hands of a Scarran interrogator, who had twisted his mind to the breaking point. With the neuro-chip's help Crichton had escaped, but the mental wounds he had received could not be undone. The wounds remained, festering, the chip's need to hide its existence ensuring that Crichton would not seek the help he so desperately needed.

As Crichton's mental condition continued to deteriorate, the neuro-chip had recognized the threat, and had sent the signal for recall.

Crichton stirred, and his thought patterns began to brighten. He made an inarticulate noise, and then raised one hand to his face.

"Crichton," Scorpius said, letting him know that he was not alone.

Crichton's eyes flew open, and he half-rolled, half-fell off the sleeping platform, landing on the floor and then rising awkwardly to his feet. As his eyes locked on the chair where Scorpius sat, he turned slowly to face him.

There was fear in his posture, and in the expression on his face.

Physically Crichton was stronger than he had been the day before. The full day of drugged induced sleep had alleviated the worst of his exhaustion, and time would do the rest.

But mentally he was balanced on a knife-edge. It would be a simple matter to break him, to push him over the edge of madness. It would be far harder to heal his mind. Especially when Crichton was unlikely to cooperate.

Scorpius had deactivated the neuro-chip, which should break the destructive cycle of apparent hallucinations. Time would tell whether the resulting damage could be reversed.

"Sit, and we will talk," Scorpius said.

He expected Crichton would retreat to the sleeping platform, or perhaps the wall, to put the maximum distance between them. But again Crichton surprised him.

"Is it live or is it Memorex?" Crichton asked, as if to himself. He advanced across the room, coming to stand before Scorpius. Then he reached out with his right hand a hand that trembled only slightly as he touched Scorpius on the shoulder.

As his fingers brushed Scorpius's thermal suit, Crichton nodded, then dropped his hand.

It took a moment for the meaning of the gesture to sink in. Crichton was testing his reality, using tactile sensation to confirm that this was indeed Scorpius, and not simply another hallucination.

It really was Scorpius. In the flesh, so to speak. John backed up slowly across the room, until he reached the bed, and then sat down heavily.

Scorpius said nothing, but there was a strange expression on his face. For a moment it looked like pity, but he had to be mistaken. The Scorpius he knew was a ruthless interrogator. John did not want to know what it would take to inspire his pity.

"What do you want?" he asked.

"The same thing you do," Scorpius replied. "Knowledge. The secret to unlocking the creation of wormholes, for a start."

"I can't give you what I don't know," he said, spreading his hands wide. It was no use trying to pretend to a courage he did not own. Any information he had was Scorpius's for the taking. It was simply a question of whether John gave the information willingly, or surrendered it under torture.

For all he knew, the Aurora Chair was the least of Scorpius's toys. Who knew what refinements Scorpius might have invented in the months since John's escape? He could feel his heart begin to race, and he tried very hard not to think about what else Scorpius could do to him.

"You do not have the information. Yet. But I believe that given time you will discover the answers we seek," Scorpius answered.

"So this is it? You torture me until I agree to work for you?"

"John, I said you had nothing to fear. You will not be harmed. But you will remain here, as my guest. In time you will see the wisdom of cooperation. I can afford to be patient."

He had expected anything but this. It had to be a trick. "Sorry, Scorpy, the game doesn't work that way. Once you've been bad cop, you can't expect me to believe that you're the good cop now. Next you'll tell me you only want to help me."

"John, do you enjoy being obscure? Or are you simply testing the limitations of the translator microbes?"

John shrugged. There was a distant planet where millions of people shared his culture and spoke his language without the help of alien bugs in their brains. He knew his Earth references sometimes confused his friends, and even his enemies, but he could not give them up. Indeed he clung all the more firmly to them, as a way of reminding himself that there was indeed a place where he was not alone, a stranger among aliens who could never quite understand who or what he was.

"I know you do not believe me, but you need my help," Scorpius said. "In fact I am the only one who can help you."

For a moment the living Scorpius sounded exactly like the creature he had seen in his visions these past months. It was an eerie feeling, like deja vu. He reminded himself that this was just the newest of Scorpius's mind games. Soon he would tire of this pose, and then the real Scorpius would emerge.

"For now, there is nothing you need to do, except to rest and regain your strength. These quarters are yours. When you are hungry, use the ship's interface and food will be brought. If you are bored, the technical station contains research data that will be of interest. One warning though, the device around your neck is keyed to this room. Should you try to leave, it will administer a sedative and you will be unconscious within microts."

John raised his hand, and discovered that there was a plastic collar encircling his neck, a thin band about two fingers wide. It made him angry, as he wondered what else had been done to him while he lay unconscious.

"So Scorpy has a new pet, is that it?"

"A reasonable precaution, nothing more. If you recall, last time you were on one of my ships you managed to destroy it with remarkable efficiency. And then, of course, there was the Gammak base. I find this command carrier useful, and would prefer that both you and it remained undamaged."

Scorpius smiled, as if he found humor in the situation.

John tugged at the collar, but it would not budge. It was not tight enough to hurt, and yet he could not insert even a fingernail between the warm plastic and his own skin.

"So this is your answer, a dog collar?"

"Would you prefer that I chain you to the wall? Or station a guard in here, to keep an eye on you at all times?"

His words were being twisted. Everything Scorpius said sounded reasonable, until you realized that it was just a trap. Scorpius's true goals were unchanged. This was just a new mask. John felt his frustration rising. There had to be something he could do, some way to argue with this creature. But his thoughts just chased themselves in circles.

He clenched his fist, digging his fingernails into the palm of his hand, grateful for the distraction of the pain. He had come prepared to endure torture, and to hope for his own death. He did not think he was strong enough, or sane enough, to play this new game of Scorpius's.

"That is enough for today," Scorpius said.

John looked up. His body tensed as Scorpius rose to his feet, but his captor did not come any closer. Instead his eyes regarded John critically, and then he nodded as if he had reached some decision. "We will speak again tomorrow," he promised.

And then he left, leaving John far more confused than he had been before. Surely Scorpius could see how close John was to breaking. And yet why had he chosen to leave, rather than pursuing his obvious advantage?

"This can't be good," he said to himself, and to those who were surely monitoring.

####

<<Read Part 1 of this story

Read Part 3 of this story>>

 

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