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Part Three

 

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

<<Read Part II of this story

 

Part III

John Crichton had spent the past months dreading what might happen if he was recaptured by Scorpius. Never had he imagined this. After five days, he was ready to climb the walls with boredom. He scowled as he shoved his hands in the pockets of his pants, and began to pace around his quarters.

Scorpius had kept his promises. John had not been tortured or threatened. Instead he was treated as a valued prisoner. Food was delivered whenever he wanted, from a selection that seemed luxurious to someone accustomed to the hit or miss provisions on Moya. With nothing better to do, he caught up on his sleep, and in his waking hours tried very hard not to think about his friends.

He saw no one, except Scorpius. Sometimes he appeared briefly, as if merely checking on his prisoner. Other times he stayed, and tried to engage John in conversation. Depending on his mood, John would allow himself to be drawn into a dialogue, but steadfastly refused to discuss anything related to wormhole research. All the while he kept wondering how long it would take for Scorpius's patience to wear out, and for the gentle questions to be replaced by harsh interrogation.

This should have caused him to panic, but it did not. In face he realized that he was far calmer than he had any right to be. At first he suspected Scorpius might be drugging him, administering some form of tranquilizer in his food or injecting it through the damn dog collar. But as the days passed, he found a simpler explanation. The hallucinations which had tormented him for so long had finally vanished.

Maybe the visions had been linked to his fear of recapture. Maybe they had simply been the product of accumulated stresses. Whatever the reason, all he knew was that they had ceased the moment he had stepped on board the command carrier.

It was strange, but he felt stronger now, more himself than he had in months. It was not that he was healed, it was too soon for that. But he felt as if he had taken a step back from the edge of the abyss. Perhaps there was still time to reclaim his sanity and purpose.

He had even begun having dreams again. Last night he had dreamed that he was on his first shuttle mission, remembering the excitement and the overwhelming need to prove that he had earned the assignment on his own merits, not simply because he was Jack Crichton's son. When the shuttle returned, his father had been standing with the reception committee on the pad. Mindful of the watching reporters, all he had said was "Good job, son," but the look in his eyes had meant more to John than any IASA mission summary ever could.

In his dream he had seen his father, and reached for him, only to wake up and remember where he was. It did not take a genius to understand why his subconscious had dredged up this memory. There would be no return for John, no reunion with his father and his friends, unless John managed to unlock the secret of the equations hidden within his brain.

Not that he hadn't tried. But life onboard Moya had given him little time to spend on research. Instead most days were filled with the simple necessities of survival, and of evading their enemies. Even when he had free time, Moya was hardly an ideal research base. Her star charts were woefully inadequate, and full of errors. Her information banks had been designed by Peacekeepers. They contained limited technical knowledge, and virtually no science data. Indeed even the theoretical principles behind the Leviathan's ability to starburst seemed to have been considered classified military information, and thus omitted. It had taken him months and the help of Pilot, to figure out the basics of biomechanoid technology, and to learn which pieces could be adapted to work with his module.

On his own he might never find the answers he sought. John paused as his steps brought him over to the technical station, the Peacekeeper equivalent of a computer and information retrieval unit. A part of him wanted to investigate the unit, to find out what was stored within. Scorpius had been researching wormholes for years, and would have access to the best technical information and theoretical knowledge that the Peacekeepers owned. If he permitted John to view only a fraction of that knowledge, it would still be more information than he could hope to find anywhere else. It was a priceless treasure.

Yet even as he yearned to explore, he held back, knowing that this was exactly what Scorpius wanted. Scorpius was counting on John's natural curiosity, and his hunger to learn more about wormholes. He would not give anything away for free. Any information he let John have was given with the expectation that he would be able to reclaim full value later, by taking from John whatever he could discover about wormhole technology.

It was a precarious position. Sooner or later, John would have to make a choice. He could choose to cooperate, to play along for now, taking what information he could, and hoping that he could find a way to escape before he gave Scorpius the knowledge that would make the Peacekeepers an unstoppable force. Or he could wait until Scorpius decided to change the rules of the game, and found a way to coerce him.

Was refusing to look at the data his only way to resist? Or was John throwing away his one chance to get the information he needed to go home? Which choice was the right one? If only he could talk to someone he trusted. Aeryn. D'Argo. Dad. Someone who could help him negotiate this minefield, and to steer clear of Scorpius's traps.

Was there any way to turn the tables on Scorpius? If John pretended to cooperate, was it possible that Scorpius would lower his guard and provide the opportunity that John needed to escape?

As long as he stayed in these quarters, there was no chance of escape. John had found that out for himself, on the second day. He had opened the door, and had taken barely one step into the corridor, before he felt a cold jab in his neck. He remembered the startled face of the Peacekeeper sentry, and the sensation of falling, and then nothing else until he woke up, to find himself lying in bed, back in his quarters.

He needed to get out of these quarters. Five days of searching had convinced him that there was nothing here that he could use as a weapon, or a means of escape. Outside these walls was the resources of a command carrier. It was too much to hope for that he would have allies, but there would be weapons, ships, and perhaps a chance to escape.

It would be a dangerous game. He would have to convince Scorpius he was cooperating, and to do that he would have to give him at least some knowledge, for Scorpius was too intelligent to be deceived by lies or the techno-babble that Crichton had used on others. It would be a delicate balance, enough information to be convincing, but not enough to ensure that Scorpius could unravel the secrets of wormhole technology. And the game could only be played for so long. Sooner or later, he would have to find a way off the ship, or he would have to end his own life, rather than yield what he knew to his enemy.

"You can do this, John," he said. He had to. There were no other choices.

John sat down in the chair in front of the technical station. His passed his right hand over the clear surface, and a glowing list of symbols appeared. The first entry caught his eye. Star charts. He pressed the symbol and a three dimensional holographic map sprang to life.

 

Scorpius smiled. Crichton had taken the bait, as he had expected. He had known that the human would be unable to resist the lure of the knowledge that he had long sought. It had taken five days for Crichton to give in to his curiosity, but once he had accessed the technical station, he had proven insatiable. He had been searching the star charts for over four arns now, matching the information within to his memories of his travels through the Uncharted Territories. Each command, every notation he entered was echoed on a station on Scorpius's command deck, and recorded for later analysis.

Slowly his search widened, until he was viewing models of this galaxy, and of those nearby. Crichton appeared to be searching for a particular type of galaxy, for he discarded one image after another. He lingered for a few moments on the sketchy image of a flattened spiral galaxy, and then continued his search. But the momentary pause was a clue, and when he twice came back to that image, Scorpius knew that it had special significance to the human. In all probability this was his home galaxy.

From his station, Scorpius called up the information on that galaxy. There was scant information, merely references taken from a race that had inherited data from the beings known as the Ancients. Far too distant for the Peacekeepers, or any of their allies or enemies to explore, the galaxy had been simply a scientific curiosity. Until now.

If Crichton really was from that distant part of the universe, it meant that the wormhole had carried him farther than even Scorpius had believed possible. It was a testament to the power of wormholes, and a confirmation that Scorpius had been right to place such a high value on his captive scientist.

It was time to reward Crichton, and to give him a new reason for cooperation.

 

John heard the familiar click, and looked up from the console as the door opened, and Scorpius appeared.

Scorpius was smiling. No doubt his watchers had informed him the moment John had become accessing the data within the technical station. He must be pleased that John was finally beginning to cooperate.

John had tried to disguise the true goal of his queries, but he did not know how successful he had been. He had not been able to resist going back to look at that spiral galaxy a second and then a third time, wondering if it was indeed the Milky Way.

As Scorpius came nearer, John felt himself tense, and the familiar undercurrent of fear that the sight of Scorpius always brought with it. No matter how gentle his treatment had been in these last days, a part of him still remembered the horrors of the Gammak base, and that Scorpius had been the author of that suffering.

"I have an item you lost," Scorpius said. "Something you may find of value."

Scorpius pulled a small object out of his belt pouch and tossed it to him.

John reached up and caught it automatically. Lowering his hand, he opened his fist, and saw a microcassette tape.

One of his microcassette tapes, with the IASA logo and his own handwriting on the label.

"Where did you get this?" His chest felt tight. All of his tapes were on Moya. Had Scorpius gone back on his word? Had Moya and his friends been captured after all?

"The tape has the experimental data from the Dam-Ba-Da depot. Once I knew it was there, I took steps to retrieve it."

John turned the tape over in his hands. He had never thought to see this data again. Dam-Ba-Da had the unique distinction of having a predictable solar flare cycle. During the solar flares, John had used the Farscape module to try and recreate the conditions that had led to the wormhole formation on Earth. He had come close. Very close, but the proto-wormhole was unstable, and John had been forced to land on the planet and seek repairs for the Farscape module. In return for the repairs he had been forced to bargain away the information he had gained during his test.

It was another reminder that Scorpius knew all too much about him, and about his experiences. John did not remember Scorpius questioning him about his time at the Dam-Ba-Da depot, but clearly this must have been part of the memories captured by the Aurora Chair. Indeed much of his sessions in the chair were hazy, simply blurred impressions of pain, confusion, and the desperate struggle to keep his mind focused on not betraying his friends.

"I have already done my own analysis on that data, and placed the results within the technical station. I would be interested to know if you concur with my conclusions," Scorpius added.

The test readings were valuable. In less than four cycles the solar flare cycle would repeat itself, and the mechanic Furlow would have the opportunity to use the data contained on the tape to try and create her own wormhole. She had not struck John as the type of person who would bargain away such a valuable asset.

"What happened to Furlow?" John asked.

"She is no concern of yours."

"You killed her, right?" It was the obvious answer, but he wanted to force Scorpius to admit it.

"She was a security risk. Although she recognized the value of the data you had collected, she lacked the ability to provide new insights into the research. Once it was determined she had no further use, she was terminated as a security risk."

The casual words struck a chill within him. It was another reminder that Scorpius could be utterly ruthless in pursuing his goals. Indeed John himself was kept alive only because it served Scorpius's plans. Like Furlow, the moment Scorpius had no further use for him, John would be killed.

Gilina had been killed because she had tried to help him. Furlow had been killed simply because she had known him, and had bargained for the solar flare data. How many other deaths was he responsible for, either directly or indirectly?

John bowed his head. Death had followed him since the moment of his arrival. True Tauvo Crais's death had been an accident. But it had not taken long before John had learned what it was to kill, to deliberately take another intelligent being's life. At times he had done so almost casually, without thought. It was no wonder that these days when he looked inside himself, he did not recognize the man he had become.

"Will you answer a question for me?" he asked, slowly raising his head.

"Ask."

"How many Peacekeepers did I kill when I destroyed the Gammak base?"

Scorpius's face was carefully bland, and John knew his question had surprised him.

"Dozens? Hundreds?" John asked.

"I had anticipated that you might find a way to attack the base, and so I ordered an evacuation," Scorpius said slowly. "Over half the base's complement escaped, and brought with them vital memory cores. Still your attack did great damage. Months of valuable research data was lost, along with several hundred of the staff."

The dead personnel were mentioned almost as an afterthought. It was clear that Scorpius's concerns were for the missing data.

John closed his eyes, and swallowed hard. Several hundred. That made him a mass murderer. There was no comfort in knowing that others had helped create the plan, and to carry it out. In the end, it had been John's choice to set off the chain reaction explosion. The responsibility for what happened was his, and he could not escape his guilt.

"I didn't think. I hated the place, and what had been done to me. I needed to strike back, and to destroy it," he said, wondering why he felt compelled to explain. "It wasn't till later...."

His voice trailed off. It wasn't until much later that the full horror of what he had done sank home. Perhaps he could have rationalized killing Scorpius, and Niem, and the guards who had mistreated him and Stark. But there had been others on the base. People not so different from Gilina Renaez and Aeryn Sun. Good people, trapped by the Peacekeeper culture and a system that required them to be so much less than they could be. People who did not deserve to die at his hands.

His distress must have been visible on his face.

"John, these were not your friends. They were your enemies. It was an act of--"

"Stop," John said sharply, opening his eyes and shaking his head. "I don't want to hear it. It is over. Done with. Nothing you say can make what I did right."

His goal had been worthy, attacking the base to provide a diversion, which would allow Moya and his friends to escape. And yet in the name of that goal he had committed murder on a grand scale, an act that would have once been unthinkable. How much had he changed in these two cycles? How long could he keep telling himself that the end justified the means?

How different was he now, truly, from Scorpius? Would there come a time when he, too, would see murder as simply a logical solution to a difficult problem? Were there still acts that he would not commit? Was there anything he would not do, in order to return home?

He had left Earth as a scientist. An explorer. Now he feared he would return as a cold-blooded killer.

####

Read Part IV of this story>>

 

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