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Part Five

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
  • Read Part III of this story
  • Read Part IV of this story

  •  

    Part V

    "No, all this is new. See?" Crichton gestured towards the port wing of the Farscape module. "This is where the thruster rockets were. I took them out so I could install the cooling fins for the hetch drive."

    Scorpius nodded.

    Crichton ran his hand along the wing, and then raised himself up and peered into the cockpit. Everything looked exactly the way he had left it. Which meant that either Scorpius had left the module undisturbed, or his techs were very, very good at taking things apart and putting them back together again. If he had to bet, he would bet on the techs.

    "The thruster rockets were chemical based?"

    "Yup. And the engines, although they were more sophisticated, and used a different formula for the fuel mix."

    Designing engines that could provide enough thrust for the Farscape experiment had been an incredible feat of engineering that had taken two years, and untold hours of his and DK's lives. Ripping those engines out had been like ripping out a piece of himself, but there had been no sense in keeping them. There was no fuel for the old engines, and the new hetch drive had made the module exponentially faster.

    "The chemical fuel you described is inefficient and mass intensive. How could such a small craft carry enough fuel for the journey?" Scorpius asked.

    Crichton ducked under the nose of the module, and then stood up on the other side. "You saw my memories. This girl didn't have to break orbit on her own. We hitched a lift on the shuttle, which was strapped to chemical booster rockets that brought us up out of the gravity well. Shuttle casts off the rockets, powers its own way up the final stage into orbit. Then they open the cargo bay and launch us on our way. Simple."

    "And the experiment?"

    "All I needed the engines for was a few minutes of high-velocity acceleration. After that, they would automatically shut down. If all goes as expected, I report the results, burn engines to align me for reentry, and then let gravity bring me home."

    If something unexpected happened, the plan had been that he would try to achieve a stable Earth orbit and wait for the shuttle to rescue him.

    "A gravity drive?"

    Crichton laughed. "No, you're over-thinking this. Just gravity, plain and simple. Farscape falls like a rock, until we reach the upper atmosphere. Then she becomes a glider, and I try to land her in one piece."

    Scorpius eyes widened in disbelief. "An appallingly low-tech solution," he said.

    "Hey, it's state of the art where I come from. Or it was when I designed her. Maybe they've thought of something new since then."

    Crichton had often wondered what had happened to the Farscape project, after his disappearance. Had his loss killed the project? Or had DK and the team been able to convince IASA to try again, with the prototype Farscape II that had been in development?

    "It still amazes me that you managed to come so far in such a craft," Scorpius said.

    "Some days I amaze myself," Crichton replied. "It takes real guts to be an IASA astronaut. Not like your Peacekeeper pilots. Every IASA craft is an experiment, where a million things can go wrong, and you don't get second chances."

    Farscape had been just such an experiment. Dangerous, but no more so than a moon landing, or the first orbital mission for that matter. They had planned for every contingency the IASA team could think of, and then had gone back and thought of some more. The list was endless. Engine failures. Control systems failures. The unlikely chance of impact with space debris or micro-meteorites. The very real possibility that the Farscape effect might send him into an uncontrolled atmospheric entry, or propel him away from Earth at such high velocity that his braking systems would be unable to slow the craft in time, while he still had enough fuel to return back to the Earth.

    There had been no contingency plans for a wormhole.

    "I should say a deficient sense of self-preservation was a more important requirement for your astronauts, as you call them," Scorpius countered.

    "Maybe. But I've made it this far, haven't I? Guess humans are just stubborn that way."

    "Stubbornness does seem to be a species characteristic," Scorpius agreed.

    Crichton bent down, and checked the external monitor on the hetch drive, confirming that there was indeed no fuel and only marginal battery power in the module. A prudent safety precaution, not that there was any real risk that he could try and steal the module and use it to make an escape.

    He continued to inspect the module, planning in his head the modifications he would make if he ever had the chance. Better radiation shielding for a start, and the efficiency of the hetch drive could be improved by a factor of at least twenty percent, if he replaced the jury-rigged drive controller with a standard unit. And the control systems could use some tuning....

    He could have stayed there for hours, but that wasn't the bargain he had made.

    "It is time," Scorpius said, at last.

    Crichton nodded. "Okay. Tell your techs not to mess with her. I'll be back," he promised the module.

    He gave one backward glance, and then followed Scorpius from the maintenance bay.

    The chance to see the Farscape module had been a reward from Scorpius. A gift, because the human was finally behaving as he was expected to.

    With nothing to bargain with except himself, Crichton had slowly been forced to see the value of cooperation.

    Cooperation meant an end to the mind-numbing drugs. A chance to leave the tedium of his quarters. First he had been permitted to visit the officer's physical conditioning area, where each day he tried to work off some of his frustrations through exercise.

    Today, in return for agreeing to explain everything about the Farscape module, Crichton had been allowed to see his craft, for an arn.

    He did not know if Scorpius was genuinely interested in the craft, as he claimed, thinking that there was something unique in its design that might explain its interaction with wormholes. Or if Scorpius was simply using this as another way to pry as much information out of him as possible.

    Not that he put up much resistance. Indeed the Farscape module was still a source of pride to him. He could talk about it for hours, and unlike his friends on Moya, Scorpius's eyes did not glaze over with bored incomprehension as Crichton explained the engineering design choices that he had made.

    In a way it had been easier when he had been a prisoner on the Gammak base. Simpler. There Scorpius had been the enemy, and he the victim. Now he didn't know what to think. As the days passed, he found it hard to maintain the white-hot edge of his anger that had sustained him before. For this time, Scorpius did not threaten him, nor harm him. Instead he offered Crichton the knowledge that he craved, and a chance to develop the theories that would lead him back home.

    It was an almost unbearable temptation.

    If only he wasn't alone. At Gammak base there had been Stark to share his imprisonment, and his friends to help him escape. Here there was no one to help him, no one to talk to. No one, except Scorpius.

    From the beginning, Scorpius had kept him carefully isolated. Except for the sentry that he had glimpsed for a few seconds during his first escape attempt, Crichton had seen no one except Scorpius. Even as they walked the corridors of the command carrier, there was no one to be seen. It was as if he and Scorpius were the only two beings that existed.

    He knew that Scorpius was playing mind games with him, but the mere knowledge was not enough to help him avoid them.

    His first escape attempt had gotten him all of two meters. His next attempt had been over before it had begun. Crichton had wracked his brain, trying to think of a way out, with no success. Scorpius had all the advantages. Resources to monitor Crichton around the clock, and the damn collar which let his captors knock him unconscious the moment he showed signs of deviating from their rules.

    The surroundings were vastly improved, but it was the high security Gammak base all over again. Only this time there was no friendly tech to provide a diversion, or former Peacekeeper commando to stage a raid and save him.

    This time he was all alone.

     

    As Scorpius strode into the command center, the technicians and duty officers straightened to rigid attention. A well-disciplined crew under Captain Crais, they had learned even greater discipline and efficiency under their new commander. Each person aboard this vessel understood that there was no room for failure or error.

    Lieutenant Braca approached. "Sir, everything is proceeding as you ordered. We will reach the supply base in seven point four arn, and they have confirmed that they have the materials you requested."

    After retrieving Crichton, Scorpius had ordered that the command carrier leave the Uncharted Territories, and return to Peacekeeper controlled space. There was no reason to risk his prize. Now, after weekens of travel, they were approaching the supply base that marked the edge of the Peacekeepers' domains.

    "And the prisoner?"

    "The techs have completed their analysis of his research in the last day. The report is in the system, sealed under your personal code."

    "Good," Scorpius said. "Dismissed."

    Scorpius sat in the command chair, and as his fingers brushed the console plate, the technicians' analysis was displayed. There were no dramatic revelations, but overall he was pleased with what he saw. The delicate task of molding Crichton without breaking him was proceeded as he had planned.

    Under his care, Crichton was slowly rebuilding himself. Not yet healed, but no longer in immediate danger of slipping into madness. After his initial resistance, Crichton had immersed himself in the technical data provided as if it were a lifeline, and indeed perhaps it was. Once started, he was unstoppable. Reference databases, test results, theoretical models, he devoured them all with insatiable curiosity. At times he forgot to eat, or sleep.

    As he began assimilating the knowledge, he had endless questions. Crichton was quite good at spotting the gaps in the information that had been provided, and in arguing for more.

    Crichton's training had given him a conceptual model of the universe that was subtly different from the way that Sebacean science explained quantum phenomena. Ideas that were mere speculation on Crichton's homeworld were proven facts here. That was not to say Crichton's training was a liability. On the contrary, the Farscape effect he had theorized was something that Peacekeeper scientists had never known, or had long since forgotten.

    And although Crichton was not yet willing to discuss his theories, careful analysis of his research queries indicated he was approaching the wormhole problem from a very different angle, starting with the magnetic shear effect caused by solar flares. How much of his focus was Crichton's own inspiration, and how much was due to the guidance the Ancients had implanted within him was an interesting question to ponder.

    A low-pitched chime sounded, and Scorpius toggled on the comm link.

    "Sir, the prisoner's behavior is becoming increasingly erratic," reported Ensign Kelvar, one of those assigned to monitor Crichton. "Do you wish us to sedate him?"

    Scorpius touched another button, and the surveillance images of Crichton sprang to life on the screen before him. For once Crichton was not at the technical station, instead he was pacing around the room. As he reached the far wall, he paused to slam his fist against it.

    Scorpius frowned. It had been weekens since something had last triggered one of these fits of self-destructive anger. He had hoped that Crichton had moved beyond this stage, but clearly he had been wrong.

    "Do nothing," he ordered the ensign. "I will see to this myself."

    When he reached Crichton's quarters, he found the human had stopped the pacing, but was now continuing to slam his right fist into the wall with monotonous regularity. His knuckles were bleeding. Flecks of red blood decorated the wall, the tech station, the door, and other objects that had been the recipients of Crichton's wrath. Fortunately there was nothing in these quarters that was breakable... except Crichton himself.

    Crichton saw him enter, but did not acknowledge him.

    "You will cease this behavior," Scorpius said.

    Crichton ignored him.

    As he drew back his fist for another strike, Scorpius seized his arm. "John, control yourself, or I will do it for you."

    Crichton's gaze met his, daring him to carry out his threat. Then, after a long moment, he nodded almost imperceptibly, and shook off Scorpius's hold. He let his arm fall down by his side, seemingly oblivious to the blood that began to drip slowly onto the floor.

    "You have injured yourself," Scorpius said.

    Crichton backed away. He lifted his hand, and wriggled the fingers. "I'm fine," he said. "See? Nothing broken."

    The injuries were superficial. It was the reason for them that he needed to understand. "You should be more careful," Scorpius said.

    "Why? I thought you would like this. Seeing someone in pain. Isn't that your style?" Crichton challenged.

    Now Crichton was trying to provoke him, another reversion to his earlier behavior. It made no sense. The surveillance report had indicated nothing at all unusual in the last day. So what had caused this?

    Scorpius sat down by the tech station, careful to keep his body language non-threatening. "John, what is wrong?"

    Crichton shook his head.

    "You need to tell someone. And there is no one else," Scorpius said.

    Crichton's need to form emotional bonds with others was his greatest weakness. When it came to making a choice, he almost always chose emotional values over logic. Consider the Peacekeeper Technician Gilina Renaez. Crichton had known her for only a few days, yet when in the Aurora Chair on the Gammak base, he had endured agonies to protect her.

    It was a weakness that would never have been tolerated in the Peacekeepers' ranks. Indeed, they would never have entrusted a sensitive project such as Farscape to one who displayed such a character flaw. And yet this failing was the key to understanding what drove Crichton, and how to control him.

    Scorpius intended to exploit this weakness. It was why he had been so careful to isolate Crichton, ensuring that he had no one else with whom to form a connection.

    Crichton sat down on the edge of the sleeping platform, cradling his injured right hand in his left. "Today it has been one point nine six cycles since my arrival," he said.

    "I do not understand."

    "One point nine six cycles. That's two Earth years," Crichton said. "Two years ago today, that I disappeared."

    Scorpius waited patiently, letting the silence draw out between them, until Crichton spoke again.

    "They've probably got the flags at IASA at half-mast. There'll be a minute of silence at the moment of the test. The tourists will wonder what's going on, and the tour guides will remind them of the mission." Crichton took a deep breath. "And some human interest reporter will hunt down my Dad, and ask him if he's reconciled himself to what happened. Ask him if he still supports the space program, and whether it was worth the life of his only son."

    Crichton's voice cracked as he mentioned his father, and there were unshed tears in his eyes.

    "You miss your homeworld," Scorpius said, trying to draw him out.

    "I miss it all. Dad. DK. My sisters. Gods, I can't imagine what they went through. Are going through. And I want to see them. To know what's happening. To know that they are okay, and to let them know that I am alright."

    Even when he spoke of his homeworld, it was interesting that he thought of it in terms of the people he had left behind.

    "John, you know what you need to do. I can help you, but ultimately it is up to you."

    Crichton rubbed his eyes with the heel of his left hand, scrubbing away the tears that he refused to shed.

    "Right," he said, with a bitter laugh. "All I have to do is give you the answer to wormhole technology. And coincidentally, give the Peacekeepers a map to my homeworld, and the means to reach there."

    "You overestimate the importance of a backwater low-tech planet," Scorpius countered. "True power lies here, in the civilizations of this galaxy."

    Indeed, even with the advantages of wormhole technology, it would take time for the Peacekeepers to consolidate their grip on this galaxy, and bring first the Scarrans and Nebari, and then the Uncharted Territories under their rule. It would be many cycles before the Peacekeepers were free to turn their attentions elsewhere.

    "So you are saying I should trust you?"

    "Whether you trust me or not is irrelevant. You will never return to your home unless you find a way to create another wormhole," Scorpius said. "The question is, how badly do you want to go home?"

    ####

    Read part VI of this story>>

     

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