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
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
thruster rockets were chemical based?"
And the engines, although they were more sophisticated, and used
a different formula for the fuel mix."
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.
chemical fuel you described is inefficient and mass intensive.
How could such a small craft carry enough fuel for the journey?"
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."
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."
something unexpected happened, the plan had been that he would
try to achieve a stable Earth orbit and wait for the shuttle to
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."
eyes widened in disbelief. "An appallingly low-tech solution,"
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."
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?
still amazes me that you managed to come so far in such a craft,"
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."
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.
had been no contingency plans for a wormhole.
should say a deficient sense of self-preservation was a more important
requirement for your astronauts, as you call them," Scorpius countered.
But I've made it this far, haven't I? Guess humans are just stubborn
does seem to be a species characteristic," Scorpius agreed.
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.
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....
could have stayed there for hours, but that wasn't the bargain
he had made.
is time," Scorpius said, at last.
nodded. "Okay. Tell your techs not to mess with her. I'll be back,"
he promised the module.
gave one backward glance, and then followed Scorpius from 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
nothing to bargain with except himself, Crichton had slowly been
forced to see the value of 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.
in return for agreeing to explain everything about the Farscape
module, Crichton had been allowed to see his craft, for an arn.
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.
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.
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
was an almost unbearable temptation.
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.
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.
knew that Scorpius was playing mind games with him, but the mere
knowledge was not enough to help him avoid them.
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.
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.
time he was all alone.
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.
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."
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.
techs have completed their analysis of his research in the last
day. The report is in the system, sealed under your personal code."
Scorpius said. "Dismissed."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
low-pitched chime sounded, and Scorpius toggled on the comm link.
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?"
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
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
nothing," he ordered the ensign. "I will see to this myself."
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.
saw him enter, but did not acknowledge him.
will cease this behavior," Scorpius said.
he drew back his fist for another strike, Scorpius seized his
arm. "John, control yourself, or I will do it for you."
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.
have injured yourself," Scorpius said.
backed away. He lifted his hand, and wriggled the fingers. "I'm
fine," he said. "See? Nothing broken."
injuries were superficial. It was the reason for them that he
needed to understand. "You should be more careful," Scorpius said.
I thought you would like this. Seeing someone in pain. Isn't that
your style?" Crichton challenged.
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?
sat down by the tech station, careful to keep his body language
non-threatening. "John, what is wrong?"
shook his head.
need to tell someone. And there is no one else," Scorpius said.
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
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.
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.
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.
do not understand."
point nine six cycles. That's two Earth years," Crichton said.
"Two years ago today, that I disappeared."
waited patiently, letting the silence draw out between them, until
Crichton spoke again.
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."
voice cracked as he mentioned his father, and there were unshed
tears in his eyes.
miss your homeworld," Scorpius said, trying to draw him out.
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."
when he spoke of his homeworld, it was interesting that he thought
of it in terms of the people he had left behind.
you know what you need to do. I can help you, but ultimately it
is up to you."
rubbed his eyes with the heel of his left hand, scrubbing away
the tears that he refused to shed.
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."
overestimate the importance of a backwater low-tech planet," Scorpius
countered. "True power lies here, in the civilizations of this
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.
you are saying I should trust you?"
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?"