Categories > TV > Farscape0 Reviews
In response to the "Dad's Worst Nightmares" challenge on the old SciFi BB back in 2001, this was a possible worst-case scenario for the end of Season 3, written during the hiatus after "Fractures".
John Crichton lay quietly, watching the Diagnosan and his translator glide silently out of the room. Selkar, the Diagnosan, fortunately had an assistant who was much less disgusting and far more trustworthy than Tocot's Grunchlk.
John was trying to figure out what he ought to be feeling at this moment, given the news that had just been imparted. Fear, he supposed, would make sense. Anger, denial -- weren't those supposed to be the first responses?
"I'm afraid Selkar has some bad news to impart, sir Crichton," Selkar's assistant had said sorrowfully.
"What, is my leg not healing right? You need to break it again and start over?"
The Diagnosan had twittered for several moments in her musical language, and her assistant shook his head. "Your injuries are healing well; you should be fully recovered from them within a weeken or two. However, because of your head injury, Selkar initially made some very detailed scans of your brain to check for hidden damage. Due to your unique physiology, it has taken some time for her to discover the cause of the anomalies she found in those scans."
"Anomalies? In my head? Why am I not surprised..."
"Selkar found traces of moderate damage to several areas of your brain."
"Yeah, well, my head has been frelling Grand Central Station for the past three cycles. Any place that's had that many visitors is bound to start looking a bit shabby. Probably has graffiti on the walls, too."
Selkar's assistant ignored the incomprehensible commentary. "None of the damage was, by itself, ultimately debilitating, but cumulatively, it has begun a cascade effect."
"Spare me the details, Doc. Just give me the bottom line." The translator looked puzzled this time, so Crichton clarified. "The diagnosis."
Selkar spoke again for a moment. The translator paused, looking somber, then turned to look back at their patient. "The damage is spreading, she is afraid, and will continue to do so over the next several monens as the condition progresses. She can't predict the specific effects -- though they may include such things as hallucinations, loss of motor control, speech difficulties, or even psychological aberrations -- but eventually, within less than a cycle, she estimates, the damage will accumulate until all your higher functions shut down. Your autonomic systems don't appear to be affected, however, so the condition is not necessarily fatal. "
Crichton was quiet for a moment. "Can she do anything?"
The translator shook his head. "Your species is unknown to us, Crichton, and the damage you've suffered too widespread. Without accurate information on the proper pattern of a healthy human brain, and without a compatible donor on hand for the transfusions required, there is nothing she can do."
"S'okay," Crichton said, shaking his head. His mind had already been repaired once at the cost of another's life. He was just as glad that this time the choice would never arise.
He shifted on the alien hospital bed, trying to find a comfortable position, only to have his chest, leg, and head file a painful protest with the management. He smiled, grimly. A little pain was a small price to pay for the warm satisfaction of success. Scorpius was dead -- Crichton had made sure of that this time -- and that precious wormhole research was out of Peacekeeper hands for good. They and the Scarrans would just have to fight it out the old-fashioned way now. Unless, of course, the Nebari got to them first.
And best of all, none of the good guys had gotten seriously hurt, except Crichton himself, and everyone had survived. Amazing. In spite of all their careful planning, the odds of success had been low. They'd all known that going in.
That, he supposed, might explain his lack of reaction to the Selkar's news. When you've spent a couple of months fully expecting to go out and get yourself killed, finding out you're dying isn't nearly the shock it might otherwise be. He couldn't help but wonder how long this condition had been building. Would his twin, had he survived, have suffered the same fate if he'd gone to Earth with Aeryn? Or had it been this last knock on his skull that had triggered this incipient meltdown?
A knock on the door interrupted that train of thought. D'Argo and Aeryn entered without waiting for a response, and he smiled. They both looked pleased, probably both still as amazed as he that they'd all survived. D'Argo had been a last-minute volunteer for their mission, when his Luxan honor finally overcame his common sense. The rest of the crew was still safely on Moya, somewhere out there, probably still awaiting news of their fate.
"John," Aeryn greeted him, "are you feeling better?" She moved across the room and sat down on the bed beside him. He reached out and caressed her hand, trying not to notice her nearly-suppressed flinch as he touched her.
"I'm fine, Aeryn," he lied smoothly. The ache of his injuries was nothing compared to having to watch this woman suffer so much and try /so hard /to ignore the pain. Only John Crichton, who knew her so well, could see the internal struggle Aeryn Sun was fighting day by day. And only the other, he suspected -- his twin -- would have known how to comfort her properly, how to take the pain away. That one had stood by this woman through one of the darkest periods of her life in those few monens they spent together aboard Talyn, and would have learned things about her that were still a mystery to his surviving copy. "What's the good news?" he asked, trying to ignore the lump that had lodged in his throat.
D'Argo grinned exuberantly, oblivious to the dark emotional undercurrents swirling about him. "Talyn had a surprise for us when we returned. He hated being left out, so while we were sneaking around on the command carrier planting explosives, he was apparently doing some sneaking around himself, into the data systems of the carrier. He managed to snurch a copy of Scorpius' research files...."
"What?!" Crichton exclaimed, sitting up abruptly. "Is that boy nuts? The purpose of this whole party was to destroy the wormhole research! The kid might as well have painted a big, fat target on his ass."
Aeryn reached out to support him as the spurt of adrenaline drained away and the pain returned. "John," she said calmly, "there's no danger as long as no one knows Talyn has the data. I thought you'd be happy -- you may be able to use what he stole to create your own wormholes and find a way back to Earth."
Crichton paused, uncertain. Strangely, the possibility hadn't even crossed his mind. He'd spent months while Aeryn was gone, channeling his worry and jealousy and fear into a single-minded, hell-bent obsession with wormholes. He'd driven D'Argo, Chiana, Jool, Pilot, and Moya -- and perhaps himself as well -- nearly fahrbot in pursuit of that pipe dream. Yet after Aeryn returned -- after he'd learned exactly how close his twin self had come to realizing their dream, and the price that man had paid for it -- the obsession faded. And now, with Selkar's judgment fresh in his mind, the old desire was no longer there at all.
But that wasn't something he felt like explaining at the moment, so he allowed himself to appear placated.
Aeryn and D'Argo took turns catching John up on the other news and events he'd been missing while recovering. He only half-listened to the gossip and minutiae, his eyes and thoughts focused almost exclusively on Aeryn.
His doppelganger had warned him, and the dying Crichton had been right -- it had taken time. It had been three miserable weekens after Talyn and Moya's crews reunited before Aeryn was able to even talk to him with any semblance of normality. And for nearly a monen more, he'd endured her cool and impersonal treatment, as if he were no more than a casual acquaintance who happened to live nearby.
It wasn't until they were in the final stages of planning their infiltration and sabotage of Scorpy's carrier that something happened. John still wasn't sure what had prompted the change, but one evening he'd found Aeryn slouched against the wall outside his quarters, with tears in her eyes.
She'd spoken quietly, without looking up at him. "I want to... apologize for how I've treated you, John. It's just...so hard...."
He'd slid down the wall to sit next to her, not quite touching. "I understand, Aeryn. I'm not saying I like the way things have been, but I do understand."
She'd looked up at the ceiling then, a wistful expression on her face. "I know you do, John. Grief, mourning, loss... love. You have always understood emotions far better than I. We've both lost many people in our lives; the difference is, though, you loved them before you lost them. I never knew what it was to love or be loved."
" John loved you."
Aeryn had looked up at him at that, gazing into his eyes for the first time, surprised at the apparent ease with which he said the words. "And I loved him. But what has taken me this long to realize is that you are him. And he was you."
John had sat very still, looking deep into those beautiful eyes, not sure what to say or where she was going with this.
Without another word, Aeryn had stood up. Reaching out, she'd grasped his hand and pulled him to his feet, then led him through the door into his quarters.
It had, John now realized, been far too easy. He'd let himself be seduced, both literally and figuratively, when Aeryn started saying exactly what he wanted to hear. Perhaps Aeryn's motives had been innocent, and she'd truly believed she could accept him as an equal to -- or a replacement for -- the man she'd loved. Or maybe it had been something less romantic, like a long-term version of the pity-frell as a way of honoring a dead man's last request. But in either case, after the initial haze of bliss faded away, Crichton had realized it was all a sham. Aeryn was going through the motions of a relationship, but her eyes could not hide the pain she felt whenever she saw him, nor could she always suppress her shudder at his touch.
He'd finally started noticing it just before their assault on Scorpy, but had not had the leisure to dwell on the implications. Now, though, immobilized by injury, he had nothing but time on his hands, time to ponder his mortality and the convolutions of his love life here in the far reaches of the universe.
The decision, when he finally reached it after two weekens of hard thinking, was painful, but necessary. It would be the best solution for everyone.
One month later
John stood in the darkness, pack slung over one shoulder, watching Aeryn sleep. He studied each curve, each shading of skin tone, the fall of each eyelash across her cheek. Her hair shone faintly in the starlight filtering in through the observation port over her bunk. Even in sleep, her face showed faint lines of pain and sadness.
Caught within some nightmare, Aeryn whimpered and turned her head in her sleep. John wanted to go to her, comfort her, chase the dreams away. But if he did she would wake, and she'd ask him questions he didn't want to answer. As much as he would like to wake her and say goodbye in person, her tears were the one sight he knew he could not bear to see ever again. John Crichton, in all his incarnations, had caused this woman far too much pain and far too many tears already.
Reaching into a pocket, he pulled out a lock of ebony hair, tied together with a blue thread. It was one of the few prized possessions his twin had left behind when he and Aeryn absconded to Talyn all those months before. Perhaps he'd left it deliberately, as a kind of consolation prize for his twin, or perhaps, having the real Aeryn by his side, it had not even occurred to him to take it along.
Noticing that his hand was shaking again, he quickly replaced the lock of hair in his pocket. The trembling of that hand had started two days ago, and that had been his cue. It was time to leave.
He'd considered abandoning the lock of hair, cutting all ties with the life he'd had here and facing the end in peaceful solitude. But now, looking down at the woman he loved more than life itself, he couldn't bear to let it go. He hadn't been able to sacrifice his memories of her on the operating table, even with the guilt of killing her fresh in his mind, so he could hardly renounce them now. He supposed he'd die, weeks or months from now, still clutching this grisly memento, and his last thoughts would be of her.
It wouldn't be the same as having her there, as she'd been there for the other. He could envy his twin now, unreservedly, for the comfort her presence must have brought him at the end. But his selfishness could only stretch so far. There was no way, in this universe or any other, that he could ask Aeryn Sun to go through that hell twice. Not to mention that his current condition, if allowed to proceed to its full extent, would bid fair to make his twin's hours of acute radiation sickness look merciful and quick by comparison. Better for her to remember him, if at all, as he was now.
Her hair and his memories would suffice when the time came. They would have to.
Taking a deep breath and swallowing the tears that threatened to spill, he walked softly out of the room for the last time and didn't look back.
When Crais walked into Talyn's command the next morning, he froze at the sight of Aeryn Sun standing, like a marble statue, in front of one of the consoles. She watching a holographic recording of Commander Crichton.
/"Aeryn," /John's image was saying, "I'm not quite sure how to do this. In all the time we've known each other, all the times we've parted, we've never said goodbye to each other. And yet, at the same time, we've both had to say goodbye at least once, in the worst possible situations. We've each watched the other die, each attended the other's funeral, and yet somehow we're both still alive, through the strangest of circumstances.
"We did our best, Aeryn, but some things just weren't meant to be overcome. I look into your eyes now and all I see is his face -- your John -- reflecting back at me. I'm not him, no matter how many genes and memories he and I shared, no matter how much you and I tried to pretend I was. My presence, the constant reminder, is only prolonging your suffering.
"I've spent the past monen reviewing the files Talyn stole from Scorpy's carrier, and I've finally figured them out. By the time you hear this message, I'll have made my wormhole and I should be safely back home on Earth. Tell everyone back on Moya that I'll miss them, but tell them I finally made it home.
"And as for you -- mourn for John Crichton, the man you loved, the man who died a hero. In time, the pain will fade. Cherish the memory and learn to love again. Find someone else, someone whose every word and gesture doesn't remind you of him, and be happy. And someday, maybe, you can go to the Royal Planet and tell his daughter about him. He'd like that, I think."
As the image faded out on Crichton's wistful smile, Crais forced himself across the deck to Aeryn's side. Looking into her face, he saw only confusion and incomprehension. Silently, through his transponder link, he queried Talyn about Crichton's whereabouts. Talyn confirmed that the human had left during the sleep cycle, taking his module and flying towards the nearest planetary system, which was just outside the gunship's sensor range. The adolescent ship could sense that this news was disturbing to his captain, just as he could see that something was upsetting his beloved Aeryn, but not having the capacity yet to comprehend these kinds of emotional issues, he could not understand the reasons. Crais promised to try to explain later, then turned his attention back to Aeryn.
She continued to stare blankly at the space where Crichton's image had stood. When Crais reached out, hoping to wake her from her fugue, she turned and left the command before he could touch her, without looking at him or saying a word. He let her go, busy wrestling with his own confused reactions to this newest loss.
They made a half-hearted attempt to find Crichton, travelling to the commerce world which had been on the human's last known trajectory. D'Argo had awakened that morning to find Crichton's home-made game board and pieces -- painstakingly created for an Erp game called "shess" -- sitting prominently on a table in his own quarters. Once informed of the situation, he had insisted on chasing after his friend, if only to say good-bye. Aeryn could not be roused for comment.
A harried official at the spaceport had answered their commed inquiry with a hasty confirmation. A small vessel of unknown configuration had indeed been detected performing a high-velocity atmospheric maneuver a few arns before, and had then vanished off of their screens.
Crichton was gone.
Two months later
John Crichton sat alone in the Farscape module, gazing down at the world he'd chosen. It was blue and green, with white splotches of cloud and ice. If he blurred his eyes slightly, he could imagine he was home, orbiting Earth.
It had taken visits to a dozen commerce worlds before he found a map to this place. After sling-shotting around that first world, he'd hidden in the module out in the asteroid field until Talyn and the others had moved on. Judicious use of the currency he'd brought from Moya, plus the trading of a few pieces of equipment he'd no longer need, had garnered him some basic supplies and transportation from world to world. Once he'd found this uninhabited planet on an old star-chart, he'd purchased passage for himself and the module on a cargo runner whose course would pass near this system, then jumped ship at the proper moment.
As he gazed down on the beauty of a living world from orbit, he thought again of his other option, the one he'd shied away from so many times in the past few weeks. Pulling Winona from her place on his thigh, he turned her slowly before his eyes. Dying in space had its attractions. It would be swift, painless, and sure, unlike the slow disease that was invading his brain. When he'd chosen to become an astronaut, death in space had been a real possibility, one he'd learned to accept with equanimity. Space had been his dream since he was four years old, a dream he'd since realized far beyond his wildest childhood imagination. But it was also a dream that had, far too many times in the past three years, turned into a nightmare.
No, he decided for the hundredth and last time, this wasn't his way. Stilling his trembling hand once again through force of will, he placed the pulse pistol back into its holster. He'd face what was coming as his mother had before him, staring fate squarely in the eye and daring it to do its worst. He'd had enough of space for one lifetime. He wanted one last summer of green trees and blue skies to carry with him into the dark.
He studied the world for arns, noting the tilt of the axis and making mental calculations, all the while savoring his last few arns as an astronaut. The southern hemisphere, he concluded, was just entering the height of springtime, with a long summer ahead.
He chose a spot at a temperate latitude and landed, near the shore of a mountain lake. As he had on Aquara over two years before, and as best he could with his waning coordination, he built a small shelter and went about the motions of survival in the wilderness. This time, however, there was no nearby village of helpful natives to aid him. He was alone here, just as he wanted.
Barring the possibility of accidents, he figured he stood a good chance of surviving here until autumn, even with his faculties declining so rapidly. By then, though, he'd be far enough gone that the onset of cold weather would end things fairly quickly.
He'd died three years ago, at least in the eyes of everyone he'd ever known and loved. His father and sisters would have mourned him for a time and then moved on with their lives, but he hated to think of the pain he'd caused them to endure. He'd died again five months ago, in the arms of Aeryn Sun, and she was still being wracked by that loss. This time he'd gotten to see the pain first-hand, in her eyes and in the eyes of all of his new-found friends.
Never again. Thanks to the story he'd concocted and left in his message to Aeryn, everyone would believe he'd made it home. They'd miss him, but they'd be happy for him, and John Crichton, scourge of the Uncharted Territories, would pass seamlessly into legend.
Here, at last, he intended to let death find him one last time, and this time he'd leave no one behind to mourn.
To be continued... in "Perish Twice"