Categories > TV > Farscape > Perish Twice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
-- Robert Frost, "Fire and Ice"
The mood of Talyn's crew was subdued when they finally found Moya, over two monens after setting out to search for her. They'd won. Scorpius was dead. It ought to have been a time for celebration, had they not also had to explain the absence of John Crichton to his friends.
At least this time is wasn't his death the were reporting. He'd snuck away from Talyn without saying a word to anyone, about a monen after they killed Scorpius, leaving behind only a short recorded message to Aeryn. He'd found his way home, he said, and since the universe was once again safe from wormhole warfare, he had apparently felt he had nothing else in the Uncharted Territories worth passing up that chance for.
Nothing, and no one.
Aeryn played John's final message to the entire crew. The all claimed to be happy for him, said they were glad he'd made it home, but the words rang hollow. Not an arn went by in the next few solar days without someone wishing he was there, whether it be for a shoulder to cry on, a pair of hands to help with the work, or that irrepressible sense of humor that had so often rejuvenated their spirits even as it baffled their microbes. And yet, as much as they missed him, they were also uniformly irritated and hurt that he hadn't waited, hadn't given them the chance to say goodbye.
Talyn and Moya hung together in space for several solar days, since their crews lacked the will to direct them. It was Rygel, of course, ever practical, who finally pointed out that they were running low on supplies.
As they traveled slowly in search of a nearby commerce planet that would fulfill their needs, Aeryn wandered through Moya's halls, as distant and silent as she had been the first time Talyn had returned.
She made it clear that she wanted to be left alone, and her friends respected that wish as much as possible. During times when she wasn't needed for maintenance duties or to stand a watch in Command, she wandered Moya's halls like a ghost, almost at random. For days, though, she managed to avoid walking down a specific corridor. Then, whether by accident or unconscious intent, she finally found herself standing outside Crichton's quarters.
Aeryn paused for a moment with her hand hovering over the door control. She hadn't been inside this room since before the two ships -- and the two Crichtons -- had split up at Kanvia. At the time, she'd still been trying to wrap her mind around the concept that the man she loved was now two men, and had tossed a green shirt at one so she'd have a way to tell them apart. Not long afterwards, she and the other Crichton had gone to Talyn and had quickly forgotten the one they'd left behind, alone and dressed in green.
Part of her feared what she would feel if she crossed the threshold, though she tried to convince herself that she ought to feel nothing. Eventually, steeling herself, she triggered the mechanism and entered the room.
Almost every item John Crichton had acquired in his three cycles among them was still here. He'd taken next to nothing along except his module when they set out after Scorpius on Talyn.
Part of her was surprised he'd left so much behind. Her John had brought most of his prized possessions with him to Talyn when they left. But perhaps that was the reason -- this one had faced the loss of those same precious things already, had accepted it and moved on, in spite of their subsequent return to his possession. Many of them were still stuffed in the black duffel bag they'd brought back from Talyn, which now sat neglected in a shadowed corner of the room. Perhaps in his mind those objects, like Aeryn's heart, would forever afterwards belong to his dead twin.
Circling the room, Aeryn paused to brush her hand along the pillow on the bunk. Lifting it, she brought it to her face and, with eyes closed, breathed in the lingering, familiar scent that remained in the fabric. It was faint -- he'd been gone a long time -- but it was still there.
As she went to replace the pillow on the bunk, she noticed the book that had been hidden underneath. Crichton's notebook. It wasn't the original one, the one her John had brought with him to Talyn, which now contained stars Aeryn had helped to name and lessons in written English for her to study -- that one she'd kept, coincidentally under her own pillow in her quarters. This one was newer, less worn, probably created to replace the one that had been lost.
Had he left this behind on purpose, or simply forgotten to take it from its hiding place when they left for the command carrier? Aeryn flipped to the last page with written text on it. Her lessons in reading and speaking English had been too brief for her to be able to decipher all the words, but she recognized a few. Dad. Aeryn. Home. It seemed to be a letter to his father, in the manner of all the verbal messages he'd recorded before the power cells in his magnetic recording device ran out.
This was a last link to the man she'd loved. Or tried to love. In his absence, she was realizing that this second loss was, in some ways, as bad as the first.
/She takes time. /She'd heard her John say that to his counterpart through Stark's mask. Crichton had taken the advice to heart and hadn't pushed her. But now she was realizing that she should have heeded it herself. She hadn't given herself enough time to heal before trying to recreate what she'd lost, and that failure had cost them both.
One of the first things John had done when he arrived on the surface of the planet he'd picked out was to say goodbye to Winona and pitch the pulse pistol into the lake. He could only think of two possible uses for it here: self-defense or self-destruction. The former seemed pretty pointless, given his situation.
And as for the latter, he'd turned away from that back in orbit. The trials and tragedies of his life in the past three years had been enough to drive him to the brink of suicide a couple of times, but something had always pulled him back. His mother's example, her determination to live every day she was given to the fullest, in spite of the pain, had always stood before him as a model to aspire to. She'd been gone for almost seven years, now, and John still didn't want to disappoint her. He didn't trust his resolve to hold firm, however, if temptation was staring him in the face as things got harder, so Winona had to go.
He spent most of his days hiking through the woods, or sitting on the shore of the lake, a jerry-rigged fishing pole by his side, soaking up the warm sun and listening to the strange songs of the local fauna. When it rained, he took refuge inside the module, and at night he slept beneath its sheltering wings.
It amazed him to realize, as it gradually eased, how much stress and tension he'd been living with for the past couple of years. The peace and quiet soothed his battered spirit, healing his soul even as his body gave out bit by bit.
To keep his mind occupied, he studied the world around him with a scientist's eye. His training had been in physics, not biology, but he hadn't dated Alex for as long as he had without learning something about her field, too. Though her post-graduate study had been in medicine, she was a biologist first, and she'd been as fascinated by the intricacies of the living world as he had been by the stars above his head. They'd shared a love of the outdoors, of pristine wilderness and unspoiled places, which had formed part of a solid foundation for their relationship, until their disparate dreams had torn them apart.
Here on this alien world he watched the ebb and flow of life that was so different from what he'd known, and yet was strangely familiar in some ways, too. Where four limbs had been the standard design for the higher land creatures on Earth, six seemed to be the predominant pattern here. Except for that oddity, however, the power of convergent evolution had created a number of recognizable types: winged and feathered creatures like birds, hoofed ruminants, shy rodents, and the occasional familiar-looking predator. Often, usually at sunrise or sunset, John would catch a glimpse of some local animals coming down to the water for a drink. The sheer variety and strange beauty of the parade made for a fine show.
One creature in particular seemed intrigued by this curious stranger who had set up residence on the shore. It was vaguely canine, with a long snout, sharp teeth, and intelligent-looking eyes, while its movements, on occasion, suggested the litheness of a cat, smooth and supple. The four rear-most limbs were powerful and ideal for running, while the forward pair had longer, opposing digits to allow for grasping and manipulating food, similar to a raccoon, with dangerous-looking claws.
Each day the creature would approach the lake shore for a drink, emerging just a bit closer to his camp than the day before. Crichton sensed that he was being watched, but not as a threat or as potential prey. The eyes that gazed at him held a significant measure of simple curiosity. He started leaving the remains of his fish dinners a short distance away, and the food was always gone by morning.
Crichton decided to name the creature Anubis, after the jackal-god of ancient Egypt who judged the souls of the dead and guided them to the afterlife. A proper companion for him in these last days, he thought whimsically.
Aeryn sat alone in a refreshment house on the commerce planet, waiting for the others to finish their errands and return. She was trying to ignore the empty place across from her, the seat that in the past would have been filled by one particular figure, smiling at her over the top of his drink.
Though her mind was preoccupied, her senses were still primed to taut attention; when Crichton's name was mentioned in a quiet conversation on the other side of the crowded and noisy establishment, she heard it clearly and turned to stare. After a moment, she rose and drifted across the room to listen more closely to the conversation that had caught her notice.
"--and then he plops down a pile of brandor tiles on the counter and orders a sakma-load of food cubes. Food cubes!" expounded one of the half-inebriated merchants at the corner table.
"C'mon, Grivch, yer imaginin' things. That couldn'a been Crichton," one of his companions slurred doubtfully.
"'M tellin' you, it was him! Seen his image a hundred times on the wanted beacons and such...and he just walks into my store like he was anybody...." Suddenly, the speaker became aware of his newly-acquired audience and looked up at the Sebacean woman who was looming over him. "C'n I help ya?" he asked peevishly.
Aeryn's voice was dangerous, hard. "I heard you claiming you'd done business with John Crichton. When would that have been?"
"Three weekens ago, 'f it's any business of yours."
"Impossible," Aeryn stated emphatically, definitively.
"Toldja," said Grivch's companion blearily.
"And how would you know?" Grivch asked her, ignoring his friend.
Aeryn leaned down, putting her face mere denches from the drunken merchant. "Because, frellchik, Crichton returned to his home planet over two monens ago."
The merchant began to protest some more, but then froze as two new figures approached from behind the woman, one tall and menacing, the other lithe and petite. They said nothing, but it was obvious they were prepared to defend the Sebacean in whatever argument she was pursuing, no questions asked. Grivch started in sudden recognition -- a Luxan, a Nebari, and a Sebacean, together? How could this be anything but the crew of the legendary escaped leviathan? A group whose exploits included the destruction of a shadow depository, a secret Peacekeeper base and, as rumor had begun to whisper, a full command carrier?
"W-well, I... obviously, I must have been... I mean, you would know, wouldn't you? It must have been... someone else... just looked a bit like him. Yes, that must be it...." The man babbled on, retracting everything he'd said, as well as several things he'd never said.
Aeryn nodded and turned, leading D'Argo and Chiana away from the merchant, who was still verbally cowering. They looked at Aeryn questioningly, wondering what that had all been about, but she just shook her head, refusing to explain. For someone who'd spent just three cycles in this part of the universe, Crichton had certainly made a reputation for himself. And it seemed that reputation was likely to grow further, even in his absence.
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