Categories > TV > Farscape > Perish Twice
John quickly lost track of how many days he'd spent on this world. He'd thought about scratching marks in the side of the ship to keep count, but it seemed to be a pointless exercise, so he abandoned the idea.
One morning, about mid-summer, he was lying prone on a flat rock shelf that overhung the water, attempting to shave using the clear surface of the lake as a mirror. The knife he'd brought along was getting dull after so much abuse, and he was handicapped by only having one hand to work with. His left arm was now all but useless, as the weakness and trembling gradually transformed into numbness and paralysis. The left leg, too, was starting to weaken; who knew how long it would be before he could no longer walk? He'd found a broken branch to use as a staff, which helped for the moment, but it was only a matter of time.
His reflection in the water wavered for a moment, then seemed to solidify; at first he thought it was just a ripple disturbing the surface, but then realized that the image had subtly changed. Instead of his own gaunt and ill-kempt face, the person looking back at him now was clean-shaven and vigorous, with a small, faint scar over his left eye. Then the other winked, and he knew.
/"I see our luck hasn't gotten much better," /the reflection said in a teasing tone of voice.
John put down his knife and propped his chin on his hand. The reflection didn't move. "Nope," he replied easily. "Same shit, different day."
His twin in the mirror smiled. /"And here I'd been envying /you for staying alive."
"Yeah, right, you envied /me/...at least you got to be with Aeryn."
"And I broke her heart, remember? I'd hoped you'd take care of her for me, that she'd have a second chance...."
"She tried -- we both did -- but sometimes you just don't get a second chance, even when there's a second you." John shook his head sadly. "She's better off now, without me there rubbing her face in her grief. She'll be able to heal." John gazed at his twin's face for a moment. Hallucinations were nothing new to this screwed-up astronaut. He knew that's what this was, but it didn't stop him from playing along.
His illusory twin got a pensive look on his face all of a sudden. "Y'know, I've been wondering about something. When we're both dead, do you think there'll be two John Crichton souls wandering around the afterlife, or just one?"
That gave him pause. His body had been twinned, but had Kaarvok been able to duplicate souls? Assuming such things existed, which John had always been less than totally certain about. Was it a singular conceit of sentient beings to believe that the universe had gifted them with something that could transcend death, just because they possessed more than their fair share of brain cells? Once upon a time, John had told Aeryn about one of the common human views of the afterlife, but he still didn't know if it was anything close to the 'truth'. I guess I'll find out soon enough, though.
Instead of responding to the question, John asked one of his own. It would have been rude, except that he knew he was really just talking to himself, and he was pretty sure he wouldn't take offense. "What do you regret most?" he inquired curiously.
The other didn't pause more than half a second. "Not getting the chance to go home, see Dad again. And I regret all the times I hurt Aeryn, especially the last one. How about you? Do you regret anything?"
John didn't hesitate either. "Not getting the chance to say goodbye to everyone. I know it's best this way, and it will save them all a lot of pain, but it still feels like I've cheated them of something. And maybe even cheated myself. Closure, maybe. I just hope I get the chance to look in on them once in a while, after."
They said nothing for a moment. The trouble with talking to yourself is you quickly run out of questions that both parties don't already know the answer to. Finally, one of them raised a fist in invitation, and the other responded to the gesture in kind.
One, two, three.
Paper and paper; tied again. John looked up at his twin's face, expecting to see that same wry expression that had graced it in his last message, only to see his own unshaven countenance and weary eyes looking back at him once again. Ah, well, it was fun while it lasted.
He smiled, strangely amused by the whole incident. He'd been expecting something like this; the Diagnosan had warned him that the stress his failing brain was experiencing would likely cause neurons to start misfiring at some point. His previous experiences with hallucinations, triggered by the neural chip Scorpius had implanted in his brain, had terrified him, and with good reason it had turned out. This time, though, he had several advantages over his past self. He knew what was happening, for one. He knew why it was happening. And best of all, he knew there was no one else around to get hurt if he lost it. This time he was determined to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Wonder who'll show up next?
Besides, it was nice to have someone to talk to, even if it was just a figment of his own imagination. He'd even found himself wishing he could talk to Harvey lately, much to his dismay. Who would have believed he'd ever miss that ugly face? The neural clone had mysteriously disappeared from his mind after the destruction of the command carrier, and had never returned. At first John had thought Harvey was just sulking, or mourning the death of his other self, but as time passed he started to believe that the clone was truly gone. Whatever was going wrong inside his skull, he concluded sadly, Harvey had probably been the first casualty. Since the chip that had engendered the clone had been one of the primary causes of his condition, the areas where Harvey resided would probably have been among the first to fail.
It sometimes surprised Crichton that he could view these symptoms of his own deterioration with such equanimity. He would recall D'Argo's words to him from long ago, in one of the first of their many 'hopeless' situations: "Fear accompanies the possibility of death. Calm shepherds its certainty." That sentiment might indeed explain his stoicism now. Or perhaps it could be explained better by a more human saying: "Familiarity breeds contempt." John Crichton had faced death too many times; he felt like they ought to be on a first-name basis. The fear of it had long since been worn away by overexposure.
Chiana and D'Argo were keeping watch on Moya's command late in the sleep cycle, helping Pilot search for another commerce planet, since the supplies they'd acquired at the last one were dwindling. They had been working quietly for arns, with the comfortable stillness of old friends rather than the strained silence that had been the norm in the monens after the incident with Jothee.
Suddenly, Chiana gasped and flinched back from her station, nearly falling over. D'Argo looked up at the sound and rushed to her side, calling her name. She didn't respond for several microts, staring blankly at nothing -- or at something only she could see. Finally she blinked and, still trembling slightly, looked up at D'Argo's concerned expression.
"Chiana, what happened?" he asked.
"I... I s-saw...."
"What did you see?"
"Crichton...I saw Crichton. Alone...so alone...cold...dying...." As usually happened when she tried to describe her precognitive flashes, the brief images did not translate readily into words.
D'Argo, like most of the crew, still looked on Chiana's 'visions' with some skepticism, even though they seemed to prove out more often than not. But this one -- a vision featuring someone now halfway across the galaxy -- stretched even what little belief he'd allowed himself beyond its breaking point.
"Chiana," he began, his voice slightly patronizing, "John left almost a quarter of a cycle ago. He's home. He's happy. It's what he wanted for over three cycles. And even if he were in trouble, which I doubt, there is nothing we could do for him. He made his choice."
Chiana shook her head violently, her white hair flying in all directions, feeling deep inside that something was wrong with D'Argo's assumptions, but unable to articulate it. He continued to support her, arms enfolding her in a way that was familiar and comforting, until she finally stopped trembling.
As always, the images she'd seen faded fast, like a dream after waking. After a few hundred microts she got up and went back to the task of searching. The sense of urgency she'd felt gradually faded away as time passed. When, over an arn later, D'Argo suggested to her that she not tell the others -- particularly Aeryn -- about her vision, she agreed. It would only upset the former Peacekeeper, and D'Argo was right: even if it had been real, there was nothing they could do.
Part of her, though, deep inside, still trembled in fear for John Crichton.
Four solar days later, the crew was again spending a pleasant afternoon exploring the market on a commerce planet. Jool ended up partnered with Rygel, and the pair was charged with purchasing star charts or map fibers from one of the local suppliers. With plenty of currency still in their pockets, the only sticking point these days was the limited availability of the maps they needed to find their respective homeworlds. The Uncharted Territories, in most cases, lived up to their name; maps were rare and valuable commodities, and what few were available tended to be highly inaccurate, too small-scale, or in other ways unhelpful to a group seeking remote destinations such as theirs.
They entered one dimly-lit establishment, Jool trailing slightly behind the more experienced negotiator. As Rygel plied the proprietor for information, she gazed idly around. The shop owner was obviously a collector of rare objects, which he used to decorate his walls. Jool, having received a well-rounded education before getting lost and frozen for twenty-two cycles, recognized the origins of many of the objects displayed, and was actually impressed by some of the choices.
Her eyes were drawn eventually, almost against their will, to a splash of vibrant, obnoxious color in one corner. Peering closer, she realized it was a piece of clothing, shapeless and ordinary, except for the eye-searing orange color. What sort of tasteless being could possibly wear such a thing? A strange white helmet hung nearby, obviously a part of the ensemble.
The proprietor's assistant appeared next to her, gazing at the display in quiet rapture. "It's one of the master's most recent acquisitions. He only traded a single map for it, if you can believe it..."
"Your master was cheated, I think," Jool sneered haughtily. "I've never seen an uglier outfit in my life."
"The value is historical, m'lady," the lackey assured her. "They originally belonged to one of the most famous figures of recent history. Truly unique and--"
"Jool!" Rygel called out, floating across the room towards her and interrupting whatever the helper was going to say. "We aren't going to find the maps we need here; shall we go meet the--?" Pulling up beside his crewmate, Rygel followed her gaze to the object of their attention. His voice faded to silence for a moment until, finally, he managed to breathe a single word. "Yotz!"
"Rygel! Jool!" Aeryn called out as she entered the transport pod. "What is so frelling important that you had to drag us all back here before we'd finished what we came here for?"
Jool shook her head. "Don't ask me; I was there and I don't understand what's gotten the slug so uptight." D'Argo and Chiana, who had arrived mere microts before Aeryn, looked just as clueless. Crais, on the other hand, was somber as he stood in a shadowed corner of the pod.
"Aeryn," Rygel said gently. "I think perhaps you should sit down."
"Rygel," she growled impatiently, "just cut to the chase."
Everyone in the pod blinked in surprise at her unconscious use of one of Crichton's Earthisms. Rygel sighed. "Aeryn, we found something at the local map dealer that I think you should see." He nodded to Jool, who pulled the orange outfit and white helmet out of the bag she'd stuffed them into. She couldn't believe how much the Hynerian had paid to acquire these pieces of--
Aeryn's sudden intake of breath clued her in to the fact that there really was something significant here. Looking over at D'Argo and Chi, she realized she was the only one present to whom this bundle of bright cloth meant nothing.
"Where... How...?" Aeryn stuttered in shock, reaching out but not quite touching the flight suit.
"According to the map seller, he traded a single map for these...less than two monens ago."
Crais spoke up then, from his position by the wall. "When the Hynerian told me what he had found, before you arrived, I contacted Talyn. The wormhole data from the command carrier still sits untouched in Talyn's databanks. Crichton never even accessed it, never studied it as he said he had. Talyn never thought to mention that to me, and I never thought to ask; neither of us has had any interest in wormholes after what we saw at Dam-Ba-Da."
Jool was looking from face to face for an explanation, but everyone was just looking shocked. She quickly ran out of patience. "Will someone tell me what the frell is going on?"
"There's no reason you would know, Jool," D'Argo said quietly. "When Crichton first arrived on Moya over three cycles ago...these are the clothes he was wearing. He packed them away long before you came on board -- I don't know where."
"In his module," Aeryn whispered, finally gaining the courage to reach out and take the suit from Jool. "He kept them strapped behind the pilot's chair for a passenger to sit on, since the ship didn't have a second seat."
D'Argo nodded. He'd never been a passenger in the Farscape module; with his large stature, he would never have fit in the tiny space. The last time he'd seen John's flight suit, Crichton's primitive duplicate had been wearing it, but that had been nearly two cycles ago. Chiana would certainly remember it, though she hadn't been aboard when John first arrived; she had spent a great deal of time with that 'cave man' Crichton, and had grown rather fond of him.
"Is it possible he...lost these before he left?" Chiana asked, though she feared she knew what the answer would be.
Aeryn shook her head. "No, they were still in the module when we escaped from the command carrier. I sat on them myself."
"So...what does this mean?" Jool asked.
"I have no idea," Rygel sighed. "I just thought it was something we needed to investigate. We all thought Crichton went home, but if he never even looked at the wormhole data--"
"He didn't go home," Aeryn said suddenly, with a certainty in her voice that belied the denial still on her face. "About a monen ago, on a commerce planet...there was a man in a bar who claimed he'd sold John some food cubes just a few weekens before. I thought he was just trying to embellish his reputation, and when I challenged him he retracted everything, but perhaps he was telling the truth."
"But...why would John lie to us? Why would he leave, if he wasn't going to Earth?" Jool wondered.
Chiana swallowed nervously and glanced at D'Argo. Before he could indicate consent or denial to her silent question, she spoke. "I think...he may be in trouble."
Everyone looked at her, startled.
"A few nights ago, I had a vision. I saw Crichton, and he...I think he was dying."
Aeryn's eyes narrowed. "And you didn't mention this, why?"
D'Argo answered for her. "I convinced her not to, Aeryn. We assumed John was on Earth, so even if he was in trouble, there was nothing we could do for him. And I...didn't really believe her vision was real," he admitted sheepishly.
Jool had a look of concentration on her face as she pieced it all together. "So, it's possible that Crichton is still in this part of space. We suspect he's been to at least two commerce planets since he left, bought food cubes and a map, and may now be in trouble somewhere."
"That last, at least, I have no trouble believing," Rygel grouched. "Crichton was always getting in trouble." That drew pained looks and nervous, knowing smiles from the others.
"Rygel," Aeryn said suddenly. "Take me to this map seller of yours; if we can find out what kind of map Crichton got from him, it will help us narrow the search."
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