The Farscape Project by Dawn Cunningham

None of the characters in this story belong to me. I'm using them without permission and receiving no monetary gain.

Do not post or publish this story anywhere else, without my express permission. Feel free to share it with others as long as the disclaimers remain intact.

Warnings:

Okay, so I lied. I didn't think it was possible to get Richie Ryan into the Farscape world. He promptly set out to prove me wrong. This is a crossover with the Farscape universe. It starts out before the series actually takes place, then ends up in season 3. From this point on, the series and my universe go in two totally different directions.

Characters:

From Highlander:

Richie Ryan with brief appearances from Duncan MacLeod, Connor MacLeod, Methos, and Joe Dawson

From Farscape:

Just about everyone in the cast

* FAR * FAR * FAR *

The Farscape Project by Dawn Cunningham

John Crichton leaned both forearms against the railing and stared down at the Farscape module with pride. From the second floor walkway that ran around the hangar walls, he had a clear view of his greatest achievement. Not that he could take all the credit. His childhood friend, and fellow scientist, Dwayne Keith Mansfield - otherwise known as D.K. - had helped him design the plane.

He'd always loved flying - he'd started before he could even drive. His father had been responsible for that. John had worked as a test pilot to help pay his way through college and graduate school. Now, he had his P.H.D., and worked for IASA - the International Aeronautics and Space Agency. They, and several very generous private donors, were giving them a chance to prove their theories.

Soon, they'd start testing the Farscape module's systems. Then it would be off to Australia to test whether the module would actually fly. While it seemed like a long way to go just for a test flight, politics had become a way of life. It would have been so much easier if he'd only had to work with NASA. However, funding cuts had forced them to go international, and now Australia wanted to be involved. It wasn't enough to just name the newest space shuttle after a famous Australian, and to have Australians be part of the crew. They wanted some of the testing to be done there.

John sighed, then stood up straight. All of the mechanics, and ground crew had called it a day, so he might as well, too. While he knew every inch of the module, they tended to get upset if he worked on it after they were gone. Maybe he'd grab something to eat, then put in some time in the flight simulator. He wanted to be ready for the test stage.

"Hey, John!"

He looked down and saw D.K. jogging across the hangar floor. He headed for the stairs, and met his friend at the bottom of them. "What's happening?"

"Have you heard?"

"Heard what?"

"They've hired another test pilot for the module!"

"What?" John couldn't believe what he'd just heard. This was his idea, his design, and his ship. He wasn't going to let someone else fly her.

"They've hired another test pilot!" D.K. repeated. "They brought him through the complex a little while ago, and introduced him. I've been looking for you ever since."

"We'll just see about that!" John headed for the office area at a fast trot, determined to straighten out whatever paper-pusher who'd come up with this idea. He had a good idea who was involved. Doug Mitchell was a constant thorn in his side. Since his company was putting up a major chunk of the money for this project, he seemed to think he could make all the decisions.

Before he had a chance to find Mitchell, he found the man who was in charge of the project, Kevin Brody. John liked the man, and knew he kept things under control. He was responsible for picking the team who'd been working on the Farscape module.

Brody took one look at John's face, and sighed. "Let me guess... You've heard the news about the test pilot."

"We don't need another test pilot!" John insisted. "I'm going to fly the Farscape module."

"And you will... once it's been proven airworthy. John, just think about it for a minute. You and D.K. are the key to this whole project. If something should go wrong in the test phase, we'd be up the creek without a paddle. Why, we might even have to scrap the whole project! It only makes sense to use a test pilot during the most dangerous parts of the project."

John could see the reason behind Brody's request, but that didn't mean he had to like it. "This guy doesn't know the first thing about the module. How is he going to manage to fly it?"

"That's why he's here now. He'll start on flight simulation training first thing tomorrow. By the time we go to Australia, he should be up to speed on the module."

"But I fly the final test - the one in space - right?"

"Of course. Although we are talking about sending him with you on the Collaroy. That way we will have a choice when it comes down to the final test. But it will be your call, John. I promise you that."

"All right. So, where is this guy?"

"He should be here any minute. Judy is showing him around the facility. I told her to bring him here last. It will be interesting to see his reaction when he first sees the module."

"And if I don't like him?"

"Just give him a chance. If he doesn't fit in with the team, then we'll replace him. There are plenty of test pilots out there." Brody glanced back over his shoulder. "Here he comes now. Play nice, boys."

John studied the man headed for them. He didn't look old enough to vote, let alone be a test pilot. He had reddish-blond hair that was cut in a crew cut, similar to John's. He wore blue jeans, a red T-shirt, a leather jacket, and boots. The man had a swagger, like he owned the place. He also looked like he was more intent on chatting with Judy, than looking around. This was not good. Especially since John had been trying to capture Judy's attention, too, without any luck. And knowing his luck, Ryan would probably be able to score with Melanie, too.

Brody had gone to meet the pair, and he must have sent Judy off, since she turned and left. He and the test pilot continued over to where John and D.K. were standing.

"You've already met D.K.," Brody started, "and this is our other genius on the project, John Crichton. John, this is Richard Ryan, test pilot."

Ryan stuck out his hand, and gave them a huge smile. "It's Richie, and I'm pleased to meet you."

John shook hands somewhat reluctantly. Even close up, Ryan still looked too young. Before he had a chance to say anything, the test pilot's eyes drifted past John and widened dramatically.

"Wow! Is that the... uh... plane I'm going to be flying?"

John tried to swallow his resentment, and led the way back to the module. "We call it the Farscape module."

"Cool. How does it work?"

He couldn't have asked a better question. Before he realized what was happening, John was involved in a detailed discussion about the module. The next thing he knew, more than an hour had passed, and Brody, and D.K. had disappeared.

Ryan glanced at his watch. "Oh, man, I'm sorry. You were probably headed out of here. I didn't mean to keep you this late. This could have waited until tomorrow."

"I didn't have anything planned," John responded. "It wasn't a problem."

"Great. Hey, maybe you could give me some suggestions on places to eat. I've never been here before and I could sure use some beer about now."

"I know this great place - and it serves the best pizza around. It's not too far away. We could go together." If the guy liked pizza and beer, then maybe he wasn't so bad after all.

"If you're sure you don't have anything else to do. I hate drinking alone."

They walked out to the parking lot. "What are you driving?" John asked. "You can follow me to the place."

"That's my ride." Ryan pointed to a motorcycle parked nearby.

John practically had to wipe the drool from his chin. He'd long ago given up his motorcycle because it was too difficult to haul around all his papers, tools, and assorted pieces of the module that he always seemed to cart around. Maybe he could talk Ryan into letting him borrow the bike for a joy ride sometime.

Once they'd gotten to the restaurant, and had beers in front of them, John decided to find out more about Ryan. "So, how long have you been flying?"

Ryan shrugged. "About six years. At first it was just something to try out, but my flight instructor told me that I had a definite talent for it. He used to be a test pilot, and helped me get started in the business. I've been a test pilot for the last two years."

"What? You must have started flying when you were twelve."

"I'm older than I look. I'm almost twenty-five. I've got a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering, but I'm not the kind of guy who can sit in an office cubical all day drawing up plans for someone else. Most of the other test pilots I know think that you're crazy, so it made it easier for me to get this job."

"And what do you think?"

"That you're crazy." Ryan gave him a big grin.

John stared at the other man for the longest time, then grinned back. "Then you're right!" He lifted his beer and toasted his new teammate. "And you must be just as crazy to want to work on this project."

Ryan lifted his own mug and tapped it against John's. "I've been told that before. To craziness!"

By the time they'd eaten their pizza and finished several beers, John was certain that Ryan would fit in with the rest of the team. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.

* FAR * FAR *

Several months later...

John wiped his sweaty palms against his pants before toggling on the monitor in front of his station. He wished the test was done and over with, but it hadn't even begun yet. If anything went wrong, it could mean the death of one of his friends.

Even now, Ryan was strapped into the Farscape module. The craft was suspended from the wing of a very large military cargo plane headed for the test site. Since the module had never been designed for take-offs, it needed another plane to do that function. The space shuttle would do it for the final test. Once they were within the test zone, Ryan would fire up the engines and detach the module.

Hopefully, then he would be able to fly the module, and successfully land it. Failure could cause him to die. A design flaw could kill the young man.

John kept telling himself that the module had worked fine in the simulator. And Ryan had easily mastered the concepts, and logged plenty of hours training for this flight. But that still didn't mean the module would fly. "Ten minutes to target zone."

The disembodied voice of the cargo plane pilot echoed through the test facility. John quickly typed in the commands to give him access to the monitors and cameras on the Farscape module. D.K. was busy doing the same thing at the next station.

"It's going to work, John," D.K. said. "It's going to work. Richie can handle the module just as well as anyone can."

John smiled at his friend. Obviously, D.K. was having the same thoughts. The three of them had become quite a team. "It's going to work."

It had to.

"You ready for this, Rich?" he asked through his headset.

"Let's rock and roll!" Even through the speakers, Ryan's cockiness was evident, but John knew him better than that. Underneath it all, he was just as nervous as the rest of them. The view screen in the front of the room came to life, showing the interior of the module's cockpit. Ryan gave a thumbs up sign before turning back to his controls.

John quickly walked Ryan through the engine startup procedures. When everything looked good, he signaled for the decoupling procedure. D.K.'s hands flashed over the keyboard in front of him.

"Decoupling... Now!" D.K. almost yelled out.

John glued his eyes to his monitor, checking out the readings as the Farscape module started on its free flight. Everything was looking good until the engines quit.

"Engines stopped!" Ryan's voice filled the room. "Trying to restart."

The view screen in front of the room showed the test pilot frantically pushing buttons in the module. John worked just as quickly, trying to figure out what was wrong. Even worse, the module had started to spiral down through the atmosphere.

"Rich, you have to bring her out of the spin! Even without the engines, the module should be able to glide down!"

"I'm trying."

John watched the altimeter setting as it quickly cycled downward. If something didn't happen in the next thirty seconds, they would need a microscope to find the remains of Ryan.

Suddenly, the plummet seemed to stop. John's eyes flew up to the view screen.

"Got it! Engines restarted!"

John closed his eyes for a moment and gave a silent prayer of thanks. Then he turned his attention back to his monitor.

"No offense, Crichton," Ryan spoke up, "but I've got paperweights that fly better than this module of yours."

John looked up at the view screen. Ryan did seem to be having problems controlling the module, but he was doing it. "Maybe it's the pilot," he suggested.

"Right. Or maybe it's the warped mind of the guys who designed it."

"I think we resemble that remark," John said with a smile at D.K. "Time to land her."

"Okay. Landing strip is in sight."

Ten minutes later, the Farscape module was safely on the ground, and John could finally relax. He signaled to D.K. and they hurried outside to congratulate Ryan. Tonight there would be a huge celebration. Tomorrow would be soon enough to work out the problems.

* FAR * FAR *

Several months later...

Ryan picked up the phone and dialed a number that was as familiar as his own. Duncan MacLeod had kept the same number, even after selling the dojo and moving into a house a few years back. "Hey, Mac," he said when it was answered.

"Richie! How is it going?" Duncan asked.

"Great. Just great." Ryan could barely hold in his enthusiasm. "It's official, Mac. I'm going up!"

"In the space shuttle? Congratulations."

"I'm going into space! I can't believe it!"

"You've worked hard to get there, Rich. You deserve it."

"I'm only going to be backup. John is going to fly the actual test. I guess they want me there in case he gets cold feet or gets sick or something like that. Knowing John, he'd have to practically be dead before he'd pass on flying this time."

"But you're still going up. And maybe next time, you'll be the pilot."

Ryan could hear the pride in his mentor's voice. He knew the words would never be spoken, but it was enough to know that his teacher was proud of him.

"So when is the big day?"

"Two days, assuming the weather conditions hold."

"Well, I'll keep my eye on the news channels. I doubt they'll show the launch itself, but I'll be thinking of you. Good luck, Richie."

"Thanks, Mac. Got to run. I have a briefing in ten minutes."

"Watch your head."

"I always do. You too." With that, Ryan hung up the phone. They never said goodbye - it was a tradition that had started between Duncan and Connor, that had been carried over to include Richie.

* FAR * FAR *

Three days later, onboard the space shuttle Collaroy

"Are you sure about this, John?" Ryan asked as he helped his friend get ready to fly the Farscape module. "D.K. said you had the heebie-jeebies about this test."

"I'm fine, Rich. Nervous, but who wouldn't be? I know you want to fly this, but not as much as I want to."

"You're the boss." Ryan wasn't going to argue. John deserved this chance. He slapped his friend on the shoulder, then went back inside the shuttle where he could watch the launch.

Everything seemed to be going fine, until the wormhole appeared. Ryan watched helplessly as his friend was sucked into it. There was nothing he could do except watch.

* FAR * FAR *

Duncan MacLeod was roused out of a sound sleep by the ringing of his phone. Sleepily, he answered it.

"MacLeod?"

"Yeah." He peered at the clock by the table. "Do you know what time it is, Methos? Just because you're awake in New York doesn't mean-"

"Turn on your television - to ZNN," Methos interrupted.

Duncan hurried to comply, still clutching the phone to his ear. "What's wrong? What's happened?"

It seemed to take forever for the television to display its screen. A young female reporter was standing out in the open, the IASA launch pad in the background.

"... in breaking news, the space shuttle Collaroy has disappeared from all monitors. IASA hasn't released any more details than that. The fate of its crew is still unknown."

"My God!" Duncan whispered, unable to tear his eyes from the television. "Richie..."

"I thought you would want to know," Methos replied. "I figured you'd still be asleep. I'm going to catch the next flight out to Seacouver."

Duncan nodded, then realized Methos couldn't see that over the phone. "Thanks, Methos. Have you told Joe?"

"Not yet. Although he may already know about it through the Watchers."

"If he had, he would have called." Just then Duncan heard the doorbell ring. "On second thought, that's probably him now."

"I'll be there as soon as I can," Methos promised before hanging up. Duncan hung up his phone and climbed out of bed. He put on his robe, and turned on some lights as he went to answer his door. As expected, it was Joe Dawson. He opened the door wide, letting the Watcher into his house.

"I know, Joe," Duncan said. "Methos just called. Do you have any more information? Do they know what happened to the shuttle?"

"I'm sorry, Mac. While not official yet, they think the shuttle either blew up or disintegrated. There's absolutely no trace of it. One minute it was there, then it was gone. All they know is that there was some weird electromagnetic disturbance."

"So, Richie is..." Duncan just couldn't say the word.

Joe slowly nodded, tears pouring down his cheeks. "He couldn't have survived it. Even his immortality couldn't have saved him from something that catastrophic."

Duncan slowly sank down on his couch, not wanting to believe it.

* FAR * FAR *

One year later, MacLeod Enterprises home office

"D.K., are you sure this is a good idea?" Jack Crichton looked decidedly uncomfortable in his suit.

"Duncan MacLeod was practically a father to Richie. I'm sure he'd be willing to help us find out what really happened." D.K. clutched his briefcase, hoping he had enough proof.

The receptionist replaced the phone, then nodded to them. "You can go in, now." She pointed at a door on the far side of the room.

Instead of the one man they'd been expecting, there were four of them. D.K. wasn't sure if this was a good sign or not. One of them came over to greet them.

"I'm Duncan MacLeod," he said, reaching out to shake their hands.

"It's nice to finally meet you. Richie often talked about you." To be honest, D.K. had expected the man to be a lot older than he looked. "I'm D.K. Mansfield, and this is Jack Crichton."

"Of course, the astronaut. And John Crichton's father. I wished I'd had a chance to meet your son. Richie often talked of him when he phoned."

"Thank you for meeting with us," D.K. said, steering them back to the purpose of their visit.

"Well, your phone call was interesting." Duncan led them toward the table. "These are some of my friends - they all knew Richie well. This is Connor MacLeod, Adam Pierson, and Joe Dawson."

The men all shook hands then sat down at the table. D.K. promptly opened his briefcase and pulled out a stack of papers. If he'd known there was going to be more than one person, he would have made copies, but now there was no time.

"This is the official IASA report on the Collaroy accident. They decided that some kind of electromagnetic force caused the orbiter and the Farscape module to suddenly implode."

"But we don't believe that is what really happened," Jack Crichton added.

"Based on what?" Duncan asked.

"An implosion of that kind should have registered on the IASA equipment. While it would be possible that the smaller Farscape module might have imploded without making a very large explosion, the orbiter was large enough that something should have registered. Plus, there should have been some kind of debris, but there was nothing."

"That hardly proves anything," Connor MacLeod pointed out.

D.K. pulled out a cassette tape player. "This is my best evidence. The last transmissions from the shuttle were badly garbled by interference. We've had an expert try to reconstruct it." He pressed the play button.

"Being...in... looks like... hole... can't...free..." The tape was filled with garbled words between the recognizable ones.

"That's the original message." D.K. changed tapes. "After cleaning it up, here's what we think they said." Once again, he pressed the play button.

"Being sucked in... looks like wormhole... can't break free."

"I'm sure I can find another 'expert' that could make them say anything I want them to say," Pierson pointed out.

"That's true." D.K. tried to hold onto his temper. "It's our belief that somehow a wormhole was formed, and the module and orbiter was sucked into it. It's possible that John and Richie are still alive, but in a different part of the universe."

"It's been a year," Pierson said. "There is no way they could survive in space that long."

"It's possible that they could have found a habitable planet and still be alive," Jack Crichton broke in.

"That's a pretty long shot," Connor replied. "In fact, there are many that don't believe any planet but Earth could sustain life."

"And many others who believe otherwise," D.K. retorted.

"Assuming that your theories are correct, why did you come to see me?" Duncan asked, looking thoughtful.

"The funding for the Farscape project was pulled after the... accident. We're looking for funding to resurrect it."

"I've called in all the markers I can," Jack said. "I've managed to raise some money, but not enough. I want to find out what really happened to my son!"

"Don't you want to know what really happened to Richie?" D.K. asked.

"Yes, I would like to know," Duncan admitted. "But not at the expense of another crew. Even if you recreate the same conditions, how can you ask someone to risk going off into the unknown?"

"Because D.K. and I will be the crew," Jack said. "I've been up on the shuttle. I can fly just about anything. And D.K. has the scientific knowledge. I'm willing to risk my life if it means finding my son."

"We want to design a different module - with the same characteristics of the Farscape module, but larger. It would also have to be capable of lifting off by itself," D.K. explained. "Something that would require less crew."

"And how much money do you need? And how long will it take?"

D.K. pulled the final set of papers out of his briefcase. He passed them down the table, each person quickly looking at the figures. They finally reached Duncan who raised an eyebrow when he saw the final amount.

"As for time, that all depends. I'm working from theory here. We would have to recreate the exact conditions to cause a wormhole to appear."

Duncan sighed. "If you'll step outside, we'll discuss this," he finally said.

D.K. and Jack exchanged glances as they stood up. D.K. didn't have a good feeling about this, but he didn't know what else to say.

Once the two men had left the room, Duncan turned to the rest. "So, what do you think?"

"It's a foolish task," Pierson quickly tossed out. "They'll be committing suicide if they try to do this."

"But what if they're right?" Joe asked, speaking up for the first time. "What if they are still alive? Shouldn't someone try to rescue them?"

"If the orbiter didn't implode, Ryan would still be alive. If we do nothing, we've condemned him to an eternity of floating in space," Connor said. "But I also think it would be a very long shot to find one little orbiter out there in the universe."

"What would it be like for Richie?" Joe asked. "Would he be aware of the passing of time? Would he keep coming back to life, only to suffocate again? Or is he dead - unaware of anything until there's breathable air to bring him back to life?"

The three Immortals exchanged looks.

"I've never really been in that condition," Duncan admitted. "My deaths have always been short-lived."

"The same is true for me," Connor said.

"It's different for each Immortal," Pierson finally said. "I've talked to ones who don't remember anything during their death. But the only time it happened to me, I would revive, only to die again. I don't know how often it happened, but it was... unpleasant."

"Can any of you condemn Richie to that?" Joe asked. "I can get some money from the Watcher organization. After all, there's an Immortal out there in space somewhere."

"I'm willing," Connor said. "In fact, it might be interesting to go up in space. Maybe we should make sure their shuttle is big enough for more passengers."

"I agree," Duncan said, smiling at his kinsman.

"You're all fools," Pierson stated with a scowl. "But I've got some money that I could invest in this project."

"Then let's get them working on it." Duncan stood up, and went to call their guests back into the room.

* FAR * FAR * FAR

About 18 months later, somewhere in the uncharted territory...

"Crichton, you might want to take a look at this."

John Crichton hurried down the corridors of Moya toward command. Pilot was usually calm and collected, but there had been a worried note in his tone. "What is it, Pilot?"

"There is some kind of spaceship... I've never seen its like before..."

"Great, more critters." John sped up his pace until he burst through the command center door.

"The markings on it are very similar to those on your module."

"What?" He hurried over to the view port, and looked at the ship drifting in front of Moya. He shook his head, rubbed his eyes with both hands and looked again.

It was the Collaroy.

"Can you bring it on board, Pilot?"

"Is that wise, Commander?"

"I have to know." Maybe the crew had been rescued. Maybe there were other humans out here in the uncharted territories. Possible allies against Scorpius, and his plans to create wormholes.

Or they could all be dead - unable to find a hospitable planet in time. Suffocated to death. Or maybe they'd starved to death. It would be hard to say which would have run out first. The oxygen was constantly recycled as long as the generators were running. But if they'd run out of fuel... He turned and headed toward the landing bay at a dead run. D'Argo, Aeryn, and Crais were there ahead of him, weapons already drawn.

"What is this, Crichton?" Crais demanded.

"It's the Collaroy - the space shuttle that I went up in to test my Farscape module."

"Is it something we can use against Scorpius?" Crais asked.

"I doubt it. First, I need to find out what happened to the crew. Pilot, is there any sign of life onboard?"

"None. There is no breathable air inside the module according to my scan," Pilot replied in a matter-of-fact tone as if it were an every day occurrence.

"If I open it up, can you force air inside so I can go in?"

"Of course."

John headed for the mid-deck access panel. It took him several minutes to open it up, then he had to go into the airlock to open the second door. He backed out of the shuttle to let Pilot do his thing, but even in the brief time he'd been inside, he'd seen a body.

In all the time he'd been out here, he'd killed plenty of creatures. Seen lots of dead bodies. But somehow this brought the horror of death home. He knew the people on board the shuttle - one of them had been a good friend. He didn't want to go back onboard. He wanted to tell Pilot to just send the shuttle back out into space.

But his fellow astronauts deserved better than that. They deserved a burial. "Pilot, are there any planets nearby that would support human life? Preferably, non-inhabited."

"There is one, a few arns from here. There is now a breathable atmosphere inside the craft."

John turned to his other shipmates. "If these are the crew of the space shuttle, I want to give them a decent burial."

D'Argo nodded. "Do you want me to check out the shuttle for you?"

"No, I have to do this myself." John took a deep breath, then climbed back into the shuttle. There were two bodies at the mid-deck level. One of them was his friend, Ryan. "Oh, Richie, I'm so sorry..."

The other was one of the mission specialists, the only female of the crew. It figured that Ryan would have the only female crew member next to him. John headed up the ladder to the flight deck. Here he found the remaining six crew members.

He slowly backed down the ladder, trying to control the churning in his stomach. His ideas, his desire to prove he was right, had killed these eight people. Had killed one of his best friends.

Just as his ideas might kill Crais, or D'Argo, or Rygel, or... or Aeryn. It was a hard concept to deal with. He went back and knelt down beside Ryan's body.

"I'm so sorry, Rich. I should never have let you get involved in this project. It's all my fault that you're dead. You should still be back on Earth, chasing around all the pretty girls." He closed his eyes, remembering the good times he'd had with Ryan. Finally, he stood up and headed for the exit door.

He heard someone take a deep gasping breath and spun around.

"Good God!" he yelled as he realized that Richie Ryan was alive and staring back at him with a startled look on his face.

Ryan recovered first. "Hi, John. What's happening?" His eyes grew wide and he jumped to his feet.

John glanced over his shoulder and saw Aeryn coming through the airlock, pulse pistol drawn. She must have heard his yell, and still cared enough to worry about him.

"It's okay, Aeryn," John assured her. "At least I think it is. Meet Richie Ryan, fellow human and astronaut."

Aeryn didn't lower her gun. "How can he still be alive? Maybe Maldis is trying to trick us again. Unless you think Zhaan brought him back, too."

"I don't know how to explain it, but he's definitely alive."

"Uh... hey, John, you can understand her?" Ryan asked, confusion evident in his tone. "And you're still speaking English to her."

"Translator microbes. We'll get you set up in a minute. Uh... is anyone else going to come back to life like you?"

Ryan shook his head. "No, they're not like me."

"And you are?" John wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answer.

"I'm... uh...an Immortal. I... uh... can't die." He almost looked sheepish as he explained.

"What kind of human nonsense is this, John?" Aeryn demanded angrily. "Everyone dies."

"I thought so, too," John replied, eyeing the man who looked just like his friend somewhat suspiciously. Maybe someone was messing with his mind again. If that was the case, he was getting really tired of it.

"It's true, John," Ryan promised. "I'm immortal. I don't know why. I don't know how. I just am." He swayed slightly, and grabbed John's arm for a moment to steady himself. "Sorry. Look, can I get some food? Or something to drink? Then I'll try to explain."

John exchanged glances with Aeryn who finally nodded. "All right, let's get out of here." He practically pushed Aeryn back through the airlock, then followed her. He could hear Ryan coming out behind him, and knew exactly when the other man spotted D'Argo, who had his Qualta blade drawn, ready for action.

"Whoa! Maybe you should tell the big guy with the sword that I'm no threat," Ryan said, backing up a step.

"Who is this, Crichton?" D'Argo growled.

"A friend. Pilot, translator microbes, please. Stand still, Rich."

A DRD rolled up to Ryan, and quickly injected him.

"Hey! What was that?"

"Just give it a few microts... uh... seconds. Jool, Chiana, Rygel, meet us in the center chamber, please." John grabbed the other astronaut's arm, and gave it a tug. "This way, Rich. Right now, you're on Moya, who is a biomechanical leviathan ship."

"You mean it's alive?" Ryan paused to feel the walls.

"That's right. Her son Talyn is docked alongside. You can meet him later. Be grateful, when I first came on board, I didn't have a tour guide like you do." John couldn't miss the apprehensive looks Ryan kept sending back over his shoulder. "Relax, they aren't going to hurt you."

"But that one guy... he's an alien! He's got tentacles!"

"They all are. Aeryn and Crais are Sebaceans - very similar to humans, but still aliens. D'Argo is a Luxan. Wait until you see the rest of the crew. Rygel is an Hynerian. Chiana is a Nebari, and Jool is an Interon. They all look alien. Oh, and then there's Pilot. He runs the ship."

"Before you give him too much more information, Crichton, maybe we'd better find out how he could still be alive after three cycles," Aeryn pointed out, anger in her tone.

"Hey, I can understand her!"

"Translator microbes," John explained again. "They colonize at the base of your brain and translate for you."

They finally reached the center chamber, and John was pleased that the rest of the crew had gotten there first.

"Who is this person?" Rygel demanded, hovering on his throne sled.

John quickly introduced everyone, and then got out food and drink for Ryan. Once his friend had a chance to eat something, he said, "Okay, Rich, you're up first. Want to explain how you're still alive?"

Ryan had been busy staring at the various occupants of the room while he ate, but now he turned to face his friend. "As I told you before, I'm immortal and I can't die. No one knows where we come from. We are all found as abandoned infants. We don't know who are parents are, and we can't have children."

John nodded. He knew Ryan had been an orphan. "Go on."

"There's not a whole lot more to it. If we die a violent death, our immortality kicks in. From that point on, we don't age and we come back to life if we die."

"So, how old are you?" John asked.

"Well, I was shot by a street punk at the ripe age of nineteen. I was twenty-five when we met. I don't know how long ago that was."

"Almost three years. You keep saying 'we'. Are there more Immortals on Earth?"

"Yes. My mentor was over 400, Amanda was over 1000, and I know another who claims to be over 5000."

John couldn't believe that something that big had been kept a secret for that many years. He looked around at the rest of the crew. "Have any of you heard of a race like that?"

"There are a lot of races that live longer than humans do," Aeryn pointed out. "But I've never heard of ones that live that long, and that don't age."

"Still, we've run into other species out here that you've never heard of before. That doesn't mean they don't exist," John pointed out.

Aeryn drew her gun and pointed it at Ryan. "Maybe we should just shoot him, and see if he comes back to life."

"Whoa!" John cried out, putting a hand out to stop her. "That's not necessary, Aeryn."

"Maybe this would help you believe." Ryan picked up his knife, and sliced open his palm. He held it out for everyone to see the blood welling up.

"Rich! Why did you do that?" John reached for his friend's hand, only to stop when little bolts of blue lightning flickered over the hand. A moment later, Ryan wiped his hand off with a cloth. There was no sign of a wound.

"Ooookay... so you heal really fast." John almost wanted to see it again. He'd seen some really weird things out here in the uncharted territories, but seeing his friend heal was something else. He turned his attention back to his questions. "What happened on the Collaroy?"

"Well, first you and the Farscape module disappeared. We could see this thing... The commander thought it was a wormhole. We tried to maneuver away from it, but it just seemed to suck us in. By that time, most of the fuel had been expended. When we finally shot out the other end, we looked for you, but you weren't on any of our sensors. Then the fuel ran out, and the oxygen ran out - and... and... everyone died." He swiped at his eyes. "It wasn't easy watching them all die."

"But you knew you wouldn't die," Aeryn pointed out. "Even if the rest of them did. That must have made it easier to stand by and do nothing."

"There was nothing I could do!" Ryan protested hotly. "We were all dying, and that included me. There was no guarantee that I would ever be rescued. I had no idea where we were. No idea that there were other... people living out here. For all I knew, I was being condemned to drift in space for an eternity, dead but not dead. And I knew the orbiter could drift close enough to a planet, or sun and be dragged down by its gravity. I may be immortal, but that doesn't mean I can come back after being disintegrated!"

"That's enough, Aeryn," John said, throwing her a warning glance. It was obvious she didn't trust Ryan, but until he had proof to the contrary, this was still his friend. "We must have come out at different points in the wormhole. We already know they have more than one exit, so it's quite feasible that we ended up in different parts of this universe."

"Where exactly are we?"

"I wish I knew - they call it the uncharted territory. For all I know, Earth could be somewhere around here, but I haven't managed to find any good reference points yet. Or it might take another wormhole to get us back home. If we ever get back home."

"Hey, I have to get home," Ryan said with a grin. "I have a date with Melanie when I get back."

John laughed, and swung a fist at Ryan who easily ducked it. "How did you manage that?"

"It's a talent." His eyes strayed toward Aeryn, and John almost reached out and smacked him.

"If two Crichtons weren't bad enough," Rygel moaned, "now we have two different humans. I need to get off this frelling ship."

"Two Crichtons?" Ryan sent a questioning look towards John.

"Long story. I'll tell you all my tales later."

Rygel zoomed up on his throne sled. "Be prepared for a long and boring recital. Immortals, humph. I don't believe it."

Ryan just smiled. "I didn't believe it the first time I saw it, either, but that didn't stop it from being true."

"Commander, I'm sorry to break up your meeting, but we have arrived at the planet you requested," Pilot's voice interrupted the conversation.

"Thanks, Pilot." John turned to Ryan. "I thought we'd bury the crew here. Will you help me?"

"Of course."

"I will help, too," D'Argo said, rising to his feet.

"So will I," Aeryn also stated.

There were no other volunteers. John didn't really blame them. It wasn't a task he was looking forward to.

* FAR * FAR *

It had taken some time, but they were finally done. John stared down at the seven fresh graves, with nothing but rough crosses to mark them. The dog tags from each astronaut hung from them, marking their final resting place.

D'Argo and Aeryn had stepped back, leaving John and Richie to say their final good-byes.

"I feel like I should say something, but I don't know what to say," John finally admitted.

"Neither do I. They were brave people, and faced death head-on. They deserve more, but all I can think of is 'rest in peace'."

"Maybe that says it all. Rest in peace."

Together, they turned and headed back to the transport pod. When they got back to Moya, John led Richie down to a room near his. "You can bunk here. There's not a lot of privacy, but it's better than nothing. Get cleaned up, then get some rest. I'll stop by later and bring you up to speed on the rest of the crew, and what you need to look out for."

"Somehow, that doesn't sound too great."

"Well, they don't know about you yet, so at least you won't be tracked down by bounty hunters, but if you join our battle, all bets are off." John knew he had to give Ryan the chance to choose his own destiny. Just because they were from the same planet didn't mean he'd risk anything to help him.

Richie came over and put one hand on John's shoulder. "We're a team, John. Whatever you're facing, I'll be there with you. No matter what."

"Thanks, Rich." John struggled to get his emotions under control. "Now, get cleaned up."

"Only if you tell me how the controls work."

With a laugh, John went over to the bath chamber and demonstrated the equipment. He also forced a dentik into Ryan's mouth, holding a hand over his friend's mouth while the slug-like creature cleaned his teeth. "Get used to it."

"Yuck!" Ryan said once he'd spit it out. "I'll use a toothbrush."

"Don't have them. Don't need them."

"Oh, maaaaaan!"

John couldn't help but laugh as he left Ryan's room.

* FAR * FAR *

"Okay, let me see if I got this right," Ryan said as he leaned back on his bed. John had been trying to bring him up to date on all the crew members. "Chiana is the gray one with the white hair. She used to be involved with D'Argo until she slept with his son. She's a thief as well. It sounds like we should get along just fine."

"What would you have in common with a thief?" John asked.

"Been there, done that. In fact, I first met my mentor when he caught me breaking into his antique store," Ryan recalled with a smile on his face. "It was the best thing that ever happened to me. It turned me around. Mac got me off the streets, and taught me about being immortal."

"Wow. I never realized you had that kind of life, Rich. It makes what you've accomplished seem even more incredible."

Ryan shrugged. "Okay, moving on. D'Argo is the guy with the tentacles, and he's got a little temper problem. I'll try to stay clear of him - especially since he has a sword."

"Why does that bother you? Aeryn's pulse pistol can do more damage than D'Argo's, and from a greater distance."

Ryan stood up and walked over to the doorway. After making sure no one else was in earshot, he went over to his flight bag, and opened it. "Well, I didn't quite tell you the whole story about Immortals. You see, we can die permanently - if our head is chopped off." With those words, he pulled a sword out of his bag.

"How did you get that on the space shuttle?" John asked, totally surprised. "No, never mind - I don't want to know. Do I want to know why you carry a sword around?"

"Immortals are engaged in something called The Game. We fight one-on-one, using swords. You chop off the other guy's head and you get his Quickening - all his knowledge and power. The last remaining Immortal is supposed to have enough power to rule the world for an eternity."

"Information overload!"

Richie slid his sword back into the bag. "Relax, John. I don't even know if it's true. Anyway, I tend to get nervous around people who carry swords. Back to the lesson plan. Jool is the one with the curly hair, who can bend metal when she screams, and it sounds like she is a major whiner. Rygel is the little guy who flies around on that sled chair. He's a domino of 600 billion people."

"Dominar," John corrected. "Mostly we just ignore him, but he can be useful. Just watch your possessions around him. He has a tendency to appropriate things."

"Right. Crais is the male Sebacean and you don't trust him, especially since he vowed to kill you because of his brother's death. And he more or less hijacked Talyn. That leaves Aeryn - she's the hot chick in the black leather outfit."

"Rich..." John almost growled at his friend.

"And you love her. Got it. Hands off. No problem. Except you were twinned, and the other one of you went off with Aeryn and Crais, and then he died, and she won't even talk to you."

John sighed. Ryan had picked up on more than he'd realized.

"Okay, so that's the list of good guys. Who are the bad guys?"

"The biggest and baddest is a guy called Scorpius. He's half Sebacean, half Scarran. There's a major war going on between those two races. The Sebaceans just barely come out ahead as far as I'm concerned. Anyway, I first ran into Scorpy when I was trying to get some medical help for Aeryn. He was able to recognize that I wasn't a Sebacean, and had me arrested for questioning. Let me tell you, you don't want anything to do with his Aurora chair. We're talking top of the line Marquis de Sade here. He managed to find some information in my brain that even I didn't know I had. Info about wormholes."

"If you didn't know you had it, where did it come from?"

"It was implanted in my brain by a race called the Ancients. They were looking for a new home and wanted to know how humans would react if aliens landed there. So they tricked me into believing I was back home, then used my mind to extrapolate what other humans would do. That included dissecting Rygel." John shuddered. "Anyway, they gave me all this info to help me get back home, but I can't access it directly."

"So, this Aurora chair did manage to access it."

"Not exactly. Scorpius put a neural chip in my brain. I thought I was going insane. I kept seeing Scorpy everywhere. Eventually, it started controlling me. I almost killed - well, I did kill Aeryn while under its control, but Zhaan brought her back."

"Zhaan?"

John smiled. "She was one of the original prisoners when I first came on board. Very spiritual. Very blue. And she was a plant." John almost smiled at Ryan's reaction. "Honest, she was a plant. She did something called Unity, and brought Aeryn back for me. I think she's dead now, but that's another story."

"So, the chip was controlling you, what happened next?"

"We found someone who could take it out. Unfortunately, Scorpy showed up and snatched the chip before we could stop him. He's got it now, and he's going to be trying to create wormholes." John looked down at the floor. "I still hear him sometimes. He's still there in my brain."

Ryan shifted closer to his friend, and placed one hand on John's arm. "Is he trying to get control of you again?"

John shook his head. "No, he's just a nuisance, but I wish he was gone. Anyway, my twin met up with the Ancients again, and learned just how deadly wormholes could be. Apparently they used one to grab a star and plowed it into a Scarran dreadnought - a very big, very bad spaceship."

"Whoa. Makes all of our nuclear weapons look like toys."

"That's why we have to stop him. I can't let him have that kind of power over the rest of the universe."

"Then I guess it's up to us to stop him. Batman and Robin to the rescue."

"As long as I get to be Batman."

"No way. I'm Batman!" Ryan protested.

"I was here first, I'm Batman," John insisted. "Be careful, Aeryn has been teaching me how to kick ass. I could demonstrate if you'd like."

"I might just let you. Did I mention that my mentor also owned a dojo? And I managed it for him. Oh, and he was an expert in martial arts as well as swordwork? And that he taught me everything?"

"On second thought, maybe some paper, rock, scissors should decide it."

"Oh, puh-leaaaase. Don't tell me you're still doing that."

"Of course I am. What's wrong, Ryan? Afraid I'll beat you like I usually do?"

"Okay. Fine. You be Batman. I never liked purple tights anyway."

"No! No! No! I'm thinking George Clooney Batman, not Adam West Batman."

"Hey, that works for me. Besides, everyone said I looked a lot like Chris O'Donnell."

John studied his friend. "I don't see it. Who told you that?"

"Oh, Melanie... and Judy... and Sue...and-"

"Never mind. They must have been desperate for some topic that they thought you would understand."

"You wish."

"I'm glad you're here, Rich," John said, suddenly serious. "I wish you were safe, back on Earth, but I'm glad you're here."

"Hey, this is a big adventure!" Richie replied, refusing to follow John's lead. "Who knows, maybe I'll find out something about Immortals while I'm out here."

John stood up, and headed for the door. He stopped and looked back. "You do realize that you may have to kill people? Scorpy won't give up easily. This could get bloody."

Ryan walked over to his friend. "It won't be the first time. I've killed before, John. More times than I want to think about. And it was up close and personal. I didn't like doing it, but it was either me, or the other guy. I'm a survivor."

John almost shuddered at the cold look in Ryan's eyes. How had he missed that before? There was more to this man than he'd ever realized.

* FAR * FAR *

Aeryn spotted the newest addition to their group wandering around Moya's corridors carrying the long bag that he'd removed from the shuttle. She still didn't trust him, and had a hard time swallowing all the dren about him being immortal. He might be looking for some way to sabotage Moya. "Are you lost?" she asked.

Ryan gave her a small smile. "Kind of. Actually, I was looking for someplace where I could do some exercises. Someplace private, but with plenty of room to move around."

This was her chance. Maybe if she pushed him hard enough, he'd reveal his true self. Just like Matala had. "I usually use the cargo bay," she said. "I haven't done my physical conditioning today... May I join you?"

"Of course. John said you'd been teaching him how to fight. Maybe you could give me some pointers." He smiled at her again.

"I would be happy to." Aeryn led the way down to the cargo bay without saying anything else.

"Do you mind if I do some warm-up exercises before we start? There was a limit to what I could do on the orbiter."

Aeryn nodded, and waved toward the open area. "Go ahead."

Ryan dropped his bag next to her, then moved out to the center of the room. He started off with simple stretches, trying to limber up muscles that had not been used in a long time. Once he was satisfied, he started into a kata designed for hand combat. While he would have preferred using his sword, he didn't really want to reveal it to Aeryn yet.

When he had finished, he turned to face Aeryn. "Okay, I'm ready. How do you usually work out?"

"Full out. No punches pulled. I'll try not to hurt you too much."

"Don't worry about it. I'll heal." Ryan moved into a defensive position. He'd have to be careful. She wouldn't heal so fast.

He let Aeryn strike first, but easily deflected it with an arm block. While she was still off balance, he grabbed her arm and flipped her to the mat. He winced as she landed with a thud.

"Sorry about that," he said, standing back as she got to her feet.

Aeryn attacked more aggressively than before, but he was able to block her blows. She wasn't a bad fighter, but she was no match for someone who'd been studying martial arts for as long as he had. However, he didn't expect the head butt that she gave him, and it caused him to see stars for a moment. She followed it up with a kick to his chest that sent him crashing back to the floor.

"Had enough?" Aeryn taunted him.

In reply, he reached out with his hand, and grabbed her foot. Jerking it up, he sent her to the floor, as well. In one lithe movement, he was up, and leaning over her, poised to strike down. "Never stand that close to an opponent unless you're sure he's dead." He backed away.

"I'll remember that." She reached out a hand, and he took it to pull her to her feet.

He hadn't made that kind of mistake since he'd first started training. Aeryn brought her foot up and sent him flying over her head. He landed hard, but quickly rolled to face his opponent. She was still on the floor, and grinning from ear-to-ear. "Okay, I deserved that one," he said, returning her smile.

"What the frell is going on here?" John's voice demanded from behind Ryan.

"Relax, John. We're just having a little workout." Ryan climbed to his feet, then walked over to help Aeryn up. This time, she let him.

"You're a much better fighter that Crichton is," she pointed out.

"I had to be." Ryan had no intention of explaining why at this point.

"That thing you were doing beforehand, what was it? I've never seen anything like it before."

"It's called a kata. It's a combination of physical and mental exercise. You're supposed to be fighting an imaginary foe, and teaching your body the moves to combat his. The theory is that when it comes time to do it for real, you'll remember the moves without thought."

"Will you show me another one?"

Ryan debated with himself for a moment. He knew that John loved and trusted this woman. Maybe he should, too. "My favorites are with a sword." He went over to his bag and pulled his out. It was a braided handle katana. He'd started using one several years earlier, and found it much easier than the hand-and-a-half sword that Duncan had given him.

"Stand back," he warned. He took a deep breath, then started one of the more complex katas. He knew without looking that his sword was almost a blur of movement as it flashed through the air. He knew he was showing off for John and Aeryn, but hoped it would help them trust him. He wanted to prove to them that he could hold his own in a fight.

By the time he had finished he was breathing hard, and he wiped away the perspiration on his forehead with his arm. He saluted John and Aeryn with his sword, then flipped it back to a resting position.

They both looked awed. "I've never seen anything like that before," Aeryn finally said. "Do many humans fight this way?"

"Not really, although there are a lot that study martial arts, and are quite good at it. However, they only use it to make movies, or to perform in competitions. I had to use my skills to stay alive, and it's a mixture of styles that I've picked up from various people."

"Can you teach me?"

While Ryan was willing, he wasn't sure if John would be so happy about it. "I can teach both of you, if you want," he offered as a compromise.

"Thank you." Aeryn started over to join him, but John grabbed her hand.

"Starting tomorrow. I need to show Rich around Moya. Try to get him more familiar with the ship," he said.

"Can I shower first?"

"I would hope so," John said. "Tomorrow you can start beating us up. And you can start your flight lessons."

"Sounds like a plan."

* FAR * FAR *

Ryan stripped off his sweat-soaked T-shirt as he entered his room, wishing he had something clean to put on. He'd have to remember to ask John about laundry. He'd have to settle for one of the shirts he'd worn while on the orbiter.

A sudden movement on the far side of the room caught his attention, and he almost pulled out his sword. Fortunately, he realized it was Chiana before he'd done so. He wasn't so sure he wanted the rest of the crew to know that he had it.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded. John had said she was a thief, maybe she was looking for something to steal.

"I cleaned your clothes for you. As a welcome aboard gift." Chiana waved a hand at the shelves behind her where his clothes were now neatly folded, then came across the room to stand in front of him.

"Uhhh... thanks." Ryan didn't like the lascivious look in her eyes as they roamed down his body. He found himself clutching the T-shirt in front of his chest, almost as if it were protection against her.

She took a step closer, and let one hand stroke his chest. "That lightning thing... does it happen... everywhere?" Her hand wandered even lower, and he quickly grabbed it to keep it from going too low.

"It... uh... happens whenever I'm cut and need to heal."

"Even during sex?" She almost looked excited about the idea.

"I don't usually have sharp objects around when I'm having sex."

"What about teeth... or fingernails... wouldn't that be an exciting sensation?" Chiana's hand reached out again. "We could try it..."

Chiana's tight clothes made it quite clear that the Nebari had a beautiful body, but she was so... gray. Plus, he didn't even know if they were a sexually compatible species. Besides he liked to do some of the chasing. "Uh... Maybe later. Uh... John's waiting for me."

"He can wait." Chiana moved closer, forcing him back until he was almost trapped against the wall.

"You didn't waste much time, alley whore!"

Ryan looked over Chiana's shoulder and saw Jool standing in the doorway. He almost gave a sigh of relief as the Nebari backed away from him.

"And why are you here?" Chiana spat out. "Did you think he might be interested in you, princess?"

"At least he'd be showing some class," Jool said with a sneer.

Ryan stood back and watched the two women start arguing simultaneously. He couldn't understand what they were saying, but he was afraid it would end up with them brawling before it was done. He had to stop it, but he wasn't quite sure how.

"Shut up!" A deep voice penetrated the babble. It was effective as both women turned to face the newcomer. "What is going on here?" D'Argo demanded.

"Nothing," Chiana replied. "We were just welcoming Richie."

"It sounded like it. Don't you have something else you can do?" The Luxan glared at the two women until they both left the room.

"Thanks," Ryan said with a sigh of relief. "I wasn't quite sure how to handle that."

"You just have to be firm with them." D'Argo strode into the room, and pushed Ryan up against the wall. "Understand this, Ryan. I don't know if I believe that you are Crichton's friend. I will be watching you very carefully. If you do anything, anything at all, to harm him, or anyone else on this ship, I will make sure you regret it. Do you understand, Human?" he growled.

"Got it. No problem."

"Good." With that, he spun around, and left the room.

With a shaky sigh, Ryan collapsed on his bed. This was not a good start.

* FAR * FAR *

Ryan's head was spinning by the time he and John reached the command center. Moya's corridors all looked alike, and he had no idea how anyone managed to find their way around the ship. And his friend seemed determined to cram as much information into his brain as possible.

It kind of reminded him of his first days as a new Immortal. He felt totally incompetent, and out of place.

The view ports at the front of the command center were like a magnet for him. He walked over and stared out, wishing that he could see Earth. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw John come over to stand next to him.

"Will we ever get home?" Ryan finally asked.

John briefly rested a hand on Ryan's shoulder and squeezed it lightly. "No promises. No guarantees. But I'll keep trying, Rich."

"I guess that's all I can ask for." He kept staring out the window, and eventually his friend moved away.

Ryan couldn't help but think of all the people he'd left behind. How had Duncan reacted when the Collaroy had disappeared? And what about Joe? Maybe Amanda had shed some tears, but he knew Methos wouldn't have been affected either way.

Did they think he was dead? Disintegrated by some cosmic force that they didn't understand? Did they think he was floating around in space, in an eternal death that he couldn't escape? Were they hoping that someday, maybe, they would meet up again?

"I'll get home, Mac," he vowed quietly. "I promise."

To be continued...