Going Home Again 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.
This is the fourth story of my Farscape/Highlander universe. It probably won't make much sense unless you've read the first three: 'The Farscape Project', 'Hope', and 'Betrayal'.
There are spoilers for season 3 of Farscape. However, my universe separates from the Farscape universe before the last four episodes of Season 3. Anything that has happened since then has not happened in my universe (although I reserve the right to use tidbits from anything I think will fit).
This story does not end this universe, however, I probably will not write any more stories in it. Of course, that could change, too. However, I have found that I don't enjoy writing Farscape fanfic all that much. Plus lack of feedback makes me think that only a few others are enjoying it either. If others wish to continue on with this universe I've created, please feel free, but give me credit for setting it up.
From Highlander: Duncan MacLeod, and Richie Ryan
From Farscape: Most of the main characters
From Stargate SG-1: Most of the main characters
* FAR * FAR * FAR *
Going Home Again by Dawn Cunningham
"Pizza. Yeah, pizza and beer," Richie Ryan said, dreamily. "That's the first thing I want when I get back home."
"Not me. Although the beer does sound good," John Crichton agreed as he set his food tray down on the table. "But I want chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Fried chicken. Apple pie. Grandma Crichton's biscuits."
"Chili dogs. Ice cream. French Fries." Richie grinned at the other human. "Twinkies!"
John grinned back. "Twinkies! Although I don't know why you're dreaming about food. After all, you were dead for most of the time since leaving Earth. You've only been back in the land of the living for about four months. It's been closer to four years for me."
"Yeah, but four months with no pizza and beer seems like an eternity!"
"Will you two stop it!" Aeryn Sun ordered. "What if this isn't a way home? If you keep building up all these expectations, you may be in for a very big disappointment."
"But it could be Earth," John pointed out.
"How? Do you recognize any of the star patterns? Wouldn't some race have discovered your planet by now? Just because we're in the uncharted territory doesn't mean that other races aren't searching for planets to trade with."
"Hey, there's always been rumors about aliens visiting Earth," Richie protested. "Maybe they have discovered us, but left us alone."
"Yeah!" John agreed. "Or maybe they've figured out wormholes. D.K. is an intelligent guy - he would have kept at it, and he'd have a whole lot more resources than I've had to work with. Maybe they made a wormhole, then came through it and set up a camp on a planet."
"And they just assumed you'd still be alive after more than three cycles. You're dreaming, Crichton."
"You gotta have dreams, Aeryn," John stated quietly, hoping his eyes would tell her his biggest dream - that they would become lovers.
The sudden silence seemed to last forever. Richie glanced back and forth between the two of them, then stood up. "Hey, I think I'm needed in command," he muttered before hastily leaving the room.
Aeryn stood up to follow him, but John grabbed her hand. "When are you going to stop running?" he asked. "We have to talk about us."
"There is no 'us'," she spat back. "If that radio signal isn't a trick, then you'll be on your way back home. How can there be any 'us' when you're on Earth and I'm in the uncharted territories!" Tears glistened in her eyes.
"You can come back with me. Make a new life on Earth. You liked what you saw when the ancients made us think we were there. You'd like the real Earth even more."
"And what about D'Argo? Chiana? Rygel? Will they be welcome on Earth, as well? Or will your scientists want to experiment on them?"
John shook his head slowly. "No, I doubt they'd ever be welcome. Although, if we've progressed far enough to get out into the uncharted territories, then maybe they've already accepted that aliens exist."
"And maybe they haven't." Aeryn twisted her arm, and freed herself. Before John could stop her, she left the room.
"Damn!" John said, as he sat back down again. He could go after her, but he knew she wouldn't be receptive to anything he had to say right now.
* FAR * FAR *
"It's not Earth," John said, unable to hide the disappointment in his voice. He'd kept trying to tell himself not to expect miracles, but hadn't been able to block all hope during the last ten days.
"The signal is definitely from that planet," Pilot stated. "It is also the planet where you buried your friends."
"Are you sure, Pilot?" John asked, spinning around to stare at the hologram.
"Yes. Based on my calculations, the signal is very close to the burial site. There are also life forms present."
"Can you tell what kind of life form?"
"No. However, it appears to be a very small group."
Richie turned away from the view screen where he had continued to stare at the planet while Pilot had been talking. "The message is aimed at you, John. I don't think you should risk going down there. I'll go - they can't kill me."
"And if it's Scorpius? Do you want to end up back in the Aurora chair? You know what it did to you the last time!" John almost cringed as he remembered back to when Richie had kept switching personalities.
Richie shuddered at the memory. "No, I don't want that to happen, and you don't want to end up in it either."
"Of course not. But that signal is specifically aimed at me. I *have* to be the one who goes down."
"Then we go together."
"And we're going with you."
Both humans spun around and saw the rest of Moya's crew standing there - well, everyone but Rygel. Aeryn and Chiana had pulse pistols strapped to their legs, and pulse rifles in their arms. D'Argo had already converted his Qualta blade to a rifle, as well.
"What? No Rygel?" John asked with a grin.
"He's offered to keep Pilot company while we are gone," D'Argo responding, offering up a grin as well.
"How... heroic of him." John looked at his friends. "This could be a trap. Maybe you'd better stay here, just in case."
"No, if it's a trap, we're going to spring it together," Aeryn insisted.
John knew better than to argue. "Let's at least split up. Aeryn, you can fly your Prowler down. Richie and I will take the module, and Chiana can go with D'Argo in his ship." He moved over to the chart table. "Pilot, can you show us where you register life forms?"
A holographic image popped up. The life forms appeared to be concentrated in two areas, although there were several off by themselves. John pointed out three separate landing sites. "If we land here, here, and here, we can surround them. Richie and I will go in first - where there are the fewest life forms. If something goes wrong, they won't be expecting you to come in from behind."
"All right," Aeryn agreed, while D'Argo nodded his head. "We'll stay out of sight until we see if you get into trouble."
"What do you mean *if* he gets into trouble?" Chiana retorted. "Don't you mean *when* he gets into trouble?"
Crichton took the ribbing in stride, and turned to leave command. After all, he did have a history of running into unexpected difficulties. Of course, he also had a history of getting them out of those same difficulties.
Richie stopped him by placing a hand on his arm. "There's one thing I need you all to understand," he said. "If there *are* humans on this planet, they must never find out about my immortality. They'd take me apart faster than Scorpius would."
John looked around at the rest of Moya's crew. "Does everyone understand?" When they all nodded, he added, "Then let's go."
* FAR * FAR *
John climbed out of the module, quickly drawing his pulse pistol while he waited for Richie to join him. The Immortal drew his own weapon as soon as his feet hit the ground.
"That way," Richie said, pointing out the direction.
"Wait a minute - let's not go in with our weapons drawn. Maybe that way they won't start shooting at us before we can find out what's going on."
"Okay." Richie placed his pistol back in the holster. "If they do start shooting, get behind me. I'll come back - you won't."
John rolled his eyes. There was no way he was going to hide behind his friend. "Let's go."
Cautiously, they made their way through the trees, headed for the site Pilot had shown them. Before they got there, they heard someone approaching from the other direction. John signaled to Richie, and then both took cover. A few moments later, a man walked out into the open. With a curse, John came out from hiding and pulled his weapon.
"Can't you guys come up with something new?" he asked, pointing his pistol at the man.
"John? Is that really you?" the man asked, bringing up one hand to rub at his eyes.
"Of course, it's me," John replied sarcastically. "The question is, who are you?"
Richie joined him, looking puzzled. "John, he's your father. Why are you aiming your gun at him?"
"No, it just looks like him. It always looks like him. Let's see... I suppose you could be one of the ancients, but the one who masqueraded as my dad is dead, so I don't think that's who you are. I suppose you could be another Scarran messing with my mind, but I don't feel warm. So, who are you?"
"John, I'm your father!" the man stated, moving closer.
John quickly fired off a shot, deliberately missing the man, but coming close enough to make it obvious that he wouldn't hesitate to shoot if he felt the need. "That's far enough. I don't know who you are, but you are *not* my dad."
The man stopped where he was, a stunned look on his face. "Son, what's happened to you?" He looked at John, then turned to the Immortal. "Richie, why won't John believe it's me?" he demanded, looking ready to do battle with whoever was responsible.
Richie wasn't sure what to believe. The man sure looked like John's father, but his friend seemed to think it was some kind of trick. Of course it didn't help that twice before aliens had messed with his mind, trying to convince John that he was back on Earth.
"What did they do to John?" the man almost pleaded, looking at Richie. "Why won't he believe it's really me?"
"Okay, if you're really Jack Crichton, how did you get here?" Richie asked.
Before the man could answer, Richie felt something that he hadn't felt for a long time - the touch of another Immortal. He quickly pulled his sword out, ignoring the shocked looks from the two other men.
"What's going on, Rich?" John asked.
"Why does he have a sword?" Jack asked.
"There's another... uh... someone like me here," he explained, searching the surrounding area carefully.
"Are you sure?" John asked.
"What does he mean?" Jack demanded, starting to look upset that no one was paying any attention to him.
"Of course I'm sure," Richie fought to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. It wasn't John's fault that he didn't know all the facts about Immortals. When another figure stepped out into the clearing, Richie almost dropped his sword. "Mac?" Richie couldn't believe his eyes as he lowered his sword's point toward the ground.
"Richie." Duncan MacLeod looked stunned. He slowly slid his katana into his coat, without taking his eyes off the younger Immortal, then he moved closer. They stared at each other for a moment, then Duncan reached out and pulled Richie into a strong embrace.
John looked back at the man who looked just like his father, and studied him closer. He looked older - none of the other apparitions had done that. Was it really possible? He started trembling, and his pulse pistol slipped from his hand, unnoticed. "Dad, is that really you?" he finally asked, hope and uncertainty mixed in his voice.
"Yes, it's really me, son." Jack copied Duncan's move and pulled his son into a tight embrace. "I'm so glad you're alive," he said, barely choking out the words.
John didn't say anything - couldn't say anything. He just soaked up the comfort and love that seemed to flow from his father. Slowly his arms came up and encircled the older man. John struggled to swallow the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat, and he fought back the tears that were stinging his eyes. When John felt his father's body stiffen, he finally pulled back from the embrace. His father's eyes were fixed on something behind John's back, and he quickly spun around, while frantically reaching for his pulse pistol on the ground, ready to defend his father at all costs. When he saw what had surprised his dad, John chuckled.
"Dad, I'd like you to meet D'Argo - he's a good friend. D'Argo, this is my dad, Jack."
D'Argo approached warily. "Are you sure he's your father this time?"
John frowned. "I think so - no, I *know* it is."
At that D'Argo smiled widely and stuck out his hand to shake Jack's. He was a little too vigorous, and Jack winced as his arm was pumped up and down too fast. D'Argo stopped immediately and looked at John.
"Is that not how you humans greet each other? Did I do something wrong?"
John laughed, and clapped D'Argo on the shoulder. "Next time, don't try to rip his arm off while you're shaking hands."
D'Argo looked sheepish, and turned back to Jack. "Sorry," he apologized, not realizing it had come out as nothing more than a snarled sound to Jack.
Richie came over to join them, almost pulling Duncan forward. "D'Argo, as long as we're doing introductions, this is my friend, Duncan MacLeod. Mac, this is D'Argo. He's a Luxan warrior."
D'Argo tried the handshake ritual again, but this time he barely moved his arm. Richie and John grinned at each other.
"You need some practice, D'Argo," John said. He looked at the man standing next to Richie, then stuck out his hand. "I've heard so much about you that I feel I already know you. I'm John Crichton."
Duncan clasped his hand, and shook it. "I feel the same way. Both Rich and your father have told me a lot about you."
John held up his hands and grinned. "None of it is true! I swear!"
Everyone laughed at that. John tapped on his communicator. "Aeryn, Chiana, everything is cool here. Come join us."
Jack moved closer to his son and whispered in his ear, "There's more of them?"
"He's the only Luxan. Chiana is a Nebari, and Aeryn is a Sebacean."
"And you understand what he's saying?" Jack asked, continuing to stare at the alien.
John smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand. "We didn't bring any translator microbes with us," he moaned.
"Maybe Rygel can bring some down," Richie suggested, grinning at the thought of how Jack and Duncan would react to that alien.
John chuckled, immediately catching on. "That's a good idea." He tapped on his communicator again. "Pilot, could you have Rygel bring down a DRD and some translator microbes?"
"Translator microbes? What's that?" Jack asked.
"They'll help you understand everyone," John explained. "Once they're injected in you, they colonize at the base of your brain and translate."
"Injected!" Jack stepped back. "I don't think that will be necessary."
"I agree," Duncan said, placing one arm around Richie's shoulders, and squeezing them lightly. "Now that you two are back here safe and sound, we can all go back to Earth. I don't think we'll need your translator microbes there."
John and Richie exchanged glances.
"It's not that easy, Mac," Richie stated. "We've got some unfinished business to take care of."
"Can't your..." Jack glanced at D'Argo before continuing, "friends take care of it?" Jack asked.
"It's a long story," John said, "but I'm the one responsible for the problem, so it's up to me to correct it."
"Why don't we all go back to camp, and you can fill us in," Duncan suggested. He still hadn't removed his arm from Richie's shoulders, but the younger Immortal didn't complain. It felt good. It felt like he was home.
"Maybe it would be best if the rest of us return to Moya," D'Argo suggested. "You can talk to your father in private, then let us know what you have decided."
"That's not necessary," John stated firmly.
"Not necessary, but still for the best." D'Argo tapped on his communicator. "Aeryn, Chiana, we are going back to Moya."
"But I want Aeryn to meet dad!" John burst out.
D'Argo clapped him on the shoulder. "There will be time later for that. Enjoy your reunion, then we will come back." With that, he turned and headed back toward his ship.
"Let's go back to camp," Jack said, reaching out one arm to place around his son's shoulders when he didn't move. He gently turned him, then led the way back. "And maybe someone will explain why Richie and Duncan carry swords hidden in their coats."
Richie and Duncan exchanged glances as they stopped in their tracks. Jack and John stopped as well, and turned to face the two other men.
"Jack, for the sake of our friendship, don't ask us to explain," Duncan said. "It could be dangerous for you to know the reasons."
Jack stared at the Highlander for a long time, then looked over at his son. "You know why, don't you?" he asked John.
Reluctantly, John nodded. "I know, but I've promised to not tell anyone about it. Don't ask me to break that vow, Dad. I will tell you that it isn't anything bad."
John looked at the three men, studying each one carefully in turn. "All right. I won't ask again."
"Thank you," Duncan said. "Now, let's head back to camp."
* FAR * FAR *
John couldn't believe his eyes when the camp came into sight. He hadn't expected this kind of setup. Multiple tents filled a large clearing. A short distance away, he could see a large arch covered with all kinds of symbols. He recognized some of them from his time on Moya, although he wasn't sure what language they were from.
The last thing he expected to see was a soldier dressed in camouflage fatigues, with a rifle looped over his shoulder. When he spotted the group emerging into the clearing, the rifle was quickly brought around into a ready position.
"It's all right, Simms," Jack called out. "Our lost wanderers have come home. Where's Sandborn?"
"He's up at the dig site. I'll go get him." The soldier turned away and trotted in the opposite direction.
"Let's get some coffee," Duncan suggested, leading the way into one of the tents. It was filled with several long tables, and what looked like heat tables that reminded John of a cafeteria. Duncan headed for a large urn sitting at the end of one of the tables, and started filling coffee cups.
John took one, and inhaled deeply. "Real coffee!" he said with a deep sigh. "I'd forgotten how good it smells."
Richie nodded as he smelled his own cup. He took a sip, then smiled. "Just as good as I remember."
The four moved over to one of the tables and sat down. Jack reached out to touch John's arm lightly. "I can't believe you're really here." He reached up and swiped at his eyes. "It's been so long."
John reached out and hugged his father. "I'm sorry. I never meant to... worry you like this. I've never stopped trying to get home."
"And we never stopped trying to find you," Jack replied. "We even tried to create another wormhole in the hope that we'd end up in the same place as you did."
"How did you get here?" John asked.
"Do you see that arch out there?" Jack asked, pointing out through the tent opening. "It's called a Stargate. There's another one on Earth. When the right combination is dialed, it forms a wormhole between the two gates, and you can go through it."
"You shouldn't be divulging that information!"
The four turned and looked at the soldier who'd just come into the tent. John recognized his insignia that indicated he was a colonel.
"Well, since they'll be going through the gate to get back to Earth, they'd probably figure it out, Sandborn," Jack pointed out.
"No one is going back to Earth until we have definite proof that they are who they say they are."
"I think I know my son," Jack retorted, placing one hand on John's shoulder.
"And I know Richie," Duncan chimed in, standing up to confront the man. His own hand settled on Richie's shoulder.
"I'll contact command, to find out how they want to handle this," Sandborn replied, although he didn't look too happy about it. He turned and left the tent, heading for the arch.
"You'll want to watch this," Jack said, waving toward the tent opening.
The four of them stood up and moved outside. John watched while Sandborn pushed some levers on a round device in front of the arch. As each one was pushed, an outer circle on the arch spun to rest on a corresponding symbol. A moment later, with a loud whooshing sound, what looked like a fountain of water burst out of the gate. It should have drenched the colonel, but it receded back into the arch, leaving a curtain of water. At least John thought it was water, but it sure didn't act like water.
"Wow!" Richie said as he stared at the arch. "That was wild."
"And all we have to do is go through there and we'd be back on Earth?" John asked.
"That's all," Jack confirmed.
"Does it hurt?" Richie asked.
Duncan lightly slapped the back of his head. "Of course it doesn't."
"Let's go back in, and you can tell us your story," Jack suggested.
Once they were settled back at their table, John began his tale. "It all started when I thought a wormhole had formed and I could see Earth through it..."
* FAR * FAR *
"They won't be coming back!" Aeryn insisted. "There's no reason to stay here any longer."
"You don't know that, Aeryn," D'Argo replied. "Besides, they wouldn't leave without saying goodbye to us."
"That's right," Chiana agreed. "They wouldn't leave without doing that. Besides, they might not leave at all. Crichton still wants to stop Scorpius."
"John wants to go home!" Aeryn snapped. "That's all he's been saying since he came on board Moya."
"May be," Chiana said, making the one word sound more like two.
"He's obsessed with you," Rygel tossed in. "I don't understand why, but he won't leave you behind."
"He has to!" Aeryn said, tears filling her eyes. She brushed at them angrily. "He has a chance to go home - it's what we all want."
"Then why don't you go with him?" Chiana suggested.
"And what about the rest of you?" Aeryn asked. "Am I just supposed to turn my back on my friends?"
"Your friends would not blame you," D'Argo said, smiling at the Sebacean. "We might be envious, but we would be happy for you. After all, you and John were forced into this against your will. You should be able to leave whenever you want."
"Yeah. Crichton has always said that any of us could leave whenever we want," Chiana added. "That should apply to both of you, as well."
"But I'm not sure I want to leave," Aeryn said, before she left the room.
* FAR * FAR *
"Okay, let me see if I've got this straight," Jack said, rubbing at his forehead. "The ancients planted knowledge of wormholes in your mind, and this man, Scorpius wants it so that he can destroy the Scarrans. Right?"
"Yeah," John said. "He's already got some of it. We were able to slow him down, but if he manages to recreate the data, and figure out the pieces he's missing, he could kill millions - and not just Scarrans."
"So, you think you have to stay here and stop him?"
"Someone has to."
"But if he's still after you because he thinks you can fill in the missing pieces, wouldn't it be better if you were out of reach?" Duncan asked. "If you went back to Earth, he wouldn't be able to get to you."
Jack threw a grateful look toward Duncan. "That's right. That would be the safest thing."
John rolled his eyes. "How am I supposed to live with myself if I do that? What if he creates a wormhole and comes to Earth, and destroys it? What good would hiding have done then?"
"Maybe we should turn this over to the military," Richie suggested. "Or at least get some help from them."
"Don't tell me that you're thinking about staying!" Duncan demanded, staring at the younger man as if he'd lost his mind.
"Yes, I've been thinking about it," Richie said, unable to meet the older Immortal's eyes.
"You're both crazy!" Jack declared.
"Well, that's a perfect entrance line," Colonel Jack O'Neill said as he came into the tent. The rest of the SG-1 team followed behind him. "So, the lost lambs have finally found their way back."
The four men in the tent stood up, and Jack Crichton introduced the newcomers. "This is Colonel Jack O'Neill, Major Samantha Carter, Dr. Daniel Jackson, and Teal'c." He pointed to his son, then Richie. "And this is my son, John, and his friend, Richie Ryan."
Everyone shook hands, then took seats back at the tables. Jack filled the newcomers in on what he'd learned so far.
"How big is a command carrier?" Carter asked.
"Big!" John said, smiling at the woman.
"Now that's a technical answer that even I can understand," O'Neill chipped in.
"I would need to know mass, density, and dimensions to have a better idea of what would be possible," Carter said.
"Pilot might be able to answer those questions better," John said. "Maybe you'd like a tour of Moya."
Carter's eyes gleamed at the thought. "I'd like that very much."
"Whoa! Wait a minute," O'Neill said. "Let's get these two checked out first. Then you can go poke around in alien starships."
"Checked out how?" Richie asked suspiciously.
"Standard medical tests. We need to make sure you don't have any nasty bugs that might cause problems back on Earth."
"Like those microbes that you were injected with," Jack said.
"Microbes? What kind of microbes?" Carter asked, concern written on her face.
"They're harmless," John explained. "They just colonize at the base of your brain and translate for you."
Teal'c said something that sounded like gibberish. Only Richie, John, and Dr. Jackson reacted to it by grinning. Teal'c's eyebrows lifted. "It would seem that these microbes work," he stated.
"Let me try," Duncan said. His words were unrecognizable to the majority of the people in the tent, but he got several reactions.
"Mac!" Richie protested, while John laughed.
"Yes, Richie told me all about it," John said. "What language was that?"
"It sounded like Gaelic," Jackson replied. "While I'm better at reading it, I think you asked if John knew how you met Richie."
"That's right, and it was Gaelic."
"Not many people speak that language anymore."
"There are still a few of us who do," Duncan said, trying to hide a smirk that was obvious to his ex-student.
"Great. Microbes," O'Neill complained. "Now they'll want all of us to have them injected into us so we can understand everyone."
"Think about how much easier our job would be if we could understand what was being said," Carter pointed out.
"Yeah, we wouldn't need Daniel around to translate anymore," Jack said with a grin.
"But you'd miss me," Daniel retorted.
"Like I'd miss a toothache," O'Neill said, but it was obvious to everyone that he was only teasing the younger man. "Let's get them back so the docs can poke and prod them."
"Before we go, you should probably shut off that radio transmitter," John suggested. "It might attract the wrong crowd of people."
"Good point. Carter, you and Daniel can see to that. The rest of us will go back to the SGC. And maybe while we're there, you can fill us in on how you met MacLeod," O'Neill said, looking at Richie.
"Oh, maaaaan!" Richie moaned as he stood up.
* FAR * FAR *
Richie tried to be patient while the doctors ran test after test. He was beginning to wonder whether they'd somehow discovered his immortality. Only the fact that John was being put through the same routine kept him calm. At least they'd kept them together. In between tests, John had told the SG-1 team about his adventures, and Scorpius.
Finally, Dr. Frasier came back into the room. "You're both in excellent health," she announced with a smile. "As far as we can tell, the microbes that you were injected with are totally harmless."
"I told you so," John said, glancing at the SG-1 team. "What about neural chips? Did you find any of those?"
"No, both of your brain scans were normal. I can find no indication of any foreign material in either one of you."
John sighed in relief. "That's great. I was afraid that Scorpy had put one in Richie, but we must have saved him in time."
"It seems so. Now, you two can go ahead and get dressed. Someone will be by soon to take you down to the cafeteria for something to eat. After that, they'll take you to meet General Hammond." With another smile, she left the room, followed by the SG-1 team.
Richie and John quickly got dressed. The Immortal moved over to his friend and whispered, "Why didn't you tell them about the neural clone?"
"I don't want to end up in a psychiatric ward because I'm talking to invisible people," John whispered back. "Nothing showed up in the tests, so I doubt they could do anything about it, anyway."
"All right. I won't mention it - as long as you keep quiet about what I am. The military would love to get their hands on people who can't die."
"Then we'd better come up with a good story about how you survived."
Before they had a chance, the door opened and a young soldier entered the room. "If you'll follow me, please."
* FAR * FAR *
"What do we know?" General Hammond asked, looking down the conference table at the SG-1 team, and Dr. Frasier.
"They are who they say they are," Frasier stated. "Their fingerprints match their records. And they are both in excellent physical health."
"They haven't had any apparent contact with Goa'uld," Jackson added. "Although they have encountered many species in their travels."
"Any potential allies?" Hammond asked.
"Possibly, but we didn't go into too many details," O'Neill said. He filled in Hammond with the information that he'd learned so far.
"Obviously, some of them must be more advanced than we are," Carter added. "Space travel seems to be a normal way of life. Their hand weapons also appear to be more advanced, although we didn't have a chance to see them in action."
"The knowledge that John and Richie have already accumulated could be very beneficial. They've already made a lot of contacts that could help us develop treaties with other races."
"And they have made a lot of enemies," Teal'c pointed out.
"Opinions?" Hammond asked.
"Crichton would definitely be an asset," O'Neill said.
"I agree," Carter added. "His knowledge of wormhole theory could be extremely beneficial."
O'Neill frowned. "There's something about him... I can't put my finger on it..."
"He didn't say much," Jackson said. "He let Crichton do most of the talking, but I still got the impression that there's more to him than there appears to be."
"I agree. He's obviously intelligent - otherwise he would never have ended up on the Farscape project," Carter added.
"Well, if no one has any objections, I will offer them a place here on the Stargate project." Hammond looked at each person sitting at the table. "Very well. Now I think it's time for me to meet these two young men. Dr. Frasier, if you would have them sent in here."
"Of course, sir," she said, standing up.
* FAR * FAR * FAR
Richie and John had a hard time choosing what food to eat when they reached the cafeteria. They finally carried very full trays over to a table. A few moments later, Duncan and Jack joined them.
"A bit hungry?" Duncan asked, looking at the food piled on each tray.
"We're growing boys," Richie stated with a grin.
"You'll definitely be growing if you eat all of that," Jack pointed out.
"We couldn't make up our minds," John said. "So we got a lot of different things."
"How did your physicals go?" Jack asked.
"They counted all the parts and we had enough," John quipped.
"We passed with flying colors," Richie added when Jack frowned. "We get to meet some general next."
"That would be Hammond. He's in charge here. I think you'll like him," Jack said. "Did they say when you'll be able to leave here?"
John and Richie exchanged concerned looks. "Do you think they'll keep us here for a long time?" John asked.
"I hope not. If they try, I'll get a lawyer to represent you."
"Thanks, Dad." John settled in to eating his meal. "Now, fill us in on everything we've missed in the last four years, starting with the World Series winners."
Jack and Duncan smiled, then proceeded to bring the two up to date on everything they'd missed.
They'd almost finished when the young soldier returned. "General Hammond would like to see you now," he stated.
John and Richie stood up, and followed him through a maze of corridors to a conference room. Inside, they found an older man, as well as the rest of the SG-1 team.
The older man came over to greet them. "I'm General Hammond. Welcome back to Earth, gentlemen," he greeted them with a smile. He shook hands with each of them, then motioned them to have a seat while he resumed his seat at the head of the table.
"Dr. Frasier says that you both are in excellent health. She doesn't even think you would need a quarantine period before you can leave here." He studied the two men for several long moments. "However, we have a slight problem."
"What kind of problem?" John asked, throwing an apprehensive look at Richie.
"Except for Jack Crichton, and Duncan MacLeod, everyone else thinks the two of you are dead and buried. We felt it was the best way to handle the situation when we found the burial site of the other members of the crew. Since the Stargate project is classified, there was no way we could divulge where or how we found the bodies."
"So, what does that mean?" Richie demanded. "Are we going to be kept prisoner here so that your secret doesn't get out?"
"Of course not! We have several options. We can create new identities for you so that you could live a normal life. You would, of course, have to agree to never reveal any information about the Stargate project, or your time in outer space."
"And we'd never be able to see our old friends again," John pointed out. "And I wouldn't be able to go back to the space program."
"Yes, that would be true."
"And what about my dad?" John asked. "Will he know my new identity?"
"It would be better if he didn't. However, you could probably keep in contact by phone and email. And as long as you didn't make it too obvious, you could probably arrange meetings - as long as you didn't meet anywhere in public."
"No deal. I'd rather go back to Moya and take my chances there."
"What about you, Richie?"
The young man shrugged. "I could probably live with that." After all, he'd had to assume new identities before. And since Duncan would know the truth, they could still stay in contact. "However, I'm still thinking about going back to Moya, too."
"I've been briefed on that situation. I can understand your desire to do that. If you choose that option, we would provide you with instructions on how to operate the Stargate. You would not be able to return through it, but you would be able to contact us. We would send a team out to bring you home."
"And would you provide support and help to stop Scorpius?" John asked.
"I can't answer that at this time," Hammond replied. "I would need more information on what would be needed. Plus, I would need authorization. I have a boss to report to, just like everyone else."
"Fair enough. Are there any other choices?"
"I have been authorized to offer you positions here at the SGC. You've already had contact with alien races, and I think you would both be assets to us. You would still have to restrict your contacts with old friends, but you could continue your research into wormholes. In fact, since the whole Stargate project is based on wormholes, you might find it quite useful to work here."
John sighed. "That does sound appealing, but I need some time to make a decision. I want to talk to my father about my choices. Is that allowed? Or can't he know about this?"
"Of course you can. The same goes for you, Richie. I know you were very close to Duncan MacLeod, and might want to seek his advice."
"Yeah, I'd like to do that."
"One more question," John said. "I'm...involved with another member of Moya's crew. While she's an alien, she looks as human as the rest of us. Would there be any way she could come to Earth? Be with me here? She would also be an asset to your project here. She has a lot of knowledge about other races that we might encounter. Plus, she was born and bred to be a warrior. She could probably take on your SG-1 team by herself, and come out the winner."
"I'll second that," Richie added. "Aeryn and I have sparred many times. She can take care of herself, and would be an asset to any military operation. Plus, she's intelligent, and can think on her feet, and under pressure."
"I would have to meet with her before I could promise anything, However, if she is everything you say she is, I'm sure something could be arranged. Obviously, until she has been acclimated to this society she would have limited freedom. After that, there shouldn't be a problem."
"I don't know if I should thank you for that or not. It definitely means making a choice will be a lot harder."
"I understand," Hammond said. "Now then, we need more information on the races you've met, and the planets you've been on."
O'Neill started. "How many different races have you encountered in the last four years?" "I couldn't even begin to guess," John said. "I'm not even sure what some of the aliens were called. The same goes for the planets. Sebaceans look just like humans, but they're different inside. Nebari are humanoid, but they're...obviously different. Luxans and Hynerians are obviously alien. Interons are close to humans, but there are still differences - like their screams can bend metal."
"Did you ever meet any aliens with glowing eyes?" Jackson asked.
"Not that I can remember."
"What about Stargates? Did you ever see any of those?" Carter asked.
John shook his head. "Of course, we weren't looking for them, either."
"Would there be any race that we could make an alliance with? Trade technology - both military and other types. New energy sources, things like that," Carter continued.
"Peacekeepers - a subset of Sebaceans - and Scarrans are definitely more advanced than we are in weapons, and space technology. Peacekeepers are born on a ship, and never set foot on a planet until they are adults. In fact, I bet some of them have never been on a planet. However, I don't know if we could make an alliance with either of them."
"Rumor has it that the Scarrans are getting ready to go to war with the Peacekeepers. My few run-ins with Scarrans have been violent encounters, and I barely survived them. As for the Peacekeepers, they can't be trusted. They think nothing of torturing people - even their own people. They are also trying to develop a weapon using wormholes. If they manage to do that, they could destroy a planet with little to no effort. I'm determined to stop them from doing that."
"What about your friends? This spaceship you've been on?"
"Moya has no weapons. Leviathans have only one defense, and that's the ability to starburst. It enables them to escape their attackers by... well, let's just call it going into hyperspace. If we could figure out how to do that, we would definitely be able to advance into space."
"We already have some access to that kind of technology," Carter replied. "Although it would be interesting to see how this leviathan does it. How many crewmembers does it take to run the ship?"
"Just one," John said with a grin.
"So, it's a very small ship." "Nope. But you'd have to see it to believe it."
"Richie, you haven't been saying much," Jackson pointed out.
The young man shrugged. "John is the scientist. And he's had more experience with aliens than I have."
"How is it that you're the only one who survived from the shuttle crew?" Hammond asked.
"Just lucky, I guess. The rest of the crew were in the forward cabin when we were attacked. We just barely made it to the planet. However, most of the crew died during the attack. I had the fewest injuries, but there was little I could do for the rest of them. I wasn't trained beyond basic first aid. All I could do was see that they had a proper burial after they died. I was alone for most of the time. John only found me about four months ago."
"That must have been awful," Carter said, her voice laden with sympathy.
"Yes, it was."
John was amazed at how easily the lies seemed to slip from Richie's mouth. He almost sounded as if he'd actually lived through it. Of course, there was an element of truth to the story. The only part that wasn't true was about the attack, and landing on the planet. Technically, he'd been alone for that whole time - but he'd been dead so he couldn't have remembered it. Or could he? He didn't understand how this immortality thing worked. Had Richie been aware of passing time? Had he come back to life only to die again? What would that have been like? He couldn't suppress a shudder at the thought.
He pulled himself back from his thoughts. "How about a tour of Moya?" he suggested. "Pilot will be able to answer some of your questions better than I can. Plus the rest of the crew might know something about the Stargates, or aliens with glowing eyes."
"Sounds good to me," Carter quickly chimed in.
"That sounds like a good plan," Hammond agreed. "If you'd like, you can take along Jack and Duncan."
"I'd like that a lot," John said. "It might help them understand what our lives have been like. In fact, they can even stay overnight if they want. That will give us more time to show them around."
"That sounds like a good idea, but I think it can wait until tomorrow," Hammond said.
"Can we leave here?" John asked. "Go outside. It's been so long since we've been on Earth." A part of him still wanted to make sure they really were back home again.
Hammond frowned. "That wouldn't be a very good idea. What if someone recognized you?"
"Sir, what if we take them to my place?" Carter suggested. "As long as they stay out of public places, there shouldn't be any problems."
"We can pick up some carryout and bring it over," Jackson offered.
"Pizza!" Richie said with a grin.
"And beer!" John added.
"You know, I like these guys," Jack said with a grin.
* FAR * FAR *
John took another sip of beer as he stared up at the night sky. There had been times when he'd thought he'd never see the moon shining down on Earth. The only thing missing was Aeryn.
He was definitely sure that he was back on Earth. While they'd eaten pizza, they'd surfed the television channels before settling on a baseball game. His favorite team was playing, and he recognized many of the players, but there had been others that he was unfamiliar with. This was not like the first time, where everything had been taken from his memories. No one would have gone to that much trouble just to fool him into thinking he was back on Earth.
He heard the door open behind him, and looked around. His father stood in the doorway.
"Want some company?" he asked.
"Sure, Dad." John turned around and leaned up against the deck's railing, watching as his father crossed the deck to stand in front of him.
"I've missed you, son," Jack said gruffly.
"I've missed you, too." John reached out and hugged his father. "There were times when I thought I'd never see you again."
"You're back home - safe and sound. It's all over, John." Jack hugged his son even tighter.
"Is it?" John asked, stepping back from his father, and turning away. "I'm dead here, Dad. D.K., all my friends - they all think I'm dead and buried. If I stay, I have to start all over again. No space program. No research. A whole new life. I'm not sure I can do that." He rubbed at his burning eyes.
"Isn't that better than going back out there? This Scorpius character wants to strip your mind of all your knowledge. He's tortured you before, he'll do it again if he catches you." Jack grabbed both of John's arms and forced him to turn. "It's not worth it, son."
"Is love worth it?" John asked. "Would you have risked anything to be with Mom?"
Jack released his son, then placed one hand on his shoulder. "I loved your mother. I would have done anything to stay with her. When she died, a part of me died along with her."
"That's how I feel about Aeryn. You haven't met her yet, but I love her. If she'd come back here with me, I'd be more than willing to start a new life."
"And if she won't? Then what? You'll follow her to your death?"
"If she'll have me." John sighed.
"Does she love you, son? Are you sure you love her? Or are you chasing after a dream? Maybe you only think you love her because you haven't had anyone else to relate to during the last four years."
"It's complicated, Dad. She loves me. I know she does, but she wants guarantees. She doesn't want to watch me die again, and I can't promise that won't happen."
"I don't understand. How could she have watched you die?" Jack looked shocked at the idea.
John scrubbed at his face. "I was twinned. We had the same memories, the same looks, the same feelings. The other one of me went off with Aeryn, and during that time they..." He shook his head to fight back the images. How could he be jealous of himself? "Anyway, he died and she was there. She doesn't want to be hurt again."
"Then you should both come back to Earth. You could both live to a ripe old age together."
"Like Mom did? There's no guarantee that something wouldn't happen to either one of us if we did that."
"It's better than the alternative!" Jack almost yelled. He took a deep breath, and stepped back. "I'm sorry."
"Dad, I know you want me to be safe, but it is *my* life. I want Aeryn to be part of it. She's lived her whole life on spaceships. I don't know whether she could handle living on one planet for the rest of her life." John sighed again. "And there's more to consider besides just her."
"Scorpy has to be stopped. If he finishes his weapon he could destroy planets without thinking twice about it. And I'm sure that Earth would be one of the first ones he'd go after, especially if I'm here."
"Let the military handle him. They're better trained and have better equipment to do that."
"And that may be the answer, Dad. I just need to consider all my options before I make a decision. And it's not like we couldn't keep in touch. General Hammond said that he would give us instructions on how to contact Earth."
"Just don't forget to think about yourself," Jack said. "This isn't just about everyone else. It's also about you."
"I'll keep that in mind, Dad. I don't know what I'm going to do yet, but I'll probably be discussing it with you again."
"I'll be here, whenever you need to talk to someone. And I'll support you in whatever decision you make - even if I don't agree with it."
John hugged his father in relief. "Thanks, Dad."
* FAR * FAR *
Richie sighed in frustration. He wanted to have a private chat with Duncan, but couldn't seem to find the opportunity. He knew John had managed to talk to his father the night before, but after they'd come back inside, O'Neill had announced it was time to go back to the base. He and John had been assigned a room together, and Jackson had shown them to it. Duncan and Jack had gone another direction so he had no idea where their room was.
Now they were waiting for D'Argo to bring a transport pod down so that everyone could go up to Moya. He thought about trying to sneak away to talk to Duncan, but General Hammond had arranged for food supplies to be sent to Moya. Everyone had been put to work to transfer the supplies to the landing site. They'd just barely got that accomplished when D'Argo landed the transport.
While John introduced D'Argo to the SG-1 team, Richie, Duncan and Jack loaded the supplies on the transport pod. Soon, they were all headed to Moya, and he still hadn't managed to talk to the older Immortal.
Duncan seemed entranced by the sights visible through the view port, and spent most of the trip standing at the front of the transport. No one else seemed that interested in the view, especially not John and Carter who were too busy discussing wormholes to pay attention to the view. Richie figured it was because Duncan was the only one who'd never been in outer space.
"Do all the aliens have tentacles?" O'Neill whispered to Richie, glancing back at D'Argo.
The young Immortal grinned and shook his head. "Nope. And just wait until you see Pilot, and Rygel."
"Is that Moya?" Duncan asked.
Suddenly, there was a crowd around the view port. John managed a look, and agreed. "We'll be docking soon."
"It's bigger than I thought it would be," Carter said. "And it only takes one person to operate the ship?"
"Well, one alien, and lots of DRDs - maintenance robots."
"Can we get copies of the design specs?" Carter asked. "Maybe it would be possible to build a similar ship on Earth."
"You don't understand. Moya is alive. She's half biological, half mechanical. I don't think you'll be able to duplicate her."
"Really?" Carter's eyes seemed to sparkle. "I can't wait to see her."
"Okay, everyone. How many people want to get the translator microbes?" John asked.
No one volunteered.
"C'mon, guys, they're not that bad. Without them, you won't be able to understand anyone on Moya. You'll have to rely on Richie and me to translate for you."
Carter stepped forward. "I'll try them."
O'Neill rolled his eyes, and also stepped forward. "I can't let her call me chicken."
"I think I'll pass, at least for now," Jackson said. "I want to hear their native language so that I can see if there's any similarity to Earth's languages. I won't be able to do that if microbes are translating for me."
"I, too, will pass," Teal'c stated. He offered no reason at all.
"What about you, Mac?" Richie asked.
Duncan sighed, then said, "I'll do it."
"So will I," Jack said.
"Great!" John said. "We'll get you all injected as soon as we dock."
"Which is now," D'Argo said.
* FAR * FAR *
"C'mon, Mac, there's nothing to it," Richie coaxed. He'd noticed that Duncan seemed to be a little reluctant to have the translator microbes inserted. The older Immortal had hung back and let the rest go first. "It's just a little shot - you're a big, brave warrior. You're not afraid, are you?"
Duncan scowled at the younger man. "Of course not. I'm just... waiting for my turn."
Richie snickered, then dragged Duncan forward. "One last one to do."
The DRD rolled over to Duncan and injected him.
"See, that wasn't so bad," Richie said with a smirk. "I'd give you a lollipop but I don't have any here."
Duncan made a fist and lightly punched Richie's arm. "How long does it take for these things to work?"
"Just a few microts," John said.
"How long is that?" O'Neill asked.
A holographic image of Pilot appeared in the clamshell. "Welcome to Moya," he greeted the newcomers.
"Hey, he speaks English," O'Neill stated, a surprised look on his face.
"Well, if he did, I didn't understand a word of it," Jackson said. "I guess those microbes must work."
"That's how fast a few microts are," John said with a grin. He introduced the visitors to Pilot, then asked, "Where is everyone?"
"Aeryn is in command, Chiana is in her quarters, and Rygel is in the center chamber eating."
"All right. I'll give our guests a quick tour, then we'll get down to business."
"I will unload the supplies, then meet you on command," D'Argo said.
* FAR * FAR *
"Moya is absolutely amazing," Carter gushed, as they headed for command after leaving Pilot's den. "A perfect mix between biology and mechanical engineering. Fully sentient and capable of independent action, yet she has a symbiotic relationship with Pilot. And she's willing to devote her life to her passengers."
"Yeah, she is amazing," John agreed.
"But she has no weapons, right?" O'Neill asked.
"Do any other... uh... leviathans have weapons?"
"Only one. Moya's child, Talyn. The Peacekeepers tampered with Moya and she gave birth to a ship with weapons."
"Gee... that's too bad."
"Hey, Crichton, aren't you going to introduce me?"
John turned and saw Chiana standing in the corridor. He quickly introduced the Nebari to everyone, then watched as she moved closer to both Jackson and MacLeod. She seemed undecided for a moment, then concentrated on Jackson.
"What are these?" she asked, reaching up and tapping a lens on his glasses.
Jackson sent a confused glance to Crichton, who interpreted for him. Once he realized what she was asking, he took off his glasses and let her have a closer look at them while explaining their use to her.
"You mean your eyes are even more inferior than Crichton's?" she asked as she studied the glasses.
Everyone who understood what she said laughed. Teal'c and Jackson just looked confused.
"What's wrong, Daniel?" O'Neill taunted his friend. "Did we find a language you can't understand?"
He put his glasses back on. "There are some similarities, but I would need more time hearing her language to see if there is a relationship to any of Earth's languages."
Chiana grabbed his hand, and tried to pull him down the corridor. "We can go to my quarters, and you can listen to me all you want."
"Not now, Chiana!" John stopped her mid-step. "Why don't you go prepare a meal for our guests. I'm sure they'll like something to eat after we finish in command."
"You always ruin my fun," she said with a pout, but released Jackson's hand and headed toward the center chamber.
"Well, now there's only two more crewmembers for you to meet," John said, as he started moving on to command.
As expected, Aeryn was there, and he made introductions again. He wished that she'd had a chance to meet his father when there wasn't a crowd around so that they could get to know each other. He'd just have to find a way to arrange a more private get-together.
They had just moved over to the strategy table when D'Argo joined them.
"Pilot, please show us a command carrier in relationship to Moya," John asked. A moment later, a holographic image appeared above the table, and Pilot started explaining technical details.
Richie tried to stay interested, but knowing the actual dimensions of a command carrier was not the most exciting thing to listen to. He noticed Duncan's attention was also wandering, and he caught his eye, gesturing for him to back away.
Before he had a chance to say anything, Rygel zoomed into the room on his throne sled. "Why wasn't I notified that you were having a strategy session? I hope you haven't made any decisions without my expert advice."
John performed the final introductions, only to have Rygel correct him.
"I am Rygel The Sixteenth, Dominar to over six billion subjects!"
"I'm pleased to meet you, your... uh... Highness," O'Neill greeted him, managing to keep a straight face.
"It's good to see at least *some* humans know how to respect their betters," Rygel stated imperiously. "Now, let's start working on our battle plan."
"Right," Jack said, turning back to the strategy table to hide his own smile. He was sure that any strategy that Rygel came up with would have him ensconced in a safe location, and doing the least amount that he could get away with.
Richie moved closer to Duncan. "Do you want to listen to all this?" he whispered in his ear.
Duncan shook his head, and Richie pointed toward the door. Quietly, they left the command center, and the younger Immortal led the way down to his quarters.
Richie perched on a nearby bench, and Duncan sat down on the bed. The Scot smiled at his friend. "I can't believe I'm actually in outer space," he said. "I knew that if I lived long enough, that someday it might happen, but I never expected it so soon."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. Sometimes, I think I'll wake up and find myself back in my own bed."
"Trust me - this would be one hell of a dream."
Richie laughed. "You always said I had a vivid imagination."
"That's true. So, I take it John knows all about your immortality. What about the rest of the crew?"
"Yeah, they know that I can't die - after all, they saw me come back to life after sucking vacuum for three years. John's the only one who knows about the swords, and beheadings. I had to tell him more."
"Sometimes it can't be helped. I've often thought about telling Jack the truth - especially when he was trying to figure out how come I was looking for your body at the coroner's office after the space shuttle had supposedly been found."
"If he's anything like his son, then I know he'd keep our secret, Mac."
"I know he would, but that's not the point, Rich. The more people who know about us, the bigger the risk is. All it would take would be a slip of the tongue to the wrong person, and we could all be hunted down." Duncan sighed. He looked over at his friend. "Have you been keeping up on your training?"
Richie rolled his eyes. "Yes, Mac. I practice daily. I take showers daily. I get plenty of sleep. I even eat right."
Duncan's mouth twitched before he asked with a straight face, "Do you brush your teeth after every meal, too?"
Richie groaned, then laughed along with Duncan. "Actually, I use a dentik now. They're kind of like slugs that you put in your mouth and they clean all the bacteria from your teeth."
Duncan's mouth fell open for a moment, then snapped shut. "You put slugs in your mouth?" he finally asked.
"Yeah, they leave a kind of minty taste. Mac, this universe has all new ways of doing things. You have to be able to adapt to survive. You've been doing that all your life as new technology emerged. This isn't any different."
"I guess not." Duncan looked around the room for a moment before settling his gaze on Richie again. "Have you run into any other Immortals out here?"
"Not yet. And none of the crew have ever heard of people who can't die - which doesn't mean much. There may not be any others out here."
"Is that why you want to stay out here?" Duncan scowled. "Because you won't have to face any other Immortals?"
Richie jumped to his feet. "That's not why! Besides, there are worse things than facing other Immortals." He visibly shuddered.
Duncan was on his feet at once, hurrying over to place one hand on the younger man's shoulder. "What happened, Rich?"
"I was tortured by Scorpius." Richie closed his eyes as the memories washed through him, pulling him back into that horrific time. Only the slight squeeze from Duncan's hand on his shoulder pulled him back. He opened his eyes and faced his friend. "The torture wasn't the worst part. Somehow, his Aurora chair was able to tap in to other Immortal's memories. I had flashbacks to Mako, and Kristov, and Carter Wellan."
"Are you sure? Maybe they really weren't flashbacks."
"You tell me, Mac. I saw you and Alec Hill building a house. You were smoking cigars, and a young woman drove up in a wagon. Then there was you and Mako and a gunfight in an old west town. Do those scenes sound familiar?"
Duncan nodded. "You're right. They were flashbacks, but why do they bother you?"
"Because after John rescued me, I started acting like other Immortals - and I don't remember doing it. Everyone thought I was going crazy. The personality shifts didn't last too long, but they kept happening."
"Are they still happening?" Duncan grabbed both of Richie's arms and stared into his eyes, studying them as if he could see the truth.
"No. I managed to lock them back up, but I know they're there. If Scorpy got his hands on me again, I'm afraid one of them would take control of me permanently."
"Then that's another reason why you should come back home, Rich."
"If John decides to stay, then so will I," Richie stated firmly. "I won't let him go after Scorpius alone. If he doesn't stay, then I don't know what I'll do." He paused for a moment, then added, "Don't try to hound John into going home, either, Mac. He needs to make his own decision."
"I won't, but I'm sure his father will have something to say about it."
"Yeah, he already has. John said they had quite a conversation about it last night, but he still hasn't decided what he wants to do. I think a lot will depend on whether Aeryn will go with him, or not."
"It always seems to come down to a woman, doesn't it?" Duncan asked with a wry grin.
"Of course it does." Richie grinned back at his mentor. "Speaking of which, how is Amanda?"
Duncan rolled his eyes, then filled Richie in on her latest exploit that had gotten him sucked into trouble.
* FAR * FAR *
Daniel Jackson noticed Richie and Duncan leaving the command center, and thought about following them. Then he decided that they needed time to renew their friendship in privacy. He turned his attention back to the strategy table where interior maps of a command carrier were being displayed. Aeryn was pointing out various sections, but he couldn't understand what she was saying.
Quietly, he left the room, deciding to do a little exploring on his own. If anyone got upset about it, it would indicate that they were trying to hide something. He hoped not, because in the brief time that he'd known John and Richie, he had already started to like them.
Still, there was something odd about Ryan's story. They hadn't found the space shuttle on the planet, but according to his story, they'd barely managed to land. Was it possible that Ryan and Crichton had had an ulterior motive when they both went up in the space shuttle? Maybe creating the wormhole hadn't been as accidental as they'd claimed.
Moya's corridors seemed to go on forever, branching off at what seemed like random areas. He found what had to be the crew's quarters, but backed off when he heard voices. He didn't want to intrude on Richie and Duncan's conversation - even if it meant that he might learn more.
He was just beginning to think he was lost when he entered a large hangar area. At first, he thought it was where they had landed. However, when he spotted the Collaroy, he realized that this was a different one. He quickly examined the exterior of the space shuttle, but could find no indication of any space battles. The shuttle's door was open, so he went inside, after checking carefully to make sure no one else was around. The interior of the ship also belied Richie's story. There was no sign of any damage in the forward compartment. He seriously doubted they could have restored the space shuttle to its original condition.
Daniel quickly left the ship, and the hangar, not wanting to be caught there by anyone. He couldn't help but wonder what else Richie had lied about. And whether John was involved. He'd have to tell O'Neill about this as soon as possible.
He tried to retrace his route, but it was difficult since most of Moya's corridors looked alike. He thought about asking one of the little robots that kept buzzing around for assistance, but wasn't sure if they would understand him. Finally, he caught a faint whiff of something good, and decided to track it down.
Somehow he managed to find his way to where Chiana was preparing some food. She said something, but he didn't have a clue as to what it was. She took his hand and pulled him over to a chair, then pushed him down into it. When he tried to stand up, she pushed him back down again.
"I need to get back to command," he told her.
Her response was just as much a mystery, but her head shake made it clear that she had no intention of letting him do that. Instead she straddled his lap, reaching behind him to grab a bowl from the table. Using her fingers, she scooped up some of the contents and brought it up to his lips.
"No," he tried to say, only to have her stuff the food in his mouth. Reluctantly he chewed, and was happy that whatever she had fed him was very tasty. He swallowed, then said, "That was good, but now I need to-"
Once again she placed food in his mouth. While chewing, he took the bowl from her and put it on the table behind him. Then he tried to push her off his lap, not wanting to be too harsh about it. She resisted, wrapping her arms around his neck, and leaning in to kiss him. Daniel kept his lips firmly sealed while he continued to try to peel her off.
"Having fun, Daniel?"
Over Chiana's shoulder, Daniel could see everyone else watching them. He could feel his cheeks turn warm as color rushed into his face. Chiana looked over her shoulder, but remained glued to his lap.
"Chiana!" John said, exasperation evident in his voice. "Behave yourself - for once!"
"Don't be such a tralk!" D'Argo added.
"Oh, all right." With a sigh, she stood up, and moved away from Daniel.
"Little slut," Rygel said as he zoomed up to the table. She responded by slapping the Hynerian on the back of the head.
"Just one happy family," O'Neill said with a smirk as he sat down next to Daniel. "New girlfriend in your life?" he asked.
"Oh, be quiet," Daniel retorted. "So did you figure out a plan?"
"Well, Carter thinks a Naquadah bomb would be able to blow that sucker into little pieces. They've been discussing technical stuff ever since," O'Neill said pointing toward Carter and John.
"Feel a little out of place?" Daniel asked with a smirk.
"Felt a lot out of place. And I wasn't the only one. So, where did you disappear to?"
Daniel lowered his voice to a whisper. "Did a little snooping and found out that Ryan lied about the space shuttle being attacked."
O'Neill's eyebrows shot up in amazement. He quickly schooled his face into a stoic expression. "Are you sure?"
Daniel nodded, not wanting to go into details where others might overhear. He turned his attention to the wide variety of foods offered, and filled his plate. While he ate, he studied the people at the table.
Rygel appeared to be in heaven as he stuffed food in his mouth with his little hands. D'Argo looked like he was scowling at everyone - it was hard to decide whether he was upset at someone or if that was his normal expression. Teal'c was studying everyone at the table while he ate. Chiana was throwing lascivious looks at all the males at the table - except for Rygel. John and Carter were deep into technical discussions. Richie and Duncan were kidding around with each other as the older man sampled various foods. Jack Crichton was watching his son, a hopeful expression on his face. He probably thought that maybe Carter would be the key to getting his son to come back to Earth.
However, the most interesting face was Aeryn Sun's. She had her eyes glued on John and Carter's discussion, but her expression was one of a mixture of what he guessed was despair and jealousy. Based on what John had said, she was a fighter, not a scientist. Did she think that John's rapt attention to Carter's words was a sign that another woman had grabbed his fancy?
Moya's crew was an odd mixture of characters. They seemed to have little in common, and yet they supposedly had spent the last four years together. It didn't seem possible, but then he remembered that the SG-1 team was just the same. They had become the best of friends, and yet had little in common with each other.
He knew from experience that adversity could forge strong ties.
* FAR * FAR *
O'Neill tested the softness of his temporary bunk, then sat down. "Okay," he said, addressing the rest of the SG-1 team who'd joined him in his room. "Fill us in, Daniel."
"According to Ryan's story, the space shuttle was attacked in space, and they just barely made it to the surface. However, I found the fully intact shuttle in one of the landing bays. There's no sign of any kind of battle."
"Maybe they just fixed it," Carter suggested. "They have the equipment, and the know-how to do it."
"I'm no expert on the shuttle, but it doesn't look like it's been repaired - especially not the interior."
"Why would he have made up that story?" Teal'c asked.
"That's what we've got to find out, people," O'Neill replied. "And we need to find out whether Crichton is involved. Any ideas?"
"I doubt that Aeryn or D'Argo would reveal anything," Carter said with a frown. "Pilot might if he was handled correctly." Then she smiled at Daniel. "However, Chiana seemed like the friendly type."
"That's right," O'Neill agreed. "Especially with Daniel."
Daniel's face blanched. "No way! Besides, I can't understand a thing she says. So, I guess that leaves me out."
"You could have the microbes injected into you," Teal'c suggested.
Daniel shook his head. "I need to be able to hear people's languages. I wouldn't be able to do that anymore if I had the microbes injected into me - unless someone told you how to get rid of them?"
O'Neill glanced over at Carter who shook her head. "Nope. No one mentioned anything about removing them. I guess that leaves Chiana to you, Carter."
"I think she might be more... receptive to you," Carter replied, fighting to keep the smirk off her face. "I'll talk to Pilot."
O'Neill sighed. "All right. What about the Domino? Think you could get any info out of him?"
"That's Dominar," Carter corrected him. "I can try."
"All right. Daniel, show Carter where you found the shuttle so she can look it over. Then talk to Pilot and Rygel. I'll go track down Chiana. Teal'c, why don't you wander around and see if you can find anything else out?"
Everyone nodded, and headed off to their assignment.
* FAR * FAR *
It took some doing, and required the assistance of Pilot, but John finally tracked Aeryn down to the cargo bay. She was in the middle of a kata that Richie had shown her, and he watched her while she finished it. She was so graceful, and fluid, and yet it was obvious that she had the power to do some serious damage.
He tossed her a towel to dry off with after she'd ended the routine. "We need to talk," he said.
"About what?" she asked, keeping her gaze focused on the towel in her hands as if it was something important.
"About us." John moved closer.
"There is no 'us'," she stated.
This was starting to sound like all their previous conversations. "There could be. You only have to say the word."
"The word is *no*." Aeryn tried to brush past John, but he grabbed her arm and spun her back around to face him.
"Tell me you don't love John Crichton. Not him. Not me. John Crichton. Tell me to my face, and I won't bother you again."
She looked up, looking directly into his eyes. Her mouth opened, but nothing came out. She closed it, swallowed, then tried again. "I... I..." her eyes dropped. "I can't."
John fought down the triumphant surge that coursed through his body. It couldn't be this simple, could it? "Then we belong together - we love each other. It's as simple as that." He pulled her close, and kissed her.
She struggled against him for a moment, then returned the kiss. It took several long moments before she pushed him away. "No! It's not simple! You want to go after Scorpius, and I can't watch you die again! I can't do it."
"Then we'll go live on Earth together. They'll let you come with me. We could work on their Stargate project. We wouldn't be tied to just Earth - we could visit other worlds together."
"That could be just as dangerous!"
"Then we'll just live on Earth. Please, Aeryn," John pleaded, reaching out to stroke her cheek. "Don't push me away. I love you."
"No! Go back to Earth, John. Go back to your father and your friends, where you'll be safe." Aeryn dodged around him, and ran from the room.
* FAR * FAR *
Duncan eased himself out of his stiffened position. He still wasn't quite sure why he hid when Aeryn had entered the room that he was investigating. After all, he hadn't been doing anything wrong - he'd just been looking around. But he'd seen her face, and it was pretty obvious she was upset, so he'd ducked down out of sight before she'd spotted him.
Still, he'd had an excellent view of her exercise area. Richie must have been teaching her katas, because he recognized the one she was doing. She was pretty good at it, too. At least that meant that Richie had been keeping up with his exercises.
He definitely should have said something when John had come into the room, but once they started talking, there was no time to tell them he was there, too. So, he'd been an unwilling listener to the whole thing.
He couldn't help but pity John and Aeryn. They belonged together - he was very sure of that. Richie had been sure of it, as well. Maybe he could do something to help. It would be a small repayment for returning Richie home, safe and sound.
He went in search of Aeryn, and found her in her room. He lightly rapped on her door, not quire sure what the protocol was when you could see the person through the slats in the door. "Aeryn, can I talk to you?"
"Of course," she responded, waving him into her room.
"First, I want to apologize. I... overheard your conversation with John." Duncan held up a hand when she looked like she was about to explode in anger. "I know. It was wrong of me. I should have announced my presence at once, but I didn't."
"Why are you telling me this, now?" Aeryn demanded, anger still evident in her tone. "If you hadn't said anything, I would never have known that you were there."
"Because I can understand how you feel. I went through the same thing - her name was Tessa, and I loved her very much. However, I thought I was putting her in danger, so I left her. I thought she'd be safe that way."
"You wanted to protect her."
"Yes, I wanted to protect her. I knew I wouldn't be able to handle watching her die. Except I was miserable without her. Just as you are miserable without John, right?"
Aeryn nodded slowly, tears forming in her eyes. "But it would be better to be without him, knowing he was safe."
"Tessa wouldn't let me do that, though. She found me, and I knew I wouldn't have the strength to leave her again. I thought I could protect her, but I was wrong."
"Yes." Duncan shuddered at the memory. How long did it take to forget? "In a stupid act of violence, that had nothing to do with me. I'd sent her off with Richie, thinking it would be safer than staying with me, but I was wrong." He turned partially away. "I was devastated, and for a while, I didn't want to live without her."
"How did you stand it? How did you keep going on without her?"
"I had no choice - life went on. I just tried to get through one day at a time, and with the help of my friends. It took some time, but eventually it became easier." He turned back to face Aeryn. "If I had insisted that she go away the first time, she still might have died - maybe not the same way or the same time, but she could have still died. At least I had another wonderful year with her."
"Was it worth it? Was one extra year worth seeing her die?"
"At the time, I would have said no. I've lived a very long time, and I've loved many times. All those women are dead, one way or the other. If I fall in love again, she might die - even if it's only from old age. But I've found that I can't let that stop me from loving. Otherwise, I'm not living - I'm only surviving." He paused, and looked her in the eyes. "Isn't that what you are doing? Surviving?"
Aeryn finally nodded, tears starting to run down her cheeks. "It's what we're taught from the beginning. Don't get attached to anyone, because they might die in the next battle. Somehow, John made me forget all my training."
"That should tell you something, Aeryn. Maybe it's time for you to start living, instead of just surviving. Even if John does go back to Earth, there's no guarantee that he won't die - it could be a car accident, or cancer, or one of a thousand other possibilities. And if you aren't there with him, you'd never even know. You'd spend the rest of your life wondering whether he's dead or alive. And he'll spend the rest of his life wondering about you. And you'll both be miserable."
"I don't know what to do!" Aeryn said with a moan. She swiped at the tears still coursing down her cheeks.
Duncan could never resist a woman who was crying. He stepped closer, and pulled her into a hug. She resisted for a moment, then gave up, leaning on him for support. "Follow your heart, Aeryn. No one knows how much longer he or she has to live. You could die tomorrow. John could die tomorrow. You have to make the most of the time that you do have."
"What's going on here?"
Duncan quickly dropped his arms and turned to face a very angry John. "Just having a little conversation."
"Funny way to have a conversation." John scowled at Duncan.
"Maybe you should try it," Duncan replied with a grin. "I think I'll go find out what everyone else is doing." He smoothly sidestepped John, and left the room, leaving the two lovers alone.
"Aeryn?" John carefully moved closer.
"Maybe I should start listening to all these people who keep telling me that I'm a fool," she said before almost throwing herself into his arms. "I love you," she said, then pulled his head down so that she could kiss him.
* FAR * FAR *
O'Neill looked around at his team before reaching for the pitcher that was on the table. "Anyone had any luck?" he asked, as he poured himself a mug of whatever it was. Since everyone else was already drinking it, it couldn't be poisonous. Still he sniffed it cautiously, then only took a quick sip.
"None," Carter replied, waving around something blue before taking another bite of it. "Everyone is more than willing to talk about how Crichton joined the crew, but they clammed up whenever I turned the conversation to Ryan. I thought Rygel was going to spill something, but Aeryn interrupted him before he could."
"I got the same run around from Chiana. There's definitely something going on here that they don't want us to know about." O'Neill rubbed at his forehead. "What about the shuttle?"
"I agree with Daniel. It doesn't look like it's been repaired."
O'Neill turned to Daniel. "Did you or Teal'c find anything else?"
"Nothing. They let us roam around freely, but we didn't see anything that looked suspicious."
O'Neill sighed, and paced around the room. "I don't see where we have any choice. Until either Ryan or Crichton comes up with a better explanation, we won't be able to trust anything they say."
"Are you going to question them here?" Carter asked.
"No. We won't say anything for now. We'll tell them they need to come back through the gate with us, and we'll take them into custody then."
"Is that really necessary, sir?" Carter asked. "I believe Crichton is telling the truth about this Scorpius character and that he's a threat to the whole universe."
"I believe his story to a certain extent, but the one thing I did find out is that the rest of Moya's crew are escaped criminals. Supposedly, they were all arrested under false pretenses, but what criminal hasn't insisted he was innocent?" O'Neill waved to the door. "The reason for the open grid work on all the doors is because this used to be a prison ship. There may be a hidden agenda that we haven't discovered yet."
"You think this Scorpius is really the law, and they are tired of him tracking them across the universe?" Daniel asked.
"That would be one possibility. We could end up helping the wrong team. Can wormholes be a threat like Crichton claims?"
"In theory, yes. If you could control where and when wormholes are created - without the use of a Stargate, you could move an army across huge distances in space in minutes. We could end up with a Goa'uld fleet popping in next to Earth."
"They could do that now with their hyperspace drive," Teal'c pointed out. "They have done it before."
"Right. So how else can a wormhole be used as a weapon?"
"Well, the Stargate has been used against us several times," Carter said. "Because it has a fixed point, and if they can keep the wormhole open long enough, our defenses could be overwhelmed."
"But aren't these wormholes out in space?" O'Neill hoped he wasn't sounding too much like an idiot.
"Well, from what Crichton described, if the wormhole can be controlled, it could encircle a star and bring it through the wormhole. Anything in its path would be destroyed."
"Oookay, that definitely sounds like a weapon. The question is, who is really trying to build it - Crichton or Scorpius?"
"My vote is on Scorpius," Daniel stated firmly. "I believe Crichton's story. And I like both him and Ryan."
"Same here," Carter added.
"Well, we'll let Hammond decide." Taking his courage in hand, he reached for a piece of the blue food, and sampled it. "Not too bad."
Carter and Jackson just grinned at each other before turning back to their own food.
* FAR * FAR *
While the command center was hardly the place John would normally choose to have this kind of conversation, it was getting difficult finding someplace that would give them some privacy. The SG-1 crew were in the center chamber eating, Ryan and MacLeod were down in the cargo bay working out, and the rest of Moya's crew were scattered around the ship.
He looked at the other two people in the room, and wished he knew a good way to break the news. John moved over to Aeryn's side and took her hand, then turned to face his father.
"Dad, I know that you're not going to be happy about this, but I'm not coming home right now. Aeryn and I have spent a lot of time going over our options, and have made our decision. We love each other, and want to stay together."
"You could do that on Earth," Jack protested.
"And we will, but not just yet. I feel... obligated to stop Scorpius. He got the information that he needed from *my* brain. Once we've accomplished that, then we'll come home. Hopefully, the Stargate team will let us join them. I think we can be very helpful to them. We'd still be able to visit other worlds, but with most of the danger removed."
Jack sighed. "To be honest, I was pretty sure that this would be your decision. I'd prefer to have you back on Earth, safe and sound, but I'll support you in this." He reached out and hugged his son.
"I will take care of him," Aeryn promised solemnly. "To make sure that he does make it back home."
Jack faced her squarely. "I know you will, Aeryn Sun. From what I've heard, there is no one more qualified for that daunting task. And when you come back to Earth, I'll welcome you with open arms."
"Hopefully, we'll have some time to do some sightseeing while we're still here," John said. "It could take weeks before the powers that be decide whether they will help us. It will also give you two some time to get to know each other."
"It would be my pleasure to show you our planet," Jack replied, smiling at Aeryn.
"Excuse me, Commander." Pilot's image flickered to life on the clamshell. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but there's been a... disturbing conversation in the central chamber."
John frowned. "What kind of conversation?" The only people in the central chamber should have been the SG-1 crew.
"They found the shuttle," Pilot stated. He paused for a moment, looking down, then back up. "They plan to arrest you and Ryan when you go back to Earth."
"Damn!" Just when everything seemed to be falling into place, this had to happen. "Did they find out about Rich?"
"What's he talking about, son?" Jack asked. "Why would they want to arrest you? What does the shuttle have to do with anything? And what could they find out about Ryan?"
"No, they don't know Ryan's secret," Pilot stated. "Although they have been asking questions about him."
"This changes everything," Aeryn said. "It seems that Peacekeepers aren't the only ones who will falsely imprison people," she added cynically. "There's no way you can go back to Earth now."
"WHY NOT?" Jack almost yelled.
John turned to face his father, hating what he would have to say. "Dad, I can't explain it. I could clear this up, but it would mean betraying Rich, and I can't do that."
"What is he hiding that would be worth becoming a fugitive for the rest of your life?" Jack demanded.
John slowly shook his head, torn between telling his father everything and keeping Richie's immortality a secret. "I can't tell you."
"Son, you're going to ruin your life! Aeryn, are you going to let him make that kind of sacrifice?"
"He made a promise. Nothing I could say would make him break that. It's part of who he is. It's one of the reasons I love him."
"I can't believe you're doing this," Jack said, shaking his head. "At least talk to Ryan. Maybe he'll turn himself in."
"Won't happen," John said. "There's no way that Rich would do that."
"Then is he worth protecting?" With that last question, Jack stormed out of the command center.
* FAR * FAR *
Jack Crichton stalked through Moya's corridors, heading for the cargo bay. Before he reached it, he spotted MacLeod and Ryan walking toward their rooms.
"Ryan! I want to talk to you!"
Both of them turned around with startled looks. "What's wrong?" Ryan asked.
"You tell me. What is this secret of yours that's going to keep my son from returning to Earth? What are you hiding that could *possibly* be worth that?" Jack demanded.
"What are you talking about?"
"If you and John go back to Earth, O'Neill plans on arresting both of you. And it has something to do with the space shuttle and you." Jack could tell from the look on Ryan's face that the other man knew exactly what he was talking about. What was even worse, it looked like MacLeod also knew about it. Obviously, he was the only one besides the SG-1 team who was being kept in the dark. "What kind of person are you that you'd let an innocent friend get sent to prison? Or even worse have him banished from his home for the rest of his life!"
"Jack, I never meant-" Ryan started, but Crichton cut him off.
"Then do something about it!" he said, poking a finger at Ryan's chest. "Be a man! Take responsibility for your actions and turn yourself in."
"You don't know what you're asking him to do," MacLeod said, placing one hand on Ryan's shoulder in support.
"Then tell me. Help me understand what is *so* important that it would keep my son away from his home, and family," Jack almost pleaded.
The two older men stared at each other for the longest time, before MacLeod finally sighed. "I can't," he said, regret filling his voice.
"Mac, maybe he'd..." Richie stepped closer to MacLeod and pleaded with his eyes.
"No, Rich." MacLeod's tone was final.
Ryan looked away, stepping back from the other two men.
"I thought you were an honorable man, MacLeod," Jack said. "But I guess I was wrong. About both of you. Just be warned - I won't rest until I find out whatever this dirty little secret of yours is!" With those final words, Jack turned and left.
Richie collapsed against the corridor wall, giving a shaky little sigh. "Oh, man, I never even thought about the Collaroy still being on Moya. What am I going to do, Mac?"
"There's not much you can do, Rich." Duncan thought about it for several moments. "Your best bet would be to let them arrest you, then arrange a 'death'. It would have to be something big to keep you dead long enough to get you to the morgue. After that, you'd be free."
"That's assuming they take me to a prison. If they lock us up in that mountain, I'd never be able to get out, even if they thought I was dead."
Duncan sighed. "That's a possibility. As much as I hate to say this, you might not be able to come home again." He didn't look too happy about it.
"Even if I did that, I can't let John go to prison over this. And he shouldn't have to live out here forever, either." Richie straightened up, knowing he would have to do something.
"You're not thinking about doing something stupid, are you?" Duncan asked, worry filling his face.
"Define stupid." With that, Richie walked away.
* FAR * FAR *
A sharp shaking jerked Daniel out of a sound sleep, but his startled cry was muffled by a hand over his mouth. It took a moment before he realized that Ryan was standing over his bed, and he relaxed slightly.
Almost immediately, the hand was removed, and Ryan whispered, "I want to show you something." He stepped back, motioning for Daniel to follow.
His curiosity whetted, Daniel reached for his boots and quickly put them on. He'd been sleeping in his clothes - standard operating procedure when on alien territory - so there was no need to dress. He followed Ryan out to the hallway, fully expecting him to wake up the rest of the SG-1 team. Instead, the man headed in the other direction.
"Shhh!" Ryan cut him off, holding up a finger to his lips. Then he started back down the hallway.
For a brief moment, Daniel debated going back and waking up someone else, then decided it wasn't necessary. After all, Ryan just wanted to show him something. He was led through so many corridors that he lost track of where he was, which started to bother him, but Ryan finally led him into a large room where D'Argo was waiting.
"Where are we?" he asked, looking around.
"This is the cargo bay," Ryan replied, before shutting the door behind them.
"You want to show me some cargo?" Daniel couldn't figure out what would be so important in cargo that Ryan felt he had to wake him up. He was starting to get a really bad feeling about this.
"No." Ryan scrubbed at his face with both hands before looking at Daniel. "Your conversation about arresting me and John was overheard by Pilot. So, I'm going to show you what really happened on the Collaroy. That should at least get John off the hook."
"Uh... you should really be showing this to Jack," Daniel said as Ryan moved over to D'Argo.
"Pilot said you believed John's story about Scorpius. Plus, technically, you aren't military. That's why I want to show it to you, first." Ryan took a deep breath. "Go ahead, D'Argo."
The Luxan said something in reply, but Daniel had no clue what it was.
"Yes, do it!" Ryan stated firmly.
It happened so quickly that Daniel had no chance to do anything to stop it. D'Argo pulled a sword out of a sheath on his back, and shoved it through Ryan's abdomen. The young man cried out in pain, then raised shaking hands up to the entry point. He turned toward Daniel and his mouth moved but nothing came out. Then he shuddered, and, slowly, sank to the floor, sliding off the blade as he collapsed.
"Oh, my God!" Daniel couldn't believe what had just happened. He hurried over to Ryan, hoping that he would be able to help him somehow, but the young man was already dead. He turned shocked eyes to D'Argo. "You killed him!" Then he noticed that the Luxan was still holding his sword.
Daniel carefully rose to his feet, expecting to be run through at any moment. D'Argo said something, and pointed to Ryan.
"I don't understand," he said, slowly backing away, and trying to remember how to open the door so that he could flee.
D'Argo snarled something else, then grabbed Daniel's arm with his free hand. He dragged him back toward Ryan, even though Daniel tried frantically to pull away.
"Let him go!"
Daniel looked over his shoulder, and saw O'Neill had joined them, his gun aimed at D'Argo. "Jack! He killed Ryan."
"Let him go!" O'Neill demanded again.
Out of the corner of his eye, Daniel saw something fly from D'Argo. Even though O'Neill was at least six feet away, D'Argo's impossibly long tongue reached the Colonel, striking him on the neck.
A glazed look crossed O'Neill's face. "Nice tongue," he muttered before dropping to the deck.
Daniel tried to free himself again to go to O'Neill's side, but D'Argo's grip was too tight. He was dragged back to Ryan's body, and pushed down beside it. Certain that he was about to die, as well, Daniel closed his eyes. D'Argo said something, and shook Daniel's shoulder. He opened his eyes, and saw the Luxan pointing toward Ryan.
"I don't understand," he said again, shaking his head.
D'Argo reached out and ripped away Ryan's shirt from around the wound. Then he used it to wipe the blood away. He pointed to the wound again. Daniel wasn't quite sure what he was supposed to look at - he had no desire to look at the gaping slash on Ryan's stomach. But when he saw what looked like a small blue light flickering around the wound, he looked closer. The wound was closing right before his eyes! A few moments later, Ryan took a loud rasping breath.
Daniel scrambled back. This wasn't possible! Not unless Ryan was a Goa'uld. And Carter or Teal'c would have sensed that if he was. But Ryan was definitely breathing again, where he had been dead before. And the very large wound was almost healed. He must be dreaming. Soon he'd wake up in his bunk. Then Ryan opened his eyes, and sat up with a groan.
"Damn! That hurt worse than I thought it would."
Once again, D'Argo replied, then pointed at O'Neill's body. Daniel scrambled back even further, going over to check on his friend. O'Neill was still breathing, so hopefully whatever D'Argo had done wasn't deadly.
"I suppose he saw my dead body," Ryan said as he came over to stand beside them.
Daniel nodded. "So did I. Is Jack going to be okay?"
"Yeah. He'll come to in a little while."
"You want to explain what that...uh..." he waved toward Ryan's abdomen, "was all about?"
"I'm immortal. I can't die - at least not permanently," Ryan said.
"How do you know that?" Daniel asked skeptically.
Richie pointed towards his totally healed stomach. "I think that's a pretty good indication. And that's how I survived after the Collaroy ran out of oxygen. I died along with the rest of them, but when Crichton found the shuttle and brought it onto Moya, I revived. There was never a space battle."
"Then why did you make up that story?"
Ryan pointed at O'Neill. "Can you imagine what the military would do with people who aren't 'normal'?" he asked cynically. "Think of an army of soldiers that can't die."
Daniel had to admit that the other man had a point. They'd had a hard time at first trying to keep Teal'c out of the hands of the wrong people who wanted to run experiments. He could just imagine what they would do to someone who couldn't die. "And now you want me to help you."
"To be more precise, I want you to help John. If you help me in the process, all the better. You've got to convince O'Neill to at least drop all the charges against John. He hasn't done anything wrong. He deserves the chance to go home."
"And what about you? Do you want to go home?"
"Yes, but not if it means being locked up and treated like a freak. I'd rather take my chances against Scorpius."
With a slight moan, O'Neill opened his eyes. Daniel turned his attention back to his friend.
"Take it easy, Jack. You're going to be okay." He helped O'Neill sit up.
"That's some tongue that D'Argo has," O'Neill muttered. He looked around the room. "Where did he go?"
"He left," Richie said. "His part in this little demo is over."
"Uh... weren't you..." O'Neill pointed to the floor, "...dead? Or did D'Argo just..." he used his hand to simulate a tongue lashing out.
"He *was* dead," Daniel said.
"He's *not* dead," Daniel clarified.
"That's... gooood. And how... did he do that?" O'Neill looked around the room. "I don't see a sarcophagus. And Dr. Frasier checked him out, so he's not a robot. Maybe he's a Goa'uld?"
"Teal'c or Sam would have sensed it," Daniel replied. "He says he's immortal."
"*He* is standing right here," Richie pointed out.
O'Neill looked up at the young man, then climbed to his feet. "All right. Explain."
"I can't die - at least not permanently," Richie started again. "That's how I survived and the rest of the Collaroy crew didn't. I suffocated along with the rest of them, but once the shuttle was brought on to Moya, I came back. I didn't tell you because I don't trust the military. I don't want to be experimented on. I don't want to be locked up in some top secret hangar in some top secret area along with the mummified bodies of aliens, and remnants of alien space craft."
O'Neill waved his hand in dismissal. "We don't lock up the alien space craft anymore. We're too busy trying to figure out how they work."
"Oh great. You just lock up the aliens now," Richie muttered.
"Soooo, how did you find out about this... uh... immortality thing?" O'Neill asked.
"I was shot by a street punk. Then I woke up, and I was healed. Ever since then I heal most minor wounds almost immediately. Fatal wounds take a little longer."
"Were your parents the same as you?" Daniel asked, thinking of all the possibilities. "And how old are you? How old are they? Will you ever die? Are there more of you on Earth?"
Richie shrugged. "I don't know who my parents are. I was found abandoned outside a church in 1974. As to whether I'll ever die..." he shrugged again. "Who knows?"
"Wait a minute. There's one question that you didn't answer," O'Neill said with a frown. "Are there more of you on Earth?"
"What difference does that make?"
"Well, that wasn't a denial," Daniel pointed out. "Think about it, Jack. There could be a lot of people out there who don't die. Think of the history they've seen. They might have even been around when the Goa'uld came to Earth. They might even have been around when the Stargates were built. Think of the knowledge we could obtain."
"Let's take care of the present first, Daniel. We need to figure out what to do about Ryan and Crichton, then you can start thinking about historical questions."
"What's there to think about?" Daniel asked. "Ryan has provided an explanation for why the space shuttle is here. Crichton might have kept the explanation from us, but that isn't exactly a crime. This Scorpius character is obviously a problem, and we should concentrate on keeping him from building a doomsday device."
"And what about this... uh... immortality thing?" O'Neill still looked skeptical about the whole concept.
"What about it? At best it would make him a great candidate for the Stargate program. But I can't think of one good reason to tell anyone else about it."
O'Neill rubbed his chin as he stared at Ryan. "I suppose we could play it that way."
"Why should I trust you?" Richie asked, somewhat skeptically. "How do I know that you won't throw me into a cell as soon as I step through the Stargate?"
"I guess you'll just have to trust us," O'Neill replied with an innocent look. "Now, I suggest we get some sleep. We can talk about this some more in the morning."
* FAR * FAR *
"You did what?" John stared at his friend in total shock.
"I showed Jackson how I can come back from the dead," Richie said, keeping his eyes on his mug of coffee. "Unfortunately, O'Neill crashed the party, and saw it too."
"Why did you do it? We were all willing to keep your secret."
"Because I couldn't let you suffer because of me."
"Rich... You didn't have to do that."
"Yes, I did. Hopefully, you'll be able to go home now, if you want."
"But you won't be able to," John pointed out.
"I couldn't do that before I told them," Richie replied. "So, I'm in no worse of a position than I was before."
"Well, if you aren't going home, then I'm not going home, either," John insisted.
"John, are you crazy? You've spent the last four years, trying to find a way home. Now you can do that - don't throw it away because of me. I'll be all right." Richie looked up at John. "And remember, sooner or later, I'll be alone out here. I can live forever, and you can't. Don't waste your life on some misguided sense of duty."
John sighed. "This wasn't the way it was supposed to be."
"I know." Richie took another sip of his coffee. "This could all be a moot discussion. I don't really know for sure what O'Neill will do. He might promise to drop this whole idea of arresting us, then when we do go home, ignore that promise."
"They won't be able to do that!" John said. "We have rights."
"And if they wanted to, they could just ignore those rights. Call it a threat to national security. We could end up locked up in some cell deep in Cheyenne Mountain, without even having a trial."
"My dad wouldn't let that happen," John insisted. He didn't want to believe that the military or the government would do such a thing, but deep inside, he couldn't help but wonder if they would.
"I don't want to be a pessimist, but they could just toss him in with us," Richie pointed out.
John found himself staring at his friend again. "Are you trying to tell me that we could be in even deeper trouble because they know about you?"
"I don't know, John. I hope I'm wrong."
"What are you wrong about now, Ryan?" Jack Crichton asked as he entered the center chamber. "Besides your decision to ruin my son's life?"
"Back off, Dad!" John retorted, rising to his feet. "You don't know you're talking about!"
"Only because no one will tell me what's going on?" Jack sounded totally frustrated about the whole thing.
"Tell him," Richie said, calmly.
Once again, John found himself staring at his friend. "What?"
"Tell him. He's in this, too. He'd better know what we're up against."
John sank back down onto his chair, hating the defeated tone of Richie's voice. Finally, he signaled for his father to sit down, too, then filled him in. It required a demonstration of immortal healing powers before Jack Crichton would believe the story, but he finally had to accept it.
"It's so hard to believe, but it explains so much," Jack said when John was done.
"Such as?" John asked.
"Like why MacLeod was so willing to spend a lot of money backing our attempt at recreating your trip. He knew that even if the rest of the Collaroy crew had died, Ryan could be saved. And why he went to the morgue looking for Ryan's body." He thought about it for a moment. "I suppose it also explains the discrepancies in MacLeod's background check. I had to pull a lot of strings to get him admitted to the Stargate project."
"Why would you say that? Just because MacLeod knows about me, doesn't make him like me," Richie replied, keeping his attention on his coffee.
"I don't think so," Jack said. "Back on the planet, you told John that there was someone else like you around. That means MacLeod is also an Immortal, right?"
Richie sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. "I suppose you might as well know it all. Mac is over four hundred years old." He glared at the older Crichton. "That's just between us - you can't tell anyone else!"
Jack's mouth had gaped open when Ryan told him MacLeod's age, but he snapped it shut. "I understand. Knowing that, I find myself wanting to have a long chat with MacLeod about historical events, but I can see where the military might think the two of you should be studied."
"The word that comes to my mind is experimented on," Richie retorted.
"So, what are we going to do?" Jack asked. "There's got to be some way to clear this up without jeopardizing Ryan and MacLeod."
"I already did something," Richie said. "I figured Jackson might be more open to helping me since he's the only non-military person on the SG-1 crew, but O'Neill followed us, and he knows everything."
"So, John is off the hook?" Jack looked pleased at the idea.
"Probably, but Richie isn't. He still can't go back home," John pointed out.
"But you're not going to let that stop you from doing it!" Richie stated firmly. "That's the whole reason I told them my secret. End of discussion," he added as he stood up.
Jack moved to block his way. "Rich, I said some pretty nasty things to you last night, and I shouldn't have. I was wrong when I said you weren't an honorable man. I'm sorry."
"Thanks." Richie gave him a small smile before leaving the room.
* FAR * FAR *
"I'm telling you, Sam, he was dead. And then he healed right before my eyes!" Daniel said.
"Daniel, people don't come back to life after they're dead," Carter stated firmly. "You must have been mistaken."
"Indeed," Teal'c intoned.
"Sam, he had a sword through his abdomen. The man was dead. And now he doesn't even have a wound. Jack saw it, too."
"It looked pretty real to me," O'Neill added, somewhat unhappily.
"And it explains how Ryan was the only crew member to survive," Daniel continued. "He just came back to life."
Carter turned to the Colonel. "So, what do we do now, sir?"
"Well, unless anyone else has any objections, we just forget this whole immortality thing, and the Collaroy, and get back to our original objective - figure out if we can stop this Scorpius person, and see if we can find any technology to help us stop the Goa'uld."
"You aren't going to tell General Hammond?" Carter asked.
"Nooo... I think this comes under 'need to know'. Can anyone think of a reason the General needs to know?"
"What about the offer to let Ryan and Crichton join the SGC?" Carter asked. "Shouldn't the General know then?"
"Okay, so he'll need to know if they do join. If that happens, I'll let Daniel tell him."
"Me? Why me?" Daniel protested.
* FAR * FAR * FAR
Richie stared out at the stars, wondering if this would be the last time he would see such a sight. He had a tough decision to make, and he was having a hard time with it.
"Rich? You wanted to see all of us?" John's voice interrupted his thoughts.
He turned to face the others who had just joined him in the control room. Hopefully, they'd be able to help him. He looked at his mentor, and took a deep breath before starting.
"Mac, I've told everyone what I am." He held up a hand when the Scot started to speak. "I had to do it for John. And I told Jack, too. I didn't tell him about you, but he guessed it anyway. It's over and done with, so don't bother yelling at me."
"Rich, you know this means you can't go back home, ever," Duncan said, sadly. "I understand why you felt you had to do it, but you've only made things worse for yourself."
"I don't know if I have. O'Neill promised that he wouldn't mention it to anyone else. He says I can go home if I want, or join the SGC. It's up to me."
"That's great, Rich!" John burst out, smiling broadly.
"But can I trust him? I don't know whether he's lying through his teeth to get me back through the gate so he can have them haul me away, or whether he's being truthful." He looked at the other man in the room. "Jack, you and Mac have spent more time with O'Neill, what do you think? Can I trust him?"
Jack thought about it for a long time. "I think you can. While your... immortality is something unusual, I'm sure they've seen even stranger things in their travels to other worlds. Plus, you'd be a major asset to their team if you join up with them."
"Mac? You've had a lot of experience at judging people. What do you think?"
Duncan sighed. "It's a risk, Richie, but O'Neill doesn't strike me as someone who'd go back on his word. I don't have to tell you what could happen to you if he does."
"I know. That's why it's so hard to make the decision. There's so much at stake, and not just for me."
Jack moved to stand in front of Richie. "I promise you that if the military does try to do something, I will do everything in my power to stop them. I know a lot of people in high places."
Richie smiled at him. "Thanks." He sighed, then said, "I guess it's worth the risk. I want to go home, Mac, but first John and I have to stop Scorpius."
"You're still planning on doing that, Son?" Jack asked, turning to face John.
"Yes, Dad. It's something we have to do."
"Would you like some company, while you do it?"
John closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them. They glistened with unshed tears. "I'd love to have you come along, Dad, but you can't. If Scorpius ever got his hands on you, I would do anything to get you back. And that could be deadly for the rest of my friends. I need to know that you're at home, safe and sound, and waiting for me to return."
Jack reached out and pulled his son into a strong hug. "I understand, son," he choked out, "but it won't be easy saying good-bye again."
Richie felt a strong hand rest on his shoulder, and turned toward it.
"What about me, Rich? Can you use another friend on this trip?" Duncan asked.
"I'd like nothing better." Richie tried to smile, but it was hard to do when he felt more like crying. Never in a million years would he have thought Duncan MacLeod would offer to come along. "But it's up to you," he barely managed to add.
"Someone needs to keep you out of trouble," Duncan said lightly, but he didn't fool Richie. Especially when the Scot wrapped his arms around Richie and hugged him tightly.
"Well, it looks like we have another crewmember," John said, one of his father's arms still wrapped around his shoulders.
"Do you mind?" Richie asked.
"Nope." John smiled at his friend.
* FAR * FAR *
John looked around the center chamber. It was much fuller than usual, with all of Moya's crew, Duncan and his father, and the SG-1 team in it. "It's going to take a while for the military to decide whether they want to help us. Until then, we can stay here. If you want, you can go down to the planet, and meet other humans."
Daniel stood up with a nudge from O'Neill. "You're also invited to go through the Stargate and see what Earth is like. You won't be able to go off base, but you are welcome."
Over the excited talking of the rest of Moya's crew, John whispered into Aeryn's ear, "Will you come with me? Will you let me show you my home?"
She smiled at him, then nodded.
He had no idea what the future had in store for them, but for now he would just take it one day at a time.