A Farscape fanfic by Hmpf MacSlowDisclaimer: The only claim I have on the Farscape universe is my fannish devotion to it. I do not own the characters or the scenario, and I am not making any money from this. Farscape and all its characters belong to the Jim Henson Company, the SciFi Channel, and lots of other people, most notably the sadistic geniuses who created it - praise be Rockne S. O'Bannon, David Kemper, Richard Manning, et al.!
Thanks to: my wonderful beta reader Verin, who beta'd (and liked!) this although she does not even watch the show! Also, to everyone who has been patiently enduring my Farscape obsession
Note: For some weird reason it is impossible to have more than one space between paragraphs here, and all the useful little abstract signs like the asterisk or the tilde that are usually used in fanfic to signify such spaces between paragraphs are automatically edited out of the files, as well. So, I've decided to represent spaces by long lines of little 'o's. Just thought I should warn you, so you won't think my characters suddenly go 'ooooooooooooooo' in the middle of the story. ;-)
Funny how I can be so certain of it. I never saw myself as psychic, and yet I am completely, irrationally, insanely certain that John is alive. 'Insanely' probably being the operative word here. Engineers are rational by definition. I am not supposed to disregard all known evidence and believe in the impossible.
It's so late you could also say it's early. I'm at the lab, which is dark except for the monitor glow and the small, bright circle of light of my desk lamp. It's silent - late night silence, the sort only found in buildings that are busy in the day. My coffee ran out hours ago, but I couldn't sleep if I wanted to. I have not slept a full night in months.
I have to check the equations. I have checked them before - checked them hundreds of times, in fact. It's highly unlikely I will find anything new. Nevertheless, I keep searching. I have to keep searching. I have to find the mistake that -
This is ridiculous. It's been months, yet I still can't bring myself to voice it, not even to myself. The mistake that cost John his life.
But then, it's only natural I can't say it. I can't say it because he is not dead. John is not dead, and I'll be damned if I know how I know that. I don't care how I know; it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that he is out there, somewhere in the universe, alive.
Maybe I spend so many of my nights in the lab because I can almost feel his presence here. Sometimes, when I'm extremely exhausted, I imagine that maybe he is indeed dead, and it is his ghost I sense in the lab, haunting the places where we developed the Farscape module, discussed, argued, had mock fights, and spent countless nights testing and discussing and adjusting our theories, surrounded by thermoses of strong coffee and cold pizza in greasy take-out boxes. But then I pull myself together, rational thought taking over again, and I tell myself that there are no ghosts. Yet no matter how rational I try to be, I can't shake the conviction that he is around, somehow, somewhere, and if he's not a ghost, that means he must still be alive, doesn't it?
I don't talk to anyone about it, not even to his dad. They would tell me to take time off, and that I've been driving myself too hard. They would talk to me about grieving. Denial. Hell, I'm not in denial. We found nothing, right? No trace of the Farscape 1 module, not a single scrap of metal. We never detected any explosion. Only this odd magnetic disturbance, and then something that our scientists have since figured out may or may not have been a wormhole. And then he was gone, just like that, without warning. Leaving us staring at our screens, helpless, the sudden silence echoing in our ears. Leaving me with a lump of lead the size of a football in my stomach.
Panic broke loose after an interminable shock second, but there was nothing, really, we could do. There was no way to find out what exactly had happened. No way to find out where John had disappeared to. Wherever he was, everyone knew the Farscape module only had air for a maximum of three days.
Throughout the frantic activity of the next days, I'm sure every mind was with John up there, lost in that tiny capsule of breathable air in the emptiness of space. I'm sure everyone imagined what it must be like for him, alone with infinity and the knowledge that his time was running out along with his supply of oxygen. I tried not to think of it while I was desperately working at trying to understand what had happened, but claustrophobia would lurk unexpectedly behind corners of my busy mind, and I would find myself gasping for breath suddenly, in a sort of vicarious agony. I actually passed out once for a few moments, but luckily no one was around to witness it, or they would have taken me off the project immediately.
Seventy-two hours after the launch, we all assembled in Ground Control. Everybody was there: scientists, engineers, astronauts - including many of the great names of the past. Maybe they felt they owed it to Jack. Or maybe they felt they owed it to John. It's as if everybody who's ever been up there is part of the Great Inoffical Brotherhood of People Who've Seen Earth from Space.
I think I've always envied him that.
No one spoke. Debbie, the department's secretary who had had a badly concealed crush on John, was sobbing quietly in a corner. Tammy Williams, one of the engineers who had worked with us on the construction of the module, pulled her into a comforting hug, her eyes meeting mine for a moment over Debbie's head. She gave me a sad smile. I felt numb.
Jack Crichton was every bit the image of discipline he had always been. I knew he wouldn't cry in front of all those people. I could only guess at what was really going on inside his head. Did he see his son dying, in his mind's eye? John had to be unconscious by now, had to have been unconscious for a while already. He was not suffering, not anymore. . . I closed my eyes and fought down the bile rising in my throat.
We stayed in Ground Control through the day and into the night, in an improvised wake for the first human lost in outer space. Someone finally broke the silence and started talking about John, and then everyone was sharing memories, those who had known him well as well as those who had only worked with him occasionally. All of us had worked on the Farscape project for years, and quite a few friendships had been struck up in those years. Several people broke down eventually, crying - even some who had hardly known John. I suppose there is something universally terrifying about dying of asphyxiation in outer space that makes it easy for complete strangers to sympathize.
I sat amidst the grief-fest, unable to speak, feeling unreal. Like a cardboard cut-out instead of a person.
The next night was when I had that dream for the first time. I couldn't have slept for more than three hours at most, but I woke with a distinct image of a space battle in my mind. Dozens of small, agile fighter jets attacking one huge, tear-shaped ship.
John was there.
I had seen the module among all those crazy alien ships.
I sat in bed, drenched with sweat, shivering, telling myself I had really seen way too much sci fi if my subconscious was reacting to John's loss with a re-enactment of Star Wars.
Yet somehow it didn't feel like a dream at all.
I got up and watched the sun rise with a cup of hot coffee in my hand. As the rose coloured dawn slowly infused the sky, I felt for the first time since Farscape 1 had vanished from our monitors the full impact of John's disappearance. Wherever John was, he was not looking at the same sun as I. He probably never would again. Space is a damn big place to get lost in. For all intents and purposes, John was very likely gone for good, whether he was dead or had survived through some incredible miracle. I had some difficulty getting my mind around that concept. He had been a constant in my life almost as long as I remembered.
'Gone for good' - what a stupid phrase. What's good about being gone?
The sky brightened by degrees, and the feeling of loss seemed to intensify with every inch the sun rose, yet somehow, I was certain that John was alive out there, although there was no rational reason for me to believe so. No reason but for a mad dream that was probably nothing but the result of a life-long exposure to science fiction.
I had been practically forced by my superiors to take the days after John's supposed death off, and spent my time pacing the length and width of my apartment, trying to remember every detail of the dream. I got so far as to try and reconstruct the ships I had seen on my computer, using the CAD-program I had used to make my first drafts of Farscape 1. I wasn't certain whether I was on to something incredible or simply losing my mind, and I didn't particularly care. I printed out the reconstructions from a dozen different perspectives and pinned them to the wall. Then I sat staring at them for a long, long time.
I saw John, the next time I dreamed, not just the module. He was following some small yellow robot-thing down a long, winding, ribbed corridor. He was wide-eyed with wonder and, maybe, fear. He looked very much like a boy lost in a dream-turned-reality that could evolve into a living nightmare anytime. Not like a scientist or an astronaut, hell, not even like a grown man. Just overwhelmed and. . . lost.
Ever since then I have dreamed.
I'm sleeping fitfully, rarely getting more than a few hours of sleep at a time, waking up to bone-deep exhaustion. Sometimes it feels as if I really have not slept at all, but have been spending all night in a galaxy far, far away. I tried taking pills, in the beginning, but I couldn't remember my dreams the next morning, so I stopped. I couldn't bear not remembering.
I never remember enough to actually understand what's going on. The dreams leave me with glimpses of a world I cannot hope to ever fully comprehend. I see creatures, bizarre alien beings, in all sizes and colours and shapes. Some of them I see all the time. The tall one with tentacles. The small, slug-like one. The blue woman and the white girl. The one with the many arms - that one must be huge. And the most amazing alien of them all, that beautiful, black haired, oh-so-human looking woman.
And I see John. John in a city that looks like Ridley Scott's L.A. minus the rain; John holding a gun, appearing to be almost as frightened of the weapon as of whomever he's aiming it at; John facing a bug as large as a footstool; John kissing a blonde; John walking through a forest of blue-leaved trees; John ambling through a row of market booths, stopping to watch a bird with two heads with the self-absorbed fascination of a villager for the first time in town. I see him with his alien companions, too: John shouting at the tall, tentacled one; John grabbing the slug guy off his hovering sled; John leaning his head against that of the blue woman; John talking intently to the white girl; John being knocked out almost casually by the black haired woman. That last event seems to be a rather common occurrence, because I see it often, with slight variations. Make no mistake, that woman is not one to cross.
In the daytime, when I'm not working on the new project, or wracking my brain to try and find out where John is, to find a way to go there, to send a ship or at least a probe, I am trying to make sense of it all. Filling in the blanks. As columns of numbers are running over the screen in front of me, I am turning my dreams into full blown space opera, casting John as the hero, and distributing the roles of good guys and bad guys among the aliens as I see fit.
I haven't lost my job. Not yet. Everyone sees I'm having a 'difficult time'. They sigh, exchange meaningful glances, and double-check the results of my work behind my back. I should be grateful; right now, the rest of my team are probably the only thing between me and the unemployment line. I know Tamara, especially, is covering for my blunders. But I don't feel very much at all during the day, really. Daytime is an oddly shapeless stretch of time between dreams, that is all.
For a while, John seemed to be okay in those. . . visions. Confused, often bewildered as hell, sure, but he seemed to be getting along. He seemed, even, to be getting comfortable with those aliens. I saw him at dinner with them, eating and laughing, and I saw him working on some of the alien technology of their ship with the tentacle guy. I saw him immersed in intense discussion with the blue woman, and watching the black haired one practising martial arts moves, and being taught how to fly a small shuttle craft by that same woman. I saw him kissing her.
Sometimes, when he wasn't confronting fire-spitting frogs or being chased by black-clad soldiers with laser guns, he looked almost happy.
Lately, though, the dreams have taken a sharp turn into nightmare territory.
As usual, I only remember fragments, but the little I do remember is enough to alarm me. John is changing, and the change is frightening me. I'm losing him, the old friend I used to hang out with so often that it seems like I spent more than half my life with him, the friend whom I've known since fourth grade; he is disappearing for the second time. There is a distance in his eyes and a hardness to his features that renders him quite unrecognizable sometimes. He isn't wearing the clothes he brought from Earth anymore. Most often, he is sporting a pair of black leather trousers and a leather vest now. He's beginning to look like a guy I would not want to meet in a dark alley if I didn't know him very well. In fact, there are moments I'd rather not meet him, even though I do know him very well. I notice he's carrying a gun these days, when only a few months ago he would often be the only one unarmed in the face of new arrivals on the ship. Even his hair is standing up in hedgehog spikes now, as if it's trying to tell the universe 'stay away!'
Mind you, what he's seen and been through would be enough to make anyone's hair stand on end. If all this only exists in my imagination, my mind must be a very sick place indeed. If it is real, John is in some deep shit.
Maybe I should really see a doctor about this. But if I go to see a psychiatrist, if someone somehow convinces me that my dreams are nothing more than dreams, then John will truly be dead. I can't let that happen. Can I?
I wake up because someone is gently shaking my shoulder. I've fallen asleep with my head on the desktop, my right temple resting on a stack of computer prints. The lab is still dark, but the birds are singing, and the sky outside the large windows is ligthing up with the first hint of dawn. Beside my head, lying in my line of view on the desk, is my left hand, a ghostly blue in the light of the monitor. I blink my burning eyes, then sit up and turn around. It's Tamara. Her hair is short, and she doesn't wave a gun, but suddenly, she looks very much like John's beautiful friend. Maybe it's because of the darkness.
'Tammy,' I mumble, 'what're you doing here at -' I'm looking at my watch, 'five in the morning?'
'Had an idea yesterday night and couldn't wait to run it through a simulation,' she says, calmly. 'I might ask you the same thing, but I think that would be a stupid question, really. You've got 'Farscape 1' written all over your face.' Her eyes are dark, but then she smiles. 'Quite literally, actually.' She lifts a hand to touch the side of my face, rubs at a spot on my cheekbone. 'There.' I turn back to my desk, look down at the print-outs to see the tell-tale blots where the ink has been blurred by tears. Her hand is on my shoulder again.
'Go home.' Her voice is soft, and she isn't hiding her concern very well. 'Try to get some sleep, DK.'