Prompt: Farscape, John Crichton, Einstein removed more than just the wormhole knowledge from Crichton's brain.
Characters: John Crichton, Aeryn Sun, Einstein
Setting: Goes AU from the finale of Peacekeeper Wars.
Crichton's only contact, the only real person he speaks with, is Einstein. Whenever he goes into a new unrealized reality to stop others from using wormholes, they seem to be incorporeal, thin, and ghost-like, to him. They feel fake, to the point where he thinks he can taste the falseness on the tip of his tongue. He knows he really can't taste them but it's a sense that he can't put a name to and it manifests itself in his mind as such.
Occasionally, he arrives in a reality that reminds him of chocolate and comfort and safety, where the inhabitants are a little more solid, without a trace of the falsehood he feels permeate a majority of the realities he travels to. He doesn't remember where or how long ago that he ate chocolate. But that's the word that springs to his mind when the wormhole shuts down after he orients himself with the controls and the stars staring at him through the windshield of his ship.
Comfort and safety are two things he knows he has no need of. No one can touch him in these realities unless he chooses to interact. He prefers to do this rarely because it reminds him of something (aching and hollow in its absence) he doesn't remember.
When he does become more tangible, some part of his mind (he doesn't understand it, doesn't try to) is able to sense when a threat is imminent and automatically shifts him back to his original state, untouchable. His comfort comes when he closes his eyes to rest, embracing the darkness behind his eyelids and leaving his mind empty of the things he's seen and experienced. He thinks he used to dream, of a woman and child (a son), but it's been so long ago that he can't recall where he'd been at the time. If he thinks on it for too long, he comes to the conclusion that he must have seen the woman and her son in one of the realities he's visited.
He has been doing this for eternity, but time is merely a passing thought. A century is a split second is an eon ago. It's all the same. Sometimes he asks Einstein how long he's been doing this and receives a non-answer in return.
Most of their meetings are spent talking about the steps Crichton has taken to keep wormholes a secret. The scenarios and realities have started to blend and bleed into another in his head. He doesn't name them to differentiate one from the other, the idea has never occurred to him. He simply knows. His mind always guides his hands, unerringly, to the correct destination. To where he needs to be.
Einstein tells him that he has a new reality to visit. The inhabitants are young, but their minds have already taken quantum leaps, too fast for the elements of that universe. At the rate they are evolving, soon they will be attempting to play with more than matchstick fires. Einstein sees them as a probable threat and he wants Crichton to set them back. He doesn't understand at first. His purpose is to stop superpowers and individuals too smart for their own good that were on the verge of discovering how to use wormholes for catastrophic purposes. He's brought down buildings and the research they housed, killed key individuals when he couldn't convince them with reason and fear of the truth, he has even destroyed entire planets in the name of protecting faceless billions - but he doesn't do this.
It feels wrong. Condemning innocents before they can learn to be a threat. If they were learning so quickly then there was time to teach them. Time is meaningless after all.
Staring at him with blank eyes, Einstein pauses while he instructs Crichton where to go in that reality's past and tilts his head. "Troubled, Crichton?"
He hesitates, unsure. He has never questioned his missions to any of the unlimited number of realities, his purpose for existing. "No," he whispers.
Continuing where he left off, Einstein finishes Crichton's instructions. Nodding in agreement, Crichton turns towards his little black and white ship in silence, the same as every other time they parted.
"It's best not to ponder what may distract you from what you know is correct," Einstein tells him just before the canopy closes. When Einstein vanishes instead of waiting for a response, Crichton is relieved; he wasn't sure what would happen if he admitted unease.
Firing the engines, Crichton shuts his eyes and waits for the coordinates that will become a part of him. A single note crescendos into a specific tone in his head when he knows them, timed perfectly with his ship pitching forward and down as the icy ground beneath him ceases to exist. His hands tighten on the controls as it whips gracefully around corners, taking, without error, the correct forks through inevitable eternity. He can hear the guiding tone through all of the others playing a symphony in his mind, trying to capture his attention as he passes by hundreds of possible exits. It pitches low, and for a second he's confused as to whether it's the same, but it's fresh and familiar so he continues on the path.
An opening forms just ahead of him and he dives his ship through. There is nothing on his scanners at first, but soon several small blips appear. They're stationary, and he fires his ship's right thrusters and flies toward them. He's expecting to find a planet and moons but instead finds a ship orbiting a small green world near one of it's moons. He doesn't think he's seen one before, but the name Leviathan is on the tip of his tongue to say. The smooth, almost delicate, shape of her is beautiful to him and he wonders what she'd feel like under his hand. Even across the vast miles between them she feels warm, almost alive.
As much as he appreciates the chance at being allowed to see such a feat of engineering, it also makes him conclude that he has arrived in the wrong reality, that the people of this universe should not be capable of space flight yet. He needs to fly back to the wormhole and find the correct destination. Curiosity gets the best of him though, and he moves in closer to the Leviathan. It's easy to fly into the great ship, and he doesn't know why the sight of it makes him smile.
The smile lasts until he lands, uninterrupted, in the hanger and he reaches for the canopy release. Images and information contrary to the facts superimpose themselves in front of his eyes. The golden walls are burnt black, pock-marked and dead. He moves slowly forward, careful not to touch anything, even though he knows that if he did there would be no dust or ash left behind as evidence of his passing.
He can hear shouts and screams in anger and pain. A woman, arm tight around a bundle against her chest, backs through the door. He's unsure which reality she belongs to but it's soon evident that she belongs to both. She echoes as she moves backward, one where she laughs at the bundle in her arms, talking quietly; the other her face is tear streaked and she shoots through her despair at something out of sight.
Every movement, every sound she makes screams of familiarity and home. Her dark hair is hanging loosely braided in both though some of the hair falls away from the bottom band where she fights. That reality is more of an echo, more transient than the one where the baby laughs brightly as he grabs at the end of the woman's braid. Her smile is sad and brilliant when she tickles a set of little toes, the look in her eyes far away from where she currently stood.
He continues on even as the echo of the woman and her child die microts from each other, a part of him grateful that it was mother who went first under a cascade of weapons fire even as he listens to her and the boy laugh loudly in the reality he's truly walking through. The dissonance of the two doesn’t bother him as much as he thinks it should. He wants to be bothered at bearing witness to their death, to be angry for them. They deserve more than to die alone. It doesn't matter than he can still see them alive if only he would turn around.
The echo continues as he walks the length of the ship, and he brings himself further into the reality and rests his hand on one of the walls. Warm, as he'd hoped for. He ignores the echo as much as he can, not wanting to see the burns and wires falling from large fissures in the ceiling.
When he arrives on the ship's command, he's startled to see multiple echoes of the woman. In only one does she laugh, standing side by side with a man as they watch a large Luxan man toss a small boy, no older than two or three, into the air. The man's pride in his son and best friend evident as the boy's squeals of delight lightly fill the air are so palpable that he can feel it as if it were his own.
The other two echoes face one another as morbid twins. A faded wall of red and black are behind the small bed where she lies, quietly weeping, next to the man who's skin has now grown cold. On the opposite side of the room, she falls to her knees screaming and urging - pleading - for the man to get up, to not leave her again. He knows the feel of her hands pounding against his back and shoulders trying to turn his body, of the desperate effort being made to try and comply even as her voice (I'm sorry, I'm trying, please not now, please forgive me, Aeryn -) and the room fades to the glaring white of another.
When they all disappear, leaving him alone in an empty room he knows that he needs to leave the ship. Leave this reality behind with the woman smiling sadly at her child on an empty living ship above a forgettable little planet in the middle of a war-torn galaxy. Coming here was a mistake even if he had been called to it. He can tell that if there had been a threat to the Ancients and the billions of innocents in countless realities it no longer exists. This great ship and her tiny crew are safe.
He takes a different path back to the hanger, if only because he doesn't know when he'll next see her or another of her kind again in his travels. Soon he is walking past the private quarters and notices the echo once more. The effect is much more subtle, but from the back of his mind comes the knowledge that this time the echo is one from this reality's own past as he steps over one of droids helping another that had tipped on its side. A shadow of the woman greets him ahead, pacing back and forth in front of one of the rooms that line the corridors. He watches as the memory plays out with her conversation to the ship's pilot, and then discovering the room she protected is empty. Time slips by him as he follows her in silence when her joy quickly erodes to fear and anger. Even if he could speak to her, he doesn't know what he would say to her to end the frenzy of helplessness that shears her in two when the one she searches for doesn't appear, no matter how hard she and her friends search.
Finally, he has no choice but to leave when he feels the wormhole surge into life in the distance. Nothing can keep him from the job Einstein once told him that he was destined to do.
"The last of the delegates have cleared the hanger, Aeryn. Muomo has informed me that the treaty signing went well and both sides have agreed to grant us all safe passage," Pilot informs Aeryn as she paces back and forth with her son outside her and John's bedroom door.
"Were you able to find out if there were any healers amongst the Eidolons?" The baby sighs and nuzzles the front of Aeryn's shirt, but doesn't wake at the sound of her voice.
"No, Aeryn. Unfortunately, none of them survived the Scarrans attack," he answers sadly while she pauses in the doorway and does a visual check on John as he continues to stare blankly at the ceiling. "Our only options, without traveling for several days, is either Noranti -"
The baby makes a squawking sound when she sharply interrupts Pilot. "Noranti isn't touching him." Aeryn shushes him and starts pacing again down the hall.
"- or contacting Captain Braca and ask if he would be willing to have send over someone from his carrier."
"That may be our…"
She doesn't see Crichton move his hand, he blinks and looks back and forth before sitting up. The voices outside the door catch his attention, prompting him to stand. Something feels like its missing to him, and he looks around the room before picking up the dark long-coat. It falls squarely on his shoulders as he exits the room. The voice belongs to a woman with dark hair. She doesn't see him when he walks forward (he doesn't expect her to), and continues talking to someone else unseen.
He pauses when he comes up even with her, only inches between them, and looks at her face; at the child she's carrying in her arms. He can see the strength and tenderness, a balanced conflict that suits her, plainly. There's something familiar about her, and something in him knows that the baby she holds is her son. He wonders fleetingly where the boy's father is before turning his head away and continuing silently down the corridor toward his ship.
A shout echoes from behind him. The woman shouting out the name 'John', her voice filled with shock and hope. Something tells him that the name she calls will soon carry nothing but fear and despair.
The hanger doors are open when he arrives ignored by the small gray girl running past him and the small mechanical droids that seem to be cleaning and making repairs. His ship sits undisturbed and he checks to make sure that its flight ready after he climbs inside. It doesn't take long, and soon he's maneuvering it toward the exit. The doors open for him at the touch of a button, and soon he is flying free of the much larger ship. There are several vessels of different designs in close proximity, and he knows that they belong to war factions that had tried to control wormholes and lost to the inevitable, forced into truce.
It's strange and awesome to be watching these great ships sitting in silence across from one another. The sight pleases him, and he enjoys it for several more microts before calling up the wormhole he understands the exact nature of.
The mouth is open and wide, waiting for him to return to where he belongs. Out of the corner of his eye, Crichton can see the ship where the woman waits with her son. Something inside is drawn to her, to both of them, and he considers that he may have seen her before. Perhaps even had dreams about her and the boy, once upon a time.
The wormhole fluctuates telling him its time to go. The little ship moves closer, and he fires the thrusters to full power and flies in. He travels for down several tunnels before suddenly finding himself standing before Einstein ready for his new instructions.
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