Black & White
first thing John felt was pain. Unfortunately, the second and third things
he felt were pain. His body ached in places he didn't know he even had. He
could feel grating in his chest as his ribs shifted with each breath and
the skin on his face, chest and arms felt as if it were on fire. With a
groan he forced his eyes open and grimaced at the bright light that shone
directly in his face. He blinked for several seconds until he could just
about make out several dark blobs moving against the light background. He
opened his mouth to speak but only managed a dry throated croak, which
garnered the attention of one of the nearby blobs of darkness.
time you woke up,” Gemmell said as he picked up a jug of water and
filled a glass, putting it to John's lips so that he could drink.
guessing this isn’t heaven then? And
I'll be it's not even Iowa.” John's voice cracked as he spoke,
his throat still dry even after the water. The tissue in his mouth seemed
to simply absorb it, leaving nothing to sooth his throat. “How long have
I been unconscious?”
about an hour or so,” Gemmell stated as he sat back down in the chair by
why are you here? And where are my people?”
here because I know some of what happened in the bay. As for where your
people are ... well, I haven’t told them what’s happened to you yet. I
thought it best to let you explain to them.”
what do you know about what happened?” John grunted as he forced himself
into a more upright position, ignoring the medico that was trying to make
him stop dislodging the leads connecting him to various items in the
know that a man who has been under my command since before I defected
either betrayed me recently or has been betraying me ever since he was
assigned to my ship.” Gemmell paused as he let that fact sink in, not
only for John’s benefit but his own. Although he intellectually knew
that must be what had happened, it seemed to bring a whole new immediacy
to the fact by simply speaking it aloud. “And I know he tried to kill
you, that’s about it. We have surveillance records but they start about
your fight. So we have no idea what happened before that.” He stopped,
waiting for John to pick up the story and fill in the blanks. When he
merely grunted as he shifted position, Gemmell sighed knowing that
he wasn’t going to get any easy answers of him.
are you playing it with your own crew?” John asked after an
uncomfortable silence. He
gazed myopically at Gemmell, suspicion obvious on his face. “What did
you say to your crew?” John repeated his question but this time he
sounded out each word individually and precisely, wishing his vision would
clear enough for him to pick up some clues from Gemmell's
know all about your previous relationship with Lieutenant Sun, Aeryn, and
well, after the explosion in your quarters many witnessed her behavior and
a brief confrontation between her and Stammel.”
Gemmell paused, gazing at John as he
did his best to work a glare into his eyes, which could now barely
distinguish colors but still resolutely refused to focus.
John said, his voice rattling, sounding harsh in the quiet
of the medical bay.
drew their own conclusions.
I simply didn’t deny them.” Gemmell added with a shrug of the
means, an hour after the fact, your entire crew knows that what,
he attacked me in a fit of jealousy?” John
his mouth forming
a small smile until he realized that only made his head
ache even more.
enough, but, well let's
just say, in their version he’s the victim.” Gemmell now sat back in
his chair, all relevant knowledge now
of course. And what does Aeryn say about this Greek tragedy she is
I ordered her to remain in her quarters and posted a guard. But I’m not
going to tell her the truth, so I’m going to tell her the rumor and let
her take it from there.”
well while you're
doing that I need to talk to Haig.
So if you don’t mind.”
With a heartfelt curse John pushed
body until it was sitting fully upright on the bed, and then swung his
legs over the side. Without even looking at Gemmell he said, “Well are
you going to help me get up or not?”
quarters. After the fight, which seemingly ended
her relationship with Greg, she had started to pace back and
forward in her quarters. From bulkhead to bulkhead she had strode, each
pace laying a track of psychic anger across her quarters. She had cursed
herself for once more letting her heart open to someone who then stepped
on it and walked away as if nothing had happened.
she paced for a different reason.
step was taken with nervous energy. She had only the vaguest of rumors to
go on. Helena had woken her over an hour before from a fitful sleep full
of rumors about John and Greg fighting over her in an auxiliary boat bay.
She would have instantly dismissed the notion is it hadn’t been for the
facts. First the call from Commodore Gemmell personally ordering her to
remain in her quarters and informing her that a sentry had also been
posted to deny anyone access to her quarters. It went without saying that
the same sentry would
also keep her in her quarters no matter what.
So she paced, never getting faster and never slowing down. An even tread back and forth, no outward sign of her emotions. None that is, until the door to her quarters opened without warning, allowing Gemmell to enter unannounced.
thought I had best tell you in person, considering your
involvement in the entire matter.”
involvement? Whatever those two have done is nothing to do with me.” She
well. I still feel I need to tell you in person that a little over two
hours ago, Greg Stammell was killed, while fighting Cohortach Crichton. We
don’t know the full reason but we do know that you were mentioned. I’m
not trying to
place any blame on you.
You must understand that. But I wanted to let you know before any
of the rumors reached you. I thought it only fair.” Gemmell watched as
confusion, horror and pain all crashed over Aeryn's
features until an iron will viciously stamped them down, leaving her face
blank and seemingly emotionless, only her eyes betraying
even the slightest hint of emotion.
can’t say, but I will tell you that Greg was killed at close range with
his own plasma pistol.”
just doesn’t make any sense. Why would they fight? There is nothing
between Crichton and me,
and Greg just ended our relationship because he though there was.” She
started to pace once more mulling the little she knew over. Gemmell sat
down in the one chair and watched as the scanty facts coalesced in her
brain into the false picture he had laid out for her to find. He hid a
wince at his deception, even knowing it was necessary for the moment.
Him. He has done this. It’s all his fault.” She
slammed her fist viciously
against the wall. All the while calling curses
of hatred and anger down upon Crichton.
the fuck happened to you?” Haig shouted out, startled at Crichton's
disheveled and red-faced appearance. He added a belated, “sir,” as he
whom he was talking.
is a secured communication Haig.
Is it secure at your end?”
Haig tapped the console below the visual imager's
range and a hash of black lines appeared over Crichton's
screen until seconds later they cleared, once again showing a
slightly less shocked
but infinitely more wary Haig. “Secure now.”
seems I have just been retired from Imperial Service. But instead of the
gold watch and insincere thanks they were just going to kill me.” Crichton
sat rigid and upright in his chair,
taking as much pressure as he could off his broken ribs and making
it easier to breath.
you sure? Maybe it was the
rebels trying to...” Haig was plainly confused by the way events were
unfolding. He knew nothing of what had happened and had to take it all on
trust. However no matter how much he trusted Crichton this whole tale
seemed to fantastic
sure Haig,” John interrupted. “Believe me I’m sure. So what I need
now is to know where you and the other ships stand. With me or with the
Imperium.” He stated this baldly, without even a hint of emotion over
you of course sir.” Haig said instantly, loyalty to his commander being
drilled into a candidate officer
from day one at the Academy.
you Haig, but I want, no,
I need, to hear it from each of the Captains
in person. Because I have a plan to defeat the murdering bastards who are
invading our… Imperial, space.”
but like all my plans it relies on, one part planning, two parts luck and
a suicidal lack of reason.” This finally seemed to crack the glazed look
that had been overtaking
surprised himself with a bark of laughter.
one of 'those' plans.
I’ll inform the Captains, but what do you want me to do if they decided
to stand with the Imperium?” John let the question hang for several
seconds before he made up his mind.
them from the Tac net and let them go on their merry way.” John knew
that he could probably capture any ship that wished to leave his command
now that he was rebelling against the Imperium, even if the Imperium had
started it. But in the end no matter what they decided they were still his
men and he wouldn’t do that to them.
sir.” Haig knew exactly the reasoning behind Crichton's
decision and knew that he would
to circumvent any departure from Crichton's
small fleet of ships. Because whatever plan he might have cooked up would
be as audacious as it was insane and would no doubt need all available
ships to stand its best chance of success.
It was four hours later before Gemmell finally tracked Crichton down again. He had seemingly vanished from the communications room once he had contacted his ships and the sudden flurry of small craft between the orbiting Imperial ships caused more than one nervous moment, especially when added to the fact that they no longer acknowledged any communications sent their way. After following a trail of dead-ends that led from the communications room to the medical bay via half the ship, Gemmell gave up.
he went to his own office just off the flag Bridge only to find it
occupied. Crichton was sitting there, reading secure reports he
shouldn’t have been able to access. For several seconds Gemmell stood in
the doorway feeling a mixture of anger and amusement. When
Crichton glanced up and saw
him standing there and blithely waved him to sit in the visitor's
seat, anger won out over amusement.
what the hell do you think you're
doing?” Gemmell snarled as he reached over the desk past Crichton and
violently turned off the screen.
reading the Republic's
security reports on Imperial ship movements as well as their intelligence
estimates.” Crichton leaned back nonchalantly, watching the anger flow
freely across Gemmell's
the hell did you manage to access those files? They are secured.” His
voice was harsh with anger; he knew this but felt no need to hide it. No
matter what had happened to Crichton in the last few days, he was still the
was an Imperial ship before you brought it into the service of the
Republic, Gemmell. It has hardwired links to the computer core that bypass
all security systems. If you know how to access them,
that is.” A small smile played across John’s lips as he revealed this
little known fact. Only a select few knew of the existence of these links
and even fewer knew
how to use them. That he had been one,
had been a mark of pride in his old life, now it was merely a convenience.
I remember why I don’t like you Crichton. It's
that smug superiority of yours. It just oozes out of every pore.”
Gemmell stood, arms folded, firmly planted in front of his own desk in his
own office. He felt slightly ridiculous standing as he was, like an officer
getting a chewing out by his commander, but there was no way he was going
to let Crichton gain the upper hand. He smiled as he watched his words hit
home, wiping the smile from Crichton's
Commodore. I don’t give a damn what you think about me. I have had a
fucking bad day. First one of your people tries to kill me, and now the
is my ‘fiancée’, who is also
pregnant with my child, just tried
to have me assassinated.” John leapt to his feet and started to pace,
stopping suddenly, facing towards a blank wall and away from Gemmell.
started at this news. This new fact fitted the little he already knew but
only served to make what happened and why a bigger mystery in his mind.
forgive me if I’m a little abrasive, but I'm
far from being a happy camper today.”
today.” John continued, his back still to Gemmell as he stared blankly
at the wall in front of him.
what does her trying to have you killed have to do with ship movements?”
Curiosity was now the driving factor behind Gemmell, anger having been
buried under the machinations of his jump-started brain. Small facts that
he had noticed about Crichton's
behavior finally began to merge smoothly with the anomalous medical
readings recorded when he had been unconscious earlier that day.
she said struck a chord.
There is no way she could have set this up herself, this type of operation
stinks of my uncle. He’s always been willing
to sacrifice whatever it takes
to achieve his goals. All I need to do is figure out what they are.” John's
voice was soft, his mind caught up in
trying to solve a puzzle that had too many of the pieces missing.
why ship movements?” Gemmell prompted, his own mind mulling over his own
jigsaw puzzle, but unlike Crichton he knew he was close to solving it.
you look back a few years into ships assigned to the Psyrix sector, then
follow it forward, there is a steady increase in ships assigned. When it
comes time to rotate them out, two or three are kept back to add
additional security during the change over period but are never returned
to their parent fleet.” John had returned to Gemmell's
seat and began calling up the data he had been looking at when Gemmell entered.
Graphs and charts blossomed across the screen
showing fleets entering and leaving the sector, it wasn’t until Gemmell
compared this to the actual number of ships entering and leaving that he
noticed the small discrepancy.
hasn’t this been noticed before if you say it’s so apparent?” he
asked amazed that such a thing could have been missed.
they aren’t assigned directly to the fleet. Instead they are seconded to
for security operations. Which until three years ago there had been none
of. Then suddenly, there are incidents in which fleet units have to take
part.” Crichton slumped back in the chair, an unhappy look on his face
as he stared at the screen, almost as if he were willing an answer to
appear upon it.
even if that’s the case, what’s he doing it for?” Gemmel
question was reasonable Crichton knew. So far all he had done was prove
that there were more ships in the Psyrix sector than anyone would publicly
would you need ships of your own?” he asked back.
don’t know.” Gemmell, who by now had relented and sat before his own
makes two of us, but I intend
to find out.” Something
about Crichton's answer it offered the final piece of the puzzle and
finally Gemmell knew the truth. It seemed at once both obvious and highly
that’s nice. Now maybe you can answer my question.”
depends on what your question is.” John felt amusement as he allowed
himself to relax slightly, his mind still mulling over the puzzle he had
set it. Which was probably why he was totally unprepared for the question
it’s quite simple. Who are you?” he watched as Crichton's
face congealed for a moment, shock written on it. With a shake Crichton's
face transformed into such a perfect assumption of puzzlement that Gemmell
knew that he might have
been compelled to believe the integrity of the man in front of him if he
hadn’t been so sure of his facts.
do you mean, ‘who am I?’ That’s
about the most stupid question I think I have ever heard.” John could hear
the falseness in his own voice and felt a shiver of dread snake up his
spine. This was it, the moment he had been waiting for and dreading for
almost a year now. The moment he had always known would come, but never
did he imagine it like this.
let me put it this way. I know genetically who you are, but your EEG is
different. Not greatly so, but enough to show differences from what it
should be.” Gemmell locked his eyes on Crichton's
and saw panic
rising in them. He had his answer, now all he needed was a confession.
don’t know what you mean.” John cringed at offering such a weak
rebuttal but it was all he could think of. No matter how often he had
rehearsed this moment, he still couldn’t offer any reasonable
explanation in the face
of the evidence that Gemmell clearly had. He had worked hard to avoid
putting himself in the situation where he would be forced
to submit to neurological tests. He knew his EEG would be different
from the original Crichton and that his only hope would be that if they
had missed it once, they
might do so again.
mean, you are John Crichton, but which one?” John
couldn’t help but smile slightly at Gemmell's
tone. He had said it as if it were such a normal and reasonable question to
do you think?” He hedged, his body relaxing as he accepted the
inevitable. His deception was over, finally. It was actually a relief, the
pressure he had felt having to pretend to be the perfect Imperial officer
once again had been enormous. At least on his ship, he had been able to
relax, knowing that the crew owed him their loyalty.
think you’re the pleasant one. The one who
can engender the kind of loyalty in his crew
that defies explanation.” Gemmell's
voice was hushed, almost as if he were talking to himself and not John.
“But you also can’t be, because as you have shown here you have vast
knowledge of Imperial ship systems, tactics and politics. Which you
wouldn’t have if you were the John Crichton I was sent to retrieve.”
sagged back in his chair, body relaxed, eyes closed. He had nothing
left to hide but everything to fight for. Aeryn was safe. But there was an
alien species loosed upon this section of space that consumed other
intelligent being leaving
nothing but destruction in its wake. He had sworn he would destroy them
and he had a plan he thought might work. So all now depended on gaining
the trust of this man in front of him. That
left no other option but telling him the truth.
because I’m not him. But I’m also not the other one either. I am an
amalgam of all they
both were. I have all the memories of both men, but my personality is
mostly the implanted one. They say that
memories make the man. Well, I have two sets of them. Sometimes I feel
like my mind is going to melt. I have two childhoods, I went through
puberty twice, I had two first loves, and in my life I have done
everything for the first time twice.” He paused and opened his eyes,
meeting those of Gemmell as a small smile flickered and died on his lips.
“Well, not quite everything.”
nobody realized?” Scott was amazed at the openness being shown by
Crichton, if it had been needed this would have been the final proof that
he wasn’t who he had claimed to be, even though in a weird way he was.
He watched as John
got to his feet and walked around the desk to the couch in one corner of
the room and dropped
wearily upon it.
knew almost as soon as I awoke
what had happened. I also knew that
if I let anybody know I’d at best be killed and at worst be a lab
experiment for the remainder of my not so long life. Besides, I had
someone to protect if I could.” by the end of this, Scott was straining
to hear what John
was saying as his voice died to barely a whisper.
That’s why she had been separated from the other prisoners.”
I couldn’t help them all but I could help her. But I couldn’t tell her
the truth without it costing us both too much. So I had to let her
think…” John’s voice, which was full of pain, trailed off to
are you going to tell her now?” Gemmell felt he knew the answer and felt
empathy for Crichton, something he never imagined he would.
course not. She has made a new life for herself here, how can I take that
away from her?” John whispered with his face buried in his hands.
think you already have my Crichton, or don’t you remember just killing
was late in the sleep cycle and Amy felt aggrieved at having been awoken
and summoned to Winkler’s office. She stumped heavily into the
outer office, barely noticing the two medical technicians waiting there. Without
a pause she walked past them.
wrong?” Dietz asked as she waddled into the inner office of
agent is dead, apparently killed in a fit of jealousy by
ex-lover” Winkler sat behind his desk, immaculately
dressed in his gray uniform. Not a crease upon it. It seemed to Amy
almost as if he had just donned it.
what of his girlfriend's
ex-lover?” she asked suspicion lacing her voice.
don’t know. This Intel comes from a questionable source at best.”
Winkler sighed and Amy noticed his attention seemed focused on her swollen
belly. She started to feel uneasy about this whole situation.
he might have succeeded before he died.” She offered up, her brow
creased in puzzlement as she began to work out just how this might affect
the plans that had been so carefully laid out.
can’t afford to presume that. Which means I’m moving up the
schedule.” Winkler looked up finally from her belly and met her eyes.
What she saw
there made her shiver. The cold hardness of the
soul they betrayed made even her uneasy as they regarded her.
you can’t I haven’t given birth yet.” Instinctively she protectively
placed her arms over her belly. Confusion running riot in her mind. She
knew exactly what the plans called for, just as she knew the one thing
they were all waiting for to be set in motion.
have spoken to the doctors, you’re due almost any day. They
feel it imposes no undue risk on you or the child if we encourage
his early arrival.” Winkler smiled but it never reached his eyes. It
was obvious to Amy that though he had allowed her to think she was a
player in this game, she was merely a pawn to be moved at his will.
she stuttered trying desperately to think of some reason to delay. She
didn’t want to give birth yet. She wasn’t ready. A small voice in the
back of her head taunted her. If you're
going to play with fire, you're
going to get burned. What she found the most disturbing, however, was
that the voice sounded exactly like John.
my dear, no need to get all emotional.” Winkler pressed a button and the
two medical attendants that she had passed in the outer office entered.
“These gentlemen will escort you to the medical bay.”
Aeryn went, silence seemed to follow her. People would stop talking as
soon as they saw
her and once they thought she was too far away to overhear they started
talking again. But she could hear them clearly. It seemed she and the previous
day's events were the major topic of conversation on
not only her own ship but the fleet base also. But at least on the fleet
base she had anonymity. Which explained why she was now sitting in a quiet
corner of a quiet
bar, slowly but deliberately getting drunk. One moment seemed to blend
into another, as she slowly but steadily sipped her Tequila. She had a
bottle sitting on the table in front of her.
males and a few females had approached her but each time she rebuffed
their attempts at conversation and intimacy. She was heartsick
and doubted she could ever again
trust anyone enough to love them. She went over and over her last
conversation, argument, with Greg. The more she thought about it the more
unreasonable he had appeared.
had been happy again and once more Crichton had appeared and shattered it.
He had led her from one
heart wrenching disaster to another, and it had all started with four
simple words, "you
can be more."
laughter disturbed her and she finally took notice of the
fact that her quiet
bar was no longer hers alone and certainly couldn’t be described as
quiet. The bar area as packed with people in uniform but not the right
one. Men and woman clad in the gray undress uniform of the Imperial Fleet
were joking and drinking with one another. She alone was wearing the dark
blue of the Republic.
could clearly see officers
and ratings chatting and talking, which from all she had heard of the
Imperial Navy was far from normal. She also wondered just why it was that
none of them had thought to disturb her, because as she looked about she
could see all the other tables crowded with people and she was alone at an
empty table. That was until she noticed the officer that she had first
seen exiting the shuttle that brought Crichton back into her life glance
over at her then quickly away when he noticed her watching him.
some reason this infuriated her. Obviously Crichton had been telling all
about his conquests and this man didn’t want anyone to get into trouble
by approaching one of his commander's
females. The fact that he might have known the whole story of what
happened between Crichton and Greg didn’t even enter her mind. All she
knew was that once again Crichton had taken a small measure of freedom
the bar became hushed and through the crowd she saw
him enter. She
clutched her glass tightly and anger
twisted her face as she locked her eyes on to his oblivious
features. She watched as he walked through the crowded bar area, laughing
and joking with the people he encountered on his way to the bar. Even
before he reached it a drink
was pressed into his hands and he simply smiled acknowledgement of the
service as if it was his expected due.
gregarious atmosphere soon returned and so did the previous noise level.
Now that she had started to pay attention she noticed covert curious looks
from those at the tables near hers. That just made her angrier
She watched as the officer she first noted worked his way through the
crowd towards Crichton and pointed out her presence. He didn’t even have
the courtesy to hide what he was doing when he pointed directly at her.
She saw Crichton's
head turn slightly and met his eyes directly. She felt a small smile form
as she noticed a barely perceptible wince from him.
watched, as he appeared to reach a decision and started to walk towards
her table. It was as if time had slowed for them
both while for everyone else it had sped
up. When he reached her table he didn’t say
a word, he just sat opposite her, picked up the tequila and poured himself
a shot. There seemed to be a bubble of silence around them even though
nothing else had changed in the bar. The silence between them stretched,
until he finally broke it.
think we need to talk Aeryn.”
what about exactly? Maybe about how each and every time you enter my life
you manage to destroy whatever measure of happiness I had in it? About how
you betrayed me?”
you have to understand. All I did,
every action I took was to protect you if I could.” He
struggled to keep his voice even and his body still, when all he truly
wanted to was throw himself to his knees and beg her forgiveness. But he
couldn’t do that, once maybe,
but not now. He wasn’t sure if he remembered how.
saying is that you experimented upon the other prisoners to protect me?
That you had to bomb and killed a hundred thousand people, in order to
protect me? That you invaded a peaceful world to protect me?” As
she spoke her voice rose
along with her temper. She couldn’t believe he dared to put the blame
for his actions on her.
please let me explain.” John pleaded.
I have no interest in hearing what you have to say. I know that you
aren’t my John. You’re some sort of body snatcher, you walk and talk
like him but you're
I’m not the John Crichton you knew. But neither am I the John Crichton I
was supposed to be.” He could see a small frown of confusion on her face
as she crinkled her forehead in concentration. He glanced again at the
bottle of tequila noting just how little was actually left.
that supposed to mean? Did you find religion?” she snarled, sarcasm
her every word.
I have Scorpius
to thank for who
I am.” John again felt amazement
at how much she had grown and changed over the months they had been apart.
He felt sad that he had played no part in it, and worse that she had every
reason to hate him.
What’s he got to do with anything?” She
felt her mind,
still numb from the alcohol,
trying to process all she had heard. But the inclusion of Scorpius
threw her mental processes completely.
to me on his Gammak
base. I had been hearing and seeing him for about a monen
before we were kidnapped. When they tried to recreate my original neural
patterns, I was able to resist, partially. I retained the core of my
personality but I gained a whole new set of memories;
a whole new past. And those memories have changed me into what I am
what are you now?”
who has done terrible things in his past and feels remorse and regret for
every single one. Someone who never stopped caring for you.”
was the last thing she had expected to hear. His trite explanation and
whining that all he had done was for her made her furious beyond anything
she had ever felt before. Her limbs trembled with rage as she worked her
jaw to loosen the tightness in it. He actually expected her to… what?
Forgive him? He hadn’t even mentioned the word forgiveness. Now that she
thought about it, he hadn’t actually said or
done anything. He’d simply sat there and talked about himself.
frelling bastard.” She shouted leaping to her feet, knocking her chair
back. She leaned heavily on the table, pushing her face into his. “What
is it you want from me? Forgiveness? Because you’ll never get it. No
matter who you say you are your actions speak for themselves. My John
could never act like you. He’d kill himself before he became like
John reached up and touched her face. She flinched back violently and
swung hard at his face. With
a loud slap, her hand
made contact, knocking him from his chair. He fell to the floor dazed,
before looking up to find an enraged Sebacean
female standing over him staring death down upon him.
touch or talk to me again or I will kill you.” With that she stalked out
of the bar, past
the silenced witnesses to her actions. Not one person made any move to
that went better than I expected,”
John muttered to himself. He froze as he heard an
all too familiar voice behind him.
John. After all, you did expect her to kill you. Perhaps your charms
worked on her after all.”
god. I thought I had lost you for good Harvey.” Slowly John turned to
find himself staring at the image of Scorpius.
no John. I have simply been exploring my new home.” Scorpius
answered in the same maddeningly even cadence that he always talked used,
but this time it was accompanied with a chilling smile.