Serpent’s Tooth

By

Amy J

 

She turned the charm from her necklace over and over in trembling fingers; eyes fixed on her co-pilot's unconscious form at the other end of the cell. For a moment she regarded the silver icon thoughtfully: A winged serpent entwined around the staff of life. Her mouth pressed into a bitter line.

Yes. That's why the symbol was a serpent… For all presumptions that man used to rule this universe, it was still one that would turn with deadly fangs upon its master.

Here was the punch line in this cosmic tragedy. Graduate top of your class from Boston Medical, survive the macho regime of IASA training only to watch helplessly as your friend dies in some dirty hell-hole on the ass-end of the universe.

"Christ, David. I'm so sorry." She muttered bitterly, certain he was well beyond hearing. Forcing back the continual tide panic, she rested her forehead in her up-turned palms.

A rattle at the door announced her captors. She squinted into the bright light that flooded in from the hall. The guard as a brute. Shaved head. Cruel thick features. The red and black of his uniform was as dingy and mud-crusted as his heavy boots. His eye lupine eyes moved over her in silent reproach.

Peackeepers. What a twisted joke for a name.

Lieutenant Rachel Northway wordlessly rose from the dusty floor, placing the keepsake back around her neck. She had no idea what they had done to David, but soon she would no doubt have that hellish question answered.

#

"Please…please. No more.” Her plea was a ragged hitch as the tidal wave of pain slowly drained from her skull. “I don’t know a Goddamned thing. Lemme go!”

The demon canted his head curiously at her. His eyes were flat stones beneath the dark hood that obscured his misshapen skull. “You were sent by Crichton’s people, were you not?"

“Crichton's people?!" Northway uttered a half-crazed laugh. "IASA, you sick freak! We're scientists! We're not threat to--"

“I have a special interest in him. And as a consequence… in you.” The creature continued, ignoring her interruption. “I’ll wager you know a great deal more than you first thought.”

His nod was barely perceptible as he signaled his mute assistant at the controls. Calmly, he clasped his hands behind his back. “Again.”

“No!” Northway cried as the Aurora chair whirled to menacing life around her once again. She struggled furtively against the restraints.

A jolt of electric pain shook her spine, sending her jaw clamping shut on her tongue. Blood began to well between her teeth. The images thundered through her aching brain and in the screen before her in unison.

The module turned at a sudden sharp angle, as though caught in swift rapids. An intense blue-white white flooded through the portals.

The panel before her crackled sharply with an energy discharge. Hungry white fingers of sparks arched between metal surfaces. The tell-tales began to sing in raucous discord.

She turned to David. "We should rethink this. These readings are all over the place."

He did not look at her as he managed to stay ahead of the overloading circuits, cutting off the unnecessary systems: "I'll make that decision, doctor. You're along for the ride, remember?

Dread building in her stomach, she eyed the gaping mouth of the anomaly. The blue light spun away into an infinite blackness, hypnotizing. Her fingers hesitated over the booster sequence.

"It's destabilizing!"

She could nearly hear the battle in his brain between heroics and better judgment.

"No. I've got a bad feeling about this." Rachel said, hand falling away from the toggle. Under her breath she added, "Sorry, Commander Crichton. I--"

"Wrong." David said, reaching to her side of the cockpit. He threw the ignition toggle.

There was a sudden angry pitch to the module. The wormhole's dark center suddenly consumed them like a greedy serpent.

Rachel's head snapped back on her neck, as the ravaging abruptly ended.

"Very curious." The demon observed her agony with a cool smirk. “You were no doubt sent here to reclaim Crichton. Therefore, you must know his whereabouts.”

“Fuck you!” She spat, slowly recovering from the blinding onslaught.

Her tormentor took no insult. On the contrary, his motions remained fluid with sinister grace as he circled the raised platform, gloved hands clasped behind his back.

She leaned forward heavily against the restraints, breathing in ragged gulps. “I told you! I don’t know shit! Farscape Two is a science vessel. They added me at the last minute. We were trying to simulate the conditions of the Farscape One—“

“Ah. You lie then. You are experimenting with wormholes.”

“Wormholes?”

But he did not respond. Instead he turned to the technician. “Again.”

#

"It is time."

Weekens ago that voice would have sent a tremor down her spine. Now there was only the bliss of not caring. Not feeling. Something within her had died, slipping quietly into the bleak future that no doubt loomed ahead. Not unlike the gaping mouth of yet another wormhole.

She turned her glassy brown eyes on the demon. Her mouth formed a crazed grin that would have rendered her a stranger to anyone that had known her before.

"Sir, yes, sir."

"Ah. Good. Good."

She watched him pace the length of the room. It gave him the illusion of pensive contemplation, the weighing of heart and mind. But that was all pretense. Northway had learned so much from Scorpius. For him the universe had long been spread out like some glorious campaign, each move examined and set into place long before she came into this miserable existence.

No. There was no fear she felt for him. Only an intense hatred. She longed to spill his blood, to avenge the death of her own soul.           

Finally he stopped pacing and fixed his gaze on her. "The scouts are in place on the commerce planet. You understand the consequences if you fail."

"Sir…" Her flat gaze did not flinch away. "Yes, sir."

He smiled like a slit throat, beckoning at a figure in the doorway. "Good."

A black robed officer entered, Northway's IASA flight suit folded over an arm. The demon took the suit and held it out to her, his prize creation.

She looked down at the garment. Her brow pinched. "What is this?"

"This is yours." He lowered his head, eyes studying her.

The mustard-colored flight-suit was pushed into her hands. She was ill at feeling the familiar fabric under her fingers. It was the property of a dead woman.

#

Northway hovered in the shadows of the cul-du-sac, her overwrought senses full of the sights and sounds of the commerce center. She tried not to look down at her flight suit. It only served to remind her of her treachery.

Impostor. The embodiment of a lie.

Although they were out of sight, she knew they were there, laying in wait.

"This is mercy." She whispered under her breath, shuddering at her own echo of the demon's lies. "This is the best for him."

The figure moving through the crowd did not catch her attention at first. Dressed in the remnants of a command and infantry uniform, he could have been a smuggler or a deserter. But there was something to the gait, the cocky tilt of the head that made her pause. Until then she had hoped that the demon was wrong, that mercy had shown David's friend a swift death.

Commander John Crichton moved through the throng of the marketplace, headed directly for her, a Delvian at his side.

This is for the best, Rach.

Feeling the many eyes on her, she wandered out into the passage, slowing deliberately in the middle. Her heart pounded at her chest. Her mouth had gone suddenly dry.

It was the Delvian that saw her first. The creature paused in her tracks, placing an arm on John's shoulder. Northway watched the female gesture to her through the passing throng of the crowd. Her lips moved in an inaudible conversation.

A sudden wave of litters passed, obscuring the couple from her view. When the path cleared again, she saw Crichton in a full sprint to meet up with her. For a breathless moment she was riveted to the spot.

"Hey!" He called.

Her legs were sluggish beasts, but she commanded them to move.

"Wait!" Crichton called, only paces behind her.

 It is for the best, Rachel. For both of you. You don't belong here. Neither does he.

Rachel barged through the throng of merchants and shoppers, hoping to get lost in the push of bodies. But he remained behind her.  The passage wound into another blind turn. She whirled, off-balance, only to be caught by Crichton in a full body tackle.

"Get off me!" Hysteria had claimed her voice. Her cool resolve fully evaporated, in the face of the man she was to betray.

 Bewildered, he complied. Kneeling out of breath, he brought his hands out to his sides. She scrambled away on hands and knees, quickly gaining her feet once more.

"It's okay. I'm not gonna hurt you. I'm John Crichton--"

"I know who the hell you are!" She barked.

"Are you really from Earth?" He gestured at her mission patch. A cautious hope flooded his voice. "Farscape 2?"

She could see the troopers moving through the crowd beyond his turned back.

"No! I'm not what you think." The words suddenly erupted.

What are you thinking, Rach? Just let it happen. This can all be over.

Crichton's expression collapsed into cheated confusion. "What the fu--"

She moved on impulse, shoving at his chest. "Go!"

 "No. I want to know what the hell's going on!"

 Northway charged him, pushing him backward. "Move! There's no time to explain. It's a trap!"

A commotion in the passage beyond caused them both to turn. The commandos were closing in, thundering through the narrow passage. The unsuspecting villagers erupted into panic. In what appeared to be a well-practiced play, Crichton's sidearm was in his hand instantly. He grabbed her by the arm and began tugging her toward the only route left to escape. "Come on. We'll chat about it later."

Northway writhed away. "No! You don't understand. I can't go with you."

 "What?"

 She tugged at her flight suit's collar, exposing the neural restraint around her neck. "It'll be over for me soon enough. Scorpius has seen to that."

Recognition and alarm filled his face.  Their eyes locked for a silent moment. One with a million questions that would forever go unanswered. The other with grim acceptance of her fate.

Northway broke the moment. Tugging the silver necklace from her throat, she pressed it into Crichton's hand. "Go. Now. While there's still time."

He hesitated, torn. "What's your name?"

"Rachel... Rachel Northway."

Crichton nodded grimly before turning into the confused crowd of fleeing peddlers.

Rachel Northway stood in the middle of the dusty street, alien sun beating down on her face and arms. She waited for peace in the middle of chaos.

The End

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