The Perfect Stranger
During her life as a prisoner of the Peacekeepers, the young daughter of Aeryn and John, L'Tan, encounters Ulric and Enra following the events in Mars (by Karl). Find more stories featuring these characters and this alternate Farscape universe in the Karlsweb Fiction pages.
“Where I can
see you, little rat." Tristis growled, absently. “Stay at my
L’Tan felt his
fingers dig into her shoulder, pulling her back into the shadow cast by the
transport pod. She frowned up at him before sidling away once again. Eyes wide
she looked around the bustling commerce station. The sky above the landing
platform was full of smaller atmospheric ships. The entire place was a riot of
activity, as busy as a carrier on alert.
She ventured to the
edge of the shadow and studied the throng of people pressed into the market
proper at the bottom of the terrace. It was a sea of faces. Their alien tongues
mixed together in an intoxicating chorus. She had seen other races before, but
never in such numbers and always on prison transports and the ones the master
used for his work.
Cautiously she looked
over her shoulder at Tristis. He was making that stupid toothy grin again as he
talked to the blonde woman who piloted their transport. L'Tan rolled her eyes.
She may only be eleven, but even she could tell that the pilot too thought
Tristis was gross.
muttered at him beneath her breath.
She propped her hands
on her knees and returned to watching the people in the market. They moved with
such ease, talking, bumping into each other, laughing, smiling. They moved
without pattern or direction. No rank and file. No mind numbing order. It was
simply amazing to see.
That was when she
noticed him. She squinted, not for the first time regretting her inferior hybrid
vision. Her heart was a squirming knot in her narrow chest. She licked her lips
and spared a glance at the oblivious Tristis.
She looked back down
to the crowd, and momentarily panicked when she did not see the man again. But
there he was, at the edge of the crowd. Could it really be him?
Moving with the
careful stealth that had been drilled into her day after grueling day, L'Tan
slipped to the edge of the landing structure. She spared one last look at
Tristis to make certain he was not watching and then joined the shadows of the
support struts. Soon she was agilely climbing down the framework to the market
“Sun! Return this
instant!” Tristis bellowed from high above.
With an easy grace
she released her grip from the last rung and hit to the ground and immediately
launched into a sprint for the crowd. She was soon enveloped by the sea of much
taller creatures. They obliterated her view with glimpses of grimy faces and
hunched shoulders. She tried to stop, stand on tiptoe, but the movement of the
crowd was like working against a swift current of water. It was impossible to
find her bearings.
She pushed her way to
an alcove and stood on the stoop. Where was he?
“Out of my way!” At
the far end of the market, there was small commotion as Tristis began his
Ducking her head, she
dropped back into the stream of bodies pressing its way into another corner of
the market. She glimpsed her father once more as he turned into a passage from
the main throughway. L’Tan followed.
The new passage was
full of shadows. She paused, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness.
There was the scrape of a boot over stone. Before she could react a firm hand
snagged her wrist, twisting her arm painfully behind her back. Struggling, she
was pulled back into the shadows. Another misshapen hand clamped down over her
mouth as she drew in breath to scream.
“Quiet!” She felt her attacker's rough beard against her temple. He
addressed another also hiding in the darkness. “Enra, see if she's
There was a shuffle.
A woman’s face disengaged from the shadows, impossibly pale with eyes like green
stones. She looked past L’Tan to the entrance to the street and then back to her
captor. She shook her head. “Nothing.”
poured through her small frame as she took in Enra's appearance. A terrified
shriek built in her lungs. Vladic! He was going to feed her to a
He jerked the arm
twisted behind her back. The pain snagged L'Tan's full attention. His voice was
clipped, precise. Its Sebacean accent was unmistakable. “I will remove my hand
from your mouth. If you make a sound, I will snap your neck.”
“Ulric! She’s just a
child.” Enra protested.
“So was I once, but
by appearance only. By the time I was her age, I had already been trained to
kill.” He turned his attention back to L'Tan. Ulric squeezed her wrist again.
“Not a sound. Am I clear, girl?”
L’Tan nodded, lying.
His disfigured hand came away. She drew in breath to scream even as she turned
to face her attacker. Her jaw immediately snapped shut. She was looking into her
What do you want?" He demanded.
The terror over the
Vladic was forgotten as she stared. Speechless she studied the man. It was the
face of John Crichton, etched into the faded memory of warmer times. Yet it was
different. The eyes were the same direct blue, but they held no glimmer of
recognition. The mouth that could so easily turn into a playful grin wore an
unhappy bow. The beard was closely cropped, severe like his haircut. No. On some
black level in her heart, the truth was whispered. L'Tan took a step
This man was not her
father, but a stranger wearing his face.
punishment will be severe. That I can promise you! … Sun! Obey me!"
The little girl
flinched at the sound. Frowning, Ulric straightened and looked to the entrance
to the street. A harried-looking officer plodded by, shoving indiscriminately at
the crowd. He passed their tense little triad without a second
"He's looking for
you?" Ulric asked.
The child nodded as
she simply stared up at him. At first he had thought her a common pick-pocket,
but she did not have the appearance of one of the filthy vagabond children
haunting the streets of the commerce planet. She wore an immaculate cadet's
uniform, he remembered from his own youth, but hers was strangely devoid of
insignia. Her expression was expectant, almost awestricken. He looked away.
Although it was only a child, he felt uneasy. What did this strange little
creature want with them?
"Why?" Enra asked,
leaning over the girl.
ancilla." She looked at the stone floor shamefully.
He nodded curtly,
offering the translation although neither of them needed it. "Property of a
"Ulric…" He felt
Enra's light touch on his shoulder. A shadow eclipsed the entrance, snuffing out
the dim light from the street.
"There you are,
little rat!" The officer growled. For the moment the newcomer's furious stare
was centered on the girl. There was a dangerous gleam of victory in his eyes.
The girl's shoulders
bunched up into tight knots. Ulric felt her spine go rigid before she moved from
beneath his hands. Head bowed, she took an obedient step back to her
"Yes…. Tristis." She murmured.
The officer stepped
closer. He was a full head shorter than Ulric, but possessed a maniacal
strength. It was written in his wiry frame and in the small even white teeth of
his dangerous smile. And this monster was charged with a child…
"Stop." He heard
himself say. "Stay right here, girl."
The man scowled at
Ulric. "This is none of your concern."
He stepped behind
Sun, and placed his hands back on her shoulders. "I am making it my
The newcomer studied
him in turn. His gaze settled on Ulric's hobbled left hand. A knowing sneer
moved over Tristis's face.
creature is not worth your life… traitor." He said. He looked over Ulric's
shoulder. "Or your Vladic whore."
Enra's voice was
cautionary, but by this time his outrage was complete. "Ulric…"
"Stand behind me."
Eyes still on Tristis he leaned down to speak against Sun's ear. He caught a
brief glimpse of her surprised expression as she cautiously backed deeper into
Tristis barked a
small amused laugh, guessing Ulric's intent. "Do you know who her master
"I don't need to. I
don't want to." As he spoke his hand moved to the comforting weight of the pulse
gun tucked against his waist. Tristis appeared unarmed, save for the combat
knife strapped to his thigh.
With that same
maniacal grin the officer attacked swiftly. His hands were immediately around
Ulric's wrist, seeking purchase on the pulse gun. The momentum of his charge
sent them back into the wall of the narrow passage. With a fierce shove, Ulric
pushed him away. Tristis's back collided with the opposite wall in a small puff
Ulric trained the
pulse gun on him. Tristis only stared, lunatic grin widening. As he spoke he
watched Ulric, but addressed the girl. "Sun… he'll feed you to the Vladic like
the hybrid rat you are."
"Don't listen to
him." Enra said.
"Where will you run
away to, little rat? Will they be your new mommy and daddy?" Tristis mocked.
"Good. We can hunt you again. He found you before. He can find you again. You
can see them die as well. And he will not show you mercy this time."
The girl moved away
from Enra's side. She took a cautious step toward Tristis.
"Come to me. This…
brief defection… will be our secret and Scorpius shall not know." His voice
continued in the parody of a soothing tone. He flashed a knowing sneer at Ulric.
At that moment he understood. Tristis would be punished himself if the girl were
to go missing. This strange saving grace was quite possibly the only thing to
keep her alive while in this monster's care.
"Girl." Ulric said.
"Do not listen to him."
In nearly a
trancelike stupor, she moved to Tristis. She paused, halfway between the two
men. Her face was a mix of longing and hatred that such a small child should
never own. Sadly she shook her head. "He's right. He won't let me go. He won't
ever let me go. He said so."
She looked at Enra
then back to Ulric. "Master's ship is coming. Very soon. You need to get away
because Tristis will tell on you and you'll be in trouble."
slipped back into his voice. Tristis stood away from the wall, straightening his
uniform. Even as he watched the pulse gun trained on him Tristis placed a
possessive hand on the Sun's shoulder.
Suddenly the girl
pivoted away. She threw herself against Ulric. Her lithe little arms were like
metal bands as she embraced him fiercely. She buried her face against his chest.
Her small body shook with the force of her sobbing. Astonished, Ulric looked
down at the top of the girl's head. Cautious for any sudden moves from Tristis,
he backed away from her embrace and stooped to look at her.
Her wide jade green
eyes were wet with tears. "I miss you..."
he placed a hand on her shoulder. There were no words to give this odd little
waif. Nothing from his life came to form some resemblance of comfort that he
could deliver, although every fiber in his being wanted to make it right,
somehow make it better.
"You are not alone."
He said briskly. "Be brave."
Tristis growled. He grabbed her wrist and pulled her away. Obviously, he had
decided that Ulric would have used the pulse gun by now if he meant
Tristis paused in the
doorway and regarded them with a victorious sneer. "The little rat is right. The
carrier will be here soon. It would be quite fun to hunt a traitor and a
He forced his way into the crowd, the girl in tow. As he pulled her forward, she looked back at them over her shoulder. A stoniness had returned to her features. She soon disappeared, a small little girl in the sea of strangers.