The Perfect Stranger


Author: AmyJ

Rating: PG

Spoilers: none

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 side.” 

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. 

"Drennit," she 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? How? 

Father! 

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 below. 

“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 pursuit. 

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 alone.” 

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.” 

Sick realization 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 Vladic! 

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 father’s face. 

"Identify yourself. 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 back. 

This man was not her father, but a stranger wearing his face. 

#

"Sun! Your 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 glance. 

"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. 

"I am… ancilla." She looked at the stone floor shamefully. 

He nodded curtly, offering the translation although neither of them needed it. "Property of a Peacekeeper officer." 

"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. "Come here." 

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 keeper. 

"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 concern." 

The newcomer studied him in turn. His gaze settled on Ulric's hobbled left hand. A knowing sneer moved over Tristis's face. 

"This pitiful 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 the passage. 

Tristis barked a small amused laugh, guessing Ulric's intent. "Do you know who her master is?" 

"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 of plaster. 

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." 

"Sun…" Impatience 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..." 

Confusion mounting, 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." 

"Enough dramatics." 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 to. 

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 Vladic." 

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.

The End