Author: Karl
Rating: PG-13
Timeline: Immediately following A Clockwork Nebari
Summary: While trying to uncover more of the mysterious Earthling that had preceded him by more then 500 years, John is given more than he bargained for… 
Part: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |
 

Part 3, Reflections of the past

The images on the huge screen faded in and out. Dancing streams of grayness would sometimes obliterate the record, but he could make out the retrieval and testing of Mark's ship. John watched as a beam of some sort carved up the vessel like a high school biology class specimen. The image was lost again. 

John closed his eyes and tried to focus on the room. “What happened to the pilot?” He asked, expecting Asha to answer. 

There was a strange buzz to the mechanical voice of Ra, as if it were out of tune or like when his old pickup truck's stereo speaker blew. The raspy tone even further accentuated that Ra was a machine. “He was retrieved from the vessel and sedated for study. No actual record survives of the first contact between Mark Goddard and one of our observer craft.” 

John was about to question the thinking machine further when the screen came back to life. He found with each viewing that he was immersed deeper into the recordings. It was as if they were real. His mind became more accepting of the images, giving the records more life and substance. What had begun as strange distorted images on the screen now seemed to be real events unfolding in front of him.  

Thank God TV back home wasn’t like this. No one would ever get off the couch. The grayness gave way to the vibrant colors of what appeared to be some sort of operating room. He was obviously in an observation gallery that overlooked the brightly colored half circle of a room. At its center was a table surrounded by metallic trays filled with instruments. One lay on its side, its contents spewed across the floor. In the one corner of the room John saw his counterpart holding some metal instrument. Its purpose was unknown; however four long sharp blades protruded menacingly from one end. 

Mark crouched in a defensive stance, backed into a corner of the examination theater. His chest heaved in nervous anger like a cornered animal.  

The elder Khephri raised his hands and spoke softly, "We are merely curious about your species – you are unknown to us." 

"Well I ain't no fucking lab rat! Now get me some clothes or I swear… Your innards will be painting the walls in hea!" 

John smiled at the complete shock at the doctor as he shifted back from the naked human. "I believe you would."  

He moved over to one of the many trays that had been originally placed in a circle around the central table that Mark had been on before his subsequent outburst after they had woken him. The doctor’s impossibly long finger touched a number of instruments in an effortless dance. The Khephri physician then turned to one of the many trays in place around the table. Nothing was in order now following the frightened human's sudden and unexpected outburst.  

"What are you doin’? I told you… Get me my clothes!" Mark shouted, trying to watch both his jailers at once. He nervously switched the long metal instrument from one hand to the other.  

Ignoring Mark's rant, the doctor looked to his assistants. He pointed a long slender finger at the projected information emanating from the tray.  

"Intriguing. Energy signature…  and look at this its… His…cellular make up. It is point zero-zero-three of the cellular records for the Interion and within point one of Sebacean norms." He touched his colleague on the shoulder and bowed lightly.  

The young female finally spoke. "Anubus's seeding from the ancient records has born fruit deeper in the galaxy then we had ever imagined." She raised her hands to her chest and  bowed her head slightly in reverence to the great explorer. "With the grace of Horus, this is wonderful” 

"Hello!?… Are fucking listening to me?" Mark stepped from the corner, waving his makeshift weapon furiously back and forth at each of them. 

The female finally tuned to face Mark. "He is not at all cooperative, Doctor Kehpek." She lowered her finger to the small crystal and he simply fell to the floor. It was as if the life was simply removed from his body. 

The doctor looked up from his analysis to his assistant. "Asha, you could have waited till I had finish cognitive profiling!” The screen turned gray as the record ended abruptly.  

John was again jerked back into consciousness, his eyes focused on the empty screen.  

"Asha?" John was perplexed. The Asha in the image was the same as his host. Zhaan was over eight hundred years old and didn't look a day over fifty. But Asha said that these records were from their past. He looked around the immense room but Asha was nowhere to be found. 

“A question, John Crichton?” The large sphere glowed.  

John grinned, slightly distracted. How many times he had seen such a device on Star Trek, Lost in Space and Battlestar Galactica? If he didn't know better, he thought, it could be a huge dome merely filled with Christmas lights. John tried to form a question but her name was all that he uttered, “Asha?” 

“It will become obvious soon enough; continue to monitor the records.” The screen brightened as the gray blurry image focused. John found himself once again living though the memories of Mark. He was in a cylindrical room, one half a gray stone with black and pink streaks of color as if the entire semicircle was polished out of stone, the other a flat white material.  

Mark paced back and forth, one knuckle dragging against the painfully white wall. John could feel the sensation of his own knuckle as if he was there in the image. Without loosing his focus on the image, he raised his hands and rubbed the now aching knuckles. John felt the exhaustive fear that Mark was feeling. He was far more familiar with that sensation now, having been out here for over two cycles. John felt a sadness that almost overpowered him. He had kept those feeling locked down so long he thought he had lost them, but seeing and experiencing them though the memories of this stranger from earth had now raised them to the surface.  

Mark stopped at the center, facing the white wall . “Asha!” he yelled, startling John almost to the point of loosing his concentration on the screen. John was now living though Mark’s eyes and he knew the torment Mark was feeling. He was living it every day. 

Mark shouted again, “Asha!” 

Sedately the white wall rippled as if it were liquid and in doing so, it became transparent. Beyond were four Khephri standing at different workstations Asha moved to the transparency.  

“Mark, you must settle down. This erratic state is not helping with our calculations.

John/Mark was amused by Asha’s tone, like that of a mother scolding her child. 

“Look, I said I was going to play nice and I have. I am done! I got get out of heah."

I am goin’ fuckin’ crazy in this place.” He stepped back from the wall. “You said you were going to let me back to my ship.” 

Asha smiled and looked to one of her technicians. “Yes, we will soon.” Suddenly the wall rippled again and was back to the flat white that it had been. Mark started pacing again.  

A small white cylinder raised from the middle of the room. At its center was one of Mark’s cigarettes. Mark turned back to the impossibly white wall. “A treat to settle your captured pet?”  He kicked the pedestal. The small structure did not yield to his anger. Mark limped over to the far wall and slid down the rough stone surface. “I am not playing any more!” 

The image faded again. John instinctively reached out, feeling dizzy from the loss of the record. As the next installment came into focus, John found it difficult to see. There were no feelings that accompanied this record. Suddenly he realized why—he was watching though the eyes of a  Khephri. He saw a blister of some kind, with a huge expanse of space beyond it. They were on some type of ship or station. Close to the base of the huge structure was Mark, walking with Asha and another Khephri. As John approached her could hear Asha’s presentation. 

This is our furthest outpost. We have set up education centers and commerce nodes. We have come here to enlighten us as two how you arrived here. This star’s radiation emissions match the molecular distortion found throughout your ship. This world will be a suitable location to reach the quantum anomaly that brought you to us. The thin clouds of the desert world below showed little sign of life. John felt a pang of familiarity with this world. As he looked back from the world to a view of the well shielded star beyond, he realized he had been here himself. This was the world where he had met the ever massive Furlow. And where he and Aeryn had almost bought it with those Vorcarian trackers. But as the images sprang forth his own memories of this world, as the orbit brought them to the night side of this world, the irradiating pattern of lights from the bright core of the unknown cities gave way to smaller clusters or lights of smaller towns, each cluster having ribbons of light that connected them in a familiar pattern. To John it was very much like looking down at the eastern seaboard of earth. The world he had visited had pot Mark’s where cities once stood but the world was for the most part a barren wasteland. Could this be the same place? More questions without answers. Suddenly he realized Asha was still talking. 

“No, we do not extend into the other races’ territory; we merely act as gate keeper. Each of these worlds is designed for enlightening for the other races in this region. We also serve to keep a stable environment for these races to evolve in. The primary races in this region, if left to their own devices, would destroy each other. 

“Who are you to step in and direct their fate?” 

“Fate?” Asha smiled. “Fate is a crutch of a weak mind.” 

Mark turned for the view of the world below them. “Well, Asha, on earth there are those who believe religion is a crutch of a weak mind.” 

Her smile faded slightly. Raising her hands to her chest, she inaudibly uttered a prayer, her silent companion doing the same. “You are the most perplexing species I have ever encountered.” Her head tilted to the side, her mouth opened to say more, but a quick glance at her silent partner stopped her. “ Now back to K’oman.”  She turned back to the immense transparent wall with the desert world beyond. 

This outpost is designed not only for education, it also monitors the three major species in this region. The first, and by far the most troublesome…” Suddenly above them, the ominous image of a large reptile biped appeared. Scrolls of symbols accompanied it. Scarrans: A warrior race that, in their belief, are at  the top of the evolutionary chain and should have dominance over all else. Their society is made up of a caste system of dens where one’s actions in the name of their den raises their status. We can review further once we have arrived at the research facility. 

The projection moved to one side as Asha continued, “Nebari. A slightly more advanced race but with a major philosophical flaw in their sociological system. They have been far more approachable about… 

“Wow he’s almost human,” Mark interrupted softly. John could see the surprise on Mark’s face as he examined the gray skinned humanoid. 

Asha stopped abruptly. “Actually, Mark, Nebari are biologically quite different from yourself. Sebaceans and Interions are another matter.” 

“Sebaceans?”  

“If you’ll allow me to continue…” She smiled at her strange charge. 

“Sorry it’s all just…Never mind.” 

“Sebaceans.” The image of a human female projected in front of them. 

“Whoa whoa whoa!  Hold on… She’s human!”  

“No, she is not. Although genetically her species is close, she is not human. She is genetically as similar to your species as the Scarran. Asha smiled mischievously at Mark’s reaction. Suddenly the images flashed with incomprehensible data, somehow comparing the two species.  

“Hold it there, Asha. You can’t tell me that iguana boy up there is even close to me! What have you been smoking?” Mark stepped forward and rubbed his scruffy chin as he examined the images more closely.  

“I do not understand exactly what you just said but I can assure you that you are all from the same genetic base line.”  

As the image lost its color and Mark’s argumentative tone slipped into nothingness the record ended.  

John waited a moment as he hoped to see more. Nothing followed.  

“Is that it?” 

“No, there are three more installments that survive.” The monotone voice abruptly stopped as Asha returned, carrying a tray. 

"You should eat, John Crichton." She placed the tray on a small pedestal that extruded from the floor near them.  

"Asha, why can’t you watch the records?" 

"It is of a time in the Khephri past when the false arts were practiced. Although I am a historian, there are areas of study that are even forbidden to me.” She looked off to the far wall. “I have a thousand questions I wish to ask but know that I cannot.” She sighed in frustration. “Now eat.” 

John looked at the tray. He had become used to the considerable challenges of dining in the Uncharteds. He picked up the long green stick and sniffed it. He put it back down and picked up the cylinder of water sniffed it as well. He placed the cylinder to his lips and tasted the water. It had the taste of metal. He placed it back on the tray and went back to the green stick. "What is this?" 

"Spiced Merlec. It is a dried aquatic plant from the southern shores of Khyhixs"  

John bit down on the odorless stick. It shattered with one bite, most of it ending up on the floor. He looked sheepishly at Asha. "Sorry, I’ll clean it up." 

She smiled warmly. “Why? The ship can do that.”  

John continued to chew the flavorless stalk. It was like eating a Popsicle stick. But when in Rome do as the Romans do. He looked back at the sterile water and decided that regardless of its steel taste it would help wash the Popsicle stick down. 

"What do you think? Is it too spicy for your taste? " 

“No… No it's delicious. Really.” As he continued to chomp on the tasteless fibers he said, “I just had a big breakfast this morning and I ain't much of a lunch person anyway.” 

John finished the water and looked back at Asha. Her eyes locked on his. She smiled warmly. “What is it?” She asked, seeming slightly self conscious. 

"Asha, how old are you?" John tried to keep his tone light but failed. 

She was not surprised by the question. “I am forty two cycles old. I was born under the sign of Horus.” 

Braca scurried up the steps to Scorpius’s upper chamber.  He knew Scorpius sensed when he approached with bad news. Braca’s eyes shifted from glancing at his mentor to the far wall. “What is it!” Scorpius’s voice had the slightest hint of the raging monster that always flowed just below the surface. 

“We have not heard from Kes is seven arns. Scorpius stood from the throne. “Once again, Crichton is a greater threat then our new captain realized.”  

“He has deactivated his tracking beacon.” Braca stepped forward. “This is a direct violation of Decca 124 section…” Scorpius turned quickly to his second in command. “Do not quote passages from the Decca to me, Braca!” 

“Open Velka one com to megatrad range and send a tight beam transmission!” 

“Yes Scorpius.” Braca  turned slightly then stopped. He hesitated before asking the question.  “May I ask why?” 

Scorpius snarled You study the Decca word for word but you really don’t know how high command works. His face filled with contempt. “Fool! The political officer has an open channel to high command at all times!  We will contact them and trace that signal.” 

Braca stepped back towards the hatchway. He knew that political officers had open links to high command, but he also knew that the Decca did not allow transmission in those frequencies reserved for Political officers. Obviously Scorpius was playing again outside the rules. He hoped that soon these transgressions would catch up with Scorpius. A small grin crept to the edge of his mouth as he headed from the beast’s layer. “Very good, Scorpius.” 

#

D’Argo sat on the edge of Pilot’s consol, his shilquin echoing though the huge chamber. He did not acknowledge Aeryn’s approach. 

She stopped half way across the catwalk. “He’s gone.” Her voice had a certain defeated tone to it. 

D’Argo did not look up at her, continuing to play the sad melody. “Are you surprised?” 

Aeryn moved slowly towards them. “No not really…”  She slowly paced in front of Pilot’s consol. “Pilot, is the destroyer still out there?” 

“Yes, Officer Sun. We cannot track its position accurately, but it is most definitely still there.” 

“Pilot…” Aeryn hesitated. D’Argo’s music was wearing at her resolve and her concentration. “Could we StarBurst though the Khephri Field?” 

She watched as Pilot ran a few modules of course projections. “It would be difficult but it is possible. It could not be a large StarBurst–too much friction on the hull.” 

Aeryn leaned forward, “Pilot, please have Moya prepare for StarBurst.” Pilots arms and all that they were doing stopped. His head craned to face her. The expression of surprise and anger was quite evident. D’Argo to had stopped playing and stared at her, genuinely surprised by the statement. 

“But Officer Sun, what about Commander Crichton?” His head tilted as he asked the question as a child would. 

“He knew the dangers of coming here. He was warned against trying to board that ship.

We will not allow his irresponsible behavior to endanger us any further.” 

D’Argo slid down off the consol and stood looking at her. “Aeryn, we can not abandon John here.” 

“What do you propose? That we wait a few cycles for his return?” 

“No, but he has been gone less then a solar day.” D’Argo’s tone was soft and understanding. She had hated the way D’Argo could shift from the hardened warrior to what was before her now. “ This is an opportunity… his chance. You can hold that against him.” 

“D’Argo…” She did not know how to respond to the hulking Luxan. “Pilot please maintain tracking trajectory for StarBurst.” She turned and head back over the bridge. “We will give him two more solar days then we will attempt escape.”  

#

John sensed it more than anything. He pulled his stare from the large display and looked for Asha. She appeared at the entrance to the large room as if waiting for him to ask a question, but did not look directly at him as she approached. He sensed her shame.  “What did you do!” John demanded.  

"You asked why you cannot go deeper into Khephri space.” Her long finger pointed back to the viewer, “You will see… Watch the records, John. Observe our sins. You will then understand.” She turned quickly and left the central chamber. 

John was about to go after her when the projection screen filled with images of fire. Once more he found himself immersed in the projection. These images were clearer than the others.  They were the memories from Mark’s point of view.  

He walked in silence, two Khephri leading the way. He could hear the sounds of others behind him. One of the guards possessed a deep, raspy cough. They walked quickly and with purpose John noticed dark heavy scabs on the neck of the guard closest to him.. He was about to ask Ra about these strange marks when images in the distance caught his attention.   

Large crowds of Khephri encircled a huge fire There were others in the distance. It was only then that John realized that he/Mark was being lead through the once iridescent city. 

What was once a thriving illuminated Mecca was now plunged into a vision of hell and John was trapped in Mark’s memory. He called out but no one would hear. In John’s desperation to pull himself from this memory record he called out for Harvey, but nothing…he was alone here, reliving all that Mark had witnessed so long ago. Only the huge fires on its main thoroughfare gave sickly flickering light . The wails and cries of the mourners filled the air. John was trapped in the memory of a living hell, reliving the witness of deadly epidemic. 

John could not pull himself from the images. He/Mark felt his nostrils assaulted by the sweet stench of burning flesh. His ears rang with the songs of mourners near the raging fire.  

As they pass the closest fire, Mark/John makes out the shapes of dead bodies added to the fanning flames. Encircling the massive fires, the mourners sing and wail. Some even throw themselves onto the fire. “Jesus! No!”  His eyes trace the white smoke to the sky. It was only then John realizes how large the city is. He has no words to describe the scale. It is a massive city of skyscrapers that appears to pass through the high thin clouds. The largest of these could easily touch the sky of this world. The light of the orange setting sun picks out the edges of the tall towers. Offering shallow competition to the pyres for the dead below, the orange spires only add to the living hell at their foundations. John tries to look away from the onslaught but finds he has lost all control. He is living a memory with no ability to control it. He screams in torment as he struggles to pull himself from the screen. His efforts are left unnoticed in Ra’s huge empty control node. 

# 

Jared sat in Del Varner’s large office as Del rattled off an observation about the crew from his notes. Who were loyal and who were not. It was only now he realized that Del’s office was larger than his own. Somehow this simple fact left the glimmer of a smile on his face as his thoughts continued on the only subject that mattered. Jared looked up at the expectant silence of his old friend. He realized he had not heard the question.  

“Sorry, Del, what were you saying?” 

Del stood from his desk and sat on the small metal table next to Jarred. The sympathetic smile mocked Jarred. Del pulled a small controller from his pocket and keyed in a sequence. Suddenly an amber glow was emitted from the illuminators in the ceiling. His smile widened. “You can never be too careful.”  Del moved over to the worn chair next to Jarred. He spoke in a warm whisper, even though the surveillance shield was active.. “You know I was in love once.”  

“What!” Jared shifted uncomfortably. Scanning the room as if he was being led into some trap, he stood and headed for the sealed door. “What kind of trick is this, Del?” 

“No trick, Jared.” He did not move from his chair. He sighed slightly, tapping his thumb on the rusted arm of the worn chair. “I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did.” 

Jarred stepped closer to the door the door but did not move to leave the room. “I am not in love!” he spouted, as if mere words would somehow cause death with its utterance. "Del, you are frelled if you think I love that tralk!” He stepped back. “Now… Open the door!”  

“Look at yourself, racing after an insignificant Leviathan. This mess is clouding your judgment. No, Jarred, I am not going to allow you to make the same mistake I did. Sela will stay on assignment here with you.” 

“Who are you to override my transfer request!” Jared stepped closer to his friend. 

“Jarred, I am doing this so that you don’t regret losing her." Del looked back at the arm of the chair and his fingers slowly dragged across the worn metal surface. “There is not a day I don’t think of what I had lost so long ago.”  

Del pulled the controller from his jacket and released the security hold. “I will not let you do the same!” 

Jarred stepped towards the door as it slid open and hesitated halfway through the hatchway. “Del, you are a fool. I can’t change who I am.” 

Jarred disappeared down the corridor. Del sat back slowly slouching deeper into his chair. You are capable of many things but you must think beyond the barriers of your training. It is not too late for you my friend. His attention was brought back to the faded memories of the life he could never have. Suddenly he was interrupted by the chime of his personal comm. 

Del moved to his desk and pulled up the screen. Mindlessly he opened the com. “For the glory of all we serve.” Del recovered quickly from the shock of the image. He knew of Scorpius, but how he was able to link to his personal com only showed the half-breed’s resourcefulness. 

“Scorpius do you realize the number of rules of the Decca you are breaking by this single transmission?” Del cooled his anger at the intrusion.  

“Regardless, political officer Varner, I wish to talk to you about your captain.”  

Del looked at the tracking display. He had twenty microts to sever the link before Scorpius could track the signal. “You will treat him well, Scorpius!” 

“A political officer making threats? Now I have seen everything. Perhaps I should have you reassigned to my carrier and we can get to the root of your issues.” The sickly yellow and black smile was fitting on such a beast. 

“I would like to see you try, Scorpius.” Del moved closer to the screen allowing himself to fill the monitor as much as his hooded counterpart. “Being out here on the fringe is the only place high command would allow such an abomination.” He smiled ruefully… “Regardless of your empty threats! I will bring up this assignment with Admiral Commandant Grayza. I am sure that these trivial pursuits will not sit well with her or with high command. For the glory of all! Varner out!”  Del closed the link and scrambled his private access code. Scorpius was good but he was better. 

End of part 3…  

Part 4

 

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