Echoes

By A. Hutchinson
Copyright 2001

Disclaimer: Farscape belongs to Jim Henson Co., Number Nine Australia and Sci-Fi Channel. No copyright infringement is intended.
Archiving: Please contact me first- I'll probably say yes, but I like to know where it's going.
Rating: PG
Author's notes: Thank you Sarah for both inspiration and serious beta reading help. Anybody who knows me well knows that I couldn't resist this fic opportunity-- John Crichton with aphasia and memory deficits! My favorite fictional astronaut and neuropsychology! Woo hoo! Yes, I'm a sick, sick woman. Anyway, this is my take on one way the events of DMD could affect John Crichton.

He had fled.

The others were probably concerned by his abrupt departure, but Crichton didn't care. He couldn't take the frustration of trying to communicate with them, trying to make them comprehend the questions he so desperately needed answered.

They just didn't understand. His inability to speak his thoughts was obvious, but he couldn't tell them about his broken memories. Random pieces of his mind, lost. He usually didn't know what was missing, but he could feel startling gaps when he looked at his friends or tried to follow their conversations. Sometimes he detected the tell-tale echo of a thought that had once been fully-formed, now ethereal and otherworldly like a ghost haunting his mind, preventing him from grasping even a shard of its content.

At least Moya was still familiar to him. Whatever that cadaverous bastard's chip had done to him, it hadn't robbed him of the comfort he felt when he was aboard the leviathan. Even as he sprinted away from his friends' concerned looks, the constant thrumming of the great beast and her warm tan-gold mottled walls soothed him, made him feel safe and at home.

Yet as he ran, he couldn't shake the feeling of grief that permeated every inch of the leviathan. Grief over Moya's burnt tiers, grief over his lost speech, and grief over some loss he could neither recall nor ask about. A loss so great that even Rygel was subdued. It marked each crewmember like an indelible stain. Chiana, D'Argo and Zhaan wore matching hollow expressions, going through their daily routines only out of obligation to Moya's upkeep. Aeryn had kept to herself since his return, probably working through her emotional distress by beating on the attack dummy in her training room or tinkering with her Prowler. Even the newcomers, Stark and Jothee, appeared unusually somber. The Center Chamber had stunk of their collective grief - and his own - when he had appeared for the mid-day meal, and he had found himself on his feet sprinting away before his distress could fully form.

He had hoped that the mindless exertion would chase the ghosts and grief away, but they stayed with him stride for stride, even as he struggled to catch his breath. He slowed as he neared his quarters, deciding to seek sanctuary there. After spending his first night back in Zhaan's apothecary getting the once-over from the Delvian, he had avoided visiting his own quarters, afraid to face reminders of a life he could barely recall. But he could not stay away forever, he realized. Taking a deep breath to calm his trepidation, he entered the converted cell that served as his home and then swiped the controls to close himself inside. He slumped against the door and squeezed his eyes shut.

God, his head hurt. Logically, he knew it was not a direct consequence of the surgery: the human brain did not have pain receptors, and the late surgeon had insisted that the chip removal had not required more than a microscopic incision. Rather, the pain seemed to stem from his attempts to control the roiling confusion in his mind. But he persisted; he couldn't live as the incomplete being he was now. If he couldn't ask for the others' help, he would have to help himself fill in the blanks. It was all he could do until he made them understand, he realized bleakly.

Sighing, he pushed himself from the doorframe and scanned the room. His orange flight suit, one of his few remaining possessions from Earth, caught his eye immediately. He crossed the room and plucked it from its place on the coat rack he had fashioned not long after his arrival in this demented side of the universe. Running his finger absently over the stiff material, he let his mind wander where it would. Snatches of memory surfaced: clutching the flight suit following his primitive-self's sacrifice, strolling through an alien marketplace, climbing the steps of the launch pad at Canaveral with his father, flopping to the sandy ground believing himself to be home, encountering D'Argo and Zhaan for the first time following his capture by the DRDs.

Closing his eyes, he tried to reassemble the memories in chronological order, starting with the launch from Earth. Those memories, at least, seemed intact. But when he tried to recall how he had found himself aboard Moya, he drew a blank. A vague recollection of launching from the Collary and a vivid pang of fear and awe as he first caught sight of Moya were all he could recall, yet he was certain that he had once known the full story of his arrival.

Shaking his head, he replaced the suit on its hook and shifted his attention to the shelves that lined the back of his room. Looking at his sparse belongings, he was reminded of a conversation about material goods that he had once had with that strange green alien - what was her name? Ro'Na? That had been shortly before she double-crossed him and surrendered him to Scorpius. Crichton shuddered. Of all things he didn't care to remember, the half-Scarran freak topped the list, yet so many of his remaining recent memories led back to that ruthless SOB. Of course, that was what Scorpius had wanted - a parting gift for the human who had caused him so much trouble.

Swallowing forcibly, Crichton put thoughts of Scorpius aside and examined the clothes on the first shelf, a neat pile of t-shirts and replicas of the boxer shorts he had worn under his flight suit. He idly wondered what had happened to the original pair, but that was yet another memory beyond his reach. The shelf below contained his stash of old clothes, from the remains of his IASA khakis to the cargo-style pants that replaced them after he had trashed the khakis during his quarter-cycle stay on Acquara. He looked at his current outfit - leather pants, black tee shirt, maroon leather vest, utility belt, and empty holster (Winona had been confiscated for his own safety) - and wondered what had prompted his recent fashion makeover. Perhaps he had wanted to appear more like a Peacekeeper? Maybe, but he couldn't shake the feeling that there was more to it than that. He fingered the IASA patch on his khaki jacket as he worked at retrieving the thought, but he was distracted when he spotted something tucked behind the stack of clothes. Tossing the jacket aside, he pushed the folded clothes forward and plucked the object - a small container about the size of his kid sister's first jewelry box - from its hiding place. Nothing about it stood out as remarkable other than the fact that he had no recollection of this particular item, yet he must have been the one who had hidden it away so carefully.

Crichton found the latch and eased the lid open, feeling as though he were invading somebody else's private property despite the fact that the box was clearly his own. Inside were pieces of a life he didn't recognize - a flask of oil from Zhaan's apothecary, an antique locket, a lock of long, dark hair, and a small vial of compatibility serum from the Royal Planet. These were keepsakes of something - or somebody - but who and what? He had never been one to collect souvenirs, although the care he had taken in hiding them away suggested that these mementos had significant personal meaning. And now they meant nothing to him - just a reminder of what had been taken from him.

A wave of frustration overcame him, and he only managed to restrain himself long enough to place the box safely on the top shelf before releasing an inarticulate yell and pounding the wall with his open hand until it felt numb. The not-so-stealthy DRD who had been assigned to keep an eye on him beeped in surprise, and he flashed it a quick smile to let it and Pilot know that the Human wasn't actually cracking up - not yet, anyway. After a long sigh and several ragged breaths, he managed to reign in his anger and self-pity, allowing him to focus on the task at hand. He needed answers more than he needed to dwell in the despair that haunted him.

Turning his attention back to the box of mementos, he picked up the small, clear vial, which still contained a small amount of the amber compatibility serum. It was the only one of the keepsakes that he recalled clearly, yet its presence there mystified him. Certainly he had no reason to memorialize his "marriage" to Princess Katralla. His stay on the Royal Planet had brought him nothing but grief and more than one near-death experience, not to mention a daughter he had no chance of ever meeting. He wondered briefly if the vial was meant to remind him of the Peacekeeper Jenavia Chatto, but he dismissed the idea, remembering that he had rejected her invitation of a kiss. In any case, the lock of hair in the box was of a much darker color than either Jena or Katralla's. He rotated the small vial between his fingers, searching his memory for something more. Although his recollection of the Royal Planet seemed to contain few of the gaps that peppered many of his other thoughts, he still did not understand the vial's personal significance to him.

He shifted his focus to the lock of dark hair, twining the silky strands around his index finger. Definitely not Jena or Katralla, and not Gilina, either. Gilina. He hadn't loved her like she had loved him, and he still felt guilty about that. "Do you think that if things had been different that you could have loved me?" she had asked as she lay dying, and he had agreed. What things? Different how? Why hadn't he loved her? Had he loved this other dark-haired woman instead? Why didn't he remember? He rubbed the hair against his cheek, sending shivers of pleasure down his spine. Her hair had been one of her best features, he realized suddenly. Had been? He tried to focus on the echo of the memory but the more he concentrated on it, the more remote the feeling became. Sighing, he tucked the small lock into his vest pocket with hopes of asking D'Argo about it later and moved on to the remaining two items in the box.

The large locket was an antique, and it did not budge when he tried to pry it open. Its outside lent few clues to the identity of its owner or its sentimental value. He had an aching desire to peek at any picture it might contain, but its clasp stubbornly held fast no matter how much elbow grease he applied to opening it. Defeated, he snatched the final item in the case and examined it. The oil was one of Zhaan's potions, its elegant blue flask similar to others he had obtained from her in the past. Crichton removed the stopper, sniffing experimentally, and was immediately overcome by warm arousal and the memory of soft lips against his own. He grunted in surprise and inhaled its scent more deeply, but he was unable to call up any other, more substantial fragments of memory beyond what he already knew of the mystery woman - she had raven-colored hair and was an incredible kisser. He took one final sniff of the sweet oil and replaced the stopper, setting the flask back among the rest of the mementos of a woman who must have meant something to him. But what? More than a friend, obviously. A lover? He smirked at the term... it seemed inappropriate somehow. What, then? His love? What had compelled him to tuck these four items away with such care?

Closing the box's lid, he ran his fingers over each surface, hoping to find some clue - any clue - about its origins and the meaning of its contents. Just as he was about to return it to its hiding place, he felt a rough carving on the bottom. Turning the case over carefully so as not to disturb its contents, he located hastily inscribed English letters, removing any doubt that the box belonged to anybody else. They were barely legible, apparently carved with a relatively blunt instrument into the soft balsa-like wood: "RIP". He stared numbly at the letters, running his fingers over each one. 'Rest in peace.' The grief he felt earlier returned, clawing at him from the inside out, making it difficult to breathe. He staggered towards his door, leaving the box of keepsakes on top of his shelves, and headed towards the Center Chamber. He needed answers, and he was going to find a way to convince the others to tell him those answers, damaged speech centers be damned.

*** No one was in the Center Chamber, and the Maintenance Bay was a bust as well, but Crichton struck pay dirt in the Command. D'Argo was manning the main control panel, arguing with Rygel over their remaining stolen funds while Chiana conversed with Zhaan and Pilot over the clamshell. Neither Stark nor Jothee were visible, but he hadn't expected or needed to find them. He had expected to find Aeryn there supervising Rygel as he made plans for their currency. Crichton's memory of the ex-Peacekeeper was somewhat sketchy, but he recalled that she preferred to keep a close eye on Napoleon's scheming. He shrugged, reminding himself to stay focused on the task at hand: finding a way to ask the others about this mystery woman.

He watched his friends as they worked, hoping that the familiar scene would trigger some of his lost memories. After a few minutes of observation, he stepped out of the massive door's shadow, still unsure of how to approach his friends. Normally, he'd call out a greeting, but he was afraid of what his frelled brain would come up with when he tried to put his thoughts into words. Instead, he cleared his throat. D'Argo turned around, then Chiana and Rygel.

"John, how are you feeling?" asked Zhaan from the clamshell.

Crichton replied with a non-committal "Mmm." He had found that although his words always came out garbled, if at all, he could use intonation to communicate simple messages.

He turned his attention to D'Argo and removed the dark lock of hair from his pocket, extending his hand for his friend to see. The Luxan's sharp intake of air confirmed his suspicion that the lock's owner was dead. Still holding the small bundle of hair in his outstretched hand, he pointed at it and then arranged his face in what he hoped would be perceived as a questioning gaze.

"Iím sorry, John," D'Argo replied, his voice thick with grief. "I know you two were... close." The last word prompted another echo of emotion, strong enough to make him shudder. A large hand clasped over his shoulder. "It wasn't your fault," he added.

Crichton looked up sharply at the Luxan, wondering what he meant but unable to voice the question.

"It wasn't you, John. She knew it wasn't you," Chiana emphasized, glancing up sideways in a way that was uniquely Chiana. "She loved you," she continued somberly. "Even at the end."

Crichton looked at the young grey-skinned Nebari, his eyes filling with tears at her words. Chiana swiveled her head again, her eyes never leaving his in a gesture that he realized reflected her sadness. How could he so easily read this alien's body language, but not even recall the face of this woman who had loved him? He wondered again how he had felt about her. Had he loved her, too?

"She was just so scared, y'know," Chiana confided with a rueful chuckle. "Big bad Peacekeeper, scared of the way she felt about a primitive human."

For some reason, that brought a small smile to his lips, even as he felt tears spill down his face. He wanted to know more about her, but he couldn't figure out how to convey his questions. What other Peacekeepers had they run into? Besides Aeryn...

Aeryn. He hadn't seen her since his return, and she had dark hair. Suddenly he felt a heavy coldness grip his gut, and he tasted bile in the back of his throat. Oh, God. Aeryn. He looked from Chiana to D'Argo, trying to confirm what he couldn't voice even if his brain would allow him to speak, but all he could see was sadness.

He didn't remember turning or running away but found himself sprinting down the corridor again as fast as his legs could carry him. Instead of the comfort that the familiar hallways had previously lent, he felt as if the arching walls were closing in around him. He continued, desperate to keep the demons that haunted him at bay, until finally his legs gave out beneath him and he sprawled out across the warm deck. It didn't matter. He couldn't outrun them, couldn't even put a name or face to them. Grief seized him, closing his throat as he tried to breathe, curling him into a painful, sobbing ball.

He didn't know how long he lay there, overcome with emotions that belonged to memories that were no longer his. The pain seemed to emanate from nowhere and everywhere all at once, and he was defenseless against it. As far as he could recall, Aeryn Sun had been a friend, a shipmate. She had taught him hand-to-hand combat skills, and he had taught her how to curse in English. Friends. Shipmates. Yet, judging from his reaction, she had meant something to him, something more than just a shipmate, or even a friend. Chiana said that Aeryn had loved him, and the box he found suggested that he had loved her. And he had killed her - or, more likely, the chip in his head had killed her - but it was all the same. She was dead. And he didn't even have an adequate memory of her. He had nothing but the reminders in a keepsake box that did little to help him remember her. A box of lost memories and a mind devoid of everything but her echo.

Swallowing past the lump that had formed in his throat when he had realized the truth about Aeryn, he pulled himself into a sitting position and leaned against the bulkhead, trying to retrieve his bearings. He didn't immediately recognize the hallway, but he hadn't run far enough to be completely lost. He took a deep, shuddering breath, wincing at the pounding headache left in the wake of his emotional outburst.

Now what, he wondered. What was left for him? Anger? Grief? Self-pity? None of those choices were appealing to him. But without his memories, his past was a fragmented mess, and without speech, he had no way to put it back together. 'Replace you normal,' the surgeon had promised shortly before Scorpius murdered him. Well, who wanted to be normal anyway?

A squawk at the end of the hall alerted him that his trusty DRD shadow had found him again. Its presence somehow comforted him, and he held out his hand to it as it approached.

"...'lo," he managed, his voice rusty after a day of disuse. The syllable was inexact and sounded slightly slurred, but it was a start. He tried again. "La...Ha... hehl... hel...lo. Hel-lo."

The DRD's antennae twitched as if it were pleased. Crichton certainly was. It hadn't been much, but it was better than the slurred gibberish he had been producing before. Maybe there was a chance he could make them understand, that he could recover some of what he had lost. It wasn't much to go on, but it was more than he had before. It was hope.

With a glance at the DRD, he rose to his feet and stretched his stiff muscles. "Ca... co... comeÖme," he ordered, beckoning with his hand to emphasize his meaning. The DRD whirred to life, taking the lead down one of the corridors. John Crichton, IASA astronaut and the lone Human in the Uncharted Territories, did not go down without a fight, and it was high time he started swinging again. Otherwise, Scorpius would win, and he refused to let that Scarran abomination take anything else from him. Besides, he owed it to himself, and to Aeryn, to take back as much of his stolen memory as possible, no matter how much it hurt. It was all he had left.

fin