SPOILERS: Yes, almost all of "Farscape" season one and a lot of the better bits of the five seasons of "Sliders". Set after "Durka Returns" but before "Through the Looking Glass."
Author's Note: This is a Farscape/Sliders Crossover inspired by a Halloween challenge to use a whole bunch of different characters and images in a short story. I couldn't write that short story to meet all the requirements, but the challenge created the seed for this tale. Enjoy.
Thanks to Tamy for beta-reading this. Any mistakes that remain are my own.
John Crichton shuddered as he put the Dentic in his mouth. "I am *never* going to get used to this," he thought to himself. He could feel the freaking maggot squirming around, doing whatever it did to remove the bacteria and food particles from his mouth. Every time he used it, it was all he could do to avoid gagging. Still, he thought to himself, it was preferable to losing his teeth to decay. It was hard enough chewing the damned food cubes already. He shivered as he recalled D'Argo's explanation of that minty after taste.
Moya lurched suddenly. Crichton steadied himself against the table in his quarters. A second, more violent lurch threw him to the floor.
"John," Zhaan's voice came over the leviathan's Comm system. "Please come to Command."
"On my way," he replied, rising.
He headed for the door and then remembered it. When he fell to the floor. "Never swallow the Dentic," D'Argo had said in a voice that was about as serious as D'Argo's voice ever got. It had never been a problem to avoid that ...until now. He found himself dreading the moment when he had to tell them what had happened. Yet another mark against the primitive human.
"Oh, frell," he said as Moya lurched one more time. Whatever happened when you swallowed a Dentic, it would have to wait. He felt okay for the moment and Moya was apparently in trouble. He hoped it wasn't the baby. He exited his quarters and headed toward Command.
"Where is Crichton?" Aeryn asked, exasperated. Moya lurched one more time, as if to emphasize the point.
"I do not know," Zhaan replied. "He said he was coming, but it has been nearly a tenth of an arn." She turned her attention to the clamshell shaped viewer. "Pilot, has Crichton already started working on the blockage that is affecting Moya?"
Pilot looked down at his control panels, then raised his head. "The blockage is still affecting Moya's inertial systems. Commander Crichton is..."
The silence dragged on for several microts.
"Pilot?" Zhaan asked.
"The DRDs report that Commander Crichton is in the corridor outside his quarters. He is apparently unconscious."
"Zhaan," Chiana's voice broke in over the Comm system. "I found him. You'd better get down here."
The crewmates looked at each other, momentarily frozen.
"Now," said Chiana. Everyone could hear the panic rising in the young Nebari's voice.
D'Argo said, "I'll go relieve the blockage. Zhaan, attend to Crichton. Aeryn, you stay here and monitor everything from Command."
Aeryn started forward, about to complain, but checked herself. D'Argo was right. He knew more than she did about Moya's internal systems and how to fix them. Even the remnants of Pilot's DNA in her body didn't alter that fact. And Zhaan was best able to deal with any medical situation. So why did she want to run off the Command deck and *do* something...*be* somewhere...be with J.... She halted that train of thought immediately and nodded to the others. "Go," she said, PeaceKeeper mask firmly in place.
She could have sworn she saw a look pass between D'Argo and Zhaan as they left Command, but it was gone before she could be certain.
John lay in a strange place, watching the pretty patterns in his eyes. He wasn't on Moya. At least, he was pretty sure he wasn't on Moya. The leviathan's biomechanoid deck wasn't made of stone and he was apparently lying on marble. The patterns in his eyes began to fade. Part of him missed them. The other part was glad to be getting his sight back.
Wherever he was, it seemed familiar. He had the strangest feeling that he'd been here, before, except...how did he get here from Moya? He closed his eyes and tried to think. He was called to Command. He walked out the door of his quarters. There was the sensation of falling. Then....
He woke up here. No, that wasn't right. He didn't wake up. He simply was here. His memory began to click. The last time he'd felt that sensation, he was...
The fear rose in him. The last time he'd felt that sensation was when he was under the spell of Maldis.
"Whoops," he said softly. He was in the temple where Maldis had tried to eat his soul...or life energy...or whatever. "This isn't good."
"Welcome, John!" said an all too familiar voice. "You didn't *really* think you'd gotten rid of me forever, did you?"
John turned and stared at the sorcerer. "Maldis. We stopped you. We're nowhere near your world. I must be dreaming. The damned Dentic must have...."
"Yes," Maldis said with grim humor. "The Dentic. When it is swallowed, it affects each species differently. In your case, it freed your soul to come to the place where *my* soul has been stuck since you dispersed my corporeal form. The irony is ... delicious."
"Yeah, well, my friends are going to help me. I won't be here long enough for you to do anything to me."
"Time is a funny thing in this place, John. I will have plenty of time to take my revenge on you and enjoy my dinner." Grinning with devilish glee, he rushed toward the human.
John tried to dodge Maldis, but his body wouldn't work properly.
"Oh, no, John," Maldis mockingly. "In this place, there is a trick to surviving and moving. I intend to make sure you don't have the time to learn."
"What's going on?" asked a new voice.
"You!" Maldis spat at the newcomer. "This one is mine."
"I've told you before, I don't...John Crichton?"
Crichton, who had been edging away from Maldis, stopped and turned to the newcomer. "Quinn Mallory? What? How?"
Quinn turned to Maldis and said, "This is a friend of mine, Maldis. You can't have him."
Maldis's temple chamber swirled and became the basement of someone's house. Crichton said, "Wha...." and passed out.
Zhaan finished her scan and turned to the others in the med bay. "He swallowed a Dentic. I can try to remove it, but since I still don't know much about human physiology, I do not know if he would survive."
"I warned him," D'Argo said.
"What are his chances?" asked Aeryn, ignoring D'Argo's comment.
"There's no way to know," she replied. "If I don't remove the Dentic, he might recover on his own. It was never really designed for humans and might not be as dangerous for him as it would be for one of us. But he is too much like a Sebacean in all other respects, so I do not know for sure."
"So what do we do?" Chiana asked.
"Since John can't decide for himself, we must decide for him," Aeryn said. She turned to Zhaan. "I think you should remove it."
"No," D'Argo said. "Not yet. I say we should let his own body try to handle it. Zhaan is no surgeon. Surgery should be the last option."
"I agree with D'Argo," Rygel said. "He swallowed the Dentic. We should let him choose his own path and let his own body deal with it."
"So speaks the toad," Chiana countered. "You just want to steal his boot again."
"You say," Chiana continued, turning to Zhaan and Aeryn, "you say he's a lot like a Sebacean. What does a Dentic do to Sebaceans?"
Aeryn looked to Zhaan, then turned away. Zhaan said, "It attaches to the abdominal cavity and consumes the bacteria inside the body, upsetting the body's chemical balance. It induces a coma, followed quickly by death."
"Fine," Chiana said. "Does it matter where in the abdomen it is if you have to operate to remove it?"
"Not significantly. As I said, my knowledge of human physiology is so limited, I can't even be completely certain which organs perform which functions. For example, Crichton doesn't possess a paraphoral nerve, as do Sebaceans. I'm afraid that if I have to operate, I'll just be guessing."
Chiana nodded. "Then I say wait. Keep scanning him. If it starts doing to him what it does to Sebaceans, you can open him up then."
"It appears I'm outvoted," said Aeryn. "Very well. I will keep watch first. Zhaan, how often do I have to run the scanner?"
"Three times every arn, at equal intervals. Right now, the Dentic is just sitting in his stomach. If it moves, call me immediately."
Aeryn nodded and the others filed out. She settled in to wait.
John awoke with a start. He looked around wildly, hoping it was all a dream. It took him a moment to realize where he was. "Quinn Mallory's basement?"
"Oh, you're awake," Quinn said, rising from the chair where he'd been idly fiddling with a piece of electronic equipment. "Good. I was beginning to wonder. Some of the people who end up here can't adjust. They go comatose until their bodies die."
"Here? Where is here? And is there a way out?"
"A way out," Quinn repeated slowly. "For you, maybe. As to this place," he said, a sweep of his arm taking in not only the room but also everything outside of it, "it doesn't have a name, as such. We call it Mindscape."
"We? Who, exactly, is 'we'?"
"Quinn and I came up with the name together," said a new voice.
Crichton turned and saw a short brunette coming down the basement stairs.
She smiled. "Aren't you going to introduce us, Quinn? I never did get a chance to meet him."
Quinn smiled back. "Sorry. John Crichton, this is Wade Wells. Wade, this is John Crichton."
"Hi," Crichton said, turning back to Quinn. "I ... wait a minute." He turned back to the woman. "Wade Wells. Yeah. You mentioned her, back when I was at Berkeley for six months, consulting with what's-his-name ... Arturo. Then the three of you disappeared. Yeah ... the FBI was called in. They grilled me for hours about how I knew you and Max, and your research. They even brought me down here once, to verify some things that your friend Bennish told them." He walked over to the blackboard. "About this." He turned to Quinn again. "I used a piece of this to augment my own equations for the Farscape tests." He chuckled in irony. "Those who forget the past, etc., etc." John Crichton sat down heavily into one of the chairs and looked into the eyes of Quinn Mallory. "What happened?"
Quinn looked to Wade, who sat down and made herself comfortable, grinning at his unease. "Go ahead," she said. "I haven't heard you tell this story in years. I want to hear how you've changed it."
Quinn gave her a pained look, then turned to John and said, "I have a question first. How did you get here? Last I heard, your Farscape project was using the practical applications of cosmic theory on space travel."
"That's a long story, too. The short form is that I went through a wormhole and then swallowed a worm." He laughed at the sound of that, but it was a strained, self-mocking thing. "So, which of us goes first?"
Aeryn waited, ran the scans, then waited some more. The Dentic was just sitting in Crichton's stomach, as if it, too, were waiting. To pass the time, Aeryn printed out the scans and examined them. Her experience dealing with Rygel's anatomy gave her an idea of how to read the human's scans. She paused and looked at him. Had he moved?
"Crichton," she said. She leaned closer and, in a softer voice, she said, "John? Can you hear me?"
There was no reaction. She went back to studying the scans. Given the frequency with which Crichton tended to get hurt, Aeryn decided it might be a good idea to be prepared. Something in one of the scans caught her attention. She printed out an enlarged view of one area. She looked at it and muttered, "What is that?"
They had been talking for what seemed like hours.
"...world without clothes..."
"...did the Robinson Crusoe bit on Acquara..."
"...Luxan hyper-rage was gone...the food had turned him into a hippie..."
"...the Professor died. We chased his killer..."
"...shared Unity with Zhaan to save her...wish I could remember..."
"...Maggie and I were married in the bubble universe..."
A strange sound interrupted them. The best that Crichton could describe it was a series of subsonic crashes.
"We're under attack," Wade said, then disappeared out of the room with a slight "pop" sound.
"Maldis?" John asked.
"Yeah. He must want you badly. He hasn't tried to attack us in a long, long time."
"I'm kinda responsible for sending him here. I *wanted* to *kill* him, but all I could do was disperse his body." A particularly violent rumbling sound pervaded the room. "Think he took it personally?"
"Stay here," Quinn told Crichton. "You don't know how to fight on Mindscape's terms, yet. Wade and I will be right back." He popped out of the room as well, leaving Crichton alone with the subsonic noise.
After a few moments, Quinn and Wade reappeared in the room, holding hands.
Quinn said, "He'll have to recharge, now. We have some time."
"So," Crichton said as they reseated themselves. "You know how I got *here*. I know how you started Sliding, but how did *you* end up here in this ... Mindscape ... with Maldis?"
Quinn frowned. "Sliding is dangerous ... more dangerous than any of us could have realized. The thing is, the biggest danger isn't from landing underdressed on arctic world, or without a weapon on dinosaur world. It's from others who have Sliding technology. John, brace yourself. Kromaggs, a parallel evolved species from another dimension, have invaded our Earth."
"What? Why didn't you tell me this earlier?"
"There's nothing you can do about it. Once I found out, I started Sliding again to find a way to drive them off our Earth. While I was Sliding, a Slider scientist named Geiger combined my mid-Slide quantum self with one of my duplicate selves. As our bodies fused together, his mind stayed in control, despite everything I tried. Eventually, I faded away and wound up here. There are a few other beings here. One of them taught me what I needed to know. Maldis is the only really dangerous one, but I'd learned enough before he got here. And when Wade arrived, our combined power has always been enough to stop him."
Crichton looked to Wade, who picked up the story. "When the Kromaggs invaded, I was captured. I was moved to another world for a special experiment, because I'd been Sliding for so long. They had this theory about using a human mind to control their Sliding machines, but they made a mistake. I was able to open a wormhole for Remy to find me. With his help, we destroyed the machines. In the process, my body was destroyed. My mind had been opened up to the universe, though. I survived, and found myself here ... with Quinn." She reached out and took his hand again. "But I'm not so sure that the place where I was captured was my home Earth, Quinn."
"It was nothing I could pin down, and you seemed so sure. But when I was plugged into the Kromagg Sliding machinery, I had access to a lot of alternate-Earths. If I'd had more time, there, I think I could have found out for certain. Then, once we were here with no way back, it didn't seem so important. But John needs to know." She turned to Crichton and said, "Our own Earth could be just the same as when you left it. If ... *when* you go back, you can warn them about what we know."
The subsonic rumbles and crashes started again.
"He just doesn't give up," Quinn said in disbelief.
"Yeah," Crichton said. "I've noticed that."
Aeryn ran the scan again, just to be sure.
"Zhaan," she said into her comm badge. "There's been a change. The Dentic is moving ... and there's something else. You'd better get down here."
"I'll be right there, Aeryn."
"Hang on, John." Aeryn put her hand on his. "Don't leave me alone here."
Quinn looked at Crichton. "What?"
"I thought I heard Aeryn."
Quinn nodded. "Ghosts of thought. For a long time after I got here, I still heard Maggie and Remy when they talked to my double. Eventually, it fades. I only hear them rarely, now."
"She sounded worried."
Another subsonic crash rattled the basement.
Crichton was becoming annoyed. "Hey! Maldis! Get a clue, you ...."
Quinn rushed to Crichton and clamped a hand over his mouth. "No! John, don't talk to him. That opens up a path for him to attack."
Wade was standing in the middle of the basement, perspiration beading on her forehead with the strain. "I ... have ... him ... stalled." The subsonics faded. "Blocked him." She sat down heavily.
Quinn was by her side in an instant. "Yeah, barely. Are you okay?"
Wade smiled weakly. "Yeah. I am."
Quinn kissed her, long and deep. After a few moment, Crichton cleared his throat.
Wade looked at him, then turned to Quinn. "We can't watch John all the time, and I don't think Maldis is going to give him enough time to survive here."
"You're right," Quinn replied. "There's one alternative." He turned to Crichton and said, "We can send you back to your body."
"You can do that?" Crichton asked. "Why haven't you sent yourselves back?"
Wade said, "Because neither of us has a body to go back to ... at least, not a free, living one. Mindscape isn't exactly Earth, but I'm not ready to die just yet."
Quinn said, "It's risky, John. If you stay here, then even if your body dies, you'll be alive ... sort of. If we send you back, and your body dies because of the Dentic, you die."
"Some choice," Crichton said. "Stay here and risk having my life essence gobbled up by Maldis, or go back and risk death by Dentic." He lifted his head, as if hearing a sound no one else could hear. He rose from his chair. "I'll go. How do we start?"
"You lie down on the couch, there. Wade and I will do the work, but we need you to stay still." He turned to Wade. "Give me a moment. I'll be right back." He kissed her and disappeared.
"Whoa," Crichton said. "I don't think I could get used to that."
"John Crichton," Wade said. "I remember Quinn telling me about your visit to the university. I suppose we're lucky that Quinn's wormhole took us to parallel worlds instead of deep space."
"Yeah ... lucky."
"In some ways, Quinn and I were lucky. We were never without friends. You flew alone?"
"Yeah. But, I have friends on Moya, now."
Wade smiled. Before Crichton could ask her about it, she said, "You need to know something. That place you call the Uncharted Territories? There are wormholes there. Lots of them. I can't be sure, but I think one of them leads back to our Solar System ... back to Earth."
"A way home?"
"Maybe. I can still sense wormholes in what I guess you'd call Space-Time, but without the Kromagg machinery, it's not very clear. But the Uncharted Territories are where you need to look."
"Thanks, Wade. I'll keep looking."
"There's one more thing that Quinn didn't tell you. I'm not sure he knows it."
"Those voices you hear in Mindscape? They're voices of need, and only voices of those you care about, who care about you. I think that's why Maldis is the way he is. He never cared about anyone, so in Mindscape, he's all alone."
"But all I heard was ...."
Wade smiled again. "Aeryn. I'm sure if you stayed longer, you'd hear your father and friends, too, but ...." She shrugged. "When you get back, tell her."
"Tell her." A faraway look crossed her face as her attention drifted elsewhere. "I waited too long and almost lost him forever. Only luck, or fate, or destiny gave me a second chance." Her gaze refocused on John's face. "Don't waste yours."
Quinn reappeared, ending their conversation. "Okay. I put a dent in Maldis's defenses. He'll be too busy repairing them to stop us, now. Are you ready?"
Crichton glanced at Wade, then said, "Let's do it."
At first, Crichton felt nothing, then everything went black.
Consciousness returned slowly, painfully.
"Did someone get the license number of that truck?"
"How are you feeling?"
John recognized Aeryn's voice and opened his eyes. "Like I swallowed a Dentic. What happened?"
"Well, Zhaan says she isn't sure, but you apparently have an organ that acted defensively against the Dentic you swallowed. Doing so, however, caused it to enlarge and Zhaan had to operate to remove it. If you ever swallow another Dentic, it won't be able to protect you."
"She removed one of my organs? Which one?"
Aeryn picked up a scan and showed it to him. "We don't know what it's called. It's the small one, right there. Zhaan said she couldn't tell what it would do normally. We don't know what removing it will do to you, but...."
Crichton started laughing, then stopped when the movement caused him pain.
"What are you laughing at?"
Crichton chuckled through the pain. "That's my appendix. No one on Earth could figure out what it was supposed to do. It looked like some kind of vestigial organ we no longer needed. It killed the Dentic?" He chuckled again. "Too much. Next thing you know, those tonsils I had removed as a kid will turn out to be the cure for some rare disease out here."
Aeryn shook her head. "You are the most bizarre creature I have ever met."
"Yeah. I missed you, too." He watched those words sink in, waited until Aeryn smiled, relaxed as the full force of her smile warmed his soul. "When I feel better, we need to talk. Okay?"
Aeryn nodded. "You should rest, now. If you need anything, there's a DRD here. Pilot will relay any messages." She got up to leave. Pausing by the doorway, she turned around. "What happened to you, while you were unconscious?"
Crichton felt sleep closing in on him. He managed to say, "Ran into an old friend ... and a new one who told me that sometimes, we have to make our own happy endings." Finishing the sentence seemed to exhaust him, and he fell asleep.
Aeryn looked at him for a long moment. Turning, she headed toward Command to let the others know his status, but his words to her lingered in her memory. Aeryn Sun smiled.