Greetings, wonderful readers!
Today I am going to share a piece of Crashfic history that has been sitting on my hard drive for
more than seven years: the half-written original version of what eventually became Cloths of
Heaven. Allow me to start with some background, however, so what you are about to read might
make some sense.
Cloths of Heaven -- both this discarded version and the final edition -- was written and posted
during the hiatus after ‘Dog With Two Bones’. I actually started two stories. One, titled Cloths of
Heaven, was my best stab at a coming up with a resolution to the cliff hanger while we waited for
Season 4 to begin. The other story, originally title "Reunion" was what can best be described as a
revenge fic. I was FURIOUS with Aeryn for leaving John at the end of 'Dog With Two Bones'. If
she had wandered into my livingroom at that time, I would have quite happily done my best to
strangle her. If you want to know what Reunion looked like, read the first chapter of the final
version of Cloths of Heaven and do not go on to Chapter 2. That was Reunion.
At that point, two things happened. First, I realized that Cloths of Heaven was going to run out
of steam. As much as I wanted to resolve the cliff hanger, there just was not enough to work
with to build a fully-formed story. Second, my betareader at the time, SniperGrl78, finished
reading 'Reunion', and told me that it was a great story but that if I did not keep writing, my
readers would be slashing their wrists or downing entire bottles of Prozac. Lucky for all of you, I
listened to her.
I sat down and tried to figure out where the story wanted to go. At that point, Cloths of Heaven
began talking to me, yelling inside my head that the best parts could be salvaged. I yanked the
title, the poem, and some back story from the unfinished fic, wove it into Reunion, renamed that
one, slapped a fast and stupid name of 'Desperado' on the remnants below, and threw this story
into the file on my computer labelled Slag Heap. It has been languishing there ever since.
So here it is. The original 'Cloths of Heaven', setting up the back story where John stabs the
young Peacekeeper that made it into the posted version.
Please keep a couple of things in mind as you read it. First, it was never finished, so all you are
getting is a fragment. Do not wade in here expecting a fully formed story with an ending.
Second, I have no intention of ever finishing it. A few minor components seem to have woven
them into a work that is currently in progress, but there will never be any resolution to this story.
Aside from anything else, we already know what is going to happen. John will get into the camp,
find the fuel cells he needs, stab a very young Peacekeeper guard during his escape, and
eventually makes it off the planet.
Lastly, a few pieces are missing. This is because I seldom write a story in order from start to
finish. I have marked where there is a break in the continuity.
Hope you enjoy it.
He was being driven before them like the proverbial hare before the hounds. John
Crichton scrambled up a thirty foot high outcropping and slithered over the edge of the
rock on his stomach, staying low. Behind him, the squad of Peacekeepers moved
cautiously into the entrance to the ravine. They spread out along the sides, covering
each other as the main body of the group moved up the center, following his tracks. He
knew they would see where he had veered up the side of the ravine, so he slithered away
from the edge and kept moving.
There was not enough rock here for him to hide his tracks. He did not know or care if
they had some sort of infrared tracking to find his footsteps because it did not
matter. For a planet that seemed to be made up of barren rock, twisted canyons and
sharp outcroppings, there was too little unbroken ledge for him to lose his pursuers
completely. Crichton tried anyway, weaving and hopping from one sheet of exposed rock
to the next, working hard to leave no sign of his passage.
He came to the end of a stretch of rock and looked in disgust at the loose gravelly
soil ahead. There was no way they could miss his tracks in that stuff. He heard the
noises behind him that said they were about to come over the top of the incline behind
him and gave up looking for alternatives. He put his head down and started to run
“It shouldn’t be this hard!” he grumbled as he took off, “It should never be this
frelling impossible.” His legs started to burn as he pushed himself to move faster up
a gully of loose rock and gravel, and he started to gasp for breath. He heard the
excited shouts below. They had seen him. “How the frell did I get into this big a
mess?” he panted to himself. “Not even Gomer Pyle could wind up in this much
* * * * *
The Farscape 1 wafted quietly through space, darkened and powerless, a frosted autumn
leaf drifting on an unseen river of momentum. Inside, John Crichton shivered and kept
talking to himself to stay awake. “Just a little longer, John, hang in there.” He
reached out with a shaking hand and snapped a finger lightly against the power level
indicator. “Dumb habit, that went out with needle gauges.” But the familiar flick
against the clear surface made him feel a bit better even if it had no affect on the
It still showed the barest minimum of calorics left in the fuel cell, maybe just enough
to nudge the module into a controlled descent if he could keep from freezing to death
until the craft reached the planet ahead. Some bit of asymmetry or perhaps the
lightest touch of ions or debris had put a slow spin on the module, which meant that he
had been watching the beige and brown planet revolve in the windshield for almost six
“If I weren’t so tough, I’d be feeling seasick right now,” he muttered. “Harvey! Are
you sure you can’t do something to make me warmer? The boys are talkin’ to my tonsils
“As I have told you several times already, John, if I increase your metabolism any
further the increased rate at which you consume oxygen will exhaust our supply before
we reach the planet.” The clone leaned over his shoulder to peer out the front
window. He gulped several times, looking sick. “I would much prefer that you
concentrate on steadying this retrograde craft. I am not sure what will happen to us
if I become ill.”
“Suck it up, Scorpy. If I use a single bit of our remaining calorics to steady the
spin, we won’t have enough left when we get there.”
“Oh, John, I don’t feel well at all.” The clone’s eyes widened and he swallowed
convulsively a few times.
“Great, just great. I get stuck with Casper the Friendly Ghoul in the back seat, and
he can’t stand flying upside down. If you don’t like it, don’t look.” John glanced
back to see that the nauseated figure was still there. “Go away boy! You bother me!”
Harvey was gone.
Crichton worked to tuck each hand into the opposite sleeve of his coat, seeking a
little warmth for his fingers even if it meant sitting like a Chinese mandarin for the
next arn. It was so dark in the cockpit he couldn’t even see his feet, all but two of
the indicators extinguished in his attempt to save fuel. “Six arns down, less than an
arn to go. That’s fewer than ninety-nine bottles, John. You can start at sixty and
sing slow.” He didn’t sing though, he hunkered down into his coat and waited.
The first microts after Moya disappeared had been filled with disbelief, followed by
near panic. They had been so far from anything recognizable, it had taken him a while
to calm down and remember the navigational readout he had been looking at earlier in
the day. His hands had moved automatically, shutting down every non-critical system,
including the heat, while he searched the stars to find the right configuration to lead
him to the planet he had noticed on Moya’s display.
He had only noticed the sensor readings because oxygen atmospheres were not all that
common, and he had been intrigued. He knew the planet was almost lifeless, with little
surface or vegetation, and that it was the only one he had a prayer of reaching. He
had used a little of his power to spin the module until it faced in the right
direction, then he had sat for almost a quarter arn, vainly hoping that Moya would
somehow reappear to collect him.
It was the seeping cold that finally broke his futile hopes. He had looked around one
more time, fixing his position in space in case he could ever get back to search for
the lost leviathan, then he had given the module one long belt of thrust and shut
everything down. He had loosened his harness and tried to make himself comfortable,
prepared to be patient as the module coasted and cooled.
John’s chattering teeth roused him from his reverie. The planet was closer, filling
almost half of the front window and his velocity seemed to have increased. He flicked
a switch, got a reading, and then shut it down again. He was moving faster. He was
being pulled in by the gravity of the planet. He was going to make it.
“But in how many pieces? Aye, there’s the rub.” He watched the brown orb revolve
before him, still unwilling to arrest the roll of the ship. He could begin to make out
thin dark cracks covering the surface. Every one of them was a canyon or fissure in
the surface. “Ladies and gentlemen, please return your seats to the upright position
and fasten your seatbelts for landing. Our captain assures us this will be a
completely frelled touchdown and one we probably won‘t walk away from.” John
straightened up and pulled his harness tight. “Why isn’t it ever easy?”
It was less than a quarter arn later that the first buffet rocked the module, a flutter
as it entered the highest portion of the atmosphere. John resisted the temptation to
right the still slowly revolving ship. There wasn’t enough density yet for the stubby
wings to do the work. He kept his hands off the controls, blew on his cold fingers,
and let the module do what it was designed to do.
He felt when it began to fly and went on waiting. There was plenty of time and the
increasing rate of descent was creating enough friction that he was finally starting to
get warm. The module suddenly rocked and wavered; the wings had taken over. He
grabbed the biomechanoids controls, flipped the module over so he was looking at the
horizon right side up, then he pulled the nose up and let the shielding on the belly
take the abuse.
“Here we go, babe. Be a nice lady and do this right.” He had practiced dead stick
landings in the simulator at IASA, but no one had ever really expected to have to do
this. It had been more of an experiment to see how badly everything could go wrong
than a real exercise to practice a successful no-power landing. He had the barest
calorics left, but he wanted to save those in case something got totally squirrelly.
With the way his luck seemed to run, that was almost a certainty.
Everything went fine until the last few microts. His descent around the planet
determined that he was going to touch down on the day side, his first positive event in
a while. He was looking for a flat piece of dirt for the landing when he flashed over
a small lake, saw an encampment, and immediately recognized it for what it was.
“Peacekeepers? You have got to be kidding me. Of all the planets in all the galaxies
in all the universe, they have to camp on mine? I do not believe this.” He struggled
to pull the nose of the module up, to trade maneuvering and speed for distance from the
camp. He’d had one brief fleeting impression of upturned faces and pointing arms. He
was fairly certain they would recognize the white space craft and after what they had
done to the command carrier, he doubted they would welcome him with open arms and a
bottle of champagne.
“Come on, come on, come on,” he coaxed the slowing ship. “Just a little … frell.” He
was aimed right into a wide canyon and it was long enough that he wasn’t going to be
able to lift the craft over the far wall. “Crap!”
He flipped all the power buses back on and snapped the landing gear down. The module
seemed to mush through the air as the drag increased and he squandered most of his
remaining power on the braking jets. He was running out of room as he descended below
the rim of the canyon. “Let’s see how this works,” he muttered and threw the controls
at cross-purposes, stomping hard on one of the rudder pedals. “Whatdaya know … a
The white pod dropped quickly as it lost much of its capacity for flight, and he fought
to straighten it out again as the ground rushed up. “Frell!” he grunted as it slammed
into the ground. Crichton jammed the controls in full down deflection to keep it from
bouncing back into the air. He ran into his first piece of luck for the day. It
stayed on the ground. The module coasted toward an overhang and he used the last of
his power to steer it toward the jutting cliff. He was releasing the canopy before it
rolled to a stop, not bothering to shut the power down as the module’s energy readings
flattened at the bottom of their indicator.
John sprinted back down the canyon, struggling to pull off his coat as he ran. He came
to a skidding halt at the beginning of the tire tracks and finished shrugging out of
the black overcoat. He swept it from side to side, smoothing the sandy soil as he
worked back to the Farscape. Once there, he backed in next to the main thruster
nozzle, back up against the butt end of the ship, and shoved the glaring white craft
ship into the shadows under the rocks. A fast sweep of the last tracks and he dodged
out of sight.
After shutting everything down in the cockpit he closed it up and shoved the ship
around so it faced back out of the cavelike area. He could see sunlight striking close
to the nose, casting reflections despite the black nose cone, so he flipped his black
coat over it and secured it in place with several large rocks. Then he crouched down
near the back wall and waited to see what would happen, breathing hard from his frantic
efforts to get hidden. It was less than a quarter arn when he felt the vibration, both
sound and air disturbances beating against the rock sides of the gulch. A Marauder
coasted slowly into sight, hovering over his landing area.
Crichton froze, knowing he was out of sight, but waiting to see if they spotted his
hasty camouflage or had some kind of sensors on board that could pick up heat or energy
signatures. The Peacekeeper ship descended slowly, and the fury of the turbulence
underneath it served to erase the last marks of his passage. John gnawed on his thumb,
waiting to see if they would land and start a search, which would almost certainly find
him. After several microts of agonizing suspense, the thrust increased and the
Marauder lifted and moved away.
He let out a long breath of relief, but he knew it was only temporary. They had shown
up too quickly; they were too interested in his arrival. They would undoubtedly return
on foot, and then he was going to be in real trouble. As if he wasn’t already.
* * * * *
“Real trouble, real trouble. Did I think I was going to be in real trouble?” Crichton
slithered down a bank, ran the short distance across the flat floor of the gully and
scrambled up the other side. No matter what route he took, he seemed to be running up
and down sliding gravel embankments. “Stairs. Escalators. I’d kill for an
escalator!” He knew that if he wanted to survive and stay free, he was going to have
to break the close pursuit somehow. He could not keep this pace up indefinitely.
He had climbed out of the canyon shortly after the Marauder had moved off, knowing that
his chances of eluding capture were better with every motra he put between himself and
his landing site. He could not afford to return to the canyon until he figured out
some way of getting the module off this piece of God forsaken rock. He headed right
back toward the Peacekeeper camp, figuring it was his only hope of finding food, water
and a charged fuel cell. Staying on this dirt ball was not what he would have termed a
high success venture.
* * * * *
<<Break in the story. There is a huge chunk missing here that never got written
because by this point I had already begun to realize that this story did not have
enough plot and purpose (what I refer to as “legs”) to survive. There would have been
more pursuit and lots of running.>>
* * * * *
There was the rattle of a stone and the soft grinding of sand under foot. Crichton
looked up in alarm, expecting to see some kind of retrieval squad. Aeryn eased out of
the dark, pulse rifle cradled in her arms, dark eyes scanning for danger. She moved
quietly into the patch of silver starlight and sank to one knee, looking him over.
“Ready to get out of here?” she whispered.
He stared at her, wondering how she had known where to find him, not to mention that he
needed finding. “Where are you parked?” he asked, still finding it hard to believe she
had come after him.
“Over that ridge. Let’s get moving, we have a long way to go.” She was motionless,
staring at him calmly. It was a look he had not seen recently.
“And where are we going after we leave the planet, Aeryn? To your mercenary gang? To
Moya? She’s been snagged by a wormhole. We’re not going to Earth, we already know
that. Where do we belong and whatever happened to fate to bring you back so fast?” He
no intention of budging until they worked this out, special ops commandos be damned.
“We have always worked well together, John. We can still work together.”
She had told him that before, he reflected. It had not been enough then, and it was
not enough now. John took a breath and let it out slowly, then he recited something
that crawled out of the dark storage area in the farthest reaches of his memory,
something that he had fallen in love with when he was an undergraduate and memorized
when he was at college.
“Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
Aeryn stared at him, not reacting, not answering.
“I spread everything I had to offer at your feet, Aeryn,” he said softly. “I laid it
all out before you while we were still on Moya, and you walked across it and left. So
you have to tell me now, where are we going to go? What is there ahead of us if we
leave this place?”
There was a heavy rattle of stone and dirt, and John’s head snapped up from where it
was resting on his forearms. The split microt of confusion as he transitioned from
sleeping to waking stole his one chance to slide away into the dark, and suddenly there
was the cold muzzle of a weapon grinding into the back of his neck.
“John Crichton. You are going to get me a promotion!” the commando hissed behind him.
“I knew I could catch you if I kept going when the others stopped for the night. This
is the finest moment of my life!” There was another slide of pebbles and the soldier
was alongside him, the weapon still jammed against his spine. John looked at the
vacant patch of starlight in front of him and felt emptier than he had since the day he
had emerged from a wormhole into the middle of a space battle.
“If you move, I will blow your spine right out through your throat.” The warning
seemed to float out of the dark, and the raw ugly image had a strange affect on him.
That was the way things were in this universe, John admitted to himself, and although
he had learned to cope well, he had not transformed himself into a creature that
belonged in this segment of space.
He decided that the transformation was long overdue.
“That’s what you want to do? … Go ahead! Come on, do it! Pull the frelling trigger.”
This was not the same as when he had pulled this maneuver with Braca. That time he had
known he was safe. Scorpius had wanted him alive too badly. This time something was
welling up inside that simply did not care if the chance he was taking was too
dangerous. “Come on, come on, come on! Do it!” He leaned back into the muzzle and
turned to look at the shadowy figure. “Make my day!”
The Peacekeeper hesitated, seemingly unprepared for his eager request to be shot, and
Crichton spun into him, twisting out from under the pistol just as it went off. He
felt the heat of the discharge near the side of his neck, the aching singe of a shot
that come to close to ending his misery, then he was too fully involved with the
furious struggle against the trained soldier to worry about whether he was bleeding or
burned. They slid down the bank, each trying to gain the advantage, and rolled out
into the middle of the gully floor, squirming and battering at each other desperately
to gain the upper hand.
Crichton found himself energized by all the frustration and anger welling up from the
events of the past two days. He was beneath the commando, and he was aware that the
man had gotten a hand on his throat, but he did not care. John grabbed the uniform
jacket, surprising his opponent by pulling him closer, and then began beating at him
with increasing savagery as the emotions rolled out of him in waves. He gave himself
over to the fury and frustration, fed on it, allowed it to compound until there was
nothing left of his universe by the rage, the grief, and the target for his out of
He found himself kneeling over a limp figure, still pounding an aching fist into an
already bleeding face over and over again. The blood on his knuckles was not. It
dripped black, thick and viscous, in the faint light from the stars. He released the
jacket and let the body drop to the ground, then knelt panting over his victim, slowly
A problem existed. The man was still alive, breathing normally and showing signs that
he was not deeply unconscious despite the battering he had just taken. John looked
down at the Peacekeeper and knew he could not allow this person to go on living. Aeryn
had pounded that into him again and again. Battlefield rules: never let the enemy
survive so that they can attack again. He grabbed the man’s head and rotated it until
he felt the resistance of muscle and bone, closed his eyes and prepared to snap his
Aeryn had instructed him on how to do this many times, always insisting that he would
need to know how to do it some day. He had even sat, listening in morbid fascination,
through an arns long discussion between Aeryn and Crais debating the relative merits of
two hands versus one. Crais had preferred the one-handed ease of full rotation, while
Aeryn had argued the finality and lack of uncertainty of using two hands. It gave her
more control and strength, she had asserted.
John dropped the Peacekeeper, shook his own head, and discovered that he was still John
Crichton, mislaid astronaut from Earth. “No, I won’t become that. This is my life
now, but I have to exist here on my own terms. I will not do this. I can’t.” He
looked up at the stars, looked at where his home was if he could get back up there and
find it. “My way works, too. There are times when it has to be my way.”
He felt quickly around the unconscious body until he located the length of rope and the
long knife he knew the commando would carry. He worked carefully in the dark, finding
the end of the rope, cutting a length off and then using it to tie the Peacekeeper up.
He dragged him back toward the rocks and waited for enough light to stash him some
place where he might not be found right away but would eventually be located before he
starved to death.
When first light began stealing across the vertical walls of the canyon, Crichton
searched the still senseless trooper and stripped him of everything of any potential
use. His utility belt yielded more than a dozen spare chakan oil cartridges, and
better yet, water and dried food cubes. John considered untying him long enough to
take his jacket, but finally decided it was too much of a risk. If the man woke up
while he was untied, he was not sure he could knock him out a second time.
He dragged the body into a cleft between two rocks and went back to inventory his haul,
munching on field rations as he finished searching the belt packs. Rope, long knife,
short blade, spare chakan oil cartridges, pulse pistol, igniter for starting a fire, a
silvery insulated blanket of some sort, a nasty length of wire that he thought might be
a garrotte, and some data chips.
John picked up one of the chakan oil cartridges, the beginning of an idea about how to
get off the planet forming in his mind and, for the first time since Moya disappeared
into the wormhole, noticed the notations and formulas written down his arm. He held
his hand up and twisted it back and forth, bringing different equations into view with
each adjustment. He could feel the knowledge moving within him like a living entity,
with a certainty that was on an instinctual level. He examined the beauty of the
symmetry, the calculations inside his head warping into long chains that matched the
subliminal knowledge that the Ancients had left him, rhyme and reason rising out of
what used to be mathematical chaos.
“This stuff is of no use to you now, you jerk,” he said to himself, letting his hand
drop. He looked at his small pile of resources, then at the back of his hand, and was
suddenly tempted to scrub every last bit of the writing off. “It’s brought you nothing
of value. Everyone has suffered because of this crap. Get rid of it and get on with
<<Small piece missing here where John figures out how to create a diversion, penetrate
the Peacekeeper encampment, and steal a fuel cell to power the module. What was his
plan? I don't know. I never got close to writing it so I never figured that part
“Not Gomer Pyle. Not Wiley E. Coyote. MacGyver!” John stuffed another food cube into
his mouth, gathered up his pilfered supplies, and set off down the floor of the canyon,
away from his pursuers and straight toward the Peacekeeper encampment.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *