|Easing The Pain
(First posted February 1, 2006)
Disclaimer: The characters and universe of Farscape are not mine. If they were, we’d have a Farscape
Channel playing nothing but angst and action 365 days a year. And just for the record, I have not made a
profit off this little tale.
Time Frame: Into The Lion’s Den: Lambs To The Slaughter.
Test Driver: PKLibrarian.
1st Starburst Challenge (hosted by Auna): Your mission (should you choose to accept it), is to find a minor
character and flesh them out. Just a scene or two about where they are now. For instance... what ever
happened to Natira, or the calcium eating woman, M'Lee, or the kid in IET? Does Dregon ever find his DNA
compatible woman and settle down to marital bliss? How did the woman in the "Why So Difficult?" episode with
the monkey guys get over the loss of her man and her restaurant? It can be from any season, or PKW.
* * * * *
Memories are supposed to weaken and fade with time.
Most of his have. The nauseating rip and tear when the side of his face had been laid open to the bone by a
clumsily wielded qualta blade is little more than a dimly remembered event. There are mornings, rare ones,
when he stands before the mirror fingering the angular furrows, and can almost hear and smell the battle. But,
for the most part, he remembers very little of that day other than how he had been irritated by the way the
blood had turned the collar of his uniform into a clinging, sodden mess. It had annoyed him to the point that he
had lost his temper. In the end he had vented his fury by tossing away his pulse rifle and wading into the final
chaotic blood bath armed with nothing more than a blade he had taken out of the hands of a dead luxan.
The rest of the scars on his body are the same: enduring hints and reminders of events that have faded into a
morass of half-remembered moments. There have been glorious victories, more than one award for exemplary
service, punishments so cruel that he would forget them entirely if he could, and the rare moment of peace.
Aside from those small beacons along the way, his past has become a smooth mélange of training, duty,
combat, and the camaraderie of so many fellow soldiers that he can’t begin to remember their faces, let alone
One memory refuses to leave him, no matter how many times he wishes it would turn to vapor and drift away. It
assaults him by day, burrows into his dreams at night, goads him into inexplicable anger when he least expects
it. It is a wafting specter, forever perched just out of sight behind one shoulder. If he could have one wish, it
would be to excise it from his life, the way the surgeons slice away a malignant growth. The memory benefits
nothing. He would do it himself, stabbing deep with his own blade if it was the type of thing that could be
removed in that manner. He sometimes finds himself standing transfixed, usually in front of a mirror or any of a
thousand reflective panels aboard the ship, running a thumb across the edge of his knife, testing the
sharpness in preparation for a slashing stab, a gouge, a long blood-letting slice that couldn’t possibly hurt
nearly as much as what the memory does to his heart.
The memory makes him weak. He needs strength to survive this life.
“Your turn,” someone says, jarring him out of his reverie.
He tosses down a card, lets a mouthful of raslak sear the back of his throat, and does his best not to think
about the group of criminals who had been in this room earlier. His hatred of them and everything they
represent urges him to do something stupid. The expanding ball of heat and anger inside his chest distracts
him; it takes all of his concentration simply to stay in control of his temper and as a result, he looses the next
round when he just as easily could have won. Flinging down the rest of his hand in disgust, he glowers at his
companions, daring them to comment. They ignore him, accustomed to his temper. At a gesture from him,
they deal him out of the next hand.
The presence of Sun aboard this carrier he can almost stomach -- almost, but not quite. Hers had been an
error of eagerness and aggression compounded by the worst of luck. If their roles had been reversed on that
day, he might have been tempted to go after the escaping leviathan just as she had, hard set on performing his
duty to its fullest. Not like Crais. Bialar Crais had clawed his way up through the ranks -- from conscripted
recruit all the way to Command Carrier captain -- and then had thrown it all away in the pursuit of the worst kind
of vendetta. Crais could have turned back at any time; he could have followed orders, remained in the
Peacekeepers. The traitorous captain is every bit as much an abomination as this carrier’s current
commanding officer: Scorpius.
“You in?” Vonk asks.
“No. Pass me that bottle.” The raslak, some of the cheapest they have on board, ignites a different sort of
inferno than the one currently raging inside his chest and head.
The entire group of escaped prisoners makes him ill every time he thinks of the way they entered the lounge:
huddling together for support, staying close to each other for reassurance … for safety. Like a family. They
had gotten off the transport pod in the same manner. The two females -- the interion and the nebari -- had
held back, hesitating, looking as though they wanted to retreat, and then had come forward all at once,
following Sun and Crichton the way children follow their parents. It had been the same when they greeted the
luxan: looking to him for strength and leadership the way insecure children stay close to their fathers.
“They make me sick,” he grumbles under his breath. “All of them.”
His companions look up from their game. “What?”
“Nothing. Go on with it.” He gestures toward the cards.
“Jahlo,” one of them starts.
“Reljik! It’s Reljik!” he snaps, suddenly on his feet. Several food dishes and most of the bottles topple over.
Heads turn their way. He doesn’t care about the staring eyes or quiet mutters. He did not spend most of his
cycles as a cadet teaching everyone never to use that name just to have it crop again now. “Always Reljik,” he
snarls at the younger man, leaning over the table, “and you had better leave.”
The officer -- he can’t remember the man’s name -- looks to the others at the table for a moment, reads
something in their expressions that makes him wary, and heads for the door without bothering to gather up his
“He transferred in less than a quarter cycle ago,” Vonk says. “He doesn’t know.”
“It’s time he did,” Reljik says. His two remaining companion shrug, gather up the cards and deal them out, this
time including him. He doesn’t want to play, but two isn’t enough, so he gathers up his hand and tries to
concentrate on the game. It doesn’t work. The memory is back, more insistent than ever before, warping every
one of his thoughts, constantly distracting him from what is important.
Jahlo. It’s a frelling lousy name for a soldier. It means ‘Gentle One’ in an obscure Sebacean dialect and he
had spent a good portion of his childhood making sure no one confused his name with his personality. It had
taken more demerits than any other cadet on this carrier had ever assembled to rid himself of the name.
Fighting in the barracks, fighting within ranks, disrupting training sessions, failure to hold formation -- the list
went on forever. No one had marched out more punishment tours than he had. The grueling ordeal had made
him smart though, a better tactician than all of his classmates. He had eventually learned that silencing the
taunts would require better strategies than openly fighting.
An older cadet who whispered out the hated sing-song “Jaaahhhhlo” while passing in the corridors was a cadet
who found grease smeared down the front of his best uniform less than an arn before inspection. The ridicule
continued, and duty rosters began to disappear at critical moments; cadets were late for assignments.
Uniforms turned up torn and slashed, which earned the owners more demerits than fighting. Classroom work
tablets filled with arns of hard work were mysteriously wiped clean by unexplained electrical discharges.
Ambushes, night attacks, power plays, and eventually a cadet found beaten almost to death in the showers --
clearly the work of more than one attacker -- and the teasing finally stopped.
He became Reljik, his given name listed on the personnel roles but never spoken by subordinates or superiors,
thrice decorated by High Command, with a reputation for unequalled ruthlessness. His combat record was
unequalled, the number of enemy killed in ground engagements seldom exceeded.
And yet, after all the cycles of strife and conflict, he hadn’t managed to drive the memory away. Fighting had
silenced only the true-life jeers.
“Well, that's it for me.”
Another of his companions gathers up his winnings and departs, leaving him alone with Vonk, who is strong on
killing and short on talk. Tonight he is the perfect companion. Reljik doesn’t feel like discussing what is on his
mind. All he wants is a silent drinking partner, someone whose presence can remind him that unyielding
strength can bring about peace. Vonk is perfect in that role: loyal and an unsurpassed fighter.
It is late. The lounge is deserted, silent except for the quiet hum of the air circulation units and the slow, regular
tick of the foods warming unit near the wall. There is time to sit and think, nurse another raslak, and reflect on
such things as escaped prisoners, traitors, and luxans.
It is the luxan, Ka D’Argo, that he hates the most. He can’t stand to even have the creature’s name on his
tongue. The mere thought of that particular criminal being allowed to roam the ship freely creates an inferno
inside his chest. It sets his muscles to twitching at the thought of driving a blade through both of Ka D’Argo’s
hearts, generates a small thrilling ecstasy inside his head when he imagines the luxan’s lifeless, bloodied body
lying in a dark empty corridor where it will take a full security sweep to find it.
His hatred has nothing to do with the scar on the side of his face. There is hardly an officer or enlisted person
aboard this carrier who doesn’t carry at least one reminder of the battles they have fought. It is the thought of
any sentient being mating with someone he loves and then killing her that enrages him beyond his ability to
understand his own fury. Unlike so many of his comrades, he isn’t repulsed by the idea of a luxan fathering a
bastard half-sebacean child; it isn’t the mixed blood that bothers him. It is when he envisions the luxan standing
over his dead mate, perhaps with blood dripping from his hands, that his fury burns the hottest. It becomes a
living thing within his heart and his head, spurring him to do something stupid, beckoning for him to violate the
amnesty that Scorpius has declared.
That is when the voice from his memory calls to him the loudest: when he thinks about how the luxan had found
love and then crushed it in his uncivilized hands. Logic and sense ends there, leaving only the hot burn of
anger and a form of hatred that is so achingly intense it feels like hurt. Given the chance, he would strangle Ka
D’Argo with his bare hands, taking his time, ignoring whatever physical injuries the luxan might dish out during
his last living moments.
But he is Reljik, thrice decorated by High Command, who long ago learned that there are better ways to fight
He sits back, eyes his companion, and thinks. Vonk is taller than Reljik. He is also broader, stronger, faster,
and fiercer in battle: a better-matched opponent for a healthy, full-blooded luxan warrior. And to top it all off,
Vonk is the slightest bit stupid.
Reljik takes in a mouthful of raslak, lets it swirl about his teeth for several microts before swallowing, reveling in
the slow burn inside his mouth, and maps out a brief but cautious campaign. He’ll have to be careful. Although
they have been drinking for arns, Vonk isn’t drunk, and he’s not a total idiot. Reljik begins with a question that
he doesn’t expect to be answered, testing the atmosphere. “How the frell can Scorpius allow that Luxan on
board? Can't stand Luxans. Never could.”
“Me neither,” Vonk says.
He takes the next step, wary, watching and gauging Vonk’s reaction carefully. He plays at being mildly drunk. If
his plan turns out badly, he’ll claim it was due to diminished reasoning. “Looking down his ugly nose at us. Like
to wipe that sneer off his face.”
“So would I.”
“You know what might give him a good scare? Have you still got that … thing they built for you for the battle of
Vonk grins, looking like the predator that he is, tosses back the last of his raslak, and heads for the door.
Reljik drains the last of his drink and smiles at the empty lounge, content in the knowledge that the luxan will
very likely die tonight. The thought should make him happy. The pride of success should ease the muscles in
his back, ignite a comforting glow of pleasure in the pit of his stomach, and release the tension he has felt ever
since the leviathan’s transport pod set down in the carrier’s main hangar. He should feel at peace, ready to
return to his quarters to get some sleep.
He feels none of that. The memory is back, undiminished by the events he has set in motion, the voices calling
to him louder than ever before, turning his moment of success into defeat. He folds his arms on the table,
lowers his forehead onto his crossed arms, and does his best to ignore the flood of emotions.
But when he closes his eyes, he doesn’t see strength or survival, or any of the other traits that make him
strong. He sees the touch of a hand, a glance, the way Sun and her human companion are inextricably linked
even when they aren’t together; he relives the moments when he noticed the looks that passed between the
luxan and the tralk, obviously lovers, and the way even the foul smelling hynerian garnered respect from his
companions. These outcasts -- these dregs of half a dozen cultures who have been thrown together by
chance -- have everything that he detests watching when he is forced to be among other species: they have
affection, togetherness … family.
* * * * *
“Jahhhhlo!” The call reaches him across the ever-lengthening span of cycles, ringing as clear as the day when
the two syllables had been spoken. “Jahlo!”
His parents are waiting for him. Even at this distance he can see them in the doorway of their habitat, standing
straight and tall, his mother leaning back against his father with his arms resting comfortably around her
midsection -- loving, happy, comfortable in each other’s company. All along the row of buildings stand similar
couples, calling their children in from wherever they are playing in the fields and forests.
His mother calls to him across the boundary of time on two perfectly balanced notes. The simple melody
snares him, draws him back to the carefree loping run across sun-washed fields. It teases him with the rich
smell of ripening grain, the soft slap of dark moist earth beneath his bare feet, and the light touch of cool
breezes through his thin shirt. He scrambles up the embankment surrounding the fields, bounds through the
swishing thigh-high grasses along the top, and tumbles down the far side to land laughing and sprawling among
the fruit vines.
Clambering to his feet, happily covered in gobs of dirt and the sticky reddish-black juice from the squashed
grapes, he calls, “Coming, mother!”
“Jahlo, my little gentle one!” she calls one more time in the peculiar dialect of their village. “Come inside
quickly. The recruiters are here.”
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *