Inferno
(First posted June 22, 2007)
Rating:  PG-13.  This one is a little bit ugly, so I think a parental check on younger Scapers is a good idea.
Disclaimer:  The characters and universe of Farscape are the property of the Henson Co.  I have not made
any profit as a result of writing this tale, other than learning some new lessons about writing.    
Category/Time Frame:  Future Fic.  Roughly 3 cycles after the end of PKWars.
Test Driver:  PKLibrarian, of course.  She is always there to ensure that I toe the characterization and
credibility lines.  Her input was invaluable this time around. Inferno is a far better story as a result of her efforts.

Note to the reader:  In one of my earlier stories, Yesterdays and Tomorrows, I began using a nickname for
D’Argo (Little D, not the big one).  I am playing with the same version of the future Sun-Crichton family in this
story, so I am still referring to him by that nickname:  DJ.  


Gestation:  This story is a little unusual for me.  I call it a “catharsis fic”.  While I am quite happy to
acknowledge that events from my life or things I read in magazines often show up in my stories, I do not
normally inject portions of my immediate life into the lives of our beloved characters.  I have made an exception
this time.  For too many years, I wasted a lot of energy by  carrying something violent, ugly, and ultimately
damaging (to me) bottled up inside:  Anger.  A number of months ago, I finally managed to get the feelings
resolved, and at some point after that, I decided to tap into the emotions I had been living with for too long,
magnify them by several orders, and express the result in a story.  

I hope it was worth the effort.  

*  *  *  *  *


He had known for a very long time that the rage was there:  lurking, no more than half-hidden at the best of
times, buried beneath layers of self-restraint, fermenting, waiting for an excuse to break free.  He had become
the incubator for an indestructible, malevolent parasite that had been destined to take control of his body since
the first moment the creature was spawned.  That the parasite had been psychic in nature and the malevolence
a product of his own fury made little difference; the outcome was no different than if he had spewed forth a
monstrous alien entity.  

He had hoped that with time, with the slow wheel of the stars across the permanently night sky and the
relentless passage of solar days, the more volatile elements would have lost their power to goad him into
sporadic displays of unpredictable, frequently unforgivable behavior.  Far too late, he realized that it had
worked out the other way around.  The steady simmering of subdued but sustained anger had seared the
damage into his soul.  Containing the rage, instead of banishing it, had become a way of life.  The warning
signs had been there if he had chosen to pay attention to them:  the sudden outbursts of anger for no good
reason, the explosive zaps of fury that vanished as fast as they appeared, inexplicable reactions to minor
problems, random discharges of aimless frustration that targeted anyone unfortunate enough to be close to
him when they happened.  

The one thing he had not been able to admit to himself was that he did not have it under control.  

Anger struck, swept through what he had thought were carefully erected barricades, and hurled him into a
conflagration of his own making.  He became both burner and the burned, fire and fuel, ignition source and the
ongoing inferno inextricably tangled together until he was little more than a searing, soaring, scorching form of
fury.  Oxygen gave it life, energy gave it momentum.  It gained strength, took over what was left of his universe,
and exploded into an all-encompassing storm that defied restriction.  He reveled in the destruction, reached out
with the full limits of his physiology, and lent it power with each breath and joyfully expended movement.  

The heat was a living thing, sucking him in, devouring him faster than he could feast on the warmth.  He basked
in the hot molten spatter, turned his face to catch the sizzling rainfall, sucked in great gulping breaths of
overheated cinder-metallic air.  The beast billowed from chest to head, a mental crown fire leaping from thought
to thought, treetop to treetop, carrying the licking tongues of anger with it, moving faster than reason or self-
control could ever hope to race.  Another lunge, another exuberant blossom of magma release.  Hot charcoal
briquette smell, the rank sourness of the underworld thick on his tongue for the length of time it took to suck in
a breath, and then gone, driven away by the howling winds of physical effort.  

Chest heaving, gulping down oxygen to fuel the flames, finding himself temporarily overwhelmed by the sour
cinder smell of summer campfires long gone cold, the scent of exhausted embers shrieking into acrid crystalline
shards beneath his boots.  The moment passed; movement and purpose returned.  He waded into the reeking
stench of his past, dipped down with both hands, fingernails scraping across the screeching scream of
blackened tree skeletons, raised up the wreckage of his conflagration and battered it back down again.  The
firestorm was within and without, coursing through his muscles, scouring his sinuses, diving into his lungs --
hot, undeniable, unstoppable, unquenchable.  

He wanted it to go on forever.  The blazing frenzy would free him, cleanse him, burn away the rotting
putrefaction that had been festering for too long.  If he could find one more striking flash of incineration, one
final stockpile of fuel to feed his personal pyre, he was certain he would emerge purified, forged into something
better than what had first waded into the inferno.  

His quest ended unexpectedly.  There was a flailing grab at his arm, a wrenching pull, the impact of a body
slamming into his, and a voice yelling at him to regain his sanity.

“Stop it!  John, stop!  What are you doing?”  

Aeryn parried another wild punch, grabbed his arm with both hands, and pivoting, throwing all of her body
weight into the fast movement, flung him down the corridor.  Crichton tripped, rolled over several times, made it
to his hands and knees just in time to slam up against a bulkhead, and finally slumped to a panting, heaving,
gagging stop.  He stayed where he was, crouched in the recessed alcove between two of Moya’s ribs, and tried
to make some sense of his surroundings.

Aeryn had followed his brief, unplanned flight.  She was poised just out of range of an unprovoked attack,
squatting on her heels and watching him intently.  “Have you lost your mind?  What the frell are you doing?”

Still gasping for breath, stunned by both the impact against the wall and his sudden emergence back into a
world of sense and sanity, he stayed where he was, trying to remember what he had been doing before Aeryn
attacked him.  

Somewhere nearby, a child was crying.  

“Where’s DJ?” John asked.  “What’s wrong?”  

“Muoma has him,” Aeryn said.  “He was frightened.”

Crichton blinked once in surprise at the thought of the eidelon high priestess assuming guardianship of their
son, even if only for an arn; then he thought it over for an additional microt, and began to relax.  In the three
cycles since Muoma had acquired Yandalao’s knowledge, she had become something more advanced than the
priests of Arnessk ever would have expected or could have predicted.  She had combined the reawakened
abilities of the eidelons with her own deep spirituality, leavened the outcome with the wisdom she had gained
during her cycles as one of her culture’s most respected leaders, and had produced a new level of insightful
compassion that sometimes rendered her eidelon aura unnecessary.  For Muoma, the woman who could bring
the most aggressive scarran to a humbled, apologetic stop with a single word, and had one time silenced the
arrogant bluster coming from a member of Peacekeeper High Command with nothing more than a look, calming
a frightened child was a walk in the park.  

Concern for DJ temporarily put to rest, John turned his thoughts back to why he was kneeling in the middle of
one of Moya’s corridor feeling like he had just been mugged.  He wiped a shaking hand across his face.  It
came away coated with something vile-smelling and viscous.  Shuddering, repulsed by the slick putrid slime
dripping from his chin, he yanked the bottom of his shirt out of his pants and scrubbed compulsively at his face
until it felt clean.  “What’s going on?” he asked when he was finished.  

Aeryn moved closer.  This time she knelt down alongside him, close enough that her knee was touching one of
his.  Her hands conducted a fast inventory of his head, shoulders, and arms, then returned to his neck and
began a more thorough inspection.  Only then, when she had confirmed that he was basically intact, did she
answer his question.  She started with an almost imperceptible tilt of her head, indicating something behind her,
and said, “You tell me.”

John looked past her, toward the spot where he had been standing before Aeryn threw him down the
passageway.  Four motras away, Scorpius lay in the middle of the corridor, ominously still.  The only movement
was the slow crawl and drip of the half-breed’s whitish blood, and the wet, gradual migration of something even
more sickening creeping out from beneath his head.  

As John continued to stare at Scorpius’ body, a number of Moya’s current compliment of passengers rounded
the corner at the far end of the tier.  The group slowed, jostling and banging into each other for several
moments.  After a brief pause, they moved forward again, this time more slowly.  Four eidelons, two luxans,
half a dozen Peacekeepers, and a single scarran:  a small portion of the delegation that was currently traveling
aboard Moya -- one of the few ships in this sector of space with no allegiance to any of the parties involved --
on their way to the periodic negotiations that were an integral part of the fragile, three-cycle old peace
agreement. Scorpius, as arbiter, played a critical role in maintaining the accords.   

“I did that?” John asked.  On one level, the question didn’t need asking.  He wore the proof that he was the one
who had beaten Scorpius to a pulp.  He was liberally adorned in spattered blood, dripping viscera, and several
other oozing fluids, the source of which he did not want to consider.  But another portion of his mind needed the
confirmation, as though he could not acknowledge that he was capable of this level of savagery unless Aeryn
confirmed it.  “Aeryn?” he prodded when she didn’t answer.  

She was concentrating on her inspection.  While he waited, her fingers worked from one side of his left hand to
the other, gently probing each knuckle and finger bone before moving on to the next.  Bone grated against
bone, a sharp metallic jolt that radiated up his forearm.  “That's broken,” she said.

“I can tell,” he said.  “Answer me.”

Aeryn finished checking his hand, moved up his forearm as far as his elbow, and switched to his other hand
before answering.  “Yes, you did that.”

“Me and what army?” John said.  “I can't beat Scorpius in a fair fight.”  

“There’s no such thing as a fair fight,” she said.  “Not where Scorpius is involved.”

“You know what I mean.”  

Aeryn sat back on her heels, stared at him for several microts, and then looked over her shoulder again,
toward the group still gathered in the center of the corridor.  John followed the direction of her gaze.  It took
several moments of searching and more than one glance back at Aeryn before he spotted the object that was
holding her attention.  

It had taken him close to half a cycle to find the right kind of wood to make it.  It had not mattered to him that
there was no ruling authority to check it for weight and density; he had wanted it to be as close to what they had
on Earth as humanly possible.  He had known ahead of time that he would make mistakes, so he had hauled
half a transport pod worth of lumber back to Moya.  It had taken a full half-cycle to fabricate a lathe to turn it,
and another to transform log after log into a pile of shavings until he was satisfied with the results.  He had
finished polishing it just that morning -- a cycle’s worth of work finally ready to teach DJ about a uniquely
American past time.

John had trouble getting air into his lungs.  It took several tries before he could speak, and even then it was a
close-run contest between producing words and vomiting. “I was going to give it to DJ.”  

Aeryn rested a hand on his shoulder and began to rub the back of his neck.  The firm rhythmic pressure
seemed to be as much to steady herself as it was to relax him.  “You didn’t.  You hit Scorpius with it.”  

A memory crawled out of whatever dark, psychic lair it had chosen to hide in.  He remembered winding up,
stepping into the swing as though trying for a home run, the impact when he connected.  No portion of the
sensation had resembled connecting with a fast ball.  It had been closer to the time he and some of his friends
had tried hitting lines drives with half-grown, undersized watermelons.  Initial resilience, the outer skin giving
way to bludgeoning force, the sloppy follow through spraying innards over the entire group of laughing, running
teens.  They had gone swimming afterwards, cleansing themselves of the sticky juice-and-seed entrails.

There was no place to go swimming aboard Moya.

He wanted to say something about how after today he would never be able to teach DJ about baseball and
couldn’t find the right words.  He could not move beyond the paralyzing thought that DJ had watched the entire
beating from the first preemptive strike to the final blow.  It was no surprise that his son had been howling in
fear.    

“John.”  

Compassionate pressure from her hands forced his head away from the group gathered around the
motionless, battered and spattered body.  Crichton’s eyes lingered even after his head was turned; horrified
fascination kept his gaze trapped on that vision of inhumanity for as long as he was able to keep it in view.  

“John.”  

This time he looked at Aeryn.  “Why the hell didn’t I just shoot him?  It would have been quicker and easier.”  
Winona was right where she belonged, securely clipped into the holster on his thigh.

The comment drew a humorless smile from Aeryn.  “I don’t believe this had anything to do with trying to kill
him.”  She paused, then added, “Do you?”

“I -- I don’t know.”  The group around Scorpius had begun to break up.  Crichton tried to look in their direction.  
Firm fingers against his jaw kept his head turned in Aeryn’s direction.  “Is he dead?” he asked.

Aeryn’s nonchalant shrug seemed to suggest that she didn’t care about the answer to that question.  “That
doesn’t matter right now.  We have to talk about something more important.  John, you’re going to have to
explain why you did this.  Do you understand?  The eidelons, they think you’re --”

He missed the last word.  “Say it again.  I’m what?”

“Krijsho’ol, John.  They’re saying you’re krijsho’ol.”

The word refused to translate.  Even after three tries, his microbes weren’t providing an English equivalent.  It
didn’t matter, though.  He had heard the term before, cycles ago, in the most horrific surroundings imaginable.  
He had learned the word from a half-crazed, disarmed pilot that had survived too many cycles aboard a rotting,
dying leviathan.  

“Criminally insane.”  The syllables emerged in a distorted parody of speech, produced by lips and a tongue that
had gone numb from shock.  “They think I’m nuts.”

Aeryn scrunched down lower so she could face him eye to eye.  She lowered her voice to a sibilant gust of air,
quieter than a whisper.  “They say they won’t intercede on our behalf unless you convince them you had a
good reason for doing this.  They won’t protect us, John.  They won’t interfere if either side decides you should
be imprisoned.”  

He watched the subtle play of muscles in her face, interpreting each miniscule shift, adding layer upon layer of
meaning to the simple statement.  

Too many people living at this end of the universe knew the name John Crichton.  Too many power-hungry
governments still believed that he held the secret to ultimate power.  If the scarrans or the Peacekeepers
decided that today’s demonstration of psychotic brutality was sufficient excuse to take him into custody --
effectively putting him at the questionable mercy of those two twisted regimes or any other remorseless
autocrat with both a taste for power and the wealth to purchase John Crichton from his captors -- then he and
his family would be forced to pack up all their possessions and run.  The likelihood that they would ever find
another place where they could raise their children in safety was slim.  Perpetually hounded, living on nothing
but nerves and bad luck, jumping from one disaster to the next, always wary, always wondering where the next
attack would come from:  He couldn’t do that to his family.  

A suspicion he had been harboring for several dozen solar days suddenly seemed of critical importance.  He
needed to ask a question, needed to hear the answer even if it had little bearing on his decision how to handle
the next several arns.  “You’re pregnant again … aren’t you?” he whispered.  

Aeryn’s fingers were conducting a systematic search pattern from his forehead to his chin, continuing her slow,
methodical check for injuries.  A thumb stopped next to his right eye.  It prodded, a cross between a caress and
a cautious touch with more intent behind it.  There was the hot ache of bruised flesh, underlain by a needle-
sharp spike that radiated outward from wherever her thumb was probing at the moment, signaling that there
was a deeper, more serious injury.  Scorpius had gotten in more than one or two blows.  

“Aeryn, are you pregnant?” he asked again when the silence had stretched out for too long.  

The dark hair swung and bounced briefly.  A nod.  “Yes,” she said.  

He did not bother asking if she had released the stasis.  It did not matter.  He held three lives in his hands now,
not two.  Three lives, not counting his own, had been forfeited the moment he wound up for his first home-run
blow to the side of Scorpius’ head.  The weight of that additional life, as well as Aeryn’s, since she would be
more vulnerable during her brief pregnancy, settled onto his shoulders.  He could just barely envision being on
the run with Aeryn at his side and DJ in tow.  The three of them might be able to make it on their own if they
were forced to leave Moya.  They might be able to find a secluded corner of the galaxy, hide, lay low until the
name John Crichton no longer meant anything to anyone who mattered, and live out their lives in wary,
permanently vigilant peace.  The addition of an infant to their family would change everything.  

The words didn’t exist to tell Aeryn how badly he had just screwed up their lives.  The best he could do was a
whispered, “I’m sorry.”

Aeryn’s response was calm, carrying no anger or blame, and left no room for argument.  “Don’t be.  I
understand why this happened.  But you’re the only one who can fix it.”

Crichton pried his eyes away from the blue-gray ones that were watching him so intently, and focused instead
on the spot four motras down the corridor.  The body encased in black leather was gone, as was the small
crowd surrounding it.  Four eidelons remained:  serene, patient, their thoughts hidden behind impassive stares,
bodies almost unnaturally still, waiting for some kind of explanation.

Aeryn said, “I can explain it to them, but it won’t be enough.  They are going to want to hear it from you.  Can
you do it?  Can you explain to them why you did this?”  

The easy, overly-simplistic answer was that he had done it for his son.  He had been searching for DJ in an
absent-minded fashion, allowing his route through Moya’s corridors to wander as badly as his thoughts,
thinking about baseball, about teaching DJ how to throw and catch, about Earth and home and his father and
everything that made childhood safe and fun.  He had strolled around the corner without a care in the universe
to discover Scorpius down on one knee, smiling in his feral, cadaverous way, talking to the boy and about to
hand him a shiny object.  That was the last thing John remembered clearly.  There had been a click inside his
head, a furnace-like heat had sprung to life in the center of his chest, and the next thing he knew Aeryn was
tossing him halfway across the tier.  

“DJ,” he said.  “Scorpius was talking to DJ.”  Even as he said it, he knew he was explaining the trigger, not the
underlying cause.  

Aeryn put the problem into words for him.  “That won’t be enough.  They won’t understand.”  

He didn’t need to look at Aeryn in order to know what he would find in her eyes.  She knew all too well the sorts
of things he would have to tell the eidelons in order to safeguard his family, and she knew what it would cost
him.  He would have to go all the way back to the beginning.  He would need to find the words to explain
everything he had been through during his first five cycles in the Uncharted Territories, and how each event
had been heaped one on top of another until enough had gone wrong to transform him from mislaid astronaut
into terrorist and homicidal psychopath.   

Bewilderment, loss, and confusion; heartache, heartbreak, and the ultimate Aurora Chair headache.  Death,
hunger, and cycles worth of despair; torture, fear, and anguish; starvation, humiliation, and the worst possible
kinds of degradation.  Every last detail would have to be laid out for the eidelons to examine.  He would have to
strip himself of his emotional armor, bare each and every psychological scar, stand naked before them, and
willingly show them every horrific event he had encountered since the moment he first laid eyes on a leviathan
called Moya.  He would have to put into words how many times he had failed his friends and family, how he had
discarded all the values he had been raised to believe in, and had, in the end, resorted to a threat a million
times more horrific than nuclear terrorism in the vain hope that it would broker peace.  

And worst of all, he would have to make them understand how Scorpius had been intertwined into each and
every one of those events.  

“I --”  

He wanted to say that he couldn’t do it.  John dropped his gaze to his hands for several microts.  When he
looked up, Aeryn was still waiting -- patient, confident in her love for him, aware of the price he would have to
pay in return for their continued safety.  She would go with him without a single complaint if he said he couldn’t
do it.  Aeryn would pack up all their possessions, say goodbye to Pilot and Moya, and strike out into the
unknown stretches of the galaxy with him if that was what he said he had to do.  

“I’ll talk to them,” he said.

“Let’s take care of you first.”  She nodded toward his broken hand, the least of his injuries.  

John flexed his fingers several times before closing his fist tightly.  He waited, assessing the level of discomfort,
then squeezed harder.  The pain flooded up his arm all the way to his shoulder; it cramped the muscles in the
back of his neck, knotted his stomach, and flooded his mouth with the taste of burnt sand.  It was good.  The
pain would help.  It would distract him, give him something to concentrate on when a different kind of agony
urged him to cut his story short and leave the room.  He shook his head.  “After.”  

Aeryn didn’t argue with him.  All she asked was, “Do you want me to come with you?”

That decision took longer.  He wanted her there with an intensity that would, if he relaxed his control for too
long, summon tears.  Having Aeryn there, even if only to stand silently in a corner, would lend him strength and
keep him focused on why he had to explain the unexplainable.  But at the same time, he did not want her to
listen to some of the confessions he would have to make over the next several arns.  “Yes … and no,” he said.  

Aeryn answered that demonstration of indecision with a kiss.  It was gentle and yet demanding, full of the
promise of the time they would spend together in the cycles that lay ahead and an affirmation of what they had
endured in the past.  It told him more about how much she loved him than words could ever express.  “Which
would be better?” she asked.

“I think … no.  I don’t want …”  He trailed off, searching for the right combination of words to explain why he did
not want her there, and afraid she would be hurt because he had said no.  

Aeryn smiled at him and confirmed what he had always suspected:  that under certain circumstances, she had
the ability to read his mind.  She struck directly at the heart of what he was having trouble expressing, leaving
no room for uncertainty.  “You aren’t weak,” she said.  “No matter what you have to tell them in order to make
them understand, remember this one thing:  Nothing you say could ever convince me that you are weak.”  

Aeryn rose to her feet in one of her deceptively graceful movements.  She paused beside him long enough to
bestow a gentle caress on the top of his head, and then turned to leave.  “Comm me when you’re done.  I’ll be
waiting.”  

Aeryn would be waiting.  No matter what he did, no matter how lunatic or stupid or mindless he behaved, Aeryn
would always be waiting for him -- Aeryn and DJ and a second child yet to come.  It was enough.  That single
thought would give him the strength he would require over the next several arns.  

Crichton struggled to his feet, feeling the hot cramping evidence all over his body that said Scorpius had not
gone down without a fight -- that the battle had not been as one-sided as the outcome had made it appear --
and began his slow journey toward where the eidelons were waiting.     


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