DISCLAIMER: Farscape is the genius of O'Bannon, Kemper, Henson & etc.
SUMMARY: She thinks she can save him. Foolish girl.
SPOILERS: PKTG, TOBM, N/THM, mild ITLD
NOTES: It's just a piece of season-one revisionist history, kids. Or is it?
Timeline: Moves forward through N/THM, and backward through TOBM, toward PKTG.
I'm largely indebted to Max for her skillful use of the machete, and to Sarah for the brain picking, not to mention the Basement of Enlightenment.
"There's no greater evil than the darkness in your heart." -Natalie Merchant
Something pricks at the back of her neck: a voice, a whisper of air, something. And it causes her to look up. Not from a table in the bar, as she'll tell him later. As a tech, and as a female outnumbered five to one, the bar is not her idea of relaxation. No, she looks up from a dedicated console at the back of the docking bay, where she idly reconfigures the sortie formation codes in her off hours. She never saves her work, of course, but it amuses her to know she could get away with it.
She could run the whole base from her personal data panel, and it would probably take days for them to realize. The knowledge isn't that comforting, but she has to prove it to herself nevertheless. She'll take what comfort she can get.
But there's that voice, that shiver running up her neck, and she looks up, and it's John Crichton. It aches to see him again, and she indulges the thought, just briefly, that he came here looking for her. John, dressed as a Peacekeeper captain, with a ridiculous accent. She has no time to ponder the contextual anomalies the situation presents; has no time to stare at him after so long without. Has no time at all.
Gilina has no time, because she's going to save him, and he's going to need her saving. She can tell already. Was he always this obtuse? Does he really think he could come barreling into a Gammak base with a high-clearance ident chit, and not be subject to a genetic scan?
Jarvio spirits him away to the bar, and Gilina rolls her eyes, folds her panel, and steals after them. That Nebari was not with him the last time, and it wouldn't do at all if Gilina were wrong. She no longer trusts the feelings of absolute certainty that come over her; she's learned that nothing is absolute. She needs to get close enough to confirm his identity without being seen, and the darkness of the bar affords the perfect opportunity.
Bixx and Yurro call her over to their table, try to out-charm each other for her attention. The tables the techs frequent are wedged in the back of the bar where it's cold and dark and the commandos don't have to look at them. But Gilina has to hack the system before John gets to the security checkpoint, and there is no time to court advances she has no intention of following through on. After exchanging a few desultory words with the boys, she passes within five metras of John on her way to the exit. He's talking with the Nebari, and Gilina keeps her head down, but she's close enough to see the smile lines in his face, the color of his eyes. Definitely, definitely him. His face is difficult to forget. She should know. She slips away before he looks in her direction.
There are nights when Gilina thinks about him, certainly. Days when she wonders what it would have been like to stay. Brief moments when life as a Peacekeeper isn't enough.
But mostly she's tried not to think about him. He is linked in her memory with things she would rather forget. Of course, in the moment she saw him again, the reasons she wanted to forget escaped her. She thinks that maybe it's all right, after all.
The security encryption takes less than a hundred microts to break through, and covering her tracks is easier than that. Gilina feels no remorse for saving him this way, or indeed at all. Imperceptible manipulation is the only way she has saved herself. And she is the keeper of secrets everyone has forgotten but her. Secrets only dead people know.
Gilina still looked behind her every time she turned a corner. There had only been twenty arns between the night Teeg spent in Gilina's quarters and the day she died in that training accident. But in those twenty arns, Gilina was almost certain Teeg had been following her.
Probably a coincidence. Still, three weekens hadn't changed Gilina's new habit of looking over her shoulder, or the strange feeling that she was still being watched, even here on the crew transport bound for a Gammak Base. Away from the eyes of Crais, away from everyone save a few techs who wouldn't recognize physical or mental trauma if it came with an instruction manual. It seemed foolish, when no one would have cared even if she had told. But to Teeg, it had been a matter of pride, and pride was something Gilina thought she might understand one day.
Gilina's ribs were not healed. She hacked the med files yesterday and discovered that they should have healed long ago, according to standard medical procedure. It was easier to hack the files than to ask a medtech. And Gilina had found that there was almost nothing you couldn't do when you were always looking over your shoulder.
She wondered sometimes if the simpering Lieutenant Braca, Teeg's replacement, understood pride.
And when she'd catch herself thinking these things, she wondered when she'd developed such a superior attitude toward the command corps, and toward the drones dressed in sleek black leather, gleaming helmets hiding eyes, hiding brains. A commando was a walking, breathing weapon, and almost everyone in power had been one prior to their promotion.
Most techs trembled. Bixx, Heldrath, Yurro, all the others. Gilina remembered trembling at them herself. But she'd survived far worse.
She had a greater responsibility to herself now. A clearer view toward pride, toward power. These things in themselves ensured survival, did they not?
John is weary and untrusting. Different. At least she can see it in him. She's different too, and he seems not to notice.
Out of curiosity, a quarter-cycle back she looked up Aeryn Sun's personnel file; cracked the security seal on it. Highly enlightening. Gilina almost felt bad for calling her a traitor. Pieces of the mystery click and slide into place.
John asks her what she's doing here, and she doesn't tell him about the Aurora Chair. She wants to. She's seen what it does to people, seen them drag the slave away like a broken thing, seen him beg for it. She's seen others taken away, boneless, brainless, an empty glaze in their eyes and not much else. A mind-frell, a violation of the inviolable. Some of the soldiers - even some of the techs - get a thrill from watching it. She wants to tell John to avoid capture at all costs, but that would mean admitting that she's only been here a few monens, and already mastered the technology. He would understand the implications behind her mastery. It would mean laying her wounds open before him, and she likes her secrets just the way they are.
She thinks, foolish girl, that she can save him, where she could not save herself.
Gilina wonders if she can warn him about Scorpius without giving everything away, and decides she can't. Decides the only thing to do is to get him out of here as quickly as possible. And even though she knew it was a lost cause from the moment he mentioned Aeryn Sun's name, she surprises herself by wanting him. So badly. She'd thought the capacity to want was beyond her now.
When he rejects her, it doesn't hurt like it should.
They always seem to be saying goodbye. And Gilina thinks it's probably best that way.
The door buzzed, indicating someone was outside. Gilina didn't think she could get up to answer it. She was practically immobile. Every bone, every joint, every muscle hurt. Her skin hurt. Her head hurt.
Whoever was outside had emergency overrides, because Gilina heard the buttons clicking that unlocked her door, the swipe of the ident chit, the beep that allowed the person entrance. She could barely raise her head to see who stood in the open doorway, but after some effort, she managed.
Lt. Teeg was haloed in the dim light from the corridor. She stepped inside and the doors slid shut behind her. Teeg turned on the lights to their lowest setting. Gilina groaned, her head falling back to the bed.
"What are you doing here?" she rasped, careful not to breathe too deeply.
Gilina's eyes were closed, but she imagined Teeg's face was impassive as ever.
"I brought you some food," Teeg answered, her cadence stiff and formal.
Gilina frowned, gritting her teeth as she rolled on her side. Her ribs shrieked in protest. "Why would you do that?" she grunted, looking up at Teeg in pain and confusion.
Teeg's jaw twitched, and she set the tray of rations on the table. "It wouldn't do to let you waste away, not when you've been given transfer orders. You haven't fully recovered from the Zelbinion," she pointed out.
"No. No, I suppose I haven't," murmured Gilina, and her eyes slipped closed again. The Sheyang had gone away, but it had taken the command carrier a weeken to reach the Zelbinion's wreckage. John had left her no food. It was safest that way. Combined with her starvation diet of the previous weeken, she was at less-than-optimal weight, and had poor concentration.
The room was very quiet for several more microts than Gilina was comfortable with. Teeg wasn't leaving, but there was no possible reason for her to stay.
"I also brought some salve for your wounds," Teeg said, abruptly, unexpectedly.
Gilina frowned again, struggled to pull herself up on an elbow. She tried to ignore the screaming pain in her chest and examined Teeg closely. "You're not a medtech," she said caustically, the breath pushed out at great cost.
"The medtechs can't know about this," Teeg said urgently, one brow arching.
"Why?" Gilina groaned. Her abdominal muscles were close to giving out, and she lowered herself carefully to the bed. "This sort of thing probably happens all the time," she added on a gasp.
"You dare say that about the Captain? You know if it wasn't for his brother--"
"His brother should not have been under his command in the first place," Gilina groused. There was no reason for caution, when even death would be preferable to this. "It was stupid and self-indulgent."
Her eyes were closed, but it wasn't really a surprise when Teeg cuffed her across the face. Gilina did little more than flinch. Most of her body still hurt worse than Teeg's blow.
"That hurt," she said mildly, after a few tense microts.
What the frell was Crais' second doing hounding a lowly tech, anyway?
When Gilina's eyes slid open again, she saw Teeg looking at her with a strange mix of hatred and curiosity. It was the most expression she'd ever seen on the lieutenant.
Gilina's breath caught in her throat when Teeg approached her, reached out for Gilina's uniform and began unfastening it, carefully, slowly. "You won't be able to apply the salve yourself," she explained, her face again impassive. "And the medtechs can't know about any this." Teeg's lips pursed, and she added, "I should probably wrap your ribs while I'm here."
Teeg made her sit up to peel out of her jumpsuit; every muscle groaned, and pain spiked through her chest. Why would Teeg do this? If Crais wanted to abuse his techs, who was going to stop him? Certainly not the medical unit.
When Gilina was stripped down, she lay back again and Teeg surveyed the bruises splashed across the exposed skin. She ran her fingers along a bruise just under Gilina's right breast, and Gilina gasped in pain. The remembrance of that bruise was a white-hot flash in her mind. Certain moments stood out vividly in her memory, though most were starting to blur.
Teeg stroked Gilina's skin, fitting her fingers to some of the more obvious bruises, and she was not gentle. Gilina's throat threatened to close as each agitated bruise ignited a memory, then added an extra layer of pain. It was no secret that Lt. Teeg adored the Captain. It was also no secret that Crais had been frelling that Leviathan tech, the unfortunately-named Lt. Larell.
Maybe - she amended, gasping sharply at the pressure - Teeg was his latest cast-off in favor of someone who could further his obsession. It would explain why Teeg was here, with her hands in all the places Crais' had been. This touch by proxy.
"I'm going to vomit," Gilina said. Teeg ignored her, took the salve off the tray, and when she opened it, a sharp odor filled the room. Kantev balm, most likely - a rapid healer, but quite expensive and very rare. Teeg obviously wanted to keep this incident as quiet as possible. A strange jealousy indeed. Cast aside for not one, but two techs - how would a soldier feel about that?
Teeg used a surprisingly light touch with the salve, and almost instantly, the pain lessened, warded off by soothing heat. Teeg made Gilina sit up to wrap her ribs next, and then drew a hypo of some clear liquid from her pocket. "This should help heal the bone. If I've done it right," Teeg commented indifferently. She pressed the needle to Gilina's arm and injected the liquid. It did not feel right at all. None of it did.
Gilina sat very still, trying to forget everything, willing the vivid parts of her memory to blur along with the rest. She would readily forget absolutely everything, even John, if it meant she didn't have to remember the last solar day.
It was the more ironic, then, that when she arrived at her new assignment, Gilina found the Aurora Chair waiting for her.
"I can fake a work order, and the medtechs don't ask questions."
No, in fact, they don't. Teeg was paranoid, and a fool.
The tissue is synthesized in no time. She sends John on his way with a slight pang, and her mouth is open to warn him of Scorpius. But the secrets are still hers to keep, the power still hers to hold. It feels good, to have a little bit of power. A little bit of knowledge.
And when he's captured, she feels a stab of panic, but she doesn't bother to blame herself. After all, she's just a tech, right?
Chiana seems to think that Gilina will not help them escape unless John is in love with her. Which is ridiculous, considering what Chiana must know about Peacekeepers. It would be nice if John loved her, that's certain, but Gilina doesn't do things to gain love. If that were all she was after, she'd have stayed with John in the first place.
Huddled in the Base mainframe, she helps John because she has a debt to repay. And because she's starting to realize that she has the capacity to love him even if he does not return the sentiment. Above all, she helps him because this power is what she's been waiting for. The moment she never thought would arise.
Gilina finds she enjoys playing the hero. Getting Chiana off the base so that Aeryn Sun may live. Peacekeepers are taught to view traitors as the enemy, but Gilina has a feeling that she and Aeryn have more in common than one might immediately assume. Gilina knows she's better at this than Aeryn Sun is, and that makes all the difference.
A sense of calm settles over her as she programs the blind into the base's coordinate system. Chiana worries if it will work, but Gilina knows the Nebari won't get blown out of the sky. Not in the sense that she can be at all certain, but in the pit of her stomach, she just knows.
With Chiana gone, Gilina needs to buy John some time, but there's no way to do it without exposing herself. She wonders how long he can keep her identity from them. If his mind will go to pieces first. They already must suspect, after the claxon. After the rigged genetic scan. After...
It would be such a shame to reveal herself when John's gone to such trouble to protect her.
And then, miraculously, Captain Crais arrives, and Gilina knows exactly how she can fix everything.
The bones of her hands and fingers stood out against her skin, the fat eaten away by too long without food. The first meal she'd eaten after her rescue had burned on the way back up and been flushed down the waste disposal. The medtechs finally got hold of her and scolded anyone in sight for letting her eat so much. They said she had to reaccustom her body to food.
They would know, after all. They were the ones who had to deal with prisoners after rounds of starvation torture.
Gilina was almost back to normal, but her knuckles still stood out uncomfortably from her fingers, and her joints grated in an odd manner.
She was in one of the tech labs when a messenger came for her. He looked stoic and nervous all at once. "Renaez. The Captain requests your presence in his quarters."
Demanded her presence, rather. Gilina nodded. She had expected this. It was one of the reasons she'd resisted sending the distress signal before John had found her. She disliked calling attention to herself, and being the sole survivor of a Sheyang attack was one sure way to garner unwanted attention.
Gilina paused outside of Crais' - the Captain's, she amended - quarters. She pushed her shoulders back, straightened her spine, kept her chin up. She thought about Officer Sun's authoritative air, even in disgrace. Then Gilina remembered that Aeryn Sun had been declared irreversibly contaminated, for all of that authority. Irreversibly, for John.
Gilina could still taste John in her mouth.
By sheer force of will, she kept her spine straight, and buzzed the Captain's door. At his summons, she stepped inside, keeping her eyes forward as the commandos did.
"Tech Gilina Renaez reporting as requested, sir."
She stifled a dangerous smile - but didn't she sound like such a perfect Peacekeeper? Her thoughts were still a little jumbled from the lack of food. She needed to keep a tighter hold on her control.
"Tech Renaez," the Captain said, walking towards her. She noted that his fists were clenching and unclenching as he moved. He examined her for some time without speaking, circling her in a vaguely predatory way. She caught him in her peripheral vision and wondered if commandos simply got used to seeing only the borders of things.
Crais smiled, and it frightened her. "I wish to speak to you about what happened on the Zelbinion."
"Now that you're more or less recovered."
"Yes, sir." Crais was behind her now, and that made her nervous. What did he see, looking at her?
"After all," he drawled, "coming across the wreckage of the Zelbinion was quite a significant achievement. And yet, rather than oversee this discovery myself, I dispatched a regiment and continued to search for my brother's murderer."
He came full circle, still smiling, and Gilina faltered, glanced up at him. "Sir?" He hadn't asked her any questions yet, and a knot of fear in her belly told her he wasn't going to.
His gloved hand streaked through her vision, but did not connect with her face, as she expected. His hand landed in the middle of her chest, and she stumbled backward. He advanced on her again, pushing her backward with a motion similar to a pantak jab, though aimed lower. She didn't dare run. On the third push, her head connected with something solid and she was caught against the wall.
"I have no way of knowing how far I was set back by the unfortunate distress signal we received. And when we arrived, we found all dead, save one tech. One. Tech." Crais was sneering, and the knot of fear was now in Gilina's throat.
His hand held her to the wall, fingers pressed into the soft flesh below her ribcage. The tension on her muscles built slowly and steadily, and her breath started to come in uneven gasps. The clearly-implied threat made it impossible to move. "S-sir, the Sheyangs..."
He didn't let her get any farther. His other hand did connect with her face this time, and it occurred to her that he wasn't really thinking of her at all, save to begrudge her life.
This wasn't an interrogation. Oh, no.
John's taste was still in her mouth, mingled with the tang of nausea, and she hoped, hoped that Crais wouldn't realize it. If he knew, if he found out, she would be dead. Worse than dead. Crais' eyes were distant, and she thought she knew what he was seeing.
His fingers closed around her throat. Gilina choked on his grip, and she felt a jarring mix of hot tears and cold fear wash over her. Please, she mouthed, grasping his wrists, but no sound came from her throat. And Crais, the whole time, muttered unintelligibly. His brother, John, contamination; half-formed sentences glancing off her half-starved mind.
Her vision started to grow dim, slowly blackening at the edges. The fear was an ever-dulling roar in her ears.
Unexpectedly, his fingers released her neck, leaving her gasping for oxygen, one palm pressed tight to the wall and the other hand at her throat. Crais was looking through her, not at her. "But you have no idea of the pressure I'm under. No, of course not."
Crais reached out, not to strike her, but to stroke her hair, and Gilina tried to shrink into the wall, because this was worse. "That's the thing about techs, they never have any idea what's going on in the ranks. It keeps you loyal, doesn't it?" Gilina choked back a frantic laugh. He really had gone out of his mind. Although, to be honest, she had yet to serve under a commanding officer who knew what went on in the tech corps.
"You see, Tech, I will...explain it to you. I must keep this organization clean. I must remove the insubordinate from the ranks. I must recapture the escaped prisoners." His hands started to wander, not just over her hair and her throat, but over her hips, stomach, breasts. His thumb brushed her nipple, and it sent a shock through her body - and a sick realization settled in her stomach. Here she'd thought this was just another round of Punish the Tech.
"I must bring my brother, a fine Peacekeeper pilot, the justice he deserves." His voice dropped, his hand wound in her hair. She flinched when he yanked her head to the side, putting his lips to her ear. "Do you see...?"
His mouth covered hers, and she went stiff, tense, tried to push at him but his hands slid down her arms and held her wrists like a vise, so tight she thought it might crush the bone. His mouth. Covered hers. He was slithery, and tasted like regrets and bloodshed.
His hands were rough across her still-bony body. He slammed her head into the wall, but not so that it caused much pain. It was another warning, a statement that it would hurt too much to try to push away. It wasn't as if she could possibly beat a Captain in his own quarters anyway.
Gilina lost herself in pain, in every little jolt to her nerve endings, because it made things so much less complicated. Pain, she was used to. Pain, from training exercises as a child, before she'd been siphoned into the tech corps. Too small as a child, but not, it appeared, now. Pain, from hunching over too many consoles for far too long, squinting at mechanisms no larger than her fingertip. Pain. She was used to it. But there was power in pain, in enduring it at least, and this. This was no power. This was the antithesis of power, waiting, anticipating. This was degradation, his hand down her trousers, and a leering, ruthless gleam in his eye. This was about power on his part, and small wonder if he was cracking as much as it appeared.
Pain only got her so far, when she was powerless.
Crais had his trousers undone and her jumpsuit open down the front, peeled back at the shoulder with her tank rucked up near her neck, when his door buzzed. Without waiting, Lt. Teeg marched in. Teeg stopped, frozen and blank, and he went rigid, quickly turning and tucking himself back into place.
Gilina still clung to the wall, not quite sure if this was going to help or hurt her situation. One hand crept up to pull down her top. There was a moment of tense silence.
"Lieutenant," the Captain said, his voice short, clipped.
Gilina thought she saw Teeg's brow raised in a ghostly question, but the lieutenant's voice never faltered.
"I've just received transfer orders for a handful of our techs, including Tech Renaez. I brought them for your signature."
For just one moment, Crais glanced in Gilina's direction, and she saw a glint of surprise in his eyes. He looked like he didn't recognize her at all, and wondered what she was doing half-undressed in his quarters.
"Yes," he said to Teeg, recovering quickly, "let me see them." Teeg handed him a small data panel, and he read perfunctorily. Gilina thought it unlikely he recognized the names. Her head spun.
"They're some of our best techs, sir," Teeg said, her voice still bland. She didn't even glance at Gilina when she spoke. "High Command has need of them on a Gammak project here in the Uncharted Territories." Teeg hesitated, and her eyes flicked toward Gilina then. "There are some other transmissions we'll need to discuss...later."
Crais nodded, once. "See to it, Lieutenant."
His voice seemed to dismiss them all at once, and Gilina's knees gave out. The room was nothing but turbulence, but vertigo, and she slid unceremoniously to the floor, relief rushing through her veins, moisture collecting at the corners of her eyes.
Gilina heard bootsteps on the polished floor, and the toes of the Captain's shoes entered her limited field of vision. "You're dismissed, Tech Renaez," he commanded.
Unfortunately, Gilina didn't think she could move.
"Get up! Leave my quarters!" Crais barked, and delivered a punishing kick to her midsection, landing just below her breast. Her ribs shifted, and she felt a wet crack reverb through her body.
She grunted, and Lt. Teeg grasped her arm tightly, hauling her to a standing position and admonishing, "At service, Tech Renaez."
Gilina almost bit through her tongue to keep from mewling. She didn't have the breath to cry out.
She swayed and her eyes started to roll back in her head. Before she knew what was happening, Teeg had dragged her outside the Captain's quarters, where she struggled for breath. Teeg marched her back to her quarters ungently, but Gilina supposed it was the best she could have hoped for, under the circumstances.
In her quarters, she collapsed on the bed, grateful for her solitary room. Her lungs made a moist sound when she breathed. The dull ache at her neck was matched by the ache between her legs. Shallow breaths, shallow thoughts, deep wounds.
And she could no longer taste John in her mouth, only the coppery flavors of blood and fear.
Making a memory is strange business.
The story of the Captain's ignominious origins are not a secret to anyone with even low-level hacking skills. Which, naturally, excludes the majority of the command corps. But what to do with that information, to make a memory - Gilina doubts that a handful of techs in a thousand could do it.
And she can do it.
A few images, hung on a blonde displacement and crosswired to bypass her presence in John's mind. To shoot off into new and fanciful territory. Making a memory is an art, and Gilina allows herself mild surprise that it turns out so well.
This will fool Scorpius. She must believe it. Even a shard of doubt in his mind will do, will compel him to follow her unlikely line of questioning. She has no time for what-if.
There will be time for what-if later; there will be time for maybe. Maybe there'll even be time for goodbye. She knows that when they've muddled through this, when John is gone, that her body will be choked for the want of him. For having him so close. Will yearn for for his taste. For the simple gleam in his eyes.
But the gleam is absent now, is more a dangerous glint, and so. And so she tells herself there will be time.
She has to breathe deeply on her way to the Aurora Chair to make the switch. It's a quick operation, but she needs a window of opportunity.
She can hardly believe her luck at finding Bixx in just the compartment she needs. She wriggles in next to him, and sweet, dumb boy that he is, he hands off the task without question. It's a pity she can barely feel anything anymore. She remembers that once, they were friends.
"You're better at this than I am," he says.
And she feels an unnecessary twinge of pride at that. It's true. She does not say it, but this would also be true: "I'm better at this than Scorpius."
Because she's manufactured a memory. One that will fool even the half-Scarran specter, the anomaly. The scientist who causes even commandos to flinch away in disgust and fear. Gilina can master both, if she can only rally the bravery to make the switch without faltering.
A manufactured memory. Gilina's always been a quick study.
This small memory will give her time to plan for John. Will land Crais in the Aurora Chair. I hope you like your mind-frell, Captain. I didn't particularly enjoy mine.
What to do after, how to get John off the Base - well, she'll come up with something. She came up with this, didn't she? She's proven herself, hasn't she?
She levers out from under the Chair, closes her panel. Walks away. She's careful not to draw attention to herself, and she knows the commandos would squash her like a soft thing if they knew what she did, but. But.
There's something new and hard inside; a sense of purpose. A sense of vindication. Gilina has a name for it, now, and maybe she understands Crais more than she realizes. Maybe she's less like John than she thought. Maybe she has more in common with the half-breed scientist, the one with real power.
That name, the hard knot inside, is retribution. And, foolish girl that she is, she thinks it is enough.
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Shaye
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