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Cognitive Dissonance

by cofax

     Subject: (Farscape) Cognitive Dissonance, by cofax (G)
     Date: Thursday, October 24, 2002 1:23 AM

     Title:  Cognitive Dissonance
     Author:  cofax
     Summary: This is what she is: she is Kalish, and she is
     brilliant. She works for the Institute, and she does not
     Spoilers:  Through "Promises"
     Notes:  Thanks to Max & Deneba, for taking Sikozu out for
     Feedback:  makes me do the wacky.  Send it to

Cognitive Dissonance
by cofax
October 2002

This is not who she is.

Sikozu nudges a DRD out of her way before leaving the room; as she stalks out of Command, she hears it buzzing angrily behind her. She ignores it. She will not let these people enrage her. She will not become -- become like them.

Elack was in poor condition, but he was old. This ship is young, and yet full of dark corners, secrets in the way her shipmates whisper to each other, broken systems the Pilot and the tralk won't let her touch.

She is nothing here. They will not allow her to put her skills to use. They look at her and see a naive child -- she knows this. They do not see Sikozu Shanu, who finished the apprenticeship program faster than anyone else at the Institute, who learned six hands of languages before her mastery examination, who was chosen specially for the leviathan program.

They are so -- simple. Foolish, to see only the surface of what she is.

The Hynerian is full of fear and bluster; the Luxan offers a geniality that belies everything she's heard of the species; the Nebari -- well, her desires are easy to comprehend. None of them see Sikozu for the talent she is, for the opportunity she presents, any more than they see the gift that they have received in Scorpius.

The hybrid's brilliance has penetrated even into Scarran territory. Scorpius, locked in a room without access to the resources he needs to free them all.

Sikozu clenches her fists and races once around the diameter of the corridor, letting her loose hair whip around her head as she comes back to the floor. Then she stops, and begins to knot the strands back up while she steps more slowly down the hallway towards the lower tiers.

She will not stay, she will not waste her chances. She will do what must be done to get her life back.

*The day before DorNatha all the students were returned to their home clans for one day. Shanu Sintala looked dull after six cycles at the Institute: the windows small, the vistas short. The aunts fluttered when Sikozu corrected them, but they were so stupid. Her mother wept silently, and her siblings merely stared at her student uniform. She stayed for the mandatory eight arns, speaking in stilted phrases of all she had learned, how marvelous life was at the Institute. Some of it was true, but she had few friends and there were few extra-curricular attractions. It didn't matter: it was still better than here.

The visit produced the intended result; Sikozu stamped the final papers as soon as she boarded the transit car for the return. She watched with satisfaction as Shanu Sintala receded through the window, and the blood dried on the forms. Pilot, Scarran, Sebacean, Nebari, Luxan, Ktheri, Plokavian . . . Sikozu was fluent in six hands of languages, eight more than necessary for the Specialist's license. She was going to make her mark. *

These people are broken, she thinks, crouched in the rafters of the central chamber, watching them fuel their inefficient bodies and jabber babble snap at each other. No two of them speak the same tongue -- misunderstandings must be frequent and fatal. Their decision-making process is flawed, unreasoning. They have no plan, no structure, no foresight. It is a wonder any of them has survived for the three cycles they claim to have evaded custody.

Only Scorpius appears entirely sane, and his mind is a different order altogether. The half-breed speaks both Sebacean and Scarran with a precise fluidity, a subtle clarity that purges both tongues of their brutal ancestry. She imagines his thoughts lock together like a child's set of building toys: all clean lines and sharp edges.

Crichton, however -- it was days before she realized he wasn't just a particularly stupid Sebacean from one of the outer colony worlds -- Crichton is, to use his own words, screwy. His language is an impossible mixture of dialects with no internal consistency, and he changes the rules on her daily. It's maddening. Sikozu is certain his brain matches his language: self-contradictory, unstable, and fundamentally flawed, if containing the occasional spark of brilliance.

It is not until he speaks about wormholes that she understands why Crichton is so special, why Scorpius, otherwise so reasonable, cares so very much about the Human. But Crichton is like a prodigy child, like her cousin Shikalan, who could calculate derivatives at three cycles but never learned to fasten his clothing properly. It's clear to Sikozu that only some parts of Crichton's brain work correctly, and she wonders why his shipmates don't see this.

*Ki-insta grain turns yellow as it ripens: a nearly fluorescent yellow, and the burnished summer sky always threw the color back against the towers and the flags. Everything was red and yellow for Subjugation Day every year.

Sikozu was nine cycles old when she learned what the festival meant, and ten when she accepted the invitation into the Institute's training program. The two were not unrelated.

Subjugation Day was a mandatory holiday: all the factories and workshops were closed, the citizens of each canton gathered together for an hour of speeches followed by dancing and singing -- in Scarran, of course. For children, this was enough to make it a true holiday; and if their parents' voices were less than enthusiastic, their masters did not seem to care.

The year she was nine, Sikozu learned Scarran. The ability came, as it did for Kalish, only as she approached puberty, and all at once. One morning, as she lingered over her ablutions, the news service piped mandatorily into every household suddenly made sense. It was as if an entirely new section of her brain had come to life. And then she understood the news report, and all its implications.

She hid from her parents and family that Subjugation Day, and by the next year she was safe at the Institute, where the holiday was recognized, but hardly celebrated. As could be expected for a group operating under nominal Scarran control, the Institute was ruthless with failure. None of those likely to crack under pressure were advanced to the senior levels, and those who did, and then failed to meet expectations or keep confidences, disappeared mysteriously. Sometimes their families disappeared too, or so rumor said.

Sikozu, of course, did not fail. Ever.*

Crichton snaps something at the old woman and stalks off towards Pilot's den. The others -- Chiana, D'Argo, and the Peacekeeper now acknowledged to be an assassin -- stay at the table in the central chamber, talking softly and examining map fibers with desultory attention. They don't look up when Sikozu slips from the room, careful not to inhale as she moves downwind of the old woman's stewpot.

The neural cluster isn't well-hidden, but Moya has been under enough strain recently that the lights are dimmed on these lower tiers to save her energy. Now it is dark and silent and Sikozu is alone for what may be the first time since she fled the Grudeks. What a miscalculation that was; if she had stayed she could have come to an accommodation with them. Instead she is here, trapped with refugees no one will succor. If she attempts to return home she will be accused of breach of contract: she shudders at the thought of the penalty for that, and rubs the barely-healed seam on her left wrist. Kalish can re-attach body parts, but they cannot regenerate them.

Scorpius is right: the only way to redeem herself is to return with something more valuable than the contract she breached.

What could be more valuable than the location of the leviathan burial ground, she wonders, but she knows the answer. And her eyes track upwards, towards Tier Four, hammand side, where most of the crew have their quarters. Where the Human dreams of wormholes.

Scorpius was right, this is her perfect opportunity. There are no DRDs here now; the Pilot has drawn them off to repair the transport pods and the navigation system. Sikozu draws her knife, casts her mind back to what she has learned of leviathan physiology, and begins to cut.

She is not what they think she is; and she has time.


Many thanks: to Max, for the commentary, and Deneba, for the late night beta.

'Hide the adverbs quickly! Punk comes this way wielding Green Destiny Beta, seeking victims!' -- CazQ

alchemy mouldiwarps and coprophagy:

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to cofax

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