Chapter 6 - Right Place, Wrong Time
The Time Lord knew he would be wasting his breath trying to talk the Human out of accompanying him. Crichton was one of those hero types, much like many of the Doctor's brave, loyal companions and acquaintances that had been willing to risk their lives to save others. His help would probably prove to be invaluable and his presence might just insure a successful win over the bad guys.
"All right, you can come with me if you like, but first, you may want to go grab a jacket or coat," the Doctor told him. "You might find the weather there a bit chilly."
"Just give me two minutes." As he turned away from the Doctor, Crichton was startled to find himself facing Aeryn, who was obviously not pleased with his hasty decision.
"John, may I have a word?"
Crichton looked over his shoulder at the Doctor and said, "Make that five minutes."
"No problem. Take your time. I'll just go ready the TARDIS for departure. I'll wait for you inside."
As the Doctor guided Veyadad and Lastren into the TARDIS, Crichton turned his full attention to Aeryn. He could tell by the scowl on her face that he was in big trouble.
"What the frell do you think you're doing?" she hissed angrily.
"Scarrans! You're actually thinking of running off to face Scarrans?"
"Aeryn, I --"
"You do recall the time a Scarran captured and tortured you to the brink of death trying to get wormhole information?"
"Yes, but --"
"You do know that they would like nothing better than another chance to dissect your brain and --"
"Aeryn, STOP!" Crichton's voice boomed loudly, startling her slightly while successfully cutting off her tirade. Once he saw that he had her attention, he lowered his voice as much as possible to keep their conversation private. "Yes, I know that it's risky and overall a bad idea, but the Doctor should not have to face the Scarrans alone."
"And how do you know that this is not just some sort of elaborate scheme that he, the Scarrans or someone else has come up with to lure you into a trap?"
"Aeryn, the man travels in time. He's already proven that to me."
"And according to that Pathfinder child, he also gets the people who help him, seriously hurt or killed. Zhaan did not sacrifice herself just so you could immediately run off and get yourself abducted by Scarrans or worse."
Crichton respected the fact that the gentle Delvian had given her life so that they all could survive, but that did not mean that he should live his life inside a plastic bubble. "Zhaan..." he started, then paused for a moment, trying to find the right way to express himself. "Zhaan would not expect me to sit here on my butt while the Scarrans kill innocent people and threaten the rest of the universe."
"And what exactly do you think you can do to stop them?"
"I don't know exactly. I just know that the Doctor shouldn't go it alone. It's a gut feeling I have and I can't explain it."
"Are you certain it has nothing to do with him having the ability to take you back to Earth?"
That was a question he wasn't prepared to answer. He glanced around, noting the other crew members had obviously heard and were apparently very interested in his response. Crichton heaved a sigh and turned his attention back to Aeryn.
"Okay, I'll admit it, the thought has crossed my mind. The Doctor and his TARDIS may be my one and only chance to ever get back home. It's pretty much all I've wanted since I got here, and to be perfectly honest, maybe everyone would be better off with me gone. Too many people have already died because of me. But, whether or not I can hitch a ride back to Earth, is not the issue now. The Scarrans enslaving innocent people and looking to get their claws on wormhole technology, that's the problem we need to focus on."
Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor watched the scene unfold on his computer monitor. There was no sound, but he had no problems reading lips and body language. He could easily surmise that Crichton was still determined to accompany him to the Pathfinder world. He could also tell that the distrusting Aeryn Sun was not happy about the decision. Crichton apparently got in the last word, then turned and walked away, leaving a somewhat stunned Aeryn to stare at his retreating back. It took a moment for her to become unfrozen and she quickly trailed after him. The Doctor turned off the monitor then looked to Veyadad who had come to stand beside him. He smiled down at her and said, "Why don't you go sit down next to Lastren and hold on tight."
"Are we about to depart?"
"Yes, we are," the Doctor replied as he began to turn knobs and push buttons on the console in preparation.
"Are we not going to wait for John Crichton?"
"I was thinking that maybe it's not such a good idea for him to come after all."
"You are going to leave him without explanation?"
"I'm doing him a favor. Trust me, it's much better for everyone this way."
"You ask me to trust you and at the same time you prove that you cannot be trusted."
"No, no, you can trust me," said the Doctor as he turned to face the child, reaching out to place his hands on her shoulders. When she took a step away from him, he halted his approach. "You have to understand, Veyadad, I'm doing this for his own good. I told you before that people who travel with me often end up getting hurt in some way. I'm merely trying to spare him that."
"You told him he could go with us. You should not run away without a word of farewell. He has put his trust in you. It will make him feel bad to know you have deceived him."
The Doctor sighed deeply in resignation. "Oh-h-h, you're right, you're right. You are absolutely right. Wouldn't be right to just... sneak off. Sorry, it's an old and very bad habit of mine."
"You should not let it happen again."
"Yes, luv, I will do my best, all right?" Veyadad nodded and allowed the Doctor to put an arm around her shoulders. "Good." The Doctor glanced over at Lastren who had been sitting on the jump-seat, silently listening and watching. "Oh, I have a thought. Do either one of you have a cellphone?"
"Cellphone?" both responded with confusion.
"Sorry, I keep thinking in Earth speak. You probably call it something else. Do you have some sort of personal communication device that you use to talk to your people back home?"
"A communication link," Lastren replied. "Yes, I have such a link." He raised the right sleeve of his tunic and displayed a watch-like, silver band circling his wrist.
"That's great! Then we can transmit a message now and alert your family members to the danger they face."
"No, it is useless," Lastren lamented as he attempted to activate it by pressing a tiny button. "It was affected by the phase generator on the ship when I went into hiding. Even if we were within range of my planet, it would do no good."
"Oh, out of phase and out of range, that's no problem," said the Doctor as he pulled out his sonic screwdriver. "I can give it a bit of a tweak. Let's have a look." Lastren removed the communicator from his wrist and handed it to the Doctor. "Ahh, it's like a newfangled Dick Tracy two-way, radio wristwatch... in 3D."
Lastren tried to make sense of the Doctor's quickly spoken words. "Dick Tracy... 3D... what?"
"Dick Tracy. Comic book police detective. He had this really cool bidirectional communicator, somewhat similar to this. Although Dick Tracy was merely a fictional character with a fictional gadget, I find it rather fascinating that someone would imagine the existence of such a device decades before it was even practical to produce.
"You speak oddly."
"Yes, so I've been told."
While the Doctor contemplated the complexities of returning the radio to its previous working state and rigging it to carry a signal through the distance of space and time, a knock on the TARDIS door alerted him to another issue.
"That will be Johnny!" Veyadad exclaimed as she raced to the door. "I will let him in."
Before the Doctor could get out a protest, the girl was already opening the door, allowing Crichton entry. Now wearing a leather jacket and carrying a travel bag, he smiled down at her. "Hey, Squirt."
"My name is not Squirt."
"I know. But you remind me of someone named Squirt."
The Doctor absently placed both his sonic screwdriver and Lastren's communicator in his pocket as he went to greet his latest guest. "Um, Crichton... I'm afraid there's been --
"A change of plans," Aeryn announced as she barged through the door, also wearing a leather jacket, carrying a travel bag along with a pulse rifle slung over her shoulder. "I'm going with you."
"You heard me. Crichton is determined to watch your back for you. So I'm going to watch his."
"No, that's not necessary." When Aeryn stared daggers at him, the Doctor took a step back and attempted to further explain himself. "What I mean to say is that... I think it's best that neither of you come with me. It could be very dangerous and I'd rather not be responsible for your safety."
"Look, Doc, we've already been through all that. You're not facing the Scarrans alone."
"No, really, I can handle the Scarrans."
"You're just one man, Doc. And you may talk a good game, but you're full of crap."
"Be that as it may, I still can't let you go. It's just too dangerous."
Crichton cocked his head and studied the Doctor curiously. "You know something, don't you?"
"I know it's dangerous."
"No, I mean, you travel back and forth in time. You knew all about my past. I'm guessing you know my future too. What happens if I go with you?"
The Doctor shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. "I don't know. I mean, yes, I have seen your future -- and it's quite an interesting one, but what I've seen is much further on down the line. I couldn't say how you got to that point. I don't know if it's because you decided to go with me or if it's because I talked you into staying aboard Moya."
"Well, couldn't you just pop into the future right quick and check it out?"
"That would be cheating. Besides, it's not good to know one's future. It could cause you to make decisions you probably should not, which could end up altering the future that should have been. Time is... peculiar that way. Sleep in late one day and you miss out on falling down a wormhole and ending up a billion light years from home. Make a left turn at a corner instead of going right and your life becomes something totally unimaginable. Come with me now or stay aboard Moya... one of those choices will lead you to the future I've seen. I'm just not sure which one it is."
"So, in other words," Crichton theorized, "whatever decision I make now will lead to the future you've already seen for me."
"What? Possibly? You just said --"
"Time offers infinite possibilities. Your future is based on the road you choose at any given point in your lifetime."
"But my future has already been written. You've already seen it."
"I've seen one possibility for your future, yes."
"Is Aeryn there?"
"I can't give out any details. I don't want to influence your decision one way or the other."
"We have already made our decision," Aeryn pointed out. "And if you turn us away, then it is you who will cause our future to alter. Is that not correct?"
"Well... technically --"
"Your concern should not be based upon your ability to keep us safe, but on whether or not you can truly defeat the Scarrans without aid."
"Well, I'm not looking to defeat them so much as just talk them out of --"
Aeryn stepped up quickly and very close to the Doctor, causing him to lean back just a bit, unsure of her intentions. "In simple terms," she spoke in an authoritative manner, "can you defeat the Scarrans without assistance? Yes or no?"
The Doctor opened his mouth to offer up a lie, the needed response to keep the two on board Moya and perhaps save their lives. But as four pairs of eyes bored into his soul, he was forced to tell the truth. "Odds are... I might find myself in need of a small amount of assistance."
"Then it's settled," said Aeryn as she stepped away, giving the Doctor back his personal space.
"All right, all right! You can go. But I don't like weapons on board my ship."
"Understood," said Aeryn as she marched past the Time Lord towards the console, with no intentions of parting with her weapons. "Come on! Let's get this show on the road."
"She's rather bossy," the Doctor muttered to Crichton.
"Yeah. Kind of scary and sexy at the same time," came the whispered reply.
"If you say so," the Doctor mumbled as he quickly closed the door. He trotted over to the console and spoke to his new passengers. "Put your gear down and find something to hold on to."
"Hold on to?" asked Crichton as he placed his bag down next to a column.
"The ship shakes a lot," Veyadad explained while the Doctor began the process of starting up the TARDIS.
"John, Aeryn," D'argo's voice, came through the coms, "can you hear me in there?"
"Yeah, Big D, I got you."
"You sure you don't need me to come along?"
"Thanks, D'argo, but we're good. We'll probably be back in a few microts."
"We'll be waiting. Be careful. All of you."
"Ready?" asked the Doctor, his hand on the brake release. Seeing nods all around, he released the brake, causing the TARDIS to jerk into motion and giving his passengers a reason to hold on tight to anything they could.
"Yo, Slim!" Crichton yelled out to the Doctor over the noise of the TARDIS engine, "You ever heard about stabilizers?"
"Stabilizers? You mean for a smoother ride?"
"What would be the fun in that?" The Doctor ran around the console, flipped a few switches, turned a wheel, and at one point, banged something with a mallet. The seemingly out of control ship came to a sudden but bumpy stop. Both Crichton and Veyadad laughed at the roller-coaster like ride, while Aeryn and Lastren seemed both appalled and terrified.
"Dude, at least get some shock absorbers," Crichton grinned as he released his death grip on one of the support columns.
"Yes, I suppose I really should take the time to do that. But it's so hard to find spare parts that fit the TARDIS. And forget about finding a good mechanic."
"I know what you mean. I have the same problem with my Farscape module."
"If you two are finished talking ships," Aeryn interrupted, "may we get on with what we came here for."
"Right! Of course. Lastren, Veyadad, go gather up your families and bring them here. They will be safe inside the TARDIS. Then, the three of us," he spoke to Aeryn and Crichton, "can go talk to the Scarrans."
"You honestly believe that you can talk the Scarrans into leaving these people alone?" asked Aeryn.
"Oh, I can be very persuasive." When Aeryn gave him a dubious look, the Doctor added, "With some people."
"Doctor," Veyadad called to him from the opened doorway. "Come look."
The Doctor jogged over and with one look uttered the word, "Oops."
"Oops?" asked Crichton at his side. "What oops? Are we at the wrong place?"
"Right place, wrong time."
"It was daylight when we left," said Veyadad. "Now it's nighttime.
The TARDIS was parked in the same communal playground as before. Instead of the light from an orange sun, the brightness of two moons provided illumination over the small neighborhood of one-story, metallic homes. Glancing up into the sky and charting the celestial bodies, the Doctor estimated the time difference. "We are six hours later than we should be. That's assuming we're still in the same day... or year."
"You don't know what year we're in?" asked Crichton.
"Time travel isn't as easy as it looks. There are a lot of computations involved, as well as atmospheric conditions, vortex anomalies and whether or not the TARDIS is in a good mood. Doesn't take much to throw us minutes or even years off course."
"And you're just now telling us this," said Aeryn, not pleased in the least that the Time Lord had kept that bit of information to himself.
"Oh, would that have affected your decision to tag along?" the Doctor snidely responded.
"So-o-o," Crichton interrupted what he feared might turn into a heated argument, "how do we find out when we are?"
"We can ask my eada!" said Veyadad as she ran off towards her home located just beyond the playground, a very short distance away.
"Of course, we can just as her eada... her, um... dad." The Doctor thought about that for a split nano-second, the memory of Rose being missing for a year and feared dead by her loved ones came instantly to mind. "Oh, no, don't! Wait!" the Doctor tried to stop her but his reflexes were no match for the excited and quick-footed younglin. She was at her door almost before he got the words out. "Lastren!" the Doctor turned and called to his other guest only to find the Pathfinder standing directly behind him on the ramp. "Oh, there you are. Listen, it's probably best if you go check things out. See how much time has passed since Veyadad went traveling with me and since contact was made with your ship. Let everyone know that you've got alien visitors with you and that we mean them no harm. Tell them that we --"
A child's high pitched scream cut the Doctor's instructions short. He dashed out of the TARDIS without caring if anyone was following him or not. He ran across the grassy yard, traversed the three steps to the landing in one leap and burst through the partially opened door. He quickly looked around the room, noticing the upturned furnishings and damaged personal belongings scattered all about. "Veyadad?" he called out but received no response. He heard a whimpering sound coming from a connecting room, and went to investigate. In what was probably the family room, the Doctor found Veyadad sitting on the floor cradling a small, furry, lifeless creature in her lap. It looked similar to a rabbit but with short ears and a pig-like snout, obviously a well-loved pet. Tears flowed from Veyadad's eyes as she stroked the head of the tiny animal.
"Kiag is dead," the child sobbed softly. "I found him on the floor. His head was turned the wrong way."
The Doctor quickly glanced about for signs of possible danger but saw nothing obvious. He stooped down next to Veyadad and patted the child's back with one hand while checking on her pet's condition with the other. A swift examination of the animal told him that the creature's neck had been snapped and that it had only been dead a short time. The body was still fairly warm and pliable.
"Doctor?" Crichton called softly from the opened doorway.
"Someone killed her pet."
"The place looks like a tornado hit it. But I'm guessing it was probably Scarrans."
"That would be my guess as well. Either looking for something, or just plain messy."
"We are too late," said Lastren as he arrived on the scene. "The Scarrans have taken the others."
"We have to go back!" said Veyadad excitedly. "Doctor, we have to go back in time and save them."
"Oh, Veyadad," the Doctor let out a reluctant sigh. "That might not be such a good idea."
"But you promised! You promised that you would save us all from the Scarrans. We have to go back in time and stop them from taking everyone and killing Kiag."
That was the thing about kids, if you made them a promise, they very well expected you to keep it. That was something he really needed to stop doing, making promises. Far too often he was pure rubbish when it came to fulfilling them. This had been one promise he had fully intended to keep, but one minor miscalculation on his part or an internal hiccup by the TARDIS had drastically changed everything.
The Doctor looked to Lastren for a possible solution to the problem at hand. "You said the others were taken. Where would the Scarrans have taken them?"
"To the main building, perhaps to the lower level of the laboratory. There are enclosures where we have housed experimental animals in the past. When I was chosen for the wormhole project, I was taken there and shown the family members of the previous team." Lastren started to continue with the story, but as his gaze fell upon Veyadad, wiping her tears, he decided it best not to reveal any further details while in her presence.
The Doctor easily picked up on the man's concerns and turned his attention to the child. "Veyadad, where does Kiag normally sleep?"
"He has a bed in my room."
"I tell you what, why don't you go ahead and put Kiag in his bed, make sure he's all comfortable. We'll be leaving soon to sort this all out. All right?"
Veyadad nodded, believing that everything would soon be back to normal. The Doctor helped the child to her feet and walked with her as far as her bedroom door. After she entered, he closed the door and kept his voice low as he spoke to Lastren.
"You were saying about being shown the families of the previous team?"
"Yes. I saw the mate and two daughters of the one who once held my position. They were placed in an airtight cell. I was made to watch through a protective window as a toxic gas was released. It did not last very long, but they suffered greatly in that short span before succumbing to the effects. I was told that if I failed in my mission, the same fate would await my younger brother and sister."
"All right, so it would seem that they wait until they have a new team in place before harming the families. That should give us plenty of time."
"I don't know about that," said Lastren. "When I was chosen for the team, there was no prior knowledge. I was woken in the middle of the night and brought here by transport without time to even pack my belongings."
"Oh, that's not good."
"Perhaps it would be best if we get back on board the TARDIS and travel to the correct time as planned?"
"I'd like to. I really would, but first I need to find out what's happened to everyone. If anyone has been put to death already...."
Lastren nodded sadly. "I understand. I heard your conversation earlier. You can damage time and space by changing events such as that."
"So," Crichton spoke up, "how do we find out if they're all still alive? Just go peep through the windows or something?"
The Doctor thought of a better solution as he pulled his sonic screwdriver and Lastren's communicator from his pocket. "Your communication device... would any of the others have one?"
"All but the very young. If the Scarrans did not think to take them away, that is."
"Keep your fingers crossed and hold on to that thought," said the Time Lord as he pointed his screwdriver at the communicator. After exposing it to a few seconds of blue light, whirling noise and giving it a solid thump with the other end of the screwdriver, the Doctor handed it back. "Try it now."
Lastren's expression was dubious but he gave it a try anyway, instantly surprised by the tiny light that indicated it was operational. "It works!"
"So, go ahead and see if you can contact --" The Doctor's words were cut off by the sound of Veyadad screaming out his name. "Oh no," he grimaced, "not another dead pet. I'll go see to her while you make the call."
Crichton stayed with Lastren while the Doctor went into the bedroom to check on Veyadad. There was good news in store as Lastren was able to contact his younger brother, Goren. He was informed that all the other family members were alive and well and being held in the storage compartment of a transport vehicle not far away. Things were looking up, that is until the Doctor came back out of the bedroom. His hands were held up high in surrender as he was followed by a seven-foot tall Scarran holding a weapon in one hand while his other hand was clasped loosely about Veyadad's neck.
Crichton instinctively reached for the pulse pistol strapped to his right thigh, but his hand was halted by one simple word whispered by the Doctor. "Don't."
The Human raised his hands in defeat as he uttered a one word response, "Frell."