John started to walk to the door of the small hospital attached to the IASA facilities in Sydney, but hesitated a moment on the steps. He turned around and looked back at his car, really wanting to jump in and drive anywhere away from here.
God, how he hated hospitals; had since his mom had died. That medical personnel in the Uncharteds and beyond came to mean pain and torture for him didn't exactly help. John took a deep breath to steady himself and walked inside. Immediately his senses were assaulted by the omnipresent chemical smell, the one that never quite masked the smells associated with sickness and death.
He walked quickly down the hall returning the good-natured greetings that people called out to him; his reaction to the hospital temporarily forgotten. John walked up to the desk at the end of the hall and gave the woman standing behind it his most dazzling smile.
"Hi. I'm Commander Crichton. I'm here for my tests."
The woman smiled back, immediately won over by the infamous Crichton charm. She consulted a clipboard. "Yes Commander that would be room 156. Go down the hall and turn right," gestured with her pen, "It's the third one on the left."
"Thanks," John gave her another one of those high wattage smiles before turning and walking down the hall.
The nurse watched him walk away, a wistful smile on her face. It was ridiculous to even think about it, but she couldn't help imagining John Crichton being her special someone. Did he have one, she wondered? Or just played the field, and all ladies were disposable "special someones?" And how could he have gotten that way?
"What's wrong, Tammy?" asked a second nurse who came out of a small room behind the desk on her way to check a clipboard.
"Nothing, Marge," Tammy sighed as she watched John walk down the corridor. Her companion looked down the hall just in time to see John disappear around the corner.
"Girl," Marge laughed, "he is out of your league."
Tammy sighed again. "I know, but a girl can dream can't she?"
"Yeah, well, I wouldn't kick him out of my bed, but you don't want to be just another notch on his bedpost," Marge replied. "Besides I heard a rumor that he's got a girlfriend or a fiance somewhere."
Tammy looked wistfully down the hall again. "She's lucky, whoever she is. I just wish-."
Marge nudged her. "Yeah, I know. Or is she?" Marge made a point of asking. She looked but it didn't seem to register on Tammy. Marge shook her head. "Come on, let's get back to work. We've still got to finish the rest of that drug inventory," she said as she turned and went back into the small room behind the counter, leaving her friend to stare longingly down the hall.
John walked down the hall quickly finding the correct door. He started to open it but hesitated a moment. What would they do if he refused to do the tests, he wondered? What could they honestly do to him? John seriously contemplated turning around and leaving for a second but then he sighed and opened the door. 'Best just get this over with,' he thought.
John entered the room expecting to find Martha Taylor, the motherly, middle-aged woman who usually performed these kinds of tests. Instead he entered and found himself staring at the back of an Amazon.
The woman who stood next to the chair in the middle of the room with her back to him was taller than he was, by half a foot or better. Blond hair, done in a long bob, hid her face from him. Her white lab coat covered her and ended just above the hem of her short skirt. Very short John noted looking down. A grin crept across his face as he noticed the long legs exposed by the short skirt; long, supple legs that seemed to go on forever. 'Nice,' thought John. 'Maybe this won't be so bad.'
John felt the blood drain from his face as the woman turned around. He suddenly felt like fainting. Except for the blond color of the hair and the absent bondage outfit, she was a dead ringer of Scorpius' nurse-dash-assistant, PK Barbie. He stood rooted in place, unable to move, to think, only able to relive the horror of the Aurora chair.
"Commander Crichton?" The woman spoke, her voice low and sultry, but for a moment all John heard were screams, his own. He looked at the chair in the middle of the room, now noticing its resemblance to the Aurora chair. John half expected Scorpius to step out from behind the woman
"Commander Crichton is something wrong?" The woman's voice broke through his fog bringing him back to the present. "Commander Crichton are you all right?"
John visibly shook himself and forced himself to give her a half-assed smile. "Sorry, I was preoccupied there. You just reminded me of someone I know. Knew." He stuck out his hand slowly. "Hi, I'm John Crichton."
She gave him a smirk as she shook his hand. "Yes sir, I know who you are. My name is Ms. Parker and I'll be administering your tests today."
John smiled nervously. "Miss. Parker. So where is Martha? She usually does the tests."
"Martha was transferred to another section," Ms. Parker replied.
"Oh," John rubbed his hands together nervously. "Nothing bad I hope. Well, lets get this show on the road. I got things to do."
Ms. Parker stood aside to let him pass. "You've done this before Commander. Just have a seat," she said indicating the chair.
John sat down slowly and reluctantly. It seemed odd to him that he'd never noticed the similarity between the two chairs before. Probably blocked it out of his mind, he figured. John forced himself to relax as Ms. Parker began to attach the electrodes to him.
"Just sit back and relax Commander, this won't hurt a bit," she said.
"I'll bet you say that to all the guys," John quipped as she moved the chair into position.
"Hm hm hm," she superficially hummed a laugh. "You're a funny one, hm?"
"Certainly am," he muttered under his breath.
"That's it Commander," Ms. Parker's voice stirred John from a bored haze. "Your scans are finished for now."
"Only, what, an hour?" John was visibly relieved and began to remove the electrodes himself.
"In a hurry?" Ms. Parker asked, leaning over him to remove some electrodes, placing her hand on his thigh. John did his best to ignore it until she started to move her hand up his thigh to his crotch.
"Whoa, whoa lady," he said grabbing her hand and sitting up. "There ain't no electrodes down there."
She smirked in a manner reminiscent of Pip. "From what I hear its pretty electric."
John flung her hand away from him, quickly stood up and moved away from her.
"I'm flattered, really I am, but I'm seeing someone seriously," he said.
Ms. Parker just smirked back at him. "From what I hear it's a lot of someones."
John opened his mouth to retort but was interrupted by the door opening as two burly military police entered the room.
"Is he finished ma'am?" asked the one on the right, the one instantly christened in John's view as 'No Neck' because his head seemed to rest squarely on his shoulders.
"Yes, we're all finished here. You can take him now," Ms. Parker formally replied, but she looked to John in a way that suggested she'd been disappointed.
"Take me where?" asked John.
"Please come with us sir," 'No Neck' gestured him toward the door.
John smiled uneasily as the two military policemen led him from the room.
"Hey, fellas, where ya taking me?"
"This way sir," was all the first MP said as he led the way out of the room. His silent, neckless counterpart fell into step behind John as they left the room.
"Commander!" John paused in the door to look back at Ms. Parker. She smirked at him. "See you around," she said.
John smiled wryly and left the room followed closely by burly 'No Neck'.
Walking uneasily between the two men, John felt like he was being taken to his execution as they practically marched him down the hall. They led him through many twists and turns throughout the maze of hospital corridors until he felt hopelessly lost. Finally they stopped in front of a non-descript door in a part of the hospital that John didn't recognize.
MP # 1 opened the door. "In here sir," he said. John hesitated only briefly on the threshold of the room before stepping inside. 'No Neck' closed the door behind them and took up a position guarding the door.
John looked around the windowless room, somehow not surprised to see a room that looked almost exactly like an interrogation room from one of those cop shows. The sparsely furnished room was occupied by a small table and four chairs. Against the wall to the right was a mirror. John immediately recognized it as one of those one-way mirrors. He mugged and saluted into the mirror before turning his back on the mirror and sitting at the table. Outwardly he radiated calm but inside he was seething with impatience, anger and a little bit of fear.
John and the silent MP were the only occupants of the barren room. After a long while John began to fidget. He tried to stop himself but he couldn't help it. There was nothing else to do in that room but sit and stew. First he wiggled his feet back and forth impatiently before finally examining the bottom of his shoe intently. Next he drummed his fingers on the table before standing up and beginning to pace.
"Do you know what's taking so long?" he finally asked the MP.
"No I don't sir," replied the MP.
"Couldja go check for me and see how long this is going to be?"
"Yes sir," said the MP who turned and left the room. As he left John got the distinct impression that the MP was annoyed with him but he didn't care. The MP returned a few minutes later, immediately resuming his same position.
John waited a few minutes for an answer. "Well?" he finally asked.
"Well what sir?"
"What did they say? What's taking so long?"
"They didn't say sir. They did, however, say that it would just be a few more minutes sir."
John sighed. "Thank you," he said to the MP as he sat back down at the table.
"You're welcome sir."
A few minutes passed, an hour, John didn't have any idea of how long he sat there because his watch had mysteriously stopped while he was taking the tests. He started to fidget again, every now and then sending annoyed glances toward the mirror on the wall while the MP kept him silent company.
Finally John couldn't stand the silence any longer.
"So," he said peering closely at the rank insignia on the MP's collar, "Sergeant Schultz is it? You been an MP long?"
"Eighteen years sir."
John whistled. "Eighteen years, my. Do you like it?"
"You seen Colonel Klink around the stalag lately?"
"You know Colonel Klink, Stalag 13, Hogan's Hero's. Sergeant Schultz's I know nuffingk."
The MP sent him a frozen look. "Yes sir, I know of the show sir."
"Then you know about Sergeant Schultz, you know you, Sergeant Schultz who never knows what's going on in the prison camp."
"Yes I know sir, very funny sir," said the MP throwing John another icy look.
"Well I thought so," replied John turning away and sitting once again at the table.
"If you say so sir."
"You can knock off the sir stuff, sergeant, name's John."
"My name is John, sergeant."
John backed away and threw up his hands in exasperation.
"You don't talk much, do you sergeant?"
John sighed in resignation and dropped his head rubbing the bridge of his nose. He was getting a headache. He sighed again. "Sergeant, could you check again and see what the hold up is?"
"Yes sir," replied the MP as he stepped out of the room.
'What a motor mouth," John muttered as the sergeant left. He walked over to the mirror and stood in front of it his hands out in front of him as if begging.
"Come on fellas, give me a break. The space monkey's waiting, lets get this show on the road." John turned as the door opened to admit the MP.
"They say it'll just be a few more minutes sir," he said as he resumed his position by the door. John shook his head. The nerve behind his right eye began to throb as he sat down again. Time passed slowly as he waited. Finally John had had enough. He stood up and looked straight into the mirror.
"You know," he rolled up his sleeve and gestured at his non functional watch, "it's hair past freckle, that means you've passed the limit people get to waste my time with their bullsh*t. You have no reason to keep me here you can admit to, so since I still presumably have a life, I'm going out," he pointed both hands to the door, "to live it. Johnny's had it, he's outta here." He started for the door only to find his way blocked by the burly MP.
"I'm sorry sir, but I can't let you pass sir," he said.
"Out of my way soldier," demanded John.
"I'm sorry I can't do that sir."
John stepped forward and got into the MP's face. "I outrank you, sergeant, now, I'm ordering you to stand aside."
"I know you outrank me sir, but I have my orders, sir. I can't let you out of this room, sir."
"So you pick now to get talkative, sergeant? Who gave you those orders?" John demanded. "And don't even think of serving me some pap."
Before the MP answered him, the door opened to admit two men. The MP saluted then stood aside as they walked into the room. One was tall, about the same height as John, reed thin, red hair, a long beaky nose and a nervous manner about him. The other was shorter, stocky with well developed muscles like a weight lifter, crew cut grey hair, and a pushed in sort of face that reminded John of a bulldog. The second man turned his cold blue eyes toward John and said, "Actually those orders came from me. Do you have a problem with that Commander?"
John didn't bother to salute either man although he recognized their rank as Major. "As a matter of fact, major, yeah," he replied. "I thought I was coming here, perfectly compliantly," he enunciated that last, "to take yet another round of the same tests that I've taken since my space flight. Instead I've been kept twiddling my thumbs in the company of Silent Schultz for hours, and now you want me to play twenty questions with you, for reasons I'm guessing you won't say. Sorry, but I've got other things to do."
"Like what," said the bulldog man whose name tag read Maj. Harper, "Your groupies lost without you?"
John grinned. "You want some to entertain, Major?"
Before Major Harper could retort, the other major, a Maj. Borden by name tag, John noted, intervened.
"Enough both of you," he said. He turned to John, "We're not here to accuse you of anything Commander, we just want to ask you some questions. Sit down, Major Harper. John, can I call you John, please sit down over there," he said pointing to a chair at the end of the table. Major Harper glared at his counterpart but sat down in a chair near John. Major Borden came around the table and sat on the edge with one leg propped up on it.
John sat back with his hands behind his head. "So what's unofficially on the agenda?"
Major Borden spoke first. "You have to admit John that your landing was highly unusual." He smiled disarmingly at John. "We just need you to answer a few simple questions, clear some things up and then you can get back to your business."
John looked at both officers and developed an instant dislike for both. Major Harper, who seemed to be a bully, he could handle, but Major Borden made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. John couldn't place what made him wary of the major. Maybe it was the way he looked or his manner, or maybe it was the way he rolled the syllables of John's name around in his mouth. Whatever it was, it made him wary of these two. "I'd like it better if DK was here."
"Yes we'd prefer to speak to both of you. We did request that he join us, but so far he isn't here, so we'll have to proceed. Unless you'd rather wait a while to see if he comes?"
John leaned back in his chair smirking. "So," he said to Major Borden, "I take it you're the good cop and he's the bad cop," pointing at Major Harper. "What do I get for answering your questions correctly, a lollipop?"
Major Borden's smile faded immediately and he moved around the table to stand beside Major Harper. "Where did your module crash?" he asked John.
John crossed his arms over his chest and sighed. "Like I've told everyone a thousand times before, I crashed in Western Australia."
"Where exactly in Western Australia?"
John shrugged. "Dunno, somewhere east of Perth. Out in the desert somewhere. Don't tell me I gotta do your briefing work for you two?"
Major Harper suddenly slapped the table, startling John. "That's not the question. He said exactly," the major exclaimed loudly.
John refolded his fingers behind his head and glared back at him. "I don't know where exactly. I was too busy trying not to die to memorize the freakin' coordinates."
"That's fine for now Commander," said Major Borden. "We'll revisit that question later. Tell us why you landed in Western Australia, Commander?" asked Maj. Borden.
"Hey, I'm not that bad a pilot you gotta spare my feelings and call it a landing or something. We can face it, Major, man, I didn't land, I crashed," John unfolded his fingers and rested his arms crossed over his chest. "I was way over re-entry trajectory, you know, so I tried to get to the alternate landing site outside of Alice Springs, but," he shrugged, "probably owing to those irregularities it's up to the research boys to account for, my module had other plans."
"What do you think was the cause of the crash Commander?"
John sighed. "As I've told you a thousand times before, I don't know. I can bore you and recount the data I observed during the event, that you've got in those folders. Ask the boys in research, that's what they're there for."
"Then describe what happened again," Major Harper insisted, "in your own words."
"In that case I'll have to use words of one syllable," said John with a smirk.
"Why you-," Major Harper started to say, half-rising from his seat.
"Sit down major," Major Borden interjected. When the other major was seated he turned to John. "That will be enough from you Commander, now answer my question."
"Formally or informally?" John led.
Major Borden weighed his response a moment. "Accurately."
John sighed again. "Like I said before, all right let's skip the irregularities since the data details that better than I could. It happened just after re-entry. Suddenly sparks started flying out of the console and the cockpit began to fill with smoke. I lost nearly all steering control, yaw was totally relative, barely got it on the ground. I'm lucky I didn't end up scattered in a million pieces all over Australia."
"So what's your theory about what went wrong?"
"You already asked me that. Anyway, I couldn't begin to speculate without examining the wreckage. Hydraulics? Maybe? You guess something," John said with a shrug. "We didn't have redundancies on everything, didn't even have breakers, budget you know. Faster, cheaper."
"Well, you see Commander, that's the rub. We have no wreckage to examine, because we've never been able to recover any of it."
"Yeah ain't it," said John. "So you're asking me to speculate with no way to substantiate any theory because?"
"The module crash site has never been found Commander."
John shrugged again. "Not my problem Major. Talk to the sattelite people. More than one country's military were probably taking bets if I'd survive as they watched me go down. Hey. Maybe you should have hired Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone to find it. No wait, couldn't do that, they've both been dead for over a hundred years, always too soon for the good guys."
Major Borden ignored John's flippant remarks and continued. "You were found wandering in the desert three days after the crash. Why didn't you stay at the crash site?"
John looked at Major Borden as if he were an idiot. "I was injured, disoriented. I don't know why I wandered off." John smirked at them. "Besides if I'd done that I'd still be there waiting for you guys to find me. Only a lot skinnier." He laughed. "Like I said before maybe you shoulda hired Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, or better yet Crocodile Dundee to find me."
"Your injuries were minor Commander and you had the same survival training that all astronauts get."
"Maybe it didn't take," replied John with a grin. "Or maybe the training just didn't apply to reality."
"Enough of this bullsh*t," Major Harper stood and leaned over the table, getting into John's face. "Tell us what happened and tell us the truth now."
John leaned forward until he was only inches from Maj. Harper's face. Somehow, he thought, he'd find this more enjoyable if it were Varla in his space instead of some bulldog Major smelling of Brut. "You know, you really need to relax more," said John, "or you're going to have a heart attack."
"Why you little-" Maj. Harper yelled as he started around the table.
"Sit down, Major," Major Borden interjected.
Major Harper looked to Major Borden instead. "You heard him, the f*cking bastard thinks this is a joke."
"You're not helping matters by losing your temper, now go sit down or leave the room."
"You can't order me, Major Borden. You're not my superior officer," Major Harper defensively retorted, closer to whining than he had any idea he'd sounded.
"No, but I can get one in here in a minute," Major Borden replied with a perfectly straight face.
Major Harper's jaw worked as he mulled over the situation. Finally he glared at Major Borden, then at John, and finally sat back down on the other side of the table.
Major Borden turned back to John. "What happened to your module Commander. Where is it?"
"If you'll double check, Major, I'm almost sure I told you before. I don't know where it is?"
"I think you do."
"You think I'm lying, I'm not, I'm telling the truth."
"Bullsh*t," interjected Major Harper.
"Fine, you've got something up on us, Major, you remind me what I did with it," John looked toward the one way glass.
Major Harper got up and leaned over the table again. "I think you sold it, to terrorists or whoever. I think you had it planned from the beginning. I think you took the module to a prearranged location and then your accomplices dropped you off in the middle of the desert for us to find. That's what I think."
"All that thinking at once must make your head hurt," came the flippant reply. John laughed. "You think I'd sell my module to the highest bidder, for what reason?"
"Money, fame, power, women."
"Got all that now," said John. "Why would I sell my module for that?"
"You wouldn't be the first. You tell me," said Major Borden.
"No you tell me," said John finally losing his temper. "All those other times before, when modules went up, encountered irregularities, crash landed, oh yeah, and their pilots sold the modules to Mr. X. How'd they do in the money, fame, power and women departments?" John laughed again, regaining his balance. "You'd think I'd sell out, risk everything, just for what, more of what I got. All right, explain the irregularities recorded on the ground. I made those up? Wow did I leave a big one or what! You're nuts." He sobered a bit. "I didn't sell out anybody or anything."
"Well, that's what we're here to find out, John," said Major Borden with a smile. "We're going to find out exactly what happened and why. Now sit back and relax. This could take some time."
"It will," John sighed in resignation. It was going to be a longer day.
Doug waited impatiently outside of customs for Jack to clear. He looked at his watch for the umpteenth time in the last 15 minutes. Jack's plane had landed half an hour before. Doug wasn't one to be a visible worrier, but he half expected his nervousness to make security check his laptop for explosives, the way he was fidgeting, sitting on the end of his seat and muttering to himself. He just couldn't relax.
'What's taking so long,' Doug wondered for the umpteenth time. 'Normally Jack sailed through customs.' Jack was already hours later than the time he'd told Doug to expect him. His plane had been delayed in Los Angeles for some kind of mechanical difficulty. Doug had hoped that Jack would make it in time to attend the meeting IASA's brass had called John and himself to. Instead he had to slip out of the meeting to meet Jack at the airport, and now it was looking like going right to the meeting wasn't going to be a serious possibility.
Doug looked up as a group out people began to file out of the customs area. He danced impatiently from foot to foot as he scanned the crowd looking for Jack. Finally he spotted him, toward the rear of another group coming through the doors.
"Over here Jack," he yelled waving over the crowd. Doug had to grab his glasses from falling off. Jack spotted him and nodded and waded through the press of people. Jack dropped his carry on bags next to Doug and turned, apparently looking for someone.
"Hey Jack, its great that you could come on such short notice. John really needs the support right now." Doug added to himself in a mutter, "even if the jerk won't admit it."
Jack, however, wasn't paying much attention. "Yeah, that's nice Doug. Where is she?" he muttered to himself as he intently scanned the crowd.
"Uh, where's who Jack," Doug asked, a bit bewildered he'd bring anyone.
"There she is," Jack nodded and moved swiftly through the crowd pouring through the customs doors while Doug looked on puzzled. His puzzlement turned to shock as Jack emerged from the crowd dragging someone behind him, a recalcitrant Bob.
"I told you to stay right behind me," an irritated Jack said to the seemingly unrepentant Bob.
Bob jerked her arm out of his grasp and stood there in a quirky stance, on her toes, shoulders thrown back. She cocked her head at Jack. "I wanted to see somethin' Jack, now that we're off that frelling plane. 'Sides you're not my sire and you can't tell me what to do, not even John tells me what to do." Jack stared, completely at a loss.
Doug gawked. Bob looked the same, exactly in fact, wearing the same overall outfit he'd seen her in before. But she sounded different, her very peculiar accent all but gone in favor of an American accent almost exactly like Jack's. Bob saw Doug standing there in shock and her mood immediately changed. She smiled seductively and sidled up to him, rubbing against him. "Hi Doug. How are you?" she purred.
"Bob!" Jack admonished her.
She turned to him with a smirk. "What? I can't get to know John's best friend?"
"Not that way."
Bob just shrugged and ran her finger down Doug's arm before turning and going to stand next to Jack. She took Jack's arm and straightened her head with a smug grin as if she was now making a fine image alongside Jack.
Her motion broke the spell that had settled over Doug and he blurted out, "Bob's speaking English."
Jack grinned. "Nothing escapes you does it Doug?" he said. "That must be why they gave you that big degree you suppose?"
"Funny Jack, very funny. How come she's speaking English? I mean, I know she speaks it, but I just saw her recently and she could barely say a few sentences, now she practically sounds like she's a native."
"Well, there's some accent to work out, but it's amazing what you can accomplish during 18 hours in a plane over the Pacific. Besides Bob's a quick learner. Aren't you Bob?" Bob nodded, her eyes open a bit wider as if receiving the compliment was making a big impression. "Did you tell John I was coming?" Jack asked, changing the subject.
"No I didn't, it was supposed to be a surprise," Doug's sinking feeling showed on his face. "He's really gonna be surprised now."
"If you're worried about what John will say Doug, don't. I'll tell him it was my idea." He grinned at Doug and Bob. "Come on both of you, let's go to the condo and get settled. I can hardly wait to see John's face when he sees Bob." Doug managed a smile that looked more like holy terror. But Jack didn't look long enough at Doug to read his face.
Bob's mind had wandered to the airport, numbing from the neutral minimalist styles and indifferent colors all around. It seemed to blend with the blur of sweaty-palmed over-wrought un-accepted tedium in the faces of the people all around. There was the slightest trace of likeness to Nebari, just enough to make her wish she were anywhere else.
"Let's go," Jack grabbed Bob's hand and she walked distractedly but agreeably with him toward the terminal doors.
Doug lagged behind for a moment shaking his head. John was going to kill him.
After what seemed to be a lifetime in gripping depositions with the Majors, John leaned his head wearily on the table.
"I told you a hundred and one ways, I don't know exactly where I crashed. Didn't come from there, didn't cover it in mission prep. I don't know what happened to the module and I didn't sell anybody out."
"Fine Commander, that will be all for now. You can go," an unruffled Major Borden plainly announced.
John looked up at him in stunned disbelief, as if he hadn't heard the Major correctly. "I can go," he said tiredly.
"You can go Commander," Major Borden stopped scribbling notes, or animating Hentai, or whatever he was doing with that pen for hours on end.
John stood up on shaky legs and turned to leave.
"Commander," Major Harper called out. John turned toward him. "Don't leave Sydney for a few days. We might have a few more questions for you."
John nodded wearily, but couldn't resist the urge to bait Major Harper one last time. "Not if I can help it," he said. He opened the door quickly and stepped out into the hallway and hurried off, grateful to be out of that small, stuffy room at last. He walked wearily down the hall, idly noting that night had fallen. The halls were nearly deserted as he walked rapidly through them, and sometimes more than once, finding his own way out of the building.
John ran to his car as soon as he exited the hospital. He climbed into the rented Mustang and leaned against the steering wheel. He was bone tired and really needed to see and hear a friendly voice. He needed Bob, the one person who he knew loved him, knew what he'd gone through, and what he had to keep buried. He needed to hear her, make sure she was all right. He sighed wearily.
What he really needed right now was the comfort of her, in living monochrome, but he'd have to settle for hearing her voice. He resolved to call her on the satellite phone. John started the car and drove outside of the Hospital parking lot, stopping at a mini-mart gas station. Digging out the mobile phone he kept hidden under his seat, he started dailing the sattelite phone at the cabin. Waiting for an answer, he restarted the car and drove toward the condo, considerably cheered at the prospect of talking to Bob again.
"No I don't know, I kept waiting for someone to drop the bomb but all they did was repeat themselves in a hundred different ways," Doug replied to Jack. Doug turned his attention to shifting gears at the stoplight, trying to keep the sputtering Honda from cutting out. "For all I know," Doug picked up once he got the car going after a moment's hesitation, "they're still inventing new ways to ask the same questions, right now."
"I think they'll be very methodical and conservative about this," Jack shook his head no to Doug's unspoken question of if he'd changed his mind yet to go right to John. "That's just my gut. But I've put a lot on that kind of hunch before, and it's never been wrong. If he's not at the condo already he's going somewhere to cool his tail a while."
The tiny car shook, rattled and rang with a loud backfire, startling Bob so much she literally rode the slight jump of the car into a bump against the safety-pinned roof. She yelled at first then made a manic giggle. Jack leaned over his shoulder to the petite lady in the crowded, petite back they called a back seat. "You all right, Hon?"
"Yeah!" Bob replied with undisguised excitement. Jack smiled and slightly shook his head to himself.
"Well let's just say this whole so-called mystery is beginning to cast doubts on the veracity of John's story," Doug looked at Jack as they hiccuped to a stop at another intersection, "and it's threatening the whole Farscape project."
"Yeah I know these last few days have been trying, Doug, on both of you," Jack said, his gaze looking in the rearview mirror at Bob. She kept darting excitedly from side to side in the back seat of the car, eager to see everything. A school bus full of children pulled up alongside the passenger side, and Bob darted over from the driver's side to look closer at the bus. "The fight you two had, these endless questions you talk about, the interrogations, and repeated tests. I have to agree the brass seems to think that John's hiding something."
Bob peered intently at the vehicle full of human children. She hadn't ever seen so many human children in one place before. One of the boys noticed her staring and mashed his lips against the window. Bob was taken aback for a moment. 'Perhaps this was some kind of greeting done by younger humans,' she thought. The boy turned away momentarily, and then several other male humans joined him, all making various faces at her. Bob cocked her head then mashed her face against the glass returning the greeting.
Doug ran his tongue under his lips, clearly rethinking or making some choice he found difficult. "Well to tell the truth, they could convice me," Doug looked to Jack. "John's been a little nervous and very jumpy lately. I'm not sure it's....well I don't know what it is, but something's different." He looked to Jack, but Jack was busy smiling indulgently at Bob's antics.
The boys laughed and then one stuck his middle finger up in the air in a gesture Bob recognized. It was that obscene gesture that John had called, 'the one-finger salute' or 'flipping the bird.' He'd also told her it was not something she should do in public unless of course she wanted someone to kick the dren out of her.
The other young males began to "flip the bird" at her. Bob laughed and gestured right back at them.
"What are you doing?" demanded Jack.
"They started it," replied Bob defensively. Bob decided to try the innocent alien routine with Jack and repeated the gesture to him. "Is this some sort of Erp greeting," she asked innocently knowing full well it wasn't.
"Of a sort," said Jack, "but it's not nice and you shouldn't be doing it to children." He paused and looked up at the busload of children, who were far from innocent in the matter. "Besides you're just, you shouldn't encourage them, Bob."
"Should-n't encourage them to do what?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "You shouldn't be encouraging them to," Jack gestured without actually making the full gesture, "flip people off."
"Oh," replied Bob. "Then I should-n't do this," she said gesturing at him.
'That's right, you shouldn't."
"Okay, I won't," Bob said trying her best to look innocent.
Jack eyed her suspiciously for a moment before turning back around. Bob stuck her tongue out at the back of his head and "flipped off" the children in the bus again as the car pulled away from the bus. She grinned as the children returned a flurry of similar salutes then moved quickly to the other side of the car when Jack turned around to see what was going on.
"You realize your car's gone a whole block without stalling or backfiring," Jack enjoyed remarking to Doug.
"Not you- are car," Bob told Jack.
"No offence, Doug, but I wouldn't have this tiny piece of junk."
"Hey! Look it's not pretty but check it out, I got a high perf fuel map for the enhanced injectors on this thing, it's not your stock Honda, check it out," Doug revved it, spinning the tires but producing a massive backfire when he eased on the gas to shift. Chiana's laugh was still clear over the noise. After Doug had sped them to the next stoplight, he looked to Jack.
Jack was smiling calmly. "And what did my son say?"
"Get a real car," Doug grumblingly admitted. "What do you think, Bob?" Doug perked and asked Bob, who had been giggling and enjoying the ride, after all.
"I like you- ares," Bob told Jack, reaching forward and rubbing his elbow. "Big and soft on places. Lot of spa- ace in, back for....things," she smirked. Jack kept very still, not about to approach what he knew she meant.
"I know," Doug straightened his hands on the wheel, changing the point but missing the change of lights, "it's probably just the stress of everything, it's getting to me too. But it's really getting to him. So, I thought you'd better get out here. And if there is anything...."
"I'd be able to find out," Jack completed for Doug. "I can tell you, Doug, you're going to get a ticket if you keep speeding, stalling and staying put on green lights."
"Oh," Doug went to drive off, but the car died. Bob made no attempt to make her amusement subtle.
"So did they call both of you in together this time?" Jack asked as Doug tried to get the car to start.
"Oh they did, but f*uck that, man. They're so focused on him, I doubt they'd care if I came or not, actually. Purely extra baggage." Finally the car started, with a row of cars now honking at them from behind. But as soon as he shifted, it died without moving a hair further.
"Hey that man flip you birds," Bob reported the traffic situation from the back seat.
"I know what you're going to say, son, these Japanese cars run forever, are perfectly reliable, and don't cost. Well maybe that's true for some people sometimes, but I think you ought to-"
"-Get a real car, yeah," Doug looked aside to Jack as he kept working the car to start. "No thanks, I'm sticking with this or something with better mileage."
"Easier to push," Bob joked and cracked in laughter at her own joke. Jack joined her.