John woke when the alarm went off. Reaching over the body next to him, he slapped at the alarm clock until it went off. Blearily opening his eyes, he looked at the clock. It ribaldly flashed 6:00 am. "Well that's one thing I never missed," he mumbled to himself, his voice deep and gravely from sleep. John slumped back in bed, sorely temped to just go back to sleep. He yawned and stretched, suddenly realizing that Bob was still in bed beside him.
'Odd,' he thought. Bob never slept late; she almost always rose before the crack of dawn, no matter how late she stayed up. He grinned into the dark, recalling how she almost always came bouncing back in to wake him up the way he liked best. Drowsily sensing the usual morning erection tenting his boxers under the covers, he looked hopefully over at Bob. John scooted over next to Bob, pressing himself against her back in the hope that she would wake up and they could have some morning fun. But Bob didn't wake up.
Disappointed, John backed off after a few moments and walked his fingers along her arm. "Hey Pip," he whispered. "Someone wants to see you," he teased with a snicker. But Bob made a tiny, distant murmur and remained fast asleep.
John shrugged and got out of bed. She had been sick just a few hours before; she just probably needed some rest. He padded to the bathroom to shower.
Bob was still sleeping in the same position he'd left her in when John emerged from the shower a short while later. A towel wrapped around his waist and another draped over his shoulders after drying his hair, John walked closer and frowned to see that she hadn't even stirred. Walking around to her side of the bed, John knelt down beside her. She looked so young as she slept. The cocky facade she adopted when awake, which he had called 'Junior Miss Tough Chick of the Universe', was gone, leaving her true self exposed. Young, beautiful, and vulnerable. Not that she didn't let those she trusted glimpse it at other times too, he smiled fondly.
Gingerly, so as not to disturb her, John felt her forehead with his hand searching for signs of fever or what else he didn't know. Bob didn't feel any warmer to his touch, but he was keenly aware at the moment that he was no diagnosan and couldn't tell if she were truly sick. Bob stirred slightly at his touch, sighing as she leaned briefly into his touch before settling down again.
Perplexed as to what to do, John went back into the bathroom to shave and get ready to go to the base. Hoping that his concerns would be proven to be paranoia if he just waited a few minutes, he tried not to think of the matter and numbly set his mind on his actions. But when he stepped from the bathroom, freshly shaven and dressed, all was not right with the world. Bob had moved over to his side of the bed and was wrapped up in the bedclothes liked a mummy, only her elfin face visible.
John leaned over her face and poked at the mummy. "Frodo! Spider's coming!" he teased. Despite Bob being what he considered to be a neurotically light sleeper in most cases, she slept on, totally unaware of his presence.
Now worried, John stood with his lips pursed as he wondered if he should leave. His dad and himself really needed to get to the base to see what they could find out. He'd been on the receiving end of this crap for long enough, it was high time to go on the offensive in this situation. There'd be little room for worrying about anything else until they found out what in the hell they were suspected of and cleared it up. Then he could take Bob, go back to the cabin and live his life.
Still, worry made itself some room. If Bob was sick, he didn't want to leave. On the other hand she'd probably be the first to tell him to go. "Get out of here Crichton, you're driving me fahrbot," she'd probably say. John grinned at the thought. He could hear her saying it now.
John knelt down and kissed her tenderly on the forehead. "If you don't get out of your caccoon, I'll cut you out when I get back. Sleep well, Frodo." Her eyelids fluttered a little, but otherwise she didn't stir.
John walked into the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee. He grimaced as he took a sip. Bob had his dad's coffee beat by a galaxy or two. Taking his cup, he went out to the dining room table where Jack sat reading the morning newspaper and nursing his own cup of coffee.
"Mornin' dad," John replied. "You got the sports page?"
"It's sitting right there," said Jack pointing to a section sitting on the table.
"Uh, sorry, didn't see it, thanks." John picked up the paper and began to read.
"Where's Bob this morning? She's usually up before you," Jack inquired. "Come to think of it, she's usually up before me."
"Still in bed," John said through a yawn. "She was feeling a bit under the weather last night."
Jack put down the paper, shooting his patented look of concern at John. "Not feeling well? What's wrong?"
"I don't know," John looked up briefly from the sports section and tried deflecting the worry. "She spent some time last night worshipping the porcelain god. Didn't get anything from her beyond that," John shrugged, going back to the sports section. "Probly's nothing. Something she ate."
Jack's look of concern wasn't to be eased so easily. "Has this happened before?"
Glancing up from his paper, John avoided Jack's eyes. "No, I've never seen Bob sick before. Her species is supposed to have some kind of souped up hyper-immune system. Makes 'em immune to most diseases. Well at least that's what Zhaan said Chiana told her. I get my news through the alien aquaintence newsvine."
"Zhaan, now wasn't that-?"
"The Delvian priestess. All blue, you hope, and a plant. Put her in the son, watch her have photogasms."
Jack choked on his coffee, nearly spitting it all over the table. "Photogasms! Is that what it sounds like? You never mentioned those in your tapes."
John chuckled. "Well it's not something that's easy to explain. Not that I learned much detail. Besides, it's also not really something you tell your dad." John's smile quickly faded. "I miss old Blue Head. She gave bald is beautiful a whole new meaning, I'll tell you," he tried recovering some mirth.
Jack reached over and put his hand on John's. "Sorry, I didn't mean to bring up a painful subject, son."
John smiled wanly at Jack. "It's okay dad. I just miss her, like I still miss mom."
"I know son," Jack cast a sad smile to the table. "I still miss her too."
After a few moments of silence, John set his coffee on the table. "Let's go."
"But what about Bob?" Jack looked up with some surprise.
John smirked at Jack's query. "What about her?"
"If she's sick, maybe we should stay here," Jack supposed. "Make sure she's okay before we go to the base."
John shrugged. "She'll be fine. Girl's got more quirks than Microsoft Windows. I'll call later just to make sure. Come on lets go," John irritably urged Jack through grit teeth as he turned and left the room to get his jacket, leaving Jack staring after him in stunned disbelief.
John popped his head back into the room a moment later. "Are you coming?" he asked impatiently. Shaking his head, Jack grabbed his jacket as he followed John out of the apartment.
Seeing a supermarket a block up from their flat, Jack made a quick decision and pulled into the parking lot.
"The Mustang's rented, Dad, if you hate it that bad we'll go swap it," John quipped. "Why in the hell are we stopping here?"
"In case you noticed, and I doubt that you did, there is no food in the apartment. You're fine grabbing something out, but Bob's stuck there. When she finally wakes up, the little lady is probably gonna be hungry. I'm gonna stop and pick up some things here, take 'em back to the apartment, then we'll go grab some breakfast and head for the base." Jack turned to John. "You got a problem with that? Gotta hot date somewhere son? Gotta go gratify a groupie?"
"No," John glared back.
"Fine, then we'll stop here. If you really want to get to the base early, then go call a cab, because I'm taking the car, but I'm stopping here first then I'm getting something to eat. You can tag along or not. It's no skin off my nose either way."
"Fine, lets get this over with," John agreed and got out of the car, slamming the door as he did. "Somebody have a heirarchy sensitivity issue before a full breakfast?" John muttered.
"Yes, thank you for the secluded booth back here," Jack remarked to the cafe hostess.
"We know you'd prefer the privacy," the young lady replied, her eyes lost on whatever other items from her busy work that she was trying to keep in mind. "Do you want a menu or....?"
"I'll have the steak and eggs special there," Jack decided.
"Scrambled eggs and ham, ma'am," John ordered. "And two coffees."
"Vegemite?" the waitress offered at the same time she plunked a fresh container on the table.
"Uh sure, when in Rome...." John said, trailing off while he watched the young lady walk back to the kitchen. "The boss there knew you huh?" he asked Jack.
"Yeah," Jack tersely replied. They sat in strained silence while waiting for the food to arrive, sipping coffee once it was delivered.
Finally John couldn't take it any longer. "Okay dad, quit stewing and just spit it out," John leaned over the table. "And it isn't the sports memoribilia plastered all over this restaurant being for the wrong teams. I can feel your disapproval from over here."
Jack looked around the restaurant. Only a few people were seated in tables near the windows but they probably couldn't hear anything unless there was shouting, and Jack sincerely hoped that it wouldn't come to that. He hadn't exactly wanted to have it out with John here, but this place and this time was as good as any. He set his coffee down on the table.
"Fine," he said. "I don't like the way you treat Bob."
"That end of it's not your business," John curtly replied.
"Normally, son, I wouldn't give a rat's ass about your love life, but this time it's different."
John snorted derisively. "No, its not."
Jack's eyebrows climbed almost up into his hair. "Really? And exactly how is this the same? How many aliens did you sleep with before you went out through that wormhole son? One, two, ten, twenty?" Jack lowered his voice. "When exactly were you going to tell me your girlfriend is an alien, son? When little three-headed brain-suckers with your face plastered on them start showing up and calling me grandpa?"
John's jaw tightened and his expression grew stony. "Bob shouldn't have told you."
"She wanted to help and don't you dare go blaming her," Jack's glare wasn't any warmer.
John sighed heavily, his anger leaving him. "I'm not. You know my reasons."
"Didn't you trust me?" Jack stoicly asked, but there was still an air of hurt. "I wouldn't have done anything to harm Bob."
John looked away, unable to meet his father's eyes. "It's not a matter of trust, dad. You're my old man so of course I trust you, but how was I supposed to tell you? Hey dad, come here and meet my girlfriend Chiana. Oh and by the way, she's out of this world. No, dad, I mean out of this world. She's from outer space. It's not exactly your routine small talk."
"You could have told me," Jack persisted.
"No, I couldn't," John insisted. "I figured the fewer people who knew, the better. Things have a way of going very wrong, very fast. If you and DK didn't know anything, then neither one of you could say anything under pressure, or torture. I was trying to keep you and everyone else I care about safe. Now you're not." As John fitfully stirred his coffee, he heard Jack clear his throat, and saw that Jack was near to tears. Seeing the enormity of things weighing on his father, John felt a heavy attitude adjustment work him over. "It's all right, dad," John firmly assured, "we'll work it out."
After breakfast was served, John ate half of his eggs by the time he was sure Jack was feeling better. Only then he broke the silence. "Bob's a tough little bugger," John informed Jack. "She may not look it, but she is. Tupperware Pip."
"You're sure she's healthy then?" Jack asked with a slight shake of his head.
"Oh yeah. She's not the easiest on a body, plus she's been through all kinds of trouble with a capital T. Varies between skinny and very skinny, somewhere in there off and on. Doesn't affect her. I don't know why bad dudes and dudettes out there messed with her, no matter what happened she'd just snap back. Junior Miss Tough Chick of the Universe I called her. She was doing great at the cabin. If she wants something, I'm sure I'll hear about it. I've known her for years, dad. So you'll have to let me screw things up there, okay?"
"That's your department," Jack agreed.
"And your grandkids might end up a little pale, maybe slightly punky, but they won't suck brains and have three heads," John joked. "Seriously, relax, dad. You can bet a thousand guys got there ahead of me. No cracks, I don't blame anyone, she's dynamite. Point is, it's a sure bet that if she hasn't been pregnant by now, she's not going to be. It's a shame, but that's what it is. It's not gonna work that way. It doesn't bother me anymore, so that's how it is. Now, do you have any ideas how we're going to find anything out today?"
"Might talk to some people. Maybe even General Morrison," Jack supposed. "We'll see how things look when we get there. I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of it once I ask around."
John glanced up from cutting his slab of ham with his fork and smiled back down at his plate. "Sure, Dad."
John and Jack walked to the tiny room that served as John and Doug's office, adjoining several offices on the base comprising the Farscape Project. John opened the door for Jack, who walked in and was immediately surprised to see the room stripped nearly bare. Normally the walls would be covered with schematics, star maps and even he didn't know what all, but today they were bare. Additionally, only a few personal objects remained on the desks, along with the ever present computer terminals. Everything related to the Farscape Project was gone.
"They took everything but the kitchen sink," John said, watching his dad look around the nearly empty room. "Everything having to do with the project is gone. Apparently they didn't trust me with all those really bitchin' binders. Dang, how'd they know my fiancée had sticky fingers?"
Jack shook his head in disbelief. "So what are they having you do?"
"Other than twiddling my thumbs and the hourly interrogations, nothing," John sat down on a swivel chair and put his feet up on the desk. "I know it's the job from heaven to some people, but it gets really old. Oh, I still do all those public appearances, but who knows how long that is going to last."
"I'm going to go talk to General Morrison," Jack decisively stated.
"Why, do you think that's going to do any good? I'm sure he's the one that ordered everything to be confiscated, dad," John pointed out, turning on the monitor on his desk and starting an animation on the desktop, complete with cheesy tune. "Everything but Sonic here. I'm too big of a security risk now, obviously." John looked around his office shaking his head.
"The man owes me a favor or two from our days back in the Air Force," Jack wasn't dissuaded. "I'll see what I can get out of him. You know son, it may not be much."
"Anything's better than nothing at this point dad. I can't even get virtual stripper here."
Jack patted John on the shoulder trying to reassure him. "I'll see what I can do son. Where will you be?"
"Here," John gestured to the nearly empty office. "Hangin' out. Kickin' back, put my feet up on the desk and catch up on my reading. Maybe download some porn from the Net, who knows. Got nothin' better to do."
"Okay, see you in a bit." Jack closed the door and walked down the hall.
Things were obviously very serious if IASA was looking for hard evidence against his son, but Jack kept resisting the urges to panic about all the things they could possibly learn. Confiscating his files and all the project documents meant they didn't trust him anymore. There were many reasons they could find to put him out of favor, Jack reminded himself. Even if they could find something to vindicate John, it probably meant that his career with IASA was most likely finished. But that didn't seem to matter as much anymore, compared to all the other concerns he now knew of.
Jack walked rapidly through the corridors to General Morrison's office, which was located on the other side of the base. His secretary, Charlotte Smythe, was sitting at her desk outside the general's office. She smiled at Jack as he walked up.
"Hello Colonel Crichton," she cheerfully greeted him. "How are you today? Would you like some coffee?"
"I'm fine Charlotte. Thank you for asking. Maybe later. How are your husband and children?"
"They are doing well sir. Jeremy is eight years old now and Sally just turned six."
"They sure grow up fast, don't they," Jack said with a grin.
"They do indeed, Sir."
Jack nodded toward the closed door behind her. "Is he in?"
"He is, Colonel, but I'm afraid that he's unavailable all day." Charlotte consulted something on her computer. "I'm afraid there's nothing available until the day after tomorrow."
Jack sighed inwardly. "Oh don't worry none, Charlotte," Jack sat down, uncharacteristically comfortably, to make it clear he wasn't going anywhere. "I'll wait."
Chiana awoke, humming to prompt John and reaching out with a sleep-heavy hand to nudge him. After fumbling her hand around a few moments, she realized John was gone. Reluctantly lifting an eyelid, she saw it was already light outside. She glanced at the human timekeeping device, a clock, she remembered the word after a moment. It said 3:00. If it was right, she had slept most of the day away.
At first she sneered, angry he'd left without letting her know, and disappointed he'd not troubled to have any fun together. Then on second thought, she smiled to think it was probably his backward way of being kind. Chiana sprang out of bed feeling much better than she had the night before. She rarely got sick, so she reasoned it must have been that frelling human food that made her sick. No wonder hunger didn't stand up much to anxiety lately.
Chiana walked out of the bedroom without putting on her clothes, her instincts telling her that she was alone in the apartment. She stretched her cramped muscles as she walked into the kitchen. A piece of paper lay on the counter covered with John's familiar scrawl. It read:
Dad and I went to the base.
Be back later. Got some food, it's in the frig.
Don't leave the apartment.
Chiana sneered as she crumpled up the note and tossed it over her shoulder. 'That frellnick,' she thought. "Crichton," she muttered to herself, "cryptic as always. Does he ask 'how are you feeling Bob'? 'Hope you're okay Bob?' Ah no, it's just don't leave the apartment Bob. Frellnick. Well. He can just kiss my eema, he can't tell me what to frelling do."
The saying made her smile in spite of herself. Resting her chin on her hand and her elbow on the kitchen counter, an image of him pleading after her and trying to kiss his mobile lips along her buttocks crossed her mind for a moment. Her stomach growled, snapping her from her fantasy and reminding her that she was hungry and hadn't eaten since getting sick the night before.
Chiana went to the refrigerator and looked inside. She giggled as food practically spilled out, Jack's influence obviously. John wouldn't notice if they were out of food and starving as long as he had plenty of beer. Frellnick.
Chiana poked her head into the fridge, peering intently at every shelf for a microt each at the same time her hands skillfully rifled through all the bins and compartments. Finally she snagged a banana and snurched a couple of apples from the crisper, taking them with her as she walked into the living room. She paused there. The place was nice but closed up and kind of gloomy. Then in a few steps she felt the sun shining through the curtains of a window and closed her eyes. The sun felt good and the outdoors beckoned. It'd be more enjoyable outside, she decided, so she walked out onto the terrace.
Chiana hopped onto one of the lounge chairs scattered about and carefully peeled the banana. She giggled as she remembered John's reaction the first time she'd eaten a banana. Not knowing she had to peel it first, she had stuffed the whole thing, peel and all, into her mouth and started to chew. John's eyes had bugged out before he finally showed her the proper way to peel and eat a banana. Chiana giggled again, remembering his face when she'd started peeling the next banana with her mouth. He'd then covered his eyes, pulled out the banana, peeled it himself then put the fruit back into her mouth. Personally, she preferred her way, and later, after she'd shown John some other things she could do with her talented mouth, he'd admitted that her way was unusual, but had its definite advantages.
The banana finished, Chiana went to toss the peel over her shoulder onto the terrace floor. But she stopped herself, thinking about how John would lecture her to keep the place clean of trash. Thinking fondly of him, she decided to play conscientious and threw the peel over the railing. Chiana then ate the apples, carefully disposing of the cores over the railing the same as she had the banana peel.
With her meal complete for now, Chiana sat back in the chair to lounge lazily in the warm sun on the bright Australian spring day, sighing with pleasure as a light breeze washed over the bare skin. As pleasure lulled her, she tried surrendering to a sense of infinite present, but something kept disturbing her serenity. There was a sense of a presence around or within her, not so much someone but something. It wasn't threatening, it simply was.
The door opened behind Charlotte and a uniformed, grey-haired man about Jack's age stepped out. He saw Jack and smiled. "Jack Crichton, you old dog, how are you? How long has it been?"
The General offered his hand, and Jack stood up to take it and shake his hand. "A coupla years at least Jim," Jack replied. "How's the family?"
"General," Charlotte interrupted, "I hate to interrupt, but you've got a meeting with Commander Adams in ten minutes."
"Actually Charlotte, he just called to cancel." The General turned to Jack. "I've got some time for you now, Jack." He waved Jack into his office. "Hold my calls please, Charlotte."
Jack went into the office and sat down in the chair opposite the desk as the General directed. "How's your family, Jack?" The General inquired. "The girls, Susan and Olivia? It's been years since I saw them last."
"Yes, at Leslie's funeral I believe."
The general smiled sadly. "Yes, I think it was. I'm so sorry about her Jack. How are you doing these days? Coffee?"
"I still miss her," Jack sighed. "Sometimes something happens and I'll think, 'I've got to remember to tell Les that'. Then I remember that she's gone."
The General watched Jack sympathetically from his thick, overgrown brows while pouring two cups of coffee and sliding one toward Jack.
"Thanks. But really I'm okay, Jim. Got the kids to worry about, and grandchildren to look forward to."
Jim took a sip of coffee. "How are the girls doing?"
Jack laughed. "Well, Susan's got Frank and Bobby, and she's cutting a swath through Atlanta society. Livvy's a teacher. She just loves it; she's very good with kids."
General Morrison nodded and sat back in his chair looking at Jack. "Now that the bullshit is out of the way, I know why you're here Jack."
"He's my son Jim," Jack replied, interrupting his sentence for a sip of coffee, but not his firm look at Jim. "I want to know what's going on."
"You know I can't tell you that, Jack."
"Jim, we go back a long ways. You know how I am when it comes to my kids. If my son did something wrong, then you know I'll make damn sure he'll stand up and take responsibility. The problem is, of course, we don't know what he's accused of."
"Jack, you know I can't divulge anything, it's still under-"
"-investigation. Yes I know that. Jim, I'm not asking you to breach anything confidential. Nothing so specific as all that."
"He hasn't been charged with anything yet."
General Morrison sighed and got up from his chair and went to the window. He stared out of it for what seemed like an age before sighing heavily again and turning back to Jack.
"I can't tell you much," he said.
"I know, and John doesn't have to know any of this. Jim, just tell me what you can."
The general leaned over the desk and lowered his voice. "The only reason I'm telling you this is because we've been friends since the Air Force. I was there when John was born. I watched him grow up, become an astronaut, like his father. I couldn't be prouder of him if he were my own son, but he's in trouble this time Jack, big trouble." The general paused. "You're his father, so let's suppose you could know. Investigators have found a bank account Jack, in John's name. There's a lot of money in it, Jack, and of course there's the missing module."
Jack shook his head. "He explained what happened to the module. It is plausible Jim, you and I both know weirder things have happened. Like that time what's his face took that prototype airplane joyriding while he was drunk and crashed it. He barely got a slap on the wrist for that. Where he got some of his money, we'll never know."
"I wish it were as simple as a joyride, Jack. And we're talking figures far beyond what Payne, or any of us, ever had. They suspect John sold the module to some foreign power. They're talking treason Jack. At the very least they suspect industrial espionage."
"My bosses, Jack. The powers that be. I don't run this place, I'm just paid to look like I do. Right now, they're trying to keep the investigation quiet. They don't want this leaking out right now."
"They're certainly succeeding in creating a mystery. You know that John's explanation is perfectly reasonable, Jim. Odd, there's no question about it, weird, but reasonable."
"Yes it is, and you're right. The unexplainable can happen. I agree. We were all willing to accept it," Jim sat back down and took a sip of coffee. "Until the bank account showed up."
"John probably just set up a separate account for his book and television appearance monies Jim, that's probably what they've found."
The general laughed grimly. "We know how much John has made from all that, Jack, and its chicken feed compared to what's in that account. I saw the amount Jack. John could buy his own country with that amount."
"Jim, you and I both know that the module has been his whole life for the last few years, and Douglas's too. He'd never sell it."
"Everyone has a price Jack, even John. And from what I hear, Douglas and himself aren't any too happy with each other at the moment."
"No, not John," Jack stated emphatically.
General Morrison sighed again. "It's not just the bank account Jack, there's other evidence."
"Like what?" Jack coolly sipped his coffee, but inside he was anything but cool.
The general hesitated, but continued after another sip of coffee. "This stuff's awful. I'd trade in my stars for decent coffee. His recent brain scans were odd, Jack, as well as some of his other medical tests."
"Medical tests?" Jack was incredulous. "That's not much to go on, a few weird test results and a mysterious bank account."
"There's also the missing module Jack...." Jim looked sharply at Jack. "Funny how the module disappears and the money shows up."
"Do you think he's guilty Jim?" Jack evenly held Jim's gaze.
"It doesn't matter what I think Jack, but I honestly don't know."
"You've known John all his life, Jim. Do you honestly think he's capable of doing what he's been accused of?"
"I'd like to think not Jack, that's the only reason I'm talking to you now," the General admitted, looking back down at his coffee.
Jack sat back in his chair. "I appreciate you taking the time to tell me this Jim. I hope this doesn't get you in trouble."
General Morrison waved away his concern. "We're friends Jack, John's your son. You'd do the same for me if our positions were reversed."
"Still, I appreciate you telling me even though you didn't have to." Jack stood up and shook hands with General Morrison. "Thanks Jim, I hope I haven't thrown off your agenda too far."
"No, Jack, its fine," Jim assured him. "I'd just be meeting with that walking ego, Payne Adams, now. Small world isn't it? Let him crash himself in my office for a while. Say Jack, do you still play golf?"
Jack laughed. "Play isn't exactly the word I'd use to describe what I do on the golf course. It's more like butchering the ball. I swear they have to replant the entire course every time I play."
The general laughed. "Come out and play golf with me on Sunday. It'll be like old times."
"Yeah, with you winning and me coming in a poor second," Jack said with a chuckle. "I'd better check my wallet, see if I can spare the money I know I'm going to lose."
General Morrison shrugged and laughed. "Who knows, you might get lucky this time?"
"Yeah, when pigs fly," laughed Jack.
"Payne Adams already flew, Jack," General Morrison pointed out.
"I take your point," Jack turned toward the door. "Just let me know when, where and what time."
"I'll have Charlotte call you with the particulars. See you Sunday, Jack."
"Sure Jim and thanks again," Jack said as he left. "Bye Charlotte."
"Good bye Colonel," she called out as Jack walked out the door.
"There are friends and there are friends," Jack remarked to himself as he walked down the hall, back toward John's office.