In farthest space, beyond the knowing charts
The horrid human and his band appear.
And though they play today at different parts,
The core of subtle truth beneath is clear.
The path of choice may draw you dark and deep
Where flesh deformed doth keep the dream alive.
And if the way your compass cannot keep,
Some pearls of wisdom to thee do I give.
Hah-hah! This should do it! (he swings the magnifier away from the manual and peers at Chiana and John through it - which has the effect of reducing him to a big eye surrounded by a halo of light. Then he finishes the instructions that pertain to their situation with great dramatic flair)
Your quest is for the Princess Fair to seek.
The one a humans fleeting love did rend.
Bring forth the sword and through the darkness peek.
One loving kiss amends, and there's an end.
And if we shades with taste do not agree
A door of green shall set your senses free!
(and with that - he pushes the magnifier away to reveal a costume change - his dull Banik tunic has been replaced by a flamboyant French Cavalier style number in orange and magenta stripes accented with black ruffles at the cuffs and Elizabethan collar at his neck. All this is topped by a Prince Valiant wig over his mask and a red cape. He strikes a proud pose and Chiana practically applauds)
Chiana: That was great! (she frowns) What was that?
AvatarStark: Your way out! Kiss the princess.
John: Kiss a princess?
AvatarStark: The - Princess and you're out. Or find a green door. (he shrugs) Either way. (and with that - show's over and he wants them out-out-out. With a whoosh - he plunges his hand into his pocket and whips out 3 little white ping-pong sized balls) Vouchers! (he tosses them to John) Each one good for one answer to one question. Squeeze them hard - use them well. Time's up! Games on! Good luck! Have fun! The tower's up - but up is down. Follow the path through the fairy town! (and with a big swish of his cape - he's gone. John stares at the spot he had stood in and blinks)
John: (very quietly) I have - some questions. (but Chiana knows that sometimes it's best just to play the game and not waste time with questions that aren't likely to be answered)
Chiana: Path? (she scans the room for clues - none of the doors are green. Her eyes pass over the Avatars manual - which is entitled "A Grim Fairy Tale") Up - is down... Start lookin'! (a trail of gold coins leads to a tiny red door high up on the wall) Kiss the princess - (trying to humor John) - you gotta like that.
John: I have a list of reasons why I ain't gonna like any of this. (he points at the line of gold coins) Would you call that a path? (they join hands and follow the trail as John grumbles) These things look like chocolate coins. (arriving at the red door - they touch its knob and instantly undergo a dizzying transition amid a whirl of colored doors to the next game level where they reel before getting their balance. John lays his hand on his helmet next to the metal shard that's poking out of it and sinks to his knees)
Chiana: FRELL ME! (she laughs delightedly as she staggers and looks around - they're in an empty parking garage. Free-standing doors - none of them green - are randomly placed among the support pillars. She helps John to his feet) That's a path!
John: (sounding tired) Hey what happens if I die in here?
Chiana: Uh - game death - it resets on the current level. (they begin walking - the garage isn't empty after all. In addition to the colored doors - a purple van is parked on the far end of the level. It's painted with stars, planets and a blue hand with an eye in the palm within an aura of greenish yellow)
John: (dubiously) Yeah unless normal operation is suspended. You see a green door? (they eye the van - whose rhythmic rocking and pulled curtains hint at energetic interior randyness. It's an old-fashioned hippiemobile and they're close enough to read the words painted on its side - PALMS READ, STARS, HYPNOSIS and FORTUNE TELLER)
Chiana: What do you suppose is in there?
John: With our luck? Maldis. (as they near the squeaking van they can hear whispered words from within - they peek through a gap in the curtains and see the naked back of a man bobbing. They exchange a glance - but before they can retreat - the van door flies open! They leap back, drawing their swords as something only slightly less alarming than Maldis steps out amid a cloud of blue smoke and says with tones of great mellowness-)
He-Zhaan: Hey man. (he moans a little as he stretches his legs and waves off John's sword) Relax tagama. I am Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan - 10th level Delvian priest. Blood kin to the piezor who beat Scorpy's ass. (he grins wickedly at then and they just speechless. He's certainly Delvian but... he's a he - and a very rotund he at that. He's naked from the waist up, exposing acres of bright blue flesh which, along with the sparkly Indian-style lower garment tied around his ample waist, gives his the look of a big fat kitsch Buddha. However - presumably unlike the Buddha, (but very like the real Zhaan) - he has an edge of flaky sharpness under that blissed-out facade as he says to John) And you - (to Chiana) and you - you're invading my parking space. Now frell off. (he turns back to his van. Chiana stops him - although she doesn't seem quite sure why...)
Chiana: Hey w-where ah - where-?
He-Zhaan: (dismissive) I know who you are - you're a couple of pilgrims on some damn-fool quest. (John shakes his head a bit, as if struggling to stay awake)
Chiana: Hey! He's hurt. (this piques He-Zhaan's interest and he looks back at John)
He-Zhaan: He's hurt?
Chiana: Yeah. (He-Zhaan eyes the piece of metal stuck in John's head and steps towards him. John seems confused as he backs up a little)
He-Zhaan: Well he's gonna be more hurt - if he tries to kiss the Princess. (spookily) The ogre'll get him.
John: (woozy) O-ogre? (and in a movement so fast that John scarcely has time to grunt - He-Zhaan brings one bare, blue-toenailed, elephantine foot down on his boot. John's arms fly out and his mouth forms an "O" as the Delvian Buddha finishes him off with a heavy punch. John topples like a tree. He-Zhaan and Chiana beam as the Big Blue Fella leans down to John and says)
He-Zhaan: (serenely) Be still. (John stares stupidly up at him with furrowed bow) It's gonna hurt - (with a smile) - a lot. (and with that - he holds John down with one massive blue mitt and yanks the length of metal out of his head with the other. John bellows his way to unconsciousness as Chiana and He-Zhaan eye the bloody, 7-inch end of the offending shrapnel)
(the scene jumps ahead a few minutes to the interior of He-Zhaan's van. It has sequined curtains, garlands of little mirrors, a fiber-optic lamp, Christmas lights, sparkly things hanging from the rear-view mirror and it's dash is covered in canary yellow fake fur. John's been moved inside where he lays on an untidy heap of pillows and rumpled priests robes while the Delvian licks off the piece of metal lately removed from his head - Chiana worries)
Chiana: He doesn't look so good.
He-Zhaan: (with relish) Yep - he's bad. He's goin' south. (suddenly he grunts - the sound is somewhere between that of someone with an impending orgasm and someone with a painfully full bladder) Oh! Oh-oh-ohoooh! It's milkin' time baby! Hammond side looma for the cure! (Chiana looks a bit alarmed - but doesn't seem to need to be told to grab a nearby golden goblet which she passes to him) Thank you. (mercifully - He-Zhaan has draped a sequin-spangled schmatte around his shoulders so we're spared the actual sight of what happens next. He takes the goblet under that vestment and there follows the sound of fluid tinkling into it as the Big Guy moans with relief) Yeah... Better get ready to keep him quiet! (Chiana turns quickly to inspect John - he's still dead to the world) The ogre's not gonna let you kiss her you know. (Chiana looks questioningly at him) Heee'll be jealous!
Chiana: (jerking her head towards John impatiently) Feed him ya fannik!
He-Zhaan: Okay - here's the good stuff - here it is! (and he brings the goblet out and offers it to Chiana - it's half full of what looks like thin chicken broth. But the Nebari has played these sorts of games before and slaps it out of his hand after craning her neck to inspect it - and maybe sniff a little in it's general directon)
Chiana: Frell! Acid! (He-Zhaan's looma-juice does indeed sizzle and smoke as it splashes among the detritus at the back of the van and Chiana puts her knife to his throat) Okay - try - the other looma.
He-Zhaan: (panting) Very good little nixa - most get burnt the first time. Here we go - other looma. Next time lucky. (he takes the goblet and lifts his shawl and goes for the other tit) Unless the ogre gets wind of this, then there'll be trouble. (he produces another goblet of frothy fluid) Okay - heeere's m'boy. (Chiana takes the goblet and trickles some of the liquid into John's limp mouth as He-Zhaan exhorts them) Keep it down... Keep it down... (there's a tense moment while John just lays there and chokes a little and a couple rivulets of looma-juice run across his cheek. Chiana pats his armored chest a bit - and suddenly he flies bolt upright - howling lustily. [FLASH momentarily back to the Avatars Office where an image of John's howling face fills the screen of the old TV set which is still laying on the table and has become the gooses new roost] Meanwhile - back in the van - Chiana and He-Zhaan scream too - until as suddenly as he started - John cuts off the howl and flops back down where he begins to thrash and growl as if he's possessed. The Delvian Buddha flies into panic mode) This is bad! Oohhh - he had to hear that! (he scrambles into the drivers seat as John grumbles and growls and flops and Chiana tries to hold him down) Buckle up! BUCKLE UP! BUCKLE UUUUUP!
Chiana: Who had to hear?
He-Zhaan: THE BIG KAHUNA! IT'S THE OGRE! IT'S HIM! (and with that - he burns rubber peeling out of his parking spot and rockets through the garage. Up ramps and past "no entry" signs - the other side of his van is seen to be decorated with lots of curlicues and the words "FLOWER POWER" with daisies for the O's. Suddenly - he screeches to a halt next to a trail of gold markers and screams at his passengers) GET OUT! GET OUT! (and when the blissbus roars off - John is left laying spread-eagled on the garage floor with Chiana standing over him and looking around like she isn't sure what happened. But at least John isn't channeling ogres anymore as she drops down to straddle him and peer into his face)
John: (slurring, semi-coherently) I don't wanna go. Go... (he rolls his head to watch He-Zhaan's tulip truck disappearing around a bend at breakneck speed and exclaims, scandalized) Zhaan!
John: (moaning limply) Oh the horror...
Chiana: (nodding) The new and improved Zhaan. How ya feelin'? (he licks his lips)
John: (dully) Fruity. (Chiana laughs and the scene jumps ahead a few moments. They're following the trail of gold markers which winds its way through this upper level of the parking garage. The scene picks up in the middle of a conversation) If you say so.
Chiana: You have to Crichton. Or these games will eat you up.
John: All right -
Chiana: Just give it a go-
John: I'll try. I--
Chiana: Give it a go. (suddenly, as John replies, the silence of the garage is broken by the sound of a horse whinnying as something scuttles out of the shadows and parks itself directly atop the trail of gold markers)
John: I said I'll- Whoa. (they stop and take in the sight that presents itself to them now. It's Rygel. He's wearing a helmet topped with a black plume and enough armor to make him look like a small tank - a small tank with a black cape draped over it. He's also armed with a tiny double-edged sword. He announces his challenge with regal volume)
SirRygel: None shall pass! (John laughs - now this is amusing to him and he figures he can handle Prince Poop at least - no problem)
John: (to Chiana) Check this out! (he step forward and addresses SirRygel in loud, courtly tones) Brave Sir Knight! I am King Arthur of Camelot! (he gestures toward China) This is my loyal vassal - Patsy!
SirRygel: Bollocks! You're a pimped-out arrogant fleshy who wants to use my road - where none - shall pass! (John's confident smile disappears)
John: (under his breath) Fine. (he turns and paces back to Chiana's side)
Chiana: (brightly) Well that went great! (deadly) Let's kill him.
John: (annoyed) Nahnono - he's not gonna move too fast luggin' all that armor. We can just go around.
SirRygel: (firmly warning them) NONE - SHALL - PASS! (John nonchalantly turns and says, out of the corner of his mouth to Chiana)
John: All right. (and with that - they start to mosey away from the trail and cut a wide berth around SirRygel. But the Guardian Of The Path isn't so easily fooled and with a furious grunt - he turns his back to them, bends over, flips up his cape - and there it is. The trunk-like Hynerian External Rectum. Aimable, expandable and in SirRygel's case - a very respectable flame-thrower. With a gassy little whistle - its end glows and an 18 foot long jet of fire flares toward our heroes. Chiana and John break into a not so nonchalant run)
John: WHOA! (suddenly he realizes Chiana is running back the way they'd come instead of in the direction they were going) I THOUGHT YOU SAID THIS WAY!
Chiana: I changed my mind! (she dances back to their original position in front of SirRygel and draws both her sword and knife. Better a head-on, or butt-on as it were - confrontation - than sneaking around and getting Hynerian fart-fried anyway. SirRygel is momentarily stymied as he looks from her to John - he can't fight with both ends at once. But he doesn't have to, since John can only stand and watch, stupefied, as Chiana charges SirRygel's fire-blowing bum with a fearsome Nebari war-whoop. The Hynerian brings his Blazing Buttocks about and directs fountain after fountain of searing intestinal gas at her. But the plucky young nixa is more than a match for his Tushie Of Terror as she leaps over and rolls under his deadly gouts of Heinie Heat, never taking her eyes from the prize until - with a final, triumphant lunge - she sinks her blade into SirRygel - who explodes in a spectacular fireball. Chiana laughs as she waves the smoke away from SirRygel's charred remains)
John: (quietly) Whoa. (but as the smoke clears - he notices something else. SirRygel died where he stood, atop the trail of gold markers - and from this vantage point John can see that there appear to be no markers beyond that point) Hey Pip - you see a path?
Chiana: No. (clarifying that) No I don't.
(the scene shifts briefly back to the transport pod where Chiana and John's real bodies stand locked to the game blob, lost in its bizarre world. The pods pilotless engines roar and its yaw is increasing. And back in the game matrix - John is furious as he stands there at the end of the trail in a deserted parking garage with Chiana and a dead fire-farting Hynerian)
John: I said to wait! But no - you wanna play games while Scorpy is on the ship! Not to mention the potential brain damage Chiana! (Chiana doesn't want to argue with him so she reminds him of the other way out)
Chiana: A green door. We need a green door. Just-just ask. Voucher.
John: Voucher. (he produces one of AvatarStark's ping-pong ball sized pearls of wisdom) One question. One answer. (it glows green when he squeezes it and the face of AvatarStark appears in the flames that still flicker from SirRygel's body)
AvatarStark: (languid) Warm tonight - or is it just me?
John: Stark we want out.
AvatarStark: (rapidly) The tower's up, but up is down! Follow the path through the fairy town! Later! (the flames die out and he's gone. But John wanted a green door - not a riddle)
John: Stark you get your ass back here now or I'm gonna come kick your lily white- (but he stops himself as he and Chiana spot what looks like Starks masked and burnt head in SirRygel's corpse)
Chiana: That's it! (she kicks the head and the shell of what was SirRygelaway, revealing a grate underneath where he'd been standing)
John: What are you doin'?
Chiana: Follow the path! The path ends here! (she stamps her foot on the grate and with a dizzying whirl of colorful doors - they advance to the next level of the game by falling into the same room that had been the Avatars Office before. Gone are all the technical paraphernalia though - the room is now done up like some perverse S&M fairy tale kitchen. Giant lollipops stand around the rooms perimeter, just in front of the colored doors that line the wall. A stove and heaps of veggies stand against the rear wall. Candelabra light a dining table in the center of the room and above it, a round cage hangs from the ceiling. The cage is occupied by a pair of sexy witches in pointy hats - Jool, who seems desperate, for something - and to Chiana's consternation, herself - cast as a sexual tease no less. But most alarming of all is the naughty boy who throws up his hands in surprise at our heroes sudden appearance. It's D'Argo. He has on lederhosen, extra-long oven mitts and a polka-dotted blouse with a big Victorian schoolboy collar and bow. He fixes them with a hostile stare)
NaughtyD'Argo (put-out) Okay - WHAT are you doing here?
NymphoChi: (teasing DesperateJool in their cage) Hey Gretel - d'you think they're here to eat?
John: Aahhhh... We're just passin' through?
NaughtyD'Argo (knowingly) The Princess.
DesperateJool: (rattling her chains overhead and begging) Pleeeeaaaase....
NaughtyD'Argo The ogre's gonna have my hide if I let you go without some... molestation. (on the wall behind NaughtyD'Argo, John spots a nice big green door)
DesperateJool: (shrilly) Frell you, handsome! Why is it never my turn? (suddenly NaughtyD'Argo begins laughing maniacally and skipping after Chiana, who easily evades him as John tries to reason with him and DesperateJool whines incessantly)
John: Hey look w-w-we don't wanna kiss the Princess we just want that - (pointing at it with his sword) - that green door there.
DesperateJool: Pleeease pleeease pleeease it's my turn Eat me! Eat me please it's my turn! (although NaughtyD'Argo seems more than a little unhinged in the first place - DesperateJool's constant nagging drives him to a temper tantrum of spoiled toddler proportions. He jumps up, and grabbing onto the bottom of the overhead cage, swings on it, legs flung wide as he bellows)
NaughtyD'Argo SHUUUUUUUUUT UUUUUUUUUP! (DesperateJool shuts up and NaughtyD'Argo drops back to the floor where he takes a deep breath and begins walking slowly toward Chiana and John with much head rolling and hand flapping. They back up before him as he says, extremely irritated but pretending not to be) HO-kay! So you want out. No PRINCESS. No TASTE. No ah - (he bobs his head and whistles)
Chiana: (to John) Now this - is too easy. (but she stays with him as he tries to back his way to the green door. Meanwhile, the chaos begins building again as the two in the cage are starting up afresh. DesperateJool is leering down at them and waving her tongue around while NymphoChi prattles inanely)
NymphoChi: She tastes great! Aaahhhh - she tastes real great...Yumyumyummy....
DesperateJool: D'Argo please eat me.... Yumyyumyummy
NaughtyD'Argo (softly wicked, to Chiana and John as they pass the lollipop perimeter and head for the green door) Go on... (in a mad, falsetto chant) That's it! That's it! Go to the door! (then several things happen simultaneously - John grabs the doorknob and NaughtyD'Argo lashes out with his tongue. Chiana drops and there's a whirl of colored doors and-)
(-the scene shifts back to the transport pod. John disconnects from the game blob and falls away, gasping as he reorients himself)
John: Damn! Way too long in that thing! Pip come on! (Chiana just stands there with the game blob, gasping as he scrambles for the comms console) Pilot! Aeryn - D'Argo...
(cut to Aeryn and D'Argo, heavily armed, in the corridors of Moya. The scene shifts between them and the pod as they speak with John)
D'Argo Crichton! Where the frell are you?
John: (panting with relief) Aw - just tryin' to get home Auntie Em - hey you guys got a problem?
John: Just do not tell me that he has escaped!
D'Argo (grim) He has - and there's a Command Carrier on the way.
John: (sharply) D'Argo how the hell did that happen?
D'Argo We're still working on that. We've got lots of bugs in Moya's systems. (he and Aeryn stagger as Moya lurches on cue)
John: Oh great - well what does Sikozu say about that?
D'Argo Haven't heard from her since the escape.
Aeryn: Look Pilot's losing control of critical systems.
John: Rightrightright - we will be there - ASAP. (he notices Chiana is still just standing there, her head wobbling loosely, eyes shut) Chiana - dammit - wake up! (he strides back to her and she murmurs his name questioningly. He incautiously grabs her hand that still holds the game blob and mutters) All right... All right how the hell... does this thing come-? (and alas - in trying to pry her fingers away from the game blob, he succeeds only in pressing his own fingers back into it. The ring of colored doors whirl before his eyes - and he's back in his conquistador costume standing in the grim fairy tales S&M kitchen. DesperateJool is alone in the cage now and NaughtyD'Argo looks up from where he's chopping vegetables. NymphoChi is sprawled on the floor at his feet amid sacks of onions, potatoes and spices - but there's no sigh of the real Chiana. John edges into the room, sword drawn and held low with both hands as he demands-) Where's Chiana?
NaughtyD'Argo (malevolent) Aaah - she's too bony. Probably tastes like fish... You don't want to eat her. (John scans the room warily. A big silver platter with an ornate cover sits on the table in a pool of light) The bloody bitch bites.
DesperateJool: (rattling her chains as she demands with neurotic fury) What am I? Chopped liver?
John: (muttering to himself) I do not have time for this. (as DesperateJool squawks, he pulls out another voucher and squeezes it)
DesperateJool: How come nobody ever wants to eat ME?
AvatarStark: (tinny) In here! (John looks around)
John: (under his breath) Where?
AvatarStark: In here! (John homes in on the covered platter and lifts its lid off. Beneath it AvatarStark's head, framed by the black Elizabethan collar, rests atop a bed of greens and looks up at him) Back so soon? And I thought you didn't like us!
John: Where's Chiana?
AvatarStark: Could you be more specific? (John whips up his sword and points it at AvatarStark's single eye)
John: Little gray girl - a sword and a floppy hat.
AvatarStark: Girl of gray with soul to play - Girl of gray went that-a-way. (he looks towards a large blue double-door and smiles as John goes to it. Instead of a knob it has a button which he pushes - it dings softly) Wait for it- (John looks sourly back at him as the double door slide open - it's an elevator) Mind the gap. (John carefully steps into the elevator and shoots AvatarStark a last resentful look as the doors close. He turns his attention to the elevator buttons - there are 60 of them. Elevator muzak tinkles softly as he waves a finger in front of them and mutters)
John: Eenie, meenie- (but he's cut off by JohnHeadroom, whose face suddenly appears on a little screen next to the elevator buttons and looks right at him)
JohnHeadroom: (loudly) Floor please!
John: (he freezes) Me... (he averts his eyes from his absurdly unself-conscious doppelganger and says in a surly tone) Where the gray girl went.
JohnHeadroom: (discreetly leaning forward ) Oh/oh/oh/oh. The penthouse. (he smiles and grunts. John can't help a little sheepish smile back and JohnHeadroom leans back and asks officiously) Do you have an appointment? (John attempts to regain control of the situation by fixing his cyberself with a slightly indirect glare)
John: You know this'd be vaguely amusing if I wasn't in a hurry!
JohnHeadroom: (with a shrug of his eyebrows) It's your funeral. (and then, garrulous digital social-slut that he is - he plunges into small talk. John is somewhere between mortified and determined not to let this guy get to him) SO/SO/SO/SO! What/what brings you here? Business? Pleasure? (John focuses on the elevator buttons as the floors tick by and tries not to get involved. JohnHeadroom doesn't care - he's perfectly aware of the effect he has on people and he's proud of it) That's a nice sword you've got. (John is suddenly self-consciously aware that he's standing with his arms spread wide, one hand on the elevator handrail and the other atop his sword which he's holding as if it were a fancy walking stick he's posing with) Ever slay any dragons with it? You should give it a name! How about - Cameron? Or - (slyly as his image skips) - Booma/Booma/Booma? (John shoots him a glance - but it's too late now as JohnHeadroom makes his getaway) First floor/first floor! Little lost girls! Have a good day. (and with a wink, a show of his PhotoShop-white teeth and a little static - he's gone. John nods and a tiny, rueful smile crosses his lips. Clever of Stark - very clever. But it's not over yet - for the elevator doors open on the parking garage - and a typically hostile Scarran in a little Red Riding hood outfit complete with a basket containing goodies in the form of the heads of a keedva and Maldis)
John: WHOA! (he laps back and brings up his sword as the Scarran lunges. There's a flurry of Scarran, heads and the ring of John's sword before the scene clears. The elevator is moving again, its muzak is a-tinkle and John is panting over the head of the dead dragon - we mean Scarran. JohnHeadroom is back online offering his usual self-involved commiseration)
JohnHeadroom: (lugubriously) Yes I know. This elevator sucks. My job suck/suck/sucks. Day after day the same/the same thing. (John casts his put-upon cyber-self a sidelong glance as it continues to describe his own life for him) Up. Down. Up. Down/down. (John leans in the corner of the elevator and shakes his head silently at the Waste Of It All as his Other Self gives voice to his pitifully small yearnings) Just once - just once it'd be nice to go - sideways... (he edges off to one side of his screen) Just/just - sideways. (then - loudly as the elevator door slides open) Frog Princes! (John doesn't move from his corner as the Sheyang he knew was going to be waiting outside belches its fireball into the elevator. His sword clangs again and the elevator ride resumes with its tepid piano music and a Sheyang head added to the cars occupants. JohnHeadroom blithely continues to regale John with his all-too-familiar and therefore insanely irritating ambitions) I have plans you know - (softly) Big (loudly) PLANS! (confidentially) I/I/I'm studying to be an astronaut. (John - nearing the end of his tether with himself, slowly turns his eyes up to JohnHeadroom - but of course at that moment - the elevator bell rings ) And - Penthouse! (JohnHeadroom smiles - totally disarming and utterly disingenuous with the knowledge that he's succeeded in pushing someone's every button today) Have a good day!
The elevator door slides open onto the familiar round room whose wall is ringed with multicolored doors and John steps out with his Sheyang and Scarran heads - he looks like a dazed kid coming home from a carnival with a couple of repulsive prizes that he's won... This time, a large, pillow-strewn bed sits in the center of the room under a canopy of golden spheres. Tall pillar candles cast a romantic glow and a carousal horse and a suit of black armor complete the rooms furnishings. PrincessAeryn is sitting on the bed - but John startles as the black-clad figure bending over her straightens and turns around to look at him It's Scorpius - looking more pasty-faced than usual and dressed in a Victorian footman's suit. Little growths like green roses adorn his chin and the tip of his nose - and his name here is Harvey. John drops his heads and unsheathes his sword with a valiant clang.
John: I knew it! I knew it had to be you!
Harvey: (alarmed) Ma'am! (he scuttles away to the rear of the room and reports in a stuffy accent) A visitor.
As FootmanScorpy clears his line of vision - John finds himself caught in the smoldering gaze of PrincessAeryn. Although she retains the greasy blonde hair in its fashion-victim complex 'do - she's now wearing a white dress bedecked with silver stars. Pretty - but when she opens her mouth - for out comes a voice that seems to be the essence of everything that Aeryn is not. It's an American Southern-belle accent with a lisp. It's a lazy voice - self-indulgent, promiscuous, vapid and in love with victimhood.
PrincessAeryn: Yeth ah can thee that.
Harvey: I'm so sorry Ma'am! I didn't realize you expected other guests!
PrincessAeryn: That'th awl raht Hahvey. Would yew let the mathter know that we hayve a genneleman callah? (Harvey scurries off and John notes the position of the green door across the room)
John: (apprehensively) He's not the ogre?
PrincessAeryn: What Hahvey? Oh heaventh no - he'th jutht an incorrigible liah. And the butlah. (her gaze is unwavering as she asks) Tho - can ah hep you fahnd thomeplathe to - theath that thword? (John glances at the green door again and lowers his weapon)
John: No. Where's ah...
PrincessAeryn: The gray guhl? Don't you worry 'bout huh. (she rises and approaches John, who backs away) Mah beatht of a boyfriend ith - thowin' huh around the plathe. Can ah get yew a drink?
PrincessAeryn: Oh don't be lahke that. Yew mutht be pahched from comin' awl thith way.
John: I only want - Chiana. (they stop, and PrincessAeryn smiles and runs her finger from his forehead down his nose to his lips)
PrincessAeryn: (softly seductive) Oh now... We both know that'th not - (whispering) - true. (John is mesmerized despite himself - but at that moment they're interrupted by a rumble and the basso voice of PrincessAeryn's boyfriend - OgreCrais)
OgreCrais: Honey! (PrincessAeryn gasps - but isn't too upset - as John spins around to behold OgreCrais. A set of spiral rams horns curl out of his mane of wild black hair. His intense eyes are topped by bushy black brows and a thick black mustache and goatee around his fanged mouth complete his feral look. His voice causes the whole room to rumble with its power) We're out of ice. (he notices John standing there, shaking in his boots and tips his double-bladed axe at him) Steady on there, meat. We just finished redecorating - the last blood bath we had in here. (he laughs as he goes to recline on the bed) It's a little - joke! (PrincessAeryn giggles quickly as John stands there, keeping the point of his sword trained on OgreCrais and looking very unsure of himself. OgreCrais asks amiably) So! You here to - kiss the missus?
PrincessAeryn: (aggrieved, to OgreCrais) Whah do yew have to be thuch a monthter?
OgreCrais: At least I don't spend my days redecorating. (PrincessAeryn rolls her eyes and OgreCrais rises, rolling his) What is it with women and change? Seems like nothing - is ever good enough! (PrincessAeryn latches onto John's arm)
PrincessAeryn: Oh! yew have to thave me (but he's tired of these peoples problems and drowns her attempts to get him involved out with a bellow - "CHIANAAAAAAAA") - from him! Yew have to thave me! (and miraculously - Chiana bounds into the room from behind a curtain, skidding to a stop with a yell as John whirls about with his sword and nearly skewers her accidentally with it)
John: What the HELL have you been doing?! (PrincessAeryn is miffed as he sheathes his blade and focuses on Chiana) We have a problem on the ship! We have to GO! (Chiana agrees - a little sulkily because of John's tone of paternal lecture. He begins to pull her towards the green door)
PrincessAeryn: (to OgreCrais) Thee? Every tahme we meet thomeone nahce, yew thcare them away! (OgreCrais rolls his head and growls as she nags on and on) Yew thcare them away...! (Chiana looks back and asks John)
Chiana: Something wrong?
John: (vexed out of his skull) Of course! As usual! Now let's GO! (he lays his band on the green doors knob - and with a swirl of colored doors...)
(...the scene jumps back tot he transport pod where they jerk and stumble as they fall away from the game blob. Chiana curses softly as she catches her breath. John scrambles for the comms)
John: Dee! Rally the troops - we're comin' in.
(cut to moments later as the pod arcs in towards Moya. Then cut to soon after as D'Argo and Aeryn lope into the hangar bay to meet them. Rygel's already there)
D'Argo What took you so long?
John: Weird detour.
D'Argo Pilot's blind on the hammond side - tier 7 and 11.
Aeryn: DRDs are searching there. It's likely Scorpius is hiding in those blind spots.
D'Argo The plan is - we hunt him down.
John: I like that plan.
D'Argo Aeryn and John, you take tier 7! (he takes Chiana and they head for the door back into Moya's corridors) And Rygel - stay where you are and stay out of trouble!
The two pairs split up and move out onto their assigned tiers. Chiana and D'Argo communicate by gesture as they move together in furtive silence, D'Argo with his Qualta opened into its rifle function. In another corridor, Aeryn and John walk side by side - neither have their guns drawn.
John: (muttering) This is familiar...
Aeryn: What? The passageway?
John: No. (they make eye contact for a moment before he looks away, smiling despite himself in this dire situation) It's good to have you back.
They move on, and back on tier 11, Chiana and D'Argo have split up. D'Argo steps out into a junction and sniffs the air - and nearby Chiana turns as she hears an agonized scream from him followed by a thud. At the same moment, Pilot hails the others as Scorpius enters the Den. The scene begins to shift between the crew in their various locations.
Pilot: Crichton! Aeryn! He's here!
Aeryn: On our way Pilot! (she and John sprint for the Den where Scorpius, followed by a pair of DRDs, paces slowly towards Pilot's Console)
Scorpius: (calmly) Seal the chamber. (outside - Aeryn and John reach the great Den door just as it swivels shut on it's axis with a solid thud. John hits the door controls to no avail)
Aeryn: Locked out. (they hit their comms)
John: D'ARGO! (no response)
Aeryn: Pilot? (no response)
Chiana: Crichton - I can't find D'Argo!
Aeryn: (to John) Access shaft. This way. (she trots off with John in her wake and moments later they're in a small tunnel that runs above Pilot's station and are looking down at him through a grille-covered portal. It's a deja-vu scenario that mirrors the time Pilot had tried to commit suicide while coming to grips with his and Aeryn's culpability in the death of Moya's original Pilot)
John: Feels like a trap.
Aeryn: Only one way to know. (and a moment later - just like that other time - they drop from the portal onto the catwalk in front of Pilot's station) Pilot? (again, like the other time - he just stares back at her) You all right? (in response, Pilot makes some unspoken signal to a DRD sitting on his Console. It - and several others - open fire. Aeryn about-faces, pushing John ahead of her as they beat a hasty retreat. Only when their backs are against the Den door does the hail of small, but deadly pulse fire cease)
Pilot: (malevolently perky) Everything is finally under control. (John is immediately wary of the Great Navigators unfamiliar - and yet very familiar - tone)
Pilot: (slyly pleased) Not exactly Commander. Have you ever heard of a neural harness? (he hasn't of course - but Scorpius steps out of the shadows to explain it - and Pilot's unPilot-like tone)
Scorpius: Your Pilot's mind - is now slave to my own. (John whips up his gun but Aeryn stays him)
Aeryn: (warning) John...
Scorpius: Whatever happens to the master - happens to the slave. If I die - so does your Pilot. (oh - just like an i-yensch bracelet. That John gets)
John: (to Aeryn) Grayza's Command Carrier is on the way. He's a pathological liar our odds - are not gonna get any better. (Scorpius tilts his chin up and smugly throws one of John's own lines at him)
Scorpius: Feeling lucky? (you can almost hear John's teeth gritting - but before he can make a move, he's betrayed. Aeryn stuns him with a sudden blow to the face - he staggers and drops to the floor where he looks up at her for a second - puzzled)
John: (murmuring) Aeryn... (in response - she kicks him sharply in the head and he's out. She then looks to Scorpius who smiles his approval back as he crosses his arms - revealing the neural implant device firmly gripped in one fist)
(cut to later. John has been moved to a cell aboard Moya where he's laying on the floor. Aeryn is standing rigidly outside and watching as he moans and shifts a little)
Aeryn: He's awake.
John: (sighing, bitterly) He did it didn't he? Tagged you with a microchip.
Aeryn: You haven't considered the possibility that I was protecting Pilot.
John: The second boot to the head convinced me otherwise. (Scorpius steps into view behind Aeryn, who leaves them to it, and John rolls onto his side, instantly on guard)
Scorpius: She's special don't you think? (he enters the cell and John lurches to his feet)
John: (quiet and deadly) You son-of-a-bitch. (the door closes behind the half-Scarran, shutting them in the cell together)
Scorpius: (softly) Shall we end this? (his hand shoots out to present John with a thick dagger. John accepts the weapon, eying its needle-sharp tip as Scorpius turns his back on him) You resisted the Aurora Chair. You've resisted my neural clone and ah - (with quiet bitterness) - you resist all reason. (although the broad target of Scorpius' back is right there within easy lunge distance - John makes no move to attack)
John: You're starting to sound like Sikozu.
Scorpius: Perhaps. Where does that leave us John?
John: Time you headed off for darker pastures and left me the hell alone.
Scorpius: You resist because you have hope - hope that your friends will save you. This time it will be different - one by one I will extinguish all your hopes and little by little you will begin to see reason. (suddenly Aeryn breaks in on comm)
Aeryn: Scorpius - we have Rygel. (without turning around, Scorpius deliberately takes a dig at John's sorest spot)
Scorpius: Lovely girl... I hear that 1/4 Sebacean/Scarran offspring are quite handsome. (he looks back at John and that's all the human needs. John lunges, driving his dagger-like spike at Scorpius' throat. But with its tip only inches from the target - he freezes. He grits his teeth and the dagger trembles as his muscles strain - but it's no good and Scorpius casually pushes the tip of the weapon away with on e finger and reminds him) You harm me - you harm her. (and with that - he delivers a vicious blow to John's face with his fist and our hero goes down)
(cut to soon after - John is sitting alone in his cell now. The dagger is still in his hand as he stares grimly at the DRDs posted to guard him. Suddenly his solitude is interrupted by a familiar voice speaking in a sharp whisper)
Chiana: Psst! Hey! Crichton! (he looks around and spots the Nebari's fingers beckoning from a DRD-sized access hatch) Down here. (John casts a furtive glance in the DRDs direction and then goes to kneel by the little portal and peer at Chiana through its grating) I've got the game. (he hesitantly reaches for the proffered game blob - and Chiana hurries things up by slapping it onto his hand. There's the whirl of colored doors and ...)
(...the find themselves clad in their game costumes - back in PrincessAeryn's boudoir)
John: Chiana-! (but she claps a hand over his mouth - indicating PrincessAeryn and OgreCrais laying stiffly side-by-side on the bed)
Chiana: Shh! They're sleeping. Okay? I don't want to have to deal with them now. Okay - Scorpius has got control of the whole of the ship. He's got D'Argo and Rygel - everybody. He can hear - everything. (she shakes her head emphatically) Not in here.
John: Right. We can't - kill - the son-of-a-bitch without hurtin' the others. Whatever happens to him, happens to everybody he controls. So leave me the game blob thingy. When I take him down - you have to find a way to hog-tie everybody.
Chiana: (softly approving of his plan) So you're gonna draw Scorpius into the game.
(cut back to John in the cell - disengaged from the game. Getting Scorpius close enough to bring him into the game is his first task. He uses the tip of the dagger to slice open his thumb, reaches down to the golden floor - and makes a mark writ in his own blood. The DRD guards squeak impassively and time passes. Soon a wide swath of the cells floor is covered with the arcane symbols of wormhole mathematics. Footsteps are heard outside the cell and then an incredulous query breaks the silence)
Aeryn: What are you doing?
John: Working on what your master wants.
Aeryn: So you still think that he controls me.
John: Does he? (he pauses with his writing)
Aeryn: Look - the only thing that keeps you alive is the secret you hold. And the same is true for me.
John: He's hearing all this you know.
Aeryn: I know.
John: I should never have let you go. (he resumes his writing and Scorpius appears at Aeryn's shoulder to watch him. A little more time passes and John stands to address him, his voice is a near monotone) Most of this floor you should recognize. It's an equation describing the behavior of wormholes. What it lacks - is the single unifying symbol. (pause) That symbol - is beneath my left foot. (another pause) Would you like to see it?
Scorpius: (incredulous) You would give it to me?
John: I want you to take it (he rolls the dagger in his hand a bit as Scorpius opens the cell door and enters, paying John a sort of compliment as he comes)
Scorpius: Your species - has brutal flair.
John: (deadly soft) Anyone else enters this room - I can spill enough blood to erase the entire equation.
Scorpius: Very well. (he steps closer to John) You know if you kill me...
John: Oh - I don't think that's gonna happen. Not after all you've survived. Then again - I could get lucky. (and with that - he takes a swing at Scorpius with the dagger, but the half-Scarran easily intercepts his thrust with one hand and seizes him by the throat with the other. It is as John had expected and with his free left hand - he whips the game blob out of his pocket and slaps it against Scorpius' cheek. Colored doors spin and...)
(... John finds himself standing in the dark, narrow corridor of the Gammak Base in his PK officers disguise. Unfortunately - this isn't quite what he's had in mind...)
John: Aw - crap! I wasn't sup- (but he's interrupted by the game Gilina suddenly appearing on cue)
Gilina: Quick! This way! (she turns to run - but skids to a halt with a little gasp as Scorpius appears from around a corner - directly in her path) He's not supposed to come - from that direction. (she scuttles for cover behind John)
Scorpius: Really John - you expect to hold me in a simulation? (John goes for his holster and whips out - a banana - which he trains for a second on Scorpius before relaxing his arm and eyeing the fruit with dismay)
John: (a rueful murmur) Seemed like a good idea at the time. (he flicks the banana away with a snap of his wrist)
Scorpius: This world means nothing to me. I see through its very existence.
Gilina: (terrified, as she backs away) John!
Scorpius: Allow me to show you what I see.
Gilina: Please! (she covers her face and screams as John turns just in time to see her reduced to a helix of pixels which twists apart - erasing her)
The scene shifts briefly back to the cell aboard Moya where John and Scorpius stand locked in the game. John's face is beaded with sweat and Aeryn watches them with detached concern. Meanwhile back at the games simulated Gammak Base - the half-Scarran looks closely at John, who's begun to choke and spasm as he stands there.
Scorpius: Having trouble breathing? I wonder if you die now - whether your mind will carry the wormhole knowledge with it. Into the game. (back on Moya, Aeryn lays a hand on the cell bars as she watches. Her detachment wavers as John's face reddens and his asphyxia worsens. In the game - Scorpius continues) Relax John - soon it'll be over.
(and with that - there's a whirl of colored doors - and John grunts as Aeryn pulls him away from Scorpius back in the cell aboard Moya. She steadies him as he catches his breath and Scorpius remains standing rigidly with his eyes closed, shuddering and the game blob plastered to his cheek)
Aeryn: He was killing you. I couldn't let that happen. We have to get out of here before he comes out. Come on! (she pulls him along behind her as she lopes out of the cell. But he has a hard time keeping up - and he's worried)
John: (a bit woozy) What about the others?
Aeryn: We can't save the others. (she screeches to a halt and faces him dramatically) Listen - John - I came back for you. Nothing else matters. I just - want to be with you. (John stares at her as she spouts all the things he wants to hear - and a red flag goes up in his mind. Then - she places her hand on the back of his neck and pulls his face to hers for a tender kiss before stepping back and saying) Now let's get out of here before it's too late. (but John doesn't move, or take his perplexed eyes off her)
John: (quietly) Something's wrong. (he steps backward away from her as he casts his eyes frantically about) Something's wrong! (he slaps his pocket with one hand and to his horror - withdraws a single, small white ball from it. He takes another step away from Aeryn as she fixes him with an automaton stare and asks)
Aeryn: Does this mean it's over? (in response, John takes off running and yelling)
(cut to moments later as John barrels in to the maintenance bay, skidding to a halt as Chiana calls to him from the shadows)
Chiana: What's wrong?
John: (panting) Everything. (he shows her the game voucher) We're still in the game. (Chiana exhales - aghast) We never left - Moya - is part of the game. (Chiana is speechless and at that moment, they're startled by a sound like a gunshot as something slams down onto Moya's deck. John turns and Chiana looks around him to see - a green door standing in the middle of the room. Slowly, cautiously, they approach it and John reaches to run his fingers down its surface. Its green paint sloughs away under his fingers to reveal yellow beneath) They changed the doors. (suddenly another voice breaks the dreadful silence)
AvatarStark: (loudly) Figured it out have we? (John, in a near panic, advances on him)
John: Stark! What the hell is this about?
AvatarStark: (grandly) This - is all about - (suddenly his voice seems to be coming from behind them - they turn and are greeted with AvatarStark's voice coming from the mouth of Scorpius) - you - John Crichton. You're far too sick - to be allowed to run free in the universe. (Chiana edges behind John for cover as they both keep their eyes on this malevolent simulation) When you die on the outside your mind will live on - here. With us. (and now, through the open docking bay doors behind AvatarStark/Scorpius - John sees the bright world of the Grim Fairy Tale with its mini-golf landscape and its 3-towered castle) Welcome home John.
(and as John stares, anger begins to show through his horror. The scene shifts briefly to the transport pod - where his and Chiana's real bodies stand, twitching and struggling against the game blob between them. The scene then jumps to Chiana and John - back in game costume as they enter the Avatars Office with its clutter of junk, including the TV still laying on its side on the worktable)
John: How the hell do we get out of this game?
Chiana: I don't know.
John: Then this better work. (he pulls out the last game voucher and squeezes it as Chiana murmurs "Okay..." The sound of static is heard - followed by the voice of AvatarStark)
AvatarStark: Careful - it's your last one. (John unsheathes his sword as he and Chiana look around - and then back up to get a view of the TV screen. AvatarStark's head and shoulders have taken JohnHeadroom's place - complete with skips and tics)
John: What the hell's the endgame?
AvatarStark: One hero's sword to set her free/free/free. One kiss upon her lips, so sweet. Thus ends your quest. Thus ends the g/game. And thus your soul is saved.
Chiana: (disappointed) Ugh - we already heard that.
John: Yeah, I know that but finding a door out may be impossible. (AvatarStark's image flips furiously on the TV screen) If we die - it only resets the level. One sure way out - we achieve the end game. We're gonna kiss the Princess.
AvatarStark: Run/run/run as fast as you can - from the budong- (but the whistle of John's sword cutting through the air impels his to cut the riddle crap and yowl) NOT IN THE FACE! (oh but yes - sparks fly as John's blade impacts the TV screen. Without pausing John shoulders his sword and marches from the room, with Chiana in tow)
John: Bastard wants us to play - let's give him what he wants.
(and with a whirl of colored doors - the scene shifts to the parking garage. Chiana and John stealthily circle He-Zhaan's parked van and surprise the big fella - who's sitting in the passenger side door rubbing his bald pate as if he has a splitting headache. He looks up at John and the voice of AvatarStark comes from his lips)
He-Zhaan: (reproachfully) That hurt, John.
John: (feigning sorrow for his discomfort) Staaaark. Huh. So how'd you do it? Who helped? (He-Zhaan rises to come around and face John in front of the van)
He-Zhaan: (in Starks voice) You did. You and that tragic brother. (mildly mocking) Pouring his heart out on his deathbed.
John: Bull. This game has crap he couldn't know.
He-Zhaan: (in Starks voice) It's crap you gave me along the way. (despising John) You talk so much.
John: (to himself) Oh God... No Sikozu, no Noranti... (with a bitter snort of laughter) Very good. Damn - I guess that leaves one question. (He-Zhaan seems puzzled) Plants - why do they love the light? (but before He-Zhaan can get the uncertain look off his face - his head snaps around as his van horn begins furiously beeping . Chiana is sitting in the drivers seat and as he looks - she flicks on the headlights. The beam lights up his round face as he clutches at his chest and photo-gasms helplessly)
He-Zhaan: OoOOoh! John! OoooOOH- (but before he can die of bliss - John brings the hilt of his sword down on his skull and He-Zhaan goes down like a dime bag in a police raid. John looks at Chiana and grunts triumphantly)
(cut to the next obstacle between them and the Princess - SirRygel. Chiana plants herself in front of him)
SirRygel: (in Starks voice) None - shall pass! (the Nebari fixes him with a solemn stare and raising her knife over her head, she lowers it in an elaborate salute. SirRygel eyes her) Where is he? (in response - she pirouettes to one side and as his eyes follow her - the sound of squealing tires is heard. She has directed his eyes to John, who's hunched over the wheel of He-Zhaan's van and is speeding right at him. SirRygel has time for just one horrified gasp before the vans bumper impacts his head and his rotund little body gets stuck under the axles and dragged as John laughs maniacally)
(there's a whirl of colored doors and the scene jumps ahead to NaughtyD'Argo's S&M kitchen. DesperateJool has finally got her wish and is being eaten. She's laying on the table where NaughtyD'Argo is spooning her garbanzo bean-like innards out of her belly with relish. She seems to be enjoying this and is giggling and moaning deliriously - until Chiana laughs and she spots the Nebari and John. Her orgasmic tittering shuts off like a faucet and is replaced by the petulant whine)
DesperateJool: What are they doing here? (NaughtyD'Argo grunts with annoyance as she wails) It's my turn! (and of course her whining gets NymphoChi going - she's laying on the other end of the table trussed up, with an apple in her mouth. She begins to bang her head on the table and squirm)
NaughtyD'Argo (very quietly, annoyed) You are disturbing my meal. (and he proceeds to lick DesperateJool's tasty guts out of his spoon like a dog as he tries to ignore them)
John: This room seem too easy?
Chiana: What do you mean? (NymphoChi struggles and tries to speak around her apple gag)
John: I mean first time here - how did you make it through? (Chiana doesn't seem to have an answer and NaughtyD'Argo slowly looks over his shoulder at them. But John has a hunch) Chiana - what's Aeryn's secret?
Chiana: (startled) What? (NymphoChi's muffled cries become more insistent)
John: Aeryn's secret. (Chiana looks over at her struggling counterpart who's looking right at them. John makes eye contact with her, she nods - and he knows. Without a word - he takes down Chiana with a massive backhanded blow. NaughtyD'Argo jumps up and grabbing the platter DesperateJool is laying on - tips it up, throwing her onto the floor between him and John where she lays and shrieks pettishly)
DesperateJool: WHAT ABOUT MEEEEEEEE? (John gets to live out another fantasy by giving her a swift kick upside the head which mercifully silences her. He then dives for the real Chiana and drags her off the table as NaughtyD'Argo takes up his weapon - one of the giant lollipops that decorate the room. John hurriedly unties and de-apples Chiana before turning to face off with his lederhosened foe who wields his lollipop with great force - but with the style of a kid who's up at bat for the first time and is scared of the ball. John isn't much better as he minces about like with his sword. Chiana however has a grudge to settle with the bad boy and gets right to it)
Chiana: Hey! (NaughtyD'Argo looks) Eat this! (and with that - she beans with another of the monster lollipops - thus giving new meaning to the term "sucker-punched." He goes down with a clang and the sound of twittering birds. Chiana turns to John and identifies herself with what Stark didn't know - Aeryn's secret) Aeryn's pregnant. (then, peeved) Frell Crichton! You left me there for arns! I coulda died!
John: (not sounding very) Sorry about that.
(cut to the next game level - The Elevator. Gentle muzak tinkles unobtrusively while Chiana and John stand as far away as possible from the little screen on its wall and studiously try to ignore JohnHeadroom's pontifications and sly mockery)
JohnHeadroom: What is it with women and change? You/you/you really are John C/C/C/Crichton - (he leans towards the viewer with a disingenuous smile) - can I get an autograph?
(and as the elevator arrives at the level of PrincessAeryn's boudoir, the sound of John's sword being unsheathed is heard - and when the doors open - their exit is lit by flying sparks and electrical flashes from the direction of JohnHeadroom's screen. In the boudoir, PrincessAeryn sits on the bed with FootmanScorpy and OgreCrais standing on either side of her. They look at Chiana and John)
Harvey: Master! (he puts his fingers to his lips and makes like a trumpet) Pu-PU-POOO! We have guests! (the lady of the game simpers and OgreCrais steps forward, axe in hand and looking beastly)
John: (quietly) We're here for the Princess.
PrincessAeryn: Ah can thee that. Tho romantic.
John: (aside to Chiana) You up for this? Could be fun.
Chiana: (with relish) Let's screw the pooch. I'm all about fun. (they cross swords and at the sound of the ring, FootmanScorpy jumps and attempts a mincing getaway - stage right. Chiana gives chase and OgreCrais chuckles a deep, ogreish chuckle as he and John square off. John does some 3 Musketeers-style fancy foot and sword work as he prances closer and shows OgreCrais what he plans to do to him by slicing several inches off the top of one of the tall candles that stand around the bed)
John: Game on. (he takes a swashbuckling feint at his opponent who is forced to give way before him) I learned this on TV. (we can tell - his second lunge is blocked by OgreCrais' axe and PrincessAeryn clutches a pillow to her little pitty-patting heart)
PrincessAeryn: Ah'm not gonna clean up! (she turns to check on the other side of the bed where FootmanScorpy has his own sword now and is meeting Chiana's scrappy lunges with foppish flair) Oh! Come on Hahvey! Thtop fightin' lahke a guhl! (he deftly unswords Chiana - but she dodges his follow-through and grabs another from the suit of armor that watches over the room. Meanwhile, John's swordplay skills are proving to be limited to the challenge stage of combat as he flails ineffectually at OgreCrais)
OgreCrais: (manly) You need more practice, meat!
John: I'll make a note. (OgreCrais laughs with ogreish enjoyment of this little exercise as PrincessAeryn curls demurely on the bed with her pillows, all a-flutter and a-moan at this dreadful unpleasantness over little ol' her. The courtly battles on either side of her rage - well - maybe not rage. Maybe... frolic gallantly - on while she prattles)
PrincessAeryn: (to Chiana) OH! Girl Ah can thee who wearth the pantth in yo' famileh! (to herself, just ever so ditressed) Redecoratin'... Blood everywhere... (Chiana, with an easy thrust of her sword - runs FootmanScorpy through and he dramatically bellyflops onto the floor. PrincessAeryn is shocked, shocked) Thee jutht killed yew. (to OgreCrais) Honey! The butlah'th dead.
Ah and things aren't going well for Don John - he can't seem to make any real headway against OgreCrais - who's getting close enough now to plant his hairy fist into John's kisser.
John: (gasping for breath) Hey Pip!
John: A little help! (and with a quiet curse - she plunges into the fray and helps John drive the beast back a bit as PrincessAeryn eggs them all on)
PrincessAeryn: That'th it - finith him off.
OgreCrais: (mocking) Two against one! Looks like I won't be having that drink AFTER all! (and at that moment - AvatarStark suddenly rushes, howling, in to even the odds. He's in his orange and magenta French Cavalier frou-frou, sans wig)
Chiana: He's mine! (she charges after the cheatin' Avatar and as they go to, John trots around the bed to put it between him and OgreCrais. He glances at PrincessAeryn as he passes)
John: How'm I doin'? (without looking at him, she puckers her lips and makes a kissing sound) I'm comin' back for ya!
PrincessAeryn: Ah hope tho. (the gallant frolic rollicks on - a little less gallantly frolicsome and a bit more desperately valiant now. Chiana brings down the none-too-deft-with-a-sword AvatarStark - but OgreCrais all over John. Our hero is unsworded and goes down to one knee. PrincessAeryn exclaims mildly) Oh! Child! (with a roar, OgreCrais raises his axe for the final blow and John seems finished, unable to do anything but look up, when suddenly Chiana throws her sword like a spear. It buries itself in OgreCrais' neck and the monster sinks slowly to the floor. PrincessAeryn's seems perky) Well thee'th done it now!
OgreCrais: (a final bemoaning of his fate) Women! (and with that - John rises, and taking up his sword - finishes the monster off. He strikes a triumphant pose and fixes PrincessAeryn with a turgidly intense stare. She gasps and her eyes widen as she stares back and hurriedly puts her pillows aside)
Chiana: Go on. (John marches purposefully to the Princess, who looks up at him as he stops at her bedside. Her bosom is fairly heaving with anticipatory emotion)
PrincessAeryn: Ah yew realleh John Crahchton?
PrincessAeryn: (nearly overcome with drippy, romantic sentiment) We ah gonna be tho happy togethah!
Meanwhile AvatarStark has of course come back to life - but there's little he can do now except rest on his knees at Chiana's feet and watch with dismay as John sweeps the Princess - who's waiting with half-lidded eyes and parted lips - into his arms. Their lips lock in a long, golden moment of romantic perfection - before John abruptly drops her back onto the bed. She flops backwards gasping, arms flung wide, as John steps away with a sigh of satisfaction and looks around expectantly. Chiana looks around too as they wait. But nothing happens and AvatarStark smiles a very small, malicious smile. No end game. No out. PrincessAeryn sits up, moaning a little and looking disheveled enough to have just finished kissing a busload of Marines.
Chiana: Uh... I don't know. (but it's springtime for AvatarStark as his smile grows and he looks around too)
John: What do you mean you don't know?
Chiana: I don't - know!
AvatarStark: (wickedly gleeful) Hey! I know! Maybe - you have to do more than just kiss her. Maybe - kiss - is a metaphor for showing her a reeeeally good time. (PrincessAeryn seems to like that idea. She smiles a trollop-y smile at John and pats the bed next to her. He just gapes at her with something like dumbfounded revulsion as AvatarStark mocks them) Yeah! And maybe Chiana has to kiss her! (Chiana startles as he grabs at her arm, finishing with bitter spite) Huh? Can I watch? I love to watch.
But suddenly - Chiana is hit by quite a different realization.
Chiana: She - is not the Princess. (PrincessAeryn casts Chiana a sharp, startled look)
PrincessAeryn: What? (she sneaks a peek back at John and catches his rapidly furrowing brow) Oh. (guiltily ingratiating, with a self-indulgent little smile) Well Ah'm not the printhethth yew theek. But we could still have a really good tahme. (she flashes him a vapidly toothy grin and he heaves a sigh. Women. AvatarStark rises and paces around him, glorying viciously in his triumph over this golden boy)
AvatarStark: This is my world, meat! You're just walking through it for a very long time. When your body is dead, your mind will live here with us to strut and fret forever - you poor player! (but in his moment of spiteful triumph - he tips his hand. John drops his sword and silently turns away. Chiana apprehensively murmurs his name as he strides quickly to the boudoir window. He impatiently pushes aside the pink and gold striped curtains and without breaking stride steps up onto the parapet of the balcony outside. There, he pauses to look up at the white sky and spread his arms wide in a crucifixion pose - before letting himself fall forward. He retains the pose as he plummets to the green carpet with its' avenue of fiberglass trees and potted fake flowers far below. And at the point of impact - there's a whirl of colored doors and...)
(...the scene reopens on John, in his conquistador armor, standing outside the mini-golf castle with its doors painted to look like wood. it seems his intent wasn't mere suicide after all as he discards his shield and helmet)
John: Game reset.
(cut to the Avatar's Office as John marches in. The old TV is sitting upright on the worktable now and AvatarStark's worried face peers out from JohnHeadroom's neon tube backdrop)
AvatarStark: What are you doing John? D/d/doing John? (John stalks past the TV, shedding the conquistadors breastplate as he goes. AvatarStark's image turns to watch him as he passes by)
John: Your world - your Princess. (and as John disappears into the blue shadows of the room - his voice suddenly segues into that of JohnHeadroom's, all skips and tics) Princess/princess/pr/princess. (the effect on AvatarStark of his game being solved is immediate as his image on the TV screen begins to wail and flick miserably. JohnHeadroom's voice continues to spell out the answer)
One/o/o/oone pr/princess fair.
Her br/bro/broken heart by ug/ug/ugliness enslaved. Ug/ug/ugliness/ugliness enslaved.
(the scene shifts abruptly back to the parking garage. AvatarStark is there, standing in front of He-Zhaan with hands raised. John draws his sword)
AvatarStark: (pleading) John! We can work this out! (but John sends him sprawling with a heavy blow - then pauses to look with a steely eye down the length of his sword at the whimpering He-Zhaan, who presses his palms together and quiets as John Murmurs)
John: One hero's sword to set her free... (and with that - he uses his blade to split He-Zhaan's head from crown to chin. But only light pours out as the split deepens and widens and the halves of He-Zhaan fall away in a shimmering cascade of golden light. And as the bright aura fades and the last of him flows away like glowing water, there is revealed to have been within him - another figure. Blue, bald and shapely, the beautiful Zhaan John knew smiles at him. She and he stare at each other, she with deep compassion, he with awe)
AvatarStark: (wailing miserably) Don't touch her! She's mine! Mine! (she turns to him briefly)
Zhaan: (gently) Be silent Stark. (then to John, as she moves slowly toward him) Is that really you John Crichton? (it's not such an easy question for him these days and he pauses for a second before answering)
John: I think... Yeah. (hesitant and wary) And you're-?
Zhaan: Zhaan. (she casts her eyes down, as if a bit embarrassed at the actual untruth of this - but she quickly returns her gaze to him) For all that matters. (she takes a breath and moves on) This Stark wishes to keep you here. He blames you.
AvatarStark: (quickly, in a tiny voice of protest ) No!
Zhaan: He believes I died for the love of you. (John pauses and draws a shaky breath, as if he has to squeeze back a tear before responding)
John: A lot of people have died because of me.
Zhaan: What is it that you wish of me John Crichton? (he can't seem to respond - but she knows the answer) A kiss? (gently, for her kisses have a price - responsibility) Have you wasted my death - and the deaths of so many others?
John: (aching from the uncertainty of what his life has become, he replies softly, with genuine innocence) I don't know.
He-Zhaan: Then I suggest you find out - before anyone else dies for the love of you.
AvatarStark: (aching and innocent in his own misery, he softly pleads) No. (but she lifts her hand to John's cheek and brings her lips to his. As they kiss, they become bathed in, and then lost in, a spreading radiance of white light and...)
(...the scene shifts abruptly back to the transport pod as Chiana and John release the game blob. It falls to the floor and they stagger a moment before their legs go out from beneath them and they sit down hard as well)
John: (gasping with relief) Son-of-a-bitch! (they both struggle unsuccessfully to get up and John slaps urgently at the comms panel from the floor as Chiana moans) DEE! D'ARGO! (the scene begins to shift between them and D'Argo back on Moya as they speak)
D'Argo John! Where are you?
John: (panting) Ah - I'm not entirely sure right now. What's up with Scorpius?
D'Argo We had a small problem with his door but that's already sorted. You're long overdue - is everything okay? (back in the pod, Chiana rests her forehead against John's and says to him)
Chiana: Hey. Hey we're not dead. How drad is that? (she sits back and giggles. John's anger, like a parent whose kid did something they were told not to and narrowly survived - is for now anyway overwhelmed by relief, and he manages a very weak little chuckle before he looks away)
(cut to later, back aboard Moya. John enters the center chamber where Noranti is hovering over a bubbling stewpot as usual. John gives her a little two-note Harpo Marx whistle by way of greeting and she lays down her spoon to chat with him in what looks as if it's become a habit both of them are accustomed to)
Noranti: Interesting day?
John: They're all interesting. This was more like - confusing. (he helps himself to some bits of nourishment laying around on her countertop)
Noranti: And a warrior - needs clarity. (John flops down by the window with a weary grunt)
John: I'm not a warrior.
Noranti: You carry a weapon.
John: (carelessly, as he chews) Second Amendment. 'Sides - it's Scorpy's war, not mine.
Noranti: (obliquely reproachful) Thousands dead - billions in the balance... But that's not the war I'm speaking of. (John looks up at her, as if dreading and knowing what old yenta is going to say. Her third eye opens, glowing red) Aeryn. The war of the heart.
John: (murmuring, with a touch of wistfulness and a touch of bitterness) Always Aeryn. (louder) Yeah I don't - think too clear where Aeryn is concerned.
Noranti: Pain clouds judgment. (there's a long silence as they look at each other. Finally the old woman sighs and removes something from one of her pockets, holding it out to him in the palm of her hand) Distillate of lakka. (he cranes his neck and then gets up to approach her) One whiff - and the pain is gone! For a time - it'll help you forget about Aeryn. (he takes the drug from her hand) Oh and please don't thank me. (he looks up from the drug, back to her) It's been 150 cycles since I've- since I've felt - for someone - the way you do for her. (he makes no response but to turn and walk away - and she returns to her stewpot)
(cut to soon after as John walks briskly down one of Moya's sinuous corridors. Aeryn is sitting on the floor, leaning against the great ships ribbed wall. As he draws even with her she speaks)
Aeryn: I hear I was a Princess.
John slows to a stop several feet beyond where she's sitting. His brow furrows slightly and he turns his cheek in her direction. His affect is as if he thought he might have heard something and is undecided whether he ought to investigate it or not. But in the silence - he opts against bothering and continues on his way.
Aeryn watches his retreating back and then looks away and her vacant eyes glisten a bit with confusion and hurt.