Moya had followed the carrier at a safe distance to see where they might be taking John, but Aeryn was convinced that he was either dead or dying already. That, of course, did not mean that she would give up on him. Not without being certain.

When the carrier had entered Veridian territory, Aeryn had frowned. Peacekeepers steered clear of the Veridians. They had a very high level of technology and were able to fry a Scarran dreadnaught without blinking, but they were not a friendly bunch. They hated outsiders and attacked and killed without asking any questions. That a command carrier would willingly enter Veridian space was a sure sign that its commanding officer was either insane or unaware of the threat.

Aeryn didn't know which of these two options applied to Scorpius, but whichever it was, it was actually a welcome change in their so far bad streak of luck; because Veridians allowed leviathans without control collars to enter their space at will as the only ships.

The microt the Veridians attacked in brutal force, Aeryn flew her prowler from Moya to the carrier as fast as she dared. With the whole carrier on alert, nobody was going to be looking for Sebacean intruders and that was the only way she could get in there and find out if John was still alive.


The carrier shuddered and shifted under the massive attack and although the frag canons turned many of the Veridian ships into fire balls, many more were still attacking. Aeryn had no trouble getting in and even less trouble finding a terminal where she could access the prisoner records.

One thing Peacekeepers were very good at was order. Everything on a carrier was catalogued down to the smallest gadget and that included prisoners and where they were. She accessed the records and quickly found out that John was being held in the hammond side holding pen on level six.

She took a levelriser up there and met no resistance. Nobody questioned her right to be there because everybody was busy doing whatever they had to do and she was dressed like a Peacekeeper and moved like a Peacekeeper and that was all they needed to know to accept her as one of their own. There were obvious advantages to boarding such a large vessel. It was unlikely that all aboard knew who Aeryn Sun was.

Aeryn rounded a corner and came to a stop. The area, which was closed off by a force field, was a large holding pen for prisoners the Peacekeepers didn't know what to do with. And it was always, always brightly lit; but not now. It was dark and the feel she got from the room was that it was empty. "John?" she called and squinted into the darkness beyond the shimmering force field.

Something moved within the confines. There was the definite creak of leather. This was immediately followed by a halfhearted whimper. "Aeryn?" It was his voice and just by hearing it she knew he was in severe pain. It was a bit shrill, high pitched, and breaking.

"Hold on. I just have to switch the force field off," she said and walked across the mouth of the corridor to the other wall where the control panel was. She searched over the buttons, found the one that killed the field and then the other one that switched on the lights. Then she turned back to face the holding pen, her eyes sliding over the interior until they stopped on John.

For the longest microt ever all she could do was stare at him. He had looked bad before, beaten and torn, but nothing like what she saw now. There was blood on the floor around him, dried in places, fresh in others. He was on his knees, facing the wall and at first she didn't understand why. Not until her gaze fixed on his right hand, which was bolted to the wall.

She just stood there and stared and could not bring up the urge to move. This had to be dream, a nightmare. "Holy frell," she whispered, briefly closed her eyes and shook her head. Then she strode across the floor and stopped next to him, her eyes on this the most brutal and senseless injury she had ever witnessed.

It was obvious that his hand had been injured before they had sent a bolt through it and it made her stomach turn when she thought of the sadistic intent behind this act of blatant cruelty. "Frell," she repeated. "We ... have to get your hand off the wall ... somehow," she added and glanced around. The bolt gun used for this cruel act lay a few feet away from them on the floor.

A sense of unreality settled on her. This was not the Peacekeeper way. She did not agree with a lot of things the Peacekeepers did, but this was not the Peacekeeper way.

"Please," he rasped, pulling her back to reality with the pure agony in his voice. "You have to get me out of here."

She looked down at him, looked into his eyes, and nodded. "I will," she promised and then returned her attention to his hand. "I just don't know how."

"He'll be back ... soon," he rasped and sent a glance full of panic toward the mouth of the corridor. "I can't ... I can't take much ... more of this," he stammered, his voice breaking with the effort he put into talking fairly normally.

She brushed her fingers through his hair and nodded. "I know, John," she agreed. "Time is limited. We have to hurry. I just don't know ... how ..." she said and motioned toward his hand.

"I ... can't get it off ... myself. Not enough strength any more," he whispered. "But ... you can. It's ... loose." To prove this point, he shifted his hand a little and she could almost feel the effort he put into not screaming his head off at the pain this had to cause him. "Hurry," he whispered through clenched teeth.

The thought of having to do this, of having to hurt him so badly, made her feel sicker still. But she knew she would have to do it. There was no way around it. They had to get out fast. He was supporting his right elbow with his left hand, which was obviously also damaged.

She eyed the setup closely for a microt, then wrapped her fingers around his right wrist and carefully pushed his hand into position. A quick glance at him told her that he was scared out of his mind about what she was going to do. "Go to your happy place," she said, using a phrase he had used on her once.

And then she pulled. She had to put more strength into it than she had thought at first, but his hand slipped fairly easily off the bolt. His immediate response was not to scream but to turn his head away and throw up on the floor. Aeryn grabbed him and hauled him to his feet without further delay. "You can be sick on the way," she said, "Right now, we have to leave."


She had to drag him along, his left arm draped over her shoulders, her left hand wrapped securely around his left wrist while she had her right arm around his back. He was stumbling, barely able to walk, and Aeryn knew the inherent danger in this situation. Alone she could pass for any Peacekeeper, but not while she was dragging a wounded man with her.

Whether it was because their luck had finally turned or because the carrier was being evacuated, they didn't run into anyone and Aeryn got John into the level riser on level six without incident. Down by the hangars things were bound to be totally frelled, which should give them a fairly good chance of getting away without being stopped. But Aeryn was ready to shoot her way out of she had to.

Twice they had to stop so he could attempt to empty an already empty stomach and Aeryn was fully aware that the pain he was in was to blame for him being ill. She had little patience, though, and didn't give him time to rest. He could rest once they were out of there.

Her assumption that the landing bay level would be chaos was correct and nobody paid them much attention. Those few who did look at them an extra time only frowned and hurried on. John was doing his best to help her by walking and for all intents and purposes he mostly looked like a wounded soldier being dragged to safety by a comrade in arms.

Aeryn hauled him into the bay and over to the first prowler she saw. These were newer types than her own and she would be frelled if she would try to find the old one when she had access to newer models.

The ladder proved an obstacle that she wasn't certain they could overcome, but she found that if she climbed the ladder with him, giving him the support he needed to move his feet up the rungs without having to touch anything, he did fine.

He nearly fell into the tight cockpit and emitted something akin to a suppressed yowl before she managed to help him shift around so he could slip into the rear seat. There was no time for words or comfort. All there was time for was to get off this carrier before it blew up or took flight. Either way, Aeryn was not about to think about the outcome when here and now was all that mattered.

The prowler lifted off the bay floor before the canopy had fully closed and Aeryn secured it with one hand while steering with the other. The vessel raced out of the bay together with a handful of other prowlers, but their ways parted the microt they were outside. The other prowlers circled around the carrier to engage in the fight while Aeryn flew straight back toward Moya while fully expecting to be taken out by either the Peacekeepers or the Veridians. Neither seemed to pay attention to an escaping prowler, though, and Aeryn handed over the control of the prowler the microt the docking web caught them.

She turned back in her seat, ignoring the voice on the comm telling her to hold on, they were going to starburst immediately. Her gaze settled on her wounded lover, who had obviously passed out somewhere along the way. She eyed him closely for a microt, then reached back and cupped one hand against his cheek. Without moving her hand, she brushed the ball of her thumb lightly over his lower lip and that brought him to again, not with a jerk of pain, but with the slowness of someone coming out of a deep sleep.

"Where?" he whispered and blinked his bloodshot eyes a few times.

"In starburst. Moya is pulling us along. We're safe," she replied, her own voice not much above a whisper.

He blinked again, a slow, tired closing of the lids. "Safe," he whispered and closed his eyes again. A microt later, he was out.

Aeryn pulled the med-kit from its seat under the control panel, pulled out the necessary bandage for his hand, and gently wrapped it up, hoping she would not jostle him out of unconsciousness. He stirred a few times, but that was all.

Then she returned her attention to the front when the prowler started moving again and was pulled into the landing bay.


With D'Argo's help, Aeryn got John to the med-bay where she set about tending to his wounds with Chiana's help. Chiana was the one to find and remove the enhancer on his side and she knew what it was just by seeing it.

Aeryn eyed the little flat box. "What does it enhance?" she asked with a frown.

"Sensations," Chiana said, a dark look in her eyes. "Usually, it's used to heighten sexual pleasure," she added and put the box down on the table. "But essentially it can be used to heighten any kind of sensation."

"Fekkik," Aeryn growled angrily. "Remind me the next time we see that frelling half-breed to take his head off," she added.

"Gladly," Chiana said and returned her attention to John. "Look at him. He's a frelling mess. How will he ever become normal again?" she asked and ran her fingertips lightly over his face. There was an angry bruise over his right cheekbone, a gash on his forehead, cuts and burns covering his cheeks and chin. There were bruises on his neck, indicating strangulation, more cuts, abrasions, burns and more covering his chest.

Aeryn had ripped his t-shirt open and had spent a microt staring at him. "This is not the Peacekeeper way," she muttered under her breath. "Frell them. Frell Scorpius. The next time I see him, I will frelling shove a pulse pistol in his mouth and pull the trigger repeatedly. That should kill him."

"You can hope," Chiana agreed. "Let's get him fixed up so he is more comfortable when he wakes up," she added.

"Check his left hand, Chiana. I think some of his fingers are broken," Aeryn said as she carefully unwrapped his damaged right hand to take a closer look at the probably permanent damage done there.

Chiana wrapped her fingers around his left wrist and raised his hand up to take a closer look at his fingers. There was so much blood everywhere that it was hard to see where the cuts were and where the skin was whole. She grabbed a sponge and carefully cleaned off some of the crusted blood around his wrist, but then suddenly stopped. "Aeryn," she said and reached across to grab her forearm.

"What?" Aeryn asked and glanced over at whatever it was Chiana had discovered. What she saw made her stomach roll and she briefly closed her eyes. The head of a Durka pin was sticking out of the top of his wrist. "Frell," she hissed and briefly abandoned her examination of John's right hand. "What the frell is Scorpius' problem?" she continued, her tone angry. "This dren was banned from use cycles ago," she added, grabbed the head of the pin between two fingers and pulled it out as fast as she dared. It was one of the long ones. Essentially, they had been used to persuade prisoners to talk. They were inserted from the heel of the hand and the long ones reached all the way up to the elbow. Once inserted, they could be connected to an electrical source and caused immense pain.

Aeryn gritted her teeth and threw the offensive torture device away. "Now I'm really going to kill him. I am going to rip that frelling cooling device out of his head and shove it down his frelling throat. And then I am going to shoot him so many times, it will take a frelling miracle to revive him," she snarled.

"Can I watch?" John rasped and opened his lids halfway. He managed a small smile, but flinched when it hurt his split lip.

"You can help," she agreed and gently rubbed the inside of his wrist with her thumb. "How are you feeling? Or is that a stupid question?"

"Pretty stupid," he agreed. "Aeryn?"

She leaned closer. "Yes?"

"Could you please knock me out?" he whispered. "I hurt too damned much to be awake."

Aeryn sighed. "We are out of mellar gas," she said. "And I don't know about any of the other items. Neither does Chiana. And we have no more jixit root either. I'm sorry, John."

He briefly closed his eyes and groaned. "No, it's okay," he whispered.

Aeryn looked over to the door and found D'Argo standing there. "I can help," he said and stepped closer.

"He's too weak, D'Argo. You could kill him," Aeryn disagreed.

D'Argo shook his head. "I won't kill him," he said and snapped his tongue out. It hit John on the side of the neck and he passed out immediately.

Aeryn checked his signs, then looked back over at D'Argo. "You don't do that again. He's too weak," she insisted.

"I'm only trying to help," D'Argo countered, a little annoyed.

"I know that, D'Argo," Aeryn replied and sighed. "I know." She stepped around the table again and raised John's right hand up. "His hand is frelled," she said. "I'm not sure he'll ever be able to use it again unless we can get him some help."

"Just do what you can. We'll find a way to get him some help," D'Argo said and frowned darkly at the gaping hole in John's hand. "I am sorry that we didn't stick around to see that carrier blow," he added angrily.

"Scorpius wouldn't have been on it," Aeryn said with a scowl. "He is so frelling dead," she added.


He woke up because he was hurting. It was a general throb running through his body like an external, stronger pulse asserting itself within him. And the more awake he became, the harder this throb jostled him. His breathing became labored, pained, and every inch of his skin was aching. His joints creaked when he shifted a little and the movement awoke a deeper, darker pain he had all but forgotten about. The angry beast awoke with a roar, sending a sensation of cold fire up through his right arm. If he'd had the strength, he would had screamed, but he couldn't muster the energy. He felt tears rise in his eyes until a hand gently wrapped around his right wrist and raised his hand up, releasing some of the pressure by forcing the blood to run away from his hand.

With his breath coming in small, labored gasps, he opened his eyes and met grey-blue eyes he had learned to love since his arrival in this nightmare part of the universe. He groaned, tried to speak, but found his throat to be too raw for such antics right now.

Aeryn placed cool fingers on his burning hot lips, her expression serious. "Shh," she shushed him. "No talking," she added. Her grip around his wrist intensified and by cutting off the blood flow a little, she diminished the pain. "Chiana is out looking for something to ease your pain," she continued and brushed her fingertips lightly over his face. "Until then we have to make do with what we've got. You need to rest. As much as you possibly can."

He closed his eyes, but wasn't too sure he could go back to sleep. Not the way he felt right then. "Aeryn," he managed, his voice nothing but a hoarse whisper.

"Don't talk," she admonished once again.

"Need to say this," he whispered.

"No, you don't," she disagreed. "You need to rest, to heal. And incessant talking is not going to help you do that. So shush."

"No ... Aeryn," he tried. He so desperately needed to tell her how he felt, what was on his mind, before this thing got any worse and he couldn't tell her anything anymore. "Need to. In case ... I don't ... get the chance again."

His words made her smile and he didn't understand why. She was not unaccustomed to dealing with life and death situations. Why was she smiling?

Aeryn cupped a hand against his cheek, that smile still on her lips. "None of your wounds are fatal, John. They're very, very painful, but none of them are fatal. You're not going to die."

"Denial," he rasped.

"Call it what you want, but you will not die. I doubt that was what Scorpius had in mind in the first place. He did all this to intimidate you, not to kill you or maim you permanently," she said, leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss onto his brow. Then she pulled back a little and looked into his eyes. "Besides, I love you. You want to leave me when I'm telling you this openly?" she asked and winked at him. "You're not going to die."

He blinked sluggishly at her, briefly wondered if she was right, and promptly passed out again.


The microt his lids closed, Aeryn's optimistic expression failed her. She sighed and glanced at his right hand, which she was still holding up. The infection already raging in the limp was seeping through the bandage and she was at a loss of what to do next. John was strong, granted, and he had survived this long, which spoke in his favor. But she was uncertain about how long they would be able to keep his injuries at bay before they needed to find a medic to fix him. His right hand needed professional care. That part was so far out of their league, she didn't even want to consider trying without a medic's assistance.

The rest they should be able to handle, but had done a poor job of it so far. The only justice this galaxy might have to offer at this point was if Scorpius had been captured by the Veridians and was being tortured or ended his days in one of the fabled Veridian dungeons.

She closed her eyes briefly, then decided to take another crack at cleaning his hand before the infection started to eat him alive. His fingers were swollen and dark red in hue, which did not bode well.

Gingerly, she lowered his hand onto his chest, propped a pillow under it and under his elbow and rose. "Rest," she whispered. "As much as you can."

With that, she went in search of the remedies she needed to clean his hand as thoroughly as she could.


Chiana was fairly well-versed in the art of herbal remedies after having looked over Zhaan's shoulder for a few cycles. She had picked up on some of Zhaan's potions and knew how to create that paste she had used which had helped speed up the healing of wounds. It was also a local anaesthetic. At the same time, she needed to pick up more jixit root and various other items Zhaan had been fabled for using. Delvians were good teachers, the young Nebari thought, and smirked halfheartedly. Right now, she found it hard to be optimistic. After seeing what that frelled half-breed had done to John, she felt more than ever that someone needed to eradicate that freak.

She glanced around her to make sure the market place was fairly safe and that D'Argo was still there, watching her back, and then she started shopping. Within a quarter of an arn, she had everything she needed and a bit more to make her day, so she eventually returned to D'Argo and tugged at his sleeve. "I'm done," she said.

"Good. Let's leave," he replied, took one of the bags from her, place a hand on her shoulder and guided her through the crowded market place toward where Lo'La was waiting for them. "You got everything?" he asked.

"Yup," she agreed and stopped when he pulled lightly at her shoulder. He said the words necessary to get Lo'La to de-cloak, then pushed her forward again.

Chiana hurried up the steps and settled down on the co-pilot's seat. D'Argo closed the hatch, then settled down on the pilot's seat and briefly just sat there.

"What's wrong?" she asked after a moment.

D'Argo made a face and glanced at her. "Do you think he will survive?"

Chiana considered what to say for a moment, then nodded vigorously. "Yeah, of course he will. He's ... strong, you know?" she said and shrugged. "Crichton's a fighter. And he wouldn't dare give up while Aeryn's around anyway," she added and chuckled under her breath.

"I hope you're right, Chiana. I don't think Aeryn would take it too well if he died," D'Argo replied, shook his head lightly and started his ship.