Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG-13 (at least)

Synopsis: Ever see Event Horizon? Well, that movie inspired this tale. It's gruesome in parts, heartbreaking in others. Hurt/comfort on a higher level. Enjoy!

Why couldn't he get a break? Why did it always have to end in misery? Why was nothing ever easy? John shifted his weight from one foot to the other and back again, not sure what to do or where to turn. Another trip to another commerce planet, this one well out of the way of mainstream traffic, had turned sour as quickly as a bottle of milk sitting out in the sun in July. Things went from bad to worse all the time. Just when he thought it couldn't get any worse, the bottomless pit he called a life opened up and showed him just how wrong he was in assuming that.

Here they were, just minding their own business and trying to get some shopping done so they could get back to Moya and get the hell out of Dodge, when they yet again ran into trouble. Blocking his way back to the transport pod was a platoon of Peacekeeper soldiers fronted by none other than Commandant Cleavage and Braca, that little weasel. That in itself wouldn't have been such a big deal. John had gotten good at running these past four years. Any sign of trouble and he turned tail and ran. But not this time. This time was different in one specific way. Grayza had her arm around Aeryn's neck and a gun pressed against Aeryn's temple. And that, in John's opinion, changed things considerably. He wasn't about to sacrifice Aeryn for anything.

"So, we meet again," Grayza said.

John just stared at her and swore that if she started cackling, he would pull his gun out and shoot her, no matter what the result of such a rash action would be. This was just a bit too cartoonish for him. He opted to say nothing in response to her blatantly stupid comment and instead settled for scowling at her.

Aeryn in turn had that don't-even-think-about-it-look in her eyes, which he of course was going to bluntly ignore for the time being.

After that, nobody said anything. Everybody just stood there and waited for the opposition to make their move. D'Argo stood behind John to one side and Chiana to the other. Where Sikozu, Rygel and Noranti were was anybodies guess. All John knew was that Aeryn was being threatened and that was all he could respond to.

He raised his hands in a deprecating gesture and took a hesitant step forward. "Don't hurt her," he finally said.

"Are you offering a trade?" Grayza asked.

There was that gleam in her eyes again, the one he hated so much. And Aeryn narrowed hers in a silent warning.

"Yes," he said, ignoring her. He would be damned if he would let anyone hurt her because of him. And, despite his inherent revulsion toward the idea, he knew he would be fairly safe in Grayza's company. "You'll get what you're after. Just don't hurt her."

With a barrage of weapons trained on them, John felt fairly certain that neither Chiana nor D'Argo would make a move to stop him, so he took another step forward.

Grayza watched him intently while he moved forward, every step a struggle. As soon as he was within reach of her, she released Aeryn and pushed her away past John.

"What the frell are you thinking?" Aeryn hissed when she passed him and turned around.

"Just get out of here," he replied, still keeping his hands up. "You let them go and I won't give you any grief," he added, his attention fully on Grayza.

"Naturally. I am only interested in you," Grayza replied and grabbed his arm with her left hand while her right went to her chest.

He closed his eyes and had to struggle to not turn away. One of the soldiers grabbed his guns while Braca himself handcuffed him.

"What about the others?" Braca asked. His voice sounded far away and John found himself to be disturbingly indifferent to the outcome of what Braca had said when that sickly sweet smell hit his nose and transformed him into a drooling moron.

"I have no use for them. Let them go," Grazya said and stepped aside to let John pass her.


John had no idea what had happened before the effect of the Heppel oil finally wore off again. All he knew was that he was now chained to the wall of Grayza's private quarters aboard her command carrier. And this he knew only because she had just told him so. It struck him as not only being odd but also disturbing that he was now losing his memory when he was under her influence.

Grayza lay comfortably on her bed, propped up on one elbow, while she watched him with a half-smile on her lips. "I see you're becoming yourself again," she stated.

John sneered. He no more wanted to talk to her than he wanted her near him, but he did realize his inability to change the current circumstances.

"Shall we talk about wormholes then?" she asked. "You seem rather unfocused when the Heppel oil takes effect."

"That's what you want?" he asked, somewhat surprised by that revelation. He had thought that Grazya had no interest in wormholes. "Wormholes?" He huffed at the idea, pretended to be insulted. "That doesn't make you any better than Scorpy, does it?"

She sat up, the smile gone. "I do not wish to be compared to that half-breed," she said, her tone icy. She rose and sauntered over to him and he couldn't help thinking that if she thought she could turn him on without her precious Heppel oil, she had another thing coming. She was about as attractive to him as a sack of potatoes. Seductively, she ran her fingers over his chest and smiled again. "I can make your life much easier if you ... give me what I want. Either way, I will get it," she said. "I have other ways of extracting information from you, but I would much rather do it this way."

He pulled back a step and bumped into the wall. "And I would much rather you didn't touch me," he replied. He didn't have much to lose at present. 'Other than your life, stupid', he scolded himself silently. But it wasn't enough of an incentive to give in to her demands without a fight.

Her expression didn't change, but the look in her eyes did. "Really?" she asked and stepped back. "And what makes you think that your wishes mean anything to me?" She shook her head as if giving up on some idea she'd had and sighed audibly. "Your wishes are irrelevant. What you can contribute to the Peacekeeper regime is very much relevant. With the ability to command wormholes on our side, we can ensure a peaceful resolution to the Scarran problem. I would much prefer that to an all-out war."

"Mainly because an all-out war would decimate Sebaceans by about a hundred percent," John countered. "What you want is a weapon you can wave under the noses of all those who oppose you. Well, guess what, sister. Total domination belongs in fairytales. This is real life, honey. Nobody controls nothing a hundred percent. I'm not going to give you wormholes and you'll probably end up at the wrong end of some overzealous Peacekeeper's gun. So why don't you just cut the crap and leave me the hell alone?" He was getting worked up, getting angry at the situation, and he didn't even make an attempt to stop himself from stepping in it. He was merely stating the truth as he saw it.

To his regret, Grayza seemed to think he was being funny. She laughed at him. "You have no idea how Peacekeepers work, do you?" she asked. "As it were, Crichton, you are the master of your destiny, as opposed to Peacekeepers, who are bred to obey. There is the occasional slip-up, of course. Aeryn Sun unfortunately was the bi-product of an unauthorized breeding. Xhalax Sun was foolish enough to look her up when she was young. She instilled foolish ideas in her mind and so caused her to B as you would say B jump ship once the opportunity presented itself. First Command had hoped that by surrounding her with the right kind of Peacekeepers, that sort of thing would never happen. But, unfortunately, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"Right place at the right time," he interrupted her. "Aeryn has so much potential and she's opening up to it all on her own. And, besides, from what I understand it wasn't me who put the original idea in her head that she was better than this. It was another Peacekeeper. And I'm not talking about Xhalax Sun."

"Xhalax Sun was a fool with foolish notions. So was Velorek. They're both dead, destroyed by the very same regime they attempted to go against. I suggest that you do not try my patience B and I have been very patient with you B or you might suffer the same fate," Grayza said and smiled indulgently as she ran her fingers over her chest. "And now let's discuss those wormholes," she added and stepped closer.

All John could do was try and avoid her, but that was damned difficult when she grabbed his chin and held it in a vice-like grip while raising her fingers to his nose. He fought the effects, wanted so much to be stronger than this, but lost the battle before it had even begun.


Four solardays later

Silence on a command carrier was an uncommon thing and Aeryn was very apprehensive about uncommon things. Especially when it came to her former comrades. Not one of them had a loyal bone in their bodies when it came to furthering their careers. First Command had seen to that eons ago, when they had decided to breed soldiers who were loyal to nothing but the highest authority. Informing on your colleagues was rewarded, stabbing your superiors in the back was encouraged, and all for the greater good. When she had been a Peacekeeper, it had been natural. It had gone against every grain of her essence, but it had been natural. Now all she could think was how this way of life disgusted her. She had tasted freedom, tasted love and understanding, and there was nothing in this universe that would ever cause her to return to her old ways.

Granted, old habits died hard, but she was shedding them like a reptile shed its skin, a little at a time. With the help and encouragement of her friends, she knew she could become so much more, an idea alien and frightening to her while she had been a part of the Peacekeeper outfit.

She stopped at a corner and took a quick look down the corridor with her back pressed against the wall. Everything was quiet and dead. If it hadn't been for the fact that the lights were working and everything else seemed to be in order, she would have deemed this a dead ship. But it wasn't. It was strangely alive except for the total absence of the Peacekeepers she had expected to find on every level. "Frell," she muttered under her breath. This was the right carrier. She knew it was. So where the frell was everybody?

While she stood there, listening and waiting warily for any sign of life, the memory of how she had come to be here rose from her subconscious mind again. Frell John and his chivalry. Grayza, that frelled-up tralk, had put a gun to Aeryn's head and John had crumbled like a whimpering child before her, promising her anything if she would just let Aeryn live. And she had. She had taken John instead. Aeryn had known what would happen the microt she had laid eyes on that pale-skinned tralk and she swore to herself that she would be the one to put an end to Grayza's reign, if for nothing other than humiliating and probably hurting John.

Her features tensed while she recalled that moment, the mocking smile on Grayza's lips, the annoyance in Braca's eyes. Aeryn had felt like shooting them all right then, but had refrained from doing so because John's life was at stake. Once she got him out of here, she would have to beat some sense into him and make sure he toughened up a little. She couldn't have him fall apart with every little threat to her life.

She lingered for a microt longer, then slipped around the corner and walked briskly toward the command center of the carrier. This level should have been teeming with activity and she was going to be frelled if she understood what was happening. Peacekeepers did not abandon ship unless said ship was no longer salvageable. This ship was in top shape and from what she had seen in the landing bay, fully staffed. But still there was no one around and it made her both uneasy and angry.

With another glance down the corridor she had come from, she opened the door to the command center and stepped inside. It was as empty as the rest of the ship and that only confirmed her suspicion that something strange was going on. She holstered her pulsepistol, slung her rifle and walked briskly across the floor to the surveillance station. From there she would be able to access all levels to see if there was someone still on board.

She started flipping through the views one by one, her gaze shifting back and forth between the multitude of monitors showing her the various levels of the carrier from top to bottom. "What the frell is going on here?" she muttered under her breath. The living quarters were devoid of life and the same went for any other area she could think of. With a frown, she shifted to the next level, which held the prison cells and non-essential areas. And that was where she found the first signs of life. The majority of the prisoners, it seemed, were still in their cells. None of them were dead and none of them seemed injured or uneasy. A few of the cells were empty and something prompted Aeryn to check the manifest to see if these cells were supposed to be inhabited.

As it turned out, the empty cells should have been occupied B by Peacekeeper soldiers. Something had happened on this ship that had removed all Peacekeepers and left the rest behind. It made no sense what so ever, but Aeryn was not going to concern herself with that thought right now. She scanned the manifest, searching for that one name that would jump out at her, but found it nowhere. All right, so he wasn't a prisoner. Where the frell was he then?

She stood motionless for a few microts, her eyes on the monitors showing the cells, and then suddenly she snapped her fingers. Of course. Grayza had been after him all along. She wouldn't have stuffed him in a cell. She would have kept him in her quarters.

A quick scan through the appropriate monitors showed her what she had suspected. There were no monitoring devices in Grayza's private quarters. "Tralk," she grumbled. The remaining prisoners would have to be dealt with, of course, but she had her priorities. And John was at the very top of those.

All she hoped for was that whatever had left the alien prisoners behind hadn't seen fit to leave Grayza behind as well. Aeryn had her doubts about Grayza's origin. The female didn't seem to be entirely Sebacean to her. But she would have to deal with that problem when she got to it.

More or less convinced that she had the ship to herself and would not run into anyone other than perhaps escaped prisoners, Aeryn made her way up to the executive level and didn't bother checking the quarters she passed. There was not going to be anybody in the rooms behind those doors.

She had almost reached the section where Grayza's quarters were located when she got the feeling that she wasn't alone any more. She slowed her pace and started listening more intently to her surroundings. There was a sound she couldn't immediately place. It sounded mostly like metal subjected to natural forces.

The corridor opened up into a large, open and well-lit area, which in a sense could be considered the entrance hall to the Commandant's quarters. It contained a large desk to the right behind which the Commandant's personal assistant would sit. Normally, Aeryn would never have managed to get within shooting distance of this area, but now there was no one around.

The sounds repeated themselves, making Aeryn scan the surrounding area with growing caution. The sound definitely emanated from this area, but she couldn't immediately pinpoint it. She pulled her pulse pistol and glanced around again. "I'm armed," she called. "Come out."

There was a muffled reply that made Aeryn frown. It sounded very much like it came from the desk. She aimed her pistol at it. "If you force me to come back there and get you, I will have to kill you," she threatened. Aeryn had never made threats lightly and she wasn't about to begin now. She meant every word she said. She had no words for how this empty, running ship made her feel, but she was certain that John would know exactly what to call it once she described it to him. What it did to her was make her quite adamant about her words.

The muffled reply was repeated, this time a little louder, and the desk shuddered. Aeryn straightened up and frowned. "Where are you?" she called.

Whoever it was made a great deal of racket and Aeryn stepped around the desk, her pulse pistol at the ready, and saw nobody there. It took her a microt to realize that there was a compartment under the desk and that it was locked. And this was where the sounds came from. She stepped up to it, kept her pulse pistol at the ready, and pressed the release. The compartment opened and someone spilled out on the floor. Sebacean, male, captain's insignia on one shoulder. He hauled himself to his feet, straightened his uniform, smoothed back his hair with both hands and then finally turned his attention toward her.

Aeryn's eyes narrowed slightly while she eyed him. "Braca," she said and snorted with disgust. "What the frell are you doing, hiding inside that desk? Where is everybody else?"

Despite the obvious resentment on the captain's face, Braca also had an air of fear about him. It was mostly in his eyes. "I was not hiding," he snapped and disclosed his nervousness by straightening his uniform jacket again. "I was ..." he tried, but trailed off and glanced around.

Aeryn frowned a little. "You were what?" she asked. "And where the frell is everybody?" she added.

The man appeared to have developed a nervous tick around the left corner of his mouth, which kept twitching into a half smile every now and then. "I don't know. I ..." he tried, all the while attempting to seem superior. "There were screams and ..." he continued, but stopped again, his gaze snapping to the entrance all the time. "People were disappearing and ..." he tried again and nervously licked his lips, his eyes on anything but her. "And I ..."

"Hid inside the desk?" Aeryn finished for him.

His gaze snapped back to her and he straightened his back as much as he could. "I do not hide," he snapped. "I was ..." he tried, but trailed off with an angry and embarrassed expression.

"You were promoted to Captain, were you not?" she asked.

"Yes, I was," he said and straightened the insignia.

"A fine captain you make," she added and shook her head in disgust.

"I was not hiding," he snarled and took a step forward, but stopped short when she shoved her pulse pistol in his face.

"Where is Crichton?" she demanded, ready to pull the trigger if he made a wrong move.

"Why should I tell you?" he asked and raised his head a little higher.

Aeryn sneered. "Because if you don't, I will blow a fist-sized hole through your head and find him anyway," she growled. "You would be saving me some time."

Braca stared at her for a microt, then sighed dramatically and glanced toward the double doors leading into Grayza's quarters. "If he hasn't vanished along with the rest, he's in there," he said. "Can I go now?"

Aeryn gave him a sharp glare. "If you make any move to stop me from taking Crichton off this ship, I will kill you," she said.

"I don't give a frell about Crichton or you. I just want off this ship," Braca replied angrily.

It took no expert to see that Braca was scared. Whatever had happened here, he had been spared only by being a coward. Old habits died hard and Aeryn felt nothing but disgust for him. "Get the frell out of here," she said and he did. He didn't even glance back when he turned and hurried down the corridor and disappeared around a corner.

Aeryn hesitated for a microt longer while glancing around the area. Whatever had done this, Braca was afraid it would come back. Or perhaps it hadn't left yet. Either way, she was not going to risk being caught by whatever it was.

The doors to Grayza's inner sanctuary opened easily into what Aeryn would deem as spartan quarters. There was no personal touch to the room, nothing indicating that anybody of importance lived here. Crais had had those frelling heads in his quarters and other captains before him had seen fit to decorate their quarters with whatever had their fancy. To find this room so bare made Aeryn wonder even more about Grayza and how that female had gotten as far as she had.

A first glance around revealed nobody present, but Aeryn once again had that feeling of not being alone. She had stopped just inside the doors to familiarize herself with the room before entering it. To the right was a wall partition hiding a part of the room behind it. In the middle was a large bed and a bath to the left. The desk with the personal com station sat right next to the doors to the left and there was access to another smaller room on the right side of the doors.

"John?" Despite all she had learned, she could not stop herself from calling for him even before she knew if he was here alone or not. He was here, though. She could sense him, almost hear him breathing.

Her voice carried in the emptiness and was rewarded by the sound of chains clanging. This was followed by a subdued curse that made her smile. He didn't seem harmed, only chained, and obviously behind the wall partition. "John?" she tried again. Silence followed that.


When she heard his voice she suddenly understood a phrase he had used on occasion, but had never really been able to understand its meaning until now. She felt sweet relief wash over her at the sound of his voice.

She closed the distance and cleared the edge of the partition to find him standing there, shackled and chained but seemingly unharmed. He smiled at first, but then frowned, the smile dying on his lips. "You have to get out of here. She could be back any minute."

"Frell Grayza," Aeryn replied and walked over to him. She grabbed one of the chains and weighed it in one hand for a microt. Then she shook her head lightly. "Let's get you out of here." She put her weight into dislodging the chains, but they wouldn't break. They were ultra-thin and looked brittle, but Aeryn assumed that John had given it his all to break them too and he was somewhat heavier than her. Instead of slaving away over something that wouldn't break, she pulled her pulsepistol and shot the holder off the wall.

"Hey!" John snapped, a look of uncertainty on his face. "What if they hear you?" he whispered while he stared toward the edge of the partition.

"Who?" she asked. It was abundantly clear to her that he had no idea that this ship was essentially abandoned. "Who would hear? There's nobody on board."

He froze, but then turned his head and looked at her with a frown creasing his brow. "What?"

"There is nobody on board. Except for a few prisoners we are taking with us and Braca, who was hiding under a desk, that drannit," she explained patiently while she examined the shackles around his wrists. "Frell. I can't get them off," she added, took a hold of one chain and pulled his hand up so she could get a clear shot of where the chain was attached to it.

John realized what she had in mind and his eyes widened. "Wait ..." was all he managed to say before she'd blown the chain off the shackle. To her immediate surprise, he paled considerably.

"You want to run around with ten metras of chains after you?" she asked. "We'll have to wait until we're back on Moya before we can get the shackles off you. I need a lumar burner and I'm not about to go searching for it on this ship. It's too frelling big."

"You could have shot my hand off," he replied while inspecting the singed shackle more closely.

Aeryn frowned. "I didn't," she countered, grabbed the other chain and pulled his left hand up.

"No," he snapped and pulled it away from her. "What if you miss?"

"I won't miss," she said and yanked at the chain, ripping his hand back toward her. "Stop being such a frelling infant. You want to get out of here, don't you?"

"Yeah, of course I do. But ..." he began, but stopped. He had obviously come to the conclusion that it didn't make a difference what he said. "Whatever. Just ... don't miss."

She rolled her eyes in response, raised his hand up at the chain again, aimed at the junction and blew the chain off the other shackle as well. "See? Nothing to it," she said. "Now, let's move. There's something wrong with this ship and I do not intend to stay here any longer than I have to."

"Right. Me neither," John agreed and finally managed a sincere smile. "Damn, it's good to see you."

A smile spread over her lips and she wouldn't have been able to stop it even if she had wanted to. "I'm glad you're in one piece," she replied and briefly reached up to touch his cheek. "There will be time for this later. Right now, we have to free some prisoners and get the frell off this ship."