They made their way back down to the command level and Aeryn ran a quick scan of the ship once they were back in the command center. To her immediate surprise, Braca was still on board. He was in the landing bay. He stood near the marauder she had come in on, a pulsepistol in one hand, and at first she thought he was waiting for them so he could kill them. But his demeanor was that of a hunted man. He kept looking around and although the image was small, she could still see the sweat on his brow. He was scared of something and she wondered what it was.

"Is there going to be room on the marauder for all of them?" John asked while he eyed the monitors showing the prison cells. "What if they're dangerous?"

"What if you stopped thinking so much?" she countered and gave him a frown when he glanced at her. "We are not leaving them here. We'll release them. Those that want to come with us can. The rest can find their own way off the ship. Or stay. Whatever they want. It's up to them."

"Right," he agreed with a nod. "So, should we go?"

"Yes," she said and led the way out of the command center.

They hurried to the prison level and quickly released the prisoners. Five of them decided to make a run for it, but the rest remained and listened to Aeryn's proposal. They were all sorts of aliens, some of which they had met before and some which were new. Aeryn didn't much care what they were accused of doing or why. All she wanted was to leave this ship of ghosts behind.

"Now, if you want to make your own way off this ship, do so. The rest are welcome to join us. We can take you as far as the next commerce planet. Then you're on your own," she said.

The seven remaining glanced at each other, but then two more broke out of the group and took off on their own. There were plenty of crafts to take them off the carrier. Aeryn wasn't worried about what they would do. It was up to them. The five that stayed behind followed them without a word. None of them seemed to have anything to say.

John kept glancing back at them, but he said nothing either. Aeryn led the way back to the landing bay and noted that Braca was still there. He was as nervous as she had assumed and it made her wonder what he knew about this whole mess.

"What the frell are you still doing here?" she demanded.

Braca didn't raise his weapon, just stood there and stared at her with a mixture of fear and contempt in his eyes. "None of the prowlers or the marauders work," he replied. "Not in this bay, anyway."

"Then why didn't you try some of the others in the other bays?" Aeryn asked and stepped closer. The thought that a whole bay full of ships should prove to be useless made her think more closely about what might have happened to the crew. "Braca, what the frell happened here?"

"Could we stop the socializing and leave?" John asked.

Aeryn glanced at him and noted how he couldn't seem to stand still. He kept shifting his weight from foot to foot. "What's got you so nervous?"

"I don't know. Call it a hunch. But I think the faster we're off this boat, the safer I'm gonna feel," he replied while he kept glancing around the bay as if trying to spot some unseen enemy.

Something was definitely amiss. John was a lot more sensitive to moods than she was and she believed that he was nervous for a reason. As was Braca, apparently.

"Crichton is right. We should leave," Braca agreed. "If your marauder works, that is."

"Of course it does. I came in on it no more than two arns ago," Aeryn replied and opened the hatch.

"Well, five arns ago this ship was teeming with activity," Braca said and swallowed hard. "Now there's nobody left but us. That doesn't strike you as being just a little bit strange?"

"I'm not here to solve what happened to your crew, Braca," Aeryn growled and shooed the prisoners into the marauder. "I'm here to free Crichton. And that's all I care about."

John grinned at her. "Love you too, babe," he said and followed the prisoners inside.

Aeryn turned her attention back to Braca. "Are you coming or staying?"

"Are you crazy? I'm not staying on this ship. Something is completely frelled here," he replied and hurried up the steps himself.

Aeryn glanced back out over the bay and silently agreed with him. Whatever it was, it was still on board. That much she had derived from the way this place made her feel.


"I don't believe this!" John slapped the console in front of him and again tried a few of the switches. Nothing happened.

"You can fly a marauder?"

He glanced up at Braca, who had turned up beside him. "I can fly pretty much anything thanks to Aeryn," he countered. "But this bucket of dren isn't responding. Aeryn?"

She came over to him and eyed the console for a moment. "It's dead," she stated, but flipped a few switches just for good measure. She glanced at him and then turned her attention to Braca, who had dropped down on the copilot's seat and looked anything but happy. "What the frell is going on here?" she demanded again.

Braca shook his head, defeated. "I don't know. I never saw what did this. I ... just heard it," he replied and glanced guiltily up at her.

"What did you hear?" John asked. "I didn't hear anything."

Braca gave him a quick glance. "I heard ... sounds. I can't describe them."

"Try," Aeryn suggested. "Whatever the frell made the crew disappear, Braca, is obviously still on board. Would you just try to think for yourself for a microt and tell me what the frell we're up against?"

"I don't know," Braca snapped. "It's ... mad." Hesitantly, he looked from one to the other and back again. "It all started when the Commandant brought him on board," he added and fixed his eyes on John.

"Me?" John asked, stunned. "Yeah, good idea. Go ahead and blame this whole mess on me. Do I look like I can make a couple of thousand people disappear?"

Braca's expression tightened. "You've done it before," he claimed.

"Yeah, but not without help, you moron. You think I possess that kind of power? You're really warped," John replied angrily and started to get up.

Aeryn grabbed his shoulder and pushed him back down into the seat. "Crichton has a point," she said with a stern look at Braca. "This can't be his fault. Something else must have happened here. What did you do before Grayza brought him on board?"

"It's not what we did before," Braca said and averted his gaze. "It's what she had us do after." He glanced over at John, who got the distinct impression that Braca was about to make a confession to Grayza's incompetence. "After she had you brought on board and ..." Here he hesitated and eyed John thoughtfully. "Well, a few solardays later, we came upon something. There was a wormhole ahead of us. It was huge. And it appeared stable." He sighed and slumped back in the seat. "Commandant Grayza thought you'd called it. Her orders were very specific. We were to travel through it and see where we ended up. Just to see if a command carrier could go through a wormhole."

John felt himself pale. If there was one thing he had learned about random wormholes, then it was that they hardly ever meant anything good. "So you ... took this whole ship through a wormhole?" he asked just to clarify what Braca was saying.

"Yes," Braca agreed quietly and with a distant look in his eyes. "Something went terribly wrong. The carrier entered the wormhole, but only for a few microts. Then we were expelled. Grazya got very angry about it and insisted we try again. Nobody was really willing to. Just taking the chance the first time had been a bad idea. Usually, this kind of thing is not something you do without authorization from First Command. And ... well ... she didn't want to wait."

"Negligence," Aeryn said and hunkered down between the two seats, her left hand resting on the arm of John's chair. "She willfully subjected this whole ship to danger. That's an offence punishable by death."

John glanced at her. "Looks like she got what was coming to her, huh?" he asked. "Unfortunately, whatever came after her must have taken a big bite out of the rest of the crew. Was it something you picked up in the wormhole?"

"Must have been," Braca consented with a light nod of the head. "Whatever the frell it was, I think you're right, Sun. It's still here," he added and glanced at Aeryn.

John pursed his lips in contemplation. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" he asked Aeryn.

"Neeala and that frelling snake-thing," she agreed.

Braca sent them both a strange look. "What snake-thing?" he asked.

John shook his head. "On the other hand ..." he started.

"... if it was that snake-thing, there would be body parts and blood all over the place. But there's nothing," Aeryn finished while looking straight ahead.

"So it's something else," John concluded and stared chewing thoughtfully on his lower lip.

"What snake-thing?" Braca asked again.

"Never mind. It's not important. It can't be that," Aeryn said and rose again. "So what the frell happened? How can an entire crew of a command carrier just disappear without a sign?"

"Maybe this ship was having an allergic reaction to them?" John asked and grinned halfheartedly. "Bad joke," he added.

"Very bad," Aeryn agreed.

"Does that mean we're not leaving?"

John glanced back at the five remaining prisoners. "Not on this marauder," he agreed and got up. "Guess we'd better check the other ships to find one that works."

"This marauder was fully fueled and in top condition when I arrived here," Aeryn said thoughtfully. "What the frell happened in between?"

John glanced at her and then at Braca. "He was alone with it for a while, wasn't he?"

Braca rose abruptly, his eyes dark with anger. "I had nothing to do with that. I want to get off this ship just as much as you do. More even. Why would I sabotage the only chance there is?" he snapped.

Aeryn stepped between them. "Would you stop with the accusations?" she said to John and then turned her attention to Braca. "Although I wouldn't know why, he's got a point. You were alone with the marauder."

"Then check the surveillance," Braca retorted. "It will show you that I have done nothing to the marauder."

"I may just do that. I'm just not so sure ..." she began, but stopped when John clamped a hand onto her arm and nodded toward the front viewport.

"What the frell is going on out there?" he asked.

Aeryn frowned and focused on the bay outside. The lights were flickering, but not irregularly as they would have if the power was about to die. They flickered in wavelike motions, one set going out while another came on, creating the illusion that a wave of light was washing over the bay. This continued for a few microts, back and forth, and then the lights died completely only to come back on again.

Nobody spoke for a while after that. John just stood there and stared out at the bay, wishing desperately that he was somewhere else. There was something awfully wrong about this ship. It had devoured its crew and was obviously about to do the same to them. Or rather, whatever had invaded it was going to do that.

He leaned a little closer to Aeryn. "Is that normal?" he asked quietly.

"No. I've never seen anything like that before," she replied. "Have you had electrical problems, Braca?" she asked.

"No," the Captain replied, his voice a near whisper. "But this happened before the crew disappeared too."

John held his breath for a moment. "I think now would be a good time to leave," he said.

Aeryn didn't look at him. She kept her gaze fixed on the bay. "And how would you suggest we do that?"

"Maybe we should just try and find another ship, huh?" one of the prisoners suggested. He was a tall, gangly sort of alien of a species John had not seen before. "There are other bays, other marauders. There must be one that works."

"Probably," Aeryn agreed reluctantly. "I think we should find the other seven and stay together."

John glanced back at the five prisoners and briefly tried to identify them by species. One of them looked vaguely like a Delvian except that she was green instead of blue. He wasn't entirely certain if Delvians came in different shades, so he couldn't say a hundred percent that she was one or not. Grass green skin didn't look half bad, he had to admit. Her dark green hair was curly and looked fluffy and light. Her eyes were almost an emerald green. The male standing next to her was pink and had odd growths on his face. They looked like horns protruding from his jawline and his cheekbones. His eyes were a deep red and he didn't have a wisp of hair on his head. No eyebrows either, which probably meant that his species didn't have hair. He was the one who had made the suggestion. The third one looked a lot like that albino female they had encountered on Sykara, Volmae, except this one was male. Four and five were completely out of his league to identify. They both looked like something that had sprouted in an underground sewer with all their outgrowths and odd appendages. To top it off they smelled too.

Aeryn jabbed an elbow into his side. "Pay attention," she advised.

"Yeah, yeah," he grumbled. "So, what do we do? If this is what happened before the crew disappeared, maybe we should just ... not go out there."

Aeryn gave him a scowl for his trouble. "Oh, good idea, Crichton. Lets just sit around here and wait until we rot," she replied and shook her head. "We're going to have to go out there to find another way off this carrier," she added.

"Good thinking," Braca inserted, his eyes on John who scowled back at him. He didn't like that little twit. Braca didn't seem to be able to function very well on his own and seemingly couldn't make any decisions worth while.

"Shut up," John advised him and turned his attention back to Aeryn, who looked like she was about to give up on both of them. "What I'm saying is that maybe we shouldn't go out there right now. I'm not saying we should stay here forever."

"What good is it going to do if we wait?" she asked.

"What good is it going to do if we go out there and get eaten or whatever happened to the others?" John countered and folded his arms over his chest.

Aeryn eyed him for a moment. "All right. You've got a point there," she finally agreed.

"I think we'd better close the hatch," the green 'Delvian' said. "Just in case."

Aeryn nodded and both Green and Pink went into the back to carry out her proposal. John stared ahead of himself for a moment. "Everybody who's still here was locked up when the others disappeared. And Braca was hiding," he said.

The five prisoners thought that was funny and Braca obviously didn't, but John thought he saw a pattern in this. "Nobody but prisoners have been left behind. I mean, if this ... whatever it is ... only goes for Sebaceans, then Braca would have disappeared as well. So ... maybe whatever it is didn't bother with what it didn't find."

"You think this thing ... whatever it is ... is intelligent?" Aeryn asked.

"Could be," John agreed, but then frowned. Something didn't click here. There was more to it than that. "This doesn't make sense," he said. "If this is ... a thing ... a creature or whatever, it would have to be pretty damned big to ... well ... eat that many people. I mean, how many people does a command carrier contain? How many were on board?"

"Over fifty thousand," Aeryn replied and glanced at Braca, who nodded. "You're right. The scans I ran on the ship would have shown it. But there was nothing there except for the prisoners and you two." She relaxed a little. "Which means that it's no longer here."

"Which means, Aeryn, that it's not something that shows up on the scan," John corrected her. "I mean ... what can make fifty thousand people disappear within ... what? ... an arn? Two maybe?"

"Something big," Aeryn agreed. "Something that doesn't show up on the scan." She shook her head. "Are you suggesting it's invisible then?"

"I don't really know what I'm suggesting. I'm just trying to come up with ... some kind of solution to this. I don't know why, but I get the feeling we're at least marginally safe in here. So ... let's stay here for a while and see what happens," John replied.

As if in response to his words, the lights died outside. Everybody froze, waiting with bated breath for them to come back on, but nothing happened. It was pitch dark outside.

"Why the frell aren't the emergency lights coming on?" Braca asked and pulled back a few steps.

Aeryn stared out into the darkness for a moment and then raised a hand. "Silence," she said. "Listen."

John strained to hear something, anything, and was rewarded with the sound of running footsteps. Someone was coming toward the marauder.

And then the lights came back on, twice as strong as before, flooding the bay with a brilliant light that was almost painful to look at. John squinted and saw the figure of one of the other seven prisoners racing toward the marauder, frantically waving his arms about. But the man never made it. Halfway there, something stopped him dead in his tracks. He was staring at something they couldn't see, something obviously past the marauder. John glanced at Aeryn, who was watching the scene with concern. The man out there raised his hands in a deprecating gesture, palms facing forward while he started backing up. He didn't take more than a few steps before he started screaming in terror at something they couldn't see. The intensity of the lights rose so high, they couldn't stand looking out into the bay and when the lights dimmed again a moment later, the man was gone. There was no sign of him. It was as if he had never existed.

The inside of the marauder suddenly felt very claustrophobic to John. It was completely silent while they all stared out at the now seemingly normal and empty bay. There was no indication that anything violent had ever happened there and that made the whole thing seem like a weird dream to him.

"What the hell just happened out there?" he finally asked and glanced around at the others.

Aeryn drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Obviously whatever took the rest of the crew is still here," she finally said. "And it's controlling the ship."


There was no silence worse than the one caused by people locked together in fear. Aeryn sat on the edge of the pilot's seat and stared aimlessly out at the bay, trying to determine which course of action would not lead them to destruction. Her mind was working overtime while the rest remained silent. Even John, who was usually all talk, didn't say anything. He just sat on the co-pilot's seat and stared out at the bay like she did. The event which had transpired less than an arn ago had obviously shaken him.

This sitting still for too long was usually not something she liked to do and she knew she would be out there, prowling the ship despite these events if she hadn't located John that quickly. But the fact that he was here, alive and well, made her feel more at ease than she thought she should feel.

Something prompted her to turn her head and look at him. He didn't look at her, just kept staring out at the bay with a concerned look in his eyes, and at that moment, an idea worked its way into Aeryn's mind. It was crazy, but somehow it made sense. "What if what we're looking for isn't ... a thing?" she asked quietly.

John glanced at her. "What do you mean?" he countered.

"What if ..." she tried, but trailed off. "No," she disagreed with herself. "That's just crazy."

"What is? What are you thinking?" he asked and leaned a little closer.

She shook her head in denial, but she could not subdue this frightening idea now. "What exactly happens when you go through a wormhole? Where do you go? I mean, if it cuts distance by that much, you can't be in normal space any more. So, where do you go?"

John arched both brows and stared ahead of himself for a moment. "Well ... essentially, I guess you could say that ... you go into a different dimension, a different ... I don't know ... reality. Something like that. I don't really have that answer for you," he confessed. "I don't understand the implications of wormhole travel in any higher sense. Other than if you go about it wrong, you can change things by going back in time as much as going to another place."

"So, essentially," she said. "You could ... go to another dimension ... to another reality where things might not be so ... nice."

He frowned. "Nice? What do you mean?"

"Well, isn't it likely that there are places where things are worse than they are here? I've heard stories about Tormented Space. They say that sections of it are so ... chaotic that no sane being would ever go there," she said and glanced back at Braca, who had come a little closer.

"The Chaos regions," Braca inserted. "I've heard about them too."

John glanced back at Braca and made a face. "What are you suggesting?"

"Moya is a biomechanoid. At one time it was suggested that leviathans stem from the Chaos regions. That ... dead things can come alive there," Aeryn said and glanced at Braca for confirmation. He nodded. She had it right.

The look in John's eyes had changed and she could tell he was catching on to where she was heading with this. "Are you saying that this ... wormhole took this carrier to that ... Chaos region and made it come alive?"

Aeryn ran a hand over her hair. She knew how it sounded and she wondered why she had brought it up in the first place. But it was bothering her. "Well, I'm only going by legend here," she said and sighed. "But a lot of legends have turned out to be true."

"If that is a fact, it could be used to our advantage," Braca said, obviously failing to see the bigger point in what Aeryn was saying.

"No," she disagreed. "That's just the point, Braca. We cannot use this to our advantage if this ship has ... come alive. This is a warship. Leviathans are not. They've had ages to develop, to become what they are now. This ... if this is what happened to this carrier ... it can't mean anything good."

"I'm inclined to agree with you, Aeryn," John said and nervously brushed both hands through his hair. "But, come on. That's nuts. This is ... what happens in a bad horror movie. This kind of thing doesn't happen in real life."

"And did you believe that a wormhole would take you to a different galaxy before it did?" Aeryn asked. That shut him up. "That's my point," she added. "Do you have any other explanation for what's going on here? What happened to that prisoner? He wasn't killed by some creature roaming this ship. He was killed by the ship. I actually think that your comment earlier wasn't that far off the mark. It could be that the ship is actually having a reaction to us being here."

"Yeah, but ... Aeryn ... this is not a biomechanoid. This is a fully mechanical vessel. There's no neural nexus in this boat, is there? It doesn't have the capacity for independent thought," John argued.

"But it does," Braca intervened and both of them glanced back at him. "Don't you see? If Sun is correct, then this ship has all the potential to become ... a conscious thing. The computer system alone is powerful enough and it permeates the entire ship. Sensors, com-links. You name it. It's all interlinked. Also with the weapon arrays." It seemed as if Braca was only realizing himself what he was saying as he said it. "This could, potentially, become another Talyn."

Aeryn nodded. "That's what I was thinking. And this ship is so much more powerful."

John looked from one to the other and back again while he was trying to determine if he was asleep and having a very weird dream or if he'd hit his head somewhere along the way and was having hallucinations. "Does this kind of thing happen a lot around here?" he asked. Both of them gave him odd looks. "Would you two just listen to what you're saying? This ... it's a ship built by Peacekeepers, for Peacekeepers. It's ... a freaking car, man. Cars don't come alive, no matter where they've been. This isn't Christine. There's no evil spirit that has taken possession of it and will use it to wreck havoc on its surroundings. This is a kitchen appliance, a ... a ... food processor."

Braca glanced at Aeryn, who looked just as puzzled as he did. "What the frell are you talking about, Crichton?" he asked.

"What am I talking about? What the hell do you think I'm talking about, Braca? You're all agreed that this ship is now a living thing and will devour us all? Do you have any idea how crazy that sounds?" John countered, getting upset at the mere idea.

"Well, the possibility exists," Green inserted. "It is not unheard of."

"Give me a break," John snapped and rose abruptly. "This is ridiculous."

Aeryn rose too and gave him a sharp look. "And just because you've never heard of it means it can't happen, right?" she asked. "Did you ever dream of seeing a biomechanoid before you came to the UTs?"

He raised a hand, palm out, and shook his head. "No, uh-uh, don't you start throwing that at me. I'm not some ignorant ... idiot you can just brush off with what-ifs, Aeryn. This is too far out. Even for here. I don't buy this."

Before Aeryn had a chance to respond, the lights outside in the bay switched off again and everybody fell silent. For a long moment, nothing happened. Then the sounds started, screeching sounds like from metal ripping. Something hit the floor somewhere close to the marauder which sent a shiver through the otherwise rather heavy vessel. And then something rammed it. The impact was powerful enough to move the marauder a bit and throw everyone who was standing to the floor.

This was again followed by a long patch of silence, which was interrupted only by the heavy breathing of the people assembled in the marauder. Just when they thought it was over, the lights came back on, shocking everybody into renewed silence. Nobody moved for a while after that. The first one to break the temporary silence was Aeryn when she rose up from her seat and sent a scrutinizing look out into the bay.

"Nothing," she stated. "There's no sign of anything out there."

Braca picked himself up off the floor, straightened his uniform and then glanced back at John, who was still lying on the floor, propped up on one elbow, while he was staring past the Peacekeeper with wide eyes. "You still believe that it's ridiculous?" he asked.

John got back on his feet and pushed past the man to brace himself against the console while he looked out into the bay. "Shut up, Braca," he said firmly and then glanced at Aeryn. "Okay, I admit that there's something weird going on here. But I'm still not convinced that this ship is alive."

Aeryn gave him a dark look. "There's only one way to find out," she said and got up.