D'Argo had been hard at work, trying to find the reason for Moya's odd power drain, and finally located the problem. He stared at the clamp on Moya's main power conduit, the one that gave her the opportunity to starburst in the first place and generally supplied the rest of her systems with much needed energy.

"What the frell?" he muttered and examined it a little closer. Then he shook his head and dislodged the clamp. "Pilot, how's that?" he called.

"Much better, Ka D'Argo. The power levels are rising rapidly again, " Pilot replied. "What was the problem? A break in the conduit? "

"If only," D'Argo muttered. "No, Pilot, there was a clamp on Moya's main power conduit. It must have stemmed the flow somehow," he replied.

Pilot refrained from replying to that, which told D'Argo that something about this frelled clamp was wrong. This wasn't just another Peacekeeper device they hadn't detected before. He would have to discuss this with Aeryn.

"Prepare for starburst in quarter of an arn, " Pilot informed them and D'Argo decided to get back to the others so he could have a word with Aeryn about this.

He found her where he had expected she would be. In John's quarters. She was still sitting on the floor where he had left her, staring at the hungry-looking entity that John had once again become.

He hunkered down next to her and watched his friend for a moment. Then he put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Aeryn," he said quietly. "We need to talk."

Before he could say more, Chiana turned up. "Yeah, we do," she exclaimed. She appeared uncommonly agitated about something.

D'Argo eyed her for a microt, then rose. "What's wrong with you?" he asked, for the moment forgetting why he had come here in the first place.

"There's nothing wrong with me," she nearly hissed. "But there's something wrong with Zitta."

Aeryn turned her head and looked up at her. "Is she hurt?" she asked.

"No, she's not hurt," Chiana huffed and looked from one to the other and back again. "She's the one doing all this," she added, waving a hand toward John while nodding at the ceiling. "She's responsible. You heard her. She gave Pilot the coordinates. She knew frelling well that the carrier was going to be here."

Aeryn rose, a dark look in her eyes. "What the frell are you saying, girl?" she demanded and folded her arms over her chest. "You better have proof to back that up with."

"I don't have any frelling proof, Aeryn. I've just had a bad feeling about her for a while. Actually ever since you found out Crichton was still alive. She's always listening in and she's neglecting Ayla."

D'Argo snorted. "So are you," he said. "Besides, just because you have a bad feeling about someone doesn't mean it's right," he added.

"It's right. For frell's sake, D'Argo, Aeryn, she's ..." Chiana tried, but stalled when she obviously couldn't figure out what exactly Zitta was supposed to be.

"She's what?" Aeryn asked. "You heard her explanation about the coordinates and I believe her. Why would she try to deliberately hurt John? She doesn't even know him."

"I don't frelling know, do I? I can't read minds. But that female is tinked. She's obsessed about John. I can feel it," Chiana snapped, all worked up.

"Chiana, calm down," D'Argo advised her and grabbed her shoulder. "We're leaving. That should set John free again. It was an honest mistake. We'll find a commerce planet elsewhere."

"Don't you frelling tell me to calm down. Why can't you see what she's doing? Why can't you see that she's the one doing this?" The Nebari sounded almost hysterical and D'Argo couldn't help wondering why she was acting up like that. It wasn't like her to get this carried away.

"Chiana, get out of here," Aeryn said sternly and pointed at the door. "Right now. You're not thinking rationally."

Chiana froze at Aeryn's dismissive tone of voice and just stared at the other female for a microt. Then she shook her head, never taking her eyes off Aeryn. "You'll see. She'll do something more. She'll ... she's evil." That said, Chiana swirled around and ran out of the cell.

Aeryn sighed, closed her eyes and let her head drop. "What the frell is wrong with everybody?" she muttered, then looked up again to eye D'Argo. "That little tralk is really grating on my last nerve. What the frell was that all about?"

D'Argo shrugged. "You know Chiana. She feels guilty about neglecting Ayla and has to take it out on someone else rather than tell the truth. She's frelled, always has been," he said calmly.

"We are starbursting in three microts, " Pilot's voice sounded from the coms.

"Better find something to hold onto," Aeryn said with a sigh and glanced back at John. "I only hope it hasn't set him back too far."

"As I said before, Aeryn, John is tough. He'll pull through," D'Argo assured her and stepped over to the wall to grab a hold.

Aeryn nodded, but did not look convinced.

***

Three solardays had passed since that unfortunate day and Crichton showed no signs of recovering. His eyes remained milky white and he tried to bite anything and anybody that came into reach.

Aeryn was at the end of her wits and snapped at the others whenever they dared ask her a question or make suggestions. D'Argo had completely given up on the idea that talking to her would make a difference and generally stayed out of her way. He took care of Ayla instead. The little girl was very subdued and at first she had said nothing. But after a day, she had told him that she thought this was her fault. D'Argo had been quick to squash that notion in her and did his bit to make sure she felt as loved as ever.

Chiana kept to herself most of the time, but always stayed at the fringe of the events. She hung around Crichton's quarters a lot and on the rare occasion when Aeryn left Crichton alone, she kept him company.

Aeryn was sitting on the edge of Crichton's bed B holding his hand since he couldn't hurt her at present and seemingly didn't mind the contact either B and just stared ahead of herself. Chiana watched her through the latticework, unwilling to try and communicate and yet also unwilling to leave the tormented lovers to their own devices.

And then Zitta turned up. She gave Chiana an almost languid smile and slipped past her into Crichton's quarters. When Aeryn focused on her, the smile disappeared and was replaced by a worried expression instead.

Zitta put a hand on Aeryn's shoulder and eyed Crichton for a moment. "Any change?" she asked quietly.

"No, none," Aeryn replied and reached up to grab Zitta's hand.

Chiana almost shuddered. She had loved Zhaan like a mother, had respected her as much as Chiana was able to respect others, but Zitta made her skin crawl. She had never really liked the green Delvian, but she hadn't thought too much about it until Zitta's behavior had changed ever since Aeryn had found out that Crichton was still alive.

"I'm at the end of my wits, Zitta. I don't know what to do. I don't think he can recover from this," Aeryn said and glanced up at Zitta, who smiled benevolently down at her.

"Well, perhaps I can help," Zitta suggested. "I did not want to suggest it before because of his fear of being touched, but his present ... condition allows for it much more easily."

Aeryn frowned and so did Chiana on the other side of the latticework. "What do you have in mind?" Aeryn asked.

"Unity," Zitta said, her eyes on Crichton, who was groaning under his breath at this point. "You said that the Delvian priestess who traveled with you shared unity with him and that he was good at enduring it. It would help in assessing his mental condition; if there is any way of restoring his mind."

Aeryn's frown deepened. "Wouldn't that be dangerous for you? I mean ... if his mind is ... frelled, in want of a better word. Wouldn't that affect you too?"

Zitta's smile became a little crooked. "I have shared unity with others many times, Aeryn. I am very strong. No matter what evil might possess him, I'm certain I can endure it."

At this point, Chiana shrank from the latticework. Aeryn was focusing on Crichton and didn't see the look in Zitta's eyes. It was there for a microt only, a glimmer of something mad, maybe even evil, and it scared Chiana more than anything that this creature would try to share unity with Crichton when he was at his most vulnerable.

"Well, if you think it's safe ..." Aeryn said.

"It is. I assure you," Zitta confirmed. "There is only one request I have in this connection."

Aeryn rose. "And that is?"

"I need to do it alone. Any distraction will be dangerous. For both of us," Zitta said.

"NO! You can't let her do that. She's going to hurt him," Chiana suddenly blurted out and scurried into the cell. "Aeryn, please. Don't let her do it. She'll hurt him," she repeated, desperate to get the ex Peacekeeper to listen to her.

Aeryn gave her a hard look. "Don't be a fek," she snapped. "Why would Zitta do anything to hurt John?"

"I don't know, but ... she will. I know she will," Chiana tried. Zitta was giving her a rather indifferent look, which meant that Aeryn wasn't going to listen to anything Chiana had to say.

"Chiana, you frellwit. Get the frell out of here. All you do is try to stir up trouble. Zitta can probably help John and you want to prevent that?" Aeryn was angry; very angry; and Chiana knew that she would not be able to get through to her right now.

"At least don't let her do it alone," Chiana begged, her gaze shifting from Aeryn to Zitta and back again.

"You heard her. It would be dangerous if we don't. Stop being such a drannit. John needs all the help he can get," Aeryn countered, then glanced back at Zitta. "Can you do it now?" she asked and the Delvian nodded. "Good, then do it. I'm taking this little tralk out of here," she added, grabbed Chiana's right arm in a vice-like grip and dragged her out of Crichton's quarters.

All the way back to the center chamber, Chiana tried to reason with Aeryn, going from being plaintive and submissive to trying to kick the dren out of her, but none of it worked.

Aeryn released her arm once they were inside the center chamber. "You stay away from there, you hear me? If I get even the idea that you're going to interfere, I'm going to frelling shoot you. Nothing will jeopardize John's chance of returning to us. Do you understand?" She tapped her com badge with a scowl. "Everybody, Zitta is going to attempt unity with John. She needs complete silence for that, so stay the frell away from his quarters until I give you the go ahead. Aeryn out."

"Aeryn, you fekkik," Chiana snapped. "You don't want anybody to hurt Crichton? Well, maybe you should do something about that right now, because Zitta sure isn't going to pat his brow and be nice to him."

Aeryn stared at her and for a microt Chiana thought she'd actually gotten through to her. But then her brow wrinkled in a dark frown. "I don't know what it is you have against Zitta, Chiana. I don't understand that hostility. Zitta has done nothing but help us since she arrived. Without her help, I would never have survived back then. Now, sit down and shut up. You're not going near John's quarters until Zitta is done."

Chiana considered other options, but knew she could never fight her way past Aeryn. Her peacekeeper training just made her too tough. With a creeping sensation rippling the skin on her back, she settled down at the table and watched Aeryn while the Sebacean sat down across from her to watch her. There was nothing she could do if she couldn't convince Aeryn that Zitta wasn't interested in Crichton's well being. Essentially, she had no hard evidence, but Chiana had survived this long by trusting her instincts and her instincts said that Zitta was bad. Very bad.

***

Zitta stood at the side of the bed and watched the zombified human. She had ordered Pilot to shut off all comunication to this level to protect the human's sanity and generally it was true. Interruption during unity could have horrible consequences.

"You are an interesting one, aren't you?" she said quietly. Then she undid the clasps that kept her robe together and let it fall to the floor. Underneath she was naked as the day she had hatched from her pod. Clothing in general she considered a hindrance for the flow of energy and so she always chose to remove it before sharing unity. A vague smile flitted over her lips and she pulled the covers off the unhealthily pale human. "Clothes are obstructive, my dear," she muttered, knelt down at the footend and unleashed his feet. Without further ado, she pulled the sweatpants off him, then retied his feet to the bed.

She used another piece of rope she had brought from her quarters in anticipation of this act to tie down his head to make sure he didn't try to bite her while she shared unity with him. Granted, he probably wouldn't be able to do anything once she had locked him in her mind, but on the off chance that her suspicion that the body was acting separate from the mind at the moment should be true, she would take no chances.

After securing him, she straddled him and ran her hands almost lovingly over his chest, up his neck and then wrapped them around his face. "Now, now, my dear. No biting," she whispered when he tried to bite her thumb. "This won't hurt a bit," she added and leaned forward. Normally, unity required both subjects to touch each other, but since that was out of the question at this point, she would have to settle for the powerful impact her mind would have on his.

When their brows touched, his eyes rolled back in his head and all movement stilled. Zitta smiled, closed her eyes and focused inward and then outward.

***

John had tried to shut down his mind, had tried to let madness and whatever lay beyond grab him and pull him under, but there was something about this place that prevented it. He couldn't. His sanity wouldn't crack entirely, his mind wouldn't stop working. He was locked in endless terror and horrifying revolt at the continuous rape he was being subjected to.

In part, his mind seemed to have split in two where part of him was viewing this with an analytical calmness that was almost more frightening than the act of the rape itself.

The fact alone that he was B quite literally B being raped by a zombie should have cracked his mind. But it didn't. His body was locked in constant sexual arousal, his mind was locked in constant terror, and he couldn't for the life of him understand how it could keep going like this.

Most of the time he kept his eyes closed, tried to block out what was happening to him, fully aware that no help would be forthcoming. All he felt was the squishing of the corpse moving on him, the soft almost porridge like feel of her insides mixed with the firm grip of remaining muscles.

Something B probably something horrible B compelled him to open his eyes. Grayza's right hand was locked on his throat, making it hard for him to breathe, but still he did not pass out. And now he realized they had an audience; a green skinned woman, naked, stood beside them and watched them with something akin to curiosity. He would have expected leering joy and it awoke a hope in him he had thought gone.

Apparently, this rotting version of Grayza was aware in some sense. She turned her head and sneered at the newcomer. "Who are you?" she gritted.

The green woman backhanded her across the face with enough force to throw her off John. The strength of the blow was powerful enough to throw her off the edge of the dais and into the flames licking up from whatever lay beneath. She started screaming and writhing until she apparently fell deeper and finally disappeared. John almost sobbed with gratitude and turned his attention back to the green skinned woman. But the look in her eyes put the terror right back into him.

"This is an interesting fantasy," she said and smiled viciously. "How do you get in touch with it?"

He had no answer for her because he didn't know what she was talking about. He was in hell and no action of his had put him here. None that he was aware of, anyway.

She grabbed his chin and ran her eyes over his still sexually aroused body. "Hepple oil did this to you?" she muttered and released his chin again. "Even though this is mentally only, it still had this effect on you? How fascinating." She ran long, slender fingers over his chest, slipped her hand down his side and suddenly dug her nails painfully into the soft flesh near the wound on his stomach.

He yelped in pain and tried to twist away from her, but her grip was too strong. She straddled him, holding him in place with her knees, and watched him with eyes that were dark with evil intent.

She ran her other hand over his stomach down to his straining erection and wrapped her fingers around it. "Not a fantasy then," she mussed and stroked him hard, drawing new sounds of agony from him in the process. "What then? A separation of mind and body?" She was talking to herself, obviously not expecting an answer. "Did you know that most species are endowed like you and I? That most species can, if they want to, penetrate one another and enjoy the vigor of sexual intercourse without necessarily producing offspring?"

Her hand, now slick with the residue of the corpse that had raped him before, let go of his erection again. She instead placed it on his stomach, wiping it clean against his skin. Then she eyed the wound for a moment and then prodded a finger into it.

The pain was almost beyond endurance and he screamed in agony while still trying to twist away from her with no luck. She removed her finger again and leaned in over him. "Do you think unity is possible within unity?" she whispered and caressed his face with bloodied fingers. The look in her eyes and the smile on her lips made him feel very cold inside. "I seek the source of evil, John Crichton. And you have been closer to it than anyone I've ever heard of. I want to know what brings you closer to it. Is it pain?" she asked, reached between them again and grabbed his erection in a harsh grip, wrenching a low keening from him at the pain she was causing with her hold alone. She glanced around and saw no obvious change in their surroundings. "Or is the sexual act in itself what keeps you here? Do you secretly enjoy being raped by a corpse? Does it turn you on? Should it be a male instead, taking you from behind?"

He was desperate now to get away, to pass out, for his mind to break. Anything that might get him away from this place of horror and the sex hungry demons that obviously came with it. "Leave me alone," he groaned, feeling the embarrassing tears of fear and pain rise in his eyes. "No more. Please. I can't take it."

She sneered at his pleas and tightened her grip further, making him squirm with agony. "Was that how the dead one held you in check? Through the coupling?" She arched her back and sent a look down the length of her body to where her hand was squeezing the life out of his erection. She released it and looked back into his eyes when he let out a huff of air. His abdomen rippled with the residue of the pain, the throbbing of his unreleased arousal strong enough to make him feel sick to his stomach.

She straightened up, grabbed his erection again and guided him home. And it was worse than being raped by a corpse. He couldn't explain it, but maybe it was the pain involved. In general, it felt like she was full of thorns that pressed in on him and ripped the sensitive skin with every thrust. So he screamed and twisted beneath her, knowing for certain that he was back in hell.

***

She left him again long after she had started unity and she felt exhausted to the core of her being. That dimension or whatever it was that held his mind captive was hard to withstand. It took every resource she had to not be sucked into it.

The further away from the carrier they got, the less potent was the hold on him. At some point, he would leave that dimension again and her access to it would thereby be barred. She couldn't allow that. Not as long as she had not learned everything there was to learn about it. Coupling with him in that dimension had given her a deeper insight into the evil that lay beneath it all, but she assumed that stronger means were necessary to ensure that she grasped the full measure of this potential tool for power.

She settled back on his stomach and eyed him for a moment. She could not turn the leviathan around and get back to the carrier a second time without arousing suspicion. Right now, her only option was to utilize the link that the human had to that dimension while he was in it and if that meant taking extreme steps and wearing herself out in the process, it would be well worth the reward in the end.

With a smile, she stroked his chest. The biting zombie had not returned. The creature beneath her was still quiet as in death, caught on the brink between dimensions. "A moments rest and then we begin again," she whispered. She was fond of this one in her own way. He provided her with something she needed dearly.

After having meditated for a bit, Zitta felt up to tackling this specific problem again. It took a bit of trying since the human's body was not very responsive at the moment, but eventually she coaxed him into arousal. If he couldn't touch her with his hands and make the connection stronger, she would have to find other means of increasing the potency. And this was the best way she knew of.

She caressed him with nimble fingers for a moment longer, then finally sank down on him, leaned forward and pressed her brow against his to restart the sharing of unity. Well, sharing was too strong a word, she thought with a vague smile and clamped her abdominal muscles around his straining erection, closed her eyes and focused on unity again.

***

Chiana had given Aeryn the slip and had taken the long way around, but eventually she was on her way back to Crichton's quarters. In her opinion, Zitta was up to no good, but when she reached the right tier and turned a corner, she was instantly aware of that this 'no good' had escalated into something obscene.

Having been as promiscuous as she was for a big part of her adult life, Chiana knew sexual assault when she saw it and that Delvian was most certainly assaulting Crichton.

"Frell," she hissed and rushed into the cell. "What the frell are you up to, you tinked tralk?" she yelled when she realized the extent of what Zitta was doing to the suspended human.

When Zitta made no move to reply, Chiana did the only thing she could. She attacked full force, tackling the Delvian and ripping her off Crichton and onto the floor on the other side of the bed. She gave no thought to the consequences. All she wanted was to help a friend, who over the cycles had become a brother more than anything.

***

A brief spell of respite where nothing had happened had been all the rest he had been granted. He couldn't breath properly any more B his throat was so torn from screaming he could hardly stand to draw breath B and every inch of his body hurt ferociously. He could honestly say that he had never, ever felt so horrible in his life and he wished desperately that he could die. Maybe, if he died, his soul would be released from this torment.

The green woman rode him like her life depended on it and her eyes, previously a glittering emerald, had turned a burning red. Evil, it seemed, could come in many packages. Hers was not half bad to look at, but that helped little when the mind behind it was more twisted and ugly than hell itself. She hammered down on him with every thrust, drawing blood with every move she made, and he had given up on screaming because it didn't help.

Nothing would help anymore. Despair flooded him, nearly breaking his soul in two, when something odd happened. The intense pain of the intercourse suddenly subsided and the hellish world around him faded along with the green woman, who screeched in anger and surprise. Her voice faded into the distance along with her hellish ministrations.

The sexual arousal left him in an instant and the air became easier to breathe. Cool air brushed over him, soothing aching wounds, and he let his eyelids slide shut.

Then he felt a silky soft hand on his cheek. The touch made him jerk awake again, but this time it was neither the burnt bitch nor the green woman, but a pale grey face with huge black eyes. His breath caught in his throat while his mind struggled to comprehend what he was seeing and then he finally recognized her. "Pip," he croaked.

Gray lips spread in a smile. "Yeah, Crichton, it's me," she agreed and carefully brushed her fingers over his brow. "Are you all right?"

He raised his head, the effort of moving almost beyond him, and sent a long look down himself. The wound on his stomach, bandaged as it was, had bleed through, and the streaks of the whip were on his chest, but all else seemed to be in tact. A huff of air left his lungs as he let his head drop back down on the bed. He couldn't answer Chiana's question because he didn't know if he was all right.

"It's all right," she assured him and glanced off to the side. "She won't bother you again."

He licked his lips and tried to focus on her. "Who?" he rasped and started to turn his head to follow her line of sight.

Chiana had always been quick to pick up on other's state of mind, though, and she grabbed his chin in a gentle hold and turned his head back the other way. "You don't want to see," she said and pulled a blanket over him before draping her hand over his eyes. "Rest. You look like dren," she added.

Running footsteps interrupted anything further she had to say.

"What the frell have you done?"

Aeryn's voice was harsh, upset. She sounded scared. Chiana had the decency to remove her hand from his face and he turned his attention to Aeryn, who stood just inside the door and was pale as a ghost. "The only thing I could, you fekkik. I just saved his frelling life and sanity," Chiana shot back and rose, pointing to the thing behind the bed she didn't want him to see.

Aeryn had obviously seen what was back there, but still her anger was directed at Chiana. "Are you frelling tinked?" she demanded and strode around the bed to get a better look.

John tried to turn his head to watch her, but Chiana pressed a hand against his cheek and shook her head. "No, don't look. You don't want to see it," she assured him. She climbed over the bed rather than going around it and positioned herself so he couldn't see what was going on there.

Strangely enough, the panic and terror he had felt before, even before Hell had reclaimed him, was almost gone. Remnants of it still lingered, but he felt much calmer than he had before. "Why am I tied down?" he suddenly asked, disregarding whatever it was that had Aeryn so upset.

Chiana didn't reply, but instead set about untying him. Aeryn, however, tried to stop her and that raised new fears in John. "He's all right," Chiana snapped and ripped her arm out of Aeryn's grip.

At that point, Aeryn finally focused on John and seemed to forget all else. "John," she almost whispered and leaned in over him.

Suddenly, he felt all too crowded and realized that the terror of before had not gone completely. His breathing became rapid and shallow and he felt sweat spring out on his body everywhere at once. "Can't breathe," he rasped and tried to pull away from both of them with little luck.

Chiana instantly reared back, grabbed Aeryn's arm and pulled her with her. "Give him room," she said and then continued to work on the ties holding him.

And it did the trick. The panic began to subside almost instantly and he closed his eyes to relish the sense of calmness that washed over him. Exhaustion would soon claim him, but first he wanted to reassure himself once more that he was safe again. He opened his eyes and turned his head to look at Aeryn, and as he did that, something on the floor caught his attention. Chiana had moved out of his way and he now had a clear view of what she had been trying to block.

Calmness went to hell as he reared up on the bed, eyes going wide as he saw the green woman on the floor. A part of hell had followed him back and his instant response was to scramble out of bed and dash for the door. Chiana was faster, though. She shut the door before he could reach it and he instead crashed painfully hard into the barrier.

Aeryn dove for him, tackling him to the floor, and despite the instant terror that had overwhelmed him and nearly drowned him, he fought her without making a sound. But he was exhausted and she was stronger than him in any event. It took her very little time to subdue him.

He was lying on his stomach with her on top of him, holding his right thumb in her hand and pushing his arm up on his back. "Are you done?" she pressed out through clenched teeth.

He couldn't answer her because the panic had completely constricted his throat. All he could think of was that green hellion.

"She's dead, John. Zitta is dead," Aeryn tried, obviously hoping it would pacify him.

But she had seen the ghost that came for him. He knew she had. She had tried to stop it from claiming him, so she knew that the dead weren't really dead. When he kept struggling to get free, Aeryn grabbed his other thumb and forced his left hand up on his back as well. "Stop fighting me. I'm only trying to help you," she hissed, more out of the strain she was under than any anger towards him.

"Crichton, she's ... she's dead," Chiana tried and dropped down on her knees beside him, leaning forward so she could look into his eyes. "Yeah. I ... I killed her. She'll never hurt you again."

Something about Chiana's words and tone of voice made him finally calm down. But the fear did not leave him. He kept glancing toward the bed, his breath coming in small, nearly hysterical gasps at this point.

"This is no good," Aeryn said in a tense tone of voice. "He can't stay here."

The world around him started to black out. John knew he was about to pass out and there was fear in darkness as well, but he could no more prevent that then he could stop the sun from rising.

***