Aeryn looked up when John joined her. "What took you so long?" she asked and gave him a small smile.

"Braca got in the way," he replied and helped her move the cronite canisters over to the bay doors.

"You didn't shoot him, did you?" she asked. She wasn't so much concerned about whether or not he would do it. She just hadn't heard a shot.

"Nope. Why would I waste a shot on him? He's gonna get himself killed without my help some day," he claimed.

Aeryn stopped moving and frowned a little. There was one thing she didn't really understand. Perhaps it was her being a little dense, but this situation between John and Grayza had her wondering. His response to Grayza, his obvious conviction that Grayza wouldn't hurt them if she only got him; there was something more here than what she thought. He seemed rather together, considering that he'd spent a while in Peacekeeper custody. "What did Grayza do to you?" she asked.

John came to a stop, but didn't look at her. Instead he seemed to have found a spot at the other end of the bay that was very interesting. "Not much," he claimed, grabbed a hold of the heavy canister and lifted it off the trolley by himself. He put it down next to the others and made a face while stretching his back.

Aeryn had seen reactions like that before, in her comrades. Anger, resentment, hurt feelings. Those were what spurred people on to use extraordinary resources of strength. She knew for a fact that John normally wouldn't be able to lift a cronite canister on his own, and yet he had done it nonetheless and without so much as a grimace. "Not much, huh?" she asked, grabbed a canister herself and lifted it off the trolley. She could do it because she was Sebacean. Sebaceans were stronger than humans. "I don't believe you."

He paused, glanced at her and pursed his lips. She didn't really understand that expression. It could mean so many things. Right now, though, she assumed he was annoyed. "Then don't," he countered.

They grabbed the next canister together and moved it over to the others. "She did something to you that you haven't told me about," she claimed.

"It's not important, Aeryn. It doesn't have anything to do with what we're doing right now. Let's just focus on blowing the damned bay doors so we can get off this floating coffin," he replied, a tad more angry than she had expected him to be.

"I'll tell you what I saw in the armory if you tell me what Grayza did to you," she said, testing him.

John released the canister they had been about to lift off the trolley and flexed his fingers. "We're not in kindergarten, Aeryn. I don't wanna talk about it and that's that."

"What the frell is 'kinergar'n'?" she asked with a frown.

"Never mind. Let's just finish this and get back in the marauder. I'm kinda thinking this ship's not gonna stay quiet for much longer," he said.

They loaded the last canister off the trolley where after Aeryn injected the trigger-fluid into them. She eyed the response as the small windows in the canisters started glowing green. "Time to get back inside," she said.

They turned and ran back to the marauder and John sealed the hatch behind them.

"Brace yourselves, gang. This might be a little rocky," he said to the others when they entered the forward compartment.

Just then, the lights in the bay died. For a long moment, all they could see was the green glow of the cronite canisters, but then that glow faded too. Aeryn leaned forward, bracing herself against the console, and stared out at the pitch-black bay. "What the frell just happened?" she asked nobody in particular.

Nobody had an answer for her and they all waited with bated breath for an explosion that didn't come. Aeryn glanced at John and he met her eyes with a frown.

"Shouldn't they have blown by now?" he asked quietly.

She nodded. "I'm assuming the ship doesn't want us to leave," she countered and looked back outside without being able to see anything.

"Great," John muttered, then squinted at the bay. "What is this? Night of the living dead?" he suddenly asked and took a step back, his expression one of surprise and fear.

Aeryn frowned and glanced up at him. "What are you talking about? I can't see anything out there, so neither can you. Your eyesight is worse than mine."

He shook his head and took another step back, his eyes on something she couldn't see outside. "This isn't real," he said quietly and briefly closed his eyes. Then he opened them again, glanced around and sighed. "Not real," he repeated.

"What the frell is wrong with you?" Braca asked, a look of concern in his eyes.

"Nothing's wrong with him," Aeryn inserted, sparing John the need to perhaps explain whatever it was he had just seen. "This ship is doing things to us, making us see things. Be aware that if you see something you can't explain, it's not real," she added and turned around to eye the others. "Have any of you had visions?"

The pink male nodded solemnly. "I have," he said.

The green 'Delvian' nodded too. "So have I. I prayed to the Goddess for deliverance," she said.

Aeryn eyed her for a moment. "Are you Delvian?" she asked.

"Yes, I am," Green confirmed.

"What's your name?" Aeryn asked.

"Zitta," she replied with a vague smile.

Aeryn couldn't help but like Zitta. She reminded her somewhat of Zhaan. "Not a priestess, I assume?" she asked.

"No," she said with a smile. "Not all Delvians a cut out for priesthood."

Aeryn nodded and turned her attention to Pink. "What about you?" she asked and regarded the tall, pink male. "What's your name? And what species are you?"

"Kl'tah," he introduced himself. "I am a Drogan."

The others introduced themselves as well with the white male being a Sykaran by the name of Veeton, the two fungus-people being sisters names Ka-ah and Ke-ah from a species known as Kentar. Of the remaining two, one was a Yenen by the name of Sturla, female despite her distinctly male appearance, and the other was a male Nebari called Telk.

Aeryn was satisfied that they had all been properly introduced now and left them to their own devices. There was something strange going on around them. John had had another vision or whatever the frell she should call it and since it had occurred within the marauder, she was beginning to feel that they wouldn't even be safe there now.

But there was fairly little they could do while it was dark outside in the bay. She wasn't about to go out there, not with the memory of what had confronted her in the armory, and she devised a plan on account of that.

She turned back to face the group of aliens crowding the cockpit and frowned a little at them. "If, for any reason, any of you have to go somewhere, I suggest you go in pairs. At least. Nobody goes anywhere alone," she stated. "It seems unlikely that two people have visions at the same time, so that might give one the opportunity to help the other if it happens."

"Why would we want to go out there?" Kl'tah asked.

"You never know. People get funny ideas sometimes," John inserted and dropped unceremoniously down on the pilot's chair. "Matter of fact is, we're not going anywhere right now. Whatever has taken control of this ship doesn't want us to leave, like Aeryn said. So all we can do is sit around and wait for something different to happen."

"Like what?" Zitta asked with concern in her emerald eyes.

"Like ... I don't know. If I knew, we wouldn't be sitting here, waiting for it," John replied, his tone a little exasperated.

Aeryn looked around at them, noted that Braca was keeping to himself and well away from the aliens, and figured she needed to be the voice of reason here. "And that will give us exactly nothing," she said. "We can't sit around and wait for whatever took the others to come after us. I for one do not intend to give up without a fight."

"Who do you wanna fight, Aeryn? We have no idea what's wrong here. We haven't seen anything other than ghosts. I doubt that these ... figments of our imagination have killed the others. Unless it's easy to scare Peacekeepers to death and their bodies dissolve after they die," John countered and slumped back in the chair.

Aeryn rolled her eyes and at the same time noted that Braca was doing the same. "All right, fine, you want to give up? Give up then! I won't, though. We have to find a way off this ship. We have to figure out how to activate the marauder so we can blast our frelling way out of here if we have to," she said and folded her arms over her chest.

"Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt," John growled and sat up straight. "Look, honey, I don't wanna tell you your business, but these guys have tried to find another working ship and it wasn't happening."

"I'm not a guy," Sturla said with a bit of a pout.

"I wasn't talking about you," John countered, stared at her for a moment and then shook is head. "I was speaking in general. Look ... I don't wanna die in this tin can any more than you guys do, but what are our options?"

"The ship is still running. The lights are working," Aeryn began, sent a glance out into the dark bay for a microt and then sighed. "Well, they were working before," she corrected herself. "There's still an atmosphere, the scrubbers are working and everything else seems to be in working order too. There has to be a way to reactivate the marauder and leave the carrier. Anything else is just totally insane."

"Fine, so we're all insane now," John said and scrubbed both hands over his face before getting up again. "Aeryn, baby, we're stuck. Get it through your head. I know you don't like to throw in the towel, but we've run out of options here."

Aeryn stared at him, her expression tensing a little. "What the frell are you talking about?" she demanded. This was not at all like the John she knew. "Are you giving up?"

He stared back at her for a moment and then sighed. "No, Aeryn, I'm not giving up. I just ... can't see a way out of this," he finally said.

"Neither can I. Not yet," she agreed. "But we have to keep trying. I have no intention of disappearing like the others did."

"Nobody's disappearing," Veeton said. Everybody turned their attention to him and he spread out his arms. "Think about it. We have all been here for several arns, but nothing has happened to us. Those that were outside the marauder disappeared, but we are still here. Which must mean that the marauder is shielding us."

John nodded with a thoughtful look in his eyes. "I think you're right," he agreed. "This marauder wasn't a part of this ship originally," he added and turned his attention back to Aeryn. "Is there any way to check if the airlocks have been used recently?"

Aeryn frowned. "Why?" she asked. She couldn't quite follow him right now.

"Because, one of the reasons that nobody's left here may be because whatever has taken over the ship has ... flushed them out," he suggested.

"Well ... I guess. But ... why would anybody do that?" She still didn't exactly know where he was heading. "Besides, if the entire population of this carrier had been B as you said B 'flushed' out of the airlocks, there would have been a considerable dip in the level of air. And don't you think that Braca would have noticed it if that had happened? He's the only one of the crew who was left ... behind." She trailed off and turned back to face Braca, who looked a little ill at ease. "How come, Braca?"

He stared at her. "How come what?"

"How come you are the only one of the crew to remain. How come that the Sebacean prisoners have disappeared, but none of the aliens?" Aeryn took a step closer. "You're not entirely Sebacean, are you?" she asked.

Braca blustered instantly and straightened his back. "Are you out of your frelling mind? Of course I'm fully Sebacean," he snapped at her. "I'm as Sebacean as they come. There is no alien blood polluting my veins."

"Then why the frell are you the only one who wasn't taken? Why are you the only one left?" Aeryn demanded and took a threatening step closer.

Braca backed up a step, a little nervous now. "How the frell should I know?" he countered.

John stepped forward too, his expression unreadable. "That theory doesn't hold, Aeryn," he said and glanced sideways at her.

"What do you mean?" she asked, surprised by that statement. She had expected him to take Braca apart or something along those lines.

"The guy who disappeared in the bay. He wasn't a Peacekeeper. He was one of the prisoners. And he disappeared anyway," he said.

"Frell," she mumbled and backed down. He was right. "So, what theory do you have about the prisoners? Why have only the Sebacean prisoners disappeared?"

"Probably because they weren't in their cells when this thing hit," John theorized. "Am I right, Braca?"

Braca frowned. "I don't know. I don't deal with prisoners," he said. "But it is possible."

John nodded as if he suddenly understood everything. "Okay, so let's summarize here. Anybody out in the open disappeared. Anybody behind locked doors didn't," he said.

"Wrong," Aeryn inserted. "Braca wasn't behind locked doors. He was hiding inside a frelling desk. So that doesn't make sense. I'm sure others must have hidden too."

"Inside?" John asked and glanced at Braca. "I thought you said he was hiding 'under' the desk," he said.

Aeryn made a face and glanced at Braca. "Why don't you explain it?" she suggested.

Braca was blushing all the way to his hair roots, very obviously embarrassed. "There's a compartment under the desk," he said with a very tight expression. "It's meant for storage, but it was empty."

John gave Aeryn a I-told-you-so-look and nodded. "Okay, so my theory pans out. Funny thing is, I would have expected others to lock their doors as well," he continued.

"That wouldn't do them any good," Braca said. "In the event of a crisis, like for instance what you did to Scorpius' command carrier," he continued, his tone decidedly snippy at that point, "all the doors unlock and open except for the prison area. It's standard procedure to ensure that everybody can get out and isn't hindered by a malfunctioning door. That of course doesn't go for a hull breach. In that case ..."

"Yeah, we get the point," John interrupted him. "Nobody cares about your protocol right now. So, if whatever happened to the carrier triggered a collapse-alarm of some kind, all doors open and that gives this monster-thing the opportunity to pick everyone off except for the prisoners and Braca, who was hiding inside a desk."

Aeryn looked a little concerned by the whole thing. "I find it difficult to believe that Braca would be the only one hiding," she said. "Maybe this thing, whatever it is, has spent the arns after the initial attack picking off those that were left."

"And maybe we should concentrate on finding a way off this carrier rather than try and figure out what happened before," Sturla inserted and stepped forward. "It doesn't matter. What matters is getting out of here. Preferably now."

John gave her a frown. "Well, yeah, of course," he agreed. "But in order for us to get out of here alive, it's a good idea to try and figure out what this thing is and how it works. Besides, right now I don't see a way to get out of here."

Sturla looked from one to the other, her expression slightly tense. "Am I the only one here who knows anything about Peacekeeper command carriers?" she asked and fixed both Braca and Aeryn with a questioning stare. "What do you people do when a defective marauder is in the way?"

Aeryn caught on at once. "Frell, I hadn't thought of that," she said. "Of course. If we can move the marauder around so it faces the baydoors ..." she began, but trailed off again. "What good is that going to do? The marauder doesn't work."

"Isn't there any way that you can trigger the weapons manually?" Sturla asked. "I find it hard to believe that you people have taken over most of this galaxy while being so ill prepared," she added sourly.

"We are not ill prepared," Braca snapped.

"Shut up, Braca," John warned him. "Don't tempt to me shoot you. I won't hesitate."

Braca obviously believed him because he backed down.

"Let's hear more about this, Sturla," John said, turning his attention to the Yenen.

"There has to be a crane of some kind to move the vessels in this bay around if they can't move of their own volition," she said. "And since everything else has been working so far, the crane might too. So why not move the marauder into position and trigger the weapons manually? That would blow the baydoors and keep us safe at the same time."

John grinned. "You're one smart cookie," he said and turned to Aeryn. Just then, the lights in the bay outside came on again. It had been completely dark while they had talked, but nothing else had really happened to distract them. John glanced outside and anything he'd been about to say got stuck in his throat while the color drained from his face.


Aeryn frowned at him, then turned and looked outside herself. She felt much like he looked at the sight that met her. The bay outside the marauder was suddenly not so empty any more. There was lots of activity, but not the kind she would have expected.

The creatures moving outside appeared to have been part of the crew once. They still wore their uniforms to a certain degree. But not even one of them walked normally. They were all limping, dragging themselves along, all moving toward the marauder. And they looked dead. Their skin was a sickly pale, their eyes white and hazy. Some of them had parts of their anatomy missing. One was missing an entire arm, but there was no blood and he was still moving. One had an obviously broken foot that was turned sideways and he was walking on the ankle instead, limping along. Without fault, they all had black goo around their mouths, those that still had mouths, of course.

In her time as a Peacekeeper, Aeryn had seen a lot of bad things, a lot of things that had made her think twice, but this was something she couldn't relate to. She had no reference point for the walking dead outside and she shied back from the window and without fault grabbed out for John's arm. "What the frell is that?" she asked, her voice shaky.

John stared at the mass of bodies moving outside before glancing back at her. "Zombies?" he asked, then glanced over one shoulder at Zitta and Kl'tah. "Is the hatch secured? If not, you two better make sure it is," he suggested. "Because I don't really think we want any of them to get in here."

The two of them hurried back to the hatch to make sure it was locked and sealed and then returned. "They won't get in," Kl'tah said, looking as nervous as the rest of them.

All Aeryn could think of doing was stand there and stare at the 'zombies' outside. She had no idea what 'zombies' were other than the walking dead, but she had the distinct feeling that it wasn't good.

At that point, she realized that John was mumbling something. She glanced back at him and noted how he stared out at the dead surrounding the marauder, his gaze fixed while his lips moved. She leaned a little closer to him to perhaps catch his words.

"The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle in your snout. They eat your guts, and spit them out, and then they use them for sauerkraut."

A little shocked by the contents of this little song he was singing under his breath, Aeryn just stared at him. For a long, breathless microt, he either didn't notice how she was staring at him or didn't care. Then he blinked a little sluggishly and glanced at her. "What?" he asked with a slight frown.

"What the frell was that?" she asked quietly.

"What was what?" he countered. The frown furrowing his brow deepened.

"That ... song," she whispered.

"Oh, that," he said and glanced out at the bay again. "It's just a nasty children's song I learned once. Seems to fit the scenario pretty well, don't you think?" he asked and swallowed hard.

Aeryn glanced outside and noted that the walking dead had stopped moving. They stood around the marauder as if waiting for some sign that could show them what to do next. "What the frell happened to them?" she muttered under her breath. "And why wasn't I able to detect them before when I ran the bio-scan?"

John leaned a little closer to her. "Because they're dead," he whispered.

She glanced at him with a frown. "They're moving. They can't be dead," she disagreed.

"Look at them, Aeryn. Look at the eyes. They look like they've been dead for several weekens, monans even," he countered and waved a hand toward the viewport.

"They do look dead," Zitta agreed and shuddered.

"They cannot be dead," Braca disagreed and shook his head in disgust. "It is a disease. Nothing more," he added.

"They're dead," John insisted and made another sweeping gesture toward the viewport. "Look at them. They're missing limbs, for crying out loud. Some of them are missing parts of their faces. They look like they've been through a frelling meat grinder. If that doesn't mean they're dead ..."

"Then what?" Braca countered darkly and focused on John. "They cannot be dead because dead people do not walk around," he added.

Aeryn frowned at him. He looked a little pale. Not that she really blamed him. She felt a little pallid herself. But his paleness was a little too pronounced. "Are you feeling alright?" she asked, grabbed John's arm and pulled him back a step to prevent a skirmish.

"Never mind how I feel," Braca countered.

Even his tone sounded a little pale. There wasn't enough strength in it to lend him any kind of conviction. He was probably just as upset about this as the rest of them. Aeryn gave him a scrutinizing glance. Or perhaps he was a lot more scared about this dren than any of them. Braca didn't strike her as being someone who could cope without his Peacekeeper buddies to protect his frelling eema.

"Yeah, we don't give a damn how you feel anyway," John said in a morose tone of voice.

Aeryn grabbed John's arm again and gave it a warning squeeze. "Stop it," she said quietly. "We're in this together, like it or not," she added. "And we all want the same thing. We want to get out of here. So let's work together."

John made a face, but made no further moves to insult Braca, which would probably have the same end result she was after. "What do you suggest we do now? I mean, I don't know about you guys, but I'm not going out there," he said after a moment.

Aeryn mulled that over while she glanced around at the shapes outside. She was inclined to agree with John when it came to them. They did look dead. "I don't know," she confessed and stepped closer to the viewport to get a better look. Some of the walking dead standing the closest to the marauder were close enough to give her a pretty good view of them. And if they were still alive, they had to have lost their brain capacity, because most of them had wounds that went all the way to the bone and beyond, yet their expressions were dull and indifferent. "What the frell are they waiting for?" she asked nobody in particular.

"Perhaps they're waiting for a sign from us," Sturla suggested and glanced around nervously. Everybody turned their attention to the Yenen, who shrugged self-consciously. "What do I know? I was nothing but a common trash-hauler."

Aeryn eyed her for a microt. "Trash-haulers don't get arrested for doing their job," she stated.

Sturla shuffled her big feet. "Well ... I wasn't ... you know ... 'just' hauling trash all the time. Not much currency to be made in that."

"Who the frell cares what you were hauling where? This is not helping us right now," Kl'tah snapped and made a sweeping gesture toward the view port. "We are utterly frelled if we cannot get out there. And I have the feeling that those ... deadites can outlast us by a million metras if whoever is behind this thinks that is what it takes."

"Maybe so," Aeryn snapped back, "but we have to come up with a frelling plan or we're all dead. Don't you frelling get it yet? That's the crew out there. And not even all of them. This is just a handful."

"Could we not scream so much?" John asked quietly and put a hand on her shoulder. "Cause I'm kinda getting the feeling that those ... zombies out there are attracted to the sounds of our voices."

Aeryn gave him a confused look, then glanced toward the view port. Several of the walking dead outside had started moving again. They were feeling along the hull of the marauder, obviously looking for a way in. "Frell," she hissed and gave Kl'tah a nasty look. "From now on, we keep it down," she added and glanced around at the others. "No matter how much you want to frelling scream."

"Are there any other entrances to the marauder than the one we came in through? Any that can be activated from outside?" John asked.

Aeryn glanced at Braca, who seemed to be minding his own business for the time being. "Yes, there's the loading ramp," she said, pulled her pulse pistol and checked the charge. Satisfied that she was armed, she strode out of the cockpit to make sure the loading ramp was sealed as well.