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

Rating: PG

Synopsis: Sometimes, you just have to say what's on your mind before it's too late.

"So tell that someone that you love
Just what you're thinking of
If tomorrow never comes"
Ronan Keating

Command Carrier
Detention Level 4 Velka

The Peacekeepers had caught him; and they were turning him to mush. There was no other way to see it. He was in constant agony, starting with his head and spreading to the rest of his body like wildfire. There was nothing he could do to stop them, nothing he could say that would make a difference. He had tried. At first he had joked about it, made cruel remarks, his intention being to upset them enough to kill him or kick him out. But it had made no difference. Grayza was tough as nails, harder to impress than a dead rhino, and she was a hell of a lot more relentless than Scorpius had been. It had a lot to do with the fact that her medical technicians knew how to stabilize his mind so he didn't die on them in the middle of it all.

When they weren't putting him through the wringer, trying to squeeze the wormhole technology out of his mind, or stabilize him, they left him alone for brief intervals in a soulless cell. And all he did during those times was curl up in a corner, trying desperately to control his shaking extremities and catch some sleep while he could. But closing his eyes brought on nightmares immediately and even in sleep he found no rest. And it was driving him crazy. He could feel it happening, could sense his psyche breaking apart little by little like the shell of an overdue egg, cracking to reveal the foul-smelling rot of death inside.

At first he had been convinced that it was only a matter of time before the others rescued him. But his hope to escape this hell had dwindled considerably and he was more leaning toward the release of death now. Because even if they managed to get to him, to free him, his present state of health indicated that he wouldn't live long. As long as Grayza's people continued to stabilize him, a process which hurt more than the Chair did, he knew he wouldn't die. She wouldn't allow it until she had what she was after. But without the stabilizing process, he would wither away.

The effect of the treatment he was getting was considerable. He couldn't eat, couldn't keep anything down. If he did manage to steady his hands long enough to pick up the bread-like substance they left him with, he had trouble focusing on chewing. And even if he did get as far as swallowing what little he managed to get into his mouth, he would throw it up again moments later.

The stabilization process included force-feeding to keep him alive. They fed him a kind of gruel which agreed with his stomach but not with his tastebuds and it usually resulted in that he threw it all up again as soon as he got the chance. He was constantly hungry and constantly nauseous and to add insult to injury, he was severely dehydrated. He didn't bother telling them how bad that was for him, because nobody listened to him any more.

They didn't talk to him; nobody did. After initially scolding him for his behavior toward her, Grayza had said nothing further to him. Braca generally stayed out of his way after he had headbutted the newly appointed Captain into the infirmary for three days. And the rest of them didn't talk to him or acknowledge him in any way. And it was starting to take its toll. The torture he could take, no matter what kind it was. But the fact that everybody ignored him and pretended not to understand him or even hear him made him crazy. He craved interaction, needed so desperately to talk to someone. And he found himself missing Harvey more and more every day. Even aboard Elack he'd had the leviathan's pilot to talk to. Now all they did was hurt him and ignore him and he couldn't stand it.

Huddled up in a corner of his cell, he chuckled halfheartedly and wondered how long it would take for his psyche to crack completely. It couldn't be long now. He felt his grasp on reality slip, saw things from the corners of his eyes that made no sense. At first, he hadn't paid attention to the shadows, had managed to convince himself that it was nothing. But his ability to stay focused was failing, his grasp on reality slipping away a little at a time.

With his control slipping, he rubbed one shaking hand over his face and couldn't help another half-crazy chuckle from escaping him. He didn't even know why he felt the need to laugh. This situation wasn't funny. His head hurt with every throb of his heart, a powerful, steady pulse making it feel like his skull was about to burst. His throat was raw and it hurt to swallow. He didn't even want to know what his constant retching was doing to his teeth. The skin on his face was taunt and leathery due to the dehydration and he knew he'd lost some hair. His body was trying to shut down, trying to stop this futile struggle to stay alive, but they wouldn't let it.

Another wave of debilitating nausea sailed through him and he only barely managed to keep from gagging. Not that he had anything to throw up from any more. His stomach was painfully empty, sunken like the cheeks of a concentration-camp victim and he had realized some time ago that he had never thought that dying of hunger could be painful. He had never been this hungry before, had never tried to suffer the torments of Hell just because he couldn't eat.

A sound made him turn his attention toward the door and he saw the blurry outlines of the soldiers who had come to pick him up. And all of a sudden, he couldn't take it any more. He just couldn't face the overwhelming pain, the unmerciful force tearing at the fabric of his very being, and he started to struggle when they grabbed him and pulled him to his feet. Unfortunately, too much time in the Chair and too little food and water had taken their toll on his resources and his attempt to tear free was nothing but a weak tug. And he was beyond begging at this point. It would do no good anyway.

Helpless to prevent them from dragging him out of the cell, he sagged and let them do the work. There was no way that he would expedite his return trip into the core of Hell and since he didn't have the stamina to fight them, he would make it as heavy on them as he could.


The Command Carrier
The Aurora Chair chamber

Commandant Mele-on Grayza was fairly pleased with herself and the progress her techs were making. She had no sympathy for John Crichton, felt nothing at seeing the increasingly unstable Human writhe in the chair. What she was interested in was to get the information he carried and then be rid of him. The wormhole technology would be a bargaining point, a leverage if the worst were to happen and Scorpius was proven right. Scarrans as a species were unreliable at best and she would not bet her life on that they would honor the peace treaty. If she could hold this technology over their heads, she had the upper hand and that suited her best.

At the sound of approaching footsteps, she turned around to face the soldiers dragging Crichton into the room. For a moment, she eyed him and briefly wondered how long it would take before he was beyond redemption. Even the stabilizing process could only be performed so many times before the frailty of his body caused his brain to collapse on itself. She had no illusions about his ability to survive and she didn't care if he died screaming. As long as he gave her what she wanted, his brain could liquify for all she cared.

"How far along are we?" This question she directed to the tech in charge of the Chair as she turned to face the man.

"About halfway, Ma'am," he replied after studying his readouts for a microt.

"Ah, good. How long will it take to get the rest? He doesn't seem to have far to go." She wanted all the details, wanted to know exactly what to expect.

"If we keep up this pace, we should have it all in a weeken. But I'm not sure he can last that long," the tech replied.

That was not good news. Grayza made a face and turned back to the soldiers holding Crichton. "Then we will have to step it up, won't we," she said and stepped closer. With a wave of the hand, she ordered the soldiers to release their prey and Crichton dropped unceremoniously to the floor with a thud, barely able to prevent his face from colliding with the metal. Grayza squatted down, wove her fingers into his hair and grabbed a hold. Without as much as a glimmer of compassion, she pulled his head up. "Nobody makes a fool of me," she whispered to him and let go of his hair. His head thumped against the floor and he groaned weakly.

"Put him in the Chair," she said in a louder tone of voice and rose again. "Once he's had enough, let him stabilize for two solardays. Then bring him back here." Satisfied that she would soon get what she was after, Grayza nodded once to her people and strode out of the room. She had better things to do than stand around and watch while the techs fried Crichton.


Two monens earlier

John had been pulled down a wormhole and had then turned up again. Aeryn had no idea how or why or where he had been, but the fact was that he had come back. But things had gone from bad to worse in a microt after that. Moya had suddenly banked, obviously intent on getting away from this part of space as fast as she could while Pilot's voice rang from the speakers with the eerie message that a command carrier was bearing down on them.

Before anybody could do anything other than shout in protest, Moya had starburst away from there, leaving John behind. Aeryn had not thought that she could feel any worse than she had when John had disappeared down the wormhole. But she had realized the fault in her perception since she felt a whole lot worse about leaving him floating in space with a command carrier bearing down on him.

"Pilot, you tell Moya to turn around and go back. We are not leaving John behind," she roared while she ran toward Pilot's den, intent on beating some sense into the leviathan's pilot as she couldn't very well do that to the leviathan itself. "RIGHT NOW!"

"I am sorry, Officer Sun, but she will not listen. Moya will not be captured again," Pilot's reply came instantly, his voice full of regret.

Aeryn cleared the doorway to Pilot's den and strode across the bridge, her anger dwindling. "We can't leave him behind," she said, her tone more subdued. "Please. You must make her understand."

"I am trying, Aeryn," Pilot insisted. "But Moya is frightened."

With both hands, Aeryn braced herself against Pilot's console and let her head drop. "They are going to kill him," she said quietly and raised her head again to give Pilot a pleading look. "They are going to hurt him and they are going to kill him. Make her understand that."

With a jolt, the leviathan left starburst again and started to turn.

"She will try to return to the same spot," Pilot said.

Once more, the leviathan entered starburst, rattling everybody aboard with the abruptness of her actions.

Aeryn hurried from Pilot's den to Command where she could search for John once they arrived. But she had no real illusions about finding him there.

As soon as Moya left starburst again, it was painfully evident that they had made the biggest mistake ever. Unless another wormhole had turned up to swallow him again, the Command Carrier had undoubtably picked him up. As there was no sign of the huge vessel, Aeryn could only believe the worst.

While she stood there, hands bracing her against the console, arms stretched out, her eyes on the viewscreen, it slowly seeped into her mind what this meant. She drew in a small breath and held it for a moment.

"We shall find him again. We have to."

The sound of that voice made her see red. She didn't know why, didn't understand what Scorpius really had to do with this, but somehow it was his fault. With all the rage that was building up inside her spilling out, she swirled around and drove the half-Scarran into the wall, her eyes cold with hatred. "I will gut you with a dull knife if they hurt him," she hissed, trying not to lose control completely. "Somehow you are responsible," she added and pulled back, letting go of him again. "You knew what was going on on Grayza's Command Carrier. Somehow, you or your signal brought them here. It's your fault."

Scorpius eyed her, obviously not taking offence at her attack. "If it makes you feel better to blame me, please do," he said. "But that will not bring him back. Only careful planning will."

"Frell careful planning. I've had enough of careful planning," Aeryn spat and pulled back a step. "There's only one way to get to him now. And none of your 'careful' plans will accomplish that, pariah. You are no longer a Peacekeeper. Unless you have lied to me from the beginning." With those words, she swirled and strode out of Command to confer with her shipmates.

Scorpius adjusted his suit a little and sighed. "Well," he muttered to himself. "It would appear that John is not the only hothead on board."


Some arns later

The act of making up her mind about what to do wasn't the hard part, and convincing herself that her cause was just was no problem either. What would be the problem was to convince those she would seek help with that her need to find John again had merit.

Aeryn sat on a bench in Command, arns after she had accused Scorpius of being to blame for John's disappearance, and tried to work out what exactly she should say once they arrived at their destination. Well, when she did. Moya was taking her almost all the way there, but she would have to go the last bit in her prowler, alone.

"You are farboht, Aeryn. Magra farboht." Rygel hovered on his thronesled not too far away and he had been watching her for the past half arn.

"Do you have a better suggestion?" she snapped, not turning her attention away from the stars.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. Let's just cut our losses and move on. The chance of freeing Crichton from a command carrier is frighteningly small."

The small Hynerian was genuinely worried and if Aeryn hadn't been so upset about losing John once more, she would have understood. As it were, she didn't even try to understand. Instead, she held up a hand, warding off any further comments. "Don't go there, Rygel. If it had been me, John would have done the same thing."

"And perhaps not," Rygel said.

Aeryn jumped to her feet, anger welling up in her at the spur of a moment. "Never doubt John's feelings for me," she snarled.

"But it is very obvious that he is no longer in love with you," Rygel tried and pulled back when he recognized the expression on Aeryn's face as livid anger.

"I don't frelling care what you think, mud-crawler," she hissed. "I will go to any length to free him and if it means sacrificing you to reach that goal, then I will."

Aeryn realized what she was saying, but was beyond caring. But what got to her was the fear she saw in Rygel's eyes. The Dominar quickly turned his thronesled around and sped out of Command, obviously convinced that she would kill him right where he sat if he didn't leave. Aeryn felt a pang of regret at scaring him, but could not forgive him for once again wanting to run out on everybody.

With a heartfelt sigh, she sank back down on the bench and folded her hands between her knees. What if Rygel was right? What if John didn't love her any more? She wasn't so sure she could handle that.


A hidden freedom fighter base
Close to the Scarran border

Veena Ekin had been in charge of a small band of freedom fighters, who all claimed to be ex-Peacekeepers, for many cycles. She was experienced, had been a Peacekeeper herself, and had good connections within the ranks of the Peacekeepers even now.

Every weeken it seemed, new disillusioned warriors turned up on her doorstep, asking for the right to fight against the oppression that was the Peacekeeper regime these days. Most of them remained, many died on undercover missions, but at least they died with a sense of accomplishment.

Veena had long since learned that the ways of the Peacekeepers were not productive. A once great organization had been twisted and turned against its own purpose, rotting from the inside out like an old tree. Nobody was expendable among her people. If they chose to go on missions where they might die, they did so of their own volition.

The fight was uneven and a few dropped out along the way. Veena had been thrilled at receiving another battle-weary warrior not so long ago, one who had been exposed to the fact that there was more out there than living hard and dying young. Aeryn Sun had been a welcome addition to their ranks because she had been a warrior and had known freedom from the Peacekeepers for three cycles already. That Sun had decided to leave again had been a sad occasion, but Veena knew that these people around her had to be allowed to have their own free will.

When the message came in that Sun was coming back, Veena smiled. It would be good to have her back and she hoped that Sun had come back to stay.

Unhurried, she went to meet Sun and watched with anticipation as the prowler settled. The microt the canopy rose and Sun hauled herself out of the cockpit, Veena knew that Sun was not here to stay. There was something in the other woman's eyes, something haunted, that gave her the distinct impression that Sun had come here to ask a favor rather than fight alongside them.

"Aeryn," she said and stepped forward to grab Sun's hand in greeting.

"Veena," Sun replied, her gaze locking with Veena's.

"Have you come back to stay?" Veena asked, hoping she had misinterpreted the situation. But she knew better than that. She was good at reading others, had always been good at it. Her first instincts were usually right.

"No," Sun replied. "Veena, I know how busy you are, you and your troops, but I have to ask for your help anyway."

"Let's walk," Veena suggested and motioned toward the corridor leading away from the hangar. "What's on your mind?"

"You remember that I told you about John Crichton?" Aeryn asked as they slowly walked along the corridor leading to the command center.

Veena arched an eyebrow. "Yes, of course. How could I forget. He has a reputation, after all," she said.

"Well, the problem is that he has been captured by the Peacekeepers. And they are in the process of extracting the wormhole technology from his mind aboard Commandant Grayza's command carrier. It's what makes him unique and very dangerous. If this information in full falls into the wrong hands, you know what that means," Sun explained and gave Veena an anxious sideways glance.

Veena knew alright what that meant and this wasn't good news. "Frell," she muttered. "So, you want our help to free him?"

"Yes. If there is some way to do it without ... killing him, I would appreciate the help. I can try on my own, but my chance of success is very small." Sun stopped and stared ahead of herself for a microt.

Veena came to a stop too and turned to face the other woman. In her opinion, Sun looked distraught and it raised the suspicion in her that there was more going on here than just the concern that the information should pass into the wrong hands. "You care about him," she stated. "Don't you?"

Sun focused on her and remained silent for a moment longer. Then she nodded. "I do," she agreed. "He ..." she tried, but Veena held up a hand.

"No need to explain, Aeryn. Whatever other reasons you have for wanting him back alive are yours and yours alone. But there is fairly little we can do in regards to a command carrier," she said and instantly noted the despair creeping into Sun's eyes. "It might be better if you spoke to one of our contacts. Incidentally, one of them is here right now. She is very powerful and ... full of ideas," Veena hurried to continue and smiled a little when Sun's expression made the drastic transition from despair back to hope. "She's a counselor and has free access to all command carriers. She's also the daughter of one of the admirals and therefore her word and presence carry a lot of punch. If you can convince her as you have me, then you can consider John Crichton as good as rescued."

A quiet kind of smile slipped over Sun's lips. "Thank you," she said.


The Command Carrier
Executive level
Two monans later

Commandant Mele-on Grayza leaned back on her seat while studying a flimsy covered with data, but her mind was on anything but her work. Actually, her mind was mostly on her present favorite prisoner. The extraction of the wormhole technology from John's mind had been stopped by an annoying little hitch and she could not help wondering if his mind was gone for good or if he was merely pretending to be out of it.

The last time she had seen him, his responses to both touch and treatment had been that of a frightened animal. Although he said nothing apart from his incoherent mutterings when he was left alone, he panicked every time someone touched him. If not controlled, he would scurry into a corner and hide there. Grayza was a little annoyed at this development, because his mind simply shut down if they put him in the Chair. He'd had three arrests since this had started up and the medics had suggested that she leave him alone for a while. She had reluctantly agreed. At present, he was no good to her dead.

With a slight sigh, she put the flimsy back on her desk and stared ahead of herself. It would be good to have some kind of distraction from this whole mess, but apart from trying to squeeze every bit of information out of Crichton, there wasn't much else going on apart from the routine jobs.

Before she could make up her mind about what to do next, the doors parted and Braca strode in, his expression one of concern. "Ma'am. Sorry for interrupting you, but we have just received the message that Counselor Katana is on route and will arrive here shortly. She has requested an audience with you."

Grayza had been about to get upset about him barging in without prior notice, but this was big. She knew Counselor Katana and knew that treating this one right would reflect well on herself and help her in her attempt to advance further within the Peacekeepers. "By all means, Captain," she said. "When she arrives, show her here."

Braca nodded, clicked his heels together and left again. Grayza made a face at the closed doors. He had proven to be useful, but she still found him utterly annoying.


An arn later

Grayza was at her best when the doors parted to admit the tall, almost gangly-looking Counselor into her quarters. Rising from her seat, she put on her best smile and strode forward to greet whom she considered an old friend.

"Counselor," she said, reaching both hands out.

Katana eyed her for a microt, her almost black eyes displaying no emotion, but then she smiled and grabbed Grayza's hands in both of hers. "Commandant," she replied. "It has been too long."

"It has," Grayza agreed and motioned for Katana to sit down. "To what do I owe this honor?"

Katana's expression grew serious again. "Actually, Mele-on, I'm here on business," she said and handed over a vidchip. "Orders from First Command regarding one of your prisoners."

Grayza took the chip and stared at it for a microt. Then she looked back up at Katana, who still looked serious. "One of my prisoners?" she asked, somewhat confused. "I don't understand."

"You have the traitor John Crichton here, am I correct?" Katana asked.

"Yes, I do. We are in the process of extracting any information worth while from him. We are about halfway done," Grayza confirmed, feeling herself grow cold. There could only be one order on this chip and she didn't want to see it. If she hadn't seen it, she wouldn't have to acknowledge it.

"Well, you are going to have to cut that short, because First Command wants him now. They want to make an example of him by executing him publicly. It's one of these show-and-tell things they're into right now," Katana replied and shrugged indifferently.

Grayza was not at all happy about this. "I am almost done. All I need are a few more days. Can't you delay your departure until then?"

Katana's expression grew increasingly tighter as she leaned forward, took the vidship and slipped it into the table between them. "Mele-on, you know as well as I do that delay will not be tolerated. He has caused too much trouble and they do not want to risk that you lose him like both Captain Crais and Scorpius before you. That is why they have sent me rather than send a communique about it."

The message played through and it was Admiral Katana herself who demanded that Crichton be turned over to First Command as soon as possible. Once the message was done, Counselor Katana pulled the vidchip out of the table again and returned it to her pocket.

"I am sorry, Mele-on, but I am not going to disobey a direct order from the Admiral just to accommodate you. That is not the Peacekeeper way," Katana said.

Grayza eyed her for a microt, allowing her mind to touch on forbidden subjects such as making Counselor Katana disappear together with the vidchip, but she knew better than that. The Counselor had arrived in a Marauder and probably had a whole platoon of soldiers with her. And First Command knew she was here. Defeated, Grayza dropped her gaze. "All right. I will arrange for him to be moved to your Marauder."

"Not necessary," Katana said and rose again. "My people have already taken care of it." She stepped around the table and looked down at Grayza for a microt. "Chin up, Mele-on. I will tell the Admiral how cooperative you have been. She thinks highly of you as it is."

Grayza nodded and rose too. "Thank you. If you get a chance, perhaps you could try to extract the remaining information from him on route back to First Command? I know it's a big favor to ask, but he does have some very important information stored in that brain of his."

"Well, I can try. I will make no promises, though. I am to deliver him alive to First Command, you see. If he is dead, they cannot make an example of him. But, just in case, have the information you have so far extracted transferred to the Marauder and I shall try to take a look at it," Katana promised.

"Thank you. I knew you would understand," Grayza replied and shook hands with Katana. "Fly safe, Counselor."

"Likewise, Commandant," Katana replied, turned around and strode out.

Braca turned up microts later, a look of distress on his face. "Commandant, they have removed Crichton. They claim they have orders," he said, out of breath.

"Yes, Captain, I know that," Grayza said, her tone somewhat aggressive. "I saw the order. It is legitimate."

"What about the information?" Braca asked.

"It's in Counselor Katana's hands now. She has promised to try and extract the remains," Grayza replied, well aware that it might not happen. And it annoyed her beyond reason. "Frell," she added under her breath, and then turned to stare at Braca. "Come here," she added.

He hesitated, a look of uncertainty slipping over his face. "Ma'am?"

"Come here," she repeated and ran a finger over her chest. "Now, Captain. I am not patient today."

Braca swallowed and took a hesitant step toward her. "Ma'am, I have ..." he tried, but she cut him off.

"Braca," she said sternly. "You know what the penalty is for disobeying me."