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

Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: A supply run turns into something different. Something's not quite right and John and Aeryn are stuck in the middle of it.


If the place had been any more empty it would have had an echo. John frowned and glanced around at what passed for a reception area. It was completely and utterly deserted.

"Hello?" he tried again. "Anybody home? It's your friendly neighborhood commando team coming for a visit."

Even his attempt at a joke fell flat in the emptiness of the high‑ceilinged, widely spaced room. It reminded him a bit of the entrance hall of that shadow depository way back when he had been losing his mind. The memory of that incident sent a shiver up his spine and he shuddered briefly.

To distract his mind from the obvious downward spiral this could cause, he tapped his comm badge. "Aeryn, honey, this place is dead. Whatever happened here, we missed it."

"The same at this end. This is frelling weird," came the instant reply. "This mining facility should hold at least six hundred. Where the frell are they?"

"Good question," John agreed and sighed. "Well, we probably won't find what we're looking for, so why don't we just bail out while we've still got the chance?"

His suggestion made her chuckle and he couldn't help smiling at her amusement. "Are you afraid?" she asked.

"Hell yeah. This isn't your everyday occurrence, honey. This place is as dead as a doornail. It's one ghost short of a ghost town," he countered and grinned. "I say we leave."

"We came for food, John. Even though the populace is gone, there might still be food here. Look at the bright side. At least we don't have to pay for it. That saves us some credits for something else." She didn't exactly sound cheerful, but then Aeryn hardly ever did.

John sighed quietly and took a few more steps into the hall. "What you gotta think about, honey, is where these people went. It doesn't exactly look like there's been a fight. They're just kinda ... gone," he said and glanced around. How could a mining camp this big and expensive be this empty? "Could be a disease, couldn't it?"

"If it was, there would have been warning beacons, John," Aeryn said. "If it was a sudden disease, there would be bodies. In essence, this place looks like it has never been in use." She was beginning to sound a bit annoyed now. "Stop being such a frelling drannit. There's nothing to worry about. Let's just find the food stores."

"If this place had never been in use, honey, there won't be any food, will there?" he countered with a vague smile that she of course couldn't see. "By the way, one of these days, Aeryn, you're gonna have to tell me what a drannit is," he added and tried to keep an eye on everything at once, something that was highly complicated by the fact that he had open space all around him and loads of corridors leading off into all directions. "Wouldn't it be better if we stuck together?" he tried. Damn, he hated sounding like a wimp, but this place gave him the willies. There was something wrong here and if Aeryn hadn't been such a tough chick, she would probably have admitted to feeling it too.

"We can cover more ground faster if we're apart," came the reply.

"Yeah, but we also get in trouble faster when we're apart," he said and stopped in the middle of the hall. It looked pretty nice for a mining camp. Granted, this wasn't your standard ore mining camp or whatever they dug out of the asteroids out here, but it was still too posh in his opinion. The hall was white and clean. There were decorative mosaics embedded in the floor and a round sort of reception desk area in the middle of the whole thing.

He leaned over the ring desk and inspected the hardware. View screens showed various sections of the mine underneath them. Not one of them showed anyone around.

"Do you want me to come up there and hold your hand?" Aeryn's voice rang from the comm badge.

John grinned. "Yeah, I'm scared, mommy," he countered. "I've got view screens here of various sections," he added while he walked around the ring desk to the entrance point and stepped inside. "This place is totally dead. There's nada going on anywhere." He examined the keyboards or whatever they were, found the appropriate sign and started skimming various camera views until he found Aeryn. He wiggled a finger at her. "I can see you."

"How do I look?" she countered and gave the camera a toothy smile.

"Hot as ever," he replied with that grin still on his lips, then snapped his fingers. "Hang on. Maybe I can find out where the mess hall is."

"The what?" she asked.

"The ... uhm ... the kitchen. The food stores," he said, somewhat annoyed by the fact that he couldn't remember the proper term right now.

Aeryn, who was standing still on a lower level and holding her pulse riffle at the ready, nodded. "All right. But don't take too long," she said while she looked around in what he considered to be a cautious manner.

"Why? You getting scared down there all by yourself?" he asked with a grin. She flipped him a finger toward the camera and he couldn't help but laugh. "I shouldn't have taught you that one. It's not nice," he said and ran through some of the other view screens in search of the very thing they'd come here for.

Aeryn didn't bother to reply to that, but started walking again. He followed her on the various cameras and felt a little more at ease knowing that he could at least see her. That wouldn't be much help if someone jumped him up here, of course, but that wasn't the point anyway. It was stupid to be afraid of an empty mine.

"Got it," he suddenly said, causing Aeryn to come to a standstill again. "On your level, of course," he added with a sigh. "About ... I don't know ... if you just continue onward, turn left at the next intersection and then down to the bottom of the corridor. That looks like the ... uhm ... the eatery or whatever you wanna call it."

"Officers lounge, perhaps?" she asked and started walking again.

John switched from the camera view showing a few tables and chairs and the door inside the room to a more wide‑angle view. "STOP," he snapped, then blinked and leaned a little closer to the view screen.

"What?" Aeryn countered, a little stunned.

"Uh ..." he said, then arched both brows. "Uh ... nothing. I just ... thought I saw ..." He couldn't really explain what he thought he had seen there for a brief moment. It was just too bizarre. Possibly also a little crazy. "Aeryn, stay where you are. I'm coming down," he added. Not that he felt much like it, but he sure didn't want her walking in on whatever the hell it had been all on her own.

"Are you all right?" she asked and with good reason. He knew his voice didn't sound entirely steady.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. I'm just jumping at shadows right now," he replied and grinned half‑heartedly. "Just wait for me, will ya?"

"All right. I'll be right here, waiting for you," she promised.

John eyed the view screen for a moment longer, but there was nothing in the mess hall but empty tables and abandoned chairs. With a sigh and slight concern gnawing at the back of his mind, he left the reception area behind and headed down to the next level to join Aeryn. If for nothing else, then at least he could help her carry the food. That was as good an excuse as any.


She stood still in the pristine white corridor, waiting for John to reach her, while she considered the enigma this mining facility was. Things like this would never have bothered her before; mainly, she reminded herself, because she wouldn't have been here alone, but would have had a whole platoon to back her up, but also because it would never have dawned on her that there could be something wrong here. This sort of observation was something she had learned from John and at times she cursed him for it. It would have been easier if she had been as self‑assured and convinced of her own invulnerability as she had been when she had been a Peacekeeper. Then she wouldn't have had this creepy feeling that John's concern about this place was right.

"Frell," she muttered and glanced around. Then she sent a look up to the camera still watching her. There was something in the air here that made the small hairs on the back of her neck stand on edge. Most of all she wanted to forget her foolish pride, agree with John and hightail it out of here.

The thought of that word made her grin. What the frell did 'hightail' mean anyway? She knew the general meaning of the sentence, but that word made no sense to her what so ever.

But the grin faded as quickly as it had appeared while she stared up at the camera. John was on his way down here. So why did she get the feeling that someone B or perhaps even something B was watching her at the other end?

She folded her arms over her chest and turned her attention away from the camera, but the feeling of being watched didn't go away. She changed position and glanced back at the camera, then shuddered. Frell, this was uncomfortable.

A sound somewhere behind her made her turn around, relief washing over her in a way she had never tried before, but she instantly realized that if John had made that sound, it shouldn't be coming from there. It should be coming from the other direction. The direction of the sound was toward the officers lounge. Aeryn frowned, narrowing her eyes a little, while she stared toward the intersection and tried to determine what that sound had been. Truth be told, she hadn't paid attention to it, only that it was there and that she had thought it was John.

Somewhat concerned now, she took a hesitant step backward and pulled her pulsepistol. Whatever the frell had made that sound had no business being there. This frelling facility was supposed to be dead.

Something rattled behind her, making her spin around and take aim in one go, and she realized instantly how close she had come to blowing John's head off. If she had been just a bit more nervous, she would have pulled the trigger. "Frell, John," she snapped when he came to a skittering halt, raising both hands, surprise in his eyes.

"What's got you so jumpy?" he asked and slowly lowered his hands while she lowered her weapon.

"You and your frelling goost‑stories," she countered.

"Ghost," he corrected her and glanced past her. "Did you see something?"

She glanced that way herself and then shook her head. "No," she admitted. "But I heard something. What the frell did you see in the lounge?" She knew she sounded annoyed and it wasn't fair that she took it out on him, but he had started her down this path after all.

"I don't know," John countered and sighed. "Probably nothing."

"Frell nothing. I don't imagine things, John, and I heard something from down there," she said sternly.

John focused on her, his expression very serious. Under normal circumstances, she knew he would have made fun of this, but something had gotten under his skin as well and neither of them saw anything remotely funny about this. "You wanna leave?" he asked.

It was tempting. She had to admit that. But then again, they were running low on essentials; food mainly and there was no way in Hezmana that she would return to Moya and tell the others that there would be no food because the two of them got scared by shadows. "No," she replied. "Let's go find the food stores and then get the frell out of here."

John briefly glanced past her, then swallowed and nodded. "Okay, let's. But, Aeryn," he said and returned his attention to her. "If there's the slightest sign of trouble, I say we run like hell. Deal?"

She herself sent a slightly worried glance over her shoulder and then nodded. "Deal!" she agreed. "Let's get this done so we can go home."

John grinned, but she noticed the slight quiver it was obviously supposed to hide.

Together they started down the corridor toward the intersection that would lead them to the officer's lounge and B hopefully B enough food to get them all by for awhile.


To say that John was nervous was the understatement of the year. At least that was how he saw it. Aeryn made no comment on his state of mind, which convinced him that it didn't show, but he was nervous; and it had escalated when he had realized that she was jumpy too. In a situation like this, Aeryn was usually oozing confidence, and the fact that this place was getting to her too did not help John at all.

Aeryn had her pulserifle at the ready and seemed more than willing to shoot whoever might get in their way. John, in turn, kept both his pulsepistols holstered, but that was mainly because he was afraid of not being able to refrain from using them if they did run into something they couldn't identify or explain.

He almost snorted at the thought. There was fairly little out here that he could explain; even after this long. And he had reached that point where he felt like things were going backwards, that he was unlearning what he had learned and would soon have to start from scratch again.

They rounded the corner at the intersection and both of them came to a stop at once. The corridor leading toward the mess hall was empty ... as far as they could tell. Half the lights were out, which had plummeted the rear part of the corridor into pitch black darkness.

"Was the light out when you were watching the monitors upstairs?" Aeryn asked, not taking her eyes off the somehow moving darkness down there.

"Nope," he countered, watching it apprehensively himself.

"Then that must have been the sound I heard," she surmised and straightened her back.

John glanced at her and wished he was able to discard this bad feeling he had that easily. "Maybe," he agreed. He didn't really want to admit that maybe there were not ghosts here and maybe, just maybe, he was jumping at shadows. The thought made him smile for a second. "But why would the lights go out all of a sudden?"

"Because they haven't been maintained for a while," Aeryn replied matter‑of‑fact like, then glanced at him. "Are you afraid of the dark, John?" she asked and he could see the beginnings of a smirk on her lips.

"No, of course not," he countered and knew it was big fat lie in this connection. In this damned place, he was afraid the dark. Hell, he was scared shitless of the dark here.

"Then let's go," she said and started forward.

John silently reminded himself that she saw better in the darkness than he did and that it probably wasn't as dark for her as it was for him. Somewhat reluctantly and giving himself one mental peptalk after another, he followed her into the wavering darkness while he desperately tried to fight back the conviction that they'd get jumped by some horrible ghoul the moment the stepped over the threshold between light and darkness.

His steps hitched a little when he reached the almost crisp line and then he followed her through. He did not want to show her how spooked he really was. Not when it came to something like this.

A split second later, the darkness was disrupted when Aeryn opened the door to the mess hall beyond and John paused briefly and glanced around him. The lights were out and that was it. There were no monsters hiding in the corners, ready to jump him with a second's notice. "Sheesh," he muttered, shook his head at his own stupid fears, and followed Aeryn through the doors into the mess hall beyond.


John and Aeryn trailed into what John insisted on calling a mess hall. It didn't look like an officer's lounge, no matter what Aeryn said. He glanced at her and smiled briefly. She glanced back and returned his smile. Even though they didn't always see eye‑to‑eye, they were usually on the same wave length and would eventually end up on the same page.

The light in this hall was dimmer than elsewhere B well, if he excluded the total and utter darkness in the corridor they had just passed through, of course B and John couldn't shake the creepy feeling that even though it appeared that they were alone in this mining camp, they weren't really alone.

A quick glance around showed him the ever present cameras and he took a second to focus on one. For some reason, he got the feeling that they were being watched; and not just by the soulless eyes of the cameras either.

He shuddered lightly, made a face and glanced around again. This place was, in want of a better expression, creepy. "You think we'll find any food here?" he asked without turning around to face Aeryn.

"I hope so. I'd hate to think this trip was in vain," she replied.

Another shudder hit him when she lightly touched the back of his neck. Leave it to her to get this close without him sensing it.

"Are you cold?" she asked.

John froze. Her voice sounded too damned far away for her to have touched him. His heart started thudding away behind his rib cage and for the first time since childhood, he actively feared the idea of turning around. "Aeryn?" He glanced sideways, hoping to God that it was her behind him, because he could definitely feel someone's breath on the back of his neck.

From his current position, he had the view of the left side of the mess hall and when Aeryn trailed into view at the opposite side, John's breath got stuck in his throat while his fingers suddenly were icy cold.

Aeryn slowly advanced on him, a frown furrowing her brow. "What's wrong?" she asked, concern in her voice.

"I take it there isn't anyone behind me?" he asked, his voice a tad shivery in his own ears.

"No," she replied. "Why?"

"Because someone is touching the back of my neck," he replied and gave her a pained grin. With a great effort, he slipped his icy cold right hand onto the butt of his pulsepistol, pulled it out of the holster slowly and then swirled around, ready to put a hole through whatever was giving him the willies. Only problem was, Aeryn was right. There was nobody behind him.

He backed up a few steps and nervously licked his lips. "This place is freaky, Aeryn. I really think we should leave," he rasped. His voice betrayed how he felt.

Aeryn stepped up to him, put a hand on his pulsepistol and pushed it down. "John, there's nothing there," she said calmly. "I agree that there is something ... odd about this place, but we came here to find food. No matter how ... creepy you think this place is, I am certain there is food here and all we need to do is locate it and move it out of here. Agreed?"

For a moment, he wanted to disagree, wanted to grab her and get the hell out while they still had a chance, but he also knew how ridiculous his behavior was right now. With a light sigh, he loosened tensed muscles and briefly closed his eyes. Then he drew in a deep breath, re‑holstered his pulsepistol and nodded. "Agreed," he finally said. His voice was far steadier now.

Aeryn smiled and ran her fingers through his hair. "Keep it together, John, alright? I know this place is strange. I feel it too. But we can't let it get to us," she said. "It just feels strange because a place like this should be populated. It's not meant to be this empty."

He nodded, but didn't fully agree. This had not been his imagination. He had felt it clear as day that someone had been right behind him, breathing on the back of his neck. A little pensively, he rubbed the back of his neck and shuddered again at the thought of what this might have been. "You know, I didn't believe in ghosts before I came out here," he said and followed Aeryn back to the rear part of the mess hall.

"What the frell are goosts anyway?" she countered without looking at him.

John couldn't help a somewhat nervous grin. He was never entirely sure of whether she was making fun of him or not when she mispronounced certain words. "Ghosts," he corrected her. "Ghosts are the souls of dead people that stick around for one reason or another."

Aeryn gave him a light frown. "Souls of the dead?" she asked and he nodded. "What are they sticking around for?"

"I don't know. To watch us?" he countered, his attention more on their surroundings than on the idea that was forming in her mind.

Aeryn's frown deepened. "You think dead people stick around and watch us?" she asked. "Why the frell would they want to do that?"

"The specialists on this on Earth claim that it's because of unfinished business. They can't let go of life because there's stuff they haven't done yet. Some may not even know they're dead. They just keep going through the motions, deluding themselves into believing that they're still alive," he explained and stopped at a door leading out of the mess hall next to a row of tables. He tried the controls, but it didn't open. "Locked," he said and jabbed a thumb at the door as he turned back to face Aeryn.

"How the frell can they not know they're dead?" she asked. "Most people know they're about to die."

"Yeah, well, I don't know. As I said, I didn't believe in ghosts until I came out here," he replied and gave her a light shrug.

"And now you do?" she countered and arched an eyebrow.

John grinned, but knew it didn't come out right. "Kinda," he admitted. "Not really, but I'm not entirely convinced they're not there either. Especially not when someone touches the back of my neck when there's nobody there," he added.

Aeryn leaned her head to the right and eyed him thoughtfully. "It could have been a current from the ventilation system," she suggested. "Unless you specifically felt a hand."

He eyed her back and suddenly felt very stupid. A light shrug was all the answer he would give her for that one and it made her smile knowingly.

"How is it that you can face off against your worst nightmare and make jokes about him without a twitch, but when you're in surroundings like these, you're more jumpy than a pleekbar?"

"What's a pleekbar?" John countered and kept glancing around.

"It's similar to a drannit, just jumpier," she replied and gave him a very fake grin when he glanced at her with a frown.

"I still don't know what a drannit is," he reminded her. "Look, Aeryn, there's no food here. Maybe we'd better find the kitchen or some store rooms or something."

"What we need is a portable floorplan," Aeryn countered. "Let's find the office levels. Maybe we'll find an indication of what we're after there."

"Good idea," John agreed, turned and headed back toward the doors they had come in through. He was almost there when he realized that Aeryn wasn't following him. "Hey, are you coming?" he asked and turned back to face her.

"Yes," she replied. She had dropped down into a crouch and was fiddling with her right boot. "My bootstraps just came undone," she added and glanced up at him. "If I find new boots here, I'm taking them."

John waited until she rose again and started toward him before he turned his attention back to the doors. Another slow‑moving breeze tickled the back of his neck, but this time he wasn't fooled. He did shiver lightly, but then he grinned and pushed through the doors.

Aeryn followed him out into the dark corridor and they quickly made their way back into the light at the other end. Despite her reassurance of the opposite, Aeryn seemed a little too eager to get there and he noted how she swallowed and briefly glanced back at the still floating darkness. "How the frell can darkness be that complete when there's light around?"

John glanced back at it too, but decided that he wasn't going to get spooked by it again. "I don't know. There's loads of stuff I don't understand out here. Maybe darkness just responds differently on this rock than it does elsewhere. Let's find that floorplan and get on with things."

"From what I know, darkness is not subject to its surroundings and this ... brew is really not my idea of normal darkness," Aeryn countered.

John folded his arms over his chest and eyed her for a moment, a frown furrowing his brow. "You wanna stand around here and discuss this to death?" he asked.

"No," she replied, a dark look in her eyes.

John gave the soup of darkness another look, then shuddered. "I've seen enough horror movies to know what not to do," he stated. "Standing around and waiting for it to make its move is what we shouldn't do."

"It?" Aeryn asked and glanced back at the darkness too. "It's not a living thing, John. It's the absence of light and nothing more."

He arched an eyebrow. "So you do wanna stand around here and discuss it to death," he claimed and couldn't help a grin when she lashed out at him before she started toward the intersection.

"I do not want to discuss it," she snapped in passing and vanished around the corner.

"Women," he muttered, realized that he was pretty much alone right now and hurried to catch up to her.


The office levels were plentiful, making it a harder job to find what they were after than Aeryn had thought. They had covered two levels of nothing but offices with no indication of a floorplan, portable or other, and she was about to call off the search, head back to Moya and just leave it at that when John found the appropriate room.

"Floorplans. And big ones too," came his voice from the office across from the one she'd been searching through.

She hurried across the corridor and stopped short just inside the door. This facility had definitely put a lot of stock into knowing where everything was. Not only were the floorplans lit up like one of John's 'chreesmas' trees, whatever the frell they were, but every office, workroom, storeroom, bathing facility and mine shaft were indicated and decorated to be more recognizable. "This facility was definitely not built by Peacekeepers," she stated.

John glanced at her, but seemed to be fresh out of comments. "Looks like they have motion trackers as well. They sure liked to know where everybody was at all times," he said and nodded toward the two blips on the screen that seemed to be the only living things in the facility. And they were standing in the floorplan room.

Aeryn ran her eyes over the wall‑to‑wall plan, in vain searching for more blips. But there were none, not a shred of evidence that anybody had ever been here. "Maybe this facility was never actually put into use," she said and glanced at John with a light frown creasing her brow. "It would explain why everything looks so pristine."

"True," he agreed. "But the station doesn't exactly look that way from the outside. And why would there be power if they'd never activated this place?"

She scanned the plan again. "I don't know," she admitted. "But, of course, if this facility was never actually open for business, there wouldn't be any food stores."

John had accessed a data store window next to the plan. "Looks like there's food enough stored in the sublevels to last a six hundred man crew for at least half a cycle," he said and sent her a somewhat concerned look. "Why would they stock up if nobody was going to work here?"

Aeryn stepped up beside him and eyed the readouts. "Well, there's definitely food enough here to take us all the way to Earth and back again," she said. "I say we get as much as we can, load it into the pod and get on with our lives. There's nobody here, so it's not like it would be stealing."

"No matter if there's anyone here or not, it's still stealing," he reminded her with a snide grin.

Aeryn rolled her eyes at him. "I severely doubt anyone will complain, John. Stop being Mr. Morality."

He opened his mouth to counter‑attack, but stopped short while his eyes widened.

Aeryn glanced back at the plan and just stared at it for a microt. All of a sudden, the two lowest levels above the shafts had come alive with activity; there were green blips moving around down there as if nothing had happened.

"What the hell?" John muttered. "They're all moving in one direction."

There was no doubt about it. All the blips were moving in one direction; on both levels. "They're coming up." The words were barely over her lips before all activity ceased. The hundreds of blips on the lower levels simply ceased to be. "And now they're gone," she added as if a narrative of the events was necessary.

For the longest moment they both just stared at the plan, waiting for further activity, but nothing happened. "You think it's a glitch in the system?" he asked, his tone a little timid.

Aeryn glanced at the floorplan room on the plan and eyed the two blips there that represented them. "Must be," she finally said. It had to be. Any other thought made no sense.

"That's where the food is," John said quietly. "Where the glitch was," he added as if on second thought. "On the lower levels. Where the glitch was."

A quick glance in his direction didn't tell her much about his state of mind. He was staring almost absentmindedly at the part of the plan that displayed the lower levels.

"You think this place is haunted?" he asked after a moment.

"Haunted?" Aeryn countered and glanced back at the plan. "What the frell does that mean?"

"Ghosts," he said, then grinned. "Kinda like the Haunting of Hill House. You think some evil overlord worked all his staff to death and buried them in the shafts and now they're coming back for revenge?"

His words made no sense whatsoever. She understood them all right, but they just made no sense. "I don't think there are goosts in this facility, no. I think there's a glitch in the system. I think the data stores may be faulty and that is why they never started working in this place to begin with. Or maybe they realized that whatever they were going to mine here wasn't worth the effort."

"Ghosts," he repeated.

"What?" she asked, a little irritated now.

"You said goosts. They're called ghosts," he countered.

"Frell that. Let's find those food stores, load up what we can carry, and go back to Moya. If the system in this facility is faulty, it could be dangerous to stay here for too long," she growled, grabbed his upper arm and pushed him toward the door.

In passing, she grabbed one of the many portable floorplans that were lying in a stack next to the door on a small table. They would need this to find their way around in the labyrinthian maze that were the lower levels of this place.