Chiana insisted on tending to Crichton's wounds before anything was done about Aeryn. She then insisted that he sleep for awhile, considering that he'd lost a lot of blood and still had a concussion, and he agreed after she assured him that they would wake him up if anything happened with Aeryn.

Aeryn was lying on a bed in the neighboring cell, eyes wide and staring, unmoving, unresponsive. Chiana kept glancing it at her while she tended to Crichton's injuries and could only imagine what had happened. She gave Crichton a restorative mixture to drink, in which she had put a very small dose of a sleep-agent, and after complaining a little and getting her to promise she would wake him if Aeryn showed any signs of coming around, he fell asleep and would probably be out for a day at least.

She patted his arm lightly with a faint smile. "You need it too, you know," she assured him and got up.

"He will not be happy when he finds out you drugged him," D'Argo admonished.

Chiana chuckled. "He'll get over it. He's getting used to being overruled," she countered and eyed him fondly. D'Argo was cradling his namesake, showing off all his amazing parenting skills all in one go. "I wonder what those bugs did to Aeryn, though. What would make a Peacekeeper go all still like that?"

D'Argo sent a dark look into the next cell. "I don't know, but I'm sure this little one will help restore her to her old self," he said.

Chiana sighed. "I hope so," she countered. "Why the frell can't we all be happy at once?"


A long nap and some food and water had done wonders for John. Although he was aching all over, he felt a lot better than he had upon arrival. The first thing on his mind, though, was Aeryn. He hauled himself out of bed and, despite the weakness he felt throughout his body, he got moving at once. On bare feet, he made his way out the door, using the latticework of the wall for support. His right arm was in a sling, his left leg was bandaged and he generally felt like he'd been through a meat grinder, but he had to see Aeryn to figure out what was wrong with her, because not everything was right in fairytale land right now.

"You should not be up and about."

Sikozu's voice brought him to a stop. He turned around and eyed her for a moment. "None of your business, Sputnik," he said with a halfhearted smile on his lips. "Thanks for the tips on this one. They worked like a charm."

She eyed him back, her expression as unreadable to him as ever. "Judging by your wounds, I would assume you did not start out with demanding to fight their champion?"

It was stated like a question, but he figured it was more rhetorical than anything else. "Yeah, well. You know me. Ever the diplomat. Thought I could talk my way out of it. But I guess you can't reason with bugs," he agreed and shrugged, thereby reminding himself of the laceration of his right shoulder as well. He made a face. "Ouch," he add and carefully pressed his left hand against the bandage.

Sikozu glanced toward the next cell then returned her attention to him. "I want to talk with you. Alone," she said.

"Whatever you've got in mind, Sputnik, it'll have to wait. Aeryn's my top priority right now and I have to figure out what the hell those bugs did to her that's put her in this condition," he said, turned away and limped over to the open door.

To his immediate surprise, Sikozu obviously had nothing to say on the matter. He glanced briefly back at her and found her still standing there, watching him. On certain occasions, she looked like an overgrown doll. He knew she was dying to tell him what she thought the Nur'dur had done to Aeryn, but he couldn't face the implications right now. He needed to be able to joke about this for now or the thought might drive him stark-raving bonkers.

The moment he stepped into the neighboring cell, all other thoughts were driven from his head. Aeryn was up, standing in the middle of the room, while she stared ahead of herself with that same, glassy stare. Concern and fear of what her condition might mean, John stopped just inside the door.

"Hey babe," he tried, but she made no move and didn't look at him. He walked a little closer, not sure what would happen when and if she became aware again. "Aeryn, honey, you gotta snap out of this," he tried and reached out to touch her face.

The movement toward her face activated her, though, and before John could even blink, he was on the floor with her knee pressed against his throat, his left hand painfully twisted, while she had her left hand raised, ready to bring it crashing down on his face.

She stared down at him and for a long breathless moment did not seem to recognize him at all. Then she frowned. "John?" she whispered.

Despite the painful position he was in right now, he couldn't help grinning. "You're choking me," he rasped.

Aeryn released him immediately and flopped down on the floor in front of him, her expression that of a sleepwalker who had been awakened in unfamiliar surroundings. "What the frell ..." she muttered, then shook her head and focused on him again. "I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me," she added.

John pushed himself up in a sitting position and flinched when he moved his very sore right arm. "No harm done," he countered and grimaced. "Well, no more harm than has already been done," he added. "How're you feeling?"

"Confused," she confessed. "What the frell happened to you?" she asked and shifted closer to him.

"Long story. What do you remember?" he asked back.

Aeryn eyed him for a moment. "Are you saying I did that to you?" she asked and waved a hand at all his bandages.

"No, honey," he was quick to say and grabbed her hand, hoping against hope she wouldn't rip his off for touching her. She didn't, though. "I just need to know what you remember before I tell you what happened."

She blinked, frowned a little and glanced toward the wall. "The commerce planet," she finally said. "I remember ... part of it." She focused on him again. "What the frell happened there?"

John sighed and got up with a bit of effort. Then he held out his left hand to her and pulled her to her feet when she took it. "Nothing good," he finally said and then told her what he knew had happened. He didn't tell her about his encounter with the Nur'dur, only what had happened on the commerce planet. "Does any of this ring a bell?"

She frowned, then shook her head. "No, not at all," she said, then eyed him again. "Did this happen on the planet?" she asked.

"Nope. That came later," he said, then grinned vaguely. "Well, the light concussion I had happened on the planet. The lacerations came when I went after you. Sikozu just happened to know where the Nur'dur were holed up, so I went to get you back. I ... had to fight for it, but here you are, so it was all worth it."

She just stared at him, her expression unreadable for a moment, but then she stepped forward, wrapped her arms around him and buried her face against his left shoulder. "I'm so confused," she muttered.

"Don't blame you, babe, but you'll be fine in no time. I guess the whole abduction thing was a little too much," he countered and held her tight with his left arm.

She raised her head again, sniffing the air with a grimace. "What the frell is that smell?" she asked and eyed him for a moment. Then she glanced down herself. "Frell, it's me," she added.

John frowned. "I don't smell anything," he claimed and honestly didn't.

"It's sour," she said. "I need a bath."

Without delay, she released him and pushed past him. John turned around to watch her go and wondered what on Earth had happened. She was confused, yes, but she didn't seem as out of it as he would have thought she would be.


Aeryn strode into the quarters she shared with John, passing Sikozu on the way, and unzipped her vest and pushed it off her shoulders. The smell assaulting her nose was nauseating and she could hardly wait to hit the cleansing chamber to get rid of it.

She bent down to unclasp her boots and stopped short. She wasn't wearing any and she hadn't even noticed. "John?" she called and straightened up again. "Did we get any food? I'm starving."

"We got what was in the pod. We'll have to make another food run soon, though," he replied as he turned up in the doorway.

She stopped short and just stared at him for a moment. "You should be in bed or something," she stated and briefly forgot about the smell. Instead she walked over to him and helped him over to the bed. "Lie down. Rest," she instructed him and he complied without a word.

Then she noted the smell again. "I'll just take a shower. I need to get this smell off me," she added and turned toward the cleansing unit while pulling her t-shirt up. In the process, she caught sight of herself in the mirror and came to an immediate stop. There were two things utterly wrong about her torso. The first were the blood-crusted wounds that ran from just below her breasts and down to the edge of her pants, square down the middle. The other was the slight bulge of her belly.

Her breath got stuck in her throat and all she could do was stare at the mutilation of her reflection while the memories washed over her like a suffocating wave of water.

Screaming at the top of her lungs, she tried to twist away from the invading tubes, the hand-sized cutters that dug through her skin, ripping through skin, flesh and muscle, and the pressure they exerted while depositing their load inside her. The pain was bad, but the violation was worse. She screamed herself hoarse until the drugs they gave her started working and her voice tapered off. The pain remained, the disgust and mind-shredding fear ate her up from the inside, and now she could not even give voice to how she felt. The world around her fell away into darkness.


She heard John's voice from far away while she continued to stare at her reflection. "No, no, no, no, no," she whispered harshly.

John limped up behind her and finally saw what she was seeing and his face grew paler than it had been already. "Holy shit, what the hell is that?" he muttered.

She ripped her t-shirt off and stepped closer to the mirror while tracing her fingertips over the numb wounds. "They're inside of me," she rasped. "For the love of Cholok, they're inside of me."


John pushed off the bed and got back to his feet, his pain forgotten for the moment. "What did you say?" he asked and limped closer to her. She just stood there, wearing her pants and nothing else, and stared at her own reflection. He stepped up behind her and eyed her in the mirror, his eyes widening at what he saw there. "Aeryn?" he asked while staring at the blood-crusted wounds that started just below her rib cage and went all the way down over her stomach.

She suddenly swirled around, forcing him a hesitant step back, her fingertips pressed against the skin on either side of the topmost wound. "They're inside of me, John. Those frelling bugs. They put their frelling spawn inside me," she hissed through clenched teeth. She was pale as a ghost and beads of perspiration dotted her brow. "They're inside me," she repeated in a hoarse whisper.

He could make no sense of what she was saying at first. Later he would see it for what it was, but at this point in time, her words just did not compute and he tried to smile. "Don't be ridiculous. Why would they ..." he started, but she didn't let him finish.

She slapped a hand over his mouth, stopping him from finishing what he intended to say. "I – remember!" she pressed out, anger and disgust vying for control in her voice and her expression. Then she dropped her hand and glanced down herself. "I have to get them out," she rasped and looked around their quarters frantically. When she didn't spot what she was after, she swirled around and ran out of their quarters.

John just stood there for a second that stretched into eternity while he tried to comprehend what was going on. Then it dawned on him what she had said last and it sent a cold shiver down his back. "Shit," he hissed as his eyes widened. "D'Argo, Chiana, meet me in the med bay," he yelled. "Aeryn's aware and she's going to ..." He stopped short, not sure of what she was going to do. "It's urgent," he added and started out the door.

"Urgent? It is too late, you foolish human. She's a Peacekeeper and Peacekeepers would rather die than be infected with something like the Nur'dur." Sikozu was still in the corridor outside their quarters, sounding and looking a haughty as ever.

John glared at her, then grabbed her arm harshly and propelled her forward. "She's not a Peacekeeper any more. She has a kid to take care of. So you're going to help me stop Aeryn from hurting herself," he snarled. "Move it, Miss Britanica. It's time you earned your stay on this boat."

Sikozu hissed like an angry snake, but made no move to oppose him as he pushed her along the corridor toward the med bay. For some reason, he assumed Aeryn was heading there.


Chiana and D'Argo raced into the med bay, but both came to a skittering halt when they found Aeryn there already. She was rummaging around a box of surgical instruments, half undressed and in obvious distress.

"Aeryn, what the frell are you doing?" Chiana exclaimed.

Aeryn turned around to face her, having found what she was after, and the expression on her face was as close to madness as she could come without actually being mad. "I have to get them out," she rasped and looked down herself as if to verify that the wounds were still there. "They're moving."

D'Argo stepped forward, fully aware of what she intended to do, assuming that she wasn't thinking straight at this point. "Aeryn, put down the knife," he advised, raising both hands, palms out, to show her he wasn't armed.

Aeryn looked up and met his eyes. "No! I can't cut them out if I don't have the knife," she said and gave a quirky little grin. But then she froze and blinked at him in confusion. "You're dead," she stated quietly. Uncertainty overcame her and she again glanced down herself and prodded one of the wounds with one finger. "Is this a dream?"

"Yes, it is a dream, Aeryn. You need to put down the knife. You do not want to hurt yourself. Think of your son," D'Argo tried and took another step closer.

Just then, John pushed Sikozu through the door and limped in after her. "Get that damned knife away from her," he snapped, fear in his voice.

John's arrival diverted Aeryn's attention as much as the mention of her child had and D'Argo lunged forward, grabbed her wrist and twisted it until she released the knife. At that point, she started screaming like an animal, not in pain but in primal fear, and started fighting him to get the knife back. Chiana rushed forward and got it out of the way, but that did not stop Aeryn's tantrum.

She tried to get out of D'Argo's grip, kicking and biting. He struggled with her for a few microts until he finally got her arms under control and pulled her into a confining hug with her facing him. "Easy, easy," he admonished her quietly.

She bucked against him, putting her already considerable strength into the act, the panic adding to her stamina, and D'Argo had his hands full, trying to subdue her, but he held on, relentlessly. "I HAVE TO GET THEM OUT," she screamed against his chest, completely out of control and panicked. "THEY'RE MOVING! I HAVE TO GET THEM OUT!"

D'Argo just held onto her until she stopped screaming, until the shiver running through her like a live current ebbed away and her breathing became less dramatic. "Easy," he whispered quietly into her hair. Her breath came in hiccuping little gasps and she was still shivering uncontrollably, but the panic had obviously subsided.

With one glance at John, D'Argo prepared to release her. He was a tad uncertain about how she would respond, but once he unlocked his harsh grip on her, she pushed away from him, taking one step back and then stopped. For a long, breathless moment she just stood there, then she turned toward John, who despite his injuries opened his arms to her and pulled her close to him.

They all stared at each other and nobody spoke while John kept running his left hand up and down Aeryn's back. She clung to him like a drowning woman, holding on for dear life.

"You should sedate them."

Everybody turned their attention toward the Kalish, who stood just inside the door, her peculiar eyes wide.

John shook his head. "No, they need to come out. We need to find a medic, a diagnosian, someone who can remove ... them," he said quietly. At this point, Aeryn's grip had intensified so much, she was nearly breaking his ribs, but he didn't complain. He just sat there and took it, pale-faced and tense.

"That might take more time than she has, John," D'Argo said quietly.

"I'm distressed, not deaf," Aeryn muttered against John's shoulder and finally raised her head. "I can feel them squirming," she added, her voice breaking.

"You have to sedate them," Sikozu interjected insistently. "They cannot be allowed to pupate inside her."

"Would you stop saying that?" John snapped, aggravated and looking like he was going to be sick.

"She's right, John," D'Argo said. "I know nothing about the Nur'dur, but she does. And it seems like the best path to take."

John glanced from one to the other and back again. "How?" he then asked. "How do you sedate these ... things?"

"I can make a mixture she has to drink. It won't affect her, but it will sedate the larvae," Sikozu said and started toward the medical supplies.

Aeryn pushed away from John forcefully and turned to face her. "No, sedate me too. I can't ..." she hissed, then flinched and glanced down herself. "If I have to feel them moving for much longer, I'll ..."

"They will stop moving once they're sedated. It will slow down their growth as well," Sikozu countered and started searching through the cupboards, through boxes and bottles for what she needed. "You have to be aware. You need to tell me when they wake up so I can give you more of the mixture. If they are allowed to wake up and continue their growth while you are sedated, they will probably kill you."

John grabbed a blanket and draped it around Aeryn's shoulders, but she pushed it off, oblivious to the fact that she was half naked. He made a face, but did not try again. D'Argo glanced at Chiana, who in turn shrugged. "Where is Little D'Argo?" he asked quietly.

"With Rygel," Chiana countered just as quietly.

D'Argo nodded, then glanced at John again. He was in obvious pain, but paid no heed to it. His eyes were on Aeryn, the fear in them very potent.

"I want them out," Aeryn said again.

"A medic will probably be able to remove them," Sikozu countered while she mixed various powders and liquids.

"Probably?" John asked, his tone full of disbelief. "What the hell does that mean, probably? And how come you know how to do this when nobody else knows about them? You're telling me you learned all this because the Kalish wanted to strike a deal with them?"

Sikozu stopped moving, then glanced at him over one shoulder. "It is necessary to learn all you can about an adversary like the Nur'dur, Crichton. They are insects. They care very little about standard sentiments. We had to be certain we could heal anyone who might get infected by them."

John calmed down a little, but still looked like he was going to be sick any moment. "I can't believe this is happening," he muttered, then focussed on Sikozu's back again. "If those are their ... babies, how come they let her go?"

D'Argo had to admit that this thought had crossed his mind as well, but he had no answer for it. It made little sense.

"What's another brood compared to the masses they probably churn out every time they raid a planet for females?" Sikozu countered and shrugged, then stopped and stared ahead of herself for a moment. "Peculiar that they prefer Sebacean females, really. Essentially they could use anyone as a breeder," she added in a low tone of voice as if speaking to herself.

John swallowed audibly. "Jeez, why don't you just paint us a picture?" he growled with disgust.

D'Argo shared his feelings on this one. "It is not necessary to be so ... descriptive, Sikozu," he said, a note of warning in his tone.

Sikozu glanced back at them and made a face in sheer annoyance. "Weak species," she muttered and returned to her doings.


John shifted his weight from foot to foot, almost immediately taking it off his left foot whenever he shifted that way. The pain wasn't so bad, but it sent a shiver through his calf muscle every time he put weight on that leg. Aeryn stood beside him, still half naked, one shiver after another rippling through her. At first he had thought she was cold, but after she had pushed the blanket off her shoulders, he had become aware that it wasn't the temperature; it were those things inside her that gave her the willies. The mere idea made him shudder in sympathy.

He had opted to keep his mouth shut for now while they waited for Sikozu to finish her concoction. It was funny, really. If this had been Noranti cooking something up, he would have opposed it. That old bat had done more harm than good most of the time and her lunatic ways had made John uncomfortable most of the time. Sure, he had taken her drugs, but that was somehow different. Even though he didn't trust Sikozu further than he could throw her, he trusted her enough to let her give his wife something to still her present anguish.

When Sikozu turned around, holding a glass of some kind of white milky fluid, he stepped forward, raising a warning finger in her face. "If this does anything other that what you said, I'll rip your arm off and clobber you to death with it. Do you get that?" he hissed.

Sikozu looked into his eyes for a moment and then nodded once. "It will do what I said," she countered. Although her tone was still derisive, her expression was more scared.

Aeryn pushed John aside, grabbed the glass and emptied it. Then she made a face. "This tastes like dren," she growled and dropped the glass. It shattered on the floor in front of her feet, spreading shards all over the place, but she didn't notice and nearly managed to take a step forward before John could stop her.

"Careful," he admonished her and glanced at D'Argo. Fortunately, the Luxan got the hint, picked her up and deposited her on the examination table. John wouldn't have been able to with his injured arm.

Aeryn was enough out of it to not oppose him right now. She sat on the table, feet dangling, a far-away look in her eyes, while she waited for the concoction to work. Then she glanced down herself, eyes going wider. "They've stopped," she whispered and gingerly touched her chest.

John glanced at Sikozu and gave her a vague nod. "Whip up some more of it so we have it when she needs it," he said.

"That can't be done. It goes bad very quickly," she countered and watched the DRDs cleaning up the shards intently.

"Crap," John grumbled, then turned his attention to Aeryn. "You're gonna stay here," he said, then glanced up at the clamshell where Pilot had been following the whole thing. "Pilot, can you find us a medic somewhere? As fast as possible?"

"We are already searching, Commander," Pilot replied.

"Thanks," he countered and returned his attention to Aeryn. "You need to put something on. It's not exactly warm in here."

Aeryn glanced at him and he could see the madness lurking underneath. If those bugs were allowed to ... well, whatever they did to their hosts ... and she survived it, there was no doubt in his mind that she would go stark-raving mad. And he wouldn't blame her if she did.

"Pip, could you get Aeryn a t-shirt or something?" he asked, not bothering to even look at Chiana.

"Yeah, sure. Be right back," she countered and rushed out the door.

Silence settled on the room while the other three watched Aeryn with concern and sympathy. She just sat there and stared at John. Then she suddenly frowned and turned her attention toward D'Argo. "This isn't a dream," she said hoarsely. "Yet you're still here." She glanced at Sikozu. "And so are you. How the frell did that happen?"

"It's a long story," D'Argo said, attracting her attention again. "I will tell you when this is over."

Aeryn let out a short, tense bark of a laugh, then smoothed both hands over her hair, which was in total disarray. "Tell me now and give me something else to think about before I loose my mind," she countered and shuddered.

Chiana returned with a t-shirt, which Aeryn reluctantly put on. John climbed up on the examination table and settled in next to her, while D'Argo took a seat on a stool and Chiana hopped up on one of the cupboards. Sikozu remained where she was, arms folded over her chest.

"All right," D'Argo agreed. Aeryn leaned in against John, who wrapped his left arm around her. "After you left, Sikozu and that Grunshlk turned up. He wanted to leave me behind, but she was intent on saving me," he explained and glanced over at Sikozu, who had nothing to say. "She's quite the healer when she wants to be," he added. "They found a Scarran stinger and we took off in that before the planet was ripped apart. That's generally all there is to say to that."

"How'd you know where to find us?" John asked, just as curious about this and wanting the story to last longer for Aeryn's sake.

"I followed you. After I got better, I tracked you down. But you were always a day ahead of me. Finally, when I did manage to catch up to you, this dren happens," he said and waved at Aeryn with one hand.

"Why did you tell us to leave you behind?" Aeryn asked darkly. "I thought you wanted us to leave because you couldn't be saved."

D'Argo sighed. "At the time, I thought I couldn't," he countered. "Besides, I would have hampered your escape. You would never have made it if you had to drag me along. I couldn't walk. I was a mess. Essentially, I should have died. But I didn't. And I have her to thank for that," he finished and nodded at Sikozu.

"Then we are grateful too," Aeryn said and glanced at Sikozu again. "I will be in your debt if you rid me of these things," she added.

Sikozu cocked her head to one side. "I cannot do that. You need a medic. Removing Nur'dur is complicated and dangerous. And it has to be soon. We have very little time."

John pursed his lips. "Do you know any medics that can do it?" He realized that nobody had bothered to ask her and Sikozu wasn't the type of person who volunteered information.

Sikozu met his eyes and nodded once. "Yes. Not far from here," she said.

"Can you tell Pilot where to go?" he asked on, his tone tense. He was going to have a word with her about this afterwards, but right now was not the time. Aeryn's life was hanging in the balance and there was no way he would jeopardize that.

Sikozu nodded again. "Yes," she said, turned around and left the med bay.

"I may owe her a life debt, but that does not make her easier to get along with," D'Argo muttered and sighed.

"You said it, buddy," John agreed and couldn't help a grin from spreading over his lips. "It's damned good to have you back, big D."

D'Argo smirked. "It is good to be back, my friend. I just wish the circumstances were different."

John glanced at Aeryn, who was still leaning against him, staring ahead of herself with empty eyes. It scared the shit out of him to see her like this, and a small voice in the back of his head kept asking the same question over and over again. What if she didn't get back to her good old self after this crap was over? What would he do then? "Same here," he responded to D'Argo and the smile faded away.