Aeryn had overheard the conversation between the three of them and after both Chiana and D'Argo had left, she stood in the doorway, one shoulder leaning against the frame, her arms crossed over her chest, and watched John.

"Now there's the man I fell in love with," she stated after a moment; after he had stated his threat against Scorpius.

John turned around to face her, but did not look surprised. He leaned back against the console and grinned at her.

"Tell me something, John," she added while remaining where she was. "Your mention of Dam-Ba-Da before ... was that the first or the second time we were there?"

He made a face. "The third time, of course," he said.

Aeryn just stared at him for a moment, then pushed away from the frame and closed the distance between them. His eyes had changed. He looked more alive than he had in cycles and it thrilled her beyond understanding. With a smile on her lips, she cupped a hand against his cheek. "If you ever die on me again, John, I'm going to kill you. Do I make myself clear?"

It was funny, really. Something she would never have accepted as truth before now seemed almost natural to her. The fact that the man she had loved and lost had returned to her made perfect sense these days.

John slipped his arms around her and pulled her close. "Clear as crystal," he confirmed and kissed her brow gently. "Are you up for this trip?"

"Are you?" she countered and slipped a hand behind his head, carefully fingering the bandage still lingering there.

"I've never felt better," he said with a slight frown. "Sure, the head's still a little sore and I don't think the concussions all gone yet, but I've generally never felt better."

She traced her fingertips over his face, taking in old and new scars, while she contemplated the insanity of their lives. "Will we ever find peace?" she asked and met his gaze dead on.

"As soon as we get rid of all the hardware, I'm sure there's nothing left standing in our way," he replied and chuckled. "Looks like my optimism's back in place, eh?"

"Looks like it," she agreed and kissed his chin. "Who needs Drexim?" she added. It was a final test to calm whatever worries remained.

John arched an eyebrow and kissed the tip of her nose. "Yeah, we do just fine without it. You're distracting enough as it is," he replied huskily.

Aeryn grinned. What she wouldn't give for a little more time. But, as usual, they didn't have enough time. "Once this is all over, you and I have an appointment in my quarters," she breathed against his neck when she leaned in to kiss him there.

"Why wait?" he muttered and let out a soft moan when her lips connected with his skin.

"Timing, John. Our timing is always frelled," she said and nipped the soft skin just beneath his ear.

He jerked and his grip on her tightened. "Pilot, can we hold off on starburst for another arn or so?" he called.

"Certainly, Commander," Pilot replied instantly.

Aeryn looked up to meet John's eyes. "You're making time for this?" she asked, a little surprised.

"Yeah," he agreed, his expression somber. "With our luck it may be a while before we can go there again."

There was truth in that. If everything went to Hezmana as usual, there might not be a chance any time soon. With a nod, she acknowledged the truth in his words, took his hand and pulled him with her.

***

One extended starburst later, they finally had their feet back on solid ground. John felt a hell of a lot more optimistic about this whole deal than he had about anything in a good long while and the thought that they might run into trouble no longer raised the hairs on the back of his neck. He wasn't so optimistic that he thought they'd be able to get in and out of this one without hitting some obstacles along the way, but in his present state he was more than willing to deal with any hurdles they might encounter.

They set the pod down outside of town and made their way into the village-like township at record speed. This probably had a lot to do with the datapad and the elaborate directions Pilot had given them more than their ability to find their way, though. John had decided to listen to the guy and when they arrived at the doors of the medical facility faster than even Pilot had predicted they would, he was glad he'd stopped to listen for once.

"Well, so far so good," he said, slipped the pad into his pocket and pulled both pulse pistols.

Aeryn, who stood next to him with her thumbs hooked into her belt and her weight resting on one foot alone, eyed the doors of the immaculate-looking facility, then glanced at John. "This is usually as far as we get before it all goes to Hezmana," she countered and arched an eye brow at him when he scowled at her.

"Don't rain on my parade. I'm convinced we'll nail this one," he stated.

"You make less sense than usual, my friend," D'Argo said and put a hand on John's shoulder. In his other, he held his Qualta blade, which was resting against his shoulder. "Shall we?" he suggested.

"There's no time like the present," John said. "Hang back, guys. I'm going in first," he added and took the two steps up to the doors in one go. Assuming hostility ahead of friendliness, John drew in a deep breath and then kicked the doors open. The second the barrier split in front of him, his demeanor changed with the surge of adrenaline that was instantly pumped into his system.

"Greetings and salutations," he shouted as he stepped into the reception area. The patients waiting for treatment along with the lone 'nurse' standing at her station with a harassed expression on her face all looked over at him and for the moment at least nobody panicked at the sight of the firearms. "I have come here to chew gum and kick ass," he stated, relishing the fact that not one of them would be able to guess where that phrase came from. "And I'm all out of gum. Can we have some service here, please?"

The nurse – or whatever she was – arched both eyebrows. She was Sebacean and clearly not impressed. "Sir, would you please lower your voice? This is a medical facility," she countered, her tone a tad angry and a tad more fed up.

"No can do, sister. Life's too short for bullshit, so why don't you just go get a hold of one of your best docs and tell him there's an emergency," John said and gave her a wide grin while aiming his guns in random directions. "Or do I need to shoot this place to hell?"

For a long, breathless moment the whole area seemed to have frozen in time. Then the better faring individuals waiting to be serviced started to rise. "Nobody leaves here until we're done," D'Argo boomed and the few who had thought themselves clever enough to sneak out before the shit hit the fan settled back down again. The first nervous glances trailed over John at that point.

The nurse raised her hands in a deprecating gesture and backed up a step. "No need for violence. Are you insured?" she asked.

John felt the distinct need to laugh out loud at that question. She had to be pretty dense or at least pretty set in her ways to not recognize a hold-up for what it was. "Sister, I don't have enough credits to buy food," he countered and finally aimed Winona straight at her. "Now, get your pretty ass moving before I decided to put a hole where your heart's supposed to be," he added good-naturedly.

Somehow, that vague threat got her moving. She hurried over to a set of double doors leading off into the insides of the building and called for someone who's name escaped John. Moments later, a tall guy came striding out and came to an immediate stop when he laid eyes on the three of them; D'Argo standing by the door with his arms crossed and his Qualta blade cradled against his chest, Aeryn standing in the middle of the room, arms crossed over her chest and an ice-cold look in her eyes, and John, who assumed he looked just a little bit crazy at the moment with his guns aimed at people and a big grin plastered over his face.

"You a medic?" he asked the tall guy, who nodded mutely. "Good to meet ya, buddy. My girl Friday here has a bit of a hardware problem and I have it on the best authority that you're the man to do something about it. We got no cash, so you're gonna have to do a little charity work here," he said.

The medic glanced from John to Aeryn, who met his gaze without even batting an eyelash, and then back to John, who was beginning to feel a little antsy. This wasn't moving fast enough for his liking. "I'm not sure I understand ..." the medic tried, thereby snapping John's patience in two.

With two long strides he was in the guy's face and not feeling so benevolent any more. "What's so hard to understand, doc? My wife-to-be here needs some medical assistance and you're gonna give it to her. Get a move on before I light a fire under your ass." The medic's eyes widened when John took a step back and swung both guns up to face him. "Meet Winona and her sister. They haven't been fed today."

Slower than John would have liked, the medic raised his hands. "Easy now," he tried. "There is no need for threats. What's the problem with her?"

"I'll tell you on the way," John said conversationally and waved Aeryn over. "D, you guard the door. We'll be back in a jiffy," he called over one shoulder.

D'Argo nodded and remained where he was. He had deactivated the door controls and had locked the doors. And he knew that nobody in their right mind would dare approach a Luxan on guard patrol.

Waving a gun toward the doors to the inner sanctum of the facility, John kept his gaze on the medic. "Let's move it along. We don't have all day," he said.

The medic backed up, his hands still in the air, the somewhat superior and calm expression on his face crumbling. "All right. Just ... don't do anything stupid."

John grinned and caught the brief smile on Aeryn's lips. "Stupid is my middle name, buddy, so you better not push my buttons," he said and followed the medic through the doors.

***

The examination room was equipped with every possible piece of machinery Aeryn had ever seen and it made her feel a little better to know that at least this facility had what they needed.

For now, she was more than willing to let John do the talking. He was good at confusion the opposition with his odd quotes and in this case it could only be considered a benefit. The medic looked sufficiently intimidated and Aeryn knew that she would have found John to be a rather unstable and unpredictable individual too if it hadn't been for the fact that she knew him so well. He blustered when he got nervous and he was plenty nervous for the both of them right now.

Instead of asking John questions that might upset him, the medic turned his attention to her. "What is the problem?"

"I have a tracking device embedded in my body somewhere and I want it out," she countered, her tone indifferent. A glance at John, who was currently pacing back and forth like an animal in a cage, assured her that he was as wired as he could get without blowing up. "I suggest you get a move on," she added and gave the medic a dark look. "It's only a matter of time before his patience snaps."

The medic glanced nervously at John and nodded. "Do you know what kind of device it is?" he asked.

"It's shielded, probably wired into me in some way that will make it tricky to extract," she countered. She knew she sounded like she couldn't care less at the moment. It was all based on the fact that John was going to be the crazy one this time around and she was going to be the calm one. It was like a game where they complemented each other perfectly.

"Not a problem," the medic assured her and grabbed a handheld scanner from a drawer.

"What's that?" John asked, stepping closer, his eyes on the device.

"A scanner," the medic said and held it out to him.

John eyed it for a microt, then nodded. "Go ahead," he said and started pacing again.

The medic watched John wearily for a microt, then returned his attention to Aeryn. Without another word, he started running the scanner along the length of her body and every time he skimmed over her lower back, the scanner beeped. Finally, he hovered it there for a few microts, then lifted it up to read the display. "You have a four-point tracker in your back," he said and looked up to meet her eyes.

"What does that mean?" John asked and came to a stop again.

The medic once again glanced wearily at him. "A four-point tracker is hard to remove. It's essentially not meant to be removed again," he said.

John's demeanor became threatening in the blink of an eye. "Are you telling you can't remove it?" he demanded.

"No, no, not at all," the medic hastened to say, raising both hands to ward off a potential attack. "All I'm saying is that it won't be easy."

With a look of pure ice in his eyes, John stared the medic down for a moment, then pursed his lips. "Get on it. We don't have all day," he growled and waved his pulse pistol in the medic's direction.

The man swallowed, nodded and began to dig out equipment from various drawers. "Please, take off your coat and your top," he said.

Aeryn arched an eyebrow, shrugged out of her coat and her vest and settled herself on the examination table. John watched her, a slight blush rising in his cheeks. It was a constant source of amazement to her that he still got such a kick out of seeing her half-naked. She grinned at him while the medic's back was turned, and John pursed his lips, his eyes glued to her breasts.

The medic went to work moments later, numbing her back first and foremost. She sat ramrod straight and watched John all while the medic tried to remove the tracer without harming her.

John had stopped pacing and was standing with his back against the window and his arms crossed over his chest. All in all, this seemed to be one of the good days.

***

Watching Aeryn half undressed nearly always did him in. John kept chewing on his tongue to keep his hormones at bay while the medic worked on Aeryn's back and he tried to keep his eyes on hers rather than letting them wander.

His attention was rudely interrupted when the comm badge on his vest suddenly emitted a burst of static. "Pilot? Everything okay?" he asked.

"No, Commander. A command carrier is on route towards us," Pilot replied. His voice sounded tiny and scared.

"You know what we discussed, Pilot. Get yourselves out of here. Right now. Come back when the threat is gone," John said quietly, twisting the badge closer to his lips.

"Neither Moya nor I are happy about abandoning you, Commander," Pilot nearly whispered.

"Forget about that. We'll be fine. Get yourselves to safety," John countered a little louder.

For a moment, the only thing that answered him was silence. Then he heard Pilot sigh. "All right. We will come back for you," he finally said.

"I know you will. Now get out of here," John replied and switched the comm badge off. Then he looked up to face Aeryn. The fun – whatever there had been of it to begin with – had just gone out of the situation. His attention shifted to the medic. "Get a move on. We're running out of time," he demanded.

"I'm almost done," the medic said, his face sweaty now. It took a few more moments before he finally straightened up after having covered the wound on Aeryn's back. "That's it," he said and held up a bloodied disk the size of a big coin with tendrils of some sort coming out of it.

John eyed it for a moment, then nodded. "Just scan her again to make sure you didn't miss anything," he said.

The medic nodded, put the tracker aside and ran the scanner over Aeryn once more. "Nothing. She's clear," he said.

Aeryn pulled her vest back on and shrugged into her coat, then slipped off the examination table.

"You okay?" John asked and eyed her with slight worry.

"I'm fine," she assured him. She looked a little pale.

"No pain?" he asked and she shook her head. John looked back over at the medic. "Give her some meds to go. I don't want her to be in pain all of a sudden," he said.

The medic nodded nervously and dug an injector out of a drawer.

"Give us more than one," John snapped and the medic was quick to retrieve a few more of them. He dumped them in a bag and handed them to Aeryn.

John tapped the comm-badge again. "D, we're leaving. We've got company," he said.

The comm remained silent.

Suddenly very worried, John tapped the comm badge again. "D? Did you hear me?"

"Yes, John, I heard you," the reply came almost at once. "And I know we have company. I suggest you make a run for it while you still can."

John met Aeryn's gaze and she shook her head lightly. "We're on our way, big guy," he replied and switched the badge off again. "It's time to kick some hinny," he added, gave Aeryn a lop-sided grin and strode out the door. She followed close behind, her gun drawn as well.

***

The microt the door had shut behind them, Aeryn grabbed John's arm and hauled him to a stop. "What the frell was that all about?" she asked, her tone tense.

He stared at her with surprise in his eyes. "What?" he asked.

Aeryn frowned. He obviously wasn't aware of how out of character he had behaved in there. "The medic was helping us, John. He didn't just do it because you've turned into a gun-wielding maniac. So what the frell happened in there?"

For a microt, she actually expected him to continue that odd behavior, but then he sighed. His shoulder's slumped and he closed his eyes briefly. "I'm a mess, Aeryn," he finally said and opened his eyes again to look at her. "Whatever the hell happened to me after I got that concussion ... hell, maybe even before that ... it's ... I have memories that are not my own. And yet they are. I remember the other guy's life. How can that be? It's very distracting, you know."

"Like having a neural clone in your head?" she asked. Her grip on his arm had tightened. In part she was thrilled to hear him say this, but a bigger part of her was deeply worried.

"No, not like that," he disagreed and leaned back against the wall of the corridor. He holstered one pulse pistol and ran a hand through his short-cropped hair. "It's like ... like having lived two lives simultaneously. I thought I could handle it, but I'm not sure I can."

"You have to. Right now, D'Argo is in jeopardy. We have to get the frell out of here and hide somewhere until the Peacekeepers have left again. There is no frelling way that they can track us any more, John. You don't have any hardware left in your head and mine's been removed too. We stand a good chance of getting out of this in one piece. But you have to stay strong. You have to keep it together. Once we're back on Moya, we can talk about this, figure a way for you to deal with this dren, but right now you can't focus on it because it will drive you crazy. You know that." She was angry and worried and stressed right now. Her back was beginning to ache dully where the medic had removed the tracker and the sooner they got out of here and back on Moya, the happier she would be.

Uncertainty shone in his eyes as he holstered the second gun, wrapped his hands around her face and kissed her hard. Then he simply looked into her eyes for a moment. "Let's shoot our way out. There is no way in hell that I'm going to let that freak get any of us."

She met his gaze dead on, tried to read him as best she could, and was mollified slightly by the determination that replaced the uncertainty in his eyes as he spoke. "Good. Just keep it together, John. This is no time to lose it," she emphasized.

He nodded and finally released her face. A quick check in both directions of the corridor and he was ready to go. He pulled both pulse pistols again and took the lead and Aeryn followed in his footsteps, her gaze on his back. If they got out of this one alive, she would be surprised indeed.

***

The reception area was quiet and motionless. D'Argo stood with his back to the doors, his Qualta blade raised, ready for action. John came to a halt in the middle of the room and glanced around at the scared-looking patients. Aeryn's words rang in his mind and he knew he had to throttle back on the devil-may-care attitude he was trying so hard to display.

Raising his hands, aiming both guns at the ceiling, he put on what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "No need to worry, people. Nobody's gonna get hurt. We'll just get out of your way now," he said and hoped it would be enough.

A few of the patients sitting around waiting gave him dubious glances, which was better than the outright fear he had seen there before, but nobody said anything.

Deciding that he'd done what he could to remedy this situation, he turned his attention toward D'Argo. "What's the word, D?"

"The word is frelled, my friend," D'Argo countered. "There are Peacekeepers out there," he added and nodded at the door behind him. "Enough of them to bring down an army. There is no frelling way that we'll get out of here in once piece."

"Not with that attitude, no," Aeryn agreed angrily. "Pull yourselves together. Both of you," she added.

D'Argo arched an eyebrow, then glanced at John who shrugged in return. "What do you suggest we do then, Officer Sun?" he asked.

"There has to be another way out of here," she countered, her tone biting.

"And there is. If you'll follow me?" a voice said behind them.

John and Aeryn turned around to face the medic who had just performed the surgery. John glanced at Aeryn, who in turn gave him a sour look back. "Sure," he said and gave the guy a grin. "Lead the way."

The three of them followed the medic through the med-facility to the rear, where the man opened a door and took a quick look outside. Then he turned back towards them. "I've heard of you," he said. "And I think you deserve to get away. Take the alley across from here down to the end and then turn right. Make sure you stay on the outskirts of town. There are some hills toward the end of town. You can easily hide there. The magnetism out there prevents any scan from working properly."

Aeryn nodded. "Thank you," she said and stepped outside to take a quick look around.

D'Argo settled for a nod and followed her. John lingered a moment and he felt very awkward. "Sorry about the whole gun-waving business," he said. "I'm a bit hung up at the moment."

The medic nodded, but still the look of trepidation lingered in his eyes. "That's all right," he assured John.

"Thanks for the help, man. We owe you," he said, clapped the man on the shoulder and followed Aeryn and D'Argo outside. He heard the door click shut behind him and glanced back briefly. When he then met Aeryn's baleful eyes, he sighed. "Okay, you were right. He is one of the good guys. Can we fight about this later?"

"We are not fighting," Aeryn countered with annoyance and gave him a push. "Move it, hoo-man. We're on borrowed time right now."

John couldn't help grinning as they started jogging down the alley and took a right at the very end. A little hide-and-seek wasn't so bad if it meant he wouldn't have to face Scorpius. And somehow he had no doubts that Scorpius was with the Peacekeeper armada coming to capture them. 'See you later, alligator', he thought and smirked.

***

D'Argo took point when they reached the outskirts of the town and lead them unerringly toward the low foothills at the very end. They were almost there when a mottled group of people stepped out of another alley and came to a stop. D'Argo's sensitive nose told him immediately that these were Peacekeepers and he stopped abruptly and managed to raise his Qualta blade before John and Aeryn ran into him.

They were both quick to rip their weapons up and aim them at the group down there. "Shit," John hissed through clenched teeth.

The group consisted of about ten Peacekeeper soldiers, all armed and aiming their weapons at them in return. But none of them took a shot at them, which made D'Argo feel that something was wrong.

And then the group broke apart to reveal none other than Scorpius in their midst. "Ka D'Argo," he said with a smile. "Officer Sun," he added and focused on Aeryn, who tensed almost audibly. Her coat creaked over her shoulders.

And then Scorpius turned his attention to John. D'Argo didn't dare take his eyes off the group to see how John responded. All he could do was hope that John was right in his assumption that he would be able to beat this evil creature this time around.

"John," Scorpius said, his tone benevolent. "You are very difficult to track down."

John straightened his back and stepped around D'Argo, both guns aimed at the ground. "What the hell do you want from me, Scorpius? You've got wormholes now, thanks to that bitch on that black leviathan. What do you want, huh? Rub my nose in it that I'm responsible for you frelling the entire universe now?"

D'Argo was flooded with concern at John's aggressive tone and lack of action. But then again, he reminded himself, John wasn't a warrior. No matter how much dren he'd had to go through over all the cycles he'd been out here, he was still no warrior. Killing others was a secondary option for him.

"I have no intention to frell anything over, John," Scorpius said and spread out his arms. "I come in peace."

Somehow, that claim set something off in John and he raised one pulse pistol – the one he had dubbed Winona – arm straight, and aimed it at Scorpius' chest. "You?" he snorted. "You wouldn't know what peace was if it jumped up and bit you on the ass, you freak."

Scorpius' expression remained benevolent. "You can't kill me, John. You should know that by now," he claimed and took another step forward.

"Guys," John whispered. "Find cover. I think this is gonna get ugly."

"It already is, my friend," D'Argo said and glanced at Aeryn, who was stoic and cool as always.

"You know, Scorp, there's an old saying on Earth. I can't remember how it goes exactly, but it's got to do with dragons and their tough scales," John said and raised the second pulse pistol. "You see, in ancient times on Earth, they had dragons. Dragons were lizards, like you. Big, tough, fire-breathing lizards that killed and ravaged villages everywhere. But there were knights fighting them and these knights knew one thing you obviously don't."

"And what might that be, John," Scorpius asked with a smile and took another step forward.

"There's always a weak spot in the armor," John said and he sounded generally as if he thought this whole thing was funny.

D'Argo again glanced at Aeryn, who was watching John with renewed concern. She noted he was watching her and glanced briefly back at him. As of right now, there was fairly little they could do to save themselves if the Peacekeepers opened fire on them and John's behavior was turning erratic now.

Scorpius seemed to share their thoughts, because his expression became less benevolent and a tad worried instead. "John, you're not well. Put down your pulse pistols and let's talk like civilized people."

John let out a bray of laughter and shook his head at the same time. "What the hell do you think I am, Scorpy? Stupid?" he then demanded.

"I think you are a lot of things, John, but stupid is not one of them," Scorpius countered. "Let's be civil. You have no need to fear me."

That drew a snort from John, but it broke off in the middle and he calmed down visibly. Instead he threw the same smile back at Scorpius that the half-breed had offered him previously. "No, Scorpy, you've had your chance to be civil and you blew it. You're a half-breed in an army of racists. How you've survived this long is beyond me, but you are not immortal. Everybody dies. It's the law of nature. The only thing you usually get to decide is the how and where. The when, however, is out of your hands." John's expression changed to totally indifferent. "The how and where is in my hands right now. You and your kind have frelled me over for the last time. And you messed with the wrong man when you drew Aeryn into this." Then he smiled almost sadly. "Goodbye Scorpy. It's been something, knowing you."

That said, John pulled both triggers at once, but only after adjusting his aim a bit. The bolts of pure energy hit home exactly where he had intended for them to go and the impact did exactly what he had aimed at. At least that was what Aeryn thought when Scorpius' head exploded like an overripe tella-fruit and spattered the nearby Peacekeepers with white goo.

D'Argo took John's shots as a cue and opened fire on the remaining Peacekeepers. Aeryn joined in and within microts they had cut down the stunned troopers with next to no opposition.

John just stood there and stared at the essentially beheaded half-breed, his arms hanging down his sides. Once the noise of the shooting died down, Aeryn grabbed his shoulder. "Looks like your head is all yours again, doesn't it?" she asked.

He didn't respond, just stood there and stared.

Aeryn exchanged another worried look with D'Argo, but assumed that whatever was going on with John right now, they would deal with it once they were safely back on Moya. "Time to hide. The Peacekeepers are not going to be happy about this," she said, grabbed John's arm and started forward past the site of carnage toward the low foothills in the distance.

***