One arn later

Chiana had been sent over to Balroc to be checked over by their medics and John was busy deactivating the displacement device on his module. He wasn't one hundred percent certain this was a good idea, but on the other hand he knew he could live with this solution. He hadn't, per se, 'given' anything away apart from his module and whatever modifications he had made on it.

Tonga did not yet know about this part of the deal, but he assumed she wouldn't turn him down. She might not agree to take them to wherever Aeryn might be, but that was okay with him. He would rather go it alone anyway.

He stopped moving and stared sadly down at the device. When the hell had he become so paranoid that he would rather not have anybody else's help? He sighed, shook his head to shake the lingering doubts, and continued working on the device.

As soon as it was deactivated and could not be reactivated without some innovative understanding of the core function of the device, he jumped off the module's wing and took a step backward to eye his little white death pod, as Aeryn liked to call it. It had served him well and he had the specs of it saved away in his head somewhere, so if he needed it, he could always rebuild it. There was, however, something connected to letting it go that he hadn't considered until now. He was letting go of the last tangible piece of the beginning of this insane yet strangely invigorating trip that had started nearly five years ago.

With a sad smile on his lips, he ran his hand over her hull, savoring this last moment with her. Then he patted her gently. "Sorry, old girl," he said quietly, "but you gotta move aside for Aeryn."

"I thought you had gotten over that part where you talked to the equipment."

He looked up and over at the door and couldn't help grinning at Rygel, as he drifted in on his throne sled. "Nah, you know me, Sparky," he said. "I'm nutty as a fruit bat."

"You mean a trill bat," Rygel corrected him.

"No, Ryg, I mean fruit bat," John countered. "What's up? Have we heard back from the demon ship?"

Rygel waggled his eyebrows for a moment. "Yes, we have, now that you mention it. They appear to think that the Nebari tralk's blindness is temporary and will disappear on its own," he replied.

John shook his head, half amused. "Why do you keep using such insulting language about her? You like her," he said, not really caring right now. It just annoyed him at times that Rygel was always so derisive about people everybody knew he liked.

"I do not," the little Dominar huffed. "She's nothing but a pair of pushed up loomas," he added, turned his throne sled around and zipped back out of the bay.

"Yeah, and you're nothing but a pile of dren," John muttered under his breath and put the tools aside before following Rygel back to Command.

***

In Command

John walked past Rygel and stopped in the middle of Command. "Pilot, patch me through to Captain Tonga," he said.

"Yes, Commander," Pilot said. Seconds later, the image of the tall Sebacean woman flickered into view.

"Crichton," she said and nodded. "I take it you have thought about my proposal?"

"Yes, I have," John agreed. "And I have decided to accept it. But there are conditions. I'm going to give you a device with a module attached to it. The device is called a displacement device. It has been deactivated. If your techs can figure out how it works and reactivate it, you can use it for whatever you want. I'm assuming that you guys will be bright enough to do the right thing with it in that case." For some reason, he found himself nearly standing at attention in front of her, feet splayed, hands behind his back. The second he became aware of this stance, he changed it to a more relaxed on and noted that Tonga had noticed this too. "I do not believe that I was originally given this technology to hand it out to everybody who crosses my way. It's a great power to wield and with great power comes great responsibility."

Tonga frowned. "Are you attempting to lecture me on the use of this device?" she asked.

"Essentially yes," John agreed. "I want you to be aware of what it is I'm giving you. This should not be taken lightly."

For a moment, the captain eyed him. Then she nodded. "I accept your conditions," she said. "I have informed my leaders of this development and they have given me a go-ahead on any conditions you may ask for," she added.

John had to admit that he was surprised. He had not expected them to yield that easily. But, then again, according to Tonga herself, they were desperate. "That's ... uh ... mighty big of you," he replied. "Do you have any information for me?" he then asked. This was the moment where this deal would bend or break. If she said no, they would get squat. If she just gave him the information for where to find Aeryn, but not how to kill Scorpius, he would have to reconsider this deal entirely.

"I do. We are currently relaying three transmissions to your leviathan's data banks. One is the way to kill Scorpius. The second is Aeryn Sun's present whereabouts," she said.

John felt his heart pick up speed. They knew where she was and they were going to tell him. "That sounds good to me," John said. "What's the third message?"

"The co-ordinates and our flight patterns," Tonga said.

John nodded, then froze in mid-motion. "Our?" he asked with a frown.

For some reason, his surprise made Tonga smile. "Yes, Crichton. Our," she confirmed. "I promised you help in retrieving Aeryn Sun in return for your help and we will offer our assistance. Balroc is heavily armed and more than adequately capable of protecting your leviathan if things should go wrong. We will accompany you to the command carrier and keep watch while you retrieve Aeryn Sun. We will, however, not get involved in any fighting unless Balroc is attacked directly. It is a matter of keeping ourselves alive first and foremost," she added.

John stared at her image for a long, speechless moment. Then he nodded once. "Thank you. We could use the backup," he said and smiled.

"I am certain you could," Tonga replied. "We are returning your Nebari female to you as we speak. We can unfortunately do nothing to speed up her recovery, but her eyesight will return in time."

"Thank you again," John said. "Let's get this show on the road, shall we?"

Again, Tonga smiled. "Balroc will lead the way. All you have to do is follow close behind. We have relayed the starburst patterns to Moya and your pilot. They will know where to go. Tonga out."

With that, the connection broke. John, however, remained where he was and stared ahead of himself. Hope had been restored and they were not going in empty-handed. To have the backup of that mean-looking, huge male leviathan was much more than he had hoped for. And if he could discern anything at all from what Tonga had said, then their intelligence had told them that Aeryn was still alive.

***

On Moya

The command carrier loomed in the distance, not visible to the naked eye but quite visible to Moya's scanners. John stood in Command and stared at what could potentially become his doom. Scorpius was on that boat, along with Braca and probably Grayza. Sikozu, if Scorpy hadn't tired of her yet and disposed of her, would also be there. And then there were the fifty thousand other Peacekeepers, who didn't like aliens and most particular didn't like him for being the menace that he was.

Thoughtfully, he fingered a lakka pod between his fingers in his pocket while he stared at the image and considered his options. Clear-headed; he had to go in clear-headed. He could not let emotions rule him; not now. So the lakka would have to stay for a while longer. He would quit it when he had Aeryn back and they were safely away from this nightmare.

A small voice in the back of his mind quipped up that he might have trouble shelving a habit he had upheld for over half a cycle, but he shut it down immediately, pulled the lakka pod out of his pocket and sniffed the contents without further thought. His mind cleared, emotions settled and he could focus fully on the task ahead.

"Hey, Cricthon."

Chiana's voice focused him even more. He glanced at her over one shoulder and smiled vaguely. "How are you doing?" he asked.

"Aw, just fine," she said as she made her way carefully into Command. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Got no choice, Pip, do I?" he asked back and took her hand when she held it out to him. "Aeryn's on that command carrier and I'm gonna get her back," he added and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

She leaned her head against his shoulder and slipped an arm around his back. "That's not what I meant, Crichton," she said quietly. "I meant that dren that you're sniffing. I thought you'd kicked that habit when Wrinkles left us."

John stiffened a little, but he did not have it in him right then to care too much about the hidden accusation in that. "I need a clear head right now, Pip," he said. "Can't have that when I'm coming apart at the seams with worry. I'll stop taking it once we have Aeryn back. It's not like I'm addicted to it or something." He smiled at the idea. Him? Become addicted? Not a chance.

Chiana shifted a little, but seemed to have nothing further to say to it. She just stood there with her arm around him and waited – like he did – for what came next.

***

Chiana blinked a few times. Then she cocked her head to the right. There was light out there. The thought that her eyesight was returning had filled her with an inner calm. Apparently, those frelling visions couldn't steal her sight completely. The last one had just been too frelling intense.

"You think she's really over there?" she asked after a moment and shifted closer to Crichton. At this point in time, she saw him more as a brother than anything else. Sure, if she could have had him, she would have, but this was the most loyal male she had ever come across. That was one of the reasons why she could not get it through her head that he would take that dren the old crone had give him. Why would he want to bury his feelings for Aeryn? She didn't understand, did not even pretend to understand.

"Pilot," Crichton called.

"Yes, Commander," Pilot responded at once.

"How come we can see them but they haven't spotted us?" he asked.

Chiana frowned. He had a point there. From what she understood, they could not yet see the command carrier, but Moya's long range sensors could. But that would also mean that the command carrier's sensors should have picked up on them by now. She shifted a little nervously as John released her and stepped forward.

"I believe it has something to do with Balroc, Commander," Pilot replied.

Chiana could imagine the frown on Crichton's brow. "Balroc is about twice the size of Moya, if not more. How the hell are they going to avoid spotting him?" he demanded. "Pilot, patch me through to Tonga. I'm not happy about us being sitting ducks out here."

"Yes, Commander," Pilot replied. Chiana could hear the slightly annoyed sound to his voice.

Moments later, the static charge of the three-dimensional image enhancer filled the air, telling Chiana that Captain Tonga was online.

"Is there a problem, Crichton?" she asked.

"Yeah, there's a problem. I don't know about you, but I'm kinda worried they may have spotted us by now. If we can see them, they must be able to see us," he replied. But he didn't sound worried at all.

"Well, it is not possible for them to 'see' us," Tonga replied calmly. "Balroc is equipped with a cloaking device."

Chiana frowned and imagined that Crichton was doing the same. "A cloaking device?" he asked, his tone a tad suspicious. "I've never heard of a leviathan with a cloaking device before," he added.

"Well, Balroc has one. We examined a Luxan stinger, modified the cloaking device for Balroc and that's the end of that story," Tonga said.

"Stinger?" John asked. "So that's what D'Argo's baby is," he added in a mutter. "Is this field covering Moya as well?" he asked a little louder.

"Yes, as long as she stays close to Balroc, she is shielded as well," Tonga agreed. "How do you want to do this?"

Crichton remained silent for a moment and Chiana started wondering if he had lost interest in the conversation or something, but then he finally cleared his throat. "I'm going over there alone. If I'm not back in a few arns and you haven't heard from me, get out of here and take Moya with you," he finally said, his tone so calm it made Chiana's scalp prickle.

That dren he was taking was starting to affect him in adverse ways. If he got to the point where he didn't care about anything any more, neither he nor Aeryn would make it out of there alive.

Slowly, she drew back toward the door and slipped out into the corridor beyond without saying a word. She had things to do and it was best if Crichton wasn't aware of what she had in mind.

***

John noticed that Chiana left, but he had more important things to focus on right then. He eyed Tonga's image thoughtfully. "Can I expect any backup from you guys or are you just here to cover your own asses?" he asked.

Tonga's expression tensed a little. "I told you already. We are not getting involved unless Balroc is attacked directly, Crichton," she said. "I realize that this may seem cowardly to you at this point, but we cannot afford to lose Balroc or the crew. If we a drawn into a battle, we will fight. But as long as there is no immediate threat to us or our home base, we cannot get involved."

John glanced past her image to that of the distant carrier. "But there is a threat to you and your home base," he said and focused back at her with a slight smile on his lips. "I know where you live. If Scorpius decides to dissect my brain, I can't stop him from getting that bit of information as well. So, it's better for all concerned that I get out of there in one piece and preferably without being tortured to bits first."

The ex-PK captain eyed him darkly for a long moment. Then she sneered. "What do you have in mind?" she asked.

"I'll keep my comm badge open at all times. If there's any type of trouble, I expect a little showing off from you guys. Balroc should be big enough to make them think twice about shooting, don't you think?" He glanced toward the ceiling, well aware that Balroc was hovering very closely above Moya. "How big is your boy, by the way?"

"He is half the size of the command carrier and quite capable of blowing them out of the sky if it becomes necessary. I am assuming that Scorpius will know this, considering that he is responsible for producing Balroc in the first place."

"Well, there you go, Captain Tonga," John said. "That's enough of a threat display to make an impact then. If they threaten me, you threaten them. Show them Balroc, then move your position. It that doesn't make an impact ... well, then give them a nudge. That should make them think twice."

"Very well. We will be standing by to assist you," Tonga said.

She did not look happy and he knew he would probably hear for this if he survived this trip into the lion's den, but he was running out of options and he was not leaving here without Aeryn.

***

Half an arn later

D'Argo stood by in Command and watched as the pod sped away from them, out of the protective cloak and into real space. "You are crazy, John," he muttered under his breath and shook his head. Sure, he would have gone far to save Lo'Lann. No doubt about it. But he was a Luxan, a warrior. And no matter how much John had progressed since coming out here, he was still reluctant to pull a weapon and, in his own words, he might still have a chip in his head that might prevent him from killing Scorpius when the time came.

When he heard hesitant footsteps, he glanced behind him and found Chiana standing there, her eyes pitch black. She grinned when he spotted her and at that moment he realized that her vision had obviously returned. "You can see?" he asked.

"Yeah. How drad is that?" she countered and stepped up beside him.

"Why didn't you come see John off? And what the frell was he so angry about? Did you say something to him?" D'Argo asked.

"Nah, I didn't. More like did something," she said and opened her right hand. On her palm lay about ten lakka bulbs. "I just figure he'd be better off without that dren clouding his mind."

D'Argo slipped an arm around her shoulders and hugged her close. "Right you are," he agreed.

"So, I see that little tralk can see again," Rygel said as he drifted into Command on his throne sled. "Now nothing's safe from her any more."

Chiana chuckled. "As if it ever was," she countered, but then the joy subsided and she focused forward on the image of the pod disappearing in the distance. "He's tinked," she said and shook her head. "I understand why he does it, but ... frell ... that's tinked. He's so frelled."

"We should count our losses and get out of here," Rygel suggested helpfully.

"Yeah, and maybe we should kick you out the frelling airlock in budong-infested space," Chiana shot back. "Not that you'd register on a budong's pallet. You're too small."

"Frelling talk," Rygel growled, but refrained from further suggestions.

"I'll tell Aeryn you said that when she's back on board," Chiana added for good measure. "I'm thinking she may not be in a good mood at that time."

***

In the pod

John had major second thoughts about going at this moment, but knew it was too later to turn back now. It was obvious that the carrier had spotted him, because swarms of prowlers were erupting from its innards and racing toward him at top speed.

The reason for his sudden apprehension was that he hadn't been able to find the stash of lakka bulbs he'd hidden away in his quarters and wondered if that stuff was affecting his memory now. Without the lakka, he would be pretty much screwed once that last bulb wore off. Of course, it usually lasted a long time, so essentially he wouldn't have anything to worry about if this was over quickly.

He closed his eyes briefly, took a deep breath, and then switched the comm system on. Immediately, the speakers exploded with angry demands for him to identify himself and state his business in this sector.

He listened for a moment to the jabbering voices and was almost overwhelmed by a feeling of distance. It was very close to that out-of-body feeling he'd had when he thought Aeryn had died. He waited a moment longer until those voices threatened that they would open fire.

"Hold your horses," he finally said. "This is John Crichton, asking for permission to come on board."

He couldn't help grinning joylessly when every single one of those voices fell silent at once. For a moment, time stood still and the speakers gave nothing but the quiet white noise of an active speaker picking up no sound.

Now came the moment of truth. This was when he would find out if this was indeed Scorpius' carrier or not.

"Hello John," an all too familiar voice finally said.

John barely prevented himself from shuddering. "Scorpy. Fancy meeting you here," he said and managed to sound derisive and cheerful at the same time. He could almost imagine the smile on the half-breed's lips and this time he did shudder.

"I have been expecting you, John. You are free to land," Scorpius replied.

A feeling of doom and gut-clenching dread befell him and he wished desperately that he'd had more lakka. One more dose would have calmed him down enough to face this nightmare without twitching and letting Scorpius know how damned scared he really was.

***

On the command carrier

John could honestly admit to himself that he had never felt worse than he did right now. Neither Scorpius nor Braca had been there when he arrived, but instead an armed entourage had taken him to this ... common room or whatever the hell it was and instructed him to wait there after disarming him. He hadn't bothered cracking jokes or demanding answers. These goons probably knew nothing anyway and he was just too bloody nervous to make much fun of the situation.

It was very clear to him that the lakka he had taken no more than two arns ago was wearing off and that raised concerns in him that he could not handle. How the hell was he going to pull this off when he was scared out of his mind? His fear would be clearly visible to Scorpius and the more he thought about it, the more nervous he got.

His trip to the shadow depository hadn't been as nerve-wrecking as this. He was glad that he was wearing gloves, because his palms were slick with sweat at this point and his t-shirt was sticking to his back. And all that despite the cooler temperatures of this hunk of junk. To distract himself, he glanced around the common room and decided that it was probably some kind of private lounge for the top-guys on this boat. There were divan-like couches, what appeared to be a bar, and one big-assed landscape window overlooking space.

He walked up to the window and stared out at the stars, extremely tempted to comm the others. But the plan was that he would not let on that the comm badge was open. That way the others could listen along and step in if it became necessary. And he had the distinct feeling that it might come to that.

The sound of the doors parting caused an involuntary straightening of his back. John hesitated while staring into the reflection of the room in the glass pane in front of him, but then turned around. "Sputnik. Long time no see," he said. He had intended to go for a smile and a careless response, but none of it came out right. He was nervous and he sounded the part.

Despite all their differences, he was marginally happy to see her though. She was a semi-friendly face. Her taste in clothes had improved, but not when it came to covering up. She was still dressed in a skimpy, short skirt and hardly present top. Her hair, as orange as he remembered it, hung lose down her shoulders.

"Crichton," she said with a vague smile and stepped closer. A quick glance up at the wall revealed what John had no doubt was everywhere; a surveillance device of some kind. Apparently she was not comfortable, being under constant scrutiny like that. She took another step closer and to his great surprise spread out her arms as if to hug him.

John was confused about her approach, but until he knew more, he might as well just play along, so he pulled her into a bear-hug. "Good to see you, Sikozu," he said.

"What are you doing here?" she hissed into his ear, so low he almost couldn't discern her words. "Have you completely lost your mind?"

He smirked at her question and wondered just the same as he released her again. "Have you become Mrs. Scorpy yet?" he asked, not deigning to answer her hissed questions.

She leaned back and eyed him. "How are the others?" she asked, her tone almost conversational.

"Oh, fine. Where's Scorpius? Is he too busy to see me?" A man could hope, couldn't he? If it hadn't been for those words that Scorpius had said before he had landed, he would have been inclined to believe that the half-Scarran didn't need him any more. But that illusion didn't last long.

"There are a lot of things going on here, Crichton," Sikozu replied cryptically and stepped back. "You should not have come," she whispered.

He managed a crooked grin, then glanced around the room again. "I see you're living in the lap of luxury," he stated and returned his attention to her. He wished desperately that he could stop sweating and calm down. But neither would happen any time soon. "It suits you," he added.

"What is the matter with you? Are you ill?" she asked.

"Nah, just a little under the weather," he replied and wondered if she caught on to what he was saying. She may have learned English faster than anybody's business, but that did not mean that she would be able to understand slang.

Before Sikozu could answer, the doors parted again and Braca strode in, all confident and proud. "Crichton," he said with a badly hidden smirk of his own. "You must be suicidal," he added.

"Ya think?" John asked and snorted. "And why's that? I think Scorpy's gonna be rather happy to see me again. He sounded like it on the phone."

Braca eyed him with the usual distaste. "Having a little respect would gain you much more than this ... behavior of yours," he said.

John couldn't help grinning and wondered if it was as twitchy as it felt. "Aw, you care. I never knew," he cooed.

Sikozu eyed him as if he were insane, which essentially he had to be, considering where he was right now. He forced his thoughts away from that track, knowing very well that he would have a full-fledged panic attack if he allowed himself to think of past events.

Braca opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted by Scorpius stepping into the room. Although the half-breed said nothing, Braca shut up immediately and John found something to hang onto in that. Somehow, it was a relief to know that he was not the only one fearing that ugly son of a bitch.

Scorpius stopped just inside the door and Sikozu instantly put distance between herself and John and managed a rather insecure smile. From that alone, John deducted that Scorpius wasn't as keen on her any more as he had been in the beginning. Braca, who essentially outranked Scorpius at this point, stood at attention like a lowly grunt. The fact alone that those two, who should be closest to Scorpius, feared him and shrank before him like that somehow empowered John in a way he had never thought possible.

The nervousness decreased. He found an extra bit of strength in the situation and sapped it for all it was worth when he hooked his thumbs into his belt, leaned his weight on his right foot and regarded Scorpius with nothing short of distaste.

The half-breed, however, bluntly ignored that. "John," he said, his tone that of a father welcoming his wayward and much loved son home. "I have been expecting you," he added. "I am pleased that you have seen the folly of your ways and have decided to help us rather than oppose us."

John held up a hand, palm out and cleared his throat. "Before you get too carried away, Scorp, I've got a little thing to say," he said. "I didn't come here to play."

Scorpius stared at him, but John could not read him even now. His reaction at present could be either disappointment or anger. It was hard to tell. "Then ... why have you come here?"

His question and his tone both aggravated John beyond compare. The half-Scarran knew exactly why he was here. He could see it in the other's eyes. And yet he had the gall to pretend he didn't. "Make a wild guess," John said quietly and sneered.

"I was under the impression, John, that you'd had a change of heart, that you'd decided to help us in our struggle against the Scarrans. Why else would you come here?" Scorpius countered, obviously genuinely surprised that this wasn't his reason.

John felt the control of the situation slipping away between his fingers. The lakka had stopped working completely. This he knew because he could barely control his emotions on any scale. Mixed into the anger and resentment and fear and nervousness were flashbacks of Aeryn, of what they'd had together, what he had been without for so long, and it nearly tore him apart inside. And that made it hard for him to maintain a grip on how he responded. Fear made him aggressive, and aggression always got him in trouble. "Your carbon-copy doll ran out of juice," he snarled.

Scorpius continued to stare at him, but right now he was not entirely certain what John meant by that comment. It was obvious from the way he frowned. "My what?" he asked.

"I want Aeryn back, you bastard," John pressed out through clenched teeth. He was barely able to remain in one place as sweat sprang out on his brow and his breathing became a little erratic.

Scorpius took a step toward him. "Are you all right, John?" he asked and John nearly laughed out loud at the genuine concern he heard in the freak's voice.

"All right? No, you sick bastard, I'm not all right. You replaced Aeryn with a frelling bioloid, only that frelled-up copy of her ran out of batteries in the middle of everything. I bet you expected her to last longer, didn't you?" His was raising his voice, little by little, and knew that if he didn't stop speaking right now, he would start yelling. So much for playing it cool. Without the lakka, he was screwed. His hands were shivering now and he could only hold them still by balling them into fists.

Scorpius glanced at Braca, who seemed to have no opinion as usual, and then at Sikozu, who was staring back at him with a slight frown. Then he returned his attention to John. "I have no idea what you are talking about, John," he said and spread out his arms in an encompassing gesture.

"DON'T YOU FRELLING LIE TO ME," John roared and had to struggle with himself to not attack that smug bastard right here and now. He knew that if he incited the violence, Scorpius would be much more inclined to give some back. And that was the last thing he wanted. He pointed a shivering finger at the half-breed. "Don't lie to me. I know you're lying. I can tell," he hissed.

Scorpius took another step closer. "John, you are not well. Do you need medical attention?"

John felt like laughing and crying at the same time. This was spiraling out of control so fast, it made his head spin. If he couldn't keep a grip on his feelings, he couldn't do this the hardball way he had planned on. "NO, I DON'T," he yelled, then caught himself and stepped back. "Just stay away from me," he added.

"John, I only want to help," Scorpius said. "If you are not feeling well, we have the best medics on board. You will be up and about in no time."

"I don't need your help. I don't want it," John countered, a little more controlled. "All I want is Aeryn. I know she's here. I know you've got her," he added, struggling with himself to not lose his calm again.

"And how would you know such a thing, John? Is it something you've ... imagined? You think because of our ... history together that I would do such a thing?" Scorpius asked.

"He is right, Crichton. Why would he do that?" Sikozu asked, her tone tentative.

John shook his head and took another step backward. "Don't you start sticking up for him too, Sputnik. He's lying. I know he is. He lied about everything. He's lying about this," he pressed out, his gaze shifting from Sikozu to Scorpius to Braca and back again.

Scorpius eyed him thoughtfully for a moment, then shrugged ever so lightly. "All right. I admit it. I did have a duplicate made. And I brought her to you. Unfortunately, the reproduction of her was a little too good. Her loyalty to you was stronger than her programming," he said, sounding a little annoyed by that. "Does that make you feel better?"

John was both frustrated beyond compare and utterly relieved. He still didn't know if Aeryn was still alive. "NO," he snapped. "No, it doesn't. And you know why?" he asked, his tone shaky. "BECAUSE YOU STILL HAVE HER!"

Scorpius sighed almost dramatically. "There is no need to shout, John. We can work this out like rational adults. You want Aeryn Sun, I want the wormhole technology. You give me the technology, I give you Aeryn Sun. It's as simple as that."

"Simple?" John asked and chuckled helplessly. "You think that's simple?" He brushed all ten fingers through his hair and let out a hiss of air. "No, it's not simple. Because YOU'RE NOT GETTING SQUAT!"

Scorpius' expression did not bode well. He looked displeased, which was the first step in the wrong direction. This was not at all working out the way he'd hoped. Not in the least. Chuckling helplessly, he took a step back and struggled to subdue the dark and dangerous tidal wave of paranoia, fear and hatred rising inside him with renewed force. This time, he feared, he may have gotten in over his head.

***