On Balroc

Captain Tonga made her way to medical while inspecting a few issues along the way. The fact that the Peacekeepers now knew they were in possession of Balroc was not a good thing, but things could have been worse. Crichton could have told Scorpius all he knew, but he hadn't. Despite the obviously imminent breakdown, he had managed to get out of the situation with a little backup and Tonga was relieved that things had turned out all right in the end. But that still did not quell her blistering anger at the man for being such a frellnik.

She strode into medical and stopped short at the sight that met her. Several of her top techs were busy trying to work out how to open the freezer unit that apparently contained Aeryn Sun. She frowned lightly, then glanced toward the first examination table. John Crichton sat on it, wearing a heavy coat, hugging himself and he was shivering and sweating at the same time.

"Crichton, I want a word with you," she said in her sternest tone. Even her techs stopped working briefly with a look of doom on their faces. They quickly returned to what they were doing, though.

Crichton turned his head and looked at her. He looked miserable, and that was putting it mildly. "How long is it gonna take?" he asked, his voice as shaky as he looked, as he nodded toward the unit.

Tonga had to struggle to maintain an angry facade. He looked so terrible, she felt sorry for him. "I don't know," she said and glanced at the freezer unit. "What the frell went wrong over there?" she then added and gave him a dark glare.

He stared at her for a microt, then closed his eyes and dropped his head. "Chiana and D'Argo apparently thought it was time for me to get off the lakka," he said quietly. "They're right, of course. I just wish they'd waited until this was over."

Tonga made a face. "How long have you been taking it?" she asked.

"Too long. That's for damn sure," he replied with a shaky chuckle. "But I'm not taking it any more now. I just have to get over the shakes."

"Which you won't," Tonga said. "You cannot quit lakka like that. It may not be a hallucinogenic drug, but it is a drug and quitting it like that will kill you."

Crichton eyed her. "I'm actually feeling better," he said. "Keep in mind that I'm not Sebacean."

"This has nothing to do with what species you belong to. It's a well-known fact that lakka affects all equally," she explained. "Drugs make no discrepancies between us, and lakka is deadly in the best of cases," she added and waved one of the medics over. "Give him a dose and keep him medicated," she added.

"Hey, wait a minute," he said, raising both hands to ward off the medic, who had already brought an injector to do the job. "You are not sticking me with anything. I don't care what you think it will do to me."

"You may not care, Crichton, but I assume you do want to be around when Sun is defrosted," Tonga replied and folded her arms over her chest. "You will die long before that if you don't accept this injection."

He wavered. She could tell just by the way his gaze kept flicking back and forth between her and the medic. Then he lowered his hands and pressed his lips together into a thin line. "What is it?" he asked and nodded toward the injector.

"Synthetic lakka. It will help you get off the real deal slowly. You will receive injections each day, only once per day, and the dosage will slowly be lowered. You will feel like dren for the length of time it takes your body to adjust to the reduced levels, but in the end, you will be free of the drug and be back to your old self. I assume you would want that?" Tonga eyed him closely for the usual signs of resistance most displayed to being forced into drug-withdrawal programs, but Crichton showed none of them. He merely eyed her in turn.

"Jesus Christ," he whispered, sighed like a doomed man and covered his face with both hands.

"What?" Tonga asked. He didn't strike her as if he was going to refuse the treatment, but he didn't seem keen on it either.

With a helpless little chuckle, he let his hands drop again and stared ahead of himself. "I'm a damn junkie," he nearly whispered and she saw tears forming in his eyes. Whatever a 'junkie' was, it was obviously something he was ashamed of being.

"What ... is a junkie?" she asked.

He blinked, then focused on her. "A drug addict. It's not ... something I ever thought I'd be," he said and sneered helplessly. "Not something I wanna write home about," he added, closed his eyes and shook his head lightly.

"No, I can imagine," she agreed. She understood why he felt bad about it. What she didn't understand was why he'd started taking this dren in the first place. Whoever had introduced him to it, had probably done so to frell with him. And it had worked from what she could tell. "Do you agree to the treatment?" she asked.

"Go ahead," he said and glanced wearily at the injector before the medic pressed it against the side of his neck. He flinched when the man pulled the trigger.

"At first, you will feel better," the medic said. "But after a while, you will crave more lakka, but you will not get it. You have to be strong and resist the temptation."

Crichton nodded. "How long will this program take?" he asked.

"It entirely depends on how well your body adjusts to the withdrawal of it," the medic said and glanced at Tonga, who gave the man a nod and sent him away. "I think it would be best if you stayed with us until you are drug-free. We can monitor your progress and make certain you do not have a relapse," she suggested and hoped he would accept the helping hand she was offering him.

He looked concerned about that suggestion and glanced toward the freezer unit, which her techs had not yet been able to open. "I don't know," he said quietly.

"She will remain here for that time as well," Tonga said, reading the reason for his concern clearly in his expression. "Remember, she has been frozen for almost a cycle. It will take time for her to regain full motor-functions."

"If it is her," Crichton muttered, then returned his attention to Tonga. "Is there any way that you can check if she's ... real?" he asked.

"Real?" she asked. "As opposed to a bioloid?" she added and he nodded. "Yes, of course. We will run a full deep body scan once we have her out of that contraption. If she is not who Scorpius claims she should be ... what would you want us to do?"

He made a face and flexed his shoulders. He was already less pale than he had been before. "Deactivate her. If she's a bioloid, I don't wanna see her."

Tonga frowned a little. "I see the lakka is working," she stated.

He sat up straighter and his expression was far less tortured than it had been only moments before. "Guess it is," he agreed calmly and slipped off the table. "I'm definitely feeling better."

"Good," she said. "Enjoy it. It will probably be the last good few arns you'll have in quite a while," she added and tapped her comm. "Kilnar, I want you in medical right now," she said and tapped the comm off again immediately. "My second-in-command, Jehan Kilnar, will show you to your quarters onboard. They are not far from here."

Crichton nodded. "What about Moya ... and the others?" he asked.

"I have already spoken to them and they have agreed to tag along for now. We are returning to the Core. You will be able to meet with my superiors if you wish. But for your entire stay in the Core, you will remain aboard Balroc or your own leviathan. There is too much risk in letting outsiders, who do not intend to remain with us, stray around our inner sanctum," she explained.

For a moment, he just stood there and stared ahead of himself. Then he glanced at the door when Kilnar entered. "Whatever," he said, glanced at Tonga and followed Kilnar out of medical.

Tonga sighed. "That drug is frelling dangerous," she muttered, then glanced over at her techs. "Double your efforts, people. I have the feeling that the sooner we find out if this is the real Sun, the better Crichton will fare."

The techs nodded in unison and continued working as Tonga left medical as well.

***

John dropped down on the rather spacious bed in his temporary quarters and just sat there for a moment. Everything he'd been through over the past day ran through his mind as a detached movie and he wondered if it would have scared him if he had been able to feel anything at all. It was a rational, analytical thought and he found that either way, he couldn't really be bothered about it.

"Come now, John. Are you really that affected by the lakka to not feel anything?"

He looked up to face the wraith in his head and just stared at him for a moment. "You know what, Harvey," he said and smiled joylessly. "I'm fed up with you. These guys have all the equipment handy that might get rid of you forever. I'm gonna take a shot at getting you out of my head for good. I think Tonga will be more than willing to accommodate me on this one. Especially if I tell her that you're probably in direct contact with Scorpy."

Harvey looked very concerned about that prospect. "But ... John ... I can also act as a warning sign. I can warn you if he gets near. You'd want that, wouldn't you?" he asked.

"I don't give a shit right now. This synthetic lakka is working a hell of a lot better than that natural crap. For a while here, I'm gonna be pretty unmoved by anything you've got to say," John replied and grinned to himself. "Oh yeah, I could get used to this," he added and rose again. Without delay, he tapped the comm now pinned to his coat. "Captain Tonga, I've got a matter of some urgency to talk to you about. Do you have time?"

"Of course. Join me in Command," Tonga replied instantly.

"Be right there," John agreed and shrugged out of the coat, grabbed the badge and pinned it to his t-shirt. Then he glanced at Harvey, who was looking very scared now. "You're history. And this time you're gone for good."

He strode out the door, at the same time focusing all his mental energy on shutting Harvey up and pushing him out of his mind. Being unemotional had its advantages. It was so much easier to deal with your fears when you didn't have any.

***

On Moya

D'Argo was pacing the galley and he was angrier than he'd been in a good long while. "My fault. It's my own fault," he muttered and came to a stop. "I shouldn't have let them take him. I shouldn't have ..." He paused, uncertain about what it was he shouldn't have done. After all, what had happened had seemingly all been John's idea anyway. "Well, that's why it's a bad idea. His plans never work. This almost didn't work."

"You're beginning to sound like that fahrbot Human."

Rygel, who was sitting on his thronesled at the far end, stuffing his face again, seemed adamant about speaking his mind at the moment. D'Argo mostly felt like stuffing him into the nearest garbage chute to shut him up, but refrained from doing so. "Shut the frell up. Nobody is interested in your nuggets of wisdom," he growled and started pacing again.

Chiana watched him wearily and with a good portion of annoyance. She was angry with him for shirking his responsibility and she was right about that. He shouldn't have, but essentially it hadn't been his idea to take the lakka away from John, it had been her idea; her initiative.

Sikozu sat on the other side of the table across from Chiana and watched him with the same weariness. They had all given her a piece of their minds, but naturally, she had taken none of it to heart. She had been as haughty and annoying as ever.

D'Argo stopped briefly and eyed her with a dark expression. "Frelling Kalish," he muttered, his tone of voice low enough that she didn't hear him. But he assumed she got the sentiment just the same.

"I do not think it is a good idea that we leave John and Aeryn with those ex-Peacekeepers," he finally said and came to a full stop at the head of the table. "They may be ex-Peacekeepers, but they used to be Peacekeepers and I do not trust them."

"What is it you do not trust about them?" Sikozu asked. "The fact that they revealed themselves to Scorpius and his command carrier when Crichton once again was in over his head? Or the fact that they have volunteered to help free Sun from that freezer unit?"

"Shut up," D'Argo snapped. "I was not speaking to you. You are not a part of the crew. You are a frelling interloper," he added heatedly.

"At least she doesn't lie," Chiana said and turned her attention to the Kalish. "Although ..." she added and gave Sikozu a dark, angry glare.

"Although what? Why do you not say what is on your mind, Nebari?" Sikozu countered aggressively. "I thought that Crichton was the weak species on this leviathan, but I am beginning to change my mind."

"What the frell is that supposed to mean?" Chiana huffed and rose.

"STOP IT!" D'Argo yelled and everybody settled again. He sighed heavily and balled both hands into fists. "It is at times like these that I wish we had Zhaan back. I do not have the patience to handle your bickering," he growled.

"At this point, even Jool would be a good choice," Chiana said and shook her head. "What the frell is wrong with Tonga and her crew? They've done nothing but help us from the beginning," she added.

"They only agreed to step in when John threatened to expose them to Scorpius, Chiana. That's what's wrong with them," D'Argo countered. "They are too afraid of being found out. What if they decide we're not worth the risk and kill us all? And who's to tell that John and Aeryn aren't dead already?"

"Because Balroc assures Moya that they are not," Pilot interfered in the conversation. "I do not understand why you have such a hard time trusting them. They are no longer Peacekeepers. Exactly like Officer Sun."

D'Argo paused and stared up at the clamshell. Reluctantly, he had to admit that Pilot had a point there. Again, he sighed rather heavily and finally settled down, well away from the others. "All right. I give in. We give them a chance. But I do not like it," he pointed out, stabbing the air with a finger to enhance his opinion.

None of the others deigned to acknowledge him in that, but all returned to their solitary contemplations. The mood on Moya could not have been worse, D'Argo observed. And it was all because of Tonga and her crew.

***

On Balroc

John had explained the situation of the neural clone in his head to Tonga; the bleed and blending of the consciousness that was essentially Scorpius, and the fact that he believed Scorpius had put another chip in his head. All this he had relayed quietly and calmly and was now waiting for her response to it.

Tonga eyed him thoughtfully for a moment. "What exactly is it you are telling me, Crichton?" she asked. "That you have a homing device in your brain?"

"Maybe," he agreed. "I'm not sure, but if it is there, can you guys remove it? And if you can, is there any way of cleaning up the spillage of the neural bleed as well?"

Tonga frowned. "I'd have to say yes on both counts. Unless there is some kind of damage that we are not aware of. You do not appear to be damaged, though," she said.

"So ... is that a yes?" he asked.

"Yes, it is," she agreed. "Get yourself back to medical. I'll inform the medics and they'll take a look at you. If all goes well, you should be done in an arn or so," she added. "Join me for evening meal in the galley?"

John nodded once. "If I feel up to it. The galley is where we talked the first time?" he asked and nodded toward the ceiling.

"Yes. I expect to see you there at the end of the day cycle. We will be back at the Core tomorrow at the beginning of the day cycle and I will probably not have much time to socialize after that," she said with a small nod.

"See you then," he agreed, turned around and strode out of Command and headed back toward medical. It struck him as he walked briskly along that if he'd had the lakka when he'd first encountered Scorpius, he would never have gotten into that mess in the first place. Scorpius would probably still have recognized him as non-Sebacean, but he wouldn't have given himself away with nervousness and fear.

He smiled a little at the thought, then stepped through the doors to medical.

Within a very short time, the medics had done their scan of his brain and had determined, just as he'd expected, that there was another neural tracer chip. The medics did not seem alarmed or concerned by its presences, though.

Medic number one, a big, brawny guy, gave him a scrutinizing look as he lay there, strapped to the examination table. "Removing the chip is not a big deal," he said. "We have retraction tools for that sort of thing. But the neural bleed you say you have is going to be more difficult. You will be out of commission for at least a solarday if we have to clean that up too."

"Fine. Just inform the captain that I won't be having dinner with her tonight then," John replied and sighed. "Let's get on with it. I want that wraith out of my head."

Brawny nodded. "All right," he said and nodded to the second medic, who looked like a delicate willow tree compared to his colleague. "Commence the extraction," he ordered. The little guy nodded, pressed a button on the console next to the examination table and plunged John into unconsciousness.

***