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

Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: Despite the show of force, certain people don't get the point. Peace is not easy to come by for the Moya crew.

On Moya

The stillness of the early day cycle combined with the optimum temperatures and the soft light glancing off copper walls gave the whole scenery a feel of a docile painting; subdued in both scene and color.

He was half-awake, on the border between sleep and the real world, and he lingered there, letting the tranquility of the room, of the whole ship even, wash over him and take away any tension. For the first time in a very long time he felt good about things; he felt at peace and he had not realized how much he had missed that feeling until now.


He stirred, shifted a little and sighed.


Aeryn's tone was a tad agitated and it started to drag him away from the borderline toward full awareness; a state he did not relish being in right now. For a moment longer, he tried to ignore the insistent call for his attention.

"Crichton! Get the frell up here!"

She only reverted to calling him by his last name if he wasn't paying attention. With a light sigh, he pushed up on his elbows and blinked blearily ahead of himself. "What?" he finally managed, then cleared his throat and made a face at the taste in his mouth.

"Get up to Command," Aeryn's voice sounded from the tiny speaker of his comm, which was still pinned to his t-shirt bundled up on the floor next to the bed.

He rolled over on his back and sat up, then swung his legs over the edge of the bed and planted his feet on the floor. "What's going on?" Something had upset his lovely bride and it would seem that he was at the receiving end of her anger.

"You have to see for yourself," Aeryn replied, her tone a little less agitated but no less urgent.

"All right. I'm coming," he agreed, grabbed his pants and pulled them on while getting up and grabbing his t-shirt in the process. He would forego his boots right now because he was still half-asleep and couldn't be bothered to tie them. Instead, he ruffled his hair, then smoothed it back against his skull and started out the door. He very much felt like going back to bed, back to that moment of blissful ignorance that marked the borderline between sleep and wakefulness, but there was no denying Aeryn when she used that tone. If he didn't get up, she would come down here and drag him out of bed. He preferred to wake up on his own terms.

On the way to command, he stopped by the Center Chamber to get a cup of what passed for coffee at this end of the universe and then lengthened his stride to make up for lost time.

Aeryn was there with Little D sitting on her hip in the makeshift sling she had created and he realized instantly that what he had mistaken for agitation was more concern than anything else. She stood at the event table, one arm under Little D's butt to support him.

John smiled vaguely at the image and found himself wondering how she would fare on Earth. It wasn't the first time that thought had crossed his mind, but he knew what the answer was and he always discarded the idea again. Aeryn would hate Earth. She would hate any planet. She was space-borne, used to moving from place to place. The last thing he wanted to do was tie her down on some planet and know she would be miserable every day.

"What's so important that you have to drag me out of bed at this ungodly hour?" he asked, pecked her on the cheek and turned his attention toward Chiana, who was standing on the other side of the event table. The fact that Chiana was out of bed at this time of the day was cause for concern.

Rygel was there too, on his thronesled, muttering about fekfaces and stupid ideas.

John ignored him and returned his attention to Aeryn. "What's going on?" He could not deny the worry that was creeping up his spine like a long-legged spider.

"See for yourself," Aeryn countered, waved a hand over the control and nodded toward the table.

John turned his attention in that direction as well and stopped short when a holographic rendition of Scorpius appeared over the table. It sent a shiver up his spine, shaking off the imaginary spider and replacing it with a hissing snake. Regardless of his bravado and attempts to seem indifferent toward the half-breed, there was nobody in this galaxy that scared him more. Scorpius was volatile. You could never count on his reaction. At the same time, he was also suave and ice cold.

"John," the hologram said. "I realize that I may be the last person you wish to see right now," he added and smiled almost overbearingly as if they were sharing a private joke. "But the situation has become such that I find myself rather pressed for your help."

"My help?" John muttered with some concern. Why would Scorpius need his help for anything?

"Commandant Grazya's zeal for power is getting out of hand. She is jeopardizing the fragile balance achieved by the truce established between Scarrans and Sebaceans and if she is not stopped, she may very well be the cause of an all-consuming war. I cannot talk to her, nor can anyone else. What we need right now is a non-Peacekeeper's word for what she is capable of. I suggest that we meet, face-to-face, at these coordinates," a set of coordinates appeared at the foot of the hologram, "in two solardays from the activation of this message. I do hope you will meet me there, John. This very serious situation will also affect you and your friends if it goes wrong. I believe the good Commandant has still not been able to forgive your ... uhm ... transgressions against her." The hologram flickered and John briefly glanced at Aeryn, who was watching him with a frown. "If Commandant Grayza were to gain more power, your continued freedom would most definitely be in jeopardy. I am not only suggesting we meet to benefit the Peacekeepers, John. Keep that in mind."

With that, the hologram switched off, but for a moment longer John just stared at the space where it had been.

"Transgressions?" Aeryn asked.

He pursed his lips and briefly closed his eyes, then leaned forward a bit to support his weight against the edge of the table with both hands. The last thing he wanted was to see Scorpius again. He didn't trust that double-crossing s.o.b. further than he could throw him, which was about nil.

"What transgressions?" Aeryn pressed.

He glanced at her again well aware that she knew nothing of what Grayza had done to him. Chiana shifted audibly on the other side of the table and John wondered if she would spill the beans because she thought it might make Aeryn feel sorry for him. He hoped against hope that she would keep her trap shut. This was something he wanted to share with his wife.

"John?" Aeryn insisted. "What the frell was that all about?"

"I don't know," he lied. In part, it was a lie and in part, he had no clue what Scorpius was on about. Why would Grayza suddenly be more dangerous than she had been before? "It seems like Commandant Cleavage may be taking a stab at becoming head honcho."

He straightened up again and avoided looking Aeryn in the eye.

"I say forget about this," Rygel inserted. "What do we care about his trouble? For all we know, he's just trying to lure us into a trap."

"Grayza has the potential to become very powerful, Guido," John corrected him. "And, whether I like Scorpy or not, he has a point. It's dangerous. She's power hungry and she's used to getting her way."

"The High Council would never accept her as leader," Aeryn injected.

John eyed the empty table as if it would reveal secrets that Scorpius was hiding, and then glanced at her. "Are you so sure? What if she finds a way to dissolve the Council?"

"That's impossible," Aeryn countered, her tone more than anything telling him that she believed that firmly. "No one person can lead the Peacekeepers. There has to be a Council."

"It's happened before," John claimed.

"It may have happened on Earth, John, but it will not happen here," Aeryn said and stepped closer.

He pursed his lips, uncertain of the wisdom of her words, but then he sighed. There was no point in discussing this. He had no idea what was possible or not out here and she sounded damned sure that Grayza couldn't get where she wanted to go without the approval of the High Council. "Okay, so how would she go about it?"

"She has most likely applied for the position of High Chancellor, proclaiming her right because of her involvement in the signing of the peace treaty," Aeryn said and shifted little D a bit. The boy stuck his thumb in his mouth and stared intently into space without making a sound.

"And what are her chances of getting their approval?" John asked, then pushed away from the event table and started pacing.

"Depending on her support in the High Council, I would say not good. Until we met her on Scorpius' command carrier that first time, I had never heard of her before. If she was a candidate for that position, everybody would know about her."

Her logic was flawed and he hated to have to point it out to her. "Yeah, honey, but consider that you had been away from the Peacekeepers for three cycles by that time. She could have come into favor during that time, couldn't she?"

"Unlikely." Whether she was just being stubborn or knew this was beyond him, but she sounded very sure.

"Unlikely doesn't mean no," he countered. "What you're saying is that there is a small chance for that and, call me pessimistic here, but a small chance speaks volumes out here." He stopped in front of her and eyed her thoughtfully for a moment. "If there is even the hint of a chance that Grazya may win the throne here, Aeryn, we're all in deep dren."

"Speak for yourself, Crichton," Rygel snorted. "We did not transgress against her."

John sneered, wishing he could shut the little toad up before he waded in too deep, but Aeryn's expression told him without a doubt that she was catching on. She knew something had happened and she was like a dog with a bone when she wanted to find out what was going on. "Shut up, Ryg," he snapped and started pacing again; mostly to avoid looking Aeryn in the eye right now.

"What did you do to Grayza that would make her hold it against you?" she asked in a quiet tone of voice. "Apart from former transgressions against the Peacekeepers, of course."

"Nothing," he growled and stopped dead to gnaw aimlessly at the ball of his right thumb.

Aeryn hauled little D out of his sling and handed the boy over to Chiana, who looked like she was about to burst with indecision, then strode over to him and  got right up in his face. "What the frell is going on?" she demanded, stressing each word.

John met her eyes and found it impossible to let her know what had happened. If Rygel had kept his trap shut about this, Aeryn would have let it slide. Nevertheless, the look in her eyes told him without a doubt that she was going to wear him down to a damned knob before she would stop pushing now.

"You have your secrets, I have mine," John countered. He knew it wasn't fair, knew he shouldn't reopen and rub salt in this wound, but he had to make her stop pushing. He wasn't ready to talk about Grayza's assault because it still made him feel sick to his stomach to know that this pale-assed bitch so easily could make him fall on his damned knees before her.

Aeryn's expression remained unchanged, but the fire in her eyes died. She took a step back, then broke eye contact, grabbed her son and marched out of Command without another word.

"Thanks a lot, Guido," John growled.

"If you had been truthful with her from the beginning, this would not be an issue now," Rygel countered, huffed indignantly and zipped out of Command too before John could come up with an appropriate reply.

"He's got a point, Crichton," Chiana tried.

"Don't you start too," John snapped, waving a finger at her. "There are things ... I don't want to talk about. It doesn't make any difference now anyway and I don't want to dredge this up right now, okay?"

"If it doesn't make a difference, you could have told her," Chiana said quietly.

"Shut up, Pip, okay? I'm not in the mood for this," he snarled, well aware that he had no right to take his present anger and embarrassment out on her.

Chiana, true to herself, chuckled. Sometimes he really got the feeling that she thrived on strife. "I don't think she'll forgive you easily for that comment anyway. That was really stupid."

He sighed heavily and scrubbed both hands over his face in sheer frustration. "Great," he growled. "And things were just going so well."

"Just tell her," Chiana advised. "She's not going to judge you. Besides, she may know what Grayza can do. And Hepple glands ... frell, that's heavy stuff."

"Chiana, I meant it when I said I didn't want to talk about it, okay? It's really not a pleasant thought all around." Reasoning with her usually didn't help, but he had to try anyway.

For a moment, she just stood there and eyed him, then she smiled, but there was nothing malicious about that smile. "I know," she said quietly and then rushed out of Command, giving him no chance to respond.

John just remained in Command and stared at the door, wondering what she had meant while trying not to think too much about Scorpius' message.


Chiana searched for and found Aeryn where she had expected to find her; in the landing bay where her prowler was sitting. Not that Aeryn was doing any work on it. She seemed to have lost interest in it since she had become a mother.

"Want me to take the narl?" she asked and eased closer.

Aeryn was leaning against the worktable while watching the prowler with a dark frown. As usual, her son had no comment and was just staring ahead of himself, just like he always did when his mother was angry. Granted, it didn't happen that often anymore, but it did happen.

Without a word, she handed the boy over and then gave Chiana the sling as well. Chiana positioned the boy on her hip, readjusted the sling and then cocked her head to the right while watching Aeryn intently. "You do know that Grayza has a Hepple gland, don't you?"

For a moment, Aeryn just stood there, arms crossed over her chest, eyes on her prowler, and then she glanced at Chiana. "She does?"

Chiana nodded. "Yeah. And she used it on Crichton," she added, and then shrugged as if it meant nothing. "Just thought you should know."

If she had expected understanding from Aeryn, it wasn't forthcoming. Instead, Aeryn's expression changed from annoyed to blistering angry. "Where is John?" she pressed.

"Still in Command, I think," Chiana countered, suddenly afraid of what she might have started here. "But he couldn't help it. You know that. You know about Hepple glands, don't you?"

Aeryn pushed away from the worktable. "Yes, I do," she growled and strode out.

"Frell," Chiana whispered and turned her attention to little D. "I thought she would understand."

Little D eyed her for a moment, pursed his lips around his thumb and then glanced off into the distance again, disassociating himself from his surroundings.

"You're a frelling weird narl, you know that?" she whispered and ruffled his hair.


She was angry. She couldn't deny that. Not so much because of what Chiana had just told her, but more because John hadn't been the one to tell her. Furthermore, she was blistering mad at Grayza and her abusive ways.

John was still in Command, standing by the front viewport where he was watching the stars, his back to the door. Hence, he didn't hear her come in and that suited her just fine. That meant he couldn't run away until she'd had her say.

"What the frell did she do to you?" she demanded, incapable of keeping the anger out of her voice.

He tensed, and then pulled his shoulders up a little before turning around. "What are you talking about?" he asked, but his eyes told her he knew.

"Grayza, you drannit. What the frell did she do to you?" she demanded, not in the mood for any avoidance on the topic right now.

He blushed, a reaction she had come to associate with both anger and embarrassment in him in the cycles she had known him and she couldn't immediately determine which it was right now; not that it mattered.

"Who told you? Rygel?" he pressed out and folded his arms over his chest. Instead of the usual dismissive stance he had learned to master so well, he hugged himself and seemed to slump a little.

"No, Chiana. But that's beside the point. You should have told me," she countered angrily.

"Told you what? That I was raped?" The embarrassment changed to anger in a split microt. "You really think I feel comfortable talking about that?"

That word stopped her dead in her tracks. She had suspected foul play, had assumed that Grayza had used her Hepple gland to make him do something he didn't want to do, but this was not what she had expected. "What?" She could barely more than whisper the word.

He realized she hadn't known exactly what had happened and that changed the anger back into embarrassment. "Forget it. It's ancient history," he tried and turned his back on her, obviously extremely uncomfortable with this topic.

"No, I won't forget it," she countered forcefully, but without the anger now. "She raped you?"

"Aeryn, leave it alone. I don't want talk about it," he pressed out, tense as a bow.

She stepped up behind him and slipped her hands onto his shoulders, sensing the tenseness there, understanding his attitude so much better now. "It explains a lot, though," she said quietly. "I'm sorry, John. I didn't know."

"Not your fault," he muttered, stubbornly keeping his back turned. "Just leave it alone, okay? I don't want to talk about it."

She leaned her brow against his back and closed her eyes, still holding onto his shoulders. 'That doesn't mean I will leave that frelling tralk alone if I ever see her again,' she thought angrily, then drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Talk about what?" she finally asked. "It's ancient history, after all."

He sighed, a slow release of breath that mimicked her own, and she knew he had been tense about how she would take this. That had probably also been the reason for that he hadn't told her about it. "Yeah," he nearly whispered.

"So, what do you want to do about Scorpius' plea for help?" she asked after a moment.

He turned around to face her and she thought she knew what came next. With his track record, it was obvious what he would do. "I don't know yet," he admitted, his tone full of reluctance. "I have a bad feeling about it. Why the hell would Scorpy need my help? He can sell sand in a desert when he puts his mind to it. He doesn't need me to persuade anyone."

"Then again," Aeryn countered, well aware that it was coming.

He nodded. "Then again ..." He paused, a faraway look in his eyes. "What if he's right? What if I can help and if I don't go, she gains complete power and throws the whole galaxy into a devastating war?" He shook his head and pulled her into a hug. "I don't think I could live with that."

Aeryn pushed back and grabbed his face with both hands, forcing him to focus on her. "Either way, it would not be your fault. It is not your doing if Grayza breaks the truce and overthrows the High Council ... which I still believe is impossible."

"Might not be my fault," John consented and grabbed her wrists, "but if there's something I can do, I should do it."

"John, look at me," she insisted. "And listen! You have done all you can. Any further contact with the Peacekeepers can only deteriorate our situation and I will not have Little D jeopardized because of this. Do you hear me?"

He pulled her hands away from his face and held onto them. "If I don't do this, he may be in even more danger than if I do this. Think about it. If Grayza becomes all-powerful, I'm basically screwed. She'll hunt me from here until the end of the universe. I left her in a bad situation. I made her look bad. Granted, I figured I had every right to do so at the time, but she seems to hold a grudge for longer than anyone I've ever known and I know she would take it out on you and the kid if she could. I didn't bow to her will in the end. I undermined everything she was trying to do. She was deposed because of me. I don't really see this as ending well, so if I can stop her before she takes control ... or help stop her at least, I have to do that. Not for myself, but for you and Little D and Pip and even Guido. She's a vengeful bitch, Aeryn, and if she gets in a position where she can do whatever she wants ..."

Aeryn stopped him by pressing her fingers onto his lips. "I understand," she said. She hated to give in to this. Like him, she had a bad feeling about it, but it seemed this could only deteriorate if they stepped back and did nothing. "So, what do you suggest we do?"

"We do nothing," he countered, released her and walked over to the bench by the front viewport, where he settled down with a light sigh. "I go meet Scorpy to find out what he's got planned. You stay here with the rest and keep the kid safe."

"Not an option," she disagreed, strode over to him and hunkered down in front of him. "We both go, but Little D stays here with Chiana and Rygel, well out of the way."

"Not gonna happen," he said with a light shake of the head. "I'm not risking you on this and our plans always go badly."

"Even more reason for me to come," she said sternly. "And there will be no discussing it."

"Aeryn," he tried, but again she stopped him by pressing her fingers onto his lips.

"I said no," she stated calmly, then rose, turned around and walked out on him.

He just sat there and watched her leave while mourning that the two months of tranquility and family time were over. There was little doubt in his mind that this meeting with Scorpius could go horribly wrong and he hated the fact that Aeryn wanted to come along, but he also felt a little better about it too. She was tough and she was a lot less moral than he was. She would kick the hell out of anyone who tried to hurt him. That thought brought a vague smile to his lips, but it didn't linger. "This is my mess. I have to clean it up," he muttered, propped his elbows on his knees and covered his face with his hands. Whatever came next, there was always the potential for disaster.


Aeryn disliked the thought of having to have anything to do with Scorpius or any of the Peacekeepers again, but she also knew that John would find it exceptionally hard to let this one go. She wanted nothing more than to tell him no, they weren't going and that was final, but he would beat himself up about this for the rest of eternity and she did not want him to do that. If that meant jeopardizing themselves by meeting Scorpius, then so be it. However, there was something she had to do before they would even consider this step; or rather before she would. "Chiana." She stepped into the girl's quarters, uninvited.

As was common for her, Chiana did not care about her intrusion. She was sitting on her bed, a few items scattered across the surface, with Little D sitting in front of her, and she smiled vaguely when she looked up to meet Aeryn's eyes.

"We need to talk," Aeryn said and eased down on the edge of the bed.

"He wants to go meet Scorpius, doesn't he?" Chiana countered.

Little D picked up one of the items and immediately tried to stuff the whole thing into his mouth. Aeryn watched her son for a microt while she wondered if Human children had a habit of wanting to eat everything they found, and then looked up again to meet Chiana's eyes. "Yes," she agreed.

"And you're going with him, aren't you?" Chiana continued.

"How can I not? If I let him go alone, he will end up dead or worse," Aeryn said and sighed. She pulled the item out of her son's mouth and realized the futility in her action when he picked up the next thing in line and stuffed that into his mouth as well. "I have a bad feeling about this," she added after a moment and grabbed Chiana's hand. "I need you to promise me that you will not try to free us if things go wrong." She paused, and then smiled almost self-consciously. "What am I saying? When things go wrong, because they will go wrong. John thinks he can help Scorpius. I know he can't. But he will not listen and there is nothing to be gained by trying to talk him out of this."

Chiana nodded. "I know. He's such a drannit when it comes to things like this," she said and ruffled Little D's hair affectionately with her free hand. "What do you think will happen?"

Aeryn just sat there for a moment, holding Chiana's hand while watching her son play with the harmless items Chiana kept finding for him, and then looked up to meet her eyes again. "I don't know, but there is a good chance that this time things will really go wrong. And that is why I need you to promise me to take care of our son – if the worst happens."

"Of course. That goes without saying. I'll raise him like he were my own," Chiana countered, not missing a beat, then tightened her grip on Aeryn's hand. "Maybe it would be better to just knock Crichton out until the two days have passed and we're far away?"

Aeryn smiled at that, a rueful smile, but then she shook her head. "No, he has to do this and I have to let him. But I will not let him go alone. He's too likely to get into trouble on his own. And I think ... I think our luck has run out."

"Then don't go. Frell, tie him down if you have to. But don't go. Stay here. I don't want to raise this narl on my own, Aeryn. I will if I have to, but I don't want to. I don't want to lose any more family. I've lost enough," Chiana countered, her tone very emotional.

Aeryn released her hand and instead cupped hers against Chiana's cheek. "I know. And I will do my best to make sure we come back, Chiana, but this ... is important. I want to know that my son will be well taken care of, that he won't end up following in my footsteps as a Peacekeeper. If the worst happens, I want you to promise me that you will get him as far away from the Peacekeepers as you can. Take him to Hyneria. Frell, take him to Earth if you can find a way. But don't let them get a hold of him. And don't let Scorpius anywhere near him."

Chiana nodded and leaned into her touch. "I won't. I'll keep him safe. I promise," she said quietly.

"Thank you," Aeryn said, picked up her son and rose. "I thought you were a flake once, Chiana. I've misjudged you. There is no one in this galaxy I would rather have looking after my child than you."

She didn't miss the blushing smile that slipped over the girl's lips as she turned to leave and it made her feel good inside that she could add to Chiana's sense of self-worth.

Worried about the future, Aeryn returned to Command with Little D in her arms. Whether John wanted to or not, he was going to spend most of his time awake with her and his son for the next two days. She would make sure that the boy had as many positive impressions and memories of his parents as possible – because in her heart she didn't believe they would walk away from this one unscathed.


Over the next day, John spent more time with his son than ever before, but his mind was miles away. He found it hard to focus on the activities Aeryn kept pushing him into; not because he didn't care, but because he was constantly weighing the pros and cons of this insanity he was heading into. The thing that bothered him most about this wasn't, as one might suspect, that he might end up dead at the end of this deal. No, it was that Aeryn was tagging along. He knew he needed her backup that she knew the Peacekeepers far better than he ever would, but it was already beginning to tear him apart that she might get hurt in the process.

He was sitting on the floor of the Center Chamber while Little D was desperately trying to stand by grabbing handfuls of his father's t-shirt and trying to pull himself up. John paid enough attention to prevent any serious mishaps from happening to the boy, should he loose his grip, but he just couldn't be engaged in his activities right now.

Aeryn was sitting on the bench next to him, watching them both. "If it bothers you that much ..." she tried, but trailed off.

"We've been over this, Aeryn," John countered and managed a half-smirk when Little D finally managed to pull himself up and stood unsteadily for a moment before he sat back down with a bump.


"Yes, and we will keep going over it until I'm satisfied. If we do this and it goes wrong ... which is very likely ... then I want to be sure that you really feel that there is no other choice. I do not want to hear you whining about the wrongness of your decision if we walk into a trap," she countered.

She had very little compassion for this now and he understood her point very well. "Okay, let's say we don't go. Let's say we stay away and Scorpy realizes we're not coming and goes about his business. What happens if Grayza gains complete control? She's power hungry. She wants more. She thinks she can woo the universe with that Hepple gland of hers and she seems to have made it her goal in life to do just that. Then what? The Peacekeepers don't exactly have the best reputation among their neighbors as it is. If Grayza gets to call all the shots, this place is going to go up in flames. Millions of people will die." He paused and sighed, hoping desperately that Little D wouldn't remember this conversation. This wasn't exactly something they should be talking about with kids around. But there was too little time left as it were and he wanted to spend as much of it as he could with his son.

"I realize that you think this is all your fault, John, but – believe it or not – it's not your fault. This situation was on the verge of boiling over long before you came out here. Do you really think that all this insanity has happened over the last four cycles?" Aeryn countered.

"If I hadn't turned up, Crais' brother wouldn't have died and Crais wouldn't have become obsessed with hunting me down. That PK bastard back then wouldn't have wounded you because you wouldn't have been on Moya in the first place. So Scorpy would never have known about me and my wormhole tech, which I wouldn't have had because I wouldn't have come through that damned wormhole in the first place and hence wouldn't have met the Anicents. Whatever was brewing out here before has escalated since I arrived," he shot back.

Little D, who had been fiddling with the seam on his pants, looked up at him with a slight frown, then stuck his thumb in his mouth and stared into space, something he did every time either of them were upset.

"You're fahrbot," Aeryn growled. "Maybe the course of events would have been different, yes, but then maybe the Scarrans would have invaded us and wiped out the entire Sebacean race instead. I do think that your presence here has actually put a lid on things rather than stirred them up."

"That's why I have to go meet Scorpius. And that's why I don't want you there," he countered, hoping against hope she would relent and stay with their son.

"We have discussed this and there is nothing further to say on this topic. I am coming with you, because without me you will end up dead or worse," she said in that no-nonsense tone of voice he knew so well.

"Thanks for that vote of confidence," he grumbled, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

Aeryn eyed him for a moment and he had the distinct impression that she would have slapped him if Little D hadn't been there. "This has nothing to do with my confidence in you, John," she finally said and there was a definite hard edge to her voice. "Look at your track record. When was the last time that any of your plans worked out?"

"Alright already," he sighed. "I get the point. I'm disaster prone or whatever the hell this is. But my intentions are good." He knew he was trying to defend his need to be responsible, but even to him it was beginning to sound fake.

"Your father said something to me when we were on Earth that made little sense at the time. But I'm beginning to understand what he meant now." She narrowed her eyes a little. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

John snorted and picked Little D up, helping the boy stand. "That sounds just like something he would say, yeah," he agreed.

"It doesn't matter that your intentions are good, John. Throwing yourself wholeheartedly in harm's way is not going to help anyone. What will it benefit those millions you talk about if you die or have your brain melted by Scorpius' chair? How will that help them?" She slipped off the bench and joined them on the floor. "Think about it for a microt. If you stay alive and out of harm's way, you can do so much more. Don't let Scorpius lure you into another trap just because he knows how to appeal to your bad conscience, John."

He frowned lightly, halfway admitting that she had a point, but there was that other part of him that still believed in the good in others. He drew in a deep breath and held it for a moment, then slowly exhaled. "I think ..." he started, then paused and considered his words carefully. Then he looked up to meet her eyes. "I think Scorpy has changed. Or, maybe, he's always been this way. I think he's genuinely concerned about what Grayza will do."

Aeryn closed her eyes briefly, then shook her head and met his gaze dead on. "Then I say you're a fool. The only one that matters to Scorpius is Scorpius. He has proven that abundantly. He will stick to a deal only as long as it benefits him. I know I stuck up for him when he brought me back to Moya, but that was only because I failed to see his reason for helping me." She pursed her lips and focused on her son for a moment. "Granted, if he had not helped me, I would have died. But he is an opportunist. And he will do what benefits him first."

She had a point and he knew it. But it didn't change anything. "That doesn't change the fact that he may be right about Grayza and that I may be able to help in some way."

"What way?" Aeryn pulled Little D out of his grasp and onto her lap. The boy immediately started fiddling with her long black braid, which was dangling over one shoulder. "You don't have the wormhole technology any more. What could you possibly have to offer Scorpius at this point?"

"I don't know," he confessed reluctantly. "I've been trying to figure that out. But why else would he contact me? Why would he bother luring me into a trap? He knows I don't have it any more. And I really can't see him working willingly for Grayza."

Aeryn shook her head. "When we reach the rendezvous point, I will go with you. Little D will stay here with Chiana and I will tell Pilot and Moya to get as far away from here as possible. We will agree on a pickup point. If we're not there at the agreed-upon time, they should get the frell away from the Uncharted Territories."

That said, she rose with Little D in her arms and walked out on him.

John remained on the floor and fiddled with an abandoned toy for a moment. Then he glanced over at one of the view ports. He felt he had to carry through with this, no matter what Aeryn might think of it. He needed to give Scorpius the benefit of the doubt, because he was afraid of losing what little faith he had left in others. He didn't want to end up being a paranoid recluse who avoided everyone just to stay safe and he knew without the shadow of a doubt that he would be heading in that direction if he didn't do this.


The Rendevous Point

There was a sense of trepidation in the air, a sense of foreboding that hung like a sour taste on the light breeze wafting over the landing field of Orias Minor.

The world itself was arid, desert-like land with little to no moisture and a steely grey smog that covered the sky at all times. The air was a bit acidic and nobody lived on this world. It was used as a way stop for freighters on long hauls across the Uncharted Territories and there was absolutely nothing to see there apart from the makeshift rest-stop building put up next to a pipe rising out of the ground, which gave access to the only water Orias Minor had to offer.

But it was not the rest stop itself or its limited water supply that had brought this latest group of wayward travelers to this world.

There was a standoff taking place between the two groups, one vastly outnumbering the other, and nobody was as yet willing to take the first step that might break the stalemate.

John had seen this one coming, had known from the get-go that this could turn sour, but a small part of him had hoped that Scorpius had changed. He glanced from one side to the other, trying to keep the whole platoon of Peacekeepers in his sight while Scorpius stood a few feet away and watched him, obviously waiting for his reaction to this obvious setup.

Hoping against hope that he was misinterpreting the situation, John finally focused on Scorpius. "Here I am," he said, his tone of voice much steadier than he felt.

Scorpius' expression remained immobile and it gave John cause for concern. "Yes, so I see," the half-breed agreed.

Again, John glanced around, fighting a losing battle against his own fears and insecurities. "Why the show of force?" It was probably a stupid question. Essentially, he figured, they shouldn't have landed in the first place. Essentially, they should have just stayed the hell away from this from the beginning.

"A ... precaution," Scorpius replied and smiled almost apologetically. "As you have probably guessed by now, I am not in need of your help, John."

John took a hesitant step backwards only to have the troops around him close in, thereby effectively blocking off the path back to Aeryn's prowler. A quick glance backward told him that Aeryn too was blocked off and that raised a feeling of anger and fear in him. "Then why the hell did you want to meet with me?" he countered and returned his attention to Scorpius.

The acidic air tasted bitter and the lukewarm breeze left a sickening feeling in his guts. Scorpius eyed him for a moment, studying him, and then sneered. "I would have assumed that you would be able to guess that, John. How disappointing," he said. "I did not, per se, want to meet with you. I apologize for the underhandedness of this situation, but there was really no other option. For the biggest part, this was Commandant Grayza's idea and I must admit that she was right in her assumption that you would go out of your way to stop her from gaining more power. Clever woman. Deadly and clever."

John knew where this was going, but some part of him needed the verbal confirmation before he could act. "What the hell are you saying, Scorp?"

Scorpius snorted, a half amused sound, and John knew his time had run out. This had gone to hell long before he'd even set foot on this wretched world. "That should be painfully obvious by now, John. I am placing you under arrest for atrocities committed against the Peacekeeper regime and the Sebacean people," Scorpius said calmly.

Before John could respond to that, his arms were grabbed and he was disarmed within a split second. In essence, he wasn't so sure he would have been able to respond in any manner anyway. He felt cold, frozen, while all his darkest fears came true. There was a shuffle behind him and a quick glance back showed him that Aeryn had at least tried to put up a fight. But the numbers against them were unsurmountable and she was quickly subdued.

With a throat as dry as the land around him, he returned his attention to that backstabbing s.o.b. again. "You set me up," he pressed out through clenched teeth.

"There comes a time, John, when we all have to pay for the crimes we have committed and you have committed quite a few," Scorpius stated and took a step closer. "Also, Commandant Grayza stands a much better chance at achieving her goals if she can prove that you are out of our hair, so to speak. It helps to verify the superiority of the Peacekeepers as a whole and it states an example to the Scarrans so ready to invade us despite the treaty," he added and took another few steps closer. "I am sorry, John. If it were up to me, I would have left you alone. But I am not in charge. And I gain nothing by opposing the Commandant. My work is too important and my role too precarious. In a regime dominated by xenophobia, I balance on a knife's edge. I have to maintain my allegiances, no matter how much I may dislike them."

"You bastard," John growled. If it hadn't been for the hands holding him back, he would have lunged at Scorpius. Not that he stood much of a chance there. Scorpius was far stronger than him and could easily deflect any attack. "You son of a bitch!" he spat.

With a shake of the head, Scorpius turned around and started back toward the marauder waiting for them.

"At least let Aeryn go," John called after him.

"I'm afraid that's impossible. She has been charged with treason against her own people," Scorpius countered, paused a moment and glanced back at John. "And, I do believe that Captain Crais deemed her irreversibly contaminated a little over four cycles ago. I cannot stand in the way of justice, John," he added and then disappeared within the marauder.

John fought the soldiers every step of the way, but no amount of effort he put into it made a damned difference and both he and Aeryn were escorted into the marauder.


On the marauder

Aeryn was angry. Not so much because this had turned bad, their plans always did and she had expected this turn of events. She was angry because Scorpius had abused John's trust. But she knew the rules of engagement, knew how Peacekeepers worked, and it was in the spirit of self-preservation that Scorpius had set John up. There was no doubt in her mind. But, whatever Scorpius' reasons were for doing this, it would never make up for the betrayal.

John hit the floor of the cell they were placed in because he fought the guards and they were rough with him. She was merely pushed in before the door was closed.

He pushed himself up and went for the door, obviously intending to attack it out of sheer frustration, and since Aeryn saw no real benefit in such a display, she grabbed him and pushed him back. "No," she pressed, struggling against him for a moment. "Stop it, John. It serves no purpose."

"He set me up," he snarled hatefully, but she knew his anger was mixed with a good portion of fear and fear made people do stupid things.

"Yes, I know he did," she assured him, still holding him back. "The more violent you become the more rough they will be. So stop it. I need you to focus. We've escaped worse situations than this."

He stopped fighting her and focused on her instead. "I'm sorry, Aeryn. I should have listened to you."

She sighed and released him. "That's in the past. Forget about that now. We have to find a way to get out of here. Once we're on the carrier, it's too late," she said, then suddenly frowned when she picked up an odd smell. She glanced around the cell, and then looked upward to the ceiling. Realizing what she smelled made her feel cold all over. "Sleep gas," she muttered and before she could do more than that, the effects of the gas hit them both.


Scorpius eyed the monitor showing the cell for a moment, then turned back to the cockpit of the marauder. "They're subdued. Let us return to the carrier. They will not cause any trouble now," he stated, sent another brief look back at the monitor and then settled himself easily into his seat.

Time and time again, it surprised him how he had little to no feelings when he turned his back on former allies. John Crichton was one of the most intriguing species he had ever met, for sure, but that did not mean he would lay down his life for the man. And Commandant Grayza had made it abundantly clear what would happen to him if he disobeyed her orders. She was in a position to make orders at the moment, and seemed to be convinced that handing the High Council Crichton combined with being the mother of the late High Chancellor's child would put her in his seat. Whether this would happen had yet to be determined. It depended entirely on the High Council's mood and whims, but Scorpius believed it was better to be safe than sorry, so for now he would do her bidding and obey her orders without question.

If she fell from grace, he would most likely release John, but he feared he would not be in a position to make that decision, no matter how Grayza fared. Then there was that nagging little doubt in the back of his head, the one that spurred him on in regards to this quest.


On Moya

Moya's long-range sensors were strong enough to pick up on the events taking place around Orias Minor. Chiana was anxiously watching for the sole prowler to head back their way when the marauder returned to the waiting command carrier, but there was no sign of the smaller ship, just the swarm of Peacekeeper prowlers accompanying the marauder.

"Dren," she whispered, not wanting to believe that Aeryn's predictions might have come true.

The command carrier turned and left, lumbering its way out of the sector, while Chiana stood in Pilot's den and watched the display anxiously.

"Why are we still here?" Rygel huffed as he zipped in through the doorway to Pilot's den. "It is obvious that those fekkiks have been caught. And I do seem to recall Aeryn saying that if they were caught, we should get the frell out of here. So what are we waiting for?"

"Shut up, slug," Chiana snapped. "We're not leaving them ..." She stopped short, a dark look in her eyes. "Where the frell is the narl?"

"In a container in the closest cargo bay," Rygel replied and was instantly rewarded by the distant crying of the boy. "Don't worry. He can't get out."

"Frell! You fekkik! How would you like to be locked in a frelling container?" She raced out of the den and quickly found the distraught child at the bottom of one of the bigger crates. The lid was off, but the boy was crying his eyes out, as desperate for companionship as his father always seemed to be.

Hugging him to her, Chiana tried to still his anxious crying and carried him back to Pilot's den. As always, the boy instantly cheered up when he caught sight of Pilot. "Do that again and I'll space your worthless eema," Chiana growled at Rygel, who had the decency to look crestfallen at having made the child cry.

"The command carrier has left the area," Pilot informed. "And there is still no sign of Aeryn's prowler, nor indeed have I been able to raise either of them on the comms." He turned his huge head and gave Chiana a sad look. "I fear we must assume that this meeting has gone as wrong as Aeryn assumed it would."

Chiana held Little D tight and just stared aimlessly at the display for a moment longer. Then she sighed and dropped into a crouch. "Frell," she muttered.

"Take us out of here, Pilot," Rygel ordered.

"I said shut up, slug. You're not captain and you never will be captain," Chiana snapped and rose again. Little D stirred, whimpered and then stuck his thumb in his mouth as the look in his eyes became distant. Chiana stroked his head a few times, and then kissed his brow. "Follow the command carrier, Pilot. Stay as far back as you can to avoid detection. But we're not leaving those two alone. Not if they may need to be rescued."

Pilot nodded.

"Are you fahrbot? Aeryn specifically said ..." Rygel started, but Chiana was upon him like a flash storm and squeezed his lips shut.

"Yeah, and Aeryn also knew that I wouldn't do what she said. Why do you think she told me and not Pilot?" she growled and tilted her head to one side. "If we can, we rescue them. This narl is not going to grow up without his parents and that's final." She released him and then gave his throne sled a solid kick, sending it sailing back toward the door. "Make yourself useful, fekkik. Stay out of my way."

Rygel wisely decided to withdraw and left Chiana alone with Pilot and Little D. Chiana climbed up on the console, found a spot to lean against and pulled her knees up so Little D could sit with support. "There's no frelling way you'll have the same fate as me," she whispered, fighting the tears rising in her eyes. "We'll get your sires back. Somehow."

She did notice the look Pilot sent her, but she chose to ignore it. She didn't do defeat very well and she wasn't about to start now; not after all they'd been through together.


On the Command Carrier

In composition, the cell was much like the one on the Gammak Base, but that was as far as the similarity went. Although Peacekeepers didn't seem to have much faith in actual beds or bunks for their prisoners, there were the mandatory mats on the floor. The room itself was pitch-black. The floor was covered with a rubbery red surface. The mats were black and the door, heavy as a vault door, was red. There was obviously no natural light, only the fixtures embedded in the ceiling above their heads.

John was sitting on the mat furthest from the door, knees pull up, elbows resting on them, while he clawed his fingers into his scalp and tried to stop the swaying feeling the sleep gas had caused.

Aeryn sat next to him in much the same stance except that she wasn't trying to dig holes in her head with her fingers. She just sat and stared ahead of herself and neither of them had said a word since waking up in this hell-version of a jail cell.

What came next was anybody's guess, but John had the distinct feeling that this wasn't going to end well. What he feared the most right now was that Scorpy had lost his mind and was going to make sure he lost his, but the undercurrent of deep-rooted terror did not center around getting reacquainted with the Chair, although that did rank very high on his list of things he didn't want to try again.

The deepest, darkest fear centered on the woman sitting next to him. Scorpius had brought up an old charge against her and from what John knew, that meant only one thing. She was going to be executed and the thought alone sent shivers of outright horror through him.

"I'm sorry," he finally whispered.

Aeryn remained silent, staring ahead of herself as if she was just taking a time-out and relaxing a little.


He knew she didn't want to hear his apologies, knew for a fact that if he uttered even one word about having been wrong, she would probably disown him or take it out of his hide. And with good right. When was he going to learn to listen to her?

She shifted a little and he suddenly felt her cool hand on the back of his neck as she wove her fingers into his hair. Grateful for small favors right now, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to enjoy the touch for the briefest of moments. She knew him so well by now and, when push came to shove, he figured he had no idea what made her tick.

"How do we handle this?" he asked after a moment and finally stopped clawing his fingers into his head.

"We don't," she countered quietly. "There's nothing we can do now."

It irked him to hear those words. It sounded like she was giving up. "So, that's it? We give up? We don't even try?"

She sighed and pulled her hand away before getting up to wander aimlessly around the cell. She stopped briefly at the door, then turned back to face him. "What would you like to do, John? Break down the door? Overtake the guards? And then what? We shoot our way out?"

"I don't know." In truth, her present attitude annoyed him a little. "But we can't just capitulate. We can't just sit here and wait until they kill us."

The air seemed to be standing still in the cell and John felt weighed down by it; as if he couldn't breathe properly. It was the helplessness that got to him; that there was nothing he could do about their present situation. He hated feeling helpless.

"There is nothing we can do," Aeryn repeated, and settled back down beside him.

"We can't just give up," he tried.

Before Aeryn could make any move to reply, the door opened. They both got to their feet at once. An unknown officer stepped in followed by four guards. John eyed them, well aware that if he put up a fight they would beat the crap out of him. Then he glanced at Aeryn and she shook her head lightly while watching the guards.

"Bring him," the officer said, his dispassionate voice sending a shiver of disgust up John's spine.

Two of the guards grabbed him and handcuffed him while the other two kept Aeryn at bay. She wasn't trying anything, but that didn't mean she wouldn't.

"Stay calm," she said, ignoring the guards blocking her way to him.

Instead of paying attention to the rough-handed guards, he maintained eye contact with Aeryn until they dragged him out of the cell and shut the door in her face. He said nothing to the guards, just went with them calmly while his mind raced. His biggest fear right now was that she wouldn't be there any more when, or rather if he came back. He had no idea what he would do if that happened, but he knew he would snap. There wasn't much patience left in him and Scorpius' betrayal of his trust, as misplaced as it may have been, had dragged him right up to the edge of the abyss.

Every corner they turned sent his heart into his throat and by the time they came to a stop in front of a closed door, his heart was racing away. It was with no small amount of restraint that he managed to stop himself from sighing aloud when the door opened and revealed an office and not the dreaded Aurora Chair room. Despite the fact that Scorpius knew he no longer had the technology, there was still the off chance that Scorpy might stick him back in it.

The guards shoved him roughly through the open door, but remained outside as the door slid shut again.

John took a moment to glance around the office. It was devoid of personal touch apart from one little detail. He eyed the single stem in a nondescript vase, which stood on a pedestal near the viewport. It was a single Bird of Paradise flower and it told John all he needed to know about who the owner of this office was. And it wasn't Grayza.


He turned around to face Scorpius, who sat at on a chair at a console in the opposite corner of the room, and once again had to restrain himself from showing how the half-breed Scarran made him feel.

Scorpius rose and stepped up in front of him. "I'm sorry about those. Regulations, you know," he said, nodding at the handcuffs.

John refrained from answering, because he could think of a great many things he would like to throw in Scorpy's face right now that would only expedite his departure from this level of existence.

"I assume that you must be disappointed in me," Scorpius continued and waved toward a chair. "Sit, if you like. I know that the aftereffects of the sleep gas can be somewhat disconcerting when you try it the first time.

"I'm fine," John countered, forcing his voice to be calm. "And disappointed isn't the word for what I feel right now."

Scorpius smiled and settled himself behind his desk. "No, I can imagine. As I said to you on Orias Minor, I would have left you alone if it had been up to me. Unfortunately, Commandant Grayza has other ideas and as she is my superior at this point in time, I have no other option than to obey. Generally, I was hoping you would not turn up. I was somewhat surprised to see you there."

It stung; worse than that, it downright hurt. Even Scorpius had hoped he wouldn't turn up and that put a whole different spin on things. And it made him feel even worse than before for not listening to Aeryn. "Yeah, well, you know me. I can't turn down a request for help."

Scorpius' attitude remained somewhat somber and John felt the need to make a run for it. What held him back right now was the thought of Aeryn, and what might happen to her if he stepped out of line. "John," Scorpius said, attracting his attention again. The half-breed steepled his fingers and stared ahead of himself for a moment before dropping his hands again and rising once more. "Grayza wants the wormhole technology to defeat the Scarrans once and for all," he said, cutting right to the bone. "I have repeatedly told her that you no longer have access to it, but she seems to be under the impression that I am trying to protect you."

"She should know better," John countered, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Let's face it, Scorp. You're your own best friend, aren't you? You wouldn't stick up for me."

"Oh, but I would, John. If I could see the benefit in it," Scorpius countered and stepped around the desk. "But her insistence made me think," he added.

John felt an involuntary twitch of a smaller muscle in his cheek and wondered if it was visible.

"When we met that very first time, you did not know that you had the knowledge. My digging brought it to the forefront and think of what you have been able to do since. There are not many that can boast of having warded off the Scarran nation singlehandedly." Scorpius eyed him as if he were a particularly interesting bug under a microscope and he started to lose feeling in his fingers and toes. "Are you absolutely certain that this Ancient friend of yours removed the knowledge?"

It took him a second longer than acceptable to respond to it and he knew instantly that Scorpius had already gotten the wrong idea. "Yes, I'm sure. He nearly killed me. It's gone. I can't even feel wormholes anymore."

"He may only have buried it again," Scorpius suggested, tapping a finger against John's brow.

John pulled back a step to get away from the touch while he tried to do what Aeryn had said; stay calm. But it was getting harder by the minute. "Nope, trust me. It's gone. He was really pissed that I had it in the first place. Didn't think such an inferior species as mine should have access to something so powerful."

"You may be a lot of things, John, but inferior is not one of them," Scorpius countered and sighed. "I find it hard to believe that these Ancients of yours would give you this information only to take it away again."

"Oh, I get why they took it back. Look at what I did with it. I nearly blew up the galaxy," John countered. A slight tremble had worked its way into his voice and he couldn't subdue it no matter how he tried. He swallowed and cleared his throat to remove it, hoping that somehow Scorpius might have missed that little jitter.

"On the contrary, John. You showed great restraint. If anyone with less integrity had been in your position, I believe that none of us would have been alive to tell the tale today," Scorpius countered with a smile that made the numbness in John's extremities crawl up his arms and legs.

He balled his hands into fists repeatedly, trying to restart his obviously stalling circulation. "Einstein didn't like what I did with the technology and he took it away. That's all there is to it," he said, cursing inwardly at how dry his throat had gone. Without wanting to, he knew where this was heading.

"Nevertheless, John, I would like to ... see for myself, so to speak. This is not a vote of distrust. I'm just not as convinced your ancient friends speak the truth as you are," Scorpius countered.

"They're not my friends," John muttered and took another step backward when Scorpius leaned forward a bit. The mere thought of the chair right now made cold sweat break out on his brow, but in essence, he had a bargaining chip in his hands. Granted, it wasn't very strong, but it was there. "I won't resist if you let Aeryn go," he finally managed.

Scorpius regarded him almost solemnly for a moment. "I wish I could make such a deal with you, John, but I am not in a position to let her go. And Grayza believes in collateral."

"Let me talk to her, then. Maybe I can convince her. If I play nice," he tried. He was desperate to get Aeryn out of this mess any way he could. If that meant having to be subjected to that cold-hearted bitch again, he would take that step too. As long as it got Aeryn out of here and kept him away from that damned chair.

"I'm afraid Commandant Grayza is no longer interested in speaking to you in person," Scorpius said regretfully. "I am sorry, John, but there is no other option at this point."

He almost felt like laughing. This sounded so familiar, so hauntingly familiar. "Don't do this to me, Scorpius. I swear to you, I don't have the technology any more. Putting me through the wringer isn't going to change that." He could barely force the words over his lips. Begging was not a great way to worm his way out of this, but that damned chair scared the hell out of him and no matter how strong he had promised himself he would be, that was just as weak as he felt right now.

"If you allow me to search your mind, if you don't fight it, it will be easier on you. I promise," Scorpius said, his voice full of compassion that John no longer believed he could feel.

The door opened again and the guards stepped inside, ready to drag him off to his doom. "I'm not going to let you do this. Not without a fight," he snapped. Fear gave him courage, albeit the misguided and dangerous kind. "I'll fight this every step of the way."

"That is, of course, your decision, John," Scorpius said, not impressed.

The guards grabbed him and had to bodily haul him out of the room. And he did fight them every step of the way and it earned him quite a few bruises and a very sore jaw. What it did not accomplish, though, was to prevent his ascent into Hell.


Aeryn had lost track of time but knew that arns had passed since they had taken John away. Outward she seemed indifferent, but inside she was shivering with anxiety. She wanted to scream and shout, demand to know where they had taken him and – more importantly – what the frell they were doing to him, but all the time she just sat there and stared ahead of herself, waiting and bidding her time, wondering what came first – her execution or his return.

When the door finally opened, she rose fluently to her feet and took a step forward. Two guards dragged John into the cell and released him. One long step forward helped her prevent his disgraceful fall to the floor when she grabbed him and then glared angrily at the guards. Despite the fact that they were two, they retreated quickly.

Only when the door had closed again and the bolts had slipped into place did she turn her attention to John, who was barely able to stand even with her help. One electric jitter after another cruised through him, rippling every muscle and laboring his breathing. She hadn't seen him at his worst the first time he had been subjected to that frelling contraption of Scorpius', but she assumed it had been much like this. Only this time there was no Stark to sooth his frayed mind.

Putting effort into it, she dragged him over to the mat and eased him down on it. He tried to say something, but couldn't generate enough control to do so, and she merely draped her hand over his lips and shook her head. "Don't speak. Close your eyes. Rest," she said quietly and settled down next to him. His eyes were bloodshot and his face was covered in a cold sweat. If he was this bad off after one session – no matter how long it had been – she feared to see what would happen to him when they came back for him. And she knew they would. She just didn't know why they bothered – except for the very real possibility that Scorpius was using this as some sort of punishment.

Whether he followed her advice to get some rest or just simply passed out was something she did not know, but it took arns before he finally woke up again and even then, he was feeling like dren. The jitters had subsided and his breathing had evened out, but he looked like he hadn't slept in cycles.

"What the frell does he want now?" she asked quietly.

The right corner of his lips twitched into a half-smile and he continuously cleared his throat. "What do you think?" he countered and briefly focused on her. "But, I don't care. As long as they leave you alone."

"So far they have," she agreed. "But it won't last." She briefly closed her eyes and sighed lightly. Then she grabbed his face with both hands, forcing him to look at her. "Give him what he wants, John. Don't let him torture you like this. It won't spare me in the end."

He snorted and hugged himself helplessly against renewed shivers running through him. "That's the fun part, babe," he rasped, his voice on the verge of failing. "I don't have anything to give him."


On the command carrier

The pain was unbearable and Scorpius did not give him much rest between sessions. The new edition of PK Barbie had found fragments of memories in his mind and that had prompted Scorpy to become a hell of a lot more relentless in his search for something that was no longer there.

Although controlling his extremities was getting harder by the day – and Aeryn assured him they had been here only a few – he still managed to claw his fingers into the arms of that blasted chair every time a new wave of devastating electricity rippled its way through his brain, threatening to disable or even kill him.

Scorpius held up a hand and the chair came to a stop once more, but this time it was not so Scorpy could study the results. Instead, that sick half-breed turned his back on John.

Despite the agony, he was in and his newly developed general inability to focus his eyes, he could still hear what was going on around him.

"Captain." Grayza's voice and she was not speaking to Scorpy. Apparently, Braca was watching.

"Ma'am." Braca sounded as stiff as ever.

"Any word from the envoy?" Grayza sounded like her usual charming self. John assumed it was impossible for her to put more disdain into her voice than she did just now.

"No, ma'am. I will be sure to inform you as soon as the envoy arrives."

John turned his head while trying desperately to control his hiccupping breath. The blurry outlines of the verbal combatants came into view and he blinked rapidly to clear his vision, but with little luck.


"Make sure you do." Grayza sounded miffed and John wondered briefly, what this envoy was going to tell her; obviously, something she was waiting for. Then he remembered Scorpius' message. Maybe she was waiting for word from the High Council? "How goes the extraction?"

"Not as well as I had hoped." Scorpius sounded a bit disappointed and John managed a half-hearted grin. "He is fighting the chair and has so far managed to keep the information from me."

"Put some more effort into it, Scorpius. I do not believe I need to tell you again what awaits you if you fail." Grayza sounded haughty and with the lacking response from Scorpius John could only assume that he was either angry or concerned right now. 'Serves you right, you sick son of a bitch', he thought and turned his attention away from them again. It took too much out of him to focus both mind and eyes on anything.

The receding staccato of Grayza's heels told him that she had left.

"Do you know what the verdict is, Captain Braca?" Scorpius was obviously interested in the outcome of this too.

"No, I do not," Braca countered stiffly. "If you would excuse me. I have business to attend to," he added and walked off as well.

"Ah well. We shall find out soon enough," Scorpius said, probably talking to himself. "Continue," he added.

John was beyond begging at this point. He knew it made no difference; knew that Scorpius was deaf to his pleas, and hence he didn't try any more. Without much luck, he braced himself for the onset of the current, but ended up screaming himself hoarse again anyway.


Scorpius was getting a little tired of the search for something that apparently wasn't there anymore. John was fighting the chair, but nobody had ever lasted this long without disclosing their deepest and darkest secrets; apart from that Bannik, of course.

He inhaled a deep breath, held it for a moment and then released it again slowly. Then he held up a hand. "Enough for today. We can't have him dying before we get what we want," he said.

Meera Valota, his present assistant, stopped the chair and John stopped screaming. His nose was bleeding and his eyes so bloodshot, Scorpius assumed the man could no longer focus. His breath was labored to the extreme and Scorpius knew that one or two more sessions would be what it took to kill John Crichton.

"Take him back to his cell," Scorpius said and turned his back on the scene. Despite everything he had done in his life, this particular extraction did cause him some trouble, not because the search yielded no results but because he had grown rather fond of John over the cycles. It was a pity that he would have to destroy that brilliant man in the end, but nothing short of John's death would satisfy Grayza at this point. Scorpius had hoped that the envoy would return with the verdict sooner and that it would mean that Grayza would lose what power she had rather than put her on the throne of the Peacekeeper High Council. However, the envoy was running late and every arn that passed brought John closer to death, and he knew without the shadow of a doubt, that Grayza wanted John to die screaming.

"Such a waste," he muttered, shook his head and left the Aurora Chair room.

Instead of withdrawing to his quarters to rest, he sought out and found Braca in Command. The good Captain was a little tense these days and with good reason. If Grayza was awarded the title of High Chancellor – as unlikely as that might be – she could do pretty much whatever she wanted. And Braca, despite having done what any good Peacekeeper would do, had managed to depose her for a while a few monans ago. That she had 'bounced back' mattered little at this point. Braca was going to be in a world of hurt if she became more powerful and that would make anybody tense.

"Captain," Scorpius said and inclined his head briefly. Braca had always been a support, but he was also driven by ambition to become more than any of his fellow officers had ever hoped for. Scorpius could easily see him in the position of High Chancellor one day and he was quite convinced that Braca would do a good job of it too.

"Scorpius," Braca replied, only glancing at him briefly. "The envoy has just sent word. She is on route to us and should arrive within the arn."

"Ah, about time I would say," Scorpius countered and watched the humdrum of Command for a moment. "Have you informed the Commandant?"

"Yes," Braca said. "She asked for your presence at the meeting. Mine as well."

Scorpius leaned a little closer. "No doubt so she can rub it in if she gets her commission," he said quietly and with a hint of sarcasm.

The corners of Braca's lips twitched. "No doubt," he agreed just as quietly.

"Ah well. Things will change. Such is the way of life," Scorpius said a little louder. "I will be in my quarters until the envoy arrives," he added, turned around and left Command again.


Aeryn barely managed to grab John when the guards released him. He was no longer pretending that he could stand on his own and wasn't even trying either. He collapsed, barely conscious at this point, and she had to put her back into it to drag him over to the mat.

Settling herself into the corner so he could rest his head on her lap, Aeryn watched him with sad eyes. She knew he didn't have long to live if this kept up and she wondered briefly if she shouldn't put an end to his suffering now so they couldn't hurt him anymore. But she knew, when the time came, that she would find that action exceptionally hard to carry out.

John struggled for a moment, trying to raise himself up, but then gave up on it. Instead he closed his eyes against what he had said was the relentless glare of the overhead lights. That the lights were subdued and therefore far from glaring had Aeryn worried, but she said nothing. There was nothing she could do to help him other than sooth him and be there for him when they brought him back.

As his lids closed, a single tear broke free and trickled down over the side of his face. It was faintly pink, telling Aeryn that his eyes were starting to bleed. She wiped it away with a soft hand and brushed his hair back from his forehead. His skin was clammy cold and he was shivering constantly now.

"Scorpy's ... getting ... shafted," he managed, his voice hoarse and low.

"How so?" she countered. She had realized that it was futile to try to make him shut up. He needed to talk, no matter how much it hurt his raw throat.

"Grayza's ... getting ... promoted," he rasped and chuckled half-heartedly, which immediately dissolved into ragged coughs.

Aeryn pushed him up so he wouldn't suffocate on whatever his lungs had decided to dislodge and held him until the coughing subsided again. Then she dragged him closer to her to let him lean against her rather than lie flat on the floor, and wrapped her arms around him for comfort and what little warmth she had to give him.

"I ... don't feel ... so good," he confessed quietly.

"I've noticed," she countered and closed her own eyes. "It'll be over soon. If Grayza is promoted, there is nothing holding her back from killing us both," she added in a near whisper. "At this point, I think it would be a blessing, though."

John didn't answer, but then again, what was there to say about that anyway? Disguising it under gentle caresses, she felt along his neck, searching for a spot she knew Sebaceans had that would kill instantly if pressed in the right way. Since Humans were so similar to Sebaceans, she assumed that John would also have that spot. She needed to find it so she could end his life quickly if necessary and the more time they spent here, the more necessary it became.

"John?" she whispered. He jerked lightly and shifted a little, but made no further response and that made her believe that he had once again slipped into unconsciousness. Brushing the back of her fingers along the side of his neck, she leaned her head back against the wall. "I hope when the time comes that you will forgive me," she whispered. She knew that her training alone allowed her to break his neck in one swift move and if that were what it took, then she would have to do it.

"Not yet, though," she whispered and locked her arms tightly around him. "Not yet."


Scorpius opened the door to Grayza's stateroom and stepped inside. Braca and Grayza were already there and so was the envoy, an older woman whose eyes could probably slice through the hull of a command carrier if she looked at it wrong. Her back was ramrod straight, her greying hair pulled back into a tight bun. When she caught sight of Scorpius, she pursed her lips in an almost prim manner and he knew what she was thinking. Her energy signature could not have been any colder than the icy blue it was at the moment.

Grayza made a face, and then turned her attention to the envoy. "We are all here now. So, what does the High Council say?" she demanded.

"I wanted your captain to be present for this. I do not see the necessity of ... that being present," the envoy countered, nodding curtly in Scorpius' direction.

"He is a member of my crew and essential in our defense against the Scarrans," Grayza said, her voice almost as steely as the envoy's. "Now, what decision has the High Council come to? I have not waited this long for their reply to be strung along by a foot solider."

The envoy met Grayza's eyes for a moment, her grey ones giving Scropius enough of an impression of what came next. He was going to enjoy this.

"I am not a foot soldier, Commandant Grayza. I speak for the Council and I outrank you," the envoy sneered and raised her head a little. "Captain," she added and turned her attention to Braca. "Code Dekka of the Contamination Law is now in effect. That is the order of the High Council. I assume you know what to do?"

Braca's back straightened just a dench more while he stared at the envoy. It took him a microt longer than necessary to agree and when he did, he merely nodded once.

"Good. I expect you to carry out the protocol at once. As soon as the preparations are complete, you are to return to this room and hand me the keycard. Is that understood?" the envoy said.

"Yes, ma'am," Braca said. He had gone very pale and with good reason. He briefly glanced at Scorpius, who noted the distinct change in his energy signature, and then he turned and left the stateroom.

Scorpius glanced at Grayza, who seemed frozen for the moment. Then he turned his attention fully to the envoy. "Madam Envoy," he said. "I am familiar with the Contamination Law and Code Dekka ..."

The envoy eyed him and had the edacity to take a step back when he took one forward. "... means exactly what you think it does," she finished his sentence, then turned her icy gaze on Grayza. "You are irreversibly contaminated due to that ... gland you carry in your chest. How you ever thought that the Council would even consider your application is beyond me. And the fact alone that you have ... befouled the late High Chancellor's memory with your outrageous claim that your half-breed offspring could be his ..." The woman actually managed a shudder of disgust. "Any High Chancellor is to remain pure of blood and mind at all times. Any contact with anything less than Sebacean is unacceptable. It was discussed at great length how to handle this situation and the decision reached was the only one possible. Code Dekka is in effect."

"You cannot possibly condemn a whole command carrier because the Commandant ..." Scorpius tried, finding it suddenly hard to keep his famous calm.

"Silence!" the envoy barked. "Nothing you say, half-breed, will have any influence on this decision. Whether I leave here or not, Captain Braca will carry out the order given to him. Unlike the two of you, he is a dedicated Peacekeeper."

"You cannot condemn me for this," Grayza finally managed, pressing a hand against her chest. "It is a tool, a simple tool."

"You have befouled your blood with an alien organ, Commandant. The microt you made that decision was the microt you contaminated yourself," the envoy said, her tone a tad calmer now. "And since it would be too difficult to determine who aboard this carrier has been in contact with either of you, it has been decided to deem the carrier irreversibly contaminated. Code Dekka is in effect and will remain in effect until the time the self-destruct has been carried out."

"You are murdering fifty thousand people," Scorpius said quietly. "All because of this?"

"All because of you, yes," the envoy agreed with a curt nod. "And it is not called murder, half-breed. It is called keeping the bloodlines pure."

He had to admit – albeit reluctantly – that he had not foreseen this outcome. The worst outcome he had predicted was that Grayza would have been deemed irreversibly contaminated and executed. This development was very disconcerting and totally unexpected. "The late High Chancellor approved of my presence here," he said. "He assured me that I was welcome among the Peacekeepers."

The envoy gave him a disdainful look. "The High Chancellor was mistaken in that assumption. In any event, he should not have been out here. He should have been at the High Council where he belonged." She gave him the once over, her whole essence vibrating with disgust. "Had we been aware of your presence before, you would have been executed before. Your mere existence is a violation of the contamination laws."

The High Chancellor had once warned him that he would meet this kind of disdain from pureblooded Peacekeepers, but Scorpius had been under the impression that the High Council knew about him. As it turned out now, that had not been the case. And he knew how relentless the High Council was in upholding their precious laws. "Perhaps it is time to change your laws, then," he suggested.

He felt very tired all of a sudden. Code Dekka was one of the most outrageous laws there was. Every single command carrier in service was equipped with a system that carried out this code once it had been activated with painful precision. Scorpius had attempted to have the system removed, but had been told it was impossible, that any tampering with the system would immediately activate it and thereby destroy the command carrier with everyone on board.

All he could hope for at this point was that Braca did not activate it, but somehow managed to convince the envoy that he had. In all events, they would end up becoming fugitives from the Peacekeeper High Council unless the envoy was convinced that they had been destroyed and there was really no way to convince her of that other than actually letting the carrier blow up. "This is ridiculous," he finally said, focusing on the envoy. "You are becoming contaminated just by being in the same room with us, Madam Envoy. But if you were to return to the High Council and let them know that you have carried out your duty, nobody will be the wiser."

She stared at him for a moment, her expression unreadable, and her energy signature as cold as before. She was one of the few he could not read. "Except for me," she countered. "Do you really think that I would violate the trust the High Council has put in me? I am a dedicated Peacekeeper and I carry out the orders given to me without question. That is the way of a Peacekeeper. But why am I telling you this? You have no understanding of Peacekeeper etiquette. You are not even Sebacean."

"Scorpius, leave," Grayza hissed. "You are embarrassing me and you are making things worse."

"Worse?" He had to admit that her words surprised him. "How can this possibly become any worse, Commandant? We have just been condemned to death."

"And rightfully so," Grayza snarled and pointed at the door. "Leave! I do not wish to spend my last arn alive having to look at you."

Feeling the white-hot anger of his Scarran side rise inside him, Scorpius remained immobile for a microt longer until he managed to subdue the need to rip her throat out. Then he inclined his head slightly towards her, turned and strode out. He was not yet willing to give up. Not until he knew what Braca's plans were.


A claxon ripped John out of a near comatose state and he instantly regretted that he had opened his eyes. They still wouldn't focus and the headache hit him like a ton of bricks when the searing light assaulted his eyes.

With an effort, he managed to push himself up a bit and felt Aeryn move behind him. "What?" he rasped, his voice breaking with the effort of forming words. "What's ... going ... on?"

"It's an emergency claxon," Aeryn replied and rose.

"What ... emergency?" he managed and had to give up the fight to sit up. Unceremoniously, he let himself drop back down on the mat.

"Don't know yet. There should be an announcement," Aeryn countered and strode over to the door to hear better.

"Attention all personnel!" That was Braca's voice. "This is your captain speaking. It is my duty to inform you that Code Dekka of the Contamination Law is now in effect. The self-destruct sequence of this carrier is active and all life pods have been suspended. No one will be allowed to leave this carrier. We are all deemed irreversibly contaminated. All duties are canceled from this moment forward. End of message."

John coughed and pushed himself up on one elbow while furiously trying to focus his now watering eyes. "What ... the hell ... does that ... mean?"

Aeryn remained by the door for a long moment and she made no move to respond.

"Aeryn?" he asked and pushed himself up into a sitting position. "What's ... going on?"

"We're dead," she finally said. Her tone was dead, barely audible between the shrill wails of the ongoing claxon. "Code Dekka of the Contamination Law means we're dead. The carrier has been deemed irreversibly contaminated. It's a fail-safe used if a carrier is taken over by hostile forces; if too many have been subjected to an alien influence. The High Council considers it better to destroy the entire carrier than to let anyone spread the 'contagion'."

He blinked, and then wiped the back of one hand over his eyes, trying to stop the seepage and help his eyes focus. It didn't work, of course. "Jesus," he whispered. "They can't just ..."

"Oh yes they can," Aeryn said and returned to him. She sat down on the mat beside him again. "And they have. I should have seen this coming. With a Hepple gland in her, Grayza would automatically be deemed irreversibly contaminated. And then there's Scorpius. I always did find it hard to believe that the High Council knew about him and sanctioned his presence."

John managed to push himself back until his back hit the wall. He needed the support. "Shit," he whispered hoarsely.

Aeryn eased closer and pulled him against her. "At least they won't bother to torture you anymore," she said. "They'll be far too busy preparing for their own deaths to bother about us."

"But ... we can't just ..." he tried, but ran out of steam.

"There is ... nothing we can do," Aeryn said quietly. "Nothing at all."

"I ... won't accept ... that," he rasped.

"You have no choice. We have no choice," she countered and gently caressed his neck. "It's over, John. We're not walking away from this one."

It sounded so final and he hated that. He didn't want it to be final, didn't want this to be the end. But she sounded so sure, so confident that this was it. "I don't ... want to die ... here," he managed and dissolved into hollow-sounding coughs.

Aeryn just held him close. "I know," she said when his coughs finally ebbed away again. "I'm sorry, John. I'm sorry that I let you do this. I should have taken Chiana's advice and tied you down until we were far enough away from Scorpius' frelled rendezvous point to prevent you from going back. I should have done something to stop this. This is my fault."

"No," he pressed out. It hurt him more than his present injuries to have her blame herself for his stupidity. "Not ... your fault. All ... mine."

She kissed the side of his head and he could sense that she was close to tears. "It doesn't matter anymore. I just hope Chiana listened to me for once and got Little D out of harm's way. If I have to die now, I at least want to know that my son is safe."

"I'm sure ... he is." Again he was raked by coughs. If only he hadn't been so damned weak, they might have been able to use this moment to get the hell out of here. But he couldn't even see straight, let alone think straight. "Love you, babe."

He felt her lips on his cheek and turned his head a little. "I love you too," she whispered, then fell silent.

All they heard was the claxon wailing away out in the corridors. Whatever guards had been on station here had gone to do whatever they needed to do before the end. Aeryn was right. There was nothing more they could do and it was eating him alive that they just had to sit here and wait.


On Moya

Chiana was sitting on top of a console in Command while watching the forward viewscreen and listening to the speakers for any sound that Little D might be waking up. Moya had followed the command carrier for days and the only thing that had happened was the appearance of a marauder that had disappeared inside the carrier almost two arns ago.

She sighed and again wondered what exactly she was hoping to accomplish by following the carrier, but there was a part of her that insisted that this was the right course; that any other action would mean saying goodbye to Crichton and Aeryn for good.

The thought that maybe the Scarrans would be interested in knowing that the Peacekeepers had captured Crichton had crossed her mind, but they were too far away from Scarran space at this point. Moreover, even if she could get a message through to the Emperor, it would most likely do no good and might even incite that war they had all been so eager to prevent in the first place.

All they could do at this point was follow the carrier and wait and see.

The whirr of Rygel's thronesled made her glance back at the door as the little Dominar floated into Command.

"What the frell are we doing? What if they detect us? Moya cannot outrun a Command Carrier," he said for the umpteenth time.

"Stop thinking of yourself and think of the two of them. We need to be there for them in case something happens. If they manage to get off the carrier or some dren like that," Chiana countered.

"Fat chance," Rygel huffed. "If they had been able to get off that blasted contraption, they would have done so by now. We should leave; take the boy to safety like Aeryn asked you to do."

"Shut the frell up about that. He's safe here," Chiana countered. She was gearing up to give him an earful of what she thought of his manners when a shockwave hit Moya, effectively throwing Chiana off the console.

"What the frell?" she snapped and struggled back to her feet while Moya jittered all over the place. Hanging onto the console she had just fallen off, Chiana stared at the forward view screen while Little D started screaming over the speakers.

"Oh no," Rygel whispered from behind her.

The command carrier had just disintegrated into a brilliant ball of fire and debris and the shockwaves of the explosion hit Moya in ripples, shaking her all over the place.

Chiana hung on for dear life, but she was oblivious to the harm she might be facing. All she could think was 'They're dead. Just like D'Argo'.

The End