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

Rating: PG

Synopsis: Shocked by what she has witnessed, Chiana is reeling. But not all is as it seems.

On Moya

After the shockwaves subsided, Chiana just stood and stared at the forward view screen, unable to comprehend. "What the frell just happened?" she finally managed.

"It would appear that a rarely used contamination code has been put into effect," Pilot replied. "An 'all clear' message was broadcast immediately before the carrier self-destructed. Moya's data stores tell me that this is the result of Code Dekka of the Peacekeepers Contamination Law. A whole carrier has been deemed irreversibly contaminated."

Chiana took a step forward. "What the frell is wrong with those fekkiks? The Nebari are bad, but they don't destroy fifty thousand in one single go just because they've been in contact with aliens. What the frell is the matter with those frelling Peacekeepers?"

"They destroy what they do not understand," Rygel said sadly behind her. "At peace, John and Aeryn," he added.

"Shut the frell up. They got off that thing before it blew," Chiana snapped and swirled around to face him.

"And how likely do you really think that is?" Rygel countered. "Just for once use that worthless grey matter you have in your skull. Code Dekka is put into effect long before anyone on board knows about it. All hatches are sealed off, all landing bays closed down. There is no way off a command carrier once that code has been activated. There was no way they could have known, even if they had been on their way out. They're gone, Chiana. Accept it." He snorted and turned his throne sled around. "Congratulations, by the way. You are now a mother." With that, he sped out of Command.

At that very moment, Little D's helpless wails reached Chiana's ears again and she took off at a run to console her little charge while she thanked whatever deities might be out there that he was too little to understand the loss he had just suffered.


The Command Carrier
Half an arn earlier

Aeryn sat still and listened to the countdown, in part thankful that John was unconscious and wouldn't see the end coming. Another part of her was desperate to talk to him one last time, but she preferred that he stayed unconscious. The thought that maybe she should put an end to his suffering now had crossed her mind a few times, but she kept stalling.

She again let her fingers slide over his neck and finally found that point. It felt like it did on a Sebacean and she assumed that with the right pressure, it would stop the flow of blood to his brain and effectively kill him without really hurting him. She fingered the spot for a moment, toying with the idea, and decided it was best to be on the safe side, just in case he came to at the last possible microt.

Before she could implement her plan, though, the door to the cell suddenly opened and Braca stepped in, followed by two burly guards. She stared at him, unwilling to understand what his presence might mean.

Braca eyed her for a microt, and then shifted his attention to John. "Can he walk?" he asked.

"He's unconscious," Aeryn countered and shifted a bit. "What the frell do you want? You can't possibly think of continuing the extraction now." She felt anger flood her at the mere thought. They could at least let them die in peace.

Braca made a face. "Shut up, Sun," he growled, and then glanced back at the guards. "Get him up."

She would have fought them if she could have, but the guards were too big for her to fight and until they had pulled John off her, she was generally locked down by his weight. She rose swiftly once the guards had pulled him up, the need to punch Braca in the face more overwhelming than ever. "Braca, if you have any integrity left you won't do this," she said. "This is not the Peacekeeper way."

"I told you to shut up, Sun," Braca countered tensely. "You're coming too," he added. "Get a move on."

His words made her shudder. Were they going to make her watch while they tortured John to death? She wouldn't put it past Scorpius to be that vindictive. If his need to destroy the Scarrans had shown her anything, then this was it. He was vindictive and he liked to have the final say in things.

The guards hauled John out of the cell and Braca gave her a push in the back to make her follow them. She did so and refrained from going for his throat because she was afraid of what they would do to John. The thought that it might all be irrelevant at this point did cross her mind, but she still could not deal with the thought that maybe they would kill her and still torture John if she made a fuss.

They started walking and it took her a while to realize that they were probably not heading toward the Aurora chair room, which made her wonder what else Scorpius may have in mind for John. The countdown continued steadily and the sense of urgency she felt was starting to show on the surface. She most of all felt like kicking the dren out of Braca for doing this, but she knew that she would gain nothing from killing the messenger.

"We have about a quarter of an arn left," she finally said as they turned a corner.

The guards carrying John stopped in front of the doors to one of the many level risers. Braca followed suit and ignored her.

"What the frell can you possibly still do to him in a quarter of an arn?" she demanded.

"Shut up, Sun. You are a prisoner. You do not get to ask questions," Braca snapped.

"Yeah, well, we're going to die anyway, so what the frell do I care?" she countered angrily. "I will not let you torture him to death. You'll have to kill me first."

"I might if you don't shut up right now," Braca countered and finally turned back to face her. "Just do as you're told. Our plans are none of your concern."

"They are when John is involved," Aeryn countered just as aggressively.

The doors to the level riser opened and the guards dragged John inside. "Get in," Braca snapped and stepped aside.

"I'm not going anywhere until you tell me what the frell is going on here," she countered. She somehow had the feeling that Braca wouldn't make good on his threat to kill her. Moreover, she was right. Instead, he pulled his pulse pistol and aimed it at John's head.

"I have no trouble killing him. Get in before I blow his brains out," he warned.

Aeryn met his eyes dead on and knew he was deadly serious. Biting back on the angry comment that was threatening to work its way over her lips, she stepped into the cabin and Braca followed her.

The cabin started to rise, speeding up as it went along, and Aeryn took the opportunity to check up on John, who was still out cold. Then she glanced around the level riser cabin. It was bigger than normal and gave access to the upper levels, which were the commanding officers decks and off limits to the common soldier. It made her again wonder where they were going, but she was through asking questions if it put John's life on the line.

There was a small spark of hope growing inside her that Scorpius had a way off this carrier and was so dead set on taking John with him that it might offer her the opportunity to do something about their situation. All she had to do right now was to bid her time.

When the doors opened again, they stepped out into a corridor that was definitely on the upper levels. Aeryn glanced around, noted the warning glance that Braca gave her and followed the guards without a word.

They walked for a while until they reached one solitary door in that particular corridor and Braca came to a stop in front of it. But something distracted him from opening it and he turned to face the bend in the corridor ahead of them. Aeryn had heard the rapidly approaching footsteps as well and frowned when Grayza came into view.

The Commandant came to a stop, her face paler than usual, which made her look almost Nebari. "Captain Braca," she snapped angrily. "I have been searching all over for you." Then she realized whom he had with him and her expression grew very dark. "What the frell are you doing with him? Does Scorpius have a way off the carrier?"

"No, ma'am, he does not. I am acting on his orders to move these prisoners," Braca countered and even to Aeryn that sounded like a lie, and a bad one at that.

"By whom? I have given no such order. Therefore, it must be Scorpius. What does he hope to accomplish in the little time we have left if he has no way off this vessel?" Apparently, Grayza was desperate for an escape route. "Captain Braca," she continued in a suddenly mellow and soothing tone. "At least consider my child. Does she not have the right to live? Can you really consider her contaminated?" She stepped closer while running her fingers over her exposed chest. "Can we not come to an agreement?"

Braca pulled his pulse pistol and aimed it at her. "I have neither the time nor the wish to deal with you any further, Grayza. You are stripped of command and of any decency. If your child is so important to you, you should consider spending what little time you have left with it."

She took another step closer, obviously attempting to be seductive before she could reach him. To Aeryn she appeared desperate and pathetic.

"You have been warned," Braca said quietly and fired.

That he actually took the step to terminate Grayza was something that stunned Aeryn. Braca was such a camp follower that it should be impossible for him to take such drastic steps against a commanding officer – regardless of the fact that Grayza had obviously been stripped of her rank yet again.

The shot hit Grayza in the face, obliterating it and killing her instantly. She hit the floor on her back, the remains of her face smoking from the impact. Braca holstered his pulse pistol again, turned to the door they had stopped at and opened it with the ident-chip he had dangling around his neck. Aeryn noted the shadow of a smile on his lips and it stunned her even more.

Aeryn remained immobile and stared at Grayza. She would have loved to be the one to kill that tralk, but she still couldn't get over the fact that Braca had done it. She would have expected it of Scorpius, of a great many other Peacekeepers she had known throughout her life, but not of Braca. "You shot her." It was a silly statement, really, and totally irrelevant, but she just could not stop herself from speaking the words.

"She asked for it," Braca countered indifferently and stepped aside to let the guards drag John into the room. "Get in," he added.

Aeryn glanced at him, then back at Grayza, then followed the guards through the door. There were few things in life that could truly rattle her, but this had, and severely so.


Scorpius had decided that he would face the destruction of yet another command carrier alone in his quarters, but near the end he could not bear the solitude and went to Command to wait out the last quarter of an arn together with the only man he had ever trusted completely.

When he got there, he realized one thing at once. Braca was nowhere around. Slightly worried, he approached the nearest tech. "Where is Captain Braca?"

"He had some business to attend to before the end, sir," the tech replied.

"What sort of business?" Scorpius asked.

"I don't know, sir. I'm not privy to the Captain's agenda," the tech countered.

"And I thought I was," Scorpius said quietly as a dark frown settled on his brow. "What are you up to, my friend?"

He had abandoned all hope of getting off this carrier. He knew the implications of Code Dekka and knew that not even the envoy would leave this vessel once the countdown had started. A few crewmembers had already decided to take a kill shot to avoid the imminent painful death when the carrier's core blew up and the carrier collapsed on itself as every air seal was breached at once.

All duties had been suspended. So what business could Braca possibly have to tend to?

"Where is Commandant Grayza?" he asked the tech, who for unknown reasons had seen fit to remain at his station.

"I don't know, sir. Last I heard, she was in her quarters," the tech replied.

Scorpius pursed his lips, then turned around and strode out. Time was slipping away; soon they would all be so much cosmic dust, and even so, Braca had decided to do some last microt work. The man was dedicated, but Scorpius doubted anybody would be that dedicated.

He stopped outside the door and stared ahead of himself for a moment. It would appear that Braca had betrayed his trust in some manner. The question was just why and, if he had, where was he now?

Scorpius decided to find Grayza. Perhaps that annoying female had turned on the charm again and convinced Braca to do something for her that he might not otherwise have done. The question was just what and for the first time – and quite possibly the last time – in his life, Scorpius was at a loss. He could not predict the outcome of this dilemma and he did not have the time to figure it out either.

He headed for the level risers, intent on finding out as much as he could before the end. At least he would die busy.


Inside the door, Aeryn again stopped dead in her tracks and Braca had to push her forward to get inside himself. "Keep moving. We don't have much time," he admonished and with a hand on her back, he pushed her forward.

The whole thing was getting a little too odd for her at this point and it had started with Braca shooting Grayza. They now were in what looked like a miniature landing bay and there was a marauder waiting for them.

"You do have a way out of here," she said, stunned.

"Stop asking questions, Sun," he countered gruffly and ushered her forward.

Aeryn got a grip on herself and hurried after the guards, who had almost reached the marauder.

Once inside, Braca ushered her into a private room, where the guards eased John down on a bed set into the wall. The guards left, but Braca lingered for a microt. "Stay here and get ready for some turbulence. It will be a rough ride." That said, he turned and left and the door slid shut behind him.

Aeryn just stood there in the middle of this posh room and realized she had stopped understanding what was going on a while back. Instead of trying to make sense of it now, though, she decided to act on what she had so far, which was the promise of turbulence. In addition, John was in no condition to hold on to anything. She turned to him and made a face. "Frelling good timing, John, being unconscious now that we're being ... rescued, I guess," she muttered and hurried over to him to strap him in. 'Rescued' was probably not the right term. She was still convinced that Scorpius was behind this and that they would see him very soon and learn what he had in store for John.

The marauder took off only microts later and a moment after that, the first shockwave of the exploding carrier hit them. Aeryn had a hard time holding on, but she managed. The rough ride kept her mind of things she couldn't explain and her attention on John, who despite the straps was being shaken about like a rag doll. She would have to demand an explanation from Braca or Scorpius, whoever turned up first.


On Moya

Chiana hugged Little D to her, rocking him back and forth, while trying to banish the sorrow from her mind until she could mourn properly. The narl had quieted down and was sucking his thumb, blissfully oblivious to the fact that he no longer had any parents.

"You'll have a great life," Chiana whispered, her voice choked up with tears. Despite all her efforts, she found it almost impossible to keep her emotions in check. She wanted to wail with the agony of losing more family, but Little D came first and the less he felt of her pain the better.

"Chiana," Pilot's voice rang from the comm pinned to her chest.

"What, Pilot?" she choked.

"I thought you might like to know that a marauder left the command carrier right before it exploded," Pilot said and he sounded carefully hopeful.

Chiana froze. "What?" she asked and turned in the general direction Pilot's den was in.

"A marauder left the carrier right before it blew," he repeated.

"Oh frell," she whispered. "Is it the same marauder that landed there a few arns ago?"

"Hard to say, but I do think so," Pilot replied. "Which is odd, because the regulations for Code Dekka are quite clear. The envoy sent out to implement the shutdown will not leave the carrier, but be destroyed with it."

"Frell," Chiana muttered again, still holding Little D firmly in her arms. "Maybe that frelled half-breed found a way off the carrier," she added.

"It is possible, but not very likely," Pilot replied. "Unless he had access to top clearance, which given his breed is unlikely."

"Follow them," Chiana instructed. "Don't lose them."

"That will not be hard. The marauder was damaged by the shockwaves. It does not even seem to have propulsion," Pilot replied. "Moya will try to navigate through the wreckage to where the marauder is."

"Yeah, do that. I'll be right down," Chiana said. The heartbreaking sadness that have overcome her had now completely been replaced by bubbling expectation.


On the marauder

Part of the wall paneling in the room had come off because of the violent shakes the marauder had to endure. Wires hung exposed out of the wall, some of them sparking dangerously, and through it all, John slept.

Aeryn had wedged herself between the bed and the low ceiling above it, one knee on either side of John, while she hung on for dear life. When the shakes finally subsided, she listened to the marauder's engines and knew that this vessel did not have far to go before it broke down entirely. Marauders were not made to weather this type of storm. A prowler would have been shaken but not damaged by this type of assault, but not this type of machine. Aeryn wondered what Braca and Scorpius would do now, assuming they had planned for this. However, knowing Scorpius, there would be a backup plan.

Breathing hard from the effort she had put into keeping herself out of harm's way, she released her hold on the roof above her head and got off the bed. Stretching tense muscles, she arched her back, flexed her arms and legs and then turned toward the door. It was time for some answers and she knew just who to ask.

At the door, she hesitated. It was probably locked, she assumed. A quick glance back at John told her that he was still out cold and he was still strapped in, which in her opinion made it safe to leave him for now. If she could, of course.

The door opened when she pressed the controls and she stepped out into the corridor under the assumption that it had been an oversight. That assumption grew when she saw Braca striding toward her. However, he did not look angry or concerned. He had a gash on his forehead that was still bleeding, but apart from that, he looked very together and reasonably relaxed.

"How is Crichton?" he asked and came to a stop.

Aeryn frowned at him. "Still unconscious," she countered. There were many things she wanted to demand explanations for, but right now, she couldn't think of even one.

For whatever reason, her words appeared to trouble Braca. "Well, that can't be helped right now. We have a medic on board, but he is tied up with other more demanding patients right now. This marauder is too damaged to continue on its own. We're adrift. However, as it would seem, your leviathan has been following the command carrier since you were captured. I need to ask you to contact them so they can bring us on board."

Aeryn blinked. "And why would I want to do that?"

Braca eyed her thoughtfully. "Because we will surely die out here if you don't and that would generally invalidate this ... rescue mission, wouldn't it?"

"Rescue mission?" Aeryn sputtered. "Scorpius only saved John from the command carrier so he could continue ..." She trailed off at the somewhat bemused expression on Braca's face. It was most certainly an odd expression for him. "What? What's so funny?" she demanded.

"Officer Sun," he said, using her former title and thereby showing her respect. "I do not work for Scorpius. Scorpius is dead. He was killed when the command carrier blew up."

"What a stack of dren," Aeryn countered angrily. "You have tortured John within a dench of his life, you have been there for Scorpius every frelling step of the way, and now you want me to believe that you left him behind to die?"

"There is a lot to explain and we don't have that much time. We need to vacate this area before the salvage teams turn up. If they find us here, they will either destroy us or enslave us. I am not too keen on either of these options and I really don't think you want Crichton enslaved in his present condition. If you can get us on board of the leviathan, our medic can tend to him," Braca said and stepped aside, waving her toward the front of the marauder.

Aeryn was very confused and therefore refused to move. "But ... you're a Peacekeeper. You were given a direct order by an envoy of the High Council," she tried, desperate for some clarification on what the frell was going on.

With a sigh, Braca dropped his head and stared down at the floor for a moment. Then he looked up again to meet her eyes. "I had hoped to leave the explanations for later when there is time to do so in detail, so I will only say this. You have nothing to fear from the Peacekeepers right now."

"I want an explanation for this dren, Braca," she warned.

"Once we are on your leviathan, there will be time to talk. Right now, we need to get out of here as fast as possible," Braca agreed and ushered her toward the front of the marauder.


On Moya

He woke up with a start and immediately regretted waking up at all, because he was hit by a two-ton headache instantly and with a groan, he slapped both hands over his eyes, grinding the heels of both hands into his eye sockets.

His throat was raw and every fiber of his being hurt. Most of all he just wanted to be out until this crap was over, but there was something nagging at him. In his depleted state, it took him a moment to realize what that was.

Then it hit him. Despite the agony he was in, he realized he felt better than he had before. Rested was the word he was searching for; he felt rested despite his general aches and pains.

With a bit of an effort, he slowly pulled his hands away from his eyes and squinted up at the ceiling above him; a ceiling which had – so far – been black. Now it was amber and he was definitely not lying on the floor any more.

Blinking rapidly, he tried to adjust his eyes to the light, and then turned his head carefully. At this point, the universe – such as it was – stopped making sense to him and he found the strength to prop himself up on his elbows while he tried to focus his eyes enough to verify what he thought he was seeing.

Slowly, his eyes adjusted, and even though the image he got wasn't perfectly clear, it was clear enough to confirm his suspicion. "I'm on Moya?" he rasped, his voice close to being nonexistent.

It took some doing, but eventually he managed to sit up. His head was hurting badly at this point and he felt the renewed trickle of blood from his nose that the effort of moving in general put on him. "Damn," he rasped, pulled his legs over the edge of the bed and stopped moving.

He was most definitely on Moya and not only that. He was in his quarters too, on his bed ... well, technically it was their bed, his and Aeryn's. "Aeryn," he muttered and pressed the back of one hand against one bleeding nostril. The thought of her, and what might have happened to her, lend him strength and he got unsteadily to his feet. He wasn't wearing his boots, but that was an issue he didn't have the strength or the mental fortitude to address right now.

On his way out of the cell, he grabbed a smallish towel and pressed it against his nose, and then, using the walls for support, he slowly made his way away from their sleeping quarters. He turned a corner and almost ran into a big, burly man.

John reared back a step and blinked furiously a few times to clear his vision with little luck, but despite the general blurriness of his vision, he could easily tell that this guy was dressed like a PK.

"Commander. How are you feeling?" the man asked and John figured he'd lost his mind somewhere along the way, because it sure sounded like this guy was worried.

John stared at him for a moment while a sense of unreality settled on him; unreality and fear; but then he decided to ignore this man, hoping he would disappear if he did, and then he moved on. There were Peacekeepers on Moya and they were acting oddly, which made him wonder if his brain had gone hinkey and he was imagining things again.

He met more of them on the way, some men, some women, all of them equally concerned for his wellbeing, and he realized that their concern scared him more, than if they had threatened him. Peacekeepers didn't care. Not about others than their own team members. So why would they give a hoot about him? It just didn't make any sense.

In a free bit of passageway, he stopped briefly to regain his bearings and realized that in an attempt to avoid further run‑ins with these probably imagined Peacekeepers, he had been distracted from where he wanted to go; he had been heading toward Command. Instead he now found himself on the way to the center chamber, but that was just as well because he could hear Aeryn's voice coming from inside.

He reached out for the doorframe and just barely managed to stay on his feet. To regain some of his composure, he stopped dead in the doorway and leaned one shoulder against the frame.

His presence had so far gone unnoticed, because Aeryn kept talking and she sounded pissed off.

"I have a right to know," she demanded.

"I know you do," the person she was talking to replied in an infinitely patient tone of voice. "But, as I said, I will tell you what I can as soon as Crichton is capable of participating."

"That is not good enough," Aeryn countered angrily. "What the frell am I supposed to tell him when he wakes up in the middle of everything?"

"Officer Sun, there is nothing I can tell you right now that would make this situation any better," the other person replied.

John finally focused on the room and it took his eyes a moment to adjust before he could make sense of the blurriness he was looking at. The sight that met him nearly knocked the air out of him. There was Aeryn, sitting at the table, sharing a drink with none other than Braca. The implications of what this might mean hit him like a two-ton truck and if he hadn't been leaning against the doorframe, he would have fallen flat on his face.

Aeryn finally saw him and rose. "John," she said, concerned.

Braca, who had so far had his back to the door, turned around and halfway rose as well.

"What's going on?" He knew that his voice was barely above a whisper and every second that ticked by made it harder for him to remain on his feet, but this situation did warrant his attention and he had no idea what to think of it in general. What little he had heard of their discussion had made no sense to him at all.

Aeryn hurried over to him and barely managed to grab hold of him before his knees gave in beneath him. "What are you doing out of bed, you drannit?" she countered quietly. "You're in no condition for this."

"There are Peacekeepers ... on Moya ... Aeryn," he countered, able to focus on only one thing at a time, and this was it.

She hauled him to his feet and helped him over to the bench. Braca, amazingly, gave her a hand and hunkered down next to him the moment he was seated. "You don't look so good," he said, apparent concern in his tone.

John stared at him for a moment, his peripheral vision narrowing in slowly. He knew he was close to passing out, knew that he'd overdone it big time, but he struggled to stay conscious and for now was able to hold on. "How'd you think I would look?" he countered, putting as much venom in his voice as he could muster.

"I am sorry. That was a stupid comment," Braca said and had the decency to look embarrassed.

"What are you ... doing on Moya? I thought ... we'd be cosmic dust ... by now," he demanded, feeling the strain of the anger rippling through him. It was draining his very limited resources, but he couldn't cool down, not right now.

"Last microt rescue," Aeryn said, keeping it vague. "You are not in any condition for this, John. You can barely sit up. You need to rest. Medic's orders."

"Screw the medic. What the ... hell is going ... on here?" he insisted. At this point, his words were slurred and his vision was beginning to become very unfocused.

"We'll discuss this when you feel better," he heard Aeryn say, but her voice sounded like she was a mile away.


As soon as John passed out, Braca called for some of his men, who came rushing in to help get John back to bed. Once he was settled, Aeryn sat down on the edge of the bed and eyed him for a moment. She understood his response very well and only wished that she could have filled him in. The fact remained, though, that Braca had refused to tell her anything worthwhile until John was able to be present as well.

"I should have stayed with him. I shouldn't have left him alone," she muttered, speaking mostly to herself. Then she shifted her attention to Braca, who had remained while the rest of his men had left the cell again. "I need an explanation, Braca," she said sternly. "I will not brush him off again like this. He has every right to be worried about your presence on Moya."

Braca made a face, but then nodded. "I realize that," he admitted.

"Why did you bother rescuing us when you could have left so much easier on your own? And why did you leave Scorpius behind? What the frell is going on?" Aeryn had many questions and they were beginning to surface now. Previously, the whole situation had been so out of context for her that she had gone blank when it came to asking the right question at the right time. And Braca had made it abundantly clear to her that he would only tell both of them what was going on; maybe because he did not wish to repeat himself, but it was more likely that whatever he had to say was aimed at John, not at her. She rose, intent on getting the answers she needed before John woke up again. "I realize that I am outnumbered here, but I will not vouch for the consequences if you don't give me a frelling good reason to not blow your head off," she added darkly.

He eyed her for a moment, and then sighed lightly. "I am sorry, but for now I can tell you nothing other than what I've told you already. You are safe with us. We mean you no harm," he reiterated.

Aeryn closed her eyes and sank back down on the edge of the bed. She had grown softer in later cycles and would not be able to carry through with her threat of killing Braca, mainly because both her mate and her child were at stake here. "Get out of here," she finally said and opened her eyes again. "Just get out."

Braca eyed her for a microt, then turned around and left.

She watched him go with anger boiling in her blood and the sense of helplessness that had overcome her on the command carrier threatening to set in again. What was she going to tell John when he woke up again? That they were safe? What the frell did that mean? Braca was a dedicated Peacekeeper and the fact alone that he had deserted from a condemned carrier was so out of character for him that it made her head spin. She had no idea how to handle this situation, let alone what to believe. Where had Braca gotten the ident‑chip from that had allowed them to flee? And why had he gone against his nature and shot a commanding officer to do so?

No matter what lay ahead, though, one thing she had already promised herself. She was not going to leave John's side until he was able to fend for himself.


Pilot's voice interrupted her reverie. She tapped her comm badge. "Yes, Pilot," she countered.

"I have been given coordinates to a planet on the far edge of the Uncharted Territories. I wonder if you could perhaps vouch for our destination?"

Pilot sounded nervous and Aeryn didn't blame him. Even though these Peacekeepers had been uncommonly gracious, Aeryn didn't trust them and neither did Pilot or Moya. "Are there any Peacekeeper installations in the area?" she asked.

"None that I can detect. And ... Captain Braca gave me access codes for the Peacekeeper network. Moya's data stores can now access current information about any movement of the fleet and none are deployed that far out," Pilot replied. "Why would he do that?"

Aeryn frowned. She assumed that the comm‑channel he was contacting her on was secure or he would never have dared ask such a question. "I'm not sure, Pilot. I don't know what his agenda is. He keeps assuring me that we are safe and that they mean us no harm. But I don't know what to think. Use the grid to search for any information about that area. Perhaps you can come up with something that will reassure you better than I can. Whatever you decide is good enough for me."

"Yes, Aeryn," Pilot replied and he sounded a little depressed. "How is the Commander?"

"He was awake briefly. I hope that means he's getting better," Aeryn said and sighed. "Are Chiana, Little D and Rygel still with you?"

"Yes, they are," Pilot replied. "The Peacekeepers have not bothered us. They seem uncommonly ..." He trailed off, perhaps in want of a word that would fit the situation.

"Friendly?" Aeryn asked.

"Yes," Pilot replied and she could almost hear the smile in his voice. "How peculiar for Peacekeepers to be friendly. Perhaps they have left that life behind like you did?"

Aeryn smiled briefly. "Perhaps," she agreed and wondered if that was it. But she couldn't reconcile that with what she knew of Meeklo Braca and his record as an overtly dedicated Peacekeeper. It made no sense.

"I shall do as you suggest. Thank you, Aeryn," Pilot said and the channel went silent again.

Not for the first time since this oddness had started did Aeryn wish that John was awake so she could discuss it with him. His normally positive view on things always made her see things in a different light and right now, she was convinced they were being taken to their doom.


His first venture back into the land of the living had not been a very successful one and this made him hesitate when he slowly surfaced again. The headache was less pronounced, but still there, stabbing away behind his eyes and making him feel a bit queasy even before he was fully conscious.

The metallic taste of old blood combined with the general dryness and an unbending need to find a bathroom tore him out of the relative comfort of unconsciousness and he sat up slowly, wishing he were somewhere else, doing anything other than being in pain.


Aeryn's voice was full of concern and something else he couldn't put a finger on, but basic needs came before anything else as he pulled his legs over the edge of the bed and struggled to get up.

"You should stay in bed," Aeryn admonished.

He did not even attempt to speak, knowing full well that – at the moment – this too would fail miserably. Instead, he pushed himself up and finally found his feet.

Aeryn took a cautious step toward him. "John, I'm serious," she insisted. "You're in no condition to be up."

"Bathroom," he croaked and took a shaky step forward. Aeryn was quick to grab his arm when his knees buckled under him and he nearly took a spill.

"Oh," she said with a vague smile, and then helped him over to Moya's equivalent of a bathroom. "Do you need any help?"

He glanced at her. "There are certain things ... I don't want to share," he rasped and cleared his throat painfully.

Aeryn gave him a crooked little smile and allowed him to deal with the rest of this trip on his own.

Once he returned to the room, he realized that he had regained some strength. Although his gait was anything but surefooted, he was able to make it all the way back to the bed without falling on his face.

He sank back down on the bed and closed his eyes, trying hard to stop the room from spinning by trying to ignore it. Aeryn settled down next to him and rubbed a hand over his back a few times. "This is probably a very stupid question, but how are you feeling now?"

"Like I've been ... run over ... by a steamroller," he countered, his face halfway buried in the pillow. "Twice," he added and shifted his head a little to allow him to breathe more freely. "Aeryn ... what the hell is Braca ... doing on Moya?"

He had noticed that his speech was slowly returning to normal and that any hesitation was more from the bone‑deep fatigue than anything else.

Aeryn glanced at the door and grimaced. "To be honest, I'm not sure," she admitted, her tone subdued. "If the marauder hadn't been damaged in the blast wave, I'm not sure where we would be right now. In a sense, it worked in our favor and we're on Moya now. Technically, we should have the power, but ..."

"How many?" He tried to push himself up, but gave up on it. It was a sad day when a trip to the bathroom took everything he had to give.

"Ten," Aeryn countered. "I did think about shooting Braca. He won't tell me anything, keeps insisting that you have to be present too." She shook her head, her eyes on the entrance.

"What's the matter?" He could tell that she had something other than this predicament on her mind and he couldn't help wondering what it was. "There's something ... besides this ... bothering you."

She glanced at him and sneered almost helplessly. "I don't know, John. Maybe I'm beginning to be as paranoid as you are, but Braca is very out of character. Considering how he has been every frelling time we've met him, there is something very wrong about the way he behaves now. He's ..." She paused and sighed irritably. "He's nice."

"Heaven forbid ... someone should be nice," he breathed, barely able to keep his eyes open. "Aeryn, go get him. Wake me up ... when you get back. I want answers too."

"Are you sure you feel up to it?" she asked and brushed her fingers through his hair.

"Yeah, I'm tough," he countered with a vague smile on his lips.

She leaned in and pressed kiss onto his temple. "That you are," she agreed quietly. "Just not very lucky."


Braca switched his comm badge off with a slight frown. It had been a given from the very microt he had entered their cell that both of them were of the firm belief that he would never do anything against regulations.

In essence, it just proved how good he was at his job that he could inspire such overwhelming faith in his ability to be a good Peacekeeper, but it made other aspects of his life very difficult. With a sigh, he settled on the edge of a console and stared ahead of himself.


One of his men, Officer Muradov, took a step closer. "It's all right. It is as expected," he said, holding up a hand.

"Would it not be prudent to tell them?" Officer Muradov asked.

"All in good time, Muradov. All in good time," Braca countered and wondered if the man perhaps was right.

Before he could make any further decisions, the rapidly approaching footsteps of Aeryn Sun caught his attention. He rose and turned around to face her as she stepped into Command and he had to admit that he admired her. She had broken completely with the Peacekeeper ways, but had somehow managed to retain the good sides of Peacekeeperdom without letting them interfere with her newly discovered freedom.

"Braca, John is awake and we both want to know what the frell is going on," she said, cutting right to the bone.

He had hoped to wait a little longer before he filled them in. At this point, he had very little to back up his claims with and that could make it exceptionally difficult to convince them. However, he had given his word and he was a man of his word, so he nodded once. "Very well. I suppose it would be best to go to your quarters?"

Sun gave him a withering glare and he almost smiled. She was such a character. The Peacekeepers were a poorer lot without her. "What do you think?" she countered, her tone dripping with sarcasm.

"Lead the way," he suggested and nodded toward the door.

Sun sneered, turned around and stalked out of the room again, ignoring his men with a vengeance.

"Shouldn't she be a little more grateful? After all, we saved them," Muradov said, a puzzled expression on his face.

Braca merely smiled in response and followed the headstrong ex‑Peacekeeper out the door.


John had managed to pull himself together and was actually sitting up when Aeryn returned with Braca in tow. Aeryn briefly eyed him, taking in the surroundings in one swift sweep, and was satisfied that he had done this on his own.

She stopped in front of him. "Are you all right?"

He glanced up at her, gave her a pale smile and a weak nod, and then focused on Braca when she stepped out of the way. "I hear ... you have something ... to tell us," he said.

Braca nodded. "First and foremost, how are you feeling?"

"Like I've been electrocuted," John countered in a try tone of voice. "How are you feeling?" He eyed the Peacekeeper captain for a moment, and then made a face. "Let's cut the chit‑chat ... and get to the point." Something was lending him strength. For every word he spoke, his voice became stronger.

"Let me start by saying this," Braca said, glanced from one to the other and then fixed his gaze on John. "I cannot, at present, divulge all information. But I can give you some of the reasons for why we are here now."

"In other words," John said and straightened his back a little more, "you're gonna give us ... a run‑around and leave us ... with little more than we had to begin with. Why are we talking ... if you're not gonna tell us ... what we need to know?"

Aeryn eyed Braca and read the beginning frustration in his expression. Whatever he intended to tell them, their attitude was making it hard for him to do so. "Because some of what I want to tell you, Crichton, is going to be so unbelievable that I need to be able to back it up. And I can't do that here. I can do that at our destination."

"Which reminds me," John cut in, "where the hell are we going ... and what will happen once we get there?"

"We are going to a secret base," Braca replied promptly, which made Aeryn frown. "What will happen there is up to you. You can either choose to stay or leave."

John glanced up at Aeryn, who arched an eyebrow in return. What the frell was he talking about? "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" John demanded.

"All right," Braca said quietly and paused briefly while he seemed to consider what to say before going on, "first things first. I know this may be hard to believe, but I am not a Peacekeeper."

"What a stack of dren," Aeryn snapped, instantly aggravated. There was no one out there who was more a Peacekeeper than Braca. The man was so dedicated it was almost painful.

"No, I assure you it is not," Braca countered calmly and with a hint of a smile. "I am not, nor have I ever been, a Peacekeeper." The smile widened a bit and Aeryn couldn't help wondering what was going through his head right now. Was he smiling because he thought he was fooling her? Or was he smiling because he had fooled everybody? "I was born free, the son of a Sebacean family. Two of my older brothers and one sister were conscripted by the Peacekeepers and they are all dead; killed in meaningless scuffles between Peacekeepers and Scarrans."

John stared at him and Aeryn knew that expression very well. He was caught between wanting to believe and not daring to. But she didn't believe. Not even for a microt. "As I was saying," she said. "What a stack of dren. How long have you rehearsed those lines before you got them right?"

"This is the truth, Officer Sun. I was not conscripted. My parents decided to hide me, claimed I had run away to avoid the Peacekeepers when they came back for me." He paused, his expression tense now. "They ... shot my parents. But they didn't find me." He drew in a deep breath and held it for a moment. Then he slowly exhaled and settled down on the edge of the gaming table. "An orphan, I decided to try my luck with anyone who might be working against the Peacekeepers and that is how I got in touch with the Resistance. I was no more than ten cycles old when I joined them. And I did so with only one goal. I wanted to bring the Peacekeepers down for what they had done to me."

Aeryn blinked heavily. "Crais was convinced you were born on the carrier. He mentioned it a few times. He would have had your file. He would have known. And Scorpius ..."

Braca held up a hand, stopping her. "I was 'inserted' into the Peacekeepers ten cycles ago. In basic terms, that means we fooled the system. If anyone were to look me up in the data stores, they would find my whole history there from the day I was born into the ranks and up until this latest command carrier was destroyed. The life and death of Meeklo Braca." He sounded a bit cynical.

Aeryn glanced down at John, who was watching Braca with a slight frown furrowing his brow. "So, you're name isn't Braca?" he asked.

"Yes, it is. But Peacekeepers are extremely gullible when it comes to their main data stores. They believe anything they read there. And since it's in the data stores, it has to be true. I admit that I was nervous at first. I was afraid they would find out. But nobody ever suspected anything. I was transferred a couple of times until I ended up with Crais. The transfers were of my own design. Because I had a task."

"And what might that be?" Aeryn asked. She was not completely certain this was a lie any more. If it was, then it was the most elaborate one she had ever heard.

"The task was to find the most likely candidate to rise to the top and stick with him or her until such a time as I could get close enough to the High Council to identify all its members. It is the goal of the Resistance to eliminate the High Council, take over the Peacekeepers and bring them back to what they originally were; a peacekeeping force," Braca replied.

"And still I don't believe a word you say," Aeryn said, her tone of voice tense. "With the right files you may have been able to fool Crais, but not Scorpius. He would have known that you were lying."

Her claim made Braca smile again. "By the time I 'found' Scorpius, I had been a Peacekeeper long enough to convince even him. And, furthermore, this was one of the reasons why I was chosen for this assignment. I am able to lie very convincingly."

"And why should we believe that you are not lying now?" Aeryn asked and folded her arms over her chest. John remained quiet for the time being.

"Because you are still alive," Braca replied with a bit of a grimace. "Officer Sun ... Commander Crichton ... I am not your enemy. I know I must look like I am, all things considered, but I assure you that I am not and I don't want to be." He rose and straightened his uniform jacket. "Think about what I have told you. We should arrive at our destination by the end of this solar day. Once there, I will be able to fill you in on the rest." With that, he left their quarters again.

Aeryn made a move to follow him, to force him to tell them everything, but John grabbed her arm with a surprisingly strong hand. "Let him go," he nearly whispered.

"You believe this dren?" she asked, turning back to face him. "John, you can't believe this. It's fahrbot. It's tinked. It's ..."

"... crazy enough to make sense," John interrupted her. "Why else would he go through this ... whole charade? Why else would he bother saving us?"

"That's what worries me, John. That is exactly what worries me," Aeryn countered and settled down next to him. "Why they bothered to save us."


The Hidden Resistance Base 

Aeryn took a look around to assure herself that this was not – as John feared – another hidden Gamak base. What convinced her in the end were not the Sebaceans staffing the base – and there were plenty of them – it was the presence of other races as well; there were Nebari, a few Luxans, and other races she could not immediately name.

She stopped at one of the many windows of the base and stared out at the lush landscape of this peculiar planet. In a sense, it appeared much like Earth without the population of Humans and the color spectrum was different, but it was a lush, growing world with trees and grass and water. According to one tech she had spoken to briefly, what shielded them from detection was the vegetation. It apparently gave off a magnetic field that made it impossible for any scanner to penetrate the stratosphere of this world. Any readings were distorted and from space, this planet looked like a barren wasteland. Curiously enough, the magnetic field seemed to work only one way and so it was possible for the residents of this world to communicate with space.

Despite her lingering reservations and her uncertainty of what exactly Braca and his people wanted from John, she couldn't help a vague smile. Even though the grass was pink and the trees were purple, she thought John might like it here. And, one way or another, it would appear that they were going to stay.

With a sigh, she turned her thoughts to the medical center, where John was under treatment for extreme exhaustion and something the medic had called borderline brain rot. Aeryn didn't like the sound of it, but wasn't entirely sure what exactly it was ... apart from that it was definitely connected to that frelling chair and John having been in it too much. He would have to recuperate in a machine for the next three solar days and during that time, he would be unconscious; which again meant that she would not learn anything before he was able to follow a conversation without passing out.

With nothing better to do than wander aimlessly through the corridors of this base while listening to Chiana babbling with her son a few steps ahead of her, Aeryn decided to seek out a galley – or whatever this was called on a planet – to get something to eat. "Chiana, time to eat," she said and started forward.

"Yeah, okay," Chiana agreed and happily followed her. "I think the narl's getting hungry too."

They found what Aeryn would call an officers lounge quite easily and to her immediate surprise there were no restrictions; in other words, 'officers lounge' was probably the wrong description for it, because everyone from tech to top brass had access to this lounge.

Aeryn took Little D from Chiana and let the girl get herself a meal first while she sat down at an empty table and sent a quick glance around. This felt too much like home and yet there were vibes that made this place very different too.

Before Chiana could return, someone else took her seat. Aeryn, who had been paying attention to the other patrons of this lounge, turned her head and couldn't help a slight jerk backwards. Braca had just taken a seat at her table and his eyes were on her son.

He briefly glanced up to meet her eyes and smiled. "May I hold him?"

Aeryn frowned. "What?" Her alarm bells went off instantly, making it hard for her to focus on the fact that she now knew that Braca was not a Peacekeeper.

"I like young ones," he countered.

Aeryn could not really find a plausible enough reason to deny him and somewhat reluctantly handed over her child. Braca expertly positioned the boy on his thigh and grinned when the toddler grabbed onto his uniform jacket and pulled enthusiastically at it. Aeryn watched this with a mixture of surprise and concern. It would never have dawned on her that Braca of all people would be interested in children or even able to handle one like this. It was disconcerting beyond compare that she had never been able to see him for what he really was.

Or was this an act? But if it were, why would he have gone through so much trouble to rescue them? All Aeryn could really think of was that it had to do with the wormhole technology that John no longer had. And this thought prompted her into action. "Listen, Braca, I know that John has to recuperate for two more solar days and I know you have been very adamant about not wanting to tell me anything without him present, but ..."

"That is actually what I came over for," Braca interrupted her, his expression serious. "I have told you of my past, of how I came to be among Peacekeepers, and now that we're here, I may as well tell you why. This is a subject I need to discuss with Crichton whenever he feels up to it, but there is no reason why you shouldn't know. Not anymore."

Chiana came over with two plates, one fully loaded with all sorts of dren – half of which Aeryn didn't recognized – and a bowl full of some sort of gruel. She set both plates on the table, pulled over a chair from a neighboring table and, before Braca knew what had happened, she had snatched Little D away from him and settled herself down to spoon-feed the boy with the gruel.

"What the frell is that?" Aeryn asked, nodding at the bowl. She had faith in that Chiana knew what to feed her son, but old habits die hard.

"Narl gruel," Chiana countered. "They've got all sorts of dren to eat for all ages," she added with a chuckle.

Aeryn returned her attention to Braca, who did not look the least bit uncomfortable about Chiana's closeness. "You have baby food in an officer's lounge?" she asked.

Braca smiled. "This is not an officer's lounge, Sun. We're not Peacekeepers, as I keep telling you. This is ... a cafeteria in want of a better word. And it's open for everyone. And of course they offer baby food as well. There are plenty of young ones here."

Considering it brought her nothing. She just found it very hard to reconcile herself with this ambiguous reality of a Resistance she thought she had already met. These people were nothing like the hardened soldiers she had worked with briefly. This was actually more to the point than they had been. "I don't understand," she finally confessed. "I thought I had met the Resistance, but they were nothing like this. They were like Peacekeepers, only ..."

"... meaner?" Braca asked with a vague smile. "Yes, we know of them. They're mercenaries. They make credits off other peoples suffering. That is not what we are about."

"Then what are you about?" Aeryn asked and folded her arms over her chest, eyeing the former Peacekeeper captain while a slight frown furrowed her brow.

Chiana accidentally dropped the spoon and Braca was quick to pick it up and wiped it off before he handed it back to her with a smile. Chiana – as always – took this change in stride and continued feeding Little D.

Aeryn watched this scene, unable to shed the feeling of unreality. Despite her already lengthy absence from the Peacekeepers and all the things she had learned, she still found it hard to believe that Braca was, in fact, not a Peacekeeper. "It must have been very hard for you," she said.

Braca gave her a puzzled look in return. "What?"

"You seem set on helping others now. If that is part of your nature, you must have had a very hard time among the Peacekeepers. I've known you for many cycles and I've never seen you even glance toward those in need," she said, hoping that she had somehow cornered him.

"That must have been the hardest part of it, yes," he agreed. "It's not easy to ignore suffering in others."

"And yet you did," she countered.

"I had to maintain my cover, Sun. If I had done anything that would have been considered abnormal for a Peacekeeper, I wouldn't have lasted long. I'm relieved to be free of that now," he replied. "I know this must all seem very ... forced to you and probably hard to believe."

"Very hard," she agreed. "But I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt for now." A quick glance around this comfortable space made her wonder what their agenda really was. These people seemed far too relaxed to be able to mount an efficient rebellion against anything. She found it hard to believe that there was any kind of discipline, but she ascribed that to her upbringing and the fact that old habits die hard.

"Thank you," Braca countered. "I was going to tell you what we are about, wasn't I?"

"Apart from that ridiculous suggestion that you want to overthrow the High Council and take it over?" Aeryn asked. She folded her arms over her chest and leaned back.

"Why don't you get something to eat first? Then I'll fill you in," Braca suggested.

"Stop stalling. Tell me what the frell you're up to," she shot back.

He arched both brows, and then shrugged. "Of course," he agreed. "Well, it is our ultimate goal to return the Peacekeepers to their original function. But until then, we are more than happy if we could somehow overthrow the High Council. I know that it won't make much difference if the same type of people climb the ladder after the members have been taken out, but our hope is that more liberal‑minded leaders might start the change from within. We had hopes for Maryk at one point. He was easy to sway, easy to convince of new paths to take. But both Grayza and Scorpius messed that up; she by blatantly murdering Maryk and he with his obsession with Crichton." He paused, his expression a bit bland. "Of course, if Scorpius had not pulled out of the battle with the Scarrans, then the war would have been upon us right now."

Aeryn's expression tensed. "Why did Scorpius pull out of the battle?" It was no real surprise that Grayza had been behind the death of High Chancellor Maryk, nor did it surprise her the least that Braca knew this. But the fact that Scorpius had interrupted an assault on the Scarrans was surprising.

Braca looked a little puzzled by this himself. "He insisted that he knew Crichton was alive. How he could know that I don't know. Except for the possibility ..."

Aeryn held up a hand, palm out. "Don't say it," she warned. "The mere thought ..."

"And yet it needs to be said. Is there any point where Scorpius could have reinserted a chip in Crichton's brain?" he countered, watching her intently.

Aeryn felt herself grow cold at the very thought. There had definitely been enough opportunities. "Yes," she finally whispered. "He claimed he had removed the clone from John's mind. And it seemed to work."

"A temporary setback, I'm sure, if in fact it wasn't supposed to work that way. It is quite likely that Crichton still has the device in his brain. Even though Scorpius is gone, it might be advisable to have it removed," Braca said. "I know the hardware. It doesn't take much to activate it and it broadcasts his position widely."

"Frell," Aeryn hissed and glanced at Chiana, who had stopped feeding Little D. They were both watching her.

"Fell," Little D insisted sternly and slammed a pudgy little hand down on the table edge.

"He's very progressive," Braca said with a vague smile on his lips, but then grew serious again. "I can have the medics locate the chip and remove it before Crichton wakes up," he added.

"Do it," Aeryn countered.

Braca nodded and quickly contacted the medical center over his comm to arrange for the extraction. Then he focused on her again.

"I don't understand how you can still be so hopeful that your plan will work out. You failed your mission," she said, trying to distract herself from John's possible dilemma for now. There was nothing she could do to help him. All she could do was hope that the extraction went well.

Braca obviously thought that was funny, because he chuckled briefly. "I'm not the only one working under cover," he replied. "Although, I had the biggest advantage. I was very close to the top. But there are others that will take over from here and find a way to identify the members. We have considered taking them out one by one as we identify them, but that would not have that big an impact. If we hit them all at once, it will leave the Peacekeepers leaderless."

"And more dangerous than ever," Aeryn inserted. "What I don't understand is what you want from John. You know very well that he no longer has the technology. If for nothing else, Scorpius' probing should have revealed that."

For some odd reason, Braca looked somewhat surprised by her words. "You think that is what we are after? The wormhole technology?" he asked.

"Yes, of course. You've seen it in action. You know how much destruction it can cause. What better way to take out the High Council?" she said.

Curiously enough, Braca looked taken aback by her words. "Are you aware of how many thousands of lives would be lost if we were ever to use something as destructive as that?" he asked quietly and shook his head lightly. "You are right. I have seen it in action and I have no wish to ever witness such a destructive force again. No, we're not after the wormhole technology. Crichton's demonstration of its power more than convinced us that this was not the way to go."

Now it was Aeryn's turn to be taken aback. She leaned forward a little, staring at the former Peacekeeper captain with a frown furrowing her brow. "Then what the frell do you want with him? He's not a very good soldier."

"It is a case of one man standing up against the entire Peacekeeper force that makes him interesting to us; his willingness to sacrifice everything to stop Scorpius from doing more damage. His strength lies in his ability to be a role model, an icon," Braca explained.

It baffled Aeryn that this could be the only and soul reason for that they had been rescued from certain death. "An icon?" she asked and Braca nodded with a smile. "What do you intend to do? Strap him to the front of a command carrier and parade him around for all to see?" The bafflement was slowly turning into resentment. "Because I can tell you one thing up front. That's not what John wants."

"Crichton has already been an inspiration to many of the additions we've had in recent times. Some are mere Sebaceans; some are former Peacekeepers. The more Peacekeepers we can get on our side, the better," Braca said. "But we will not force him into anything he doesn't want to do. If there's one thing I've learned from Scorpius' handling of him then it's that pressure doesn't work well with him."

"No, it doesn't. And if you coerce him into anything, he doesn't believe one hundred percent in, Braca, I am going to rub you out. John has suffered enough at the hands of Peacekeepers. He doesn't need any more humiliation," Aeryn countered angrily.

"Of course not," Braca agreed all too readily. "But, if you don't mind, I would like to discuss this with him. I do believe that he is still capable of making such decisions on his own, isn't he?"

The somewhat sarcastic tone to his voice was hard to ignore and Chiana giggled gleefully at it, which prompted Little D to copy her although his giggling was more a sputter than anything else. Aeryn glanced at them and that at least shut Chiana up again. "I know John, and I know his sense of honor. If you in any way present this to him so he has to say yes, you are a dead man. Do I make myself clear?"

Braca eyed her for a moment, and then nodded once. "Perfectly." He rose. "If you'll excuse me? I have work to do." With that, he left them and Aeryn just sat there and stared ahead of herself.

"Why are you so frelling nasty to him? This is the best frelling deal we've ever had," Chiana said and picked at some of the food she had brought for herself. She pushed the plate into the center of the table. "Help yourself," she added.

Aeryn eyed the heap of different dishes she hardly recognized and then shook her head. Whatever hunger had been gnawing at her before was gone. Instead, she was worried about their future yet again.


Braca stopped just outside the door to the canteen and pursed his lips in contemplation. Sun had always been obstinate and that could pose as a problem at this point. Then he glanced back at the now closed door. There were things she didn't know, things he knew Scorpius had known about and 'fixed' in his own peculiar manner and he briefly wondered if he should tell her. Then he shook his head lightly and headed toward medical. There was no reason to unbalance her more than she already was. Besides, other things were more important right now.

The medic in charge looked up when Braca stepped in and smiled. "Meeklo. Good news," she said and rose from her station. "Well, bad news and then good news," she corrected herself.

"Axia. You found a chip?" he asked and glanced toward the revitalizer, the machine currently 'curing' Crichton.

"Yes, we did indeed," she agreed and held out a small tray on which the extracted chip resided now.

Braca eyed it for a moment, and then shook his head in disgust. "I always thought it was in poor taste to take away another person's freedom like that," he muttered. "I take it the good news is that the extraction went well?"

"That is correct," Axia agreed with a grin. "Very easy. But of course, it would not have been nearly so easy if you hadn't brought the tool for the extraction process with you," she added and nodded at the icepick‑like instrument Scorpius had originally used to insert the chip with. "One of the techs modified it slightly to ensure optimum performance. I doubt Crichton felt anything."

"Well, he is unconscious after all," Braca countered and stepped up to the machine. "How is he in general?"

"Healing very well," Axia said and joined him. "Handsome man," she added. "Hard to believe he's not Sebacean."

Braca arched an eyebrow. "According to those mediators, his people are actually our roots, which would explain why we are so similar. Whether it's true or not is a different matter. But it is irrelevant."

"True. We have taken the opportunity to study him. Non‑invasive, of course," Axia said and pulled a cloth from one pocket to wipe a bit of dust off the lid of the machine. "Although he is similar on the outside, there is not much on the inside that resembles Sebacean."

Braca nodded. "Irrelevant. As long as we can help him if he should get wounded, it makes no difference."

"Oh, that is easy now that we have his basics on file. We have synthesized some of his blood to be on the safe side," Axia countered. "And he heals incredibly well. He should not experience any side effects of the fatigue he has had to endure for so long now. Monstrous machine, that chair. I do hope we intend to ban it from use once we manage to take over the Peacekeepers?"

"Oh, you can rest assured that I will personally see to it if I am still around at that time," Braca agreed with a curt nod. "Alert me as soon as his recuperation is done. I need to speak to him before his mate does."

"Of course," Axia agreed with a smile.

Braca took his leave of Axia and headed back toward the command center of the base. There was much work to be done and, no matter how relieved he was to be away from the Peacekeepers, he had always liked to be in the thick of things. He knew it would take some getting used to, that he did not have to keep up that charade every single solar day from now on. But one of the reasons for that he had been chosen to go undercover had been his ability to adapt to any given situation. It had kept him alive for ten cycles and it would help him adjust now.


Chiana had left Little D with his mother and had decided to take a tour of this facility on her own. In general, she was looking for companionship and there was plenty to go around. Whether this companionship ended up being Luxan, Sebacean or something else was completely irrelevant to her, although she did feel herself gravitate toward the few Luxans on the base. Two of them had mates, which made them off limits, but the two others were quite single and that made them footloose and fancy free.

She soon discovered, though, that Luxans in general were not as open‑minded as her D'Argo had been, and she soon abandoned the idea of finding someone like him among them. The Nebari on this base she avoided. Whatever their reasons were for being here, she would rather not get involved with any of them. The chance of her ending up with her own narl was too high and she was not yet ready to be a mother. If D'Argo could have been the father, it would have been different, but since that had not been an option, she wanted to enjoy her freedom for as long as she could before she settled down.

The thought made her chuckle. There was really only one thing she truly wanted right now and finding someone to frell wasn't really it. It was just the first thing that came to mind when she was a little tense. Sex had always been a recreational tool for her as well as the best way to prove her affection for someone. The thought that when a male turned her down it could be because he respected her had never crossed her mind until she had met Crichton.

She changed her course and ended up in medical where she sought out and finally found the machine Crichton was in. The medic on duty did not seem to mind her presence and she ended up sitting cross‑legged on top of the tube, while she studied his features through the glass separating them. After a while, she reached down and traced her fingers over the class. The energy of the machine radiated outwards from a dark blue to the faintest wisps of white, like fluffy clouds on a bright blue sky.

"Is he your mate?" the medic asked after a while.

Chiana chuckled. "Frell no," she countered with a grin, her eyes locked on Crichton's features. Then the grin vanished and she grew serious. "He's my brother," she nearly whispered.

The medic refrained from asking any further questions and Chiana soon forgot she was there. Instead, she just sat there and watched Crichton, and wondered what would happen to them all from now on. Her previous thoughts of leaving, of going out to find Nerri had ceased a while back. She did not want to miss any of Little D's growing up and she most certainly didn't want to be away from the man resting peacefully beneath her. Aeryn, of course, had appeal too, but Chiana's main reason for lingering was that she adored the ex‑Peacekeeper's boys.

She started tracing patterns on the glass with one finger, then finally leaned down and pressed a kiss onto the glass. "I frelling love you, you know," she whispered. "Don't you dare come out of there any other way than fully healed. We need you, you know."


Aeryn had withdrawn to the outside. There was a patch of plane ground where someone had put up a bench and she just sat there with her son on her lap and watched the oddly‑tinged sky while the breeze brought odd, sweet smells with it. Apart from the occasional take‑off and landing sounds from the distant landing fields, there was no noise, not a sound. She glanced up at the sky, cloudless and high, and wondered if it rained here.

After fussing for a while, Little D had finally decided to give up his struggle to escape his mother's grip, and had fallen asleep on her lap with his thumb securely lodged in his mouth. He was a quite child and a reminder of all the good things in her life; even though she had told John differently, there was still a difference between him and the other John. Not physically, but mentally. He was so intense, so strained and disillusioned, this one. And with good right. But it still gave her ample opportunity to draw parallels between the two men and note the differences in the process.

Sometimes she thought she would go mad if she lingered on this subject for longer periods of time, but right now, she analyzed her feelings and his behavior and knew that there would always be that little shadow between them. It wasn't enough to affect her affections or her love for John, but it was always there like a murmur, a hum against her skin in places he could not touch.

"Your father was a great man, Dargo," she whispered. "Is a great man," she corrected herself and sighed. "Dead and alive. Gone, but still here." She snorted at her own choice of words, and then kissed the top of her son's head. "You will always be more mine that you are his. I carried you, I gave birth to you, and I fed you. I want you to grow up and be like him. As much as you can. I want you to be just and fair and indifferent to race and class and breeding. I want you to love with all your heart, and believe, and have hope. Just like your father."

The boy shifted a little and suckled on his thumb and Aeryn smiled and glanced toward the sky again. "I feel you with me always. I know you're still here, but part of you isn't. Part of you is out there somewhere. Maybe with Zhaan's goddess?" She shook her head at her own thoughts, then rose and returned to the inside. They had been assigned quarters for their stay on base and Aeryn figured it was time to let Dargo rest in a decent bed for a while. She could use some downtime herself.


Although circumstance had sometimes forced him into this situation, it was not common for him to go from a near comatose sleep to being wide-awake in a split second. And yet that was what happened. One second there was nothing and the next he was lying on his back, staring up at a dull grey ceiling while trying to wrap his mind around where he was, how he'd come to be there and – first and foremost – what had happened before.

He blinked a few times, and then glanced sideways to the left. There was nothing but grey walls that way. He frowned lightly, and then glanced to the right. There was a window at the end of the room and there was a tree just outside. It looked like a normal tree except for the color. It was purple. The frown furrowing his brow deepened.

Then he propped himself up on his elbows and gave the room a good looking at. A bedside table to his right and a chair next to the door was all the furniture this room had apart from the bed he was in. He was dressed in what looked like a grey pajamas and there was no sign of his clothes anywhere.

Slowly, he sat up, testing his strength. Now that he had time to think about it, he remembered what had happened clearly. And he assumed he knew where he was; the Resistance base Braca had been babbling about.

Before he could give this any deeper thought, the door opened and Braca stepped in. That man was an enigma to him. How he had been able to fool Scorpius for all these years was beyond him and it made him consider that maybe Braca hadn't fooled Scorpius at all; maybe he was fooling them into believing he had fooled Scorpius.

"Crichton," Braca said, pulled the chair over and sat down on it. "How are you feeling?"

John stared at him for a moment, unable to reconcile himself with what he had been told so far. He found it almost impossible to believe that Braca was not a Peacekeeper, but on the other hand, it was as hard to believe that someone so dedicated could pretend not to be. "Better," he croaked and first then realized how affected his voice was by this whole deal.

"Your voice should improve quickly," Braca said with a vague smile. "Do you feel up to talking?"

John wasn't sure what there was to talk about, but he nodded once and refrained from using his gravelly voice right now.

"I wanted to speak with you before Sun turned up; mainly because she seems to be of the opinion that you cannot make up your own mind about things," Braca said and grinned. The sarcasm in his tone was evident and John wondered where he had learned such a human trait. "Anyway," he continued before John could think of anything to say to that, "I have discussed this matter with Sun and ... well, as you can probably imagine, she had her own ideas about it. I wanted to pose this question to you alone though."

"What question?" John rasped and cleared his throat.

Braca eyed him for a moment, and John wondered what would happen, if he refused whatever Braca was going to ask of him. "In general, the main reason for that we saved you, is because ... you are already standing out as a ... role model in want of a more appropriate word, for potential future recruits."

"A role model?" John frowned, and then glanced sideways at the bedside table. There was a pitcher of water sitting on top of it, next to a glass. He grabbed both and poured himself a glass of water. His throat was dry enough to rival the Sahara and he needed to do something about it before he started spewing dust. "What the hell are you talking about?" he then asked, pleased that his voice at least sounded less gravelly.

"I know of quite a few Peacekeepers who have turned their back on the High Council and have joined us because of your story. Even as the High Council lies about what you have done, they still manage to alienate more and more of their own people. We need ... an icon, if you want. We need someone who can inspire others, who can ..." here Braca smiled and shook his head, obviously at his own thoughts, "... preach the truth."

"Preach?" John had a feeling where this was going and he didn't like it. "I'm not a preacher. And I don't know what the truth is. All I can do is live by the set of basic rules I've been brought up with, but they don't seem to apply out here."

"On the contrary, Crichton ... John. May I call you John?" Braca asked and John shrugged lightly. "The fundamental truth of your actions appears to be that you want peace, that you want others to get along. Am I right?" To this, John could do no more than nod. "That is what we want too. We want to be able to get along with each other, to not oppress others and not try to eradicate our neighbors because they happen to be different from us." Braca rose and walked over to the window to look outside for a moment. "The message the Eidelons gave us made this very clear. We are not living according to our potential. We are working against everything we were made to be," he said, then turned back to face John again. "That is the message we, as the Resistance against the High Council's ways, have tried to get across to others. We need to bring the message across to as many as possible. And we need you to serve as a beacon to those that have lost their way."

For a moment, John just sat there, and then he pulled his legs over the edge of the bed and stared at Braca for a moment longer. "A beacon?" he asked and Braca nodded. "Braca, I can barely function out here. I've been here for a little over four cycles now and still the slightest actions that even the infants among you can figure out cause me trouble. I'm nobody's role model. The only one I want looking up to me is my son and even that I may have to pass on, and leave it to his mother to be the one who teaches him the rules."

"Your role would not involve getting into combat, John," Braca tried to convince him. "You would be safe. Your family too. All we would expect you to do is be there and give advice to those who might need it; and allow us to use your name to win others over to our cause."

"What, and end up being portrayed as a holy man who lead the Sebaceans out of temptation?" John frowned, and then shook his head. "I appreciate the offer, Braca, and as enticing as it may sound ... that's not what I'm about."

"Would you at least think about it? Sleep on it? Give it some thought?" Braca countered.

For a moment, he just sat there and stared at the other man, and then he finally nodded. "Don't expect me to change my mind, though. I most likely won't," he replied.

"Good enough for me. If that is your decision, we will accept it. I was just hoping that you could help us," Braca said and walked over to the door. There he paused for a moment, then glanced back at John. "You are welcome to stay here for as long as you want, no matter what your decision is. Nobody will think ill of you if you turn this down. Just so we're clear." That said he opened the door and left.

John got off the bed to test his strength and found that although he felt a little weak in the knees, it was miles better than how he had felt the last time he had woken up. Whatever these resistance guys had done to him, he felt almost normal again. He made his way over to the window, using the wall as a support and eyed the landscape out there. It could have been anywhere on Earth if it hadn't been for the odd colors. Pink grass, purple trees? "What a weird and wacky universe we're living in," he muttered.

He had barely uttered those words before the door opened again. Fully expecting it to be Braca yet again, John turned around to tell him off before he got started, but the words never made it over his lips. There was Aeryn, with Little D on her hip. "Babe." He grinned. "Both of you," he added.

Aeryn strode over to him and handed him his son. "How are you?" she asked, her gaze scrutinizing.

"Much better. A little weak in the knees, to be honest, but now I just feel like I've just gotten over the flue," he countered, returned to the bed and sat down on the edge. "And how are you doing, little man?"

"He's doing fine. Chiana is spoiling him rotten, of course, but that was to be expected," Aeryn countered, pulled the chair closer and sat down on that. "John, has Braca been in to see you?"

"The second I opened my eyes," he agreed and met her gaze. She looked a tad angry now.

"Fekkik," she muttered under her breath.

"It's okay," John countered and gave her a lopsided grin when she eyed him thoughtfully. "I basically told him no."

"Basically?" she asked tensely.

"Aeryn, babe, I promised the guy I would think about it. It's the least I can do. They saved us from certain death, after all," he said.

"You are not seriously considering staying here, are you? Is that what you want? To become an icon? You'll be a figurehead. You won't have any influence. You'll just be ..."

John grabbed her hand, stopping her. "No, honey, I'm not considering it. You and this little guy here come first. And, to be honest, I can hardly figure out how to open the damned door. I don't think I'm the best choice anyway. They'd soon find out and I'd rather not be here when they realized they wasted their ammo on saving me. They may just get miffed about that. And with my luck they will."

The tenseness seeped out of her. "As long as you're not considering it," she admonished.

"I'm not. There's nothing I want less than to be someone's idea of a figurehead. I just want to be left alone. I don't want to have to instruct others on how to wage war against their own kind," he assured her, then raised her hand and kissed the back of it.

"Fell," Little D insisted vehemently and slapped their clasped hands with both of his.

John arched an eyebrow and glanced down at him. "How old is he now? Six monans?" he asked and looked up to meet Aeryn's eyes. "And he's talking?"

"Of course he's talking. Why wouldn't he be?" she countered with a slight frown.

"Because human kids don't talk when they're six months old. They babble and spit their food on the floor," he said and glanced at his son. "He's a damned genius."

That brought a smile to Aeryn's lips. "I would call him many things, but a genius he is not," she said.

"Right. And why is that?" John countered without taking his eyes of the kid.

"He can't pronounce it properly," she said.

"Well, that's not the word I would choose to teach him first anyway. To hell with whether he can pronounce it or not." John sighed. "Good going. The first word you say is a swear word. Your grandpa will be so proud of you."

"That's not the first word he's said," Aeryn said with that smile still on her lips.

John eyed her. "What's the first word he said then?"

"Dah!" Little D insisted loudly and slapped a flat hand against John's chest.

"That's the first word he said," Aeryn confirmed. "I'm assuming he means you."

John couldn't help grinning. "Try Daddy instead," he suggested.

Little D scrunched up his face in a mimicry of his father's frown and grabbed John's chin. "Dah ... dy," he repeated, then threw himself backward while laughing his head off.

John struggled to hold onto the squirming kid, but managed in the end. "At least he has a sense of humor about it," he said.

"He'll need it," Aeryn agreed. "So, when will you tell Braca no?"

John's grin faded a little. Despite what Braca had said, there was still the real possibility that his no would not be well received. "Tomorrow," he said. "The guy promised no hard feelings if I said no. You think he can be trusted on that?"

Aeryn took her hysterically giggling son back and calmed him down a little. Then she met his eyes dead on. "It would serve no purpose for them to alienate you, no matter what your decision is. I doubt he'll be happy about it, but if he has promised no repercussions, I'm certain he'll stick to that."

"As long as you're certain," John countered and glanced around the room. "Where's my stuff?"

"I'll bring it by," she said and rose. "John, whatever you do, don't let yourself be goaded into accepting this. I know you by now and it would not make you happy. And if the Resistance loses – which I think is quite likely – then the High Council really has a reason to hunt you down. And they will. And not just you. We will all be in the line of fire if that happens."

John nodded. "I get that," he agreed. "We're out of here tomorrow and we won't look back. How's that for a quick decision?"

Aeryn smiled and handed him his son back. "A lot can happen between now and then," she said, turned and left the room.

John watched her go and let out a sigh. "Dah?" Little D asked, watching him with a frown on his brow.

John smoothed a hand over the kid's face. "Don't frown so much," he muttered.


For their stay at the base, they had been assigned an apartment, which they all shared; or rather would have if Aeryn had allowed them to stay. Chiana and Rygel were back on Moya; much to Rygel's delight and Chiana's chagrin, but Aeryn did not feel comfortable about the base and she had sent Little D with Chiana just to be on the safe side.

John was sitting on the spacious couch, staring ahead of himself with an expression she knew only too well. He wasn't happy. He wanted to trust these people. Truth be told, so did Aeryn. She just didn't dare to. "Look, it was a simple decision to send those three back to Moya. It is not one that is supposed to sway you one way or another. I did it to be safe, not to annoy you," she said, having so far tried to explain to him for half an arn why she was behaving so paranoid.

"I get that," he repeated for the umpteenth time. "Aeryn, they're offering us a helping hand. Hell, they're offering us a place to stay no matter what. I think it's kinda rude to ..."

"Stop it, John. Just stop it," she countered and hunkered down in front of him. "I know you want to be friends. I know you want to believe in the best in everybody. But if our experiences should have taught you anything, it should be that not everybody is trustworthy. And I don't trust Braca. I can't help it. He stood by and allowed Scorpius to torture you, and he did nothing to stop it. It was only when his own life was in danger that he decided to act. And that is not the mark of a friend."

"Aeryn, honey, I get why he did what he did. There's a hell of a lot more at stake here than just me," he said and took her hands when she placed them on his knees. "It doesn't mean I'm happy about it and it doesn't mean we're suddenly best buds here. I just know what I see and he saved our asses when he could just as soon have left us behind." He sighed and leaned back, pulling her up and onto his lap. "I know you worry, babe, and I'm worried too. That's why I'm turning him down and that's why we're leaving in the morning as planned. I just don't want to bite the hand that feeds me, okay?"

Aeryn frowned. "What the frell does that mean?"

"It means that if we leave here while still on friendly terms with these guys, we may have a place to turn to if we need it. Burning all the bridges we cross is not a good idea. Do you get me?" He wrapped an arm around her back and rubbed his other palm lightly over her thigh. "I don't want to tick these guys off by seeming ungrateful, Aeryn."

She sat still for a while, and then pressed a kiss against the side of his head. "I get you," she whispered and smiled vaguely. "I just don't want Little D down here. And I don't want Chiana down here either. She will get herself in trouble."

"She will get in trouble if you don't let her have some fun soon. She may have experienced a lot, but she's still nothing but a kid. And she needs loose reins. You can't tie her down with this nanny‑gig and expect her to be all smiley‑faced all the time," John countered and gave her a small grin. "You're not her mother. Don't act like it."

"I'm not ..." she tried, but trailed off. He was right. She was behaving like a mother towards Chiana these days and she hadn't even noticed. "All right. I'll comm her, tell her to come back down. And I'll tell Rygel the same."

"Forget about Ryg. I think he's happier on Moya," John replied and pulled her down into a kiss. When they broke it again, he had wrapped both hands around her face and looked into her eyes. "I'm just saying, if we get to make out, she should too. She's a sexoholic. She needs to wig out a bit now and again. And this place seems just the spot for her. There are enough different races on this base for her to find someone she can create some memories with."

"Memories?" Aeryn asked and ran her fingers through his hair. "I'm not concerned about her memories, John. I'm concerned about what kind of dren she may get into. You know her. She's impulsive and it always ends badly when she's impulsive."

"Just let her come back down," John countered and Aeryn could do nothing more than nod. He was adamant about it and there would be no changing his mind. But she could decide when she would let Chiana come back. Concentrating her attention completely on him, she soon distracted him enough to avoid any further mention of Chiana or anyone else.


The following morning

Finding the command center of the base wasn't the easiest task John had ever encountered, but he did manage to find it in the end with minimal guidance, and was relieved that Braca was actually there.

He stopped next to the somewhat harassed‑looking ex‑PK and eyed the various displays. "This is a nice little operation you've got here, Braca," he said after a moment.

Braca had obviously not noticed his arrival and glanced at him, looking somewhat surprised. "Oh, I didn't see you," he said and smiled. "Did you have a good night?"

John frowned lightly and wondered how extensive the surveillance was in this place. "Yeah, it was decent," he replied. "Listen, Braca, I've been giving your suggestion some thought and I've discussed it with my family as well. I'm gonna have to decline."

Braca's smile faltered. "Oh," he said, and then pursed his lips. "Are you sure?"

John nodded. "Yes, I'm sure," he confirmed. "Look, I kinda get the feeling that this is a big deal for you guys and ... if it makes any difference, you can use my name. But I'm not ... I can't stay here. I don't want to be involved in all this. I just want some peace. You know?"

Braca eyed him for a moment, and then nodded. "I know," he agreed. "I had to ask."

"Yeah, I get that," John agreed. "It's just ... I've been involved in this whole Peacekeepers-versus-Scarrans deal from the moment I got here and I'm just so tired of running, of having them breathing down my neck. I would much prefer if the Peacekeepers thought I was dead. And the Scarrans too, for that matter."

Braca nodded again. "I understand. And I don't blame you." He glanced at one of the men working at the console next to him. "Take over here," he said, then nodded toward the door. "I'll walk you to your pod."

John had to admit to himself that he found it a bit disconcerting that Braca was being so gracious about this, but it would appear that they had never really known the true him. "So, I guess you won't be discussing any strategy with me now, eh?" he asked with a slight smirk while they walked away from the command center.

"What would you like to know?" Braca countered.

"What are you going to do next?" John asked, convinced that Braca would not share such information with him.

For a moment, it seemed that he was right. Then Braca sighed. "Well, we will try to bring down the High Council. We have identified five members and I think the time has come to make a move against them. Our ultimate goal is, of course, to take over, but if that won't work, at least we can cripple them and maybe they'll change their way of thinking."

"Sounds like a tough job," John said. "So, what if you fail?"

"It is a tough job," Braca agreed, "and if we fail, we draw back, regroup and try again. There is no easy solution to this and it will cost lives."

"Then why not leave it be? Is it really worth all this bloodshed?" John asked and wondered if he was once again projecting human emotions on an alien universe.

"No, of course not, but if we leave it be, the bloodshed will be worse. As will the degradation and the humiliation of prisoners. I would think you of all people know what I'm talking about here," Braca replied and glanced at him.

John drew in a breath and held it for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah," he agreed quietly.

They came to a stop in front of a door leading outside. "Is Sun still here or is she waiting at the pod?" Braca asked.

"She's out there already," John confirmed.

"Do you need anything? Supplies? Weapons? Essentials?" Braca asked on.

"I think we're good," John countered.

Braca nodded. "Well, fly safe, John Crichton. And remember. If you need anything, we're here. You're always welcome to come back."

John held a hand out to the other man, who frowned briefly, then hesitantly took his hand. "Good luck, Braca. You're gonna need it," he said.

Braca opened the door for him with a smirk. "Just in case you can't figure out how to open it," he said.

"Funny," John countered with a grin. "You're developing a sense of humor, Braca. That's good to see," he added and clapped him on the shoulder. "Adios, buddy."

He turned and walked out into the odd sunshine of this world. Right before he turned a corner around the low buildings that made out the base, he glanced back and saw Braca still standing in the open doorway. He raised a hand in greeting and Braca answered with a wave of his own before disappearing back inside.

John continued toward the landing fields and the waiting pod while he tried to decide whether he should break into a run or if he should take it slow. Despite everything, he was having a hard time deciding whether Braca was being truthful or not. This probably had a lot to do with Aeryn's distrust of the man, but he himself had a paranoid bone or two in him these days and he would be happy to see this world sailing away in the distance once they were back on Moya.


On Moya

All while Moya geared up to leave the quadrant and right up until the moment when she actually went into starburst, John kept staring at the display in Command, waiting for a swarm of prowlers to follow them and pull them back in or destroy them. But nothing happened. A few freighters lumbered around the area, but none of them seemed dangerous enough to worry about.

Once the stars turned into stripes and the forward momentum forced him to grab a hold of the console in front of him, John slowly exhaled a breath he hadn't been aware he'd held back.

He was alone in Command. Aeryn and Chiana were taking care of Little D and heaven only knew where Rygel had disappeared to. That meant that John was alone with his thoughts and his worries about a potential assault. When it didn't come and they got away unscathed, he had to stop himself from turning his paranoia toward what these ex‑Peacekeepers might have done to Moya.

"Pilot, after we left you guys, were there any of these ex‑PKs on board?" John asked and turned his attention toward the clamshell.

Pilot raised his head and eyed him. "No, Commander. They all left with you," he countered.

"And nobody came back later?" John asked on.

"No, Commander. Why?" Pilot replied.

John grinned a little halfheartedly. "I'm just being paranoid again. That's what you get for being kicked in the face by people you trust," he said and his grin turned into a grimace. "No matter how little you should have trusted them to begin with."

"I understand your need to trust others, Commander," Pilot said, his tone thoughtful. "Although I must admit that I do not understand why you would ever trust someone like Scorpius, considering what he has done to you."

Moya left starburst again and John could finally release his hold on the console. "I keep asking myself the same question. I guess it's hard to mistrust everybody all the time," he said. "Anyway, Pilot, it's good to be back."

"It is good to have you back, Commander. Moya and I were concerned that perhaps you might choose to stay there," Pilot said and focused fully on John.

"Not a chance. We've had enough adventures to last us a lifetime." As the tension slowly seeped out of him, so did most of his energy and he suddenly felt very tired. "I think I'm gonna go take a nap. Guess I'm not as revitalized as I thought I was," he added. "You keep up the good work, Pilot."

"Thank you, Commander." The image on the clamshell flickered off.

John eyed it for a moment, then shrugged lightly and left Command.

The End