Ten Arns, Eight Hundred Ten Microts
"I don't like this any more than you do. But it's the only way." Rygel said with resignation. "I need her to get me to the surface. It'll be up to you to take care of her once we're there."
Chiana stood frozen outside of Rygel's quarters. It's not possible. I know Rygel's a self-centered slug, but he wouldn't hurt Aeryn. She had come to talk to the little Hynerian because his concern for Pilot had seemed so uncharacteristic. But this ... this was even more uncharacteristic. Who is he talking to? And why does he want to get to Pahk so badly?
For several microts Chiana hesitated, unsure of what to do. Zhaan. I should tell Zhaan. Just as she made up her mind, the telltale sound of Rygel's throne sled broke the silence. She slipped into an access shaft just as he entered the corridor.
D'Argo paced from one command console to another. The temporary measures that Zhaan had used to stabilize Pilot seemed to be working, but he was concerned that he could lose control again without warning. He was surprised at the depth of his feelings. He and Pilot had never been good friends. Shipmates, yes. Companions, yes. But friends? Would Pilot call me his friend? After all we have endured together? I wonder; has he forgiven me for taking his arm?
The towering Luxan stopped pacing as he came once again to the tactical console. He checked the readings and made some minor corrections in their orbital coordinates. There was a bit of instability that had him worried. Pilot's control seemed to be wavering again and though he had spent time in the symbiont's body when the Halosians had attacked, D'Argo felt under qualified and overwhelmed with the task of keeping Moya on course. This would be so much easier if Aeryn were staying. She understands this all so much more than I do. I hope they hurry.
Ten Arns, Two Hundred Seven Microts
"Rygel, you know what you're trying to get, right?" Zhaan asked for what seemed the tenth time in the last fifty microts.
"I am not a fool you blue assed bitch," he snapped, "We need two hundred treigas of premium quality Veriten Ore that can be distilled into the anti-toxin. And we need it in just over ten arns. You've already told me at least a dozen times."
"Forgive me Rygel." Zhaan apologized, "I am concerned about Pilot."
"As are we all Priest. You are not the only one who is worried." He muttered impatiently as he directed his throne sled toward the transport pod. Aeryn and Crichton had already loaded the goods with which he planned to trade and he was anxious to get started.
As he ascended the steps to the pod, he could tell Crichton and Aeryn were fighting again. He considered turning around, not wanting to be a party to their quibbling, but he was ready to leave and growing very tired of their incessant arguing.
"You are NOT coming with us Crichton!" Aeryn hissed as Rygel swept into the main pod chamber.
"And why not?" he demanded. He stood, arms crossed, feet firmly planted with his back to the pod entrance. Rygel stifled a chuckle at the picture they presented. The former Peacekeeper trying to calm the human - such a change from when they had first come aboard Moya.
"Because we decided that only Aeryn and I would risk going to the surface." Rygel said firmly. Crichton, who hadn't seen or heard Rygel enter the pod spun around, surprised that he was so close.
"Are we ready to leave?" he asked, turning to face the former Peacekeeper. She nodded and he turned toward Crichton once again, "I suggest you get the frell off the pod so we can get on with our mission. After all," he added in his most arrogant voice, "you wouldn't want to be the one who caused Pilot's death, now would you?"
"I don't like this. I don't like it one bit." Crichton groused as he headed toward the access port. He stepped through then turned abruptly, looking both of his shipmates in the eye. "Just be careful ... both of you." Then he turned and raced from the pod before he changed his mind and insisted they take him.
He watched the departing Transport Pod with a heavy heart. I've got a bad feeling about this. Something just ain't right. I've watched her leave on missions without me before. Why is this time so different?
We weren't lovers before you idiot.
Aw hell ... maybe she was right to keep some distance between us.
Nine Arns, One Thousand Twenty Five Microts
Aeryn found herself wandering the small marketplace alone. Rygel had finally made contact with a dealer who was willing to negotiate for the Veriten Ore, but he had refused to have a Sebacean in his shop. Despite Rygel's assurances that she was trustworthy, the man had insisted she leave. Not wanting to jeopardize the negotiations she had agreed.
So now she walked aimlessly from shop to shop. Few merchants were happy to see a Sebacean enter their shop, especially one armed with a Peacekeeper pulse pistol.
She found her mind wandering as she walked through the market. All around her people bought or sold goods, going about their daily lives while her friend was fighting for his very life. It's not fair. He doesn't deserve any of this. He only wanted to travel among the stars. And now that's what's killing him. He could be safe on his homeworld; instead he's here in the Uncharted Territories traveling with a group of fugitives. After all we've shared, all the struggles, all the battles, all the dangers, it's not right that a simple disease should threaten his life.
How different my life would be had I never met him. I would be so much less.
Aeryn stopped cold at the voice. It sounded vaguely familiar, but out of place somehow. No one on this planet should know her. Slowly she turned toward the voice. Recognition dawned and her blood ran cold.
Baryn. Baryn Tal. Special Commando. Pleisar Regiment. Icarian Company.
The tall, sandy haired Peacekeeper moved toward his former associate. The hatred in his gray-green eyes was unmistakable and Aeryn knew instantly that she was in deep trouble.
Silently berating herself for allowing her concern to distract her, Aeryn set her Peacekeeper mask in place. But not soon enough. The smirk that appeared on Tal's face told her that he had seen the fear that had flooded through her at his approach. She allowed her hand to slip down to rest lightly on her holster's release, but stopped short of drawing the weapon. Too many civilians.
"Tal. What brings you to this backwater planet?" she asked in as casual a tone as she could muster. Even when they had been on the same side he had set her on edge. And now ... now that they were on opposite sides she was even more cautious of him.
"The uprising brought me here," he replied in a deep, angry voice. "But you will get me out of here." As he spoke, he circled toward her forcing her to move with him. She knew he was trying to distract her while the remainder of his patrol moved to surround her. But knowing it and being able to prevent it were two different things.
"I will not be your ticket out of here," she replied with more bravado than she felt. She knew instantly that Tal was confused by her use of one of Crichton's "erpisms" when an angry scowl replaced his naturally cocky demeanor. He's almost as transparent as John used to be. She hoped his momentary confusion would cause him to drop his guard but he was a Peacekeeper. He regrouped quickly and pressed forward, pulling his pulse pistol.
"Go ahead, give me a reason to use this," he snarled, leveling the pistol at her.
She scanned the quickly growing crowd. Women. Children. None of them looked sympathetic to her plight. After all, these people were in open rebellion against the Peacekeepers. What was one more in the scheme of things?
Weighing her options quickly, Aeryn moved her hand away from her weapon slowly. There were too many innocent bystanders around and she was determined not to bring them into this. Tal glared at her, a mixture of disgust and disappointment playing across his face. She knew he'd wanted her to put up a fight so that he could get revenge for everything he felt he suffered because of her.
He nodded and two members of his patrol moved forward. One relieved her of her weapon while the second secured her wrists behind her. As the shackles locked into place she felt John's rattlers in her stomach. She wasn't concerned about her own fate, though she had no desire to die. Her concern was for her shipmates aboard Moya. They were depending on her and she had let them down.
Tal stepped forward, standing so close that she could feel his hot breath on her cheek. She had to force herself not to recoil as he pressed his body close to hers. "You are a disgrace," he sneered. "A true Peacekeeper would never have allowed herself to be taken so easily."
Without another word he spun on his heel and strode away. The members of his patrol closed ranks around her and pushed her forward. She knew that each one of them longed for her to resist so that they could mete out punishment on this traitor to the Peacekeepers. And she knew that she would not give them the satisfaction. They thought her weak because she didn't resist, but she had others to protect. If that meant her former comrades thought her a coward, she could live with that.
Tal and his patrol paraded their prize through the main square, taking the opportunity to publicly humiliate her. Heads turned as they marched her through the streets. Seeing someone in Peacekeeper custody wasn't all that unusual and most of the locals had become disinterested. But today it wasn't a Pahkma in custody; it was a Sebacean. That alone was worth a look.
Nine Arns, Twenty Five Microts
"What do you mean, Aeryn's in custody?" D'Argo shouted into the comms.
"She knew the risks in coming here, Luxan." Rygel replied angrily. "I will not be blamed for her carelessness."
D'Argo opened his mouth to respond, but was silenced as Zhaan laid a calming hand on his arm. He turned to look at her and she shook her head, silently communicating that his anger was doing more harm than good. She glanced across Command to the strategy table where John sat, head in his hands, a dazed expression on his face.
"Rygel," she began calmly, "I'm sure this wasn't your fault. Tell us what happened."
"She was wandering through the market while I negotiated for the ore. Negotiations that were very successful, I might add. When I went to look for her to return to Moya I saw her being herded through the streets by a Peacekeeper patrol."
"Peacekeepers?" D'Argo sputtered. "She was taken by Peacekeepers?"
"What else have you learned Rygel?" Zhaan asked, hoping to quell D'Argo's rage before it fully exploded.
There was a long pause and each of those still aboard Moya began to wonder if there was more to it than Rygel was telling them. Crichton, who had been silent since Rygel's first communication snarled, "You'd better not be hiding anything Buckwheat!"
"I was just trying to decide how to tell you this." Rygel replied in his most wheedling tone. "Apparently she was recognized by some members of her former unit. The patrol leader is named Tal and he's a mean one."
"Tal?" D'Argo questioned; his voice barely a whisper. "Did you say the leader's name is Tal?"
"Yes. Baryn Tal. Why?"
"No reason." D'Argo responded, his face settling into a stony mask. Lo'Laan's cousin. Macton's accomplice. I will have vengeance.
"Can you get back to Moya with the Ore?" Zhaan asked softly. She knew that Crichton and D'Argo would want to stay close to Pahk, might even want to mount a rescue attempt, but her first priority was to distill the serum for Pilot.
"Not right now. They have Moya's pod surrounded. And before you ask, no, I don't know how long they will be there. But I do know they are now looking for all of us."
"Well stay hidden then Rygel and try to get back here as soon as you can." John muttered as he turned around and headed toward the corridor.
"Crichton, where are you going?" D'Argo demanded.
"To the planet, where'd ya think?" He said with a wave of his hand.
"No!" Zhaan and D'Argo shouted simultaneously. Crichton stopped, startled by the vehemence of their tone. He turned slowly, cautiously. His hand slipped to his hip, to where he used to carry a pistol. He flexed his hand unconsciously, anger welling up within him.
"What!" he demanded.
"John," Zhaan began hesitantly. She understood the power of the bond between John and Aeryn, and she knew that he would do anything to protect her. Including putting the rest of them in danger. It might not be intentional, but he could well endanger them all.
"Zhaan, I can't just sit here and wait for a miracle. I'm afraid we're all out of 'em."
"You cannot go to the planet John. It would be suicide. The Peacekeepers will be watching for someone to try to rescue Aeryn."
"You can't ask me to leave her there." John protested angrily. "Do you have any idea what they'll do to her?"
Zhaan crossed the distance between them in a few quick steps. She reached up, cupping his ear with her hand in a gesture of comfort. "Yes, John. I know what they will do. And she would not want you to suffer the same fate. You must trust Rygel to help her."
"You want me to trust Rygel to help Aeryn?" he snorted humorlessly. "If he'd paid better attention, this probably wouldn't have happened."
"Surely you must know that what happened to Aeryn is not Rygel's fault."
"But it is." Chiana's small voice interrupted from behind John.