Author: toadie
Rating: R
Summary: John Crichton is not the man he thinks he is.
Notes Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.’
- Friedrich Nietzsche 1886
Archiving: Please contact the author for permission.
Part:  | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 |
 

Black & White

Part 11

Haig and Crichton walked through the corridor from the briefing room toward the boat Bay where Haig's shuttle waited to take him back to his Command. A pair of Republican Marines marched in front and behind them, more for Crichton's safety than anything else.

"I still think this was a bad choice, sir." Haig felt it was his duty to reiterate this fact, even though he had done so many times the day before when Crichton decided he would willingly give his Parole to ensure the swift treatment of his wounded personnel as well as the good behavior of his ships.

"I know you do Haig and to be a hundred percent truthful, I am uncomfortable with the idea myself, but needs must as the devil drives." He waved toward the lead marines as they cleared the corridor of ratings who glared at him.

"You know I normally have no idea what you mean when you say things like that, but I think I understand this time, which is quite scary to be honest." Haig sighed, knowing that now they were on this path there was no way they could safely leave it. Not that they had many choices in the first place. They could have made a drive through Republican space and hoped for the best, but most of their wounded would never have survived. This way they would and with the added bonus of this abomination of a treaty, they could go home without hindrance once all the forms had been acted out.

"Look, it's a simple deal. I stay here as their 'guest' you and the rest of our ships tag along to the nearest Republican fleet base and our people get the treatment they need." To John there was no other choice. His people came first and if that meant he had to endure the hate of this crew the price was little enough to pay.

"It didn't have to be you they kept as a hostage though."

"Of course it did Haig. To these people Imperial officers are nothing more than common criminals and I am a murderous mad man. They wouldn't trust me if I told them I was going to the bathroom, never mind let me command ships so deep inside their territory." Although he said this glibly Haig could tell that Crichton was upset over his treatment at the hands of this crew. The time with his own crew had isolated him from the true feelings the accident on Hell had caused. They had learned to trust and believe him but these people never would. In fact, they would probably hate him until the day he died, if not for even longer.

"I still don't like it. And this Treaty of New Valhalla makes me nervous. We have never signed a treaty with the reb…" at a hard look from Crichton, Haig changed what he was about to say with scarcely a hitch. "The Republicans before, we have always dealt with them for a position of power."

"Sometimes that's just not possible Haig, and this is one of those times. You know better than anyone what we're up against. The only way we'll have enough ships to even delay these monsters is to pull almost every single ship we have off the border with the Republic." The passion in his voice surprised John when he heard it. He knew he wanted to see these creatures destroyed but until that moment he hadn't realized just how dependant he was upon it. Perhaps, he mused, it was a way to wash away the guilt of his own sins.

"And so was born the Treaty of New Valhalla."

They had stopped in front of an elevator waiting for the car to arrive. When it did two crew woman were in it. With a start they moved over to make room for the armed marines. Their smiles died as they saw the Imperial uniforms.

"Exactly, a cheap and easy way to ensure a stable border while we face the threat that took us unawares from behind." John said.

"Have you read it?" Haig inquired, knowing full well that John had, but needing to open this topic of conversation to air his concern over a aspect of the treaty.

"I have yes." John said simply. He then walked out of the elevator as it stopped and the doors opened into yet another anonymous corridor aboard the ship.

"And you're not worried? These people think you're guilty of war crimes and there is a stipulation in the Treaty that all those accused of them will face a trial of their peers. They have already begun assembling the panel for the preliminary hearing at the Fleet Base we are approaching."

"Yes I did hear something to that effect." John said blandly, as if it was so beneath his concern as to have nothing whatsoever to do with him.

"And?" Haig probed.

"And I'm not worried. I'm innocent, the only thing I am guilty of is taking advantage of a terrible situation to save lives on both sides." Then with an enigmatic grin John added, "Besides I read the full treaty. I would suggest you do the same since you're so concerned for my welfare Haig. I think you might find something you missed the first time."

"You're that confident?" Even without knowing what John had planned, Haig could feel his worry beginning to fade already. He had learned to trust Crichton and knew that if he said something was possible then it was indeed possible.

"Well I gave my parole to Gemmell. I stay on his ship and stand as surety for the behavior of my ships, so my only real worry is that you will decide to run amuck in Republican space with my ships." John stopped in the middle of the corridor then turned to Haig. "You don't plan on doing that do you?"

Haig tried to splutter an answer as John took in his reddening face. The question had come from so far out in left field he couldn't even begin to frame a response before a huge grin appeared on Crichton's face as he turned away and started back down the corridor.

"I'll take that as a no then." He shot over his shoulder, the grin still evident on his face.

Haig realized he had been set up and made fun of and tried to think up something that might give him a measure of revenge. Casually he caught up with his commanding officer and asked, "So was that the mysterious Aeryn?" He continued walking several steps before he realized that John had stopped suddenly and was now several paces behind him. He turned around and was shocked at the sickly white face that was focused intently upon him. Reflexively he took a step back from the glittering eyes that seemed to be wholly black.

"What do you know about Aeryn?" The words came out with a deadly snap to them. Haig winced as they almost physically hit him.

Haig swallowed nervously. "Nothing, it's just. Well, you have mentioned her in conversations and well, people were curious but they couldn't find anyone called Aeryn in the information on you. And when I saw how you reacted to her presence and how she reacted to you, I just thought that maybe… I didn't mean any offence I just thought…" Haig's voice trailed off as the dangerous look slid from John's face to be replaced by a sad smile.

"I'm sorry Haig, I didn't mean to... it's just… difficult. But yes, that was Aeryn." He said quietly in a voice that Haig could barely hear. John started walking once more and Haig dropped back into step with him as they continued on their way, this time in silence, to the Boat Bay.

#

 

Command Node
Psyrix sector

 

Amy entered Winkler's outer office and winced as she heard the heavy thump of something large and solid hitting the inner door. She glanced at his Aide who had the glazed look of a man staring down the barrel of a plasma cannon. She walked up to his desk and leaned over and tripped the switch to open the door to Winkler's inner sanctum. The door groaned open little more than half way before jamming in it's tracks. She sighed and carefully maneuvered her increased bulk carefully through the gap.

When she finally made it through she was panting slightly. She was in the final few weeks of her pregnancy and she found that even the simplest of tasks now took the kind of planning she had normally only lavished on the most difficult of missions. She glanced around at the disaster that was now Winkler's office and sighed, shaking her head. Sometimes men would react in the most primitive of ways if they didn't get their own way when they felt they deserved it.

"I take it you've heard?" she said calmly, carefully maneuvering herself onto the couch by the wall that had obviously been too heavy for him to turn over.

"Heard? Of course I've heard. That damn ingrate doesn't even have the simple decency to stay dead." What little hair the arch-Strategos had left was in wild disarray, as was his uniform as he threw himself heavily into his chair behind his desk.

"So what do you plan to do?" The baby was currently leaning heavily on her bladder and she was squirming to try to encourage it to move. She knew it wasn't the most reassuring thing she could be doing at this time but it was that or go in search of a bathroom and she couldn't do that right now. She had to get Winkler calmed down and focused on his task. When he had first approached her with his plan she had been amazed by the complexity of it and didn't understand how he could have possibly kept it secret from the Imperial Security forces. That was until she discovered that he had Imperial security penetrated to such a degree that he could actually control policy.

She had been dubious at the beginning, mainly because she was only being told what she needed to be told, and that was almost nothing. It seemed more a courtesy than anything else that she had been involved at all. It was, after all, her child that the plan hinged on. But the more Winkler became convinced of her loyalty, the more involved he allowed her to become, until it had reached the point that he was regularly looking for input into his decisions.

"I don't know. I have moved everything up and we are ready to move, but his survival puts everything in jeopardy. I never thought I would say this of my own flesh and blood, but the worst thing he could have done was survive the impossible a second time." Again he started to pick up things off his desk to throw them but was stalled by the bark of laughter coming from Amy. He turned a confused face to her, all but begging and explanation.

"Who says he has to survive?" she said with a cold smile.

#

 

Republican Fleet Base
Takara Sector

 

"It is the finding of this hearing that the defendant, Cohortach John Crichton is correct that his accused crimes do not- " The Republican personnel watching the hearing rose to their feet as one in a cry of outrage and betrayal. The officer in charge of the hearing, Major Arthur Dent, raised his voice to be heard over the abuse being hurtled at him and his fellow officers. "I repeat, does not, fall under the terms of the New Valhalla Treaty due to the drafters failure to make the Treaty retroactive in nature. Therefore this board has no choice but to excuse Cohortach Crichton as required in the Treaty of New Valhalla and release him from protective custody immediately."

Haig shook his head in astonishment. When Crichton had told him not to worry about this hearing he had known there was a way out, but even after pouring over the treaty for days he couldn't find anything to explain Crichton's confidence. It wasn't until Crichton had stood confidently and called these hearings void, giving his reasons, that the full import of his words finally became clear. He had read the Treaty but not the FULL treaty. He, like everyone else had skipped the pages of legalistic mumbo jumbo right at the beginning that under any other circumstance would mean nothing. But in this case it did. A simple error in the framing of the document meant that it was only valid from the day it was signed and could not be backdated. It was a simple omission but an important one.

He rose from where he had sat through out the two hours of deliberations on the point that Crichton had raised and approached him, one question burning his tongue above all others.

"Why did you bother sitting through this hearing at all? If you had told them about the framing before you could have saved yourself all this time."

John stood and stretched before turning to smile at Haig. "It's quite simple my friend and sub-ordinate. They made a simple mistake and nobody caught it. But if they wanted me badly enough the Republic could push for a ratification of the treaty and make a minor amendment to it and boom, I'm back here on trial." John waved his arm around in a vague manner taking in the briefing room the hearing had been held in. "but by allowing myself to be put before an Official hearing and have the charges dismissed means that I can't be accused of the same crime again. I'd need to go out and fry some other poor bastards with a nuke before they could touch me."

"Ah. I see. So what do we do now?"

"We wait until our people are well enough to be returned to our ships then we hightail it out of Dodge. Then I can finally get my cabin back, instead of staying in the damn guest quarters aboard the Reprisal. At least I've finally gotten rid of those damn marines, that's something at least." He and Haig had made their way from the briefing room that was in the center of the Station and boarded the inter-station trolley to go back to the Reprisal. From there Haig could trans-ship to the Warlock, which like all of the other Imperial ships was being kept outside of the main defenses of the fleet base. It seemed treaty or no treaty, the Republican navy wasn't going to trust Imperial Ships getting too close. Not even after they had saved so many of their ships.

They endured the journey back to the Reprisal in silence as more and more Republican personnel entered the trolley. The atmosphere seemed so thick to John, he was tempted to make a joke of it with Haig, but decided, wisely, that to do so would only cause one or more of the angry watchers to lose control. He wasn't nervous, after all he had been in much worse situations and survived but he did feel uneasy being the target of such pure and unadulterated hatred. He stared at the floor as he considered his future as quite possibly the most hated man in the universe.

It was like had had always felt. God did indeed have a twisted sense of humor. One-minute things were finally going right for him. They had lost Scorpius, had money and he and Aeryn were finally dealing with what had grown between them, only for his universe to once more be turned upside down. So here he was back to square one if not square minus one. The Trolley slowed and Crichton and Haig got to their feet and exited followed by so many ill wishes John felt them as a tangible presence at his elbow.

"Is it always like that?" Haig asked quietly.

"Pretty much." Was the just as quite answer. "But you can't let them see it get to you so…"

Haig sighed and shook his head. "Even after all the evidence that it was an accident?"

"Haig, it took you weeks to admit it was an accident and that I wasn't responsible. It took some of the crew months to accept it. Hell, as far as command was concerned, was an accident, nudge nudge wink wink, only those who know me believe me and even some of those don't." John sighed and shook his head resignedly. "Don't suppose you fancy a drink do you? I have some scotch."

Both men walked calmly through what could only be considered enemy territory and Haig finally understood the meaning behind the saying if looks could kill. They were standing outside of John's quarters as Crichton punched in the access code, he had almost finished when a voice spoke up from the end of the corridor.

"Crichton."

John's head whipped round with such speed it took his eyes moments to catch up and focus on the speaker. At the end of the corridor was Aeryn, standing in the undress uniform of a lieutenant and wearing wings on her chest signifying her as a pilot. John already knew all this but it was amazing just what the mind finds interesting when something shocking occurs. His body acting on autopilot finished punching in his access code.

As the door opened he whispered "Aeryn" and took a step towards her, when a sudden flash of intense light and heat struck him and he fell into blackness.

Haig who had been standing further away from the door was thrown clear down the corridor ending up close to where Aeryn had thrown herself down in an instinctive reaction to the blast.

Aeryn pulled herself to her feet and helped the stunned Haig to his. They both looked down the smoke and debris filled corridor in horror. It looked as if the walls of the corridor had come crashing down on one side. Twisted metal and sparking conduits were everywhere. Aeryn began to rush down the corridor to search for John when Haig grabbed her and pulled her back. She lashed out, knocking him back to the ground, but it seemed this was enough to make her see sense. She was no longer acting on instinct and was instead thinking her actions through.

"I'm sorry." She whispered to Haig, who she could now see was quite badly burned.

"It's ok, I'm worried about him too." Haig said, trying to offer some reassurance to this woman.

"I'm not worried about him. I'll... I'll be glad if he's dead." She snapped, her face set and determined. Rescue crews began to make an appearance and start the search for John's body.

#

 

Aeryn was in her quarters gingerly treating the minor abrasions she had picked up in the explosion. She treated these wounds automatically as her mind dealt with her reactions to the situation. She had finally worked up the courage to face Crichton. When he had first come aboard eight days ago she had almost fainted, not that she would ever admit that to anyone, but the shock of seeing him alive after knowing he was dead was immense.

She laughed to herself wryly. It was so typical of him. Only he could manage to come back from the dead and in the process save her. If it wasn't so ironic she could almost cry. And when she finally worked up the courage to face him what happened? Someone tried to kill him. And to compound the irony it seemed it was her presence that saved him. That one step he took towards her, took him out of the blast radius and into the shelter of a shielded conduit that collapsed over him preventing further injury.

When Greg had arrived he had been surprised that she had witnessed the explosion and had grown angry when she admitted that she had been in this section of the ship to talk to Crichton. It wasn't so much what he had said or done but his expression spoke volumes. His face had become cold and arrogant and he refused to look her in the eye. Eventually she left knowing the confrontation wouldn't be long in coming.

So here she sat in her quarters, quietly cursing John and all his works. From the day he had entered her life he had turned everything she knew on its head. She was walking towards her bed when her door opened and Greg walked in. She was surprised; this was the first time that she knew of that he had used the access code she had given him for her door. She stood there trying to work out the implications of this when he spoke.

"You're still in love with him."

Aeryn folded her arms in front of her and fixed him with a determined glare. "Just who are you to tell me who I'm in love with?"

"I thought I was your lover, that's who I thought I was!" Even though this was shouted the sarcasm was clear to Aeryn.

"For your information, I am in love with John, not him." Even as she said it she felt her heart drop. This was the truth, she realized. Even after all this time and soul searching she was still in love with John and that realization had just cost her this relationship with Stammell.

She risked a look at Greg's face. Their eyes met, his anger and resentment clear. For an indefinable moment the universe seemed to shrink around her as she took stock of her emotions. She broke eye contact, turning toward the bathroom. Before she had even taken a step towards it she heard the door open and close. She closed her eyes in pain knowing that things were going to feel much worse before they felt better.

Outside her quarters Greg paused leaning back against the door. He then glanced up and down the corridor checking to see if anyone was about. Seeing no one, he allowed himself a small smile and started walking down the corridor whistling a lively tune and trying to control the laughter he felt building in his stomach.

#

 

"What's the news Gillian?" Gemmell turned in his chair to look at Ramirez as she entered his office. She had insisted on checking on the blast investigation personally.

"Crichton had a miraculous escape and will make a full recovery."

"Anything on the bomber?" Scott prompted her.

She sighed and nodded. "Yes. He turned himself in. It seems he had family on Hell and the verdict didn't sit well with him. So he took it into his own hands to extract some measure of justice."

"I didn't expect it to start so soon." He said with resignation, cursing softly.

"You expected this?" Gillian asked with a surprised tone of voice.

"This and more. Crichton's acquittal on a technicality and the fact that he used our own legal system against us to ensure he can never be tried for these crimes has caused a lot of resentment both here and throughout the Republic. As long as he remains in our space he may as well paint a target on his ass and bend over."

Ramirez grunted in agreement. The judgment rankled her almost as much as the fact that he was on her ship. He might not have planted the bomb himself but she felt he was just as responsible if not more so, than the person who did. And anyone who hurt her ship ranked low in her opinion.

"I also have a request from the chief medical officer to limit Crichton's visitors. Apparently he practically has a line of Imperial crew wanting in to see him."

"Who's good is it for? Crichton's or the doc's?" He asked blandly, knowing how much it annoyed the medical staff to have to treat Imperial patients. For a group who had sworn to heal without prejudice, they certainly had some.

"I'm guessing the doc's from the way this is phrased. He really doesn't like Imperials."

"Well screw him. I don't give a damn." He sat back in his chair, as Gillian continued talking to him. He let her voice wash over his awareness, knowing it wasn't fair to her, but there was something wrong about Crichton. He had noticed it from their very first meeting after his return from the dead. He gave the impression of the perfect Imperial officer but… there was just something he couldn't quite quantify. But it was there and it bugged him.

"Gillian." he said, cutting into her diatribe. "When did you last see an Imperial crew, hell, any crew so fanatically loyal to their commander?"

This sudden change in direction threw Gillian and she simply shrugged not knowing any answer to this question.

"Exactly." Gemmell leaned back once more into his chair lost deep in thought.

#

 

An incessant beeping slowly wormed it's way into John's consciousness as he fought to remain asleep. On it went until his mind finally surrendered to the fact it wasn't simply going to go away and prodded him to hazy consciousness to answer the comm. With a groan he forced his battered body into submission and forced it to move. He glanced at the chrono and swore vehemently, it was the middle of the night cycle and he had only just managed to escape the medical bay less then three hours before.

He threw himself down into the chair in front of the comm and punched the accept button. The man he knew from casual questioning to be Aeryn's lover and Gemmell's lead marine appeared on the screen. He had never spoken to him or even spent much time in the same room.

"Yes?" he asked with only a hint of confusion.

"Sorry to wake you Cohortach Crichton but Commodore Gemmell wishes to talk to you about the bombing of your quarters." Greg's well-modulated and even voice seemed to boom out of the speakers. Crichton winced slightly and turned down the volume.

"But I have already given a full statement. I opened my door and boom. That's all I know." John could feel his irritation building. Since he had regained consciousness nine hours ago they had asked him the same questions over and over. He had started to suspect they thought he had planted the bomb in his room just to get someone else into trouble.

"Yes sir, we realize that but what he wants to talk to you about is the implications of the bombing. He feels it's best to do it now to minimize the risks to you." John noticed a slight twitch of a grin appear on Stammell's face as he noted John's irritation.

"But it's the middle of the frelling night." John complained bitterly.

"Again, he feels this is the best time. It would minimize your exposure to possible unfriendly persons." Greg responded evenly.

"Oh, very well. Tell him I'll be at his briefing room in ten minutes." John said with a heavy sigh. It was a conspiracy, first they try to blow him up and now rob him of sleep.

"No sir. Not his briefing room. The Commodore is currently waiting for you in Auxiliary Boat Bay Gamma." Greg interjected before John could cut the connection.

John turned slowly back to the screen with an incredulous expression. "What? Why the hell does he want to meet there? That makes no sense." He said, suspicion coming to the fore. His danger sense that had failed him so badly earlier was beginning to twitch between his shoulders.

"Sir, the Commodore is well known for his need to be aware of all aspects of his command's performance. He is currently engaged in a personal inspection of new systems installed in that bay and feels that as it was a quiet area of the ship he could kill two birds with one stone and have his discussion with you at the same time." Greg knew this was an odd request but one well within the range of action of Gemmell. Some of the places he and Crichton had met during the eight-day trip to the Fleet base beggared imagination.

"Do you have any idea how stupid that sounds?"

"Yes sir, but that's the Commodore for you." He offered.

"Yes it is, isn't it. Very well tell him I'll be there in ten minutes then." John shook his head slowly and exhaled. This was typical of Gemmell, he seemed to thrive on trying to trip him up. So far John had been able to fox him but he knew that Gemmell was worrying away at something to do with him, what John had no idea, but John had accumulated secrets quickly since his return, any of which could be deadly to him. The fact of the matter was that Gemmell was far too perceptive for Johns good.

"Right away Cohortach." Greg smiled and cut the connection.

#

 

John entered the Auxiliary Boat Bay and the hatch closed automatically behind him, the sound echoing in the empty bay. John glanced around knowing something was very, very wrong. There was no sign of anyone, he turned back to the hatch and was about to trigger it's opening mechanism when he heard a cough behind him.

John turned slowly fearing the worst but simply found Stammell standing about twenty feet from him holding a tri-d projector.

"I must apologize for fooling you into coming down here sir, but I have an urgent message for you."

"Oh?"

Stammell smiled and knelt down placing the projector on the floor before taking a step back and activating it. For a moment an amorphous blob of color appeared above it before it took the shape of a heavily pregnant Centurion Amy Dietz.

"Hello my love."

John stared in horror as the image continued to speak. He had tried to put the fact that Amy was pregnant with his child out of his mind but to see it so graphically displayed was like a punch to his guts. He continued to watch the images and listen to it in horrified fascination, not even noticing Stammell walking past him and checking the hatch. With a flick of his wrist Greg overrode the security systems and locked the hatch from the inside, then he checked that the sensors were still disabled in the bay before picking up the large object he had left by the door.

John meanwhile had walked up to the recording of Amy and was studying it avidly trying to figure out just what this was all in aid of. So far all she had said were platitudes with no meaning, nothing worth the risk she had taken in exposing Stammell who was obviously an Imperial agent in the Republican navy.

The image of Amy paused momentarily before lowering her hands to her abdomen and stroking it gently. "To ensure the future of our child, it pains me to have to do this my love, but it seems my maternal instincts have kicked in." She paused dramatically before adding, "Goodbye."

Some instinct warned him, perhaps a slight sound of the whisper of air, but whatever it was it saved his life. John jerked around just in time to avoid a deadly blow with a pneumatic hammer wielded by Stammell. Instead of striking him on the base of the neck where it was intended to it now struck him on the shoulder sending him spinning away from Greg into some heavy machinery nearby.

With a curse Stammell dropped the pneumatic hammer and launched himself towards John, fist outstretched ready to pummel the life from him. John groggily pushed himself upright just in time to met these fists with his face. Blow after blow landed upon his abused body, John groaning with each and every impact. From somewhere he found the strength to not only defend himself but to fight back.

#

 

Ensign Ford Prefect was sitting on the bridge of the ship. Technically he had command but as the ship was docked to the fleet base all he was there to do was fulfill regulations of having a fully manned command staff at all times. But he was bored and in order to relieve his boredom somewhat he had started running a level two diagnostic of the internal sensors. He noted with surprise that the sensors in Auxiliary Boat Bay Gamma were inactive and using the command override, reactivated them.

#

 

John had managed to break away from Greg and was currently doing his best to hide among the equipment scattered throughout the bay. He was currently on a second level walkway, keeping a watchful eye on Greg as he prowled the lower deck. He watched as Greg stopped and glanced up to where John was hiding and smiled. John swore and ducked back under cover.

"I was hoping to make this look like an accident." Greg said as he reached under his jacket and pulled out a plasma pistol and set it to charge. The whine was clearly audible to John from his vantage point.

"How the hell could I have accidentally pounded my own head with a pneumatic hammer?" he temporized trying to figure out someway of surviving this.

"I would have thought of something." With tat he started firing at where john was hiding on the upper decks. John threw himself out of the way of the shots and scrambled towards some more solid equipment that stood a chance of blocking the fire from the pistol.

#

 

Ensign Prefect jerked upright as alarms began sounding on his panned. It took him several seconds to work out what the alarms were indicating. Weapons fire in Auxiliary Boat Bay Gamma. He cursed as he remembered that those sensors had been off-line and he had simply turned them back on and failed to check as to why the had been off-line. He fired off commands to dispatch armed marines to the bay and punched in the comm code to wake the Captain.

"Ma'am, we have weapons fire on the ship. Sensors read it as a plasma weapon." He said without preamble when Ramirez answered her comm.

"I'm on my way. Have you started recording?" Ramirez cut the connection before Prefect could reply. He swore and activated the recording devices hoping that the delay hadn't cost too much.

#

 

Lieutenant Stavro Mueller reached the hatch of the bay with his alert squad. He had never expected to have to answer a call like this within the ship when it was in dock. He hit the hatch viciously as it refused to open at his command.

"Get cutting equipment down here now." He ordered.

#

 

Greg swore out loud as he realized he had lost track of Crichton's location. The man seemed to be an expert at hiding and in here he had plenty of places to hide. So he had to make him reveal his location. As he was wondering just how he could do that he heard Crichtons voice float down to him from above and behind him.

"Hey Stammell. How is it that you, a superior being, can lower yourself to having a relationship with an alien female?"

"She provides me with a battle-steel cover, nobody would suspect that I am an Imperial as I'm sleeping with an alien. It is easier since she at least looks human but I still feel my skin crawl every time I have to touch her." This is what Greg needed to find Crichton, all he had to do is to keep him talking.

"Oh I feel so sorry for you having to make that sacrifice." John growled. The thought of someone using Aeryn like that caused his blood to and it was all he could do to stop from throwing himself at Stammell and ruining all his work so far.

Greg could plainly hear the anger in Crichton's voice and that made him wonder. As far as he knew there was no relationship between Crichton and Aeryn. Perhaps he had missed something. Perhaps he could put this anger to good use and make Crichton do something foolish.

"On the plus side she is good in bed." He said, carefully watching where he suspected Crichton was hidden. He heard an outraged growl and caught a flicker of motion to his right and fired. Greg swore as he missed his target and Crichton ducked back under cover. Another noise was now evident to Greg as he stared around trying to localize it. After several seconds he realized what it was. Someone was cutting open the hatch.

"Well I guess my cover's blown. Oh well, at least I can kill you." He leaped up to a vantage point that allowed him to fire into the space where he knew Crichton was hiding. It was only after firing several times into that space he realized that he wasn't there.

"Damn it, where are you, you bloody coward?" Greg cried out in anger.

"Right behind you." John grunted as he swung a heavy pipe at Stammell's back. He connected solidly, causing him to flip off the gantry and fall to the floor meters below. However, the momentum of the pipe was such that it pulled John after Stammell to the ground. They both landed with grunts seconds and meters apart, the pistol bouncing free of Stammell's grasp and skittering across the floor to rest almost equidistant from both men.

Stammell, being the first to hit and in better condition than John, recovered first. He had no idea where the pistol had fallen so he threw himself at Crichton, slamming his head against he deck before staggering to his feet and delivering a vicious kick to Crichton's head. Pressing his advantage over his stunned opponent, he staggered away and grabbed the pipe John had used to attack him.

John, meanwhile, was fighting not to slip into unconsciousness, knowing that to do so would be mean his death. He groaned and tried to shake his head clear only to decide that was a really bad idea. He swallowed convulsively to try to prevent himself being sick. He forced his eyes open to see Stammell standing over him swinging the pipe down at his head.

He found himself amazed at the resiliency of the human body and at the uses of adrenalin as he jerked his body to one side avoiding the impact by millimeters. The burst of energy that he gained for the adrenaline started to wane terrifyingly fast, his body having already been stretched to the limit time and again in the last nine hours. Desperately he pulled his legs back and lashed out, planting both feet directly into Stammell's groin.

John rolled away as Stammell dropped the pipe and doubled over screaming girlishly. Forcing himself to his feet John staggered towards the hatch, where he knew he could get help. He could already hear the shouts of the searching marines. He then heard the rasp of metal on metal and turned to find a red-faced Stammell forcing himself to stand clutching the pipe. John knew that he was in no condition to fight with Greg again. Just as he also knew that he had no choice but to fight or die. He cast his eyes around desperately and caught sight of the pistol partially hidden behind some spilled equipment.

John literally threw himself at the pistol, landed badly and winded himself. For several seconds he lay there weakly until his mind finally overrode his body's pain signals and forced it to comply. He pulled the pistol from its resting place and rolled over to once more witness Stammell standing over him with the pipe raised above his head.

Stammell looked down with shock at the pistol now pointing squarely at his chest.

"I think we have a stale mate." John croaked.

"No I don't think we do." Stammell replied bringing the pipe down towards John as he fired the pistol point blank into Greg's chest.

 

On to Part Twelve

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