Task group Actium
Admiral's Day Cabin
"Centurion Amy Dietz reporting as ordered, sir." She said stiffly, standing at attention just inside his door. As he looked up from his desk, she noted the presence of the Flag Captain. She was sitting on the couch under the transparent armour screen that displayed a vista of the local system.
"Yes, Amy. Please sit down. I wish to congratulate you on your work. I have rarely seen anyone take such pleasure from their work as you. Your swift breaking of the Sebacean commander saved us from losing a great deal of physical tech, not to mention all the information stored in the data banks. Of course it is incomprehensible to us at the moment due to the major design differences between our comp units, but I believe that progress is already being made at translating it to suit our own systems."
She felt slightly off balance at the warmth of the greeting and the praise of her work. She couldn't understand why.. just a second, he said he had rarely SEEN… He's telling me he's watching my every move.
"Thank you, sir," she said carefully, trying to feel her way through what was starting to feel like a minefield. "Is there anything else?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. It seems that someone has been trying to access a number of dedicated systems on the ship, including my personal data store. I was wondering if you, with your wealth of knowledge of how this is done, could suggest any means of identifying the culprit."
"Ah, I'm afraid that is more the domain of our technical branch sir, I have extremely limited abilities in that area," she said trying to sound humble.
"I know. That's how I was able to trace the illegal searches back to you." He sat and smiled coldly at her. "I think I warned you already about what I will accept from you and what will get you killed."
"Damn it, you can't threaten me!" she shot to her feet and leaned towards him over the desk.
"That's odd, because I just have." He smiled coolly at her as he leaned casually back in his chair.
"You will never get away with this!"
"Of course I will, I control this fleet and it's personnel. They believe what I tell them to believe, one of the benefits of the Imperial system that you in Intelligence have exploited for years. I really don't know why it surprises you to find out that others do too."
"When we return you'll be sectioned and handed over to Intelligence because of my report."
"When I return and if you do, they won't be able to touch me. I'll be able to write my own ticket for this and you know it. So what if I upset a little intelligence agent? I'll have led the first extra-galactic reconnaissance raid and recovery in Imperial history. I'll be famous and decorated. You'll be lucky to survive long enough to return with us." He stood and walked around the desk, Dietz continually turning to face him. He stood close to her and whispered in her ear.
"I don't like you, I don't like what you stand for, and I don't like that you enjoy what you do so much. But, as you proved on the base below, you have your uses. If you keep yourself nice and quiet and only use your… talents where I tell you, at the very worst you can expect to survive. At best you can share in the glory that comes with a successful mission."
Dietz paused for a moment, fear and revulsion fighting for supremacy in her gut, even as she recognised the same intimidation technique she herself used on the Peacekeeper officer. She steeled herself to give a response.
"I'll do as you say," she said, loudly and clearly. Then she too leaned in to whisper in his ear, "but when we return, I'm going to make it my life's work to destroy you. I know you are involved in something. Your personal database was empty, not even a data fragment. That's not proof, but it is highly suspicious. I WILL have you."
She then stood up straight and saluted. "Permission to leave, sir?"
"Permission granted, Amy. Oh and, Amy? I'll remember what you said if you remember what I said." With that he stepped back and allowed her to exit his office.
"That was hardly the most diplomatic handling of an intelligence officer I have ever seen. In fact, I think it was perhaps the most stupid and suicidal thing I have ever seen."
"Oh come on, Gillian. It was fun don't you agree? Little Miss Amy, the pet psychopath of the intelligence directorate, is just so focused on me, she wouldn't even notice if you walked in naked and shot the emperor in front of her.
Region Delka One
Braca approached the daunting figure in black nervously. He knew this news would not be well received by Scorpius and so was not above hesitating to gain himself more time to compose himself before he had no choice but to speak up.
"What is it Lieutenant?" came the cold and precise voice of Scorpius. "I have no wish to be disturbed, therefore this had better be important." With this he turned around to face Braca.
"We have just received an all ships message from the New Gammack Base, sir. It has come under attack and expects to fall shortly. The message also included scans of the attacking vessels as well as a demand for surrender to the Base Commandant."
"Show me," he said, with an imperious wave towards the holo imager.
Braca inserted the data Cartridge into the base of the imager. Above it two men appeared. One in Peacekeeper uniform, the other in a grey jumpsuit with indistinct markings and patches. Scorpius was silent as he watched the entire conversation. When that was done scans of the attacking ship were shown. When the images finally stopped, he was silent for several microts. When he finally spoke Braca jumped slightly due to the sudden break of the silence.
"I want that recording analysed, have the techs tear it to pieces for all the information it contains. I want those markings cleared up, the background brought into focus and the speech patterns analysed. Do the same for the ships." He paused once more before resuming.
"I also wish you to put in a request to first command to have all combat capable ships we have in this region to be consolidated and placed under my command. Also I want all confirmed and suspected sightings of this mystery fleet to be forwarded to me immediately. Have them analysed also to see if there is a pattern being followed." With that he turned his back on Braca resuming the work he was doing before he was interrupted.
Braca took this as his dismissal and left. He didn't even bother to acknowledge his orders anymore, he knew Scorpius expected them to be carried out exactly as requested without fail. Or the consequences would be huge.
Once Braca had left, Scorpius went back to the imager and rewatched the images. He knew there was something in them he found familiar but what exactly he was unsure of. He then turned to the scans of the ships. They were completely alien to Peacekeeper design. Massive and blocky, none of the smoothed edges more common in ship design. Instead these ships radiated menace in a fashion that made the surrounding command carrier pale into insignificance.
Scorpius disliked mysteries, especially ones that cost him valuable time and research.
Region Delka Seven
"Why is it I have to go with you to this dump?"
"Because John it's your turn, also because Chiana wants to come and everyone else is too busy to come and keep an eye on her." Aeryn flicked her hair back in frustration as she reiterated the same reasons to John for what seemed the hundredth time.
"Enough! We are already half way there, so there is no point to your complaining. So shut up and put up with it. We will be at most two arns." With this she slammed her hand on the centre panel of the transport causing it to yaw, throwing both John and Chiana off their feet into a messy bundle of arms and legs.
"Jeez, easy Aeryn. No need to get all bitchy, I was just asking." John levered himself to his feet and helped Chiana to hers.
"You know," she said. "I resent the fact that you all still think I'm going to get into trouble on this planet and need someone to keep me out of trouble."
"That's because you do Pip. And you know it. You forgot what happened on the last commerce planet we let you loose on alone?"
"That wasn't my fault. If D'Argo hadn't interfered I would have gotten clean away before they knew anything was wrong."
"And left him and the rest of us to clean up the mess you made," Aeryn groused, "so from now on one of us will be with you at all times. So we can stop you getting US into trouble. Now will you to go away and let me fly this transport in peace!" As they began to leave the flight deck she heard Crichton whisper to Chiana something to do with Peacekeeper PMS. She snorted with indignation, as she had finally forced John to reveal just what THAT meant.
Under more normal circumstances she would have fired back a scathing response to his stage whisper, but with his mood swings and personality changes recently she felt the safest course was to do nothing. She disliked the circumstances that forced her to bring him to the planet but there was too much for her to do alone and she certainly couldn't trust Chiana alone. This way she hoped they would keep each other out of trouble.
It was only the fact that Leviathans were rare in this region of space that he paused to watch the transport pod land. He watched disinterestedly as first a Sebacean female carrying a pulse rifle disembarked, followed by a grey-skinned, white-haired female of a species he hadn't encountered before. He was about to leave when he realised that they were waiting on someone else so he paused and waited also. The face was covered when the male finally walked down the steps of the transport, as he tried to shield his eyes from the bright sunlight using his arm. When he finally lowered it a smile appeared on he distant watcher's face. It was him. He immediately reported his discovery and set to follow them.
"Ok Crichton, here's your half of what we need, but if you see any spare parts that will fit my prowler try to get them, especially flux inducers. The ones on the prowler are beginning to be more trouble than they're worth."
"Sure thing sweetheart, have no fear John is here." With that he grabbed Chiana's arm and walked off down the street.
"I will never understand him," and with a shake of her head she headed in the opposite direction.
"They have just split up, the target is with the grey female heading to the top end of the market. The other female is alone and heading for the trader district. I am following the target."
"Good." A tinny voice replied through the comm concealed beneath his clothing. "Keep them in sight and report if they appear to be heading back to there transport pod. I have sent for instructions."
Region Delka One
"Well Braca, what is it this time?"
"We have a location on Crichton sir. He is on El'Tok San a commerce Planet in Region Delka Seven. I have dispatched a group of marauders to capture him and..."
"Recall them at once."
"Crichton has shown himself adept at escaping from your men. Therefore we shall see just how easy he finds evading capture by this carrier this time. How long will it take us to reach the planet?"
"We are already underway sir, our projected time of arrival is thirty five arns."
"Too long, he will have escaped us by the time we arrive." He paused for a moment in thought. "How much control do we have on this planet?"
"We control the governing Prefect through cut-outs sir."
"Good, order him to have Crichton detained for at least forty arns, that should give us more than enough time." A small chill smile of satisfaction grew on his face as he contemplated having the opportunity to gain the knowledge locked away in Crichton's head. "Have the chair given a thorough check. We want everything to be perfect when we collect our… guest."
"Yes sir at once. I have other news as well."
"A curious coincidence seems to have occurred sir. While the techs were assembling a profile on the fleet that attacked the base, they came across several location reports, which match the fleets profile almost exactly. They found that every such report has happened near planets Crichton is known to have been on or in regions of space between previous locations of Crichton's."
"So you think this fleet has something to do with him?"
"Yes sir, also when the techs were analysing the speech patterns of the fleet commander, the discovered only one match. With Crichton."
"Well Lieutenant, it appears that John Crichton is more a man of mystery than we first thought." A displeased grimace appeared across his face. "I shall be most interested to find out just how he managed to keep this from the chair. Where is the fleet now?"
"Unknown sir but as you know, the base was within eighty arns travelling for this carrier on a direct routing. They seem to have the ability to track Crichton so it seems prudent to suggest we have the ships that have consolidated into the fleet meet us at the planet. After all they could be closer to Crichton than we are, so we could use the additional firepower if it comes to a fight."
"Agreed Braca, send out the orders."
Region Delka Seven
"Crichton…" Chiana's voice trailed off.
"What is it Pip, I'm busy trying to get this… this… whatever it is for Zhaan."
"It's a Chelka Root, and I think we're being followed. No don't turn around!" she commanded sharply. "I spotted him about an arn ago but he kept vanishing. Now he is back."
John sighed with relief. "I thought I was supposed to be the paranoid one Chiana. He probably just out shopping like us."
"Oh? So why does he keep looking at us then?"
"Well why don't we go and ask?" with a grin, he grabbed Chiana's arm and towed her towards the man. Who now had a startled look on his face.
"Aeryn?" Chiana's voice came over her comm.
"What is it Chiana? I'm busy." She finished counting out the credits for the delivery of the goods she had just purchased.
"We have a problem with John." Aeryn froze, her chest seemed to tighten.
"What exactly is the problem with John?" she said carefully and precisely, while praying silently that it was nothing serious.
"Em, well. It just that, err."
"Tell me now Chiana!"
"He's been arrested for attacking someone who was following us. I think he might be a Peacekeeper." This all came out in a rush as if speed alone could lessen the impact.
"Arrested for attacking someone?" Aeryn said, her voice progressively growing louder. "You were supposed to stop him doing anything stupid you trelk. What happened?"
"I pointed out to him that this guy seemed to be following us." Chiana's voice came sulkily out of the comm. "He didn't agree with me and to prove it dragged me over to him to ask him if he was following us."
Aeryn groaned. She realised that this action was so typical of John. Think of a reasonable course of action and you can guarantee that's not what John will do. Instead he'll choose the most reckless, idiotic thing imaginable.
"Yes, well. Anyway when we got close to him he pulled a pulse pistol on us, John knocked it out of his hand and they started fighting. The local peaceforcers arrived and grabbed them both. I followed them and saw the other guy being released, even though everyone said he started it. When I asked about John they said he was being held for forty arns on the orders of the Prefect."
"Just frelling perfect. We need to get him out as soon as possible. The Prefect of this place is obviously working for the Peacekeepers. Frell him, I almost think he does this to deliberately annoy me!"
Task group Actium
Gemmell had just stepped out of the shower and was towelling himself dry when his comm sprang into life displaying his flag captain and the surrounding bridge. He made a hasty readjustment of his towel before responding.
"What is it Gillian?" Gemmell asked, his voice slightly harsh with warning over this less than welcome interruption.
"Sorry sir, but it appears we have been offered a shortcut home sir?" Gemmell was surprised by the tone of Gillian's voice. It was light and mischievous. Her expression was one of barely suppressed amusement.
"Shortcut? What are you talking about?" He asked warily, expecting some kind of joke at his expense.
"We have just had a report in from one of our farscouts. They have detected massive amounts of monopoles. Too high a concentration to be anything but the Farscape craft." The smile of triumph was clearly etched upon her face as she said this, as it was her idea to deploy the scouts in such a vast search area.
"Well, that is good news. How far away is it?" he said wryly, pretending not to notice her snort of amusement at his affected expression of overwhelming joy.
"So far we only have a vector from the scout. I have ordered all the other scouts in the area to close in to triangulate the source. I have also ordered the fleet, under your authority to move at flank speed on a rough intercept vector."
"Good, order the other scouts to close and return to the fleet. What is our estimated time of intercept?" He watched as she consulted the screen in front of her.
"Until we can triangulate the source the numbers are rough, but so far we estimate anything from thirty-two to forty-five hours."
Gemmell grunted with satisfaction at the news. Four long months on this fool's errand and finally an end is in sight.
"Very well. Inform me once we have a solid time. I'll inform Dietz of this development personally." He closed the comm and finished drying himself and got dressed. He left his quarters and headed, whistling to Dietz's assigned quarters.
Region Delka Seven
"So Braca, what news do you have for me?"
Braca licked his lips nervously and took a deep breath before passing on the bad news he had just received.
"It appears that Crichton has just been released by the governing Prefect sir. Apparently he claims he had no choice."
"How long until we reach the planet?"
"Less than half an arn, sir. There is a good chance they will still be there."
"Launch all the marauders and prowlers. Send them ahead with orders to prevent the Leviathan from leaving by any means necessary. Make it clear that it is my inviolate order that no harm should come to Crichton. If he is killed then so shall they be."
"I hope you are satisfied. Because of you we have been stuck here for almost thirty-five arns, when we had planned on staying for four at the very most. You knew there was the possibility of a Peacekeeper element on this planet."
"Yes Aeryn I know. I shouldn't have reacted like I did and I should have been more cautious but I don't think we could have known the locals were in the Peacekeepers pockets. After all I didn't think you guys did deals with inferior species."
"Stop trying to change the subject. It was about all Chiana and I could do to stop D'Argo leaving you behind."
"You and Chiana? What did you two do?"
"Well I threatened to shoot him and Chiana frelled him into submission."
"I bet she found that a real hardship."
"That's beside the point John, we are at risk now that we have had to wait for you. We have no idea when a carrier could appear and we would have had no choice but to leave you behind."
"Aww Aeryn if you keep getting all mushy on me I'll think you care for me." John drawled. Then jumped back as Aeryn whirled around to face him and grabbed his vest and pulled him close.
"I do care for you, you frelling human, as a friend and as a comrade. I would not willingly leave either behind but I would if I must." She growled at him from mere inches away. John was clearly shocked at her reaction to what he thought was simply a joke.
"Aeryn I …" he stammered trying to formulate some words, any words to make an apology.
"Officer Sun I am detecting prowlers and marauders on an inbound course." Pilot interrupted him.
John and Aeryn sprang apart and turned to run for the nearby prowler waiting to return them to the orbiting Leviathan.
"How many, Pilot?" She asked as she leapt into the pilot seat of the fighter, closely followed by John.
" Three full squadrons of prowlers and two of maunders."
"Raise the defence screen Pilot and try to avoid contact. We'll be there in three hundred microts." John commanded from behind Aeryn, then grunted as she threw full power to the engines and took the scorching for orbit and Moya.
"Do you think we are fools Crichton?" D'Argo interrupted. "That was the first thing we did. We are ready to starburst as soon as you are on board."
"Hey big guy, relax. It's going to be all right. We've been in more trouble than this. I mean it's not like there's a command carrier out there."
"Don't be a fool Crichton, where do you think the prowlers and marauders came from. They must have heard about your release and have ordered these ships in to prevent our escape. The carrier can't be far behind." John grunted as he accepted this statement by Aeryn.
"I have detected the command carrier, it is on course to intercept us in orbit." Pilot said quietly.
"Pilot move out of orbit and try to keep out of range of the carrier, with the DS up Moya can withstand a short attack by the smaller ships. If you can't stay out of range of the carrier, starburst. Aeryn and I will take our chances on the planet."
"Very well commander. Moya would like you to know we will stay as long as we can to give you as much opportunity to board as possible."
"I know Pilot, thank Moya for us would you?"
"The prowlers have reported that they are attacking the Leviathan, but it has raised a defence screen which is absorbing much of the impact."
"I find it odd that they have not attempted starburst yet. Have the marauders make a sweep of the area for any ships that might be trying to reach the Leviathan. They must have a reason for remaining while under fire, and my guess is that Crichton has not yet returned aboard."
"Yes Scorpius, I'll relay your orders at once."
"No Braca, I'll do that personally from command. I want to watch this as closely as possible." With that he exited his quarters with Braca tagging along like a stray dog.
Aboard Moya everyone was being shaken both from the impacts upon the defence screen and Moya's desperate attempts to avoid the fire of the smaller ships and keeping as far away as possible from the Command Carrier.
"Pilot," D'Argo shouted to gain his attention. "How much more of this can Moya withstand?"
"Quite a lot actually, the defence screen is deflecting the majority of the weapons fire away from us, but I fear we can't afford to drop it in order to get Officer Sun and Commander Crichton aboard."
"Frell there are too many ships about for us to sneak aboard, as soon as we make a move they'll spot us."
"Too late for that I think Aeryn, those marauders are coming our way. I think it might be time to get the hell out of Dodge."
"What the frell are you talking about Crichton?" Risking an irate glance at him over her shoulder.
"I mean run like hell Aeryn, get away as fast as we can."
"That's the first sensible thing I think you've said in monens."
"Marauders report an unknown prowler lurking in the area sir, they are moving to intercept."
"I want the occupants alive, make sure they understand this Braca."
"Well it seems we have arrived just in time for a party Gillian. Let me guess, the ship we are after is the one currently under attack." At her nod of agreement Gemmell sighed. "Very well, launch the ready squadron. Have them attack the ships actively attacking our target. Task squadrons Alpha through Delta with anti-fighter duties and have Kappa and Omega loaded for anti-ship warfare."
"Sir a squadron of fighters have just appeared on our scanners, they are vectored to intercept the Leviathan. Their configuration matches those reported at the new Gammack base. They just appeared well within our sensor range. They must just have launched from their carrier."
"Assign a marauder squadron to locate the enemy ships and relay there position. Send out an all ships rally call. Urgent assistance required, under attack."
"As you command."
"What do you mean Pilot?"
"More fighters have joined the attacking prowlers but I have never seen anything like them before and Moya doesn't recognise then either. They are beginning to attack the prowlers attacking us."
"Goddess be praised, they are helping us." Zhaan smiled in relief, almost as if she expected that to be the end of it.
"But why? Until I know why I don't like it," growled D'Argo.
"Sometimes D'Argo when someone offers you help you have no choice but to take it." Chiana offered in way of compensation for not knowing the answer to his question.
"Nobody but a fool would attack the peacekeepers with so few fighters. Well a fool or a lunatic."
"All squadrons report ready for launch, sir." The flight officer informed Gillian.
"Very well, launch all fighters. Have Alpha cover Kappa and Omega as they make their runs on the enemy carrier. Beta and Delta are to aid Sigma in fighter suppression around the target."
"Who the frell are they?"
"I have no idea Aeryn but I'm happy to see them anyway. They've drawn the marauders away from us, so as far as I'm concerned I could kiss each and every one of them."
"Ha, knowing your luck, you'd have to marry one of them if you did." John grunted at this less than subtle reminder of the trouble he got into the last time he kissed indiscriminately.
"Yes well. They do look familiar to me for some reason but I can't put my finger on it. Probably some bad sci-fi show I watched."
"We have detected more fighters being launched. Three are heading directly towards us and the remaining two are heading for the Leviathan."
"Raise the Defence Screen and put us on a intercept vector with those fighters when they are in range open fire on them with a wide dispersion pattern."
"Enemy carrier is changing vectors to intercept our fighters."
"What do we know about the weaponry on that ship Gillian."
"It is based upon Chalkan oil sir, like most of their weapons. The techs have no idea how such a large version of this technology lends itself to combat. However given the effectiveness of their weapons I would suggest that we best be wary of it, until we gain a measure of its capabilities."
"Very well hold position here, send in our dreadnoughts with the heavy destroyers to escort them. Also have the pilots fly as extreme evasive manoeuvres as they can and still remain in their squadrons."
"Enemy fighters are taking evasive manoeuvres sir and we are picking up five ships closing on us. All match previously scanned vessels, combat capabilities unknown."
"Fire on the fighters as soon as they are in range, then reconfigure the cannon for combat with those ships."
With that the boiling mass of fire from the frag cannons aboard the command carrier blotted her fighter and several others out of existence.
But her squadrons were all comprised of veterans and her second took over command flawlessly as they continued to press the attack.
"Well that is an impressive looking weapon, what do the readings say?"
"It has a massive energy signature but its shield penetration value is quite low. It's more a hybrid kinetic weapon than an energy weapon. I still advise waiting until we see how it handles the dreadnoughts before we think of closing though."
"They've launched missiles. Brace for impact in 4…3…2…1.."
The command carrier was rocked as the fusion missile impacted and exploded upon the defence screen, causing a massive surge of energy to cause a feedback loop in one of the generators causing it to explode in a shower of sparks and smoke.
"We've lost a defence screen generator sir. If they fire many more missiles like that we are done for. We have to withdraw."
"If they had more missiles they would have fired them by now."
"But we know they have more ships sir, they will have more of these missiles. We can't risk being destroyed. Our reinforcements will arrive in little more than an arn. We can withdraw and link up with them." Braca interrupted Scorpius. "At worst we have to continue to track down Crichton after we crush these ships and at best we will crush these ships and capture Crichton. If we stay we lose everything."
"You are correct Lieutenant. Recall the fighters to the ship and withdraw."
"Enemy ship is withdrawing sir, we have won this round at least. Those shields of there are quite impressive. Most would have collapsed under that weight of missile fire."
"Yes I liked them too Gillian, think they come in any other colour than red?" He grinned at her as the tension on the bridge disappeared to be replaced by a congratulatory mood. "Recall the fighters and launch the scouts to keep an eye on that ship. Now take us in to our target."
"Well this is interesting isn't it?" John asked in a confused voice.
"I have never seen a carrier forced to retreat before, not even against superior numbers. Those missiles must have been extremely powerful."
"Yeah nothing like a fusion missile to knock the wind out of you." John laughed mirthlessly.
Aeryn froze before gently questioning. "Fusion missiles? Was that what they were?"
"Yup, from the looks of them type two or maybe even type three ship killers."
"Oh" she said quietly, absorbing this information.
"Well let's get back aboard Moya shall we. Then we can make any decisions we need to take."