Author: AmyJ
Rating: R (violence)
Timeline: Somewhere between Beware of Dog and A Clockwork Nebari 
Summary: Robbed of her memory, Aeryn Sun struggles to survive on a war-torn planet.
Archiving: Please ask permission.
Part:  | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |
 

Part III

"Wait here." Roxas' command was a breathless whisper in the dark confines of the access tunnel. Aeryn complied,
sensing more than seeing, the woman move away from her. It was pitch black in the space, yet Roxas seemed to move with perfect confidence without aid of light.
Aeryn tried her best to still the frightened tremor in her bones. As they slinked through the corridors and darkened passages, her mind was racing, filled with the horrid glimpses of truth about the Viron project that Roxas had shared with her. She reeled at the knowledge that her own natural immunity could allow the suffering of millions.

Each new noise raised an alarm along her spine, but she sought to control her fear, collapsing it down to some imagined center. It felt oddly natural for her to do this. If the circumstances were different, she would have examined this phenomenon, wondering if it meant some vital link to her past.

There was the sound of metal against metal and then the sudden protest of a creaking hinge. A sliver of light sliced into the dark. Aeryn squinted, turning away.

Roxas' shadow gestured from the new doorway. "Let's go. Before the duty shift changes."

Aeryn felt her way along the wall, hunched over beneath the low ceiling. She paused at the hatch, looking at Roxas. "Are you certain?"

"No." Roxas said with a grim smile.

Aeryn shared the humorless expression. "Honesty… for once."

She stepped out into the catwalk of the corridor, shedding the stale air of the tunnel. Her face was greeted with the damp cool breeze. Off in the distance, came the sound of running water. She looked at Roxas, her brow furrowed. "Water? I thought you said we were beneath a mountain?"

"We are." Roxas returned, gesturing her toward the source of sound. "The Dizine River runs through our compound. It powers part of this facility."

The doctor moved along the deserted corridor, Aeryn in tow. She tried to drink in her surroundings all at once, etching them into her mind. Her eyes searched for anything to jog lose the meaningless jangle of images that formed her memory, even in this alien place.

They paused at an intersection. The sound of water had become a roar; the cool breeze was stronger. Roxas stopped at the bulkhead, and Aeryn nearly collided with her back.

The doctor leveled her gaze on Aeryn. "We will be in the open. We need to cross through the Great Chamber to reach the tunnels to the surface. Do you feel strong enough to run?"

Aeryn nodded. Something within her had switched to life. The fear was replaced by a near predatory willingness for conflict.
Strange… very strange.

"Very well." Roxas returned, licking her lips apprehensively. The doctor was clearly out of her element. Her sheer defiance seemed to make up for it, but not by much. "On my count-"

The air was suddenly split with the clamor of sirens. A metallic voice accompanied them. "Alert. Alert. Security breach. MedLab one. Alert. Alert."

"No!" Roxas yelled in protest. Her voice was nearly drowned out. "Not frelling fair! NO!"

Aeryn looked around in alarm. Motion in the corner of her eye quickly grabbed her attention. Armed Mitzan troopers flooded into the corridor behind them.

A volley of shots pierced the air, zinging off the metal walls around them before the two women could flee. As she shoved Aeryn toward the Great Chamber, toward their escape route, a shot hit Roxas high on her back. There was the sickening aroma of charred clothing and skin. Aeryn pivoted and sank to her knees at the woman's side.

"You're hit." She said, her hands hovering over the charred wound. Aeryn threw a brief glance at the approaching troopers. "Here, I'll help you--"

"Go!" Roxas hissed, her teeth clenched in pain. She weakly shoved Aeryn away once more.

Aeryn hesitated.

"Go, damn you!"

Their eyes met one last moment in a silent exchange.

Aeryn whirled, and fell into an all-out sprint. Her muscles were instantly singing with the flow of adrenaline as she pushed along the catwalk suspended high above the raging river.

More shots rained down around her. They struck the metal of the grating under her feet and the handrails in a shower of sparks. But this only served to spur her forward.

"No! Cease fire!" An angry voice bellowed. "I want the Sebacean alive."

The end of the catwalk remained impossibly distant. Aeryn refused the urge to turn, to steal a glance at her pursuers; it would only be lost time.

Faster. Faster.

Heart threatening to escape her throat, Aeryn raced on.

Then suddenly skidded to a halt.

At the opposite end of the catwalk, another set of guards had appeared, their weapons drawn on her. Aeryn stood, panting. She was cut off from the only means of escape. There was nowhere else to go. Nowhere.

Aeryn whirled, her fists clenched into defiant knots at her sides. The other group had advanced, but true to their orders, they had not fired another shot.

An older cruel-mouthed man, parted from the squad of guards. "Surrender now! And I assure you mercy."

Aeryn knew him instinctively. This one was Gessit Jozan, the monster.

She spared a quick glance to the men at her back. They had advanced closer still in silent caution.

"Why?" Aeryn yelled, not certain her voice could be heard over river below. "So that you may use me to kill countless others? I think not."

"Do not defy me, woman. You shall only make things worse."

Seeming on cue, a painful scream fluttered to her as Roxas was dragged unceremoniously away from the Great Chamber. Aeryn could only watch in helpless guilt. Her eyes moved back to Jozen. He and his men had moved closer. The group at her back had done the same.

She met his frosty gaze.

It must end here.

An odd serenity found her. She knew what she must do.

Calmly she approached the edged of the catwalk, her hands wrapped around the cool, slick metal of the handrail.
Aeryn looked down into the black churning depths of the river below. It seemed to stretch into a blessed eternity.

The troopers were closer, weapons drawn. They were approaching as one would stalk wounded game in the wild. But she knew they would not dare kill her. Not yet, at least.

She placed a foot on the lower rail, eyes focused on the river.

Reading her motives, Jozan bellowed. "Stop! Hold it right there!"

Aeryn made no response; she did not lift her gaze as she climbed over the railing and clung to the opposite side.

"Grab her! Get her!" Jozan called.

The catwalk suddenly trembled with the thunderous barrage of heavy boots as the two squads moved in on her.

She looked directly at Jozan, into his hate-filled eyes.

And let go.

"NO!" Jozan's cheated rage found her as she plummeted.

The world became a torrent of the sounds of the greedy river and the rush of air as she fell and fell.

Then, with crushing force, she struck the water. Aeryn was consumed by its murky depths.

******

"Commander Crichton, I have additional details as to the planet's environment."

John's eyes did not leave the rack of imposing Peacekeeper weaponry. He selected a pulse rifle and hefted it in one hand. "Lay it on me."
"Er… yes. You were correct in your assumption about high levels of photo-organic life forms in the upper atmosphere of
the planet. It offers an explanation for the lack of visibility to--
"Cut to the chase, P. I want to know about settlements… structures. Any signs of Aeryn's prowler?" John asked, stuffing a handful of charges into the pocket of his duster.

"There is a regularly emitted signal from a mountainous region consistent with a Peacekeeper distress frequency. However, there are several automated satellites in orbit that seem to emit a blanket field electro- disturbance that prevents me from pinpointing it exactly."

"Great, they've got VH1." He muttered.

"I'm sorry." The Navigator returned, confused.

"Nothing…" He checked the charge on the pulse rifle once more. "Can you transmit the data to the transport pod, I want to get down there ASAP, ok? I'll do my homework on the way."

John activated the closure for the weapons locker and turned. He nearly collided with D'Argo.

"Whoa!" he said. "Not a good idea to sneak up on a guy with a pulse rifle."

D'Argo folded his arms across his thick chest. "We'll have to get a start, if we're going to find the prowler while it is still daylight in the region below."

"What? You are going with me now? Why? So you can drive me bug-shit the whole way there? No thanks."

He tried to walk around him, but Luxan would not let him pass. "God damn it, D'Argo…" John trailed off. "Cut me some slack, huh?"

The Luxan's steely gaze seemed to soften, only slightly. "I insist."
*************
"Damn. That chick does not know how to parallel park." John said, surveying the marooned prowler. The landing had

 

taken out the tops of trees, cutting a wide swath of destruction in the heavily wooded area. It was miraculous that the prowler had made it to solid ground in one piece.
D'Argo placed a flat hand against the prowler's hull. "It was obviously an emergency landing."

"Really? What gave it away?" John said sarcastically, peering inside the open cockpit.

He squinted in the dim light. The console was a blinded eye of fried circuits dusted with soot.

"The living components on the transport pod must have shielded our circuits. Looks like those disruption satellites did a number on the prowler though. Whoever's crib this is… looks like they don't want a whole lot of visitors."

John flipped a toggle switch experimentally. Nothing.

He brought his hand up. His fingers held the maroon flakes of dried blood.

"Oh, God… Aeryn," he said under his breath. His gaze moved out into the horizon of trees. Sunset had come and the forest noises seemed to grow in greedy anticipation of that event. His imagination wandered off in that direction. If some predator or worse had gotten a hold of her…

"Hold it! Right there!"

D'Argo and John whirled in unison.

A group of soldiers in dingy gray uniforms had crept upon them.

John spared a quick glance at D'Argo. "I don't know about you, but this is getting really old."

Low growls parted from D'Argo's throat; his hands tightened around the hilt of his Qualta blade.

"Hey!" John said, raising his hands slowly. He took a step forward. Their imposing rifles instantly leveled on him. "We don't want any trouble. We're here looking for our friend."

He jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the prowler. "The one that came with this little action accessory."

The soldiers' faces remained unreadable. For a moment he was not certain that they understood him, until they spoke amongst themselves.

"He is like the one we heard of. Another Peacekeeper."

The commander of the group remained staring at him. "Yes."

"What of this one?" The woman nodded at D'Argo. "He is not Sebacean."

The leader held up a silencing hand to the group. "We shall bring them both back. No doubt Jozan will want to see the Peacekeeper. He can dispose of the other as he sees fit. I'll advise them that we have finally found the alien vessel as well."

John rolled his eyes. "Look. It's pretty rude to talk about-"

The female moved with blinding swiftness, leveling a small weapon at John. There was a small whine and something struck his chest like a tiny fist.
He looked down. A small metal barb had suddenly appeared there. Disbelieving, he pulled the cylinder from his skin with numb fingers. "Oh… perfect." He slurred.

He sank to his knees and fell face first into the dead needles of the forest floor, only dimly aware of the sounds of D'Argo's similar struggle before sinking into unconsciousness.
************
"Is she breathin'?" Keesa said, peering from behind her older brother's back at the stranger laying face down in the

 

muddy bank of the river.
Elix frowned at her. "Yes… she's breathing, stupid. See? Her stomach's moving."
"Don't call me stupid!" The girl returned, shoving a pudgy hand at his shoulder. But her annoyance was diffuse in light of
their curious discovery.

"Hush up." Elix commanded. Keesa took a step back as her brother stooped to retrieve a stout branch from the forest
floor. Steeling himself, he cautiously prodded the torso of the "dead" woman with it.

The figure moaned slightly. A bone white hand moved from beneath the tangle of hair to slap the stick away.
Keesa let out a startled squeal and darted for the safety of a nearby boulder. Elix scrambled backwards, nearly losing his
footing in the wet earth. But the stranger did not give chase. The pale hand plopped lifelessly back down into the mud at her side. The two children exchanged a frightened glance.

"You think she's a Mitzan spy?" The girl called.

Bravado renewed, Elix squatted down over the body and brushed the tangled mass of dark hair from the woman's face.
"Doesn't look like any Mitzan I've seen before. Her skin's so… plain."

"How would you know, Elix?" Keesa taunted. "You've never seen a Mitzan."

"Did so!"

"Did not!"
Seemingly disturbed by the argument, the woman stirred once more. A thick moan issued from her. The two children watched in horror as the stranger tried to push her self up on trembling arms only to collapse to the bank once more.

Debate for the moment forgotten, Elix grabbed his sister's hand and tugged her back to their village. "Come on, Keesa. We should go get Dethan."
****
Jozan turned the prayer stone over and over in his thick fingers. It was shaped like a bird of prey, wings stretched in
menacing flight. He thoughtfully examined it under the harsh overhead lights of the medical containment room. He turned icy blue eyes upon the alien prisoners. The Sebacean was being held, pinned to the wall, by two of his flank guard. The other, the more disfigured one, lay on the floor of the cell, still under the influence of the sedative.

"There were Peacekeepers here once… before I was born." Jozan stated, casually strolling up to the captive. "The story ended quite tragically for them. We learned to protect our planet from your kind, Peacekeeper."

"My kind?" John barked a derisive laugh. "Sergeant Jackass, haven't you listened to a single word I've said? I'm not a
Peacekeeper. Hell, I'm not even Sebacean."

Jozan felt a tremor of fury at this creature's impertinence. But he quelled it. There was always time for reprimands later.
"And you expect me to believe your… far fetched stories? Do you take me for a fool?"

"Well… since you asked-"

He frowned. "How many more are coming? You're obviously some sort of scout for the Peackeepers. As was the
female."

At the mention of the other, Jozan saw a subtle shift in the captive's expression.

"Was? What do you mean was?" He demanded. "Where's Aeryn Sun?"

There was a brief flutter of satisfaction as Jozan sensed a weakness in his prey where the woman was concerned. Although this one was not Mitzan, and had no color response, his emotions were by far just as apparent. A wary, wild-eyed look in the captive's eyes, confirmed his thoughts. "Prisoner, I asked you a question. Or should I have my men forcibly remove the information from you?"
"Go play in the traffic." It was spoken with a tired bravado. "I've had worse than you try to pick my brain apart, Sarge."

Jozan ignored the barb. "It was a shame what happened to her, really. She was not entirely… unappealing."
"What did you do with her?"

"I, personally, did nothing." Jozen felt a surge of gratification to see the pain in this creature's eyes. "I merely watched her
die."
The Sebacean tried to rend himself free of the two guards. But his attempts were useless. Something akin to bloodlust
formed in his features. "You fucking son of a bitch!"
Jozan rolled his eyes. He made a brief gesture and the two guards released their charge. The alien rushed at him. Jozen
took his time, lunging out of the way at the last minute. With his superior strength, Jozan brought his fist down square on the small of his assailant's back. He collapsed to the floor in a winded thump.

Jozan squatted to his haunches and locked a fist full of John's hair in his hand. He pulled his face up to meet his. "I admire your attempts, Peacekeeper. But, know this: you will die here."

*****

The dry wind filtered through the open window high above the cot. She was alone in the morning-filled room. It was
singing that roused her from the thick shelter of sleep. The voices, entwined in a graceful harmony, wove along some imagined corridor beyond this room. A prayer in an alien language.
Slowly, like a woman triple her age she eased her aching limbs into a sitting position. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and tested her weight on them. The flat cool stone of the floor was a sudden shock to her bare feet that grew goose flesh over her body.

She took slow shambling steps to a chair in the corner. A mist of sweat had broken out over her prickled skin. She grasped the back of the chair, leaning heavily on it. Her entire body felt like one battered muscle.

"Ah… she lives." The male voice was sudden in the quiet early light of the room. The words were spoken more in jest than actual concern.

She froze in place, eyes wide. The doorway was filled with a man with no soft edges. His clean shaven face was unreadable under a tousled head of dirty blond hair. The sleeves of his loose-fitting tunic were rolled up to reveal thick forearms covered in tanned skin.

She crouched slightly and moved, cat-like, away from him. Heart at a deafening rapture, she barely heard him speak.

"My apologies, friend. I didn't mean to startle you." His hands were open and flat, the palms up raised. "I'm Dethan Meggs. You are kept in the house of the Tyron."

He crossed the threshold, arms held out, as if approaching an injured animal. With each step of his approach, she retreated further still. Her eyes seized on his every move.

"Tyron?" Her voice was a soft whisper, framed in distrust.

"Yes. I am Tyron." Meggs waved a casual hand at her. His mouth stretched into a perplexed smile. "You, however, are like nothing I've seen before. You are not Mitzan; yet you wear their colors."

A derisive snort sounded from the archway. A cragged scrap of an old woman hunched there, dressed in flowing robes of nearly gaudy colors. Her white hair was pulled into a severe knot at the back of her neck. The weathered lines of the face met in the thin line of her mouth, pulled into a disapproving line.

Meggs ushered the old woman into the room with a wave. "This is Elder Tessa. She is here to help you mend. She's our best healer."

Her eyes bounced between Tessa and Meggs. "Am I your prisoner here?"

"I do not know. Are you my enemy?" A furrow formed over the blond curve of his eyebrows. It was his turn to look suspicious. "You have me at a disadvantage, friend. Our law forbids us to turn away strangers in need, even if it is an enemy."

She said nothing, expecting a trick. Surely these beings were not the warring guerrillas known as the Tyron.
"I don't blame you." Meggs said, as though judging her thoughts. "I'd probably be just as wary."
He ventured a step further then stopped when he saw the anxiety claw deeper into her. "Do you even know where you are?"

Sadness flickered across her face. She shook her head with finality, aqua-colored eyes liquid and huge. "I knew only the Mitzan compound. They found me and brought me there."

"You are in the Delphi flatlands, beyond the mountains of the Asanti." Tessa interjected, moving to her in a nearly business-like way. Aeryn could tell from her demeanor she had dealt with the sick and wounded on many occasions. Tessa guided her with bony hands to sit down on the cot.

"Have you a name, friend?"

"Aeryn. My name is Aeryn." She said hoarsely, tears threatening to constrict her throat.

"Tell me..." She managed. The astonishment was simple, childlike, as she looked wide-eyed at him. "Tell me how... this place. I remember water… trying to breathe."

He held his hand up, motioning for her silence.

"You were found on the Dizine River, about a mile from here. That was two days ago. You are alive only by the graces of our gods."

She looked from Tessa's grim face to the plain incredulity in Megg's and saw little comfort in either. The impossible sadness swelled in her chest like the black waters that had consumed her in that dread river.

Memories of her last fateful moments in the Mitzan stronghold overwhelmed her. Her fear was waning, giving over into the bleak abyss that dominated her interior. For whatever hope she had held of retrieving her lost past had vanished in the Great Chamber, with the life of the physician.

Part 4

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