Chapter Four: Deception
"You want me to do what?" Chiana shouted into the comms. "Are you kinkoid?"
"Chiana," Aeryn replied patiently, "You are the only one of us who doesn't have a Peacekeeper bounty on your head. You're the only one who can help us pull this off."
Chiana looked to D'Argo for support and was surprised to see he agreed with John and Aeryn. "You are always saying that you're a part of this crew" he reminded her, a grin tugging at his face, "and that you want to get more involved in things."
"Well, this isn't exactly what I had in mind!" she shot back. She knew he was teasing her. But she also knew he was serious about her participation in the plan to rescue Zhaan.
"What do I have to do?" She sighed, sensing she'd get no help from him and even less from Rygel who laughed aloud, being sure to hover just out of her reach.
Aeryn went on to outline their plan to which Chiana finally agreed. "But, if anything goes wrong and I end up on a ship back to Nebari Prime, you guys are both in deep dren. You hear me!"
Gavyk sat in his office, making out the necessary forms for each of his prisoners. He couldn't believe it. He had brought one of the most wanted criminals in the Uncharted Territories into custody. Pa'u Zhaan had been hunted by Captain Bialar Crais for nearly a cycle, but he - a lowly lieutenant - had actually managed to recapture her. He was certain his career would soar now. He would finally get off this rock in the middle of nowhere. And he had a Delvian to thank for it. How ironic. I should have my choice of assignments after this. A post at First Command as far from these inferiors as possible? No chance of being contaminated there. But it could get awfully dull. A Marauder Command? A Command Carrier posting? I have time to decide, though. The Carrier won't be here for another day. What could possibly go wrong in that time?
He looked down at the report on his desk and pushed it away impatiently. He was a Peacekeeper soldier, not a clerk. He decided that whatever assignment he requested as his reward, it would not involve filling out reports. He rose from his chair and strode across his office to stand at the window and look down at the market below him.
Cattle. Is it any wonder that we Peacekeepers are in control? Were it not for our influence, this part of the universe would have self-destructed ages ago. Though I have never understood why we allow these inferior species to continue to breed. It would be so much easier to neuter them all. Soon the problems they cause would go away.
I must admit, if I had my way, instead of turning these prisoners over to the Command Carrier for transport to a prison facility they would be executed. These Delvians are a scourge on the order of the universe. All their talk about spirituality and personal reflection will only lead to chaos and emotionalism.
Perhaps I will show this Pa'u Zhaan why the Peacekeepers will prevail. I will persuade her to give up her fellow fugitives.
Gavyk's eyes were drawn to a commotion in the street. Two Sebaceans were chasing a young Nebari woman between the vendors' booths. He watched in interest as the two in pursuit split up.
The woman circled around a row of booths as the man chased the Nebari in her direction. They had her cornered, but she fought like a wild animal, kicking and clawing at whichever one moved within her range. Finally, the woman pulled out a pulse pistol and fired it once at a low enough setting to merely stun their prey. The male moved forward cautiously while his companion kept her weapon trained at the head of the immobile Nebari. He quickly pulled her arms behind her and locked them in some sort of restraints. She was starting to come around and he dragged her to her feet. He leaned in close and said something to his prisoner who turned and spat in his face. He viciously swung his hand, striking her across the face, knocking her to the ground again.
From his vantage point, Gavyk smiled. Exactly what she deserved. As he watched the action below him, he found himself wondering who the two Sebaceans were. They were certainly skilled enough to have been Peacekeepers, yet they weren't in uniform. He wondered if they could be undercover operatives, but decided against it. Peacekeepers generally used the fear their uniforms inspired as an added advantage to their military training and skill. Probably Bounty Hunters he thought with disgust.
The entertainment seemed to have ended as the two hunters had the woman under control at last. He reluctantly turned again to face the work on his desk. He had enjoyed the distraction, but was now even more impatient with the work ahead of him. As he sat down and picked up the transparency containing Zhaan's criminal record he heard a knock at his office door. He looked up to see a young officer stepping into the office, a look of uncertainty on his face.
"What do you want?" Gavyk snapped at the young man and grinned when he jumped.
The young man recovered quickly and responded, "There are some people to see you sir."
"Who is it?" Gavyk asked, looking back down at the work on his desk. He hated being bothered by local squabbles, even though he knew it was part of his job. The issues were always so petty.
"Sir, it's two Bounty Hunters and their prisoner."
Gavyk's head snapped up. "Send them in." Microts later Gavyk's office door opened again and the trio he had watched with such interest in the marketplace stood before him.
"Who are you and what do you want?" He asked as arrogantly as possible. He would see what these two were made of.
"Bounty Hunters. We need a place to put this for a short time." John replied as he pushed Chiana forward. He kept a firm hold on her neck while Aeryn held her arm.
"The little tralk sabotaged our ship, hoping to escape from us." Aeryn answered. "We need a place to secure her while the repairs are being done."
"And you thought I would be willing to help?"
"If you're not interested in helping us clean up this kind of trash just say so. We'll find someone who is." John snapped and turned as if to leave.
"Wait! I didn't say I wouldn't help you." Gavyk barked. John grinned inwardly. He knew they had won. Bingo! Found his Achilles heal, he's a bigot. "There is an empty cell in the containment area. I'll have one of my men take her down immediately."
"Not so fast. We'll want to check it out. This one's slippery. We don't want her getting away. She's worth a lot to us."
"What did she do?" Gavyk asked, curiosity getting the better of him.
"Don't know. Don't care." John replied shortly. "All I know is there's a hefty bounty on her head back on Nebari Prime and we intend to collect it as soon as possible. Now, are you going to show us this containment area of yours?"
Gavyk rose from his seat behind the desk and personally escorted them through the garrison. He led them down two flights of stairs to the underground containment level. He explained, as they walked, that the building had once been a local's dwelling, but that the Peacekeepers had commandeered it when they arrived because of the containment cells in the lower level. The previous owner had been reluctant to part with his home or to explain why he had such a facility in his private dwelling. As Gavyk described what they had done to convince him to cooperate, John's skin crawled. He is one sick s.o.b.
As they walked, John kept Gavyk talking, which wasn't as difficult as he had anticipated. The man obviously was very proud of his accomplishments and didn't mind sharing his opinion of himself, which John figured, was probably why he held the post he did. While John kept Gavyk distracted, Aeryn and Chiana made note of every guard post, every detail. They would need as much information as possible to make this work. At last they came to the entrance to the containment area. Gavyk pulled out his ident chip and inserted it in the scanner. He then laid his palm on the gen-scanner. The light switched to green and the door slid open silently only to close again when they had all crossed the threshold.
Leading the way down the corridor, Gavyk boasted, "We have two very important prisoners right now. I successfully identified and recaptured the fugitive Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan. She has eluded capture by several higher ranking officers, but I have succeeded where they failed. And in the bargain captured another Delvian fugitive as well."
They stopped in front of an empty cell and Gavyk opened the door. Aeryn entered and checked it out thoroughly while John continued to hold Chiana. While they waited for Aeryn to return to the corridor, John noted that Zhaan was in the adjacent cell. He saw that she was seated in the lotus position, back ramrod straight, but she wasn't chanting. It appeared that she was lost in some kind of trance.
Aeryn walked back into the corridor just as Gavyk walked to the door of Zhaan's cell and said loudly, "Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan. You will come with me." Fortunately, he was so busy gloating over his victory he didn't notice the look that passed between his guests and his prisoner.
"Lieutenant," Aeryn said, drawing his attention, "We will need to have access to our prisoner as soon as our ship is repaired. One of us will need the key code to the cell door so that we will not need to disturb you."
"The guard at the containment area entrance will be able to help you. You will not need the code." He replied absently.
Knowing she would arouse suspicion if she pressed the matter, Aeryn nodded and let it drop. She grabbed Chiana by the arm roughly and pushed her into the cell. As she released the restraints from Chiana's wrists, she leaned close and whispered, "There is surveillance in the cell so you will need to be discreet. You've done well so far. Now, push me."
Chiana turned and shoved Aeryn harder than she had expected. She staggered backward into the corridor and a genuine look of anger flashed across her face. John grabbed her arm before she could retaliate while Gavyk keyed the sequence to close the cell door. He grinned. "Looks like she could use some discipline. Would you like one of my men to see to it?"
"No." John's eyes narrowed and he replied menacingly, "We will take care of that. I warn you Lieutenant, if anything happens to our prisoner, you will pay dearly. Is that understood?"
"We should go check on our ship." Aeryn said, placing her hand on John's arm. She could tell the two men were measuring each other up and it was definitely time to get John away from Gavyk. She was afraid that the mood he had been in lately would spill over and they would get into a situation they couldn't get out of.
John relaxed enough for Gavyk to back down as well. As they turned to leave the containment area, Gavyk remembered Zhaan. He stopped before her cell, keying in the code to open the door. As he dragged her roughly into the corridor, John and Aeryn had to force themselves not to intervene. There were too many guards with weapons around. They would need to wait for a more opportune moment to make their escape.
Gavyk smiled thinly as he locked Zhaan's wrists behind her, "Pa'u Zhaan, we are going to have a little chat regarding the whereabouts of your companions. We can do this the easy way or we can do it the hard way. Personally, I'm hoping you'll choose the hard way." Turning to John and Aeryn, he asked, "Would you care to watch? It could be entertaining."
"No." Aeryn replied flatly, "We have business to attend to." She needed air. She needed to get away from Gavyk. Away from this Peacekeeper. Away from what she had once been.