Shelter

Authors: AmyJ, Toadie, & Karl W.
Rating: PG-13
Archiving: This story is not available for archiving at any other sites  ©2002
Challenge: The first section of this story is the same for all three authors. The purpose of this exercise was for each author to devise their own ending. You can see the ending each of the three authors wrote by clicking on the links below.

Continuation by Karl

Darkness

The pain arrived first, strengthening as consciousness danced closer. He arched his back at the pain. He called out her name the in the darkness, his moans squelched by a cold tight hand clamped impossibly hard on his mouth.  

The stranger whispered his in his ear, her voice raspy and harsh, "Quiet! They will hear!" 

Her words triggered fragmented memories. Their arrival here, his capture by the retrieval squad, the leveling of the city by an unknown assailant. The holding cell. The PK commando that was still just a girl. John’s mind slowly focused and he stopped moving, allowing the pain in his shoulder and his face to strengthen. The agony pulsed with every beat of his heart. His eyes seethed in a burning agony. John tried desperately to relax; as he did, the gritty cold hand that was clamped to his mouth released.  

"Can you move?" The young woman hissed. 

John slowly rocked to one side and as he did, he became aware of where he was. He had not moved from where the explosion had thrown him. He was resting on top of the injured Peacekeeper.  With the realization he moved onto his side as he tried to roll off her small frame. "Sorry!" 

"Just Move!" 

"What happen...? How long..." his voice wracked in agony as he moved from her crumpled body. John came to stop in the corner of the room. Feeling his way in the darkness he slowly propped himself up against the shattered wall of the keep. John had once gotten chakan oil residue in his eye and it stung like a son of a bitch, but this, this was worse. He wiped one hand on the remnants of his duster then raised it to his burning eyes. 

"Stop! Don't touch them; it will only make it worse," the weak voice demanded, her annoyance with him obvious. 

John’s eyes burned from the pulse blast and he instinctually kept them closed. As the burning intensified he slowly forced himself to open his eyes. With a rough raking, his eyelids traveled their normally unconscious course, now a painful movement. His heart skipped as he made fists trying to fight the urge to rub his eyes. His chest heaved as he fought the panic that gained hold, and for the first time he wished he had Harvey to help him gain control. John shifted trying to keep his hands from their constant movement towards his eyes. He kept trying to rationalize his situation. The first thought was of the dermal regenerator that he had used on the Royal Planet. Then he chuckled nervously. Its just dark out that's all. He spoke slowly, trying to hide his panic. "Its not dark out is it?"  

"No," the small voice answered coolly. There was a hesitation to her speech as if she was going to say more. 

John let his head slip back against the wall as a wave of nausea joined the burning pain. He cut off a slight whimper that came when the thought of being blind overwhelmed him. "I can't be freakin’ blind!" He shouted slamming his head back into the wall with the outburst. His statement lingered unanswered. 

All he heard was the sound of his companion sliding across the wreckage of the floor. "Here, this will help." The girl's voice was no longer harsh, making her sound even younger than John had thought. 

"What are you going to do?" John could hear her fishing through a collection of items, probably from her field pack. There was the clicking sound of glass on metal. John knew the sound. “No wait!" John's heart sank as he tried to shift away from the injector. It was too late. He felt the burning sensation of the medication enter his neck and he batted at the air trying to stop the injection. 

"What the frell is wrong with you? Its Neurtox!" the woman spat.  

John shifted to one side trying to get some space between him and the voice. He didn't get farther than a large portion of the wall that had come down in the explosion. His arm slid across its large surface feeling for a passage. The burning sensation sped through his body as his heart raced. He felt warmth on his upper lip. He raised his filthy hand to his lip and felt the warm sticky liquid between his fingers. His nose was bleeding like a sieve. His heart pounded in his chest as if it were going to burst. He raised his bloody hand out in front of him like a cornered animal. "Look, I ain't Seba..." He struggled to speak as his muscles cramped and his body became rigid as the medication spread  John lost consciousness again as the pain of the burns he had suffered from the pulse blast were replaced by the agony of his body reacting to the foreign medication.

Neurtox Hangover

He woke to the sound of his heart beating in his ears. He had slumped over against the large concrete shard that he had stopped next to. He had the taste of blood in his mouth, a metallic stale taste. He opened his eyes wide. The burns on his face protested the movement but John laid back and sighed as he saw a streak of light across the room from where he guessed was a hole in the ceiling. He raised his hand and placed it between the light source and his face he could make out the silhouette of his hand. No detail but still…it was some level of relief. He realized as he first tried to move that his body was numb; he could move his arms sluggishly but for the time being the pain was gone. 

"So the stranger awakes." John was surprised by the young girl's voice. It was stronger and seemed to have an odd inflection to it. 

"How ya doin?" John stretched his neck slowly side to side. 

"I am better than you." She moved slowly across the floor towards him. "I have never seen a reaction like that... Nerotox is supposed to…” 

“Well, Ma’am, if you had given me a chance I would have told you. I ain't Sebacean!” John's tone was quiet yet biting.  “Look I am sorry... It's not your fault.”  

"No. it is not!" Their was a cool hush to her voice as she continued. "Don't think I did it out of the weakness of charity. I did it because you are more useful to me alive than dead."  

“Gee, great. Thanks!” John quipped trying once again to straighten up. His limbs still felt numb, yet now at least he felt the strange sensation of his closed first rubbing against the dirt and rocks on the floor. "So now what, little miss?” 

 John could only imagine the disapproving stare she gave him for his impossible to translate slang. "I have assessed our situation while you were sleeping. We need to find an escape route.”  

“How's your leg?” 

“Fine I have field dressed it and infused one bag of Synth.”  

“Sounds like fun.”  

She ignored his comment and continued, “I cannot walk on it without med tech repair. So..." 

“You make it sound like you’re trying to get an old pickup repaired, not a shattered leg.” 

“We have no time for this. The Scarrans are still in the area and we have to find a way to escape.” 

“Ya, the blind leading the cripple! That's a plan!” He responded bitterly. Where was it? His normal wisp of hope was now gone. He had been through just as bad before. But he had either his specter Harvey or the others to support him. No, this time he truly was alone.  

“Quiet!" He voice shifted deeper suddenly. Quickly it was replaced with a warm whisper.

"Let me take a look at your eyes. The Neurtox should have started repair of the lacerations on your cornea.”  

John felt her impossibly cold hands on his chin as she moved his head back and fourth. “I had a platoon leader with only one eye she was still an accomplished warrior.” 

“Jesus! Are you sure you're ok? You are frelling freezing!" 

Her hands pulled from him quickly. Her response was too fast and she seemed to stumble over her words. "Yes... haven't you had infusions of synth before?" Her voice did not hide her building frustration. 

"What?" John was not paying attention to the disembodied voice. Her cold touch triggered a nearly as dark memory.  Aeryn sat on the floor of the training area on Moya. She was dying of the paraphoral nerve damage Larraq had inflicted.

“Help me to my prowler...” Suddenly a trickle of sweat slid into his eye and the sting brought him back from memory lane. He was sweating big time. "It's hot in here!" 

As if she had read his mind she moved closer. "We have to move!” There was a certain urgency to her voice.  

"... and its going to get hotter." Her tone became softer. "They took out the fusion core. When it went, the pile shielding was compromised so iIts going to get much hotter. We have to move,” she commanded again, this time it elicited a reaction in John as he tried slowly to stand.  

He was startled by the change in the girl. It was as if she wasn't injured at all. "How's your leg?" he asked suspiciously. 

“Frelled,” she said calmly. That’s why you’re alive. You will help me out of here.”  

“Ya, I got that part.” John stood slowly, fighting off the waves of nausea that accompanied his movement. He shifted over to her. "Can you stand?" 

“Yes.” She moved and only the slightest grunt accompanied her movement. She pulled herself up his side and brought one arm up over his shoulder. Her cool dry skin raised the hairs on the back of Johns neck. Somthin’ ain’t right. She was a light thing, although injured her body was tense.  

"Move forward a bit. There is a large opening on the side next to the entry port,” she commanded. 

John moved slowly through the chambers. He was hopelessly lost and his burns were starting to pound again. His baggage continued to ask strange questions. If he didn't know better he’d have thought this to be some kind of PK trick. As the arns moved on the thought took root. Could this be an elaborate means of torture?  

He chuckled silently as he thought of the vengeful Captain Cleavage. He knew it couldn't be. He had seen the first Scarran patrol. You are getting paranoid Johnny boy.  

He lowered her to the ground as he slid down next to her. "I gotta take a break." 

She protested briefly but stopped once she was on the ground. As he tried to relax John noticed the smell. He had caught whiffs of it in the air as they traveled through the complex but now, resting against the warm wall, the smell was much stronger. He knew the smell it was an acrid sweet odor, the odor of rot and death.  

“Ya smell that?” 

"What?" she hissed.  

"Smells like...Death," he whispered as if they were not alone. 

“Considering the destruction of the base, I would imagine plenty are dead underneath the collapsed structure.” 

“No, this is close by. You see anything?” 

There was a fast suspicious tone to her voice, “No. Nothing!” 

“How’s your leg?” 

"Fine!" again there was a shift in her tone. "Why?" 

John scanned the room. They must be close to an exit because he could make out the streaks of light passing through a large opening.  

“We must get moving. There is still no sign of an exit from the complex.” 

“Really?” John scanned the shafts of light passing through the ceiling. “Well I might be blind but I can see that light  coming though the ceiling.”  

John stepped forward  

“What are you doing, John!” 

“John? Since when were we on first name basis?” 

“Stop! What are you doing?” 

He continued his careful steps to the light shafts.  

Mirna scurried quickly on the floor after him. She quickly caught up to him and grabbed at his hands. “Careful, John, don't go near the light. They might see you.” 

“Back off, zombie girl. I don't know what this is, but Johnny ain't playing any more." He pushed off the cold clinging girl and  stumbled to what he thought was the center of the shattered chamber.  "The game is over, you Jurassic park freaks!" 

“Crichton, what are you doing? They will hear you!” 

Mirna hobbled after him. She wrapped her hands around his arm trying to pull him back down to the shadows. 

John pulled from her raising his first. "Back off! Or I swear..." The false threat had a strange reaction. It was almost as if a switch had been pulled and Mirna was merely turned off. She fell away from him like a rag doll and hit hard against the shattered floor. 

John started to bend down to her, but with his returning vision he could still only see her as a silhouette. There was something on her head that grabbed his attention. He crouched down closer and started to run his hand across her face. His hand came to a smooth cold metal-like object. He was not sure, but it appeared to disappear under the skin and and scalp line of her forehead. "What the fu…?"  

Suddenly the far wall of the chamber parted, revealing the bright white light of a larger space beyond. a wave of hot moist air accompanied the new opening. John stumbled back over Mirna squinting, trying to make sense of the clouded images. Two silhouettes appeared and walked slowly towards him. The wave of heat that accompanied their arrival was all John needed. He was right. 

He did not try to run; he was not able to see more then clouded shapes. He had no chance. 

“A wise decision, John Crichton. Running would be useless..." 

“So what’s the deal,” John spat bitterly, biting the inside of his lip as he waited for their response. 

The lead Scarran moved forward. "We could not chance trying to create an environment you would know. But with your self-inflicted injuries we were able to create a situation that allowed us unprecedented access." The Scarran spoke as if this was some great prize. The smaller female spoke with the neural link still attached to her forehead, the metallic object with the painful blue light illuminated from it stung to look at. "You really have been a prime subject."  

John stepped forward towards the larger of the two. "Well, lizard boy, now what?” 

"Simple. We can't gain more information freely so we will electro-chemically extract the information from your synapses."

"You see, John Crichton, we cannot extract what we want from your mind in its present state. We will simply strip the information one cell at a time."  

“Well, why did you bother using Frankenchick if you could have sucked my brains out all the time.” 

The female stepped forward, "There is distortion of the data in extraction. We had wanted more of an identity template to follow. By learning more about you and how you think and react allowed us to design a better matrix to extract accurate data."  

She removed the neural link, slinging it carelessly on the floor in front of him. Mirna’s corpse jerked in front of him.   

“Why do I the feeling this ain’t gonna to be fun?” 

The huge Scarran moved closer.  “By the time extraction begins, your life functions will have been extinguished. It is easier to extract the information from the dying cells.” 

John felt the clamps compress his shoulders. He grit his teeth from the pain but he would not call out. He would not give them the pleasure. His vision became clouded in white. The Scarran continued to talk to him but it was lost on him as John slipped away. 

Snapping Back to Reality

John smelled something familiar yet he could not place it. The sound that that had started as tiny sounds off in the distance slowly came closer. The sounds were familiar ones he had grown accustom to. He slowly became aware of his surroundings.  

"Well, its about time." D’Argo slapped him on his burnt shoulder and the pain brought a sharpness to his murky awareness.   

John pulled back to the far corner of the cot. "What... where..." He looked through the dark cabin of D'Argo’s’ ship.  Aeryn gave him no more then a sideways glance from the navigation interface. He scanned back the smiling Luxan. He questioned if this was real, but it was. The smells of this confined space allowed him peace, "This is real!" They had been cooped up in this vessel for over a weeken not that long ago, and here they were again.  

"Once again, your luck is amazing!" D’Argo gurgled with a sarcastic laugh.  

With his injured arm he pulled D’Argo closer, wincing with the pain. "What... The frell happened?" 

Granny spoke first; she had been silently huddled with her back to them at the rear of the ship nearest to the hatchway. "Luck, John. Neurotox is a neural toxin to your odd anatomy. If we hadn't found you when we did, the pulmonary reaction induced by the medications could have caused permanent vascular damage.”  

“Great, Doc! Now will you please tell me what happened!” 

“Ok, relax! The Scarrans sent mass drivers down onto the city. We think they knew you were in the Peacekeeper Complex.” 

“They devastated a city!” 

“Well that's the way they work,” said D'Argo, acting as if this was common place. “Look, do you want me to finish or not?” 

“Yes!” John shifted forward, his anger getting the best of him. 

“Once we tracked the landing party, we followed them. If you were still alive they would find you.” D’Argo slapped him on his burnt shoulder.  

John squinted with the pain. He slipped back onto the small cot waiting for D’Argo to continue. "...and!" 

“When they pulled you and the girl out we flew down cloaked and at the right time, I unleashed Lo’laan on their dren-filled eemas.”  

The girl! John shifted up again questioning himself. It was a dream. 

Granny moved next to him and John saw movement beyond her. In the very back of the Luxan craft there was a packet of Synth Blood and a small stirring form under one of the rough hand-woven blankets. "Time to sleep. You must rest." 

“It was Aeryn’s idea to bring her.” D’Argo looked back over his shoulder to the forward section of Lo’laan. 

 Before John could reply, Granny blew a substance in his face and he lost his battle to stay awake.  

Ponderous Thoughts

Aeryn stood from the young Peacekeeper. She remembered the fun that she had been having at that age. She tightened the PK restraint on her wrist to the support rib of Lo’laan. Until she was awake, she was deemed a threat.  Aeryn moved back where John was sleeping. She slowly slid down the wall across from him, watching him toss and turn. The sounds of the cabin were those of the rest of them sleeping. She would sit watch on him. Although it pained her to do so, there was some sense of duty to him. Regardless of the pain it brought. 

John woke slowly. He pulled the mask of the dermal regenerator from his face and his blood-red eyes slowly scanned the quiet interior. His gaze stopped at her.  "Hey!" 

Coolly she responded, "How are you feeling?" She turned from his stare, looking back at the sleeping PK at the rear of the ship. 

John slowly rolled onto his side, propping himself up on one arm. "Tired, but at least my head doesn't feel like its going to explode any more." 

Suddenly the memory of her own experience with Neurtox in her battle with the Kael filled her thoughts. "Yes, well Neurotox is extremely dangerous." Her words were flat and tired. 

John looked back in the direction that Aeryn was staring. "She gonna be ok?" 

"I don't know. She has used up most of our medical supplies." There was a frustration in her voice that seemed alien. If he was not mistaken, she worried that the girl would die. 

"Why'd ya do it?" John shifted back onto the cot not looking at Aeryn. A small smile accompanied the question. 

"Do you mean why did we take her with us although she was on the edge of death? Or why we dumped all our medical supplies into her to keep this Peacekeeper alive?"  The continued bitterness had taken its toll on Aeryn. She felt old, as if a growing weight was ready to crush her if she was not careful. 

Aeryn stood quickly. The confines of Lo’laan were getting to her. She had at one time reveled in the closeness of small fighters. Now all she wanted was the long endless corridors of Moya. She did not look back at John as she stepped back to check on their new guest. "I suppose I wanted to give her a chance." It was only then that he truly understood. Aeryn wanted to offer the girl the opportunity to be more... 

John shifted slightly on the small cot; the smile remained on his face. "I understand."  

FIN

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