The Sentinel

Part Two

Writing Relay by Karl, AmyJ & Toadie


Rating: PG-13

Spoilers: Yes, please!

This is the second writing relay attempted by some of the staff writers at Karlsweb. Each section's beginning indicates the guilty party. <G> The name of the game is... someone starts with a scene and passes it along to the next writer to add onto. 


~AmyJ~


 
"Frell!" Chiana drew aim on the strange automaton and fired. She was forced to duck. The pulse rounds repelled off the iridescent force field
surrounding the struggling duo and ricocheted around the corridor.
 
D'Argo's struggles seemed to be weakening. Yet his heavy fists alternated at pounding the torso and grappling with the thin air. The air crackled with energy around them, keeping her at bay and apparently serving as an invisible noose around the Luxan's throat. It was technology that made facing an armed regiment of Peacekeepers preferable.
 
At that moment, John rounded the corner into the bay, nearly colliding with her. He paused momentarily to take in the strange scene. "What
the...hell..."
 
And he charged headlong at Carellen.


"John... don't!" She screamed. Too late the brash human found out why. As soon as he met the energy field he too was repelled, landing on his back.
 
John rolled over on the floor and gasped up at her. "You could have warned me."


"I frelling did!" Chiana shot back with a toss of her white shaggy head.
 
The field around Carellen wavered and D'Argo's limp body fell to the deck. A low growl from the Luxan at least told them both that the he lived still. The menacing form of the automaton hovered over him, as if daring his crew mates to approach.
 
"I have a mission to complete. Failure is not permissible." His metallic voice was protracted, almost pleasant, as if he were accustomed to the havoc that reigned around him.
 
"Oh. That's it! Screw this." John muttered. He triggered his coms. "Aeryn. If Nix..."
 
"Ix."
 
"Whatever..." John rolled his eyes. "If he wants his wind-up toy back in one piece... Tell him to get his digit-impaired ass over here now and get him."
 
"Is D'Argo alright?"
 
"He's ok, I think. Can't get near him. I want this hunk of junk off the ship now!"
 
"Understood."
 
"What's going on? This thing... it belongs to someone on the ship outside?" Chiana asked. She shifted her weight from foot to foot, uncertainty etched her every motion.
 
"Ya, Pip. Maybe he knows where this thing's on/off-switch is."
 
"Do you think it'd be here if he knew that?" She asked sarcastically.
 
"Good point."     

 # 


In Command, Aeryn sighed, realizing that her earlier conclusion that this small trial would be "easy" was short-lived. She looked up at the image of the Sebacean crime boss. "Apparently the creature is unwilling or unable to leave. I suggest you claim Carellen soon." Aeryn said. "Our Pilot will provide access to the--
 
"We shouldn't give him a frelling thing!" Jool ranted. She tossed her mane of violet-red hair in a showy gesture of defiance and folded her arms. To Aeryn it only made her demand seem all the more immature and spoiled.
 
"This isn't your decision." Aeryn barked. "I suggest you do what you do best... go back to your quarters and pout."
 
Jool opened her mouth in one of her many expressions of unqualified indignity. "I am just as much a part of this crew as anyone else. He has no
business owning an Interion ship--"
 
The open coms with Ix forgotten and her expression meaning murder, Aeryn took a menacing step toward the Interion mascot. Jool's speech ended in an abrupt screech. Her bravado instantly evaporated.
 
"Listen to me very carefully..." Aeryn spoke in a tone reserved for addressing the annoyingly dull-witted. "Leave the Command tier now before I
remove you... forcibly."
 
Screwing up her mouth into a sneer, Jool raised her head. Wordlessly, she whirled in a swish of fading scarlet curls and stalked out of the room.
 
Aeryn shut her eyes and drew in a cleansing breath before turning back to the viewer. Ix who had no doubt found immense amusement from their exchange was silently shaking with laughter.
 
"How much for the Interion?" He asked.
 
#

 
"Well... you're the frelling expert on these ... robot things. You should know how to shut 'em off!" Chiana snapped. She turned back to regard her
patient. D'Argo's head rested across her knees. He lay in much the same position as where he had collapsed after staggering away from his metallic assailant only a moment before.
 
"And just because I built a computer in my garage when I was twelve doesn't make me Bill Gates!" John shot back, concentrating on Carellen. He was as close to it as he dared get to study the seamless body of the automaton. Save for the odd complexion of the metal, there were no marks on its surface. Nothing to suggest a power source. And even if he could see one, getting around the force field was the bigger issue.
 
Carellen seemed to guess the course of his thoughts. "Your attempts to neutralize me shall fail. Attempts to dissuade me from my mission shall--"
 
"Fail..." John interrupted, waving a dismissive hand. "Yes, Locutus of Borg. Got it. Heard you the first sixteen times."


He triggered his comms. "Aeryn... where are they?"
 
"On their way. They should be docking any microt."
 
John regarded the still form of D'Argo. He stooped next to Chiana. "How's he doing?"
 
"He... uh... just called me Rygel." Chiana said with a slight laugh. It did little to veil her obvious concern.
 
"Ok. I take that as a bad sign." Rising to pace in front of their unwelcome guest, John opened his comms once more. "Jool....?"
 
There was no answer. Only a signature pouting silence. "Quit screwing around, Jool. Answer me."
 
"What."
 
"Get down to the Hammond bay. D'Argo's not looking so hot."
 
"...."
 
"Please." He muttered through clenched teeth.

"On my way."

 
#

 
"The trader's ship is approaching the bay doors now, Officer Sun." Pilot said. He exchanged a look via the holo-link with Aeryn and nodded slightly. They may be not showing hostility, but they had to be ready for anything.
 
The nervous hum and yellow-white pitch of Moya's energies, told him of her trepidation too. The Interion ship could not be read like the roll of solar tides or the dangerous rapids in navigating a field of newborn stars. Non-biomechs were lifeless things about as untrustworthy as the creatures that commanded them. In his own language of color and sound, Pilot tried to calm his mammoth companion, showing her the plans formed by the Sebacean female. They would all be ready.

 
#

 
How could they not hear... not feel it?

His fingers stealing to his mouth, Stark slid into the corridor. It was a nightmare sound that hovered just below the threshold of hearing. It
permeated the air around the strange metal beast. It scurried into the dark crevices in the corner of ones vision. But what made it worse was the
sinister intelligence that owned it.
 
He pretended to watch Jool minister to the disabled Luxan, all the while stealing closer to the Sentinel. It was compulsion and repulsion at once.

"Yo! Stark!" Crichton called.

He stopped in his tracks, his hands playing nervously with the cuffs of his jacket. Stark turned to the human.

"No playing with the metal man. He's got issues." Crichton said in his characteristically off-hand and dreadfully confusing manner.

"You can't hear that?" he blurted the words. He could not help himself.

"Hear what?" Jool said, turning her brilliant green stare at him. Green. The same color of her distaste for him. It saturated her every interaction with him. It was like the hellish screams she could produce, the same attack on the senses.

Yes! That was it!

Stark lurched at her quickly, barely able to contain his enthusiasm. Jool was caught off balance. She fell back on the bustle of her ridiculously
voluminous costume with a shriek. "What's he doing--"

"Yes. " Stark insisted, oblivious to the fact that he had not shared his idea with anyone else.

"Crichton." Jool gasped.

But Stark was upon her, gripping her arm, and trying to tug her to her feet. She dug her heels into the smooth floor.

"John!"

"Hey! What the hell?" Crichton snapped. He dove at him, shoving Stark back.

At that moment, he released his grip on the girl's arm. Jool screamed in earnest as her momentum propelled her sprawling to the floor before
Carellen. She drew in healthy lungfuls of air and released a full-throated wail. He and Crichton instantly recoiled. Chiana shrank down protectively
over D'Argo at the auditory onslaught.

The bay door's circuit panel explored in a shower of sparks. A wall sconce winked uncertainly and fizzled out. And then something remarkable happened to the Sentinel. It seemed to clinch its obsidian eyes shut at the noise. Its solid frame trembled.

As her wail died away, Crichton looked from the damaged wall to the Sentinel and finally Jool, the expression of enlightenment filling his features. He looked back at Stark.
 
"Good boy, Lassie!" John said, thumping him on the shoulder. Stark nodded with enthusiastic idiot glee.


John raced to Jool who was now mid-tantrum in some endless tirade of complaints.

".. And then they treat me like this. The water in my bathing chamber is always cold. No one is ever nice to me. Doesn't give a drennit if I..." She
sobbed.

"Do that again." John said. He stole a glance at the robot and then looked back down at her.

"What?" She moaned. Jool blinked up at him, her face wet with tears.

"Scream."

"What? I'm not some--"

John pulled her up by her slender wrist and shoved her headlong at Stark. "Give her something to scream about, Astro."

This seemed to be impetus enough. As she collided with Stark, she erupted into another indignant scream. It outdid its predecessor, seeming to insult Moya's living walls.  Still-screeching, she floundered away from him, swatting at his hands.

Covering his ears, Crichton watched the Sentinel waver again. Its arms lowered to its side. A garbled metallic noise issued from deep within its
curious frame. Under the insult of the Interion's metal-melting scream, it seemed to wither as they watched. First one "foot" of the beast then the
other connected with Moya's floor.

Jool stopped, panting for breath. She turned a murderous gaze at Crichton. "Who the frell do you think you are?"

"Shhhhhh!" John raised a silencing hand at her.

"You primitive! Thick-skulled primate!"


Ignoring her he stole closer to the metal being, head canted to the side listening. He stepped even closer than before to the creature, well beyond the point of origin of the Sentinel's energy field. Nothing happened.

Jool continued to hound John, but by now her voice had become nonsense background babble in face of the strange development. "Blah... blah.."

Cautiously, John reached out, fingers grazing the torso of the statue. Nothing happened. No movement in the jointless arms. The slits for eyes
remained shut.

"Blah...blah...blah, Crichton!...Blah.."


John looked at Stark. The Banik shook his head, knowing what the human would do next and also that he would regret it.

With two fingers, John pushed at the robot. Surprising lighter than it appeared, it toppled over instantly, hitting Moya's deck with a hollow metal
clatter that resonated through the chamber.

Its metal torso, no doubt weakened by Jool's onslaught, split open like a rotten fruit. John stepped back as an acrid smell filtered out of the
opening.

"See...see." Stark muttered, creeping closer. He danced from foot to foot excitedly, pulling at the hem of his jacket.

Jool was not impressed. Fully incensed at her treatment she continued to yammer away at her catalogue of complaints.
Covering his mouth and nose with one hand, John stooped over the fallen automaton. He fished the combat knife out of his boot and used it to prod at the open seam on the still form carefully. He squinted into the black interior of the rift.
 
John muttered, his curiosity now winning over caution. "There's. something moving--"

His jaw snapped shut. John jumped back only to collide with Jool. They fell together in a jumble.

On silvery, delicate legs a swarm of oval-bodied spiders scurried out of the body of the Sentinel.


#


 
Liet scratched his shaven head and shifted his weight from foot to foot. He hated this sort of thing. The double-cross. Why did Lucien always send him? Liet considered himself a nice guy, never caused much bother. He was much more content to function as a body guard or even do the occasional pummeling... on those who really deserved it. That was easy. What troubled Liet most was lying. He was awful at that.
 
He sighed heavily as the pod settled within the bay of the leviathan. Gruman, the shuttle's pilot and fellow outcast Zenetan paid no attention.
He would not have had much to say anyway. His conversational skills were limited to the occasional grunt or expletive.


Gruman looked at him expectantly. Liet triggered the hatch and stepped down into the otherwise deserted hangar.
 
"Where is everyone?" Liet asked. He had heard tales of Crichton's motley crew. They had cut a swath of destruction from system to system. Certainly they would be waiting for them, armed to their multi-species teeth.
 
"Don't like it." Gruman muttered. It was literally a fountain of conversation for the lumbering henchman. He pulled the pulse gun from the
waist of his belt and headed to the door, Liet in tow.
 
As they approached, the door swiveled in on its central axis, revealing the corridor within. An incredible noise erupted. It was a scream that reached an impossible pitch, making them both cringe in pain. Pressing their hands to their ears, they watched as an Interion female darted past. She was obviously the source of the hellish sound. Following close at her heels were a Sebacean male and a Nebari female dragging what appeared to be a half conscious Luxan. None of them noticed the two Zenetans standing in the open doorway of their hangar as they bolted past.
 
Liet and Gruman stepped into the corridor, the sounds of the Interion's screams fading off into the distance. Liet bent at the waist, peered down
the direction to which the strange foot race had disappeared. Nothing. The two pirates looked at each other.
 
"Maybe we should head--" Liet began hopefully.
 
Gruman held up a silencing hand. "Shhhh! You hear that?"
 
They both turned in the direction of the new noise. It came from the corridor from which their hosts had run. It sounded like a cascade of
pebbles on metal. But it was a deliberate, even sound, accompanied by a rustling, like thousands of tiny whispers. And it was headed toward them. Fast.
 
"What is that?" Liet asked, stepping closer. He pointed to a fuzzy blurred shape that was advancing at the end of the tier, spreading over the walls and the floor. At first it seemed like a mist, but that was before it changed direction and headed straight for them.
 
"Frell." Gruman grunted, realizing his own question was answered.


 
~~Karl~~


 
Jool stood watching as John tried to hoist the heavy Luxan on to the medical table. She surveyed the crude apothecary that she had inherited from the Delvian.
 
"Hey, Red, how about a hand here!" Crichton blurted as D'Argo slumped over and banged his head hard on the edge of the table.
 
Chiana finished jumbling the lock code of the hatchway.
 
"That should keep the little frellers out!" She turned in time to witness D'Argo's head bang into the edge of the table. "Careful! You're going to kill
him like that!" She spat defensively.
 
"Then.. Give me a... Hand!" With a final burst of strength he pushed the Luxan onto the table. John pulled himself from the tangle of arms and
tentacles that was his friend. He looked a Jool solemnly. "He's gonna be alright?" he said, more as a statement to convince himself then a question to Jool.
 
Jool was surprised. Was this a vulnerable Crichton? She was about to make a nasty comment about these working conditions and something made her stop.  Instead, she pulled a Sebacean hand scanner from the chaos of the workbench. "Let's take a look..." She did not look back at John or Chiana as she scanned the Luxan. She felt the color in her hair fade as she worried. What if I can't help D'Argo? What would the others do? 
 
"This scanner was not designed for his anatomy."
 
"No excuses, Princess!" Chiana blurted as she moved closer to the table.
 
John pulled her back and held her.  "Chi, leave her alone!"
 
Jool allowed herself to face them. John stood there trying to guess what she was going to say. Chiana seemed to pull into Crichton more as if bracing herself for the news to come. Jool was surprised how uncomfortable she felt in this situation. She did not like any of them. They all treated her with contempt, yet now all she wanted to do was to ease their concern.  

"His autonomic functions seem normal. It appears to be some sort of Luxan defense mechanism that he's not yet regained consciousness. I believe he'll be fine."
 
"Thank you, Jool." John seemed to be feeling as uncomfortable as Jool. Chiana pulled from John's side and passed by Jool as if she was invisible and stood over D'Argo.
 
Jool went about the duties of preparing the medical station to monitor the Luxan's bio-signs. Her medical training never covered xenobiology but data spools left by Zhaan allowed her to monitor the complex anatomy of the Luxan.
 
John stood watch at the hatchway, making sure that the little beasties that were inside the robot were staying clear of the apothecary.
 
"Aeryn where are you?"
 
There was an uncomfortably long delay in her response.
 
"I finally gotten back into Command. Those spiders you unleashed are everywhere. It took twenty DRD's to flush them out. I don't like it, John. They seem to possess intelligence. It looked as though they were trying to gain flight control."
 
"What!" John looked back at the others. "OK. We will meet you there. Chi, you're with me. Jool take care of D'Argo!"
 
Both women protested simultaneously.
 
"I am not staying here alone! With those spider things!"
 
"I am not leaving D'Argo here with her!"
 
John could only hear the noise of there protest not what they we saying. He placed his two fingers in his mouth and whistled, bringing their rants to an end. "Fine! Chiana, stay here with D'Argo. Jool you're with me."
 
Jool grabbed her pulse rifle from the workbench. Chiana snagged her arm as Jool ran past. She was about to shove the Nebari out of the way when she looked into her eyes.
 
Chiana head bobbed to the side, her eyes still glossy. "Jool, Ah thanks."
 
"It's ok... "Jool's mouth moved to continue but she didn't know what to say. Her internal struggle continued. I will not get attached to these creatures! Chiana let her go and moved back to D'Argo's side.
 
"C-mon! Jool, lets move it!" Called as if calling his favorite pet.
 
"Ya.. Right let's go." She fumbled with her pulse gun and headed for the hatchway.


 
#


 
"I don't like this!" Lucien paced in front of the huge air lock. Just beyond lay the leviathan Moya. It was easy pulling it into one of the docking
ports. It was easy... too easy even with this marvelous ship that was now under his command. The leviathan did not even struggle.
This is too easy!
 
Neesa giggled lightly. She enjoyed the discomfort these renegades were causing Lucien.
 
"Relax. you have them." Neesa moved towards him, until now growing somewhat bored with all this. She approached her plaything. "What could they possibly do Luc?"
 
"That's just it... what could they do?" His cold stare remained on the door in front of him. How could he be so nervous of a leviathan filled with a few petty criminals and political prisoners? The spy camera images of Natira's operation collapsing in on itself played in his mind over and over again.
 
Neesa slowly circled Lucien, her hand brushing against him. "Well you could always retreat." She purred in his ear.
 
Lucent reaction was swift: he grabbed Neesa, roughly by the wrist. Her protests were calm yet he saw it for the first time since they had been
together. He sensed it, she was scared. Scared of him " Sometimes Neesa, you go too far!"
 
He could do without her, deposit her back to the grimy trade planet on which he found her cycles ago. No... like his collection, he could not live with out her. He released his grip. She stepped back slightly stunned by his actions.
 
"Leave me!" He growled, pointing to the inner hatchway. He watched as she left wordlessly, glaring at him as she rubbed her assaulted wrist.
 
Lucien looked back at the outer door. Frelling, Gruman... you should have com'd me by now!"
 
He tapped his own coms. "Liet, meet me at lock nine we are going in ourselves."
 
He should have done this at the start, never send someone to do your business. He was getting old. Stupid mistake he would not repeat. He waited for his minions to arrive. He moved up and tapped the leviathan's airlock door. "We will see what so special about this crew of Moya."


 
#


 
John looked back at Jool, they were scurrying behind her. "Come on, bustle butt, get moving! They are right on your ass!"
 
The sick looking spiders continued to scurry along the floor and walls following their prey. Jool stumbled. John heard her hit the floor hard.
 
He stopped, looking back at the now unconscious girl.  "Frell!"
 
John bit his lip and went back after her. He arrived the same time they did. He drew his pulse gun and fired at them. They were fast, most of them dodged the energy bolts. Two that John did hit were carried away by the others. He stepped closer. A few were on Jool's back. He kicked one off as a second one jumped to his leg with an uncontrollable shiver. He batted at it wildly as it clung to his leg.
 
John clawed at his coms. "Aeryn! Tier nine rib seventeen--"
 
Was all he got out as the spider-creature, bit through his pants leg. He stopped suddenly. All the fight drained from him. The sweat on his forehead turned cold as his stomach lurched. He looked down at the little spider now partially inside the leg of his trousers. His leg was numb. The sensation seemed to continue not from his leg but from the center of his chest.
 
John stumbled to his knees. His eyes couldn't focus. All he could hear was the ever-slowing beat of his own heart. The floor moved up to greet him. His eyes fluttered. Darkness descended. His breathing was shallow. John was still awake. He felt two dull jabs on his back then one at his neck. Suddenly he was in bed laying next to Aeryn. He surveyed his surroundings: the cottage back on the earth, the false earth. He lay back down against her warm skin. He wrapped an arm around her and as a feeling of peace enveloped him fell back into a deep sleep.
 
Aeryn ran down the corridor to where John said they were. She was not prepared for what she saw. Crichton and Jool were both laying face down on the floor, three of the hideous spiders latched to each of them. She moved carefully into the area. The others had moved on for other prey. The spiders did not react to her. They made a noise not unlike Rygel when he was eating.
 
Aeryn's stomach turned as she realized they were drinking their blood. The spiders were similar to ones she had seen in commando training. She removed her utility knife and as she got closer she noticed something strange about both John and Jool. They were moving in an odd way, both laying flat against the floor. Jool made a strange purring sound she had never heard before. What ever the spiders were doing was obviously giving them great pleasure.
 
She would have found this funny in different circumstances. Like a surgeon she moved to the first spider and cut deep at the base of the abdomen where the leg stocks exited the exoskeleton. The spider fell away easily. They were just like the Fellip spiders on Tarsus just much smarter.
 
"Much smarter!"
 
She moved onto the second one and did the same. As she rose to attack the one clamped on to he back of Jool's head, it sprang at her. Aeryn blocked the spider with her knife. Skewering it with the tip of the blade, she flung it off, smashing its little body at the wall.
 
As she stepped over the still squirming Jool to John, she noticed more spiders scurrying down the corridor away from her.
 
"Pilot I need this area sealed...now!" She turned and looked back at the other direction. The passage was clear. "I can't move both of them and I
don't know if these creatures will come back."
 
"I am trying, Officer Sun, but they have gotten into some of Moya's control conduits. Wait there... The doors should be closing now."
 
Aeryn watched as the large elliptical doors swung closed at each end of the passageway. "Thank you Pilot... Now find Stark or even Rygel At this point I don't care."
 
Aeryn kept her gun ready as she slipped down the wall she surveyed the two ends of the corridor. She tried not to look back at the two of them laying there moving as if they had both developed rather romantic attachments for the leviathan's deck. "Well I can think of worse bug bites I suppose." 
 
She touched her com. "Any luck Pilot?"
 
"Not yet. They seemed to be trying to take over key systems from Moya. They interfere then stop. It is strange, Officer Sun."
 
"Are the DRD's stopping them Pilot?"
 
"No! It is as if Moya has some natural defense against them. We will need one to study."
 
Aeryn moved back to the far wall to where one of the spiders she had killed lay. She nudged it with the tip of her boot. "I don't suppose a dead one would do?"
 
"Yes. That would suffice for now."
 
"Send me a DRD." She noticed that both Jool and John had stopped moving and now appeared to be sleeping. Aeryn checked their breathing. Deep and steady... Good. 
 
"I want to stay here in case they come back for seconds."  

Part 3

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