stepped over Rygel’s empty throne sled and knelt beside D’Argo. The
Luxan held in his massive hands a DRD, using its glowing antennae like a
flashlight to cut the gloom of the small triangular access conduit
can she be stuck? Chiana, I told you go in after Rygel!" He growled
into the darkened passage. "The smallest to largest!"
was a brief screech that could only come from Jool. Chiana’s sinister
giggling soon followed.
looked at D’Argo. “Don’t tell me. Lucy and Ethel are stuck?”
did not look up at John. “If you mean Jool and Chiana… then yes.”
DRD’s eyestalks turned to regard D’Argo. He addressed the little
biomech before gently placing it into the portal. “Go see what you can
disappeared into the darkness with a signature purr. John felt a grin
forming. This was the same D’Argo that not too long ago used the small
yellow beetles as soccer balls. He ran a hand over his mouth and settled
back against the wall.
where’s his royal pain?” He asked.
com went out the minute he got within thirty denches of tier seven.”
D’Argo duplicated John’s position on the opposite side of the
portal. He rested his massive arms on his knees. “Pilot seems to think
our visitors activated a localized dampening field.”
would explain it.” John folded his arms and chewed thoughtfully at the
pad of one thumb. After a moment, he looked up at D’Argo. “What’s
uttered an exasperated sigh. “You tell me. You’re the one with the
think one would work by now, huh?” John smiled, adding a self-effacing
there are some mysteries to the universe that will never be
explained.” D’Argo chimed in with his own gravel-filled laugh.
looked away, resting the crown of his head against the wall. His
expression darkened. He ran his hands over his face and pushed his
fingers through his sweat-dampened hair. “How much is enough,
D’Argo? I just can’t keep going like--”
Have. Got. To see this.” Chiana’s bright chirp interrupted him. She
erupted from the access way with a flippant toss of shaggy white hair.
Her eyes were wet with tears as she tried to gasp out words between
giggles. “The DRD… is trying to…”
laid her head on the deck as she continued to howl with laughter.
"I need to get a holoimager for this one!”
Jool’s indignant scream echoed from the shaft. “Watch what you’re
snorted and rolled blood shot eyes up at John and D’Argo. “This is
classic!” She laughed, plainly overpowered with hilarity.
held a hand over his mouth, feeling a laugh try to betray his grim mood.
“This is not the time, kids. Aeryn’s in trouble and who the frell
knows what those things are up to.”
the bitter thoughts easily quelled the mirth like a heavy damp blanket.
He gestured Chiana out of the hole before leaning inside. There was not
a great deal to see. The weak lights of the DRD’s antennae barely cut
the darkness. He turned back to Chiana. "Pip… Go see if you can
get something from the galley to grease her up.”
backed away and climbed to his feet, dusting off the knees of his pants.
“I’m going to talk to Pilot, see if there’s a way to get comms
through this dampening field.”
John turned to leave, D’Argo looked up at him with a brisk nod. The
signature gruffness was absent from his voice. “John… you have to
keep going. Trust me. I have been there.”
stopped, looking at his friend. The same numbness had shifted back into
place, obscuring the tiny spark of hope to which he clung. He knew in
his soul that it was winning. But the forced the thought away, unwilling
to perceive what end it would bring. “Thanks.”
cleared his throat and bent at the waist to yell down into the opening.
“Jool, just relax. Chi’s looking for something to get you out of
I think I have to go,” came her petulant call from the tunnel.
rested his head against the warm wall. “Red, I don’t think you’re
you idiot!” She groaned, struggling to break free. “I mean I have to
go to the bathroom!”
the protest of leaden lungs, Kael ran though the dark passage back to
the rigs. He once more, tried to push out to them, feeling for the
ever-present current of their thoughts, but it only Lenis’s childlike
mewling filled his head like thunder.
stumbled slightly under the power of the current. A warm trickle of
blood dripped over his lip. Lenis never seemed to understand how
powerful the Connection was. His presence was often overwhelming.
called back, felling himself drowned out.
rounded the corner and sprinted the remaining distance to the moon pool
of the amnexus bay. His fear soon gave way to anger. Both of them were
de-rigged! Sun was gone! He knew that the woman was dangerous, but he
had expected much better from his team.
knelt before Rayne, his face buried against her tiny body and his
massive arms were wrapped around her in a crushing embrace. His
shoulders shook with muted sobbing. Rayne rocked back and forth. Her
fingers moved through Lenis’s damp hair as she made quiet shushing
noises to him.
Kael barked moving toward them. “Are you alright?”
looked up at him with her same odd pervasive calm. Yeskaelwerefine…
She patted Lenis on the back of the head, and offered a sympathetic
smile. “I just slipped while Lenis was trying to protect me.”
I’m sooo sorry.” Lenis sobbed. He broke his embrace and turned a
wounded expression up at Kael. “I’m sorry. I really didn’t—“
Rayne crooned. She placed her hands, small and nearly childlike, gently
on either side of the man’s face and made him turn to face her.
“Lenis, I’m fine. It was an accident. We understand that.” She
looked up at Kael. “Don’t we, Kael?”
brute features evened out into a relieved smile before turning
expectantly to Kael.
It’s alright, Lenis.” Kael said quickly. An eager repulsion filled
him at the sight of Lenis like this. It made him uneasy. It reminded him
of the danger and their increasing dependence on him. Where it was once
a comforting burden, he felt it threaten to invade every pore and weigh
on him like the thick nascient fluid of the rig.
Rayne wound her arms under the man’s heavy frame and gently pushed him
away. “Finish dressing. I want to talk to Kael. OK?”
Rayne.” He said, rising to tower over his two companions. Dutifully he
stalked back to his vacant rig, his shoulders sagging slightly.
bent at the waist to face Rayne. His voice was firm, but it barely
masked the tremor of fear. “I told you to stay in your rig till I got
the Amnexus fluid.”
turned wide dark eyes up at him. Her calm was not broken at the sight of
his worry. “I had to de-rig, Kael. I needed to get out of the suit.”
vulnerable outside of the suit.” He moved to kneel before her. Gently
he gathered her hands between his own. Her skin was so cold. He imagined
he could sense the precious heat draining from her body with each
smile was sullen. Finality filled her voice. It was the tone of a
soldier, resigned to defeat, well beyond the age of Rayne’s seventeen
cycles. “If I am to die, I want my last breath to be air… not
the oxy-nascient fluid of the rig.”
to me, Rayne. You are not going to die.” He folded his hands against
hers tightly. She winced slightly and he was filled with immediate
that an order, Kael?” She asked with acrid mockery. “The suit is
dying. It will take me with it. You know why too. Because it’s
changing me. It’s changing us all. We’re not Sebacean anymore.
We’re something else--”
told you I don’t want to hear that. It’s not true!” Kael stood
abruptly, pulling away. He felt the blood rush to his neck. His eyes
began to sting.
She rose with great effort, holding onto the arm of the mech for
balance. “We are. You can’t accept it, but you can feel it. I know
it, because I can… tell.” Rayne looked down almost guiltily as she
mentioned the unnatural bond they shared.
out of my head, Rayne.” He shot her an angry glance. She was doing it
again. He could feel her presence there. It was like having a
slow pressure build in his skull, only truly evident when it retreated.
looked at the room, not seeing it, only feeling the cloying tide of
want, pain, and grief that punctuated every exchange with the girl
before him. He wanted to destroy, to rend and annihilate. He hated her
absolute calm in the face of his hostility and the seeming arrogance
that the prospect of death brought her. With her, he knew only want no
matter how eager the flesh that welcomed him. He ached at the
possibility of her absence and longed for freedom when they were
together. He wanted the universe to know this same nameless pain.
Vea!” Kael snapped.
are you doing?”
ignored her and turned away. The lumbering giant immediately rounded the
bulk of his suit, dressed in ill-fitting tech utilities, stretched to
their very seams to accommodate the man. He fell into attention before
the smaller lieutenant.
did the woman go, soldier?” he asked Lenis.
she’s not a problem. Let’s just take what we need and go.” Rayne
tugged at his shoulder, but still he would not turn to look at her. His
attention was on Lenis.
features were blank as was often the case when he was addressed by his
surname. Rayne’s protests were of no concern. It was as if some inner
switch had been thrown. The child-like, needy Lenis was gone, replaced
by the brute soldier. His voice was a powerful growl. “Hammond
direction. Through the corridor past rib fourteen.”
smirked. There were only two directions the Peacekeeper could have gone:
forward through the ion backwash chamber or aft to the wasted remains of
the maintenance bay. “Rig up. I want you to go through the ion
backwash chamber. I’ll take the maintenance bay. If you don’t see
her on your initial sweep, find me in the bay. We’ll eliminate this
threat and complete our original mission for the amnexus fluid.”
sir.” Lenis replied. He turned to his rig and began ascending the arm,
removing his utilities along the way.
Rayne said with quiet warning. But she trailed off, to stare at the deck
as the full weight of his attention fell on her again. Her fear had been
there the entire time. Only now he could feel it, like a cool draft. For
a moment, the tempest calmed. Her faint voice wafted across the shared
current of thoughts. It was becoming so hard to hear her lately.
promise. We’ll get what you need. You’re going to be fine.”
he stood and made his way back to the rig. Kael looked into the dark
warmth of the open hatch and shed the tech utilities. The urge to rejoin
was nearly overpowering, but it did nothing to drown out the repulsion
that rankled his spine. It drained his will, making him weak, but at the
same time infusing him with incredible strength. It was addiction
against which all three of them were powerless. A fate they were all
cursed and blessed to share.
her gaze on him, he paused to look over his shoulder at Rayne. From this
height, this distance she seemed so small, weak and vulnerable. But it
was this frail young woman that was his strength. If I fail you,
he thought. Kael forbid himself to think the rest. He looked away and
slipped into the welcoming warm blackness of joining.
soft interior pulsated against his limbs as he worked his way into the
remembered shape. He felt the distinct hungry tug of the tendrils that
interfaced with the suit from the harness forever bonded with his spine.
Like hungry vines they stretched and grew. A million new connections
were reformed. There was a distant tingling sensation to his right
forearm as the mending tissues bonded with the broken burned skin of the
pulse gun wound. He felt/sensed the suit’s power rising. The thick
nascent fluid began to seep into the cavity with him, slowly at first,
then building in speed. He fought the familiar primitive panic as it
rose past his face and began to invade his nose and mouth. The taste was
alkaline and sweet, like lemons in brine. Each time was a tiny death
like drowning. But what came next was indescribable no matter how many
times he joined with the rig.
felt the surge of raw power through his body. Now he could see. Now
he could hear. Now he was immortal. All that came before was a
mockery of existence; merely struggling though life, sightless, weak and
dying with each breath.
he was a god.
moved through the chamber, certain to constantly keep the doorway in her
field of vision. She hefted the heavy metal bar from hand to hand as if
it weighted nothing. Her mind raced with the seeming speed of her heart.
The surge of neurtox did not seem to fade. If anything she was feeling
it build, but she was beyond considering the drug’s influence. In this
altered state, it made sense to Aeryn: She had always known this power.
She had always been this strong.
sure, icy coolness drowned the fear. She nearly smiled at her earlier
trepidation. What did she have to fear from the biomechs? Kael
and the girl were nothing more than children given much too powerful
toys. The one they called Lenis possessed the same level of intellect,
dutifully following Kael’s strident demands. They all lacked a
is strength,” Aeryn muttered, unconsciously reciting the Decca. In a
normal situation, it was a habit that would have made her wince and
drawn a painful expression from the human. She sneered. As
if Crichton could ever understand discipline…
rumble of footfalls stopped. Aeryn crouched, catlike. Nearly every
muscle in her body was tuned to the harmony of the raging neurtox. She
listened intently. There was nothing more beyond the sounds of the bay
and the leviathan, ordinary noises that would have fallen far out of her
range of detection without her unnaturally heightened senses.
laid a flat hand against the warmth of Moya’s decking. There was only
the thrum of the leviathan’s complicated circulation. She quieted her
own breathing and was perfectly still. Something heavy hit the deck on
this tier. It was followed by a series of brief thuds, too irregular to
be footfalls. The stillness resumed. The distant sounds of thick liquid
and choking wove through the corridors to her.
straightened, resting the metal bar across her shoulders with
nonchalance. The expression on her face would have made her
unrecognizable to any of her crew. The shrewd cunning gave her features
an incredible similarity to Xhalax Sun.
nearly sinister glee filled her eyes. One of the intruders had just left
their biomech suit somewhere near by. It was a tactical error that would
not go unanswered. Broken bones grinding painlessly in her chest and
leg, Aeryn padded into the darkened corridor, eager to deliver it.
gagged on the remainder of the nascent fluid as it exited his lungs.
Panting, he pushed himself up onto hands and knees. The floor was slick
with the substance. He dared not test his still weak legs on it.
eyes began to burn. The pain in his lungs settled into a dull pressing.
But the worst pain was in his spine. It was a line of fire zinging from
neck to tailbone. Something was wrong. Terribly wrong. The suit had
rejected him. The fluid had turned bitter and stagnant. The synapses
snapped away from the harness. Panic set in as he realized that the
fluid in his lungs was growing stale, no longer carrying the life giving
oxygen. Like what started happening to Rayne…
can’t be.” Kael muttered. He leaned against the lowered arm of the
suit and pulled himself to his feet. His was the strongest, next to
Lenis. How could his suit be dying? The gravity of the situation
was still a vague concept, halted by the disorientation of being so
quickly disgorged from the suit.
he fished the utilities out of the panel and dressed. Each muscle ached
in burning off-key chorus. His wounded forearm began to throb. Kael
looked down to see the area of the wound was not wholly healed. The skin
that covered it was pink and fresh but paper thin and delicate. It was
as if the suit had tried to repair it, but lacked the energy to complete
is impossible.” He whispered. The rage of moments before abandoned
him, leaving behind this cold hollow shell of growing fear.
whirled, drawing up his fists. Aeryn Sun stood between him and the
entrance to the maintenance bay. Her face was flushed. A nearly gleeful
hate formed her features. Her eyes were glassy cold stones. With casual
malice, she propped a metal bar over one shoulder.
that I cannot handle.” Kael began moving to the left, keeping his
attention split between Sun and her makeshift weapon.
you certain?” Her eyebrows pinched with false concern. “I’d hate
to think that a young child such as yourself was in distress… in need
drew in breath between clinched teeth, knowing it was a deliberate barb,
yet taking the bait. “I’m no child, Sun.”
was her turn to deliver an appraising glance, head to toe. She arched an
eyebrow. “No. But you’re certainly not a soldier. I see some cast
off tech that command did not think twice about sending into a dangerous
lunged at her with a vicious snarl. Sun sidestepped his charge, turning
with him. Quickly she swung the bar. It connected with a solid thud
against his lower back. A white-hot bolt of agony paraded up his spine.
He fell forward, sprawling on the deck. Rolling to his side, he barely
had time to react to Sun’s next strike. While her arms were over her
head, ready to bring the bar down, he swung out with his leg. His foot
met the center of her unprotected middle. She stumbled back with a
wounded grunt. Kael scrambled to his hands and knees, losing purchase on
the slick deck.
the dagger of pain it drove deep into his skull, Kael pushed out with
all of his will to Lenis.
loud crack rang in his ears. Kael’s arms buckled like wet paper and he
collapsed to the deck. He watched the shape of Aeryn Sun’s boots move
into his field of vision. Stupidly he stared at the pattern of their
worn leather. Soon the blackness overtook him.
it.” Aeryn stared at her trembling hand. Ever disobedient it continued
to quiver. A sudden chill claimed her and her entire body shivered. A
swatch of pain wrapped her chest to dig in with needle sharp teeth. It
was building in strength, now working in collusion with the dull throb
of her leg.
How could I be so stupid?!
The neurtox was losing its grip on her body’s chemistry. And now the
pain settled back in to claim its rightful spot. With it returned
rational thought. She looked at the open medkit, still scattered beneath
the wing of Crichton’s module. Taking more would make it go away…
it would feel so much better.
she looked away, ignoring the urge. The view she found there was no
better. Kael’s limp body lay bleeding on the bay deck. She barely
remembered carrying him here, but she must have. His features were soft
and slackened. He was so impossibly young. Had she ever been that age?
but a boy…
and you could have— Aeryn swallowed as the dull nausea circled
I didn’t.” Aeryn whispered. She startled slightly at the sound of
her own voice in the hollow bay. No. There would be no more neurtox.
Ever. She had lost control. Now she observed the savage results that
this substance unleashed. The thought left her sick. Whatever pain she
suffered now would be her just reward.
at the fresh pain, she limped across the floor. She stooped to gather
the emptied contents of the medi-kit. The remaining flask of neurtox
gleamed dully under the ambient light of the room. She ignored it.
Finally, gathering the clacking vials and ampoules to her chest, she
looked at the neurtox. With the heel of one heavy boot, she crushed the
vial. It felt better, but only slightly.
a painful grunt she settled onto the floor next to Kael’s body. She
saw by the slow rise and fall of his chest, he lived still. But he had
lost a great deal of blood. Aeryn fished through the untidy pile of
medicines until she found the familiar pouch of synth. Every soldier was
familiar enough with this simple life-giving device. It bore none of the
risks of neurtox. She wondered briefly about its potency. After all, the
other contents were well expired.
if I have a choice,” she muttered. She wrapped her hand around the
bag, feeling the vials inside crack open. Their contents would mix to
form the blood substitute. She drew the cap off the large-bored needle
and drove it into the pale skin of the young man’s arm finding the
bluish vein beneath.
stirred slightly, muttering a jumble of nonsense words. If he came to,
she was uncertain just how much of a fight she’d be able to put up.
She unfastened the webbed fabric strap of the kit’s handle and began
forming makeshift bonds around Kael’s wrists and ankles. Cautiously,
she propped herself on one hand alongside the boy. She folded her hand
into a fist and rubbed her knuckles against his sternum. “Wake up,
face folded into a frown at this painful sensation. He uttered an angry
groan. His arms jerked in reflex to swat her hand away. He opened his
eyes and looked around the room as if drugged. His gaze shifted back to
Aeryn and sharpened. Kael immediately tried to move away, becoming more
enraged when he saw his bonds.
me, tralk!” He spat.
sat back. She tried to hide the pain that this simple movement caused.
“I think not.”
will return. This time he will not be as charitable.”
to me, Kael.” She said quietly. “I know that you and your friends
are in a great deal of trouble. And it’s not just the Peacekeepers
that you need to fear. What happened? Why did you leave your suit? You
could have easily killed me in it.”
squirmed to a sitting position against the wall. The same defiant sneer
wormed across his mouth. He was silent.
friend… the girl…” She leaned forward studying his face. He looked
away at her mention. “She looked very ill to me… weakened.”
will be well. She has to…” He quieted.
was vulnerability in his fierce façade that she understood all too
well. The girl. She remembered seeing him pause to touch the blast
shield of her prone suit. He had already compromised himself for her. No
doubt it would be his undoing.
are you interested in Moya’s amnexus fluid? Does she need it?”
flashed another arrogant smile as a trickle of blood rolled down his
lip. Even before the floor began to rumble, Aeryn realized why. Another
biomech was approaching. There was one thing she did not consider, but
only now the realization came to her with simplistic ease. They must be
connected somehow, able to communicate without coms. That was how he
called Lenis to tear down the wall. And it was how he called the biomech
not ask Lenis?” he sneered.
these things are biomechanoid, just like Moya,” John paced before the
Navigator’s console. His actions were nearly manic. “You can’t sit
there and tell me, there’s nothing we can do. Come on. There has to be
some secret handshake… something… to tell them we’re not a
exhaled an exasperated growl. “I can assure you, Commander, I am not
aware of any other variety of communication we can possibly establish
with the three newcomers. Although they are biomechanoid to a certain
extent, it is unlikely any leviathan has encountered such… oddities
patience with the human was wearing. It seemed to him that very little
of the explanations he had supplied to Commander Crichton were making
sense. He was as worried about Officer Sun as the remainder of the crew,
but bore the greater responsibility of Moya’s well-being. She was an
aching chorus of the damage caused by the intruders. Much of tier seven
would take weekens to heal properly, a situation that was complicated by
the abrupt order delivered by Officer Sun to cut off the amnexus flow to
the effected area. She risked the possibility of permanent damage to
those sections if the circulation was not restored quite soon.
got it. I got it.” He
flashed a victorious grin at Pilot.
about a tight band laser link between here and the affected tier?”
shoulders shrank together. He uttered another angry grunt. “That was
your first suggestion, Commander.”
over two arns ago.”
Commander.” The Navigator huffed.
was oblivious to his agitation. “Can we try it again?”
sighed. “Reconfiguring internal coms, commander.”
the bar as a crutch, Aeryn climbed to her feet and staggered to the
center of the small bay. The giant biomech’s footfalls thundered
closer. The deck underfoot trembled. A pervasive weariness threatened to
overtake her. Purposefully, she placed more weight on her injured ankle.
A white-hot spark ignited her leg and drove sharp nails into her spine.
Her anger resurfaced but it had dimmed in strength. She hoped it was
enough to fuel her now or she was done.
more hiding. No more running.” She muttered as she watched the doorway
for the monster to appear. A jeering titter came from the corner of the
hangar where Kael remained bound. She looked at him, eyes narrowed. The
arrogant sneer was a white crescent on his grime-covered face.
still, the giant lumbered. There was the incredible sound of ripping
biometallic skin as the bay door was curled open with awesome ease by
one huge claw. The space widened. The Lenis-mech emerged into the
brighter lights of the bay. It was evident he saw her. But he did not
act. Inexplicably he stood completely still.
resisted the urge to shift anxiously. She remained standing in her spot,
her arms at her sides. Ribs aching in protest, Aeryn drew in a deep
I have no wish to hurt you or your friends! I know that you’re in
curious beast remained where it stood. Only its low-level hum filled the
don’t want to fight you. You’ve all proved your power. But I know
that you… and your friend Rayne are in deep trouble without help.”
there was no answer. No movement from the Lenis-mech. Cautiously, Aeryn
craned her neck to look at Kael. The boy’s eyelids fluttered. A steady
trickle of blood ran from his nostrils. The hairs rose on the back of
Aeryn’s neck. Kael
was communicating with Lenis.
roar-whine split the air. Aeryn turned back in time to watch the mech
take murderous efficient strides toward her. She backed away, moving in
Whatever Kael is telling you is not the truth! I could have killed him,
but I spared him. I don’t want to hurt any of you. He gave me no
mech continued to advance, unmoved by her speech. Aeryn moved faster.
But her damaged ankle disobeyed. Her balanced left her. She scrambled,
crab-like, on her hands and feet to outpace the raging biomech. The
alcove of the smaller bay possessed a slightly lower ceiling. A slim
hope waged in her that the mech would not be able to access the confined
space. She cowered along side Kael. The Lenis-mech poised to strike.
Aeryn gathered her strength, waiting. Lenis lunged, massive claws
outstretched. She rolled along the deck extracting renewed complaints
from her injured ribs. The deck denches from her head buckled under the
creature’s heavy fist.
she looked up in time to see the hand retract, ready to strike again.
She looked around. She was trapped, wedged between the narrowing walls
of the antechamber. Aeryn cursed, a combination of the pain coursing
through her every fiber and the apparent end to her luck. She turned a
defiant glare at the indifferent façade of the mech, glimpsing her own
distorted reflection on its surface. This
end… I would have never imagined.
metallic roar-whine and the fist drove down toward her—
stopped denches over her head.
shoulder’s unfolded from their assumed cringe. She looked over at
Kael. But the boy was not looking at her. He sat up, straining against
his bonds, watching the bay door. Aeryn followed his line of sight.
leaned heavily against the mouth of the damaged doorway. Briefly she
looked at Aeryn, but her attention returned to Lenis. Visibly drawing
herself up, Rayne took staggering strides to the side of the biomech.
Dwarfed by its frame, she craned her neck to regard her companion.
Rayne said, extending a flat palm to stroke the veined limb of the mech.
“You’re not going to hurt her. Back away. Now.”
tremulous voice came from the mech. “Rayne…. Kael told me—“
was doing what he thought he needed to do.” She turned to look at Kael
as she continued to sooth Lenis. Her eyes narrowed. “It’s all right,
Lenis. Stand down.”
rose, pulling herself up along the spines of the wall. In an efficient
purr of servos, the monstrous hand retreated. Lenis-mech backed away
into the larger section of the hangar. The girl moved to Kael’s side.
Her energy seemed to evaporate. And she wavered on her feet. Aeryn
caught her, lowering her to the deck near Kael.
him.” Rayne murmured.
Aeryn looked at Kael. But his viciousness had disappeared. The concern
on his face was painfully apparent as he regarded Rayne. She felt
nothing but pity. There
is only one end for feelings like that, boy. It is that very weakness
that will be your undoing if it has not already.
grudgingly began to unknot them. Kael shed the loosened straps like a
reptile. He pulled Rayne to him like a rag doll. “You never listen. I
told you to stay—“
The girl said quietly. Gingerly she touched the purpling bruise on his
forehead. “No more orders.”
Aeryn said. “Which one of you is going to tell me why the frell
you’re on my ship?”
laughing! It’s not funny… you little bitch!” Jool hissed.
Unheeding, Chiana’s giggling seemed to build. Indignantly, Jool tossed
her mop of copper curls. She sighed wearily and rested her forehead
against the floor. Abruptly, she jerked her head up, eyes wide and
darting around the darkened interior of the channel. A sobering thought
overcame the indignity.
was no telling what sort of conduit this was.
Her mouth pulled into a whimper. She thought of the trill bat guano
filing the very hollows of the ship, mentally recoiling at the memory of
the cold sticky texture against her legs and arms as she searched out
D’Argo’s Qualta blade. Bat feces. Bile rose in the back of
her throat. If that was filled with bat feces, then…
more her gaze darted around the darkness. A repulsed dread renewed her
squirming struggle to break free. There was no telling was foul
creatures inhabited this space. Abruptly she shrieked. “I want out
away, your majesty.” Chiana’s reply sounded in her coms and muffled
in the conduit.
wrinkled her nose, sniffing. “What is that awful stench?”
It’s nothing to worry about.”
felt a warm, slimy glob of liquid ooze down her side. Jool shuddered,
completely unnerved. “What is it?”
Crichton said to find something to grease you up so we can slide you
outta there.” Chiana answered in a teasing singsong.
didn’t answer my question!” Panic clinched its fist around her ribs,
squeezing the air from her lungs.
just say… Moya wasn’t going to use it anyway.”
moved over her and with it came a flood of revulsion. Her bottom lip
puckered and began to quiver. Jool’s scream punctured the indifferent
darkness of the tunnel.
never thought it would be this way.” Rayne said sullenly. “In the
beginning there were a dozen of us.”
glared at her, but she refused to look at him. His hand squeezed into a
fist around hers. She hissed in pain and finally turned to look at him.
Rayne’s voiceless argument filtered through the thrum of his aching
were more of you?” Sun asked, ignorant of their silent exchange.
NeuTech selected only those that had the physical stamina to withstand
the joining process.” Kael answered, curtly, cutting off Rayne’s
reply. “We were the superior specimens.”
among prisoners and defectives.” Rayne added. Although her expression
was filled with spite, she recoiled from Kael’s stare, snapping her
hand away from his grasp. His anger doubled.
Sun prodded. Her keen aqua gaze shifted from Rayne to Kael, clearly
suspicious beyond this new information. She focused on Rayne. “You
were in stockade.”
It was an opportunity for freedom. No matter the cost. I didn’t care.
I had disobeyed an officer. Kael… Kael as well. And well Lenis…”
Rayne jerked her chin in the darkened corner of the hangar into which
Lenis had disappeared. “He was not always like that. He was Captain
Vea? As in Vea the Crusader?” For a moment, Sun’s voice was filled
with plain awe.
Lenis’s voice cut through the tense exchange, eerie calm and concise.
The towering soldier slowly emerged from the shadows. His hair and
clothes were still damp from departing his rig. His darkened eyes stared
off into impossible misery as he continued in a tired sing-song that
made the small hairs stand up on the back of Kael’s neck. “Vea…
the butcher… the killer.”
tensed, deliberating. When Lenis got like this, it made him uneasy. It
was hard to control this powerful giant of a man as he was. But when
troubled, Lenis’s fits of melancholy could spin into ferocious bouts
of violence or end plunged into childlike sobbing. But always it was
Rayne that calmed the man.
did… really bad things. Horrible things.”
Lenis.” Rayne’s still voice commanded. She pulled away from Kael,
intending to stand, but even that action was a monumental effort.
Instead she extended a hand to Lenis. He pulled her to her feet with
exceeding care, as if she were a fragile thing. She wrapped her arm
through his and leaned against his towering frame. Her cheek pressed
against the muscular bulge of his bicep. “It’s ok, Lenis. Remember
what I said?”
history.” He nodded, but his voice was still unsure. “Somebody
right. It doesn’t matter anymore.” She said. Her voice was a rusted
looked down at Kael. Endthisnowkaelenditnoworiwill. She tugged
Lenis’s elbow, turning him back in the direction of his suit. “Come
on. Let’s check your rig.”
watched them walk off, ignoring Sun’s stare and her expectant silence.
He was envious of their bond, and of the tenderness Rayne showed Lenis.
But it was more than that. For all of the command he assumed for their
tiny group, Kael realized that they were nothing without Rayne. It was
she that kept them together, like the great pull between planet and
her…” Kael said. He startled at the sound of his own voice. Sun was
watching him, no doubt taking in every reaction and flaw, seeking to use
it against him. “The suits are self-sustaining, but they are still too
juvenile to produce their own essential components…”
amnexus fluids…” Sun guessed.
nodded, no longer surprised by her assessment of their predicament.
Underestimating her was his first mistake. “I’m not going to let
I don’t think you would.” Her aqua eyes narrowed, as if were zooming
in upon a hidden fault that even he could not see. She drew in breath to
speak, but stopped. Instead she looked away. For a moment he saw her
fold inward, revealing a wounded pity. It was a nameless hurt that
flickered only for a moment, but was soon replaced by her smooth veneer.
shifted, moving with great effort as she pulled herself to her feet.
Warily, Kael rose, leaning against the nearby spine for support.
you feel for her…” Sun began abruptly, taking a hobbling step
closer. She did not look at him, but over his shoulder into the hangar
beyond. “Bury it. Hide it. It is a weakness that will destroy you.”
casually she stepped back, as if nothing had transpired. Her eyes held
his for a moment, but her expression was inscrutable. “Let me talk to
regarded her, measuring and still trying to discern the motive of her
odd-placed advice. An alien confusion bore down on him.
The weak eddy of Rayne’s plea urged. She had been listening. He felt
the blood build beneath the skin of his neck.
a thought Kael opened a com with his disabled rig. The sudden want-need
to rejoin it, regardless of its current state, was a precious ache that
started at his chest and radiated outward. He deactivated disrupters,
feeling the synapses lose their spark and power down. With a small sigh
of relief, he pushed closed his link to his rig. “Done.”
jerked her chin up. “Pilot…”
the darkness over her shoulder the damaged hollow emitter displayed
featureless violet cloud. The voice of the concerned Pilot ruptured the
tense silence of the bay. “Officer Sun, are you alright? What is your
release the manifold to the rear Amnexus bladder.” She instructed,
cutting across his string of inquiries. “Allow the biomechs to take as
much as they can.”
Officer Sun, I do not understand—“
will explain everything later. Just do it.” She tapped the coms shut
and leveled her gaze on Kael once more. Her voice was anesthetically
cool. “Now… take what you need and get off my ship.”
read more about the original characters in Karlsweb’s Fiction in
Technicolor, check out the Character
Bios Pages. For background on terms and technology invented by the
Karlsweb staff writers, check out the Kweb