They sat quietly in the center chamber. The only sounds other than the background sounds of their living ship were those of them eating their meal. None found a topic of discussion. They had been clear of the control drug for two solar days but this was the first time they had all gathered for a meal.
Zhaan broke the silence. "Chiana, the news of your brother must give you some satisfaction."
Chiana did not break her bleak stare out the view plates at the front of the Center Chamber. "Ya, Zhaan, well he might as well be " Her voice cracked as she ended the conversation.
Aeryn turned to face Chiana. She noticed how still Chiana was. Aeryn had never known her to be so still. With a disapproving glance at Zhaan, Aeryn tried to change the subject and the focus of the conversation.
"How are you feeling, D'Argo?"
He looked up at her with a mouth full of food. "Fine!" His eyes shrank in to narrow suspicious slits. "Why?"
"Zhaan said that the control drug was giving you " Her voice trailed off as his hateful glare turned to Zhaan.
"I am fine I don't know what you're talking about!" He said loudly looking in Zhaan's direction.
John sat back on his chair. "Its OK big guy." The grin that started to form betrayed him before he could complete his sentence. "We all get bound up from time to time."
"Zhaan, I can't believe you told them." D'Argo growled as he got to his feet.
Zhaan was completely surprised. "D'Argo I am worried and I expressed my concern." She looked at John and Aeryn surprised by their grins. "The control drug the Nebari employ can cause a number of side effects. I have been unable to sleep. John is seeing Scorpius and Aeryn's having muscle spasms."
"No, Zhaany, it just that our Miss Sun's never smiled that much before in her life so she just sufferin' from a good old case of strained muscles in her face." His grin widened as he turned back to face Aeryn.
"Quiet you " Aeryn tossed a food cube at John. His small grin expanded as he realized there was still a slight sign of a smile on her face.
Zhaan spoke over Aeryn " and you D'Argo are constipated." She looked quizzically at John and Aeryn as they laughed at poor D'Argo's condition. "I don't see what is so funny."
"Well thank the gods that doesn't happen to me." Rygel said with the legs of what looked like a cockroach sticking out of his mouth.
"Ya Fluffy, let's hope we never live to see the day.... John scanned the tired faces of his friends noticing that he was able to raise a smile even in Chiana."
I can assure you it will never happen. Three stomachs don't you know "
"Ya ya ya we know all too well the digestive system of our resident slug."
Rygel ignored John's comment as he flipped another cockroach into his mouth. Even the slightly embarrassed D'Argo sat back down. There seemed a collective sigh of relief around the table as for a brief moment things fell back to the way they once were.
D'Argo moved slightly forward over the table. "John, I have been meaning to ask who was this Debra Harry and why did Varla remind you of her?"
"Ya know, D'Argo, sometimes the jokes are lost with out seeing the music video."
In his rusted little personal quarters a warning chime woke the two sleeping silhouettes. He stretched over his sleeping companion to reach the comm panel. Her half-sleeping protest was ignored as she tried to hang on to that last bit of sleep before life caught up with them again.
"This is Kes. Report!" His voice cracked slightly as he shook the last of the fuzziness from his head.
The lieutenant's voice was urgent. "We have received new orders, Captain. Priority Decca 1 Valka."
"I am on my way." The naked form climbed over his companion with little regard.
Her muffled protest stopped as she slowly rolled over on the small bed. "What time is it, Jaryd?"
Jaryd dressed quickly in the darkened room. "03 mark 75."
He wished he had time to get cleaned up, but in his two years as captain, he had never received a Decca 1 assignment. Jaryd unlocked the hatchway. As the door opened, he did not look back at her.
"Sela! Get dressed. We will have a command meeting once I review the new orders."
Pulling herself up slowly from the warm bed, she searched the floor for her uniform. The light from the common passageway beyond was blinding. Backlit, Kes stood in the hatchway. She sensed him hesitate.
He turned back to face her. "I have scheduled down time in seventeen arns. You available?"
She caught the slightest wisp of a smile from him. It brought a nervous twinge to her stomach. Sela pretended to rummage for her duty boots as she answered. "Do you think it's wise, Jaryd? We have been together six times. I don't wish to "
"Fine!" The single word was hard and cold. He turned from her and stepped into the common passageway. With one word, it had ended.
Sela sat on the edge of her captain's bed looking at the closed hatchway. She had her own plans with her career. She did not want could not allow herself to get involved with Jaryd Kes.
At Jaryd's arrival on Command, the second rotation crew stood stiffly at attention. He stood at the Overseer's console and quickly reviewed the ship's status before retreating to his small command office. His First handed him the encoded chip.
Jaryd held the orders tightly as he approached his desk. He had been waiting for this news for almost a cycle. Jaryd knew his contacts at High Command were working to get his ship assigned to the Central Hub.
This was it. No more backwater assignments. Finally the chance to make Ravstar stand and take notice.
He placed his Identchip into the lock and the messenger projected above his desk.
He ran though his star charts. "Coordinates 008-974-441." The spherical representation of the patrolled space unfolded in front of him. The location of his assignment was deep in the Uncharted Territories.
He punched his comm. "Lieutenant, call a command meeting 100 microts."
He closed the comm and sat back in his chair.
"Frell," he hissed. "This just isn't my day!"
Asha's meditations had been troubled since they had left Khephrix. She could not find that place in her soul; troubling thoughts and images of the stranger had blocked her peace. She had spent the last sleep cycle praying at her personal altar. Asha knelt at the base of the old wooden drums as she recited the prayers of each of the Khephri arts.
She spun each drum. The words of the ancient text spun quickly by as she recited the prayer. She did this to all nine of the active arts. She mused of the idea of doing the same to the three abandoned arts. She knelt in front of the Art of Exploration. Her hand touched the base of the weathered drum then moved on to the Drum of Technology. She might have been the first Khephri to touch this drum in five hundred cycles, Asha knew that the Acolytes looked down on those who still practiced the abandoned arts.
These thoughts did nothing but bother her more. It was as if the still drums in her alter mocked her. She stood slowly and walked back into the common room. Asha looked at her reflection in the mirror in the far corner. She traced her reflection with her long finger.
What was wrong? Asha asked the question and waited for an answer she stared at her image. Alone and without purpose. But the troubling thoughts of the stranger and his effect on her people were disturbing.
Jaryd stood in front of
the message. The woman's image hung in the holoweb.
He slammed his fist on the desk.
His tantrum was cut short by the door's annunciator. He straightened and unlocked the hatch. Durisa L'Pac, his first officer, followed by his tactical officer, Lieutenant Sela Tyron and his political officer Del Vainer entered. Kes granted him a brief nod. He valued the older Peacekeeper. Unlike most political officers, Del was no High Command zealot. He understood the nature of the rules and did his best to bend them on occasion. Jaryd admired him, respected him; Del was the closest thing to a friend that Jaryd would allow in his life.
They filed in, standing at attention in front of his desk. Jaryd sat down, not speaking to any of them. He certainly knew better than to even make eye contact with Sela.
No. It was over. The thought pounded in his head. Their relationship was as it was suppose to be. Short... No ties...
Jaryd breathed heavily as he hit the play key on the front of the projector. He leaned back in his chair and watched their reactions.
As anticipated, he saw the profound disappointment in his First and in his political officer. Yes, they too, were upset by the fact we are going further out, not closer to the hub of Central Command.
It was Sela's reaction that surprised him. He noticed the ghost of a smile on her face. It was very subtle, but nonetheless, it was there. He could always read her like a tactical display. What was it that excited her? Did she see opportunity in this assignment?
Jaryd passed in front of the view plate in his office. He had been waiting for three-quarters of an arn. He first spoke with Lieutenant Bracca. The smug frell tested Kes like any good first. He had to be assured of the captain's motives before allowing his request for a com with Scorpius. Kes's temper rose as the microts passed slowly. Finally the grayish image of the beast appeared.
"Captain Kes, are you still in sector 1122?" The gray lizard sat back in his command chair grasping tightly the armrest.
"Yes Captain we have projected a course that will rendezvous with your ship at sector 4003."
"Good." The half Scarran seemed to shudder slightly as an evil smile crept across his face. "Now Captain, before you rendezvous with us I have a small job for you."
His evil smile widened. "There is a rouge Leviathan headed in your general direction. I want you to stop that ship and retrieve an alien that she carries."
"I don't understand. Captain, we are not a special ops regiment we are--"
"WE are under my command, Captain Kes! And you will follow my orders." His head cocked in an almost unnatural angle to the screen. "You do not want to disappoint me."
"One more thing Kes you will call me by my name not this temporary rank." He moved forward. "Is that understood?"
Kes stiffened more out of repulsion then fear. "Yes, Scorpius. For the glory of all we serve."
"Yes, of course you do." The mocking image of Scorpius dissolved from the screen.
Kes's mind spun out of control. What had he done to deserve this? His anger and disappointment merged at that microt His fist came down on the com center on his desk and it shattered under his blow. Again and again he punched the control. Finally, once he had regained his cool he slowly raised his fist from the shattered remains of his com center. He looked slowly at his bloody fist. A smile came to his face. "That's better!" Kes moved slowly from his desk, a trail of blood following. He was going to go back to command but decided to stop at the infirmary first.
"They don't listen to me, Zhaan," Rygel said smugly.
"I'm sorry, Rygel, what did you say?" She dared not look back at him.
"Very funny you, blue assed tralk!" He turned to leave the command tier.
"Rygel, I'm sorry. What's wrong?" She approached his hovering throne sled. "What is all this? Are you still mad at our change in course?"
"Zhaan, it is foolish to head towards Peacekeeper territory. Especially here."
"Why?" She moved closer to Rygel. "You know no more then the rest of us where we are?" Her words were more of a question then a statement
"I know enough, Zhaan, and it spells doom for all of us." He headed out of the command tier.
"Rygel, if you are not willing to share what you know then our decision is sound." She was surprised. How he could bring the worst out of her with such a short exchange? She knew she would need to meditate for arns to calm herself.
"I know this We are heading back towards Peacekeeper territory." His sled passed out of view down the tier.
"No, Rygel, we are headed away from the Nebari. " She knew that it was a risk, a gamble to head back towards Peacekeeper space but it was a known danger unlike the Nebari. Troubling thoughts in a troubling time. Zhaan left the command tier for her quarters she needed to meditate to clear these thoughts.
"Lieutenant Tyron, you will command a marauder patrol. Search Delka pattern, deepsensor scan. We are looking for a renegade Leviathan."
He turned to his first. "L'Pac, this assignment's getting better and better every microt! Our new commander wants us to find a frelling Leviathan that has alluded him. "
Sela opened her mouth to question her orders but the dead stare from Kes dissolved the question. She stiffened under his gaze. "Yes captain!"
Kes turned back to his first. "If you need me I will be in my office." The defeated captain walked slowly from the command chamber.
Jaryd sat at his desk looking over the command records of this Scorpius. Kes was given a command due to an encounter he had had cycles earlier with the Scarrans. The thought of serving under one turned his stomach.
The hatchway chimed and he hit the tile to open it without checking who was there, expecting the meal he had ordered a quarter arn earlier. To his surprise the man delivering his meal to his private office was Del Varner.
"I hate to eat alone so I thought I would come up and join you," the older man said with a smirk as he bowed his head slightly. "With the captain's permission, of course."
"Del, not now..." He sighed slightly as he stood and pulled the top tray from the stack his political officer was holding.
"You realize, Captain, I could write you up for this." His smirk turned into a mischievous smile.
"Give it a rest, Del. I am in no mood for your for "the glory of all" dren. Now leave."
"Jaryd look, there could be worse assignments." Dell's tone had changed completely. "This might be the big break you have been looking for. This Scarran half-breed has somehow generated a lot of support at central. Follow his orders and you might get..."
"An assignment deeper in the UT than I care to imagine?" Jaryd looked down at his meal. He might have the luxury of dining alone but he was served the same dren as the rest of the crew. He slid the metal plate away, looking back up at his old friend. "And what are you going to do?"
"What? who me?" Del's eyes shifted to his plate. "Good question." He chuckled as he adjusted his collar nervously he pushed the untouched tray of food forward.
Jaryd sat back and stared at Del. "It is a known fact that political officers are posted to ships that run the risk of prolonged alien exposure. But now that we are being assigned as a support ship to a command carrier that makes you... redundant."
"Thank you, Jaryd. As always you find the right words to make me feel welcome on your ship." What little smile that remained on Del's face evaporated as he looked at his young friend. "You're not going to like this." He nervously adjusted his collar again.
"What?" Jaryd sensed what Del was going to say. "No! It is not possible!" Jaryd felt the bile of envy raise in his throat.
"My new orders came in less then an arn ago." Del's voice gave away his true sadness. "I am to report to High Command Central Intelligence Office, Ravstar Regiment." Del could see the anger build in Jaryd's face.
Jaryd stood stiffly. "Congratulations!" The two men became uncomfortable.
Kes tried to take a conversational tone. "When do you leave?" He found he could not look at his friend. He struggled with his anger. It was not Del's fault, he repeated over and over. He then realized Del had been talking to him and he had not heard a word.
He looked at his friend in disgust. "Sorry, what were you saying?"
Del stuttered slightly "Once you approve the transfer orders I would be leaving in two solar days." Del stood and passed in front Jaryd's desk. "I am sorry, Jaryd, I know this is what you wanted. It's ironic really I have had no interest in being assigned to High Command and here I have no interest in..." His voice trailed off. "I have a lot of work to get done before I leave."
He headed for the door and stopped at the hatchway. Del turned back to his captain, his friend. For the first time in his career Del had trouble saying those words. "For the Glory of all we serve."
"Its all right, Del." Jaryd watched the hatch close behind closest thing he had to a friend on board. He sank heavily into his chair. He looked down at the newly repaired com center on his desk, his eyes movind to the two cold meals sitting next to it. With a swift swipe of his hand he sent the two metal plates flying across his office. "Frell! This just isn't my day."
"Ra, you were aware before the Expansion?"
"Yes, Asha." With the slightest sense of pride in his voice he announced his birth. "I had become aware, Year of Enlightenment 1200034 under the eyes of Horus 1449."
She moved forward and touched the blue iridescent hemisphere. She had to be careful. Her questions in some circles would be considered heresy. "What was it like, Ra? What was it like when all twelve of the arts were practiced?"
"Why would you need to know that information?" His voice had a tone of nervousness to it.
She stepped back from his sphere placed her hand back on her chest the ultimate sign of reverence. "I am bored, Ra nothing more. You know I am a student of history and the records of Expansion are limited."
A lie. She worried that Ra could from time to time detect her insincerity. She held her breath, sensing an increase in power consumption as he processed her request.
Instead she allowed her mind to drift over things for which her training had left her ill-suited. Jaryd. Her feelings for him scared her. They were the intangible, invisible opponent and had left her powerless. And Sela Tyron had always been in control. She was always a good soldier and followed the Decca. Long term relationships were wrong. But that did not stop her regret for the way she had treated Jaryd. No, she was doing the right thing.
" . three point two thousand metras away." Sela realized her helmsmen were speaking to her.
"What?" Sela straightened. "Report helmsmen." She barked as if her lapse of attention were the young officer's fault.
"A Leviathan has been detected ninety-three point two thousand metras away."
Sela realized that she could use this to her advantage. "Com the Achvalcore. Tell them we are about to capture the Leviathan. " She had moved down to the overseer's position. From there she could monitor each ship in her squadron.
Sela smiled as she realized how proud Jaryd would be when she returned with the hulk of the Leviathan in tow. Her personal com activated, as she was about to give the order to attack.
"Lieutenant Tyron, what are you doing?"
It was Captain Kes. She could tell by his tone, he was far from pleased.
"Captain we are about to capture the Leviathan for you."
"And who told you to do this?"
"It would be a glorious gift to present to our new commander--"
Kes mulled through her obvious plan. She would capture the Leviathan
and send a recording of her victory to Scorpius. She was an ambitious
"Yes, Captain. I just wanted to--"
"Yes, Ty, I know what you were trying to do." His cool voice scared her. Sela moved back to her command position. Her heart felt like a leaden weight and she did not understand why. Why would he not want me to retrieve the ship for him? Why would he be acting this way?
They started their pursuit.
For more then a solar day they tracked them. Hunted them.
"I am receiving a signal now, Captain."
Kes could not contain his excitement. "Open a channel."
He walked the length of command as he spoke. "Officer Aeryn Sun, I have orders to capture the alien John Crichton and return him to Scorpius's Command Carrier. Hand over this Alien and I will allow you to leave unharmed." Kes watched closely the beautiful woman's reaction to his offer. He was surprised to see another Peacekeeper on board with her. Who was this other Sebacean renegade?
"Kes, I have two words for you " Aeryn's hand moved over the interface. She looked up at the Peacekeeper on the view plate. She smiled disarmingly. "Frell off!" She punched the control rods and John and D'Argo lost their footing as Moya lurched quickly away form the Cruiser.
Kes smiled as he watched the Leviathan tear away. "Time to play." He was eager for this new amusement. If he were to be trapped in the Uncharted Territories, serving some half-breed, he would at least have the joys of the hunt. "Commander L'Pac, pursuit vector"
Aeryn looked with weary eyes at the clamshell viewer. "Pilot, how long?"
His frustrated image appeared on the viewer. "Twenty microts sooner then the last time you asked Officer Sun."
She was surprised at his short tone. Her mouth opened to respond, when John moved closer. "Let it go, Aeryn. He's under the same stress as we are." He smiled briefly then descended back to his normal dead stare.
Aeryn caught a small spark of what once was John Crichton. She turned back to the image. "I understand, Pilot."
D'Argo yelled from the forward control pilot. "They are firing again. Tracking two at 990.000.332 two microts."
Zhaan looked at her console. "How much longer can Moya do this, Pilot?"
Pilot's image reappeared. "She is tiring but she will do this until she can StarBurst."
Aeryn pulled at the manual controls. They all felt the forces of Moya turning sharply. Rygel tried to land his throne sled and grab on to the base of the overseer's console but he missed and the little slug slid across the floor of the Command Tier. John and Chiana both let off a small crack of laughter. As Moya stabilized in a constant vector, John moved back over to Aeryn.
"I, for one, am getting tired of these E ticket rides. There's gotta be a system around here where we can hide."
D'Argo turned back to Aeryn. His worried brow scared her more then the following Peacekeeper cruiser. "Crichton's right. We can't do this indefinitely."
Aeryn broke her stare from the Luxan when she felt the reject of her command in the control yoke. Aeryn had flown Moya manually a number of times. This response was totally unfamiliar. It was as if Moya were refusing Aeryn's guidance. "Pilot, why is Moya fighting me?"
John straightened from his low stance at the Overseer's console. "What? What do you mean?"
He looked sternly back at Pilot. Zhaan and D'Argo joined John in glaring at the image of pilot.
Pilot looked up from his console. "We can not follow that course, Officer Sun."
John stepped from his hold on the console. "Why, Pilot?"
Pilot tilted his head slightly as he looked from the human to Aeryn. His expression held a level of pity that only John detected. "It is Khephri space "
John looked back to Aeryn. Pilot's words meant nothing to him. He watched the end of a bone-rattling shudder that had passed though her.
"What? What's a Capri, Aeryn and why am I not expecting good news?"
"Khephri! Frell! Are you sure, Pilot?" D'Argo grumbled as his hand slammed down on the console.
Aeryn looked solemnly at Pilot. "If you have a better idea, Pilot, I would like to hear it."
John moved closer to Aeryn. He spoke through gritted teeth. "What's the Capri, Aeryn?"
She locked eyes with his. "There is a PK war record that says Khephri have the ability to wipe space clear of any ship that stands its ground against them. After a 200-cycle campaign against the Khephri Article Decca 1178-0092 was published: Any ship that comes in contact with the Khephri will be deemed irreversibly contaminated." A pained smile came to her face. "They don't like visitors."
D'Argo turned back to face
his shipmates. "There is a Luxan legend that says: Khephri
ships are as large as Luxor and are able to move worlds from their
"Can it Buckwheat
We don't have the time."
"This was what you
were trying to warn me about, Rygel?" Zhaan touched the edge
of Rygel's throne sled. Zhaan turned back to the rest." There
is a Delvian legend that says: the Khephri can emerge from the
shadows then return to them. The Delvian word for mysterious is
Khephri. This space, Rygel, you knew we were close yet you did
not warn us
John walked past Zhaan towards the clam shell viewer. "Pilot,
you have a map of their space?" He jerked his chin in the
direction of the main imager.
"Moya has limited information."
"Just pull up what
you have, Pilot. I don't need a map of the yellow brick road.
Anything is better then nothing." John moved up to D'Argo's
position. He watched as the stellar map appeared on the main imager.
He stepped around the console.
The map showed stars and the relative locations of Moya and the
following cruiser. Above them was an area of black.
"No stars. Nothing.
"Pilot, how about a visual scan?"
"John, they use some
form of intelant tech to produce a null field that encompasses
over seven systems." Aeryn's tired dissention was interrupted
by an explosion as the cruiser continued its attack.
"Well, Aeryn, we are
dammed if we do
dammed if we don't." John's smile seemed
detached from reality. It alarmed Aeryn more.
"Yes, Officer Sun."
Pilot said nervously. Aeryn felt the resistance in the control
yoke dissolve away. She looked up at the blackness that they approached
"What are they doing?" Kes watched as the Leviathan disappeared into the blackness of Khephri space.
"Frell!" he gasped as he slammed his fist onto the overseer console. "L Pac, project pursuit vector"
"Captain?" She locked eyes with her commander. "They have entered Khephri space "
"I am not blind, Commander."
He stepped closer to his first officer. "Project a pursuit
"Yes, Ty, I know the
orders regarding entering Khephri space. I am not stupid!"
He hissed. "If I want your opinion, I will ask for it!"
He turned his back on her and moved closer to his first officer.
"L'Pac, were we tracking the Leviathan when it entered the
Commander L'Pac monitored
the overseer console. "Yes captain
"Yes, Captain "
"They cannot stay in there. The Khephri will sooner or later chase them out. So we will follow what signals we can." He turned and with a mocking tone asked the question loudly. "That is, if the tactical officer doesn't have any objections?"
D'Argo moved from the ops cluster next to John and Zhaan. "Moya is receiving no sensor data at all. It is as if the beams are being swallowed by space itself."
Aeryn sighed as she looked at the mighty Luxan. "D'Argo, could you tell me the status of the Peacekeeper ship?"
Pilot rotated in his position. "Its strange I am receiving no sensory data at all yet Moya is not afraid."
"The Biomech has stopped three and ninety-three metras into the zone." Ra showed no sign of excitement over this first contact between the Khephri and the outside universe.
"And what of the Sebacean war ship?"
"It is stationed just outside of the Zone." Ra's voice stopped short. "I am detecting a transmission from the biomech." Almost surprised by the detection Ra scanned deep into his memory to find the last time he had encountered a transmission from an outsider.
Asha smiled at the blue dome that was her traveling companion. "Ra, do you think they expect an answer?"
"Asha, it is forbidden."
"Ra, I wish to understand this enigma they carry." She looked up from he display to her companion. "Do you wish me to stop this exploration?"
"No, I am here to serve. Nothing more."
She pitied her traveling companion. Ra was nothing more then an intelligent machine. The Builders were correct to give their creation's souls. It is a loss that the Khephri were so narrow minded. "Well I do. I wish to touch their ship."
"What's that!" Chiana spat, crouching slightly as she pointed to the screen. They all watched in awe as a long silver line expanded across the center of the screen.
"Okay. So maybe this wasn't such a great idea." John looked at his friends.
As the silvery thread stopped expanding outward it started to rotate slowly and as it rotated about the middle of its axis, it seem to widen.
"What the frell!" Chiana stepped back from the viewer. "If I didn't know better that thing that ship! Just changed from a two dimensional object to a three."
D'Argo's soft voice echoed in the large command chamber. "That's not possible. I don't understand."
Zhaan seemed too caught up in the impossible event she had just witnessed.
Aeryn started turning Moya. "I don't know and I don't care. All I know is that we are dead if we remain here!" Her voice cracked as she searched for that cool place in her mind.
"Pilot, can you open coms?" John moved to the rear of command. "Hold on, Aeryn, let's take it slow."
Zhaan smiled at her strange human friend. How like a child he still was. "John, the Khephri speak to no one!"
"Crichton, you do not know what they are capable of!" Aeryn activated the copper rods to gain flight control once more.
"Aeryn!" John smiled." If they are that strong and powerful, would we be here right now?"