Author: Toadie
Rating: PG-13
Notes: This is the sequel to Black and White
Summary: Every action has a consequence.
Part: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

Part Four


With a silent curse John ducked into a darkened alcove, again to avoid soldiers that seemed to be running about aimlessly through the corridors he wanted to use. It was frustrating to say the least to be so close to his goal and have to backtrack and find yet another route in. He had drained the base commander of all the information he could about the layout of this base. For some reason the man kept trying to confess as to what was happening on this planet and couldnít quite understand that John couldnít care less what he and his commanders were up to. All he wanted was to get hisÖ friends?.. out of this place and back on Moya where they belonged. This planet could go to hell in a hand basket as far as he cared.


For all that, the number of troops running about these corridors seemed extreme. So he had kidnapped their commanding officer from the middle of his base in front of his own soldiers. You would have thought they might have at least found it funny. He knew he could think of a few commanders that he would gladly have seen dragged off by some gun wielding stranger while he watched and tried not to laugh too loudly. But no, someone had no sense of humor at all if the way they were flogging their soldiers to find him. Then the realization struckÖ they had found their commander and it was he that was so humorless plus he had an idea where John was heading, hence the extra soldiers he had been encountering lately.


Casually leaning out into the corridor and scanning it to make sure it was empty, he headed out once again. He had to help his friends.




They had discussed their options, but in the end they didnít have that many. They had to escape and they had to help John. And they couldnít do that as a single group. So it had been decided, Aeryn would double back and try to locate John before he did something else to make the situation worse, while Chiana would go on ahead and locate their exit. DíArgo and Jool remained where they were, ready to assist whichever of them found trouble first. Though it was almost an even match, Aeryn had her credits on her finding the trouble in the form of John long before Chiana could get herself into any sort of mess.


No matter where he went, how friendly the planet was or how simple the situation, he always managed to turn it into something with far too many teeth and claws. His one saving feature was his ability to get himself out of the situations of his own making, not that he would ever admit that he made them, oh no, it was always someone elseís fault and on the rare, very rare occasions that he did admit fault he somehow managed to make her admit responsibility too. As if she were arrogant enough to believe that her view of the universe should shape it. For all his protestations he was arrogant. He hid it well but it was there if you knew him. He expected things, situations and people to conform to his will, to how he believed they should be and act. It seemed an unconscious thing, a facet of his upbringing and culture she supposed. Having seen and lived in what she could only call his natural environment for almost a cycle, she could see where it came from. His people, the Imperials at least, had all the arrogance of the peacekeepers without the Scarrans or Nebari to temper their ambitions.


John was a curious mix. He didnít have the conscious swagger of an Imperial, at least not unless he was trying to intimidate someone, but he had all the unconscious conditioning, the simple sense of self, that he was superior to those around him. It suited him actually, if only he would learn to temper it slightly.


She shook herself with a silent snarl. Here she was in enemy territory and she was allowing him to dominate her thoughts to the exclusion of her personal safety. She hated him for that and at the same timeÖ didnít? There was more, she knew this now, she had buried it behind betrayal and pain, behind anger and hurt but it was always there, always coming to the surface at the worst possible moments, she hated that he had such a hold over her mind, her soul. She had allowed fear and hurt to dominate rather thanÖ what? Love? She didnít know if she could love him, but she certainly cared, a lot, more than that even but for now at least, she could not admit to love.


She knew they needed to talk. No, she needed to talk and he needed to listen. But first she had to pull his mivonks out of the fire. Again.




He knew this was a mistake, knew it was a foolish move, but time was his enemy now. Arns had passed since he'd injected the drug which allowed him to function and he knew he had only so long before his body betrayed him and metabolized it. So, he rationalized, he really had no choice, he wasnít one for the full frontal assault, he normally left that to Aeryn but he had to agree it had its place and that place was here and now it seemed.


He had tried every other option he could, explored every corridor leading to the cells but each time he ran into a patrol of at least six soldiers. His only choice now was to attack swiftly enough in the hopes of getting into the cells and freeing the others before the other groups came running towards the sounds of battle.


So out he stepped, guns firing before he was even fully in the corridor. Surprise was complete although not as devastating as he had hoped. Two of the guards were down before the others could react but when they did, they reacted as their training prescribed, fully and swiftly return fire burned down the corridor towards him even as they scrambled for the little cover they had against the walls.


Microts stretched as fire flew in both directions, more people dying under its blaze. John, standing fully exposed in the corridor, got hit glancing  several times but ignored it, could ignore it as his brain could not and would not process the signals his body sent it. The drug saw to that as well as keeping him upright and firing. None of his wounds were mortal, though all of them would normally have sent him to the ground clutching the injury in severe pain. He stood instead like an immortal careless of their fire,  killing like a machine. But it was taking too long.




She could hear the gunplay from up ahead and knew there could only be one person stupid enough to start a firefight in restricted quarters against a superior force. Although this is the same person who strolled through the center of what was essentially enemy army and kidnapped its commander, so really why she should be surprised she was unsure. She slowed her approach, the last thing she wanted was to walk straight into a wall of fire or worse, to surprise John and be shot by accident.


Slowly she proceeded down the corridor, listening as the fire got closer and closer and the number of people shooting also seemed to be increasing. As she reached what had to be the final bend before she reached where the fight was taking place she stopped and very cautiously peered around the corner, keeping as much of herself protected as possible.


What she saw shocked her, there standing in the middle of the corridor firing in both directions are once was John, on both sides of him soldiers were using what cover they could to protect themselves from his fire, even the bodies of their fallen comrades were used as shields. As she watched, she saw John being hit once then twice, he barely blinked before killing the person that shot him. The immense amount of fire he was laying down was the sole reason he had survived as long as he had. Discarded weapons lay at his feet where he had abandoned them once their charge had run out. She blinked in surprise when she considered the sheer number of weapons he must have carried with him in order to create such a pile, maybe, just maybe, he knew something of what he was up against after all she thought.


She pulled her head back and leaned against the wall with her eyes closed for an instant, automatically checking the charge on her stolen weapon. With a deep breath she moved and extended her weapon down the corridor using the corner as cover for half her body. She fired into the backs of those soldiers of the side nearest her, killing them in twos and threes. Sheer surprise and the slowness of thought of shocked people allowed her to kill them all, caught as they were between two fires, Johnís by far the most deadly if not in this case the most lethal.


To Johnís credit, the sudden increase then dramatic decrease of fire from one side didnít faze him, he simply shifted fire from both sides to one and began to back towards Aeryn. She was unsure if he had seen her or not but he seemed willing to accept aid from whatever quarter it came from at this moment in time. He backed past the corner until he could not only continue firing down the corridor but could see her crouched adding her own fire to his from behind the corner.


Aeryn fired until she an out of chakan oil and using the opportunity afforded by the necessary reloading of the cartridge, looked up at John. What she saw shocked her. His face was calm beyond any sane measure, his upper body pockmarked and charred where he had been hit by pulse fire. She recognized his faux leather gear knowing the protection it provided was far beyond even the armor commonly worn by Peacekeepers but even it was not infallible and she could see blood, dark and red, staining his clothing and his hands as it ran under his clothing and down his hands.


His eyes met hers and for a microt only they existed in a world of silent noise and blinding darkness. In that time all that was needed to be said was said, yet neither could be sure if the other understood what was being said, harshness lent its edge to everything. With a jerk of his head he broke the electric contact urging her to retreat further down the corridor, he didnít speak, perhaps couldnít, his eyes burned her yet he remain so calm, scarily so, a small smile twitched at the corners of his mouth as he returned his gaze to where it more properly belonged in this situation, the people trying to kill him.


So she went, pausing only long enough to be sure that he was following her. They managed to lose their pursuers early on once they realized they were following the blood trail left by John but they still needed to be quiet as they moved, almost every corridor seemed to be filled with soldiers. Still they didnít talk and he seemed to accept her leading as a welcome change. If he became any more relaxed about the situation they were in Aeryn was fairly sure he might fall asleep. Earlier all his movements were smooth, flowing and had an economy of action to them the like she had never seen displayed by anyone let alone John, but now, after some hours in his company she had seen those smooth actions slowly deteriorating into more jerky and less certain movements. Sweat beaded his brow and his breathing became labored but even so,  his face remained calm, almost as if none of these physical signals were reaching his brain.




It was getting late for him, he had maybe three arns left before he collapsed. He could see from his movements that the drug was starting to lose its efficiency, could feel it from the tightness in his chest and pain radiating from almost every part of his body, yet he simply could not bring himself to care very much. He had a mission to complete and he was within reach of doing so. His attempt to break the others out from their cells seemed to be unnecessary and Aeryn saved him but sometimes this is the way things go when you have limited intelligence before acting. So for the moment he was content to follow.


It didnít take long to reach the others. For some reason the service corridors were not searched or monitored, a weakness perhaps of the military mind; what was off-limits to them was considered off-limits to everyone, even escaping.  Chianaís greeting was anything but unpredictable with a squeal, muffled due to her understanding of their circumstances, she leaped upon him, wrapping herself around him and hugging him. The other two were more restrained, a grunt and a nod from DíArgo and a brief hug from Jool. Aeryn said and did nothing, staying rather facing away from him watching for any sign they had been found.


The reunion was swift and soon they were off again following Chiana through a web of tunnels and what could only be described as crawlspaces through the bowels of hell. Small, cramped and extremely hot, John watched with some concern as Aeryn began to sweat profusely but Chiana assured them that this section was short and soon they would be away from the heat. In his current condition the last thing he needed was to have to carry Aeryn or any other load.


Soon the air felt fresher and a breeze seemed to be flowing towards them, up a ladder and some quick lock picking with a pulse pistol and the grate blocking their way was removed and they stepped out for the first time in hours into fresh air. Unfortunately the opening of the grate started alarms within the complex to sound.


They found themselves out ofthe city, in the forested region just beyond, ironically not too far from where John started his trek to the spaceport after the first night. He had come a complete circle almost, both in this journey and also his life he realized. He was back at the beginning and perhaps this time if he could wipe the slate clean he might just might be able to avoid the mistakes he made before and things would turn out better. Only it wasnít just his own slate that needed to be wiped, but Aerynís also. He glanced at her, opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it. That conversation wasnít for here and now, but for later, when they had got home, to Moya. There was something he could do now, that would maybe start the healing between them, so he moved and placed one hand on her shoulder, waiting for her to turn to face him before squeezing it and giving her a small smile, he could see she was confused, but she offered him a smile in return. It was enough, for now.


Now all that remained was the small task of traveling though enemy territory full of soldiers hunting for them who knew both their starting point and their objective.



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