Author: SETI_fan Please send feedback to scifibard@yahoo.com 
Rating: PG, for language and violence
Category: Drama/Action Adventure
Notes: I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to my beta-reader, unohoo. Without her continued help, this fic would have died. Another huge thank you goes out to AmyJ for taking the time to help me with my story. You girls are the best!
Summary: When Aeryn and John rescue a child from Crais’ Command Carrier, Aeryn flashes back to her days as a Cadet. 
Spoilers None I can think of
Season: Season 1, probably post-“The Flax”
Parts: 12  |  3  |  4 | 5

Part III

The two friends looked at each other nervously as they approached the mat. 

“Just like our practice sessions, right?” Aeryn said. 

“Only this time we actually have to try and beat each other.” 

“Well, pretend it’s not me and I’ll pretend it’s not you.” 

They moved into their starting points and dropped into defensive crouches. “Begin!” yelled the Instructor. 

The kids circled at first, neither eager to make the first move. They threw a few punches, clearly not really intending to connect.

“Come on,” the Instructor snarled. “Come ON, Cadets. This is a fight, not a dance!”

Aeryn obeyed, advancing. She punched and Roan blocked. He kicked and she dodged. Slowly, they fell into rhythm, able to focus on the art of combat rather than the fact that they were attacking someone they cared about. Kicks, jabs, body slams, and punches flew as the two struck at each other. Neither saw the other’s face anymore, but each knew the other’s techniques by heart. 

They also knew each other’s limitations. Aeryn could see that Roan was beginning to tire. She began lightening up on him, almost imperceptibly, and tried pulling a few punches, but the Instructor got on her. 

“Come on, Sun, this isn’t a game! Quit playing around and fight to win!” 

Despite these orders, Aeryn hesitated to hit her friend. Therefore, only two options remained: fight with intent to injure, or speed up so that the Instructor could not tell when hits were faked. Roan looked so fatigued that Aeryn reconsidered, but she saw the determined look in his eyes and knew he had the same idea. They kicked it up a notch. 

Although they still hesitated, their attacks reflected the change. Their arms were faster than the eye could follow accurately and sometimes the moves had little use but to distract. They pretended to stumble while pulling a jab to draw the Instructor’s reprimands to that, and for the most part, it worked. Even the other cadets were too interested in the fight to comment. 

The pair moved in synch, seeming almost precognizant of the other’s plans. It became a fluid string of attacks and defenses that, while not as impressive as such a match between two trained adults, was remarkable for their ages. 

Then Roan misstepped. He missed on a kick and with his balance thrown off, could not recover quickly enough to dodge Aeryn’s next jab. He took it and staggered backward, not even trying to retaliate.

Aeryn stopped immediately. “Roan?” 

His eyes were a bit unfocused and he was drenched with sweat. His breaths came rapid and shallow. After swaying unsteadily for a microt, he collapsed in a heap on the mat. 

“Roan!” Aeryn ran to his side as the Instructor called for a medteam and the other cadets gaped in shock. She put an ear to his chest, listening to his heartbeat. The pulse was erratic, pounding bizarrely against his ribcage. She did not know what was wrong, but it scared her. 

“Sun?” he said weakly. 

“Yes, Roan?” 

“Great fight!” 

Tears came to her eyes. How could he think of that at a time like this?! “We overdid it,” she said softly. “They’ll let you sleep. I’ll see you when you wake up.” 

“Of course you will,” he grinned. “We’ve got our field medicine exam tomorrow”—he grunted in pain—“and you still can’t treat a head wound!” 

Aeryn managed a smile herself, though the tears still flowed. Roan’s clammy hand squeezed hers. 

“Thank you, Sun.” 

Before she could respond, the team of medtechs came in. The Instructor herded all the cadets back away from the techs. He had to pry Roan’s and Aeryn’s hands apart so Roan was accessible. The team loaded the boy onto a stretcher and took him off to the medical bay. 

Aeryn struggled against the Instructor, wanting to stay with her friend, but he stood firm. 

“Let them do their job, Sun.” 

“Will Roan be alright?” 

“The medtechs will know soon.” The Instructor stood up. “In the field, casualties do happen. When they do, you must be able to go on with the mission without hesitation. However, this is the first one you have witnessed, so I will be lenient. Combat training is over. Take the rest of the solar day off. Dismissed.” 

The cadets filed out, speaking in hushed tones. For the first time in monens, Aeryn felt alone. She stood in the now-empty room, trying to take in what had just happened. Her mind kept sliding around the moment, unable to remember the details. All she wanted to know was how Roan was doing. As a cadet, though, she would have no access to information until it was told to her by a superior. Her senses numb, she staggered to her cot, where she remained for the rest of the day. 

No one tried to draw her out until the Instructor gathered them the next day. Yesterday’s events were still fresh in everyone’s minds. They waited quietly to hear the news. 

The older Peacekeeper addressed the cadets as a whole. 

“Last night, Cadet Evrin Roan died.” 

A few gasps and murmurs were heard, but most kept their composure. Aeryn felt the color drain from her cheeks as her heart froze. 

“The medtechs discovered that he was very sick. He concealed it from us, choosing to fight on despite his weakness. Thankfully, the illness is neither airborne, nor spread by contact. However, he could have put a lot of people at risk. In the future, should any of you feel ill, report it. You could prevent the spread of a disease. Now, our lives must go on. Today, we shall continue critiquing one-on-one combat…” 

For the rest of the day, Aeryn mulled this over. The explanation the Instructor gave did not sit right with her. Their field medicine lectures had mentioned that no disease remained among Sebaceans. She had never seen anyone with so much as a cough. And if a new virus had been discovered, there would have been much more action and investigation about the Command Carrier in order to prevent an outbreak. No, something else was going on here, and clearly she would have to find it out for herself.

That night, as everyone slept, Aeryn snuck out of the barracks. She moved purposefully down the corridor, hoping everyone would assume she had reason to be going where she was. Never look doubtful or someone will stop you, she reflected. Sure enough, only one officer intercepted her.

“Where are you going, Cadet?” 

“To the medical bay,” she answered truthfully. “I worked with Cadet Roan and want to make sure that I was not infected.” 

The officer nodded. “Very good, Cadet. As you were.” 

“Yes, sir.” Relieved, Aeryn continued on her way. 

The few medtechs on duty were too preoccupied with the victims of a recent dogfight to notice a small cadet slip in. Aeryn saw one of the casualties’ uniforms folded on a chair. Atop them lay the Lieutenant’s Identchip. Pleased, she hurried past the techs, swiping the chip on her way. Her goal lay in one of the offices in the back. 

Sure enough, the data screen containing patient medical and personnel files was active on the desk, forgotten in the chaos. It did not take long to access the file she wanted. 

NAME: ROAN, EVRIN 

RANK: CADET 

BIRTH: 0400 ARNS, 54 SOLAR DAY OF THE CYCLE, BY ROAN, LT. AEMI 

SERIAL #: 58249003 

STATUS: DECEASED *DEFECTIVE*

The last word caught Aeryn’s attention. What did that mean? She called up his medical file. It told her the same thing the Instructor had. 

Aeryn reached into her pocket and pulled out the chip. She had not wanted it to come to this. She would surely be caught and punished severely for this, but it was worth it. She had to know the truth. 

Checking once more to make sure no one had noticed her, Aeryn stuck the Identchip into the slot next to the keypad. The computer acknowledged that the bearer of the chip had upper level clearance and scrolled new data onto the screen. Aeryn read with fascination. 

THE PATIENT, A SEVEN-CYCLE-OLD MALE, SUFFERED A COLLAPSE FOLLOWING A BOUT OF OVERLY STRENUOUS EXERCISE. HE WAS RUSHED TO THE MEDICAL BAY WHERE SCANS REVEALED AN IRREGULARITY IN THE VALVE BETWEEN HIS LEFT VENTRICLE AND LEFT ATRIUM, CAUSING LEAKAGE OF BLOOD BETWEEN CHAMBERS AND ERRATIC PUMPING. THE PATIENT DID NOT RESPOND TO TREATMENT AND DIED UNDER OBSERVATION AT 2346 ARNS. AUTOPSY INDICATES THAT THIS WAS A *BIRTH DEFECT*, NOT A RESULT OF INJURY OR ILLNESS. ALL NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS HAVE BEEN TAKEN. THE GENETIC SIEVE HAS BEEN OVERHAULED TO PREVENT SUCH MISTAKES FROM SLIPPING THROUGH AGAIN. 

Aeryn could not understand most of it, but she got the general idea that Roan had been born with a weakness that killed him. She committed the information to memory, hoping she could understand it better later, then shut down the data screen and turned to leave. Her heart sunk. The tall frame of the Instructor blocked the doorway. 

“What are you doing here, Sun?” 

“I was afraid that Cadet Roan might have infected me—” 

“No, you weren’t,” he interrupted. “I want the truth, Cadet.”

She looked at the deck, knowing she was beaten. “I just wanted to know what really happened to Roan. We trained together a lot and I just had to know.” 

Her face burned with shame waiting for him to laugh in her face or mock her weakness. 

To her surprise, he simply nodded. “Showing such loyalty to a comrade is honorable, Sun. It strengthens the unit. However, it can weaken it too. You cannot allow yourself to form emotional bonds with other members of your group. It can mean the difference between success and failure in battle. Life and death. And there will be death. That’s part of being a Peacekeeper. While mourning is permitted, especially at your age, we cannot have people running off and defying orders because they’ve lost someone. It promotes chaos and causes trouble. Do you understand?” 

“Yes, sir.” 

“You will be let off without punishment this time, but don’t try this again.” 

“Of course not, sir.” 

“I’ll also confiscate this.” He pulled the Identchip from the terminal. “Go back to bed now, Sun.” 

“Thank you, sir.” She left quietly, amazed that she had gotten off so easily. 

The older Peacekeeper fingered the Identchip, his gaze shifting from it to the terminal and back again. After a moment of consideration, he pocketed the chip, shaking his head. He turned out the light and went to make sure Aeryn did indeed return to the barracks. 

#

The next morning, the cadets milled about, waiting for the Instructor to collect them and take them to breakfast. For most of them, Cadet Roan’s death was a thing of the past. Their own lives took precedence once more. 

Aeryn could not bring herself to join them. The loss was too fresh. Instead, she sat on her cot, her mind in another place and another time. 

The body of a male cadet moved into her line of vision. She looked up at one of the last people she wanted to see at that moment.

“Go away, Ixol.”

“I just wanted to tell you I’m sorry about Roan.” 

She eyes him skeptically. 

“Really,” he said defensively. “He was a good fighter.” 

Aeryn nodded. 

“You taught him, didn’t you?” 

She nodded again. Normally, a touch of pride would have come over her, but not now. 

“Would you teach me?” 

She looked up, disgusted. How could he even think—but he seemed sincere. She was surprised. This was new.

“You really want to learn?”

“Of course!”

“Even from someone with a weak trelk for a mother?” 

He looked away. “I’m sorry about that, Sun. Please? I wanna make up for it.” 

Aeryn considered. Take another partner already? Roan was barely gone, and this boy expected her to just forget her friend?

*Life must go on*, the Instructor had said. No emotional connections. Well then, they could work together, but she never had to like him the way she had with Roan.

“Alright,” she said at last. “Meet me in the mat room after lunch.”

“You won’t regret this.” Ixol smiled.

They clasped forearms, sealing the deal.



 #

“He was right,” Aeryn said, her voice soft. “He became a valuable ally. He was even my wing mate in Pleisar Regiment. But I have never forgotten Roan.” She sniffed, fighting to keep her voice steady, then went on. “On one mission, I saved the life of a medtech, at great personal risk. She offered to repay me, so I asked for any information she could give me on Defectives. I learned everything I could about Roan’s death. That’s why I know about it.” 

The room was silent. D’Argo stared at the floor, unsure if he should attempt to comfort Aeryn or not.

John had no hesitations. He went to Aeryn and pulled her into his arms. She did not resist.

A soft voice came from the doorway. Zhaan had caught the end of Aeryn’s story. “By the Goddess! My dear, I had no idea.” 

The ex-Peacekeeper pulled herself together. “Zhaan, is the operation done?” 

“Yes. I succeeded in draining the fluid from Neesha’s lungs.” 

Everyone cheered up some. “That’s great!” John grinned. 

“You do know this is not a cure. I’ve merely postponed the inevitable.” 

“Jeez, suck the joy out of us, why don’t ya?” he grumbled. 

“Anything is better than nothing,” Aeryn said. “Can I see her?” 

“Of course. She should be coming out of sedation soon.” 

Pilot burst onto the ClamShell. “I hate to interrupt, but a Command Carrier just appeared on sensors heading right for us!”

 “Pilot,” Aeryn called, “StarBurst NOW!”

“They have already launched Prowlers. They will reach us before we can power up.” 

D’Argo cursed. (Of course, his whole language sounded that way.)

Aeryn was already out the door. “Pilot, prepare my Prowler.”

John trailed her for his now typical argument for reason. “You’re out-numbered at least ten to one! And the Farscape 1’s no more armed than Moya!” 

“Would you rather let them kill us and retake Moya?” she demanded. 

“You know I don’t, but—” 

Moya jolted from a Prowler’s shot.  

“Pilot?” 

“Ready, Officer Sun.” 

John grabbed her arm when she tried to push past him. She stiffened, her eyes shocked that he had the guts to be so forceful with her.

“I don’t want to lose you.” 

She arched a brow at his concern, but stood determined. “I don’t want to lose Raez.”

At a standoff, John released her. When she took off, though, he was on her heels. She did not notice until he hopped into the seat behind her. 

“Crichton--!” 

“No time to argue, Aeryn, just go!” 

Frustrated, but eager to leave, she blasted her Prowler into space.  

“So what exactly are we doing?” John asked as an enemy ship passed dangerously close to their canopy.  

“Drawing fire from Moya.” 

His voice rose. “You’re on a suicide run?!” 

“No. I don’t intend to die.”

She zoomed past a firing Prowler, energy grazing their hull, without engaging any of the fighters. 

“Uh,” he said, watching the Peacekeepers resume their attacks on Moya, “works better when you actually distract them from their target.” 

He saw the annoyed look in her eyes in the reflection on the canopy. “I haven’t started yet.” 

The Prowlers ignored the defector’s ship as it proceeded to the Command Carrier. Only the people onboard the larger ship realized her intentions, but it was too late. Before the Marauders could be manned, Aeryn’s guns had blasted a hole in their docking bay doors. The Prowlers finally acknowledged the threat, the majority returning with cannons hot, but Aeryn’s fighter had already gotten inside. To John’s shock, she did not stop when the wall loomed on them. Instead, she took out the wall and effectively blocked two adjacent hallways. 

“Well, that’ll distract them, alright,” John panted, silently vowing never to let Aeryn behind the wheel again.  

Aeryn had already climbed out and surveyed the corridor. “Frell! He found us!” 

“Who?” He still couldn’t see anything distinguishable. 

“This is Crais’ Command Carrier. He finally tracked us down.” 

“So we pull out now, right?”

She looked back down the hall. “No. While we’re here, I have things to do. Come on.” 

John was getting very tired of seeing her back hurrying away, nice as the view was, but the only other option was to wait for the pilots to return and take him to Crais, so he chased Aeryn wherever she was headed.

Growing up in these corridors had taught Aeryn all of their secrets. She and Crichton slipped through without being noticed.

Now, John recognized where they were. “Planning to steal some kind of cure for Neesha?” 

“That, or some information.” She entered, stealthily. Most of the medtechs must have been off-duty for only the secondary staff was around, a gaggle of low-ranking men and women whose only knowledge of the outside world came from gossipy patients. 

Aeryn scanned the area, and apparently found who she was looking for. A middle-aged tech came out of a back office and stopped in her tracks. 

“You!” 

Reflexively, Crichton tensed for a quick exit, but Aeryn stayed calm, even pleased. “Hello, Gheris.” 

“Don’t hello me, Sun! I ought to call Crais down here right now! You’ve got a lot of mivonks to show up here—” 

Aeryn tried to shush her. “Look, Gheris, I need some help.” 

“You always need help. I helped you for five cycles and where did it get me? Demoted below my most junior tech!” 

“Gheris, I’m sorry, but I have a little girl who needs treatment.” 

The tech laughed shortly. “Oh, you have a sick child! That changes everything! Here, I’ll just give her the magic medicine that has saved all of the other children who come in here!” 

Aeryn lunged at the other woman, pinning her to the nearest wall. The other techs made no move of defense, knowing better than to take on a soldier.  

John, having no such compunctions, tried to pull her off. “Aeryn, no! She can help Neesha! Stop!”

Aeryn did not need stopping though. She only stared at the tech. Tears had risen in Gheris’ eyes.

“I have tried to save those children, Sun. I really have. But nothing works. There’s a roomful of children back there with no hope for the future and I can do nothing but watch them die. You think that doesn’t affect me?!” 

Aeryn released her, a little unsure what to do. She stepped back and asked, “Has anything new come up?”

Gheris ran a hand through her short dark hair. “If it had, you know I would give it to you.”

“I know, Gheris. Thank you.”

The sound of heavy footsteps echoed up the hallway.

“Come on, Crichton.” Aeryn nodded farewell to the tech and turned to leave. “There’s nothing for us here.”

“Oh, I disagree,” Crais said from the doorway. “I think you will find quite a bit of interest here.”

Armed troops flowed into the room and surrounded the invaders. Gheris cringed.

“Tech, why don’t you return to work,” the Captain suggested.

She flashed a look at Aeryn. “Yes, sir.”

As she backed towards the office, Crais turned his attentions to Crichton. “So, at last, we meet again. You are either incredibly bold or incredibly stupid to show up here.”

“Still debating that one myself,” John muttered.

Crais sneered. “Lieutenant! Lock Crichton in a cell and keep an armed guard present at all times. I don’t care what you do with the female.”

“Sir,” one protested, “she’s a traitor. Shouldn’t I—” 

“I SAID I don’t care.” 

The officer nodded at the meaningful look in Crais’ eyes and smirked a bit. “Yes, sir.”

The soldiers pulled Crichton away from Aeryn. He looked back at her, waiting for her to give him some kind of sign, but she was still, looking past Crais. He tried to get her attention, but was dragged out of the room, cursing Crais all the way.

The remaining soldiers seized Aeryn. Crais issued some final orders to the leader, then left to finish business with Moya. The lead officer gave Aeryn a dark look, then led her out.

They walked several decks down to the prison. It was located on the bottom deck, a vulnerable area in a fight. The Peacekeepers put their least valuable prisoners there, for who cared if they were sucked into space should the hull rupture? After locking Aeryn in a cell the leader ordered the others out, except for one guard. Alone, he entered. 

Aeryn looked up, relief in her eyes. “Ixol. It’s good to see—”

She never saw his fist coming till it hit her jaw. She slammed to the floor and looked up in shock. “Ixol?”

“You betrayed us, Sun,” he snarled. “We served together for over fifteen cycles, and you left us as soon as this alien came in!”

She blinked, taken aback. “Ixol, I’m—”

“I’ll bet you are.” He gestured for the guard to pay attention to something other than their conversation. Ixol’s voice dropped to a dangerous hiss. “Look, Sun, we’ve been to war together. We’ve faced raiders together, and flown missions in hostile space, and suffered, and killed. How could you leave?”

“I didn’t have much of a choice, Ix. It was that or die.”

“And when have you ever been afraid to die?” He hauled her to her feet. “You did make a choice that day. You left in shame so you could live. You abandoned the unit. You abandoned me!”

Aeryn could not believe how upset he was. He was a Peacekeeper! Such emotional outbursts were almost unheard of.

Ixol turned his back on her and hit the wall. The guard jumped, then returned to blatantly not listening. “I broke the rules, Sun,” Ixol said quietly.

She frowned. “What?”

“I ignored the regs. When we recreated, it was different from anyone before; better.”

“That’s against regs?” she asked wryly.

“No!” He turned back, exasperated. “I got attached.”

She stared at him, jaw slack. “You…to me?”

“After we recreated, I didn’t want to be with anyone else. I turned down the other females in the unit, wanting only you. Apparently, you don’t feel the same way.”

“Ix, I, you’re out of your mind! If we got caught…”

His eyes were cold. “You weren’t afraid of punishment when you taught Roan to fight.”

Aeryn was stone. “Do not turn that on me.”

Ixol snorted and keyed the door. He glanced back. “I cared about you, Sun. I would have died for you. Now, you can do the same for me.” He left the cell and looked at the guard. “Did you hear anything?”

“No, sir.”

“Good.” Ixol put a pulse blast through the man’s head. “Medical, the prisoner Sun put up a fight. An officer is wounded. Send a tech to deal with him.”

“Yes, sir. One’s on her way.” 

He gave Aeryn another cold look and left. Aeryn slumped onto the cell’s bench. After all the cycles apart, why dump this on her NOW? She sighed and forced her mind to consider escape. Her life and those of her new shipmates depended on it.

To be continued...

Part 4

 

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