like our practice sessions, right?” Aeryn said.
this time we actually have to try and beat each other.”
pretend it’s not me and I’ll pretend it’s not you.”
moved into their starting points and dropped into defensive crouches.
“Begin!” yelled the Instructor.
kids circled at first, neither eager to make the first move. They threw a
few punches, clearly not really intending to connect.
on,” the Instructor snarled. “Come ON, Cadets. This is a fight, not a
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.
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.
on, Sun, this isn’t a game! Quit playing around and fight to win!”
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.
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.
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
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.
stopped immediately. “Roan?”
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.
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.
he said weakly.
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.”
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
managed a smile herself, though the tears still flowed. Roan’s clammy
hand squeezed hers.
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.
struggled against the Instructor, wanting to stay with her friend, but he
them do their job, Sun.”
Roan be alright?”
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.”
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.
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.
older Peacekeeper addressed the cadets as a whole.
night, Cadet Evrin Roan died.”
few gasps and murmurs were heard, but most kept their composure. Aeryn
felt the color drain from her cheeks as her heart froze.
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…”
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.
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.
are you going, Cadet?”
the medical bay,” she answered truthfully. “I worked with Cadet Roan
and want to make sure that I was not infected.”
officer nodded. “Very good, Cadet. As you were.”
sir.” Relieved, Aeryn continued on her way.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
are you doing here, Sun?”
was afraid that Cadet Roan might have infected me—”
you weren’t,” he interrupted. “I want the truth, Cadet.”
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
face burned with shame waiting for him to laugh in her face or mock her
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?”
will be let off without punishment this time, but don’t try this
course not, sir.”
also confiscate this.” He pulled the Identchip from the terminal. “Go
back to bed now, Sun.”
you, sir.” She left quietly, amazed that she had gotten off so easily.
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.
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.
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.
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.
just wanted to tell you I’m sorry about Roan.”
eyes him skeptically.
he said defensively. “He was a good fighter.”
taught him, didn’t you?”
nodded again. Normally, a touch of pride would have come over her, but not
you teach me?”
looked up, disgusted. How could he even think—but he seemed sincere. She
was surprised. This was new.
really want to learn?”
from someone with a weak trelk for a mother?”
looked away. “I’m sorry about that, Sun. Please? I wanna make up for
Aeryn considered. Take another partner already? Roan was barely gone, and this boy expected her to just forget her friend?
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.
she said at last. “Meet me in the mat room after lunch.”
won’t regret this.” Ixol smiled.
They clasped forearms, sealing the deal.
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.”
room was silent. D’Argo stared at the floor, unsure if he should attempt
to comfort Aeryn or not.
had no hesitations. He went to Aeryn and pulled her into his arms. She did
soft voice came from the doorway. Zhaan had caught the end of Aeryn’s
story. “By the Goddess! My dear, I had no idea.”
ex-Peacekeeper pulled herself together. “Zhaan, is the operation
I succeeded in draining the fluid from Neesha’s lungs.”
cheered up some. “That’s great!” John grinned.
do know this is not a cure. I’ve merely postponed the inevitable.”
suck the joy out of us, why don’t ya?” he grumbled.
is better than nothing,” Aeryn said. “Can I see her?”
course. She should be coming out of sedation soon.”
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!”
have already launched Prowlers. They will reach us before we can power
cursed. (Of course, his whole language sounded that way.)
Aeryn was already out the door. “Pilot, prepare my Prowler.”
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!”
you rather let them kill us and retake Moya?” she demanded.
know I don’t, but—”
jolted from a Prowler’s shot.
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.
don’t want to lose you.”
arched a brow at his concern, but stood determined. “I don’t want to
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.
time to argue, Aeryn, just go!”
but eager to leave, she blasted her Prowler into space.
what exactly are we doing?” John asked as an enemy ship passed
dangerously close to their canopy.
fire from Moya.”
voice rose. “You’re on a suicide run?!”
I don’t intend to die.”
zoomed past a firing Prowler, energy grazing their hull, without engaging
any of the fighters.
he said, watching the Peacekeepers resume their attacks on Moya, “works
better when you actually distract them from their target.”
saw the annoyed look in her eyes in the reflection on the canopy. “I
haven’t started yet.”
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.
that’ll distract them, alright,” John panted, silently vowing never to
let Aeryn behind the wheel again.
had already climbed out and surveyed the corridor. “Frell! He found
He still couldn’t see anything distinguishable.
is Crais’ Command Carrier. He finally tracked us down.”
we pull out now, right?”
looked back down the hall. “No. While we’re here, I have things to do.
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.
up in these corridors had taught Aeryn all of their secrets. She and
Crichton slipped through without being noticed.
John recognized where they were. “Planning to steal some kind of cure
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.
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.
Crichton tensed for a quick exit, but Aeryn stayed calm, even pleased.
hello me, Sun! I ought to call Crais down here right now! You’ve got a
lot of mivonks to show up here—”
tried to shush her. “Look, Gheris, I need some help.”
always need help. I helped you for five cycles and where did it get me?
Demoted below my most junior tech!”
I’m sorry, but I have a little girl who needs treatment.”
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!”
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.
having no such compunctions, tried to pull her off. “Aeryn, no! She can
help Neesha! Stop!”
did not need stopping though. She only stared at the tech. Tears had risen
in Gheris’ eyes.
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
released her, a little unsure what to do. She stepped back and asked,
“Has anything new come up?”
ran a hand through her short dark hair. “If it had, you know I would
give it to you.”
know, Gheris. Thank you.”
sound of heavy footsteps echoed up the hallway.
on, Crichton.” Aeryn nodded farewell to the tech and turned to leave.
“There’s nothing for us here.”
I disagree,” Crais said from the doorway. “I think you will find quite
a bit of interest here.”
troops flowed into the room and surrounded the invaders. Gheris cringed.
why don’t you return to work,” the Captain suggested.
flashed a look at Aeryn. “Yes, sir.”
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.”
debating that one myself,” John muttered.
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.”
one protested, “she’s a traitor. Shouldn’t I—”
SAID I don’t care.”
officer nodded at the meaningful look in Crais’ eyes and smirked a bit.
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.
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.
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.
looked up, relief in her eyes. “Ixol. It’s good to see—”
never saw his fist coming till it hit her jaw. She slammed to the floor
and looked up in shock. “Ixol?”
betrayed us, Sun,” he snarled. “We served together for over fifteen
cycles, and you left us as soon as this alien came in!”
blinked, taken aback. “Ixol, I’m—”
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?”
didn’t have much of a choice, Ix. It was that or die.”
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!”
could not believe how upset he was. He was a Peacekeeper! Such emotional
outbursts were almost unheard of.
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
ignored the regs. When we recreated, it was different from anyone before;
against regs?” she asked wryly.
He turned back, exasperated. “I got attached.”
stared at him, jaw slack. “You…to me?”
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.”
I, you’re out of your mind! If we got caught…”
eyes were cold. “You weren’t afraid of punishment when you taught Roan
was stone. “Do not turn that on me.”
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?”
“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.”
sir. One’s on her way.”
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...