Author: Karl  
Rating: R
Timeline: This story takes place approximately five cycles before John Crichton flies Farscape 1 through that now infamous wormhole. The Invasion of Casival and extermination of its people happened one cycle before the start of this story. In four cycles Aeryn Sun will help kill Moya’s first pilot.
Summary:

Overcoming a low-ranked birth on a breeding colony to rise through the ranks of command, Captain Ulric Selton was a model of the aspirations held by any Peacekeeper soldier. But his latest assignment, command of a leviathan under NeuTech experimentation, places him in new peril and prompts Selton to question all that he had held true. [Prequel to the Adventures of Jack Crichton.]

Part: 1 | 2
 

Part 2

…and so it begins.

Command Transfer

The transport pod decelerated as it came close to the living beast; the small pod moved in slow arcs first forward then to the aft as it made its way to the control collar.

It’s surprising, I have been on hundreds of leviathans like most Peacekeeper. The beasts served well as large volume transports. But not till now had I ever bother to look at one. Its massive organic shape contrasted the bulky gray control collar we now quickly approached. I signaled the lieutenant to slow the transport. The large structure I had seen on approach was indeed a fully independent hetch drive manifold. I had never seen anything like this. “Why would a leviathan need hetch drive?”

“I do not know, sir," the lieutenant answered quickly.

I stepped from the transparency. “Well why do you think it is there?”

“I don’t know, sir, I have been on this supply route for over two cycles. I have never seen it in use.” Her response angered me. She knew far more then she was telling. I bit my lip and turned back to the view port. My finger ran across the cold yet yielding clear plaz of the view port. “A leviathan filled to the dench with techs and its control collar contains a massive Argus 5 hetch drive.”

I was interrupted by the chirp of the com system. “Transport 02320 Is Captain Selton aboard?”

I stepped back away from the view port and tapped my com. “Yes, Aben ComCon, I am here we are…”

The angered voice cut me off. “I understand, Captain, that you wish to unravel the great mysteries of this command but it will have to wait. Captain Decima out.” The com was severed.

I smiled at the pilot. “You heard the captain. Head in.” I walked back into the hold of the transport. I opened my jacket and pulled out the Ident chip containing my new orders. “What have you gotten me into, Bialar?”

I felt the tugging sensation in my stomach as we entered the gravity field of the hangar of the Leviathan.

The Hammond side hatchway opened and the hiss of the enviro equalizing accompanied the popping of my inner ears. As I stepped out onto the ladder, I had my first chance to see the spectacle. The sight caused me to miss the next step on the ladder, causing me almost to fall off. I grinned at the thought of falling off the transport and how it would have impacted the first tactical evaluation of the crew. I stiffened and continued down the rampway to the waiting review. I had been in reviews like this in commando training and on the command carrier. I had not expected anything like this on this dren of a command. The entire crew standing at attention on either sides of the red mat displaying the great seal of the Peacekeepers, the only stabilizing force in the galaxy and the outgoing captain standing at the center of the mat.

From here she appeared to be unkempt, a surprise considering the formal display in front of me. She stood all her weight on one leg and unlike the others she stood with an air of defiance, her arms folded tightly in front of her. To her right were two techs. One was a small trollish looking woman and the other,  in another situation, would be well worth the chase. I could not help but slip a small grin as I surveyed her.

She shifted slightly cocking her head. A small devious smile came to replace the stone stare of the review.

I stopped at the start of the mat and looked back to the Captain. She had been a looker at one time but something aged her. Her career had burned her out, which was not uncommon. It was a fate most good solders feared. It is better to die in battle then be ravaged by the experience.

She stepped forward unlocking her arms. “Your orders.” Her voice was harsh, fitting her very well. The hand she held out waiting for my Ident chip trembled slightly, not out of nervousness but from something else.

I handed the chip to her. When she held the chip up, one of the command officers stepped forward with a Dat-reader. She inserted the chip in the reader and read the orders. Her eyes seem to sink, her weathered features seemed to darken as she finished reading my orders.

She presented the Data reader to me. I place one hand on the scanner. The muffled chime confirmed my double helix Ident.

She shifted slightly in her stance as if reacting to the sound of the Data reader. “Welcome, Captain Ulric Selton.” She shoved the reader back at the command officer. “By orders of High Command, as of this date 034-987 Mark 0850, Captain Ulric Selton has been assigned to command the Aben for the glory of all.” She steadied herself. “Allow me to introduce you to your crew.” There was a stilted formality to her voice. She made no effort to hide her insincerity

She turned to the command staff and rattled off their names and ranks. There were twenty-two of them and they all merged into nothing in my head. I would have to study the crew files later to memorize their names, ranks and histories.

The captain then turned to the far side of the assembly. She stumbled slightly as she walked over to the two tech’s standing in front of the rest.

“Captain Ulric Selton, this is Commander Temin Derix.”

I found it strange to be introduced to a Tech so formally. It bothered me that this small creature would be given such a title. How she would be allowed such a position was repellent to me. But nothing is as it was or as I had been taught it should be. I could not muster a bow but I dipped my head. “Commander.”

The little thing had a voice to match her wilted twisted form. “Captain, you understand the rules?”

I looked back at the Captain. “Rules?” I questioned if I need to answer the little tralks question.

“You will speak to me directly, not to her, Captain Selton!.”

I stammered slightly. I could see the enjoyment Captain Decima was having at my expense. “Rules? Yes I understand completely. You are in command of the project. I am here as Captain of the Leviathan and I represent the will of High Command.”

The little beast stepped closer. “Very good, Captain Selton, you might work out.”  She turned to the woman next to her. This is my Sensor Cognatition. Lieutenant Trean Rojan.

I looked up from the little gagtroll to the comfort of the beautiful woman standing at her side. Her grin from earlier returned as if she knew something I didn’t. “Lieutenant.” The thought of using her to gain information was an option that could be quite pleasurable.

Captain Decima stepped between us. “You will have plenty of time to evaluate the assets of the position, Captain. Allow me to give you a tour of your new command.” It was only now in close proximity to the captain did I realize she was drunk. She had the smell of stale Fellip nectar.

I followed her lead from the hangar, noticing that we were followed by two DRDs. As we made our way through he winding passages on the way to command, I stopped and looked back at the strange little machines. They immediately moved to a rib or wall section as if they had some other purpose than spying on the new captain.

Captain Decima droned on about Aben. She is equipped with food stores in the center chamber although the command staff tends to eat in the Rec station on board the command collar.”

She stopped and turned slightly. “The tiers below this one are command quarters. Would you like to see them?”

“You mean to tell me the command staff sleeps on the leviathan?” I found this strange. Normally the command staff lives on the control collar.

“You will see, Commander, we run things a little differently on board Aben.” She patted the ribwall of the passage. “This is not some military transport or Cell ship.” She stopped patting the wall and instead steadied herself.

“Regardless, the Decca dictates that command staff be housed only in a safe zone. Leviathans, although controlled, are categorized as hostile and must be treated as such.”

“Captain Selton, we each have our own command styles. You may find that for this position the Decca will leave you lacking.” She continued down the passage towards command, turning back only to give a fleeting smile.

For once I did not respond, I silently followed behind her. We arrived in the large central command on board the leviathan. The large projection at the forward of command had the huge planet that they orbited filling the screen.

There were three free-standing command stations and to the Hammond side was a tactical bench. The captain stepped just inside the hatchway. She pointed to the control yoke. “You obviously saw the hetch drive on the control collar. We have added controls to the manual control system to maneuver using the hetch drive as our only source of propulsion.” She move to a large processor mounted into the rear wall of command and pointed to the small interface at the front of the large piece of implanted Peacekeeper tech. “Your Ident captain.”

I handed her my Ident. She placed it in the reader next to hers. “Place your hand in the scanner.”

I shifted, trying not to get too close to her. The machine’s display confirmed idents but suddenly both of us were cut with a small blade. I pulled my hand quickly from the machine. “What is this!” I demanded. I had had enough from this stinking drunken tralk.

The captain’s sarcastic smile returned. “I have transferred access to the synaptic override,” she continued not looking back at me as she moved to the nearest control console. A schematic of the leviathan appeared on the main viewer. Four areas pulsed at the cerebral nexus of the leviathan’s cogitate centers. “You now have the ability to sever the higher functions of the Leviathan if anything gets out of hand.”

“Gets out of hand?”

She ignored my question. “I have come close but I have never had to use it. She slowly rubbed the edge of the control station.

“I don't understand.”

“If anything happens and we loose control, you are to sever the leviathan’s higher brain functions.” This statement seemed to pain her, but that same willful grin returned.

“Why did it sample my blood?"

Her smile widened  “This is a Velka One New Tech Program. The system can detect if you’re alive. A severed hand will not activate the system.”

I had heard of Velka one coding but that was usually enacted in very high security programs. From my orders there was no mention of such a security level. Again that gnawing pain returned as more and more of my life was outside of my control.

“You will find two similar systems. One on the command of the control collar and one on tier four, dorsal starburst talon.”

“That's an odd location for an override. 

“This is a large ship, Captain.” She moved to the tactical table and placed a data crystal in the reader, allowing the image to take up the entire space above the station.

The translucent image was of the control collar. Slowly rotated in front of us. The leviathan it captured was also projected but without detail.  Control collars are primarily large tanks that hold all the primary iriscentent fluid, the life giving blood of the biomech. By only allowing the beast enough to keep it alive, kept the leviathan in control. Although certain drugs could be used in an emergency, starvation was the method of control. Spanning between and around each of the massive tanks were seven decks of living and working space, the control center and the hangar bay. Six level risers spread out across the control collar that interconnected the decks. The two central level risers spanned though the outer skin and deep into the leviathan itself, one stopping on the tier a few deci-metras away from command and the other terminated between the pilot’s den and the maintenance bay.  

As I studied the tactical projection my interest continued to return to the huge Argus drive mounted at the top of the control collar.

“There is no mention of the Hetch drive in my program briefing’ I shifted forward. The projection detail increased.

“Your orders are to safeguard the data and the techs at all cost if the leviathan is lost. You are to take what data you can and return to Peacekeeper space using the control collar as a life raft.” She passed her shaking hand through the image. "I doubt you'll have the chance to use it, Captain." Her tone steadied and her sarcastic smile seemed to melt away. “Take care of the leviathan and I think you will find that she will take care of you."

The statement surprised me. But then again, it appeared from her earlier actions she had some form of admiration for this living craft. It was becoming obvious to me this was the reason for her demotion. She has gone native. The captain had become attached to this alien. Irreparably contaminated. I had witnessed this before on Delvia. Even Crais flaunted his attraction to those creatures. Again the repulsion returned but now it was different. I could not place the emotion; if I didn't know better I’d say it was envy. I derailed these strange emotions. I tried to ignore the comment and changed the direction of the conversation. “I assume you command from the Command Node on the control collar.”

Captain Decima motioned to the hatchway. “Correct Captain, all systems are monitored on the Command Node. We station a security officer here on the leviathan. Duty rotation of 10 Arns.”

I was puzzled. “Why do you have security stationed here?”

She headed out toward the level riser. “It is easier to show you captain.”

We arrived at the gray cylinder that pierced through the ceiling of the corridor and continued down through the floor of this tier. The level riser was literally punctured deep into the leviathan. The biomaintenance system had healed around the intruding cylinder. On the far side, the riser waited for us. It was pressure sealed and as the outer and inner doors sealed my eardrums protested the pressure increase.

The level riser took only a microt to reach the command node. The doors parted and we exited into a very different world.

The inside of the control collar was an open framework of two large tanks, level risers and hundreds of decimetras of plumbing and other such tech.

To the rear, I could make out the hangar area with the large airlock doors closed unless needed.

Above me I could see through the spans of catwalks the two amnexus tanks that flanked us on both sides. The command node was here at the center of the control collar.

She stopped at the sealed door of the command node. Your prowler was delivered to the hangar bay on board the leviathan. There is not enough room in the maintenance bay of the collar to house it.”

“That will be fine.” I felt the tug of wanting to see it. Once I had finished my duty cycle I would head out for a run through the system. “How many fighters are on duty?”

“There are four prowlers and two Durka Class Marauders. I have scheduled reviews separately with the flight team. I assumed that with your history that you would want to review capabilities more closely.”

“Yes I would.” I was not surprised by her assumption Unlike herself I was merely a pilot being given this command I had not the training nor elevated training she had had in preparation for this program. My orders did not explain the reason for her retrieval I did not expect to be told, but now standing here it was obvious that she was impacted by this ship. This alien. I was dumbfounded by the mere concept.  

#

Officer Novus

She stumbled twice while walking to the end of the central accessway. We stopped at the entrance to the command node.  

When she keyed the lock the heavy blast door parted and she stood to the side to allow me to enter first. Suddenly she blocked my path and shifted closer to me. It took all I could muster to not shove her back. Although I was captai,n I would not have an incident my first day of command. I turned to face her. The smell of Fellip nectar seemed to emanate from every pore of her withered body.  

"As captain, I am sure you have the ability of looking beyond first impressions?" She shifted back from me slowly turning to looking at the Peacekeeper immersed in his work at the tactical station.  

"Give him a chance, Captain." There was an unusual solemnity to her expression.  

I stepped away from her. "Captain, I am uncertain of your methods of command. Mine are simple – follow the doctrine of the Decca and you will be rewarded. Fail and I have no use for you here." I looked down at her arm still blacking my path. "Its that simple."  

She lowered her arm and I walked into the small chamber. The Command node was configured like a Headron class Marauder’s command deck. This is unsurprising considering their functionality was similar. Why waste training on a new system when duplicity allows for a wider range of training.  

The officer standing at the tactical did not hear our approach. I watched over his shoulder as he reviewed the systems data at a speed that was almost impossible. He could not be absorbing this data at that speed. Finally Captain Decima spoke. "Officer Novus." His concentration snapped like a shock grenade and he steadied himself on the edge of the table. If it weren’t for that I would have gambled a months rations he would have fallen on the decking. "Hezmana! Here I am trying to review for our inspection!" He reinstated the data file on the projection. "Our new captain wants a full systems briefing in three arns!"  

I cracked the slightest smile as I stepped further forward. "Lets make that briefing now, Commander!"  

He spun around quickly almost falling over his own feet as he did. "Captain!” He nervously brushed back his hair.  

Captain Decima walked between us. I swear I could see his heart pounding in his chest.  

Captain Selton, This is my first officer Dun Novus. "C-Captain!" He bowed his head quickly.  

"Commander, at ease." I walked up next to him looking at the projection of the leviathan and its control collar highlighted.  

He moved up next to me pulling the projection out so we could see all the vital systems of the leviathan and its control collar. He started at the locking system and within fifty microts we were finishing with the leviathans waste vent manifold. I did not understand a fifth of what he reviewed but I was not about to let him know that. "Very impressive, Commander." I looked back at Captain Decima who was obviously relieved by my veneer of acceptance.  

I turned back to my new first officer. "Officer Novus, what do you know of the program that the techs are performing in the pilots den?"  

"P-pilots den?" He quickly looked back at Captain Decima.  

“She did not ask the question, Commander I did." I was surprised by his reaction. He seemed to be easily confused to the point of dysfunction. If we had a crisis how would he function.  

“Captain, that information is coded Decca 1, need to know. I do not have that clearance.” He seemed to shrug slightly as he spoke. And his head remained slightly lowered. His demeanor bothered me.  

I shoved him in the shoulder with one hand. I had to grab him with my other to keep him from falling over backward. "Stand up straight, Commander! You are a Peacekeeper officer not some server!"  I shoved him back taking a long look at him.  His hair was long, too long, not to Peacekeeper regs.  I paced in front of him as the kennel masters use to do to us in training back on the breeding colony. "You just reported for nearly an arn on the status of this leviathan’s systems. Do not tell me you do not have some suspicions on what they are doing in there!" My hand passed through the leviathans projection. I found my temper too easily with this spineless creature. It was if I was taking out my own anger over this situation on the most ill suited to handle my wrath.  

"C-captain, all of my monitoring of key leviathan systems show nothing. Whatever they are doing does not seem to be effecting A-Aben herself."  

“From this moment, Commander, If you see anything that is out of the ordinary you will report it to me immediately. Are we locked commander?”  

He stood up straighter, his chin almost sinking into his chest. "Sig confirmed, C-captain."  

I turned back to leave. The baleful gaze of the former captain met me at the hatchway. I headed out past her and she stumbled as she caught up next to me.  

"Captain Selton…”  

"Captain Decima, I do not need a lecture by you as to my command style. You have shown me the ship and its crew. Your transport leaves in two Arns. Is there anything else you would like to show me before you leave?”  

"No, Commander, your quarters assignment is at section two of this deck." She stopped at the level risers.  

“I will take my leave of you Captain."  

I stopped and looked back at her. the anger I felt was propelled by my own guilt. I had lost my temper too easily, I never found that ability to stow that anger, To channel it to my work. It always just exploded.

"Yes Captain." I bowed respectfully.  "For the glory of all." She disappeared into the level riser and I turned looking back down the long corridor. I had no idea where I was and knew better then to comm anyone for assistance. I was familiar with the layout of leviathans, every Peacekeeper was, but the control collar had always been restricted.

  #

The jaunt to eternity

I stood at the entry of the transport I had arrived in less then six arns earlier. I commed Captain Decima but she did not answer. She was probably off getting dren-faced. I commed Novus. “Commander, where is Captain Decima?”

I don’t know, Captain.” There was the long silence before he continued. “Would you like me to find her?”

I paced at the base of the Rampway. Frelling Null head! I swore silently that Novus would be on the next transport. “If it would not be too much trouble, Commander!”

"Scanning now captain. She is on tier fourteen… The terrace.  Her comms are active, she is simply not responding."

Frell! I headed to the level riser. Regardless what it took, I would be rid of her.

I found my way down the long narrow corridor that flanked the Hammond side of Aben's dorsal vertebrae. The hatchway to the terrace was closed. "Novus, get her on comms now!"

I keyed the red orb by the entrance. The hatchway was locked. As my frustration rose to the surface as I slammed the hatch with my fist.

“She's still not responding Captain.”

I stood back from the large hatch "Well get Pilot to open this hatch. NOW!"

Officer Novus stammered as he responded. "Ye... Yes, Captain..."

Suddenly Commander Derix’s shrill voice broke in. "Captain Selton.” She seemed to take a breath every few words. "We are not to be disturbed!"

"Commander Derix, have Pilot open the hatchway to the terrace!”

"What is going on, Captain? We will have to discuss your attitude. We are about to start critical trials and cannot be disrupted like this!."

"NOT NOW!" I grit my teeth as I tried to change my approach. "Commander Derix, we have a serous situation here!" My jaw protested. "Please! Commander, I will brief you as soon as we..." I was interrupted by the hatchway to the terrace parting.

She stood at the far rim of the environmental blister. Beyond, half the sky was filled with the violet clouds of the planet we orbited. She had her back to me, in one hand a large bottle of Fellip nectar in the other a pulse gun.

I entered the terrace slowly. I spoke calmly. She was obviously drunk as she seemed to sway back and forth slightly. "Captain Decima, your transport is waiting."

“It’s beautiful, isn't it?”

She pointed out at the view with her pulse gun. The tip of the gun glowed violet as it struck the translucent energy blister.

“What are you doing here, Captain?”

"Captain Selton... Ulric... You are a very lucky man." She took a deep swig of her bottle. " All you have to do is open you eyes." She suddenly laughed. “But I don’t know if you have the capability.”

I continued out onto the decking of the terrace. I found it unnerving being out in the open like this with only a thin energy barrier between us and the unyielding vacuum of space. She suddenly turned around to face me her face wet with tears.

"Stop, Ulric, go back inside. I will be alone!" She raised her pulse gun her hand, surprisingly steady. She looked up at the control collar that loomed over the forward half of the leviathan. “Look at it, Ulric.” pointing up over my head.

“We suppress them, we enforce our will upon them, we subjugate them, yet we don't understand!” She shook the gun at control collar. “That hideous mass whose only purpose is to starve this being.”

I did not look back in the direction she was pointing, I kept an eye on her gun. If I was a little closer I had a good chance of taking her down. I took a slow step forward.

Suddenly the decking in front of me exploded in fire. "Don't frell with me, Ulric!" She chuckled pointing the barrel at my head. “You don't understand. But you might… Someday… Now go back inside!"

Novus commed. “Captain, what’s going on?”

"Nothing officer, Novus. Selton Out! Captain Decima..." I struggled to keep my anger under control. I was not going to have this drunken tralk frell up my first day of command. I lowered my voice. "Haru... No, I don't understand. Please let me help you. No one has to know what has happened here. We can head to your transport and this situation will not be reported."

She laughed again. "Such a good Peacekeeper, Ulric. No you can't help me, Ulric." She fired another pulse at the floor in front of me I stepped back. "Go back inside! That was your last warning!"

“What are you going to do, Haru?" With those words I was almost knocked over by the blast and pain in my shoulder. I spun around and caught my footing. I steadied myself, crouching, ready to react. I turned slightly to survey my position from the hatchway. I calculated how I could maneuver to cover of the hatchway.

"I fear, Ulric, you are too good of a Peacekeeper to understand." She fired again, but it was wide. The pulse penetrated the environmental blister and waves violet energy filled in the hole created by the blast. In an instant the area was invisible again. I leaped towards the hatchway, landing at the base of the open hatch. She fired again. I pushed off the open hatch. An energy bolt struck the back of my leg and I landed against the far wall of the hatchway fighting the wave of nausea as the smell of burnt flesh stung my nostrils.

I looked back from my position she tapped her com with her hand still holding her precious bottle of Fellip nectar. "Sanfor Var Tar-rip!"

The hatchway sealed. It took a moment to sink in. I had heard of Peacekeepers learning a primitive version of the Pilot’s race language. But not like that. She spoke in complex Pilot. That enigma could wait. I had to get her out of there and off this ship!  I commed Novus! “Round up a security detail and meet me at outside the terrace."

"What’s going on up there, Captain?"

"Just get a detail up here along with a  med tech." I looked down at the smoldering leg. It was strange there was little blood and the pin prick pain was not as I had expected. Her pulse gun must have had low chamber compression.

Commander Derix chimed “Captain, what’s going on?”

"Commander Derix, I am a little busy at the moment. I will present a report shortly.” I closed my com and tried to stand. My shoulder protested more than my leg, although I needed the rib wall to support my weight. I maneuvered to the locking indicator. It was red - she had somehow locked the hatchway. I keyed the orb trying to override the command but it was no use.

“What is that tralk doing?” I realized I was speaking aloud. There was a small shiver in the deck plates and the indicator showed the environmental blister collapsed and that the other side of the hatchway was open to vacuum. The frelling tralk had spaced herself. I didn’t care how she had run this command I was not about to report her I just wanted her off my ship.

Her problems were not mine now. No this…The report I would have to send in would not reflect well my first day of command. What she had said seemed to reverberate in my head. She had gone native, irreparably contaminated, nothing more. Yet something dug in like a blade that I couldn’t shake.

Novus arrived with three of his security detail. He keyed the data report of the hatchway. "What the frell happened?"

“Captain Decima just spaced herself!” I stepped closer to my first officer.  “What kind of monitoring systems are set up on the control collar?” I was surprised that I had difficulty standing I leaned back my good shoulder propped against the support rib of the corridor.

Novus didn’t respond quickly. It was as if I could see the firing of his synapses as he caught up to speed. My first impressions were correct; how the skew got a command position was beyond me.

“You want to see if we recorded her on the terrace?”

“Yes, Commander.” I stopped before saying any more, my frustration with his lack of speed or immediacy seemed to fade on its own.

“I will check Captain. We should get you up to the infirmary. I will retrieve the records.”

“Not yet, Commander.”. I had to concentrate on the systems of the Aben and the interface with the control collar. “Did you know that she spoke Pilot?”

Again the long delay before response. “Yes, Captain, that was why she was initially chosen for this assignment. He smiled at the sealed hatch. “I speak a little myself but I am rated a 0.4, she was a 0.9 proficiency.” For the first time there was a hint of sadness from the loss of his former captain.

“Could she collapse the blister from out there?  Or would she need help from someone inside to override the blister controls? We need to talk to the pi… The pilot must know what…” The link in the chain of thoughts broke.  I slowly slid down the wall, my vision slightly blurred. Suddenly I realized I was sitting in a large puddle of blood. "Frell me the tralk got me better then I thought." Novus’s voice was drowned out by the sound of my own beating heart. As I slipped from reality I heard the strangest songs. All I could think of were the long tonal chants of the monks on Delvia. Frelling noise pounded in my head. The blackness that seemed to smother me was followed by the strangest sensation. I was weightless, the darkness was replaced with the images of four leviathans orbiting a gas giant. Two older ones flanked the smaller one, tucked behind it was its calf.

End Part Two

 

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