Author's Note: This story takes place during the "Premiere"
"This is totally absurd."
Twenty-four hours ago, he had been sitting on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. Now, he was prowling through the corridors of a military installation, hoping that every corner and turn wouldn't be his last.
Oh...never mind the fact that it was an alien installation and totally different from anything that he had ever experienced. Even the walls themselves were deceptive. They had the look of some cross between adobe and stucco. But he'd wager it would take a fairly significant force to bring one of them crashing down.
"I suppose you have a better idea?"
He stopped short, suddenly standing face to face with the female Peacekeeper he had insisted come along. While her long, dark flowing hair and limber frame reminded him of women he had known on his distant Earth, it took only one look into her eyes to remember that this was no Earth woman.
"You said 'This is totally absurd.' I'd like to know what makes you think you know the way out of here. Or did you plan on commandeering someone else's ship to get back to your precious Leviathan?"
"First of all, she's not 'my' Leviathan, remember? Me, I'm the one who just got catapulted halfway across the universe. Second, I was just thinking out loud."
"Well, think later." Aeryn said, as she turned to proceed back down the corridor.
"Now there's some useful advice."
This time it was Aeryn's turn to stop short. He was expecting more repartee from the Peacekeeper, but now there was a different look in the woman's eyes. The anger had melted away and had been replaced by something new. If she had been Human, he might have guessed that it was loneliness or anguish. But he had to keep reminding himself that this was an alien with alien ways and alien customs and alien feelings. For all he knew, the look could just as likely be pity or commiseration.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean...."
He stopped at the sudden appearance of their Luxan companion. There was no mistaking the look in his eyes. The sparkling green reflection of his gaze conveyed the tenuous hold the warrior was having on keeping his foul mood in check.
"Keep moving." The Luxan's gaze moved quickly from Human to Sebacean and back again. "Don't make me consider leaving the two of you on this worthless piece of rock a second time."
The towering warrior was a bit of a paradox. On one hand, the Luxan was fascinating, at least from a scientific viewpoint. While it was considerably easier to forget that Aeryn was of an alien species, this was simply not the case with D'Argo. True, he was 'Humanoid', in the sense that his physiological make-up was comparable to an erect, bipedal vertebrate, but who knew what other similarities or differences lay beyond the aggravated demeanor?
It would take a long time to find out. While Crichton was finding this newfound proximity to aliens fascinating, in D'Argo's case things were a bit different. His presence additionally induced an overwhelming desire to stay at arm's length. With one hand D'Argo had lifted him off the ground and nearly choked the life out of him. And when he had been unable to answer the Luxan's questions satisfactorily, he had been thrown halfway across the command deck like a dog's chew toy. This was not the kind of person he would have chosen to hang around...but then again, he didn't really have any choice in the matter. He had forced the warrior's hand in insisting the Peacekeeper come along. It was unlikely he would get a similar advantage again.
It was not difficult to speculate why the Luxan might have been imprisoned. The combination of suppressed anger and his general confrontational demeanor could only have explosive consequences. Mental note to self: Don't piss off the Luxan.
Not that the Peacekeeper was much better. Her first reaction had been to kick the crap out of him, too. Nice. Apparently, in this part of the universe people shoot first and don't even bother to ask questions.
But it was interesting to watch the Luxan and the Peacekeeper interact. It was obvious that the two didn't trust each other. As they meandered down the narrow passageway, the Luxan kept turning around to make sure she was still back there. Then again, maybe the warrior was checking to make sure that he was still back there. And then, maybe he just wanted to make sure that neither of them were about to stab him in the back.
Not that he would have tried to stab the Luxan in the back. Of course, the Peacekeeper might, which is probably why the warrior had insisted that 'the Human' bring up the rear. Truth be told, he didn't mind watching the others' backs. The only way they were going to get out of here in one piece was if they worked together. But would he be able to pick up the slack for the others, two enemies who might just as likely turn on each other once the present danger had passed? Perhaps it hadn't been such a good idea to insist the Peacekeeper come along.
John halted in the corridor. The Luxan was standing at the entranceway to a larger room. His hand was held up, indicating that motionless or silence, or perhaps both, were warranted before proceeding into the next room. He kept peering around the corner, apparently getting an eyeful of something beyond the rest of their range of vision. Aeryn started moving front and John placed a hand on her shoulder, thinking it might not be a good idea to bother the Luxan. Another foul look from the Peacekeeper and John flinched back, raising his arms in capitulation, unwilling to start another fight. After a few moments standing alone in the corridor, though, he began to realize just how vulnerable he was. Better to stay in a small group than for them to get spread out, even if was only a few yards.
Predictably, the Luxan and the Peacekeeper were arguing again. More importantly though, was the fact that D'Argo's instincts as to the location of the Prowler had been correct. It lay less than half a football field's length from their current position in the center of what appeared to be a large spacecraft hangar. He didn't see any sign of guards or Peacekeepers, though.
"And I'm telling you that we should find some kind of weapons cache before we leave." John winced at the Peacekeeper's words. They sounded too much like a lecture. He got the distinct impression that the Luxan wasn't interested in being lectured.
But the Luxan just looked at her, a disgusted expression on his face. "The thought had already crossed my mind. And while I'm loath to admit it, Peacekeeper, you have a point. There's no telling what your kind might have left aboard Moya, or if they left anything at all. But we can't take the risk. We should..."
"Do we really have time for this argument?" Crichton interjected, and both sets of his companion's eyes turned to him. "I mean, shouldn't we be getting the hell out of Dodge?"
There was no mistaking the looks in their faces. Apparently, condescension knows no galactic boundaries. True, they both appeared to be able-bodied warriors or soldiers or whatever they wanted to call themselves. But sometimes it took brains to realize when was the best time to exercise the better part of valor.
The guttural snarl that preceded the command was about as congenial as a kick to the groin. As one, the three of them turned toward the entrance to the corridor, and as one they froze in their tracks at the appearance of the Peacekeeper guard who had seemingly materialized there in front of them...the armed Peacekeeper guard.
During the next second, the only thought that registered in Crichton's mind was "Ah, nuts."
But the Luxan apparently wasn't about to fall so quickly back into his captor's hands. With agility that belied his large size, the red-haired warrior raised his forearm up and struck the Peacekeeper squarely in face, the only part of the man's body that was exposed.
The force of the blow catapulted the surprised guard, already unconscious, through the air several feet to land with a most agreeable thud. The man's weapon, though, seemed to hover in the air momentarily, defying gravity. With casual grace Aeryn picked it out of the air. Instantly it was at her side.
The Luxan turned to her and smirked. "There. Now you're armed. Happy?"
Aeryn let out exhalation of disgust and walked past the Luxan toward the Prowler.
John smiled and turned to his hairy-faced companion. "Where did you learn to clobber a guy like that? Commando Kindergarten?".
D'Argo looked down at him and immediately he wanted to be elsewhere.
"Just get in the ship."
"You want to go where? To do what?" Aeryn hugged the pulse rifle close to her. Not that it would do her any good. At this close range, the Luxan could tear her apart if he wanted. She sincerely doubted she would be able to get a shot off if the he tried to charge her from such a short distance, and he was paying careful attention not to allow too much distance to come between them. Fine. He doesn't trust me and I don't trust him. At least we both know where we stand.
The Luxan was surveying the poorly defended and poorly defensible cargo bay. "There is something that I have to do before I can leave."
"What? Your vow? Against Crais? Don't be an idiot. He's got an entire command ship to protect him. And against what? A single Luxan warrior with a score to settle? Do you really think Crais is worried? Besides, what makes you think that you can order us to help you?"
"I'm not ordering either of you to help me. I'm not asking you to help me, either."
Aeryn was surprised. Did the Luxan have some sort of death wish?
"D'Argo, wait." The Human had risen out of the Prowler's cockpit to interrupt their conversation. "We shouldn't split ourselves up. We need to stick together."
The Luxan pushed the Human back into the vehicle.
"No, it is too risky. You two wait here. If I'm not back in one quarter of an arn, you can leave without me." The Luxan turned toward her and for a second she wondered if he was seeking her approval for his plan.
"Fine," she said after a moment's deliberation. "One quarter of an arn. We will wait."
The Luxan didn't appear satisfied, Aeryn thought, but she didn't care. She hadn't asked to be commandeered along on this little escape attempt.
Apparently, though, being pushed down would not dissuade the Human from talking, and he popped back up again. "And what are we supposed to do if the Peacekeepers come back while you're gone
The Human did have a valid point.
The Luxan snorted. "Lock the door."
"What?" The Human practically yelled. "And hope they don't have blasters?"
The Luxan turned and lumbered off toward the corridor through which the three of them had arrived in the hangar. Sitting down, she grabbed the Human's belt and pulled down so she could close the Prowler's canopy and lock the door. There were more important things to worry about than a hyper-aggressive Luxan and his vow of vengeance.
Aeryn tried to focus on her preparations and the flight controls. Something was not right. Their escape had been too easy. Admittedly, not the part where the Human stole their guards' sidearm and managed to break the lot of them out of the cell block. But they had met no resistance in getting back to the flight hangar. Where were the Peacekeeper patrols? True, this was not a Peacekeeper installation, but if this Human were of such value, then Crais surely would want to keep a tight reign on him.
Crichton. What a paradox. He had made himself out to be a Tek. A scientist. But this was no scientist. He didn't even know how to operate the simplest of weapons. He could just have easily blown his own hand off as he attempted to overpower their guards in breaking out of the cellblock. She had serious doubts that he could have the intelligence to pilot a spacecraft halfway across the galaxy, let alone build one. Or so he claimed he had done, space-time anomalies notwithstanding, whatever those are.
And yet, part of him seemed almost...attractive. Aeryn shook her head. What was she thinking? Yes, he had been pivotal in them getting out of the cell block. But that was just chance. A fluke. Fortune had been smiling down upon them, for whatever reason. The Human obviously had no military discipline, despite his rank of Commander. How would he hold up to the stress of conflict? Despite her mistrust, she knew without fear of error that the Luxan would fight to the bitter end. But this Human? He was just a big uncertainty.
Aeryn tried to push such thoughts out of her head, but they flew back to her. What was she doing? She was helping the enemy escape. Perhaps if she signaled Crais, then all would be as it was before. Yes. It was not too late. She began the startup sequence of the Prowler. But the Human apparently had been watching every move she made on the control panel.
"What are you doing?"
"What does it look like? I'm getting us out of here. We've waited long enough."
"Maybe we should wait a little longer. Wait a minute, how long is an arn, anyway?"
"Look, do you want to live?"
There was a long pause.
"Yes, but I don't think I'd last very long in a Peacekeeper prison, what with that guy Crais ready to dissect me on some experiment table."
"What? Does your species have psychic abilities too?"
"No, Aeryn, but it doesn't take a genius to see how loyal you must have been to Crais and the other Peacekeepers. Right now you'd do anything to get back to them. I can't force you to take me back to the prison ship. Besides, without Mr. Testosterone out there, I doubt they'd let either of us on board, anyway."
Aeryn felt as if he'd just struck her, but she tried not to show it. "You know, Human, you make a lot of assumptions about people you've only just..."
There was a sudden warning light flash on the Prowler's control panel.
"What's the matter?" When she didn't answer for several seconds, he repeated the question even more loudly.
"Look, I heard you the first time. You see that light? That's a warning beacon. It means someone without the proper authorization is trying to pilot the craft. While it's activated, none of the ship's vital systems will operate. Propulsion, weapons, life support. They're all out."
"I thought this was your ship."
"When the Peacekeeper's repossessed it, obviously they deleted my access."
The Human appeared to be thinking. "Can you hotwire it?"
"Ummm...never mind, it would take too long to explain. What can we do?"
For a second, she was about to spit his question back in his face. But then she remembered that if he was a Tek, he certainly didn't know anything about Peacekeeper technology.
"Is there any way we can get a fake access?"
Perhaps she had been too quick to judge this Human. "No, but you've given me an idea."
The canopy slid back and Aeryn prepared to vault over the side to the floor. Upon seeing the Human rise, though, she pushed him back down into his seat.
"Now wait a damn minute. You are not leaving me alone in this....this....thing."
"Look, it's better to risk one of us than both of us. Besides, you'd be of no help to me. You see the button there in the center panel? That will close the canopy and lock the door, okay? You see the red buttons on the flight yoke? Don't touch them. They activate the Prowler's pulse lasers and in this cargo bay there's no telling what you might hit."
"I thought you said that none of the ship's independent systems would function. The weapons shouldn't fire."
"No, they shouldn't...If the Luxan returns, tell him to wait." Aeryn turned toward the same corridor into which D'Argo had disappeared.
"Yeah right," the Human called after her, but she pretended to ignore him. "Where the hell are we supposed to go?"
D'Argo had never heard a silence so loud before. As he pressed through the crowded confines of the corridor, he could feel the anticipation of a confrontation growing. A confrontation with the Peacekeepers.
It had been long enough in the coming. For eight humiliating cycles he had been a guest aboard their prison transports. For eight cycles he had been the unwilling recipient of their attentions and hospitality. He had suffered, but he had endured. He was alive. And he wished to go on living. But he was a Luxan warrior, and the Peacekeepers still had a part of him prisoner. He carried no weapons, a situation he would soon be rectifying. His Qualta Blade was somewhere in this compound and he was not leaving until he found it. He would just as soon be without an arm or a leg than to leave his treasured weapon behind.
He thought of the female Peacekeeper he had helped liberate. She had already scoffed his sense of honor and his need for vengeance against Crais. What would she have thought if he had told her that his plan was merely to find his blade? He would no more expect her to understand that he would the Human.
The Human. It was hard to remember that this 'Crichton' was not a Peacekeeper. But what was he? A scientist, with a military rank? How effective a fighting force could that possibly be? Although he apparently was not afraid to take risks...their escape from the prison block was evident enough of that. But his scientific skills had yet to be put to the test. What was the name of that planet he was supposedly from? "Earth?" He snorted, but under his breath. With that kind of ingenuity, he wouldn't be surprised to learn that they also called their stellar primary "Fire."
So, this Human was an uncertainty. The Peacekeeper? An obvious threat. Why had the Human insisted she come along? The chances of her sabotaging their escape was too high. But still, he had given his word. He would not renege. The Hynerian was such a non-entity and his potential as a threat was equally nonexistent. The little slug was at best annoying. Although he was devious and self-serving, thus far those traits had been put to good use in the fugitives' escape. He would have to keep an eye on the little worm to make sure he didn't get the lot of them into serious trouble.
Like the Human, the Pilot was an uncertainty. Thus far he had helped them escape, but what were his true motivations? Certainly Moya's enslavement to the Peacekeepers was one of the things affecting his loyalty up to this point. But his responsibility of maintaining the ship on which all of them lived and breathed gave him an advantage over the rest of them the Luxan found disconcerting.
And then there was the Delvian. She was...distracting. Perhaps it was best not to think about her. And not only was she a Delvian; she was also a priest. Hers was a sect of peace-lovers, where he had chosen to live a life of war. But she had claimed to have been an anarchist. And by its own definition, anarchists were unpredictable creatures. What hidden secrets lay beneath the calm exterior? Beneath the explicitly female and undeniably beautiful exterior? Again...maybe it was best not to think about such things.
Besides, he had much bigger problems to worry about. He had almost reached his destination. Carefully, he crept back into the cellblock and to the small, locked alcove into which they had stashed their restrained captors. Time was of the essence, and he had not thought to bring the key they had confiscated. He ploughed through the locked door, his shoulder bearing the brunt of the collision. The two gagged Peacekeepers looked up at the raging Luxan, eyes wide with terror.
D'Argo grabbed the nearest one and held him aloft, staring into his eyes. "Where is my blade? Tell me where my possessions are, or you will die. It is as simple as that." With his other hand D'Argo grabbed the gag around the man's face and pulled. He could have snapped the man's neck, but fortunately didn't. "B-b-back th-that way. At the security checkpoint." The man stammered. His fear was almost tangible. "If it hasn't already been taken b-back to Crais's ship."
"You!" D'Argo turned to the other, prone captive and bellowed, "Is he telling the truth?" The Peacekeeper responded by nodding his head furiously.
The Luxan's furious gaze returned to his vertical captive. "Thank you."
With a flick of the tongue, the man was unconscious once more. D'Argo heaved the limp man onto his companion. He wasn't sure if the other had also lost consciousness, and didn't much care. Time was quickly slipping away. The Peacekeeper would be insisting to the Human about now that it was time to leave, if they hadn't left already. He regretted his haste in breaking down the door. If someone came across it now, the alarm would be sounded and it would be all over. But he was already racing down the corridor toward the security station. When he got there, however, he froze instantly at what he found.
Inside the room were four individuals, all Peacekeepers. One of them was the female he had left back at the Prowler. What was she doing? At first, he thought that maybe she had betrayed them, but then he realized that one of the guards was training a weapon on her. Another seemed to be in possession of the pulse rifle they had appropriated from the Peacekeeper guard waylaid near the cargo hangar. The last appeared to be a Tek typing furiously on a computer console.
There was barely time to think. D'Argo summoned his rage by focusing on the most annoying thing he could think of, in this case, the Hynerian. He mustered all his speed and sprang into the room, heading for the nearest armed Peacekeeper, hoping-no, praying-that the element of surprise would give him the advantage.
The look of shock on the Peacekeeper's face told him he had succeeded. If he could have, he would have tackled both of the Peacekeeper guards. As it stood, they were simply standing too far apart to take both of them out with one charge. He could only hope that the female Peacekeeper could take out the other before he was shot in the back.
When he arose, he saw that she had managed to wrest control of the pulse rifle away from the remaining guard. The Tek had backed himself up into the corner, unwilling to put up anything that even resembled a fight.
"What are you doing here?" She demanded.
D'Argo snorted, disgusted with her ingratitude. "Rescuing you, it would seem. What are you doing here?"
"They cut off my security access to the Prowler. It was necessary to persuade them to reinstate it. Even you could operate it now, assuming you knew how."
He ignored the insult. "So, do we kill them, or risk them being able to reinstate it again once we get out of here?" D'Argo surveyed the room, and spotted his Qualta Blade lying on a table in one corner of the room. He casually went over and picked it up, inspecting it carefully for damage or tampering.
"Oh, it will take them several arns to fix the system. In addition to reinstating my clearance, I had the Tek corrupt the data banks. That's when the guards took me by surprise." She looked at him quizzically. "Don't tell me that's why you came here?" She asked, in reference to his blade.
D'Argo walked over to the console at which the Tek had been working. In one fluid motion, he raised his blade high into the air and brought it down, skewering the device amidst an explosion of sparks. As a final insult, he turned the blade sharply, wrenching the innards of the apparatus. With his great strength he effortlessly slid his blade out and upward. "Now, perhaps it will take days for them to repair the system instead of arns." He looked at her sternly. "And yes, that is why I came here."
The Peacekeeper looked disgusted, but D'Argo expected it. "So what do we do with them?" Aeryn asked.
With another flick of the tongue, half of their remaining problem was over. A simple look at the quivering Tek was enough to send him unconscious to the floor.
"Let's get going." D'Argo said to the Peacekeeper, indicating the corridor back to the cargo hangar. She proceeded without so much of a glance until they were well past the cell block.
"Why what," he responded.
"Why did you bother risking your life to save me back there? You could just have easily left me to rot. You know I would not have been so charitable."
"I know, but I made a bargain. I promised the Human that I would take you back to the ship. Once that happens, the slate is clean. Now keep moving." For a second D'Argo almost felt like smiling. He had totally confounded the Peacekeeper. She had no understanding of anything beyond following orders. She had been born and bred to serve. Her training allowed for no other accommodations. The Human may have been deluding himself to think that she could ever be anything more than what she was at that moment.
Aeryn stopped at the entranceway to the flight hangar. D'Argo cringed. The Prowler was swarming with Peacekeeper guards, nearly a dozen in all.
"Where is the Human?"
"He's locked himself in the Prowler. I don't think they know he's in there."
D'Argo's gaze shifted frantically from guard to guard. "So what do we do?"
Aeryn thought for a minute and then turned to her companion. "Simple. We give ourselves up."
But it was too late, as Aeryn stepped out of the corridor into the hangar. Instantly, a half dozen of the Peacekeeper guards had spotted her and had their weapons trained on her. She took a few steps closer to the Prowler, then lay her pulse rifle down on the ground. With a glance she turned back toward the corridor, betraying the Luxan's position.
D'Argo snarled, not knowing if it was the female or the guards at which he should vent his rage. He followed her out into the hangar. What was she doing? She began bellowing her rank and regiment identification to the Peacekeepers. How was that going to help them?
"Officer Aeryn Sun. Special Peacekeeper Commando. Icarian Company. Pleisar Regiment....If you surrender now, I promise not to open fire."
The Peacekeepers just laughed, but D'Argo found nothing humorous or logical about the situation, at least until a sudden flicker of motion caught D'Argo's keen gaze. It was Crichton, poking his head into view inside the Prowler canopy. Their gazes met for a second, and then he disappeared back down into the Prowler's cockpit. What was going on?
Suddenly, the unmistakable sound of a pulse cannon preparing to fire permeated the cargo bay. The electrical buildup caused the deck plating to vibrate with a metallic hum.
"I suggest you get down." The Peacekeeper stated matter-of-factly. She immediately dropped into a crouching position. D'Argo just looked down at her for a moment and began dropping to his own knees.
The explosion ripped out most of the back wall of the cargo bay, destroying not only it but also whatever it was that happened to be on the other side. Instantly, the two fugitives were up and running toward the Prowler. The majority of the Peacekeeper guards had been thrown to the ground by the force of the explosion. Those that weren't were apparently too disoriented to fire at them...with any accuracy, anyway.
The canopy hatch slid open and they climbed in, Aeryn sliding comfortably into the flight chair.
"Can we please get the hell out of here?" The Human stumbled as he tried to shift into the seat behind Aeryn.
"An excellent idea. Do it, now!" D'Argo yelled as he crowded in next to Crichton.
"Preflight sequence beginning," Aeryn started, but then changed her mind as the sound of pulse rifle explosions began hammering the ship. "Sequence skipped. Let's get out of here."
The Prowler accelerated quickly, traversing the hangar in a matter of seconds, and nearly crashing into a cargo crane as well as an arriving ship as they made their hasty departure.
"D'Argo, would it be too much to ask for you to get your elbow out of my face?"
D'Argo ignored the Human, barking at the Peacekeeper instead. "Are we being followed?"
"From the planet? I doubt it," Aeryn responded. "But Crais is out there somewhere in his command carrier with an entire squadron of Prowlers onboard. It's only a matter of time."
D'Argo fumbled with the communication headset, but finding himself unable to get it over his head, merely held it up instead. Finally, they managed to get into communication range of the Leviathan.
"Pilot, prepare to leave orbit as soon as we're on board." D'Argo leaned back in his seat, paying no heed to Crichton's squirming. They had escaped the Peacekeepers only temporarily. Where could they possibly go that the Peacekeepers could not follow? The answer, of course, was nowhere. Crais would follow them to the far side of the galaxy if he thought this Human had killed his brother. Vengeance demanded no less. So the question became instead, what was the best chance they had to avoid the Peacekeepers?
The Prowler glided smoothly into Moya's cargo bay and landed with skilled precision. The three companions practically fell over each other to be the first out of the flying machine.
"We made it," The Human said, falling to his knees as his boots touched down. D'Argo watched the Human with bemused annoyance. What was he doing? Kissing the deckplates?
The Luxan sneered. "Hardly."
"D'Argo's right. We blew up a transport bay. You think that is going to make Crais turn and run? He's probably already on his way here." The Peacekeeper turned to the Luxan. "We need to get out of here, now."
"Agreed," he replied.
The Human struggled to get back up to his feet. "Well, at least we know we work pretty well together."
The Peacekeeper's expression turned to one of incredulity. "You've got to be kidding."
D'Argo turned his back on his companions. There was no time for idle chatter. He had fulfilled his part of the bargain. Besides, he had to get to the command deck and get the ship and the lot of them out of there before the Peacekeepers knew what was happening. His long strides easily distanced himself from the Peacekeeper and the Human.
But something made him stop and look back, if only for moment. While he was certain he would never admit it to anyone, the Human was right. They probably would make a good team, eventually-if they didn't kill each other first.