|"Bringing Home the Beacon"|
The women of Moya get caught up in a dangerous power play between the Peacekeepers and the Scarrans, with torturous results...
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D'Argo, Rygel, John and Scorpius are back on Moya. Rygel is not eating because he's learning the self-discipline that Katoya taught him (see Mental as Anything). He also has no one to cook for, the mention of which prompts John to say he should cook for the girls, since they're due back.
The females, Aeryn, Sikozu, Chiana and Noranti, are on a commerce settlement housed on a Leviathan carcass fused with a planetoid. Aeryn comments that the settlement is unimpressive, but Sikozu says that if they want to camouflage Moya against long-range scans, this is the place. She explains that several outlawed mods are sold there, and the stalls also sell genetic modifications – species blending, with all the documentation to go with it.
The females bump into a man, and Sikozu tells him they want to see Rekka. He feigns ignorance, but Sikozu tells him she knows he's Rekka's negotiator, and she knows they make deals in this place. They're taken to a private table and brought drinks, where Sikozu says they want sensor distorters. After giving her the run around, Noranti sips one of the drinks and says it's poisoned. Aeryn places her gun on the table, and Sikozu says it's such an old trick. The man apologises, and gets Rekka.
Sikozu tells Rekka what they need, and that they want to be made to look like an ore freighter. Chiana suggests a pleasure yacht, so Aeryn asks if they could have a choice of several different energy signatures. Rekka tells them he'll need to see their sensor modulator, and asks if the ladies know what that looks like. Noranti pulls it out, and he recognises it as partly organic – Leviathan. He tells them that the distorter will only hide them as long as they can match the movements of the ship they're imitating. He asks if their Pilot is good enough, and while Aeryn says yes, Sikozu says no at the same time. Rekka tells them it's their problem, and that Leviathans need custom builds, which will take four arns. The asking price is 19 000 krindars. After much bartering, they pay 16 000 - half up-front. The man tells them to meet them at their pod in four arns. Aeryn says it's too long, but the man reminds them that being their deal, it's their rules. They leave. Chiana asks, "Do we trust them?" "Of course not," Sikozu replies, urging Chiana to follow the men.
Aeryn and Sikozu are walking along discussing what to do next, when Aeryn wonders where Noranti has gone. Suddenly they spot Peacekeepers, and hide. "How many?" Sikozu asks. After a quick glance, Aeryn lets her know: "Grayza, Braca, four SSDs". Sikozu is adamant that they couldn't have been followed, and Aeryn agrees, unless someone tipped them off.
Meanwhile, Braca asks Grayza, "You are sure they're coming, ma'am?" "Of course I'm sure. Keep searching," she orders...
Aeryn attempts to comm. Chiana, but the Peacekeepers must be jamming them. Sikozu tells Aeryn they have to stick together, but Aeryn points out that she has one gun, and there are six of them. Noranti has joined them, and Sikozu tells her about the Peacekeepers. Aeryn tells her to find Chiana and warn her. Aeryn then tells Sikozu that they can either follow Grayza and find out what she's up to, or stay out of sight.
Chiana is following the two men from earlier, but they lose her by changing their appearance. She asks a lady at a counter if she saw them, but the lady is not forthcoming. Chiana asks what is in the room behind. "Services. Expensive services," the woman replies. Chiana puts some currency down and says she doesn't mind paying for services, as long as they're worth it.
Aeryn and Sikozu continue to hide, but they hear the sound of an unusual sonic pattern, double-winged. It sounds like a Stryker – the fastest ship in the Scarran fleet. "But what the frell is it doing here?" Aeryn asks. Sikozu looks through an image-enhancer, and tells Aeryn that Grayza seems to recognise the sound, too.
Chiana is getting a kind of alien massage, and says that the reason she is tense is that she was following two Sebacean males, and they came this way and she was hoping the masseuse could help her out. The woman puts pressure on one of Chiana's nerves, which paralyses a Nebari from the neck down. When Chiana mentions Rekka, the woman releases. Chiana again asks for help, so the woman asks if Chiana has any idea what they sell here. "Yeah, genetic modification. Shape changes." The woman tells her that whoever buys a transformation kit also buys confidentiality. Chiana realises that they could have walked straight by her.
As Sikozu and Chiana continue to watch over Grayza, a Scarran female walks out, a member of the ruling caste, along with her entourage of one Scarran male and four Charrid escorts. "One Commander, one adjutant and four warriors," Sikozu asserts. Aeryn points out that it's the same as the other side, which Sikozu mentions implies a meeting. Sikozu tells Aeryn that Grayza clearly isn't interested in them, which provides a perfect opportunity for them to leave. Aeryn disagrees, and says it's the perfect opportunity to stay. "Does this look like an official conference to you?" she asks. "On a remote planet with no Scarran proconsul? No." "Exactly," Aeryn replies, adding that Grayza is most likely exceeding her authority. If they could make High Command privy to that, she'd be relieved and it would get her off their backs. While Sikozu remains doubtful, Aeryn asks her if they've been in a more fortuitous situation to try.
Noranti visits the service centre, and finds Chiana. She is done being serviced, and Noranti drags her away telling her of Grayza and Braca's presence. Chiana attempts to comm. Aeryn, but Noranti tells her they're jammed. As they're about to leave, they spot Peacekeeper commandos at the exit. They return to the service desk and ask to be transformed; well enough to fool a DNA scan. They're told they have to select a species, but they say they're not choosy, and quickly get out of sight.
In the former Pilot's chamber on the fused Leviathan, the Scarran commander is confirming the security of the site, despite Braca's assurances. Aeryn and Sikozu sneak up on one of the tiers to look in. Sikozu uses the image enhancer, which also enhances sound. The Scarran woman is War Minister Ahkna – third in rank in the Scarran fleet. Sikozu continues to listen in, as Grayza reassures Ahkna that she's abided by the terms of the meeting. Grayza tells Ahkna that she'll have to take her word for it, as Ahkna notes that Grayza has been conditioned to resist Scarran mind probing. Grayza asks if she wants to waste any more time testing them. "I dislike wasting time," Ahkna answers, asking why Grayza is here. "As I communicated, I want peace." Ahkna tells her everyone wants piece, and asks what price she is willing to pay to achieve it. "What if I were to offer you the Luxan territories?"
Sikozu relays to Aeryn what she heard, that Grayza is willing to cede all the Luxan worlds to the Scarrans in exchange for peace. "What? She can't mean it. The Peacekeepers and Luxans have a mutual defence pact. Grayza has to be bluffing. She can't fulfil that promise. The Luxans would go to war," Aeryn insists. Sikozu asks how long they would last against the Scarrans without the Peacekeepers. Aeryn says that if that really is Grayza's intention, they have to stop her. "I doubt we could talk her out of it, Aeryn." "I wasn't thinking about talking. I have a gun."
"You would assassinate Grayza?" Sikozu asks. Aeryn replies that Grayza would do the same to them. "Do you have any plan of escape?" Sikozu asks. "Run." "Anything more detailed, Aeryn?" "Run quickly." Sikozu asks what they'll do if they run into more opposition than they can handle. "You have the conversation with D'Argo about why his worlds were obliterated," Aeryn retorts.
Grayza tells Ahkna that, in return for dominion over the Luxan territories, the Scarrans will relinquish all claims to the disputed sectors of the Uncharted Territories. Ahkna says that it's hardly an equitable exchange, but Grayza is quick to point out that the Luxan worlds are wealthy, yet there's little of value in the Uncharted Territories. This arouses Ahkna's suspicions as to why they'd make such an exchange, if that were the case, especially now, as the Luxans are their allies. Grayza tells her that High Command already regrets that decision – Luxans are warriors, not diplomats. They are a liability to the Peacekeeper's peace efforts. "So... You would just abandon them?" Ahkna asks Grayza. "Yes, for the greater good." Grayza adds that they are aware of how long the Scarrans have coveted the Luxans' resources. Ahkna retorts that they are aware of how long the Peacekeepers have coveted all the room the Uncharted Territories would give them.
Grayza tells her that a costly war would be averted, but Ahkna doesn't think Grayza would ever get support from the High Council for such a treaty. Grayza is quick to announce that most of the High Council already supports her; they are ready for a change of leadership. "You... would seize power?" Ahkna asks. "For the great good." Grayza adds that the benefits of this treaty will help speed Ahkna's ascent through the Scarran hierarchy, and asks how long it's been since her last promotion. "Too long," Ahkna answers, "But then, I don't resort to the methods you utilise to advance." Grayza asks if she would leave a weapon unused if she had one in her armoury, out of squeamish good taste. A commando approaches Braca, and tells her they have word of a Nebari in the settlement, her description matching the escapee Chiana.
Braca and the commando go outside, and announce that they're looking for a female Nebari. Chiana and Noranti have just been serviced – Chiana now blue, with sparky red hair, and Noranti looking younger, with black hair and no third eye – and despite standing out of the way, they are noticed by Braca. Chiana tells Noranti that she'll do the talking. She points Braca to a place on Level Three where he'll find any kind of female he could care for. Braca grabs her arm, but Chiana says she's not on the market, and she doesn't even like me. She and Noranti snuggle up, while Braca does DNA scans on the pair of them. They both pass, and Braca asks Noranti if' she's seen her. She says she wouldn't even know one if she saw one, so Braca describes her. "Grey girl. Thin. Young." "Good looking?" Chiana asks. "Mmm," is Braca's response. He leaves, and Noranti tells Chiana she thought they did rather well, and Chiana bites Noranti's ear.
Sikozu tells Aeryn that they're still arguing about how to carve up the Uncharted Territories. Grayza asks if they have an agreement, but Ahkna wants to talk about disarmament. Grayza says she is not prepared to discuss weapons at the moment – only territory. Ahkna says that is unsatisfactory, since the Peacekeepers claim superiority. "We do more than claim!" Grayza exclaims. "Yet you will not even talk about arms reduction?" Grayza says they are prepared to coexist in peace, but they will not make themselves vulnerable. Ahkna states that there are some in their Hierarchy that believe the Peacekeepers are already vulnerable, and that their claims are exaggerated. She suggests that perhaps the destruction of their Dreadnought (see Icarus Abides) was an experiment they have been unable to repeat, or perhaps it wasn't they who did it. She asks, "If this is so, why should we settle for peace?" "Because you would lose a war," Grayza retorts.
Sikozu tells Aeryn of Ahkna's suspicions. Aeryn says that the fear of wormhole weapons is the only thing stopping the Scarrans from invading Peacekeeper space, and everyone's frelled if they stop thinking Peacekeepers have them. Sikozu looks back, and sees Ahkna looking over a document that Grayza is making out. "OK. It's time to intervene," Aeryn says. As she reaches for her gun, they hear a commando searching for intruders.
Ahkna prepares to sign the treaty, and calls Pennoch to bear witness, as Sikozu takes out the commando. Grayza and Ahkna both sign the treaty. Aeryn can't get a clear shot, when Braca returns. He tells Grayza that there was no intruder. She tells him this was an historic day. Ahkna calls on Pennoch, who kills a commando and attacks Braca.
Grayza tells Ahkna that this is an act of war, and she is a fool. Ahkna retorts that Grayza will not be missed, they merely want to talk in much more detailed terms about their wormhole capabilities. "You already know that you'll learn nothing," Grayza says, but Ahkna tells her not here, their facilities are so much better on Katratzi. Sikozu asks Aeryn what will happen when they learn the truth about wormhole weapons, but Aeryn says they can't let them...
Sikozu and Aeryn go outside, and are joined by Chiana and Noranti. As Ahkna is taking everyone to their ship, Aeryn signals Sikozu to follow them. Aeryn tells Chiana to get the modulator and meet them back at the pod. She then tells Noranti that they're low on weapons, but Noranti has none. She does have something that is very powerful, but has never tried it on Scarrans or Charrids.
Grayza is locked in a pod, and tells Ahkna this blunder will cost her dearly. Braca tells her that their wormhole weapons will decimate the Scarrans, but Pennoch is quick to attack him before he can continue. He asks Ahkna if Braca is needed, and she says he is. He asks if, when Braca no longer has a use, he can be the one to kill him. Ahkna agrees, and tells him to summon the Dreadnought to the rendezvous point.
Noranti continues to prepare the spoors, when Sikozu runs in, telling Aeryn they took Braca and Grayza to Bay Nine, but the ship is still powered down. Two Charrids came out after she did, and are heading this way. They duck out of sight, and Aeryn draws her gun, but Noranti gets up and tells one of the Charrids she knows who they're looking for. She pretends to sneeze, but blows some spores in his face. She tells him a Peacekeeper is right behind him, but it's actually the other Charrid. They shoot each other, which gives Aeryn and Sikozu the idea of dressing up.
Dressed as Charrids, the pair bring in Noranti to Bay Nine, and shoot the Charrid that is guarding Grayza and Braca. Meanwhile, Chiana is attacked on the pod by the men who sold them the part.
Grayza tells Aeryn she did excellent work, but Aeryn says for the Luxan treaty alone, she will kill them both. "Alive, I can repudiate that treaty," Grayza says. "But you proposed it, and you signed it," Aeryn replies. Grayza states that if the Scarrans hadn't betrayed her, she'd have stood by it, and they could have lived in peace. She asks Aeryn how they'll get past the Command Carrier in orbit without her. Aeryn tells Sikozu that if she's not back at the pod in half an arn, to go without her. Sikozu and Noranti escort them away, as Aeryn kills the last Charrid and attacks Pennoch.
Grayza and Braca, tied together, tell Sikozu that Aeryn is as good as dead, but Sikozu is insistent that she will survive. Grayza and Braca continue their war of words, and when Sikozu looks away, Braca knocks both Noranti and Sikozu unconscious, and he and Grayza run to the Marauder.
Chiana asks the men why they knocked her out, but they are not convinced it is really her, thinking she's a trespasser. Meanwhile, Sikozu wakes up, and gets Noranti. Chiana tells them she was genetically transformed, and she kisses the man. He confirms it is her, because they didn't transform her tongue. They hand over the modulator, with the sensor distorter installed, and tell her to plug it in and their pilot will feel his options. Taking the rest of their payment, they leave, as Sikozu and Noranti return to the pod. Sikozu says they'll wait half an arn for Aeryn, like she said, and if the Scarrans get to the pod first, they'll leave immediately, because Aeryn is as good as dead.
Sikozu and Chiana begin to argue, but Aeryn returns. She runs on and sits down, and they make haste.
Back on Moya, Pilot tells them the transport has signalled its return, but there is a Scarran warship pursuing them. As soon as the pod is docked, they starburst.
D'Argo is sniffing Chiana, since changing her genetics changed her scent. He tells her that prefers the "elegant grey." Rygel tells Noranti she paid too much, then begs her took cook for him.
John tells Aeryn it's not her fault, but Aeryn is annoyed that they had Grayza and let her go. Aeryn tells him that the Scarrans must be dead set on war, since they didn't go for Grayza's proposal. As they discuss what to lose sleep over, Moya exits starburst.
Pilot informs the crew that the Scarran warship is still in pursuit at the edge of Moya's sensors. D'Argo and John surmise that it must be a beacon, but Pilot doesn't detect anything. Chiana has yet to find anything in the pod, and Scorpius confirms there is nothing in the distorter. They switch to check from hardware to software, and Aeryn suggests to John that it could be Sikozu, since they were separated. "I did not betray you," Sikozu replies adamantly. A DRD checks all the ladies, and detect nothing. Scorpius says a tier-by-tier search would be the next step, but there's no time for that.
Moya is unable to starburst again yet, and the distorter is not ready yet. Aeryn asks how long they have before the warship can identify them – perhaps 200 microts. Noranti says that no one is chasing Moya and Pilot, so it might be better to just leave them. John asks Aeryn if they're going to bail, but then asks, "What about the baby?" Aeryn is stumped, so John asks where the beacon is. "We don't know," she says. John pulls his gun on her and asks where the beacon is. He repeats himself, interchanging the words beacon and baby. Aeryn is confused, and John asks her to say "baby," and spell it. Aeryn can't, so John asks, "Where's Aeryn, Aeryn?" She reaches for her gun, so John shoots her in the face, revealing that she is a bioloid; a cross between a robot and a person.
Scorpius has temporarily patched the distorter, so Sikozu tells Pilot to imitate a Scarran ore freighter and to mimic its movements. The Scarran warship signals them, and Scorpius recognises it as the mother tongue. Sikozu replies to them, and the warship leaves. She tells D'Argo that she told them they saw a Leviathan pass by a moment ago, and thanked them for scaring it away. John kneels down before the body of bioloid Aeryn.
Sikozu finds the homing device in what's left of its neural processor. She comments that the device confining Grayza was not meant to transport her.
"No," Scorpius chimes in, "It replicates living flesh. We've known about it for some time, but never encountered the result."
"Effective technique," D'Argo says, "No rescue attempt, while they're at their leisure to torture Grayza."
"And now," Chiana adds, "Her duplicate spies on the Peacekeepers."
"Then why did they take Aeryn?" Noranti asks.
"I got away..." Sikozu comments, visibly distressed. "She got caught."
"Maybe they thought this... creature would bring back Grayza," Noranti suggests.
"Or Crichton," Scorpius remarks.
"Sikozu," D'Argo says, wanting a moment alone. She leaves Command. "You OK?" he asks John.
"No," John answers.
"You know, it's not Aeryn."
"It was never Aeryn."
"We're not going to give up on her, John. Sikozu said the Scarrans are taking Grayza to a place called Katratzi. Maybe that's where Aeryn is now."
"She could be anywhere out there."
"But we're not going to let her go. I give you my word."
With that said, D'Argo leaves John to mull over bioloid Aeryn's body.
Synopsis by Dani Moure
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