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Sacrifices, Part 3: Obstacles
by Dustinian, E-mail: dustinianc@hotmail.com

About Sacrifices, Part 3: Obstacles

Disclaimer: None of the Farscape characters belong to me. I'm making no money from this story.

Rating: PG

Summary: An injured John Crichton may be the only one that can save the ship. High adventure, a few John / Aeryn moments, original villains, and a few laughs add up to a Farscape Fan-Fic I'm pretty proud of.

Click here to read Part 1.

Click here to read Part 2.


Gray's lips curled back in triumph as she stepped into Moya's mess hall. "There are no others aboard, Prime. The ship is ours."

Raine allowed himself a low rumble of satisfaction. "Excellent, Gray. Once we've taken control of the ship, we'll all be rich."

As Aeryn went over to sit by D'Argo on the floor, he threw her a questioning look. "What about Crichton?" he was asking with his eyes. She gave him a blank look, telling him she didn't know where Crichton was.

D'Argo's lips turned up very slightly into a smile and a new glint appeared in his eyes, a vicious one. The expression was gone in a moment, replaced by a mask of Luxan stoicism.

-=<>=-

"Alright, Pilot. Help me out here. What's going on?"

"One moment, John."

Crichton rolled his eyes and glanced around. He was wedged firmly in some cramped, dark, wet, smell duct. Every time he inhaled, flames of pain washed through his chest. He couldn't tell if the pain was from his body knitting itself back together, or if he was just ripping it apart again with all this crawling around.

He could see light just ahead, and knew he wasn't far from one of Moya's main corridors. Pilot had been guiding him, slowly but surely, through the innards of the ship.

They had to get John out from the more delicate portions of Moya's anatomy, and soon. She had to cut off and restart functions as he passed through those portions of her. If she was to resume normal operations, he had to get back to the part of her meant for inhabitation.

Pilot had managed to seal off Moya's Hanger from the intruders. Hopefully, once John made his way there they'd be able to figure out something, a plan of attack. Don't worry about that yet, John, he told himself. First get out of Moya's entrails. "Hurry up, Pilot. It stinks in here."

"Moya apologizes for the odor, John. She says she never expected visitors in the parts of her you've been making your way through."

John couldn't help but grin a little at that. "Tell her it's alright, Pilot. I'm sorry to embarrass her and I didn't mean to offend her."

"She knows. She likes you, too. Your path is clear. You may proceed."

"Thank you!" John started forward again, pulling his way through the tunnel with his elbows, feeling his shoulders brush the top of the small chamber. He grunted as he spoke. "Almost there, Pilot."

John reached the lip of the tunnel, and looked out into the hanger bay. "Alright. Pilot, can you open this grate?"

"Surely."

The grate slid open, and John pulled himself through, landing heavily on the floor. "Oh man. Finally."

"Moya expresses much the same sentiment."

Crichton smiled and pulled himself all right. He glanced around the Hanger. "Alright, what now?"

"I don't know. I really don't see how you and I are going to save the others."

John was looking around for something--anything--to spark an idea. "Come on, you gotta have faith, Pilot." His eyes fell on one of the DRD's in the corner. "Say... Pilot, do you think you could give me control of a DRD?"

-=<>=-

Runt was eyeing his Scanner intensely. "This can't be right."

Zhaan was sitting on the floor as Runt had directed her, watching him work. He was working inside a panel just outside the closed and sealed door to command. She supposed he was trying to figure out a way to open the door. "What isn't right?"

Runt was startled. Unlike other Elvkish, his true love was science. He loved to puzzle his way through building and repairing machines, fixing computers, decoding ancient languages and modern day ciphers. He often became so absorbed in them that he blocked out all else. He'd forgotten Zhaan was there. "Shut-up, Prisoner!" Runt did his best to sound fierce. "I'm busy, I don't need to hear your mewing!"

Zhaan kept a smile off her face as she nodded. This one wasn't like the others, she knew. The others were predators without hearts. Fierce bounty hunters with no thought to mercy.

This one only pretended to be one of them. He was driven by more than bloodlust and greed. He was driven by curiosity... "I didn't mean to distract you."

Runt bared his teeth, imitating his uncle. "Then stop talking and let me work!"

Zhaan sighed inwardly. This one wanted so much to be like the others. Maybe she'd just give him a taste of what he thought he wanted... She cowered and buried her face into arms, doubling over. "Please, you're scaring me!" She put just the right amount of tremor into her voice.

Before he could stop himself, Runt was apologizing. "Ah, Look, I'm sorry. Just don't cry, all right. There's no reason to be afraid." As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he regretted them.

Zhaan let out a louder sob. "No reason to be afraid? You're going to turn us over to the Peace Keepers... we're escaped prisoners, we'll be killed."

Runt's heart went out to the crying Delvian before him, but he couldn't let himself be swayed. He steeled himself. "You shouldn't have committed your crime in the first place."

"I know!" She was wracked by sobs again. "But I'm just so afraid..."

Runt leaned down and put his hand on her shoulder. "I can't help you. I'm just a bounty hunter. If I come after you, then ultimately you brought it on yourself. But... remember, even if you can't choose what fate you meet, you can choose how you meet it."

Zhaan hid the triumphant look that passed through her eyes by wiping them with her hands. She had him talking now! Maybe he could be reasoned with... She smiled a little at him, acting as though it were a great effort. "You're right. Crying won't change anything."

Runt stood and nodded firmly, agreeing with her assessment and glad that she seemed to have pulled herself together. He turned back to his work in the panel.

Zhaan carefully pitched her words. She wanted to sound like a scared, innocent female. "So do you know what will happen to us?"

Runt shrugged and glanced over his shoulder. "No. Not my business."

She paused and cocked her head to one side. "What is your business?"

He grunted as he reached for something deep in the panel. "Finding fugitives from justice."

"From the law, you mean?"

He'd stuck his head in the panel, so his voice echoed out of the wall. "Sometimes from the law. Sometimes from justice. It all depends."

"So why do you do it?"

Not seeming to hear her, he pulled his head out of the panel and examined it one more time before making a satisfied grunting sound. He pulled out a small piece of plastic and tapped a corner of it. "Uncle, I've found the nerves that control the doors. I've numbed them. The Leviathan cannot seal us off and deprive us of oxygen without depressurizing the whole ship and killing the prey."

There was a moment before the reply came. "Is the door to command open yet?"

"No, Uncle."

"Notify me when it is."

Runt sighed. "Yes, Uncle." He shook his head. No one ever appreciated his efforts.

-=<>=-

Raine slid his CommLink back into it's pouch. He fixed Villem and Namreh with a look. "We can move freely about the ship now. Split up and do some scouting. Find food."

The two large Elvkish nodded and left.

"What about me?"

Raine watched Gray for a moment. "Stay here. Help me keep an eye on them." He gestured to Aeryn, D'Argo, and Rygel, bound in the corner. "There is precious little we can do until we secure the ship's command center. Then we can contact the Peace Keepers and let them know we're on the way with their prey."

Gray slid into a seat near Raine, contriving the motion very carefully. She was no fool, she knew very well what Raine wanted from her--what all male Elvkish had wanted from her since her first heat. She'd cultivated both her charm and her ferocity over the years. She knew how to use both to her advantage.

Raine's eyes never left her. She stared back at him, suddenly aware that this was a dangerous game to play. Raine wasn't like other Elvkish. He wasn't so easily tempted or distracted, and he was more ferocious than Gray herself.

She knew she could probably become his mate quite easily. No doubt she could live out her life in comfort if she chose to remain by his side. The two of them might be more powerful together than any other hunter pack on Elvkish. That was something worth thinking about.

But at the same time, Gray desired more. She wanted power for herself. She wanted to climb to the top, tooth and claw, on her own. Using Raine as a rung would take more cunning and cruelty than she'd ever mustered before. It would be an interesting challenge...

"Gray, when the next season comes, I would have you as my mate."

Gray blinked to cover her surprise. She hadn't expected Raine to be so direct. The power, the confidence he projected had an effect on her. Yes, this was a game she might even enjoy. "Prime honors me." She bowed her head very slightly.

Raine shrugged, indifferent. "It is neither an honor nor an order. It is a request." Raine flicked his claws out and absently raked them across his tunic, as though cleaning them. "Think it over, for a commitment to me is a commitment for life."

He dismissed her to the other side of the room with a flick of his head. He watched her muscles play under her fur as she stood to take a chair nearer the prisoners. He wondered briefly what decision she'd come to. Despite what he'd said, such a request from one like him was an honor and she could hardly refuse it. Yet she had ambitions of her own.

Perhaps she means to betray me? Ah well, no matter. Let her tax herself worrying about it. I'll simply be ready for whatever happens when the time comes. He turned his attention onto the doorway, wondering when Villem or Namreh would be back with food.

-=<>=-

Villem was by no means the brightest Elvkish in the universe. He was slow witted and slow moving; but he was as steady as a rock. Villem knew he wasn't very smart, but he also knew that Raine treated him fairly. Villem's wants were few--regular meals, a comfortable sleeping mat, and the occasional female. Raine took care of that.

Raine had never given him anything less than fresh meat, and the females were always attractive. Other employers, who thought Villem dumber than he was, had left him the oldest meat--sometimes even cooked--and the shaggiest females, the ones with dull coats that dug in the dirt all day.

But Raine gave him the best, and so Villem was always more than happy to take his orders. Which is exactly why he was growling a tune to himself as he did Raine's bidding and looked for food. This ship probably only had those little flavorless lumps of food, but in the field, food was food. Besides, Raine would have him a fresh kill waiting when they got home.

Villem felt his stomach rumble. Most Elvkish hunters got hungry right after the pounce. It was a trait left over from their earliest ancestors. But even his hunger was forgotten when he saw the curious little yellow box skittering and racing toward him.

It stopped abruptly a few paw-lengths from his feet. Villem, like some oversized child, couldn't help himself. He squatted down to investigate the little bugger. Two eyestalks seemed to focus on him. He extended his hand slowly to poke the thing.

It backed away a little. Villem stretched his arm out a bit further to reach it. It backed away again. As Villem stretched towards it, he knew he would lose his balance if he went much farther so he started to back off a bit.

Just at that moment, the thing pounced toward him, poking him with some little silver stick. There was a flash and Villem let out a yowl of pain. That little thing had shocked him! He drew his hand backed and waved it in the air, trying desperately to stop the tingling feeling.

He let out a roar and chased off after the thing, which was already halfway down the hall. Villem was mad now, and nothing was going to stop him from catching that little yellow machine and bashing it against the wall until it never shocked anything again!

Villem dashed headlong from corridor to corridor, far beyond keeping track of where he was. He was blind with rage. Soon, there was a large door up ahead and the little yellow devil disappeared into it. Villem burst through the doorway and turned wildly, searching for it.

Villem's rage dissipated just as quickly as it flared when he heard a distinctive whining noise behind him. The sound of a capacitor charging--like in an energy weapon. Villem turned slowly. He barely had time to recognize the Peace Keeper Prowler before the shot took him in the chest, sending him sailing through the air.

He landed like a sack of potatoes, already nothing but dead weight.

-=<>=-

John powered down the Prowler and closed his eyes. He'd taken a life. He screwed his eyes shut as tightly as he could and focused on breathing. He had to keep a level head. He had to save Aeryn and the others.

Pilot was solemn as well. "I'd congratulate you on your aim, Crichton, but..."

John nodded. "I understand. At least it worked." He and Pilot had rigged up a DRD to take commands from some of the controls in Aeryn's prowler. Just a few wires crossed here and there and a little ingenuity had done the trick.

The guns on the Prowler were the only weapons he'd had access to. Thank God the trick had worked like a charm.

Crichton started to struggle free of the harness and work his way out of the ship. "Pilot, seal that door back." The hangar door started to slide down and it close completely about the time John made it to the deck.

He pulled himself upright and stumbled over to the creature he'd slain. At least he could walk now--sort of. His injuries really were healing fast. He was going to have to do something special for Zhaan when they were through this--something way more special than a new robe.

John made it to the body and looked it over. It was still smoking and the acrid smell of burnt fur was strong. "He looks like a big Werewolf." He reached out and turned the thing over.

"That rifle is huge. There's no way I can lift that thing." He looked the thing over, hoping to find something smaller.

A sidearm! John grabbed the thing off the creature's hip. He was armed now. What else was there? He patted the tunic down. He found only a few odd-looking coins and a few teeth that looked like they'd come off something nasty. "What does this leave? Four?"

"Affirmative, John."

Crichton sighed to himself. "One down, four to go." He shook his head. Now what was he going to do with this body?

-=<>=-

"By the stars! That should have worked."

Zhaan smiled a little. "Pilot is very clever."

Runt grunted as he rethought the "circuits" that he'd rerouted. "He must be. I'm not even sure how this mechanism works. It keeps changing on me."

"You're enjoying this?"

He flashed a smile her way. "It's difficult. The solution will be satisfying."

Understanding dawned on her. "Like a good hunt?"

"Yes, that's it exactly." He started working with his tools again, having settled on another plan of action.

"So why don't you just hunt."

He paused for a moment, and then went back to work. He didn't want to tell her that he'd never really had the stomach for hunts. Killing unsuspecting creatures just didn't satisfy him. It was a challenge... but the payoff wasn't worth it. He didn't feel he'd conquered his prey like other Elvkish. He just felt he'd killed it. "Just don't."

"Isn't hunting important to your people?"

"I suppose."

"But you don't enjoy it, do you."

He sighed and sifted through his tools a moment. "No, I don't.

She frowned in thought, as though she was trying to understand him. In truth she already understood him perfectly. Now if she could get him to understand himself... "Why not?" She phrased the question very innocently.

Runt narrowed his eyes as he found the right tool and set to work on the panel again. This Delvian asked a lot of questions. These were things he'd never tell any other Elvkish. There was something about her, though... Besides, whom was she going to tell? "I just don't. It makes no difference to me if a simple Rantha or Gric'ta lives or dies, so why not let it live?"

She nodded, agreeing with him. "But then, why do other Elvkish kill them?"

"They enjoy the kill." He dropped his tool and bent to pick it up.

"But you don't?"

He turned his full attention on her, looking in her eyes. He'd expected to find ridicule in them, as he'd found all his life in the eyes of other Elvkish. Instead, he found innocence and curiosity. She wasn't condemning him. "No, I don't."

"Is that why you're a bounty hunter? You enjoy the kill when you're hunting something more... difficult? More of a challenge...?"

He hesitated. "Well... no."

Zhaan kept from beaming. I've got him, now! "But you enjoy working on Moya, trying to work out her systems?"

He frowned and nodded slowly, his work forgotten, wondering what she was driving at.

"So why are you a bounty hunter?"

He shrugged. "My Uncle is. Lots of other important Elvkish are. I'm a good warrior, even if I'm not the biggest, even if I don't really enjoy it. It's as good a way to live as any."

"Why don't you become a scientist? Or a tech?"

He laughed. "No Elvkish is either. We hire others for that."

"But you don't like that, do you? You wish you could be more than your people."

He nodded. This Delvian was voicing thoughts that had been rolling through his mind for years now, but that he'd never had the courage to actually consider. "My people are... primitive."

"You could show them. You could teach them."

He laughed again and returned to his work. "They wouldn't listen to me. They only respect brutality."

She nodded understandingly. "Yes, most warriors do feel that brutality is their strongest tool. But... cunning often defeats brutality."

He stopped working again. "Yes. It does." He looked down at the floor thinking to himself.

"What better goal could a warrior have than to better his people?"

His eyes sought hers and she could see the thoughts racing through them.

-=<>=-

Namreh was happy. He'd found food. He'd even eaten a little, sating his hunger. Now he had to find that idiot, Villem, and report back to Raine.

Where was Villem, anyway? He'd probably gotten sidetracked by something his feeble mind would consider interesting. "Villem! Where are you?"

He stopped and listened for a moment. Nothing. Namreh sighed and kept walking. He was starting to understand the layout of this ship. A good thing, too, or he'd have been easily lost. All these corridors looked so much alike.

Namreh hoped Runt would get control of this ship soon. They could starburst to Peace Keeper space and be back home much richer in no time. Namreh already knew how his share of the bounty was being spent. He was going to get a ship of his own and a few weapons.

He was going to strike out on his own and take a few small contracts a single hunter could handle. In time he'd have his own band of hunters, like Raine. He knew Raine would toss a few small contracts his way when he started out. Namreh also knew that he'd take those contracts at just under standard pay. It was tradition.

"Villem! Are you around? I found food!" Namreh caught sight of a shadow just up ahead. "Villem! Come here!" The shadow didn't move. Namreh shook his head. No doubt Villem was absorbed in a particularly interesting bulkhead or the like. He headed toward the larger Elvkish.

"Villem, Food. Come on back." He stopped just short of Villem. Villem was leaning against the wall oddly... and he smelled of blood, Elvkish blood.

Namreh spun as there was a small clicking sound behind him, but was too late. Crichton's shot took him through the skull. The lifeless body stood a moment, as though it couldn't accept that it was dead, and then crumpled to the deck.

John sat down heavily, tired from the exertion. "Two down, three to go." He looked the body over. He didn't think he'd get anything more useful than a gun, and he already had one of those. Still, a second couldn't hurt.

He slid himself over next to it and pulled the gun out of its holster. He checked the charge on the weapon and stuck it in his belt. "We were lucky to catch these two alone."

Pilot's voice came over the comm, "We were, indeed. There is one holding Zhaan near command. He's trying to get through the door. He's nearly succeeded, too. I'm barely keeping him out. The real danger is in the mess hall. The leader and another are holding Rygel, Aeryn, and D'Argo there."

John nodded. "We'll go after Aeryn first."

Pilot didn't say anything.

-=<>=-

Raine's hunger was growing to be intolerable. He growled absently.

Gray's head came around to watch him. "Are you alright?"

Raine reduced his eyes to slits. "Hungry. Where are those two?"

Gray shrugged and pulled out her CommLink. "Villem, Namreh, any luck yet." She lowered it from her mouth as she awaited a reply. She didn't get one. "Villem? Namreh?" She waited a few breaths, still nothing.

She looked to Raine, concern on her face, silently asking him what to do. Raine rose to his feet and pulled his weapon. "Stay with them. I'll go and see. That damned Pilot probably just killed our comm signals."

Gray nodded, seeming to accept his explanation. She watched the door long after Raine disappeared through it, and so she missed the grim smile that passed between Aeryn and D'Argo.

-=<>=-

Raine was moving down the corridor quickly. Something was wrong, very wrong. Two of his hunters were missing. There was no way the Pilot could have killed the signals on their comms. They were cutting edge technology. At the price he'd gotten them for, the Pilot shouldn't have even been able to detect the comm signals.

Another Hunter must have followed them, to take the prey for themselves. Raine wasn't about to allow that. He didn't relish the idea of hunting those that had taken both Namreh and Villem alone, but there was no other way. Runt was busy, and interrupting him meant interupting Raine's payday. Gray was needed to watch the prey.

Besides, Raine hadn't earned his reputation for nothing, and he had an advantage that neither Villem or Namreh would've had: he knew there were others on the ship.

Raine slowed his pace as he turned a corner, taking his time. Let the hunt begin, he thought.

-=<>=-

John let out a breath. "Thank God," he breathed. He dropped from the ceiling. He'd managed himself up there rather quickly when he heard the footsteps coming down the corridor. He must know he's two short. That leaves one guard with Aeryn and the others... perfect.

He started down the corridor slowly, keeping his hands on the wall to support himself. He promised himself a nice long day of bed rest after he'd saved the day.

-=<>=-

Aeryn was breathing hard, nearly hyperventilating.

John had taken two of the bounty hunters out himself. Hurt, injured John. She was elated at that... but now the leader was out there. Aeryn hadn't bought his line about the comms. He knew something was up. He knew someone was out there. And he was looking for them. Looking for Crichton.

Aeryn was scared to death that Raine would find him. By all rights, Crichton shouldn't have been able to take out the two he'd gotten. And now... with one of them actively after him... well that was all she wrote. At least, that's what Aeryn was afraid of.

She had to do something. That's all there was to it. She couldn't let Crichton be hunted down and killed. If she could take out the female and free D'Argo, then the two of them could go after the leader. Yes, that was it, she'd do that.

But how, her hands were tightly bound. And the female was watching them like a hawk now. She looked up at the female, judging her. This isn't going to be easy, she thought.

And then she caught a motion over the female shoulder.

Gray saw the Sebacean's eyes go wide, even though it was only a slight shift of expression. She threw herself to the right instinctively. She felt her weapon fall from its holster and skitter across the floor.

She spun wildly and lashed out with her foot. It hit something, and she heard another weapon drop the floor. Now they are unarmed too, she knew.

She was more than proficient at unarmed combat, she slowed down a bit and took stock of her opponent.

A Sebacean! A male one at that. So much for his being dead. He must've killed Villem and Namreh!

His chest was bandaged, she noticed. Trophies from the battle they'd had in the market square. She twisted her lips up in a smile, exposing her canines and baring her teeth. This wasn't even going to be a challenge.

She started forward, but was suddenly slammed to the left as though some great, invisible fist had reached out from the heavens and struck her with all the force of the spheres. As she slid to the floor, she noticed the female Sebacean with her gun, the one she'd dropped, leveled at her. It was the last thing she ever saw.

John practically fell to the floor. "Man, I thought that was it..." He looked over at Aeryn, "Thanks."

She nodded, overjoyed that he'd eluded the leader but hiding it behind a mask of calm. She held up her bound hands. "Get these off of me."

His mouth twisted up in a dry grin. There was that patented Aeryn Sun show of graciousness. "Sure thing." He got to his feet with some effort, and hobbled over to her. When he freed her hands, she freed D'Argo and Rygel.

D'Argo was rubbing his wrists. "Crichton... did you get that other one?"

"The one that left here just a minute ago?"

D'Argo nodded.

"No, but I saw him. He went right past me. I didn't have time to even pull my pistol."

"He's still out there then. Aeryn and I will take care of him. You and Rygel stay here."

"Sure but..." he broke off when he saw another one of those werewolf things standing in the doorway. He was looking at Gray's body. Aeryn spun and leveled her pistol at him.

Before she could squeeze a shot off, Zhaan seemed to materialize in front of him. "Don't kill him, Aeryn. He's a friend. We were coming to help... I see we are too late." She smiled at Crichton. "John, you did this?"

Crichton's eyes didn't leave Runt as he spoke. "I didn't get that one, Aeryn did. I got the other two. The leader and your friend here are the only ones left."

Zhaan looked happy, "Good, I'm glad to see you're healing well then."

"Yeah," he gestured to his chest, "this stuff is great. I'm still not a hundred percent but..."

She nodded, reading his implied thanks. If it hadn't been for her help, he was saying, they'd all be in a world of trouble.

Runt could barely get the words out as he crossed the room to Gray's body. "You... an injured Sebacean... killed Namreh, Villem, and freed your friends?"

John was acutely aware that there was no weapon in his hand. He decided it wasn't worth the effort to explain the whole Human/Sebacean thing again. "Guilty as charged."

"That's... That's incredible. How did you manage it?"

He shrugged, not sure how detailed an answer it wanted. They had been, after all, his friends--or colleagues at least. "I outsmarted them."

Runt seemed much more taken aback by the answer than John would have expected. The werewolf turned to Zhaan. "You were right."

She bowed slightly with a tiny smile.

And then suddenly, Raine was back. He walked into the room with his mouth half open, as though he'd been about to speak. He was caught completely off-guard by the sight that greeted him.

He'd expected to find Gray and warn her that he'd found Villem and Namreh, both dead. Instead he saw that all the prey were free, there was another Sebacean male he'd never seen before, and Runt was standing over Gray's dead body.

Raine's face twisted into a mask of rage as comprehension dawned. His gun was up and pointed at Runt before anyone could react. Either Runt was a traitor, or he'd allowed himself to be captured by these renegades. Either way, he was going to die.

John saw the leader's gun raising and he looked at his fallen weapon the floor. Damn, if only I had my gun. The second pistol! He reached to his belt for it and pulled it free just as Raine fired a shot. Raine was aiming a second at D'Argo, probably gauging him to be the biggest threat. John fired a hasty shot.

Instead of hitting him in the chest, as Crichton intended, the shot took Raine through his hand. It bit into Raine's weapon, rendering it useless.

Raine stood there a moment, still somewhat confused. This wasn't supposed to be happening. He was brought back to reality very quickly when he saw the Luxan reaching for his captured Qualta blade. He remembered what had happened to Durgan and Necron back at the market. Raine turned and ran.

He told himself that when he got back to his ship, he'd cripple the Leviathan with a few shots, and transmit her coordinates back to Peace Keeper Command. He'd have to settle for just the finder's fee, rather than the bounty. Still and all, it was time to cut his losses.

D'Argo chased after the Elvkish hunter, but Runt's weak voice stopped the others. "No, he's too fast. Get me to this ships control center."

John and Aeryn both looked to Zhaan. She nodded.

Zhaan's word was good enough for them. They got on either side of the Elvkish and lifted him to a standing position. Runt had dodged as Raine shot, and was only wounded at the shoulder.

"Can you make it?"

Runt smiled. "I'm fine. Let's go, time is short."

John nodded. "Pilot, we're on our way to Command. Get that door open."

"Already done, Crichton."

-=<>=-

D'Argo shielded his eyes as the bounty hunter's ship tore free of the hull. He was sucked toward the hole but gripped the bulkhead tightly. Moments later Moya's wound had closed.

He stood and growled, kicking the corridor wall in frustration.

-=<>=-

Zhaan watched as Runt's hands flew over Moya's controls. He turned to look at her. "He's in shadow mode. We can detect him with a few more adjustments. Go ahead and power up your weapons."

Zhaan frowned. "This is a Leviathan. We have no weapons."

Runt paused and gave her a very small smile. "This'll be a challenge then."

She smiled back.

John, looking on, decided not to ask.

Runt activated the ship's Comm. "Give up, Uncle."

An image of Raine appeared moments later. "So you are a traitor! I should have known. You always were a weakling."

Runt smiled at the insult. Let Raine be distracted in his rage. He still worked the controls frantically. There was Raine's ship. Now how to eliminate him? He brought the ship's manual piloting controls online. "Call me whatever you want, Uncle. This weakling has defeated you."

Raine laughed a harsh barking noise. "Defeated? I've lost a few hunters, they're a renewable resource. You're the one that's defeated."

Runt felt the ship shudder as Raine fired on it. Just a bit closer, Uncle. Come on, really come after us. "You? Defeat me? You always were a fool, Raine."

Raine's eyes narrowed in anger. Runt watched Raine's ship get closer... closer.

"I'm going to put this next shot straight through the command center. Goodbye, Nephew."

"Goodbye, Uncle." Runt lurched Moya upwards, toward Raine. Raine's ship careened off Moya's hull and went spinning into the surrounding asteroid field. He kept the comm open and listened to Raine's scream as his ship was pulverized. Finally... the screaming stopped.

Runt turned to the others. "Uncle Raine... he forgets--forgot that you don't need weapons to attack. He always was so narrow-minded... like many of my people." Something about Runt's solemn tone kept the rest of the them quiet.

Except for Zhaan. She put a supporting hand on his arm. "Come on, let's fix that wound."

Runt nodded and allowed himself to be led away.

-=<>=-

D'Argo emerged from the pod. "We're ready."

Runt smiled as he patted his bandaged shoulder. "Thank you, Zhaan."

Crichton laughed. "If she did half as good as she did on me, you'll be fine in no time."

Zhaan simply allowed herself a smile and bowed. "Good luck, Runt. This is no small task you undertake."

He let out a breath. "No, it's not. But it's worth it. Who knows, maybe it'll work. My people are stubborn but..."

"You're clever," Zhaan finished for him.

Runt smiled again. "I hope so." He offered his hand to Crichton. "And thank you, Sebacean. You taught me a lot about wits and warriors."

John wasn't sure what to say. "Hey, no problem."

Runt nodded to Aeryn, Rygel, and D'Argo. "Thank all of you. This experience has... changed me. I feel like I was only nosing my way through life before and now... I can see." Runt bowed deeply. "If you ever need anything, come to Runt the Elvkish."

Zhaan broke in, "Remember, Runt. Even if you can't choose what fate you meet..."

Runt barked a laugh and finished the quote, "You can choose how you meet it." He exchanged handshakes with the crew and boarded Moya's pod. Rygel floated up behind him.

D'Argo was the last to board. He called out to the others, "We'll be back as soon. We're going to pick up some real food after we drop Runt off."

-=<>=-

Zhaan pulled the last wrapping off. "There you are. Not bad."

Crichton looked down, not sure what to expect. He saw... his chest. Just like he remembered it! "There aren't even any scars!"

Zhaan ran her fingers over his chest. "The discoloration will go away in time, when the minerals that absorbed into your body dissipate."

Now that she mentioned it, he did notice a few splotches that were faintly pink or orange. "Hey, I thought I was going to have live the rest of my life with a mountain range of scars. Being polka-dotted for a while is no problem."

Her mouth turned into a half-smile. "I'm glad you approve."

Aeryn's eyes hadn't left John's chest since Zhaan had uncovered it. She, too, had been expecting it to be rough and riddled with scars. She'd been prepared to apologize to him, she still saw what happened as her fault. But apparently, his chest was unmarred and perfect. Still disbelieving, she reached out her hand to him.

She made contact with his skin and moved her hands over him for a moment. Her eyes snapped up to his as she heard his sharp intake of breath. She withdrew her hand quickly and--blushing mightily--turned to leave.

John watched her go, very confused. The feel of her hand on his skin had been... incredible. He suddenly realized that Zhaan was still in the room and glanced at her.

She was giving him this odd knowing smile--the same one his mother had given him when Ashleigh Fitzgerald had stopped by his house in the eighth grade to hand deliver his valentine since she'd forgotten to mail it on time.

"What?"

She looked down, hiding her amusement. "Nothing. I'll see you later, John. Keep me informed about your chest." She disappeared down the corridor.

John sank down onto his bunk and put his head in his hands. "Why does it feel like everyone knows something I don't?"

-=<>=-

Aeryn paused in the corridor... again. What the frell am I doing? She'd been in her cell, trying to sleep. Trying utterly without success, that is. She'd been tossing and turning for hours.

All she could think about was John. John jumping in front of her, saving her life... John appearing in the mess hall, saving her, D'Argo, and Rygel... John lying helplessly on his bed as Zhaan ministered his wounds... John offering her the chance to come with him and D'Argo and escape Crais... John smiling at her when she misused one of his cryptic Earth sayings... John winking at her when Rygel got on D'Argo's nerves...

She couldn't get Crichton out of her head, and she didn't know why. All she knew was that there was something unfinished between them... something she needed to take care of. And so she found alone in the corridor being drawn to his cell. Being pulled by some invisible, elusive force.

This is so stupid, she thought. I should go back. She started back to her room, but stopped and paused for a long beat. She sighed in defeat and turned back to go the rest of the way to Crichton.

Standing in his doorway, she saw him asleep. Zhaan must have given him something to help him rest, if anyone deserved it, it was Crichton. He's asleep, she told herself. Whatever's bothering me can wait. She started to go but stopped again. It wouldn't wait, she knew.

She slammed her fist into the wall in frustration at herself. She slumped and gave up. She ignored rational thought and just obeyed her instincts. She climbed into bed with Crichton and put her arms around him, laying her head on his chest. She was asleep in no time.

John opened his eyes and looked down at her. He pulled her closer and breathed in the scent of her hair. He closed his eyes and settled himself, letting the warmth and darkness overtake him as drowsiness slowed his breathing. They'd figure out what all this meant in the morning. For now... this was more than adequate.

-==-


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