Chapter Two - Singular Connective

Ever since the data had clicked with Aeryn, the Ex-Peacekeeper had solemnly put away her helmet and had tried to make herself more comfortable.

This is it, she thought.

"Of all the things that have happened in my life during the last two cycles I never had thought that I would die the Peacekeeper way - alone..." she said loudly as she tried to get the prowler under her control again. The space craft was bucking to and fro and Aeryn tried her best to keep the craft from crashing into one of the bigger asteroids.

She could feel the heat of the dying sun, and she knew that only in an arn, perhaps two the temperature would be intolerable for her and the Living Death would ensue. Aeryn had never thought much about dying or death itself. After all, dying was a Peacekeeper's duty. You lived with Death you were surrounded by death from the top of your division, from your regiment down to the unit and team. People died, it was the Peacekeeper way.

But she wasn't prepared to die ... not yet. There was still so much to be discovered, so much to know about. Aeryn closed her eyes for a short time.

It is true, I still have so much to discover and to resolve, she thought.

"I won't die," she spoke firmly and with her newly found resolve, she fired up the prowler's remaining aft engine again, trying to find a place to land.

Zhaan and D'Argo were watching John in companionable silence, but both were troubled by the visible change that had occurred in their friend. Ever since they had found out that Aeryn was gone - probably dead - John's features had dramatically changed. It seemed as if he had aged in only one arn.

"It was my fault!" John said for the hundredth time and Zhaan and D'Argo had given up long ago to tell him not to blame himself, so they listened to his endless tirade for the umpteenth time.

"If I hadn't behaved like that stupid - dumb - jackass that I am ... she ... she wouldn't have gotten out in her prowler," he had reached the viewport and turned sharply on his heels.

"Man, didn't your momma teach you anything, you dweeb?" he asked himself while leaning heavily on one of the control boards. "Damn ... DAMN!!!" After this outburst he grew silent. He was spend from his ranting and the knot that had steadily built up in the pit of his stomach had grown bigger and bigger. Although his throat was dry he felt tears welling up and with a impatient wipe of his hand he covered his eyes.

D'Argo shifted slightly beside Zhaan, but she held him back with small pull on his shoulder. She heaved a sigh and went over to John.

"John, you are no help if you incriminate yourself. That doesn't help the situation and it surely does not help Aeryn out there. We have to devise a plan."

"A plan?" John asked, his voice full of sarcasm. "Zhaan, what do you think I'm doing here, huh? I'm devising a plan!" To emphasise he made little quoting motions with his hands.

Zhaan shook her head and took his hands into her own blue ones.

"What you are doing, John, is self-recrimination, not planning. You are not alone in this. We all want Aeryn back, and together we will find a way to get to her in time..."

"Yeah, sure, Blue. And I'm the King of England ..." John snapped and squeezed his eyes shut.
Man, I can't take it anymore. If Aeryn is dead, I have myself to blame. She went off because of me.

John took a deep breath and shook himself mentally. Think John, he thought. There must be a planet - something - on her route. Aeryn will not die!

"Pilot!" he all of a sudden yelled. "Tell Moya to scan her databanks if she finds a planet or something in this area. If there is a sun, there must be planets, moons - ANYTHING!"

"John Crichton, Moya tells me that there are two planets in the close vicinity which appear to circle the dying sun, both planets are uninhabited but it seems Moya has found some information about a Peacekeeper installation. But she does not have enough data on it. It could be that the base was abandoned when the techs discovered the sun is dying." Pilot said and looked down on John and the others with concern.

"What ...kind of PK base are we talking about here?" John inquired hoarsely, as he remembered the Gammak Base of a while back.

"It appears a ... Gammak Base was installed there, John Crichton."

"Thank you Pilot," John said and hung his head. Not another damn' Gammak Base, he thought.

D'Argo and Zhaan exchanged a look with each other, both only too well aware of the anguish their friend was going through. John closed his eyes and he felt as if a cold, deadly hand made a grab at his heart. He forced great gulps of air into his lungs and still he got the feeling he was not getting enough air.

The prowler cut smoothly first through the ionosphere and then through the atmosphere of the planet. Aeryn manoeuvred it through a thick layer of clouds till she could make out the surface below. It was an ice planet and for a short moment she remembered something, John had told her not so long ago, something about an ice planet in a film or whatever the human expression was. This planet sure was like this Hoth thing he had been talking about.

She landed the prowler without a problem and when she had opened the canopy cold air hit her with full force. Aeryn gasped when ice-cold needles hit her lungs and she quickly ducked back into the cockpit again. Apart from her flightsuit, she had no covering and clothing with her.

Quickly, she checked the batteries of the life-support system and took her helmet. Checking the system again, she put the helmet on, sealed it and made her way out of the craft. After a few meters she was grateful the visor of her helmet was made from black plastic. Even through the almost dark visor, the snow was too white and too brilliant to look at unprotected.

She just hoped that the batteries of her suit would hold out till she had reached a settlement, anything, otherwise she would be dead in a few arns due to the cold. Trudging through the heavy snow, the audio sensors of her helmet powered up to the highest, she made her way South.

Soon she had found road tracks which appeared to be made by Peacekeepers. Squatting down into the snow, she raised her visor and examined the tracks. Immediately she noticed the tell tale signs of ground ops vehicles in the heavy snow.

"Just my luck," she breathed and straightened herself, while putting the visor down. Continuing her hike, she came upon a bend in the road, flanked by two huge snowdrifts. Over the wind she was able to make out bits and pieces of her Sebacean mother tongue and she quickly scrambled up one of the drifts to her left.

Just around the corner heavy gates shielded a facility, Aeryn only knew too well. When she had been 20 cycles old her regiment had been transferred to one of the penal colonies on Onorak. It had been her first tour of duty and the conditions in the camp had been disastrous. Aeryn shuddered at the thought. Only two cycles ago she would have looked upon such things as normal and usual, feeling not touched by it, but now she felt for the poor unfortunate creatures down there.

My old life feels like a lifetime ago, she thought while she scanned the area and noted silently where the guards were. Can I pull it off? she berated herself silently. Can I just walk in there in my old Peacekeeper stance and demand spare parts on my prowler so I can return to my division?

She closed her eyes for a moment, then shook herself mentally. "I can do it," she whispered and raised to her feet.

With each step her posture changed, soon she was striding in the confident trot of the Peacekeepers down the snow drift and towards the guard who was eyeing her under his shield closely.

"Greetings, Peacekeeper," he greeted her, his rifle nudging up an inch or two, getting ready.

"Leftenant," Aeryn said and raised her visor. "My unit has been on patrol on the perimeter of the dying sun, but my prowler had technical problems - I need some spare parts."

"Your unit, division, rank and regiment, Peacekeeper, you know the drill!" the Peacekeeper said, rising the rifle an inch higher pointing at Aeryn's heart.

Aeryn smiled. They sure don't get sloppy out here, she thought and nodded.

"Officer Aeryn Sun, Icarion Division, Pleisar Regiment. Would you care to take me to your commanding officer .." she let her voice trail away, leaving it up to him to see it as an order or a request.

"Aeryn Sun?" The Peacekeeper inquired and something in his stance made Aeryn suspicious. The smoothness with which he had repeated her name bespoke of some familiarity with her name.

"Hand over your weapons, traitor!" The Sebacean demanded and jammed the muzzle of his rifle square flat against Aeryn's front. From the corner of her eyes she saw two more Peacekeepers coming their way.

Frelling dren!, Aeryn thought frantically. How could I have been so careless? Her mind raced and for a moment she really considered Crichton's way, to talk herself out of the situation, but then her instincts as a Peacekeeper took over. Gripping the muzzle of the rifle, she shoved it to one side while she graced the bearer of the gun with a quick pantak jab. Pulse rifle fire was already all around her and with a quick dive behind the Peacekeeper lying on the ground, she took aim.

From all sides Peacekeepers were swarming to the site of the battle and Aeryn soon found herself seriously outnumbered. One of the pulse fire had hit her left shoulder, leaving a badly smelling flesh wound behind. She was trying to crouch behind the dead Peacekeeper who had been hit by his comrades, and tried to calm her thoughts.

Think Aeryn, think, you frelling trelk! she told herself but her mind raced and at first it did not even register with her that the fire had ceased.

"Aeryn Sun, cease fire and hand yourself over!" Aeryn knew the voice but she couldn't quite place it. She dared a look at the Peacekeeper who had spoken and her gaze immediately fell on the regimental insignia on the man's neck.

Of all the frelling planets she had to choose the one planet that her old regiment was stationed on! she thought as she raised the rifle above her head and then threw it onto the ground in front of the Peacekeeper.

Holding her hands behind her head, she stood there in the snow and quickly, the others moved in on her. Another voice she was familiar with, rasped: "Check her boot!" and she could feel hands touching and feeling up and down her boots and legs.

No knife, Aeryn thought and could have kicked herself for not taking it with her. But then this little campaign wasn't at all what had been on her mind when she had left Moya in the first place. Never leave without a knife in your boot - first Peacekeeper rule, she thought and almost laughed. She had come a long way since then.

John was bending over some starmaps Pilot had cared to give him. What little they knew from the system, there were only two possible planets Aeryn could land and now it was up to him to decide which planet they'd chose first to look for her. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and tried to clear his mind. What would Aeryn do? he asked himself. She, the Peacekeeper? - EX Peacekeeper, he reminded himself.

He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he did not notice D'Argo joining him. The big Luxan sat down beside him, studying the star maps in front of John. There, they sat in silence both deeply in their own thoughts.

"Aeryn would probably pick the old Peacekeeper base," D'Argo said. "If anything happened to her prowler it would be the first thing to do - procuring spare parts ..."

John's head snapped up and for a moment he watched the Luxan intently.

"Crossed my mind as well, big guy," he said and pushed the star charts to one side. "Then again, she wouldn't know about the Base, she is out of that whole bandwagon for two cycles now..."
D'Argo hesitated for a moment almost urged to ask him what Baandwaggan was supposed to mean but he let it rest. Whatever it meant, John's assertion of the situation was probably right.

"So what do you think we should do?" The Luxan inquired, giving John the chance to make a decision although their time was running out.

"We take the planet nearest the sun, if Aeryn made it there, she needs our help pronto!" John said firmly and stood up. "Is the pod ready?"

"As ready as it can be, John," D'Argo replied and both made their way to the maintenance bay.

They were all there, well, those who had survived the new operations her old regiment had been send to over the last two cycles. With satisfaction she noticed that only two new faces had replaced the familiar faces of those who had been killed. Aeryn was shoved into one of the bunkers that was leading to the main division of the penal camp. Her former brother in arms and one time bed sharer Kentak had taken point and Aeryn was staring at his irate back as he led her to the main room.

"In!" he ordered and gave her another shove. Seems he likes to push me around, Aeryn thought bitterly as she stumbled into a brightly lit room where bunks had been pushed together around an old stove. It all seemed so makeshift to her, as if they were preparing to leave soon. The walls were stripped bare and huge storage crates were standing all around the big room.

Aeryn knew the meaning, they were preparing to leave when she had so foolishly stumbled in on them. According to her estimation, they would leave in one day, in two if the weather wasn't holding. Frelling dren, she thought.

"Sit down, traitor!" Kentak hissed and emphasised his order with a quick punch into her kidneys. Aeryn almost jack-knived but she tried to keep her composure, Never ever show your weakness in the eye of the enemy!.

"I wouldn't have guessed, Kentak," she snapped and breathed out softly, letting the pain surge through her body and then out of her system. Aeryn, don't over do it, she reminded herself and she smirked. As if I could teach them any new tricks, they know the drill.

The others had fanned out into the room, some of them taking off their helmets and sitting down on the makeshift beds. Only two other Peacekeepers beside Kentak guarded her with their weapons pointed dead center on her head. They had taken off their helmets and Aeryn was able to see their faces - Lts. Brennun and Ashareq. Both of them had been with the Pleisar Regiment from day one, she had been at boot camp with them and especially with Ashareq she had shared a friendship, her being the only other female on the team beside Aeryn at that time.

Aeryn could see the hatred in their eyes and she figured Crais had not been all too easy on them after her desertion. More than one battle scar was obvious in their faces and that one of the elite regiments of the Peacekeepers was doing penal colony duty was telling her a lot. She knew they would not be too happy to have her on their hands.

One of the Peacekeepers whom Aeryn didn't know came into the room, marching purposefully toward Kentak and his prisoner.
"They are on their way, twenty arns max," he said and Aeryn furrowed her brow. Who would be here? she asked herself but was pulled out of her reverie when Kentak pushed her forward.

Ashareq grabbed her and shoved her into an adjoining room, there she had to strip out of her flightsuit. When Aeryn straightened, Ashareq had walked up to her and raised her hand. Out of sheer instinct Aeryn counteracted the punch and shoved the Peacekeeper away from her. Both women stared at each other, measuring each other with trained senses. Suddenly, Ashareq shook her head and slumped into one of the chairs near the door.

"How could you do it, Aeryn?" she rasped and buried the face in her hands. "How could you defy Crais and not think about us, your friends and regiment?"

Aeryn Sun watched her former friend and she knew out of familiarity she should offer comfort, but then she was the prisoner and Ash was her gaoler. Slowly, Aeryn sat down on the ground and tried to calm herself.

"You are right in what ever you hand me, Ash," she said, deliberately using the old endearment. "But Crais never gave me a chance. I was not irreversibly contaminated but Crais never listened..."

"You took an oath to obey your commanding officer, Aeryn," Ashareq said and looked up. "You were brought up the Peacekeeper way, your duty ..."

"My duty? Ash, my duty is to stay alive. Crais never gave me that chance. Do you really think that it contaminates me if I talk to one of the so-called lesser lifeforms? Or that you will get contaminated being together in the same room with me? I was a Peacekeeper, it was bred into my blood but I can be more than that, much more ..." Aeryn came over to Ash, squatting in front of her friend. "All I ever believed was turned upside down when I looked behind the Peacekeeper mask, Ash. I have friends who showed me that there is more..."

Ashareq's head snapped up and she stared down at Aeryn in disgust. "Friends like that Human there've been talk about? Aeryn Sun, you are indeed contaminated."

Aeryn closed her eyes and she wondered if she had seem so stubborn as well at first. I indeed was and still am, she thought and shook her head.

"His name is John, not human, Ash, and he is one of the most giving beings I have ever met. He offered me the chance Crais never offered me ..." she said slowly, a faint smile touching her lips.

Ash watched her former friend, most of what she had told her, was too much for her to understand but she had picked up the tell-tale signs of someone being emotionally entangled. She had been present, when Aeryn had been the companion to Velorek but even then she had not talked about him like she just had about that alien. Ash had heard tales about this Human - he had defied Scorpius and the Aurora Chair, had killed Larraq and countless others. It pained her that her former friend had obviously given up her life as a Peacekeeper for him.

Ashareq stood up and nudged a pile of clothes with her boots which lay in one corner near the door. "You better use one of these, Kentak thinks it best to put you with the penals until they arrive ..."

"Who will arrive, Ash?" Aeryn asked, scrambling to her feet.

"Scorpius ... and his men," the answer reverberated in the room and also inside Aeryn's mind.

John and D'Argo had landed near a stream on the deserted planet and were now wandering around a small clearing, setting up the beacon, with Moya functioning as satellite connection, as John had called it, they were able to triangulate Aeryn's homing beacon if she had landed on planet.

After almost an arn, with no luck on the beacon both men stared at each other for a short moment.

"The Gammak Base," D'Argo stated and John nodded. Clearing his throat, he stood up where he had been squatting and put away their equipment.

Of all the planets, Aeryn ... of all the planets! he thought and shook his head. He felt bile rising in his throat and the feeling of nausea was overwhelming.

"John, I can go there, let's not ..." D'Argo started but was silenced by John.

"Let's not what? Let's not continue looking for Aeryn, is that it? If that base is still manned even you'll need a deficient man like me to cover your back, big guy..." He shook his head. "It's okay, I can handle it, it's Aeryn down there and even if she was a Peacekeeper, she isn't anymore and I don't want to think about what she's going through if they find out ... IF the Base is still manned."

Together they hauled their equipment inside the transport pod and made their ways towards the PK Base. Halfway on their route to the planet, D'Argo took out a heavy Peacekeeper Commando coat from the back.

"Zhaan thought, we probably need this. If the Base is still manned, you will play the Sebacean Captain who is transporting the dangerous Luxan warrior," D'Argo stated and sat down beside John again, taking over the controls.

John took a deep breath and murmured, "What ever you say, big guy," and stood up. Crichton shook out the heavy leather duster and held it at arm's length. God, how I hate this pretence, he thought as he slipped into the coat. A perfect fit, like most of the Peacekeeper issues.

Turning back towards D'Argo he watched the Luxan for a long time. He was grateful that his friend had accompanied him without being asked. After all, he felt that it was his duty alone to get Aeryn back. Over the last two cycles their little motley crew had formed a family. Even Rygel and Chiana had fit in somehow and he didn't feel as alien anymore as in the beginning. He had to be grateful for a lot of things, especially the undemanding friendship of the Luxan.

John closed his eyes for a moment and tried to breathe evenly. He was scared, he had to admit, not only for Aeryn's well being but also because he had to enter yet another Gammak Base. He just hoped that Aeryn was all right. She had to be!

Aeryn had slipped into the Special Ops Peacekeeper vest and jacket as it was the far warmest and sturdiest of the pile of PK issue clothes they had given her. It felt somehow like home to wear the Peacekeeper uniform again but Aeryn did not like what it stood for, and she knew that the prisoners in the camp would also know what it stood for. Her shoulder needed medical help, but she doubted her ex-crewmates would offer any help.

Aeryn groaned when the heavy jacket scrapped against her injured shoulder and she tried to pad it. They came for her then, the new regiment members and Kentak. Without a word, they grabbed her and Aeryn tried to pay back for all she was worth but soon the jabs and punches had demanded their due. Aeryn blacked out and was dragged into the prisoner camp.

Kentak watched the still form and smirked. "That'll serve you right, Aeryn Sun," he spit out before he turned his back and made for the warmth of the crew quarters.

The handful of prisoners stared at the Peacekeeper silently, only now and then a whisper broke the stillness that had settled in their camp. A young boy, perhaps only 12 cycles old, stepped closer, but before he had reached Aeryn's still form, he was yanked back by an old Illanic.

"Leave that alone, Jo'thee," he spat and pulled the young boy back. The young boy looked back and then shook his head.

"She could be hurt, Peacekeepers don't treat their kind like this - what if she isn't a Peacekeeper?" he said and pulled free from the old Illanic's grasp. Quickly he moved over and squatted down beside Aeryn. She was moaning and trying to push herself up onto her elbows.

"You okay, Peacekeeper?" Jo'thee inquired, twitching like an animal ready to pounce or flee. Aeryn shook her head to clear her mind then focused her eyes on the boy. First, she thought it was a trick of her mind, but even after she had squeezed her eyes shut several times, the image of a young Luxan did not go away.

"Jo'Thee?" she inquired, immediately chiding herself for such a foolish thought. That could not be Jo'thee. D'Argo had said he was up for a slave auction some place else than here in the uncharted territories, she told herself.

The young Luxan was taken aback and slumped down on the ground. "How ... how do you know my name?" He rasped, his tentacles shivering around his still plump, child-like face.

Now it was Aeryn's turn to look dumb-founded. She pushed herself into a sitting position and brushed the snow off her clothes.

"Your name is really Jo'thee, young Luxan?" she asked and the child nodded solemnly. Aeryn looked up when she saw a figure putting his wrinkled hands on the young Luxan's shoulders.

"Come Jo'thee, we do not want to contaminate this pure Sebacean..." the Illanic said gruffly and pulled the youngster to his feet. Aeryn extended her hand like she had seen John doing it so many time by way of greeting and the Illanic stared at her outstretched hand.

"My name is Aeryn Sun," she stated and stood up, still extending her hand.

"A Peacekeeper!" The Illanic said and spat out in front of her. "Come, Jo'thee, leave her be."

"But she's nice, and if she's here with us, she can't be one of them. She might look like a Peacekeeper, but look at her ..." He pointed at her bruised face with one hand.

"Mundragh, get that boy under control, or ..." someone bellowed and a Yenen with the typical tattoos on his face stepped forward.

"Or what?" Aeryn inquired and stepped between the Zenetan pirate and the young boy. The Yenen looked at her, then snorted.

"What is this Luxan bantling to you, Peacekeeper? He's not even of your kind."

"He is Luxan, that is good enough for me!" Aeryn answered. The Yenen quirked an eyebrow then smirked.

"Suit yourself, Peacekeeper!" he said and walked off. Jo'thee had followed their conversation with greatest interest. He had seen a lot of Peacekeepers in his life time but no one had stood up for him except for his Sebacean mother and this female Peacekeeper.

When the others, even Mundragh, had left, the young Luxan stepped closer. He looked up expectantly into Aeryn's face. Aeryn noticed his stare and rubbed her hands.

"We better find a fire, young Luxan," she stated and walked off with a limb to one of the big drums burning brightly with a bonfire. When she had reached the figures huddled around it, some stood up and turned towards her.

"You're not welcome Peacekeeper!" one hissed but Aeryn only quirked an eyebrow. Wordlessly she led Jo'thee towards the fire and squatted down beside him. Either her Peacekeeper demeanour or the fact that she was caring for Jo'thee, impressed the prisoners and let her be.

"Are you a Peacekeeper?" Jo'thee asked after a while, and Aeryn shook her head in reply.

"I was once, but not anymore. I live on a leviathan with others..." her voice trailed away. Shall I tell him that I know his father? But what if Jo'thee is not D'Argo's son? she asked herself. What would John do? the thought crossed her mind easily and she had to smile. He would probably jump the rifle, she told herself silently, having the nagging feeling she had gotten the saying all wrong again.

John, where are you when I need you most? she asked herself and a smile played around the corners of her mouth. Jo'thee had watched the woman. She reminded him of his mother although he had only a clouded memory of her, but the foster parents who had tried to hide him from the Peacekeepers had told him a lot about her, so he had some kind of reference even if it was blurred.

"You are Sebacean, right? My mother was one," Jo'thee stated and was surprised when Aeryn Sun was staring at him indeed open mouthed.

Chapter One - Binaries | Chapter Two - Singular Connective | Chapter Three - One And One Squares Nil | Chapter Four - Triangular Exceptions | Chapter Five - Deadly Squares