Chapter Five - Deadly Squares

The couple lay in each other's arms on the pallet. Neither was speaking, both acutely aware that their peaceful time was running out fast. After their confessions of love, John and Aeryn had been content with holding each other, exchanging soft kisses and tender words. Aeryn felt so wrapped up in John's warmth and love that she had soon fallen asleep. John, Southern gentleman and all, had watched over her. But he had to admit that he wasn't able to sleep anyway. The situation asked for one of them to be awake and Aeryn's confession had completely dismissed the urge to sleep.

Grinning foolishly, John turned his head and nuzzled his nose in Aeryn's hair. Despite the fact that it was freezing cold, Scorpius nearby and Aeryn and Jo'thee in Peacekeeper hands, he felt incredibly happy.

He gently tightened his arms around the woman he loved more than his life and tried to tune all his senses to the noises outside, his gun settled in his lap. Thus, he waited for Aeryn to awake, so that they could get on with their escape plans.

Although all of the Sebacean Peacekeeper Commandos were affected by the heat that Pilot and Moya had created on the Leviathan, the Peacekeepers had quickly rounded up the fugitives and Pilot, not wanting to endanger his friends, had given orders to decrease the temperature. Soon everything should be back to normal on Moya - except for one thing - her inhabitants would be either dead or captured and at the mercy of a crazed madman.

Chiana's head swayed from side to side, something she often did when she was either afraid or excited. The Peacekeeper Commandos, although they had to shed various garments of dress, were still efficiently functional and had boarded the Leviathan in several microts flat.

Now, Chiana, Rygel and Zhaan were standing in Command, waiting for John's nemesis to appear. The door opened with an angry swooshing sound as if the huge leviathan herself was angry about having to shelter the abomination known as Scorpius.

When the half-breed stepped in front of the line-up of the three hapless prisoners, Rygel cowered slightly while Chiana shot the Scarren a defiant look.

"Ah, so pleased to meet you again, Dominar," Scorpius' voice, although barely a whisper, reverberated clearly through the room. Rygel ducked and his eyes darted to and fro, always avoiding the direct gaze of the Half-Scarren.

"I cannot return the sentiment, Scorpius," Rygel remarked after he had gathered up some courage.

Scorpius dismissed the words with an impatient sweep of his gloved hand and walked over to Chiana. When he had reached her, he raised his hand and cupped her cheek gently.

"A Nebari," he said with a contorted smile. "How interesting!"

Scorpius walked down the line-up of the Hynerian, minus his throne-sled, the Nebari and the Delvian. The Half-blood was surprised that one human had evoked so much loyalty in such varied species as these three. His men had told him that even the Hynerian had declined to speak up, but that was inconsequential now. He needed Crichton and he was going to get him - no matter what the cost.

It was dark in the cell and the only light coming in was from a guard's room a couple of feet away. D'Argo slipped the handcuffs off which had been loosened enough by John four arns ago. Quietly picking up his Qualta Blade, D'Argo fumbled with the lock and the ident chip Chiana had made from the mould that had been Larraq's ... it worked.

Snorting under his breath at the stupidity of the Peacekeepers for not changing the codes at any of their installations, D'Argo advanced slowly into the corridor beyond. No one was at the guard room which made D'Argo stop for a minute. That was so unlike any Peacekeeper directive he had come across in the many arns he had spent in their custody.

The Luxan counted himself lucky for such stupidity and slowly he crept further toward the guard room. With a quick look inside he counted the Peacekeepers. Three on the left, and on the right side, none of them had their rifles anywhere in easy reach.

This will do, D'Argo thought and a growl rose deeply from within his chest. He charged in, his Qualta Blade ripping off pulse fire in rapid succession.

The Peacekeeper commandos were truly surprised when Ka D'Argo charged into the room, tentacles and red coat ablazing. The rapid fire of the Qualta blade took out the remaining two who were unfortunate enough to hide behind two crates.

Moving swiftly, D'Argo reached the exit of the detention area and moved in the shadows towards the surface.

Too easy, he thought, somewhat uneasily as he approached the last door that lead to the base's yard.

Scorpius waited. He had ordered the Peacekeepers to step away from the prisoners and now he had them standing in front of him. He knew that they would try to protect their crewmates but he was determined to get the information he needed.

"Lt Braca, are you in position?" Scorpius inquired over the com and the disembodied voice of his personal aide wavered into the room.

"Yes, Sir, all weapons trained on the Leviathan's Pilot."

"Thank you, Lt. Braca," Scorpius acknowledged shortly and smiled.

"By the love of the goddess, you cannot do that," Zhaan started forward but was stopped short when two Peacekeepers stepped into her way, their guns trained on her chest.

"My dear Delvian, I can do as I wish. If I think this Leviathan is better off without an anxious and over-reacting Pilot, then I'll do what I see fit."

Zhaan inhaled sharply and turned her head away from the Sebacean-Scarren abomination. "Pilot is not anxious or overreacting. He is a trusted friend ..."

"Yes, that much I know from another trusted friend of yours. I also saw a special bond between the Ex-Peacekeeper and the Pilot creature ... most revolting and contaminating." Scorpius smirked and looked at the Hynerian.

"And, Dominar, what do you have to say? Any sentiments for your shipmate?"

Rygel tried to straighten to his full yet miserable height and inhaled deeply, his earbrows quivering.

"Even if you let us live, without Pilot, this Leviathan is not manoeuvrable. Either way we are frelled. Kill him off, no consequence to me..." Rygel said and ignored the sharp intakes of breaths from Chiana and Zhaan. "If Pilot dies, we will too. Do you really believe we are that naive?"

Zhaan lowered her head and a sad smile spread over her features. "Rygel ..." she started but was stopped with an undignified snort from the short Hynerian.

"Not a word, blue assed bitch." Rygel scoffed and sat down on the warm floor of Moya.

"Well I don't want to die," Chiana suddenly yelled when she saw the set demeanour of her shipmates. "Moya can survive without a Pilot, right?"

"Chiana!" Zhaan shouted and tried to stop the Nebari, but the young woman wrestled out of the Delvian's grasp and swayed over to the half Scarren scientist.

"Well, it is true, isn't it? That Moya can survive without a pilot?" she asked seductively, her body swaying to and fro in front of Scorpius.

"Yes, the Leviathan can be nurtured until a new Pilot is installed, though it is a lengthy process, and I doubt your well-meaning shipmates here want to wait that long." Scorpius said and raised a mitted hand to the soft grey cheek of the Nebari. She really was an attractive little trelk.

"And you'll let us go when I tell ya where Crichton and the others are?" Chiana purred and brought her face nearer to that of the Scarren.

"I will consent to that, young Nebari. I grant you and your shipmates as well as the Leviathan and its Pilot free passage if you hand over the human."

Chiana looked back at Rygel and Zhaan who both shook their heads in unison. Chiana had always been a soldier of fortune and although she liked John Crichton, even looked at him as her surrogate brother, he was just that - a surrogate - and she desperately wanted to see Nerri. Here she had the chance to get the Peacekeepers off their backs and if Scorpius wanted Crichton he should get him. John will understand, she told herself silently.

Then it's a deal," she breathed. "D'Argo will be returned to us as well? And Aeryn?" Scorpius nodded his head. Chiana took a deep breath and then spoke quickly, "Crichton is on the planet, he and D'Argo are looking for Aeryn ... John is posing as Captain Dashaq."

Scorpius smirked and raised his hand to activate the comm that was worked through into his helmet. "Lt Braca, release the Pilot of this Leviathan and prepare to disembark. We have the information we came for," Scorpius said.

"Sir?" Braca's voice was surprised. "What about the prisoners?"

"They are free to continue their journey and not be harmed. But they will accompany us back to the base," he grinned when he heard the collective gasp behind him. "Make sure to have enough transports ready."

Filing slowly to the hanger bay, the prisoners were subdued and silent. Zhaan, who was walking behind Chiana, stared pulse rifle bolts at the young Nebari's back.

"I hope you are happy now, Chiana," Zhaan hissed vehemently and spun the young woman around to face her when they had boarded one of the transport pods. What she saw, made her hesitate. The once so shining black eyes of the girl were a dull grey and silent sobs were raking the body.

"Chiana?" Zhaan asked, raising a hand to touch the thick Nebari tears, but Chiana jerked away.

"I'll never hear his voice, he'll never call me Chi or Pip ..." Chiana murmured as guilt began to overwhelm her. "I did this, I killed him!" Chiana's howl of agony reverberated across the empty corridors of the Leviathan as the doors behind them closed shut. Zhaan lifted a worried face, hoping that they could still find a way to get all their shipmates back safely on board Moya.

Checking Aeryn's shoulder wound for the last time, John helped her into the Commando jacket she had shrugged off earlier.

When she swayed, he caught her by her uninjured shoulder and steadied her.

"You okay?" he asked, his blue eyes radiating with obvious concern.

Aeryn simply nodded. "I'm fine, John. Let's go!" But John saw that she gritted her teeth every time she moved.

"Come here, Sunshine," he whispered and drew her close. Aeryn let him do so and hid her face in the crook of his neck, suppressing a sigh.

"You are not fine, Aeryn," John said and cupped her face with his hands. "That's why I want you to stay low. Shoot to kill, Aeryn, but stay out of the fray!"

"Crichton, don't be stupid," Aeryn snapped and tried to pry his hands off her face.

"No, Aeryn, I mean it," John interjected and rubbed his thumbs gently over her lush lips. "No little Miss Peacekeeper stunts." For long moments blue eyed stares seized each other, then Aeryn relented.

"No stunts," she whispered softly and leant against John's tall frame, drawing strength from his presence, before they readied themselves to go outside.

The sun was only dimly visible in the cold dawn of the new day as John and Aeryn stepped out of the barracks. Drawing their clothes tighter around them, they steeled themselves against the cold wind that brushed up flakes of freshly fallen snow from the ground.

The rattlers were dancing a wild fox trot in John's stomach and he felt the hairs raising on the small of his neck. No sound was heard beside the harsh crunch of ice and snow under their boots and it unnerved them both. Aeryn had hidden the gun into the waistband of her leather pants and with her uninjured arm she kept brushing over it, fidgety but ready, all her senses attuned to their surroundings.

But something felt wrong, both were aware of that as they stood in the crispy cold of the morning. Suddenly there was a noise to their right and both whirled around towards it. Only a few paces away from them Scorpius stood. His leather attire glistening in the weak winter sun, as he clapped his gloved hands together.

John and Aeryn moved in unison as their guns aimed at the Scarran half-blood who didn't seem to be phased by their behaviour.

"Excellent, Crichton, Officer Sun," Scorpius said and his parched lips grinned wickedly. "You almost fooled me!"

"What do you want, Scorpius?" Aeryn shouted and suppressed a groan when her injured arm started shaking. She had used her left hand to support her gun hand but now the arm fell flat against her side.

"From you, Ex-Officer Sun?" Scorpius asked and stepped nearer until he was only denches away from their aimed weapons. "I think you will be rudimentary in a little experiment I want to conduct," he hesitated when he saw John moving closer towards him, the tip of his gun resting squarely on his chest.

"You stay the frell away from Aeryn," Crichton breathed angrily.

The half-blood tutted and moved the gun away form him. "My dear John, so much bravado, so much false courage, but I'm afraid you will not prevent this from happening. You know that you cannot harm me, my skin is as hard as that of a Scarren, so put away your little gun. There is no need for it anymore ... You see, I struck a deal with one of your crew mates ..."

"What did Buckwheat the 16th do this time? Did he sell us out for good?" John asked.

"If you mean the Dominar, you are mistaken, John," Scorpius said and raised his hand. From all sides Peacekeeper soldiers stepped into sight and Lt. Braca dragged a subdued Chiana with him towards his master.

"This little Nebari girl told me where you and your mate were. I should have thought about it before. You feel deeply for Officer Sun and instead of trying to capture you I should have just captured this beautiful, contaminated Sebacean."

John stared at Chiana, but the Nebari avoided his gaze.

"Pip?" John asked, but the sound of his voice clearly showed that understanding was slowly coming to the surface. Shocked, the gun slipped from his grasp and he just stood there in utter defeat.

"No! Aeryn shouted and raised her gun towards the Nebari. "I should have spaced you, you little trelk!"

Chiana's head snapped up and locked eyes with Aeryn. "Do you really think it was easy for me to do it? But it is better to sacrifice one if the rest can be safe!"

Aeryn shook her head at the Nebari. How can she be so stupid?, she thought. If I have learned anything from the Peacekeepers it is that sacrifice for a greater good is stupid and suicidal!. Shifting slightly, Aeryn Sun stepped closer towards John, her gun still aimed at the Scarren.

"So what did you offer them?" she asked harshly. "Free passage? Freedom?"

"All of that and more, yes," Scorpius replied. "A trifle compared to what I get in return."

"You won't get me," John breathed, suddenly coming to life.. "Not alive anyway." With this he whirled around and lunged at the Scarren-Sebacean half-blood and tried to throw him to the ground.

Aeryn stared in shock until her PK training took over and in a wide sweep covered the advancing soldiers while John and Scorpius struggled on the frozen snow to her feet.
All of them watched fascinated as human and Scarren alike fought for supremacy. Microts seemed to stretch into arns or so it seemed until John had Scorpius in a deadly chokehold.

"Now, Scorpius, we deal again," Crichton hissed and yanked Scorpius head around, but no snap was heard, that would have announced the breaking neck of a human being. Dumbfounded, John loosened his grip on the scientist who in turn used the distraction to get out of the chokehold.

"Scarren physiognomy is different, my dear John," Scorpius said and smiled a feral smile. "Allow me to explain how you can help yourself and your crew mates, especially Officer Aeryn Sun."

Beaten, John slumped back on his heels and stared at his nemesis. "What do you want?" he asked, his voice void of emotion.

"I want you and Aeryn Sun in return for the lives and free passage of the Leviathan, its off-spring and the crew on both ships."

"Why Aeryn?" John asked, first looking up at Scorpius then beyond him at Aeryn who was still standing with her gun drawn.

"I thought you wanted to have a little company while you were out of the chair, John. But I will tell you the truth. I need Officer Sun for a little experiment that High Command told me to execute, and that I will, with or without your consent."

Suddenly a thud in the snow in front of them turned their attention towards the direction of the sound. Aeryn's blaster lay there and both men looked back at the Ex-Peacekeeper.

"Free passage for Moya, Pilot and the others?" she asked and shook her head when she saw John opening his mouth to object.

"Free passage for all, even the little Nebari traitor," Scorpius nodded. "High Command are not interested in a band of escaped prisoners and two Leviathans which are too much of a bother to them."

"Agreed!" Aeryn quickly gave her consent.

"No, Aeryn, you don't know, what that experiment is all about!" John tried to push to his feet but was quickly seized by two Peacekeeper Soldiers.

Scorpius watched the woman who stood erect in front of him, even her sessions in the Aurora Chair had not impaired upon the natural strength of the Ex-Peacekeeper he had to admit. Shaking his head slightly he motioned her towards the chamber and Aeryn declined her head in a brief moment of weakness, then she visibly straightened.

Aeryn looked over where John was held by two Peacekeeper soldiers. Her serene face showed visibly all the feelings she held for her human companion. Their eyes locked for the longest microt, each wrapped up in the moment to etch each other's features into their minds. John tried to convey everything he felt for this woman into the gaze, mouthing to her that he loved her, not wanting to break the moment when he spoke out loud. But Aeryn's eyes, blue like his own but edged with a stormy grey, seemed to understand the message and she in turn was sending him love and understanding, and regret. With a short nod and a sad smile, she turned and walked over the threshold into the chamber, the heat almost hitting her physically.

"NO!" Crichton strained against the hands of his captors and tried to reach her but to no avail as cuffs bound his wrists. He watched as the heavy doors slid shut behind Aeryn, her slight figure clearly visible through the small porthole in the door.

He struggled again, trying to break free from gloved hands who shoved him back to his knees, using the butts of their rifles to subdue him.

"Crichton, you cannot change anything, just trust me," Scorpius said as he gave the sign to increase the heat in the small chamber. "She won't be in too much pain ... for a while yet."

John tore his gaze from the porthole and Aeryn's stricken face and faced his nemesis. "You have me, Scorpius! Let her go!"

The scientist shook his head and walked over to where John still crouched. Extending one leather gloved hand he tapped his index finger against the human's forehead.

"You know that I can't do that. We have struck a deal," another tap on John's forehead. "And you know that with fulfilling the deal, certain consequences have to be faced." The Half-Scarren followed the gaze of the human toward the monitor. Aeryn Sun had slumped against the far wall of the chamber but the monitoring cameras inside spotted any movement from the Peacekeeper.

"Ahhh, the Living Death ..."Scorpius commented, as if referring to some priced gem. "Watch John, see beyond the pain and watch the beauty. I always wondered what a mind will go through during the living death."

"Then why don't you find out first hand, Scorpy," John choked out, red rimmed eyes unable to tear away from the image of Aeryn writhing in pain, her muscles contorting and submitting to the heat. "Pop out the cooling rods and I give you some heat."

"Tsk, tsk, tsk," Scorpius tutted and turned towards his human captive. "Always so aggressive, is this a trait of your species? Don't you understand, Crichton? Her suffering will spare thousands of Sebaceans. Aeryn Sun - if she survives - will help gain knowledge in finding an antidote to the Living Death."

John's head snapped up and he watched the half Scarren from his perch on the floor. Squeezing his eyes shut for a moment, he tried to gather strength, tried to tear his gaze off the monitors that showed Aeryn's struggle against the Living Death, but he couldn't. His heart was crying out to her, he wanted to kill Scorpius, run to her, get her out of the chamber or try dying.

Aeryn, he thought silently, all his emotions concentrating on this woman as he watched her spasms, the desperate tries to breathe. After several more microts, Scorpius gave the sign to decrease the heat and when John offered to step into the chamber to get her out, Scorpius shook his head.

"A valiant request, John, but you forget that I know your memories. You might not know it yourself but you would be able to fulfil her request she asked of you so long ago ..." Scorpius commented and John bit his lip.

How can I keep one step ahead of him, when he knows me so well? John thought and watched as two Peacekeepers in special suits carried Aeryn out of the chamber. Watching her, he knew she was still alive somewhere deep in the twisted mass of tangled legs and arms. And realisation hit him that Scorpius was right. He would have found the strength to end Aeryn's life. Family will do it, friends will do it swiftly, he thought before he was dragged out of the room.

The pink liquid in the container broke the light and tinged the people standing around Scorpius in wild hues of red and rose as the Scarren held it up to the overhead lights.

"You know, John, believe it or not, I want your precious Aeryn to live," he said and put the small container into the injector. "We'll see. First we have to decrease her body temperature and then we'll see if this antidote works."

The Human watched as Scorpius injected the liquid into a vein on Aeryn's neck, wincing when he saw the muscle contractions. He covered his face as he waited and squeezed his eyes painfully shut. He suddenly felt a hand clamping down on his shoulder and when he turned his head slightly, he saw D'Argo standing behind him.

Beyond the Luxan, he saw his crewmates followed in by a Peacekeeper detail. So it seems Scorpy keeps part of the deal, John thought, trying to keep his rattlers under control.

"Will you do the honours, John?" Scorpius asked, looking at the Human and then smirking when he noticed John's cuffs. "Ah I forgot, the Luxan then!" Scorpius motioned towards Aeryn Sun and then went swiftly out of the room.

John watched as D'Argo put Aeryn's lifeless shell into the coffin-like stasis tube. A microt ago he had said good-bye, had silently bid her forgiveness for what he was about to do. It was a deal - her life for his, and he was never as happy and sad as tonight.

Zhaan was wringing her hands when she looked over to John. He looked so calm and composed - so different from the lively Human she had come to know over the last two cycles. During the last arn or so he had talked to the Peacekeepers, had argued with Scorpius, and she was not sure what had been said or which deal had been made. One thing was sure, Scorpius would let them go. D'Argo and Jo'thee would be returned to Luxa and she herself could return to Delvia if she so wished. Zhaan was not sure what John had thought when he had informed them - he had simply said, "You can go home." When D'Argo and Chiana had asked him what would become of him or the dying Aeryn, he had just shrug his shoulders.

"Don't worry, Aeryn and I will be alright," he had said ... and now this. Aeryn was dead, the Peacekeepers had brought her in - and John was wearing hand restraints even now. What ever he had done to strike the deal for them going home, he had been the bait and the pawn.

The blue priestess stepped closer to John and a comforting hand was put upon his shoulder. For a microt he turned his head as if to acknowledge her, then he stepped away.

"Aeryn .... ummm...," he began and tears welled up inside of him. He knew he had to do it, to do it for his friends and for his love. Scorpius had promised to let them go, to give Aeryn the life back she had almost lost.

"Goodbye," he whispered and bent forward, his hands caressing her, his lips on hers. She was cold to the touch, the Living Death.

"I'm sorry Aeryn, I really wish I could stay with you ... but you must live. I love you ..." he whispered softly into her ear, and with one last long parting look, he straightened and ordered the Peacekeepers to shut the stasis chamber.

"John," Zhaan started again, but this time her comforting hand fell flat at her side, when she saw his face. It was hardened, it seemed as if John Crichton had aged cycles over the last microts.

"Now, go. There is nothing to keep you here," John's voice had a definite edge to it. "Go!" he said again, more forcefully, and when Jo'thee, who still couldn't understand what was going on or that he all of a sudden had turned from an orphan into the son of a Luxan Warrior, didn't move a muscle, John viciously shoved him out of the way.

"I want you ... to go ... all of you. Go home to Moya. Scorpius and the Peacekeepers won't hold you responsible. Just ... GO!" His voice cracked and John closed his eyes. GO, please, he pleaded silently. Go, so you won't see the price I have to pay for your freedom ...

Scorpius had watched the good bye scene from one of com ports of the Aurora Chair, unlike the others he knew that the Aurora was more than a vicious instrument of torture, it was peace-giving and communicative - in a way.

The Scarren smirked at that and walked over to the view port where he could see Moya anchoring in the vastness of space. Soon the Leviathan would be gone, with it the prisoners and their problems - problems they had caused him.

Soon, the wormhole technology is mine, he thought and laughter rose in his throat. Finally, it will be mine, and John Crichton will be mine as well ...

The door opened and Lt. Ashareq shoved the prisoner in. Scorpius noticed it with a frown and when the Peacekeeper tried to shove John a second time, Scorpius raised his hand and motioned the Peacekeeper outside.

"Very well, I'm glad that you have joined me, John," Scorpius said and a grin distorted his already scarred face. "I'm very glad."

John sneered at that but when his look fell on the Chair, he swallowed hard. He knew what was coming, Scorpius wanted the knowledge of the wormhole technology stored deeply inside his mind, and the deal was that he should get it - for Aeryn and for the others.

Closing his eyes, Crichton tried to suppress the shudder that ran down his spine. Never ever in his life had he felt so full of terror and fear. He tried to conjure up Aeryn's beautiful face, trying to memorise her ivory skin and her raven black hair, but even those soothing images of his loved one could not dispel the terror that lay before him - the chair.

John felt hands removing the handcuffs and then he was lead over to the contraption. A shudder, stronger than the one before, rocked his body as he was bound into the chair by none other than Scorpius himself.

"I want you to relax, John. There is nothing to fear. You know that the more you put up defences against the Aurora Chair the more it will hurt you. Just give in ..." Scorpius said and John watched him with terror filled eyes.

"Get real, Scorpy, do you ... do you think you can get me so easily?"

Scorpius smiled and then shook his head.

"Do not underestimate me, John Crichton. Unlike you, I know where your weaknesses are ..." With this he motioned with his hand and the doors opened. Two Peacekeepers brought in the stasis tube. John fought against the restraints of the chair when he saw it was Aeryn's.

"You told me she would be safe ... You PROMISED!" he yelled, fighting the restraints which were cutting deeply into his flesh.

"Calm yourself, John. Of course she is safe. She merely sleeps a deep slumber but if you keep fighting against the Chair, I could be led to the impression that you are not working with me, that you perhaps do not want to keep the deal ... then of course I will be forced to take countermeasures ...," Scorpius took a strange looking syringe and opened the lid of the tube. "I could get impatient, my dear John and I do not think that your precious Aeryn appreciates the Living Death. After all, I have the cure..."

"Leave her alone, Scorpius, you have me. You promised to let her go once the healing cycle is over," John rasped and stopped fighting against the restraints. "I will stick to my guns, do whatever you have to do to get that wormhole technology out of my mind."

"Ah, thank you Commander Crichton," Scorpius replied, closing the lid again he came over to John and the Aurora Chair.

"Trust me, John. You will feel better if you do not fight," and with these words he started the contraption.

Scorpius hovered like a predator always at the fringe of John's perception. The Commander had been unconscious several times in the last few arns and still the Scarren had not been able to retrieve the information he craved for. John was exhausted and he wished himself out of the chair- out of this misery ... and out of this life. But as long as Scorpius did not get the desired information he was not able to get out of this easily.

John groaned silently - his ability to form any sounds in his throat long gone. He felt as if all the liquids in his body had been drawn out, burnt away at the intensity of the Aurora Chair. He tried to wet his lips but all he could feel was skin like parchment covering his dry lips. The pain subsided somewhat when he tried to close his eyes, even those were dry and the lids felt as if he tried to cover his eyes with a hard cardboard cover. He couldn't stand it anymore, every time he tried to open up more, to give Scorpius all he wanted, his mind went blank and he was unconscious. It was like a curse, he had been so near to the truth, so near to the one chance to save his and Aeryn's life, but his body if not his mind had deserted him.

Scorpius watched the human closely. He was amazed how much resilience the human body and mind could muster up to the Aurora Chair. This species was rising in his estimation and he was almost sad that he had to break the man. Slowly he turned towards his minion, Niem, and nodded to raise the power of the Chair another notch.

"John, you are a good man, but for your own sake you should tell me what I require, give in, and the pain will go away ..." he whispered in John's ear but the human was too far away now. Pain raged in his body and every sinew, every muscle and fibre in his abused body screamed to be released.

I can't .. let go ..., John thought with what little was left of his mind. He saw flashes of his childhood race before his inner eye. Images of his parents, his father - who had been absent most of his childhood and his mother, who had comforted the young boy. Then the day of the Farscape One shuttle mission, he still could remember the brilliance of the sunrise over Cape Canaveral, the orange and the yellow of the sun rising slowly and gloriously into the sky - the blue sky of Earth ... Sun ...

John swallowed hard. The radiant Sun, he thought again and a smile, weak and shattered, crossed his face. The first image of Aeryn Sun appeared in his mind. The moment she had taken off her flight helmet, the ivory skin, the raven-black hair ... those beautiful silver-grey eyes, which had looked upon him in hatred. He remembered all the little bits of her, her mannerisms, her little gestures. The way she looked when she was flushed and irritated, the way she looked when he had made love to her on that false Earth ...

"Aeryn ..." The simple word eased softly out of him, forming the whole world that was John Crichton. Nothing else mattered more than this simple word.

Scorpius had heard the name, and over the past few arns he had come to hate it, come to hate the person and also the strength behind it.

"Is love really that strong, John?" he mocked. "Do you really think that Officer Aeryn Sun will ever love you? She is Sebacean, she will never commit and also never share your weak genes to procreate. Love is nothing but a meek emotion to her and I don't think your little trysts have made it any easier for her to trust you ..."

John would have shook his head but he knew better than to try to do just that. The sensorial needles in his brain prevented this.

"Scorpy ... I really ... pity you ...," John said with all the strength that he could muster. "Your mother must have hated you if Sebaceans are as you just ... claimed ... the pure blood was polluted ... what did she do? Hate you? Abuse you?" he asked.

Scorpius turned around to face Crichton as if he was hit by a whiplash.

"She died ... I killed her," Scorpius hissed and turned away.

John closed his eyes. Holy Shit, he thought.

When John came to again, the room he was in was dark and he was lying on some kind of cot. Sitting up, John groaned and rubbed his temples and the side of his neck warily. He felt soreness at the side where the chip had been, or did Scorpius implant a new one there? He couldn't remember and his thoughts were still too jumbled to make much sense of them.

Suddenly, lights came to life and John closed his eyes when the bright glare hit his retinas. He groaned and tried to take a short glimpse, all he could make out in the white glare was a room similar to one of those sterile hospital operation rooms, and he shuddered at the thought what Scorpius had in store for him.

Suddenly, a door opened outside his area of perception and straining his ears, John tried to discern if it was the Scarren who was entering the room.

"Ah you are awake, good!" Scorpius' voice held a true ring of excitement and John groaned.

"Where is Aeryn?" John asked and tried to raise himself up on his elbows but Scorpius hand pushed him down onto the cot again.

"She is in the other room, she has just started her wake-up cycle. But you know, John, you still didn't give me what I wanted, but I'm sure now that the wormhole technology that was implanted in your mind doesn't want to be discovered." Scorpius smiled again. "SO I will have to take another approach and I think it will be highly successful ..."

"What other approach?" Crichton breathed, dread filling up every fibre of his being.

Scorpius tapped John's forehead, then the side of his neck. "I will get in there personally. My clone was not able to retrieve the information, but I surely will."

"What do you mean?" John Crichton managed to choke out before fear overtook him.

"With the modification of the chip, I can become you, I will have every access of any and every emotion, thought and idea immediately." Scorpius grinned. "And you know what? It will give me great pleasure to see Aeryn Sun through your eyes. I always wondered if it is true what the philosophers say: You always kill what you love!"

Waiting never seemed to have been the forte on the Half-Scarren, Half-Sebacean, but now within this human body it was almost unbearable to wait for the antidote to work its magic on the contorted body of Ex-Officer Aeryn Sun.

Scorpius had never thought it was this easy to overcome the will of the human. I should have thought about it earlier, he thought and smiled. But of course, the hunt was almost as enjoyable as finding the knowledge.

When he first had entered John Crichton's mind and body via the specially created neuro chip, getting rid of the clone who had been taunting the human, he was amazed on how different the human functioned. He might look like a Sebacean but the human's mind was totally different from anything he had ever experienced.

Scorpius shook his head and watched his former body, slumped on the operating table. The neuro-line that was connecting him to his old body clearly visible in the bright light of the operating theatre.

"Sir?" Lt. Braca's voice was overly loud in Scorpius' ears, this body still adjusting to the mind that was so highly attuned.

"Lt Braca?" Scorpius asked and turned around. The Peacekeeper drew in his breath loudly when he saw his master, or someone that resembled him. Looking at the slumped body of the scientist on the operating table, he tried to grasp what happened in the last two arns.

"Braca, don't be alarmed. This is just to get the wormhole technology and I'm close," Scorpius said and smiled. "Check Sun's vitals, then leave us alone."

After Braca had left him alone, Scorpius walked over to the second operating table. His mind still had to take hold of the bodily functions of the new body but he knew he was close, and that his search for the wormhole technology would soon be over.

Watching the woman on the table, he tried to tab into the emotions of his host, tried to grasp the knowledge why the Sebacean and the Human seemed so inseparable. After a few adjustments of his mind, he was able to reach into the emotions and feelings of the Human easily and what he found surprised him.

The depth of emotion for the woman in front of him engulfed him, seemed to overwhelm him in strength but he was too much the result of his Scarren genetics as to be submerged by the deep feelings for the EX-Peacekeeper.

Stepping in front of the unconscious woman, he almost gently caressed her cheek and felt the smoothness of the skin which seemed to trigger even more emotions.

"Interesting," Scorpius said. "John Crichton, you are a very amazing and interesting subject."

The woman stirred beneath his hand, and the Scarren half-breed smiled at that. Stepping back, he watched as Aeryn Sun moved on the operating table.

Aeryn felt as if every muscle, every bone in her body had been broken and twisted as she pushed herself into a sitting position. The glare of the lights still hurt her eyes and with a groan, she closed them, cradling her head in her hands.

"Good to see you awake."

Aeryn's head snapped up and turned her head into the direction of the voice. "John?"

"I'm here, my love." Arms encircled her, strong arms so familiar and yet something seemed so different. Aeryn struggled to open her eyes, overcame the sense of nausea as she raised her head to watch the face of the man that had come to mean so much to her.

"NO!" her cry was choked when she saw John's familiar face but contorted by the Scarren's leather cap. Trying to push away from him, she stumbled and fell against a second table on which the real Scorpius lay. With a suppressed cry, she pushed herself off, directly into the waiting arms of the other John.

"What did he do?" Aeryn tried to make sense of all of this but all she could come up with was that she was still caught up in a nightmare. It must be a nightmare, her mind screamed, trying frantically to make sense of the creature in front of her.

"My dear Aeryn Sun, don't be afraid. Everything is perfectly fine," Scorpius said and gently patted her cheek. "You see, your John Crichton agreed to a little experiment. I couldn't retrieve the wormhole technology that the Ancients implanted deeply into his mind and my neuro chip was almost useless. So with a little coaxing, I persuaded him to execute a final experiment. You and Crichton are free to go after I succeed ... if he is still alive by then."

"How ..." Aeryn stared at the being in front of her, familiar features of John Crichton were still visible but all in all he looked like a grotesque copy of the real Scorpius.

"Oh you mean how did I succeed?" Scorpius smiled and began pacing the room. "It is a very difficult and delicate operation. The neuro chip implanted in John's neck has its twin in mine, through this," and here he pointed towards the small thin neuro transmitter cable, "This does actually allow me to be inside John Crichton. I feel like him, speak almost like him ... experience the same pain and joy at seeing you..."

Aeryn Sun stared at the figure in front of her in horror. Ever since she had awakened from the Living Death, she had felt as if caught in a nightmare. This man ... this THING was the worst yet.

"That can't be ...," she whispered and tears filled her eyes slowly and she stumbled backwards again. She fell to the ground with a loud thud, her legs still too weak to support her after she had so narrowly escaped the Living Death. When Aeryn tried to haul herself up on her knees again, she saw a pulse rifle lying underneath one of the operating tables. A guard must have stashed it there when they had brought her in and forgotten all about it.

"So what are you going to do? If John survives?" Aeryn asked casually while she slowly pulled the gun from its hidden spot.

"Well this is up to you, my dear Aeryn. You are living proof that our antidote for the Living Death is successful, so you are free to go. Whether you want to take your mate with you, is up to you ..."

The woman whirled around when she heard him advancing towards her and as she raised the pulse weapon, she straightened visibly.

Scorpius spread his arms wide and smiled.

"Ah do it, Aeryn, I know it is in you!" he said, smirking and taunting her while his claw-like hands reached for her pulse rifle.

Aeryn reacted purely on instinct when she almost fell towards the prone form of the real Scorpius on the table. Pushing the butt of the rifle against the small of his back, she locked eyes with the other Scorpius.

"Tsk, tsk, tsk, Officer Sun, I never thought you were so stupid," Scorpius coaxed. "Of course there will be no chance that John will ever be free of me if you destroy my body. Do you really think I would let John live once you murdered me?"

"I'm sorry, John ..." she stated simply and pulled the trigger of the gun. But the butt had slipped and instead of hitting the small of Scorpius' neck, the flash hit the side of his head, causing the cooling rod to pop out and disable the neuro chip.

Flashes struck the body of John/Scorpius as the connection between Human and Half-Scarren was almost severed. With an unholy cry that made Aeryn cringe, John slumped to the ground, holding his head and the voice asking for forgiveness was that of John.

When it was over, Aeryn had almost put the whole Chak'ran oil magazine of the pulse rifle into the body of the defenceless Scorpius, bullets being deflected from the thick skin of the being, that she had to duck any stray bolts of light.

When she heard a whimper behind her, she turned around and the weapon fell out of her lifeless fingers and slipped with a loud clank to the steel floor. The sight of John lying deadly still on the cold floor caused her blood to freeze in her veins. Slowly she made her way over to the figure who was lying in that too familiar red stain of blood, the blood already coagulating with the leather and the debris.

"Aeryn ..." John's eyes looked out of Scorpius' face as Aeryn bent over the man.

"I had no, no choice ... either that or he would have ... killed .. you!" Even as he spoke his skin, freed of the evil influence of the chip and its connection with Scorpius, became smooth again, his face distorted still by the leather cap, which was so much the trademark of the Scarren.

Aeryn took a scalpel from the nearby operating table and cut it off swiftly, freeing his beloved face from the mask. Then she bent down and cradled his head in her lap.

"Don't move, Crichton, I will get you out of here," Aeryn tried to put as much conviction into her words as she could muster but she knew from the amount of blood covering her hands that it was almost too late. One or two of the rifle bolts that had been deflected by the hard skin of the Scarren must have hit him. She leaned over him, examining his body and she could see that one had hit right beneath his heart while another one had grazed the side of his temple.

"Aeryn ... I'm .... sorry," John whispered and groaned when he felt her hand examining the entry wound.

"Just shut up, John, you have to save your breath," Aeryn ordered harshly but the catch in her voice betrayed her and tears were flowing freely down her ivory cheeks as she held him close, sobs raking her body, shaking her to her soul.

They could both hear alarm klaxons going off beyond the steel doors of the operating theatre and they knew that they wouldn't get out of there alive. Briefly, Aeryn wondered if D'Argo and the others had made it back safely on Moya and silently she bid her crewmates good-bye.

Both felt the shudders of explosions going off somewhere on the base and for a short fleeting moment they thought that their crewmates had returned. But they knew that they did not have the technology to create such earth-shattering explosions. Staring at each other closely, they waited ... for what exactly, they both did not know.

John watched her silently, his tears mingling with hers when they fell down on his face. He still wanted to tell her so many things, wanted to show her how much he loved her, wanted her to see his home planet. But it was too late, too late to show her all the things that were dear to him.

I love you, Aeryn Sun, he wanted to say but all that passed his lips was a soft sigh before he exhaled his last breath - John Crichton, astronaut, scientist and hunted human, was dead and at peace at last.

© November 2000 - June 2001

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